Lesson 4


Answering Objections to the Covenants

In your interfaith work with the Covenants you will undoubtedly run into people who deny their validity. Some Muslims—and, strangely enough, not a few Christians as well—will claim that Muhammad’s Covenants with the Christians are Christian forgeries; here we can see how the viewpoints of the “Islamicists” and the “Islamophobes” are often very similar, and tend to feed off each other. Claims will be made that “the consensus of scholars” is that the Prophetic Covenants, even if they can’t be proved to have been concocted by the Christians, were certainly not authored by Muhammad.

Such ideas are either the product of simple ignorance, or else evidence of dishonesty and bad faith. In any case they can easily be refuted on the basis of the scholarship of Dr. John Andrew Morrow and that of the many authorities he draws upon, both ancient and contemporary. Whoever is willing to review and consider this scholarship, even if they do not immediately alter their opinions, should be accepted as operating in good faith.

In any case, we must avoid at all cost the temptation to denounce or ridicule those who initially do not accept the validity of the Prophetic Covenants. Even if we can ultimately demonstrate that they are in error, still, they have their reasons for what they believe. It may also simply be that they have neither the time nor the ability to pursue scholarly research, and so have opted to uncritically accept the opinions of those they take as authorities. However, anyone who unquestioningly believes that the Covenants are invalid after reviewing our findings may be suspected of intellectual dishonesty, unless they can bring forward concrete arguments to refute our arguments. And once we’ve exposed that dishonesty, we may feel we’re now fully justified in ridiculing and denouncing the. Here too, however, we must take care that we don’t inflame destructive conflict for no practical purpose.

To be forced to change one’s cherished beliefs in the face of overwhelming evidence causes pain, the kind of pain that many people don’t have the capacity to face. They may be willing to undergo great suffering to defend their beliefs, but to consciously suffer because they’ve been confronted with the need to alter those beliefs may be beyond their strength. Actual intellectual debate between people who hold differing positions on a given issue can have positive results, as long as we respect our opponents (even if we can’t actually respect their ideas) and are careful to maintain courtesy and decorum. Only those who have made open apologies for evil, viciousness and human degeneracy really deserve our denunciation, but even here we must ask ourselves whether our energy is better used in denouncing the reprobates or in encouraging the virtuous—or those who at least hope to be virtuous—guiding them in their decisions, defending them from their enemies and helping them in their work.

The following video is a good introduction to the Prophetic Covenants for those who are unfamiliar with them: 


The International Museum of Muslim Cultures “Covenants & Coexistence Exhibit”


When countering claims that the Prophetic Covenants are spurious, the following two resources will be useful: “The Authenticity of Muhammad’s Covenants” and “The Provenance of the Prophet’s Covenants”. The first should be enough to answer most objections; however, if you are challenged by someone with academic credentials who may require more thorough and detailed evidence, you should refer him or her to the second: 


The Authenticity of Muhammad’s Covenants

 by Dr. John Andrew Morrow

(Resource One, introductory level) 

What is a covenant? A covenant is a contract, a compact, a treaty, an accord, a deal, a bargain, a settlement, a concordat, a protocol, an entente, an agreement, an arrangement, an understanding, a pledge, a promise, a bond, an indenture, a guarantee, a warrant, an undertaking and a commitment. In Arabic, the noun is ‘ahd. The word ‘ahd is so rich in meaning that its definitions span pages in Arabic dictionaries. It refers to an obligation, an engagement, an oath, a liability, a responsibility, an alliance, a charge, a vow, an oath, a charter, a testament, and a trust.

The noun ‘ahd is related to the verb ‘ahida which means to know, to observe closely, to heed, to adhere, to look after, to vest, to commission, to charge, to authorize, to empower, to entrust, to obligate, to commit, to fulfil, to keep one’s promise, to bind, to observe, to support, to stand up, to pay attention to, to attend, to take care, to maintain, and to keep up. A person who is under an ‘ahd is an ‘ahid which means an ally and a confederate. He or she is known as a mu‘ahad, a covenanted person, namely, a person covered by a covenant. I could go on for hours exploring dictionary definitions of the term “covenant.” Clearly, it is not a term that is taken lightly. It has both a legal sense and a religious sense. It bonds and binds communities. It is a pledge between God and people. It is vertical and horizontal. It is transcendent.

In religion, the term ‘ahd or “covenant” refers to a formal alliance, agreement or promise that is made between God and believers. It refers to the covenant of monotheism made between God and souls prior to creation. As we read in the Qur’an: “When thy Lord drew forth their descendants from the children of Adam, He made them testify concerning themselves [saying]: ‘Am I not your Lord?’ They replied, ‘Yes, we do so testify’” (7:172).

The term ‘ahd or “covenant” refers to the Covenant of Eden, the Covenant of Adam, the Covenant of Noah, the Covenant of Abraham, the Covenant of Moses, the Covenant of David, and the New or Messianic Covenant of Jesus: it is the Covenant of Redemption, the Covenant of Works, and the Covenant of Grace. All these Covenants culminate in the Covenant of Muhammad, the Covenant of Medina, and the Covenants of the Muhammad with the People of the Book: the Jews, the Christians, and the Zoroastrians, as well as other faith communities. This is known as Covenantal Theology. Covenants are formal alliances, agreements, and promises between God and humanity. They are not simply treaties between parties. Agreements can be made between human groups, but when such an agreement is authorized by God and witnessed by God, it becomes a covenant. A Covenant is a Sacred Trust. And they are all mentioned in the Qur’an.

The Qur’an uses the words ‘ahd and mithaq over eighty times. Some of these verses refer to the Covenants that the Prophet made with the People of the Book that were binding on believing Muslims. Case in point, the early Medinan verse that warns against breaking God’s covenant after it is ratified (2:27) as well as numerous others commanding Muslims to keep their promises, fulfil their oaths, and honor their Covenants (2:40; 3:110-112; 9:3; 9:8; 13:20; 13:25; 16:91-92; 16:95; 17:34).

