Freedom of religion, civic rights were important components of a 'Muslim nation'

March 14, 2016

Prophet Muhammad believed that freedom of religion and civic rights were important components of a 'Muslim nation,' according to a Rice University analysis of the prophet's covenants with Christians. The researcher argues that the covenants can be used to develop a stronger democratic partnership between Muslims and Christians in the Islamic world and elsewhere.

"Religious Pluralism and Civic Rights in a 'Muslim Nation': An Analysis of Prophet Muhammad's Covenants with Christians" appeared in the February edition of the journal Religions. The paper's author, Craig Considine, a lecturer in Rice's Department of Sociology, 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," Considine said. "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 and 632 A.D. Considine said 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.

The paper explores the prophet's covenants with the monks of Mount Sinai, the Christians of Najran, the Christians of Persia and the Christians of the World.

In "The Covenant of the Prophet with the Christians of Persia," the prophet 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," the prophet wrote.

Considine said a similar—if not identical—passage is found in the three other covenants addressed in this paper.

"Prophet Muhammad made it clear that freedom of religion is an inherent right for Christians living in a Muslim nation," he said. "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. Christian Persians were under no compulsion whatsoever to accept or reject Islam."

Considine also noted that Prophet Muhammad believed that a Muslim nation must also extend civic rights to Christian religious leaders, as discussed in "The Covenant of the Prophet with the Christians of the World."

"The covenant of Allah is that I should protect their land, their monasteries, with my power, my horses, my men, my strength and my Muslim followers in any region, far away or close by, and that I should protect their businesses. I grant security to them, their churches, their businesses, their houses of worship, the places of their monks, the places of their pilgrims, wherever they may be found," the prophet wrote.

"The Prophet Muhammad did not want to inflict harm on Christians, nor interfere or encroach on their privacy or private property," Considine said. "For the state to give preference to one or more groups means devaluating citizens based upon their ethnic or cultural backgrounds."

Considine said documents have been located in obscure monasteries around the world and books that have been out of print for centuries.

"In some cases they were never translated to distribute to a wider audience," he said. "Scholars and believers are turning to them now because of the widespread violence against Christians in places like Iraq and Syria."

Considine said the rediscovery of these documents provides an opportunity to give new birth to Islam and regenerate the essence of Islamic teachings. He hopes that the findings will have a positive impact on the impressions of Muslims in today's society and will combat anti-Muslim sentiments.

"Prophet Muhammad's covenants with Christians can be viewed as a kind of medicine to cure the diseases of Islamic extremism and Islamophobia," Considine said. "His message radiates compassion and peace. This is what American society - and indeed the world - needs now more than ever."

The paper is online at

Explore further: Restrictive, non-solicitation covenants are valid

Related Stories

Are Christians becoming more 'green'?

July 24, 2013

Despite the wide-held perception that Christians have become more concerned about the environment, new research finds this so-called "greening of Christianity" is not evident among the religious rank-and-file.

AP-NORC Poll: Online surveillance is OK for most (Update)

December 30, 2015

A majority of Americans say they support warrantless government surveillance of the Internet communications of U.S. citizens, according to a new poll by The Associated Press and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

Bangladesh blocks Facebook over prophet drawings

May 30, 2010

(AP) -- Bangladesh has become the second South Asian nation after Pakistan to block the popular social networking website Facebook over a page that urged people to draw images of Islam's Prophet Muhammad.

Internet blockade in Pakistan continues

May 21, 2010

(AP) -- Pakistan acknowledged the "suffering" caused by its bans on Facebook and YouTube, but said it would only consider restoring the websites if they take down pages considered offensive to Islam, the information technology ...

Recommended for you

Ancient parrot fossil found in Siberia

October 26, 2016

(—A Russian paleontologist has discovered a parrot fossil uncovered in Siberia several years ago—the first evidence of parrots living in Asia. In his paper published in Biology Letters, Nikita Zelenkov describes ...

Ancient burials suggestive of blood feuds

October 24, 2016

There is significant variation in how different cultures over time have dealt with the dead. Yet, at a very basic level, funerals in the Sonoran Desert thousands of years ago were similar to what they are today. Bodies of ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

3.5 / 5 (6) Mar 14, 2016
"He hopes that the findings will have a positive impact on the impressions of Muslims in today's society and will combat anti-Muslim sentiments."

Yeah, that's all it will take to make folks overlook those beheadings, rapes, slavery, hangings, drownings, etc., I'm sure. :-\
5 / 5 (4) Mar 14, 2016
"Prophet Muhammad believed".

So it is a theological study of a religious myth. As Scarlett notes, actual religiosity chooses to act within wide parameters set by the ever changing myth, so anyone outside religious studies will easily fail to see the relevance.

" that freedom of religion and civic rights were important components".

As long as everyone else was handled as 2nd class citizens which had their own rules and higher taxes, akin to the caste system of India, sure.
5 / 5 (3) Mar 15, 2016
Freedom and civil rights appeared in early Muslim writings (when they were the persecuted underdogs) but were later replaced by jihad teaching where they had the upper hand. The contrast being so marked; that a doctrine of later writings replacing/superceding earlier writings had to be developed.
Not that the Church-ians did any better: "Thou shalt not kill" was often completely superseded by greed and anger and pseudo-piety.
Nor the non-religious who kill for greed, territory, racism or blonde hair.
3.5 / 5 (2) Mar 15, 2016
@ENS: True, non-religious kill for one less reason.
5 / 5 (1) Mar 15, 2016
Sorry: I Forgot to include "kill those who threaten our oil supply" and "leave those to die who are poor and don't have a voice on the world stage" on the list for the non-religious killers.

I don't think anyone wins this competition, there are only losers.
5 / 5 (2) Mar 15, 2016
This is dangerous disinformation. The protection that the Koran prescribes is exactly the same protection that Al Capone gave to the shopkeepers of Chicago. Protection is only given, if the unbeliever remains subdued, and willingly pays the Jizya protection money. That is what the book says - read verse 9:29.

Unbelievers were Dhimmis (second class citizens) and had to abide by the very restrictive rules and laws of the Covenant of Dhimmitude. These stated that Chirstians had to give up their seat for a Muslim, step into the road to let a Muslim pass, not own a horse, wear special clothing (like in 1940s Germany), not have a house taller than a Muslim, not be a leader, not be in the army, not give evidence in court, etc etc. And to pay the Jizya protection tax, to keep the system of oppression and enslavement going.

So yes, Christians were 'protected' in Islamia, in the same way that a slave was 'protected' in the Roman Empire.
5 / 5 (2) Mar 15, 2016
All the laws that ISIS has enacted, come straight from the Koran.

Taking sex slaves (K 33:50). Beheadings (K 8:12) Crucifixions (K 5:33) Cutting off hands (K 5:33) Burning people in a fire (K 22:19) Subjugating Christians and Yazidi (K 9:29) Paying protection money (K 9:29) Taking over Christian, Alawite or Kurdish lands (K 13:40) And so it goes on.

ISIS is the pure distillation of true Islam, as proclaimed by the Koran.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.