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a light upon them, that their unadorned recital sounds like rhetoric. But such has the Christian Gospel proved itself to be, not in a written page--it is all we have left of the Platonising Socrates-nor during some few years in the annals of mankind; to this day it abides, the perpetual realisation of our friendship with God, and of His power and grace upon all who come to Him. If this highest, this most humanising of religions has filled so large a space; if it is always judging the public and the private sins which infect society, and would, were they permitted to have their course, speedily make of the multitude barbarians and mere anarchists; if its principles, by denouncing mammon-worship, cruelty, self-indulgence, pride, and sensuality, keep the way open for that ascent of the soul to God, in which alone the best things are attainable ; and if without the belief and the practice of prayer, it would undoubtedly perish, what argument do we need in order to convince ourselves that prayer is in accordance with reason, is a divine energy in fact, and stands, like any other real power, on its own basis, the nature of things? There is a life in man which the senses cannot comprehend, nor physical science measure its height and its depth. Before all things it is personal, conscious, secret, turned towards the invisible, at home in eternity. Its very essence is communion with the Supreme; and it prays because it loves. I do not envy the mortal who has never known its influence. And I am certain that so long as physics and metaphysics take realities into their consideration, and are willing to be guided by the testimony of the spirit to its own experiences, the life of devout prayer will be acknowledged as the only one which secures what is best worth having. Unless the Eternal can speak to us, and we to Him, all the saints, poets, religious-minded have been victims of delusion. But the spiritual life is too deeply rooted, and its effects are too momentous and beneficent, for delusion to be the true account of it. Moral rectitude is the essence of civilisation ; and prayer is the normal method upon which that rectitude has been stayed up since man came to know that he had a conscience. Herein is its surest benefit and its most abundant reward. How can a science dealing with mere phenomena, or a criticism which begins by overlooking the facts that it has to explain, satisfy the reason? By what arguments will it win the heart? This, however, is the whole man, to whose inward sense at last every system must appeal.
The Editor of THE NINETEENTH CENTURY cannot underlake
to return unaccepted MSS.
No. CCXXIII—SEPTEMBER 1895
ISLAM AND ITS CRITICS
THERE seems at this moment to be a wave of anti-Moslem feeling passing over certain sections of the English people. The language in which Islâm and the Moslems are denounced from public platforms and in public journals carries us back in its vehemence and violence to the days of Peter the Hermit. The notable speech at Chester represented only one phase of this deplorable feeling.
Mr. Gladstone's object, as he has since explained, was to press upon Turkey municipal reforms, though at the time no one could help perceiving a strong undercurrent of religious bias. The wicked and immoral attempts of inferior men to stir up religious animosities and slumbering prejudices and passions are couched, however, in unmistakable and unambiguous language. In this category must be placed the article on Islâm in the Quarterly Review for July. In the guise of a critique on my work, The Spirit of Islâm, and in the shelter of anonymity it is a venomous attack on Mohammed and his religion, and a malignant onslaught on a sovereign and a nation with whom Great Britain has been and still is, ostensibly at least, on terms of the closest amity.
Naturally, the article in question has created a feeling of intense bitterness among the Moslems resident in England, and is likely to do so in a greater degree in India, the Straits Settlements, the Cape Colonies, and, in fact, wherever Moslems speak and study the English language.
It is a matter for surprise and unqualified regret that such a production, leading to such mischievous consequences, should have been harboured in a journal of the position and standing of the Quarterly. VOL. XXXVIII—No. 223
Every well-wisher of the Empire must deplore that, while the Sovereign is endeavouring by every constitutional means to win the attachment and conciliate the affection of the divers races and nationalities over whom she rules, there are some among her subjects who are trying to sow all around the bitter seeds of religious animosities, although their age and their calling, if not their learning, might teach them better.
At this moment we have in our midst the son of a Moslem ruler whose friendship we are trying to retain and strengthen, a ruler well known to be a staunch follower of the Arabian Prophet. What must be the feelings of this Prince if, in spite of the hedge which surrounds him, he comes to have some knowledge of this gratuitous and malevolent attack on his faith? In spite of all this, I would have hardly considered it worth while undertaking a reply but for the fact that throughout the article there is a repeated challenge to me to say if the accusations are not true. To observe silence under such circumstances would imply an admission of the charges.
Assuming for a moment that there was any substance in the statements made by the writer, would it not have been better wisdom and truer humanity not to insult the religious convictions of millions of human beings to whom these convictions are the dearest possessions of their hearts? The article could hardly have been intended for the conversion of Mohammedans; for are not Moslems believed to be beyond the pale of salvation ? Nor can it have been intended to induce reforms among the Moslem States ; for reform comes from within and not from without. Coercion only breeds opposition. Nations cannot be reformed by outside pressure, unless it is applied in the mode and with the effectiveness of Torquemada’s Inquisition, with the stake and the fagot. What, then, was the object of this writer? It is written plainly enough for him who runs to read : to depict Islâm and the Moslems in such colours. as would put them beyond the pale of civilised humanity; place Moslem States outside the jus gentium as now recognised; incite the feelings of the uneducated and ignorant masses against a friendly Power. Whether such an object is commendable I leave it to the good sense and good feeling of others of the same school to judge. That it is disapproved of and reprehended by the bulk of the educated and thinking people in England I have no doubt. Luckily, the helm of State is just now held by hands not lightly to be swayed by the blast of fanatical enthusiasts, nor are the nations of Europe in a likely mood to shout another Deus vult, and hurl themselves again with fire and sword upon Asia.
