Criticism by Misrepresentation [Part 1]
Reply to a Christian Leaflet contrasting Islam and Christianity
Compiled by the Members of Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement (UK)
The Light & Islamic Review (US), January/February 1992 Issue (Vol. 69, No. 1, pp. 7–9)
A leaflet entitled Christianity? — Islam?, published by a Christian group known as The Asian, Arab Prayer Fellowship of Warley in the West Midlands (England), has been sent to us for reply. It purports to contrast the teachings and doctrines of Islam and Christianity on the basic questions of the concept of God, the position of man, sin and forgiveness. Its objections against, and criticisms of, Islam are largely based on the author’s imaginary, biased picture of Islam, and not the actual teachings of the faith, and therefore the leaflet attacks Islam by misrepresentation, rather than arguing against its real doctrines.
It seems inconsistent, therefore, that the leaflet commences with the story of the good Samaritan, and draws from it the following conclusion:
“… the loving action of the Samaritan which reached across that national prejudice has been given to us by the Lord Jesus as an example to follow. We must keep this lesson in mind as we mix in school and elsewhere with friends from other faiths.”
The author then proceeds to present Islamic teachings, based not on objective study, but derived from the prejudiced views of Christian polemicists. Incidentally, the good Samaritan was not a Christian or follower of Jesus, nor could he have believed that Jesus died for his sins. Yet despite these handicaps, he was able to do acts of such humanity and virtue that Jesus presented him as an example for Christians to follow.
Oneness of God:
The leaflet first deals with what it believes to be the concept of God in Islam, and at the commencement it does refer to an actual teaching of Islam, namely, the unity of God:
“The Muslim’s idea of unity forbids him to accept the Christian idea of Three Persons in one God. … The Christian rightly challenges the Muslim’s idea of unity. From where did he get it? He cannot claim to have got it from science, for the limitations of science cannot probe the nature of God. Nor can he claim he got it from the scriptures. Should he claim it was given to Muhammad by a revelation from Allah, he must prove it is in harmony with both the Old and New Testaments. Since he is unable to do this he resorts to charging both Jews and Christians with making incredible changes in their scriptures.”
Exactly the same question can be asked regarding the Christian doctrine of Trinity: where did the Christians get it from, the scriptures, or the revelation of Jesus?
The fact is that the doctrine of the oneness of God is clearly given in the Old and New Testaments. In the teachings of Moses, it is announced right at the outset:
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord” (Deuteronomy 6:4).
“And God spoke all these words, saying: … You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:1–3; see also Deuteronomy 5:7).
Jesus followed precisely this teaching, and when asked,
“which commandment is the first of all”,
he replied in exactly the same words:
“The first is, Hear O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one” (Mark 12:29).
The questioner then said:
“You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that He is one, and there is no other but He …” (Mark 12:32).
Jesus praised him for his answer, saying:
“You are not far from the kingdom of God” (Mark 12:34).
Almost the first teaching Jesus gave, as recorded near the commencement of the New Testament, was as follows:
“You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve” (Matthew 4:10).
The revelation which came to the Holy Prophet Muhammad confirmed this doctrine in its essentials, explained it comprehensively and perfectly, as had not been done in previous scriptures, and corrected many misconceptions which had arisen about it. Thus, while the Israelite concept had come to be that the God of their nation was one, the revelation of the Holy Prophet, being universal and not national, disclosed that there was only One God for everyone.
The doctrine of Trinity, however, is not mentioned anywhere in the Bible as having been taught by any prophet, including Jesus. The Jews reject it utterly, and could challenge the Christians, in the words of this very leaflet, to prove that it is in harmony with the Old Testament.
God as Creator of Good and Evil:
The leaflet then advances some entirely untrue allegations regarding the Islamic view of God. The first is as follows:
“The Quran says that Allah is the creator of everything, good and evil, moral evil included. … So Allah contains within Himself two contradictory elements from the Christian point of view.”
The writer has apparently forgotten the basic Christian doctrine of the inherited sin, according to which man is sinful by birth. It is the Christian view of God that He created all human beings (except Jesus) as sinful and inclined to do evil by their very nature. Those who themselves hold such beliefs are in no position to raise the above objection!
In fact, the Islamic view is simply that Allah has pointed out to man the path of goodness and the path of evil, enjoining him to follow the former and shun the latter. This is the meaning of the verse referred to in the leaflet, which is mistranslated there as saying that God breathed into the soul “its wickedness and its piety”.
The keeping of Promises by Allah:
The next unfounded charge against Islam is as follows:
“Allah is an absolutely free being having no limitations of any sort. That is, he hasn’t bound himself by any promises or pledges by which man may say: ‘See, God has said this and His nature demands that He fulfil it.’ Rather Allah does as He pleases.”
This is an absolutely baseless and outrageous allegation which is belied by almost every word of the Holy Quran. Close to the beginning of the Quran, while addressing the Israelites, God says:
“Be faithful to your covenant with Me, I shall fulfil My covenant with you” (The Holy Quran, 2:40).
It is repeated on numerous occasions that:
“Allah’s promise is true” (The Holy Quran, 10:55; 18:21; 28:13; 30:60; 31:33; 35:5; 40:77; 45:32; 46:17).
