Ch 13: A Conspiracy
While Isabella was in her room, a maidservant gave a letter in her hand which read: “Sister Isabella, I have to talk to you on some important things, so be kind to take the trouble of coming here at once. The matter is very important. You should not delay at all. Just now I am waiting for you anxiously in another house. Please come along with this maidservant. Your sister, Mirano.”
Isabella immediately got up to follow the maidservant while suspecting that the letter was not from Mirano, but was a secret conspiracy of the priests. She followed the maidservant on the road which, rounding from the Palace of Martyrs, went straight to Rabat Ramani. At some distance the maidservant turned to a lane and entered a grand house and as soon as she entered all the doors were closed and unsuspecting Isabella was taken to another room whose doors were also closed and Isabella was taken to another room whose doors were also immediately closed. Here Isabella suspected that she probably had been taken prisoner. Then two or three monks pushed Isabella to the stairs leading to the underground room. Isabella was perturbed and she realised that she was in the grip of the Inquisition. When she put her feet on the stair a monk gave a hard blow on the back of the poor, delicate girl, and said. O accursed one! why do you not go ahead? See that the fire of Lord Jesus Christ’s anger is ready to burn you up. Unlucky girl! you have defamed Christianity and dragged the honour of your father, the head priest, into the mire.
Poor Isabella was silent. Shivering and suffering blows on her back she got down to the underground chamber where human skeletons were lying here and there in all corners and human craniums were hanging on the walls. Going inside the monk lighted a lamp and said to Isabella: Now you have to live here so that you may know the consequences of hostility to Lord Jesus Christ. Unluckily girl (pointing to the skeletons), these have been deputed to chastise you.
Isabella kept silence and felt as if she was in a dream. In the meantime all the monks went out of the cell after locking it and engaged themselves in prayer and devotion in other rooms. After some time Isabella came to her senses and soon realised that she was put to the tortures of being shut up in this chamber of ghosts because of her acceptance of truth.
The day passed somehow and darkness of the night enveloped the world. After eighth part of the night Isabella was taken out of the chamber and was given some parched and ground grain with water to drink. The monks even now continued to snub her. Then Isabella was taken to different rooms of the house where monks were engaged in various devotional exer-cises. The object of this round was to frighten Isabella by the austerities of monks which might appeal to her conscience. Isabella watched all this with great interest. One person was lying bound up in chains and another person was striking him with a lash. Isabella was terrified at this sight and thought that probably he was also a guilty one like herself. She soon found that it was a method of subduing the self, and self-torture was voluntarily taken up by monks. In the large room of the house there was an idol of Virgin Mary, around which monks and nuns were sitting in meditation. Some monks were lying along the wall with faces downward and some were sobbing in a corner ; for subduing the self they had not taken food for the last twenty or twenty-one days. Isabella was aware of these things but had not yet actually witnessed these scenes with her own eyes.
An elderly monk said to Isabella: O abandoned girl, if you want to gain salvation, practise such austerities and by these achieve the pleasure of Lord Jesus Christ.
Isabella laughed at it and said : Why does God need such austerities ? The purpose of religion is that one should perform the duties which a man has towards other men and serve men, not that he should hang himself in a corner like abat. Further, when, according to you, Jesus has atoned for all Christians, then such austerities are useless.
On this the monk’s eyes became red with anger, and he struck a fist on the chest of Isabella with full force saying : Hellish girl, you can never be reformed. Go away, sit at your place. You will get your full treatment there.
So the monk again opened the door of the underground chamber and forced poor Isabella inside.
Isabella sat in a corner of the chamber where tons of human bones were scattered and human skeletons all around were creating an awesome spectacle. In the beginning Isabella’s mind was somewhat perturbed but soon her senses revived and she was able to think about her past and future affairs. In this fearful and silent house of the dead if there was a slightest sound Isabella looked around perturbed and worried, but soon she brought herself up and began to recite prayers. At last the night ended and in this dark and closed chamber some rays of light entered through some holes. After some time the door of the chamber was opened and a monk brought her out in the large hall of the house here twelve idols of the Disciples of Christ and other martyrs were stalled. Isabella was taken where two very famous priests were sitting, Isabella sat before them. At first a great deal of anger and fire was demonstrated and then preaching began.
They said : Have you become a Muslim? Isabella: Thank Allah, Who gave me the great boon of Islam.
