Limitations of the writer--God's Sovereignty and Unity--Objectivity of Mohammedan Creed in doctrine and in worship--Deficiencies of the Creed in its doctrine of God--Practical results of such deficiencies--Significance of epithets, "The Compassionate," etc.--Firm belief in fact of Revelation--Doctrine of Brotherhood.
At the very outset it must be noted that this contribution will not attempt to deal with racial characteristics, in the same sense as, presumably, the chapters on China, Japan, or India will deal with them. The contributions to the fulness of the life of the Church of Christ which I have primarily in view in writing, are those which result from the characteristics of a religious system rather than of a nationality or race. It is, indeed, one of the most striking proofs of the strength of the creed of Islam that it does thus force into the background--at any rate, to a considerable degree--the distinguishing racial characteristics of the peoples to which it has come, and supersede them by a mind, a character, a life which is primarily and unmistakably the outcome of the creed itself. The Mohammedan type of character is as definite and clear-cut a thing as possible, and can be traced directly to the [281/282] doctrinal and ethical teaching of the creed itself, in a measure that it would, I think, be difficult to parallel in the case of the adherents of any other religion.
But if in this respect the case of those with whom this chapter is concerned differs from that of others, none the less may it most unhesitatingly be affirmed that Mohammedans have most definite and valuable contributions to make to the life of the Church, when they are themselves, by God's goodness and power, in the fulness of time, gathered into it. For then, by the power of the new life into which they will thus be brought, that which is good and true and permanent in their own system will be enabled to throw off the accompaniments of error and falsehood by which it is at present so fatally beset, and to assert itself in its proper strength. To hint, in some fashion, at those features of permanence and truth, as well as to indicate in passing what appear to be the special sources of weakness and corruption within the system, is the object of the present article.
I ought also to make it clear at the outset that in what I write, I do not aim at any kind of scholarly or learned treatment of the subject, for which, indeed, I am wholly unqualified. I desire merely to indicate those features of Mohammedan life and teaching which came chiefly home to me during my years of work in the Delhi Mission. This same limitation must also, of course, be borne in mind in estimating the possible value of any such general description as I may attempt, for the basis of my generalization is really an extremely small one, and it is possible that observers in other countries, or in other parts of this great continent, might be differently impressed. I shall not attempt, for instance, to discuss the problems raised by the Shia Mohammedan beliefs, which, in many secondary ways, differ from those of the Sunnis amongst whom I worked. My argument [282/283] will be derived from Mohammedan orthodoxy, and, as regards this, I can only repeat my own very strong belief that Islam does produce, wherever it holds sway, a singularly uniform type of individual character and of social life, and that therefore observations made regarding it in one country or district will, to a very considerable degree, hold true of the whole Mohammedan world.
There can be no hesitation in my own mind as to the article of faith in Islam, which must be given the first place in any such sketch as this. It is true indeed that the rigid Monotheism of the creed, the truth that God is ONE, has been often represented, as the very kernel of its doctrine and system, and I believe that this view would be entirely accepted, and insisted on, by Mohammedan teachers themselves. And yet, vitally important as this truth obviously is, and all-essential as a condition of any larger view, I cannot for a moment doubt myself that there is an even larger, deeper, more vital principle which lies behind it, and which is, indeed, the secret alike of the extraordinary power for conquest and advance which Islam has in its best ages evinced, and of all that still remains of true life and health in the system. Not so much that God is one, as that God is--that His existence is the ultimate fact of the universe--that His will is supreme--His sovereignty absolute--His power limitless;--this is beyond question the truth which sank into the soul of Mohammed, as he looked out upon the futile and decadent idolatry of the Arabian Peninsula in his day, and impelled him forward in the role of the Apostle of God--this it is which has been the strength of Mohammedan rulers and armies alike, whenever they have been true to that message which first sent them forward in a wave of resistless conquest over the lands of the East.
