Ch 9: Inside the House

Leaving the auspicious and glowing meeting at the house of Ziad b. Umar, Isabella took the road straight to her home which ran through the Palace of Martyrs to Suqul Asafir. Isabella’s house was just a few paces away. The meeting had filled her with such joy that, unmindful of everything around, she walked quietly and soberly with downcast eyes. Half an hour later she reached home where her mother was waiting impatiently for her. On enquiry about the cause of her delay Isabella named a friend of her’s, at whose house she was delayed. On her mother’s order the dining table was set and she immediately sat down and began to eat. Soon her father (the head priest) also arrived and the night passed peacefully.

Early next morning the Muezzins called for the Fajr prayer from all mosques of Cordova. How pleasant is the sound and how, in the salubrious hour of morning, people were being roused for bowing and prostrating for the Fajr prayer with the name of Allah. How enchanting is the sound of Allah-o-Akbar, Allah-o-Akbar, (Allah is great, Allah is great). Now the gongs of churches also began to toll. How jarring and meaningless is the sound. Truly the condition of each community is known from its rites. From mosques devotees began to emerge. Labourers, traders and cultivators took their respective ways to places of work, markets and fields. The chirping of birds had somewhat subsided.

Hearing the call of prayer Isabella got out of her bed and went to the library room of her house and sitting at a table began to study a book. In the meantime Peter and Michael also came there and Isabella stood up and received them with respect. A little later Isabella’s father also came and took his seat in the room and Isabella’s mother was also called in. Isabella was frightened at this unexpected, uncalled and strange gathering and suspected that these people had assembled on her account and probably her association with Islam had come to their knowledge. Colour went out of her face and her heart began to throb quickly and so, taking the excuse of thirst, she went for water to another room.

The head priest, addressing Isabella’s mother, Peter and Michael said: Do you know what is the state of Isabella and how is she trying to humiliate and degrade us? It is to think about this matter that I have given you the trouble to come over here.

Peter: Oh ! What is the matter!

Head Priest: It is all very serious. I have been hearing for some time that Isabella has given up Christian creed and has secretly embraced Islam.

Helena (Isabella’s mother): Fie, fie ! What are you talking? Jesus Christ may never do it. What is the matter that you are so enraged today that, without any reason, you have made my daughter a Muslim ?

Head Priest: What I am saying is quite true. If not today, you will learn it a few days after.

Peter: Holy father, you have said something strange. Isabella is a very good girl. She has studied theology. She is not ignorant as to accept the bloody religion of Islam.

Helena: Well, I am just calling the girl. I do not know what caused this suspicion in you.

So saying Helena went to the room where Isabella was sitting horrified in a corner. Helena at once caught the hand of Isabella and said to her: Listen, daughter, your father calls you. Isabella who had realised the situation rose up and followed her mother to the large room and presented herself to the head priest.

Isabella’s father beckoned to Michael and asked him to talk to her.

Michael: Daughter, we have heard that you have revolted from Christianity. Is it true? If anyone has given wrong report about you, you may refute it.

Isabella heard this and kept quiet and, lowering her eyes, began to weep. Warm tears began to drop on her rosy cheeks.

Helena: Just see. Did not I tell you that someone has falsely accused my daughter. What refutation could she give! Her tears speak that the allegation of her revolt from Christianity is quite false.

Head Priest: You just keep quiet for a while and let Isabella herself reply. Yes, daughter, tell me what is this report about you?

Isabella continued to remain silent with bowed head. But on persistent questioning from Peter and Michael she was compelled to open her lips.

Isabella: I have not yet accepted Islam but continue to remain Christian.

Michael: If you have not yet accepted Islam, do you intend to accept it in future?

Isabella: Why do you ask me about future? I can put the same question to you.

Michael: Then tell me what is your opinion about Islam?

Isabella: I do not abuse Islam like others for in the Muslim sacred Books Christ is praised and Muslims speak well of him.

Michael: Then you love Islam and Muslims?

Isabella: You may call it love or anything else. Anyway I am not ungrateful. If Muslims respect our Christ, then I also must respect their Prophet and their Sacred Book.

Peter: So it is clear now that in your heart you have become a Muslim, otherwise you would not have so praised Islam and Muslims. But now tell me what do you think about the religion you have been believing, that is Christianity.

Isabella: I have faith in the Bible and all revealed books, but I do not accept the flaws which later Christians have introduced in religion.

Head Priest (addressing Michael, Peter and Isabella’s mother): Now you have known her ideas. There is no other remedy to it except the sword.

Peter: Please give me time. I will explain to her and she will surely be reformed. I will remove her misunderstandings. Anyway, she has studied books on theology.

Head Priest: Well, you may try and see, otherwise I will think of some other remedy for her.

After this talk the meeting dispersed and the head priest, taking Peter and Michael with him, left for the great church as there was a large crowd of Christians of Spain to see the relics (bones, etc.) of Prophets and the head priest. They had come from long distances to participate in the ceremony and the head priest had gone to bless thousands of Christians.

The priests having left, Isabella went to her room and silently thought about her future. She was now convinced that she was sure to be put to torture and she will have to face severe trials. Yet she found her mind at ease and heart strong and prepared to meet all troubles.

She took out a paper from her table and wrote a letter to her friend Mirano (daughter of Priest Michael) to the following effect:

“My dear sister!

“Last night at nine I attended the meeting of Muslim divines at which my spiritual father Umar Lahmi and other divines were present. How can I describe its atmosphere, my sister ! A wonderful spiritual assembly it was. My participation in it greatly fortified my heart. I wish you were also present there. I have made a promise with their spiritual leader Ziad b. Umar to take you with me tomorrow or day after to them. A strange thing happened today. It appears that I am going to be put to trial. Pray that God may keep me ever on the right path. It so happened that my father got some information about me that I have embraced Islam and so he called your father [Michael] and Peter to his house and many questions were asked from me. Now, just fancy with my father on one side and Michael and Peter on the other, in what difficult position I was placed. But I also gave them stunning replies. Now, Peter has given promise to my father that he will make me understand. If any such occasion comes you must also be present along with other three friends. Other details I will give you verbally.

“Your sister, Isabella.”

After finishing the letter she called her maidservant and told her to go to Mirano and bring from her a book. She also gave her the letter which, she said, was lying with her for some time and asked her to deliver it to Mirano. The maid-servant did as she was ordered and, going to Michael’s house, gave the letter to Mirano, who immediately opened and read it and said to the maid-servant that she will herself bring the book in the evening.

Isabella and her other friends met together in the evening in the same garden in which Isabella had first heard the talk of Umar Lahmi. She informed her friends all that had happened and consulted them. It was also decided that next evening they should all go to attend the meeting of Ziad b. Umar and also inform him of everything. After enjoying the evening walk of the garden all the girls left for their respective homes.

Isabella – A girl of Islamic Spain
Next Chapter

Ch 8: Behind the Curtain

In the course of this talk Umar Lahmi addressed Isabella.

Umar Lahmi: So for securing forgiveness of sins all kinds of dirty acts have to be narrated? But how did you use to seek forgiveness?

Isabella (lowering her eyes with modesty): On a given date everyone has to go to the great church, the same where you had discussion with Michael and Peter and then…

Umar Lahmi: Are girls also bound to appear?

Isabella: Yes, every adult girl and boy is present there and the priest enquires from everyone what sins he had committed the previous week. After stating the sins and making confession, the priest, passing his hand on the head of the sinner, says: Now go. By the blessing of Jesus Christ all your sins are forgiven.

Umar Lahmi: Are questions put to everyone in seclusion or in the presence of all?

Isabella: It would not have been so shameful if everyone were asked to confess in seclusion. But everyone is questioned in the presence of all before the certificate of pardon is granted.

Umar Lahmi: Allah forgive! Even in the presence of unmarried boys and girls?

Isabella: Yes, and in fact (bowing her head in shame again) unmarried boys and girls have to confess in public and in the hearing of all.

Umar Lahmi: Allah forgive us! In the confession of sins many shameful things may have to be stated. Supposing one has committed theft, he shall have to confess it before all.

Isabella: Not only theft, even the most heinous act has to be publicly confessed. If anyone does not confess and conceals something, then the pardon is not granted and the sinner is threatened of Hell.

Umar Lahmi: This might be having a very bad effect on the morals of unmarried boys and girls.

Isabella: Certainly. But among the Roman Catholics no importance is attached to sins securing pardon of sins being so easy. This has made people bold in committing sins.

One of the audience: Are sins of common people forgiven by the priest himself?

Ziad (smiling): Probably the priest may not be committing any sins.

At this stage Ziad b. Umar leaves the meeting and goes upstairs to devote himself in prayer and devotion.

Isabella (lowering eyes in shame and modesty): You cannot conceive what our religious leaders do, particularly our monks, and how full of sins is their life.

Umar Lahmi: What! Are the lives of religious leaders even worse than common people? What are you talking? It does not mean that by becoming a Muslim you make false allegations against anyone. Punishment of false accusation is very severe according to the Holy Quran.

Isabella: You must think like that because you are not aware of the black record of the monks’ lives and since you cannot even conceive of these shameful acts, you may not be wrong if you think me lying or disbelieve me.
Umar Lahmi: Is it a fact? If so, please let us know in detail.

All those present insisted that Isabella should throw some light on these matters so that they may have an idea of the great boons conferred by Islam.

Isabella: You know that abandoning the world and the life of a monk have been greatly stressed in Christianity and, therefore, most of our priests have adopted monkery and have forsaken the world. To gain salvation they take great pains and afflict their bodies. In the same way women also become nuns (that is follow in the footsteps of Virgin Mary and lead unmarried lives). But at the same time monks and nuns cannot maintain their chastity. Monks and religious leaders are also corrupt and nuns often completely lose their chastity. Because of confession and pardon monks often find a good opportunity to satisfy their lust. Nuns are mostly involved in this moral depravity while some monks do not spare even their mothers and sisters. [Laski, History of Civilization of Europe, Vol. II].

(At this stage Isabella is extremely ashamed and perspires.)

All present: Allah protect us ! Allah forgive us ! All power and authority is with Allah!

