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WHY COPTS BECOME MUSLIMS BY QUMMUS SERGIUS لماذا يسلم الأقباط بقلم القمص سرجيوس

July 3, 2012

I publish herewith a report written by the famed Rev. Qummus (Archpriest) Sergius قمص سرجيوس which, as it looks, he had been invited to write by the Coptic Patriarch John XIX (1928–1942),  the President of the Coptic Lay Council (Maglis il Milli), and its Deputy and Members. It appears that these requested him to study and list the causes that led Coptic Christians to abandon their religion and convert to Islam. This is a problem that has been of great concern to the Coptic Church ever since the Muslim Arabs occupied Egypt in 641 AD. At the time of the Arab Conquest almost all Egyptians were Christians – the overwhelming majority of them being Copts (that is the descendants of the ancient Egyptians who became Christians early in our common era). Gradually Copts dwindled in number, while Muslims multiplied – many of the Muslims came from converted Copts (masalima) – so, with time, the Copts became a minority in Egypt, now forming just around 15% of the total Egyptian population.[1]


Figure 1: Qummus Sergius (1882-1964)

Qummus Sergius (1882 – 1964) was well placed to compile a report on the reasons that pushed the Copts to change their religion to Islam.  He came from a family rooted in priesthood (both his father and grandfather were priests in the Coptic Orthodox Church). After graduation from the Clerical School (al-madrassa al-ikli’ree’kiyya) in Cairo in 1903, he was ordained priest in 1904 at Mallawi, a small town near Asyut in Upper Egypt. He worked after that in churches at Fayum and Zagazig before he was consecrated in 1907 to the order of archpriest (qummus).[2] Between 1907 and 1912 he worked as secretary (wakeel) for the large Bishopric of Asyut.

Then, in 1912, he was sent by Patriarch Cyril V (1874–1927) to be secretary for the Bishopric of Khartoum, in Sudan. It is said that he started his struggle against the British occupation of both Sudan and Egypt then; but it is not clear as to the trigger behind that, particularly in that early period.[3] There, we are told, he issued a magazine by the title of Al Manara al Misriah in whichhe urged Muslims and Christians to unite against the British. Fed up with his activities, the British ordered his return on 16 May 1915 to Egypt, during WWII. When the 1919 Egyptian Revolution against the British erupted, he joined it, agitating for Egypt’s independence. He earned the name of khateeb al-thaw’ra (speaker of the revolution) due to the fiery addresses he was known to have delivered during the revolution.

But Qummus Sergius, as with so many Copts who had joined the 1919 Egyptian Revolution hoping for a new Egypt where an Egyptian bond of patriotism would replace religious ties, was soon to be disillusioned and disappointed. Their hopes were shattered as early as the late 1920s;[4] but more so since the middle of the 1930s when the nasty head of Islamism[5] started to re-emerge again in Egyptian politics, encouraged by unscrupulous politicians, many Muslim intellectuals (who previously expressed liberal views), and the media. This was particularly noticeable after King Farouk was installed monarch on 28 April 1936,[6] and the signing of the Anglo-Egyptian treaty on 26 august 1936.[7] Pressure was felt by Copts everywhere; and many of them regretted that they had given their assistance to the Muslims of Egypt to get rid of the British whose rule had been generally very good for the Copts (and Egypt).[8] In a word, the Copts felt cheated by the Muslims. Under renewed and increasing pressure, it appears that the rate of Coptic conversion to Islam started to show signs of increasing as it often did in similar circumstances.

It is during that period, in 1936, that Qummus Sergius wrote his report in Al Manara al Misriah in which he studied the various drivers for the Islamisation of some Copts, and which was translated into English by one E. S. Parry,[9] and published in The Muslim World (Vol. 26, Issue 4, pp. 372-379), October 1936.[10]  Although written more than seventy years ago, it is still pertinent to our time, and echoes some of the leading causes of conversion to Islam in the 21st century.

