By Waris Mazhari
March 5, 2017
Some two decades before the Prophet
Muhammad was appointed as a prophet, a trader from Yemen sold some goods to a
Meccan man called ‘Aas ibn Wa’il, but the latter did not pay him for them. In
order to secure justice for the trader, a meeting was held at the house of
Abdullah ibn Jud‘an, attended by several respected inhabitants of Mecca. They
entered into a pact, according to which in incidents like this, collective
efforts would be taken to ensure justice for those rights had been violated.
This treaty is known as the Hilf al-Fudul, which is often translated as ‘League
of the Virtuous’.
The Prophet was present on this occasion.
At that time, he was around 20 years old. After he was appointed as a prophet,
he expressed his contentment at having joined the association, saying that the
oath of the Hilf al-Fudul was more pleasant than owning red-haired camels (This
sort of camel was very rare and so was very expensive, being considered very
precious). If he were summoned to it during the Islamic era, too, the Prophet
said, he would accept it.
The Hilf al-Fudul and the Prophet’s
response to it can form the basis for joint efforts by people irrespective of
religion to work together for the preservation, protection and promotion of
human values. This sort of unity can be envisaged at various levels—from the
local to the regional to the national and even to the international level.
True, some people who simply cannot tolerate the idea of Muslims and
non-Muslims joining hands may balk at this idea, as might those who take a very
narrow view of ‘Islamic’ causes. But the Hilf-e Fudul shows how such unity can
bring people of different faiths and ideological persuasions to work together
for the collective good of humankind.
Today, people across the world—from diverse
countries, faith backgrounds and cultures—are closely inter-connected, perhaps
as never before. Hitherto largely mono-religious countries are increasingly
becoming multi-religious—and this is happening in both the Muslim and
non-Muslim ‘worlds’. Both these ‘worlds’ are now being impacted upon by
external religious, cultural and economic influences. This is leading to the
walls that have stood for centuries around them beginning to crumble. No longer
is it considered necessary for religious minorities to have to completely
assimilate into majority populations and lose their faith and identity. In an
atmosphere of increasing tolerance and respect, they can now maintain their
faith and culture and at the same time work with people of other faiths for
common purposes. True, there may be some exceptions in these regard, but these
are temporary, and are definitely not the rule.
This coming closer together of various
religious groups is in line with the Prophet’s saying that all creatures are
[part of] God’s family. The Hilf al-Fudul underlies the need for us to unite
this family of God by rising above religious and other ideological differences
and working together for protecting and promoting common human values.
In today’s world, there are numerous
problems that necessitate such joint cooperation and untied action by people of
different faiths and ideologies—endemic poverty, global warming, the nuclear
race, ecological devastation, rampant immorality, the crisis in the institution
of the family, violence in the name of religion, racism, war, terrorism and so
on. These problems are not specific to just one community or nation. Rather,
they have become global phenomena. They simply cannot be effectively solved
without the joint efforts of all communities and nations. In the absence of
such unity, humanity’s race towards destruction cannot be halted. Some people
might think that such unity is a foolish dream. But, then, the fact is that we
simply have no choice but to dream this dream and try to work to make it a
reality. All communities, Muslims included, need to enkindle the spirit of the
Hilf al-Fudul. Muslims especially should pay attention to this task.