The Authenticity of the Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad

Mosque of Medina

The Mosque of Medina, first built by the prophet Muhammad, may peace be on him, himself. The Muslim Times has the best collection about the prophet Muhammad and interfaith tolerance

Speech by Dr. John Andrew Morrow

Delivered on Saturday August 3, 2019, and Sunday, August 4, 2019, at the Jalsa Salana in the United Kingdom

A‘udhu billahi min al-Shaytan al-rajim. Bismillah al-Rahim al-Rahim. Alhamdulillah al-Khaliq wa al-‘Alim. Subhan Allah al-Wadud wa al-Halim. Wa salawatu wa salam ‘ala al-Nabi al-Karim, Abu al-Fatimah Muhammad ibn ‘Abd Allah, wa ‘ala alihi ajma‘in.

I take refuge in Allah from Satan the Rejected. In the Name of Allah, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful. Praise to be to Allah, the Creator and the Omniscient. Glory be to Allah, the  Loving and the Gentle. And may blessings and peace be upon the Noble Prophet, the Father of Fatimah, Muhammad the son of ‘Abd Allah, and upon all his family. I come in peace on a mission of peace and send you all greetings of peace: al-salamu ‘alaykum.

Since there is no thanking God without thanking people, I would like to thank the Ahmadi Muslim Community for inviting me to speak at the 2019 Jalsa in the United Kingdom. I would like to thank everyone who helped make this lecture a reality, including His Holiness, Mirza Masroor Ahmad, the fifth caliph of your congregation of believers. It is an honor and a privilege to address your exemplary community which strives to embody the moral and ethical teachings of Islam, a community that calls for “love for all and hatred for none.”

Whenever I deal with Ahmadi Muslims, I ask myself. How can anyone hate you? How can anyone want to kill you? That would be like killing a newborn baby. And while I’m on this subject, I wish to take this opportunity to send a word of warning to the enemies of God and humanity: to kill a human being is like killing all of humanity. “Thou shalt not kill” commands God. Those who do, however, are destined for eternal damnation, their punishment consisting of being locked up in the company of people exactly like themselves. On that cheery note, we may begin.

The authenticity of the Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him and his progeny. That is the topic of this talk. First, what is a covenant? A covenant is a contract, a compact, a treaty, an accord, a deal, a bargain, a settlement, a concordat, a protocol, an entente, an agreement, an arrangement, an understanding, a pledge, a promise, a bond, an indenture, a guarantee, a warrant, an undertaking and a commitment. In Arabic, the noun is ‘ahd. The word ‘ahd is so rich in meaning that its definitions span pages in Arabic dictionaries. It refers to an obligation, an engagement, an oath, a liability, a responsibility, an alliance, a charge, a vow, an oath, a charter, a testament, and a trust.

The noun ‘ahd is related to the verb ‘ahida which means to know, to observe closely, to heed, to adhere, to look after, to vest, to commission, to charge, to authorize, to empower, to entrust, to obligate, to commit, to fulfil, to keep one’s promise, to bind, to observe, to support, to stand up, to pay attention to, to attend, to take care, to maintain, and to keep up. A person who is under an ‘ahd is an ‘ahid which means an ally and a confederate. He or she is known as a mu‘ahad, a covenanted person, namely, a person covered by a covenant. I could go on for hours exploring dictionary definitions of the term “covenant.” Clearly, it is not a term that is taken lightly. It has both a legal sense and a religious sense. It bonds and binds communities. It is a pledge between God and people. It is vertical and horizontal. It is transcendent.

In religion, the term ‘ahd or “covenant” refers to a formal alliance, agreement or promise that is made between God and believers. It refers to the covenant of monotheism made between God and souls prior to creation. As we read in the Qur’an: “When thy Lord drew forth their descendants from the children of Adam, He made them testify concerning themselves [saying]: ‘Am I not your Lord?’ They replied, ‘Yes, we do so testify’” (7:172).

