The Medina Charter: Political or Tribal
“The Medina Charter”, while trying to rise above tribal customs, was unable to form a new political entity, ultimately falling prey to fundamental tribal customs. Evidence of the new charter being tribal based is seen through statements numbered twenty-one, twenty-three, and forty-four. The crux of these statements highlight the fact that the structure of the “Medina Charter” was nothing more than a social contract formed around a religiocentric tribal system. Statement twenty-one, “ Whoever is convicted of killing a believer without good reason shall be subject to retaliation unless the next of kin is satisfied (with blood-money), and the believers shall be against him as one man and they are bound to take action against him.”1 This statement of the charter directly reflects the tribal idea of retaliation within clans and tribes. A charter should reflect political alliances and defensive measures or negotiations, instead addressed an attack through a primitive eye for an eye rebuttal. Regardless that it addresses compensation through “Blood-money”, but such compensation diminishes the importance of a political hierarchy and governance. Further on within the charter it reads that, “ Whenever you differ about a matter it must be referred to God or Muhammad.”2 In a society where differences are resulted by the word of God or a leading prophet, like Muhammad, it takes away any political significance due to lack of political strategy. A political entity must have a structure and order to govern itself. In the newly established Medina Charter it is left up to God and Muhammad as the clans of the tribe would leave their matters up to the most prominent ruling tribesman. A final element in the charter that reflects tribal values as opposed to a political entity was in statement forty-four, “The contracting parties are bound to help one another against any attack on Yathrib.”3 This statement could be seen as a political...
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