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Persecution of Copts in Egypt Post Muslim Conquest

 

                                                        
 
 
 
 
Was published originally in Arabic in
2006-08-06
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Persecution of Copts in Egypt Post Muslim Conquest
 
 
Prelude to this Research
 
1-During 1977-1980, I was in conflict with the Sheikhs of Al-Azher. They were determined to change what I have written in my doctorate thesis, because it publicized truths they wanted kept covered, and I was determined to discuss all issues that were kept mum, seeking to reform them. Among the things that instigated their resentment, was a chapter about religious fanaticism against the Copts, during the Memluk reign of Egypt, influenced by Sufi sheikhs. By the summer of 1980, we came to an agreement to eliminate two thirds of the thesis, consisting of two, rather extensive chapters about the effects of Sufism on religion and morality. I agreed to limit my discussion to the negative ramifications of Sufism on political, social, educational and cultural aspects..Etc….Due to this agreement, I was bound to omit the section dealing with religious fanaticism, since it was part of the chapter dealing with religion in general; but I managed to keep it by rearranging the sections, and including it in the chapter dealing with the consequences of the political relationship between the Sheikhs and the Memluk . Hence, I was successful in keeping my original thoughts before those Sheikhs Who do not read , and if they do, they do not comprehend.
2-In my first book tilted “Essayyed Al-Badawi between Truth and Myth”, published in 1982, I included parts of my thesis, relating the conspiracy of Ahmadeyya Sheikhs and their burnings of Egyptian churches at the same time. I was the first to uncover this tragedy, historically documented it ,was the only one who knew the perpetrator behind this incident, whom the Memluk authorities failed to recognize, for he was the head of a secret She’it organization,(Essayyed Al-Badawi,the most famous Saint, even today) that failed to overthrow the Memluk regime, consequently , his followers went on a church burning rampage ,to destabilize the Egyptian state from within ,and he almost succeeded.
3-In 1984 I assigned to my students few of my books to read, one of which was [Egypt’s Identity After Islamic Conquest]. It included a chapter about the persecution of Copts after the Islamic Conquest .It was the first and last book  assigned at the Al-Azher University exposing these facts and drawing the attention to its contradiction with ISLAM
4-All this took place, and I had never ,in my life, met or dealt with an Egyptian Copt, due to my environment at Al-Azher. I remained as such, no contacts with any Copt, yet defending them, even after I had left Al-Azher, until I met and befriended the late Farej Fouda, through whom, I got to know multitude of Copts, some of whom I am very proud to have made their acquaintance up until now, and others whom I apologize on their behalf, attributing their prejudices to the severity of persecution they have endured
5-During the early nineties, when the demon of extremism took off murdering the Copts, in Upper Egypt and else where, I formed, along with a group of concerned Egyptians [The Popular Front To Combat Terrorism]. I was its ideologue and consultant on religious affairs .It had a presence, supported by the state, which was weak compared to the influence of those demonic groups in upper Egypt and inner city sections of Cairo. We used to go the bastions of extremism, visit the victims, confront the culprits, defame them in open and public settings, whereby the cronies of the government sat in their cubicles shaking of fear ,and some of them went to the extent of finding excuses for the extremists, hoping to guarantee themselves a seat in the upcoming bus of events, if winds were to change direction. After the tyrannical system regained its strength, it followed the method of [call upon us when needed and dispose of us when not]. We requested the activation of our intellectual role to combat and snuff the extremist thought, after the abetting of the vicious militarized attacks, but the tyrannical regime exposed its fangs to us, and were compelled to disappear ,fearing the threat of internment, who most of us has tasted its bitterness. Yet I continued on my path, through The Egyptian Society For Enlightenment, then Ibn Kheldoun Center, then Ibn kheldoun weekly sessions, then weekly and monthly articles in various Egyptian periodicals.
6-I had the idea of convening an Egyptian Islamic Conference to discuss the issue of persecution of Copts from an Islamic perspective, at Ibn Kheldoun center or at the Egyptian Organization For Human Rights, I wrote this research and presented the matter to a Copt friend, a famous journalist. He snatched the idea to himself, and instead of inviting Enlightened Islamic Scholars ,he went and invited a bunch of wealthy well to do Copts for discussion .My research paper ended up being the only one they read at the conference, yet they discussed many other topics ,and the affair ended without printing my paper or distributing it, which was the essence of the conference that nobody heard of, and the sole winner of this episode was my Copt friend who made lots of money from the invitees,. Thus, the intended  reform conference turned into a cocktail party for having a good time.
7- I went back, for the whole night, analyzing what has transpired. My hope was to reform from within Islam, since the problem was with the Salafi thought that raises ,falsely, the banner of Islam. My research paper proves that and establishes a foundation for discussion among Muslim Scholars who might have missed a lot of facts, and if we were to win some of them over to our point of view, it would be a great victory for Egypt and the Copts .I asked myself, why all this disregard ? I could be the only one who is defending the Copts without turning that into a means of making a living ? for I have defended them even without having any trace of contact with any of them? I defended them while I was at Al-Azher, and made lots of enemies inside my university and among my friends, for the sake of people I did not even know.
8-    
In the end ,I realized the reason, and no more wondering. For I was, without being aware of it, defending my religion, first and foremost, I was confronting the extremists to defend Islam, and not the Copts .Most of them they do not want that. The prejudiced among them see no difference in me compared to the sheikhs as long as I speak from within the Quran and through tradition. And since he hates Islam to begin with, it is befitting for him to have Islam remain accused of perpetrating terrorism , and better than having one like me come along and points out the truths about Islam and Muslims, better yet between enlightened Muslims and extremist ones. That is why he resents what I do and hopes that I do not do it. In doing so, he is in agreement with those Wahabi extremists, for this is the nature of things within that circle, where the extreme prejudiced fro the right meet with the extreme zealot from the left, yet the nature of things also, emphasizes that those two ends are mere ends, and the whole circle is full of non-extremists who write history based on reality, and in our times not much is left for prejudice
 
In contrast to the Copts fanaticism, which I could understand and find excuse for, there are plenty of noble Copts comrades, who by their mere presence, life becomes more pleasant no matter how gloomy it gets. Because of their numerousness, mentioning them by name would be arduous, but they are always in the heart, even though the heart is in exile.
My apologies to the dear reader for this prolonged introduction, which I have written ten years ago, and I still think is good for human consumption.
Ahmed Subhy Mensour
Alexandria-Virginia
May-2005
 
    Persecution of Copts in Egypt post Muslim Conquest
 
Preface
 (So you shall remember what I say to you, and I entrust my affair to Allah, Surely Allah sees the servants) The Holy Quran 040.044
 
This research paper consists of
1-Position of Islam concerning persecution of non-muslims
2-Persecution of Copts during the period of the rightly guided Caliphs
3-Ethnic persecution of Copts by the Umayyad
4-Religious persecution of Copts post Umayyad
 
Evidently, concentration here is given to the persecution endured by the Copts after the Islamic conquest, its religious and historical roots. The research paper stresses this point to absolve Islam, and to warn those who adheres to Islam, from repeating some of those aspects of persecution that prevailed during the medieval age, and which contradicts Islam’s tolerance and its tenets
Most of what is included here is a summery of previous compilations, some of which has been published like (Essayed El-Badawi between truth and myth), (Egypt’s Identity Post Islamic Conquest), and some has not been published yet, like my doctorate thesis at Al-Azher University, and some other research papers e.g. (Minorities’ rights in Islam), (Daily Life Of Our Egyptian Ancestors , the past 500 Years),(Islamic Shura: Its principals And Applications),in addition to tens of published articles that dealt with such topics in various periodicals like (Al-Qahera),(Al-Ahali), (Al-Ahrar),(al-Akhbar) and publication by The Egyptian Organization For Human Rights.
We hope that this paper is followed by studies and research papers written by educated, learned people that confront, with courage, the inequities perpetrated by some Muslims against those ill-treated, and to absolve Islam of their wrong-doings.
And Allah, The Glorified, whose help is sought.
Dr. Ahmed Subhy Mensour
October 1994.
 
First: Position of Islam Regarding Persecution of Non-Muslims
 
It is not customary to discuss a specific persecution, without validating its existence first, and then followed by clarification of Islam’s position regarding it. But since the author is a follower of Islam, his concern to exonerate his religion, his association with Islamic history and traditions; all of the above, prompted him to start by clarifying Islam’s position and exonerating it from the misdeeds of some of its followers; then follow up with some events and those responsible for it.
The author thinks that historical sequence is in agreement with his point of view.
For Islam emerged first, with a mission of reform and liberation; to be transferred at the hands of Muslim into a conquering empire paying more attention to the necessities of governing, politics and sovereignty at the expense of Islam’s teachings itself, moreover, their cohorts of religious scholars, fashioned for them forged (Ahadeeth) and (Fetwas) to justify their actions that contradicts the Glorious Quran , then they allege that such Ahadeeth and Fetwas revoked the quranic dictates under the guise of Abrogation
Nowadays, we witness the revival of this medieval persecution, the type nurtured and promoted by extremist trend; bearing the banner of Islam….For this reason, it was important to clarify Islam’s position from the beginning.
We will not repeat the customary rhetoric about the magnanimity of Islam, uttered by the stars of religious extremism, especially after acts of violence against the Copts, for they are notorious, in filling people up with rancor and hatred, then if acts of violence are committed or if blood is shed, they are the first to cry wolf, then they talk about Islam’s tolerance, condemning and disavowing. Though their reference to Islam’s tolerance is correct, since it is derived from Quranic dictates, they should’ve been honest by pointing out the nonsense and forgery of Ahadeeth wrongly and falsely attributed to the prophet (Peace Be Upon Him), upon which, the foundation of extremism and terrorism is based, and declare the absolution of the prophet (PBUH) and Islam of such Ahadeeth, and of the misuse of Quranic commentaries coined by scholars of medieval times, times of prejudice and darkness.
What is important in trying to clarify Islam’s position is that we will employ a new methodology, a one that answers specific questions, with valid Quranic truths and documented successive historical events.
 One of those successive historical events is that the Egyptian people, especially the Copts, are peaceful people who abhor violence, more patient with its ruler’s injustices, rarely revolt against them. Those peaceful non-threatening people; what was the Quranic depiction of them? The answer from the Quran itself certifies that they were believing Muslims. For Islam in its outwardly meaning regarding people’s interaction means peace, be safe and sound, unharmed, secure, and intact. Also,  Faith in its outwardly meaning, means security and safety.
Let us consider Quranic Truths:
The word (Al Iman-Faith), linguistically and  in Quranic usage has two forms: (to believe in) and (to trust in).
1-To Believe in—as in conviction, for example:
(The messenger believes in what has been revealed to him from his Lord, and (so do) the believers; they all believe in Allah and His angels and His books and His messengers; We make no difference between any of His messengers; and they say: We hear and obey, our Lord! Thy forgiveness (do we crave), and to Thee is the eventual course) (002.285 )
To believe in, as in having conviction, means to believe in your heart, a matter between you and Almighty Allah. Mankind differs in this respect, even within the same religion and within the same sect. The Glorious Quran emphasizes the notion that judgment in matters of Faith is postponed until the day of reckoning :( Say: O Allah! Originator of the heavens and the earth, Knower of the unseen and the seen! Thou (only) judgest between Thy servants as to that wherein they differ)( 039.046): Read also :(002.113)(003.055)(010.093) (016.124)(005.048)(039.003) 
2- The second usage of belief is (To trust in),as it implies, to have trust in, feel safe with, become trustworthy, have a sense of protection. This meaning occurred numerous times within the Glorious Quran, especially in the Quranic narrative ,for example , in the story of Noah, he was told by the arrogant obstinate-( They said: Shall we trust you while the meanest follow you?)(026.111), .meaning how can we trust you and feel safe with you when thugs are following you? This meaning, (to trust in), was repeated in prophet Abraham (PBUH) story,(029.026 ).Also, in Prophet Joseph’s story (PBUH) (012.017 ).
And the story of prophet Moses (PBUH)(023.047 ).
And in the Quranic narration about the seal of prophets (Mohammad), (PBUH) ), while at Al-Medina,(003.073 ).Also: (002.075 ).
 
