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rights to nations outside the pale of Christendom. 3

The spirit of Islam, on the contrary, is opposed to isolation
and exclusiveness. In a comparatively rude age, when the
world was immersed in darkness, moral and social, Mohammed
preached those principles of equality which are only half-
realised in other creeds, and promulgated laws which, for their
expansiveness and nobility of conception, would bear com-
parison with the records of any faith. " Islam," says an able
writer, " offered its religion, but never enforced it ; and the
acceptance of that religion conferred co-equal rights with the
conquering body, and emancipated the vanquished States from
the conditions which every conqueror, since the world existed
up to the period of Mohammed, had invariably imposed."

1 Compare Milman, Latin Christianity, vol. i. p. 352, and Lecky, History of
Rationalism in Europe, chap, on " Persecution."

2 Hallam's Const. Hist, of England, vol. i. chap. ii. p. 62. When Calvin
burnt Servetus for his opinions regarding the Trinity, his act was applauded,
says Lecky, by all sections of Protestants. Melanchthon, Bullinger, and
Farel wrote to express their warm approbation of the crime. Beza defended
it in an elaborate treatise ; Lecky, Hist, of Rationalism, vol. ii. p. 49. A
study of the penal laws of England against the Catholics, Dissenters, and
non-Conformists is enough to shock any candid mind.

3 Grotius, the founder, perhaps, of international law in Europe, formally
excepted the Moslems from all community of rights with the European nations.


By the laws of Islam, liberty of conscience and freedom of
worship were allowed and guaranteed to the followers of every
other creed under Moslem dominion. The passage in the
Koran, " Let there be no compulsion in religion," x testifies to
the principle of toleration and charity inculcated by Islam.
" If thy Lord had pleased, verily all who are in the world
would have believed together." " Wilt thou then force men
to believe when belief can come only from God ? " — " Adhere
to those who forsake you ; speak truth to your own heart ; do
good to every one that does ill to you " : these are the precepts
of a Teacher who has been accused of fanaticism and intolerance.
Let it be remembered that these are the utterances, not of a
powerless enthusiast or philosophical dreamer paralysed by the
weight of opposing forces. These are the utterances of a man
in the plenitude of his power, of the head of a sufficiently strong
and well-organised State, able to enforce his doctrines with the
edge of his reputed sword.

In religion, as in politics, individuals and sects have preached
toleration, and insisted upon its practice only so long as they
have been powerless and feeble. The moment they have
acquired strength enough to battle with the forces which they
wish to supersede, tolerance gives way to persecution. With
the accession of Constantine to the throne of the Caesars,
Christianity was safe from molestation. But from that period
commenced a system of religious persecution in its atrocity
paralleled only by that of the Jews. " From the very moment,"
says Lecky, " the Church obtained civil power under Con-
stantine, the general principle of coercion was admitted and
acted on, both against the Jews, the heretics, and pagans." 2
They were tortured with every refinement of cruelty ; they
were burnt at a slow-consuming fire to enable them to think
of the charity and humanity of the church of Christ. Father
after father wrote about the holiness of persecution. One of
the greatest saints of the Church, " a saint of the most tender
and exquisite piety " — supplied arguments for the most
atrocious persecution. Except during the titanic struggles in
Europe at the beginning of the nineteenth century, the Christian

1 Sura ii. 257 (a Medina sura).

2 Comp. Hallam, Const. Hist, of England, vol. i. chap. iii. p. 98.


church, purporting to derive its authority from the Apostles,
has never hesitated to encourage war, 1 — or to give its sanction,
in the name of religion and " the glory of Christ," to exter-
minating enterprises against heretics and heathens. These
had no claims on Christian humanity or the law of nations ;
nor have the poor black races now ! In the fifteenth century,
the Pope granted a special charter by which the non-Christian
world was allotted to the Portuguese and Spaniards in equal
shares with absolute power to convert the inhabitants in any
way they chose ! History records how liberally they construed
the permission. And all the atrocious doctrines relating to
persecution and the treatment of non-Christians are unjustly
based upon the words of Jesus himself ! Did not the Master
say, " Compel them to come in " ?

