Christianity And Islam

apocryphal, partly canonical, together with a hazy idea of the fundamental dogmas. Thus the influence of Christianity upon him was entirely indirect. The Muhammedan movement at its outset was influenced not by the real Christianity of the time but by a Christianity which Muhammed criticised in certain details and forced into harmony with his preconceived ideas. His imagination was profoundly impressed by the existence of Christianity as a revealed religion with a founder of its own. Certain features of Christianity and of Judaism, prayer, purification, solemn festivals, scriptures, prophets and so forth were regarded by him as essential to any religious community, because they happened to belong both to Judaism and to Christianity. He therefore adopted or wished to adopt these institutions.

During the period of his life at Medina, Muhammed abandoned his original idea of preaching the doctrines which Moses and

Jesus had proclaimed. This new development was the outcome of a struggle with Judaism following upon an unsuccessful attempt at compromise. In point of fact Judaism and Christianity were as widely different from one another as they were from his own teaching and he was more than ever inclined to regard as his special forerunner, Abraham, who had preceded both Moses and Jesus, and was revered by both religions as the man of God. He then brought Abraham into connection with the ancient Meccan Ka'ba worship : the Ka'ba or die was a sacred stone edifice, in one corner of which the " black stone" had been built in: this stone was an object of reverence to the ancient Arabs, as it still is to the Muhammedans. Thus Islam gradually assumed the form of an Arab religion, developing universalist tendencies in the ultimate course of events. Muham-med, therefore, as he was the last in the ranks of the prophets, must also be the

greatest. He epitomised all prophecy and Islam superseded every revealed religion of earlier date.

Muhammed's original view that earlier religions had been founded by God's will and through divine revelation, led both him and his successors to make an important concession : adherents of other religions were not compelled to adopt Islam. They were allowed to observe their own faith unhindered, if they surrendered without fighting, and were even protected against their enemies, in return for which they had to pay tribute to their Muslim masters ; this was levied as a kind of poll-tax. Thus we read in the Qoran (ix. 29) that " those who possess Scriptures," i.e. the Jews and Christians, who did not accept Islam were to be attacked until they paid the gizja or tribute. Thus the object of a religious war upon the Christians is not expressed by the cry " Death or Islam 55 ; such attacks

were intended merely to extort an acknowledgment of Muhammedan supremacy, not to abolish freedom of religious observance. It would be incorrect for the most part to regard the warrior bands which started from Arabia as inspired by religious enthusiasm or to attribute to them the fanaticism which was first aroused by the crusades and in an even greater degree by the later Turkish wars. The Muhammedan fanatics of the wars of conquest, whose reputation was famous among later generations, felt but a very scanty interest in religion and occasionally displayed an ignorance of its fundamental tenets which we can hardly exaggerate. The fact is fully consistent with the impulses to which the Arab migrations were due. These impulses were economic and the new religion was nothing more than a party cry of unifying power, though there is no reason to suppose that it was not a real moral force in the life of Mu-hammed and his immediate contemporaries,

Anti-Christian fanaticism there was therefore none. Even in early years Muhamme-dans never refused to worship in the same buildings as Christians. The various insulting regulations wrhich tradition represents Christians as forced to endure were directed not so much against the adherents of another faith as against the barely tolerated inhabitants of a subjugated state. It is true that the distinction is often difficult to observe, as religion and nationality were one and the same thing to Muhammedans. In any case religious animosity was a very subordinate phenomenon. It was a gradual development and seems to me to have made a spasmodic beginning in the first century under the influence of ideas adopted from Christianity. It may seem paradoxical to assert that it was Christian influence which first stirred Islam to religious animosity and armed it with the sword against Christianity, but the hypothesis becomes highly probable when we have realised the in-

differentism of the Muhammedan conquerors. We shall constantly see hereafter how much they owed in every department of intellectual life to the teaching of the races which they subjugated. Their attitude towards other beliefs was never so intolerant as was that of Christendom at that period. Christianity may well have been the teaching influence in this department of life as in others. Moreover at all times and especially in the first century the position of Christians has been very tolerable, even though the Muslims regarded them as an inferior class. Christians wrere able to rise to the highest offices of state, even to the post of vizier, without any compulsion to renounce their faith. Even during the period of the crusades when the religious opposition was greatly intensified, again through Christian policy, Christian officials cannot have been uncommon : otherwise Muslim theorists would never have uttered their constant invectives against the em-

