Syed Ameer Ali.

A critical examination of the life and teachings of Mohammed online

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" Sakbun kaz bahr din goi che Ibraiii die Suryaiii,
Makan kaz bahr Hak joi che Jabalka die Jabalsa."

" What matters it whether the words thou utterest fur religion
are Hel)rew or Syrian; or whether the place in which thou scekest
for Truth is Jabalka or Jabalsa." — Sandt.




All Rights reserved.









STo f){s bclolicti fHcmavu,


PitEFACE . . ^ page V.


Bactria (Bulkh) supposed to be the original seat of the human
race — Fetishism and Pantheism — The Eastern Aryans are
driven across the Hindu Kush into India — The Eastern Aryans
in India — Their gradual degradation — The rise of Polythe-
ism — The Western Aryans or Iranians — Their intermixture
with the Turanians —Their degradation — The Kcforms of
Zoroaster — Short-lived — Mazdak — preaches communism — The
Jews, their condition— The Christians, their falling off from their
Master's teachings — Their lawlessness — The Pre-islamite Arabs
— Idolatry — The character of the folklore among them.

page 1 to 25.


Birth of Mohammed — His early life — The wars of the Fijar— His
exalted character procures huu the Uitlc of al-Amin — His mar-
riage with Khadija — His passion for solitude — His communion with
the God of Truth— The dawnings of truth on his mind — Moham-
med's mission — The early Moslems — Persecuted by the Koreish —
The Idolaters endeavour to tempt Mohammed — Flight of the Mos-
lems to Abyssinia— The speech of J afar before the Negus — Death
of Abu Taleb and Ivliadija. p. 26 to 53.


Redoubled persecution of the Moslems by the Koreish — Mohammed
proceeds to Tayef— Is driven out of the city with outrages — Returns
to Mecca— Confines his preaching to strangers— The first converts
among the Medinites— The first Pledge— Grandeur of Moham-


med's character — The Vision of the Ascension — Second Pledge —
The Korcish ])roposc to murder Mohammed — The Flight of Mo-
hammed to Medina (Yathreb). p. 54 to 67.

The iMohammedan year, notes I. and II. p. 67.


Mohammed at ^Medina — The Ansar and IMuhajerin — The first mosque
of Islam — Love and charity inculcated by Mohammed, p. 68 to 72.


The charter of Mohammed — The liberality of its conceptions — The
animosity of the Jews —The hostility of the Kox'eish — They make
preparations to attack and overwhelm the Moslems — The recon-
noitring expedition of Abdullah ibn Jahsh — The battle of Bedr —
The defeat of the Idolaters p. 73 to 85

Conception of angels and devils in Islam and Christianity.

Note I. 2). 86

The story of Mohammed's bjtter reply to Okba, apocryphal.

Note II. p. 87.


The battle of Bedr compared to the battle of the Milvian Bridge —
The Idolaters burn for revenge — They march upon Medina — The
battle of Ohod — The defeat of the Moslems — The Idolaters bar-
barously mutilate the Moslem dead — The Moslems inexorably
forbidden to offer any disrespect to the enemies' dead — The
Idolaters treacherously massacre a large body of Moslems at Bir-
Maima — The Jews — Their hostility — The Bani-Kainuka — Their
expulsion — The Bani-Nadhir, their treachery — Their banishment
— Another coalition against the Moslems — The beleaguerment of
Medina — The Bani-Kuraizha, their defection — The enemy raise
the siege — The Kuraizha, their punishment. — Notes, p. 89 to 114.


The generosity of ^Mohammed towards his enemies — The peace .of
Hudeiba — The terms of the treat v — Embassies to the neighbour-
ing sovereigns. — Notes. p>- 1^5 to 125.



The Jews stir up fresh hostilities — The expedition against Khaibar
— The Jews sue for forgiveness — The terms of pardon — " The pil-
grimage of accomplishment " — The expedition to Muta to avenge
the murder of the Moslem envoy by the Greeks— The violation of
the Treaty of Iludeiba by the INleccans — The Moslems march to
punish them — The treatment of the Mcccans by Mohammed — The
Bedouins prepare to attack the Moslems — Their defeat — Liberation
of the Bedouin prisoners by Mohammed. x>- 126 to 137.


