THE LIFE OF MOHAMMAD (PBUH) THE PROPHET OF ALLAH
BY E. DINET and SLIMAN BEN IBRAHIM
A Writing-lesson at a village school devoted to the Teaching of the Qur’an.
Say: O my people! Act as ye best can: I verily will act my part, and hereafter shall ye know!
THE MARCH OF ISLAM
At the very moment when fate had deprived Islam of its last prophet, the organisation of this renewed religion (handed down to the Ancient prophets consquetively, since Father Adam), the authentic Islamic Faith was was finally decively, definitively and meticulously arranged even in all its most humble practices, as set forth in The divine ‘Holy Qur’an’ (the only book left upon this planet authored by the CREATOR himself.
The soldiers of Allah had already conquered the whole of Arabia and the attack on the colossal empire of the Cæsars in Syria was begun. A short period of unrest, inevitable after the disappearance of the inspired guide, caused a few rebellions; but Islam was so strongly constituted, overflowing with such enthusiasm that it was about to astonish the world by its impressive forward march, unique perhaps in the annals of history.
For the first time, rushing forth from their country forsaken by Nature, the proud Arabs, stirred by the miracle of Faith, were about to become masters in less than a century of the best part of the old civilised world from India to Andalusia, and that despite their extreme numerical inferiority.
This marvellous épopée engrossed the mind of the most wonderful man of our time, Napoleon, who always manifested the most sympathetic interest in favour of Islam. During the Egyptian compaign, he declared that he was: “Muslimun Muwahhidun,” i.e. Unitarian Mussulman. (Bonaparte el l’Islam, by Ch. Cherfils.) Towards the end of his life, he returned to the subject: ‘He thought that apart from fortuitous circumstances, giving rise to miracles, there must have been something more than we know in the establishing of Islam; that the Christian world had been so remarkably cut into by the results of some first cause still hidden; that these peoples, perhaps, suddenly emerging from the desert depths, had endured long periods of civil war in their midst, during which great characters and talents had been formed, as well as irresistible impulses, or some other cause of the same kind.’ (Las Casas, Mémorial de Sainte-Hélène, iii, p. 183.)
Guessing, therefore, that beneath the slumber of Islam in decadence, there were incomparable reserves of energy, he tried, not once but often, to win it over by an alliance. If he succeeded, he deemed himself capable of awakening it and, by its aid, changing the face of the world.
Napoleon was not mistaken; civil wars had indeed exalted the heroic qualities of the Arabs, but they had made all organisation and progress impossible. Had it not been for the advent of Mohammad, these intrepid soldiers would have remained eternally in their deserts, solely absorbed by the obsession of hereditary feuds.
When Islam, abolishing pride of caste, birth, or race, made all Believers really brothers and endowed them with religious and poetical souls, based on equality, there was no exploit that these fiery-minded men, their hearts untamable, were incapable of performing. These treasures of combative energy, accumulated during centuries of civil war, were not the only means by which they overthrew so many peoples, all different and superior to them in culture at that epoch. The Arabs, likewise, had stored dream-treasures in their deserts, and these visions of an unpolished, though young people were about to be imposed on those peoples who, although educated, were old and worn-out.
We advise all those who may have doubts about the genius of the Arabs to look through a collection of photographs showing the edifices erected in every part of the countries they held in subjection. There is nothing more striking than the unity of type distinguishing these monuments from all other monuments in the world; and these buildings, with their remarkable family likeness, were set up in India, Turkestan, Persia, Syria, Turkey, Egypt, Barbary, Spain, etc., all countries essentially different and so peculiar, by reason of their characteristic genius, that the genius of Greece or Rome was never able to be grafted successfully.
The Arabs borrowed largely from those they conquered, often utilising their talent and even their muscles in order to build palaces and mosques; but Arabic dreams were thus always realised.
The exceptional originality of the Arab style resided in the fact that it was always imperiously guided by an art that was born at the same time as Islam. This art had no predecessors and offers us, as it were, the materialness of the Arabs’ ideal. It is the art of calligraphic decoration, applied to the glorification of the word of Allah, otherwise the verses of the Qur’an.
Even reduced to its own resources, this art of Arabic calligraphy is one of the most marvellous forms of decorative skill that has ever sprung from human imagination. It is perhaps the only science of ornament of which it may be said without exaggeration that it possesses a soul, for like the voice, it expresses thought. Owing nothing even to the most cultured parts of the outer world, its independence resembles that of music and seems like the stenography of the innermost beatings of the heart.
