The Young Moslem Looks at Life/Chapter 6
POLITICS AND RELIGION
Let us return for the moment to our friend Mohammed Beg. It will be recalled that on his way to Mecca he was deeply impressed with the changes that he saw overtaking Islam, and that seemed to be gradually making it over into a different religion altogether. He was also greatly worried over the detailed reports that he heard of the wholesale political changes that had transformed Turkey, and had separated church and state. The problem that never ceased to bother him, almost to the point of distraction, after he had observed some of the changes taking place in the lives and customs of Moslems was, "Can a person be modern and a good Moslem at the same time?" His own feelings and his reactions as a strictly orthodox follower of Islam answered this question with an emphatic "No!"
Three points of view on islamic reform
To one brought up as he had been, there could be no doubt about the matter. The law of Islam, based on the Koran and the Traditions, was the law of God. It spoke with the voice of authority. The program for all life, and all peoples, and all ages was laid down there. The Law was the conscience of the Moslem. There was no need for change of the customs or rules of society contrary to the Law; in fact, even to suggest that these modern times required the wholesale change and adaptation of Islam was to Mohammed Beg the greatest heresy.
"Somehow," thought he, "these modern times must adjust themselves to Islam and its way of life. That is the real problem for Moslems to face. Making concessions to the West, which cares only for business, money, pleasure and comfort, is not the thing to do. That way lies the destruction of Islam. How one can possibly consider himself a Moslem and at the same time approve of bringing women out of the harem, the abolition of polygamy, the separation of religion and state, and even of doing away with the caliphate, is beyond me. No, one who wishes to reform Islam according to modern ideas cannot be a Moslem, and a true Moslem does not need to be modern, for the law of Islam is all right just as it is."
But Mohammed Beg does not have the last word on this subject. Ask a young Egyptian what he thinks about the matter, and he will present another side of the case. As an adherent of the modernist party in the country of the Nile he will tell you that he supports the position of Sheikh Mohammed Abduh, who is recognized the world over among Moslems as the greatest champion and defender of Islam that these modern times have known. He will declare that he fully believes in the reform of the Moslem educational system, and the adoption of everything valuable in Western civilization, as long as it is not contrary to the fundamental principles of Islam which are found in the Koran and the Traditions. He insists that Sheikh Mohammed Abduh was correct in holding that the best legal minds of Islam still have the right to interpret these ancient principles of the faith, and that they have the right to adapt the laws of Islam to meet the requirements of this modern age. Therefore, reform in Islam is proper and right, if the changes are carried out under the guidance of properly qualified legal advisers who act according to the fundamental principles of the faith. This method of changing Moslem doctrine is known as ijma.
"But of course," our Egyptian friend would say, "I seriously doubt if Mohammed Abduh could approve of the radical reforms which have taken place within the borders of Turkey, were he living today. It is impossible even for us modern reformers of Egypt, nationalists and devoted patriots though we are, to justify the complete separation of church and state in the ruthless manner in which it has been done there. And the extreme liberality of the reforms affecting the status of women and marriage, the suppression of religious orders and the like well, they take our breath away! But after all who knows what will happen even here in time? Allah alone knows that, and he is the all- wise and all-knowing!"
At the close of the World War the Turkish nationalists felt that the old orthodox Islamic religion had
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reached the place where it had failed to keep pace with the needs of life, and was inadequate to solve the problems of the nation. Kamal Ataturk clearly perceived that the interests of the Turkish nation must be made supreme, and the government and the entire life of the people must be modernized, if Turkey was to hold its place among the neighboring nations of the West. Consequently he gave every ounce of his energy to the reformation and reconstruction of the Turkish government and Turkish society. In this gigantic task he inspired his people with a great love of country, a deep patriotism, a profound belief in their own destiny as a nation, and a burning enthusiasm to work for the advancement of Turkey in every phase of life.
