The Bible and Islam/The Doctrine of God

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The Bible and Islam by Henry Preserved Smith
The Doctrine of God

MOHAMMED, like other reformers, raised his voice in conscious opposition to the existing system. In one of his first revelations he is bidden to say : " O, you that disbelieve ; I will not serve what you serve, nor do you serve what I serve. . . . You have your religion and I have mine." The point at which he was consciously and most distinctly in op position to his contemporaries was the unity of God. There is no God but Allah, was, and continues to be, the watchword of Islam. The infidels are most often described as those who associate other beings with Allah as objects of worship. In the sura just quoted Mohammed seems, indeed, to say that the Meccans did not worship the same God which he worshipped. But it is plain from other passages that he did not deny that Allah was one of the deities in their pan theon. He meant that their worship w r as so vitiated by its polytheistic character that it was no true wor ship. Allah, like Yahweh, tolerates no partners. " Thou shalt have no other gods in My presence " was with him, as with the Hebrews, the first com mandment, and he appreciated it to the full. The declaration of God s unity : " God is One ; the Belf-

  • Sura 109.

98


THE DOCTRINE OF GOD 99

existent God ; He begets not and is not begotten ; and there is none like to Him," may be put beside the declaration of Moses : " Hear, O Israel, Yahweh our God, Yahweh is One ; and thou shalt love Yahweh thy God with all thy mind and with all thy soul and with all thy strength." The oneness of God is a reason for the exclusive nature of the worship paid to Him. The Biblical statement that Yahweh is a jealous God is simply the affirmation of the truth known to Mohammed, that Allah admits no partners. With him, as with the Hebrew law-giver, there was a conviction of the infinite worthiness of the one God, a worthiness which admits none to comparison with Him.

Mohammed was not the first of the Arabs to recog nize this truth. There is a very strong current of tradition to the effect that in this case also there were Eeformers before the Eeformation. Reflecting men had become dissatisfied with the popular re ligion. Some of them had sought refuge in Judaism or Christianity. Others were not drawn to these religions, but adopted monotheism and abandoned the worship of idols. An example is Zaid Ibn Amr, of whom Mohammed s earliest biographer says : " He adopted neither Christianity nor Judaism, but he gave up the religion of his people ; he abandoned the idols, kept himself from what was strangled, from blood, from what was offered to idols and from infanticide. He professed to worship the Lord of Abraham."* This Zaid was known to Mohammed, who, on hearing

  • Weil, Das Leben Mohammed s nach Mohammed Ibn Ishak bear-

leitet von Ibn Hischam (1864), I , p. 108.


100 THE BIBLE AND ISLAM

of his death, said : In the Resurrection he will form a communion by himself.* Several such hanifs as they are called the same word is applied to Abraham as we saw are mentioned in the time of Mohammed. Some of them joined him, some rejected him. They are an indication that the more earnest spirits were already breaking away from heathenism.

The difference between them and Mohammed is that they were content to work out their own salva tion and let other people alone to go to heaven their w-ay, and let the others go to the other place their way, as a modern writer describes toleration where as Mohammed felt the impulse to preach against idol atry. This it was which roused the Meccans. Their religion was a part of the standing order, and to change it meant revolution. Mecca owed its impor tance and its wealth to the fact that it was an empo rium. Its trade was secured by its being an asylum in which tribes otherwise hostile could meet in safety. The visible pledge of asylum was the presence of the gods of all the tribes at the Meccan sanctuary. To demand that these gods should be destroyed and Allah alone worshipped, was to demand the overthrow of their social and political institutions, and, as they regarded it, such a movement would be followed by financial ruin. Their first theory was that the demand could come only from a man possessed by a devil. But as Mohammed showed much method in his mad ness, they took active measures against him, so that at last he found safety only in flight.

Mere negations, however, do not triumph. The

  • Sprcnger, Lcben Jfuhammed s, I . p. 83.


THE DOCTXINE OF QOD 101

creed of Islam is indeed there is no God but Allah. But behind this creed, which is negative in form, there lies a positive conception of the character of Allah a conception which was clearly set forth by Moham med, which attracted his followers, and which is still the real belief of all reflecting Moslems. Even in the earliest suras, Allah is a definite and active person ality. Mohammed would heartily have accepted the statement of the Westminster Shorter Catechism : " There is but one only, the living and trite God." Note the following Koran passages :

"He is God, besides whom there is no God. He is the Knower of the secret and of the manifest. He is the Merci ful, the Compassionate. He is the King, the All-Holy, the Complete, the Protector, the Guardian, the Almighty, the Ruler, the Glorious. Far from Him be that which they associate with Him. He is God, the Creator, the Maker, the Fashioner all excellent names are His. Whatever is in heaven and on earth praises Him. He is the Almighty, the All-wise."*

Say to them : To whom belongs the earth and all that is in it do you know ? They will say : It belongs to Allah. Answer them : Will you not then praise Him? Who is the Lord of the seven heavens, and the spacious canopy ? They will say : Allah. Answer them : Will you not then fear Him ? In whose hand is the rule of the universe, who pro tects, but against whom no one protects do you know ? They will say : It is Allah. Answer them : Then why will you be bewitched [by idolatry] ? Verily, we have sent them the truth, but they are liars. f

Biblical parallels to several of these predicates readily suggest themselves. But in order to get a

  • 59 M 24 . f 23 8G - 9! .