In the hour of his greatest triumph, when the Arabian
Prophet entered the old shrine of Mecca and broke down the
idols, it was not in wrath or religious rage, but in pity, that he
said — " Truth is come, darkness departeth," — announcing
amnesty almost universal, commanding protection to the weak
and poor, and freeing fugitive slaves.

Mohammed did not merely preach toleration ; he embodied
it into a law. To all conquered nations he offered liberty of
worship. A nominal tribute was the only compensation they
were required to pay for the observance and enjoyment of their
faith. Once the tax or tribute was agreed upon, every inter-
ference with their religion or the liberty of conscience was
regarded as a direct contravention of the laws of Islam. 2
Could so much be said of other creeds ? Proselytism by the
sword was wholly contrary to the instincts of Mohammed, and
wrangling over creeds his abhorrence. Repeatedly he exclaims,
" Why wrangle over that which you know not ; try to excel in
good works ; when you shall return to God, He will tell you
about that in which you have differed."

We must now return to our examination of the wars of the
Prophet. We have seen that the various conflicts of the

1 In the colossal and devastating struggle of the twentieth century, in
which all the great nations of Christendom were engaged, the ministers of
religion on both sides took vehement part in fostering the warlike spirit.

2 See chapter on The Political Spirit of Islam.


Moslems under Mohammed with the surrounding tribes were
occasioned by the aggressive and unrelenting hostility of the
idolaters, and were necessary for self-defence.

The battle of Miita and the campaign of Tabuk, the earliest
demonstrations against a foreign State, arose out of the
assassination of an envoy by the Greeks. Probably we should
not have heard of the promulgation of Islam by the sword had
the Moslems not punished the eastern Christians for this
murder. The battle of Muta was indecisive, and the campaign
of Tabuk, which was entirely defensive in its nature (being-
undertaken to repulse the gathering of the forces of Heraclius) ,
left this international crime unpunished during the lifetime of
the Prophet ; but his successors did not forget it, and a heavy
penalty was exacted.

The extent of the Greek empire brought the Moslems into a
state of belligerency with the greatest portion of Christendom.
Besides, the anomalous position occupied by the governors of
the provinces under the waning suzerainty of the Byzantine
emperors rendered it impossible for the Moslem Chiefs to put
an end to this condition of affairs by means of treaty-stipula-
tions with any one of them. Before one could be subdued and
brought to terms another committed some act of hostility,
and compelled the Moslems to punish him. Hence the career
once entered upon, they were placed in just warfare with nearly
the whole of Christendom. 1

Religion has often furnished to designing chieftains, among
Moslems as among Christians, a pretext for the gratification of
ambition. The Moslem casuists, like the Christian jurists and
divines, have divided the world into two regions — the Ddr

1 See Urquhart's Isldm as a Political System. I do not mean to assert that
the Moslems were never actuated by the spirit of aggression or by cupidity.
It would be showing extreme ignorance of human nature to make such an
assertion. It was hardly possible, that after the unprecedented progress
they had made against their enemies and assailants, and after becoming
aware of the weakness of the surrounding nations, they should still retain
their moderation, and keep within the bounds of the law. Nor do I shut
my eyes to the fact that there have been wars among the followers of Moham-
med perhaps as cruelly waged as among the Christians. But these wars have
been invariably dynastic. The persecutions to which certain sects have been
subjected have arisen also, for the most part, from the same cause. The
persecution of the descendants of Mohammed, the children of Ali and Fatima,
by the Ommeyyades, found its origin in the old hatred of the Koreish to
Mohammed and the Hashimis, as I shall show hereafter.


ul-Harb and the Ddr ul-Isldm, the counterparts of Heathendom
and Christendom. An examination, however, of the principles
upon which the relations of Moslem states with non-Moslem
countries were based, shows a far greater degree of liberality
than has been evinced by Christian writers on international
law. It is only in recent times, and under stress of circum-
stances that non-Christian states have been admitted into the
" comity of nations." The Moslem jurists, on the other hand,
differentiate between the condition of belligerency and that of
peace. The expression, Ddr ul-Harb, 1 thus includes countries
with which the Moslems are at war ; whilst the States with
which they are at peace are the Ddr ul-Amdn. 2 The harbi, the
inhabitants of the Ddr ul-Harb, is an alien, pure and simple.
He has no right to enter Islamic States without express permis-
sion. But once he receives the amdn or guarantee of safety
from even the poorest Moslem, he is perfectly secure from
molestation for the space of one year. On the expiration of
that period, he is bound to depart. The inhabitant of the
Ddr ul-Amdn is a mustdmin. The amdn may be for ever or for
a limited duration ; but so long as it lasts, the mustdmin's
treatment is regulated in strict accordance with the terms of
the treaty with his country. 3 The mustdmins were governed
by their own laws, were exempt from taxation and enjoyed
other privileges.

