Introduction In this essay, I wish to examine the origins of the Islamic political community. In doing so, I will argue that the religio-political structures out of which Islam grew after the death of the Prophet Muhammad, were the byproducts of his efforts to establish a united community of men in the city of Medina following the hijra. I will offer a treatment of the Medina Charter and the social conditions that preceded and followed its promulgation and offer evidence to support the following: (a.) the tenets of the Charter reflect not only the fusion of theological and political ideologies, but also indicate a desire for political unity and socio-economic prominence within the Arab lands, (b.) the Charter itself established the embryonic socio-political institutions from which the Islamic “state” emerged after the death of the prophet Muhammad, and in turn (c.) that its principles gave rise to both the presence and necessity of religious law (sharia) in the state’s emergence. In order to offer an effective analysis of the early Islamic polity, we would do well to begin by examining the conditions that necessitated its development. The Origins of Communal Relations Prior to his inclusion in a united and civilized community, man lived his life only in accordance with the principles of natural law. His continued existence was wholly dependant upon his ability to achieve it, without recourse to either his fellow man or normative principles of right conduct. The regulatory mechanisms of man’s actions were nothing more than power, cunning, and strength of arms. His only hope of achieving an existence that was neither nasty, brutish, or short, was to ally himself with the resources of his fellow men and conspire against that Whitener 2

which they collectively deemed deleterious to their interests. Each would surrender a portion of his freedom to a sovereign community and, in turn, receive the protection and prosperity that a supra-individual, “state” regulatory mechanism could afford. The political community (politea) was then, an outgrowth of humanity’s quest for prosperity—first at the individual, then the familial, next the local, and finally the societal level of group existence. To provide for and protect the prosperity sought by the community, the state must possess certain means with which it may ensure its subsistence. The most basic of which, is the presence of a legitimate governing body, the actions of which must be an extension of the general will of the people. There must also exist a legislative branch of government which serves to craft and adjudicate the laws of civil society. The state must possess supplemental power structures which safeguard the position of the governing body, ensure civility within its jurisdiction, and enforce its legislative maxims. In order to finance its activities and the persons who perform them, the state must have a mechanism for the collection, management, and distribution of revenue. The bureaucratic components of a civil society must be complimented with certain ideological elements which function as the guarantors of its continued existence. The state must--whether in one or in all--exude an unquestionable sovereign authority. It must serve as an omnipotent regulatory mechanism to uphold the laws of society, promote the general welfare, and protect the rights of its inhabitants; moreover, it must function as an autonomous bastion of civility for those persons upon whom its authority is based. The sovereignty of the state is

Whitener 3 dependant upon the decisions of its inhabitants to cede certain natural freedoms, and the proper functioning of the bureaucracy to formulate and enforce the laws according to which the

inhabitants have pledged to live. An evaluation of the early Islamic polity would be incomplete without a word on the social conditions which necessitated its establishment. I would like, therefore, to speak briefly about the geo-political atmosphere which immediately preceded the Muslim flight from Mecca to Medina. Medina is located approximately two hundred miles to the north of Mecca. Its inhabitants were predominately Pagan Arabs, but there also existed a significant Jewish population. The Jews probably differed little either racially or culturally from their Arab neighbors, and were distinguished only by differing religious beliefs.1 In 618, the Arabs and Jews waged engaged in battle against one another at Bu ‘ath. The conflict owed its origins to a lack of bureaucratic institutions and regulatory mechanisms that could arbitrate the affairs of the community. The power vacuum was palpable and the inhabitants of Medina sought an inspired, impartial religious leader to to guide them through the turbulent water of geo-politics. In 620, six men from Medina encountered a man named Muhammad at the Meccan Pilgrimage. So impressed with his revelatory experiences and pseudo-Messianic capacities, that in the following year, the Medinese envoys expressed their desire to accept Muhammad as Prophet. Whitener 4 This event has come to be known as the First Pledge of al-‘Aqaba. Reluctant to abandon the political protection and social standing that the hegemonic Meccan economy had fostered, Muhammad initially proceeded cautiously. He sent personal agents to survey the Medinese socio-political climate and encouraged them to spread the new religion among its inhabitants. Soon, Muhammad had developed a small, but loyal following of
1 The Cambridge History of Islam.