102 THE BIBLE AND ISLAM

clearer view of the doctrine of the Koran, we shall be obliged to adopt some sort of arrangement under which we can group together the great variety of dicta prdbantia. Let us note, then :

1. The God of Mohammed is Allah, the God al ready known by name to the Arabs. In the passage just quoted, Mohammed conducts a dialogue with his adversaries in which they show themselves no stran gers to Allah. It would be precarious to build on such a passage a theory that Allah was already rec ognized as the supreme God of the pantheon. But it at least shows that the heathen knew Him by name, and that they could not seriously object to the doc trine of the Prophet as new and unheard of. Proba bly they had never reflected on the subjects on which he questioned them. In early religions the question of creation, for example, is not raised ; the world is taken as it is, and no theory of its origin is formu lated. When the question is raised, the Meccans are more likely to answer Allah than anything else, because Allah is the most general name for God. The word means simply the divinity, and could be ap plied to any God. Hobal was Allah at Mecca, and another God was Allah at Taif. Two Arabs might swear by Allah, and each have his own divinity in mind, just as Abraham and Abimelech might both swear by Elohim, though the Elohim of Abraham was Yahweh and the Elohim of Abimelech was an other.

It is not necessary to assume, therefore, as some have done, that there was already a fully developed doctrine of Allah Taala God Most High among


THE DOCTRINE OF GOD 103

the Arabs before Mohammed.* The case was not different from that of the Hebrews. AVhen Yahweh announced His proper name, he was careful to iden tify Himself with the Elohim already known to the people and to their fathers. The only difference is that Mohammed contented himself (at least finally) with the general name, while the Hebrew kept both names, though insisting that Yahweh is the only Elohim.

As a visible and substantial evidence that Allah was not an unknown God, Mohammed retained the ancient sanctuary of the Kaaba. So long as he was at Mecca he seems to have had no hesitation in this. When he went to Medina he tried to make a change. But he was obliged to return, after no long time, to his original position. As evidence that it was his original position, we have Sura 106, apparently an early one, in which he exhorts the Koreish to invoke the Lord of this house. In other religions we see the tendency to identify the newly revealed God with one already known. Even the Apostle Paul inti mates that the God whom he preaches at Athens is one already worshipped there.

The proposition that Allah is the only God does not necessarily mean that the other so-called gods have absolutely no existence. This was too radical a step to take all at once. Mohammed conceded the existence of spirits or demons who had seduced men to their worship. The Arabic word for these beings is Jinn (collective), and as we have no exact equivalent it is better to retain this word in translation : " But

  • Dozy, Essai sur VHistoire de I Islamisme (1879), p. 5.


10-i T11E BIBLE AXD ISLAM

they give associates to God, the Jiiiii, whom He cre ated ; and out of ignorance they falsely attribute to Him sons and daughters. Far be this from Him! He is exalted above what they ascribe to Him." * In another passage, the false gods are questioned by Allah at the Judgment, and avow that they have misled their worshippers ; and again we are told that the idolaters worship only Satan the rebellious, f It is not mere dramatic imagery intended to emphasize the evil of polytheism that is presented in these pas sages. Mohammed admitted that the false gods have a real existence. AVhat he denied w r as not their reality but their divinity their power to help or harm.

We find in this a distinct parallel to both Old Tes tament and New. It will suffice to quote Leviticus 17 7 : " They shall no longer sacrifice their sacrifices to the satyrs (se irim, the desert demons) after which they have [heretofore] gone astray." In Deuteronomy also we read that they sacrificed to demons (sliedim) instead of God4 For the New Testament, we have Paul s assertions that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice they sacrifice to demons and not to God." The belief in spirits which infest the desert is very old among the Semites indeed beliefs of this kind are found among all nations. It was therefore nat ural that Mohammed should identify these beings

  • gioo

1 28 62f and 4 1 ".

I With Lev. IT cf. 2 Chron. II 15 . With Deut. 32 n cf. Ps. 100 ;i . Gvmkel combines with these Ps. 40 r> where the idols are railed rehabim : "evil beings, enemies to num."

SI. Cur. 10-.


THE DOCTRINE OF GOD 105

with the divinities worshipped by the heathen Arabs. It is not unlikely, however, that he was also influenced remotely by the Biblical statements just quoted.

2. The God of Mohammed is also the God of Jews and Christians. This also is indicated by the name (Allah, Al-ilah), which is found in Hebrew (Eloah, Elohini) and in the Christian Syriac. The identity is not only clear from the name itself, but from direct assertions of the Koran : " Debate with those who have the Scriptures only in the most honorable man ner . . . and say : We believe in what is re vealed to us and in what is revealed to you ; your God and our God are one God, and we are resigned to Him." * The doctrine of Mohammed is like the doctrine of Christianity in its universalism. Allah is not the God of a particular race only ; He is God of the whole earth. This was also the doctrine of the Old Testament in its latest stages. The religious impulse seems to find in the oneness of God the unifying principle of human history. Hence comes the necessity of finding our God in the God of the fathers. The parallel between Abraham, Moses, and Jesus, which Mohammed extended to himself was another expression of the continuity of the one God a God who has never left Himself without witness. By some one of His prophets He has repeatedly called men to repentance and obedience. That in this respect Mohammed occupies ground which is more distinctly Christian than Jewish, needs no dem onstration.

3. This God enters into personal relation with

  • 29 15 .


10G THE BIBLE AND ISLAM

those who believe on Him. He Himself is a person there is no pantheism in the Koran. The Gnostic sects which swarmed in the farther East had not penetrated Arabia with their emanistic speculations. At least w r e find no trace of their influence in the theology of Mohammed. God and the universe ap pear to him as sharply distinguished as man and the world. Not even in polemic does he betray any sus picion of pantheism. The whole impression made by what he says, and by what he does not say, is to the effect that he could not even conceive of a God without personality.

To a certain extent, his view was anthropomorphic. If we mean by anthropomorphism every ascription of thought or feeling to God, then all religions except Buddhism are infected with anthropomorphism. Is lam, or at least the Koran, is not extreme in attribut ing a human form to God. To speak of His hands (as is done a few times) is almost unavoidable in describ ing His activity. Beyond this He does not receive bodily members. That the traditions are more pronounced than the Koran, is only what we should expect, but how far w r e can rely upon these is difli- cult to decide. We shall have no hesitancy in ac cepting tradition where it makes Mohammed say that in Paradise the believer shall see God, for this is a hope common to other believers. On the whole the anthropomorphism of the Koran is not more pro nounced than that of the Bible.

Now, as to the communion which exists between God and his worshippers we must recognize this also as a principle of all religion. Even in heathen-


THE DOCTRINE OF GOD 107

ism the gods enter into personal relations with their worshippers : " They take the Satans as their pro tectors besides Allah, yet think they are guided aright ; " " Allah is the protector of those who be lieve; He brings them from darkness into light. But as for those who disbelieve, their protectors are the devils ; they bring them from light to dark ness." * The word translated protector (ivali) means the next of kin, who has the right and the obligation of blood revenge the go el of the Old Testament. Mohammed s conception is precisely that of Job, who regards God as his " Redeemer " in exactly the sense in which this passage speaks of protectors. Moham med allows that the idolaters have entered into the relation of clientage (if I may so say) to their gods. The protection promised is of no avail, not because the relation does not exist, but because the protec tors have no power to carry out what they have promised. In the next world the worshipped and the worshippers shall alike be brought to confusion On the other hand the God and Protector of Moham med is all powerful, and therefore, able to carry out His promise.

The sense of loyalty to God is expressed in the frequent use of the term my Lord, in which the speaker embodies his claim on God, and God s claim on him. In the earliest group of suras this term is used about three times as often as the name Allah, and thus shows the vivid sense of God s presence with which the Prophet entered on his mission. In

  • 7 JS and 2 269f . The word Taghut used for the false gods is

obscure ; but there can be no doubt of its meaning in this context.


103 THE BIBLE AND ISLAM

the choice of the term he was doubtless under Script ural influence, for God is Lord of all both in the Old Testament and in the New." The vividness of Mo hammed s faith, which impels him to say my Lord does not cause him to forget the claims of others. God is the Lord of Abraham, of Moses, even of the unbelievers.! In the prayer which in Islam takes the place of the Lord s Prayer the Fatilia He is the Lord of the ivorlds.% But He is also the one to whom the believer cries for help.

4. Allah is the Creator. This is a conception which can be adequately held only in a monotheistic religion. Polytheism, so far as it has a doctrine of creation, thinks of the universe as modified by the strife of many gods. But where God is one, crea tion and lordship go together. Mohammed followed Biblical precedent in emphasizing their union. One of his most frequent arguments is that Allah is Crea tor and therefore Lord, or even that He is Creator and therefore the only true God. There is no sus picion of the eternity of matter in the Koran. In a tradition we find this question put to Mohammed : " O, Apostle of Allah, where was our Cherisher before creating His creation ? " He replied : " God was, and nothing was with Him, and God created

  • The word Rail, Mohammed s word for Lord* is not used of God

in Hebrew. In Aramaic it is said to be so used by the Mandaaans (Michaelis, Lexicon Syr. sub voce). This is another indication that Mohammed s ideas were derived from some " heretical" source.

f5P, 79 16 , 5 1 44 , cf. 69 .

J I 1 , cf. 69 1S . The word for worlds (or ages it may be) is bor rowed from the Aramaic, whether Christian or Jewish is impossible to tell. Cf. I. Tim. I 17 .



Til E DOCTRINE pft GOD ^109

His imperial throne upon water." * TLt^^^Jwce^Sl^^S the last clause is so obviously to the aqtsbvmt in G^ esis, where the Spirit of God brooddt^pA tl^face the Avaters, that Ave may alfiwpae Biblical influen^iKon

iLf *L,-^

the tradition. Probably the Ti^uet^p \extended i&> ^ Mohammed himself, for his accoufifcAf tlite creation is largely borrowed from the Bible. Far exhanple, we are told that : " God creates what He w^U^ AvheiTHe decides upon a thing He says : Be ! anc The Biblical parallel is familiar. Another feature of the Biblical account found in the Koran, is the ac complishment of the Avork in six days : " And it is He who created the heavens and the earth in the space of six days, while His throne Avas on the \vaters." $ An evidence of Mohammed s freedom in treating Biblical materials is found, hoAvever, in his assertion that God was not affected by fatigue an evident rejection of the Old Testament Avord that God rested the seventh day. Moreover he does not seem to be clear as to the order of the six days work : He says in one passage : " Will you disbe lieve in God Avho made the earth in two days . . . and made the mountains which toAver above it, and Who arranged provision upon it in four days, suf ficient for those who ask. Then He ascended to the heavens when they were yet smoke, and said to them and to the earth : Come, Avillingly or umvillingly ! They replied : We come \villingly. And He divided them into seven heavens in two days, and communicated to each heaven its order, and We decked the lower

  • Mishcat, II., 650. fS 1 -, 16.

I IT, cf. 50 :!7 , 57 4 . 5(F.


110 THE BIBLE AND ISLAM

heaven with lamps and guardians this was the de cree of the Almighty, the Wise." * By counting the two days first mentioned as part of the four, we can make out the requisite total of six. But even then it is impossible to find traces of the Biblical arrange ment, in which the creation of the heavenly bodies takes place on the fourth day. But from the religious point of view Mohammed had thoroughly adopted the doctrine of the Bible, as the following somewhat ex tended quotation will make plain :

" It is God who raised the heavens without visible pil lars ; then He ascended to the throne, and made the sun and moon obedient [to His will], so that each runs to its appointed goal. He regulates affairs and makes plain His signs, that you may be sure of the meeting with your Lord. And it is He who spread out the earth and made in it mountains and rivers ; and of every fruit He made two kinds. He makes the night succeed the day in this are signs for people who reflect. And in the earth are tracts [different though] bordering on each other : vineyards and fields and palms, in groups or isolated. They are supplied with the same water, yet We make the quality of one bet ter than that of another verily in this are signs for people who understand. . . . It is He who shows you the lightning, an object of terror and of desire, and who brings up the clouds heavy with rain. The thunder celebrates His praise, the angels also, moved by fear of Him. He sends the thunderbolts and smites whom He will. Yet all the while men are disputing concerning God, though He is the mighty in power. To Him sincere prayer should be made, and those whom men invoke besides Him shall not answer them in any respect, any more than one stretching out his hands to the water which he cannot reach to bring it to his mouth. The prayer of the unbelievers is only loss.

