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.