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Ch 4: The First Meeting

Isabella having left, Umar Lahmi and Muaz went to their houses and began to study the Holy Qur’aan and the Bible and noted down important points to be discussed. Next morning on Sunday the news of this discussion was known all over the city. The Christians had made arrangements that only a few Muslims should be allowed to enter the church. So many Muslims had to return disappointed. Umar Lahmi, Muaz and some Muslim divines came to the church and entered it on getting permission. They found eminent priests of Cordova present there busy in their worship. After some time, however, the discussion began. Isabella and all her companions were present.

Michael (Isabella’s teacher): We have learnt that you have some doubts about Christianity and have come here to resolve them and that you have promised that on getting convincing reply you will forsake Islam and adopt Christianity.

Umar Lahmi: We have not the least doubt about Christian beliefs and teachings but are fully convinced that doubts are baseless. But if you satisfy us and convincingly explain your beliefs we are all certainly ready to become Christians.

Then Michael reckoned to an elderly man to take up the discussion. He came forward and sat near Umar Lahmi. His name was Peter and he was known as an expert in Arabic learning and Islamic literature and had to his credit many books against Islam. He was supposed to be the most efficient debater against Muslims. He addressed Umar.

Peter (in a superior, rather commanding, tone): I am told that your great objection is why Saint Paul has called religious law a curse. But this is a minor and side issue. You are Muslims and believe in the Qur’aan and, therefore, the decision about Lord Jesus Christ and Christianity should be according to the Qur’aan.

Umar Lahmi: I had clearly defined the subject of discussion in my letter as you yourself admit, but now you want to discuss other matters. When I have written that the discussion should be on the religious law and curse, what objection can you have?

Peter: We will answer your question also but first let us deal with the basic issue and that too from your Qur’aan. Does not your Qur’an say about our Lord Jesus to be Ruhullah (the spirit of God), Kalimatullah (the word of God)? Has it not been mentioned in it that he used to bring the dead to life ? Then if you believe in the Qur’an, how can you doubt Lord Jesus being the son of God ?

Umar Lahmi: You have started quite a different discussion which is not even remotely concerned with our object. What I want is to understand the significance of religious law and the curse. If you are prepared to discuss it, then do it, otherwise let us take leave.

Peter: I put up the Qur’an before you and want that the basic issue should be decided first. If you want to avoid the basic question and enter into side issues, it means that you have no answer to it.

Umar Lahmi: Well, you want to discuss the basic issue apart from your religion and taking the cover of the Qur’an. If you want to discuss the basic issue, let us first decide whether Adam did commit a sin and if it is decided that he did, then we should discuss whether it passed on from generation to generation to the entire humanity, that is on account of Adam’s sin all human beings became naturally sinners. If this has happened, we will discuss how the blot of sin can be removed. Then we may discuss the chastity of Prophet Jesus (according to the Bible). Thereafter you shall have to prove that Jesus was God and he only can absolve humanity of sin. When all this is proved, you shall have to prove that Jesus was crucified and for all the sins he remained in Hell for three days. This is to be discussed and not what the Qur’an says about him.

Peter: All this is irrelevant. What I want is to prove from the Qur’an that Jesus was the “Spirit of God” and the “Word of God” and he brought the dead to life. Therefore Christian religion is just.

Umar Lahmi (pointing to Isabella): Now I appoint her the judge and ask her why we were called here. (To Isabella 🙂 Sister, you have to say now what I wrote in my letter and why you brought us here.

Isabella: In fact the real talk was as to whether religious law is a curse or not. If it is a curse, why do the Christians by following it become accursed? But the objection of our holy father (Peter) is also justified and my judgment is that first your objection should be met and then the Holy Father may put questions on the Qur’an.

Umar Lahmi: This is for me to leave the ground open for you. Now, I give you the promise that when you have dealt with our objection we will immediately allow you to put general questions. But when, as I have promised, I embrace Christianity, what need then there will be of any further questions?

Peter: Well, sir, then you state your question clearly.

Umar Lahmi: You go on replying each of my questions one by one and the matter will be clear. First, let me know whether not to steal, not to kill, not to oppress the neighbour, etc., are religious commandments and whether they are concerned with religious law.

Peter: Surely, all these are related to the religious law.

Umar Lahmi: And what is Saint Paul’s decree about religious law ?