Look at the letters which spring swiftly and horizontally from right to left as if acting under the impulse of inward life. Then they whirl on their own axis in discreet or impassioned curves, and are next erect, coming to a sudden halt, fixed in perpendicular pride…. They soon start off again in their frenzied gallop, unrolling their flourishes, bestriding each other in delicious fantasy and causing the imagination to soar in wild dreams.
To follow the impulses of the reed-pen having traced these letters; and in order to enjoy the pure eminence of their form or the intense emotion of their curve, one need not be a past master of Arabic, or a subtile graphologist; any artistic mind can penetrate without any effort the secrets of their soul.
After having expressed the ideal of his nation with such perfection, the Arab calligrapher bent beneath his yoke—almost religious—everything that was destined to support or enframe it: architecture and other systems of embellishment, forcing them to yield to the sway of his shaping skill. Under this yoke, the heavy, hemispherical dome of Byzantium was improved by adopting the pure outline of the Saracen helmet. The curves of the commonplace arcade became those of the graceful ogive, or of the proud, far-extending arch. The vulgar towers were metamorphosed into elegant minarets, leaping towards the peaks of ecstasy.
Theological Students, in the Courtyard of Al-Azhar, the great Cairo Moslem University.
In short, the only system of decoration which, with the exception of Calligraphy, borrows nothing from Nature: geometrical ornament—from which the Greek and Latin races merely derived poor and frigid effects—became endowed with real life. Henceforward this decoration was significantly labelled as Arabesque and, following the example of its model, it tried skilfully to astonish the mind by straying in the midst of the most inextricable entanglements and unexpected transformations….
How precious are the creations of Moslem art! European amateurs nowadays outbid each other in golden offers for its vestiges, hoping through them to introduce into their homes a few gleams of the mirages that inspired their authors. Radiant stained-glass, variegated glassware, stuffs worked with gold or silver wire, sparkling silks, damaskeened, inlaid bronzes, exquisite miniatures in the dwellings of the West, do they not all sing the glory of Islam? Among all these treasures, connoisseurs already begin to prefer those of Calligraphy which animates the transcription of the divine verses by the delicate colouring of copies of the Qur’an, or of the thick enamel of earthware. By so doing, the buyers of Europe follow the example of Mussulman princes of the best epoch who, to possess a page of calligraphy by a celebrated artist, lavished madly as much money as is given in our time for masterpieces of painters. May not these sacred inscriptions, causing their new possessors to be thrilled with admiration by reason of the refined elegance of their form, reveal one day to their purchasers the sublime beauty of the Islamic soul lurking in these writings?
INFLUENCE OF MOSLEM CIVILISATION IN EUROPE DURING THE MIDDLE AGES AND THE RENAISSANCE
Even at a period when Europe was not inimically inclined towards Islam, it was dazzled by all its marvels and borrowed largely from the decorative and architectural genius of the Arabs. Deep research would soon prove that it owes much more to it than to Greek or Latin antiquity. Such a study would take us too far from our subject. We may, however, point out as a curious fact that, according to the historian Dulaure, Arab architects were employed in the work of building the Parisian cathedral of Notre Dame.
In the domain of science, the influence of the Moslems was just as fertile. To give an idea thereof, we cannot do better than summarise the opinion vouchsafed by Doctor Gustave Le Bon, in his remarkable work: La Civilisation des Arabes. (The Civilisation of the Arabs.)
“First of all, it must be acknowledged that it is to the Arabs that we owe entirely the idea of experiment and observation, the basis of modern scientific methods, overriding the authority of a master. This substitution is therefore not the work of Bacon, to whom it is generally attributed.
“After having established that the highest degree of science consists in giving rise to phenomena oneself and at will, the celebrated scientist Humboldt adds: “The Arabs reached to this height, which was almost unknown to the ancients.”
“The study of mathematics enjoyed overspread favour among the Arabs, and the progress accomplished in algebra metamorphosed that science to such an extent that its invention has been attributed to them. To them also are due the first application of algebra to geometry, and the introduction of tangents into trigonometry.
