Although the Covenants of the Prophet were common knowledge to educated Muslims throughout most of Islamic history, knowledge of them faded after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in the early 20th century.
While the works of Hamidullah and Miyanji were familiar to some Muslim scholars, it was only after the publication of The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World that knowledge of them became widespread.
The publication of the book in 2013 inspired the Covenants Initiative, an international movement that calls upon Muslims to abide by the spirit and the letter of the Covenants of the Prophet as they are in perfect agreement with the traditional teachings of the Qur’an and Sunnah.
The Covenants Initiative has been signed by over three hundred Muslim scholars, intellectuals, and activists. The movement helped inspire the Marrakesh Declaration on the rights of religious minorities in the Muslim world as well as the Fortenberry Resolution which condemned ISIS for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide.
Fourteen hundred years after the death of the Prophet, these Covenants demonstrate that the indiscriminate killing of innocent civilians by extremist groups and the destruction of their religious buildings represents a gross violation of the teachings of the Qur’an and the Prophet, including the Prophet’s letters and Covenants.
Indeed, these Covenants can serve as a source of inspiration for the establishment of insuperable harmony between the three Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
The Covenants of the Prophet can strengthen tolerance, goodwill, and better understanding between faiths. They represent a genuine call for reconsidering the deteriorated relationships between the three religions. These findings serve to promote peaceful coexistence, respect, and care beyond mere tolerance.
In fact, they shed light upon the nature and policy of the Prophet vis a vis how to govern diverse groups and maintain relationships among other people, both of which are completely in line with the Prophet’s life and teachings.
Whether it is the Constitution of Medina, the letters or Covenants of the Prophet, or the Qur’an, these teachings represent a practical example for how to build peaceful and successful relationships between different faith communities in the contemporary world.
SHAFAQNA – In the Name of the Most-High. Respected Professor and Doctor John Andrew Morrow. May the peace, mercy, and blessings of Allah be upon you. We would like to extend our sincere thanks and gratitude for accepting to be interviewed by the Dalil Foundation Magazine which is published by the Holy Sanctuary of Imam Husayn. We wish to point out that you are free to share any additional information that you deem appropriate to this dialogue.
DR. JOHN ANDREW MORROW
May the peace and blessings of Almighty Allah be with you. I am at your humble service. I am willing, by the grace of God, to respond to all your questions.
Respected doctor and professor, can you kindly share with us details of your personal life, your conversion from Roman Catholic Christianity to the true religion of Islam?
DR. JOHN ANDREW MORROW
Like everyone, I was a believer [mu’min] when I came into this world. As the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Every child that is born is naturally predisposed to be a believer.” [ كُلِّ مَوْلُودٍ يُولَدُ عَلَى الْفِطْرَةِ ]. Consequently, we are all believers [mu’minin] by nature. It is our families and our societies that turn us into Jews, Christians, Zoroastrians, polytheists, heretics, and atheists.
I always felt the love of God. I always felt the presence of God. I prayed only to the One God. I did not believe that Jesus was God. I could accept him as “Son of God” in the spiritual sense. However, I never conceived of him as being eternal. I worshipped the Creator of the Universe and not His Creation. I viewed Jesus as a source of intercession. I certainly did not believe that God consisted of Three Persons. For me, God was, is, and will always be, One. It was only when I was a teenager, when I understood Christian theology better, that I realized that I was not a Christian. I was simply seeking a path to God. I studied all religions in depth and found that Islam, submission and surrender to the One, was my home. It was a journey to the center of my own soul.
I respect the Roman Catholic Church enormously. I learned to love and worship God. I learned about the prophets and messengers of God, peace be upon them all. I learned the Ten Commandments and the Law of Moses, peace be upon him. I learned morals and ethics. I learned Natural Law and Canon Law. I am not one of the ungrateful. Christianity is a path to God. Both Allah, glorified and exalted be He, and His Messenger, blessings and peace be upon him, said that it was so. We may have differences but they are differences in degree. We must recognize and respect elements of truth wherever they are found. This is why the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him and his purified progeny, granted covenants of the protection to the People of the Book.
What motivated you to select the School of Ahl al-Bayt over other Islamic schools of thought?
DR. JOHN ANDREW MORROW
I respect all schools of thought in Islam. The school of Ahl al-Bayt has a special status since it was transmitted by the Imams of the Progeny of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon them all. It has a long, rich, and living tradition of ijtihad.
Could you please provide a brief statement of the necessity of faith in general and its importance in human life?
DR. JOHN ANDREW MORROW
Faith is like air, water, and sunlight. It is essential for life. Without it, one dies a spiritual death. May God make us thirsty. And may God quench our thirst with the water from the Fountain of Kawthar.
Professor, as you know, the Islamic world is subjected to fierce ideological attacks by groups outside the Islamic system. What do you think the most important reasons for this? What are the remedies?
DR. JOHN ANDREW MORROW
Islam is under attack. Morality is under attack. Justice is under siege. Muslims must struggle. We must fight words with words and ideas with ideas. We must fight culture with culture and science with science. We need to inspire an Islamic renaissance. There are no simple solutions. We need to implement a comprehensive strategy for the revival of Islamic civilization and culture plan
How can we confront, from an intellectual and doctrinal point of view, the perverse understanding of the teachings of Islam that are spread by misguided and ignorant people who operate from within the Islamic system?
Islam is an open system. We should allow freedom of thought within the broadest possible parameters. Otherwise, all progress is stifled. So long as one agrees on basic principles, Islam provides a great deal of latitude and flexibility. Islam is eminently malleable and adaptable to changing times and circumstances. Islam truly belongs to the age. We cannot impose beliefs and practices on people. Human beings were created free. The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said: “Difference of opinion in my Community is a mercy” [ الخلاف في أمتي رحمة ]. We need to educate people. We need to foster critical thought. We need to present Islam as a viable socio-political and economic model. We need to stress that Islam is committed to justice. Religious institutions play a crucial role in the revival of Islam. They are the vanguard. They need to have achievable and measurable goals. They need to work in cooperation rather than competition. They must use all means to get the message to the masses.
Based on the previous question, what role can the scientific institutions of religious belief, as well as intellectual elites in this regard?
DR. JOHN ANDREW MORROW
Rather than view atheism as a negative, we can employ reverse psychology and treat it as a positive. To declare that “There is no god” is the first half of the shahadah. Atheists are half way there. We only need to insert “but Allah” and convince them that “Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.” It is the nature of people to believe. Either they believe in the right thing or they believe in the wrong thing. If people reject religion based on reason, at least they are thinking. Hence, there is hope. In some cases, they are not rejecting religion itself or God itself but the explanations that were given to them. As Imam ‘Ali, peace be upon him, explained, if given a choice between religion and reason, on should select reason for reason will always lead back to religion whereas religion will not lead back to reason. This is why Shiite books of traditions begin with the “Chapter of Reason” while Sunni books of traditions begin with the “Chapter of Faith.” We only have to look at the Salafis, Wahhabis, and Takfiris to see how dangerous it is to abandon the intellect, reasoning, and critical thinking.
Professor and Doctor… Of the intellectual and doctrinal dilemmas that have afflicted some human societies is the question of atheism and secularism. What are the main reasons for the spread of this phenomenon and the best ways to address this problem and reduce it?
DR. JOHN ANDREW MORROW
There is a clear correlation between secularism and materialism. There is a clear connection between modernity and atheism. We need to fight atheism with faith. We repel evil with good. We need to encourage what is good and discourage what is bad in the best possible way. We need to show people a better way of life. A life without spirituality is like a rose without rain: it withers and dies. It is empty, meaningless, and hollow. It is a life that is a prelude to eternal death. Islam, tasawwuf, and ‘irfan are better than this fleeting world as they offer eternal life. Islam offers individuals the opportunity to lead productive and meaningful lives: to be in this material world but not of it.
How can we, who live in an age of technological and scientific development, root our Muslim youth in the theoretical foundations of our faith, and keep them from slipping and deviating from the intellectual and the doctrinal foundations of Islam?
DR. JOHN ANDREW MORROW
Talk to people in a language people. Reach out to young people. Communicate with young people. Engage and empower young people. The youth are our future. The future of our faith, and the future of our planet, depends on them. Give them a voice and give them a choice.
One of the academic and ethical projects of the Dalil Foundation is to build an intellectual system on a sound basis. From your point of view, what are the best methods, strategies, and mechanisms to achieve this goal?
DR. JOHN ANDREW MORROW
I encourage all institutes, scholars, scientists, intellectuals and ordinary people to identify themselves with the primordial principles, rights and freedoms found in the covenants of the Prophet with the Jews, Samaritans, Christians and Zoroastrians. There are pearls of wisdom within those shells. We need to share them with the world with pride for they can enrich us all. They provide a blue-print for the Ummah of Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him and his Household. They pave the way for the return of the Messiah and the Hidden Imam, may Almighty Allah hasten their reappearance.
What are the modern means of engagement that influence the Western mentality?
DR. JOHN ANDREW MORROW
People are the product of their environment. To understand Western thought, you need to understand history in its broadest sense. If Westerners have reached a place ideologically, it is the result of a complex trajectory. Different paths lead to different destinations. Many Westerners turned away from religion because it defied reason and contradicted science. They were disillusioned by religion because it was racist, misogynistic, and oppressive. What is more, it was exploited by people in power. In short, they had every right to reject religion as an institution.
Muslim leaders need to learn from these lessons. Otherwise, they may inadvertently lead people away from Islam. Politics and policies have long-term and unintended consequences. Although many Westerners have become secular, many have reconnected with various spiritual traditions, including Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, and Islam, to lead more balanced lives. There are many problems in the West. However, there are just as many problems in the Muslim world. What we have in common is hope: hope for a better and more just future. Never quit and never abandon faith.
Is there today in the Western world a breakdown between the different interpretations of the Islamic religion, and a distinction between the strict understanding adopted by the Wahhabi Salafi thought of the teachings of Islam and the moderate approach to non-Muslims adopted by the Ahl al-Bayt?
For many Westerners, Takfirism is Islam and Islam is Takfirism. The media is responsible for this distortion since it serves the interests of their globalist masters. Many nominal Muslims also bear responsibility for promoting such misconceptions. Fortunately, there are many groups, like the Covenants Initiative, that are working hard to correct these misconceptions, to build bridges, and to promote tolerance and pluralism. We need to promote unity within diversity, set aside secondary issues, and focus on commonality and universality. We pray that Almighty God help us all through these difficult times.
Do you have any final words for the readers of Dalil Magazine?
As for any parting words for your readers, I simply urge them to read the Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him and his purified progeny, as these primary foundational sources provide solutions to the problems that we face in the world today.
