Introduction By The Inquisitr’s Wolff Bachner:
The Coptic Christian Church of Egypt was once the world’s largest Christian community. After the Islmaic conquest that began in 639 CE, the invaders gave the Copts a choice of converting to Islam or death and most of Egypt’s Christians became Muslims. The great congregation of Christian believers was scattered and the Copts of Egypt began their slow descent as a powerless minority.
Recently, we witnessed the unprecedented attack on Cairo’s St. Marks Cathedral, the most sacred site in Coptic Christianity. The attack by a heavily armed mob of Muslim Brotherhood supporters was witnessed by security forces and Egyptian police, who refused to intervene while hundreds of Christians trapped inside the Cathedral were pelted with fire bombs and snipers fired into the building from the surrounding rooftops. To the world’s Coptic faithful, the attack on the Cairo Cathedral is as serious as an attack on the Vatican would be to Roman Catholics or an attack on the Kaaba in Mecca would be to Muslims.
Every day, more Christian Churches are burned in Egypt, more Copts die at the hands of the mob, more Coptic teenage girls are kidnapped, forced to convert to Islam and marry their abductors, and more Copts flee their homeland for safety in foreign countries. The international community has barely noticed the unrelenting persecution of 10 million human beings and the constant calls for genocide by Salafi and Muslim Brotherhood Preachers. Obama continues to give hundreds of millions of dollars to the Morsi government and sends jet fighters and tanks to arm the same soldiers who do nothing when the Copts are being attacked, unless they use the tanks to run over Coptic mourners on their way to bury their dead.
Raymond Ibrahim is the son of Coptic Christian parents who left Egypt to find freedom in America. He is recognized around the world as a leading expert on al-Qaeda and militant Islam. As the author of The Al Qaeda Reader, Mr. Ibrahim was the first scholar to translate the actual writings of Osama Bin Ladin and Ayman al-Zawahiri. His ground breaking work gave the non-Muslim world insight into the religious philosophy that is the motivating factor behind everything the Radical Islamists do and say; all of which is based on their interpretation of the Qu’ran and 1400 years of Islamic jurisprudence.
Over the years, many apologists for Radical Islam have used most American’s lack of fluency in Arabic as an excuse to claim Westerners misunderstand the Qu’ran or they are being lied to by people who hate Muslims. Raymond Ibarhim grew up speaking English and Modern Arabic and he speaks both languages with equal skill. He is also fluent in classical Arabic, the original language of the Qu’ran, He has studied the Qu’ran and he has studied the Hadith, the Sunnah, and Sharia; all in their original Arabic. He is fully versed in Islam and he can not be dismissed as a Western outsider, ignorant of the practices and language of Islam.
Raymond Ibrahim is one of the few brave individuals willing to put his life and his reputation on the line to inform the world about the plight of the Coptic people. He has written extensively about the persecution of Coptic Christians in Egypt and the assault on their faith by the Muslim Brotherhood, Salafi extremists, and the Morsi government. His new book, Crucified Again: Exposing Islam’s New War on Christians, will be released later this month. The book is a must read for anyone who cares about human dignity and the right to worship the god of your own choosing, free from persecution and oppression.
Many of our readers are already familiar with the work of Raymond Ibrahim as a contributor to The Inquisitr and through several in-depth interviews he conducted with our political writer, Wolff Bachner. Over the next few days we will be presenting a three part article by Mr. Ibrahim, Death to Churches Under Islam: A Study of the Coptic Church. The article will reveal the danger facing 10 million innocent human beings in Egypt, who are at risk of genocide simply because they have chosen to worship Jesus Christ.
Part One of Raymond Ibrahim’s article will introduce you to the early history of the Coptic Christian Church and give you a clear picture of what life was like for Coptic Christians after Islam conquered the region in the 7th century. The documentation for Mr. Ibrahim’s article does not come for Western historians. It comes directly from the writings of Islamic scholars and historians dating back to the actual events. The faithful recorders of Islamic history never tried to deny or hide the truth. They kept accurate records of the events of the times, unvarnished by any fear of outside criticism or political correctness. To the great Muslim writers, Islam was the only correct religion and they felt no need to apologize for wishing to make it the one faith for all of mankind.
