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The Covenants of the Prophet: Read an Excerpt
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The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World
By John Andrew Morrow
Book Excerpt: Chapter Two
Commentary on the Content of the Covenant with the Monks of Mount Sinai
The Covenant of the Prophet Muhammad with the Monks of Mount Sinai commences with the invocation of God's greatness and quickly moves into specifics: "As God is great and governs, from whom all the prophets are come, for there remains no record of injustice against God." Not only is God great, dictates the Prophet, but He also governs. The point is important both theologically and politically. Theologically, the Jews and Christians were engaged in a series of polemics concerning the role of the Creator. Some Jewish scholars argued that God has retired from active participation in the world after Creation, a view shared by the Deists of the Enlightenment and also by some contemporary Christian thinkers, such as Ernesto Cardenal. The Islamic position, espoused by the Prophet, is in agreement with the Catholic tradition which holds that God is actively engaged in a continuous process of Creation and Re-Creation. Hence, He is very much the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe.
If God rules, then, it follows that the rule of God should be established upon the earth; as the Lord's Prayer beseeches, "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." This raises the critical questions of who is invested with the authority to implement the Law of Allah upon the land. Islam answers: none other than the prophets of God; among whom Muhammad, the Messenger of Allah, represents the completion of the prophetic mission. Hence, the importance of Muhammad as khatim al-anbiya or the Seal of the Prophets, he who is the "careful guardian of the whole world." As such, the covenant he bequeathed to the monks of Mount Sinai is directed, not only to the entire Muslim ummah, but to the Christian Nation as well. As the Prophet proclaimed: he "has written the present instrument to all those who are in his national people, and of his own religion, as a secure and positive promise to be accomplished to the Christian nation." During a period in which class was everything and strictly defined one's role in society, the Prophet did not direct his covenant to the rich, the powerful, and the noble. He did not give his word simply to the ecclesiastic establishment. His covenant was concluded with each and every Christian: "whosoever they may be, whether they be the noble or the vulgar, the honorable or otherwise." The Covenant, then, conveyed a clear rejection of classism, elitism, and racism. It is thus in complete agreement with the contents of the Constitution of Medina: all are equal before God for whom the most important thing is not language, skin color, social status or class position which exclude others, but rather the degree of piety, humanity, love for others (which includes not only human beings but the entire natural order), sincerity of faith, the acceptance of His Commandments, and complete certainty as to the special place occupied by His Prophets, Messengers, and Imams.
As the covenant was made in the Name of Allah and His Most Noble Messenger, it was binding upon all Muslims at all times. The first item of the covenant is a stern warning directed to those who violate the Prophet's promise:
I. Whosoever of my nation shall presume to break my promise and oath, which is contained in this present agreement, destroys the promise of God, acts contrary to the oath, and will be a resister of the faith, (which God forbid) for he becomes worthy of the curse. . . .