SHAFAQNA – In the Name of Allah, the Light. Praise be to Allah, the Light of Lights, and peace be upon the Prophet Muhammad, his daughter Fatimah al-Zahra, and the Twelve Imams who were living reflections of divine luminosity.
Greetings of peace and words of welcome. The Husayniah Islamic Society of Seattle and Global Initiatives are pleased to host you for Husayn, peace be upon him, Day, on this 28th day of April of 2018. May Almighty God bless Sister Zahra Abdi, all the respected speakers who will share their words with you this evening, and the audience as a whole.
In the beginning, there was Allah, the One, the Only. He was a Hidden Treasure who wished to be known. In the cold, dark space of eternity, He manifested His Light. From His Light, He revealed His Treasure, the Light of Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him. From the Light of Muhammad, He created ‘Ali, Fatimah, Hasan, and Husayn, namely, the light of his son-in-law, daughter, and grandchildren. From the light of Husayn, Allah created the lights of the nine following Imams. Fourteen Infallibles featuring the Prophet, his Daughter, and the Twelve Imams. They were named after the Names of God: the very manifestations of His Divine Attributes.
Prior to creation, in the First World of Particles, the World of Shadows, or the World of the Pact, the Prophet, Fatimah, and the Imams, were lights that surrounded the Divine Throne. From the light of the Holy Household, the Ahl al-Bayt, Allah created the light of the angels, the light of the prophets, and the light of human beings. Together, they took four oaths. They attested that Allah was One. They pledged loyalty to the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, to Imam ‘Ali, and to the Imams from his progeny. All were initiated into the exoteric and esoteric reality of religion. As the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him and his family, said:
Allah created me from the quintessence of light, and called me, so I obeyed Him. Then He created ‘Ali from my light, and called him, and he obeyed. From my light and the light of ‘Ali He created Fatimah: He called her, and she obeyed. From me, ‘Ali and Fatimah, He created al-Hasan and al-Husayn. He called them, and they obeyed Him. Allah has named us with five of His names: Allah is al-Mahmud (the Praised) and I am Muhammad (Worthy of Praise); Allah is al-‘Ali (the High), and this is ‘Ali (the One of High Rank); Allah is al-Fatir (Creator out of nothing), and this is Fatimah; Allah is the One with Hasan (beneficence), and this is Hasan; Allah is Muhassin (the Beautiful), and this is Husayn.
He created nine Imams from the light of al-Husayn and called them and they obeyed Him, before Allah created either Heaven on high, the outstretched earth, the air, the angels or man. We were lights who glorified Him, listened to Him and obeyed Him. (Lantern of the Path)
In the Second World of Particles, Allah took the light of Muhammad and ‘Ali and, with it, created the particles of Adam, and from him, all of humanity. Allah gathered all the souls and asked them: “Am I not your Lord?”. They all testified to his Divine Unity. Allah then commanded the lights to prostrate to Adam since he contained the light of Muhammad and ‘Ali which was the very light of Allah. And so, they did, all save Iblis or Satan.
And so, we were, for eons, in the world of souls and spirits, immersed in the warmth and radiance of divine love. Allah said “Be” and it was. He created the physical world out of the Light of Muhammad and ‘Ali. The universe came into being with a big bang. After ages, our planet came into existence, and after millions of years, it was suitable for our physical Adam to surface. In him was placed the light of Muhammad and ‘Ali, Allah bless them and grant them peace. And so, began the voyage of divine light from Adam peace be upon him, down to the historical Prophet Muhammad, may the peace and blessings be upon him and his progeny. The light of the Prophet passed to his daughter Fatimah, God bless them both. It rejoined the light of ‘Ali to produce Hasan and Husayn, peace and blessings be upon them all. Light upon light, nur ‘ala nur (24:35) the light of the Light was passed down to Imam Husayn, ‘alayhi al-salaam. Such is Imam Husayn, peace be upon him, from a spiritual and metaphysical point of view. You may accept. You may reject. However, a tantalizing taste of the esoteric you have been given: an essential complement to the exoteric.
The Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him and his family, received revelation. He was sent to renew and revive the religion of Abraham, peace be upon him. Through him, God’s religion was completed and perfected, although truth is to be found in all divinely revealed religions. He insisted from day one, from the very first time he preached the message of Islam to his extended family and kin, that ‘Ali was to be his heir and his successor, both spiritually and politically. He repeated this divinely-revealed mandate regularly throughout his mission. He said that Ali was to him what Aaron was to Moses; that the truth was with ‘Ali and that ‘Ali was with the truth; and that ‘Ali would be the master and guardian over everyone over whom the Prophet Muhammad had been master and guardian. May peace and blessings be upon the Messenger of Allah and His Holy Household.
The Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him and the People of His House, proclaimed that he was leaving behind two weighty obligations, the Qur’an, and his Ahl al-Bayt, the People of His Household. He stated that the People of the House, the Imams from his Progeny, were like the Ark of Noah, and that anybody who boarded it would be saved, and those who failed to board it, would be doomed. The Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, stated that he would be followed by Twelve Caliphs or Successors and that the last of them would be the Mahdi, the Divinely-Guided One, who would reappear along with Jesus at the End of Times. May Allah hasten their reappearance. Ilahi amin ya rabb al-‘alamin.
The Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him and his Purified Progeny, warned Imam ‘Ali that the community would betray him. He foretold that his grandson, Imam Husayn, would be slaughtered by a segment of the so-called Muslim community. Wa Allahi, the Archangel Gabriel himself, peace be upon him, informed the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, that his beloved grandson, peace be upon him, would be martyred in Karbala. He even brought him soil that was soaked in his blood.
Imam Husayn, peace be upon him, was the Wali Allah, Hujjat Allah, Khalifat Allah, Bab Allah, Ayat Allah al-Kubra, al-Mathal al-a‘la, and al-urwat al-wuthqa, the Friend of Allah, the Proof of Allah, the Vicar of Allah, the Door to Allah, the Supreme Sign of Allah, the August Symbol, and the Most Solid Handle. He was the spiritual and temporal successor of his grand-father, the Messenger of Allah, despite the fact that he was deprived of his right by Mu‘awiyyah ibn Abi Sufyan, may God send him to Guantanamo Bay or, better yet, subject him to extraordinary rendition. That sounds even scarier.
Imam Husayn had no political ambition. He never tried to overthrow the Umayyads. He devoted himself to piety and passing down the true teachings of the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him and his family. He posed no military threat to the oppressive and despotic superpower of the time. He engaged in passive resistance. He was entirely non-violent.
Yazid, the rotten fruit from the rotten tree, succeeded his father, and continued to spread corruption on Earth. What is more, he wanted all Muslims to be complicit in his crimes. In fact, he demanded allegiance from Imam Husayn, peace be upon him. When he refused, he planned to have him killed at the Ka‘bah during the Hajj or pilgrimage to Mecca. Husayn, peace be upon him, refused to submit, in word or in action, to Yazid for to recognize him as Caliph, or Successor of the Prophet, was tantamount to recognizing Satan as God.
Imam Husayn, peace be upon him, left the holy Hijaz and headed toward the city of Kufah which was a traditional stronghold for the followers of his father, Imam ‘Ali, peace be upon him. He knew he would never make it. In fact, he headed directly toward the land of his destiny, the desert region known as Karbala’. There, his small band of family members, friends, companions, and supporters, were surrounded by the armies of injustice and oppression. Vastly outnumbered and out-armed, they were systematically slaughtered.
Although some Shiite Muslims reduce the martyrdom of Imam Husayn, peace be upon him, to a political event, his providential death was profoundly significant on a spiritual plane. Just like Christians believe that Jesus, peace be upon him, died so that we would know the true, Shiite Muslims believe that Imam Husayn, peace be upon, died so that we would know the truth, so that the truth of Islam, original Islam, Muhammadan Islam, would survive until the End of Days.
As the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him and His Holy Household, said: “Husayn [is] the leader of the Youth of Paradise” (Tirmidhi). As the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him and His Holy Household, said: “Husayn [is] my offspring in this world” (Tirmidhi). As the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him and His Holy Household, said: “Husayn is from me and I am from Husayn. May Allah love those who love Husayn” (Tirmidhi). As the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him and His Holy Household, said: “Whoever loves [Husayn], he surely loves me” (Tabari and Ibn al-Sari).
And yet he was hunted down heartlessly, hounded by hyenas, surrounded by snakes, harassed by sons of harlots, persecuted by pigs, tormented by terrorists, only to be slaughtered like a lamb and butchered like a baby. By whom? By the forefathers of al-Qaedah, Da’esh, and al-Nusrah, by the same demented and demonic terrorists who have brought hell to Algeria, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Nigeria, Belgium, France, Spain, the UK, Canada, America, and beyond.
During the first year of his rule, Yazid, the archetypal tyrant and servant of Satan, killed the grandson of the Prophet, the archetypal holy man and servant of God. During the second year of his rule, Yazid pillaged and plundered the sacred city of Medina. His forces killed over 10,000 people, including nearly one thousand Companions of the Prophet. Over one thousand women became pregnant due to rape. To top it all off, he burned down the Holy Ka‘bah in Mecca, the holy of holies, during the third year of his rule. And yet he had and has followers to this very day. Some of them were very fervent. It was in their vested interests to support the oppressive regime. It benefited them financially and politically. Most of the masses simply shrugged their shoulders, obeyed the government blindly like livestock, and followed their leaders like lemmings, even if it meant plunging into the ocean of eternal fire.
But Husayn said no. I say no. We say no. Hell to the no. We refuse to remain quiet in the face of injustice for “tumult and oppression are worse than slaughter” (2:191). Give us liberty or give us death. Death before dishonor. Stand on the right hand of history. Side with the poor, the meek, the downtrodden, the discriminated, the persecuted, and the oppressed. Stand for the truth no matter the cost. As the Lord of Martyrs, peace be upon him. said, “A death in dignity is better than a life of humiliation.” I repeat: “A death in dignity is better than a life of humiliation.” Such is the message of Imam Husayn, peace be upon.
So, peace be upon you, of Father of ‘Abd Allah. Peace be upon you, O son of the Messenger of Allah. Peace be upon you Commander of the Faithful and the son of the inheritors (of the Prophet). Peace be upon you, O son of Fatimah, the Leader of the Women of the Universe.
Al-salaamu ‘alayka ya Aba ‘Abdillah. Al-salaamu ‘alayka ya ibn Rasulillah! Al-salaamu ‘alayka ya ibn Amir al-Mu’minin wa ibn sayyid al-wasiyyinna. Al-salaamu ‘alayka ya ibn Fatimah Sayyidati Nisa’i al-‘Alamina.
May peace and blessings be upon you all. And may peace and blessings be on the Prophet and His Purified Progeny. Salawat ‘ala Muhammad wa ali Muhammad!
