Syed Ameer Ali.

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

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God the Eternal. He begetteth not, and He is not begotten ;
there is none like unto Him. Praise be to God, the Lord of the
worlds, the Compassionate, the Merciful, King on the day of
reckoning ; Thee only do we worship, and to Thee do we cry
for help. Guide us on the straight path, — the path of those
to whom Thou art gracious, with whom Thou art not angry ;
such as go not astray. 3 . . . Against the evil in His creation
I betake me to the Lord of the daybreak." " Thou needest
not raise thy voice, for He knoweth the secret whisper, and what
is yet more hidden. Say, Whose is what is in the heavens and
the earth ? Say, God's who has imposed mercy on Himself. 4
. . . With Him are the keys of the unseen. None knows them
save He ; He knows what is in the land and in the sea ; no
leaf falleth but He knoweth it ; nor is there a grain in the
darkness under the earth, nor a thing, green or sere, but it is
recorded by itself. He taketh your souls in the night, and
knoweth what the work of your day deserveth ; then He
awaketh you, that the set life-term may be fulfilled ; then
unto Him shall ye return, and then shall He declare unto you
what you have wrought. 5 Verily, God it is who cleaves out
the grain and the date-stone ; He brings forth the living from
the dead, and it is He who brings the dead from the living.
There is God ! How then can ye be beguiled ? "

"It is He who cleaves out the morning, and makes night a
repose, and the sun and the moon two reckonings ; that is the
decree of the Mighty, the Wise. 6

" There is God for you, your Lord ! There is no God but
He, the Creator of everything ; then worship Him, for He over
everything keeps guard ! "

1 Sura ii. 255. 2 Sura vii. 54.

3 This is the Surat-ul-Fatiha, the opening chapter of the Koran.

4 Sura vi. 12. 6 Sura vi. 59, 60.
6 Sura vi. 97.

s.i. K



146 THE SPIRIT OF ISLAM ii.

" Sight perceives Him not, but he perceives men's sights ;
for He is the knower of secrets the Aware." *



" Say, Verily my prayers and my devotion, and my life and
my death, belong to God, the Lord of the worlds." 2

" Dost thou not perceive that all creatures both in heaven
and earth praise God ; and the birds also ?

" Every one knoweth His prayer and His praise.

" Unto God belongeth the kingdom of heaven and earth ;
and unto God shall be the return.

" Whose is the kingdom of the heavens and of the earth ?
There is no God but He ! He maketh alive and killeth. 3 . . .
He is the Living One. No God is there but He. Call then
upon Him, and offer Him a pure worship. Praise be to God,
the Lord of the worlds ! . . . My prayers and my worship
and my life and my death are unto God, Lord of the worlds.
He hath no associate. 4 It is He who hath brought you forth,
and gifted you with hearing and sight and heart ; yet how few
are grateful ! . . . It is He who hath sown you in the earth,
and to Him shall ye be gathered. 5 ... O my Lord, place me
not among the ungodly people. 6 ... He it is who ordaineth
the night as a garment and sleep for rest, and ordaineth the
day for waking up to life." 7

" Is not He the more worthy who answereth the oppressed
when they cry to Him, and taketh off their ills, and maketh
you to succeed your sires on the earth ? 8 God the Almighty,
the All-knowing, Forgiver of Sin, and Receiver of Penitence." 9

" Shall I seek any other Lord than God, when He is Lord of
all things ? No soul shall labour but for itself, and no burdened
one shall bear another's burden." 10

" At last ye shall return to your Lord, and He will declare
that to you about which you differ. 10 Knower of the hidden
and the manifest ! the Great, the Most High ! . . . Alike to
Him is that person among you who concealeth his words, and

1 Sura vi. 104. 2 Sura vi. 163.

3 Sura vii. 158. 4 Sura vii. v. 158.

5 Sura lxvii. 23, 24. 6 Sura xxiii. 94.

7 Sura xxv. 47. 8 Sura xxvii. 62.

• Sura xl. 1-2. 10 Sura ii, 286.



