The Medina Charter, written and promulgated by Prophet Muhammad for the multi-religious ten thousand-strong citizens of the city-state of Medina in 622 A.D is truly a remarkable political-constitutional document. The claim made by Professor M. Hamidullah that it was the first written constitution (FN1) in the world is not without basis. Aristotle’s Constitution of Athens (FN2), written on papyrus, discovered by an American missionary in Egypt in 1890 and published in 1891, was not a constitution. It was an account of the constitution of the city-state of Athens. Other legal writings on the conduct of ancient societies have been found, but none can be described as a constitution. The Medina Charter is the first, and in this it preceded the American Constitution of 1787, considered by Western authorities as “a landmark document of the Western world … the oldest written national constitution in operation” (FN3) by more than a thousand years! It also preceded the English feudal bill of rights, the Magna Carter of 1215, by almost six centuries!
Not only is the Madina Charter important in the sense that it is the first written constitution; it is also modern in the sense that it was promulgated for a plural society, giving equal rights to every citizen as well as giving them a say in governmental matters, as we shall see.