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Title: Mohammedanism - Lectures on Its Origin, Its Religious and Political Growth, - and Its Present State
Author: Hurgronje, C. Snouck, 1857-1936
Language: English
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SERIES OF 1914-1915


Lectures on Its Origin, Its Religious and Political Growth, and Its Present


C. Snouck Hurgronje

Professor of the Arabic Language in the University of Leiden, Holland



The American Lectures on the History of Religions are delivered under
the auspices of the American Committee for Lectures on the History of
Religions. This Committee was organized in 1892, for the purpose of
instituting "popular courses in the History of Religions, somewhat after
the style of the Hibbert Lectures in England, to be delivered by the best
scholars of Europe and this country, in various cities, such as Baltimore,
Boston, Brooklyn, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia."

The terms of association under which the Committee exists are as follows:

1.--The object of this Committee shall be to provide courses of lectures on
the history of religions, to be delivered in various cities.

2.--The Committee shall be composed of delegates from the institutions
agreeing to co-operate, with such additional members as may be chosen by
these delegates.

3.--These delegates--one from each institution, with the additional members
selected--shall constitute themselves a council under the name of the
"American Committee for Lectures on the History of Religions."

4.--The Committee shall elect out of its number a Chairman, a Secretary,
and a Treasurer.

5.--All matters of local detail shall be left to the co-operating
institutions under whose auspices the lectures are to be delivered.

6.--A course of lectures on some religion, or phase of religion, from
an historical point of view, or on a subject germane to the study of
religions, shall be delivered annually, or at such intervals as may be
found practicable, in the different cities represented by this Committee.

7.--The Committee (a) shall be charged with the selection of the lectures,
(b) shall have charge of the funds, (c) shall assign the time for the
lectures in each city, and perform such other functions as may be

8.--Polemical subjects, as well as polemics in the treatment of subjects,
shall be positively excluded.

9.--The lectures shall be delivered in the various cities between the
months of September and June.

10.--The copyright of the lectures shall be the property of the Committee.

11.--The compensation of the lecturer shall be fixed in each case by the

12.--The lecturer shall be paid in installments after each course, until he
shall have received half of the entire compensation. Of the remaining half,
one half shall be paid to him upon delivery of the manuscript, properly
prepared for the press, and the second half on the publication of the
volume, less a deduction for corrections made by the author in the proofs.

The Committee as now constituted is as follows: Prof. Crawford H. Toy,
Chairman, 7 Lowell St., Cambridge, Mass.; Rev. Dr. John P. Peters,
Treasurer, 227 W. 99th St., New York City; Prof. Morris Jastrow, Jr.,
Secretary, 248 So. 23d St., Philadelphia, Pa.; President Francis Brown,
Union Theological Seminary, New York City; Prof. Richard Gottheil, Columbia
University, New York City; Prof. Harry Pratt Judson, University of Chicago,
Chicago, Ill.; Prof. Paul Haupt, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Md.;
Mr. Charles D. Atkins, Director, Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences;
Prof. E.W. Hopkins, Yale University, New Haven, Conn.; Prof. Edward Knox
Mitchell, Hartford Theological Seminary, Hartford, Conn.; President F.K.
Sanders, Washburn College, Topeka, Kan.; Prof. H.P. Smith, Meadville
Theological Seminary, Meadville, Pa.; Prof. W.J. Hinke, Auburn Theological
Seminary, Auburn, N.Y.; Prof. Kemper Fullerton, Oberlin Theological
Seminary, Oberlin, N.Y.

The lecturers in the course of American Lectures on the History of
Religions and the titles of their volumes are as follows:

1894-1895--Prof. T.W. Rhys-Davids, Ph.D.,--_Buddhism_.

1896-1897--Prof. Daniel G. Brinton, M.D., LL.D.--_Religions of Primitive

1897-1898--Rev. Prof. T.K. Cheyne, D.D.--_Jewish Religious Life after the

1898-1899--Prof. Karl Budde, D.D.--_Religion of Israel to the Exile_.

1904-1905--Prof. George Steindorff, Ph.D.--_The Religion of the Ancient

1905-1906--Prof. George W. Knox, D.D., LL.D.--_The Development of Religion
in Japan_.

1906-1907--Prof. Maurice Bloomfield, Ph.D., LL.D.--_The Religion of the

1907-1908--Prof. A.V.W. Jackson, Ph.D., LL.D.--_The Religion of Persia_.[1]

1909-1910--Prof. Morris Jastrow, Jr., Ph.D.--_Aspects of Religious Belief
and Practice in Babylonia and Assyria_.

1910-1911--Prof. J.J.M. DeGroot--_The Development of Religion in China_.

1911-1912--Prof. Franz Cumont.[2]--_Astrology and Religion among the Greeks
and Romans_.

[Footnote 1: This course was not published by the Committee, but will form
part of Prof. Jackson's volume on the Religion of Persia in the series of
_Handbooks on the History of Religions_, edited by Prof. Morris Jastrow,
Jr., and published by Messrs. Ginn & Company of Boston. Prof. Jastrow's
volume is, therefore, the eighth in the series.]

[Footnote 2: Owing to special circumstances, Prof. Cumont's volume was
published before that of Prof. DeGroot. It is, therefore, the ninth in the
series and that of Prof. DeGroot the tenth.]

The lecturer for 1914 was Professor C. Snouck Hurgronje. Born in
Oosterhout, Holland, in 1857, he studied Theology and Oriental Languages
at the University of Leiden and continued his studies at the University of
Strassburg. In 1880 he published his first important work _Het Mekkaansch
Feest_, having resolved to devote himself entirely to the study of
Mohammedanism in its widest aspects. After a few years' activity as
Lecturer on Mohammedan Law at the Seminary for Netherlands-India in Leiden,
he spent eight months (1884-5) in Mecca and Jidda. In 1888, he became
lecturer at the University of Leiden and in the same year was sent out
as Professor to Batavia in Netherlands-India, where he spent the years
1889-1906. Upon his return he was appointed Professor of Arabic at the
University of Leiden. Among his principal published works may be mentioned:
_Mekka_, The Hague, 1888-9; _De Beteekenis van den Islam voor zijne
Belijders in Oost Indïe_, Leiden, 1883; _Mekkanische Sprichwörter_, The
Hague, 1886; _De Atjehers_, Leiden, 1903-4, England tr. London, 1906; _Het
Gajôland en zijne Bezvoners_, Batavia, 1903, and _Nederland en de Islâm_,
Leiden, 1915.

The lectures to be found in the present volume were delivered before
the following Institutions: Columbia University, Yale University, The
University of Pennsylvania, Meadville Theological Seminary, The University
of Chicago, The Lowell Institute, and the Johns Hopkins University.

The Committee owes a debt of deep gratitude to Mr. Charles R. Crane for
having made possible the course of lectures for the year 1914.



_Committee on Publication_.

April, 1916.

       *       *       *       *       *










There are more than two hundred million people who call themselves after
the name of Mohammed, would not relinquish that name at any price, and
cannot imagine a greater blessing for the remainder of humanity than to be
incorporated into their communion. Their ideal is no less than that the
whole earth should join in the faith that there is no god but Allah and
that Mohammed is Allah's last and most perfect messenger, who brought the
latest and final revelation of Allah to humanity in Allah's own words. This
alone is enough to claim our special interest for the Prophet, who in the
seventh century stirred all Arabia into agitation and whose followers soon
after his death founded an empire extending from Morocco to China.

Even those who--to my mind, not without gross exaggeration--would seek the
explanation of the mighty stream of humanity poured out by the Arabian
peninsula since 630 over Western and Middle Asia, Northern Africa, and
Southern Europe principally in geographic and economic causes, do not
ignore the fact that it was Mohammed who opened the sluice gates. It would
indeed be difficult to maintain that without his preaching the Arabs of the
seventh century would have been induced by circumstances to swallow up
the empire of the Sasanids and to rob the Byzantine Empire of some of its
richest provinces. However great a weight one may give to political and
economic factors, it was religion, Islâm, which in a certain sense united
the hitherto hopelessly divided Arabs, Islâm which enabled them to found
an enormous international community; it was Islâm which bound the speedily
converted nations together even after the shattering of its political
power, and which still binds them today when only a miserable remnant of
that power remains.

The aggressive manner in which young Islâm immediately put itself in
opposition to the rest of the world had the natural consequence of
awakening an interest which was far from being of a friendly nature.
Moreover men were still very far from such a striving towards universal
peace as would have induced a patient study of the means of bringing the
different peoples into close spiritual relationship, and therefore from an
endeavour to understand the spiritual life of races different to their own.
The Christianity of that time was itself by no means averse to the
forcible extension of its faith, and in the community of Mohammedans which
systematically attempted to reduce the world to its authority by force of
arms, it saw only an enemy whose annihilation was, to its regret, beyond
its power. Such an enemy it could no more observe impartially than one
modern nation can another upon which it considers it necessary to make war.
Everything maintained or invented to the disadvantage of Islâm was greedily
absorbed by Europe; the picture which our forefathers in the Middle Ages
formed of Mohammed's religion appears to us a malignant caricature. The
rare theologians[1] who, before attacking the false faith, tried to form a
clear notion of it, were not listened to, and their merits have only become
appreciated in our own time. A vigorous combating of the prevalent fictions
concerning Islâm would have exposed a scholar to a similar treatment to
that which, fifteen years ago, fell to the lot of any Englishman who
maintained the cause of the Boers; he would have been as much of an outcast
as a modern inhabitant of Mecca who tried to convince his compatriots of
the virtues of European policy and social order.

[Footnote 1: See for instance the reference to the exposition of the
Paderborn bishop Olivers (1227) in the Paderborn review _Theologie und
Glaube_, Jahrg. iv., p. 535, etc. (_Islâm_, iv., p. 186); also some of the
accounts mentioned in Güterbock, _Der Islâm im Lichte der byzantinischen
Polemik_, etc.]

Two and a half centuries ago, a prominent Orientalist,[2] who wrote
an exposition of Mohammed's teaching, felt himself obliged to give an
elaborate justification of his undertaking in his "Dedicatio." He appeals
to one or two celebrated predecessors and to learned colleagues, who have
expressly instigated him to this work. Amongst other things he quotes
a letter from the Leiden professor, L'Empereur, in which he conjures
Breitinger by the bowels of Jesus Christ ("per viscera Jesu Christi") to
give the young man every opportunity to complete his study of the religion
of Mohammed, "which so far has only been treated in a senseless way." As a
fruit of this study L'Empereur thinks it necessary to mention in the first
place the better understanding of the (Christian) Holy Scriptures by the
extension of our knowledge of Oriental manners and customs. Besides such
promotion of Christian exegesis and apologetics and the improvement of the
works on general history, Hottinger himself contemplated a double
purpose in his _Historia Orientalis_. The Roman Catholics often vilified
Protestantism by comparing the Reformed doctrine to that of Mohammedanism;
this reproach of Crypto-mohammedanism Hottinger wished "talionis lege" to
fling back at the Catholics; and he devotes a whole chapter (Cap. 6) of his
book to the demonstration that Bellarminius' proofs of the truth of the
Church doctrine might have been copied from the Moslim dogma. In the second
place, conforming to the spirit of the times, he wished, just as Bibliander
had done in his refutation of the Qorân, to combine the combat against
Mohammedan unbelief with that against the Turkish Empire ("in oppugnationem
Mahometanae perfidiae et Turcici regni").

[Footnote 2: J.H. Hottinger, _Historia Orientalis_, Zürich, 1651 (2d.
edition 1660).]

The Turks were feared by the Europe of that time, and the significance of
their religion for their worldly power was well known; thus the
political side of the question gave Hottinger's work a special claim to
consideration. Yet, in spite of all this, Hottinger feared that his labour
would be regarded as useless, or even wicked. Especially when he is obliged
to say anything favourable of Mohammed and his followers, he thinks it
necessary to protect himself against misconstruction by the addition of
some selected terms of abuse. When mentioning Mohammed's name, he says:
"at the mention of whom the mind shudders" ("ad cujus profecto mentionem
inhorrescere nobis debet animus"). The learned Abbé Maracci, who in 1698
produced a Latin translation of the Qorân accompanied by an elaborate
refutation, was no less than Hottinger imbued with the necessity of
shuddering at every mention of the "false" Prophet, and Dr. Prideaux,
whose _Vie de Mahomet_ appeared in the same year in Amsterdam, abused and
shuddered with them, and held up his biography of Mohammed as a mirror to
"unbelievers, atheists, deists, and libertines."

It was a Dutch scholar, H. Reland, the Utrecht professor of theology, who
in the beginning of the eighteenth century frankly and warmly recommended
the application of historical justice even towards the Mohammedan religion;
in his short Latin sketch of Islâm[1] he allowed the Mohammedan authorities
to speak for themselves. In his "Dedicatio" to his brother and in his
extensive preface he explains his then new method. Is it to be supposed,
he asks, that a religion as ridiculous as the Islâm described by Christian
authors should have found millions of devotees? Let the Moslims themselves
describe their own religion for us; just as the Jewish and Christian
religions are falsely represented by the heathen and Protestantism by
Catholics, so every religion is misrepresented by its antagonists. "We
are mortals, subject to error; especially where religious matters are
concerned, we often allow ourselves to be grossly misled by passion."
Although it may cause evil-minded readers to doubt the writer's orthodoxy
he continues to maintain that truth can only be served by combating her
opponents in an honourable way.

[Footnote 1: _H. Relandi de religione Mohammedica libri duo_, Utrecht, 1704
(2d ed. 1717).]

"No religion," says Reland, "has been more calumniated than Islâm,"
although the Abbé Maracci himself could give no better explanation of the
turning of many Jews and Christians to this religion than the fact that
it contains many elements of natural truth, evidently borrowed from the
Christian religion, "which seem to be in accordance with the law and the
light of nature" ("quae naturae legi ac lumini consentanea videntur").
"More will be gained for Christianity by friendly intercourse with
Mohammedans than by slander; above all Christians who live in the East must
not, as is too often the case, give cause to one Turk to say to another
who suspects him of lying or deceit: 'Do you take me for a Christian?'
("putasne me Christianum esse"). In truth, the Mohammedans often put us to
shame by their virtues; and a better knowledge of Islâm can only help to
make our irrational pride give place to gratitude to God for the undeserved
mercy which He bestowed upon us in Christianity." Reland has no illusions
that his scientific justice will find acceptance in a wide circle "as he
becomes daily more and more convinced that the world wishes to be deceived
and is governed by prejudice" ("qui quotidie magis magisque experior mundum
decipi velle et praeconceptis opinionibus regi").

It was not long before the scale was turned in the opposite direction,
and Islâm was made by some people the object of panegyrics as devoid of
scientific foundation as the former calumnies. In 1730 appeared in London
the incomplete posthumous work of Count de Boulainvilliers, _Vie de
Mahomet,_ in which, amongst other things, he says of the Arabian Prophet
that "all that he has said concerning the essential religious dogmas is
true, but he has not said all that is true, and it is only therein that his
religion differs from ours." De Boulainvilliers tells us with particular
satisfaction that Mohammed, who respected the devotion of hermits and
monks, proceeded with the utmost severity against the official clergy,
condemning its members either to death or to the abjuration of their faith.
This _Vie de Mahomet_ was as a matter of fact an anti-clerical romance, the
material of which was supplied by a superficial knowledge of Islâm drawn
from secondary sources. That a work with such a tendency was sure to arouse
interest at that time, is shown by a letter from the publisher, Coderc, to
Professor Gagnier at Oxford, in which he writes: "He [de Boulainvilliers]
mixes up his history with many political reflections, which by their
newness and boldness are sure to be well received" ("Il mêle son Histoire
de plusieurs réflexions politiques, et qui par leur hardiesse ne manqueront
pas d'être très bien reçues").

Jean Gagnier however considered these bold novelties very dangerous and
endeavoured to combat them in another _Vie de Mahomet_, which appeared from
his hand in 1748 at Amsterdam. He strives after a "juste milieu" between
the too violent partisanship of Maracci and Prideaux and the ridiculous
acclamations of de Boulainvilliers. Yet this does not prevent him in his
preface from calling Mohammed the greatest villain of mankind and the most
mortal enemy of God ("le plus scélérat de tous les hommes et le plus mortel
ennemi de Dieu"). His desire to make his contemporaries proof against the
poison of de Boulainvilliers' dangerous book gains the mastery over the
pure love of truth for which Reland had so bravely striven.

Although Sale in his "Preliminary Discourse" to his translation of the
Qorân endeavours to contribute to a fair estimation of Mohammed and his
work, of which his motto borrowed from Augustine, "There is no false
doctrine that does not contain some truth" ("nulla falsa doctrina est
quae non aliquid veri permisceat"), is proof, still the prejudicial view
remained for a considerable time the prevalent one. Mohammed was branded
as _imposteur_ even in circles where Christian fanaticism was out of the
question. Voltaire did not write his tragedy _Mahomet ou le fanatisme_ as
a historical study; he was aware that his fiction was in many respects at
variance with history. In writing his work he was, as he himself expresses
it, inspired by "l'amour du genre humain et l'horreur du fanatisme." He
wanted to put before the public an armed Tartufe and thought he might
lay the part upon Mohammed, for, says he, "is not the man, who makes war
against his own country and dares to do it in the name of God, capable of
any ill?" The dislike that Voltaire had conceived for the Qorân from a
superficial acquaintance with it, "ce livre inintelligible qui fait frémir
le sens commun à chaque page," probably increased his unfavourable opinion,
but the principal motive of his choice of a representative must have been
that the general public still regarded Mohammed as the incarnation of
fanaticism and priestcraft.

Almost a century lies between Gagnier's biography of Mohammed and that of
the Heidelberg professor Weil (_Mohammed der Prophet, sein Leben and seine
Lehre_, Stuttgart, 1843); and yet Weil did well to call Gagnier his last
independent predecessor. Weil's great merit is, that he is the first in his
field who instituted an extensive historico-critical investigation without
any preconceived opinion. His final opinion of Mohammed is, with the
necessary reservations: "In so far as he brought the most beautiful
teachings of the Old and the New Testament to a people which was not
illuminated by one ray of faith, he may be regarded, even by those who
are not Mohammedans, as a messenger of God." Four years later Caussin
de Perceval in his _Essai sur l'histoire des Arabes_, written quite
independently of Weil, expresses the same idea in these words: "It would be
an injustice to Mohammed to consider him as no more than a clever impostor,
an ambitious man of genius; he was in the first place a man convinced of
his vocation to deliver his nation from error and to regenerate it."

About twenty years later the biography of Mohammed made an enormous advance
through the works of Muir, Sprenger, and Nôldeke. On the ground of much
wider and at the same time deeper study of the sources than had been
possible for Weil and Caussin de Perceval, each of these three scholars
gave in his own way an account of the origin of Islâm. Nôldeke was
much sharper and more cautious in his historical criticism than Muir or
Sprenger. While the biographies written by these two men have now
only historical value, Nôldeke's _History of the Qorân_ is still an
indispensable instrument of study more than half a century after its first

Numbers of more or less successful efforts to make Mohammed's life
understood by the nineteenth century intellect have followed these without
much permanent gain. Mohammed, who was represented to the public in turn as
deceiver, as a genius mislead by the Devil, as epileptic, as hysteric, and
as prophet, was obliged later on even to submit to playing on the one
hand the part of socialist and, on the other hand, that of a defender of
capitalism. These points of view were principally characteristic of the
temperament of the scholars who held them; they did not really advance our
understanding of the events that took place at Mecca and Medina between 610
and 632 A.D., that prologue to a perplexing historical drama.

The principal source from which all biographers started and to which they
always returned, was the Qorân, the collection of words of Allah spoken by
Mohammed in those twenty-two years. Hardly anyone, amongst the "faithful"
and the "unfaithful," doubts the generally authentic character of its
contents except the Parisian professor Casanova.[1] He tried to prove a
little while ago that Mohammed's revelations originally contained the
announcement that the HOUR, the final catastrophe, the Last judgment would
come during his life. When his death had therefore falsified this prophecy,
according to Casanova, the leaders of the young community found themselves
obliged to submit the revelations preserved in writing or memory to a
thorough revision, to add some which announced the mortality even of the
last prophet, and, finally to console the disappointed faithful with the
hope of Mohammed's return before the end of the world. This doctrine of the
return, mentioned neither in the Qorân nor in the eschatological tradition
of later times, according to Casanova was afterwards changed again into the
expectation of the Mahdî, the last of Mohammed's deputies, "a Guided of
God," who shall be descended from Mohammed, bear his name, resemble him
in appearance, and who shall fill the world once more before its end with
justice, as it is now filled with injustice and tyranny.