Faith, in the sense of being at peace and safe, is naturally according to outwardly interaction. For anyone you feel safe with, exhibit no harm towards others, is a believer; but his creed, it is a matter between him and Almighty Allah, and Almighty Allah will judge him and you on the Day of Resurrection
This dual usage for the word Emaan (Faith}, occurred when Almighty Allah described prophet Mohammad (PBUH). It said describing the hypocrites in Al Madina (Among them are men who molest the Prophet and say, "He is (all) ear." Say, "He listens to what is best for you: he believes in Allah, and has trust in the Believers, and is a Mercy to those of you who believe." But those who molest the Messenger will have a grievous penalty) (009.061). This means, the Prophet Mohamed, (believes in Allah), as the One and only Deity, and (trusts in the believers), as trusts and feels safe with them.
Applying these Quranic Facts to the Egyptian people, we find them to be a believing people, always allaying themselves with peace and safety, to the extent of tolerating the injustices of a ruler for the sake of easy living and tranquility, As for convictions and beliefs, it is up to Almighty Allah, on Judgment Day to deal with, and not up to us. Application, for us is according to outwardly, external interaction among people, and what is clear, is preference of peace and security. Almighty  Allah, glory be to Him, did not delegate to anyone, the authority to speak in his name, or to enact a Day of Reckoning before its due time, which He only knows when, and whosoever commits that, assumes the role of Almighty Allah, becomes a claimant of Divinity, banished from belonging to the teachings of the Glorious Quran
Applying these Quranic truths, about the meaning of outwardly faith; specifically to the Copts, we notice throughout their long history, they were the most among other people to be subjected to persecution, and the most to be patient with it .starting with the persecution of the Romans during the reign of Deqeldianos and Karkalla, continuing with the Umayyad, Abbasid and Memluk periods. We do not refer to those periods as Islamic, because Islam rejects injustice. The Copts endured, and they are still enduring persecution, as much as they could; they have inherited up until today, an ability to withstand calamities, spurring them to added form of negativity, pacification, excessive caution expectation of befalling danger and the quest for peace and security at any cost. That by itself, causes them to be more deserving than Muslim Egyptians , of the term , outwardly faith, meaning peace, safety and security, hence, those who commit aggression against them, would be the farthest from faith in its dual forms , the outwardly and the convictional ,for it contradicts the teachings of the Glorious Quran which we will cover in due time.
This is in relation to the meaning of Emaan (Faith-Conviction)
What about the Copts share of the meaning of Al-Islam?
Islam, like Emaan (faith) has an external, outwardly meaning, as well as an internal, heartfelt conviction, that special relation between man and his Lord, meaning to submit to Almighty Allah alone, to submit one’s self to obeying Almighty Allah alone. Islam, in this context, was sent down in all divine messages, to all messengers, in all languages, until it was sent in Arabic, hence it was identified as Islam, which means to submit your intentions, your heart and your feelings to Allah ,glorified be He., or as He addressed the seal of all prophets(Mohammad,( PBUH): ( Say: Surely, (as for) me, my Lord has guided me to the right path; (to) a most right religion, the faith of Ibrahim the upright one, and he was not of the polytheists. Say. Surely my prayer and my sacrifice and my life and my death are (all) for Allah, the Lord of the worlds;No associate has He; and this am I commanded, and I am the first of those who submit) (006.161:163).
As an Quranic Islamic fact, Almighty Allah, glorified be He, is commanding the prophet(PBUH) to say that Almighty Allah has guided him to the religion of Abraham, the straight path, and that all he offers of worship ,rituals ,his living and his death are all dedicated to Almighty Allah, thus, becoming the first submitter (Muslim) in the sight of Almighty Allah.
 This is the meaning of Al- Islam, the heartfelt conviction, that will be judged by Almighty Allah on the Day of resurrection., and on that day , Almighty Allah will not accept any other conviction (religion) save surrender or submission to Him ,and complete obedience to Him. And that is the meaning of  the real religion of God Allah. It is in Arabic Language (Islam) and it is in any language ( Submission to the One only God and peace in dealing with people. Allah says: (: Surely the (true) religion with Allah is Islam).(003.019 )( And whoever desires a religion other than Islam, it shall not be accepted from him, and in the hereafter he shall be one of the losers)(003.085).
 
So Islam is the submission and surrender to Almighty Allah, glorified be He, in all languages, at all times, in all placesand in all divine missions. But, unfortunately ,amongst us Muslims, it evolved to a mere description, a name to be inserted in identity cards, no matter how oppressive or morally deprived one is.
Almighty Allah does not care what people bestow on themselves of names and titles, like ,those who believed, or those who call themselves Jews or Christians, or those called Sabaeans  (Mandaeans-meaning those who leave or depart from the religion of their people).
The Glorious Quran stresses in two verses, that those who believe outwardly and consciously (inwardly) –in peace and safety with others, and believe in Almighty  Allah alone-and perform good deeds, are certain of Judgment Day ,and work towards that end, then they are patrons ,companions , associates and friends of Allah Almighty, whether they were of the believers (followers of the Glorious Quran), or of the Jews , or of the Christians, or of the Mandaearns .Almighty Allah says in the Quran: (: Those who believe (in the Qur'an), and those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Christians and the Sabians,- any who believe in Allah and the Last Day, and work righteousness, shall have their reward with their Lord; on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve)(002.062 ).
He also says :( Those who believe (in the Qur'an), those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Sabians and the Christians,- any who believe in Allah and the Last Day, and work righteousness,- on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve. ),(005.069)
Meaning that whoever believes in Almighty Allah, in the Hereafter, and does good deeds, he has, in the sight of Almighty Allah, accepted Islam as his religion, thereby submitted to Almighty  Allah in obedience, and surrendered to Him in compliance is the real religion whether he was a Jew, a Christian or a Sabaean, regardless of sects and terminologies. That is what we will find out about on the Day of reckoning or Day of Resurrection or Day of Judgment and none of mankind has the right to judge another, lest he be assuming Deity.
This is the meaning of Islam, the inwardly, the heartfelt, the convictional, total submission to Almighty Allah, in the language of the hearts, a universal language shared by all people, regardless of time, location or different tongues.
But for Islam in its outwardly dealings, it is peace, feeling safe and secure in dealings among mankind.
Allah Almighty says: (: O you who believe! Enter into peace, one and all and do not follow the footsteps of Satan; surely he is your open enemy.)(002.208).It is a command for them to have preference for peace. And the salutation of Islam is Peace: (Salam is on you). And the name of Almighty Allah is The Peace. All this emphasizes Islam’s peaceful tone, confirming the afore mentioned meaning of Al-Emaan (Faith) in its dual interpretation as peace and a sense of security. An individual, who exemplifies Faith in his dealing with others, by being trustworthy, never commits aggression against others. He also exemplifies inner Faith in his heart, by believing in no gods save Almighty Allah, deserves to feel safe on Resurrection Day. And the one who exemplifies Islam in his dealings with others, by being peaceful, never transgressing against others, confirms heartfelt Islam, not to abandon or commit his heart and inner feelings except to Almighty Allah, then he will be deserving of peace on Resurrection Day.Almighty Allah says: (Those who believe and do not mix up their faith with wrong, those are they who shall have the security and they are those who go aright.)(006.082 ), Meaning that those who believed in Almighty Allah in their creed, people felt safe in their presence, and did not commit injustice against others, they will feel safe on Resurrection Day ,for reward is of the same as the deed. Almighty Allah says about their safe condition in Paradise: ( And not your wealth nor your children, are the things which bring you near Us in station, but whoever believes and does good, these it is for whom is a double reward for what they do, and they shall be secure in the highest places)(034.037).Almighty Allah also says of those who were peaceful, peace loving , did not harm others, and in their belief ,they submitted only to Almighty Allah (: They shall have the abode of peace with their Lord, and He is their guardian because of what they did)(006.127).Meaning they will have peace on Resurrection Day…for they practiced peace with mankind, for that, Angels will say to them before the gates of Paradise: ( Enter them in peace, secure)(015.046 ).
Islam and Emaan in this life will be rewarded with Peace and security on Latter Day, for , the people of paradise , are those who were Muslims(submitters to the will of Almighty Allah) and peaceful with others, Believers(in Almighty Allah), Safety Practitioners with others ,and others have no fear of them being transgressors.
BUT…how that, is related to our beloved Egypt?
Egypt is the only place, besides the Kaaba (the holy shrine), that Almighty Allah mentioned in the Quran associated with Safety. For prophet Joseph ,peace be upon him, when he received his father Jacob, peace be upon him, and his brothers ,said to them :(And when they came in before Joseph, he took his parents unto him, and said: Come into Egypt safe, if Allah will!)(012.099).
Egypt is not a mere land and geography, before that and after, it is people living safe and secure. Our Egyptian history, for the past seventy centuries, has been known as such, been hospitable to various newcomers and outside visitors, all enjoying Egypt’s bounty and sense of safety. Among them, was prophet Joseph (PBUH), who Allah Almighty empowered him in the land after his arrival. (And the Egyptian who bought him said to his wife: Give him an honorable abode, maybe he will be useful to us, or we may adopt him as a son. And thus did We establish Yusuf in the land and that We might teach him the interpretation of sayings; and Allah is the master of His affair, but most people do not know)(012.021 )
 Egyptians are the most deserving amongst all people, to be labeled as peaceful by nature, that prefers Peace. And, Egyptian Copts, especially, are the most among Egyptians who lean towards and have preference to peace, safety and security .They are the most deserving to be described as having Islam ,meaning peace and peaceful existence, also most deserving to be described as having Emaan (faith),meaning having a sense of safety and security .As for our beliefs and convictions(all of us) in Almighty Allah, It is Him and Him alone who has the right to judge, delegating that right to NO ONE….and He set the date for that as on Judgment Day ,hence it is not befitting for any of us to belittle others’ convictions, rather  from an Islamic point of view, it is considered well mannered in disputes, to postpone rendering decisions in these matters to Almighty Allah on Day of Resurrection.
As for the verses in the Glorious Quran that mention other people creeds ,it is the right that Almighty Allah has, regarding an issue that belongs to Him, and He is replying to and answering whatever some of mankind is saying about Him. With the reiteration of those verses, the Glorious Quran confirms to the prophet(PBUH) himself-after clarifying the Quranic fact in the matter of the Messiah ,peace be upon him, that if any one ,after such clarification, comes to argue with him about that matter, his obligation is but to pray humbly that the condemnation of Almighty Allah fall upon the untruthful ,meaning He did not command him to accuse them of blasphemy or deviation from the truth, but the mere supplication that Almighty Allah’s condemnation befalls those who foretell untruths, from either of the opposing parties
 (003.033 :061)
 