The Name by which God revealed Himself to Moses, [283/284] "I am that I am"--this, taken primarily in its metaphysical sense as a declaration of absolute self-existence, and in grievous measure keeping out of it that declaration of necessary moral character by which, from the first, it is guarded and made fruitful in the Mosaic records, is the starting-point of Mohammedan thought and activity. [Exod. iii. 14. E.g. notably Exod. xxxiii. 19; xxxiv. 6, 7.] The conviction that, amidst all the chaos and confusion and disorders of the world which so fearfully obscure it, there is, nevertheless, an ultimate Will, resistless, supreme, and that man is called to be a minister of that Will, to promulgate it, to compel--if necessary by very simple and elementary means indeed--obedience to that Will--this it was which welded the Mohammedan hosts into so invincible an engine of conquest, which inspired them with a spirit of military subordination and discipline, as well as with a contempt of death, such as has probably never been surpassed in any system--this it is which, so far as it is still in any true sense operative amongst Mohammedans, gives at once that backbone of character, that firmness of determination and strength of will, and also that uncomplaining patience and submission in the presence of the bitterest misfortune, which characterize and adorn the best adherents of the creed.
That the Unity of God is a necessary ingredient in any such conception of His reality and power as this--made necessary by some of the most fundamental laws of human thought--is obvious, and, as I have already indicated, this truth of unity is the one which has been most clearly grasped in thought by Mohammedan theologians themselves, and most earnestly and continuously insisted on. But deeper even than the unity, goes the reality of the existence of God--of His presence and His power--and this I put unhesitatingly as the fundamental truth of Mohammedanism.
 It can hardly be questioned that we ourselves urgently need a clearer grasp of this truth at the present time. Thoughtful minds in the West have been occupied with the discovery of those secondary causes which are the methods of God's working in the world. Their researches have been met with such marvellous success that men have sometimes failed to retain the true sense of proportion, and in the fascinating disclosures of the methods of the operation of God's Will have been in danger of losing sight of the presence and activity of that Will itself. We therefore greatly need to be recalled to that deepest note of Mohammedan teaching, and to hear again that ultimate declaration of the existence of God, "I am that I am." This, then, is the first contribution which I believe the Mohammedan races will bring to the Christian Church as they are themselves gathered into its fold.
As closely allied to this, I think that another urgent need of our own time is met when it is shown, on a large scale of human life, that a truth about God lies at the base of one of the strongest social and political structures which the world has ever seen, and that this strength and power is due rather to a religious truth than to any maxims of practical morality. It is a prominent characteristic of contemporary thought to look askance on "dogma" and "doctrine," to regard them as incumbrances on, rather than the very root and secret of life of, the Christian system, and to desire to substitute for the dogmas of the Apostles', the Nicene, and Athanasian Creeds, some "non-sectarian" teaching about God, or still more, some plain and practical code of ethics. But the whole history of the rise and growth of Mohammedanism, as well as the fact of its present power--in such degree as it still is a real power making for good in any part of the world--asserts the exact contrary to this, and declares that it is the knowledge of God which lies at the base of [285/286] human life and gives strength to human society. "All mere maxims, all mere ideas about the nature of man, have proved weak and helpless before this proclamation of a living and eternal God. The theological transcendent principle is just the one which has stood its ground, which has reappeared age after age, which the most ignorant warriors felt was true and mighty for them, for which no cultivation has produced any substitute." ["Religions of the World," F. D. Maurice, p. 25. See the whole passage.] To have this fundamental principle reaffirmed and emphasized afresh in our midst will be an immense gain. Furthermore, this truth of the absolute reality--the objectivity--of the existence of God seems exactly to meet our need and to recover for us sure standing-ground, when the power of subjectivity is asserting itself over us, and truth is viewed but as the outcome of the working of man's own mind, a phase of his speculation and thought. In the East this was a danger of the first magnitude, for Pantheism has always found there its most natural home, and it cannot be doubted that much of the want of firmness and stamina, in individual character and moral standards alike, which so frequently characterizes the East, is the outcome of that vagueness of thought and absence of all basis of objective truth which is of the essence of Pantheism. When Mohammedanism, with its strong grasp of the reality of the Divine existence and, as flowing from this, of the absolutely fixed and objective character of truth, came into conflict with the haziness of Pantheistic thought and the subjectivity of its belief, it necessarily followed, not only that it triumphed in the struggle, but also that it came as a veritable tonic to the life and thought of the people of Upper India, quickening into a fresh and more vigorous life many minds which never accepted for themselves its intellectual sway.
