It is said that ‘Islam originated with a corrupt Christianity around and sprang from the ashes of an extinguished missionary fire.’
Church historians tell us that passionate contentions and party strafes had rent the Church throughout Arabia, and errors so dominated the Churches that one of the Church Fathers of the period dubbed Arabia ‘the Mother of Heresies’. There were
Arians, Sabellians, Nestorians, Docetiens, Mariamites, Collyridians, Ebionites, Basilidians and many other Gnostic sects some practised Mariolatry; others denied the deity of Christ; the Sonship of Christ was carnally considered, and the trinity was distorted into a triad; the death of Christ was to many a stupid enigma, devoid of meaning, while others taught that Christ escaped death, Simon of Cyrene some say Judas being slain in His stead by mistake or by cunning.
It was in the midst of such rank heresy, lifelessness and schism that Muhammad arose and his whole nature went out in revolt:-
Strong those contending mysteries to displace
We cannot but admire him for his crusade against the blatant polytheism outside the Church and the thinly disguised idolatry within, but we deplore the fact that he did not learn more of the true and less of the false.
A careful reading of the Holy Qur’an should convince one that primarily his opposition is against rank heresy.
1. Denial of the Trinity, the Divine Son ship, and Incarnation. Having disagreed with these traditions he has given to the world the other picture. The trinity he understood to consist of ‘the Father, Mother (Mary) and Son (‘Isa’).’
‘They surely are Infidels who say ‘God is the third of three’: for there is no God but one God.
With such views on the Trinity how can we expect anything but a carnal conception of the Divine Son ship! Muhammad asks: Sole Maker of the heavens and the earth! How, when He hath no consort, should He have a son?
The Christians say. ‘The Christians say. ‘The Messiah is a son of God’ . . . God do battle with them! How are they misguided?
‘It is evident that the words ‘beget and ‘begotten’ were a stumbling block to him, in regard to the birth of Christ.
But such are the limitations of human thought and language, that when we speak of the mysteries of the Godhead we are obliged to use words which to a non Christian may mean something altogether different from that which they are intended to convey.
But the Bible is as pronounced as Muhammad was against a carnal conception of the Divine Son ship, and we are amazed today when any educated Muslim accepts the carnal view as being the doctrine of the Christian Church.
Prophet Muhammad always denied the deity of Jesus. He used to ask how Jesus and his mother could be divine when ‘they both ate food’.
He was so emphatic on the subject, that when the Christians of Najran sent a deputation to him, headed by their bishop, Abu Haritha, he made the nature of Christ the principal subject of discussion, and adopted the method of coining to a decision on the matter by mutual cursing.
He said ‘Come, let us summon our sons and your sons, our wives and your wives, and ourselves and yourselves. Then will we invoke and lay the curse of God on those who lie.
In Islam there has been a serious misunderstanding of the truth of the Holy Spirit. He is sometimes confused with Gabriel, and sometimes with the Prophet himself.
Muhammad claimed that our Lord had foretold his coming. He is supposed to have announced ‘an apostle that shall come after me whose name shall be Ahmad.
From John xvi. 7. We know that Christ promised that a Paracelsus, Advocate or Comforter, should come, that He would be the Holy Spirit, sent by the Father, but Muhammad perhaps rightly chose to think that Christ had said Periclytos, which comes from the same root as one of his own names, Ahmad, meaning ‘praised’.
2. Denial of the atoning sacrifice of our Christ. The Qur’an denies the fact that Christ died, yet tells of preparation being made for taking his life, and how, by some clever piece of hypnotism, God deceived Christ’s would be murderers at the last moment and took Him up unto Himself.
But the Qur’an Jesus is made to say: ‘The peace of God was on me the day I was born, and will be the day I shall die, and the day I shall be raised to life.
And again: ‘Remember when God said, “O Jesus! Verily I will cause these to die, and will take thee up to myself and deliver thee from those who believe not”.
These verses, taken in connation with other teaching in the Qur’an on Christ’s death, the Muslim commentators have been unable to explain.
Imam Fakhru’d-din Razi ends up a mixture of comments on the Qur’an statements with these words: ‘These are the various explanations’.
Notwithstanding the denial of Christ’s death, God has not left Himself without witness, even in Islam, in regard to the need for sacrifice.
True, in the Qur’an there is no mention of the need of a true atonement for sin. The terrible nature of sin as depicted in the Bible sin which alienates men from God-is almost unknown in Islam.
The most striking is the rite called ‘Aqiqa. It is a ceremony enjoined by Muslim law to be observed by Mohammendans everywhere. It is a kind of service of dedication of an infant, at which the child receives a name.
The hair of the child is allowed to grow until the seventh day, when it is shaved for the first time.
