The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad


Excerpted from- WISE Up- Knowledge ends Extremism 2017


The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) issued various covenants of protection for the People of the Book, enshrining their rights.1 The various covenants are mentioned in the Prophet’s biography and jurisprudence, and copies can be found in whole or in part in classical Muslim sources.2 Although the covenants were dictated by the Prophet, they were scribed by different individuals, and in some cases were authenticated by the Prophet’s palm-print or with his famous ring seal. The major covenants were written down by Ali and Mu‘awiyah and witnessed by the Companions of the Prophet, including Abu Bakr, Umar, and Uthman.

As a messenger, the Prophet also wrote numerous letters to invite people, tribes, and nations to the Muslim faith; in the event they opted to maintain their current religion, he asked them to enter into an alliance with him. One of the earliest of these documents was the Pact of Medina, in which the Prophet outlined principles such as freedom of movement, freedom of religion, and equality before the law for people of various faiths who were under his protection, and declared Muslims and non-Muslims to be “one community” (ummah). Additional covenants, such as the Covenant of the Prophet Muhammad with the Monks of Mount Sinai, protected freedom of worship for Christians, and provided them with military protection. Importantly, the Prophet emphasized that any Muslim who violated the terms of this Covenant “makes a mockery of his religion” and “dissents from the Messenger of God.” The Prophet’s behavior toward other faith communities vis-à-vis the terms of these covenants serves as an important reminder for today’s Muslims to similarly embody the core values of religious freedom and respect for all religions as enshrined in the Qur’an.

The covenants of the Prophet Muhammad were treated as genuine by the four rightly guided Caliphs, the Umayyads, the Abbasids, the Fatimids, the Ayyubids, the Mamluks, the Safavids, and the Ottomans, as can be confirmed by early Muslim sources. They have also been authenticated by Sunni, Shi’a, and non-Muslim scholars.

Copies of the covenants of the Prophet have been preserved in Christian monasteries in Egypt, Palestine, Syria, Turkey, Armenia, and Persia. Others were passed down through priestly lines in Jewish and Zoroastrian communities in Egypt, Yemen, Persia, and India. Others still were preserved as sacred relics in the treasuries of the caliphs, sultans, and shahs of Islam, including those of Selim I and Abbas I.

The surviving copies of the covenants were issued, signed, sealed, notarized, and authenticated by the political and religious leaders of the Muslim world; namely, by the caliphs, sultans, and shahs, along with their grand viziers, muftis, and chief jurists. Copies of the covenants of the Prophet, in both the original Arabic and in translations, were provided by the Muslim authorities to the Christian communities under their rule, and it was customary for Muslim authorities to renew the covenants of the Prophet on a yearly basis. Indeed, for thirteen centuries after the death of the Prophet, Muslim rulers continued to put into practice the terms of the covenants by protecting Christians and other faith minorities under their rule. Sultan Abdul Hamid, the last caliph of the Ottoman Empire, renewed the Prophet’s covenant with St. Catherine’s Monastery in 1904.

Today, the covenants of the Prophet are recognized by Pope Francis, Patriarch Bartholomew, and Patriarch Bartholomew III, as well as the Holy Fathers from the monasteries of St. Catherine, Simonopetra, and St. George, among many othersRecently, they have been endorsed by hundreds of Muslim scholars around the world.

Although the covenants of the Prophet were commonly known among educated Muslims throughout most of Islamic history, knowledge of them faded after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in the early twentieth century. Today, more than 1,400 years after the death of the Prophet, Muslims and non-Muslims alike are witnessing the destruction of Christian churches and the indiscriminate killing of Muslims, Christians, and people of other faiths by extremist groups. These actions are a gross violation of the teachings of the Qur’an and stand in direct contradiction to the Prophet’s letters and the instructions he conveyed to his followers in the Pact of Medina and the covenants.

The covenants of the Prophet represent a genuine call for reconstituting the deteriorated relationships between the three Abrahamic religions. Their practical application can serve to promote peaceful coexistence, respect, and care beyond mere tolerance. In fact, they shed light upon the nature and policy of the Prophet vis-à-vis governing diverse groups and maintaining relationships among other people, both of which are completely in line with the Prophet’s life and teachings. Whether in the Pact of Medina, the letters, or the covenants, the Prophet sought to convey the core message of the Qur’an: that all believers are brethren of one another. The Prophet’s covenants represent a practical example, and provide a blueprint for Muslims, on how to conduct their relations with others in today’s fractured world. The covenants serve as a source of inspiration for the establishment of mutually beneficial and peaceful coexistence.

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