The Covenant of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of Najran
[By the Prophet Muhammad]
[Translated by John Andrew Morrow in 2013]
In the Name of Allah, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful.
A covenant of protection granted by Allah and His Messenger to the People of the Book, the Christians, who belong to the religion of Najran or any other Christian sect.
It has been written by Muhammad, the Messenger of Allah to all of humanity, as a guarantee of protection on the part of Allah and His Messenger, and made it binding upon the Muslims who will come after him, which they have to be aware of, recognize as authentic, believe in it, and preserve it in their favor.
It is forbidden for any man, whether he is a governor or holder of authority, to revoke it or infringe upon it.
The Believers must not charge them with other conditions than those which are included in this document.
He who preserves it, respects it, and abides by its dictates, will have fulfilled his obligations and will have adhered by the covenant of the Messenger of Allah.
He, however, who breaks it, opposes it or changes it, will carry his crime on his head for he will have betrayed the Covenant of Allah, broken his faith, resisted His Authority and contravened the will of His Messenger: he will thus be an imposter in the eyes of Allah. For protection is obligatory in Allah’s religion and the covenant confirmed. He who does not abide by this covenant will have violated his sacred obligations, and he who violates his sacred obligations is unfaithful and will be rejected by Allah and by all sincere Believers.
The reason for which the Christians have been found worthy of this covenant of protection from Allah, His Messenger, and the Believers, is because it is a right they have earned, to which every Muslim is bound, to obtain this covenant established in their favor by the men of this Religion, and which obliges every Muslim to respect it, to defend it, to conserve it, to protect it perpetually, and to live up to it.
Verily, the people who followed the ancient religions and the ancient Books expressed hostility towards Allah and His Messenger and loathed them by denying the mission of the Prophet which Allah, the Most High, has clearly proclaimed in His Book. This demonstrates the crookedness of their breasts, the wickedness of their intentions, and the hardness of their hearts. They themselves prepared the burden of the crime they bore while hiding the one which Allah wanted to impose upon them, by proclaiming it instead of hiding it and by testifying instead of denying it.
These people acted in opposition to the obligation that was imposed upon them, did not observe it as they should have, did not follow the clearly marked paths, and agreed only to show their hostility towards Allah and His Messenger, to attack them, and to persuade people by means of imposture and false arguments, that Allah could not have sent him to humanity to proclaim, to preach, and to call to Allah by His Permission, to be a shinning lamp, and to promise Paradise to those who obeyed him and portend fire for those who disobeyed him.
They exceeded the bounds of opposition by inciting others to do what they themselves would never have dared to do: to deny his revelation, to reject his mission, and to seek, through cunning, to make him succumb to pitfalls.
They targeted the Prophet of Allah and decided to kill him. They reinforced the Party of the Polytheists of the Tribe of Quraysh as well as others in order to fight him, to dispute his doctrine, to force it back, and to contradict it.
For this reason, they deserved to be deprived of the Alliance of Allah and His Protection. Their behavior during the days of Hunayn, the battles against the Bani Qaynuqah, the tribe of Qurayzah and Nadir, is well-known. Their leaders lent support to the inhabitants of Mecca, the enemies of Allah, against the Messenger of Allah, and supported them, by means of troops and weapons, against the Prophet, out of hatred for the Believers.
The Christians, on the contrary, refused to wage war against Allah and His Messenger. Allah, as well, has declared that their tenderness towards the followers of this faith and their affection for Muslims were sincere.
