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In fairness, it is worthy of several books of study to look at these issues in any depth. When having any interfaith dialogue with Christians, we use their scriptures. So let’s have a little theology 101. According to the Gospel of St. John, Jesus is reported to have said
“I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.
Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, [that] shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.
He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew [it] unto you”
Uncontroversial you might think. Well that is until you hear what the position of Muslims is on this verse. Scholars have taken the view that the ‘spirit of truth’ in this verse can only relate to the Holy Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) as the object of the male pronoun references in this verse. The verse itself is utterly unique from all other verses of the Bible in this regard. Similarly the Qur’an states
“He has taught you that which [heretofore] you knew not” [2: 239]
This accords with John 16:12-14 and gives us a focal point for new advances in science, medicine and the arts made by the Muslims that followed the revelation of the Qu’ran.
The image of Muslims in the modern day is something which results from a systematic re-writing of history. For the believers, world history is viewed as one continuous chain of events: the propagation of knowledge and true belief from the time of Adam through Abraham, Moses, Jesus and finally to Mohammed (pbut). We compare this to what is sometimes considered the oppression of truth, purveyance of ignorance and persecution of those challenging the status quo (of the West). As Muslims we state that Christians and Jews are our brethren, as we are the People of the Book; it is of great benefit to us to have open discourse about our beliefs. Events come into sharp focus when we look at these issues in the full context of world history.
Let’s take one easy example of how history has been skewed, censored and misrepresented to the detriment of the Islamic world and to create a new, sanitised narrative. Few Americans and even fewer Christians know that Muslims from Spain and West Africa arrived in the Americas at least five centuries before Columbus.
9th Century: During the rule of the Spanish Muslim Caliph Abdullah Ibn Muhammad (888 – 912 CE), a Muslim navigator known as Khashkhash Ibn Saeed Ibn Aswad of Cordoba, sails from Delba (Palos) in Spain in 889 CE. He crosses the Atlantic reaching ‘Ard Majhoola’ (the unknown territory) and returns with ‘fabulous treasures’. This is recorded in a book written by Al-Masudi (871 – 957 CE) called ‘Muruj Adh-dhahab wa Maadin al-Jawhar’ (The Meadows of Gold and Quarries of Jewels).
10th Century: During the rule of Abdul Rahman III (929-961), Muslims of African origin sail westward again from the Spanish port of Delba again into an “Ocean of darkness an fog.” They returned after a long absence from a “strange and curious land.”
15th Century: Under King Ferdinand and Queen Isabela, the so-called ‘Christian’ armies of Europe persecute and commit genocide of the Muslims of Spain. Granada falls in 1492 CE. This is part of an ongoing war against Islam by Greco-Roman Europe from centuries earlier, in fact since Islam spread throughout the Roman Empire after the time of the Holy Prophet (pbuh). The European crusades are fuelled by false propaganda, misinformation creating hatred and mistrust for the Muslims (who are demonised as barbarians and Satan worshippers) which is then spread throughout Christendom.
Popes encouraged, launched, and led the Crusades. They have vilified Islam as a false religion. Pope Innocent III (1161-1216) identified the Prophet Muhammad as the Anti-Christ. Such pronouncements by successive popes created a climate of hatred among Christians toward Muslims. In 1099, when the Crusaders took Jerusalem, they massacred 40,000 Muslims–men women, and children. The Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the holiest church in Christendom, the site of Calvary, was a pool of blood. The Crusaders found Jews huddled in the main synagogue in Jerusalem and burned them to death, dancing around the pyre and singing Te Deum. After the killing, the looting started. The mosque of Umar was sacked; the tomb of Abraham was destroyed. Raymond of Aguilers, an eyewitness chronicler of the First Crusade said
“In the Temple and the porch of Solomon,men rode in blood up to their knees and bridal reins”
He continued by reporting that even women were not spared. He observed:
“The Franks did no other harm to the women whom they found in the enemy camp,save that they ran their lances through their bellies.”
