The Bible and Islam/Church and State

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The Bible and Islam by Henry Preserved Smith
Church and State

WHEN David the Betlileliemite incurred the suspi cion of Saul liis sovereign, he was in an evil case. He could not depend upon the Israelites to harbor him because they were servants of Saul. The exter mination of the priestly clan at Nob showed how per ilous it was to fall under the suspicion of the king. David s own clan could not protect him except at the risk of a similar fate. If the fugitive should seek asylum with the neighboring tribes it was they against whom he had carried arms in times past, and there was no Philistine or Amalekite or Ammonite who would not be glad to take blood revenge upon the unprotected Israelite. The man cut off from the protection of his kin is an outlaw, and his blood is free to the first comer. The only way he can be safe is to gather about him others as desperately situated as himself, to make of them a band of brothers, and to establish their right at the point of the sword. David did this and soon became formidable, was gladly re ceived as a vassal by the Emir of Gath, obtained a town for himself and his men, and grew in strength by carrying war against the Bedawin.

Nor was this all. At the death of Saul the king dom fell to pieces. The power of Ishbaal was never



more than a shadow. The clans, under the Philistine oppression, lost the feeling of unity and the hope of independence. This was David s opportunity. The Sheikhs of Hebron found the alliance of a captain with six hundred men an advantage if accepted the danger of rejecting it was equally obvious. It is no wonder that they received him and made him their king. Once the rule of a vigorous man was estab lished, his kingdom could not help growing by the accretion of the fragments into which the kingdom of Saul had broken. The sequel is well known. The power of David extended far beyond the boundaries of Israel, and the impetus was not wholly spent in the reign of Solomon. But when Solomon s rash and ill-advised son came to the throne, the centrifugal force again asserted itself. The tributaries revolted, the northern tribes elected a king of their own, and the house of David was left with only a weak re minder of its former greatness.

This very familiar story illustrates a law which we find exemplified again and again in the history of the East. Its operation may be observed in Middle Ara bia even in our own day for there the tribal society survives in much the same form in which it existed in Israel in the time of the Judges. The unit of so ciety is the clan. Each clan has its own territory which it defends against all comers, while itself ready at any minute to invade the pasture of its neighbors. Within the clan all are brothers. Beyond the clan all are enemies. There is no government in our sense of the word. Every man does that which is right in his own eyes. The Sheikhs have a moral influence only.


The clans enter into association with each other by treaty, but this constitutes simply a larger clan united by the fiction of adoption or artificial brotherhood. Such association does not make a state. But if an enterprising man in one of the clans is able to attach a band of soldiers to his person, government, in our sense of the word, begins. The case of David is a case in point. So is the case of Abimelech of Shec- hem who established himself as Emir of Israel by means of a band of mercenaries. Having secured the allegiance of his immediate kinsmen, such a chief rapidly extends his power. His power is in fact largely dependent on the ability to content his subjects with the spoil of their enemies. The normal course of such a kingdom is to keep on expanding as long as it is ruled by a capable and energetic prince. But it falls to pieces as rapidly as it was built up, if once a weakling comes to the throne.

This law wrought in favor of Mohammed. But there was a difference between him and an ordinary freebooter. He brought a principle into play which had not earlier had a chance to show its power in Arabia; that principle was religious faith. Had it not been for this, his kingdom would have been no more enduring than the hundreds of little monarchies which all along the course of history have arisen in Arabia and have disappeared leaving no trace behind. In this also there is a resemblance between Islam and the Old Testament history. For the tenacity of the Kingdom of David is no doubt due to the fact that it based itself distinctly on the religion of Yahweh.

These considerations enable us to understand Mo-


hammed s career when he became a ruler of men. In the eighteenth century, great indignation was ex pressed against him a man who left his native land to turn his hand against her. He was said thus to have thrown off the mask which he had hitherto worn, and to have discovered his treasonable designs. These charges totally mistake the position. The Arab has no country in the sense in which we use the word. His attachment is solely to his clan. But Mohammed s clan cast him off. They no longer de fended him against their allies. He was already an outlaw. The state of war existed between him and the Meccans by their act, not by his. The Meccans un derstood this. If we may believe tradition, they tried to intercept him and kill him on his journey to Me dina. From their own point of view this was the only reasonable thing to do. That they were not more strenuous in the matter is probably to be ac counted for by their contempt for him. They sup posed the poor fanatic unable to do them harm.

