A CHRISTIAN/MOSLEM DEBATE OF THE 12TH CENTURY
A CHRISTIAN/MOSLEM DEBATE OF THE 12TH CENTURY
TRANSLATED BY KARIM HAKKOUM AND FR. DALE A. JOHNSON 1989
taken, with permission from http://www.teleport.com/~hamarabi/posts.html,
This remarkable document is a part of a larger genre of Christian
literature. Although dated 1165, the document which is in the
hands of the family of the late Karim Hakkoum of Portland, Oregon,
apparently was owned and perhaps copied by his father in 1914
in Aleppo, Syria.
We publish the first of three installments of this record of a
debate between a Christian Abbot George and Moslem clerics under
the protection of Saladin.
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, one God,
Amen. With the help of God, we begin writing a debate that happened
between the monk Georgi and three Moslem theologians, in the presence
of the prince Al-Khana, Al-Mushar Abul-Mulk, Gazi Al-Zaher Usef
Ibn Ayub Al-Salah, the Moslem King of Aleppo and Syria, and during
the reign of Leo the Armenian, son of Etienne, King of the Armenian
tribe, in October 6615 from our Father Adam and 1165 A.D. God
help us! The story says that the Abbot of the convent of "St.
Simon the Fisherman" paid a visit to the King of Aleppo and
its dependencies. The Abbot was accompanied by some of his monks.
The King welcomed them, gave orders to secure all their demands,
and allowed them to stay at his father's tent. Among the followers
of the Abbot was an old monk who was very versed in knowledge.
He spoke very well, too. Everybody liked to listen to him. he
entered the convent in his childhood and profited of the books
there; he acquired the virtues and the good manners of the monks.
He was Abbot for many years until he became old. he was called
"the monk Georgi" (George). When he met the Prince,
he invoked God for him.
The Prince was pleased and asked him to have a seat.
When the Abbot had been convocated by the King to fulfill all
his requirements, the prince asked the monk (Georgi) to stay and
continued talking to him and inquired about the convent and the
mode of living of the monks. Let us relate (now) the questions
of the Prince:
DEBATE ON NATURE OF MONASTIC LIFE
The Prince-- O monk, don't you eat any meat?
The Monk-- No! We don't eat any at all.
The Prince-- Don't you get married?
The Monk-- No, Prince; on the contrary, we avoid
The Prince-- Why? Is this from God? But he created
humankind as a man and a woman. He said also: "...have meat
for eating." (You may eat the meat).
The Monk-- We do not forbid (eating) the meat. But
we intend to have a light life, not material, in order to be nearer
to God by lightening our body. The iron is purified from its impurities
the closer it is to the fire. And as water becomes clearer, the
water allows the sunlight to penetrate (it)--Don't you see that
the rays let the light pierce through as far as they're thin and
transparent? Don't you know that steam rising from the ground
outshines the sunlight? The reason, O Prince, that is inside of
us from God, becomes dark with luxurious life, and it keeps us
away from God at the range of its darkness. And with our distance
from God we attach ourselves to the corporal matters and to the
love of the actual life. We avoid not only meat and women, but
all corporal delights and everything that charms the five faculties.
We expect, by using these privations, to obtain the graces of
God in His eternal kingdom. He said,"you will not get the
joy in the eternal world, if you don't endure the sorrows and
difficulties in the perishable world."
The Prince-- O monk, you are just right. But, God
granted us these and those.
The Monk-- Our God permitted to you to do as you
like and gave you the liberty to enjoy the corporal felicities
when He says: "I'll give you in the heaven a river of milk,
a river of honey and beautiful women."
The Prince and the Monk were talking so, when three
theologians came to the Prince and saluted him. He ordered them
to sit down. And when they saw the monk, they spoke with the Prince
in Turkish, saying,"where is this monk from? for what purpose
is he in your presence?"
