PROPHET MUHAMMAD'S PROMISE TO CHRISTIANS
St. Catherine's Monastery, Sinai, Egypt
A Picture of Prophet Muhammad's Letter to St. Catherine's Monastery
Muqtedar Khan | 08.22.2010
This article was
published in the
News Egypt [03.09.2007],
Turkish Daily News [04.10.2007 ],
OpEd news [03.19.2007],
[02.11.07], and many other places..
Courtesy Common Ground News Service
Muslims and Christians together constitute over
fifty percent of the world and if they lived in peace, we will be half way
to world peace. One small step that we can take towards fostering
Muslim-Christian harmony is to tell and retell positive stories and abstain
from mutual demonization. In this article I propose to remind both Muslims
and Christians about a promise that Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) made to
Christians. The knowledge of this promise can have enormous impact on Muslim
conduct towards Christians. Muslims generally respect the precedent of their
Prophet and try to practice it in their lives.
In 628 AD, a delegation from St. Catherine’s Monastery came to Prophet
Muhammed and requested his protection. He responded by granting them a
charter of rights, which I reproduce below in its entirety. St. Catherine’s
Monastery is located at the foot of Mt. Sinai and is the world’s oldest
monastery. It possess a huge collection of Christian manuscripts, second
only to the Vatican, and is a world heritage site. It also boasts the oldest
collection of Christian icons. It is a treasure house of Christian history
that has remained safe for 1400 years under Muslim protection.
|The Promise to St. Catherine:
"This is a message from Muhammad ibn
Abdullah, as a covenant to those who adopt Christianity, near
and far, we are with them.
Verily I, the servants, the helpers, and my followers defend
them, because Christians are my citizens; and by Allah! I hold
out against anything that displeases them.
No compulsion is to be on them. Neither are their judges to be
removed from their jobs nor their monks from their monasteries.
No one is to destroy a house of their religion, to damage it, or
to carry anything from it to the Muslims' houses.
Should anyone take any of these, he would spoil God's covenant
and disobey His Prophet. Verily, they are my allies and have my
secure charter against all that they hate.
No one is to force them to travel or to oblige them to fight.
The Muslims are to fight for them. If a female Christian is
married to a Muslim, it is not to take place without her
approval. She is not to be prevented from visiting her church to
pray. Their churches are to be respected. They are neither to be
prevented from repairing them nor the sacredness of their
No one of the nation (Muslims) is to disobey the covenant till
the Last Day (end of the world)."
The first and the final sentence of the charter are critical. They make the
promise eternal and universal. Muhammed asserts that Muslims are with
Christians near and far straight away rejecting any future attempts to limit
the promise to St. Catherine alone. By ordering Muslims to obey it until the
Day of Judgment the charter again undermines any future attempts to revoke
the privileges. These rights are inalienable. Muhammed declared Christians,
all of them, as his allies and he equated ill treatment of Christians with
violating God’s covenant.
A remarkable aspect of the charter is that it imposes no conditions on
Christians for enjoying its privileges. It is enough that they are
Christians. They are not required to alter their beliefs, they do not have
to make any payments and they do not have any obligations. This is a charter
of rights without any duties!
The document is not a modern human rights treaty but even thought it was
penned in 628 A.D. it clearly protects the right to property, freedom of
religion, freedom of work, and security of the person.
I know most readers, must be thinking so what? Well the answer is simple.
Those who seek to foster discord among Muslims and Christians focus on
issues that divide and emphasize areas of conflict. But when resources such
as Muhammad’s promise to Christians is invoked and highlighted it builds
bridges. It inspires Muslims to rise above communal intolerance and
engenders good will in Christians who might be nursing fear of Islam or
When I look at Islamic sources, I find in them unprecedented examples of
religious tolerance and inclusiveness. They make me want to become a better
person. I think the capacity to seek good and do good inheres in all of us.
When we subdue this predisposition towards the good, we deny our fundamental
humanity. In this holiday season, I hope all of us can find time to look for
something positive and worthy of appreciation in the values, cultures and
histories of other peoples.
Life and Teachings of Muhammed by Amir Ali, p. 176.
click to read it.
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