The 9th year of the Hijrah is known as the ‘Year of the Delegations’ (سنة الوفود) in which each Arab tribe sent a group of representatives to meet with the Prophet ﷺ in Madinah. Apart from the Christians of Najran who chose to remain on their religion and pay the jizya, the rest of the Arab tribes accepted Islam and gave their bay’a to the Prophet ﷺ. Since the bay’a for many of these tribes and individuals was given at the same time as accepting Islam does this mean bay’a was taken on belief i.e. as a condition for accepting Islam?
To answer this, we need to understand what is the bay’a, who is it taken from, and the difference between the bay’a in Makkah and the bay’a in Madinah.
Linguistically bay’a (بَيْعَة) is derived from the verbal noun البيع which means “selling or purchasing”. Form III of this verb بايع means “to contract” or “pledge allegiance”. However, the Islamic Sharia texts assigned a different meaning to the word بَيْعَة which is – the contract between the Muslim Ummah and the Khaleefah. This contract stipulates that the Khaleefah must rule by Islam and the Ummah must obey the Islamic laws he adopts. This is why bay’a only existed in the Islamic State of Madinah or in relation to assuming authority in Madinah (1st and 2nd pledges of Al-Aqaba). Prior to this, anyone who became Muslim in Makkah simply attested to the shahada, أشهد أن لا إله إلا الله وأشهد أن محمدا رسول الله and by doing so obeying the Messenger ﷺ was obliged upon them in his ﷺ capacity as a Prophet and Messenger. Allah (Most High) says in Surah Al-Jinn, a Makki surah,
وَمَن يَعْصِ ٱللَّهَ وَرَسُولَهُۥ فَإِنَّ لَهُۥ نَارَ جَهَنَّمَ خَـٰلِدِينَ فِيهَآ أَبَدًا
“As for him who disobeys Allah and His Messenger, he will have the Fire of Hell, remaining in it timelessly, for ever and ever.”
After the Messenger of Allah ﷺ assumed authority in Madinah, he was acting in his capacity as a ruler of a state and this is the reason obedience is restated in the bay’a, وَلَا يَعْصِينَكَ فِي مَعْرُوفٍ “or disobey you in respect of anything right”.In his capacity as a Prophet and Messenger, he ﷺ was infallible and would never order anything except that which is right. But in his ﷺ capacity as a ruler he acted differently. The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said: “…I verily would wish to meet Allah Azza wa Jall without anyone claiming from me for an act of injustice I had committed against him be it blood or money.” Sheikh Taqiudeen an-Nabhani mentions, “This clearly indicates that he ﷺ held two posts: Prophethood, together with Messengership and the leadership over all the Muslims in the world in order to establish the Shari’ah of Allah which He revealed to him ﷺ. He ﷺ performed each task in accordance with that which the task itself required, acting differently in each role. He ﷺ took the Bay’a to rule upon the Muslims in ruling. He took it from men and women but not from children who had not yet reached puberty. This only confirms that it was a Bay’a over ruling and not over Prophethood.” He also says, “Thus his execution of ruling does not require infallibility as such, but in reality he ﷺ was infallible because he was a Prophet and a Messenger.”
Belief in Islam is a condition for the bay’a, so those who give bay’a are always Muslim. Also this bay’a is a bay’a over action related to ruling and not belief. The evidences for this are as follows.
1- Bay’a is always taken from a believer
Allah (Most High) says:
يا أَيُّهَا النَّبِيُّ إِذا جاءَكَ المُؤمِناتُ يُبايِعنَكَ
“O Prophet! When women who have iman come to you pledging allegiance to you…”
لقد رضي الله عن المؤمنين إذ يبايعونك تحت الشجرة
“Allah was pleased with the believers when they pledged allegiance to you under the tree.”
إِنَّ الَّذينَ يُبايِعونَكَ إِنَّما يُبايِعونَ اللَّهَ
“Those who pledge you their allegiance pledge allegiance to Allah.”
When the Prophet ﷺ met members of the Al-Khazraj tribe at Hajj, two years before the hijra, six converted to Islam but there was no bay’a. The following year ten members of Al-Khazraj and two from Al-Aws met with the Prophet ﷺ at Hajj and all were Muslim. When the Prophet ﷺ saw that their number had increased and that they had started to convert members of their traditional enemy the Al-Aws tribe, he ﷺ saw a potential for gaining authority in Yathrib, so he ﷺ took the first bay’a of Al-Aqaba from them and sent Mus’ab ibn Umayr with them to prepare the society for Islam.