The Prince: This monk is from Simon's convent; he
came to us with other monks to resolve some problems with the
Sultan (King). How do you like his appearance? One of them called
Abu-Zaher, from Baghdad said, "may I be made your ransom,
O Prince, he has a smiling mouth and a handsome face. How regretful
that he is Christian."
The Prince: Would you like to have a debate with
him in the matter of religion? They answered yes.
DEBATE ON THE SALVIFIC NATURE OF GOD
Then, they looked at each other. Thus, one of them, called Abu-Salamah
Ibn Saad, from Mossul said,
Abu-Salamah (The Moslem) --"O monk, we revere
and honor your Christ and make his rank over all prophets, except
Mohammad, Prophet and Apostle of God. But you, Christians, decreased
his esteem and you do not honor him, while God honored him and
inspired him the Koran, as a light and mercy. You do not agree
that he is the Prophet of God; so he shall confute you on the
The Monk-- Abu-Salamah, each question has an answer,
But we did not come to your place to have a religious debate with
you; But as petitioners. We do not need to talk to you, but with
what it pleases you; because we know that the fury is yours and
that you are boasting about that. A wise man said," Be cautious
with them as long as you live in their house."
The Moslem-- Fear God, O Monk, because of what you
mentioned. We are a people of law and justice; and nobody here
is willing to discuss with you in a bad way.
Then, the Prince glanced at the Monk and said,--
"O Monk, I had been born from a Greek (Christian) woman.
So, you can answer as you like, without fear. "Then he pulled
out his own seal from his finger and put it on the finger of the
The Monk-- Abu-Salamah, we do not want to give lies
instead of truth. But we fear that you bring lies following the
roughness of your nature. Don't you say that we do not revere
Mohammed, nor confess that he is Apostle of God? Well, we will
give you a clear proof from God (to ascertain our sayings).
The Moslem-- You could not succeed, at all, even
if you try to do the impossible efforts.
The Monk-- The truth will appear. Abu-Salamah, don't
you confess that God created all creatures?
The Moslem-- Yes, all which are in the heaven and
in the earth; everything visible and invisible have been created
by God, by His will.
The Monk-- Are there any people created by God and
some people created by another God?
The Moslem-- No! The Creator created them and He
is the One God I worship, and there is not another God.
The Monk-- Do you think that God willed the salvation
of the whole world or He wants to save only a specified people
among His creatures and destroy the rest? Don't you confess that
God is rich, generous, and magnanimous? If you don't, then you
attribute avarice to God; like a man who prepared food for a hundred
persons, but when they came, he drove them out and said,"
Go away, I have no food for you!" By this way, he showed
The Moslem-- I confess that God is rich, generous,
magnanimous and the Creator of all creatures, and that He desires
The Monk-- If God wants the salvation of the whole
world, His messengers should be sent to the whole world, too.
And anyone who pretends to be a Messenger of God needs a sign
to corroborate his assertions; he needs also a power from God
to confirm his message.
The Moslem-- What is the power and the sign?
The Monk-- Those that were with the Apostles of
The Moslem-- What is the power?
The Monk-- They are three: to make miracles, to
speak various languages and avoid worldly things. While you have
three opposite traits.
The Moslem-- Like what?
The Monk-- the menace with sword, tribute, and conviction.
Those traits have been found in Mohammed. Evidence of God's Authority
in the Apostles
Then, the Monk turned out to the Prince and said,
" by God, O Prince if someone comes now to you and pretends
to be a messenger of the King to you for so and so purposes, and
you did not find in his possession a letter or a seal from the
King , will you believe that he is the messenger of the King ?
The Prince-- By God, no! On the contrary, I'll consider
him like a liar and traitor.
The Moslem-- What are the signs and the proof of
the Apostles of Christ attesting their acquisition of the power
to make miracles, to speak various languages and to preach in
the whole world?