I THE IDEAL OF ISLAM 147

he that telleth them abroad ; he who hideth him in the night,
and he who cometh forth in the day." 1

" God is the light of the heavens and the earth ; His light
is as a niche in which is a lamp, and the lamp is in a glass ;
the glass is as though it were a glittering star ; it is lit from a
blessed tree, an olive neither of the east nor of the west, the
oil of which would well-nigh give light though no fire touched
it — light upon light ! God guides to His light whom He
pleases ; and God strikes out parables for men, and God all
things doth know."

' ' In the houses God has permitted to be reared and His name
to be mentioned therein, His praises are celebrated therein
mornings and evenings."

" Men whom neither merchandise nor selling divert from
the remembrance of God, and steadfastness in prayer and
giving alms, who fear a day when hearts and eyes shall be
upset, that God may recompense them for the best they have
done, and give them increase of His grace ; for God provides
whom He pleases without count."

" But those who misbelieve, their works are like the mirage
in a plain, — the thirsty counts it water till when he comes to
it he finds nothing, but he finds that God is with him, and He
will pay him his account, for God is quick to take account."

" Or like darkness on a deep sea ; there covers it a wave,
above which is a wave, above which is a cloud, — darknesses one
above the other, — when one puts out his hand he can scarcely
see it, for he to whom God has given no light he has no light."

' ' Hast thou seen that God ? All who are in the heavens and
the earth celebrate His praises, and the birds, too, spreading
out their wings ; each one knows its prayer and its praise, and
God knows what they do."

" Hast thou not seen that God drives the clouds, and then
reunites them, and then accumulates them, and thou mayest
see the rain coming forth from their midst ; and He sends down
from the sky mountains with hail therein, and He makes it
fall on whom He pleases, and He turns it from whom He
pleases ; the flashing of His lightning well-nigh goes off with
their sight."

1 Sura xiii. 9, 10, 11.



148 THE SPIRIT OF ISLAM n.

" God interchanges the night and the day ; verily in that is
a lesson to those endowed with sight."

The chapter entitled " The Merciful," which has been well
called the Benedicite of Islam, furnishes one of the finest ex-
amples of the Prophet's appeal to the testimony of nature.

" The sun and the moon in their appointed time,

The herbs and the trees adore,

And the heavens He raised them, and set the Balance that
ye should not be outrageous in the balance ;

But weigh ye aright and stint not the measure.

And the earth, He has set it for living creatures ;

Therein are fruits, and palms with sheaths, and grain with
chaff and frequent shoots.

He created man of crackling clay like the potter's, and He
created the firmament from the smokeless fire.



The Lord of the two easts and the Lord of the two wests,
He has let loose the two seas that meet together ; between

them is a barrier they cannot pass.
He brings forth from each pearls both great and small !

His are the ships which rear aloft in the sea like mountains.
Every one upon it is transient, but the face of thy Lord
endowed with majesty and honour shall endure.

Of Him whosoever is in the heaven and in the earth does
beg ; every day is He in [some fresh] work.

Blessed be the name of thy Lord, possessed of majesty and
glory."

" Every man's actions have we hung round his neck, and on
the last day shall be laid before him a wide-opened Book." i . . .
" By a soul, and Him who balanced it, and intimated to it
its wickedness and its piety, blest now is he who hath kept it
pure, and undone is he who hath corrupted it." 2 . . . "No
defect canst thou see in the creation of the God of mercy ;

1 Sura xvii. 13. 2 Sura xci. 7-9.



I. THE IDEAL OF ISLAM 149

repeat the gaze, seest thou a single flaw, then twice more
repeat the gaze, thy gaze shall return to thee dulled and
weary." l . . . "He quickeneth the earth when it is dead ;
so too shall you be brought to life."