Speaking of the People of the Book who resisted the Prophet, God says that “Shame is pitched over them (like a tent) wherever they are found, except when under a covenant (of protection) from God and from men” (3:112). Ibn Kathir explains that this “covenant from God” refers to “the dhimmah or covenant of protection from Allah” while the “covenant from men” refers to “pledges and protections and safety offered to them by Muslim men and women.” When interpreting this verse, Ibn ‘Abbas said that it referred to a covenant of protection from Allah and a pledge of safety from the people. This opinion was shared by Mujahid, ‘Ikrimah, ‘Ata’, al-Dhahak, al-Hasan, Qatadah, al-Suddi, and al-Rabi‘ ibn Anas.

Speaking of the pagans, Almighty Allah asks: “How (can there be such a league), seeing that if they get an advantage over you, they respect not in you the ties of either kinship or of covenant?” (9:8). According to Ibn Kathir, this verse affirms that the idolaters “do not deserve to enjoy a covenant of peace.” Relying on the authority of ‘Ali ibn Abi Talhah, ‘Ikrimah, al-‘Awfi, Ibn ‘Abbas, al-Dhahak, and al-Suddi, he asserts that dhimmah means covenant. Unlike the People of the Book, this verse asserts that the polytheists were unworthy of receiving Covenants of protection due to their dishonesty, disloyalty, and treachery. Consequently, this verse alludes to the pledges, promises, treaties, and Covenants that the Prophet Muhammad concluded with the People of the Book.

The Covenants of the Prophet, which are the Covenants of Allah, are mentioned in the Qur’an. So where are these Covenants and what are these Covenants? They are the Covenant of Medina and the Covenant with the Jews of Maqna, the Covenant with the Jews of the Yemen, and the Covenant with the Children of Israel. They are the Covenant with the Samaritans. They are the Covenants with the Christians: the Covenant of Najran, the Covenant of Assyria, the Covenant of Armenia, the Covenant of the Sinai, the Covenant of Egypt, the Covenant of Persia, and the Covenant of the World. They are the Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him and his family, with the People of the Book and with all of humanity.

The texts of all these Covenants, many based on ancient copies of the originals, are all available to us. But are they authentic? Are they genuine? Are they true? The Qur’an mentions the Covenants of God and Muhammad. The contents of the Covenants of the Prophet are in complete agreement with contents of the Qur’an. In other words, the Qur’an confirms the Covenants of the Prophet and the Covenants of the Prophet confirm the Qur’an. But let me be more precise. Allow me to make an important clarification. The Covenants of the God and Muhammad are in perfect harmony with the true, traditional, moderate, and tolerant interpretation of the Qur’an.

The Covenants of God and the Prophet are a wake-up call for mainstream Muslims. They cause a crisis of conscience for more radical Muslims. They are a cold shower for militant Muslims. And they are a veritable slap in the face to the enemies of God and the Prophet: the innovators who accuse of innovation, the intolerant bigots, the brutal bullies, the so-called Islamic fundamentalists, the so-called Muslim puritans, the hadith hurlers, the false followers of the pious predecessors, the so-called political Islamists, the haters and the excommunicators, the fraudulent self-righteous jihadists, the violent extremists, the suicide bombers who believe in so-called martyrdom operations, the psychopathic terrorists, the fascists, and the so-called Islamic supremacists. I refer to the abrogators.

The abrogators? Who on earth or who in hell are the abrogators? They are those who falsely claim that the one hundred and twenty-four verses of the Qur’an that promote pluralism, tolerance, and peace, have been abrogated by two verses: 3:85, the so-called Supremacist Verse, and 9:5, the so-called Sword Verse. They are those who believe that God’s Wrath prevails over His Mercy. They are those who believe that the tolerant verses in the Qur’an were simply a ruse, a plot, and a ploy that applied only when Muslims were meek, thus in effect claiming—like the slanderers they are—that Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, was a cynical charlatan, and the God he worshipped a Deceiver.

We are not like them. After all, we are Muslims. We are people who believe in the beauty, justice, tolerance, and mercy of God, the Prophet, the Qur’an, and Islam. We do not condemn and kill people for their beliefs; however reprehensible they may be. We live and let live so long as no crimes are committed. We are not aggressors. We only fight in self-defense. And we only judge and punish people after due process. And even then, we are humane. The only infidels are those who accuse everyone else of being infidels. And God is the greatest and God is just.

The Covenants of God and His Prophet bring us glad tidings. They confirm that God’s Word is true. Speaking of the People of the Book, Almighty Allah promises that “No fear shall be upon them nor shall they grieve” (2:62; 5:69). Almighty Allah promises that “those who have attained to faith, as well as those who follow the Jewish faith, and the Christians, and the Sabaeans—all who believe in God and the last day and do righteous deeds, shall have their reward with their Sustainer” (2:62, 5:69). Almighty Allah insists that “There is no compulsion in religion’” (2:256). The Covenants of God and the Messenger of God confirm that these and other similar verses were not abrogated and are binding upon believers until the end of times. Alhamdulillah.The Covenants of God are mentioned in the Qur’an. Surely this is significant. Surely this compels us to seek them out, study them, and abide by them.

God’s interaction with Humanity is governed and dictated by Covenants. The relationship between prophets and their communities is determined by Covenants. The Prophet Muhammad’s entire mission revolved, not around violent jihad and battles, but around the granting of Covenants. When he was in Mecca, the Prophet Muhammad received a delegation of Armenian Christians from Jerusalem and he gave them a covenant. He promised to grant them his protection and respect their religious rights. He guaranteed their ownership to the sacred sites in the Holy Land.

When the Prophet’s followers were persecuted in Mecca, he made a covenant with the Christian King of Ethiopia. He sent them to the land of a righteous Christian king where no man was wronged. The Prophet Muhammad made a covenant with the Muslims from Yathrib: it was known as the Covenant of ‘Aqabah. When the Messenger of Allah migrated, as a religious refugee, to Medina, where he was invited to act as leader, he convened the tribal elders, and consulted with them.

