100 Years Ago… – A new convert dispels misconceptions of Christians about Islam


The Review of Religions [English], April 1924

Brother Shareef, who is an American convert to Islam [Ahmadiyyat], has supplied us with a cutting from the Public Ledger, Philadelphia, dated 18 December 1923, in which the views of Mr W. E. Johnson concerning the comparative strength of Islam and Christianity in Africa and India have been published. Mr Johnson, as will be observed, lays great stress on the fact that Islam prohibits alcoholism, whereas Christianity practically permits it. Mr Johnson is reported to have said:

“Mohammedanism [sic., Islam] is growing faster than Christianity in the lands I have visited. There are three reasons for that: First, the Moslem religion is so simple; second, its ethical standards are not too high for the minds of those to whom the appeal is made, being below that of Christians and above the so-called pagan religions; third, Mohammedanism as a religious principle opposes alcoholism and drink.

“Drinking Christian missionaries have put a club in the hands of Moslem priests and proselyters. This must not be construed as adverse to our American missionaries. I have never met one who drank intoxicants. The Americans, the Free Church of England, many Catholic missionaries and vast proportions of the Church of England workers are free from such a charge. There are enough left of drinking missionaries, however, to, as I said, hurt the cause of Christianity and put a club in the hands of Moslems.

“In South and East Africa, there are cases where whole tribes have gone over bodily to Mohammedanism. Every drinking missionary should be put in a bag and tossed into the sea. It is, I found, these so-called pagans who are most earnest in their efforts to stamp out the drink traffic. This includes Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists, as well as Moslems.

“I understand that these people regard every white man as a Christian. They have said to me, ‘Isn’t it too bad Christianity is not a temperance religion?’

“Wherever the flag of a Christian nation goes, whisky goes with it. The white Christian encourages those people to drink. Finding the native drinks used in their ceremonials, he organises the traffic, introduces whisky and gin and develops a system of profit and shame.

“The example of the United States in adopting prohibition has had a powerful influence on Moslem states and tribes. In Zanzibar, I talked to thousands. In South Africa, the Confederation Parliament came within nine votes of adopting it. Turkey’s action, declaring for prohibition, was largely influenced by America’s action. Thousands of wealthy, influential Turks drink in spite of the Prophet’s[sa] command to abstain from it. Moslems as a whole are teetotalers.

“In Egypt, I was called to address a specially invited meeting of 1,000 men and women of Cairo. The king sent two of his household members to represent him. A majority of the Cabinet and leading people were present. A prince of the royal family, who is the head of the prohibition movement in Egypt, presided. I predict that Egypt will be dry within the next five years. One of the highest dignitaries told me that the Government had ceased issuing liquor licences since the United States went dry. They will introduce prohibition legislation in the rural districts of the country and then finally put it in force in the cities.”

Brother Shareef has also sent us, along with this cutting, a note from his own pen in which he comments on the views expressed by Mr Johnson and we have pleasure in inserting this note below. – Editor, The Review of Religions (1924)

Mr Johnson gives three reasons why the Islamic religion is forging ahead of the Christian religion in the countries to which he alludes. He states that: “First, the Moslem religion is so simple; second, its ethical standards are not too high for the minds of those to whom the appeal is made, being below that of Christians and above the so-called pagan religions; third, Mohammedanism as a religious principle opposes alcoholism and drink.”

We are privileged to disagree with Mr Johnson in these reasons.

He states that the standard of Islam is below that of the Christian religion. But I must beg to disagree with Mr Johnson. The standard of the Muslim religion is higher than that of the Christian religion. Both Muslims and Christians worship God as the creator and supreme ruler of the earth. The great difference is in the teachings of the respective holy books. The Bible teaches that Jesus Christ is the son of God and that he died on the cross, rose and ascended to heaven.  Christians worship the Trinity. The Muslim religion teaches its followers to worship God alone. A Muslim believes that Christ was not the son of God, but a prophet, as was Muhammad[sa], Abraham[as], Isaac[as], Buddha[as], Confucius[as], and all of the holy men of the times.

In the third statement made by Mr Johnson, it is related that the Muslim religion forbids alcoholism. Does not the Christian religion forbid it too? In this respect, the Muslims obey the dictates of their religious principle better than the Christians.

Mr Johnson states that the ethical standards of the Muslim religion are not too high for the minds of those to whom the appeal is made. This may be true. I suppose Mr Johnson thinks that the appeal is made only to people of lower intelligence? In the United States, there are almost a million converts to Islam. This shows that the Muslim religion is doing what the Christian cannot do. If one were to consult the reports of the Christian missionaries in foreign countries, it would be found that of all Muslims, not over a hundred have been converted to Christianity.

Another great mistake made by the people of the Western hemisphere in the judgement of the Muslim religion is that the Muslims believe in and worship Muhammad[sa], (God forbid). This is a great wrong done to the Muslims themselves. The Muslim people do not worship Muhammad[sa]. He is looked upon as the master prophet. To be more exact; as the Master-Prophet. For this reason, the Western people call the Islamic religion “Mohammedanism.” They can’t even spell the name correctly.

What Mr Johnson said is true. The Christian religion is slowly declining all over the world. At the same time, the Muslim religion is more rapidly and surely growing in all parts of the world. To what is this due? It is due as much as anything to the home conditions. In the United States, the condition is growing worse every year. There is a gradually increasing disregard for the teachings of the Bible. This is true in all countries of the world in every religion, the Christian to the greatest extent.

The teachings of the Bible are being ignored in every way. The religion is being commercialised. Hypocrisy, greed, avarice, ridicule, and a multitude of other vices – too numerous to mention rule the country at all times. The religion is joked about. Countless burlesques on the passages of the Bible are practised every day.

Idolatry is seen everywhere. People worship the almighty dollar. They throw away their honour, respect and everything else just to obtain it. What satisfaction does it give them? Merely the means by which to buy the so-called pleasures of life.

If a man going to church has not fine clothes, he is sneered at and ridiculed.

In getting away from my subject, I only wanted to explain some of the reasons why Christianity must surely fall eventually. Religion is much the same as Government. So long as we adhere to the fundamental principles and teachings of both, our ideals and our notions are sure to remain, in all ways, clear from any defiling touch.

Why cannot the great nations of the world cooperate in helping to make the way clear towards the settlement of religious disputes? Simply because they are so engrossed in their own worldly struggles.

– Shareef (1924)

(Transcribed and edited by Al Hakam from the original, published in The Review of Religions [English], April 1924)

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