REVISTA CULTURAL BIBLIOTECA ISLAMICA (15 DE MAYO DE 2018)
“Dios mediante nacerá, Dios mediante, será un niño”, dijo una mujer a mi esposa embarazada. Ella respondió: no, ”Dios mediante será una niña”. Confundida, la mujer repitió insistentemente una vez más “por Dios, será un niño” y mi esposa respondió, en clave, “por Dios, niña”.
Aunque a mi esposa no le agradó ese cambio de palabras, a mi me resultó casi normal. Escuché esas tonterías sexistas durante décadas. Recuerdo cuando un orgulloso padre joven visitó una mezquita con sus cuatro hijas. Fue recibido por hombres corpulentos y barbudos que se lamentaban de que no tuviese descendencia masculina y dijeron: “Lo sentimos mucho por ti. Rezamos para que Dios te conceda un varón”.
Para muchos padres, tanto musulmanes como no musulmanes, el nacimiento de un hijo es una bendición, independientemente de su sexo. En lugar de orar específicamente por un varón, simplemente oran para que la criatura nazca saludable. Lamentablemente, sin embargo, algunos hombres musulmanes, en particular los de ciertas culturas patriarcales, tienen ideas misóginas. Lo que es peor, han impuesto a muchas mujeres sus criterios. En verdad, algunos musulmanes, al darse a luz una niña, en vez de ponerse contentos y celebrarlo, se muestran amargados, dolidos.
Aunque muchas poblaciones vivieron en un medio islámico durante más de 1.400 años, la fe musulmana no ha logrado penetrar plenamente en sus corazones. Se comportan como las piedras: aunque estén mucho tiempo bajo el agua, no la absorben. La respuesta de esa gente a la concepción de una niña es la misma hoy que catorce siglos atrás. Dice Dios Todopoderoso en el Glorioso Corán: “Cuando se le anuncia a uno de ellos una niña, se queda hosco y se angustia” (Corán, 16:58).
La situación descrita en el Corán la vivió el propio Profeta ―paz y bendiciones sean sobre él, su familia y sus fieles seguidores―. Expresa una tradición relatada por Amili: «Un hombre se enteró que su esposa tuvo una nena mientras estaba en presencia del Mensajero de Dios y se enojó. Este le preguntó: “¿Estás molesto?” Dijo el hombre: “Cuando salía de casa, mi esposa estaba de parto, y ahora me traen la noticia de que tengo una hija”. El Mensajero de Dios dijo: “La tierra tiene suficiente espacio para ella, el cielo le da cobijo y Dios le dará sustento. Es una flor de dulce aroma que te dará satisfacciones”».
A diferencia de muchos hombres musulmanes, el Profeta Muhammad ―la paz y las bendiciones sean sobre él y su familia― amaba y valoraba al sexo opuesto. Aseguró que Dios concedería el Paraíso a cualquiera que criase una, dos o tres niñas y no favoreciese a sus hijos varones por encima de alguna de ellas (Ahmad, Amili, Barbahari, Muttaqi al-Hindi, Kulayni, Abu Dawud). El Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq dijo: “Los hijos son un favor y las hijas son buenas obras. Dios os pedirá favores, pero os recompensará por vuestras buenas obras” (Kulayni).
Según el Mensajero de Dios, “las niñas son modelos de afecto y conmiseración. Y una bendición para la familia” (Muttaqi al-Hindi). Además declaró: “A quien tenga una hija, gracias a ella Dios protegerá del fuego del Infierno; admitirá en el Paraíso si tiene dos; eximirá de la obligación de la caridad y el esfuerzo supremo si tiene tres” (Muttaqi al-Hindi).
Aunque el Profeta Muhammad era el mejor de la creación, no tenía descendencia masculina. Sus hijos varones murieron en la infancia. Dios Todopoderoso afirma en el Glorioso Corán: “Muhammad no es el padre de ninguno de vuestros varones, sino el Mensajero de Dios y el último de los profetas. Dios es omnisciente” (Corán, 33:40). Según algunas fuentes sunnitas y shiitas, el Mensajero de Dios solo tuvo hijas. Para algunas fuentes shiitas, solo tuvo una: Fatimah al-Zahra’.
Dijo el Mensajero de Dios: “Todos los hijos son de sus padres menos los hijos de Fátima pues yo soy su padre” (Aḥmad). Y manifestó al hablar de Hasan y Husein: “Ahí están mis hijos” (Tirmidhi, Tabari, Ibn al-Sari, Tabarsi). La forma de encarar esta cuestión por parte del Profeta Muhammad produjo un cambio de paradigma frente a la cultura patriarcal, en la que el mérito de los hombres se medía por la cantidad de hijos varones que tenían. Ese nuevo paradigma otorgó a las mujeres el lugar de dignidad, respeto y reverencia que les correspondía.
El Profeta Muhammad ―la paz y las bendiciones sean sobre él y su familia― afirmó: “Dios, el Sublime, es más condescendiente con las mujeres que con los hombres” (Majlisi). El Mensajero de Dios prometió: “Todo aquel que haga el bien a sus hijas, será salvo del Infierno” (Majlisi). E insistió: “Lo mejor de tu descendencia son tus hijas” (Hakim). Y aseguró: “la señal de una mujer afortunada es que su primer hijo es una niña” (Hakim).
Por lo tanto, considerando las palabras de Dios ―Glorificado y Exaltado sea― y las de Su Mensajero ―la paz y las bendiciones sean sobre él y su progenie―, mi esposa y yo oramos con gran satisfacción: “Allāh’ Allāh bint”, es decir, “Dios, Dios, danos una niña”. Y Dios respondió a nuestras plegarias. Bienvenida al mundo, pequeña Ayah. Eres una flor del Jardín del Paraíso.
*Historiador, Hispanista e islamólogo canadiense, autor de varios libros y artículos, colaborador de la Revista Biblioteca Islámica.
To ask: “Whofears the Covenants of the Prophet?” is synonymous with asking “Whofears the truth?” This is the issue at hand. Those who fear the truth also fear the one who spreads it. They fear The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World because they go together with the truth. Although either title would be suitable, we feel that it is better to ask, “Whofears the Covenants of the Prophet?” since “truth” is an abstract noun that acquires “life” when applied: truth is tied to the objective of knowledge and manifests itself when results are obtained that cannot be questioned since they are obvious.
As the object of knowledge, The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World contain nothing that is abstract; rather, they are a reality like the universe, like the flowing river, and like the text that you are reading. Although they are feared, in and of themselves, what is feared the most about The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World is their spread, application, and implementation.
After the rediscovery of these Covenants on the part of Dr. John Andrew Morrow, attempts were made to conceal them or distort them in diverse ways, for example, by claiming that they corresponded to a particular historical period and that they were no longer applicable. The attempt to “change something so that nothing changes” was also made under the form of “saying something to say nothing so that everything stays the same.” This politically-motivated and perverted approach to the Covenants stands in contrast to the historical, rational, contextualized, and profound scholarly approach that is rooted in fact.
This is the methodology that Dr. John Andrew Morrow has applied to The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World and which has triggered a veritable tsunami in the obsolete and ill-intentioned minds from both East and West. These frightened decrepit minds babble, stammer, and stutter to say nothing of weight. For example, they present the text or supposed text of a Covenant of the Prophet without any explanation or clarification except for negation or rejection. Hence, the majestically brilliant rediscovery of The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World by Dr. John Andrew Morrow who analyses them profoundly and meticulously, shares his research in various languages, debates honestly with those who deny, reject or ignore them, relying on documented evidence, and demonstrates how they were successfully applied – although with many shortcomings – throughout the centuries. And such an attitude stands out, exceedingly and exemplarily, to even the humblest passer-by on that path.
It is worthwhile to mention that anyone who crosses Dr. John Andrew Morrow on this path will be impacted in all areas of life. Those who object to the Covenants of the Prophet know that their application would put an end to the murderous blood-bath that accompanies the quest for limitless wealth that is sought after, precisely, by those who denigrate them. In effect, the great enemies of life, who are the great enemies of truth, as well as the great enemies of humanity, see how the work that is accomplished with these documents is creating antibodies who will neutralize the despicable maneuvers that are based on lies and deceit, as well as genocidal and criminal theft and plunder.
Dr. John Andrew Morrow brings to light a work that is magnificent both in its content and objective. It contains stipulations given by God to humanity and pursues the long-desired peace, harmony, and fraternity between all human beings of good-faith who wish to turn weapons into instruments of progress and public welfare; the secret meetings of evil and greed into popular assemblies of joy and happiness; and vexatious misery and selfishness into solidarity, brotherhood, and peaceful co-existence.
This is precisely what the powerful despise. They are those who wish to place all of humanity at their service by means of sanguinary slavery and by means of a gigantic lie that relies on the demonization of Islam and the absolute condemnation of The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World which are treated as “Christian forgeries.” Even worse, these powerful people who hate all religions, although they disguise themselves with some of them, wish to eliminate, for their own benefit, one sixth or more of the world’s population, a fact that has been documented in many sources.
We have the Georgia Guide Stones, erected in 1980, which propose to maintain the world population under 500 million people governed by a single global executive, a number that is close to the one proposed by Mikhail Gorbachev. We also have the proposal of Ted Turner, the creator of CNN, who believes that the maximum amount of people on earth should be only 300 million. Or, even worse, we have the proposal of Dave Foreman, the co-founder of Earth First, who says that the population of the earth should not exceed 100 million.
However, what Dr. John Andrew Morrow maintains, based on The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World, is that the planet can provide for a population that is much greater than the current number on the condition that the stipulations enunciated by the Prophet Muhammad in his Covenants are fulfilled, namely: the creation of a Confederation of Free Peoples governed by the guidelines given by the Creator. Therefore, what is most feared by the genocidal manipulators of the New World Order is the possibility of re-applying The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World.
Those who fear the rediscovery of Dr. John Andrew Morrow, namely, The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World – who are not few – are overwhelmed by the truth. This is because The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World and the truth are one, as we said, in both spirit and essence.
Who are those who fear the truth? The truth terrifies the oppressor, the pervert, the terrorist, the selfish, the usurper, the confidence trickster, the criminal, the narcissist, the stingy, the tight-fisted, the materially powerful, the savage militaristic hawk, the liar, the exploiter, the enslaver, the racist, the elitist, the dishonest, the deceitful, the despicable, and the immoral, as well as the hypocrite and the corrupt ruler, namely, all those who love ridicule and disdain.
Those who oppose the truth, because blind and absurd hatred devours theirs hearts and souls, take advantage of any political maneuver or offensive act that is available to maintain and protect their privileges and abominable behavior. It is for this reason that someone said that truth and politics have never gotten along very well since truth has never been considered a political virtue. Politics is only uplifting and becomes a virtue when it is guided and grounded in the sacred laws contained in revealed scriptures as well as great spiritual expressions or genuine religious traditions.
