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Title: Islam Her Moral And Spiritual Value - A Rational And Pyschological Study
Author: Leonard, Arthur Glyn
Language: English
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    ISLAM

    HER MORAL AND SPIRITUAL VALUE



    ISLAM

    HER MORAL AND SPIRITUAL VALUE

    A Rational and Psychological Study


    By
    MAJOR ARTHUR GLYN LEONARD

    LATE 2ND BATT. EAST LANCASHIRE REGIMENT

    _Author of “The Camel, Its Uses and Management,” “How we made
    Rhodesia,” “The Lower Niger and its Tribes”_


    With a Foreword by
    SYED AMEER ALI, M.A., C.I.E.

    _Author of “The Spirit of Islam,” “Life and Teachings of Mohammed,”
    “Mohammedan Law,” “Personal Law of the
    Mohammedans,” etc._


    LONDON
    LUZAC & CO
    46, GREAT RUSSELL STREET
    1909



FOREWORD


I am glad to introduce this book with an expression of the pleasure and
interest with which I have read Major Leonard’s admirable psychological
study of a subject, the importance of which it is hardly possible to
overrate.

Unfortunately it has been too common hitherto to regard Islam as an
antagonistic force to Christendom; to depreciate its Founder and to
discount its Ideals. As the author justly observes, it is hardly
possible for a student really anxious to acquaint himself with the inner
spirit of another Faith, to gain an insight into its true character
until he has divested himself of ancient prejudices that narrow his
perspective and prevent his taking a broad view of the aims and
aspirations of the great men who from time to time have tried to uplift
humanity.

Major Leonard has dealt with his subject in this broad spirit; he has
approached it with sympathy born of intimate acquaintance with races
and peoples who profess the Faith of Islam. His is eminently a
philosophical study of its Founder, of its true moral and spiritual
utility, and of the great impetus it gave to the progress of the world.

In the eight chapters that constitute this book he has discussed the
entire range of questions affecting the personality of Mohammed and the
tendency of his religion. In his treatment he shows himself a
philosophical rationalist animated with a reverence for the Arabian
Teacher--the evident outcome of a true appreciation of the mainspring of
his actions.

In the first chapter the author has applied himself to expose the
absurdity and hollowness of the Pan-Islamic “bogey.” That the growing
_rapprochement_ between Moslem communities, hitherto divided by
sectarian feuds, should be viewed with disfavour by Europe as indicating
a danger to its predominance and selfish ambitions is intelligible. But
that it should be regarded as a deliberate challenge to, or intended as
a hostile demonstration against Christendom, is a mere chimera. Major
Leonard proves conclusively that the Pan-Islamic movement is no modern
political movement; but that morally and spiritually Islam, in its very
essence, is Pan-Islamic; in other words, a creed that recognizes in
practice the brotherhood of man to a degree unknown in any other
religion, and admits in its commonwealth no difference of race, colour
or rank.

Moslems, laymen and scholars, will probably not agree with some of Major
Leonard’s remarks in his outline of the Prophet’s character and
temperament; but they must all acknowledge his sincerity. He describes
Mohammed as a great and true man--great not only as a teacher, but as a
patriot and statesman; a material as well as a spiritual builder, who
constructed a nation and an enduring Faith, which holds, to a greater
degree than most others, the hearts of millions of human beings; a man
true to himself and his people, but above all to his God.

The author has gone to the Koran itself for the animating purpose of
Mohammed’s strenuous and noble life. He believes that the national good
to be obtained only by the recognition of the conception of a God who is
both “national and universal” was the dominant idea that impelled and
inspired the Prophet of Arabia. In his appreciation of Mohammed’s
teachings, Major Leonard has grasped the real spirit of Islam; and both
as regards his moral and spiritual precepts, as also the enunciations
respecting the duties of every-day life, the author has given the
Arabian Prophet his due. He dwells on Mohammed’s affection and sympathy
for the weak, the afflicted and suffering, with the orphan and the
stricken; on his humanity to the dumb creatures of God; on the duties of
parents to children, and of children to parents; on his burning
denunciations of the terrible crime of female infanticide.

In the eighth and last chapter Major Leonard speaks of the debt Europe
owes to Islam, and endeavours to show that the religion of Mohammed, far
from being antagonistic to human development, has materially helped in
the progress of the world. It is part of Major Leonard’s thesis that
Christianity and Islam belong to “different spheres of influence”; in
other words, whilst Christianity is suited to certain races, Islam is
peculiarly suited to others. Races and peoples adapt their religions to
their own respective advancement, and the same religion varies among
different communities according to the stage of their development. The
Christianity of the barbarous South American Gaucho is not the same as
that of the cultured Englishman, nor is the Islam of the cultivated
Moslem identical with that professed by ignorant followers of the Faith.
But it would be hard to say that philosophical Christianity exactly
answers the needs of the lower strata of Christendom to whom the
positive directions of a simple practical faith might appeal with
greater force. Might not Islam, with its emphatic prohibition of drink,
the primary cause of all the vice and crime in Europe, prove a far
greater civilizing agency in the slums of European cities, and do far
more good in reclaiming the debased, than a religion which does not
possess that positive character and is only adapted for idealistic
minds?

Whatever view a rationalist may hold on this point, I feel that Major
Leonard has laid the world of literature under a debt for his admirable
monograph on a peculiarly interesting subject.

    AMEER ALI.



CONTENTS


                                                    PAGE

    CHAPTER I

    THE SO-CALLED MOSLEM MENACE!                      13


    CHAPTER II

    AN OUTLINE OF MOHAMMED’S TEMPERAMENT
    AND CHARACTERISTICS                               23


    CHAPTER III

    THE ENVIRONMENT THAT MOULDED MOHAMMED             51


    CHAPTER IV

    MOHAMMED’S PRINCIPLES AND BELIEFS                 71


    CHAPTER V

    THE MATERIAL AND OTHER SIDES OF THE PROPHET’S
    CHARACTER                                         84


    CHAPTER VI

    A BRIEF SUMMARY OF MOHAMMED’S WORK
    AND WORTH                                        101


    CHAPTER VII

    MOSLEM MORALITY AND CHRISTENDOM’S ATTITUDE
    TOWARDS ISLAM                                    121


    CHAPTER VIII

    EUROPE’S DEBT TO ISLAM: ETHNIC SPHERES OF
    INFLUENCE                                        142



CHAPTER I

THE SO-CALLED MOSLEM MENACE!


For some time past, but more especially during the last year or two, it
has become quite the fashion in Europe to rail at and to suspect the
good faith and motives of the Moslem world. If we are to believe the
European Press, Europe is in deadly danger. The “_Yellow Peril_” of a
few years ago has, by means of the juggling of modern journalism,
cleverly transformed itself into the “_Moslem Menace_.” According to
this trenchant successor of the ancient oracle, there is unrest and
seething turmoil everywhere. In Egypt, a national confederation; in
Morocco, a crisis; in the heart of Africa, the Senussi movement; in
Turkey and Arabia, secret associations and agitation; in Persia even,
disaffection but co-operation. In one word, Europe--Christian, civilized
and unoffending Europe--is confronted with a Pan-Islamic confederation,
that is co-operating to achieve the unity and the nationalization of all
Islam, with the express object of ultimately turning upon Christendom,
and rending her into a thousand tattered fragments.

That there has been no revival of “the chronic conspiracy” within our
Indian Empire, is, however, easily explained. This, which purposed to be
a religious agitation among Indian Moslems, was an expression more
familiar twenty-five years ago and was attributed to the influence of
Wahabite oratory. It is, of course, possible that the present agitation
and unrest among the Hindus generally, but the Bengalis in particular,
has for the time being at all events diverted the attention of the
outside world in other directions. But it is also more or less generally
taken for granted that the Moslem population of India has sunk into a
state of political lethargy, which if it does not betoken loyalty,
obviously demonstrates a dumb and passive revolutionary torpor that is
tantamount to it.

That agitation and unrest exist throughout the Moslem world would be
nothing either new or unusual. In a human sense, Islam is identical with
Christendom. She too has her social functions, her political parties,
associations, confederations and societies. She has her religious sects
and denominations. As with us, so with Islam, there are affinities, and
antipathies, emulations and jealousies, competitions and rivalries,
likes and dislikes, envy, malice, hatred and all uncharitableness. The
interest of self predominates before all else. In kind there is
certainly no difference, in degree it is possible that Europe may be a
step or two higher. But this is not the point that I would here
emphasize. To fall back on the time-honoured maxim, immortalized by
Shakespeare, comparisons of this kind are incompatible if not odious.
Besides, recrimination is as futile as it is injudicious and
undignified.

It is not of moral discrepancies on either side that I would speak. Nor
have I any wish to rake up the low-lying sediment, or to disturb the
still waters which are running deep in the great ocean of Moslem life.
Under the conditions that prevail, it is assuredly best to let sleeping
dogs lie. Left alone they are much less troublesome. There is always the
possibility that they may oversleep themselves and fall into a dormant
and inactive state. In this way the still waters of sedition and
agitation soon find their own level--the embers of revolt may at times
flare up, but they soon flicker out.

It is of the moral and spiritual utility, with the soul of Islam, that I
am now about to deal. For Islam, believe me, has a soul--a sincere and
earnest soul, a great and profound soul--that is worth knowing. It is in
this soul that the whole kernel and essence of Islam lies. A thorough
knowledge and a clear comprehension of this great spirit will alone
enable the statesmen and thinkers of Europe to understand the complex
problems of so-called Pan-Islamism. To obtain this grasp, however,
certain qualifications are absolutely essential. It is necessary--e.g.,
to approach the subject from a rational and reasonable standpoint--to
detach the mind from all preconceived dogmas and opinions; to lay aside
all prejudices, racial, religious, social and otherwise, and all
bigotries and intolerance; to be confined to no one creed, sect or
denomination of any kind, sort or description, but the one great world
of Humanity that, in the eyes of Nature, is of one soul and body. This
may be a large, or as cousin Jonathan would call it, a tall, order. It
bulks big and sounds ponderous. In face of what human nature is, it
appears impracticable. But even in human nature there are exceptions and
possibilities. An aspect such as this, then, though improbable, is
certainly possible, if exceptional. Let us presume at least that in this
instance it is so. It is, at all events, on these broad lines that the
following pages have been written. It is the true spirit of human
sympathy and fellowship that has moved me--the sympathy and fellowship
that would draw together, or at least nearer to each other, the worlds
of Christendom and Islam.

The better to achieve my object, I have consulted no works on either
Mohammed or Islam, but have gone straight to the source or fountain
head--to Mohammed himself, the Koran, and to Moslems of various
nationalities with whom I have been brought into close and personal
touch during a wide and a varied experience. It is here in the man and
his work that the true soul of Islam is to be found. Just as in its
founders and foundations lies the heart and essence of Christianity, it
is in and out of the merits as well as demerits of Mohammed’s work, that
we shall form the true estimate of Islamic utility. By their fruits ye
shall know them. Men do not gather figs of thorns, or grapes of
thistles. Mohammed most certainly did not. As he sowed, so he has
reaped! So he is still reaping. The Koran was the immediate consequence
of his concentration and communion with Nature and Nature’s God: Islam
the natural result. In other words, Islam is the devotion of Moslems to
Mohammed and the Koran--his work, plus their patient resignation and
entire submission to God, His will and His service! The man of fixed and
unchanging purpose has a supreme contempt for obstacles. But when, as in
Mohammed’s case, that purpose is the glorification of God, he has at
hand a lever that can move the world. In this peculiar sense the great
Prophet of Arabia was self-contained. He had everything within himself:
that everything centred in God and Arabian unity. He sought only what he
needed. This was to unify God and his country. How he succeeded is a
matter of history.

D’Aubigné in his history of the Reformation, speaking of Luther, says:
“Men, when designed by God to influence their contemporaries, are first
seized and drawn along by the peculiar tendencies of their age.”
Undoubtedly this, in a great measure, is so. It is quite evident that
Mohammed was influenced in this way. Yet it is also obvious that he was
not so much seized by the peculiar tendencies of his age (for in many
ways he was far in advance of it), as that he was obsessed and dominated
by the energy or spirit of God, and utilized these special features with
the design of disseminating this overmastering God possession to others.

“There are but three sorts of persons,” Pascal used to say: “those who
serve God, having found Him; those who employ themselves in seeking Him,
not having found Him; and those who live without seeking Him or having
found Him. The first are reasonable and happy; the last are mad and
miserable; the intermediate are miserable and reasonable.”

If ever man on this earth found God, if ever man devoted his life to
God’s service with a good and a great motive, it is certain that the
Prophet of Arabia was that man. That on the whole and in the truest
sense of the word he was reasonable, is best seen in the result which
his labour achieved. That he was happy, is quite another matter. Real as
is our existence, happiness at best is but an ephemeral phase of it. Yet
there is much truth in the assertion, that gaiety seeks the crowd, while
happiness loves silence and solitude as Mohammed himself did. In any
case, if the satisfaction which ensues as the consequence of duty done,
and well done, is happiness; if the consciousness that he has done his
best in all sincerity and conscientiousness, gives happiness to the ego,
then it is possible to assume that in bequeathing the grand heritage of
Islam to posterity, Mohammed must have gone to his final rest in a state
of supreme happiness.

Self-belief--“that thing given to man by his Creator,” as Carlyle calls
it--was, as I shall show, a salient feature in Mohammed’s character.
More than half a Bedawin (or what was practically the same thing,
passing a great part of his life in deserts), this was only natural. But
he did not allow this self-consciousness to degenerate, either into
vanity or egotism. It neither spoilt nor conquered him. He knew his own
weakness--none better--therefore relied all the more on the power of
God. It was this outside influence which reacted on him so powerfully
from within. It was this judicious blend or amalgam of two seemingly
different thought-currents, which were in reality only a bifurcation of
the same current, that gave him all his strength. It was this unique
combination of an apparent dualism (through intense mental
concentration) in one divine Monism that gave Mohammed victory over
every obstacle. It was this compressed one-ness--the most sublime
triumph of individual concentration in the world’s history--that carried
Islam into the uttermost parts of the earth. It was this centralization
of moral or religious gravity that swelled the belief of one man--a
modest camel-driving trader only--into the perfervid belief of hundreds
of millions. “For given a sincere man, you have given a thing worth
attending to. Since sincerity, what is it but a divorce from earth and
earthly feelings?”

One thing more. To thoroughly comprehend the spirit of Mohammed or the
soul of Islam, the student himself must be thoroughly in earnest and
sincere. He must in addition possess that moral, mental and intellectual
sympathy which gives the ego an insight into human subtleties as well as
simplicities. He must take Mohammed and Islam as he finds them--in the
same intensely sincere spirit that constituted the one and inculcated
the other. He must at the outset recognize that Mohammed was no mere
spiritual pedlar, no vulgar time-serving vagrant, but one of the most
profoundly sincere and earnest spirits of any age or epoch. A man not
only great, but one of the greatest--i.e. truest--men that Humanity has
ever produced. Great, i.e. not simply as a prophet, but as a patriot and
a statesman: a material as well as a spiritual builder who constructed a
great nation, a greater empire, and more even than all these, a still
greater Faith. True, moreover, because he was true to himself, to his
people, and above all to his God. Recognizing this, he will thus
acknowledge that Islam is a profound and true cult, which strives to
uplift its votaries from the depths of human darkness upwards into the
higher realm of Light and Truth. It is in this deep sense of
earnestness, and in this tense but even-minded spirit of equity, that I
have endeavoured to make my study both rational and psychological: in
other words, reasonable and true to the spirit. Naturally, therefore, I
have avoided those narrow and devilish pitfalls of racial, creedal and
colour prejudices--that awful curse of Humanity, that insuperable
barrier to the cult of Humanitarianism--which leads to the deadly cancer
of _Misconception_. Finally--making due allowance for space
limitations--I have endeavoured to the best of my ability to get to the
root of all that is good and great in the immortal work of this leader
of men who was so good and so great in every sense. In this way only is
it possible to get at the truth. Shallow, superficial and paradoxical
inquiries are mere empty vanities as utterly useless, from a human
standpoint, as those which are biassed and one-sided. To reach the
depths, to touch the bottom, to get to the root of any true man’s
motives, sincerity and thoroughness are as essential as intellectual
acumen and profundity.

In this short study my one idea all through has been to delineate
Mohammed as he was and Islam as she is. For this reason I have neither
painted them with my own colouring, nor introduced into their natural
complexion any outside flesh tints. In plain English, I have not placed
upon their beliefs and principles a construction that, being ethnically
foreign to the entire sociological system upon which they are based,
would have been a fundamental error, at complete variance with them.



CHAPTER II

AN OUTLINE OF MOHAMMED’S TEMPERAMENT AND CHARACTERISTICS


One of the first thoughts that a very careful perusal of the Koran
brings home to me, is the intense humanity of Mohammed and his work. The
more one studies the various motives that led to his so-called
revelations, the more one is struck by the strong associations that
connect these divine messages and ordinances with the actions and
movements that were going on all round him, as well as in his own
mind--owing in a great measure to his own preaching.

In estimating the moral value of either Christianity or Islam, it is
necessary to take into consideration, also to make allowance for, the
times in which their founders lived. To attempt to judge one or other of
them from the scientific standpoint of modern culture and civilization
would be not only uneven but impossible. To gauge the standard of their
mental and moral attainments, the student must investigate their work,
and compare, then contrast, it with the general intellectual level of
their own age. When this has been done, he should try and, if possible,
realize what effect the advent and the doctrines advocated by them (in
the one case some 1,900 years, and in the other 1,300 years ago) would
now produce. In this way only is it feasible to arrive at a true and
legitimate conclusion. But in doing so, the inquirer must divest,
certainly dissociate himself, from all existing ideas on the subject,
and deal with it as it is, and not what he thinks it ought to be.

The more one studies the Koran, the more obvious does it become that
Mohammed had a powerfully receptive mind, and a specially retentive
memory. Notwithstanding that he was illiterate, unable even to read and
write, it is clear that he was well versed in all the tenets and
traditions of his own people and of the Jews; and that in addition he
had made himself acquainted with some of the doctrines and dogmas of the
Christian Gospels. It is above all certain that for a great number of
years Mohammed concentrated his mind thereon with the force and
intensity of a sincere and ardent nature. But first and foremost the one
great idea of the being, unity and providence of God predominated all
his thoughts. Acting on a temperament that was highly emotional, and
perceptibly neurotic or melancholic, the revelations embodied in the
Koran were the natural result of so long and continuous a
concentration. Still it is equally obvious that combining with this
emotionalism and neurasthenia was a strong vein of commercialism and
common sense, also marked political and administrative ability. It is
further evident that in Mohammed’s character there commingled a very
curious and conflicting number of elements and tendencies. Dominating
all of these, however, was an intense zeal, an insatiable ambition, an
overpowering individuality and egotism, and an inflexible doggedness and
determination to attain his own ends. To convert, that is, the weakness
and disintegration of the various tribes that composed the Arab nation
into the union of one consolidated whole, with himself and family at its
head, as a human representation of the unity and supremacy of the one
and only God. This latter, as we know, was in no way original. It is
clear all throughout that he had profited from his knowledge of Jewish
tradition and experience, and that he based his theory on the dogmas of
Moses and Abraham. He had long since realized that it was the worship of
their own tribal and communal gods by the members of the various Arab
tribes and communities that accentuated the differences and divisions
between them. He determined, therefore, as the Jewish leaders long
before him had attempted, to consolidate and weld them into a single
nation, through the worship of the one supreme and indivisible God. It
was on and through this divine indivisibility that he decided to base
and construct the unity and nationalization of the people.

Unquestionably Mohammed’s movement was as much political as it was
religious, as much material as it was spiritual. But being of a
profoundly reflective, at the same time of a practical, turn of mind, he
chose religion as the only possible and thoroughly reliable means of
achieving his great and noble ends; not only possible and thorough,
however, but the most potential. Mohammed, in fact, judged the capacity
and characteristics of his countrymen to a nicety. Unconsciously--for
legislation to him was a natural heritage--he followed the example of
the most famous legislators, and instituted such laws as at the time
were the best that the people were capable of receiving. Tactful and
diplomatic to a degree, it was policy on his part to retain a certain
number of the old beliefs and customs in order to satisfy the people. He
knew, none better, the fierce and turbulent temper of his countrymen,
and how it was most politic to deal with them. In making this concession
he showed his political wisdom, if not a certain breadth and greatness
of statecraft. After all it was, from an independent standpoint, but a
small concession as compared to the prize that he got in return for it.
It was a compromise in other words. Yet this and his own evidence in the
Koran is important as showing that Mohammed was not so much in a strict
sense the originator of a new creed as he was a reformer and the
renovator of an old one. It was the impress of his great personality,
distinguished as this was by the intense sincerity and earnestness of
his nature, that has left its mark on human history.

