| "Islands in the Sea" |
POD: AD 717
|Type of Appearance:||Direct|
|Date of Birth:||8th century|
Paul was a Catholic monk and part of a Roman delegation sent by Pope Constantine II in AD 769, to a heathen Bulgar Khan named Telerikh. The purpose was to attempt to convert him and his people to Christianity. The other two emissaries were Fathers Niketas and Theodore. Of the three, he was viewed as the most holy.
The evening after their arrival in the Bulgar capital of Pliska, a delegation of Muslims also arrived intending to try to convert Telerikh to Islam. Telerikh had invited both delegations in order for them to present their respective faiths and debate each other. He would then decide which, if any, he and his people would convert to.
At the first meeting, both delegations presented gifts to Telerikh, including a Bible and a Qu'ran. Telerikh idly paged through both holy books and noticed that the Bible had pictures while the Qu'ran did not. Paul explained that they assisted in the instruction of those who could not read, while Jalal ad-Din explained it was unlawful to depict either Allah or people. This led to further theological discussions between the two on the differences between their religions.
After the better part of a day of this, 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. Theodore and ad-Din did so, and vigorously took exception to what the other stated until Telerikh said "Wait". He summarised 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. It came out that he would have to give up wine and pork if he became a Muslim or 46 of his 47 wives if he became a Christian. Neither was very appealing.
Paul then indicated to the Khan that the matter of wives may seem significant but the important thing was that Islam was a religion of violence while Christianity was one of peace. The Muslim creed urged conversion by the sword and not reason. Also the Muslim Paradise flowed with rivers of water and milk, honey and wine and men reclined on silken couches and were served in all ways by beautiful females created for this purpose. This contrasted with the Christian Heaven which was spiritual in nature, with the soul knowing the eternal joy of closeness and unity with God, peace of spirit, and absence of all care.
Paul was so taken with his vision of Heaven that he failed to consider how it would look to Telerikh. As a Khan to a warlike people, the idea of the sword did not fill him with distaste and to the growing realisation and horror of the Romans, he seemed to prefer the Muslim Paradise too.
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 the four days passed, 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. 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.