A watershed moment for China: Islam or Christianity?

· Buddhism, China, Christianity, ISLAMOPHOBIA
Authors

By Zia H Shah MD

Like it or not, but Islam and Christianity have been two missionary religions, which have been struggling to win the hearts and minds of humanity for centuries and they are not going to change their character, just because some agnostics or atheists do not like it.  As a Muslim, belonging to the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, I believe that the Holy Prophet Muhammad and his follower, the Messiah, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad Qadiani, came to unite all religions and mankind by emphasizing religious freedom for everyone and the fact that the founders of all other religions, Confucius, Buddha, Tao, Krishna, Ram, Moses and Jesus were prophets of God.  Islam gives a unifying paradigm and recognizes the spiritual experience of all people over the millennia, whereas, Christianity always demonstrates an obsession with Jesus and in this age of information wants to pull us back two thousand years ago to a society, when heroes were elevated to be gods.  We have two other man-gods from Jesus’ time, Emperor Augustus and Apollonius of Tyana.  If we are to believe in human gods we may as well believe in millions of Hindu gods.  After all why should the Christian stories be more acceptable than the Hindu myths, except that the Western civilization gave us our present day science and technology.  On a side note, it would be relevant to add here that the Western civilization did extensively borrow from the Chinese and the Islamic Heritage.

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Islam is not new to China.  Emperor Hongwu (1328 – 1398) was the founder of the Ming dynasty and ordered construction of several mosques in Nanjing, Yunnan, Guangdong and Fujian and had inscriptions praising the Prophet Muhammad placed in mosques. He rebuilt the Jinjue Mosque in Nanjing.  He also wrote a 100 word praise on Islam, Allah and the prophet Muhammad. He had around 10 Muslim generals in his military, including Chang Yuchun, Lan Yu, Ding Dexing, Mu Ying, Feng Sheng and Hu Dahai. In addition, Hongwu’s spouse, Empress Ma, was a Muslim.  Hui scholars like Yusuf Haji Chang have claimed the Emperor was a Muslim himself as well, due to his intimate relations with Muslims.   Zheng He  (1371–1433) the greatest Chinese Admiral was also a Muslim.  His voyages and immigrants of Chinese descendant played a major role in converting Indonesians to Islam. Several sources note that some of the members of the Wali Songo (the nine revered saints of Islam in Indonesia, especially in Java, because of their historic role in the spread of Islam in Indonesia) had Chinese blood in them.

It may not be easily visible to most Chinese, but Islam and Christianity are vying to become the paradigm, for the human civilization in our global village.  Muslims have always believed in sharing the democratic values of Islam and Universal Brotherhood with all humans and here I will offer only two proofs of the Christian missionary zeal.  Firstly, is a book by Pope Benedict XVI,  Without Roots: The West, Relativism, Christianity, Islam?  Secondly, it is a fact that the Christian mission is very active in China, in its own way, if you have been following news in the Muslim Times.

Read on and in the words of Sir Francis Bacon, “Read not to contradict … but to weigh and consider.” Christianity not only wants to believe in more than one god, in the person of Jesus and the Holy Ghost, reminding us of medieval times of the first century Roman Empire, when 90% of the population was pagan, but, also wants to propose that Jesus died for our sins and is the only means to true salvation.  Whereas, Buddha, Confucius  and Tao who preceded him by centuries, never heard about him and did not preach vicarious atonement.  To illustrate the fallacy of Christian atonement, let me quote from the writing of perhaps the greatest intellectual of the eighteenth century in USA and one of the Founding Fathers of my beloved USA, Thomas Paine, as he hit the nail squarely on the head, in his legendary book the Age of Reason:

From the time I was capable of conceiving an idea, and acting upon it by reflection, I either doubted the truth of the Christian system, or thought it to be a strange affair; I scarcely knew which it was: but I well remember, when about seven or eight years of age, hearing a sermon read by a relation of mine, who was a great devotee of the church, upon the subject of what is called Redemption by the death of the Son of God. After the sermon was ended, I went into the garden, and as I was going down the garden steps (for I perfectly recollect the spot) I revolted at the recollection of what I had heard, and thought to myself that it was making God Almighty act like a passionate man, that killed his son, when he could not revenge himself any other way; and as I was sure a man would be hanged that did such a thing, I could not see for what purpose they preached such sermons. This was not one of those kind of thoughts that had anything in it of childish levity; it was to me a serious reflection, arising from the idea I had that God was too good to do such an action, and also too almighty to be under any necessity of doing it. I believe in the same manner to this moment; and I moreover believe, that any system of religion that has anything in it that shocks the mind of a child, cannot be a true system.

