Review on “The Christian Conquest of Asia” By John Henry Barrows D.D.

John Henry Barrows, D.D., a familiar name for Ahmadi-Muslim missionaries and scholars, delivered a series of lectures. Describing these lectures, Dr. Barrows wrote in the preface of the book “The Christian Conquest of Asia” which comprises these lectures:

“Since my return from the East and Far east in May, 1897, I have delivered more than two hundred addresses in various parts of the country, in which I have set forth some of the impressions and conclusions which are found in this volume. These lectures were on the Morse Foundation of the Union Theological Seminary, New York, and were delivered in the Adams Chapel in the winter of 1898.”

In chapter-II of this book, titled “The Cross and the Crescent in Asia”, to his Christian audience Dr. Barrows introduced and described:

  • Islām, the Holy Prophetsa and the Holy Qur`ān;
  • the historical spread and influence of Islam in the world and its lasting impression till date on the hearts and minds of its followers;
  • deplorable situation of Christians and Christianity at the time of the birth of the Holy Prophetsa;
  • distortion and corruption of true message of Christianity by the Roman and Greek Churches;
  • the then current situation in the nineteenth century in the background of declining political power of Muslims and taking its place the rising hegemony of Christian America;
  • competition in the missionary efforts of Islām and Christianity;
  • and the impediments faced by Christian missionaries in Islamic world

While praising and acknowledging the beauties of Islam, the Holy Qur`ān, and the Holy Prophetsa and at the same time honestly admitting the lower moral state of the Christians in comparison to the Muslims and the corrupted form of Christianity, Dr. Barrows, like all other evangelists alleged the Holy Prophetsa of shifting his role from a reformer to a despotic relentless ruler after his migration from Makka to Madina. He wrote:

“”If he had been put to death by the fanatical idolaters at this time, Mohammed’s figure, it has been truly said, “would have stood out in history as that of a prophet and martyr absolutely without reproach.” But from the time of his reception in Medina appears to begin the retrograde movement in Mohammed’s mind. A new faith and a new fanaticism gathered around the exiled Apostle of God. His followers banded themselves together to guard him against all, as they guarded their own wives and children. For ten years from the time of the Hegira Mohammed lived on, discharging the functions of law-giver, statesman, general, judge and king. In the earlier period he had enjoined toleration; he had said, “Let there be no compulsion in religion.” His spirit was kindly, gentle and forbearing. “But as soon as he gained power, he found himself supported by a host of warriors ready at his call, and he saw it expedient to turn aside from the paths of peace and moderation into those of war, marauding and plunder.” He modified his high demands of justice, truth and mercy, and, far worse than this, proved that possession of absolute power was able to corrupt one of the bravest of all the prophets.” (P:41-42)

The allegations are continued. However, leaving such unfounded allegations aside, rest of the chapter is an honest tribute and acknowledgment of the beauties of Islam and the Holy Prophetsa and a wise analysis of the political and religious situation of nineteenth century Islamic world. It is amazing, however, that Dr. Barrows has not mentioned in his lectures the Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam and its Holy Founderas who had already claimed at that time to be the awaited Messiah and challenged Christians and others to rebut his claim. Probably Dr. Barrows did not gauge the potent threat to Christianity posed by Ahmadiyyat. Excerpt from this book on the above described topics are as follows:

Christianity at the time of the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa

As Jesus was the great reformer of Judaism, calling men back to spiritual worship, so Mohammed appeared at a time when the Christian Church was torn with dissensions and corrupted both in doctrine and life. He appeared, therefore, as a prophet of, in some respects, a more spiritual faith. To a depraved Christianity he was a scourge. Bishop Prideaux has expressed the belief that “the new religion was raised up to punish the Church which has wrangled away the substance of Christianity in malicious and contemptible controversies.” While Christendom was distracted with strife and given over to superstition, Mohammed, “with the sword in one hand and the Koran in the other, erected his throne on the ruins of Christianity and of Rome.”  (P-36)

