The Ashtiname of Muhammad, also known as the Covenant or Testament (Testamentum) of Muhammad (the Islamic Prophet), is a document which is a charter or writ allegedly ratified by the Islamic prophet Muhammad granting protection and other privileges to the followers of Jesus the Nazarene, given to the Christian monks of Saint Catherine's Monastery. It is sealed with an imprint representing Muhammad's hand.
|Ashtiname of Muhammad|
|The Covenant of the Prophet Muhammad with the Monks of Mount Sinai|
|Ascribed to||Ali (scribe), Muhammad (commissioner)|
|Manuscript(s)||copies at Saint Catherine's Monastery, and Simonopetra|
|First printed edition||Shuqayr, Na‘um. Tarikh Sina al-qadim wa al-hadith was jughrafiyatuha, ma‘a khulasat tarikh Misr wa al-Sham wa al-‘Iraq wa Jazirat al-‘Arab wa ma kana baynaha min al-‘ala’iq al-tijariyyah wa al-harbiyyah wa ghayriha ‘an tariq Sina’ min awwal ‘ahd al-tarikh il al-yawm. [al-Qahirah]: n.p., 1916|
This is a letter which was issued by Mohammed, Ibn Abdullah, the Messenger, the Prophet, the Faithful, who is sent to all the people as a trust on the part of God to all His creatures, that they may have no plea against God hereafter. Verily God is Omnipotent, the Wise. This letter is directed to the embracers of Islam, as a covenant given to the followers of Jesus the Nazarene in the East and West, the far and near, the Arabs and foreigners, the known and the unknown.
This letter contains the oath given unto them, and he who disobeys that which is therein will be considered a disbeliever and a transgressor to that whereunto he is commanded. He will be regarded as one who has corrupted the oath of God, disbelieved His Testament, rejected His Authority, despised His Religion, and made himself deserving of His Curse, whether he is a Sultan or any other believer of Islam. Whenever Christian monks, devotees and pilgrims gather together, whether in a mountain or valley, or den, or frequented place, or plain, or church, or in houses of worship, verily we are [at the] back of them and shall protect them, and their properties and their morals, by Myself, by My Friends and by My Assistants, for they are of My Subjects and under My Protection.
I shall exempt them from that which may disturb them; of the burdens which are paid by others as an oath of allegiance. They must not give anything of their income but that which pleases them—they must not be offended, or disturbed, or coerced or compelled. Their judges should not be changed or prevented from accomplishing their offices, nor the monks disturbed in exercising their religious order, or the people of seclusion be stopped from dwelling in their cells.
No one is allowed to plunder these Christians, or destroy or spoil any of their churches, or houses of worship, or take any of the things contained within these houses and bring it to the houses of Islam. And he who takes away anything therefrom, will be one who has corrupted the oath of God, and, in truth, disobeyed His Messenger.
Jizya should not be put upon their judges, monks, and those whose occupation is the worship of God; nor is any other thing to be taken from them, whether it be a fine, a tax or any unjust right. Verily I shall keep their compact, wherever they may be, in the sea or on the land, in the East or West, in the North or South, for they are under My Protection and the testament of My Safety, against all things which they abhor.
No taxes or tithes should be received from those who devote themselves to the worship of God in the mountains, or from those who cultivate the Holy Lands. No one has the right to interfere with their affairs, or bring any action against them. Verily this is for aught else and not for them; rather, in the seasons of crops, they should be given a Kadah for each Ardab of wheat (about five bushels and a half) as provision for them, and no one has the right to say to them 'this is too much', or ask them to pay any tax.
As to those who possess properties, the wealthy and merchants, the poll-tax to be taken from them must not exceed twelve drachmas a head per year (i.e. about 200 modern day US dollars).
They shall not be imposed upon by anyone to undertake a journey, or to be forced to go to wars or to carry arms; for the Muslims have to fight for them. Do no dispute or argue with them, but deal according to the verse recorded in the Quran, to wit: ‘Do not dispute or argue with the People of the Book but in that which is best’ [29:46]. Thus they will live favored and protected from everything which may offend them by the Callers to religion (Islam), wherever they may be and in any place they may dwell.
