Challenge of Daybreak in Islam—No. I

A look at three great facts relating to the challenge of Islam to Christianity.

By SAMUEL W. ZWEMER, Editor of the Moslem World

The eighth verse of the seventy-second psalm, is perhaps the hardest verse in the Bible to believe. It promises that "He [Christ] shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river [Euphrates] unto the ends of the earth." Whether you go to a Jewish or a Christian commentary, you will find the customary interpretation to be that the Messiah shall reign from the Red Sea to the Persian Gulf and from the Euphrates River to Hadhramaut—the great country inherited and occupied by the Ishmaelites and the Bedouins.

Now look at the million square miles of Arabia with not a single established Christian church. Instead of Jesus reigning in Arabia, Mohammed the prophet has reigned there for thirteen hundred years, and still reigns. The religion of Islam swept away all the early churches that existed in North Africa and Arabia which had received the gospel from the apostle Paul. Here there were churches fol­lowing Pentecost, and Christian settlements before Mohammed. But now this vast area has been 99 per cent Mohammedan for thirteen centuries. Are you surprised that the missionary in Arabia who reads this text says: "That is a stumbling block to my faith. That is enough to make the heart sick."

This brings us face to face with three great facts on the challenge of Islam: (1) the tragedy of the eclipse of Christianity in Arabia, North Africa, and Central Asia; (2) the challenge of a new daybreak in these countries ; and (3) the wavering hope for final victory in God's promise which will never fail.

Mohammedan Eclipse of Christianity

First, we have to face the tragedy of the eclipse of Christianity by Islam in the territory mentioned. The Mohammedan religion could be described in many ways, but I shall call it an eclipse. How many of you have seen a total eclipse? When the moon gets between us and the sun, there is a total eclipse of the sun, and all you can see is a little halo rimming the black disc. The eclipse we are considering started in 622 A.D., and still continues. It has eclipsed Jesus Christ in those countries, so that Islam says there is no God but Allah, and Mohammed is his prophet. Christ is a little rim, as it were, blotted out by Mohammed.

In its origin, the Mohammedan religion be­came the great denial of Christ. Mohammed says he was the last prophet. He succeeded mightily. He took the place of Jesus Christ, introducing a new book and a new way of life opposed to Christianity. Mohammed's forces went out to fight and conquer before Mo­hammed died. First they took Syria, then Egypt, then the whole of North Africa. Bishoprics, churches, monasteries, cathedrals, and music, of praise to Jesus Christ disap­peared. They took the very pillars of the churches to build their mosques. Thus the his­tory of this religion has been one of constant struggle against Christianity. But its triumph has been so great that when you think of the facts, you find that Mohammed has usurped the very promise of the text in the psalm.

Furthermore, Islam not only supplanted and eclipsed Christianity, but it brought in a new teaching about God entirely contrary to the teaching of the Bible. Some people say that because the Mohammedans believe that there is no God but Allah, they agree with us. But even though the Mohammedans believe in only one God, yet the difference is very great. Listen to an English theologian, Doctor Bou­quet, of Cambridge, in his book, "Man and Diety."

"The fundamental issue between Islam and Chris­tianity is found just where too often they are sup­posed to resemble each other, namely, in, their idea of God. Each is monotheistic. As against idolatry, polytheism, and pantheism, Christians feel a strong sense of agreement with Islam, and they seem to themselves to breathe a purer air when they pass out of a Hindu temple, with its idols. . . . 'Our God and your God is one,' says the Koran. But they are not the same God at all. . . .

"Moslem apologists for Islam have sought to Christianize the God of Islam. Sayid Ameer AR first describes the Christian doctrine, and especially the historic view of Jesus and His revelation of. God as Father, and then transfers the whole Christian con­ception to the Allah of Mohammed. But the facts of history cannot be so easily dissipated. The Moslem view of God has been seen both in itself and in its effects, to be, defective in its unmoral autocracy, its irresponsible fatalism, its implication in human sin, the mere verbalism 'of its compassion, its inadequacy in holiness and love, the capricious­ness of its justice, its repudiation of the conception of fatherhood, and its denial of the possibility, of the immanence and indwelling of God."—Pages 398, 399.