Then there are repeated affirmations such as:
“The promise of our Lord is ever fulfilled” (The Holy Quran, 17:108);
“the promise of my Lord is ever true” (18:98);
“Thy promise is true” (The Holy Quran, 11:45)
“His promise is ever fulfilled” (The Holy Quran, 73:18).
Allah’s promises are clearly said to be binding upon Him:
“It is a promise which is binding on Him in the Torah and the Gospel and the Quran” (The Holy Quran, 9:111).
“It is a promise binding on Him, quite true” (The Holy Quran, 16:38).
“A promise binding on Us. We shall bring it about” (The Holy Quran, 21:104).
Again, it is repeatedly stressed:
“Thou (O Allah) never failest in Thy promise” (The Holy Quran, 3:193);
“Allah by no means fails in His promise” (The Holy Quran, 22:47);
“Allah’s promise! Allah will not fail in His promise” (The Holy Quran, 30:6);
“Think not that Allah will fail in His promise to His messengers” (The Holy Quran, 14:47).
The promise of Allah to the true believers and the doers of good is also mentioned again and again:
“And those who believe and do good, We shall make them enter Gardens in which rivers flow, to abide therein for ever. It is Allah’s promise, in truth. And who is more truthful in word than Allah?” (The Holy Quran, 4:122).
“But those who keep their duty to their Lord, for them are high places, above them higher places, built for them, wherein rivers flow. It is the promise of Allah. Allah fails not in His promise” (The Holy Quran, 39:20).
“These are they from whom We accept the best of what they do and pass by their evil deeds, among the owners of the Garden. A promise of truth, which they were promised” (The Holy Quran, 46:16).
The 23 references given above should satisfy anyone that the allegation made in the leaflet is entirely groundless. The statement referred to, i.e., “Allah does as He pleases”, does not contradict God fulfilling His promises, it rather corroborates it. What is meant is that despite the exertions of the opponents of truth to annihilate the cause of the faith, using all their might and resources, Allah will do as He pleases, not as they wish, i.e., fulfil His promise of making the truth victorious. The pleasure of Allah must not be confused with the arbitrary, unprincipled whim of a despot, deviating from his promises in order to fulfil passing fancies.
Can Man make demands on God?
The leaflet then continues:
“The Muslim can only hope that if he diligently follows the teachings of the Quran and Traditions of Islam he will please Allah and be accepted.”
The objection advanced here is that a Muslim can only hope that God fulfils His promise but cannot say for certain that God is bound to fulfil it. Let us turn to the Gospels to see if, according to Jesus, a man can demand that God fulfil His promise. A man asked Jesus,
“What must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus told him that he must follow the commandments, and recounted each one. The man said:
“All these I have observed from my youth”.
Jesus then said:
“You lack one thing; go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven, and come, follow me” (Matthew 19:16–21, Mark 10:17–21, Luke 18:18–22).
The man had been fulfilling each one of the commandments which, Jesus said, were necessary to get eternal life, and yet he did not attain his goal. Could the man then demand that God fulfil His side of the bargain, as the man had done?
Does Allah care about His creatures?
The next totally unfounded allegation in the leaflet is as follows:
“Allah is too great to be affected or influenced by anything his creatures say, think or do.”
What does the author of this claim make of the following passages of the Quran:
“And your Lord says: Pray to Me, I will answer you” (The Holy Quran, 40:40).
“And He it is Who accepts repentance from His servants and pardons evil deeds, and He knows what you do. And He answers those who believe and do good deeds” (The Holy Quran, 42:25–26).
“Allah indeed has heard the plea of her who pleads with thee (O Prophet) about her husband and complains to Allah” (The Holy Quran, 58:1).
“So he who does an atom’s weight of good will see it, and he who does an atom’s weight of evil will see it” (The Holy Quran, 99:7–8).
On numerous occasions, does the Quran speak of Allah delivering man from distress and affliction, and usually man being ungrateful afterwards. Man is asked:
“Who answers the distressed one when he calls upon Him, and removes the evil ¼ is there any other god with Allah?” (The Holy Quran, 27:62).
“Who is it that delivers you from the calamities of the land and the sea when you call upon Him, in humility and in secret: if He deliver us from this, we will certainly be of the grateful ones. Say: Allah delivers you from this and every other distress, yet you set up others as gods with Him” (The Holy Quran, 6:63–64).
What a travesty of facts to say that
“Allah is too great to be affected or influenced by anything his creatures say, think or do”!
It is then added:
“Allah’s indifference to the lost stands in complete contrast to the God of the Bible who seeks to save the sinner from eternal death.”
It was to rescue the lost that Allah sent prophets, all over the world, bearing glad tidings for those who would give up sin, and warnings for those who would persist in doing evil. However much a person may have sinned, the door to reform and repentance was left open by the words:
“O My servants who have been prodigal regarding their souls, despair not of the mercy of Allah; surely Allah forgives sins altogether” (The Holy Quran, 39:53).
This reply will be continued in our next issue, when we hope to expand on the last point noted above, and refute more of the allegations of the leaflet.