The Ashtiname or Covenant of the Prophet Muhammad and Christian-Muslim Dialogue

By Dr. John Andrew Morrow

Delivered on March 17, 2022 at the Graduate Theological Union as part of Dr. Marianne Farina’s class on Christian-Muslim Dialogue, HRST 2083

Greetings of peace. Special thanks to my esteemed colleague, Dr. Marianne Farina, for inviting me to participate in this class and present some of my findings on the Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians. I could carpet bomb you with facts and references and make your heads spin; but how much of it would you retain and remember? Consequently, I have decided to keep things as simple as possible so that the information will linger, and you will carry it with you.

This is a copy of the Covenant of the Prophet Muhammad with the Monks of Mount Sinai. It has many other names. It is referred to as the Patent of Muhammad, the Charter of Muhammad, and numerous other names. This is the famous Ashtiname, a Turkish and Persian term, which means Peace-Letter or Letter of Peace.

Some people, who think they know everything, but in reality, know nothing, use this copy of the Covenant of the Prophet to try to prove that it is a forgery. They claim that it depicts a minaret, while the earliest extant minaret dates to around 700 CE. They allege that it depicts the Ka’bah in Mecca which mistakenly features a minaret. They contend that these are not palm-prints but drawing of palms. My scholarly and academic response to these ignoramus Islamophobes and mentally ossified Muslims is as follows: Duh!

Seriously now. If you are going to talk about something and make grandiose, absolutist claims, you should know something about it. Otherwise you make a complete and total embarrassment of yourself. And I am not talking about people with no education, with GEDs, or undergraduate degrees. I am not referring to armchair academics. I am referring to people with PhDs. These scholars, some of whom profess to be Christians, and others who profess to be Muslims, are supposed to be Doctors of Philosophy. In reality, they are Doctors of Stupidity. Let me show you why. As I said, this is a copy of the Covenant of the Prophet Muhammad with the Monks of Mount Sinai. A copy is not an original or an autograph as we say. It is a copy. This one was made in 1638. This is the most widely disseminated copy of the Covenant of the Prophet because it is the one on display in the lobby of the Monastery of St. Catherine at Mount Sinai in Egypt which is visited by as many as two thousand tourists and pilgrims every day.

This image is iconic. Its popularity is the product of its artistic and aesthetic beauty. It is simply saturated in symbolism.  I could write an entire study on it. In fact, others already have. I refer to Richard Murray’s “Friendship and Mystical Connections between the Prophet Muhammad and the Christians Monks of Mount Sinai: The Ashtiname.” For those of you who are unfamiliar with Richard Murry, he served as a Camaldolese monk for six years, and studied in Rome at the Pontifical Institute of Sant’ Anselmo.

As for the historically inaccurate minaret on the Ka’bah. Oh, good grief, I feel like I am teaching the ABCs or 123s to a child. I am serious. This is the type of humiliation that would push a Samurai or a Ninja to perform seppuku or hara-kiri, ritual suicide by disembowelment. It is sad, they should just go for sushi and have some sake to take the edge off. But here I go, and I take no responsibility if Christian Islamophobes or anti-Muslim Muslims die of embarrassment. That building on the lower right hand corner is not the Ka’bah.

The Kab’ah does not have a minaret. The Ka’bah does not have a window.

Anyone who knows anything, or has one iota of understanding when it comes to this subject, clearly knows that it is the Jami‘ Mosque which is at the heart of the monastery of St. Catherine.

A mosque in a Monastery? Yes, absolutely. There is a mosque, a place of prayer, for Muslims in the Monastery of St. Catherine. And yes, it does have a minaret and a window. Compare the artistic description to the picture. Now, the mosque has been restored. However, the artist even conveys the stonework.

Now, much has been written about the history of that mosque. It has been reported, since ancient times, that it was build on the place that Muhammad had prayed when he visited the monastery on a pilgrimage. Some sources suggest that it was built during Fatimid times. Others suggest that it was a chapel that was converted into a mosque. All of that is very interesting; however, the point here is that the building depicted on this 1638 copy of the Covenant of the Prophet Muhammad with the Monks of Mount Sinai is the Jam’i mosque at the heart of St. Catherine’s Monastery. You see, the minaret is to the right and the window is to the left. And here is the inside of that mosque. Its minbar — not minibar — please don’t confuse the two — dates back to Fatimid times. That pulpit is from the 10th century.

A church tower next to the minaret of a mosque. Christianity and Islam, side by side and in spiritual solidarity. Bells ringing to call Christians to prayer.

