SHAFAQNA – Prominent author and Islamic scholar shared with Shafaqna the transcript of the speech he delivered at the ISNA on September 5th, 2015.
THE COVENANTS OF THE PROPHET MUHAMMAD WITH THE CHRISTIANS OF THE WORLD
Delivered by Dr. John Andrew Morrow at the 2015 ISNA Convention in Chicago, Illinois, on Saturday, September 5th, 2015
Aâ€˜udhu billÄhi min al-Shayá¹Än al-rajÄ«m. BismillÄh al-Raá¸¥mÄn al-Raá¸¥Ä«m. Alá¸¥amdulillÄhi Rabb al-â€˜alamÄ«n. Wa á¹£alÄtu wa salÄm â€˜alÄ ashraf al-mursalÄ«n: nabiyyinÄ Muá¸¥ammad al-AmÄ«n wa â€˜alÄ Älihi wa sahbihi ajmaâ€˜Ä«n. AmÄ baâ€˜d.
TheÂ Covenants of the Prophet Muá¸¥ammad with Christians of the World is the story of a journey. It is very much the story of a quest: a search for the Scrolls of Hope; a voyage of discovery and rediscovery which provides unparalleled insight into primordial Islam and the living legacy of the Messenger of Allah,Â á¹£allahu â€˜alayhi wa sallam.
Alá¸¥amdu wa shukralillÄh I was exposed to theÂ AshtÄ«nÄmeh, theÂ Covenant of the Prophet Muá¸¥ammad with the Monks of Mount Sinai immediately upon embracing Islam, nearly thirty years ago, and professing the sweetest and most spiritually sublime words I have ever uttered, theÂ shahadah ofÂ lÄ ilaha illÄ AllÄh / Muá¸¥ammadan RasÅ«l AllÄh.
Consequently, along with the Qurâ€™Än and theÂ Constitution of Medina, the AshtÄ«nÄmeh represents the fundamental foundation of Islam.
Is Islam a religion of violence? Is Islam a religion of brutality? Is Islam a religion of misogyny, pedophilia, sexual slavery, and ritualized rape? Is Islam a religion of terror? Is Islam a religion of destruction and chaos? Is Islam a cult of death, dismemberment, torture, mutilation, and mass murder? Is Islam the manifestation of injustice, oppression, despotism, and tyranny? Some will say: yes; by God Almighty; yes it is!
But I say no; we say no; the Prophet says no; the Qurâ€™Än says no; the Sunnah says no; the SharÄ«â€˜ah says no and Allah,subá¸¥Änahu wa taâ€˜ÄlÄ says: no, absolutely not; never! Islam is a religion of justice. Islam is a religion of peace. Islam is a religion of tolerance. Islam is a religion of compassion. And those who argue otherwise are ignorant, misguided, or ill-intentioned.Â SummÅ«n, bukmÅ«n, â€˜umyÅ«n, fa-hum lÄ yarjiâ€˜Å«n: Deaf, dumb, and blind, they will not return to the path. (2:18)
This is not to say that we are pacifists. This is not to say that we always turn the other cheek. This is not to say that we follow in the footsteps of Mahatma Gandhi. This is not to say that we are non-violent in the mode of Martin Luther King, Junior. This is not to say that there is noÂ jihad in Islam. Let me be absolutely and categorically clear: the Prophet Muá¸¥ammad, peace and blessings be upon him said: â€œI smile and I fight.â€
The Prophet Muá¸¥ammad, peace and blessings be upon him, came with the sword; but it was the sword of justice. It was the sword of self-defense. It was the sword of the oppressed drawn against the oppressor. It was never the first option; it was always the last option; the last recourse.
The Messenger of Allah,Â á¹£allahu â€˜alayhi wa Älihi wa sallam, always preferred conciliation over conflict. He always preferred a diplomatic solution over a military solution. And when there was war, there were rules of war; rules of just war which governed military conflict; the treatment of non-combatants; the treatment of women; the treatment of crops, orchards, and gardens; and the treatment of churches, monasteries, and synagoguesâ€¦all of which are being blatantly and shamelessly violated by those who have deviated from the teachings of Allah,Â subá¸¥Änahu wa taâ€˜ÄlÄ,Â and the Messenger of Allah,Â â€˜alayhi á¹£alawÄtu wa sallamâ€¦
TheÂ Covenants of the Prophet Muá¸¥ammad with the Christians of the World take us, not only to the early days of Islam, but the days before the rise of Islam, when Muá¸¥ammad, a caravan leader, used to travel the Middle East, extensively, making journeys throughout Arabia, to the Yemen, to the Sinai, to Egypt, to Palestine, to Syria, to Iraq and Persia, and perhaps as far as Abyssinia and Armeniaâ€¦ This is well documented in the works of early Muslim and non-Muslim historians.
