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History of the Christian Church, Volume IV: Mediaeval Christianity. A.D. 590-1073.
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§ 45. The Mohammedan Religion.


lslâm is not a new religion, nor can we expect a new one after the appearance of that religion which is perfect and intended for all nations and ages. It is a compound or mosaic of preëxisting elements, a rude attempt to combine heathenism, Judaism and Christianity, which Mohammed found in Arabia, but in a very imperfect form.184184    Luther said of the religion of the Turks: “Also ist’s ein Glaub zusammengeflickt aus der Jüden, Christen und Heiden Glaube.” Milman (II. 139) calls Mohammedanism “the republication of a more comprehensive Judaism with some depraved forms of Christianity.” Renan describes it as “the least original” of the religious creations of humanity. Geiger and Deutsch (both Hebrews) give prominence to the Jewish element. “It is not merely parallelisms,” says Deutsch, “reminiscences, allusions, technical terms, and the like, of Judaism, its lore and dogma and ceremony, its Halacha and Haggadah (which may most briefly be rendered by ’Law’ and ’Legend’), which we find in the Koran; but we think Islâm neither more nor less than Judaism as adapted to Arabia—plus the apostleship of Jesus and Mohammed. Nay, we verily believe that a great deal of such Christianity as has found its way into the Koran, has found it through Jewish channels” (l.c. p. 64). It is professedly, a restoration of the faith of Abraham, the common father of Isaac and of Ishmael. But it is not the genuine faith of Abraham with its Messianic hopes and aspirations looking directly to the gospel dispensation as its goal and fulfilment, but a bastard Judaism of Ishmael, and the post-Christian and anti-Christian Judaism of the Talmud. Still less did Mohammed know the pure religion of Jesus as laid down in the New Testament, but only a perversion and caricature of it such as we find in the wretched apocryphal and heretical Gospels. This ignorance of the Bible and the corruptions of Eastern Christianity with which the Mohammedans came in contact, furnish some excuse for their misbelief and stubborn prejudices. And yet even the poor pseudo-Jewish and pseudo-Christian elements of the Koran were strong enough to reform the old heathenism of Arabia and Africa and to lift it to a much higher level. The great and unquestionable merit of Islâm is the breaking up of idolatry and the diffusion of monotheism.

The creed of Islâm is simple, and consists of six articles: God, predestination, the angels (good and bad), the books, the prophets, the resurrection and judgment with eternal reward and eternal punishment.


God.


Monotheism is the comer-stone of the system. It is expressed in the ever-repeated sentence: “There is no god but God (Allâh, i.e., the true, the only God), and Mohammed is his prophet (or apostle).”185185    Lâ ilâha ill’ Allâh, wa Muhammeda rrasúlà ’llâh. Allâh is composed of the article al, “the,” and ilâh, “a god,” and is equivalent to the Hebrew Eli and Elohim. He was known to the Arabs before Mohammed, and regarded as the chief god in their pantheon. Gibbon calls this a “compound of an eternal truth and a necessary fiction.” The first clause certainly is a great and mighty truth borrowed from the Old Testament (Deut. 6:4); and is the religious strength of the system. But the Mohammedan (like the later Jewish, the Socinian, and the Unitarian) monotheism is abstract, monotonous, divested of inner life and fulness, anti-trinitarian, and so far anti-Christian. One of the last things which a Mohammedan will admit, is the divinity of Christ. Many of the divine attributes are vividly apprehended, emphasized and repeated in prayer. But Allah is a God of infinite power and wisdom, not a God of redeeming love to all mankind; a despotic sovereign of trembling subjects and slaves, not a loving Father of trustful children. He is an object of reverence and fear rather than of love and gratitude. He is the God of fate who has unalterably foreordained all things evil as well as good; hence unconditional resignation to him (this is the meaning of Islâm) is true wisdom and piety. He is not a hidden, unknowable being, but a God who has revealed himself through chosen messengers, angelic and human. Adam, Noah, Abraham Moses, and Jesus are his chief prophets.186186    A similar idea is presented in the pseudo-Clementine Homilies. But Mohammed is the last and the greatest.


Christ.


