Christianity and Islam
C.H. Becker

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The subject from different points of view: limits of treatment

The nature of the subject: the historical points of connection between
Christianity and Islam

A. Christianity and the rise of Islam:

1. Muhammed and his contemporaries

2. The influence of Christianity upon the development of Muhammed

3. Muhammed's knowledge of Christianity

4. The position of Christians under Muhammedanism

B. The similarity of Christian and Muhammedan metaphysics during the
middle ages:

1. The means and direction by which Christian influence affected

2. The penetration of daily life by the spirit of religion;
asceticism, contradictions and influences affecting the
development of a clerical class and the theory of

3. The theory of life in general with reference to the doctrine
of immortality

4. The attitude of religion towards the State, economic life,
society, etc.

5. The permanent importance to Islam of these influences: the
doctrine of duties

6. Ritual

7. Mysticism and the worship of saints

8. Dogma and the development of scholasticism

C. The influence of Islam upon Christianity:

The manner in which this influence operated, and the explanation
of the superiority of Islam

The influence of Muhammedan philosophy

The new world of European Christendom and the modern East

Conclusion. The historical growth of religion



A comparison of Christianity with Muhammedanism or with any other
religion must be preceded by a statement of the objects with which
such comparison is undertaken, for the possibilities which lie in this
direction are numerous. The missionary, for instance, may consider
that a knowledge of the similarities of these religions would increase
the efficacy of his proselytising work: his purpose would thus be
wholly practical. The ecclesiastically minded Christian, already
convinced of the superiority of his own religion, will be chiefly
anxious to secure scientific proof of the fact: the study of
comparative religion from this point of view was once a popular branch
of apologetics and is by no means out of favour at the present day.
Again, the inquirer whose historical perspective is undisturbed by
ecclesiastical considerations, will approach the subject with somewhat
different interests. He will expect the comparison to provide him with
a clear view of the influence which Christianity has exerted upon
other religions or has itself received from them: or he may hope by
comparing the general development of special religious systems to gain
a clearer insight into the growth of Christianity. Hence the object of
such comparisons is to trace the course of analogous developments and
the interaction of influence and so to increase the knowledge of
religion in general or of our own religion in particular.

A world-religion, such as Christianity, is a highly complex structure
and the evolution of such a system of belief is best understood by
examining a religion to which we have not been bound by a thousand
ties from the earliest days of our lives. If we take an alien religion
as our subject of investigation, we shall not shrink from the
consequences of the historical method: whereas, when we criticise
Christianity, we are often unable to see the falsity of the
pre-suppositions which we necessarily bring to the task of inquiry:
our minds follow the doctrines of Christianity, even as our bodies
perform their functions--in complete unconsciousness. At the same time
we possess a very considerable knowledge of the development of
Christianity, and this we owe largely to the help of analogy.
Especially instructive is the comparison between Christianity and
Buddhism. No less interesting are the discoveries to be attained by an
inquiry into the development of Muhammedanism: here we can see the
growth of tradition proceeding in the full light of historical
criticism. We see the plain man, Muhammed, expressly declaring in the
Qoran that he cannot perform miracles, yet gradually becoming a
miracle worker and indeed the greatest of his class: he professes to
be nothing more than a mortal man: he becomes the chief mediator
between man and God. The scanty memorials of the man become voluminous
biographies of the saint and increase from generation to generation.

Yet more remarkable is the fact that his utterances, his _logia_, if
we may use the term, some few of which are certainly genuine, increase
from year to year and form a large collection which is critically
sifted and expounded. The aspirations of mankind attribute to him such
words of the New Testament and of Greek philosophers as were
especially popular or seemed worthy of Muhammed; the teaching also of
the new ecclesiastical schools was invariably expressed in the form of
proverbial utterances attributed to Muhammed, and these are now
without exception regarded as authentic by the modern Moslem. In this
way opinions often contradictory are covered by Muhummed's authority.

The traditions concerning Jesus offer an analogy. Our Gospels, for
instance, relate the beautiful story of the plucking of the ears of
corn on the Sabbath, with its famous moral application, "The Sabbath
was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath." A Christian papyrus
has been discovered which represents Jesus as explaining the sanctity
of the Sabbath from the Judaeo-Christian point of view. "If ye keep
not the Sabbath holy, ye shall not see the Father," is the statement
in an uncanonical Gospel. In early Christian literature, contradictory
sayings of Jesus are also to be found. Doubtless here, as in
Muhammedan tradition, the problem originally was, what is to be my
action in this or that question of practical life: answer is given in
accordance with the religious attitude of the inquirer and Jesus and
Muhammed are made to lend their authority to the teaching. Traditional
literary form is then regarded as historical by later believers.

Examples of this kind might be multiplied, but enough has been said to
show that much and, to some extent, new light may be thrown upon the
development of Christian tradition, by an examination of Muhammedanism
which rose from similar soil but a few centuries later, while its
traditional developments have been much more completely preserved.

Such analogies as these can be found, however, in any of the
world-religions, and we propose to devote our attention more
particularly to the influences which Christianity and Islam exerted
directly upon one another. While Muhammedanism has borrowed from its
hereditary foe, it has also repaid part of the debt. By the very fact
of its historical position Islam was at first indebted to
Christianity; but in the department of Christian philosophy, it has
also exerted its own influence. This influence cannot be compared with
that of Greek or Jewish thought upon Christian speculation: Christian
philosophy, as a metaphysical theory of existence, was however
strongly influenced by Arabian thought before the outset of the
Reformation. On the other hand the influence of Christianity upon
Islam--and also upon Muhammed, though he owed more to Jewish
thought--was so extensive that the coincidence of ideas upon the most
important metaphysical questions is positively amazing.

There is a widespread belief even at the present day that Islam was a
complete novelty and that the religion and culture of the Muhammedan
world were wholly alien to Western medievalism. Such views are
entirely false; during the Middle Ages Muhammedanism and Western
culture were inspired by the same spirit. The fact has been obscured
by the contrast between the two religions whose differences have been
constantly exaggerated and by dissimilarities of language and
nationality. To retrace in full detail the close connection which
unites Christianity and Islam would be the work of years. Within the
scope of the present volume, all that can be done is to explain the
points of contact between Christian and Muhammedan theories of life
and religion. Such is the object of the following pages. We shall
first treat of Muhammed personally, because his rise as a religious
force will explain the possibility of later developments.

This statement also explains the sense in which we shall use the term
Christianity. Muhammedanism has no connection with post-Reformation
Christianity and meets it only in the mission field. Practical
questions there arise which lie beyond the limits of our subject, as
we have already indicated. Our interests are concerned with the
mediaeval Church, when Christianity first imposed its ideas upon
Muhammedanism at the time of its rise in the East, and afterwards
received a material extension of its own horizon through the rapid
progress of its protege. Our task is to analyse and explain these
special relations between the two systems of thought.

The religion now known as Islam is as near to the preaching of
Muhammed or as remote from it, as modern Catholicism or Protestant
Christianity is at variance or in harmony with the teaching of Jesus.
The simple beliefs of the prophet and his contemporaries are separated
by a long course of development from the complicated religious system
in its unity and diversity which Islam now presents to us. The course
of this development was greatly influenced by Christianity, but
Christian ideas had been operative upon Muhammed's eager intellectual
life at an even earlier date. We must attempt to realise the working
of his mind, if we are to gain a comprehension of the original
position of Islam with regard to Christianity. The task is not so
difficult in Muhammed's case as in that of others who have founded
religious systems: we have records of his philosophical views,
important even though fragmentary, while vivid descriptions of his
experiences have been transmitted to us in his own words, which have
escaped the modifying influence of tradition at second hand. Muhammed
had an indefinite idea of the word of God as known to him from other
religions. He was unable to realise this idea effectively except as an
immediate revelation; hence throughout the Qoran he represents God as
speaking in the first person and himself appears as the interlocutor.
Even direct commands to the congregation are introduced by the
stereotyped "speak"; it was of primary importance that the Qoran
should be regarded as God's word and not as man's. This fact largely
contributed to secure an uncontaminated transmission of the text,
which seems also to have been left by Muhammed himself in definite
form. Its intentional obscurity of expression does not facilitate the
task of the inquirer, but it provides, none the less, considerable
information concerning the religious progress of its author. Here we
are upon firmer ground than when we attempt to describe Muhammed's
outward life, the first half of which is wrapped in obscurity no less
profound than that which veils the youth of the Founder of

Muhammed's contemporaries lived amid religious indifference. The
majority of the Arabs were heathen and their religious aspirations
were satisfied by local cults of the Old Semitic character. They may
have preserved the religious institutions of the great South Arabian
civilisation, which was then in a state of decadence; the beginnings
of Islam may also have been influenced by the ideas of this
civilisation, which research is only now revealing to us: but these
points must remain undecided for the time being. South Arabian
civilisation was certainly not confined to the South, nor could an
organised township such as Mecca remain outside its sphere of
influence: but the scanty information which has reached us concerning
the religious life of the Arabs anterior to Islam might also be
explained by supposing them to have followed a similar course of
development. In any case, it is advisable to reserve judgment until
documentary proof can replace ingenious conjecture. The difficulty of
the problem is increased by the fact that Jewish and especially
Christian ideas penetrated from the South and that their influence
cannot be estimated. The important point for us to consider is the
existence of Christianity in Southern Arabia before the Muhammedan
period. Nor was the South its only starting-point: Christian doctrine
came to Arabia from the North, from Syria and Babylonia, and numerous
conversions, for the most part of whole tribes, were made. On the
frontiers also Arabian merchants came into continual contact with
Christianity and foreign merchants of the Christian faith could be
found throughout Arabia. But for the Arabian migration and the
simultaneous foundation of a new Arabian religion, there is no doubt
that the whole peninsula would have been speedily converted to

The chief rival of Christianity was Judaism, which was represented in
Northern as in Southern Arabia by strong colonies of Jews, who made
proselytes, although their strict ritualism was uncongenial to the
Arab temperament which preferred conversion to Christianity (naturally
only as a matter of form). In addition to Jewish, Christian, and Old
Semitic influences, Zoroastrian ideas and customs were also known in
Arabia, as is likely enough in view of the proximity of the Persian

These various elements aroused in Muhammed's mind a vague idea of
religion. His experience was that of the eighteenth-century
theologians who suddenly observed that Christianity was but one of
many very similar and intelligible religions, and thus inevitably
conceived the idea of a pure and natural religious system fundamental
to all others. Judaism and Christianity were the only religions which
forced themselves upon Muhammed's consciousness and with the general
characteristics of which he was acquainted. He never read any part of
the Old or New Testament: his references to Christianity show that his
knowledge of the Bible was derived from hearsay and that his
informants were not representative of the great religious sects:
Muhammed's account of Jesus and His work, as given in the Qoran, is
based upon the apocryphal accretions which grew round the Christian

When Muhammed proceeded to compare the great religions of the Old and
New Testaments with the superficial pietism of his own compatriots, he
was especially impressed with the seriousness of the Hebrews and
Christians which contrasted strongly with the indifference of the
heathen Arabs. The Arab was familiar with the conception of an
almighty God, and this idea had not been obscured by the worship of
trees, stones, fire and the heavenly bodies: but his reverence for
this God was somewhat impersonal and he felt no instinct to approach
Him, unless he had some hopes or fears to satisfy. The idea of a
reckoning between man and God was alien to the Arab mind. Christian
and Jewish influence became operative upon Muhammed with reference
to this special point. The idea of the day of judgment, when an
account of earthly deeds and misdeeds will be required, when the joys
of Paradise will be opened to the good and the bad will be cast into
the fiery abyss, such was the great idea, which suddenly filled
Muhammed's mind and dispelled the indifference begotten of routine and
stirred his mental powers.