And if prophet Mohammad himself (peace be upon him) did not have the right to accuse those arguing with him in that matter,to accuse them of blasphemy, then no one after him, has the right to accuse any one or any sect with blasphemy, but it is imperative upon him to carry a dialogue wisely and in an exemplary fashion. That is what the Quran commanded: (Call to the way of your Lord with wisdom and goodly exhortation, and have disputations with them in the best manner; surely your Lord best knows those who go astray from His path, and He knows best those who follow the right way)(016.125)( : And say to My servants (that) they speak that which is best; surely the Shaitan sows dissensions among them; surely the Shaitan is an open enemy to man.)( 017.053 ) ( And not alike are the good and the evil. Repel (evil) with what is best, when lo! he between whom and you was enmity would be as if he were a warm friend).(041.034) read more :(034.024 ).
Moreover ,he is encouraged to forgive those differing with him, exercise patience and wait for judgment, whether for or against him, or for or against the opposing party, until the Day of Resurrection, for  that is what Almighty Allah ordained in the Glorious Quran:(015.085 ) (043.089 )(045.014 ).
If this practice was common in dealing with the disbelieving idolaters, those who extended their hands in harm to the believers, the case was not so with the Christians and Jews who enjoyed a special treatment in dialogue and discourse. Allah the Almighty made it clear by forbidding arguing with them except in an exemplary fashion, since most of them lean towards non-violence and peace. But for the transgressors among them, then no dialogue with them; suffice for the Muslim to say to them, that he believes in that, which has been sent in the Quran and what has been sent in the Torah and the Enjeel(Gospel) and all the other divinely inspired books, that he believes in the One God who is the God of all; Muslims and people of the book ,and he surrenders his being to that God, Glorified be He. That is what is meant by Almighty Allah when He says in the Quran :( : And do not dispute with the followers of the Book except by what is best, except those of them who act unjustly, and say: We believe in that which has been revealed to us and revealed to you, and our Allah and your Allah is One, and to Him do we submit.)(029.046).Meaning, he is advised to do as such and not to go beyond that boundaries when confronted by transgressors from Jews or Christians who desire to bicker and dispute.
But the stars of extremism in our times enjoy accusing Christians of blasphemy, having doors wide open to accuse the whole society of blasphemy, leading to accusing each other of blasphemy, a consequence of such behavior is to legitimize bloodshed and usurping others’ wealth.
For example, the Quranic Verses related to ( Muwaalaat), has been wrongly interpreted against the innocents amongst the Egyptian Copts. You would hear preachers in mosques, inciting against Copts by misquoting the Quran. This Quranic term ( Muwaalaat), usually comes in the context of war , means to ally one in the war against his enemy .In the light of the real meaning of this term ( Muwaalaat),we can understand these Quranic verse: ( O you who believe! do not take the Jews and the Christians allies; as they ally  each other against you( in the time of war); and whoever amongst you ally them ( against his people ), then surely he is one of them; surely Allah does not guide the unjust people)(005.051 ).
 Purposely neglecting and omitting the canonical laws concerning Muwaalaat and its meaning, as they pretend to forget the regulations related to warfare, and that it is only permissible in self defense and not to commit aggression against the innocents .This verse has absolutely nothing to do with the peaceful Copts, Jews or Christians whom we, Muslims, have a solemn pledge and covenant with This verse applies only when an outside aggression is committed against the homeland ,own people and kinsfolk
In order for us to understand the historical background to the laws governing issues of Muwaalaat and warfare; we have to look at the history of Muslims while still in Mecca, their exposure to persecution and harm for merely following a new religion, different than that of the majority. This persecution forced them to leave their dwellings and relatives, some of those relatives were extreme in harming them ,others did not go to extremes, still others who kept silent while witnessing injustice .Yet all of them did not leave the Muslims alone after they usurped their dwellings and wealth, during  Qureish’s trade caravans in winter and summer seasons. The idolaters kept their aggression and contention against the Muslims, who endured all sorts of hardship, for they did not have the permission to fight back ,until the command came down to repel an existing aggression directed by the idolaters against the Muslims. That is the meaning of Almighty Allah’s words : ( Permission (to fight) is given to those upon whom war is made because they are oppressed, and most surely Allah is well able to assist them). Meaning the believers were faced with aggression and acts of violence ,so the permission was granted to repel that aggression with force. Also, the following verse clarifies another aspect of persecution that the believers faced in Mecca, before the idolaters fought them in Al-Madeena (The town, the prophet (PBUH) was forced to immigrate to), (: Those who have been expelled from their homes without a just cause except that they say: Our Lord is Allah) (022.039:040 )
Afterwards, more regulations were sent tying the commands of warfare to goals and intentions. And in that context, the verses related to Muwaalaat were contemplated and understood. Pondering over such verses, we come to the conclusion that Muwaalaat means to be (with) one party (against) another party, again within the context of warfare. Hence, it is unlawful and prohibited for some believers to have alliances with the idolaters who were committing aggression against their own Muslim folks. That is what chapter( 60 )expounded upon, in verse 8 which is a firm, solid verse ,in the legislation of rules of Muwaalaat, it emphasizes that Almighty Allah does not prohibit being reverent, kind , charitable, fair, equitable with those who differ with us in matters of religion. He did not describe them as idolaters, because according to outwardly dealings, they are peaceful submitters, did not fight Muslims because of their religion, and did not drive them out of their homeland .in reference to that, Almighty Allah says :( : Allah does not forbid you respecting those who have not made war against you on account of (your) religion, and have not driven you forth from your homes, that you show them kindness and deal with them justly; surely Allah loves the doers of justice.)           
The 9th verse of the same chapter, restricts prohibition of Muwaalaat to those who fought Muslims, because of their religion, drove them out of their dwellings or helped in that process. The prohibition here applies to Muslims not to have alliance or treaty with aggressors against fellow believers. ( Allah only forbids you respecting those who made war upon you on account of (your) religion, and drove you forth from your homes and backed up (others) in your expulsion, that you ally them (against your people), and whoever allies them, these are the unjust.)(060.009).
 Those who traffic in Islam, are most in need to understand the Quranic revelation and its intent to spare the blood, especially the blood of tranquil believers, peaceful Muslims among whom, the Egyptian Copts, who qualify according to the Quranic description. Those who commit no aggression against others, and none would e considered a murderer except in one condition: to murder by mistake, and to that matter, Almighty Allah says: (And it does not behoove a believer to kill a believer except by mistake,)(004.092 ).Meaning ,it is never rightful or fathomable that a believer would murder another believer, except in error and not on purpose.
A believer who feels safe and secure, a submitter who is peaceful with others , might murder a criminal if the latter tried to be an aggressor against him, because he has the right to defend himself, and if he were to do so , he would not be considered as one who committed the crime of murdering a peaceful believer, but rather , he murdered an aggressive criminal , for such a person, who commits those acts against innocent peaceful people ,could never be considered a Muslim no matter how hard he claimed to be.
But, a peaceful believer, might in error, murder another innocent believing, harmless believer, with no predetermination on his part, in that case, he must pay blood-money as explained in chapter  ( 4:92)
But, what is the penalty from Almighty Allah, visited upon that criminal who purposely murders an innocent, secure, safe believer, who commits no acts of aggression against others, a peaceful submitter? The following verse says: (And whoever kills a believer intentionally, his punishment is hell; he shall abide in it, and Allah will send His wrath on him and curse him and prepare for him a painful chastisement) (004.093).   
It is the only verse in the Quran loaded with references to all types of punishment, wrath, condemnation, indicating the gravity of murdering an innocent peaceful person.
The following verse clearly defines the meaning of a believer that the Glorious Quran strives to maintain his safety and protects the sanctity of his life : ( O you who believe! when you go to war in Allah's way, make investigation, and do not say to any one who says you peace: You are not a believer.)(004.094).
The verse describes military engagement between Muslims and their enemy aggressor. For Muslims are not allowed to fight except in self defense against the aggressors. That is why, the verse warns them not to murder non-combatant even while engaged in defensive war, and it emphasizes the importance of sorting out who their enemy is when engaging them. For, whoever takes the initiative of peace or utters the salutation of Islam to them, is considered a believer. because to identify belief or a believer is not what the heart holds, but rather related to our outwardly interactions. So, faith or belief is the mere salutation of Islam and non aggression, and whoever salutes in peace, becomes a faithful submitter ,regardless of his religion, creed ,or conviction, even if he was within the enemy ranks, and he raised his voice exclaiming peace, he becomes a believer to be protected, and whoever murders him becomes deserving of eternal punishment, condemnation, Almighty Allah’s wrath and the Hellfire
Those Glorious verses were originally sent to Arab Bedouin Society, very prone to fighting. The Glorious Quran described those Arab Bedouins laying siege to prophet Mohammad’s state (Peace be upon him), as the worst kind of infidels and hypocrites, yet Almighty Allah commanded that their lives be spared for the mere expressing of peaceful salutation or displaying desire for peace ,and considered any one who exhibit such a behavior as an outwardly believer in the sense of seeking security and safety. Moreover, in the course of military engagement, if an enemy fighter stopped fighting and declared his intentions for peace ,it is incumbent on the believers to spare his life, deliver him to his abode safe and secure, after listening to the Glorious Quran, where by being exposed to it, it would be an evidence against him on Resurrection Day.( And if one of the transgressors seeks protection from you, grant him protection till he hears the word of Allah, then make him attain his place of safety; this is because they are a people who do not know. ) (009.006 ).
 