[Footnote 1: Paul Casanova, _Mohammed et la fin du monde,_ Paris, 1911.
His hypotheses are founded upon Weil's doubts of the authenticity of a few
verses of the _Qorân_ (iii., 138; xxxix., 31, etc.), which doubts were
sufficiently refuted half a century ago by Nôldeke in his _Geschichte des
Qorâns_, 1st edition, p. 197, etc.]

In our sceptical times there is very little that is above criticism, and
one day or other we may expect to hear that Mohammed never existed. The
arguments for this can hardly be weaker than those of Casanova against the
authenticity of the Qorân. Here we may acknowledge the great power of what
has been believed in all times, in all places, by all the members of the
community ("quod semper, quod ubique, quod ab omnibus creditum est"). For,
after the death of Mohammed there immediately arose a division which none
of the leading personalities were able to escape, and the opponents spared
each other no possible kind of insult, scorn, or calumny. The enemies of
the first leaders of the community could have wished for no more powerful
weapon for their attack than a well-founded accusation of falsifying the
word of God. Yet this accusation was never brought against the first
collectors of the scattered revelations; the only reproach that was made
against them in connexion with this labour being that verses in which
the Holy Family (Ali and Fatimah) were mentioned with honour, and which,
therefore, would have served to support the claims of the Alids to the
succession of Mohammed, were suppressed by them. This was maintained by the
Shi'ites, who are unsurpassed in Islâm as falsifiers of history; and the
passages which, according to them, are omitted from the official Qorân
would involve precisely on account of their reference to the succession,
the mortality of Mohammed.

All sects and parties have the same text of the Qorân. This may have its
errors and defects, but intentional alterations or mutilations of real
importance are not to blame for this.

Now this rich authentic source--this collection of wild, poetic
representations of the Day of judgment; of striving against idolatry; of
stories from Sacred History; of exhortation to the practice of the cardinal
virtues of the Old and New Testament; of precepts to reform the individual,
domestic, and tribal life in the spirit of these virtues; of incantations
and forms of prayer and a hundred things besides--is not always
comprehensible to us. Even for the parts which we do understand, we are not
able to make out the chronological arrangement which is necessary to gain
an insight into Mohammed's personality and work. This is not only due to
the form of the oracles, which purposely differs from the usual tone
of mortals by its unctuousness and rhymed prose, but even more to the
circumstance that all that the hearers could know, is assumed to be known.
So the Qorân is full of references that are enigmatical to us. We therefore
need additional explanation, and this can only be derived from tradition
concerning the circumstances under which each revelation was delivered.

And, truly, the sacred tradition of Islâm is not deficient in data of
this sort. In the canonical and half-canonical collections of tradition
concerning what the Prophet has said, done, and omitted to do, in
biographical works, an answer is given to every question which may arise in
the mind of the reader of the Qorân; and there are many Qorân-commentaries,
in which these answers are appended to the verses which they are supposed
to elucidate. Sometimes the explanations appear to us, even at first sight,
improbable and unacceptable; sometimes they contradict each other; a good
many seem quite reasonable.

The critical biographers of Mohammed have therefore begun their work of
sifting by eliminating the improbable and by choosing between contradictory
data by means of critical comparison. Here the gradually increasing
knowledge of the spirit of the different parties in Islâm was an important
aid, as of course each group represented the facts in the way which best
served their own purposes.

However cautiously and acutely Weil and his successors have proceeded, the
continual progress of the analysis of the legislative as well as of the
historical tradition of Islam since 1870 has necessitated a renewed
investigation. In the first place it has become ever more evident that the
thousands of traditions about Mohammed, which, together with the Qorân,
form the foundation upon which the doctrine and life of the community
are based, are for the most part the conventional expression of all the
opinions which prevailed amongst his followers during the first three
centuries after the Hijrah. The fiction originated a long time after
Mohammed's death; during the turbulent period of the great conquests there
was no leisure for such work. Our own conventional insincerities differ so
much--externally at least--from those of that date, that it is difficult
for us to realize a spiritual atmosphere where "pious fraud" was practised
on such a scale. Yet this is literally true: in the first centuries of
Islâm no one could have dreamt of any other way of gaining acceptance for a
doctrine or a precept than by circulating a tradition, according to which
Mohammed had preached the doctrine or dictated it or had lived according to
the precept. The whole individual, domestic, social, and political life
as it developed in the three centuries during which the simple Arabian
religion was adjusted to the complicated civilization of the great nations
of that time, that all life was theoretically justified by representing
it as the application of minute laws supposed to have been elaborated by
Mohammed by precept and example.

Thus tradition gives invaluable material for the knowledge of the conflict
of opinions in the first centuries, a strife the sharpness of which has
been blunted in later times by a most resourceful harmonistic method. But,
it is vain to endeavour to construct the life and teaching of Mohammed from
such spurious accounts; they cannot even afford us a reliable illustration
of his life in the form of "table talk," as an English scholar rather
naïvely tried to derive from them. In a collection of this sort, supported
by good external evidence, there would be attributed to the Prophet of
Mecca sayings from the Old and New Testament, wise saws from classical and
Arabian antiquity, prescriptions of Roman law and many other things, each
text of which was as authentic as its fellows.

Anyone who, warned by Goldziher and others, has realized how matters stand
in this respect, will be careful not to take the legislative tradition as
a direct instrument for the explanation of the Qorân. When, after a most
careful investigation of thousands of traditions which all appear equally
old, we have selected the oldest, then we shall see that we have before us
only witnesses of the first century of the Hijrah. The connecting threads
with the time of Mohammed must be supplied for a great part by imagination.

The historical or biographical tradition in the proper sense of the word
has only lately been submitted to a keener examination. It was known for a
long time that here too, besides theological and legendary elements,
there were traditions originating from party motive, intended to give an
appearance of historical foundation to the particular interests of certain
persons or families; but it was thought that after some sifting there yet
remained enough to enable us to form a much clearer sketch of Mohammed's
life than that of any other of the founders of a universal religion.

It is especially Prince Caetani and Father Lammens who have disturbed this
illusion. According to them, even the data which had been pretty generally
regarded as objective, rest chiefly upon tendentious fiction. The
generations that worked at the biography of the Prophet were too far
removed from his time to have true data or notions; and, moreover, it was
not their aim to know the past as it was, but to construct a picture of it
as it ought to have been according to their opinion. Upon the bare canvass
of verses of the Qorân that need explanation, the traditionists have
embroidered with great boldness scenes suitable to the desires or ideals of
their particular group; or, to use a favourite metaphor of Lammens, they
fill the empty spaces by a process of stereotyping which permits the
critical observer to recognize the origin of each picture. In the Sîrah
(biography), the distance of the first describers from their object is the
same as in the Hadîth (legislative tradition); in both we get images of
very distant things, perceived by means of fancy rather than by sight and
taking different shapes according to the inclinations of each circle of

Now, it may be true that the latest judges have here and there examined the
Mohammedan traditions too sceptically and too suspiciously; nevertheless,
it remains certain that in the light of their research, the method of
examination cannot remain unchanged. We must endeavour to make our
explanations of the Qorân independent of tradition, and in respect to
portions where this is impossible, we must be suspicious of explanations,
however apparently plausible.

During the last few years the accessible sources of information have
considerably increased, the study of them has become much deeper and more
methodical, and the result is that we can tell much less about the teaching
and the life of Mohammed than could our predecessors half a century ago.
This apparent loss is of course in reality nothing but gain.

Those who do not take part in new discoveries, nevertheless, wish to know
now and then the results of the observations made with constantly improved
instruments. Let me endeavour, very briefly, to satisfy this curiosity.
That the report of the bookkeeping might make a somewhat different
impression if another accountant had examined it, goes without saying, and
sometimes I shall draw particular attention to my personal responsibility
in this respect.

Of Mohammed's life before his appearance as the messenger of God, we know
extremely little; compared to the legendary biography as treasured by the
Faithful, practically nothing. Not to mention his pre-existence as a Light,
which was with God, and for the sake of which God created the world, the
Light, which as the principle of revelation, lived in all prophets from
Adam onwards, and the final revelation of which in Mohammed was prophesied
in the Scriptures of the Jews and the Christians; not to mention the
wonderful and mysterious signs which announced the birth of the Seal of the
Prophets, and many other features which the later Sîrahs (biographies) and
Maulids (pious histories of his birth, most in rhymed prose or in poetic
metre) produce in imitation of the Gospels; even the elaborate discourses
of the older biographies on occurrences, which in themselves might quite
well come within the limits of sub-lunary possibility, do not belong to
history. Fiction plays such a great part in these stories, that we are
never sure of being on historical ground unless the Qorân gives us a firm

The question, whether the family to which Mohammed belonged, was regarded
as noble amongst the Qoraishites, the ruling tribe in Mecca, is answered
in the affirmative by many; but by others this answer is questioned not
without good grounds. The matter is not of prime importance, as there is no
doubt that Mohammed grew up as a poor orphan and belonged to the needy and
the neglected. Even a long time after his first appearance the unbelievers
reproached him, according to the Qorân, with his insignificant worldly
position, which fitted ill with a heavenly message; the same scornful
reproach according to the Qorân was hurled at Mohammed's predecessors by
sceptics of earlier generations; and it is well known that the stories
of older times in the Qorân are principally reflections of what Mohammed
himself experienced. The legends of Mohammed's relations to various members
of his family are too closely connected with the pretensions of their
descendants to have any value for biographic purposes. He married late an
elderly woman, who, it is said, was able to lighten his material cares; she
gave him the only daughter by whom he had descendants; descendants, who,
from the Arabian point of view, do not count as such, as according to their
genealogical theories the line of descent cannot pass through a woman.
They have made an exception for the Prophet, as male offspring, the only
blessing of marriage appreciated by Arabs, was withheld from him.

In the materialistic commercial town of Mecca, where lust of gain and usury
reigned supreme, where women, wine, and gambling filled up the leisure
time, where might was right, and widows, orphans, and the feeble were
treated as superfluous ballast, an unfortunate being like Mohammed, if his
constitution were sensitive, must have experienced most painful emotions.
In the intellectual advantages that the place offered he could find
no solace; the highly developed Arabian art of words, poetry with its
fictitious amourettes, its polished descriptions of portions of Arabian
nature, its venal vain praise and satire, might serve as dessert to a
well-filled dish; they were unable to compensate for the lack of material
prosperity. Mohammed felt his misery as a pain too great to be endured; in
some way or other he must be delivered from it. He desired to be more than
the greatest in his surroundings, and he knew that in that which they
counted for happiness he could never even equal them. Rather than envy them
regretfully, he preferred to despise their values of life, but on that very
account he had to oppose these values with better ones.

It was not unknown in Mecca that elsewhere communities existed acquainted
with such high ideals of life, spiritual goods accessible to the poor, even
to them in particular. Apart from commerce, which brought the inhabitants
of Mecca into contact with Abyssinians, Syrians, and others, there were far
to the south and less far to the north and north-east of Mecca, Arabian
tribes who had embraced the Jewish or the Christian religion. Perhaps this
circumstance had helped to make the inhabitants of Mecca familiar with the
idea of a creator, Allah, but this had little significance in their lives,
as in the Maker of the Universe they did not see their Lawgiver and judge,
but held themselves dependent for their good and evil fortune upon all
manner of beings, which they rendered favourable or harmless by animistic
practices. Thoroughly conservative, they did not take great interest in
the conceptions of the "People of the Scripture," as they called the Jews,
Christians, and perhaps some other sects arisen from these communities.

But Mohammed's deeply felt misery awakened his interest in them. Whether
this had been the case with a few others before him in the milieu of Mecca,
we need not consider, as it does not help to explain his actions. If wide
circles had been anxious to know more about the contents of the "Scripture"
Mohammed would not have felt in the dark in the way that he did. We shall
probably never know, by intercourse with whom it really was that Mohammed
at last gained some knowledge of the contents of the sacred books of
Judaism and Christianity; probably through various people, and over a
considerable length of time. It was not lettered men who satisfied his
awakened curiosity; otherwise the quite confused ideas, especially in the
beginning of the revelation, concerning the mutual relations between Jews
and Christians could not be explained. Confusions between Miryam, the
sister of Moses, and Mary, the mother of Jesus, between Saul and Gideon,
mistakes about the relationship of Abraham to Isaac, Ishmael, and Jacob,
might be put down to misconceptions of Mohammed himself, who could not all
at once master the strange material. But his representation of Judaism and
Christianity and a number of other forms of revelation, as almost identical
in their contents, differing only in the place where, the time wherein, and
the messenger of God by whom they came to man; this idea, which runs like
a crimson thread through all the revelations of the first twelve years
of Mohammed's prophecy, could not have existed if he had had an intimate
acquaintance with Jewish or Christian men of letters. Moreover, the many
post-biblical features and stories which the Qorân contains concerning the
past of mankind, indicate a vulgar origin, and especially as regards
the Christian legends, communications from people who lived outside the
communion of the great Christian churches; this is sufficiently proved by
the docetical representation of the death of Jesus and the many stories
about his life, taken from apocryphal sources or from popular oral legends.

Mohammed's unlearned imagination worked all such material together into
a religious history of mankind, in which Adam's descendants had become
divided into innumerable groups of peoples differing in speech and place
of abode, whose aim in life at one period or another came to resemble
wonderfully that of the inhabitants of West- and Central-Arabia in the
seventh century A.D. Hereby they strayed from the true path, in strife with
the commands given by Allah. The whole of history, therefore, was for him
a long series of repetitions of the antithesis between the foolishness of
men, as this was now embodied in the social state of Mecca, and the wisdom
of God, as known to the "People of the Scripture." To bring the erring ones
back to the true path, it was Allah's plan to send them messengers from out
of their midst, who delivered His ritual and His moral directions to them
in His own words, who demanded the acknowledgment of Allah's omnipotence,
and if they refused to follow the true guidance, threatened them with
Allah's temporary or, even more, with His eternal punishment.

The antithesis is always the same, from Adam to Jesus, and the enumeration
of the scenes is therefore rather monotonous; the only variety is in the
detail, borrowed from biblical and apocryphal legends. In all the thousands
of years the messengers of Allah play the same part as Mohammed finally saw
himself called upon to play towards his people.

Mohammed's account of the past contains more elements of Jewish than of
Christian origin, and he ignores the principal dogmas of the Christian
Church. In spite of his supernatural birth, Jesus is only a prophet
like Moses and others; and although his miracles surpass those of other
messengers, Mohammed at a later period of his life is inclined to place
Abraham above Jesus in certain respects. Yet the influence of Christianity
upon Mohammed's vocation was very great; without the Christian idea of the
final scene of human history, of the Resurrection of the dead and the Last
Judgment, Mohammed's mission would have no meaning. It is true, monotheism,
in the Jewish sense, and after the contrast had become clear to Mohammed,
accompanied by an express rejection of the Son of God and of the Trinity,
has become one of the principal dogmas of Islâm. But in Mohammed's first
preaching, the announcement of the Day of judgment is much more prominent
than the Unity of God; and it was against his revelations concerning
Doomsday that his opponents directed their satire during the first twelve
years. It was not love of their half-dead gods but anger at the wretch who
was never tired of telling them, in the name of Allah, that all their
life was idle and despicable, that in the other world they would be the
outcasts, which opened the floodgates of irony and scorn against Mohammed.
And it was Mohammed's anxiety for his own lot and that of those who were
dear to him in that future life, that forced him to seek a solution of the
question: who shall bring my people out of the darkness of antithesis into
the light of obedience to Allah?

We should, _a posteriori_, be inclined to imagine a simpler answer to the
question than that which Mohammed found; he might have become a missionary
of Judaism or of Christianity to the Meccans. However natural such
a conclusion may appear to us, from the premises with which we are
acquainted, it did not occur to Mohammed. He began--the Qorân tells us
expressly--by regarding the Arabs, or at all events _his_ Arabs, as
heretofore destitute of divine message[1]: "to whom We have sent no warner
before you." Moses and Jesus--not to mention any others--had not been sent
for the Arabs; and as Allah would not leave any section of mankind without
a revelation, their prophet must still be to come. Apparently Mohammed
regarded the Jewish and Christian tribes in Arabia as exceptions to the
rule that an ethnical group (_ummah_) was at the same time a religious
unity. He did not imagine that it could be in Allah's plan that the Arabs
were to conform to a revelation given in a foreign language. No; God must
speak to them in Arabic.[2] Through whose mouth?

[Footnote 1: _Qorân_, xxxii., 2; xxxiv., 43; xxxvi., 5, etc.]

[Footnote 2: _Ibid_., xii., 2; xiii., 37; XX., 112; XXVI., 195; xli., 44,

A long and severe crisis preceded Mohammed's call. He was convinced that,
if he were the man, mighty signs from Heaven must be revealed to him, for
his conception of revelation was mechanical; Allah Himself, or at least
angels, must speak to him. The time of waiting, the process of objectifying
the subjective, lived through by the help of an overstrained imagination,
all this laid great demands upon the psychical and physical constitution of
Mohammed. At length he saw and heard that which he thought he ought to hear
and see. In feverish dreams he found the form for the revelation, and he
did not in the least realize that the contents of his inspiration from
Heaven were nothing but the result of what he had himself absorbed. He
realized it so little, that the identity of what was revealed to him with
what he held to be the contents of the Scriptures of Jews and Christians
was a miracle to him, the only miracle upon which he relied for the support
of his mission.

In the course of the twenty-three years of Mohammed's work as God's
messenger, the over-excited state, or inspiration, or whatever we may
call the peculiar spiritual condition in which his revelation was born,
gradually gave place to quiet reflection. Especially after the Hijrah, when
the prophet had to provide the state established by him at Medina with
inspired regulations, the words of God became in almost every respect
different from what they had been at first. Only the form was retained. In
connection with this evolution, some of our biographers of Mohammed, even
where they do not deny the obvious honesty of his first visions, represent
him in the second half of his work, as a sort of actor, who played with
that which had been most sacred to him. This accusation is, in my opinion,

Mohammed, who twelve years long, in spite of derision and contempt,
continued to inveigh in the name of Allah against the frivolous
conservatism of the heathens in Mecca, to preach Allah's omnipotence to
them, to hold up to them Allah's commands and His promises and threats
regarding the future life, "without asking any reward" for such exhausting
work, is really not another man than the acknowledged "Messenger of
Allah" in Medina, who saw his power gradually increase, who was taught by
experience the value and the use of the material means of extending it,
and who finally, by the force of arms compelled all Arabs to "obedience to
Allah and His messenger."

In our own society, real enthusiasm in the propagation of an idea generally
considered as absurd, if crowned by success may, in the course of time, end
in cold, prosaic calculation without a trace of hypocrisy. Nowhere in
the life of Mohammed can a point of turning be shown; there is a gradual
changing of aims and a readjustment of the means of attaining them. From
the first the outcast felt himself superior to the well-to-do people who
looked down upon him; and with all his power he sought for a position from
which he could force them to acknowledge his superiority. This he found in
the next and better world, of which the Jews and Christians knew. After a
crisis, which some consider as psychopathologic, he knew himself to be sent
by Allah to call the materialistic community, which he hated and despised,
to the alternative, either in following him to find eternal blessedness, or
in denying him to be doomed to eternal fire.

Powerless against the scepticism of his hearers, after twelve years of
preaching followed only by a few dozen, most of them outcasts like himself,
he hoped now and then that Allah would strike the recalcitrant multitude
with an earthly doom, as he knew from revelations had happened before. This
hope was also unfulfilled. As other messengers of God had done in similar
circumstances, he sought for a more fruitful field than that of his
birthplace; he set out on the Hijrah, _i.e._, emigration to Medina. Here
circumstances were more favourable to him: in a short time he became the
head of a considerable community.