The spirit of aggression never breathed itself into that code
which formally incorporated the Law of Nations with the
religion ; and the followers of Mohammed, in the plenitude of
their power, were always ready to say to their enemies, " Cease
all hostility to us, and be our allies, and we shall be faithful to
you ; or pay tribute, and we will secure and protect you in all
your rights ; or adopt our religion, and you shall enjoy every
privilege we ourselves possess."

The principal directions of Mohammed, on which the Moslem
laws of war are founded, show the wisdom and humanity
which animated the Islamic system : " And fight for the
religion of God against those who fight against you ; but

1 Lit. The country of war. 2 The country of peace.

3 These Am&ns formed the origin of the Capitulations which have proved
the ruin of Turkish resources.


transgress not (by attacking them first), for God loveth not
the transgressors ; ... if they attack you, slay them ; „ . . but
if they desist, let there be no hostility, except against the
ungodly." x

In turning their arms against Persia the Moslems were led
on by circumstances. The Munzirs, a dynasty of semi- Arab
kings who reigned under the shadow of the Persian monarchy,
though politically hostile, were allied to the Byzantines by ties
of faith and community of interests. The first conflicts of the
Moslems with the Greeks naturally re-acted on the Hirites, the
subjects of the Munzirs. The Hirite territories comprehended
a large tract of country, from the banks of the Euphrates west-
ward, overlapping the desert of Irak, and almost reaching the
pasturage of the Ghassanide Arabs, who owned allegiance to
the Byzantines.

The position of Hira under the Persians was similar to that
of Judaea under Augustus or Tiberias. About the time of the
Moslem conquest a Persian nominee ruled this principality ;
but the jealousy of the Chosroes associated a marzbdn, or
satrap, with the successor of the Munzirs, whose subjects, as
impatient of control then as their descendants now, engaged
in predatory raids on the neighbouring tribes, and became
involved in hostilities with the Moslems. A strong government
under the guidance of a single ruler, whose power had become
doubly consolidated after the suppression of the revolts of the
nomads on the death of the Prophet, was little inclined to
brook quietly the insults of the petty dependency of a tottering
empire. A Moslem army marched upon Hira ; the marzbdn
fled to Madain (Ctesiphon), the capital of the Persian empire,
and the Arab chief submitted, almost without a struggle, to
the Moslems under Khalid bin-Walid.

The conquest of Hira brought the Moslems to the threshold
of the dominions of the Chosroes. Persia had, after a long
period of internecine conflict, signalised by revolting murders
and atrocities, succeeded in obtaining an energetic ruler, in the
person of Yezdjard. Under the directions of this sovereign,
the Persian general brought an imposing force to bear on the
Moslems. The great Omar who now ruled at Medina, before

1 Sura ii. 186, compare ver. 257.


taking up the challenge, offered to Yezdjard, through his
deputies, the usual terms by which war might be avoided.
These terms were, the profession of Islam, which meant the
reform of the political abuses that had brought the Sasanian
empire so low ; the reduction of all those heavy taxes and
perquisites, 1 which sucked out the life-blood of the nation ;
and the administration of justice by the code of Mohammed,
which held all men, without distinction of rank or office, equal
in the eye of the law. The alternative offer was the payment
of tribute in return for protection. These terms were disdain-
fully refused by the Persian monarch and the days of Kadesia
followed. After the conquest of Madain (Ctesiphon), the
Caliph promulgated peremptory orders that under no circum-
stance should the Moslems cross the Tigris towards the East,
and that that river should for ever form the boundary between
the Persian and the Saracenic empires. Upon this basis a
peace was concluded. But Iran chafed under the loss of
Mesopotamia ; and the successive breaches of faith by the
Persians led to Nehavend. The Kesra's power was irretrievably
shattered ; many of his nobles and the chiefs of the priesthood,
whose interest it was to keep up the reign of disorder and
oppression, were cut off, and he himself became a fugitive like
another Darius. The nation at large hailed the Moslems as
their deliverers. 2 The advance of the Saracens from the Tigris
to the Elburz and from the Elburz to Transoxiana was not
different from that of the British in India and due to similar

