Ashtiname of Muhammad
|Achtiname of Muhammad|
|The Covenant of the Prophet Muhammad with the Monks of Mount Sinai|
|Ascribed to||Ali bin Abi Talib (scribe), Islamic prophet Muhammad (commissioner)|
|Manuscript(s)||copies at Saint Catherine's Monastery, and Simonopetra monastery|
|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|
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The Achtiname of Muhammad, also known as the Covenant or (Holy) Testament (Testamentum) of the Prophet 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 Christian monks of Saint Catherine's Monastery. It is sealed with an imprint representing Muhammad's hand.
Achtiname (pronounced Āchtīnāmeh) is a Persian word consisting of two parts: آشتی (Āshtī) meaning Peace and نامه (nāmeh, nama) meaning Book or Letter and آشتینامه ('the Book of Peace') is the Persian word for Treaty and Covenant.
English Translation of the Ashtiname by Richard Pococke
- Muhammad the son of ‘Abd Allah, the Messenger of Allah, and careful guardian of the whole world; has written the present instrument to all those who are in his national people, and of his own religion, as a secure and positive promise to be accomplished to the Christian nation, and relations of the Nazarene, whosoever they may be, whether they be the noble or the vulgar, the honorable or otherwise, saying thus.I. Whosoever of my nation shall presume to break my promise and oath, which is contained in this present agreement, destroys the promise of God, acts contrary to the oath, and will be a resister of the faith, (which God forbid) for he becomes worthy of the curse, whether he be the King himself, or a poor man, or whatever person he may be.
- That whenever any of the monks in his travels shall happen to settle upon any mountain, hill, village, or other habitable place, on the sea, or in deserts, or in any convent, church, or house of prayer, I shall be in the midst of them, as the preserver and protector of them, their goods and effects, with my soul, aid, and protection, jointly with all my national people; because they are a part of my own people, and an honor to me.
- Moreover, I command all officers not to require any poll-tax on them, or any other tribute, because they shall not be forced or compelled to anything of this kind.
- None shall presume to change their judges or governors, but they shall remain in their office, without being deported.
- No one shall molest them when they are travelling on the road.
- Whatever churches they are possessed of, no one is to deprive them of them.
- Whosoever shall annul any of one of these my decrees, let him know positively that he annuls the ordinance of God.
- Moreover, neither their judges, governors, monks, servants, disciples, or any others depending on them, shall pay any poll-tax, or be molested on that account, because I am their protector, wherever they shall be, either by land or sea, east or west, north or south; because both they and all that belong to them are included in this my promissory oath and patent.
- And of those that live quietly and solitary upon the mountains, they shall exact neither poll-tax nor tithes from their incomes, neither shall any Muslim partake of what they have; for they labor only to maintain themselves.
- Whenever the crop of the earth shall be plentiful in its due time, the inhabitants shall be obliged out of every bushel to give them a certain measure.
- Neither in time of war shall they take them out of their habitations, nor compel them to go to the wars, nor even then shall they require of them any poll-tax.
- In these eleven chapters is to be found whatever relates to the monks, as to the remaining seven chapters, they direct what relates to every Christian.
- Those Christians who are inhabitants, and with their riches and traffic are able to pay the poll-tax, shall pay no more than twelve drachms.
- Excepting this, nothing shall be required of them, according to the express order of God, that says, ‘Do not molest those that have a veneration for the books that are sent from God, but rather in a kind manner' [29:46]. Give of your good things to them, and converse with them, and hinder everyone from molesting them.
- If a Christian woman shall happen to marry a Muslim man, the Muslim shall not cross the inclination of his wife, to keep her from her church and prayers, and the practice of her religion.
- That no person hinder them from repairing their churches.
- Whosoever acts contrary to my grant, or gives credit to anything contrary to it, becomes truly an apostate to God, and to his divine apostle, because this protection I have granted to them according to this promise.
- No one shall bear arms against them, but, on the contrary, the Muslims shall wage war for them.