Umar Lahmi: These things happen because Christianity has dignified unmarried life and asceticism which is against Nature and Divine law. A strong argument of the falsity of Christianity is also that it enjoins on men such laws as are against Nature which men cannot follow. It is for this that the Apostle of Islam had declared that La Rahbaniyat fil-Islam. [There is no monkery or giving up the world in Islam.] He also said : An-nikah min sunnati fa-man raghaba an sunnati fa-laisa minni [Marriage is my system and whosoever turns away from my system is not of me]. The Quran says: “And (as for) monkery, they innovated it—We did not prescribe it to them, but they did not observe it with its due observance.” And how can anyone observe a thing which is unnatural and against law?

Isabella: Has Islam prohibited monkery and abandoning the world?

Umar Lahmi: Certainly. You have just heard what the Holy Quran and the Prophet of Islam say.

Isabella was greatly moved on this and the dignity of Islam was further enhanced in her mind.

A person: So the monks do not discriminate between the permissible and the prohibited, between right and wrong ?

Isabella: There are many shameful things. When the honour of their mothers and sisters is not safe at their hands, what else they would not be doing!

Mr Laski in his book, European Morals, has very elaborately exposed the depravities of monks and priests in general and has written that there was no moral crime which they did not commit.

A person: Are the nuns also so corrupt?

Isabella: Allah may protect us. Their condition is worse than monks.

Even European historians have testified that when a tank in a school of nuns was cleaned out several thousand craniums of babies were found there which had been thrown in to conceal corruption of some of them.

Umar Lahmi: In fact the root of all this corruption is the creed, of Atonement which has given licence to Christians to commit sins.

Isabella: Surely, you have understood it well. In fact, the creed of Atonement has taken away the fear of sins and everyone is confident that by confessing before the priest all kinds of sias will be forgiven.

Umar Lahmi: Allah-o-Akbar (Allah is great!). The greatness and truth of Islam is also manifest from the fact (hat while rejecting the creed of Atonement, it has made good conduct the basis of salvation and felicity and at the same time it has propounded the principle that: “He who does an atom’s weight of good will see it. And he who does an atom’s weight of evil will see it.”

A person (to Isabella): You know that the creed of Atonement has induced Christians to commit sins, but there is also another reason. Christians consider all Prophets to be sinners and think that they have been committing all kinds of sins in their life.

Isabella: This seems to be wrong. If the holy Prophets are also taken to be sinners, then who will be left to cause aversion from sins and what right shall they have to ask people to refrain from sins ?

Umar Lahmi: You are right, but what would you say to the Christians regarding holy Apostles (Allah forbid!) as idol-worshippers, adulterers and liars ?

Isabella: Oh brother! it is really the creed of Christians. They regard Apostles as idol-worshippers and also liars. If this is so, which of the Christian books say so ?

Umar Lahmi: My sister! you do not know yet the ideas of Christians and, in order to justify their own sins, what serious accusations they have made against Apostles. Since you have not yet carefully studied your sacred books you are surprised at my words. I assure you that if Islam had not come and the Champion of all Goodness, the Chief of Apostles, had not exposed the untruths of Christians and Jews, no one would have found any proof of the chastity of Apostles today.

Isabella : Are the Christians so shameless that they still believe in Prophets while considering them sinners. Probably you have misunderstood. I have not yet heard from anyone that Apostles worshipped idols and told untruths. Can you prove your allegations from the religious and revealed books of Christians ?

Umar Lahmi: Certainly from your revealed books…

Isabella : My religious and revealed books! My religious and revealed book is the Holy Quran.

Umar Lahmi: I mean the books which you as a Christian regarded religious and revealed. They contain all these things.

Isabella : Very strange! But kindly give some proof of it.

Umar Lahmi: I say it again that in the sacred Christian books Prophets (Allah forbid!) have been described as adulterers and idol-worshippers. It is said about Prophet Lut (Lot) (the Old Testament in his hand) had sexual intercourse with his daughters. See Genesis, Chapter 19, verses 32-38. About Prophet David it is said that he had. sexual intercourse with an alien woman. See Samuel 2, Chapter 11, verse 4. Then it is said about Prophet Samson (Shamshun) that he had intercourse with an alien woman and then had a love affair with another. See Judges, chapter 16, verse 1.

All present: Allah forbid ! Allah may curse the Jews and Christians! Allah forgive us! Allah forgive us!

Isabella is ashamed and perspires and could not speak.

Umar Lahmi : Now, listen further. In the Christian sacred books Prophets have also been said to have been liars. First the Prophet Samson (Shamshun) told a lie and taught a wrong thing to a woman thrice. See Judges, chapter 16. Next a Prophet (whose name is not mentioned in the Bible) told a lie. See 2 Kings, chapter 13. Another Prophet also told a lie. See 1 Kings, chapter 20. Christ told a lie. See 1 Kings, chapter 22, verse 15. Apostle Jeremiah also spoke a lot of falsehood. See Jeremiah, chapter 38. (To Isabella:) You know Saint Paul very well. What do the Christians say of him ?

Isabella : Christians believe Saint Paul to be a prophet and all great priests are regarded as successors of Saint Paul and for this they are authorised to forgive sins.

Umar Lahmi: Quite right. But is it not said about him in all the four Bibles that when the enemies arrested Jesus Christ and wanted to arrest Saint Paul, he thrice cursed Jesus- Christ and told a lie that he did not know him (Christ)?

Isabella : Of course, it is so written. I used to take daily lessons of the Bible from my teacher, Michael.

Umar Lahmi: Now, take the proof of the third thing that, according to Christians, Prophets worshipped idols. It is written in the Book of Exodus (which is the fourth part of Taurat), chapter 32, verse 4, that Prophet Aaron asked his people to make idols and taught them to worship them. In chapter 11 of 1 Kings, it is said that Prophet Solomon at the insistence of his wife worshipped idols in his old age and thus assigned partners to Allah. Allah forbid!

Isabella : Allah protect us !

Umar Lahmi: Look, I have the Bible with me and I have marked relevant portions. You may see yourself that I am not telling a lie. (Isabella turns over the pages and reads all the references.) My object in referring to these is that Christians boldly and fearlessly commit all kinds of sins because, according to them, Prophets also committed them (Allah forbid!) and they think that when Prophets were not deprived of their prophethood in spite of their sins, why should common people be condemned on that very account.

Isabella: Does the Quran call all Prophets innocent ?

Umar Lahmi: It is the greatest merit of the Quran that it has strongly repudiated all the wrong ideas and allegations of the Jews and Christians and declares that Prophets did not. even think of committing sins, to say the least of actually committing them. The Quran says that what the Prophets prohibited they had never even thought of doing it, and the Quran counts all Prophets among the virtuous.

Isabella : Is it not written in the Quran that Prophet Adam ate the fruit of the prohibited tree? Is it not disobedience of God’s orders a sin?

Umar Lahmi: The definition of sin is that it is an act which is committed deliberately. Anything done unintentionally is not a sin. For instance, a man is prohibited from eating or drinking while he is observing fast, but if anyone eats and drinks in forgetfulness the fast is not broken and there is no sin. Prophet Adam also ate the fruit of the prohibited tree in forgetfulness as the Quran says: “We had taken a pledge from Adam but he forgot it and We did not find deliberation in him.”

Isabella: Glory to God! I know it today that Adam committed no sin, otherwise Christian priests used to allege that Adam is described as a sinner in the Quran. (Suddenly becoming conscious of the time) Oh! I am very much delayed and should go home at once. My father and mother will be anxiously waiting for me, and I have not yet taken my food.

Umar Lahmi: If you like food can be served to you here. The common food of my master (Ziad b. Umar) will be served to all of us, You may also participate. Will you accept this request of mine?

Isabella: Thank you very much, but I will prefer to take food at my house, for mother does not eat till I return after walk. She always takes food with me.

Umar Lahmi: How long will she have your company in taking food! At last one day the secret has to be out.

Isabella: Leave it to the time when it comes, but just now permit me to leave.

Umar Lahmi: When will you bring your friends with you?

Isabella: Tomorrow if possible, otherwise day after tomorrow certainly. And now you should pray that they should also be guided to the right path like me.

All present : Amin!

Isabella – A girl of Islamic Spain
Next Chapter

Ch 7: Meeting of the Men of Allah

This was the time when Muslims had started building mosques and schools all over Spain and eminent divines and jurists of Islam had come over to this country. In the capital Cordova the Islamic system of teaching and training had been introduced. Ziad b. Umar was a highly learned traditionist, philosopher and interpreter of the Quran. At the same time he had no equal in offering prayers and, due to his integrity, purity, and unostentatious prayerfulness, he was held in great affection throughout Spain. He would spend his days in teaching and at nights he would attend gatherings of divines and officials of the government. His house was adjacent to the University of Cordova and so after isha prayer those interested in learning gathered at his house.

One day while this meeting was in progress and eminent divines and men of letters were present, Ziad b. Umar came. All stood up in his respect. After they were seated Ziad enquired after everyone’s health and then addressed Umar Lahmi.

Ziad b. Umar: May Allah fructify your efforts! You have conveyed the message of truth in the very home of unbelief and humbled unbelievers.

Umar Lahmi: I am just an ordinary weak Muslim and this has been possible because of your prayers. Isabella has accepted Islam in her heart. She was desirous of meeting you, so she has come here for an audience.

Ziad b. Umar : Oh! Is Isabella present here? Umar Lahmi: Yes, she has been put up in the adjoining house and if you permit she may be brought to your presence.

Ziad: Yes, certainly. If she has come to meet me, let her come.

Asad (one of those present): By Allah, sir, this is very great. There is a great commotion among the Christians of Cordova. But is it Isabella alone who has been attracted to Islam or are there others also with her?

Umar Lahmi: About this you will hear from Isabella herself.

Another of the audience: I have heard that Christians intend to kill Isabella.

Umar Lahmi: So far Isabella has taken great care to keep it secret. No one has found out that she has embraced Islam or intends to do. So the rumour of the intention to kill her is premature.

Ziad: Now call Isabella here. We shall hear the interesting details from her own lips.

Shortly after Isabella enters and, seeing Ziad b. Umar sitting at a prominent place, raises her hand to salute him and sits in a corner, while all those present congratulate her on her great courage and firmness.

