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bloodshed. To a non-Christian, the doctrines of the Mono-
physites, who taught that " the divine and human nature of
Christ were so founded as to form only one nature, yet without
any change, confusion, or mixture of the two natures," seem
to be in no way different from those laid down by the Council
of Chalcedon. And yet this distinction without a difference
was the cause of untold misery to a large number of the human



Hi THE SPIRIT OF ISLAM

race. At last, in 630 A.c, Heraclius tried to allay the disorders
by starting a new sect, that of the Monothelites, whose doctrines
were no less monstrous and fantastical. The Monothelites
maintained that " Christ was both perfect God and perfect
man, and that in him were two distinct natures so united as to
cause no mixture or confusion, but to form by their union
only one person." Instead, however, of bringing peace into
the bosom of the Church of Jesus, the rise of this sect intensi-
fied the evil ; and Western Asia, Northern Africa, and various
parts of Europe continued to be the scene of massacres and
murders and every kind of outrage in the name of Christ.

Such was the religious condition of Christendom during the
centuries which preceded the advent of Islam.

With the apparent conversion of Constantine, Christianity
became the dominant power in the Roman empire. The fate
of paganism was sealed. Its downfall, though staved off for
a time by the greatest and most sincere of the Roman emperors,
had become inevitable. " After the extinction of paganism,"
says Gibbon, " the Christians, in peace and piety, might have
enjoyed their solitary triumph. But the principle of discord
was alive in their bosom, and they were more solicitous to
explore the nature than to practise the laws of their founder." *
The whole of Christian Europe was immersed in absolute
darkness, and the Church of Jesus was rent with schisms and
heresies. The religious conception of the masses had not
advanced beyond the pagan stage ; the souls of the dead were
worshipped in numbers, and the images of those who were
honoured in life were objects of adoration. Relic and saint
worship had become universal ; Christianity had reverted to
heathenism.

The social and political condition of the nations subject to
the sway of Christianity was equally deplorable. Liberty of
thought and freedom of judgment were crushed out from
among mankind. And the reign of Christ was celebrated by
the sacrifice of heretics who ventured to differ from any idea
which predominated for the time.

1 The Emperor Julian (the so-called Apostate) is reported to have said :
" No wild beasts are so hostile to man as Christian sects in general are to one
another."



INTRODUCTION liii

In the streets of Alexandria, before the eyes of the civilised
world, the noblest woman of antiquity was slaughtered with
nameless horrors by a Christian who bears the title of saint
in the annals of Christendom, and who, in modern times, has
found an apologist. The eloquent pages of Draper furnish
a vivid account of the atrocious crime which will always
remain one of the greatest blots on Christianity. A beautiful,
wise, and virtuous woman, whose lecture-room was full to
overflowing with the wealth and fashion of Alexandria, was
attacked as she was coming out of her academy by a mob of
the zealous professors of Christianity. Amidst the fearful
yelling of these defenders of the faith she was dragged from her
chariot, and in the public street stripped naked. Paralysed
with fear, she was haled into an adjoining church, and there
killed by the club of a " saint." The poor naked corpse was
outraged and then dismembered ; but the diabolical crime was
not completed until they had scraped the flesh from the bones
with oyster shells and cast the remnants into the fire. Christen-
dom honoured with canonisation the fiend who instigated this
terrible and revolting atrocity, and the blood of martyred
Hypatia was avenged only by the sword of Amru ! l

The condition of Constantinople under Justinian, the
Christian and the glorified legislator, is the best index to the
demoralised and degraded state of society all over Christendom.
Public or private virtue had no recognition in the social con-
ceptions ; a harlot sat on the throne of the Caesars, and shared
with the emperor the honours of the State. Theodora had
publicly plied her trade in the city of Constantine, and her
name was a byword among its dissolute inhabitants. And
now she was adored as a queen in the same city by " grave
magistrates, orthodox bishops, victorious generals, and captive
monarchs." The empire was disgraced by her cruelties, which
recognised no religious or moral restraint. Seditions, out-
breaks, and sanguinary tumults, in which the priesthood
always took the most prominent part, were the order of the day.
On these occasions every law, human or divine, was trampled
under foot ; churches and altars were polluted by atrocious
murders ; no place was safe or sacred from depredations ;

1 'Amr(u) ibn al-'Asi or 'As of Arabian history.



liv THE SPIRIT OF ISLAM

the bonds of society were rent asunder, and revolting
outrages were perpetrated in broad daylight. Nothing, how-
ever, can equal the horrors which were inflicted upon this
unholy city during the Nika riots in the fifth year of Justinian's
reign. The horrible anarchy of the circus, with its incessant
bloodshed and sensuality, stimulated to its worst excesses
by the support and encouragement which the imperial cham-
pions of orthodoxy extended to the most barbarous of the
factions, was unparalleled in any heathen land.