Among other words of praise which Allah has bestowed upon them in His Book and His Revelations, after having been convinced of the hardness of heart of the Jews, He recognizes their inclination and affection towards the Believers: Certainly you will find, He says, the most violent of people in enmity for those who believe (to be) the Jews and those who are polytheists, and you will certainly find the nearest in friendship to those who believe (to be) those who say: ‘We are Christians;’ this is because there are priests and monks among them and because they do not behave proudly. And when they hear what has been revealed to the messenger you will see their eyes overflowing with tears on account of the truth that they recognize; they say: ‘Our Lord! We believe, so write us down with the witnesses (of truth). And why should we not believe in God and what has come down to us of the truth? And we hope to be admitted by our Lord among those who are upright and do good?” [5:82-83]
In fact, some Christians, who were worthy of trust and who knew the divine religion, helped us to proclaim this religion and came to the help of Allah and His Messenger, by preaching to men according to His Will and to help him accomplish his mission.
The Sayyid ‘Absiso, Ibn Hijrah, Ibrahim the monk, and ‘Isa the Bishop, came to see me, accompanied by forty horsemen from Najran along with others who, like them, profess the Christian religion in the lands of Arabia as well as foreign lands. I informed them of my mission and asked them to help reinforce it, to proclaim it, and to assist it.
And since the cause of Allah appeared evident to them, they did not turn back on their steps nor did they turn their backs. On the contrary, they drew close, remained firm, consented, assisted, confirmed, made generous promises, gave good advice, and assured me by means of oaths and covenants that they would support the truth which I brought and that they would repel those who refused and contradicted it.
After they rejoined their co-religionists, they did not break their covenant nor did they change their opinion. On the contrary, they observed what they had promised to me when they left me and I learned, to my great pleasure, that they proved their devotion, united to wage war against the Jews, and that they came to an understanding with the People of the Vocation, to publicize the cause of Allah, to support it, and to defend its apostles, and that they had debunked the evidence which the Jews had relied upon in order to deny and hinder my mission and my word. The Christians sought to prop up my action and waged war against those who hated my doctrine and who wanted to rebut it, alter it, repudiate it, change it, and overturn it.
All of the Arab chiefs, all of the leading Muslims, and all the People of the Vocation, from around the world sent me letters expressing the fondness of Christians towards my cause, their zeal to push back the incursions made along the fortified borderlines of their region, their determination to observe the treaty which they contracted with me when they met with me and which I granted them. For, truly, the bishops and the monks showed an unshakable loyalty in their attachment to my cause and the devotion of their persons to confirm and support the spread of my mission.
I want my mission to be spread. I ask them to join together in support of this goal against those who would deny and reject aspects of my doctrine, who would want to destroy and ruin it, by blaming them and abasing them.
They acted according to my instructions and abased them. They worked so hard to bring them to confess to the truth with submission, to respond to the call of Allah, by will or by force, allowing them to be drawn (into Islam) as conquered people. The Christians acted this way in observance of the treaties contracted between them and me, in order that they fail not to fulfill the obligations to which they had committed themselves during their meeting with me and through a spirit of zeal to support my cause and to make my mission known.
They were different in their faithful devotion from the Jews, the Qurayshites, and the other polytheists. They demonstrated no desire for worldly gain for which the Jews seek and yearn by practicing usury, looking for money, and selling the law of God for a miserable price. Woe to those who work for such a gain. Woe to those for what they write, and woe to them for what they gain by such means.
As such, the Jews and the polytheists of Quraysh along with others deserved to be treated as the enemies of Allah and His Messenger due to their treacherous plans, their enmity, the plots they devised (against me), and the fierce, intermittent war they waged in support of my enemies. Thus did they become the enemies of Allah, His Messenger, and the good Believers.
The Christians, however, behaved in the very opposite way. They respected my alliance. They recognized my rights. They fulfilled the promises that they had made during our meeting. They assisted the lieutenants that I had sent to the frontiers. They earned my concern and my affection by fulfilling the obligations that I had contracted with them spontaneously in the name of all of the Muslims spread from East to West, my protection during my life and after my passing, when Allah will make me die. So long as Islam will spread and my true mission and faith will grow, this covenant will be obligatory for all Believers and Muslims, so long as water fills the ocean floor, rain falls from the sky, the earth produces plants, the stars shine in the firmament, and the dawn appears to the traveler nor will it be permitted for anyone to break this treaty, alter it, add to it, delete from it, for such additions infringe upon my covenant and suppressions weaken my protection.