Peter: What decree? I do not follow.

Umar Lahmi: You do understand it well, but you want to evade answer. Just say if Saint Paul has called religious law a curse.

Peter: Saint Paul has called religious law a curse in this respect that the core of religious law came in the form of Jesus Christ and it is a folly to leave the core and run after the skin.

Umar Lahmi: This is what I also mean that Saint Paul, taking Jesus as the soul and religious law as the body, has called religious law a curse, and since, as you said, this Commandment of Old Testament is related to religious law, there-fore to refrain from killing and fornication is also a curse.

Peter: The thing is that you cannot understand these mysteries without the help of the “Holy Ghost” and it is not necessary that a matter which you cannot understand is in fact wrong. Saint Paul has called physical religious law a curse and not all kinds of religious law.

Umar Lahmi: Agreed. Granted that Saint Paul has called physical religious law a curse. Now just tell me if not to steal, not to fornicate, not to oppress parents, etc., are physical religious law or simply internal, spiritual and moral.

Peter: You are hitting on the same topic. Just listen. What Jesus Christ has said is more preferable to what Saint Paul has said and our Lord has asked us to follow the Commandments of the Old Testament.[See Bible, Matthew, S : 19 to 10: 25.]

Umar Lahmi: That is, to obtain salvation it is necessary to follow the Old Testament. If this is so, why did you raise the problem of Atonement by crucifying the “Son of God”? Why this bogle of Atonement when it is necessary to follow the Old Testament? Is it necessary to follow the Commandments of the Old Testament even after the Atonement of Christ ?

Peter: We know nothing except that our Lord has directed us to follow the Old Testament. But salvation cannot be gained by merely following the Old Testament without Atonement.

Umar Lahmi: So Prophet Moses (Musa), David (Dawud), Solomon (Sulaiman), Joseph (Yusuf), Noah (Nooh) and other prophets must have been deprived of salvation, for their means of salvation was just following of the religious law. So also must their communities have been deprived.

Peter: Before the advent of Christ the only means of salvation was following the religious law, but the Lord’s Atonement changed it and now the only means is Atonement.

Umar Lahmi: First you rejected what Saint Paul had said that religious law was not a curse and then you rejected religious law as the basis of salvation. Can you quote any saint to prove that Saint Paul’s saying that religious law is a curse is not true?

A person: Gentlemen, in fact it is apostasy and disbelief to talk of these matters. All these elate to unseen mysteries. Saint Paul has certainly called religious law a curse and it is really so, but you people are unable to understand these mysteries. Our means of salvation is the divinity of Christ and Atonement, because Jesus was free from sins and an embodiment of God, who by his grace and benevolence suffered on the cross in lieu of us and gave us salvation.
Another person: Do not indulge in mutual quarrels. You have begun to refute Saint Paul.

Umar Lahmi: This is the result of untrue and baseless talks. Now, this other gentleman has broached the subject of Divinity and Atonement. First let the discussion of religious law and curse be concluded.

Peter: You have been given a conclusive reply. Now you may take eight days to ponder on the matter. If your doubts are not resolved during this time, you may come here again.

Umar Lahmi: You do not regard religious law a curse and your colleague says it is a curse and Saint Paul was correct. Which of you two is on the right?

Peter: Those who say this are not acquainted with the mysteries of Christian religion. You should not attend to what they say.

Umar Lahmi (to Isabella): Now, you say which of them is on the right and whether Saint Paul was wrong in calling religious law a curse.

Isabella: I came here to listen to your discussion and cannot intervene in any matter. But I will request my teacher Michael to resolve this question by his great learning and intelligence, since, apart from our honoured guests, I myself have not yet understood it.

These words of Isabella fell like a bolt from the blue on the entire assembly and everyone began to look at once at one another. Just then Michael got up.

Michael: Brethren, we have assembled here to search faith and it is certainly a very auspicious task. But for it, it is necessary that there should be a sincere heart and an urge to accept the truth. The question of faith is such that no one can succeed by his own effort without Divine help. We should, therefore, earnestly pray to God that He should manifest the truth to us through the help of the “Holy Ghost” and reveal to us the mysteries of the Christian faith. (Loud cries of Amen from all Christians.) Gentlemen, whether religious law is a curse or not is an irrelevant question. The real thing is that our Mohammedan brethren have no knowledge of Christian creed and principles and so they are indulging in polemics. The essence of our religion can be stated just in two words, i.e. the Divinity of Christ and Atonement. One who has understood these two has understood all the secrets of the Christian faith. How gracious is God that He sent His only son for our salvation to suffer all the troubles of this world and then at last he was killed on the cross as an atonement for our sins. So I will request my friend Umar Lahmi and his associates to give up the useless discussion of religious law and curse and think of the holy personality of our Lord Jesus and his matchless atonement and embrace Christian faith.

