J. W. H. (James William Hampson) Stobart.

Islam & its founder online

. (page 15 of 18)
Online LibraryJ. W. H. (James William Hampson) StobartIslam & its founder → online text (page 15 of 18)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

sons are spoken of as "the two moons, the two pearls, the two
princes of the youth of paradise." The succession of the twelve
Imams or Pontiffs of the Mahometan Church is continued through
Ali, surnamed " Zayn-el-Abidin, the sole of the twelve children


It was during the reign of Valid I. (A.D. 705-716)
the eldest of the four sons of Abd-al-Malik, who
in succession became Caliphs of Damascus, that
the empire attained its greatest extent. Its north-
ward boundaries were Galatia and Georgia. East-
ward, Transoxiana received the Mahometan law,
" and the germ was planted which was to grow up
into the imperial forms of the grand Turk and the
great Mogul. "^ In the same year that saw the over-
throw of the Gothic monarchy in Spain, the valley
of the Indus submitted to the Moslem arms, and the
power of the Caliph continued there to the middle of
the eighth century. In the west, under Tarik, the
Arabs crossed the straits from Ceuta (A.D. 710), and
at Xeres, on the Guadalete, overthrew Roderic, the
last of the Visigothic kings. In rapid succession
Cordova and Toledo, Seville and Valentia, Sara-
gossa and the Balearic Isles fell, and with the excep-
tion of the fastnesses of the Asturias the whole of
Spain submitted to the Moors. Such names as Tarifa,
Algeciras, and Gibraltar, still bear testimony to their
former dominion there. Their rule, though neces-
sarily degrading, was equitable, and the fullest religi-
ous toleration was granted. The Jews, in particular,
were freed from the cruel persecutions to which
they had been subject under Christian rule.^

of Hosein, who survived the fatal field of Kerbela" (Burton, ii.
pp. 91, 257. Cf. Lane, "Mod. Egyp.," i. 291 eiseq. 324. Also
regarding the ceremonies at Cairo of the " Yom Ashoora, " cf.
vol. ii. p. 168).

' Freeman, " The Saracens," p. 106.

- Subsequently separate and independent kingdoms were
formed at Seville, Saragossa, Valentia, and Toledo. Weakened


Thus the empire founded by the camel-driver
of Mecca — the prophet of Islam — had from his
humble dwelling at Medina, in less than a century,
extended throughout Arabia, Syria, and Egypt,
along the coast of Mauritania far into the interior
of Africa, and included within its embrace Spain
and part of Gaul. Eastward, Persia and Scinde
had been subdued, and Transoxiana invaded, and
thus the sovereign will of the Commander of the
Faithful gave law from the Indus to the Atlantic.
But this greatness was not to last. The immense
empire contained within itself the seeds of its own
dissolution, soon to germinate amidst the ambition
of rival princes and the fury of contending sects.
The Omeyade dynasty was, as above mentioned,
supplanted by that of the house of Abbas, which,
during five centuries (A.D. 752 — 1258) gave thirty-
seven real or nominal rulers to the Eastern caliphate.

Abu Giafar, surnamed Al-Manzor, fixed the seat
of his power at the new capital of Baghdad. With
him the golden age of his dynasty begins. His
court became the resort of the learned, and the
worthy rival of Cordova in science, literature, and
art. The tales of the " Arabian Nights " have made
the names of Haroun-al-Raschid, fifth Caliph, and his
royal spouse Zobeide, familiar to us as household
words. From the reigns of his sons Al Amin, Al
Mamun, and Al Motassem, the glory of their
house begins to fade away. The ambition of the

thus by internal division, the Moors had to acknowledge the
supremacy of the Castilian kings (1246), and finally confined to
the kingdom of Grenada, were driven from Spain (1491).


Shia, and other contending sects, and the insolence
of the Turkish mercenaries, whom the CaHphs had
taken into their pay, introduced universal anarchy,
and caused the ruin of the state.

It is about the middle of the sixth century that
history first makes mention of the Turks, whose
original haunts were the plains of Central Asia, from
the Oxus to the Arctic Circle, and from the borders
of China to the Caspian Sea. Their western terri-
tories being overrun by the Arabs, they embraced the
religion of their conquerors, and subsequently com-
posed the body-guard of the Caliphs. In process of
time the chiefs of this barbarous soldiery, like the
Prsetorians at Rome, and the Janizaries of Stamboul,
arrogated to themselves the most important offices in
the state, left to their sovereign only a nominal
authority, and, during the height of their usurpation,
subjected him to indignity, cruelty, and death.

