A CANDID INQUIRY INTO THE CLAIM OF ISLAM TO BE GOD'S FINAL REVELATION.
AN EXPLANATION OF THE REASON AND SCOPE OF THE INQUIRY.
THE honoured perusers of these pages are respectfully informed that, not many years ago, there reached the famous city of Shiraz in Persia a Christian merchant, whose merchandise was beyond all price, since it consisted of copies of the Word of God, the Book of the “People of the Book”, to which Holy Book the Qur'an itself bears such high testimony, as we have already seen in the First Part of this Treatise. Wonderful to relate, however, when the merchant offered these books for sale, the Mullas stirred up the mob against him. They seized all his books, tore them in pieces, trod them under foot, beat the merchant, drove him out of the city, just as the wicked husbandmen did to some of the servants of the Lord of the Vineyard (Matthew 21:33-44), and threatened to kill him if he returned to circulate the Holy Scriptures, regarding which Muslims are commanded in the Qur'an to say: “We 1 believe in God and in what has been sent down unto us and in what was sent down to Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and the Tribes, and what Moses was brought, and Jesus, and what the Prophets were brought from their Lord; we make no difference between one of them [and another], and we are resigned to Him.” In the crowd there stood a Persian boy. He saw all that took place, and wondered how it was that the Mullas so impiously ventured to urge the ignorant populace to destroy books which the Qur'an professes to have come to confirm and defend. 2 While he thought over this matter, the idea occurred to his mind, “Is it possible that these books of the Christians contain something of which our Mullas are afraid, something which disproves Islam?” This thought terrified the boy, who had hitherto most firmly believed in his religion. He fought against the thought, but could not shake it off. At last, when he had grown up to be a young man, he determined to inquire what the proofs of Islam really were, in order thus to remove the doubts which tormented his mind. There then dwelt near Shiraz a very much revered Haji, who was famed for his strict observance of all the rites of his faith, for his diligence in the appointed prayers (الصّلوات), in reading the Qur'an, in fasting during the month of Ramazan, and everything else which distinguishes a pious Muslim. To him the young man went for instruction. But he feared to ask openly what he desired to know. Therefore, after a reverential salutation and after showing the venerable Haji all due deference, he said, “Yesterday your humble servant met a Jew, and tried to convert him to our holy faith. He listened to what I said about the Seal of the Prophets, the Chosen, the Messenger of God (صلعم), and then said, ‘Please tell me what proof you have that Muhammad was a Prophet.' Sir, I gave him what answer I could, but did not convince him. Therefore I have come to ask your Honour what proofs I am to mention to him.” The Haji drew himself up, looked sternly at the youth, and said, “You are an infidel.” The youth fled in terror, and soon went to Bombay, where as soon as he could he borrowed the New Testament, and read it carefully, in order to find out what in it had frightened the Mullas and made them destroy the books.
Of all tortures, except perhaps that of remorse, the worst is doubt about the truth of the religion in which a man has been brought up. Doubt also enfeebles a man, and prevents him from performing with any confidence the duties enjoined on him by his religion. It also deprives him of his hopes of an After-life and exposes him to all the temptations of the Devil. But the very existence of so many different religions in the world is permitted for a time by God in order to make the thoughtful man and the earnest truth-seeker inquire, “What proof have I that my religion is the truth?” If no one asked such a question, the heathen would never be truly converted to Islam or to Christianity. Hence it is clear that sincere examination of the foundations of one's faith and one's religion is a good thing, provided it be undertaken with humility and earnest desire to know God's will, and to do it. For those who cherish this desire in their hearts will assuredly pray continually to God Most Merciful, entreating Him to grant them light and guidance, in order that they may find the truth and walk as children of the light. If such a man finds his own religion true, then he has conquered doubt and put it to flight for ever, and can from the depth of a grateful heart thank God for His grace and guidance. Moreover, knowing the truth, he can teach other men the way of salvation. But should he find on examination that his own religion on the whole is not true, although doubtless it contains certain truths, then he has a chance of escaping from the error of his way and of finding the way that leads to God and to eternal life. In either case nothing but good can result from an honest inquiry into the proofs upon which our faith rests. The danger is lest men, instead of boldly facing their doubts and examining them in reliance upon God, should flee from them. A man who tries thus to escape from his doubts is always pursued by them, and often he falls a victim to them at last, and dies an infidel, having no hope and without God in the world. But of the true seeker the proverb is true, “Whoso 3 seeketh a thing and striveth findeth, and whoso knocketh at a door and persevereth entereth.”
Therefore we invite our Muslim brethren 4 to join us in an inquiry into the proofs upon which their religion is based, just as they have joined us in examining in the first two parts of this Treatise the foundations of Christianity. It is unnecessary to mention once more the criteria already laid down for testing all religions. As we have used them in examining Christianity, so we must employ them in testing Islam. But this we shall do inwardly, lest our expression of opinion should seem to anyone lacking in courtesy and love.
The Muslim Kalimah [or Creed] consists of two parts, of which the first is accepted by Jews and Christians as sincerely as by Muslims themselves: “There is no god but God” This has been already pointed out more than once in this Treatise. The proofs of the Existence and Unity of God are given in multitudes of books as well as in the whole of Creation, so that there is no need to discuss here what is admitted by us all. God Most High,—may He be honoured and glorified,—has demonstrated His Existence and His Unity by every blade of grass, by our reason and conscience, in the wonderful order and harmony of Nature, and in ten thousand different ways.
But what constitutes the subject of our present inquiry is, “What proof is there of the second clause of the Kalimah? How can it be shown that Muhammad is the Apostle of God?” Muslims adduce many proofs in support of their belief in his office as prophet and apostle and in his Divine Commission. The chief of these proofs are:
(1) That the Old Testament and the New both contain clear prophecies about him.
(2) That the language and the teaching of the Qur'an are without a parallel, and that thus the Qur'an alone is a sufficient proof of the truth of Muhammad's claims.
(3) That Muhammad's miracles are a seal set by God Most High on his claims.
(4) That his life and character prove him to have been the last and greatest of the prophets.
(5) That the rapid spread of Islam shows that God Most High sent it as His final Revelation to men.
Now without doubt these alleged proofs or arguments are deserving of great and careful consideration. If they are well-founded, they most undoubtedly do prove the truth of Islam, and all men should therefore accept it. But before we can admit their truth, we must examine them more carefully than a merchant does the coins he receives, for our happiness here and hereafter depends in large measure upon the decision to which we come. For the question at issue is, “Who is in our day the Saviour of the world: the Lord Jesus Christ, or Muhammad?” This is not a subject for strife and quarrelling and bitterness, but for reverent, candid, fearless, and prayerful inquiry. Muslims and Christians are alike interested in the search, and the result will be to God's glory and their good, for the truth cannot be for ever hid, but must at last shine forth brighter than the sun at noonday.
In the following chapters we proceed to undertake this inquiry, “speaking truth in love,” as is enjoined upon Christians (Ephesians 4:15). We shall endeavour so to write that we may not intentionally hurt the feelings of any earnest Muslim. But should any single word or phrase seem unfitting, or not in accordance with the rules of courtesy and brotherly affection, we here most sincerely apologize for it, trusting that the respected readers of these pages will realize that the offence has not been willingly given, and that it is human to err, while readiness to forgive is worthy of all who believe in the Most Merciful God.