Allah, who had given him power, soon allowed him to use it for the
protection of the interests of the Faithful against the unbelievers.
Once become militant, Mohammed turned from the purely defensive to the
aggressive attitude, with such success that a great part of the Arab tribes
were compelled to accept Islâm, "obedience to Allah and His Messenger." The
rule formerly insisted upon: "No compulsion in religion," was sacrificed,
since experience taught him, that the truth was more easily forced upon
men by violence than by threats which would be fulfilled only after the
resurrection. Naturally, the religious value of the conversions sank in
proportion as their number increased. The Prophet of world renouncement
in Mecca wished to win souls for his faith; the Prophet-Prince in Medina
needed subjects and fighters for his army. Yet he was still the same

Parallel with his altered position towards the heathen Arabs went a
readjustment of his point of view towards the followers of Scripture.
Mohammed never pretended to preach a new religion; he demanded in the name
of Allah the same Islâm (submission) that Moses, Jesus, and former prophets
had demanded of their nations. In his earlier revelations he always points
out the identity of his "Qorâns" with the contents of the sacred books of
Jews and Christians, in the sure conviction that these will confirm his
assertion if asked. In Medina he was disillusioned by finding neither Jews
nor Christians prepared to acknowledge an Arabian prophet, not even for the
Arabs only; so he was led to distinguish between the _true_ contents of the
Bible and that which had been made of it by the falsification of later
Jews and Christians. He preferred now to connect his own revelations more
immediately with those of Abraham, no books of whom could be cited against
him, and who was acknowledged by Jews and Christians without being himself
either a Jew or a Christian.

This turn, this particular connection of Islâm with Abraham, made it
possible for him, by means of an adaptation of the biblical legends
concerning Abraham, Hagar, and Ishmael, to include in his religion a set of
religious customs of the Meccans, especially the hajj.[1] Thus Islâm became
more Arabian, and at the same time more independent of the other revealed
religions, whose degeneracy was demonstrated by their refusal to
acknowledge Mohammed.

[Footnote 1: A complete explanation of the gradual development of the
Abraham legend in the Qorân can be found in my book _Het Mekkaansche Feest_
(The Feast of Mecca), Leiden, 1880.]

All this is to be explained without the supposition of conscious trickery
or dishonesty on the part of Mohammed. There was no other way for the
unlettered Prophet, whose belief in his mission was unshaken, to overcome
the difficulties entailed by his closer acquaintance with the tenets of
other religions.

How, then, are we to explain the starting-point of it all--Mohammed's sense
of vocation? Was it a disease of the spirit, a kind of madness? At all
events, the data are insufficient upon which to form a serious diagnosis.
Some have called it epilepsy. Sprenger, with an exaggerated display of
certainty based upon his former medical studies, gave Mohammed's disorder
the name of hysteria. Others try to find a connection between Mohammed's
extraordinary interest in the fair sex and his prophetic consciousness.
But, after all, is it explaining the spiritual life of a man, who was
certainly unique, if we put a label upon him, and thus class him with
others, who at the most shared with him certain abnormalities? A normal man
Mohammed certainly was not. But as soon as we try to give a positive name
to this negative quality, then we do the same as the heathens of Mecca, who
were violently awakened by his thundering prophecies: "He is nothing but
one possessed, a poet, a soothsayer, a sorcerer," they said. Whether we say
with the old European biographers "impostor," or with the modern ones put
"epileptic," or "hysteric" in its place, makes little difference. The
Meccans ended by submitting to him, and conquering a world under the banner
of his faith. We, with the diffidence which true science implies, feel
obliged merely to call him Mohammed, and to seek in the Qorân, and with
great cautiousness in the Tradition, a few principal points of his life and
work, in order to see how in his mind the intense feeling of discontent
during the misery of his youth, together with a great self-reliance, a
feeling of spiritual superiority to his surroundings, developed into
a call, the form of which was largely decided by Jewish and Christian

While being struck by various weaknesses which disfigured this great
personality and which he himself freely confessed, we must admire the
perseverance with which he retained his faith in his divine mission, not
discouraged by twelve years of humiliation, nor by the repudiation of the
"People of Scripture," upon whom he had relied as his principal witnesses,
nor yet by numbers of temporary rebuffs during his struggle for the
dominion of Allah and His Messenger, which he carried on through the whole
of Arabia.

Was Mohammed conscious of the universality of his mission? In the beginning
he certainly conceived his work as merely the Arabian part of a universal
task, which, for other parts of the world, was laid upon other messengers.
In the Medina period he ever more decidedly chose the direction of "forcing
to comply." He was content only when the heathens perceived that further
resistance to Allah's hosts was useless; their understanding of his "clear
Arabic Qorân" was no longer the principal object of his striving. _Such_
an Islâm could equally well be forced upon _non-Arabian_ heathens. And,
as regards the "People of Scripture," since Mohammed's endeavour to be
recognized by them had failed, he had taken up his position opposed to
them, even above them. With the rise of his power he became hard and cruel
to the Jews in North-Arabia, and from Jews and Christians alike in Arabia
he demanded submission to his authority, since it had proved impossible to
make them recognize his divine mission. This demand could quite logically
be extended to all Christians; in the first place to those of the Byzantine
Empire. But did Mohammed himself come to these conclusions in the last part
of his life? Are the words in which Allah spoke to him: "We have sent thee
to men in general,"[1] and a few expressions of the same sort, to be taken
in that sense, or does "humanity" here, as in many other places in the
Qorân, mean those with whom Mohammed had especially to do? Nôldeke is
strongly of opinion that the principal lines of the program of conquest
carried out after Mohammed's death, had been drawn by the Prophet himself.
Lammens and others deny with equal vigour, that Mohammed ever looked upon
the whole world as the field of his mission. This shows that the solution
is not evident.[2]

[Footnote 1: _Qorân_, xxxiv., 27. The translation of this verse has
always been a subject of great difference of opinion. At the time of its
revelation--as fixed by Mohammedan as well as by western authorities--the
universal conception of Mohammed's mission was quite out of question.]

[Footnote 2: Professor T.W. Arnold in the 2d edition (London, 1913) of
his valuable work _The Preaching of Islâm_ (especially pp. 28-31), warmly
endeavours to prove that Mohammed from the beginning considered his mission
as universal. He weakens his argument more than is necessary by placing the
Tradition upon an almost equal footing with the Qorân as a source, and by
ignoring the historical development which is obvious in the Qorân itself.
In this way he does not perceive the great importance of the history of the
Abraham legend in Mohammed's conception. Moreover, the translation of
the verses of the Qorân on p. 29 sometimes says more than the original.
_Lil-nâs_ is not "_to mankind_" but "_to men_," in the sense of "_to
everybody_." _Qorân_, xvi., 86, does not say: "One day we will raise up
a witness out of every nation," but: "On the day (_i.e._, the day of
resurrection) when we will raise up, etc.," which would seem to refer to
the theme so constantly repeated in the Qorân, that each nation will be
confronted on the Day of Judgment with the prophet sent to it. When the
Qorân is called an "admonition to the world (_'âlamîn_)" and Mohammed's
mission a "mercy to the world (_'âlamîn_)," then we must remember that
'âlamîn is one of the most misused rhymewords in the Qorân (e.g., _Qorân_,
xv., 70); and we should not therefore translate it emphatically as "all
created beings," unless the universality of Mohammed's mission is firmly
established by other proofs. And this is far from being the case.]

In our valuation of Mohammed's sayings we cannot lay too much stress upon
his incapability of looking far ahead. The final aims which Mohammed set
himself were considered by sane persons as unattainable. His firm belief in
the realization of the vague picture of the future which he had conceived,
nay, which Allah held before him, drove him to the uttermost exertion of
his mental power in order to surmount the innumerable unexpected obstacles
which he encountered. Hence the variability of the practical directions
contained in the Qorân; they are constantly altered according to
circumstances. Allah's words during the last part of Mohammed's life:
"This day have I perfected your religion for you, and have I filled up
the measure of my favours towards you, and chosen Islâm for you as your
religion," have in no way the meaning of the exclamation: "It is finished,"
of the dying Christ. They are only a cry of jubilation over the degradation
of the heathen Arabs by the triumph of Allah's weapons. At Mohammed's death
everything was still unstable; and the vital questions for Islâm were
subjects of contention between the leaders even before the Prophet had been

The expedient of new revelations completing, altering, or abrogating former
ones had played an important part in the legislative work of Mohammed. Now,
he had never considered that by his death the spring would be stopped,
although completion was wanted in every respect. For, without doubt,
Mohammed felt his weakness in systematizing and his absence of clearness
of vision into the future, and therefore he postponed the promulgation of
divine decrees as long as possible, and he solved only such questions
of law as frequently recurred, when further hesitation would have been
dangerous to his authority and to the peace of the community.

At Mohammed's death, all Arabs were not yet subdued to his authority.
The expeditions which he had undertaken or arranged beyond the northern
boundaries of Arabia, were directed against Arabs, although they were
likely to rouse conflict with the Byzantine and Persian empires. It would
have been contrary to Mohammed's usual methods if this had led him to form
a general definition of his attitude towards the world outside Arabia.

As little as Mohammed, when he invoked the Meccans in wild poetic
inspirations to array themselves behind him to seek the blessedness of
future life, had dreamt of the possibility that twenty years later the
whole of Arabia would acknowledge his authority in this world, as little,
nay, much less, could he at the close of his life have had the faintest
premonition of the fabulous development which his state would reach half
a century later. The subjugation of the mighty Persia and of some of the
richest provinces of the Byzantine Empire, only to mention these, was never
a part of his program, although legend has it that he sent out written
challenges to the six princes of the world best known to him. Yet we
may say that Mohammed's successors in the guidance of his community, by
continuing their expansion towards the north, after the suppression of the
apostasy that followed his death, remained in Mohammed's line of action.
There is even more evident continuity in the development of the empire of
the Omayyads out of the state of Mohammed, than in the series of events
by which we see the dreaded Prince-Prophet of Medina grew out of the
"possessed one" of Mecca. But if Mohammed had been able to foresee how the
unity of Arabia, which he nearly accomplished, was to bring into being a
formidable international empire, we should expect some indubitable traces
of this in the Qorân; not a few verses of dubious interpretation, but
some certain sign that the Revelation, which had repeatedly, and with the
greatest emphasis, called itself a "plain Arabic Qorân" intended for those
"to whom no warner had yet been sent," should in future be valid for the
'Ajam, the Barbarians, as well as for the Arabs.

Even if we ascribe to Mohammed something of the universal program, which
the later tradition makes him to have drawn up, he certainly could not
foresee the success of it. For this, in the first place, the economic and
political factors to which some scholars of our day would attribute the
entire explanation of the Islâm movement, must be taken into consideration.
Mohammed did to some extent prepare the universality of his religion and
make it possible. But that Islâm, which came into the world as the Arabian
form of the one, true religion, has actually become a universal religion,
is due to circumstances which had little to do with its origin.[1] This
extension of the domain to be subdued to its spiritual rule entailed
upon Islâm about three centuries of development and accommodation, of a
different sort, to be sure, but not less drastic in character than that of
the Christian Church.

[Footnote 1: Sir William Muir was not wrong when he said: "From first to
last the summons was to Arabs and to none other... The seed of a universal
creed had indeed been sown; but that it ever germinated was due to
circumstances rather than design."]



We can hardly imagine a poorer, more miserable population than that of the
South-Arabian country Hadramaut. All moral and social progress is there
impeded by the continuance of the worst elements of Jâhiliyyah (Arabian
paganism), side by side with those of Islâm. A secular nobility is formed
by groups of people, who grudge each other their very lives and fight each
other according to the rules of retaliation unmitigated by any more humane
feelings. The religious nobility is represented by descendants of the
Prophet, arduous patrons of a most narrow-minded orthodoxy and of most
bigoted fanaticism. In a well-ordered society, making the most of all the
means offered by modern technical science, the dry barren soil might be
made to yield sufficient harvests to satisfy the wants of its members; but
among these inhabitants, paralysed by anarchy, chronic famine prevails.
Foreigners wisely avoid this miserable country, and if they did visit
it, would not be hospitably received. Hunger forces many Hadramites to
emigrate; throughout the centuries we find them in all the countries of
Islâm, in the sacred cities of Western-Arabia, in Syria, Egypt, India,
Indonesia, where they often occupy important positions.

In the Dutch Indies, for instance, they live in the most important
commercial towns, and though the Government has never favoured them, and
though they have had to compete with Chinese and with Europeans, they have
succeeded in making their position sufficiently strong. Before European
influence prevailed, they even founded states in some of the larger islands
or they obtained political influence in existing native states. Under a
strong European government they are among the quietest, most industrious
subjects, all earning their own living and saving something for their poor
relations at home. They come penniless, and without any of that theoretical
knowledge or practical skill which we are apt to consider as indispensable
for a man who wishes to try his fortune in a complicated modern colonial
world. Yet I have known some who in twenty years' time have become
commercial potentates, and even millionaires.

The strange spectacle of these latent talents and of the suppressed energy
of the people of Hadramaut that seem to be waiting only for transplantation
into a more favourable soil to develop with amazing rapidity, helps us
to understand the enormous consequences of the Arabian migration in the
seventh century.

The spiritual goods, with which Islâm set out into the world, were far from
imposing. It preached a most simple monotheism: Allah, the Almighty Creator
and Ruler of heaven and earth, entirely self-sufficient, so that it were
ridiculous to suppose Him to have partners or sons and daughters to support
Him; who has created the angels that they might form His retinue, and
men and genii (jinn) that they might obediently serve Him; who decides
everything according to His incalculable will and is responsible to nobody,
as the Universe is His; of whom His creatures, if their minds be not led
astray, must therefore stand in respectful fear and awe. He has made His
will known to mankind, beginning at Adam, but the spreading of mankind over
the surface of the earth, its seduction by Satan and his emissaries have
caused most nations to become totally estranged from Him and His service.
Now and then, when He considered that the time was come, He caused a
prophet to arise from among a nation to be His messenger to summon people
to conversion, and to tell them what blessedness awaited them as a reward
of obedience, what punishments would be inflicted if they did not believe
his message.

Sometimes the disobedient had been struck by earthly judgment (the flood,
the drowning of the Egyptians, etc.), and the faithful had been rescued
in a miraculous way and led to victory; but such things merely served
as indications of Allah's greatness. One day the whole world will be
overthrown and destroyed. Then the dead will be awakened and led before
Allah's tribunal. The faithful will have abodes appointed them in
well-watered, shady gardens, with fruit-trees richly laden, with luxurious
couches upon which they may lie and enjoy the delicious food, served by the
ministrants of Paradise. They may also freely indulge in sparkling wine
that does not intoxicate, and in intercourse with women, whose youth and
virginity do not fade. The unbelievers end their lives in Hell-fire; or,
rather, there is no end, for the punishment as well as the reward are

Allah gives to each one his due. The actions of His creatures are all
accurately written down, and when judgment comes, the book is opened;
moreover, every creature carries the list of his own deeds and misdeeds;
the debit and credit sides are carefully weighed against each other in the
divine scales, and many witnesses are heard before judgment is pronounced.
Allah, however, is clement and merciful; He gladly forgives those sinners
who have believed in Him, who have sincerely accepted Islâm, that is to
say: who have acknowledged His absolute authority and have believed the
message of the prophet sent to them. These prophets have the privilege
of acting as mediators on behalf of their followers, not in the sense of
redeemers, but as advocates who receive gracious hearing.

Naturally, Islâm, submission to the Lord of the Universe, ought to express
itself in deeds. Allah desires the homage of formal worship, which must be
performed several times a day by every individual, and on special occasions
by the assembled faithful, led by one of them. This. service, [s.]alât,
acquired its strictly binding rules only after Mohammed's time, but already
in his lifetime it consisted chiefly of the same elements as now: the
recital of sacred texts, especially taken from the Revelation, certain
postures of the body (standing, inclination, kneeling, prostration) with
the face towards Mecca. This last particular and the language of the
Revelation are the Arabian elements of the service, which is for the rest
an imitation of Jewish and Christian rituals, so far as Mohammed knew them.
There was no sacrament, consequently no priest to administer it; Islâm has
always been the lay religion _par excellence_. Teaching and exhortation are
the only spiritual help that the pious Mohammedan wants, and this simple
care of souls is exercised without any ordination or consecration.

Fasting, for a month if possible, and longer if desired, was also an
integral part of religious life and, by showing disregard of earthly joys,
a proof of faith in Allah's promises for the world to come. Almsgiving,
recommended above all other virtues, was not only to be practised in
obedience to Allah's law and in faith in retribution, but it was to testify
contempt of all earthly possessions which might impede the striving after
eternal happiness. Later, Mohammed was compelled, by the need of a public
fund and the waning zeal of the faithful as their numbers increased, to
regulate the practice of this virtue and to exact certain minima as taxes

When Mohammed, taking his stand as opposed to Judaism and Christianity,
had accentuated the Arabian character of his religion, the Meccan rites of
pagan origin were incorporated into Islâm; but only after the purification
required by monotheism. From that time forward the yearly celebration of
the Hajj was among the ritual duties of the Moslim community.

In the first years of the strife yet another duty was most emphatically
impressed on the Faithful; _jihâd, i.e._, readiness to sacrifice life and
possessions for the defence of Islâm, understood, since the conquest of
Mecca in 630, as the extension by force of arms of the authority of the
Moslim state, first over the whole of Arabia, and soon after Mohammed's
death over the whole world, so far as Allah granted His hosts the victory.

For the rest, the legislative revelations regulated only such points as had
become subjects of argument or contest in Mohammed's lifetime, or such as
were particularly suggested by that antithesis of paganism and revelation,
which had determined Mohammed's prophetical career. Gambling and wine were
forbidden, the latter after some hesitation between the inculcation of
temperance and that of abstinence. Usury, taken in the sense of requiring
any interest at all upon loans, was also forbidden. All tribal feuds with
their consequences had henceforward to be considered as non-existent, and
retaliation, provided that the offended party would not agree to accept
compensation, was put under the control of the head of the community.
Polygamy and intercourse of master and female slave were restricted; the
obligations arising from blood-relationship or ownership were regulated.
These points suffice to remind us of the nature of the Qorânic regulations.
Reference to certain subjects in this revealed law while others were
ignored, did not depend on their respective importance to the life of the
community, but rather on what happened to have been suggested by the events
in Mohammed's lifetime. For Mohammed knew too well how little qualified he
was for legislative work to undertake it unless absolutely necessary.

This rough sketch of what Islâm meant when it set out to conquer the world,
is not very likely to create the impression that its incredibly rapid
extension was due to its superiority over the forms of civilization which
it supplanted. Lammens's assertion, that Islâm was the Jewish religion
simplified according to Arabic wants and amplified by some Christian and
Arabic traditions, contains a great deal of truth, if only we recognize the
central importance for Mohammed's vocation and preaching of the Christian
doctrine of Resurrection and judgment. This explains the large number of
weak points that the book of Mohammed's revelations, written down by his
first followers, offered to Jewish and Christian polemics. It was easy for
the theologians of those religions to point out numberless mistakes in the
work of the illiterate Arabian prophet, especially where he maintained that
he was repeating and confirming the contents of their Bible. The Qorânic
revelations about Allah's intercourse with men, taken from apocryphal
sources, from profane legends like that of Alexander the Great, sometimes
even created by Mohammed's own fancy--such as the story of the prophet
Sâlih, said to have lived in the north of Arabia, and that of the prophet
Hûd, supposed to have lived in the south; all this could not but give them
the impression of a clumsy caricature of true tradition. The principal
doctrines of Synagogue and Church had apparently been misunderstood, or
they were simply denied as corruptions.

The conversion to Islâm, within a hundred years, of such nations as the
Egyptian, the Syrian, and the Persian, can hardly be attributed to anything
but the latent talents, the formerly suppressed energy of the Arabian race
having found a favourable soil for its development; talents and energy,
however, not of a missionary kind. If Islâm is said to have been from its
beginning down to the present day, a missionary religion,[1] then "mission"
is to be taken here in a quite peculiar sense, and special attention must
be given to the preparation of the missionary field by the Moslim armies,
related by history and considered as most important by the Mohammedans

[Footnote 1: With extraordinary talent this thesis has been defended by
Professor T.W. Arnold in the above quoted work, _The Preaching of Islam_,
which fully deserves the attention also of those who do not agree with the
writer's argument. Among the many objections that may be raised against
Prof. Arnold's conclusion, we point to the undeniable fact, that the Moslim
scholars of all ages hardly speak of "mission" at all, and always treat the
extension of the true faith by holy war as one of the principal duties of
the Moslim community.]