supporters who pledged themselves to fight on his behalf. This so-called Second Pledge of alA‘qaba was significant in that it convinced the prophet that certain conditions requisite for the spread of the faith were now present outside of Mecca. He furthered this notion by encouraging his Meccan followers to emigrate to Medina and further establish their faith within the Medinese populace. Under cover of the night, Muhammad fled from the city of Mecca and reached Medina on September 24, 622. This event, the hijrah, is the effective basis of Islamic chronology; it is significant for our purposes because it represents the beginning of a fundamental shift away from the politically disparate, tribal structures which had theretofore dominated the Arabian peninsula, to politically united, communal systems which would prove persistent in subsequent Islamic history. Aziz Al-Azmeh holds it be an anachronism to contend that the primitive proto-Muslim polity at Medina, and later briefly at Kufa, had “produced statutes and forms of state and of kingship of any determinative or definitive character that informed the later crystallization of

Whitener 5 Muslim polities.”2 Al-Azmeh’s thesis is not completely inaccurate, but, in my view, it fails to treat adequately the role played by the Constitution of Medina in the formation of the early Muslim polity, and ultimately, that of the Islamic faith itself. I should like, therefore, to offer a treatment of this document so that we may better understand its formative capacities, and their attending religio-political developments. The text of the Medina Charter, though perhaps misleading, suggests an alarming degree of civil and religious discord antecedent to the hijra and immediately thereafter. The
2 Aziz Al-Azmeh: Muslim Kingship.

Charter’s official pronouncement of the conditions under which justice, peace, and harmony could flourish would not have been necessary had those conditions existed theretofore. Since they seemed not to exist to the extent that their implementation would not be superfluous, the Charter attempted to establish the conditions necessary for their creation. In this respect, it is quite analogous to a Social Contract. The Dustur al-Madinah was promulgated in the name of “God the Compassionate, the Merciful,” by the earliest converts to Islam upon their flight from Mecca to Medina. The document appears to be the conflated product of two or more sources compiled some five years after the hijra. The Charter sought to advance the conditions under which a united community of believers (umma) shall live, so that order and harmony, rather than chaos and discord, would prevail. Though comprised of several diverse tribal sects, the umma was to be composed of one Whitener 6 true body of believers, each of whom was to live under the absolute sovereignty of One God. The community of the faithful was organic, and depended upon the faith and goodwill each of its members to ensure collective prosperity. The charter is explicit in articulating the providential mandates requisite for the health of the umma: (1) each citizen was obligated, in so far as his means would allow, to prevent destitution among fellow believers; (2) conspiring against or allying in opposition to one’s fellow believer was expressly forbidden; (3) the community of believers must never have sought to propagate injustice, sin, animosity, or corruption and remain ever-vigilant against those who do; (4) all believers must have united together as one body in service to God and one another. We should go no further without a brief exposition of the above. It must be noted that the overarching desire for unity both in themselves and with the almighty, is indicative

of a general desire to homogenize the theretofore disparate elements of the early community. Moreover, unification was but an initial step in the pursuit of social concord and divine providence. Once living together as one community with common goals and united interests, the citizens were obliged to live their lives for the benefit of all. The Medina charter pronounced the city of Yathrib3 to be a sanctuary for both the believers and persons of differing faiths. Together, its residents would act as one to repel any Whitener 7 attack on the city to which they owed their allegiance. The Quraysh4 and the inhabitants thereof were to be boycotted and denied the protection that the community of believers so tirelessly sought to advance. Conversely, the peace that existed among the believers was absolute and indivisible. Its disruption would only be brought about by the transgressions of the individual, never the actions of the society. The umma was an inclusive entity, which attempted to solidify the bonds of unity that existed among the believers and extend them to the inhabitants of Yathrib. Just as each member of the umma looked to God in search of eternal happiness, so too did he look to his fellow citizen(s) in pursuit of earthly tranquility. The protection that God afforded, however, was ultimate and not provided to those whose actions transgressed the terms of the Charter or threatened the cohesion of the community; for “Those who swear fealty to thee [Muhammad] swear fealty by that very act unto God. The hand of God is over their hands.”5 So that its sanctity would remain absolute and its ideals respected, the Charter provides
3 The original name for the city of Medina (Madīnat al-Nabī), the translation of which is rendered “city of the

Prophet.” 4 5 The tribe to which the Prophet Muhammad originally belonged before the hijra.