It is perfectly true that Mohammedan countries are in a more or less backward state ; that they have not advanced in material civilisation the same
as the European cou ies. The cause of this I will explain presently. Whether reforms are possible in
Moslem States is a question which has been long ago answered by a learned Moslem, now dead, who held a distinguished place in the service of the Nizam.
Writing in the country, away from all works of reference, and, of necessity, restricted as to space, it is hardly possible for me to answer seriatim the charges, some puerile, others disingenuous, and most of them unfounded, that the writer has brought forward against Islâm and Islâmists. Nor is it possible within the time which has been allotted to me to expose in detail the erroneous data and the illogical reasoning on which he proceeds. I shall try, however, to deal briefly with the salient features of his apology for Christianity and the attack on Islâm.
He gives at the head of his article the names of some books as his authorities, and refers to others in the body of it. Neither Prescott nor Lewes, however great in their own departments, can be accused of a knowledge of Arabian history, Arabian literature or philosophy. Dozy's name, in spite of the fact that he was not free from bias, must always command a certain amount of respect; but the passages quoted from his work, separated from their context, carry no weight. Speaking from memory, all of these require qualification, for each has a special reference to special circumstances. The same remarks apply to the quotations from Johnson. They are either misplaced or misquoted or wrongly applied. As regards the others upon whom he relies in support of his thesis, it would be a stretch of imagination to call them authorities. To Abdul Latif and Ibn Khaldûn I shall refer later on. We find also the Hedâya among the books consulted; evidently the English translation of a Persian paraphrase of a treatise written in the twelfth century in Central Asia. The reviewer is not aware that since that date the development in Mussulman (Sunni) law has been as great as that evidenced by the enunciations of judges like Eldon, Mansfield, Kingsdown, or Knight Bruce as compared with Littleton and Coke. Naturally he cannot be acquainted with the Redd-ulMuhtâr of Mohammed Amin of Damascus, or the Majma-ul-Anhar of the Shaikhzada; the liberal interpretation of the Moslem civil law (of the Sunni school in these works will compare favourably with the provisions even of the English law up to very recent times.
The writer of the article in question speaks of Christianity in these glowing terms:
But the plain truth is that progress-material, moral, and intellectual—is ererywhere conterminous with Christianity. An unbridged gulf divides Christendom from the rest of the habitable globe. On the one side we see security for life, religion, property, honour; woman held in respect and treated on terms of social equality with man; elavery placed under the ban of law and custom ; war denounced as a crime when not waged in self-defence or in redressing some wrong otherwise irremediable, while its conduct has been placed by the moral sense of Christendom under humane regulations which no Christian Government would dare violate. In short, within the frontiers of Christendom we see the law of progress in action
an upward movement of mankind, on the whole, towards a higher level of human excellence.
He admits there may be stagnant water here and there'-only here and there, ‘like still pools diverted from the parent stream.' He holds it not to the purpose to point to periods in the history of Christianity where in particular localities, mark the words,
particular localities '-barbarism and cruelty and corruption prevailed.
To a writer who can speak thus of the religion which he professes, forgetting entirely the records of the past, everything is possible. I shall examine how far the claim is valid. He speaks of Christianity as having implanted principles. I will give his exact words, so that I may not do him an injustice, however unconsciously. He says:
Christianity differs from all other religions in this, that it planted fruitful and enduring principles in the heart of humanity, instead of presenting a code of universal rules; and these principles, in proportion as they have had a fair field, have erected on the ruins of ancient polities a fairer civilisation than pagan poet or philosopher ever dreamt of.
The saving qualification 'in proportion as they have had a fair field ' is very characteristic of this writer.
How far principles alone influence or affect the conduct of men, cultured or uncultured, is sufficiently testified to by what has occurred and is occurring every day among lower races: by the decimation of the South Sea Islanders, owing to causes which it is needless to specify; of the African races under the influence of gin introduced by Christians, not to refer to incidents nearer home. Principles alone may answer in the case of the highest minds, but experience and common-sense prove that lower natures require something more, and in their case, where their religion only deals in principles, the secular law comes in with its rules, and supplies the defect. Moreover, it is untrue to say that the principles to which he refers are the exclusive product or property of Christianity or Christians. To say nothing of virtuous and true-hearted Moslems and Jews, even Pagans, like Marcus Aurelius, Alexander Severus, Julian miscalled the Apostate, Celsus, owed nothing to Christianity. It is equally misleading to say that Christianity only has endeavoured to implant principles,' instead of presenting a code of universal rules. From the second century until recent times there has been a constant endeavour on the part of the Christian Church to formalise dogmas, to frame rules of conduct, to dominate over the consciences of mankind, not by principles but by rules and articles. Principles are the product of evolution, of natural development, and not of any creed.
This anonymous critic of Islâm says: “The plain truth is that the Islâm which Syed Ameer Ali has taken so much pains to expound