Certainly, the nations conquered by the Arabs under the first khalîfs were
not obliged to choose between living as Moslims or dying as unbelievers.
The conquerors treated them as Mohammed had treated Jews and Christians in
Arabia towards the end of his life, and only exacted from them submission
to Moslim authority. They were allowed to adhere to their religion,
provided they helped with their taxes to fill the Moslim exchequer. This
rule was even extended to such religions as that of the Parsîs, although
they could not be considered as belonging to the "People of Scripture"
expressly recognized in the Qorân. But the social condition of these
subjects was gradually made so oppressive by the Mohammedan masters, that
rapid conversions in masses were a natural consequence; the more natural
because among the conquered nations intellectual culture was restricted to
a small circle, so that after the conquest their spiritual leaders lacked
freedom of movement. Besides, practically very little was required from the
new converts, so that it was very tempting to take the step that led to
full citizenship.

No, those who in a short time subjected millions of non-Arabs to the state
founded by Mohammed, and thus prepared their conversion, were no apostles.
They were generals whose strategic talents would have remained hidden but
for Mohammed, political geniuses, especially from Mecca and Taif, who,
before Islâm, would have excelled only in the organization of commercial
operations or in establishing harmony between hostile families. Now they
proved capable of uniting the Arabs commanded by Allah, a unity still many
a time endangered during the first century by the old party spirit; and of
devising a division of labour between the rulers and the conquered which
made it possible for them to control the function of complicated machines
of state without any technical knowledge.

Moreover, several circumstances favoured their work; both the large realms
which extended north of Arabia, were in a state of political decline;
the Christians inhabiting the provinces that were to be conquered first,
belonged, for the larger part, to heretical sects and were treated by the
orthodox Byzantines in such a way that other masters, if tolerant, might be
welcome. The Arabian armies consisted of hardened Bedouins with few wants,
whose longing for the treasures of the civilized world made them more ready
to endure the pressure of a discipline hitherto unknown to them.

The use that the leaders made of the occasion commands our admiration;
although their plan was formed in the course and under the influence of
generally unforeseen events. Circumstances had changed Mohammed the Prophet
into Mohammed the Conqueror; and the leaders, who continued the conqueror's
work, though not driven by fanaticism or religious zeal, still prepared the
conversion of millions of men to Islâm.

It was only natural that the new masters adopted, with certain
modifications, the administrative and fiscal systems of the conquered
countries. For similar reasons Islâm had to complete its spiritual store
from the well-ordered wealth of that of its new adherents. Recent research
shows most clearly, that Islâm, in after times so sharply opposed to other
religions and so strongly armed against foreign influence, in the first
century borrowed freely and simply from the "People of Scripture" whatever
was not evidently in contradiction to the Qorân. This was to be expected;
had not Mohammed from the very beginning referred to the "people of the
Book" as "those who know"? When painful experience induced him afterwards
to accuse them of corruption of their Scriptures, this attitude
necessitated a certain criticism but not rejection of their tradition.
The ritual, only provisionally regulated and continually liable to change
according to prophetic inspiration in Mohammed's lifetime, required
unalterable rules after his death. Recent studies[1] have shown in an
astounding way, that the Jewish ritual, together with the religious rites
of the Christians, strongly influenced the definite shape given to that of
Islâm, while indirect influence of the Parsî religion is at least probable.

[Footnote 1: The studies of Professors C.H. Becker, E. Mittwoch, and
A.J. Wensinck, especially taken in connection with older ones of Ignaz
Goldziher, have thrown much light upon this subject.]

So much for the rites of public worship and the ritual purity they require.
The method of fasting seems to follow the Jewish model, whereas the period
of obligatory fasting depends on the Christian usage.

Mohammed's fragmentary and unsystematic accounts of sacred history were
freely drawn from Jewish and Christian sources and covered the whole period
from the creation of the world until the first centuries of the Christian
era. Of course, features shocking to the Moslim mind were dropped and the
whole adapted to the monotonous conception of the Qorân. With ever greater
boldness the story of Mohammed's own life was exalted to the sphere of
the supernatural; here the Gospel served as example. Though Mohammed had
repeatedly declared himself to be an ordinary man chosen by Allah as the
organ of His revelation, and whose only miracle was the Qorân, posterity
ascribed to him a whole series of wonders, evidently invented in emulation
of the wonders of Christ. The reason for this seems to have been the idea
that none of the older prophets, not even Jesus, of whom the Qorân tells
the greatest wonders, could have worked a miracle without Mohammed, the
Seal of the prophets, having rivalled or surpassed him in this respect.
Only Jesus was the Messiah; but this title did not exceed in value
different titles of other prophets, and Mohammed's special epithets were
of a higher order. A relative sinlessness Mohammed shared with Jesus; the
acceptance of this doctrine, contradictory to the original spirit of the
Qorân, had moreover a dogmatic motive: it was considered indispensable
to raise the text of the Qorân above all suspicion of corruption, which
suspicion would not be excluded if the organ of the Revelation were

This period of naively adopting institutions, doctrines, and traditions was
soon followed by an awakening to the consciousness that Islâm could not
well absorb any more of such foreign elements without endangering its
independent character. Then a sorting began; and the assimilation of the
vast amount of borrowed matter, that had already become an integral part of
Islâm, was completed by submitting the whole to a peculiar treatment. It
was carefully divested of all marks of origin and labelled _hadîth_,[1]
so that henceforth it was regarded as emanations from the wisdom of the
Arabian Prophet, for which his followers owed no thanks to foreigners.

[Footnote 1: _Hadîth_, the Arabic word for record, story, has assumed
the technical meaning of "tradition" concerning the words and deeds of
Mohammed. It is used as well in the sense of a single record of this sort
as in that of the whole body of sacred traditions.]

At first, it was only at Medina that some pious people occupied themselves
with registering, putting in order, and systematizing the spiritual
property of Islâm; afterwards similar circles were formed in other centres,
such as Mecca, Kufa, Basra, Misr (Cairo), and elsewhere. At the outset
the collection of divine sayings, the Qorân, was the only guide, the only
source of decisive decrees, the only touchstone of what was true or false,
allowed or forbidden. Reluctantly, but decidedly at last, it was conceded
that the foundations laid by Mohammed for the life of his community were
by no means all to be found in the Holy Book; rather, that Mohammed's
revelations without his explanation and practice would have remained an
enigma. It was understood now that the rules and laws of Islâm were founded
on God's word and on the Sunnah, _i.e._, the "way" pointed out by the
Prophet's word and example. Thus it had been from the moment that Allah had
caused His light to shine over Arabia, and thus it must remain, if human
error was not to corrupt Islâm.

At the moment when this conservative instinct began to assert itself among
the spiritual leaders, so much foreign matter had already been incorporated
into Islâm, that the theory of the sufficiency of Qorân and Sunnah could
not have been maintained without the labelling operation which we have
alluded to. So it was assumed that as surely as Mohammed must have
surpassed his predecessors in perfection and in wonders, so surely must
all the principles and precepts necessary for his community have been
formulated by him. Thus, by a gigantic web of fiction, he became after his
death the organ of opinions, ideas, and interests, whose lawfulness was
recognized by every influential section of the Faithful. All that could not
be identified as part of the Prophet's Sunnah, received no recognition; on
the other hand, all that was accepted had, somehow, to be incorporated into
the Sunnah.

It became a fundamental dogma of Islâm, that the Sunnah was the
indispensable completion of the Qorân, and that both together formed the
source of Mohammedan law and doctrine; so much so that every party assumed
the name of "People of the Sunnah" to express its pretension to orthodoxy.
The _contents_ of the Sunnah, however, was the subject of a great deal of
controversy; so that it came to be considered necessary to make the Prophet
pronounce his authoritative judgment on this difference of opinion. He
was said to have called it a proof of God's special mercy, that within
reasonable limits difference of opinion was allowed in his community. Of
that privilege Mohammedans have always amply availed themselves.

When the difference touched on political questions, especially on the
succession of the Prophet in the government of the community, schism was
the inevitable consequence. Thus arose the party strifes of the first
century, which led to the establishment of the sects of the Shî'ites and
the Khârijites, separate communities, severed from the great whole, that
led their own lives, and therefore followed paths different from those of
the majority in matters of doctrine and law as well as in politics. The
sharpness of the political antithesis served to accentuate the importance
of the other differences in such cases and to debar their acceptance as the
legal consequence of the difference of opinion that God's mercy allowed.
That the political factor was indeed the great motive of separation, is
clearly shown in our own day, now that one Mohammedan state after the other
sees its political independence disappearing and efforts are being made
from all sides to re-establish the unity of the Mohammedan world by
stimulating the feeling of religious brotherhood. Among the most cultivated
Moslims of different countries an earnest endeavour is gaining ground to
admit Shî'ites, Khârijites, and others, formerly abused as heretics, into
the great community, now threatened by common foes, and to regard their
special tenets in the same way as the differences existing between the four
law schools: Hanafites, Mâlikites, Shâfi'ites and Hanbalites, which for
centuries have been considered equally orthodox.

Although the differences that divide these schools at first caused great
excitement and gave rise to violent discussions, the strong catholic
instinct of Islâm always knew how to prevent schism. Each new generation
either found the golden mean between the extremes which had divided the
preceding one, or it recognized the right of both opinions.

Though the dogmatic differences were not necessarily so dangerous to
unity as were political ones, yet they were more apt to cause schism than
discussions about the law. It was essential to put an end to dissension
concerning the theological roots of the whole system of Islâm. Mohammed had
never expressed any truth in dogmatic form; all systematic thinking was
foreign to his nature. It was again the non-Arabic Moslims, especially
those of Christian origin, who suggested such doctrinal questions. At first
they met with a vehement opposition that condemned all dogmatic discussion
as a novelty of the Devil. In the long run, however, the contest of the
conservatives against specially objectionable features of the dogmatists'
discussions forced them to borrow arms from the dogmatic arsenal. Hence a
method with a peculiar terminology came in vogue, to which even the boldest
imagination could not ascribe any connection with the Sunnah of Mohammed.
Yet some traditions ventured to put prophetic warnings on Mohammed's lips
against dogmatic innovations that were sure to arise, and to make him
pronounce the names of a couple of future sects. But no one dared to make
the Prophet preach an orthodox system of dogmatics resulting from the
controversies of several centuries, all the terms of which were foreign to
the Arabic speech of Mohammed's time.

Indeed, all the subjects which had given rise to dogmatic controversy
in the Christian Church, except some too specifically Christian, were
discussed by the _mutakallims_, the dogmatists of Islâm. Free will or
predestination; God omnipotent, or first of all just and holy; God's word
created by Him, or sharing His eternity; God one in this sense, that His
being admitted of no plurality of qualities, or possessed of qualities,
which in all eternity are inherent in His being; in the world to come only
bliss and doom, or also an intermediate state for the neutral. We might
continue the enumeration and always show to the Christian church-historian
or theologian old acquaintances in Moslim garb. That is why Maracci and
Reland could understand Jews and Christians yielding to the temptation
of joining Islâm, and that also explains why Catholic and Protestant
dogmatists could accuse each other of Crypto-mohammedanism.

Not until the beginning of the tenth century A.D. did the orthodox
Mohammedan dogma begin to emerge from the clash of opinions into its
definite shape. The Mu'tazilites had advocated man's free will; had given
prominence to justice and holiness in their conception of God, had denied
distinct qualities in God and the eternity of God's Word; had accepted a
place for the neutral between Paradise and Hell; and for some time the
favour of the powers in authority seemed to assure the victory of their
system. Al-Ash'arî contradicted all these points, and his system has in the
end been adopted by the great majority. The Mu'tazilite doctrines for a
long time still enthralled many minds, but they ended by taking refuge
in the political heresy of Shî'itism. In the most conservative circles,
opponents to all speculation were never wanting; but they were obliged
unconsciously to make large concessions to systematic thought; for in the
Moslim world as elsewhere religious belief without dogma had become as
impossible as breathing is without air.

Thus, in Islâm, a whole system, which could not even pretend to draw its
authority from the Sunnah, had come to be accepted. It was not difficult
to justify this deviation from the orthodox abhorrence against novelties.
Islâm has always looked at the world in a pessimistic way, a view expressed
in numberless prophetic sayings. The world is bad and will become worse and
worse. Religion and morality will have to wage an ever more hopeless war
against unbelief, against heresy and ungodly ways of living. While this
is surely no reason for entering into any compromise with doctrines which
depart but a hair's breadth from Qorân and Sunnah, it necessitates methods
of defence against heresy as unknown in Mohammed's time as heresy itself.
"Necessity knows no law" is a principle fully accepted in Islam; and heresy
is an enemy of the faith that can only be defeated with dialectic weapons.
So the religious truths preached by Mohammed have not been altered in
any way; but under the stress of necessity they have been clad in modern
armour, which has somewhat changed their aspect.

Moreover, Islâm has a theory, which alone is sufficient to justify the
whole later development of doctrine as well as of law. This theory,
whose importance for the system can hardly be overestimated, and which,
nevertheless, has until very recent times constantly been overlooked by
Western students of Islâm, finds its classical expression in the following
words, put into the mouth of Mohammed: "My community will never agree in an
error." In terms more familiar to us, this means that the Mohammedan Church
taken as a whole is infallible; that all the decisions on matters practical
or theoretical, on which it is agreed, are binding upon its members.
Nowhere else is the catholic instinct of Islâm more clearly expressed.

A faithful Mohammedan student, after having struggled through a handbook of
law, may be vexed by a doubt as to whether these endless casuistic precepts
have been rightly deduced from the Qorân and the Sacred Tradition. His
doubt, however, will at once be silenced, if he bears in mind that Allah
speaks more plainly to him by this infallible Agreement (_Ijmâ'_) of the
Community than through Qorân and Tradition; nay, that the contents of both
those sacred sources, without this perfect intermediary, would be to a
great extent unintelligible to him. Even the differences between the
schools of law may be based on this theory of the Ijmâ'; for, does not the
infallible Agreement of the Community teach us that a certain diversity
of opinion is a merciful gift of God? It was through the Agreement that
dogmatic speculations as well as minute discussions about points of law
became legitimate. The stamp of Ijmâ' was essential to every rule of faith
and life, to all manners and customs.

All sorts of religious ideas and practices, which could not possibly be
deduced from Mohammed's message, entered the Moslim world by the permission
of Ijmâ'. Here we need think only of mysticism and of the cult of saints.

Some passages of the Qorân may perhaps be interpreted in such a way that we
hear the subtler strings of religious emotion vibrating in them. The chief
impression that Mohammed's Allah makes before the Hijrah is that of awful
majesty, at which men tremble from afar; they fear His punishment, dare
hardly be sure of His reward, and hope much from His mercy. This impression
is a lasting one; but, after the Hijrah, Allah is also heard quietly
reasoning with His obedient servants, giving them advice and commands,
which they have to follow in order to frustrate all resistance to His
authority and to deserve His satisfaction. He is always the Lord, the King
of the world, who speaks to His humble servants. But the lamp which Allah
had caused Mohammed to hold up to guide mankind with its light, was raised
higher and higher after the Prophet's death, in order to shed its light
over an ever increasing part of humanity. This was not possible, however,
without its reservoir being replenished with all the different kinds of oil
that had from time immemorial given light to those different nations. The
oil of mysticism came from Christian circles, and its Neo-Platonic origin
was quite unmistakable; Persia and India also contributed to it. There were
those who, by asceticism, by different methods of mortifying the flesh,
liberated the spirit that it might rise and become united with the origin
of all being; to such an extent, that with some the profession of faith
was reduced to the blasphemous exclamation: "I am Allah." Others tried to
become free from the sphere of the material and the temporal by certain
methods of thought, combined or not combined with asceticism. Here the
necessity of guidance was felt, and congregations came into existence,
whose purpose it was to permit large groups of people under the leadership
of their sheikhs, to participate simultaneously in the mystic union. The
influence which spread most widely was that of leaders like Ghazâlî, the
Father of the later Mohammedan Church, who recommended moral purification
of the soul as the only way by which men should come nearer to God. His
mysticism wished to avoid the danger of pantheism, to which so many others
were led by their contemplations, and which so often engendered disregard
of the revealed law, or even of morality. Some wanted to pass over the gap
between the Creator and the created along a bridge of contemplation; and
so, driven by the fire of sublime passion, precipitate themselves towards
the object of their love, in a kind of rapture, which poets compare with
intoxication. The evil world said that the impossibility to accomplish this
heavenly union often induced those people to imitate it for the time being
with the earthly means of wine and the indulgence in sensual love.

Characteristic of all these sorts of mysticism is their esoteric pride.
All those emotions are meant only for a small number of chosen ones. Even
Ghazâlî's ethical mysticism is not for the multitude. The development of
Islâm as a whole, from the Hijrah on, has always been greater in breadth
than in depth; and, consequently, its pedagogics have remained defective.
Even some of the noblest minds in Islâm restrict true religious life to an
aristocracy, and accept the ignorance of the multitude as an irremediable

Throughout the centuries pantheistic and animistic forms of mysticism have
found many adherents among the Mohammedans; but the infallible Agreement
has persisted in calling that heresy. Ethical mysticism, since Ghazâlî, has
been fully recognized; and, with law and dogma, it forms the sacred trio of
sciences of Islâm, to the study of which the Arabic humanistic arts
serve as preparatory instruments. All other sciences, however useful and
necessary, are of this world and have no value for the world to come. The
unfaithful appreciate and study them as well as do the Mohammedans; but,
on Mohammedan soil they must be coloured with a Mohammedan hue, and their
results may never clash with the three religious sciences. Physics,
astronomy, and philosophy have often found it difficult to observe this
restriction, and therefore they used to be at least slightly suspected in
pious circles.

Mysticism did not only owe to Ijmâ' its place in the sacred trio, but it
succeeded, better than dogmatics, in confirming its right with words of
Allah and His Prophet. In Islâm mysticism and allegory are allied in the
usual way; for the _illuminati_ the words had quite a different meaning
than for common, every-day people. So the Qorân was made to speak the
language of mysticism; and mystic commentaries of the Holy Book exist,
which, with total disregard for philological and historical objections,
explain the verses of the Revelation as expressions of the profoundest soul
experiences. Clear utterances in this spirit were put into the Prophet's
mouth; and, like the canonists, the leaders on the mystic Way to God
boasted of a spiritual genealogy which went back to Mohammed. Thus the
Prophet is said to have declared void all knowledge and fulfillment of the
law which lacks mystic experience.

Of course only "true" mysticism is justified by Ijmâ' and confirmed by the
evidence of Qorân and Sunnah; but, about the bounds between "true" and
"false" or heretical mysticism, there exists in a large measure the
well-known diversity of opinion allowed by God's grace. The ethical
mysticism of al-Ghazâlî is generally recognized as orthodox; and the
possibility of attaining to a higher spiritual sphere by means of methodic
asceticism and contemplation is doubted by few. The following opinion has
come to prevail in wide circles: the Law offers the bread of life to all
the faithful, the dogmatics are the arsenal from which the weapons must be
taken to defend the treasures of religion against unbelief and heresy, but
mysticism shows the earthly pilgrim the way to Heaven.

It was a much lower need that assured the cult of saints a place in the
doctrine and practice of Islâm. As strange as is Mohammed's transformation
from an ordinary son of man, which he wanted to be, into the incarnation
of Divine Light, as the later biographers represent him, it is still more
astounding that the intercession of saints should have become indispensable
to the community of Mohammed, who, according to Tradition, cursed the Jews
and Christians because they worshipped the shrines of their prophets.
Almost every Moslim village has its patron saint; every country has its
national saints; every province of human life has its own human rulers,
who are intermediate between the Creator and common mortals. In no other
particular has Islâm more fully accommodated itself to the religions it
supplanted. The popular practice, which is in many cases hardly to be
distinguished from polytheism, was, to a great extent, favoured by the
theory of the intercession of the pious dead, of whose friendly assistance
people might assure themselves by doing good deeds in their names and to
their eternal advantage.