When Muhammad arrived in Medina, the community was almost equally split between Jews and pagan Arabs. Only 15% of the population was Muslim. Although the Prophet Muhammad was the popularly elected leader, he did not create an Islamic state as envisioned by violent and intolerant Islamists. On the contrary, he drafted the Covenant of Medina, the first written constitution in the history of humanity, and created an ummah, a motherland, a peace sanctuary, and a confederation. It was a civil society based on citizenship.

The Covenant of Medina granted rights to all, men and women, whites and blacks, Arabs and non-Arabs, the rich and the poor, and the free and the enslaved. They were given freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and freedom to petition the government for a redress of grievances. The Covenant of Medina provided human rights, civil rights and political rights in the seventh century. It called for liberty, equality, and fraternity. It was based on “mutual advice and consultation.” It was the precursor and, some would suggest, the inspiration for the modern, democratic, pluralistic state.

As for the institution of slavery, the Prophet encouraged people to free slaves, and to marry them, making this a mandatory expiation in many moral and criminal matters. He gave slavery a temporary status, allowed slaves to earn their freedom, and decreed that the children of slaves were all born free. In other words, he introduced a social system that would ensure the liberation of all slaves within a generation and the prohibition of slavery for all time to come.

Medina is our model. Not Saudi Arabia. Not Iran. Not Pakistan. Not the Taliban in Afghanistan. Not al-Qaedah, the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas or ISIS. That is not to say that we want to return to the seventh century. No. Not at all. We are not focused on the past. We are rooted in the past while focused on the future. We do not want to go backwards. We want to go forward drawing upon eternal values, morals, ethics, and principles.

Is the Covenant of Medina authentic? Of course it is. It is one of the most ancient documents in the Islamic tradition. It is cited in Ibn Ishaq’s Biography of the Messenger of Allah and Abu ‘Ubayd’s Book of Finance. It is widely accepted as historically accurate by non-Muslim academics. Unfortunately, it has been widely ignored by Muslims throughout most of Islamic history. This explains why Muslims succumbed to colonialism. This explains why Muslims have succumbed to authoritarianism: monarchs, military dictators, and Islamist terrorists.

In the second year of the hijrah, a delegation from St. Catherine’s Monastery visited the Prophet Muhammad in Medina. He gave them a Covenant of Peace. It granted them freedom of worship and movement, the right to property, freedom from interference in religious affairs, exemption from military service, and the right to protection in war. It gave them tax-free status. It insisted that Christian women, who were married to Muslim men, had the right to practice their own religion. It decreed that Muslims would provide sustenance to monks and hermits and that they would help them maintain their religious buildings.

During the fourth year of the hijrah, the Messenger of Allah provided even longer Covenants to a series of Christian communities. These Covenants, which are all virtually identical, were granted to all the major denominations of the time, spanning most of the Middle East. He even offered to make a covenant with the Eastern Roman Empire. It was rejected. The Christians who accepted to enter a covenant with the Prophet were promised revolutionary rights that were unconceivable under Byzantine or Sassanid rule. He described Christians as the proofs of God to His Creation.

They received the protection of God, the Prophet, the Saints, and the believing Muslims. He promised them justice, safety, and security. He said he would care for them as a shepherd cares for his flock. From the start of his mission, until the end of his mission, the Prophet Muhammad was placing people under Covenants: Jews, Samaritans, Christians, and Zoroastrians.

The rights that are found in the Covenants of the Prophet, which date from the seventh century, were unprecedented. Nothing remotely similar would be seen in the Western world until the Magna Carta, six-hundred years later. In style and content, some segments of the Magna Carta resemble the Covenants of the Prophet. Even the English Bill of Rights of 1689 seems primitive compared to the prophetic Covenants that were prepared by Muhammad a thousand years earlier. Nothing remotely equivalent appears until the American Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, and the U.S. Bill of Rights in the 18th century. In clarity and comprehensiveness, the Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad are only surpassed by twentieth-century Western charters of rights and freedoms and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. However, even so, the Covenants of the Prophet contain clauses that appeal to a higher ethical standard: the duty to love the other. It expects citizens to act as Good Samaritans.

What’s wrong with that? How controversial is that? Who would object to that? Why is it that some Muslims will blindly believe some insane sayings attributed to the Prophet Muhammad and justify them, even when they are illogical and immoral, and clearly contradict the Qur’an, but will raise a ruckus over the Covenants of the Prophet? It boils down to something basic. Do you believe that God is good and that the Prophet was good? Are you endowed with logic and reason? Do you have morals and ethics? Do you believe that all human beings have innate and inalienable rights? Do you believe in human dignity? Moral truth is self-evident. As far as I am concerned, the Covenants of the Prophet are true even if they were written fifty years ago; nonetheless their ancient provenance, their actual authorship by the Prophet Muhammad, is virtually certain.

We are dealing with ethical principles. We are dealing with matters eternal. Fortunately, for the faint of faith and the faint of intellect, the Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad are duly documented. Take, for example, the Covenant with the Monks of Mount Sinai—the famous Ashtiname or Letter of Peace. It is one of the most meticulously referenced sources in the history of Islam. Here are some, and only some of the references. Forgive me for not being exhaustive. Let’s see what the sources say.

The Covenant of the Prophet with the Monks of Mount Sinai is attributed to the Prophet Muhammad (d. 632), peace and blessings be upon him and his progeny. It was written down by Imam ‘Ali and witnessed by numerous Companions of the Prophet. It has been back dated and found to be authentic on that basis. We know that the rightly-guided Caliphs, Abu Bakr, ‘Umar, ‘Uthman, and ‘Ali (632-661), renewed the rights that the Prophet had provided to the Christians. The Covenants that Abu Bakr, ‘Umar, and ‘Ali, concluded with the Christians survive in Christian and Muslim sources.

The monks from Mount Sinai, from the seventh century to the present, have consistently asserted the authenticity of the Covenant of the Prophet. It is their prize and jewel. The Jabaliyyah Arabs of the Sinai, from the seventh century to the present, have consistently confirmed the authenticity of the Covenant of the Prophet. In other words, both the Christians and the Muslims from the Sinai honor the Covenant of the Prophet. We know that, by and large, the Umayyads and the ‘Abbasids respected the rights of the monks from the seventh century until the thirteenth century.

