Capitalize Mohammedan Beliefs

After more than twenty years of labor in Mohammedan fields, I have come to the conclusion that many of us have approached the followers of the green-robed prophet from the wrong angle.

By L. B. MERSHON, Former Missionary to Borneo

After more than twenty years of labor in Mohammedan fields, I have come to the conclusion that many of us have approached the followers of the green-robed prophet from the wrong angle. The Mohammedan has almost always been approached from the argumentative side. This is the easiest but most futile way. It is also the one that the Mohammedan welcomes, for he both likes to fight for his religion, and expects to fight for it. He is ready always to battle for his beliefs, whether by material weapons or in a war of words. It is true of all Orientals, that though one may win a football contest by a score of twenty to one, if he loses in the inevitable battle of words over the game, the loser may become the real winner, because the two cannot be separated. Physically, one team may be the winner, but if the word battle be lost, it loses everything.

Knowing this characteristic of the followers of Islam, we do well to seek for points of agreement, and to stress these, eliminating the arguments over differences until their confi­dence has been gained in us and our work. By dint of much questioning, as well as quiet talks with Mohammedan hadjis, imams, and old men in the southern portion of the Far Eastern Division, we have found many points of greater or less similarity to Christianity. These are not all found in books concerning Mohammedanism, because the writers of such books have not had the background of belief in the special truths of our message to enable them to observe and note such beliefs, which are handed down chiefly in oral form, though some are in commentaries on the Koran. The Koran itself does not disclose all these things. The points to follow, which I have here placed together, have been hard to get, and have been gathered but slowly, here and there, through the years.

Points of Marked Similarity

Mohammedans believe in Christ—not as a Saviour, of course, but as a great prophet. They believe it was the intention of the Jews to crucify Christ, but by a miraculous inter­vention of God another was substituted on the cross. They believe Christ ascended to heaven, perhaps without dying. They believe that Messiah will return to the earth; that He will destroy the false messiah (Satan) ; and all evil, at His appearing; that Messiah will make it possible for all the good to ascend to heaven. They believe that the false messiah will come to the earth with great power ; that he will work miracles; and that he will stir up evil for forty days (similar to the period after proba­tion closes), at the end of which time, Messiah will appear to destroy Satan and all evil.

They believe there will be a special company at the end of time, who will have special privi­leges in heaven. They have a vague idea about a resurrection. They believe in all the prophets from Adam to Christ,—and of course in others besides,—and also believe their writ­ings. They distinguish between clean and un­clean meats. They believe, at least theoretically, in temperance. They believe the Sabbath was given by God in the beginning. Their word for Saturday is the word for Sabbath, day of the Sabbath, or rest. All this affords much common ground, not found in any other Christian body.

Without doubt, by careful questioning and quiet talks, one could learn of many more points of similarity, and thus be enabled to work for these people with a positive gospel, capitalizing similarities, rather than stressing a negative approach of differences. It is al­ways to be remembered that getting informa­tion from suspicious peoples, such as the Malays and Moros, is attended with difficulty, and one must not seem too eager to press a point, or appear too inquisitive, lest he arouse suspicion and distrust, both for himself and his methods.

With all these favorable approaches afforded us as a. people, we should be able to accomplish more than any other mission society. As a matter of facts, no society that fails to dif­ferentiate between clean and unclean foods has been able to win any of these peoples who are real Mohammedans. But we have won a number of the Moros within the last few years. The Moros call us "clean" Christians, and the other churches "unclean." They say they want to learn more of a religion which causes us to work disinterestedly for all peo­ples. This means that we must live our mes­sage before them. These Moros are reading, and desire to read in our lives God's message of love and peace to all men.

Receptive Attitude Developing

There is a movement on foot, among the Mohammedans of the Far East, which is tak­ing them away from their old customs and beliefs. Moros have protected our workers from stone throwers, while they were holding open-air meetings. As a result of these meet­ings, a number of Moros have become inter­ested in God's truth. Our church members have been assured that they would not be mo­lested, while murders and thefts were taking place all round them, because word had come from high Moro authority that no Sabbath-keepers, or their belongings, were to be touched. To this day, so far as my knowledge goes, this has been observed. Not one of the Sabbathkeepers has been disturbed. In an­other district, Sabbathkeepers have been per­mitted to take up homesteads in a locality into which the Moros refused to allow any others to come. In the Malay States, where a few years ago Mohammedans would not give any­thing toward our Ingathering work, many are now giving from ten to twenty-five dollars yearly to support our medical work.

