The Covenant of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of Persia

The Covenant of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of Persia

(Certified as authentic by Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq)

[By the Prophet Muhammad]

[Cited in Arpee, 1946: 355-360]

By the will of God! In the name of God Merciful!

Be this Writ known to all in the handwriting, and the style, a Compact firm, a Treaty that must be obeyed by all Christian nations, such as dwell throughout the world toward the eastward of Arabia and Persia, or within the bounds of them, whether they be in immediate contact with the Faithful or whether they be distant, and whether or not they have acquaintanceship with the Faithful. This Covenant and Compact is worthy of obedience, and it behooves all Moslems also to observe its provisions. Whosoever shall esteem it his bounden duty to obey the words of this Covenant, his faith is perfect after the manner of men who do well, as such a one [who] shall be esteemed worthy of a reward; but those who shall willfully pervert the words of this Covenant, annul it or do despite to it, or shall disobey the commands of this Compact, persisting in their contrary way, such shall be deemed nullifiers of the Covenant or Compact of God. Whosoever also shall irreverently despise this Writ, the same shall be held worthy of punishment, whether he be a king, or one of the people, whether he be a pious believer (sc., a Moslem), or only a believer (sc., a Christian).

Now: to begin the words of this Compact, in accordance with the prompting of God vouchsafed to me in authentication. With a firm bond do I bind this Compact, the like of which no prophets of the past ever have bound, and as no angels standing before God have found it easy to command. The words, therefore, of this Covenant, which I am about to lay down, must be obeyed by all who are my people.

All pious believers shall deem it their bounden duty to defend believers and to aid them wheresoever they may be, whether far or near, and throughout Christendom shall protect the places where they conduct worship, and those where their monks and priests dwell. Everywhere, in mountains, on the plains, in towns and in waste places, in deserts, and wheresoever they may be, that people shall be protected, both in their faith and in their property, both in the West and in the East, both on sea and land.

And even as they honor and respect Me, so shall Moslems care for that people as being under our protection, and whensoever any distress or discomfort shall overtake them, Moslems shall hold themselves in duty bound to aid and care for them, for they are a people subject to my Nation, obedient to their word, whose helpers also they are.

It therefore is proper for my sake to attend to their comfort, protection and aid, in face of all opposition and distress, suppressing everything that becomes a means to their spoliation. In the levying of taxes, it is necessary not to exact more than they are able to pay, but to adjust matters with their consent, without force or violence. Their building enterprises shall not be interfered with; their priests shall not be molested in the performance of their task; they shall not be persecuted for their faith or their customs, but shall be allowed to pray as they will in their own places of worship and according to their own rites; neither shall their churches be dismantled or destroyed, or their homes and mansions confiscated by Moslems, for mosques or residences, without their consent. Whosoever shall not do as is here prescribed, but shall do contrary to my behests; the same shall be held a despiser of this Compact, and a gainsayer of the word of God and of his Prophet.

No land taxes shall be exacted from them in excess of the value of four dinars, or one linen sheet, which shall be applied for the benefit of the Moslems and held as a sacred trust for public use. Nothing more also shall be exacted from them (scil., by way of a poll-tax) than what we here prescribe. Whether they be merchants and wealthy, or whether they live in the open country, whether they fish for pearls in the sea, or own mines of precious stones, or of gold, or of silver, or possess other rich estates, they shall not be made to pay more than twelve dirhams.

Of those who are not of the Christian faith [and] neither conduct worship according to the Christian rite, four dirhams shall be exacted. But of those who conform to that people and are obedient to their word, not more shall be demanded than the aforementioned Twelve Dirhams, provided that they dwell where all their people are resident. Those who travel, and being without a place of permanent abode are constantly on the move, shall not be subject to land taxes, except that in the event any of them shall fall heirs to property on which the Imam has a legal claim, the lawful tax shall be exacted, yet even so the taxpayer shall not be made the victim of violence or of unlawful exactions in excess of his ability to pay. His mansions, his produce, and his fruits shall not be made to objects of avarice.

Christians shall not be asked to fight for Moslems against the enemies of the Faith, neither shall Moslems at war with foreign nations or engaged in massacre constrain Christians to make common cause with them against the enemy. But if the enemy shall attack the Christians, then the Moslems shall not spare the use against him or their horses, their swords and their spears. In so doing they will perform a pleasant deed.