Mohammed was a thinker and a worker not only for his own, but for all
time. He recognized that man was equally a political and religious
product of God’s creation. He understood that as a counterpoise to man’s
materialism and to the destructive in his nature, is that indefinable
essence which we call the spiritual and the constructive. The more one
looks into and understands the Koran, the more obvious is it that
Mohammed concentrated all the active and vigorous energies of his vivid
and powerful imagination, also his virile mentality, on the
accomplishment of his great design. For design it certainly was. The
wish undoubtedly was father to the thought. Not, however, in an
invidious sense, but in the firm conviction that design and not accident
or chance is one of the controlling principles of God and His creation,
and that, consistent with this principle, he, Mohammed, had been chosen
as the divine agent. Personal ambition and aggrandizement never for a
moment entered his head, or formed part of it. The national good, to be
attained only by a national or universal God--the one and only God of
the universe--was the one great ambition that inspired and impelled him.
Because although every one for himself and God for us all is presumably
a natural law, Mohammed managed to evade it. But in evading it, he was
not revolutionary. On the contrary, in this way he rose one step upward
above the lower human level towards that higher humanity which
approaches the divine.

This design, as I have just said, originated from the doctrine of divine
unity attributed to Moses and Abraham. Indeed, as one reads the Koran
carefully and steadily through from beginning to end, it is manifested
in every surah--almost, in fact, on every page. The whole work, in fact,
is saturated with the one idea, inspired by the one thought. Everywhere
there is evidence of the final object in view, the unconquerable will,
the inflexible resolve, the fixed purpose, the indomitable perseverance,
the unyielding persistency, the infinite and interminable patience, the
calm endurance, the irresistible courage, and the grim tenacity of the
ego. So much so is this evident, that when I compare this determinism
with the neurotic element in Mohammed’s character, I am obliged to
admit that the balance remains with the former. Yet--and this I think is
the strangest feature about this strange but commanding
personality--there is no getting away from the fact that he was much
under the influence of the latter.

It is, of course, possible that Mohammed was what in Arabia is called a
“Saudawi,” or person of melancholy temperament--what nowadays would be
called a hypochondriacal dyspeptic. Melancholia is a complaint that the
Arabs are subject to, students, philosophers and literary men more
especially. A distaste for society, a longing for solitude, an unsettled
habit of mind, and a neglect of worldly affairs are always attributed to
it. It is very probably--to some extent at least--as Burton suggests,
the effect of overworking the brain in a hot, dry atmosphere; also due
in some measure to the highly nervous and bilious temperament
constitutional to the Arabs: a temperament that in Mohammed’s case was
aggravated by excessive emotionalism.

It is clear that once Mohammed got hold of, or was obsessed by, the idea
that he was God’s chosen messenger, and that his sayings were inspired
by God (a very old and primitive belief remember): or rather as soon as
ever Khadija and others of his household were imbued with the idea, then
he never relaxed his hold of it for a moment. The confidence of those
about him, his faithful spouse more especially, gave him confidence in
himself. Confidence engendered conviction, and conviction led to the
Koran and the ultimate triumph of his cause. That he was sincere in all
this, there is not the slightest doubt, but in taking the measure of his
sincerity we must be guided entirely by the fact that he was essentially
a man who had long before made up his mind to bring about the unity of
his country. Indeed the whole history of Khadija’s association with the
matter shows this. To be a prophet in his own country or household, a
man must inspire respect, or the still greater feeling of veneration. No
man, unless he is earnest and devout, could possibly impress the members
of his family. They are bound to find him out. This applies all the more
forcibly to an eastern household in which polygamy prevails, and that is
made up of so many opposing elements and conflicting interests, the
atmosphere of which is only too often one necessarily of envies,
jealousies, rivalries, suspicions, intrigues, and even conspiracies. If
Mohammed had been insincere, if instead of convictions, his belief had
been a mere profession or a sham; if it had not been one of austere,
rigid practice and self-denial, then those about him would neither have
been impressed, nor would they have espoused his cause as warmly and
valiantly as they did. Not only were they impressed, however, but
convinced, and it was their convictions that strengthened and confirmed
his own faith. But once he had gained their confidence, his mission was
assured. There was no doubt whatever then in his own mind that he was
God’s chosen apostle, to whom God had revealed His word--the words of
truth and life. From this out, his own vigour, his own extraordinary
individuality and inflexibility carried him through from beginning to
end. Once others believed in and relied on him, his own latent
self-reliance grew into a living and active factor that carried all
before it. But as he looked at it, all his strength was from God. God
was at his elbow and in his heart, therefore he could not fail. Nothing,
in fact, shows better than this aspect of the matter how very wise and
all-knowing (his constant refrain about God in the Koran) Mohammed
himself was. How tactful and diplomatic, but above all, how deep his
knowledge of human nature. Had Khadija and his household not believed in
him, it is safe to assume that then there would have been no Prophet and
no Islam. As Novalis says: “My conviction gains infinitely the moment
another soul will believe in it.” So it was with Mohammed. So it is with
us all. So Carlyle pithily observes: “A false man found a religion? Why
a false man cannot build a brick house!” I have already shown that
Mohammed was not false. But neither did he found a religion. Apart from
the fact that he was a reality, and as true as any of the world’s great
prophets, Mohammed was unable to perform the impossible. Religion as a
natural product was beyond his comprehension and potentialities. Islam
like Christianity was a creed--a human or artificial development--the
healthy and vigorous offspring of a noble and sublime, yet in no sense
original conception. But there was no demerit in this want of
originality. Because as Carlyle says: “The merit of originality is not
novelty; it is sincerity”: and with regard to Mohammed, this has been
more than once acknowledged.

Launched upon the world of Arabia in no false and unreal spirit, but
with the spirit of grim sincerity and earnestness, Islam has proved its
stability spiritually and materially, the present result of which speaks
for itself. It is enough to say that a creed whose followers now number
over 250,000,000, or some 15 per cent. of the human race (an under-
rather than an over-estimate), could have sprung from a healthy and
vigorous seed only--a seed that has been nourished and kept alive by the
vital spark of human sympathies, hopes and aspirations.

What appears to me as so remarkable and so significant, so truly
characteristic of the man, is the way in which he never lets go his grip
of the central idea and purpose, but follows it up step by step. And as
he follows, he makes every point that he can, seizes every opportunity,
takes every advantage of every ordinary event and occurrence that is
going on around him, makes the best of every reverse, turns even his
set-backs and reverses into moral victories; and accepts it all as
inevitable with the calmness of a philosophy that emanated from his own
wondrous egoism and that inexhaustible fund of patience and reserve of
courage which so distinguishes his character. In this respect alone
Mohammed truly was a remarkable man--a man infinitely above, not only
his surroundings, but his age. With Mohammed, not only was the great
fact of his own existence great to him, but in almost every page of the
Koran it is obvious that God’s omnipresence and omnipotence had made a
profound and lasting impression on him. Everywhere and in everything--in
natural objects more especially--he saw and felt the hand and the power
of God. And to him it was a power so overwhelmingly terrific and
transcendent in all its aspects, that it defied description and
demonstrated the insignificance and impotence of man. In more senses
than one he was a pantheist. To him, either God was Nature and Nature
God, or God was in Nature and Nature was in God. At bottom of him the
old primitive belief was there, but in unity and concentration he saw
strength. In his mind there was no room, no place, for lesser deities.
The power and the splendour of the one creative God--who lived and moved
and had His being throughout the universe, overshadowed, or, rather, had
absorbed, them all. In the grim silence of the desert, in the vastness
of the heavens, in the great infinity of space, in the scintillation of
the stars, in every fibre of his own consciousness, God was with him. To
Mohammed God was not a personal being but the God and Maker of the
universe and all mankind. With him the entire theme and volume of his
stream of thought was God and his religion. Coming from the core and
centre of him as it did, even through the long vista of thirteen
centuries, one can picture this overmastering element in every line of
his stern-set and yet gentle face: a face reflective and speaking, that
not only had a history stamped upon every feature, but a great, a
strenuous, and a commanding history. _In vino veritas_ is as true to-day
as when first it was uttered. So too the saw, that “mastership like wine
unmasks the man.” But Mohammed needed no unmasking. God and the
truth--the truth about God as it dominated him--was the rich, strong
wine which coursed through every vein and fibre of his mental organism,
stimulating and spurring him onwards to a sustained and continuous
effort that ended only in death. A sincere and earnest man, a natural,
therefore a deeply religious man, to him God was also a Dayyan (one of
the ninety-nine epithets of God), i.e. “A weigher of good and evil”; One
who computed and settled accounts; the holder of the even balance and
scales of justice, the Judge and Arbiter of all mankind.

But apart from these functions, the power and sublimity of the Supreme
Being, as he saw it expressed in the silent grandeur of the desert, the
death-like stillness of the sandy sea, the frowning ruggedness and
majesty of the mountains, the immense universality of Nature, was always
before his eyes and in all his thoughts. Full of this feeling, of the
awe and veneration innate in man and co-existent with the eternal ages,
he bursts out in the second surah: “God! there is no God but He; the
living, the self-subsisting: neither slumber nor sleep seizeth Him; to
Him _belongeth_ whatsoever is in heaven, and on earth. Who is he that
can intercede with Him, but through His good pleasure? He knoweth that
which is past, and that which is to come unto them, and they shall not
comprehend anything of His knowledge, but so far as He pleaseth. His
throne is extended over heaven and earth, and the preservation of both
is no burden unto Him. He is the high and mighty.”

As a natural outburst of emotions and convictions that had been pent up
within his own inner consciousness, that were the offspring of some
twenty years of journeyings to and fro across the deserts where “Amin”
the faithful one was in direct and constant contact with Nature, and
often in silent communion with the Infinite, these few words are truly
magnificent and sublime; magnificent not only for the boldness and
sublimity of their imagery and conception, but magnificent also with the
intensity and profundity of true sincerity. Few, but all the more pithy
for that, these words are from the heart and soul of the man--a man who
speaks not unadvisedly with his lips, but who feels with every nerve and
fibre of his intensely emotional being. They are (as he himself feels)
the outpouring of an insignificant and impotent atom, yet of a sincere
and earnest man approaching in all humility and veneration, and with the
loyalty and allegiance of a true believer and servant, the great,
invisible He, who holds him and all creatures in the hollow of His
mighty hand.

In a conversation that Luther had one day with some friends at table, he
spoke of the world as a vast and magnificent pack of cards composed of
emperors, kings, princes and so forth. For several ages these had been
vanquished by the Pope. Then God had come upon the scene, and chosen the
“ace,” the very smallest card in the pack--himself, in a word--and
overthrown this conqueror of worldly powers and principalities.
Mohammed, as much as Luther, was one of “God’s Aces.” Seldom, indeed, in
the history of the world, has so great a human river flowed from a
source so puny. Never did the divine manifest itself in a single pip, so
seemingly small and insignificant as a cause, yet so pre-eminently and
consistently great as an effect!

“Men,” says Dumas in one of his historico-romantic masterpieces, “are
visible, palpable, moral. You can meet, attack, subdue them; and when
they are subdued you can subject them to trial and hang them. But ideas
you cannot oppose in that way. They glide unseen; they penetrate; they
hide themselves especially from the sight of those who would destroy
them. Hidden in the depths of the soul, they there throw out deep roots.
The more you cut off the branches which imprudently appear, the more
powerful and inextirpable become the roots below.

“An idea is a young giant which must be watched night and day; for the
idea which yesterday crawled at your feet, to-morrow will dispose of
your head. An idea is a spark falling upon straw.” ... “For the mind of
man is no inert receptacle of knowledge, but absorbs and incorporates
into its own constitution the ideas which it receives.” Thus it was with
Mohammed. God was the spark, the vital spark of spiritual flame, and
this humble but honest Arab trader was the straw, that after twenty
years of silent but tenacious smouldering God had set a light to.

The better, however, to understand his character and purpose, we must
divide his life into two sections. The first when, as trader from the
age of thirteen up to forty, first for his uncle and then for Khadija,
he was the man of business. Yet synchronous with this the man of ideas
and ideals that he kept to himself however; that he divulged to no one.
For not until the time was ripe and the hour had come, not until he felt
the call--felt, that is, that he was ready and able to begin--did he
confide even in Khadija. The second section when, as the apostle of God,
he worked with all the fiery fervour yet steady zeal of a true prophet,
to put his ideas into practice. But there was this difference with
regard to Mohammed as a theorist. He was not a man of many ideas. In
reality one central idea alone inspired him. But great and magnificent
as that was, it was equal to a multitude. It was a growing and a
spreading giant which, like the prolific banyan tree, threw out branch
and root with such extravagant luxuriance, that it completely
overshadowed and predominated the entire expanse of his mental area. We
know what this idea was. We know that round and out of the central stem
of God’s overmastering unity Mohammed had determined to construct an
Arabian nation--possibly something even greater. We know, too, that the
one was but the offspring of the other. Or it may be that they were the
twin offspring of all this profound and concentrated contemplation. But
we do not know how this great idea first took root. Let us, however, try
and trace it to its source as nearly as we can.

With still greater emphasis than Chrysostom, who asserted that “the true
Shekinah is man,” Carlyle says: “the essence of our being, the mystery
in us that calls itself ‘I,’ is a breath of heaven; the highest Being
reveals Himself in man.” An idea such as this would never have occurred
to Mohammed. The fatherhood of God in its accepted human sense was
repugnant to him. The mere thought was sacrilege!

His conception of God was much too exalted, much too divine for this.
God and humanity could have no possible connexion. God was the
Creator--the Potter, who out of the clay or matter in chaos had made
the world and all therein. Humanity was but a small part only of His
creation. Men were but as clay in His hands--mere creatures of His.
Beyond this hard and fast line there could be no relationship between
God and man. Association was as impossible as comparison was
objectionable. God, as supreme Creator and Director of the universe, was
a Being altogether distinct and apart from His own creation. Yet as such
He was the soul or spirit of it, the breath of life to all that lived,
and of death to all that died. Man was as evil, as puny, and as weak as
God was great and good and strong. God was too exalted and glorious for
words. Incomprehensible and inscrutable, He was beyond the power of
language, outside the narrow limitations of thought to imagine. Just as
the heavens were divided from the earth by boundless space, so far apart
was God from man. The endless immensity of everything was insufficient
to express His omnipotence--fell far short of the unthinkable reality.
Even the heavens and earth as His handiwork did not convey as completely
as it might appear to do the capacity of the power that belonged to Him.
To Mohammed, in every vibrating star an all-seeing eye and glory of the
great Creator, God, was visible; in every tiny blade of grass, in every
spring of water, He was manifest and tangible. So some eleven centuries
after Mohammed was laid to rest, a poor, struggling, but undaunted
artist-poet, looking from his mean London garret with the eyes of a
dreamer-mystic into the great invisible above and beyond him (just as
Amin the faithful one had done), yearned:

    “To see the world in a grain of sand,
    And a heaven in a wild flower;
    Hold Infinity in the palm of “his” hand,
    And eternity in an hour.”

And in the middle of the late departed century--which rushed across the
great void of Time like a hissing meteor--thus Tennyson:

    “Flower in the crannied wall,
    I pluck you out of the crannies,
    I hold you here, root and all, in my hand,
    Little flower; but if I could understand
    What you are, root and all, and all in all,
    I should know what God and man is.”

While to Wordsworth, with a faith in Nature and Nature’s God as deep as
Mohammed, the meanest flower that blows, gave thoughts that often lay
too deep for words.

Society is only too apt to judge or condemn facts and men; also to
ridicule the age and its spirit. This drastic method saves the trouble
of comprehending them. The society of keen Arab traders and wily
Bedouins which environed Mohammed did not comprehend him. To them he
was not so much like a fish out of water, as a land quadruped at sea,
altogether out of his element as well as out of his depth--a flotsam
struggling to get to dry land as a jetsam.

Immeasurably above and beyond his social contemporaries either morally
or spiritually, to them Mohammed was an enigma and a mystery. “Scenting
a mystery is like the first bite at a piece of scandal, and holy souls
do not detest it. In the secret compartments of bigotry there is some
curiosity for scandal.” But among Mohammed’s opponents--the Koreish more
particularly--it was not merely scandal that moved them: it was
jealousy, envy, malice, and in the end sheer diabolical hatred. In
describing the state of a mind that is advancing, we must remember that
all progress is not made in one march or even series of marches.
Mohammed’s march was entirely uphill, dead against the collar, the whole
way and all the time, except, perhaps, just towards the end. Yet each
day’s march brought him nearer to the goal of his desires. Slowly but
surely he made progress, and with it reputation. The slowness of his
movement, his advance, made progress and reputation all the more not a
dead, but a living certainty. But there is always anarchy in reputation.
It was this reputation--this individuality that dared to insolently
assert itself in the overthrow of their ancestral gods--which explained
Koreish hostility.

Mohammed was a calm, yet by no means an unprogressive agent of
Providence. Brains that are absorbed either in mania or wisdom, or, as
often happens, in both at once, are permeated very very slowly by the
things of this world. But even admitting that there was melancholia,
there was no mania about Mohammed. If ever a man was sane and healthy,
he was. “You grant a devout man, you grant a wise man: no man has a
seeing eye without first having had a seeing heart.” This fits his case
to a nicety. A more devout man than Mohammed never lived. He was as
pre-eminently wise as he was devout. He utilized his wisdom to the
fullest extent of his capacity, and he proved his devoutness by putting
his beliefs to the infallible test of stern and rigid practice. A trader
to his finger tips, a clear-sighted man of business, and a statesman
with prophetic instincts, who profited by the past, utilized the
present, and prepared for the future, in this sense he was a
contradiction. The being absorbed in wisdom did not prevent him from
carrying on his worldly duties in the most conscientious and thorough
manner. _Per contra_, his worldly duties did not prevent him from
philosophical absorption. The one was his duty, the other the breath of
life to him. His veneration of God gradually crystallized the religion
in him into a creed. This is generally the result of concentration. His
absorption of God ended in God’s absorption of him. It was a long and
gradual process which occupied twenty years. During this period of
embryonic development he withdrew, as it were, into himself. Then when
the crisis arrived, it came out of him, as a river flows out of a
spring, and was called Islam. “Our chimeras,” says Victor Hugo, “are the
things which most resemble ourselves, and each man dreams of the
unknown, and the impossible according to his nature.” Mohammed’s
chimera, as we know, was God and Arabian unity. But there was nothing
chimerical about the former, and with this invincible lever, the latter
too was a distinct probability. For although he was doubtless
superstitious--that is natural--and wrestled with shadows and visions,
Mohammed dealt in realities. To him God was the most real thing, the
sternest reality of all in the universe. God, in fact, was the Universe.
These, which to another would have been the unknown and the impossible,
were to him the possible and the inevitable. The nature that was in him
was the nature of God and the universe. There is a point where
profundity is oblivion, when light becomes extinguished. Though from a
literary aspect Mohammed was not profound, in a religious sense his
profundity, centring as it did in God, burst forth into the Cimmerian
darkness which enveloped his country with the brilliancy of a meteor
that illumines the blackest night.

There is too a way of encountering error by going all the way to meet
the truth, also by a sort of violent good faith which accepts everything
unconditionally. There was nothing violent (certainly not for a long
period), but there was everything that stands for goodness and stability
in Mohammed’s faith. It was thus--in the spirit of a hero and the valour
of a Paladin--he encountered the error and opposition of his enemies by
first of all going out of his way to meet the truth; then, in spite of
themselves and their hostility, by enforcing it upon those who would not
be persuaded. According to Fontenelle, “there is only truth that
persuades, and even without requiring to appear with all its proofs. It
makes its way so naturally into the mind, that when it is heard for the
first time, it seems as if one were only remembering.” This was very
much the case with Mohammed. This was why he tried at first to lead and
not to drive his countrymen to the truth. To him who saw the truth of
God’s existence, His mercy written as plainly in the falling raindrop as
His power of retribution is in the lightning that flashes across the sky
as if it would rend it, their stubbornness in rejecting God was utterly
incomprehensible. His mind had two attitudes. The one was turned to God,
the other to man. In contemplating God, he but studied man’s interests
and his own. But contemplation with Mohammed did not end by becoming a
form of indolence. Imaginative--visionary, in fact--as he was, he did
not allow his imagination to play tricks with him. He did not fancy that
he wanted for nothing. Even when married to Khadija, and in tolerable
affluence, there was obviously a great void in his life. This want of
course was spiritual. Exact and punctilious as he was in his temporal
duties, his whole bent and inclination was towards the former. As a
younger and poorer man, he had looked so much at the humanity around him
that he saw right down into its very soul. With the same fervent
intensity he had looked into nature until he saw or rather felt the
creator and controller thereof. “There are times when the unknown
reveals itself in a mysterious way to the spirit of man. A sudden rent
in the veil of darkness will make manifest things hitherto unseen, and
then close again upon the mysteries within. Such visions have
occasionally the power to effect a transfiguration in those whom they
visit. They convert a poor camel-driver into a Mahomet; a peasant girl
tending her goats into a Joan of Arc.” A conscientious and faithful
worker, Mohammed was at the same time a dreamer. But his dreams were but
the reflex of his work and of his ideas. These came to him like
mountainous waves, or the swell of an angry surf as it thunders on the
beach with a threatening roar, a mass of water that would submerge the
very earth. His ideas did not, however, submerge him. Nor did they
destroy or bury him. Out of their unknown and bosky depths Mohammed
invariably rose to the surface with the buoyancy of a life-belt, calm
and unmoved, for his spiritual centre of gravity always held him up. He
dreamt of man, but chiefly of God--of God’s goodness and greatness, of
man’s impotence and frailty. He looked at the solid earth on which he
stood, with its stones and its sand, its wheat and its tares, its joys
and sorrows, but particularly its suffering children and helpless women.
Then he looked at the vast void above, with its star-spangled sky, its
sun and moon, and the God that made all and was in all. This led him to
think of the void that was in himself, and to compare the one with the
other. Then he pondered and compared. The greatness of it all passed
into him and he dreamt again. There was no void above, for God filled
it. So too his own emptiness gave place to the Supreme. All at once a
great feeling of tenderness was aroused within him. From the egotism of
the _genus vir_, he passed to the contemplation of the _genus homo_, the
man who contemplates and feels. God had touched his heart. In
forgetfulness of self was born a great compassion for all. For years and
years Mohammed lived with his neck in a noose of obstacles composed of
human thorns and millstones. He was, so to speak, an outcast, thrown on
the dung heap, and into the brambles; at times even in the mud. Yet no
mud clung to him, not even to his feet. His head at all events was
always in the light, his hand always resting on the omnipotence of the
Almighty. Invariably gentle, attentive, serious, benevolent, easily
satisfied, he remained serene and peaceful. It was only in the last
extremity, when all his persuasive earnestness failed him, that his
enemies stirred him to wrath. But it was a just and dispassionate wrath;
it was the wrath of God. For whether they liked or no, Mohammed in his
dual capacity as God’s agent and Arabian patriot had made up his mind
that they should have God. On this point he was inexorable. Feeling that
there is an eternity in justice, he felt that in justice to God, and to
themselves, and in spite of themselves, it was his duty to proclaim the
truth. Many a less tenaciously sincere man, many a real hero, would have
shrunk from and have succumbed before an ordeal so terrific, a contest
so supremely Titanic. But Mohammed was made of sterner stuff, of the
spirit that gods are made of. Failure was a word that he did not
recognize. With God at his back, success was an absolute certainty--a
foregone conclusion.

Whatever might be his desire to remain where he was and cling to it, he
was impelled to advance, to continue, to go on further and still
further. Yet to think and to ask himself where it was all going to lead
him to? But although he thought, he never hesitated, never turned back.
His hand was to the plough--the plough God. God was the goal, the end,
the summit of human existence and ambition. Humanity was the soil, and
to get there he must furrow his way through its enmities and affections.
Firm and exceptional natures are thus moulded out of miseries,
misfortunes and afflictions. As a result of his work history shows us
more and more that Mohammed was firm and exceptional to the very highest
degree. Yet there was nothing of that hypocrisy which Victor Hugo calls
supreme cynicism about him. He was too human, too much in earnest, to be
anything but Amin the Faithful. There is, after all, more in a name than
meets the eye. In some names there is history and the tragedy of
history. In others there is the might and majesty of a commanding
magnetism, which recognizes the sublimity of truth. In Mohammed’s case,
even to this day over two hundred and fifty million human beings bow the
knee through him to God. Yes, there is much--a world of meaning--that is
inexpressible in a name--a magic and a _je ne sais quoi_ which under the
label of Napoleon led men to the Kingdom Come of glory--in other words,
to destruction and the devil--but that with Mohammed was the open sesame
to the glory and power of God. A rose by any other name may smell as
sweet. But Islam without the halo of time-honoured sanctity that
attaches to the name of Mohammed, would sound as but a hollow brass or a
tinkling cymbal. Just, in fact, as the man himself was sincere and
faithful, there is, and there will continue to be, a magic in his
name--more so even than that of Christ has for the Christian--drawing
men to God, as he in person drew them not alone by sheer force of will
and character, but by a force which was even stronger, the force of
sincerity and truth.



CHAPTER III

THE ENVIRONMENT THAT MOULDED MOHAMMED


A true son of the desert, it is impossible to understand the powerful
and complex personality of Mohammed, unless we can appreciate the
peculiar character and genius of the desert. More so in some ways even
than the seaman, the dweller or sojourner in the desert is distinct and
unique in himself. Possessing the courage of the Fatalist, and as free
as the roving winds of heaven, he is all the same of a shrinking and
timorous nature, confronted as he often is by certain aspects and
phenomena that imperil his life and strike down to the very roots of his
moral consciousness.

In the desert there is, comparatively speaking, little life. Unlike the
forest region, it is naked and almost destitute. There, as at sea, man
is face to face not only with the great elements, but with the greater
Infinite and Invisible. He is nearer to God and the immensity of Nature.
There is nothing--or little at least--to distract his attention--nothing
between him and the ever watchful Inscrutable. There is no shade from
the sun by day, no protection from the moon and stars at night. They
look down on him as from the pinnacle of the sublimest elevation. The
fiercer glory of the sun by day burns into his very soul, consumes his
very marrow. The milder effulgence of the moon by night throws its
silvery glamour over all his senses. The lesser and more distant
splendour of the stars--those watch-fires of angelic spirits--in their
countless myriads awe and bewilder him. In the choking breath of the
simoom he feels the potentialities of God, and his own helpless
impotence. Struck all of a heap by its stifling blast, he is filled with
fear and trembling in the presence of a Power invisible yet tangible and
deadly. Whether he wills or not, the fear of God--of the Inexorable and
Inevitable--enters into his heart and takes possession of his inmost
soul. Call it the fear of God or not, it is practically one and the same
feature--the mere human label makes no difference to this awful and
unseen reality--the same fear of the Unknown, the Unexpected and the
Inevitable: the Inevitable that is always with us, the agnostic and the
sophist no less than with the theologian, yet unseen, incomprehensible
and omnipotent. But more than anything, it is the awful and impenetrable
silence that impresses and appals the silent and dignified nomad of the
desert.

To those who have never been outside the confines of civilization, it is
not logically possible even to guess at the extraordinary influence--a
fascination amounting to witchery--that the silence and solitude of the
desert exercises over one. Yet if I were asked to define the essence and
subtlety of this influence, I could but answer that it is indefinable;
all the same a glamour that, like the force of gravity, is irresistible.
Free and open like the sea (but fresh only at night), it is not the
witchery of the soft blue sky, for the sky of the desert is hard and
steely; it is not the fierce white heat of the fervid sun that melts
into the very marrow of one’s bones; but rather is it the soothing magic
of the moon at night, under the brilliant canopy of the heavens, when
the earth, cooling rapidly, is lulled into eternal silence, that one
falls under the magic spell of its wondrous influence. But even the
glamour of the moon is out-glamoured by the darkness of the night under
whose funereal pall even the great suns and planets hide their
diminished heads. There is in the darkness and the silence of the night
a mystery and a profundity that arouses the sluggish, even the stagnant
consciousness of the dullard--that much more so attracts the quickening
soul of the mystic and visionary, which springs to it with the same
eager avidity that a lean and hungry trout leaps at the first fly which
he sees after a long and enforced abstinence. It is in this darkness and
silence of the night, rather than in the fierce glare of the midday sun,
that the fear of the great Infinite comes to man. For if we but think of
it, what a spectre-teeming spectacle is night. We hear strange, weird
sounds. We know not whence they come or whither they go. Or it may be
that all around us is as the silence of the grave--of eternal death. We
see the evening star looming large like a great world on fire. The blue
of the sky looms black. The stars seem to speak to us; the whole scene
is impressive--a sight for the gods. In the desert, however, and to the
earnest thinker whose centre of gravity is God, night is something more
than a mere spectacle--a something greater, grander and more terrifying
than a simple impression--a feeling deeper and sublimer even than a
conviction: a revelation of the Unseen Unknown which is all the time
behind that which he sees and knows.

Full as night is of phantoms, shades, sounds and silence, it is no
illusive mirage, no mere empty simulacrum. But in every way it is a
reality and a substance which is tangible, that touches one not only on
the spot, on the raw, but everywhere; that fills one with vague fears,
and brings even the proudest and the sternest to their knees before the
power of the great Omnipotence. The very stars which hang out in the
great firmament appear as God’s sign-posts--great all-seeing eyes that
are ever upon us--or like eternal watch-fires which contrast the
eternity of God with the momentary mortality of man; they enhance the
blackness of the blue. Peering as they do into the awesome watcher’s
inmost soul, they either drive him headlong into the blackness and
terrors of evil, or lead him by their kindly light into the glory of the
Almighty Presence. Unquestionably the night is either diabolical or
sacred. Not only this, she is the brooder and breeder of all primitive
doctrines, the conceiver and the mother of all human creeds. In her
immense womb there is a latent light, a smouldering volcano full of
ashes, cinders, and dead men’s bones; yet full also of fire-sparks that
are capable of flashing into luminosity, even of bursting into hissing,
leaping and devouring flames. It was thus that Christianity and Islam
came into being. It was thus out of the primeval sacrifices, the shadows
and silence of death and darkness, that all creeds have crept into and
out of the minds of men. Tortuous human ant-heaps bored and tunnelled
through and through by human ideas, human hopes, and human aspirations;
worlds in the low-lying limbo of the fœtus stage, fecundating in all
directions into beliefs, faiths, creeds, sects, denominations,
quackeries, dissimulations and charlatanism. Labyrinthine, subterranean,
and full of subtleties as all these creeds appear to be, they are easy
enough to comprehend. They have all sprung from the same simple seed if
we would but recognize it. If we but looked at this vista of the past as
through a mental telescope, if we but grasped the substance and not the
shadow, went straight to the simple root instead of to the theological
and metaphysical subtleties of it all, we would find it absolutely
simple. If we would but for a moment drop from our eyes the dense scales
of dogma, bigotry and prejudice, there would be no difficulty in tracing
back all these enigmatic ramifications and gloomy obscurities of
pristine darkness and chaos to the one central germ idea, the one
vitalizing spark that inspires and illumines them all.

It is obvious that Wordsworth, when he speaks of only “two voices,” the
one “of the sea,” the other “of the mountains”--“each a mighty voice,”
quite overlooked the bleakness and silence of the desert. This
overpowering blackness that pervades the very soul, creeps through every
vent into the bones and chills one to the very marrow. This sublime
silence, that speaks to one as the still small voice of God spoke to
Moses, and that fills the thinker with even greater awe and veneration
than the crashing and rolling thunder. This silence which is of
eternity, therefore golden, while speech is of to-day and only silvern,
for as Carlyle reminds us: “After speech has done its best, silence has
to include all that speech has forgotten or cannot express.”

Speaking for myself, who have passed many days of my existence at sea,
and many more still in the desert, there is that in the latter which
always reminds me of the former. To be sure, the ever restless sea with
its almost myriad moods--its calm, its motion, its rippling smiles, its
wavy undulations, its heights and depths, its fickleness and treachery,
its dazzling beauties, its fierce turbulence--is as unlike the desert,
with its grim stiff grandeur and appalling sameness as it well could be:
still--

    “Tho’ inland far we be,
    Our souls have sight of that immortal sea
    Which brought us thither.”

There is no music in it by day or by night, only the dead still hush of
silence. Yet the desert has its aspects, if it has not its moods and
contrasts--as singular as they are striking. See, or rather feel it
under the fierce and scorching glare of the fiery sun, that almost
shrivels you into a mummy; see it also under the softer spell of the
silvery orb, when the air is balmy, if not fresh, and you will at once
imagine yourself to be in an altogether different and enchanted world.
Then again, lose yourself in the desert on a dark night when for once in
a way the stars are dim or obscured by clouds, and you will realize as
you never before have done, the awesome reality of the sense of
loneliness--a feeling which can only be compared to that felt by the
hunted criminal hiding in a city, and against whom every man’s hand is
raised.

But there is besides in the desert the fateful mirage that, like the
ocean sirens, has lured so many to their doom. Finally there is the
oasis which stands out of the sea of shimmering sand, like an island
paradise that towers over the waste of seething waters which encircle
it. The desert too, like the sea, has its ships and its men. Ships that
pass by day as well as by night. Ships that stride across the great
sandy wastes, grunting and gawky, with unwearying patience, unyielding
tenacity, and unerring instinct. As are the ships, so are the men. But
in place of gawkiness and grunts, the golden virtue of silence, and the
conscious pride of natural dignity. Men who in their very port and
carriage are the very spirit and personification of the desert. Men who
represent not the genii, but the genius of the great dry sea of sand
and silence. Indeed, if ever men on this planet of ours were
patriarchal, if ever men bore themselves with the gait and the simple
dignity of free men, the Bedawins of Arabia and the North African
deserts do. With the lynx-like, yet enigmatic expression that calls to
mind a combination of eagle keenness and owl-like solemnity, there is
about them a freedom of manner and bearing, a dignity of carriage, an
independence of character, that are the peculiarly glorious and
distinctive heirlooms of the air, expanse and grandeur of these inland
seas. In every sense, moral and physical, they are the products of an
unrestricted environment that has made them what they are--wanderers on
the face of the earth. But wanderers from choice. Untrammelled even to
licence; giving an unbridled rein to their spirit of independence.
Regarding with supreme contempt the luxuries and even necessaries of
civilization. Yet with it all slaves to the spiritual fears that haunt
them. Relics of a primitive and old-world civilization, there is about
these Bedawins a flavour of antiquity, of a past that is hoary with the
hoariness of eternal age, so distant that we cannot conjecture about it,
even in the vaguest of terms. In addition to this everlasting antiquity
and conservatism, there is about these patriarchs a naturally dignified
reticence, and an air of calm, quiet assurance and authority, that are
peculiarly their own personal property. But there is even more than
this. There is that same universal concept--common to all primitive
people who have not outlived it--of belief in the fear of a supreme
power. That same awe and reverence for the patriarchal authority
connected with that of the ancestors which has preceded it; that calm
and philosophical acceptation of Karma or Fatalism; that same dread of
consequences; that identical terror of malignant demons; that same
shrinking from the inevitable, which is the heritage of all natural
people. Inherent instincts that even twelve centuries of Islam have
scarcely modified. When we get underneath the surface of human nature as
represented by the Arab, whether he came from the east, the west, the
south, or the centre, it is obvious that the underlying motive for most,
if not all, of his social customs is inspired by that personal or
religious instinct which is so closely allied to the primary instincts
of all. Out of such fundamental material did Mohammed emerge!

Nevertheless, with all its drawbacks, there is about the desert, only in
a different degree, the pleasure of the pathless woods, the rapture of
the lonely shore. Just as by the deep and rolling sea whose very roar is
music, there is a society where none intrudes, so with the desert.
Right in the very core and centre of its silence and solitude, the man
whose ears and eyes are open to receive impressions, finds himself in
the presence of that invisible but omniscient power of Nature. The power
that, while it causes the earnest thinker to pause and reflect, makes
the average human being yearn for the companionship of his own kind. But
it was not so with Mohammed. Mohammed was not as other men are. He was a
thought leader. Not a deep thinker by any means; but profoundly in
earnest. Few men in the world’s history--judging at least by
results--have been more in earnest than he was. In Hannibal there is the
same earnest fixity of purpose, only different in kind, the same
unquenchable ardour, and the same iron will that kept him faithful to
the sacred vow of undying vengeance against the Romans, that his father
exacted from him on the altar of their ancestral gods. In William the
Silent too, but also in another direction, we find the same relentless
purpose and the same inflexible sincerity to attain the independence and
autonomy of the United Provinces. Cromwell likewise gave his life and
his services--all that was best in him in fact--in the firm and sincere
conviction that he was God’s chosen instrument. But in none of these
men, not even in the great and heroic Ironside, was there the same
fervent godliness, i.e. the fear and veneration of God. It was Luther
most of all who approached Mohammed in the sincerity of his purpose,
i.e. of his religion. For although Luther was essentially a priest, and
did not found a new creed, his sincerity showed itself as a Protestant
and Reformer. In his whole life the fear and veneration of God as the
motive factor of his existence was manifest.

It is, of course, just possible, as Tennyson surmises, that:

    “... Through the ages one increasing purpose runs,
    And the thoughts of men are widen’d with the process of the suns.”

This, however, is vague and brings us no nearer to an exact
comprehension of the matter. The better to understand this feeling of
fear that so dominated men of the Numa, Buddha, Luther, John Knox,
Cromwell and Mohammed type, it is essential that the student grasps and
measures the actual measure of difference that divides religion from
creed. It is but meet that we should accept the rational axiom, that
religion is natural, and creed the egotistical and personal
interpretation placed upon religion by human beings. As Draper says:
“When natural causes suffice, it is needless to look for supernatural.”
So Bacon, looking with the insight of true genius into the Book of
Nature, up to Nature’s God, said in that immortal aphorism which opens
the _Novum Organum_, “Homo Naturæ minister et interpres”--man is the
servant and interpreter of Nature. This will make it easier to get at
the root of this dual feeling of fear and veneration. But to do so it is
necessary for the student to look as far back into the past as he can.
In every ancient cult that has ever existed, in the Chaldæan, the
Egyptian, the Aryan, the various (so-called Pagan) African, for example,
the same overmastering element predominates. In Grecian annals and
literature--in the _Iliad_, the _Odyssey_, Hesiod’s _Theogony_, in the
great tragedies of Æschylus, in Plutarch and other writers--Fear is not
merely reverenced as “_Holy_,” but in Greece, as elsewhere, altars were
erected and worship offered to her as a goddess.

It is in its definition and conception of religion that humanity has
gone astray. By general acceptation religion and creed have always been
confounded. Natural religion is spoken of as a something different and
widely apart from Christianity, as a religion revealed. This is not so.
There is no difference between them. Christianity is but the development
of natural religion on the lines and ideas of certain individuals. There
is no such thing as revelation. Religion is an evolution. It is natural.
It comes to us from Nature, i.e. from the God out of which Nature has
evolved. Hence its constructive and destructive dualism. It is a living
and vital force that is innate in man as being one with Nature.
Obviously this veneration, this fear of the Unseen, the Unexpected and
the Inevitable (which I have spoken of), is one of the root instincts
out of which it unfolds itself. Most unquestionably it is the outward
and visible expression of the inner consciousness or spirit that moves
man to the adoration of veneration in the constructive direction, and of
fear in the destructive. This varies in the individual. Thus on the one
hand we have a Mohammed; on the other a Napoleon. From the very
beginning of human existence right down until now this fear of God has
predominated. It still exists. It will go on existing. Religion is as
much a part of the human constitution as the primal instincts. Creed is
acquired. It is environment and education that makes or forms creed. The
child becomes what his teacher makes him, as he can neither distinguish,
discriminate nor judge for himself. But to make him Jew, Gentile or
Christian, the religion must be in him. Creed, in a word, is but the
view that is taken of natural religion by the ego. But a matter so
important as this, however, cannot here be entered into.

As it has been with all the great religious leaders of history, so too
it was with Mohammed. Fearing, yet venerating, the might, the majesty
and the goodness of God, the companionship that he most wanted was not
human but divine. Communion with Him, through his own thought and
through the great Infinity around him, was what his heart most desired.
A town Arab by birth and breeding, a Bedawin by feeling and instinct, he
was something more than a mere native of Arabia. Rather a son of men, an
apostle chosen out specially from among men, that he might bear to them
the message and truth of God.

