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THE APOLOGY OF AL-KINDI by Anton Tien DIALOGUE The ‘ABBASID ‘Abdullah b. Ismail al-Hashimi


c.820 A.D.
Al-Kindi lived in Baghdad at the court of Ma’mun, son of the famous Harun ar-Rashid, about the year 820 A.D. (205 A.H.) He belonged to the royal tribe of Kindi in Arabia – the only Arabian tribe which retained the Christian faith after the advent of Islam. The genial and liberal-minded Caliph gathered round him the learned and gifted of all lands, and among them al-Kindi naturally found his place. While in the royal service he formed a friendship with ‘Abdullah, a cousin of Ma’mun, with whom he was in the habit of discussing the respective merit of Christianity and Islam. The result of these discussions was a correspondence between the two protagonists, famous in its day, a double record of which has been discovered, first of all by the American missionaries in Egypt, and later in the north of Turkey. The complete text of the correspondence has been published by the Society for Promoting of Christian Knowledge, and a full translation is now, for the first time, offered to English readers in the belief that it will prove of interest to many. The chief value of the correspondence lies in the fact that it enables us to see Christianity, now through Western spectacle, but as presented to Orientals by one who was himself a child of the East.


(A) In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate. 46
It is said that in the reign of ‘Abdullah al-Ma’mun, there lived a man of noble descent, a Hashimite and, I believe, an “Abbasid,47 known far and near for his scrupulous piety and for his devotion to the faith of Islam. He was wholly absorbed in the discharge of religious duties. This man had a friend, one of the best of men, a man of breeding and culture, belonging to the Kindi tribe; a member of the caliph’s suite and place near to his person, equally distinguished for his attachment to the Christian faith. Between these two there reigned a great kindness and affection. They had perfect confidence, each in the sincerity of his friend, as was known to the caliph and all his court. For various reasons I prefer not to mention their names, but the Hashimite wrote a letter to the Christian in the following terms:

(A) In the name of God, the Merciful and Compassionate.
(A) Let me begin my letter by wishing you merci and peace, after the manner of my master, the lord of the prophets, Muhammad, the messenger of God, on whom may God be gracious, Heaven’s blessing rest on him! Our best authorities, trusty men, on whose word may rely and to whom we owe our knowledge of the Prophet, tell us that it was his custom, when he entered into conversation with any, to begin by wishing them mercy and peace in their intercourse with him. He made no difference between his own people and strangers,48 between the faithful and idolaters; but rather, he wished to say that God had disposed him well to all men, and that his mission was not one of harshness and severity. In acting thus he appealed to the example of God, saying that “God is kind and pitiful to His faithful people.” In the same way, when I have been at the Court of our Imams,49 the caliph’s enlightened and upright men, God be gracious to them one and all, I have noticed that, as one result of their perfect breeding and exalted rank, their magnanimity and generous dispositions, they followed the example of the Prophet, on whom Heaven’s blessing rest! They know no distinction, nor did they favor one above another. I desire to follow in their steps and to imitate their example, claiming for myself some share in the admirable qualities I admire in others. I begin then by wishing you mercy and peace; lest my letter should fall into the hands of the Recording Angel, and he should disown me.50

(A) I am stirred up to show my regard for you by the fact that my master, Muhammad, on whom Heaven’s blessing rest, has spoken of friendship as next neighbor to religion and faith, and you know I have subscribed myself and obedient servant of the Prophet of God, Heaven’s blessing rest upon him! I am impelled tot his course when I consider the excellent services you have rendered, your loyalty to us, and the kind and friendly feeling you have not only cherished, but manifested to us. I have further noticed how my cousin, our lord, the Amir of the Faithful,51 may God aid him, honors you and keeps you near his person, confiding in you and speaking well of you. Must I not commend to you what I commend to myself, to my own household and my family? Must I not counsel you in all sincerity and with perfect frankness, placing before you those great religious verities which we hold by the grace of God? Nor has He committed them to us alone, but to all His creatures, promising therein a great reward at the Resurrection, and immunity from the penalties of sin in the future state.52 For, saith He, the most High and ever Blessed, “Abraham was of the orthodox faith” (Qur’an 2:129).53 Again He speaks most Glorious and Great, whose word is truth, “They who believe in our signs, they are Muslims.” (Qur’an 27:83). And further, confirming this He saith, “Abraham was neither a Jew nor a Christian, but an orthodox Muslim. He was not one of the idolaters.” (Qur’an 3:60) I wish then for you what I wish for myself. My heart yearns over you when I see your high breeding and perfect culture, the exquisite refinement and grace with which religion has stamped your every feature, the repute in which you are held and the progress you have beyond most in your religion; in a word, your loyalty to such light as you have. I said, I will put before him what God has graciously revealed to us. I will teach him in the kindliest and gentlest way, what I believe; thus following the commandment of God, who is Glorious and Great, and has said, “Do not dispute with the People of the Book excepting in the kindliest way.” (Qur’an 29:45). I will use only the most courteous of terms and the gentlest