By Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi, New Age Islam
02 August 2018
Pakistan’s 19th prime minister-in-waiting and the chief of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Imran Khan avers that he has envisioned an Islamic welfare state as was set up in the holy city of Medina by Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). Here’s his exact quote:
"My inspiration comes from the last Prophet who set up an ideal welfare state in Medina. I want Pakistan to become like that. A humanistic not an animalistic state," he said in a speech made from Bani Gala in Islamabad. “I want to share the kind of Pakistan I envision – the type of state that was established in Madina, where widows and the poor were taken care of,” he added.
Thus, in his 31-minute address to his nation, the cricketer-turned-politician has flaunted his ‘ambition’ to create an Islamic welfare state where his guiding principles will be the same as adopted by the holy Prophet in setting up one of the “greatest civilisations”. “I pledge to our people that I will introduce a system that is for the masses, all policies will be for the people and not for the elite,” he vowed. “I will live humbly. So far we have seen that everyone who comes to power changes. That will not happen with me,” he promised.
Even before the general election, the PTI's manifesto avowedly stated its 'mission' to make Pakistan an Islamic welfare state in line with the humane and just principles that made the foundations of Misaq-e-Madina—a written charter of human rights in state of the Prophet (pbuh).
What is particularly interesting to note that Imran Khan referred to Misaq-e-Madina (or the Covenant of Madina) which particularly ensured protection of religious minorities in a Muslim-majority state. It is unclear whether he will deliver on his promise. But I would like to weigh in on what Imran Khan meant by governing as per the Madinite Islam and how the Indo-Pak Islamic scholars should view this. Notably, some of the prominent Muslim intellectuals in India have appeared quite optimistic about this. Professor Akhtar ul Wasey, President of Maulana Azad University of Jodhpur has written an op-ed piece in Roznama Rashtria Sahara welcoming Khan’s ambition to create an ‘Islamic welfare state’ as a well-intentioned gesture for peace and pluralism. Similarly, Dr Zafar ul Islam Khan, chairman of Delhi Minorities Commission was recently quoted in the Urdu daily Inquilab favouring the ‘peace overtures’ of Pakistan over ‘India’s reluctance in holding the talks’.
But given Pakistan’s self-styled Nizam-e-Mustafa (the Prophetic system of governance) which is already brazenly violated in the country, several questions emerge on this. Deplorably enough, Pakistan was created as an Islamic nation on the basis of “Nizam-e-Mustafa”, but its constitution and many of its civil laws seriously violate the minority rights. Let alone the religious minorities in the country, not even Muslim minorities are safe. Basic human rights as enshrined in the Prophet’s constitution are brazenly violated day in and day out. Hence, the fundamental question is: Can an Islamic welfare state really exist in Pakistan? And, if Khan considers the Madina state a standard system of governance for a Muslim-majority country, then how his ambition is going to be different from the notions of many other political Islamic parties operating in Pakistan, all vying to re-establish an ‘Islamic state’?
To discuss these questions, first, let us recount the key preambles of the Madina Covenant or Misaq-e-Madina to the extent that its essence is not lost in paraphrasing:
• The concept of one nation (Ummat-e-Wahida): All those who lived in Medina— Muslims, Jews, Christians, polytheists, pagans, tribes, clans, rich, poor, masters, slaves and others—belonged to one nation. It also included immigrants from Mecca, residents of Medina, neighboring tribes, and those who fought with and for them.
• Prevention of abuse in loyalty: Poor or rich, master or slave, high ranking or layman, black or white, or others; all citizens are equal before the law. It ensured an inclusive cooperation among all citizens to reject any abuse or misuse of the laws. Citizens were considered under this clause of the constitution as a beautiful piece of mosaic.
• Joint Defense: Muslims and non-Muslims should defend each other according to this constitution, and the rules and regulations were made out of careful consultation from the citizens and their representatives.
• Accountability: Whoever breaches or breaks any article in this constitution will lose the privileges entitled by this constitution and will meet the consequences, and no one carries the burden of the other.
• Pluralism: Recognizing and accepting the special religious, traditional and cultural aspects of each component in a multi-cultural and pluralistic society.
These are some of the clauses of the Madina Covenant that made Medina a sacred state in the Islamic history. Composed of 52 articles, this document particularly stressed peaceful coexistence of different religious communities. Notably, it was not meant for only for the state of war but also for peaceful times.
The concept of Ummat-e-Wahida (“one nation”) through the terms of the Madina constitution clearly shows that the Muslims and non-Muslims whether from Makkah or Madinah were one community. Thus, this Prophetic principle recognized the “nation” for the first time in the history as a one indivisible unit, moving from the individual or the tribal life to the life of the single nation. It is not characterized by any particular religion, racism or tribalism. It rather ended racism and discrimination on the basis of religion:
“The Jews shall be responsible for their expenses and the Believers for theirs… The Jews shall maintain their own religion and the Muslims theirs. Loyalty is a protection against treachery… The Jews of Banu Najjar, Banu al-Harith, Banu Sa’idah, Banu Jusham, Banu al-Aws, Banu Tha’labah, Jafnah, and Banu al-Shutaybah enjoy the same rights and privileges as the Jews of Banu Aws…”
(Source: Sunan Al-Bayhaqi, no. 16808 and see the whole constitution in Ibn Katheer’s biography, part 2, page 321, and Ibn Hisham’s, part 1, page 501.)
Significantly, the theological justification for Muslims to live with non-Muslims in a pluralistic society and particularly, to embrace the world’s largest secular democracy—India—came from the Madina Covenant.
Barbara Daly Metcalf, an expert on the history of Islam in South Asia, wrote that Maulana Husain Ahmad Madani (1879-1957)—renowned Indian Islamic scholar and one of the profounder of “composite nationalism” (Muttahida Qaumiyat) campaigned for democracy and national integration on the very basis of the Madina Charter. He contended: “Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) in the fourteenth year of his Prophethood, formed a united front between the Companions and the resident Jews of Medinah based on a written constitution that brought them together” (See Maulana’s book Islam and Composite Nationalism).
Now consider Imran Khan’s vision of the Islamic welfare state. He has averred that welfare states do exist in Europe today, but has produced no modalities to turn the war-torn Pakistan into an 'Islamic welfare state'. Khan has only buttressed that his guiding principles will be the same as adopted by the last Prophet in setting up one of the "greatest civilisations". Thus, he merely flogged off his story of inspiration emanating from the Misaq-e-Medina. “Though our society is totally opposed to it, we will run Pakistan on the same principles as the state of Medina”, Imran said as reported in Samaa TV.
But there are many implications in big statements like this. Some would argue that Meccan Islamic principles, as compared to the Madinite period of Islam, was more pluralistic, peaceful and inclusivist, though under compulsive circumstances. However, the Islamic state in Madina witnessed an aggressive phase including Ghazwas (Islamic battles), enactment of blasphemy laws, extradition of Jews and Christians, abrogation of the peaceful verses of Qur'an such as La Ikraha Fid-Deen (“No coercion in matters of Religion”). This is the view of almost all political Islamist parties in Pakistan. What’s to be seen now is whether Imran Khan goes by the true model of the Medina-like welfare state placed by Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) himself or by the one that is taken hostage by extremist ideologues in Pakistan.
Regular Columnist with Newageislam.com, Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi is a classical Islamic scholar and English-Arabic-Urdu writer. He has graduated from a leading Islamic seminary of India, acquired Diploma in Qur'anic sciences and Certificate in Uloom ul Hadith from Al-Azhar Institute of Islamic Studies. Presently, he is pursuing his PhD in Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi.