Ch 5: The Second Meeting
On Monday the priests began to assemble in the great church. Many Christian women also came with Isabella to hear the discussion. A little later Umar Lahmi, Muaz and some other Muslim divines also arrived and the priests were perturbed on seeing them and they began whispered conversation among them. Just then Umar Lahmi addressed them.
Umar Lahmi: As decided yesterday, the Divinity of Christ and Atonement will be discussed today. Since it will be difficult to deal with both these subjects simultaneously it will be better to take them up one by one.
Peter: Both the problems are in fact one and interconnected, so you may take any one of them you like.
Umar Lahmi recited some verses of Surah Furqan. This changed the colour of the face of Isabella; she was so affected that she fell down in a swoon and her companions helped to raise her up. Peter and Michael asked the reason of her upset but she did not reply and warm drops of tears began to trickle down her face. She was revived with great difficulty and said on enquiry that she was having such fits for the last month which they should not mind but carry on the discussion. Some of the priests suspected that she was affected by Islam, but her assumed reply removed the suspicion and the proceedings of the meeting were resumed. After this interval Umar Lahmi got up again and spoke.
Umar Lahmi: Gentlemen, we have been told that the basic principles of Christianity are Divinity of Christ and Atonement, so I want to put just one question which will also solve the problem of the Divinity of Christ. What was the need of the sacrifice of the “Son of God” as an atonement ? For this purpose any pious man could have been selected who would have given his life as atonement for all sinners. Why in particular was the “Son of God” crucified?
To answer this question holy Peter was again selected, but he was in such a plight that he got up falteringly and spoke with a wavering tongue.
Peter: For atonement the “Son of God” was necessary, for all men, whether prophets or apostles are sinful and a sinner cannot atone for other sinners. Since Lord Jesus Christ was the only “Son of God” and free from sins, so he was sacrificed for the sake of all the sinners.
Umar Lahmi: Right, but just say what was crucified, whether it was divinity or the humanity in Christ. If the divinity of Christ was crucified, then it means that God as one and without any partner bore all the tortures of crucifixion and that death came on the personality of God, that is, “God” died. But if the humanity in Christ was crucified, then your answer loses all its force, as in that case crucifixion of a human being and not of God could have suited, for in both cases it was humanity in Christ that was sacrificed and not his divinity.
Peter: Surely, Lord Jesus was perfect divinity and perfect humanity, that both these were fully represented in him. But his humanity, like his divinity, was free from sins and so his sacrifice was necessary. As other human beings are all sinful, therefore, they could not suit for atonement.
Umar Lahmi: That is, because there was no human being in the world free from sin, “God” Himself had to come down, and His divinity was not crucified but His humanity. Suppose a person free from sins was needed for atonement, why did not God create a sinless man to die on the cross for atonement?
Peter: God alone knows His secrets. We cannot say why He did not do it and came Himself to the world for the purpose. But this much we know that God’s coming to the earth for atonement indicates His great love and affection. That is, God loved His creatures to such an extent that He sent here His only “Son” to give his life as a recompense for others. This purpose could never have been accomplished by sending merely a man.
Umar Lahmi: If God had such a great love for His creatures, why did He not send this Son in the very beginning to be crucified? Was there no humanity before Christ for God’s concern? Why did He manifest His love after thousands of years?
Peter: We do not know about this mystery. God’s mysteries are known to God only.
Umar Lahmi: My question still stands. Reference to mystery again and again does not serve the purpose. Now if you say it was humanity which was crucified, then God’s coming down was purposeless Some other person could have been sacrificed.
Peter: I have given my reply. Man being sinful could not serve for atonement. Christ’s humanity served for atonement and it was an embodiment of innocence and sinlessness.
Umar Lahmi: Since Christ’s humanity was innocent and sinless, it became necessary to put on it the burden of the sins of all humanity. Holy priest, even you cannot understand your logic. How can I? What harm would have been done if this “Son of God,” instead of taking on him the burden of others’ sins, had done some such good which would have dominated the sins of all? In this case neither the burden of sins of all should have been put on sinless Christ, nor had he been crucified, nor even would it have given rise to the controversy of divinity and humanity. The remedy of sin is doing good. Christ on coming to the world should have done such a good as to atone for all the sins, not to commit suicide for atonement.
Peter: We cannot advise God. He did as He liked. It is your impudence to teach God.
Umar Lahmi: You know that Christ was born from the womb of Virgin Mary. Now say whether this birth related to man or God, that is, whether it was “God” who was born, or was it man?
Peter: God is immune from birth. It was the humanity in Christ which was born.
Umar Lahmi: And who died on the cross, God or man ?