The term ‘ahd or “covenant” refers to the Covenant of Eden, the Covenant of Adam, the Covenant of Noah, the Covenant of Abraham, the Covenant of Moses, the Covenant of David, and the New or Messianic Covenant of Jesus: it is the Covenant of Redemption, the Covenant of Works, and the Covenant of Grace. All these Covenants culminate in the Covenant of Muhammad, the Covenant of Medina, and the Covenants of the Muhammad with the People of the Book: the Jews, the Christians, and the Zoroastrians, as well as other faith communities. This is known as Covenantal Theology. Covenants are formal alliances, agreements, and promises between God and humanity. They are not simply treaties between parties. Agreements can be made between human groups, but when such an agreement is authorized by God and witnessed by God, it becomes a covenant. A Covenant is a Sacred Trust. And they are all mentioned in the Qur’an.

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The Qur’an uses the word ‘ahd and mithaq over eighty times. Some of these verses refer to the Covenants that the Prophet made with the People of the Book that were binding on believing Muslims. Case in point, the early Medinan verse that warns against breaking God’s covenant after it is ratified (2:27) as well as numerous others commanding Muslims to keep their promises, fulfil their oaths, and honor their Covenants (2:40; 3:110-112; 9:3; 9:8; 13:20; 13:25; 16:91-92; 16:95; 17:34).

Speaking of the People of the Book who resisted the Prophet, God says that “Shame is pitched over them (like a tent) wherever they are found, except when under a covenant (of protection) from God and from men” (3:112). Ibn Kathir explains that this “covenant from God” refers to “the dhimmah or covenant of protection from Allah” while the “covenant from men” refers to “pledges and protections and safety offered to them by Muslim men and women.” When interpreting this verse, Ibn ‘Abbas said that it referred to a covenant of protection from Allah and a pledge of safety from the people. This opinion was shared by Mujahid, ‘Ikrimah, ‘Ata’, al-Dhahak, al-Hasan, Qatadah, al-Suddi, and al-Rabi‘ ibn Anas.

Speaking of the pagans, Almighty Allah asks: “How (can there be such a league), seeing that if they get an advantage over you, they respect not in you the ties of either kinship or of covenant?” (9:8). According to Ibn Kathir, this verse affirms that the idolaters “do not deserve to enjoy a covenant of peace.” Relying on the authority of ‘Ali ibn Abi Talhah, ‘Ikrimah, al-‘Awfi, Ibn ‘Abbas, al-Dhahak, and al-Suddi, he asserts that dhimmah means covenant. Unlike the People of the Book, this verse asserts that the polytheists were unworthy of receiving Covenants of protection due to their dishonesty, disloyalty, and treachery. Consequently, this verse alludes to the pledges, promises, treaties, and Covenants that the Prophet Muhammad concluded with the People of the Book.

The Covenants of the Prophet, which are the Covenants of Allah, are mentioned in the Qur’an. So where are these Covenants and what are these Covenants? They are the Covenant of Medina and the Covenant with the Jews of Maqna, the Covenant with the Jews of the Yemen, and the Covenant with the Children of Israel. They are the Covenant with the Samaritans. They are the Covenants with the Christians: the Covenant of Najran, the Covenant of Assyria, the Covenant of Armenia, the Covenant of the Sinai, the Covenant of Egypt, the Covenant of Persia, and the Covenant of the World. They are the Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him and his family, with the People of the Book and with all of humanity.

The texts of all these Covenants, many based on ancient copies of the originals, are all available to us. But are they authentic? Are they genuine? Are they true? The Qur’an mentions the Covenants of God and Muhammad. The contents of the Covenants of the Prophet are in complete agreement with contents of the Qur’an. In other words, the Qur’an confirms the Covenants of the Prophet and the Covenants of the Prophet confirm the Qur’an. But let me be more precise. Allow me to make an important clarification. The Covenants of the God and Muhammad are in perfect harmony with the true, traditional, moderate, and tolerant interpretation of the Qur’an.

The Covenants of God and the Prophet are a wake-up call for mainstream Muslims. They cause a crisis of conscience for more radical Muslims. They are a cold shower for militant Muslims. And they are a veritable slap in the face to the enemies of God and the Prophet: the innovators who accuse of innovation, the intolerant bigots, the brutal bullies, the so-called Islamic fundamentalists, the so-called Muslim puritans, the hadith hurlers, the false followers of the pious predecessors, the so-called political Islamists, the haters and the excommunicators, the fraudulent self-righteous jihadists, the violent extremists, the suicide bombers who believe in so-called martyrdom operations, the psychopathic terrorists, the fascists, and the so-called Islamic supremacists. I refer to the abrogators.