“Astronomy was passionately studied in their schools of Bagdad, Damascus, Samarcand, Cairo, Fez, Toledo, Cordova, etc., and their discoveries may be summed up in the following enumeration: introduction of tangents into astronomical calculation; construction of tables of planetary movement; strict determination of the obliquity of the ecliptic and of its gradual diminution; exact estimation of the procession of the equinoxes; and the first precise determination of the year’s duration. To them also we owe the ascertainment of the irregularities of the greatest latitude of the moon, and the discovery of the third lunar inequality, now called variation.
“In geography, the contribution of these bold travellers is most remarkable from a scientific viewpoint. They made those exact astronomical determinations which form the first foundation of cartography, and rectified the enormous errors of position committed by the Greeks.
“From the standpoint of exploration, they published accounts of travel which caused different parts of the world, scarcely suspected before them, to be known, and where no European had ever set foot. The sources of the Nile, running through the great equatorial lakes, are exactly set out on a map by Al-Idrisi, dating from the year 1160, and which were only discovered by Europeans during the second half of the nineteenth century.
“In physical sciences, the sum total of their discoveries is still more considerable. The following enumeration proves their importance: high attainment of knowledge in theoretical physics, especially in optics and in the creation of the most ingenious mechanical apparatus; discovery of the most fundamental bodies of chemistry, such as alcohol, nitric acid, sulphuric acid; and the most essential operation, such as distillation; application of chemistry to pharmacy and commerce, especially as regards the extraction of metals, the manufacturing of paper from rags, which they caused to take the place of parchment, papyrus, or Chinese silk-paper.
“They were probably the first to use the compass in navigation; at any rate, they certainly introduced this fundamental invention to Europe.
“To conclude: the discovery of firearms. In 1205, the Emir Yaqub resorted already to artillery at the siege of Mahdiyya; in 1273, the Sultan Abu Yusuf used cannons at the siege of Sijilmasa. In 1342, two Englishmen, Lord Derby and Lord Salisbury, were present at the siege of Algeciras, defended by the Arabs in the same way. These travellers, having witnessed the effect of gunpowder, took this discovery back to their country. It was through them that the English made use of it, four years later, at Cressy.
“In medical science, the Moslems followed Greek writers, and afterwards made most important progress. Nearly all the medical knowledge of Europe, at the epoch of the Renaissance, was borrowed from them. The remarkable progress they made in medicine, was in surgery; the description of maladies; materia medica; and pharmacy. They found out a quantity of methods, of which many—the use of cold water in typhoid fever, for instance—crop up again in modern times, after having been forgotten for centuries.
“Materia medica owes them numerous medicines, such as: cassia, senna, rhubarb, tamarinds, camphor, alcohol, ammonia, etc. They were the true creators of pharmacy. Most of the preparations still in use nowadays are due to them: syrups, emulsions, pomades, ointments, distilled water, etc.
“Surgery also owes fundamental progress to the Arabs. Their work served as a basis for the teaching of Faculties of Medecine until quite recently. In the eleventh century of our era, they knew the treatment of cataract by the lowering or the extraction of the crystalline; lithotrity; the treatment of hemorrhage by irrigations of cold water; the use of caustics; setons; and cauterization by fire. Anesthesia, of which the principal discovery is supposed to be modern, seems to have been known to them. As a matter of fact, they speak favourably of the use of tare before undertaking painful operations, so that the patient may be put to sleep until “loss of consciousness and feeling” supervenes.
“They had, likewise, implicit confidence in hygiene in medical treatment, and placed great reliance on the resources of Nature. Expectant medecine, which, at the present time, seems the last word of modern science, reasons exactly in the same way.” (Dr. G. Le Bon, La Civilisation des Arabes.)
In the domain of ideas, the influence of the Moslems had perhaps still more valuable consequences. Jesus preached equality and fraternity, but Mohammad was lucky enough to realise both among the Believers during his lifetime.
It would be absurd to maintain that his direct example served to guide the French Revolution which was not inspired by much of his levelling works. Nevertheless, the first attempts of this enfranchisement of ideas and the organisation of modern society on a new basis—and of this there is ample proof—resulted logically from his doctrines. Honour is due to a Mussulman philosopher, Ibn Rushd, or Averroes, who lived in Spain from 1120 to 1198, for being the first to introduce freethought—not to be confused with atheism—into Europe.
Averroes opposed the pure deism of Islam to mythological pantheism and Christian anthromorphism, and his ‘Commentaries of Aristotle,’ although vividly coloured with Mussulman tints, impassioned all independent minds in medieval Europe. Averroism, born of this enthusiasm, may be justly considered not only the precursor of Reform, but also the father of modern Rationalism.
