On this day also, of the year 719 A.M., the blessed Youhanna (John) Abu Nagaah El-Kabeer, was martyred. He was one of the nobel Copts in the tenth and eleventh centuries. He was the head scribe in his time, as he was the lay leader during the reign of Al-Hakim Be-Amr Ellah the Fatimid Caliph. This great elder was a contemporary to Pope Philotheos, 63rd Patriarch, who was enthroned on March 28th. 979 A.D. and departed on November 8th. 1003 A.D.
Youhanna was a devout Christian, righteous, virtuous, charitable, and loving to the church. He was zealous in the Orthodox faith. When Al-Hakim Be-Amr Ellah completed the extermination of the people close to him and the leaders of the army, he turned to the notables and chiefs of the scribes. He called ten of them and offered them to adopt Islam. Youhanna, who was their head, was called first. Al-Hakim told him: "I want you to leave your faith and adopt my faith, the Islam. I will make you my minister to manage the affairs of my kingdom." Youhanna replied saying: "Give me a chance until tomorrow to deliberate the matter with myself".
Youhanna went to his house, called his friends, informed them with what had happened, and told them: "I am ready to die in the Name of the Lord Christ, and my reason for asking for the delay, not to deliberate the matter with myself but to see you and my family, to bid you and my family farewell, and to commend you and them. Now my brothers, do not ask for this vain glory, for you will loose the eternal glory of the Lord Christ Who satisfied us with the richness of the world, and now with His mercy, He had called us to the Kingdom of Heaven, so strengthen your hearts."
His golden words, which were full of wisdom, influenced those who heard them, strengthened their hearts, and they decided to die in the Name of the Lord Christ also. He made a great feast for them, and then they went to their homes. The next morning, Youhanna went to Al-Hakim Be-Amr Ellah who asked him: "O Nagaah, have you decided?" Youhanna (John) replied saying "Yes". The Caliph asked: "Which way have you decided?" Youhanna answered steadfastly and with courage: "Remaining in my faith."
The Governor attempted with all ways of persuasion and threatening to make him forsake Christianity. John was steadfast as a rock; nothing shook him away from the Christian faith, and the Governor could not with all his powers make him renounce the faith of his fathers.
When the Governor failed with Youhanna, he ordered to remove his clothes, be tied to the squeezing wheels, and be beaten. They beat him five hundred lashes on his delicate body, and his flesh was torn and his blood flew as water. The whips that were used were made of cow hides; even the mighty ones could not bear one lash from it on their bodies, much less, this gentle branch.
Then the Governor ordered to beat him up to one thousand lashes. After he was beaten three hundred more lashes, he said as his Master: "I am thirsty." They stopped beating him and informed the Governor who told them: "Water him after you tell him forsake your faith." When they came to him with the water and told him as the Caliph ordered, Youhanna replied with pride and dignity: "Take the water back to him, for I do not need it, because My Master Jesus Christ had watered me and quenched my thirst." The people who were standing around testified that they saw at this moment water dripping from his beard. When he said that, he delivered up his soul.
When they told the tyrant Governor about his death, he ordered them to beat the dead body to complete the one thousand lashes, and thus he was martyred, and received the crown of martyrdom that was prepared for him by the Great King Jesus Christ.
The History of the Patriarch did not mention the day that he was martyred, but El-Makrizi in his manuscripts said: "The Vizier Fahd Ibn Ibrahim, one of the ten men and the companion of Youhanna Ibn Nagaah, was slained in the nineteenth of Barmoudah, 719 A.M. (April 14th., 1003 A.D.)" The martyrdom of the blessed Youhanna Ibn Nagaah was mentioned in the History of the Patriarchs, before the mentioning of the martyrdom of the Vizier Fahd Ibn Ibrahim. Youhanna, in the feast that he made for his friends and kinfolks among whom were the other nine chosen ones, did not mention the account of the martyrdom of the Vizier Fahd in what he said during the feast. Accordingly, the martyrdom of this Saint was on the same day of the martyrdom of the Vizier fahd.
His blessings be with us. Amen.
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