Corruption of Christians and Christianity

“In Western Asia we confront Judaism, Islām and Christianity. “Judaism shows arrested development. Islām shows perverted development. Christianity shows corrupted development.” (“Modern Missions in the East,” p. 113.)” (P-27, 28)

“While I have no doubt that the Christian populations in the Turkish Empire, with all their defects, are superior to the average Turk, yet the evil specimens are so numerous that one careful observer writes that “those found in the deepest depths of drunkenness, deceit, irreverence, and corruption are oftener Christians than Turks.” (P-36-37)

“Mohammedanism has a vital centre of truth, the highest truth, which heathenism did not know, and Christianity, as it existed in the Orient, was in danger of smothering; the doctrine of God’s unity, the truth which Moses, and Abraham, and David taught and which Christ re-affirmed, “The Lord, our God is one God.” The Eastern Church and the Roman Church had surrounded the throne of Jehovah with a crowd of saints and angels that obscured the pure vision of the one everlasting Jehovah. The sanctuaries were filled, and are today filled with painted and graven images which impaired true worship; and in contrast with these errors, Mohammed taught the spirituality and the unity of God, and this truth has been the source of the deep, inner life which has undoubtedly prevailed in Islām. No wonder that Moslems have been wont to regard Asiatic Christianity as an inferior path. Gibbon has said that “if Peter and Paul could return to the Vatican they would wonder what is the name of the deity there worshipped, with such mysterious rites, in that magnificent temple!” (P-49-50)

“We know that we have the better, completer conception and revelation of God and the higher and purer idea of manhood and womanhood which have come through Jesus Christ. But we must not forget that the average Christianity of the last fifteen hundred years is not the Christianity which we lovingly cherish and zealously proclaim. Why should the Mohammedan look down on the Roman and Greek Churches as inferior types of faith unless there were some elements of inferiority in them? Are we sure that the average Christianity, which has met Islām with fire and sword, has been any striking improvement on the faith of the Moslem? The Christian Churches of Egypt, Abyssinia and of Western Asia must rank in missionary zeal and fervor lower than Mohammedanism. Christianity has a higher creed with regard to woman, and with regard to social virtues, but the practices which have prevailed in the last thousand years have not contrasted very favourably with the social ethics of Islām. And, with the English and American disclosures of the last decade fresh in our mind, we may not feel like hurling any enormous pile of stones even at Mohammedan homes, where the circle of licit relations is larger than in Christendom. We justly talk about Christianity and political liberty, but freedom is the achievement of the last two or three centuries. “Taking all the Christian ages together, from the days of barbarous Constantine to the days of the German emperors and the despotic kings of France and England, remembering that Philip the Second and Louis the Eleventh and Louis the Fourteenth and Napoleon and the Czars of Russia have borne the Christian name, we are not so bold in identifying political freedom with the long course of Christian history.” (P-51-52)

Christianity Spread by Sword

“The nineteenth century revolts against this, but so-called Christians have a record which is dark enough. It has been truly said that “Central Europe was converted by the sword to Christianity as truly as Central Asia or Africa has been to Islām.” It took Charles the Great thirty years to convert the Saxons with the sword. Islām gives three alternatives: Islām, tribute or the sword. Christianity gave but two: baptism or the sword.” “Teutons and Slaves were all brought to the Cross at the point of the sword.” (P-52-53)

Comparison of Islam and Christianity

“There are certain connections between the faith of Islām and the faith of the Gospel which should lead us to feel that they are not without some spiritual inter-relationship. Both faiths go back to Abraham, though by different channels. Mohammed and Jesus, if it be not irreverent to bind their names together, taught similar truths in regard to the Divine unity, and there are certain affiliations between the Koran and the Bible which must be acknowledged by all.” (P-30, 31)