This covenant, which I wish to accord myself, binds me. Anyone from my ummah who, after me, breaks this Covenant of Allah, Glorified and Exalted be He, the Proof of Allah will be raised against him, and Allah is sufficient as a Witness.
What drives me to act this way is that three people (from Seyyid Ghassani) asked me for a document that would act as a safe-conduit, a treaty which recognized their fidelity to their promises towards the Muslims and to the treaty which I voluntarily concluded with them.
I wanted that the details of the alliance be ratified in the eyes of whoever follows in my path in all Arab regions, and that I and those of my vocation be bound to abstain from responsibility over those who called themselves Christians and who follow any of the different Christian sects and that this treaty be inviolable, solemn, and obligatory for all Muslims and Believers.
I therefore called the leaders of the Muslims and my main Companions and having stood surety to the demand of the Christians, I prepared this document, which Muslims, whether or not they detain power, are obliged to preserve from generation to generation, to carry out my orders in order to abide by the obligation of loyalty and respect towards those who requested this covenant of me, and to be faithful to the obligations which I have contracted, so that they not be reproached for having disobeyed my order.
The people, as well, must abstain from harming them, and abide by the covenant that I have made with them so that they can enter along with me by the gates of faithfulness, and contribute to the good that I have done to those who have earned it for having supported my mission and enraged the deniers and the skeptics.
In order that there be no proof on the part of those who are the object of this covenant against the partisans of Islam, if these were to act against the content of this document, failing to recognize the rights that they have earned from me and which they deserved to obtain.
Finally, this covenant reminds [Believers] to be benevolent; encourages good will; commands charity; deters evil; and is the path of sincerity and the way which leads to justice, Allah willing.
[The Covenant of the Prophet with the Christians of Najran]
In the Name of Allah, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful.
This document has been provided by Muhammad ibn ‘Abd Allah ibn ‘Abd al-Muttalib, the Messenger of Allah to all of humanity, who was sent to preach and to warn, who has been entrusted the Trust of Allah among His Creatures so that human beings would have no pretext before Allah, after his messengers and manifestation, before this Powerful and Wise Being.
To Sayyid Ibn Harith ibn Ka‘b, his co-religionists, and all those who profess the Christian religion, be they in East or West, in close regions or faraway regions, be they Arabs or foreigners, known or unknown.
This document which has been prepared constitutes an authoritative contract, an authentic certificate established on the basis of convention and justice, as well as an inviolable pact.
Whoever abides by this edict, shows his attachment to Islam, will be worthy of the best that Islam has to offer. On the contrary, any man who destroys it, breaks the pact which it contains, alters it, disobeys my commandments, will have violated the pact of Allah, transgresses his alliance, and disdained his treaty. He will merit his malediction, whether he is a sovereign authority or someone else.
I commit myself to an alliance and a pledge with them on behalf of Allah and I place them under the safeguard of His Prophets, His Elect, His Saints, the Muslims and the Believers, the first of them and the last of them. Such is my alliance and pact with them.
I proclaim, once again, the obligations that Allah imposed on the Children of Israel to obey Him, to follow His Law, and to respect His Divine Alliance. I hereby declare that my horsemen, my foot-soldiers, my armies, my resources, and my Muslim partisans will protect the Christians as far away as they may be located, whether they inhabit the lands which border my empire, in any region, close or far, in times of peace as much as in times of war.
I commit myself to support them, to place their persons under my protection, as well as their churches, chapels, oratories, the monasteries of their monks, the residences of their anchorites, wherever they are found, be they in the mountains or the valleys, caves or inhabited regions, in the plains or in the desert.
I will protect their religion and their Church wherever they are found, be it on earth or at sea, in the West or in the East, with utmost vigilance on my part, the People of my House, and the Muslims as a whole.
