By Charles Upton for New Age Islam
30 May 2017
The Covenants Initiative has recently been approached by various people who were obviously hoping to insert the Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, into this or that worldly agenda: that of Russia, that of Saudi Arabia and Qatar, that of Iran. Since these people have identified themselves to us as Muslims, we feel justified in addressing them in terms of the spiritual duties incumbent upon all Muslims according to the norms of our religion.
What many Muslims may not understand about the Covenants of the Prophet is that they are nothing less, under prevailing conditions, and given the present state of Islam, than a call to repentance. We have no interest in making them “acceptable” to various interests within the Muslim world who seem to believe that the clear word of the Prophet can be made consistent with, and even used to empower, various pseudo-Islamic ideologies that contradict it at every point. It is the fond hope of hypocrites, of worldly human beings pretending to religion that Truth and falsehood are, or can be made to be, fundamentally compatible. Hasn’t life as they have lived it proved this hypothesis? In their daily experience they have found truth useful for some things, falsehood a better approach for others, clarity appropriate in certain situations, ambiguity and prevarication the tools of choice for still others. This is simply the actual nature of human life in the world; it comprises a set of standards that both honest worldlings and religious hypocrites implicitly accept as the highest law, the de facto Shari’ah that determines and judges all their actions. Unfortunately for them—and most especially for the hypocrites—it is not the law of Allah. Because the indisputable fact is that the commandments issued by the Prophet Muhammad in his Covenants, which he made binding upon all Muslims “until the coming of the Hour”, are clearly and diametrically opposed to many of the teachings of terrorist ideologues such as Ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab and Ibn Taymiyyah.
The Covenants Command:
Defend the Christians from their enemies; never fight them unless they have first taken up arms against you; never damage their buildings; don’t prevent your Christian wives from going to church—and never under any circumstances kill or persecute someone simply because he or she refuses to convert to Islam! Ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab and Ibn Taymiyyah, on the other hand, teach that the blood of Christians is Halal simply because they are not Muslims. It is therefore as clear as day that if you accept the one, you are duty bound to reject the other. Truth has come and falsehood has vanished away; certainly falsehood is ever bound to vanish (Q. 17:81). Anyone who still has the temerity to claim that it is possible to accept both the validity of the Covenants of the Prophet and the orthodoxy of Ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab or Ibn Taymiyyah after being confronted with these facts has begun the process, not only of perverting his or her own conscience, but of destroying his or her own mind. And this is a trajectory that, once embarked upon, is very hard to reverse. O believers! if you obey some amongst those who have received the Scripture, after your very Faith will they make you infidels! (Q. 3:100)
Is there any way out of this impasse for those who have not been able to summon up sufficient moral courage to reject much of what they have heretofore erroneously believed to be the teachings of their own religion, the fundamental principles of Islam?
As I see it, only two ways are open to them. The first is to characterize, and accept, the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, as a liar and a hypocrite, one who made reassuring overtures of friendship to Christians and Jews and Sabaeans and Zoroastrians when it suited his purposes, and felt no qualms about stabbing them in the back when the winds had changed and another approach was called for. This “version” of the Prophet of Islam—which, by the way, is identical to that of the Islamophobes—presents certain apparent advantages to those Muslims who adopt it, since it allows Muhammad to act as the archetype and justification for their own cunning and dishonesty, their own cruelty and treachery. Unfortunately for them, the picture of the Prophet transmitted by both the Qur’an and the Prophetic Covenants gives the lie to this self-serving perversion of the peerless stature and unblemished reputation—unblemished in the sight of Allah if not in that of the dunya—of him who was sent “as a mercy to all the worlds”. It is clear as daybreak that those who take this approach have no fear of Allah, and consequently—unless they repent—they must encounter a painful doom.
The other way of escaping this impasse—the second brand of “wiggle-room”—is simply to assert that the Covenants are forgeries. This is a much more straightforward and honest approach; however, it has the drawback of committing those who adopt it to a rather exhaustive and time-consuming course of study and research—one that has thankfully been made much easier, however, by the work of Dr. John Andrew Morrow in his The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World, as well as the upcoming two volume anthology he contributed to and edited, Islam and the People of the Book: Critical Studies on the Covenants of the Prophet. It is our stated position that these works have proven, beyond any reasonable doubt, the substantial validity of the majority of the documents presented as Covenants of the Prophet, and of the rightly-guided caliphs. Let those who reject this conclusion, reassured and empowered by the certainty that they are right, proceed to confront our arguments, and refute them, one by one, marshalling the same thoroughness and accuracy of scholarship that we have employed in establishing their validity.
