Category Archives: Stories

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.

Isabella – A girl of Islamic Spain
Next Chapter

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.

Isabella – A girl of Islamic Spain
Next Chapter

Ch 1: In a Luscious Garden

In a famous garden of Spain, well known for its beauty and freshness vying with the garden of Eden, which was always crowded by sight-seers, two learned men were engaged in a theological discussion in a corner. The sun at this time had completed its round and was preparing to set in the west; while the enchanting songs of birds returning to nests were exhilarating the passers-by. A Christian girl, whose name is given in history as Isabella, was also sitting with some friends in the garden and watching with delight the beauty of Nature. Aged about sixteen or seventeen she was the daughter of a Christian priest. In her “beauty and grace she looked like a hourie of Paradise, and nobles and religious leaders aspired for her hand to make their lives happy and joyful, but her father wanted her to be the model of virgin Mary and did not want to give her away in marriage. Since she was being given religious training, she was well acquainted with religious matters and took keen interest in theological discussions.

In a bed of roses, in a corner, as stated above, sat some Muslims, who appeared to be men of learning, engaged in some discussion.

First man: Saint Paul has written in one of his letters[ Epistle to the Galatians, 3 : 10] that religious law is a curse and Jesus Christ came to relieve us from that curse. What after all does this mean?

Second man (laughing): You want to understand it from me, although even Christian priests…

Isabella, who was sitting at a little distance with her girl friends was alerted on the words “even Christian priests” and said to one of her friends: These Muslims seem to be talking about our religion. Let us hear quietly what they say. A friend responded: Since these Muslims have come here our religion is in great danger.

Isabella: Stop talking. Keep quiet and let us hear what they say.

First man: Muaz! You have said that even Christian priests do not understand it. Do you mean to say that they are following Christianity without understanding it?

Second man: Umar Lahmi! Just put this question to some eminent priest and see what he says. But first you’ should tell me your Objection to what Saint Paul has said.

Umar Lahmi: There is no objection in fact. I Just want to understand it and since you have often talked to Christians and have also read their literature, so I want to understand it from you. What I want to know is that when religious law is a curse and Prophet Jesus came to relieve the Christians from this curse, therefore, theft, fornication, disobedience to parents will also be permissible although no Christian believes in their permissibility.

Muaz: How are theft and fornication and other such sins related to the religious law being a curse? I cannot quite follow you.

Umar Lahmi: What I mean is that the Old Testament is the religious law which enjoins that. One should not steal, should not fornicate, should not give trouble to his neighbour, should not disobey his parents, etc. But when the entire religious law is a curse, it will also be a curse to obey these injunctions as these injunctions are also religious law and the very core of it. If what Saint Paul says is correct, then Christians should also steal, fornicate and commit such other sins. But like us they follow this religious law, then they are accursed and Christians who object to these sins are condemned as they object to obedience of religious law.

Muaz : Funny, you want me to clear the very objection which I have put to Christians so often.

Umar Lahmi: Have you ever put it to Christians? What was their reply?

Muaz: They tried to explain it away and were perplexed.

Just then there was the call for the Maghrib prayer and the two learned men made their ablution in a nearby tank and offered prayer

Isabella had listened to this conversation very attentively being keenly interested in theological questions and felt the weight of the objection. She put her mind to it and tried to find out an explanation that she might put it to Muaz and Umar Lahmi. But despite all efforts she was unable to find a solution and, still absorbed in the question, she got up along with her friends thinking that she would ask her father about it.

Isabella left her companions at a crossroad and walked to the eastern gate of Cordova.

Isabella – A girl of Islamic Spain
Next Chapter

Love of Seclusion

It is related that some people said to Hasan al-Basri, “Oh Abu Saeed there is a man sitting behind a pillar here, whom we have never seen. Hasan al-Basri went to him and said, “Oh Abdullah, I see the love of seclusion has engulfed you. What prevents you from sitting with the people?”

He replied, “A matter which has averted my attention from the people”.

He then asked “So what prevents you from sitting with Hasan al-Basri?” He again replied, “A matter which has averted my attention from Hasan al-Basri and the people.”

Hasan al-Basri enquired about this affair which was keeping the man away. The man asserted, “In the morning I look at the blessings of Allah and at the sins I have committed. I then occupy myself thanking Allah for the blessings and repenting from my sins”.