The recitation of the ‘adhan calling Muslim worshippers to prayer. Shared sacred spaces. Made possible by what? The Covenant of the Prophet Muhammad. So let us continue…

And since when are there stairs leading up to a building in Mecca? Actually, that is the Stairway of Repentance which is a short walk behind the Jami’ Mosque and the Monastery of St. Catherine. It has only been part of the pilgrimage to Mount Sinai since it was built in the sixth century.

However, there is more than meets the eye: there are twelve steps on this symbolic stairway. In reality, there are 3,750 steps, making it a grueling climb. There is only one number mentioned in the Covenant of the Prophet and that is the number twelve. The mystical ladder in the Psalms contains twelve steps. This imagery invokes The Ladder of Divine Ascent written by St. John Climacus in the year 600.

There are many parallels between this important ascetical treatise and the Qur’an. Most importantly, John Climacus, who died in 649, is the abbot that Muhammad is said to have know and to whom he granted a covenant of protection. The parallels do not end there. The lestovka, the Eastern Orthodox prayer rope, the Orthodox version of the rosary or the tasbih of the Sufis, literally means “ladder,” each knot of which is a step, one segment of which consists of twelve steps. The form of the Sufi dhikrullah and the Eastern Orthodox Hesychast mnimi theou are almost identical; both mean “remembrance of God.”

Remember, neither the Qur’an nor the Prophet Muhammad claimed to be bringing something new. Rather, they insisted that they were reviving a perennial spiritual tradition that was as old as time. So, people with a profound understanding of God and faith do not speak of bid’ah or innovation. They speak of Tradition. They see the Truth for what it is wherever it may be found: beyond dogma and doctrine. For them, all esoteric and exoteric knowledge traces back to a single metaphysical origin. Call it seeing the big picture: uniting and not dividing. And that is exactly what the Ashtiname does.

So what on earth is that building on the top right hand corner of the Covenant of the Prophet with the Monks of Mount Sinai?

It is the Chapel of the Holy Trinity, built on the spot where Moses received the Law from God.

It is built on top of the cave where he prayed for forty days and forty nights. There is another cave where he was hidden by God and beheld His Glory.

Immediately behind the Chapel of the Holy Trinity is Masjid Fatimah, the Mosque of Fatimah, which was built, or better yet rebuilt, by the Fatimids, over the cave in which Muhammad used to meditate when he used to visit the monastery.

Here is another photograph of the Mosque of Fatimah.

They seem to have added a dome in recent years.

And here is the inside of the Masjid.

And finally, here are the stairs leading down to the Cave of Muhammad, sacred because he is said to have prayed, fasted, and meditated there, emulating the example of the Prophet Moses.  

We have a superimposition of traditions. This spot was sacred to Jews, sacred to Christians, and sacred to Muslims. Now I am not going to get into the historicity of any of this. Naysayers assert that this is not true because it is not found in Islamic sources. You mean, it’s not true, because something that happened before the rise of Islam was supposedly not recorded in Islamic sources that were compiled 150, 300, and 1000 years after his passing. Give me a break.

There is more than one way to determine textual and historical authenticity. But what about spiritual and ethical authenticity? This is something that some scientist-scholars simply do not consider. It is something transcendental. That mountain has been sacred since time immemorial, and it has been a destination of pilgrimage and devotion for Christians and Muslims for over 1400 years.

As for the hands, they are not actually palm-prints. They are symbolic. They represent the fact that the original Covenant of the Prophet was signed with a print of his hand. This may seem strange. Actually, it forms part of a long custom found in many cultures. In the case of Islamic civilization, it set a trend. Many Muslim Caliphs and Sultans, eager to imitate the practice of the Prophet, issued decrees that featured their palm-prints. In some cases, the palm-print was the central feature. If they were imitating the Ashtiname, the Covenant of the Prophet Muhammad, deliberately and consciously, then they surely recognized its historicity and authenticity.

The black palm print represents the Prophet Muhammad, not because he was black as some racialized racist scholars may contend, people who are frail and fragile in their identity, but because black, along with green, were the heraldic colors of the Prophet, his family, his progeny, and his community. Gold, of course, was the color of royalty. The golden palm-print was that of Sultan Selim the First who purchased the Covenant of the Prophet Muhammad with the Monks of Mount Sinai to place in the Chamber of Relics in the Ottoman chancellery. He then issued them certified copies of the original Arabic and certified copies of its translation in Turkish. A decree regarding this matter was issued by Sultan Selim which exists today. A copy of the original was entered into he Ottoman Registry. It is found in Feridun’s Bey’s Münșeâtu’s-Selâtin. And the original was stored in the Ottoman archives.