Polytheism was incompatible with the idea of God as a judge supreme
and righteous, but yet merciful. Thus monotheism was indissolubly
connected with Muhammed's first religious impulses, though the dogma
had not assumed the polemical form in which it afterwards confronted
the old Arabian and Christian beliefs. But a mind stirred by religious
emotion only rose to the height of prophetic power after a long course
of development which human knowledge can but dimly surmise.
Christianity and Judaism had their sacred books which the founders of
these religions had produced. In them were the words of God,
transmitted through Moses to the Jews and through Jesus to the
Christians. Jesus and Moses had been God's ambassadors to their
peoples. Who then could bring to the Arabs the glad tidings which
should guide them to the happy fields of Paradise? Among primitive
peoples God is regarded as very near to man. The Arabs had, their
fortune-tellers and augurs who cast lots before God and explained His
will in mysterious rhythmical utterances. Muhammed was at first more
intimately connected with this class of Arab fortune-tellers than is
usually supposed. The best proof of the fact is the vehemence with
which he repudiates all comparison between these fortune-tellers and
himself, even as early Christian apologetics and polemics attacked the
rival cults of the later classical world, which possessed forms of
ritual akin to those observed by Christianity. The existence of a
fortune-telling class among the Arabs shows that Muhammed may well
have been endowed with psychological tendencies which only awaited the
vivifying influence of Judaism and Christianity to emerge as the
prophetic impulse forcing him to stand forth in public and to stir the
people from their indifference: "Be ye converted, for the day of
judgment is at hand: God has declared it unto me, as he declared it
unto Moses and Jesus. I am the apostle of God to you, Arabs. Salvation
is yours only if ye submit to the will of God preached by me." This
act of submission Muhammed calls Islam. Thus at the hour of Islam's
birth, before its founder had proclaimed his ideas, the influence of
Christianity is indisputable. It was this influence which made of the
Arab seer and inspired prophet, the apostle of God.

Muhammed regarded Judaism and Christianity as religious movements
purely national in character. God in His mercy had announced His will
to different nations through His prophets. As God's word had been
interpreted for the Jews and for the Christians, so there was to be a
special interpretation for the benefit of the Arabs. These
interpretations were naturally identical in manner and differed only
as regards place and time. Muhammed had heard of the Jewish Messiah
and of the Christian Paraclete, whom, however, he failed to identify
with the Holy Ghost and he applied to himself the allusions to one who
should come after Moses and Jesus. Thus in the Qoran 61.6 we read,
"Jesus, the Son of Mary, said: Children of Israel, I am God's apostle
to you. I confirm in your hands the Thora (the law) and I announce the
coming of another apostle after me whose name is Ahmed." Ahmed is the
equivalent of Muhammed. The verse has been variously interpreted and
even rejected as an interpolation: but its authenticity is attested by
its perfect correspondence with what we know of Muhammed's

To trace in detail the development of his attitude towards
Christianity is a more difficult task than to discover the growth of
his views upon Judaism; probably he pursued a similar course in either
case. At first he assumed the identity of the two religions with one
another and with his own doctrine; afterwards he regarded them as
advancing by gradations. Adam, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammed,
these in his opinion were the chief stages in the divine scheme of
salvation. Each was respectively confirmed or abolished by the
revelation which followed it, nor is this theory of Muhammed's shaken
by the fact that each revelation was given to a different nation. He
regards all preceding prophets in the light of his own personality.
They were all sent to people who refused them a hearing at the moment.
Punishment follows and the prophet finds a body of believers
elsewhere. These temporary punishments are confused with the final
Judgment; in fact Muhammed's system was not clearly thought out. The
several prophets were but men, whose earthly careers were necessarily
crowned with triumph: hence the crucifixion of Jesus is a malicious
invention of the Jews, who in reality crucified some other sufferer,
while Jesus entered the divine glory. Thus Muhammed has no idea of the
importance of the Crucifixion to the Christian Church, as is shown by
his treatment of it as a Jewish falsehood. In fact, he develops the
habit of characterising as false any statement in contradiction with
his ideas, and this tendency is especially obvious in his dealings
with Judaism, of which he gained a more intimate knowledge. At first
he would refer sceptics to Christian and Jewish doctrine for
confirmation of his own teaching. The fact that with no knowledge of
the Old or New Testament, he had proclaimed doctrines materially
similar and the fact that these Scriptures referred to himself, were
proofs of his inspired power, let doubters say what they would. A
closer acquaintance with these Scriptures showed him that the
divergencies which he stigmatised as falsifications denoted in reality
vast doctrinal differences.

In order to understand Muhammed's attitude towards Christianity, we
will examine in greater detail his view of this religion, the portions
of it which he accepted or which he rejected as unauthentic. In the
first place he must have regarded the Trinity as repugnant to reason:
he considered the Christian Trinity as consisting of God the Father,
Mary the Mother of God, and Jesus the Son of God. In the Qoran, God
says, "Hast thou, Jesus, said to men, Regard me and my mother as Gods
by the side of God?" Jesus replies, "I will say nothing but the truth.
I have but preached, Pray to God, who is my Lord and your Lord"
(5.116, f). Hence it has been inferred that Muhammed's knowledge of
Christianity was derived from some particular Christian sect, such as
the Tritheists or the Arab female sect of the Collyridians who
worshipped the Virgin Mary with exaggerated reverence and assigned
divine honours to her. It is also possible that we have here a
development of some Gnostic conception which regarded the Holy Ghost
as of feminine gender, as Semites would do;[A] instances of this
change are to be found in the well-known Hymn of the Soul in the Acts
of Thomas, in the Gospel to the Egyptians and elsewhere. I am
inclined, however, to think it more probable that Muhammed had heard
of Mariolatry and of the "mother of God," a title which then was a
highly popular catchword, and that the apotheosis of Jesus was known
to him and also the doctrine of the Trinity by name. Further than this
his knowledge did not extend; although he knows the Holy Ghost and
identifies him with Jesus, none the less his primitive reasoning,
under the influence of many old beliefs, explained the mysterious
triad of the Trinity as husband, wife, and son. This fact is enough to
prove that his theory of Christianity was formed by combining isolated
scraps of information and that he cannot have had any direct
instruction from a Christian knowing the outlines of his faith.

[Footnote A: The word for "Spirit" is of the feminine gender in the
Semitic languages.]

Muhammed must also have denied the divinity of Christ: this is an
obvious result of the course of mental development which we have
described and of his characteristically Semitic theory of the nature
of God. To him, God is one, never begetting and never begotten.
Denying the divinity of Jesus, Muhammed naturally denies the
redemption through the Cross and also the fact of the Crucifixion.
Yet, strangely enough he accepted the miraculous birth; nor did he
hesitate to provide this purely human Jesus with all miraculous
attributes; these were a proof of his divine commission, and
marvellous details of this nature aroused the interest of his hearers.

Mary the sister of Ahron--an obvious confusion with the Old Testament
Miriam--had been devoted to the service of God by her mother's vow, and
lives in the temple under the guardianship of Zacharias, to whom a
later heir is born in answer to his prayers, namely John, the
forerunner of the Holy Ghost. The birth is announced to Mary and she
brings forth Jesus under a palm-tree, near which is a running spring
and by the dates of which she is fed. On her return home she is
received with reproaches by her family but merely points in reply to
the new-born babe, who suddenly speaks from his cradle, asserting that
he is the prophet of God. Afterwards Jesus performs all kinds of
miracles, forms birds out of clay and makes them fly, heals the blind
and lepers, raises the dead, etc., and even brings down from heaven a
table ready spread. The Jews will not believe him, but the youth
follow him. He is not killed, but translated to God. Christians are
not agreed upon the manner of his death and the Jews have invented the
story of the Crucifixion.

Muhammed's knowledge of Christianity thus consists of certain isolated
details, partly apocryphal, partly canonical, together with a hazy
idea of the fundamental dogmas. Thus the influence of Christianity
upon him was entirely indirect. The Muhammedan movement at its outset
was influenced not by the real Christianity of the time but by a
Christianity which Muhammed criticised in certain details and forced
into harmony with his preconceived ideas. His imagination was
profoundly impressed by the existence of Christianity as a revealed
religion with a founder of its own. Certain features of Christianity
and of Judaism, prayer, purification, solemn festivals, scriptures,
prophets and so forth were regarded by him as essential to any
religious community, because they happened to belong both to Judaism
and to Christianity. He therefore adopted or wished to adopt these

During the period of his life at Medina, Muhammed abandoned his
original idea of preaching the doctrines which Moses and Jesus had
proclaimed. This new development was the outcome of a struggle with
Judaism following upon an unsuccessful attempt at compromise. In point
of fact Judaism and Christianity were as widely different from one
another as they were from his own teaching and he was more than ever
inclined to regard as his special forerunner, Abraham, who had
preceded both Moses and Jesus, and was revered by both religions as
the man of God. He then brought Abraham into connection with the
ancient Meccan Ka'ba worship: the Ka'ba or die was a sacred stone
edifice, in one corner of which the "black stone" had been built in:
this stone was an object of reverence to the ancient Arabs, as it
still is to the Muhammedans. Thus Islam gradually assumed the form of
an Arab religion, developing universalist tendencies in the ultimate
course of events. Muhammed, therefore, as he was the last in the ranks
of the prophets, must also be the greatest. He epitomised all prophecy
and Islam superseded every revealed religion of earlier date.

