Raymond Lull (1232-1316) was raised in a courtly family in Majorca and pursued a life of in the service of King Kames II of Aragon. He was a prolific poet in the Catalan language until his conversion to Christ in 1263. He devoted his life as a Franciscan missionary and scholar to the conversion of Muslims. He was instrumental in the establishment of professorships of the Oriental languages in the universities of Paris, Salamanca and Oxford. He himself became fluent in Arabic and determined to witness to Christ in the Muslim world.
Taking ship to Tunis he announced to the Muslim leaders that he was willing to debate the merits of Christianity and Islam by submitting evidences as a fair comparison. He even promised that, if he was convinced, he would embrace Islam. The Moslem leaders willingly responded to the challenge, and coming in great numbers to the conference set forth with much learning the miracle of the Koran and the doctrine of God’s unity. After long, fruitless discussion, Lull advanced the following propositions, which are well calculated to strike the two weak points of Muslim monotheism: lack of love in the being of Allah, and lack of harmony in His attributes.
He stated: “Every wise man must acknowledge that to be the true religion, which ascribed the greatest perfection to the Supreme Being and not only conveyed the worthiest conception of all His attributes, His goodness, power, wisdom, and glory, but demonstrated the harmony and equality existing between them. Now their religion was defective in acknowledging only to active principles in the Deity: His will and His wisdom, while it left His goodness and greatness inoperative.
As a result of his witness he was imprisoned and faced with execution, But even his enemies were amazed at such boldness of devotion. Lull always spoke of the philosophy of learning of Islam with respect. In an age of violence and faithlessness he was the apostle of heavenly love.
Lull saw that the real strength of Islam is in its monotheism. But it is a half-truth. Their whole philosophy of religion finds its pivot in their wrong idea of absolute monism in the Deity. Mohammed’s conception of God is deficient and untrue.
“If Moslems,” he argued, “according to their law affirm that God loved man because He created him, endowed him with noble faculties, and pours His benefits upon him, then Christians believe more than this, and affirm that God so loved man that He was willing to become man, to endure poverty, ignominy, torture and death for his sake; therefore this reveals a Love beyond all other love. Islam is a loveless religion.”
The Koran denies the Incarnation, and so remains ignorant of the true character of God.” Of the length, breadth, depth and height of the love of Christ, all Lull’s devotional writings are full. The strength of Islam is to sit still, to forbid thought, to gag reformers, to abominate progress. The great lesson of Lull’s life is that love and love alone will conquer. But it must be all-sacrificing, all-consuming love – a love that is faithful to death.
At 79 years of age he undertook his last missionary journey. He wrote, “Men are wont to die, O Lord, from old age, the failure of natural warmth, and excess of cold; but thus, if it be Thy will, Thy servant would not wish to die; he would prefer to die in the glow of love, even as Thou wast willing to die for him.”
After ministering in secrecy for nearly a year in Bugia, Lull went to the market place and pleaded with Muslims with love, but spoke plainly the whole truth of their errors. He was seized and stoned on June 30, 1315. It is said that his friends carried the wounded saint to the beach and returned by ship to Majorca where he died and was buried in a church in Palma.
(Extracted from Raymond Lull, First Missionary to the Moslems, Samuel M. Zwemer)