And here is another hilarious point: this 1638 copy of the Ashtiname is not even in Arabic! It is in Turkish. This was not even noticed by Arabic speaking Islamophobes and Arabic speaking Muslim academics who oppose the Covenants of the Prophet. It is Ottoman Turkish written in Arabic script. Am I crazy, or what? “Or,” as Kosmo Kramer once said, “am I so sane that you just blew your mind?”

“Well if it is from the 17th century and it is in Turkish then that proves that it is fake.” Here we go again. But we do have Arabic copies from the 17th century, the 16th century, the 15th century, the 14th century, the 13th century, the 12th century, the 11th century, the 10th century, and the 9th century. See, I can count; not like those scholars who claim that the Ashtiname is a 16th or 17th century forgery. Actually, the oldest, complete, full length copy of a Covenant of the Prophet Muhammad is found in the Chronicle of Seert, which dates from the 9th century. It was copied from the original which was found in the Bayt al-Hikmah in Baghdad by Habib the Monk in 878/879.

“Oh, but we do not trust Christians.” Well, then, you cannot trust any classical Islamic source. Historically, most of the scribes and translators in the early Islamic world were Christians, particularly Nestorian monks. So, be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater, even a “blasphemous Christian baby.”

In Islam and the People of the Book, I tracked down as many references to the Ashtiname as I could in all the languages that I could. It is now that scholarly rigor requires my presentation to bore you to tears. Bear with me. I am not without empathy. I share your pain. Feel free to scroll rapidly through the list before you fall asleep.

The Prophet Muhammad (d. 632 CE): authentic

The Companions of the Prophet (7th century CE): authentic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fatimid Caliph al-Mu’izz (953-974 CE): authentic

Fatimid Caliph al-‘Aziz (975-996 CE): authentic

Fatimid Caliph al-Hakim (996-1021 CE): authentic

Fatimid Caliph al-Ẓahir (1024 CE): authentic

Fatimid Vizier al-Afḍal ibn Badr al-Jamali (1094-1121 CE): authentic

al-Hafiẓ (1134 CE): authentic

Decree of Shirkuh (1169 CE): authentic

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

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

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

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

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

Ottoman Decrees (1519 to 1904): authentic

Jean Thenaud (1512 CE): authentic

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

Tsernotabey (1517 CE)

Firman of Selim I (1517 CE): authentic

Copies of Achtiname (1517-1858 CE): authentic

Greffin Affagart (1533 CE): authentic

Feridun Bey (d. 1583 CE): authentic

Franciscus Quaresmius (1639): authentic

Balthsar de Monconys (1646-1647): authentic

Nektarios of Sinai (1660): authentic

Grand Vizier Merzifonlu Kara Mustapha Pasha (1663-1666): apocryphal; then authentic

