Polytheists with Whom Agreements Were Made
Although, according to some commentaries of the time, the word polytheist simply means “those ascribing equals to God,” the term really refers to pagans who worship idols, who explicitly ascribe equals to God and believe in countless deities and who are not Muslim, Jewish, Sabaean, Christian or Magian.
While the Qur’an refers to the various religions that existed in Arabia during the time of the coming of Islam, the polytheists are always mentioned as a separate group. Looking at the time of our Prophet (pbuh), although it was made lawful to marry women from and eat food prepared by the People of the Book, Jews and Christians; it was forbidden to marry women from or eat food cooked by the Magians and Sabaeans, and also the polytheists.[iv]
As we have already seen, our Prophet (pbuh) was forced to migrate to Medina under severe pressure from the polytheists and from the very first days of the emigration, he established a bond of brotherhood between the Ansar (the helpers, the Muslims of Medina) and the Muhajir (the emigrants, the Muslims who had migrated from Mecca to Medina). He signed numerous agreements with polytheistic communities and people living in the region, and always invited them to be united in order to build peace, despite the extreme attitudes of the polytheists.
Our Prophet (pbuh) came to Medina, and his strengthening of love and brotherhood proved that people could live in peace with peoples of different beliefs, faiths and languages. One of the greatest proofs that he was a messenger of peace and love is that the first text he had written was a peace agreement. After capturing Mecca, the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) even released all the polytheists who had previously tortured Muslims and treated them with great compassion. This superior moral virtue exhibited by the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was something that had never been seen before in Arab society, and was met with great approval.
The Prophet (pbuh) is a role model for all Muslims on the subject of the implementation of justice in conquered territories. Our Prophet (pbuh) applied the justice revealed in the Qur’an to the inhabitants of countries that were taken over and made agreements with them that would content both sides and under which nobody would suffer the slightest victimization. For that reason, the peoples of conquered countries, no matter what their religion or ethnicity, were always delighted by the justice brought with it by Islam. Our Prophet (pbuh) and the Companions with him represented a community that established justice between people, as expressed in the verse, "Among those We have created there is a community who guide by the Truth and act justly according to it." (Qur'an, 7:181)
The agreement that our Prophet (pbuh) made with the Christian Najran people in the south of the Arabian peninsula is one of the finest examples of his understanding and justice. One of the articles in the treat reads as follows:
Following the agreements with all the societies in that region, our Prophet (pbuh) founded the state of Medina by drawing up the first constitution in the history of Islam, the Constitution of Medina. This was the first and most perfect example of a democratic and multilateral constitution. No democratic system today has been able to achieve such an order as that put into action by our Prophet (pbuh) in the Constitution of Medina, and none has been able to implement it as well as our Prophet (pbuh).