Although ‘The Crusades’ normally refer to the battles in the Holy lands this was only part of a much wider campaign of war against the Muslims which covered: Asia, North Africa, Europe (the Balkans, Serbia-Montenegro-Bosnia, Hungary, Austria, Bulgaria, Italy etc) the wider Mediterranean, the Middle East, Central and Southern Africa and the Far East. At the exact same time as ‘The Crusades’ are ongoing in the Holy Lands, we see de facto crusades against Muslims in Spain (the ‘Reconquista’) with the battle for Toledo in 1085 CE. After 1492, Spain comes under Christian control and this now leads to the Spanish Inquisition aimed at killing or converting the true believers to Christianity – it is primarily targeted at Muslims but also includes smaller populations of Jews living peacefully under Islamic rule. The propagandised war against Islam spreads to the Americas.
2nd August 1492 CE: Granada falls to the King and Queen of Castile and Aragon, Ferdinand and Isabela. The murdering Christian Armies of the North including the Kings of Leon, with other sponsors from the royal families of Europe descended on the Siege of Granada resulting in surrender by Abu Abdullah.
3rd August 1492 CE: Columbus sails to the Americas again from Delba (Palos) in Spain. Under the authority of the Ferdinand & Isabella, Columbus sets out on a Christian Crusade as part of the ongoing war against Islam occurring in his home country and throughout Europe and the Middle East. His arrival in the Americas is far from the ‘accidental’ discovery it is made out to be. He sets sail from a port which has well established Muslim links with the Americas, he uses the exact same maps which were draughted by the Muslim navigators (NB: Columbus’ brother is a cartographer) and in his hands are the reports and manuscripts written by the Muslim scholars.
He heads for ‘Gomera’ (the Canary Islands and ‘Gomera’ being the Arabic word for ‘small firebrand’). Here he falls in love with Beatriz Bobadilla who is the daughter of the first captain General of the island (the family name Bobadilla being derived from the Arab Islamic name Abouabdilla). The Bobadilla family was related to Abbasid / Islamic dynasty of Seville (1031 -1091 CE). Francisco Bobadilla later puts Columbus in chains and transfers him from Santo Domingo back to Spain in November 1500 CE.
12th October 1492 CE: Columbus lands on a little island in the Bahamas called ‘Guanahani’ by the natives. Guanahani is derived from Mandinka and modified Arabic words. Guana (Ikhwana) means ‘brothers’ and Hani is an Arabic name. The original name of the island was ‘Hani Brothers’. Columbus renames this as San Salvador. Columbus reports that the natives have no religion, they are peaceful and he states that the conversion to Christianity of the peoples of the Americas would be achieved through love, not force. This ends up being one of the biggest flacies in history.
At the same time in this same region, live a tribe of Muslim natives known as Almamy. In Mandinka and Arabic languages, Almamy is the designation of ‘Al-Imam’ or ‘Al-Imamu’ (the leader of the Muslim prayer, or sometimes also the chief of the community). A renowned American historian Leo Weiner from Harvard University wrote a book called ‘Africa and The Discovery of America’ in 1920. He wrote that Columbus was well aware of the Mandinka presence in the New World and that the West African Muslims had spread throughout the Caribbean, Central, South and North American territories, including Canada, where they were trading and intermarrying with the Iroquois and Algonquin Indians.
Instead of co-existing and trading, what followed Columbus’ arrival was the wholesale massacre and genocide of the natives and Muslims of the Americas by European crusader / invaders coming across the Atlantic in fleets of armed galleons. American history states everything before 1492 is ‘Pre-Columbian’ – in the text books of the U.S. there is little or no reference to the spread of Islam to the Americas some 500 years earlier. In California, there even exists an early American petrogyph (rock carving) which states in Arabic: ‘Yasus ibn Maria’ which means ‘Jesus (son) of Mary’, which is taken from the Qur’an. British historians such as Gavin Menzies, state that there was an earlier discovery of the Americas but in only in 1421 and made by the Chinese!
The image of Islam must be viewed in the context of world history: the demonisation of the Muslims and Islam is not a new phenomenon. In truth, it makes very difficult reading for those of us who have been systematically misinformed for centuries.