Ashtiname of Muhammad

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Ashtiname of Muhammad
The Covenant of the Prophet Muhammad with the Monks of Mount Sinai
Ascribed toAli (scribe), Muhammad (commissioner) 623 CE
Manuscript(s)Copies at Saint Catherine's Monastery, and Simonopetra
First printed editionShuqayr, 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

The Ashtiname of Muhammad, also known as the Covenant or Testament (Testamentum) of Muhammad, is a charter or writ granting protection and other privileges to the followers of Jesus, given to the Christian monks of Saint Catherine's Monastery. It is sealed with an imprint representing Muhammad's hand.[1]

Āshtīnāmeh (IPA: [ɒʃtinɒme]) [آشتی نامه] is a Persian phrase meaning "Letter of Reconciliation", a term for a treaty or covenant.[2]


Arabic to Latin translation from 1630

English translation of the Ashtiname by Anton F. Haddad[edit]

This is a letter which was issued by Muhammad, 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.[3]

  • 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.[4]

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.[1][5] A copy was then made to compensate for its loss at the monastery.[1] It also seems that the charter was renewed under the new rulers, as other documents in the archive suggest.[6] 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.[1]

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 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.[1] 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,[1] who included an English translation of the text.


The document is generally accepted as authentic by modern and ancient scholars, including Franciscus Quaresmius, Balthasar de Monconys, and Kara Mustafa Pasha.[7][8] John Andrew Morrow has also confirmed the authenticity of the document, pointing out that the document is replicated verbatim across numerous Islamic sources, including more than a thousand years of Caliphs and Sultans.[9][10][11] Since the 19th century, several aspects of the Ashtiname, notably the list of witnesses, have been questioned by some scholars.[12] 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.[1]

At the beginning of the 20th century, Bernhard Moritz, in his seminal work, claimed that: "The impossibility of finding this document to be authentic is clearly evident. The date, style and content all prove the inauthenticity."[13] Amidu Sanni points out that there are no existent codices, Islamic or otherwise, which predate the 16th century,[14] and Dr Mubasher Hussain has questioned the authenticity of the document on the basis of the fact it contains an impression of a hand which it is claimed belongs to that of Muhammad, but which, rather than showing the inside of the hand as might be expected, "surprisingly shows the outer side of the hand, which is possible only if it is taken using a camera!" Furthermore, he claims that "many language expressions used in this covenant" are dissimilar "to those of the Prophetic expressions preserved in the authentic hadith collections."[15]

Modern influence[edit]

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[16] 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 goodwill in Christians who might be nursing fear of Islam or Muslims.[16]

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.[17]

Mohamed's Ashtiname refers in particular to the relation and marriage of Christian and Muslim beliefs, and the assured protection of Christian churches in Islamic regions. However, modern interpretation has extended this tolerance to other faiths, such as Judaism and Hinduism, because in the Quran, the superior text of Islam, it is written henceforth:

Quran: (2:256) There is no compulsion and coercion in regard to religion.[18]

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".[19] In 2019, Imran Khan, Prime Minister of Pakistan, cited the covenant in a speech delivered at the World Government Summit.[20]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b c d e f g Ratliff, "The monastery of Saint Catherine at Mount Sinai and the Christian communities of the Caliphate."
  2. ^ Dehghani, Mohammad: 'Āshtīnāmeh' va 'Tovāreh', do loghat-e mahjur-e Fārsi dar kuh-e sinā Archived August 11, 2014, at the Wayback Machine. in 'Ayandeh' magazine. 1368 Hš. p. 584.
  3. ^ trans. Haddad, Anton F. (1902). "The Oath of the Prophet Mohammed to the Followers of the Nazarene". New York, NY: Board of Counsel, 1902. Retrieved Sep 2, 2018.
  4. ^ "Mohammed and the Holy Monastery of Sinai". Archived from the original on 2013-11-13. Retrieved 2013-09-09.
  5. ^ Lafontaine-Dosogne, "Le Monastère du Sinaï: creuset de culture chrétiene (Xe-XIIIe siècle)", p. 105.
  6. ^ Atiya, "The Monastery of St. Catherine and the Mount Sinai Expedition". p. 578.
  7. ^ Morrow, John Andrew (2021). The Islamic Interfaith Initiative: no fear shall be upon them. Newcastle-upon-Tyne. p. 335. ISBN 978-1-5275-7482-3. OCLC 1277138744.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  8. ^ "Dr. John Andrew Morrow". Muhammad (pbuh) - Prophet of Islam. 2015-01-27. Retrieved 2022-10-09.
  9. ^ Morrow, John Andrew (2019-10-16). "The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad Continue to Cause Controversy". Maydan. Retrieved 2023-09-04.
  10. ^ Andrew Morror, John, ed. (2017). Islām and the People of the Book Volumes 1-3: Critical Studies on the Covenants of The Prophet. Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Publishing. ISBN 978-1-5275-9876-8.
  11. ^ Andrew Morrow, John (2013). The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World. New York: Angelico Press. ISBN 978-1597314657.
  12. ^ 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.
  13. ^ Moritz, Bernhard. (1918). "Beiträge zur Geschichte des Sinaiklosters im Mittelalter nach arabischen Quellen", p. 11.
  14. ^ Sanni. (2015), "The Covenants of the Prophet Muḥammad with the Christians of the World", Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs, DOI: 10.1080/13602004.2015.1112122, p. 2.
  15. ^ Mubasher, "John Andrew Morrow. The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World", Islamic Studies, Vol. 57 No. 3-4 (2018), p. 313
  16. ^ a b Khan, Muqtedar (December 30, 2009), "Muhammad's promise to Christians", The Washington Post, archived from the original on January 18, 2010, retrieved 1 December 2012
  17. ^ "". Retrieved 2018-02-26.
  18. ^ Exclusive : Ashtiname of Muhammad (PBUH). Accessed 14 April 2023.
  19. ^ Asif Aqeel (31 October 2018). "Pakistan Frees Asia Bibi from Blasphemy Death Sentence". Christianity Today. Retrieved 31 October 2018.
  20. ^ (22 December 2018). "PM Imran Khan Speech at 100 Days Performance of Punjab government" (in Urdu). Retrieved 23 December 2018.


Further reading[edit]

Primary sources[edit]

Arabic Editions of the Achtiname
English, French, and German Translations of the Achtiname

Secondary sources[edit]

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Hobbs, J. (1995). Mount Sinai. Austin: University of Texas Press. pp. 158–61. ISBN 9780292730915.
  • 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.
  • Manaphis, K.A., ed. (1990). Sinai: Treasures of the Monastery of Saint Catherine. Athens. pp. 14, 360–1, 374.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  • Moritz, B. (1918). "Beitrage zur Geschichte des Sinai-Klosters im Mittelalter nach arabischen Quellen". Abhandlungen der Berliner Akademie.
  • Moritz (1928). Abhandlungen der Preussischen Akademie der Wissenschaften. 4: 6–8.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: untitled periodical (link)
  • 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.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link) A copy in the Simonopetra monastery, p. 546.
  • 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) (archived).
  • 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.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  • 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. doi:10.1179/030701381806931532. S2CID 161924458.

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