of tones. I will speak kindly to you that, if possible, you may be roused and return to the Truth, quickened into a desire by what you hear from me of the Word of God, the Glorious and Great, which was sent down to that seal of the prophetic order, that lord of mankind, the Prophet Muhammad, on whom Heaven’s blessing rest. I do not despair of you, but cherish the hope that God, who directs, as He wills, may make me His honored instrument in this good work. I find Him, ever Blessed and most High, saying in His sure word, “The only religion God acknowledges is Islam.” (Qur’an 3:17) Confirming this He says further: “Whatever men may invent for themselves, in the way of religion besides Islam, it shall not be accepted of them, they shall suffer in the world to come.” (Qur’an 3:79) This He further confirms in one decisive word; “Oh ye who believe, fear God in sincerity, and do not die till ye are within the fold of Islam.” (non-Qur’anic)

(A) Now may God save you from the ignorance of unbelief and open your heart to the light of truth; you know that for many years past I have been immersed in the study of comparative religion. I have read the literature of many nations, particularly the scriptures of your own Christian community. I have read through the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, which God sent down to Moses and Christ and the other prophets. Heaven’s blessing rest on them. The scriptures of the Old Testament comprise the Law, the book of Joshua the son of Nun, the book of Judges, the two books of Samuel the prophet, the Wisdom of Solomon, his son, the book of faithful Job, the book of Isaiah the prophet, the books of the other twelve prophets, the book of Jeremiah the prophet, the book of Ezekiel the prophet, the book of Daniel the prophet, these are the Old Testament scriptures. The New Testament scriptures are these: The Gospel in four parts, the first by Matthew, the tax-gatherer, the second by Mark, the nephew of Simon who is called Cephas, the third by Luke the physician, and the fourth by John the son of Zebedee. Of these four Gospels two were written by members of the Apostolic band,54 men who were in constant attendance on Christ, on whom Heaven’s blessing rest, viz., those of Matthew and John. Two were by men who were numbered with the seventy whom Christ, Heaven’s blessing rest on him, sent forth to preach the Gospel among the nations; those of Mark and Luke. Next in order we have the Acts of the Apostles, what they did and taught after the ascension of Christ, as written by Luke; and the fourteen epistles of St. Paul, all of these I have read and studied. I have read of Timothy and the rapid steps by which he obtained primacy55 among you, distinguished not only by his administrative powers, but by his intelligence and understanding.

I have read of the three principal sects into which the Christian church is divided. First, there are the Melkites, who accepted Marcianus as their king, at the time of the schism, which took place between Nestorius and Cyril; these are the Roman party. Secondly, the Jacobites, the most heretical of all, wanton and mischievous and surely, furthest from the truth; who assent to the teaching of Cyril the Alexandrian, Jacob Baradaeus and Severus, bishop of Antioch. Thirdly, the Nestorians; these are your own party; and, on my honor, in their views they most strongly resemble the truth as conceived by men who speak reasonably. They are most favorably disposed to us of the Muslim community.56 Muhammad spoke very highly in their praise and gave them special conditions and securities. He constituted himself and his people their guardians, and gave them deeds, signed and sealed, after he came to power and when his power was established. They came to him, and put themselves under his protection, recalling to his mind how they had helped him by advertising his claims and declaring the divine powers committed to him – God be gracious to him. Heaven’s blessing rest on him! That is to say, even before he was ever himself conscious of inspiration, the monks bore testimony to the powers which were divinely entrusted to him, and for that reason he, God be gracious to him, Heaven’s blessing rest on him, was very friendly to them, and sought intercourse with them, and help prolonged conferences with them when he traveled in Palestine and other places. The monks and hermits honored him, and preached obedience to him, telling the people that it was the purpose of God to exalt him and to give him a famous name.57 As a body, the Christians inclined to him. They warned him of the intrigues of the Jews and the heathen Quraysh; how they meant mischief and sought to do him hurt. They did this because of their affection for him, and the honor in which they held him and his friends; and, when the was inspired, God bore witness to them, through him, in the Qur’an saying: “You shall find that the Jews and the idolaters, i.e., Quraysh, are the most bitter enemies of the faithful; the nearest and most friendly to them, you shall find those who say, ‘We are Christians.’ It is because they are under ecclesiastical rule; they are not proud.” (Qur’an 5:85). Our prophet, Heaven’s blessing rest on him, knew by inspiration the sincerity of their purpose and intent. They were the true followers of Christ, walking in his ways and receiving his precepts. They did not allow murder, or acknowledge the right of private property. They did not overreach one another, or act wrongfully, or practice guile. They sought peace; they abjured envy and hate, and were, in these respects, superior to other men. On this account our Prophet gave them special terms and securities, and constituted himself and his people their guardians and gave them a charge; while God showed him, as He did, their real worth and the purity of their domestic life. We acknowledge all this; we do not dispute or deny it. We have regard to what are facts; and desire to maintain the same relations with them, and to accept the same responsibilities.