It is probable, moreover, that the Meccans looked upon Medina as a harmless or insignificant city. It was in fact far from formidable. Medina was not a city in our sense of the word. It was simply an oasis over which the inhabitants were scattered in villages. A group of villages occupied the place where the city proper now stands. But it had no common wall for some time after the arrival of Mohammed. Burckhardt* describes the suburbs of the present city as consisting of " large courtyards, with low apart-

  • Travels in Arabia (1829), p. 32G; Wellhausen, Skizzen und

Vorarbeiten, IV., p. 18.


meuts built around them on the ground floor, and separated from each other by gardens and planta tions. . . . Each Hosh [court] contains thirty or forty families, thus forming so many separate hamlets, which in times of unsettled government are frequently engaged in desperate feuds with each other." Such a loose agglomeration of settlements was the so-called city in the time of Mohammed. Except that they were settled more closely together, its inhabitants differed in nothing from the dwellers in the desert. There was the same lack of government w r hich exists among the Bedawin. The history of the people be fore the coming of Mohammed is a chronicle of little wars between the clans. Two of these clans had lit erally exterminated each other, one having been destroyed to the last man, the other having two men left who soon after died without issue. Not long be fore the coming of Mohammed all the clans had joined on one side or the other in a pitched battle, which ended in the exhaustion of all parties. Even then there was no peace, but war was carried on by isolated murders and assassinations. The community was, in fact, in a state of anarchy.*

Into this anarchy Mohammed came as a fixed point upon which peace could take hold. He was the head of a small band of Meccan converts who had under gone the loss of all things for his sake. These were soon joined by the fugitives of Abyssinia, who were no less devoted to him. His religion had been preached at Medina for more than a year before his coming, and there was a considerable number of sin-

  • For a more extended description cf. Wcllhauson, IV., p. 27 ff.


cere converts. With this following, it is not strange that Mohammed was recognized as the leading man in the community.

Had he not been a man of character, however, it is doubtful whether he would have become the autocrat that he actually became. One great source of power to a man in his position is the ability to arbitrate be- tw r een contending parties. A judge who will not take bribes nor regard persons is hard to find. He is prized all the more when he is found. Now Mohammed was honest ; he was generally free from bias so far as an Arab can be free from, bias; he claimed divine direction. He naturally became the judge of the com munity, just as naturally as Moses became the judge of Israel.

Now to the Semitic mind, the king is the judge of the nation. The Old Testament is full of passages to prove this. The description of the ideal king in the Seventy-second Psalm emphasizes this function : " He shall judge thy people with righteousness, and thy poor with justice." When a man establishes him self as supreme judge of a people, he is well on the way to kingly power. The other function of the king is carrying on war. It is to go out before them against their enemies, that Israel demands a king in the days of Samuel : " We will have a king over us ... that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles."* This work also fell to Moham med. The state of war was in Arabia the state of nature. The only way in which the Moslems could sustain themselves was by raids upon their enemies.

  • 1 Sam. 8 19f .


In these Mohammed, by his very position, was forced to be the leader. Although he had had no experience in fighting, and although he was not a man of physi cal courage, yet he was on the whole a successful gen eral. He knew how to maintain discipline, and he knew how to encourage his followers in the face of defeat. As judge and as general he fulfilled the Semitic ideal of kingship. It cannot be wondered at that the kingship came to him.

The course of history then runs a close parallel be tween Israel and Islam. It is difficult to make out how much Biblical influence was at work in the proc ess. At Mecca we cannot discover that Mohammed had any kingly aspirations. He is careful to disclaim any power over his people ; he declares that he seeks no reward from them ; he calls himself only a warner and a bringer of tidings ; he does not (apparently) adduce the preceding prophets as claiming sover eignty over their people. To all appearance, he ex pected the government of Mecca to remain in the hands of the Sheikhs, even if the people should ac cept Islam. A seat in their council as adviser was perhaps the most that he expected. He seems to have known of no Biblical precedent for claiming more. At Medina, however, w r here the cares of government were forced upon him, he may have had a different light. In this period he tells an Old Testament story that would serve him as precedent. It is as follows :

" Dost thou not know concerning the aristocracy of Is rael after the time of Moses, how they said to one of their prophets : Raise us up a king and we will fight in the way of Grod ! He replied: Perchance when you are ordered to


