The Religion Of Islam vol.1


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  • The Religion Of Islam vol.1


    1. Belief in the Scriptures of God

    The fundamental position, on which the superstructure of the Religion of Islam is erected, is that, from the beginning to the end of the world, there has been and for ever will be, but one true orthodox religion. This true religion consists as to matter of faith, in the acknowledgement of the only true God, and in the belief in, and obedience to such messengers or prophets of God, as He has been pleased to send from time to time, with credentials, to reveal His will to mankind; and as to matter of practice, the religion of God consists in the observance of the immutable and eternal laws of right and wrong, together with such other precepts and ceremonies, as God ordained as fit, for the time being, according to the different dispensations in different ages. These precepts and ceremonies were in themselves non-–essential, but they became strictly obligatory by God’s positive command; and were therefore, temporary, and subject to alteration, according to His will and wisdom. Hence, the name “Islam,” signifying absolute surrender to the will of God, is used commonly to denote the Religion of Islam. This name, however, also applies to God’s religion, since the beginning of the World, inasmuch as all true religion is nothing, but absolute submission to God’s will. As to scriptures, the Moslems are taught that God, in divers ages of the world, gave revelations of His will in Books, to several prophets. The number of these sacred Books is said to be 104: ten Books were given to Adam, fifty to Seth, thirty to Idris (Enoch), ten to Abraham; and the other four, being the Pentateuch the Psalms the Gospel and the Koran, were successively delivered to Moses, David, Jesus and Mohammed. No further revelation to mankind is to be expected. The Prophet Mohammed is, as taught by the Koran, the seal of God’s messengers and prophets.

    All of these divine Books, except the four last, are believed to be now entirely lost. As to the Pentateuch, the Psalms and the Gospel, the Moslems give no credit the present copies of these Books, which they believe to have undergone many alterations and corruptions, though there might possibly be some part of the true word of God therein. Any passages in the present copies, which in sense are not in harmony with the teachings of the Koran, as far as matters of faith are concerned, are held by Moslems to be no true revelation. Hence, such statements in the present copies of the Old and New Testaments, as attribute to God a son, or to the Divinity a plurality or a corporeal form, are dogmatically and emphatically condemned as schismatic.

     

    On the other hand, if any precept tenet, law or regulation, relating to mode of worship, or rules of right and wrong, found in the Koran, is in harmony with similar precepts, as taught by the Testaments, it is because such tenets are immutable and eternal, and relate to that part of God’s one, true and orthodox religion which is subject to no change or alteration, inasmuch as such laws were saved from corruption.

    Apparently it is due to the misunderstanding of this fundamental superstructure of the Religion of Islam (to wit: that from the beginning to the end of the world, there has been and still for ever will be, but one true religion), that some of the prejudiced class of Western historians and commentators have been apt to wrongly describe such systems, rites or rules of the Religion of Islam, of which the like exist in the Jewish Scriptures, as ‘borrowed’ from these books. Such critics, if absolutely innocent, conscientious and well–informed, must needs admit, that these common precepts are but confirmed by the Koran as immutable in themselves.

    It must again and again reiterated until the basis of the Religion of Islam is well understood, that this religion does not profess to be a new religion, formulated by the prophet Mohammed, but a continuation of the true religious principles, established by God through His revelations to Adam. Noah, Abraham, Moses and to other inspired Messengers of God. The revelations of God’s prophets, prior to the advent of Islam are held to have been partly corrupted by the hand of man, through the various renderings and divers versions of same. All portions of the Word of God that were by chance, or otherwise, saved from corruption, -such as relate to that part of God’s religion which is eternal and immutable have been preserved and confirmed by the Koran, together with other corrected beliefs and dogmas of faith, and such additional rules of practical devotion, as God judged fit for the new and eternal dispensation. Hence it is out of place and entirely misleading, that any critic should suggest, that Islam is “indebted”, either to the Jewish or any other dispensation, for any elements in its system.

