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Jewish and Christian Ethics/Part II/Chapter I

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Mohammedism:

Its Doctrine.

In an investigation of the influence that Judaism has had upon subsequent religions, we cannot but take notice of one other system which has left a deep and durable trace in human history--we allude to Islamism. The natural limits of the task we have undertaken, as well as those of the time at our command, compel us to restrict ourselves to a narrower circle than we should otherwise have kept. We do not, therefore, enter upon a general examination of Islamism, nor of the different theological or philosophical schools it has begot; we treat briefly only of that great branch which connects it with Judaism, and of its numerous and important kindred sprays.

Let us first take, from a suitable height, a general review of this religion; let us ask what is the main impression it produces on the mind of an impartial observer; what are the links that connect it with Judaism, and, perhaps, with Christianity also.

We have proved, the reader will remember, that, of the two interests embraced by Judaism--the future life and the present one, or, (to use a Cabalistic expression) the superior mother and the inferior mother--Christianity selected exclusively the former, disdaining and neglecting the present life and its manifest concerns. Much more: we have seen how Christianity, when obliged to postpone the new resurrectional era it preached as impending, and to concern itself about the imperious needs of the present life, always subordinated those needs, and the interests of the actual world, to that fictitious, imaginary world of the resurrection, whither Christians thought themselves transplanted, in spirit at least, if not in body.

Judaism, ever mutilated, ever deprived of that element connecting it with this life, namely, of the body, the family, society, country; of life, in short, in all its various aspects! Ever the exclusive culture of the spiritual side of Judaism, of faith proper, of the individual conscience, in which man, despising the fore-named relations of the present life, shuts himself up and intrenches himself![4]

A phenomenon, just the reverse of this, awaits us in Islamism. It is the other side of Judaism, the one abandoned by Jesus, that Mahomet selects for his chief principle, for the corner-stone of his system.

If Jesus fastened on the most esoteric, the most spiritual doctrines of Judaism, bringing, from the depths of the sanctuary, the most abstruse metaphysics, to construct from it a religion for the million, imperiling, by the abuse of this esoteric theology, the very unity of God--that popular Monotheism which checked the nights of every audacious spirit--imperiling this, we say, by his theory of persons,--it is quite the opposite defect that we have in primitive Islamism.

The Arabian prophet--so little conversant with the rabbinical literature in which Jesus excelled, so far from Palestine and, above all, from that time and society of which Jesus was the product, when the Hebrew mind was in a state of ferment to find some central point of thought, when speculations jostled each other on all sides, and intellectual development had reached the zenith of power and productiveness--Mahomet could see only what struck every eye, what all could comprehend, what the Jews bore everywhere with them, viz, external Monotheism; and this, accordingly, was the solitary and supreme dogma of his religion. If Jesus took from Judaism its moral, interior and spiritual side, and thereby showed himself the disciple of the Pharisees rather than of Moses,--Mahomet, on the other hand, took from it its social and worldly side, and thereby attached himself to the Bible and to Moses rather than to tradition and the Pharisees. In short, if Christianity carried the principles and rules of a future life into the very midst of the present one, if it effaced and absorbed in the world to come the present world, imposing upon the latter the conditions of eternity,--it is precisely the antithesis of this doctrine which we get from Mahomet. He fashions and regulates the world to come after the model of our present life, whose pains, pleasures, passions, caprices, etc. he transfers to the future state, wherein is nought but a prolongation, a repetition of man's life here-below. Islamism, by excluding the spiritual side of Judaism, has barbarized its polity; Christianity, by soaring beyond the social life of Judaism, has transformed its religion into ascetism. In both cases is Judaism mutilated--deprived of one of its essential members.

This recognition, however, of the most striking characteristics of Mohammedism has, from our stand-point, a value, inasmuch as it implies some real and historical transplanting of Jewish doctrines into the new religion of Arabia. Are these grafts possible? The sequel will prove, we think, that they have actually taken place; the traces of Judaism, and of even Pharisaism will clearly appear[5] in each detail, belief and precept of the religion of Mahomet, and in a manner so peculiar, so exact, as to leave no doubt possible. Now, let us see if external conditions and the relative situation of the Jews to Mahomet allow us to suppose this transplanting (incontestible in any case), and whether or not these relations be of a character to warrant such an hypothesis.

