Page 20 of 25
Islam and Christianity: A Comparison
The American author contends that Christianity calls men to purity and charity and that it is, on this account, the opposite of what he thinks Islam is. This is not the place to compare Islam and Christianity on this point, because, fundamentally, the two religions are in agreement. Comparison in this manner would lead to futile controversy and to a profitless competition between Christianity and Islam. However, I do wish to observe that between Jesus-may God's blessing be upon him and Christianity, as far as this call to stoicism and asceticism is concerned, there is a clear difference. Jesus was certainly no stoic. His first miracle was the transformation of the water into wine at Cana where he was a guest. Obviously, Jesus had not wished that the people go without drinking wine. Neither did he turn down the invitation of the Pharisees to sit at their lavish banquet, for he did not wish the people to deprive themselves from enjoying the blessings of God. Likewise, Muhammad emphasized the need for pursuing one's share of this world. On the other hand, it is true that Jesus used to call the rich to give charitably to the poor and to love the latter in good heart. In this, however, the Qur'an has given voice to the greatest and most eloquent expression ever known to man. The reader may recall that we have quoted from the Qur'an in connection with the zakat and sadaqat which we discussed earlier. Sufficient for us in reply to Irving and his like to say that the Qur'an has called for charity, temperance, moderation, goodness, and love regarding everything.
"They That Take the Sword . . ."
There remains the last sentence of Washington Irving's statement. It is that by which the West indicts us with that which it had better indict itself namely, the sword. The crime is indeed that of the western world, not ours. It is its stain of shame, the sinister seed which will finally destroy its false pride and civilization. Irving says: "That the crescent has waned before the cross, and exists in Europe where it was once so mighty, only by the sufferance or rather the jealously of the great Christian powers, probably ere long to furnish another illustration, that `they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.' "
"They that take the sword shall perish with the sword." This verse of the New Testament Irving directs accusingly toward Islam in the name of Christianity. How strange! Perhaps Irving might have had some excuse had he hurled his accusation a hundred or so years ago when the imperialism of the West (as we like to call it) or of Christendom (as Irving likes to call it) had not reached the terrible degree of greed and covetousness, of conquest and aggression by the sword which it has reached today. When Field Marshall Allenby captured Jerusalem in 1918 in the name of the Allies, he made this terrible proclamation standing on the steps of the Dome of the Rock: "Today the Crusades have come to an end." Doctor Peterson Smith, in his book on the life of Jesus, wrote, "This capture of Jerusalem was indeed an eighth Crusade in which Christianity had finally achieved its purpose." And it may even be true to say that the capture of Jerusalem was not a purely Christian effort, but that it was equally the effort of the Jews, who used the Christians in order to realize the old diaspora dream of making the Land of Promise a national home for the Jews.