What good is religion if it is confined to private space? What good is religion if it fails to guide us in public life? We should not cast off our convictions, muzzle our morals, put aside our principles, and eject our ethics when we exit our homes. Almighty God, glorified and exalted be He, the Prophets, and the Messengers, peace and blessings be upon them, provided us with enduring values that are applicable at all times and all places. The Ten Commandments cannot be compromised. The Noble Eightfold Path cannot be compromised. The Golden Rule cannot be compromised. The Seven Grandfather Teachings cannot be compromised: humility, bravery, honesty, wisdom, truth, respect, and love, values that are becoming increasingly difficult for indigenous people to embody due to the soulless nature of secular society. So, woe to those who seek to bend and break universal moral values. They have no sense of the sacred.
The Qur’an and the Sunnah
The Prophet Muhammad provided us with guidance in matters of moral law, religious law, personal law, civil law, criminal law, environmental law, and international law. There are over 100 major fields of law: all of which have been addressed by the Hermit of Hira, Muhammad ibn ‘Abd Allah.
Most Muslims read the Qur’an. And while it is wonderful to be able to read it in Arabic, Muslims should also make sure to study its meaning in a language they understand. When in doubt regarding its interpretation, Muslims consult the full-range of traditional commentaries of the Qur’an to see the full spectrum of readings. They should not rely on a single source. Most Muslims are familiar with Hadith literature. This is positive but perilous. Muslims should be extremely careful as to what they read. They should seek the guidance of traditional teachers. They should rely on reason and maintain moderation. They should focus on the spirit and not the letter.
If most Muslims read the Qur’an and some Muslims read the Hadith, few Muslims, however, have read, much less heard of, the letters, treaties, and covenants of the Prophet. The Messenger of Allah wrote (or dictated, as some prefer), hundreds upon hundreds of letters. This is a historical fact. It is indisputable. These documents are found in books of prophetic traditions, books of Qur’anic commentary, books of jurisprudence, and books of history. They form a fundamental part of our Islamic tradition and heritage. As Agapius of Hierapolis, a 10th century Christian author, acknowledged:
Their leader was a man called Muhammad, the son of ‘Abd Allah… He became their chief and king… Christians from the Arabs and others came to him and he gave them a guarantee of safety and wrote documents for them… All the people in opposition to him did likewise, I mean the Jews, the Zoroastrians, the Sabians, and others; they paid allegiance to him and took from him a guarantee of safety on the condition that they would pay him the poll-tax and the land-tax.
Ancient Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Samaritan, and Zoroastrian sources all confirm that the Prophet protected the lives, property, and places of worship of the People of the Book. Churches, monasteries, synagogues, and fire-temples, were all subject to protection.
The Letters, Treaties, and Covenants of the Prophet
If people wish to truly understand the Prophet Muhammad as a religious leader, as a diplomat, as a politician, and as a military strategist, they must absolutely study the letters, treaties, and covenants of the Prophet Muhammad and his extensive correspondence with Jews, Samaritans, Christians, and Zoroastrians.
Those who read Arabic should study Majmuʻah al-wathaʼiq al-siyasiyyah li al-ʻahd al-nabawi wa al-khilafah al-rashidah by Muhammad Hamidullah. Those who read Arabic should study Makatib al-Rasul by ‘Ali Ahmadi Minyanji. Those who read English should study Power Manifestations of the Sirah: Examining the Letters and Treaties of the Messenger of Allah by Zafar Bangash.
The most comprehensive source in the English language, however, is The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World. It is a work that provides an authoritative analysis of prophetic pluralism. After that, I would point readers to Islam and the People of the Book: Critical Studies on the Covenants of the Prophet, a forthcoming work that should be printed at some point in 2017.
Although I cannot possibly cite hundreds of letters from the extensive and impressive correspondence of the Prophet Muhammad, I will limit myself to reading the Master Template that he used when granting covenants of protection to the People of the Book as reconstructed and translated by Ahmed El-Wakil.
The Master Template of the Muhammadan Covenant with the Christians
In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.
This is a writ that Muhammad ibn ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Abd al-Muttalib the Messenger of Allah has written to all Christians and to all the nations within which they reside to protect and to safeguard them because they are Allah’s trust among His Creation, so that there be evidence in their favor and for people to no longer have an excuse in front of Allah after the coming of the messengers. And Allah is All-Mighty and All-Wise.
He wrote it for the people of his creed and to all those who profess the Christian religion — in the Eastern lands and in the West, near and far, be they Arabs or non-Arabs, known or unknown — a writ which constitutes an authoritative covenant, a definitive decree and an established sunnah so that justice may prevail and for it to stand as an inviolable pact of protection.
