A Unique Book of It’s Kind for Comparative Study of Islam and Christianity By Maulana M. Saeed Dehlvi
In a famous garden of Spain, well known for its beauty and freshness vying with the garden of Eden, which was always crowded by sight-seers, two learned men were engaged in a theological discussion in a corner. The sun at this time had completed its round and was preparing to set in the west, while the enchanting songs of birds returning to nests were exhilarating the passers-by. A Christian girl, whose name is given in history as Isabella, was also sitting with some friends in the garden and watching with delight the beauty of Nature. Aged about sixteen or seventeen, she was the daughter of a Christian priest. In her beauty and grace she looked like a hourie of Paradise, and nobles and religious leaders aspired for her hand to make their lives happy and joyful, but her father wanted her to be the model of virgin Mary and did not want to give her away in marriage. Since she was being given religious training, she was well acquainted with religious matters and took keen interest in theological discussions.
In a bed of roses, in a corner, as stated above, sat some Muslims, who appeared to be men of learning, engaged in some discussion.
First man: Saint Paul has written in one of his letters that religious law is a curse and Jesus Christ came to relieve us from that curse. What after all does this mean?
Second man: (laughing): You want to understand it from me, although even Christian priests….
Isabella, who was sitting at a little distance with her girl friends was alerted on the words “even Christian priests” and said to one of her friends: These Muslims seem to be talking about our religion. Let us hear quietly what they say. A friend responded: Since these Muslims have come here our religion is in great danger.
Isabella: Stop talking. Keep quiet and let us hear what they say.
First man: Muaz! You have said that even Christian priests do not understand it. Do you mean to say that they are following Christianity without understanding it?
Second man: Umar Lahmi! Just put this question to some eminent priest and see what he says. But first you should tell me your objection to what Saint Paul has said.
Umar Lahmi: There is no objection in fact. I just want to understand it and since you have often talked to Christians and have also read their literature, so I want to understand it from you. What I want to know is that when religious law is a curse and Prophet Jesus came to relieve the Christians from this curse, therefore, theft, fornication, disobedience to parents will also be permissible although no Christian believes in their permissibility.
Muaz: How are theft and fornication and other such sins related to the religious law being a curse? I cannot quite follow you.
Umar Lahmi: What I mean is that the Old Testament is the religious law which enjoins that one should not steal, should not fornicate, should not give trouble to his neighbor, should not disobey his parents, etc. but when the entire religious law is a curse, it will also be a curse to obey these injunctions as these injunctions are also religious law and the very core of it. If what Saint Paul says is correct, then Christians should also steal, fornicate and commit such other sins. But like us they follow this religious law, then they are accursed and Christians who object to these sins are condemned as they object to obedience of religious law.
Muaz: Funny, you want me to clear the very objection which I have put to Christians so often.
Umar Lahmi: Have you ever put it to Christians? What was their reply?
Muaz: They tried to explain it away and were perplexed.
Just then there was the call for the Maghrib prayer and the two learned men made their ablution in a nearby tank and offered prayer.
Isabella had listened to this conversation very attentively being keenly interested in theological questions and felt the weight of the objection. She put her mind to it and tried to find out an explanation that she might put it to Muaz and Umar Lahmi. But despite all efforts she was unable to find a solution and, still absorbed in the question, she got up along with her friends thinking that she would ask her father about it.
Isabella left her companions at a crossroad and walked to the eastern gate of Cordova.