Muhammed's original view that earlier religions had been founded by
God's will and through divine revelation, led both him and his
successors to make an important concession: adherents of other
religions were not compelled to adopt Islam. They were allowed to
observe their own faith unhindered, if they surrendered without
fighting, and were even protected against their enemies, in return for
which they had to pay tribute to their Muslim masters; this was levied
as a kind of poll-tax. Thus we read in the Qoran (ix. 29) that "those
who possess Scriptures," i.e. the Jews and Christians, who did not
accept Islam were to be attacked until they paid the _gizja_ or
tribute. Thus the object of a religious war upon the Christians is not
expressed by the cry "Death or Islam"; such attacks were intended
merely to extort an acknowledgment of Muhammedan supremacy, not to
abolish freedom of religious observance. It would be incorrect for the
most part to regard the warrior bands which started from Arabia as
inspired by religious enthusiasm or to attribute to them the
fanaticism which was first aroused by the crusades and in an even
greater degree by the later Turkish wars. The Muhammedan fanatics of
the wars of conquest, whose reputation was famous among later
generations, felt but a very scanty interest in religion and
occasionally displayed an ignorance of its fundamental tenets which we
can hardly exaggerate. The fact is fully consistent with the impulses
to which the Arab migrations were due. These impulses were economic
and the new religion was nothing more than a party cry of unifying
power, though there is no reason to suppose that it was not a real
moral force in the life of Muhammed and his immediate contemporaries.

Anti-Christian fanaticism there was therefore none. Even in early
years Muhammedans never refused to worship in the same buildings as
Christians. The various insulting regulations which tradition
represents Christians as forced to endure were directed not so much
against the adherents of another faith as against the barely tolerated
inhabitants of a subjugated state. It is true that the distinction is
often difficult to observe, as religion and nationality were one and
the same thing to Muhammedans. In any case religious animosity was a
very subordinate phenomenon. It was a gradual development and seems to
me to have made a spasmodic beginning in the first century under the
influence of ideas adopted from Christianity. It may seem paradoxical
to assert that it was Christian influence which first stirred Islam to
religious animosity and armed it with the sword against Christianity,
but the hypothesis becomes highly probable when we have realised the
indifferentism of the Muhammedan conquerors.

We shall constantly see hereafter how much they owed in every
department of intellectual life to the teaching of the races which
they subjugated. Their attitude towards other beliefs was never so
intolerant as was that of Christendom at that period. Christianity may
well have been the teaching influence in this department of life as in
others. Moreover at all times and especially in the first century the
position of Christians has been very tolerable, even though the
Muslims regarded them as an inferior class, Christians were able to
rise to the highest offices of state, even to the post of vizier,
without any compulsion to renounce their faith. Even during the period
of the crusades when the religious opposition was greatly intensified,
again through Christian policy, Christian officials cannot have been
uncommon: otherwise Muslim theorists would never have uttered their
constant invectives against the employment of Christians in
administrative duties. Naturally zealots appeared at all times on the
Muhammedan as well as on the Christian side and occasionally isolated
acts of oppression took place: these were, however, exceptional. So
late as the eleventh century, church funeral processions were able to
pass through the streets of Bagdad with all the emblems of
Christianity and disturbances were recorded by the chroniclers as
exceptional. In Egypt, Christian festivals were also regarded to some
extent as holidays by the Muhammedan population. We have but to
imagine these conditions reversed in a Christian kingdom of the early
middle ages and the probability of my theory will become obvious.

The Christians of the East, who had broken for the most part with the
orthodox Church, also regarded Islam as a lesser evil than the
Byzantine established Church. Moreover Islam, as being both a
political and ecclesiastical organisation, regarded the Christian
church as a state within a state and permitted it to preserve its own
juridical and at first its own governmental rights. Application was
made to the bishops when anything was required from the community and
the churches were used as taxation offices. This was all in the
interests of the clergy who thus found their traditional claims
realised. These relations were naturally modified in the course of
centuries; the crusades, the Turkish wars and the great expansion of
Europe widened the breach between Christianity and Islam, while as the
East was gradually brought under ecclesiastical influence, the
contrast grew deeper: the theory, however, that the Muhammedan
conquerors and their successors were inspired by a fanatical hatred of
Christianity is a fiction invented by Christians.

We have now to examine this early development of Islam in somewhat
greater detail: indeed, to secure a more general appreciation of this
point is the object of the present work.

The relationship of the Qoran to Christianity has been already noted:
it was a book which preached rather than taught and enounced isolated
laws but no connected system. Islam was a clear and simple war-cry
betokening merely a recognition of Arab supremacy, of the unity of God
and of Muhammed's prophetic mission. But in a few centuries Islam
became a complex religious structure, a confusion of Greek philosophy
and Roman law, accurately regulating every department of human life
from the deepest problems of morality to the daily use of the
toothpick, and the fashions of dress and hair. This change from the
simplicity of the founder's religious teaching to a system of
practical morality often wholly divergent from primitive doctrine, is
a transformation which all the great religions of the world have
undergone. Religious founders have succeeded in rousing the sense of
true religion in the human heart. Religious systems result from the
interaction of this impulse with pre-existing capacities for
civilisation. The highest attainments of human life are dependent upon
circumstances of time and place, and environment often exerts a more
powerful influence than creative power. The teaching of Jesus was
almost overpowered by the Graeco-Oriental culture of later Hellenism.
Dissensions persist even now because millions of people are unable to
distinguish pure religion from the forms of expression belonging to an
extinct civilisation. Islam went through a similar course of
development and assumed the spiritual panoply which was ready to hand.
Here, as elsewhere, this defence was a necessity during the period of
struggle, but became a crushing burden during the peace which followed
victory, for the reason that it was regarded as inseparable from the
wearer of it. From this point of view the analogy with Christianity
will appear extremely striking, but it is something more than an
analogy: the Oriental Hellenism of antiquity was to Christianity that
which the Christian Oriental Hellenism of a few centuries later was to

We must now attempt to realise the nature of this event so important
in the history of the world. A nomadic people, recently united, not
devoid of culture, but with a very limited range of ideas, suddenly
gains supremacy over a wide and populous district with an ancient
civilisation. These nomads are as yet hardly conscious of their
political unity and the individualism of the several tribes composing
it is still a disruptive force: yet they can secure domination over
countries such as Egypt and Babylonia, with complex constitutional
systems, where climatic conditions, the nature of the soil and
centuries of work have combined to develop an intricate administrative
system, which newcomers could not be expected to understand, much less
to recreate or to remodel. Yet the theory has long been held that the
Arabs entirely reorganised the constitutions of these countries.
Excessive importance has been attached to the statements of Arab
authors, who naturally regarded Islam as the beginning of all things.
In every detail of practical life they regarded the prophet and his
contemporaries as their ruling ideal, and therefore naturally assumed
that the constitutional practices of the prophet were his own
invention. The organisation of the conquering race with its tribal
subordination was certainly purely Arab in origin. In fact the
conquerors seemed so unable to adapt themselves to the conditions with
which they met, that foreigners who joined their ranks were admitted
to the Muhammedan confederacy only as clients of the various Arab
tribes. This was, however, a mere question of outward form: the
internal organisation continued unchanged, as it was bound to continue
unless chaos were to be the consequence. In fact, pre-existing
administrative regulations were so far retained that the old customs
duties on the former frontiers were levied as before, though they
represented an institution wholly alien to the spirit of the
Muhammedan empire. Those Muhammedan authors, who describe the
administrative organisation, recognise only the taxes which Islam
regarded as lawful and characterise others as malpractices which had
crept in at a later date. It is remarkable that these so-called
subsequent malpractices correspond with Byzantine and Persian usage
before the conquest: but tradition will not admit the fact that these
remained unchanged. The same fact is obvious when we consider the
progress of civilisation in general. In every case the Arabs merely
develop the social and economic achievements of the conquered races to
further issues. Such progress could indeed only be modified by a
general upheaval of existing conditions and no such movement ever took
place. The Germanic tribes destroyed the civilisations with which they
met; they adopted many of the institutions of Christian antiquity, but
found them an impediment to the development of their own genius. The
Arabs simply continued to develop the civilisation of post-classical
antiquity, with which they had come in contact.

This procedure may seem entirely natural in the department of economic
life, but by no means inevitable where intellectual progress is
concerned. Yet a similar course was followed in either case, as may be
proved by dispassionate examination. Islam was a rising force, a faith
rather of experience than of theory or dogma, when it raised its
claims against Christianity, which represented all pre-existing
intellectual culture. A settlement of these claims was necessary and
the military triumphs are but the prelude to a great accommodation of
intellectual interests. In this Christianity played the chief part,
though Judaism is also represented: I am inclined, however, to think
that Jewish ideas as they are expressed in the Qoran were often
transmitted through the medium of Christianity. There is no doubt that
in Medina Muhammed was under direct Jewish influence of extraordinary
power. Even at that time Jewish ideas may have been in circulation,
not only in the Qoran but also in oral tradition, which afterwards
became stereotyped: at the same time Muhammed's utterances against the
Jews eventually became so strong during the Medina period, for
political reasons, that I can hardly imagine the traditions in their
final form to have been adopted directly from the Jews. The case of
Jewish converts is a different matter. But in Christianity also much
Jewish wisdom was to be found at that time and it is well known that
even the Eastern churches regarded numerous precepts of the Old
Testament, including those that dealt with ritual, as binding upon
them. In any case the spirit of Judaism is present, either directly or
working through Christianity, as an influence wherever Islam
accommodated itself to the new intellectual and spiritual life which
it had encountered. It was a compromise which affected the most
trivial details of life, and in these matters religious scrupulosity
was carried to a ridiculous point: here we may see the outcome of that
Judaism which, as has been said, was then a definite element in
Eastern Christianity. Together with Jewish, Greek and classical ideas
were also naturally operative, while Persian and other ancient
Oriental conceptions were transmitted to Islam by Christianity: these
instances I have collectively termed Christian because Christianity
then represented the whole of later classical intellectualism, which
influenced Islam for the most part through Christianity.