 And to our own times and country this same conviction of the objectivity of truth comes with a no less needed and important message. What does undenominationalism, with its continually multiplying phases and its constant flux and flow, bear witness to but the loss amongst us of the firm hold of truth as one--as independent of ourselves--as the necessary correlative of the existence and presence in our midst of the one eternal God? All the vagaries of speculation and the uncertainty as to any firm basis of thought, any ultimate truth, which are so noticeable in the intellectual life of the West at the present time, bear strongest testimony to the need of a reproclamation of this fundamental truth of Mohammedanism.
[I owe the following passage, dealing with the ritual aspect of the Mohammedan creed and life, to a letter which I received from the Rev. C. F. Andrews, of the Cambridge Mission, Delhi, on the subject of this paper. I have transcribed it with but slight changes.]
Moreover, not from the side of thought and doctrine only, but from what may be ^called the institutional side of the religion, the same power makes itself felt. No one who comes in contact for the first time with Mohammedans can fail to be struck by this aspect of their faith, and again, I think, we have ourselves much to learn from them in this respect. Wherever one may be, in open street, in railway station, in the field, it is the most ordinary thing to see a man, without the slightest touch of Pharisaism or parade, quietly and humbly leaving whatever pursuit he may be at the moment engaged in, in order to say his prayers at the appointed hour. On a larger scale, no one who has ever seen the courtyard of the Great Mosque at Delhi on the last Friday in the fast-month (Ramazan), filled to overflowing with, perhaps, 15,000 worshippers, all wholly absorbed in prayer, and manifesting the profoundest reverence and humility in [287/288] every gesture, can fail to be deeply impressed by the sight, or to get a glimpse of the power which underlies such a system; while the very regularity of the daily call to prayer, as it rings out at earliest dawn, before light commences, or amid all the noise and bustle of the business hours, or again as the evening closes in, is fraught with the same message. Through it all there may be seen or felt an objectivity and regularity, an outward, ordered ritual, free from effeminacy, and yet utterly different from a vast mass of modern religious sentiment, which is almost Manichaean in its fear of the body and of bodily acts, has a real dread of habits and regularity of devotion, and has almost lost the sense of the power of corporate acts of worship.
How much of the feeling of our time finds expression in a statement like the following, taken from a recent novel: "Religion depends upon the imagination and feeling. When I feel in the mood I go to church; at other times I commune with nature instead. To go to church and pretend to worship when you are not in the mood is hypocrisy." Such a position would be wholly impossible to a Mohammedan, throughout whose religious life there runs an objectivity, a wholesome use of the body in will and deed, which corresponds with the objectivity of his conception of God.
In all this there is, obviously, the danger, and often the effect, of Pharisaism; but surely our danger, at any rate at the present time, is exactly of the opposite kind, being due to a fear of the outward and visible, the corporate and institutional, and resulting, as Bishop Gore once put it, in the Pharisaism of the Publican, who "thanks God he is not as that High Churchman who says his prayers in church twice a day, and fasts once a week." In short, the whole undenominational idea, the hanging loose to the duty of the Body, which results [288/289] in a weak and nerveless and divided Christianity, is wonderfully counteracted by this stronger side of Islam, supplying, as it does on a large scale, a living picture of what the institutional can do.
A further point arising out of their corporate worship may well appeal strongly to us, viz. their awe and prostration before God, their unmistakable sense of profound reverence in His presence. This stands in the strongest contrast to that careless and irreverent familiarity, that loss of the sense of awe, which seems so markedly to have increased in recent years. As another illustration of this same temper and habit of mind, one may notice and admire the kind of chivalrous pride which the average Mohammedan takes in his faith. A Christian will allow the Name of our Blessed Lord to be abused in his presence far more easily than a Mohammedan would allow the name of his own Prophet to be so treated; a Mohammedan treats a copy of the Quran with an instinctive reverence which may well put to shame the Christian who so lightly handles the volume of his own sacred Scriptures. In short, one may say, without fear of contradiction, that, all too frequently, there is more of the Crusader's chivalry for his faith in the Mohammedan than in the modern Christian.