Today, the young Turk proudly calls himself a Moslem in spite of the amazing changes which have overtaken his country. He even regards these changes in the status of Islam as in every way beneficial to the religious life of his country. In fact he has been taught that these changes are in accordance with the inner spiritual genius of Islam itself, and that it is now the duty of all good Moslems within the bounds of Turkey to use their religion to further the interests of their country. In other words, if one would be a good Moslem he must be a good Turk. The thought thrills him, for is he not most of all anxious to see his country develop and take its rightful place beside the other countries of the West? Therefore, as a Turk he will cling to Islam and be as good a Moslem as he can, for after all Islam is the religious part of his Turkish heritage.
Here we have three typical points of view in the Moslem world today that differ widely from one another. But no true estimate of the relative truth of these positions can be determined without reference to the fundamental teachings of Islam on the subject of politics and religion. It is necessary, therefore, that we look at this side of the matter for a bit.
ISLAM AS A POLITICAL POWER
There is no quarrel between the politician and the clergy in Islam, for politics is religion and religion is politics. Islam is not so much a state religion as a religious state. And of course this all goes back to Mohammed's philosophy of religion. In his view Islam was a theocracy, that is, its real king and ruler was God, or Allah, himself, and the Prophet of Allah was to have supreme political power. According to this theory all life belonged to God, and all sensible people would of course submit to him. These sensible people who submitted to Allah and his Prophet and to their rule were called Moslems, those who submit. For them Allah opened a way of life in the Koran and the Traditions that provided for every aspect of their existence: the religious, the social, the political, and the economic. Politics and religion were not to be in water-tight compartments. They were ordained to be one and inseparable. The Prophet Mohammed, therefore, was not only prophet, he was also king. The rev
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elations lie received related not only to how to worship God, but also how to rule men. In addition to ritual there was also law, and the law was the law of God.
As long as Mohammed lived there was direct access to the ultimate Lawgiver, and new laws were issued with divine authority as occasion arose. But after Mohammed died divine revelation ceased, and the Moslems were then left with only the sacred Koran and the Traditions of the Prophet as their guide and rule of conduct. The first caliph, Abu Bakr, who was elected to succeed Mohammed, could, of course, only succeed him as the religious ruler of the Moslem peoples. From then on the caliph remained in theory the nominal head of all Moslem peoples and all Moslem lands. These different lands and peoples might have kings or sultans of their own, but theoretically, at any rate, each king was supposed to derive his authority of kingship from the caliph of the Moslem peoples. Each ruler was in a sense regarded as the viceroy of the caliph, who, in turn, was regarded as the head of a vast Moslem empire made up of independent Moslem states. In each separate state the king was the head of the Moslem religion as well as of the affairs of government, and king and people alike looked to the caliph as the head of all Islam.
Because Islam started with the theory that the message of the Prophet must be given to all peoples and countries, and that as soon as possible the whole world must be brought under the sway of Allah, Moslem rulers felt that they were commanded by God to extend their power. The peoples of the world, therefore, were divided into two distinct groups: the Darul-lslam, the Abode of Islam, and the Dar-ul-Harb, the Abode of War, the latter a term used by Moslems for those countries which had not yet been brought under Moslem rule. Those who had a revealed religion, such as the Jews and Christians, were guaranteed religious freedom when they submitted to Moslem rule and paid the required taxes. Contrary to a general impression, compulsory conversion to Islam was against Moslem policy. It decreased the state revenues. It was religious enthusiasm plus desire for spoil that gave success to the Moslem armies.
Under this conception of things there was a further classification of the people of any given country: First, there were the Moslems. These were the real citizens and only they enjoyed all the privileges of free citizenship. Second, there were the people who had not yet accepted Islam, but who had nevertheless submitted to Moslem rule. For this privilege of being subjects of the Moslem government they were obliged to pay special taxes not levied on Moslems. Third, there were those who had not yet submitted to Moslem rule, and with whom technically the Moslem ruler was still at war.