The Monk-- The sign is in your presence and the
proof is evident: at any direction you look, east, west, south
or north, you find the devotion to Christ at the farthest regions
of the world. No one region is empty of it (this devotion). This
is an evident proof that the Apostles of Christ traveled through
the whole earth and spoke all languages. You cannot find a people,
a language or a tongue without knowledge of Christ. The prophet
David predicted that when he said," They went to whole earth
and their speeches have grown in the regions of the world."
This is also an evident proof that the Apostles spoke all languages.
Do you have, Abu-Salamah, any doubt on those two things?
Abu-Salamah-- This is evident, without any doubt.
Sermon on the Power and the Sign
The Monk-- I'll prove, now, that they made miracles,
not by the force of their words, but by the power of their Sender,
from the submission of the barbarian peoples to them. Their preachings
were not dependent on their tolerance, neither menace, nor by
the sword. They didn't take money. They were, in majority, illiterate
fishermen and tent tailors. But the power received from Christ
helped them to govern this world. When the Christ had sent them
to preach in the world, He entered the room where they were gathered
after His resurrection, while the doors were closed. He gave them
peace, first because they were fearing the Jews. Then He blew
on them and said," receive the Holy Spirit. This Spirit will
be your voice. By this voice, you will raise the dead, heal the
sick, and vanquish the Kings. If you remit the sins of people
they will be pardoned; but if you retain them, they will be so.
Give free of charge, as you received so." He told them also,"
Don't bear a staff, neither haversack not food; don't have two
clothes, nor two shoes. Don't bear copper in your girdle."
Now tell me, what's stronger of that sign? If you tell me that
their orders were too soft, I'll answer you that those were not
theirs, but of the Christ, their Master. Here they are, "To
whom who slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the left one";
and, "if someone wants your cloth, give him your coat also";
and, "if someone uses you for one mile, go two miles with
him. Love your enemies. Bless those who persecute you. Do good
to those who afflict you." Tell me, who could listen to these
ordinances and accept them, if the miracles did not astonish the
whole world? Then, they believed them (the Apostles) and trusted
their preaching. Look, O Moslem, at the preachings of the Apostles,
as they preached to the speakers, scientists and the Kings, saying,
"believe in God. He has been born from a woman; he ate food
and drank water; has been beaten and whipped; people mocked him
and spit on His face; they slapped him and put on his head a crown
of thorns; he has been crucified and buried; (but) he rose from
the dead." No one believed them. But people mocked them;
denied their sayings, beat and chased them away. The Apostles
said, " People, if you deny our preachings, we shall prove
the truth. In fact: bring to us the crippled, blind and leper
people, along with crazy, dislocated and dead people." They
said, " In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up,
you dead person." That person rose from the dead. As well
as from other sicknesses, which were healed also. Then, people
believed them and worshipped their God; for their acts testified
for them. Some people closed their eyes and their ears, like the
snake that closed her ears to avoid hearing the magician's voice.
But those who worshipped Satan, through adultery, voluptuousnesses,
viciousness, and avidity and the target of which was to satisfy
the desires of their bodies: all of those became as a flume (of
smoke) and their idolatric adoration is over. The heavens, the
earth, God and his angels testify that the Apostles are the messengers
of the Christ and that their religion is the right one. And your
prophet, Mohammed also testified for them, saying in the Koran,
" We inspired the Koran as a light and guidance and confirming
what is in their hands (Christian) from the Bible and the Gospels."
So, if your prophet and your Book confirmed the Gospel, you have
to do so, otherwise you treat your prophet and your books as liars.
Debate on the Integrity of the Gospels
The Moslem-- I trust the Gospel and all its contents.
But you altered it to be as you wanted.
The Monk--Do not say something you can't prove,
because, in the end, you will be ashamed, like that one who prefers
to cover the sunlight. Tell me, Abu-Salamah, how many years had
passed from the Christ until Mohammed?
The Moslem-- I don't know.
The Monk-- I give the answer: from the Christ to
Mohammed, six hundred and some more years passed.
The Prince--You're right, Monk. That is what we
found in the history.
