Dr. John Andrew Morrow

Medium (December 23, 2017)

By Barbara Castleton

Even with so much information bombarding every one of us all day every day, it is still a rare moment when we can legitimately stop and say, “Wow! I didn’t know that!” Such was my reaction when a co-author and friend, Dr. John A Morrow asked me to review his book “The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of His Time” pre-publication. A rigorously researched book, The Covenants .. details documents composed by the Prophet Muhammad in the early days of his caliphate which granted unheard of rights to non-Muslims, including Christians and Jews.

Wait! Aren’t we told almost daily that Muslims despise these two groups? Certainly, some may think so, either out of true belief or politically driven agendas, but just as our plantation-owning southern forefathers thought slavery was a condition approved by God and promoted in the Bible, the modern reigning view of Islam has a not a few fallacious quirks as well.

As much as Muhammad was the prophet of God and the receiver of divine instruction, he was also the soul and architect of the Islamic state, or Ummah, a body of influence, culture, religious strength, and expansion that had more to do with acculturation than subjugation. His connections with the ultimate wisdom enabled him to see both the societies of the Middle East and beyond with clarity and pragmatism, but also to construct a vision of what steps would produce a society in which all were safe and received in brotherhood. Says Morrow, “ A visionary long-term planner, the Prophet understood that the spread of Islam could take centuries. What he sought to create were the conditions under which the seeds of Islam could be planted and watered, thus enabling Muslim seeds to sprout, grow, and spread. If a population preferred to remain heathen, Christian or Jewish, they were entitled to do so as long as they entered into a covenant with the Islamic State as protected people.”

It began with the Constitution of Medina, one of the first governmental texts of its kind. Muhammad and around 75 disciples and family members were invited to Medina to be a catalyst for peace and civility within a conflicted population. Composed within months of his arrival in Yathrib (Medina), in 622 CE, the Constitution detailed an explicit administrative and governmental structure and specific rights and benefits of all citizens, including, “To the Jew who follows us belong help and equality. He shall not be wronged nor shall his enemies be aided.”

Al-Waqidi, a historian writing 200 years after the fact, explains that “ …when the Messenger of God arrived in Medina, the Jews, all of them, were reconciled with him, and he wrote an agreement between him and them. The Prophet attached every tribe with its confederates and established a protection between himself and them. He stipulated conditions to them, among which it was stipulated that they would not help any enemy against him.” In addition to this, the Constitution of Medina drew up laws that took the Ummah, the Islamic nation state, from a mere theocracy, or even a strictly political entity, into a social construction that had never before been attempted, a hybrid state in which a benign umbrella was spread over all, regardless of whether they were Muslim, Christian, Sabean, or Jew, all monotheists in the Abrahamic tradition.

As Islam spread among the people of Yathrib and the Arabian Peninsula, the Prophet went further, reaching out to multiple communities with an eye to achieving a mutually beneficial relationship. Two of the first recipients were the Christian community in Najran, in what is now the southern part of Saudi Arabia, and strangely, the monks who occupied the Monastery of St. Catherine, located far away at the base of Mount Sinai.

Abbey of St. Catherine — Mount Sinai

Tradition as well as ancient religious writings place Muhammad on the Sinai in his early years, accompanying his uncle on caravans that took them far and wide. It is said that the abbot of the monastery spotted an eagle circling young Muhammad’s head as the cleric looked down from the abbey’s heights. He prophesied that the young man would become a great leader, and when, in fact, that is what happened, the leadership of the monastery asked the Prophet Muhammad to honor their long-term relationship. The resulting covenant, signed with Muhammad’s palm print, served to to protect the abbey, the monks, the service workers, and all the physical structures as long as the “sea wets the shells.”

