Covenantal Theology: Can Muhammad’s Ancient Promise Inspire Muslim-Christian Peace Today?

85674Christians esteem the biblical progression of covenants—Abrahamic, Mosaic, Davidic—finalized by Jesus as he ushered in the New.

But for the sake of religious freedom in the Muslim world, should they embrace a further covenant: Muhammadian?

Modern scholarship suggests the Muslim Prophet’s Christian covenants could offer contemporary guidance; they already influenced a favorable verdict in the case of Christian Asia Bibi in Pakistan.

After eight long years on death row, Bibi was acquitted of blasphemy by the Muslim nation’s Supreme Court in late October. The Christian mother of five had been sentenced for uttering contempt for Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, while attempting to drink water from a well.

The three-judge panel ruled that contradictions in accuser testimony and Bibi’s forced confession by a local cleric rendered the charges invalid.But in the official court document, one justice went as far as to partially base his judgement on how Bibi’s accusers violated an ancient covenant of Muhammad to the Christian monks of Mount Sinai—“eternal and universal … not limited to [them] alone.”

“Blasphemy is a serious offense,” wrote judge Asif Khosa, “but the insult of the appellant’s religion … was also not short of being blasphemous.”

He referenced a 2013 book by John Morrow, a Canadian convert to Islam. The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World is an academic study of six treaties commanding the kind treatment of Christians, reportedly dated to the seventh century.

Each similar in scope, they command Muslims not to attack peaceful Christian communities, to aid in the construction and repair of churches, and even to allow self-regulation of tax payments.


Pakistan’s High Court Acquits Asia Bibi, Christian Woman On Death Row For Blasphemy

asiaPakistan’s Supreme Court on Wednesday announced the acquittal of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman who was convicted and sentenced to death in 2010 for blasphemy in a case that has roiled the country.

In the courtroom, it took less a minute for the chief justice, Saqib Nisar, to upturn a series of legal rulings that had kept Bibi on death row for eight years.

In terse remarks to the hushed, packed courtroom, he said that Bibi’s conviction and sentence had been voided.

In a 56-page verdict issued after the ruling, the three-judge bench appeared to side with Bibi’s advocates. They have maintained that the case against the 51-year-old illiterate farmhand was built around a grievance by her fellow Muslim workers, who appeared angry that she might drink from the same vessel as them. She was ordered by a local landlord to bring water to the women on a day while they were picking berries.

The judges cited the Quran, Islamic scholars and Shakespeare in their impassioned verdict, arguing that blasphemy allegations had led to vigilante killings. In Bibi’s case, they wrote, her accusers had not conclusively proved her guilt.


The Christian Minority in Pakistan

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Christians might be less than two per cent of the total population of Pakistan.

Where do you think Muslims and Christians celebrate Christ’s birth together? One of the answers is: where it is least expected, in Pakistan.

In last December, the Gulshan Centre for the Study of Islam and Christianity in Mansehra partnered with local Islamic scholars to hold a well-attended carol service with local Christians and Muslims celebrating the birth of Christ – together. And during Ramadan, the two use to organize aniftar dinner, where Christians and Muslims are breaking the fast together. The center, which was established by Pakistani Christians in 2009, serves as a platform for Christians and Muslims to discuss both theological issues and everyday ones.

As a Muslim-majority country, Pakistan is often criticized for not caring enough about minority rights or ensuring minorities’ equal participation in political and social processes. There have even been incidents of discrimination, violence and hate against them.

But this is not the only reality in Pakistan. There have always been people and organizations from many religious communities working for communal harmony and interfaith understanding. Christians might be less than two per cent of the total population of Pakistan, for example, but they have undertaken many initiatives to promote interfaith dialogue in the country, especially between themselves and the majority Muslim population.


Not Guilty: Pakistani Christian Sees Victory in Islamic Court

supreme-court-of-pakistan5A Pakistan court last month surprised all involved when it dismissed charges of blasphemy against a Christian man accused of insulting Islam.

The Jan. 28 ruling by a trial court in Punjab province surprised defendant Barkat Masih, his attorney and religious-rights advocates. It came two months after a different judge threw out similar charges against a teen-aged girl that drew worldwide criticism of Pakistan’s anti-blasphemy laws.

“I didn’t think God would rescue me from such an impossible situation,” Masih told World Watch Monitor, “but my miraculous rescue has strengthened my faith in Him.”

Masih, a 56-year-old high school custodian and a Hindu convert to Christianity, said his trouble started in September 2011. He was passing the time in an old Hindu shrine in his native village of Khairpur Tamewali, on two acres of land he said has been in his family for generations. The shrine pre-dates the 1947 partition of Pakistan from India, he said.

“Many people, belonging to all communities, gather there every Thursday to listen to Qawwalis (Islamic hymns) and to socialize. We have been caretakers of the shrine for three generations,” Masih told World Watch Monitor from Bahawalpur, a district in the heart of Punjab province known as a breeding ground for radical and jihadi outfits.

Two frequent visitors to the shrine, whom Masih identified as Muhammad Saleem and Muhammad Shoaib, arrived.

“They deliberately started an altercation with me, alleging that I had spoken ill of the Muslim prophet during a conversation with them,” he said. “I couldn’t make out what they were saying. They accused me of indulging in black magic even though they knew I couldn’t read or write. The other people present there intervened in the situation and forced the two men to leave.”



Pakistan Court Acquits Christian Girl of Blasphemy

ISLAMABAD – A Pakistani court on Tuesday acquitted a Christian girl accused of blasphemy over the burning of the Muslim holy book, her lawyer said.

The ruling was the final chapter in a case that caused an international outcry over Pakistan’s strict blasphemy laws, which are very popular in the country and are primarily used against supposed offenses to Islam.

In August, the young Christian girl was arrested in Islamabad after a Muslim cleric accused her of desecrating the Muslim holy book, the Quran. The cleric was later accused of fabricating evidence against the girl, whose mental capacity was subsequently questioned.

Attorney Abdul Hameed said the court on Tuesday exonerated his client for lack of evidence and dismissed all charges against her, concluding they were based on heresy and incriminated material that was planted in the girl’s possession.

“I am happy that the poor girl’s ordeal is now over,” he told The Associated Press after hearing the court ruling in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad.