Islam is a religion of peace and no Muslim state can follow a policy of territorial expansion and unprovoked aggression. The foreign policy of a Muslim state should be such as to advance the cause of Islam and to preserve and protect its territorial integrity. The Quran and the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet PBUH Provide sufficient guidance to enable a Muslim state to frame its foreign policy.
The international relations of a Muslim state are based upon respect for other people’s interests and rights of life, honour and property as long as they do not encroach upon the rights of Muslims and maintaining peaceful relations with the exchange of goodwill missions.
The first Islamic state in Madinah was established and governed by the Holy Prophet PBUH. It was founded in a part of the city but it spread very fast and became the capital of a vast Muslim empire. The system of administration established by the Holy Prophet PBUH lasted for centuries and remained a source of inspiration for later generations.
Relations between two sovereign states are governed by an agreement If one exists between them. The Islamic state has been enjoined to follow. the terms of the agreement. The best example was provided by the Holy Prophet PBUH at the time of the Treaty of Hudaibiya. According to the treaty, the Holy Prophet PBUH had agreed to return any Muslim who came to them and one such Muslim did arrive as the agreement was being written. The Holy Prophet PBUH told him to go back to Makkah as he had already agreed to the treaty. This shows that all obligations undertaken by the Muslim state should be fulfilled and treaties concluded between the Islamic state and other states should be honoured. This is binding as long as the other party remains faithful to its obligations and honours its treaties.
The following saying of the Holy Prophet PBUH shows how honestly he kept his word with individuals and nations. He said:
“If anyone wrongs a man with whom a covenant has been made, or curtails any right of his, or imposes on him more than he can bear, or takes anything from him not in the agreement then I shall be his adversary on the Day of Resurrection.” (Mishkat)
The foreign relations of Muslim states with other states are based upon justice both in peace and war. The Holy Prophet PBUH gave detailed instructions about being humane during a war. Muslims were instructed not to mutilate dead bodies, not to destroy crop and fruit trees, houses and places of worship, not to kill women, children and old people and not to torture War prisoners.
During a period of ten years in Madinah, the Holy Prophet had to fight several wars with the unbelievers of Makkah. The number of unbelievers killed in these wars were over two hundred. This was an example for contemporary rulers to avoid unnecessary bloodshed.
After the Treaty of Hudaibiya, during the period of peace, the Holy Prophet PBUH sent letters to various emperors and kings inviting them to Islam. Special mention in this connection maybe made ot Najashi of Abyssinia, who had given protection to Muslims of Makkah. The Christians of Najran also concluded a peace treaty with the Holy Prophet PBUH.
The Holy Prophet PBUH received envoys from Egypt, Abyssinia, Byzantine and other neighbouring states and treated them as official representatives of their government. He was very strict in maintaining cordial political relations with neighbouring tribes and states and always received their envoys and deputations with great respect. He himself looked after them and served them during their stay in Madinah.
Very few Arab tribes had embraced Islam by the time Hazrat Muhammad PBUH migrated to Madinah, After the battle of Badr, more tribes accepted Islam. All these tribes, though outside the influence of Madinah, were treated as members of the Muslim community in all matters.
When the Holy Prophet PBUH entered Makkah after its conquest, he asked its inhabitants what treatment they expected of him. He did not order them to be killed, confiscate their property or take them as slaves. The Holy Prophet PBUH said:
“Today, there is no blame on you, there will be no retribution: go, all of you are free.”
The etfect of this pardon was so great that the entire population of Makkah embraced Islam. The Holy Prophet PBUH words converted them from deadly foes into devoted and sincere followers.
The example of the Holy Prophet PBUH throws light on his desire to have good and friendly relationships based on equity and justice with other states and to live in peace as good neighbours.