Prophet Muhammad’s [SAW] Clemency: Charter of Privileges
October 7, 2011 6 Comments
On the migration to Medina, Prophet Muhammad SAW faced a host of interminable opposition from Jews and Christians day to day. The formidable coalition formed by the Jews and the idolaters in Makkah to compass the destruction of the commonwealth of Medina had utterly failed. But the surrounding tribes of the desert, in Medina, wild and fierce, were committing depredations, acompanied with murders, on the Medinite territories: and the existence of Medina required the employment of stern measures for their repression. Several expeditions were dispatched against these marauders, but the slippery sons of the desert generally evaded the approach of the Muslims of Medina.
Their treachery and evilness was such that once the tribe of Bani Lihyan requested Prophet Muhammad SAW to send few of His disciples among them to teach the precepts of Islam. When Prophet Muhammad SAW send the missionaries to teach them, the Bani Lihyan killed some of the missionaries and sold the rest to Mekkans (Kuffar-e-Makkah). Following this event, Prophet Muhammad SAW, the same year, marched against the Bani Lihyan with the body of Muslim troops under His personal command.
The marauders of Bani Lihyan, however, receiving timely notice of the Prophet’s approach, fled into the mountains, and the Muslims returned to Medina without having accomplished their purpose.
A few days had only elapsed when a chief of the Bani-Fizara, a branch of the nomade horde of Ghatafan, (Khail-Ghatafan), suddenly fell upon the open suburbs of the city, and drove off a large herd of camels, murdering the man who had charge of them, and carrying off his wife. The Muslims were immediately on their track, and a few of the animals were recovered; but the Bedouins escaped into the desert with the larger portion of their booty.
Charter of Privileges:
It was about this time that the Prophet Muhammad SAW granted to the monks of the monastery of St. Catherine, near Mount Sinai, and to all Christians, a Charter, commonly named as Charter of Privilages, which has been justly designated as one of the noblest monuments of enlightened tolerance that the history of the world can produce. The marauders were awe-struck with such a demonstration of compassion and tolerance of Prophet Muhammad SAW.
This remarkable document, the Charter of Privileges, which has been faithfully preserved by the annalists of Islam, displays a marvellous breadth of view and liberality of conception. By it the Prophet Muhammad SAW secured to the Christians privileges and immunities which they did not possess even under sovereigns of their own creed; and declared that any Muslim violating and abusing what was therein ordered, should be regarded as a violator of God’s testament, a transgressor of His commandments, and a slighter of His faith.
Prophet Muhammad SAW undertook Himself, and enjoined on his followers, to protect the Christians, to defend their Churches, the residences of their priests, and to guard them from all injuries.
The salient features of the Charter of Privileges are as follows:
1- They (Christians) were not to be unfairly taxed
2- No bishop was to be driven out of his bishopric
3- No Christian was to be forced to reject his religion; no monk was to be expelled from his monastery; no pilgrim was to be detained from his pilgrimage
4- Nor were the Christian Churches to be pulled down for the sake of building Mosques or houses for the Muslims
5- Christian women married to Muslims were to enjoy their own religion, and not to be subjected to compulsion or annoyance of any kind on that account
6- If Christians should stand in need of assistance for the repair of their Churches or Monasteries, or any other matter pertaining to their religion, the Muslim were to assist them. This was not to be considered as taking part in their religion, but as merely rendering them assistance in their need
7- Should the Muslims be engaged in hostilities with outside Christians, no Christian resident among the Muslims should be treated with contempt on account of his creed. Any Muslim so treating a Christian should be accounted recalcitrant to the Prophet Muhammad SAW