by Prof. Halim Rane
The Qur’an is a book of guidance for the God-conscious that presents the terms and conditions of human existence and coexistence. It does so through the concept of covenant (‘ahd and mithaq). Though covenants have been overlooked and underreprepresented in discourses about Islam, they are pivitol to the Qur’anic narrative, as well as the Prophet’s worldview and diplomacy. This presentation examines the various covenantal relationship categories of the Qur’an, including between Allah and humanity, the Prophets, people of scripture, and with Prophet Muhammad and people of his time, as well as covenants within families and between spouses. Professor Halim Rane discusses his ground-breaking article, Higher Objectives (maqāṣid) of Covenants in Islam: A Content Analysis of ‘ahd and mīthāq in the Qurʾān.
Only a handful of studies have examined covenants in Islam. Most tend to focus on the primordial covenant referred to in Surah Al-A’raf, verse 172. This study expands on previous work, examining all Qur’anic verses that refer to ‘ahd and mithaq. It does so with a focus on the higher objectives or maqasid of covenants in the Qur’an. Drawing on the Maqasid Methodology and Framework developed by Professor Jasser Auda, this research contributes to maqasid studies by demonstrating the application of the Maqasid Methodology and Framework and producing findings that contribute to a deeper understanding of Islam.
Among the key findings of this research is the centrality and significance of covenants in the Qur’an, particularly concerning relations with Allah and interreligious relations. It is through the covenant with humanity that Allah reminds of His Lordship and accountability to Allah. Covenants also remind humanity of Shaytan’s emnity and the necessity to attain taqwa to be successful in the afterlife. It is through covenants that Allah conveys a committment to provide humanity with guidance and sets the terms and conditions for the faithful dissemination of the divine message. Qur’anic covenantal verses establish human security and peaceful coexistence as higher objectives, emphasising the welfare and wellbeing of people, especially parents, relatives, orphans and others among the disadvantaged and needy. Moreover, covenants restrict the use of armed force to self-defence in response to treaty violations that threaten peace and security.
The study of covenants helps to address major gaps in Islamic studies, particularly in regard to interreligious relations and the coexistence of Muslims and non-Muslims. This reseach comes at a crucial time given that Islam will be become the world’s most followed religion by the latter half of this century. For the past two decades, and long before, Islam has been misunderstood and misrepresented as a religion of intolerance and violance that advocates hatred and enmity toward non-Muslims. Such notions are not only unsustainable but incorrect. This research allows for a critical-analytical, evidence-based reading of the Qur’an through the lens of covenants that will hopefully change the way Muslims and non-Muslims think about Islam and each other.