As compared with Constantinople at this period, Persia was
a country of order and law.

Humanity revolts from the accounts of the crimes which
sully the annals of Christian Constantinople. Whilst the
Prophet of Islam was yet an infant, one of the most virtuous
emperors who ever ascended the throne of Byzantium was
massacred, with his children and wife, with fearful tortures
at the instance of a Christian monarch. The emperor was
dragged from his sanctuary, and his five sons were successively
murdered before his eyes ; and this tragic scene closed with
the execution of the emperor himself. The empress and her
daughters were subjected to nameless cruelties and then
beheaded on the very ground which had been stained with the
blood of the poor Emperor Maurice. The ruthless treatment
meted out to the friends, companions and partisans of the
imperial victim, serves as an index to the morality of the
Byzantine Christians. Their eyes were pierced, their tongues
were torn from the root, their hands and feet were amputated ;
some expired under the lash, others in the flames, others again
were transfixed with arrows. " A simple, speedy death,"
says Gibbon, " was a mercy which they could rarely obtain."

The Byzantine empire, slowly bleeding unto death, torn by
political and religious factions, distracted with theological
wranglings, and " crazed by an insane desire to enforce uni-
formity of religious belief," offered a wretched spectacle of
assassinations, dissoluteness, and brutality. 1

1 Milman thus describes the Christianity of those days : " The Bishop of
Constantinople was the passive victim, the humble slave, or the factious
adversary of the Byzantine emperor ; rarely exercised a lofty moral control
upon his despotism. The lower clergy, whatever their more secret beneficent
or sanctifying workings on society, had sufficient power, wealth, and rank



INTRODUCTION lv

The countries included in Asiatic Turkey westward of the
Euphrates, devastated alternately by the Parthians and the
Romans, and then by the Persians and the Byzantines, pre-
sented a picture of utter hopelessness. The moral misery of
the people was surpassed by their material ruin. The followers
of Jesus, instead of alleviating, intensified the evil. Mago-
Zoroastrianism combating with a degraded Christianity in
Mesopotamia, the Nestorians engaged in deadly conflict with
the orthodox party, the earlier contests of Montanus and
the prophetesses, had converted Western Asia into a wilderness
of despair and desolation.

The whirlwinds of conquest which had passed over Africa,
the massacres, the murders, the lawlessness of the professors
and teachers of the Christian religion, had destroyed every
spark of moral life in Egypt and in the African provinces of
the decaying empire. In Europe the condition of the people
was, if possible, still more miserable. In the open day, in
the presence of the ministers of religion and the people, Narses,
the benefactor of his country, was burnt alive in the market-
place of Constantinople. In the streets of Rome, under the
eyes of the Exarch, the partisans of rival bishops waged war,
and deluged churches with the blood of Christians. Spain
exhibited a heart-rending scene of anarchy and ruin. The
rich, the privileged few, who held the principal magistracies
of the province under the emperors, or who were dignified
with the title of magistrates, were exempt from all burdens.
They lived in extreme luxury in beautiful villas, surrounded
by slaves of both sexes ; spending their time in the baths,
which were so many haunts of immorality ; or at the gaming

to tempt ambition or to degrade to intrigue ; not enough to command the
public mind for any great salutary purpose, to repress the inveterate immor-
ality of an effete age, to reconcile jarring interests, to mould together hostile
races ; in general they ruled, when they did rule, by the superstitious fears,
rather than by the reverence and attachment of a grateful people. They sank
downward into the common ignorance, and yielded to the worst barbarism —
a worn-out civilisation. Monasticism withdrew a great number of those who
might have been energetic and useful citizens into barren seclusion and
religious indolence ; but except when the monks formed themselves, as they
frequently did, into fierce political or polemic factions, they had little effect
on the conditions of society. They stood aloof from the world — the anchorites
in their desert wildernesses, the monks in their jealously-barred convents ;
and secure, as they supposed, of their own salvation, left the rest of mankind
to inevitable perdition." — Milman, Latin Christianity, vol. i, Introd. p. 4.