“Men,” says Victor Hugo, “talk to themselves, speak to themselves, but
the external silence is not interrupted. There is a grand tumult;
everything speaks within us, excepting the mouth. The realities of the
soul, for all they are not visible and palpable, are not the less
realities.” The great reality, as I have shown, that obsessed Mohammed
was God. Though invisible in person or even in spirit, God was none the
less visible and palpable to him as much in the finest speck of sand as
in the consuming glory of the sun. In the mocking spectres of the night,
as well as in the shifting shadows of the morning, the might and majesty
of Allah was supreme. In the dead silence of human solitude, the grand
tumult within him was only grand and tumultuous because God talked to
him and he to God in the suppressed sibilance of hushed and awesome
whisperings. “Diamonds are only found in the darkness of the earth;
truths are only found in the depths of the thought.” As it seemed to
Father Madeline, the ex-convict Jean Valjean, so it appeared to
Mohammed, “that after descending into these depths, after groping for
some time in the densest of this darkness, he had found one of these
diamonds, one of these truths, which he held in his hand, and which
dazzled his eyes when he looked at it.” The brilliant which Mohammed
searched for was the truth--the greatest brilliant of all! The truth
that he found as it appeared to him was God. Thus he immolated his whole
being to the will of God, as to the truth which resides in Him alone.
Like Pascal, Mohammed believed that “one can be quite sure that there is
a God without knowing what He is.” Or in the words of Hobbes: “Forasmuch
as God Almighty is incomprehensible, it follows that we can have no
conception or image of the Deity, except only this, that _there is a
God_.” This in sense if not in word was Mohammed’s idea of God as he
tried to conceive Him. For him it was sufficient that God was the only
God--the Creator and the Controller of the universe! “There are touching
illusions which are perhaps sublime realities.” But to Mohammed, God was
not even “the Great Illusion,” but a stern as well as a sublime reality!
To him the desert and lone places were God’s dwelling-place--as far
away from the busy hum and haunts of men as He could get. But only
because of the delightful charm of golden silence and solitude--only
because in the midst thereof, as in the heavenly paradise, God dwelt
there. The one fair spirit that he dwelt and communed with--not in close
proximity however, but with a great gulf fixed between--was the one and
only God, who had at last constituted him His minister and apostle,
because of his great love and devotion to Him. It was for this that
Mohammed sought the desert. It was there under the stars--the flashing
forget-me-nots of God’s great power--that alone with Nature and his own
thoughts, he sought God. Who is there of us can say that he did or did
not find Him? Can we, or can we not, by searching find God? Whether we
can or no, however, is not the question--is not for us to decide! But
one fact is certain--one fact is obvious. It was in the core and centre
of the eternal silence and solitude of mountain fastnesses and desert
expanses that the spirit of Islam had its origin. It was there, as it
were under the myriad eyes of the great and infinite God, under the
fiery blaze of the burning sun, under the cooler and more clinging
glamour of the mellow moon, under the dimmer gloom and mystery of
darkness, there with his face to the red-hot furnace blasts and
suffocation of the simoom, that the message came to him. Alone with his
thoughts:

    “Alone, alone, all all alone,
    Alone on a wide wide sea!”

No mere saint, but God Himself, “took pity on” his “soul in agony.” He
was not alone, for God was with him. This self-communion of Mohammed
with his thoughts, was to him none other than communion with God,
because his thoughts were concentrated on Him with all the soul and
strength he was humanly capable of.

The power of persuasion does not always lie in the flow and eloquence of
speech. The strongest are often the most silent. God never speaks but in
the still small voice of consciousness, that comes to every man in the
dark watches of the night, when the hum and movement of life is hushed
into the silence of sleep!

Solitude, too, that twin-sister of Silence, “though,” as De Quincey
says, “it may be silent as light, is, like light, the mightiest of
agencies; for solitude is essential to man.” But if essential to the
ordinary man, it is as the breath of life to men of God and prophets.
Solitude, in fact, sinks deep into a pure and simple nature, and changes
him in a great measure. Unconsciously it intensifies him to a
superlative degree, and inspires him with an awe of itself that becomes
sacred to him. Within himself the recluse feels weak, unstable and
inconsistent. Without he is strong in the consciousness of the
omnipotence and supremacy of the Infinite. “Solitude generates a certain
amount of sublime exaltation. It is like the smoke arising from the
burning bush. A mysterious lucidity of mind results, which converts the
student into the seer, and the poet into a prophet.” In a word, there is
an enthusiasm, an influence, and a power in solitude that the civilized
man, or the man who has never been subjected to it, cannot form the
slightest or faintest conception of. For the silence of solitude and the
solitude of silence is a state (common to all primitive people) in which
the being believes himself to be not only “πλήρης θεοῦ,” i.e.
full of God, but that the God predominates. Hence the enthusiasm, the
rapture, and the power to divine and speak in divers tongues.

Surely, if ever man was in deadly earnest, this faithful son of Arabia
was. If ever man opened his heart and soul to the Father and Mother of
all things, this Mohammed, the merchant, did. Truly if ever the great
Author of our being responded to a soul in silent agony, i.e. in
conflict, in a struggle for victory, it was to this great descendant of
the bond-woman Hagar! For in Islam, and the soul of Islam, such as he
inculcated, the victory was greater than any Marathon or Thermopylæ.



CHAPTER IV

MOHAMMED’S PRINCIPLES AND BELIEFS


Mohammed, as I have more than once said, was all for unity and cohesion,
therefore against division and disintegration of any kind. Concentration
was as the breath of life to him. Dissension a deadly evil. In his
scheme of religion and politics there was no place for schism. Schism
meant discord, and discord the devil. To him discord was as Ate, the
mother of dissension. He recognized, as Spenser evidently did, that
“discord harder is to end than to begin”:

    “For all her studie was, and all her thought,
    How she might overthrow the things that concord wrought.”

And above all things, this Statesman Prophet was the essence and
personification of centralization and concord. For unity alone rendered
Islam feasible. Thus in the second Surah he insists that mankind was of
one faith from the beginning. Thus too as a just, faithful and
consistent man, he is opposed to violence and taking the offensive, even
in the name and under the cloak of religion; he constantly advocates
and authorizes (that is, has God’s authority for) the defensive. He even
recommends, at the same time that he excuses, war and retaliation on the
unbeliever and infidel. On the whole, however, I am bound to admit that
Mohammed disapproves of and discountenances violence in religion. He, in
fact, distinctly forbids his followers from enforcing it. Their own
persecution was to be met by patience. Apostates and unbelievers were to
be given time meet for repentance. Yet to him, fanatic as he was with
regard to religion, Islam was the only true Faith, the covenant, the
sure ark of God that alone could secure salvation. Of this and of God he
was no more than an Apostle--i.e. a messenger; also an expounder--but as
such he obviously tried to live up to his name of Faithful. This speaks
volumes for his toleration and humanity in an age when neither one nor
the other of these attributes were much in repute; when both, in fact,
were at a low ebb. Yet it shows us how intensely human the Prophet was.
A man of great patience, prudence and trustworthiness, of retentive
memory, strong character, and with the disposition of a judge--a very
commander of men. Thus he acknowledges the divinity of God in forgiving,
and the humanity of man in demanding reparation and restitution. Here
the moral excellence of Mohammed shines out as a brilliant. In Surah
xiv., “a grievous punishment is _prepared_ for the unjust. But they who
shall have believed and wrought righteousness, shall be introduced into
gardens, wherein rivers flow; they shall remain therein _for ever_ by
the permission of their Lord, and their salutation therein _shall be_
Peace.” From this and many other similar passages, it would seem that
Mohammed, by his constant reiteration of _Promises_ and _Threats_, by
his determined insistence thereon, hoped ultimately to convince even his
enemies of his sincerity also of the fact that Islam, as the creed of
the one and only God, was the true Faith. Again in this passage (Surah
vi.), “God causeth the grain and the date-stone to put forth, He
bringeth forth the living from the dead, and He bringeth forth the dead
from the living. This is God,” etc., etc.; we get a clear insight into
the intensity and comprehensiveness of the divine conception as it
appeared to him. A little further on in the same passage he speaks of
God as “He who hath produced you from one soul; and hath provided for
you a sure receptacle and a repository,” namely in the loins of your
fathers, and the womb of your mothers--one of those gleams of pantheism
that I have already alluded to.

But of all the passages in the Koran, the following is, in many ways,
one of the most significant: “Whatever good befalleth thee, O man, it is
from God; and whatever evil befalleth thee, it is from thyself.” It is
obvious from this that the prophet believed evil to be a human weakness
with man as an active and self-willed agent. Sale in a note thereon
says: “These words are not to be understood as contradicting the
preceding verse, that all is from God, since the evil that befalls
mankind, though ordered by God, is yet the consequence of their own
wicked actions.” But as Mohammed regarded the sublime divinity of God,
it would be more accurate to interpret the _evil_ not as being ordained
or even sanctioned by God, but as being permitted, or rather not
prevented by Him as a thing inevitable. To him the purity, sanctity and
inviolability of God was of such vast moment, that it was unjust--a
mortal sin--to devise even a lie against Him. “And who is more unjust
than he who deviseth a lie against God, that he may seduce men without
understanding?” The frequent repetition of this and other like passages
is significant of Mohammed’s sincerity, also of his moral persistence
and tenacity. It was from his point of view bad enough to have doubt
thrown on the authenticity of his mission. This he could to some extent
put up with. But it was as naught compared to the reflection, the crime
of perjury committed against the Almighty. To cast a slur on His
holiness in this audacious way, was nothing short of blasphemy, a crime
worthy of eternal hell fire and damnation. Few men in the world’s
history were as loyal to their God as this grim but faithful product of
Arabia the Stony. In this respect, and particularly with regard to the
depth and intensity of their religious zeal and fervour, there was a
strong resemblance between Cromwell and Mohammed. To both of these moral
ironsides, those who did not believe as they believed were unbelievers,
and as such outside the pale of God’s mercy. For believers, however,
nothing was too good. To such an extent did these principles influence
the latter, that he even went so far as to promise that all grudges
should be removed from the minds of the faithful. Here again we have
evidence of Mohammed’s unquestionable humanity; also of civilization to
a marked degree. For a grudge, although fundamentally and
characteristically human, was at the same time, and still is among the
Bedawins, a peculiarly Arabian idiosyncrasy; associated as it was, and
often culminating as it did, in acts of vengeance identical to the
Corsican vendetta, “the terrible blood feud which even the most reckless
fear for their posterity.”

In spite, however, of his eagerness and zeal for conversion, consistent
as this was with his idea of national autonomy, in nothing did Mohammed
show his sincerity so much as in his thoroughness and honesty. He was
nothing if not thorough. The long and arduous probation he passed
through in preparing and fitting himself for his mission--the mental
concentration, the wrestlings with all that is evil and inexorable in
man’s nature, the night watches, the agonies, the communings with
God--all go to prove this. And if to be outspoken and candid is honesty,
then indeed no one has surpassed him in that respect. In his eyes a true
disciple of Islam meant a man who lived and acted up to the tenets and
principles of its faith. For instance, with him there was no such fiasco
as a death-bed repentance. “But no repentance _shall be accepted_ from
those who do evil until _the time_ when death presenteth itself unto one
of them, _and he_ saith verily I repent now; nor unto those who die
unbelievers: for them have we prepared a grievous punishment.” Such an
act was wholly repugnant to the fine sense of equity and justice that he
possessed, advocating as he so strenuously did the use of “a full
measure and just balance.” As one who had given practically his whole
life to the service and adoration of God, his soul rose in revolt and
abhorred so vile a subterfuge. It was adding insult to injury. A mere
sneaking stratagem of priestly artifice, held out as an alluring but
offensive bait. A despicable and devilish cunning on the part of the
unbeliever, who would endeavour to throw dust into the sun-piercing
vision of the Most High, all unconscious of the thinness and
transparency of his device and of God’s searching penetration, that
could pierce through all eternity even unto the uttermost ends of His
mighty universe! To serve mammon a lifetime, and then at the last
moment, when on the brink of death’s unending precipice, to turn to God
and expect to reap the same reward of eternal bliss as the whole-hearted
believer who has given all or a great part of his life to God’s service,
was impossible. The very thought of it was monstrous. The choice lay
with the ego himself! Evil was his own doing! Good also lay within his
reach. It was in a great measure a matter of choice. Every man was more
or less responsible for his own undoing. To a life of evil, a death-bed
repentance was not capable of producing more than its own equivalent of
happiness, i.e. the merest possible fragment. This was in accordance
with God’s principle of the scales of justice and an even balance. Yet
Mohammed was not against repentance and contrition when sincere and made
in due and proper time. Over and over again he holds out the olive
branch, and reiterates the forgiveness and mercy of God, as attributes
that belonged to Him alone. Mercy, indeed, was not so much an
_attribute_ as a _monopoly_. “He hath prescribed unto Himself mercy,” as
compatible with the fact that He was the final Court of Appeal. However
adversely the theologian may criticize this from the modern Christian
standpoint, it is clear and direct proof of Mohammed’s whole-hearted
sincerity. Further it is equally direct and tangible evidence of the
ardour and zeal that was in him as a prophet and reformer.

God, with all His sternness and inflexibility, as He appeared to
Mohammed, was just and merciful. A strict comparison between Yahveh and
Allah certainly inclines the balance in favour of the latter. Jehovah at
His best was a God of blood and vengeance, at His worst a voracious
monster. In Allah, stern and avenging God as He was, there was at least
compassion and mercy and forgiveness. He was not inexorable. He would
listen to reason. Mohammed himself was a distinct advance on the founder
of the ancient Jewish faith. He was more humane, a man of broader and
deeper sympathies. Stern and hard to a degree where God and the Faith
was concerned; where men, but especially women and children, were
concerned, he was all tenderness and pity.

Dutiful and obedient to his uncle who had been a father to him, he was a
faithful servant, an exemplary husband, a kind father, a good master.
The very name of Faithful, by which he was always distinguished, proves
beyond a doubt what manner of man he was. An orphan himself in
childhood, early inured to poverty, his heart went out to all those who
had the misfortune to be similarly situated. For the poor, the weak, the
helpless, he had a fellow-feeling. The degraded or at least dependent
and unprotected position of women, their moral and legal helplessness
most of all, appealed to him. But in no sense because he was sensual.
Sensuality was not one of his many failings. A man from top to bottom,
by birth, breeding and environment Mohammed was an Arab and a Patriarch.
As such he only naturally liked women and children. To men and for the
Faith a strong hard man, to the weak and helpless he was tender and
affectionate. As he was strong, so he was merciful and full of human
sympathies. His long and happy union with Khadija shows not only that he
was faithful to a degree, but a man of high moral fibre. A man too full
of the gravity of life to squander his substance in mere sensuality. But
in all eastern and African countries where polygamy prevails, marriage
is a pure matter of political convenience. Mohammed knew this. He
recognized that marriage was a very important factor in securing
influence and power. It threw out octopean feelers at various tangents
and established certain associations and connexions to which it clung,
as a limpet to a rock or a devil-fish to its victim. The same principle
down almost to our own day has been a powerful factor in European
statecraft. Even the earlier practice of keeping mistresses, so much
indulged in by the sovereign holders of so-called “divine rights,” had
much in common with this custom. It was undoubtedly this motive more
than any other which influenced Mohammed. It was an essential feature in
his great design. For in spite of his overwhelming devotion to God,
notwithstanding God’s obsession of him, Mohammed was essentially human.
There was room and sorrow in his heart for human frailties. His desire
was strong to remedy them. He too like Luther was a Protestant, and a
Reformer.

As to the soulless theory regarding the fair sex, which has been
literally thrust upon the Moslem world by an antipathetic if not
inimical Christendom, I quite agree with Burton. “The Moslems never went
so far.” At all events if some of them have done so, “Certain ‘_Fathers
of the Church_,’ it must be remembered, did not believe that women have
souls.” Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, in one of that inimitable series of
letters which she wrote, admits as much. In this particular letter
written from Constantinople on May 29, 1717 (O.S.), to the Abbé Conti,
she says: “Our vulgar notion that they (the Turks) do not own women to
have any souls is a mistake.” And then she continues, but in not so
accurate a vein: “’Tis true, they say they are not of so elevated a
kind, and therefore must not hope to be admitted into the paradise
appointed for the men, who are to be entertained by celestial beauties.
But there is a place of happiness destined for souls of the inferior
order, where all good women are to be in eternal bliss.” It is in no
sense surprising, therefore, that to Mohammed Allah was the merciful. So
in the sixth surah, he writes: “We (as if identifying himself with God)
will not impose a task on any soul beyond its ability. For this
self-same reason, God is minded to make _his religion_ light unto you:
for man was created weak.” Strong and enduring as sincerity and
conviction made him, Mohammed knew his own weakness. Hence with a
clemency that was divine he made concessions such as these. In these he
acknowledged that, “to err is human, to forgive divine.” All the more,
however, we cannot but admire his candour. Even as regards himself, his
shortcomings and inadequacies, he speaks with an openness and
straightforwardness that disarms suspicion--that forces the inquirer to
respect him with all the greater reverence as a great leader of men. “So
say I not unto you, the treasures of God are in my power; neither _do I
say_, I know the secrets _of God_, neither do I say unto you, Verily I am
an angel: I follow only that which is revealed unto me.” Indeed the more
closely and carefully I look into his words in comparison with his life
and acts, the more obvious do his candour and sincerity become. The more
obvious is it to me that although essentially the product of a grim and
petrified environment, he himself was unique. A man in advance of his
time and people. For deep down in the soul of him, the rich milk of
human kindness welled up out of the same eternal source from which he
derived his fear and veneration for the Supreme! Truly the Prophet and
spiritual ruler of the East and polygamy, as Christ stands for the West
and monogamy!

It was with these weapons, combined with the tenacity of an elastic and
imperishable patience, that Mohammed fought the Koreish and other
tribes, and it was with them he finally conquered. Had he been
insincere, there would have been no Islam. Had there been no spirit of a
divine moral conception such as he infused into the creed (which came
through him from the great fountain head of God and Nature), Islam
would have withered and perished from sheer exhaustion and debility.
From the standpoint of physical and moral purity, Mohammed was in every
sense an Essene. Not only therefore was cleanliness of the body an
absolute essential, but cleanliness of mind. Filthy immoral actions and
depravities that he knew existed, unjust violence and iniquities,
whether openly done or in concealment, were condemned and forbidden in
scathing terms as a violation of God’s express command. The sophistry
that would make an evil to be no crime unless found out, he denounced
with all the fiery ardour of his fervent nature. From God there was no
concealment. In his eyes it was a crime all the same--greater, in fact,
because of attempted concealment.



CHAPTER V

THE MATERIAL AND OTHER SIDES OF THE PROPHET’S CHARACTER


In refuting those sceptics who have doubted the truth and sincerity of
Islam, Carlyle condemns scepticism (rather too hastily it seems to me)
as an indication of spiritual paralysis. Most unquestionably he was
right in denouncing the former as an idiotic and godless theory. But
scepticism itself in a general sense is not necessarily an evil. On the
contrary, it is a natural tendency that arises out of the instinct of
curiosity. Knowledge is not an inert and passive principle, but an
active and dynamic force. Buckle in his history speaks of scepticism as
stimulating curiosity. But he has put the cart before the horse. It is
curiosity that excites scepticism. Curiosity is an animal instinct--the
basis of all science. It exists in the lower animal creation--scepticism
only in the upper human section. It is a higher or further development,
a tendency that is certainly strengthened, if not acquired through
education.

According to Lecky, “The first stage to toleration in England was due to
the spirit of scepticism encroaching upon the doctrine of exclusive
salvation”; and “the extinction of the spirit of intolerance both in
Catholic and Protestant countries--due to the spirit of rationalism--was
the noblest of all the conquests of civilization.” But as rationalism
itself is chiefly the consequence of scepticism and the result of
inquiry, it is obvious that in a deeply fundamental sense, the world is
very considerably indebted to science or the spirit of scepticism.
Indeed all knowledge has arisen from experience, and the desire to
search into the root of things--to know what is what. Without curiosity
and scepticism, human thought would have long since stagnated and the
world remained sunk in ignorance. As Ghazali says, “No knowledge without
assurance deserves the name of knowledge.” Seeing is not always
devouring. Curiosity is not necessarily gluttony, or “scepticism, that
curse of the intellect,” as Victor Hugo calls it. Gluttony is unnatural,
unwholesome, and bestial. It is not so much overdoing, as a flagrant
abuse and outrage of a natural appetite. It is a kicking against the
pricks--a flying in the face of Providence. But curiosity as an instinct
direct from Nature is healthy, therefore the use of it as also wholesome
stands in need of stimulus and encouragement.