It is crystal clear. Those who fear the truth, namely, the lovers of selfish political interests, are those who love ridicule and disdain. Hence, when the sun of justice, love, fraternity, honesty, commitment, effort, solidarity, and sacrifice, among others, surfaces – namely, those attributes that are exhibited in the texts that God revealed to humanity as well as The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World – the demented and devastating anger of those who feel that they are marked for shame and disgrace attempts to negate, by any means possible, that very manifestation. It is for this reason that they fear the one who lights up the world with this sun.
The great weapon, and the first one that is used to negate something, is a combination of distortion, twisting, and misrepresentation, as well as lies, and deceit. Let us learn some more about those who openly or secretly oppose the work that Dr. John Andrew Morrow is accomplishing by means of The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World. By doing so, we will get to know the spirits of darkness that despise these documents. Unfortunately, in more than a few cases, we are dealing with individuals who are permanently illuminated by the lights of luxurious settings or by their appearance as “famous personalities,” “honest intellectuals,” and “distinguished religious scholars.”
As evil as these spirits of darkness may be, they do not, in general, cease to be cunning. They use all available methods to present the truth as lie and vice versa. They use every type of intellectual, philosophical, ideological, psychological, and political instrumentation to make people believe that something does not truly exist or is unsuitable. They call virtually everything into question in order to make something seem unbelievable: what exists does not exist; what is said never took place; the dates that are presented as documented facts cannot be corroborated; the authorship of such and such documents is unknown despite the fact that there is a list of ten, twenty or thirty witnesses; the historical circumstances cannot be proven, and so on and so forth. They create a tangled web of confusion with the objective of boring people or making them feel that they are unable to discern the truth. In so doing, they “convince” people that something never took place and viciously attack, using the most absurd accusations, those who clearly demonstrate the facts and the truth of the matter. On the contrary, those who move with truth, who present the facts based on solid and verifiable evidence, need not recur to nefarious means to advance their arguments.
Abel stands for truth while Cain stands for deceit and distortion. Truth is indisputably inferior materially in comparison to falsehood. He who stands for falsehood relies on any tool available, regardless of how false and untrue that it may be, to prevail. However, he who stands for truth would never do such a thing. As a result, falsehood, deceit, and concealment are more “practical” when it comes to worldly matters. Furthermore, for many people, truth is generally inconvenient since it prevents them, if they hold fast to it, from obtaining ordinary pleasures as well as material power through the exploitation and violation of the most basic of human rights.
It is for this reason that so many people distance themselves from those who will not tolerate falsehood and who will not compromise truth. Many times, truth produces pain and most people are not willing to subject themselves to suffering. As a result, many only accept The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World formally. They say that they are good, that they are authentic; however, they do not act accordingly. Neither terrorists who follow the most insane lies, neither genocidal dictators disguised as good Muslims, nor others with a morbid fascination for Islam — who are not few – are willing to recognize The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World — beyond formalities — and to act in accordance with them, since to proceed in such a fashion would interfere with or harm their selfish, egotistical, and irreligious interests. The spirits of the shadows, who inhabit the darkness that houses the wicked, only wander about, reproduce themselves, and are strong in the shadows. That is why they oppose the truth and, in this case, The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World. On the other hand, truth seeks light and is a friend of light. Truth avoids hiding itself and manifests itself with great clarity.
In the world, especially the current one, deceit, misrepresentation, and lies are the “normal” means of operating. Lies have become so widespread in human society that they are like a habit or a custom that fears it opposite: truth. As much it may harm most of the world population, and however much it may produce disastrous results, everything has become inverted. The despots and those who sully and tarnish the truth present themselves as democrats and advocates of honesty and morality; terrorists and rapists present themselves as liberators; the corrupt present themselves as virtuous puritans and good people; the aggressors present themselves as victims; those who promote violent injustice present themselves as promoters and recipients of peace prizes; and the most unjust and the most intellectually inept present themselves as “renowned academics.”
For the spirits of darkness, anything goes, including lies and the invention of non-existent situations. This leads them to fear The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World. We have already identified those who are afraid of The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World. We have also explained why their dread is so evident. The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World turn the entire ideological and supposedly religious lie that feeds the anti-Islamic terrorism that presents itself as Islamic and, most importantly, it marks for death those who created it and continue to create it, namely, Western Genocidal Empires (WGEs) and their vile servants in the Arabian Peninsula and the surrounding region.
The presentation of The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World to the anti-Islamic kinglets in the Arabian Peninsula, to the terrorists, and to the countries who have entered the murderous alliance of NATO, has the same effect as presenting The Bible to Dracula: all their lies crumble apart and are exposed along with their wretched plots and conspiracies which are advanced at the expense of the successive slaughter of innocents in both East and West.
The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World are a terrible blow to evil-doers since they represent, not merely a theory, but rather the blue-prints of a social-political system that has been applied successfully. Attempting to revive the practical application of the Covenants of the Prophet generates hatred and fear in the hearts of shadow-dwellers who, for the moment, refuse to recognize them, deny them, and reject them.
Finally, we should never forget that, to a considerable extent, the world is controlled by the unjust, namely, by the forces of darkness. There are those, however, like Kant, who hold that “human beings cannot tolerate life in a world devoid of justice” and that this “human right is considered sacred regardless of the sacrifices it entails.” Everything indicates that Dr. John Andrew Morrow is following this path with his rediscovery and study of The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World for which reason he deserves all our support.
(This article is an English translation of an original Spanish article titled “¿Quién le teme a los Pactos del Profeta Muhammad con los Cristianos del Mundo” which was published in “Red Islam” on March 19, 2018, and which is available at: http://www.redislam.net/2018/03/quien-le-teme-los-pactos-del-profeta.html)
(The following opinion piece was published in al-Bawaba: The Middle East Gateway on April 15, 2004, and has long been removed from the newspaper’s archives. It was supposed to be included in Islamic Insights: Writings and Reviews, an anthology of Dr. John Andrew Morrow’s journalism, published by Ansariyan Publications in 2010; however, it was excluded due to the fact that it did not meet the approval of Iran’s Ministry of Culture. The position of the Islamic Republic of Iran was to support armed struggle as opposed to non-violence and diplomacy. As the 2018 developments in Gaza demonstrate, many Palestinian people have developed greater political maturity over the past decade and a half and are now engaging in more effective methods of opposition that are far more likely to inspire sympathy as opposed to terrorist actions committed against civilians.)
After over 50 years of struggle, the time has come for Palestinians to make a strategic shift in their struggle, break the impasse, and move from the bullet to the ballot. Rather than fighting for a fractured Palestinian state, Palestinians should demand their rights as citizens of the single state of “Israel/Palestine” and wage their battle through the ballot.
In the Palestinian context, the path of violence has been proven ineffective and incapable of leading to a lasting solution. Moreover, the military destruction of Israel is an unrealistic ambition. The Arabs do not have the might to defeat Israel. Not only does Israel have the most powerful army in the Middle East, it is a nuclear power under the protection of the most of the Western world. If the recent history of the Palestinian problem has taught us anything, it is that it cannot be resolved by force. Both Israelis and Palestinians have cornered themselves into untenable ideological trenches engendering an unending spiral of violence and suffering. It is time for both parties to start from scratch and come up with a more creative compromise: the creation of a liberal secular democratic state where all people, Jews, Christians and Muslims, are equal before the law and can coexist in freedom, mutual respect, peace and harmony. This single state, which would certainly be supported by the immense majority of the world population, may be the only viable solution to the Palestinian problem and the only approach that can bring peace to Israel and Palestine.
Both sides will scream “sell-out.” The Zionists will insist on the concept of a Jewish state purged of Palestinians. The Arab nationalists will continue to demand their tiny piece of leftover pie when they can actually have the whole pie and eat it too. Islamists will demand the destruction of Israel and the creation of an “Islamic” state purged of Jews. Clearly, these positions have no place in a pluralistic society and can only lead to death, destruction and mayhem. Zionism is not palatable to Arabs. Arab nationalism is not palatable to Jews. And Islamic fundamentalism is not palatable to either. While Palestinians may empathize with the despair that leads young men and women of Hamas and Islamic Jihad to perform “martyrdom operations,” they certainly would not want to be ruled by them. Unlike other Arabs who seem content with more or less dictatorial governments, the vast majority of Palestinians want a liberal democracy not unlike the one in Israel, minus the human rights abuses. Muslim activists will denounce such a strategy as an implicit or even explicit recognition of the state of Israel which it certainly is not. It is recognition that Israel is Palestine, that Palestine is Israel, that the land is one and should remain one. Call it Israel, call it Palestine, call it the Federation of Israel and Palestine, call it what you wish, it is one nation that should join the distinct international organizations of the region. Change its name if you wish, it remains the same. Scattered in the West Bank, Gaza, and Israel, Palestinians must resign themselves to lack of influence, lack of territory, lack of recognition, lack of nationhood and lack of rights. If they demand the vote of Israel, are represented by population, their impact would be decisive.
Israel has a population of 6,116,533 inhabitants, 20% of which are Palestinians. If we add these 1,223,306 Arab Israelis to the 3.5 million Palestinians living in the occupied territories we come up with a figure of over 4.7 million Palestinian Muslims and Christians along with 4.9 million Jewish Israelis. Instead of destroying “Israel,” Palestinians can easily coexist with Jews, Christians, atheists, polytheists, etc., in the same country. If the Palestinians demand the vote, the Israelis will be hard pressed to grant it to them. If they fail to do so, they will place themselves in the position of American segregationists and South African supremacists who denied the vote to blacks. If the Palestinians demand the vote, and the Israelis refuse to respect their rights, world public opinion will turn increasingly against the Israelis. The Palestinian struggle would immediately be viewed as a struggle for universal human and civil rights. They can turn to marches, demonstrations and sit-ins demanding their right to vote. They can make the choice clear to Israelis: “The Ballot or the Bullet.” If the Israelis decide to repress the democratic movement it would be to their own downfall, for in that case the Palestinians could move from a localized intifada to a full-blown civil war against an apartheid regime. The repression of Palestinians who wish to co-exist with Jews in a pluralistic democratic state would lead to widespread censure of Israel as well as economic boycotts as was the case with South Africa. Palestinians need to think strategy and to change strategy. While the suicide bombings of civilians and the blowing up of babies has done little to boost support and solidarity for the Palestinian cause, turning from the bullet to the ballot can change the course of history. And if the Palestinians are the ones who cannot accept or understand the need for adopting a new strategy, then it will only lead to endless bloodshed without any possibility of changing the course of events. And Allah knows best.
