In August of 2019 I gave a talk on the Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, with the Peoples of the Book at a Christian/Muslim Dialogue hosted by a Presbyterian Church, somewhere in the United States. These Covenants or treaties, which the Prophet tells us were composed by him under the direct inspiration of Allah, were concluded with various Christian communities of Muhammad’s time; they command all Muslims, under pain of earning the curse of Allah and his Prophet, not to kill or rob or oppress or damage the buildings of peaceful Christians, but rather to actively defend them until the end of the world. What I personally know about them is largely based on the ground-breaking book The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World (2013) by Dr. John Andrew Morrow—Ilyas ‘Abd al-‘Alim Islam—founder and Chairman of the Board of the Covenants of the Prophet Foundation.
When the question-and-answer period began, a young Muslim in the front row raised his hand: “I’m in touch with some brothers who support ISIS,” he said. “They maintain that the Covenants were abrogated as soon as the Prophet died; they consider them to be in the same category as the special personal duties and dispensations laid upon Muhammad alone, like the requirement that he pray a sixth daily prayer and his permission to have more than four wives, conditions that never applied to the Muslim ummah as a whole.”
But of course the Covenants did not apply to the Prophet alone; most of them were made with Christian communities, a few with Jewish or Zoroastrian communities, and the texts themselves declare that they are binding on all Muslims until the end of time. One of the great values of these Covenants is that, along with other important documents like the Constitution of Medina, they uniquely illuminate the prophetic Sunnah by recording the Prophet’s actual practice with regard to Christians and other Peoples of the Book. The premier Sunni hadith collection, the Sahih Bukhari, based entirely on hearsay, was codified two centuries after the Prophet’s death, whereas his Covenants—if they can be proved to be genuine by historical research and textual analysis, which we at the Covenants of the Prophet Foundation believe has been substantially accomplished—provide a “paper trail” leading directly back to documents composed by the Prophet himself in his own time, and witnessed and signed by his companions. Thus a case could be made that the Covenants more directly illuminate the prophetic Sunnah, at least within the specific areas they deal with, than even the “well-attested” hadith—many of which directly contradict other well-attested hadith, not to mention the Holy Qur’an itself—and thus that they have the potential to clear up many of the ambiguities and contradictions that are apparent both within the hadith corpus and in the field of Quranic tafsir, at least in terms of those traditions and ayat that bear directly upon the proper relations between Muslims and other Peoples of the Book.
Dr. Morrow’s exhaustive research relating to the Covenants of the Prophet was well-received by many major Islamic scholars, while the opposition to it—at least on the level of actual scholarship—was more muted, and frankly feeble, than we had anticipated and feared. Yet it was clear than many Muslims were not pleased. Would they be willing and able to mount a vigorous refutation of Dr. Morrow’s findings, we asked ourselves? Such a convincing refutation does not seem to have materialized as of yet—and if the objections transmitted by the young Muslim questioner at my lecture represent the best they can do, it certainly seems that we have little to fear from them, at least on the intellectual level.
Because: if the Covenants were abrogated as soon as the Prophet died, then any jurist or body of jurists can declare as abrogated any part of the Sunnah that they feel stands in the way of some course of action they or their patrons wish to pursue in the socio-political field, or the cultural field, or the field of personal morality, now that the Prophet Muhammad is no longer around to stop them. Any oppression, any tyranny, any attack against the decency and dignity of the Muslim ummah, any special chosen sin or secret or public vice can immediately—or at least after a short period of juridical manipulation—be justified and legitimized. Does the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, appear to cramp the style of a particular powerful interest or influential individual? Simply declare the pertinent elements of the Sunnah abrogated. Such standards applied to the Prophet certainly, but that particular application of the rule in question died when the Prophet died. Far be it from us, mere ordinary Muslims, to aspire to the lofty moral station of prophethood! We are far too humble for that, far too lowly and abject to aspire to decency, or morality, or justice, or mercy, or compassion! That sort of thing may be for prophets, but it is certainly not for us! In our case, the operative principle is “when the cat’s away, the mice will play.”
So it would appear that some of those who object to the Prophetic Covenants have responded to our challenge simply by invalidating in potentia the entire Sunnah, even using certain selected rulings of this very Sunnah, taken vastly out of context, to accomplish this feat! The Prophet is known never to have beaten his wives—but this is not for us. He prohibited making war on civilians or abusing prisoners of war—but such exalted standards died with him. In his Covenants he explicitly forbade all Muslims to oppress or attack any Peoples of the Book who had not taken up arms against Islam or aided Islam’s enemies, and this until the end of time—but that was then and this is now. So if a photograph of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is discovered on the wall of sex-trafficker Jeffrey Epstein’s “house of horrors” in New York City, suggesting but not proving that Salman had availed himself of the “amenities” that it is well known Epstein had to offer (but who knows, maybe Jeffrey was simply an admirer of Salman from afar)—then, no problema! It can all be fixed. The Sunnah is obedient to humanity, and to humanity according to the lowest definition of that word, as the one who has made his desire his god; therefore humanity need not be obedient to the Sunnah. The Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, his unparallel example of justice, and mercy, and chivalry, demonstrating for all to see, from the Seventh Century till the end of time, that he was indeed sent “as a mercy to all the worlds”—that example died with him, which means that the pale ghost of the Sunnah can now be selectively abrogated—audaciously, flippantly, at any time we choose—for purposes of convenience, for purposes of greed and rapacity, for purposes of fun! And if the Sunnah can be abrogated, then why not the Qur’an—especially since this process is already well begun?
The Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessing be upon him, was Allah’s chosen vessel, open and pure like a clean white page before the Divine Pen, chosen out of all humanity to receive His definitive revelation, the Holy Qur’an—and Allah is the best of Choosers! As his favorite wife A’isha said, when asked what the Prophet was like: “He was just like the Qur’an”. It would not be going too far to say, then, that he was the Qur’an in human form; that his words and his actions and the example of his character are necessarily the first and best foundation for all tafsir; that the Prophet himself was nothing less than the living exegesis of the Holy Book. So if his Sunnah can be thrown out like a bundle of old newspapers slung into the landfill, why not the Qur’an itself? There are plenty of verses in the Holy Book that, as they stand, seem to prevent certain so-called Muslims from doing everything they seem to want to do, that sternly warn them against massacring helpless and unarmed men, women and children, torturing them, disemboweling them, burning them alive even as they plead for mercy—the kind of heinous actions on the part of ISIS and their friends that have slandered the name of the Prophet Muhammad in the most horrendous way possible, namely by announcing him to the four corners of the earth as a criminal psychopath! And if some of the more exalted and exquisite of the so-called Muslims decide that they’d rather take their ease on some Caribbean island, there stands the Holy Qur’an to throw a wet blanket on that one too! Clearly certain adjustments must be made to bring the Book into line with the realities of human life in the 21st Century—not to mention plenty of centuries before that.
Those Muslims, of course, who take the Qur’an as the direct Word of Allah, transmitted to the Prophet Muhammad through the Angel Jibrail, will have none of this. Many of them have been trying their best to sleep through the mounting horrors of our time, some of which have been perpetrated in their name, but it is as clear as shaved lightning that they are now beginning to wake up. And one of the things some of them are waking up to is the fact that ISIS did not come into being as a band of faithful mujahidin heroically defending Islam, but as a fifth column armed and funded partly by the West, tasked not only with bringing down Bashar al-Assad in Syria, containing Iran and challenging Russia, but also with liquidating both traditional Islam and traditional Christianity in the Near East, as part of a trans-national meta-agenda to weaken, control or destroy all the traditional religions, which are seen as the major socio-cultural impediments to globalization [see SOURCES, below].
Suffice it to say, then, that the scholarship of certain ISIS sympathizers leaves much to be desired. But beyond simple ignorance of the religion of Islam, the belief that no degree of evil or criminality is either evil or criminal if the crimes are committed in the name of Allah is completely irrational. If you robbed a bank, were apprehended, and told the police—convincingly—that you had perpetrated this offense because a Friend of yours had hired you to do so, would you expect this Friend to be pleased? To reward you? Certainly not. On the contrary, you would expect Him to be extremely angry. It’s exactly the same with Allah. Whoever commits crimes in His name, blackening His reputation throughout the world, will experience the next world as unparalleled Wrath. No matter what the ignorant dupes of ISIS might have been told, they will not be admitted to the Garden so they can torture and rape the houris to their heart’s content. Such people, during their lives, have formed their souls to perfectly fit the Fire, and so the Fire will be their home. What could be more obvious?
It may be, however, that for the most part we are not dealing with the results of a false theology when it comes to ISIS, but with a condition of crypto-atheism, if not conscious Satanism. Certainly the international mercenary elites who continue to play a leadership role in that organization do not worry over-much about the fine points of doctrine, particularly since many of them are undoubtedly “stage Muslims,” merely playing the role of mujahidin for present purposes but entirely willing to change their costumes and their ideology for future assignments. But to the degree that ISIS and other Takfiri groups do embrace misguided idealists or mis-educated fanatics, there is at least a chance that some of them may take into account our arguments relating to the Prophet’s commands as recorded in his Covenants.
There are also indications, however, that the sponsors of ISIS, al-Qaeda and other Takfiri groups may be considering the tactic of seeming to embrace the Covenants so as to present an innocent face to the world while continuing their nefarious and criminal activities under cover of comparative darkness, playing the wolf in sheep’s clothing to both the Christians and secular West. The correct response here, we believe, is to encourage them to accept and extoll these documents, and then watch them like a hawk, and do whatever we can to hold them to the spirit and the letter of the Covenants of the Prophet they claim to follow. Hypocrisy may seem all-powerful from the standpoint of this world, but it has an expiration date: for this world, the Hour of Judgment; for the individual, the day when the soul rises to the throat, the breath leaves the body, and repentance is no longer accepted.
For evidence of U.S. and international support for ISIS, see these three articles:
1) “Now the truth emerges: how the US fuelled the rise of ISIS in Syria and Iraq,” by Seumas Milne,
2) “Welcome Home ISIS! The Obama Administration’s Plan to Reintegrate Foreign Terrorist Fighters” by Dr. John Andrew Morrow:
3) Defense Intelligence Agency document, courtesy of Judicial Watch:
Charles Upton, Executive Director
The Covenants of the Prophet Foundation
August 26, 2019