While in some countries where Western powers are dominant or a great deal of enlightenment has come
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such as in Egypt, Iraq, India, Syria and Iran these distinctions no longer exist, yet even today in Afghanistan and Arabia, where the purest Moslem rule prevails, it is not safe for Christians to enter except with the strictest guard and special permission from the authorities. Even Moslems who differ from the ruling powers on religious opinions are in danger of their lives. Not so many years ago there was a Moslem preacher of the heretical Moslem Qadiani sect from India who went to Kabul in Afghanistan to preach his doctrines. The orthodox religious leaders were so highly incensed against him that he was tried and condemned to death by the ancient Koranic method of stoning. A hole was dug in the ground, and he was buried up to his waist; then the multitude pelted him with stones until he died.
THE WANE OF ISLAMIC POLITICAL POWER
During many centuries when the caliphs held sway in Medina and Damascus, and in Baghdad of Arabian Nights fame, the political power of Islam and the caliphate was undisputed. In more recent centuries the sultan of Turkey was recognized as caliph and Constantinople became the center of Moslem political influence. During the decades just prior to the World War, Sultan Abdul Hamid made some interesting efforts to spread the doctrine of Pan-Islamism 1 in all countries where Moslems lived, with the hope that
1 A term used by Moslems themselves to describe the political and social combination of all Moslems throughout the world. Egypt and India, particularly, might rise in revolt against Great Britain, and join Turkey in the establishment of a modern world-wide Moslem empire with the Turkish caliph at its head. Thinking that he had the support of Germany in this project, Abdul Hamid joined the Central Powers of Europe during the World War and lost. 1 A new Turkey emerged from the debacle, a Turkey which not only abolished the monarchy but the Turkish caliphate as well in 1924. So today the Moslem peoples are without a caliph. The office still exists but it has no occupant. The Moslem states of Turkey, Egypt, Arabia, Iraq, Afghanistan and the like are struggling on as best they can as separate nations, while Turkey as a republic has all but done away with Islam altogether, as we have already seen. Most of these Moslem states now have modern legislatures, and with the exception of Turkey and Iran they are generally very careful to keep their legislation and laws well within the provisions of the shariat, or the Moslem legal code, which is based on the Koran and the Traditions. Turkey, however, has determined to turn her back on the East, and now faces West in matters of a social, political and industrial nature. The Turkish leaders have taken the position that Islam may remain the religion of the Turkish people as long as it does not interfere with their national development. That is, the Koran and the Traditions may be used for purposes of purely spiritual help and guidance, but they no longer remain the
1 For a more detailed account, see Chapter Eight.
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basic law of the country. Because he was powerful enough to do so, and because there was a large group willing to change their ways, Kamal Ataturk, the president of the Turkish republic, was able to abolish the use of the Turkish fez and introduce European hats, to outlaw the powerful dervish orders and confiscate their property, to bring women out of the harem, to make polygamy illegal, and to abolish Arabic as the mainstay of Turkish culture.
Iran has more recently followed Turkey's lead in breaking away from Moslem customs, traditions and laws, although remaining nominally a Mohammedan country. The Swiss code of laws has replaced the shariat. Marriage and divorce are now civil rather than religious matters. The abolition of the black shroudlike veil for the women and the introduction of Western hats and clothes for the men have been important developments of late. Even Moslem theological education is now taken over by the government Ministry of Public Institutions. To wear a turban the Moslem clergy must now pass a written examination given by the government. In short, in Iran, as in Turkey, the political force of Islam is gone and the people are beginning to question even its religious force.