So Tennyson said of Shelley:--

    “There lives more faith in honest doubt,
    Believe me, than in half the creeds.”

In this righteous sense Mohammed was curious. As one of her own
selection, Nature had specially endowed him with curiosity. He was one
of her human, sensitive plants. As an observer, all his senses were
developed and on the alert. He not only saw, but felt every vibration
that thrilled, as it were, the very soul of the first great mother. In
every flitting cloud, as in every fugitive thought, he was conscious of
an unseen Power. A look-out man rather than a prophet, it was thus he
groped or rather felt his way until he felt God. “I feel that there is a
God,” said La Bruyère, “and I do not feel that there is none: that is
enough for me; the reasoning of the world is useless to me: I conclude
that God exists.” It was in much the same vein of self-argument that
Mohammed communed to himself. Having felt God, God became for him a
necessity: more so even, an essential--an absolutism which banished all
else from his mind. The thought that there was no God did not occur to
him. But the thought that other gods could exist in the same universe
with the one omnipotence was to him as monstrous as it was unthinkable.
Besides Him there was no room for any other. The very thought in his
estimation perished from inanition and sheer inability of conception!
The trinity of Christianity was to him as impossible and unacceptable
as the antediluvian or later polytheism of his own countrymen.

All active minds are sceptical. Carlyle himself--although he appears to
have been unconscious of the fact--was himself a sceptic. But it was
peculiarly characteristic of the antagonistic dualism of his nature on
the one hand to hurl innuendoes, anathemas (and every kind of mental
brickbat that he could lay hold of) at what he called scepticism or
unbelief. On the other hand, to hold up belief as absolutely essential
to human existence. But like all theoretical crotchets, he carried his
philosophical speculations too far. In other words, he sometimes
overreached himself. According to his particular dogma, in his opinion,
the life of man cannot subsist on doubt or denial, it subsists only on
belief. But this is altogether beside the mark. Scepticism does not
necessarily imply doubt or denial. Belief itself cannot exist without
it. It is out of the ashes of scepticism that the immortal Phœnix of
belief arises. It is out of the doubt and denial of accepted doctrines
that all creeds (including Christianity and Islam) have grown into
being. The doubt engendered by scepticism is after all only an
investigation or leading into, an analysis of the nature of dogmas,
doctrines or creeds. It is an investigation that may or may not have a
result. It is but a search for or groping after the truth, as the
consequence of moral, intellectual or spiritual dissatisfaction. It is
also the desire to know, to find out the pros and cons of all the sides
to a question. The spirit or element of doubt is the necessary, the
essential precursor of improvement and progress. Hence the immense
importance and significance of Scepticism. It is the very sum and
substance of all human knowledge. As the acorn is to the oak, scepticism
is to knowledge--the seed from which has sprung up all we know, and ever
shall know. The ever fluent channel through which all the great
intellectual giants and reformers of the world have poured out the
glowing flash-lights of their intellect into the normal darkness of
human minds. It is the moral effluvium out of which our modern
civilization has constructed itself. Without it, the dense gloom and
black obscurity of ignorance would have reigned supreme. Confused,
chaotic, and enigmatic as the world now is--even in the full glare of
its sunlight--without it (if it were possible to imagine such a state)
the world would have been an enigma, a chaos and confusion worse
confounded. For scepticism is, as it were, the sun in all its glory, as
compared to the black oblivion of eternal night. If neither Luther nor
Mohammed had been sceptics, there would have been no Reformation and no
Islam. They did not take everything for granted. They were not satisfied
with things as they were. They looked into the heart of them and found
much room for improvement. They examined what they could, rejected that
which was spiritually objectionable to them, but made use of what was
most appropriate to their respective situations. It was only those
features that best suited the exigencies of the case that they were
prompt to lay hold of.

Yet Mohammed was not of vigorous intellectuality, nor in any sense an
original thinker. The constant repetition of formulas and reiteration of
the same ideas that occur throughout the Koran show this. It is
extremely probable that his mentality was at times overshadowed either
by neurasthenic tendencies, or a predisposition to melancholia, and this
was more than likely heightened by a life of excessive mental
concentration combined with asceticism.

But sincere as he was, Mohammed would not have been a true Arabian, had
he not been diplomatic. Thus the commencement of the fourteenth surah is
a clever but obvious device on his part; a meeting of his enemies with
their own weapons, a flinging back to them of their own words and
objections to the truth in their own teeth. It is clear too that here,
for the time being, he has resolved on a change of tactics and of front.
To prove to them that he is as of old the man to be trusted, he
endeavours to disarm their incredulity by his own outspokenness and
candour. As the sequel showed, he clearly demonstrates his own
perspicacity and knowledge of human nature. He saw that by arguing with
his countrymen, by always opposing their doubts with sophistry and
argument, would be of little avail--useless, in fact. Such a course
would but have encouraged and stimulated their opposition, on the ground
that their beliefs, as worth refuting, were also based on truth or at
least on strong evidence. Besides, Mohammed was painfully conscious of
his own disability and helplessness to convince them by the performance
of anything purporting to be miraculous. That on occasions he displayed
artfulness and guile--duplicity, in fact--is not to be denied. The
invention, e.g., of his night journey from Mecca to heaven viâ
Jerusalem, was one of them. When he gave out that Gabriel had revealed
to him the conspiracy that had been formed against him, which through
ordinary means he had discovered, was another of these pious frauds. But
after all, what are these trifles compared with those that in their
myriads have been perpetrated by the great Church of Christendom? What
are they as compared to a long life of strenuous sincerity, great
nobility and earnest effort in the cause of humanity? It is impossible
to lose sight of the fact that in working for God, he was all the time
raising his countrymen from a lower to a higher level. Besides, the
necessity of dissimulation, which is one of the heaviest taxes on a
king, and the prerogative of a priest, is one of those idiosyncrasies
that human flesh being heir to, even a prophet cannot at times escape
from. We are reminded of the phrase: “Qui scit dissimulare, scit
regnare”--He is a ruler who can conceal his thoughts--attributed to the
Emperor Sigismund by that cultured and ambitious but false and subtle
Pontiff Pius II, known as Æneas Sylvius (Pius Æneas): also the identical
answer that Louis XI is said to have made to those who urged him to give
his son Charles a better education, in order that the boy might in his
day become a good king.

It was not only that Mohammed’s enemies were sceptical of his powers and
his mission, but they mistrusted his intentions. This, indeed, to a
sincere and earnest man like himself, was a bitter pill; a pill he found
it hard to swallow. For he was conscious of his own sincerity, and as
time went on, an increasing following gave him greater confidence in the
reality of his mission. Indeed in proportion as his self-confidence
developed, his conviction in the power and unity of God became an ever
increasing quantity. This increasing consciousness of God’s power and
his own sincerity had the gradual effect of making him bolder and more
aggressive, so that this outspokenness was a direct outcome of it, until
at last Mohammed felt that it was his duty not merely to announce
“Islam”--“_the true Faith_,” but to enforce its acceptance on the
people. This, of course, as we know, was after his flight to Medina.
True his own people, the Koreish, had driven him out with scorn and
violence, had cast contumely and dishonour on him, by rejecting the
word, while strangers had hearkened unto him and accepted it. It is
equally true that the sustained vindictiveness shown by the Koreish was
sufficient in itself to excite the spirit of retaliation, even in a man
of Mohammed’s patient and tenacious character. But suggestive as this
may be, it is quite certain that he acted on conviction in assuming the
offensive. It is obvious, too, that in doing so, he felt that he was
acting under divine compulsion. In any case, we must allow that “a man
is really of weight in the balance of Fate, only when he has the right
on his own account to cause men to be slain.” In Mohammed’s case,
however, if conviction counts for anything, his right was a divine
right. According to Dumas: “In human nature there are antipathies to be
overcome--_sympathies which may be forced_.” (The italics are mine.)
“Iron is not the loadstone; but by rubbing it with a loadstone we make
it, in its turn, attract iron.” This may be, but it is not in reality
so. It is but a mere figure of speech that the great novelist makes use
of, and which he puts into the mouth of René, the poisoner, in support
of some theory or argument. It is, of course, possible that antipathies
may be overcome by sympathy. This, however, depends entirely on the
power of the one and the weakness of the other. But sympathy cannot be
forced. To endeavour to force sympathy is to attempt the unnatural. The
most that can be expected from such a cause is dissimulation. This
certainly was Mohammed’s experience. Although ultimately he and his
successors forced the word of God on these his inveterate enemies, he
never succeeded in forcing his sympathies upon them. Death and Time
alone accomplished what his own personality failed to do. Through the
victory he gained by them, he now lives enshrined in the sanctified halo
of a sympathy that, emanating from every Moslem heart, forms with his
own the great and throbbing soul of Islam.

But Mohammed was not only spiritual. He, like every human being, had a
material side to his character. Not only was he a preacher and a
prophet; not only was he a lawgiver--a law and a light unto his people
to this very day; but as one who himself rigidly practised self-denial
and economy and condemned extravagance, who possessed the organizing
ability to administer the estate of others, and who could command
preferably in peace, but if necessary in war, he was a statesman and an
economist. Unquestionably too he looked ahead--he made provision for the
future. His whole apostolic life was one long and arduous preparation
for coming events. As an instance of this, the ordering of the yearly
pilgrimage to Mecca was as much a political as a religious ordinance. By
this measure of policy--this master stroke of psychologic insight into
human eventualities, Mohammed showed his natural genius. For without a
doubt he aimed at preserving to Arabia the point and focus of a
religious centre, that would make for national consolidation and unity,
and serve as the sacred réduit and rallying ground for the world of
Islam. So too he showed his capacity for system and organization in
legalizing the fifth part of all booty and property confiscated to be
paid into the public treasury. In the same way he insisted on the giving
of Zakat or alms for charitable purposes, apart from those contributions
he received from his followers for maintenance. In making these
ordinances appear as divine injunctions, Mohammed showed no more
insincerity or inconsistence than he did in claiming the whole Koran as
a series of revelations. The political and economic factors were as much
a radical part of his entire design, as the religious. The one could not
exist without the other. Statesman as he was, he recognized that
religious unity could only be firmly established through political
co-operation, and that to secure national stability the sinews of war
were essential.

It is all through quite obvious that he had the trading instinct of his
people. In any case the training he received at the hands and in the
employ of his uncle Abu Talib, as well as the subsequent management of
Khadija’s business, had imbued him very powerfully with business
principles and practical ideas. Abu Talib, like his father and
grandfather before him, carried on a considerable trade with Syria and
Yemen. He carried to Damascus, to Basra and other places in Syria, the
dates of Hijaz and Hijr, and the perfumes of Yemen, bringing back with
him in return the products of the Byzantine Empire. Mohammed, as is
known, accompanied him, and without doubt laid the foundation of an
economic experience, that subsequently proved valuable.

Commerce has always been the greatest of civilizing factors. According
to Buckle: “Among the accessories of modern civilization there is none
of greater moment than Trade.” So too Hallam says: “Under a second
class of events that contributed to destroy the spirit of the Feudal
system, we may reckon the abolition of villenage, the increase of
commerce, and consequent opulence of merchants and artisans, and
especially the institution of free cities and boroughs. This is one of
the most important and interesting steps in the progress of society
during the Middle Ages, and deserves particular consideration.” But this
is all the more important as showing that trade was in reality a more
powerful factor for civilization than Christianity, which after several
centuries of hold on the people of Europe, had done little more than
inflame them with a zeal and a zest for fighting. It is significant also
that while Rome rose to her greatest eminence under the Ancestral
worship of her founders, when she became Christian, Christianity did not
prevent her from declining and falling into pieces. But it is equally
significant that while the opulence conferred by commerce on Rome,
eventually brought reaction and ruin upon her people, the effect it had
upon the barbarians who overthrew the Eternal City, was sufficiently
stimulating to encourage them to invade a degenerate empire. For the
desire of wealth and plunder was but the first awakening of the spirit
of commerce. To be sure the crusades gave a great stimulus to trade.
But there was more of the militant spirit than Christianity about them.
Besides, although commercial prosperity often accompanies war, reaction
is certain to supervene. Obviously the essential importance of trade was
a truth that the Merchant-Prophet soon recognized. Intuitively, and with
the keenness of perception that marked him, he naturally utilized every
lesson that it taught him and every advantage that it gave him. Nor has
he been the only theologian who saw its utility in a religious light.
The Jesuits long afterwards recognized the agency of commerce in
promoting and diffusing religious belief, and became great merchants as
well as great missionaries. So too it was through commerce, as Draper
points out, “that the Papacy first learned to turn to art. The ensuing
development of Europe” (in the Renaissance) “was really based on the
commerce of _upper_ Italy, and not on the Church. The statesmen of
Florence were the inventors of the balance of power.”

Quoting from Syed Ameer Ali’s _Spirit of Islam_, Fihr, surnamed Koreish,
a descendant of Maad--who flourished in the third century--was the
ancestor of the tribe that gave to Arabia her prophet and legislator.
This fact, trifling as it may appear, is, however, remarkable, if not
significant. For this word “Koreish” is derived from “Karash,” to
trade; and it appears that Fihr and his descendants were always devoted
to commerce. From this it is safe to assume that trading was an inherent
instinct in Mohammed.

This apart, to him personally Islam was a something more than a mere
creed or belief. It was God’s own religion sealed and delivered to him
by God. Not to deliver it to his people as commanded, not to carry it
through--by persuasion first of all, by fire and sword if man’s
obstinacy and rejection of it made it necessary--would mean that he had
failed in his duty to the Most High. The sense and spirit of duty was
stronger in Mohammed than in Nelson. In him it was not simply an active
and vital principle. It was an impelling force. So inseparable from God,
that to him it appeared as God Himself. But with him God always came
first. His duty to his country was subordinate to his duty to his Maker.
His duty to Him, therefore, was his duty to his country. So in surah xi.
he says: “O my people, do ye work according to your condition; I will
surely work according to my duty,” i.e. according to God. In numerous
passages he points out that God was absolutely averse to profusion and
extravagance, equally so to meanness. True liberality in his opinion
consisted in the happy mean between the two extremes. “And waste not
thy substance profusely; for the profuse are brethren of the devils: and
the devil was ungrateful unto his Lord” (surah xvii.). Again in the
sixth, “But be not profuse, for God loveth not those who are too
profuse”; and in the following the economic instinct shows itself most
significantly: “O true believers, consume not your wealth among
yourselves in vanity; unless there be merchandizing among you by mutual
consent.” Once more Mohammed demonstrates his great profundity and
insight into the character, the customs and traditions of his
countrymen. All Oriental and African nations from time immemorial have
been notably extravagant, especially in regard to marriage ceremonials
and funeral rites. Even to this day among the Hindus and most African
tribes, it is a code of honour, a sacred injunction of their religion,
to spend profusely on marriage and burial feasts. Indeed this is
frequently done to the impoverishment, and, in the latter case, even to
the ruination of whole families or households. The Arabs, it appears,
were no exception to this. At the same time they were a curious blend of
meanness and extravagance. To Mohammed, rigid economist as he was, and
inspired to the core by the duty that had been intrusted to him, this
prodigality was a great sin. Not only did his countrymen squander away
their substance in folly and luxury, but they were particularly guilty
of extravagance in killing camels, and distributing them by lot merely
out of vanity and ostentation. Worse even than this, they were given to
the destruction of their female children. Against this evil Mohammed
sternly set his face. This in itself shows his great moral superiority
over his countrymen. It shows also the possession of a higher and more
refined yet practical intelligence, that was able to grasp the economic
possibilities which were bound to ensue from the preservation of female
children. Essentially an Arab patriarch at heart (which he in some
measure proved by his marriages), Mohammed, however, was still more
essentially a Humanist. With the moral greatness of a good man, and the
mental perception of genius, he felt and recognized that it was against
all the laws of God to destroy the fecundity of and the productive in
nature. Thus it was that he placed the divine tabu on the abuse and
destruction of all that was beneficial to humanity, but especially on
men, animals and the produce of the earth.



CHAPTER VI

A BRIEF SUMMARY OF MOHAMMED’S WORK AND WORTH


Taken as a whole, the Koran is certainly not a work of literary art.
Mohammed, in a literary sense, was neither a poet nor a writer. He was,
as he says of himself, only an illiterate apostle. This, from an
artistic point of view, is of course regrettable. In his mother tongue
he had a rich and splendid medium. A language of high philosophical and
poetical character, that “follows the mind,” as Burton says, and gives
birth to its offspring: that is free from the “luggage of particles”
which clogs our modern tongues--leaves a mysterious vagueness between
the relation of word to word, which materially assists the sentiment,
not the sense of the poet. A language too that luxuriates in “rich and
varied synonyms, illustrating the finest shades of meaning,” that are
artfully used--“now scattered to startle us by distinctness, now to form
as it were a star about which dimly seen satellites revolve.” Finally
which revels in a wealth of rhyme that leaves the poet almost
unfettered to choose the desired or exact expression. Undoubtedly in a
literary sense, here at hand, was a mighty and magnificent weapon. A
quiverful of musical arrows, quivering as they waited for the poetic
muse--the fine frenzy, the seething imagination, the running ready
fire--to launch them forth into the humming haunts and hearts of men.
But in no sense was this Merchant-Prophet a knight-errant. Kindly and
tender as he was towards women and children, he was not addicted (as his
countrymen were) to chivalry in any form. The race of heroines of Al
Islam had no attraction for him. The “Hawa (or ‘Ishk’) uzri,”
“pardonable love,” of the Bedawin, a certain species of platonic
affection, did not exist for him. He had no room for such trivialities
in his life. It was too serious and pre-occupied. Too much occupied with
the affairs of his Master, and worldly business matters that had to be
attended to. So that he had no time to waste on such pleasantries.
Trifles that were as light as air in contrast to the stern and deadly
realities of existence. Yet without doubt he must have attended the
annual fairs that were held at various places, at “Zul Mejaz,” at Majna,
and at Okadh. The latter, Syed Ameer Ali tells us, was a place famous in
Arab tradition. It was the Olympia of Yemen. The fair held here in the
sacred month of “Zu’lkada,” was a great national gathering. A sort of
“God’s truce” was then proclaimed. War and the shedding of human blood
was forbidden. To it came merchants with their wares from all parts of
Arabia and other distant lands; also the poets and heroes of the desert.
These (many of whom were disguised from the avengers of blood feuds in
masks or veils) recited their poems, displayed their literary talents,
and sang of their glory and their prowess. But Mohammed’s aims and
inclinations did not lie in this direction. He was too much of a working
philosopher to be a mere poetic dreamer or play actor. His genius lay in
his profound earnestness, his great moral strength, his capacity for
work, his political foresight and acumen, his iron will and his
inexhaustible patience. It is certain that he believed (in the
philosophic principle) that “everything comes to him who waits.” For he
himself says: “Wait therefore the event, for I also will wait it with
you.” Obviously he was imbued with the same tenacity, and many of the
imperturbable characteristics of the camel of his own Arabian deserts.
Unquestionably he knew how “_to wait_,” recognized that the essence of
all human wisdom lies in this single feature, and that the greatest, the
strongest and the most successful is he who waits and watches. It was
thus that he waited with the unvarying purpose and pertinacity of a man
who knew and appreciated his own value at its proper worth. For he felt
in every nerve and fibre of his consciousness, that as God makes no man
or no thing in vain, the future must have some (great) thing, some great
prize, in reserve for him. We know what that prize was. We know also
that it only came to him after a life of unwearied toil, and assiduous
devotion to his great and noble purpose, and then only in reality
through the moral and spiritual victory which death gave him.