(A) I have myself met many of these monks, noted for their extreme abstinence and great learning. I have been their guest in their cloisters and churches. I have been present at the long prayers, or offices, seven in number, which they make Matins, Lauds, Prime, Tierce, Sext, or Midday. None towards afternoon, and Vesper, said at sundown, prayers of intercession, which they say at the evening hour, and those prayers, which they offer before they take their nightcap. I have witnessed the wonderful zeal they display, their prostrations and genuflections, whey they touch the earth with their cheeks and beat their browns and cross their arms while they are praying. Al this they do in private. On Sunday and Friday nights, and on feast days, they keep vigil, standing upright praising God, repeating the Sanctus and singing Psalms the whole night through. At break of day, too, they offer prayers. In all this they make mention of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. On certain days, as at Easter, they throng the churches and stand there with bare feet, in sackcloth, and ashes, weeping floods of tears and sobbing in a wonderful way. I have seen the preparation of the sacred wafer; how carefully, and with that cleansing rites, it is baked; and the long prayers made while it is offered, with extraordinary protestations, during the act of elevation at the altar in what is known as “the Shrine,” along with flagons of wine. I have seen how the monks in their cells, on certain days, observe feasts, the greater and the lesser fast, and so forth. I have been present with them at these services and a witness of all this; and I know well what I say.
(A) I have conversed with their Metropolitans and bishops famous for ripe scholarship and fine culture, and not less for their Christina character and the rigor of their abstinence. In all my intercourse with them I have tried to be impartial, aiming only at truth. I have put aside, as unworthy of me, anything like insistence of acerbity. I have not lorded it over them, nor stood on my dignity with them. I have allowed them perfect freedom to make good their cause, and to speak out their minds, without fear. I have never taken them to task for this, nor have I caviled at anything they might say. That I leave to others the rabble rout. Fools I call them, though they are of my own persuasion. The root of the matter is not in them nor any reason to which one might appeal; neither religion nor good manners restrains them, but they are disputatious, arrogant, overbearing. With them, pride of Empire takes the place of argument. I must confess that in my intercourse with the Christians, when I have questioned them, inquiring as to their ideas and convictions, they have always given me a satisfactory answer. There has not been a suspicion of insincerity on their part in our discussions; but I have always found them, on close acquaintance, as I had heard of them at a distance. I have written all this at full length, after profound and particular research, lest you should imagine that I am ignorant of the matter under discussion. I wish those who may read what I write to realize that I am intimately acquainted with the Christian case in all its bearings.
(A) An now, God grant it to you, by all the knowledge which I have of your religion, and by all my old affection for the Truth as God has revealed it, and which I have adopted as my own. I summon you to the true Faith. Paradise is yours; nor need you fear the fires of hell on condition that you worship the one God, Sole, Eternal, neither begetting nor begotten, nor has He any peer. Such is the definition He, the most Glorious and Great, has given Himself; nor is He known to any of His creatures but to Himself alone. I summon you to the worship of the one God, as thus defined. Nor do I add, in this, by one hot to what He has said of Himself, whose name is Glorious, exalted in His memorial, lofty, great, without peer. This was the religion of your father and ours, Abraham, God be gracious to him, who also was an orthodox Muslim. Still further I summon you to bear witness, and confess the prophetic rank of my master, the lord of mankind, friend of the Lord of the universe, seal of the prophetic order, Muhammad, son of ‘Abdullah the Hashimite, of Quraysh descent, an Arab of the country and town of Mecca, 58 master of the rod and the pool and the camel59 who intercedes for us, friend of the Lord of power, companion of Gabriel the faithful spirit. God sent him to preach and teach all men everywhere, “with good guidance and true religion, to enlighten him on all religion matters, however the idolaters may repudiate him.” He summoned all men everywhere, East and West, by land and sea, mountain and dale, in mercy and kindness, with good works and kindly dispositions and, in gentleness. Won by his gracious ways, they responded everywhere to his summons, and bore witness that he was the messenger of God, who is Lord of all, to all who accept His teaching. All men confessed and paid homage when they saw the absolute sincerity of his teaching and the soundness of his cause, the clear and indisputable evidence he furnished in a book inspired of God; the like of which no man of Jinn could produce. “Say, if man or Jinn should conspire to produce such a book as this, they could not, though they stood back to back.” (Qur’an 17:90)60 Here, surely, is proof enough of his mission. So then he summoned them to the worship of the one sole eternal God, and they embraced his religion and submitted to him. They were not scornful or overbearing, but humbled themselves, confessing him, and seeking light and guidance at his hand. In his name power was given them over those who disputed his claims, and denied his mission in an antagonistic and self-righteous spirit. God gave them power over the nations, and humbled the peoples under their yoke. None were excepted save those who received his doctrine and professed the faith, and testified. These saved their lives and property and families, paying tribute and accepting humiliation. Now, God be gracious to you, this witness was borne by God before the world was made. Written on His throne are the words: “There is no god but God; Muhammad is His Messenger.” 61 By God, there is no God but He who is Lord of the throne on Omnipotence.
