The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, has urged Muslims to learn about Christian culture. This appeal, diplomatic as it is, is based on the assumption that Muslims are “ignorant” of Christianity, or at least know very little about it.
To begin with, we should welcome, and even accept any invitation to further our knowledge because, for the respectable and wise, it is a perpetual pursuit. Moreover, God has urged Muslims to know other peoples and nations and interact with them. This is explicit in the following verse: “Oh mankind! We created you male and female and divided you into tribes and nations, so that you may come to know each other,” (Surat al Hujurat 49:13). In this global human acquaintance and interaction endorsed by the Quran, learning of other nations’ cultures is a primary asset among others.
At the beginning of this commentary or discussion we present to the Archbishop a supreme truth: knowledge of Jesus son of Mary, and belief in him are integral to the Islamic faith, since they are pillars of the faith, and a Muslim’s faith is considered incomplete without it. What follows is verification from the Quran and Sunnah:
1. In the Quran: “And say we believe in God, the revelation given to us, Abraham, Ismail, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes, as well as what was revealed to Moses and Jesus and all messengers of God. We draw no distinction between them and we submit to God,” (Surat al Baqara 2: 136). As the verse states, belief in God and His Holy Books is contingent on belief in Jesus and his Bible.
2. In the Sunnah: It has been accurately reported that the Prophet Mohammed, peace be upon him, said: “Whoever believes in One God and that He has no partner, and that Mohammed is His servant and prophet, and that Eissa (Jesus) is His servant and prophet and His Word spoken unto Maryam (Mary), and that God sent the Holy Ghost to him, and that Heaven is real and Hell is real; Allah will admit him into Heaven for whatever good deeds he has done.”
As a result of this supreme truth Muslims possess broad and profound knowledge of Jesus and Christianity. This knowledge incorporates the belief that Jesus Christ, peace be upon him, preached a system of values, concepts, ethics, virtues, and teachings and tenaciously pursued its instillation in society and in human conscience.
The following are examples of these principles, concepts, and values that Muslims learned from the Quran:
A. Mercy – The primary and most salient of Jesus’ qualities as well as his mission. The Quran states this: “And we shall make him a miracle among men and a mercy to them, and so it has been decreed.” (Surat Maryam 19:21). Furthermore, Jesus himself was keenly aware of this attribute, thus he renounced tyranny, the antithesis of mercy; “And he has made me kind to my mother, far from being a wretched oppressor.” (Surat Maryam 19:32).
B. Peace – The Quran teaches Muslims that Jesus was an advocate of peace and more precisely that he embodied peace from the day he was born till the Last Judgment, as in the Quran: “So peace be upon me on my birthday, the day I die, and on Judgment Day.”
C. True Faith – “But Christ said: O’ Children of Israel! Worship God, my Lord and your Lord. And whoever worships other gods with God will be forbidden from Heaven, and Hell will be his abode.” (Surat al Ma’ida 5:72).
And while the discussion heats up, a torrent of extensive and authentic knowledge of Christ and his faith cascades:
1. Muslims know of his miraculous birth: “And she brought the child to her people, carrying him in her arms. They said: Mary! This deed of yours is scandalous and unprecedented. O’ Sister of Aaron! Your father was not a sinful man, nor your mother a wanton woman. But Mary pointed to the child and they said: how can we talk to a child in the cradle? Then Jesus (the infant) said: I am indeed a servant of God: He has given me a revelation and made me-His messenger. And He has made me blessed wherever I roam and has enjoined on me prayer and charity as long as I live. He has made me kind to my mother, far from being a wretched oppressor. So peace be upon me on my birthday, the day I die, and on Judgment Day”. (Surat Maryam 19:27-33).
2. Muslims know Christ’s sublime and illustrious character. “And the angels said: O’ Mary! God has given you glad tidings of a Word from him: his name will be Jesus Christ, the son of Mary. He shall be exalted in this world and in the Hereafter, and of those nearest to God.” (Surat Al Imran 3:45).
3. Muslims know his revelation and Bible. “And after them we sent Jesus, the son of Mary, confirming the Torah revealed prior to him; and we sent him the Bible: therein was guidance, light, and an admonition to those who fear God.” (Surat Al Ma’ida 5:46).
4. Muslims know the miraculous nature of his prophethood and message. “Then God will say : O’ Jesus son of Mary! Remember My blessing and grace to you and your mother. I reinforced you with the Holy Spirit, and you spoke to people in your infancy and maturity. I taught you the Book, Wisdom, the Torah, and the Bible. You made the figure of a bird out of clay, and with My permission you blew into it and it came alive, you healed the born blind and the lepers with My permission. And you resurrected the dead with My permission”. (Surat Al Ma’ida 5:110).