A British man who hides behind the acronym ECAW claims that the Ashtiname or Covenant of the Prophet Muhammad with the Monks of Mount Sinai suffers from three anomalies and, therefore, is “definitely fake.” For the sake of honest individuals who might be misled by the writings of the individual in question, I have stepped up to the stage. Consequently, in the following paragraphs, I will concisely debunk these allegations.
Anomaly # 1
ECAW asks: “Why would Mohammed grant a covenant of protection in 623 AD to a group who were not under his control and he was therefore not in a position to protect?” He also argues that:
Since Muharram is the first month of the Islamic calendar, that means it was written just one year after the Hijra, Mohammed’s migration to Medina. By that time Mohammed had not yet fallen out with the other religious and tribal groups in Medina. In fact, the only substantive thing he is reported to have done in his first year was to set up the Constitution of Medina which gave equal rights and responsibilities to Muslims and non-Muslims.
The fact of the matter is that the Prophet Muhammad was already signing treaties, making covenants, and forging alliances before he migrated to Medina. In fact, the Sirah of Ibn Ishaq reports that he received a delegation of Christians in Mecca (Morrow, 2017, vol. 2: 16). This is independently confirmed by early Christian sources.
Not only did the Messenger of Allah sign covenants of good-will with religious communities and denominations, he also made agreements with the Negus of Abyssinia (Bangash 41-60). The Messenger of Allah was acting like a head of state even when he was stateless. This infuriated the idol-worshiping infidels of Mecca. As a result of the First and Second Pacts of ‘Aqabah, the landless leader soon found himself at the head of the Medinan State.
From the time he settled in Medina to the time he passed away, he wrote hundreds of letters and signed dozens of treaties with communities of all kinds. “Prior the Battle of Badr… of 2 AH,” writes Zafar Bangash, “there were a total of eight expeditions” to the tribes west of Mecca (161). Another two expeditions were sent to Yanbu‘ and to Safawan (161). The Prophet Muhammad offered treaties to the Tribe of Damrah, the Tribe of Juhaynah, the Tribe of Zur‘ah, the Tribe of Rab‘ah, the Tribe of Muzaynah, the Tribe of Mudlij, the Tribe of Ghifar, and the Tribe of Ashja‘ (159-190).
By the second year of the hijrah, the Messenger of Allah had placed most of north-western Arabia under his protection from Medina all the way to the Sinai. This fact is confirmed by Nektarios of Sinai (c. 1600 to 1676 CE). As he explains in his Epitome, which was written in 1659 or 1660, and based on ancient Arabic manuscripts from the Monastery of St. Catherine:
In the second year of Muhammad’s hijrah his religious and military power increased. During that time, two Christian rulers … gathered some men with the aim of waging war against one of Muhammad’s companions… The latter sustained defeat and all his men were killed. Once this became known to Muhammad, he took all the men that he had with him at that time, around three hundred and ten in number, and when the two parties met, they swiftly fought. The Christians were only one hundred and ninety and subsequently lost the battle. Seventy of them were killed, whilst only fourteen from Muhammad’s side perished. This was the first war Muhammad had with Christians and by God’s providence, he defeated them.
This victory became the source of fear for many people, who turned to him to pay tribute, bounding to pay taxes in order for him to let them retain their Faith. These were idolaters, who came from Persia and worshiped the sun as God, along with Jews and many other Greeks. [Among them] there were also many Christians from the region of the Red Sea, [the Erythraean Sea] who came to visit him, as well as the monks from Mount Sinai along with the Christian slaves they had from the period of Justinian.
A Christian ruler named Paxikios came to Muhammad and when the latter saw his merits, he offered him great hospitality and knelt before him. His companions then asked him why he did so and he replied to them that “you should also honor these people, for their Faith is righteous and true and their Books, as I read, were sent by God.” He then asked the monks what they required from him, and they replied: “we see that everyone turns to you and wish to make an agreement to stay unmolested by your people. Therefore, we came to ask for your permission to keep our Faith and monastery unharmed.”
He then asked them where their Monastery was and when he heard that they came from the Mount where the Law [Ten Commandments] was given to Moses, he revered them greatly and affirmed to them that “you should not have any fear nor feel that someone would harm or be unfair to you, for he who would treat you like that, may God smite him. I am also planning to visit that holy Mount and there I will grant you a letter, so that no one will cause you or the Christian people any harm for all eternity. From you, I do not wish for any payment perpetually, since you are the worshippers of that holy place, however, from the rest of the Christians I will demand that they pay tax and their faith will not be threatened.”
Once the monks had heard these words, they went on their way. Shortly after and within the same year, Muhammad himself, traversing the desert sands, came to the monastery and climbed up the mountain. He highly honored and venerated the place as holy; he also ordered his companions to do the same and revered the peak of the mountain as holy. For, according to him, this was the place where God had a long discussion with the Prophet Moses. Even today, this event is known to the most learned Turks. He [Muhammad] then climbed down the mountain, and the abbot along with the rest of the fathers, had a great feast with him, offering him hospitality for an extended period of time. Far from the monastery, in an area half the size of a lodging house, the local Arabs, in fact, indicate a place and claim that this is where he stood and spoke. This place is venerated and worshiped by Arabs with piety, when they pass by there.
While staying at the Monastery, he [Muhammad] granted a Letter to them, known as the Covenant or agreement as he calls it, which encompasses a wide range of worthy subjects for the monks of that Monastery, as well as for the whole of Christendom. This Letter should certainly be considered quite noticeable, as it was not written by any human but through God’s providence. For, if the Letter had not been composed then no monastery nor any monk would have existed. All the lay Christians through this Letter, may maintain their Faith unharmed and unmolested, because the Letter includes some beneficial articles for them. (Morrow, 2017, vol. 2: 434-435)
Granting a covenant to the monks of Mount Sinai in the second year of the hijrah is not an anomaly: it formed part of an established and strategic pattern that lasted the entire course of Muhammad’s prophetic mission.
ECAW asks: “Why would he release them from the obligation to pay the Jizya tax which they were therefore not subject to?”
The fact of the matter is that the Prophet Muhammad offered to make alliances with non-Muslims throughout the Middle East and beyond. If they pledged loyalty to the Prophet, as opposed to the Byzantines and Persians, he promised to offer them freedom of religion and freedom from onerous taxation. Only those who violently opposed the Prophet were subject to conquest and tribute. Call it the carrot or the stick. The Christians of Najran, the Sinai, Assyria, Armenia, and Persia actively sought the protection of the Prophet Muhammad from their oppressive overlords. The same can be said of the Jews and Samaritans from Palestine, the Jews from Yemen, and the Jews of Maqna. The same also applied to the Zoroastrians. As Nektarios of Sinai noted, polytheists, Magians, Jews, and Greek Christians submitted to the Prophet Muhammad during the early years of his rule in Medina. As Stephen J. Shoemaker has shown in The Death of a Prophet: The End of Muhammad’s Life and the Beginnings of Islam, “The oldest Islamic biography of Muhammad, written in the mid-eighth century, relates that the prophet died at Medina in 632, while earlier and more numerous Jewish, Christian, Samaritan, and even Islamic sources indicate that Muhammad survived to lead the conquest of Palestine, beginning in 634-35.” If this is correct, the spread of Islam into the Sinai and Palestine did not take place during the reign of the first two Caliphs: the Prophet Muhammad had himself consolidated Islam in all of Arabia, and several surrounding regions, during his own lifetime.
ECAW alleges that “[t]he Jizya tax which the Covenant exempted the monks from paying did not yet exist, even in Medina.”
The fact of the matter is that the jizyah, which simply means “tribute” or “tax,” has existed since time immemorial. For those who possess a Wikipedia level of understanding of Islam, let us quote from its entry on the subject:
William Montgomery Watt traces its origin to a pre-Islamic practice among the Arabian nomads wherein a powerful tribe would agree to protect its weaker neighbors in exchange for a tribute, which would be refunded if the protection proved ineffectual. Jews and Christians in some southern and eastern areas of the Arabian Peninsula began to pay tribute, called jizya, to the Islamic state during Muhammad’s lifetime.
Jizyah, therefore, existed before the rise of Islam. Among the Arabs, it was tribute paid for protection. Among the Byzantines and the Sassanians, it was a system of taxation and tribute. According to Morrow, “The jizyah, which is a Persian as opposed to Arabic word, was a continuation of a national tax from Sassanian times.” (vol. 2: 448). “As for the jizyah,” he explains, “it was not a late introduction as traditionally believed by Muslim scholars. In fact, it was a Persian tax that was adopted by the Prophet.” (vol. 2: 452).
When Morrow wrote that “the jizyah did not exist in the early days of Islam” (2013: 94), he was apparently referring to the Meccan period and the initial Medinan period. The Prophet, for example, did not impose jizyah on the non-Muslim citizens of the Ummah in Medina. The Jews of Medina, with whom the Prophet concluded the Constitution of Medina, were not subject to the jizyah. The same cannot be said of the Jewish Opposition, namely, the three tribes that lived on the outskirts of Medina and who were apparently not parties to the Constitution of Medina.
The only agreement that existed between the Prophet and the Banu Qurayzah, for example, was a pact of non-aggression which the Jews violated. “Despite having broken their treaty obligations,” writes Morrow, “the Prophet’s emissary urged the Banu Qurayzah to enter, once again, into an agreement with the Messenger of Allah. Otherwise, they were offered the opportunity to pay the jizyah” (2013: 40). As Morrow explains, “The Banu Qurayzah, however, remained defiant, and stated that they preferred to die than to pay taxes” (2013: 40).
The jizyah did not apply to citizens of the Ummah who were subject to the Constitution of Medina nor did it apply to covenanted communities of priests, monks, and rabbis. It did, however, apply to allied non-Muslims as well as belligerent populations that were subjected by force. However, even they could be excused from the jizyah in return for military service. Simply because verse 29 of chapter 9 of the Qur’an, which commands Muslims to fight unbelievers until they pay the jizyah, was reportedly revealed in the year 630 CE, namely, year 9 of the hijrah, does not mean that this form of taxation did not previously exist. In fact, it is mentioned in prophetic traditions that date from the seventh, fourth, and second year of the hijrah.