No Christians shall be brought by force to confess Islam, and no disputes except over the better things shall be envisaged in with them. Moslems shall extend over the Christians everywhere the arm of mercy and kindness, protecting them from the exactions of oppressors. If any Christian shall be found inadvertently offending, Moslems shall deem it their duty to assist him, accompanying him to the law-courts, so that not more may be exacted of him than is prescribed by God, and peace may be restored between the parties to the dispute according to the Scripture.

All conditions previously named being observed, and the capitation tax being paid by them, no Christians shall be tyrannized over or oppressed by my people. Neither shall they on their part tyrannize over Moslems or oppress them, from this time forth even until such time as God shall ordain. Moslems shall not take the women and maidens of the Christians by force, but only with the consent of their lords, except in the event that they by free choice shall desire to be united to Moslems and married to them whether permanently or only for a time, when this shall be permitted to them out of respect to the freewill of women who should be at liberty to marry whom they love and choose. And if any Christian women shall marry a Moslem, it shall be permitted to her to continue in the Christian faith, attending the churches of the Christians without let or hindrance, and she shall live at her pleasure according to her own faith and laws. No obstacle shall be placed in the way of her communicating with her own spiritual advisers; neither shall she, forcibly and against her will, be made to forsake her own faith and laws. Whosoever shall do despite the words of this Contract, the same shall be accounted as having done despite God, and shall be held guilty in the Prophet’s sight of annulling the words of the Covenant of the Prophet of God. Such a one shall be numbered among sinners before God.

Christians must attend to all repairs on their own churches, chapels and monasteries. If in the interest of the benevolent Moslem public, and of their faith, Moslems shall ask of the Christians for assistance, the latter shall not deny them what help, as an expression of friendship and goodwill, they are able to render. Seeing that the Christians have submitted to us, implored our protection and taken refuge with us, we deem all help and succor rendered to them every way legitimate. If any one of them shall be sent as an envoy to negotiate peace between Moslems and Infidels, no one shall prevent his going, and if he should prove of service to our cause, let the service be accepted; but whosoever shall despise him, the same shall be numbered among the wicked, guilty before the Prophet of God, and an enemy of his revealed word.

[Here also follows a Treaty of Mohammed, the Great Prophet of God (may the blessings of God rest upon him and his posterity!), with the Christian people, a Treaty which His Majesty after the foregoing words commanded and established with the Christians relative to their faith and laws, embracing a few commandments by which Christians shall regard themselves as being bound. Let them do nothing contrary to the previous words, and everything in harmony with those following.]

One of the commandments is this; that they shall give no aid to infidels, whether openly or surreptitiously, neither receive into their houses enemies of Moslems lest at a convenient opportunity they attack them. They shall not permit enemy men to stop at their houses or churches, neither shall they harbor enemy troops, or aid them with spear, arrow, sword or horse, or with aught else.

They shall not act as guides to them, or show them how to ambush the enemy. They shall not commit to them their possessions for safe-keeping; they shall not communicate with them, or aid them by word or deed, or afford them shelter except only under duress.

If a Moslem shall chance at a Christian’s house, he may there be entertained three days and three nights; more than that is unnecessary. Christians shall avert from Moslems the abuse and oppressions of tyrants.

In the event that it becomes necessary for them to hide a Moslem in their own mansions or houses, they shall give him a place to lie, and take care of him, neither forsaking him, nor leaving him without food, so long as he shall be in hiding. Women and children of Moslems shall not be betrayed or shown to the enemy, neither shall Christians deviate from these orders.

And if any Christian shall do contrary to this Treaty, or ignore it, he shall be accounted as annulling the same. Such a one is loathsome to God, and the Prophet shall visit upon him his just retribution.

Wherefore let all Christians deem it both binding and proper to observe the words of this Treaty even until such time as God shall ordain.

In witness whereof is attached the Signature that in the presence of the Clergy and the Lords of the Nation, the Holy, Great Prophet, Mohammed, affixed, confirming the foregoing Treaty.

God Omnipotent and Lord of All!

In pursuance of the Command of the Great Prophet of God, Mohammed, the Lord’s Chosen (may the blessing of God rest upon him and upon his posterity!), this Treaty was drawn up on the Monday following the first four months of the Fourth Year of the Hegira.

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