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I gazed upon faces bathed with the blood and sweat of this most extreme torture. Many more and more violently keep step with the wild performance until, their physical powers overcome by exhaustion, they lie gasping for breath, some never again to stagger to their feet. Some women, moved by the agony of the impotent rage and misery, fainted away. Who could look on such a scene unmoved?
Before this awful sight we close our eyes, and the hardest heart turns sick and faint. In an anguish of despair the soul cries out, O God, is Thy light powerless to penetrate the midnight that hangs pall-like over benighted people of Thy own creation ? And peering through the darkness, hope sees the glimmer of a star, the morning star, bespeaking a larger light, before whose powerful rays this awful night of ignorance shall flee forever.
At this Mohammedan paroxysm of self torture, the oftrepeated question echoed to my ear with more emphasis than ever, “Why art thou a Christian?” and my soul answered, because God is love, His religion is a religion of love, a religion of peace. No more sacrifice, for Christ suffered all our transgressions, and we are free from all penalty. We are not required to commemorate His blood with our blood, but to follow the path of eternal life and happiness which he has opened for us through His death.
There is much misunderstanding among Christians and the world in general regarding the Mohammedan faith and worship. Especially among the Christians, ideas of Mohammedanism are inexcusably vague, and are consequently
obstacles in the way of a correct understanding of the history of a religious force that has had no little part in the history of the world.
If the follower of Christ will study the Koran earnestly, he will not fail to find many features that strikingly resemble the leading texts of his own faith. Indeed, he will be surprised to find that the religion which he formerly supposed to be the offspring of heathenism, abounding in superstition and folly, is pregnant with truths that have been inculcated into his own heart and life since childhood.
And it is not difficult to discover a reason for the similarity. That Mohammedanism should resemble Christianity, and that the Koran should compare closely with the Bible, is only a natural outcome of the training of the great Prophet.
From his earliest years he was taught the Old and New Testaments, and rendered them a love and respect which he did not withdraw in his old age, for to the last he spoke of the Bible as the word of God.
Besides the direct influence of the Holy Scriptures, the surroundings of his household were essentially Christian in character. His favorite wife embraced the teachings of Christ, one of his other wives was a Jewess, and most of his highly esteemed counsellors were of the Christian persuasion. All this could not fail to exert a powerful influence, and Mohammet manifested it in all his writings, paying homage to Christ to the last, and looking upon him as the greatest of prophets.
The question naturally arises, “If this is true, why did Mohammed seek to establish a new religion?" If such was his inner loyalty to Christianity, why was he a traitor to his convictions ?
Besides shedding a ray on our own understanding, we will be doing Mohammed justice if we class him among the reformers. He did not claim to be more than a man. Although his followers ascribe them to him, he did not pretend to perform miracles, and, in fact, went so far as to denounce them.
Had his work been accomplished in a more enlightened country, he would not have been falsely canonized as a prophet, but would probably be known as a Christian reformer. He fought not against the Bible, nor against Christianity in its purity. He did, however, zealously attack that Christianity as corruptly practiced by the people of his time. One of these corruptions, a very natural result of the metaphoreal character of certain scriptural passages, was the apparent apothesis of Jesus and the Virgin Mary, the popular conception making the latter a goddess and the former a God, equal and separate from Jehovah. This was very obnoxious to Mohammed, who, like his followers of the present day, and the Jews of his own, believed in the absolute unity of the deity. The teaching of the Koran in this regard is almost identical with that of the Bible, and other points of resemblance, indeed of ideality, may be very easily designated.
For instance, the Koran teaches the existence of angels as God's messengers. It is interesting to note, however, that where the Bible makes man a little lower than the angels, the Mohammedan supposes the heavenly host, in the glad morn of creation, kneeling and paying homage to man, God's last and most glorious achievement. Again, Mohammed taught that our lives are in God's hands and nothing can happen to his creatures save what He Himself has meted out of His all-wise providence. All things that happen belong in the course of a God-destiny. Fate was a word with which the great Prophet had no patience “Fate is not; our times, on the contrary, are in His hands."
With Christians, the Mohammedans hold the tenet of inspiration, believing that God has certain chosen men with whom he confides special messages to be transmitted to his people-a fact of marked import, as an indication of no little height of religious dignity. As if foreseeing, too, the discussions that would inevitably arise over the question of inspiration, Mohammed shrewdly divides inspiration into two classes-direct and indirect. In the one case the dicta of the deity are transmitted verbatim; in the other, the Prophet used his own forms of expression, but writes under the divine influence and direction. This is not unlike the most recent theories of Christian apologists in regard to Holy Writ.
With Christendom, again, the Musselman believes in rewards and punishments, in the resurrection, and in a day of judgment, when each will be judged according to his deeds in the flesh. And with no essential difference he believes in a heaven for all who have lived uprightly, where friend is to meet with friend and wife with husband (this latter somewhat contrary to Christian teachings). And here we would have something to say concerning those who find fault with the picture which Mohammed draws of the celestial paradise, censuring him for depicting it as a place of sensual joy and allurement. In the first place, this charge is practically groundless. In the second place, we would say that to our nation it makes no essential difference how we describe the land of the hereafter, so that we make that description conform to our ideas of true and pure happiness, as all conceptions employing the material as symbols of the spiritual must necessarily fall far short of the true glory of heaven. Whether we make it a city with walls of jasper and streets of gold, echoing to the ring of happy harps, or see with tranquil vision an infinite paradise, clothed with wonder and peopled with creations of eternal love, we achieve as much and as little. Neither is heaven; both are faulty metaphors, halting figures, imperfect symbols.
The memory of devastating wars waged by Mohammed; the atrocious cruelties perpetrated by his followers upon those of unlike faith; the fact that polygamy has existed, and apparently was sanctioned by the great Prophet himself-all conspire to breed an antipathy within us that is not wholly justifiable. We have already spoken of the near kinship that Mohammedanism bears to Christianity. The commands of the Koran in regard to methods of warfare, and its admonitions deprecating cruelty in any form, are as