As for ECAW’s allegation that the jizyah was discriminatory, he can be pointed to Morrow’s study on the subject. As the good professor explains,
jizyah was not punitive nor was it intended to be a financial burden. Consequently, any Muslim ruler who used and abused jizyah to oppress the People of the Book committed a grave sin… The jizyah is not the end all and be all of Islam. It is not absolute. Its meaning and mode of application varied… According to a precedent set by ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab, the jizyah is not an obligation and can be replaced by an alternative form of taxation… In fact, in India, Akbar the Great (r. 1556-1605 CE) did away with seven centuries of Muslim rulers imposing the jizyah on non-Muslims…
As to whether jizyah has any place in modern times, my jurisprudential position is clear; it is … null and void, and none but Imam Mahdi and Jesus could reinstate it by divine decree. Until then, either all citizens pay taxes or they do not pay taxes. There is no place for a two-tiered or three-tiered tax system. Since the sum of jizyah and zakat were more or less equal in the time of the Prophet, citizens should not be taxed at different rates on the basis of their religion. The only people exempt from certain types of taxes are rabbis, monks, priests, nuns, and other clerics. In short, any non-profit engaged in charitable work can request tax-free status…
According to the Covenants of the Prophet, levels of taxation can only vary based on income: those who have more are both expected and obliged to contribute more to society… As for the jizyah, the various schools of jurisprudence imposed its upper limits in accordance with the Covenants of the Prophet. Rather than increase taxation, many Muslim rulers, like Mu‘awiyyah, Yazid, and ‘Umar ibn ‘Abd al-‘Aziz, lowered it, as they did with the Najranites who now lived in ‘Iraq and, in the case of Harun al-Rashid, went so far as to abolish it completely…
Finally, while some critics of Islam insist that the jizyah was oppressive and discriminatory, they conveniently ignore the fact that a similar tax was imposed by Christian rulers upon Muslim minorities… “In the context of the early history of Muslim-Christian encounters,” concludes Green, “Islam, not Christianity, often proved more accepting of religious diversity” … As for the issue of jizyah, it is important to remember the words of Caliph ‘Abd al-‘Aziz who said: “God has sent the Prophet Muhammad to invite people to Islam and not as a tax collector”… (Morrow, 2017, vol. 1: 145-149)
As empirical evidence demonstrates, there is no basis to anomaly 1, anomaly 2, and anomaly 3. They are not anomalies. They are not inconsistencies. They are misinterpretations. “If the promoters of the Covenants Initiative can refute my objections,” promises ECAW, “then I will apologise and wish them well but, going by past experience, they won’t even try.” Well, I have tried and, many will argue, I have succeeded in debunking the allegations of ECAW. Will he then honor his word?
Bangash, Zafar. Power Manifestations of the Sirah: Examining the Letters and Treaties of the Messenger of Allah. Toronto: The Institute of Contemporary Islamic Thought, 2011.
Morrow, John Andrew. The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World. Tacoma, WA: Angelic Press and Sophia Perennis, 2013.
—. Islam and the People of the Book: Critical Studies on the Covenants of the Prophet. 3 vols. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2017.
Shoemaker, Stephen J. The Death of a Prophet: The End of Muhammad’s Life and the Beginnings of Islam. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012.
“The essential problem that the study of religion poses is how to preserve religious truth, traditional orthodoxy, the dogmatic theological structures of one’s own religion and yet gain knowledge of other traditions and accept them as spiritually valid ways and roads to God.” – Seyyed Hossein Nasr, “Islam and the Encounter of Religions” (1999)
Christian-Muslim relations have been in the spotlight in recent years. Much have been due to the rise of religious extremism and conflicts involving and affecting the Christian and Muslim communities. In a 2014 survey by the Pew Research Center, Christians were the subject of harassment in 108 out of the 159 countries, while Muslims were harassed in 100 countries. These harassments include physical assaults, arrests and detentions, desecration of holy sites, discrimination and verbal assaults. In several of these cases, the tensions and conflicts involve direct Christian-Muslim clashes. Alas, despite the professed ‘Abrahamic roots’ of the two religions, Christian-Muslim relations remain fragile in the face of contemporary challenges. Given that both communities constitute more than half of world’s population (54% combined in 2010; Christianity 31%, Islam 23%) and projected to grow, Christian-Muslim relations have been the focus of several interfaith initiatives in the last few years; and rightly so.
Factors causing and driving these conflicts vary, but two historical determinants cannot be ignored. First, is the residue of the past memory of the imperial rivalry culminating in the era of the Crusades that continues to shape contemporary extremist narratives weaved along with an a-historical and de-contextualised theological response towards the Other. Second, is the mess of postcolonial conditions shaped by the baggage of a colonial era that pits the ‘Christian West’ against the ‘Muslim ummah’ read into unresolved contemporary geopolitical and economic conditions of the Muslim world. Hence, mending Christian-Muslim relations in the contemporary context must not ignore a critical evaluation of history and how the past had shaped the present.
These past determinants that has seeped through the contemporary reality may have amplified, inadvertently, the extremist narrative that Islam and Christianity are bound for a clash, defined by a cosmic narrative that the two religions are eternally locked in rivalry till the end of time where one’s legitimacy and presence can only be substantiated by the denial and obliteration of the other. It was as though co-existence and embrace between the two religious communities was anathema and contrary to the very essence of what it means to hold the truth or to be a faithful believer. For Muslim extremists in particular, this antipathy towards Christianity may range from a refusal to greet Christians on festivities such as Christmas, to an avowal to launch armed jihad against them. On the other side, for Christian extremists, the antipathy towards Islam may range from discriminatory treatment of Muslims to support for the bombing and invasion of Muslim countries.
Inter-connected and complex history
The extremist narrative, however, has mistaken the true nature of the Christian-Muslim relationship, which has never been of a single track. It ranges from mutual cooperation to rivalry, diatribe to dialogue, and conciliation to confrontation. (Bennett, 2008; Goddard, 2000) This is true, even of the medieval period, where Fletcher (2003) remarked: “Wherever and whenever we direct our gaze we find a diversity in the type or the temperature of encounter.” While acknowledging the centuries old conflict and rivalry that has shaped perceptions and relations between two of the world’s biggest religions (Jamieson, 2016), one must also be cognisant of the much-ignored strand of authentic embrace between the two religions, particularly in the formation of a civilisation that forms the basis of the modern world. Richard Bulliet’s The Case for an Islamo-Christian Civilization (2004) made excellent overtures to this. Bulliet dismisses the idealised notion of a separate (and antithetical) “Western” and “Islamic” civilisations, and argues that there are more similarities and peaceful interactions between the Christian and Muslim world than we would care to admit. A case in point is the much studied la convivencia (‘the coexistence) of the Muslim Iberian Peninsula of the medieval period that Menocal (2002) describes eloquently in her book, Ornament of the World. A specially commissioned study compiled as Borders of Islam (2009) further strengthens the case that Huntington’s once popular idea of an inevitable ‘clash of civilisation’ is a myth that ignores the complexity of conflicts involving Muslim and non-Muslim societies that cannot be reduced to a simplistic dualism or fault-line between Islam and other religions.
It is important, therefore, to firstly, highlight these nuanced situations as a counter to the supremacist view of religion that denies the value (not just the fact) of religious diversity and is bent upon dominating or obliterating the Other. Secondly, there is a need to promote a different narrative: one that is not simply utilitarian in the face of our contemporary reality of religious pluralism, but derives its legitimacy from the rich and diverse religious tradition and informed by the complex nature of Christian-Muslim relations from the formative period of Islamic history. Below, I shall highlight three aspects deserving of attention in the narrative. It is a narrative that can form a basis for the reformulation of a contemporary Muslim ‘theology of religions’ that departs from the notion of an irreconcilable division and opposition between Christianity and Islam that extremists peddle towards fulfilling the self-professed inevitable confrontation between the communities of both faiths. However, I am cognisant that I am discussing this from the Muslim angle and will leave further elaborations on the Christian perspective to my Christian friends and theologians.
An alternate theology and reading of early relations
Historical amnesia, historians often caution, is a danger that makes every society vulnerable to ideological manipulations. This is certainly germane to today’s situation, with the rise of demagoguery and extremism via global technology and mass communication. In highlighting an alternate reading of Christian-Muslim relations from the earliest period of Islamic history, I hope that new and creative engagements with the tradition can occur that can lead to better prospects to mend the relationship amidst the increasingly divisive rhetoric of extremists from both sides. This, inevitably, will involve an exploration into three components: the sacred foundational text of Islam (i.e. the Qur’an), the early interactions between both communities prior to the age of dynasties, and the continuous strand linking the formative period to later evolution at the theological and practical level.
In looking at these three components, I would affirm that the general validity of the Christian faith was never doubted during the formative years, even though Islam did try to correct ‘errors’ that could be understood as minor and not significant enough to set them apart from the monotheistic path emphasised by Islam. In fact, the idea of Islam nullifying the Christian faith through supersession is one interpretation that cannot be confused with the default theology of all Muslims. In his erudite analysis of pluralism, Sachedina (2001) wrote: “There is no doubt that the Koran [sic.] is silent on the question of supersession of the previous Abrahamic revelations through the emergence of Muhammad. There is no statement in the Koran, direct or indirect, to suggest that the Koran saw itself as the abrogator of previous Scriptures… It is important to bear in mind that the Koran introduces the idea of abrogation in connection with specific legal injunctions revealed in particular verses but apparently repealed, that is, abrogated or superseded by other verses. Accordingly, applying abrogation to Islam’s attitude toward preceding Abrahamic traditions was, to say the least, debatable.”
Throughout Islamic history, there have been voices that were amenable to an inclusive theology of religions. Within this alternate theology, Christians and Muslims are linked through a divine thread that unites them beyond the literal and outward forms of religion. Sufism, the spiritual branch of Islam, offers the most promising resource to understand this aspect further. (Nasr, 1999) A case in point is the writing of the celebrated mystic-philosopher, Ibn ‘Arabi (d. 1240), whose interpretation of Q. 5:17 (“They have disbelieved/kafara who said: Truly God is the Messiah son of Mary…”) to mean a literal “covering up” (kufr) and not disbelief. For Ibn ‘Arabi, the Christians concealed God in the form of Jesus and not in “saying ‘He is God’ nor ‘the son of Mary’” (Fusūs al-Hikam, in Shah-Kazemi, 2006). Other Muslim scholars with an inclusive approach to Christianity includes Jalaluddin Rumi (d. 1273) and al-Kashani (d. 1329), both hailing from the mystical and esoteric tradition in Islam. The Syrian 18th century Mufti of Damascus, al-Nabulusi (d. 1731), represents another interesting alternate theology that departs from the dominant exclusivist strand by saying that Christians with faith in God in their hearts are indeed believers, even if they remain as non-Muslim in their legal status. (Khalil, 2012) This is similar to how Indonesian scholar, Nurcholish Madjid (2003) interprets the distinction between islām (submission to God) and Islam (a legal category of being a follower of Muhammad) – as the Qur’an 3:67 declares Abraham, who preceded Muhammad, as ‘one who submits’ (muslīm). This distinction allows for a more inclusive truth-claim while being expansive in defining the path to the divine beyond the human construction of religion; or, as the Qur’an puts it: “To each among you have we prescribed a law and an open way (shirʿatān wa minhāj). If Allah had so willed, He would have made you a single people…” (Q. 5:48)
Firstly, the close affinity that Muslims had with the Christians can be substantiated through the foundational text of the Qur’an. Q.5:82 declares that “nearest among them in love to the believers will you find those who say, ‘We are Christians’…” The context of the verse was not entirely clear nor can be substantiated, but what is certain is that it acknowledges “a certain spiritual affinity between the Christians and the Muslims.” (Nasr, 2015) This affinity was also grounded in notable extension found in the Prophetic tradition. In one report (ahadith) found in both Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim, the Prophet said: “I am the closest of the people to Jesus the son of Mary in this life and in the Hereafter.” When asked how is that, he further replied: “The prophets are brothers from one father with different mothers. They have one religion and there was no other prophet between us.”