In Egypt we find the Moslems are divided into two political parties: one the Conservative party, which is prepared to cooperate with the British government in the rule of the country, and the other the Independence party, which works for the complete independence of Egypt. But in India the political interests of the large Moslem community are identical with the religious interests. In fact, there we have the whole country divided to a very large extent into political parties based on religious communities. The Moslems, Hindus, Sikhs and Christians are each allotted a certain number of seats in the legislatures in proportion to the relative size of their respective communities. In such a situation Moslems alone can represent Moslems, Hindus are elected entirely by Hindus, and Christians by Christians. It is as though in America we were to abolish the Democratic, Republican, and Socialist parties, and in their place found our politics on the religious differences of Protestants, Roman Catholics, and Jews. The communal system is a vicious one, and breeds all sorts of evils which are perpetuated in the name of religion. And it is due to Moslems rather than to Hindus that the system of communal representation is being continued in India. The Moslems fear the idea of a common electorate, for only in the separate communal system do they see any way to preserve the Islamic culture and religion. The one rallying cry which brings the Moslems of India together in a united purpose to stand up for their rights is the slogan, "Islam is in danger!" For Islam they will lay down their lives; and they do!
A strength of the Moslem community is the marked sense of brotherhood. Moslems of all nations and
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races regard each other as members of a great brotherhood in a way that is even more apparent than among Christians. The very salutation used among them (Salam 'alaikum, Peace be upon you) is an indication of this spirit of fraternity.
Within Islam this spirit is so strong that it breaks down barriers of race and color. There is no color or race problem in Islam, in the sense in which we use that term in Western lands. To this extent it certainly is far ahead of most Christian countries. The reason for this lack of race prejudice is not far to seek. The darker-skinned peoples form the vast majority of the adherents of Islam, and intermarriage between the races takes place freely and frequently. There are no separate mosques for Negro Moslems in Arabia or Egypt; and the spirit of brotherhood among Moslems in South Africa is in sharp contrast to the racial and color lines drawn by Christians in that same part of the world. In the worship of the mosque the prince may stand by the beggar; the black Negro by the fair Turk, for all are brothers in Islam. There are no "Jim Crow" theatres, hotels or railway cars in Moslem lands.
But after all that may be said on behalf of the genuine spirit of brotherhood that prevails in the Moslem world, it still remains that the conception of fraternity is strictly limited to the system itself. Islam knows only a brotherhood of Moslems, not a brotherhood of man. Even the salutation, "Peace be upon you," refers to the peace of Islam, and technically it is not permitted for a Moslem to use this salutation to any except a Moslem brother. This limitation of brotherhood is one of the very great differences between Islam and Christianity. In Islam, as has been stated, mankind is divided into two major classes the Abode of Islam and the Abode of War. Only those who are within the Abode of Islam are brothers. The rest of mankind must be treated differently; and they are. This is the limit of the Moslem ideal. The Christian ideal embraces all mankind in a brotherhood of love; and no matter how far Christians fall short of demonstrating this ideal in practice even among their own number, yet the ideal and the example of Jesus Christ are ever before them, to shame them and to urge them on to more complete realization of his teachings.
THE MOSLEM MISSIONARY
This attitude of Moslems toward those outside their faith inevitably affects the Islamic conception of missionary work or propaganda. Moslems are the ones who alone are guided by Allah. All others, especially idolaters, have gone astray, and are far from the straight path. It is the duty of Moslems to proclaim to them the way of truth, and to honor them by bestowing Islam upon them, even though they must first be conquered by the sword.
But taking a long view of history down through the ages, it may be said that the faith of Islam has been extended by peaceful propaganda, while the political
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power of Islam has been spread by the sword. Through the centuries Moslem traders who were also devout preachers have left their impress on populations as widely separated as China and the heart of Africa. We are not so concerned here, however, with the past as with the present methods and objectives of Moslem propaganda.
Moslems are not ashamed to stand up for Mohammed, and to declare their faith in him. They are eager to share what they have with others, and every Moslem is a missionary. One finds them trying to win converts to their way of life as they trade in the bazaars and streets of practically every city of the Moslem world. There is little doubt that the spirit of boldness and absolute certainty begotten by the frequent repetition of the creed has been a mighty factor in strengthening faith and winning converts.
