Syed Ameer Ali.

The spirit of Islâm : a history of the evolution and ideals of Islâm online

. (page 1 of 55)
Online LibrarySyed Ameer AliThe spirit of Islâm : a history of the evolution and ideals of Islâm → online text (page 1 of 55)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


THE SPIRIT OF ISLAM



THE

SPIRIT OF ISLAM

A HISTORY OF THE EVOLUTION AND
IDEALS OF ISLAM

WITH A LIFE OF THE PROPHET
BY

AMEER ALI, SYED, P.G., LL.D., D.L., CLE.

MEMBER OF THE JUDICIAL COMMITTEE OF HIS MAJESTY'S PRIVY COUNCIL

AUTHOR OF 'A SHORT HISTORY OF THE SARACENS '

'MOHAMMEDAN LAW,' ETC.



" What matters it whether the words thou utterest in
prayer are Hebrew or Syrian, or whether the place in
which thou seekest God is JiLbalka or Jabalsa." — Samit




LONDON

CHRISTOPHERS

22 BERNERS STREET, W.



6







- >•
S AJLfl


us* I*


AJ (,i 5 j A ;_




g *


G'G * - 1


1 5


' c-


G £#• /, o ' o -


J*"


5 '. *


>-fc« ' - G G G* '


_JU I*


" r


▼^^ J I**: 1 *: ^ —




fl&Ui




G>. >




1 IS ' d fc*


C~>«



'GG W -fc »-r , *^^ c ^/ y, -,



This amplified an i revised edition was first published in 1922.



^^^Mf-



4



^^*4^PSylW>«Z3&^Wfc'






■ /



fy^^^jUtf^*^ '&'



&•






'/k^>



-/.



z*r>^i ^ » ^^/t^L^Aj^it *&



* . ,h~><*\)



&*



, y



"ft?.



2>
1>



I



&S&.-4



£•£*£



as



J»1



^<^A^



'fa+^^JJlrf+jjM






FACSIMILE OF A LETTER FROM HIS LATE MAJESTY, NASIK-UD-DIN SHAH



TO MY WIFE



i)UlVJ






PREFACE

IN the following pages I have attempted to give the history
of the evolution of Islam as a world-religion ; of its rapid
spread and the remarkable hold it obtained over the con-
science and minds of millions of people within a short space of
time. The impulse it gave to the intellectual development of
the human race is generally recognised. But its great work in
the uplifting of humanity is either ignored or not appreciated ;
nor are its rationale, its ideals and its aspirations properly
understood. It has been my endeavour in the survey of
Islam to elucidate its true place in the history of religions.
The review of its rationale and ideals, however feeble, may be
of help to wanderers in quest of a constructive faith to steady
the human mind after the strain of the recent cataclysm ; it
is also hoped that to those who follow the Faith of Islam it
may be of assistance in the understanding and exposition of
the foundations of their convictions.

My outline of the life and ministry of the Prophet is based
on the Sirat-ur-Rasul of Ibn Hisham, who died in 213 a.h.
(828-9 A.c), barely two hundred years after the death of the
Prophet, supplemented by, among other works, Ibn ul-Athir's
monumental history, the Chronicles of Tabari, the Insdn
ul-'Uyun of al-Halabi (commonly known as Sirat-ul-Halabia).
Two new chapters have been added in this edition : one on
the Imdmate (" The Apostolical Succession "), the other
on " The Idealistic and Mystical Spirit in Islam." Considerable
new matter has also been included in the Introduction and



viii PREFACE

Chapter X., Part II. I take this opportunity of expressing
my gratitude to my esteemed friend, Professor E. G. Browne
of Cambridge, one of our foremost Orientalists, for his most
valuable criticisms on the last chapter, and to Mr. Mohammed
Iqbal, Government of India Research Scholar at Cambridge,
for his careful revision of the proofs and the compilation of
the Index. I also desire to express my acknowledgments to
Mr. Abdul Qayum Malik for transcribing for the Printers the
Arabic quotations for the new chapters and verifying the
Koranic references, and to the Publishers for their unvarying
courtesy and patience over a difficult publication.