Notably, Q.5:82 was not an isolated verse. In fact, twice in the Qur’an was the salvific possibility of the Christians mentioned in unequivocal terms – “wa lā khawfun ‘alaihim wa la hum yahzanūn / on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve” (Q.2:62; cf. 5:69). Fazlur Rahman, in his Major Themes of the Qur’an (1989), mentions that the Prophet was aware of the unity of the Abrahamic faiths, but gradually acknowledged the mutually exclusive “communities” only when in Medina. In fact, the Qur’an’s frequent witness to the authenticity of the People of the Book (Christians and Jews included) is remarkable that Cyril Glassé (2001) once remarked, “The fact that one Revelation [i.e. the Qur’an] should name others [i.e. the Ahl al-Kitāb/People of the Book] as authentic is an extraordinary event in the history of religions.”
Examples abound in the Qur’anic text. In Q.10:94 and 16:43, Prophet Muhammad was asked to enquire from the People of the Book with regards to the truth of God’s revelation to him in the face of the Meccan detractors, while Q.74:31 mentions that the Prophet sought consolation from the People of Book who were certain of the truth that God revealed to him. In fact, the recognition of the People of the Book as bearers of divine truth in the Prophetic age was confirmed by a late Medinan verse that attempts to remove two important social barriers – dietary and marriage restrictions: “The food of the People of the Book is lawful unto you and yours is lawful unto them. (Lawful unto you in marriage) are (not only) chaste women who are believers, but chaste women among the People of the Book, revealed before your time…” (Q.5:5). Mahmoud Ayoub (2007), a foremost scholar on Christian-Muslim relations observes that these verses “demonstrate clearly the unity of faith and purpose which, according to the Qur’an, should exist among the three communities of faith [i.e. the Jews, Christians and Muslims].”
In one interpretation of early Islam, Donner (2010) notes that the Prophet and his early followers were less enamoured by the exclusive distinctiveness of their faith – a marked difference during the age of Muslim dynasties that understandably, would have carved out an exclusive faith to consolidate its position of power amidst the presence of the Christian Roman-Byzantine and Zoroastrian Persian-Sassanid empires to the west and the east of Arabia, contemporaneously. Hence, the early “believers” (mu ͗minūn, as a confessional identification, instead of the later and more exclusive identification of muslimūn) sense themselves as “constituting a movement open to all who believed in God’s oneness and in righteous living”, which forms the ecumenical character of early Islam.
Secondly, the Qur’an’s acknowledgement of the Christians in largely positive terms (except in a few verses, e.g. Q.5:72-3, Q.9:30 and Q.5:116, which describe Christian beliefs in ways that even the majority of the Christians would not identify with and hence, can be seen as Christian ‘heterodoxies’ or possibly, ‘heresies’), is best understood in the significant presence of Christianity in the Arabic context during the Prophetic age, particularly in north-west, north-east of Arabia, as well as the east coast of the south. This presence has been amply discussed in Trimingham’s Christianity among the Arabs in Pre-Islamic Times (1979). “The fact remains,” wrote the El Hassan bin Talal (1998), “that the Christian Arabs are in no way aliens to Muslim Arab society: a society whose history and culture they have shared for over fourteen centuries to date, without interruption, and to whose material and moral civilization they have continually contributed, and eminently so, on their own initiative or by trustful request.”
Based on one of the earliest biographical sources on Prophet Muhammad, Sirāt Rasul Allah (‘The Life of the Prophet of God’) by Ibn Ishaq (d.767), there were at least five direct encounters between the Prophet/early Muslims and the Christians, and in all of these, they were largely non-hostile and affirming of the closeness in faith: (1) a monk in the desert by the name of Bahira who saw the mark of prophethood in Muhammad when the latter was 12 years old and followed his uncle, Abu Talib for trade to Syria; (2) a Christian scholar by the name of Waraqa ibn Naufal, who assured Khadijah, the Prophet’s wife, that Muhammad will be a prophet to the Arabs, when she sought his advice concerning the traumatic experience of Muhammad after receiving his first revelation, (3) the early converts’ migration to Abyssinia circa 615 CE to seek protection from Negus, a Christian ruler of the kingdom of Axum, following the Meccan persecution – and upon hearing the Muslim delegation’s recital of a verse on Jesus from a chapter on Mary from the Qur’an, was reported to have picked up a stick and said that the difference between the Muslim and Christian belief on Jesus is no greater than the length of the stick; (4) the Prophet’s hosting of a delegation of Christians from Najran for a discussion, which ended with peaceful disagreements but of significance was the invitation of the Prophet to the Christians, led by a bishop, to perform their prayers within the Prophet’s mosque compound; and (5) the Prophet, towards the end of his life, sending letters to the neighbouring Christian rulers such as Heraclius, the emperor of Byzantine and the Negus of Axum, to accept Islam – an encounter that reflected the expanding power of the early Muslim community more than an exclusive theological assertion.
Thirdly, the positive attitude of the early Muslims may have informed the largely tolerant nature of later Muslims with regards to the Christians. Reza Shah-Kazemi in his book, The Spirit of Tolerance in Islam (2012) demonstrates how “tolerance of the Other is in fact integral to the practice of Islam; it is not some optional extra, some philosophical or cultural indulgence, or still less, something that one needs to import from some other tradition.” Examples abound in various periods of Islamic history. So much so that even Voltaire who was extremely critical of religion, pointed to the “sociable and tolerant religion” of Islam, in contrast to rabid intolerance of the Christian West where no mosque was allowed, but “the Ottoman state was filled with churches”.
One interesting document that may be representative of the tolerant characteristic of early Islam that shapes later Muslim attitude is the “Covenant of the Holy Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World” (known in Arabic as al-‘Ahd wa al-shurut allati sharataha Muhammad rasul Allah li ahl al-millah al-nasraniyyah) that was extensively discussed – along with other similar covenants to the monks of Mount Sinai, Christians of Persia, Najran, Assyria and the Armenian Christians of Jerusalem – in John Andrew Morrow’s book, The Covenants of Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World (2013). In the covenant, the Prophet gave the promise “to guard and protect” the “all those who profess the Christian religion, in the Eastern lands and its West, near and far, be they Arabs or non-Arabs, known or unknown” which includes not “to remove a bishop from his bishopric, a monk from his monastic life, a Christian from his Christianity, an ascetic from his tower, or a pilgrim from his pilgrimage. Nor is it permitted to destroy any part of their churches or their businesses or to take parts of their buildings to construct mosques or the homes of the believing Muslims.” The document further outlined various other protections, including freedom of religion: “No one who practices the Christian religion will be forced to enter into Islam… They must be covered by the wing of mercy and all harm that could reach them, wherever they may find themselves and wherever they may be, must be repelled.” Remarkably, the covenant covers the specific protection of Christian women, where “the girls of the Christians must not be subject to suffer, by abuse, on the subject of marriages which they do not desire. Muslims should not take Christian girls in marriage against the will of their parents nor should they oppress their families in the event that they refused their offers of engagement and marriage. Such marriages should not take place without their desire and agreement and without their approval and consent” and “If a Muslim takes a Christian woman as a wife, he must respect her Christian beliefs. He will give her freedom to listen to her [clerical] superiors as she desires and to follow the path of her own religion.”
Although the authenticity of the covenant was disputed – a copy of which was dated to 1538 and widely circulated in the Ottoman Empire and Europe in the 17th century – it nonetheless corroborates with other similar covenants, and with Qur’anic ethos discussed earlier, and may be representative of the historic largely tolerant treatment of Christians during the Ottoman period and before. It was recorded that when the Muslims took Jerusalem in 638 CE, the second caliph, ‘Umar b. al-Kattab (d. 644) had a written message to the city’s inhabitants: “In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate. This is a written document from ‘Umar b. al-Khattab to the inhabitants of the Sacred House (bayt al-maqdīs). You are guaranteed (āminūn) your life, your goods, and your churches, which will be neither occupied nor destroyed, as long as you do not initiate anything [to endanger] the general security (hadathan ‘āmman).” (Sachedina, 2001) Throughout Muslim history, co-existence between Muslims and Christians was a cultural norm and mutual learning – testament to early Islam’s acceptance of the universality of the good, regardless of its religious origin – was not uncommon. For example, it was known that a luminary thinker, Abu Hamid al-Ghazali (d. 1111) had no qualms in using Christian and Jewish sources as nass (text, used in argumentation as dalil/proof) in his writings, such as his Kitāb al-‘Ilm (Book of Knowledge). In fact, well-known 10th/11th century philosophers such as al-Sijistani (d. 1001) and Abu Hayyan al-Tawhidi (d. 1023) were students of a leading Jacobite Christian, Yahya ibn ‘Adi (d. 974) who lived in Baghdad. In the Sufi tradition, it was reported that the ascetic, Ibrahim bin Adham (d. 782) turned to a Christian monk named Father Simeon, who was “my first teacher in ma ͗rifāh (mystical knowledge).”
Embracing the Other as ‘Us’
What can be observed from the brief discussion above is that early Muslims had significant contact and engagements with the Christians that were largely peaceful and respectful. This was driven by the very message of Islam that, as seen in various parts of the Qur’an, accepted the inherent diversity of religions as God’s Will. In the context of family tradition, i.e. the People of the Book, Christianity was seen as a valid religion that has elements of truth which was affirmed in the Qur’an. Much of the disagreement that the Qur’an has with regards to Christian theology are not significant enough that prohibits social integration at the most intimate level, such as the permissibility of inter-marriage and sharing of food. It was this belief that informed later cordial and friendly interactions and protection of the other. Unfortunately, as the Muslim community expanded and established an empire of its own, a need for a constituted separate and unique political identity emerged along with a more exclusivist theology that accentuate differences more than the earlier affinity and closeness. This was further compounded by a hostile period where both communities clashed during the Crusades and locked in imperial rivalry that impacted further the theology of one against the other. This carried on to the colonial period and Muslims emerging from the colonised situation still carry the burden and baggage of the period of ‘Christian West’ dominating and plundering Muslim lands and humiliating them by the racist notion of a ‘superior Judeo-Christian-Western civilisation’ and suppressing any memory of the contributions of Islam to the rise of Europe in the Middle Ages.
