To give a pledge is to make an undertaking of serious and important nature. In Islam, a pledge, or bay’ah, has a special place as it signifies the serious commitment that a Muslim violates at his own peril. He will have to answer to none other than God for such a violation. Therefore, Muslims take their pledges very seriously, knowing that a breach of the commitment cannot be overlooked. In the early days of Islam, those who joined the Muslim ranks and declared their belief in the Islamic message gave their pledges to God’s Messenger (peace be upon him).
The term of the pledge new Muslims gave to the Prophet are well defined. Ubadah ibn Al-Samit reports: “I was one of the headmen who gave their pledges to God’s Messenger (peace be upon him). We pledged that we would never associate any partners with God, steal, commit adultery, kill anyone without proper cause, take away other people’s property, or disobey God’s orders. Should we fulfill our pledges, we would be rewarded with admittance into heaven, but if we commit any violation, then judgment for such violation is up to God.” (Related by Al-Bukhari and Muslim.) Another version of the same statement is given by Al-Tabari quoting Ubadah as saying: “We were with the Prophet when he said to us: ‘Pledge to me that you would never associate partners with God, steal or commit adultery. Whoever of you fulfills his pledges will have his reward with God, and whoever commits any violation and it remains concealed, his case will be judged by God who may forgive or punish him as He pleases.”
In both versions, Ubadah ibn Al-Samit is referring to the first pledge, or bay’ah, given by the Ansar, the new Muslims from Madinah, to the Prophet. We need to clarify that the first people from the Ansar to accept Islam were six individuals who met the Prophet during the pilgrimage season in year 11 of the start of the Islamic message. This means two years before the immigration of the Prophet and his companions from Makkah to Madinah, the event that signifies the start of the Islamic calendar. The Ansar were the people of Madinah who accepted Islam and pledged their support to the Prophet, earning this title, Ansar, which means “supporters”. When the six people accepted Islam, they did not give any special pledge to the Prophet other than to fulfill Islamic requirements and observe Islamic values.
The following year, twelve people from Madinah, including the first six, met the Prophet in the pilgrimage season and declared themselves Muslims. It was then that the Prophet accepted their pledges to which the reports given above refer. No one was given the status of being a headman on this occasion. In the next pilgrimage season, i.e. year 13 of the beginning of the Islamic message, a total of 73 men and two women from the Ansar met the Prophet at Aqabah in Mina and pledged their full support to him, requesting him to join them in their city. This signaled the start of the Muslims’ immigration from Makkah to Madinah where the first Islamic state was established. It was during this third meeting that the Prophet asked for headmen to be chosen and 12 such headmen were named, including the reporter of the Hadith.
In the last of these pledges, with the larger number of the Ansar giving it, they pledged extending full protection to the Prophet when he arrived in their city, declaring their readiness to fight and repel any aggression. As for the first pledge, mentioned in the reports quoted above, this included no promise of fighting and no mention of the Prophet’s immigration. A full statement of the terms of this pledge is also given by Ubadah ibn Al-Samit: “We were eleven men at the time of the first pledge at Aqabah. We gave to God’s Messenger the pledge given by women: that ‘we will associate no partners with God, and will never steal, commit adultery, perpetrate any falsehood with regard to the parenthood of our children, kill our children or disobey him in any reasonable matter.’ Whoever of us fulfills his pledges will be rewarded with heaven, and whoever commits any violation his case will be judged by God who may forgive or punish him, as He pleases.” (Related by Al-Bukhari and Muslim.)
These terms of the pledge are known in Islam as the “pledge of women” because they are specified as the terms women should give when they pledge their loyalty to the Prophet and commit themselves to Islam. They are specifically mentioned in Verse 12 of Surah 60 in the Qur’an. They provide a complete framework of Islamic morality and Islamic life, which should maintain the highest standard of honesty and truthfulness, as well as fair dealing. The first item in the pledge is the one no Muslim can violate, “never to associate any partner with God.” Should anyone violate this condition, he is not a Muslim, because Islam lays maximum emphasis on monotheism. No one can ever be thought of as equal to God in any way, and no one can be given a divine status. Stealing and adultery are two of the worst crimes that Islam strictly forbids. They are indeed forbidden in all divine religions. The fourth term of the pledge prohibits the fabrication of any falsehood with regard to the parenthood of children. This refers to a situation in which a woman gets pregnant in an adulterous relation and claims that the child belongs to her husband. The next pledge committed those Muslims never to kill their children. This is important in all societies, particularly where poor people often kill children shortly after their birth. It was specifically important in those early days of Islam when the Arabs often resorted to killing their daughters for fear of poverty or shame. The last term of the pledge committed Muslims to obey the Prophet in every good cause. Needless to say, the Prophet never ordered anyone to do anything other than what is good. Indeed, he taught us every good thing, upheld every moral value, and established every honorable principle. He never espoused anything that could cause anyone to shy away or to feel uneasy about. He was the epitome of all goodness.