These are legislations in sparing the lives of combatants at time of engagement, also protecting the lives of civilians during war, even if they were suspected of committing aggression like the Bedouins who were the worst type of infidels and hypocrites who were on the lookout against Muslims, harbored ill will towards and conspired against them.
So what is the status of the submitting Copts who, for 20 centuries were not known except to be patient with persecution and oppression? Besides, is it permissible for them to be subjected to persecution by those who claim to believe in the Quran and adhere to Islam? What is the position of Islam regarding those who claim its ownership yet, commit under its banner the most heinous of crimes? We hope, from all those who are concerned with this matter, to read with open minds and carefully the following verses (004.092: 094).
And contemplate the importance the Glorious Quran places upon the sanctity of lives of those who exhibit peaceful gestures even for Bedouins who were notorious for pillage, plundering, blasphemy, hypocrisy, treachery and attacking wayfarers and peaceful folks. Yet ,if the Quran gives any one of them immunity during military engagement , for the mere uttering of the word peace; then what would be the case with those who lived in their own land for centuries, in peace and security, receiving others with kindness and generosity ;doesn’t the one who commit aggression against them deserves what Almighty Allah has forewarned in (004.093)(And whoever kills a believer intentionally, his punishment is hell; he shall abide in it, and Allah will send His wrath on him and curse him and prepare for him a painful chastisement)?
We conclude from the previous discussion that Egypt’s Copts, in the Quranic sense of Islam (in behavior) are believing Muslims, meaning peaceful, non-aggressive, and whoever murders any one of them, deserves Almighty Allah’s Curse and Wrath, deserves eternal abode in hellfire in severe punishment; his crimes increase in magnitude, when he thinks that by doing so, he is striving in the cause of Almighty Allah; sharing in his crime, are those who entice and encourage him ,instead of purifying the Islamic Mission of these false and poisonous religious edicts or fatwas, that blemish the religion of Islam and peace with terrorism and extremism.
Second: Persecution of Copts during the reign of the rightly guided caliphs
The Bedouins, who were the most sever in their disbelief and hypocrisy, soon declared their apostasy after the prophet’s death (PBUH) and attacked Al-Medina, starting what is known as the wars of apostasy, during the reign of the first caliph Abu Bakr. After extinguishing that war, Abu Bakr saw fit to occupy those Bedouins with conquests outside the Arabian Peninsula, so, the same former Apostates, .became the backbone of the conquering armies that wiped out the Persian Empire and kept the Byzantine Empire at bay. Thus the colonies and possessions of those two great empires became ward of the new emerging Arabian Empire. Egypt was part of those colonies and its people became subjects of the Muslim Arabs and under their protection and their custody- using medieval terms.
The Copts suffered a great deal under the oppression and injustice of the Umayyad , who were known for both, their brutality and their ardent zeal for the Arabs against all other people ,like the Mawali (patrons, clients, vassals, partisans)of Iraq, Iran and the Copts of Egypt. But the distressing truth that most avoids to research or talk about, is the fact that the Copt’s oppression started with the reign of the rightly guided caliphs and during the governorship of Amr Ibn Al-Aaas-Conqueror of Egypt-who, many of the Copts and their historians readily recognizes him for his fair dealings and love of the Copts.
We can point out the aspects of Copts persecution during that period through two fundamental facets: Poll tax and the expression; Ahl Zimma (non-Muslims in the protection and safeguard of Muslims)
Imposition Of Poll Tax ( Al Jizyah )
The only Quranic Verse that mentions imposing tribute is(009.029). It says : ( Fight those who do not believe in Allah, nor in the latter day, nor do they prohibit what Allah and His Messenger have prohibited, nor follow the religion of truth, out of those who have been given the Book, until they pay the tribute in acknowledgment of superiority and they are in a state of subjection).
 