(A) I summon you still further, to the five prayers. He who offers them shall have interest, and be reckoned among the winners in this world and the next. Religious duties, you understand, are of two sorts: those imposed by God, and those imposed by His Prophet comprise three acts of devotion: after late evening, two at daybreak, two in the afternoon and two after sunset. He who omits any of these shall lose his reward; and he who omits them for days is open to correction and must make good omission. Further imposed are seventeen acts of devotion covering the whole day: two at dawn, four at noon, four in the afternoon, three at sunset and four at the late evening – “Atamah” it was called, but the Prophet of God forbade that name, and called it rather “late evening” or “its close.”62
(A) I summon you further to the fast of the month of Ramadan, the sacred month when the Qur’an was sent down.63 The month of which God bears witness that it brought in the Night of Doom better than any thousand months. You may fast all day from food and drink and sexual intercourse till the sun’s disk touch the horizon and the night begins. Then you may eat and drink and have intercourse all the night, till you can distinguish a white thread from a black. This you may do lawfully and without limit, in ease and comfort; it is God’s decree. If you observe this Night of Doom with sincerity of purpose, you shall gain thereby in this world and the next. Thus saith God the Most High: “O ye who believe, fasting is imposed on you as on those before you; it may be ye will fear God. Appointed days ye shall fast; and if any of you be sick or, on a journey, ye shall fast the same number of other days; and for those who could, and would not fast, the ransom shall be the maintenance of a poor man. If you obey freely, it shall be will with you; and if ye fast; it shall be well with you, if ye know it. Ye shall fast during the month of Ramadan, on which the Qur’an came down to you with guidance for life and clear proof and decision; he who is at home, let him fast; and if one is sick or on a journey; let him fast the same number of other days. God requires of you what is easy, and not what is hard; therefore ye shall fulfill the number, and glorify God who has given you guidance; it may be ye will be thankful. Should any of my servants inquire of Me – I am here; I hear the prayers of him who directs his prayers to Me. Let them respond to Me and believe; it may be they will be rightly guided. During the night of the fast ye may have intimacy with your wives; they are a covering to you, and ye to them; God knows how in this ye deny yourselves. He will turn to you and pardon you. Now, have free intercourse with them, and desire what God hath decreed for you. Eat and drink rill you can discern a white thread from a black in the dawn; then continue your fast until the night comes, and abstain from them. Be diligent in attendance at the mosque; this is God’s decree; come not near them. Thus God makes manifest His signs to men; it may be that they will fear Him.” (Qur’an 2:17-183) The Prophet of God, on whom Heavens blessing rest, advanced the hour for breaking the fast, and delayed the hour for resuming it as far as he could.
(A) Then I summon you to the Pilgrimage to the House of God, the Sanctuary in Mecca, and to visit the shrine of the Apostle of God, where he stepped, and where he stood; to fling the pebbles in Mina, and to cry “Labbaik, Labbaik,” and to wear the pilgrim’s dress and to kiss the black stone.64
(A) Then I summon you to wage war in the ways of God, i.e., to raid the hypocrites and to slay the unbelievers and idolater with the edge of the sword; to capture and plunder till they embrace the faith and witness that there is no god but God and that Muhammad is His servant and Apostle, or else pay the tribute and accept humiliation. “Slay those who do not believe in God or in the Day of Judgement, who consider not as unlawful what God and his Apostle have forbidden, nor do they hold the true faith; slay, till they pay tax and are humbled.”65 And I summon you to confess that God quickens the dad and is the righteous Judge who rewards good with good and evil with evil. All His saints and faithful people, who confess the one God, and that Muhammad is His servant and Apostle, and believe in the inspiration of the Qur’an, He will lead into Paradise where all good awaits them. So He promised them: “behold, God will lead those who believe and do what is right into Paradise with its flowing rivers. They shall be adorned with bracelets of gold and pearls, and they shall be dressed in silk.” (Qur’an 22:23)
(A) And they said: “Praise be God who hath removed sorrow from us; He is our Lord who pardons and repays. He hath given us, by His grace, everlasting abodes to dwell in, where we shall know no weariness nor fatigue.” (Qur’an 35: 31,32)
(A) “There sure provision shall be made for them; even fruits. And they shall be held in honor, amid gardens of delight. They shall face each other seated on couches. Cups shall be handed round, filled from the well; a pure delight to those who drink. In them shall lurk no intoxication nor madness. Languishing66 eyes shall be turned on them, gleaming like the white of an egg.” (Qur’an 37:40-47)
(A) “For those who fear the Lord, they shall be builded hall above hall, with rivers flowing beneath. God ahs promised, who never changes His word.” (Qur’an 39:21)
(A) “Oh my servants, fear not that day; be not anxious, those who believe in our signs, they are Muslims. Enter into Paradise ye and your husbands with whom ye were so happy. They shall hand you golden goblets and cups full of what your hearts and souls desire and your eyes delight in, and ye shall dwell there forever.” (Qur’an 43:68-71)
(A) “See, they who fear God have an enduring habitation, even Paradise with its fountains. They shall be clothed with linen and brocade, and shall face each other; and We shall wed them to black-eyed beauties. They shall call for all kinds of fruits without fear. They shall not taste death, save the first death; for the punishment of Hell shall not come to them. By the favor of their Lord this shall be their great gain.” (Qur’an 44:51-57)
(A) And the Glorious and Great One has said: “Like Paradise, which is promised those who fear Him. In it are rivers of sweet water and rivers of milk never sour; rivers of wine, delicious to drink. Rivers of pure honey and all kinds of fruits shall be theirs with pardon from their Lord; while he who is in Hell fire shall drink hot water which rends the bowels.” (Qur’an 47:16,17)
(A) The Glorious and Great One has said: “This is the record; and those who fear God shall have a happy return, a garden of delights with open gates. Seated there, they shall call for fruits of many kinds and for drink, surrounded by languishing eyes of dear ones of their own age. This is what is promised them in the day of reckoning. Lo, this provision is made for us; it has no end.” (Qur’an 38:49-54)
(A) Said the Glorious and Great in the description of Paradise: to him who fears the Judgment of his Lord shall be: “Two gardens; which then of the signs of your Lord will ye deny? Planted with shady trees; which then of the signs of your Lord will ye deny? Through each of them flow two fountains; which then of the signs of your Lord will ye deny? In them are all kinds of fruits, in pairs; which then of the signs of your Lord will ye deny? All sit on couches lined with brocade, and with the fruits of two gardens near at hand; which then of the signs of your Lord will ye deny? In them are languishing eyes of pure virgins whom man nor Jinn hath known; which then of the signs of your Lord will ye deny? Gleaming as if they were sapphires or pearls; which then of the signs of your Lord will ye deny? The reward of the good is good; which then of the signs of your Lord will ye deny? And besides these there shall be two other gardens; which then of the signs of your Lord will ye deny? Darkened with leafy shrubs; which then of the signs of your Lord will ye deny? In them are fountains bubbling over; which then of the signs of your Lord will ye deny? In them are fruits, dates and pomegranates; which then of the signs of your Lord will ye deny? In them are choice and beautiful ones; which then of the signs of your Lord will ye deny? Black eyes languishing in pavilions; which then of the signs of your Lord will ye deny? Man hath nor profaned them, nor Jinn; which then of the signs of your Lord will ye deny? Seated on the ground with pillows of akbar,67 beautiful; which then of the signs of your Lord will ye deny? Blessed be the Name of your Lord; the Glorious and Great.” (Qur’an 55:46-78)
(A) Said the Glorious and Great: Those who fear their Lord shall be driven to Paradise in troops, till they reach it and the gates thereof shall be thrown open to them, and the porter shall say: “Peace be to you, ye have done well, enter and dwell forever.’” (Qur’an 76:11-18)
(A) “They shall be met by happiness and joy. For their patience they shall inherit Paradise with silk garments. They shall be stretched on couches were the sun shall not smite them, nor the winter’s wind. Low lie the shadows round them, branches drop over their heads. Vessels of silver shall be handed round and cups and goblets made to hold as much as they please; and they shall drink cups of wine mixed with ginger from the well that is called Selsabil.” (Qur’an 76:11-18)
(A) “Those who fear God shall have the better part; they shall have gardens with clusters of grapes and swelling bosoms of dear companions of their age; and cups filled to the brim. No idle talk nor false alarm shall break their repose. Their reward from their Lord shall be beautiful gifts.” (Qur’an 78:31-36) “Those who fear God shall live in delightful gardens; they shall enjoy what their Lord hath given them, and their Lord shall deliver them from the punishment of Hell, Eat and drink in comfort the reward of your labors, seated on couches arranged in rows. We shall wed them to black-eyed beauties. They who believed and their children who followed them, We shall re-unite; nor shall We deprive them of their reward in aught. Every man shall be pledged for that which he hath done.68 We shall spread out fruits sufficient such, as they love. They shall hand round cups in which no idle talk nor evil is lurking. And youths shall serve them in order, whose beauty gleams like pearls, and they shall face each other and pledge each other. They shall say: “See, we were formerly of the people who obtained mercy. God was gracious to us and delivered us from the torment of the fireblast. See, we formerly called on Him; He is righteous and merciful.’” (Qur’an 52:17-28)
(A) Those who sent before and have precedence, they shall be neat in the Paradise of delight. Troops of the former,69 but only a few of the latter. They shall lie on couches, stretched out with cups, flagons and glasses of spring water. Nothing shall molest their perfect repose. With fruits such as they choose and flesh of birds and what they desire with black-eyed beauties like gleaming pearls their reward shall be according to their deeds. No idle talk nor false alarm shall break their repose. It shall be said, ‘Hail! Hail!’ And ah! What companions on the right hand among the lotus trees stripped of their horns and the acacia with fruits piled up on it; shady alleys and flowing streams, various kind of fruit, no end, no restraint, couches heaped up, see, We create them a new type of womanhood, dear and of meet age to their master at their right hand. Troops of the former and troops of the latter. (Qur’an 56:10-39)
