| "Islands in the Sea" |
POD: AD 717
|Type of Appearance:||Direct|
Father Theodore was a Catholic priest 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 Father Niketas and Brother Paul. Theodore was a quick tempered, doctrinaire man but very knowledgeable in theology.
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. This led to a theological discussions between Paul and Jalal ad-Din on the differences between their religions. Theodore made several angry responses to ad-Din on things he had said that Theodore found blasphemous. These were unhelpful and Paul restrained him from angrily arguing with ad-Din.
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. Ad-Din recited the shahada: "There is no God but Allah; Muhammad is the prophet of Allah". Theodore 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 forty-seven 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 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.