Issue 157, Winter 2000
Letter of the Prophet Mohammed
Alexandnia, 627 AD
"From Mohammed, the Servant and Prophet of Allah,
to Muqavas, Leader of the Copts: There is
safety and security for those believers who
follow the correct path."
—This I believe, but
danger and uncertainty follow as surely,
—for why else should this sudden burden fall now?
Who would wish to prove a prophet false?
"Thus I invite
you to accept Islam. If you accept it,
then you shall find security, save your throne, and gain
twice as much reward for having introduced
Islam to your people."
—Is this not magnanimous?
And if I were to gain twice as much and lose
my soul, and those souls rendered unto me as bishop?
What invitation ever invites reward?
Do I dine with friends upon expectation?
refuse this invitation, then let the sin
of calamity that awaits your followers be
—Now I know the man's character.
If calamity be a sin, then good fortune is
mere grace and not a thing I accept or no.
My followers follow whom I follow.
"You too are
People of the Book. Therefore, let us come to
a Word Common between us, that we worship none but
Allah and shall not equalize anything
with Him. Let us not abandon Allah, let us not
take others for lords other than Him."
is that word but Word made flesh? I know not Allah and
equalize him with nothing. His Book has no
word for charity. See, he closes:
"If you do not
consent to this invitation, bear witness
that we are Muslims."
—This too I readily believe,
for when the storm wind lifts the sand there is no
resisting-we hide our faces and seek out shelter.
I'll write this man and indulge his messenger.
To Mohammed, the Servant and Prophet of Allah,
my greetings. I am aware that a prophet
is yet to arise, but I am of the opinion
that he will appear in al Sham. (I would not
anger this man beyond reason. He will know Coptic
seers point to Syria.) Your messenger
has been received with honor. (Hatib ibn Balta' ah
will carry a good report of Egyptian
beneficence. Kindness now may bring kindness later,
and mercies.) I send for your acceptance two
sisters, highly valued among the Copts, a present
of raiment, and a mule for you to ride on.
(I have word of his taste for wives. Shin.'n and Mary
will slave for him too. Better that such beauty
be in the service of need. And Du/du/, the white mule--
that will be a fine rarity. I'll send him
a donkey as well and coin tribute.) I would accept
your invitation but I am a leader
and cannot do as I might wish. (True enough. Egypt
is a land of martyrs and Monophysites
and the two are not dissevered under Byzantine
rule. There may be one God but there are many
swords.) May you prosper in your faith, Your humble
in the Lord, -Muqawqis, Leader of the Copts.
(Where is the correct path if all is devastation?)