Join us now for Part One of Raymond Ibrahim’s powerful article. The very survival of ten million Copts hangs in the balance.
Death to Churches Under Islam: A Study of the Coptic Church, Part One
By Raymond Ibrahim
Christians throughout the Islamic world are under attack. Unlike Muslim attacks on Christians, which are regularly confused with a myriad of social factors, the ongoing attacks on Christian churches in the Muslim world are perhaps the most visible expression of Christian persecution under Islam. In churches, Christians throughout the Islamic world are simply being Christians—peacefully and apolitically worshiping their God. And yet modern day Muslim governments try to prevent them, Muslim mobs attack them, and Muslim jihadis massacre them.
To understand the nature of this perennial hostility, one must first examine Muslim doctrines concerning Christian churches; then look at how these teachings have manifested themselves in reality over the course of centuries; and finally look at how modern day attacks on Christian churches mirror the attacks of history, often in identical patterns. The continuity is undeniable.
Because tracing and documenting the treatment of churches across the thousands of miles of formerly Christian lands conquered by Islam is well beyond the purview of this study, a paradigm is needed. Accordingly, an examination of the treatment of Christian churches in Egypt suffices as a model for understanding the fate churches under Islamic dominion. Indeed, as one of the oldest and largest Muslim nations, with one of the oldest and largest Christian populations, Egypt is the ultimate paragon for understanding all aspects of Christianity under Islam, both past and present. [For a complete survey of the fate of Christians and their churches throughout the entire Muslim world, both past and especially present, see author’s new book, Crucified Again: Exposing Islam’s New War on Christians (Regnery, April, 2013).]
Muslim Doctrine Concerning Churches
Sharia law is draconian if not hostile to Christian worship. Consider the words of some of Islam’s most authoritative and classic jurists, the same ones revered today by Egypt’s Salafis. According to Ibn Qayyim author of the multi-volume Rules for the Dhimmis, it is “obligatory” to destroy or convert into a mosque “every church” both old and new that exists on lands that were taken by Muslims through force, for they “breed corruption.” Even if Muslims are not sure whether one of “these things [churches] is old [pre-conquest] or new, it is better to err on the side of caution, treat it as new, and demolition it.”
Likewise, Ibn Taymiyya confirms that “the ulema of the Muslims from all four schools of law—Hanafi, Shafi‘i, Maliki, Hanbali, and others, including al-Thawri, al-Layth, all the way back to the companions and the followers—are all agreed that if the imam destroys every church in lands taken by force, such as Egypt, Sudan, Iraq, Syria … this would not be deemed unjust of him,” adding that, if Christians resist, “they forfeit their covenant, their lives, and their possessions.” Elsewhere he writes, “Wherever Muslims live and have mosques, it is impermissible for any sign of infidelity to be present, churches or otherwise.”
Echoing the words of the jurists that the church is “worse than bars and brothels” and “houses of torment and fire,” in August 2009, Dar al-Ifta, an Al Azhar affiliate, issued a fatwa likening the building of a church to “a nightclub, a gambling casino, or building a barn for rearing pigs, cats or dogs.” In July 2012, Dr. Yassir al-Burhami, a prominent figure in Egypt’s Salafi movement, issued a fatwa forbidding Muslim taxi-drivers and bus-drivers from transporting Coptic Christian priests to their churches, which he depicted as “more forbidden than taking someone to a liquor bar.”
Regardless, one need only examine the Conditions of Omar—an influential document Muslims attribute to 7th century Caliph Omar, purportedly ratified with a conquered Christian community—to appreciate the plight of the church under Islam. Among other things, conquered Christians had to agree:
Not to build a church in our city… and not to repair those that fall in ruins or are in Muslim quarters;…. Not to clang our cymbals except lightly and from the innermost recesses of our churches; Not to display a cross on them [churches], nor raise our voices during prayer or readings in our churches anywhere near Muslims; Not to produce a cross or [Christian] book in the markets of the Muslims;…. [I]f we change or contradict these conditions imposed upon ourselves . . . we forfeit our dhimma [covenant], and we become liable to the same treatment you inflict upon the people who resist and cause sedition.
