The scenarios that help us uncover the mysteries of the antiquities surrounding Roman Emperor Heraclius and Islam in Rome, need some tracking of the Christendom. History tells us that the tormenting tentacles of the papacy were in Nicea in 325 CE. In fact it was the Egyptian bishop Athanasius of Alexandria in the Nicene conference visualized Jesus as God and not as a Prophet that the Jewish people were looking forward to having for several centuries. The Bishops under the popes, since then, kept on getting imperial treasury and influence at the courts. The members of the Catholic clergy manipulated political authority. Rampant corruption and immorality swept those lands. Soliciting sexual favours from female penitents allured the clergies for religious power and authority.
Throughout European history, the empowerment of Christendom appears to have exceed over most political entity – democracy or kingdom alike. Even King Henry VIII was refused permission by the pope to divorce his wife. This eventually caused a severe rift in the Catholicism and helped the emergence of the Anglican Church of England, with Roman Catholic in splendour but Protestant in name.
By the end of the 15th century, the papal monasteries and convents turned into the largest landholders of Europe. The splendor of Rome grew immeasurably during the late 1400’s, and 1500’s. In fact, about half or more of France, Germany, Sweden and England had become a part of the Papal splendor and ruling arena.
As recent as the pursuance for reforming Catholicism into the existing Protestant faith, Martin Luther was at the edge of being executed. Frederick, the ruler of Saxony in Germany, was hiding Martin Luther in his palace and protected him from the summon of the pope, known as the Bull. Incidentally, some historical analysts of the present-day’s Islam trace the source of "Fatwa" to the papal ‘Bull’. A papal bull often carried public execution order for heresy. In 1520 the pope issued a Bull that forbade Martin Luther to preach. His books, containing the Christian reform movement, were burned. The ‘Bull’ of Pope Innocent III caused the massacre of 20,000 men, women and children (Albigenses) in France.
Right from the birth of Papacy to until the formation of the Protestant segment of Christianity, the popes were, in reality, more powerful than the emperors themselves. The popes’ jurisdiction, known as Christendom, extended over almost all the empires and kingdoms of Europe. In essence, the delusion of Christendom was a government dedicated to enforcement of the Christianity that was reshaped after the conference of Nicea in 325 CE.
The Jews, with much close perception of God with the Muslims, were viewed by the Medieval Christians as the allies of the Muslims. In fact, during the Arab conquest of Spain, they helped Muslim troops against the Christians. Most often the Jews rejoiced when Christian territory fell into Islamic rulers. While the Jews had difficult socio-economic status in Europe, many Jews held prominent positions in the Ottoman Empire.
Even until the First World War, the Jews had a safe-haven in the Ottoman Empire and not in other parts of Europe. Sultan Bayazid II offered shelters to Jewish refugees. The persecuted Jews of Spain got assurance and hope for their equal well-being along with the Muslims. In 1492 the Sultan ordered the governors of the Ottoman Empire to make easy entrance for the Jews in their provinces and to receive them graciously. Bernard Lewis, a British-American historian and a scholar of Middle Eastern studies, once said: "the Jews were not just permitted to settle in the Ottoman lands, but were encouraged, assisted and sometimes even compelled." For them, the lands of Islam became the lands of safety.
Having all these events and scenarios in perspective, some analytical historians believe that Emperor Heraclius was fascinated by the idea of one mighty unseen God. In fact it was not Emperor Heraclius alone who had uneasiness in recognising Jesus as God. A few centuries before his time, Porphyry, a third-century philosopher from Tyre proved on the basis of the New Testament, that Jesus did not call himself God and that he preached, not about himself, but about the one God, the God of all. In his book, Adversus Christianos (Against the Christians) he is effectively quoted as having said, "The Gods have proclaimed Christ to have been most pious, but the Christians are a confused and vicious sect." It was his followers who abandoned his teaching and introduced a new way of their own in which Jesus became the object of worship.
During the days of Prophet Muhammad in Medina, Honorius was selected as the pope of the Vatican, ruling the Christendom in 625 CE. He was informed by Patriarch Sergius of Constantinople that Emperor Heraclius, while visiting Armenia in 622 CE, used an expression to a group of Monophysites of the Severian sect. The Monophysites were then regarded as heretics by all the popes during their times.