This is certainly age of reason and the Chinese are too smart to fall for the unreasonable.  Paine in a short paragraph has powerfully shown us what is fundamentally wrong with the Christian dogma.  But, Christianity is a collection of paradoxes, which is how she confuses and entangles the naive and uninformed.  Christianity not only believes that Jesus died for us, but, also believes in salvation through our acts of compassion and kindness and this is how she keeps the naive confused.  Let me quote from the Gospel of Matthew:
Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ (Matthew 25:34-45)

First of all this detailed parable or metaphor illustrates that our works count and the Christian emphasis ‘on Faith alone,’ in Protestantism more than in Catholicism is one more paradox that needs to be replaced with the Confucius, Buddhist, Tao and Islamic teaching that human actions do count!
There are numerous verses in the Holy Quran emphasizing kindness and the teaching of being service minded and the teachings are illustrated with different metaphors.  Here I would like to reproduce a Hadith, a saying of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, which is very similar to the presentation of the Gospel of Matthew:

Indeed, Allah will say to his servant when He will be taking account of him on the Day of Judgment, ‘O’ son of Adam, I was hungry and you did not feed me.’ He will answer: ‘How could I feed you? You are the Lord of the worlds!’ He will say: ‘Did you not know that my servant so and so who is the son of so and so felt hunger, and you did not feed him. Alas, had you fed him you would have found that (i.e. reward) with Me.’ ‘O’ son of Adam, I was thirsty and you gave Me nothing to drink.’ He will reply: ‘How could I give You drink? You are the Lord of the worlds!’ He will say: ‘Did you not know that my servant so and so, the son of so and so was thirsty and you did not give him drink. Alas, if you had given him, you would have found that (i.e. reward) with me.’ ‘O’ son of Adam, I became sick and you did not visit Me.’ He will answer: ‘How could I visit You? You are the Lord of the worlds!’ He will say: ‘Did you not know that my servant so and so, the son of so and so became sick and you did not visit him. Alas, had you visited him, you would have found Me with him.’

Now, the moral teaching of compassion is exactly the same but if we read the next verse in the Gospel of Matthew another theological difference between Christianity and Islam pops up.  Matthew reads, “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”  (Matthew 25:46)  Here, the New Testament is suggesting the standard Christian version of eternal punishment for the finite crimes of the wicked and those who do not believe that Jesus died for them.  Infinite punishment for finite crimes does not reflect well on the Just God and the Holy Quran takes exception to this vulnerability of Christian theology.  There is also a Hadith that says that there will come a time on hell when it will have no inhabitants and all the sinners would have been forgiven after fulfilling their term.  The Holy Quran recognizes good faith efforts of all humans:
Surely, the Believers, and the Jews, and the Christians and the Sabians — whichever party from among these truly believes in Allah and the Last Day and does good deeds — shall have their reward with their Lord, and no fear shall come upon them, nor shall they grieve. (Al Quran 2:63) And: Surely, those who have believed, and the Jews, and the Sabians, and the Christians — whoso believes in Allah and the Last Day and does good deeds, on them shall come no fear, nor shall they grieve. (Al Quran 5:70)
Christian missionaries use logic and reason, only for bait and switch, because their real emphasis is on ‘faith’ only and their biggest tools are not rational dialogue and debate but propaganda and advertisement.  If you do not believe me, hear from one of the leading Christian apologists of his time.  Soren Kierkgaard.
He confessed, the quagmire between Christianity and rationality, in no uncertain terms:

It is not the business of any Christian writer or preacher to dilute Christianity to suit the general educated public. The doctrine of the incarnation was to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, and so will it always be, for the doctrine not only transcends reason; it the paradox par excellence; and it can be affirmed only by faith, with passionate inwardness and interest. The substitution of reason for faith means the death of Christianity.

Epilogue

Chinese will soon realize that the tools to promote Christianity among the Chinese masses will not be logic, reason, dialogue, rationality or science.  The real and the main weapon will be advertisement!  What do I mean?  The Christian apologists will be advertising, consciously or unconsciously, Santa Claus, Christmas, Good Friday, Easter and humanitarian work by Red Cross, note the word cross in ‘Red Cross!’  Yes, yes indeed, cross will be beamed at your television screens day in and day out, in soap opera, in bought advertisements for different goods, documentaries, movies and even programs for the Chinese children, until some of them begin to believe that Jesus died for them.  If you do not believe that Jesus died for you and Confucius, Buddha and Tao did teach us rational thinking, then you may need to give equal time to Islam on the airways, because only Islam with its rational foundation and rich heritage will be able to withstand Christian onslaught of constant flashing of crosses, in different sizes and colors, on the three billion unsuspecting Chinese eyeballs, sometimes overtly and sometimes in hidden subliminal messages!

There are thirty million Chinese Muslims.  It would board well for Chinese future, if her leadership would engage these citizens in national media positively and use them as a vehicle to usher in a new age of harmony, freedom, rationality and prosperity for every Chinese.   This may be the only means to prevent the quagmire between Christianity and rationality, articulated so eloquently by Soren Kierkegaard, from engulfing 1.5 billion Chinese people.  Leaning towards Islam would not only be good religion and history but, also good politics.  Long live humanity!

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