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By Mazaher Muraj
The prophet of Islam throughout his life before and even after the proclamation of his message displayed characteristics in which he can be regarded as successful. The following essay seeks to establish his aptitude as a politician and a political leader since there are some in the 21st century, for reasons possibly due to their anti-Islam views, seek to categorize him only as a warrior thereby demonizing his image. Therefore the approach of this essay will be in the following format; (1) a number of instances from Islamic history will be analyzed and (2) the political significance of the instance will be determined.
The entrance of the Prophet of Islam into the city of Mecca (known as the Conquest of Mecca) in the year 8 AH  without the spillage of a single drop of blood was among one of Prophet Muhammad’s many victories with regards to the propagation of Islam and for his opponents such as Abu Sufyān as well as those across the political spectrum signaled their annihilation. In order to reach this stage in his life as well as sanction many more decisions, the Prophet had to make a multitude of decisions different from one another, with each decision and its result playing its part in the building of the character of the Prophet as a just and astute politician. It is attributes such as this which leaves any reader in puzzlement as to how a single man can combine so many ‘professions’ (for want of a better word) into a single lifespan. Unfortunately, according to the single-minded society in which we live, attributes such as these can be forgotten whilst others are disproportionately given great attention by those with an anti-Islam agenda. Islamophobes in the UK such as Douglas Murray, like to demonize the image of the Prophet Muhammad by constantly directing attention to one of his ‘professions’ of being a warrior whilst conveniently forgetting or even hiding his other accolades such as Muhammad the Humanitarian, Muhammad the Scholar, Muhammad the Reformist and many more. This essay will thus discuss Prophet Muhammad’s political qualities which without doubt formed a vital role in his success at preaching to the Arabs of the age of ignorance the religion of Islam. Therefore this paper will assess, in a critical manner, key areas of the life of Prophet Muhammad which demonstrated the political aptitude of this political figure and light will be shed on the significance of the results of his decisions in the 21st century today. The decisions/events to be considered are; (1) the first migration to Abyssinia (Ethiopia), (2) journey to Tā’if, (3) the first and second agreement of ‘Aqabah, (4) the constitution of Medina and (5) the pledge of Ridhwān. Having assessed these points we will be able to determine the political aptitude of the man ranked as the number one most influential person in history by Michael H. Hart, a writer on a variety of subjects including history .
This essay will highlight five instances in the life of the Prophet of Islam, whereby his political aptitude was displayed in a number of ways and this will be demonstrated in the following manner; the event as well as its circumstances will be described followed by the highlighting of how the event proves that the prophet was a politically astute person. The First Migration At the time of the first migration, the Prophet’s followers consisted merely of a few slave boys and slave girls and some unprotected freemen. As a result, they were continuously persecuted by the chiefs of Quraysh. Finding no security and peace of mind to practice their faith in the Arabian Peninsula where idolatry was prevalent in all its corners, the Prophet commanded a small group of them to migrate to Ethiopia, a land in which a just King ruled. Among the migrants was Ja’far ibn Abu Tālib, the cousin of the Prophet, who was designated as the leader of the group. However, the Quraysh also sent their representatives to Ethiopia following the Muslims and upon arrival tried to recapture them. It was the knowledge and eloquent manner of Ja’far’s speech which had persuaded the King to allow the Muslims to remain in Ethiopia freely . • Political Significance (a) Asylum According to the Oxford dictionary, a refugee is defined as a person who is living outside their country of origin or habitual residence due to fear of persecution resulting from discrimination of their race, religion, nationality or political view . Until this very day in the 21st century, a person being persecuted is given protection in a foreign land and thus the Prophet of Islam, approximately 1400 years ago, displayed forward thinking political skills in commanding his followers to migrate specifically to a land where protection will be given to them. This political move of the Prophet is in line with Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, compiled in 1948, which states that a
person is entitled protection from persecution due to their religious beliefs or their political affiliations .