The covenants laid out a system of behavior, rights, privileges, and expectations for both parties, the Islamic state and its Muslim adherents, and other members of the community. Prime among these was the ongoing respect and protection of the religious institutions of the non-Muslim citizens. In document after document, the same phrases appear, anchoring these concepts. In the Covenant with the Monks from the Monastery of Saint Catherine, written in 2 AH, or 624 CE, the dictated treaty stipulates, “ No bishop is to be driven out of his bishopric. No monk is to be expelled from his monastery. No changes will be made with regards to their rights and sovereignty or anything in their possession provided that they remain friendly [towards Islam and Muslims]. They will reform the rights incumbent on them. They will not be oppressed nor will they oppress.” The Covenant with the Christians of Najran echoes these ideas, “To the Christians of Najran and its neighboring territories, God’s protection and the pledge of His Prophet extend to their lives, their religion, and their property. It applies to those who are present as well as those who are absent. There shall be no interference with the practice of their faith or their religious observances. There will be no change to their rights and privileges. No bishop shall be removed from his bishopric; no monk from his monastery, and no priest from his parish. They shall all continue to enjoy everything they previously enjoyed great or small. No image or cross shall be destroyed. They will not oppress or be oppressed.

Finally, in the The Covenant of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World, we can read, “Never should any Christian be subjected to tyranny or oppression in this matter. It is not permitted to remove a bishop from his bishopric, a monk from his monastic life, or anchorite from his vocation as a hermit. Nor is it permitted to destroy any part of their churches, to take parts of their buildings to construct mosques or the homes of Muslims. Whoever does such a thing will have violated the pact of Allah, disobeyed his Messenger, and become estranged from the Divine Alliance.”

In treaty after treaty, these core promises were transcribed onto parchment and upheld, with rare exceptions, for centuries as each successive caliph honored the Prophet’s intentions by rewriting verbatim the original texts as they aged flaked, cracked, and gradually disintegrated.

Dr. Morrow has authenticated over a dozen covenants, documents written for communities that criss-crossed what was then the Islamic world, and in every one, the terms resonated with acceptance, community, and tolerance. Just a portion of the covenants researched and verified include:

The Covenant of the Prophet Muhammad with the Assyrian Christians
The Covenant of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of Persia
The Covenant of the Prophet Muhammad with the Armenian Christians
The Covenant of the Prophet Muhammad with the Jews of Maqna
The Covenant of the Prophet Muhammad with the Yemenite Jews
The Covenant of the Prophet Muhammad with the Zoroastrians
The Covenant of the Prophet Muhammad with the Coptic Christians of Egypt
The Covenant of the Prophet Muhammad with the Syriac Orthodox Christians
The Covenant of the Prophet Muhammad with the Samaritans
The Covenant of the Prophet Muhammad with the Zoroastrians

John Morrow believes in and has launched a campaign to promote the idea that it is incumbent upon Muslims to adhere to the divinely composed wishes laid down by the Prophet Muhammad. This Covenant Initiative asks that members of all sects of Islam sign off on a declaration which says, “We the undersigned hold ourselves bound by the spirit and the letter of the covenants of the Prophet Muhammad…with the Christians of the world, in the understanding that these covenants, if accepted as genuine, have the force of law in the shariah today and that nothing in the shariah, as traditionally and correctly interpreted, has ever contradicted them.” The declaration, mirroring the intention of the covenants themselves, continues, specifically seeking to rebuild the bridge first outlined by the Prophet Muhammad between all the major monotheistic religions.

Por Barbara Castleton
Shafaqna

Según la tradición judía y cristiana, mil años después de Abraham el pueblo judío fue esclavizado y pasó a estar en perpetua servidumbre en Egipto antes de ser conducido a la libertad por Moisés. En su épico viaje a Palestina, Moisés se detuvo en los alrededores del Monte Sinaí. Fue en su cumbre que Moisés recibió de Dios una serie de convenios o leyes, grabados en tablillas de arcilla. Esos 10 mandamientos se convirtieron en el fundamento de una existencia moral.

