« ForrigeFortsæt »
THE FOUNDER OF ISLĀM.
"The turn of Arabia."
"All grudges shall be taken away out of your hearts."
THE state of life and the progress of politics in the far Orient have, at all times indeed, a very especial claim on our attention. merely on the universal-brotherhood principle of philosophers, which, as far as the East is from the West, would unite all men on the common ground of humanity, but as drawn still closer to our Asiatic fellows within the magic ring of one imperial crown. Now, too, the feverish progress of events in Turkey-the one, so to speak, oriental kingdom in Europe-invests all the circumstances of their law, politics, and religion with a deeper interest. We have nearer kindred, a greater similarity, with all the other European nations, Russia, perhaps, excepted. We can, as the tide of history rolls on, argue from them to ourselves and vice versâ, and guess at the hidden springs of action and character.
But to theorize with any degree of probability on Mohammedan forms of government, to under
stand the development of their moral and social life, we have to leave our own standpoint, and search sympathetically into the causes which underlie the distinc tive forms which influence them most strongly.
Sympathetically,-for there is no use in studying such questions from the outside. By looking at the dialplate of a clock we can watch the progress of the hour hand, but if we would understand the how and the why of its motion, we must know something of the machinery behind.
Sir Rutherford Alcock, in a paper on our Colonial Empire, quotes the remark made in a Parliamentary speech by Mr. Forster, that "ideas rule the world." Commenting thereon, he says, "Then it is essential to take note of such ideas. In the dealings of Western Powers with the East, it will be found that a knowledge of the leading ideas of Eastern races, and of the influences most constant with their rulers, constitutes the
best foundation for successful policy."
"Their common faith in the Koran and its precepts as of Divine authority, is stronger even than race affinities, and makes common cause against all giaours and infidels."
Thus the Koran is one of the sources where we are to seek for some of these ruling "leading ideas." One of these, perhaps the very chiefest, is the idea, the ineffaceable impression, left on every chapter of the Koran, of its author, Mohammed. Louis XIV. used to say "L'état c'est moi"-Mohammed, with far greater truth, might have said "The Koran is myself." To quote from Dean Stanley's "Eastern Church," "it is to the Mussulman, in one sense, far more than the Bible is to the Christian. It is his code of laws, his creed, and, to a great extent, his liturgy."
Thus in the Koran we find at once the mainspring and the complex machinery which it sets in
"If," observes Mr. Bosworth Smith, "our Scriptures are they which testify of Christ,' here (in the Koran), if anywhere, we have a mirror of one of the Master-spirits of the world, often inartistic, incoherent, self-contradictory, dull, but impregnated with a few grand ideas which stand out from the whole, a mind seething with the inspiration pent within it, 'intoxicated with God,' but full of human weaknesses from which he never pretended, and it is his lasting glory that he never pretended, to be free."*
The Arabs had a proverb that "Mohammed's character is the Koran," He himself used to call it his one "standing miracle," and
used to appeal to it as the proof of his mission. There may be differences of opinion as to its style. The Prophet himself said (Koran, Sura XVII.), "If men and genii were assembled together that they might produce a book like the Koran, they must fail." The Moslem world fully endorses this judgment. They challenge the world to rival this book, this "Reading," "Thing to be read," as its name implies. They think it impious to translate it. "We hear of Mahometan doctors that had read it seventy thousand times." t
By Europeans of the Aryan race, the book is generally regarded as almost unreadable. Mr. Bosworth Smith tells us that Bunsen, Sprenger, and Renan found the task of reading it through all but impossible, and for himself, after reading it through repeatedly, he pronounces that " dulness is, to a European who is ignorant of Arabic, the prevailing characteristic of the book, until he begins to make a minute study of it." Mr. Carlyle's verdict is, "I must say it is as toilsome reading as I ever undertook. . . . Nothing but a sense of duty could carry any European through the Koran." Such is this strange book to Mohammedans, and such to Christians. Most probably no degree of insight would awaken us to the enthusiasm of the Moslem for his book, but is there an "open, Sesame" which would admit us to a better vantage-point of study?