Quranic Legislations have or are of three levels (1) Legislative commands or orders governed by (2) Legislative principles to achieve (3) Legislative objectives or goals.
So legislative commands or rder like (fight or struggle) or (scramble to war) are governed by legislative principles that constrain or limit the command to fight to be in the context of self defense and repulsion of aggression with the same level force, no more no less.( And fight in the way of Allah with those who fight with you, and do not exceed the limits, surely Allah does not love those who exceed the limits. )(002:190).
Then the ultimate goal for fighting in Islam or in the cause of Almighty Allah, is to prevent Fitneh (Sedition, riot, discord, dissension in matters of religion) to prevent religious persecution, to prevent people from forcing others to forcefully change their convictions.( And fight with them until there is no persecution, and religion should be only for Allah, but if they desist, then there should be no hostility except against the oppressors.)(002.193). So the legislative objective for fighting in the cause of Almighty Allah is to eliminate coercion and to let people be free to embrace whatever they choose, since He created them with free will. And He planned their return on Day of Resurrection to judge them based on their own free will. That is why Allah commanded to fight against the Arab idolaters who persecuted those who differ with them in faith.Read also (: And fight with them until there is no more persecution and religion should be only for Allah; but if they desist, then surely Allah sees what they do.)(008.039).
So, we have to properly understand what the Glorious Quran intended in its legislation related to 1- commands, 2- rules and regulations, and 3- goals and intentions; in order for us to recognize that those who were meant in the 29th verse of Chapter 9, are only those of the people of the book who commit acts of aggression and do not include the peaceful ones who were never hostile to the Muslims. For in Islam, there is no room to commit aggression, only to repel it.The verse ( Fight those who do not believe in Allah, nor in the latter day, nor do they prohibit what Allah and His Messenger have prohibited, nor follow the religion of truth, out of those who have been given the Book, until they pay the tribute in acknowledgment of superiority and they are in a state of subjection), talked about a state or an aggressive society void of sense of peace and viable uncorrupted belief system .This state, when it crosses the boundaries of the Muslim state to commit aggression, it is imperative upon the Muslims to fight back to repel aggression, and after victory is attained, the enemy should be forced to pay a war tribute, and not to forcefully convert to Islam. This tribute is a fine imposed by the victor against the vanquished as a compensation and punishment, a practice held even in our times, like it happened with Germany after both world wars and with Iraq after invading Kuwait.
If we were to apply that verse dealing with imposition of war tribute, we would find it applicable to the Byzantines, for they were first to attack the Muslim state, during the prophet’s time, enticed and encouraged Arab Christian tribes to engage the Muslims which led to the Mu’teh and Tabbouk expeditions.
History also tells us, that the Byzantines used to pay the Muslims a war tribute when they were defeated and the reverse took place too. Mu’aaweya had to pay them a war tribute in the amount of 100 thousand Dinars annually when he was involved in fighting Ali Ibn Abi Talib, the fourth rightly guided caliph. Furthermore, the Byzantines had to pay a war tribute to the Abbasid in the first century of their era, whereas the latter paid the former the same amount during the second century of their reign. It was customary for this practice to happen, based on respective power and strength.
It was expected of the Byzantines to pay a tribute to Amr Ibn Al Aas after he defeated and expelled them from Egypt; but the Egyptians, who allied themselves with the Arabs against the Byzantines, ended up paying that. We know this tidbit from the historian Al Meqreezi who mentioned it in his book, Al-khutat. For when Amr entered Sinai heading toward Egypt, the Patriarch of Alexandria, predicting the decline of the Byzantines, ordered the Copts to render assistance to the Arabs. When Amr arrived at the walls of Al-Farma, it was the Copts who helped with information, directions and supplies. It was the Copts who assisted in conquering Alexandria , after its long siege of 2 months, they kept supplying the Arabs with food, provisions, collected worthy news about the Arabs’ adversaries , convinced the guard at the gates, who happened to be a Copt, to open them for the Arabs. After all their assistance, it was expected of Amr to honor the much needed help rendered by the Copts , who in reviling the despised Byzantines acted in that fashion. Instead, the Muqawqis, the Byzantine governor, convinced Amr to have the Copts pay the war tribute, rather than the defeated Byzantines, since they were paying it to the Romans anyway, going by medieval customs. So the Arabs learned this evil doctrine and applied it to the Copts who helped them against the Byzantines.
After the siege of Babylon which lasted for 7 months, the Arabs stormed the gates of the fortress, forcing the Muqawqis, to sue for peace, agreeing to the terms that the Copts will pay the Poll Tax of 2 dinars for every man, since the Byzantines will not concede to paying a war tribute, and the Arabs will accept nothing short of war tribute ,Islam or war. By doing so, the Muqawqis, skipped paying the penalty , and the Copts ended up paying it to the Arabs, even though they helped them in their conquest .In addition to paying that war tribute, Amr forced the Copts to open their homes to the Arabs for 3 days. The Egyptians who paid that fine numbered around 6 millions, Amr was not satisfied with all those millions, he demanded more and more; Al Meqreezi recounted in his book, that the governor of (Ikhna) asked Amr what was the amount required from the people of Ikhna, Amr looked at a quarter in the church and said; if you were to fill that quarter from ground to ceiling with loot, I will never tell you how much, for you are our treasury, if things got tight with us , we tighten things on you; and if things got easy on us ,we extend that to you too, That was the reason why that same governor revolted and went to the Byzantines seeking their help in retaking Alexandria from the Arabs, Amr had to fight hard to regain it back.
Amr Ibn Al Aas was exemplary for the Umayyad in their veracity in collecting war tribute from Copts and others, even those who embraced Islam were not exempted, except in the short reign of Omar Ibn Abdul Aziz , for he lifted the penalty off the shoulders of the Copts who accepted Islam, causing his governor of Egypt , Hayyaan Ibn Serhaan to complain about the reduction in the amounts collected, so he wrote him back admonishing and reminding him that Almighty Allah did not send the prophet(PBUH) as a tax collector, rather as a guidance to humanity.
This war tribute remained a dark blemish adorning the Umayyad and the Abbasid history and until the end of the Memluk period in 921H/1517C.E..Then the Ottomans period came along and they imposed a war tribute on both Muslim and Christian Egyptians. It remained in effect, paid by the Egyptian treasury to Turkey until Abdul Nasser put an end to it.
We go back to Amr Ibn Al Aas and what Al Meqreezi wrote in his book Al Khutat about conquering Egypt.
Amr declared whoever hid a treasure from me, and later on I found out about it, his penalty is death. He was told about a certain Copt named Boutros, who had a treasure from the Pharaoh’s period; Amr jailed and interrogated him to spill the beans but to no avail, always denying any knowledge. Somehow, Amr managed to find out about the location of the treasure, retrieved it, decapitated the Copt, and hung his head at the entrance of a mosque. The Copts were terrified, and whoever had any traces of wealth, hastily delivered it to Amr.
Al Meqreezi also mentioned the case of a Copt who was accused by Amr of supporting the Byzantines, interrogated him and acquired more than 50 Erdeb (An Egyptian measuring unit equivalent to1981 Hectoliter) of gold from him.
Due to all those confiscations, the wealth of Amr multiplied tremendously, and when he drew nearer to death, he gathered everything he had, it amounted to 140 Erdeb. He asked his two sons to take some of it, they refused to accept any before he returned whatever he took unlawfully to its rightful owners.
Upon his passing, Mu’aaweya (later to become a caliph), seized all the wealth that Amr left behind saying: We will take it all, good and bad, lawful or not.
Yet, comparatively, Amr would be considered one of the best who governed Egypt and the most lenient with its people. It is a fact that he was not extravagant in shedding blood as other governors were. His policies in collecting taxes and war tributes were by far more tolerant and did not overburden the populace with harsh measures .He used to collect 12 million Dinars in war tribute, and then came Abdullah Ibn Abi Serh, who raised it to 14 millions. This harsh treatment by Umayyad governors caused Egyptians to revolt many a time, always put out by the authorities through very violent and bloody methods, going to extremes in their persecution and oppression; to be discussed later on
The Term Ahl-Zimma(People of Covenant of Protection).  
The expression (Zimma) in the Quran was used twice, describing the nature of the aggressive Arabs and how they never honor any covenant or treaty or obligation when they have the upper hand .Allah describes some of their nature in these verses:(And there are some people who say: We believe in Allah and the last day; and they are not at all believers. They desire to deceive Allah and those who believe, and they deceive only themselves and they do not perceive. : There is a disease in their hearts, so Allah added to their disease and they shall have a painful chastisement because they lie.) (002: 008 -010)
The term, Ahl Zimma, was coined along side and included within another term after the Arab conquest; the (Mawali) to describe the people who came under the protection of Muslim Arabs. It is the same description for those who become clients and patrons of the ruling Arabs , however, they were second class citizens or less, the factual evidence of this phenomenon was the suffering ,the Mawali of Iraq and Iran, and the Copts of Egypt ,endured under the Umayyad brutality and their sense of superiority.
Whereas the term, Mawali, became nonexistent, after the people of Iraq and Iran, gained and enjoined some of their rights under the Abbasid, whom they helped establish their dynasty, yet, the term Ahl Zimma, remained in use and the blemish of shame upon whoever retained their religion of the conquered non Arab people. The Christian Arabs escaped being labeled as such because they were Arabs, but the Christians of Syria, Iraq and Egypt carried that label with them, endured racial discrimination under the Umayyad, then religious persecution thereafter. Later on, this superior outlook was canonized in books of jurisprudence, contrary to the teachings of the Glorious Quran, in dealing with non Muslims. They even created a special body of laws and legislations based on fabricated sayings attributed to the prophet (PBUH) allowing mistreating and abusing non Muslims.
Those people were oblivious to the Glorious Quran’s teachings regarding the people of the book, how to debate with them in a civil manner, how Almighty Allah conducted a dialogue with them in the Quran, and how He told the seal of all prophets(PBUH) Mohamed to ask them if he had any doubts: (But if you are in doubt as to what We have revealed to you, ask those who read the Book before you; certainly the truth has come to you from your Lord, therefore you should not be of the disputers )(010.094).It ‘s a clear verse that needs no expounding upon, and how the Quran explicitly describes Christians as the closest to the believers in their love, friendliness and devotion, for amongst them are priests and monks and they never exhibit haughtiness or arrogance: (Certainly you will find the most violent of people in enmity for those who believe (to be) the( fanatic) Jews and those who are polytheists, and you will certainly find the nearest in friendship to those who believe (to be) those who say: We are Christians; this is because there are priests and monks among them and because they do not behave proudly.)(5.082).
 Also, the Glorious Quran commanded to treat those who differ with its tenets, with equity and fairness as long as they did not commit any aggression against or drive Muslims out of their lands, or ally themselves with aggressor enemies of Muslims. (060.008 -009). The Glorious Quran ordered to treat the people of the book at the same level with Muslims in sharing of food and in marriage, as long as they uphold peace as a sign of Islam in behavior. (005.005).According to this verse it is thye right of Muslim woman to marry Christian man or Jewish man as long he is peaceful. This is prohibited in the fanatic human made Sunni Shareeah.
This intermarriage and equitable community living, means blood, familial relationship and common social life, where society members breath tolerance and equality in rights and obligations and every one is free in his/her conviction as they please, after consideration and contemplation, , or without, that is their business ,and they are accountable to their Creator on Day of Resurrection. Suffice to say, what is important is that they behave in a peaceful, safe, non aggressive manner, submitting their wills to the Will of Almighty Allah, believing in Him, exemplifying those attributes in their dealings with others, do not harm others and people feel safe in their presence.
All those positive characterizations were lost because of the Ahl Zimma expression that caused dissension and oppression. It was the imposition of this Poll Tax during the reign of the rightly guided caliphs, culminating in an era where the term Ahl Zimma flourished ,and whatever evolved afterwards. For, if Omar Ibn Al Khattaab, did not agree to impose that tax, the people of the book would have been on equal footings with the Arabs, but for Omar and later on for Ossmaan Ibn Affaan ,to impose it upon others from different people , meant that they were of a lesser race and second class citizen, and that was the beginning of the term Ahl Zimma. The Umayyad followed suit, and escalated the process of oppression against the Copts in Egypt and the Mawali in Iraq.
Third: Persecution of Copts during the Umayyad Period
The Umayyad, protecting their trade and commercial interests, first opposed and fought Islam, later on, joined and backed it up for the same reason for they were the leaders of the two seasonal trade caravans of Qureish, by which they strengthened their ties with Arab Christian tribes on the road to Syria. After they, the Umayyad, embraced Islam, they utilized those ties in conquering Syria in the so called Islamic Conquests, later on seeking their assistance in establishing the Umayyad dynasty.
For this reason the Umayyad did not persecute the Arab Christians, instead they treated them on equal footing. Iraq governor ,Khalid Al-Qasri built a church for his Christian mother , and the famous Arab Christian poet , Al-Akhtal, was an intimate confidant for Umayyad caliphs ,used to enter their palaces wearing a cross around his neck .Even Omar Ibn Abdul Aziz , the caliph , was buried in Sem’aan monastery in the vicinity of Damascus.
But the Umayyad, excluding Omar Ibn Abdul Aziz , were notorious for racial discrimination against non Arabs. They persecuted the Persians, the Iraqis, compelling them to revolt repeatedly, giving aid and support to every Shiite or Alawite rebel against the Umayyad , as they persecuted the Egyptians for being mere citizens and subjects of second or third rate, considered them to be a milk cow, bringing them wealth and fortune, feeling no remorse in draining it of its milk or even its blood if possible. This tyranny in collecting taxes and war tribute, led the Egyptians to revolt, although they were and still are, the most to endure injustice. The Umayyad oppression was way beyond their ability to withstand.
Back to Al-Meqreezi and his book Al-Khutat.
He wrote that the Copts aided Amr in his struggle against the Byzantine until achieving victory, and that he gave safety assurances to the Patriarch of Copts in 20 Hijri. The Patriarch came back and reoccupied the seat of Patriarchy after 13 years of absence. The Copts withstood Amr’s greed solely for his treatment of the Patriarch Benyamin, who enjoyed a great deal of respect and devotion among the Egyptians. Those conditions were altered after the clan of Marwaan Ibn Al-Hakam took over the Umayyad dynasty, to the extent that even the Patriarch and his monks were not immune from the rulers’ persecution.
During the governorship of Abdul Aziz Ibn Marwaan, the wealth of the Patriarch was confiscated twice. This Abdul Aziz, who was the father of the future caliph Omar Ibn Abdul Aziz , ordered a poll tax on all monks, and it was the first time such a measure was imposed. When Abdul Laah Ibn the caliph Abdul Malik, took over the governorship of Egypt, things got worse for the Christians. His successor, Qurra Ibn Sheriek, took heed of his predecessor and inflicted upon the Christians calamities they have never been through before, as told by Al-Meqreezi
The Umayyad massacred the Copts in 107 Hijri when they revolted, in east Delta, against the tyranny of Governor Abdul Laah Ibn Al-Hebhaab.
During the reign of caliph Yazeed Ibn Abdul Malik , the Governor Osama Ibn Zayd At-Tanoukhi , went to extremes in persecuting the Copts, by confiscating their wealth, branding the monks’ hands with the shape of a metallic ring , and whoever was found without that brand, his hand would be chopped off, imposed new fines, confiscated monies from monasteries , and whoever was found inside those monasteries without branded hands, he lopped off his head ,tortured him, razzed churches and destroyed crosses.
During the reign of caliph Hisham Ibn Abdul Malik, Governor Henzaleh Ibn Safwaan, intensified measures of tax collecting, conducted a consensus of the Copt population , branded hands with the shape of a lion’s head and whoever was found without one, his hand would be chopped off.
The Arab Muslims revolted in 117 Hijri, because the Copts built John the Baptist church, That was during the governorship of Al-Waleed Ibn Rufaa’a.
The surge in those injustices led the Copts to revolt in a major upheaval in Upper Egypt in 121 Hijri. Soon the riots spread to Semnood in 132 Hijri, then to Resheed the same year, The Umayyad put it out using extreme force. In the same year, Marwaan Ibn Muhammad , the last of the Umayyad caliphs was defeated by the Abbasid ,so he took off to Egypt to find the revolt at its worst. Even with all his misfortunes, he managed to root it out, and continued his flight with the Abbasid army in pursuit until he met his death in Abu Sear. In his custody ,on his final days, was the Copt Patriarch ,a group of church elites and some leaders of Copt community. They were released by the Abbasid army.
