Available languages:
Carta di credito
Religion and Society

The Vizier and the Bishop Face to Face about the Trinity

The text of the impassioned and no-allowances-made conversation between Abū ’l-Qāsim al-Maghribī and Elias, a monk and bishop of Nisibis, reveals the depth that a dialogue on fundamental theological issues can achieve. And it permits us to understand the precious role played by Christian theologians and philosophers who were able to explain their own faith, also by having recourse to Islam’s categories of thought. A role of mediators that, with the Christians’ exodus from the Middle East, risks being lost forever1.

To him who is sincere in his creed and his religion, to him who expends his earthly life generously in search of the other life, to the great and illustrious brother, favoured by God, Abū ’l-‘Alā’ Sā‘id Ibn Sahl2 (may God prolong his life and continue to give him strength and support, happiness and success!), from the sinner Elias, servant of Our Lord’s church in Nisibis.



I greet you in peace, especially remembering you in my prayers and begging the Most High to keep you well and safe from all evil. I had sent you (may God continue to preserve you!) a work of mine in which I recounted to you the conversations that I had in the presence of the vizier Abū l-Qāsim Ibn ‘Alī al-Maghribī – may God have mercy on him. I had noted down for you in general terms what had occurred during each one of them, in order then to explain it to you in detail when it became possible, so that you might acquaint yourself with the details, since I am well aware of your ardent desire to do so. However, since this has not yet occurred, for a reason not unknown to you, I will explain to you now, in this letter, what happened during each conversation, so that you may get acquainted with the facts, in accordance with the will of the Most High.



Buy a copy if you want to read all the articles. If you want to subscribe click here.



1A critical edition of the whole Book of Dialogues does not yet exist. For the introduction and the first conversation, the critical Arabic text established by Samir Khalil Samir, “Entretien d’Élie de Nisibe avec le vizir Ibn ‘Alī al-Maġribī sur l’Unité et la Trinité,” Islamochristiana, 5 (1979), pp. 31-117, has been followed. For the fifth dialogue, on the other hand, reference has been made to the non-critical edition by Louis Cheikho, Al-Mashriq, 20 (1922), pp. 270-272. As Samir has demonstrated, Cheikho based his edition on some late Melchite manuscripts that have been reworked in several places for stylistic and theological reasons. The translation is by Martino Diez.


2This is Elias’s older brother.

Stay up to date: sign up for our newsletter

For insights and analysis subscribe to our biannual journal