The influence exercised by Mussulman customs over those of Europe was equally healthful. The Arabs joined most chivalrous manners to extreme religious tolerance.
“It was among the Arabs of Spain that the knightly spirit arose, and which was afterwards appropriated by the warriors of the North, as if it was a quality inherent in Christian nations,” declares the celebrated Spanish writer Blasco Ibanez, in his novel: Dans L’Ombre de la Cathédrale. (In the Shadow Of the Cathedral.)
In this connection, we can again quote Dr. Le Bon:
“Like Christian chivalry, which came later, Arab chivalry had a code of its own. No man was worthy to be a knight unless he possessed the following qualities: kindness, valour, amability, poetical talent, eloquence, bodily strength, skill in horsemanship, and cleverness in handling spear, sword and bow….
“In 1139, the Wali of Cordova having laid siege to Toledo, belonging to the Christians, Queen Berengaria, shut up in the city, sent him a herald to bid him take notice that it was unworthy of a brave, gallant and generous knight to attack a woman. The Arab general retired forthwith, asking as sole favour, to be allowed the honour of saluting the Queen….
“The Arab chronicles of Spain are full of stories of the same kind, proving how wide-spread were these knight-errant-like qualities; and a very religious learned man, Barthélemy St. Hilaire, admits most loyally how greatly European customs are indebted to them. In his book on the Qur’an, he says: “Through having intercourse with the Arabs and copying them, the boorish barons of the Middle Ages toned down their rough habits; and the knights, without lessening their bravery, became cognisant of more delicate, noble and humane sentiments. It is doubtful whether Christianism alone, despite its benevolence, would have inspired them with these feelings.”
“The reader may perhaps ask why, under these conditions, the influence of the Arabs is so unappreciated in our day by learned men who, by their intellect, seem far above all religious prejudice. That is because independence of opinion is more apparent than real, and we are not at all free to think as we like about certain subjects. The hereditary prejudices professed by us against Islamism and its disciples have accumulated during too many centuries not to have become part and parcel of our organism….
“If we join thereto other prejudices also hereditary, and increased in each generation by our detestable classic education: that all sciences and literature of the past spring solely from Greeks and Romans, we can easily understand that the great influence of the Arabs in the history of European civilisation is generally slighted.
“In certain minds, it will always seem humiliating that it is owing to the Moslems that Christian Europe shook off barbarism….” (Dr. Gustave Le Bon, La Civilisation des Arabes.)
What caused Islam to fall so rapidly, after having, during the eight centuries of its domination in Spain, placed that country not only at the head of occidental civilisation, but also causing it to shine quite as brilliantly from Delhi and Bokhara, as far as Constantinople and Fez?
The first cause may be found in the non-observance of the strictly levelling principles that the Prophet had so much trouble to establish while he lived, and which were the motives of his successes and of those of the first Caliphs. One example will serve to show how rigorously these principles were applied in the beginning: “A rich, powerful, and proud monarch, Jabala, newly converted, struck violent blows in the face of a poor Bedouin, who had accidentally pushed against him while he was performing his devotions round the Ka’bah. Without bringing into account the rank of the delinquent, or the danger of estranging such an important personage, the Caliph Umar thought that, for the honour of the future of Islam, equality in the eyes of law and justice should override all other considerations, and he condemned King Jabala to undergo, at the hands of the humble Bedouin, the same chastisement as had been inflicted on him.”
With such strict principles, no one could possibly be proud of anything but his personal merit; and emulation gave birth to miracles for the greater good of Islam. No men were chosen as chieftains except those who deserved that honour, and once elected, they were blindly obeyed because they were sincerely admired and respected.
Unfortunately, the complete observance of this master-thought of the Prophet turned out to be ephemeral, and already under the rule of Usman, the third Caliph, aristocratic prejudices began to regain their evil influence. In vain Mohammad had said to his beloved daughter, Fatimah-tuz-Zahra: ‘Work, and reckon not that it sufficeth for thee to be the Prophet’s daughter;’ the sons of most unimportant people despised their Mussulman brothers of more lowly origin, and thought that their social rank exempted them from making those efforts without which no progress can be realised. Moreover, rivalry between folks more proud of their forbears than of their own works, gave rise again to fractricidal struggles, as ruthless as in the past; and with them, the disorganisation and general anarchy which had paralysed the Arabs of pre-Islamic times. Having lost all taste for study; separated and exhausted by incessant civil wars, the Moslems were only able to offer puny resistance to the Christians, who dreamt of revenge and had profited by these dissensions to organise themselves.