With that, Egypt entered the Abbasid era….or rather the Abbasid persecution and oppression.
Fourth: Oppression of Copts after the Umayyad era
The Umayyad period ended in 132 Hijri. Henceforth, Egypt entered the domain of the Abbasid rule, the pseudo independent states within the frame of the Abbasid, like the Tolonids, the Ikhshids, the Fatimids, the Ayyubids, ending with the Memluk and in 921 Hijri, the Ottomans took over and became in effect the rulers of Egypt until their fall, a period that lasted about 12 centuries, the persecution of Copts was its most prominent trademark, requiring volumes to report and document. We will point out the principal features of this matter as follows:
First: The period from the start of Abbasid dynasty until the reign of caliph Al-Mutawakkil in 255 Hijri .
During this period, the Copts continued their revolt against the Abbasid governors and their injustices. The oppression, in most cases was official, perpetrated by ruling authorities who squeezed more and more taxes, violently and mercilessly. The Copts found no other way but to resort to revolting, which always ended with massacres and defeat. We give few examples here:
In 150 Hijri, the Copts revolted in Sakha, kicked out tax collectors from their midst .The Abbasid sent them an army led by Yazeed Ibn Haatem .The Copts attacked the army at nightfall, killing some soldiers and defeating some regiments, but the Abbasid reinforcement kept coming, laid siege to the Copts and defeated them. Abbasid revenge extended to burning churches, and the Copts were forced to pay a penalty in the amount of 50 thousand Dinars to the Abbasid governor Suleiman Ibn Ali, so he would desist from burning churches, but he refused.
After him a new governor by the name of Musa Ibn Eesa took office .He listened to the advice of some enlightened scholars, like Alleith Ibn Sa’d and Abdul Laah Ibn Lahee’a, who advised him that building churches is a positive reflection on the flourishing and thriving of the land. So he permitted the building of churches, but inequities and injustices remained the same.
In 156 Hijri, the Copts revolted again in Belheet, so the governor Musa Ibn Eesa sent an army that defeated them. Orders were given out to execute the men and take women and children as slaves .The caliph Al-Mammon came to visit Egypt. He admonished the governors for their treatment of Egyptians, blamed them for the misfortunes of the populace and he ordered some reforms.
The revolt of 216 Hijri was the last the Copts undertook, for after that, they resorted to secret resistance. Here, we rely on Al-Meqreezi report, who never hid his fanaticism against Christians, when he commented on the aftereffects of 216 Hijri revolt
“Beginning with that incident, the Copts were humiliated throughout Egypt, and none of them would dare to revolt against the Sultan. The Muslims triumphed over them throughout the land, so they resorted to conspiracy and plotting against the Muslims rather than open revolt”
Second During the time of Al-Mutawakkil, anew phenomenon appeared on the horizon, and that is the prevalence of the strict Hanbali school of thought and the defeat of the rational Mu’tazali thought. Those Salafi (old traditionalists), followers of Ibn Hanbal, the Ahadeeth narrators (transmitters of so called prophet’s sayings), they won Al-Mutawakkil to their side and due to their influence; the Abbasid state entered the stage of persecuting all those with different points of view. The Sufi sheikhs were put on trial, the Shiites were banished, hunted, ousted, driven away and the tomb of Al- Hussein in Karbala was demolished. Decrees were enacted to persecute Jews and Christians. Narratives and fatwas spread out to canonize those practices, among which, a popular narrative , falsely attributed to the prophet (PBUH)..”He who witnesses a reprehensible act, let him change it by hand(forcefully), if not capable, then by tongue(advice), if not capable ,then by heart(Supplication and prayer), and that is the weakest form of Emaan
That false narrative, which we proved its falsehood in an article published in Al-Ahrar newspaper, was and is still considered the basis for extremism up until now.
What concerns us here is the fact that this idea had the most profound effect in transferring persecution of Copts from stated policy of the authorities, to the streets and to commoners. What aggravated the situation was, the narratives, fatwas, efforts of scholars,narrators and people of Ahadeeth in charging average people with hatred towards any and all who differed with them in doctrine, be it Sufi, Shiite or of different religion like Jews and Christians. Whereby, the official racial persecution of Copts turned into a religious persecution committed by Egyptian Muslims against their Copt brethren. With the passage of time, these narratives and fatwas became religious fundamentals dividing the sons of the same people, widening the gap between them and the true religion which was sent to the seal of all prophets (PBUH)
It is regrettable , even today, when a Muslim wants to follow the tenets of his religion, finds nothing but the writings of those scholars , known as books of jurisprudence and sunnah containing those aforementioned narratives and fatwas, so he takes it for granted as the true religion and believes in its authenticity , although in reality, it was falsely attributed to the prophet (PBUH), and every one admits and agrees that it was compiled and written after two centuries of his departure, through a laughable oral tradition….yet your average Muslim nowadays believes in those false narratives and in that prophet Muhammad (PBUH) had actually said them, and accordingly he believes, to hate and despise those who differ with him is fundamental to true belief, even if they were peaceful, non aggressive, non violent people. A proof of what we are alluding to is the persecution of Copts even in our times, with the prevalence of Salafi, Hanbali sect, restored by the Saudis via its Wahabi branch. Its symptoms are extremism, bigotry, obscurity, persecution of others when they differ with them, labeling them as Kafirs (non believers) and what entails that of bloodshed and usurping of wealth.
This approach (Salafism) , brought back what took place during Al- Mutawakkil times, to our current time. It renewed the cockiness of those rigid, rigorous, religious jurists who called themselves, people of Al-Sunnah or Sunnites. Their influence persisted through the eras of those who succeeded him, and became an official policy to be followed. The Wahabi extremism and its Saudi influence brought back this heritage alive again to our times. It is no wonder that the elite of most popular narrators and traditionalists, lived during that era, from Ibn Hanbal, to Al-Bukhari, to Muslim, to Al-Hakim and others. They became in our times, infallible gods and who dares to argue, debate or discuss any of their sayings, considering them to be human, prone to being right or wrong, he is rendered a Kafir and one who denies Sunnah (Tradition of the prophet PBUH).
Let’s return to the new development in oppressing Copts during this period. In 235 Hijri, caliph Al-Mutawakkil issued a decree intended to degrade and humiliate Ahl-Zimma throughout the Abbasid Empire, by forcing them to wear a specific code of dress and appearance, along with demolishing newly built churches, collecting taxes and tithes from their homes, drawing the likeness of the devil on their doors. It prohibited them from being employed by Muslims or taught by them, their graves to be leveled with the ground, not to carry their crosses on their religious occasions, not to light up their lanterns during their festivities or ride their horses. That decree was enforced on the Copts and became a customary practice.
The intentions of those decrees were to involve the commoners in enforcing them, thus having them involved in the persecution of Copts. They learned, by doing so, they were exemplifying loyalty to Islam. That wrong understanding of religion was adopted even by those independent rulers of Egypt within the frame of the larger Abbasid Empire. Like Ahmad Ibn Tolone who was known to be religious, yet daring in bloodletting to preserve his realm. The Copts were never a threat to his power. He even sought their helping running his government and affairs. Yet, he oppressed some of them as individuals and some religious institutions. There was no political underlining to that behavior, more likely to be , him being influenced by prevailing Sunni and Salafi state of mind, which he was known to be loyal to.
Al-Meqreezi related that Ahmad Ibn Tolone compelled Patriarch Mekhaa-eel to pay a penalty of 20 thousand Dinars, causing him to sell off some church endowment, moreover, he imposed new taxes on the Copts.
In 300 Hijri, the church of Resurrection in Alexandria was put to torch.
After the Tolonid state ended, the new Abbasid governor, Ibn Al-Jarrah, tightened the screws on the Copts, demanding of the monks to pay a tribute. They sought help from the Abbasid caliph Al-Muqtadir, who nullified that tribute and was satisfied with whatever the general populace of Copts were paying.
When Muhammad Ibn Taghuj established his Ikhshids dynasty in Egypt, he sent a regiment of his army to (Tenees), along the Mediterranean coast of Sinai, to confiscate what was inside the Malachite church there.
Then the Fatimids established their Shiite state as a rival to the Sunnite caliphs in Baghdad. In the beginning, they were tolerant of Copts and Jews, especially caliph Al-Mu’ezz Lideen Ellaah and his son caliph Al- Aziz Bil Laah. But for the caliph Al-Hakim, son of Al- Aziz, it was a different story. He was a perpetual problem to all Egyptians, especially the Copts, because of his strange contradicting rulings and his boldness to spill blood. In 393 Hijri, Al-Hakim ordered the arrest of Patriarch Zekhrees for 3 months. The policy of tolerance with Copts during Al-Mu’ezz and Al-Aziz periods had enabled lots of Copts to work in government offices and positions, elevating some to high levels of power and wealth. Consequently, competitors and commoners filled with hatred towards Copts due to years of religious discrimination , complained extensively to Al-Hakim , until he got upset with the course of events , being notorious for losing his temper when angry, he ordered the murder of Easaa Ibn Nestourus and Fahd Ibn Ibrahim,2 of the higher ranking Copts in government offices.. Al-Hakim re-introduced the Abbasid caliph Al-Mutawakkil decree related to Christians wearing special costumes to degrade, defame, and humble them. He prevented them from celebrating their festivities, confiscated church endowment , burnt their crosses, banned Copts from purchasing slaves and bondwomen, demolished churches inside Cairo and outside and allowed commoners to plunder them, thus adding to the level of fanaticism among the sons of the same homeland and the same people. Al-Hakim went further in degrading the Copts by compelling them to wear heavy wooden crosses (weighing 5 pounds) around their necks, banned them from riding horses and forbade Muslims to allow Copts to ride donkeys or boats for hire. The Fatimid caliph madness escalated, so he resorted to razzing churches altogether, allowed commoners to plunder them, to take control of church properties, its lands and distribute it among themselves and to build mosques in its place .Finally, Islamic prayers were held in whatever was left of churches, most famous among them were, Shnouda and Hanging churches.
This contagious fever of pillage and plunder took hold of the masses. So the court of the caliph was flooded with false complaints and grievances demanding payment for false dues owed them by the church. The Fatimid authorities were too eager to comply, filling marketplaces with church properties and Christians’ belongings, like gold and silver articles, icons and fancy clothes.
This persecution and oppression soon found its way from Cairo to the rest of the land. The caliph wrote his governors to allow Muslims to wreck and destroy churches and monasteries. It became prevalent, and from 403 Hijri until, according to Al-Meqreezi, to 405 Hijri, it amounted to more than 30 thousand religious institution between Jewish synagogue and Christian churches throughout Egypt and Syria, all of its contents pillaged.
The caliph’s mental condition deteriorated, he issued another decree exiling all Copts and removing them out of Egypt to the lands of the Byzantine, along with the Jews. Their noblemen and elites gathered at the foot of his citadel , weeping , crying and besieging , until he relented and rescinded the decree…..Multitudes of them were coerced into embracing Islam. That was the worst example for religious persecution in Egypt medieval history. Afterwards, more attempts at oppression occurred during the Ayyubids and the beginning of the Memluk periods. Yet, the Memluk era, with its social characteristics lasting beyond the Memluk state’s collapse, to form the Ottoman features, witnessed its own forms of dealing with Copts
Third: The Memluk State
Saw no qualms in seeking the Copts’ help in conducting its administrative and financial affairs. At the same time, it expanded the role of religious figures in its civil affairs, whether at ministerial level or strictly religious level, like judiciary, hisba(checks and balances system, market monitoring), caravansary chieftains, schools and mosques.
During this era, Sufism assumed the forefront position in the religious and intellectual life. Some of its characteristics are peace, tranquility, tolerance, forgiveness and perseverance facing misfortunes. It was expected for Copts to enjoy the zenith of national unity and forbearance in the Memluk period
But, what took place was contrary to that.
The principal factor that contributed to such atmosphere, and caused many side effects that strengthened and perpetuated it , was nothing more than the introduction of hatred towards Ahl-Zimma in those narratives and fatwas, which became, through indoctrinate teachings and practices, the main facets of religious rituals during medieval ages , ages of religious fanaticism, crusade wars and superficial extremism in clinging to external expression of religion, rather than genuine appreciation for the spirit of religion. That was the norm back then, the known world was divided into 2 camps, the abode of non believers and that of the believers, and every camp accuses the other of blasphemy, claiming true faith. Besides, we should not forget the crusade war and how it exasperated the crisis between Muslims and Christians at the level of both, the commoners and religious scholars.
The Memluk came on the scene, and the Muslims were saturated with ideas of fanaticism propagated by Hanbalis and Sufis since the Al-Mutawakkil caliphate. Those ideas became, as the coined term goes, (virtual knowledge of religion), or in another expression, (that which should be known about religion by necessity). It is true that Hanbalis persecuted Sufis during Al-Mutawakkil period and since the third century Hijri, when Sufism was in its early inception , and it is true that the Sufis returned the favor , beginning with the 7th century, through the 8th , by persecuting Ibn Taimeya and Hanbali jurists, but the political strife between Hanbalis and Sufis during the Memluk era, and the triumph of Sufis(known for their tolerance) over the strict followers of Ibn Taimeya, did not reflect its positive results upon the Copts, rather, persecution of Copts by Sufis and Hanbali jurists remained present in different intervals; for some Sufis agreed with some Hanbali jurists that those written and collected narratives were authentic religious traditions that should be honored and followed ,in essence, fighting between themselves, but agreeing to loathe the Copts.
This saturation with ideas of fanaticism and then practicing it, was abated by other factors, some of which were Sufism. During the Memluk period, it underwent through a state of transformation from being theoretical, intellectual and full of tolerance, advocated by Al-Hallaaj, Ibn Al-Arabi, Ibn Al-Faarid and sometimes Abu Haamid Al-Ghazaali, it transformed into different paths and courses, aiming at controlling the public, attracting followers and disciples , making a living out of exploiting religion at Sufi festivities and glorifying graves and tombs. Accordingly, those new religious scholars were not equipped to theorize and critique the fanatical Salafi thoughts of their opponents the Hanbalis. Furthermore, Sufism in its profound influence over the rational thought of non-Sufis sank to the abyss of stagnancy, terminating   interpretation as an intellectual endeavor, thereby sterilizing the era of rational critique of legislative and cultural output, leading to the entrenchment of inherited Salafi thought, fortifying it against critique and debate to the extent of sanctifying high ranking hadiths narrators, their jurisprudence and their books.
On another lever, the Sufi sheikhs, in their efforts to secure more power over their disciples, fought amongst each other. This internal strife reached the level of sever struggle within the same Sufi order, not just different ones. It was a conflict on all levels within the Sufi school. It spread to include the Sufis and most notable jurists, later on to include the Copts, whom the Sufis felt jealous of, because of similarities in getting crowds to their respective festivities. That competition led to fanaticism, then to oppression and persecution, escalating into regrettable incidents
In the midst of all those whirlpools of political competitiveness to secure power and prestige, jealousy was ever present. When some Copts achieved high ranks within the government, some sheikhs and society elites resorted to instigating commoners and religious figures against them. Consequently, waves of fanaticism erupt, and to appease those sheikhs and notables, the state would allow some forms of persecution of Copts .Some of them would declare conversion to Islam to avoid that cycle of oppression and to preserve their high ranking positions within the Memluk government, which itself was based on injustice, tyranny and oppression, taking advantage of their newfound status to avenge those who degraded and humiliated them when they were Copts. Thus the mill of fanaticism and oppression in the Memluk era touched and affected the whole spectrum of society. How much are we in need to study history to benefit from Following , we give chronically arranged examples of what had happened .
1-The tragedy of Bulous the imprisoned monk in 666 Hijri
His story with Az-Zaahir Beibers resembles that of Amr Ibn Al-Aas with Boutros the Copt, the treasure owner, whom Amr murdered and confiscated his treasure by treachery Bulous the monk was originally an ordinary Christian clerk, later he became a monk. He found a treasure from the pharaohs’ era. He hid it, and commenced to dole it out to the poor among Muslims and Copts. His news spread throughout, so Sultan Az-Zaahir arrested him and demanded that he gives up the treasure. The monk refused, informing the Sultan that he uses it to help the poor and needy, most of whom are the same ones that the Sultan confiscates their properties, so the money ends up in the hands of the Sultan any way. As if by saying so to the Sultan, he gave him the green light to intensify confiscating the Copts’ wealth. So the Sultan’s victims multiplied, and the monk ended up compensating them for their losses and paying their fines. He took off throughout the land, assisting the needy, and with that money, setting arrested and imprisoned people free, by paying their bail, helping deprived Muslims and Christians; even professional swindlers who claimed to be poor. One of the funny incidents worth mentioning, was about the two men, assuming the role of men of law, dragging a third, beating on him while he is screaming off the top of his head, besieging the monk to pay off his loans, thereby, the three crooks end up with a sum of money.