The abrogators? Who on earth or who in hell are the abrogators? They are those who falsely claim that the one hundred and twenty-four verses of the Qur’an that promote pluralism, tolerance, and peace, have been abrogated by two verses: 3:85, the so-called Supremacist Verse, and 9:5, the so-called Sword Verse. They are those who believe that God’s Wrath prevails over His Mercy.

They are those who believe that the tolerant verses in the Qur’an were simply a ruse, a plot, and a ploy that applied only when Muslims were meek, thus in effect claiming — like the slanderers they are — that Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, was a cynical charlatan, and the God he worshipped a Deceiver.

When they have power, they believe that it is their duty to impose Islam upon all others. They are those who falsely claim that that no peace is possible with non-Muslims and that non-Muslims must be conquered, converted, or killed. They are those who falsely claim that Shiites are infidels, Sufis are infidels, Ahmadis are infidels, and every single Sunni who refuses to follow their ideology is an infidel whose blood is halal.

I swear to God Almighty that these terrorist devils are the dogs of hell. We need to lock them up in kennels or put them down for their own benefit and the safety of humanity as a whole. They have rabies and rabies is a menace to society. Unless we can immediately inoculate the innocent bodies, minds, and souls that have been infected by this brain and soul-destroying disease before the onset of clinical symptoms, they will kill and be killed.

We are not like them. After all, we are Muslims. We are people who believe in the beauty, justice, tolerance, and mercy of God, the Prophet, the Qur’an, and Islam. We do not condemn and kill people for their beliefs; however reprehensible they may be. We live and let live so long as no crimes are committed. We are not aggressors. We only fight in self-defense. And we only judge and punish people after due process. And even then, we are humane. The only infidels are those who accuse everyone else of being infidels. And God is the greatest and God is just.

The Covenants of God and His Prophet bring us glad tidings. They confirm that God’s Word is true. Speaking of the People of the Book, Almighty Allah promises that “No fear shall be upon them nor shall they grieve” (2:62; 5:69). Almighty Allah promises that “those who have attained to faith, as well as those who follow the Jewish faith, and the Christians, and the Sabaeans — all who believe in God and the last day and do righteous deeds, shall have their reward with their Sustainer” (2:62, 5:69). Almighty Allah insists that “There is no compulsion in religion’” (2:256). The Covenants of God and the Messenger of God confirm that these and other similar verses were not abrogated and are binding upon believers until the end of times. Alhamdulillah.

So why is this so heartfelt? Why am I so emotional? Why do you hear and feel my sincerity? Well, that is because I was once sick. Many moons ago, when I was a teenager, I embraced Islam. Unfortunately, the Islam that I was taught was not the Islam of God. I literally learned Islam from the Anti-Christ. My peer was the Prince of Darkness. My sheikh was the Serpent. My faqih was the Fallen Angel. My murshid was Mephistopheles. My Da’i Mutlaq was the Devil. My leader was Lucifer. They taught me the three pillars of Islam: haram, bid‘ah, and kafir. They did not teach me Islam: peace and submission. They taught me Irhab: terrorism. They did not teach me tolerance. They taught me intolerance. They did not teach me love. They taught me hate. Perhaps you have come across such people? Of course you have. You are Ahmadis after all. You fled those type of people. Unfortunately, they seem to follow you wherever you go.

This was in Toronto, Canada, in the mid-1980s. There were virtually no Muslims at that time. One night, as a teenager, while working as a security guard, there was a Pakistani on duty. I asked him if he was a Muslim. He smiled and said that he was. I sent him my salaams. He sent me his. He was so happy to meet another Muslim. I asked him what mosque he went to. He said that he went to the Ahmadi mosque. I told him that he was a kafir and turned my back on him. God, however, says: “Say not to anyone who offers you a greeting of peace: You are not a believer!” (4:94). The man tried to reason with me: to no avail. All I had was emotion.