Should any Christian woman be married to a Muslim, such marriage must not take place except after her consent, and she must not be prevented from going to her church for prayer. Their churches must be honored and they must not be withheld from building churches or repairing convents.
They must not be forced to carry arms or stones; but the Muslims must protect them and defend them against others. It is positively incumbent upon every one of the follower of Islam not to contradict or disobey this oath until the Day of Resurrection and the end of the world.
According to the monks' tradition, Muhammad frequented the monastery and had great relationships and discussions with the Sinai fathers.
Several certified historical copies are displayed in the library of St Catherine, some of which are witnessed by the judges of Islam to affirm historical authenticity. The monks claim that during the Ottoman conquest of Egypt in the Ottoman–Mamluk War (1516–17), the original document was seized from the monastery by Ottoman soldiers and taken to Sultan Selim I's palace in Istanbul for safekeeping. A copy was then made to compensate for its loss at the monastery. It also seems that the charter was renewed under the new rulers, as other documents in the archive suggest. Traditions about the tolerance shown towards the monastery were reported in governmental documents issued in Cairo and during the period of Ottoman rule (1517–1798), the Pasha of Egypt annually reaffirmed its protections.
In 1916, Na'um Shuqayr published the Arabic text of the Ashtiname in his Tarikh Sina al-qadim or History of Ancient Sinai. The Arabic text, along with its German translation, was published for a second time in 1918 in Bernhard Moritz's Beiträge zur Geschichte des Sinai-Klosters.
The Testamentum et pactiones inter Mohammedem et Christianae fidei cultores, which was published in Arabic and Latin by Gabriel Sionita in 1630 represents a covenant concluded between the Prophet Muhammad and the Christians of the World. It is not a copy of the Ashtiname.
The origins of the Ashtiname has been the subject of a number of different traditions, best known through the accounts of European travellers who visited the monastery. These authors include the French knight Greffin Affagart (d. c. 1557), the French traveller Jean de Thévenot (d. 1667) and the English prelate Richard Peacocke, who included an English translation of the text.
Since the 19th century, several aspects of the Ashtiname, notably the list of witnesses, have been questioned by scholars. There are similarities to other documents granted to other religious communities in the Near East. One example is Muhammad's alleged letter to the Christians of Najran, which first came to light in 878 in a monastery in Iraq and whose text is preserved in the Chronicle of Seert.
Some have argued that the Ashtiname is a resource for building bridges between Muslims and Christians. For example, in 2009, in the pages of The Washington Post, Muqtedar Khan translated the document in full, arguing that
Those who seek to foster discord among Muslims and Christians focus on issues that divide and emphasize areas of conflict. But when resources such as Muhammad's promise to Christians is invoked and highlighted it builds bridges. It inspires Muslims to rise above communal intolerance and engenders good will in Christians who might be nursing fear of Islam or Muslims.
The Ashtiname is the inspiration for The Covenants Initiative which urges all Muslims to abide by the treaties and covenants that were concluded by Muhammad with the Christian communities of his time.
In 2018, the final legal judgement in the Pakistani Asia Bibi blasphemy case cited the covenant and said that one of Noreen's accusers violated the Ashtiname of Muhammad, a "covenant made by Muhammad with Christians in the seventh century but still valid today".