Umar Lahmi: We have not come here for mere talk. We follow a principle and want to discuss basic problems. We have already defined the subject of our talk in my note, whose witness is our sister Isabella here. Now, if you want us to give up the real subject matter and discuss the Divinity of Christ and Atonement, I am ready for that also, provided you give me in writing that we give up the subject of religious law and should talk on the Divinity of Christ and Atonement.

Peter: We do not mean to say that you should not discuss these problems, but that we may leave aside marginal issues and discuss basic problems.

Umar Lahmi: Then why did you call us here? Churches and mosques are not necessary for discussion. If you do not want to discuss, then say so clearly so that our time is not wasted.

Michael: You have misunderstood holy Peter’s talk. He did not mean that we should close the dialogue altogether. He only wanted to stress that you should put questions by thinking over the basic problem. But it is already noon and you may have to take lunch. Say when it will be convenient for you to come again.

Umar Lahmi: This time is very convenient. No one can say whether we shall have this auspicious occasion again.

Michael: But you have also to offer your prayer.

Umar Lahmi: We can offer our prayer in this very church.

Peter: I think we better take up the discussion again next Sunday.

Umar Lahmi: I think the discussion should not be put off for so long. Possibly we may be guided by Allah.

Michael: All right, we restart the discussion tomorrow at this time and continue till midday.

Isabella: If the discussion to be put off for tomorrow, then it should not end at noon but continue till the evening so that we may come to some conclusion.

Michael: Not at all, have we no other business?

Isabella: I think, no other business can be more important than this.

It was, however, decided that the discussion should begin in the morning and continue till noon.

This concluded the first meeting. Umar Lahmi, thanking all Christians, leaves for his home while the priests and Isabella remain sitting in the church.

One priest: It is regrettable that you gave the opportunity to these “unbelievers” to raise objections and let the Christian faith be ridiculed. The only way to treat these heathens is to put the Qur’an before them. Holy Peter did this in the very beginning but, unfortunately, they cleverly wriggled out and took up the discussion of religious law. If the same is done tomorrow also, we will be badly let down, because what they enquire about is of the Divine secrets which no one except saints can understand.

Michael: In fact, the discussion went into wrong channels in the very beginning, otherwise they would have been let down by their own Qur’an. Does not the Qur’an say that our Lord Jesus is the “life-giver” and brings the dead to life? Does not the Qur’an call him the “Spirit of God” and the “Word of God”?

Peter: But, now, the subject of discussion for tomorrow has been defined. It will be on the Divinity of Christ and Atonement. See how cleverly I wanted them to divert from it, but Michael put them again on it.

Michael: Do not blame me. It is all your handiwork.

Another priest: What is the use of indulging in mutual quarrels. It will be seen tomorrow, when Divinity of the Lord will come under discussion that our Christian religion is not a soft morsel which anyone can swallow at a gulp.

After this conversation all the Christians left the church and dispersed. Isabella also left with her companions and made for her home. On her way she spoke to her companions.

Isabella: Just see, behind the back of Muslims they boast that Muslims cannot stand before them, but when they were faced with Muslims they were thoroughly exposed. I am sorry that my father had to leave immediately after leading the prayer as he had full confidence in the ability and learning of Michael and Peter, otherwise he would have silenced these Muslims.

One companion: In fact, the problem is a bit too tough. What even your father could have done ?

Another companion: In fact, our beliefs and dogmas are poor. Otherwise our priests would not have been so beaten.

Isabella: God forbid ! Just a single discussion has upset you. Our beliefs are certainly well founded, but there should be someone to explain them. Now, tomorrow the Divinity of Christ will be discussed and you will see how badly they will fare.

They had now reached a crossroad where all the girls turned towards their respective homes.

Isabella – A girl of Islamic Spain
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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
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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
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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
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