We all know,Â from ourÂ books ofÂ á¸¥adÄ«th andÂ sÄ«rah, from our books of prophetic traditions and history, that Muá¸¥ammad, before he received revelation, was known asÂ al-AmÄ«n, the Trustworthy, throughout the á¸¤ijÄz. However, few of us are aware that his reputation extended far beyond the reaches of Arabia where he was known, respected, and loved by Christian patriarchs, abbots, bishops, priests, and monks.
One such Christian, who was the friend of Muá¸¥ammad, was the abbot of St. Catherineâ€™s Monastery in the Sinai. One day, when Muá¸¥ammad, who was still a young man, was resting in front of the monastery, an eagle appeared. This eagle, which circled mysterious around the young man, intrigued the abbot. He knew that the Angel Gabriel could take the form of an eagle. This is confirmed in our books ofÂ á¸¥adÄ«th.
The abbot concluded that this was a sign that Muá¸¥ammad would grow up to be a wise and powerful leader. Consequently, he invited him into the monastery, treated him with the utmost hospitality, and asked him for a letter of protection.
Muá¸¥ammad, who had no power or wealth, asked: â€œHow can I protect the monastery when I am but a poor orphan?â€ The abbot, just like Baá¸¥Ä«rÄ the Monk in Syria, foretold that Muá¸¥ammad would become a mighty leader. â€œHow can I grant you a letter of protection if I cannot write?â€ asked Muá¸¥ammad. â€œJust give us your word,â€ said the Abbot. He then gave him a parchment and a bowl of ink. Muá¸¥ammad soaked his hand in the ink, and stamped the paper with his palm print, and said: â€œMy word is my bond.â€
The years passed and word reached the monastery that Muá¸¥ammad had received revelation, that he had been persecuted for a decade, and that he had finally had established an Islamic State, the real one, the true one,Â and not that fake, bogus, corrupted, and perverted aberration now rearing its hideous head in Syria and Iraq.
We take refuge in Allah from those whoÂ present as Islam what is fake Islam. We take refuge in AllahÂ from those who spread hatred, violence, and fanaticism. We take refuge in Allah from those who commit atrocities in the name of Allah, Islam, the Qurâ€™Än, and the Sunnah.
Let it be known as it has been shown, that the war criminals in questions are not part ofÂ Ahl al-Sunnah wa al-Jamaâ€˜at. On the contrary, they have broken from theÂ Jamaâ€˜at, turned against theÂ Jamaâ€˜at, they have madeÂ takfÄ«r of theÂ Jamaâ€˜at, and everyone else for that matter; they have corrupted the Qurâ€™Än, soiled the Sunnah, and spit on the SharÄ«â€˜ah.
Let me regain my composure and return toÂ raá¸¥mat al-â€˜alamÄ«n, Muá¸¥ammad RasÅ«l AllÄh wa á¸¤abÄ«b AllÄh, the man who was sent as a mercy, and not a terror, to all the worlds.
The monks organized a delegation and headed off to Medina. There, they met the Messenger of Allah,Â á¹£alawÄt Allah â€˜alayh, and reminded him of the promise of protection that he had made. He said: â€œI remember my promise, and I fully intend to fulfil it.â€ He then dictated a charter of rights and freedoms to his cousin â€˜AlÄ« ibn AbÄ« á¹¬Älib; had it witnessed by his companions; and bid the monks farewell. The charter was placed in the monastery. It remained there until 1517 when it was taken to the Treasury in Istanbul by Sultan Selim who granted the monks a notarized copy.