    In brief, it is enjoined upon every Moslem, to believe in God’s previous Books of revelations, from Adam to Jesus, in so far as the contents of any extant book of them are not contradicted by the Koran.

     

    At the advent of Islam, the Word of God, as revealed in the Old and New Testament, was wrapped up in various superstitions and was spoiled by an admixture of ungodly beliefs and imaginations. The Jews were openly charged, in the early chapters of Koran, with having corrupted their Scriptures, with stifling passages. They obstinately and impiously denied the advent of Jesus. They believed that Christ was yet to come. They spoke ill, and most wrongly and indecently, of the acknowledged Jesus Christ and of his revered mother, the Virgin Mary. They attributed to God the adoption of a son in the person of Ezra.

    With regard to Christianity, its real and pure doctrines were exceedingly and abominably corrupted.[1] A sect substituted the Virgin Mary for God or worshipped her as such. These were called the Mariamites.[2]

    Christians also believed in the divinity of Jesus. They worshipped him as God called him the Son of God and even God Himself.

    Dr. Hughes, commenting on the state of degradation, into which the Christian Church had fallen, at the advent of Islam, writes as follows: -    

    “The bitter dissensions of the Greeks, Nestorians, Eutechiana and Monophysites, are matters of history, and must have held up the religion of Jesus to the ridicule of the heathen world. The controversies, regarding the nature and person of our Divine Lord, had begotten a sect of Tritheists.

     

    “The worship of the Virgin Mary had also given rise to a religious controversy between the Antidus–Mariamites and the Collyridians; the former holding that the Virgin Mary was not immaculate, and the latter, raising her to a position of a goddess. Under these circumstances, it is not surprising to find that the Arabian reformer turned away from Christianity.”[3]

     

    The Gospel of St. Barnabas commonly considered by Christian theologians as “apocryphal”- is most in harmony, as to matters of faith with the Koran, Jesus Christ is spoken of in that Gospel as the servant of God; the word of God and a Spirit from God. His miraculous birth, being born without a father was even less supernatural than the creation of Adam who was created by God’s power without father or mother. The crucifixion of Jesus by the Jews is entirely refuted, according to St. Barnabas and the Koran. In that Gospel, it is asserted that Judas, the traitor, was he who was crucified, in the place of the Lord Jesus. “Of this Gospel”, writes Mr. Sale, “The Moriscoes in Africa have a translation in Spanish, and there is in the library of Prince Eugene of Savoy, a manuscript of some antiquity containing an Italian translation of the same Gospel made, it is supposed, for the use of renegades.”

     

    In St. Barnabas Gospel, the Prophet Mohammed is foretold by name, as the Periclyte, that is, the famous or illustrious, that being the signification of the name of Mohammed in Arabic; thereby justifying the passage in the Koran (chap 61) where Jesus is formally asserted to have foretold his coming, under his other name of Ahmed, which is derived from the same root as Mohammed and of the same import.

     

    Mr. Sale states that he inspected a Spanish translation of the Italian copy of St. Barnabas Gospel of which he gives the following account:

    “There is a preface prefixed to it, wherein the discoverer of the original MS., who was a Christian monk called Fra Marion, tells us that, having accidentally met with a writing of Irenacus (among others), wherein he speaks against St. Paul, alleging for his authority the gospel of St. Barnabas, he became exceedingly desirous to find this gospel; and that God, of His mercy, having made him very intimate with Pope Sixtus V (1521-1590) one day, as they were together in that Pope’s library, His Holiness fell asleep and he, to employ himself, reached down a book to read the first he laid hand on proved to be the very gospel he wanted; overjoyed at the discovery, he scrupled not to hide his prize in his sleeve, and on the Pope’s awaking took leave of him, carrying with him that celestial treasure, by reading of which he became a convert to Mohammedanism.