Joannes Caramuel de Lobkowitz (1672): authentic

Henry Stubbe (1632-1676 CE): authentic

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

Eusèbe Renaudot (1713): authentic

John Gagnier (1732): aprocryphal

Bernard Picard (1736): authentic

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

Demetrius Cantemir (1734 and 1743): apocryphal according to one Vizier

Richard Pococke (1743): authentic

Thomas Salmon (1744): authentic

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

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

Dom Jean Mabillon (1767) : disputed

Jean Michel de Venture de Paradis (1798) : authentic

Napoléon Bonaparte (1798) : authentic

Jean-Joseph Marcel (1798) : authentic

Commission des Sciences et des Arts (1798) : authentic

Charles Thomson (1798): authentic

Edward Wells (1809): authentic

J.N. Fazakerley (1811): authentic

John Lewis Burckhardt (1816): apocryphal

Abraham Salamé (1819): authentic

Félix Mengin (1823): authentic

Thomas Clarke (1823): authentic

John Carne (1826): authentic

Abbé Grand and Adrien Egron (1827): authentic

John Gibson Lockhart (1835): authentic

National Geographic Society (1835): authentic

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

Ministers of Various Evangelical Denominations (1839): authentic

C.B. Houry (1840): authentic

Maria Giuseppe de Géramb (1840): authentic

Léon de Laborde (1841): apocryphal

Pietro della Valle (1843): authentic

A. Oumanetz (1843) : authentic

Louis de Tesson (1844) : authentic

Père Joguet (1844) : authentic

von Tischendorf (1847) : apocryphal

Léon Gingras (1847): authentic

Austen Henry Layard (1850): authentic

Odoardo Cusiere (1852): apocryphal

Amable Regnault (1855): authentic in content

Henry Day (1857): authentic

J.G. Pitzipios-Bey (1858): authentic

Joseph Wolff (1861): authentic

Carl Ritter (1865): apocryphal

Antonio Figari Bey (1865): authentic

John Davenport (1869): authentic

Wilfrid Scawen Blunt (1882): apocryphal

Samuel Sullivan Cox (1887): authentic

R. Accademia dei Lini (1888): authentic

Philippe Gelât (1888/1889): authentic

Nawfal Effendi Nawfal (late 19th century CE): authentic

Syed Ameer ‘Ali (1891): authentic

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

Dean Arthur Stanley (1894): authentic

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

Bessarione (1898): authentic

Échos d’Orient (1898): authentic

Anton F. Haddad (1902): authentic

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

Sultan ‘Abd al-Hamid II (1904): authentic

Sésostris Sidarous (1907): authentic

Carl Ritter (1865): apocryphal

Antonio Figari Bey (1865): authentic

John Davenport (1869): authentic

Wilfrid Scawen Blunt (1882): apocryphal

Samuel Sullivan Cox (1887): authentic

R. Accademia dei Lini (1888): authentic

Philippe Gelât (1888/1889): authentic

Nawfal Effendi Nawfal (late 19th century CE): authentic

Syed Ameer ‘Ali (1891): authentic

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

Dean Arthur Stanley (1894): authentic

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

Bessarione (1898): authentic

Échos d’Orient (1898): authentic

Anton F. Haddad (1902): authentic

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

Sultan ‘Abd al-Hamid II (1904): authentic

Sésostris Sidarous (1907): authentic

Joan Meredyth Chichele Plowden (1940): not impossible

Joaquim Pedro Oliveira Martins (1946): authentic

‘Aziz Suryal Atiya (1955): authentic

Albert Champdor (1963): authentic

Alfred Nawrath (1963): authentic

Heinz Skrobucha (1966): apocryphal

Hasan al-Shirazi (1967): presumably authentic

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

Oleg V. Volkoff (1972): neutral

Robin Waterfield (1973): authentic

Criton George Tornaritis (1980): authentic

A.F.L. Beeston (1983): apocryphal

Le Figaro (1986): authentic

Akram Zahoor and Z. Haq (1990): authentic

Nikolaos Tomadakis (1990): authentic

Konstantinos A. Manafis (1990): authentic

Hieromonk Demetrios Digbassanis (1990): authentic

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

Nicole Levallois (1992): authentic

Giovanna Magi (1993): authentic

Joseph J. Hobbs (1995) : neutral

Jacqueline Lafontaine-Dosogne (1996) : authentic

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

Jean-Michel Mouton (1998): apocryphal

Gawdat Gabra and Morsi Saad el-Din (1998): authentic

Ansar Hussain (1999): authentic

Hüseyn Hilmi Işik (2000): authentic

Yusuf Islam [Cat Stevens] (2001): authentic

Giovanni Magnani (2001): authentic

Harun Yahya (2002): authentic

Frederick Quinn (2002): authentic

Let’s Go Inc. (2003): authentic

Bruce Merry (2004): authentic

J. Gordon Melton (2004): authentic

Brian Paciotti (2004): authentic

Reza Shah-Kaẓemi (2005): authentic

R.W. McColl (2005): authentic

Elizabeth A. Zachariadou (2005)

L’École pratique des hautes études (2006) : apocryphal

Christine Walsh (2007): apocryphal

Martin Gray and Graham Hancock (2007): authentic

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

K. Staikos (2007): authentic (according to tradition)

David Douglas (2007): authentic

Andrew Eames (2008): authentic

National Geographic (2008): authentic (according to tradition)

‘Abdurrahman Wahid (2009): authentic

David Dakake (2009): authentic

Muqtedar Khan (2009): authentic

Peer-Jada Qureshi (2009): authentic

Mohamed el Hebeishy (2010): authentic

J. Gordon Melton and Martin Baumann (2010): authentic

Caner, Brock, Van Bladel, and Price (2010): apocryphal

Zia Shah (2011): authentic

Raj Bhala (2011): authentic

Hedieh Mirahmadi (2011): authentic

Farhad Malekian (2011): authentic

Ahmed Shams (2011): authentic

Altaf Hussain (2011): authentic

Diarmuid MacCulloch (2011): apocryphal

Brandie Ratliff (2012): apocryphal

Zora O’Neill (2012): authentic

Judy Hall (2012): authentic

Areej Zufari (2012): authentic

Kyriacos C. Markides (2012): authentic

James Emery White (2012): authentic

Helen C. Evans (2012): authentic

Father Justin of Sinai (2012): authentic

Pave the Way Foundation (2012): authentic

Shemeem Burney Abbas (2013): authentic

Nikos Kazantzakis (2013): authentic

Timothy Wright (2013): authentic

John Andrew Morrow (1990, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2017, 2021): authentic

