CAIRO – An analysis of the covenants Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) had with Christians has found that freedom of religion and civic rights were basic components of the first Muslim nation.
“These covenants were designed to protect and even defend peaceful Christian communities, not attack them,” said Craig Considine, a lecturer in Rice’s Department of Sociology, Phys.org reported on Monday, March 14.
“The research clearly shows that contemporary Islamic states that mistreat and discriminate against Christians cannot be justified in light of Prophet Muhammad’s covenants.”
“Religious Pluralism and Civic Rights in a ‘Muslim Nation’: An Analysis of Prophet Muhammad’s Covenants with Christians” appeared in the February edition of the journal Religions.
Considine, the author of the paper, studied “The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with Christians” and found that these agreements established freedom of religion and civic rights for Christians living within the Muslim “ummah” or community.
Written between 622 and 632 AD, the covenants are believed to reflect the desire of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) to build alliances and bolster the new community.
The covenants include Prophet’s correspondents with the monks of Mount Sinai, the Christians of Najran, the Christians of Persia and the Christians of the World.
In “The Covenant of the Prophet with the Christians of Persia,” the prophet was emphatic on the issue of complete religious freedom:
“And even as they honor and respect me, so shall Muslims care for that people as being under our protection and whensoever any distress or discomfort shall overtake (Christians), Muslims shall hold themselves in duty bound to aid and care for them, for they are a people subject to my Nation, obedient to their word, whose helpers also they are. It therefore is proper for my sake to attend to their comfort, protection and aid, in face of all opposition and distress, suppressing everything that becomes a means to their spoliation,” the prophet wrote.
Considine said a similar, or even identical, passage is found in the three other covenants addressed in this paper.
“Prophet Muhammad made it clear that freedom of religion is an inherent right for Christians living in a Muslim nation,” he said.
“His cordial relations with Christians were not due merely to political expediency or personal aspirations, but rather they resulted from his belief that Christians should be able to freely practice their own faith in accordance with their own will. Christian Persians were under no compulsion whatsoever to accept or reject Islam.”
The researcher noted that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) believed that a Muslim nation must also extend civic rights to Christian religious leaders, as discussed in “The Covenant of the Prophet with the Christians of the World.”
“The covenant of Allah is that I should protect their land, their monasteries, with my power, my horses, my men, my strength and my Muslim followers in any region, far away or close by, and that I should protect their businesses. I grant security to them, their churches, their businesses, their houses of worship, the places of their monks, the places of their pilgrims, wherever they may be found,” the Prophet (PBUH) wrote.
“The Prophet Muhammad did not want to inflict harm on Christians, nor interfere or encroach on their privacy or private property,” Considine said.
“For the state to give preference to one or more groups means devaluating citizens based upon their ethnic or cultural backgrounds.”
These documents have been located in obscure monasteries around the world and books that have been out of print for centuries, Considine said.
“In some cases they were never translated to distribute to a wider audience,” he said.
“Scholars and believers are turning to them now because of the widespread violence against Christians in places like Iraq and Syria.”
The discovery of these documents offers a chance to regenerate the essence of Islamic teachings as based on religious freedoms and civic rights.
“Prophet Muhammad’s covenants with Christians can be viewed as a kind of medicine to cure the diseases of Islamic extremism and Islamophobia,” Considine said.
“His message radiates compassion and peace. This is what American society – and indeed the world – needs now more than ever.”