TheÂ AshtÄ«nÄmeh is not the only Covenant of the Prophet. The first covenant of the Prophet was theÂ Constitution of Medina which granted protection to all the inhabitants of the Ummah, including Muslims, Jews, and even polytheists. Yes, the Prophet protected theÂ mushkrikÄ«n who were allied with the Muslims. When the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him arrived in Medina, the Muslims only numbered in the hundreds; half the town was pagan and half the town was Jewish. However, he was embraced by all parties as a peace maker and conciliator.
NabbiyinÄ wa á¸¥abÄ«binÄ wa â€˜azÄ«zinÄ, Muá¸¥ammad al-Musá¹afÄ,Â á¹£alla AllÄhu â€˜alayhi wa Älihi wa sallam, granted covenants of protection to the Christians of Najran, to the Jews of Aylah and Maqnah, to the Assyrian Christians, to the Armenian Christians, to the Christians of Persia, and to the Christians of the World.
These Muá¸¥ammadan Covenants, which were found in ancient churches, monasteries, and mosques around the Middle East, are so similar in content, style, language, and witnesses, that they can only conceivably have been authored by the same man: Muá¸¥ammad, the Messenger of Allah,Â á¹£alawÄt AllÄh â€˜alayh.
The Covenants of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, grant the People of the Book, Jews and Christians, freedom of belief and freedom of religious practice. They protect places of worship: churches, monasteries, and synagogues. Not only must Muslim protect these religious sites, they must help maintain them. The Covenants of the Prophet prohibit conversion by force or any compulsion in matters of religion. While the Covenants permit Muslim men to marry Christian women–marry them, not rape them–they forbid Muslim men from coercing their Christian wives to embrace Islam.
Islam, for those who have forgotten, is spread through the word; it is spread by the intellect; it is spread by reasoning; and, most importantly: it is spread by example.
The Muá¸¥ammadan Covenants also command Muslims to protect the Christians of the East until the end of times. We are not talking about the Crusaders. We are not talking about colonialists. We are not talking about imperialists. We are talking about the indigenous Christian communities of the East, who were friends and allies of the Prophet Muá¸¥ammad, and who have lived with us, as neighbors, for more than 1400 years. This was always understood by true Muslims. During the Crusades, the Europeans were describes asÂ salÄ«bÄ«s or Crusaders while the Christians of the Middle East were described asÂ masÄ«hÄ«s and â€œour Christian brothers.â€
True traditional Muslims always distinguished between true traditional Christians who are our neighbors, friends, and allies, and fake Christians who were our enemies. The Christians of the East were treated asÂ Ahl al-KitÄb while the European invaders were treated, rightfully so, asÂ kuffÄr al-á¸¥arbÄ«, infidels at war against Islam.
While many Muslims are unfamiliar with the Covenants of the Prophet,Â â€˜alayhi á¹£alawÄtu wa sallam, they are well documented, and have been transmitted consecutively by both Muslims and Christians over the past 1400 years. In fact, they were renewed by the four rightly-guided Caliphs,Â raá¸Ä« AllÄhu â€˜anhum, may Allah be pleased with them, and most of the Umayyads, the â€˜Abassids, the Mamluks, the Ayyubids and the Safavids, all the way down to the last of the Ottoman Caliphs, a mere hundred years ago.
It is our duty as Muslims to familiarize ourselves with theÂ Sunnah of our beloved Prophet,Â â€˜alayhi á¹£alawÄtu wa sallam. This includes not onlyÂ á¸¤adÄ«th, but alsoÂ TarÄ«kh or history as well as theÂ WathÄâ€™iq; namely, the letters, treaties, and covenants of the cream of humanity, the peak of spirituality, the perfect human being, and the proof of Allah for all creation: Muá¸¥ammad ibn â€˜Abd AllÄh, the Prophet and Messenger of AllÄh, may countless blessings be showered upon him and may Almighty Allah grant us his company in theÂ Äkhirah or the Hereafter.
I invite you to join me on this journey of discovery and rediscovery.
Letâ€™s us revive the Covenants of the Prophet Muá¸¥ammad,Â á¹£allahu â€˜alayhi wa sallam, and show the world the true teachings of Islam; a religion of justice; a religion of compassion; and a religion of love for God and all of humanity.
I send you my most sincere salaams.
Al-salÄmu â€˜alaykum wa raá¸¥matullÄhi wa barakÄtu.