" The heavens and the earth stand firm at His bidding ;
hereafter when at once He shall summon you from the earth,
forth shall ye come." 2 . . . " When the sun shall be folded
up, and the stars shall fall, and when the mountains shall be
set in motion ; when the she-camels shall be left, and the wild
beasts shall be gathered together ; when the seas shall boil,
and souls be re-paired [with their bodies] ; when the female
child that was buried alive shall be asked for what crime she
was put to death ; when the leaves of the Book shall be un-
rolled, and the heavens shall be stripped away, and the fire
of hell blaze forth, and paradise draw nigh, then shall every
soul know what it hath done." 3 . . . " What knowledge hast
thou [Mohammed] of the hour ? Only God knoweth its period.
It is for thee only to warn those who fear it." . . . " What
shall teach thee the inevitable ? Thamud and Ad treated
the Day of Decision as a lie. They were destroyed with
thunderbolts and roaring blasts."

And yet with all His might, His tender care and pity are
all-embracing :

" By the noonday brightness, and by the night when it
darkeneth, thy Lord hath not forsaken thee, neither hath He
been displeased. Surely the future shall be better for thee
than the past ; and in the end He shall be bounteous to thee,
and thou shalt be satisfied. Did He not find thee an orphan,
and give thee a home ; erring, and guided thee ; needy, and
enriched thee ? As to the orphan, then, wrong him not ;
and chide not away him that asketh of thee, and tell abroad
the favours of thy Lord." 4 " Did ye think We had made you
for sport, and that ye should not be brought back again to us ?
" O our God, punish us not if we forget and fall into sin ;
blot out our sins and forgive us." " Have mercy, O Lord,
for of the merciful, Thou art the best." 5 " The heavy laden

1 Sura lxvii. 4. * Sura xxx. 25.

3 Sura lxxxi. 4 Sura xciii.

6 Sura xxiii. 118.



150 THE SPIRIT OF ISLAM ii.

shall not bear another's load. We never punished till we had
sent an apostle." " This clear Book, behold, on a blessed
night have we sent it down for a warning to mankind." " Not
to sadden thee have we sent it thee."

And so on goes this wonderful book, appearing to the nobler
feelings of man, — his inner consciousness and his moral sense,
proving and manifesting the enormity of idolatrous beliefs.
Scarcely a chapter but contains some fervid passages on the
power, mercy, and unity of God. The Islamic conception of
the Almighty has been misunderstood by Christian writers.
The God of Islam is commonly represented as "a pitiless
tyrant, who plays with humanity as on a chess-board, and works
out His game without regard to the sacrifice of the pieces."
Let us see if this estimate is correct. The God of Islam is the
All-mighty, the All-knowing, the All-just, the Lord of the
worlds, the Author of the heavens and the earth, the Creator
of life and death, in whose hand is dominion and irresistible
power ; the great, all-powerful Lord of the glorious Throne.
God is the Mighty, the Strong, the Most High, the Producer,
the Maker, the Fashioner, the Wise, the Just, the True, the
Swift in reckoning, who knoweth every ant's weight of good
and of ill that each man hath done, and who suffereth not the
reward of the faithful to perish. But the Almighty, the All-
wise, is also the King, the Holy, the Peaceful, the Faithful,
the Guardian over His servants, the Shelterer of the orphan,
the Guide of the erring, the Deliverer from every affliction,
the Friend of the bereaved, the Consoler of the afflicted ;
in His hand is good, and He is the generous Lord, the Gracious,
the Hearer, the Near-at-Hand, the Compassionate, the Merciful,
the Very-forgiving, whose love for man is more tender than
that of the mother-bird for her young.