Harassed thus by civil disorder and sectarian
violence, deprived of all power, and often of personal
freedom by the chiefs whom he had invited to rid
him of his domestic oppressors, the Caliph was
unable to check the usurpations of those who, in his
name, ruled the provinces of the empire, and whose
ambition it was to become the founders of separate
and independent dynasties. Thus province after
province was lost, and in the end Baghdad, which
had been a prey to the raging factions of Sunni
and Shia, fell into the hands of the Mogul Hologu,
whom the Seyuds of the house of Ali had incited
against their sovereign, and the unfortunate Mostad-


hem Billah, the last Caliph of his race, was put to a
cruel death. ^

But the Turks were destined to play a more im-
portant part in other lands, for history undoubtedly
proves that the Mahometan conquests would never
have spread so far had they not been aided by the
vast multitudes of Tartars and Moguls, who lent to
Islam their numbers and the enthusiastic heroism of
their arms. Without the religion of the prophet to
give these wandering hordes a common bond of
union, they might still have remained buried in the
depths of their primeval solitudes, and never have
showed their victorious arms on the Bosphorus and
the Danube.

Othman (the ancestor of the reigning dynasty
at Constantinople) was the son of Ortogrul, and
grandson of a Turkish emir, who, early in the thir-
teenth century, and on the approach of the Mogul
Ghengiz Khan, left his home, in Khorassan in search
of some safer settlement in Asia Minor. On the
march he perished in the Euphrates, but Ortogrul
obtained from the Seljuc Sultan of Iconium settle-
ments for his followers in the ancient province of
Phrygia. His son, Othman, extended his possessions
chiefly at the expense of the Greek emperor, and in
1299, on the death of his patron, the ruler of
Iconium, assumed the title of Sultan. A succes-
sion of ten great princes, who reigned over the

' A.D. 1258. Consult Freeman, "The Saracens," pp. 123-
160. D'Herbelot, voc. Klhalifat, iii. p. 455. The power of
Radhi Billah, 20th Caliph, did not extend beyond the walls of


Ottoman Turks, widely extended their territoiies, and
raised tlieir military power to the first rank in

In 1328 the seat of the monarchy was fixed at
Brussa, under the shadow of Mount Olympus, and Asia
Minor was conquered to the Hellespont. Solyman
I. first invaded Europe {1355), and Amurath I. took
Adrianople (1360), made it his capital, and soon
after Macedonia, Albania, and Servia were subdued.
Bajazet, his successor (1389), came in contact with
the Christians in central Asia, and defeated Sigismond,
the king of Bohemia and Hungary, at the great battle
of Nicopolis (1396). The onward course of Bajazet
was checked by the Mogul Timur, who invaded Asia
Minor, and defeated him at the battle of Ancyra
(1402). In 1415 Muhammad I. invaded Bavaria,
and conquered the Venetians at Salonica. Though
the progress of Amurath II. Avas arrested by the
fortress of Belgrade on the Danube, and by the valour
of Scanderbeg in Epirus, he defeated the Christians
at Varna (1444). On the 29th May, 1453, Muham-
mad II. overpowered Constantinople, the last bulwark
of the Christians in the East, and the noble Con-
stantine IX, the last of the race of Paleologus, buried
himself under the ruins of the city he could not save.
Next followed the conquest of the Morea, and Epirus
(1465), and Bosnia and Trebizond were added to his
empire. For the next fifty years the Ottoman arms
were the terror of Europe.

Selim I in 15 17, conquered Syria and Palestine
and defeated the Mamelook-sultan of Egypt. On
his return to Constantinople he brought with him


Motavakkel Billah, the last titular Caliph of the
family of Abbas, whom he found at Cairo. From this
descendant of Dahir Billah — thirty-fifth Caliph of
Baghdad — Selim " procured the cession of his claims,
and obtained the right to deem himself the Shadow
of God upon earth. Since then the Ottoman Padishah
has been held to inherit the rights of Omar
and llaroun," i and to be the legitimate Commander
of the Faithful, and as such possessed of plenary
temporal and spiritual authority over the followers of
Mahomet.2 Solyman II, the Magnificent, took Rhodes
from the knights of St. John (1522), and on
the field of Mohacz (1526) subdued half of Hungary.
Central Europe was threatened, and in terror, until
the progress of the Moslems was checked before the
walls of Vienna (1529).