It seems that the communication of these ideas to Muhammedanism was
impeded by the necessity of translating them not only into a kindred
language, but into one of wholly different linguistic structure. For
Muhammedanism the difficulty was lessened by the fact that it had
learned Christianity in Syria and Persia through the Semitic dialect
known as Aramaic, by which Greek and Persian culture had been
transmitted to the Arabs before the rise of Islam. In this case, as in
many others, the history of language runs on parallel lines with the
history of civilisation. The necessities of increasing civilisation
had introduced many Aramaic words to the Arabic vocabulary before
Muhammed's day: these importations increased considerably when the
Arabs entered a wider and more complex civilisation and were
especially considerable where intellectual culture was concerned. Even
Greek terms made their way into Arabic through Aramaic. This natural
dependency of Arabic upon Aramaic, which in turn was connected with
Greek as the rival Christian vernacular in these regions, is alone
sufficient evidence that Christianity exerted a direct influence upon
Muhammedanism. Moreover, as we have seen, the Qoran itself regarded
Christians as being in possession of divine wisdom, and some reference
both to Christianity and to Judaism was necessary to explain the many
unintelligible passages of the Qoran. Allusions were made to texts and
statements in the Thora and the Gospels, and God was represented as
constantly appealing to earlier revelations of Himself. Thus it was
only natural that interpreters should study these scriptures and ask
counsel of their possessors. Of primary importance was the fact that
both Christians and Jews, and the former in particular, accepted
Muhammedanism by thousands, and formed a new intellectual class of
ability infinitely superior to that of the original Muslims and able
to attract the best elements of the Arab nationality to their
teaching. It was as impossible for these apostate Christians to
abandon their old habits of thought as it was hopeless to expect any
sudden change in the economic conditions under which they lived.
Christian theories of God and the world naturally assumed a Muhammedan
colouring and thus the great process of accommodating Christianity to
Muhammedanism was achieved. The Christian contribution to this end was
made partly directly and partly by teaching, and in the intellectual
as well as in the economic sphere the ultimate ideal was inevitably
dictated by the superior culture of Christianity. The Muhammedans were
thus obliged to accept Christian hypotheses on theological points and
the fundaments of Christian and Muhammedan culture thus become

I use the term hypotheses, for the reason that the final determination
of the points at issue was by no means identical, wherever the Qoran
definitely contradicted Christian views of morality or social laws.
But in these cases also, Christian ideas were able to impose
themselves upon tradition and to issue in practice, even when opposed
by the actual text of the Qoran. They did not always pass unquestioned
and even on trivial points were obliged to encounter some resistance.
The theory of the Sunday was accepted, but that day was not chosen and
Friday was preferred: meetings for worship were held in imitation of
Christian practice, but attempts to sanctify the day and to proclaim
it a day of rest were forbidden: except for the performance of divine
service, Friday was an ordinary week-day. When, however, the Qoran was
in any sort of harmony with Christianity, the Christian ideas of the
age were textually accepted in any further development of the
question. The fact is obvious, not only as regards details, but also
in the general theory of man's position upon earth.

* * * * *

Muhammed, the preacher of repentance, had become a temporal prince in
Medina; his civil and political administration was ecclesiastical in
character, an inevitable result of his position as the apostle of God,
whose congregation was at the same time a state. This theory of the
state led later theorists unconsciously to follow the lead of
Christianity, which regarded the church as supreme in every department
of life, and so induced Muhammedanism to adopt views of life and
social order which are now styled mediaeval. The theological
development of this system is to be attributed chiefly to groups of
pious thinkers in Medina: they were excluded from political life when
the capital was transferred from Medina to Damascus and were left in
peace to elaborate their theory of the Muhammedan divine polity. The
influence of these groups was paramount: but of almost equal
importance was the influence of the proselytes in the conquered lands
who were Christians for the most part and for that reason far above
their Arab contemporaries in respect of intellectual training and
culture. We find that the details of jurisprudence, dogma, and
mysticism can only be explained by reference to Christian stimulus,
nor is it any exaggeration to ascribe the further development of
Muhammed's views to the influence of thinkers who regarded the
religious polity of Islam as the realisation of an ideal which
Christianity had hitherto vainly striven to attain. This ideal was the
supremacy of religion over life and all its activities, over the state
and the individual alike. But it was a religion primarily concerned
with the next world, where alone real worth was to be found. Earthly
life was a pilgrimage to be performed and earthly intentions had no
place with heavenly. The joy of life which the ancient world had
known, art, music and culture, all were rejected or valued only as
aids to religion. Human action was judged with reference only to its
appraisement in the life to come. That ascetic spirit was paramount,
which had enchained the Christian world, that renunciation of secular
affairs which explains the peculiar methods by which mediaeval views
of life found expression.

Asceticism did not disturb the course of life as a whole. It might
condemn but it could not suppress the natural impulse of man to
propagate his race: it might hamper economic forces, but it could not
destroy them. It eventually led to a compromise in every department of
life, but for centuries it retained its domination over men's minds
and to some material extent over their actions.

Such was the environment in which Islam was planted: its deepest roots
had been fertilised with Christian theory, and in spite of Muhammed's
call to repentance, its most characteristic manifestations were
somewhat worldly and non-ascetic. "Islam knows not monasticism" says
the tradition which this tendency produced. The most important
compromise of all, that with life, which Christianity only secured by
gradual steps, had been already attained for Islam by Muhammed himself
and was included in the course of his development. As Islam now
entered the Christian world, it was forced to pass through this
process of development once more. At the outset it was permeated with
the idea of Christian asceticism, to which an inevitable opposition
arose, and found expression in such statements as that already quoted.
But Muhammed's preaching had obviously striven to honour the future
life by painting the actual world in the gloomiest colours, and the
material optimism of the secular-minded was unable to check the
advance of Christian asceticism among the classes which felt a real
interest in religion. Hence that surprising similarity of views upon
the problem of existence, which we have now to outline. In details of
outward form great divergency is apparent. Christianity possessed a
clergy while Islam did not: yet the force of Christian influence
produced a priestly class in Islam. It was a class acting not as
mediator between God and man through sacraments and mysteries, but as
moral leaders and legal experts; as such it was no less important than
the scribes under Judaism. Unanimity among these scholars could
produce decisions no less binding than those of the Christian clergy
assembled in church councils. They are representatives of the
congregation which "has no unanimity, for such would be an error."
Islam naturally preferred to adopt unanimous conclusions in silence
rather than to vote in assemblies. As a matter of fact a body of
orthodox opinion was developed by this means with no less success than
in Christendom. Any agreement which the quiet work of the scholars had
secured upon any question was ratified by God and was thus irrevocably
and eternally binding. For instance, the proclamation to the faithful
of new ideas upon the exposition of the Qoran or of tradition was
absolutely forbidden; the scholars, in other words the clergy, had
convinced themselves, by the fact of their unanimity upon the point,
that the customary and traditional mode of exposition was the one
pleasing to God. Ideas of this kind naturally remind us of Roman
Catholic practice. The influence of Eastern Christianity upon Islam is
undoubtedly visible here. This influence could not in the face of
Muhammedan tradition and custom, create an organised clergy, but it
produced a clerical class to guard religious thought, and as religion
spread, to supervise thought of every kind.

Christianity again condemned marriage, though it eventually agreed to
a compromise sanctifying this tie; Islam, on the contrary, found in
the Qoran the text "Ye that are unmarried shall marry" (24, 32). In
the face of so clear a statement, the condemnation of marriage, which
in any case was contrary to the whole spirit of the Qoran, could not
be maintained. Thus the Muhammedan tradition contains numerous sayings
in support of marriage. "A childless house contains no blessing": "the
breath of a son is as the breath of Paradise"; "when a man looks upon
his wife (in love) and she upon him, God looks down in mercy upon them
both." "Two prayers of a married man are more precious in the sight of
God than seventy of a bachelor." With many similar variations upon the
theme, Muhammed is said to have urged marriage upon his followers. On
the other hand an almost equally numerous body of warnings against
marriage exists, also issued by Muhammed. I know no instance of direct
prohibition, but serious admonitions are found which usually take the
form of denunciation of the female sex and were early interpreted as
warnings by tradition. "Fear the world and women": "thy worst enemies
are the wife at thy side and thy concubine": "the least in Paradise
are the women": "women are the faggots of hell"; "pious women are rare
as ravens with white or red legs and white beaks"; "but for women men
might enter Paradise." Here we come upon a strain of thought
especially Christian. Muhammed regarded the satisfaction of the sexual
instincts as natural and right and made no attempt to put restraint
upon it: Christian asceticism regarded this impulse as the greatest
danger which could threaten the spiritual life of its adherents, and
the sentences above quoted may be regarded as the expression of this
view. Naturally the social position of the woman suffered in
consequence and is so much worse in the traditional Muhammedanism as
compared with the Qoran that the change can only be ascribed to the
influence of the civilisation which the Muhammedans encountered. The
idea of woman as a creature of no account is certainly rooted in the
ancient East, but it reached Islam in Christian dress and with the
authority of Christian hostility to marriage.

With this hostility to marriage are probably connected the regulations
concerning the covering of the body: in the ancient church only the
face, the hands and the feet were to be exposed to view, the object
being to prevent the suggestion of sinful thoughts: it is also likely
that objections to the ancient habit of leaving the body uncovered
found expression in this ordinance. Similar objections may be found in
Muhammedan tradition; we may regard these as further developments of
commands given in the Qoran, but it is also likely that Muhammed's
apocryphal statements upon the point were dictated by Christian
religious theory. They often appear in connection with warnings
against frequenting the public baths, which fact is strong evidence of
their Christian origin. "A bad house is the bath: much turmoil is
therein and men show their nakedness." "Fear that house that is called
the bathhouse and if any enter therein, let him veil himself." "He who
believes in God and the last Judgment, let him enter the bath only in
bathing dress." "Nakedness is forbidden to us." There is a story of
the prophet, to the effect that he was at work unclothed when a voice
from heaven ordered him to cover his nakedness!

* * * * *

We thus see, that an astonishing similarity is apparent in the
treatment even of questions where divergency is fundamental.
Divergency, it is true, existed, but pales before the general affinity
of the two theories of life. Our judgment upon Christian medievalism
in this respect can be applied directly and literally to
Muhammedanism. Either religion regards man as no more than a sojourner
in this world. It is not worth while to arrange for a permanent
habitation, and luxurious living is but pride. Hence the simplicity of
private dwellings in mediaeval times both in the East and West.
Architectural expense is confined to churches and mosques, which were
intended for the service of God. These Christian ideas are reflected
in the inexhaustible storehouse of Muhammedan theory, the great
collections of tradition, as follows. "The worst use which a believer
can make of his money is to build." "Every building, except a mosque,
will stand to the discredit of its architect on the day of
resurrection." These polemics which Islam inherited from Christianity
are directed not only against building in general, but also against
the erection and decoration of lofty edifices: "Should a man build a
house nine ells high, a voice will call to him from heaven, Whither
wilt thou rise, most profane of the profane?" "No prophet enters a
house adorned with fair decoration." With these prohibitions should be
connected the somewhat unintelligible fact that the most pious Caliphs
sat upon thrones (_mimbar_, "president's chair") of clay. The simplest
and most transitory material thus serves to form the symbol of
temporal power. A house is adorned not by outward show, but by the
fact that prayer is offered and the Qoran recited within its walls.
These theories were out of harmony with the worldly tendencies of the
conquerors, who built themselves castles, such as Qusair Amra: they
belong to the spirit of Christianity rather than to Islam.