fight, you will refuse. But they said : Why should we not fight in the way of God, when we have been thrust out of our homes and away from our children? Yet, when they were ordered to fight, they turned their backs except a few of them, and God knows the evil-doers. Their prophet said to them: God has sent you Talut as king. They replied: How can the kingdom be his, when we are more worthy of it than he, and he has not received abundance of property ! The prophet said : God has chosen him above you, and has increased him in excellence both of mind and body; God gives the kingdom to whom He will, and God is benevolent and wise. The prophet added : A sign of his kingship is that he will bring you the Ark, on which is the Shekina from your Lord, a relic left by the people of Moses and Aaron; angels will bear it in this is a sign for you if you are believers. And when Talut set out with the troops, he said: God will test you by a stream; whoever drinks of it is none of mine, and he who does not taste it, except by taking up a little in his hand, shall be mine. But all ex cept a few drank. And when he and those who believed had crossed the stream, they said : We have no power against Goliath and his soldiers to-day ! But those who were mind ful that they must meet God said : How many a small troop has overcome a larger one by the permission of God, for God is on the side of those who are steadfast. And when they went out against Goliath and his soldiers, they said : O Lord, supply us with steadfastness, and make our feet firm, and help us against the unbelievers ! So they put them to flight by permission of God, and David killed Go liath, and God gave him the kingdom and wisdom, and taught him what He would. *

We see that the narrative is a confused reminis cence of the election of Saul, the march of Gideon, and the battle of David with Goliath. The point of interest is the manner in which the incident is made

  • Koran i 347 - 853 . Saul is named Talut to rhyme with Jalut (Goliath).


to reflect the situation at Medina. The king is de manded in order that the people may fight in the way of God, where w r e should say fujht in the cause of God. The phrase is the standing phrase used for the wars of Mohammed against the unbelievers. The prophet in the text expresses the doubt whether the people would be willing to fight. This doubt w r as a reflection of Mohammed s own experience, for a party of Medinans under an influential leader was always ready to dissuade their fellow-citizens from joining Mohammed s campaigns. The Israelites, in the nar rative, complain that they have been thrust out of their homes and away from their children which was exactly the case with Mohammed and the Fugitives. These features of his own situation, being found in the narrative, make it probable that Mohammed regards himself as the antitype of Saul, or of Saul and David both. "We have, therefore, one instance in which Biblical precedent influenced Mohammed s view of his own position as civil ruler. There is another possibly in the verse which speaks of the prophets as warriors : " It never came to pass that a prophet made captives until he had made great slaughter." * But the assertion seems evolved from the situation rather than from any Biblical precedent. It is rather remarkable that Mohammed makes no use of some Biblical precedents which he would most naturally have cited had he laid emphasis upon this matter of kingship. Moses was prophet and civil ruler ; David was prophet and king ; so was Solomon. But Mohammed nowhere calls attention to them in

  • Koran 8 s8 .


order to justify his own assumption of power. The reason is, that when he published the narratives which deal with these characters, he did not himself expect to become a worldly ruler. We are led to the same conclusion by his not making use of the Mes sianic idea. The Jews at Medina held the Messianic hope. They taunted their Arab neighbors with the expectation that the Messiah would come and put the power into their hands while reducing the Gentiles to servitude. This expectation influenced the Arabs, so that when they heard of Mohammed, they argued that this was the expected Messiah, and that by adopting him as theirs they could anticipate the Jews and disappoint them of their hopes. But while the Messianic hope had thus an undoubted influence in establishing Mohammed at Medina, we find him making no further use of it. The name or title of Messiah, he connects always with Jesus, the son of Mary.

The growth of the state in Islam was much more rapid than in Israel, but it followed the same course. As we learn from the book of Judges Israel ob tained a foothold in Canaan by slow degrees. First a few families would settle upon unoccupied territory. Then they would take possession of part of a town. In this they would naturally have their own quarter, and their relations with the Canaanites would be reg ulated by a treaty or covenant. So Canaanites and Israelites dwelt together in Shechem in the time of Abimelech. As the Israelites grew stronger they would reduce the Canaanites to the position of clients or " sojourners." Thus, in many towns, the Cairn*" 1 -


ites paid tribute. A process of amalgamation going OH all the time, at last those Canaanites who Avere most tenacious of their separate custom would bo weak enough to be exterminated, as were the Gibeon- ites by Saul. Precisely such was the history of Is lam. Mohammed and his followers first occupied ground given them by the Medinaus. They then en tered upon a covenant relation with all the tribes of the oasis. Gradually the community of true believers absorbed a considerable part of the older inhabi tants. The Jews which ref used to amalgamate with the Moslems were driven out or exterminated. But the process which in Israel extended over some cen turies occupied in Islam only ten years.

It seems a pity that the development was so rapid. Had it stopped at the stage upon which it entered when Mohammed promulgated his covenant with the inhabitants of Medina, it would have been better for the after world. Copies of that instrument have come down to us.* It is remarkable for the modest position which Mohammed claims for himself in relation to the community at large. He evidently desires to leave the social organization as nearly as possible just as it is. The autonomy of the clans is not disturbed except in certain matters in which com mon action is necessary. There is no endeavor to enforce uniformity of religion. Even the heathen are allowed to remain peaceably in their old relations. The Jews are continued under the clientage, and of

  • It is translated by "Wellhausen, Skizzen, IV., p. 67 ff. The gen

uineness seems proved by the fact that it embodies none of the theo cratic ideas of the later time.


course under tLe protection, of the Araus. The only innovations concern common enmity to the Koreish (of Mecca), common action in defensive war, and the bringing of disputes before God and Mohammed for arbitration. Had all parties been willing to live to gether under this constitution, we should have seen a state arise with some measure of religious tolera tion.

But unfortunately toleration was not understood at that time. Mohammed valued his document only as the best that could be done under the circumstances. The Jews, on their side, had no higher ideal. They were as far from desiring to live in intimacy with men of another religion as was Mohammed. They had no realizing sense of the danger of their position. They could not keep from giving provocation to their neighbor ; and so, when he grew stronger, he crushed them as Saul crushed the Gibeonites, and as David crushed the Jebusites. With their defeat and expul sion, the principle of one religion in the state virtu ally triumphed.

The principle of Islam is fixed by the experience of Mohammed. What history actually brought forth has become binding precedent and is justified by the theologians. The Moslem has now no thought of the state except that it is a theocracy. Its basis is the true religion ; its ruler is the spiritual as well as the secular head of the commonwealth. There is no difference between church and state. The church is the state. Instead of a state church, there is a church state. We can make the theory clear to our minds by looking at the Papacy. The actual rise of the


Pope to temporal power was not unlike the rise of Mohammed. The Bishop of Rome was the spiritual head of a spiritual society. So long as the civil power was vigorous, he was nothing more. But when the civil power was broken, then what there was of social order rallied around the only authority that existed. Had he so willed, the Pope himself could not have prevented this process. But we may suppose, with out any injurious reflections upon the Pontiff, that he was not unwilling to see his power increase. To him it was increased power to do good, and so far a triumph of the kingdom of God. Even the Apostle Paul assumes that if the saints are competent to judge the world, they are competent to decide the petty issues of a civil lawsuit. It was not by vio lent usurpation therefore that the Pope became civil administrator of Italy. Had the process gone on until the ambition of the ablest Popes was grati fied, we should have seen Europe united under a ruler who combined in himself the offices of Emperor and of High Priest. This would have divided the world between a Christian Caliph and a Moslem Pope. The Ultramontane doctrine of the temporal power of the Pope is in fact exactly the Moslem doctrine of the Caliphate.

The name theocracy, we are told, was first invented by Josephus. But it expresses a theory which has been almost universally accepted except among the most barbarous of men. That God is in fact the ruler of men, follows logically from His attributes. It is equally obvious that the man actually appointed by God to rule, rules by divine right. He is God s


representative on the earth. The ancient Persians are said to have seen in their kings incarnations of the Godhead. Divine honors were paid to Roman Emperors. In Israel it was no strange thing to have God say to the reigning monarch : " Thou art my Son, to-day have I begotten thee." The King of Israel, even Saul, was the Anointed of Yahweh. In the theory of some of the Hebrew writers, at least, the prophetic office brought with it kingly power. Samuel, in the picture drawn of him in one Old Tes tament document, is the theocratic ruler of the na tion so absolute that he makes and unmakes kings, always, of course, by the divine direction. The con clusion is indeed easily drawn, that if God sends His commands by a messenger, obedience to the messen ger is obedience to God. "We rather wonder that the conclusion was not more stringently drawn in Israel, and we can easily see that if Elijah, the Tishbite, had called about him those seven thousand who had not bowed the knee to Baal, he might easily have seated a prophetic dynasty on the throne of Ahab. It was just because the kingly authority already had a divine sanction that the prophets of Israel did not draw the conclusion which Mohammed, in the absence of a king, was able to draw and to enforce. The Macca- bean dynasty is another example of the way in which the religious and the secular power naturally combine in the same hands.

It is the happiness of Christianity that it escaped making any declaration concerning divine right. Its formative period fell in a time when the civil govern ment was taken care of by the Homans. It therefore


necessarily separated Church and State and learned to distinguish between them. The civil ruler is still ordained of God to be a terror to evil-doers. But he is dissociated from the care for religion which the Jews, and after them the Moslems, thought to be a part of the monarch s functions. Medieval Christi anity (we should not forget) took substantially the same position with Jews and Moslems. It failed to apprehend the teaching of the New Testament. The testimony of the New Testament to the divine sanc tion of the state as a separate entity is only now be ginning to be understood in enlightened Europe and America. It is a part of the present misery of the Eastern world that all classes of society are unable to conceive even the possibility of such testimony.