The ninth year of the Hejira — " The year of deputations" — Rumours
of a Byzantine attack upon Arabia — A Moslem army is marched
towards the frontiers — The martvrdom of Orwa and the submission
of the Tayefites — Kind treatment of the daughter of Ilatim — The
pilgrimage of Abu Bakr — Ali commissioned by the Prophet to read
a proclamation to the pilgrims prohibiting the Idolaters from ap-
proaching the Kaaba — The reasons for the prohibition — Exami-
nation of Sir W.Muir's assertion that Mohammed " having so long
deceived the Jews and Christians now finally parted from them."

X). 138 to 146.


Tenth year of the Hejira — Completion of Mohammed's mission — The
greatness of his work — The superiority of IVIohammed as a moral
teacher — The farewell pilgrimage — The sermon of Mohammed —
Last year of the Prophet's- life — Death of the Prophet — His cha-
racter, p. 147 to 158.


Signification of the word Islam — Principal bases of the Islamic laws
— Idea of Godhead among the pre-islaraite Arabs — Among the
Jews— Their idolatrous veneration for Moses and Ezra — The wor-
ship of the Teraphim among the Jews— The idea of Godhead
among the Christians — Mariolatry and Christolatry— -Mohammed


the apostle of the unity of God— The Koranic conception of the
Deity — The Koranic abhorrence of idolatry in every shape.

p. 159 to 170.


Practical duties of religion in Islam — The conception of prayer —
Anions the Zoroastrians — The Jews — The Christians— The Islamic
conception of prayer— Islamic conception of moral purity — The
institution of fasting — Among the Jews and the Christians — The
moral conception of fasting in Islam— The conditions under which
only fasting is considered obligatory in Islam — Asceticism ab-
horrent to Islam, as a religion of Humanity — Practical charity in
Christianity — The Agapae, feasts of charity, or love-feasts, their
spasmodic character— The grandeur and beneficence of the Islamic
regulations regarding practical charity — The institution of pil-
grimage — Its usefulness — Distinctive peculiarities of Mohammed's
teachings — Universal adaptability of Islam — Universal charity of
Islam — It combines the sense of sin as well as the sense of
virtue — A lofty idealism is joined to a rationalistic practicability in
Islam — The Koranic summary of Islam. — Notes. p. 171 to 196.


An examination of the opinion that Islam was spread by the sword
— Comparison between the wars of the early Moslems and the
Christians — International obligations unknown before the advent
of Mohammed — The persecuting character of the Christian
churches — The tolerant spirit of Islam — An examination of the
wars of the Prophet and of the early Moslems— Isl<\m not ag-
gressive, p. 197 to 216.


Polygamy— Its origin — Practised by all the nations of antiquity —
Opinion of St. Augustine regarding the lawfulness of polygamy —
Tlic opinion of the German Reformers in the sixteenth century
— The custom of mono2:aniv in the west, how it arose — The Islamic
laws regarding polygamy— It is indirectly forbidden — The wisdom


of the Islamic laws — Polygamy depends on circumstances — Disap-
pears with the progress of thought — The elasticity of the Islamic
laws — Its adaptability to all stages of development — An examina-
tion of the marriages of Mohammed — The practice of divorce
among the nations of antiquity — The law of divorce as
stated by Jesus — The Islamic laws regarding divorce — Ameliora-
tion effected by Islam in the condition of women— Chivalry intro-
duced bv Islam.— Notes. p. 'Jl6 fo 248.

V ■*-


Origin of slavery — Did Christianity forbid slavery ? — The Islamic
laws prohibit slavery— Slavery abhon'cnt to Islam, j). 219 to 262.


The idea of a future existence, the product of a gradual develop-
ment — The idea of a future life among the Egyptians — the Jews
— the Aryans — the Zoroastrians — The Jewish belief in a personal
Messiah — The real origin of this belief — The character of the
Christian traditions — The strongly developed idea of an imme-
diate Kingdom of Heaven in the mind of Jesus and the early
disciples — Paradise and Hell, according to the traditional words
of Jesus — The millenarian dream — How it has died away — The
Islamic conception of a future existence — The parabolic character
of many verses of the Koran — Progressive development, a necessity
of human nature — The Koranic conception of present and future
happiness — Notes. p. 263 to 287.


The intellectual culture of the Arabs before Mohammed — Moham-
med ushers in an age of active principles — Mohammed's teachings
give rise to Rationalism — The character of the successive
Caliphates — Rationalism in Islam — The Moslems under the Ab-
bassides— Fatalism and Free-will — The doctrine of Free-will and
Free Agency, the true characteristic of Islam — The Mutazalas —
their doctrines — The Sifatiyas — The Mutazalas occupy a vantage
ground as regards the natural philosophers of modern times —
The triumph of patristicism— The Shias— The Sunnis— Moslem


Mysticism — The Sufis base the practice of morality on Love —
The subjective pantheism in the West owes its origin to Islam —
The high position of Learning in the teachings of Mohammed.

p. 288 to 317.


