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Page:Early Christianity in Arabia.djvu/192

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180
EARLY CHRISTIANITY

exposed to the implacable resentment of their enemies, under the precarious protection of the court of Byzantium. In Egypt the two parties were powerful; the Melchites[1] possessed the capital, and the Copts, or Egyptian Jacobites, waged a continual but useless war from the cloisters of the Thebaid. Muhammed was perhaps well aware of the state of affairs in Egypt; at least, his invitation was directed to the Coptic primate, and not to the orthodox ruler of Alexandria. If the Egyptian Christians were unwilling to change their faith, they were not unwilling to change masters, and they expected to profit by the change. The messenger of the prophet was honourably entertained, and returned with four valuable gems, two virgins, of whom one named Mary was the mother of his son Ibrahim, a mule named Daldal, and an ass whose name was Ya'fur, as presents to his master.[2] Muhammed well knew the

  1. From continual usage the name of Melchites seems to have been applied to all who were of the party of the emperor, and a principle of the Jacobite faith seems to have been indiscriminate opposition. The difference in religious opinions between the two sects appears to have become very trifling, and to have consisted chiefly in terms and modes of expression. Amongst the principal charges against them urged by the Nestorians were, that their priests approached the altar barefooted — that they did not always receive the communion fasting — that they had many pictures in their churches — and, which was worst of all, that they placed pictures of Christ and the Virgin in their baths and other unclean places. Asseman, Bibl. Orient. tom. iii. p. 305.
  2. Abulfeda, Vit. Muham. p. 97. Gagnier, tom. ii. p. 37.