What do we see in Arabia, in the time of and close to the person of Mahomet? We see the Jews peopling in great numbers those countries where Mahomet's name was about to echo, and bearing with them that religion which, during their exile, is not to leave them again; and, what is much more, we see their credit constantly increasing, their influence and, therefore, their religion becoming dominant. History attests, in the most formal manner, that several princes and tribes embraced the religion of Israel. Mahomet now conceives his bold scheme of reform. Will he forget the potent aids that are within his reach? Far from it; as to Judaism, reckoning as it did so many adepts among Arabia's most distinguished children, he has nought but advances to make, and thinks he cannot treat with too much consideration those formidable rivals; he will adopt a great number of their opinions, their doctrines, their customs, seeking thereby to range them, if possible, on his side. Vain efforts! These faithful Israelites will never renounce one part of their religion, even though it were to see the other adopted by the prophet of Araby; and the world shall have a new religion modeled somewhat after Judaism, without this last ceasing to be what it has been, or that fountain being sullied at which other generations shall quench their thirst. Whatever results Mahomet may have expected from these Hebrew grafts, these have ever been recognized as such by every serious historian of Islamism. Has not an influence still more direct and continuous been brought to bear upon it! History tells us of the Jew Abdalla, who, as his secretary, was close to Mahomet's person, and who, if we mistake not, was authorized by the cotemporary Eabbis (as their books attest) to co-operate with Mahomet in the religious reform of Arabia. And who can say that the purity and elegance of style which is observable in the Koran and from which Mahomet takes an argument for his inspiration, have not flowed from a Hebrew pen? On this point, no weak testimony is that of Judaism's two great enemies, viz, of Christians and of Mahomet's cotemporaries. Now both recognized the hand of a stranger with Mahomet in the composition of the Koran, and it was, as Christians declare, that of the Jew Abdalla, and of the Monk Sergius. The Koran itself lends force to this opinion, entertained since the time of Mahomet. There are two passages in the book that allude to the point, and both testify equally, I think, in favor of Hebrew[6] co-operation. In the 25th Chap. Mahomet exclaims, "The incredulous say: What is this book, but a lie that he has forged? Others, too, have helped him to make it ... they are but the myths of antiquity ... he hears these things morning and evening." Could he so express himself respecting doctrines that were not of Jewish origin? And in Chap. 16th: "We know well the incredulous say: Some person teaches Mahomet. For the language of him whom they would impose on us is barbarian, and you see that the Koran is an Arabic book, clear and intelligible." Here the portrait becomes more definite and the Jewish type comes out more plainly. The doubt refers to some one who spoke a barbarian tongue. Now, who could this be but a Jew? A monk, even, could suit badly this portrait; for his language, ordinary or religious, would have always been Arabic, and nothing but Arabic.

Before entering on an examination of the doctrines and precepts of Islamism, let us mark, as we go, some circumstances in the life of Mahomet, evidently copied from Jewish history, either by Mahomet himself, an imitator and plagiarist of ancient narratives, or by his historians. The cave to which he retires, the choice which he makes of his twelve chief disciples, recall to mind, the one, the retreat of Moses and Elias, the other the choice of the twelve Princes of Israel, imitated by Jesus in the election of twelve apostles. But what especially attests the action of Pharisaical doctrine and tradition upon the history of Islamism is that spider that comes so opportunely to cover with his web the entrance to the cave to which Mahomet betook himself to escape the pursuit of the Koreish,--just as the Rabbis tell us how David was hidden from Saul, by a spider that spun his web across the entrance of the grotto, that David might be undeceived as to the uselessness of the spider, as he was, subsequently, at the Court of Achis, respecting the inutility of madness. And such a perfect harmony with the details of Pharasaical tradition is not the least proof that this is the model from which the anecdote of Mahomet's life is taken.