Shortly after that fateful incident, my father, who had not responded positively to my conversion to Islam and, in retrospect, rightfully so, came home one day with dozens of books on Islam. He said: “Son, I want to learn about your religion.” He had brought home Ahmadi literature. I told him that Ahmadis were not Muslims, parroting what my teachers had told me. My mom told my dad: “I told you so. They are the wrong kind of Muslims.” My dad said: “I am no longer interested in learning about Islam.” And, in hindsight, I can’t blame him for that. It was an opportunity lost.

That was over thirty years ago and I have not forgiven myself for calling that man an infidel. And while I wish I could ask that brother to forgive me face to face, I ask you all, in his name, to forgive me my sin. I offer my most sincere apologies and turn to God repentant. Astaghrirullah rabbi wa atubilayh.

Everything I was taught about the Ahmadis was a lie. Everything I was taught about Sufis was a lie. Everything I was taught about Shiites was a lie. In fact, everything I was taught about Allah, the Prophet, the Qur’an, the Sunnah, and Islam, was a lie. And this lie is presented as Islam. It is taught as Islam. And it is disseminated as Islam throughout the world. It is not Islam and has nothing to do with Islam. The Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him and his progeny, was asked: “What is Islam?” He answered: “It is belief in God and kindness towards his creation.” And yet again, he said that Islam was “To do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” If it’s good, it’s from God. If it’s evil, it’s from the Devil.

When I realized that I was being duped and deceived and brainwashed into a Satanic sect that pretended to profess Islam, I started to speak out. It was then that I became the kafir and I became the infidel. Three decades later, I continue to be denounced as a Shiite, as a Sufi, as a Muslim Reformist, as a CIA agent, and as a Zionist. I guess I paid the price. Call it karma. Call it the will of Allah. I called a man a kafir and, ever since, have been called a kafir myself. Instead of forgiving me, perhaps you can just say “welcome to the club” because you, as Ahmadi Muslims, have suffered every indignity imaginable and have been deprived of every human right imaginable.

Do I digress? Not at all. All of this is intimately associated with the Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him and his family. The Covenants of God are mentioned in the Qur’an. Surely this is significant. Surely this compels us to seek them out, study them, and abide by them.

God’s interaction with Humanity is governed and dictated by Covenants. The relationship between prophets and their communities is determined by Covenants. The Prophet Muhammad’s entire mission revolved, not around violent jihad and battles, but around the granting of Covenants. When he was in Mecca, the Prophet Muhammad received a delegation of Armenian Christians from Jerusalem and he gave them a covenant. He promised to grant them his protection and respect their religious rights. He guaranteed their ownership to the sacred sites in the Holy Land.

When the Prophet’s followers were persecuted in Mecca, he made a covenant with the Christian King of Ethiopia. He sent them to the land of a righteous Christian king where no man was wronged. The Prophet Muhammad made a covenant with the Muslims from Yathrib: it was known as the Covenant of ‘Aqabah. When the Messenger of Allah migrated, as a religious refugee, to Medina, where he was invited to act as leader, he convened the tribal elders, and consulted with them.

When Muhammad arrived in Medina, the community was almost equally split between Jews and pagan Arabs. Only 15% of the population was Muslim. Although the Prophet Muhammad was the popularly elected leader, he did not create an Islamic state as envisioned by violent and intolerant Islamists. On the contrary, he drafted the Covenant of Medina, the first written constitution in the history of humanity, and created an ummah, a motherland, a peace sanctuary, and a confederation. It was a civil society based on citizenship.

The Covenant of Medina granted rights to all, men and women, whites and blacks, Arabs and non-Arabs, the rich and the poor, and the free and the enslaved. They were given freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and freedom to petition the government for a redress of grievances. The Covenant of Medina provided human rights, civil rights and political rights in the seventh century. It called for liberty, equality, and fraternity. It was based on “mutual advice and consultation.” It was the precursor and, some would suggest, the inspiration for the modern, democratic, pluralistic state.

As for the institution of slavery, the Prophet encouraged people to free slaves, and to marry them, making this a mandatory expiation in many moral and criminal matters. He gave slavery a temporary status, allowed slaves to earn their freedom, and decreed that the children of slaves were all born free. In other words, he introduced a social system that would ensure the liberation of all slaves within a generation and the prohibition of slavery for all time to come.