An Important Question:
Entering the eastern gate of Cordova, the young and beautiful Isabella took to the road which led straight to the Qasrul Shuhada (Palace of Martyrs). The Muslim government of the day had lavishly beautified the whole of Spain. The roads of Cordova were wide and well planned and beautiful lamps at short distances lighted them and, as Dr Draper says, one could walk twenty miles in their light. Isabella walked slowly and gracefully on the wide and bright road of the Palace of Martyrs towards her home and her pace today was t houghtful a nd d ignified. A fter her evening stroll she used to call on her friends on the way while returning, but today she was heading straight to her home and seemed to be absorbed in some thought. In half an hour she reached her palatial house, where her maid-servant was waiting for her at the door and greeted her. Giving some off-hand answer to the maid’s question as to her delayed return, she entered her room and, sitting in an easy chair, began to read a book. In the meantime the maidservant laid the dinner table and called her. But she was so absorbed in the book that she did not respond and continued in her study. The book she was reading was the Holy Bible and she was particularly studying Saint Paul’s Epistles with great care in which the religious law was denounced as a curse. She read the letters again and again but could not find a solution to her doubt, which became more and more firm as she went on reading. When her mind was tired, she put away the Bible and resolved to ask her father who, she thought, could explain.
She did not think that the problem was insoluble. If she could not find the solution, her father would easily find it as there was no man in Spain so learned as her Father. So eased in her mind she took her dinner and began to read the Bible again. Sometime after, she went to her bed.
Next morning, rising early she went to the church, it being a Sunday. On her return her father called her and asked her what chapter of the Bible she had read last night as she was engaged in comprehending the inner meanings of metaphysics. If she had any difficulty in solving any problem she might ask him.
Isabella (kissing his hand): Father, I have read today I John, Chapter 3, and if you permit me I may ask a question as I have not yet been able to solve the problem.
Priest: Surely, surely, my child. Do ask it and I will resolve your difficulty.
Isabella: Our Lord has given us Twelve commandments in the old Testament through Prophet Moses. Are they not about religious law?
Priest: Yes, they all relate to religious law.
Isabella: The next thing is that Saint Paul has said in one of his letters that religious law is a curse.
Priest: Yes, religious law is a curse and it was to relieve us from this curse that Jesus Christ came to the world and was crucified.
Isabella: It is clear that religious law is a curse and so grave a curse that Jesus Christ came to the world to remove it and was crucified. I t, therefore, means that to follow religious law is also a curse.
Priest: Surely it is a curse and now Christians, instead of following the religious law, should have faith in Jesus Christ, as religious law was effective until our lord was not crucified.
Isabella: Now, is stealing permissible for us?
Priest: What has this got to do with the religious law? My child, you should think carefully before asking a question as anyone else. Who hears this question will take you to be quite foolish.
Isabella: Forgive me. Probably I could not make myself clear. What I mean is that among the Commandments, which you have just said are part of religious law, one command is that you should not steal and another that you should not oppress your neighbor and the third that you should not disobey your parents. Now, these commandments are still parts of the religious law which, according to Saint Paul, is a curse. So to obey the Commandments of Old Testament (that is not to steal, not to fornicate) is abomination and not to steal and not to molest your parents are a curse.
Priest: My child, you have not yet understood the position of the religious law. But first tell me who put this foolish question in your mind and what devil put this doubt in you?
On this Isabella reported all the talk between Umar Lahmi and Muaz which she had heard in the garden.
Priest: My child, you know it well that these accursed Muslims are “unbelievers” and have always been inimical to our sacred religion. Criticism of our holy books is the result of Satanic thinking. My child, you should repent at once and in future do not give ear to the talk of Muslims. They are irreligious and castigate the true religion of others. Do you know, my child, what is their religion? Blood shed is creditable in their religion. Just see, they invaded our country Spain and killed hundreds of innocent people and are forcibly imposing their religion. Now, I know that these objections you have heard from Muslims. If they were from your own mind I would have cleared them. But what reply can we give to them?
Isabella was sorry to have mentioned Muslims, otherwise her problems must have been solved. Now I will ask this question, she thought from my teacher whom I ask questions which I do not understand in the course of my studies.
Next day Isabella put the same question to her teacher who also failed to satisfy her by some convincible answer. Up to this time Isabella had thought that her difficulty was due to her lack of understanding and the religious leader will solve it easily, but now she realized that it was not an easy but, an important matter and her doubts were strengthened and continued to grow. – To be continued…