Sultan Az-Zaahir collected about 600 thousand Dinars through this monk, all paid on behalf of imprisoned and sequestered people. The monk never spent any money on himself from the treasure; rather his food and expenses were paid for by donations and charity collected from Christians. Then in 663 Hijri, a mysterious fire raged in Al-Baateneyya neighborhood, it spread to other areas in Cairo. The Sultan took this opportunity to confiscate all of this monk’s monies by accusing Jews and Christians of setting that fire on. He ordered all Jews and Christians to be set on fire, and to perfect his ploy , he gathered the elites of Jews and Christians at the base of his citadel, brought in firewood and fuel, they were numbered in the thousands, they besieged the Sultan to be lenient ; he did in lieu of 500 thousand Dinars. As expected, the monk paid it all. By doing so , he earned tremendous popularity throughout Egypt, and hordes of people flocked to follow him wherever he went, seeking his blessings, help and monies.
When his followings increased extensively in Alexandria, the scholars and sheikhs felt threatened and jealous of his fame, their fury and wrath intensified, so they sent the Sultan their fatwas to dispose of that monk, lest he causes sedition within the Muslim community. So the Sultan found in that a legal opportunity to get rid of the monk, and to get hold of his monies. So he arrested him for the second time, interrogated him about the treasure and its location, the monk refused to come forward with the information, so he was put to torture to force him to confess. The monk endured all until he died, never revealing the whereabouts of the treasure. That was in 666 Hijri
2- The Sufi sheikh Khudr Al-Adwi in 672 Hijri.
This sheikh enjoyed the support of Sultan Az-Zaahir Beibers .Notorious for his moral decadence, sexual deviation and fanaticism against Christians in Egypt and Syria, the Sultan gave him a free hand in demolishing many churches in Egypt and Syria, one of which in Egypt was church of the Byzantine in Alexandria, reportedly containing the head of prophet John the Baptist(PBUH) He converted it into a mosque, renamed it (The green school) and spent lots of treasury money in constructing it.
3-The Christians’ unfortunate incident of 682 Hijri
Due to the Crusade wars, the Christians were subjugated and subdued during the times of Sultan Az-Zaahir Beibers and Sultan Qalawoon the Victorious. The latter’s son, Sultan Al-Ashraf Khaleel Ibn Qalawoon, took the helm and finished off the Crusaders from Syria. He empowered the Copts in his administration, employing some high ranking notables as clerks and scribes in his Divan , thereby allowing them indirectly to vent off some of their repressed feelings to have revenge against Muslims. They inflicted all sorts of hardships on Muslim merchants and professionals, which in turn, led to what is known as the calamity of the Christians in 682 Hijri. It started with a Copt scribe named Aein El-Ghazaal. He accused a Muslim broker of delaying payments of what he owed to the Memluk Emir, who employed Aein El-Ghazaal. People saw the Muslim broker begging, pleading with the scribe and kissing his feet while he was mounted on his horse. The scribe, getting more adamant in his role, insisted upon arresting the broker and taking him to the Memluk Emir’s castle. People gathered around both, trying to free the broker from the clutches of the scribe, culminating with him being thrown off his horse. The scribe went to the Emir and came back with few soldiers who stared to apprehend people .The public became enraged and headed towards the castle shouting (Allah Akbar-God is the greatest). Upon seeing all this, the Emir became frightened, ordered the arrest of the scribe, Aein El-Ghazaal, issued a decree dismissing all Copt scribes if they don’t convert to Islam, and whoever refused, he ordered them put to death. The Copts hid and disappeared from public life, their homes were pillaged and some of their women were enslaved. The streets were charged with enmity, more hatred and prone to more violence. The Memluk became prisoners of that enflamed fanatical uproar. So the Sultan ordered to have a big hole dug up in the horses’ market, to burn the Christian scribes. The Sultan and princes came to witness the event, but Prince Beidara pleaded with the Sultan on behalf of the Copts. At the end , the scribes agreed to convert to Islam and signed a document to that effect. Al-Meqreezi commented on this incident by saying that “ the lowliest among them became after conversion, a mighty one, displaying all sorts of humiliation and domination over Muslims, his prior Christianity, prevented him from showing his true feelings. Meaning, the mere utterance of Shahada or two Shahadas (Profession that there is only one God and prophet Muhammad is His messenger), spared their lives and thus were able, under the protection of, and with the authority of the Memluk state, to wreck havoc and vengeance on their opponents. This is the price of religious fanaticism when it takes over a society and spreads dissension and hatred among its people.
4-The Moroccan Vizier incident in 700 Hijri
On his way to perform the pilgrimage to Mecca, this Moroccan vizier stopped by Cairo. The Memluk authorities welcomed and celebrated his visit. Once, in the horses’ market, he saw a man in fancy clothes, mounted atop his horse, his servants and aids all around him. Needy people were clamored around him, kissing his knees and feet, asking him for favors. He was yelling to his servants to keep the crowd away, but the commoners were relentless in humbling themselves to him. The vizier inquired about his status and was told that he was a Christian scribe. He became enraged and went to the Sultan but did not find him. Instead, he found some high ranking princes. He preached to them, crying, weeping and warning them about Almighty Allah’s wrath, if they allowed their aids, the Copt scribes, to humiliate and insult their fellow Muslims. He succeeded in restoring the Abbasid caliph Al-Mutawakkil’s decrees forcing Copts to wear specified costumes, preventing them from riding horses. And as usual, events escalated to the extent of him asking the razing of churches. The chief of judges, Ibn Daqeeq Al-Eid, stood up to him , issued a fatwa that it was unlawful to tear down any existing churches, except the newly built ones. The Copts, fearing the demolishing of some of their churches, closed them down.This contagious fanaticism spread from the Moroccan vizier to the public, who intensified their complaints against Copts, and as customary, Memluk Authorities allayed their fears by tightening conditions on Jews and Copts, rescinding their employment in government offices. The commoners took this opportunity to exert their dominance over rich Copts. They chased them with physical abuse, forcing some to disappear and others to convert to Islam, to avoid having to wear the compulsory custom. That wave of persecution, prompted the king of Barcelona to interfere sending the Memluk Sultan a gift in 703 Hijri, pleading with him to return the Copts to their jobs and to reopen their churches. The Sultan responded by allowing 2 churches to open, one in Zuweila neighborhood and the other in Bendaqaaneyyeen
5-Sheikh Al-Bakri incident in 714 Hijri.
A major Sufi figure during the reign of Muhammad Ibn Qalawoon, the Triumphant, was one of the most ardent enemies of Ibn Tayymeya. He heard that the Christians had borrowed some lanterns from the mosque of Amr. The sheikh attacked the church, severely punished the Christians, then went back to the mosque of Amr, insulted the wardens there. His news reached the Sultan; he summoned him to the palace and convened a committee to investigate the incident. Relying on his supporters, the sheikh spoke roughly to the Sultan. It did not sit well with the Sultan, and ordered his tongue to be cut off in punishment. The sheikh’s demeanor and attitude instantly changed, begged some princes to intercede with the Sultan on his behalf, who was satisfied by just exiling him.
6-The incident of collective torching of Egyptian churches at the same time in 721 Hijri
In our book, “Essayyed El-Badawi between truth and myth”, excerpted from our doctorate thesis, we verified this strange and obscure incident in the Egyptian history…We proved that it was the responsibility of Ahmed El-Badawi, the Shiite, who under the guise of Sufism, tried to overthrow the Memluk political system and return Egypt and the region to the rule of a Shiite Fatimid state. His movement set this terroristic operation in motion to embarrass and destabilize the Memluk system, by destroying Egyptian churches from Alexandria to Aswan , all at the same time and by the same method.
 It was after Friday prayer, on the 9th of Rabee’ Al-Awwal of 721 Hihri.People, throughout Egyptian towns and cities with churches, were startled to see an obscure mentally deranged Sufi, screaming calling for the burning of churches, so Muslims, upon leaving mosques when done with their prayers, seeing all those churches burnt to the ground, coupled with the rampant belief during the Memluk era, that those mentally deranged Sufis have a divine touch, and that the burning of churches must be a Divine Will( A prevalent medieval conviction that such Sufis can see and feel the unseen).Soon, the public was filled with zeal to finish off what was left of those churches.
The news reached the Sultan An –Nasser Mohammad Ibn Qalawoon, that churches in the suburbs of Cairo were destroyed at the same time by the same method, and that an obscure mentally deranged Sufi, was yelling at all mosques at the same time. The day after, more of the same news arrived, from Alexandria, from the Delta, from Upper Egypt that churches throughout were destroyed at the same time ,by the same method, except the Hanging church. The total number was 60 churches. The Sultan and his aids were wondering how could that have happened, but they yielded to the opinions of learned men that it was the Will of God, since no man was capable of doing as such throughout Egypt. He was persuaded not to react, because no man can stand up to the Will of Almighty Allah.
But the Copts were not convinced…and they were determined to take revenge.
Few days later, it was the Cairenes turn to be startled with fires erupting in mosques in different locations. As soon as one fire was put out , another one starts somewhere else. The Muslims were leaning to accept this phenomenon as the Will of Almighty Allah, when they discovered a rather big wick doused with oil thrown in some mosque. Suspicions were raised around Copts, and some monks were apprehended red-handed and they confessed. The authorities put 4 of them to death by burning. The commoners went on a rampage harming Copts. Demonstrations broke out threatening to turn into massacres. The Memluk authorities hastened to control the situation, arresting some commoners including sheikh and merchant instigators, condemning few of them to be halved (a medieval form of punishment).Some society elites interceded on their behalf. But the fires did not abate. More Christians were caught red-handed and confessed under duress. The mob descended upon the fortress, laid siege to it, faced the Sultan with one voice demanding that he backs and supports the religion. The Sultan submitted to them, allowing them to murder any Christian they find, later on, restricted that order only to those Christians wearing white turbans and those caught riding an animal. He ordered them to ride donkeys backward, not to enter public baths without wearing a bell around their necks, not to wear Muslims’ costumes and not to hold any government positions, thereby expelling all of them from their jobs.
All those had their internal and external ramifications. At the internal level, animosity and religious fanaticism raged between Muslims and Christians in the following years as we shall witness
At the external level, the king of Abyssinia was outraged, since he considered himself the protector of Copts. He sent Sultan Al- Mensour Muhammad, a strongly worded protest, threatening to treat the Muslims likewise and to divert the Nile, but the Sultan ignored his threats. So the king of Abyssinia, Amad Sehyoun, started attacking Muslims close by to him. His son, Seyyf Ar’ad continued in the footsteps of his father against Egyptian commerce and Muslim properties around him.
One of the victims of 721 Hijri oppression, managed to avenge his Copt people. He was (An-Neshw), he professed Islam in the presence of Sultan An-Nasser Muhammad, who named him Abdul Wahaab Sheref Eddine. He demonstrated godliness, piety, asceticism, earning the Sultan’s trust, until his influence and prestige overcame the whole land for 7 years and 7 months. He was later snuffed out by the Sultanas a result of awful torture on Wednesday the 2nd of Rabee’ Al-Akher in 740 Hijri.
What An-Neshw committed against Muslims could not be justified or explained except in light of retribution and vengeance for his people, after he secured the Sultan’s approval and backing. His inequities against Muslims varied from murder to confiscation to exile to cutting of limbs to castration. His seizures and confiscations of society elites, high ranking employees, leading merchants and commoners were continuous never to stop. He used to meet with his cronies and loyal close companions to think of and come up with new ways and means to avenge and take revenge from Muslims by imposing new taxes on them or inflict some more harm on high ranking personalities or loot the department of endowment responsible for the upkeep of mosques and places of worship.
Despite his varied enemies, their dissension, their differences, their enmities, they were united against An-Neshw. They tried many a time to plot to have him fall out of favor with the Sultan, but the ruler’s trust in him prevented them from achieving their goal. During his time in power, oppression against Copts vanished, and his oppression against Muslims, caused them to assemble in mosques to pray for his downfall. When he found out about them, he kept advising the Sultan against the preachers, until he forbade them to continue in their behavior. An-Neshw went to the extent of challenging high ranking Sufis. The ones with religious and popular support and prestige. He succeeded in expelling one of the most respected and famous Sufi in his time-Sheikh Al-Kurdi, whom he exiled to Syria. He also arrested the chief of religious caravansaries –Khans- Sheikh Bahaa’ Eddine Arsalan in Alexandria, whom he accused with false pretense.
At long last, his deception, treachery and theft became evident to the Sultan, so he arrested him, along with his brother, his brother in law and their aids. The Sultan discovered the magnitude of his theft of monies and valuables …so he tortured him until he expired. That day, became a day of festivities, myths, fables, stories of miracles, one of which was that the Nile increased its flow, another one , virtuous visions were reported multiplied. Rallies were held with people carrying Qurans and flags.
After An-Neshw, some oppressive measures re-occurred against the Copts, one of which in 838 Hijri, when sheikh Seleem demolished a church rebuilt by Copts in Al-Jeeza. And in 841 Hijri, sheikh Nasser Eddine Et-Tantaawi razed Al-Atash monastery where an annual festival is held rivaling Essayyed Al-Badawi festival. The sheikh felt enormous jealousy and kept at it until he managed to tear down the monastery. Likewise, sheikh an-Nu’maan, in 853 Hijri. His specialty was tearing down churches rebuilt by its owners. It was a bad custom in those days, if an epidemic or a famine struck, or a drop in the Nile level happened, it was easy to attribute that to God’s Wrath, due to leniency with Ahl-Zimma and allowing them to practice their religion. That is why , famines and epidemics sometimes were connected to waves of sectarian persecution, hoping to bring about Almighty Allah’s pleasure and contentment by oppressing the innocent.
At the end, with the existence of all those forms of persecution, methodical approach necessitates upon us to acknowledge that it was but incidental in the long Egyptian history after the Islamic conquest. It was never a prominent fixture in Egypt’s medieval history, rather the evident characteristic was the prevalence of tolerance among Egyptians, members of the same people. But the aberration came from the ruling non-Egyptian class or imported jurists. Few and scattered incidents were perpetrated by commoners, who were influenced by conditions created by others. The same applies to the current Salafi, Wahabi, Saudi wave which is at odds with the tolerant nature of Egyptian religiosity. Apart from those cases we have documented, there were positive features of tolerance exhibited by some rulers and scholars; nevertheless, it was primary and fundamental at the popular level, a true expression of Egyptian religiosity that was famous in medieval times, famous for moderation and leaning towards peace. This Egyptian religiosity evoked admiration with historians and traveling scholars visiting Egypt, like Ibn Kheldoun and Ibn Zaheera and others, and that is another subject requiring more detailed discussion. Subsequently……
Epilogue
1-There are facts we have to acknowledge:
The religion of Almighty Allah, in all ages, promotes truth, goodness, rightousness, peace and justice. It is impossible for it to be responsible for what mankind commits of injustice and fanaticism. Almighty Allah says: (: Certainly We sent Our messengers with clear Scripture , and sent down with them the Book and the balance(of Right and Wrong), that men may establish justice among them. and We sent down the iron, wherein is great violence and advantages to men, and that Allah knows who will (in unseen future ) help Him and His messengers, surely Allah is the Strong, the Mighty )(057.025).Meaning, the purpose of divine messages is to establish justice, fairness and equity….so is it justice for one religious group to oppress another? …is it justice to attribute that Sunni Shareeah  to a religion coming from God?
 Almighty Allah says about himself :(These are revelations of Allah which We recite to you with truth, and Allah does not desire any injustice to the creatures.) (003.108).Also He says: (And Allah does not desire injustice for (His) servants.) (040.031).It is obvious that Almighty Allah condemns injustice and those who commit it, their repository is hellfire, He says about the Day of Judgment: (: (All) faces shall be humbled before (Him) - the Living, the Self-Subsisting, Eternal: hopeless indeed will be the man that carries iniquity.) (020.111).
 