“Tonight we are to compare two of the foremost faiths which claim the attention of mankind. Excepting Buddhism, they are the only two missionary religions now existing, and they are pushing their claims and their conquests with far more energy and rapidity than the disciples of the Indian sage. While Christianity numbers among its nominal adherents four hundred millions of men, and may be said to rule politically over nearly all the world, excepting China and the Turkish Empire; still Mohammedanism is at present winning some of the races of mankind more rapidly than any of its rivals. Christianity is predominant only in the Caucasian race, while Islām rules in the Mongolian, the Malayan and the Negro. Christianity is supreme only in the Aryan stock, but Islām has become predominant in the Semitic and Hamitic and some branches of the Turanian. Few people are aware how rapidly Islām is gaining both in Asia and in Africa; in India, where it numbers fifty-seven millions of adherents; in Southern China where it numbers twenty millions; in java, where it numbered, more than twenty years ago, nearly seventeen thousand schools, and a quarter of million pupils; in the Malay Peninsula and adjacent islands, where thirty millions of Moslems send fifteen thousand pilgrims to Mecca in a single year; in the Soudan, where paganism has been nearly wiped out, and where more than fifty millions of Moslems are found, an aggressive missionary force in the heart of Africa; in the Congo basin, where the strongest power is Moslem, in the great regions about the Central African lakes, where Moslem fanaticism is bringing native Christians at stake; and still farther South, where some of the black tribes conduct their funerals with Mohammedan rites, and where the grave is always turned toward Mecca.

We are instructed on the best authority, that in the northern half of Africa, the Arabian prophet is supreme, and that all its roads lead toward the Arabian city: that the Christianity, feeble and mechanical, which has long prevailed in the Dark Continent, is no match for its more aggressive rival, and that the purer faith which modern missions have established has thus far but a feeble hold compared with that of the disciples of the Koran.” (P-31, 32)

“As a political power, Mohammedanism is declining. In the last two centuries the Turk has lost, one after another, Hungary, Transylvania, Croatia, Bessarabia, Servia, Greece, Muldavia, Wallachia, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Rumelia, Thessaly, Algeria, Tunis, Cyprus, Massoah, and Egypt. But where the grasp of the Sultan has been lost or relaxed Mohammedanism still flourishes.” (P-33)

“When in Paris two years ago, I was greatly impressed by the interest, I might almost say, the enthusiastic interest, which Father Hyacinthe felt for the faith of Islām as it appears in Northern Africa. Like our own Dr. Henry M. Field, he had seen the brighter sides of Mohammedan life among the Algerians and others, and he contrasted the corrupted Christendom with which he was familiar in Paris with the simpler faith of the men of the desert. He described a scene which he had witnessed, which made a great impression on his mind, and which must impress us all. It was on Friday, the Mussulman’s Sabbath, that he was in a city in the empire of Morocco, and he entered the great mosque, one of the most beautiful which the art and faith of man have built to God, and there were in it none of those superfluous and often superstitious, not to say idolatrous ornaments, which in many Christian temples wound at the same time the sentiment of the beautiful, the sentiment of the true, and the more august sentiment of religion; but the temple was full of worshippers. “In our Christian churches in France,” he said, “we ordinarily see only women, as if religion were not virile and reasonable enough for others, but in that mosque I saw two thousand men, two thousand warriors mingled together without distinction of rank. The red cloaks of the chiefs touched the rags of the poor. There, in that theocracy, which is at the same time a democracy, the most absolute equality unites believers. The voice of the Imam rose at the farther extremity of the mosque. He was not a priest, for in this religion, so enthusiastic and such a mistress of souls, which has lived more than twelve hundred years, there are no clergy. All believers are priests. The assembly responded to the appeal, sometimes prostrated on the earth, sometimes with faces turned heavenward, but always in a sort of ecstacy; these children of the desert and of the Koran, these Arabs, half monks and half soldiers, cried out with one voice and with one heart, “Allah is Allah and Mohammed is His prophet.” This cry shook the mosque as formerly it shook the world. “Yes, God is God,” said the eloquent preacher of France, “and woe be to men who think themselves civilized and free and do not know better than to blaspheme His great Name, or to remand it to silence.” Spiritual vision is still there, with the children of the desert, and God will yet use it for sublime purposes. Islām rebukes Christendom; that powerful discipline of souls, it has been said, “does not count a single rebel among its disciples that is to say, not a single atheist.”