Islam places the religious before the material needs of men; for that reason there are no medical missions, no educational, industrial or agricultural missions, in the Moslem missionary program. Islam sees but one thing, that great sections of the human race are not Moslem and that they must be convinced of the truth of the Prophet's message.
The traditional training given to young students in the theological schools of Cairo and Damascus, Iraq and India, has been essentially a preparation for preaching. Today, however, a new trend is to be discerned. The following quotation appeared in a newspaper published in Cairo in 1935s The propagation of Islam and its extension in the early centuries after the Hegira was only made by means of missionaries. Besides, there is no reason why the missionary should not work his way into every circle to dispose of his goods and the religious conceptions of which he is the apostle.
And so we propose to the rector of the Azhar University to combine a study of the commercial sciences and accountancy with a program of religious instruction of missionaries, so that the Azhar missions may propagate trade and religion at the same time. The missionaries will carry on their business and will also preach in the countries to which they are sent. Their commission will be in harmony with the precepts of Islam, which require that a man should work for God and for the world. After all, was not the Prophet a trader, and did not his friends live by trading? And did that prevent them from preaching the true religion? If it is taken up, as we hope it will be, in a serious manner, we are prepared to explain the details of the scheme from the practical point of view; for example, a company might be formed to supply these missionaries with funds, and they in turn would have a share in the profits. Naturally this would make it possible to keep a large number of missionaries in the field.
It must not be forgotten, on the other hand, that Islam does have something of very positive value to offer a certain class of people. Through it the African tribes that it has touched are undoubtedly elevated to some extent, and the outcastes of India who have embraced Islam have secured an equality of status with other members of the democratic Moslem faith that was utterly denied them in Hinduism. In fact, one of the recent missionary organizations founded at Delhi
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has for its aim the conversion of that entire section of the population belonging to the depressed classes, some sixty million people. But the fact remains that Moslem missions lack a sufficient motive because there is at the heart of Islam no compelling love for man as man; and without this they cannot and do not provide an adequate social program.
MOSLEM RELIGIOUS INTOLERANCE
If the missionary motive in Islam is inadequate, its conception of freedom of thought is hopeless and its capacity for intolerance is amazing. Heresy hunting within Islam has always existed, and from the time of Al-Hallaj, one of the early Moslem mystics who lived in Baghdad, right down to the present century in Afghanistan, there have been martyrs who have paid with their lives for daring to disagree with orthodoxy. One can understand how these attitudes and the inevitable persecution arising from them might go unchecked through the Middle Ages, for the Christian church was guilty of the same intolerance in that period; but it is hard for us to comprehend how such a condition can exist in this modern age.
The reason for all this, of course, is that quite generally speaking Islam is still under the curse of the spirit of the Middle Ages. It partakes of the spirit of the century of its birth, and part of that spirit is intolerance. In recent years Moslem scholars in Cairo who have attempted to apply Western critical methods to Islamic literature have suffered severe persecution by the reactionary party. The Moslem authorities of Egypt have forbidden Ahmadiya missionaries from India to carry on their work in the country, and have also forbidden the circulation of their English translation of the Koran. The followers of the Ahmadiya sect are also persecuted by the other Moslems of India, where they often have been denied the use of regular mosques for worship, and have had in many cases to build mosques of their own. Within the past two years the Nizam of Hyderabad, the head of the largest Moslem state in India, has been compelled to issue a public statement professing his orthodoxy in order to set at rest rumors among the faithful that His Exalted Highness held religious views which were contrary to Islam. The religion of Islam is first and always a religion of orthodoxy. One must conform or suffer the consequences.