Medina is our model. Not Saudi Arabia. Not Iran. Not Pakistan. Not the Taliban in Afghanistan. Not al-Qaedah, the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas or ISIS. That is not to say that we want to return to the seventh century. No. Not at all. We are not focused on the past. We are rooted in the past while focused on the future. We do not want to go backwards. We want to go forward drawing upon eternal values, morals, ethics, and principles.

Is the Covenant of Medina authentic? Of course it is. It is one of the most ancient documents in the Islamic tradition. It is cited in Ibn Ishaq’s Biography of the Messenger of Allah and Abu ‘Ubayd’s Book of Finance. It is widely accepted as historically accurate by non-Muslim academics. Unfortunately, it has been widely ignored by Muslims throughout most of Islamic history. This explains why Muslims succumbed to colonialism. This explains why Muslims have succumbed to authoritarianism: monarchs, military dictators, and Islamist terrorists.

In the second year of the hijrah, a delegation from St. Catherine’s Monastery visited the Prophet Muhammad in Medina. He gave them a Covenant of Peace. It granted them freedom of worship and movement, the right to property, freedom from interference in religious affairs, exemption from military service, and the right to protection in war. It gave them tax-free status. It insisted that Christian women, who were married to Muslim men, had the right to practice their own religion. It decreed that Muslims would provide sustenance to monks and hermits and that they would help them maintain their religious buildings.

During the fourth year of the hijrah, the Messenger of Allah provided even longer Covenants to a series of Christian communities. These Covenants, which are all virtually identical, were granted to all the major denominations of the time, spanning most of the Middle East. He even offered to make a covenant with the Eastern Roman Empire. It was rejected. The Christians who accepted to enter a covenant with the Prophet were promised revolutionary rights that were unconceivable under Byzantine or Sassanid rule. He described Christians as the proofs of God to His Creation. They received the protection of God, the Prophet, the Saints, and the believing Muslims. He promised them justice, safety, and security. He said he would care for them as a shepherd cares for his flock. From the start of his mission, until the end of his mission, the Prophet Muhammad was placing people under Covenants: Jews, Samaritans, Christians, and Zoroastrians.

The rights that are found in the Covenants of the Prophet, which date from the seventh century, were unprecedented. Nothing remotely similar would be seen in the Western world until the Magna Carta, six-hundred years later. In style and content, some segments of the Magna Carta resemble the Covenants of the Prophet. Even the English Bill of Rights of 1689 seems primitive compared to the prophetic Covenants that were prepared by Muhammad a thousand years earlier. Nothing remotely equivalent appears until the American Declaration of Independence, the US Constitution, and the US Bill of Rights in the 18th century. In clarity and comprehensiveness, the Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad are only surpassed by twentieth-century Western charters of rights and freedoms and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. However, even so, the Covenants of the Prophet contain clauses that appeal to a higher ethical standard: the duty to love the other. It expects citizens to act as Good Samaritans.

What’s wrong with that? How controversial is that? Who would object to that? Why is it that some Muslims will blindly believe some insane sayings attributed to the Prophet Muhammad and justify them, even when they are illogical and immoral, and clearly contradict the Qur’an, but will raise a ruckus over the Covenants of the Prophet? It boils down to something basic. Do you believe that God is good and that the Prophet was good? Are you endowed with logic and reason? Do you have morals and ethics? Do you believe that all human beings have innate and inalienable rights? Do you believe in human dignity? Moral truth is self-evident. As far as I am concerned, the Covenants of the Prophet are true even if they were written fifty years ago; nonetheless their ancient provenance, their actual authorship by the Prophet Muhammad, is virtually certain.

We are dealing with ethical principles. We are dealing with matters eternal. Fortunately, for the faint of faith and the faint of intellect, the Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad are duly documented. Take, for example, the Covenant with the Monks of Mount Sinai — the famous Ashtiname or Letter of Peace. It is one of the most meticulously referenced sources in the history of Islam. Here are some, and only some of the references. Forgive me for not being exhaustive. Let’s see what the sources say.