lvi THE SPIRIT OF ISLAM

table, when not engaged in eating and drinking. The sight
of this luxury and opulence offered a terrible contrast to the
miseries of the masses. The middle class, the free population
of the cities and the villages, were ground to the earth by the
tyranny of the Romans. Agrarian slavery had disappeared ;
its place was taken by the colonists, occupying an intermediate
position between freedom and slavery. They were in some
respects happier than the slaves. They could contract valid
marriages ; they obtained a limited share of the produce of
the lands they cultivated ; and their patrons could not take
their goods and chattels from them. But in all other respects
they were the slaves of the soil. Their personal services were
at the disposal of the State. They were liable to corporal
chastisement, like the domestic slaves ; * slaves, not of an
individual, but of the soil, they remained attached to the
lands they cultivated by an indissoluble and hereditary tie.
The condition of the slaves, who formed the bulk of the popula-
tion, was miserable beyond description. They were treated
with pitiless cruelty, worse than cattle. The invasion of the
barbarians brought with it a dire punishment upon the ill-
fated land. In their wake followed desolation, terrible and
absolute ; they ravaged, they massacred, they reduced into
slavery the women, children, and the clergy.

A vast number of Jews were settled in the peninsula for
centuries. The terrible persecutions which they suffered at
the hands of the ecclesiastics in the reign of the Visigoth
Sisebut in the year 616 a.c, lasted until Islam brought emanci-
pation to the wretched victims of ignorance and fanaticism.
It was Islam which rendered possible for Judaism to produce
such men as Maimonides or Ibn Gebrol.

Let us turn now to Arabia, that land of mystery and romance,
which has hitherto lain enwrapt in silence and solitude, isolated
from the great nations of the world, unaffected by their wars
or their polity. The armies of the Chosroes and the Caesars
had for centuries marched and re-marched by her frontiers
without disturbing her sleep of ages. And though the mutter-
ings of the distant thunder, which so frequently rolled across

1 Three hundred lashes was the usual allowance for trivial faults. See
Dozy, Hist, des Musulmans d'Espagne, vol. ii. p. 87.



INTRODUCTION lvii

the dominions of the Byzantine and the Persian, often reached
her ears, they failed to rouse her from her slumber. Her
turn, however, was come, and she found her voice in that
of the noblest of her sons.

The chain of mountains which, descending from Palestine
towards the Isthmus of Suez, runs almost parallel to the Red
Sea down to the southern extremity of the Arabian peninsula,
is designated in the Arabic language, Hijaz, or Barrier, and
gives its name to all the country it traverses until it reaches
the province of Yemen. At times the mountains run close to
the sea, at times they draw far away from the coast, leaving
long stretches of lowland, barren, desolate, and inhospitable,
with occasional green valleys and rich oases formed in
the track of the periodical rain-torrents. Beyond this range,
and eastward, stretches the steppe of Najd — the " highland "
of Arabia — a vast plateau, with deserts, mountain gorges, and
here and there green plantations refreshing to the eye. In
Hijaz, the barrier-land, lie the holy cities, Mecca and Medina,
the birthplace and cradle of Islam.

This vast region is divided into four tolerably well-defined
countries. First, to the north lies Arabia Petraea, including
the countries of the ancient Edomites and the Midianites.
Then comes Hijaz proper, containing the famous city of Yathrib,
known afterwards in history as the City of the Prophet, —
Medina't un-Nabi, or Medina. South of Hijaz proper lies the
province of Tihama, where are situated Mecca and the port of
Jeddah, — the landing-place of the pilgrims of Islam. The
fourth and the southernmost part is called Asyr, bordering on
Yemen. Yemen, properly so called, is the country forming
the south-western extremity of the Arabian Peninsula, bounded
on the west by the Red Sea, on the south by the Indian Ocean,
on the north by Hijaz, and on the east by Hazramaut (Hadh-
ramaut). The name of Yemen is often applied to southern
Arabia generally. It then includes, besides Yemen proper,
Hazramaut and the district of Mahra to the east of Hazramaut.
Beyond Mahra, at the south-east corner of the peninsula, is
Oman, and to the north of this al-Bahrain, or al-Ahsa, on the
Persian Gulf. This latter country is also called Hijr, from the
name of its principal province.



