The Covenant of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World (I)

The Covenant of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World (I)

(First published by Gabriel Sionita in 1630 CE)

[By the Prophet Muhammad]

[Translated by John Andrew Morrow]

[In the Name of Allah, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful.]

It was written by Muhammad, the Messenger of Allah, the proclaimer and warner [bashiran wa nadhiran], to all the people [al-nas kaffah], [Muhammad], who is entitled to the protection of Allah [wadi‘at Allah] in truth, and as a proof [hujjah] of Allah for the Christian religion [din al-nasraniyyah] in the eastern land and its west, its Arabs and non-Arabs [fasihiha wa‘ajamiha], near or far, known or unknown.

This document [kitaban], which has been prepared for them, constitutes an authoritative covenant [ahdan mariyyan], a well-known certificate [sijlan manshuran], and a testament [wasiyyah] from him which must be respected and which will protect them.

Whoever holds to Islam, abides by it, and whoever breaks the covenant contained in this testament, and transgresses [khalafahu] it among the non-Muslims, and contradicts what I commanded in it, he has violated the Covenant of Allah [ahd Allah], denies the Oath of Allah [mithaq Allah] and has disdained His Protection [dhimmah] whether he is a Sultan or anyone else among the believers and the Muslims.

I commit myself to grant alliances [uhud] and pledges [mawathiq] to those who requested them from me and from all of my families [ahliyy] from among the Muslims to give them the covenant of Allah [ahd Allah] and His Pledge [mithaq] and I place them under the safeguard of His Prophets, His Messengers, His Elect, His Saints, from the Muslims and the Believers, among the first of them and the last of them. And my protection [dhimmati] and my pact [mithaq] the most solid covenant that Allah has given a prophet sent or an angel [or sovereign] drawn near, [namely], the right to demand obedience, to give obligations [farida], and respect of Allah’s Covenant [ahad Allah].

That I protect their judges in my fortified borderlines [fi thughuri] with my horses and my men, my helpers, and my followers, from among the Believers, from every region among the regions of the enemy, whether they be far away or close by, whether they be at peace or at war, I safeguard them. I grant security to their churches, their places of pilgrimage [siyahah] wherever they are and wherever they may be found, be they in the mountains or the valleys, in the caves or the inhabited regions, in the plains or the desert, or in buildings; and that I protect their religion and their property wherever they are and wherever they may be found in land or at sea, in the East or West, the same way that I protect myself, my successors [khatimi], and the People of my Community [ahl al-millati] among the Believers and the Muslims.

I place them under my protection from any damage or harm [makruh]; to exempt them from any requisitions or any onerous obligations. I am behind them, protecting them myself, by means of my followers, my helpers, and the members of my religious community [ahl al-millati].

Having authority over them, I must govern them, protecting them from all damage and ensuring that no harm happens to them that does not happen to me and my Companions who, along with me, protect this ascribed authority.

I block from them the harm in the supplies which obliges the people of the pact [ahl al-ahd] from loan [‘aria] and land tribute [kharaj] except what they themselves consent to give. They should not be compelled in this matter.

It is not permitted to remove a bishop from his bishopric or a Christian from his Christianity, a monk from his monastic life or a pilgrim from his pilgrimage or a hermit monk from his tower. 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 betrayed the Divine Alliance.

It is not permitted to impose a capitation [jizyah] or any kind of tax on monks or bishops only that which they are prepared to give willingly.

The capitation [jizyah] upon owners of large businesses, and divers, and those who exploit mines for precious stones, gold and silver, and those who are wealthy, and powerful, among those who have professed Christianity, may not surpass more than twelve dirhams per year, so long as they are inhabitants of these countries or residents, and not travelers.

The traveler, or the resident whose place [of residence] is unknown, is not obliged to pay the land tribute [kharaj] or the poll-tax [jizyah] unless he has inherited land over which the ruler [sultan] has a monetary right. He must pay the money [mall] as others without, however, the charges unjustly exceeding the measure of their means [or strength].

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 free non-Muslims enjoying Muslim protection [ahl al-dhimmah] 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, such free non-Muslims [ahl al-dhimmah] will not engage in war along with the Muslims. 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. They will not be obliged to go out with the Muslims to meet their enemies or be forced to give their horses, their arms, unless they contribute to the cause freely. Whoever does so will be recognized for his action.

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 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 subject 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, to follow the path of her own religion, and he will not force her to leave it. 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 seek 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, they, [the Muslims], must help and support them. However, they must not do so with the aim of receiving any reward. On the contrary, they should aim 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 is an oppressor [zalim], a rebel against the Messenger of Allah, and has differed over his testament [wasiyyah].

These are the conditions that Muhammad, the Messenger of Allah, has placed upon the Christian community [ahl al-millah al-nasraniyyah], with regard to their religion and their community [dhimmah]. They must hold fast to this covenant [ahd] and respect what they have agreed upon.

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 war enemies of the Muslims by furnishing them with weapons, horses, men, or anything else, including greeting them. 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, give 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 kings, the monks [ruhban], and the Christians [nasara] from the People of the Book, 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] and the end of the world [dunya].

This document [kitaban], which was written by Muhammad, the Messenger of Allah, for the Christians who had written to him and requested from him this covenant, was witnessed by:

Abu Bakr al-Siddiq

‘Umar ibn al-Khattab

‘Uthman ibn ‘Affan

‘Ali ibn Abi Talib

Mu‘awiyyah ibn Abi Sufyan

Abu al-Darda

Abu Dharr

Abu Hurayrah

‘Abd Allah ibn Mas‘ud

‘Abd Allah ibn al-‘Abbas

Hamzah ibn ‘Abd al-Muttalib


Zayd ibn Thabit

‘Abd Allah ibn Zayd

Harfus ibn Zayd

al-Zubayr ibn al-‘Awwam

Sa‘d ibn Mu‘adh

Thabit ibn Qays

Usamah ibn Zayd

‘Uthman ibn Mat‘un

‘Abd Allah ibn ‘Amr al-‘As

Abu Rabi‘ah

Hassan ibn Thabit

Ja‘far ibn Abi Talib

Ibn al-‘Abbas

Talhah ibn ‘Abd Allah

Sa‘d ibn ‘Ubadah

Zayd ibn Arqam

Sahl ibn Bayda’

Da’ud ibn Jubayr

Abu al-‘Aliyyah

Abu Ahrifah

Ibn ‘Usayr

Hashim ibn ‘Asiyyah

Zayd ibn Arqam

‘Umar ibn Yamin

Ka‘b ibn Malik

Ka‘b ibn Ka‘b

May Allah be pleased with all of them!

Written [down] by Mu‘awiyyah ibn Abi Sufyan, and dictated by the Messenger of Allah on the second day of the month of Rabi‘ah Ashar during the fourth year of the Hegira in Medina.

Allah suffices as a Witness for what is contained in this document [kitaban].

Praise be to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds!


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