The Covenant of the Prophet Muhammad Provides Insight into the Formative Years of Islam

My apologies for being late in sending you this report on the 2024 Georgetown Lecture at the Pontifical Institute for the Study of Arabic and Islam (PISAI) in Rome.  On my way home from Rome, I picked up Covid and so have been rather lethargic these past 2 weeks.

Perhaps the best way for me to report briefly and effectively to you about the unexpected success of the presentations at the lecture is to give you excerpts from my report to Pope Francis.

But first, I want to affirm my appreciation of the leadership of Silvano Cardinal Tomasi over these past 4 years in having insight into the importance of these overlooked recensions of covenants made 1,300 years ago by the Prophet Muhammad and so in constantly encouraging us at the Caux Round Table to pursue a close study of the covenants.

I also thank most enthusiastically Father Diego Cucarella, President of PISAI, for asking our colleagues Professor Ibrahim Zein and Dean Recep Senturk to speak about the covenants and their importance for us today at the Georgetown lecture.

Especially given the appreciative audience reception of the presentations by Prof. Zein and Dean Senturk, I thank them for their dedicated intellectual leadership, of such benefit to all of us and for their selfless collaboration with others in our study group.

As I reported to Pope Francis:

On May 16, our colleagues, Professor Ibrahim Zein and Dean Recep Senturk, spoke at the 2024 Georgetown Lecture at the Pontifical Institute for the Study of Arabic and Islam. … Though he could not attend personally, the Secretary of State, Cardinal Parolin, kindly asked Monsignor Simon Kassas of his office to attend the lecture.

In his presentation at PISAI, Professor Zein concluded that the recensions of the covenants that have come down to us are not forgeries.

Therefore, it is not unreasonable for us to infer that study of those texts will put all of us more directly in contact with the thinking of the Prophet in his time.

Dean Recep then shared with the audience his research on the concept of Adamiyyah, an Islamic universalism, an Islamic humanism, implicit in the teachings of three schools of Islamic jurisprudence.

Dean Recep quoted Sarakhsi, an Islamic scholar of the Hanafi School of Jurisprudence (D. 1090):

“When God created human beings, He honored them with intelligence and the capacity to carry responsibilities and rights (dhimmah: legal personality), so they would be capable of fulfilling their obligations and the rights entrusted to them.  Then, He granted them the right to inviolability, freedom and property, so they could continue their lives in such a way that they can fulfill the responsibilities they carry.  These responsibilities, freedom and right to property, are inherent to individuals from the moment of their birth and the discerning and non-discerning alike are equal in this regard.  Thus, the capacity to bear rights and responsibilities is inherent in individuals from birth and all individuals, regardless of their level of intellectual development, are equal in this respect.”

In response to a question, Dean Recep noted the alignment of Adamiyyah with Qur’anic guidance never to forget the mercy and compassion of God.

The presentations by Professor Zein and Dean Recep confirm the implications inherent in our study of the covenants of the Prophet that such texts present an opportunity for dialogue and engagement with our Islamic colleagues, both Sunni and Shi’a, on the deepest possible understanding of Islam in its formative decades.