(b) Selection of Ja’far ibn Abu Tālib as leader of the group In any political party, representatives are extremely important since they are those who should be able to convey a message in exactly the manner in which the leader of the group would. The selection of Ja’far ibn Abu Tālib was a masterstroke by the Prophet for a number of reasons; (i) Ja’far had a deep understanding of the Qur’ān and as a result recited to the Christian King the chapter of Mary in order to build a common ground between them and (ii) he was eloquent in the Arabic language – like the Prophet – and so he conveyed the message of Islam in a manner in which the King found appealing. Therefore the King famously said to Amr (the representative of the Quraysh), “The words o their Prophet and that of which Jesus brought have emanated from one and the same source of light. I will never surrender them to you” . This also shows the establishment of political dialogue and negotiation between separate states. (c) Building international relations Having sent a delegation to Ethiopia, it can be seen that the Prophet was seeking to build relations with another state. This is an important victory for the Prophet because it shows that; (i) Islam seeks to encourage political dialogue between non-Muslim countries with the aim of achieving peace and (ii) the acceptability for Muslims to live in states that are non-Muslim. Thus this is another point which demonstrates the Prophet’s ability as a politician.
Journey to Tā’if In the 10th year of the Prophetic mission, the Prophet decided to build support by traveling to Tā’if, which was a thriving centre in those times. There he made contact with the chiefs of the tribes in order to call them towards his message however due to his lack of protection (since his uncle Abu Tālib and his wife Khadija had passed away), he was sent away wounded. After returning to Mecca, during the months in which fighting was prohibited and also during the Hajj season, he again made efforts to propagate his message by contacting the heads of the tribes. His efforts were thwarted by senior member of the Quraysh including his uncle Abu Laḥab who resorted to ridiculing him during his sermons. • Political Significance (a) Diplomacy The first 10 years of the Prophet’s mission were in Mecca and whilst under the protection of his uncle Abu Tālib, diplomacy was the best option in which to deliver the message. Therefore it can be seen that
the Prophet only sought to spread Islam at the first instance in a diplomatic manner by speaking to the heads of tribes in order to gain their support. It can also be seen that the Prophet did not give up the pursuit of diplomacy even after the victory achieved at the conquest of Mecca when letters were written Kings and rulers of other nations such as Persia and the Roman Empire. • Criticism A criticism which may dent the prospect of this event being an entirely success from a political point of view is that the Prophet decided to visit Tā’if on his own. Although this may also show that he was visiting for peaceful purposes, journeying into unkwon territory without any support or protection was a dangerous action to take and thus it can be argued that this journey backfired on him since the people of Tā’if reacted negatively towards him causing him flee wounded. The First and Second Agreement of ‘Aqabah During the Hajj season, the prophet would propagate his message and due to his efforts some people from the city of Yathrib (Medina) embraced the faith of Islam after hearing his words. They met at a place called ‘Aqabah and made a pledge that they would remain loyal to their word. Before they migrated back to Yathrib, the Prophet sent with them a representative to guide them and as a result, the next year in the Hajj season a larger group had come to see the Prophet and on this occasion some women were part of the group. Again, meeting at ‘Aqabah, they renewed their pledge by placing their hand on top of the Prophet’s hand whilst the women would insert their hands in a bowl of water after the Prophet had done so. These two pledges came to be known as the first and second agreement of ‘Aqabah  and show the political aptitude of the Prophet in a number of ways: • Political Significance (a) Gathering support in a new territory In order to ensure victory in the general elections, a politician standing for Presidency or to become the Prime Minister would find it necessary to gather support not just from his own constituency but also from the population of the majority of the nation i.e. from different constituencies as well. The Prophet demonstrated a great depth of political awareness by also seeking to propagate the religion in newer territories whilst it had become difficult to further propagate Islam in Mecca. Having done so, as we shall see further into this discussion, the foundation had been laid down for the Prophet to migrate to Yathrib, where there was a larger proportion of support available for his message.
(b) Voting In allowing the people of Yathrib to pledge their allegiance to him, in essence they were voting to support him. The most interesting thing about this vote was that there were women present from the camp of those who had pledged their allegiance to him. Therefore the process of the women pledging their allegiance shows that the Prophet found no problem with the notion of women voters. The first time a woman was allowed to vote in England was in 1918 and even then that was restricted to a certain category of women. Therefore the Prophet of Islam in allowing women to vote – the same as men – without restriction, showed 1400 years ago a great level of political aptitude with regards to equality. The Constitution of Medina When living in Medina the Prophet was fully aware of the existence of the Jews and thus due to their common ground – monotheism – as the leader of the Muslims, he sought to establish an agreement between them. This agreement came to be known as the constitution of Medina and contains a set of regulations with regards to the community, the military, the penal system, etc for each individual from the different religious groups and tribes to abide by. Having established this agreement, it could be seen that the Prophet displayed great powers o political astuteness in the creation of this government with a legal system – something which was non-existent in the whole of Arabia. • Political Significance (a) Formation of a government Arabia knew nothing of a government since the whole of the Peninsula worked on a monopoly style basis whereby the largest tribe would have the most influence. The Prophet knowing that with the arrival of the Muslims existed other religious communities such as the Jews as well as some Christians and some pagans established an agreement between them in order to bring them all together as a community. This shows a deep level of political awareness because in bringing the different communities together, he was able to prevent the tribal fighting which constantly affected them. The agreement thus terminated the tribal wars and provided security for the civilians of Medina as thus organizing tribal relations. Other achievements of the formation of a government were that a tax system was established in order to support the community as well as providing protection for non-Muslims. This was to form the basis of an Islamic government. This was achieved as a result of the Prophet acting as a peaceful mediator between the different clans thus further displaying his skills as a good politician.
The constitution of Medina allowed for the formation of alliances between the tribes present in Medina which further aided the cause of building good relations between themselves. In addition to this, alliances with external tribes were restricted which prevented a conflict of loyalties and thus not only prevented fighting with each other but also gave each party the security that if they were attacked, the others in alliance with them would defend them. The above points demonstrates the Prophets vision in building a community though various diplomatic and peaceful means which therefore display his aptitude as a successful politician. The pledge of Ridhwān The Prophet and his companions at the beginning of the 7th year of the hijrah (migration) desired to perform the pilgrimage of the Holy Kabbah in Mecca and so without arming themselves – as a sign of their peaceful intentions – a group of up to 1800 marched towards Mecca. However along the way the Quraysh, hearing of the Prophet’s imminent arrival, formed a blockade disqualifying the Muslims from entry. The Prophet anticipated that the people of Mecca would fear that he has come to attack them and so having pitched their tents, he sent a message of peace. However the Quraysh did not accept their word and up to four representatives of theirs was sent to determine if this was correct. Although on all occasions the representatives returned having declared the Prophet had come for peace the Quraysh refused to accept. Eventually the Prophet sent Uthman ibn Affan as his representative to declare his intention (after according to some narrations, one companion upon having been selected refused to go due to fear of his life) and thus after a few days of discussions, Uthman returned with the news that the Quraysh were willing to conduct a treaty with the Prophet – the treaty of Hudaybiyah . • Political Significance (a) Sending Uthman as the representative The sending of Uthman was a political masterstroke of the Prophet for various reasons. Uthman was from the tribe of Bani Umayyah, the heads of the tribe of the Quraysh, and also was closely related to Abū Sufyān, the head of tribe of Quraysh. Therefore if Uthman was to go, then he would be able to use his influence as a wealthy person of Quraysh as well as having the privilege of family support if he were attacked by the people of Mecca. Why not send Ali? Ali was arguably the closest member of the Muslims to the Prophet and having been brought up by the Prophet, surely he would be able to express the Prophet’s intentions as close as possible to the way in which the Prophet would have intended
(above we have discussed the importance of representatives). However the Prophet was aware that he must send a person to the Quraysh who as yet had not shed a single drop of blood of the Quraysh in any of the previous battles in order to prevent the Quraysh from exacting revenge on him. Therefore a person like Ali, who was considered to be the hero of the battle of Badr, Ohad and others up to that time had killed many members of the family of Quraysh, espevially the Bani Ummayah and thus he would not a be suitable representative at that time.