The Christology of the Koran is a curious mixture of facts and apocryphal fictions, of reverence for the man Jesus and denial of his divine character. He is called “the Messiah Jesus Son of Mary,” or “the blessed Son of Mary.”187187    Mesich Isa ben Mariam. He was a servant and apostle of the one true God, and strengthened by the Holy Spirit, i.e., the angel Gabriel (Dshebril), who afterwards conveyed the divine revelations to Mohammed. But he is not the Son of God; for as God has no wife, he can have no son.188188    In rude misconception or wilful perversion, Mohammed seems to have understood the Christian doctrine of the trinity to be a trinity of Father, Mary, and Jesus. The Holy Spirit is identified with Gabriel. “God is only one God! Far be it from his glory that he should have a son!” Sura 4, ver. 169; comp. 5, ver. 77. The designation and worship of Mary as “the mother of God” may have occasioned this strange mistake. There was in Arabia in the fourth century a sect of fanatical women called Collyridians (Κολλυρίδες), who rendered divine worship to Mary. Epiphanius, Haer. 79.· He is ever alone, and it is monstrous and blasphemous to associate another being with Allah.

Some of the Mohammedan divines exempt Jesus and even his mother from sin, and first proclaimed the dogma of the immaculate conception of Mary, for which the apocryphal Gospels prepared the way.189189    As the Protevangelium Jacobi, the Evang. de Nativitate Mariae, the Evang. Infantis Servatoris, etc. Gibbon (ch. 50) and Stanley (p. 367) trace the doctrine of the immaculate conception directly to the Koran. It is said of Mary: “Remember when the angel said: ’O Mary! verily hath God chosen thee, and purified thee, and chosen thee above the women of the worlds.’ ” But this does not necessarily mean more than Luke i. 28. The Koran knows nothing of original sin in the Christian sense. By a singular anachronism, the Koran confounds the Virgin Mary with Miriam,” the sister of Aaron” (Harun), and Moses (Ex. xv. 20; Num. xxi. 1). Possibly Mohammed may have meant another Aaron (since he calls Mary, “the sister of Aaron but not “of Moses”); some of his commentators, however, assume that the sister of Moses was miraculously preserved to give birth to Jesus.190190    Gerok, l.c. pp. 22-28. This would be a modification of the rabbinical fable that ordinary death and corruption had as little power over Miriam as over Moses, and that both died by the breath of Jehovah.

According to the Koran Jesus was conceived by the Virgin Mary at the appearance of Gabriel and born under a palm tree beneath which a fountain opened. This story is of Ebionite origin.191191    Rösch (l.c., p. 439) Die Geburtsgeschichte Jesu im Koran ist nichts anderes als ein mythologischer Mythus aus Ezech. 47 mit eingewobenen jüdischen Zügen, der seine Heimath im Ebionismus hat. Jesus preached in the cradle and performed miracles in His infancy (as in the apocryphal Gospels), and during His public ministry, or rather Allah wrought miracles through Him. Mohammed disclaims the miraculous power, and relied upon the stronger testimony of the truth of his doctrine. Jesus proclaimed the pure doctrine of the unity of God and disclaimed divine honors.

The crucifixion of Jesus is denied. He was delivered by a miracle from the death intended for Him, and taken up by God into Paradise with His mother. The Jews slew one like Him, by mistake. This absurd docetic idea is supposed to be the common belief of Christians.192192    Sura 4. This view of the crucifixion is no doubt derived from apocryphal sources. The Gnostic sect of Basilides supposed Simon of Cyrene, the Evangel. Barrabae, Judas, to have been that other person who was crucified instead of Jesus. Mani (Epist. Fund.) says that the prince of darkness was nailed to the cross, and wore the crown of thorns.

Jesus predicted the coming of Mohammed, when he said: “O children of Israel! of a truth I am God’s apostle to you to confirm the law which was given before me, and to announce an apostle that shall come after me whose name shall be Ahmed!”193193    Sura 61. Thus the promise of the Holy Ghost, “the other Paraclete,” (John xiv. 16) was applied by Mohammed to himself by a singular confusion of Paracletos (paravklhto”) with Periclytos (perivkluto”, heard all round, famous) or Ahmed (the glorified, the illustrious), one of the prophet’s names.194194    The Moslems refer also some other passages of Scripture to Mohammed and his religion, e.g. Gen. xvi. 10; xvii. 20; xxi. 12, 13; xxvii. 20 (the promise of God to bless Hagar and Ishmael); Deut. xviii. 15, 18 (the promise to raise up a prophet like Moses); Isa. xxi. 67 (where Mohammed is supposed to be meant by the “rider on the camel,” as distinct from Jesus, “the rider on the ass”); John iv. 21; 1 John iv. 23 (where he is the spirit that is of God, because he proclaimed that Jesus was a true man, not God); Deut. xxxii.2 (where Sinai is said to mean the Jewish, Seir the Christian, and Paran the Mohammedan revelation).