lvi THE SPIRIT OF ISLAM

table, when not engaged in eating and drinking. The sight
of this luxury and opulence offered a terrible contrast to the
miseries of the masses. The middle class, the free population
of the cities and the villages, were ground to the earth by the
tyranny of the Romans. Agrarian slavery had disappeared ;
its place was taken by the colonists, occupying an intermediate
position between freedom and slavery. They were in some
respects happier than the slaves. They could contract valid
marriages ; they obtained a limited share of the produce of
the lands they cultivated ; and their patrons could not take
their goods and chattels from them. But in all other respects
they were the slaves of the soil. Their personal services were
at the disposal of the State. They were liable to corporal
chastisement, like the domestic slaves ; * slaves, not of an
individual, but of the soil, they remained attached to the
lands they cultivated by an indissoluble and hereditary tie.
The condition of the slaves, who formed the bulk of the popula-
tion, was miserable beyond description. They were treated
with pitiless cruelty, worse than cattle. The invasion of the
barbarians brought with it a dire punishment upon the ill-
fated land. In their wake followed desolation, terrible and
absolute ; they ravaged, they massacred, they reduced into
slavery the women, children, and the clergy.

A vast number of Jews were settled in the peninsula for
centuries. The terrible persecutions which they suffered at
the hands of the ecclesiastics in the reign of the Visigoth
Sisebut in the year 616 a.c, lasted until Islam brought emanci-
pation to the wretched victims of ignorance and fanaticism.
It was Islam which rendered possible for Judaism to produce
such men as Maimonides or Ibn Gebrol.

Let us turn now to Arabia, that land of mystery and romance,
which has hitherto lain enwrapt in silence and solitude, isolated
from the great nations of the world, unaffected by their wars
or their polity. The armies of the Chosroes and the Caesars
had for centuries marched and re-marched by her frontiers
without disturbing her sleep of ages. And though the mutter-
ings of the distant thunder, which so frequently rolled across

1 Three hundred lashes was the usual allowance for trivial faults. See
Dozy, Hist, des Musuhnans d'Espagne, vol. ii. p. 87.



INTRODUCTION lvii

the dominions of the Byzantine and the Persian, often reached
her ears, they failed to rouse her from her slumber. Her
turn, however, was come, and she found her voice in that
of the noblest of her sons.

The chain of mountains which, descending from Palestine
towards the Isthmus of Suez, runs almost parallel to the Red
Sea down to the southern extremity of the Arabian peninsula,
is designated in the Arabic language, Hijaz, or Barrier, and
gives its name to all the country it traverses until it reaches
the province of Yemen. At times the mountains run close to
the sea, at times they draw far away from the coast, leaving
long stretches of lowland, barren, desolate, and inhospitable,
with occasional green valleys and rich oases formed in
the track of the periodical rain-torrents. Beyond this range,
and eastward, stretches the steppe of Najd — the " highland "
of Arabia — a vast plateau, with deserts, mountain gorges, and
here and there green plantations refreshing to the eye. In
Hijaz, the barrier-land, lie the holy cities, Mecca and Medina,
the birthplace and cradle of Islam.

This vast region is divided into four tolerably well-defined
countries. First, to the north lies Arabia Petraea, including
the countries of the ancient Edomites and the Midianites.
Then comes Hijaz proper, containing the famous city of Yathrib,
known afterwards in history as the City of the Prophet, —
Medina't un-Nabi, or Medina. South of Hijaz proper lies the
province of Tihama, where are situated Mecca and the port of
Jeddah, — the landing-place of the pilgrims of Islam. The
fourth and the southernmost part is called Asyr, bordering on
Yemen. Yemen, properly so called, is the country forming
the south-western extremity of the Arabian Peninsula, bounded
on the west by the Red Sea, on the south by the Indian Ocean,
on the north by Hijaz, and on the east by Hazramaut (Hadh-
ramaut). The name of Yemen is often applied to southern
Arabia generally. It then includes, besides Yemen proper,
Hazramaut and the district of Mahra to the east of Hazramaut.
Beyond Mahra, at the south-east corner of the peninsula, is
Oman, and to the north of this al-Bahrain, or al-Ahsa, on the
Persian Gulf. This latter country is also called Hijr, from the
name of its principal province.



lviii THE SPIRIT OF ISLAM

Najd, the highland, is the large plateau which, commencing
westward on the eastern side of the mountains of Hijaz,
occupies the whole of Central Arabia. That portion of Najd,
which borders on Yemen, is called the Najd of Yemen, and the
northern part simply Najd. These two divisions are separated
by a mountainous province called Yemama, famous in the
history of Islam. North of Najd, stretches the Syrian desert,
not really a part of Arabia, but where the Arab tribes now roam,
free and wild, leading a nomadic life like their ancient Aramaean
predecessors. North-east are the deserts of Irak (Barriyat
ul-Irak), bordering the fertile territory of Chaldaea on the right
bank of the Euphrates, and separating it from the cultivated
portions of Arabia. Eastward, Najd is separated from al-Ahsa
by one of those strips of desert called Nafud by the Arabs.
Towards the south lies the vast desert of Dahna. It separates
Najd from Hazramaut and Mahra.