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

Pierre-Vincent Claverie (2013): apocryphal

‘Aziz al-Azmeh (2014): apocryphal

Andrew D. Magnusson (2014): apocryphal

Walter D. Ward (2014): apocryphal

John Watson (2014): authentic (according to tradition)

Brad Tyndall (2014): authentic

Qasim Rashid (2014): authentic

Muhammad Quraish Shihab (2014): authentic

Zaid Shakir (2015): authentic

Hamza Yusuf (2015): authentic

Ronald H. Stone (2015): authentic

Calum Samuelson (2015): authentic

Alexander Winogradsky Frenkel (2015): authentic

Sayyid ‘Ali Asghar (2015): authentic

‘Azizah al-Hibri (2016): authentic

Ahmed El-Wakil (2016, 2019, 2020, 2021): authentic

Craig Considine (2016, 2021, 2021)

Halim Rane (2019): authentic

Gayane Mkrtumyan (2021): authentic

Ibrahim Zain (2020, 2021): authentic (Morrow 2017, vol. 2: 90-94)

And that is not the end of it. In recent years, publications on the Covenants of the Prophet have proliferated. I am just giving you names and dates as references. I quote the views of all these sources in Islam and the People of the Book. If you think that is an insane and obsessive amount of detective work, you should check out the arduous, mind-boggling, research of my colleague, Dimitrios Kalomirakis, the Director Emeritus of Antiquities at the Greek Ministry of Culture. The man is like a supercomputer.

In one library alone, mind you, the oldest continuously operating library in the world, the library of the Monastery of St. Catherine, which is the second richest on earth after the Vatican library, he located 1,695 documents that confirmed the authenticity of the Covenant of the Prophet Muhammad spanning one thousand two hundred and eighty one years, namely, from the year 623 to the year 1904. 1,025 of the references, namely 60% of them, are found in Arabic manuscripts while 670, that is 40% of them, are found in Ottoman manuscripts. 309 manuscripts, namely 18% of them, date from the Arab period which spans from 639-1517. 42% of the Arabic manuscripts and 40% of the Turkish documents date from the Ottoman period, namely, between 1517-1867. While 82% of the references to the Ashtiname date from Ottoman times, 18% of them date from the period of Arab rule (Morrow 2021: 366-367).

The Covenant of the Prophet has a historical paper trail going back to the seventh century. It has been mentioned from medieval times to the present in Muslim and Christian sources, in multiple languages, and in a vast geographical area. Ancient copies of the document are found in Egypt, Palestine and Israel, Syria, Iraq, Turkey, Iran, France, Greece, Germany, Armenia, and elsewhere. If this is not consensus; I do not know what is. Do you have any idea how ignorant it is for someone, who is oblivious to the history of the Covenant of the Prophet, to claim arrogantly and authoritatively that it is fake? If you wish to be a fool, fine, let us pretend that it is fake. That is a matter of historical and jurisprudential methodology. Let us focus on the content. The Sinai Covenant contains Eighteen Commandments, which I summarize as follows:

1) Promises are not to be broken. Treaties must be honored. Covenants are sacred. Those who break them are cursed.

2) The Prophet and his followers must protect the rights and freedoms of their Christian subjects and fellow citizens.

3) Christian clergy are not to be taxed.

4) The Church is independent. The Mosque or State should not interference in ecclesiastical appointments. The Church hierarchy selects its leaders. Christian communities are to appoint their own judges and governors.

5) Christians should not be harassed, intimidated, or bullied. Public safety, and safe travel, is a right and a responsibility.

6) Christians are not to be deprived of their churches. They are not to be confiscated or destroyed. Nobody is to prevent them from erecting religious buildings.

7) Nobody has the right to break the law. Nobody can annul or change these commandments. In other words, they are not merely Human Rights: they are Divine Rights conferred on human beings.

8) Neither Christian clergy, nor those who work for them, are to be subjected to taxation. In other words, they are non-profit entities and religious foundations.

