|32||THE APOLOGY OF AL KINDY.|
all enlightened persons who may peruse my book.Page 66.
It may appear strange that the Caliph should have expressed himself in this outspoken way regarding many of his courtiers in a public assembly. But, certainly, the sentiments are in entire accord with what we know of the character and principles of Al Māmūn, and also with the social and religious elements prevailing at Merve, where he first assumed the Caliphate, as well as at Baghdad, where he shortly after fixed his court. It is difficult to believe that any one would have ventured to fabricate such a speech; or, supposing it genuine, that it should have been quoted by other than a contemporaneous writer.
I proceed to notice what evidence there is in the epistles themselves that the disputants were what they profess to have been, that is, persons of some distinction at the court of Al Māmūn. The Apology, it is true, from its antiquity and rhetoric, may well stand upon its own intrinsic merit; but, undoubtedly, the controversy is invested with fresh life and interest when we know that the combatants were not fictitious, but real personages.
First, as regards the Hāshimite; it is conceivable, of course, that he is an imaginary person, set up to be aimed at as the representative of Islam; a mere catspaw, to draw forth the Christian's argument. This was the surmise of one of the learned Ulema from Constantinople, to whom I showed the book; but his chief reason for so thinking was that the argument for Islam was weakly stated, and that a
|ITS AGE AND AUTHORSHIP.||33|
much better case might have been made out.1 In opposition to this view, it may be observed that the personality and character of the Moslem are sustained consistently throughout both epistles. Every notice and allusion is in keeping with his assumed Hāshimite and Abbasside descent, his relationship to the Caliph, his friendship for our Apologist, and the guarantee of freedom and safety obtained by him for the discussion. There is besides more than one incident of personal life. Thus we have a curious passage on the use of the Cross, in which Al Kindy reminds his friend that repeatedly in circumstances of danger he had used the sign, or ejaculated an appeal to the Cross, admitting thus the virtue of the same; and on one of these occasions, he specifies the place (Sabāt al Medāin) where it occurred. Elsewhere he refers to words used by his friend in another discussion about "the Soul." In ridiculing the notion that the name of Mahomet is written on the heavenly throne, the Christian says that none even of his friend's own party held to that conceit. And, again, he apologises for the warmth of his language by reminding his friend that it was he who had begun the controversy.2
As regards Al Kindy himself, his personality transpires throughout the whole Apology. With a strong attachment to the Nestorian faith, he ever displays a violent aversion from Jews and Magians, on whom,