morrow’s messenger of mercy: a book review

Marianne Farina’s Bookshelf

The Messenger Of Mercy: The Covenants of Coexistence from the Prophet of Pluralism
John Andrew Morrow
Sanbun Publishers
9788194870296, $6.12, PB, 288pp, (475 Indian rupees = $6.12)

It is not unusual to come across texts that present a religion’s core beliefs and principles systematically so readers can grasp critical concepts of a religion’s teachings, history, institutional documents, core words and terms. We call these dictionaries, compendiums, and even encyclopedias. They are essential reference material because they offer clarity about a religion for both adherents of the tradition and those interested in learning about other the religion.

Morrow has provided such a volume in his The Messenger of Mercy but has added distinctive features to his systemic approach. It is a creative departure from the more traditional alphabetized organization. He begins with the claim that Prophet Muhammad was a Prophet of Pluralism and the founder of an ethos of covenants of coexistence between religions, and then beginning with the first chapter, each chapter supports his claim and serves as a foundation for the next. The seven appendices of the book further underline the information contained in these chapters while also creating critical resources for further study of the content and initiatives discussed in the text. This organization allows the reader to engage the thesis of the work and its significant research.

For example, Chapter One focuses on the pillars of Islamic faith and practice, which express the ideals of Islam as revealed in the Qur’an. Chapter Two: “Proclaiming the Ideals of Islam,” explores how Islamic principles and values are realized within the Muslim community in relationship with its neighbors. The author provides a detailed account of how Prophet Muhammad exemplifies ideals such as justice, love, and solidarity. Chapter Three, “Constitutions, Covenants, and Coexistence,” and Chapter Four, “Implementing the Ideals of Islam,” focus on the text’s central claim. Morrow demonstrates through using thorough documentation how Prophet Muhammad and Muslim leaders implemented these ideals of Islam by generating constitutions, covenants, and, when necessary, criteria for armed conflict that promotes and sustains social good and religious solidarity throughout the region. This section includes testimonies from various scholars about the authenticity of these documents, treaties, and governance plans.

The final chapter, “Putting Principles into Practice,” offers evidence that the Muslim community continues to uphold its commitment to morally responsible geopolitical justice. It details the centers, programs, and declarations that carry forward Prophet Muhammad’s message of mercy in concrete words and action. The chapter describes these innovative initiatives and their capacity for encouraging newer forums of dialogue and engagement among religious and cultural groups. The seven appendices and bibliography substantiate the content and claims in the text, and provide readers with resources to continue their study of these topics.

Morrow’s masterful text brings into the light documents that have been hidden and or dismissed from scholars and followers of Islam and all religions. The absence of such documents has real consequences for the fields of theological research and religious peacebuilding. To rectify such invisibility and potential drawbacks, he offers the reader a comprehensive study of Prophet Muhammad’s negotiations with religious communities and other constituencies throughout the geographic region. It also demonstrates by such evidence a more profound realization of Prophet Muhammad’s style of leadership that sought to honor and sustain religious pluralism.

I have found this text invaluable as a researcher and teacher of interreligious dialogue, comparative religion, and religious peacebuilding. In my institution’s graduate courses, we have studied this text and others by Dr. Morrow. The students appreciated the depth of research and the accompanying resources. The text offers resources for critical engagement concerning the history, development of teachings, and implementation of these the Covenants as they have unfolded in various historical epochs. It is rare that a text can present depth and breadth on a topic, and extremely rare that a text will also encourage further research on the reader’s part. Of course, to fully appreciate the contents of the book, a reader will need to have some foundational knowledge of Islam’s history and teaching. For though Dr. Morrow’s first chapter does provide an overview of Islam, my students who had some knowledge of Islam were able to draw more from this work and connect it to their understanding of Islam and the civilizations that benefitted from its canons and engagements. For this reason, Dr. Morrow’s work, particularly this text, will remain central to my courses on Christian-Muslim Relations and Religious Peacebuilding. Ancient scholars believed that educating a person was an act of mercy; Dr. Morrow book, The Messenger of Mercy: Covenants of Coexistence from the Prophet of Pluralism and the learning and inspiration it provides is indeed an act of such mercy.

Editorial Note: John Andrew Morrow is a Metis French-Canadian born in Montreal, Canada. He has worked as a university professor for two decades. He lectures around the world, works an analyst, and acts as a religious and political advisor to world leaders.

Marianne Farina, CSC, PhD., Reviewer
Professor of Philosophy and Theology
Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology