| "Islands in the Sea" |
POD: AD 717
|Type of Appearance:||Direct POV|
|Date of Birth:||690s|
|Occupation:||Soldier, Politician, Diplomat|
|Relatives:||Mu'in ibn Abd al-Wahhab (maternal grandfather)|
Jalal ad-Din was an old man in AD 769, with white whiskers, when the Caliph Abd ar-Rahman asked him to lead a delegation of Muslims from Constantinople to a heathen Bulgar Khan named Telerikh. The purpose was to attempt to convert him and his people to Islam. Accompanying him was Da'ud ibn Zubayr, a military officer, and Malik ibn Anas and Salman al-Tabari, the two both guards and aids.
On arriving at the capital of Pliska, Jalal ad-Din realized there was a competing delegation of Christianity from Rome. Telerikh meet with both delegations, together, several times in order for them to present their respective faiths and debate each other.
On being presented for the first time, ad-Din gave gifts from the Caliph to the Khan. They consisted of silver plates from Persia, Damascus-worked swords, fine enamelware from Constantinople, a robe of glistening Chinese silk and a Qu'ran bound in leather and gold. Telerikh was much taken with the robe and immediately put it on. He then had the three Roman emissaries brought in and they, in turn, presented their gifts which included a Bible.
During this first meeting the two sets of emissaries discussed the theology of their respective religions. For instance, Telerikh wondered why there were pictures in the Bible but not in the Qu'ran. One of the Romans, a monk named Paul, explained that they assisted in the instruction of those who could not read. Jalal ad-Din countered that Allah was infinite and so could not be depicted, nor may man who was created in Allah's image. Further, the Christian scriptures in the book called Exodus stated the same thing but the Christians ignored it because it did not suit them. Paul countered this law was given to Moses long before Jesus Christ, and that belief in Him assured one of heaven regardless of outdated rules of the Jews. Telerikh agreed stating that a new law may replace an old one if circumstances changed.
After further discussion, the Khan stated that these issues needed thought and dismissed the parties until another meeting three days later. He also warned the Christians and Muslims that they all were his guests and that they were not to fight one another.
At the next meeting, Telerikh asked the two delegations to described their beliefs and how they worshiped their common, one god. Jalal ad-Din began with the shahada: "There is no God but Allah; Muhammad is the prophet of Allah". He indicated that if you believe that then you were a Muslim. Theodore, one of the priests in the Roman delegation, objected stating there were many prophecies of Christ's coming in the Old Testament written hundreds of years before Christ but none of Muhammad. Ad-Din countered that this was because the Christians had suppressed them in their holy book and so God gave the Prophet his gifts as a seal of prophecy. Theodore replied that Jesus said prophecy ended with John the Baptist and to beware false prophets. Muhammad came hundreds of years later and so must be false, a trick of the Devil.
And so it went, back and forth, until Telerikh said "Wait". He summarized their arguments as calling each other a liar which was not helpful since he could not tell which was truthful. Instead, he asked them to tell him what his people would have to do if they followed one faith or the other. Theodore indicated that if they became Muslim they would have to give up wine and pork. Jalal ad-Din agreed with a sinking heart since wine was always popular and pork appeared to be the Bulgars' favored flesh. However, he rallied and indicated that if Telerikh became a Christian then he could have only one wife and no concubines. Since the Khan had 47 wives, this too was a serious blow.
Further discussion ensued over the nature of Heaven and Paradise with the latter looking better to the Khan. Also discussed was the Pope claiming supremacy over all spiritual matters but secular rulers were supreme in their own states. The Caliphate was supreme in both. Telerikh, not showing any signs of a decision, dismissed the two delegations with the command to meet again in four days.
After four days, the delegates once more met the Khan. He announced that he had made his decision. He rose from his throne and walked down the space between the two sets of emissaries. He then turned southeast, towards Mecca, sank to his knees and said the shahada three times. He then insisted that his nobles present do the same. One or two refused and were dismissed but the rest knelt and also said the shahada three times
After much proselytizing and debate, the Khan converted to the Muslim faith because of the nature of the Christian heaven and because the Caliphate commanded a stronger empire than the Pope.
Note: in his youth, more than 50 years earlier, ad-Din had served in the armies of Caliph Suleiman and commanded by Maslama, which resulted in the capture of Constantinople from the Byzantine Empire and thus earning him the title of as-Stambuli or the Constantinopolitan.