Open Letter to Jayson Casper


December 26, 2018

Dear Jayson Casper,

Greetings. I am associated with the Covenants Initiative, whose director, Dr. John Andrew Morrow, was mentioned in the decision of the Supreme Court of Pakistan to acquit Asia Bibi on charges of blasphemy. Below are emails I just sent to two commentators mentioned in your article “Covenantal Theology: Can Muhammad’s Ancient Promise Inspire Muslim-Christian Peace Today?” in Christianity Today, Rev. Mark Durie and Mustafa Aykol. In addition to the arguments presented in these communications, I would like to take slight issue with your use of the term “covenantal theology” to apply to the Covenants of the prophet Muhammad. The covenants of Abraham, Moses and Jesus were “binding agreements” made between representatives of a particular faith community—either already in existence or yet to be formed—and God himself, whereas Muhammad’s covenants, to be strictly accurate, were treaties between two different faith communities. They were nonetheless related “covenantal theology” by the fact that the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, declared that they were inspired (though not actually dictated, as was the Qur‘an) directly by Allah.

Here are our responses to Mustafa Akyol and Rev. Mark Durie:

Dear Rev. Durie:

I am a colleague of Dr. John Andrew Morrow, author of The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World; I helped edit the book and wrote a foreword to it. Having just read “Covenantal Theology: Can Muhammad’s Ancient Promise Inspire Muslim-Christian Peace Today?”, I would like to respond to three of your assertions:

1) “I don’t know of any serious scholar who believes [these texts] are genuine.”

RESPONSE: We can send you a list of such scholars if you wish.

2) “Why would a community of monks receive a promise of religious freedom for Christian women who marry Muslims?”

RESPONSE: Many monasteries on the outskirts of the Byzantine Empire, near to Arab lands, represented the sole leadership of various Christian communities; this is why stipulations of the Covenants that applied to lay Christians were addressed to monks, and why they took it upon themselves to agree to them in the name of their wider flock.

3) “Muhammad had no contact with the tribes of Sinai when the covenant with St. Catherine’s monastery was supposedly composed.”

RESPONSE: According to both the records of St. Catherine’s and the oral tradition of the Sinai Bedouins, before Muhammad’s prophethood descended upon him with the Holy Qur’an, he was a caravan leader who supplied (among many other stops on his route) the Monastery of St. Catherine’s.

If you would like a concise compendium of the provenance of the Prophetic Covenants, including specific arguments against the notion that they were forgeries by Christians (except for a couple of doubtful texts), email me and I’ll send you the file.

Charles Upton
for Dr. John Andrew Morrow
and the Covenants Initiative

Dear Cato Institute:

Greetings. This is a message for Mustafa Akyol, in response to his comments in the article “Covenantal Theology: Can Muhammad’s Ancient Promise Inspire Muslim-Christian Peace Today?” that just appeared in Christianity Today:

“In response to your objection to the legitimacy of these documents based on the fact that most Muslims have never heard of them, our response is: Before the fall of the Ottoman Empire many Muslims knew about them, including virtually the entire ‘ulama, as well as many western scholars, since they formed the basis of official Ottoman policy toward religious minorities, and were renewed periodically by the Ottoman sultans. If they have been largely forgotten until recently, this may be due to the fact that, after the dissolution of the Empire, they were viewed as no more than the irrelevant and dated documents of a defunct bureaucracy. In response to your other objection, that their authenticity has been disputed by some scholars, we offer the attached file, “The Provenance of the Prophet’s Covenants,” which is Chapter 11 of Dr. John Andrew Morrow’s work titled Islam and the People of the Book: Critical Studies on the Covenants of the Prophet. This document contains the essence of our arguments for the likely authenticity of (most) of the Prophetic Covenants; it answers in specific detail all the scholarly objections that we were aware of when the book was published (2013).”

I have also attached “The Provenance of the Prophet’s Covenants” for your perusal.

Charles Upton
for Dr. John Andrew Morrow
and the Covenants Initiative

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Dr. John Andrew Morrow is a senior scholar specializing in Islamic, Indigenous, and Hispanic Studies.