Seerah episode 19: The Virtuous Pact of Social Justice

— The Sacrilegious War had just ended, but still fresh on everyone’s mind

  • Muhammad (saw) was 19-20 years old when the war had ended

— A man from outside of Makkah (Yemen) from another tribe (Zubaid) came to Makkah to do some business

  • He came into contact with a Qurayshi Makkan named Al-Aas bin Wa-il. They agree to do business together.
  • Aas bin Wa-il said, “Forward me the merchandise, and I’ll pay you tomorrow.”
    • He was a Quryashi Makkan. Qurayshi Makkans were generally seen as honest because they were the caretakers of al-haram. So the Zubaidi man trust him and agreed with the transaction.

— When the Zubaidi man went to collect his payment, Al-Aas said, “What payment? I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Basically, Al-Aas is cheating the man.

  • This Zubaidi man was distraught at being taken advantage of – he was a simple man just looking to support his family
  • He went to different leaders of Quraysh telling them that one of their men has stinged him on a business payment
    • Custom of the time was that your loyalty was to your tribe, not to truth & justice.
    • So other leaders replied, “We don’t know what you’re talking about. We can’t help you.” They pretty much dismissed him

— During sunrise, leaders of the Quraysh would congregate at the Kab’ah to go over the day’s agenda

  • The Zubaidi man went to the Kab’ah during sunrise & stood in front of the door
  • He took his shirt off, which meant a sign of desperation
  • He calls out to the people, “Oh people of dignity & honor. This man has taken merchandise from me. How can this happen in the heart of the Kab’ah? This is where sanctuary is, where people flock to. I cam here not just to sell my merchanise, but I also had the hope to worship here at the Kab’ah. I haven’t even fulfilled my wish of worshipping here at the sacred sanctuary. Where are the all the men of honor & dignity in this House of God. This sacred sanctuary is for people who are honorable, but here I find people who are dishonest and deceitful.”
    • Everyone is just sitting & listening. First one among them to stand was Zubair bin Abdul Mutallib, Muhammad’s uncle (he later accepted Islam)

— Zubair goes to the Zubaidi man & sympathizes with him

  • All the Qurayshi gather together, saying that they need to do something about this. This situation is reminiscent of the events that led to the Sacrilegious War

— A man named Abdullah bin Jada’an calls a meeting in his house

  • The leaders of Quraysh gather at his house & reach an agreement. They were just done with a 5 year war & don’t want more trouble, so they make a pact
  • They make a pact, which stated that they will support the rights of the all the oppressed, even if it’s an outsider. The pact also stated that they will oppose the oppressor, even if he’s one of the Quraysh

— This pact was called Hilf al-Fudl (“League of the Virtuous”)

  • Conditions of the pact
    • The Quraysh will support the rights of all the oppressed, even if it’s an outsider
    • The Quraysh will oppose the oppressor, even if he’s one of the Quraysh
    • Basically, they pledged to “respect the principles of justice and collectively intervene in conflicts to establish justice”
  • 2 explanations behind the name
    • There were 3 individuals from the dozens of Qurayshi men present at the meeting. These 3 men were named Al-Fadul
    • Fudul means “virtue”, so the Virtuous Pact

— What the Quraysh did aftering drawing up the pact

  • Two dozen powerful Qurayshi leders go & knock on door of Al-Aas bin Wa-il. They tell him, “You did business with a man from Zubaid, but you didn’t pay him.”
  • Al-Aas: “Yeah, but you know how we do. You’re supposed to overlook these things. You scratch my back, I scratch yours.”
  • Qurayshi men: “Sorry we don’t roll that way anymore. It’s not gonna fly. Things have changed. We’re going to be fair. First things first. You pay that man.”
  • Al-Aas: “I don’t have money.”
  • Qurayshi men: “Then bring the merchandise.”
  • Al-Aas: “Are you serious?”
  • Qurayshi men: “We’re absolutely serious. We got swords to prove that we’re serious.”
    • They take Al-Aas & the merchandise and return it to the Zubaidi. The Quraysh apologizes on behalf of the Al-Aas & the rest of the tribe to the Zubaidi man.

— During the Medinan Period of his Prophethood, Muhammad looked back on this pact & said, “I witnessed a pact and an oath in the house of Abdullah bin Jada’an. I wouldn’t like for me to have red she-camels in exchange for witnessing that pact – I wouldn’t trade my presence there & witnessing that pact take place for the most valuable things in the world. If I was called to take part in that pact today, with Islam & Shari’ah established, I would go.”

  • Red-she camels at the time were like ferarris today. The Prophet was saying that he wouldn’t trade his presence at the pact-drawing for any materialistic things. Essentially, he was very proud of this moment in his tribe’s history
  • This pact was in the cause of social justice & ethics, even though it was in the pre-Islam period & conjured by idolworshippers in an era of ignorance. The pact was vital in the role of Islamic ethics – shari’ah, & thus the pact was praised by the Prophet

— This pact remains a huge influence to the Arabs. One time, Hussain (ra) ibn Ali ibn Abu Talib ibn Abdul Mutallib (grandson of Muhammad) and Al Walid, grandson of Abu Sufyan had a disagreement over money

  • Walid was the amir of Medina at the time – his uncle Mu’az (ra) had appointed him
  • Walid used his position as a leader to take advantage of Hussain, threw his political weight to take advantage of Hussain

— Hussain said to Walid, “I swear by Allah, that you will fulfill my right to me, or I’ll pick up my sword if I have to. Walid, you will pay me my money or I will take my sword & stand in the masjid of the Prophet & call for the Hilf al-Fudul”

  • Abdullah bin Zubair (ra) says to Hussain, “If Hussain bin Ali calls for the Hilf al-Fudul, then by the virtue of that oath, I will also take my sword & stand by him in the masjid of Prophet & support him. I will die pursuing his right to be fulfilled.”
  • Miswar bin Rama said, “Same here, I will also take my sword & stand by Hussain by virtue of that oath & make sure that Hussain’s right is fulfilled.”
  • Abdul Rahman bin Uthman said, “I will also take my sword & stand in the masjid of the Prophet & support Hussain until his right is fulfilled by virtue of the pact.”
    • More & more of the Sahaba & the children of the Sahaba express their support of Hussain by virtue of the Hilf al-Fudul
    • Finally this news reaches Walid, who gives Hussain his right, “My bad. Here’s your payment.”
  • This event took place long after Muhammad’s passing. This event was significant because the Sahaba called on this pact (which took place 50+ years ago) to settle a dispute to support a cause of justice

— Tariq Ramadan draws 3 principles from this pact:

  • Islam embraces values derived from the human conscience that are outside of the Islamic tradition. This is because Muhammad had acknowledged a pact before revelation, in the pre-Islamic era.
  • Islam acknowledges the righteousness of non-Muslims. In this case, the non-Muslims had defended justice and the oppressed.
  • Islam, instead of building allegiance to a closed community, requires allegiance to a set of universal principles. The message of Islam is not a closed value system, or at variance or conflict with other value systems.

Link to the next episode

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