In researching for this month’s topic I looked for places which epitomised that most important masonic virtue, the principle of religious tolerance.
Those places will now be featured in later topics for what I found was a document which could be the most important to our current world. It is the
Ashtiname* of Mohammad. A document from around 632 AD, from the prophet Mohammad to the Christian monks of the Monastery of
St.Catharine at Mount Sinai.
The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad include copies of the Covenant of the Prophet Muhammad with the Monks of Mount Sinai, all issued
and authenticated by Ottoman Sultans.
The document was written in the handwriting of Imam ‘Ali during the fourth year of the Hijrah which would place us approximately around 625 CE.
Although Islamic Tradition has been passed down almost exclusively by Muslims, this is one of the rare cases in which a Sunnah and a Hadith
have been transmitted consecutively by both Muslims and Christians.
As a Christian country and society we are honour bound to return the same friendship and assurances that Mohammed personally gave to
Christians, when he issued his Ashtiname of Mohammad to the Christian monks of the Monastery of St.Catharine at Mount Sinai.
The document has been translated and with its description reads -
In 628 C.E. Prophet Muhammad (s) granted a Charter of Privileges to the monks of St. Catherine Monastery in Mt. Sinai. It consisted of several
clauses covering all aspects of human rights including such topics as the protection of Christians, freedom of worship and movement, freedom to
appoint their own judges and to own and maintain their property, exemption from military service, and the right to protection in war.
An English translation of that document is presented below.
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
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).
This charter of privileges has been honored and faithfully applied by Muslims throughout the centuries in all lands they ruled.
In recent times muslim police officers have been killed protecting that Monastery from terrorists.
There are always exceptions, and unfortunately those people are are promoted by today’s press. We should be aware, that the massacre in
Jersulem of Moslems, Christians and Jews in the first Crusade was carried out by the Crusaders - so called Christians.
It is time for Freemasonry to stand up against all who do not follow the paths of Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth. Those of us who are Christians
should recall the parable of the Good Samaritan, and the Sermon on the Mount from Christ’s teaching. We should ask that the Ashtiname* be
posted in every church and church newsletter, and every mosque in New Zealand. We should follow that example of long ago and show our
support for our Moslem brothers in the community as well as in our lodges.
Furthermore we should remember that we are not limited to two faiths but many. The words of Rudyard Kipling, which he wrote in the London
Times, March 28th, 1935, should never be far from a freemason’s thoughts.
“In reply to your letter I was Secretary for some years of the Lodge of Hope and Perseverance No. 782, English Constitution which included
Brethren of at least four different creeds. I was entered by a member of the Brahmo Samaj (a Hindu), passed by a Mohammedan, and raised by
an Englishman. Our Tyler was an Indian Jew. We met, of course, on the level and the only difference that anyone would notice was that at our
banquets some of the Brethren, who were debarred by caste rules from eating food not ceremoniously prepared, sat over empty plates. I had the
good fortune to be able to arrange a series of informal lectures by Brethren of various faiths, on baptismal ceremonies of their religions.”
Good men and women come from all faiths, as do bigots, fundamentalists and terrorists, but the last three are tiny minorities, and directly go
against their teachings and the word of God.
Are we going to remain the silent majority?
* "Ashtiname" can have the alternative spelling "Achtiname".