The ordinary Moslim visitor of the graves of saints does not trouble
himself with this ingenious compromise between the severe monotheism of his
prophet and the polytheism of his ancestors. He is firmly convinced, that
the best way to obtain the satisfaction of his desire after earthly or
heavenly goods is to give the saint whose special care these are what he
likes best; and he confidently leaves it to the venerated one to settle the
matter with Allah, who is far too high above the ordinary mortal to allow
of direct contact.

In support even of this startling deviation from the original, traditions
have been devised. Moreover, the veneration of human beings was favoured
by some forms of mysticism; for, like many saints, many mystics had their
eccentricities, and it was much to the advantage of mystic theologians if
the vulgar could be persuaded to accept their aberrations from normal
rules of life as peculiarities of holy men. But Ijmâ' did more even than
tradition and mysticism to make the veneration of legions of saints
possible in the temples of the very men who were obliged by their ritual
law to say to Allah several time daily: "Thee only do we worship and to
Thee alone do we cry for help."

In the tenth century of our era Islâm's process of accommodation was
finished in all its essentials. From this time forward, if circumstances
were favourable, it could continue the execution of its world conquering
plans without being compelled to assimilate any more foreign elements.
Against each spiritual asset that another universal religion could boast,
it could now put forward something of a similar nature, but which still
showed characteristics of its own, and the superiority of which it could
sustain by arguments perfectly satisfactory to its followers. From that
time on, Islâm strove to distinguish itself ever more sharply from its most
important rivals. There was no absolute stagnation, the evolution was not
entirely stopped; but it moved at a much quieter pace, and its direction
was governed by internal motives, not by influences from outside. Moslim
catholicism had attained its full growth.

We cannot within the small compass of these lectures consider the
excrescences of the normal Islâm, the Shî'itic ultras, who venerated
certain descendants of Mohammed as infallible rulers of the world,
Ishma'ilites, Qarmatians, Assassins; nor the modern bastards of Islâm, such
as the Sheikhites, the Bâbî's, the Behâ'îs--who have found some adherents
in America--and other sects, which indeed sprang up on Moslim soil, but
deliberately turned to non-Mohammedan sources for their inspirations. We
must draw attention, however, to protests raised by certain minorities
against some of the ideas and practices which had been definitely adopted
by the majority.

In the midst of Mohammedan Catholicism there always lived and moved more or
less freely "protestant" elements. The comparison may even be continued,
with certain qualifications, and we may speak also of a conservative and
of a liberal protestantism in Islâm. The conservative Protestantism
is represented by the Hanbalitic school and kindred spirits, who most
emphatically preached that the Agreement (Ijmâ') of every period should be
based on that of the "pious ancestors." They therefore tested every dogma
and practice by the words and deeds of the Prophet, his contemporaries, and
the leaders of the Community in the first decades after Mohammed's death.
In their eyes the Church of later days had degenerated; and they declined
to consider the agreement of its doctors as justifying the penetration
into Islâm of ideas and usages of foreign origin. The cult of saints was
rejected by them as altogether contradictory to the Qorân and the genuine
tradition. These protestants of Islâm may be compared to those of
Christianity also in this respect, that they accepted the results of the
evolution and assimilation of the first three centuries of Islâm, but
rejected later additions as abuse and corruption. When on the verge of our
nineteenth century, they tried, as true Moslims, to force by material means
their religious conceptions on others, they were combated as heretics by
the authorities of catholic Islâm. Central and Western Arabia formed the
battlefield on which these zealots, called Wahhâbites after their leader,
were defeated by Mohammed Ali, the first Khedive, and his Egyptian army.
Since they have given up their efforts at violent reconstitution of what
they consider to be the original Islâm, they are left alone, and their
ideas have found adherents far outside Arabia, _e.g._, in British India and
in Northern and Central Africa.

In still quite another way many Moslims who found their freedom of thought
or action impeded by the prevailing law and doctrine, have returned to the
origin of their religion. Too much attached to the traditions of their
faith, deliberately to disregard these impediments, they tried to find in
the Qorân and Tradition arguments in favour of what was dictated to them by
Reason; and they found those arguments as easily as former generations had
found the bases on which to erect their casuistry, their dogma, and their
mysticism. This implied an interpretation of the oldest sources independent
from the catholic development of Islâm, and in contradiction with the
general opinion of the canonists, according to whom, since the fourth or
fifth century of the Hijrah, no one is qualified for such free research. A
certain degree of independence of mind, together with a strong attachment
to their spiritual past, has given rise in the Moslim world to this sort
of liberal protestantism, which in our age has many adherents among the
Mohammedans who have come in contact with modern civilization.

That the partisans of all these different conceptions could remain together
as the children of one spiritual family, is largely owing to the elastic
character of Ijmâ', the importance of which is to some extent acknowledged
by catholics and protestants, by moderns and conservatives. It has never
been contested that the community, whose agreement was the test of truth,
should not consist of the faithful masses, but of the expert elect. In
a Christian church we should have spoken of the clergy, with a further
definition of the organs through which it was to express itself synod,
council, or Pope. Islâm has no clergy, as we have seen; the qualification
of a man to have his own opinion depends entirely upon the scope of his
knowledge or rather of his erudition. There is no lack of standards, fixed
by Mohammedan authorities, in which the requirements for a scholar to
qualify him for Ijmâ' are detailed. The principal criterion is the
knowledge of the canon law; quite what we should expect from the history
of the evolution of Islâm. But, of course, dogmatists and mystics had also
their own "agreements" on the questions concerning them, and through the
compromise between Law, Dogma, and Mysticism, there could not fail to
come into existence a kind of mixed Ijmâ'. Moreover, the standards and
definitions could have only a certain theoretical value, as there never has
existed a body that could speak in the name of all. The decisions of Ijmâ'
were therefore to be ascertained only in a vague and general way. The
speakers were individuals whose own authority depended on Ijmâ', whereas
Ijmâ' should have been their collective decision. Thus it was possible for
innumerable shades of Catholicism and protestantism to live under one roof;
with a good deal of friction, it is true, but without definite breach or
schism, no one sect being able to eject another from the community.

Moslim political authorities are bound not only to extend the domain of
Islâm, but also to keep the community in the right path in its life and
doctrine. This task they have always conceived in accordance with their
political interests; Islâm has had its religious persecutions but tolerance
was very usual, and even official favouring of heresy not quite exceptional
with Moslim rulers. Regular maintenance of religious discipline existed
nowhere. Thus in the bond of political obedience elements which might
otherwise have been scattered were held together. The political decay of
Islâm in our a day has done away with what had been left of official power
to settle religious differences and any organization of spiritual authority
never existed. Hence it is only natural that the diversity of opinion
allowed by the grace of Allah now shows itself on a greater scale than ever



In the first period of Islâm, the functions of what we call Church and
what we call State were exercised by the same authority. Its political
development is therefore of great importance for the understanding of its
religious growth.

The Prophet, when he spoke in the name of God, was the lawgiver of his
community, and it was rightly understood by the later Faithful that his
indispensable explanations of God's word had also legislative power. From
the time of the Hijrah the nature of the case made him the ruler, the
judge, and the military commander of his theocratic state. Moreover, Allah
expressly demanded of the Moslims that they should obey "the Messenger
of God, and those amongst them who have authority."[1] We see by this
expression that Mohammed shared his temporal authority with others. His
co-rulers were not appointed, their number was nowhere defined, they were
not a closed circle; they were the notables of the tribes or other groups
who had arrayed themselves under Mohammed's authority, and a few who had
gained influence by their personality. In their councils Mohammed's word
had no decisive power, except when he spoke in the name of Allah; and we
know how careful he was to give oracles only in cases of extreme need.

[Footnote 1: Qorân, iv., 62.]

In the last years of Mohammed's life his authority became extended over a
large part of Arabia; but he did very little in the way of centralization
of government. He sent _'âmils, i.e._, agents, to the conquered tribes
or villages, who had to see that, in the first place, the most important
regulations of the Qorân were followed, and, secondly, that the tax into
which the duty of almsgiving had been converted was promptly paid, and
that the portion of it intended for the central fund at Medina was duly
delivered. After the great conquests, the governors of provinces of the
Moslim Empire, who often exercised a despotic power, were called by the
same title of _'âmils_. The agents of Mohammed, however, did not possess
such unlimited authority. It was only gradually that the Arabs learned the
value of good discipline and submission to a strong guidance, and adopted
the forms of orderly government as they found them in the conquered lands.

Through the death of Mohammed everything became uncertain. The combination
under one leadership of such a heterogeneous mass as that of his Arabs
would have been unthinkable a few years before. It became quite natural,
though, as soon as the Prophet's mouth was recognized as the organ of
Allah's voice. Must this monarchy be continued after Allah's mouthpiece had
ceased to exist? It was not at all certain. The force of circumstances and
the energy of some of Mohammed's counsellors soon led to the necessary
decisions. A number of the notables of the community succeeded in forcing
upon the hesitating or unwilling members the acceptance of the monarchy as
a permanent institution. There must be a khalîf, a deputy of the Prophet in
all his functions (except that of messenger of God), who would be ruler
and judge and leader of public worship, but above all _amîr al-mu'minîn_,
"Commander of the Faithful," in the struggle both against the apostate
Arabs and against the hostile tribes on the northern border.

But for the military success of the first khalifs Islâm would never have
become a universal religion. Every exertion was made to keep the troops of
the Faithful complete. The leaders followed only Mohammed's example
when they represented fighting for Allah's cause as the most enviable
occupation. The duty of military service was constantly impressed upon the
Moslims; the lust of booty and the desire for martyrdom, to which the Qorân
assigned the highest reward, were excited to the utmost. At a later period,
it became necessary in the interests of order to temper the result of this
excitement by traditions in which those of the Faithful who died in the
exercise of a peaceful, honest profession were declared to be witnesses to
the Faith as well as those who were slain in battle against the enemies of
God,--traditions in which the real and greater holy war was described as
the struggle against evil passions. The necessity of such a mitigating
reaction, the spirit in which the chapters on holy war of Mohammedan
lawbooks are conceived, and the galvanizing power which down to our own day
is contained in a call to arms in the name of Allah, all this shows that
in the beginning of Islâm the love of battle had been instigated at the
expense of everything else.

The institution of the Khalifate had hardly been agreed upon when the
question of who should occupy it became the subject of violent dissension.
The first four khalîfs, whose reigns occupied the first thirty years after
Mohammed's death, were Qoraishites, tribesmen of the Prophet, and moreover
men who had been his intimate friends. The sacred tradition relates a
saying of Mohammed: "The _imâms_ are from Qoraish," intended to confine the
Khalifate to men from that tribe. History, however, shows that this edict
was forged to give the stamp of legality to the results of a long political
struggle. For at Mohammed's death the Medinese began fiercely contesting
the claims of the Qoraishites; and during the reign of Alî, the fourth
Khalîf, the Khârijites rebelled, demanding, as democratic rigorists, the
free election of khalîfs without restriction to the tribe of Qoraish or to
any other descent. Their standard of requirements contained only religious
and moral qualities; and they claimed for the community the continual
control of the chosen leader's behaviour and the right of deposing him
as soon as they found him failing in the fulfilment of his duties. Their
anarchistic revolutions, which during more than a century occasionally gave
much trouble to the Khalifate, caused Islâm to accentuate the aristocratic
character of its monarchy. They were overcome and reduced to a sect, the
survivors of which still exist in South-Eastern Arabia, in Zanzibar, and in
Northern Africa; however, the actual life of these communities resembles
that of their spiritual forefathers to a very remote degree.

Another democratic doctrine, still more radical than that of the
Khârijites, makes even non-Arabs eligible for the Khalifate. It must have
had a considerable number of adherents, for the tradition which makes the
Prophet responsible for it is to be found in the canonic collections. Later
generations, however, rendered it harmless by exegesis; they maintained
that in this text "commander" meant only subordinate chiefs, and not "the
Commander of the Faithful." It became a dogma in the orthodox Mohammedan
world, respected up to the sixteenth century, that only members of the
tribe of Qoraish could take the place of the Messenger of God.

The chance of success was greater for the legitimists than for the
democratic party. The former wished to make the Khalifate the privilege
of Alî, the cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet, and his descendants. At
first the community did not take much notice of that "House of Mohammed";
and it did not occur to any one to give them a special part in the
direction of affairs. Alî and Fâtima themselves asked to be placed in
possession only of certain goods which had belonged to Mohammed, but which
the first khalîfs would not allow to be regarded as his personal property;
they maintained that the Prophet had had the disposal of them not as owner,
but as head of the state. This narrow greed and absence of political
insight seemed to be hereditary in the descendants of Ali and Fâtima; for
there was no lack of superstitious reverence for them in later times, and
if one of them had possessed something of the political talent of the best
Omayyads and Abbasids he would certainly have been able to supplant them.

After the third Khalîf, Othmân, had been murdered by his political
opponents, Ali became his successor; but he was more remote than any of his
predecessors from enjoying general sympathy. At that time the Shî'ah, the
"Party" of the House of the Prophet, gradually arose, which maintained that
Ali should have been the first Khalîf, and that his descendants should
succeed him. The veneration felt for those descendants increased in the
same proportion as that for the Prophet himself; and moreover, there
were at all times malcontents, whose advantage would be in joining any
revolution against the existing government. Yet the Alids never succeeded
in accomplishing anything against the dynasties of the Omayyads, the
Abbasids, and the Ottomans, except in a few cases of transitory importance

The Fatimite dynasty, of rather doubtful descent, which ruled a part
of Northern Africa and Egypt in the tenth century A.D., was completely
suppressed after some two and a half centuries. The Sherîfs who have ruled
Morocco for more than 950 years were not chiefs of a party that considered
the legality of their leadership a dogma; they owe their local Khalifate
far more to the out-of-the-way position of their country which prevented
Abbasids and Turks from meddling with their affairs. Otherwise, they would
have been obliged at any rate to acknowledge the sovereignty of the Great
Lord of Constantinople. This was the case with the Sherîfs of Mecca, who
ever since the twelfth century have regarded the sacred territory as their
domain. Their principality arose out of the general political disturbance
and the division of the Mohammedan empire into a number of kingdoms, whose
mutual strife prevented them from undertaking military operations in the
desert. These Sherîfs raised no claim to the Khalifate; and the Shî'itic
tendencies they displayed in the Middle Ages had no political significance,
although they had intimate relations with the Zaidites of Southern Arabia.
As first Egypt and afterwards Turkey made their protectorate over the holy
cities more effective, the princes of Mecca became orthodox.

The Zaidites, who settled in Yemen from the ninth century on, are really
Shî'ites, although of the most moderate kind. Without striving after
expansion outside Arabia, they firmly refuse to give up their own Khalifate
and to acknowledge the sovereignty of any non-Alid ruler; the efforts of
the Turks to subdue them or to make a compromise with them have had no
lasting results. This is the principal obstacle against their being
included in the orthodox community, although their admission is defended,
even under present circumstances, by many non-political Moslim scholars.
The Zaidites are the remnant of the original Arabian Shî'ah, which for
centuries has counted adherents in all parts of the Moslim world, and some
of whose tenets have penetrated Mohammedan orthodoxy. The almost general
veneration of the sayyids and sherîfs, as the descendants of Mohammed are
entitled, is due to this influence.

The Shî'ah outside Arabia, whose adherents used to be persecuted by the
official authorities, not without good cause, became the receptacle of all
the revolutionary and heterodox ideas maintained by the converted peoples.
Alongside of the _visible_ political history of Islâm of the first
centuries, these circles built up their evolution of the _unseen_
community, the only true one, guided by the Holy Family, and the reality
was to them a continuous denial of the postulates of religion. Their first
_imâm_ or successor of the Prophet was Alî, whose divine right had been
unjustly denied by the three usurpers, Abu Bakr, Omar, and Othmân, and who
had exercised actual authority for a few years in constant strife with
Khârijites and Omayyads. The efforts of his legitimate successors to assert
their authority were constantly drowned in blood; until, at last, there
were no more candidates for the dangerous office. This prosaic fact was
converted by the adherents of the House of Mohammed into the romance,
that the last _imâm_ of a line of _seven_ according to some, and _twelve_
according to others, had disappeared in a mysterious way, to return at the
end of days as Mahdî, the Guided One, who should restore the political
order which had been disturbed ever since Mohammed's death. Until his
reappearance there is nothing left for the community to do but to await
his advent, under the guidance of their secular rulers (e.g., the shâhs of
Persia) and enlightened by their authoritative scholars (_mujtahids_), who
explain faith and law to them from the tradition of the Sacred Family.
The great majority of Mohammedans, as they do not accept this legitimist
theory, are counted by the Shî'ah outside Arabia as unclean heretics, if
not as unbelievers.

At the beginning of the fifteenth century this Shî'ah found its political
centre in Persia, and opposed itself fanatically to the Sultan of Turkey,
who at about the same time came to stand at the head of orthodox Islâm.
All differences of doctrine were now sharpened and embittered by political
passion, and the efforts of single enlightened princes or scholars to
induce the various peoples to extend to each other, across the political
barriers, the hand of brotherhood in the principles of faith, all failed.
It is only in the last few years that the general political distress of
Islâm has inclined the estranged relatives towards reconciliation.

Besides the veneration of the Alids, orthodox Islâm has adopted another
Shîitic element, the expectation of the Mahdî, which we have just
mentioned. Most Sunnites expect that at the end of the world there will
come from the House of Mohammed a successor to him, guided by Allah, who
will maintain the revealed law as faithfully as the first four khalîfs did
according to the idealized history, and who will succeed with God's help in
making Islâm victorious over the whole world. That the chiliastic kingdom
of the Mahdî must in the end be destroyed by Anti-Christ, in order that
Jesus may be able once more to re-establish the holy order before the
Resurrection, was a necessary consequence of the amalgamation of the
political expectations formed under Shî'itic influence, with eschatological
conceptions formerly borrowed by Islâm from Christianity.

The orthodox Mahdî differs from that of the Shî'ah in many ways. He is not
an _imâm_ returning after centuries of disappearance, but a descendant of
Mohammed, coming into the world in the ordinary way to fulfill the ideal of
the Khalifate. He does not re-establish the legitimate line of successors
of the Prophet; but he renews the glorious tradition of the Khalifate,
which after the first thirty years was dragged into the general
deterioration, common to all human things. The prophecies concerning his
appearance are sometimes of an equally supernatural kind as those of the
Shîites, so that the period of his coming has passed more and more
from the political sphere to which it originally belonged, into that of
eschatology. Yet, naturally, it is easier for a popular leader to make
himself regarded as the orthodox Mahdî than to play the part of the
returned _imâm_. Mohammedan rulers have had more trouble than they cared
for with candidates for the dignity of the Mahdî; and it is not surprising
that in official Turkish circles there is a tendency to simplify the
Messianic expectation by giving the fullest weight to this traditional
saying of Mohammed "There is no mahdî but Jesus," seeing that Jesus must
come from the clouds, whereas other mahdîs may arise from human society.

In the orthodox expectation of the Mahdi the Moslim theory has most sharply
expressed its condemnation of the later political history of Islâm. In the
course of the first century after the Hijrah the Qorân scholars (_gârîs_)
arose; and these in turn were succeeded by the men of tradition (_ahl
al-hadîth_) and by the canonists (_faqîhs_) of later times. These learned
men (_ulamâ'_) would not endure any interference with their right to state
with authority what Islâm demanded of its leaders. They laid claim to an
interpretative authority concerning the divine law, which bordered upon
supreme legislative power; their agreement (Ijmâ') was that of the
infallible community. But just as beside this legislative agreement, a
dogmatic and a mystic agreement grew up, in the same way there was a
separate Ijmâ' regarding the political government, upon which the canonists
could exercise only an indirect influence. In other words since the
accession of the Omayyad khalîfs, the actual authority rested in the hands
of dynasties, and under the Abbasids government assumed even a despotic
character. This relation between the governors and governed, originally
alien to Islâm, was not changed by the transference of the actual power
into the hands of _wezîrs_ and officers of the bodyguard; nor yet by
the disintegration of the empire into a number of small despotisms, the
investiture of which by the khalîf became a mere formality. Dynastic and
political questions were settled in a comparatively small circle, by court
intrigue, stratagems, and force; and the canonists, like the people, were
bound to accept the results. Politically inclined interpreters of the law
might try to justify their compulsory assent to the facts by theories about
the Ijmâ' of the notables residing in the capital, who took the urgent
decisions about the succession, which decisions were subsequently confirmed
by general homage to the new prince; but they had no illusions about the
real influence of the community upon the choice of its leader. The most
independent scholars made no attempt to disguise the fact that the course
which political affairs had taken was the clearest proof of the moral
degeneration which had set in, and they pronounced an equally bold and
merciless criticism upon the government in all its departments. It became
a matter of course that a pious scholar must keep himself free from all
intercourse with state officials, on pain of losing his reputation.