The reasons for Coptic conversion to Islam varied throughout history, and included coercion, association, calculation, resignation, and conviction.[11] Conversion to Islam through conviction is rare; with other causes predominating, and some of them acquiring increasing importance with time:

  • Coercion – this has been the main cause for conversion to Islam at all times, whether it revealed itself in naked persecution, such as at the times of the Fatimid caliph al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah (996-1020)[12] and the Bahri (Turkic) Mameluke dynasty (1250-1382)[13]; or, in increasing taxes;[14] or, as in modern times, in discrimination in employment, education, etc.  [See QS’s[15] cause no. 2 and 5]
  • Calculation – triggered and encouraged by the financial inducements and promises that are offered by the Muslim society and state to those who would convert to Islam. This includes tax relief[16], offers of jobs, monetary rewards, marriages, and public celebration of the conversion. [See QS’s cause no. 3 and 5]
  • Resignation – they resign their Christian faith, not because they are convinced by Islam, but because they conceive themselves to have been aggrieved, rightly or wrongly, by the Church and Coptic society, and because Islam offers them some sort of escape by which they seek to change or manipulate the conflict situation to their advantage.[17]  [See QS’s cause no. 4, 6, 7 and 8]
  • Association – this has been a major cause, though it works in a subtle way. Copts live in a Muslim dominant country, where the tenets of Islam are displayed everywhere, and one cannot escape from its different manifestations and practices, particularly in villages and small towns.  This no doubt is the result of the Copts’ nincompoopery[18] which allowed them to give up their country in the first place to Arab invaders, since they saw themselves as Church only, and were not bothered by the loss of their national independence. The loss of our language in the Middle Ages, which was inevitable, was followed soon on its heels by the loss of our culture and religious knowledge. This is what the Apocalypse of Samuel had tried to warn us about;[19] and it is what Severus of Ashmunin had described in his book Kitab al-Idah[20] – so, with time, Copts fell victims to a process of Islamic culturalisation[21] as they lost their culture, of which religion forms an important part. The outcome of this process is the shifting of so many Copts to a border zone where Copts became almost Muslims except by name – a “state of religious and national limbus”,[22] as I would call it. Once there, a Copt could easily be pushed over to Islam when outward circumstances would arise, triggering a change in religion. [See QS’s cause no. 1]

This state of religious and national limbus is the responsibility of the Copts themselves, as Qumus Sergius clearly indicates. As a nation, we are responsible for the loss of our national sovereignty and our language, which reduced us to national and cultural state of subservience. But beyond this and that, every individual Copt is responsible for the current situation. Copts have neglected the knowledge of their religion and culture; and parents, both father and mother, are often ignorant of their rich heritage, so they cannot possibly impart it to their children. But, above all, it seems from Qummus Sergius’s report, that the Church and the institutions of the Coptic community, such as its schools and lay councils, bear most of the responsibility. He criticises strongly the ignorance, neglect, greed, and incompetence of Coptic schools, priests and bishops.  The fundamental cause that works at the root of all other causes for conversion of Copts, as he tells us, is the widespread ignorance of the Copts of their Christian faith – which is multifactorial in its aetiology. The Coptic nationalists could not agree more; but they add to religious ignorance the weakness in the Copts’ national sentiment, for staying Christian is not just a religious choice but a national matter too. An Irish man or woman do not abandon their Irish national identity, culture and allegiance if they disagree with the Catholic Church – in a like manner, Copts should not abandon their nation if they cease to believe in the Coptic Orthodox Church. Anyway, Qummus Sergius is absolutely right in his own way; and he identifies a few things that could improve the religious education of the Copts. Some of these have already been picked on by the Coptic Church – we now have a widespread net of Christian churches, ministries, Sunday schools, charities, social clubs, etc., that plays a crucial role in the ‘Christianisation’ of the Copts.[23]

But the problem of conversion of Copts to Islam has not been stemmed out completely – it is still a reality with us; and we continue to witness Copts changing their religion, weakening our community and haemorrhaging its resources. Some of the conversion to Islam causes, such as resignation, have recently topped up the list, particularly following conflicts over divorce. Copts must study these causes very carefully, and seek solutions to address them. In his report, Qummus Sergius mentions specific situations related to marital conflicts that often lead some Copts to embrace Islam in order to escape alimony[24], ‘obedience’[25], the injustice in some verdicts[26], and the banning of re-opening of divorce cases once a previous appeal had failed, even if fresh evidence emerge. This must be particularly reviewed by Copts.