The system which sees in the state a theocracy necessarily regulates religion by law. How Islam came near toleration and how it failed, we have already seen. Islam does not, however, even now, treat Ju daism and Christianity as it treats heathenism. The latter must be destroyed because it is false, and be cause it is disobedience to God. The first conse quence is the importance of the sacred war, that is : the war for the spread of Islam. The reason for the emphasis placed upon this, is seen in what has already been said about the fortunes of Medina. It was a matter of life and death there, to make a successful campaign. The Koran of the latter part of Moham med s life is full of exhortations to take part in the war. Those who may fall in the cause of God are promised the highest place in Paradise. Those who are backward in entering this service are blamed and



denounced for their hypocrisy. It is assumed, finally, that war must go on until all heathenism has been put down. " Say to the unbelievers, that if they make an end [of doing evil] they shall be forgiven. But if they repeat it the sentence of ancient peoples was carried out ! Then fight them until there is no more division of opinion, and the religion is wholly Al lah s." * Tradition correctly interprets this and simi lar passages when it says that Mohammed was com manded to make war on men until they should say : there is no God but Allah ; or more fully : " I am commanded to make war on men until they shall con fess that there is no God but Allah and that Moham med is His Apostle, shall be steadfast in prayer, and give the legal alms : and when one shall perform these things, his blood and his property shall be se cure from me except in conformity with the laws." f The right and duty of propagating Islam by the sword has therefore become fully established as a part of the system. But we should remember that in Mohammed s view, this was against idolaters only. He was content with the submission of Jews and Christians, without conversion. As we have seen, he at first supposed that the three faiths were one in substance, and that their adherents could be welded into one communion. But he was undeceived by the conduct of the Jews of Medina. These adhered to their own peculiar cus toms with the tenacity which their race has always shown in the matter of their faith. The more Mo hammed saw of their exclusiveness, the more clear it became to him that no real union with them was pos-

  • Koran 8" f . t Mishcat, I., p. 5, cf. Bochari, IV., p. 5.



sible. Under the plea of treachery on their part he expelled them from Medina. But elsewhere in Ara bia he was willing that they should remain, on condi tion of payment of tribute. At Chaibar, for example, he spared their lives and left them in possession of their lands, but on the condition of paying one-half the fruits to the Moslems. This precedent became law for the treatment of Jews and Christians, and is formally sanctioned by this verse of the Koran : " Make war on those who do not believe in God and the Last Day, and who do not prohibit what God and His Apostle have prohibited, and on those of the peoples who have received a Scripture but do not profess the true religion, until they pay a tax for each one and humble themselves." * The terms used leave no doubt that Jews and Christians are meant.

For the extermination of idolaters, Mohammed might have pleaded the precedent of the Book of Joshua. The Book of Joshua makes no formal pro vision for conversion of the Cauaanites. But it is evident, from the example of Ilahab, that it was open to the Canaanites to join the Hebrew community if they would. Nor do I find that other parts of the Old Testament take a less rigid position. Idolatry is sin and its devotees must be punished, such is the general tenor of these writings. Their view, indeed, does not generally extend beyond the boundaries of their own land. When the Hebrews were able to bring other nations under tribute, they did so without too curious inquiry into their religion, though in some

  • Koran 9 29 .


instances, at least, the gods of the conquered nations were destroyed.

This need not be developed at length, because the precedents seem to have been unknown to Mo hammed. But the general principle on which his rule was based was common to him and other religious leaders. No religion can admit that other religions are as good as itself. The high claims of Chris tianity to be the one true religion are writ large in the New Testament. To a certain stage of human thought it seems natural, indeed it seems inevitable, that so important a thing as religion should be fos tered by the state. If it be the truth, why not make it triumph by the civil power? What Christianity would have done had it been compelled to organize a civil government in the Apostolic age we cannot tell. The Apostles were but men. They had the ideals of their age. It is not unlikely that they would have in stituted a state much like that of the Caliphs. We have reason to be thankful that they were not allowed to try the experiment. We know what happened when Christianity actually came to control the throne of the Empire. Justinian required all his subjects to acknowledge the orthodox creed,* and the persecu tion of heretics is the standing subject of Byzantine annals. Had Mohammed cared to inquire into Chris tian practice, as illustrated in the Byzantium of his time, he would have found abundant precedent for his course. And at a later day, the Crusaders and the persecutors of the Jews showed the Moslem prin ciple in full force in Christian lands.

  • Kattenbusch, Confessionskunde, I., p- 377.


