The Messenger ﷺ said: Certainly, I had witnessed a pact of justice in the house of Abdullah ibn Jud’an that was more beloved to me than a herd of red camels. If I were called to it now in the time of Islam, I would answer it.
Before the Prophet ﷺ received revelation, a man from the tribe of Zubaid came to do business in Makkah. On his journey he encountered a man who was from the Quraysh. The Qurayshi man asked him to handover his merchandise, and told him that he would give his payment for the merchandise the next day. There was no doubt in the Zubaidi man’s heart that he would receive his payment as people from outside Makkah respected and trusted the Quraysh. The next day he went to collect the money from the Qurayshi man, however he denied any knowledge of such payment.
The Zubaidi man was distraught at the situation and went to all the leaders and complained of the Qurayshi man who took his belongings. They ignored and dismissed him. The next morning he went to the Ka’aba and stood at the door and took his shirt off as a sign of desperation. He cried out and read some verses of poetry addressing the Makkans as a people of dignity and honour, asking how theft and oppression could occur in the city Makkah.
The Quraysh called a meeting to address the situation and the youngest attendees were the Prophet ﷺ and Abu Bakr ra. They came to the agreement Hilf al-Fudul that they would side with the oppressed against the oppressor regardless of tribe. Even if the one who is shown injustice is from a far away tribe, and the oppressor is from Quraysh.
The Prophet ﷺ mentioning that he would continue to uphold the pact indicates that it was still in place when the Prophet said this statement. This pact gives Muslims a precedent for the moral responsibility of all citizens to protect the weak, speak for them, critique the rulers and the powerful and the concept of establishing citizens’ groups that advocate, and lobby for social rights.
Quran says, “Verily God commands justice, excellent conduct, and caring for one’s relatives, and He forbids all forms of immorality, evil and transgression.”
Slavery and the inhumane treatment of the African Americans were immoral, evil, the most heinous act of transgression and injustice. Today is Juneteenth which commemorates June 19, 1865 - the date freedom from slavery was finally announced in Texas, a full two-and-a-half years after President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation.
This holiday is an important reminder that laws alone cannot ensure equality and freedom. The more than two year delay from the Emancipation Proclamation might not feel that long when the African Americans still had to fight for more than 100 years to get their civil rights. Even now, hate and oppression based on race are still active in our world, and race still plays too significant of a role in many outcomes including education, wealth, and health.
Scholars say that when the Prophet ﷺ said, “Are you supported or given victory by Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala except by how you treat your poor.” the Prophet is teaching us that barakah comes to a society as a whole when they uphold the rights of the weakest. Presence of injustice ruins a society. There was a boom in the economy for Makkans after this pact was made. It lead to more blessing in their economy.
As the story of Hilf al-Fudul teaches us: Justice for some is not justice at all. It is easy to be overwhelmed by all the different types of transgressions in the society. By creating pacts like this, we can do away with conditions of oppression in some capacities and that will slowly chip away at the spirit that allows oppression to be maintained in the society. We have to work together upholding justice and eliminating oppression while holding fast to our principles.