Prophet Muhammad’s Rarely-Known Decree To the Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem

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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 the then Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem and their successors.

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 his protection.

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 Muslim faithful.”

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 his protection.

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 church bells.

Omar was succeeded by Khalif Ali who also issued a decree for Armenians in Jerusalem, confirming the previous decrees by the Prophet and Omar.

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.

Harut Sassounian

Harut Sassounian

California Courier Editor
Harut Sassounian is the publisher of The California Courier, a weekly newspaper based in Glendale, Calif. He is the president of the Armenia Artsakh Fund, a non-profit organization that has donated to Armenia and Artsakh one billion dollars of humanitarian aid, mostly medicines, since 1989 (including its predecessor, the United Armenian Fund). He has been decorated by the presidents of Armenia and Artsakh and the heads of the Armenian Apostolic and Catholic churches. He is also the recipient of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor.


  1. True Islam is expressed in Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) decree. As a muslim, I see the behavior of those muslim leaders mentioned in the aticle as affirmation of my true belief. Thank you for shring this valuable article.

    • You may share this Historic fact with your fellow Muslims in the hopes
      that perhaps they will dislike Armenians a little less after learning such valuable information.!

    • W Sleiman : you may share this important Historic fact and the valuable books cited in this article with your muslim brethren , in the hopes that perhaps they will hate Armenians a little less …
      Thank you ~ God bless

  2. W Sleiman : you may share this important Historic fact and the valuable books cited in this article with your muslim brethren , in the hopes that perhaps they will hate Armenians a little less …
    Thank you ~ God bless

  3. “Submission to Mohammad” is not a right term used to describe this event, I’m sure Mohammad had knowledge of Armenians amd our honorable ancient history. They didn’t submit to Mohammad, they went with respect, if submitted and fully cooporated , Armenians would have been Muslims not staywd Christians

  4. I believe that this document’s proof should be published every year on April 24 th. in all Armenian newspapers as well as in local Arabic ones in order to show our respect to the prophet,his followers and the intire Muslem world including Turkish and Azeri population.

  5. The way the above article is written, the Armenian Patriarch Apraham of Jerusalem has lived 561 years! Most probably, the Armenian Patriarch who met with Salahuddin had the same name of the Patriarch who met with Prophet Muhammad. The writer of the article should precise that.

    • Yes I was wondering about that too , you are right about names being recycled by our church fathers , corrections should be done . However , overall , this is utmost fascination discovery , definitely needs to be publicized by every Armenian ,, specially now that Artsakh churches are under Azeri’s domination . I also wish a copy of that important degree was available to confirm the authenticity of this information .
      I’m also wondering was this decree presented to sultan Hamid ll, If it was , how was destruction of Armenian churches in historical Armenia justified ? Or even now, has this been shown to Erdoghan and Aliev , before our churches in Artsakh become rubbles ?

    • Abraham I of Armenia, Armenian catholicos in the Dvin era of the Armenian Apostolic Church between 607 and 615
      Abraham II of Armenia or Abraham Khoshabetzi, Catholicos of the Armenian Apostolic Church between 1730 and 1734.
      Abraham III of Armenia or Abraham of Crete or Abraham Kretatsi (d. 1737), Catholicos of the Armenian Apostolic Church between 1734 and 1737

  6. I am sorry, but in the Middle East, and in its associated cultures throughout the region, in addition to even both China and Japan, “submission” just isn’t such a dirty word. What is missing in this narrative here is the historical fact that before the “Enlightenment” in Western Europe, culture and society, generally speaking, was not assumed to be “horizontally bolted,” but rather was “vertically” structured, and more often than not, vertically bolted down tight. It is the fundamental link between all Asian and Middle Eastern culture. People often look back into the ancient world with their assumption that society “should be,” and thus “is” horizontally organized. In the ancient world, every living soul had a “boss” and a “servant.” When the ancient Greeks first met with the Persians this was one of their main complaints about Persian culture in that Persians had formalized manners and gestures that to the Greeks were offensive. Odd, because Greek culture in the ancient world had the same vertically organized societies; they just didn’t have all the associated manners and customers, the bowing, prostration, etc., and a clearly delineated vertically organized language.
    Virtue in the ancient world offered humility “up” and “benevolence” down. Thus, I propose that the Prophet Muhammad recognized in 626 AD that the humility in our Armenian Archpatriarch was authentic, and thus his devotion to “God” was a reality.