The work has been carried through the Press under heavy
pressure of public duties, and I claim, on that ground, the
indulgence of my readers for any mistake that may have passed
uncorrected.

N.B. — A few words are necessary to explain the system of translitera-
tion adopted in this work. I have tried to adhere with small modification
to the system I have pursued in my previous publications. The letter
Cj (pronounced by the Arab with a lisp like th in thin) to a non-Arab
conveys a sound almost identical with s in sin, and he accordingly
pronounces it as such. Nor, unless an Arabic scholar, does he perceive
any difference between d> and stn or ^o (sdd). He pronounces
them all alike. Similarly i (zal), j (Zay), lyJ h {Zad — pronounced
by the Arab something like dhad), and ]b [zoi), convey to the non-
Arab almost identical sounds ; certainly he cannot help pronouncing
them identically. He also perceives no difference between y^, (soft /)
and As (toi), or between the hard aspirate _, (in Ahmed, Mohammed,
Mahmud, etc.) and the softer used in Harun. I have therefore not
attempted to differentiate these letters by dots or commas, which,
however useful for purposes of translation into Arabic, Persian, Turkish
or Urdu, is only bewildering to the general reader unacquainted with the
Arabic alphabet and pronunciation. I have given the words as commonly
pronounced by non- Arabs. In the case of words spelt with a o in
common use in India and Persia such as hadis, masnavi, Isna-'asharia,
etc., I have not considered it necessary to denote the Arabic pro-
nunciation with a ih.



PREFACE ix

The ordinary fat ha I have represented by a (pronounced as u in ' cut '
or ' but '), excepting in such words as are now commonly written in
English with an e, as Seljuk (pronounced Saljuk), Merwan (pronounced
Marwan), etc. ; the ordinary zamma by u pronounced like u in ' pull,'
or in Buldan ; the ordinary kasra with the letter i, as in Misr. Aliph
with the fatha is represented by a, as in ' had ' ; Aliph with the zamma,
by m as in Abdul-Muttalib ; with a kasva by i as in Ibn Abi'l Jawari.
Waw (with a zamma) by o and sometimes by 6. Although like Kufa
and several other words, the last syllables in Mahmud, Harun and
Mamun are spelt with a waw, to have represented them by an o or 6
would have conveyed a wholly wrong notion of the pronunciation,
which is like oo ; I have, therefore, used u to represent waw in such
words. Waw with a. fatha I have represented by an, as in Maudud.
Ya with a kasra, when used in the middle of a word, I have represented
by i, as in Arish. But in Ameer I have kept the classical and time
honoured ee. Ya with a fatha, similarly situated by ai as in Zaid. Ya
with a fatha at the beginning of a word is represented by ye, as in
Yezid ; with a zamma by yu, as in Yusuf. Excepting such names
as are commonly known to be spelt with an 'ain (c), as Abd in Abdul
Malik, Abdur Rahman, Arab, Abbas, Aziz, Irak, etc., I have used the
inverted comma to denote that letter.

With regard to names which have become familiar in certain garbs
I have made no alteration, such as Kaaba, Omar, Abdullah, Basra,
spelt with a sdd, etc. Ghain (c ) is represented by gh ; but I
have not attempted to differentiate between i») and jj, and made
no alteration in the time honoured spelling of the Koran. The com-
mon g (the Persian gdf) and p have no place in the Arabic alphabet,
and therefore the Persian g and p are transformed in Arabic into j or
ft and b or ph [f), as in Atabek and Isfahan. ^ is represented by
kh.

The / of at when occurring before certain letters (technically called
shamsUh) is assimilated with them in sound, as ash-Shams, ad-din,
ar-Riza, as-Salat, etc. I have used the word " Moslem " in preference
to " Muslim," as most Europeans unacquainted with Arabic pronounce
the " u " in " Muslim " as in public.