From the Persians the city and territory of Baghdad
were wrested ; Moldavia was made tributary, and tl e
Ottoman fleets swept the Mediterranean. The power
of the Ottoman Turks had now reached its culmina-
ting point. External conquest had hitherto supplied
the sinews of war; but having systematically neglected
any attempt to develope the boundless resources of
its vast empire, the nation has continued ever
smce to sink lower and lower. While surrounding
Christian states have rapidly progressed, the Turks

' Freeman, "The Saracens," p. 158. Also D'Herbelot's
account of Mostanser Billah.

^ It should be added that the Persian Shlas repudiate these
claims. The Moors also refuse to acknowledge the spiritual
supremacy of the Sultan of Turkey, their own sovereign claim-
mg to inherit the title of Caliph from the Cordovan princes.


have on the other hand remained absolutely opposed
to change and reform ; and in addition, the rapacity
of their Sultans, carried out and imitated by extor-
tionate pachas, has reduced the country to its present
deplorable state.

A blind belief in inevitable fate, fostered by the
national faith, has been a fertile source of evil.
Its natural antagonism to liberty of thought and
action, and to political progress, has destroyed all
true national life, and has rendered reform next to
impossible, and made the future hopeless. That the
subjugation of alien peoples brought with it any
corresponding duties to the conquered, involving the
spread of true civilization, good government, and the
cultivation of the peaceful arts, seems to have found
no place in the thoughts of the Turks.

Centuries of despotism, with maladministration
on every hand, bigoted persecution of its Christian
peoples, and oppression of its co-religionists, whose
cries were never allowed to disturb the torpid repose
of their tyrants, have been followed by their natural
and inevitable results. Instead of founding the
fabric of the nation's life upon the love of a
contented and loyal people, Turkey has systema-
tically oppressed and degraded its subjects, and
national dishonesty has been followed by national
bankruptcy. Its bigotry, tyranny, and brutal vice
have left it without friends at home, and without
sympathy from abroad ; and though the jealousy of
rival states may for a time postpone its fall, there
can be little doubt that the time must come when
the Mahometan rule will be swept from those fair


regions in Europe, which have for centuries been
blighted by its presence.

The truth, indeed, is that so long as Maho-
metans are true to their own creed, so long will it
be impossible for them, when they are the governing
power, to grant perfect equality to their subjects of
other creeds, or, when they are subjects, to render
loyal and hearty obedience to a sovereign professing
any antagonistic faith. For it is manifestly pre-
posterous for them to profess obedience to, and act
contrary to the whole spirit, and to the very letter of
their " Book of Directions," the Koran, in which it is
laid down that the unbelievers are to be held under
tribute, and the Christians to be reduced low.^

I have above related how during the reign of
Valid I, of Damascus, the province of Scinde was
included in the caliphate, and how in the year A.D,
750 the invaders were driven out by the Rajpoots.
For two hundred and fifty years India was free from
Moslem attack. During this period, in the provinces
of the crumbling caliphate, numerous dynasties,
chiefly of Tartar blood, had successively established
themselves westward of the Soliman range, and soon
began to lend their hardy valour to the dissemination
of their adopted faith.

In Afghanistan Sebuktegin, once a Turkish slave,
founded a vigorous government at Ghuznee, and
defeated the Hindoo Rajah of Lahore, who was
the first to begin hostilities. His son Mahmoud made
those famous incursions into India which are cele-

> Sura IX. 29.


bratcd in the history of that country, and annexed
the Punjaub to his kingdom. Driven from their
capital in Afghanistan by the Ghorian princes, the
Ghuznevide dynasty Hngered on for some time in
their Indian possessions, till swept away by other
powerful invaders (A.D. 1184).

Under a succession of Pathan princes, who
rose to power with the usual circumstances of
treachery and murder, the Mahometans established
themselves as the dominant power in Hindustan, and
penetrated into the Ueccan.^ Though the desolating
wave of Mogul invasion had only swept across the
north of India under Timur (1398), his descendant
Baber subsequently (1526) seated himself on the
throne of Delhi, in right of a pretended conquest of
his great ancestor.

Under the descendants of Baber, from Akbar to
Arungzebe (1556 — 1707), the empire of the Great
Mogul reached its highest power, but during the
reigns of their feeble successors it rapidly declined.
The plunder of Delhi by Nadir Shah (1738) was a
fatal blow to the power of the Great Mogul. It taught
the hardy tribes of Rajpoots, Rohillas, Sikhs, Mali-
rattas, and the Mahometan viceroys themselves, the
weakness of the central power, and all sought to enrich
themselves at the expense of their sovereign.^ Alter-
nately a puppet in the hands of these nominal subjects,

' The Deccan was invaded and subdued by Alla-ul-Din, of the
Khilji dynasty, A. D. 1295-1317.