Upon similar principles we may explain the demand for the utmost
simplicity and reserve in regard to the other enjoyments of life. To
eat whenever one may wish is excess and two meals a day are more than
enough. The portion set apart for one may also suffice for two. Ideas
of this kind are of constant recurrence in the Muhammedan traditions:
indispensable needs alone are to be satisfied, as indeed Thomas
Aquinas teaches. Similar observations apply to dress: "he who walks in
costly garments to be seen of men is not seen of the Lord." Gold and
silver ornaments, and garments of purple and silk are forbidden by
both religions. Princes live as simply as beggars and possess only one
garment, so that they are unable to appear in public when it is being
washed: they live upon a handful of dates and are careful to save
paper and artificial light. Such incidents are common in the oldest
records of the first Caliphs. These princes did not, of course, live
in such beggary, and the fact is correspondingly important that after
the lapse of one or two generations the Muhammedan historians should
describe their heroes as possessing only the typical garment of the
Christian saint. This one fact speaks volumes.

Every action was performed in God or with reference to God--an
oft-repeated idea in either religion. There is a continual hatred of
the world and a continual fear that it may imperil a man's soul. Hence
the sense of vast responsibility felt by the officials, a sense which
finds expression even in the ordinary official correspondence of the
authorities which papyri have preserved for us. The phraseology is
often stereotyped, but as such, expresses a special theory of life.
This responsibility is represented as weighing with especial severity
upon a pious Caliph. Upon election to the throne he accepts office
with great reluctance protesting his unworthiness with tears. The West
can relate similar stories of Gregory the Great and of Justinian.

Exhortations are frequent ever to remember the fact of death and to
repent and bewail past sins. When a mention of the last Judgment
occurs in the reading of passages from the Bible or Qoran, the
auditors burst into tears. Upon one occasion a man was praying upon
the roof of his house and wept so bitterly over his sins, that the
tears ran down the waterspout and flooded the rooms below. This
hyperbolical statement in a typical life of a saint shows the high
value attributed to tears in the East. It is, however, equally a
Christian characteristic. The gracious gift of tears was regarded by
mediaeval Christianity as the sign of a deeply religious nature.
Gregory VII is said to have wept daily at the sacrifice of the Mass
and similar accounts are given to the credit of other famous

While a man should weep for his own sins, he is not to bewail any
misfortune or misery which may befall him. In the latter case it is
his duty to collect his strength, to resign himself and to praise God
even amid his sufferings. Should he lose a dear relative by death, he
is not to break out with cries and lamentations like the heathen.
Lamentation for the dead is most strictly forbidden in Islam. "We are
God's people and to God we return" says the pious Muslim on receiving
the unexpected news of a death. Resignation and patience in these
matters is certainly made the subject of eloquent exhortation in the
Qoran, but the special developments of tradition betray Christian

Generally speaking, the whole ethical system of the two religions is
based upon the contrast between God and the world, though Muhammedan
philosophy will recognize no principle beside that of God. As a
typical example we may take a sentence from the Spanish bishop Isidor
who died in 636: "Good are the intentions directed towards God and bad
are those directed to earthly gain or transitory fame." Any Muhammedan
theologian would have subscribed to this statement. On the one hand
stress is laid upon motive as giving its value to action. The first
sentence in the most famous collection of traditions runs, "Deeds
shall be judged by their intentions." On the other hand is the
contrast between God and the world, or as Islam puts it, between the
present and the future life. The Christian gains eternal life by
following Christ. Imitation of the Master in all things even to the
stigmata, is the characteristic feature of mediaeval Christianity. Nor
is the whole of the so-called Sunna obedience anything more than the
imitation of Muhammed which seeks to repeat the smallest details of
his life. The infinite importance attached by Islam to the Sunna seems
to me to have originated in Christian influence. The development of it
betrays original features, but the fundamental principle is Christian,
as all the leading ideas of Islam are Christian, in the sense of the
term as paraphrased above. Imitation of Christ in the first instance,
attempts to repeat his poverty and renunciation of personal property:
this is the great Christian ideal. Muhammed was neither poor nor
without possessions: at the end of his life he had become a prince and
had directly stated that property was a gift from God. In spite of
that his successors praise poverty and their praises were the best of
evidence that they were influenced not by the prophet himself but by
Christianity. While the traditions are full of the praises of poverty
and the dangers of wealth, assertions in praise of wealth also
occur, for the reason that the pure Muhammedan ideas opposed to
Christianity retained a certain influence. J. Goldziher has published
an interesting study showing how many words borrowed from this source
occur in the written Muhammedan traditions: an almost complete
version of the Lord's Prayer is quoted. Even the idea of love towards
enemies, which would have been unintelligible to Muhammed, made its
way into the traditions: "the most virtuous of acts is to seek out him
who rejects thee, to give to him that despises thee and to pardon him
that oppresses thee." The Gospel precept to do unto others as we would
they should do unto us (Matt. vii. 12, Luke vi. 31) is to be found in
the Arab traditions, and many similar points of contact may be
noticed. A man's "neighbour" has ever been, despite the teaching of
Jesus, to the Christian and to the Muhammedan, his co-religionist. The
whole department of Muhammedan ethics has thus been subjected to
strong Christian influence.

Naturally this ecclesiasticism which dominated the whole of life, was
bound to assert itself in state organisation. An abhorrence of the
state, so far as it was independent of religion, a feeling unknown in
the ancient world, pervades both Christianity and Muhammedanism,
Christianity first struggled to secure recognition in the state and
afterwards fought with the state for predominance. Islam and the state
were at first identical: in its spiritual leaders it was soon
separated from the state. Its idea of a divine polity was elaborated
to the smallest details, but remained a theory which never became
practice. Yet this ideal retained such strength that every Muhammedan
usurper was careful to secure his investiture by the Caliph, the
nominal leader of this ecclesiastical state, even if force were
necessary to attain his object. For instance, Saladin was absolutely
independent of the nominal Caliph in Bagdad, but could not feel that
his position was secure until he had obtained his sultan's patent from
the Caliph. Only then did his supremacy rest upon a religious basis
and he was not regarded by popular opinion as a legitimate monarch
until this ceremony had been performed. This theory corresponds with
constitutional ideals essentially Christian. "The tyranny," wrote
Innocent IV to the Emperor Frederick II, "which was once generally
exercised throughout the world, was resigned into the hands of the
Church by Constantine, who then received as an honourable gift from
the proper source that which he had formerly held and exercised
unrighteously." The long struggle between Church and State in this
matter is well known. In this struggle the rising power of Islam had
adopted a similar attitude. The great abhorrence of a secular
"monarchy" in opposition to a religious caliphate, as expressed both
by the dicta of tradition and by the Abbassid historians, was
inspired, in my opinion, by Christian dislike of a divorce between
Church and State. The phenomenon might be explained without reference
to external influence, but if the whole process be considered in
connection, Christian influence seems more than probable.

A similar attitude was also assumed by either religion towards the
facts of economic life. In either case the religious point of view is
characteristic. The reaction against the tendency to condemn secular
life is certainly stronger in Islam, but is also apparent in
Christianity. Thomas Aquinas directly stigmatises trade as a
disgraceful means of gain, because the exchange of wares does not
necessitate labour or the satisfaction of necessary wants: Muhammedan
tradition says, "The pious merchant is a pioneer on the road of God."
"The first to enter Paradise is the honourable merchant." Here the
solution given to the problem differs in either case, but in Christian
practice, opposition was also obvious. Common to both religions is the
condemnation of the exaction of interest and monetary speculation,
which the middle ages regarded as usury. Islam, as usual, gives this
Christian idea the form of a saying enounced by Muhammed: "He who
speculates in grain for forty days, grinds and bakes it and gives it
to the poor, makes an offering unacceptable to God." "He who raises
prices to Muslims (by speculation) will be cast head downwards by God
into the hottest fire of hell." Many similar traditions fulminate
against usury in the widest sense of the word. These prohibitions were
circumvented in practice by deed of gift and exchange, but none the
less the free development of commercial enterprise was hampered by
these fetters which modern civilisation first broke. Enterprise was
thus confined to agriculture under these circumstances both for
Christianity and Islam, and economic life in either case became
"mediaeval" in outward appearance.

Methods of making profit without a proportional expenditure of labour
were the particular objects of this aversion. Manual labour was highly
esteemed both in the East and West. A man's first duty was to support
himself by the work of his own hands, a duty proclaimed, as we know,
from the apostolic age onwards. So far as Islam is concerned, this
view may be illustrated by the following utterances: "The best of
deeds is the gain of that which is lawful": "the best gain is made by
sale within lawful limits and by manual labour." "The most precious
gain is that made by manual labour; that which a man thus earns and
gives to himself, his people, his sons and his servants, is as
meritorious as alms." Thus practical work is made incumbent upon the
believer, and the extent to which manufacture flourished in East and
West during the middle ages is well known.

A similar affinity is apparent as regards ideas upon social position
and occupation. Before God man is but a slave: even the mighty Caliphs
themselves, even those who were stigmatised by posterity as secular
monarchs, included in their official titles the designation, "slave of
God." This theory was carried out into the smallest details of life,
even into those which modern observers would consider as unconcerned
with religion. Thus at meals the Muslim was not allowed to recline at
table, an ancient custom which the upper classes had followed for
centuries: he must sit, "as a slave," according to the letter of the
law. All are alike slaves, for the reason that they are believers:
hence the humiliation of those whom chance has exalted is thought
desirable. This idealism is undoubtedly more deeply rooted in the
popular consciousness of the East than of the West. In the East great
social distinctions occur; but while religion recognises them, it
forbids insistence upon them.

