Book Review: “The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World” by John Andrew Morrow
By Thomas Walsh
Dialogue & Alliance: Journal of the International Religious Foundation, Inc. 29, no. 2, (2015): 107-108
Thursday, August 20, 2015
This volume, The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World, contains a vast amount of very significant historical information related to the life of Muhammad, early Islam and its relations with the existing Christian communities in the Near East. In particular, the volume contains many primary sources in Arabic and Persian, including corrected versions in modern Arabic typescript. Together they offer an opportunity for re-thinking Muslim-Christian relations at a time when those relations are strained and threaten to create widespread instability in strategic points around the world. On the other hand, if Muslim and Christian relations improve, based on dialogue, education and trust-building initiatives, the possibilities for peace around the world are strengthened immeasurably. A volume such as this, which speaks to models of cooperation and mutual respect, can help to undermine extremist or politicized interpretations of sacred scripture that stand in the way of reconciliation and cooperation.
In his foreword to the volume, Charles Upton states that the “two foundational sources of the Islamic tradition have always been the Holy Qur’an – the direct Word of Allah as revealed to his Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessing be upon him – and the prophetic hadith literature, the record of the sayings of Muhammad as remembered by his wives, his close companions and other who had been in his presence and heard his words.” Upton goes on to suggest the “Covenants” may provide a third foundational source for Islam, “one that is entirely consonant with the first two.” (p. xi)
The “Covenants” are not widely known, even among scholars, and even less among ordinary believers. This publication, therefore, provides an important resource for innovative reflection on the history of Islam and the practices of the Prophet, and provides the basis for a more advanced Islamic theology of religions or a more advanced theology of interreligious relations and especially Muslim-Christian relations.
In addition, Morrow suggests that a new kind of harmony can emerge among Jews, Christians and Muslims that will go a long way toward establishing safeguards against the caustic effects of modernity that undermine moral values and traditions that have endured for centuries, and which promote a secularist worldview that is empty of spiritual content.
This volume is recommended for any serious student of Islam, interfaith relations, and the relationships between religion and peace.