3i ployment of Christians in administrative duties. Naturally zealots appeared at all times on the Muhammedan as well as on the Christian side and occasionally isolated acts of oppression took place : these were, however, exceptional. So late as the eleventh century, church funeral processions were able to pass through the streets of Bagdad with all the emblems of Christianity and disturbances were recorded by the chroniclers as exceptional. In Egypt, Christian festivals were also regarded to some extent as holidays by the Muhammedan population. We have but to imagine these conditions reversed in a Christian kingdom of the early middle ages and the probability of my theory will become obvious.

The Christians of the East, who had broken for the most part with the orthodox Church, also regarded Islam as a lesser evil than the Byzantine established Church. Moreover Islam, as being both a political

and ecclesiastical organisation, regarded the Christian church as a state within a state and permitted it to preserve its own juridical and at first its own governmental rights. Application was made to the bishops when anything was required from the community and the churches were used as taxation offices. This was all in the interests of the clergy who thus found their traditional claims realised. These relations were naturally modified in the course of centuries ; the crusades, the Turkish wars and the great expansion of Europe widened the breach betwreen Christianity and Islam, while as the East was gradually brought under ecclesiastical influence, the contrast grew deeper: the theory, however, that the Muhammedan conquerors and their successors were inspired by a fanatical hatred of Christianity is a fiction invented by Christians.

We have now to examine this early development of Islam in somewhat greater D 33

detail: indeed, to secure a more general appreciation of this point is the object of the present work.

The relationship of the Qoran to Christianity has been already noted : it was a book which preached rather than taught and enounced isolated laws but no connected system. Islam was a clear and simple war-cry betokening merely a recognition of Arab supremacy, of the unity of God and of Muhammed's prophetic mission. But in a few centuries Islam became a complex religious structure, a confusion of Greek philosophy and Roman lav/, accurately regulating every department of human life from the deepest problems of morality to the daily use of the toothpick, and the fashions of dress and hair. This change from the simplicity of the founder's religious teaching to a system of practical morality often wholly divergent from primitive doctrine, is a transformation which all the great religions of the world have undergone. Religious founders have succeeded in rousing the sense of true religion in the human heart. Religious systems result from the interaction of this impulse with pre-existing capacities for civilisation. The highest attainments of human life are dependent upon circumstances of time and place, and environment often exerts a more powerful influence than creative power. The teaching of Jesus was almost overpowered by the Grceco-Oriental culture of later Hellenism. Dissensions persist even now because millions of people are unable to distinguish pure religion from the forms of expression belonging to an extinct civilisation. Islam went through a similar course of development and assumed the spiritual panoply which was ready to hand. Here, as elsewhere, this defence was a necessity during the period of struggle, but became a crushing burden during the peace which followed victory, for the reason

that it was regarded as inseparable from the wearer of it. From this point of view the analogy with Christianity will appear extremely striking, but it is something more than an analogy : the Oriental Hellenism of antiquity was to Christianity that which the Christian Oriental Hellenism of a few centuries later was to Islam.

We must now attempt to realise the nature of this event so important in the history of the world. A nomadic people, recently united, not devoid of culture, but with a very limited range of ideas, suddenly gains supremacy over a wide and populous district with an ancient civilisation. These nomads are as yet hardly conscious of their political unity and the individualism of the several tribes composing it is still a disruptive force: yet they can secure domination over countries such as Egypt and Babylonia, with complex constitutional systems, where climatic conditions, the nature of the soil and centuries of work

