Muhammad's promise to Christians
“In 628 AD, a delegation from St. Catherine’s Monastery came to Prophet Muhammed, requesting his protection. He responded by granting them a charter of rights, which is reproduced below in its entirety. St. Catherine’s Monastery is located at the foot of Mt. Sinai and is the world’s oldest monastery. It possesses a huge collection of Christian manuscripts, second only to the Vatican, and is a world heritage site, even boasting the oldest collection of Christian icons. Indeed, it is a treasure trove of Christian history that has remained safe for 1400 years under Muslim protection.
The Promise to St. Catherine:
“This is a message from Muhammad ibn Abdullah, as a covenant to those who adopt Christianity, near and far, we are with them.
Verily I, the servants, the helpers, and my followers defend them, because Christians are my citizens; and by Allah! I hold out against anything that displeases them.
No compulsion is to be on them. Neither are their judges to be removed from their jobs nor their monks from their monasteries. No one is to destroy a house of their religion, to damage it, or to carry anything from it to the Muslims’ houses.
Should anyone take any of these, he would spoil God’s covenant and disobey His Prophet. Verily, they are my allies and have my secure charter against all that they hate.
No one is to force them to travel or to oblige them to fight. The Muslims are to fight for them. If a female Christian is married to a Muslim, it is not to take place without her approval. She is not to be prevented from visiting her church to pray. Their churches are to be respected. They are neither to be prevented from repairing them nor the sacredness of their covenants.
No one of the nation (Muslims) is to disobey the covenant till the Last Day (end of the world).”
The first and final sentences of this charter are critical, as they make the promise eternal and universal. Prophet Muhammed asserts that Muslims are with Christians near and far. Thus, totally rejecting any future attempts to limit the promise to St. Catherine alone. By commanding Muslims to obey it until the Day of Judgment, the charter again undermines any future attempts to revoke the privileges. These rights are inalienable. Prophet Muhammed declared Christians as his allies and equated ill treatment of Christians with violating God’s covenant.
A remarkable aspect of the charter is that it imposes no conditions on Christians for enjoying its privileges. It is enough that they are Christians. They are not required to alter their beliefs, they do not have to make any payments and they do not have any obligations. This is a charter of rights without any duties!
By Muqtedar Khan
Director of Islamic Studies at the University of Delaware