The Covenant of the Prophet with the Monks of Mount Sinai is attributed to the Prophet Muhammad (d. 632), peace and blessings be upon him and his progeny. It was written by Imam ‘Ali and witnessed by numerous Companions of the Prophet. It has been back dated and found to be authentic on that basis. We know that the rightly-guided Caliphs, Abu Bakr, ‘Umar, ‘Uthman, and ‘Ali (632-661), renewed the rights that the Prophet had provided to the Christians. The Covenants that Abu Bakr, ‘Umar, and ‘Ali, concluded with the Christians survive in Christian and Muslim sources.

The monks from Mount Sinai, from the seventh century to the present, have consistently asserted the authenticity of the Covenant of the Prophet. It is their prize and jewel. The Jabaliyyah Arabs of the Sinai, from the seventh century to the present, have consistently confirmed the authenticity of the Covenant of the Prophet. In other words, both the Christians and the Muslims from the Sinai honor the Covenant of the Prophet. We know that, by and large, the Umayyads and the ‘Abbasids respected the rights of the monks from the seventh century until the thirteenth century.

The Fatimid Caliphs, who ruled over the Sinai, issued decree after decree, and firman after firman, confirming the authenticity of the Covenant of the Prophet in 965, 1024, 1109, 1110, 1135, 1154, and 1156. Caliph al-Mu‘izz (953-974), Caliph al-‘Aziz (975-996), Caliph al-Hakim  (996-1021), Caliph al-Zahir (1024), Vizier al-Afdal ibn Badr al-Jamali (1094-1121), and Caliph al-Hafiz (1134) all asserted that the Covenant of the Prophet Muhammad with the Monks of Mount Sinai was authentic.

Some Sunnis might be suspicious of such claims since the Fatimids were Shi‘ites. The Ayyubids, however, who were staunch Sunnis also asserted that the Covenant of the Prophet was genuine. In fact, Shirkuh, the Ayyubid military commander, and the uncle of Salah al-Din issued a decree in 1169 which recognized that this was so. In 1195, 1199, 1201, and 1210, decrees were issued by Ayyubid leaders renewing the Covenant of the Prophet with the Monks of Mount Sinai. When the Mamluks arrived on the scene, they continued the same tradition. They issued decrees in 1259, 1260, 1272, 1268, 1280 and 1516 reaffirming the Ashtiname or Covenant of the Prophet.

Writing in the 14th century, Ibn Kathir, the student of Ibn Taymiyyah of all people, provided the complete list of privileges that the Prophet Muhammad had granted to St. Catherine’s Monastery. And in 1403, the Sultan of Egypt signed a treaty with the Order of St. John of Jerusalem that was based on the Ashtiname. In fact, the archives of St. Catherine’s Monastery at Mount Sinai contain nearly two thousand edicts, from five schools of jurisprudence, dating from 975 to 1888, which recognize the authenticity of the Covenant of the Prophet. What is more, we have dozens of Ottoman decrees, from 1519 to 1904, in which the Sultans recognize and renew the Covenant of the Prophet. And we have the Covenant of the Prophet itself.

Jean Thenaud, a French monk, saw the original Covenant of the Prophet at St. Catherine’s Monastery in 1512, and asserted that it was authentic. The original was taken to Topkapi Palace by Sultan Selim in 1517. He provided the monks with a certified copy of the original in both Arabic and Turkish. He issued a firman regarding the authenticity of the Covenant of the Prophet. His military commander, Tsernotabey, testified to the truth of the Ashtiname. Feridun Bey (d. 1583), who was in charge of the Ottoman Chancellery, included the Covenant of the Prophet in the Ottoman Registry. He compiled a work known as Munshaʼat al-salaṭin that features the letters, treaties, and Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad, the Caliphs, and the Sultans. That work included the Covenant of the Prophet Muhammad with the Monks of Mount Sinai. Most importantly, we have complete copies of Covenant of the Prophet dating from the 16th century until the 19th century.

