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CENTURY. By Rev. Albert Barnes, D.D., LL.D.

D.D., LL.D.

ANITY. By Rev. A. P. Peabody, D.D., LL.D.

ITS HISTORICAL EFFECTS. By Rev. Richard S. Storrs,
D.D., LL.D.

Morris, Ph.D.

Professor A. V^. Bruce, D.D.

Lewis F. Stearns, D.D.

F. Ellinwcod, D.D.

THE BIBLE AND ISLAM. By Rev. Henry Preserved Smith, D.D.




The Influence of the Old and New Testaments
ON THE Religion of Mohammed


THE ELY LECttl^^ FOR 1897
1^ i^xSuSKED





Copyright, 1897, by













The lectures contained in this Yolume were deliv-
ered to the students of Union Theological Seminary
in the spring of the year 1897, as one of the courses
established in the Seminary by Mr. Zebulon Stiles
Ely, in the following terms :

" The undersigned gives the sum of ten thousand dol-
lars to the Union Theological Seminary of the City of New
York to found a lectureship in the same, the title of which
shall be The Elias P. Ely Lectures on the Evidences of

**The course of lectures given on this Foundation is to
comprise any topics serving to establish the proposition
that Christianity is a religion from God, or that it is the
perfect and final form of religion for man.

** Among the subjects discussed may be: The Nature
and Need of a Revelation ; The Character and Influence
of Christ and His Apostles ; The Authenticity and Credi-
bility of the Scriptures, Miracles, and Prophecy ; The Dif-
fusion and Benefits of Christianity, and The Philosophy of
Religion in its Relations to the Christian System.

"Upon one or more of such subjects a course of ten
public lectures shall be given, at least once in two or three
years. The appointment of the lecturers is to be by the
concurrent action of the Fa^cultj^ and Directors of said
Seminary and the undersigned, and it shall ordinarily be
made two years in advance. ' '


The importance and the timeliness of the subject
treated in these lectures are sufficiently eyident. As
to the method of treatment, I leave the reader to
judge. The references given are sufficient to show-
how far I have gone to the sources. The citations
from the Koran may be thought too extensive. My
only defence is that I could not well have left any
out ; in fact, I have considerably reduced the num-
ber contained in the first draft of the lectures.

The Arabic words transcribed are not numerous,
and the most of them are already current in Eng-
lish. I have not thought it necessary to make any
change in these, nor to attempt an exact transliter-

I have been favored with the loan of books from
the Yale University library, the library of Union
Theological Seminary, and the library of the Theo-
logical Seminary at Princeton. It gives me pleas-
ure to acknowledge this courtesy in this public

Lakewood, N. J.




In the seventh century of our era Christianity
seemed triumphant over its enemies in the Eastern
Empire. Paganism was destroyed, the heresies had
been overcome, the faith had received its full definition
in what was supposed to be the final creed. The bish-
ops and monks, at least, might be justified in suppos-
ing that the kingdom of God was already established.
In the reign of Heraclius the political situation was
almost as promising as the ecclesiastical. For that
monarch, with almost Eoman energy, repulsed the
Persians, the hereditary foes of Byzantium, and ex-
tended the bounds of the empire almost to the point
which they had reached in the days when the state
was Koman in fact as well as in name. In this pe-
riod of triumph and of apparent prosperity no one
could have foretold the appearance of a new power
upon the scene — a power which would threaten the
whole fabric of civilization and change the map of
the known world. Yet such a power appeared, over-
came the armies sent against it, and with unexampled


rapidity took possession of the "fairest provinces of
the East.