Changing religion, in the context of the Copts and their history, which is characterised by Muslim occupation and oppression, is not simply an exercise in religious freedom – it is a change in one’s identity, allegiance and ‘nationhood’. Although not always, it has often been the case that once a Copt changes his colours, he goes to the other camp, joining in the persecution of his past people – this is an act of changing one’s religious and national tags, both at the same time. The question “Why do Copts become Muslims?”, which Qumus Sergius tries to answer in his report, therefore, must concern Coptic nationalists for as much as it matters to Coptic Church ecclesiastics; and hence the publication of his report here.

Dioscorus Boles






(Translated by E. S. Parry from Al Manara al Misriah, Cairo.)

To their Excellencies, His Holiness the Patriarch, the President, the Wakeel and Members of the General Maglis il Milli.

I felt much honored when I received your invitation to write a report on the reasons which lead Copts to abandon their Christian religion and also to suggest possible remedies for this grievous situation.

The present state of affairs is most critical, since if it should continue for long, there is a terrible fate in store for Coptic Christianity, which has survived to this day in spite of the persecutions of past centuries. I felt bound to consult all the doctors who had knowledge of the disease and were able to prescribe the remedy, but in writing my report I do not suggest that I have embraced the whole subject. My object is rather to encourage the pens of others and to rouse their minds so that the subject can be treated more fully. The pages of my magazine will serve as a forum for diagnosis and investigation, so that when numerous other opinions have been collected and new causes have been discovered, we may offer them to your Excellencies. So I offer my report to your Excellencies and to those Copts who are zealous for the welfare of the Coptic Church, that it may serve as a basis for discussion and consideration by writers and preachers.

The reasons which lead to the abandonment of the Christian faith.

1. The fundamental reason which leads Copts to abandon their Christian faith, and upon which all the others depend, is their widespread ignorance of this Christian faith; their failure to refresh their souls upon the fertile pastures of the Gospel, and the lack of good teachers, preachers and pastors. Thus, left to themselves as a field for Satan, they grow up without help from a gardener. The child grows up in an atmosphere devoid of religious influences. He finds nothing to satisfy his religious instincts: Christianity and its virtues are not imprinted upon his soul: no example is set in the home, and the child is deprived of Christian influences because his parents are more ignorant than the ignorant! The child is doubly removed from the knowledge and influence of religion because the parents have not themselves received anything which they can hand on to their children.

The schools are deprived of Christian instruction: there is no difference between the Government and Coptic schools. For a long time I have heard pupils of the Government schools say that Coptic teachers who are paid to give religious instruction find in this lesson period the most favorable opportunity for marking exercise-books. They leave their pupils to read a religious book, an unprofitable exercise. In addition, these teachers have no religious knowledge and do not possess any certificate authorizing them to teach religion, in contrast to the Catholic Fathers who forbid anyone to teach the Christian religion unless he has taken a detailed examination and obtained a certificate from the Church. The Coptic schools are not interested in this religious lesson, although money is provided from Waqf funds for this purpose. In order, however, to obtain the assistance of the Ministry of Education they are much more concerned with the teaching of the Koran in accordance with the program of the Ministry of Education, which takes every care to see that its syllabus is followed. Inspect any school, even the most important, and you will find this glaring deficiency.

None of the churches in the country, except a few which can be counted on the fingers of one hand, have sermons, teaching or Sunday Schools. In church, worshippers hear nothing except the Mass, which the priest reads inaudibly and in an unknown language. The Mass is not of itself sufficient to inspire men with knowledge and piety. If it were, there would have been no reason for the early fathers of the Church to order exposition of Holy Scripture and sermons to be read at the time of worship, both at the reading of the Gospel and after the Mass at the Distribution. These written sermons, however, have become dead and unsuitable to the modern outlook. Our brother Moslems have felt the barrenness of the Khutba and written sermon and have abandoned them in favor of the extempore sermon which is more compatible with the spirit of the age. They have increased the number of preachers, both local and itinerant, and in this matter have advanced far beyond us. Yes, they have advanced, we have stayed behind.

In spite of diminishing numbers, you may see Coptic clergy crowding together in the towns and big cities of the country. They do not turn their faces towards the villages and small country towns which have no places of worship, as apparently they do not find there a suitable setting for their great thoughts and high-flown language! While hundreds of villages are deprived of their ministrations, you may see them crowding in a street of Cairo, quarrelling.