The political character of Islam — Islam consecrates political liberty
— Liberates the nations of the world — The Moslems under the
early Caliphs, the lOiulaJai Bdshidin. p. 318 to 322.


Learning and Arts among the Moslems— The deductive method well
known — The physical sciences — The apparent backwardness of
the Moslems in painting and sculpture— General literature among
the ]\Ioslems — The Koran, its characteristics — The drama — The
achievements of the INIoslems in the field of intellect owe their
origin to the teachings of Mohammed — The iloslems introduce
Rationalism and Civilization into Europe — Christianity opposed to
Rationalism — The three great evils which have befallen humanity
— The progress of the world retarded fore enturies— The Future.

p. 323 to 346


In order to appreciate thoroughly the achievement
of Mohammed in the moral world, it is necessary we
should take a rapid survey of the religious and
social condition of the nations of the earth about the
time of the Islamic dispensation. For we must
fully recognise that the causes which had led to the
advent of the Great Prophet of Nazareth,, in the
reign of Augustus, acted with greater force dm'ing
the reigns of the degenerate emperors who occu-
pied the throne of the CaBsars,* at the period of
Mohammed's appearance.

In the dim twilight of history we see, or fancy we
see, strange figures and strange scenes enacted on
the high table land of Bactria, appropriately styled
"the mother of countries.^'f Several clans arc
gathered together on that plateau; just emerged
from savageness into barbarism, they are becoming

* Justin II. niled at Byzantium and Kesra Anusliirvan at Ctesi-
phon (Madain).

t Arab geographers call Bactria (Balkh) Um-ul-Bildd, "mother of


alive to the sense of an Universal Ideality. In-
numerable idealities are taking the place of the
natural objects, hitherto worshipped with fear and
trembling. With some of these ancient dwellers on
the earth the host of abstractions and personifica-
tions of the powers of Nature are subordinated to
two comprehensive Principles : Light and Dark-
ness. The sun, the bright harbinger of life and
light, becomes the symbol of a beneficent Divinity,
whose power, though held in check, is even-
tually to conquer the opposing principle of Evil
and Darkness. With others, the idealities which
they now impress on the fetish they worshipped
before, merge in each other; at one time standing
forth as distinct personal entities, at another time
resolving themselves into a hylozoic whole.*

Through the darkness which yet shrouds this
primeval home of mankind, we can see the dim
traces of a religious conflict between the two divi-
sions of the Aryan family, which has left its
mark in the deep imprecations heaped by the Yedic
hymn-singer on the head of the half mythic, half
historical Persic hero, Djaradashti of the Yedas, the
first Azar and Zardahusht of the Iranians. f The
western dualistic clans are successful, and drive
their half polytheistic, half pantheistic brethren

* Comp. Talboys Wheeler, Hist, of India (Vedic period),
vol. i. p. 8.

t Comp. Lenormant's Ancient Hist, of the East, vol. ii. p. 38.


across the Paropamisadae. The darkness which
hitherto enshrouded the homes of our ancestors,
now clears a little ; we see the Eastern Aryans burst
into India, driving before them the black aboriginal
races j massacring and enslaving them.* History
repeats itself strangely !

The tide of Aryan conquest continued flowing
eastward and southward for centuries. The Aryan
colonies were naturally acted upon by the fetishism
of the races whom they conquered or among whom
they settled ; until at last the gross inhuman Sakti
worship was produced on the one hand, and the
degrading sensualism of Krishna on the other.f
In the parts, however, which formed the core of the
Aryan nation, the thoughts and feelings brought
from their native home continued for ages to exer-
cise an influence. But soon they were to lose what
remained. In the enjoyment of peace and plenty,
cut off from the energetic life of their brothers of
the West, always exposed to the voluptuous in-
fluences of a morbidly fertile imagination, and
without possessing a system of positive morality
embodied in efiectual laws, the Aryan settlers lost
the spiritual belief of their forefathers.

They indeed obtained a code ; but it represented
the ideas which prevailed in an age of gross mate-

* Comp. Talboys Wheeler's History of India, p. 32.
t Ihid, p. 391, et seq.