In connection with all this there is, of course, as I have already recognized, in very many cases, a most sad and perfunctory formalism, together with a kind of slavish prostration and fear which is essentially unchristian; but still I hold that in such matters there is much in the modern temper of Christianity which needs a corrective, and that such a corrective is seen in the best adherents of Islam. One of the great marks of the average Englishman, with regard to outward expression in worship, is the fear of unreality, sentimentality, and effeminacy. In Islam we find one of the most ritualistic peoples in the [289/290] world essentially manly and strong. No one can fail to be struck by this on first coming to India. Mohammedans are the strong, grave, almost fiercely manly people of Northern India--in many ways the Puritans of the land in their hatred of idolatry--and yet their whole religion is steeped in ritual.
In all these respects, then, I hold that this central truth on which I am dwelling, of God's eternal existence and living presence in our midst, is one of which, in a very special degree, we need the reaffirmation in the West.
At the same time, turning to another side of the picture, it needs to be well observed that only by being so gathered into the larger truth, as it is in Christ Jesus, can this distinguishing verity of the Mohammedan creed really be liberated from the accompaniments of error and falsehood which so fatally beset it, and prevent its bearing its full and proper fruit. For however fundamental the truths of the existence, the will, and the sovereignty of God may be, and however necessary as the substructure of all true human thought and activity, yet it is a dangerous thing to hold them apart from a clear grasp of the moral character of God and of the true human relation to Him. [Cf. Adam Smith on Isaiah, vol. i. pp. 110,113.] And this is what has been so grievously lacking in the teaching of Mohammed. The absolute King, the autocratic Euler--I think one must add, the Oriental Despot--all this indeed God is represented as being to the fullest possible extent in that system. Conversely, man, as the dust beneath His feet, as the clay in the hand of the Potter, as separated by an infinite gulf from the majesty of the Creator--this view is repeated again and again, and emphasized to the utmost degree possible. But of a true relationship and bond of union between God and man--of His moral attributes of goodness [290/291] tenderness, truth and holiness, as those which stand in the very forefront of God's disclosure of Himself to man, and of the necessary demand which these impose on man, the child of God's love as well as the creature of His Hand, that he should be holy as the Lord God is holy--of this Mohammedanism not only knows practically nothing, but most rigidly refuses to know anything, regarding as simple blasphemy any assertion of a true moral correspondence between God's nature and ours, such as is involved in our Blessed Lord's word, "Ye shall be perfect as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." And to this central defect of Mohammedan theology may be traced, I believe, almost all the injurious influence which it has exercised on the character of those who have come under its sway. The sense of a certain correspondence of our nature with God, of His' life, not only as the source of ours, but as our only true goal, the pattern to which, amid whatever defect and failure, we must continually endeavour to approach--this is the supreme ennobling motive and power in man's life which makes possible an endless progress upwards. But this is just what is so wholly lacking in Mohammedanism. If the conception of the will of God as final and irreversible has produced in him a patient submission to misfortune, an uncomplaining acceptance of any bitterest experience that life can bring, such as on one side we may well admire and seek to reproduce more vitally amongst ourselves, none the less the very fact that God's will is thought of as purely arbitrary has produced that temper of fatalism which has been so grievous a drawback in all Mohammedan life. The thought of ourselves as being "fellow-workers with God," of entering in any true sense into His purposes, and of thus being gradually drawn upward into likeness with Himself, has been lacking, and that is a lack the [291/292] full significance and effect of which it is impossible to calculate. [See the very striking passage in Mozley's "On Miracles" (Lecture VII., pp. 140 fi. of edition of 1886; also note 1 on same Lecture, pp. 281 ft.), in which he brings out the terrible injury which has resulted to Mohammedan character from the view of the essential weakness of human nature taken by their prophet.]