The bridge across the gulf that separated the spiritual from the temporal
authorities was formed by those state officials who, for the practice
of their office, needed a knowledge of the divine law, especially the
_qâdhîs_. It was originally the duty of these judges to decide all legal
differences between Mohammedans, or men of other creeds under Mohammedan
protection, who called for their decision. The actual division between the
rulers and the interpreters of the law caused an ever-increasing limitation
of the authority of the _qâdhîs_. The laws of marriage, family, and
inheritance remained, however, their inalienable territory; and a number
of other matters, in which too great a religious interest was involved to
leave them to the caprice of the governors or to the customary law outside
Islâm, were usually included. But as the _qâdhîs_ were appointed by the
governors, they were obliged in the exercise of their office to give due
consideration to the wishes of their constituents; and moreover they were
often tainted by what was regarded in Mohammedan countries as inseparable
from government employment: bribery.

On this account, the canonists, although it was from their ranks that the
officials of the _qâdhî_ court were to be drawn, considered no words too
strong to express their contempt for the office of _qâdhî_. In handbooks
of the Law of all times, the _qâdhîs "of our time"_ are represented as
unscrupulous beings, whose unreliable judgments were chiefly dictated by
their greed. Such an opinion would not have acquired full force, if it
had not been ascribed to Mohammed; in fact, the Prophet, according to a
tradition, had said that out of three _qâdhîs_ two are destined to
Hell. Anecdotes of famous scholars who could not be prevailed upon
by imprisonment or castigation to accept the office of _qâdhîs_ are
innumerable. Those who succumbed to the temptation forfeited the respect of
the circle to which they had belonged.

I once witnessed a case of this kind, and the former friends of the _qâdhî_
did not spare him their bitter reproaches. He remarked that the judge,
whose duty it was to maintain the divine law, verily held a noble office.
They refuted this by saying that this defence was admissible only for
earlier and better times, but not for "the _qâdhîs_ of our time." To which
he cuttingly replied "And ye, are ye canonists of the better, the ancient
time?" In truth, the students of sacred science are just as much "of our
time" as the _qâdhîs_. Even in the eleventh century the great theologian
Ghazâlî counted them all equal.[1] Not a few of them give their
authoritative advice according to the wishes of the highest bidder or
of him who has the greatest influence, hustle for income from pious
institutions, and vie with each other in a revel of casuistic subtleties.
But among those scholars there are and always have been some who, in
poverty and simplicity, devote their life to the study of Allah's law with
the sole object of pleasing him; among the _qâdhîs_ such are not easily to
be found. Amongst the other state officials the title of _qâdhî_ may count
as a spiritual one, and the public may to a certain extent share this
reverence; but in the eyes of the pious and of the canonists such glory is
only reflected from the clerical robe, in which the worldling disguises

[Footnote 1: Ghazâlî, _Ihya_, book i., ch. 6, quotes the words of a pious
scholar of the olden time: "The 'ulamâ' will (on the Day of judgment)
be gathered amongst the prophets, but the _qâdhîs_ amongst the temporal
rulers." Ghazâli adds "alike with these _qâdhîs_ are all those canonists
who make use of their learning for worldly purposes."]

To the _muftî_ criticism is somewhat more favourable than to the _qâdhî_. A
muftî is not necessarily an official; every canonist who, at the request of
a layman, expounds to him the meaning of the law on any particular point
and gives a _fatwa_, acts as a _muftî_. Be the question in reference to the
behaviour of the individual towards God or towards man, with regard to his
position in a matter of litigation, in criticism of a state regulation or
of a sentence of a judge, or out of pure love of knowledge, the scholar is
morally obliged to the best of his knowledge to enlighten the enquirer. He
ought to do this for the love of God; but he must live, and the enquirer is
expected to give him a suitable present for his trouble. This again gives
rise to the danger that he who offers most is attended to first; and that
for the liberal rich man a dish is prepared from the casuistic store, as
far as possible according to his taste. The temptation is by no means so
great as that to which the _qâdhî_ is exposed; especially since the office
of judge has become an article of commerce, so that the very first step
towards the possession of it is in the direction of Hell. Moreover in
"these degenerate times"--which have existed for about ten centuries--the
acceptance of an appointment to the function of _qâdhî_ is not regarded as
a duty, while a competent scholar may only refuse to give a _fatwa_ under
exceptional circumstances. Still, an unusually strong character is needed
by the _muftî_, if he is not to fall into the snares of the world.

Besides _qâdhîs_ who settle legal disputes of a certain kind according to
the revealed law, the state requires its own advisers who can explain
that law, i.e., official _muftîs_. Firstly, the government itself may be
involved in a litigation; moreover in some government regulations it may be
necessary to avoid giving offence to canonists and their strict disciples.
In such cases it is better to be armed beforehand with an expert opinion
than to be exposed to dangerous criticism which might find an echo in a
wide circle. The official _muftî_ must therefore be somewhat pliable, to
say the least. Moreover, any private person has the right to put questions
to the state _muftî_; and the _qâdhî_ court is bound to take his answers
into account in its decisions. In this way the _muftîs_ have absorbed a
part of the duties of the _qâdhîs_, and so their office is dragged along in
the degradation that the unofficial canonists denounce unweariedly in their
writings and in their teaching.

The way in which the most important _muftî_ places are filled and above
all the position which the head-_muftî_ of the Turkish Empire, the
Sheikh-ul-Islâm, holds at any particular period, may well serve as a
touchstone of the influence of the canonists on public life. If this is
great, then even the most powerful sultan has only the possibility of
choice between a few great scholars, put forward or at all events not
disapproved of by their own guild, strengthened by public opinion. If, on
the other hand, there is no keen interest felt in the Sharî'ah (Divine
Law), then the temporal rulers can do pretty much what they like with these
representatives of the canon law. Under the tyrannical sway of Sultan
Abd-ul-Hamid, the Sheikh-ul-Islâm was little more than a tool for him and
his palace clique, and for their own reasons, the members of the Committee
of Union and Progress, who rule at Constantinople since 1908, made no
change in this: each new ministry had its own Sheikh-ul-Islâm, who had to
be, above everything, a faithful upholder of the constitutional theory
held by the Committee. The time is past when the Sultan and the Porte,
in framing even the most pressing reform, must first anxiously assure
themselves of the position that the _hojas, tolbas, softas_, the
theologians in a word, would take towards it, and of the influence that
the Sheikh-ul-Islâm could use in opposition to their plans. The political
authority makes its deference to the canonists dependent upon their strict

This important change is a natural consequence of the modernization of
Mohammedan political life, a movement through which the expounders of a
law which has endeavoured to remain stationary since the year 1000 must
necessarily get into straits. This explains also why the religious life of
Mohammedans is in some respects freer in countries under non-Mohammedan
authority, than under a Mohammedan government. Under English, Dutch, or
French rule the 'ulamâs are less interfered with in their teaching, the
_muftîs_ in their recommendations, and the _qâdhîs_ in their judgments of
questions of marriage and inheritance than in Turkey, where the life of
Islâm, as state religion, lies under official control. In indirectly
governed "native states" the relation of Mohammedan "Church and State" may
much more resemble that in Turkey, and this is sometimes to the advantage
of the sovereign ruler. Under the direct government of a modern state, the
Mohammedan group is treated as a religious community, whose particular life
has just the same claim to independence as that of other denominations. The
only justifiable limitation is that the program of the forcible reduction
of the world to Mohammedan authority be kept within the scholastic walls as
a point of eschatology, and not considered as a body of prescriptions, the
execution of which must be prepared.

The extensive political program of Islâm, developed during the first
centuries of astounding expansion, has yet not prevented millions of
Mohammedans from resigning themselves to reversed conditions in which at
the present time many more Mohammedans live under foreign authority than
under their own. The acceptance of this change was facilitated by the
historical pessimism of Islâm, which makes the mind prepared for every
sort of decay, and by the true Moslim habit of resignation to painful
experiences, not through fatalism, but through reverence for Allah's
inscrutable will. At the same time, it would be a gross mistake to imagine
that the idea of universal conquest may be considered as obliterated. This
is the case with the intellectuals and with many practical commercial or
industrial men; but the canonists and the vulgar still live in the illusion
of the days of Islâm's greatness.

The legists continue to ground their appreciation of every actual political
condition on the law of the holy war, which war ought never to be allowed
to cease entirely until all mankind is reduced to the authority of
Islâm--the heathen by conversion, the adherents of acknowledged Scripture
by submission. Even if they admit the improbability of this at present,
they are comforted and encouraged by the recollection of the lengthy period
of humiliation that the Prophet himself had to suffer before Allah bestowed
victory upon his arms; and they fervently join with the Friday preacher,
when he pronounces the prayer, taken from the Qorân: "And lay not on us, O
our Lord, that for which we have not strength, but blot out our sins and
forgive us and have pity upon us. Thou art our Master; grant us then to
conquer the unbelievers!" And the common people are willingly taught by the
canonists and feed their hope of better days upon the innumerable legends
of the olden time and the equally innumerable apocalyptic prophecies about
the future. The political blows that fall upon Islâm make less impression
upon their simple minds than the senseless stories about the power of
the Sultan of Stambul, that would instantly be revealed if he were not
surrounded by treacherous servants, and the fantastic tidings of the
miracles that Allah works in the Holy Cities of Arabia which are
inaccessible to the unfaithful.

The conception of the Khalifate still exercises a fascinating influence,
regarded in the light of a central point of union against the unfaithful.
Apart from the _'âmils_, Mohammed's agents amongst the Arabian tribes,
the Khalifate was the only political institution which arose out of the
necessity of the Moslim community, without foreign influence. It rescued
Islâm from threatening destruction, and it led the Faithful to conquest. No
wonder that in historic legend the first four occupiers of that leadership,
who, from Medina, accomplished such great things, have been glorified into
saints, and are held up to all the following generations as examples to put
them to shame. In the Omayyads the ancient aristocracy of Mecca came to the
helm, and under them, the Mohammedan state was above all, as Wellhausen
styled it, "the Arabian Empire." The best khalîfs of this house had
the political wisdom to give the governors of the provinces sufficient
independence to prevent schism, and to secure to themselves the authority
in important matters. The reaction of the non-Arabian converts against the
suppression of their own culture by the Arabian conquerors found support in
the opposition parties, above all with the Shî'ah. The Abbasids, cleverer
politicians than the notoriously unskillful Alids, made use of the Alid
propaganda to secure the booty to themselves at the right moment. The means
which served the Alids for the establishment only of an invisible dynasty
of princes who died as martyrs, enabled the descendants of Mohammed's
uncle Abbas to overthrow the Omayyads, and to found their own Khalifate at
Bagdad, shining with the brilliance of an Eastern despotism.

When it is said that the Abbasid Khalifate maintained itself from 750 till
the Mongol storm in the middle of the thirteenth century, that only refers
to external appearance. After a brief success, the actual power of these
khalîfs was transferred to the hands, first, of the captains of their
bodyguard, then of sultan-dynasties, whose forcibly acquired powers, were
legalized by a formal investiture. In the same way the large provinces
developed into independent kingdoms, whose rulers considered the
nomination-diplomas from Bagdad in the light of mere ornaments. Compared to
this irreparable disintegration of the empire, temporary schisms such as
the Omayyad Khalifate in Spain, the Fatimid Khalifate in Egypt, and here
and there an independent organization of the Khârijites were of little

It seems strange that the Moslim peoples, although the theory of Islâm
never attributed an hereditary character to the Khalifate, attached so high
a value to the Abbasid name, that they continued unanimously to acknowledge
the Khalifate of Bagdad for centuries during which it possessed no
influence. But the idea of hereditary rulers was deeply rooted in most
of the peoples converted to Islâm, and the glorious period of the first
Abbasids so strongly impressed itself on the mind of the vulgar, that the
_appearance_ of continuation was easily taken for _reality_. Its voidness
would sooner have been realized, if lack of energy had not prevented the
later Abbasids from trying to recover the lost power by the sword, or if
amongst their rivals who could also boast of a popular tradition--e.g.,
the Omayyads, or still more the Alids--a political genius had succeeded in
forming a powerful opposition. But the sultans who ruled the various states
did not want to place all that they possessed in the balance on the chance
of gaining the title of Khalîf. The Moslim world became accustomed to the
idea that the honoured House of the Prophet's uncle Abbas existed for the
purpose of lending an additional glory to Mohammedan princes by a diploma.
Even after the destruction of Bagdad by the Mongols in 1258, from which
only a few Abbasids escaped alive, Indian princes continued to value visits
or deeds of appointment granted them by some begging descendant of the
"Glorious House." The sultans of Egypt secured this luxury permanently for
themselves by taking a branch of the family under their protection, who
gave the glamour of their approval to every new result of the never-ending
quarrels of succession, until in the beginning of the sixteenth century
Egypt, together with so many other lands, was swallowed up by the Turkish

These new rulers, who added the Byzantine Empire to Islâm, who with Egypt
brought Southern and Western Arabia with the Holy Cities also under their
authority, and caused all the neighbouring princes, Moslim and Christian
alike, to tremble on their thrones, thought it was time to abolish the
senseless survival of the Abbasid glory. The prestige of the Ottomans was
as great as that of the Khalifate in its most palmy days had been; and they
would not be withheld from the assumption of the title. There is a doubtful
tale of the abdication of the Abbasids in their favour, but the question
is of no importance. The Ottomans owed their Khalifate to their sword; and
this was the only argument used by such canonists as thought it worth their
while to bring such an incontestable fact into reconciliation with the law.
This was not strictly necessary, as they had been accustomed for eight
centuries to acquiesce in all sorts of unlawful acts which history
demonstrated to be the will of Allah.

The sense of the tradition that established descent from the tribe of
Qoraish as necessary for the highest dignity in the community was capable
of being weakened by explanation; and, even without that, the leadership of
the irresistible Ottomans was of more value to Islâm than the chimerical
authority of a powerless Qoraishite. In our own time, you can hear
Qoraishites, and even Alids, warmly defend the claims of the Turkish
sultans to the Khalifate, as they regard these as the only Moslim princes
capable of championing the threatened rights of Islâm.

Even the sultans of Stambul could not think of restoring the authority of
the Khalîf over the whole Mohammedan world. This was prevented not only
by the schismatic kingdoms, khalifates, or imâmates like Shî'itic Persia,
which was consolidated just in the sixteenth century, by the unceasing
opposition of the Imâms of Yemen, and Khârijite principalities at the
extremities of the Mohammedan world. Besides these, there were numerous
princes in Central Asia, in India, and in Central Africa, whom either the
Khalifate had always been obliged to leave to themselves, or who had become
so estranged from it that, unless they felt the power of the Turkish arms,
they preferred to remain as they were. Moreover, Islâm had extended itself
not only by political means, but also by trade and colonization into
countries even the existence of which was hardly known in the political
centres of Islâm, e.g., into Central Africa or the Far East of Asia.
Without thinking of rivalling the Abbasids or their successors, some of the
princes of such remote kingdoms, e.g., the sherîfs of Morocco, assumed the
title of Commander of the Faithful, bestowed upon them by their flatterers.
Today, there are petty princes in East India under Dutch sovereignty who
decorate themselves with the title of Khalîf, without suspecting that they
are thereby guilty of a sort of arrogant blasphemy.

Such exaggeration is not supported by the canonists; but these have devised
a theory, which gives a foundation to the authority of Mohammedan princes,
who never had a real or fictitious connection with a real or fictitious
Khalifate. Authority there must be, everywhere and under all circumstances;
far from the centre this should be exercised, according to them, by the
one who has been able to gain it and who knows how to hold it; and all the
duties are laid upon him, which, in a normal condition, would be discharged
by the Khalîf or his representative. For this kind of authority the
legists have even invented a special name: "_shaukah,_" which means actual
influence, the authority which has spontaneously arisen in default of a
chief who in one form or another can be considered as a mandatary of the

Now, it is significant that many of those Mohammedan governors, who owe
their existence to wild growth in this way, seek, especially in our day,
for connection with the Khalifate, or, at least, wish to be regarded as
naturally connected with the centre. The same is true of such whose former
independence or adhesion to the Turkish Empire has been replaced by the
sovereignty of a Western state. Even amongst the Moslim peoples placed
under the direct government of European states a tendency prevails to be
considered in some way or another subjects of the Sultan-Khalîf. Some
scholars explain this phenomenon by the spiritual character which the
dignity of Khalîf is supposed to have acquired under the later Abbasids,
and retained since that time, until the Ottoman princes combined it again
with the temporal dignity of sultan. According to this view the later
Abbasids were a sort of popes of Islâm; while the temporal authority, in
the central districts as well as in the subordinate kingdoms, was in the
hands of various sultans. The sultans of Constantinople govern, then, under
this name, as much territory as the political vicissitudes allow them to
govern--_i.e._, the Turkish Empire; as khalîfs, they are the spiritual
heads of the whole of Sunnite Islâm.

Though this view, through the ignorance of European statesmen and
diplomatists, may have found acceptance even by some of the great powers,
it is nevertheless entirely untrue; unless by "spiritual authority" we are
to understand the empty appearance of worldly authority. This appearance
was all that the later Abbasids retained after the loss of their temporal
power; spiritual authority of any kind they never possessed.

The spiritual authority in catholic Islâm reposes in the legists, who in
this respect are called in a tradition the _"heirs of the prophets."_ Since
they could no longer regard the khalîfs as their leaders, because they
walked in worldly ways, they have constituted themselves independently
beside and even above them; and the rulers have been obliged to conclude a
silent contract with them, each party binding itself to remain within its
own limits.[1] If this contract be observed, the legists not only are ready
to acknowledge the bad rulers of the world, but even to preach loyalty
towards them to the laity.

The most supremely popular part of the ideal of Islâm, the reduction of
the whole world to Moslim authority, can only be attempted by a political
power. Notwithstanding the destructive criticism of all Moslim princes and
state officials by the canonists, it was only from them that they could
expect measures to uphold and extend the power of Islâm; and on this
account they continually cherished the ideal of the Khalifate.

[Footnote 1: That the Khalifate is in no way to be compared with the
Papacy, that Islâm has never regarded the Khalif as its spiritual head, I
have repeatedly explained since 1882 (in "Nieuwe Bijdragen tot de kennis
van den Islam," in _Bijdr. tot de Taal, Landen Volkenkunde van Nederl.
Indië_, Volgr. 4, Deel vi, in an article, "De Islam," in _De Gids_, May,
1886, in _Questions Diplomatiques et Coloniales_, 5me année, No. 106,
etc.). I am pleased to find the same views expressed by Prof. M. Hartmann
in _Die Welt des Islams_, Bd. i., pp. 147-8.]

In the first centuries it was the duty of Mohammedans who had become
isolated, and who had for instance been conquered by "unbelievers," to do
_"hijrah," i.e._, emigration for Allah's sake, as the converted Arabs had
done in Mohammed's time by emigrating to Medina to strengthen the ranks of
the Faithful. This soon became impracticable, so that the legists relaxed
the prescription by concessions to "the force of necessity." Resignation
was thus permitted, even recommended; but the submission to non-Musulmans
was always to be regarded as temporary and abnormal. Although the _partes
infidelium_ have grown larger and larger, the eye must be kept fixed upon
the centre, the Khalifate, where every movement towards improvement must
begin. A Western state that admits any authority of a khalîf over its
Mohammedan subjects, thus acknowledges, _not_ the authority of a pope of
the Moslim Church, but in simple ignorance is feeding political programs,
which, however vain, always have the power of stirring Mohammedan masses to
confusion and excitement.