  7. Very unlikely there is such a decree. If any “yellowish copy” exists, it is most probably a forgery of the ottoman or abbasid era. There have been other well known forgeries of ottoman period about so called letters and decrees of muhammad.

    • The reason may be that Abu Bakr, Uthman and Egyptian governments have altered Quranic material in the past and all remaining documents and material evidence was destroyed

  8. Are there Islamic documents corroborating this, if so, why aren’t majority of Muslims and Christian aware of it.
    You could end all Islamic wars against Armenians with this one info. I don’t think the author has done justice by providing authentic proofs and testimonials.

  9. I read this with great interest. We are a monotheistic religion and believe in all prophet’s and our father Ibrahim (AS). This is what Prophet Muhammad (SAW) taught to the world and it is high time we all understand the purpose behind all this.

  10. Muslims rulers have history of kindness and compassionate treatment towards non muslims.Christians and Jews are on record for their barbarian murders and racial hatred.Totally different attitudes.

    • All religions have good and evil. Christians, Muslims, Jews etc. so do not even try to isolate one. People have been killing eachother since the beginning ALL people. Do not spread your hatred around.

  11. Prophet Mohammed (salla allah aleyhi wa salam) wasn’t able to read or write at all. I do not think it is possible he issued a decree.
    It is more realistic that the author of this article has a political agenda for the reason he mentioned himself : counter the anti-Armenian propaganda spread by Turkey and Azerbaijan in the Islamic world.

  12. Armenians, then, made a decree with the devil. If any of this is true I worry about the future of Armenia and what role we will end up playing upon the return of Jesus Christ at His 2nd coming. No deal with Christ deniers is a good one. Armenia was a Christian nation, but it appears corruption consumed us via the institution of the church early on. What’s happening today could very well be our own doing, our own fatal judgment for attempting to coexist as apposed to fighting from the beginning. Armenians may be on the wrong side of the Gog-Magog invasion if we do not repent and return to Christ completely. This is not good at all. Jesus Christ is the only way; no deal with a muslim is a good one. Mohammad is one of many false prophets. If such a decree exists, let those who honor it burn it and repent before the 2nd coming of our Messiah, who will crush these nations! I pray our people repent and not be crushed with the deniers of Christs deity. Shame on the strayed church for misleading the flock. Many Armenians died for their faith in Christ at the hands of muslims, never forget! The war is ultimately God’s, He has already won, all we must do is join Him by accepting the blood of Jesus and become born again. Praying for Armenia, praying for America. Scary times…

    • Who’s a false prophet? Sister u clearly haven’t done ur research. Muhammad (peace be upon him) is a prophet of God, same as jesus, adam, jacob, abraham, moses, yunus, solomon, john the baptist, zakariya (peace be upon them). Do u even know what jesus (peace be upon him) preached? It was to only worship The One and Only God (SWT), and to not associate partners with Him(SWT). Surely as Muslims we r to treat everyone with respect cuz it’s the right thing to do, but you need to do some proper research. The prophet jesus (peace be upon him) never claimed to be a christian or told anyone to be one… you’ll never find that in any bible that exists today… which is another problem that they’re all different from each other. The word from God (SWT) is given precise and correctly the first time thru, the gospel was given to jesus (peace be upon him) for that time only, same thing with moses (peace be upon him). Evidently there’s human editorial in the bible’s and torah, mainly cuz it was never meant to be preserved by The One and Only God (SWT), the Quran was always meant to be preserved since it came down to muhammad (peace be upon him) till the end of time. U think I make this up? Read the Quran and you’ll understand how each word in this book from God (SWT) is spoken to us directly from Him (SWT). Also jesus (peace be upon him) spoke aramaic and in aramaic God (SWT) is Alah, Alaha, Aloho. Different conjugations for different contextual usage. It’s just how linguistics works, and in arabic it’s Allah (SWT). There is no difference between the meanings other than the different languages, but The One and Only God translates directly to Allah (SWT) in Arabic. Just read the Quran and you’ll see that every word is from God (SWT)

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