Owing to this partial recognition of Christianity Mohammed was originally regarded not as the founder of a new religion, but as one of the chief heretics.195195    So by John of Damascus and the mediaeval writers against Islâm. Peter of Clugny speaks of ”haereses Saracenorum sive Ismaelitarum.“Comp. Gass, Gennadius und Pletho, p. 109. The same opinion is expressed by several modern writers, Catholic and Protestant. Döllinger says: “Islâm must be considered at bottom a Christian heresy, the bastard offspring of a Christian father and a Jewish mother, and is indeed more closely allied to Christianity than Manichaeism, which is reckoned a Christian sect.”196196    Lectures on the Reunion of Churches, p. 7 (transl. by Oxenham, 1872). Stanley calls Islâm an “eccentric heretical form of Eastern Christianity,” and Ewald more correctly, “the last and most powerful offshoot of Gnosticism.”197197    Die Lehre der Bibel von Gott, Vol. I. (1871), p. 418.


The Ethics of IslÂm.


Resignation (Islâm) to the omnipotent will of Allah is the chief virtue. It is the most powerful motive both in action and suffering, and is carried to the excess of fatalism and apathy.


The use of pork and wine is strictly forbidden; prayer, fasting (especially during the whole month of Ramadhân), and almsgiving are enjoined. Prayer carries man half-way to God, fasting brings him to the door of God’s palace, alms secure admittance. The total abstinence from strong drink by the whole people, even in countries where the vine grows in abundance, reveals a remarkable power of self-control, which puts many Christian nations to shame. Mohammedanism is a great temperance society. Herein lies its greatest moral force.


Polygamy.


But on the other hand the heathen vice of polygamy and concubinage is perpetuated and encouraged by the example of the prophet. He restrained and regulated an existing practice, and gave it the sanction of religion. Ordinary believers are restricted to four wives (exclusive of slaves), and generally have only one or two. But Califs may fill their harems to the extent of their wealth and lust. Concubinage with female slaves is allowed to all without limitation. The violation of captive women of the enemy is the legitimate reward of the conqueror. The laws of divorce and prohibited degrees are mostly borrowed from the Jews, but divorce is facilitated and practiced to an extent that utterly demoralizes married life.

Polygamy and servile concubinage destroy the dignity of woman, and the beauty and peace of home. In all Mohammedan countries woman is ignorant and degraded; she is concealed from public sight by a veil (a sign of degradation as well as protection); she is not commanded to pray, and is rarely seen in the mosques; it is even an open question whether she has a soul, but she is necessary even in paradise for the gratification of man’s passion. A Moslem would feel insulted by an inquiry after the health of his wife or wives. Polygamy affords no protection against unnatural vices, which are said to prevail to a fearful extent among Mohammedans, as they did among the ancient heathen.198198    Rom. i. 24sqq. See the statements of Dr. Jessup of Beirût, l.c., p. 47.

In nothing is the infinite superiority of Christianity over Islâm so manifest as in the condition of woman and family life. Woman owes everything to the religion of the gospel.

The sensual element pollutes even the Mohammedan picture of heaven from which chastity is excluded. The believers are promised the joys of a luxuriant paradise amid blooming gardens, fresh fountains, and beautiful virgins. Seventy-two Houris, or black-eyed girls of blooming youth will be created for the enjoyment of the meanest believer; a moment of pleasure will be prolonged to a thousand years; and his faculties will be increased a hundred fold. Saints and martyrs will be admitted to the spiritual joys of the divine vision. But infidels and those who refuse to fight for their faith will be cast into hell.

The Koran distinguishes seven heavens, and seven hells (for wicked or apostate Mohammedans, Christians, Jews, Sabians, Magians, idolaters, hypocrites). Hell (Jahennem=Gehenna) is beneath the lowest earth and seas of darkness; the bridge over it is finer than a hair and sharper than the edge of a sword; the pious pass over it in a moment, the wicked fall from it into the abyss.


Slavery.


Slavery is recognized and sanctioned as a normal condition of society, and no hint is given in the Koran, nor any effort made by Mohammedan rulers for its final extinction. It is the twin-sister of polygamy; every harem is a slave-pen or a slave-palace. “The Koran, as a universal revelation, would have been a perpetual edict of servitude.” Mohammed, by ameliorating the condition of slaves, and enjoining kind treatment upon the masters, did not pave the way for its abolition, but rather riveted its fetters. The barbarous slave-trade is still carried on in all its horrors by Moslems among the negroes in Central Africa.


War.


War against unbelievers is legalized by the Koran. The fighting men are to be slain, the women and children reduced to slavery. Jews and Christians are dealt with more leniently than idolaters; but they too must be thoroughly humbled and forced to pay tribute.



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