The identity of Cliurcli and State in Islam involves also this proposition : The Koran is the civil as well as the religious law of all Moslems. As we have seen, there is no distinction of obligation. A man is as much bound to perform the ablution as he is to pay his taxes. In theory the judge is as competent to punish him for neglect of the one as he is to punish him for neglect of the other. In practice it is of course not easy to call men to account for religious dereliction. But in the more strict Mohammedan states, officers are not infrecpaently appointed whose duty it is to see that all the citizens come to the stated prayers. Now the introduction of a code for Arabia was an almost unmixed blessing. There had been no law in the desert. "With the triumph of Islam, the tribes came into the peace of Allah. Society was brought into order, and there was a recognized stand ard of judgment. But the establishment of any code as a perpetual law is a misfortune. Yet Mohammed was only following Biblical precedent. For it is evi dent that the Pentateuch occupies, for the Jew, just the place taken by the Koran among the Moslems. Were the conservative Jews to be put into possession of Palestine to-morrow, we cannot doubt that they would attempt to restore the Tora to its place as the supremo civil and ecclesiastical law of that laud. Every violation of its provisions concerning ritual sacrifice, lawful food, purifications would become an offence against the civil law, and would be within the cognizance of the courts. The same theory has pre vailed more or less among Christians. The "West minster Assembly of Divines defined it as the duty


of the civil magistrate : " to take order that unity and peace be preserved iu the Church, that the truth of God be kept pure and entire, that all blasphemies and heresies be suppressed, all corruptions and abuses in worship or discipline [be] prevented or re formed, and all the ordinances of God duly settled, administered, and observed^ for the better effecting whereof he hath power to call synods, to be present at them, and to provide that whatever is transacted in them be according to the mind of God."* In theory, Protestantism and Mohammedanism stood on the same ground as late as the seventeenth century of our era. Our present condemnation of the posi tion of Islam, shows how far we have advanced in the last two centuries in apprehending the true nature of the New Testament Church.

It may be briefly mentioned here that the recogni tion of a single supreme code has not prevented divis ions among Mohammedans any more than it pre vented them among Jews and Christians. The point at which the most bitter conflict arose, was this very one of the divine right of the ruler. Concerning Mo hammed himself, of course, there never was any doubt. But he made no provision for a successor. It seems strange to us that he failed to regulate so important a matter. But he was as shortsighted as the rest of us, and did not expect death to come so soon. Pos sibly he expected to see the Judgment come before his death ; or he may have relied on God to give him a long life. The fact remains. The neglect was the more remarkable in that the Prophet left no male

  • Schaff, Creeds of Christendom, III., p. 653.


children. In the emergency which actually arose, Abu Bekr, one of the earliest and most trusted of the Companions, was made Successor by a vote of ac clamation, led by the firm and clear-minded Omar. It is evident that here is a precedent for popular elec tion. On the other hand, Ali, the son-in-law (and adopted son) of Mohammed, seems to have held from the first that the principle of inheritance should ob tain. When he himself came to the Caliphate, three distinct parties arose. One held that the throne should go, according to old Arab custom, to the rec ognized Sheikh of the Koreish (the clan of the Prophet). Another held strictly to the principle of legitimacy, believing that the blood of Mohammed in his descendants (the children of Ali and Fatima) gave the only claim. A third was democratic, demanding an election by the whole body of true believers. It increases our sense of the importance of ideas to see how bitterly the adherents of these three views con tended with each other for decades, making a record of bloodshed and suffering which has not been sur passed in the annals of the race.* In this conflict there are traces of Christian ideas among the hetero dox sects. They adopted the Messianic hope, and they regarded Ali and his legitimate followers as incarna tions of the Godhead. The party which finally triumphed in the Caliphatef adopted substantially Old Testament ground. According to them the ruler

  • On this subject cf. Briinnow, Die Cliaridscliiten (1884); De

Sacy, Histoire des Druses, I., p. xxvii. ; Kremer, Geschiclite der Herrschenden Ideen des Islam, p. 409.

t The Shiites, or partisans of Ali, retained possession of Persia.


should be the defender of the faith, and should sup press heresy ; he should judge the people, protect the public peace, punish evil-doers, make war on the infi dels, collect and disburse the taxes, and appoint trust worthy and competent officers. These qualifications are much the same which would have been named by an Old Testament prophet. Should the ruler fail in these, the people have a right to depose him which again reminds us of the Old Testament principle, as illustrated by the freedom with which the elders of Israel assert themselves in the presence of Jeroboam, or the boldness with which Elisha commissions Jehu to depose and succeed the reigning monarch of the Northern Kingdom. But these parallels are the result of similar conditions rather than of direct in fluence.