The doctrine and precepts of Islamism are contained chiefly in the Koran. Now, what is the Koran? This word is evidently derived from the verb Kara, to read, and therefore signifies, reading, what ought to be read, and is but an imitation of the word mi-karah, that Judaism has given to the Bible, each term being applied, severally to designate not only the whole sacred volume, but also, a section, a verse, or even a word of the special religion. But the Jews apply other names still to the different parts of the Bible and of the Pentateuch, and that of Parascha (division) is one not the least ancient. Now, does not the Koran reproduce this appellation in the term El Forkan, (the divisions), taken evidently not only from[7] the Perek or Pirka of the Rabbis, as Mr. Sale asserts, but from the analogous divisions of the Bible, called Parascha? And what, even are the Sowars or sections of the Koran but the Sedarim into which the Pentateuch is divided? Shall we esteem the other Arabic names of the Koran more original,--El Moshaf (the book), El Kitab[1] (the scripture)? They are but the translation of the Hebrew words Sepher and Kitbe haccodesch, applied to the Pentateuch, or to other parts of the Scriptures. The same precautions taken by the Rabbis to preserve the purity of Scripture have been adopted for the Koran, and the verses, words, letters even of the Koran, as of the Bible, have been counted, and they have likewise reckoned how many times each letter in the Koran occurs. Is not this pure Rabbinism? But this is not all. At the head of certain chapters of the Koran, we remark certain meaningless letters, the signification of which Mussulmen themselves do not know. Yet, how are they interpreted? In two ways, both equally Rabbinical, the Notaricon and the Ghematria; that is, by taking them at one time as the initials of certain words, and, at another, by calculating their numerical value, and supposing an allusion to other words of similar numerical value.

But, what to our view is most significant, is the idea Mahomedan orthodoxy entertains of the inspiration of the Koran,--one altogether analogous not only to what exoteric Judaism but to what the Cabalists teach on this subject--which strongly implies the existence of the Cabala in those remote times. The Arabs consider the Koran not only a divine revelation in the sense that it is the work of God, but in a more metaphysical one, namely, that the thoughts therein constitute the eternal mind of God, and are his word, his Logos; that they exist, as some say, in the divine essence; that the first copy of the Koran has been from all eternity at the throne of God, written on a vast table that contains his decrees as to the past and future. Is not this Hebrew doctrine uttered by the Arabs? Exoteric Judaism had been very explicit. "The Torah," it says, is the model after which God "created the world; it is but one leaf dropped from the eternal wisdom, the instrument God used in his six days work." But how conclusive is the exoteric doctrine! We have already seen, when treating of Christianity, that the Hebrew Verbum is the written law, and that its spouse, the Kingdom, is tradition. But what is now very important to remark, is, that both these laws, scripture and tradition, the Verbum and the Kingdom, are identified in a higher degree in the scale of emanations, in that superior Wisdom called simply the eternal Law, Tora Kedouma, of which, when divided, the written and the oral Law are but the two parts. But the Arabian doctrine sees, in the eternal text of the[8] Koran, the "table of destiny." Is not this, word for word, what the Cabala teaches us? Is it not this same wisdom, this same eternal Law, which is called destiny, fate, although in a very different sense from the Mahometan fatalism? We can but glance at this subject now. Let those more favored than we extend this curious parallel; we shall be content to have broached the subject.

It is unquestionable that the doctrine we ascribe to the Arabs has ever been the most accredited among the orthodox; that if the sect of Montazales rejected it, from the fear of admitting two deities, it was from not well understanding this ancient doctrine, the true meaning of which Al-Ghazali has established in saying that if we speak what is contained in the Koran, if it is written in books and stored in the memory, it is nevertheless eternal, because it subsists in the essence of God from which it cannot be parted by any transmission to men.

If we ask what Islamism thinks of the interpretation of its holy writings, we shall find it to be exactly what the Pharisees and the Cabalists have taught respecting that of the Bible. Needless to say that they, too, carefully distinguish the literal from the spiritual interpretation. But what is noteworthy, is the image by which a celebrated Arab (El Jahed) distinguished these two senses of Scripture. He said that the Koran is a body which can change itself at one time into a man, at another into an animal, or, as others express it, that this book has two faces--one, that of a man, the other, that of an animal. Can we not see in this a trace of the old distinction made by the Psychics and the Pneumatics, between the different classes of the faithful and readers of the Bible--one just made by the Cabalists, and after them, as we have elsewhere noticed, by the Christians and Gnostics?