So how can he , who claims to be a Muslim, find it acceptable to do in justice to those who differ with him in their belief? Knowing well and reciting from these Quranic verses: (If your Lord had so willed, He could have made mankind one people: but they will not cease to dispute. Except those on whom your Lord has mercy; and for this He did create them.)  (011.118 -119).

YUSUFALI: If thy Lord had so willed, He could have made mankind one people: but they will not cease to dispute. Except those on whom your Lord has mercy; and for this  He did create them.). 
Therefore, it is the Glorious Quran that advocates civility in debating, arguing and discussing with others, matters of creed .It puts off the finality of such discussions until Day of Resurrection. It emphasizes the importance of tolerance, equity and peace, in order for mankind to live in harmony, in spite of their differences that Almighty Allah created them with.
Almighty Allah says about his final message that He sent prophet Muhammad (PBUH) with.:( And We have not sent you but as a mercy to the all worlds.) (021.107).  Meaning He sent him as a mercy to mankind, not to murder and oppress other, so how can any one accept narrations attributed to the prophet(PBUH), he never said, exhorting his followers to oppress and harm others?
Another historical fact emerges from this brief exposition…
The bill of oppression, gets bigger and bigger till its perpetrator end up paying for it along with their victims. The Umayyad established their dynasty based on discrimination, for Arabs against Non Arabs. Then it escalated to discriminate for some tribes against others. It went further on, where a caliph would favor his own son, against his brother, deposing his brother for the benefit of his son. In the end, it was the same type of discrimination and fanaticism that did away with the Umayyad in their prime. It was the strongest state, its conquest reached the farthest in Muslims history, but it was destroyed internally due to fanaticism. It is a lesson, if you only know, profound in its meaning and ramifications. For, fanaticism when it spreads throughout does not end until it consumes its perpetrators. Likewise, religious fanaticism backfires upon its perpetrators. It transforms from to sectarian fanaticism within the same religion. Then the vicious circle narrows down to accusations and counteraccusations of blasphemy to include the whole society, as we see it taking place nowadays. Those accusations of blasphemy, in turn, become terroristic and murderous operations in the name of religion. Throughout history, we have witnessed many an example of that behavior, and in our current times, the Salafi revival is spreading mayhem, terror and bloodshed…Yet there is more pressing danger….
Most of the religious aberrations found in the creeds of Muslims and their traditions were introduced to Islam by the Mawali scholars of non-Arab origins. It is the same ones who held grudges against the newcomer Arabs. They could not avenge themselves outright, so they embraced Islam to connive and conspire against it from within.
Regrettably, their sacred books, writings, voluminous narratives and fatwas contradict Islam and disparage Islam and its messenger (PBUH)….yet it receives all kinds of acclamations, approvals and sanctification, meaning……their revenge is still ongoing.
Due to that religious and racial discrimination, embracing Islam was the way to take revenge from Muslims.. But if truly there was justice, equity and religious freedom, they would not have resorted to underground secret resistance.
Racial discrimination is short lived. The Umayyad oppression of non-Arabs ended with them, yet religious oppression, introduced by Hanbalis and narrators as the core of religion, remained and flourished. Intellectual stagnation helped the survival of that tradition without questioning. Moreover, it became the accepted form of religiosity and piety.
In our times, the “religious revival” appeared on the scene trying to take us back to Salafism and medieval mentality founded on regression, fanaticism and intellectual stagnation.
The gravity of such movement (so called religious revival) is definite and certain, because it fortifies and supports itself through religious ascription , making it a time bombs, some of already exploded in our faces, and others waiting to explode. Like any other extremist movement, it starts by accusing others of blasphemy, and ends up with accusing the whole society of blasphemy. It starts with oppressing others and it ends up with murdering family members, friends and relatives within the same secret cell. We saw how those movements start with a simple idea, to spread later on, to become an annihilating cancer. Its danger stems from the fact that, it portrays itself falsely as religious in origin, raising the banner of jihad.
What is needed from us is to show the evidence, that it contradicts the Glorious Book. It requires religious reforms of Muslims. If government circles in Egypt fail to assume its responsibility, then it is incumbent on enlightened civil organizations to do that. For it is religious reform that will save Egypt from extremism and terrorism, and that reform will never be accomplished without resorting and depending on the Glorious Quran alone to purify Islam from tradition and to exact justice for Islam from Muslims. Please read: (: Shall I then seek a judge other than Allah? And He it is Who has revealed to you the Book (which is) fully explained?) (006.114).
 
Truly Almighty Allah told the truth…..And always Almighty Allah told the truth.
Ahmed Subhy Mansour
 
 
 
     
 
    
 
 
                                      
                                                
 
                                       
            
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