' Powerful Mahometan dynasties rose from time to time in
India, Kulberga (1351), Bejapore (1489), Moorshedabad, Hy-
derabad, in the Deccan (1717), and in Oudh and Mysore (1760).


the wretched prince was exposed to extortion, indignity,
and cruelty,^ till at length the fallen heir of Timur
found a quiet asylum with the English, whom in after
years his descendant sought to destroy. With the
recapture of Delhi from the mutineers in 1858, the
phantom power of the Great Mogul came to an end.

Unlike Hindooism, the faith of Mahomet is essen-
tially a missionary religion, and successive Afghan,
Persian, and Mogul princes have, by promise of mate-
rial advantages, successfully allured converts to the
faith. Freedom from the fetters of caste, and the
social elevation which accompanied the adoption of
Islam, induced numbers of Hindoos, chiefly of the
lower classes, to adopt the ruling religion.

Eastward of India the Mahometan faith has
spread among the Malays, a people of Asia Vv^ho
have adopted the religion and alphabet of the Ara-
bians, and intermarried with them, so that they have
become separated from the original stock, and form
a distinct nation. The first missionaries of Islam
reached Malacca and Sumatra in the fourteenth cen-
tury, and their teaching spread to Java and the
Celebes a century later. The Malays appear first in
the thirteenth century in the peninsula of Malacca,
where they built a to^\^l of the same name, and they
subsequently spread into Sumatra, the Philippines,
the Moluccas, &c. Their supremacy in these regions
has passed away, chiefly through the working of the
feudal system, which has divided them into number-

' The Emperor Farokshit {171 5-1 7 19) was assassinated;
Ahmed Shah (1748-1754) was blinded and deposed ; and Alum-
gir II. (1754-1759) deposed and murdered.


less independent peoples, and through the successful
commercial rivalry of the English and Dutch. In addi
tion to the Koran they have various local laws. Slavery
is universal among them, and also the use of opium.
Here, as elsewhere, the existence of Islam has utterly
failed to raise the nation in a moral point of view,
and either makes no effort, or is powerless, to mend
the licentiousness of manners which universally

The Mahometan faith is thus prevalent from
Morocco along the north coast of Africa, and south
ward irregularly to the equator. It dominates in
Egypt and the Turkish empire, in Arabia, Persia, and
Turkestan, is powerfully represented in India, and
among the Malays, and has found a footing in China.
Moreover, we are informed that missionary efforts for
its propagation are succeeding in various parts. ^

Assuming the population of the world to be
in round numbers 1,300 millions, this total, distri-
buted according to religious creeds, is probably as
follows : — There are 490 millions of Buddhists, and
the disciples of Confucius and Taoists ; Christians
360 millions, Mahometans 100 millions, other beliefs
165 millions.- Of the 100 millions professing Islam
there are in India alone some 41 millions, subjects
of the Queen of England, who is thus ruler over the
largest Mahometan population in the world. That
these subjects are a source of strength to the Empire
few will be disposed to assert, for, in face of the
express directions of the prophet, loyalty becomes a

' Bosworth Smith, " Muhammad," pp. 25-42.
'^ Moiiier WiUiams, " Indian Wisdom," p. xxxv. note.
Q 2


difficulty, which is doubtless conscientiously felt by
many devout Moslems.

As I have before said, they are commanded to
lay the unbeliever under tribute, and they cannot
easily reconcile with this the duty of paying tribute to
any Caesar whom they regard as an infidel. To those
who have no wish to be loyal, a divine justification of
their acts is always welcome. Whatever may be the
political conjunctions put forward as necessary to
justify a crescentade or holy war for the faith, it
cannot be denied that the normal condition of Islam
is one of missionary aggression by the sword.

The conditions necessary to render a "Jihad"'
or religious war lawful have been variously interpreted
by the different sects. The solution of the question
seems principally to depend on whether the country
in which the Moslems are subjects, is " Dar-ul-Harb,"
the land of enmity, or " Dar-ul-Islam," the land of
Islam. Another condition has been judged by the
Sunnis, necessary before the publication of a Jihad,
viz., that there should be a probability of victory to
their arms. The Shias also add to this, that the
armies of the Crescent must be led by the rightful



In the foregoing chapters I have attempted to
present as comprehensive an account as my Hmits
would allow of Mahomet's life and work, and now
must leave to the intelligent reader the task of forming
his independent opinion, of the motives which influ-
enced his words and his deeds, and of the true value
of the system he has given to the world. Towards
this object the following remarks may be permitted.