CONTENTS



INTRODUCTION

The continuity of religious development — Bactiia (Balkh) supposed
to be the original seat of the human race — Dispersion of the races —
Fetishism and Pantheism — The Eastern and Western Aryans — The
Assyrians — Babylon and the Jews — Hinduism — Zoroastrianism
— The Cult of Isis and of Mythra — Judaism — Christianity —
Gnosticism — Manich^ism — Degradation of the earlier creeds —
The tribes of Arabia, their origin, their diversity of culture and
religious conceptions— Idolatry among the Arabs — The folk-lore
of Arabia — The advent of Mohammed, a necessity of religious
development^ - - - - -



PART I
THE LIFE AND MINISTRY OF THE PROPHET

CHAPTER I

MOHAMMED THE PROPHET

Mecca, its foundations — Kossay, his descendants — Abdul Muttalib
— The Meccan decemvirs — The Abyssinian invasion — The Era of
the Elephant — The biith of Mohammed — 'Okaz — The depravity
of the Arabs — Mohammed's marriage — Formation of the League
of the Fuziil — Mohammed's designation of Al-Amin — The period
of probation, of communion, of inspiration — Commencement of
the Ministry — Persecution by the Koreish — Moral evidences of
Mohammed's Mission — Koreishite hostility — The year of mourning I

CHAPTER II

THE HEGIRA

Visit to Tayef — Ill-treatment — Return to Mecca — First pledge of
'Akaba — Vision of the Ascension — Second pledge of 'Akaba — The
days of persecution — The departure for Medina (the Hegira) - 41
s.i. xi b



xii CONTENTS

CHAPTER III

THE PROPHET AT MEDINA

PAGES

Erection of the first Mosque in Islam — The preachings of the Prophet

— His personality - -____ - 5!

CHAPTER IV

HOSTILITY OF THE KOREISH AND THE JEWS

Three parties in Medina — Moslems, Mun&fikin, Jews — The charter
of the Prophet — Attack by the Koreish — Battle of Badr — Victory
of Islam — Ideas regarding angels in Islam and in Christianity - 56

CHAPTER V

THE INVASION OF MEDINA

Battle of Ohod — Defeat of the Moslems — Barbarities of the Koreish —
Jewish treachery — The Bani-Kainuka', their expulsion — The
Bani Nazir, their banishment — Coalition against the Moslems
— Beleagurement of Medina — Bani-Kuraizha, their defection —
Success of the Moslems — Punishment of the Kuraizha - - 66

CHAPTER VI

THE PROPHET'S CLEMENCY

Charter granted to the monks of St. Catherine — Cruelty prohibited —
Peace of Hudaibiya — The Prophet's message to Heraclius and
Parviz — Murder of the Moslem envoy by the Christians - - 83



CHAPTER VII

THE DIFFUSION OF THE FAITH

Continued hostility of the Jews — Expedition against Khaibar — The
Jews sue for forgiveness — Pilgrimage of Accomplishment —
Violation by the Meccans of the Treaty of Hudaibiya — Fall of
Mecca — Treatment of the Meccans — Diffusion of the Faith - - 92



CHAPTER VIII

THE YEAR OF DEPUTATIONS

Deputations to Medina — Apprehension of a Greek Invasion — Ex-
pedition to Tabuk — Conversion of Orwa — His martyrdom — The
Bani Tay, their conversion — Adoption of the Faith by Ka*b
Ibn-Zuhair — His eulogium of the Prophet — Idolaters prohibited
from visiting the Kaaba - - - - - - - -101



CONTENTS xiii

CHAPTER IX

FULFILMENT OF THE PROPHET'S WORK

PAGES

His superiority over his predecessors — His appeal to reason — His
Sermon on the Mount — Instructions to the governors — The false
prophets — Last illness of the Prophet ; his death — His character - 109

CHAPTER X

THE APOSTOLICAL SUCCESSION

The Imamate — The Sunni doctrine of the Caliphate — The title of the

Osmanli Sultans to the Caliphate- ...... 122



PART II
THE SPIRIT OF ISLAM

CHAPTER I

THE IDEAL OF ISLAM

Islam, its signification — The ethical principles of Islam — Idea of God-
head among the different religionists of the world — Mariolatry
and Christolatry — Modern idealistic Christianity — Koranic con-
ception of God — Primary aim of the new dispensation — Its morality 137