We lay no stress on the respect and veneration with which the Arabs regard their books. Every religion claims this from its adherents, and in this is no special trace of Judaism or its traditions. But must we not remark the use the Arabs have ever made of them? When some important occasion requires a decisive course of action, the Koran is consulted. The book is opened, and omens are taken from the first words that present themselves. Is not this what the oldest Pharisaism has done? We shall not speak of the custom of modern Jews. But the Talmud brings this mode of consulting the future as far back as the days of Josias, when it tells us of the terror of this King on reading in the Pentateuch, half opened by him, that prediction of Moses which condemns the King and the nation to exile, as a punishment for their sins.[2] The example of the Essenes, of which Joseph tells us, those of the Pharisees with which the[9] Talmud abounds, prove that omens were taken from verses of the Bible, read or recited by children, either spontaneously or by request.

But enough of the Koran, and of the opinion entertained respecting it by the Arabs. It is time we should speak of the contents of the book,--that is, of Islamism. This religion is divided by Arabic theologians into two parts, which give the essential elements of all religions,--the Iman, or the dogma, faith, theory,--and the Din, or the Law and its precepts. Islamism, as a whole, recognizes five main articles, of which only one belongs to the dogma, or Iman, the rest to the Din, or to worship and practice.

The former is the confession of faith which every Mussulman consider as the summary of his religion, viz: "There is no God but the true God, and Mahomet is his messenger." But this article includes six distinct elements: 1. Belief in God. 2. Belief in his angels. 3. Belief in his scriptures. 4. Belief in his prophets. 5. Belief in the resurrection and judgment-day. 6. Belief in the absolute decrees of God, and in the predestination of good and evil.

The four articles, including worship and practice, are: 1. Prayer. 2. Alms. 3. Fasting. 4. Pilgrimage to Mecca. Let us examine briefly, in succession, these articles of the Mussulman faith, and let us trace, if possible, that Judao-Pharisaical influence which we have already pointed out in the few preceding observations.

It will suffice here to recall what we have said respecting the unity of God, so prominent in Islamism, namely, that the doctrine is pure exoteric Judaism untempered by religious metaphysics, just as the Christian Trinity, on the other hand, is this very metaphysics, separated from what always controls its scientific march and development, namely, from popular monotheism. So that Judaism has been, if we may so speak, cut in two at the birth of its two children, each bearing away the half of its doctrine, and making of that half an exclusive creed.

The doctrine of the Koran as to angels is, that they have a pure and rarefied body, created by fire; that they neither eat nor drink; that they have no need of propagation by marriage; that they have different occupations and modes of serving God--some singing His praises; others interceding for the human race; others writing the actions of men; others carrying the heavenly throne. But the greatest of all are Gabriel (also called the Holy Spirit), Michael, the friend and protector of the Jews, Azrael, the Angel of Death, and Israfel, the trumpet-blower at the judgment-day. Have we not in this description the most marked traits of Pharisaical angelology,--nay, of the most special doctrines of Cabalistic Pharisaism?[10] That the bodies of angels consisted of an ethereal matter was one of the most characteristic opinions of this school; it was openly professed by a great number of the Church Fathers; it is, we will affirm, at the root of many systems of ancient or modern philosophy (above all as to what concerns the human soul, which they believed invested with a very subtile body). This body is a fire, according to the Psalms and the Talmud.[3] Each angel has one certain office, from which comes his name. Those who intercede for men are called Paracletin.[4] According to the Talmud, Elias writes down the actions of men; and, according to others, it is Gabriel who does this duty, as the prophet Ezekiel tells us, giving us all the marks of the scribe.[5] Need we say that the task of carrying the throne of God, assigned to the angels, is as old as this prophet himself? But we are obliged to go to the Cabala for information (to be sought for in vain in exoteric Judaism) respecting that quaternity of angels who preside over the whole celestial army, called in Islamism Gabriel, Michael, Azrael, and Israfel. Where find this, if not in the Cabala? It alone recognized these four archangels, who surpass all others in dignity and power, and who command the four cohorts of the Schechina, and the names of the first two are exactly the same as in the Hebrew creed. As to Azrael, no doubt it comes from the Azazel of Moses, the angel to whom God devoted the scape-goat on the day of Atonement--the Azael of the Talmud and the Zohar.[6] Should the name of the last (Israfel) be a reminiscence of that ancient doctrine, that the world must end by a general combustion, as it arose from the same? The Hebrew root (saraph, to burn) leads us to think so. However that be, one stone evidently taken from the great Cabalistic edifice is the term Holy-Spirit given to Gabriel. How explain this singular identity in the doctrines? Is it not the malkhout that bears the name Gabriel? And is not this also called Holy-Spirit? Why then do not these names always go together, since they represent but one and the same being? We just now said that the Azrael of the Koran was probably the Mosaic Azazel. Is proof wanted? According to Mahomet the Devil (Eblis), bore before his fall the name Azazel. Is he not clearly the same as the Angel of Death, Azrael? True, two beings are formed from him, but is it not simply the doubling of the Mosaic angel (Azrael), while he fills his office, and Azazel under his primitive name, before the Fall?