     

    “This Gospel of Barnabas contains a complete history of Jesus Christ, from His birth to His ascension, and most of the circumstances of the four real, gospels are to be found therein, but many of them turned, and some artfully enough, to favour the Mohammedan system…The passages produced from the Italian MS. by M. de la Monnoye, are to be seen in this Spanish version almost word for word”. [4]

     

    The Koran

    On the other hand, the practical side of both the Jewish and Christian dispensations, as concerning social matters and civil law, is most deficient; and that deficiency is made good by the Koran, it being the last divine word of God.

     

    Let us now make a swift survey of the Koran, as far as our limited space in this work allows; for to describe it in detail would require unlimited time and space. For various reasons, all being much to the advantage of the non–Moslem reader, - I shall content myself with a number of quotations of what was written on the Koran by the pen of non–Moslem critics, whose writings on the subject can be passed by a Moslem, as giving a sufficiently true picture of the Holy Koran. However, it must ever be remembered that, as miraculously Divine Book, the Koran, when translated into a foreign language, necessarily loses a great deal of its supernatural elegance and purity of style.

    Mr. Sale addresses the reader of his English version– praiseworthy as it is – in the following words:

    “… Though he (the reader) must not imagine the translation to come up to the original, notwithstanding my endeavours to do it justice”

    In another place, the same writer comments on the Koran as follows:     

    “The Koran is universally allowed to be written with the utmost elegance and purity of language in the dialect of the tribe of the Koreish, the most noble and polite of all the Arabians; but with some mixture though very rarely, of other dialects. It is confessedly the standard of the Arabian tongue and as the more orthodox believe and are taught by the book itself, inimitable by any human pen, and therefore insisted on as a permanent miracle, greater than that of raising the dead, and alone sufficient to convince the world of its origin.

    “And to this miracle Mohammed himself chiefly appealed for the confirmation of his mission, publicly challenging the most eloquent men in Arabia which was at the same time stocked with thousands whose sole study and ambition it was, to excel in elegance of style and composition; to produce even a single chapter that might be compared with it I will mention but one instance out of several, to show that this book was really admired for the beauty of its composition by those who must be allowed to have been competent judges. A poem of Labid Ebn Rabia, in Mohammed’s time being affixed to the gate of the temple of Mecca, an honour allowed to none but the most esteemed performances, none of the other poets durst offer anything of their own in competition with it. But the second chapter of the Koran, being affixed near it soon after, Labid himself (then an idolater) on reading the first verses only, was struck with admiration, and immediately professed the religion taught therein declaring that such words could proceed from an inspired person only. This Labid was afterwards of great service to Mohammed, in writing answers to the satires and invectives that were made on him and his religion.”[5]

     

    Von Geothe renowned German author, speaking of the Koran in his West Oestlicher Divan, states:

    “However often we turn to it, (the Koran), at first disgusting us each time afresh, it soon attracts, astounds and in the end enforces our reverence…. Its style, in accordance with its contents and aim, is stern, grand, terrible, ever and anon truly sublime…thus this book will go on exercising, through all ages, a most potent influence.”[6]

    Dr. Steingass, the learned compiler of an English Arabic and Arabic English Dictionary (W.H. Allen and Co,) has recorded his opinion on the Koran in Dr. Hughes’ Dictionary of Islam. After alluding to the above words of Goethe Dr. Steingass writes: “These words seem to me so much the more weighty and worthy of attention, as they are uttered by one who, whatever his merits or demerits in other respects may be deemed to be, indisputable belongs to the greatest masters of language of all times, and stands foremost as a leader of modern thought and the intellectual culture of modern times;” (Here Dr. Steigngass quotes the words of Goethe and then save). “A work then which calls forth so powerful and seemingly incompatible emotions, even in the distant reader – distant as to time and still more so, as to mental development a work which not only conquers repugnance with which he may begin its perusals, but changes this adverse feeling into astonishment and admiration. Such a work be a wonderful production of the human mind indeed, and a problem of the highest interest to every thoughtful observe of the destinies of mankind. Much has been said, in the preceding pages, to acknowledge, to appreciate, and to explain the literary excellences of the Koran, and a more or less distinct admission, that Buffon’s much – quoted saying “Le style est I’homme”, is here more justified than ever, underlies all these verdicts. We may well say, the Koran is one of the grandest books ever written because it faithfully reflects the character and life of one of the greatest men that ever breathed. “Sincerity writes Carlyle,  ‘sincerity, in all senses, seems to me the merit of the Koran,’. This same sincerity, this ardour and earnestness in the search for truth, this never – flagging per-severance in trying to impress it, when partly found, again and again upon his unwilling hearers, appears to me as the real and undeniable ‘seal of prophecy’ in Mohammed…”[7]