As especially distinctive of social work in either religion we might
be inclined to regard the unparalleled extent of organizations for the
care of the poor, for widows and orphans, for the old, infirm and
sick, the public hospitals and almshouses and religious foundations in
the widest sense of the term; but the object of these activities was
not primarily social nor were they undertaken to make life easier for
the poor: religious selfishness was the leading motive, the desire to
purify self by good works and to secure the right to pre-eminence in
heaven. "For the salvation of my soul and for everlasting reward" is
the formula of many a Christian foundation deed. Very similar
expressions of hope for eternal reward occur in Muhammedan deeds of
gift. A foundation inscription on a mosque, published by E. Littmann,
is stated in terms the purport of which is unmistakable. "This has
been built by N or M: may a house be built for him in Paradise (in
return)." Here again, the idea of the house in Paradise is borrowed
from Christian ideas.

We have already observed that in Islam the smallest trivialities of
daily life become matters of religious import. The fact is especially
apparent in a wide department of personal conduct. Islam certainly
went to further extremes than Christianity in this matter, but these
customs are clearly only further developments of Christian
regulations. The call to simplicity of food and dress has already been
mentioned. But even the simplest food was never to be taken before
thanks had been given to God: grace was never to be omitted either
before or after meals. Divine ordinances also regulated the manner of
eating. The prophet said, "With one finger the devils eat, with two
the Titans of antiquity and with three fingers the prophets." The
application of the saying is obvious. Similar sayings prescribe the
mode of handling dishes and behaviour at a common meal, if the
blessing of God is to be secured. There seems to be a Christian touch
in one of these rules which runs, in the words of the prophet: "He who
picks up the crumbs fallen from the table and eats them, will be
forgiven by God." "He who licks the empty dishes and his fingers will
be filled by God here and in the world to come." "When a man licks the
dish from which he has eaten, the dish will plead for him before God."
I regard these words as practical applications of the text, "Gather up
the pieces that remain, that nothing be lost" (Matt. xiv. 10: John vi.
12). Even to-day South Italians kiss bread that has fallen to the
ground, in order to make apology to the gift of God. Volumes might be
filled with rules of polite manners in this style: hardly any detail
is to be found in the whole business of daily life, even including
occupations regarded as unclean, which was not invested with some
religious significance. These rules are almost entirely dictated by
the spirit of early Christianity and it is possible to reconstruct the
details of life in those dark ages from these literary records which
are now the only source of evidence upon such points. However, we must
here content ourselves with establishing the fact that Islam adopted
Christian practice in this as in other departments of life.

The state, society, the individual, economics and morality were thus
collectively under Christian influence during the early period of
Muhammedanism. Conditions very similar in general, affected those
conceptions which we explain upon scientific grounds but which were
invariably regarded by ancient and mediaeval thought as supernatural,
conceptions deduced from the phenomena of illness and dreams. Islam
was no less opposed than Christianity to the practice of magic in any
form, but only so far as these practices seemed to preserve remnants
of heathen beliefs. Such beliefs were, however, continued in both
religions in modified form. There is no doubt that ideas of high
antiquity, doubtless of Babylonian origin, can be traced as
contributing to the formation of these beliefs, while scientific
medicine is connected with the earlier discoveries of Greece. Common
to both religions was the belief in the reality of dreams, especially
when these seemed to harmonise with religious ideas: dreams were
regarded as revelations from God or from his apostles or from the
pious dead. The fact that man could dream and that he could appear to
other men in dreams after his death was regarded as a sign of divine
favour and the biographies of the saints often contain chapters
devoted to this faculty. These are natural ideas which lie in the
national consciousness of any people, but owe their development in the
case of Islam to Christian influence. The same may be said of the
belief that the prayers of particular saints were of special efficacy,
and of attempts by prayer, forms of worship and the like to procure
rain, avert plague and so forth: such ideas are common throughout the
middle ages. Thus in every department we meet with that particular
type of Christian theory which existed in the East during the seventh
and eighth centuries.

This mediaeval theory of life was subjected, as is well known, to many
compromises in the West, and was materially modified by Teutonic
influence and the revival of classicism. It might therefore be
supposed that in Islam Christian theory underwent similar modification
or disappeared entirely. But the fact is not so. At the outset, we
stated, as will be remembered, that Muhammedan scholars were
accustomed to propound their dicta as utterances given by Muhammed
himself, and in this form Christian ideas also came into circulation
among Muhammedans. When attempts were made to systematise these
sayings, all were treated as alike authentic, and, as traditional,
exerted their share of influence upon the formation of canon law. Thus
questions of temporary importance to mediaeval Christianity became
permanent elements in Muhammedan theology.

One highly instructive instance may be given. During the century which
preceded the Byzantine iconoclastic controversy, the whole of nearer
Asia was disturbed by the question whether the erection and veneration
of images was permissible. That Constantinople attempted to prohibit
such veneration is well known: but after a long struggle the church
gained its wishes. Islam was confronted with the problem and decided
for prohibition, doubtless under Jewish influence. Sayings of Muhammed
forbid the erection of images. This prohibition became part of canon
law and therefore binding for all time: it remains obligatory at the
present day, though in practice it is often transgressed. Thus the
process of development which was continued in Christendom, came to a
standstill in Islam, and many similar cases might be quoted.

Here begins the development of Muhammedan jurisprudence or, more
exactly, of the doctrine of duty, which includes every kind of human
activity, duties to God and man, religion, civil law, the penal code,
social morality and economics. This extraordinary system of moral
obligations, as developed in Islam, though its origin is obscure, is
doubtless rooted in the ecclesiastical law of Christendom which was
then first evolved. I have no doubt that the development of Muhammedan
tradition, which precedes the code proper, was dependent upon the
growth of canon law in the old Church, and that this again, or at
least the purely legal part of it, is closely connected with the
pre-Justinian legislation. Roman law does not seem to me to have
influenced Islam immediately in the form of Justinian's _Corpus
Juris_, but indirectly from such ecclesiastical sources as the
Romano-Syrian code. This view, however, I would distinctly state, is
merely my conjecture. For our present purpose it is more important to
establish the fact that the doctrine of duty canonised the manifold
expressions of the theory that life is a religion, with which we have
met throughout the traditional literature: all human acts are thus
legally considered as obligatory or forbidden when corresponding with
religious commands or prohibitions, as congenial or obnoxious to the
law or as matters legally indifferent and therefore permissible. The
arrangement of the work of daily life in correspondence with these
religious points of view is the most important outcome of the
Muhammedan doctrine of duties. The religious utterances which also
cover the whole business of life were first made duties by this
doctrine: in practice their fulfilment is impossible, but the theory
of their obligatory nature is a fundamental element in Muhammedanism.

Where the doctrine of duties deals with legal rights, its application
was in practice confined to marriage and the affairs of family life:
the theoretical demands of its penal clauses, for instance, raise
impossible difficulties. At the same time, it has been of great
importance to the whole spiritual life of Islam down to the present
day, because it reflects Muhammedan ideals of life and of man's place
in the world. Even to-day it remains the daily bread of the soul that
desires instruction, to quote the words of the greatest father of the
Muhammedan church. It will thus be immediately obvious to what a vast
extent Christian theory of the seventh and eighth centuries still
remains operative upon Muhammedan thought throughout the world.

Considerable parts of the doctrine of duties are concerned with the
forms of Muhammedan worship. It is becoming ever clearer that only
slight tendencies to a form of worship were apparent under Muhammed.
The mosque, the building erected for the special purpose of divine
service, was unknown during the prophet's lifetime; nor was there any
definite church organisation, of which the most important parts are
the common ritual and the preaching. Tendencies existed but no system,
was to be found: there was no clerical class to take an interest in
the development of an order of divine service. The Caliphs prayed
before the faithful in the capital, as did the governors in the
provinces. The military commanders also led a simple service in their
own stations.

It was contact with foreign influence which first provided the impulse
to a systematic form of worship. Both Christians and Jews possessed
such forms. Their example was followed and a ritual was evolved, at
first of the very simplest kind. No detailed organisation, however,
was attempted, until Christian influence led to the formation of the
class which naturally took an interest in the matter, the professional
theologians. These soon replaced the military service leaders. This
change denoted the final stage in the development of ritual. The
object of the theologians was to subject the various occupations of
life to ritual as well as to religion. The mediatorial or sacramental
theories of the priestly office were unknown to Islam, but ritual
customs of similar character were gradually evolved, and are
especially pronounced in the ceremonies of marriage and burial.

More important, however, was the development of the official service,
the arrangement of the day and the hour of obligatory attendance and
the introduction of preaching: under Muhammed and his early followers,
and until late in the Omajjad period, preaching was confined to
addresses, given as occasion demanded, but by degrees it became part
of the regular ritual. With it was afterwards connected the
intercession for the Caliphs, which became a highly significant part
of the service, as symbolising their sovereignty. It seems to me very
probable that this practice was an adoption, at any rate in theory, of
the Christian custom of praying for the emperor. The pulpit was then
introduced under Christian influence, which thus completely
transformed the chair (_mimbar_) of the ancient Arab judges and rulers
and made it a piece of church furniture; the Christian _cancelli_ or
choir screens were adopted and the mosque was thus developed. Before
the age of mosques, a lance had been planted in the ground and prayer
offered behind it: so in the mosque a prayer niche was made, a
survival of the pre-existing custom. There are many obscure points in
the development of the worship, but one fact may be asserted with
confidence: the developments of ritual were derived from pre-existing
practices, which were for the most part Christian.

But the religious energy of Islam was not exclusively devoted to the
development and practice of the doctrine of duties; at the same time
this ethical department, in spite of its dependency upon Christian and
Jewish ideas, remains its most original achievement: we have pursued
the subject at some length, because its importance is often overlooked
in the course of attempts to estimate the connection between
Christianity and Islam. On the other hand, affinities in the regions
of mysticism and dogma have long been matter of common knowledge and a
brief sketch of them will therefore suffice. If not essential to our
purpose within the limits of this book, they are none the less
necessary to complete our treatment of the subject.

By mysticism we understand the expression of religious emotion, as
contrasted with efforts to attain righteousness by full obedience to
the ethical doctrine of duties, and also in contrast to the
hair-splitting of dogmatic speculation: mysticism strove to reach
immediate emotional unity with the Godhead. No trace of any such
tendency was to be found in the Qoran: it entered Islam as a complete
novelty, and the affinities which enabled it to gain a footing have
been difficult to trace.

