The Prophet, Politics and Diplomacy
There are countless numbers of events and instances where the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) demonstrated his ability to deal with situations effectively and efficiently, with the best of outcomes for all. Here are just two of them:
Hilf al-Fudul (The Alliance of the Virtuous)
Prior to the revelation of Islam, Muhammad (peace be upon him) was actively involved in a number of causes that promoted fairness and justice. One of them was the treaty Hilf al-Fudul. The occasions which lead to the treaty being formed occurred when Yemeni merchants from Zabid sold goods to a Meccan nobleman A’as ibn Wa’il, but withheld payment.
A’as ibn Wa’il acted on the basis that the merchant did not have any confederates in Mecca that could support him. However, this did not stop the merchants in seeking a fair hearing. After appealing to the Quraish Nobles and being refused outright, they turned to the people of Mecca for support.
A gathering occurred in Abdullah ibn Jud'ans house to discuss the matter. Muhammad (peace be upon him) and Abu Bakr Saddiq (May Allah be pleased with him) were present at the meeting. At this meeting, various chiefs and members of tribes in Mecca agreed to respect the principles of justice set out, and to collectively intervene when conflicts of justice do occur, in dealing of trade. This was unheard of and the first of its kind in Arabia, which the Prophet (peace be upon him) greatly influenced. Incidentally, the principles established in this treaty later became prominent after the birth of Islam.
The Constitution of Medina
Prior to the arrival of the Muslims at Medina, conflict was fairly rife between the number of Pagan and Jewish tribes. A number of Chiefs from the tribes of Medina invited Muhammad (peace be upon him) to Medina upon hearing of his ability as a successful orator. Upon establishing a small Muslim community and a mosque the Prophet (peace be upon him) delivered a constitution that focused purely on uniting the people in Medina and to stop the bitter infighting and strong segregation and discontent.
The Constitution consisted of the security of the community, religious freedoms, the role of Medina as a sacred place (barring all violence and weapons), the security of women, stable tribal relations within Medina, a tax system for supporting the community in time of conflict, parameters for exogenous political alliances, a system for granting protection of individuals, a judicial system for resolving disputes.
It also ensured that Non-Muslims members have equal political and cultural right as Muslims, as well as autonomy and freedom of religion. Non-Muslims will take up arms against an enemy that threaten the community and share the burden of costs, with the addition that there will be no treachery between Muslims and Non-Muslims in such situations. However, Non-Muslims are not obliged to take part in a religious war of the Muslims.
How can Muslims not actively partake in politics and society?
This is a side of the Prophet's (peace be upon him) life that we very rarely get to see or get told from our religious teachers. Of how he skilfully dealt with potential dangerous situations and prevented bloodshed amongst the most divided of societies, and built upon that a foundation of peace and clarity. Upon having recognition of this it seems almost incomprehensible how the active participation of Muslims in politics and society, upon working for the greater good can be removed from our identity. More noticeably, in Medina, the progression was conducted in the environment of Non-Muslims under the banner of Islam. A situation somewhat similar to our own.
Both of these examples helped to establish the basic social and judicial fabric that we know in Islam. These are principles and attitudes that are applicable to every age and relation to a human being, as it was applicable to one of the worst of situations. And if we do follow this Sunnah, we are collectively standing up for the good of this world, in the name of Islam. How can we expect to be able to spread Islam in the best of manners without following it? And shouldn’t we as Muslims, aspire for the greater good and development in our lives, communities and societies?
Aside from looking at our duty (although I cannot stress how important it is), if we look at what is possible for us as Muslims, it was this basis of working for the good for others that caused the light of Islam to be as it was during medieval times. That caused the space for intellect, innovation in a social, just and harmonious society. That caused people to come to Muslim cities, for the opportunity and sheer quality of life that the Islamic system brought. And that caused Islam to show the world how truly great it is.