The Mohammedans believe only in a God who is above them. But we Christians believe in a God who is above us as a Father of in­finite majesty, with us through the Son of His love, and in us through His Holy Spirit. Mo­hammedans deny the Trinity, and no longer have the same Deity we have. If you strip away from your idea of God all that you know about Jesus and the Holy Spirit, then your God would be the same as the god of Mo­hammedans. So even the first article of the Mohammedan creed is a direct denial of the complete Old and New Testaments.

Allah is not the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is a different kind—a god molded and fashioned according to the Mohammedan idea, and not according to the revelation of the Old Testament. Neither is the spirit of Islam the spirit of Christ. Jesus said the spirit of God was to "love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you." Now open the book of Mohammed, and you find that the spirit of Mohammed is to kill unbelievers until the whole world submits. Accept Mohammed, and you are at peace. Deny Mohammed, and you will be faced with destruction. That spirit has been exemplified in the Armenian mas­sacres, and has been manifest through all the ages. For thirteen hundred years the crescent and the cross have stood against each other —the crescent for Mohammed, the cross for Jesus Christ. Between them there has been nothing but enmity, no possible reconciliation.

The Dawn of a New Day

But now, in the providence of God, we face the challenge of a new daybreak. For the last two decades since the World War, God has been breaking down Islamic opposition to Christianity, and opening doors for His glori­ous gospel. First of all, there came the aboli­tion of the caliphate, then the rise of national­ism, then the inroads of Bolshevism, and then the triumph of feminism—women asking for their rights and demanding emancipation. And so, across the map we face a new Turkey, a new Egypt, a new Persia, a new Afghan­istan. These countries are so different today that when you look at them you see they are absolutely changed from within, by the power of God's Spirit and of Jesus Christ.

Among other awakenings, there have been great industrial changes. These countries, be­fore the World War, were represented by the palm tree and the camel. Today, instead of seeing the palm tree and a camel lying under it, you would probably see a Ford car and a wireless station. The automobile has replaced the camel on the deserts of Arabia and Persia, and places once inaccessible are now opened for tourist trade. New economic movements have entirely changed the face of the Moham­medan world, so that countries once inacces­sible are now explorable. You have heard of Bertram Thomas, Harry St. John Philby, Colonel Lawrence, and other explorers. They have given the missionary a complete map of the occupied Mohammedan world. We no longer need ask, Where is Afghanistan ? Where is Hadhramaut?. Where is Arabia ? The National Geographic Magazine on your drawing-room table shows pictures of these countries. But there are no pictures of mis­sions in Afghanistan, no pictures of hospitals in South Arabia—only pictures of great neg­lected areas without the gospel of Christ.

For another thing, God has visited those countries which were stagnant, arousing them to a new social consciousness and new intel­lectual desires. Womanhood is awakened from her sleep. You remember the character­istic picture of Turkey of only a few years ago—the women of the harem; of Egypt, with the women closely veiled. Today in Turkey, the veil has gone, and in Persia, it is for­bidden. Instead of women's being secluded, they now work in offices as stenographers, and are found on the streets. They rejoice in a new liberty, and the door has been widely opened for the work of missionaries among them.

Again, think of the great changes produced by the translation of the Bible into every Mo­hammedan language, and the preparation of other literature. You would be astonished to see how the great presses are working away in the Mohammedan world. At Beirut, Cairo, Calcutta, and Madras, gospel presses are busy producing Christian literature—the entire Bible in every Mohammedan language, church histories, books about Jesus Christ, books that tell of the nobility of womanhood, and books about the progress of the kingdom. Everywhere Mohammedans are buying Chris­tian tracts and books.

And then you see in the Mohammedan world a strange unrest. The people are spiritually restless where formerly they were spiritually satisfied. Today they are no longer willing to accept the old traditions and the old life of Mohammed. I remember preaching in a Cairo pulpit, and after my sermon there were two notes put in the collection basket by Egyptian students. One student wrote, "Although I enjoyed your sermon tonight on the 'Re­liability of the Gospel Record,' would you not preach on a more fundamental subject,—'Is There a God?' " And the other student asked, "Will you preach on this subject next Sunday evening—'Have We a Soul?' " Here were Egyptian university students who had cast aside their anchorage and were asking Ahem-selves, Is there a God? Is there a future life? Have we a soul ? All across the world of Islam, however, communism and Bol­shevism, with atheistic teaching, have loosened the old foundations, and people are adrift. Unless we give them a new anchorage, the latter state of these nations will be worse than the former.

—To be concluded in December

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By SAMUEL W. ZWEMER, Editor of the Moslem World

November 1938

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