Muhammedan mysticism is certainly not exclusively Christian: its
origins, like those of Christian mysticism, are to be found in the
pantheistic writings of the Neoplatonist school of Dionysius the
Areopagite: but Islam apparently derived its mysticism from Christian
sources. In it originated the idea, with all its capacity for
development, of the mystical love of God: to this was added the theory
and practice of asceticism which was especially developed by
Christianity, and, in later times, the influence of Indian philosophy,
which is unmistakable. Such are the fundamental elements of this
tendency. When the idea of the Nirwana, the Arab _fan[=a]_, is
attained, Muhammedanism proper comes to an end. But orthodoxy controls
the divergent elements: it opposes any open avowal of the logical
conclusion, which would identify "God" and the "ego," but in practice
this group of ideas, pantheistic in all but name, has been received
and given a place side by side with the strict monotheism of the Qoran
and with the dogmatic theology. Any form of mysticism which is pushed
to its logical consequences must overthrow positive religion. By
incorporating this dangerous tendency within itself, Islam has averted
the peril which it threatens. Creed is no longer endangered, and this
purpose being secured, thought is free.

Union with God is gained by ecstasy and leads to enthusiasm. These
terms will therefore show us in what quarter we must seek the
strongest impulses to mysticism. The concepts, if not the actual
terms, are to be found in Islam: they were undoubtedly transmitted by
Christianity and undergo the wide extension which results in the
dervish and fakir developments. _Dervish_ and _fakir_ are the Persian
and Arabic words for "beggar": the word _sufi_, a man in a woollen
shirt, is also used in the same sense. The terms show that asceticism
is a fundamental element in mysticism; asceticism was itself an
importation to Islam. Dervishes are divided into different classes or
orders, according to the methods by which they severally prefer to
attain ecstasy: dancing and recitation are practised by the dancing
and howling dervishes and other methods are in vogue. It is an
institution very different from monasticism but the result of a course
of development undoubtedly similar to that which produced the monk:
dervishism and monasticism are independent developments of the same
original idea.

Among these Muhammedan companies attempts to reach the point of
ecstasy have developed to a rigid discipline of the soul; the believer
must subject himself to his master, resigning all power of will, and
so gradually reaches higher stages of knowledge until he is eventually
led to the consciousness of his absolute identity with God. It seems
to me beyond question that this method is reflected in the _exercitiis
spiritualibus_ of Ignatius Loyola, the chief instrument by which the
Jesuits secured dominion over souls. Any one who has realised the
enormous influence which Arab thought exerted upon Spanish
Christianity so late as the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, will
not regard the conjecture as unfounded.

When a man's profession or position prevented him from practising
these mystical exercises, he satisfied his religious needs by
venerating persons who were nearer to the deity and whose intercession
was effectual even after their death and sometimes not until they were
dead: hence arose the veneration of saints, a practice as alien as
pantheistic dogma to primitive Islam. The adoption of Christian saint
worship was not possible until the person of Muhammed himself had been
exalted above the ordinary level of humanity. Early Muhammedans
observed that the founder of Christianity was regarded by popular
opinion as a miracle worker of unrivalled power: it was impossible for
the founder of Islam to remain inferior in this respect. Thus the
early biographies of the prophet, which appeared in the first century
of Muhammedanism, recount the typical miracles of the Gospels, the
feeding of multitudes, healing the sick, raising the dead and so
forth. Two methods of adoption may be distinguished. Special features
are directly borrowed, or the line of advance is followed which had
introduced the worship of saints and relics to Christianity a short
time before. The religious emotions natural to any people produced a
series of ideas which pass from one religion to another. Outward form
and purport may be changed, but the essential points remain unaltered
and are the living expression of that relation to God in which a
people conceives itself to stand. Higher forms of religion--a fact as
sad as it is true--require a certain degree not only of moral but of
intellectual capacity.

Thus we have traversed practically the whole circle of religious life
and have everywhere found Islam following in the path of Christian
thought. One department remains to be examined, which might be
expected to offer but scanty opportunity for borrowings of this kind;
this is dogma. Here, if anywhere, the contrast between the two
religions should be obvious. The initial divergencies were so
pronounced, that any adoption of Christian ideas would seem
impossible. Yet in those centuries, Christianity was chiefly agitated
by dogmatic questions, which occupied men's minds as greatly as social
problems at the present day. Here we can observe most distinctly, how
the problems at least were taken over by Islam.

Muhammedan dogmatic theology is concerned only with three main
questions, the problem of free-will, the being and attributes of God,
and the eternal uncreated nature of God's word. The mere mention of
these problems will recall the great dogmatic struggles of early
Christianity. At no time have the problems of free-will and the nature
of God, been subjects of fiercer dispute than during the
Christological and subsequent discussions. Upholders of freedom or of
determinism could alike find much to support their theories in the
Qoran: Muhammed was no dogmatist and for him the ideas of man's
responsibility and of God's almighty and universal power were not
mutually exclusive. The statement of the problem was adopted from
Christianity as also was the dialectical subtlety by which a solution
was reached, and which, while admitting the almighty power of God,
left man responsible for his deeds by regarding him as free to accept
or refuse the admonitions of God. Thus the thinkers and their demands
for justice and righteous dealing were reconciled to the blind
fatalism of the masses, which again was not a native Muhammedan
product, but is the outcome of the religious spirit of the East.

The problem of reconciling the attributes of God with the dogma of His
unity was solved with no less subtlety. The mere idea that a
multiplicity of attributes was incompatible with absolute unity was
only possible in a school which had spent centuries in the desperate
attempt to reconcile the inference of a divine Trinity with the
conception of absolute divine unity.

Finally, the third question, "Was the Qoran, the word of God, created
or not?" is an obvious counterpart of the Logos problem, of the
struggle to secure recognition of the Logos as eternal and uncreated
together with God. Islam solved the question by distinguishing the
eternal and uncreated Qoran from the revealed and created. The eternal
nature of the Qoran was a dogma entirely alien to the strict
monotheism of Islam: but this fact was never realised, any more than
the fact that the acceptance of the dogma was a triumph for
Graeco-Christian dialectic. There can be no more striking proof of the
strength of Christian influence: it was able to undermine the
fundamental dogma of Islam, and the Muhammedans never realised the

In our review of these dogmatic questions, we have met with a novel
tendency, that to metaphysical speculation and dialectic. It was from
Christendom, not directly from the Greek world, that this spirit
reached Islam: the first attitude of Muhammedanism towards it was that
which Christianity adopted towards all non-religious systems of
thought. Islam took it up as a useful weapon for the struggle against
heresy. But it soon became a favourite and trusted implement and
eventually its influence upon Muhammedan philosophy became paramount.
Here we meet with a further Christian influence, which, when once
accepted, very largely contributed to secure a similar development of
mediaeval Christian and Muhammedan thought. This was Scholasticism,
which was the natural and inevitable consequence of the study of Greek
dialectic and philosophy. It is not necessary to sketch the growth of
scholasticism, with its barrenness of results in spite of its keen
intellectual power, upon ground already fertilised by ecclesiastical
pioneers. It will suffice to state the fact that these developments of
the Greek spirit were predominant here as in the West: in either case
important philosophies rise upon this basis, for the most part
professedly ecclesiastical, even when they occasionally struck at the
roots of the religious system to which they belonged. In this
department, Islam repaid part of its debt to Christianity, for the
Arabs became the intellectual leaders of the middle ages.

Thus we come to the concluding section of this treatise; before we
enter upon it, two preliminary questions remain for consideration. If
Islam was ready to learn from Christianity in every department of
religious life, what was the cause of the sudden superiority of
Muhammedanism to the rising force of Christianity a few centuries
later? And secondly, in view of the traditional antagonism between the
Christian and Muhammedan worlds, how was Christianity able to adopt so
large and essential a portion of Muhammedan thought?

The answer in the second case will be clear to any one who has
followed our argument with attention. The intellectual and religious
outlook was so similar in both religions and the problem requiring
solution so far identical that nothing existed to impede the adoption
of ideas originally Christian which had been developed in the East.
The fact that the West could accept philosophical and theological
ideas from Islam and that an actual interchange of thought could
proceed in this direction, is the best of proofs for the soundness of
our argument that the roots of Muhammedanism are to be sought in
Christianity. Islam was able to borrow from Christianity for the
reason that Muhammed's ideas were derived from that source: similarly
Christianity was able to turn Arab thought to its own purposes because
that thought was founded upon Christian principles. The sources of
both religions lie in the East and in Oriental thought.

No less is true of Judaism, a scholastic system which was excellently
adapted by its international character, to become a medium of
communication between Christianity and Muhammedanism during those
centuries. In this connection special mention must be made of the
Spanish Jews; to their work, not only as transmitting but also as
originating ideas a bare reference must here suffice. But of greater
importance was the direct exchange of thought, which proceeded through
literary channels, by means of translations, especially by word of
mouth among the Christians and Muhammedans who were living together in
Southern Italy, Sicily, and Spain, and by commercial intercourse.

The other question concerns the fundamental problem of European
medievalism. We see that the problems with which the middle ages in
Europe were confronted and also that European ethics and metaphysics
were identical with the Muhammedan system: we are moreover assured
that the acceptance of Christian ideas by Islam can only have taken
place in the East: and the conclusion is obvious that mediaeval
Christianity was also primarily rooted in the East. The transmission
of this religious philosophy to the non-Oriental peoples of the West
at first produced a cessation of progress but opened a new
intellectual world when these peoples awoke to life in the thirteenth
and fourteenth centuries. But throughout the intermediate period
between the seventh and thirteenth centuries the East was gaining
political strength and was naturally superior to the West where
political organisation and culture had been shattered by the Germanic
invasions; in the East again there was an organic unity of national
strength and intellectual ideals, as the course of development had not
been interrupted. Though special dogmatic points had been changed, the
general religious theory remained unaltered throughout the nearer
East. Thus the rising power of Islam, which had high faculties of
self-accommodation to environment, was able to enter upon the heritage
of the mixed Graeco-Oriental civilisation existing in the East; in
consequence it gained an immediate advantage over the West, where
Eastern ideas were acclimatised with difficulty.