- And by this I ordain, that none of my nation shall presume to do or act contrary to this my promise, until the end of the world.
English Translation of the Ashtiname by Anton F. Haddad
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 the Mighty, the Wise. This letter is directed to the embracers of Islam, as a covenant given to the followers of 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 disobeyer 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 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 the pilgrims, 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.
Poll-taxes 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 Islams have to fight for them. Do no dispute or argue with them, but deal according to the verse recorded in the Koran, 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 Musulman, 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 Islams must protect them and defend them against others. It is positively incumbent upon every one of the Islam nation not to contradict or disobey this oath until the Day of Resurrection and the end of the world.
[Haddad, Anton F., trans. The Oath of the Prophet Mohammed to the Followers of the Nazarene. New York: Board of Counsel, 1902; H-Vahabi: Lansing, MI: 2004]
For other translations of the Ashtiname, including the lists of witnesses, refer to The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World (Angelico Press / Sophia Perennis, 2013) by Dr. John Andrew Morrow.
According to the monks' tradition, Muhammad frequented the monastery and had great relationships and discussions with the Sinai fathers. The document claims that the Prophet (570–632) had personally granted by charter in the second year of the Hegira, corresponding to AD 626, 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.
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 claims that during the Ottoman conquest of Egypt in 1517, 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 Achtiname or Covenant of the Prophet Muhammad with the Monks of Mount Sinai.
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 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.
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 the Prophet Muhammad with the Christian communities of his time.
- Ratliff, "The monastery of Saint Catherine at Mount Sinai and the Christian communities of the Caliphate."
- Dehghani, Mohammad: 'Āshtīnāmeh' va 'Tovāreh', do loghat-e mahjur-e Fārsi dar kuh-e sinā. in 'Ayandeh' magazine. 1368 Hš. p. 584.
- 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, 2009), "Muhammad's promise to Christians", Washington Post, retrieved 1 December 2012
- Arabic Editions of the Achtiname
- Morrow, John Andrew. The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World. Kettering, OH: Angelico Press / Sophia Perennis, 2013.
- Amarah, Muhammad. al-Islam wa al-akhar. Maktabah al-Sharq al-Dawliyyah, 2002.
- Moritz, Bernhard. Beiträge zur Geschichte des Sinai-Klosters im Mittelalter nach arabischen Quellen. Berlin, Verlag der königl. Akademie Der Wissenschaften, 1918. (archive.org)
- 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.
- English, French, and German Translations of the Achtiname
- Thévenot, Jean de. Relation d’un voyage fait au Levant. Paris, L. Billaine, 1665.
- Pococke, Richard. 'Chapter XIV: The Patent of Mahomet, which he granted to the Monks of Mount Sinai; and to Christians in General.' Description of the East. Vol. 1. London, 1743. pp. 268–70.
- Arundale, Francis. Illustrations of Jerusalem and Mount Sinai. London: Henry Colburn, 1837.28–29
- Davenport, John. An Apology for Mohammed and the Koran. London: J. Davy and Sons, 1869. 147–151.
- Naufal, Naufal Effendi. [Translation from Turkish into Arabic completed prior to 1902].
- Moritz, Bernhard. Beiträge zur Geschichte des Sinai-Klosters im Mittelalter nach arabischen Quellen. Berlin, Verlag der königl. Akademie Der Wissenschaften, 1918. (archive.org)
- Affagart, Greffin. Relation de Terre Sainte, ed. J. Chavanon. Paris: V. Lecoffre, 1902. (archive.org)
- Haddad, Anton F., trans. The Oath of the Prophet Mohammed to the Followers of the Nazarene. New York: Board of Counsel, 1902; H-Bahai: Lansing, MI: 2004.
- Skrobucha, Heinz. Sinai. London: Oxford University Press, 1966.58.
- Hobbs, Joseph J. Mount Sinai. Austin: University of Austin Press, 1995. 158–61.
- Morrow, John Andrew. The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World. Tacoma, WA: Angelico Press / Sophia Perennis, 2013.
- 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).
- 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. (1956–58). 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.