It was during the days that I was in College that I planned to publish a book, in two parts, on the presentation of Christianity to Muslims. The title of Dr. J. N. Farquhar's book "Crown of Hinduism" had suggested to me to make a friendly approach to Muslims, by presenting Christianity as the religion which stands independent of the truth of other non-Christian religions. In the first part of it I tried to wipe out the old controversy completely and to make a fresh begininng admitting as many truths in Islam as could be allowed. The first part was to be known as "Sadaqat-i-Islam," the Truth of Islam, and the second part as Iklilu-i-Islam, the Crown of Islam. The idea behind the project was that, granted that Muhammad was a good man, and a great reformer who in some way was an instrument in God's hand to reform Arabia and granted that his teachings were also good and in some respects comparable to those of the Old Testament, there is still no comparison between Muhammad and Christ, or between the doctrine of Islam and that of Christianity. For it was my belief that the uniqueness of the Christian religion lay in the fact that it is a good message of God, for it announces His search for sinners, and because it presents Jesus Christ as the Saviour and Redeemer of mankind, and as the one true revelation of God Himself. It is also unique as it reveals the true nature of sin, and proclaims God's way of victory over it. When I communicated to my friend, Mr. Steinthal, the project of such a publication, he wrote to me what has proved since then invaluable advice on the subject. In his letter dated December 5, 1918, he wrote as follows:
It was well that in your last letter you again reminded me of the thought, that occupies you so
much, how best to reach the Muslims so as to gain their confidence and get a hearing from the gospel presented from a sympathetic view point. I quite agree with you if your supposition that harsh criticism and grounds accusations are sure to back the way, but as you know yourself the Muslims by their opposition are often themselves the cause of it. There is no doubt either that a convert from Islam like yourself has many qualifications for the task, knowing their arguments and thoughts from inside, their weak points, as well as the most accessible attacking ground, while on the other side the converts are especially objects of their hatred and suspicion. Your strategy as you call it, to give them what is due to them openly and honestly both showing the groundlessness of some accusations and the faults of Christian controversialists and of the Christian church in general is, I think, all right, but a very difficult proposition, demanding a thorough knowledge of both the earlier controversies and of Church history. But it is a task well worth trying, and even if you only think of doing it briefly I do not think it is the work of a month or two; but well begun is half finished go ahead and lay a good foundation." Then objecting to the title he goes on to write : "The Crown of Islam"; it is misleading as it is also in the case of Dr. Farquhar's Crown of Hinduism, he does not prove and cannot prove that Christianity is the fulfilment of Hinduism for truth can never be the fulfilment of error. Christianity is the fulfilment of the longings of the desires of the Indian mind which have been successfully expressed in Hinduism. Datta's book: The Desire of India hits the point much better and is not open to the complaints which have rightly been made. You will find the same; not by continuing in Islam, but by giving up Islam and finding a better solution of the great problems in Islam
as in all religions, is Christianity reached as the true fulfilment of the desire of all human hearts for which they have been made. Long after when I had found out the mistake of my project, he wrote to me : "Surely the only way to conquer the darkness is by letting in the light, nothing short of that will succeed. Therefore I did not think so much of the attempts to show that Christianity is the fulfilment of Hinduism or of Islam, however true it may be and well worth considering and proving. Only that it be done in the light of the Cross without compromising."
The first part, however, was published, unfortunately in a separate volume and was warmly welcomed by the Muslim Press. The second part was borrowed by an Indian Christian from the Punjab with the promise of its publication, and I regret to add that I never saw that man nor the manuscript again.
Since then I have changed my views as to the approach to Muslims and am converted to the view as expressed by Mr. Steinthal in his letter: "Truth can never be the fulfilment of error"; and that "the only way to conquer the darkness is by letting in the light, nothing short of that will succeed."
In these very days, I made, however, another experiment of reaching Muslims, but this time on a very different line, which now I proceed to describe.
While in College I often looked back to my days I had spent in villages of Bengal, preaching the gospel, and I longed for an opportunity to visit the people again. The opportunity came after my Intermediate Examination when I got a long vacation for three months during summer, and I planned to spend a good part of it in Nadia district. I journeyed to Chapra, a village in East Bengal, where my godfather, Mr.
Hickinbotham was then stationed as the Principal of the School. There I changed my ordinary clothes for a Sadhu's garb and accompanied by a young Muslim convert, Stephen Sheikh, a godson and student of Mr. Hickinbotham, I started for the preaching tour. My friend Stephen Sheikh acted as my guide and looked after the cooking. Finding the heat of the summer during the day too intense for walking barefoot, we decided to spend the day in villages in preaching and to do the most of our walking during the early part of the morning. It was a wonderful experiment to follow literally what our Lord commanded the twelve when He sent them to heal and preach. I carried no money, no purse, and had only one garment in which I was dressed as a Sadhu and wore no shoes and carried no staff. Night after night we travelled unhurt through the cobra infested regions, and slept in open fields. In the blazing sun we took shelter under a tree and found opportunity to preach to the passing crowd. In villages we attracted a large crowd of listeners. I found a ready response among the Muslims, and was warmly welcomed in some places. We covered roughly some seventy miles on foot, and then we returned to Chapra, our headquarters, after spending about a fortnight in continuous moving from village to village. Later, on my return to Agra I had the joy of hearing that a Muslim village, which was already open to the gospel and which was visited on a special request from Mr. Hickinbotham during my tour as a Sadhu, had accepted Christ. Who says that there cannot be a mass movement among Muslims?
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