Moreover, not in the direction of fatalism alone, but also in another direction, which is perhaps almost more injurious, this dominant conception of God as arbitrary Will has made itself fearfully felt. For, cutting as it really does at the root of all true morality, it has acted continually in the direction of destroying true moral perception in the minds of Mohammedans. All things depend on, are ordered by, the will of God. But that will being thought of as based on no eternal and immutable laws of Divine character, it follows that His decrees bear no necessary relation to His moral nature. Anything might have been ordered by Him, and if ordered would have been just as incumbent on man as that which is purest, truest, best. Can anything more fatally destroy the faculty of conscience in man, and arrest true moral progress and development, than such a position as this?
We get indeed here, I believe, at any rate a partial explanation of some of those passages in the Quran in which decrees, as blasphemous as to our sense impossible, are ascribed to God. As I have said elsewhere, "Ought we not, in judging Mohammed for these, to bear in mind what his whole standpoint on such questions was? Whether or not he did really believe that these decrees came to him from God, at any rate there was nothing to prevent its having been so. I mean there was nothing [292/293] blasphemous to Mohammed in ascribing such decrees to God in the sense in which there is to us, as being necessarily and irrevocably opposed to His nature. There is nothing of this. It was in God's will; whether He did or did not order these things, He certainly might have done so, and therefore there was no such awful conflict with, or disregard of, conscience for Mohammed in uttering such verses as we are apt to presume." [See "Cambridge Mission Occasional Papers," No. 21, "Mohammedanism: its Strength and Weakness," from which I have quoted several times in the course of this chapter without making, in each instance, an explicit reference.]
If it is true that this central defect of his creed produced in the case of Mohammed himself this deadening of moral perception, no less certainly is it true that it has in the same way dogged ever since the footsteps of his system, and in a high degree availed to prevent the true progress in morality and culture of the nations which have been longest under its sway.
In order to estimate aright this detrimental influence of the creed, it is only necessary to turn the eyes to any country in which Mohammedanism has long had dominion, e.g. Turkey, Persia, or Afghanistan, and see how barren they are in all that really makes for the ordered moral progress of human life--rather, how entirely opposed they are to any true progress at all. And this point becomes, I think, the more significant when we remember the conditions of exclusive privilege--rather, one may say, of sole existence--which Islam has always secured for itself in lands where it has been truly at home. By shutting itself absolutely in within a ring fence, inside of which it tolerates the intrusion of no alien teaching whatever, it has secured for itself a chance of developing most freely its own natural life, and of bringing forth with certainty any best fruit of which it may be capable, in a fashion and to a degree which would seem scarcely possible in the case of other less exclusive religions. If, therefore, under such pre-eminently favourable conditions, the system--viewed broadly and over large areas [293/294] of human life--has so signally failed to produce true and abiding fruit, it must needs accept direct and exclusive responsibility for so grievous a failure.
Before passing on to my next point, it may be well to say a few words on a question which may suggest itself to some minds, viz. how far it can be true and fair to represent the God of Mohammedanism as so predominantly a God of sheer power and will, so comparatively devoid of distinctively moral attributes, when throughout the Quran, and elsewhere, there are at any rate some epithets (the Compassionate, the Merciful, etc.) of constant recurrence, which seem to point in an opposite direction. To this objection it is often replied that these epithets were merely borrowed from Judaism or other sources, and that, as reproduced in the Quran, they are inconsistent with the general drift of its teaching and have little real meaning. ["I make but little of Mohammed's praises of Allah, which many praise; they are borrowed, I suppose, mainly from the Hebrew, at any rate they are far surpassed there" (Carlyle's "Hero Worship").] This answer does not satisfy me. That these epithets, indeed almost all the ninety-nine "Beautiful Names" of God, are borrowed from earlier sources, cannot, I imagine, be questioned for an instant--for this may be said with equal truth not of these names only, but of almost every part of the teaching and narrative of the Quran. Yet there can be no question as regards very much of this material that, even if borrowed, yet it was thoroughly appropriated by Mohammed, and became the expression of genuine convictions of his own. In no other way is it possible to account for the extraordinary influence which the Book has wielded over Eastern minds and hearts through so many centuries. So, too, of these names; they seem to me to be put in the forefront of his teaching, and [294/295] continually insisted on by Mohammed in a way which is incompatible with the view that they are merely borrowed material and in his system have but little meaning.