The Monk-- Were the Christians, then, in the whole
The Moslem-- Yes, they were.
The Monk-- Like in the present time?
The Moslem--Yes and more (then they are now).
The Monk-- Could you count (the number of ) the
Gospels which existed (in that time) on the earth (in the world)
in various languages?
The Moslem-- We couldn't.
The Monk-- Let us suppose that some people in the
West had altered their Gospels. So, how did they reach those who
are at the end of the earth in the East? Same thing for those
who are in the North towards the South. It's impossible. If that
was possible you were, then, founding the apocryphal Gospels with
a part of Christians. While if you pay for a trip over the whole
world, you will find the Gospels in various languages analogous
to those received from the Apostles of our Lord the Christ. No
difference between any of them, even in one letter, except the
particular traits of each language. I, hereby, give you an example
which lets you believe me: If someone comes and shows a Koran
different from that known to you now, and says, " this is
the Koran inspired by the Prophet," while it is not, will
you accept it?
The Prince-- No, on the contrary we shall kill him
and burn his book.
The Monk-- How could you equalize the Master and
the servant, the Creator and the created or God and the man? Debate
on the Integrity of Mohammed
The Moslem-- Don't you know, Monk, that Mohammed
governed the Arabs, and that he is God's Prophet and Messenger,
because he guided Ishmail's descendants and passed them from the
idolatry to the worship of the Living God, like what did Christ
and his Apostles?
The Monk-- I know that Mohammed ruled the Arabs
and passed them from the idolatry to the acquaintance of God,
but not to the true acquaintance, because he intended to rule
them in order to have them under his jurisdiction, much more than
to give them information about the Creator. If you can be patient
a little and calm yourself, I'll give you a testimony on behalf
of me and all Christians concerning your prophet Mohammed, to
let you know why we do not honor him, neither call him Prophet
The Moslem-- As the Prince allowed you to speak
as you like and gave you security, and the permission to speak
about Islam, you can say anything you want.
The Prince-- Abu-Salamah, the Monk spoke as it is
suitable to the truth and as accepted by reason.
Abu-Salamah-- Give us what you gave about Mohammed.
The Monk-- You should know, Abu-Salamah, that Mohammed
was from the tribe of Koreish, and descendant of Ishmail, son
of Hagar the Egyptian, slave of Sarah, spouse of Abraham. He was
an Arab nomad and camel driver. In his trips, he came to Jerusalem
where he had been welcomed by a Christian Nestorian, called Buheira.
When he asked Mohammed about his religion, he found him to be
one of the pagans. Those were the sons of Ishmail. They worshipped
an idol called AL-AKBAR (the greatest). They used to put around
him poems containing desire and love written on tablets which
they suspended over that idol. They served for prayers and had
been called the seven "usudallakat" (suspended). When
he (Buheira) knew that he (Mohammed) was from that tribe, he got
sympathy for him, due to the similarity of languages, the friendship,
and the desire of knowledge. Then he read to him some chapters
from the Gospels, the Bible and the Psalms. When he returned home,
he said to his friends, " Woe unto you! You are in flagrant
error and your worship is null and unprofitable". They told
him, " What is your problem, Mohammed?" He answered,
" I found the true God." They asked, " What is
his name?" He replied, " His name is ALLAH. He created
the heaven and the earth and all creatures in it. He sent me to
you as a light and a sign of his compassion." They said,
" Could you show him to us to know where he is?" He
said, " He resides in the heaven and sees all, but he is
invisible." They told him, " We have a deity which we
worship and honor. We inherited this worship from our ancestors
who gave us the liberty to satisfy our desires with everything
we own." Then Mohammed told them, " That one who sent
me to you told me that he grants you what is better and greater
than what you say." They asked, " What is it?"
He said, " It is a paradise where he transfers you after
your death. It contains food, drinks, and women." They asked,
" What is the form of the food, drink, and women" He
replied, " Rivers of honey, milk and wine, with beautiful
women; there you will be not thirsty nor full of tears."
they said, " Are you the Messenger of God?" He replied,
" Yes." They said, " We fear our god AL-AKBAR."