In the past as in the present, Islam might have avoided the greater part of its misfortunes if it always remembered this last adjuration of the Prophet in his sermon of the Valedictory Pilgrimage: ‘Never forget that each Mussulman should be a true brother to every other Mussulman!’
The second cause of its decline arose from one of the primordial qualities of Islam. The conformity of its dogma, almost entirely devoid of supernaturalism, to the exigencies of reason, was at first inestimably advantageous for science which remained free from the hindrances of superstition. This suffices to explain the rapid rise of its civilisation. But the Moslem mind had gradually been lulled, being satisfied with the magnificent results attained by the enthusiasm reigning in the first centuries of the Hegira. Henceforth, it was at the mercy of animal passions and fetishism, in certain newly-conquered countries. The cult of Saints and Intercessors, “Awliya,” or “Murabitun,” borrowed from the Christians and so strictly forbidden by the Qur’an, took the place of the cult of Science and, by its gross superstitions, barred all progress. Philosophers like Averroes, tried to struggle, but it was too late; the evil was too deeply rooted among the masses who called these enlightened men ungodly, and demanded that they should be put out of favour….
These two causes of decay are ancient, and contradict the real doctrine of the Qur’an. On the other hand, there is one, dating from the nineteenth century only, and which seems to be in accordance, if not with the spirit, at least with the letter of the Holy Book. It is that which results from the prohibition of any interest whatsoever being received for money lent.
“They who swallow down usury, shall arise in the Resurrection only as he ariseth whom Satan hath infected by his touch. This, for that they say, ‘Selling is only the like of usury’: and yet Allah hath allowed selling, and forbidden usury.” (The Qur’an, ii, 276.)
The excellence of this principle is unquestionable, and, until the last century, the slight inconveniences which might have troubled the Moslems in consequence of usury practised among them by Jews and Christians, were not to be compared with the advantages of this precept of the Qur’an. But at the present time, when credit is indispensable to all great undertakings and when bankers have become the real masters of the world, Islam, by adhering with exaggerated rigidity to the text of these verses, is momentarily reduced to financial and political ruin.
THE FUTURE OF ISLAM
Such, we think, rapidly summarised, are the three leading causes of the decline of Islam. Is there no remedy for this state of decay? Are the three hundred millions of Moslems spread over the surface of the globe, to be condemned to remain eternally in the sad situation established for them beyond the pale of modern civilisation? We think not.
For the two first causes, the remedy is simple: it consists in returning to the principles instituted by the Prophet. The remedy for the third is to be found perhaps in a less strict interpretation of the letter, but certainly in accordance with the spirit of the Sacred Text. Enlightened Moslems are fully aware of this and henceforward, they will take care not to confuse banking operations with the sordid usury condemned by the Prophet.
The wounds inflicted on Islam during the last century have at last awakened it from its lethargy. Its very defeats have shown the necessity of adopting the scientific method of its conquerors. Islam recalls to mind the words of the Prophet: “Go, seek for Science everywhere, even in far China. The benefits of Science are superior to the benefits of devotion. On the Day of Resurrection, the ink used by learned men and the blood poured out by martyrdom will be measured: neither shall be preferred.”
Renovators, men of genius, such as the celebrated Shaykh Abduh, have pointed out the right road to Islam, proving to Moslems that the teaching of Mohammad agrees with that of modern civilisation. Thereupon, myriads of young men have gone through courses of European study and show wonderful facility, without losing any part of their native originality; and, very soon, innumerable Moslems will take their places in the modern world without fear of any disparaging comparisons.
Does this mean that the empire of Islam, following the example of Japan, will regain its rank among great political Powers? Considering that the future of nations depends on the will of Allah, it is always presumptuous to predict it. Besides, political might is the most ephemeral of all; a few months are enough to overthrow the most formidable empires. Such power proves nothing as regards the vitality of a religion, and is not absolutely necessary for the subject we treat.
There are, indeed, conquests differing from those of armies. The imperialism of the Israelites, which disappeared centuries ago, has never given the slightest sign of a return movement and yet few peoples possess at present the power of the Jews. Persecution was for them the great educator, and nowadays, in all the nations of Europe and America, the Jews, thanks to their activity and intelligence, occupy the front rank. Why does not the same effect, due to the same cause—persecution—take place among the Moslems, who, for the most part, are first, cousins to the Israelites and who possess the advantage of numbers?