Of late years Mohammedan statesmen in their intercourse with their Western
colleagues are glad to take the latter's point of view; and, in discussion,
accept the comparison of the Khalifate with the Papacy, because they are
aware that only in this form the Khalifate can be made acceptable to powers
who have Mohammedan subjects. But for these subjects the Khalif is then
their true prince, who is temporarily hindered in the exercise of his
government, but whose right is acknowledged even by their unbelieving

In yet another respect the canonists need the aid of the temporal rulers.
An alert police is counted by them amongst the indispensable means of
securing purity of doctrine and life. They count it to the credit of
princes and governors that they enforced by violent measures seclusion and
veiling of the women, abstinence from drinking, and that they punished by
flogging the negligent with regard to fasting or attending public worship.
The political decay of Islâm, the increasing number of Mohammedans under
foreign rule, appears to them, therefore, doubly dangerous, as they have
little faith in the proof of Islam's spiritual goods against life in a
freedom which to them means license.

They find that every political change, in these terrible times, is to the
prejudice of Islâm, one Moslim people after another losing its independent
existence; and they regard it as equally dangerous that Moslim princes are
induced to accommodate their policy and government to new international
ideas of individual freedom, which threaten the very life of Islâm. They
see the antagonism to all foreign ideas, formerly considered as a virtue
by every true Moslim, daily losing ground, and they are filled with
consternation by observing in their own ranks the contamination of
modernist ideas. The brilliant development of the system of Islâm followed
the establishment of its material power; so the rapid decline of that
political power which we are witnessing makes the question urgent, whether
Islâm has a spiritual essence able to survive the fall of such a material
support. It is certainly not the canonists who will detect the kernel;
"verily we are God's and verily to Him do we return," they cry in helpless
amazement, and their consolation is in the old prayer: "And lay not on us,
O our Lord, that for which we have no strength, but blot out our sins and
forgive us and have mercy upon us. Thou art our Master; grant us then to
conquer the Unbelievers!"



One of the most powerful factors of religious life in its higher forms is
the need of man to find in this world of changing things an imperishable
essence, to separate the eternal from the temporal and then to attach
himself to the former. Where the possibility of this operation is despaired
of, there may arise a pessimism, which finds no path of liberation from the
painful vicissitudes of life other than the annihilation of individuality.
A firm belief in a sphere of life freed from the category of time, together
with the conviction that the poetic images of that superior world current
among mankind are images and nothing else, is likely to give rise to
definitions of the Absolute by purely negative attributes and to mental
efforts having for their object the absorption of individual existence
in the indescribable infinite. Generally speaking, a high development of
intellectual life, especially an intimate acquaintance with different
religious systems, is not favourable to the continuance of elaborate
conceptions of things eternal; it will rather increase the tendency to
deprive the idea of the Transcendent of all colour and definiteness.

The naïve ideas concerning the other world in the clear-cut form outlined
for them by previous generations are most likely to remain unchanged in a
religious community where intellectual intercourse is chiefly limited to
that between members of the community. There the belief is fostered that
things most appreciated and cherished in this fading world by mankind will
have an enduring existence in a world to come, and that the best of the
changing phenomena of life are eternal and will continue free from that
change, which is the principal cause of human misery. Material death will
be followed by awakening to a purer life, the idealized continuation of
life on earth, and for this reason already during this life the faithful
will find their delight in those things which they know to be everlasting.

The less faith is submitted to the control of intellect, the more numerous
the objects will be to which durable value is attributed. This is true for
different individuals as well as for one religious community as compared to
another. There are Christians attached only to the spirit of the Gospel,
Mohammedans attached only to the spirit of the Qorân. Others give a place
in their world of imperishable things to a particular translation of the
Bible in its old-fashioned orthography or to a written Qorân in preference
to a printed one. Orthodox Judaism and orthodox Islâm have marked with the
stamp of eternity codes of law, whose influence has worked as an impediment
to the life of the adherents of those religions and to the free intercourse
of other people with them as well. So the Roman Catholic and many
Protestant Churches have in their organizations and in their dogmatic
systems eternalized institutions and ideas whose unchangeableness has come
to retard spiritual progress.

Among all conservative factors of human life religion must necessarily be
the most conservative, were it only because its aim is precisely to store
up and keep under its guardianship the treasures destined for eternity to
which we have alluded. Now, every new period in the history of civilization
obliges a religious community to undertake a general revision of the
contents of its treasury. It is unavoidable that the guardians on such
occasions should be in a certain measure disappointed, for they find that
some of, the goods under their care have given way to the wasting influence
of time, whilst others are in a state which gives rise to serious doubt as
to their right of being classified with lasting treasures. In reality the
loss is only an apparent one; far from impoverishing the community, it
enhances the solidity of its possessions. What remains after the sifting
process may be less imposing to the inexperienced mind; gradually the
consideration gains ground that what has been rejected was nothing but
useless rubbish which had been wrongly valued.

Sometimes it may happen that the general movement of spiritual progress
goes almost too fast, so that one revision of the stores of religion is
immediately followed by another. Then dissension is likely to arise among
the adherents of a religion; some of them come to the conclusion that there
must be an end of sifting and think it better to lock up the treasuries
once for all and to stop the dangerous enquiries; whereas others begin to
entertain doubt concerning the value even of such goods as do not yet show
any trace of decay.

The treasuries of Islâm are excessively full of rubbish that has become
entirely useless; and for nine or ten centuries they have not been
submitted to a revision deserving that name. If we wish to understand the
whole or any important part of the system of Islâm, we must always begin by
transporting ourselves into the third or fourth century of the Hijrah, and
we must constantly bear in mind that from the Medina period downwards Islâm
has always been considered by its adherents as bound to regulate all the
details of their life by means of prescriptions emanating directly or
indirectly from God, and therefore incapable of being reformed. At the
time when these prescriptions acquired their definite form, Islâm ruled an
important portion of the world; it considered the conquest of the rest
as being only a question of time; and, therefore, felt itself quite
independent in the development of its law. There was little reason indeed
for the Moslim canonists to take into serious account the interests of men
not subject to Mohammedan authority or to care for the opinion of devotees
of other religions. Islâm might act, and did almost act, as if it were the
only power in the world; it did so in the way of a grand seigneur, showing
a great amount of generosity towards its subjugated enemies. The adherents
of other religions were or would become subjects of the Commander of the
Faithful; those subjects were given a full claim on Mohammedan protection
and justice; while the independent unbelievers were in general to be
treated as enemies until in submission. Their spiritual life deserved not
even so much attention as that of Islâm received from Abbé Maracci or
Doctor Prideaux. The false doctrines of other peoples were of no interest
whatever in themselves; and, since there was no fear of Mohammedans being
tainted by them, polemics against the abrogated religions were more of a
pastime than an indispensable part of theology. The Mohammedan community
being in a sense Allah's army, with the conquest of the world as its
object, apostasy deserved the punishment of death in no lesser degree than
desertion in the holy war, nay more so; for the latter might be the effect
of cowardice, whereas the former was an act of inexcusable treachery.

In the attitude of Islâm towards other religions there is hardly one
feature that has not its counterpart in the practice of Christian states
during the Middle Ages. The great difference is that the Mohammedan
community erected this medieval custom into a system unalterable like all
prescriptions based on its infallible "Agreement" (Ijmâ'). Here lay the
great difficulty when the nineteenth and twentieth centuries placed the
Moslim world face to face with a civilization that had sprung up outside
its borders and without its collaboration, that was from a spiritual point
of view by far its superior and at the same time possessed of sufficient
material power to thrust the Mohammedans aside wherever they seemed to be
an impediment in its way. A long series of the most painful experiences,
meaning as many encroachments upon the political independence of Mohammedan
territories, ended by teaching Islâm that it had definitely to change its
lines of conduct. The times were gone when relations with the non-Musulman
world quite different from those foreseen by the mediaeval theory might
be considered as exceptions to the rule, as temporary concessions to
transitory necessities. In ever wider circles a thorough revision of the
system came to be considered as a requirement of the time. The fact that
the number of Mohammedans subject to foreign rule increased enormously, and
by far surpassed those of the citizens of independent Mohammedan states,
made the problem almost as interesting to Western nations as to the
Mohammedans themselves. Both parties are almost equally concerned in the
question, whether a way will be found to associate the Moslim world to
modern civilization, without obliging it to empty its spiritual treasury
altogether. Nobody can in earnest advocate the idea of leaving the solution
of the problem to rude force. The Moslim of yore, going through the world
with the Qorân in one hand, the sword in the other, giving unbelievers the
choice between conversion or death, is a creation of legendary fancy. We
can but hope that modern civilization will not be so fanatical against
Moslims, as the latter were unjustly said to have been during the period
of their power. If the modern world were only to offer the Mohammedans the
choice between giving up at once the traditions of their ancestors or being
treated as barbarians, there would be sure to ensue a struggle as bloody as
has ever been witnessed in the world. It is worth while indeed to examine
the system of Islâm from this special point of view, and to try to find the
terms on which a durable _modus vivendi_ might be established between Islâm
and modern thought.

The purely dogmatic part is not of great importance. Some of us may admire
the tenets of the Mohammedan doctrine, others may as heartily despise them;
to the participation of Mohammedans in the civilized life of our days they
are as innoxious as any other mediaeval dogmatic system that counts its
millions of adherents among ourselves. The details of Mohammedan dogmatics
have long ceased to interest other circles than those of professional
theologians; the chief points arouse no discussion and the deviations in
popular superstition as well as in philosophical thought which in practice
meet with toleration are almost unlimited. The Mohammedan Hell claims
the souls of all heterodox people, it is true; but this does not prevent
benevolent intercourse in this world, and more enlightened Moslims are
inclined to enlarge their definition of the word "faithful" so as to
include their non-Mohammedan friends. The faith in a Mahdî, who will come
to regenerate the world, is apt to give rise to revolutionary movements led
by skilful demagogues pretending to act as the "Guided One," or, at least,
to prepare the way for his coming. Most of the European powers having
Mohammedan subjects have had their disagreeable experiences in this
respect. But Moslim chiefs of states have their obvious good reasons for
not liking such movements either; and even the majority of ordinary Moslims
look upon candidates for Mahdi-ship with suspicion. A contented prosperous
population offers such candidates little chance of success.

The ritual laws of Islâm are a heavy burden to those who strictly observe
them; a man who has to perform worship five times a day in a state of
ritual purity and during a whole month in a year has to abstain from
food and drink and other enjoyments from daybreak until sunset, is at a
disadvantage when he has to enter into competition with non-Musulmans
for getting work of any kind. But since most of the Moslims have become
subjects of foreign powers and religious police has been practically
abolished in Mohammedan states, there is no external compulsion. The ever
smaller minority of strict practisers make use of a right which nobody can

Drinking wine or other intoxicating drinks, taking interest on money,
gambling--including even insurance contracts according to the stricter
interpretation--are things which a Moslim may abstain from without
hindering non-Mohammedans; or which in our days he may do, notwithstanding
the prohibition of divine law, even without losing his good name.

Those who want to accentuate the antithesis between Islâm and modern
civilization point rightly to the personal law; here is indeed a great
stumbling-block. The allowance of polygamy up to a maximum of four wives
is represented by Mohammedan authors as a progress if compared with the
irregularity of pagan Arabia and even with the acknowledgment of unlimited
polygamy during certain periods of Biblical history. The following subtle
argument is to be found in some schoolbooks on Mohammedan law: The law of
Moses was exceedingly benevolent to males by permitting them to have an
unlimited number of wives; then came the law of Jesus, extreme on the other
side by prescribing monogamy; at last Mohammed restored the equilibrium by
conceding one wife to each of the four humours which make up the male's
constitution. This theory, which leaves the question what the woman is
to do with three of her four humours undecided, will hardly find fervent
advocates among the present canonists. At the same time, very few of them
would venture to pronounce their preference for monogamy in a general way,
polygamy forming a part of the law that is to prevail, according to the
infallible Agreement of the Community, until the Day of Resurrection.

On the other side polygamy, although _allowed_, is far from being
_recommended_ by the majority of theologians. Many of them even dissuade
men capable of mastering their passion from marriage in general, and
censure a man who takes two wives if he can live honestly with one. In some
Mohammedan countries social circumstances enforce practical monogamy. The
whole question lies in the education of women; when this has been raised to
a higher level, polygamy will necessarily come to an end. It is therefore
most satisfactory that among male Mohammedans the persuasion of the
necessity of a solid education for girls is daily gaining ground. This year
(1913), a young Egyptian took his doctor's degree at the Paris University
by sustaining a dissertation on the position of women in the Moslim world,
in which he told his co-religionists the full truth concerning this rather
delicate subject[1]. If social evolution takes the right course, the
practice of polygamy will be abolished; and the maintenance of its
lawfulness in canonical works will mainly be a survival of a bygone phase
of development.

[Footnote 1: Mansour Fahmy, _La condition de la femme dans la tradition
et l'évolution de l'Islamisme_, Paris, Félix Alcan, 1913. The sometimes
imprudent form in which the young reformer enounced his ideas caused him to
be very badly treated by his compatriots at his return from Europe.]

The facility with which a man can divorce his wife at his pleasure,
contrasted with her rights against him, is a still more serious impediment
to the development of family life than the institution of polygamy; more
serious, also, than veiling and seclusion of women. Where the general
opinion is favourable to the improvement of the position of women in
society, there is always found a way to secure it to them without
conflicting with the divine law; but a radical reform will remain most
difficult so long as that law which allows the man to repudiate his wife
without any reason, whereas it delivers the woman almost unarmed into the
power of her husband, is considered to be one of the permanent treasures of

It is a pity indeed that thus far women vigorously striving for liberation
from those mediaeval institutions are rare exceptions in Mohammedan
countries. Were Mohammedan women capable of the violent tactics of
suffragettes, they would rather try to blow up the houses of feminists than
those of the patrons of the old régime. The ordinary Mohammedan woman looks
upon the endeavour of her husband to induce her to partake freely in public
life as a want of consideration; it makes on her about the same impression
as that which a respectable woman in our society would receive from her
husband encouraging her to visit places generally frequented by people of
bad reputation. It is the girls' school that will awaken those sleeping
ones and so, slowly and gradually, prepare a better future, when the Moslim
woman will be the worthy companion of her husband and the intelligent
educator of her children. This will be due, then, neither to the Prophet's
Sunnah nor to the infallible Agreement of the Community of the first
centuries of Islâm, but to the irresistible power of the evolution of human
society, which is merciless to laws even of divine origin and transfers
them, when their time is come, from the treasury of everlasting goods to a
museum of antiquities.

Slavery, and in its consequence free intercourse of a man with his own
female slaves without any limitation as to their number, has also been
incorporated into the sacred law, and therefore has been placed on the
wrong side of the border that is to divide eternal things from temporal
ones. This should not be called a mediaeval institution; the most civilized
nations not having given it up before the middle of the nineteenth century.
The law of Islâm regulated the position of slaves with much equity, and
there is a great body of testimony from people who have spent a part of
their lives among Mohammedan nations which does justice to the benevolent
treatment which bondmen generally receive from their masters there. Besides
that, we are bound to state that in many Western countries or countries
under Western domination whole groups of the population live under
circumstances with which those of Mohammedan slavery may be compared to

The only legal cause of slavery in Islâm is prisonership of war or birth
from slave parents. The captivity of enemies of Islâm has not at all
necessarily the effect of enslaving them; for the competent authorities
may dispose of them in any other way, also in the way prescribed by modern
international law or custom. In proportion to the realization of the
political ideal of Islâm the number of its enemies must diminish and the
possibilities of enslaving men must consequently decrease. Setting slaves
free is one of the most meritorious pious works, and, at the same time,
the regular atonement for certain transgressions of the sacred law. So,
according to Mohammedan principles, slavery is an institution destined
to disappear. When, in the last century, Mohammedan princes signed
international treaties for the suppression of slavery, from their point of
view this was a premature anticipation of a future political and social
development--a step which they felt obliged to take out of consideration
for the great powers. In Arabia, every effort of the Turkish Government to
put such international agreements into execution has thus far given rise to
popular sedition against the Ottoman authority. Therefore, the promulgation
of decrees of abolition was stopped; and slavery continued to exist. The
import of slaves from Africa has, in fact, considerably diminished; but I
am not quite sure of the proportional increase of the liberty which the
natives of that continent enjoy at home.

Slavery as well as polygamy is in a certain sense to Mohammedans a sacred
institution, being incorporated in their Holy Law; but the practice of
neither of the two institutions is indispensable to the integrity of Islâm.

All those antiquated institutions, if considered from the point of view of
modern international intercourse, are only a trifle in comparison with the
legal prescriptions of Islâm concerning the attitude of the Mohammedan
community against the parts of the world not yet subject to its authority,
"the Abode of War" as they are technically called. It is a principal duty
of the Khalif, or of the chiefs considered as his substitutes in different
countries, to avail themselves of every opportunity to extend by force the
dominion of Allah and His Messenger. With unsubdued unbelievers _peace_
is not _allowed_; a _truce_ for a period not exceeding ten years may be
concluded if the interest of Islâm requires it.

The chapters of the Mohammedan law on holy war and on the conditions on
which the submission of the adherents of tolerated religions is to be
accepted seem to be a foolish pretension if we consider them by the light
of the actual division of political power in the world. But here, too, to
understand is better than to ridicule. In the centuries in which the system
of Islâm acquired its maturity, such an aspiration after universal dominion
was not at all ridiculous; and many Christian states of the time were
far from reaching the Mohammedan standard of tolerance against heterodox
creeds. The delicate point is this, that the petrification or at least the
process of stiffening that has attacked the whole spiritual life of Islâm
since about 1000 A.D. makes its accommodation to the requirements of modern
intercourse a most difficult problem.

But it is not only the Mohammedan community that needed misfortune and
humiliation before it was able to appreciate liberty of conscience; or that
took a long time to digest those painful lessons of history. There
are still Christian Churches which accept religious liberty only in
circumstances that make supreme authority unattainable to them; and which,
elsewhere, would not disdain the use of material means to subdue spirits to
what they consider the absolute truth.

To judge such things with equity, we must remember that every man possessed
of a firm conviction of any kind is more or less a missionary; and the
belief in the possibility of winning souls by violence has many adherents
everywhere. One of my friends among the young-Turkish state officials,
who wished to persuade me of the perfect religious tolerance of Turkey of
today, concluded his argument by the following reflection: "Formerly men
used to behead each other for difference of opinion about the Hereafter.
Nowadays, praise be to Allah, we are permitted to believe what we like; but
people continue to kill each other for political or social dissension. That
is most pitiful indeed; for the weapons in use being more terrible and more
costly than before, mankind lacks the peace necessary to enjoy the liberty
of conscience it has acquired."

The truthful irony of these words need not prevent us from considering the
independence of spiritual life and the liberation of its development from
material compulsion as one of the greatest blessings of our civilization.
We feel urged by missionary zeal of the better kind to make the Mohammedan
world partake in its enjoyment. In the Turkish Empire, in Egypt, in many
Mohammedan countries under Western control, the progressive elements of
Moslim society spontaneously meet us half-way. But behind them are the
millions who firmly adhere to the old superstition and are supported by
the canonists, those faithful guardians of what the infallible Community
declared almost one thousand years ago to be the doctrine and rule of life
for all centuries to come. Will it ever prove possible to move in one
direction a body composed of such different elements, or will this body be
torn in pieces when the movement has become irresistible?

We have more than once pointed to the catholic character of orthodox Islâm.
In fact, the diversity of spiritual tendencies is not less in the Moslim
world than within the sphere of Christian influence; but in Islâm, apart
from the political schisms of the first centuries, that diversity has not
given rise to anything like the division of Christianity into sects. There
is a prophetic saying, related by Tradition, which later generations have
generally misunderstood to mean that the Mohammedan community would be
split into seventy-three different sects. Moslim heresiologists have been
induced by this prediction to fill up their lists of seventy-three numbers
with all sorts of names, many of which represent nothing but individual
opinions of more or less famous scholars on subordinate points of doctrine
or law. Almost ninety-five per cent. of all Mohammedans are indeed bound
together by a spiritual unity that may be compared with that of the Roman
Catholic Church, within whose walls there is also room for religious and
intellectual life of very different origin and tendency. In the sense of
broadness, Islâm has this advantage, that there is no generally recognized
palpable authority able to stop now and then the progress of modernism or
similar deviations from the trodden path with an imperative "Halt!" There
is no lack indeed of mutual accusation of heresy; but this remains without
serious consequences because of the absence of a high ecclesiastical
council competent to decide once for all. The political authorities, who
might be induced by fanatical theologians to settle disputes by violent
inquisitorial means, have been prevented for a long time from such
interference by more pressing affairs.