Yet, in spite of its artistic defects, Mohammed’s work turned out, as we
know, into a success that even he himself could never have anticipated.
But in a spiritual sense, judging merely by results, the Koran has lost
nothing because of its lack of literary art and beauty. Had it gushed
all over with the eastern music of the Songs of Solomon, had it arrested
the attention by the same aphoristic wisdom of the Proverbs, thrilled
its readers by the recital of a tragedy so intensely powerful, so
realistic and majestic as the drama of Job, and appealed to them through
the joys, the sorrows and the grand poetry of the Psalms! Had it, in
fact, sparkled all over with those beauties of language and metaphor
that distinguish the Bible, the result that it might have attained could
scarcely have been greater than that which it has accomplished without
these trappings. It is, in fact, probable that it might have lost. It is
just possible that what it would have gained as an ornate work, it would
have lost in sincerity. The Koran, in fact, was essentially the
offspring of Mohammed’s own unique personality. This, as I have tried to
show, was the peculiar outcome of his dual environment--the frowning,
rugged and arid aspect of stony mountains and sandy wastes, plus the
commercial and political instincts that were inherent as well as
developed on his trade journeys and at the various towns and marts which
he visited. Nevertheless there was in this Semitic Puritan, as there is
in almost every Arab, a certain rugged vein of poetry--the wild song of
freedom--that bursts out here and there. But only now and then like the
thunderstorm that is so great a rarity in the desert. For the gravity
and over-concentration of his thoughts on the one definite object,
oppressed him so weightily, that it left no time for others. Just as
fast as rain is swallowed up by the parched and thirsty sand after a
long spell of drought, so his soul, thirsting as it did after God,
gulped and kept down the poetry and sentiment at bottom of him. All the
same, if a book is to be gauged by its net results--by the effect it has
produced on all that is deepest and best in human nature--then the
Koran must necessarily take high rank as one of the world’s greatest
works. In much the same way, only in another and more material
direction, the _Wealth of Nations_ has also left its impress on the
shaping of human destinies.

Mohammed’s sincerity and fixity of purpose is a fact we cannot get away
from. It is this which has chained his followers as with the sure cord
of God to the Faith. Islam, in a word, is a creed of practice not
theory. By practice it was formed. On practice it has lived. It was
because Mohammed practised what he preached, that the small seed of his
original idea blossomed at last into the mighty “Igdrasil” of the
East--the great banyan tree of existence. Verily this sun-burnt son of
Arabia Petræa was a tangible reality and no desert simulacrum. A reality
that lives in the soul of Islam. A reality that will endure until the
end of all things human. It is not manners that maketh the man. It is
man that makes the manners. It is the nature that is around him, the
nature that is in him, and that comes out of him as mental and moral
energies, that makes the man. Town bred as he was, it was the desert in
all its naked and silent grandeur that made Mohammed, that inspired him
with all the might and majesty of God, and turned him into a prophet.
Yet it was his career as a trader and the inherent tribal instinct that
developed the political element in him. As Longfellow says: “Glorious
indeed is the world of God around us; but more glorious is the world of
God within us. There lies the land of song, there lies the poet’s native
land.” But in Mohammed’s case, as in the case of all great workers and
thinkers, the world that is around us, is the world of our inner
consciousness. The two are synonymous if not one. Only with him the
native earth was religion, and he was the Prophet, not the Poet of it.
“It is Nature’s highest reward to a true, simple, great soul, that he
gets thus to be _a part of herself_.” It was thus with Mohammed.
Thought, though changeable, is eternal. It never dies. So the one idea
that possessed Mohammed now possesses (differing only in merely
superficial degrees) some two hundred and fifty millions.

Carlyle is mistaken, certainly much too premature, when he says: “Even
in Arabia, as I compute, Mahommet will have exhausted himself and become
obsolete, while this Shakespeare, this Dante may still be young; while
this Shakespeare may still pretend to be a priest of mankind, of Arabia
as of other places, for unlimited periods to come.” Religion is
entirely an universal matter, Thought a question of environment. Roughly
speaking, the world of Thought is divided into two camps of east and
west. To the former belongs Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam; to the latter
Christianity and the growing cult of Rationalism. It is impossible to
predict or in any way to foreshadow any fusion of these hostile
elements. The day when humanism--i.e. the religion of humanity, as the
natural product of her highest intellectual effort--shall have fused and
humanized all the nations of the Earth into one great civilized family,
is too far distant and beyond the present scope of human speculation.

If men are to be regarded especially as to the weight and power with
which they operate on the minds of their fellow-men, then this
camel-driving trader must without question be estimated as a great
man--a man a long way above his fellows. Assuredly too it is chiefly
through the Koran that his great and God-like thoughts, crystallized
into greater motives and actions, have filtered down through the events
and developments of thirteen centuries, as a purifying, fertilizing, and
elevating factor.

Looking at him and his work from every aspect, Mohammed was not merely a
heroic prophet. He was much more. A king and a leader of men. A ruler
and a judge over them. If we are to judge of him, to take him for what
he is worth, by his work--the rich ripe fruit of his rare and strenuous
effort--the Koran on the one hand, and, on the other, the mighty
spiritual force he has left behind him in the Church of Islam, we must
pronounce him to have been a great and remarkable man. A man who, when
his true value is understood and appreciated, will stand out in history
as a political and religious reformer of a virile and heroic type. A man
who will be regarded in even a greater light than he now is, when
humanity shall have become less denominational and more rationally
humanitarian. In reality Mohammed was an ultra great man. The difference
(as it appears to me) between other great men and himself was wide. The
ordinary type of great man--a John Knox for example--is a patriot
essentially. He is for his country first, then for God and humanity. As
I have shown, with Mohammed it was just the reverse. An Arab by accident
of birth, he put God and nature before everything. It was this that made
him a humanist; this that placed him before his age. For Mohammed,
without a shadow of a doubt, was centuries before his age. In his God
concept, in his rejection of the ancient myth of immaculate conception,
in his refusing to acknowledge Christ’s divinity, he was essentially a
modern--a modern of the twentieth century. It was this catholicity
therefore that made Islam blossom into a spiritual energy that embraces
so many national units.

Mohammed fought with all his might and main. In exact proportion to his
labour he has prevailed. Prevailed over the issues of life and death.
Death had no terrors for him. Life alone was full of terror--i.e. of the
fear of God. In death there was no sting. In the grave there was no
victory. Death but killed the mortal part of him. The spiritual it has
increased and multiplied out of all proportion. The present soul of
Islam is the spirit of Mohammed. Only when this exhausts itself will
Islam wither and die! To this day he is, and for many æons to come he
will be in spirit, the ruler and judge over Islam. In spite of sects and
theological speculators, as long as Islam lasts, his spirit will
continue to preside over its destinies. His spirit lives in the spirit
of the creed that he bequeathed as a divine legacy to humanity--i.e. to
those sections of it which have been nurtured in the system and
adoration of the Patriarch. For though the material part of him is dead,
the spiritual still speaks with a voice that is myriad-tongued. As God’s
word, there is a sanctity in the Koran for every Moslem that exceeds
the reverence of the Christian for the Bible, as much as the fiery
splendour of the sun surpasses the cold pale glamour of the moon--which
is but a shadow, a pale reflection of the substance and reality. There
is, in fact, on the part of the Moslem a veneration accorded to the
Koran that practically equals the veneration of the African or the Irish
for their land. Compatible with this, there is for the Moslem but one
Prophet. As God’s chosen agent for the dissemination of His word,
Mohammed stands alone and aloof on a pinnacle that is humanly
unapproachable. Many faults have been imputed to him, many charges
brought against him. To the average, indeed even to the educated
Christian, Mohammed is nothing but the very strangest compound of right
and wrong, of error and truth, the abolisher of superstition according
to his own showing, yet a believer in charms, dreams, omens, and jinns.
But what of all this? Does not reasoning such as this itself prove how
very inconsequent and inconsistent is man, even though he be a European
and a Christian? Is not superstition of the same kind as rife at this
very moment in Europe, nay in the very centres and strongholds of
Christendom? What about the ikons, the charms, the amulets, the sacred
relics and the images of the Greek and Romish Churches? Is not this but
a form of materialism which itself is a phase or part--a very large
part--of Nature? Did not superstition (derived from “super,” above or
beyond measure, and “sto,” to stand) originally imply excess of scruple,
or of ceremonial observances in religion? Did it not describe a
superfluity of worship that exceeded what was either enjoined or
fitting? What does Cicero say of it in his treatise on _The Nature of
the Gods_? (I quote from an old translation): “Not only Philosophers,
but all our forefathers dydde ever separate _superstition_ from true
religion. For they whiche prayed all day that theyr children might
overlyve (superstites essent), were called _superstitious_; which name
after was larger extended.” Is not this thing we call superstition--this
belief in the super or rather outside natural as distinguished from the
vague and merely vulgar absurdities that are so common--but the result
of inherent instincts that humanity, as simply one form of natural
development, derives direct from Nature? Is not this Naturism more or
less developed in us all--more in the ignorant, less in the educated,
and least of all in the scientist; the sceptic who knows most, because
he has looked and searched more into the truth and reality of things;
because he has learnt by experience, fact, knowledge, therefore a
greater intelligence to discriminate which from what and why from
wherefore? In any case, does not the fact that Mohammed was
superstitious all the more clearly prove that he was no mere vulgar
designer who practised self-deception and pretensions with regard to his
mission, but that he was thoroughly sincere in believing himself to be
the specially selected Apostle of the Great Designer and Controller of
the universe?

But it is not to Mohammed’s faults that we must look. All great men are
moulded out of faults. It is in his virtues and greatnesses--and they
are many--that we will find the true man. In this Carlyle was a right
guide, and showed his own breadth of mind and greatness. These prove
Mohammed to have been one of humanity’s greatest constructors. It is
true that he destroyed, but on a small scale comparatively in proportion
to the immensity of his constructive labour. As evidence of this, the
physical, the moral and the spiritual wealth of Islam speaks in round
numbers and solid realities. In another of his great romances, Dumas,
speaking of John Knox, says: “He who had raised such a storm had need to
be, and he was, a Titan; indeed John Knox was one of those men whom
great religious and political revolutions invariably beget. Born in
Scotland or England during the Presbyterian Reformation, they are
called John Knox or Oliver Cromwell; born in France, in the time of
political reform, they are called Mirabeau or Danton.” Mohammed was, in
every sense of the word, more titanic than a Cromwell or a Mirabeau. He
was not by nature or at heart a destroyer. When he destroyed it was only
because his hand was forced by the crass and obstinate antagonism of
those upon whom his sincerity and persuasiveness had aroused an envious
and deadly hatred. The whole aim, end and object of his existence was to
develop the adoration and religion of God. The storm he raised was
conjured into being by the God that obsessed him. Hence the soul and
constructiveness in it. Hence the mighty spirit of Islam, measurable
only by a soul capacity which has never ceased to expand and develop. No
sane man surely can deny that Islam was and is a great work? The moral
figs and grapes that she has achieved are not such as could have been
gathered from the thorn and thistle of human effort. Yet curiously
enough, as I have shown, the environment in which it was born was
strangely stern and sterile! This, however, is one of those natural
anomalies that we would do well to leave alone. One of those paradoxes,
those mysteries which Nature teems with, that are altogether beyond
human comprehension.

Whether or not he had made a study of the Socratic precept “Γνῶθι σεαυτόν”
“know thyself,” Mohammed knew himself as thoroughly as it is possible for
a man to do. Early in life he took his own measure. Gauged his own strength
and weakness. Estimated the breadth, the length, and the depth to which he
could go. As a result of this moral estimate, he felt that his resources
without God were as slender as a broken reed buffeted by storm winds. He
knew that his real strength lay in the knowledge and power of God and of
Nature. The temperament and character of the Psalmist--he who looked on
God as the strong tower and rock of his defence, his refuge, not however
in time of trouble alone, but at all times--was strongly developed in him.
The genius of the whole Semitic race was centred in Mohammed. It was this,
amounting as it does to the sublimest egotheism, that gave him confidence,
then conviction. It was this righteous conviction that carried him as it
were on the wings of the wind--immortal breath and soul, as he pictured
it--of the living and eternal God. Through this feeling he converted the
innate fear and veneration that inspired him into the hand and power of
the Almighty. If genius implies a keen psychological insight into the
nature and inner consciousness of life’s issues, added to inexhaustible
energy, capacity for work and patience, then Mohammed was a genius.
Certainly, if we accept Buffon’s definition of genius, as, “but a greater
aptitude for perseverance,” he was without doubt a genius of the highest
degree. The founder of a faith--one of the greatest the world has
produced--spiritual commander of the faithful, his genius was
essentially moral and religious. His whole life was one long labour of
love and devotion to achieve his object, i.e. to proclaim God to the
nations of the earth: the first half of it passed in secular work but in
silent contemplation; the second half, itself divisible into two
periods, twelve years of persuasion, followed to the close by active
aggression and battle.

Impulsive, passionate, and spontaneous Mohammed may have been, for like
all great leaders he was many-sided. But in no sense of the word can
Islam be said to have been the outcome of spontaneity. On the contrary,
it was in every way the result of calm and deliberate reflection, of
long and continuous contact with the forces and phenomena of Nature; but
above all of an unceasing concentration and communion with the unseen
power that controls them. Stretching over some twenty years, it went on
uninterrupted by domestic cares or trade transactions. All these were
secondary matters and had to give way to the central idea that occupied
his whole mind, that revolved around his work and his thoughts, as the
earth gyrates about the sun. His centre of gravity was God. This gravity
formed his character, gave him courage and endurance in all his trials
and afflictions, counselled and guided him in his ordinary vocations. It
was this gravity and concentration that commanded the respect and trust
of all who knew him and came under his magnetic influence.

But Mohammed was not infallible. Dogma--everything human in fact--is
open and liable to error. Even infallibility itself--as we speak of
it--is fallible. As Draper so aptly remarks: “He who is infallible, must
needs be immutable.” In many of the ordinary ways of life he was no
doubt changeable and inconsistent. He was, after all, only human--but
not with regard to the Faith. Here was he as firm as a rock, and showed
a fixity of purpose that nothing could shake or alter. With him, “Life
was but a means to an end, that end, beginning, mean and end to all
things--God.” Only synchronous with this ruling principle was the idea
of national unity. Never once did he falter or swerve from it. To this
allegiance and fidelity of his to God and centralization it is possible
to trace the devotion of Moslems to their Faith. “We are, as we often
say, the creatures of circumstances. In that expression there is a higher
philosophy than might at first sight appear. Our actions are not the pure
and unmingled results of our desires. They are the offspring of many
various and mixed conditions. In that which seems to be the most voluntary
decision, there enters much that is altogether involuntary--more perhaps
than we generally suppose.” This was very much the case with Mohammed.
He was largely the creature of circumstances--the personification of his
environment. It was the genius of this that entered into and obsessed
him. That formed and swayed him as it willed. That made him as strong
and inflexible as itself. That, combining with the commercial knowledge
and experience he possessed and the political acumen he acquired, made
him what he was. Here in a tiny nutshell lies the kernel and origin of
the soul of Islam. The possibility that Mohammed was rather of Caucasian
than Ishmaelitish descent, in reality makes little if any difference in
the psychological analysis of his character. Fundamentally, human nature
is human nature all the world over. In this respect racial and colour
distinctions make no difference. Even moral and physical characteristics
are merely superficial classifications. Inherent tendencies, strong and
rooted as they are, may be amended or modified by environment. So that
although it is vaguely possible that his moral courage and other mental
features were of Caucasian origin, in the main he was essentially
Semitic in character, patriarchal in principle, and humanistic in
spirit. In Lecky’s opinion: “If we take a broad view of the course of
history and examine the relations of great bodies of men, we find that
religion and patriotism are the chief moral influences to which they
have been subject, and that the separate modification and mutual
interaction of these two agents may almost be said to constitute the
moral history of mankind.” This most certainly has been the case with
regard to Islam. Religion was the medium chosen by Mohammed for the
furtherance of his truly imperial design. It was entirely through
religion, or rather the interpretation he placed upon it, that he built
up first of all a natural patriotism, then an international spirit, that
expanded into the mighty creed of Islam. Prior to this, Arabia as he
found it was narrow to an extreme. The only patriotism--if patriotism it
can be called--was clannish and communal. Outside these stilted limits,
every one was regarded with suspicion, contempt, indifference, and
invariably with undisguised hostility. Yet the great and solid
foundation of this splendid spiritual and temporal empire was laid by
one man. But how great and how heroic! Indeed, “take him all in all, the
history of humanity has seen few more earnest, noble and sincere
‘prophets,’ men irresistibly impelled by an inner power to admonish and
to teach, and to utter austere and sublime truths, the full purport of
which is often unknown to themselves.”



CHAPTER VII

MOSLEM MORALITY AND CHRISTENDOM’S ATTITUDE TOWARDS ISLAM


The better to gauge the present political aspect of the Moslem world,
the statesmen of Europe--of France and Great Britain more
particularly--should make an earnest study of the spirit of Islam. If we
regard Islam as the work of Mohammed--as we are bound to--there are
certain broad features we must also recognize. Right away from its very
inception he worked not only as a prophet, but as a political reformer.
Travelling as he did with his eyes, ears and all his senses open, the
political state of the eastern portion of Europe and the western side of
Asia must have been well known to him. To accomplish his religious ends
was impossible without the political unity of Arabia. To him the
political and religious unity of his country were synonymous. As a
shrewd and practical trader, the material advantages of commerce were
taken into consideration. He recognized that without a sound commercial
basis and political unity there could be no national stability. He also
saw that in a country like Arabia, split up into clans and communities,
it was only possible to effect this through the spiritual potentialities
of the one and only true God. If he did not himself accomplish this
great project, we know at least that it was the magnificent legacy he
bequeathed to his followers in the spirit of Islam, that eventually did
so in reality. He or the spirit he evoked was clearly and unmistakably
the cause of all subsequent Moslem triumphs, intellectual and political
as well as religious. Thus it was that scarcely eighty years after his
death, Islam reigned supreme over Arabia, Syria, Persia, all the
northern coast of Africa, including Egypt, as well as Spain. So, too,
notwithstanding the internal schisms and rifts that subsequently took
place, it kept on growing with great strides, until at last in 1453, the
Crescent gleamed from the spires of St. Sophia at Constantinople, and
the soul-stirring war cry “La ilah illa Allah” resounded seventy-six
years afterwards before the very gates of Vienna. Lecky is undoubtedly
right in assuming that: “To trace in every great movement the part which
belongs to the individual and the part which belongs to general causes
without exaggerating either side is one of the most difficult tasks of
the historian.” But in the case of Islam there can be no mistake. True,
the Arabs in themselves were a great and virile people. But it was the
genius of Mohammed, the spirit he breathed into them through the soul of
Islam, that exalted them. That raised them out of the lethargy and low
level of tribal stagnation, up to the high water mark of national unity
and Empire. It was in the sublimity of Mohammed’s deism, the simplicity,
the sobriety and purity it inculcated, the fidelity of its founder to
his own tenets, that acted on their moral and intellectual fibre with
all the magnetism of true inspiration. To them Islam was the Faith--the
Faith God.

Just as Christianity stands for the faith of the great European family
of nations, Islam stands for those countries whose political
institutions are still based on the Patriarchal system. But
Europe--however superior her peoples may think themselves--is not in the
position, and certainly cannot afford, to look down upon Islam as an
inferior product of an inferior section of the great human family. East
may be East, and West, West--the system of one represented by polygamy,
of the other by monogamy. But because Christianity is conformable to
European ideals and notions, it does not in the least follow that it is
compatible with those of the East. Because the civilized net result it
has effected has eventually proved greater than that achieved by Islam,
is no evidence whatever of Islam’s worthlessness or decadence. It is
not the spirit of Islam that has failed, but the people who believe in
it. They have fallen away from the high ideal that was set them by their
master. In this respect, however, Christianity has also degenerated. It
is a creed of profession more than of practice. It has never
consistently practised what it has preached. A very wide gulf divides
its practices from its ideals. “If to do were as easy as to know what
were good to do, chapels had been churches and poor men’s cottages
princes’ palaces. It is a good divine that follows his own instructions:
I can easier teach twenty what were good to be done, than be one of the
twenty to follow mine own teaching.” So Shakespeare. This holds as good
now as when he wrote it. Human nature never alters fundamentally. It is
the same to-day as it was yesterday, and as it will be unto all
eternity. Christendom much more so than Islam, is split up into sects
and denominations, and there can be no question about it that the chief
obstacle to unity among these various bodies at the present moment is
want of sincerity and earnestness!