Más de 1000 años después, en el 2 H. o 624 C., el Profeta Muhammad escribió y otorgó un pacto de otro tipo a los monjes en el Monasterio de Santa Catalina, una abadía cristiana con 60 años de antigüedad en la base del Monte Sinaí. El mismo no ordenaba a los destinatarios honrar a su madre y padre o desistir en la creación de ídolos sino que, algo sin precedentes en los anales de la historia, prometía proteger a los monjes cristianos y residentes de la región de incursiones y ataques o de asaltos al sitio de peregrinación cristiana. El Profeta Muhammad juró proteger a cada uno y todos los monjes en donde sea. Además, se comprometió a permitir que los habitantes tuviesen la religión de su elección. Las palabras manuscritas sobre pergamino, firmado con la impresión de la mano del Profeta, comprometía a la nación islámica honrar esas promesas de manera permanente y “hasta el día del juicio y el fin del mundo”.

Presentación del Dr. John A. Morrow en Seattle (Estado de Washington) – Diciembre de 2017

El Dr. John A. Morrow, académico, investigador, erudito, profesor, miembro y activista de la comunidad canadiense Métis, se convirtió al Islam a los 16 años mientras estudiaba en la escuela secundaria en su país natal. Aún adolescente, persistió en la abundante investigación bibliográfica del Islam y se encontró con un texto del siglo XVIII escrito por Richard Pococke que describe y traduce partes del Tratado que el Profeta Muhammad redactó con los monjes del Monte Sinaí.

En un apartado del documento se lee: ” Cada vez que los monjes en sus viajes se instalen sobre cualquier montaña, colina, pueblo u otro lugar habitable, (se encuentren) en el mar, o en los desiertos o en cualquier convento, iglesia o casa de oración, yo estaré en medio de ellos, como protector y cuidador de ellos, de sus bienes y efectos, con mi alma, ayuda y amparo……”. Estos sentimientos y otros parecidos daban basamento firme a las enseñanzas del Islam y a la compasión de la que está imbuido.

Luego de treinta años de investigaciones, varios grados académicos y docenas de publicaciones, el Dr. Morrow da a conocer “Los Pactos del Profeta Muhammad con los Cristianos del Mundo”. Esta obra revoluciona el mundo islámico y cristiano. Intencionalmente o no, el tratado con los monjes del Monte Sinaí y más de una docena de documentos similares pasaron al olvido durante siglos y quedaron archivados entre miles de otros documentos en distintas bibliotecas, dispersos por Europa y Medio Oriente. Con su extravío virtual, se perdía un mensaje de paz, inclusión y tolerancia.

“Nada tendrán que temer ni se afligirán”. Este versículo del Sagrado Corán (2:62) se refiere a todos los monoteístas del tiempo del Profeta, es decir, los judíos, cristianos y sabeos. Y promete que si estos grupos actúan con justicia y creen en un Dios como los musulmanes, estarán protegidos. La revelación divina citada ―(Corán, 2:62)― transmitida por Dios al Profeta Muhammad, garantiza un futuro de unidad y de seguridad. Sin embargo, como una característica esencial de sus esfuerzos en la construcción de la nación, el Profeta Muhammad fue incluso más allá por medio de generar documentos a favor de grandes poblaciones. Estas quedaban protegidas bajo las normas islámicas en tanto “el mar mojase las conchas en la playa”.

Gracias a estos pactos, recientemente analizados por el Dr. Morrow, los musulmanes cuentan ahora con un recurso religioso adicional rigurosamente autenticado —un preciso Ashtiname—, es decir, cartas de paz o acuerdos literales del Profeta. A través del dictado y la diplomacia, Muhammad dio lugar a tratados con la mayor parte de las comunidades religiosas en la península arábiga y otros lugares. Algunos de los pactos más importantes son:

Pacto del Profeta Muhammad con los Monjes de Monte Sinai.

Pacto del Profeta Muhammad con los Cristianos de Najran.

Pacto del Profeta Muhammad con los Cristianos del Mundo (I).