Ziad: Daughter Isabella, I congratulate you on your love of truth Allah has taken you out of the darkness of unbelief and granted you the boon of Islam, relieved you from the labrynth of Trinity and put you on to the Straight Path beset with dangers. To remain firm on it is the task of a very brave person. But those in whose hearts Islam has firmly established itself would not mind the greatest trouble of the earth. Allah guides them.

Isabella: Revered father…

Ziad: Daughter, you have to give up such words too. There is no papacy in Islam. Islam has not given its divines the position which Christians have given to their priests. There is perfect equality in Islam. The only duty of the divines is to guide Muslims in the light of the Holy Quran and sacred Traditions of the Prophet. It is the duty of Muslims to act on that guidance and not to “deify them or make them masters of all their affairs.

Isabella (ashamed): Now you will yourself teach me how I should address you and other leaders of Islam.

Ziad: Address me and other Muslims just as brothers, but if you desire to add anything, just say “Sir”.

Isabella : Very well, sir, I will obey all your orders in future. Oh sir, it is a great benevolence and grace of God that He showed this humble servant the path of truth and justice and took me out of the course of Trinity and worship of the Cross. The means of my guidance is my spiritual preceptor and benefactor Umar Lah-mi, who preached to all the priests of Cordova in their own homes and, through him, the call of truth reached my ears. I wholeheartedly pray that God grant him all the boons of this world and the next and by your prayer my life and death be on Islam.

All those present cried: Amin.

Ziad: Daughter, Allah wants to take from you great service and surely Muslims will be greatly benefited through you. But say if you have converted any one of the other ladies.

Isabela: Yes, sir, I have four other friends of mine who have lost their faith in Christianity and are inclined to Islam. God willing, I will bring them with me tomorrow or the day after, that they may have grace from you and any doubts that may still lurk in them are removed.

Umar Lahmi: Sister, who are these friends of yours? By Allah, we have no knowledge of them and you never mentioned them to me.

Isabela: One of them is the daughter of Michael, my teacher in theology, and there are other three. All these have been listening to all the discussions.

Umar Lahmi: Have they really become Muslimss and seen through the weaknesses of Christianity ?

Isabella: The weaknesses of Christianity have become manifest to all of them, and they have recognised the truth of Islam, but they have not yet mustered enough courage to give up their ancestral religion and declare their adherence to Islam.

Ziad: Well, Allah will give them the necessary courage. We shall also pray for them.

Umar Lahmi: Bring Michael’s daughter also some day so that her doubts may also be removed.

Isabella: Tomorrow or day after I will surely bring her with me and if all the four girls do not come, I will bring at least this one (Michael’s daughter) with me.

Ziad: I tell you, daughter, again that you should accept Islam after clearing all your doubts and never, by any greed or deception, for Allah wants sincerity and the Quran says that a Muslim’s life and death, prayer and devotion, sitting and standing, sleep and walking everything should be for Allah and the pleasure of Allah should be the aim of our life.

Isabella: Oh sir, I say it and bring God to witness that no lust or greed has brought me to the threshold of Islam, nor the acquisition of wealth and power is my aim. You yourself know the honour my father enjoys in Cordova and throughout Spain.

Ziad: May Allah reward you, give you firmness and shower His bounties on you.

Umar Lahmi: Islam is the only religion by accepting which Allah’s bounties are showered on man and all his sins are forgiven.

Isabella (smiling): All my sins are forgiven every week by the priest of Cordova, who is in charge of the department of inquisition and (bowing her head) I am already sinless and innocent.

Ziad: What is this department of inquisition and what is the meaning of the priest forgiving sins ? Can any man also forgive sins ?

Isabella (with a sham humility): Oh sir, this story is most interesting and probably quite novel to you, as you are not aware of the inner working of Christianity.

Ziad: Will you inform us of these matters? Such interesting facts should certainly be worth knowing and no one can relate them better than you.

Isabella: Oh sir! Christians go before the altar of the Christ in the presence of the head priest every week and confess their sins which the head priest forgives as, according to Christian creed, the head priest has power to do that as he is considered to be the representative of Saint Peter.

Ziad: La hawla wala quwwata ilia billah [Allah forgive us! There is no power or authority except with Allah]. Can any man forgive sins except Allah ? This is why the Quran has accused Christians that they have made their priests and elders their Rabb (fosterer) besides Allah. (In surprise) Have the priests the authority to forgive all sins?

Isabella: Yes, provided the sinner confesses all his open and secret sins before the priest. If he has concealed anything it will not be forgiven.

Isabella – A girl of Islamic Spain
Next Chapter

Ch 6: The Third Round

Let us see what Isabella had been doing in connection with these discussions and what were her activities in the meantime. In fact, all this time her mind was filled with the subject-matter of these discussions and all other engagements and social entanglements were relegated to the background.

After ‘the discussion’ between the priests and Umar Lahmi she had come to the conclusion that the priests had no answer to the objections of Muslims and her belief in Christianity had been shaken and no argument could keep her firm on it. During this time she had often secretly met Umar Lahmi and sought information about the Muslim creed. The talk between Umar Lahmi and her father (the head priest) had also concluded at her house and more than a month had passed on it. Nevertheless she continued her enquiry. She had also met several times Ziad b. Umar, the Qazi of Islam in Cordova, through Umar Lahmi and got consolation from him.

Ziad b. Umar, besides being a profound scholar of Islam, was a Godfearing man of piety. Muslims of Spain revered him as a Wali Allah (Friend of Allah). Isabella’s mind was greatly affected by several visits to him and she became attached to Islam and fully realised that Islam is the true religion while Christianity is a mixture of misguidance and disruptions.

The head priest had asked Umar Lahmi in the cathedral to come to his house next day and had also invited all the priests. So early next morning Umar Lahmi with some of his associates and divines reached the house of the head priest and was treated with respect and given refreshments in a separate room. Then more than forty Christian divines also arrived and the head priest then addressed Umar Lahmi.

Head Priest: I know the questions which you will ask, but I do not want to go into details and prolong the talk. I will say just a word or two which may lead to the result in minutes instead of hours. What I mean is that Islam and Christianity may be tested by their basic teachings and whichever teaching is best the religion which taught it will be true. Is it not so?

Umar Lahmi: I have no objection to anything and I am prepared to discuss on any lines that you choose. Surely it is by the teachings of Christianity and Islam that truth and falsehood can be known.

Head Priest: Bravo, bravo ! Surely the help of the Holy Ghost is on your side and you will soon come from the wrong path to right guidance. Now that you have agreed to the lines suggested by me, let me proceed. In every religion there are basic principles and matters of detail. I want to put before you the essence of Christianity in just one word and desire that you will also give the essence of your religion in one word. Do you agree?

Umar Lahmi: Yes, you may proceed. I agree to whatever you say.

Head Priest (to the priests) : See, this is the way to talk! Just one word decides the issue. (To Umar Lahmi:) Now listen. The essence of Christianity is “Love”. Christianity has been condensed in a single word. Now, you have also to give the essence of Islam in one word.

Umar Lahmi: I am proud to say that Islam has also condensed the essence of its teachings in a single word which covers all basic principles and details. The root of Islamic principles and teachings is Tauhid (unity).

Head Priest: If the essence of Islam is Tauhid (unity), then love has been excluded from it. Besides, we also say “unity” to be the essence of our religion.

Umar Lahmi: If Tauhid were the essence of your religion, you should have said so. Why did you say that love is the essence of your religion? Now, it is quite wrong to say that by accepting “unity” as the essence of religion, “love” is excluded from it. On the other hand, the fact is that “love” comes from “unity”. If “unity” is not taken with all its requisites, love will be a meaningless word. To accept “love” as the essence of religion means total denial of “unity,” cr not to take it as the essence of religion.

Head Priest: The thing is that “unity” comes from “love” and not “love” from “unity”.

Umar Lahmi: This is an example of perverted logic. If unity comes from love, then love is quite a meaningless word. Because without unity, that is, want of knowledge of Allah, love of Allah will be excluded from it as love of Allah depends on the knowledge of the divine, and unity is but the true recognition of the divine. Mere love does not prove love of Allah.

Head Priest: You have started a long discussion. What I mean is that love has no place in Islam.

Umar Lahmi: If love has no place in Islam, then love does not exist at all in the world. It can, on the other hand, be said that there is not the least trace of love in Christianity. Where love is merely a verbal claim, it has neither any standard nor proof.

Head Priest: Look here. It is a well-known slogan of our Scriptures that God is love. Is it not the proof of love ?

Umar Lahmi: It is nothing but merely a verbal claim. Unless there is a standard of love, the prescribed theory of love will not be acceptable.

Head Priest: Now, you define the standard of love. Have not our Scriptures called God father? Does not father love his children?

Umar Lahmi: Mere repetition of the word love leads us nowhere unless all its conditions are fulfilled. If anyone loves another, he should prove it by the sacrifice of his life and possessions and then only can he be said to have loved truly. Therefore Islam has prescribed obedience and service as the criterion of love which is another name of sacrifice of life and possessions. The Quran says to the Prophet: “Qul in kuntum tuhibbun Allah fat-tabi’unl yuhbibkum Allah” [Say: If you love Allah, follow me: Allah will love you].* Thus this verse has prescribed a standard of love which has discriminated between true and false love. But in your religion there is no criterion of love. Any pretender can stand up and say that he loves Allah.

Head Priest: You have again started a long discussion. I want that everything should be comprehensive so that the decision may be arrived at quickly. However, if your Qur’an has also called God father, which is the highest position of love?

Umar Lahmi: If the Qur’an had used the word father for God, it would have been the greatest proof of its deficiency. Islam never used this misleading word for God but, on the other hand, has used such words as have the most
sublime significance as compared to the term father.

Head Priest: You are very impudent, calling the word “father” misleading. Now, tell me quickly what better word Islam has used instead of father. (The head priest’s neck at this time became stiff and foam came from his mouth in great anger.)

Umar Lahmi: There is no reason for the loss of temper. I have called the word “father” misleading because it has become the basis of assigning partners to Allah, and people invented a son to Allah. Christians also believe in the divinity of Christ. As to the better word in place of father used by Islam, that word is Rabb (fosterer), which implies a Being who fosters from beginning to end and his fostering care never ends. So by using the word “fosterer” Islam has taught that Allah’s. fostering love is never withdrawn. But the concept of father implies that father will care for his child up to a certain time and will then become indifferent. Besides, a father can care for his child only in optional matters but not in matters beyond his control. If the child falls ill, father cannot cure his illness while the fostering of Allah is. not so; He has power over everything and in nothing is He helpless and His fostering care is everlasting. This proves that, instead of father, fosterer is more suited to the Dignity of Allah and, besides, fosterer is indicative of “Unity of Allah,” while father is the source of assigning partner to Allah in the world.

Head Priest: The effects of the fosterer as indicated by you find no proof in the world while you cannot shut your eyes to father’s love. So how can one accept a word without meaning which has no proof in the world, while you cannot ignore the effects of father’s love.

Umar Lahmi: Unfortunately, the creed of Atonement has clouded your vision, otherwise you could not have said so. We see every day that a child is fostered in its mother’s womb and in childhood and youth and old age the fostering care continues. That is, his fostering continues from beginning to end. Is it not he work of the Rabb (fosterer) which we see very day?

Head Priest: The Holy Bible says that God has such a love with the people of the world that He sacrificed His only child for the sake of men. What better proof can be of love that father secrifices his dearest thing for love.

Umar Lahmi: This very statement of the Bible refutes your claim. You mean that the father is one who sacrifices his pure and innocent son for the sake of impure and sinful men. That is, father’s love was manifested thus that he killed his innocent son. But the fosterer is one who is not unjust to anyone. On the other hand, He punishes the unjust. The Quran says: “Wa la tuziru waziratun wizra ukhra” [And no burdened soul can bear another’s burden].* But your father killed his own child. If to crucify and kill one’s innocent and sinless child is love we cannot touch such love with a pair of tongs.

Head Priest (to other priests) : I had thought that this man was inclined to Jesus Christ, but he is a stiff “unbeliever”. Everything that I have said is of high order but how can these people understand them ? (To Umar Lahmi:) Your heart has turned black. Christ does not want to accept you. Now, you go away from here. I have nothing to do with you. You just came to annoy me. (To the priests:) You should also have no concern with these people. You have seen that they are so hot-headed, they would not agree to anything.

Uinar Lahmi But, sir…

Head Priest: Shut up, now. I have seen for what purpose you came here and with what object you talk to us.

So saying the Head Priest, exhibiting his Christian manners, left for his room on the upper storey. Umar Lahmi and other Muslim divines came out raising the cry of “Nasrun min Allah wa fathun qarib” [Help from Allah and victory is at hand].

Voicing the slogan of victory, Umar Lahmi and other Muslim divines repaired to their respective homes. Isabella had attentively listened to the talk of both sides. With her were her friends and other respectable Christian ladies. In the evening when Isabella’s friends gathered again comments started on the morning talk. Whatever little faith Isabella had in Christianity was shattered and she fully realised that the Christian creed was just a sham which had neither any basis nor any principle. Earlier meetings had left her with the impression that Michael, Peter and others were not well informed, but her father, the head priest, had profound knowledge of the reality of Christianity and, therefore, if these people were unable to meet the questions of Muslims, she had thought, her father would be able to silence them. But after listening this last talk she was thoroughly disappointed and had left no alternative but to conclude that the basis of Christianity was no better than the spider’s web.

A month had passed and a great revolution had come in the mind of Isabella. She had secretly been meeting Umar Lahmi and, through him, other divines like Ziad b. Umar in Cordova. She was now more devoted to the study of the Holy Quran and the truth of Islam was taking deep root in her mind. She made a comparative study of the Quran and the Bible to find out which of the two had greater truth and which was just a mixture of superstitions. She had given thought according to her lights to the problems of Unity of Allah, Prophethood, the Quran, salutation, atonement, intercession, meaning of sin and human acts and their consequences.

She was no longer a devotee of Christianity, but had bowed her head to Islam. But often she was perturbed with the idea of giving up a religion she had followed from her birth. What trials and tribulations she might have to face on going over to Islam. She will have to forsake her father, mother, sisters and relatives. How shall be her future life. But immediately it struck her that trials and troubles have to be encountered in the path of truth and if, after recognising the truth, she did not openly declare it she will be guilty in the sight of Allah.

When Umar Lahmi learnt of her perturbation he secretly sent word to her to recite ten times each morning and evening the verse of the Holy Quran: “Rabbi adkhilni mudkhala sidqin wa akhrijni mukhraja sidqin waj’al-li min-ladunka sultaman nasira” [My Lord! make me enter a truthful entering, and make me go forth a trouthful going forth, and grant me from Thy presence an authority to help (me)].* Allah willing, her anxiety will be relieved.

So Isabella followed this advice. By reciting this verse morning and evening she felt as if some mysterious power was giving strength to her heart and removing her fears. This prompt effect of the verse further strengthened her faith in Islam and she became more devoted to the Quran and Islam.

Isabella – A girl of Islamic Spain
Next Chapter

Ch 5: The Second Meeting

On Monday the priests began to assemble in the great church. Many Christian women also came with Isabella to hear the discussion. A little later Umar Lahmi, Muaz and some other Muslim divines also arrived and the priests were perturbed on seeing them and they began whispered conversation among them. Just then Umar Lahmi addressed them.

Umar Lahmi: As decided yesterday, the Divinity of Christ and Atonement will be discussed today. Since it will be difficult to deal with both these subjects simultaneously it will be better to take them up one by one.

Peter: Both the problems are in fact one and interconnected, so you may take any one of them you like.

Umar Lahmi recited some verses of Surah Furqan. This changed the colour of the face of Isabella; she was so affected that she fell down in a swoon and her companions helped to raise her up. Peter and Michael asked the reason of her upset but she did not reply and warm drops of tears began to trickle down her face. She was revived with great difficulty and said on enquiry that she was having such fits for the last month which they should not mind but carry on the discussion. Some of the priests suspected that she was affected by Islam, but her assumed reply removed the suspicion and the proceedings of the meeting were resumed. After this interval Umar Lahmi got up again and spoke.

Umar Lahmi: Gentlemen, we have been told that the basic principles of Christianity are Divinity of Christ and Atonement, so I want to put just one question which will also solve the problem of the Divinity of Christ. What was the need of the sacrifice of the “Son of God” as an atonement ? For this purpose any pious man could have been selected who would have given his life as atonement for all sinners. Why in particular was the “Son of God” crucified?

To answer this question holy Peter was again selected, but he was in such a plight that he got up falteringly and spoke with a wavering tongue.

Peter: For atonement the “Son of God” was necessary, for all men, whether prophets or apostles are sinful and a sinner cannot atone for other sinners. Since Lord Jesus Christ was the only “Son of God” and free from sins, so he was sacrificed for the sake of all the sinners.

Umar Lahmi: Right, but just say what was crucified, whether it was divinity or the humanity in Christ. If the divinity of Christ was crucified, then it means that God as one and without any partner bore all the tortures of crucifixion and that death came on the personality of God, that is, “God” died. But if the humanity in Christ was crucified, then your answer loses all its force, as in that case crucifixion of a human being and not of God could have suited, for in both cases it was humanity in Christ that was sacrificed and not his divinity.

Peter: Surely, Lord Jesus was perfect divinity and perfect humanity, that both these were fully represented in him. But his humanity, like his divinity, was free from sins and so his sacrifice was necessary. As other human beings are all sinful, therefore, they could not suit for atonement.

Umar Lahmi: That is, because there was no human being in the world free from sin, “God” Himself had to come down, and His divinity was not crucified but His humanity. Suppose a person free from sins was needed for atonement, why did not God create a sinless man to die on the cross for atonement?

Peter: God alone knows His secrets. We cannot say why He did not do it and came Himself to the world for the purpose. But this much we know that God’s coming to the earth for atonement indicates His great love and affection. That is, God loved His creatures to such an extent that He sent here His only “Son” to give his life as a recompense for others. This purpose could never have been accomplished by sending merely a man.

Umar Lahmi: If God had such a great love for His creatures, why did He not send this Son in the very beginning to be crucified? Was there no humanity before Christ for God’s concern? Why did He manifest His love after thousands of years?

Peter: We do not know about this mystery. God’s mysteries are known to God only.

Umar Lahmi: My question still stands. Reference to mystery again and again does not serve the purpose. Now if you say it was humanity which was crucified, then God’s coming down was purposeless Some other person could have been sacrificed.

Peter: I have given my reply. Man being sinful could not serve for atonement. Christ’s humanity served for atonement and it was an embodiment of innocence and sinlessness.

Umar Lahmi: Since Christ’s humanity was innocent and sinless, it became necessary to put on it the burden of the sins of all humanity. Holy priest, even you cannot understand your logic. How can I? What harm would have been done if this “Son of God,” instead of taking on him the burden of others’ sins, had done some such good which would have dominated the sins of all? In this case neither the burden of sins of all should have been put on sinless Christ, nor had he been crucified, nor even would it have given rise to the controversy of divinity and humanity. The remedy of sin is doing good. Christ on coming to the world should have done such a good as to atone for all the sins, not to commit suicide for atonement.

Peter: We cannot advise God. He did as He liked. It is your impudence to teach God.

Umar Lahmi: You know that Christ was born from the womb of Virgin Mary. Now say whether this birth related to man or God, that is, whether it was “God” who was born, or was it man?

Peter: God is immune from birth. It was the humanity in Christ which was born.

Umar Lahmi: And who died on the cross, God or man ?

Peter: God is also immune from death. It was man who died on the cross that is humanity in Christ.

Umar Lahmi: So the birth and death relate to Christ’s humanity and not to his divinity.

Peter: Certainly, certainly.

Umar Lahmi (holding the Bible in his hand): Just see, it is written in the Book of Job (Ayyub) (15:14) that “he which is born of a woman” is sinful and since the birth was not of divinity but of humanity, therefore, according to the judgment of Job, even the humanity of Christ was sinful. And see it is written in Romans 6:23 that “the wages of sin is death,” that is, death is the proof that the dead is sinful, therefore, the question comes again : why did not God crucify some other sinful man so that His divinity was saved ? Further, according to you, a sinner cannot atone for the sins of others. So Christ did not serve for atonement.

Peter (perturbed and perspiring): I have also said that all these are Divine mysteries. God did as He liked. How can you or I criticise Him?

Umar Lahmi: If your religion is based just on Divine mysteries, then why did you call us here and thus wasted your time and ours for two weeks?

