Mohammad’s Covenant with Christians

The Caux Round Table is an organization that strives to promote ethics in business and government. On a micro level, we view these endeavors as very specific actions that we can all take daily to act more ethically leading to enhanced success, whether in the business or civic world. However, on a macro level, we view these successes as leading to furthering the innate desire of humans to seek fulfillment and fully reach their potential.

To reach our full human fruition, we need to act ethically and the foundation for this ethical behavior comes from our values. For many people, these values come from religion. In the Christian faith, we have just experienced the joys of Easter. However, that joy is accompanied with a heaviness due to recent terrorist attacks in the Middle East.

The aftermath of an explosion that took place at a Coptic church on Sunday in Tanta, Egypt, April 9, 2017. (Reuters)

On Palm Sunday in Egypt, two heinous acts of prejudice murdered and wounded Christian innocents in a holy place — their churches. Later, bombs killed refugees fleeing the barbarism which has overcome their homeland.

On Easter Sunday, Pope Francis spoke openly to the dark fear held in so many hearts: if there is a God and a risen Christ, why is human life filled with such brutality year after year? Where is the human face of mercy and justice?

Over the centuries, we have not lived in ignorance of justice. We have not been blind to the possibility of mercy. We have been taught the golden rule of care and concern for others by many religions.

The bombings in Egypt were particularly repulsive, for they took place on holy ground, spaces that even the Prophet Mohammad respected during his lifetime.

How do we know this?

In two covenants, Prophet Mohammad bestowed special favor on Christians.

Thus, today’s faithful Muslims have a religious obligation to do likewise.

Muslim faithful commit themselves to the guidance provided by their holy scripture — the Qur’an. They seek to emulate the actions of the Prophet Mohammad (his Sunnah) and follow his hadith or spoken comments.

It is recounted that in 626 CE, the Prophet Mohammad made a covenant with the monks living in the Monastery of St. Catherine in Sinai. The Monastery still provides a haven for prayer and scholarship.

The Covenant of the Prophet Muhammad with the Monks of Mount Sinai

In his covenant, as transcribed by his cousin and son-in-law Ali, the Prophet Mohammad promised that:

Whenever Christian monks, devotees and pilgrims gather together, whether in a mountain or valley, or den, or frequented place, or plain, or church, or in houses of worship, verily we are [at the] back of them and shall protect them, and their properties and their morals, by Myself, by My Friends and by My Assistants, for they are of My Subjects and under My Protection.

No one is allowed to plunder these Christians, or destroy or spoil any of their churches, or houses of worship, or take any of the things contained within these houses and bring it to the houses of Islam. And he who takes away anything therefrom, will be one who has corrupted the oath of God, and, in truth, disobeyed His Messenger.(Translation by Anton F. Haddad)

The Prophet Mohammad also provided the Christian community of Najran, on the border of today’s Yemen, with a similar covenant, promising:

I commit myself to support them, to place their persons under my protection, as well their churches, chapels, oratories, the monasteries of their monks, the residences of their anchorites, wherever they are found ….

I will protect their religion and their church wherever they are found, be it on earth or at sea, in the West or in the East, with utmost vigilance on my part, the People of my House and the Muslims as a whole. (translation by John Andrew Morrow)

These covenants have been overlooked for centuries. It is time to accept them as part of his Sunnah and, therefore, to have peaceful fellowship and respect between Muslims and Christians.

The constitution which Mohammad decreed as leader of the community of Medina is better known. It provided that non-Muslims living in Medina would have the same political and cultural rights as Muslims under the protection of God.

Seeking to give contemporary power to the Prophet Mohammad’s promises to Christians, his descendent — the King of Morocco, Mohammad IV — convened leaders who issued the Marrakesh Declaration on January 27, 2016.

The Declaration called upon:

…the various religious groups bound by the same national fabric to address their mutual state of selective amnesia that blocks memories of centuries of joint and shared living on the same land; … [and] to rebuild the past by reviving this tradition of conviviality, and restoring our shared trust that has been eroded by extremists using acts of terror and aggression;

[the]representatives of the various religions, sects and denominations to confront all forms of religious bigotry, villification, and denegration of what people hold sacred, as well as all speech that promote hatred and bigotry ….

Finally, the Declaration affirmed that it is unconscionable to employ religion for the purpose of aggressing upon the rights of religious minorities in Muslim countries.

Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad

Notably, in 2007, at the initiative of Prince Ghazi of Jordan (another descendant of the Prophet Mohammad), 138 Muslim scholars and jurists from the three branches of Islam issued a call upon Christians and Muslims to become inspired by the Qur’anic passages that the Abrahamic faiths should find a common word among them. Such a common bond was proposed by these Muslim scholars and religious leaders to be love of God and love of Neighbor — the two commandments given to us by Jesus Christ.

If the Prophet Mohammad made covenants of respect and protection for Christians in his time, then the Muslim world has before it all that it needs to end violence against all Christians.

In the Prophet’s covenants, we have all that we need to reach out as agents of truth and, with its help, embrace justice — in business, in government, in the stewardship of our wealth, our communities and our families.

During this time of reflection on rebirth in the Christian faith, it is perhaps time to seek out a rebirth of agreement and brotherhood amongst faiths. It is in this brotherhood and commonality that we find appropriate intersections upon which to build foundations for future human growth and fruition — exactly what the Caux Round Table is striving for.