The Ashtiname has been studied by scholars for centuries. Greffin Affagart, writing in 1533, asserted that it was authentic. Franciscus Quaresmius, writing in 1639, asserted that it was authentic. Balthsar de Monconys, writing in 1646, said that it was genuine. Nektarios of Sinai, writing in 1660, said that it was bona fide. The Grand Vizier of the Ottomans, Merzifonlu Kara Mustapha Pasha, who served between 1663-1666, claimed that it was apocryphal. Why? Because he wanted to convert all the Christians to Islam. The sultan and the scholars of Islam took him to task. Ultimately, he recanted and reasserted that the Covenant of the Prophet was true and binding.

Scores of scholars examined the evidence and concluded that the Ashtiname was authentic. In the 17th century, we have Joannes Caramuel de Lobkowitz, Henry Stubbe, and, in the 18th century, Eusèbe Renaudot. John Gagnier, writing in the 18th century, claimed that it was apocryphal. Johann Lorenz von Mosheim believed that it was apocryphal in form but authentic in content. Demetrius Cantemir pointed out that only one vizier had questioned its authenticity. As we have seen, however, Mustapha Pasha came to accept it. Bernard Picard, Richard Pococke, Thomas Salmon,  J.A. Van Egmont and J. Heyman all asserted that it was authentic. George Psalmanazar suggested that it was apocryphal or limited to the Sinai monks. Dom Jean Mabillon wrote that it was disputed. Jean Michel de Venture de Paradis, Jean-Joseph Marcel, the Commission des Sciences et des Arts, Charles Thomson, and even Napoleon himself, all asserted that it was authentic.

The situation was the same in the 19th century. Edward Wells, J.N. Fazakerley, Abraham Salamé, Félix Mengin, Thomas Clarke, John Carne, Abbé Grand and Adrien Egron, John Gibson Lockhart, the National Geographic Society, Joseph von Hammer-Purgstall and J.-J. Hellert, Ministers of Various Evangelical Denominations, C.B. Houry, Maria Giuseppe de Géramb, Pietro della Valle, A. Oumanetz, Louis de Tesson, Père Joguet, Léon Gingras, Austen Henry Layard, Amable Regnault, Henry Day, J.G. Pitzipios-Bey, Joseph Wolff, Antonio Figari Bey, John Davenport, the Royal Accademia dei Lini, Philippe Gelât, Nawfal Effendi Nawfal, Syed Ameer ‘Ali,  R.P. Jullien, Dean Arthur Stanley, L’Union islamique / al-Ittihad al-Islami, Bessarione, Échos d’Orient, and Samuel Sullivan Cox all concluded that the Ashtiname was authentic. John Lewis Burckhardt, Léon de Laborde, von Tischendorf, Odoardo Cusiere, Carl Ritter, and Wilfrid Scawen Blunt, however, were of the opinion that it was apocryphal. Still, the vast majority of scholars asserted that it was authentic.

In the 20th century, the situation changed somewhat. Those who believed in the authenticity of the Covenant of the Prophet included: Anton F. Haddad, ‘Abdullah al-Ma’mun al-Suhrawardy, Sultan ‘Abd al-Hamid II, Sésostris Sidarouss, Na’um Shuqayr, Alberto M. Candioti, Muhammad Marmaduke Pickthall, Essad Bey, Porphyrios III, Jeanne Aubert, Edmond Poupe, the Islamic Review, Joaquim Pedro Oliveira Martins, ‘Aziz Suryal Atiya, Albert Champdor, Alfred Nawrath, Ayatullah Hasan al-Shirazi, Robin Waterfield, Criton George Tornaritis, Le Figaro, Akram Zahoor and Z. Haq, Nikolaos Tomadakis, Konstantinos A. Manafis, Hieromonk Demetrios Digbassanis, Edwin Bernbaum, Nicole Levallois, Giovanna Magi, Jacqueline Lafontaine-Dosogne, LaMar C. Berrett and D. Kelly Ogden, Gawdat Gabra and Morsi Saad el-Din, and Ansar Hussain.