Peter: God is also immune from death. It was man who died on the cross that is humanity in Christ.
Umar Lahmi: So the birth and death relate to Christ’s humanity and not to his divinity.
Peter: Certainly, certainly.
Umar Lahmi (holding the Bible in his hand): Just see, it is written in the Book of Job (Ayyub) (15:14) that “he which is born of a woman” is sinful and since the birth was not of divinity but of humanity, therefore, according to the judgment of Job, even the humanity of Christ was sinful. And see it is written in Romans 6:23 that “the wages of sin is death,” that is, death is the proof that the dead is sinful, therefore, the question comes again : why did not God crucify some other sinful man so that His divinity was saved ? Further, according to you, a sinner cannot atone for the sins of others. So Christ did not serve for atonement.
Peter (perturbed and perspiring): I have also said that all these are Divine mysteries. God did as He liked. How can you or I criticise Him?
Umar Lahmi: If your religion is based just on Divine mysteries, then why did you call us here and thus wasted your time and ours for two weeks?
Since Isabella was keenly interested in theological questions, she listened to all this talk most attentively and felt in her heart that when these priests cannot answer a question, they take the cover of Divine mystery. Just then priest Michael rose.
Michael: Brethren, today is a confrontation between Christian religion and Mohammedan religion. But do you know what is Mohammedan religion? This religion allows for four marriages. It has ordered indiscriminate killing of non-Muslims and its Apostle married eleven women and…
Umar Lahmi: If you are unable to answer my questions, say so clearly, and then whatever criticism you have against Islam you may put forth and I am ready to answer all. But is this your morality to call us at your place and then indulge in abusive talk instead of answering our questions. (Pointing to Isabella 🙂 Now say if this attitude of your priests is proper.
On this Isabella at once got up and spoke in broken words.
Isabella: I have heard this talk from beginning to end. I am sorry that neither holy Peter nor Michael answered the questions put to them. Umar Lahmi’s demand is quite justified that either his questions should be answered or defeat admitted. But I think you will do neither. So it is better to conclude the discussion now so that Christian religion is not ridiculed and whatever your learning it is not exposed. It is quite strange that…
Peter: Isabella! are you mad that you have come down to such nonsense talk ? (Addressing the audience:) Surely this girl is possessed by the devil and she has deviated far from Christ, and no wonder if she has lost her senses.
Isabella : Instead of venting your anger on my poor self you should either answer the question of Muslims or end the discussion. I do not want to answer here the allegations made against me, but if this is the reward of my frankness I do not mind if you take me to be demented.
Michael: Will you not keep quiet? Talking, talking and talking. We have answered all questions of Muslims. If you have the courage, come forward and answer.
A priest: It seems that this girl has secretly become an unbeliever. How could she answer the questions of Muslims? Her respected father should be informed about her impudence and she should be duly punished.
Catherine (a companion of Isabella): It is unfortunate that you have not done justice and all of you fall upon poor Isabella. Some call her mad, others threaten her, but no one puts his mind to the real matter. Isabella is quite right to say that you people have not been able to answer the questions of Umar Lahmi, but it does not mean that Christian religion is not just. You people are worthless and are trying to give bad name to Christianity on account of your worthlessness.
Peter : Turn out these girls from here. Who allowed these wretched girls to interfere in our talk?
Umar Lahmi: If you allow me to speak I will explain what Isabella meant.
Michael: Do not interfere in our talk. It is a matter of our own.
Another priest: What if Isabella and Catherine have both become apostates!
Michael: We cannot say this just now. These girls are foolish and want to expedite the result of this discussion, although these matters take months and even years to settle.
These were adverse comments on these poor girls and charges framed and attributed. Seeing this tumult Umar Lahmi in his sonorous voice recited some versus of Surah Maryam, on which the whole assembly was struck dumb. Eminent priests closed their ears with fingers lest the words of the Qur’an should affect their hearts. Since there was praise of Prophet Jesus and his holy mother and the charges leveled against them by the Jews were refuted, Christians were favourably affected and Isabella’s face in particular brightened. But this time she exercised patience and firmly set. After the recitation Isabella spoke.
Isabella: Gentlemen, I call upon you to bear witness that I am a strict Christian and so I do not want that Christians should be humiliated. I do not mean that we have no answer to their questions, only our priests do not put their mind to them, as they think that the help of the Holy Ghost is needed to understand the creed of Christianity. Muslims attribute this to our weakness. I hope that after this there will be no misunderstanding about me. Now I request that the discussion be resumed.
One priest: We do not at all need any talk with these “unbelievers”. Already the talk has shaken our faith. What I mean is that these “unbelievers” should be at once turned out from the church.