Q. 48:10

for the administration of justice. The umma would act as one, in service to God, in all matters which impugned the inviolability of the sacred relationship between believers and the almighty. The redress of wrongs was to be enacted not through human, but rather, divine agency; this principle also extended itself to armed conflict. Whitener 8 Muhammad, as the culmination or “seal” of the Prophets was to possess absolute authority in sanctioning warfare. When the need arose to defend the sanctity, integrity, and honor of Islam, the faithful Muslim was required to subvert all personal commitments to the service of the umma and Allah. This situation constitutes Holy War (jihad); the Charter requires that all peace requests be obliged, except in circumstances constitutive of jihad. Any ambiguities in the juridical process were to be directed to, and resolved by, God and the Prophet Muhammad.6 The jurisprudence articulated in the Medina Charter suggests the presence of rational, peaceful methods of dispute resolution among diverse peoples living together, as one people. It is also indicative of the distinctly theological approach to juridical affairs in the Muslim community. The ostensible forerunner of the shar’ia, put forth by the Charter, sought to imbue the will of God within the legal structure of the umma. God and man were to be co-participants in the administration of justice and the preservation of social harmony. Consequently, the preexisting cultural, religious, and linguistic differences that all-too-frequently foster marginalization and exclusion, were respected rather than accentuated. This theme is exemplified in the Charter’s provisions for inter-faith relations.
6 Section 42 of the Medina Charter is here significant in that provides an early portrait of Muhammad as the

“Apostle of God.” Compare this conception of Muhammad as a political and theological leader with Sirah 10: Ayat 47, of the Qur’an.

Explicit reference is made to toleration among the Abrahamic, religions of the book. The Jews were free to profess their faith and the Muslim believers likewise. The financial affairs Whitener 9 of each would be managed by the faithful of each. The community of believers was obligated to provide assistance and adopt the notion of equality in all of their dealings with their brothers of the Abrahamic faith(s). The accommodations for religious diversity present within the umma also extended to Polytheism. The Charter provides for Pagans to retain their cultural and religious customs provided they not interfere with those of the Muslims. Social equality also implied political reciprocity in addressing those who attacked the principles of the Charter. So long as they fought alongside the believers in service to God, the Jews were obliged to contribute equally to the cost of war. Absolute loyalty among Muslims and Jews was requisite for the sustenance of social harmony and the obeisance of God’s will. On that basis, the Charter accomplishes a great deal in pursuing peace and imploring the good will of two separate, yet interrelated branches of faith. Even if only an utopic vision, the aforementioned ideal suggests a remarkable degree of deference within the early Muslim community toward its brothers of faith. Rather than retreating into the confines of theological superiority, the Charter seeks to extol the virtues of a united brotherhood of man (mu’akhat), committed to serving its almighty creator. The impetus for the acceptance of and respect for Judaism was two-fold. Despite the presence of fundamental differences between the two religions, Islam and Judaism were in agreement on the end to which each was devoted. Though Allah and Yahweh were distinct in name, they were united as one in finality. The relationship between Muslims and Jews was then, necessarily, one of interdependence and connectedness. Notwithstanding their theological

Whitener 10 divisions, the prosperity and happiness of each was dependant upon the presence of political collegiality. A political attack on one was a theological affront to the other, which necessitated commensurate political recourse. The Charter’s call for goodwill among the community of the faithful was theological in tone, but political in methodology. The early Muslim community was organic; its citizens were genuinely political actors whose well-being was emergent from, and intimately connected to, that of their fellow man. The Charter suggests that a concerted effort was made to preserve the well-being of the individual by establishing a community of individuals with shared goals, common interests, and reciprocal teleologies. The success or failure of the umma rested in its respect for the foundational political sub-structure, which supported and sustained the community’s pursuit of peace, justice, and eternal bliss. Its intent was to allow those living in the city of Yathrib--despite their theological or philosophical differences--to peacefully co-exist as one community, living under the sovereignty of One God. In doing so, it required its adherents to recognize their subservience to the almighty and the bonds of allegiance upon which the community would depend. In ceding a portion of one’s own, personal autonomy, one gained the right to collective prosperity. The individual of faith need not remain in perpetual struggle to defend himself against the warring factions of the unbelievers. His prosperity could be realized by recognizing the omnipotence of God and allying himself with those for whom bliss in the hereafter was preferable to strife in the here and now. We must not assume, therefore, that the early Muslim community existed as a crude and Whitener 11 barbarous consortium of lawless philistines.