CHAPTER II

THE RELIGIOUS SPIRIT OF ISLAM

Its practical duties — Conception of prayer — Among the Mago-Zoro-
astrians and Sabeans, Jews, Christians — Islamic conception of
prayer — Of moral purity — Institution of fasting — Of pilgrimage
to Mecca — Their raison d'etre — Intoxication and gambling for-
bidden — Ethical code of Islam, its disciplinary rules — The Islam
of Mohammed, its aims and aspirations — Faith and Charity —
Reprobation of hypocrisy and falsehood— No difference between
true Christianity and true Islam — Reason of their present diverg-
ence — Defects of modern Mohammedanism - - - - 159
Sumptuary regulations of Mohammed (Note I.) - - - 187

CHAPTER III •

THE IDEA OF FUTURE LIFE IN ISLAM

The idea of a future existence, result of development — The idea of
future existence among the Egyptians, the Jews, the Zoroastrians
■ — The Jewish belief in a personal Messiah — Real origin of this



CONTENTS



belief — Character of the Christian traditions — Strongly-developed
idea of an immediate 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 - -



188



CHAPTER IV

THE CHURCH MILITANT OF ISLAM

Its wars purely defensive — Toleration in Islam — Intolerance of the
Jews, Christians, Mago-Zoroastrians and Hindus — Islam opposed
to isolation and exclusiveness — Wars of Islam after the Prophet —
The capture of Jerusalem by the Moslems compared with its
capture by the Crusaders 204



CHAPTER V

THE STATUS OF WOMEN IN ISLAM

Polygamy, its origin — Practised by all the nations of antiquity — Poly-
gamy among the Christians — Opinion of St. Augustine and the
German reformers — Polygamy among the Arabs and the Jews —
The Prophet's regulations — Monogamy, result of development —
Compatibility of the Koranic rule with eveiy stage of develop-
ment — Mohammed's marriages examined — Status of women in
early Christianity — Conception of Jesus about marriage — Divorce
among the Romans and the Jews — Among the Christians —
Regulations of the Prophet on the subject — Concubinage forbidden
— Custom of female seclusion — Idealisation of womanhood —
Prophecy and chivalry, offspring of the desert — The women of
Islam — Improvement effected by the Prophet in the status of
women - - - _.__.



CHAPTER VI

BONDAGE IN ISLAM

Slavery existed among all ancient nations — Position of slaves among the
Romans and the Jews — Slavery among the Christians — Regulations
of the Prophet about slavery — Slavery abhorrent to Islam - - 258



CHAPTER VII

THE POLITICAL SPIRIT OF ISLAM

Degraded conditions of humanity at the time of the Prophet's advent
— Serfdom and villeinage — Absence of human liberty and equality
— Intolerance of Christianity — The Charter of Mohammed — The



CONTENTS xv

message of the Prophet to the Christians of Najran — The char- paces
acter of the early Republic — Administration of the Caliphs Abu
Bakr and Omar — Equality of men inculcated by Islam — Spain
under the Arabs - - 268



CHAPTER VIII

THE POLITICAL DIVISIONS AND SCHISMS OF ISLAM

Owed their origin to clannic and desert-feuds, fostered by dynastic
disputes — Osman's partiality for the Ommeyyades — His death —
Accession of Ali — Revolt of Mu'awiyah — The battle of Siffin — The
arbitrament of Amr ibn-ul-'As and Abu Musa al-Asha'ri — Assas-
sination of Ali — The usurpation of Mu'awiyah — The butchery of
Kerbela — The triumph of paganism — The sack of Medina — The
rise of the Abbasides — The origin of the Sunni Church — Mamun —
The question of the Imamate — Shiahism — Sunnism — The principal
Shiah sects— The Zaidias — The Isma'ilias — The Isnd-'asharias
■ — -The Paulicians — The doctrine of Abdullah ibn-Maimun al-
Kaddah — The Grand Lodge of Cairo — The assassins of Alamut
— The Isna-'Asharias divided into UsMis and Akhbdris, their
respective doctrines— The Sunnis divided into Hanafis, Mdlikis,
Shdfeis, and Hanbalfc — The Khdrijis — Bdbism -