Thus it is not hard to explain the fact that the Crescent, rather than the Cross, rules today in the lands of Western Asia, the mother-lands of civilization, and Mohammedanism is by no reason confined to Western Asia. At the hour of prayer, from the minarets of the great cities of China, and of Benares and Delhi in Hindostan, from the banks of the Nile, where Cairo lifts her beautiful spires in the unclouded air, and throughout the deserts and forests of Africa, and even from the confines of Liberia, where boys but sixteen years of age have been taught to repeat the Whole Koran from memory, faces are turned, as they were turned four years ago in the fragile mosques of the Columbian Fair, toward the Holy Temple in Mecca; and in any accurate division of the faiths of the world, one seventh of its inhabitants must be enrolled among those who mingle heavenly truth and something of human error in saying, “There is but one God, and Mohammed is His prophet.” The chief schools of Protestant Christianity in Moslem lands are in Constantinople and Beirut, but they seem small and feeble compared with the Moslem university in Cairo, with its ten thousand students ready to carry the faith of Islām to the ends of the earth. We of America are deeply concerned in the great spiritual conflict between the Cross and the Crescent, for in the providence of God the only great Moslem empire now left in the world is largely given over to the care of American Christians and a new crusade is in progress in which the weapons are schools and preachers and printing-presses, arms which, in the end, will be found more effective than the swords and lances of English and Burgundian knights, employed in the old crusades.” (P:33-35)

The Lasting Impression of Islam

“The same impression of God which Mohammed stamped on the Arabian mind is found today among all the disciples of the Koran from the Congo to the Ganges and the Yangtse, and seems embodied even in Moslem architecture. It is this sincerity of faith in one God, this consciousness of having the truth, combined with reverence for Mohammed as a later teacher than Christ, and coupled also with an age-long contempt and hate for corrupt Christianity that makes it almost impossible to bring a Mussulman over to the Christian faith. Islām has had a providential mission already, and so long as large sections of Christendom present even the appearance of polytheism and idolatry, Mohammedanism will be an impenetrable bulwark against the subjugation of the world by these lower types of Christianity. There may be a great providential mission yet reserved for Ishmael and Ishmael’s greatest son. The second best of religions is a mighty obstacle to the second best forms of our Christian faith. It is certainly impossible, I emphatically repeat, for the Roman Church, with its apparent deification of Mary, and with its varieties of semi-idolatry, every to conquer the globe, so long as Moahmmedanism, with its teaching of the spirituality of God and its stern monotheism obstructs the way.” (P-49-50)

Morality of the Two Faiths

Again, one of the great tests of religion is its treatment of inferior races. Here the records of these two faiths are almost equally black. Christians once had the monopoly of the slave trade in the west of Africa. The Moslems have since followed in our footsteps. Dutch Protestants in Southern Africa “for two hundred years have ruthlessly ridden over every right of the natives; they have seized their territory, reduced the people, when possible, to serfdom, when that was impossible, they hunted them like wild beasts, and have literally shot them on sight, like game.” The Mohammedan has been, in some respects, more merciful than the nominal Christian, and more democratic. Horrible as is the work of the Moslem slave-trader in Central Africa, when the negro is converted he treats him like a brother. “As soon as the negro is Islāmized, every position is open to him, in the home, in the mosque, and in the state, not in theory alone, but in free, actual accepted fact.” “In India, Africa and everywhere, with Moslems there is but one caste, and that caste is Islām.” The most deadly foe to the future of Africa is not the slave-trader, but rum, and this is given by Christians, and not by Mohammedan hands. Moslems have held an anti-rum congress at Khartoum, and it ought to flush our cheeks with shame that they must make war against a trade which Christian England and America have not had the courage and manliness to stamp out. In the matter of total abstinence, average Mohammedanism is infinitely superior to average Christendom. (P-52-53)