(A) This, God bless you, is the description of Paradise as prepared by God for those who fear Him and His Apostle. For them He has prepared its delights; eating and drinking, all sorts of fruits and scents and charms of black-eyed beauties like gleaming pearls. There is no end to it, no limit. All they wish, they have; all their eye delights in. Honor shall be shown them there, and life. They shall sit on couches, resting in verandas with soft silk robes, behind curtains strewn with pearls. On their faces shall be written the radiance of their day. Youths too, shall move in graceful circles; young men and maids who, in their own way, are like gleaming pearls. They shall hand them cups from which to drink, full of wine mixed with water from the well Taenim. Those who are near to God drink of it. In it they shall pledge each other to all that is kind and good. It shall be said to them: “Eat and drink and enjoy yourselves; have comfort in the fruit of your labors.” No idle talk shall disturb, nor hunger gnaw, nor fatigue, and they shall dwell in all this comfort, without fear, in confidence and perpetuity. But the unbelievers who worshipped other than the true God, and set up rivals to Him and did not believe His messenger and denied His signs, forbidding what He allowed and fighting against Him, they shall be condemned to the fire. The fire that cannot be quenched shall blow up in their faces and all the whirlwinds of Hell. There they shall dwell forever. The skin shall be flayed from off them only to grow again. Hell shall be their home; they shall drink of the slime and fee on the deadly tree. The devil and his angel shall be their companions and everlasting misery their doom. “See, those who did not believe in God’s signs, who slew His prophets without right, murdered those who taught them the truth and preached the judgement to come, these are they whose works perish in this world and in the next. These have no helper.” (Qur’an 3:20,21)
(AB) “Behold, these who denied God and His apostle, they said: ‘Some of these things we will believe, but no others, and they tried to pick and choose their way; these in very deed are unbelievers. We have prepared for them punishment and disgrace.” (Qur’an 4:149,150) “Those who do not believe, Hell fire is reserved for them; to it, no end, to them no death, nor shall their torment be lightened, such shall be the reward of all unbelievers.” (Qur’an 35:33)
(AC) “The tree of Zakum we have planted as a curse to the evildoers, a tree that springs up from the roots of Hell and rises high as the Devil’s head. They shall eat of it, and fill their bellies with its food. Not water shall be pored over for them. Ever their way leads back to Hell.” (Qur’an 37:60-66)
(AD) “Alas for those who disbelieve in Hell; if they persist, evil shall be their later end. They shall be flayed in the fire; foul shall be their bed. They shall taste of ho water with putrid stuff.” (Qur’an 38:56,57)
(AE) “Over them fire shall spread like a canopy, and under their feet, darkness.” (Qur’an 39:18)
(AF) “On the day of Resurrection, thou shalt see those who denied God; their faces shall be blackness, is not the abode of the proud in Hell?” (Qur’an 39:61)
(AG) “Those who believed not in the signs of God, are they to suffer loss.” (Qur’an 39:63)
(AH) “Unbelievers shall be driven into Hell in troops; when they reach the gates, these shall be thrown open to them, and the wardens shall say to them: ‘Did no messenger come to you and recite to you the signs of your Lord? ’They shall answer: ‘Yea,’ but the sentence of doom is justly pronounced on unbelievers.’” (Qur’an 39:71)
(AI) “These in the fire said to the wardens of Hell, ‘Pray for your Lord that He may lighten our day of torment.’ They replied: ‘Did He not warn you of this by His messenger?’ They answer: ‘Yea,” They said: ‘Pray then.” But the prayers of the unbelievers are themselves errors.” (Qur’an 40:52,53)
(AJ) “Do you not see that they who oppose the signs of God have no way to turn? They deny the scripture and the message we sent by our messengers; verily they shall know. Behold, collars shall be on their necks, and they shall be dragged in chains through the pitch; thus they shall be flayed in the fire.” (Qur’an 40:71-73)
(AK) “To the unbeliever painful torment is appointed. You shall see evildoers when they face the torment that awaits them, saying: Is there no way of return?’ You shall see how they meet it, couching low, casting furtive glances at it.” (Qur’an 42:42-44)
(AL) “Those who do wickedly shall be forever in the pain of Hell. No respite is theirs but blank despair. We have not wronged them; they have wronged themselves. They cry: ‘Oh Angel, pray thy Lord that He put an end to our miseries.’ But he shall say: ‘Abide where you are.’” (Qur’an 43:74-77)
(AM) “This tree Zakim shall be the sinner’s meat; like boiling pitch in their bellies; like boiling hot water. It will be said to the tormentors: “Take him and drag him through the midst of Hell, then pour boiling hot water over his head to torment him.’ Saying: ‘Drink of it, thou mighty and honorable one. See, once you did not believe in this.’” (Qur’an 44:43-50)
