Achtiname of Muhammad
|Achtiname of Muhammad|
|Ascribed to||Ali bin Abi Talib (scribe), Islamic prophet Muhammad (commissioner)|
|Manuscript(s)||copies at Saint Catherine's Monastery, Mount Sinai, and Simonopetra monastery|
|First printed edition||Gabriel Sionita, Testamentum et pactiones inter Mohammedem et Christianae fidei cultores (1630)|
Muḥammad - (محمد)
The Achtiname of Muhammad, also known as the Covenant or (Holy) Testament (Testamentum) of Muhammad, is a document or ahdname which is a charter or writ ratified by the Islamic Prophet Muhammad granting protection and other privileges to the monks of Saint Catherine's Monastery, Mount Sinai. It is sealed with an imprint representing Muhammad's hand.
An English translation of that document: "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 document claims that the Prophet (570-633) had personally granted by charter the rights and privileges to all Christians "far and near". It consists of several clauses on such topics as the protection of Christians living under Islamic rule as well as pilgrims on their way to monasteries, freedom of worship and movement, freedom to appoint their own judges and to own and maintain their property, exemption from military service and taxes, and the right to protection in war.
The original charter does not survive, but several copies are now extant in the library of St Catherine, some of which are witnessed by the judges of Islam in order to bolster its historical authenticity. The traditional explanation which accounts for the loss of the original claims that during the Conquest of Egypt by the Ottoman sultan Selim I in 1517, the original document was seized from the monastery by Ottoman soldiers and taken to Selim's palace at Constantinople. A copy was then made to compensate for its loss at the monastery. On the other hand, it is also possible that the charter was simply 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 1630, Gabriel Sionita published the first edition of the Arabic text, with Latin translation, under the title Testamentum et pactiones inter Mohammedem et Christianae fidei cultores.
The origins of the document 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 Achtiname, 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 letter to the Christians of Najrān, which first came to light in 878 in a monastery in Iraq and whose text is preserved in the Chronicle of Séert.
Modern influence 
Some have argued that the Achtiname 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.
- Ratliff, "The monastery of Saint Catherine at Mount Sinai and the Christian communities of the Caliphate."
- Lafontaine-Dosogne, "Le Monastère du Sinaï: creuset de culture chrétiene (Xe-XIIIe siècle)", p. 105.
- Atiya, "The Monastery of St. Catherine and the Mount Sinai Expedition". p. 578.
- Ratliff, "The monastery of Saint Catherine at Mount Sinai and the Christian communities of the Caliphate", note 9. Ratliff refers to Mouton, "Les musulmans à Sainte-Catherine au Moyen Âge", p. 177.
- Khan, Muqtedar (December 30), "Muhammad's promise to Christians", Washington Post, retrieved 1 December 2012
Primary sources 
- Editions of the Ahtiname
- Sionita, Gabriel (ed. and tr.). Testamentum et pactiones inter Mohammedem et Christianae fidei cultores. Paris, 1630.
- Nisselii, J.G. (ed.). Testamentum inter Muhamedem et Christianae religionis populos initum. Leiden, 1655.
- Travel descriptions
- Pococke, Richard. Description of the East. Vol. 1. London, 1743. pp. 268-70. Includes an English translation.
- Thévenot, Jean de. Relation d’un voyage fait au Levant. Paris, L. Billaine, 1665.
- Affagart, Greffin. Relation de Terre Sainte, ed. J. Chavanon. Paris: V. Lecoffre, 1902.
Secondary sources 
- Atiya, Aziz Suryal. "The Monastery of St. Catherine and the Mount Sinai Expedition." Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 96.5 (1952). pp. 578-86.
- Lafontaine-Dosogne, Jacqueline. "Le Monastère du Sinaï: creuset de culture chrétiene (Xe-XIIIe siècle)." In East and West in the Crusader states. Context – Contacts – Confrontations. Acta of the congress held at Hernen Castle in May 1993, ed. Krijnie Ciggaar, Adelbert Davids, Herman Teule. Vol 1. Louvain: Peeters, 1996. pp. 103-129.
- Ratliff, Brandie. "The monastery of Saint Catherine at Mount Sinai and the Christian communities of the Caliphate." Sinaiticus. The bulletin of the Saint Catherine Foundation (2008).
Further reading 
- Atiya, Aziz Suryal (1955). The Arabic Manuscripts of Mount Sinai: A Handlist of the Arabic Manuscripts and Scrolls Microfilmed at the Library of the Monastery of St. Catherine, Mount Sinai. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press.
- Hobbs, J. (1995). Mount Sinai. Austin: University of Texas Press. pp. 158–61.
- Manaphis, K.A., ed. (1990). Sinai: Treasures of the Monastery of Saint Catherine. Athens. pp. 14, 360–1, 374.
- Moritz, B. (1918). "Beitrage zur Geschichte des Sinai-Klosters im Mittelalter nach arabischen Quellen". Abhandlungen der Berliner Akademie: 6–9. German translation
- Moritz (1928). Abhandlungen der Preussischen Akademie der Wissenschaften 4: 6–8.
- Mouton, Jean-Michel (1998). "Les musulmans à Sainte-Catherine au Moyen Âge". Le Sinai durant l'antiquité et le moyen âge. 4000 ans d'histoire pour un desert. Paris: Editions Errance. pp. 177–82.
- Pelekanidis, S. M.; Christou, P. C.; Tsioumis, Ch.; Kadas, S. N. (1974-1975). The Treasures of Mount Athos [Series A]: Illuminated manuscripts. Athens. A copy in the Simonopetra monastery, p. 546.
- Sotiriou, G. and M. (1956-8). Icones du Mont Sinaï. 2 vols (plates and texts). Collection de L'Institut francais d'Athènes 100 and 102. Athens. pp. 227–8.
- Vryonis, S. (1981). "The History of the Greek Patriarchate of Jerusalem as Reflected in Codex Patriarchus No. 428, 1517-1805". Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies 7: 29–53.