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Offline Reader Questions

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Prophet Muhammad's Letter to the Christian Monks
« on: March 20, 2012, 08:57:59 PM »
Salam brother Joseph,

How authentic is the following document?

Regards

________________________


The Greek Orthodox monks living in the monastery at the foot of Mount Sinai have in their possession many precious documents going back many centuries.
Their library is one of the finest in the world for ancient manuscripts. One of the most precious documents of all is the copy of a letter narrated by Prophet Muhammad  to the monks in the year 628.
 
Its contents might come as a surprise to many, since in this precious manuscript Muslims are exhorted to protect the Christians living within their midst. The words are so beautiful that we repeat them in full here:

- This is a message from Mohamed 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 (The end of the world - Judgement day.).
     
It should be quite clear from this that, far from being a threat, Islam is actually the guardian of the Christian presence in the Middle East.
These words of the Prophet Mohammed should be made known to Muslims and non-Muslims throughout the world.

Offline Joseph Islam

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Re: Prophet Muhammad's Letter to the Christian Monks
« Reply #1 on: March 20, 2012, 10:26:02 PM »
Salamun Alaikum,

The 'Achtiname' of Muhammad present at the Saint Catherine's monastery in the Sinai Peninsula, Egypt, is not the original charter but a copy of an alleged original. Much academic work has been done in discussing its possible authenticity.

There are different sources that mention the tradition associated with it, such as the one mentioned in a well known article by Dr. Aziz Suryal Atiya (The monastery of St. Catherine and the Mount Sinai Expedition). Dr. Atiya was a professor of Medieval History at Farouk I University. A relevant excerpt is cited below:

"After the Arab conquest of Egypt in AD 640, it is said that the Prophet Muhammad granted the monks of Mount Sinai a covenant whereby their lives and property became secure under Muslim rule. The existing tradition is that the original charter was taken from the Monastery by Sultan Selim I after the Ottoman conquest of Egypt in 1517. The Sultan, however, gave the monks a copy of it and sanctioned its terms. On the other hand, it is clear from the monumental collection of ancient and modern scrolls preserved in the Monastery Library that the Covenant of the Prophet, whether authentic or forged, was in some way or other renewed" [1]

Whether this document was a reflection of the sentiments of much later rulers, including some later redactions, or a document contrived by the early Christians to vouchsafe their own protection under Muslim rule will always be questioned by critics. However, the fact that the monastery survives today in tact is a testimony that it had some kind of protection afforded to it throughout its existence under different rulers. It even includes a mosque from the 12th century inside its premises which speaks volumes of religious tolerance during its existence.

Regardless of the sentiments contained within the document or the extent of its authenticity, it nonetheless remains a very interesting script on many fronts.

However, it is not an original, but an alleged copy of an alleged original likely from the 16th century.

I hope this helps, God willing,

Regards,
Joseph

References:

[1] ATIYA A.S. The Monastery of St. Catherine and the Mount Sinai Expedition, Read April 19, 1951,  included in  Proceedings of the American Philosophical society Vol 96, No, 5, October 1952, page 578

Related Travelogue:

SAINT CATHERINE'S MONASTERY, MOUNT SINAI, EGYPT
http://quransmessage.com/travelogues/catherine%20monastery%20FM3.htm
'During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act' 
George Orwell

Offline Reader Questions

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Re: Prophet Muhammad's Letter to the Christian Monks
« Reply #2 on: March 21, 2012, 04:30:30 PM »
Salam Br Joseph
 
Thanks for your response Brother.

Comment advanced:
 
One way of ascertaining whether the document is authentic or not is to check if any clause on it are against Allah's Word. Except "The Muslims are to fight for them" which needs further clarification, it seems to me that most of it are within the framework of Quran.

Related Question posted on another forum:

Could another way to check for it's possible authenticity would be to see if it contents match with guidelines of the Qur'an with respect to the rights of the People of the Book to practice their faith??

http://ourbeaconforum.com/cgi-bin/bbs60x/webbbs_config.pl/page/1/md/read/id/314123119174699


Offline Joseph Islam

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Re: Prophet Muhammad's Letter to the Christian Monks
« Reply #3 on: March 21, 2012, 04:32:23 PM »
Salamun Alaikum,

With regards your question:

http://ourbeaconforum.com/cgi-bin/bbs60x/webbbs_config.pl/page/1/md/read/id/314123119174699

If a 9th century Hadith was in line with the Quran, would you conclude that it was actually said by the Prophet?

Please think about this carefully. If something is in line with the Quran, this does not authenticate the document.

The document at Sinai is not the original charter but a copy of an alleged original likely from the 16th century.

Whenever we look at something as serious academics and honest believers, we must try not to fall victim of a confirmation bias.

Confirmation bias.
'A  tendency of people to favor information that confirms their beliefs or hypothesis'

If we are going to conclude authenticity of a 16th century document which purports to be a copy of an original which does not exist because it is consistent with the Quran, then there are hadiths which are much earlier. Then on that basis, one would have to conclude that the prophet definitely said them too.

Also, what is in line with the Quran for one person is rather different from another's perspective. This is a subjective matter.

Some critics even claim that this document was contrived by the Christians themselves to save themselves from persecution from later rulers.

Whatever the authenticity, we know one thing, the Quran is authentic. Let us rely on matters that are clear.

Just my humble opinion.

Regards,
Joseph
'During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act' 
George Orwell