And as to this Fall--how did it happen? Here, the Pharisaical ideas are made quite manifest. According to the Pharisees, the greatest of the angels was seized with a violent jealousy of man,[11] Adam, whom all creatures obeyed, and to whom the angels themselves ministered. He took the form of a serpent, seduced the woman, and was the cause of sin and death. Then the curse pronounced against the serpent, took effect upon man also, and he fell from his first splendor. According to Mahomet, "when God ordered the angels to adore Adam, all obeyed, except Eblis (the Devil); he, filled with pride, refused, and was counted among the ungrateful." But this is not all; before the creation of man, as well as after his fall, Mahomet comes as close as possible to the Pharisees. Their tradition speaks of God consulting the angels before the creation of man, and of their response eminently adverse to this creation. Now, is not this what we read in the second chapter of the Koran? The Pharisees mention the penitence of Adam, and especially the prayer he was to pronounce in honor of the Sabbath. Now the Koran says expressly that God taught Adam a prayer, and that He accepted his repentance.

Besides the angels, the Koran mentions an intermediate order of beings, whom the Arabs call Djinn, or genii. This classification is exactly analogous to the Schedim, whom the Pharisees admit. Their description is faithfully echoed by that of Mahomet. According to the Pharisees, they are similar to men in three respects; as to food, propagation and death;[7] and this is, word for word, what Mahomet, teaches. He divides them into the good and the bad, thinks they can be saved and damned, like men, and that his mission includes their conversion also. This is, in other terms, what the Pharisees say of the Schedim, keepers also of the law of Moses, who were surprised by men just as they were praying. From even the deepest strata of the rabbinical myths has Mahomet plagiarized, perhaps because the Pharisaism that surrounded and acted upon him was of that legendary character that entertains the people especially with wonderful stories.

After these remarks upon the Koran, and the mode of understanding it, we need say but little upon the second point of the Mussulman faith, belief in the Scriptures. Let us merely add, that besides the Pentateuch, the Psalms, and the Gospel which they receive just as do Jews and Christians (though believing these books to be much corrupted by both), they suppose anterior books to have existed, of which exoteric Judaism makes no mention, but which are forever celebrated in the mysterious doctrines of the Jews. Where, if not from this source, could Mahomet have learned that there were books such as that revealed to Adam (Sifra deadam harischon), those of Seth, Enoch and Abraham, books which the Koran speaks of as having existed, though thought now to be utterly lost? Now the[12] whole ancient Rabbinical library (except the Zohar) makes continual mention of those books. From the same source we think Mahomet took the belief in the inspiration of certain patriarchs as Adam, Seth, Heber, Enoch, who, by no means get this quality from the Mosaic writings, but receive it in some degree from Talmudical Pharisaism, and then still more from the Zohar and the Cabala where their inspiration is regarded as complete.

Before speaking of the last article of Arab faith, the resurrection of the dead, we shall say a few words about the state preceding that event. When one is laid in the tomb, two angels, Monkir and Nakir, examine him upon his orthodoxy and conduct. If the answers are satisfactory, the body is allowed to rest in peace and be refreshed by the air of Paradise; but if the answers are otherwise, the deceased is struck on the temples with iron rods, till his cries are heard from east to west. Then they press the earth upon the body, which is gnawed by ninety dragons. What Jew has not heard of the Chibbout hakeber, the flagellation of the tomb. When the angel of death sits upon the sepulchre, the soul enters the corpse and lifts it to its feet; then the angel examines the deceased and strikes him with a chain, half of iron, half of fire, so that at the first blow all the limbs are disjointed; at the second, the bones are destroyed; and at the third the body is reduced to dust and ashes. Is not this the picture that Islamism has copied for the use of the Arabs?