    But the approaches to truth are many, and he who devoted al his powers and energies, with untiring patience and self–denial, to the task of leading a whole nation by one of these approaches, from a coarse and effete idolatry, to the worship of the living God, has certainly a strong claim to our warmest sympathies, as a faithful servant and noble champion of truth.

    It is, however, not my intention to dwell here any longer upon this side of the question. Praise has been bestowed in this work on the Koran and its author, without stint or grudge, and unanimity of so many distinguished voices, in this respect, will no doubt impress the general reader in favour of the sacred book of the Moslems which until now he may have known only by name.

    Dealing with the opinion, expressed on the Koran by some European authors who dwell upon the pretended inferiority of the later portions of the Koran in comparison with the earlier chapters, Dr. Steingass ably remarks as follows:

    “Not being an Arabic scholar himself (Goethe), he knew the Koran only through the translations existing at the time which follow throughout the order of the received text…Those critics, on the other hand, who view the Koran with regard to the chronological order of its constituents, follow the descending scale in their estimate. But if we consider the variety and heterogeneousness of the topics, on which the Koran touches, uniformity of style and diction can scarcely be expected; on the contrary, it would appear to be strangely out of place. Let us not forget that in the book, as Mohammed’s newest biographer. Ludolf Krehl (Das Leben des Mohammed. Lepizing 1884) express it, ‘there is given a complete code of creed and morals, as well as of the law based thereupon. There are also the foundations laid for every institution of an extensive commonwealth, for instruction, for the administration of justice, for military organization, for finance, for a most careful legislation for the poor: ‘all built up on the belief in the one God Who holds man’s destiny in His hand.’ Where so many important objects are concerned, the standard of excellence, by which we have to gauge the composition of the Koran as a whole, must needs vary with the matter treated upon in each particular case. Sublime, and chaste, where the supreme truth of God’s unity is to be proclaimed; appealing in high–pitched strains to the imagination of a poetically–gifted people, where the eternal consequences of man’s submission of God’s holy will, or of rebellion against it, are pictured; touching in its simple, almost crude earnestness, when it seeks again and again encouragement or consolation for God’s messenger, and a solemn warning for those, to whom he has been sent, in the histories of the prophets of old: the language of the Koran adapts itself to the exigencies of everyday life, when this everyday life, in its private and public bearings, is to be brought in to harmony with the fundamental principles of the new dispensation.

     

    “Here therefore, its merits, as a literary production should, perhaps, not be measured by some preconceived maxims of subjective and aesthetic taste, but by the effects which it produced in Mohammed’s contemporaries and fellow–countrymen.

    If it spoke so powerfully and convincingly to the hearts of his hearers, as to weld hitherto centrifugal and antagonistic elements into one compact and well –organized body, animated by ideas, far beyond these which had until now ruled the Arabian mind, then its eloquence was perfect, simply because it created a civilised nation out of savage tribes, and shot a fresh woof into the old warp of history.

