Le Serment du Prophete.
Book ID: 24108
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On the significance of a document purporting to be a promise of protection made to the Christians by Muḣammad. Including a photograph and a translation of the document.
The Achtiname (Oath) of Muhammad, also known as the Covenant or (Holy) Testament of the Prophet Muhammad, 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 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.
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 the palace of Sultan Selim I 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.