Although we blame them, perhaps they have their excuse. Perhaps their excuse springs from their necessity; for they suppose that their livelihood can only be obtained in the chief towns, the Mudariyas and the Muhafizas, where there are many notables and Government employees.

There is a large number of Coptic clergy, but even if there are to be found among them a few who are capable and active in pastoral work, the majority of them are as much in need of teaching and education as the people themselves. Moreover, they are left free without episcopal oversight to choose a sphere of work where they find the greatest material advantage. They leave the homes and families unvisited, even the sick, and only enter these homes when requested for a funeral or a wedding.

It is obvious that the Copts do not live isolated from their Moslem fellow-countrymen, but mingle with them considerably. Especially is this the case in the country towns and villages where the Copt grows up without finding a priest to guide him or instruct him in the Christian religion; where there is no church to which he can go; his mother cannot teach him the principles of his religion, nor his father remind him of his faith. On the other hand, he sees his brother Moslem fasting, praying, sounding the call to prayer, performing the Zikr and filling the atmosphere around with the signs of the Moslem faith. Man is born religious and by nature inclines to religion. And so the Copt in whose mind the seeds of Christianity have not been sown and upon whom the virtues, worship and ethics of Christianity have had no effect, is impressed easily by the Moslem religion. His environment works upon him with a subtle influence, so that for all practical purposes he becomes a Moslem, until outward circumstances arise which force him to become one in name also. How strong these circumstances are which lead the Copt to embrace Islam we are attempting to show in this article.

2. The small number of Copts in the majority of villages and country towns, and their open persecution as a weak minority, make the Copt feel that his property, dignity and life are threatened. Denied of his rights, he has no stability, his ignorance debars him from Christian influences and, thus, he loses the courage to hold fast to his ancient heritage. He finds no way of escape from this state of affairs except by joining the majority and so preserving his property, self-respect and life; obtaining rest for his mind and freedom from distress and persecution, about which I have often written at length in this magazine, and to which I have frequently drawn the attention of the Government authorities.

3. The small number of Copts in the majority of country towns and villages, where often only two or three Christian families are to be found, is an important reason why many Coptic women forsake Christianity. The Christian girl or widow cannot find in the village any Christian to marry. Since her natural instincts require satisfaction, when she needs a husband, she can only find a Moslem, whose very nature and beliefs cause him to lead her on. It is not long before she throws herself into his arms, submitting to his will, and he hastens with her to the Markaz or to the Government Mudariyas or to the Muhaiza to make the official declaration of change of faith. She knows nothing about Islam except that it is a religion by which she gains a husband and through which she satisfies her natural instincts.

4. Some of those men and women who do not find satisfaction for their desires in marriage, seek an escape from the marriage tie in order to obtain what they consider to be liberty to enjoy all the desires of the flesh. They have recourse to the local Muglis, threatening to embrace Islam, and if a divorce is not granted them by this Muglis they become Moslems. All this can be traced to their ignorance of religion and its origins, to lack of teaching and guidance, even as the prophet said, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.”

5. The difficulty of obtaining a livelihood is another reason why many Copts become Moslems. Some hope that the Church will give them the financial assistance they need. Others think that by embracing Islam they will obtain a Government post and be relieved of financial distress in order to prevent this. Especially is this the case for the Copt who has endeavored to get a Government appointment but has been refused in spite of having all the necessary qualifications, through having been so unlucky as to fall into the hands of an official who does not know the meaning of citizenship. This official asks him his name and the name of his father and grandfather. The three names indicate the Copt’s religion to the official, who unfeelingly replies to him, “Go, no work for you”. The Copt, realizing that his religion is a stumbling-block in the way of obtaining employment, abandons what hinders his interests and causes him to lose his national rights, and deliberately embraces Islam, by which he regains his lost rights. People do not forget what the Moslem newspapers have openly published about those Copts who, by embracing Islam, have obtained posts in the Government. Recently there have arisen Moslem societies which openly publish accounts showing numerous sums spent to help Copts who have embraced Islam. Because of their crass ignorance and poverty, many Copts eagerly swallow this bait, the price of their embracing Islam, and continue Moslems outwardly to secure this assistance. This is proved by the fact that if the financial help is cut off, they return to the Church weeping and penitent.