Though the life and work of the prophet have
in many respects so much in common, it may be
found possible to judge, according to a different
standard, the man and the system which he founded.
The one was human, the other claims to be divine ;
the one acknowledges himself encompassed with the
sins and errors of humanity, the other asserts its title
to be the pure word of God ; the one had at length
to yield to the summons of the angel of death, the
other claims to endure for ever as a direction and
blessing to all mankind.

Mahomet arose in a barbarous country, and Avith
no human aid so great as his own indomitable will
abolished the outward expression of a cherished
idolatry in his native land, bowed to himself the hearts
of his countrymen, and finally gave to the world that
creed which has exercised so tremendous an influence
on its destiny. In the man, no one can fail to see
elements of power and human greatness, which com-


pel our wonder, if not our admiration ; but in that
Islam which he founded, history recognizes, in its
ultimate effects, one of the greatest evils which have
afflicted humanity, arising both from its hostility to the
purer faith of Christianity, and also from its essential
antagonism to progress, civilization, and the truth.

Judged by the smallness of the means at his dis
posal, and the extent and permanence of the work
he accomplished, no name in the world's story shines
with a more specious lustre than that of the prophet
of Mecca. To the impulse which he gave, numberless
dynasties have owed their existence, fair cities and
stately palaces and temples have arisen, and wide
provinces become obedient to the faith. And be-
yond all this, his words ^ have governed the belief
of generations, been accepted as their rule in life and
their certain guide to the world to come. At a
thousand shrines the voices of the Faithful invoke
blessing on him, whom they esteem the very prophet
of God, the seal of the Apostles, now passed into the
highest heaven as their intercessor with the All-
merciful Allah.2 Judged by the standard of human re-
nown, the glory of what mortal can compare with his ?

Attempts have been made to show that Ma-
homet was a true benefactor to his ovm country-
men. It is urged that in place of the gross idol-
worship which existed, he gave to Arabia a purer

' It is to be remembered that in the belief of a/l the sects,
Sunnis, Shias, and Wahabees, the words and example of Ma-
homet are considered binding on the true believer.

^ The Sunnis believe that their prophet has already received
permission from God to intercede for them. The Wahabees are
of opinion that this permission will not be granted till the last
(day conf. Hughes, "Muhammadanism," p. 179).


faith; and we are told that incest, and infanticide,
and every trace of idolatry vanished before his burn-
ing words.^ That he did through evil and good report,
under mockery and persecution, persevere with un-
faltering steps in winning his countrymen to a better
life and a more spiritual belief, no one can deny, and
for this all honour is due to him who dwelt in a light
so much brighter than the thick darkness around.

Yet, while forming a correct judgment of the
moral condition of Arabia at the time when he arose,
and estimating at their true value the benefits he
conferred, we must not neglect to keep before our
eyes the clear distinction which exists between evil
and degrading practices, which are open to reform,
and an imperfect, if not vicious law, intended to be
the permanent standard of good and evil. The
former can be successfully attacked by the influence
of better example, and will disappear before a truer
and higher civilization ; but an evil code of ethics,
enjoined by the national faith, and accepted, by its
appeal to a divine origin, as the final and irrevocable
standard of morality, presents an insuperable barrier
to the regeneration and progress of a nation. Yet
such is the position which the Koran has taken. No
force can abrogate its teaching or modify its stern
dogmas ; not all the waters of old ocean can wash
from the " Preserved Book " those revelations which
degrade one-half of our humanity — woman kind,-

' Though he did, in some respects, ameliorate the condition
of women and children as regards inheritances, &c., Sir W.
Muir's opinion is, that woman "possessed more freedom, and
exercised a healthier and more legitimate influence under the
pre-existing institutions of Arabia" (Life of Mahomet, iii. 305).

- Sallust has the following remarks regarding the polygamy


which give their sanction to slavery, and exclude all
hope of advancement in morals and in law.

However much, under the then degraded condition
of Arabia, the code of Mahomet was a gift of value,

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 15 17 18

Online LibraryJ. W. H. (James William Hampson) StobartIslam & its founder → online text (page 15 of 18)