The Fatimid Caliphs, who ruled over the Sinai, issued decree after decree, and firman after firman, confirming the authenticity of the Covenant of the Prophet in 965, 1024, 1109, 1110, 1135, 1154, and 1156. Caliph al-Mu‘izz (953-974), Caliph al-‘Aziz (975-996), Caliph al-Hakim  (996-1021), Caliph al-Zahir (1024), Vizier al-Afdal ibn Badr al-Jamali (1094-1121), and Caliph al-Hafiz (1134) all asserted that the Covenant of the Prophet Muhammad with the Monks of Mount Sinai was authentic.

Some Sunnis might be suspicious of such claims since the Fatimids were Shi‘ites. The Ayyubids, however, who were staunch Sunnis, also asserted that the Covenant of the Prophet was genuine. In fact, Shirkuh, the Ayyubid military commander, and the uncle of Salah al-Din, issued a decree in 1169 which recognized that this was so. In 1195, 1199, 1201, and 1210, decrees were issued by Ayyubid leaders renewing the Covenant of the Prophet with the Monks of Mount Sinai. When the Mamluks arrived on the scene, they continued the same tradition. They issued decrees in 1259, 1260, 1268, 1272, 1280 and 1516 reaffirming the Ashtiname or Covenant of the Prophet.

Writing in the 14th century, Ibn Kathir, the student of Ibn Taymiyyah of all people, provided the complete list of privileges that the Prophet Muhammad had granted to St. Catherine’s Monastery. And in 1403, the Sultan of Egypt signed a treaty with the Order of St. John of Jerusalem that was based on the Ashtiname. In fact, the archives of St. Catherine’s Monastery at Mount Sinai contain nearly two thousand edicts, from five schools of jurisprudence, dating from 975 to 1888, which recognize the authenticity of the Covenant of the Prophet. What is more, we have dozens of Ottoman decrees, from 1519 to 1904, in which the Sultans recognize and renew the Covenant of the Prophet. And we have the Covenant of the Prophet itself.

Jean Thenaud, a French monk, saw the original Covenant of the Prophet at St. Catherine’s Monastery in 1512, and asserted that it was authentic. The original was taken to Topkapi Palace by Sultan Selim in 1517. He provided the monks with a certified copy of the original in both Arabic and Turkish. He issued a firman regarding the authenticity of the Covenant of the Prophet. His military commander, Tsernotabey, testified to the truth of the Ashtiname. Feridun Bey (d. 1583), who was in charge of the Ottoman Chancellery, included the Covenant of the Prophet in the Ottoman Registry. He compiled a work known as Munshaʼat al-salain that features the letters, treaties, and Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad, the Caliphs, and the Sultans. That work included the Covenant of the Prophet Muhammad with the Monks of Mount Sinai. Most importantly, we have complete copies of Covenant of the Prophet dating from the 16th century until the 19th century.

The Ashtiname has been studied by scholars for centuries. Greffin Affagart, writing in 1533, asserted that it was authentic. Franciscus Quaresmius, writing in 1639, asserted that it was authentic. Balthsar de Monconys, writing in 1646, said that it was genuine. Nektarios of Sinai, writing in 1660, said that it was bona fide. The Grand Vizier of the Ottomans, Merzifonlu Kara Mustapha Pasha, who served between 1663-1666, claimed that it was apocryphal. Why? Because he wanted to convert all the Christians to Islam. The sultan and the scholars of Islam took him to task. Ultimately, he recanted and reasserted that the Covenant of the Prophet was true and binding.

Scores of scholars examined the evidence and concluded that the Ashtiname was authentic. In the 17th century, we have Joannes Caramuel de Lobkowitz, Henry Stubbe, and, in the 18th century, Eusèbe Renaudot. John Gagnier, writing in the 18th century, claimed that it was apocryphal. Johann Lorenz von Mosheim believed that it was apocryphal in form but authentic in content. Demetrius Cantemir pointed out that only one vizier had questioned its authenticity. As we have seen, however, Mustapha Pasha came to accept it. Bernard Picard, Richard Pococke, Thomas Salmon,  J.A. Van Egmont and J. Heyman all asserted that it was authentic. George Psalmanazar suggested that it was apocryphal or limited to the Sinai monks. Dom Jean Mabillon wrote that it was disputed. Jean Michel de Venture de Paradis, Jean-Joseph Marcel, the Commission des Sciences et des Arts, Charles Thomson, and even Napoleon himself, all asserted that it was authentic.

The situation was the same in the 19th century. Edward Wells, J.N. Fazakerley, Abraham Salamé, Felix Mengin, Thomas Clarke, John Carne, Abbé Grand and Adrien Egron, John Gibson Lockhart, the National Geographic Society, Joseph von Hammer-Purgstall and J.-J. Hellert, Ministers of Various Evangelical Denominations, C.B. Houry, Maria Giuseppe de Géramb, Pietro della Valle, A. Oumanetz, Louis de Tesson, Père Joguet, Léon Gingras, Austen Henry Layard, Amable Regnault, Henry Day, J.G. Pitzipios-Bey, Joseph Wolff, Antonio Figari Bey, John Davenport, the Royal Accademia dei Lini, Philippe Gelât, Nawfal Effendi Nawfal, Syed Ameer ‘Ali,  R.P. Jullien, Dean Arthur Stanley, L’Union islamique/al-Ittihad al-Islami, Bessarione, Échos d’Orient, and Samuel Sullivan Cox all concluded that the Ashtiname was authentic. John Lewis Burckhardt, Léon de Laborde, von Tischendorf, Odoardo Cusiere, Carl Ritter, and Wilfrid Scawen Blunt, however, were of the opinion that it was apocryphal. Still, the vast majority of scholars asserted that it was authentic.