6. Another cause which forces Copts to embrace Islam is the attempt to escape from the payment of alimony or from the burden of family responsibility; and in the case of a woman who loves a life of freedom, from “obedience” (the technical term used in cases where a wife has been ordered by the courts to live with her husband). Here allow me to draw the attention of your Excellencies to the fact that the Maglises are in a special way responsible for this state of affairs. Some of the Muglises are too hasty in passing judgment in cases of alimony or obedience. At such a time the married couple are in a very emotional state as a result of their quarrelling. The one against whom judgment is delivered goes away angry and determined to get free from a religion which has given authority to a Maglis to pass a judgment which he considers unjust.

7. I hope you will pardon me if I speak openly. My only excuse is loyalty to my work and compassion for the people whom the Muglis represents. Another cause which leads Copts to embrace Islam is the injustice of some of the verdicts issued. The judgments of the Maglis are criticized on various grounds, eg., that the Maglis has been influenced by considerations of the reputation of the family of one of the parties concerned and has neglected to pay due attention to the evidence offered by the other party. Or again, the examiner in the Maglis has neglected to put on record the words of one of the parties, which, had they been entered in the minutes, would have proved sufficiently the truth of his position. In suppressing these words the member of the Maglis has no doubt acted with the best intentions. He probably thinks that the matter will end in a reconciliation and therefore there is no need for him to record all the evidence, but when a reconciliation does not follow, the person whose statements have not been recorded feels injured. Again, sometimes the man will offer to the Maglis evidence against his wife, letters and pictures of which he disapproves, but which the Maglis with a more “modern” tolerant attitude passes over. The husband goes away with feelings of hostility towards a religion whose judicial officers condone such behaviour … Again, often when a man comes seeking for a divorce from his wife, but has not collected sufficient evidence, the judge will order him to pay alimony. The Maglis has the best intentions and hopes that this judgment will force a reconciliation and make the husband willing to drop divorce proceedings. Its members fail to understand that by ordering payment of alimony they are encouraging the wife to continue in her bad behavior and giving her greater freedom. She has more money to spend upon her fancies; or, maybe, her people appreciate having the money and encourage her to continue defying her husband. They quote the proverb, “The one who supports us may God keep him unhappy!” The Maglis is again acting with the best intentions, but it does not foresee what suffering this judgment may cause to the husband. The Maglis is satisfied as long as the wife gets her money. But the husband sees his wife in the arms of another; he cannot produce the evidence for divorce; he is paying for the support of her lover. He is reduced to a state of abject misery and seeks a way of escape by becoming a Moslem, thus avoiding the payment of alimony, procuring his divorce and obtaining freedom to marry again.

8. The judgment of the Maglis is made final when it sits as an Appeal Court, so that whenever those against whom judgment is given have recourse once more to the Maglis and request that the judgment be reconsidered, the Maglis says that it is not possible for the case to be reconsidered nor a request to be entertained, nor . . . nor . . . so long as the case has been considered by the Court of Appeal. This puts despair into the hearts of those who have lost their case, especially those who are unable to make clear the injustice they have suffered or to establish their rights. They leave the Maglis in a state of desperation, and rush headlong to Islam, which offers them an escape from an intolerable position.

[1] The exact number of the Copts remains a mystery as the census figures are suspect.

[2] Hegumen (from the Greek hegumenus). In Arabic it is kommos (or qummus), which is a derivative from the Greek ighoumenos. In the Coptic Church it always meant archpriest; however, in other Eastern Christianity Churches, it is often used to donate the head of monastery.

[3] The opinion of the Copts in the British started to shale after the appointment of Eldon Gorst (1907-1911) as Consul-General in Egypt. Copts accused him of favouritism to the Muslims in order to appease the majority.

[4] The parliamentary elections in 1928 and after that were marred by strong anti-Coptic propaganda.  For that, the reader will be advised to read: Barbara Lynn Carter, The Copts in Egyptian Politics (1986).

[5] Islamism is the ideology of the Islamists; i.e. of Political Islam.

[6] King Farouk wooed the Muslim Brotherhood, which was formed in 1928, and other Islamist groups, to strengthen his hand against the secular party at the time, al-Wafd. Farouk was helped in his Islamist leanings and policies at the time by the trio of Ahmed Hassanein, Ali Maher and Sheikh Al-Maraghi.

