A NEW SPIRIT NEEDED.
If one could, standing on one of the minarets of the great Azhar University Mosque, look eastward, westward, northward, and southward over what is termed the Moslem world, and then remember its past history of thirteen centuries, nothing would so impress the thoughtful observer as the vast changes which have taken place within the area of these lands, which for all these centuries have been dominantly Moslem. Leaving out of account the spread of Islam in Africa, and its extension in some parts of Asia, especially India and Malaysia, the map of the old Moslem world remains about the same. Islam was cradled in the desert, and has for all the centuries dominated North Africa and the Near East, together with Persia and Central Asia. In 907 A.D. the bounds of the Caliphate included the whole of Turkestan, Persia, and Western India, and stretched from the confines of the Chinese Empire to farthest Morocco, and included Spain. Well might the ruler of so vast a domain call himself Suliman the Magnificent.
To-day the distribution of political power has utterly changed. With the exception of Turkey
Afghanistan and Persia, there are no independent Moslem rulers in the world. Where formerly doors were closed, and the hope of driving the plowshare into virgin soil was deferred by manifold obstacles, now these doors are nailed open, and seven-eighths of the Moslem world may be said to be accessible to the colporteur, the preacher, the medical missionary, and the teacher. Everywhere there is seed sowing; and in many places there are signs of a coming harvest.
The whole of Africa, with its nearly sixty million Moslems, has passed under Western rule or protection, and the responsibility of the European powers for the Dark Continent is more and more being realized by them. A map recently published in the Geographical Journal showed the network of railways already built, or under construction, in the Dark Continent, a vast system of highways for the Gospel. Where formerly fire and sword played havoc in the great Sudan, we now see well-administered provinces of the British Empire, and over the very desert where Kitchener's troops pushed their arduous way to the capital, we have express trains with sleeping and dining cars, carrying travellers in four days from Alexandria to Khartum.
Perhaps there is no nation to which God has given larger responsibilities as regards the world of Islam than Great Britain. She holds the highways and gateways to the Moslem people as no other nation. All the way from Gibralter to
Singapore and the Straits, Suez, Bombay, and Calcutta, every great metropolis of the Moslem world save Constantinople is under the flag of Great Britain. All the strong and colonizing Moslem races are British subjects. This responsibility is measured also in terms of dynamics: "To whom much is given, from them much shall be required.'' God has given this responsibility to a nation which has the Gospel, to a nation which has missionary traditions, which has the love of exploration, and of a difficult task.
Observers in many fields had already noted a changing attitude before the war on the part of many toward the Gospel. And whatever deep feeling there may have been of nationalism or of sympathy with the Allies, or their enemies, there is a deeper unrest spiritually in the hearts of multitudes. The work of evangelization has gone on almost unhindered in such fields as Algiers, Egypt, India and Java.
In Egypt all the missions are encouraged with an increasing number of inquiries, and some Moslems of the better class are boldly taking a stand for Christ. In the American Mission Theological Seminary at Cairo, the Coptic leaders of the future and a class of evangelists are preparing for special work, while in the Delta and along the Nile, the same Mission has its Gospel car and two river boats constantly in service. Never was there so much and such variety of good literature for Moslem readers prepared and distributed as is being produced
from the various mission presses, especially the Beirut Press, the Nile Mission Press in Cairo and the Christian Literature Society for India. These books and tracts find their way to every part of the Moslem world, and are translated into a score of languages.
Because of this new era, we need a new spirit. In all our work for Moslems, we need to keep steadily before us the supreme method, namely-love. When the love of Christ constrains us nothing is impossible ; without it all our plans are frustrated and hopes withered. Inspiration and help may be found in reading Paul's great hymn in First Corinthians xiii, and applying it clause by clause to our relations and attitude toward our Moslem brothers. How high is the ideal, and how the Apostle himself must have struggled in his soul to meet it. In his epistles we have a clear record of his changed attitude as regards the Jews in this very connection. The problem of reaching them must have been very similar to that which faces us among Mohammedans. In his earliest letter he speaks of them in these terms: "The Jews-they murdered the Lord, murdered Jesus, murdered his prophets before Him; they have hounded us, his apostles, from city to city; they are kindling God's displeasure; they are the enemies of the human race-their enemies in that they would hinder me from so speaking to the Gentiles that they may be saved. In all this they are steadily filling up the measure of their own sins. But God's wrath has overtaken them; it is the beginning of the end."
Five or six years went by. He endured more persecutions from this very people, but he also began to know more deeply the power of the love of Christ, and when he writes to the Romans he has learnt the great lesson. He has learnt to idealize the real. His love has covered a multitude of sins with the mantle of compassion and sympathy. He says, "Truth unfeigned is this - I speak by our Messiah's inspiration, and my own conscience, prompted by the Holy Spirit, appears as witness for me-that bitter sorrow is mine, and anguish, that gives my heart no respite. Fain, oh, fain would I myself be the accursed scapegoat, driven from our Messiah's presence, if so I might deliver my brothers, those who are my own flesh and blood -the Jews. For they are the sons of Israel; theirs was the sonship of God; theirs was the glory of the Visible Presence. With them were His covenants made; to them the law given; to them was revealed the Temple ritual; to them the promises. Theirs were the Patriarch fathers; yes, and in so far as he is human, theirs was the Messiah. God, who is supreme over all, be blessed evermore for this.- Amen
It is possible for every one of us to go through thesame experience, by the same method. It is the only secret of success. One morning sailing the Indian Ocean we were reading a little manual of Moslem devotion published in Colombo, in Tamil and Arabic. It was a book of prayers of the Naqshabandi dervishes, and is typical of this kind
of literature, which is everywhere in the hands and on the lips of the people. Here is a translation of one beautiful page :-" I am truly bankrupt,God. I stand before the door of Thy riches. Truly I have great sins-forgive me for Thy own sake. Truly I am a stranger, a sinner, a humble slave who has nothing but forgetfulness and disobedience to present to Thee. My sins are as the sands without number. Forgive me and pardon me. Remove my trangressions, and undertake my cause. Truly my heart is sick, but Thou art able to heal it. My condition, O God, is such that I have no good work. My evil deeds are many, and my provision of obedience is small. Speak to the fire of my heart, as Thou didst in the case of Abraham, be cool for my servant.'
What a beautiful prayer this is for pardon. What heartaching to realize God's forgiveness, and yet all these petitions are directed to God for the sake of the Arabian prophet. So near and yet so far is the Moslem heart from Him. When the prodigal was yet a great way off, his father saw him and ran out to meet him. Shall we not do the same? We plead for a greater manifestation of love by speech, by message, and by the ministry of friendship in the whole Moslem world. Let us learn from Paul to idealize the real. Then we shall love Moslems and daily pray for them, "Oh that Ishmael might live before Thee."
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