B 2


A revolt ensued^ arising from revolutionary and
negative instincts acting on one Hindu mind. But
Buddhism^ with all its grand aspirations^ never
pretended to be a religion. Essentially adapted
to the recluse, it never acquired a tangible hold
on the masses ; and its failure under the most
favourable circumstances sealed its fate in India as
a religious system.*

On the expulsion of Buddhism from Hindustan,
Brahmanism regained its supremacy. The temples
became the haunts of debauchery and crimes. Im-
morality was sanctioned by religion. The demons
of destruction and lust became the two favourite
objects of popular worship. The revolting orgies of
Ashtaroth and Moloch were enacted, under other
names and aspects.

So much for the religious life of the people.

The social life of the masses was miserable be-
yond conception. The condition of woman, even
during that vague and mythic period which passes
under the name of the Yedic age, was not so favour-
able as some writers on India would fain represent
to us now. She formed the prize in gambling and
feats of athletics. t She was the drudge of the house,

* Comp. Hunter, Annals of Rural Rengal, in loco, and also my
letters signed " Alpha" in " The Asiatic,' ' on the difference be-
tween Buddhism and Brahmanism ; also, Wheeler, Hist, of India,
vol. i. pp. 158, 159.

t Comp. La Femme dans I'lnde Antique, par Mile. Bader, p. 86,
and Wheeler's Hist, of India, vol. i. pp. 178-182.


and had to accept as many husbands as there were
brothers in the family. But she arrived at the
depth of degradation under Brahmauic domination.
The contempt with which the Brahmanic legislator
speaks of women^ and the complete servitude to
which he subjects them are astounding beyond

In describing the religious condition of Persia,
the empire of the great Chosroes, we have to enter
into more minute details. The proximity of the
country to the birthplace of Islam and the powerful
influence it has always exercised on Mahommedau
thought, not to speak of the character and tone it
communicated to Christianity and Judaism, make
Persia a most important object of study.

The Aryan race had split into two sections by
the migration of one branch across the Paropam-
isadae ; and of the other, towards the great settle-
ments of their Semitic brethren.

* Thonissen, I'Histoii-e du Droit Criminel des Peoples Anciens
{Paris, 1869), vol. i. p. 27, note.

Observe also the various ordinances of the Brahmanic legislator
on this suhject. "Women," says Manu, "love their beds, their
seats, their ornaments ; they have impure appetites ; they love
wrath ; they show weak flexibility and bad conduct. Day and night
women must be kept in subjection."— Tytlei-'s Considerations on the
State of India, vol. i. p. 237.

Also, La Femme dans I'lnde Antique, in loco.

As to the condition of the low castes, Sudra, Pariahs, &c., a mere
glance over the pages of Thouissen's splendid work is enough to fill
one with disgust.


As in tlie Eastern branchy so also among the
Western Aryans,tlie idea of divinity had acquired a
degree of consistency and definiteness^ probably
under the hands of some heaven-inspired genius.
The same influences, however, which led to the
degradation of the Indo- Aryans, were rife among
the Iranians. They had either displaced or sub-
jugated the old Turanian tribes who had preceded
them in the work of colonization, and the extreme
materialism of these Turanians did not fail to de-
grade the yet undeveloped idealism of their Iranian
neighbours. The frequent contact of the followers
of Afrasiab and Kai-kaus, in the field and the hall,
exercised a lasting effect on the Persic faith. The
complex system of celestial co-ordination which
was prevalent among the Assyrians,* also left its
mark on the Iranians, under the domination of the
Peshdadian or Perso- Assyrian sovereigns. Under
these influences, the Western Aryans soon found
the level of their neighbours. The symbolical

* Comp. Rawlinson, Five Great Monarchies of the Ancient
World, vol. ii. pp. 230-234 ; also the curious translation of an
Assyrian inscription in Lenorraant's Anc. History of the East, vol. i.
p. 42. According to Professor Rawlinson and other great scholars,
the Assyrians seem to have at first entertained a distinct idea of a
celestial hierarchy, almost rising to a monotheistic conception (Raw-
linson, vol. ii. p. 23 et seq. ; Lenormant, vol. i. p. 452). If
so, the depravation of ideas which resulted from material progress
and contact with inferior races, must have led to the revolt of Abra-


worsliip probably in vogue among the early emi-
grants, became degraded into pyrolatry.

