Tag Archives: God

Did You Know… Muhammad Wrote A Letter Guaranteeing the Protection of Christians?

Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, lived from 570-632 AD. Muslims believe that he is the final prophet of the monotheistic Abrahamic tradition, which includes Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus.

So although it may come as a shock to many, it’s really not that surprising that Muhammad frequently visited the Christian monks of Saint Catherine’s Monastery on Mt. Sinai in the Sinai peninsula of Egypt.

For those who aren’t aware, Mt. Sinai is the mountain that Moses climbed to retrieve the 10 Commandments in the Exodus chapter of the Bible.

St. Catherine’s Monastery and the Sinai peninsula. Click to enlarge (Courtesy of BBC)

Muhammad had a great relationship with the monks, engaging them in discussions about science, philosophy and spirituality, among other topics. Their teachings had a great influence on the Muslim prophet.

In the year 622, Muhammad fled his hometown of Mecca in Saudi Arabia after hearing of an assassination attempt on his life. He and his followers (who left the city with him) settled in the city of Medina, where they officially established the religion of Islam. This pilgrimage is known in Islamic tradition as the Hijra.

In 626 (according to the current copy in St. Catherine’s Monastery), Muhammad personally granted a charter to the monks of St. Catherine’s Monastery to protect the rights of Christians and other non-Muslims “far and near” who were living in predominantly-Muslim areas.

In the letter, Muhammad made it known to his followers that Christians had the right to freedom of religion and movement within Muslim communities.

He decreed that they had the freedom to appoint their own judges and handle their own property, as well as exempting them from any taxes mandated by Islam or an Islamic government:

“They [Christians] 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…

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.”

A copy of the Achtiname from the 16th century. Click to enlarge (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

He also told his followers that Christians would be exempt from any mandatory military service in a Muslim community, adding that the Muslims in that community still had a duty to protect them and fight for them in times of war:

“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,”

and he declared Christian churches to be sacred places that should never be desecrated:

“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.”

St. Catherine’s Monastery, built in 565 AD, still stands today. Click to enlarge (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Muhammad prefaced the letter by saying that its message had been sent, “to all the people as a trust on the part of God to all His creatures,” though he added that its contents were, “directed to the embracers of Islam.”

Then, in no uncertain terms, Muhammad described what he believed was a sacred spiritual relationship between Islam and Christianity:

“This letter contains the oath given unto them [the people of Islam], 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.”

Two modern-day monks sit and talk inside St. Catherine’s Monastery. The man on the left is a Bedouin server. Click to enlarge (Photo: Matthew D. Moyer)

The Achtiname pictured earlier in this post is not the original, but actually a copy of an original from the 16th century, which was likely already a somewhat altered version of the original text written by Muhammad in 626.

Dr. Aziz Suryal Atiya was a professor of Medieval History at Farouk University when he took part in The Monastery of St. Catherine and the Mount Sinai Expedition, a research project that looked into the history of the monastery and the authenticity of the Achtiname.

Here’s what he had to say:

“After the Arab conquest of Egypt in AD 640 , it was said that the Prophet Muhammad granted the monks of Mount Sinai a covenant whereby their lives and property became secure under Muslim rule. The existing tradition is that the original charter was taken from the Monastery by Sultan Selim I after the Ottoman conquest of Egypt in 1517. The Sultan, however, gave the monks a copy of it and sanctioned its terms.”

This timeline puts the emergence of Islam into some historical perspective. Click to enlarge

The copy now in the monastery is a copy of the certified copy given to them by the Sultan after he took the original in 1517 (supposedly for safe keeping at his palace in Constantinople, modern-day Istanbul), prompting some to question its authenticity entirely.

However, the basic premise of the letter seems to have been maintained over the years, despite any small changes that may have been made to it as it passed between different hands.

Either way, the fact that St. Catherine’s Monastery has lasted for nearly 1500 years, surviving through countless different rulers (both Christian and Muslim) and years of bitter religious conflicts in the Middle East, speaks volumes about the mutual respect of the faiths on this hallowed ground.

BONUS: St. Catherine’s actually includes a 12th-century mosque within its walls, but it has never been used because it wasn’t built to face the Muslim holy city of Mecca in accordance with Islamic tradition.

