Muslims (and Jews) have been rather unfair in their portrayal of Christianity. They have been very quick to label Christianity as equivalent to idolatry, polytheism and blaspheming pure monotheistic faith. Further charges against Christian belief is that it proclaims Jesus as the physically begotten son of God with all the base connotations associated with that claim. Further accusations against Christianity is that it has willfully corrupted the Gospel as the revealed word of God, and that it has twisted the message brought by Jesus Christ.
Sustaining these accusations require a great deal of implied assertions then. Some of these are the following: (1) Over a billion people today are simply too ignorant to see through the lies and fabrications (2) 20 Centuries of Christians have maintained an oblivious lie (3) God has withheld his guidance from generations upon generations of Christians.
We need to remember that Christianity was successful in converting large populations of pagans in Europe since about 300 CE towards the worship of One God. The Germanic peoples, the Northmen and the Goths were all pagans that embraced Christianity, and continued to uphold that faith. They acquired a very firm faith in Christianity, maintaining it even through the years when Muslims threatened to conquer Europe early in the 8th century. It is also a fact that, many, many Christians maintained their belief, even after Christianity became unpopular or discouraged. The atheist movement during the 17th and 18th centuries, as well as the communist rule over Eastern Europe for several decades in the 20th century are cases in point.
These points force one to ask the question whether there is any validity in the Christian path? My dear Christian brothers and sisters, do, I believe possess a very passionate and personal relationship with God. By using Jesus as an avatar for God, Christians are able to forge a very warm, personal love for God. After listening to many Christian scholars’ attempt to explain the concept of the Trinity, they are definitely prepared to concede that the concept is mysterious and unexplainable in common logical terms. If pressed to explain the role of Jesus in the overall Kingdom, they explain that Jesus the earthly man, was devoid of divine powers. Jesus the Godhead however shares in the glory and power of God.
In Islamic Sufism, there is a belief, called Fanaa’, meaning annihilation in God. The Sufi concept of Fanaa’ teaches that a man or woman can, at the pinnacle of faith and love for God, be annihilated within God. At that point, his will becomes annihilated within the greater will of God almighty. His actions and his desires become an exact expression of the wishes of God almighty. Is this Sufi understanding not worth applying to Jesus?
Another early accepted belief of many Muslims, which in fact reached the status of the orthodox belief was the uncreated nature of the Quran. This belief has serious implications. If the Quran is uncreated, does that make the Quran co-eternal with Allah? The orthodox sheikhs like Ibn Hanbal say “Yes!”. But wait a minute… That is exactly what Christians hold about Jesus, namely that Jesus is co-eternal with God, the father. Sunni Muslims see the words of Allah, preserved in a “Lawh Mahfooz” (A Protected Tablet), which carries the divine command to humanity, ever-present with Allah. Christians only ask for the same allowance to be made with the divine command to be vested in the Messiah, also ever-present and co-eternal with God.
I therefore feel that Christianity has suffered exaggerated criticism beyond what was really fair by Muslims and Jews. There is an interesting report from the Islamic Prophetic tradition that narrated the disappointment of the first generation Muslims when Christian Rome (Byzantium) suffered defeat at the hands of the Persians during the life of the Prophet Muhammad (P). On that occasion, a Koranic revelation allayed the fears of these Muslims to announce, to their delight, that Christian Rome would actually make an amazing come-back and would defeat then Persians in some five to ten years. The Koranic prophecy was proven true, when this did in fact happen. Christianity is, I believe, a fallible human attempt at making sense of the mission of Jesus Christ, and the majesty of God almighty, which is about the same that can be said for Judaism and majority Sunni Islam.
We all need to unfreeze our beliefs, just enough to open ourselves up recognize the errors that crept into all our beliefs, and set ourselves on the straight path to God almighty. The mutual mistrust and animosity, which was brought about by grave injustices committed towards each other over the centuries has unfortunately fostered a climate of rank mutual rejection, instead of mutual reasoning and co-operation aimed at perfecting our mutual beliefs.
What does the Quran say about Christianity?
“Surely those who believe, and those who are Jews, and the Christians, and the Sabians — whoever believes in God and the Last Day and does good, they shall have their reward from their Lord. And there will be no fear for them, nor shall they grieve” (2:62, 5:69).
“…and nearest among them in love to the believers will you find those who say, ‘We are Christians,’ because amongst these are men devoted to learning and men who have renounced the world, and they are not arrogant” (5:82).
“O you who believe! Be helpers of God — as Jesus the son of Mary said to the Disciples, ‘Who will be my helpers in (the work of) God?’ Said the disciples, ‘We are God’s helpers!’ Then a portion of the Children of Israel believed, and a portion disbelieved. But We gave power to those who believed, against their enemies, and they became the ones that prevailed” (61:14).
“If only they [Christians] had stood fast by the Law, the Gospel, and all the revelation that was sent to them from their Lord, they would have enjoyed happiness from every side. There is from among them a party on the right course, but many of them follow a course that is evil” (5:66).
“Oh People of the Book! Commit no excesses in your religion, nor say of God anything but the truth. Christ Jesus, the son of Mary, was (no more than) a messenger of God, and His Word which He bestowed on Mary, and a spirit proceeding from Him. So believe in God and His messengers. Say not, ‘Trinity.’ Desist! It will be better for you, for God is One God, Glory be to Him! (Far exalted is He) above having a son. To Him belong all things in the heavens and on earth. And enough is God as a Disposer of affairs” (4:171).
“The Jews call ‘Uzair a son of God, and the Christians call Christ the son of God. That is but a saying from their mouth; (in this) they but imitate what the unbelievers of old used to say. God’s curse be on them; how they are deluded away from the Truth! They take their priests and their anchorites to be their lords in derogation of God, and (they take as their Lord) Christ the son of Mary. Yet they were commanded to worship but One God: there is no god but He. Praise and glory to Him! (Far is He) from having the partners they associate (with Him)” (9:30-31).