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Ten Great Religions by James Freeman Clarke

Palgrave on Mohammedan Theology


"Moslems,

men and women, have the name of Allah constantly on their lips, but it seems to have become a mere form. This may explain why they were so startled when I said, 'I was speaking to God.'" She adds that if she had only said, "I was saying my prayers," or, "I was at my devotions," it would not have impressed them."

Next morning, on awaking, Miss Rogers found the women from the neighborhood had come in "to hear the English girl speak to God," and Helweh said, "Now, Miriam, darling, will you speak to God?" At the conclusion she asked them if they could say Amen, and after a moment of hesitation they cried out, "Amen, amen!" Then one said, "Speak again, my daughter, speak about _the bread_." So she repeated the Lord's Prayer with explanations. When she left, they crowded around affectionately, saying, "Return again, O Miriam, beloved!"

After this pleasant little picture, we may hear something on the other side. Two recent travellers, Mr. Palgrave and Mr. Vambery, have described the present state of Mohammedanism in Central Arabia and Turkistan, or Central Asia. Barth has described it as existing among the negroes in North Africa. Count Gobineau has told us of Islam as it is in Persia at the present day[397]. Mr. MacFarlane, in his book "Kismet, or the Doom of Turkey," has pointed out the gradual decay of that power, and the utter corruption of its administration. After reading such works as these,--and among them

let us not forget Mr. Lane's "Modern Egyptians,"--the conclusion we must inevitably come to is, that the worst Christian government, be it that of the Pope or the Czar, is very much better than the best Mohammedan government. Everywhere we find arbitrary will taking the place of law. In most places the people have no protection for life or property, and know the government only through its tax-gatherers. And all this is necessarily and logically derived from the fundamental principle of Mohammedan theology. God is pure will, not justice, not reason, not love. Christianity says, "God is love"; Mohammedanism says, "God is will." Christianity says, "Trust in God"; Mohammedanism says, "Submit to God." Hence the hardness, coldness, and cruelty of the system; hence its utter inability to establish any good government. According to Mr. MacFarlane, it would be a blessing to mankind to have the Turks driven out of Europe and Asia Minor, and to have Constantinople become the capital of Russia. The religion of Islam is an outward form, a hard shell of authority, hollow at heart. It constantly tends to the two antagonistic but related vices of luxury and cruelty. Under the profession of Islam, polytheism and idolatry have always prevailed in Arabia. In Turkistan, where slavery is an extremely cruel system, they make slaves of Moslems, in defiance of the Koran. One chief being appealed to by Vambery (who travelled as a Dervish), replied, "We buy and sell the Koran itself, which is the holiest thing of all; why not buy and sell Mussulmans, who are less holy?"

Sec. 6. The Criticism of Mr. Palgrave on Mohammedan Theology.

Mr. Palgrave, who has given the latest and best account of the condition of Central and Southern Arabia,[398] under the great Wahhabee revival, sums up all Mohammedan theology as teaching a Divine unity of pure will. God is the only force in the universe. Man is wholly passive and impotent. He calls the system, "A pantheism of force." God has no rule but arbitrary will. He is a tremendous unsympathizing autocrat, but is yet jealous of his creatures, lest they should attribute to themselves something which belongs to him. He delights in making all creatures feel that they are his slaves. This, Mr. Palgrave asserts, is the main idea of Mohammedanism, and of the Koran, and this was what lay in the mind of Mohammed. "Of this," says he, "we have many authentic samples: the Saheeh, the Commentaries of Beydawee, the Mishkat-el-Mesabeeh, and fifty similar works, afford ample testimony on this point. But for the benefit of my readers in general, all of whom may not have drunk equally deep at the fountain-heads of Islamitic dogma, I will subjoin a specimen, known perhaps to many Orientalists, yet too characteristic to be here omitted, a repetition of which I have endured times out of number from admiring and approving Wahhabees in Nejed.


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