Pacto del Profeta Muhammad con los Cristianos del Mundo (II).

Pacto del Profeta Muhammad con los Cristianos Asirios.

Pacto del Profeta Muhammad con los Cristianos de Persia.

Pacto del Profeta Muhammad con los Cristianos Armenios.

Pacto del Profeta Muhammad con los Judíos de Maqna.

Pacto del Profeta Muhammad con los Judíos Yemenitas.

Pacto del Profeta Muhammad con los Zoroastrianos.

Pacto del Profeta Muhammad con los Cristianos Coptos de Egipto.

Pacto del Profeta Muhammad con los Cristianos Siriacos Ortodoxos.

Pacto del Profeta Muhammad con los Samaritanos. 

En pocos años, la Ummah o nación islámica se expandió ampliamente y gradualmente incluyó territorios y pueblos de distintos grupos. El Dr. Morrow sugiere en su libro que «el Profeta era un visionario planificador a largo plazo que entendía que la propagación del Islam podía tomar siglos. Entonces intentó crear las condiciones en las que se podrían plantar y regar las semillas del Islam, de modo que los musulmanes las hiciesen germinar, crecer y reproducirse. Si una población prefería seguir siendo pagana, cristiana o judía, tenía derecho a ello en tanto acordaran con el estado islámico ser personas protegidas». Así, en lugar de iniciar un conflicto con las poblaciones con las que, en gran medida, se había vivido en armonía durante generaciones, Muhammad decidió asegurarse que se siguieran sintiendo parte de la comunidad mediante un apoyo mutuo determinado. De ese modo tendrían su protección y luego el de la Nación Islámica y su sucesores o califas designados.

Además de dar protección, estos pactos vedan ciertas acciones,  prohibiéndose a los musulmanes llevarlas a cabo. Los derechos y privilegios concedidos a los cristianos de Najran ― esta localidad se ubicaba en lo que hoy es el sur de Arabia Saudita, donde el cristianismo echó raíces en el siglo IV― se reflejan en la mayoría de los demás tratados:

“La promesa de protección del Profeta de Dios a los cristianos de Najaran y territorios aledaños, abarca sus vidas, su religión y sus bienes. Se aplica a los presentes y a los ausentes. Nadie interferirá en las prácticas de su fe o celebraciones religiosas. Nada modificará sus derechos y privilegios. Ningún obispo será expulsado de su obispado, ningún monje de su monasterio y ningún sacerdote de su parroquia. Todos seguirán gozando de las cosas que gozaban antes, grandes o pequeñas. Ninguna imagen o cruz será destruida. No oprimirán ni serán oprimidos” (Nota del traductor: esta es una de las versiones existente de dicho tratado).

En un lugar y tiempo donde la religión y creencias paganas eran factor importante de conflictos y guerras casi perpetua, los pactos del Profeta Muhammad proporcionaron un paraguas de seguridad y libertad para cientos de comunidades. En los pactos escritos para comunidades heterogéneas ―a diferencia del celebrado con los monjes del Monasterio del Monte Sinaí, donde solo había hombres― Muhammad añadido derechos previamente desconocidos para las mujeres:

“Los cristianos no deben ser sometidos a abusos que les hagan sufrir por medio de matrimonios que no desean. Los musulmanes no deben tomar a niñas cristianas en matrimonio contra la voluntad de sus padres ni deben oprimir a sus familias en caso de que rechazaran sus ofertas de compromiso y matrimonio. Los matrimonios no deben tener lugar sin su deseo y acuerdo y sin su consentimiento y aprobación. Si un musulmán toma a una mujer cristiana como esposa, debe respetar sus creencias cristianas. Ella tendrá libertad de escuchar a sus superiores [a sus clérigos] y seguir el camino de su religión en tanto lo desee”.