Until this time Arabia had not played a leading
part in the drama of history. All earlier knowledge
of this country shows its inhabitants to be scattered
tribes separated by their deserts and by their mutual
hostility. Persia and Byzantium had indeed welded
the clans nearest their borders into petty kingdoms
which they used each to annoy the other. But of
Arabia as a single power they did not dream. Oc-
casional forays of the bold desert dwellers in search
of booty they were accustomed to suffer. Noio there
came the invasion of a new created nation. The
scattered Bedawin were fired by a single purpose.
Attila, the Scourge of God, was overmatched by
Chalid, the Sword of God, and this terrible weapon
hewed the devoted provinces of the East with tire-
less energy. Syria and Egypt fell at a single blow.
Babylonia and Persia followed in an instant. In less
than half a century from the time when Mohammed
fled with a single companion from Mecca, the arms of
his followers were triumphant from the Oxus to the
site of Carthage. In another half century they had
crossed the borders of India on the east, and to the
west were checked only by the waves of the Atlantic.
Their conquest of Spain and invasion of France are
facts familiar to you, as is the battle of Tours or
Poitiers by which Charles Martel preserved to Europe
Bom an Christianity and the civilization with which
it was allied.

That such a movement deserves the attention of
all students of history, is the merest truism. Its


political importance alone, however, would not make
it the proper subject of this course of lectures. What
makes it appropriate for this place and this occasion
is its religious character. In this, to be sure, it is not
unique. Many, I might say most, of the great move-
ments of history have been religious. But few if any
have shown their religious character so distinctly as
the one before us. It calls itself by a religious name
when it calls itself Islam, for Islam means resignatioa.,
to the will of God. The war cry of the clans which
crushed the arms of Byzantium was a profession of
faith—" There is no God but Allah, and Moham-
med is the Apostle of Allah." Islam has never denied
or outgrow^n its religious character, for the same pro-
fession of faith is to this day repeated by one-tenth
of the human race. Politically we may think it no
longer formidable, but religiously it seems as strong
as ever. With obstinate confidence in its own posses-
sion of the truth it resists the preaching of the Chris-
tian missionary, while itself sending missionaries into
heathen lands. Because of this tenacity it must be
reckoned with as a living force. Its dynasties may
become extinct ; its kingdoms may fall into the
hands of foreigners ; but ideas do not yield to force.
They are not subjugated by the heavier artillery or
crushed by the stronger battalions. Material forces
enable Great Britain to govern the empire of the
Great Mogul ; they put Holland into possession of
the Malay archipelago, and give France control of Al-
giers. But the real power which holds the hearts of
the people in all these regions is the idea of Allah
and His Apostle. For a long time now we have


flattered ourselves with hopes of the regeneration of
the East, because a few young men in Constantinople
have a varnish of Western education and of Western
manners. The illusion has vanished and we see that
the mass of the people are living in the ideas of a
thousand years ago. There may be a more agree-
able, there could scarcely be a more convincing, ex-
ami^le of the tenacity of religion.

In a certain sense, our own time is able to appre-
ciate the nature of this force as no preceding age has
appreciated it. We have begun to see that there is a
science of religion — a science which deals both with
the history and with the philosophy of religion. And
yet it is too much to say that this point of view is
universally recognized. Even in the case of Islam,
the attempt is still made to account for the phenomena
by supposing some other force behind them. The
most recent life of Mohammed * tries to explain his
movement as a social rather than a religious revolution.
Social distress bulks so largely in our own philosophy
that we are tempted to give it an equally large place
in the thoughts of other times. It is a sufficient
present answer to this theory to say that we hear
nothing of social claims in connection with the rise and
spread of Islam. The cry of the hosts which subdued
Asia was not for freedom of land or for relief from
feudal burdens, either of taxation or service ; it was
not a demand for liberty or equality. Some of these
things were more or less distinctly involved ; but
they were only indirectly involved. The formulated
demand of the Moslem army was for the recognition

* Grimrae, Mohammed^ Erster Teil, Das Leben, Miineter, 1892.