have combined to develop an intricate administrative system, which newcomers could not be expected to understand, much less to recreate or to remodel. Yet the theory has long been held that the Arabs entirely reorganised the constitutions of these countries. Excessive importance has been attached to the statements of Arab authors, who naturally regarded Islam as the beginning of all things. In every detail of practical life they regarded the prophet and his contemporaries as their ruling ideal, and therefore naturally assumed that the constitutional practices of the prophet were his own invention. The organisation of the conquering race with its tribal subordination was certainly purely Arab in origin. In fact the conquerors seemed so unable to adapt themselves to the conditions with which they met, that foreigners who joined their ranks were admitted to the Muham-medan confederacy only as clients of the various Arab tribes. This was, however, a

mere question of outward form : the internal organisation continued unchanged, as it was bound to continue unless chaos were to be the consequence. In fact, preexisting administrative regulations were so far retained that the old customs duties on the former frontiers were levied as before, though they represented an institution wholly alien to the spirit of the Muhammedan empire. Those Muhammedan authors, who describe the administrative organisation, recognise only the taxes which Islam regarded as lawful and characterise others as malpractices which had crept in at a later date. It is remarkable that these so-called subsequent malpractices correspond with Byzantine and Persian usage before the conquest : but tradition will not admit the fact that these remained unchanged. The same fact is obvious when we consider the progress of civilisation in general. In every case the Arabs merely develop the social and eco-

nomic achievements of the conquered races to further issues. Such progress could indeed only be modified by a general upheaval of existing conditions and no such movement ever took place. The Germanic tribes destroyed the civilisations with which they met; they adopted many of the institutions of Christian antiquity, but found them an impediment to the development of their own genius. The Arabs simply continued to develop the civilisation of post-classical antiquity with which they had come in contact.

This procedure may seem entirely natural in the department of economic life, but by no means inevitable where intellectual progress is concerned. Yet a similar course was followed in either case, as may be proved by dispassionate examination. Islam was a rising force, a faith rather of experience than of theory or dogma, when it raised its claims against Christianity, which represented all pre-existing intellectual cul-

ture. A settlement of these claims was necessary and the military triumphs are but the prelude to a great accommodation of intellectual interests. In this Christianity played the chief part, though Judaism is also represented : I am inclined, however, to think that Jewish ideas as they are expressed in the Qoran were often transmitted through the medium of Christianity. There is no doubt that in Medina Muhammed was under direct Jewish influence of extraordinary power. Even at that time Jewish ideas may have been in circulation, not only in the Qoran but also in oral tradition, which afterwards became stereotyped : at the same time Muhammed's utterances against the Jews eventually became so strong during the Medina period, for political reasons, that I can hardly imagine the traditions in their final form to have been adopted directly from the Jews. The case of Jewish converts is a different matter. But in Christianity also much Jewish

wisdom was to be found at that time and it is well known that even the Eastern churches regarded numerous precepts of the Old Testament, including those that dealt with ritual, as binding upon them. In any case the spirit of Judaism is present, either directly or working through Christianity, as an influence wherever Islam accommodated itself to the new intellectual and spiritual life which it had encountered. It was a compromise which affected the most trivial details of life, and in these matters religious scrupulosity was carried to a ridiculous point : here we may see the outcome of that Judaism which, as has been said, was then a definite element in Eastern Christianity. Together with Jewish, Greek and classical ideas were also naturally operative, while Persian and other ancient Oriental conceptions were transmitted to Islam by Christianity : these instances I have collectively termed Christian because Christianity then represented the whole of later classical

intellectualism, which influenced Islam for the most part through Christianity.

It seems that the communication of these ideas to Muhammedanism was impeded by the necessity of translating them not only into a kindred language, but into one of wholly different linguistic structure. For Muhammedanism the difficulty was lessened by the fact that it had learned Christianity in Syria and Persia through the Semitic dialect known as Aramaic, by which Greek and Persian culture had been transmitted to the Arabs before the rise of Islam. In this case, as in many others, the history of language runs on parallel lines with the history of civilisation. The necessities of increasing civilisation had introduced many Aramaic words to the Arabic vocabulary before Muhammed's day : these importations increased considerably when the Arabs entered a wider and more complex civilisation and were especially considerable where intellectual culture was concerned.

