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A picture of a friendship: The paralyzed Christian and the blind Muslim


Public Domain

Francisco Veneto - published on 10/05/21

Each man depended on the other to survive. Their extraordinary friendship literally completed them.

The inspiring story of a Christian named Samir and a Muslim named Muhammad, who are said to have lived in Damascus in Ottoman Syria during the final years of the 19th century, is circulating on social media.

According to accounts shared by dozens of websites and social media posts, and even some news sites such as the Egypt Independent, Samir was a Christian who suffered from paralysis, and Muhammad was a blind Muslim.

Without the light of Samir’s eyes, Muhammad had no way to get around the labyrinthine streets of ancient Damascus on his own, while the paralyzed Samir couldn’t get anywhere without Muhammad’s feet. One depended on the other: Their extraordinary friendship literally completed them.

The accounts about the paralyzed Christian and the blind Muslim add that the two were orphans, shared the same poor dwelling, and always lived together.

When Samir died, Muhammad is said to have cried for seven days for having lost his other half. Eventually, he would die of grief over the death of his friend—which was also the death of his eyes.

There are no sources that document the veracity of the names and personal history of these two men. However, the photograph depicting them is genuine.

The paralyzed Christian and the blind Muslim: a real photo

The image was captured in 1889 by photographer Tancrède Dumas (1830-1905), who was born in Italy to French parents.

Dumas learned to photograph in Florence and opened his photography studio in Beirut in 1860. He was hired by the American Palestine Exploration Society, precursor of the American Schools of Oriental Research, to document the regions east of the Jordan River. Dumas also traveled with the Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, which led him to adopt the title of “Photographer to the Imperial and Royal Court of Prussia.”

His photograph of the paralyzed Christian being carried by the blind Muslim is available from the Prints and Photographs Division of the United States Library of Congress under the digital identification number cph.3b41806. The image is also available from Wikimedia Commons.

May the paralyzed Christian and the blind Muslim, whatever their true story was, be a real inspiration today, when we need to reach out to each other more than ever across differences of ethnicity, religion, and all other barriers. 

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