Dulce et Decorum

“In 19 AH (640 A.D.) Umar, the Khalifa, dispatched an army to fight against the Byzantines. In it was Abdullah ibn  Hudhafah. News of the Muslim force reached the Byzantine emperor. He had heard of their sincerity of faith, and their  willingness to sacrifice their lives in the way of God and His Prophet. He gave orders to his men to bring to him any Muslim  captive they might take alive.

Abdullah ibn Hudhafah fell captive to the Byzantines and he was brought before the Emperor. The  Emperor looked at Abdullah for a long time. He said, “I shall make a proposal to you.”

“What is it?” asked Abdullah. “I suggest that you become a Christian. If you do this, you will be set free and I shall grant you a safe refuge.” The prisoner’s reaction was: “Death is preferable to me a thousand times to what you ask me to do.”

“I see that you are a bold man. However, if you respond positively to what I propose to you, I will give you a share in my  authority and swear you in as my aide.”

The prisoner, in his chains, smiled and said, “By God, if you give me all that you possess and all that the Arabs have  in exchange for giving up the religion of Muhammad, I shall not do so.”

“Then I shall kill you.”

“Do what you want,” answered Abdullah.

The emperor then had him put on a cross and ordered his soldiers to throw spears at him, first near his hands and then near  his feet, all the while telling him to accept Christianity or at least give up his religion. This he refused over and over again to  do.

The emperor ordered that he be taken down from the wooden cross. He called for a great cauldron to be brought. This was filled with oil  which was then heated by a fierce fire. He had two other Muslim prisoners brought and had one of them thrown into  the boiling oil. The prisoner’s flesh sizzled and soon his bones could be seen. The emperor turned to Abdullah and invited him  to Christianity.

This was the most terrible test that Abdullah had to face up till now. But he remained firm and the emperor gave up trying.  He then ordered that Abdullah too be thrown into the pot. As he was being taken away he began to shed tears. The  emperor thought that he had at last been broken and had him brought back to him. He once more suggested that Abdullah  become a Christian but to his astonishment, Abdullah refused.

“Damn you! Why did you weep then?” shouted the emperor.

“I cried,” said Abdullah, “because I said to myself ‘You will now be thrown into this pot and your soul will depart’. What I  really desired then was to have as many souls as the number of hairs on my body and to have all of them thrown into this  pot for the sake of God.”

The tyrant then said, “Will you kiss my head? I will then set you free?”

“And all the Muslim prisoners also?” asked Abdullah.

The emperor agreed  and Abdullah said to himself, “One of the enemies of God! I shall kiss his head and he shall  set me and all other Muslim prisoners free. There can be no blame on me for doing this.” He then went up to the emperor  and kissed his forehead. All the Muslim prisoners were released and handed over to Abdullah.”



Over a thousand years later, a similar story:

“Nathan Hale, born in Connecticut on the 6th of June, 1755, was a school teacher who graduated from Yale College.  He left his teaching position, to aid the war effort, after he learned about the battles at Lexington and Concord.

During the New York battles, General Washington needed someone to find out what was going on behind enemy lines.  Nathan Hale volunteered, disguising himself as a Dutch teacher in search of work.

In September of 1776, Hale gathered information (including British troop locations).  Before he could provide the materials to General Washington, the patriot was captured on September 21st.  General Howe ordered his hanging the next day.  It may be that his Loyalist cousin, Samuel Hale, gave him up.  It may be that he was hoodwinked by Major Robert Rogers.

As he walked to the gallows (believed to have been erected near 63rd Street and First Avenue in today’s New York City), 21-year-old Hale reportedly said: “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.”  (No first-hand accounts survive of witnesses who heard him say those words.)  He died less than three months after the Declaration of Independence was adopted.”



Both of these men, Abdullah ibn Hudhafah and Nathan Hale are heroes to me. I may never be put in a position where I decide to give my life for a cause, but like most of us, I fight little battles every day. I hope I can remember these two beautiful examples when I face a challenge to my integrity.

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