of Allah as the one God, and of Mohammed as His
Apostle. They brought a creed for their watchword,
and offered a Bible as their boon. This is where we
may easily find the strength of Islam to-day. You
may talk to an intelligent Mohammedan of the benefits
given by modern progi'ess. He will acknowledge that
the civilization of Europe has some material advan-
tages ; but, in his heart, he will say that these are only
the temporary enjoyments of a transitory world, and
he will thank Allah that He has given him the better
part in the promise of the world to come. To this
day Mecca numbers among its inhabitants men who
have emigrated from the countries where they enjoyed
peace and security under Christian rule — emigrated
because they could not feel at home under such rule,
in spite of its material advantages. These men de-
sire more than material advantages — " They desire
to study the sacred sciences in a sacred place, to
live in the neighborhood of celebrated and pious
scholars or devotees, to do penance for former trans-
gressions, to cleanse their filthy lucre by using it
partly in religious works, or to spend their last days
and to die on holy ground." This is the testimony
of a man "^ who had unusual opportunities to know
whereof he affirms. And all observers who have
become acquainted with the real life of the people
in Moslem lands confirm this testimony. The lead-
ing force in Eastern society is still religion.

"What has been said is enough to show the impor-
tance of a study of this great religious movement.
The inquirer into the history of mankind cannot

♦ Snouck-IIungronje, Mekka^ II., p. 5.


ignore this striking episode. In any of its numerous
aspects, Islam will repay investigation. But it is
obvious that, for a single course of lectures, we must
limit our field ; and, for the present course, it is my
purpose to consider only the beginnings. The his-
tory of a quarter of the globe through a period of
thirteen centuries, is an immense subject. Internal
and external wars, the rise and fall of dynasties,
revolutions, crusades, philosophies, and theologies —
these would require many volumes for their adequate
treatment. To get a clear impression, we must limit
our field ; and the best place to begin is at the begin-
ning. We do not ignore the fact that the Islam of
to-day is in many respects different from the Islam
which emerged from the wilderness twelve centuries
ago. It may be true, as has been claimed, that one
who studies the Koran and thinks himself acquainted
with the Islam of to-day, is as far WTong as he would
be who should study the Gospels and think himself
acquainted with the Christianity of Hildebrand or
of Pius the Ninth. Wejneed to caution ourselves at
this point, and not to assume that what is true of
Mohammed and Omar is true also of the now rul-
y ing Sultan. But, when all is said, we know a good
\ I deal about a system when we know its beginnings.
gy^^f^^., The stream is purest at its source. Principles are
^^^*^o , simpler when they first show their activity. Later
^J^^ developments may obscure them, but cannot change
^^h their essence. The later developments are better
f ^\}ij^ ' understood by the mastery of the earlier and simpler
'•^^ stages. And what is true in general is true, in a
f >>' very special sense, of the movement before us. The


religion of Mohammed developed with great rapidity.
During the lifetime of its founder it passed through
the stages which Christianity took three centuries to
traverse. In one sense this js a disa dvantage. The
growth would have been more healthy if it had been ^
more deliberate. But it adds to the importance of
the earliest period when this period contains so much.
It is only the natural result that the dogmatic system
of Islam not only assumed its final shape at a very
early date, but that it adhered to one type with great
tenacity. Development there was; but the develop-
ment early became sectarian. The official, orthodox
dogma overcame the sects, and this orthodox dogma
was only the codification of ideas already prevalent
in the first century of the Flight. For these reasons
knowledge of the origin of Islam is the knowledge
of the whole system, more truly than is the case in
any other of the great historic religions.

But we must still further limit oui* inquiry. A gen-
eral sketch of the rise of Mohammedanism would no
doubt be of great interest, but it would still require
more space than we can give it. We must choose some
one of its many aspects, and fix our attention upon
this single point, in the hope that the smallness of the
field will conduce to clearness in the picture. Now,
the point which I propose to examine is the influence
which the Old and New Testaments have exerted
upon this religion which is neither Judaism nor
Christianity, though it shows such curious resem-
blances to both. These resemblances force them-
selves upon the notice of even the most superficial
observer. Never was there a religion so little original






as this one. The dependence of one religion upon
another is, however, not a rare phenomenon. Relig-
ious ideas emigrate more rapidly than the religions
of which they are a part. All the religions of which
we have competent knowledge, not excepting the
religion of Israel, show foreign influence. The gods
and myths of Greece were emigrants from Asia;
Judaism borrowed from Babylonia ; Christianity built
upon the foundation inherited from Judaism. It is
not strange, therefore, that Islam should use both
Jewish and Christian ideas. So far from the lack of
originality being a reason for ignoring the study of
this religion, we may say that it is a sj)ecial reason
for studying it. Here is a great fact — the migration
of religious beliefs. It is set before us in a striking
example. Every consideration urges us to its close
and attentive examination.