The state of the soul after its separation from the body, gives us a subject requiring still more study and thought. It is impossible not to recognize herein the ideas of the Cabala in their parabolic or legendary form, one which brought them within the comprehension of all and transformed them into a capricious mythology, fascinating for the imagination of the people. Let us see what they teach. There are, on this subject, divers opinions among the Arabs, but, when properly viewed, they are only so many symbols detached from the great body of Cabalistic symbolism, all bearing the truest stamp, and concealing under faces the most divers, one identical doctrine. According to some, souls keep generally near sepulchres; and this is what the Cabalists tell us concerning the Nefesch, which rarely leaves its body, and especially about the Habala degarme, "the breath of the bones," which never leaves it. According to others, souls are with Adam in the lowest heaven, those destined for Paradise on the right, and those for hell on the left. Is not this a paraphrase of the Cabalistic dogmas? For these inform us that all human souls are contained in Adam, some in his head, some in his arms, others in his breast, and so on; and especially that the last heaven, the Velon, Malkhout, is the seat of souls; the good on the right, the wicked on the left.[13]

A third opinion of the Arabs is that the souls of the just are preserved in the water-founts Zemzem, those of the wicked in the pit Brohut. Is not this the same doctrine under another form, the symbolism of which is more precise and marked? This Velon, or Malkhout, bears the significant name Beer of living water, expressed in the history of the desert by "the wells of Miriam." But what is less known, though no less interesting, is that while the seat of the blessed is called Beer, its counterpart, the diabolic kingdom, the seat of the wicked, is called by the slightly different name Bor, pit, which is one of the names of hell. Can we have a closer, a more evident, analogy? According to others, souls stay seven days near the tombs, though it is not known what then becomes of them. The Zohar tells us: "During seven days the soul comes and goes from the tomb to its house, and from its house to the tomb; after seven days the body remains as it is, and the soul goes where it goes."[8] This is not all. The Arabs have another opinion very strange and curious, but which is repeated with singular exactness by the Cabalistic formula. Understand, if you can, what the Arabs mean by saying that "souls are in the trumpet, at the sound of which the dead shall rise." But connect these words with the Cabalistic symbols, and how clear becomes the sense! "We have but to remember that the spirit, the intellect proper, Neschama, has its seat in the Bina, "the superior mother;" that this Eon, this Sephira bears as its most legitimate name, Schophar Gadol, "the grand trumpet;" and lastly, that at the sound of this trumpet the dead must rise. Were we not right in saying that these doctrines are the light-centre that explains the two greatest religious derivations--Christianity and Islamism?

It is time we should allude to the resurrection itself. Here Pharisaical analogies abound. The bone called el-aib or the coccyx, which, according to Mahomet, will remain incorrupt to the last day, as a seed or leaven to renew the whole body, is the same as the bone looz of the Pharisees, which is to play the same part on the resurrection-day. The rain of forty days, which Mahomet says will make bodies germ like plants, is the dew which the Pharisees say shall fall to revive the dust of the tombs, as the morning dew revives the flowers.