Another priest: Do not talk in excitement. The matter should be decided after careful consideration. I also think that the discussion should end, as it is of no use.
Umar Lahmi: Gentlmen, you were very proud of the teaching of your Master that if anyone slaps you on one cheek you should present to him the other cheek also. But what is this that we see here? Have we entered here by force? Did you not call us here? Even now if you frankly say that you do not want to talk we will immediately leave. But I may tell you that we have delivered our message and Allah will not let our efforts go waste. Now, tell me if we should go or you want to talk.
Peter: Respected monitor, the thing is that you cannot understand the realities of Christian faith, nor have you come here for this purpose. But if you want to continue the talk you shall have to answer my questions.
Umar Lahmi; Very well. I give you full freedom to put any question and we shall calmly answer.
Peter: Has the Qur’an praised the Bible? Do you believe in the Bible?
Umar Lahmi; Certainly the Qur’an has praised the Bible and we, all Muslims believe in the Bible, Taurat (the Psalms) and all the books revealed to Prophets.
Peter: Then why do you not believe in our Bible ?
Umar Lahmi: Because it is not the Bible. If anyone composes a fiction and names it Bible we are not bound to believe in it. You may put before us the Bible which the Qur’an has praised.
Peter: Is the Bible of the Qur’an different from our Bible? Its proof?
Umar Lahmi: Because the Qur’an, while praising the original Bible, has falsified this Bible and pointed out its wrong statements.
Peter: What are the wrong statements of our Bible?
Umar Lahmi: For instance, the Gospel of St. Matthew in 12 : 46-50 has called Mary an unbeliever, while the Qur’an has called her Siddiqah (the truthful), which means that she was not an unbeliever but a believer and pious. Similarly, in the Bible (Matthew, 12:46-50 it is said about Prophet Jesus that he was very arrogant and used to be disrespectful to his mother, although the Taurat strictly enjoins respect and veneration to mothers. But the Qur’an refutes it and says that Jesus had said that he was obedient to his mother and has been enjoined to do good to her. Or just as the Bible says that Jesus was accursed and because of his being accursed he was crucified [*On Christ being accursed, see Galatians, 3 : 13. t iii, 45.]. But the Qur’an calls him the “Spirit of God” and the “Word of God” and that he was venerable both in this world and the next (wajihan fid-dunya wal-akhirah).
A voice: You are wrong. In the Bible he is said to be God.
Umar Lahmi: Yes, it is more surprising that according to you God can also be accursed. That you have cursed Christ while acknowledging him as God and do not mind at all how God Who is the Fountainhead of all good and perfections can deserve curse. It is the devil who deserves curse and not God. Islam does not deify Christ but calls him human and at the same time makes him innocent and free from sins. Now, you can judge whether an accursed “God” is better or a pure and sinless man.
Peter: The point is why you do not believe in the Bible. You have thrown into it the question of curse. If you have any original Bible which the Qur’an has confirmed, then bring that to us.
Umar Lahmi: You have no right to demand this from us. If you first agree that your Bible is made up and forged, then you can call for the real Bible. I have proved that the Qur’an does not affirm the validity of the current Bible but proves it false and has openly recounted its mistakes. Just fancy, can this Bible in which Christ has been deified and then killed on the cross be the Bible of the Qur’an which says that Christ says : “Inni ‘Abd Allah” [I am a servant of God) and that “Ma qataluhu wa ma salabuho” [he was neither killed nor crucified].* Has the Qur’an affirmed your Bible or proved it false?
Peter: Has not the Qur’an called Jesus the “Spirit of God” and the “Word of God” ? Is it not a proof that he was above humanity.
Umar Lahmi: Surely the Qur’an has called Christ “the Word of God,” but the Qur’an also says that words of God are innumerable and that if all oceans become ink and all trees pens they will not be able to recount all words of God as they are beyond count. So Christ also is one of these words of God. As to Christ being “the spirit of God,” this also does not make him above humanity for the same word is used for Adam in the Qur’an which says: “fa iza sav-vaituhu wa nafakhfu fihi min ruhi” [when I completed the form of Adam I breathed My Spirit into him]* so in that respect Christ is also like Adam. If Christ is “God,” then Adam and all his progeny are “God”.
Peter: If the Qur’an has called Adam the “spirit of God,” it is a mistake as there is no other “spirit of God” except Christ.
Umar Lahmi: You think the entire Qur’an is wrong, but it was you who wanted that the divinity of Christ be proved from the Qur’an and so I proved from the Qur’an that he was not divine. If he can be “God” just by being the “spirit of God,” then Adam was also “God”. If you think the Qur’an is wrong in this respect, then why did you bring in the Qur’an?
