Calling Iran to the Covenants of the Prophet: Dr. John Andrew Morrow Address to President Hassan Rouhani at the United Nations


Delivered at the United Nations on September 19, 2017

The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said, “He who does not thank people does not thank Allah.” So, let me begin by thanking people. To his excellency, President Hassan Rouhani; to the honorable Ambassador Gholamali Khoshroo; to the distinguished Manuchehr Ja-farzadeh: thank you for organizing this meeting with American Muslim leaders and thank you all for attending.

For those who know me, I need no introduction. For those who do not know me, and perhaps should know me, I am Dr. John Andrew Morrow, also known as al-Ustadh al-Duktur Ilyas Islam. I am a western academic and a full professor. I am also a traditionally trained alim.

I am the author of over 30 scholarly books, the most influential of which is The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World, a work that follows in the scholarly footsteps of Dr. Muhammad Hamidullah’s al-Watha’iq, Ayatullah Ahmadi Miyanji’s Makatib al-Rasul, and Zafar Bangash’s Power Manifestations of the Sirah.

Many educated Muslims are familiar with the Covenant of Madinahthe Treaty of Najran, and perhaps, the Ashtinamehthe Covenant of the Prophet Muhammad with the Monks of Mount Sinai, namely, with the Monastery of St. Catherine. These documents, however, merely scratch the surface. There are dozens upon dozens of covenants that the Prophet (pbuh) concluded with the People of the Book.

The principles enshrined in the Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad and Imam ‘Ali (a) are simply astonishing. They are like a Universal Declaration of Islamic Human Rights and an Islamic Bill of Rights dating back to the 7th century. They have both theoretical and practical applications.

The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad have inspired a movement, the Covenants Initiative, which calls upon all Muslims to respect the rights that the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) granted to the People of the Book.

The Covenants of the Prophet are backed by hundreds of Sunni, Shi‘i, and Sufi scholars. They are backed by al-Azhar. They are backed by the Grand Muftis of the Muslim world.

Imam Khamenei and Ayatullah Araki received copies of this book in 2013. They invited me to meet with them in Iran and to lecture on the Covenants of the Prophet in the Hawzah ‘Ilmiyyah. Unfortunately, due to conflicts in our schedules, I was unable to visit. Since then, I have been invited to Iran on numerous other occasions. Once again, due to my obligations, these trips did not come to pass.

Allah (swt) however, works in wonderful ways. Since 2013, The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World has been translated into Spanish, Italian, and Arabic. The Arabic translation is being published in Beirut, Lebanon, by Dar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyyah, under the name ‘Uhud al-Nabi li-Masihiyyi al-‘Alam.

I would like to invite you, Mr. President, as head of government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, to lend your support to the Covenants Initiative, to help disseminate The Covenants of the Prophet, and to stimulate more studies on this critically important subject.

Let us be interfaith ambassadors and not warmongers. Let us extend the olive branch to others as opposed to threaten to blow them off the face of the earth as we just heard someone do.

We are the people of truth. We are the people of justice. And we are the people of love. This is the need of the hour and the issue of the age. Thank you.

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The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World by Dr. John Andrew Morrow is constructed around covenants that the Prophet concluded with various Christian communities of his time, which Prof. Morrow has discovered in obscure monasteries, collections, and book out of print for centuries, in some cases newly translating them into English, as well as providing cogent arguments for their validity. They uniformly state that Muslims are not to attack peaceful Christian communities, rob them, stop churches from being repaired, tear down churches to build mosques, prevent their Christian wives from going to church and taking spiritual direction from Christian priests and elders, etc. On the contrary, the Prophet commands Muslims to actively protect these communities “until the End of the World”.

With the publication of The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World we may in fact be witnessing—unexpectedly, miraculously, at this extremely late date—the emergence of a third foundational source for Islam in addition to Qur’an and hadith: the application of western methods of textual and historical research to the documents composed by the Prophet himself during his lifetime. These documents—letters, covenants, treaties etc.—though known to a few scholars for many centuries, have been largely neglected by both traditional Muslim and modern western scholarship, and are virtually unknown to the mass of believers.

One of the most valuable contributions of this work is that it represents a comprehensive treasury of rare, ancient, Islamic sources, many of which have been quite difficult to obtain. Rather than spend their time scouring European and Middle Eastern archives, scholars will now have all the sources they need to conduct further studies on the Covenants and advance our knowledge in this fascinating field. Not only has Dr. Morrow included the original primary sources in Arabic and Persian, he has provided corrected versions of most of these in modern Arabic typescript, along with a wide variety of translations for the purpose of comparative analysis.

Consequently, the Covenant of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World represents a necessary and foundational resource and source of reference for all subsequent studies. And now that we are witness to widespread Islamicist violence against Christians in places like Syria and Egypt—often perpetrated by groups fighting as proxies for the United States and Israel—It is nothing short of providential that The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World should see the light of day at this precise historical moment.

John Andrew Morrow was born in Montreal, Canada, in 1971. He received his doctorate from the University of Toronto where he acquired expertise in Hispanic, Native, and Islamic Studies. He has served as a faculty member and administrator at numerous colleges and universities, the most notable of which was the University of Virginia’s Semester at Sea program for which he taught Spanish, English, and Religious Studies while circumnavigating the globe.

Dr. Morrow had authored and edited a wide body of books in various fields. In the area of Islamic Studies, his works include: Arabic, Islam, and the Allah Lexicon: How Language Shapes our Conception of God (Edwin Mellen, 2006), the Encyclopedia of Islamic Herbal Medicine (McFarland, 2011), Religion and Revolution: Spiritual and Political Islam in Ernesto Cardenal (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2012), Islamic Insights: Writings and Reviews (Ansariyan, 2012) and Islamic Images and Ideas: Essays on Sacred Symbolism (McFarland, 2013), among many others.