Even Greek terms made their way into Arabic through Aramaic. This natural dependency of Arabic upon Aramaic, which in turn was connected with Greek as the rival Christian vernacular in these regions, is alone sufficient evidence that Christianity exerted a direct influence upon Muham-medanism. Moreover, as we have seen, the Qoran itself regarded Christians as being in possession of divine wisdom, and some reference both to Christianity and to Judaism was necessary to explain the many unintelligible passages of the Qoran. Allusions were made to texts and statements in the Thora and the Gospels, and God was represented as constantly appealing to earlier revelations of Himself. Thus it was only natural that interpreters should study these scriptures and ask counsel of their possessors. Of primary importance was the fact that both Christians and Jews, and * the former in particular, accepted Muham-medanism by thousands, and formed a new intellectual class of ability infinitely superior to that of the original Muslims and able to attract the best elements of the Arab nationality to their teaching. It was as impossible for these apostate Christians to abandon their old habits of thought as it was hopeless to expect any sudden change in the economic conditions under which they lived. Christian theories of God and the world naturally assumed a Muhammedan colouring and thus the great process of accommodating Christianity to Muham-medanism was achieved. The Christian contribution to this end was made partly directly and partly by teaching, and in the intellectual as well as in the economic sphere the ultimate ideal was inevitably dictated by the superior culture of Christianity. The Muhammedans were thus obliged to accept Christian hypotheses on theological points and the fundaments of Christian and Muhammedan culture thus become identical.

I use the term hypotheses, for the reason

that the final determination of the points at issue was by no means identical, wherever the Qoran definitely contradicted Christian views of morality or social laws. But in these cases also, Christian ideas were able to impose themselves upon tradition and to issue in practice, even when opposed by the actual text of the Qoran. They did not always pass unquestioned and even on trivial points were obliged to encounter some resistance. The theory of the Sunday was accepted, but that day was not chosen and Friday was preferred : meetings for worship were held in imitation of Christian practice, but attempts to sanctify the day and to proclaim it a day of rest were forbidden : except for the performance of divine service, Friday was an ordinary week-day. When, howrever, the Qoran was in any sort of harmony with Christianity, the Christian ideas of the age were textually accepted in any further development of the question. The fact is obvious, not only as regards details, but also in the general theory of man's position upon earth.

Muhammed, the preacher of repentance, had become a temporal prince in Medina ; his civil and political administration was ecclesiastical in character, an inevitable result of his position as the apostle of God, whose congregation was at the same time a state. This theory of the state led later theorists unconsciously to follow the lead of Christianity, which regarded the church as supreme in every department of life, and so induced Muhammedanism to adopt views of life and social order wrhich are now styled mediaeval. The theological development of this system is to be attributed chiefly to groups of pious thinkers in Medina : they were excluded from political life when the capital wras transferred from Medina to Damascus and were left in peace to elaborate their theory of the Muhamme-dan divine polity. The influence of these

groups was paramount : but of almost equal importance was the influence of the proselytes in the conquered lands who were Christians for the most part and for that reason far above their Arab contemporaries in respect of intellectual training and culture. We find that the details of jurisprudence, dogma, and mysticism can only be explained by reference to Christian stimulus, nor is it any exaggeration to ascribe the further development of Muham-med's views to the influence of thinkers who regarded the religious polity of Islam as the realisation of an ideal which Christianity had hitherto vainly striven to attain. This ideal was the supremacy of religion over life and all its activities, over the state and the individual alike. But it was a religion primarily concerned with the next world, where alone real worth was to be found. Earthly life was a pilgrimage to be performed and earthly intentions had no place with heavenly. The joy of life which the

ancient world had known, art, music and culture, all were rejected or valued only as aids to religion. Human action was judged with reference only to its appraisement in the life to come. That ascetic spirit was paramount, which had enchained the Christian world, that renunciation of secular affairs wrhich explains the peculiar methods by which mediaeval views of life found expression.

Asceticism did not disturb the course of life as a whole. It might condemn but it could not suppress the natural impulse of man to propagate his race: it might hamper economic forces, but it could not destroy them. It eventually led to a compromise in every department of life, but for centuries it retained its domination over men's minds and to some material extent over their actions.

Such was the environment in which Islam was planted : its deepest roots had been fertilised with Christian theory, and in spite

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