Priest: Leave out the praise of Islam. Just tell me if you want to die an obnoxious death, or do you want to become again worthy of God’s grace?
Isabella: After accepting Islam any person becomes worthy of God’s grace and no one is more fortunate than the one who is given the luck to accept Islam as this religion alone is the source of God’s pleasure and love.
Priest: Do not praise before me a bloody religion like Islam. I just want a reply in two words, whether you like to die or to live a Christian. Reply at once for your fate is to be decided today.
Isabella: What tribulations Christian martyrs had not suffered in the very beginning, but did they renounce the truth? They were burnt alive, thrown before tigers and lions, cut into two by saw and yet they held on to the truth.
If for the sake of truth anyone has to meet death, it will be the means of having God’s pleasure and satisfaction of his conscience. Since I am on the right, nothing on earth, even death, can make me deviate from it. The Holy Quran has taught me that “My prayer and my sacrifice and my life and my death are surely for Allah, the Lord of the worlds—no associate has He.”* I have been enjoined to remain firm on it, and I am among those devotees.
Priest: That is, you do not want to give up Islam and enter into the grace of Lord Jesus Christ, Well, then your fate will be decided today.
Isabella: Whatever decision you like you may make about me with your heart’s content. The utmost you can do is to take my life, but you do not know that the Being to Whom I am related is Allah, Who lives for ever.
Priest: When death will confront you, you will forget all these verses of the Quran and Allah, etc. We shall see if the Quran or Prophet Muhammad saves you from death.
Isabella: The same problem was put by the Jews before Jesus Christ that if he was on the right, he should come down from the scaffold and save his life. Now either (Allah forbid!) Christ was wrong that, according to you, he could not save himself from death, or you are in the footsteps of Jews.
Priest: O devil, hellish, evil-minded, worthless, unlucky! You call me a Jew! Now keep quite and wait for your end.
Isabella: It will be better if you also keep quiet and leave me alone and do yourself whatever you please.
Priest (to monks): Lock up this girl in the underground chamber, do not give her any food or drink. Holy Father (Isabella’s father) has ordered that she should be given over to the Inquisition and her fate will be decided tomorrow.
On this the monks caught hold of Isabella forcefully pushing and beating her, and carried her out of the room. Outside the room the beating was harder and numerous. Isabella fell and got up. At last she was thrown in the underground chamber and locked up.
Now three days had passed in this confinement and Isabella was not even once taken out. But she was so happy and complacent as if angels of firmness and stability were deputed for her. In the solitude of the night human skeletons made the atmosphere quite fearsome, while monks and nuns were engaged in austerities ; their weeping and cries reached Isabella’s ears.
In the meantime Isabella’s friends (Mirano, Mertha and Hanana) had also learnt that Isabella had been fraudulently called and thrown into the underground chamber of a monastery and was being subjected to great tortures. Then they consulted together and decided to inform Umar Lahmi and Ziad b. Umar. One night they went to the assembly of Ziad b. Umar and narrated the whole episode which greatly excited the Muslims who were present there.
One person: By Allah, if we continue to remain so tolerant Christians will put great obstruction in the propagation of Islam. Isabella is now our sister in Islam and it is the duty of every Muslim to release her from the grip of Christians at whatever cost.
Another person (drawing his sword): By your permission I can go at once and release Isabella. It is a pity that while our sister is under such tortures we sit silent even now which is a great injustice.
Umar Lahmi: Brothers, excitement and outbursts will not do. The case is now before Hazrat Ziad b. Umar and we shall do whatever he orders.
All (to Ziad b. Umar): Well, sir, whatever you order we are ready to carry it out.
Ziad b. Umar : My advice to you is that you should not show any excitement as it will cause the death of poor Isabella. If we like we can get her released by sending a contingent of our army, but it is expedient to take a strategic action. If Isabella is in trouble it will InshaAllah (God willing) strengthen her faith and the fact is that the worth of Islam is realised in the taste of tribulations.
Umar Lahmi (to Mirano, Mertha and Hanana): Now say what is your opinion and how far you can help our sister Isabella.
Mirano: If we are allowed and the matter is left to us we can easily relieve Isabella from the trouble.
Umar Lahmi: Thank you very much.
Ziad b. Umar: You have our permission to do whatever you can in your own way to get Isabella released.
The three girls, making firm promises, sought permission to depart. They left and went to their respective homes. The plan of releasing Isabella remained under discussion all the way.