The mercy of the Almighty is one of the grandest themes of
the Koran. The very name [Ar-Rahman] with which each
chapter opens, and with which He is invoked, expresses a deep,
all-penetrating conviction of that love, that divine mercy
which enfolds creation. 1

The moral debasement of the followers of the two previous
Dispensations wrings the Teacher's heart, and then burst forth

1 Sura iii. 124, xxv. 50, xxviii. 74, xlii. 3, etc. etc.



i. THE IDEAL OF ISLAM 151

denunciations on the Christians and the Jews for the super-
stitious rites they practised in defiance of the warnings of their
prophets. The fire of religious zeal, that had burned in the
bosoms of Isaiah and Jeremiah, was rekindled in the breast
of another and far greater man. He denounces ; but above
the wail, the cry of agony at the degradation of humanity, is
heard the voice of hope.

The Koran severely censures the Jews for their " worship
of false gods and idols," the teraphim before referred to, and
for their exaggerated reverence for the memory of Ezra ;
the Christians, for their adoration of Jesus and his mother.
" Hast thou not seen those to whom a portion of the Scriptures
have been given ? They believe in false gods and idols. They
say to the unbelievers they are better directed in the right
way than those that believe [the Moslems]." 1 " The Jews
say, Ezra is the son of God ; the Christians say, al-Masih
(Jesus) is the son of God. How infatuated they are ! They
take their priests and their monks for their lords besides
God. . . . They seek to extinguish the light of God with
their mouths." 2 . . . " The Jews and the Christians say,
We are the children of God, and His beloved." 3 " Many
of those unto whom the Scriptures have been given 4 desire
to render you again unbelievers, after ye have believed. . . .
Be constant in prayer, and give alms ; and what good ye have
sent before you for your souls, ye shall find it with God." . . .
" They say, Verily, none shall enter paradise except those who
are Jews or Christians. . . . Say, Produce your proof if ye
speak the truth. Nay, but he who directeth towards God,
and doth that which is right, he shall have his reward with
his Lord." 5

" O ye who have received the Scriptures, exceed not the just
bounds in your religion, neither say of God otherwise than the
truth. Verily, al-Masih, the son of Mary, is the apostle of
God and His word. Believe therefore in God and His apostles,
and say not, There are three Gods ; forbear this . . . al-Masih
doth not proudly disdain to be a servant unto God." 6 " It

1 Sura iv. 45. * Sura ix. 30-32. 3 Sura v. 18.

4 The Jews, the Christians, and the Zoroastrians. 6 Sura v. 105, 106.

• Sura iv. 171,



152 THE SPIRIT OF ISLAM ii.

beseemeth not a man, that God should give him the Scriptures,
and the wisdom, and the gift of prophecy, and that then he
should say to his followers, ' Be ye worshippers of me, as well
as of God,' but rather, ' Be ye perfect in things pertaining
to God, since ye know the Scriptures, and have studied
deep.' "

The following passage shows the feeling with which such
religious conceptions were regarded : " They say the God of
mercy hath gotten to himself a son. 1 Now have ye uttered a
grievous thing ; and it wanted but little that the heaven should
be torn open, and that the earth cleave asunder, and the
mountains fall down, for that they attribute children unto the
Merciful ; whereas it is not meet for God to have children.
Verily there is none in heaven or on earth but shall approach
the Merciful as His servant. He encompasseth them." 2 . . .

But the inspired Preacher whose mission it is to proclaim
the Truth does not confound the good with the bad : " Yet
they are not all alike ; there are of those who have received
the Scriptures, upright people ; they meditate on the signs
of God in the night season, and worship ; they believe in God
and the last day ; and command that which is just ; and
forbid that which is unjust, and zealously strive to excel in
good works ; these are of the righteous." 3

The mutual and burning hatred of Jew and Christian, the
savage wars of Nestorian and Monophysite, the meaningless
wrangle of the sects, the heartless and heart-rending logomachy
of the Byzantine clergy, ever and anon bring down denuncia-
tions like the following :

" To Jesus and other apostles we gave manifest signs ; and
if God had pleased, their followers would not have fallen into
these disputes. But God doeth what He will ! " " Mankind
was but one people, and God sent them prophets of warning
and glad tidings, and the Book of Truth to settle all disputes.
Yet none disputed like those to whom the Book had been sent ;
for they were filled with jealousy of each other." " O people
of the Book, why wrangle about Abraham ? Why contend
about that whereof ye know nothing ? "

The primary aim of the new Dispensation was to infuse or

1 Sura hi. 78. a Sura xix. 91-94. 3 Sura iii. 112. 113.



i. THE IDEAL OF ISLAM 153

revive in the heart of humanity a living perception of truth
in the common relations of life. " The moral ideal of the new
gospel," to use the phraseology of an eminent writer, " was
set in the common sense of duty and the familiar instances of
love."