Some 20th century scholars concluded that the Ashtiname was apocryphal. They include Heinz Skrobucha, Louis Cheikho, Bernhard Moritz, the Encyclopedia of Islam, Lina Eckenstein, Ahmad Zaki Pasha, Muhammad Hamidullah, Philipp K. Hitti, A.F.L. Beeston, and Jean-Michel Mouton. Jurji Zaydan thought that they were apocryphal but based on authentic Covenants. Joan Meredyth Chichele Plowden concluded that they were not impossible. Stuart E. Rosenberg wrote that they could neither be proven nor disproven. Oleg V. Volkoff and Joseph J. Hobbs both remained neutral. Most scholars, however, believed that the Ashtiname was authentic.

Despite claims by clowns that the Covenant of the Prophet is definitely fake, that is certainly not the consensus of writers and scholars in the 21st century. Those who have treated it as authentic include Hüseyn Hilmi Işik, Yusuf Islam, Giovanni Magnani, Harun Yahya, Frederick Quinn, Bruce Merry, J. Gordon Melton, Brian Paciotti, Reza Shah-Kazemi, R.W. McColl, Elizabeth A. Zachariadou, Martin Gray and Graham Hancock, Jean-Pierre Isbouts, K. Staikos, David Douglas, Andrew Eames, National Geographic, ‘Abdurrahman Wahid, David Dakake, Muqtedar Khan, Peer-Jada Qureshi, Mohamed el Hebeishy, J. Gordon Melton and Martin Baumann, Zia Shah, Raj Bhala, Hedieh Mirahmadi, Farhad Malekian, Ahmed Shams, Altaf Hussain, Zora O’Neill, Judy Hall, Areej Zufari, Kyriacos C. Markides, James Emery White, Helen C. Evans, Father Justin of Sinai, the Pave the Way Foundation, Shemeem Burney Abbas, Nikos Kazantzakis, Timothy Wright, Brad Tyndall, Qasim Rashid, Muhammad Quraish Shihab, Zaid Shakir, Hamza Yusuf, Ronald H. Stone, Calum Samuelson, Alexander Winogradsky Frenkel, John Watson, Sayyid ‘Ali Asghar, ‘Azizah al-Hibri, Ahmed El-Wakil, Halim Rane, the hundreds of scholars who are signatories to the Covenants Initiative, and your truly, the author of The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World and the editor in chief of Islam and the People of the Book: Critical Studies on the Covenants of the Prophet.

The 21st century has seen it share of detractors. Those who treat the Ashtiname as apocryphal include: L’École pratique des hautes études, Christine Walsh, Caner, Brock, Van Bladel, and Price, Diarmaid MacCulloch, Brandie Ratliff, Pierre-Vincent Claverie, ‘Aziz al-Azmeh, Andrew D. Magnusson, and Walter D. Ward. They are entitled to their opinions.

I am simply listing the sources and their conclusions. In “The Provenance of the Prophet’s Covenants,” which is found in Islam and the People of the Book: Critical Studies on the Covenants of the Prophet, a three-volume encyclopedic work, I quote everything they have to say. I cite all their arguments. I do this for the Covenant of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of Najran, with the Assyrian Christians, with the Armenian Christians, with the Christians of Persia, and with the Christians of the World. In other studies, I do so for the Covenants with the Jews and the Zoroastrians. I could go on for hours, days, months and years providing citations from all the sources on the Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the People of the Book.

If, after examining all the evidence, you still insist that the Covenants of the Prophet are not genuine, that is perfectly fine; you just happen to be a hopeless skeptic with a very hard head. Your brain must be made of stone. There are some advantages to this. For example, you may not need to wear a helmet while playing hockey, riding a bike, or driving a motorcycle. You are as dumb as a dodo bird: no offense to the dodo bird. God bless the dodo birds. Each one was a shaheed: a victim of imperial greed. Let me be very clear about something. No Muslim is obliged to believe in the Covenants of the Prophet. Why? Because there is no compulsion in religion (2:256). However, every Muslim has the right to believe in them. Those of us who do have done so after a process of due diligence. Our minds, hearts, and souls have been convinced. I hope yours will be as well. Do you accept them as true? That is a question that God will ask of you, maybe in the akhirah, the hereafter, maybe tonight in your sleep; the safest course would be to have your answer ready. All praise is due to Allah. May peace and blessings be upon the Messenger of Allah. Al-salamu ‘alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh.

Additional reading

Book Review: The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World

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