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.