Recently I came across a document called the Ahitname(which is the latinised version of the noun ‘Ahed-nama’), or ‘immunity covenant’. Apparently the document had been sent by Muhammad (PBUH) in 628 AD to the Father’s of St. Catherine’s Monastery in Sinai in response to their request for protection. The document states:
This is a message from Muhammad ibn Abdullah, as a covenant to those who adopt Christianity, near and far, we are with them. Verily I, the servants, the helpers, and my followers defend them, because Christians are my citizens; and by Allah! I hold out against anything that displeases them.
No compulsion is to be on them. Neither are their judges to be removed from their jobs nor their monks from their monasteries.
No one is to destroy a house of their religion, to damage it, or to carry anything from it to the Muslims’ houses. Should anyone take any of these, he would spoil God’s covenant and disobey His Prophet. Verily, they are my allies and have my secure charter against all that they hate.
No one is to force them to travel or to oblige them to fight. The Muslims are to fight for them. If a female Christian is married to a Muslim, it is not to take place without her approval. She is not to be prevented from visiting her church to pray.
Their churches are to be respected. They are neither to be prevented from repairing them nor the sacredness of their covenants. No one of the nation (of Muslims) is to disobey the covenant till the Last Day (end of the world).
The English translation of this Charter of Privileges also called ‘Al-Ohda al-Mohamadeyas’ has been taken from the book ‘Muslim History: 570 – 1950 C.E.’ written by Akram Zahoor.
It is interesting how 1400 years ago the leader of Islam put forth a covenant that grants unprecedented rights to people of other faiths, including a duty to protect them. The last line unequivocally states that no one is to disobey this covenant and yet it is disobeyed on a daily basis all over the muslim world.
We are still contemplating whether Jinnah intended to found a secular state. In light of this covenant it doesn’t matter. In fact the path that Muhammad (PBUH) took does not talk about a muslim state. It talks about a state headed and controlled by muslims, but one that grants certain basic rights, in fact one could term them as ‘human rights’, to christians. This could very easily be one of the first recorded statements of human rights. 1400 years later, in this day and age, certainly we must not still be trying to find a solution to problem that already stands solved.