(AN) “They shall be ever in the fire and drink hot water till their bellies split. And this is because they loathed what God had given. They said: ‘This we might accept, but not that.’ God know their secret and how shall it be when the Angel takes them, beating them on the face and back? And this because they followed what displeased God and loathed what He liked; therefore their works come to nothing. Do they whose words are not right suppose that God will not bring to light their hate?’ (Qur’an 47:17-19)
(AO) “Alas! On that day for those who accused the prophets of lying! Have We not made the earth sufficient for the living and the dead? We have placed in it the stable and lofty hills and given them sweet water to drink. Alas! On that day for those who accused the prophets of lying. Go ye, to prove what ye denied! Go ye into the gloom branching out into three directions, where there is no shelter nor relief from the flames. They shall be pelted with sparks like castles for size, murky like the camel’s hide. Alas, in that day for the unbelievers. On that day they shall say nothing, no excuse shall be permitted them. Alas! On that day for the unbelievers, this is the day of decision. We have gathered you and those who went before.” (Qur’an 77:24-38)
(AP) Now God saves you, my friend! Heard you ever a description more wonderful than that? So we tempt you and solemnly charge you and woo you as with a lover’s kiss.70 Here are hopes and fears, promises and threats for the stouthearted and obstinate; nay, for all, whether they will hear of forbear, whether they believe or disbelieve, whether they affirm or deny. If only thus, by what I have said, you are moved to fear, great will be the gain; and if only thus, by the fires and torments of Hell, you are moved to fear, it were cruel to spare your pain. God, most High and ever Blessed, hath said: “Warn them, for warning profits the faithful.” (Qur’an 44:12)
(AQ) “If thou shalt see them rush in where angels fear to tread, turn thou from them until they turn in some other direction, and if Satan cause thee to forget, sit not with evildoers, when thou art admonished.” (Qur’an 6:67) “Shall We warn them, whom the faithful messenger hath already warned?” (Qur’an 44:12)
(AR) “Let him remember and the admonition shall profit.” (Qur’an 80:4)
(AS) “Warn them, and the warning shall profit.” (Qur’an 87:9)
(AT) “On that day Hell shall be brought nigh, and men shall remember, but how shall memory profit them?” (Qur’an 89:24)
(AU) Thus we have warned you, and if you believe and receive the testimony of our book, you shall profit by the admonition we have written. And if nothing will content you but to abide in your unbelief and error, opposing the truth, we at least are sure of our reward; we have done His behest. But, if God wills, the truth shall come into its own with you. May God enlighten your mind as to the actual facts of the true religion, its precepts and signs and maxims. When you have embraced it and confessed it and borne witness, when you have embraced the law of light, these convincing signs and wholesome maxims to which we summon you, then you will be one of us. High indeed shall be your station in his world and in the next. For see our Prophet, on whom Heaven’s Blessing rest, has said: “On the day of Resurrection everyone, Prophet and angel alike shall be absorber in himself; but he shall say: ‘My house! My tribe!’ and he shall receive an answer, first for his house, and then for his tribe. The Merciful One shall say to the angels: ‘I am ashamed to refuse the intercession of Mine elect, My friend.’”71 Then of course, we shall require of you what is due. You shall pray toward the qibla, which God has given us, and offer the five prayers after due ablutions. If you are well, standing on your feet, but, if you are weak or sickly, sitting; if you are on a journey, half of the numbers of what you offer when at home. “Offer thy prayers and give alms. Those, to whom we have given the earth, offer prayers and give alms. Those, to whom we have given the earth, offer prayers and give alms and practice benevolence and desire from what is forbidden. God rewards what men do.”72 Now alms are the fourth of the tithe, when you come to divide the spoil, and it shall be in the hands of its owner, a single unit, for a division. The tithe shall be given to the poor member of the community and the indigent among them. You may marry whom you please; it is no crime. For is there blame or offence or reproach, if you marry them in (the) presence of his magistrate and with witnesses, and give us a dowry what seems good to you and them out of your abundance? In the same way, if you have four wives and divorce them, because you dislike them, or you are tired and have (had) enough of them, it shall not be held as a crime to take back anyone of them you please, after you have given her to another. If you still like her and your soul cleave to her. “If ye divorce, it is not unlawful to have her till she have intercourse with another; if he have divorced her, it is no crime to them if they come together again, if they think they can do God’s will, This is God’s decree; may He make it plain to the people to have understanding.” (Qur’an 2:230)73 But abstain from captive maids when ye get possession of them. Circumcise them according to the rite of Abraham our father, the friend of God, who is merciful, and of Ishmael our father and yours;74 let them purify themselves from defilement. Then, if you can, you will fast in the month of Ramadan; but, if not, if you break the fast for any reason, sickness or a journey, afterwards you shall make a point of fulfilling it.