Since Isabella was keenly interested in theological questions, she listened to all this talk most attentively and felt in her heart that when these priests cannot answer a question, they take the cover of Divine mystery. Just then priest Michael rose.

Michael: Brethren, today is a confrontation between Christian religion and Mohammedan religion. But do you know what is Mohammedan religion? This religion allows for four marriages. It has ordered indiscriminate killing of non-Muslims and its Apostle married eleven women and…

Umar Lahmi: If you are unable to answer my questions, say so clearly, and then whatever criticism you have against Islam you may put forth and I am ready to answer all. But is this your morality to call us at your place and then indulge in abusive talk instead of answering our questions. (Pointing to Isabella 🙂 Now say if this attitude of your priests is proper.

On this Isabella at once got up and spoke in broken words.

Isabella: I have heard this talk from beginning to end. I am sorry that neither holy Peter nor Michael answered the questions put to them. Umar Lahmi’s demand is quite justified that either his questions should be answered or defeat admitted. But I think you will do neither. So it is better to conclude the discussion now so that Christian religion is not ridiculed and whatever your learning it is not exposed. It is quite strange that…

Peter: Isabella! are you mad that you have come down to such nonsense talk ? (Addressing the audience:) Surely this girl is possessed by the devil and she has deviated far from Christ, and no wonder if she has lost her senses.

Isabella : Instead of venting your anger on my poor self you should either answer the question of Muslims or end the discussion. I do not want to answer here the allegations made against me, but if this is the reward of my frankness I do not mind if you take me to be demented.

Michael: Will you not keep quiet? Talking, talking and talking. We have answered all questions of Muslims. If you have the courage, come forward and answer.

A priest: It seems that this girl has secretly become an unbeliever. How could she answer the questions of Muslims? Her respected father should be informed about her impudence and she should be duly punished.

Catherine (a companion of Isabella): It is unfortunate that you have not done justice and all of you fall upon poor Isabella. Some call her mad, others threaten her, but no one puts his mind to the real matter. Isabella is quite right to say that you people have not been able to answer the questions of Umar Lahmi, but it does not mean that Christian religion is not just. You people are worthless and are trying to give bad name to Christianity on account of your worthlessness.

Peter : Turn out these girls from here. Who allowed these wretched girls to interfere in our talk?

Umar Lahmi: If you allow me to speak I will explain what Isabella meant.

Michael: Do not interfere in our talk. It is a matter of our own.

Another priest: What if Isabella and Catherine have both become apostates!

Michael: We cannot say this just now. These girls are foolish and want to expedite the result of this discussion, although these matters take months and even years to settle.

These were adverse comments on these poor girls and charges framed and attributed. Seeing this tumult Umar Lahmi in his sonorous voice recited some versus of Surah Maryam, on which the whole assembly was struck dumb. Eminent priests closed their ears with fingers lest the words of the Qur’an should affect their hearts. Since there was praise of Prophet Jesus and his holy mother and the charges leveled against them by the Jews were refuted, Christians were favourably affected and Isabella’s face in particular brightened. But this time she exercised patience and firmly set. After the recitation Isabella spoke.

Isabella: Gentlemen, I call upon you to bear witness that I am a strict Christian and so I do not want that Christians should be humiliated. I do not mean that we have no answer to their questions, only our priests do not put their mind to them, as they think that the help of the Holy Ghost is needed to understand the creed of Christianity. Muslims attribute this to our weakness. I hope that after this there will be no misunderstanding about me. Now I request that the discussion be resumed.

One priest: We do not at all need any talk with these “unbelievers”. Already the talk has shaken our faith. What I mean is that these “unbelievers” should be at once turned out from the church.

Another priest: Do not talk in excitement. The matter should be decided after careful consideration. I also think that the discussion should end, as it is of no use.

Umar Lahmi: Gentlmen, you were very proud of the teaching of your Master that if anyone slaps you on one cheek you should present to him the other cheek also. But what is this that we see here? Have we entered here by force? Did you not call us here? Even now if you frankly say that you do not want to talk we will immediately leave. But I may tell you that we have delivered our message and Allah will not let our efforts go waste. Now, tell me if we should go or you want to talk.

Peter: Respected monitor, the thing is that you cannot understand the realities of Christian faith, nor have you come here for this purpose. But if you want to continue the talk you shall have to answer my questions.

Umar Lahmi; Very well. I give you full freedom to put any question and we shall calmly answer.

Peter: Has the Qur’an praised the Bible? Do you believe in the Bible?

Umar Lahmi; Certainly the Qur’an has praised the Bible and we, all Muslims believe in the Bible, Taurat (the Psalms) and all the books revealed to Prophets.

Peter: Then why do you not believe in our Bible ?

Umar Lahmi: Because it is not the Bible. If anyone composes a fiction and names it Bible we are not bound to believe in it. You may put before us the Bible which the Qur’an has praised.

Peter: Is the Bible of the Qur’an different from our Bible? Its proof?

Umar Lahmi: Because the Qur’an, while praising the original Bible, has falsified this Bible and pointed out its wrong statements.

Peter: What are the wrong statements of our Bible?

Umar Lahmi: For instance, the Gospel of St. Matthew in 12 : 46-50 has called Mary an unbeliever, while the Qur’an has called her Siddiqah (the truthful), which means that she was not an unbeliever but a believer and pious. Similarly, in the Bible (Matthew, 12:46-50 it is said about Prophet Jesus that he was very arrogant and used to be disrespectful to his mother, although the Taurat strictly enjoins respect and veneration to mothers. But the Qur’an refutes it and says that Jesus had said that he was obedient to his mother and has been enjoined to do good to her. Or just as the Bible says that Jesus was accursed and because of his being accursed he was crucified [*On Christ being accursed, see Galatians, 3 : 13. t iii, 45.]. But the Qur’an calls him the “Spirit of God” and the “Word of God” and that he was venerable both in this world and the next (wajihan fid-dunya wal-akhirah).

A voice: You are wrong. In the Bible he is said to be God.

Umar Lahmi: Yes, it is more surprising that according to you God can also be accursed. That you have cursed Christ while acknowledging him as God and do not mind at all how God Who is the Fountainhead of all good and perfections can deserve curse. It is the devil who deserves curse and not God. Islam does not deify Christ but calls him human and at the same time makes him innocent and free from sins. Now, you can judge whether an accursed “God” is better or a pure and sinless man.

Peter: The point is why you do not believe in the Bible. You have thrown into it the question of curse. If you have any original Bible which the Qur’an has confirmed, then bring that to us.

Umar Lahmi: You have no right to demand this from us. If you first agree that your Bible is made up and forged, then you can call for the real Bible. I have proved that the Qur’an does not affirm the validity of the current Bible but proves it false and has openly recounted its mistakes. Just fancy, can this Bible in which Christ has been deified and then killed on the cross be the Bible of the Qur’an which says that Christ says : “Inni ‘Abd Allah” [I am a servant of God) and that “Ma qataluhu wa ma salabuho” [he was neither killed nor crucified].* Has the Qur’an affirmed your Bible or proved it false?

Peter: Has not the Qur’an called Jesus the “Spirit of God” and the “Word of God” ? Is it not a proof that he was above humanity.

Umar Lahmi: Surely the Qur’an has called Christ “the Word of God,” but the Qur’an also says that words of God are innumerable and that if all oceans become ink and all trees pens they will not be able to recount all words of God as they are beyond count. So Christ also is one of these words of God. As to Christ being “the spirit of God,” this also does not make him above humanity for the same word is used for Adam in the Qur’an which says: “fa iza sav-vaituhu wa nafakhfu fihi min ruhi” [when I completed the form of Adam I breathed My Spirit into him]* so in that respect Christ is also like Adam. If Christ is “God,” then Adam and all his progeny are “God”.

Peter: If the Qur’an has called Adam the “spirit of God,” it is a mistake as there is no other “spirit of God” except Christ.

Umar Lahmi: You think the entire Qur’an is wrong, but it was you who wanted that the divinity of Christ be proved from the Qur’an and so I proved from the Qur’an that he was not divine. If he can be “God” just by being the “spirit of God,” then Adam was also “God”. If you think the Qur’an is wrong in this respect, then why did you bring in the Qur’an?

Isabella; But you believe in the divinity of Prophet Muhammad, although he initiated bloodshed in the world and ordered killing of non-believers.

Umar Lahmi: Allah forbid ! I seek protection of Allah from this perverse belief! We regard our Holy Prophet just a man, only Chief of all Apostles and Crown of all Goodness. The essence of our belief is “La ilaha ill Allah Muhammad Rasul Allah” [There is no one worthy of worship except Allah and Muhammad is His apostle]. Anyone who regards the Holy Prophet as a God is a non-believer and against Islam. As to the Prophet’s initiating bloodshed in the world, this is utterly wrong. He surely waged war against non-believers as they wanted to annihilate the Prophet and the religion which he brought, but he did not touch those who were not so. The Qur’an enjoins fighting against those who fight with you.

Christian priests have since long spread calumnies against Islam and attributed various ills to it. It is these priests who used to defame Islam by alleging that Muslims regarded the Prophet as God. The question of Isabella is the result of this propaganda.

Michael: You say it again and again that our Bible is not real, although it has been compiled by Disciples with the aid of the Holy Ghost, whom even the Qur’an praises and regards them as believers. Further, the Christians of the world have affirmed them.

Umar Lahmi: This is just the question, whether this Bible has actually been compiled by the Disciples to whom it is attributed or some non-believers wrote their books giving Disciples’ names as authors. Even Christians do not agree that the Disciples have composed them. The Qur’an does not believe in the compiled Bible. It praises only that Bible which was revealed to Christ direct from Allah, as the Qur’an says : ” Wa atainanal, Injila” [We gave the Book to Christ] and Christ himself says : “Atain al-Kitaba” [God has given me the Book],

On the other hand, you yourself admit that the books of the Bible were compiled by the Disciples when the Qur’an affirms revelation of the Bible to Christ.

Just then Isabella’s father (the head priest) came and took the priests to task.