I place them under my protection. I make a pact with them. I commit myself to protect them from any harm or damage; to exempt them for any requisitions or any onerous obligations and to protect them myself, by means of my assistants, my followers and my nation against every enemy who targets me and them.
Having authority over them, I must govern them, protecting them from all damage and ensuring that nothing happens to them that does not happen to me and my Companions who, along with me, defend the cause of Islam.
I forbid any conquerors of the faith to rule over them during their invasions or to oblige them to pay taxes unless they themselves willingly consent. Never should any Christian be subjected to tyranny or oppression in this matter.
It is not permitted to remove a bishop from his bishopric, a monk from his monastic life, or anchorite from his vocation as a hermit. Nor is it permitted to destroy any part of their churches, to take parts of their buildings to construct mosques or the homes of Muslims. Whoever does such a thing will have violated the pact of Allah, disobeyed his Messenger, and become estranged from the Divine Alliance.
It is not permitted to impose a capitation or any kind of tax on monks or bishops nor on any of those who, by devotion, wear woolen clothing or live alone in the mountains or in other regions devoid of human habitation.
Let there be a limit set of four dirhams per year that all other Christians who are not clerics, monks, or hermits need to pay. Otherwise, let them provide one outfit of stripped material or one embroidered turban from Yemen. This is to help Muslims and to contribute to the growth of the Public Treasury. Were cloth difficult for them, they should provide its equivalent price, if they themselves willingly consent.
May the capitation of the Christians who have income, who own land, who engage in an important amount of commerce by land or by sea, who exploit mines for precious stones, gold and silver, who are wealthy, not surpass, as a whole, twelve dirhams per year, so long as they are inhabitants of these countries and are residents there.
May nothing similar be demanded of travelers, who are not residents of the country or wayfarers whose country of residence is unknown.
There shall be no land tax with capitation for others than those who own land as with the other occupants of inherited properties over which the ruler has a right. They will pay taxes as other pay them without, however, the charges unjustly exceeding the measure of their means. As for the labor force which the owners spend upon to cultivate these lands, to render them fertile, and to harvest them, they are not to be taxed excessively. Let them pay in the same fashion that was imposed on other similar tributaries.
The men who belong to our alliance will not be obliged to go to war with the Muslims in order to combat their enemies, to attack them, and to seize them. Indeed, the members of the alliance will not engage in war. It is precisely to discharge them of this obligation that this pact has been granted to them as well as to assure them the help and protection on the part of the Muslims. No Christian is to be constrained to provide equipment to a single Muslims, in money, in arm or in horses, in the event of a war in which the Believers attack their enemies, unless they contribute to the cause freely. Whoever does so, and contributes spontaneously, will be the object of praise, reward, and gratitude, and his help will not be forgotten.
No Christian will be made Muslim by force: And dispute ye not with the People of the Book, except with means better [29:46]. They must be covered by the wing of mercy. Repel every harm that could reach them wherever they may find themselves and in any country in which they are.
If a Christian were to commit a crime or an offense, Muslims must provide him with help, defense, and protection. They should pardon his offense and encourage his victim to reconcile with him, urging him to pardon him or to receive compensation in return.
The Muslims must not abandon the Christians, neglect them, and leave them without help and assistance since I have made this pact with them on behalf of Allah to ensure that whatever good befell Muslims it would befall them as well and that whatever harm befell Muslims would befall them as well. In virtue of this pact, they have obtained inviolable rights to enjoy our protection, to be protected from any infringement of their rights, so that they will be bound to the Muslims both in good and bad fortune.
Christians must not be subjected to suffer, by abuse, on the subject of marriages which they do not desire. Muslims should not take Christian girls in marriage against the will of their parents nor should they oppress their families in the event that they refused their offers of engagement and marriage. Such marriages should not take place without their desire and agreement and without their approval and consent.