The general conversion of the Persians to the religion of
Mohammed is often taken as a proof of the intolerant character
of Islam. But, in the blindness of bigotry, even scholars forget
the circumstances under which the Moslems entered the
country. Every trace of religious life was extinct among the
people ; the masses were ground down by the worst of all
evils, a degenerate priesthood and a licentious oligarchy. The
Mazdakian and Manichaean heresies had loosened every rivet

1 Save the tenth on landed property, and 2| per cent, of every man's means
for the poor, the distribution of which would have been left to himself and
his officers.

2 Yezdjard, like Darius, was assassinated by his own people. See The
Short History of the Saracens (Macmillan, 1921), p. 32.


in the social fabric. Kesra Anushirvan had only postponed
for a time the general disruption of society.

The consequence was, that as soon as the Moslems entered
the country as the precursors of law and order, a general con-
version took place, and Persia became for ever attached to
Islam. 1

An impartial analyst of facts will now be able to judge for
himself how much truth there is in the following remark of
Muir : "It was essential to the permanence of Islam that its
aggressive course should be continuously pursued, and that its
claim to an universal acceptance, or, at the least, to an universal
supremacy, should be enforced at the point of the sword." 2
Every religion, in some stage of its career, has, from the
tendencies of its professors, been aggressive. Such also has
been the case with Islam ; but that it ever aims at proselytism
by force, or that it has been more aggressive than other religions,
must be entirely denied. 3

Islam seized the sword in self-defence, and held it in self-
defence, as it will ever do. But Islam never interfered with
the dogmas of any moral faith, never persecuted, never
established an Inquisition. It never invented the rack or the
stake for stifling difference of opinion, or strangling the human
conscience, or exterminating heresy. No one who has a com-
petent knowledge of history can deny that the Church of
Christ, when it pretended to be most infallible, " shed more
innocent blood than any other institution that has ever existed
among mankind " ; whilst the fate of the man or woman who
forsook the Church, or even expressed a preference for any
other creed, was no less cruel. 4 In 1521, death and confisca-
tion of property was decreed by Charles V. against all heretics.
Burnings and hangings, and tearing out and twisting of tongues

1 As a testimony to the spirit which animated the Moslems, we quote the
following from Gibbon : " The administration of Persia was regulated by an
actual survey of the people, the cattle, and the fruits of the earth ; and this
monument, which attests the vigilance of the Caliphs, might have instructed
the philosophers of every age." — Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, vol. v.
p. 97. See also Suyuti, Tdrikh ul-Khulafd (History of the Caliphs).

2 Muir, Life of Mahomet, vol. iii. p. 251.

3 Compare Niebuhr's remarks in his Description de I'Arabie.

4 In the seventeenth century a young man was hanged for having said, it is
stated, that he did not think Mohammed was a bad man.


were the usual penalties of refusal to adopt the orthodox
communion. In England, after it became Protestant, the
Presbyterians, through a long succession of reigns, were
imprisoned, branded, mutilated, scourged, and exposed in the
pillory. In Scotland, they were hunted like criminals over
the mountains ; their ears were torn from the roots ; they
were branded with hot irons ; their fingers were wrenched
asunder by thumbkins ; the bones of their legs were shattered
in the boots. Women were scourged publicly through the
streets. The Catholics were tortured and hanged. Anabaptists
and Arians were burnt alive. But as regards non-Christians,
Catholics and Protestants, orthodox and un-orthodox, were in
perfect accord. Musulmans and Jews were beyond the pale
of Christendom. In England, the Jews were tortured and
hanged. In Spain, the Moslems were burnt Marriages between
Christians and Jews, and Christians and " infidels," were null
and void, in fact prohibited under terrible and revolting
penalties. Even now, Christian America burns alive a Christian
negro marrying a Christian white woman ! Such has been the
effect produced by Christianity.

