Saint women of the Orthodox Church and Islam
In the recent years due to the increased migration and not less strong proselytism many of us have found ourselves if not in Moslem environment but at least with many Moslem neighbours. Those neighbours as all people are different but as a rule they don’t hide their faith, their conviction in its superiority and rather often take attempts to make people acquainted with it.
Alas, such a sad event when, baptized in the Orthodox church girls and women, get married Moslems and some of them even adopt Islam, happen rather often. Those who do not adopt it personally have to be prepared to their children becoming Moslems – such are laws of Islam. And as shows the practice it results in the family misfortune, sufferings and grief of those women.
If to contemplate, it is not surprising. Not by mere chance the church forbids to marry those belonging to different faith. Such marriage will not be consecrated by the church canons, hence, blessed by God, also the main thing is that in its essence the married couple should be single in everything. It is a natural law and desire of human souls. But if such unity is missing in the most essential thing – faith – it will not be present in other things. In the beginning it can be easily disguised with mutual affection, but without the real unity as grounds, the affection is fading away fast and the inner discord inevitably shows up on the surface and under this or that pretext it will start darkening the relations, with time more and more.
Some unhappy women, realizing this by intuition, adopt Islam. But, as practice shows, such a step doesn’t make the tempted women happy, as apostasy is a heavy sin which, if no repentance follows, invokes severe recompense still in this life. A lot of terrifying examples are known from the life of such "Russian Moslem women" whom their husbands threw away from homes, took away children, beat, treated as beasts. God can not be profaned: what we sow we shall mow...
Vice versa, there are cases, not numerous though, when orthodox girls succeeded in persuading their Moslem fiances to adopt the true faith. And after baptism and church wedding such marriages were very strong and happy. In this regard we will remember several cases when orthodox women, strong in faith and love for Christ, after having conflicted the Islam world, could bring the great fruit of sacredness, proving the superiority of the true faith.
Saint Argery (Argyrie)
In the early 18th century in the Oman Empire in the provincial town of Prusse there lived a beautiful Greek girl called Argery. She was brought up by pious parents and in her youth years she met her love – a kind Greek youth. They got married in the church and their honeymoon was happy. But, their Turkish neighbour was inflamed with lust towards Argery and tried with his sweet words to talk her into committing adultery in the absence of her husband. The pious wife declined his encroachments. Then the embittered Turk slandered her before the judge of Prusse by telling that she had promised to become Moslem. According to the laws of Sheriyat, a person who expressed the wish to become Moslem must adopt Islam; if he denies thereafter he must be punished: for a man – death penalty, for a woman – life imprisonment. The judge, having believed the plaintiff, immediately put Argery into prison. Her husband, wishing to avoid the biased judgment demanded its transferal to Istanbul.
But it didn’t help. Both Argery and the Turkish plaintiff came to the court of the capital and the Moslem claimed against her, giving the false evidence about her before the judge. Argery replied that she had never said anything like she was charged with and was not going to betray her faith, that she was a Christian and wanted to die as a Christian. According to the judge’s order she was beaten and thrown into prison, and sentenced to the life imprisonment.
Fear, bitter separation with her beloved husband, difficulties of imprisonment, not to say of the regular insults from her criminal Moslem neighbours. Torment of the body, of the soul, of the heart – without interruption, from day to day. And she could stop all this at any moment – once she agrees to adopt Islam...
But spiritual joy helped her to overcome the sufferings and temptations. The martyr herself exhausted her body with fasting and other kinds of abstinence as was witnessed by other Christian women who were imprisoned together with the saint and later released.
So, she laboured in the prison during seventeen years. With such joy was filled the saint’s heart because she was imprisoned for Christ, for such consolation she considered her imprisonment that when one Christian called Manuil Curtsibasis offered her freedom she refused choosing the prison better than the tsar chambers. In such a way, imprisoned for the sake of Christ, she passed away on 30th April 1725. Her holy relics were laid in the church of St. Paraskevi by the blessing of Patriarch Paisios, and till nowadays patriarchs, bishops, priests and rulers bow before them.
