“Decade of Evangelism” — Why Muslims are Vulnerable

Letter to Dr. Zaki Badawi

by Salim Ahmad, England

The Light & Islamic Review (US), July/August 1992 Issue (Vol. 69, No. 4, pp. 14–15)

Editor’s note: Reproduced below is a letter to Dr. Badawi, Principal of the Muslim College, London, sent in May [1992].

Dear brother-in-Islam,

Assalamu Alaikum,

I read recently that certain Christian clergymen have launched what they call a “decade of evangelism” and intend to make Muslims a special target for conversion. I have also read that you have raised this issue in public.

I am an English Muslim from a Christian background and therefore have personal experience of both sides of the matter. Christian missionaries have been trying to convert Muslims for some two centuries. The “decade of evangelism” is nothing new. It is even something to be expected in a country where Muslims are a minority among Christians. Why should they not try to persuade this minority to join them?

If Muslims did not feel vulnerable for lack of rational arguments in the face of Christian propaganda, they would be able to take such matters as the “decade of evangelism” in their stride. Curiously, there is less protest from Jews, Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists, which suggests that these groups feel better equipped and less vulnerable.

Christians see Muslims as a particular threat because Islam is the one religion revealed expressly to the whole of mankind and because Muslims regard Hazrat Isa (Jesus) as a prophet and a human being, and do not equate him with Allah.

Muslims, for their part, are vulnerable because they have imbibed false stories and fanciful inventions about the Holy Prophet [Muhammad (pbuh)] which have been incorporated into commentaries on the Holy Quran and into histories of Islam by Muslims themselves — for example, the story of the “satanic verses”, or tales which depict the Holy Prophet as favouring the murder of his opponents. They believe these stories while ignoring the clear guidance of the Holy Quran and authentic ahadith [sayings of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)], or the opinion of sound Muslim historians who have rejected them. Because of such errors — and most of the learned Islamic leaders in our own time still hold fast to them — Christians can depict Islam as a religion of violence and oppression, opportunism and base passion, and hold their religion up as a religion of reason, selflessness and peace.

Muslims are most vulnerable because they have accepted the Christian belief that Hazrat Isa was physically raised to heaven and will return to earth in person in the same physical form. They also regard Hazrat Isa as a great dispenser of miracles, whereas the Holy Prophet himself refused to perform any miracle.

It is easy for Christians, using Muslims sources, to portray Jesus Christ as superior to the Holy Prophet and to argue that if Muslims already agree this much with Christianity they might as well go the whole way. For example, they will point out from the Holy Quran that all humans are to taste death and only Allah is Ever-Living, and conclude that Jesus, since he is still alive, must be God.

As the former Shaikh-ul-Azhar, Shaikh Mahmud Shaltut, recognized:

“There is nothing in the Holy Quran, nor in the sacred traditions of the Holy Prophet, which endorses the belief, to the satisfaction of one’s heart, that Jesus was taken up to heaven with his physical body and is alive there even now, and would descend therefrom in the latter days”.

In the case of those ahadith that speak of Hazrat Isa coming at some future time, it is not necessary to concur with those Muslims who reject Hadith on principle, but it is necessary to recognize that there are serious difficulties if these reports are taken literally. This not only leads to inconsistency and absurdity but also plays into the hands of Christian propagandists.

Muslims are vulnerable, again, because they fail to take to heart the fact that Islam is not merely a set of rules, but a means for the refinement of the soul. Christians can, therefore, preach that Islam is a hollow faith and that Christianity alone can save the soul of man.

Muslims are vulnerable because they believe that Islam is like the citizenship of a political state or membership in a professional association rather than something based upon the brotherhood of believers, and because each faction claims the right to decide who is and who is not a citizen or member. Muslims fail to see Islam as a movement for the reform and welfare of mankind and indulge in calling each other kafir [non-Muslims]. This is a weakness that Christians will exploit.

The right response to the “decade of evangelism”, then, is not to protest that it is unfair or unjust, or that Christians have no right to preach Christianity, but for Muslims to seek out the true meaning of Islam, to apply it in practice, and to face the Christian missionaries with logical arguments based on sound knowledge.

I have no doubt that the promise of the Holy Quran is true and Islam shall prevail. However, it will not be an “Islam” obsessed with petty rules such as the lengths of beards, or negative attitudes, whereby a minority of Ulama [clerics] attempt to control the community through threats of excommunication.