Rather, the document makes evident that the early Muslim converts were sufficiently refined that they recognized the need for order and stability to counteract the chaos of the political world. As long as one was preoccupied with constant and futile polemics, one could not fully devote oneself to God and the community of which he was a part. The Medina Charter sought to end--or at least alleviate--the antagonisms between men in an effort to cultivate a more intimate relationship with God. The theological character of the Medina Charter is of the utmost importance, but it must not be viewed in isolation to the political community which sought to protect it. The Charter demonstrates that Theology and Politics were inextricably intertwined within the early Muslim community. The fusion of the two, respective spheres, necessarily followed from a community of persons dedicated to the faithful observance of divine mandates, yet forced to live in a world where unbelief and lawlessness predominated. Just as the community of believers was called to unite with and respect its brothers in faith, so too was it obliged to defend against and repel those who sought to do it harm. Though jihad is mentioned just once (section 45a) the Medina Charter implicitly affirms its legitimacy as the means with which to preserve the health of the political community and the sanctity of its theological foundations. This sentiment would be echoed some 164 times in Qur’anic verse.

Whitener 11 “O you who believe! retaliation is prescribed for you in the matter of the slain, the free for the free, and the slave for the slave, and the female for the female, but if any remission is made to any one by his (aggrieved) brother, then prosecution (for the bloodwit) should be made according to usage, and payment should be made to him in a good manner; this is an alleviation from your Lord and a mercy; so whoever exceeds the limit after this he shall have a painful chastisement. And

there is life for you in (the law of) retaliation, O men of understanding, that you may guard yourselves” (Q. 2:178-179). Wholly antithetical to the Western, secularist conception of the community, the Islamic ideal presupposes the semblance of scripture and jurisprudence (sharia) as the framework upon which the “state” is to be constructed. Islam was, therefore, an extension of a political organization from its very beginnings: the umma embodied a societal melange of congregation and state. By claiming divine authority over the umma, the prophet Muhammad had, in a sense, created an “embryonic state.”7 To speak of the existence of a fully-developed Islamic “state” before the death of the Prophet Muhammad would be inaccurate. It would not, however, be inaccurate to describe the Medina Charter as the first official document in the Islamic tradition to enunciate a social construct in which politics and theology would be regarded as fused-reciprocals. Though the Charter was explicit in setting forth the principles according to which the believers must live their lives, it made no systematic effort to craft the conditions requisite for statehood. It did, however serve as the model to which subsequent generations would look in establishing a centralized Whitener 12 political authority replete with the economic, militaristic, and bureaucratic functions of the “state” proper.8 I would like to briefly discuss both the authenticity and usefulness of the Medina Charter for scholarship in the history of Islamic Political thought. Though no original copy

Crone: God’s Rule: Government in Islam.

8 An amplification of exactly what constitutes a “state” may be found in the first two pages of this work. Attempting to determine an approximation of when the Islamic state emerged, is, however, beyond the scope of the present work.