Among Bulgarian new martyrs stands apart a Rodopian martyr Khadijah-Maria who lived in 19th century. Born in islamized Bulgarian family, Khadijah came back to the bosom of the Orthodox Church. Baptism of Khadijah took place in the old chapel in Vylkushin hay, to keep the secret. There was a big barrel and the priest Konstantin (future bishop and metropolitan of Xanphia Illarion), who lived in Memkin house in Radkov family, baptized the girl. The new-born Christian concealed it for the whole year so that nobody would know, and she passed the candles and communion bread to the church with other people while at home she was praying and made bows.
But by word of mouth the rumour was spread all over the whole village. Women secretly called her Tijah-Maria (Tijah is the Bulgarian version of the girl’s Turkish name), because her Christian name was Maria. It became known to her fanatic brothers who came to Derekjoy, found out if it was true but she denied that she had been baptized. The next year Tijah-Maria was preparing herself for meeting Paskha: coloured the eggs, cooked the Easter cakes, made candles, kneaded dough for the Communion bread, in anticipation of the Feast. Her brothers who lived in another village came secretly in order to check the rumours. On the Maundy Thursday she came back from the church and stepped away to her neighbours, while her brothers entered her house. There they found the coloured eggs, Easter cakes, burning icon-lamp and became sure that she had become "giaour". Her brothers hid themselves in the hay. In the evening Tijah-Maria returned and, after long prayers, went to bed and fell asleep. In her sleep her embittered Moslem brothers started strangling her, when half-strangled, they filled her mouth with rags, took her out of the house and put under the big blossoming plum tree and there killed her with two shots. The next morning the women sent their children to find out what had happened in Tijah’s house. They saw her lying killed under the blossoming plum tree. There she was lying as she was for three days, – everybody was afraid to come and see that she was dead. Over her grave a rose was planted, on St. George’s Day the women sent for picking up flowers from Tijah’s coffin which they were keeping through the year for "healing".
In the same 19th century in Russia another girl was living in the Tartar family. Having learnt from missionaries about the Orthodox Faith and having loved Christ with all her heart, she decided to be baptized. Her parents however conceived to give her in marriage to a fellow-villager without asking her opinion and consent. But the love for Christ turned out to be stronger than the love for parents and on the eve of the wedding she escaped from home.
She found the shelter in a convent. There she was baptized, learnt the church canons, there, with time, she took the veil with the name Platonide. Some years later she was blessed for the hermit life, and having left for solitary places of Yekaterinburg region, in wild forests close to the town of Revda matushka Platonide laid up a cell and close to it, upon her prayers the spring burst out. There she laboured, leading her life in spiritual deeds.
Fanatic natives of Platonide were seeking for the chance to kill her but for the sake of holiness of the ascetic a bear protected her. Later the bear was killed and they succeeded in killing her with the gun as they were afraid to approach her closely. Thus for witnessing Christ the ascetic acquired the martyr’s halo.
She was buried in the place of her deeds. Her worshippers erected a chapel over matushka’s grave, which was standing until the revolution came. Her spring called by the name of Platonide became famous as wonder-working and many pilgrims before the revolution as well as in Soviet times came there to worship the martyr. Even up till nowadays cases of wonderful miracles worked through it are known. For example, last year the local newspaper informed about a little boy who lost his way in the forest, that he was found alive and sound near the spring Platonide. This is how God glorified her disciple.
Nowadays, too, many Moslem girls and women find Christ and get the same joy protecting against all burdens, as the above saints. For example, in Perm Tartar parents drove her daughter out of home because she was baptized. The Kazakh artist of culture, documentary filmmaker Elza Dilmukhammedova was converted into the Orthodox Faith. Recently Nazima Khanafi Muhammed, the direct grand-daughter of Imam Shamil, the head of Chechen people in the war against Russia in 19th century, has been converted into the Orthodoxy. Thus the power of God overcomes the human sickness and wins over all adversities.
03 / 02 / 2004
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