  • 41 8 -11).


THE DOCTRINE OF GOD 111

All that are in heaven and in earth bow to God willingly or unwillingly even their shadows bow morning and evening. Who is Lord of heaven and earth ? It is God. And will you take as protector those who cannot benefit or harm even themselves ? Are the blind and the clear-eyed alike ? Is the darkness the same as the light ? Will they give God associates who create as He creates, so that the creation is confused between them ? [Nay !] God is the Creator, He is the One, the Victorious. "*

The passage shows how creation and government are intertwined. Although not parallel to any single Biblical text, it is full of Biblical allusions. God is in both Old Testament and New, the Creator of heaven and earth ; He makes the sun run its ap pointed course ; He spreads out the earth and what grows upon it ; and He also makes fast the mountains. Further : it is He who created the fruit trees, as well as herb for the service of man, bringing forth bread out of the earth. He brings up the thunder storms also, and smites the Egyptians with this as one of His visitations ; and He is of course the giver of rain.f The figure of the thunder as the voice of God which we find in the Old Testament is not re peated by Mohammed, but in every other respect his conception of Allah as the master of the storm is parallel to that of the Bible. And so we may say of the conception that the creation is for the benefit of man, whose gratitude should lead him to worship his Creator. All created things adore Him. Not

  • 132-4,13.17

fFor the Biblical phraseology consult Gen. I 1 - 11 , Ps. 19 5 , 104 19 , Is. 42 s , Ps. C5 7 , 104 14 , 29. Other passages will suggest themselves to the reader.


112 THE BIBLE AND ISLAM

only does the thunder chant His praise, and the angels bow before Him, all things on earth join with them : " All that are in heaven and on earth praise God, His is the kingdom and He is the Kuler over all." *

It is also in accord with Biblical ideas that the cre ation should be used as evidence of the character of God. It is, first of all, an evidence of His power. When men scofted at the idea of a resurrection as being a thing impossible, Mohammed pointed out that to bring men from dust the second time would not be difficult for Him who created them out of clay at the first. The creation is an evidence that God can do (and therefore will do) what He promises or threatens. The argument is the same used by Deu- tero-Isaiah. When the people are faint-hearted con cerning the promises of God, this prophet reminds them that the promises come from the One "who made all things, who stretched out the heavens alone, and spread abroad the earth by Himself." Moham med was more concerned with the doubts of unbe lievers than with the discouragements of believers, but in bringing his message to his people, he reminds them that the power shown in creation may be turned upon them in chastisement.

The creation is, further, an evidence of God s knowledge. He that made all things must certainly know all things. There is perhaps no attribute which is more frequently mentioned than this. He is the Knowing, the Wise, or, God is a disccrncr of id tat tlicy do, have become to Mohammed stereotype phrases

  • C4 1 .


THE DOCTRINE OF GOD 113

with which he rounds off his periods. That he was not unmindful of their significance is seen from the more extended propositions such as the following : "Do they not know that God knows what they con ceal and what they discourse about in private, and that God is the kiiower of secrets." * Again : " Three do not sit in secret converse except that He makes the fourth, or five without His being the sixth ; and whether there be few or more, He is with them where- ever they are. In the day of resurrection He will tell them what they have done verily God is omnis cient." f The Biblical parallels are too numerous to quote. The particular kind of knowledge which the Psalmist finds wonderful when he says : " Thine eyes saw my formless substance and in Thy book all was written in the days when it was taking shape " is also emphasized by Mohammed. And where the New Testament gives the fall of a sparrow as within the omniscient eye, Mohammed adduces the fall of a leaf.

5. God not only creates, He also governs. The kingdom of heaven and earth is His: "Verily your Lord is the God who created the heavens and the earth in six days ; then He took His seat upon the throne, making the night darken the day, which [in its turn] follows swiftly ; and the sun and moon and the constellations are obedient to His command. Do not creation and rule belong to Him ? Blessed be God, Lord of the worlds." ii The mind of the speaker sees in God the great efficient cause of all. He is

  • 9 79 , cf. 21n. f58", cf. 3 7 .

| Ps. 139", cf. Koran 13 9 . 6 i9 , cf. Matt. 1O 9 . || 7 : > 2 . 8


114 THE BIBLE AND ISLAM

the active mover of the constellations and the sea sons. In another passage He is said to sit upon the throne conducting the affairs of the universe. He not only gives rain, driving the clouds as He will ; He rules in the affairs of men : " O God, Ruler of the Kingdom, Thou givest the kingdom to whom Thou wilt, and Thou takest away the kingdom from whom Thou wilt. Thou strengtlienest whom Thou wilt, and Thou humblest whom Thou wilt, and in Thy hand is good ; Thou art omnipotent." * We are reminded of the Song of Hannah ; " Yahweh makes poor and makes rich : He makes low and also raises on high." How far God employs second causes we need not now stop to inquire.

6. As the ruler of the universe, God is also the God of history. The principle of His government is very simple : He rewards those who obey and He punishes the disobedient. This implies some reve lation of His will. As we saw in Mohammed s treat ment of his narrative material, all history falls into epochs, each of which rounds out the same cycle. God first makes His will known by a prophet. Men either receive the message and obey, or they reject it and are destroyed. It may not always be necessary that a prophet interpret the will of God. Creation is itself a revelation : " In the heavens and the earth are signs for those who believe ; in your creation also and in the animals which are dispersed [over the earth] are signs for those Avho are firm in their faith , and in the succession of night and day, and in the portion which God sends down from the heavens,

  • 3 :s , cf . I. Sam. 2 7 .


THE DOCTRINE OF GOD 115

with which He revives the earth after its death, and in the direction of the winds in these are signs for people of intelligence." * There is in nature there fore a revelation of God. Whether this alone is a sufficient guide does not appear. The Prophet seems not to have raised this question. In history, as he saw it, God was accustomed to send additional revelations by the hand of His messengers. From this point of view His justice becomes manifest He gives men the alternative of obedience or disobedience. He can rightly punish those who disobey and He can rightly reward those who obey.

It follows therefore that Allah is a God of justice. Here again, Mohammed had a practical rather than a speculative interest. It had never occurred to him (apparently) to inquire whether right or wrong are dependent on the will of God. If the question had been put to him he would very likely have answered in the affirmative. God is an absolute monarch ; He does what He pleases. So far Mohammed would have said that the will of God is the ground of right and wrong. But it is nevertheless the constant assump tion of the Koran that God is a morally perfect char acter. His action is such that it meets our idea of right.-)- Though none can restrain or call Him to ac count, yet He does not punish without cause. If we fail to find perfect justice in His dealings with men in this present life, we must turn to the future when all


t " The Apostle of God said : When God created the creation He wrote a book which is near Him upon the imperial throne, and what is written in it is this : Verily My compassion overcomes My auger." Mishcat, I., p. 563.


116 TUBS BIBLE AND ISLAM

will be made plain. The thought of the Day of Judg ment is therefore indispensable to our idea of God s justice. That day completes the purpose of creation . " Did you reckon that We created you in sport, and that you would not appear before Us ? " * This is one of God s questions at the Judgment. It implies that the purpose of creation is attained only in the final apportionment of reward and punishment. With out this, the creation of man would have been a vain act.

God does not always act according to our desires or hopes. This is a matter of universal experience. The explanation of it in the Koran, as in the Bible, is that God proves men : " Verily, We proved them as we proved the owners of the garden, who swore that they would gather its fruits the next morning. They swore without reservation, but while they slept there came a visitation from the Lord, and in the morning

O

it [the garden] was like a field of stubble." t Such an experience is sent to try the state of man s heart ; he must learn from it that he is not independent of God. The conclusion is plain, and is expressed in language which agrees almost verbally with an exhor tation of the New Testament : " Do not say concern ing anything : I will do it to-morrow, without adding if God will, and remember thy Lord when thou hast forgotten Him, and say: Perhaps my Lord will guide me to the accomplishment of this affair." j The alternations of fortune in the experience of the Moslem community are explained as a part of their probation : " We make the days [of good and evil

  • 23*. t<J8". J 18 cf. James 4 \


THE DOCTRINE OF GOD 117

fortune] to alternate among men, that God may know those who believe, and may take from you martyrs for Himself." * "Were constant good the lot of man he would become insupportable : " If God gave pro vision in abundance to His servants they would act insolently in the earth. He therefore apportions ac cording to His will He knows and sees His ser vants." f God s purpose is plain : " We will prove you by ill fortune and by good, as a test, and unto Us shall you be brought." $ The thought is distinctly Biblical. Abraham is tested by the command to offer his son. So the Koran says in giving an account of the same incident. That Mohammed so understood the experience of Job, to which he also alludes, is made probable by the concluding sentence of that passage : " We found him possessed of patience." || How thoroughly Mohammed adopted the doctrine is seen in his statement that even the game which came in sight of the pilgrims to Mecca was sent to prove them, to discover whether they would obey the law : " That God may know him who fears Him in his heart." f Apparent cases in which God s actions cannot be explained on our ideas of justice are there fore only apparent. He acts in a mysterious way sometimes, but in the end all will be plain, and we shall see the wicked punished and the good rewarded. The reward of those who do well is affirmed on almost every page of the Koran. The great burden of Mohammed s preaching is the Day of Judgment. This day will result in endless pleasure for the good,

  • 3 m . f42- fi . J21 36 .

37 106 , cf. 2" 8 . ||38 13 . f5 95 .


118 THE BIBLE AND ISLAM

as it will bring endless pain to the evil : " Shall I tell you what is better [than the pleasures of this world] ? Those who fear God shall possess in the presence of their Lord Gardens in which are peren nial streams, and pure wives, and the good favor of God ; God has regard to His servants." " Those who fear God shall dwell in the midst of gardens and fountains, partaking of what their Lord gives them ; they are the ones who did well in their earlier [that is, their earthly] life." * God, therefore, does not desire to bring men into evil. After speaking of the future life, the speaker adds : " These are the won ders of God which we recite to thee ; God does not desire injustice to the universe." t The passage re minds us of Ezekiel s declaration, that God does not desire the death of the wicked, and the resemblance is the more marked in that both cases imply that the prophet is sent because God does not desire to do injustice. His desire is rather that man may have opportunity to repent. Nevertheless, He must take cognizance of men s actions. This is one evidence of His superiority over the idols : " He who is mindful of every soul with regard to what it has earned will they take others besides such a God ? " % Here is where His omniscience most nearly concerns us. Because He is all-seeing, He can vindicate justice : " How will it be when "We assemble you to a Day concerning which there is no doubt, and every soul shall be paid what it has earned, and none shall be treated unjustly ? "

As for God s justice in punishing, we may find it

  • 3" and ul 15 l . f 3 104 . J 13 :!;i . 3- 4 .


THE DOOTRINE OF GOD 119

even in the present world. Historically it appears in the destruction of Pharaoh and other wrong-doers in the past : " God seized them for their sins, and God is strict in taking account." * Elsewhere God is de scribed as quick in reckoning, so that He does not fail in determining the just dues of each one : " We will establish the scales of equity in the Day of Resurrec tion, and no soul shall be wronged in any matter ; were it the weight of a grain of mustard seed, We will pay it, and We are sufficient as accountants." f The phrase grain of mustard seed makes us suspect New Testament influence, but it may be only a proverbial phrase, of whose New Testament origin Mohammed had no knowledge. The conception of the scales of justice is found in the Bible, though also found in extra-Biblical sources. In the Bible it is generally the men who are weighed instead of their actions. The figure is natural and appropriate in either form. The specific statement that God calls men to account is also Biblical.^

Because of His justice God hates the evil : " Those who disbelieve will be summoned [and told] : The hatred of God is greater than your hatred of each other [was] when you were invited to the faith and disbelieved." The path in which the believer de sires to be led is the path of those with whom God is not angry. The Israelites who murmured at the rnauna, returned w r ith the anger of God upon them. When a believer kills another believer, his portion

  • 3". f21 48 .

J Compare Rom. 14", I. Sam. 2 ! , Ps. G2 , Dan. 5".

40 .


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will be liell fire : " God is angry with, him and curses him and prepares for him a grievous punishment." : Similar language is used of the Israelites who were changed into apes and swine, and also of the hypo crites at Medina. t How closely it follows Biblical precedent, I need scarcely say. In the Old Testa ment, God is a just judge, and as such is angry every day. When the people worship the golden calf His anger burns against them.J I n the New Testament also, the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.

7. Strict justice would result in the extermination of the race : "If God should take men in their sin, He would not leave upon the earth a living creature. Bat He grants them delay till a fixed term. When their term shall come it will not be delayed or ad vanced an hour." God is therefore long-suffering; He does not hasten His punishment. This is the ex planation of a fact which probably perplexed Mo hammed as it had perplexed the Biblical writers. We see that in this world wicked men often enjoy good fortune for a long time. The perplexity does not arise merely from the inequality in the lot of the good and the bad. The prolongation of the life of a wicked man gives him a prolonged opportunity to do the evil things that God hates. Why does not God speedily cut such men off? Two answers are pos sible. God may be giving them the opportunity to repent ; or, on the other hand, He may be allowing them to fill up the measure of their iniquity, so as to

  • 4 95 , cf . 2 58 . t ;5 and 48 6 .

I Ex. 32 :0 , Ps. 7 -, and Rom. I 1 ". 1G ; <.


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earn the more complete and exemplary punishment. Both these solutions of the problem are presented in the Bible, and Mohammed also seems to have enter tained both, though he does not sharply distinguish between them. The passage quoted above seems to say only that a strict administration of justice cannot be carried out, because no one could stand before it. It agrees with the Psalmist who says : " If Yahweh should closely watch iniquities, O Lord, who could stand ? " * On this side, God s mercy is simply a concession to human weakness. But that He also spares men in order that they may repent, while not directly stated, is implied in many passages which speak of Him as merciful and gracious, as inviting men to repentance and Himself loving to turn to those who turn to Him. But we find also the theory that the wicked are spared in order that they may (like the Amorites) fill up the measure of their iniq uity : " Let not those who disbelieve reckon that the long life which We grant them is a good to them. We grant it only that they may increase their guilt, and they shall receive a shameful punishment." t

Although this threat is uttered against those who persist in their iniquity, there is a distinct doctrine of forgiveness taught in the Koran. Sins committed before the coming of the revelation are passed over with indulgence, because allowance is made for the state of ignorance. There is here a very close parallel to Paul s declaration that God overlooked the times of ignorance, but now calls on all men everywhere to repent.:}: A striking parallel with a Biblical passage

  • Ps. 130 3 . f3 n -, cf. Gen. 15 16 . J Acts 17 30 , cf. Kor. 5" ; .


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is found again where the justice and the rnercy of God are placed side by side : " The revelation of the Book from God, the Mighty, the Wise ; the one who forgives sin, accepting repentance, strict in His pun ishments, the Bountiful, besides whom there is no God." * The Biblical parallel which I have in mind is of course the Name proclaimed before Moses in Horeb : " Yahweh, a merciful and gracious God, slow to auger and plenteous in kindness and truth, keeping kindness for thousands, forgiving iniquity and trans gression and sin ; but who will not pronounce inno cent visiting the iniquities of fathers upon children and grandchildren, upon the third generation and upon the fourth." f In the case of Mohammed, at any rate, there seems to be no consciousness that justice could conflict with mercy. In other words, there is no theory of an atonement. The words expiation and redemption may be said to exist in Arabic but they have sunk to almost trivial importance. In certain cases of transgression, a sort of equivalent must be paid. If a man breaks his oath, he must, as an ex piation,^ feed or clothe ten poor men, or free a slave. If either of these be beyond his power he must fast a certain number of days. Redemption is used of a similar fine or satisfaction. In no case is there an intimation that this is more than a punishment in flicted for the sin. It is nowhere brought into rela tion with the wrath of God. Atonement or propitia-

  • 40 1 3 . f Ex. 34" 7 .

J The word used is Kaffara, corresponding to the Hebrew Kap- poreth. Fidija, redemption, is also from a root used in Hebrew. But Arabic usage seems independent of Old Testament influence in this case.


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tion in the sense in which they are understood in Christian theology do not appear in the Koran.