is extant, there are compelling reasons to accept its veracity. In a philological analysis of the Arabic in which the Charter was originally written, some scholars have concluded that the resemblance between it and the language of the Prophet in the Qur’an is not merely coincidental.9 Similarly, if a fabrication, the likelihood of the Charter occupying such a fundamental position within the Islamic tradition and maturation of the Islamic state, would be far less than the historical narratives suggest.10 This does not, however, mean that the document was promulgated in precisely the same form as it has come down to us.11 It is certainly not beyond the realm of possibility that the final product was itself an amalgam of various ad hoc statutes and stipulations, hastily crafted to address issues as they arose. The sheer breadth and variety of the Charter’s terms certainly lend credence to this thesis. In keeping with the primary intent of the essay, I must limit Whitener 13 myself to the brief--yet cogent--defense of the Charter’s authenticity outlined above. If we are prepared to grant the veracity of the Charter, it would certainly behoove us as historians to inquire into its usefulness in historical scholarship. The Medina Charter is complementary to the text of the Qur’an. It expounds upon the political details of the ummah, which are treated in largely theological terms in the Qur’anic text. Its importance as a primary source document in the theological history of Islam cannot be overstated; nor can its role in influencing the development of the Islamic state in the latter portion of the 7th century A.D be denied. In both instances, the Charter served as a framework to which Islamic culture could refer Al-Umari: Medinan Society At the Time of The Prophet. In his, Muhammad at Medina (p.225), Montgomery Watt holds that no falsifier writing under the Umayyads or Abassids would have included non-Muslims in the ummah, retained the articles against the Quraysh, or given Muhammad so “insignificant” a place. 11 Ibid.
9 10

as it sought to navigate the turbulent waters of geo-politics. The terms of the Charter speak to a desire to establish a community in which God’s rule was absolute and human beings would act as the faithful stewards of His creation. That Muhammad sought to craft the basis of an Islamic community rather than pervert his position as Prophet to establish a despotic system of government should not be overlooked. Despite the rejection of the former and adoption of the latter in subsequent epochs of Islamic history, the original intent of the charter is certainly worthy of homage. One of the earliest extant indications of the inseparability of religion and politics in the Muslim community; the Medina Charter provides demonstrable proof of the desire within Islam for peace and acceptance among those of divergent faiths. Both such themes would be extremely relevant and timely to the modern, social historian. So too would a faithful (re)reading of its text be beneficial to those within contemporary Islam whose thoughts, actions, and deeds lie in Whitener 14 contradistinction to the very maxims upon which their faith was established. Historical Materialism and the early Islamic Polity The role of economics in the progression of history and the establishment of political regimes cannot be overstated. In keeping with this theme, I would like to offer a brief commentary on Karl Marx’s theory of “historical materialism” with a view to synthesizing it with the development of the Islamic political state. In doing so, I implore the reader’s patience; for that which initially seems distant is frequently too close to fully appreciate. The materialist conception of history relies on an organic community of men, each of whom depends on the prosperity of their fellow citizens, to realize their own. Just as the individual is incapable of sustaining his own physical and economic needs without recourse

to another, so too are they dependant upon a united community of men overseen and sustained by an apparatus of subsistence. Each lives for the benefit of himself and in turn, the perpetuation of the community. The labor of the individual gives rise not only to his continued existence, but also to the lives and crafts of his fellow citizens. The material needs of the community -- to which each of its inhabitants is forever devoted -- shape both the lives of its patrons and the course of its development; Marx sees in this thesis, the very essence of historical progression. The community is constantly and unconsciously in pursuit of realizing the economic “needs” of both citizen and society with everincreasing efficiency and quantity. This materialism was once but the necessary byproduct of a union among benevolent actors to ensure their individual and collective survival; beyond the level of basic Whitener 15 subsistence, however, materialism becomes perverted such that it yields subsistence at only the most primitive of levels for those whose toil is requisite for preserving it, and economic extravagance for those whose force has proven capable of exploiting it. The individual qua individual is left with no alternative but to appropriate his productive capacities to the interests of the state. This phenomena quickly assumes a universal character and subsumes the entire community of which each individual is a part. The very existence of the community is then, dependant upon the activity of the individual coinciding with a purely material life. The emergence of the state is simply an extension of the political dominance of the ruling class of society. The economic (here we, of course, refer to material) needs of “society” are no longer those of the community which sustains it, but those of the ruling class under whose

authority it came to be. Social customs, law, tradition, ideology-- and perhaps even religion-become mere conduits with which to promote the “necessity” of economic “progress.” Each comes to connote not their legitimacy as ends, but rather, their usefulness as means to perpetuate the economic agenda of the ruling class of society. The model of historical materialism to which Marx makes reference is, in my view, directly related to the promulgation of the Medina Charter. Though theological and political unity were the most conspicuous of the Charter’s maxims, it was not devoid an ulterior economic import.12 Whitener 15 It is to this theme that we now turn.