The Asia Bibi blasphemy case involves Pakistani Christian woman Aasiya Noreen (Urdu: آسیہ نورین – Āsiyaah Naurīn [ˈɑːsiɑː nɔːˈriːn], born c. 1971; commonly known as آسیہ بی بی Āsia Bibī), who was convicted of blasphemy by a Pakistani court and was sentenced to death by hanging in 2010. In October 2018, the Supreme Court of Pakistan acquitted her based on insufficient evidence, though she was not allowed to leave Pakistan until the verdict was reviewed on 29 January 2019.In June 2009, Noreen was accused of blasphemy after an argument with co-workers while harvesting berries. She was subsequently arrested and imprisoned. In November 2010, a Sheikhupura judge sentenced her to death by hanging. The verdict was upheld by Lahore High Court and received worldwide attention. Various petitions for her release were created by organisations aiding persecuted Christians such as Voice of the Martyrs, including one that received 400,000 signatures, and Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis called for the charges to be dismissed. She received less sympathy from her neighbors and Islamic religious leaders in the country, some of whom adamantly called for her to be executed. Minorities minister Shahbaz Bhatti and Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer were both assassinated for advocating on her behalf and opposing the blasphemy laws. Noreen's family went into hiding after receiving death threats, some of which threatened to kill Noreen if released from prison. Muslim cleric Maulana Yousaf Qureshi announced a bounty of 500,000 Pakistani rupees to anyone who would kill her.On 31 October 2018, the Supreme Court of Pakistan acquitted Noreen citing "material contradictions and inconsistent statements of the witnesses" which "cast a shadow of doubt on the prosecution's version of facts." The decision sparked protests headed by Islamist parties in major cities of the country, but was praised by human rights groups and those advocating on behalf of Christian minorities, such as International Christian Concern, Open Doors, and Aid to the Church in Need.On 2 November 2018 however, the Government of Pakistan signed an agreement with the Tehreek-e-Labbaik political party (TLP), which was leading the protests; this agreement barred Asia Bibi from leaving the country. This agreement between the Government of Pakistan and Tehreek-e-Labbaik has led to "allegations [that] the government was capitulating to extremists". The governments of Italy, Canada, and other Western countries, are currently working to help Asia Bibi leave Pakistan. On 7 November 2018, Asia Bibi was released from the New Jail for Women in Multan. However, by Christmas, Asia Bibi was reported to have spent Christmas Day in some sort of custody.On 29 January 2019, a petition requesting an appeal against the court's decision to acquit Asia Bibi was rejected, "lifting the last legal hurdle in the case and paving the way for her to leave the country."The blasphemy law in Pakistan has resulted in the extrajudicial killings, incited by accusations, of over 60 people, has been blamed for dozens of communal attacks that have taken place against religious minorities on the pretext of blasphemy, and has been used by individuals as a tool for revenge against other people. Noreen was the first woman in Pakistan to be sentenced to death for blasphemy, and would have been the first person in Pakistan to be executed for blasphemy under the current law.Historicity of Muhammad
While the existence of the figure Muhammad is established by contemporaneous or near-contemporaneous historical records, attempts to distinguish between the historical elements and the unhistorical elements of many of the reports of Muhammad have not been very successful. Hence the historicity of Muhammad, aside from his existence, is debated. The earliest Muslim source of information for the life of Muhammad, the Quran, gives very little personal information and its historicity has been questioned. Next in importance is the sīra literature and hadith, which survive in the historical works of writers from the third, and fourth centuries of the Muslim era (c. 800−1000 AD). There are also a relatively small number of contemporaneous or near-contemporaneous non-Muslim sources, which confirm the existence of Muhammad and are valuable both in themselves and for comparison with Muslim sources.Khadim Hussain Rizvi
Khadim Hussain Rizvi (Urdu: خادم حسين رضوى ) is a Pakistani Sunni Barelvi preacher and also the founding chairman of the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan, a religious political party.Marrakesh Declaration
The Marrakesh Declaration is a statement made in January 2016 by "more than 250 Muslim religious leaders, heads of state, and scholars", which champions "defending the rights of religious minorities in predominantly Muslim countries." The declaration was made in Morocco and "representatives of persecuted religious communities — including Chaldean Catholics from Iraq" were included in the conference. The conference, in which the Marrakesh Declaration was signed, was called in response to the persecution of religious minorities, such as Christians and Yazidis, by ISIS. The Marrakesh Declaration builds on historical Islamic sources such as the Charter of Medina. King Mohammed VI of Morocco stated "We in the kingdom of Morocco will not tolerate the violation of the rights of religious minorities in the name of Islam...I am enabling Christians and Jews to practice their faith and not just as minorities. They even serve in the government."Muhammad
Muhammad (Arabic: مُحمّد, pronounced [muħammad]; c. 570 CE – 8 June 632 CE) was the founder of Islam. According to Islamic doctrine, he was a prophet, sent to present and confirm the monotheistic teachings preached previously by Adam, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and other prophets. He is viewed as the final prophet of God in all the main branches of Islam, though some modern denominations diverge from this belief. Muhammad united Arabia into a single Muslim polity, with the Quran as well as his teachings and practices forming the basis of Islamic religious belief.