[7] The Anglo-Egyptian treaty in 1936 stipulated the withdrawal of British troops from Egypt, except around 10,000 to protect the Suez Canal. There is no mention of ‘protection of minorities’ in that treaty, which formed part of Britain’s concern in the past.

[8] A subject which has often been treated as taboo. We shall return to that in time.

[9] Regrettably, I could not identify E. S. Parry more. I have not found a biography for him or her.

[10] The date of the original publication of Qummus Sergius in Al Manara al Misriah is unknown to me; however, I suspect it was not a long time before the English translation was published.

[11] See Mark N. Swanson, The Coptic Papacy in Islamic Egypt 641-1517 (Cairo, The American University in Cairo Press, 2010); p. 114. See also pp. 20, 38-40, 54, 69, 72-73, 78, 100-103, 111, 113, and 114-115.

[12] The Coptic Papacy in Islamic Egypt 641-1517; p. 54.

[13] Ibid; pp. 101-103.

[14] A common occurrence in Coptic history. See, e.g., the Bashmuric tax revolt of 831 AD (The Coptic Papacy in Islamic Egypt 641-1517; pp. 21, 33, 36.

[15] QS refers to Qummus Sergius.

[16] Such as when Hafs ibn al-Walid, Egypt’s ruler (744-745) proclaimed that converts to Islam would be exempted from the jizyah, which led to 24,000 Copts renouncing their faith to escape the harsh taxation. See: The Coptic Papacy in Islamic Egypt 641-1517; p. 20.

[17] See, e.g., the case of Abu l-Yumn Yahya ibn al-‘Ubaydi, who converted to Islam during the patriarchate of Gabriel II (1131-1145) to keep a monastery he had claimed as his. See: The Coptic Papacy in Islamic Egypt 641-1517; p. 70.

[18] “Nincompoopery”; i.e., stupidity, imbecility. For more on that, the reader can go to to read Egypt’s National Nincompoopery (Dioscorus Boles, 21 May 2012).

[19] See: The Coptic Papacy in Islamic Egypt 641-1517; pp. 59-61.

[20] See: The Coptic Papacy in Islamic Egypt 641-1517; p. 73.

[21] Islamic culturalisation, or Islamic assimilation, is the process by which Copts, as individuals or collectively, consciously or subconsciously, abandoned their traditions, customs, behaviours, etc. – or in one word their culture – and acquired parts of Islamic culture to which influence they have been exposed.

[22] Limbus is a latin word from which the English ‘limbo’ has been derived. In Latin it means border. In English it means, amongst others, a : a place or state of restraint or confinement b : a place or state of neglect or oblivion c : an intermediate or transitional place or state d : a state of uncertainty (see Merriam-Webster Dictionary).

[23] By the word ‘Christianisation’ I mean installing Christian knowledge in the hearts and minds of the Copts.

[24] Alimony (nafaqqa) is husband’s provision for a spouse after separation or divorce, ordered by a Coptic Lay Council (what Qummus Sergius calls Maglis).

[25] Obedience (ta’ ‘aa) is as E. S. Parry has explained in the translation, the technical term used in cases where a wife has been ordered by the courts to live with her husband.

[26] Such as favouritism to rich and influential families; or failure to include the full statement of one partner in the divorce conflict in the court proceedings.

12 Comments leave one →
  1. July 4, 2012 2:37 pm

    Very interesting post, thank you for enlightening me on this subject.
    I’ll put a link to this important post on my blog.

  2. Dioscorus Boles permalink
    July 5, 2012 1:11 pm

    Thank you, Will.

    • Bill Ludwig permalink
      July 30, 2012 1:41 am

      Sir, thank you for your interesting blog.

      I am interested in Egyptian history and stumbled upon your blog while researching the Fatimid rule in Egypt. I just have several observations:

      One cannot help but notice this underlying, sometimes blatant, hatred between Christian and Egyptian Muslims. Some Christians even claim that their fellow Muslim countrymen are not Egyptian but Arabs. This hatred renders cynicism to the objectivity of many arguments.