" Verily, those people 1 have now passed away ; they have
the reward of their deeds ; and ye shall have the meed of
yours; of their doings ye shall not be questioned." 2 "Every
soul shall bear the good and the evil for which it has laboured ;
and God will burden none beyond its power." " Blessed is
he who giveth away his substance that he may become pure,
and who offereth not favours to any one for the sake of recom-
pense . . . but only as seeking the approval of his Lord the
Most High." 3

" They are the blest who, though longing for it themselves,
bestowed their food on the poor and the orphan and the
captive [saying], ' We feed you for the sake of God : we seek
from you neither recompense nor thanks.' " 4

" Worship God alone ; be kind to kindred and servants,
orphans and the poor ; speak righteously to men, pray, and
pay alms." " Defer humbly to your parents ; with humility
and tenderness say, O Lord, be merciful to them, even as they
brought me up when I was helpless." " Abandon the old
barbarities, blood-vengeance, and child-murder, and be united
as one flesh." " Do thy alms openly or in secret, for both
are well." Give of that which hath been given you before
the day cometh when there shall be no trafficking, nor friend-
ship, nor intercession." " Wouldst thou be taught the steep
[path] ? It is to ransom the captive, to feed the hungry, the
kindred, the orphan, and him whose mouth is in the dust."
"Be of those who enjoin steadfastness and compassion on
others." 5 " Woe to them that make show of piety, and
refuse help to the needy." " Make not your alms void by
reproaches or injury." " Forgiveness and kind speech are
better than favours with annoyance." " Abandon usury."
" He who spendeth his substance to be seen of men, is like a

1 I.e. Abraham, Ishmael, and Isaac, and the tribes.

2 Sura ii. 128. s Sura xcii. 18, 20.
4 Sura lxxvi. 8, 9. 5 Sura xc. 12-17.



154 THE SPIRIT OF ISLAM ii.

rock with thin soil over it, whereon the rain falleth and leaveth
it hard. But they who expend their substance to please God
and establish their souls, are like a garden on a hill, on which
the rain falleth and it yieldeth its fruits twofold ; and even
if the rain doth not fall, yet is there a dew."

" Judge between men with truth, and follow not thy passions,
lest they cause thee to err from the way of God." x " Covet
not another's gifts from God." " There is no piety in turning
the face east or west, but in believing in God only and doing
good." " Make the best of all things ; enjoin justice and avoid
the foolish ; and if Satan stir thee to evil, take refuge in God."
" Touch not the goods of the orphan. 2 Perform your covenant,
and walk not proudly on the earth." " The birth of a
daughter brings dark shadows on a man's face." ... " Kill
not your children for fear of want : for them and for you will
We provide. Verily the killing them is a great wickedness." 3
" God hath given you wives that ye may put love and tender-
ness between you."

" Reverence the wombs that bear you." " Commit not
adultery ; for it is a foul thing and an evil way." 4 " Let the
believer restrain his eyes from lust ; let women make no
display of ornaments, save to their own kindred."