The Role of Economics in the Promulgation of the Medina Charter Jorgen Simonsen has argued quite convincingly that, the conflict between Mecca and Medina was, “essentially a conflict over which of the two caravan cities were to have the leading position in local and international trade.” He is of the opinion that in order to establish Medina’s hegemony over Arabian trade, the prophet Muhammad originally offered protection (dhimma) to anyone who would join his religious community, without regard for their religious affiliation. Initially, nothing was asked for in exchange for dhimma, but as the power and influence of Medina grew, the prophet in turn implemented a tax (jizya) and demanded the payment of tribute (sadaqa) in return. Perhaps most noxiously, religious stipulations began to be associated with membership in the umma.13 Though not completely the result of economic necessity, we would
12 Some western scholars have advanced the thesis that the prophet Muhammad utilized religion merely to advance his own economic interests. Though the question was first raised by Muslim freethinkers themselves, we lack sufficient evidence to positively confirm it. 13 Jorgen Baek Simonsen: Studies in the Genesis and Development of the Caliphal Taxation


be in error to ignore its role as a contributing factor to the above machinations within the early Muslim community. A thorough examination of the extant papyri records and the dates of the early Muslim conquests, suggests that only in the second Islamic century did there begin to develop a systemic fiscal taxation system. In coming to this conclusion, it is of the utmost importance to remember Whitener 16 that the classical theory of Islamic taxation (found in the Fiqh and interspersed in the Muslim historical tradition) was the developmental byproduct of what Simonsen has termed, “the early caliphal taxation system.” This is not, however, to suggest that the two systems were compatible. To cite but one example of the difference between the two systems:the papyri of Egypt and Palestine reveal that the jizya of the caliphal system was not, as in the classical system, a fixed-rate sum levied universally on non-Muslims. The change in the tax’s purpose and scope in classical economic theory attests to Muhammad’s desire for economic hegemony and political prominence within the Arabian peninsula.14 Patricia Crone has proven herself to be a vociferous critic of Simonsen’s thesis.15 Her analysis represents a serious critique of the traditional understanding of Mecca as a vibrant city of commercialism, with unsurpassed political and economic authority within the early Muslim community. If Crone is correct, the city of Medina would have had little need to assert its political authority or economic prominence throughout the Muslim community, for no rivals-political or economic--would have existed. This analysis represents a plausible counterargument to the work of Simonsen and posits a much more limited role for the Meccan economy in the formation of the Islamic political state.
14 ? 15 Crone,

Patricia: Meccan Trade and the Rise of Islam.

It does not, however, undermine his treatment of the prophet’s methods of exacting financial recompense to advance the interests of the state; nor does it preclude the role that economic Whitener 17 materialism could have played in its development. I should like to extend our analysis of the early Islamic community (umma) and the political-economic influences that advanced its standing, with a discussion of the principles upon which it was based.

The Influence of The Medina Charter on the Development of Islamic Law By A.D. 630 the Prophet Muhammad was accepted by most to be the “ultimate” leader, Imam, of the Islamic community. It was during the “Medinese period” in the development of Islam, that the Prophet received those fundamental principles on which the moral and social codes of the faith are based.16 The tribal customs from which the umma emerged were, therefore, amended and reconstituted in the later compilation of the Qur’an. The Islamic conceptions of “right” and “wrong” conduct were described in terms of personal relationships. Each member of the umma was to cultivate and practice a life of honor, courage, and sidq (truthfulness, loyalty).17 In turn, the umma itself would be sustained by a collective and unwavering devotion to faith and justice. However, the early Islamic community and the law that sustained it, fostered a social identity strictly exclusive of outsiders. In replacing individual tribal customs with a universalist ethic, the importance of the umma in the life of the individual was exalted; so much so, that a universal law with theological and political elements (shari‘a), was developed to serve as the framework for the newly established

16 S.F. Mahmud: A Short History of Islam 17 Black: The History of Islamic Political Thought.

Whitener 18 civil society.