(AV) God will not for His servants what is burdensome, but what is light. If you break an oath which you have made according to the command of God, God will not punish you for a slip of the tongue; but God will punish you for the evil you treasure up in your hearts. He is forgiving and kind. Among us Muslims the expiation of an oath which has been broken is the maintenance of ten poor men of you tribe; or else (to) clothe them, or, if they be slaves, (to) ransom them. He who cannot do any of these, let him fast tree days. This is the expiation for the breach of an oath; when you have sworn, guard your oath. Thus God makes plain to you His signs; perhaps ye will be thankful. You will, of course, make the pilgrimage. “In it are manifest signs; here stood the feet of our father Abraham, and he who enters there is safe.” This is the duty which a man owes to God; whoever is fit for the road, let him make the pilgrimage. If you are not in debt, you can easily meet the expense of a camel and ride. Then you will go forth to fight; here is immediate profit in this world, and great interest reserved for the world to come. God has given easy terms to His faithful people; yet will He have us put our whole into His service. If there were nothing else in Islam but comfort and safety in submission to the Word of God, and quiet confidence in the promise He has freely given, that He will enrich us in the next world with a great reward, and will lead us into that delightsome Paradise where we shall abide forever; even so, great were the gain.
(AW) Thus now I have spoken to you Word of God. His is a voice of truth, who never breaks His promise, nor belies His word, what has been briefly stated may suffice. Away then with your present unbelief, which means error and misery and calamity. Will you any longer cleave to what you must admit is a mere medley? I mean your doctrine of Father, Son and Holy Ghost, and the worship of the cross? I have grave doubts on your behalf. What has one of your knowledge and reputation to do with so mean a conception of the divine? I find God saying: “God will not pardon those who worship more Gods than one; any other offences He may pardon, but he who worships more Gods than one lies against God with a grievous sin.” (Qur’an 4:51) Again He says: “He is an unbeliever who says that Jesus the son of Mary, the Messiah, is God. The Messiah himself said: ‘O children of Israel, serve God and my Lord, He who worships other gods, God has shut on him gates of heaven;’ his dwelling place is the fire; the evildoers have no helpers. They are unbelievers who say that God is the third of three, whereas there is no God but one; if they do not desist from what they say, terrible punishment shall overtake those who do not believe. Or will ye not return to God and plead for pardon? God is forgiving and merciful. The son of Mary, the Messiah, is only a messenger. There were others before him, and his mother is a true woman; both lived by bread. See how we have made plain our signs; then see how they turn aside to lying.” (Qur’an 5:76-79)
(AX) Away then with this error, this misplaced and wearing the seal, this practice of an ascetic life, this infliction on yourself of continuos privations and protracted penance’s in which you spend your life. There I no profit in all this, but only a weariness of the flesh and vexation of the spirit. Come, enter the true fold; strike out into the easy way; embrace the faith that brings assurance. Here is the food law, the law of liberty, which God has graciously granted to His servants. Thus I have spoken my mind to you, my friend, in the spirit of goodwill and sincere affection. Fain would I breathe into you my very soul that we might be of one mind in this matter. Thus saith my Lord in His faithful Word: “They, who are unbelievers, whether they be People of the Book of idolaters, shall be consigned to everlasting fire; they are reprobates. But they who believe and do rightly, they are the elect people; their reward shall be with their Lord in the delightsome Paradise, where flows forever the river of life. God is well pleased with them and they with Him, this is their lot who fear their Lord.” (Qur’an 98:5-7) And again: “Ye are the elect people sent forth among men to teach the practice of kindness and to desist from evil and to believe in God; and, if the People of the Book believe us, it shall be well with them. Some of them believed, but the majority of them are evildoers.” (Qur’an 3:106) Now, may God save you, for I yearn over you; fearful lest you be of the reprobates and doomed to hell fire. I trust by the food hand of God on you, you may yet be among the faithful, in whom God delights as they delight in Him; these are the elect people. I trust you may yet be among those who are sent forth among men. But if you have no mind save stubbornly adhere to your ignorance, persisting in your present defiant unbelief; if you reject our appeal and will have none of the truth we have laid before you, so that your efforts prove thankless and barren; at least let me hear what are your views on this great question. What do you hold as Truth, and by what argument do you establish it? Write to me without fear and restraint, and do not hold back anything that is in your heart, as if you were afraid of me. I only wish to hear what you have to say. I shall be patient, submissive, and responsive, as the case may require; ready to yield without dispute or demur. I have no fear. Only let us compare what you have to say with what I have already advanced. I shall leave you free to make what comments you like upon it. But do not blame us, as if fear of us had made you dumb. Do not plead in defense of bad cause, that you held your tongue and had no freedom to state your case! Perfect freedom you shall have; only you must not blame us as if we were overbearing or accuse us of injustice or undue pressure. That is nor in our line. But do you, as God may help you, make the best of your case. Say what you will, and say it as you will; let us have whatever you think may tend in the direction of a final settlement.
(AY) Come, let us appoint an imperial umpire, one who shall decide the case between us without partiality or undue pressure, and will not swerve from the truth, whichever way the wind may blow. Reason shall be the umpire between us. Reason, the attribute of God Himself the arbiter of human actions. For ourselves, we have sought to deal fairly with you; we have given you every possible security. We shall be satisfied with the decision of reason, for or against us. Let no man’s conscience suffer constraint. If we summon you thus, it is in all submission and in the name of the Truth, which we hold; but we know that you are in the gall of iniquity. Peace be with you and mercy from God and blessing.