Praising the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa

“The greatest son of Ishmael, born about the year 570 of the Christian era, was Mohammed. He, whom we have been wont to style the false prophet of Islām is revered by nearly two hundred millions of our race as the chosen prophet of God, to give to the world its ultimate religion.” (p-30)

“What are the facts now known in regard to the founder of Islām? We have no legends to trouble us, and St. Hilaire has said that “the French are far less acquainted with Charlemagne than the Moslems are with their prophet who came two centuries earlier.” He was borne, As I have said, about five hundred and seventy years after the appearance of the world’s Saviour.” (P-35-36)

“Distinguished for his personal beauty, he was polite, respectful, judicious, courageous in thought and action, and, though he could neither read nor write, he became a master of vigorous, though often perplexed and halting Arabian speech…We behold its founder both inheriting and creating those convictions which he molded into the system bearing his name claiming that what he said was not new but old, and yet receiving additional revelations for the guidance of mankind. His nature was strongly religious and naturally high and pure, and we are not surprised that, when he discovered the guardians of the sacred temple in Mecca to be covetous deceivers, his heart turned from their corrupt superstitions…Professor Kuenen thinks that we would not be far from the truth in saying that “Islām is the kernel of Judaism transplanted to Arabian soil,” and yet he would emphasize the vast personal influence which came from the prophet himself…”In one word,” says Professor Kuenen, “remove Mohammed, and neither Islam nor anything like it comes into existence.” (“The Hibbert Lectures,” p.21)”- (P-37-38)

“We must feel that he, at least, if not his race, was naturally monotheistic. God was to him the greatest of facts, and from Nature, from prayer, from special revelation, from the ever-moving and quickening spirit of God, as well as from the imperfect teachers whose lives touched and influenced his own, he appears to have gained the enthusiasm for the one God which was the heart of his religion and the master-passion of his better years.” (P-39)

“Mohammed was three years in making fourteen converts to the new faith. Among them were his wife, who desired the glory of her husband, his slave, Zeyd, who was tempted by the hope of freedom, his cousin Ali, and his friend and destined successor Abu Bekr, people of his own household, unlike the family of the Prophet of Nazareth, who believed Him not. There is no doubt about the sincerity, however, of these first converts. It was very hard for him to make any impression on the idolatrous corruption around him. But the infant congregation gradually increased, partly by the conversion of strangers who flocked into Mecca. For ten years he toiled in the spiritual capital of Arabia, and, after five years of preaching, when persecution from the fanaticism of the Koreshites arose, he sent away fifteen of his flock into Abyssinia, and these were followed by others. The Koresh demanded their extradition. The Abyssinian king called the exiles together, and inquired if there was any reason why they should not be sent back. And they replied to him in full assembly of the bishops, “O King! We lived in ignorance, idolatry, and unchastity; the strong oppressed the weak; we spoke untruth; we violated the duties of hospitality. Then a prophet arose, one whom we knew from our youth, with whose descent, conduct, and good faith and morality we were all well acquainted. He taught us to worship one God, to speak truth, to keep good faith, to assist our relations, to fulfil the rites of hospitality, and to abstain from all things impure, ungodly, unrighteous; and he ordered us to say our prayers, to give alms, and to fast. We believe in him, and followed him. But our countrymen persecuted us and tortured us, and tried to cause us forsake our religion. And now we throw ourselves upon thy protection. Wilt thou not protect us?” Then a part of the Koran was recited which spoke of Christ, and the king and the bishops wept upon their beards, and the king refused to send back the refugees.” (P-40-41)

“He represented a higher type of morality than the national Arabian thought had reached, and he appeared as the prophet of a more spiritual religion, and a reformer of abuses. “The restrictions of polygamy and recommendation of monogamy; the institution of prohibited degrees against the horrible laxity of Arabian marriages; the limitations of divorce and stringent rules as to the support of divorced women during a certain period by their former husbands and as to the maintenance of children; the innovation of creating women heirs-at-law, though only to half the value of men; the abolition of the custom which treated a man’s widow as a part of his heritable chattels;”—these were changes for the better as radical as he could then make.