Objections are against the possibility of such a revival: Fatalism, Fanaticism, Polygamy. Let us examine them.
Can Mussulman fatalism fit in with a real effort on the road to progress?
If some criticisms are justified by the way in which fatalism is understood by certain followers of the Murabitun, it has never possessed the importance ascribed to it. Islam is not more fatalist than determinism, and it is still less than Christianism which adheres strictly to the letter of the following precepts of the Gospel: ‘Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on.’ (St. Matthew, vi, 25.)
Why then accuse fatalism of having paralysed all effects among the Moslems, when the Prophet was one of the most active, persevering and energetic men that the world has ever known; and when Islam is the only religion which, no sooner founded, was followed immediately by such a marvellous épopée and such splendid civilisation? The word “Islam” signifies “resignation to the decrees of Allah,” that is to say: to that which looks as if it could be mastered by energy and courage. “Say: O my people! Act as ye best can.” (The Qur’an, iv, 135.) Far from being the cause of weakness, such resignation becomes the source of incomparable moral strength for the Believer, fortifying him during the ordeals of adversity.
In their intercourse with civilised beings belonging to other religions, will not Moslems be stopped by the implacable and irreducible fanaticism of which they are accused? The main object is to see if this fanaticism is not one of the countless legends inimically invented during the Middle Ages. In order to permit the reader to form an opinion, here are some extracts chosen among thousands of the same kind.
According to Ibn Abbas, Ibn Jari said: “A man of the Banu Salim ibn Awf, named Al-Husayn, father of two sons who were Christians, whilst he was a Mussulman, asked the Prophet: “Ought I not force my children to embrace Islamism? They will have no other religion than the Christian religion!” Allah (may He be glorified!) thereupon revealed for this man the following verse: “Let there be no compulsion in Religion.” (The Qur’an, ii, 257.)
When the Christian ambassadors of the Hijr territory came to see the Prophet at Al-Madinah, he offered them half of his Mosque so that they might say their prayers therein. He rose to his feet one day, as a funeral procession went by, and when he was told that it was only a Jew’s burial, he replied: ‘Is it not a soul?’ He also said: ‘He who ill-treateth a Jew or a Christian will find me his accuser on the Day of Judgment. With ungodliness an empire may last; but never with injustice.’
Notwithstanding all legends, never, beyond the Hijaz, which means the sacred territory and its vicinity, did Moslems use force to obtain conversions. The Spanish Christians were never molested on account of their belief during the eight centuries of Mussulman domination. Many of them, indeed, occupied the highest posts at the Court of the Caliphs of Cordova. On the other hand, these same Christians, as soon as they became conquerors, immediately exterminated all Moslems without exception. The Jews, who had lived in peace under Arab rule, were treated in the same way.
In his Voyage Religieux en Orient, the Abbé Michon pays homage to truth by this exclamation: ‘It is a sad thing for Christian nations that religious tolerance, the great law of charity between the peoples, should have been taught by Mussulmans.’ (Quoted by Comte de Castries, in his book on Islam.)
What about the Armenian massacres? will be alleged against us. Our answer is that every time they have not been provoked by rebellions and conspiracies, they are condemned by all true Moslems just in the same way as the massacre of all the Moslems in Spain is condemned nowadays by true Christians.
But the Armenian massacres were never the outcome of religious causes, for never have the disciples of Mohammad thought of imitating the followers of Torquemada by forcing the Armenians to choose between conversion and death at the stake. Besides, Moslems do not lean towards proselytism. Strictly speaking, they have no missionaries, and if their religion, at the present day, is the one that causes the most conversions in Africa and Asia, it is, as A. Burdo justly remarks: ‘by a kind of moral endosmose.’ (Les Arabes dans l’Afrique Centrale.)
A good example, free from any proselytizing attempts, produces in religious souls a much more powerful impression than the importunities of cathechists. Despite his hostility to Islam and his partiality, the “savant” Dozy is obliged to acknowledge that In Spain, formerly: ‘it is a positive fact that many Christians became converted to Islam out of conviction.’
The rule of conduct of a Mussulman towards the followers of other religions is fixed by these words of the Qur’an: “To you your religions; and to me my religion.” (cix, 6.)