      Egyptian Christians claim to be the direct descendants of the ancient Egyptians, whatever that means, when in fact several other ethnicities and identities lived and intermixed with the Egyptians throughout the course of History. The Hittites, Libyans, Nubians, Ptolemaics, Romans and many others have occupied and mingled with Egyptians before the advent of Islam. In fact, the Coptic language which is a descendant of hieratic/demotic uses the Greek alphabet and only some demotic script to represent Egyptian sounds (talk about a change of identity in Egypt).

      Using the logic presented here in many articles of this blog one can argue that even Christianity in Egypt is an imposter on Egyptian culture! After all, this is a religion that emerged in present day Israel/Palestine came to Egypt and changed its identity!

  3. Mina permalink
    March 17, 2013 10:51 pm

    Dear Dr. Dioscorus Boles:

    I don’t know your contact information, so I thought it best to post here under this article. Two days ago, the Coptic Church commemorated the martyrdom of a certain “Dioscorus”, who upon leaving Christianity for Islam received a scathing letter from his sister never wanting to do anything with him again. In reaction to the letter, he wept bitterly and repented, returning to Christianity, and upon doing so, was martyred by the Muslim government.

    I thought to come to you perhaps for this. I was wondering if you know when exactly did this person live, and is there a much fuller story of his life? All the information I can find about him only exists in the Synexarium, with no date of his martyrdom, except “the time of the Arabs”, which doesn’t seem to help much.

    Thank you!


    • Mina permalink
      March 17, 2013 11:01 pm

      I wanted to add one more detail that I just found out right now. In the Ethiopian Synexarium, which seems to have preserved a much more ancient list of Coptic saints (including St. Gregory Nazienzen the Theologian, which is surprisingly not listed at all in the present Coptic Synexarium) has it as “in the days of the reign of the successors of Muhammad the prophet”. That might be a clue to an early Islamic period maybe?

      • Dioscorus Boles permalink*
        March 18, 2013 1:37 pm

        Hi, Mina. Unfortunately there isn’t much in Coptic or Ethiopian sources to add to the story of the martyrdom of St. Dioscorus, which the Coptic Church commemorates his martyrdom on 6 Baramhat, and which is recorded briefly in the Synaxarium. The statement in the Synaxarius that the martyrdom happened at the time of the Arabs or the successors of Muhammad does make one thinks about an early Islamic event. However, the reference to “malik Egypt (King of Egypt)”, and also the story of conversion and reconversion and the procedure followed in his trial point to a later martyrdom, possibly during the Ayyubid or Mameluke periods. It does look similar, despite its brevity, to the stories of the Neo-Martyrs, St. John of Phanijoit in the early thirteenth century during the kingdom of al-Malik al-Kamil, and that of St. Salib in 1512 at the end of the Bahriya Mameluke period, and just before the start of the Ottoman period in 1517.
        With more search we may find more about the martyrdom of St. Dioscorus in Muslim sources.

      • Dioscorus Boles permalink*
        March 19, 2013 1:57 am

        And I must add here a note: many Copts did not care about anchoring an event in history, and simply recorded an even in terms of days and months, without adding an year of any dating system to their timing. I really can’t undetstand how their minds worked. By this inadequate way of dating, we lost the means of studying important events in Coptic history and putting them in their real historical place. The Coptic martyrdom of Dioscorus after the Arab invasion (there is another martyr by the same name during Diocletian times) is just one example. We know he was martyred on 6 Baramhat but as no year is given, we don’t know in what era or during whose rule or patriarchate he was martyred.

      • Mina permalink
        March 19, 2013 2:51 am

        I think you will appreciate the humor in this. I was searching for more information on the martyr St Dioscorus, which lead me to an OCA website about the martyr of the same name in Diocletian’s time. The icon displayed however is that Coptic Icon of “Pensakh Dioscorus” ;-)…check it out quickly before they decide to remove it:

      • Dioscorus Boles permalink*
        March 19, 2013 12:09 pm

        😀 ioscorus

  4. rising warrior permalink
    December 20, 2013 9:37 pm

    It is very much the fault of the Coptic community for why some Copts leave there original Christianity. Some Copts cannot bear going to Church and having to deal with sorry to say but bitchy behaviour. I’m sure we have all experienced this, i personally know some Copts who have become Jehovah’s witness because they were not happy with the priests and the community.



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