El Dr. Morrow, al sacar nuevamente a la luz los Pactos del Profeta Muhammad en una época que necesita desesperadamente modelos de tolerancia, compasión y unión comunitaria, espera llegar a los musulmanes que desconocerían el trabajo en perspectiva del Profeta así como a los cristianos que posiblemente estén muy influenciados por la parcialidad de los medios de comunicación. Invitado a hablar en conferencias, iglesias, mezquitas e instituciones, desde Dubai a California, el Dr. Morrow busca restaurar la trayectoria del liderazgo benevolente instituido por el profeta Muhammad hace más de 1400 años. 

Barbara Castleton, con el grado de Master of Arts o Maestría en Humanidades, es profesora de inglés en el Colegio South de Seattle. Es coautora de “Arabic, Islam, and the Allah Lexicon: How Language Shapes Our Conception of God” y ha publicado diversos artículos sobre sociolingüística árabe en revistas especializadas.

By Barbara Castleton

Source: IslamiCity

Dec 23, 2017

Category: Faith & Spirituality, Featured, Highlights Topics: Christianity And Judaism, Covenants Of The Prophet, Interfaith Values: Tolerance

According to Jewish and Christian tradition, a thousand years after Abraham, the Jewish people were slaves, locked in perpetual servitude in Egypt before being led to freedom by Moses. On their epic trek to Palestine, Moses broke the journey in the area around Mount Sinai. It was at its peak that Moses received from God a set of covenants, or laws, etched into clay tablets. These 10 Commandments became the foundation for a moral existence.

Over 1000 years later, in 2 AH or 624 CE, the Prophet Muhammad wrote and granted a different covenant to the monks at the Monastery of St. Catherine, a 60-year-old Christian abbey at the base of Mount Sinai. Though not commanding the recipients to honor their mother and father or desist in the creation of idols, the covenant from the Prophet Muhammad did something unheard of in the annals of history — it promised to protect the Christian monks and residents of the region from any incursions, attacks, or efforts to take over the Christian pilgrimage site. It swore to protect the monks singularly and as a group wherever they were. Further, the contract vowed to allow all inhabitants to keep the religion of their choice. The handwritten words on parchment, signed with the Prophet’s hand-print bound the Islamic nation to honor these promises “for all time, even unto the Day of Judgment and the end of the world.”

Dr. John A. Morrow, academic, researcher, scholar, teacher, a member of the Canadian Métis community, and an activist, converted to Islam at the age of 16, while a high school student in his native Canada. Still a teen, Morrow continued to research Islam through dozens of texts, and he came across an 18th-century text written by Richard Pococke which described and translated parts of the treaty the Prophet Muhammad had initiated with the Monks of Mount Sinai.

In one section of the document, the text reads, “That whenever any of the monks in his travels shall happen to settle upon any mountain, hill, village, or other habitable place, on the sea, or in deserts, or in any convent, church, or house of prayer, I shall be in the midst of them, as the preserver and protector of them, their goods and effects, with my soul, aid, and protection…” These sentiments and others like them anchored Morrow’s attachment to the demonstrated compassion and teachings of Islam.

Thirty years, several academic degrees, and dozens of publications later, Dr. Morrow’s most recent work, The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of His Time, is shaking up both the Islamic and Christian worlds. Whether intentionally or circumstantially, the treaty with the monks of Mt. Sinai and over a dozen other, similar documents, had receded from religious consciousness over the centuries and were squirreled away amid thousands of other papers in libraries scattered around Europe and the Middle East. With their virtual burial, a message of peace, inclusiveness, and tolerance was lost.

“No fear shall be upon them, nor shall they grieve.” This verse from the Holy Qur’an (2:62) refers to all the monotheists of the Prophet’s time, Jews, Christians, and Sabeans, and promises that these groups, being righteous in action, and aligned with Muslims in their belief in one God, would be protected. The above divine revelation, an edict transmitted to the Prophet Muhammad from God, guaranteed a future of unity and safety. Nevertheless, as an essential feature of his nation-building efforts, the Prophet Muhammad went even further, creating documents meant to serve vast populations living under Islamic rule as long as “the sea wets the shells on the shore.”