2- Bay’a is not taken from a child whereas belief in Islam is accepted from a child
Abdullah Ibn Hisham who was a young boy in the time of the Prophet ﷺ was taken by his mother Zainab bint Humair to the Messenger of Allah ﷺ. She said:يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ بَايِعْهُ ‘O Messenger of Allah! Take his Bay’a’. The Prophet ﷺ said: هُوَ صَغِيرٌ “He is young”, so he stroked his head and prayed for him.
Zubair ibn Al-Awwam asked his son Abdullah ibn Zubair to go to the Messenger of Allah ﷺ to give the bay’a.
ثُمَّ جَاءَ وَهُوَ ابْنُ سَبْعِ سِنِينَ أَوْ ثَمَانٍ لِيُبَايِعَ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم وَأَمَرَهُ بِذَلِكَ الزُّبَيْرُ فَتَبَسَّمَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم حِينَ رَآهُ مُقْبِلاً إِلَيْهِ ثُمَّ بَايَعَهُ
“He (Abdullah) went to him ﷺ when he had attained the age of seven or eight years in order to pledge allegiance to Allah’s Messenger ﷺ as Zubair had commanded him to do. Allah’s Messenger ﷺ smiled when he saw him coming towards him and then accepted his bay’a.”
Nawawi comments on this saying, هَذِهِ بَيْعَة تَبْرِيك وَتَشْرِيف لَا بَيْعَة تَكْلِيف “This is a bay’a of blessing and honor, not a bay’a of (shar’i) responsibility.”
This is different to accepting Islam because reaching puberty is not a condition for becoming Muslim. We know from the sirah that Ali ibn Abi Talib was the first boy to accept Islam and he hadn’t reached puberty. Ibn Kathir says, “And the first boy to accept Islam was Ali ibn Abi Talib; he was young then and had not reached puberty – as generally believed.”
3- A bedouin requested to be relieved of his bay’a and wasn’t executed for apostasy
A bedouin came to the Prophet ﷺ and said, بَايِعْنِي عَلَى الإِسْلاَمِ “Please take my bay’a for Islam.” So the Prophet took from him the bay’a for Islam. He came the next day with a fever and said to the Prophet ﷺ أَقِلْنِي “Cancel my pledge.” But the Prophet (ﷺ) refused and when the bedouin went away, the Prophet said, الْمَدِينَةُ كَالْكِيرِ، تَنْفِي خَبَثَهَا، وَيَنْصَعُ طِيبُهَا “Madinah is like a pair of bellows (furnace): It expels its impurities and brightens and clears its good.”
Sheikh Taqiudeen an-Nabhani comments on this hadith, “It would be wrong to claim that the Bedouin wanted to leave Islam by seeking relief from his bay’a rather than the obedience to the Head of State. This is because if this had been the case, his act would have been considered as apostasy, and the Messenger of Allah ﷺ would most certainly have killed him, since the punishment for the apostate is killing. The bay’a itself is not a bay’a for embracing Islam but for obedience. Therefore, the Bedouin wanted to rid himself from his oath of obedience, not to apostasise.”
Coming back to the question, “Since the bay’a for many of these tribes and individuals was given at the same time as accepting Islam does this mean bay’a was taken on belief?” What actually happened was that the bay’a was combined or made at the same time as the shahada to accept Islam. This is evident from Khalid bin Walid’s conversion to Islam as narrated in the Sirah of Ibn Hisham where Khalid first accepted Islam (submitted) and then gave the bay’a.
فَتَقَدَّمَ خَالِدُ بْنُ الْوَلِيدِ ، فَأَسْلَمَ وَبَايَعَ
“So Khalid bin Walid came forward and submitted and gave bay’a.”
 Hans Wehr Dictionary, pp.105
 Holy Qur’an, Surah Al-Jinn, ayah 23
 Holy Qur’an, Surah Al-Mumtahana, ayah 12
 Musnad Ahmad, narrated from Anas
 Taqiuddin an-Nabhani, ‘The Ruling System in Islam,’ translation of Nizam ul-Hukm fil Islam, Khilafah Publications, Fifth Edition, pp.131
 Ibid, pp.133
 Holy Qur’an, Surah Al-Mumtahana, ayah 12
 Holy Qur’an, Surah Al-Fath, ayah 18
 Holy Qur’an, Surah Al-Fath, ayah 10
 Imam Nawawi, ‘Sharh Sahih Muslim,’ 14/126
 Ibn Kathir, ‘The Life of the Prophet Muhammad,’ translation of Al-Sra al-Nabawiyya,’ Volume 1, pp.314
 Taqiuddin an-Nabhani, Op.cit., pp.125