When it comes to churches, Islamic history is a testimony to Islamic doctrine: under Muslim rule, from the 7th century to the present, tens of thousands of churches that were once spread across thousands of miles of formerly Christian lands, were attacked, plundered, ransacked, destroyed and/or converted into mosques. Such a large number is consistent with the fact that, at the time of the Muslim conquests, half of the world’s entire Christian population lived in those lands invaded and subjugated by Islam.
According to one medieval Muslim historian, over the two-year-course of a particularly ruthless Christian persecution campaign, some 30,000 churches were burned or pillaged in Egypt and Syria alone. Major church attacks during Abbasid rule include when “the Muslims in Jerusalem made a rising [in 936] and burnt down the Church of the Resurrection [believed to be built atop the tomb of Christ] which they plundered, and destroyed all they could of it.” Nearly a century later, Caliph Hakim bi-Amr Allah (r. 996-1021) ordered that the already ravaged Church of the Resurrection be torn down “to its very foundations, apart from what could not be destroyed or pulled up, and they also destroyed the Golgotha and the Church of Saint Constantine and all that they contained, as well as all the sacred gravestones. They even tried to dig up the graves and wipe out all traces of their existence.”
A Coptic Paradigm
The history, or plight, of Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church is well preserved. The History of the Patriarchate of the Egyptian Church, for instance, a multivolume chronicle begun under Coptic Bishop Severus ibn al-Muqaffa in the 10th century, records innumerable massacres and persecutions over the centuries, from destroyed churches, to crucified Christians, to raped and murdered nuns.
However, to bypass the objection that Christian writers may have been biased against their persecutors, let us content ourselves with the famous history of Taqi al-Din al-Maqrizi (1364 – 1442), the most authoritative Muslim scholar of Egyptian history in the Middle Ages. His account appears especially objective when one considers that the pious Muslim Maqriz was no friend to the Christians. For example, after recounting centuries of persecution and church destruction at the hands of Muslims, Maqrizi concludes by sounding like a modern-day Salafi, blaming Christians for their own persecution: “For from the traces they left, will then be seen how shamefully they intrigued against Islamism and the followers of it, as any one may know who looks into the lowness of their origin, and the old hated of their ancestors towards our religion and the doings thereof.”
In Maqrizi’s account, things appear relatively quiet during the first century of Islam’s occupation of Egypt (circa 641-741), no doubt due to the fact that Christians still numerically overwhelmed their Muslim conquerors. By 767, however, after decades of Coptic uprisings in face of abuses, “heavier hardships than ever fell upon the Christians, who were obliged to eat the[ir] dead; while their new churches in Egypt were destroyed. The church of Mary anent (alongside) that of Abu Senuda in Egypt was also pulled down, as well as that in the ward of Constantine, which the Christians entreated Suliman bin Ali, Emir of Egypt, to spare for fifty thousand dinars; but he would not.” By 845, al-Mutawakal ordered Christian churches to be pulled down. In 912, “the great church in Alexandria, known as that of the Resurrection, was burnt down.” In 939, “the Muslims made another rising in the city of Askalon, where they demolished the Greek Church of Mary, and plundered what was in it.”