It seems to us that sympathy is the clue, as we said before; and of this we find an apt illustration in Mr. Carlyle himself. To him, after all, it is not unintelligible how the Arabs could so love it. Behind "the confused coil" he begins to
"Mohammed and Mohammedanism," by R. Bosworth Smith, M.A., p. 17. + Carlyles "Heroes and Hero-worship," p. 59.
centrated essence" of Mohammed's inner life-an essence not expressed and wrung out without strong crying, tears and white hairs to himself.
But the insight afforded by a study of his book will not give us the whole truth of Mohammed. We want the mind and we want the outward shining of the mind. While we would gladly lift the veil that shrouds the abysmal depths of personality, we would fain see him also projected into the outer world of speech and action.
In other words, there is a subjective and an objective side to every man. An inner world, now chequered by mental clouds and storins, now shone upon by a spiritual sky-and a peace which no outer calamities can trouble. There the man dwells far within. There, as Adam in his Eden, he can till the ground, and tend the flowers, have dominion over the birds of the air and beasts of the field, entertain angel visitants, or walk in the garden of his soul with his God.
Or he may be dwelling there like the possessed maniac amid the tombs of the dead, wild and lawless in his own desolation.
This inner life of a man seldom appears to his fellows, and then, as through a veil darkly." The outward demeanour of social life gives no sign of the life below; it is but the surface-skin to shelter the nerves underneath from painful contact with the outer world. Only the unpremeditated flash of the eye, the quick spontaneous smile, the impulsive act half disclose it for a moment, as the vivid lightning calls forth a landscape from the gloom of night, into which it
arrive at the essential type of it, and finds "a merit quite other than the literary one." This merit to him is its genuineness, its deep earnestness - to him "it is the confused ferment of a great rude human soul; rude, untutored, that cannot even read; but fervent earnest, struggling vehemently to utter itself in words. With a kind of breathless intensity he strives to utter himself; the thoughts crowd on him pell-mell: for very multitude of things to say, he can get nothing said... We said stupid," he adds, "yet natural stupidity is by no means the character of Mohammed's book; it is natural uncultivation rather. The man has not studied speaking; in the haste and pressure of continual fighting, he has not time to mature himself into fit speech. The panting, breathless haste and vehemence of a man struggling in the thick of battle, for life and salvation; this is the mood he is in! .... The successive utterances of a soul in that mood, coloured by the various vicissitudes of three-and-twenty years; now well uttered, now worse: this is the Koran." Looking into the Koran, Mr. Carlyle finds, shining out of its dark and muddy waters, something of fervour, of truth; "rude vestiges of poetic genius, of whatsoever is best and truest, glimmering in its depths." The eyes of Mohammed seem to flash out upon him-"an eye that flashes direct into the heart of things, and sees the truth of them." Truly
"As in water face answereth to face, So the heart of man to man."
Of such kind is the Korān. This is the mine into which one must dig to find the buried ore of a great soul. It contains the "con
Mohammed's words to Abu Bekr, "Hud, and its sisters, the terrific Suras, have turned it white before its time."-Hud, Sura xi., &c.
vanishes again. So in the unselfconsciousness of the Koran, glimpses of its author's soul arise to view, and here his inner thoughts are laid bare.
But this is not enough. Having learned something of his life within, we must also follow him into the outer world of men. How will he appear there? What words will he utter? How will he act? There
fore we need, for a perfect portrait, the world of men and women in which "he lived and moved and had his being," and the circumstances of their race, country, and other influences. Words and deeds are the sparks that are flung out by the friction of these two forces.
Thus, given the man and his surrounding influences-the germ and its environment-the problem of his life is not insoluble. We must, however, travel into the age and country where the poet lived and sang, where the monarch governed the lives, or the lawgiver the hearts of men; or the echoes of their voices will seem strange and meaningless to us, like "the accents of an unknown tongue," and verily we shall not be edified thereby.
Now, in this necessarily concise article we do not pretend to achieve either of these proposed aims, but would rather try (gathering samples from the more original and laboriously wrought stores of others) to exhibit them, like the grapes of Eshcol, as specimens of a promised land-a few of each, and those perhaps not the best for selection. It would seem more feasible in these days to learn, at any rate, approximately the truth of Mohammed and his life, than for the many generations who lived during the thousand years following his death (632 A.D.).