In examining the dependence of Islam upon the
earlier religions we are met at the outset by one
capital difficulty. Islam we know ; the sources flow
for us with greater copiousness than is true of any
other religion. But the Judaism and Christianity
of Arabia are almost unknown quantities. There
was Judaism in Arabia. We suppose that it con-
formed in general to the type of other post-biblical
Judaism. But how far it may have been affected
by its surroundings is hard for us to say. There
was Christianity in Arabia. But of its character
we are even more ignorant than we are of Arabian
Judaism. It seems quite certain that it was not the
Christianity of the Greek Church. In all prob-
ability it existed in the form of some of the sects


stigmatized by the theologians as heretical. The
type of heresy represented, however, can be only
faintly conjectured. Now, in this state of ignorance,
we are obliged to seek some fixed point, and this
fixed point can be no other than the Bible. What-
ever the Judaism of Ai-abia had, or had not, we are
safe in assuming that it had the Hebrew Bible. In
like manner, it is true of the Christianity of Arabia
that it had a Bible, which, for the most part, was the
same as the one which we ourselves hold sacred.
For the comparison which we propose to make, the
only practicable thing to do is to note what Biblical
features appear in the religion of Mohammed. It is,
of course, perfectly legitimate to note the form which
these features assume in their new combination. If
these are such as appear elsewhere in the Judaism
of the Talmud, it will be perfectly legitimate to as-
sume that Talmudic influence was at work. If the
New Testament influences appear clouded by the
tendencies which show themselves in the Apocryphal
Gospels, we shall conclude that these tendencies
were at work among the nominal Christians of Arabia.
Nevertheless, the features which we seek are Biblical
in their substance and their origin. Our two known
quantities are the Bible and the sources of Islam.

It is significant at the very outset to notice that
Mohammed, the founder of Islam, designated him-
self by two words borrowed from the Scriptures.
One was borrowed directly in the Hebrew form —
nahj — and was intended to rank him Vvdth the Old
Testament organs of revelation, the 2^rophcfs of that
dispensation. The other, rasuJ, was the translation of


the New Testament word which we render apostle,
and was equally intended to class him with the or-
gans of revelation in the Christian Church. We see,
therefore, that the very terms in which the founder
of the new religion announced himself expressed his
adoption of Hebrew and Christian ideas. And that,
with the words which he adopted, he had the Biblical
idea is made plain by many passages of the Koran :
** We have sent thee with the truth, as a bringer of
tidings and a warner." * The prophets and apostles
are well described by this word, for it was their work
to warn their people of the judgments of God. It is
evident, therefore, that Mohammed's starting-point
was the fundamental position of revealed religion —
that God speaks through chosen men, to make His
will known to the world. This position is the key
to his activity.

There are thinkers, however, to whom it is incom-
prehensible that a man should, in all honesty, put
forward a claim to speak as the messenger of God.
They are compelled to seek some ulterior motive for
his activity. The whole mediaeval world was of
course incapable of understanding the Prophet of
Islam. The only thing which those centuries could
see was that Mohammed was the deadly enemy of
their civilization. They could explain his impulse
only asi, the direct act of Satan. In truth, the hordes
of fierce and savage warriors which poured from
Arabia and overran a large part of the known world,
must have made upon their victims the impression

♦Koran 2"^ cf. 48S 6^«. It should be noticed that God is uni-
formly the speaker in the Koran,


that hell had let loose all its demons. According to
the prevalent theory of Christian writers down to
very recent times, therefore, Mohammed was the
most distinguished instrument of Satan. ^ Anti-
christ is one of the names frequently applied to him.
At the present day we may fairly regard this view as
antiquated. Satan is not a preacher of truth, and we
can hardly doubt that Mohammed was sincere in
preaching the truth.

