NEW VIEWS OF TRUTH
WHEN Ghulam said good-bye to his friend he entered his room in the school hostel and soon retired to rest. But he could not sleep, and tossed from side to side in the vain endeavour to blot out from his memory the events of the evening. Do what he would, the earnest words of the munshi continued to ring in his ears, and be seemed to picture over again this determined seeker after truth as he tramped the forest glens and the wild mountain sides in search of a peace which Islam had failed to give him. Yes, said the young student to himself, there is no mistaking the light and joy which shine from his eyes now. And it was the Injil which taught him the way of peace: the book which I possess, but of which I know so little. Perhaps I, too, shall find there the answer to all my questions, and the solution of all my difficulties. And, then, almost before he realized what he was doing, the young student had left his bed, and by the light of the little kerosine lamp which he called his own, was pouring over the pages of the Injil. He had opened it at the story of the birth of Jesus Christ, and, as he read the inspired narrative, he came to the words of the angel, ‘and thou shalt call his name Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins’. 22 As he did so, he remembered the earnest, almost solemn words of the missionary, ‘Muhammad, in the Qur'an, never claimed to be a saviour from sin.’ What did it all mean? Was it true, then, as the missionary had said, that the Prophet Jesus was the one God-given saviour of the world? Then the munshi's words came back to him, how that Muhammad was, according to the Qur'an itself, a sinner like other men. Yes! the truth was beginning to dawn upon him at last, and as he read the words before him once again, they seemed to be burned into his very soul. ‘Thou shalt call his name Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins.’
Yes! this Jesus was great, of that there could be no doubt, for here in the third chapter of Matthew was John the Baptist, himself a great prophet, testifying that the Christ who should come after him ‘is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear.’ 23 And then, as Ghulam read on, he reached the last verse of the chapter where it was recorded that, at the baptism of Jesus, the heavens opened ‘and lo! a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased.’ 24 Here was a discovery indeed, for Ghulam had always been taught by the village priest that the Christians had invented the name ‘Son of God’ for the Prophet Jesus. But the young student could not doubt the evidence of his own eyes, and here, clearly enough, the Injil itself recorded the fact that God himself had applied the title ‘Son’ to Christ. Whatever, then, might be the meaning of the term, Ghulam saw clearly that, in calling Jesus the ‘Son of God’, the Christians were only following the teaching of God's word. The discovery came as a great surprise to Ghulam, for if there was one thing, more than another, against which the itinerant Muslim preachers, who at various times had visited Islamabad, loved to inveigh, it was the ascription of this very title ‘Son of God’ by the Christians to Jesus Christ. Yet the young Muslim now saw quite clearly that the words were a part of divine revelation, and, as such, must be accepted by all who accepted that revelation. He remembered, too—and the thought brought him consolation in his time of perplexity—that Maulavi Ibrahim had once told him there were many things in the Qur'an the meaning of which was hidden from men, and which must be accepted by faith. The matter had made such an impression upon him at the time that he had remembered the very words, ‘He it is who has revealed to thee the Book, of which there are some verses clear to be understood—they are the mother of the book—and others are ambiguous . . . but none know the interpretation of it except God,’ 25 and he could recall quite clearly the maulavi's explanation, how that these hidden' truths of revelation must be accepted by faith on the authority of Scripture alone. Of such passages were the words in the Qur'an about God's hands and feet, as well as the letters A, L, M, etc., at the head of certain chapters, which no one could explain; and now, as the youth re-read the words of the Injil. ‘This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased,’ he had not the slightest doubt that this, too, must be accepted in faith until such time as God should make clear its meaning. As he thought over the passage his doubts began to clear, and he said to himself: If the Qur'an abounds in passages which are beyond human comprehension, it should not surprise us if the Injil also contains things difficult to be understood. To me, therefore, it is clear that Jesus is the ‘Son of God’, and I must acknowledge him as such, even though I do not fully understand the meaning of that relationship. Then Ghulam again took up the book before him. But he could not read. He was overwhelmed by the discovery he had made in the first three chapters of the Injil: Jesus Christ the ‘Saviour’ of the world and ‘Son of God’! Muhammad had no such titles, as these. At most, he was the ‘Apostle of God’, and, according to the Qur'an, an erring, sinful mortal like himself. No wonder, continued the youth to himself, that many learned Muslims were turning Christian! No wonder that the missionary spoke with such assurance! and, then, wearied out with the excitement of the hour, he flung himself upon his bed, and was soon fast asleep.
The next evening found the young student again at the munshi's. He felt, somehow, that the latter could help him more than the foreign missionary. For one thing, the munshi had been himself a Muslim, and had fought his way through the same doubts and difficulties which now confronted him, and he longed to unburden his heart to a friend as sympathetic as he felt the latter would be. This time he found the munshi reading a religious paper, whilst at the other end of the room sat a beautiful girl of some seventeen years, who was helping two younger boys, evidently her brothers, with their English lessons. The munshi rose and greeted Ghulam with undisguised pleasure, and then introduced him to the young lady. She was his eldest daughter, Amiran by name, and had recently returned from school in Calcutta where she had successfully passed her Matriculation Examination. Ghulam was struck at once with the cultured tone of her brief and somewhat bashful replies, and he mentally contrasted her speech with the ungrammatical and often coarse language of too many of the Muslim girls of his own family circle. He remembered how his friend Emarat had been early married to a girl of ten years, whose sole accomplishment consisted in the ability to read the Arabic Qur'an. No one, of course, expected her to understand it and, although she could neither read nor write her own mother tongue, Bengali, yet many had congratulated Emarat upon the wedding. Ghulam knew, too, that his own father was contemplating some such match for him, and he viewed with feelings something akin to dismay the prospect of such a union.
What a difference, he said to himself, the girl before him presented! Cultured, and yet modest, able to cook and sew, she was yet capable of helping her younger brothers to master the intricacies of English grammar; and, as he thought of these things, Ghulam gazed with admiration at the tall and graceful figure of the girl, who, the first brief introductions over, had returned to her seat, and in low tones, continued her lesson. Yes! she was beautiful; and Ghulam forgetting for the moment the object of his visit, was half regretting that the all-too-brief interview could not have been prolonged. He was soon brought back, however, to the prosaic present by the voice of his host, who enquired whether Emarat had returned to his village home. The silence thus broken, the conversation quickly turned to those deeper subjects which lay so near the young Muslim's heart, and, encouraged by the sympathetic and kindly words of the munshi, he soon found himself unburdening his soul of all the doubts and perplexities which still lingered there.
The munshi listened patiently to the young student's story, and a tear glittered in his eye as the youth told of that memorable experience on the banks of the Ganges, when he first learned what it meant to pray. Then followed a heart-to-heart talk, in the course of which the munshi once more referred to the wonderful peace and joy which had become his since placing his trust in Jesus. ‘Above all,’ he concluded, ‘continue to pray to God for light and guidance, for He has promised to hear the prayer of all who cry unto Him in their time of need; and if you will deliberately place, yourself in His hands, He will certainly direct you by His Spirit, until you arrive at a certainty concerning the great questions which now confront you.’ Then the two knelt together whilst the munshi offered up a simple, childlike prayer to the Heavenly Father above, in which he commended the young enquirer who knelt by his side into the Divine keeping, and prayed that he might be led out into the glorious liberty of the Gospel of Christ. Then, as they rose from their knees, he warmly pressed Ghulam's hand, and bade him good night.
22. Gospel of Matthew 1:21.
23. Gospel of Matthew 3:11.
24. Gospel of Matthew 3:17.
25. Qur’an Ali 'Imran 3:7.