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The Covenants of the Prophet: Read an Excerpt
Once again, the Prophet reiterates his rejection of racism, elitism, and classism, warning that the curse of Almighty Allah will befall on any of those who betray his oath "whether he be the King himself, or a poor man." If a man's word is gold, the Prophet's word was made of platinum and the most precious and priceless jewels. The Prophet personally promised to grant protection and safety to all Christians covered by the covenant:
whenever any of the monks in his travels shall happen to settle upon any mountain, hill, village, or other habitable place, on the sea, or in deserts, or in any convent, church, or house of prayer, I shall be in the midst of them, as the preserver and protector of them, their goods and effects, with my soul, aid, and protection. . . .
Since all Muslims must submit to the will of Allah and His Messenger, the Covenant of the Prophet is binding on all believers. The promise of protection is made, not only in the name of God and His Prophet, but in the name of all of his followers. As the Prophet makes explicitly clear, the covenant is concluded "jointly with all my national people." Rather than view Christians as Others and Outsiders, the Messenger of Allah insists that "they are a part of my own people, and an honor to me," clearly comprehending that those who possess power are judged on the basis of how they treat the minorities in their midst. As categorically demonstrated by this covenant, there is truly nothing honorable in exterminating members of minorities or engaging in religious, ethnic or racial "cleansing." The honor of the law resides in embracing diversity and multiculturalism, as the Qur'an affirms (49:13). The French, the English, and the Spanish, on the other hand (to cite only a few examples), spent over a millennium attempting to impose a single language and a single religion upon their nations to the detriment of religious and linguistic minorities. Australia—which, like Canada, earlier promoted multiculturalism—now advocates assimilation. By defending diversity, the Prophet Muhammad established a norm of social justice rare in any time. The Prophet never imposed shari'ah law on non-Muslims. Jewish people were judged on the basis of Jewish law and Christians were judged on the basis of Christian law. The example of the Prophet was emulated by Imam 'Ali (d. 661 CE). After receiving the pledge of allegiance from the people, Imam 'Ali made the following famous statement:
Question me before you lose me. Question me, for I have the knowledge of those who came earlier and those who will come after. If the cushion (on which a judge sits) was folded for me (to sit on), I could give judgments to the people of the Torah by their Torah, to the people of the Gospels by their Gospels, to the people of Psalms by their Psalms, and to the people of the Furqan (i.e. Qur'an) by their Furqan, so that each one of these books will be fulfilled and will declare, 'O Lord, indeed 'Ali has given judgment according to Your Decree.' (Mufid 21)
Because the monks comprised a religious community, as opposed to a commercial enterprise, the Prophet granted them tax-free status. "I command all officers," he wrote, "not to require any poll-tax of them, or any other tribute, because they shall not be forced or compelled to anything of this kind." Unlike despots and dictators, from both past and present, who have often raided the coffers of religious authorities, the Prophet viewed them as non-profit entities engaged in charitable, social service, and spiritual activities. Not only did he grant them ecclesiastic autonomy, he even granted them politically autonomy, like a free associated state or an autonomous region. However, unlike free associated states such as Puerto Rico, whose people are deprived of the right to vote, the Christian communities were free to elect their own political representatives and members of their judiciary: "None shall presume to change their judges or governors," declares the Prophet, "but they shall remain in their office, without being deported." Again, in contrast to other rulers who would eliminate the previous administration after assuming power, removing—by exile, imprisonment or execution—the remnants of any earlier regime and replacing them with loyalists, the Prophet would keep the same administrative and judiciary structures in place, seeking only love and loyalty in return. Most leaders of the time, and many leaders of the present, act according to the animal order. Like dominant lions and bears, who go to the extreme of killing cubs of previous or potential competitors, many victorious political and/or military leaders still physically purge the leaders of the preceding administration. Based on his actions, it is clear that the Messenger of Allah was not a centrist but rather a federalist. Centrism is the concentration of political power in a single center. Federalism is a political organization based on the voluntary integration of provinces or states which delegate some of their powers to the central power while maintaining their autonomy. Federalism is thus the most pragmatic and convenient method of constructing a government that recognizes diversity of its constituents and allows them to maintain their principles. So, what the Prophet was creating were provinces or states that had a wide range of rights and freedoms within the larger framework of the Islamic ummah. This is federalism. It may be Islamic Federalism but it is federalism nonetheless.