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.