.::St Mark & St George - Coptic Orthodox Church::.

 

THE ARAB CONQUEST

When Islam entered Egypt in the seventh century, Pope Benjamin I, the 38th Patriarch, had been away from the throne for 13 years, another patriarch having been uncanonically ordained in his place and given authority over all the Coptic churches, with a view to destroy the Copts, the so-called “Monophysites.”

.::Arab Conquest - Entering Egypt::.

.::Arab Conquest - Entering Egypt::.

For the four centuries that followed the Arab conquest of Egypt, the Coptic Church generally flourished, and Egypt remained basically Christian. This was due to a great extent to the fortunate position that Copts enjoyed, for the Prophet of Islam preached a special kindness towards Copts, saying “When you conquer Egypt, be kind to the Copts for they are your protégés and kith and kin.” The Copts were therefore allowed to freely practice Christianity, provided they continued to pay a special tax, called “jizya” that would qualify them as “protected” protégés. Individuals who could not afford to pay the levy however, were faced with the choice of either converting to Islam or losing their civil right to be “protected,” which in some instance meant being killed. Despite additional costly laws that were imposed upon Egyptian Christians between 868 AD and 935 AD, under the Abbasid Dynasties, they prospered, and the Coptic Church enjoyed one of its most peaceful eras.

Throughout that period, the Coptic language remained the language of Egypt, and it was not until the second half of the eleventh century that the first bilingual Coptic-Arabic liturgical manuscripts began to appear. The adoption of the Arabic language as the language used by the Egyptians in their everyday life was so slow that even in the 15th century, the Coptic language was still largely in use. Up to this day, the Coptic language continues to be the liturgical language of the Church, and is still used as a living language by a small, but very dedicated number of individuals and families.

The Christian face of Egypt started to change by the beginning of the second millennium AD when the Copts, in addition to the “jizya” suffered from specific limitations, some of which were serious and interfered with their freedom of worship. For example, there were restrictions on the reparation of old churches and the building of new ones, as well as other matters such as: testifying in court, public conduct, adoption, inheritance, public religious activities, and dress codes. Slowly but steadily, by the end of the 12th century, the face of Egypt changed from being a predominantly Christian, to a predominantly Muslim country. The Coptic community occupied an inferior position and lived in some expectation of Muslim hostility, which periodically flared into violence.

The position of the Copts began to improve early in the 19th century under the stability and tolerance of the Mohammed Ali dynasty. The Coptic community ceased to be regarded by the state as an administrative unit. In 1855 AD, the main mark of the Copt’s inferiority, namely the “jizya” tax was lifted, shortly thereafter, the Copts started to serve in the Egyptian army. The 1919 AD Revolution in Egypt witnesses to the harmony of Egypt’s modern society. Today it is this harmony which keeps the Egyptian society united against the religious intolerance of extremist groups, who inflict upon the Copts persecution, terror, and violence.

Throughout its persecution, the Coptic Church has never been controlled, or allowed itself to control, the governments of Egypt. This position of the Church concerning the separation between State and Religion stems from the words of our Lord Himself, Who says, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” (Matthew 22:21).

Regardless of all the centuries of persecution which the Coptic Church has lived, it has never forcefully resisted authorities or invaders and was never allied with any power, for the words of our Lord are clear “Put your sword in its place for all who take by the sword will perish by the sword” (Matthew 26:52), while at the same time we are taught that our strength and success lie in our spiritual lives, which will lead us to an everlasting life in the Kingdom of God.

.::Salah El Din::.

.::Salah El Din - Entering Egypt With Saracen Cavalry::.