But his chief power over men sprang from his prophetic grasp of a great truth, his intense fiery conviction of it, his whole-souled response to the reality of a personal God, the Sovereign of the world. “Islām,” says Carlyle, “means that we must submit to God…to know and believe well, that the stern thing which necessity has ordered, was the wisest, the best…This is the soul of Islām; it isproperly the soul of Christianity, for Islām is definable as a confused form of Christianity.” We believe, however, that Christianity means far more than this, and yet we must not fail to recognize the deep spiritual significance of that movement by which Mohammed created a nation and turned its people into zealous propagandists of the faith.” (P-44-45)

About The Holy Qur`ān

“Mohammed’s chief contribution to the world is the Koran, which alone is sufficient to prove his intellectual and moral greatness. Unlike the Bible, it is the product of one mind. The Holy Scripture came to us from many inspire men in many ages, reflecting all forms of human life; but the Koran is the work of one man and reflects his moods and passions, and policies at different epochs of his career. We can imagine what a different book the Christian Scriptures would be had they been composed only by Jeremiah or Ezekiel, Peter or James. Mohammed’s maxims were diligently recorded by his disciples on bones or palm-leaves, and were thrown into a chest which was kept by one of his wives. Two years after his death, these relics were collected and published by Abu Bekr. Such is the origin of the Koran, a book which, to many Western mind, appears “an endless incoherent rhapsody of fable, legend and declamation,” but which shows undoubtedly frequent moral elevation and great spiritual sublimity; a book which the faithful adore, which they believe possesses amagical charm and effect, curing diseases when worn as an amulet; a book too sacred to be translated, and which the Moslems ignorantly deems superior to all other sacred writings.

This volume contains all the theology of Islām and also its civil and criminal jurisprudence. From it we learn that God has made six revelations to man, each better than the former, and that the revelation to Mohammed is the final disclosure of God’s will. He is the prophet like unto Moses who was promised; he is the Holy Ghost, the Comforter; he is the mouthpiece of God, and hence the words of the Koran are faultlessly perfect. Containing many noble truths and sentiments, this book makes great appeal to conscience; it affirms the intimate communion of man and God: it commends charity, truth, and patience and the return of good for evil; it emboldens the penitent to cry out in faith to his Creator; it enjoins humility and tenderness. From it might be gathered, by the careful omission of unworthy portions, a noble system of ethics, not complete but still exalted. The moral code of Mohammedanism requires honesty, modesty, benevolence, fraternity among Moslems; it forbids profanity, gambling, false oaths and the use of intoxicating liquors. It expressly sanctions polygamy in the fourth and twenty-third suras, and, while it gives to women a position of inferiority, there is no truth whatever in the statement that, according to the Koran, women have no souls, no rights and no hopes of immortality.” (p-47-48)

You Wish!

“Not soon, but ultimately the Christian era shall touch Damascus and Jerusalem, and Cairo and Tehran and Delhi and Canton, as it had touched Beirūt and the hill-towns of Northern Syria. The long blight and agony of Mohammedan rule will yet be mitigated, and the throne of the Arabian prophet will be beaten to fragments by the leaves of the New Testament, mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds, and the Redeemer, who is the Son of God, will be exalted as King of kings and Lord of lords. And, even the solitudes of Arabia shall yet be penetrated, and Jesus, in the person of His disciples, shall enter the ancient shrine of Mecca, and there, at last, the whole truth will be told.” (P-58)

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