The question of government is closely connected with the question of property. Especially where relig ion is the basis of government, we expect some reg ulation of property. In any monotheistic religion God is, of course, the ultimate owner of everything, and all human holders get their title from Him. Where the religion emphasizes the brotherhood of believers, we have additional reason to look for some enactment concerning property. In the case of Islam we find, on the whole, a conservative position taken. It has indeed been supposed of late that Mohammed came forward as a social reformer, and that his first preaching urged a state tax to be paid by the rich for the support of the poor. This he tried to enforce (on this theory) by his threat of the Judgment Day. But if what has already been said in these lectures be


true, this theory just inverts the order of ideas. The idea of the Judgment is aii idea great enough to en force itself. Mohammed s mind was impressed with this idea first. With it he had a realizing sense of the sin of men. It was only because sins of property have a large place among the sins of men, that he was impressed by them. Because of their prominence ho gives them proportionate attention. He had, of course, great sympathy with the poor, and great in dignation at oppression. One of his earliest suras rebukes the wicked in this way : " You do not treat the orphan generously, nor do you incite others to feed the poor, and you devour inheritance with greedy appetite, and you love wealth with an intense love." * Liberality is a virtue, avarice is a sin ; these are his axioms, and in adopting them he was no more socialistic than was the Apostle Paul. He takes the differences between men to be part of the divine or dering : " It is He who made you succeed [former generations] in the earth, and has raised some of you above others in rank that He may try you by what He has given you."f The matter of wealth or riches, however, is comparatively unimportant ; the present world and its possessions are only fleeting. The real wealth is yonder. In all this he took the religious, and not the socialistic, view.

What roused his indignation was injustice and op pression, and the most of his laws concerning prop erty were directed against these. We find, therefore, stringent injunctions designed to protect the orphan. From the same point of view we understand the pro-

  • Koran 80 8ff . f6 165 .


hibition of usury. That a man who loaned another money should get back twice as much, seemed to him the use of a false weight and measure. He does not denounce those who have wealth, but those who get it wrongfully. He does not advocate lavish benefi cence. He describes the good man as the one who in his expenditure is neither niggardly nor lavish. In all this we discover no social revolution.

That he who has should be ready to help him who has not, is, of course, one of the elementary truths of his religion. But it does not seem that the tax which was assessed upon the well-to-do, was based upon this duty. It was rather a recognition of God s right. It is called a purification, and the name would indicate the view taken in the Old Testament that the prop erty cannot be lawfully used until it is consecrated by giving a portion to God. This portion, like the tithe of Deuteronomy, belonged to God, and, like that, it was given by God to the poor, the stranger, the fatherless and the widow."* This afterward became among the Moslems a regular state tax which came into the public treasury, just as in the later legis lation in Israel the tithe became a regular provision for the support of the priesthood. But Mohammed had no idea of a state treasury, and his tax was in tended for the support of the poor. In some cases it was sent to him to distribute ; in others he allowed each tribe to assess it upon its own wealthy men and distribute it to its own poor. In the whole ar rangement he stands very much upon the ground of early Israel.

  • Dent. 14.

IN reviewing what has been said in these lectures we form a tolerably clear conception of the forces which have made Islam. In the first place, we must suppose that Mohammed was a religious nature capable of appreciating religious truth and of apply ing it to himself. For religious truth is only ade quately apprehended when it is made practical. This does not mean that Mohammed was morally perfect. He was not free from the defects of his age and of his (race^ He was not incapable of self-decep tion possibly not incapable of deceiving others. But he had the religious impulse, and when ho came in contact wdth the truths of Christianity, they burned in his soul. This was the spark which set Arabia on fire.

I have said that it was when he came in contact with the truths of Christianity that his soul was fired. It is commonly supposed that his impulse was Jew ish rather than Christian ; and his system does, in fact, more nearly resemble Judaism than it resembles Protestant Christianity. But we shall be guilty of an anachronism if we make this comparison. The Christianity with which Mohammed came in contact was the Christianity of Arabia or Mesopotamia in the seventh century. Its type was, no doubt, that of



primitive Ebionism rather than that even of Byzan tine orthodoxy. The fact that Mohammed took so large a part of his material from the Old Testament does not disprove this. The Old Testament was a part of the Church s Bible from the first for a time it was the Church s only Bible. The narratives which we find in the Koran are from that part of the Old Testament which is familiar to every child^even among us. They would be equally familiar to the early Christians for the same reason. Adam and Noah and Abraham and Moses are Christian saints quite as distinctly as they are Jewish patriarchs.