How can a Mussulman be intolerant, when he venerates alike the Prophets honoured by Jew and Christian? For him, Moses, who spoke with Allah; and Jesus, inspired by Allah, deserve the same veneration as Mohammad, the friend of Allah. “We make no distinction between any of His Apostles.” (The Qur’an, ii, 285.)
Never does any Mussulman dare to utter the slightest insult towards Jesus; never would he allow any to be uttered in his presence, even coming from the lips of people of Christian origin who consider Jesus to be responsible for sacerdotal errors. To insult Jesus would be to insult the Qur’an which orders Him to be revered. We were privileged once to witness the uncommon sight of a Mussulman condemned by a Christian judge for having struck a Jew who, in the presence of this disciple of Mohammad, had made outrageous remarks on the birth of Jesus.
Let us now compare the respectful attitude of the Moslems as far as Jesus is concerned, with the manner in which Europeans behave when Mohammad’s name is mentioned. In the Middle Ages, monks and troubadours represented him to be either some monstrous idol, or an incorrigible drunkard, fallen on a dung-heap and devoured by hogs. Hence, they pointed out, the repugnance of his disciples for swine-flesh. We should never be done if we tried to quote all that in former times sprung from the fertile imagination of Mohammad’s enemies.
The first Orientalists were no kinder. In the eighteenth century, Gagnier, a most learned man, after blaming the Abbé Maracci and Doctor Prideaux for their impassioned insults, speaks in his turn of Mohammad as ‘the most villanous of all men; the most deadly of Allah’s enemies; the idiotic Prophet,’ etc., whilst claiming to speak in guarded terms!
The companions of the Prophet have likewise not been spared from the earliest times. So that the barbarity with which Cardinal Ximenes burnt the marvellous libraries of the Moslems of Spain should be forgotten, many calumniators invented the famous legend of the conflagration of the libraries of Alexandria, by order of the Caliph Umar, thus fully showing the slanderers’ great disdain for chronology. These collections of books had not been in existence for several centuries when Islam was revealed to the world. The first library, that of Bruchium, containing four hundred thousand volumes, was destroyed by fire during the war of Cæsar against the Alexandrians; and the second, that of Serapeum, comprising two hundred thousand volumes, bequeathed by Antony, was completely pillaged in the reign of Theodosius.
These ridiculous legends are dying out gradually at the present day; and yet we prefer their candid fanaticism to the malicious calumny with which certain writers, still impregnated with medieval passionate partiality, try from behind a screen of Oriental science, to belittle one of the men who do the most honour, not only to history, but to the history of humanity.
After having adopted the modern civilisation of Christians, may not the Moslems conclude by adopting their religion as well? To answer this question, we need only quote the opinion of an author who, although a fervent Christian, acknowledges facts most loyally. In the course of a remarkable study of Islam, he writes:
“Islam is the only religion which has no recreants—It is very difficult, if not impossible, to form an exact idea of the spiritual state of a Moslem evangelized by a Christian. We can only imagine something very near it, by trying to realise in our minds the feelings of an enlightened Christian whom an idolater might be trying to convert to his gross, superstitious cult.” (L’Islam, by Comte Henry de Castries.)
Islam, in spite of its irreducibleness, offers Christians many proofs of its feelings of veneration towards Jesus. Therefore, whence comes the hatred with which the followers of Christ pursue Mohammad even in our present century of tolerance—not to say religious indifference?
Is it because of its Asiatic origin? Was not Christianism essentially Asiatic, before Saint Paul had stripped it of Jewish trappings? Jesus declared: ‘I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.’ (St. Matthew, xv, 24.) Is it because of its doctrine? The doctrine of Islam is almost the same as that of certain Protestant sects. Is it because of the remembrance of the Crusades? Despite the years that are past, this remembrance has still disastrous influence over many ignorant minds, but if that was all, it would not suffice to explain away the ostracism shown in Europe to Islam.
We must seek therefore some other cause, and we find it furnished by the example of the only religion really reviled and persecuted in the same way.