In the 20th century, the situation changed somewhat. Those who believed in the authenticity of the Covenant of the Prophet included: Anton F. Haddad, ‘Abdullah al-Ma’mun al-Suhrawardy, Sultan ‘Abd al-Hamid II, Sésostris Sidarouss, Na’um Shuqayr, Alberto M. Candioti, Muhammad Marmaduke Pickthall, Essad Bey, Porphyrios III, Jeanne Aubert, Edmond Poupe, The Islamic Review, Joaquim Pedro Oliveira Martins, ‘Aziz Suryal Atiya, Albert Champdor, Alfred Nawrath, Ayatullah Hasan al-Shirazi, Robin Waterfield, Criton George Tornaritis, Le Figaro, Akram Zahoor and Z. Haq, Nikolaos Tomadakis, Konstantinos A. Manafis, Hieromonk Demetrios Digbassanis, Edwin Bernbaum, Nicole Levallois, Giovanna Magi, Jacqueline Lafontaine-Dosogne, LaMar C. Berrett and D. Kelly Ogden, Gawdat Gabra and Morsi Saad el-Din, and Ansar Hussain.

Some 20th century scholars concluded that the Ashtiname was apocryphal. They include Heinz Skrobucha, Louis Cheikho, Bernhard Moritz, The Encyclopedia of Islam, Lina Eckenstein, Ahmad Zaki Pasha, Muhammad Hamidullah, Philipp K. Hitti, A.F.L. Beeston, and Jean-Michel Mouton. Jurji Zaydan thought that they were apocryphal but based on authentic Covenants. Joan Meredyth Chichele Plowden concluded that they were not impossible. Stuart E. Rosenberg wrote that they could neither be proven nor disproven. Oleg V. Volkoff and Joseph J. Hobbs both remained neutral. Most scholars, however, believed that the Ashtiname was authentic.

Despite claims that the Covenant of the Prophet is definitely fake, that is certainly not the consensus of writers and scholars in the 21st century. Those who have treated it as authentic include Hüseyn Hilmi Işik, Yusuf Islam, Giovanni Magnani, Harun Yahya, Frederick Quinn, Bruce Merry, J. Gordon Melton, Brian Paciotti, Reza Shah-Kazemi, R.W. McColl, Elizabeth A. Zachariadou, Martin Gray and Graham Hancock, Jean-Pierre Isbouts, K. Staikos, David Douglas, Andrew Eames, The National Geographic, ‘Abdurrahman Wahid, David Dakake, Muqtedar Khan, Peer-Jada Qureshi, Mohamed el Hebeishy, J. Gordon Melton and Martin Baumann, Zia Shah, Raj Bhala, Hedieh Mirahmadi, Farhad Malekian, Ahmed Shams, Altaf Hussain, Zora O’Neill, Judy Hall, Areej Zufari, Kyriacos C. Markides, James Emery White, Helen C. Evans, Father Justin of Sinai, the Pave the Way Foundation, Shemem Burney Abbas, Nikos Kazantzakis, Timothy Wright, Brad Tyndall, Qasim Rashid, Muhammad Quraish Shihab, Zaid Shakir, Hamza Yusuf, Ronald H. Stone, Calum Samuelson, Alexander Winogradsky Frenkel, John Watson, Sayyid ‘Ali Asghar, ‘Azizah al-Hibri, Ahmed El-Wakil, Halim Rane, the hundreds of scholars who are signatories to the Covenants Initiative, and yours truly, the author of The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World and the editor in chief of Islam and the People of the Book: Critical Studies on the Covenants of the Prophet.

The 21st century has seen its share of detractors. Those who treat the Ashtiname as apocryphal include: L’École pratique des hautes études, Christine Walsh, Caner, Brock, Van Bladel, and Price, Diarmaid MacCulloch, Brandie Ratliff, Pierre-Vincent Claverie, ‘Aziz al-Azmeh, Andrew D. Magnusson, and Walter D. Ward. They are entitled to their opinions.

I am simply listing the sources and their conclusions. In “The Provenance of the Prophet’s Covenants,” which is found in Islam and the People of the Book: Critical Studies on the Covenants of the Prophet, a three-volume encyclopedic work, I quote everything they have to say. I cite all their arguments. I do this for the Covenant of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of Najran, with the Assyrian Christians, with the Armenian Christians, with the Christians of Persia, and with the Christians of the World. In other studies, I do so for the Covenants with the Jews and the Zoroastrians. I could go on for hours, days, months and years providing citations from all the sources on the Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the People of the Book.

But let me be very clear about something: no Muslim is obliged to believe in the Covenants of the Prophet. Why? Because there is no compulsion in religion (2:256). However, every Muslim has the right to believe in them. Those of us who do have done so after a process of due diligence. Our minds, hearts, and souls have been convinced. Do you accept them as true? That is a question that God will ask of you, maybe in the akhirah, the hereafter, maybe tonight in your sleep; the safest course would be to have your answer ready. All praise is due to Allah. May peace and blessings be upon the Messenger of Allah. Al-salamu ‘alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh.


The Provenance of the Prophet’s Covenants

by John Andrew Morrow

(Resource Two, advanced level)

Read Chapter Eighteen of Islam and the People of the Book,

Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2017.

A student who studies the lengthy chapter in question will be well-equipped to respond to the allegations of individuals who question the validity and authenticity of the Covenants of the Prophet. Below, we provide the provenance for five these documents.

The Covenant of the Prophet Muhammad with the Monks of Mount Sinai

Authenticated by

The Prophet Muhammad (d. 632 CE)

The Companions of the Prophet (7th century CE)

Abu Bakr, ‘Umar, ‘Uthman, and ‘Ali (632-661 CE)

The Monks of Mount Sinai (7th century CE to the present)

The Jabaliyyah Arabs of the Sinai (7th century CE to the present)

Honored by Abu Bakr, ‘Umar, ‘Uthman, and ‘Ali (632-661 CE)

Honored by the Ummayads and ‘Abassids (661-750; 750-1258 CE)

Ibn Sa‘d cites Treaty of Najran / St. Catherine (d. 845 CE)

Fatimid Decrees (965, 1024, 1109, 1110, 1135, 1154, and 1156 CE)

Fatimid Caliph al-Mu‘izz (953-974 CE)

Fatimid Caliph al-‘Aziz (975-996 CE)

Fatimid Caliph al-Hakim (996-1021 CE)