And if we find no reason why Mohammed should not take these from a Christian source, we do find things which he could not have got from a Jewish source. His description of the Judgment shows feat ures borrowed from the Gospel account. He recog nized Jesus as a prophet and one of the chief est of them this could not have come from the Jews, to whom Jesus was the arch traitor, the detested one who hung upon the accursed cross. Putting these two considerations together with some minor indica tions (all the more weighty because they are indirect) we need have no hesitation in concluding that the impulse came from Christianity.

But, as we have had occasion to remark, the Prophet of Arabia was not able to assimilate the most spiritual part of the Christianity of the New Testament. It was not fairly presented to him, for one thing. What is transferred in religion is not the pure source, but a tradition colored by individual ex perience. Think of a Horn an Catholic missionary


as sincere, as devout, and as intelligent as you can imagine think of him as preaching to the Moslems of Baghdad. Does he preach the simple truths of the New Testament, or does he preach those truths in the form in which they exist in his consciousness ? You cannot doubt that he will preach a tradition a tradition in which is much of truth, but a tradition nevertheless. Now think of the Baptist, or Method ist, or Episcopal missionary, is not the same thing true to some degree of each of these ? But if this bo so in this age of the world, we cannot find it strange that Mohammed received from the humble Christians with whom he came in contact something less and something more than the pure Gospel. On the whole it is rather remarkable that he received so much of the truth. The unity of God ; the certainty of judgment ; the fact of revelation ; God s will to save men ; the appropriation of salvation by faith ; good works the fruits of faith these doctrines make up no small part of our religion. And these ho adopted and proclaimed. That he presented them in his own form is only what we should expect.

If it is true that not all Christian truths were pre sented to Mohammed it is also true that he was in capable of assimilating some doctrines even had they been presented to him. The chief of these is the doc trine of the Trinity. In the metaphysical affirmations of the creed of Nicc^a concerning substance and per son, he would not have been able to find himself. As for the Sonship of Christ, we have already seen that this was coupled in his miud with the conceptions of heathenism ; while the idea of a love of God which


could lead to an incarnation would probably have seemed to him fanciful and extravagant. The same is true of the doctrine of the atonement. Sacrifice had to him lost its propitiatory sense perhaps be cause it was already a meaningless rite in Arabic heathenism.

Concerning these doctrines, which have so large a part in the Christianity that we know, we are in doubt whether they were ever fairly presented to Mo hammed, and we are also in doubt whether he could have used them in his system if they had been so pre sented. In either case the result is the same. His system is a Judaistic Christianity adapted to Arabic conditions.

But even in this imperfect form we cannot help admiring in Islam the power of the truth. It cannot for a moment be denied that the progress of Islam, which is one of the wonders of history, was due to many causes. It was not the truth alone which tri umphed, but the truth in alliance with all worldly and selfish motives. Islam is not the only religion in which the world, the flesh, and the devil have fought on the side of the truth, but for their own ends. Still, when all allowance has been made, we see that the truth in Islam has been a power. As compared with heathenism, Islam is a society in which God and righteousness are living and active forces. Everyone Avho has been admitted to intimacy with Mohamme dans will testify that men are not rare among them who live in the fear of God, who strive to do His will, and whose kindness and benevolence are the outworking of sincere faith in Him. The hold of Is-


lam on its adherents is because it lias so much of the truth.

This is the excellence of Islam. It was a great ad vance on the heathenism which it displaced. We cannot doubt that even now it carries into the heart of Africa a civilization and a morality that are an im mense advance on the fetishism in which the degraded negroes welter.

But with its excellence in bringing men one step in advance, we must contrast the tenacity with which it restrains them from taking another. It is like iron in the conservatism with which it holds its system against every attempt at change. Its formalism, its scholasticism, its unchangeable law embodied in a completed code these shut up its conscientious ad herents to medievalism as their ideal. There can be no real liberty and no real progress where a scholastic system has thus intrenched itself. The position of Christians in the Turkish Empire throws a lurid light upon this truth. Again and again has European pressure, aided by a few educated Turks, endeavored to secure equality before the laws for all subjects of the Sublime Porte. But as often as the attempt is made it proves a failure each now failure more ghastly than the last. The reason is that the con science and the faith of the most sincere and upright Moslems are bound up with the Koran and its sys tem. You cannot introduce a reform against the conscience and against the faith of those who must be depended upon to make the reform operative. Before Islam can be reformed, new truth must be brought to bear upon its heart and conscience. Civilization cannot effect this. Bifles and ironclads, the Cafe, the Theatre, the written Constitution, Repre sentative Institutions none of these can reach below the surface. A larger truth, a deeper religious expe rience, a higher life than the one supplied by their own faith this must be brought home to the hearts of these believers before they can enter into the larger liberty which we enjoy.