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.