Fatimid Caliph al-Zahir (1024 CE)

Fatimid Vizier al-Afdal ibn Badr al-Jamali (1094-1121 CE)

al-Hafiz (1134 CE)

Decree of Shirkuh (1169 CE)

Ayyubids Decrees (1195, 1199, 1201/02, and 1210/11 CE)

Mamluk Decrees (1259, 1260, 1272, 1268/69, 1280 and 1516 CE)

Ibn Kathir reportedly paraphrases the complete list of privileges granted to St. Catherine’s Monastery (d. 1373 CE)

Treaty of the Sultan of Egypt with the Order of St. John of Jerusalem (1403 CE)

Fatwas: Nearly 2000 Edicts from Five Schools of Jurisprudence (975 CE-1888)

Ottoman Decrees (1519 to 1904)

Jean Thenaud (1512 CE)

Copies of the Covenant (Undated, 1517 CE, 1561 CE, 1683 CE, 1737/38 CE, 1800/01 CE)

Tsernotabey (1517 CE)

Firman of Selim I (1517 CE)

Copies of Achtiname (1517-1858 CE)

Greffin Affagart (1533 CE)

Feridun Bey (d. 1583 CE)

Franciscus Quaresmius (1639)

Balthsar de Monconys (1646-1647)

Nektarios of Sinai (1660)

Grand Vizier Merzifonlu Kara Mustapha Pasha (1663-1666)

Joannes Caramuel de Lobkowitz (1672)

Henry Stubbe (1632-1676 CE)

M.L.M.D.C. (1697)

Eusèbe Renaudot (1713)

Bernard Picard (1736)

Johann Lorenz von Mosheim (1693-1755) (apocryphal but authentic in content)

Richard Pococke (1743)

Thomas Salmon (1744)

J.A. Van Egmont and J. Heyman (1759)

George Psalmanazar (1764 CE) (apocryphal or limited to the Sinai Monks)

Jean Michel de Venture de Paradis (1798)

Napoléon Bonaparte (1798)

Jean-Joseph Marcel (1798)

Commission des Sciences et des Arts (1798)

Charles Thomson (1798)

Edward Wells (1809)

J.N. Fazakerley (1811)

Abraham Salamé (1819)

Félix Mengin (1823)

Thomas Clarke (1823)

John Carne (1826)

Abbé Grand and Adrien Egron (1827)

John Gibson Lockhart (1835)

National Geographic Society (1835)

Joseph von Hammer-Purgstall and J.-J. Hellert (1837)

Ministers of Various Evangelical Denominations (1839)

C.B. Ḥoury (1840)

Maria Giuseppe de Géramb (1840)

Pietro della Valle (1843)

Oumanetz (1843)

Louis de Tesson (1844)

Père Joguet (1844)

Léon Gingras (1847)

Austen Henry Layard (1850)

Amable Regnault (1855) (authentic in content)

Henry Day (1857)

J.G. Pitzipios-Bey (1858)

Joseph Wolff (1861)

Antonio Figari Bey (1865)

John Davenport (1869)

Samuel Sullivan Cox (1887)

Accademia dei Lini (1888)

Philippe Gelât (1888/1889)

Nawfal Effendi Nawfal (late 19th century CE)

Syed Ameer ‘Ali (1891)

R.P. Jullien (1893) (authentic with reservations)

Dean Arthur Stanley (1894)

L’Union islamique / al-Ittihad al-Islami (1898)

Bessarione (1898)

Échos d’Orient (1898)

Anton F. Haddad (1902)

‘Abdullah al-Ma’mun al-Suhrawardy (1904 and 1905)

Sultan ‘Abd al-Hamid II (1904)

Sésostris Sidarouss (1907)

Jurji Zaydan (1907) (apocryphal but based on authentic covenants)

Na‘um Shuqayr (1916)

Alberto M. Candioti (1925)

Muhammad Marmaduke Pickthall (1927)

Essad Bey (1936)

Porphyrios III (1937)

Jeanne Aubert (1938)

Edmond Poupe (1938)

Islamic Review (1940)

Joan Meredyth Chichele Plowden (1940) (not impossible)

Joaquim Pedro Oliveira Martins (1946)

‘Aziz Suryal Atiya (1955)

Albert Champdor (1963)

Alfred Nawrath (1963)

Hasan al-Shirazi (1967)

Stuart E. Rosenberg (1970) (cannot be proven or disproven)

Oleg V. Volkoff (1972) (neutral)

Robin Waterfield (1973)

Criton George Tornaritis (1980)

Le Figaro (1986)

Akram Zahoor and Z. Haq (1990)

Nikolaos Tomadakis (1990)

Konstantinos A. Manafis (1990)

Hieromonk Demetrios Digbassanis (1990)

Edwin Bernbaum (1990) (according to tradition; dating back at least to early Fatimid times)

Nicole Levallois (1992)

Giovanna Magi (1993)

Joseph J. Hobbs (1995) (neutral)

Jacqueline Lafontaine-Dosogne (1996)

LaMar C. Berrett and D. Kelly Ogden (1996)

Gawdat Gabra and Morsi Saad el-Din (1998)

Ansar Hussain (1999)

Hüseyn Hilmi Işik (2000)

Yusuf Islam [Cat Stevens] (2001)

Giovanni Magnani (2001)

Harun Yahya (2002)

Frederick Quinn (2002)

Let’s Go Inc. (2003)

Bruce Merry (2004)

Gordon Melton (2004)

Brian Paciotti (2004)

Reza Shah-Kazemi (2005)

R.W. McColl (2005)

Elizabeth A. Zachariadou (2005)

Martin Gray and Graham Hancock (2007)

Jean-Pierre Isbouts (2007) (authentic according to tradition)

Staikos (2007) (authentic according to tradition)

David Douglas (2007)

Andrew Eames (2008)

National Geographic (2008) (authentic according to tradition)

‘Abdurrahman Wahid (2009)

David Dakake (2009)

Muqtedar Khan (2009)

Peer-Jada Qureshi (2009)

Mohamed el Hebeishy (2010)