The answer I would myself give is this.
A very large proportion of these names and epithets dwell, indeed, with power and often with great beauty on the glory, the majesty, the ineffableness of the Divine nature--viewed on the side of its metaphysical attributes, its eternity, its omnipotence, its omniscience, etc.--but do not really bring in the moral attributes at all.
This will be, I think, clearly seen if we put side by side the famous "verse of the throne," from the Quran--the recitation of which was, according to tradition, declared by Mohammed to equal in value the recitation of a third of the entire book--and the declaration of God's Name given in Exodus.
"God, there is no god but He, the living, the self-subsistent. Slumber takes Him not nor sleep. His is what is in the heavens and what is in the earth. Who is it that intercedes with Him save by His permission? He knows what is before them and what behind them, and they comprehend not aught by His knowledge but of what He pleases. His throne extends over the heavens and the earth, and tires Him not to guard them both, for He is high and grand." [Quran ii. 257, 258 (Palmer).]
"The Lord, the Lord, a God full of compassion and gracious, slow to anger and plenteous in mercy and truth; keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin: and that will by no means clear the guilty." [Exod. xxxiv. 6,7.]
The extreme beauty and dignity of the Quranic passage none can question, yet equally clearly we must feel the lack of that touch of love and sympathy with human life and human needs, which so marvelously [295/296] characterizes the Biblical passage and is the secret of its beauty and power. And this is, as I believe, the central defect of all Mohammed's teaching about the nature of God.
Further, even in the case of those names, the Merciful, the Compassionate, etc., where the moral element does undoubtedly come in, it is yet restricted to that attitude of benevolent pity and forbearance which may be shown by the infinitely high, the infinitely powerful, to the infinitely low, to the dust under the feet of the Almighty.
This attitude on God's part is indeed recognized abundantly, but this wholly fails in that sense of true sympathy with man as man, that mysterious sense of a true fellowship, a true unity, between God and man which makes it possible to present the perfection of the Divine nature as the goal of man's effort; and it is this that has been the very secret of all true and steady progress upwards in the Christian life. ["I am the Lord your God: sanctify yourselves therefore, and be ye holy; for I am holy ... I am the Lord that brought you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God; ye shall therefore be holy, for I am holy" (Lev. xi. 44, 45).]
While therefore one cannot, for an instant, say that the God of the Quran is characterless, yet one may unhesitatingly say that the presentation of Him is lacking in that peculiar sense of sympathy and fellowship with man which is essential to true human progress.
Yet although, when hampered by those grievous defects to which attention has now been called, even so central and supreme a conviction as that of the reality and power of the one living and true God has been unable to raise man's life, none the less may we look for this same faith to exercise its full and measureless influence when it is freed from those hampering [296/297] errors and put in its place in the truth as it is in Christ Jesus.
Another gain which we may feel quite sure the Mohammedan mind will bring to us when brought to its true allegiance, and again one which surely at the present time has a special appropriateness and significance for ourselves, is the whole-hearted belief in the fact of Revelation.
This gives the most marked advance on mere Deism. Mohammedans hold in the strongest way possible the fact of Eevelation, and furthermore put the very highest possible value on the revealed Word. The accuracy with which the text of the Quran has been preserved is, as is well known, unique, and shows the intense and jealous care that has always been exercised in its guardianship. To this day it is a very common thing for the whole book to be learnt off by heart in Arabic by boys of twelve and thirteen years old, who do not understand a word of its meaning. Imagine an English boy being asked to learn by heart--merely by sound and without any understanding--the Old Testament in Hebrew! I am not, of course, concerned now with the fearfully mechanical and intellectually injurious character of this exercise--its inevitable effect in stunting the higher powers of the mind and subordinating everything else to a gigantic effort of the memory. This we can all understand. But at least the tribute to the dignity of God's Word stands out clear, and might well shame many of us; and I cannot but sympathize very much with Mohammedans in what is perhaps their chief disqualification in the present race for learning--as leading to Government employment and promotion in life in India. They, at least the best among them, will not send their children to any school of general education till they have spent some years in the study of their own faith, and in [297/298] mastering, in the way I have described, at any rate parts of the Quran. The Hindus, hampered by no such scruples, send their children far earlier to school, and thus get a start which, in the majority of cases, can never be overtaken by the later comer. Surely they deserve all praise for this deliberate postponement of worldly interests to the demands of the study of God's Word.