(b) Display of commonality by the Prophet
This journey of the Prophet signaled to the Arabs that the Prophet still regarded the months in which fighting was prohibited to be sacred and also pilgrimage to the Kabbah to be important. This would then dispel many of the misconceptions that people had towards the Muslims which were brought about as a result of the propaganda spread by the Quraysh. This can be seen by the reaction of Hulays ibn Alqamah, whom Tabari regards as the chief archer of Arabia , who having seen the Prophet on this journey, declared to the Quraysh that the Prophet had come for peaceful purposes and that he was not as they had said . Therefore it can be seen that this action of the Prophet would later lead to the Prophet gaining further support for his mission.
(c) Treaty of Hudaybiyah The treaty of Hudaybiyah was the final act of the Prophet during this journey to declare his peaceful intentions and as his scribe was selected his cousin and son-in-law Ali. This treaty displays the Prophet’s diplomatic skills as well as his willingness to come towards a peace agreement even with those who had been his enemy from the day he openly proclaimed the message of Islam and thus the Prophet with regards to the formation of this treaty can be recognized as a successful statesman. Does the treaty breach the Constitution of Medina? An argument that can be advanced is that the Prophet, in agreeing to the Hudaybiyah treaty, breached the treaties he had conducted with some of the tribes of the Jews of Medina since part of the constitution was restricting external political alliances. The agreement between The Prophet and the Quraysh, signified that Medina was an independent state. The answer to this question is negative – the prophet did not breach any treaty. This is because by the time the Hudaybiyah treaty had been agreed, the tribes of the Jews had been exiled from Medina due to their committing the crime of treason. With their exile, all treaties and alliances were void and thus the Prophet was free to make a pact with any other tribe he wished.
This essay sought to establish the Prophet of Islam’s political aptitude due to spiteful comments made by some anti-Muslim commentators singling him out exclusively as a warrior thereby demonizing his character making it appear as violent. This was conducted by analyzing five events in history which display a political significance and from whose outcome point towards the success of the prophet as
a politician. However this essay is not without criticism and thus aims to be a fair deduction of the events that are discussed. The events discussed were (1) the first migration to Abyssinia (Ethiopia), (2) journey to Tā’if, (3) the first and second agreement of ‘Aqabah, (4) the constitution of Medina and (5) the pledge of Ridhwān and were chosen because they display the political aspects of the religion of Islam as a result of the decisions made by the Prophet. In the first instance, the first migration, it was seen that the political ability of the Prophet is shown in his awareness of the idea of seeking asylum in a foreign state due to persecution being meted out in one’s own country of residence. His is a recent phenomenon in modern politics and is in line with the UN charter of human rights. Also his selection of Ja’far ibn Abū Tālib is very important, and can be viewed as a political masterstroke since the selection of representatives is vital to the success of any ideology. The second instance, journey to Tā’if, was very important because it displayed the Prophet’s willingness to approach matters in a diplomatic manner. However we found that a criticism was the prophet’s decision to travel alone whilst he had available the support of companions such as Ali, Abū Bakr and others. This decision may have been due to a number of factors, possibly a non-political one e.g. spiritual, divine command, etc. The third instance, the two pledges of ‘Aqabah, display the Prophet’s vision with the acceptance of voting, especially as there were women who when giving their allegiance to him, were in essence voting for him. The decision to expand to newer territory to preach his message caused him success similarly to that of politicians of the 21st century who when gathering support, visit different regions to increase their popularity and ‘spread their message’. The fourth instance, the constitution of Medina, is arguably the most remarkable sign of the Prophet’s political ability since in Medina he alone established a real government at a time when there was no such thing as a government. This government displayed the Prophet’s vision for an Islamic state and bears a great resemblance to a democracy, since many parties of different ideologies were brought together by way of alliances and agreements. The fifth instance, the pledge of Ridhwān, displayed the diplomacy of the Prophet and re-enforced all the political decision and actions which he had taken in the past to achieve success.
In conclusion, it can be seen that the Prophet was a politically apt individual who inspired not just a whole nation but the world. Those who know and express the Prophet of Islam only as a warrior due to his participation in battles (which were mostly defensive) should be aware that he has many other characteristics. This essay demonstrates his ability as a successful politician but he can easily be regarded as a successful humanitarian, reformist, teacher and many more.
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