The Orthodox monks living in the monastery at the foot of Mount Sinai, Egypt have in their possession many precious documents going back many centuries. The Monastery of St. Katherine is the oldest continuously inhabited monastery in the World and their library is one of the finest in the world for ancient manuscripts.
One of the most precious documents of all is the copy of a letter narrated by Prophet Muhammad ﷺ to the monks in the year 628. In this precious manuscript also referred to as ‘The Charter of Privileges to Christians’, Muslims are exhorted to protect the Christians living amongst them.
The words are so beautiful that we repeat them in full here:
“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 (Muslims) is to disobey the covenant till the Last Day (end of the world).”
The original letter was taken away in 1517 by the Ottoman Caliph Sultan Selim I and is now in the Topkapi Museum in Istanbul, but the sultan gave an attested and authenticated copy back to the Monastery.
The monastery was under the protection of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ and successive Arab and Ottoman rulers who all helped to preserve it virtually undamaged. In the walled compound there is a Fatimid mosque built next to the Orthodox church, a rare co-existence of religions in today’s World.