That goodness is one of the attributes of God must be evident from what has already been said. This goodness extends to all His creatures : " There is not a living thing in the earth whose nourishment is not dependent upon God. Ho knows its abiding place and its resting." * Even the birds are sustained in their flight by Him.f He adapts His burdens to those who carry them : " We do not lay upon any soul more than it can bear." J The consequence is given in the words : " If you remember the favors of God, you will not be able to count them." In a number of passages the Koran rises to the affirmation of the love of God. But the objects of His love are those who do well. The sublime declaration of the New Testament : " God commendeth His love toward us in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us," seems to be without parallel in the sacred book of Islam.

Here is where Mohammed and Christianity (at least in the orthodox form) part company. Up to this point, his idea is essentially the theism of the Bible. He may be said (as he has been said) to main tain the separation of God from the world with more precision and rigor than does Judaism even. || But in substance he holds the Biblical idea of God, and he would not have objected to the definition current among us that God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in His being, wisdom, power, holiness,

  • 11 8 . fG7 19 . JG 1S3 .

16 18 , cf. Fs. 40 :i . || Dozy, V Islamisme, p. 315.


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justice, goodness, and truth. Moreover he holds to God as a present personality, " nearer to man than the vein of his neck." * But he was not led to the thought that God could or would corne to man by an incarna tion. As we saw in the last lecture, this doctrine was probably not fairly presented to him. He learned of it as the deification of a man, rather than as the in carnation of God. In this form he could not help re jecting the doctrine. Nor on the side of the media torial work of Christ did he have any leaning toward the Christian view. The necessity of bridging over the chasm between God and the world a necessity that appeals very strongly to some minds seems not to have existed for him. We should remember that the doctrine of mediation was associated with what he must class as idolatry. In the Eastern Church, the mediation of saints and angels is held very strongly even to the present day, and leads to the excessive devotion paid to them and to their pictures, f In heathenism the subordinate divinities are intercessors with the higher gods. The whole idea of mediation therefore presented itself to Mohammed under an un favorable aspect. This was especially true after ho had made his experiment at compromise with the Meccaus. There was a time when he tried to make use of this doctrine of mediation, to produce some- tiling on which he and his countrymen could unite. His plan was to recognize the three Goddesses, upon whose worship the Meccans laid the most stress, as daughters of Allah and mediators with Him. Every worldly motive urged him to such a compromise, and

  • 50 15 . fCf. Kattonbusch, Confessionsktinde, I., p. 4G1.


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he probably flattered himself that he would thereby secure the essentials of his system. The Arabs have been willing to forget what actually took place. It seems probable that a formal agreement was made, by which the Meccans recognized the supremacy of Allah, while Mohammed and his followers were to allow the worship of the three Goddesses as inter cessors with Allah. All that has come down to us, is a tradition to the effect that Mohammed, in reciting the fifty-third sura of the Koran, included in it these words : " Do you not see Lat and Uzza and Manat, the third besides ? These are the exalted maidens * and their intercession is to be hoped for." The Mec cans who were present were surprised and delighted at the mention of their divinities and at the close of the recitation all prostrated themselves, following the example of the Prophet. The tradition goes on to say, that in the evening he was visited by Gabriel who heard him repeat the sura and disavowed the compromising words. Mohammed was convinced that he had been misled by Satan and he at once adopted the true reading and published it the next day in the words : " Do you not see Lat and Uzza and Manat the third besides ? Shall you have sons and He have daughters ? t That were, indeed, a wrong division. These are but names which you and your fathers have named ; God has not delegated

  • The word is obscure and the Arabs themselves are divided as to

its meaning. I choose among the meanings (or conjectures) the word most appropriate to the context. The authorities are given by Sprenger, Leben Muhammed s, II., p. 45 ff. ; Muir, Life of Ma homet, II., p. 150 ff.

t Daughters are inferior to sons in the view of the Arabs, cf . 43 1|! .


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to them any power. [The unbelievers] follow only conjecture and what their souls desire, though there has come to them guidance from their Lord." So far tradition ; whatever the actual course of events, it seems probable that Mohammed made a serious attempt to introduce authorized mediators of a divine character into his religion. But the scheme would not work. His idea of the unity of God was too absolute to admit even subordinate divinities. After this experience, he was careful to defend the strict oneness and transcendentality of God.

The incarnation and the mediatorial work of Christ, therefore, fall (for him) under the same condemnation with the heathen ideas which he rejected : " Men serve, besides God, that which cannot harm nor profit them, and they say : These are our intercessors with God. Say to them : Will you inform God concern ing what He does not know either in the heavens or in the earth ? Praise be to Him ; He is exalted above what they associate with Him." " Men say : The Compassionate has taken a son. Far be it from Him ! Rather, these are honored servants ; they do not speak to Him before He speaks to them, and they do according to His commands. He knows what is before them and what is behind them, and none in tercede except for the one for whom permission is given, and they constantly tremble in fear of Him." f Intercession is here denied on two grounds : the in tercessors cannot tell God anything He does not al ready know ; and no created being dares to speak to Him without His permission, which permission will

t 10 Q , 21 9 .


TIIK DOCTRINE OF GOD 127

not be given in case the intercession concerns a man with whom He is already displeased. It is in accord with this that we read : " And warn those who fear God that they shall be gathered to their Lord ; be sides Him they have neither protector nor interces sor."*

But, like the most of us, Mohammed was not al ways entirely consistent. On this point he was led to modify his position. Probably his own experience furnishes the explanation. He was himself often asked by his followers to pray for them. He found satisfaction also in praying for those he loved. His experience of the value of intercession in this world led him to believe that in the other world he would be allowed thus to help his followers. The traditions report him as saying that in the Day of Judgment he will intercede even when the other prophets declare their inability. It is possible that these traditions t are colored by the views of later times. But we are tempted to allow them some weight, because some Koran passages seem to allow the intercession of those to whom God gives permission, by which he means the greater prophets those who had founded religions. These would be allowed to intercede for their followers and to bring them into Paradise.