Isabella; But you believe in the divinity of Prophet Muhammad, although he initiated bloodshed in the world and ordered killing of non-believers.
Umar Lahmi: Allah forbid ! I seek protection of Allah from this perverse belief! We regard our Holy Prophet just a man, only Chief of all Apostles and Crown of all Goodness. The essence of our belief is “La ilaha ill Allah Muhammad Rasul Allah” [There is no one worthy of worship except Allah and Muhammad is His apostle]. Anyone who regards the Holy Prophet as a God is a non-believer and against Islam. As to the Prophet’s initiating bloodshed in the world, this is utterly wrong. He surely waged war against non-believers as they wanted to annihilate the Prophet and the religion which he brought, but he did not touch those who were not so. The Qur’an enjoins fighting against those who fight with you.
Christian priests have since long spread calumnies against Islam and attributed various ills to it. It is these priests who used to defame Islam by alleging that Muslims regarded the Prophet as God. The question of Isabella is the result of this propaganda.
Michael: You say it again and again that our Bible is not real, although it has been compiled by Disciples with the aid of the Holy Ghost, whom even the Qur’an praises and regards them as believers. Further, the Christians of the world have affirmed them.
Umar Lahmi: This is just the question, whether this Bible has actually been compiled by the Disciples to whom it is attributed or some non-believers wrote their books giving Disciples’ names as authors. Even Christians do not agree that the Disciples have composed them. The Qur’an does not believe in the compiled Bible. It praises only that Bible which was revealed to Christ direct from Allah, as the Qur’an says : ” Wa atainanal, Injila” [We gave the Book to Christ] and Christ himself says : “Atain al-Kitaba” [God has given me the Book],
On the other hand, you yourself admit that the books of the Bible were compiled by the Disciples when the Qur’an affirms revelation of the Bible to Christ.
Just then Isabella’s father (the head priest) came and took the priests to task.
Head Priest: What is this wrestling ground you have put up here? You are talking to “unbelievers” in the holy church and disrupting the faith of Christians. Christians come to me daily and complain of your inability. Many Christians have wavered in their faith and say that even my daughter Isabella has become unrestrained. (To Isabella 🙂 You girl, who asked you to come here and what have you got to do with these discussions? You study the Quran secretly. I know all that you are doing. (Turning to the priests:) Yet she is a foolish girl, but what has happened to all of you that you are bandying words with these unbelievers and displeasing Lord Jesus. If you do any such thing in future I will dismiss all of you.
With this snub of the head priest all the priests were perturbed and Isabella’s face turned pale. No one could venture to give an explanation to the head priest. But one of the priests took courage and addressed the head priest.
The priest: Our holy father, what you say is quite true. Surely there is nothing but loss in talking with these “unbelievers”. But, O holy father! do you want us to be humiliated throughout Spain? Do you want Christianity to die out in Spain? By our Lord Jesus, if we do not suppress them we will not be able to show face in this country. I may also mention that none of us could answer the objections of Muslims. If you are kind enough to attend to our humble request I will say that the questions put forth by Muslims cannot be solved without your honour’s help. In the whole of Spain there is no better savant of Christianity than your honour, who can discharge this duty, and silence the “unbelievers” by terse answers. If your honour does not come forward to save Christianity at this time, then, our revered father, the consequences for us and for Christianity will be most serious and our preachers will be humiliated and defamed. May I hope that your honour will be ready to solve the problems raised by Muslims?
Head Priest: You have yourself given importance to this matter by calling over Muslims here. It is unfortunate that you have not been able to answer foolish questions of Muslims, even after studying the problems of theology. Will these Muslims be rightly guided on getting a satisfactory answer?
Michael: Yes, it is their promise that on being satisfied they will give up Islam and embrace Christianity. They have also given to us a written undertaking to this effect.
Head Priest (to Umar Lahmi): Say, what are your questions?
Umar Lahmi: It is only if you listen calmly to what I say that I will put my questions. The way you have treated us and demonstrated the Christian ethics demand that I should refuse to talk to you. But since I am a seeker of truth, I want to seek the light of guidance through you.
Head Priest: Gentleman, you should not take offence at my harsh words and if our talk has injured your feelings I seek your pardon on behalf of all. Surely you seem to be a lover of truth and surely our Lord Christ will help and guide you. So you may come to my house sometime tomorrow when your doubts and misunderstandings will be dispassionately set at naught. (To priests:) You, gentlemen, may also come so that you may know answers to the questions of Muslims and in future you may yourselves deal with them.