We shall say nothing of the signs that are to herald this great day--signs taken now from the Bible, now from the Doctors; of the marks that the faithful and the wicked shall bear on their faces, imitated from Ezekiel; of the Hebrew Messiah transformed by Islamism into Antichrist; of the irruption of the Yadjoudj and Madjoudj, the Gog and Magog of the Jews, with all the circumstances attend-[13]ing their advent given by Ezekiel; of the triple sound of the trumpet, modeled from all the official sounds of Judaism, always triple; of the kind of dress with which the dead shall rise from their tombs, and which the Talmud[9] had already assigned them, in the gracious parable of "the grain of wheat which is sown naked, and buds clad in splendid attire." But what should arrest us for a moment is the part the sun plays in this great day. The Pharisees had said: There is no Hell in the world to come, but the sun shall leave his sheath, burning the wicked and comforting the just. One of the great sufferings of the wicked, as Islamism in its turn teaches, will be a great sweat, produced not only by the great concourse of beings, but especially by the nearness of the sun, which shall then be distant only a mile.[10] The just will be secured from this evil, dwelling "under the shade of the throne of God." It is impossible not to recognize in this the impress of Pharisaism. But a still more important analogy, is the justification which the soul and the body shall plead in that great day, each trying to shift the responsibility of its evil deeds upon the other. "O, Lord," the soul will say, "I received from thee my body, because thou didst create me without hands to seize anything, without feet to walk, eyes to see or ears to hear, until I entered into the body; that, therefore, thou shouldst punish eternally." And on the other hand, the body: "Lord, thou didst create me like a stick of wood, unable to use my eyes to see, or my feet and hands to act, until this soul came to animate me; then my tongue began to speak, my eyes to see, etc. ... ; punish, therefore, this soul eternally." Is not this the question that Marcus Aurelius proposed to Juda the Holy, as the Talmud relates?[11] What is God's reply, according to Islamism? The same exactly as that given by Juda the Holy. Then comes the apologue of the blind man and the paralytic, who having got into the fruit garden of the King, excused themselves by alleging, each, his impotence. In their narration, as in ours, God puts the paralytic upon the back of the blind man, judges them and punishes them in this position. So astonishing a conformity of ideas and images between Mahomet and the Talmud could scarcely be due to chance.

We shall but name other ideas and images common to both religions. The books that will be produced at the last day, the scales[15] in which actions will be weighed, the bridge of Hell over which men are to pass, belonged to Pharisaism long before they figured in the Koran.[12] But these images are too deeply founded in man's spiritual nature to derive an argument from them. What best merits our attention is rather whatever is arbitrary and capricious as to places, as to the duration and nature of rewards and punishments; for if a resemblance between the religions in such matters be shown, it must have great weight for an impartial critic. Now we can with confidence affirm that in these respects the conformity is most striking. If the Koran makes seven degrees in Hell, the Pharisees give it the same divisions;[13] if its custody is entrusted to angels, if the damned confess the justice of God's judgment, if their tortures consist sometimes in an excess of heat, sometimes in an excess of cold, if those tortures are to have an end,--these ideas are all in the most celebrated Pharisaical writings, with the exception of the last, wherein they give themselves the advantage and the copyist has deviated from his model. For while with the Pharisees the limitation of punishment is a general law, applicable to both Jews and Pagans, with the Mussulmen it is confined to believers, and eternal punishment reserved for infidels and idolaters.[14]

Islamism is no less indebted to Pharisaism for its description of Paradise. The latter locates it in the seventh heaven, called Araboth, at the foot of God's throne, which the Cabalists designate by the Sephira, the exact Eon of Malkhout, called Throne of God, Paradise, and Gan Eden,--the seat, as we have said, of souls.[15] Islamism teaches that Paradise is situated in the seventh heaven, immediately beneath the Throne of God; the pearls and hyacinths with which it is paved, its walls of gold and silver, its pomegranates, grapes, and dates, of exquisite taste and perfume, its viands, its birds all prepared, the silk robes which the earth shall produce, are all modeled from Biblical and Rabbinical descriptions. The future Jerusalem, the Paradise or celestial kingdom of the Cabalists, shall be, according to the prophets, full of these wonders; its pavements, walls and windows of silver, gold and precious stones. We read in the Talmud that an incredulous disciple saw with his own eyes angels cutting precious stones of an enormous size; and the Rabbinical legends tell us that the earth shall produce in the days of the Messiah cakes and silk dresses ready made. Nor are the rivers forgotten: These, Mahomet says, shall be of water, milk, wine and honey. Exactly what the Haggada, the popular legends of the[16] Pharisees, teaches.[16] One kind only, that plays a great part in esoteric Judaism and especially in the Zohar, is forgotten--viz, the rivers of balm. As a compensation, Mahomet promises his followers "girls with large black eyes" (Hour el-oyn), who may have a remote relationship to the Alamoth (virgins), a name given by the Cabalists to souls detached from their bodies.