Gordon Melton and Martin Baumann (2010)

Zia Shah (2011)

Raj Bhala (2011)

Hedieh Mirahmadi (2011)

Farhad Malekian (2011)

Ahmed Shams (2011)

Altaf Hussain (2011)

Zora O’Neill (2012)

Judy Hall (2012)

Areej Zufari (2012)

Kyriacos C. Markides (2012)

James Emery White (2012)

Helen C. Evans (2012)

Father Justin of Sinai (2012)

Pave the Way Foundation (2012)

Shemem Burney Abbas (2013)

Nikos Kazantzakis (2013)

Timothy Wright (2013)

John Andrew Morrow (1990, 2012, 2013, 2015)

Scores of scholars and signatories to the Covenants Initiative too numerous to mention (since 2013)

John Watson (2014) (authentic according to tradition)

Brad Tyndall (2014)

Qasim Rashid (2014)

Muhammad Quraish Shihab (2014)

Zaid Shakir (2015)

Hamza Yusuf (2015)

Ronald H. Stone (2015)

Calum Samuelson (2015)

Alexander Winogradsky Frenkel (2015)

Sayyid ‘Ali Asghar (2015)

‘Azizah al-Hibri (2016)

Ahmed El-Wakil (2016)

The Covenant of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of Najran

Authenticated by

The Prophet Muhammad (d. 632 CE)

The Companions of the Prophet (7th century CE)

Abu Bakr, ‘Umar, ‘Uthman, and ‘Ali (632-661 CE)

Waqidi (745-822 CE)

Ibn Ishaq (d. 761 or 770 CE) / Ibn Hisham (d. 833 CE)

Muqatil ibn Sulayman al-Balkhi (d. 767)

Abu Yusuf (d. 798 CE)

Muhammad ibn al-Hasan al-Shaybani (d. 805 CE)

Yahya ibn Adam (d. 818 CE)

Abu ‘Ubayd (728-825 CE)

Ibn Zanjawayh (d. 865 CE)

Abu Dawud (817-889 CE)

Habib the Monk (878-879 CE)

Baladhuri (d. 892 CE)

Ya‘qubi (897-898 CE)

Chronicle of Seert (9th century CE)

Shaykh al-Mufid (11th century CE)

Abu al-Futuh al-Razi (1078-1157 or 1161 CE)

Fakhr al-Din al-Razi (1149-1209 CE)

Bar Hebraeus (1226-1286 CE)

Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah (1292–1350 CE)

Ibn Kathir (1301–1373)

Maris (12th century CE)

Qalqashandi (1355 or 1356-1418 CE)

Amrus (14th century CE)

Giuseppe Simonio Assemani (1721)

‘Abdullah al-Ma’mun al-Suhrawardy (1904 and 1905)

Muhammad Siddique Qureshi (1991)

Abu Muhammad Ordoni (1992)

Muhammad ‘Amarah (2002)

Harun Yahya (2002)

‘Adil Salahi (2002)

Milka Levy-Rubin (2011)

John Andrew Morrow (2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017)

Covenants Initiative (2013)

Yasin T. al-Jibouri (2014)

Ahmed El-Wakil (2016)

The Covenant of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World

Authenticated by

The Prophet Muhammad (d. 632 CE)

The Companions of the Prophet (7th century CE)

Abu Bakr, ‘Umar, ‘Uthman, and ‘Ali (632-661 CE)

Tabari (838-923 CE)

Mas‘udi (896-956 CE CE)

Caliph Muqtafi  II of Baghdad (1138 CE)

Ibn al-Athir (1160–1233 CE)

Bar Hebraeus (1226-1286 CE)

Maris (12th century CE)

Amrus (14th century CE)

Father Pacifique Scaliger (found in 1629; dated 1538 CE)

René de l’Escale Pacifique de Provins Scaliger (1627)

Louis XIII, King of France (1601-1643)

André Du Ryer (c. 1580-1660)

Jacobo Nagy de Harsany (b. 1615)

Gabriel Sionita (1630)

Antoine Vitray (1630)

M.J. Fabricius (1638)

Claudius Salmasius (d. 1653)

Johann Georg Nissel (1655; 1661)

Addison (1679)

Giovani Paolo Marana (1642-1693)

Des grossen Propheten und Apostels Muhammad’s Testament… (1664)

Pierre Briot and Paul Ricaut (1668 CE)

Abraham Hinckleman (1690)

Henri Basnage de Beauval (1657-1710)

Eusѐbe Renaudot (1646-1720)

A.C. Zeller R. Abrah. b. Dior (1724)

Claude-Pierre Goujet (1758)

Edward Gibbon (1776)

Comité d’instruction publique de la Convention Nationale (1795)

Jean-Baptiste Lefebvre de Villebrune (1795)

Societe d’Amis de la Religion et de la Patrie (1797)

Asiatic Annual Register (1801)

Ministers from various Evangelical Denominations (1839)

C.B. Houry (1840)

Henry Layard (1850)

Jakobs Georgios Pitzipios-Bey (1858)

Sir Travers Twiss (1809-1897)

Pedro de Madrazo (1816-1898)

Edward Rehatsek (1819-1891)

Grassi (Alfio) (1826)

Alexandre de Miltitz (1838)

Alphonse de Lamartine (1862)

Edward Van Dyke (1881)

Henry Layard (1850)

‘Abdullah al-Suhrawardy (1904 and 1905)

James Thayer Addison (1887-1953)

Sésostris Sidarouss (1907)

Meletius IV (1922)

Ibrahim Auwad (1933)

Jeanne Aubert (1938)

Edmond Poupe (1938)

Nikēphoros Moschopoulos (1956)

Joseph Hajjar (1962)

Abdullah Alladin (1971)

Josée Balagna (1984)

Mithoo Coorlawala (2011)

John Andrew Morrow (2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017)

Covenants Initiative (2013)

Ahmed El-Wakil (2016)

The Covenant of the Prophet Muhammad with the Assyrian Christians

Authenticated by

The Prophet Muhammad (d. 632 CE)

The Companions of the Prophet (7th century CE)