Head Priest: What is this wrestling ground you have put up here? You are talking to “unbelievers” in the holy church and disrupting the faith of Christians. Christians come to me daily and complain of your inability. Many Christians have wavered in their faith and say that even my daughter Isabella has become unrestrained. (To Isabella 🙂 You girl, who asked you to come here and what have you got to do with these discussions? You study the Quran secretly. I know all that you are doing. (Turning to the priests:) Yet she is a foolish girl, but what has happened to all of you that you are bandying words with these unbelievers and displeasing Lord Jesus. If you do any such thing in future I will dismiss all of you.

With this snub of the head priest all the priests were perturbed and Isabella’s face turned pale. No one could venture to give an explanation to the head priest. But one of the priests took courage and addressed the head priest.

The priest: Our holy father, what you say is quite true. Surely there is nothing but loss in talking with these “unbelievers”. But, O holy father! do you want us to be humiliated throughout Spain? Do you want Christianity to die out in Spain? By our Lord Jesus, if we do not suppress them we will not be able to show face in this country. I may also mention that none of us could answer the objections of Muslims. If you are kind enough to attend to our humble request I will say that the questions put forth by Muslims cannot be solved without your honour’s help. In the whole of Spain there is no better savant of Christianity than your honour, who can discharge this duty, and silence the “unbelievers” by terse answers. If your honour does not come forward to save Christianity at this time, then, our revered father, the consequences for us and for Christianity will be most serious and our preachers will be humiliated and defamed. May I hope that your honour will be ready to solve the problems raised by Muslims?

Head Priest: You have yourself given importance to this matter by calling over Muslims here. It is unfortunate that you have not been able to answer foolish questions of Muslims, even after studying the problems of theology. Will these Muslims be rightly guided on getting a satisfactory answer?

Michael: Yes, it is their promise that on being satisfied they will give up Islam and embrace Christianity. They have also given to us a written undertaking to this effect.

Head Priest (to Umar Lahmi): Say, what are your questions?

Umar Lahmi: It is only if you listen calmly to what I say that I will put my questions. The way you have treated us and demonstrated the Christian ethics demand that I should refuse to talk to you. But since I am a seeker of truth, I want to seek the light of guidance through you.

Head Priest: Gentleman, you should not take offence at my harsh words and if our talk has injured your feelings I seek your pardon on behalf of all. Surely you seem to be a lover of truth and surely our Lord Christ will help and guide you. So you may come to my house sometime tomorrow when your doubts and misunderstandings will be dispassionately set at naught. (To priests:) You, gentlemen, may also come so that you may know answers to the questions of Muslims and in future you may yourselves deal with them.

Isabella – A girl of Islamic Spain
Next Chapter

Ch 4: The First Meeting

Isabella having left, Umar Lahmi and Muaz went to their houses and began to study the Holy Qur’aan and the Bible and noted down important points to be discussed. Next morning on Sunday the news of this discussion was known all over the city. The Christians had made arrangements that only a few Muslims should be allowed to enter the church. So many Muslims had to return disappointed. Umar Lahmi, Muaz and some Muslim divines came to the church and entered it on getting permission. They found eminent priests of Cordova present there busy in their worship. After some time, however, the discussion began. Isabella and all her companions were present.

Michael (Isabella’s teacher): We have learnt that you have some doubts about Christianity and have come here to resolve them and that you have promised that on getting convincing reply you will forsake Islam and adopt Christianity.

Umar Lahmi: We have not the least doubt about Christian beliefs and teachings but are fully convinced that doubts are baseless. But if you satisfy us and convincingly explain your beliefs we are all certainly ready to become Christians.

Then Michael reckoned to an elderly man to take up the discussion. He came forward and sat near Umar Lahmi. His name was Peter and he was known as an expert in Arabic learning and Islamic literature and had to his credit many books against Islam. He was supposed to be the most efficient debater against Muslims. He addressed Umar.

Peter (in a superior, rather commanding, tone): I am told that your great objection is why Saint Paul has called religious law a curse. But this is a minor and side issue. You are Muslims and believe in the Qur’aan and, therefore, the decision about Lord Jesus Christ and Christianity should be according to the Qur’aan.

Umar Lahmi: I had clearly defined the subject of discussion in my letter as you yourself admit, but now you want to discuss other matters. When I have written that the discussion should be on the religious law and curse, what objection can you have?

Peter: We will answer your question also but first let us deal with the basic issue and that too from your Qur’aan. Does not your Qur’an say about our Lord Jesus to be Ruhullah (the spirit of God), Kalimatullah (the word of God)? Has it not been mentioned in it that he used to bring the dead to life ? Then if you believe in the Qur’an, how can you doubt Lord Jesus being the son of God ?

Umar Lahmi: You have started quite a different discussion which is not even remotely concerned with our object. What I want is to understand the significance of religious law and the curse. If you are prepared to discuss it, then do it, otherwise let us take leave.

Peter: I put up the Qur’an before you and want that the basic issue should be decided first. If you want to avoid the basic question and enter into side issues, it means that you have no answer to it.

Umar Lahmi: Well, you want to discuss the basic issue apart from your religion and taking the cover of the Qur’an. If you want to discuss the basic issue, let us first decide whether Adam did commit a sin and if it is decided that he did, then we should discuss whether it passed on from generation to generation to the entire humanity, that is on account of Adam’s sin all human beings became naturally sinners. If this has happened, we will discuss how the blot of sin can be removed. Then we may discuss the chastity of Prophet Jesus (according to the Bible). Thereafter you shall have to prove that Jesus was God and he only can absolve humanity of sin. When all this is proved, you shall have to prove that Jesus was crucified and for all the sins he remained in Hell for three days. This is to be discussed and not what the Qur’an says about him.

Peter: All this is irrelevant. What I want is to prove from the Qur’an that Jesus was the “Spirit of God” and the “Word of God” and he brought the dead to life. Therefore Christian religion is just.

Umar Lahmi (pointing to Isabella): Now I appoint her the judge and ask her why we were called here. (To Isabella 🙂 Sister, you have to say now what I wrote in my letter and why you brought us here.

Isabella: In fact the real talk was as to whether religious law is a curse or not. If it is a curse, why do the Christians by following it become accursed? But the objection of our holy father (Peter) is also justified and my judgment is that first your objection should be met and then the Holy Father may put questions on the Qur’an.

Umar Lahmi: This is for me to leave the ground open for you. Now, I give you the promise that when you have dealt with our objection we will immediately allow you to put general questions. But when, as I have promised, I embrace Christianity, what need then there will be of any further questions?

Peter: Well, sir, then you state your question clearly.

Umar Lahmi: You go on replying each of my questions one by one and the matter will be clear. First, let me know whether not to steal, not to kill, not to oppress the neighbour, etc., are religious commandments and whether they are concerned with religious law.

Peter: Surely, all these are related to the religious law.

Umar Lahmi: And what is Saint Paul’s decree about religious law ?

Peter: What decree? I do not follow.

Umar Lahmi: You do understand it well, but you want to evade answer. Just say if Saint Paul has called religious law a curse.

Peter: Saint Paul has called religious law a curse in this respect that the core of religious law came in the form of Jesus Christ and it is a folly to leave the core and run after the skin.

Umar Lahmi: This is what I also mean that Saint Paul, taking Jesus as the soul and religious law as the body, has called religious law a curse, and since, as you said, this Commandment of Old Testament is related to religious law, there-fore to refrain from killing and fornication is also a curse.

Peter: The thing is that you cannot understand these mysteries without the help of the “Holy Ghost” and it is not necessary that a matter which you cannot understand is in fact wrong. Saint Paul has called physical religious law a curse and not all kinds of religious law.

Umar Lahmi: Agreed. Granted that Saint Paul has called physical religious law a curse. Now just tell me if not to steal, not to fornicate, not to oppress parents, etc., are physical religious law or simply internal, spiritual and moral.

Peter: You are hitting on the same topic. Just listen. What Jesus Christ has said is more preferable to what Saint Paul has said and our Lord has asked us to follow the Commandments of the Old Testament.[See Bible, Matthew, S : 19 to 10: 25.]

Umar Lahmi: That is, to obtain salvation it is necessary to follow the Old Testament. If this is so, why did you raise the problem of Atonement by crucifying the “Son of God”? Why this bogle of Atonement when it is necessary to follow the Old Testament? Is it necessary to follow the Commandments of the Old Testament even after the Atonement of Christ ?

Peter: We know nothing except that our Lord has directed us to follow the Old Testament. But salvation cannot be gained by merely following the Old Testament without Atonement.

Umar Lahmi: So Prophet Moses (Musa), David (Dawud), Solomon (Sulaiman), Joseph (Yusuf), Noah (Nooh) and other prophets must have been deprived of salvation, for their means of salvation was just following of the religious law. So also must their communities have been deprived.

Peter: Before the advent of Christ the only means of salvation was following the religious law, but the Lord’s Atonement changed it and now the only means is Atonement.

Umar Lahmi: First you rejected what Saint Paul had said that religious law was not a curse and then you rejected religious law as the basis of salvation. Can you quote any saint to prove that Saint Paul’s saying that religious law is a curse is not true?

A person: Gentlemen, in fact it is apostasy and disbelief to talk of these matters. All these elate to unseen mysteries. Saint Paul has certainly called religious law a curse and it is really so, but you people are unable to understand these mysteries. Our means of salvation is the divinity of Christ and Atonement, because Jesus was free from sins and an embodiment of God, who by his grace and benevolence suffered on the cross in lieu of us and gave us salvation.
Another person: Do not indulge in mutual quarrels. You have begun to refute Saint Paul.

Umar Lahmi: This is the result of untrue and baseless talks. Now, this other gentleman has broached the subject of Divinity and Atonement. First let the discussion of religious law and curse be concluded.

Peter: You have been given a conclusive reply. Now you may take eight days to ponder on the matter. If your doubts are not resolved during this time, you may come here again.

Umar Lahmi: You do not regard religious law a curse and your colleague says it is a curse and Saint Paul was correct. Which of you two is on the right?

Peter: Those who say this are not acquainted with the mysteries of Christian religion. You should not attend to what they say.

Umar Lahmi (to Isabella): Now, you say which of them is on the right and whether Saint Paul was wrong in calling religious law a curse.

Isabella: I came here to listen to your discussion and cannot intervene in any matter. But I will request my teacher Michael to resolve this question by his great learning and intelligence, since, apart from our honoured guests, I myself have not yet understood it.

These words of Isabella fell like a bolt from the blue on the entire assembly and everyone began to look at once at one another. Just then Michael got up.