Compared with the average Moslem, the average Christian too is certainly
lukewarm. The nearest approach to Moslem perfervidness is in the piety
of the Irish Catholics. But devotional as they are, even this falls far
short of the rigid practice of the true Moslem. Not only, however, is
he fervid and in downright earnest, but he is above all constant,
faithful, and consistent to the principles of his creed. Thus, although
there is no fatherhood about Allah, there is for all that a true and
real brotherhood in Islam which contrasts very favourably with the
professed brotherhood of Christendom. Colour or race, for instance,
makes no difference to it. Islam, in fact, is above all such petty
differences. She draws no hard and fast rules, has no such violent
antipathies, bigotries and prejudices as Christendom. Professes little
but practises much. Colour in her eyes is no disgrace, no bar to God,
much less therefore to human fellowship and assimilation. This, as we
know, is not the case with Christians. To them colour and race (as
witness in the United States of America) is an impassable barrier, that
is more insurmountable even than the great wall of China, over which
they find it impossible to step.

There are in nature, as Novalis endeavours to explain in his
philosophical romances, many realities and verities, the truth or
essence of which cannot be grasped by the cold and critical intellect of
man. Only by and through the sympathetic intuition of feeling can truths
such as these be known or understood. This is indeed so. No matter how
hard and material we may be, however thoroughly scientific; no matter
how high we may place reason--even on the highest pinnacle of human
attainment, there are times when the emotions overpower and dominate it.
There are times when reason, even in its calmest and most calculating
moments, is simply inundated and overwhelmed by the flood-tide of human
feelings. In any case it is clear that although in the abstract it is
impossible to detach or even insulate thought from feeling and feeling
from volition, these three--feeling, thought and will--act, and often
co-operate together, in every mental causation. But it is just as
difficult for a system to free itself from its own peculiar
idiosyncrasies and prejudices as it is for an individual to dissociate
himself from his motives. It is exactly the same with regard to Islam
and Christendom. The latter has allowed its prejudices and its feelings
to obliterate or to stultify its reason. It does not know, it does not
understand Islam. Merely because it does not want or makes no effort to
know or to understand it. Because it has no sympathy with it. Because in
place of sympathy it is in reality antipathetic. Yet while professing
toleration, Christendom does not hesitate to despise and condemn Islam.
To Christendom, Islam is a mere creed and abstraction--a creed beyond
and outside its cold and autocratic pale. A creed belonging to another
world and heaven than its own. A creed of colour and of sombre shades,
nay even of gloom and darkness, blood, fire and sword, when the crescent
and green flag of the Jihad is hoisted; a creed which is not to be
thought of in the same breath as the snow-white fabric of the
transcendent cross.

The fact of the matter is, that Christendom in the earlier days of
Islam, jealous and fearful of her younger and more vigorous rival,
always recoiled from Islam under the veil of a self-satisfied cant, as
from a monstrous monstrosity of the most vicious and immoral type. A
form of “Moloch horridus,” bristling all over with polygamous
excrescences, and cruel sharp-pointed spines, ever ready to thrust their
awful venom into the unoffending human species. Yet if only Christendom
had long ago cultivated the virtue of patience, and the breadth and
depth of mind, to look into the matter, she would have discovered--as
those sceptics who have done so have discovered--the pure and
unadulterated truth. She would have found, that as the Moloch horridus
of Australia conceals an inoffensive character under a weird if
repulsive exterior; so Islam, under an outward form which bigotry and
prejudice have exaggerated out of all shape, possesses a moral and
spiritual value beyond all cavil or question. Islam no doubt has its
faults and many of them. The position of women is not perhaps as it
should be. The law and the practice of divorce is a real blot on her
system. Education is at a low ebb. The custom of the separation of
sexes, of which polygamy and divorce are the necessary outcome, are
undoubtedly pernicious. It cannot, of course, be expected that young men
and women who have never met or associated, and whose marriages are
arranged for them, can have any exalted ideas or feelings on the subject
of love. It is not possible that young men who have never felt the
refining influence and the moral restraint of female society, can
possess either chivalry or a high ideal, with regard to an element
unique in itself. Nevertheless, contrary to received European opinion,
there exists for all that a very real and hearty affection and a warm
sympathy between Moslem husbands and wives. What is more, this affection
and sympathy will possibly contrast quite favourably with the family
devotion of most European countries.

With regard to women, however, the social system, it must be admitted,
is less successful. It leaves room for improvement. The institution of
female slavery is distinctly a blot. The lot of the Moslem girl morally
and socially is not so much unhappy as neglected. Her ordinary education
is practically negative; the religious part of it is regarded as
superfluous. But it is a popular fallacy, as I have already pointed
out, to attribute to Islam the doctrine that women have no souls.
Unfortunately, however, the idea prevails generally throughout Europe
that these precious possessions are ignored by modern custom: that the
fair sex is not encouraged to pray either in private or in public. It is
believed, too, that the vigorous ritual prescribed for the male members
is considered sufficient for both. So that Moslem women by ignoring the
one neglect the other, with consequences that are morally and physically
disastrous. But these are not by any means the real facts of the case.
Personally, of course, I cannot speak of such matters from experience.
Isolated and secluded as the women of Islam are, and their privacy so
rigorously guarded by a ring fence of stringent rules, it is not
possible for the European to give an adequate opinion thereon. But
according to the reliable authority of so eminent a Moslem as Syed Ameer
Ali, and others, the women among civilized Moslem communities know their
prayers and religious duties just as well as the men--and are devout and
pious--more so perhaps than the other sex. As to their cleanliness, it
is beyond question. Yet in spite of so many obstacles--no education,
seclusion, and a generally defective training--the women are not
unhappy. They are on the whole as fully occupied (in their own way of
course) and as well cared for as the women of Europe.

The fact of the matter is, Islam is suffering from mental stagnation,
from the inevitable reaction that always succeeds a long period of
active development. The Arabs, in a word, have had their day. With
regard to education generally, the teaching is of a stereotyped pattern.
There is no freshness or originality about it. Moslem studies have, in
fact, lost all or most of their vitality. “The bloom of Arab culture has
long been brushed away, and there now remains only a hollow kernel.” But
it is after all by her virtues and not her defects that we must appraise
the true value of Islam. Most unquestionably she has great and redeeming
features. The throwing of stones or of mud is at best an injudicious
proceeding. Apart from this it is undignified and unworthy of so high a
civilization. It is not for Christendom to throw stones any more than it
is for Islam. Indeed, in this respect, Europe could well take a leaf out
of the book of Moslem self-restraint and dignity. Moslem society, too,
may compare very favourably with European. Taken in the mass, the
polygamous Moslem is every whit as moral--more so in fact--than his
English, French, or German contemporary. In a great measure polygamy is
much more a theoretical than a practical institution. Not one in twenty
Moslems has even two wives. In any case it is not in the proper and
legitimate practice of polygamy, but in the abuse of it, that the evil
lies. On the whole there is no promiscuous immorality among the
followers of Islam. Drunkenness and prostitution are practically
non-existent. In towns where Europeans have made them a necessity, they
are always worse. Abstinence and sobriety are not only professed but
practised. In these respects the young Moslem certainly stands above his
contemporary in Europe. Marrying early as he does, he knows nothing of
“the wild oats” that are so promiscuously and so religiously sown by the
youth of Europe. He sows no rank or noisome weeds for his children’s
children to reap a gruesome harvest. As far, therefore, as the male sex
are concerned, the social system of Islam is certainly more moral and
wholesome than that of Christendom.

The cult of Mormonism, as it has existed and still exists in Utah State
and Salt Lake City, is a problem that should set all statesmen thinking!
As a psychological conundrum and from a rational standpoint, it is a
most interesting question. It confronts us with a dual anomaly! First of
all by the enforcement of a sociological system in distinct opposition
to, and in defiance of all ethnic conditions. To make the anomaly all
the greater, the religious part of this cult is founded on a palpable
sham. There is not even about it the possibility of reality that always
exists at the back of many ancient myths.

The so-called revelation of Joseph Smith, is the clumsy imposture of a
man who in no sense of the word was either great or sincere. It is
unquestionably the work of one or more persons who initiated the
movement in their own self-interests, and to cloak principles that were
at complete variance with Christian doctrine and European opinion.
Mohammed, as we know, did not receive any revelation “on the eternity of
the marriage covenant, or the plurality of wives.” This, according to
Mormon statement, was reserved for Joseph Smith alone. As a great
statesman and prophet, Mohammed recognized polygamy to be an ethnic
condition, therefore wisely did not interfere with it. Any radical
innovation in this direction would have been more than a political
error. As a revolutionary measure, it would have completely upset the
entire fabric of Arabian and Eastern society. A pandemoniac
topsy-turveydom would have been the immediate consequence. The
death-knell of Islam, the direct result. Yet the very personal god of
Joseph Smith was so very short-sighted or painstaking that he sanctioned
absolutely a mere matter of domestic arrangement and economy. Could any
two extremes present a wider and more striking contrast? Is it possible
even to compare the splendid sincerity of this sublime creed of
self-surrender to God--the soul of which came direct from all that is
great in nature--with the thin transparency of what at best was a poor
attempt at fiction, which emanated from the mentality of a human
mediocrity? Is it justifiable to mention them in the same breath?

Yet in spite of these startling contradictions, it is quite certain that
the Mormon State, in an economic sense, is a prosperous, flourishing and
thriving community. Its people too are orderly, well-behaved,
law-abiding and industrious. From a moral and social standpoint, there
is no fault to find with them. The anti-polygamic legislation of the
United States Government, although it has recently been enforced with
much greater severity than at first, has not stamped out polygamy. Does
this or does this not demonstrate that polygamy--which in the eyes of
Christendom constitutes one of the chief offences of Islam--is not the
crime it is represented to be? Is it, in fact, a crime at all? Does it
not prove that only the abuse of it, as the abuse of any, even a good
thing, is wrong? But that the actual system itself as an ethnic
condition peculiar to certain racial sections of mankind, is nothing but
the outcome or evolution of sociologic customs and usages?

To contend as all the Mu’tazilite doctors do that Islam is not a
polygamous system because it only tolerates a limited polygamy under
stringent conditions which tends to monogamy is but a metaphysical
quibble. It is but an attempt to split a hair. It does not alter the
fact that when a system permits more than one wife, and its founder
sanctioned four, it is certainly not monogamous. Such an argument will
not hold water for even a moment. It is but a mere contention--“a bone,”
as the Persian proverb says, “thrown to two dogs,” a palpable piece of
sophistry. It is but the begging of an obvious fact, a reality that can
neither be avoided nor eluded. As Burns so very happily puts it:

    “But facts are cheels that winna ding
    An downa be disputed.”

From theories such as this, Islam can derive no benefit. Just as in a
broad sense she can suffer no disparagement from the fact that she
countenances polygamy, she can afford to dispense with any such
apologies. It is always a sounder principle to look truth in the face,
even if that truth is unpalatable. However much civilization or the
march and progress of events may ultimately modify polygamy, the actual
custom itself was but an outcome of circumstances and conditions that
at the time were inevitable and did not (as they do not now) imply a
crime against or subversion of natural laws. To stigmatize a system that
time and usage have sanctified for thousands of years, merely because it
offends _the easily outraged feelings of a super-sensitive Christendom_,
or even on other grounds, is, to say the least of it, undignified. To
impute a crime to the thing itself is almost, but not quite, on a par
with the theology that pronounces a child to be the product of a sinful
act. If the cause is sinful, the effect must also be sinful? Such a
theory is certainly unnatural, if not monstrous! It is a perversion of
that Nature from which we ourselves have evolved, and of that God or
First Cause from which all causes and effects have proceeded.

Regarding this question from the broadest of standpoints, there is no
need of an apology. Contention such as that of the Mu’tazilite doctors,
casts too much of a reflection--an insult almost--on the great spirit
and the splendid traditions of Islam. It is altogether unworthy of her.
The fact of a polygamous system did not in one whit detract from the
splendour of the empire that was built upon Mohammed’s virile creed,
although the subsequent abuse of it may possibly have done so! Even
admitting that monogamy is an improvement on polygamy, the Christian
Faith was yet young when Mohammed first founded Islam. Thirteen hundred
years make a vast difference in the aspect of social progress and
development. And as I have already pointed out, even Mohammed, with all
his great power and influence, dared not have upset the corner-stone
upon which the entire social fabric of the Patriarchal system was based.
However great he was as a Prophet, he was much too great a statesman to
have even spent a thought on an innovation so startlingly radical and
revolutionary.

But Christendom in the mass has never rationally considered this
question from a broad-minded and liberal aspect! The attitude of its
missionaries towards the great Moslem Church is, to say the least of it,
uncalled for and unjustifiable. Their irrational arrogance and
aggressiveness is only exceeded by their psychological ignorance of
Islamic spirit and morality, added to an overweening egotism, blind
bigotry and narrow sectarian prejudices. In a dual sense their attitude
is offensive in the extreme. Offensive because it is hostile as well as
impertinent. To attempt the conversion of Islam is a liberty that
amounts to licence in face of its utter futility. This in itself
demonstrates an ignorance of ethnic conditions on the part of European
statesmen and missionaries that is as amazing and preposterous as it is
deplorable. So, too, to denounce Islam, as Christian missionaries do in
no unmeasured terms, in books, on platforms and in the pulpit, is surely
unpardonable--surely a reflection on civilization. Christianity will
never convert or supplant Islam. As long as the one lasts the other will
endure. From the most catholic of standpoints, from a religious, a
social, a political, and an economic sense, it would be sounder and more
politic to leave Islam alone. It would be more to the point if Christian
missionaries devoted their energies to the bottom dogs of the slums of
their own European cities, and to rescue the poor helpless infants who
in their thousands are being slowly done to death through vice and crime
that is worse than bestial. Unquestionably there is in our own European
system a moral cancer that is just as virulent as any that Islam can
produce. This indeed is a question that European statesmen should turn
their attention to. For more than anything, it is this onslaught on the
strongholds of Islam by Christendom, that explains the Moslem menace.
The one, if it exists, is but a counterblast to the other.

It is an indisputable fact that in China and in various parts of the
world, the high-handed interference and injudicious zeal of Christian
missionaries--outrunning all discretion, tact, and common sense--has
frequently been the cause of war and bloodshed. Is this, I ask,
compatible with Christian tenets and professions? Do not practices such
as these fall far short of the high ideals that are so consistently
flourished in the face of those who are outside its pale? Do they not
bring moral discredit on a great creed, and tend to reduce it to the low
level of mere and fulsome cant? But one small specimen of this open and
undisguised hostility will suffice. In the _X. Y. Z._ of July 24, 1908,
under the heading in large type of “ISLAM THE ENEMY,” appears the
following: “At the annual meeting held in connexion with the Church
Missionary Society at Harrogate recently, the Rev. W. Y. Potter said:
‘The calls which are most urgent are perhaps those to combat advancing
Mohammedanism in West Africa, to direct the new desire for learning in
China, to protect the Japanese nation from Agnosticism, by gathering in
the millions in these lands into the folds of the Christian Church.’”

A sentence like this speaks for itself. It is self-condemnatory. It
condemns the speaker and the whole system which advances and encourages
such narrow and vicious methods. It condemns, too, a journalism that
gives such poor and unworthy utterances a place, even as a mere “Fill
up.”

Islam is not an enemy. It is Christendom only that makes her so. It is
that craven conscience, which finding in her a teacher and a worker of
solid worth, has aroused the envy and malice of the ever jealous
theological spirit, which has invariably been responsible for so much
war and bloodshed. It is a relic of the same militant envy that, burning
with fury throughout the Dark Ages, fired the Crusades to a very great
extent. A cramped and dogmatic spirit such as this does not surely
represent the true spirit of modern Europe, which is presumably rational
and reasonable, and consistent with the genius of progress and
advancement. There is no real and spontaneous Moslem menace. Even,
however, if there is, it is but the re-echo of these aggressively
Christian sentiments. It is but the answer to a challenge, as
undignified and contemptuous as it is aggressive and defiant. Islam, I
repeat, is not an enemy, but a co-worker with us in the great and
glorious cause of uplifting humanity from a lower to a higher
civilization. Islam has neither intention nor design of encroaching upon
the spiritual preserves of Christendom. Further, she has no itching wish
to do so. Her leaders have the common sense to recognize that
Christendom is separated from her by ethnic laws and social customs that
are indivisible. She is only too willing; all, in fact, she asks, is to
be left alone to work in her own sphere of influence. Is it not
possible, then, for a Christendom professing so vast a moral and every
other kind of superiority, to meet her half way, to make a truce or
compromise to the effect that each should work in its own legitimate
sphere? A pugnacious method such as she pursues towards Islam is as bad,
worse in fact, than a thousand red rags to an infuriated bull. For like
the unfortunate victim in a Spanish bull-fight, tormented to its death
by matadors, piccadors, torreadors, and a host of other “dors,” Islam is
beset and heckled by the frothy vapourings of theocratic firebrands, and
the unbridled licence of Europe’s gutter press.

The origin of Islam, as I have described it, is in itself evidence of
Islam’s moral and spiritual stability--of that part of her which has not
deviated from, but clung to the spirit of her great Founder. But even
allowing for denominational deviations, Islam in the mass is truly
devout.

The two creeds represent two absolutely divergent sections of humanity.
Unquestionably in a social, moral and religious sense, Islam is Islam,
and Christendom, Christendom. To remedy this divergence, to bring the
two sections together, enters into the impossible.

A natural arrangement such as this cannot be interfered with or altered.
Defective as it is from a human aspect, it is all the same
irremediable--a hiatus as wide apart as the suns in space, beyond the
power of human effort to bring together. It is only possible for the
rational gospel of humanism, the great religion of natural sympathy, to
heal the breach. This it can only do by turning humanity into one great
human family. This alone would sweep away the disturbing factors of
creeds, denominations, and sects. But is such a thing possible?
Scarcely! Certainly not so long as the egotism and egotheism of man is
so predominant a force in human sociology, or so long as the present
physical and mental environments of the two sections remain the same.



CHAPTER VIII

EUROPE’S DEBT TO ISLAM: ETHNIC SPHERES OF INFLUENCE


But apart from all these weighty considerations, the attitude of Europe
towards Islam should be one of eternal gratitude, instead of base
ingratitude and forgetfulness. Never to this day has Europe acknowledged
in an honest and whole-hearted manner the great and everlasting debt she
owes to Islamic culture and civilization. Only in a lukewarm and
perfunctory way has she recognized that when, during the Dark Ages, her
people were sunk in feudalism and ignorance, Moslem civilization under
the Arabs reached a high standard of social and scientific splendour,
that kept alive the flickering embers of European society from utter
decadence.

Do not we, who now consider ourselves on the topmost pinnacle ever
reached by culture and civilization, recognize that had it not been for
the high culture, the civilization and intellectual as well as social
splendour of the Arabs, and to the soundness of their school system,
Europe would to this day have remained sunk in the darkness of
ignorance? Have we forgotten that the Mohammedan maxim was that, “the
real learning of a man is of more public importance than any particular
religious opinions he may entertain”--that Moslem liberality was in
striking contrast with the then intolerant state of Europe? Have we
forgotten that the Khalifate arose in the most degenerate period of Rome
and Persia, also that the greater part of Europe lay under the dark
cloud of barbarism? Does the magnificent valour of the Arabs, inspired
as it was by a theism as lofty as it was pure, not appeal to us? Does
not the moderation and comparative toleration shown by them to the
conquered, notwithstanding the fierce and burning ardour to regenerate
mankind that impelled them onwards to conquest, also appeal to us? Does
it not all the more appeal to us, when we contrast this with the
bitterness of the attitude of the Christian sects towards one another?
Especially when we consider that in Christendom as it was then
constituted, extortion, tyranny and imperial centralization, combining
with ecclesiastical despotism and persecution, had practically
extinguished patriotism, by substituting in its place a schismatic and
degenerate church.

Is it not obvious that in her outlook on Islam, Europe has overlooked
her own Dark Ages--that awful period of intellectual oblivion which
commenced with the decline of classical learning subsequent to the
establishment of the barbarians in Europe in the fifth century, and
continued down to the Renaissance, i.e. towards the end of the
fourteenth century? Is it too not evident that she has lost all
recollection of the torn and disturbed state of Christendom even in the
middle of the fifteenth century when the Renaissance was in full swing,
or had at least run half its course? How few Europeans there are who
know the name of Æneas Sylvius--fewer still who can remember the
striking and vivid picture he has drawn of the state of Europe in those
days of dawning intelligence! Yet this prelate, afterward Pope Pius II,
sums up the then European situation in a curious but concise and
explicit document--a species of state paper dated 1454. Possessing as he
did a personal knowledge of Europe, and being a man of great natural
shrewdness and power of observation, Æneas Sylvius was of all men then
living the best qualified to describe the state of affairs at this
period. So that his observations are not only significant, but entitled
to weight and consideration.