CHAPTER IX

THE LITERARY AND SCIENTIFIC SPIRIT OF ISLAM

The Arabian Prophet's devotion to knowledge and science — His precepts
—The Caliph Ali's sayings — Learning and arts among the primi-
tive Moslems — The school of Medina — Imam Ja'far as-Sadik
— The foundation of Bagdad — Mamun, the Augustus of the
Saracens — Al-Mu'iz li-din-illah — The Ddr-ul-Hikmat of Cairo —
Astronomy and mathematics among the Arabs — Architecture —
History — Poetry — The Koran — The intellectual achievements of
the Moslems — Their present stagnation, its causes — the terrible
destruction committed by the Tartars — the result of the Crusades
— The Usbegs and Afghans - - - - 360



CHAPTER X

THE RATIONALISTIC AND PHILOSOPHICAL SPIRIT
OF ISLAM

The Koranic teachings about free-will and divine government — The
Prophet's sayings — The exposition of the Caliph Ali and of the
early descendants of the Prophet — The Jabarias or predestinarians
— The Sifdtias — The Mu'tazilas— Mu'tazilaism the same as the
teachings of the philosophers of the family of the Prophet— Ration-
alism in Islam — The reign of Mamun — Philosophy among the
Moslems — Avicenna and Averroes — The fall of rationalism and



xvi CONTENTS

philosophy in Islam — Its causes — Mutawakkil — His alliance pages
with patristicism — The triumph of patristicism — Abu'l Hassan
Ali al-Asha'ri — His retrogressive teachings — Abu Hanifa, Malik
Shafe'i, and Ibn Hanbal — Ilm-ul-Kaldm — The Ikhwan us-Safa.
(" The Brethren of Purity ") — Their teachings - 403



CHAPTER XI

IDEALISTIC AND MYSTICAL SPIRIT IN ISLAM

Its origin traceable to the Prophet — The Koranic ideas — The Caliph
Ali's Enunciation— Neo-Platonism — The Early Mystics — Imam at
Ghazzali — His life and work — The Later Mystics — The Brother-
hoods and Lodges — Moslem Idealism 455

Appendices .... - 479

General Index - 499

Bibliographical Index 513






INTRODUCTION





la* -t i*




J<*J












;<i *j jib





THE continuity of religious progress among mankind
is a subject of enthralling interest to the student
of humanity. The gradual awakening of the human
mind to the recognition of a Personality, of a Supreme Will
overshadowing the universe ; the travails through which
individuals and races have passed before they arrived at
the conception of an Universal Soul pervading, regulating,
and guiding all existence, — furnish lessons of the deepest
import. The process by which humanity has been lifted
from the adoration of material objects to the worship of
God, has often been retarded. Masses of mankind and
individuals have broken away from the stream of progress,
have listened to the promptings of their own desires, have
given way to the cravings of their own hearts ; they have gone
back to the worship of their passions, symbolised in the idols
of their infancy. But though unheard, the voice of God has
always sounded the call to truth, and when the time has
arrived His servants have risen to proclaim the duties of man to
himself and to his Creator. These men have been the veritable