Then the father sacrifices one or two sheep’s or goats in the name of the child, at the same time repeating an Arabic formula, which, being translated, is, ‘O God I offer to Thee, instead of my own offspring, life for life, blood for blood, head for head, bone for bone, hair for hair, skin for skin.
In the name of the Great God I ‘sacrifice this animal.” Afterwards, as at the Jewish Passover, the flesh is cooked and eaten by relatives and friends.
Then at the festival called Tdu’l-adha or Bakar ‘Id, cows, sheep, goats or camels are sacrificed with a prayer of consecration, following the example of the Prophet, who, when establishing the rite, sacrificed one, saying, ‘O Lord I sacrifice this for my whole people, all who bear witness to the Unity, and to my prophet ship.’
Concerning the mentioned festival, a remarkable tradition has been handed down from ‘Ayisha.
The Prophet is said to have told her that: ‘Man hath not done anything on the Tdu’l-adha more pleasing to God than a sacrifice.
Verily the bloods of the animal reached acceptance of God before it fillet upon the ground, therefore ‘be joyful in it’.’
Surely in these customs we have an indirect witness to the truth that sacrifice is the law of the religious life, which law was fulfilled in the One, who ‘once at the end of the ages hath been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.’
In regard to all the points of conflict between Islam and Christianity, it is well to remember that they are connected with the profoundest mysteries of our Faith, and are just those points which the human mind in its finite weakness finds most difficult to grasp and accept.
They have often perplexed the Church of God, when explanations have been asked for, and that is to be expected of revealed truths, for who can fathom the mind of the infinite?
To understand revealed truths as God understands them, we would need to be equal with God.
Unaided reason can do little more than question and criticize, but the believer finds his spiritual vision illumined the more he calls faith and obedience to his aid.
Muhammad, while saying many fine things about Christ and the Scriptures, has stripped the Christian religion of every vital truth by which it lives and flourishes. In the words of the Apostle Paul, it lives, and he did, ‘by the faith of the Son of God’.
Syed Amir ‘Ali says: ‘Except for the conception of the Son ship of Jesus there is no fundamental difference between Christianity and Islam.’
Evidently, the author considers that this is an idea that could be easily dispensed with; but to do away with it would be to end Christianity, for the truth of the divine Son ship is not a mere doctrine, but an essential part, round which all other truths group themselves.
It is inseparably connected with the nature of God, which is eternal love, and with the sacrifice on the cross of Calvary, which was a demonstration of that love, and it is also inseparable connected with the Son ship of all true believers in Christ.
Taking this two-fold conception as a basis of Christian truth, believers enter into every spiritual experience understood by such terms as regeneration, faith, justification, and sanctification.
To sum up, these may be mere doctrinal names or ideas to which nominal assent is given, but to the believer they are expressions of joyous experiences, entered into by a conversion or change of heart and a daily progression in an inward or godly life.
It has been said by philosophers in many different ways that, ‘The idea of God is the productive and conservative principle of civilization; as is the religion of a community, so will be in the main its morals, its laws, its general history.’
The fundamental idea underlying Islam is that men are related to the Creator as slaves to a celestial Sultan, which idea has shaped all their relationships in this life domestic, social and political.
But the fundamental idea in Christianity is that all men may enjoy the blessed relationship of sons with a Father, and all the love, fellowship and communion indicated in such a privilege.
And this gives the Christen victory over that trinity of evil the world, the flesh and the devil. ‘This is the victory that overcomes the world; even our Faith. ‘Who is he that overcomes the world but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God.’
One thing that strikes a believer in Christ, when he comes to weigh Islam as a means of salvation, is its inability to give assurance of salvation, which every true Christian enjoys upon experiencing the peace of God produced through knowledge of sins forgiven.
We know that careful attention to religious duties may affect a man’s life and attitude very considerably; but only through a new birth, as Christ taught it by the power of the Holy Spirit, can a vital change take place in man’s life and character.
It is said of Abu Bakr, that on the day of his death he said to his daughter ‘Ayesha, ‘O my daughter, this is the day of my release and obtaining of my desert; if gladness, it will be lasting; if sorrow, it will never cease.’ Prophet had, however, once told him that he should never see hell.
There is lacking that joyous confidence and ringing assurance of victory, which are so noticeable in the Apostles of our Lord to cite one, the Apostle Paul.
That he had an infallible assurance of salvation, and sure evidence of an inward experience, and knew what he was talking about, he tells often about his marvellous conversion and the change that came into his life when he met with Jesus.
And the experience was strengthened with time; we find him saying Jesus, ‘I know in whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day.’
This was near the end of his life when he wrote his last epistle. He further said, ‘I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is come.
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, and I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give to me at that day: and not only to me, but also to all them that have loved His appearing.’