But what recalls us, beyond dispute, to the Pharisaical sources is the idea that God will give the blessed strength to enjoy his favors, so that they shall not sink under them; a noble and pure idea as it came from the Doctors, but one which Mahomet has degraded to the grossest instincts of the Arab race. It would be, however, unjust to deny that Mahomet is better than his disciples; for if the enjoyments he promises them are such as a good man would not covet here-below, he has rewards which he esteems far above all sensual pleasures,--such as to view the face of God every evening and morning, one for which (as Al-Ghazali remarks) all the other pleasures of Paradise will be forgotten.

To finish with the dogmas of Mahomet, we have but a word to say upon predestination, or the eternal decrees of God as to the fate of men and their works. Singular destiny of moral liberty! Without an asylum or assured protection in the midst of ancient Paganism, we might yet have thought that the products of that religion which said: "I put life and good, death and evil, before you, choose then life,"[17] would have a little better respected God's gift, the power by which man most resembles his Creator. Vain hope! In the transmission of the Jewish dogmas to subsequent religions, the first that suffered and was sunk in the wreck of Judaism, was free-will, liberty. Is it then fated that the people who "struggled with God and with men,"[18] shall be the born-guardian of all liberties? Impossible to deny it: in Christianity, as well as in Islamism, by violent death or by lingering consumption, liberty has perished. The former stifled it softly, noiselessly, by dint of favors,--favors anticipatory, efficacious, irresistible, favors of every kind and shade, till liberty finally sunk under the weight of so many benefits. It was killed in the name of the goodness of God, which, nevertheless, never shone higher than when God, limiting man's power, yet said to him: Be free! Islamism, on the other hand, has killed it with a single blow, as its Califs and Sultans cut off heads with the cimeter; it has killed it in the name of the knowledge of God, which, nevertheless, is never so great,--of his power, which is never so powerful as when, superior to itself, it limits its own action.

Need we say that Pharisaism is free from these excesses? We say designedly, Pharisaism, Judaism; for none other has kept the proper[17] mean in this grave problem. On one side, the Sadducees, as Joseph attests, set no bounds to human liberty,--a system as absurd as it was impious. On the other, the Essenes spoke a language in which contempt was almost inevitable. They ascribed (Joseph still our witness) all to destiny.

Far from us the thought of seeing in the destiny of the Essenes the fatalism of the Mussulman or the necessity of Spinoza. But without being the cause, it has assuredly given occasion to the second, and perhaps also to the first. We should, however, for the honor of the human mind, much more than for that of Islamism, remark that the Arab philosophy has struggled in every way against the evil consequences of the fatalism consecrated by Mahomet, and that it has been sometimes bold enough to maintain the opposite opinion,--to assert that the free judgment of man is intact.

Notes[edit]

  1. Pure Hebrew also; the, singular of Kitbe.
  2. Talm. Youma. fol. 52.
  3. Ps. civ. Talmud Chagiga, fol. 13, 14.
  4. Ib. Shabbath, fol. 32, and Baba Bathra, fol. 10.
  5. Ezekiel. ix.
  6. Tal. Yoma, fol. 67 and Zohar, sec. Bereshith.
  7. Talmud Chagiga, fol. 16.
  8. Zohar, section Vaychi
  9. Sanhedrim, fol. 90.
  10. Ibid, fol. 91.
  11. Our readers may smile at this as an absurdity. Let them remember, however, that this describes an "evil" and abnormal condition of things; and secondly, that they should have little difficulty in accepting this, if they can credit the modern teaching that our sun is ninety-five million miles distant (and stationary!), and that our cumbrous earth is traveling at a speed (nearly twenty miles a second!) which, if true, would annihilate all animal life, at least on its surface.
  12. Yalkout Shimoni, fol. 153, and Sanhedrim.
  13. Ibid. Shimoni, Eroubin, fol. 19, and Zohar, Vol. ii, Ch. xxv: 2.
  14. Ibid. Shimoni, foL 86 and 116; Zohar, 11, 19; Eroubin, fol. 19.
  15. Talmud Tanith, fol. 25; Chagiga, Ch. ii.
  16. Yalkout Shimoni
  17. Deut. x: 15-19.
  18. Gen. xxxi: 9.