The captivity of tlie Hebraic tribes and tlieir
long exile near tlie seats of Persian domination,
most probably gave impetus to tliat religious reform
wliicli occm'red during tlie reign of Darius Hystas-
pes. There was mutual action and reaction. The
Israelites impressed on renovated Zoroastrianism
a deep and abiding conception of a Divine Person-
ality overshadowing the universe. They received
from the Iranians the conception of a celestial
hierarchy, and the idea of a duality of principles
in the creation of good and evil. Thenceforth
it is not the Lord who puts a lying spirit into
the mouths of evil-doers;* Satan, like Ahriman_,
from this time takes a prominent part in the reli-
gious and moral history of the Hebrews.

The reforms effected by the historic Zoroaster,
under Darius Hystaspes,t seem to have continued in
full force for some centuries. But his religion at
last met with the fate which appears to be the end of
every system which does not possess the homoge-
neity, the practicality, the human sympathy amongst

* 1 Kings xxii. 21-23.

t According to the Dabistan, Ibn-al-Athir calls this monarch,
Bishtasp, son of Lohrasp, and the account he gives of the life of
Zoroaster (Zardasht) is curious, as bearing a strange analogy to the
modern discoveries from the inscriptions, especially as to his connec-
tion with Bactria (Balkh), pp. ISO, 191 et scq. Comp. Lcnormaut,
vol. ii. p. 25.


its professors, the absence of all esoteric feelings,
which is needful for an universal creed. The swarms
of conquerors, who passed like a whirlwind over
the face of that beautiful country before the time
of Mohammed, destroyed all social and moral life.
The Macedonian conquest with the motley hordes
which followed on its footsteps ; the influx of all
the dregs of Lesser Asia, Cilicians, Tyrians, Pam-
phylians, and various others, half Greeks half
Asians, obeying no moral law ; the hasty and reck-
less temper of the conqueror himself, all led to the
debasement of the pure Zoroastrian faith. The
Mobeds, the representatives of the national life,
were placed under the ban of persecution by the
drunken foreigner,* the aim of whose life was to
hellenize Asia. Under the Seleucid^, the process
of denationalization went on apace. Antiochus
Epiphanes, the man who hated the monotheistic
Jews, was not likely to allow the idealistic Zoroas-
trians to remain in peace. Even the rise of the
Parthian dynasty tended to accelerate the ruin and
decline of Zoroastrianism. In settled and quiet parts

The burning of Susa by Alexander the Macedonian, after a
drunken orgie, led to the destruction of the religious works of Persia,
which according to Tabari (Tibri) and Abu-Mohammed Mustafa
(author of a history of Gushtasp, Darius Hystaspes) used to be depo-
sited in the royal archives of Susa and Persepolis ; also Ibn-al-
Athir, vol. i. p. 182. As to the cruel character of Alexander, comp.
Kitab-Tarikh-Sanni Muluk-ul-Ardh (Annals of the Sovereigns of
the Earth), by Ilamza Isphaliaui, Ar- p. 41 ; Lat. p. 28.


it became mixed with the old Sabaeism of the Medes
and the Chaldeans, or, where kept alive in its pris-
tine character, it was confined to the hearts of some
of those priests who had taken refuge in the inac-
cessible recesses of their country. Last sad repre-
sentatives of a dying faith ! Around them clustered
the hopes of a renovated religious existence under
the auspices of the Sassanide dynasty. How far the
brilliant aspirations of Ardishir Babekan (Arta-
xerxes Longimanus) , the founder of the new empire^
were realized is a matter of history. The political
autonomy of Persia, its national life, was restored ;
but the social and religious life were lost beyond the
power of rulers to restore. The teachings of yore
lived perhaps in books ; but in the hearts of the
people, they were as dead as old Gushtasp or
Rust am. The degradation was already complete
when Artaxerxes Mnemon (Bahman Ardishir*) in-
troduced among the Persians the worship of that
androgynous being Mithra, the Persian counterpart
of the Chaldean Mylitta or Anaitis, and the concomi-
tant phallic cultus.f The climax was reached when
Mazdak, in the beginning of the sixth century of the
Christian era " bade all men to be partners in riches
and women, just as they are in fire, water and grass ;

* Tarikh-i-IIaraza Isphahani, p. 46; Ibn-al-Athir (vol. ii. p. 285)
and the Habib-us-Siyar. Artaxerxes Mnemon was the brother of
Cyrus the younger, the hero of Xenophon.

t Lcnormant, Ancient Hist, of the East, vol. ii. pp. 45, 46.



private property was not to exist ; each man was

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Online LibrarySyed Ameer AliA critical examination of the life and teachings of Mohammed → online text (page 1 of 22)