All this shows how far Mohammed was from enter taining the ideas of incarnation, atonement, or medi ation, as these have been developed in Christian the ology. It has been supposed by some that he made one attempt at postulating a difference of persons (to use the established theological term) in the Godhead.

  • G 51 and cf. 2 15 . f Cf. MisJicat. II., p. 603 ff.


128 THE BIBLE AND ISLAM

In one group of suras, he uses predominantly the name Eahman as a name of God. As the word oc curs in Hebrew and Aramaic, it is probable that he borrowed it. It is a perfectly good Arabic form how ever, and occurs in inscriptions from southern Arabia which are apparently older than the time of Moham med.* It means the Compassionate and is used as an exact equivalent for the name Allah. Thus : Eahman punishes the wicked ; He sits on the throne ; His signs [or revelations] are recited to men; to Him Satan is disobedient ; and at the Last Day men shall be congregated to Him.t There is here no trace of a second person of the Godhead, a Divine Mediator, or an Emanation from the Supreme. All we can base on the phenomena, is the theory that Moham med wished to introduce another name for God, per haps because Allah was the name associated with the old heathenism. Possibly the mistake he made in the concession to the Meccans, caused in his mind a revolt even against their vocabulary. Eahmanan was the name of God the Father among the Christians of Southern Arabia. Its meaning was appropriate to his purpose. The choice was therefore a good one, and the motive of the choice was honorable. But the obstacles were too many. The small but earnest band of Moslems were already attached to the old name. They had taken up the cause of Allah and

  • The adjective form rahmani occurs once in the Old Testament,

Lam. 4 10 . For the Talmud cf. Levy, N. II. W. B. sub race, and Geiger in Z. D. M. G., XXI., p. 488 ff. The latter also discusses the SyrSac use. For the inscriptions, G laser, Skizze der Gescliichte Arabiens (1889), pp. 4, 13.

t 19 ; \ 20 , 1 J 4S - 8S .


THE DOCTRINE OF GOD 129

His Apostle. Rahman they knew not. In their per plexity and in the renewed and bitter persecution which came upon them, Mohammed had enough to do to hold on to what he had already attained. The attempt to introduce the new name was therefore abandoned with the words : " Call upon Allah, or call upon Rahman; by whatever name you call upon Him [He hears] ; all beautiful names are His."* In all this there was no inconsistency, and no near ap proach to Christian doctrine.

One thing more must be said. The name which our Lord adopted and by which He taught us to call upon God was our Father. Mohammed nowhere rose to this assurance of faith. God was his Lord, his Protector, his Cherisher, but so far as I can dis cover, he never calls Him Father. It is likely that, in this respect also, the Prophet was restrained by the heathen conceptions which expressed themselves in similar language. We have some evidence that the primitive religions of the Semites, like those of other races, looked upon the God of a particular tribe as the father of the tribe.f The physical and ma terial sense in which this was understood, would pre vent Mohammed s adoption of a similar conception. And it is doubtful whether the Christianity of his day was capable of giving him a clear presentation of the Biblical idea. To the early Church, God was the supreme Lord who, so far from condescending to man, must be invoked through the saints, the mar tyrs, and the angels. The confession of faith was " the recognition of God as the One, the Supramun-

  • 17". fW. R. Smith, Religion of the Semites, p. 31 ff.

ft


130 THE BIBLE AND ISLAM

dane, the Spiritual, the Almighty. God is the Creator and Ruler of the world and therefore the Lord." * This was probably as much as Mohammed ever heard from Christian sources. To this height he rose ; we can hardly blame him for not rising higher.

Reviewing what has been said in this lecture, we are entitled to say that Mohammed made a great ad vance over the doctrine of God (if we may call it so) held by his contemporaries. All the indications point to the low esteem in which the heathen Arabs hold their gods. " "When the oracle at Tabula forbade the poet Imraulcais to make war on the slayers of his fa ther, he broke the lot and clashed the pieces in the face of the god, exclaiming, with a gross and insulting ex pletive : If it had been thy father that was killed, thou wouldst not have refused me vengeance. " f The incident is characteristic of heathenism. The gods, being gods of particular tribes, are of limited power, and, consequently, limited reverence is paid them. They stand on much the same plane with their wor shippers, whose kinsmen, fellows, allies, they are. Mohammed had the view of a God more exalted, more powerful, infinite in His perfections (or at least be- youd any human standard), and, therefore, more wor thy of reverence and adoration. When Mohammed first came to Medina, his new followers used to say in their prayers, " Peace be to Allah," using the saluta tion with which they were accustomed to greet their friends. Mohammed commanded : " Do not say : Peace to Allah! for Allah Himself is peace. Say,

  • ITarnack, Grundriss d. Dogmengesckickte-, p. 35.

t W. K. Smith, op. cit., p. 47.


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rather : Eternal life belongs to Allah, and mercies and goodness." * The incident illustrates how the con verts brought with them the old familiar way of regarding God, and how Mohammed inculcated a worthier estimation, and a more becoming devotion. It is no doubt a mistake to put God too far away from us, and Islam, especially in its rigid theological sys tem, as developed after the death of Mohammed, made this mistake. But, on the other hand, familiar ity breeds contempt, and the light-minded Arabs were inclined to this extreme. The old fear of the gods had largely disappeared. Mohammed renewed the fear of God by showing a God worthy of being feared, the fear of whom could become genuine rev erence. The idea of this God came to him from the Bible, but colored by the Jewish or Christian con ceptions current in that age. It was perhaps inevi table that his idea should fall short of the Biblical fulness. Had it been more adequate, it would per haps have been less adapted to the people to whom he made it known. The wonder is that, unlettered as he was, himself the child of heathenism, and receiving the Biblical conception through so imperfect a me dium, ho was able to assimilate so much, and to pre sent it so powerfully to his equally rude and untaught countrymen.

  • Bochari, I., p. 187.