Surely, with these avenues of favorable ap­proach to the problem of Islam, we need to give more earnest study to wise ways of work­ing for these peoples. The methods used will have to be different from those used in work­ing for the peoples of other faiths. Just as, under God, successful methods of approach have been adopted for dealing with Catholics, Protestants, pagans, etc., may we not expect that better ways of working for these stalwart sons of Islam may be developed?


Ministry reserves the right to approve, disapprove, and delete comments at our discretion and will not be able to respond to inquiries about these comments. Please ensure that your words are respectful, courteous, and relevant.

comments powered by Disqus

By L. B. MERSHON, Former Missionary to Borneo

February 1938

Download PDF
Ministry Cover

More Articles In This Issue

What Youth Expects of Our Ministry

"They are searching not for imperfections on which to feed, but for positive realities by which to live."

True Revival and Reformation

Solemn and timely was the devotional hour led by Elder Wilcox at the Battle Creek Autumn Council. It was a message of rebuke and entreaty, a call to repentance, making a deep impression upon all pres­ent. A portion is here reproduced.

Losses in Membership—No. 2

Part two of series continues where we left of.

Debtors to All Mankind

The church of Christ today stands in the same relationship to the great gospel commis­sion as did the apostle to the Gentiles. We also are debtors to every nation which is in need of the gospel.

Imparting a World Vision—No. 2

Imparting a world vision means more than stimulating an interest in missions. It means creating in others an unbiased, intelligent, sympathetic fellow feeling with mankind in general.

Origin of the Papal Sunday—No. 1

The Ecclesiastico-Historical Phase

Archeology's Contribution to Faith—No. 2

The advisability of using tree rings as found in the charred portions of beams in archeological ruins is at present begin­ning to be discussed; and even beads, which are now being studied at the Field Museum in Chicago, are found to have enough different types, forms, and sizes to play their part in checking other chronological information.

A More Effectual Ministry

Articles on more efficient evangelistic methods and pastoral techniques.

"The Kings of the East"

Is it justifiable to apply "the East" of Rev­elation 16:12 to Japan?

Editorial Keynotes

The Ministry's Solemn Pledge

Catholicism and the Modern State

Today, when liberalism and democracy are everywhere giving way to collectivism and totalitarianism, the significance of the change in secularized Western culture is being observed.

Implications at Oxford—No. 2

A look at the concept of the church as a community.

Transfer of White Estate—No. 2

Now as we face the task of closing up the work of the White Estate at St. Helena, moving all the files and book properties to our denominational headquarters, and establishing the work there, it is proper that we should pause to consider what is involved in this move.

Practical Plans for Service

It would be not only a keen disappointment but a grievous mistake if the ideals and objectives of this Association were not projected into the field in definite activity.

A Rational Health Message

The health reform program of this mes­sage should be presented through an array of facts abundantly proved by sci­ence, and a line of Scriptural evidence that fully substantiates the claims of the proponent.

Basic Principles of Health Teaching No. 2—Avoid Overemphasis of Single Features of Health Message

Vocalized overdevelopment of any member of the human body is an unfortunate occurrence.

Motive in Service

True are the words that "a thoroughgoing Christian draws his motives of action from his deep heart love for his Master."

Dispensing Spiritual and Physical Health

Successful Methods for Auxiliary Departments in Our Sanitariums

"Right Arm" in Conference Work

Throughout the past fifteen years, doctors and nurses from the Washington Sanitarium have visited, over week ends, many of our churches in the large cities throughout the Columbia Union Conference.

Let us be Accurate

Suggestions on quoting, verifying, and crediting.

Editorial Postscripts

From the Ministry back page.

View All Issue Contents

Digital delivery

If you're a print subscriber, we'll complement your print copy of Ministry with an electronic version.

Sign up
Advertisement - Southern Adv Univ 180x150 - Animated

Recent issues

See All
Advertisement - Healthy and Happy Family - Skyscraper 160x600