The expression meant "One Mighty" of the Incarnate Word. Pope Honorius was aware of the emergence of Islam – believing in "One God". Consequently, the pope felt that the wisdom of "One God" may soon be strolling into the belief-guidelines of the Emperor Heraclius himself. As the faith of Catholicism was then dwindling and faced chilling questions within itself, Islam appeared as an oversized threat to Christianity.
In 628 CE, the Emperor Heraclius was in Jerusalem to celebrating his victory over the Persians. In this well-timed moment, Prophet Muhammad sent him an emissary with a letter that contained an invitation to the Emperor to embrace Islam. After ensuring that Prophet Muhammad was not trying to establish an ancestral kingdom in Arabia, he consoled the emissary with encouraging words and valuable gifts. While this incident of emissary is not seriously upheld by the Western writers, the Catholic Encyclopaedia fairly corroborates some events that echo its effects.
By about 628 C.E. the followers of Prophet Muhammad had grown much stronger than before. As a result, pope Honorius was not confident of orchestrating a warfare against the Prophet. After all it was not Jerusalem where the pope could have exercised his power of the Bull. The essence of Islamic faith, though not new, had some fundamental concurrence with the leanings of the Emperor Heraclius. Analysing rationally, the Pope rather counted on inducing distrust between Prophet Muhammad and his Jewish clans in Medina who took him as their Messiah.
Jewish traditions, enshrined by the Jewish exegetes tell us: "A Prophet is about to arise; his time draws near. We shall follow him; and then we shall slay our enemies with divine slaughter…" As the non-Jewish people of Yathrib became aware of the Prophet, "They spoke one to another –” surely we know that is the same Prophet whom the Jews told us about."
By about 630, Prophet Muhammad’s defenders had grown even stronger, and in his march towards Mecca he earned the victory. Mecca’s wealthy rulers were then obliged to donate to the well being of its poor for which the Prophet was once banished from Mecca. People in Mecca saw Prophet Muhammad’s strength as the power of his God. They, obviously, saw the other gods as powerless. Intuitively there became a mass euphoria in accepting Islam – the religion with an unseen God.
Towards the end of 638 CE, the Emperor Heraclius had issued an "Ecthesis", or exposition, counselling all his subjects to submit to "One Mighty" of the Incarnate Word. Undoubtedly this "Ecthesis" to submit to "One Mighty" intimately corroborated the essence that Prophet Muhammad once conveyed to him earlier. Perhaps Emperor Heraclius was about to approve Islamic perception of God in Rome but the time was too short for him to do so as he died in 641 CE – just 9 years after the death of Prophet Muhammad. Besides, the papal powers-tentacles were enormous for the Emperor Heraclius to handle alone.
Howard Zinn, an American writer with expertise in political science, sharply criticised the prevailing obstinacy of the readers in their approach to accepting new views in the age-old events. He wrote: "It is the guardians of the old stories, the orthodox histories, who refuse to widen the spectrum of ideas, to take in new books, new approaches, new information new views of history."
The flame of rational reasoning brings many myths to their melt-down point. Modern research indicates that the papal connivance undoubtedly tarnished the Judaeo-Islamic relations in Medina. The role of pope Honorius, though evident, was amazingly bypassed in Ibn Ishaq’s history of Islam.
Viewing through Howard Zinn’s approach, Western historians seem to have failed to read the message in between the lines surrounding the consolation that the Emperor Heraclius had offered to the emissary of Prophet Muhammad about Islam. More to the point, why an emperor would give valuable presents to a foreign emissary with conflicting faith unless the message itself concurred with his thought-pattern and was valuable to him?
- The Catholic Encyclopaedia,
- A History of God – by Karen Armstrong
- Mankind’s Search for God – by Watchtower Bible and Tract Society
- Classical Islam, a History 600 -1258 – by G.E. Von Grunebaum
- A People’s History of the United States – by Howard Zinn
- Contemporary articles in websites and newsmagazines