Hasan al-Basri said to him, “Oh Abdullah you are more knowledgable and have better understanding than Hasan! Remain steadfast in your action.”

Angels from Heaven

It is related that when Sahl – bin Abdullah AI – Tustairi died, people flocked from all over to attend his funeral prayer.  An elderly Jew, who lived nearby, was overwhelmed by the mass of people. When his eyes fell on the Janazah, he remarked, “Do you see what I see?”

They asked, “What do you see?”

He cried, “I see angels descending from the heaven taking blessings from it”.

Overcome by what he was witnessing, he confirmed his Faith in Allah and His Messenger.

Dreams

Rabi bin Sulaiman relates that I saw Imam Ash-Shafi’ in my dreams after his death and Iasked ”Oh Abu Abdullah, how did Allah deal with you?” He replied, ”He sat me down on a chair and showered me with diamonds.”

A Pious Saint relates that I saw Shaykh Abu Is-haak Ibraheem bin Ali bin Yusuf Al-Sherazi in a dream after his death, crowned and clothed in a beautiful white garment. I asked, ”Where is this whiteness appearing from?” He replied, ”Honour of Oobedience.” Again I asked ”And the crown?” He replied ”Honour of knowledge.”

Blessings in the Grave

It has been related from those who used to dig graves that once a grave was dug in some city. In this particular grave a man appeared, sitting on a throne. On seeing this, the grave digger ran and fell unconscious. His companions, not knowing what had happened carried him away.

When night fell, he came round and related the whole incident. Obviously intrigued with what they had heard, the companions requested the man to point out the grave in order that they may experience themselves this unusual phenomena for themselves. He agreed to show them at first light, so his companions lay in wait for daybreak.

That night he saw the same man from the grave in a dream warning him, “I swear by Allah if you show anybody my grave you will receive great punishment.”  The man awoke sweating and breathless. He realised the location of the grave should not be disclosed.

He repented and refused to show anyone. This angered the people but despite their anger the grave digger would not disclose the site of the grave. They were never to know were the grave was.

Words of the Almighty

Mansoor Bin Amar relates that once I saw a young man praying Salah for a considerably long time. I thought to myself perhaps this young man is a ‘Wali’ of Allah. So I decided to wait till he finished. Once he had finisghed, I greeeted him with Salaam which he reciprocated.

I asked him whether he knew of the valley in Jahanam called ‘Laza’. I mentioned a fire bursting forth into flames; so fierce that it burns the scalp and sucks up the liver from within those who turned their back. The young man screamed and fell unconscious.

When he gained consciousness he said, ”Tell me more”. I continued saying, “Oh believers save yourself and your families from that fire whose fuel is men and stones and upon it are appointed angels, harsh and terrible; they do not disobey God in what He commnds them and do whatever thay are commanded”. On hearing this he fell to the ground and died.

On the following night I saw him in a dream sitting on a throne with a crown on his head. I asked , ”What did Allah do with you.” He replied, ”Allah forgave me and gave me the reward equal to the reward of the people of Badr and more.”

Startled at his response I again asked, ”Why did He give you more?” He said, “Because they (the martyrs of Badr) were killed with the non-believers sword, while I was killed by the words of the Almighty”.

The Fruit of Belief and Tawakal

Malik b. Dinar (mercy be upon him) says, ”I was on my way to Mecca for the performance of Hajj. When I saw a young boy on foot. He neither had any means of transport nor provision for the journey. I paid him salutationto which he responded.

I said ”O young boy, from where are you coming?” He replied, ”From Him (God). ”Taken back by his reply, I asked him about him about his destination, to which he replied he was returning to God. I asked him,”So where are your provisions of food and water?” The young boy relied, ”I had , at the outset of my journey, some words as the provision of my journey.” I asked him what these words were. He told me: ”These are: Ka’f – Ha’ – Ya’- Ain – Saad – the Holy commandments of the Almighty God.’ He further expalined the words,”Ka’f – The Sufficient; Ha’- The Guide; Ya’- The Protecter; ‘Ain – Knower of all things and Saad – The True To His Promise. Thus a man, the companion of whom is One Who is Sufficient, the unerring guide, the Protecter, the Knower of all things and the true (True of His Words), can never be ruined or entertained by any fear. Can such a person bother another for the carriage of any provision and water during the course of his journey?”