He said, " worship God and honor AL-AKBAR." Some of
them said, " We believe in God, you said the truth,"
Then he passed through another group from koreish, Muhammed's
tribe. He, later met another group. Those people allowed their
members to marry their daughters and sisters. Those were their
customs, before they knew God. Mohammed wrote to Buheira all what
happened to him. Buheira prohibited those customs and with big
efforts, he succeeded to draw them to the first cousins. When
he got enough adherents from Arabs and their aristocracy, some
remained reticent. Then he desired the monarchy (sovereignty)
for himself and formed an armed detachment to fight his contradictors
and said, " Those who enter the Islam, will be safe;"
and said, " The inhabitants of the heaven and the earth entered
the Islam by their will and (some) by force." Then, he attacked
a group convinced another group with adorned words and arguments.
His target was to rule them and rush them in order to reach the
rest of women, because he was very avid of them. He desired them
at a high degree. In confirmation of that, he was not satisfied
with his numerous women, but desired Zeid's wife when he saw her
and took her from him by force, pretending that God gave her to
him as a wife, instead of Zeid. He spoke to his followers in this
concern saying, " After Zeid had accomplished his desires
from her, We (God) gave her to you as a wife, Mohammed."
He pretended that God inspired him to do so. But his followers
said, " Messenger of God, what God granted you is not permitted
to anyone else."
The Moslem-- Woe unto you, uncircumcised! Zeid had
asked him to take her and sworn that she will be unlawful for
The Monk-- He had to, otherwise he would have the
same destiny as others.
The Moslem-- What happened to them?
The Monk-- Didn't you hear about the bedouin killed
by your prophet, on his bed, while God forbids killing even the
birds in their beds. When asked by his followers, " Who killed
the slave?" "My sword," replied Mohammed.
The Moslem-- If you find some faults in the life
of Mohammed to blame him for, you must confess that he had the
biggest and most important honor and the greatest credit with
God for what he did to Ishmail's descendants.
The Monk-- He guided you following his will, not
as would like God. And Mohammed did not ignore that he and you
are far from the truth and the right way, saying, " I don't
know what happens to me and to you. Are we in the clarity or in
the dark?" He said also, " Fear God as hard as you could,
maybe you will succeed." And he assigned that in each prayer
you request to be guided to the right way by saying, " Guide
us (O God) to the right way." So, if you are right, then
you don't need to ask for the righteousness. Bur he asks God for
help. But let us forget what we said. Have an example about this.
Suppose, O Prince, that I left your presence in search of without
leaving the way guiding to the Fatherland . I'll not need guidance
but the help to reach the Fatherland. .
The Prince-- Quite right,
The Monk-- If Mohammed knew that you were on the
right way, he would not order you to request from God the guidance
and the maturity. Besides, knowing that his prayer is not accepted
by God, he ordered you to pray for him, and told you, " You,
believers, pray for him and grant him salvation."
The Moslem-- Don't you know God and his angels pray
for Mohammed? Don't we have to pray for him, too?
The Monk-- You should, preferably, pray for yourself
and ask the pardon for yourself; not to be like that one who is
hungry and asks food for others; or like that one who suffers
from an injury and asks medicine for somebody else, So, if you,
with God and his angels pray for Mohammed, who will accept your
prayers? If this is your opinion, you equalize God and angels
with the mankind.
The Moslem-- The prayer of God is a grace accorded
to his worshippers.
The Monk-- Who has benefited from the grace of God
and his angels doesn't need your prayers. You should better pray
The Moslem-- Don't you pray, you Christians, on
The Monk-- Absolutely not! On the contrary we pray
to him, because he is our God and Creator and he accepts the prayer
of his servants if they do, and forgives their faults.
The Moslem-- What an evident blasphemy and bad idea!