If a Muslim takes a Christian woman as a wife, he must respect her Christian beliefs. He will give her freedom to listen to her [clerical] superiors as she desires and to follow the path of her own religion. Whoever, despite this order, forces his wife to act contrary to her religion in any aspect whatsoever he will have broken the alliance of Allah and will enter into open rebellion against the pact of His Messenger and Allah will count him among the impostors.
If the Christians approach you seeking the help and assistance of the Muslims in order to repair their churches and their convents or to arrange matters pertaining to their affairs and religion, these must help and support them. However, they must not do so with the aim of receiving any reward. On the contrary, they should do so to restore that religion, out of faithfulness to the pact of the Messenger of Allah, by pure donation, and as a meritorious act before Allah and His Messenger.
In matters of war between them and their enemies, the Muslims will not employ any Christian as a messenger, scout, guide or spy or for any other duty of war. Whoever obliges one of them to do such a thing will harm the rights of Allah, will be a rebel against His Messenger, and will cast himself out of His Alliance. Nothing is permitted to a Muslim [with regard to the Christians] outside of obeying these edicts which Muhammad ibn ‘Abd Allah, the Messenger of Allah, has passed in favor of the religion of the Christians.
He is also placing conditions [upon the Christians] and I demand that they promise to fulfill and satisfy them as commands their religion, among which, among other things, none of them may act as a scout, spy, either overtly or covertly, on behalf of an enemy of war, against a Muslim. None of them will shelter the enemies of the Muslims in their homes from which they could await the moment to launch an attack. May these enemies [of the Muslims] never be allowed to halt in their regions, be it in their villages, their oratories, or in any other place belonging to their co-religionists. They must not provide any support to the enemies of war of the Muslims by furnishing them with weapons, horses, men, or anything else, nor must they treat them well. They must host for three days and three nights any Muslims who halt among them, with their animals. They must offer them, wherever they are found, and wherever they are going, the same food with which they live themselves without, however, being obliged to endure other annoying or onerous burdens.
If a Muslim needs to hide in one of their homes or oratories, they must grant him hospitality, guide him help, and provide him with their food during the entire time he will be among them, making every effort to keep him concealed and to prevent the enemy from finding him, while providing for all of his needs.
Whoever contravenes or alters the ordinances of this edict will be cast out of the alliance between Allah and His Messenger.
May everyone abide by the treaties and alliances which have been contracted with the monks, and which I have contracted myself, and every other commitment that each prophet has made with his nation, to assure them safeguard and faithful protection, and to serve them as a guarantee.
This must not be violated or altered until the hour of the Resurrection, Allah-willing.
This document, by Muhammad ibn ‘Abd Allah which contains the covenant he concluded with the Christians and which includes the conditions imposed upon these latter, has been witnessed by:
‘Atiq ibn Abi Quhafa
‘Umar ibn al-Khattab
‘Uthman ibn ‘Affan
‘Ali ibn Abi Talib
‘Abd Allah ibn Mas‘ud
al-‘Abbas ibn ‘Abd al-Muttalib
al-Fadl ibn al-‘Abbas
al-Zubayr ibn al-‘Awwam
Talhah ibn ‘Ubayd Allah
Sa‘d ibn Mu‘adh
Sa‘d ibn ‘Ubadah
Thumama ibn Qays
Zayd ibn Thabit and his son ‘Abd Allah
Hurqus ibn Zuhayr
Zayd ibn Arqam
Usamah ibn Zayd
‘Umar ibn Mazh’un ‘Ammar
Mus’ah ibn al-Zubayr ibn Jubayr
‘Abd Allah ibn ‘Amr ibn al-‘As
Ka‘b ibn Malik
Hasan ibn Thabit
Ja‘far ibn Abi Talib
[Written by Mu‘awiyyah ibn Abi Sufyan]
© John Andrew Morrow, 2013. All rights reserved. Unauthorized reproduction is a violation of applicable laws.