Discussing the prospects of the projected crusade, he praises warmly
Philip of Burgundy for his readiness in the matter, then gives his
reason for concluding that the Diet at Frankfort must be a failure. For
there is no real unity in Christendom; neither Pope nor Cæsar is duly
reverenced or believed in; they are but feigned names or painted
effigies--each state has its own king: there is a prince to every house.
Italy is disturbed, Genoa being at feud with Aragon; nay, worse, Venice
has actually a treaty with the Turk. In Spain are many kings, all
differing in power, government, aims and opinions. There is even war too
there about Granada. France is still looking uneasily across the Channel
at England, her old foe, and England watches France. The Germans are
divided, without coherence; their cities quarrel with their princes;
their princes fight among themselves. Luxemburg is a cause of dispute
between the King of Bohemia and the Duke of Burgundy.

Is it possible that Europe is unmindful of, and has the ingratitude to
ignore, the splendid services of the scientists and philosophers of
Arabia? Are the names of Assamh, Abu Othman, Alberuni, Albeithar, Abu
Ali Ibn Sina (Avicenna), the great physician and philosopher, Ibn Rushd
(Averroes) of Cordova, the chief commentator on Aristotle, Ibn Bajja
(Avempace) besides a host of others, but dead letters? Is the great work
that they have done, and the fame they have left behind them in their
books, to be consigned to the limbo of oblivion, by an ungrateful
because antipathetic Europe? Does the work of Alhazen, author of optical
treatises, who understood the weight of air, corrected the Greek
misconception or theory of vision, and determined the function of the
retina, count for nothing? Do we owe no tribute to a great thinker such
as Ghazali, who in speaking of his attempts to detach himself from his
youthful opinions says: “I said to myself, my aim is simply to know the
truth of things, consequently it is indispensable for me to ascertain
what is knowledge”? It cannot be that already we have lost sight of the
amazing intellectual activity of the Moslem world, during the earlier
part of the “Abbasid” period more especially? It cannot be that we have
quite forgotten the irrecoverable loss that was inflicted on Arabian
literature and on the world at large by the wanton destruction of
thousands of books that was prompted by Christian bigotry and
fanaticism? It cannot surely be said of Christian Europe that for
centuries now she has done her best to hide her obligation to the Arabs?
Yet most assuredly obligations such as these are far too sacred to lie
much longer hidden! Let Europe--Christendom rather--confess and
acknowledge her fault. Let her proclaim aloud to her own ignorant
masses, and to the world at large, the ingratitude she has displayed,
and the eternal debt she owes to the Islam she no longer despises. Open
confession is good for the soul, and only a confession such as this can
wipe off the black stain which has for so long besmirched her fair fame.
Let Christendom once and for all recognize that the greatest of all
faults is to be conscious of none--that acknowledging a fault is saying,
only in other words, we are wiser to-day than we were yesterday. Only
through magnanimity such as this can she claim redemption. For she must
surely know that “injustice founded on religious rancour and national
conceit cannot be perpetrated for ever.”

Let me endeavour to make my meaning somewhat clearer, by means of two
simple illustrations--the one belonging to the eighteenth century, the
other to the twentieth. “How many great men do you reckon?” Buffon was
asked one day. “Five,” answered he at once; “Newton, Bacon, Leibnitz,
Montesquieu, and myself.”

Some five to six years ago, the present German Emperor, in giving his
views on divine revelation and manifestation, is said to have expressed
himself as follows: “To promote man’s development God has revealed
Himself in man, whether he be priest or king, whether heathen, Jew, or
Christian. So in Moses, Abraham, Homer, Charlemagne, Luther,
Shakespeare, Goethe, Kant, and the Emperor William the Great, whom God
thus sought out to achieve imperishable results. His grandfather often
said that he was an instrument in God’s hands.”

Comment on my part of any kind would be but an insult to the intelligent
or sympathetic reader. But the way in which Islam is studiously ignored
in both cases is surely significant and luminous. These are but two mere
examples taken at random, but they are typical of European arrogance,
egotism, and her general attitude of supercilious apathy towards the
Moslem world. After all--even when an enlightened emperor is
concerned--it is but a step, and a short quick step, from the sublime to
the ridiculous.

In Europe’s own interest it would in the end repay her statesmen to
treat the world of Islam with greater sympathy and toleration, also with
but ordinary justice. These remarks apply more forcibly of course to
Great Britain and France. From the standpoint of the highest
statesmanship, these two states should utilize the power they possess
towards the attainment of this wise and politic object. Instead of
permitting any such impolitic measures (as e.g. those made by Christian
missionaries to proselytize) they should, by every means that lies
within their power, advance, encourage, and stimulate the work of Islam
in its own proper and legitimate sphere of influence. Reflection will
remind them that intolerance or persecution in any form, as the history
of Christianity itself proves, always aided, but never deterred, the
development of any creed. These facts alone ought to recommend the study
of Islam to all British statesman. But in addition, I would point out to
them one feature that is worth looking into. This is, that the same
blend of materialism and spirit, the same desire for unity, cohesion and
construction, which characterized Mohammed’s efforts, have operated also
in the building up of the British Empire. It is practically out of these
forces, but under different aspects and conditions of social and
physical environment, that England has expanded into Greater Britain.
Given the same conditions and environment, and the same vigorous people,
and there is no knowing what the true spirit and fervour of Islam might
not have effected. Remember that the soul of Islam, as the Prophet left
it, did not lack in spiritual stamina. The lack of it has been in her
disciples, who have found it difficult to live up to the rigid standard
that was set them by their Lord and Master. In a great international or
rather intercreedal question such as this, it is highly impolitic to
make comparisons, more especially when the creeds in question represent
a sphere of thought and a sociological system so widely divergent as
Islam and Christendom. All the same, there are facts that the latter
should be reminded of. Throughout its great and growing history,
particularly its earlier career when fanaticism was excusable, militant
and violent as she has been, Islam never descended to so hateful a
system as the diabolical Inquisition, never stained the great soul of
her Faith by ruthless and bloody massacres such as those of the
Albigenses, Waldenses, and St. Bartholomew. On the contrary, she showed
a spirit of religious toleration that was as rational as it was
remarkable. Indeed under the Ommiades of Spain (755-1031) this was in
every sense greater, higher and wider than that which prevails at
present in modern Spain. It is true of course that Ma’mun, one of the
Abbasid Caliphs, established in 833 A.D. a mihna or Inquisition, in
order to uphold the rationalism of the Mu’tazilite doctrine against
orthodoxy. But it was shortlived. For soon after his successor W’athik
is said to have officially abandoned rationalism; and in fourteen years
from its initiation, the cruel and bigoted Mutawakkil sternly put his
foot on it, and with it the Inquisition. This, however, was not an
Inquisition such as that of the Romish Church. In reality it was but a
council established with the object only of introducing rationalism
into the empire and to keep out reactionaries from the State Service. In
other words, it was but a “Test,” which was promulgated and administered
on the same lines and principles as the Test Act in England. Is it wise
then for the statesmen of Europe to ignore such weighty facts? Would it
not be more politic on their part to take cognizance of them? It is on
facts such as these that European policy in its relationship to Islam
should be based. It is only by making the study of universal history a
science that the politician can ever hope to become a statesman. This
means a thorough and comprehensive grasp of ancient as well as modern
history. Such a grasp alone will enable him to look into the future and
shape his policy. But to do so without a complete knowledge of Islam’s
history in the past, and the manifest part she has yet to play in the
history of the future, is to show an utter ignorance of statecraft, but
especially of that wider sphere of “welt politik” which bears the same
analogy to the former as, in military parlance, strategy does to
tactics. These shapers of the destinies of their various nations must
remember that Islam has done for the East, or rather for the world of
polygamy, what Christendom has done for the West or world of monogamy.
She has uplifted millions upon millions of human beings from a much
lower to a far higher scale of civilization. In Africa and in Asia she
has purified the primitive cults of their sacrificial abominations, has
introduced a better and humaner legislation, has encouraged commerce and
industries and established a more stable form of government. Finally,
she has exalted the supreme God, whose worship had practically fallen
into abeyance, to a pinnacle of solitary grandeur, and in this way
uplifted the people into a far higher moral and spiritual atmosphere. To
quote Stanley Lane Poole, she has given them “a form of pure theism,
simpler and more austere than the theism of most forms of Christianity,
lofty in its conception of the relation of man to God, and noble in its
doctrine of the duty of man to man, and of man to the lower creation.”
Islam, in fact, has done a great work. She has left a mark on the pages
of human history which is indelible, that can never be effaced--that
only when the world grows wiser will be acknowledged in full--in other
words, when the sun of knowledge shall have dispelled the black clouds
of ignorance. But Islam is still doing, and will continue to do, the
great work that her founder initiated. This is a work that Christianity
can never do. Islam too has a mission. But her mission is in quite
another sphere to that of Christendom. It is (and has for some time
been) the preconceived opinion in Europe that the power and influence
of Islam since the waning of her conquests have come to a standstill.
That morally and spiritually her influence is demoralizing and
corruptive--the bane, in a word, of those nations that she is
proselytizing. But this is not so. Never was a greater and more
unpardonable mistake made than this. An error rather than a mistake. The
wish but prompts the thought. There is still much moral and spiritual
vitality in Islam, therefore elasticity and power of expansion. In
Africa especially, among all the Bantu and negroid tribes whose
sociology is patriarchal, there is a great work for her to do. These
peoples by their whole social system and in every moral sense belong to
the sphere of Islam and not of Christendom.

To judge or even criticize Islam from a European standpoint is uneven.
To get her proper measure, Islam must be weighed from the aspect of the
ethnic basis upon which she rests. To compare one system by the standard
of another, it is only possible to arrive at a distorted or unequal
result. Islam can no more be judged by modern commonplace methods than
Europe can be judged on the same lines by Islam, or than Mohammed
himself whose splendid concept it was. The manners and morals of his own
time must also be taken into consideration. The two creeds of Islam and
Christendom have been built on different bases, and constructed out of
different material. The God of one is the God of universal nature. The
God of the other is a triform Being--a metaphysical trinity in unity.
Socially the Moslem is a polygamist, religiously he is an unitarian. The
European is just the opposite to this. Socially he is a monogamist,
religiously he is a trinitarian. In a word, the system of these two
great human divisions differ as much from each other as their foot gear.
That of the Moslem again conforms to nature. That is, his shoe is made
to fit the foot, which narrows at the heel, and splays out at the toes.
In Europe, on the contrary, the foot is made to fit the shoe, which,
wide at the heel, narrows into a point at the toes. How is it possible
then for two such widely divergent systems to agree?

But at least they can agree to differ. At least there is one broad base
upon which they can meet. On the grounds of a common humanity, on the
grounds of a common sympathy, by a common birth and a common death they
are equal. It is not for Christendom to hang back. Islam is quite ready
to meet her more than half-way. From the superior vantage ground of her
position, it is for her to hold out the right hand of fellowship. It is
for her to recognize the real worth of Islam. It is for her to respect
not to contemn her great coadjutor. For her to regard Islam, not as a
foe or even a rival, so much as a great and worthy co-partner with her,
in the work of civilization. From this reasonable and rational
standpoint the sphere of Islam’s influence should be wisely left alone.
For the enforcement of Christianity on races such as those of Africa,
for instance, whose system is patriarchal, can only end, as it has
already done, in their utter denationalization and hybridization. To
Europeanize and turn into Christians these sons of nature merely for the
motive of gaining converts is impolitic, if not immoral. It but makes
human mules of them. Wiser far to let them remain as they are. As well
try to turn camelopards into crocodiles or pythons into hippos, as
convert Africans into Europeans. Islam attempts nothing unnatural of
this kind--nothing that is opposed to ethnic conditions and sociological
usages. In her case she but develops the lama into the camel.

It is impossible, fatuous in fact, to ignore or even overlook the basic
importance of physical environment. Even science in this respect has
been backward, and very slowly recognized that geography is obviously
and essentially the basis of all history--i.e. of all human action and
development. The importance of climate and climatic changes on the
habits, customs, temperament and character of races, has never been
clearly and thoroughly realized. Not until this has been estimated and
appreciated at its true value, will it be possible for reason to
override the dogmas and bigotries of short-sighted and prejudiced
theology. But the day is fast approaching when this fact must be
acknowledged as a universal truth. Then only will Islam and other creeds
be appraised from an even and rational standpoint.

Even admitting that Islam has receded from Mohammed’s moral and
spiritual high water mark, this is all the more reason why the statesmen
of Europe should stretch out a helping hand to assist in raising her to
her former level. All the more reason why they should encourage and
stimulate her to higher aims and endeavours. This assuredly would be a
more dignified and statesmanlike proceeding than that which, if it does
not sanction, at all events permits the good name and fame of Islam to
be smirched with contumely, and to be held up before the world as a
standing menace to civilization. A course such as I have suggested, is
much more likely to bring about a better understanding and preparation
towards any possible fusion. On the other hand, the present propaganda
of active theological aggression and political indifference, is bound to
make the breach wider than ever with the ultimate certainty of
disruption. In face of such a climax there is but this one remedy. As a
moral and spiritual factor in the regeneration of humanity, Islam is
indispensable. In her own sphere she must not be interfered with. The
good of humanity is a higher cause to work for than the mere
glorification of creed and sect. The cause of humanity strikes wider,
deeper and higher than that of any creed or denomination. By working
towards this end, by sinking denominational differences in the common
stock-pot of humanity, the world at large and civilization in particular
will in the end gain ever so much more.

In speaking of Islam and of Moslems as I have done, I have spoken of
them as I have found them. Apart from a careful study of the Koran, my
knowledge of both is based on personal facts and experiences as varied
as they are extensive. In every clime and under a variety of conditions,
I have been in touch with Moslems of all classes and shades, and have
always found them animated by the same spirit--for race or colour makes
no difference to the spirit of Islam. Always consistent and devout,
always God-fearing and sincere as regards their Faith. Before all things
religious, their cult, the creed of Mohammed--i.e. El Islam or
self-surrender. Afghan, Arab, Baluchi, Hindustani, Somali, Turk,
Egyptian, Hadendowa, Berber, Senegalese, Fulani, Hausa, Yoruba,
Mandingo, Malay, I have found them in the main Islamic to the very
core. In peace or war, in camp and cantonment, working and fighting with
or against them, my experience of their moral consistency and spiritual
stamina has been the same. Brave to a fault, endowed with the reckless
courage of the Fatalist, fearless and contemptuous of death, their
fidelity to their Faith, their belief in the greatness of Mohammed, and
their veneration of God, is a something that once it is rightly
understood, can only be respected and appreciated at its true value. For
my part, seeing as I have their splendid heroism in their own cause, and
their touching devotion to those whose salt they have eaten, my feelings
towards them is not only one of unmixed admiration and respect, but also
of deep esteem and regard. Such men are worthy of Islam, as Islam indeed
is worthy of them. Only the soul--the moral and spiritual essence--of
Islam could have made them what they are, could have turned out of the
dregs of barbarism a human material so truly splendid.

With experience and facts such as these before me, I for one find it
impossible to forget, and only natural to acknowledge with candour, the
great and magnificent part that Islam has occupied in the history of the
world. In the intellectual strife of heroes who have wrestled and fought
for the truth and who for many centuries led the world, in the arena of
battle and of conquest where warriors have led the van, the sons of
Islam stand on a pedestal of their own making, that as the world grows
older and more enlightened, will stand out in all the greater
prominence. Stand out as men who have taken as great and heroic though
not so sustained a part on the stage of universal history as the giants
and heroes of Christendom.

Even in a study of this length it is in reality impossible to deal
exhaustively with a question so wide and extensive as this, which
requires a large volume to itself. But I have said enough, I trust, to
show that the value of Islam as a moral and spiritual factor in the
civilization of the world is very considerable. I hope too that to all
who are reasonable and rational in their views, I have shown, as clearly
and as concisely as it is possible to do within such narrow limits, that
the so-called “_Moslem menace_” is but the wraith of an over-heated
imagination--the bogie conjured up by a hectoring and arrogant
theocracy, backed up, unfortunately, by an indiscreet and tactless
Press, ever ready to exaggerate any piece of cheap claptrap into the
sensation of the moment. Always eager to lift up even garbage such as
this to the higher level of dramatic denouements, by giving undue
prominence to the unreliable froth and effervescence of irresponsible
and excitable cranks. In a word, by a process of moral aggravation that
is unworthy a great and liberal Press.

Finally, I have endeavoured to make it clear, that apart from motives of
honour and high principles and consistent with the dignity of the great
Aryan family, Europe should adopt towards Islam a policy of conciliation
and co-operation: if for nothing else, to avoid being hoisted by her own
overcharged and explosive petard. If I have done but this, then at least
my labour shall not have been in vain.

[Decoration]



ISLAM--CORRIGENDA.


P. 8, Foreword. In lines 3 and 2 from bottom, _united_ should read
_suited_.

On p. 57, line just above quotation, _could be still:_ should read
_could be: still--_

P. 87. In line 3 from bottom, _an an alysis of_ should read _an analysis
of_.



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This Advertisement is inserted in the hope of securing as private
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Codes used--A, B, C, 4th and 5th Editions and Lieber’s.


ESTABLISHED 1880.



Transcriber’s Note


Italics are indicated by underscores, _like this_.

The corrigenda were originally inserted before the Foreword; they have
been implemented, and moved to the end of the text for reference.

The advertisements were originally printed on either side of the title
page; they have been moved to the end of the text.

The following sentence, which seems to be missing one or more words, has
been retained as printed:

     Yet synchronous with this the man of ideas and ideals that he kept
     to himself however; that he divulged to no one.

Both “half way” and “half-way” are used.

The following typographical errors and inconsistencies have been
corrected:

    Title page:
    _“Personal Law of the Mohammedans,” etc_
    changed to
    _“Personal Law of the Mohammedans,” etc._

    Page 9:
    South American Guacho is not
    changed to
    South American Gaucho is not

    Page 9:
    adapted for idealistic minds.
    changed to
    adapted for idealistic minds?

    Page 27:
    the orginator of a new
    changed to
    the originator of a new

    Page 32:
    (an under rather than an over-estimate)
    changed to
    (an under- rather than an over-estimate)

    Page 33:
    God’s omnipresence and omipotence had made
    changed to
    God’s omnipresence and omnipotence had made

    Page 56:
    each a mighty voice,
    changed to
    each a mighty voice,”

    Page 56:
    blackness that prevades the very soul
    changed to
    blackness that pervades the very soul

    Page 57:
    grandeur and appaling sameness
    changed to
    grandeur and appalling sameness

    Page 66:
    truths are only found in the depths of the thought.
    changed to
    truths are only found in the depths of the thought.”

    Page 72:
    were much in repute, when both,
    changed to
    were much in repute; when both,

    Page 82:
    secrets _of God_ neither do I say
    changed to
    secrets _of God_, neither do I say

    Page 87:
    to hurl inuendoes, anathemas
    changed to
    to hurl innuendoes, anathemas

    Page 91:
    known as Aeneas Sylvius (Pius Aeneas):
    changed to
    known as Æneas Sylvius (Pius Æneas):

    Page 94:
    the sacred reduit and rallying ground
    changed to
    the sacred réduit and rallying ground

    Page 96:
    awakening of the spirit of commerce
    changed to
    awakening of the spirit of commerce.

    Page 103:
    I also will wait it with you.
    changed to
    I also will wait it with you.”

    Page 125:
    Islam, in fact is above
    changed to
    Islam, in fact, is above

    Page 130:
    In a great measure pologamy is much more
    changed to
    In a great measure polygamy is much more

    Page 134:
    all the Mutalazite doctors
    changed to
    all the Mu’tazilite doctors

    Page 135:
    that of the Mutalazite doctors
    changed to
    that of the Mu’tazilite doctors

    Page 139:
    She is only too willing, all, in fact,
    changed to
    She is only too willing; all, in fact,

    Page 146:
    ascertain what is knowledge?”
    changed to
    ascertain what is knowledge”?

    Page 147:
    “Newton, Bacon, Liebnitz, Montesquieu, and myself.”
    changed to
    “Newton, Bacon, Leibnitz, Montesquieu, and myself.”

    Page 156:
    other creeds be apprised
    changed to
    other creeds be appraised

All other peculiarities and inconsistencies of spelling, punctuation and
capitalisation have been retained as printed.




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