The Sharia Traditional Islamic law may be divided into two separate, but interrelated realms: personal acts of service to oneself (ibadat) and people’s relationships to one another (mu‘amalat). The ibadat provided for the Five Pillars of Islam18 and advanced provisions for Dietary and Hygienic maxims. The mu‘amalat regulated mutual dealings such as marriage, divorce, inheritance, slavery and manumission, commerce torts, crimes, war, and taxation in societal affairs. The law was not simply an enforceable rule; it carried a much more profound moral significance as an act of obeisance in service to God. In abiding by the statutes of the shari‘a, one respected his communal obligations to himself and his fellow citizens, but more importantly preserved the sanctity of his relationship with God. That the sharia served as the skeletal structure of the early Islamic community lends credence to the thesis advanced by Anthony Black that Islam emerged from a stateless praxis. He contends that in creating a ‘trans-tribal’ and ‘trans-national’ political society, there would have been no need to develop formal state structures or constitutions. The business of the society was Whitener 19 not to be conducted by impersonal bureaucrats, but expressly specified by the shari‘a and charismatic individuals. 19
18 The five principle aspects of Sunni Islam, stipulated by the prophet Muhammad : The Testimony of Faith, Ritual Prayer, Obligatory almsgiving, Fasting ( Siyam), and the pilgrimage to Mecca ( Hajj ). 19

Black: The History of Islamic Political Thought.

No provisions were made as to who would succeed Muhammad in his role as leader (Imam) of the umma; it was simply assumed that on the basis of Quran’ic verse,20 a peaceful succession of rightly-guided Deputies (caliphs) would continue the work of the prophet. Black’s understanding is further amplified by the altogether sparse treatment of government and politics in the Hadith Reports, compiled over a century after the death of the prophet Muhammad. The societies emerging immediately after 632 A.D were, therefore, vibrant theological communities, albeit ones without clear and tangible political structures.21

The Prophet and His Legacy The politico-religious terms put forth by the Prophet Muhammad must always be seen in relation to their reciprocal; for that which he sought to construct, was, ultimately, a political society devoted, to Allah. Though Muhammad was the culmination of the prophets, neither he, nor any other earthly being ever occupied a superior position to that of the almighty. The actions Whitener 20 of the individual and the umma of which he was a part, always had a theological and never a political telos. Allah endowed man with the capacities for virtue and right conduct; He willed that people live in this world as one, united community, living together, actively in pursuit of knowledge and an understanding of the powers of natural laws.22 Man lived his life according to the teachings of the Prophet, in service to his brothers of the faith and the Almighty. Political discourse and organization were simply the means with which the faithful directed their earthly

“ O believers, obey God, and obey the Messenger and those in authority among you. If you

should quarrel on anything, refer it to God and the messenger ” (Q. 4:62).

Black: The History of Islamic Political Thought.

22 S.F. Mahmud: A Short History of Islam.

lives to divine providence. The magnitude of the above is immense and wholly antithetical to the occidental understanding of statecraft. Though a thorough exposition of the differences is beyond the scope of the present work, I wish to offer a brief commentary in order to better explain the Islamic understanding of the political society. The contemporary west is largely devoid of an official theological import in political affairs. The Chief Executive, is not an earthly intermediary, but simply a societal servant; he has no higher end other than the peaceful and efficient execution of socio-political affairs. As we have seen, this contrasts rather starkly with the leader (imam) of the Islamic community. Islamic Statecraft The Islamic conception of statecraft conceives a politics with no higher end than the cultivation of man in service to the Almighty. The imam, an exemplary human being who serves Whitener 21 as God’s deputy (Caliph) on Earth, is the facilitator of this end. His political actions are always in keeping with the theological mandates set forth by God. Though his spiritual and intellectual capacities may have exceeded those of his fellow men, his socio-political stature was to remain their equal.23 The Brotherhood of Man was explicit in its demands: all men were to be equal; all men were to be brothers. Collectively, they constituted a united community of the faithful who recognized Allah, not an imam or a caliph, as the supreme authority in their lives; for as the first pillar of Islam makes clear, “There is no god but God and Muhammad is His messenger.” His supremacy is reiterated in the following Quran’ic verses: “Say: ‘He is God, One, God, the everlasting Refuge, who has not begotten, and has not been begotten,
23 “Indeed the most honorable in the sight of God is the one who is most righteous among men,” (Sura XLIX).

