Author: Former Catholic Bishop Abdul Ahad Dawud
Before he became a Muslim and changed his name to Abdul-Ahad Dawud, Rev. David Benjamin Keldani, B.D. was a Roman Catholic priest of the Uniate-Chaldean sect. He was born in 1867 at Urmia in Persia; educated from his early infancy in that town. From 1886-89 (three years) he was on the teaching staff of the Archbishop of Canterbury's Mission to the Assyrian (Nestorian) Christians at Urmia. In 1892 he was sent by Cardinal Vaughan to Rome, where he underwent a course of philosophical and theological studies at the Propaganda Fide College, and in 1895 was ordained Priest. In 1892 Professor Dawud contributed a series of articles to The Tablet on â‚¬Å“Assyria, Rome and Canterburyâ‚¬Â; and also to the Irish Record on the â‚¬Å“Authenticity of the Pentateuch.â‚¬Â He has several translations of the Ave Maria in different languages, published in the Illustrated Catholic Missions. While in Constantinople on his way to Persia in 1895, he contributed a long series of articles in English and French to the daily paper, published there under the name of The Levant Herald, on â‚¬Å“Eastern Churches.â‚¬Â In 1895 he joined the French Lazarist Mission at Urmia, and published for the first time in the history of that Mission a periodical in the vernacular Syriac called Qala-La-Shara, i.e. â‚¬Å“The Voice of Truth.â‚¬Â In 1897 he was delegated by two Uniate-Chaldean ArchÂbishops of Urmia and of Salinas to represent the Eastern Catholics at the Eucharistic Congress held at Paray-le-Monial in France under the presidency of Cardinal Perraud. This was, of course, an official invitation. The paper read at the Congress by â‚¬Å“Father Benjaminâ‚¬Â was published in the Annals of the Eucharistic Congress, called â‚¬Å“Le Pellerinâ‚¬Â of that year. In this paper, the Chaldean Arch-Priest (that being his official title) deplored the Catholic system of education among the Nestorians, and foretold the imminent appearance of the Russian priests in Urmia.
The great question which for a long time had been working its solution in the mind of this priest was now approaching its climax. Was Christianity, with all its multiÂtudinous shapes and colours, and with its unauthentic, spurious and corrupted Scriptures, the true Religion of God? In the summer of 1900 he retired to his small villa in the middle of vineyards near the celebrated fountain of ChaliÂBoulaghi in Digala, and there for a month spent his time in prayer and meditation, reading over and over the Scriptures in their original texts. The crisis ended in a formal resignaÂnon sent in to the Uniate Archbishop of Urmia, in which he frankly explained to Mar (Mgr.) Touma Audu the reasons for abandoning his sacerdotal functions. All attempts made by the ecclesiastical authorities to withdraw his decision were of no avail. There was no personal quarrel or dispute between Father Benjamin and his superiors; it was all quesÂtion of conscience.
For several months he was employed in Tabriz as Inspector in the Persian Service of Posts and Customs under the Belgian experts. It was in 1903 that he again visited England and there joined the Unitarian Community. And in 1904 he was sent by the British and Foreign Unitarian Association to carry on an educational and enlightening work among his country people. On his way to Persia he visited Constantinople; and after several interviews with Jemaluddin Effendi and other Muslim scholars, he embraced Islam and adopted the name â‚¬ËœAbdul-Ahad Dawud'.