If the faithful are thus kept in line by the strictest watch on their movements and beliefs through fear of consequences, it is not difficult to imagine the result for those who become apostates, that is, who forsake Islam entirely and adopt another religion. The front door of entrance to Islam stands wide open, but the door that leads out is forever closed. Apostasy by male adult Moslems who are sane is, when uncompelled, punishable with death. Genuine freedom of conscience is impossible. Moslems who have changed their religion have been regarded by their friends and relatives as despicable in the extreme. Even in lands like Egypt, Iraq and India, where more enlightened
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law prevails and the strict requirements of the shariat cannot be legally carried out, a convert from Islam runs the risk of suffering secret death. Little wonder that Moslems are often forbidden by their leaders to purchase and read Christian books and tracts, and that again and again these same books and tracts, and the Bible as well, have been publicly torn up, destroyed, or burned by irate mullahs in every Moslem land. Little wonder, then, that when such religious intolerance pervades the whole community there are so few converts from Islam to Christianity. That many do brave persecution and even death, however, is shown by the stories of Moslem converts given in the next chapter.
RELIGIOUS REGULATION OF PUBLIC QUESTIONS
There are many important public questions which in Moslem countries are strictly regulated by religious considerations. In fact, where strictly Moslem government prevails the ruler is under obligation to follow the legal opinion of the learned doctors of Islam, one or more of whom is officially associated with him. In the days of the Turkish caliphs this officer was known as the Sheikh ul Islam; he largely controlled the policies of the country, and decided what things were permissible and what were not. Of course Turkey today as a republic is free from this dead hand of the past; but in Egypt all such matters are still controlled in great measure by the opinion of the Islamic doctors of law of Al Azhar University in Cairo, who virtually rule the land of the Pharaohs.
Whether they like it or not, very often the governments of Moslem peoples are forced to yield to the opinions of religious leaders even on matters that to us would seem to be entirely secular. In Islam nothing is strictly secular. Politics and religion seem to form a natural blend; consequently we must consider as a part of the subject of this chapter such diverse questions as education, the prohibition of the use of alcoholic beverages, religious endowments, slavery, and the influence of communism.
1. Education. In Islam education is strictly regulated by the requirements of religion. As we have already seen in the preceding chapter, the child has his first reading lesson from the Koran; and to learn it all by heart is one of the most commendable things any Moslem boy can do. To lessons on the creed and the practical duties of religion are added elementary arithmetic, geography, and Moslem history. Usually little primary schools are held in the mosques, and the village imam, who leads the prayers, is also the, teacher. The advanced Arabic schools have very extended courses in all the Moslem studies, which include the art of reading the Koran correctly; the commentaries on the Koran; the Traditions; theology in all its branches; canon law; Arabic grammar; and Moslem history. No Moslem is considered well and truly educated unless he has had a thorough grounding in these subjects. For this reason, among others, it is not to be wondered at that there is so much illiter
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acy in Moslem lands, and that education remains the privilege of the few.
Until recent years Moslem religious leaders would not permit their people to be contaminated by the study of modern science, or English and other European languages; but gradually the opposition to this has been broken down, and today even in the famous Azhar University in Cairo, stronghold of all things Islamic, one may find a fairly up-to-date curriculum offered to the students. All through the Moslem world there are schools and colleges, conducted for girls as well as boys on the most approved Western lines. Religious leaders have had to consent to these changes because of the great demand for progress, but in spite of this the real standards of Islamic culture are maintained by those ancient Moslem schools which still follow the traditional Arabic curriculum. Needless to say, the orthodox do not regard with favor any introduction of liberalism into education, though up to the present they have not been able to stem the tide. The opinion is undoubtedly gaining ground that one may study English and Western science and wear European trousers and hat, and even that a woman may go unveiled, and still be a faithful follower of the Prophet.