and equal to Him is not any one.’” (Sura CXII) “And it is He who in Heaven is God and in earth is God; He is the All-wise, the All-knowing. Glory be to him, to whom belongs the Kingdom of the heavens and the earth And all that between them is.” (Sura XLIII) Ultimate authority, however, did not necessarily connote political or deistic despotism; the Islamic Godhead was, to use S.F. Mahmud’s phrase, a “theological advance,” and Man, a “spiritual advance.” The relationship between man and God was to be one of mutual respect; though God would use his omnipotent powers to provide and preserve, He would also use them to serve and protect. He warned against denial and disobedience at the same time that he extolled Whitener 22 His benevolence and compassion. The development of the early Islamic polity was, in large part, an outgrowth of the efforts of the Prophet Muhammad to establish a united community of men in the city of Medina. By fusing the theological and political spheres of group existence, Muhammad created a social construct that sought to provide for the prosperity of the individual and the community of which he was a part; but so too was the community established by, and in service to Allah. The role of economics figured prominently in the formation of the umma, but must not be thought of as the primary reason for its establishment. The very fact that Muhammad sought to imbue a theological import into the newly formed community attests to his mission as a Prophet, rather than his pragmatism as a merely political leader. We must also remember that the Medinese political community was but a prototype; the rest of the Islamic community—often still characterized by a lack of formal and united state structures—did not simply vanish with the

creation of the Medinese umma. An exhaustive examination of the development of the Islamic state must, therefore, also take into consideration the political machinations occurring outside of Medina. The present work must be regarded as but one component of such a lengthy and laborious, but worthy and meritorious enterprise.

Bibliography Primary Sources: <The Constitution of Medina, in A. Guillaume’s The Life of Muhammad: A translation of Ishaq's Sirat Rasul Allah. (Oxford University Press, Karachi, 1955) pp. 231-233. <The Koran Interpreted, an English translation by A.J. Arberry. (Touchstone Press, New York, 1955). <The History of Prophets and Kings, the Foundation of the Community, Abu Ja far Muhammad b. Jarir al-Tabari. Translated by M. V. McDonald and annotated by W. Montgomery Watt. (State University of New York Press, Albany, 1987). Secondary Sources: <Al-Azmeh, Aziz. Muslim Kingship: Power and the Sacred In Muslim, Christian and Pagan Polities. (New York:St. Martin’s Press, 2001). <Black, Anthony. The History of Islamic Political Though: From the Prophet to the Present. (New York, Routledge, 2001). <Crone, Patricia. God’s Rule: Six Centuries of Medieval Islamic Political Thought. (United Kingdom, Edinburgh University Press Ltd, 2004). <Crone, Patricia. Meccan Trade and the Rise of Islam. (First Gorgias Press LLC, Princeton, New Jersey, 1987). <Guillaume, A.. The Life of Muhammad: A Translation of Ishaq's Sirat Rasul Allah, (Oxford University Press, Karachi, 1955). <Marx, Karl. The German Ideology. Selected Writings of Karl Marx, 2nd edition, translated by

David McLellan, (Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2000). <Mahmud, Sayyid Fayyaz. A Short History of Islam. (Oxford University Press, Karachi, 1960). <Simonsen, Jorgen Baek. Studies in the Genesis and Development of the Caliphal Taxation System. Copenhagen. Akademisk Forlag, 1988. <The Cambridge History of Islam in Two Volumes, Vol. I: The Central Islamic Lands, (Cambridge University Press, Great Britain, 1970). <Watt, Montogmery. Muhammad at Medina. (Oxford University Press, United Kingdom, 1981).

The Early Muslim Polity: A Religio-Political Analysis of the Islamic Tradition’s Medinese Origins
Joe Whitener Hayrettin Yucesoy PhD Seminar: History of Medieval Islamic Political Thought Saint Louis University December 11, 2006