By Charles Upton, Executive Director of The Covenants of the Prophet Foundation
“He brings them out of darkness into light.” (Qur’an 2:257)
Since the auspicious arrival of the Covenants of the Prophet six years ago, when they suddenly resurfaced, after laying dormant for decades and silent for centuries, these promises of peace, justice, and mercy have continued to spread throughout the world like a clarion call. Exploding upon the scene like a volcanic eruption, illuminating the night sky like a mystical meteorite, and shaking the world of Islam like an earthquake, the Covenants of the Prophet can no longer be ignored any more than one can ignore a tornado, a tsunami, a hurricane or an avalanche. While they may be a natural disaster to extremist Islamists and Islamophobes, they are the dawn of a new day for all believers in God, both Muslims, and the People of the Book.
Since its publication in 2013, The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World been translated and published in Spanish, Italian, Arabic, and Indonesian. The Six Covenants have been published in over a dozen world languages. The Covenants of the Prophet have inspired nearly one thousand articles, dozens of peer-reviewed studies, a three-volume encyclopedia titled Islam and the People of the Book, scores of speeches, lectures, and presentations by a brotherhood and sisterhood of scholar-activists, several M.A. theses and doctoral dissertations, over one hundred videos, a documentary, a play, and a permanent museum exhibit, “Muslims with Christians and Jews: Covenants and Coexistence,” as well as a second, portable exhibit, “Letters to Kings and Queens: A Message of Peace and a Word of Warning.”
The exhibit in question, which was held at the 2019 Jalsa at Hadeeqatul Mahdi (Oakland Farm) in Alton, Hampshire, in the United Kingdom, from Friday August 2nd to Sunday August 4th, 2019, was organized by the National Outreach Department of the UK Ahmadiyya Community headed by Mr. Ibrahim Ikhlaf. It was one of many exhibits on display at Britain’s biggest Muslim convention, including the Turin Shroud Exhibit, the Jesus in India Exhibit, and the Qur’an Exhibit, which were viewed by many of the forty thousand attendees, including a large contingent of non-Muslim leaders, diplomats, politicians, and clergy. The exhibit on “Letters to Kings and Queens: A Message of Peace and a Word of Warning” echoed the question at the heart of the 2019 Jalsa: “Is Islam a religion of terror or peace?” Based on The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World by John Andrew Morrow, the exhibit could not have answered the rhetorical question any better. It proved, from the divine spokesperson himself, the Messenger of Allah, that Islam is a religion of peace.
“Letters to Kings and Queens” contains an introduction to Islam and the letters of the Prophet. It reproduces the Messenger of Allah’s correspondence with Heraclius, Emperor of Rome and the governor of Ghassan and Yamamah. It provides a clear, concise, and correct understand of jizyah, the tax placed upon the People of the Book, and points out that it was intended to be lower than the taxes paid by Muslims as an act of mercy. It also notes that when some people were burdened by the jizyah, the second Caliph, ‘Umar required that they be released from it, citing words he had heard from the Prophet: “He who causes grief to the people of this world, shall be punished by God on the Day of Resurrection.” And while some Muslims and non-Muslims may doubt the authenticity of the Covenants of the Prophet, the fact remains that they were recognized and honored by Caliph ‘Umar who wrote in his final will and testament: “I advise the Caliph who succeeds me to treat the non-Muslim citizens of the Islamic State with extreme compassion and kindness. Fulfil treaties settled with them and protect them. Fight their enemies on their behalf, and do not in any case, place a burden of responsibility upon them which is beyond their capacity.” These words are a summary and synthesis of the Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad and a confirmation of their genuine nature.
The significance, implications, and applications of the Covenants of the Prophet are discussed in a section titled: “What do the Letters Tell Us?” The section titled “The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad” stress that the atrocities committed by Daesh and other terror groups have no place in Islam as proven by the treaties of peace and friendship that the Messenger of Allah concluded with Christians and Jews. As the exhibit establishes, “There is no better rebuke to such actions, committed in the name of God’s Holy Messenger, than the decrees he uttered by his lips and written at his behest.” The refusal of Chosroes, the Persian emperor, to accept the Covenant of Peace that was offered to him by the Prophet Muhammad, sealed his fate.
The exhibit also prominently features the Constitution of Medina. Citing Dr. Craig Considine, a Catholic scholar from Rice University, it attests that “Over 1,000 years before the US Constitution, the Prophet Muhammad and his followers devised the Constitution of Medina, a document that created a free and just society for Muslims, Jews, and Pagans.” It deals with its context, special features, and authenticity, providing key clauses that address equality between Muslim and Jews, freedom of religion, the alliance between Muslims and Jews, the commitment to promoting goodness, and the fact the document was divinely sanctioned.
Special attention is also paid to the Covenant with the Monks of St. Catherine’s Monastery, examining its historical context and surviving copies. An entire panel is devoted to issues of authenticity, definitively debunked claims that it was a Christian concoction. It established that the document was authenticated through the ages, confirmed in early Islam sources, witnessed by prominent Companions of the Prophet and correctly dated. To top it all off, the exhibit includes full-size replicas of several Covenants of the Prophet from Crete, St. Catherine’s, and Simonopetra.