Telerikh, also spelled Telerig (706-777), was a Khan of the Bulgars. Much of his rule saw conflict between his people and the Byzantine Empire under Constantine V. Ironically, due to the mercurial state of politics in both kingdoms, Telerikh eventually fled Bulgaria and took refuge with the Byzantines in AD 777. He converted to Christianity, and died in Constantinople under unknown circumstances.
Telerikh in "Islands in the Sea"
In AD 769, decades after the fall of the Roman Empire to the Umayyds, Telerikh invited two delegations, one Muslim from Constantinople, the other Christian from Rome, to his capital Pliska in order to attempt to convert him to their respective religions. At the time, he was about fifty, swarthy, broad-faced, wide-nosed, with a thin beard going from black to grey.
He meet with both delegations, together, several times in order for them to present their respective faiths and debate each other. In his view, both faiths had positive and negative aspects when compared to the Bulgar pagan beliefs. For instance, while the Pope was the leader in all spiritual matters, there were many secular rulers in Christian lands. This contrasted positively with Islam where the Caliph was supreme in both. If Telerikh became a Muslim he might well have to subservient himself to the Caliphate although Jalal ad-Din assured him that would not be the case if he voluntarily converted. All previous lands that converted and became subordinate did so because they had been conquered which would not be the case with the Bulgars.
On the other hand, the Muslim Paradise flowed with rivers of water and milk, honey and wine and men reclined on silken couches and were served in all ways by beautiful females created for this purpose. This contrasted positively with the Christian Heaven which was spiritual in nature, with the soul knowing the eternal joy of closeness and unity with God, peace of spirit, and absence of all care. Altogether, Heaven struck the Muslims as a boring way to spend eternity and seemed that way to Telerikh.
Finally, both religions had certain concepts of sin which would require Telerikh to change his way of life. Christianity would require him to give up all but the first of his 47 wives and not be allowed to keep any concubines. Almost as bad, Islam would require him to give up wine and pork.
In the event, Telerikh chose to convert to the Muslim faith as much because the Caliphate commanded a stronger empire than the Pope as for any other reason.
Pagan of Bulgaria
|Khan of the Bulgars
Kardam of Bulgaria