This vast region, which embraces an area twice the size of
France in the height of its power, was then as now inhabited
by two different types of people, " the people of the town "
and " the dwellers of the desert." The virtues and the defects
of the Bedawee, his devotion to his clan, his quixotic sense of
honour, with his recklessness and thirst for revenge, and his
disregard for human life, have been portrayed in vivid and
sympathetic colours by eminent writers like Burton and
Poole. But whatever the difference between the Bedouin
and the citizen, the Arab is peculiarly the child of the desert.
His passionate love of freedom and his spiritual exaltation
are the outcome of the free air which he breathes and of the
wide expanse which he treads, — conscious of his own dignity
and independence. In spite of the annual gatherings at Mecca
and 'Ukaz, the tribes and nationalities which inhabited
the soil of Arabia were far from homogeneous. Each was
more or less distinct from the other in development and
religion. This diversity was mainly due to the diversity
of their origin. Various races had peopled the peninsula
at various times. Many of them had passed away, but
their misdeeds or their prowess were fresh in the memory
of successive generations, and these traditions formed the
history of the nation. The Arabs themselves divide the



INTRODUCTION lix

races who have peopled the peninsula into three grand sub-
divisions, viz. : (i) the Arab ul-Bdidah, the extinct Arabs,
under which are included the Hamitic colonies (Kushites),
which preceded the Semites in the work of colonisation, as also
the Aramaean populations of Syria, Phoenicia, and other parts ;
(2) the 'Arab ul-'Ariba, or Mut'ariba, original Arabs, true
Semites, whom tradition represents to be descended from
Kahtan, or Joktan, and who, in their progress towards the
south, destroyed the aboriginal settlers. The Joktanite
Arabs, nomads by nature, super-imposed themselves in those
countries on the primitive inhabitants, the Hamitic astral-
worshippers. Their original cradle was the region whence also
came the Abrahamites, and is precisely indicated by the
significant names of two of the direct ancestors of Joktan,
Arphaxad, " border of the Chaldaean," and Eber, " the man
from beyond (the river)," in reference to Babylon, or the
district now called Irak-Araby, on the right bank of the
Euphrates. 1 (3) The 'Arab ul-Must' ariba, " or naturalised
Arabs," Abrahamitic Semites, who, either as peaceful immi-
grants or as military colonists, introduced themselves into the
peninsula, and who intermarried and settled among the
Joktanite Arabs. 2 These three names, 'Ariba, Mut'ariba,
and Must'ariba, are derived from the same root, and by the
modification of their grammatical form indicate the periods
when these races were naturalised in the country. 3

Among the 'Arab ul-'Ariba, the races which require special
mention in connection with the history of Islam are the Bani-
'Ad, 4 the 'Amalika, the Bani-Thamud, 5 and Bani-Jadis (the
Thamudiens and Jodicites of Diodorus Siculus and Ptolemy).
The Bani-'Ad, Hamitic in their origin, were the first settlers
and colonists in the peninsula, and they were established

1 Lenormant, Ancient History of the East, vol. ii. p. 293.

2 Ibn-ul-Athir, vol. i. pp. 55-58.

3 Caussin de Perceval regards the Bdidah as the same as 'Ariba, and puts
the Muf ariba as forming the second group. In the following pages I adopt
his classification.

4 The 'Adites are said to have been overwhelmed, conquered, and destroyed
by the Joktanite Arabs ; the Thamudites, " that strange race of troglodytes,"
by the Assyrians under Chedorlaomer (Khozar al-Ahmar).

6 With a d±.



lx THE SPIRIT OF ISLAM

principally in that region of Central Arabia, which is called by
Arab historians and geographers, the Ahsdf ur-ramal, contigu-
ous to Yemen, Hazramaut, and Oman. They appear during
one period of their existence to have formed a powerful and
conquering nation. One of the sovereigns of this race, Shaddad,



Online LibrarySyed Ameer AliThe spirit of Islâm : a history of the evolution and ideals of Islâm → online text (page 5 of 55)