Abu Bakr, ‘Umar, ‘Uthman, and ‘Ali (632-661 CE)

Maris (12th century CE)

Bar Hebraeus (1226-1268 CE)

Amrus (14th century CE)

Asahel Grant (1841)

Horatio Southgate (1856)

Adolphe d’Avril (1864)

Thomas William Marshall (1865)

Bedr Khan Beg (d. 1868), his son, and his grandson

Vital Cuinet (1891)

Saturnino Ximénèz (1895)

Earl Percy (1902)

Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts (1904)

William Ainser Wigram (1910, 1920 and 1929)

Abraham Yohannan (1916)

Surma D’Bait Dar Shimun (1920)

J.G. Browne (1937)

Jeanne Aubert (1938)

George David Malech (1910)

William Chauncey Emhardt and George M. Lamsa (1970)

Carleton Stevens Coon (1972)

John Joseph (1983)

Gabriele Yonan (1996)

A.M. Hamilton (2004)

R.S. Stafford (2006)

Theodore D’Mar Shimun (2008)

Albert Edward Ismail Yelda (2001, 2002, 2004)

Areej Zufari (2012)

John Andrew Morrow (2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017)

Covenants Initiative (2013)

Ahmed El-Wakil (2016) 

The Covenant of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of Persia

Authenticated by

The Prophet Muhammad (d. 632 CE)

Witnessed by the Companions of the Prophet (7th century CE)

Abu Bakr, ‘Umar, ‘Uthman, and ‘Ali (632-661 CE)

Sebēos (660 CE)

Ja‘far al-Sadiq (8th century CE)

Maris (12th century)

Bar Hebraeus (1226-1286 CE)

Amrus (14th century CE)

Shah ‘Abbas and Safavid Shi‘ite scholars (1606)

Leon Arpee (1948)

John Andrew Morrow (2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017)

Scores of scholars and signatories to the Covenants Initiative too numerous to mention (since 2013 CE)

Ahmed El-Wakil (2016 CE) 


Popularity Contest—Do Not Enter

by Charles Upton

When presenting the Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad to non-Muslim groups, you are likely to encounter some who harbor a deep distrust of Islam. This distrust will be based on a mixture of prejudice, inaccurate information, and a very legitimate fear of organizations like ISIS—a fear that all Muslims of good will should share, seeing that ISIS has killed more Muslims than any other single religious group, Christians included, and that it actually keeps a hit list of Muslim leaders who have condemned its terroristic methods.

The “Islamophobes” you will encounter will usually be incapable of telling the difference between a Muslim who follows the moral example of the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessing be upon him, and another who follows the Takfiri Jihadists, who obviously hate the Prophet since they have slandered his name in the four corners of the earth by presenting him, through their heinous actions, as a criminal psychopath. Consequently the Islamophobes will usually claim that when you talk about the nature, history and significance of the Prophetic Covenants you are only trying to “whitewash Islam,” as if your primary purpose were nothing more than public relations, rather than the struggle to awaken non-Muslims, as well as Muslims themselves, to the unprecedented moral standard set by the Prophet Muhammad in his just and merciful dealings with non-Muslim religious communities. And the fact is that some Muslim leaders, like some leaders in every religion, do seem to place good public relations above sincerity, truth and justice. Simply stated, your goal should not be to make Muslims “look good” but to help them to be good.

If you are serious about pursuing this goal, your example will ultimately be inspiring to non-Muslims of good character, who will begin to see, through the radiant character of the Prophet Muhammad, the outlines of a just, merciful and chivalrous Islam. As for non-Muslims of bad character, the most ingeniously-designed and well-funded pro-Islam public relations campaign will not change their minds one iota, while every example of the exalted character of Muhammad in his dealings with the other religions will only increase their suspicion of him and inflame their hatred for him. Our Audience, our ultimate Witness and our final Judge is not the Islamophobe, or the Takfiri Jihadist, or even the one who sincerely offers us friendship, but Allah. His is the mark we must meet, not by flattering Him with glamorous advertisement for Islam—or our own idea of Islam—but only by telling the truth, and then acting on it. Allah is named “the Beautiful, the Opener (or Revealer), the Truth”, not “the Attractive, the Persuasive, the Credible”.

Our duty is to appear as beautiful in the sight of the All-Merciful, not in the sight of the dunya. If we choose the first way, our reward will be self-respect; if we choose the second, our reward will be self-loathing. The sincere man accepts himself as being only as Allah knows him to be, and is entirely content with that identity; the hypocrite strives to live up to the way he believes he can make other people see him, and is therefore never content; he can’t even stand to be in his own presence without pretending to be somebody else. Allah commands us to compete with each other in doing good (Q. 5:48), not to compete with each other in a popularity contest. If we strive to earn His good pleasure, then not only will the good pleasure of the world mean little to us, but whoever or whatever in the world loves the True and the Beautiful will see Truth and Beauty in us, and be on his or her way toward loving us. As for those who despise Truth and Beauty, the “love” of such people is in no way desirable—least of all to the Muslim whose Heart is whole.

The person who understands and accepts the Covenants of the Prophet will necessarily develop his or her own critique of certain aspects of what Islam has become—but while the Islamophobe sees the failings of today’s Muslims as expressions of the character of the Prophet Muhammad, the follower of the Covenants sees these shortcomings as based on the failure of some members of the ummah to understand the character of our Prophet, and emulate it.

In all this talk of God, of the commands and prohibitions He lays upon us, there is one thing we must never forget: we must never forget to be human beings. If we lose touch with our humanity, if we become the one who makes his desire his God, if we reject the amana—the Trust—then we will worship as our chosen idol only our own idea of Allah, not Allah Himself. Allah has no effective point of access to us outside our fundamental humanity; this is the meaning of the hadith qudsi, “Heaven and earth cannot contain Me, but the Heart of my loving slave can contain Me.” The door for us, as Muslims, both to Allah and to our own humanity—which is the only reality through which we can truly encounter Him—is the perfect example of the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him. And there are no better expressions of this humanity—broad in its sympathies, deep in its wisdom—than the Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Peoples of the Book.