COVENANT. The word in the Qur’an and the Traditions for God’s Covenant with His people is Misaq. Muhammad taught, both in the Qur’an and in the Traditions, that in the beginning God called all the souls of mankind together and took a promise (wa’dah) and a covenant (misaq) from them.
The account of this transaction is given as follows in the Qur’an, Surah vii. 171: –
“Thy Lord brought forth their descendants from the reins of the sons of Adam and took them to witness against themselves, ‘Am I not.’ said He, ‘your Lord?’ They said, ‘Yes, we witness it.’ This we did, lest ye should say on the Day of Resurrection, ‘Truly, of this were we heedless, because uninformed.’
“Or lest ye should say, ‘Our fathers, indeed, aforetime joined other gods with our God, and we are their seed after them: wilt thou destroy us for the doings of vain men?”‘
But the story as told in the Traditions is more graphic: –
“Ubai ibn Ka’b relates, in explanation of the verse in the Suratu ‘l-A’raf (verse 171): When God created (the spirits of) the son of Adam, he collected them together and made them of different tribes, and of different appearances, and gave them powers of speech. Then they began to speak, and God took from them a promise (wa’dah), and a covenant (misaq), and said, ‘Am I not thy Lord?’ They all answered and said, ‘Thou art,’ Then God said, ‘Swear by the seven heavens and the seven earths, and by Adam your father, that you will not say in the resurrection, We did not understand this. Know ye therefore that there is no Deity but Me, and there is no God but Me. Do not associate anything with Me. I will verily send to you own apostles who shall remind you of this Promise and of this Covenant, and I will send to you your own books.’ The sons of Adam then replied, ‘We are witnesses that Thou art our Lord (Rabb) and our God (Allah). There is no Lord but Thee and no God but Thee.’ Then they confessed this and made it known to Adam. Then Adam looked at them and beheld that there were amongst them those that were rich and poor, handsome and ugly, and he said, ‘O Lord why didst Thou not make them all alike?’ And the Lord said, ‘Truly I willed it thus in order that some of my servants may be thankful.’ Then Adam saw amongst his posterity, prophets, like unto lamps, and upon these lamps there were lights, and they were appointed by special covenants of prophecy (nabawah) and of apostleship (vasalah). And thus it is written in the Qur’an (Surah xxxiii. 7), ‘Remember we have entered into covenant with the Prophets, with thee Muhammad, and with Noah, and with Abraham, and with Musa, and with Jesus the Son of Mary, and we made with them a covenant.’ And (continues Ubai) Jesus was amongst the spirits.” (Mishkat, Arabic Ed. Babu ‘l-Qadr.)
Based on Hughes, Dictionary of Islam