In all this there is doubtless much of mere letter-worship, injurious therefore in various ways in its present form, but yet surely re-echoing in intent the assertion of our Lord, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every Word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God." This clear recognition of Eevelation is a great point, and one which carries with it much more than the Mohammedan recognizes, leading necessarily on to a conception of the true relation of God to man, very different from that to which their creed as a whole commits them.
The brotherhood of believers is another vital and much-needed truth which, it may well be, Mohammedan converts will help to reaffirm and press home on the Christian consciousness.
I am not, indeed, prepared to lay much stress upon this point, for I feel quite sure that neither in dogmatic teaching have they any basis for this truth remotely comparable in depth and efficacy to that membership in the one Body of Christ on which for ourselves this great fact of brotherhood is grounded, nor in practice do they realize it to at all the same degree as is attained by those who, in humble faith and real love, kneel side by side before the altar to receive, as one Body, the one Bread.
Yet it is a truth on which no little stress is laid in the teaching of Mohammed, and which had great significance and influence, at any rate in the early days of Islam; and as it is a truth so vital to ourselves, and [298/299] yet on which the hold of so very many of those who "profess and call themselves Christians "is so woefully weak, we may well hope that in this direction also some gain may accrue.
"Take tight hold of God's rope altogether, and do not part in sects; but remember the favour of God towards you, when ye were enemies and He made friendship between your hearts, and on the morrow ye were, by His favour, brothers."
"The believers are but brothers, so make peace between your two brethren and fear God, haply ye may obtain mercy;" so runs the injunction of the Quran in what are, so far as I know, the two clearest and most emphatic utterances on the subject. [Quran iii. 97, 98, and xlix. 10 (Palmer).]
And to a considerable degree the injunction has been obeyed in practice. In the earliest days the importance of this assertion of brotherhood based on a common faith must have been very great, as well as the strain which it imposed on discipline, clashing as it did with that principle of blood-relationship, that strong clannish feeling, which was dominant in Arabia in Mohammed's time, and was the very base of all its social polity.
Yet not a few traditions bear forcible, if not always very attractive, testimony to the loyalty and thoroughness with which the new principle was embraced.
And there can be no doubt whatever that the institution of the Hajj--the pilgrimage to the holy places--which is incumbent, once in a lifetime, on all true believers who are not debarred from the privilege by entire insufficiency of worldly means--has done a great deal to maintain and deepen this sense of brotherhood in a common faith. The influence here has been just as it was in the early days of the Crusades, when the one religious motive which was prominent in all thoughts and [299/300] uppermost in all hearts for a short time at least, effaced the usual earthly distinctions of social rank and worldly position, and united all into one body. On the other hand, so far as my own experience in India goes, I do not think that this principle of common brotherhood has maintained itself much more practically and effectively amongst Mohammedans than it has amongst Christians, or has been strong enough to resist the singularly disintegrating influences of Hindu society and thought.
It would therefore not be right to lay much stress upon this as a direction in which, when brought to the knowledge of our Lord, the Mohammedan will contribute very effectively to the life of the whole Church.
Other points there are, the stern denunciation of gambling in all its many forms, the resistance--so practically effective on the whole, though of course with very many instances of individual failure--to the use of strong drinks or drugs and the like, to which reference might perhaps be made. But on the one hand, these features of Mohammedanism, of great practical value though they undoubtedly are, do not appear to me to rise quite to the level of principle and of ultimate truth which is needed by the aim of this chapter; and on the other hand, there are, I think, too clear elements of actual doctrinal error in the sweeping negations by which these practical reforms have been secured, to make it desirable to include them in our list.
Without them, however, one may surely still feel that of the Mohammedan mind and character, no less than of those of other races, it is true that they have very real and valuable contributions to make to the fulness of the life of the Christian Church.