Mu’ammar al-Qathafi explicitly said that a man should have but one wife in this modern world. He says it is a misreading of the texts that proport polygamy. When a woman was impoverished in ancient times, and could not subside elsewise, the brother of the deceased husband was permitted to take her in as a ‘wife’. But this is not an excuse for our age. Under the ‘Third Universal Theory’ in practice (as it was in the ‘GREAT JAMAHIRIYA’), there is no hungry or poor. Circumstances and the welfare of the children, if there are young below the age of self-independence, is remedied also by a widow remarrying. (READ the “GREEN BOOK” and the ‘Great Universal Green Charter of Human Rights’ [12 JUNE 1988] ). A woman is a human being, with all the natural rights she is entitled to. She is not considered ‘property’ or a sex-slave*.
Tombs of the Khaliphs. Under their rule, Muslem civilisation enlightened the World.
Without taking other things into consideration, the needs of modern life render it also impraticable to have more than one wife. It has died out already, among civilised Muslems.
*:In a study on the future of the French colonies, Charles Dumas, writing about the Moslems, states: ‘No race can gain freedom when it condemns the half of itself (i.e. its women) to eternal bondage.’
What about the burka and the ‘wearing of the veil’ ? the wearing of a veil and semi-claustration as well, to which the WAHHABI women of Islam are subjected, must seem to be tokens of the most unbearable slavery. Mu’ammar al-Qathafi, in Libya, even banned the Burka. Besides, the wearing of the veil and claustration are in no wise religious obligations. The Verses of the Qur’an (xxxiii, 53, 55) by which these questions are supported, are solely aimed at the Prophet’s wives and not at those of all Believers, as might be deduced from the inexact translation of verse 55, by Kasimirski.
These practices were put in force many years after Mohammad’s death. Among them, we note Qasim Bey Amin, with his book: “Tahriru’l-Mirat” (“Woman’s Emancipation”); and Es Zahawi, the poet of Bagdad, who wrote a celebrated letter on the veil, and says: ‘Woman is the remedy of youth, the beauty of nature and the splendour of life. Without women, man is a sterile syllogism—he does not conclude!’ And then, relying on this verse: “And it is for the women to act as the husbands act towards them with all fairness.” (The ‘Holy Qur’an’, ii, 228), claims complete female freedom.)
We will conclude by quoting the words of one of the fair sex, al-Sitti Malika who, with the consent of her father, Hifni Bey Nasif, formerly professor at the University of Al Azhar, published a Qasida, terminating with this verse: ‘To unveil, if one is chaste, is no harm; and if one is not chaste, veils in excess offer no protection.’
At the same times as European queens of fashion have tried to acclimatise the Turkish veil (an OTTOMAN WAHHABI PRACTICE) in the West, perhaps at some future period, near or distant, the custom of wearing the veil may die out in the East. The example of the great misery reigning among sisters of the West, struggling for life in opposition to men, is also a corruption of the teachings of Allahof modern existence. The question is too delicate. We dare not come to a conclusion. After all, the interest and possibility of such reforms vary too completely, from one country to another, so that no general rule can be fixed.
But if we hesitate about passing judgment on the reforms we have just set forth, we acknowledge unreservedly, to make amends, that the education of woman is an imperious necessity for the future of Islam….And, Mu’ammar al-Qathafi set forth an education program for all living citizens, where statics showed more females graduating from higher University education than ‘males’.
Education has nothing to do with the above-mentioned customs. It is in agreement with all the principles of the religion, and during the period of Islamic splendour, was lavished on Mussulman femininity whose culture was superior to that of European women in those days.
During a certain number of years, many Mussulman women passed their leisure hours in educating themselves, and their new intellectual birth began to be generalised. From education alone, the evolution of manners and customs will proceed wherever it will be necessary, in the sense and proportions creating the least amount of trouble in the bosom of families.
Islam will appear to be what it really is: a religion essentially in conformity with the most modern needs and ideas, so much so that an Englishman, Oswald Wirth, was able to write: ‘I discovered, one fine day, that I was a Mussulman*2, without knowing it, like Monsieur Jourdain with his prose.’ In like fashion, Goethe, after having studied the principles of the Qur’an, declared: ‘If that is Islam, do we not all live in Islam?’
*2: In fact, all who acknowledge the One Living God, are ‘Muslim’ says Mu’ammar al-Qathafi. It was handed down as the one true faith since the earliest of man’s origins by the Holy Prophets.
Very soon, no one will venture to give credence to the childish legends perpetuated since the Crusades, and Islam will at last claim to take its place in the van of modern civilisation….
Napoléoné Bonaparté acknowledged being ‘Muslim’; and saw it as the sole Salvation and hope for Mankind’s future of happiness, as wished by our Creator.