The seventeenth century had another explanation
of the career of Mohammed. This explanation is
explicitly stated in a treatise by the celebrated Dr.
Prideaux, entitled, " The True Nature of Imposture,
Fully Displayed in the Life of Mahomet." t The
polemic nature of this tract (for it is little more) is
sufficiently indicated in its title. The author con-
ceives Mohammed to be moved by a desire to regain
ancestral honors and wealth, which had been lost by
his family. "These considerations meeting with an
ambitious, aspiring mind, soon put him upon de-
signs of raising himself to the supreme government
of the country ; and being a very subtile, crafty
man, after having maturely weighed all ways and
means whereby to bring this to pass, [he] concluded
none so likely to effect it as the framing of that im-
posture which he afterward vented with so much

* The reverse opinion — that the Mohammedans were God's instru-
ments of punishment for heresy or schism — was also maintained.
Cf. Keller, Der Geisteskampf des Christentums gegen den Islam^
189G, pp. 12, 56.

t My copy is of the seventh edition, London, 1818, but the pref-
ace is dated 1690 97.


mischief to the world." * The author of the treatise,
therefore, supposes Mohammed to go deliberately to
work and frame a new religion as a means to the
royal power. Substantially the same theory was car-
ried out in the Bampton Lectui'es of 1784, which
have for their subject : " A Comparison of Mahomet-
anism and Christianity in their History, their Evi-
dences and their Effects." In these lectures it is
throughout assumed that the founder of Islam was an
impostor, who, " by the mere force of a bold and fer-
tile genius, assisted by a concurrence of circumstances
universally auspicious to his design, was enabled to
obtain the most unbounded empire over the minds,
as well as persons, of a very large portion of man-
kind." t It is interesting to note that the position
taken by these writers, who were moved thereto by
the desire to defend Christianity, was also taken by
Yoltaire, who embodied it in his tragedy: "Ze Fan-
aiisme, ou MaJiomet le Prophete.'' X ^J ^^^ author's
own letter of dedication, this tragedy was directed
against an imposture which brought into play the
hypocrisy of some and the fury of others. In the
play itself Mohammed is made to confess the ambi-
tion that is his motive. ELe is made to see with the

♦Prideaux, l. c, p. 7.

t Joseph White, Sermons preached lefore the University of Ox-
ford in the year 1784 at the Lecture founded by the Rev. John
Bampton, M.A. Second Edition, London, 1811, p. 47. Cf. also
p. 85, where Mohammed is described as the impostor " whose false
and impious pretences to divine revelation were . . . crowned
with success."

X (Euvres Completes de Voltaire, 1785, Tome III. The Tragedy
was first acted August 9, 1742.


eye of a modern liistorian, and discovers that Persia
is feeble and Byzantium tottering. It is now the
turn of Arabia to step upon the scene of action, and
erect a monarchy upon the ruins of these. To secure
this end a new religion is the best means, and for this
end it is invented."

Neither the English churchman nor the French
sceptic had the key to Islam. Both judged the mo-
tive from the event. History shows us, however,
very few instances in which the course of great move-
ments was foreseen by those who originated them.
Mohammed was no exception to the rule ; in fact, he
had less than the average prescience of what was to
come. To show this, we need only look at the out-
line of his life.

It seems well established that throughout his early
manhood, and until middle life, Mohammed showed
no special ambition and no special capacity. We
know very little of this period of his life, except that
he was an orphan and poor, until his man-iage with
Chadija placed him in easy circumstances. He had
established a character for honesty, for he was called
the Faithful. But his religion was the religion of his
city, as is abundantly shown by the fact that ho
named a son Ahd Mendf for one of the heathen dei-
ties. When about forty years old t the crisis of his

*0p. cit. Acte II., Scene V.

1 1 give the traditional data. Great uncertainty bangs over Mo-
hammed's early life, especially over the chronology. For the
epithet Faithful see : Das Lehen Mohammed's nach Mohammed Ibn

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Online LibraryHenry Preserved SmithThe Bible and Islam; or, The influence of the Old and New Testaments on the religion of Mohammed → online text (page 1 of 22)