Minneapolis Just Replaced Columbus Day With Indigenous People’s Day. Good Idea? (Poll)

It’s no secret that Christopher Columbus was a liar, a bigot, and just an all around crappy person. He wasn’t the first European to “discover” America (Viking Lief Erikson founded a Norse village in Newfoundland almost 500 years earlier), and he also had quite the track record of totally screwing over and exploiting any natives he came in contact with.

For example, when he landed in the Bahamas, Columbus found that the islands were inhabited by the peaceful and friendly Lucayans, Taínos and Arawaks tribes. In his diary, he describes these people as being very smart and kind, as well as saying,

“They offered to share with anyone and when you ask for something, they never say no.”

The voyages of Christopher Columbus. Click to enlarge (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

When Columbus’s ship wrecked on their shores, the natives spent hours laboring to save his crew and their cargo, without asking for anything in return. How did he repay them?

He proclaimed the island to be Spanish property and enslaved the locals to work in gold mines, mining gold which would then be sent back to Spain. Within two years, half of the native population (125,000 people) had died.

Columbus also supervised the sale of young native girls (usually around the ages of 9 or 10) into sexual slavery. Another excerpt from his diary:

“A hundred castellanoes [Spanish currency at the time] are as easily obtained for a woman as for a farm, and it is very general and there are plenty of dealers who go about looking for girls; those from nine to ten are now in demand.”

In Hispaniola, Columbus set gold collection quotas for any native over the age of 13. If they failed to bring back their quota, their hands were chopped off and they were left to bleed to death

For years, Native Americans have been protesting against the celebration of this vile man. The idea for an Indigenous People’s Day was first proposed 37 years ago by a Native Nations delegation during a meeting of the United Nations. It was proposed again by a coalition of 120 indigenous nations at a conference commemorating 500 years of Indian Resistance.

Minneapolis has been really trying to celebrate their native peoples in recent years. Just last year, their City Council approved a measure called “The Year of the Dakota:  Remembering, Honoring and Truth Telling”, to bring attention to all of the contributions Native Americans have made to the city.

Just this past week, Minneapolis’s proposal to create Indigenous People’s Day on Columbus Day was unanimously and enthusiastically approved in front of a packed crowd in City Hall. The resolution creating the holiday explains,

“Indigenous People’s Day shall be used to reflect upon the ongoing struggles of Indigenous people on this land, and to celebrate the thriving culture and value that Dakota, Ojibwa and other indigenous nations add to our city.”

The Minneapolis City Hall meeting that officially established Indigenous People’s Day (Photo: Karen Boros/MinnPost)

Although this particular measure does not eliminate Columbus Day, it is possible that the old holiday will be removed from the city ordinances in future years. Congressman Keith Ellison from Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District had this to say:

“Now that we have established Indigenous People’s Day, every child — whether that child is native or whether that child is not — will learn the truth about where America really comes from. This is so important because it’s difficult to imagine, if you are from the mainstream experience, how it feels to sit in a classroom and be told there was darkness and then Columbus came and then there was light.”

Read the full article about the establishment of Indigenous People’s Day from the Minneapolis Post here.

Read more about the true history of Columbus and Columbus Day in this Huffington Post article.

Mount Ararat, Turkey: The Final Resting Place of Noah’s Ark

Mount Ararat is a snowcapped, stratovolcano, located in eastern Turkey. Mount Ararat has two peaks, Greater Ararat which has an elevation of nearly 17,000 ft, and Lesser Ararat which has an elevation of nearly 13,000 ft.

Mount Ararat is believed by many to be the final resting place of Noah’s Ark because the Bible actually says Noah’s Ark landed “upon the Mountains of Ararat”. In fact, many have claimed to have found actual remains of Noah’s Ark on Mount Ararat. In 2010 a group of Chinese and Turkish evangelical explorers claimed to have found remains on Mt. Ararat. This was not the first claim to a discovery of the ark, most notably Ron Wyatt claimed to have discovered Ark remains in the 80s. Although many truly believe they have located pieces of the remains, just as many argue that the claim is false and no real remains have been found. Check Out the link to a video of Ron Wyatt’s Original Documentary on the Discovery Noah’s Ark.