Malik further says,  I wanted to give the young boy my clothes but he refused to take them. The boy replied, ”In the Hereafter, we will be answerable for the permissible things of the world and will have to suffer punishment for the forbidden things.”

When the darkness of night spread over, the young boy turned his face towards the sky and prayed to Allah by uttering these words, ‘O Allah!Favour me with that thing by which Thou art pleased, that is Obedience, and forgive me that thing which causeth Thou no loss, that is Sin’. After this, the people put on their ihram and began to recite the words: ”Here I am to do Thou bidding my Lord!” The young man remained silent. I asked him, ”Why don’t you declare the same?” He replied, ”I am afraid of the response that ”I neither want to talk to you or pay any attention to you (i.e Him not being worthy of service to Allah). After this, he was not seen during the journey.

At last, he was spotted in Mina where he recited some poetic verses,
‘The Beloved, Who is keen to shed my blood, has every right to shed my blood in haram or outside haram. By God! If my soul comes to know with Whom it is related, it may stand headlong instead on foot. O Censorer! Do not censure me for being entangled in His love. If you happen to see, what I am seeing, you would never dare to talk like this. On the day of ‘Id the people sacrified sheep and goats in the way of Allah but the lover of Allah sacrified his life in His way. The people have performed the Hajj but my Hajj is that, I have been able to acquire tranquillity. The people have sacrified sheep and goats but I sacrified my blood and soul. After this he prayed, “The people have gained access to thee by sacrifices. I have nothing to sacrifice save my soul. I offer it to thee for acceptance’. Thereupon he screamed and fell to the ground. He later died.

Malik after witnessing this incident said, “I performed the burial of the young boy and remained anxious and thoughtful about him the whole night. When I fell asleep I saw him in a dream. I asked him, ‘What had happened to you?’ He replied, ‘As had happened with the martyrs of Badr”‘

The Magic of White Garments

It was the practice of Ibrahim Khawas (mercy be upon him) that whenever he set out on a jorney to some place he neither informed anybody nor did anyone have any knowledge of it. All he took with him was a watercistern which he would use for whudu.

Hamid Aswad (mercy be upon him) said,”Once I was in his company, sitting in the mosque when he took his water cistern and set out. I followed him. When we reached Qadsiya he asked me. ”Hamid ! where do you intened to go?” I replied, ”I intened to visit the sacred city of Mecca.” And further added, ”I shall, if Allah so Wills.”

After three days journeying, another young man joined us. He travelled a day and night but did not observe a single prayer. I informed Ibrahim of this. Ibrahim later aked the young man, ”Why have you not observed the prayers?” He replied, ”The prayer is not obligatory on me.” He asked, ” why? Are you not a Muslim?” He answered, ”I am a Christian and in Christianity, I spend the time reposing my trust in God. My inner self had whispered that I had become perfect in the matter of trust. ”I refuted his claim and brought him to the wilderness, with the intention of testing his claim. Ibrahim however said nothing but walked on and advised me not to interfear and allow him to travel with us.

He travelled on with us until we reached Battan Mard. There, Ibrahim asked the Christian, ”What is your name?” He replied, ”My name is Abdul Masih! This is now the boundary of Mecca. The Almighty has prohibited the entry for those who scribe partners to Him”. Furthermore he recited to him a verse from the Qur’an; the translation of which means: “Those, who ascribe partners to Allah, are unclean. They should not even come near the Sacred Mosque.”  The outcome of the test you wanted to give to your inner self is already apparent to you. So you should not enter Mecca. If we happen to see you there we will object to your presence.

Hamid says, “We left him there and moved forward. We reached the sacred city of Mecca. As we passed by Arafat, we saw Abdul Masih there; donned in the lhram. He came to us and fell down at the feet of Ibrahim. Ibrahim asked him, “O Abdul Masih! What happened to you?” He asked Ibrahim not to call him by this name, as he was not the servant of the Masih but a slave of that Being whose slave was also the Masih (Peace be upon him).

Ibrahim then asked him what had brought this change on. He related, “, I sat down at the place where you left me. When another caravan of Muslims passed by, I could not help myself noticing the simple white garments in which they were dressed. Overcome by this, I decided to wear one too and Joined them in their company. On reaching the sacred city of Mecca I saw the House of Allah. At once my previous beliefs had paled into insignificance. I washed myself, became a Muslim and adopted the Ihram. I have been looking for you since the morning.” Thereafter, he remained together with us untill he breathed his last.