Due to those covenants, newly explored by Dr. Morrow, Muslims now have an additional rigorously authenticated religious resource — the detailed Ashtiname — peace letters or covenants spoken by the Prophet and written down verbatim. Through dictation and diplomacy, the Muhammad formulated treaties with most of the religious communities on the Arabian Peninsula and beyond. Some of the major covenants include:

The Covenant of the Prophet Muhammad with the Monks of Mount Sinai
The Covenant of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of Najran
The Covenant of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World I
The Covenant of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World II
The Covenant of the Prophet Muhammad with the Assyrian Christians
The Covenant of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of Persia
The Covenant of the Prophet Muhammad with the Armenian Christians
The Covenant of the Prophet Muhammad with the Jews of Maqna
The Covenant of the Prophet Muhammad with the Yemenite Jews
The Covenant of the Prophet Muhammad with the Zoroastrians
The Covenant of the Prophet Muhammad with the Coptic Christians of Egypt
The Covenant of the Prophet Muhammad with the Syriac Orthodox Christians
The Covenant of the Prophet Muhammad with the Samaritans
The Covenant of the Prophet Muhammad with the Zoroastrians

Over just a few years, the Islamic Ummah, or nation, expanded widely, until it gradually encompassed territory that included peoples of various sects. As Dr. Morrow suggests in his book, “A visionary long-term planner, the Prophet understood that the spread of Islam could take centuries. What he sought to create were the conditions under which the seeds of Islam could be planted and watered, thus enabling Muslim seeds to sprout, grow, and spread. If a population preferred to remain heathen, Christian or Jewish, they were entitled to do so as long as they entered into a covenant with the Islamic State as protected people.” Thus, rather than initiate any conflict with those populations, groups who had largely lived in harmony for generations, Muhammad resolved to ensure that they continued to feel connected and protected by detailing the mutuality of the support each provided, first from the Prophet, the Islamic Nation, and his designated successors or caliphs, and then from the group specified in the treaty.

Beyond protection, these covenants outlined forbidden actions, that is acts which the Muslims in these areas were prohibited from initiating. The rights and privileges granted to the Christians of Najran, a place in what is now southern Saudi Arabia where Christianity took root in the 4th century, are mirrored in most of the other treaties as well:

“To the Christians of Najran and its neighboring territories, God’s protection and the pledge of His Prophet extend to their lives, their religion, and their property. It applies to those who are present as well as those who are absent. There shall be no interference with the practice of their faith or their religious observances. There will be no change to their rights and privileges. No bishop shall be removed from his bishopric; no monk from his monastery, and no priest from his parish. They shall all continue to enjoy everything they previously enjoyed great or small. No image or cross shall be destroyed. They will not oppress or be oppressed.”

In a place and time where religion and pagan beliefs were a major driver of conflict and almost perpetual warfare, the covenants of the Prophet Muhammad provided an umbrella of safety and freedom for hundreds of communities. In covenants written for general societies, unlike the abbey on Mount Sinai which was an exclusively male population, Muhammad added previously unheard-of rights for women:

“Christians must not be subjected 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. 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.”

By bringing the Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad to light in an age that sorely needs models of tolerance, compassion, and community, Dr. Morrow hopes to reach and influence Muslims who may not be aware of the more global and far-reaching intentions of the Prophet and Christians who may have relied too heavily on the one-faceted view of Islam promulgated by the media. Invited to speak at conferences, churches, mosques, and institutions from Dubai to California, Dr. Morrow seeks to restore the trajectory of benevolent statecraft instituted by the Prophet Muhammed over 1400 years ago.

Barbara Castleton, MA, is a professor of English at South Seattle College. She is the co-author of Arabic, Islam, and the Allah Lexicon: How Language Shapes Our Conception of God and has published several articles on Arabic sociolinguistics in peer-reviewed journals.

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