" Know ye that this world's life is a cheat, the multiplying
of riches and children is like the plants that spring up after
rain, rejoicing the husbandman, then turn yellow and wither
away. In the next life is severe chastisement, or else pardon
from God and His peace." " Abandon the semblance of
wickedness and wickedness itself. They, verily, whose only
acquirement is iniquity, shall be rewarded for what they
shall have gained." 5 " Those who abstain from vanities and
the indulgence of their passions, give alms, offer prayers, and
tend well their trusts and their covenants, these shall be the
heirs of eternal happiness." 6 " Show kindness to your parents,
whether one or both of them attain to old age with thee : and
say not to them ' Fie ! ' neither reproach them ; but speak to
them both with respectful speech and tender affection." 7

1 Sura xxxviii. 25. 2 Sura xvii. 37. 3 Sura xvii. 33.

4 Sura xvii. 32. i Sura vi. 121. 6 Sura xxiii. 8.

7 Sura xvii. 23.



I. THE IDEAL OF ISLAM 155

" And to him who is of kin render his due, and also to the poor
and to the wayfarer ; yet waste not wastefully." 1

" And let not thy hand be tied up to thy neck ; nor yet
open it with all openness, lest thou sit thee down in rebuke in
beggary." 2 " Enjoin my servants to speak in kindly sort." 3
" Turn aside evil with that which is better." 4 " Just balances
will We set up for the day of the Resurrection, neither shall any
soul be wronged in aught ; though were a work but the weight
of a grain of mustard seed, We would bring it forth to be weighed :
and Our reckoning will suffice." 5 " Seek pardon of your Lord
and be turned unto Him : verily, my Lord is merciful, loving." 6
" And your Lord saith, ' Call upon me, I will hearken unto
you." 7 " Say : O my servants who have transgressed to
your own injury, despair not of God's mercy, for all sins doth
God forgive. Gracious, merciful is He ! " 8 " The good
word riseth up to Him, and the righteous deed will He
exalt." 9

" Truly my Lord hath forbidden filthy actions, whether
open or secret, and iniquity, and unjust violence." 10

" Call upon your Lord with lowliness and in secret, for He
loveth not transgressors. And commit not disorders on the
well-ordered earth after it hath been well ordered ; and call
on Him with fear and longing desire : Verily the mercy of God
is nigh unto the righteous." n " Moreover, We have enjoined
on man to show kindness to his parents. With pain his
mother beareth him ; with pain she bringeth him forth ; and
he saith, ' O my Lord ! stir me up to be grateful for Thy
favours wherewith Thou hast favoured me and my parents,
and to good works which shall please Thee ; and prosper me
in my offspring : for to Thee am I turned, and am resigned to
Thy will.' " 12 " For them is a dwelling of peace with their
Lord ; and in recompense for their works shall He be their
protector." 13 " Lost are they who, in their ignorance, have
foolishly slain their children, and have forbidden that which

1 Sura xvii. 26. 2 Sura xvii. 29. 3 Sura xvii. 53.

4 Sura xxiii. 96. * Sura xxi. 47. 6 Sura xi. 90.

' Sura xl. 60. 8 Sura xxxix. 53. 9 Sura xxxv. 10.

10 Sura vii. 33. " Sura vii. 55-58. 12 Sura xlvi. 15.
13 Sura vi. 28.



156 THE SPIRIT OF ISLAM ii.

God hath given them for food, devising an untruth against
God ! Now have they erred ; and they were not rightly
guided." 1

" The likeness of those who expend their wealth for the
cause of God, is that of a grain of corn which produceth seven
ears, and in each ear a hundred grains ; they who expend their
wealth for the cause of God, and never follow what they have
laid out with reproaches or harm, shall have their reward with
their Lord ; no fear shall come upon them, neither shall they
be put to grief. A kind speech and forgiveness is better than
alms followed by injury." 2

" God will not burden any soul beyond its power. It shall
enjoy the good which it hath acquired, and shall bear the evil
for the acquirement of which it laboured." ... " O Lord !
punish us not if we forget, or fall into sin, O our Lord ! and
lay not on us a load like that which Thou hast laid on those who
have been before us, O our Lord ! And lay not on us that for
which we have not strength : but blot out our sins and forgive
us and have pity on us." 3 " The patient and the truthful,



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