2. Prohibition of alcoholic drinks. The prohibition of alcoholic beverages is one of the cardinal points of Islam, and a very good point it is. Among Moslems there simply is no discussion as to whether the use of alcoholic drinks is permissible. It is forbidden in the Koran and that is the end of the matter. Consequently in Egypt, Palestine, Syria, Iraq, India and elsewhere Christian lecturers and organizers of the prohibition movement are received with the greatest cordiality, and given generous support in all their efforts to abolish the liquor traffic. Moslem leaders in these lands greatly deplore the extent to which the use of liquor has made headway in the Moslem community and the shame of it is that this is directly attributable to contact with that part of our Western civilization which is least Christian in spirit as well as in practice. It is only fair to say that when the United States adopted the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution Moslem temperance workers in many lands rejoiced that at last they had a strong ally on their side in the world temperance movement. But when this same amendment was repealed in 1933, they were deeply disappointed, and said, "America has let us down. If we Moslems had our way about it, the whole world would be dry, for Islam is the greatest temperance organization in the world!" They are right; it is. 3. Religious endowments. Religious endowments are carefully watched and protected by Moslems. In this class of property come all sorts of buildings, lands and sums of money set apart for religious purposes, or any fund for the general welfare of the community. In the category of buildings fall particularly mosques, monasteries, tombs and graveyards. A building once used as a mosque may never be used for any other purpose whatsoever. Once having been used as a place
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of worship, and dedicated to the service of God, no mortal hand shall ever violate it. Even though it may he in the heart of a valuable business section of a city, the mosque must not be touched. Many have been the bloody quarrels in India between the Moslem and Hindu communities over the question of the possession of a mosque. In the same way the Jews and Arabs in Palestine have squabbled over holy places in Jerusalem a holy city to the Arab as well as to the Jew. Similarly tombs of the sainted dead, which may be found in unusual and out of the way places, are considered sacred trusts for the living, and they must be protected from violation. Monasteries, too, the headquarters of the dervish orders, are considered in the privileged class of property.
But modern Turkey here as elsewhere has fearlessly dealt with the issue. Her government has abolished the dervish orders and confiscated their property. This was a bold step. No other Moslem government has dared to do a thing like that, not even such non-Moslem governments as Great Britain and France. They would not risk a revolution. But Turkey is mistress in her own house, and besides she is more modern than Moslem.
4. Slavery. And now we must consider the question of slavery in Islam. Africa is the headquarters of the slave trade, and Arab traders make great profit from the nefarious business. The League of Nations is doing its best to put an end to it, and the European warships of all nations cooperate in the hottest waters of the earth the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea in an effort to break up this infamous commerce in human beings, black ivory. Even King Ibn Saoud of Arabia has given assistance in this worthy object. But in spite of this it is estimated that no fewer than five thousand men, women and children are taken across the Red Sea from Africa to Arabia each year. And furthermore, even an Islamic ruler is helpless in the face of the Koranic permission which allows the faithful to keep slaves if they wish.
Of course it is only fair to say that there are large areas in the Moslem world today where Moslems do not hold slaves; and in addition, many enlightened Moslems look upon the practice with as much horror as anyone could. It is even asserted that the Koran, while allowing slavery, points to a higher way of life, for it says that freeing slaves is an act of merit, and by it one makes atonement for sins. (5: 91.) But the fact remains that in Islam slavery is lawful.
5. Communism. Finally let us consider the attitude of Islam toward communism, for like Christianity it is face to face with this amazing human experiment in Russia. The Union of Socialist Soviet Republics has been as ruthless in its dealings with Moslems as with Christians. Mosques have been closed, Moslem clergymen imprisoned or put to death, and every effort made to put an end to Islam as a religion. Polygamy has been ended, and women have been brought out of their traditional seclusion. In desperation a group of Moslems from Russian Turkestan even sent an appeal to
POLITICS His Holiness the Pope seeking his assistance in the common cause of trying to save religion, Christianity and Islam alike, from the desperate assaults of an anti-religious government.
Islam and atheistic communism cannot mix. They are at opposite extremes: to the one God is all; to the other God is nothing. But of the two communism has a better appreciation of human values. Both offer their challenge to the world: Islam with its religion which is politics; and communism with its politics which is religion.