You worship a created man, born from a woman, who suffered ignominy.
That is what you confess, and you, Monk, do not deny that. You
mock with insolence our Prophet Mohammed, the Chosen.
The Monk-- Upon my life, we do not bring anything
from ourselves but from your Book and your Koran. Don't you confess
that Mohammed was Bedouin and from Koreish?
The Moslem-- Yes.
The Monk-- Don't you know that he had many women,
some against and some concubines. Don't you agree that he was
so passionate towards women that he used the sword to kill those
who did not obey him, and that he took Zeid's wife?
The Moslem-- Yes, that was God's order, for God
inspired him to do so.
The Monk-- Don't you confess that he died and had
been buried with thirty members with him under the soil? We mentioned
only a few of the attributes of your Prophet, those which you
admitted. So why do you contest it?
The Moslem-- Woe unto you! We contest what you make
God a child, and that the Christ is God's son, and that he is
Eternal God and Creator of the creatures while he is human and
was born from a woman and God considers him like Adam to whom
he said, " Be!" and he has been (created).
The Monk-- So, Abu-Salamah, you believe in all what
your Prophet mentioned in your Book and that (this book) was inspired
The Moslem-- Yes, everything mentioned in the Koran
was inspired to Mohammed.
The Monk-- The Koran doesn't mention that the Christ
is the Spirit of God and his Word given by God to Mary?
The Moslem-- Not eternal (word) but created.
The Monk-- Was God, at any time, dumb, deaf, or
empty from any word or spirit?
The Moslem--God forbid! God, his Word and Spirit
are always (present).
The Monk-- Is God's Word Creator or created?
The Moslem-- Creator.
The Monk-- You worship God along with his Spirit
and Word, isn't it?
The Moslem-- I adore God, His Word and His Spirit.
The Monk-- Say now, then, " I believe in God,
in His Spirit and in His Word."
The Moslem-- I believe in God and in His Spirit
and in His Word. But I do not make them three, but one God.
The Monk-- This is my opinion, too; and my beliefs
and those of all Christians of Orthodox faith. I like now to explain
the meanings of the Holy Eternity: the Father is God; the Son
is His Word; and the third (person is) the Holy Spirit.
The Prince was laying down. He then stood up, glanced
to the Moslem, laughed and told him,-- " Abu-Salamah, the
Monk Christianized you and introduced you to the Christian's religion;
you are then Christian."
Abu-Salamah was furious. Then, a jurisprudent called Abul-Fadl
Al-Halabi, told his friends: If you had permitted me from
the beginning, I had a dialogue with the Monk and I showed you
his defeat. Afterwards, he looked at the Prince and said, -- "Be
informed, O Prince, that the non-believers are in the fire (in
the hell) and whoever approaches them burns himself, and Satan
who is the spirit of the tyranny speaks through their mouths."
The Monk-- Why do you insult us? Why do you attribute
to us what is related to you and to your prophet? Didn't we talk
and prove that the Christ is the Spirit of God and His Word from
your Koran and your Prophet? If you are sure that what we cited
is satanic, it should be from your Prophet and your Book.
The Prince-- Shame of you, Abul-Fadl! Your silence
was better and more fruitful than your speech. I wish God had
furnished you with silence and dumbness; then we would have been
quite at ease.
Then Abdul-Fadl, ashamed, went away.
I did contact Fr. Dale Johnson [email: email@example.com] about
this text, and he gave permission for it to be in the Medieval
Sourcebook. What I am unable to do is verify the historicity of
this document, beyond the notes by Fr. Johnson at the beginning.
This text is part of the Internet Medieval Source Book.
The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted
texts related to medieval and Byzantine history.
Unless otherwise indicated the specific electronic form of the
document is copyright. Permission is granted for electronic copying,
distribution in print form for educational purposes and personal
use. If you do reduplicate the document, indicate the source.
No permission is granted for commercial use.
Paul Halsall November 1996