Magazine article USA TODAY

Muhammad Covenants Belie ISIS Theology

Magazine article USA TODAY

Muhammad Covenants Belie ISIS Theology

Article excerpt

Prophet Muhammad believed that freedom of religion and civic rights were important components of a "Muslim nation," according to an analysis of the prophet's covenants with Christians. Craig Considine, a lecturer in the Department of Sociology at Rice University, Houston, Texas, contends that the covenants can be used to develop a stronger democratic partnership between Muslims and Christians in the Islamic world and elsewhere.

He studied "The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with Christians" and found that these agreements established freedom of religion and civic rights for Christians living within the ummah (Arabic for "community"). "These covenants were designed to protect and even defend peaceful Christian communities, not attack them. The research clearly shows that contemporary Islamic states that mistreat and discriminate against Christians cannot be justified in light of Prophet Muhammad's covenants."

The covenants were written between 622-32 A.D. Considine says it is assumed they were written because of Prophet Muhammad's desire to build alliances to bolster his new community and because of his positive interactions with members of the Christian faith.

In "The Covenant of the Prophet with the Christians of Persia," Muhammad was emphatic on the issue of complete religious freedom:" ... and even as they honor and respect me, so shall Muslims care for that people as being under our protection and whensoever any distress or discomfort shall overtake [Christians], Muslims shall hold themselves in duty bound to aid and care for them, for they are a people subject to my Nation, obedient to their word, whose helpers also they are. It therefore is proper for my sake to attend to their comfort, protection, and aid, in face of all opposition and distress, suppressing everything that becomes a means to their spoliation."

Considine points out that a similar--if not identical--passage is found in the three other covenants addressed in his study. "Prophet Muhammad made it clear that freedom of religion is an inherent right for Christians living in a Muslim nation. His cordial relations with Christians were not due merely to political expediency or personal aspirations, but rather they resulted from his belief that Christians should be able to freely practice their own faith in accordance with their own will. …

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