Allama Iqbal driving through Rome in 1936 met Benito Mussolini in Rome. The meeting was arranged on Mussolini's request. Allama found Rome congested, and minced no words in expressing it, as his host asked him of his impression on drive through the city. And then he surprised his host by relating that Prophet Muhammad (SaW) concerned on growth of Medina asked for a blueprint of its extension. As he examined the blueprint, he expressed his opinion that city may not be extended to areas, where civic amenities might be difficult to extend. Mussolini was taken aback on how could anyone comprehend the nitty gritty of urban planning 1400 years back?
The tiny republic of Medina was growing, given the influx of Makkan migrants, and frequency of visitors from all over Arabia, with some preferring to settle in what was growing to be Madinat-ul-Nabi (pbuh) the city of Prophet (A.S). The city was setting examples in urban governance, an oasis of great significance in deserts of Arabia. And, it was developing a composite culture in what was traditionally a tribal society. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) initially tried to loop in Jews in Medinite suburbs with the tribes of Medina and Makkanmigrants. The 'Medinite Declaration (Me'chak-e-Medina)' of equal rights had Prophet (pbuh) as the final arbiter in the dispute. Jews however did everything to sabotage the composite deal, as they have been prone to down historical epochs. Any deal where Jews do not retain the upper hand is never a done deal, prompting a sage to comment—world will always have a Jewish problem!
Blending people and building a cosmopolitan society remained the focus of Prophet (pbuh) as a 'Treaty of Brotherhood (Movakhat)' was established between Makkan migrants (Mahajars) and Medinite helpers (Ansars) a treaty that entailed sharing equally the holdings of Medinites. Makkans had keen business instincts, the treaty provided them the foothold they needed. Amongst the migrants were reputed businessmen, some of them close associates of Prophet (pbuh) such as Hazrat Abu Bakr (RA) Hazrat Usman Ghani (RA) Hazrat Abdul Rehman bin Ouf (RA). The business skills of these men of repute added manifold to the business culture of Medina, as the migrants and Medinites benefitted equally. Within years, as famine struck Medina, Hazrat Usman Ghani (RA) was able to provide all the food grains needed from his silos. Of such a magnitude was the multiplication of business assets.
Medina was fast growing to be a productive society following generations of tribal warfare between Medinite tribes—Banu Ous and Banu Khazaraj, a conflict fuelled by Jewish money. The money provided to either side on multiplying interest was used to buy arms and feed the media. Media of yore was constituted by poets. Standing in town squares they would relate verses of eulogy for their own tribe and elegy for opposing tribes. It formed the context of banning the usury, which had devastated Medina, until they found their saviour. Prophet (pbuh) was setting new trends in governance, weeding out tribal instincts, and breeding composite culture, with the common faith in Islam as disciplining and moralizing force.
The magnitude of governance could be gauged by the often quoted fact of Prophet (pbuh) sorting out problems of individual families, apart from macro-management of state affairs. Reputed historians such as Ameer Ali quote instances of Medinite womenfolk taking their family issues to Prophet (pbuh) and having them addressed. No matter remained small enough for his attention. And he did it with a smile. Smile, said the Prophet (pbuh) could be charity. And, for him—the master in governance with hardly material holdings of note, smile was a benevolence that he dispensed in abundance and with grace.
Ensuring internal order in Medina by fuelling stakes in greater productivity, Prophet (pbuh) had to contend with enemies in Makka. Medina was strategically located on the commercial pathway to Syria. Makkan concerns multiplied, the developing governance model in Medina was attracting notice, apart from their fears of commercial artery getting clogged. Hence, they enforced conflicts. Badr, Ohod and the Battle of Trench (Ghazv-e-Khandaq) followed. Medina was getting increasingly fortified. Makkans were left with no option but to sue for peace. Peace was the pre-requisite of unfolding governance model in Medina. Though the 'Treaty of Hudbia' was taken to be one-sided by some associates, Prophet (pbuh) remained sure of its dividends. It turned out to be exactly, as he knew, it would. The peace dividend united Arabia within a space of few years—a historical marvel in a land given to generations of blood feuds.
United Arabia passing through a great experiment was being looked at with renewed interest by two super-powers of times—Romans and the Persians. Prophet (pbuh) addressed them through diplomatic communications. Drunk with millennia of power and prestige, it formed an affront. Prophet (pbuh) knew what to expect. It meant securing borders. His trusted aid—Hazrat Zaid (RA) was chosen for the job, and following his martyrdom—Hazrat Osma ibn Zaid (RA) his 17 year old son. None demurred; the command was followed by one and all. Hazrat Abu Bakr (RA) in his caliphate kept the word.
The great experiment in governance in Medinite republic took the global route, super-powers of yore were adopting the new governance model within years—yet another marvel of history!
Yaar Zinda, Sohbat Baqi [Reunion is subordinate to survival]
(The author is doctor in medicine, a social activist, and a senior columnist)