He who observes it holds to the religion of Islam and is worthy of it. As for he who violates it and jeopardizes the covenant by opposing and transgressing what the Messenger of Allah has commanded therein, he has broken the covenant of Allah, denied His oath, and forsaken his protection thereby making himself subject to the divine curse, regardless of whether he be a Sultan or any other person among the Believers and the Muslims.
I have committed myself to granting the covenants and the pledges which have been requested of me and from all those who follow my creed among the Muslims. I give the Christians the covenant of Allah and His pledge and place them under the safeguard of His prophets, His chosen ones and His saints from among the Believers and the Muslims so that it be binding among the first and the last of them.
My protection and pledge is the most solid that Allah has taken from a prophet who has been sent or from an angel who is stationed near [the divine throne], thereby rendering mandatory the obedience, obligations and adherence to the covenant of Allah.
I protect their land with all my power, my horses, my men, my weapons, my strength and my followers among the Muslims from every region where the enemy lies, whether they be close by or far away, and regardless of whether the Muslims are at peace or at war.
I protect their surrounding areas and grant security to their churches, convents, houses of worship, the places of their monks and pilgrims, wherever they may be found, be they in the mountains or the valleys, the caves or the inhabited regions, the plains, the desert or in buildings, that I should safeguard them, their religion and creed wherever they may be found in the sea or on land, in the East or West in the same way that I protect myself, my entourage, and the people of my creed from among the Believers and the Muslims.
I place them under my protection and I give them my pledge and my security at every moment. I defend them from every harm, mischief and retribution. I am behind them, protecting them from every enemy who wishes us harm. I myself protect them by means of my helpers, my followers and the members of my creed because they are under my responsibility and my protected people whom I govern. I must therefore care for them and protect them of all harm so that it does not reach them unless it first reaches me and my Companions who with me defend the integrity of Islam.
I remove from them all mischief that people of the covenant have to bear of supplies which they give as loaned goods and as land taxes [kharaj] except what they voluntarily consent to and that they should neither be forced nor compelled in this matter.
It is not permitted to remove a bishop from his bishopric, a monk from his monastic life, a Christian from his Christianity, an ascetic from his hermitage, or a pilgrim from his pilgrimage. Nor is it permitted to destroy any part of their churches or their convents or to take parts of their buildings to construct mosques or homes for the Muslims. Whoever does such a thing will have violated the covenant of Allah, opposed His messenger and betrayed the protection granted to him by Allah.
It is not permitted to impose the jizyah or any kind of land tax [kharaj] on monks, bishops and those worshippers who by devotion wear woolen clothing or live alone in the mountains or in other regions secluded from human habitation.
The jizyah for those Christians who have not consecrated their lives to divine worship and who are neither monks nor pilgrims will either be at a rate of 4 dirhams per year or the provision of a garment to support the Muslims and to strengthen the Treasury. If the garment is too difficult for them then it will not be binding upon them unless they willingly consent.
The jizyah will not surpass more than twelve dirhams per year for landowners and proprietors of estates and large businesses at sea and at deep-sea — who exploit mines for precious stones, gold and silver — including those who are wealthy and powerful among those who have professed Christianity so long as they are inhabitants and residents of the land.
The traveler who is not a resident in the land and he who is a foreigner will not have to pay the land-tax [kharaj] or the jizyah except he who has inherited land over which the Sultan has a monetary right. He must pay the money as others do without there being any excesses and he should not be made to bear what is beyond his strength or means in the cultivation, development and harvest of the land. He should also not be taxed excessively and above the limit that has been set for landowners who are inhabitants of the land.
The people under our protection will not be obliged to go to war with the Muslims to face their enemies and to combat them. The reason for this is that they have been given our protection so that they be discharged of this obligation and it is therefore the Muslims who will be responsible for their safety and protection. The Christians will not be obliged to equip the Muslims for any of their wars against their enemies by means of weapons and horses unless they freely contribute of their own volition. Whoever does so will be the object of praise, reward, and gratitude, and his help will not be forgotten.
No one who follows the Christian creed will be forced to enter into Islam — and dispute not with them except with means that are better (Q29:46). They must be covered by the wing of mercy and all mischief and harm that could reach them, wherever they may find themselves and wherever they may be, must be repelled.
If a Christian were to commit a crime or an offense, Muslims must stand by his side, help him and support him. They must safeguard him and pay the penalty for his offense. They should encourage reconciliation between him and the victim to either help or save him.