5. Muslims know his mother and acknowledge her as the saintly, immaculate, Virgin Mary, peace be upon her.
a. “We will mention Mary in the Book, when she had withdrawn from her family to the East and shielded herself from them, soon we sent her Our angel (Gabriel) and he appeared before her, a perfect man. She said to him: I seek God’s protection from you that is if you fear Him. He said: I am only a messenger from your Lord to announce to you the gift of an immaculate son. She said: how should I have a son, when no man has ever touched me, and I am not a wanton woman? He said: The Lord said that it shall be, and it shall be effortlessly, and that your son will be a miracle among men and a mercy to them, and so it has been decreed.” (Surat Maryam 19:16-21).
b. “And the angels said: O’ Mary, God has chosen you, purified you, and chosen you above all the women of the world.” (Surat Al Imran 3:42).
6. Muslims know of Christ’s disciples, may God be pleased with them.
a. “When Jesus found disbelief on their part he said: who shall aid me in the cause of God? So the Apostles said: we are God’s devotees and will aid in the cause of God; we believe in God, bear witness that we submit to God.”
b. “O’ believers, be devoted to God, as Jesus, son of Mary, had once said to his Disciples: who will aid the cause of God? So the Apostles said: we will! Then a group of the Children of Israel believed but the other group did not, so we empowered those who believed against their enemies and they prevailed.”
7. Muslims believe in Christ’s second coming. Al Bukhari reported that the Prophet Mohammed, peace be upon him, said: “I swear by He Who owns my soul, the son of Mary will soon descend among you and be a just ruler; he will shatter the cross, kill the pigs, and establish peace. And due to the prevalent affluence, people will reject money that is offered them.”
8. Muslims know Christ’s features and character. Al Bukhari also reported that the Prophet Mohammed, peace be upon him, said: “While I was sleeping I dreamt that I was circumambulating the Kaaba, and I saw a copper-skinned, straight-haired man sauntering between two men, I asked: who is he? And they said: this is the son of Maryam”. Al Bukhari reported another Hadith wherein the Prophet describes Christ: “He was a man of medium height, copper-skinned, and looked as if he had just gotten out of a bath: pure, radiant, fresh, and luminous.”
So in light of these magnificent examples of Muslims’ extensive knowledge of Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary, the Bible, and the venerated Apostles, we might say with scientific certainty that Muslims are indeed not “ignorant” of Christianity. Under the light of this shining vivid truth, Christians ought to acquire more knowledge, or rather learn more about Islamic culture before making such accusations.
1. To achieve a transaction of knowledge between Muslims and Christians: knowledge of the two great prophets, Mohammed son of Abdullah and Jesus son of Mary, peace be upon them.
2. Some Christians have actively distorted, demeaned, and defamed Islam and its culture; presuming no ill will on their part, the undisputed conclusion is that “ignorance” is the cause of this war on Islam. And nothing will wash away this ignorance but pure rivers of Islamic knowledge: the Quran, Sunnah, doctrine, law, and culture.
To name a few of the facts that the Christian public opinion should know:
1. Muslims must believe in Jesus son of Mary and acknowledge him as a prophet, and as God’s messenger.
2. Jesus Christ, peace be upon him, is repeatedly glorified throughout the Quran and in several Hadiths [Prophetic traditions].
3. Islam defended and vindicated the Virgin Mary from the libelous accusations of her enemies and their assaults on her immaculate virtue. “And because they disbelieved and wrongfully accused Mary of a grave charge.” (Surat Al Nisa’a 4:156).
4. Islam established the fact that Christians are the most amicable and benevolent of people to Muslims; “And you will find those who said we are Christians, the most amicable and benevolent to Muslims .For there are men devoted to knowledge among them, and others who have renounced the world, and are not arrogant.” (Surat Al Ma’ida 5:82). Christians should use this fact as a solid bridge of communication between themselves and Muslims.
5. Islam has proclaimed and acknowledged the Christian right of existence based on the foundations of the Islamic doctrine: acknowledging Jesus and the Bible, and describing Christians with an objective and delicate epithet in the Quran and Sunnah: (The People of the Book). It is inconceivable that this epithet was meant to degrade them in any way; in fact it was certainly meant to honor them. Moreover a doctrinal proclamation is embedded in this epithet: Christians are People with a Book from God. This is the best acknowledgement of their incorporeal existence, which is also the foundation of their material existence.
Undoubtedly “ignorance” of such tolerance leads to scientific and behavioral catastrophes; for example the position of Fred Neil, a member of the Australian parliament, took when he said: “Islam denies Christianity the right to exist!” It is perhaps the task of the Archbishop of Canterbury, and other wise Christians to abolish such “ignorance”.