Medina model State: Lessons for rulers

Mansoor Akbar Kundi

THE Medina state model as a phrase is commonly used in context of good governance. It is on record that Pakistani rulers have used the term from time to time in ceremonial and non ceremonial addresses. Imran Khan and his party elite are no exception to the fact that they have been using the term quite often. At least, I have heard them on many occasions in pre-election days. The term is eventually applied in important statements by PTI ministers. In Pakistan, the use of term as an application for welfare state has not been new. Since 1947 both the politicians and praetorian rulers have referred to the phrase to consolidate and legitimise their being in power. The term was firstly applied in First Constituent Assembly debates. Liaquat Ali Khan is on record to use it. The debates over insertion of Objective Resolutions entailed the term frequently. Zia ul Haq in quest for legitimacy drew on it for Islamisation of societal and state structure.
The term stands a universality of good governance and tolerance character without being understood and applied in Islamic countries including Pakistan. Many great constitutional landmarks which the Western world assumed as beacon of hope and aspiration for human and political rights i e Magna Carta and Rights of Men were indeed centuries later to follow it. Medina state model was based on the Charter of Medina drafted by holy prophet Muhammad (SAV) in 623 AD or 1 AH. Famous scholar of Islamic history, Professor Hamidullah calls it as “the first universal constitution in the world” which amicably and comprehensively defined the relationship of state & society in Medina which had reached the lowest ebbs of the anarchic state of affairs. He along many western scholars justify its universal nature on the grounds that no where in the world then divided into city or small states/principalities or overwhelmed by mighty empires had such a written and defined mechanism of governance to run a society in pluralistic sense.
Comprising the two-part 53 points hand written agreement (divided into articles/clauses in modern sense of constitutionalism) was better known as Charter of Medina (Mîthâq al-Medîna). It was unanimously agreed upon by all the elders of the society which population was slightly more than ten thousands. It changed the state of affairs in Madina. The state of affairs in Madina compared to Mecca were far governed. Apart from rivalry and aggression to the Holy Prophet (PBUH) and his followers, the historians agree that state of administration and governance in Makkah was far orderly and superior. It did not suffer from lack of administration, lack of law and order situation, and lack of central authority to collect revenues. The Medina model principally addressed six major issues which were of governance, socio-cultural, tribal, religious, security and economic nature. The issues were essentially to be addressed which later on by scholars were claimed to be the leading principles of human welfare and state development to seek a peaceful, pluralistic and just society. And a sad reality is that in large majority of Islamic countries including Pakistan fail to address them.
The Holy Prophet (PBUH) by mutual agreement and consent became the central authority and order of the state. His leadership was charismatic and rational. Charismatic in the sense that he exhibited qualities of being pious, true and visionary for a better future. And rational that they agreed upon him to lead them for a better future. All important matters were referred to him as the pivotal authority and the highest court of appeal and were justly addressed. One principle of justice was applied to all without any discrimination on sex, religion or ethnicity. He had made it clear that in pursuit of justice if his beloved daughter, Fatima’s case comes, no concession will be shown. In today’s world, democracy which is known as the best and possible alternate of government is based on rationality and charismatic sense of leadership. The modern and successful democracies are based on the principles that leadership elected at micro and macro levels largely possess the said two qualities. Hereditary bases of leadership though persistent in many democracies are not in large regarded by analysts as very supportive of leadership. Medina state established under the authority of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) did not care much about the traditional or hereditary bases of leadership. It is due to the fact that ruler leadership bases holy Prophet defined in Medina became the base of rulership in the years to come under the four Caliphs. None of the four Caliphs showed an inclination to support hereditary trends in politics. Hereditary trends in politics have been considered a bane of representative system in many Islamic countries, including Pakistan.
The crux of the leadership for which Medina state model is claimed to be of an example that the Holy Prophet (PBUH) claimed himself not above the law or regulations. He was to live and lead a simple life the others followed. Even his life as the head of the state compared to many wealthy and middle class citizens of Medina was simpler. Michael Hart ranks him in his book as the 1st in ranking of most influential men in history in showing spiritual as well as temporal excellence in day-to-day affairs. Holy Prophet’s famous saying at the helms of affairs was Love you son, but in front of an orphan it is forbidden. There is a lesson for those at the helm of affairs should realise that society is not based on vanity fair with discrimination between have and have-nots. The major character of the Medina state was that it despite all resistance and odds of tribal, religious and ethnic differences defined the existing population as one community (Ummah). Medina was a ethnically, tribally and religiously divided with Muslims, Jews and Pagans living in it. Jewish and Pagan tribes were always at neck to neck with one another. By being defined as one Ummah it restored not only law and order situation but enhanced its protection against outside intruders in years to come. The notion of Ummah centuries later on assumed the concept of national integration. It was designed to promote pluralism which is an essential ingredient in promotion of successful representative system.
— The writer is Professor, Dept of Politics & International Relations, International Islamic University, Islamabad.

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