    “When a long period of conquests scattered the Arabs to the farthest East and to the farthest West, their spoke language might deviate from its pristine purity, slurring over unaccented syllables and dropping terminations. But the fine idiom of their forefathers, as deposited in the Koran, remained the language of their prayer and their pious meditation, and thus lived on with them, as a bond of unity, an object of national love and admiration, and a source of literary development for all times.[8]

    The Koran, therefore, is the last Scripture from God, which has superseded by its new dispensation all preceding Scriptures, containing all comprehensible instructions and laws, all matters concerning the relation between the Creator and His creature, and between man and man. It is a miraculous book which is a poem, far beyond the power of poets to imitate, a code of laws bearing on every, institution of an extensive commonwealth, on instruction, on the administration of justice, on military organisation, on finance, on a most careful legislation for the poor; and a complete code of beliefs and morals: all built up on the perfected belief in the one God Who holds man’s destiny in His Hand. It embodies a correct summary of the true religion which former prophets from the time of Adam had taught to their respective countries, and a solemn warning to all mankind, to whom the “Seal of Prophets” had been sent to reclaim and to reform. It exposes and refutes the pretensions and incorrect interpretations of rabbins and priests who had misled their people. These later were often called upon, in the Koran to come to a reasoning with the followers of the new faith and, then, to judge for themselves, as to whether Islam was to be rejected by pure reason cleared of every grain of partiality. But the high voice from Heaven was not hearkened to and difference of a religious nature still continue between Moslems and non-Moslems.

    The Koran is a Divine Book which from the day of its revelation through the message of the Arabian Prophet and Apostle of God, up to this moment, has undergone no alteration whatever.[9] It is the Sacred Book that continues to reign over the hearts of its hearers, to convince them, through their own conscience and spiritual nature of its Divine origin. No human pen, however powerful, can venture to imitate it. The miraculous nature of the Koran has, long ago, been solemnly confirmed by those who were the most competent judges. The Arabians could boast of no other literature than witty poems of eloquence in their own language, -though as they paid due honour to any distinguished poem by their famous poets- were struck with infinite admiration, when they heard the Prophet of God rehearsing certain portions of God’s new Gospel to them. Their own celebrated Rabiaa, whose poem was attached to the Sacred Pantheon of the Kaaba, could without much trouble or hesitation, judge that the Koran was rightly a Divine Book, and that the illiterate orphan was the true messenger of God. From the perusal of the concise, but accurate history of the Prophet, in part II of this essay, it is clear enough, how the obstinate minded Arabs of the Desert received the Book with adoration and perfect reverence. Again the contents of the Koran most readily answer all questions that may be raised on religious or civil matters. I will quote here some translated passages from that Holy Book, as specimens of the rest, and leave them to recommend themselves:

     

    1- Calling the Jews and Christians to come to agreement[10] with the Moslems:

    “Say. O ye who have received the Scripture (Jews and Christians) come to a just determination between us and you; that we worship not any except God, and associate no creature with Him; and that the one of us takes no other for Lord[11], beside God. But if they turn back, say; Bear witness that we are true believers.”

     

    2- Ordering the Prophet to Praise God:

    “Say. O God possessor of the Kingdom, Thou givest dominion, to whom Thou will, and Thou takes away Kingdom from whom Thou will: Thou exaltest whom Thou wilt, and Thou humblest who, Thou wilt, in Thy hand is good, and Thou art the Almighty: Thou causest the night to succeed the day, and Thou causest the day to succeed the night: Thou bringest forth the living out of the dead and Thou bringest forth the dead out of the living, and Thou art the provider of substance, to whomsoever Thou wilt, without measure.”

     

    3- Right and Wrong:

    “Say, whether ye conceal that which is in you hearts, or whether ye show it God knoweth it: He knoweth whatever is in heaven and whatever is on earth: and He is the Almighty. On the Day of Judgment, every soul shall find present the good which it wrought. And the evil which it wrought, will cause it such a disgrace, that it shall wish that there was a vast distance between itself and that evil.”

