Prophet Muhammad’s Rarely Known Decree
To the Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem
By Harut Sassounian
Publisher, The California Courier
For many years, I have heard that there had been written communication
between the Prophet Muhammad and the Armenian Patriarchate of
Jerusalem, but I had not seen any of the documents to that effect.
Two months ago, I read a fascinating article published in the Armenian
newspaper Aztag in Beirut, Lebanon, by Dr. Garbis Harboyan of
Montreal, Canada, who had uncovered the details of the communication
between Prophet Muhammad and then Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem and
Dr. Harboyan mentioned his sources as: Gregory Krikorian’s, “Through
the eye of an Armenian needle,” published by the Armenian
Catholicosate of Cilicia in 2002. Krikorian had stated that his book
was the summary and English translation of “History of Jerusalem,” a
two-volume, 1385-page book by Dikran Sayalanians, published by the
Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem in 1931. Dr. Harboyan also
mentioned that he had recently seen the book, “Armenian Art Treasures
of Jerusalem,” by Bezalel Narkiss, Michael E. Stone, and Avedis
Sanjian, published in New York, in 1979, which included a copy of
Prophet Muhammad’s decree to the Armenian Patriarchate.
The Armenian Patriarchate was established in Jerusalem almost 2,000
years ago. Many Armenians had gone on pilgrimage to Jerusalem after
converting to Christianity in 301 AD. They had built a part of Sourp
Hagop Convent in 420 AD. By the sixth Century, Armenians had
constructed 66 religious institutions in Jerusalem.
In 626 AD, the Armenian Patriarch Apraham of Jerusalem, seeing the
looming dangers of Islamic expansion and conquest, went to the Holy
Islamic city of Mecca with a delegation of 40 prominent Armenians to
meet with Prophet Muhammad to secure his protection.
Dr. Harboyan reported that the Prophet had welcomed the Armenian
guests with affection, respect, and kindness, and listened to
Patriarch Apraham’s suggestions. The Armenian delegation expressed its
submission to the Prophet, readiness to cooperate with him, and sought
At the end of the meeting, Prophet Muhammad issued an decree which
stated: “I, Muhammad, the son of Abdallah, prophet and servant of God,
I pay my respect to Patriarch Apraham, I honor him and all
archbishops, bishops, and priests in Jerusalem, Damascus, and Arab
regions, in other words, those people who are subject to Jerusalem,
such as Ethiopians, Copts, and Assyrians. I recognize and guarantee
their monasteries, churches, educational centers, properties and
lands. I, Prophet Muhammad, with the witness of God, and the 30 people
around me, I grant my patronage and protection, and I dispense my
mercy to the Armenian churches, wherever they may be, throughout
Jerusalem, the Holy Tomb of Christ, Sourp Hagop Church, Bethlehem
Church, all prayer houses, monasteries, Golgotha road, and the holy
sites. I also secure and ensure that my protection also extends to
Christian hills, valleys and Christian income-generating institutions.
I declare all of this in my name as Prophet and in the name of my
The Prophet Muhammad instructed his successors to respect his decree
and execute it in all of its details. Present at that meeting was Omar
the son of Khattab who became one of the Prophet’s successors and
issued a similar decree confirming the Prophet’s decree.
Thus, the Prophet’s decree became the first official document
confirming the status of the Armenian Patriarchate in Jerusalem.
Unfortunately, the original decree cannot be located in the
Patriarchate’s archives. However, a yellowish copy exists in the
Patriarchate’s Mardigian Museum.
When Omar took over as Khalif in 634 AD, he appointed Abu Obeid as the
head of the army. Abu Obeid’s forces attacked Damascus and Jerusalem.
The Greek Patriarch Sophronius and Armenian Patriarch Krikor met with
Abu Obeid and informed him that occupying Jerusalem would enrage God,
because Jerusalem is a holy city. Abu Obeid reported to Khalif Omar
about his meeting with the two Patriarchs. Omar personally came to
Jerusalem. The brother of the Greek Patriarch met with Omar and
reminded him about the decree of Prophet Muhammad. Omar then issued
his own decree and confirmed the Prophet’s decree. Omar entered
Jerusalem with his followers, visited the religious sites, and
suggested building a Mosque in a plot of land next to the church of
Christ’s tomb. The Mosque was built in 935 AD and named “Al Omariye.”
Omar allowed freedom for Christian worship, but forbade the ringing of
Omar was succeeded by Khalif Ali who also issued a decree for
Armenians in Jerusalem, confirming the previous decrees by the Prophet
In 1097 AD, the Crusaders invaded and liberated Jerusalem. In 1187 AD,
Salahuddin al Ayoubi who is Kurdish and his family originated from
Dvin in Armenia, occupied Jerusalem and expelled the majority of
100,000 Christians from the city. He took over all the Latin churches
in Jerusalem and forbade church services. However, he granted
Armenians partial freedom.
Armenian Patriarch Apraham with a group of his clergy met with
Salahuddin and showed him Prophet Muhammad’s decree. Salahuddin then
issued his own decree and confirmed the decrees issued by the Prophet
and Khalifs Omar and Ali. Salahuddin particularly noted in his decree
Armenians’ jurisdiction over churches, holy places, Sourp Hagop
Convent, churches of Bethlehem and Nablus, the Holy Tomb, other holy
sites, and especially Armenians’ freedom to worship. He also lowered
the taxes on Armenian merchants and pilgrims.
In 1517 AD, Ottoman Sultan Selim occupied Jerusalem and issued his
decree which confirmed the privileges bestowed upon the Armenian
Patriarchate of Jerusalem by Prophet Muhammad, Khalif Omar, and
Salahuddin. Sultan Selim’s successor, Sultan Suleiman, issued his own
decree reconfirming the Armenian rights in Jerusalem. Subsequent
Sultans also issued decrees, such as Mehmed IV in 1659 AD, Sultan
Mahmud I in 1735 AD, and Sultan Abdulmejid I in 1853 AD.
The Prophet Muhammad’s decree, besides being a valuable historical
document, indicates that Armenian Christians and Muslims have enjoyed
the most cordial relations from the ancient times to the present.
Armenians need to publicize the Prophet’s crucial decree as well as
those of his successors to counter the anti-Armenian propaganda spread
by Turkey and Azerbaijan in the Islamic world.
Prophet Muhammadís Rarely Known Decree To the Armenian Pa
Posted 11 September 2018 - 09:08 AM
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