A knowledge alone of the orthodox system of Islâm, however complete, would
give us an even more inadequate idea of the actual world of catholic Islâm
than the notion we should acquire of the spiritual currents moving the
Roman Catholic world by merely studying the dogma and the canonical law of
the Church of Rome.

Nevertheless, the unity of Islamic thought is by no means a word void of
sense. The ideas of Mohammedan philosophers, borrowed for a great part from
Neoplatonism, the pantheism and the emanation theory of Mohammedan mystics
are certainly still further distant from the simplicity of Qorânic
religion than the orthodox dogmatics; but all those conceptions alike show
indubitable marks of having grown up on Mohammedan soil. In the works even
of those mystics who efface the limits between things human and divine,
who put Judaism, Christianity, and Paganism on the same line with the
revelation of Mohammed, and who are therefore duly anathematized by the
whole orthodox world, almost every page testifies to the relation of the
ideas enounced with Mohammedan civilization. Most of the treatises on
science, arts, or law written by Egyptian students for their doctor's
degree at European universities make no exception to this rule; the manner
in which these authors conceive the problems and strive for their solution
is, in a certain sense, in the broadest sense of course, Mohammedan. Thus,
if we speak of Mohammedan thought, civilization, spirit, we have to bear in
mind the great importance of the system which, almost unchanged, has been
delivered for about one thousand years by one generation of doctors of
Islâm to the other, although it has become ever more unfit to meet the
needs of the Community, on whose infallible Agreement it rests. But, at the
same time, we ought to consider that beside the agreement of canonists,
of dogmatists, and of mystics, there are a dozen more agreements, social,
political, popular, philosophical, and so on, and that however great may be
the influence of the doctors, who pretend to monopolize infallibility for
the opinions on which they agree, the real Agreement of Islâm is the least
common measure of all the agreements of the groups which make up the

It would require a large volume to review the principal currents of thought
pervading the Moslim world in our day; but a general notion may be acquired
by a rapid glance at two centres, geographically not far distant from each
other, but situated at the opposite poles of spiritual life: Mecca and

In Mecca yearly two or three hundred thousand Moslims from all parts of the
world come together to celebrate the hajj, that curious set of ceremonies
of pagan Arabian origin which Mohammed has incorporated into his religion,
a durable survival that in Islâm makes an impression as singular as that
of jumping processions in Christianity. Mohammed never could have foreseen
that the consequence of his concession to deeply rooted Arabic custom
would be that in future centuries Chinese, Malays, Indians, Tatars, Turks,
Egyptians, Berbers, and negroes would meet on this barren desert soil and
carry home profound impressions of the international significance of Islâm.
Still more important is the fact that from all those countries young people
settle here for years to devote themselves to the study of the sacred
science. From the second to the tenth month of the Mohammedan lunar year,
the Haram, _i.e._, the mosque, which is an open place with the Ka'bah in
its midst and surrounded by large roofed galleries, has free room enough
between the hours of public service to allow of a dozen or more circles of
students sitting down around their professors to listen to as many lectures
on different subjects, generally delivered in a very loud voice. Arabic
grammar and style, prosody, logic, and other preparatory branches, the
sacred trivium; canonic law, dogmatics, and mysticism, and, for the more
advanced, exegesis of Qorân and Tradition and some other branches of
supererogation, are taught here in the mediaeval way from mediaeval
text-books or from more modern compilations reproducing their contents and
completing them more or less by treating modern questions according to the
same methods.

It is now almost thirty years since I lived the life of a Meccan student
during one university year, after having become familiar with the matter
taught by the professors of the temple of Mecca, the Haram, by privately
studying it, so that I could freely use all my time in observing the
mentality of people learning those things not for curiosity, but in order
to acquire the only true direction for their life in this world and the
salvation of their souls in the world to come. For a modern man there could
hardly be a better opportunity imagined for getting a true vision of the
Middle Ages than is offered to the Orientalist by a few months' stay in
the Holy City of Islâm. In countries like China, Tibet, or India there
are spheres of spiritual life which present to us still more interesting
material for comparative study of religions than that of Mecca, because
they are so much more distant from our own; but, just on that account,
the Western student would not be able to adapt his mind to their mental
atmospheres as he may do in Mecca. No one would think for one moment of
considering Confucianism, Hinduism, or Buddhism as specially akin to
Christianity, whereas Islâm has been treated by some historians of the
Christian Church as belonging to the heretical offspring of the Christian
religion. In fact, if we are able to abstract ourselves for a moment from
all dogmatic prejudice and to become a Meccan with the Meccans, one of the
"neighbours of Allah," as they call themselves, we feel in their temple,
the Haram, as if we were conversing with our ancestors of five or six
centuries ago. Here scholasticism with a rabbinical tint forms the great
attraction to the minds of thousands of intellectually highly gifted men of
all ages.

The most important lectures are delivered during the forenoon and in the
evening. A walk, at one of those hours, through the square and under the
colonnades of the mosque, with ears opened to all sides, will enable you to
get a general idea of the objects of mental exercise of this international
assembly. Here you may find a sheikh of pure Arab descent explaining to his
audience, composed of white Syrians or Circassians, of brown and yellow
Abyssinians and Egyptians, of negroes, Chinese, and Malays, the probable
and improbable legal consequences of marriage contracts, not excepting
those between men and genii; there a negro scholar is explaining the
ontological evidence of the existence of a Creator and the logical
necessity of His having twenty qualities, inseparable from, but not
identical with, His essence; in the midst of another circle a learned
_muftî_ of indeterminably mixed extraction demonstrates to his pupils from
the standard work of al-Ghazâlí the absolute vanity of law and doctrine to
those whose hearts are not purified from every attachment to the world.
Most of the branches of Mohammedan learning are represented within the
walls of this temple by more or less famous scholars; and still there are a
great number of private lectures delivered at home by professors who do not
like to be disturbed by the unavoidable noise in the mosque, which during
the whole day serves as a meeting place for friends or business men, as an
exercise hall for Qorân reciters, and even as a passage for people going
from one part of the town to the other.

In order to complete your mediaeval dream with a scene from daily life, you
have only to leave the mosque by the Bâb Dereybah, one of its twenty-two
gates, where you may see human merchandise exhibited for sale by the
slave-brokers, and then to have a glance, outside the wall, at a camel
caravan, bringing firewood and vegetables into the town, led by Beduins
whose outward appearance has as little changed as their minds since the day
when Mohammed began here to preach the Word of Allah.

To the greater part of the world represented by this international
exhibition of Islâm, as a modern Musulman writer calls it, our modern
world, with all its problems, its emotions, its learning and science,
hardly exists. On the other hand, the average modern man does not
understand much more of the mental life of the two hundred millions to whom
the barren Mecca has become the great centre. In former days, other centres
were much more important, although Mecca has always been the goal of
pilgrimage and the cherished abode of many learned men. Many capitals of
Islâm offered the students an easier life and better accommodations for
their studies; while in Mecca four months of the year are devoted to the
foreign guests of Allah, by attending to whose various needs all Meccans
gain their livelihood. For centuries Cairo has stood unrivalled as a seat
of Mohammedan learning of every kind; and even now the Uaram of Mecca is
not to be compared to the Azhar-mosque as regards the number and the fame
of its professors and the variety of branches cultivated.

In the last half-century, however, the ancient repute of the Egyptian
metropolis has suffered a good deal from the enormous increase of European
influence in the land of the Pharaohs; the effects of which have made
themselves felt even in the Azhar. Modern programs and methods of
instruction have been adopted; and, what is still worse, modernism itself,
favoured by the late Muftî Muhammed Abduh, has made its entrance into the
sacred lecture-halls, which until a few years ago seemed inaccessible to
the slightest deviation from the decrees of the Infallible Agreement of the
Community. Strenuous efforts have been made by eminent scholars to liberate
Islâm from the chains of the authority of the past ages on the basis of
independent interpretation of the Qorân; not in the way of the Wahhâbî
reformers, who tried a century before to restore the institutions of
Mohammed's time in their original purity, but on the contrary with the
object of adapting Islâm by all means in their power to the requirements of
modern life.

Official protection of the bold innovators prevented their conservative
opponents from casting them out of the Azhar, but the assent to their
doctrines was more enthusiastic outside its walls than inside. The ever
more numerous adherents of modern thought in Egypt do not generally proceed
from the ranks of the Azhar students, nor do they generally care very much
in their later life for reforming the methods prevailing there, although
they may be inclined to applaud the efforts of the modernists. To the
intellectuals of the higher classes the Azhar has ceased to offer great
attraction; if it were not for the important funds (_wagf_) for the
benefit of professors and students, the numbers of both classes would have
diminished much more than is already the case, and the faithful cultivators
of mediaeval Mohammedan science would prefer to live in Mecca, free from
Western influence and control. Even as it is, the predilection of foreign
students of law and theology is turning more and more towards Mecca.

As one of the numerous interesting specimens of the mental development
effected in Egypt in the last years, I may mention a book that appeared in
Cairo two years ago[1], containing a description of the present Khedive's
pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina, performed two years before. The author
evidently possesses a good deal of the scholastic learning to be gathered
in the Azhar and no European erudition in the stricter sense of the word.
In an introductory chapter he gives a summary of the geography and history
of the Arabian peninsula, describes the Hijâz in a more detailed manner,
and in his very elaborate account of the journey, on which he accompanied
his princely master, the topography of the holy cities, the peculiarities
of their inhabitants and of the foreign visitors, the political
institutions, and the social conditions are treated almost as fully and
accurately as we could desire from the hand of the most accomplished
European scholar. The work is illustrated by good maps and plans and by a
great number of excellent photographs expressly taken for this purpose by
the Khedive's order. The author intersperses his account with many witty
remarks as well as serious reflections on religious and political topics,
thus making it very readable to those of us who are familiar with the
Arabic language. He adorns his description of the holy places and of the
pilgrimage-rites with the unctuous phrases used in handbooks for the hajji,
and he does not disturb the mind of the pious reader by any historical
criticism of the traditions connected with the House of Allah, the Black
Stone, and the other sanctuaries, but he loses no opportunity to show his
dislike of all superstition; sometimes, as if to prevent Western readers
from indulging in mockery, he compares Meccan rites or customs with
superstitious practices current amongst Jews or Christians of today.

[Footnote 1: _Ar-rihlah al-Hijaziyyah_, by Muhammed Labib al-Batanunf, 2d
edition, Cairo, 1329 Hijrah.]

This book, at whose contents many a Meccan scholar of the old style will
shake his head and exclaim: "We seek refuge near Allah from Satan, the
cursed!" has been adopted by the Egyptian Department of Public Instruction
as a reading-book for the schools.

What surprised me more than anything else was the author's quoting as his
predecessors in the description of Mecca and Medina, Burckhardt, Burton,
and myself, and his sending me, although personally unacquainted with him,
a presentation copy with a flattering dedication. This author and his book
would have been impossible in the Moslim world not more than thirty years
ago. In Egypt such a man is nowadays already considered as one of those
more conservative moderns, who prefer the rationalistic explanation of the
Azhar lore to putting it aside altogether. Within the Azhar, his book is
sure to meet with hearty approval from the followers of Muhammed Abduh, but
not less hearty disapproval from the opponents of modernism who make up the
majority of the professors as well as of the students.

In these very last years a new progress of modern thought has manifested
itself in Cairo in the foundation, under the auspices of Fu'âd Pasha, an
uncle of the present Khedive, of the Egyptian University. Cairo has had for
a long time its schools of medicine and law, which could be turned easily
into university faculties; therefore, the founders of the university
thought it urgent to establish a faculty of arts, and, if this proved a
success, to add a faculty of science. In the meantime, gifted young men
were granted subsidies to learn at European universities what they needed
to know to be the professors of a coming generation, and, for the present,
Christian as well as Mohammedan natives of Egypt and European scholars
living in the country were appointed as lecturers; professors being
borrowed from the universities of Europe to deliver lectures in Arabic on
different subjects chosen more or less at random before an audience little
prepared to digest the lessons offered to them.

The rather hasty start and the lack of a well-defined scheme have made
the Egyptian University a subject of severe criticism. Nevertheless, its
foundation is an unmistakable expression of the desire of intellectual
Egypt to translate modern thought into its own language, to adapt modern
higher instruction to its own needs. This same aim is pursued in a perhaps
more efficacious manner by the hundreds of Egyptian students of law,
science, and medicine at French, English, and some other European
universities. The Turks could not freely follow such examples before
the revolution of 1908; but they have shown since that time that their
abstention was not voluntary. England, France, Holland, and other countries
governing Mohammedan populations are all endeavouring to find the right way
to incorporate their Mohammedan subjects into their own civilization. Fully
recognizing that it was the material covetousness of past generations
that submitted those nations to their rule, the so-called colonial powers
consider it their duty now to secure for them in international intercourse
the place which their natural talent enables them to occupy. The question
whether it is better simply to leave the Moslims to Islâm as it was for
centuries is no longer an object of serious discussion, the reforming
process being at work everywhere--in some parts with surprising rapidity.
We can only try to prognosticate the solution which the near future
reserves for the problem, how the Moslim world is to be associated with
modern thought.

In this problem the whole civilized world and the whole world of Islâm are
concerned. The ethnic difference between Indians, North-Africans, Malays,
etc., may necessitate a difference of method in detail; the Islâm problem
lies at the basis of the question for all of them. On the other hand,
the future development of Islâm does not only interest countries with
Mohammedan dominions, it claims as well the attention of all the nations
partaking in the international exchange of material and spiritual goods.
This would be more generally recognized if some knowledge of Islâm were
more widely spread amongst ourselves; if it were better realized that Islâm
is next akin to Christianity.

It is the Christian mission that shows the deepest consciousness of this
state of things, and the greatest activity in promoting an association
of Mohammedan thought with that of Western nations. The solid mass of
experience due to the efforts of numerous missionaries is not of an
encouraging nature. There is no reasonable hope of the conversion
of important numbers of Mohammedans to any Christian denomination.
Broad-minded missionary societies have therefore given up the old fruitless
proselytizing methods and have turned to social improvement in the way of
education, medical treatment, and the like. It cannot be denied, that
what they want above all to bring to Mohammedans is just what these most
energetically decline to accept. On the other hand the advocates of a
purely civilizing mission are bound to acknowledge that, but for rare
exceptions, the desire of incorporating Mohammedan nations into our world
of thought does not rouse the devoted, self-denying enthusiasm inspired by
the vocation of propagating a religious belief. The ardour displayed by
some missionaries in establishing in the Dâr al-Islâm Christian centres
from which they distribute to the Mohammedans those elements of our
civilization which are acceptable to them deserves cordial praise; the more
so because they themselves entertain but little hope of attaining
their ultimate aim of conversion. Mohammedans who take any interest in
Christianity are taught by their own teachers that the revelation of Jesus,
after having suffered serious corruption by the Christians themselves, has
been purified and restored to its original simplicity by Mohammed, and are
therefore inaccessible to missionary arguments; nay, amongst uncivilized
pagans the lay mission of Islâm is the most formidable competitor of
clerical propagation of the Christian faith.

People who take no active part in missionary work are not competent to
dissuade Christian missionaries from continuing their seemingly hopeless
labour among Mohammedans, nor to prescribe to them the methods they are
to adopt; their full autonomy is to be respected. But all agree that
Mohammedans, disinclined as they are to reject their own traditions of
thirteen centuries and to adopt a new religious faith, become ever better
disposed to associate their intellectual, social, and political life with
that of the modern world. Here lies the starting point for two divisions of
mankind which for centuries have lived their own lives separately in mutual
misunderstanding, from which to pursue their way arm in arm to the greater
advantage of both. We must leave it to the Mohammedans themselves to
reconcile the new ideas which they want with the old ones with which they
cannot dispense; but we can help them in adapting their educational system
to modern requirements and give them a good example by rejecting the
detestable identification of power and right in politics which lies at the
basis of their own canonical law on holy war as well as at the basis of the
political practice of modern Western states. This is a work in which we
all may collaborate, whatever our own religious conviction may be. The
principal condition for a fruitful friendly intercourse of this kind is
that we make the Moslim world an object of continual serious investigation
in our intellectual centres.

Having spent a good deal of my life in seeking for the right method of
associating with modern thought the thirty-five millions of Mohammedans
whom history has placed under the guardianship of my own country, I could
not help drawing some practical conclusions from the lessons of history
which I have tried to reduce to their most abridged form. There is no lack
of pessimists, whose wisdom has found its poetic form in the words of

  East is East and West is West,
  And never the twain shall meet.

To me, with regard to the Moslim world, these words seem almost a
blasphemy. The experience acquired by adapting myself to the peculiarities
of Mohammedans, and by daily conversation with them for about twenty years,
has impressed me with the firm conviction that between Islâm and the modern
world an understanding _is_ to be attained, and that no period has offered
a better chance of furthering it than the time in which we are living. To
Kipling's poetical despair I think we have a right to prefer the words of
a broad-minded modern Hindu writer: "The pity is that men, led astray by
adventitious differences, miss the essential resemblances[1]."

[Footnote 1: S.M. Mitra, _Anglo-Indian Studies_, London, Longmans, Green &
Co., 1913, P. 232.]

It would be a great satisfaction to me if my lectures might cause some of
my hearers to consider the problem of Islâm as one of the most important of
our time, and its solution worthy of their interest and of a claim on their



Abbas (Mohammed's uncle)
Abd-ul-Hamid, Sultan
Abduh, Muftî Muhammed
Abu Bakr
Agreement of the Community, _see_ 'Ijmâ'
Ahl al-hadîth (men of tradition)
Alexander the Great
Alî, the fourth Khalîf
Ali, Mohammed, the first Khedive
'âmils (agents)
Arabian, view in regard to the line of descent through a woman
 origin of hajj
Arabic, traditions
 the nations conquered by the
 of Christian origin
Arnold, Professor T.W.


Bâb Dereybah
 _See_ Scriptures
Black Stone
Boulainvilliers, Count de
Byzantine Empire


Caetani, Prince
Casanova, Professor of Paris
Caussin de Perceval
 model of obligatory fasting
 natives of Egypt
 centres in Dar al-Islam
 faith and missionaries
Christian Church
 Roman Catholic
 religious rites of
Commander of the Faithful
Committee of Union and Progress


Dar al-Islâm
Day of judgment
Dutch, Indies


Egyptian, nation
 Department of Public Instruction


Faqihs (canonists)
Fâtimite, dynasty
Fu'âd Pasha


 _See_ Scriptures


Hadith (legislative tradition)
Hajj (pilgrimage)
Haram (mosque)
Holy Cities
 _See_ Mecca and Medina
Holy Family (Ali and Fatimah)
Hûd, the prophet


'Ijmâ' (Agreement of the Community)
 of Yemen


Jâhiliyyah (Arabian paganism)
Jesus Christ
 as Mehdi
Jewish, religion
 model of fasting


Khalîf, the first
Khalîfs, the first four


Lammens, Father


Maracci, Abbé
Mary (mother of Jesus)
Middle Ages
Misr, _see_ Cairo
Mohammedan, religion
 orthodox dogma
 law books
 political life
 standard of tolerance
 lunar year
 natives of Egypt
 chiefs of states


Neo-Platonic origin of mysticism
Non-Arabian converts
Non-Arabic Moslims


Ottoman princes


Persian Empire
Porte, the
Prideaux, Dr.


Qârîs (Qoran scholars)
Qorânic, revelations


Reland, H.
Roman Catholics


Sâlih, the prophet
 people of the
Shâhs of Persia
Sharî'ah (Divine Law)
Shaukah (actual influence)
Sherîfs of Mecca
Sherîfs, rulers of Morocco
Shî'ah (the Party of the House)
Sîrah (biography)


Testament, _see_ Scriptures
Tradition, _see_ Hadith
 Sultan of
Turkish, Empire
 state officials


'Ulamâ' (learned men)




Wahhâbî reformers


 Imâms of


Zakât (taxes)

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