Michael: Brethren, we have assembled here to search faith and it is certainly a very auspicious task. But for it, it is necessary that there should be a sincere heart and an urge to accept the truth. The question of faith is such that no one can succeed by his own effort without Divine help. We should, therefore, earnestly pray to God that He should manifest the truth to us through the help of the “Holy Ghost” and reveal to us the mysteries of the Christian faith. (Loud cries of Amen from all Christians.) Gentlemen, whether religious law is a curse or not is an irrelevant question. The real thing is that our Mohammedan brethren have no knowledge of Christian creed and principles and so they are indulging in polemics. The essence of our religion can be stated just in two words, i.e. the Divinity of Christ and Atonement. One who has understood these two has understood all the secrets of the Christian faith. How gracious is God that He sent His only son for our salvation to suffer all the troubles of this world and then at last he was killed on the cross as an atonement for our sins. So I will request my friend Umar Lahmi and his associates to give up the useless discussion of religious law and curse and think of the holy personality of our Lord Jesus and his matchless atonement and embrace Christian faith.

Umar Lahmi: We have not come here for mere talk. We follow a principle and want to discuss basic problems. We have already defined the subject of our talk in my note, whose witness is our sister Isabella here. Now, if you want us to give up the real subject matter and discuss the Divinity of Christ and Atonement, I am ready for that also, provided you give me in writing that we give up the subject of religious law and should talk on the Divinity of Christ and Atonement.

Peter: We do not mean to say that you should not discuss these problems, but that we may leave aside marginal issues and discuss basic problems.

Umar Lahmi: Then why did you call us here? Churches and mosques are not necessary for discussion. If you do not want to discuss, then say so clearly so that our time is not wasted.

Michael: You have misunderstood holy Peter’s talk. He did not mean that we should close the dialogue altogether. He only wanted to stress that you should put questions by thinking over the basic problem. But it is already noon and you may have to take lunch. Say when it will be convenient for you to come again.

Umar Lahmi: This time is very convenient. No one can say whether we shall have this auspicious occasion again.

Michael: But you have also to offer your prayer.

Umar Lahmi: We can offer our prayer in this very church.

Peter: I think we better take up the discussion again next Sunday.

Umar Lahmi: I think the discussion should not be put off for so long. Possibly we may be guided by Allah.

Michael: All right, we restart the discussion tomorrow at this time and continue till midday.

Isabella: If the discussion to be put off for tomorrow, then it should not end at noon but continue till the evening so that we may come to some conclusion.

Michael: Not at all, have we no other business?

Isabella: I think, no other business can be more important than this.

It was, however, decided that the discussion should begin in the morning and continue till noon.

This concluded the first meeting. Umar Lahmi, thanking all Christians, leaves for his home while the priests and Isabella remain sitting in the church.

One priest: It is regrettable that you gave the opportunity to these “unbelievers” to raise objections and let the Christian faith be ridiculed. The only way to treat these heathens is to put the Qur’an before them. Holy Peter did this in the very beginning but, unfortunately, they cleverly wriggled out and took up the discussion of religious law. If the same is done tomorrow also, we will be badly let down, because what they enquire about is of the Divine secrets which no one except saints can understand.

Michael: In fact, the discussion went into wrong channels in the very beginning, otherwise they would have been let down by their own Qur’an. Does not the Qur’an say that our Lord Jesus is the “life-giver” and brings the dead to life? Does not the Qur’an call him the “Spirit of God” and the “Word of God”?

Peter: But, now, the subject of discussion for tomorrow has been defined. It will be on the Divinity of Christ and Atonement. See how cleverly I wanted them to divert from it, but Michael put them again on it.

Michael: Do not blame me. It is all your handiwork.

Another priest: What is the use of indulging in mutual quarrels. It will be seen tomorrow, when Divinity of the Lord will come under discussion that our Christian religion is not a soft morsel which anyone can swallow at a gulp.

After this conversation all the Christians left the church and dispersed. Isabella also left with her companions and made for her home. On her way she spoke to her companions.

Isabella: Just see, behind the back of Muslims they boast that Muslims cannot stand before them, but when they were faced with Muslims they were thoroughly exposed. I am sorry that my father had to leave immediately after leading the prayer as he had full confidence in the ability and learning of Michael and Peter, otherwise he would have silenced these Muslims.

One companion: In fact, the problem is a bit too tough. What even your father could have done ?

Another companion: In fact, our beliefs and dogmas are poor. Otherwise our priests would not have been so beaten.

Isabella: God forbid ! Just a single discussion has upset you. Our beliefs are certainly well founded, but there should be someone to explain them. Now, tomorrow the Divinity of Christ will be discussed and you will see how badly they will fare.

They had now reached a crossroad where all the girls turned towards their respective homes.

Isabella – A girl of Islamic Spain
Next Chapter

Ch 3: A Letter

A few days later, Isabella again went in the evening to the same garden where she had heard the conversation of two Muslim divines. Soon after she had taken her seat, Umar Lahmi and Muaz also arrived and began to talk on different subjects.

Umar Lahmi: I have heard a curious and interesting report today.

Muaz (surprised): What is it?

Umar Lahmi: The objection, that you raised on a passage of Saint Paul’s Epistle the other day, has reached the ear of the Head Priest and there is a great commotion among the priests on account of it. It is also said that some sensible persons have even become sceptics.

Muaz: Well, this seems to be mere gossip. Who could have heard our talk that day?

Umar Lahmi: Who could have heard our talk? Is it for nothing that the priests have become so agitated?

Muaz: After all what is the cause of the commotion? Have the priests heard our objection for the first time?

Umar Lahmi: The reason I cannot tell myself, but what I have heard and why the priests have become agitated is just for our objection. Several meetings have been held among the priests to find a solution. The report has reached me through Christian sources.

Muaz: Just one objection has created commotion among the priests. All beliefs of Christians are ridiculous. While sin was committed by Adam punishment was given to all and the entire humanity became sinful. And has this belief any justification that in retaliation of the sins of all the sinners, an innocent person is punished and, to bear the burden of all the sins, “the son of God” comes to earth and is crucified. Is it not the very limit to make Divinity a weak and powerless person? If Christians have any answer to all these questions, let them come forward and explain.

Umar Lahmi (laughing): If it is not Christians who can go to that limit of absurdity, who else can do this? Everyone can talk reasonably, but there should be someone to talk nonsense.

Muaz: I think it is time that we exploit this Commotion.

Umar Lahmi: It is a very good suggestion and at this time let us publish a poster in which we should recount all the absurdities of the Christian belief.

Muaz: This is quite good and it will create a commotion among Christians all over Spain.

Isabella and her two classmates sitting in a corner of the garden were listening attentively to this talk and were cracking their fingers in anger. At last Isabella lost her patience and said to her companion; We must refute their allegations and do everything to convince them. May our Lord Christ attract them to his side! If these Muslims can be converted it will be such a great victory for Christianity that henceforth Muslims will never be able to raise their heads in this country. And Isabella raised her head to the heaven and earnestly prayed to God to bring these “unbelievers” and enemies of Christianity to the Christian fold that “Thy Greatness is manifested.”

A companion: Sister Isabella.’ These “unbelievers” are very hot-headed. How can they give up Satan and take the hand of Lord Christ? But the trouble is that our priests are also afraid of these Muslims. It was just yesterday that, on seeing your worry about the objection about our religious law and curse, I put it to the priest of our parish who ignored it saying that we should pay no attention to what these Muslims say. Their answer is not discussion but the drawn sword. When such is the condition of our priests, why should the Muslims not become arrogant?

Isabella: The thing is that our priests do not like to talk to these “unbelievers” and keep quiet. But their silence does not mean that they cannot solve their problems. Yet if they are assured that after being convinced most of the Muslims will be ready to embrace Christianity, they will face them most willingly.

The companion: Written promises may be taken from these Muslims and they should be made to talk face to face with our priests, so that on the one side our Christian divines are forced to talk to them and these Muslims are forced to embrace our faith.

Isabella: This is quite good. But will these Muslims be ready for it?

The companion: Why not, what have you just heard from their own lips?

Isabella: Then why to wait? Inform them just here that they should be prepared to discuss with our priests. I am giving you a chit which you may take to them and see what they reply.

The companion: But first ascertain from our divines. These “unbelievers” may be ready, and our divines may not agree.

Isabella: If these people give a written undertaking that on being convinced they will embrace Christianity; our divines will certainly have a dialogue with them.

Isabella then wrote out the note: “Please pardon me. I overheard your talk very attentively and since we are also interested in theological questions I hope you will not mind my intrusion. You have just told your companion that if Christians satisfactorily explained relation between religious law and curse you will embrace Christianity and you also want to challenge Christians on religious law and curse, so, as servants of our Lord Jesus Christ, we gladly accept your challenge, provided you give a written undertaking of it.—A Humble Servant of Christian Faith.”

Her companion handed over this chit to Umar Lahmi who immediately showed it to Muaz and promptly wrote the answer: “We thank you for the trouble and we agree that if your elders explain to us the dilemma of religious law and curse, we assure you that I myself and my associates will embrace Christianity. Now say where and when we should come to discuss —A Humble Servant of Islam, Umar Lahmi.”

Isabella on reading this replied: “About time and place I will I come tomorrow and let you know.—A Servant.”

Coming’ out of the garden of Cordova Isabella’s first concern was to find out a learned man for dialogue with the Muslims and so, before going home, she went to her kind teacher and told him all that had happened. The teacher who was himself a priest and well versed in religious problems, on seeing Isabella’s worry, snubbed her and asked her if it was such a serious matter as to cause her worry. Isabella then showed him the note which Umar Lahmi had given her in the garden that evening and in which there was an undertaking that if this problem was solved, he along with his associates will accept Christianity. On this the teacher agreed to take up the matter and felt the need of some eminent scholars. He pacified the anxiety of Isabella and had her leave to depart saying that he would fix up the time by noon next day.

Isabella spent a restless night and the question continued to haunt her -what was going to happen the next day, for if her learned men were unable to satisfy Muslims then Christians will be browbeaten for ever. At last morning came and, after finishing her toilet, she began to study the Bible. Just at noon she took with her two of her friends and repaired to the house of the priest where she found a large number of priests gathered, waiting for someone on whose arrival the chair was offered to him; Isabella’s teacher, after the praise of Jesus Christ, explained the object of the gathering and earnestly requested the scholars to take courage and prepare for a dialogue with the Muslims trying to convert them to Christianity.