If, however, they shy away from taking on this task, which could certainly prove onerous, what can be said about them? At this point let there be no mistake: the Covenants of the Prophet are dangerous documents. If they are in fact legitimate, they will require many Muslims to change many things in both their communal and their personal lives. And if any Muslim merely suspects that these documents may be genuine, but says to himself, “they might be valid, but finding out for sure means more labour and inconvenience than I’m willing to put up with”, then that Muslim has shown himself to be a hypocrite in the Presence of Allah—and when are we ever not in that Presence?
Those who know too much have lost the right to make excuses. Any Muslim as ignorant of his or her religion as most Wahhabi/Salafi “authorities” might conceivably be exonerated under the “acts are judged by their intent” rule. But whoever has heard of the Covenants of the Prophet, and given even a cursory glance at Dr. Morrow’s research, already knows too much, which means that the person in question knows either that he has no interest in learning the truth of his religion; that he is lying to himself; or that he has deliberately destroyed the part of his mind that could ever inform him that he is lying to himself, and has thereby demonstrated that he has no fear of Allah. Certainly he fears the Dunya; he fears those who have the power to deprive him of his livelihood if not his life; such fear is understandable, maybe even (under some circumstances) excusable. But as for Almighty Allah, the Abaser, the Avenger, the Knower of Each Separate Thing, the All-Just, such a Muslim has proved that this Incomparable Reality is worth no more to him than a momentary shrug of the shoulders—and for this there is no excuse. It is not their eyes that are blind but the hearts in their breasts that are blind (Q. 22:46). There are many who firmly believe that they believe in Allah, but in fact do not. How can we be sure that such people exist? Their existence is clearly demonstrated by the fact that actions speak louder than words.
In light of these facts, we would suggest that anyone who does not want to place his or her immortal soul in greater jeopardy than it is already threatened with should stay far, far away from the Covenants of the Prophet: we would suggest this, except for the fact that even to have heard news of them places the obligation on every Muslim to determine for him- or herself whether or not they are true. Anyone who shirks this duty, having thereby proved that the commandments of the Prophet and the Will of Allah are matters of indifference to him, will find him- or herself among the losers—not by defeat, but by default. It is our duty to issue this warning on pain of being charged with leading the Muslims astray.
Furthermore, just as any prophetic Hadith which flatly contradicts the Noble Qur’an must immediately be discarded, we also need to seriously consider reviewing the entire body of Ahadith literature dealing with the proper relations between Muslims and other religious believers in light of the Covenants of the Prophet. The Hadith collections we possess were codified around three centuries after Muhammad’s death, while the historical and textual trail establishing the substantial validity of most of the documents claiming to be Prophetic Covenants stretches all the way back to the Prophet’s lifetime. They have been referenced in both Muslim and Christian sources as well as being periodically renewed by caliphs and sultans; we even know the identity of several of the scribes the Prophet dictated them to, notably ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib. Consequently, a case can be made that they possess a degree of authority greater than the Ahadith, second only to the Qur’an itself.
So we have now stated our position as clearly as we know how. There is no need for us to further repeat ourselves; it is our duty to warn, but it is not our duty to nag. We would only conclude by saying, to those who have made desire their god (45:23), the ones who are daily walking in the all-too-common dream that they will never die, never step into one pan of the Scales to be weighed against a feather, never be burned to the bone of their living souls by the steady gaze of the All-Seeing, but who depend upon the belief that they have time, time, infinite time to treat the world as a joke and a jest, a game and a pass-time, in safety, in security, in peace, in rest, in sleep—to these we say: sleepers, awake! Because there are some—all too many, in fact—to whom Mercy can come only as a warning: “Friend! Don’t step on that snake! His bite is venomous, and could well be fatal.”
And to those who, while they are not yet convinced, one way or the other, of the truth of the Covenants, have begun to fear in the secrecy of their hearts that we might be right, we only say: Alhamdulillah! Fear is Mercy! Your fear is the sign that Allah has not abandoned you.
Charles Upton was born in 1948. His books include Day and Night on the Sufi Path, Virtues of the Prophet, Reflections of Tasawwuf, The System of Antichrist, and, with Dr. John Andrew Morrow, The Words of Allah to the Prophet Muhammad: Forty Sacred Sayings. He is also the conceiver of the Covenants Initiative, an international movement of Muslims to protect persecuted Christians, based on Dr. Morrow’s book The Covenants of the Prophet Muḥammad with the Christians of the World. In 1988, he embraced Islam. Since that time, under two shaykhs, he has followed the Sufi path. The website of the Covenants Initiative is http://www.covenantsoftheprophet.com.