To this day, wherever scientific thought has not infused a
new soul, wherever true culture has not gained a foothold, the
old spirit of exclusiveness and intolerance, the old ecclesiastical
hatred of Islam, displays itself in writings, in newspaper
attacks, in private conversations, in public speeches. The
spirit of persecution is not dead in Christianity ; it is lying
dormant, ready to burst into flame at the touch of the first

Let us turn from this picture to the world of Islam. Whilst
orthodox Christianity persecuted with equal ferocity the Jews
and Nestorians, — the descendants of the men who were sup-
posed to have crucified its Incarnate God, and the men who
refused to adore his mother, — Islam afforded them both
shelter and protection. Whilst Christian Europe was burning
witches and heretics, and massacring Jews and " infidels,"
the Moslem sovereigns were treating their non-Moslem subjects
with consideration and tolerance. They were the trusted
subjects of the State, councillors of the empire. Every secular
office was open to them along with the Moslems. The Teacher


himself had declared it lawful for a Moslem to intermarry with
a Christian, Hebrew, or Zoroastrian. The converse was not
allowed, for obvious political reasons. Moslem Turkey and
Persia entrust their foreign interests to the charge of their
Christian subjects. In Christendom, difference of faith has
been a crime ; in Islam it is an accident. " To Christians,"
says Urquhart, " a difference of religion was indeed a ground
for war, and that not merely in dark times and amongst
fanatics." From the massacres, in the name of religion, of the
Saxons, the Frisians and other Germanic tribes by Charle-
magne ; from the burning to death of the thousands of innocent
men and women ; from the frightful slaughters of the Arians,
the Paulicians, the Albigenses and the Huguenots, from the
horrors of the sacks of Magdeburg and Rome, from the san-
guinary scenes of the Thirty Years' War, down to the cruel
persecutions of Calvinistic Scotland and Lutheran England,
there is an uninterrupted chain of intolerance, bigotry, and
fanaticism. Can anything be more heart-rending than the
wholesale extermination of the unoffending races of America
in the name of Christ ?

It has been said that a warlike spirit was infused into
mediaeval Christianity by aggressive Islam ! The massacres
of Justinian and the fearful wars of Christian Clovis in the
name of religion, occurred long before the time of Mohammed.

Compare, again, the conduct of the Christian Crusaders with
that of the Moslems. " When the Khalif Omar took Jeru-
salem, a.d. 637, he rode into the city by the side of the
Patriarch Sophronius, conversing with him on its antiquities.
At the hour of prayer, he declined to perform his devotions in
the Church of the Resurrection, in which he chanced to be, but
prayed on the steps of the Church of Constantine ; for, said he
to the Patriarch, ' had I done so, the Musulmans in a future
age might have infringed the treaty, under colour of imitating
my example.' But in the capture by the Crusaders, the brains
of young children were dashed out against the walls ; infants
were pitched over the battlements ; men were roasted at fires ;
some were ripped up, to see if they had swallowed gold ; the
Jews were driven into their synagogue, and there burnt ; a
massacre of nearly 70,000 persons took place ; and the pope's


legate was seen partaking in the triumph ! " x When Saladin
recaptured the city, he released all Christians, gave them money
and food, and allowed them to depart with a safe-conduct. 2

Islam " grasped the sword " in self-defence ; Christianity
grasped it in order to stifle freedom of thought and liberty of
belief. With the conversion of Constantine, Christianity had
become the dominant religion of the Western world. It had
thenceforth nothing to fear from its enemies ; but from the
moment it obtained the mastery, it developed its true character
of isolation and exclusiveness. Wherever Christianity pre-
vailed, no other religion could be followed without molestation.
The Moslems, on the other hand, required from others a simple
guarantee of peace and amity, tribute in return for protection,
or perfect equality, — the possession of equal rights and
privileges, — on condition of the acceptance of Islam.

1 Draper, History of the Intellectual Development of Europe, vol. ii. p. 22.

2 For a full account, see The Short History of the Saracens, p. 356.


IN certain stages of social development, polygamy, or more
properly speaking, polygyny, — the union of one man with
several women, — is an unavoidable circumstance. The
frequent tribal wars and the consequent decimation of the male
population, the numerical superiority of women, combined

Online LibrarySyed Ameer AliThe spirit of Islâm : a history of the evolution and ideals of Islâm → online text (page 26 of 55)