One priest: We wondered what was the grave problem for which we had been asked to meet together. On reaching here I found that it was a simple affair. Just call these Muslims even now and any one of us will convince them.

Another priest: It is true that the matter is not very grave as we often hold discussions with the Muslims. But since the news has gone out that Christians have no answer to the objection of Muslims, the issue has assumed importance and now we should fix time for the discussion.

A person: Tomorrow is Sunday and all Christians will gather in the great church, so Muslims should be called there tomorrow, and may Lord Jesus give them guidance.

A priest: This is a good suggestion. (Then addressing Isabella: Your respected father who leads prayer in that church should be present as possibly we may need his help at some stage since you are the intermediary for this talk between us and the Muslims.

Another person: Her father is the Head Priest of all Spain and there is no one else more learned in the problems of Christianity than he, and therefore his presence is essential.

Michael (Isabella’s teacher): Surely, surely.

So the proposal was unanimously adopted and Sunday was fixed for the dialogue. At Isabella’s request Michael wrote out a permit for Umar Lahmi to enter the church.

Now it was just one and a half or two hours for the sun to set. Isabella prepared herself to go to the garden when her other two companions also arrived and they slowly walked towards the garden where they found Umar Lahmi and Muaz already sitting and, unlike other days, some other people were also with them. Isabella herself handed over Michael’s letter to Muaz which was opened and read by everyone.

Muaz (to Isabella): We are very thankful for all your painstaking and if either of the parties gets guidance the credit of it will first go to you.

Umar Lahmi (to his companions): She is a scholar of Christian philosophy and well learned in theology. How praiseworthy is her zeal to try to take us out from “disbelief”!

Isabella: I am a humble servant of Jesus Christ and thank you for accepting the invitation.

One Muslim. Allah forbid! Just see how Christians assign partners to Allah and deify Christ. Surely, they are out of their senses, otherwise how can a living man…

Umar Lahmi: You have already entered into controversy. It has to be decided tomorrow at the great church. (To Isabella): You may assure the priests on our behalf that we shall certainly come to the church just after breakfast.

Isabella immediately left with her companions and did no longer stay at the garden as she used to do for she had to make arrangements and hold consultations for the next day’s gathering.

Isabella – A girl of Islamic Spain
Next Chapter

Ch 2: An Important Question

Entering the eastern gate of Cordova the young and beautiful Isabella took to the road which led straight to the Qasrul Shuhada (Palace of Martyrs). The Muslim government of the day had lavishly beautified the whole of Spain. The roads of Cordova were wide and well planned and beautiful lamps at short distances lighted them and, as Dr Draper says, one could walk twenty miles in their light. Isabella walked slowly and gracefully on the wide and bright road of the Palace of Martyrs towards her home and her pace today was thoughtful and dignified. After her evening stroll she used to call on her friends on the way while returning, but today she was heading straight to her home and seemed to be absorbed in some thought. In half an hour she reached her palatial house, where her maidservant was waiting for her at the door and greeted her. Giving some off-hand answer to the maid’s question as to her delayed return; she entered her room and, sitting in an easy chair, began to read a book. In the meantime the maidservant laid the dinner table and called her. But she was so absorbed in the book that she did not respond and continued in her study. The book she was reading was the Holy Bible and she was particularly studying Saint Paul’s Epistles with great care in which the religious law was denounced as a curse. She read the letters again and again but could not find a solution to her doubt, which became more and more firm as she went on reading. When her mind was tired she put away the Bible and resolved to ask her father who, she thought, could explain it.

She did not think that the problem was insoluble. If she could not find the solution, her father would easily find it as there was no man in Spain so learned as her father. So eased in her mind she took her dinner and began to read the Bible again. Sometime after she went to her bed.

Next morning rising early she went to the church, it being a Sunday. On her return her father called her and asked her what chapter of the Bible she had read last night as she was engaged in comprehending the inner meanings of metaphysics. If she had any difficulty in solving any problem she might ask him.

Isabella (kissing his hand): Father, I have read today 1 John, Chapter 3, and if you permit me I may ask a question as I have not yet been able to solve the problem.

Priest: Surely, surely, my child. Do ask it and I will resolve your difficulty.

Isabella: Our Lord has given us Twelve Commandments in the Old Testament through Prophet Moses. Are they not about religious law?

Priest: Yes, they all relate to religious law.

Isabella: The next thing is that Saint Paul has said in one of his letters that religious law is a curse.

Priest: Yes, religious law is a curse and it was to relieve us from this curse that Jesus Christ came to the world and was crucified.

Isabella: It is clear that religious law is a curse and so grave a curse that Jesus Christ came to the world to remove it and was crucified. It, therefore, means that to follow religious law is also a curse.

Priest: Surely it is a curse and now Christians, instead of following the religious law, should have faith in Jesus Christ, as religious law was effective until our lord was not crucified.

Isabella: Now, is stealing permissible for us?

Priest: What has this got to do with the religious law? My child, you should think carefully before asking a question as anyone else who bears this question will take you to be quite foolish.

Isabella: Forgive me. Probably I could not make myself clear. What I mean is that among the Commandments, which you have just said are part of religious law, one command is that you should not steal and another that you should not oppress your neighbour and the third that you should not disobey your parents. Now, these commandments are still parts of the religious law which, according to Saint Paul, is a curse. So to obey the Commandments of Old Testament (that is not to steal, not to fornicate) is abomination and not to steal and not to molest your parents are a curse.

Priest: My child, you have not yet understood the position of the religious law. But, first tell me who put this foolish question in your mind and what devil put this doubt in you?

On this Isabella reported all the talk between Umar Lahmi and Muaz which she had heard in the garden.

Priest: My child, you know it well that these accursed Muslims are “unbelievers” and have always been inimical to our sacred religion. Criticism of our holy books is the result of satanic thinking. My child, you should repent at once and in future do not give ear to the talk of Muslims. They are irreligious and castigate the true religion of others. Do you know, my child, what is their religion? Bloodshed is creditable in their religion. Just see, they invaded our country Spain and killed hundreds of innocent people and are forcibly imposing their religion. Now, I know that these objections you have heard from Muslims. If they were from your own mind I would have cleared them, but what reply can we give to them?

Isabella was sorry to have mentioned Muslims; otherwise her problems must have been solved. Now I will ask this question, she thought, from my teacher whom I ask questions which I do not understand in the course of my studies.

Next day Isabella put the same question to her teacher who also failed to satisfy her by some convincible answer. Up to this time Isabella had thought that her difficulty was due to her lack of understanding and the religious leader will solve it easily, but now she realised that it was not an easy but an important matter and her doubts were strengthened and continued to grow.

Isabella – A girl of Islamic Spain
Next Chapter

Ch 1: In a Luscious Garden

In a famous garden of Spain, well known for its beauty and freshness vying with the garden of Eden, which was always crowded by sight-seers, two learned men were engaged in a theological discussion in a corner. The sun at this time had completed its round and was preparing to set in the west; while the enchanting songs of birds returning to nests were exhilarating the passers-by. A Christian girl, whose name is given in history as Isabella, was also sitting with some friends in the garden and watching with delight the beauty of Nature. Aged about sixteen or seventeen she was the daughter of a Christian priest. In her “beauty and grace she looked like a hourie of Paradise, and nobles and religious leaders aspired for her hand to make their lives happy and joyful, but her father wanted her to be the model of virgin Mary and did not want to give her away in marriage. Since she was being given religious training, she was well acquainted with religious matters and took keen interest in theological discussions.

In a bed of roses, in a corner, as stated above, sat some Muslims, who appeared to be men of learning, engaged in some discussion.

First man: Saint Paul has written in one of his letters[ Epistle to the Galatians, 3 : 10] that religious law is a curse and Jesus Christ came to relieve us from that curse. What after all does this mean?

Second man (laughing): You want to understand it from me, although even Christian priests…

Isabella, who was sitting at a little distance with her girl friends was alerted on the words “even Christian priests” and said to one of her friends: These Muslims seem to be talking about our religion. Let us hear quietly what they say. A friend responded: Since these Muslims have come here our religion is in great danger.

Isabella: Stop talking. Keep quiet and let us hear what they say.

First man: Muaz! You have said that even Christian priests do not understand it. Do you mean to say that they are following Christianity without understanding it?

Second man: Umar Lahmi! Just put this question to some eminent priest and see what he says. But first you’ should tell me your Objection to what Saint Paul has said.

Umar Lahmi: There is no objection in fact. I Just want to understand it and since you have often talked to Christians and have also read their literature, so I want to understand it from you. What I want to know is that when religious law is a curse and Prophet Jesus came to relieve the Christians from this curse, therefore, theft, fornication, disobedience to parents will also be permissible although no Christian believes in their permissibility.

Muaz: How are theft and fornication and other such sins related to the religious law being a curse? I cannot quite follow you.

Umar Lahmi: What I mean is that the Old Testament is the religious law which enjoins that. One should not steal, should not fornicate, should not give trouble to his neighbour, should not disobey his parents, etc. But when the entire religious law is a curse, it will also be a curse to obey these injunctions as these injunctions are also religious law and the very core of it. If what Saint Paul says is correct, then Christians should also steal, fornicate and commit such other sins. But like us they follow this religious law, then they are accursed and Christians who object to these sins are condemned as they object to obedience of religious law.

Muaz : Funny, you want me to clear the very objection which I have put to Christians so often.

Umar Lahmi: Have you ever put it to Christians? What was their reply?

Muaz: They tried to explain it away and were perplexed.

Just then there was the call for the Maghrib prayer and the two learned men made their ablution in a nearby tank and offered prayer

Isabella had listened to this conversation very attentively being keenly interested in theological questions and felt the weight of the objection. She put her mind to it and tried to find out an explanation that she might put it to Muaz and Umar Lahmi. But despite all efforts she was unable to find a solution and, still absorbed in the question, she got up along with her friends thinking that she would ask her father about it.

Isabella left her companions at a crossroad and walked to the eastern gate of Cordova.

Isabella – A girl of Islamic Spain
Next Chapter

1 2