xviii THE SPIRIT OF ISLAM

" messengers of Heaven." They came among their people
as the children of their time ; they represented the burning
aspirations of the human soul for truth, purity, and justice.
Each was an embodiment of the spiritual necessities of his
age ; each came to purify, to reform, to elevate a degraded
race, a corrupted commonwealth. Some came as teachers of
a smaller culture, to influence a smaller sphere ; others came
with a world-wide message — a message not confined to one race
or nation, but intended for all humanity. Such was
Mohammed. His mission was not to the Arabs alone. He
was not sent for one age or clime, but " for all mankind to the
end of the world." The advent of this great Teacher, whose
life from the moment of his Ministry is a verifiable record, was
not a mere accident, an unconnected episode in the history
of the world. The same causes, the same crying evils, the same
earnest demand for an " assured trust " in an all-pervading
Power, which led to the appearance on the shores of Galilee,
in the reign of Augustus Caesar, of a Prophet whose life is a
tragedy, operated with greater force in the seventh century
of the Christian era. The beginning of the seventh century,
as has been rightly said, was an epoch of disintegration" —
national, social, and religious : its phenomena were such as
have always involved a fresh form of positive faith, to recall
all wandering forces to the inevitable track of spiritual evolution
"towards the integration of personal worship." They all pointed
to the necessity of a more organic revelation of divine govern-
ment than that attained by Judaism or Christianity. The holy
flames kindled by Zoroaster, Moses, and Jesus had been
quenched in the blood of man. A corrupt Zoroastrianism,
battling for centuries with a still more corrupt Christianity,
had stifled the voice of humanity, and converted some of the
happiest portions of the globe into a veritable Aceldama.
Incessant war for supremacy, perpetual internecine strife,
combined with the ceaseless wrangling of creeds and sects,
had sucked the life-blood out of the hearts of nations, and the
people of the earth, trodden under the iron heels of a lifeless
sacerdotalism, were crying to God from the misdeeds of their
masters. Never in the history of the world was the need so
great, the time so ripe, for the appearance of a Deliverer. In



INTRODUCTION xix

order, therefore, to appreciate thoroughly the achievement
of Mohammed in the moral world, it is necessary to take a
rapid survey of the religious and social condition of the nations
of the earth previous to, and about the time of, the Islamic
Dispensation.

The high table-land of Bactria, appropriately styled by Arab
geographers Umm ul-Bildd, or " mother of countries," is
supposed to be the cradle of humanity, the original birth-place
of creeds and nations. Through the faint and shadowy light,
which comparative ethnology throws on the infancy of man-
kind, we perceive groups of families congregated in this primeval
home of the human race, gradually coalescing into clans and
tribes, and then forced by the pressure of increasing popula-
tion, issuing in successive waves to people the face of the
globe. The Hamitic branch were apparently the first to
leave their ancient habitations. They were followed by the
Turanians, or, as they are sometimes called, the Ugro-Finnish
tribes, supposed to be an offshot of the Japhetic family. Some
of them apparently proceeded northwards, and then spreading
themselves in the East, founded the present Mongolian branch
of the human race. Another section proceeded westward
and settled in Azarbaijan, Hamadan, and Ghilan, countries
to the south and south-west of the Caspian, better known in
ancient history as Media. A portion of these descending
afterwards into the fertile plains of Babylonia, enslaved the
earlier Hamitic colonies, and in course of time amalgamating
with them, formed the Accadian nation, the Kushites of the
Jewish and Christian Scriptures. This composite race created
Babylon, and gave birth to a form of religion which, in its
higher phases, was akin to natural pantheism. In its lower
phases, with its pan-dsemonism, its worship of the sun-gods
and moon-gods, closely associated with the phallic cult and
the sexual instincts, the sacrifice of children to Baal and
Moloch, of virginity to Beltis and Ashtoreth, it marks an
epoch when high material civilisation was allied to gross
licentiousness, and cruelty was sanctioned by religion.

The Semites were the next to leave the primeval home.
They also, following in the footsteps of the Turanians, migrated
towards the West, and apparently settled themselves in the



xx THE SPIRIT OF ISLAM

northern part of the Mesopotamian Delta. Increasing in
numbers and strength, they soon overthrew the Babylonian
kingdom, and founded a far-reaching empire which wielded
its sway over all the neighbouring States. In their seat of
power between the two great rivers of Western Asia, the
Assyrians at times rose to a positive monotheistic conception.
Their system of celestial hierarchy furnishes indications of a
distinct recognition of one Supreme Personality.

Whilst the main body of the Semitic colony was developing
itself in the upper parts of the Delta, a small section had
penetrated far into a district called Ur, within the boundaries
of the Chaldaean monarchy. 1 The patriarch of this tribe, whose
self-imposed exile and wanderings have passed into the religious
legends of more than one creed, became the father of the
future makers of history. 2

The Japhetic family seems to have tarried longest in its



Online LibrarySyed Ameer AliThe spirit of Islâm : a history of the evolution and ideals of Islâm → online text (page 1 of 55)