Born approximately 570 CE (Year of the Elephant) in the Arabian city of Mecca, Muhammad was orphaned at the age of six. He was raised under the care of his paternal uncle Abu Talib and Abu Talib's wife Fatimah bint Asad. In later years he would periodically seclude himself in a mountain cave named Hira for several nights of prayer. When he was 40, Muhammad reported being visited by Gabriel in the cave, and receiving his first revelation from God. Three years later, in 610, Muhammad started preaching these revelations publicly, proclaiming that "God is One", that complete "submission" (islām) to God is the right course of action (dīn), and that he was a prophet and messenger of God, similar to the other prophets in Islam.The followers of Muhammad were initially few in number, and experienced hostility from Meccan polytheists. He sent some of his followers to Abyssinia in 615 to shield them from prosecution, before he and his followers migrated from Mecca to Medina (then known as Yathrib) in 622. This event, the Hijra, marks the beginning of the Islamic calendar, also known as the Hijri Calendar. In Medina, Muhammad united the tribes under the Constitution of Medina. In December 629, after eight years of intermittent fighting with Meccan tribes, Muhammad gathered an army of 10,000 Muslim converts and marched on the city of Mecca. The conquest went largely uncontested and Muhammad seized the city with little bloodshed. In 632, a few months after returning from the Farewell Pilgrimage, he fell ill and died. By the time of his death, most of the Arabian Peninsula had converted to Islam.The revelations (each known as Ayah, lit. "Sign [of God]"), which Muhammad reported receiving until his death, form the verses of the Quran, regarded by Muslims as the verbatim "Word of God" and around which the religion is based. Besides the Quran, Muhammad's teachings and practices (sunnah), found in the Hadith and sira (biography) literature, are also upheld and used as sources of Islamic law (see Sharia).Relics of Muhammad
Traditionally, Islam has had a rich history of the veneration of relics, especially of those attributed to the Islamic prophet Muhammad. There exists historical evidence that some of the earliest Muslims practiced the veneration of relics, and the practice continued to remain popular in many parts of the Sunni Islamic world until the eighteenth-century, when the reform movements of Salafism and Wahhabism began to staunchly condemn such practices due to their linking it with the sin of shirk (idolatry). As a result of the influence of these perspectives, some contemporary Muslims influenced by these ideologies have rejected the traditional practice of relic-veneration altogether. The most genuine prophetic relics are believed to be those housed in Istanbul's Topkapı Palace, in a section known as Hirkai Serif Odasi (Chamber of the Holy Mantle).
The traditional Sunni attitude towards relics is concisely summarized in the words of the fourteenth-century hadith master Al-Dhahabi, who passionately sermonized: "Ahmad ibn Hanbal was asked about touching the Prophet's grave and kissing it and he saw nothing wrong with it. His son 'Abd Allāh related this from him. If it is asked: 'Why did the Prophet's Companions not do this?' We reply: 'Because they saw him with their very eyes when he was alive, enjoyed his presence directly, kissed his very hand, nearly fought each other over the remnants of his ablution water, shared his purified hair on the day of the Greater Pilgrimage, and even if he spat it would virtually not fall except into someone's hand so that he could pass it over his face. Since we have not had the tremendous fortune of sharing this, we throw ourselves on his grave as a mark of commitment, reverence, and acceptance, even to kiss it. Do you not see what Thābit al-Bunānī did when he kissed the hand of Anas ibn Malik and placed it on his face saying: 'This is the hand that touched the hand of the Messenger of God?' Muslims are not moved to these matters except by their extreme love for the Prophet, as they are ordered to love God and the Prophet more than their own lives."The 17th-century French explorer Jean-Baptiste Tavernier wrote about his discussions with two treasurers of Constantinople, who described the standard, mantle and the seal. Two centuries later, Charles White wrote about the mantle, the standard, the beard, tooth,
and footprint of Muhammad, the last of which he saw personally.Saint Catherine's Monastery
Saint Catherine's Monastery (Arabic: دير القدّيسة كاترين; Greek: Μονὴ τῆς Ἁγίας Αἰκατερίνης), officially "Sacred Monastery of the God-Trodden Mount Sinai" (Greek: Ιερά Μονή του Θεοβαδίστου Όρους Σινά), lies on the Sinai Peninsula, at the mouth of a gorge at the foot of Mount Sinai, near the town of Saint Catherine, Egypt. The monastery is controlled by the autonomous Church of Sinai, part of the wider Eastern Orthodox Church, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.Built between 548 and 565, the monastery is one of the oldest working Christian monasteries in the world. The site contains the world's oldest continually operating library, possessing many unique books including the Syriac Sinaiticus and, until 1859, the Codex Sinaiticus.Seal of Muhammad
Seal of Muhammad ( Arabic ختم الرسول) is one of the relics of Muhammad kept in the Topkapı Palace by the Ottoman Sultans as part of the Sacred Relics collection. It is allegedly the replica of a seal used by Muhammad on several letters sent to foreign dignitaries.