9) Monks, ascetics, and hermits, who live a life of quiet and pious contemplation, are not to be taxed.

10) The Ummah or State should help support Christian religious institutions.

11) Christian clergy and members of religious orders, namely, monks and nuns, shall not be compelled to go to war. In short, they are conscientious objectors. They are people of prayer, not war, murder, and bloodshed. They cannot be forced to pay taxes in exchange for not fighting.

12) Lay Christians are to be taxed fairly and justly.

13) The People of the Book are not to be harassed. Muslims are to treat them graciously and kindly and prevent people from mistreating them.

14) Christian women who marry Muslim men have the right to remain faithful to their religion and to practice it freely.

15) Nobody should prevent Christians from repairing their churches.

16) Whoever violates these commandments is an evil-doer, and an enemy of God and His Prophet.

17) Muslims must defend Christian citizens and allies and wage war to protect them.

18) Nobody from the Ummah of Muhammad shall violate these commandments until the end of the world. (Morrow 2013: 205-210)

How, may I ask, do these commandments contradict the moral and ethical teachings of the Qur’an and the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him? They espouse the right to life and liberty, equality, freedom of conscience, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, freedom of association, fair treatment, and the right to petition rulers. They prohibit discrimination as well as cruel and degrading treatment. They oppose arbitrary conscription. They guarantee freedom of movement and residence as well as the right to maintain one’s identity. They assure the right to marry and have a family, the right to own things, the right to elect one’s judges and leaders, namely, incipient democracy, the right to social security, the right to work, the right to rest and holidays, the right to social services, and the right to education. And, like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Covenant of the Prophet insist that these rights cannot be taken away.

So, forget about technicalities and minutiae. Who cares about spelling mistakes in the American Constitution. Focus on what it says. If anyone disagrees with the rights found in the Covenant of the Prophet or the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, why are you here? Why didn’t you go live with ISIS? Why aren’t you living in North Korea?

I mean, seriously, there are some so-called Muslim scholars out there, some of them are Chairs of Departments of Islamic Studies, who insist that freedom is not a human right in the Shariah; who insist that it is Qur’anically and prophetically permissible to enslave human beings and force women to be sex slaves.

Some insist that there is no right to life in Islamic law and that Muslims have the right to kill infidels, apostates, and heretics. They insist that there is no freedom of expression in Islam. Not only do they insist that Christians cannot repair churches, but they believe that Muslims are duty bound to destroy them. These are people who claim that there is coercion in Islam and that Christians should be belittled and humiliated.

One professor of Islamic Law told me that failing to tax the Christian clergy violates the Shari‘ah. Of course, he runs a non-profit foundation. I say what’s good for the geese is good for the gander. These are people who have taken their medieval, man-made, books of jurisprudence and turned them into idols. These are people who have taken their jurists as deities.

“They have taken their doctors of law and their clerics for lords besides God” (9:31)

When I start criticizing some Muslims and certain misinterpretations of Islam, some people get startled. In fact, one person was so confused that he said: “This guy is a Muslim, but he sounds like an Islamophobe.” No, I am not an Islamophobe. I am an Islamophile. The issue is that there are different interpretations of Islam. Some of them, I love. Others make me vomit venom. The same goes with Christianity, Judaism, and other faiths. People are good. People are bad. Religion can be good. Religion can be bad. I believe in harnessing the good that spiritual traditions have to offer.

I could not care less about the scientific or historical accuracy of Scripture. What matters is the moral and spiritual message. Refuting the commandments of the Ashtiname because we do not have the original signed by Muhammad is like rejecting the Ten Commandments because we do not have the original tablets of Moses. It is like repudiating the Sermon on the Mount because we do not have a video, a tape recording or an official transcript signed and witnessed by Jesus himself. It is preposterous. Who cares about stone, cow-hide, papyrus or paper?

I care about the content. I believe in divine and human rights. I care about ethics, and higher objectives across religious boundaries. I believe in necessary, universal, and transcendental truths that can unify humanity. I could not care less about externals. I care about internals. Let us agree to disagree without being disagreeable. The details or differences are not the point or purpose. The outer can be different, but the inner should be the same. While I believe that the Covenants of the Prophet are authentic historically — the evidence in this regard is overwhelming — what matters the most are the principles that they espouse and that they enshrine. May God guide us all and may God bless you all.


Morrow, John Andrew. The Islamic Interfaith Initiative: No Fear Shall be Upon Them. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2021.

—. Islam and the People of the Book: Critical Studies on the Covenants of the Prophet. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2017.

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