Knowing the burden of history requires us to confront the narrative that has and continues to shape the present perceptions. This involves a reworking of the theology of religions based on knowledge of the historicity and contingency of views located in a certain period in time, while offering a new reading derived from the same authoritative early sources but contextualised to the present. This will also require laying the foundations for conciliatory approaches as opposed to the confrontational. Diatribe that has characterised Christian-Muslim relations for the last few decades, must be replaced with greater dialogue and mutual learning. Humility to acknowledge what has gone wrong in history and our sense of inadequacy in grasping the entire majestic truth of the divine, are prerequisites.
At the popular level, theological disputes must be replaced with narrative-building. This can start with common stories and wisdoms shared across the two communities. Just as early Islam benefited and grew out of positive inter-cultural contact and interactions, we must allow for new encounters that can lead to creative reworking of theology and how we make sense of our own present religious conditions, inter-religiously. This need not be an amalgamation of the two religions, which is neither possible nor desirable. But it can be a mutual partaking of wisdom and shared commitment in the pursuit of the divine and of truth that transcends the boundaries of each religious community. Differences may exist, but just like in the earliest period of Islam, they do not define the relationship or rebuke the divine basis and legitimacy of the other. It is how Mona Siddiqui (2013) eloquently remarked: “However differently Christians and Muslims define God and their relationship to God, God remains the deepest presence in our lives… whenever and wherever I turn to God, I share this humbling but joyful relationship with all who turn to him in faith.” It is to God that we turn to ultimately, not the worship of our own religion, much less, the Ego Self.
Ayoub, Mahmoud. 2007. A Muslim View of Christianity: Essays on Dialogue by Mahmoud Ayoub. Edited by Irfan Omar. Maryknoll: Orbis Books.
Bennett, Clinton. 2008. Understanding Christian-Muslim Relations: Past and Present. London: Continuum.
Bulliet, Richard W. 2004. The Case for Islamo-Christian Civilization. Columbia University Press.
Donner, Fred M. 2010. Muhammad and the Believers: At the Origins of Islam. Cambridge, Mass: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
Fletcher, Richard. 2003. The Cross and the Crescent: The Dramatic Story of the Earliest Encounters between Christians and Muslims. London: Penguin Books.
Glassé, Cyril. “Ahl al-Kitāb” in The Concise Encyclopaedia of Islam, Revised Edition. London: Stacey International.
Goddard, Hugh. 2000. A History of Christian-Muslim Relations. Chicago: New Amsterdam Books.
Guillaume, A., tr. 1967. The Life of Muhammad: A Translation of Isḥāq’s Sīrat Rasūl Allāh. New York: Oxford University Press.
Hansen, Stig Jarle, Mesoy, A. and Kardas, T. 2009. The Borders of Islam: Exploring Samuel Huntington’s Faultlines from Al-Andalus to the Virtual Ummah. New York: Columbia University Press.
Jamieson, Alan G. 2016. Faith and Sword: A Short History of Christian-Muslim Conflict, Second Expanded Edition. London: Reaktion Books.
“Not Muslim enough for the masjids… too Muslim for Western society”
John Andrew Morrow
Sha’ban 15, 1439 2018-05-01
“Not Muslim enough for the masjids… too Muslim for Western society”
We continue our conversation with Dr. John Andrew Morrow, an author and a scholar, about Muslims residing in the West. He is best known for his Covenants’ Initiative that aims to create better understanding between Muslims and Christians in the world today.
CI: Do you think Muslims in North America will be assimilated into the broader society within the next 10–20 years?
By and large, they already are. Rather than reject the negative aspects of their cultures of origin, and embrace the positive aspects of Western culture, many transnational Muslims tend to do the exact opposite. In some ways, they are only western in their passports. In other ways, they are more Westernized than Westerners. I remember the case of the gorgeous Yasmeen Ghauri in the 1990s. If the daughter of a Montreal-based imam of Indian origin can become a supermodel who poses nude, how does that bode for the rest of the Muslim community? For many young Muslims in the West, their role models are Zayn Malik along with Gigi and Bella Hadid who, incidentally, were raised as practising Muslims. They are models of successfully integrated Muslims of immigrant origin. For others, their role models are people like Linda Sarsour, a hijab-wearing leftist, and Masuma Khan, a Talibanesque leftist, both of whom support sexual immorality.
“Opposition 2 gay marriage today is same as opposition 2 interracial marriage 50 yrs ago” Sarsour tweeted. No, Linda, it is not. Interracial marriages are permitted according to the law of Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad (a); however, same-sex marriages are not. Or, how about these classic quotes from the Canadian-hating Afghan, “Be proud of this country? For what, over 400 years of genocide… I stand by Indigenous students.” No, you don’t, Masuma. I am an indigenous person and you certainly do not speak for my people or for Muslims. Masuma Khan, who is incapable of independent thinking, is famous for regurgitating the radical rhetoric that she has been taught by leftist college professors, including the nonsensical notion that only whites can be racist and that Caucasians cannot be victims of racism since racism supposedly does not work in reverse. Such notions are both illogical and un-Islamic. Islam denounces all racial discrimination irrespective of who is directing it and who is receiving it. Young Muslims in the West are being drawn to extremes, Salafi/Wahhabi/Takfiri terrorism on the one hand, and radical liberalism, leftism, and secularism on the other whether it is dressed in a burqa like Masuma Khan, a modern hijab like Linda Sarsour, or a mini-skirt and micro-bikini like Gigi and Bella Hadid.
These extreme alternatives are not the product of chance or random development. They are the product of programming. They are the fruit of generations of serious study, including trial and error, conducted at huge cost by powerful think tanks, policy makers, and social engineers. To a large extent, the work in question is “invisible.” Apart from attentive observers, who can put together the pieces of the puzzle, most of the research conducted, as well as its ultimate goals, goes unnoticed by 99.9% of the population since it takes place primarily in private institutions or is spread so thinly throughout public institutions that its interconnectedness is not perceived. Just like the scientists who produced the atomic bomb in New Mexico were unaware of the goal of their research, since they were separated into isolated groups that were assigned to work on very specific tasks, many of the scholars and scientists involved in social-engineering research are unaware of the implications and outcome of their work. Although they believe they are independent actors, they are but puppets on a string, without agency and impetus of their own: ignorant of the script that was written for them and the global design of the directors. Take the “Arab Spring” and the “Color Revolutions,” for example. They were the complete and total creation of intelligence agencies that conveniently exploited the shortcomings, weaknesses, and failings of distinct Arab and Muslim societies. According to Oscar LHpez Rivera, the Puerto Rican sovereigntist, David Rockefeller, and others, said more than 40 years ago that there was too much democracy and that they had to do away with it. That was the origin of the Trilateral Commission and the New World Order.
Although only small numbers of Muslims move toward takfiri terrorism, much larger numbers are dragged into the sludge and slime of secular Western society. According to research conducted by the Family and Youth Institute, 57% of male Muslim college students have engaged in pre-marital sex (48% for females); 45% of male Muslim college students have consumed alcohol (48% for females); and 28% of male Muslim college students have used illicit drugs (19% for females). If we look at individuals between the ages of 17–35, we find that 67% of Canadian and US Muslims have engaged in pre-marital sex. The situation in the Muslim world is not much better. In some cases, it is even more dismal. Some Muslims get livid when I cite these statistics. Some say straight out, “I don’t believe you.” They can stick their heads in the sand for only so long before they will suffocate. To them I say, “Take your head out of the hole, take a deep breath, face reality, and work with the community on both prevention and treatment. Wake up.” We, as Muslims, are losing our children to the secular world order. We, conscious and educated Muslims from the West, can help. Marginalizing us will cost you dearly. Your children are succumbing to the sickness of this godless society. We have the medicine. If 76% of Muslims received sex education from the public school, only 4% received it from the masjid. Muslims are failing their children. They are not Muslim enough for the masjids, yet they are too Muslim for Western society. They are torn. We need to create safe spaces for Muslims in the West: places for those who have lived here for centuries and for those whose families immigrated in more recent times. As Imam ‘Ali said, “Do not expect your children to be like you for they were born for a different age.”
Intelligence is the ability to adapt. Failing to adapt results in extinction. We, western Muslims, can help immigrant Muslims, and their progeny, to integrate, survive, and prosper in the West without compromising primordial principles. Spiritually and morally healthy integration is possible but not for those who live in la-la-land.
CI: How could Muslims balance healthy integration with commitment to normative traditional Islam in North America?
We are supposed to be a justly-balanced Ummah (2:143). That applies to all aspects of life. We need to avoid all extremes. That includes religious extremism; however, that also includes irreligious extremism. We must learn to pick our battles and focus on pillars of faith and practice. We need to be flexible and avoid rigidity; however, we must not bend ourselves to the breaking point. We must remember that Islam represents a spectrum. While we should try to stick to safety of the center as much as reasonably possible, we must also be able to appreciate, and at times apply, aspects from both sides and even peripheral perspectives. When faced with an issue, we should examine the various rulings throughout the ages and adopt the one that is most appropriate to this period. We must consult with scholars who are traditional exponents of Islam but who are equally versed in the challenges of modernity. We have plenty of scholars of the text; however, we have very few who comprehend the context. Minority jurisprudence, which has historically been strong in Malikism, remains relevant.
Rather than rely on rulings derived from regions that were 100% Muslim, and where there was little or no racial, cultural, or linguistic diversity, western Muslims should emulate the example of Islam as it was practiced in places where pluralism flourished: al-Andalus, Sicily, the Balkans, the Ottoman Sultanate, China, and Southeast Asia. We should learn from the struggles and successes of the past, particularly the Muslims in the United States who were first organized here in the early-1900s. I consider it mandatory for all Muslim leaders in North America to familiarize themselves with the history of Caucasian and African-American Muslims in the United States. Patrick D. Bowen’s two-volume History of Conversion to Islam in the United States should be required reading. Let us learn from our failures and triumphs. Let us plan strategically to ensure our future, the future of our children, and the best possible future for the societies in which we choose to live and contribute. Is it possible for Muslims to balance healthy integration with commitment to normative traditional Islam in North America? Yes, indeed. However, it will require serious soul-searching on the part of transnational Muslims along with serious sacrifice. They need to cast off their cultural chrysalis and emerge as beautiful, western, Muslim butterflies.