Jean-Baptiste Tavernier in 1675 reported that the seal was kept in a small ebony box in a niche cut in the wall by the foot of a divan in the relic room at Topkapi. The seal itself is encased in crystal, approximately 3"x4", with a border of ivory. It has been used as recently as the 17th century to stamp documents.
The seal is a rectangular piece of red agate, about 1 cm in length, inscribed with الله / محمد رسول (i.e. Allah "God" in the first line, and Muḥammad rasūl "Muhammad, messenger" in the second).
According to Muslim historiographical tradition, Muhammad's original seal was inherited by Abu Bakr, Umar, and Uthman, but lost by Uthman in a well in Medina. Uthman is said to have made a replica of the seal, and this seal was supposedly found in the capture of Baghdad (1534) and brought to Istanbul.According to George Frederick Kunz, when Mohammed was about to send a letter to the Emperor Heraclius, he was told he needed a seal to be recognized as coming from him. Mohammed had a seal made of silver, with the words "Mohammed Rasu^l Allah" or "Mohammed the Apostle of God." The three words, on three lines, were on the ring, and Mohammed ordered that no duplicate was to be made. After his death, the ring came down to Uthman, who accidentally dropped the ring into the well of Aris. The well was so deep the bottom has never been found, and the ring remained lost. At that time a copy was made, but the loss of the original ring was assumed to be an indication of ill-fortune to come.Sir Richard Francis Burton writes that it is a "Tradition of the Prophet" that carnelian is the best stone for a signet ring, and that tradition was still in use in 1868. The carnelian stone is also "a guard against poverty".
A different design of the "seal of Muhammad" is circular, based on Ottoman era manuscript copies of the letters of Muhammad. This is the variant that has become familiar as the "seal of Muhammad."
The authenticity of the letters and of the seal is dubious and has been contested almost as soon as their discovery, although there is little research on the subject. Some scholars such as Nöldeke (1909) consider the currently preserved copy to be a forgery, and Öhrnberg (2007) considers the whole narrative concerning the letter to the Muqawqis to be "devoid of any historical value", and the seal to be fake on paleographical grounds, the writing style being anachronical and hinting at an Ottoman Turkish origin.
In addition to using a signet ring to seal documents, Mohammed may have also used other techniques to show the provenance of his correspondence. In an alleged letter to the Saint Catherine's Monastery in Egypt, he signed the letter, also called the Ashtiname of Muhammad, by inking his hand and pressing the impression on the paper. The letter granted protection and privileges to the monastery. In part it says: "I shall exempt them from that which may disturb them; of the burdens which are paid by others as an oath of allegiance. They must not give anything of their income but that which pleases them—they must not be offended, or disturbed, or coerced or compelled. Their judges should not be changed or prevented from accomplishing their offices, nor the monks disturbed in exercising their religious order, or the people of seclusion be stopped from dwelling in their cells. No one is allowed to plunder these Christians, or destroy or spoil any of their churches, or houses of worship, or take any of the things contained within these houses and bring it to the houses of Islam. And he who takes away anything therefrom, will be one who has corrupted the oath of God, and, in truth, disobeyed His Messenger." It is sealed with an imprint representing Muhammad's hand.