THE first Islamic state was established by the Prophet (peace be upon him) in Madinah. At first, it was a city state, limited to Madinah and its surroundings. However, within a few years it extended further. Only ten years after its establishment, it included the whole of the Arabian Peninsula. This development was rapid, particularly in the second half of that decade which was blessed by the fact that the Prophet himself conducted the affairs of the state, according to what God revealed to him in matters of religion and on the basis of his discretion and consultation with his companions in worldly matters.
Toward the end of his noble life, the Prophet needed to appoint governors of remote parts of the land of Islam. One of these was Muâdh ibn Jabal who was sent to Yemen as its governor. He was a young man approaching 30 years of age, but he was well versed in the Qurâan and he had acquired very good knowledge of Islam. The Prophet was keen to give him clear instructions on how to approach his task. These were given on more than one occasion, the last of which was when Muâadh was about to depart. We have several Hadiths speaking of these instructions. We will discuss one of these as it outlines an important aspect of Islamic advocacy.
Ibn Abbas reports that when the Prophet appointed Muâadh as governor of Yemen, he told him that its population included large sections of Christians. He said to him: âCall on them to declare their testimony that there is no deity other than God and that I am Godâs messenger. If they accept this, then inform them that God has made it a duty incumbent on them to offer five obligatory prayers every day and night. If they accept this, inform them that God has made it obligatory that they should pay zakat, which is taken from the rich among them and distributed to their poor.â (Related by Al-Bukhari).
The first thing to note in this Hadith is the gradual approach in the advocacy of Islam. It is important to concentrate first on the basic and most fundamental principle, which is Godâs oneness and Muhammadâs status as Godâs messenger. No duties of Islam need to be mentioned at this stage, because these are required only of Muslims. A person becomes a Muslim when he makes the declaration: âI bear witness that there is no deity other than God and that Muhammad is Godâs messenger.â It is not sufficient to believe in Godâs oneness without adding the belief in Muhammadâs message. How else can we learn what God requires of us, unless he gives us His teachings and instructions through His messenger?
The Prophet makes it clear to Muâadh that only when those people have accepted that and declared their belief he should tell them about prayer, and that they have to offer the five obligatory prayers, spread over the night and day, every day. Needless to say, Muâadh would instruct them about these prayers and how and when they must be offered.
When the people accept this and begin to pray their five daily prayers, Muâadh would tell them about zakat. We note that the Prophet states that zakat âis taken from the rich among them and distributed to their poor.â There are two points here: The first is that if a Muslim refuses to pay zakat, it is taken from him without his consent. The second is that it should be distributed to the poor in the same city, village or district. It cannot be sent elsewhere unless the poor in that locality have been given enough to enable them to have a decent standard of living. Within a few years Muâadh sent some of the zakat he collected in Yemen to Madinah. Umar, who was Caliph at the time, questioned him as he was aware that zakat should be distributed within the locality where it is paid. Muâadh told him that he only sent the surplus, after he had made sure that everyone in Yemen was self-sufficient.