Then comes the era of the aforementioned Caliph Hakim bi-Amr Allah, who decimated the Church of the Resurrection in Jerusalem. In the words of al-Maqrizi:
And in his [al-Hakim’s] time, hardships such as one never saw befell the Christians…. He then laid his hands on all endowments of the churches and of the monasteries, which he confiscated to the public treasury, and wrote to that effect to all his provinces. He then burnt the wood of a great many crosses, and forbade the Christians to buy men or maid servants [which were often set free]; he pulled down the churches that were in the street Rashida, outside the city of Misr [Old Cairo]. He then laid in ruins the churches of al-Maqs outside Cairo, and made over their contents to the people, who plundered them of more goods than can be told. He threw down the convent of al-Qosseir, and gave it to the people to sack….He then set about demolishing all churches, and made over to the people, as prey and forfeit, all that was in them, and all that was settled on them. They were then all demolished, all their furniture and chattels were plundered, their endowments were forfeited to others, and mosques were built in their place. He allowed the call to prayer from the church of Senuda in Misr; and built a wall around the church of Mo’allaqa [the Hanging Church], in Qasr esh-Sema. Then many people [Muslims] sent up letters to request to be allowed to search the churches and monasteries in provinces of Egypt. But their request was hardly delivered [at headquarters], when a favorable answer was returned to the request; so they took the vessels and chattel of the churches and of the monasteries, and sold them in the market places of Egypt, together with what they found in those churches of gold and silver vessels, and things of the kind; and bartered their endowments. The emir also wrote to the intendants of the provinces to support the Muslims in their destruction of the churches and of monasteries. And the work of demolition in Egypt was so general in the year 1012, that according to statements on which one can rely, as to what was demolished at the end of the year 1014, both in Egypt and in Syria and the provinces thereof, of temples built by the Greeks—it amounted to more than 3,000 churches [the original Arabic says 30,000]. All the gold and silver vessels in them were plundered, their endowments were forfeited; and those endowments were splendid and bestowed on wonderful edifices.
Finally, after describing different forms of persecutions against Christians during Hakim’s reign, Maqrizi, the Muslim historian, makes an interesting observation: “Under these circumstances a great many Christians became Muslims.” In another place, after recounting how “the greater number of the churches of the Sa‘id [Upper Egypt] had been pulled down, and mosques built in their stead,” the historian notes again the typical consequence: “more than four hundred and fifty Christians became Muslims in one day.”
It bears repeating that the Muslim Maqrizi had no great love for Egypt’s Christians, and made disparaging observations concerning them in his volumes—thereby making his account of persecution all the more trustworthy.
Because Hakim’s persecution was so terrible and far-reaching, most modern Western historians acknowledge it, even as they portray it as an aberration of a madman, implying that Christians suffered only under his rule. Yet there is no dearth of Muslim leaders throughout the whole of Islamic history that did not at one time or another persecute Christians and their churches.
If Hakim is remembered as a terrible and insane tyrant, consider Caliph Harun al-Rashid, who in the West is depicted as a colorful and fun-loving prankster in the Arabian Nights. Though renowned for his secular pursuits—including riotous living, strong drink and harems of concubines, to the point that a modern day female Kuwaiti activist referred to him as a model to justify the institution of sex-slavery—Harun al-Rashid was still pious enough “to force Christians to distinguish themselves by dress, to expel them from their positions, and to destroy their churches through the use of fatwas by the imams.” Similarly, Saladin (Salah ad-Din)—another Muslim ruler who is habitually portrayed in the West as magnanimous and tolerant—commanded that all crucifixes on Coptic church domes be destroyed, and that “whoever saw that the outside of a church was white, to cover it with black dirt,” as a sign of degradation.
Indeed, in 1354, well after the “mad caliph” Hakim was gone, churches were still under attack, including by Muslim mobs, who, according to Maqrizi, “demolished a church anent the Bridge of Lions, and a church in the street el-Asra in Misr, and the Church of Fahhadin within the precincts of Cairo; also the Convent of Nehya in Djizah, and a church in the neighborhood of Bataq al-Tokruni; they plundered the wealth of the churches they demolished, which was great; and carried away even the woodwork and slabs of alabaster. They rushed upon the churches of Misr and Cairo…”
Such was the state of affairs of churches under Islam, explaining how, over the course of nearly 14 centuries, former centers of Christianity like Egypt, were reduced to sporadic enclaves that came to resemble dilapidated strongholds of Christianity surrounded by a sea of Muslim hostility.
And such is the state of affairs of Christian churches throughout much of the Muslim world at this very moment as the past returns to the present.
End Of Part One.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of Wolff Bachner and Raymond Ibrahim and do not reflect the opinion of The Inquisitr.