The Muslims must not abandon the Christians and leave them without help and assistance since I have given them the covenant of Allah to ensure that they have the same rights and obligations as the Muslims. Furthermore, the Muslims have an obligation toward them with respect to the covenant, guaranteeing them the right of protection and safeguarding everything that is sacrosanct. They also have accepted that every mischief be removed from them and that they be bound to the Muslims so that they and the Muslims become partners with one another in the mutual rights and obligations that they share.
Christians must not be subject to suffer abuse in matters pertaining to marriages, except for what they themselves agree. Christian families should not be compelled to marry their girls to Muslims and they should not be subject to any maltreatment if they decline a suitor or refuse a marriage proposal. Such marriages should only take place if they desire them and with their approval and consent.
If a Muslim takes a Christian woman as a wife, he must respect her Christian beliefs. He must support her religious aspirations so that she may receive religious instruction from her [clerical] superiors and he must allow her to fulfill her religious obligations. He must not ever prevent her of this. He must also not force her to act contrary to her religion or abuse her so that she abandons it. If he does this, and forces her, then he has broken the covenant of Allah and violated the pledge [given to the Christians] by the Messenger of Allah, and in the sight of Allah he is among the liars.
The Christians hold the right to request assistance from the Muslims to help them repair their convents, monasteries or for any other matter pertaining to their religious affairs. The Muslims must help them without the aim of receiving any compensation: they should aim to restore that religion out of faithfulness to the covenant of the Messenger of Allah and as a gift and donation to them from Allah and His messenger.
In matters of war between them and their enemies, the Muslims must not employ any Christian as a messenger, guide, helper, informant, or for any other duty of war. Whoever obliges one of them to do such a thing will have committed an injustice, disobeyed the Messenger of Allah and become free of his protection. The Muslims must uphold the stipulations which Muhammad ibn ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Abd al-Muttalib, the Messenger of Allah, has issued in favor of those who follow the Christian creed.
He has also placed conditions in their religion concerning their pact of protection which they must abide by as part of the covenant which they have contracted with him. Among other things, none of them are to support an enemy of war against the Muslims, either openly or covertly. They are not to shelter them in their homes from which they could await the moment to launch an attack. These enemies [of the Muslims] should never be allowed to halt in their regions, their villages, their places of worship, or in any other place belonging to their co-religionists. They must not provide any assistance to them by furnishing them with weapons, horses, men or other logistical support. They must not allow them to deposit any of their wealth or exchange any correspondences with them. They are not to host them as guests except that it should be in a monastery where they are seeking refuge and protection for their livelihoods and their religion.
The Christians must host the Muslims along with their mounts for three days and three nights when they halt among them. They must offer them wherever they may be located or stationed the same food that they consume. They are not obliged to do any more, for in fulfilling this obligation they have removed all harm and mischief that may reach the Muslims.
If one of the Muslims needs to hide in one of their homes or in one of their places of worship they must grant him hospitality, help him and stand by his side so long as the Muslim remains in hiding. They must conceal him from the enemy, not disclose his location and accommodate for all of his needs.
Whoever contravenes any of these conditions or transgresses them by altering them has freed himself of the protection of Allah and that of His messenger. The Christians possess the covenants and the pledges which I took from their priests, monks and from other Christians from among the People of the Book. It is the most solid trust that Allah and His prophet have placed on the community so that they may abide by what the Prophet himself has decreed upon them and upon all of the Muslims, to ensure their protection and as benevolence to them until the Hour arrives and the world comes to an end. Whoever is unjust after this toward a protected person by breaking and rejecting the covenant, I will be his enemy on the Day of Judgment among all the Muslims.
What more could I possibly say? What on earth could I possibly add to the words of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him. I am unworthy. His wisdom leave me completely and utterly speechless. Peace be upon the Prophet of Allah. Peace be upon the Messenger of Allah. And peace be upon all the followers of righteous guidance.
Dr. John Andrew Morrow is an Amerindian Muslim leader and a proud member of the Métis Nation. After embracing Islam at the age of 16, he became both a Western academic and a traditional Muslim scholar. He is the author of a large body of scholarly works, the most influential of which is The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World. His websites include http://www.covenantsoftheprophet.com and http://www.johnandrewmorrow.com. His videos and lectures can be found on The Covenants of the Prophet Channel on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCqM3-puvWuKuCEJsDQDZFrA . His Facebook accounts include @johnandrewmorrow and @covenantsoftheprophet. He can be followed on Twitter @drjamorrow.