     

    1. Belief of the Faithful

    “The Apostle (Mohammed) believeth in that which hath been sent down unto him from his Lord, as do the faithful (also). Every one (of them) believeth in God and His angels, and His Scriptures, and His Apostles: We make no distinction between any of His Apostles. And they say “ We have listened, and so we obey. Thy mercy, O Lord, for unto Thee (O Lord) must we return.”, “God will not burden any soul beyond its power. It shall enjoy the good which it hath gained, and shall bear the evil which it hath wrought. O Lord punish us not, if we forget or fall into sin; O Lord, lay not on us a burden, like that which Thou hast laid on those who have been before us, neither make us, O Lord, to bear what we have no strength to bear, but be favourable unto us, and spare us and be merciful unto us. Thou art our patron, help us therefore against the unbelieving people.”

     

    With regard to the New Testament, Moslems hold the belief that, although God revealed the Gospel to His Messenger Jesus Christ, the so–called gospels, ascribed to the four saints, do not represent the true word of God as revealed to the Teacher of Nazareth. With Moslems these books are mere historical works, dealing with the history of Jesus, and they contradict each other in certain statements. Three of the authors of the four gospels did not see Jesus at all. (1) St. Mark did not see Jesus, until the year he was taken up to heaven. After the ascension of Jesus, St. Mark wrote in the city of Alexandria, his gospel, in which he gave an account of the birth and life of the Master of Christianity, mentioning several events which are not to be traced in the other three gospels. (2) St. Luke also did not see Jesus, but he was converted to Christianity by St. Paul, the latter being an Israelite who himself had not seen Jesus, but was converted by St. Anamias. (3) St. Matthew also did not see Jesus but was converted to the Christian faith by St. Peter some time after the ascension of Jesus; he took his gospel from St.Peter in the city of Rome. St. Matthew’s gospel contradicts several statements of the other three Gospel.

     

    St. John was the nephew of Jesus. It was at the wedding of John, that  Jesus converted water into wine. Witnessing this miracle, John immediately became a Christian proselyte, left his wife and followed Jesus. He was the author of the fourth Gospel called after him written in the Greek language in the city of Ephesus. 

    These are the four gospels of the Christian New Testament, although Moslems do not believe them to contain the uncorrupted word of God. They are nothing more than biographical works which are liable to defects and errors. There was but one Gospel, namely, the “Evangel” which God vouchsafed to give to Jesus, for him to preach to the Israelites. The Book containing the True Word of God must needs be free from all discrepancies; yet it is written in St. Mark’s gospel, that in the book of the Prophet Isaiah it was said by God: “I have sent an Angel before thy face’ namely before the face of Jesus; whereas the words are not in the book of Isaiah, but in that of Malachi (see St. Mark R.V). again it is related in St. Matthew’s gospel; (Matt. xii 40) that Jesus said ‘My body will remain in the belly, of the earth three days and three nights after my death, just as Jones was in the whale’s belly, and it is evident this was not true, for Sr. Matthew himself agrees with the three other writers of the gospels, that Jesus died at the sixth hour on Friday, and was buried at the first hour of the night and rose from the dead early on Sunday morning, so that he remained in the belly of the earth two nights only.

     

    ([1]) Vide G. Sale’s Prelim. Discourse.

    ([2]) Vide Dr. Hughes’ Dict. of  Islam p.53

    ([3]) See Hughess’ Dictionary of Islam. P. 53

    ([4]) Sale’s preface to his translation of the Koran.

    ([5]) See Sale’s Prelim Discourse.

    ([6]) See Goeth’s West-Qesticher Divan. These words of Goethe were placed by Mr. Rodwell by way of motto on the reverse of the title page of his translation of the Koran.

    ([7]) See Von Goethe’s West-Qestlicher Divan.

    ([8]) Vide Dr. Hughes’ DisT. Of Islam pp. 526-530.

    ([9]) See Sir Muir’s Life of Mohammad; Dr. Hughes’ Dict. of  Islam

    ([10]) That is to come to such terms of agreement as are indispensably consonant to the doctrine of all the prophets and scriptures, and therefore cannot be reasonably rejected.

    ([11]) The Jews and Christians used to pay rather blind obedience to their priests and monks who took upon them to pronounce what things were lawful and what were unlawful, and to dispense with the laws of God. (Sale).

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