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The Covenants of the Prophet: Read an Excerpt
Since the name of the Sultan is not stipulated, it is unclear if it refers to Selim I or the Sultan who reigned when this copy, dating from the 1800s was made. The Arabic, as far as I understand, states that the original covenant was lost, and that the copy was provided by the Sultan to replace it. Was it not simply taken by the Sultan as opposed to lost? While a true muhaddith or hadith scholar focuses on the isnad-cum-matn, namely, the chain of authorities and the content of the tradition, this is clearly not possible in the case of a document purporting to be a copy of an original dictated by the Prophet himself; we are no longer dealing with hearsay, no matter how well-attested, but with documentary evidence. With the Covenant of the Prophet Muhammad with the Monks of Mount Sinai, its authority, or lack thereof, must be exclusively determined on the basis of content analysis. In this regard, the covenant has passed the test. Notes found on other copies of the covenant convey even more confidence. One copy of the covenant, written in Turkish Arabic script, which was made in 1858 and bears the seal of the Sinai dependency of Canea, Crete, contains the following heading: "Here is the reason for the writing of this document of eloquent language and the condition that necessitated the formulation of this document of true statements" (Griffith 63–64). That "[t]he Testament was confirmed by Sultan Selim, and by subsequent rulers, to the time of Sultan Abdul Hamid II in 1904" (64) should therefore suffice to ease the qualms of most scholars.
While there will always be those who seek to cast doubt on anything and everything that might reveal Islam as a positive force, most academics not bound to "the hermeneutics of suspicion" have good grounds for considering The Covenant of the Prophet Muhammad with the Monks of Mount Sinai to be authentic in the absence of definitive evidence of forgery. To date, no scholar has presented any solid proof that the covenant is a fake. On the contrary, Muhammad's extensive travels throughout the Greater Levant, his confirmed contacts with Christians in various regions, the remarkable stability of the account of his contact with the Monastery of Saint Catherine, the historic recognition of the achtiname by both the monks of Mount Sinai and Muslim scholars from all schools of jurisprudence, the discovery of the firman of Selim I in a Turkish collection, and the comparative study of the Prophet's numerous treaties and covenants, all seem to support the authentic nature of The Covenant of the Prophet Muhammad with the Monks of Mount Sinai.