Mr. Smith describes the progress of opinion on this topic. He tells us that as soon as Europe could spare time to breathe and think,
after arresting the waves of the Saracen tide of conquest, the age of chivalry embalmed his memory in their songs and epics, as an idol and a demon; that the Kaliph of Cordova was said to worship him in the following bad company, "By Jupiter! by Mohammed! by Apollyon!"-that Dante found him among the arch heretics in the ninth circle of the "Inferno," while Luther's treatment of him was still worse. Luther questions whether Mohammed or Pope Leo be the man of sin; deciding that the Pope's claim for that office is the best, he sets down Mohammed as the little Horn; and "the eyes of the little Horn are the Alcoran or Law wherewith he ruleth." Deutsch says that Luther translated the "Confutatio Alcoran" of a certain Brother Richards (1300 A.D.) (who had travelled to Babylon for his learning), and enriched the same by occasional comments, such as, "O fie! for shame, you horrid devil! you d-d Mahomet!" or "O pfui dich, Teufel!" ending up with, "Wohlan! God grant us his grace, and punish both the Pope and Mahomet, together with their devils. I have done my part as a true prophet and teacher. Those who won't listen may leave it alone." Melancthon, the gentle, uses equally strong language, if less emphatic. The honest vehemence of Luther, the iconoclast, is not, after all, so very unlike that of this other iconoclast whom he so denounced. At any rate, Deutsch goes on to inform us, writers on the Papal side were not slow to discover that Luther in particular, and the German Reformers in general, were trying to introduce Mohammedanism into the German Church! They found, too, a wonderful likeness between it and Lutheranism.
Gibbon was one of the earliest to modify the medieval views of Mo
hammed; but his manifest hostility to Christianity depreciated the value of his testimony. Since then the tide has set in still more decidedly in this new direction, and Mr. Carlyle, in ranking him as his hero-prophet, has probably reached high-water mark.
There are now histories and biographies of Mohammed in which he can be studied from every point of view, including that of an enthusiastic Mussulman, who tenderly holds up every fairer trait for admiration, while he champions the doubtful, and defends the indefensible with the convenient "tu-quoque" turned upon the wearers of the Christian
In reading some of our modern writers, one cannot but be struck with the liberality and tenderness shown towards all forms of faith, or their semblance. This may be the reaction from the illiberality of former times, or possibly the product of our advanced Christian sentiments and more enlightened knowledge. But the contrast is
Even now, especially with us, also in Spain and Italy, there comes to the surface sometimes an ardent championship between the two so dissimilar offshoots of the Christian faith, and they never entirely cease jostling one another for place. The extreme severity of the measure dealt out to one another by some of the minor Protestant parties is only too noticeable. We find a Mussulman speaking out warmly for his own views of Mohammedanism (which Mr. Hughes, by the way, calls rationalistic, and declares that "they no more represent the Mohammedanism of the Kuran and the traditions, than the opinions of Mr. Voysey represent the teaching
of orthodox Christianity "), while on the outside of any form of socalled Christianity, and beyond the plain speaking of first cousins, we see this chivalrous courtesy of the strong towards the weak, and a perhaps somewhat exaggerated belief in the "soul of good in things evil," which extends its condescending care towards even the weakest weed of religion among savage tribes. Buddha, Christ, and Mohammed, and many others to boot, have their respective merits weighed in the balances, and their places allotted as the scale turns in the judgment of some writers. Another "reverences the Christian Church for the great good it has done to mankind; and (at the same time) reverences the Mahometan Church for the good it has done-a far less good."
A word borrowed from Professor Max Müller may not be amiss here. He says, "Those who would use a comparative study of religions as a means for debasing Christianity by exalting the other religions of mankind, are to my mind as dangerous allies as those who think it necessary to debase all other religions in order to exalt Christianity. Science wants no partisans. I make no secret that true Christianity-I mean the religion of Christ-seems to me to become more and more exalted the more we know and the more we appreciate the treasures of truth hidden in the despised religions of the world."
In some such way one might worthily study Mohammed and his book. The earnest confession, where it can be realized, of the purest morality that ever shone upon earth, and of the unapproachable excellence of One who spake as never man spake, need not pre
"Notes on Muhammedanism," by the Rev. T. P. Hughes, C. M.S. "Lectures on the Science of Religion," p. 37.