Episode 19: The Virtuous Pact of Social Justice
Welcome to Seerah Pearls, which aims to highlight some tantalising learning points from each episode of the Seerah- Life of the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam).
Another scenario which highlighted the unjust practice of blind tribal allegiance occurred when the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) was about 20 years old: this resulted in the formation of the Hilf al-Fudoul: ‘the Virtuous Pact’.
A man came to do business in Makkah from the tribe of Zubaid. The Zubaidi encountered a Qurayshi man, who asked him to handover his merchandise, but he would give payment to the Zubaidi the next day. People from outside Makkah respected the Quraysh, as they were the care-takers of the sacred sanctuary, hence the Zubaidi’s unquestioning trust of the Qurayshi. However, when he went to collect the money the next day, the Qurayshi man denied any knowledge.
The Zubaidi was distraught at the situation. He went to all the leaders and complained of the Qurayshi stealing his merchandise. They dismissed him unjustly, as their loyalties lay with the tribe. The Zubaidi then goes to the Ka’ba at sunrise, which is when the leaders would gather to discuss the day’s agenda. He stood at the door and took his shirt off, as a sign of desperation. He cried out to the people his situation, addressing the people of dignity and honour, asking how theft and oppression could occur in the city Makkah, the site of the sanctuary.
The first to stand up and sympathise with him is the Uncle of the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam), Zubair bin Abdul Muttalib, who later accepted Islam. The Qurayshi leaders gather and decide action must be taken. A man by the name of Abdullah bin Juda’an calls a meeting at home and an agreement is formed for injustice to stop: the pact is to support the rights of the oppressed, whatever the tribal backgrounds of the oppressor, even if this is against their own Quraysh.
This pact is called ‘Hilf al-Fudoul’. There are 2 opinions as to the meaning of ‘al-Fudoul’:
1) From a historical perspective, there were three men present by the name of al-Fadal, hence the plural form ‘al-Fudoul’.
2) From a linguistic perspective, ‘fadal’ means ‘virtuous’.
Thus, the first act under the Hilf al-Fudoul was that all the men present went to the Qurayshi who mistreated the Zubaidi. The merchandise is returned to the wronged Zubaidi.
The Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) reports when in Medina that he witnessed the pact 30-40 years prior. He said would not trade his presence there for red she-camels i.e. the most valuable things in the world. He also said that if the pact was called in Islam, he would answer. Interestingly, the Hilf al-Fudoul was called upon even after the death of the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) by his grandson Hussain ibn Ali ibn Abu Talib, when there was a disagreement over money with Al-Walid bin Utbah bin Abu Sufyan.