The preponderance of Muhammedan influence was increased by the fact
that Islam became the point of amalgamation for ancient Eastern
cultures, in particular for those of Greece and Persia: in previous
centuries preparation had been made for this process by the steady
transformation of Hellenism to Orientalism. Persia, however, had been
the main source of Eastern civilisation, at any rate since the
Sassanid period: the debt of Byzantine culture to Persia is well
known. Unfortunately no thorough investigation has been made of these
various and important changes, but it is clear that Persian
civilisation sent its influence far westward, at first directly and
later through the medium of Muhammedanism. The same facts hold good
with regard to the diffusion of intellectual culture from Persia. How
far Persian ideas may have influenced the development of Muhammedan
and even of Christian eschatology, we need not here discuss: but the
influence of the great Graeco-Christian schools of Persia was
enormous: they made the Arabs acquainted with the most important works
in Greek and Persian literature. To this fact was due the wide
influence of Islam upon Christian civilisation, which is evidenced
even to-day by the numerous words of Arab origin to be found in modern
European languages; it is in fact an influence the strength of which
can hardly be exaggerated. Not only the commercial products of the
East, but important economic methods, the ideals of our so-called
European chivalry and of its love poetry, the foundations of our
natural sciences, even theological and philosophical ideas of high
value were then sent to us from the East. The consequences of the
crusades are the best proof of the enormous superiority of the
Muhammedan world, a fact which is daily becoming more obvious. Here we
are concerned only with the influence exerted by Muhammedan
philosophy. It would be more correct to speak of post-classical than
of Muhammedan philosophy. But as above, the influence of Christianity
upon Islam was considered, so now the reverse process must be
outlined. In either case it was the heir to the late classical age, to
the mixed Graeco-Oriental culture, which influenced Islam at first in
Christian guise. Islam is often able to supplement its borrowings from
Christianity at the original sources, and when they have thus been
deepened and purified, these adaptations are returned to Christianity
in Muhammedan form.

Christian scholasticism was first based upon fragments of Aristotle
and chiefly inspired by Neo-Platonism: through the Arabs it became
acquainted with almost the whole of Aristotle and also with the
special methods by which the Arabs approach the problem of this
philosophy. To give any detailed account of this influence would be to
write a history of mediaeval philosophy in its relation to
ecclesiastical doctrine, a task which I feel to be beyond my powers. I
shall therefore confine myself to an abstract of the material points
selected from the considerable detail which specialists upon the
subject have collected: I consider that Arab influence during the
first period is best explained by the new wealth of Greek thought
which the Arabs appropriated and transmitted to Europe. These new
discoveries were the attainments of Greece in the natural sciences and
in logic: they extended the scope of dialectic and stimulated the rise
of metaphysical theory: the latter, in combination with ecclesiastical
dogma and Greek science, became such a system of thought as that
expounded in the Summa of Thomas Aquinas. Philosophy remained the
handmaid of religion and Arab influence first served only to complete
the ecclesiastical philosophy of life.

Eventually, however, the methods of interpretation and criticism,
peculiar to the Arabs when dealing with Aristotle became of no less
importance than the subject matter of their inquiries. This form of
criticism was developed from the emphasis which Islam had long laid
upon the value of wisdom, or recognition of the claims of reason.
Muhammedan tradition is full of the praises of wisdom, which it also
originally regarded as the basis of religion. Reason, however,
gradually became an independent power: orthodoxy did not reject reason
when it coincided with tradition, but under the influence of
Aristotelianism, especially as developed by Averroes, reason became a
power opposed to faith. The essential point of the doctrine was that
truth was twofold, according to faith and according to reason. Any one
who was subtle enough to recognise both kinds of truth could preserve
his orthodoxy: but the theory contained one great danger, which was
immediately obvious to the Christian church. The consequent struggle
is marked by the constant connection of Arab ideas with the
characteristic expressions of Christian feeling; these again are
connected with the outset of a new period, when the pioneers of the
Renaissance liberate the West from the chains of Greek ecclesiastical
classicism, from Oriental metaphysical religion and slowly pave the
way for the introduction of Germanic ideals directly derived from true
classicism. Not until that period does the West burst the bonds in
which Orientalism had confined it.

Christianity and Islam then stand upon an equal footing in respect
both of intellectual progress and material wealth. But as the West
emerges from the shadow-land of the middle ages the more definite
becomes its superiority over the East. Western nations become
convinced that the fetters which bind them were forged in the East,
and when they have shaken off their chains, they discover their own
physical and intellectual power. They go forth and create a new world,
in which Orientalism finds but scanty room.

The East, however, cannot break away from the theories of life and
mind which grew in it and around it. Even at the present day the
Oriental is swathed in mediaevalism. A journalist, for instance,
however European his mode of life, will write leaders supported by
arguments drawn from tradition and will reason after the manner of the
old scholasticism. But a change may well take place. Islam may
gradually acquire the spirit as well as the form of modern Europe.
Centuries were needed before mediaeval Christianity learned the need
for submission to the new spirit. Within Christendom itself, it was
non-Christian ideas which created the new movement, but these were
completely amalgamated with pre-existing Christianity. Thus, too, a
Renaissance is possible in the East, not merely by the importation and
imitation of European progress, but primarily by intellectual
advancement at home even within the sphere of religion.

Our task is drawing to its close. We have passed in review the
interaction of Christianity and Islam, so far as the two religions are
concerned. It has also been necessary to refer to the history of the
two civilisations, for the reason that the two religions penetrate
national life, a feature characteristic both of their nature and of
the course of development which they respectively followed. This
method of inquiry has enabled us to gain an idea of the rise and
progress of Muhammedanism as such.

An attempt to explain the points of contact and resemblance between
the two religions naturally tends to obscure the differences between
them. Had we devoted our attention to Islam alone, without special
reference to Christianity, these differences, especially in the region
of dogmatic theology, would have been more obvious. They are, however,
generally well known. The points of connection are much more usually
disregarded: yet they alone can explain the interchange of thought
between the two mediaeval civilisations. The surprising fact is the
amount of general similarity in religious theory between religions so
fundamentally divergent upon points of dogma. Nor is the similarity
confined to religious theory: when we realise that material
civilisation, especially when European medievalism was at its height,
was practically identical in the Christian West and the Muhammedan
East, we are justified in any reference to the unity of Eastern and
Western civilisation.

My statements may tend to represent Islam as a religion of no special
originality; at the same time, Christianity was but one of other
influences operative upon it; early Arabic, Zoroastrian, and Jewish
beliefs in particular have left traces on its development. May not as
much be said of Christianity? Inquirers have seriously attempted to
distinguish Greek and Jewish influences as the component elements of
Christianity: in any case, the extent of the elements original to the
final orthodox system remains a matter of dispute. As we learn to
appreciate historical connection and to probe beneath the surface of
religions in course of development, we discover points of relationship
and interdependency of which the simple believer never even dreams.
The object of all this investigation is, in my opinion, one only: to
discover how the religious experience of the founder of a faith
accommodates itself to pre-existing civilisation, in the effort to
make its influence operative. The eventual triumph of the new religion
is in every case and at every time nothing more than a compromise: nor
can more be expected, inasmuch as the religious instinct, though one
of the most important influences in man, is not the sole determining
influence upon his nature.

Recognition of this fact can only be obtained at the price of a breach
with ecclesiastical mode of thought. Premonitions of some such breach
are apparent in modern Muhammedanism: for ourselves, they are
accomplished facts. If I correctly interpret the signs of the times, a
retrograde movement in religious development has now begun. The
religion inspiring a single personality, has secured domination over
the whole of life: family, society, and state have bowed beneath its
power. Then the reaction begins: slowly religion loses its
comprehensive force and as its history is learned, even at the price
of sorrow, it slowly recedes within the true limits of its operation,
the individual, the personality, in which it is naturally rooted.


The purpose of the present work has been to show not so much the
identity of Christian and Muhammedan theories of life during the
middle ages, as the parallel course of development common to both, and
to demonstrate the fact that ideas could be transferred from one
system to the other. Detail has been sacrificed to this general
purpose. The brief outline of Muhammedan dogmatics and mysticism was
necessary to complete the general survey of the question. Any one of
these subjects, and the same is true as regards a detailed life of
Muhammed, would require at least another volume of equal size for
satisfactory treatment.

The Oriental scholar will easily see where I base my statements upon
my own researches and where I have followed Goldziher and Snouck. My
chief source of information, apart from the six great books of
tradition, has been the invaluable compilation of Soj[=u]t[=i], the
great Kanz el-'Umm[=a]l (Hyderabad, 1314). To those who do not read
Arabic may be recommended the French translation of the Boch[=a]r[=i],
of which two volumes are now published: _El-Bokahri, les traditions
islamiques traduites ... par_ O. Houdas and W. Marcais. Paris,

Of general works dealing with the questions I have touched, the
following, to which I owe a considerable debt, may be recommended:--

J. Goldziher. Muhammedanische Studien, Halle, 1889 and following

Die Religion des Islams (Kult. d. Gegenw., I, iii. 1).

C. Snouck Hurgronje. De Islam (de Gids, 1886, us. 5 f.).
Mekka. The Hague, 1888.

Une nouvelle biographie de Mohammed (Rev. Hist. Relig., 1894).

Leone Caetani di Teano. Annali dell' Islam. Milan, 1905 and
following years.

F. Buhl. Muhammed's Liv. Copenhagen, 1903.

H. Grimme. Muhammed. Munich, 1904.

J. Wellhausen. Das arabische Reich und sein Sturz. Berlin, 1902.

Th. Noeldeke. Geschichte des Qoraens. Gottingen, 1860. (New edition by
F. Schwally in the press.)

C.H. Becker. Die Kanzel im Kultus des alten Islam. Giessen, 1906.

Papyri. Schott-Reinhardt, I. Heidelberg, 1906.

Th. W. Juynboll. Handleidung tot de kennis van de Mohammedaansche
Wet. Leyden, 1903.

T.J. de Boer. Geschichte der Philosophie in Islam. Stuttgart, 1901
(also an English edition).

D.B. Macdonald. Development of Muslim Theology, Jurisprudence and
Constitutional Theory. New York, 1903.

A. Merx. Idee und Grundlinien einer allgemeinen Geschichte der
Mystik. Heidelberg, 1893.

A. Mueller. Der Islam im Morgen- und Abendland (Oncken's collection).

W. Riedel. Die Kirchenrechtsquellen des Patriarchats Alexandrien.
Leipsic, 1900.

G. Bruns and E. Sachau. Syrisch-roemisches Rechtsbuch. Leipsic, 1880.

E. Sachau. Syrische Rechtsbuecher, I. Berlin, 1907.

E. Zachariae v. Lingenthal. Geschichte des griechisch-roemischen
Rechts. 3rd ed., Berlin, 1892.

H. v. Eicken. Geschichte und System der mittelalterlichen
Weltanschauung. Stuttgart, 1886.

W. Windelband. Lehrbuck der Geschichte der Philosophie. 4th ed.,
Tuebingen, 1907.

C. Baeumker und G. v. Hertling. Beitraege zur Geschichte der
Philosophie des Mittelalters (collected papers).

G. Gothein. Ignatius von Loyola und die Gegenreformation. Halle,

In conclusion, I may mention two works, which deal with the subject of
this volume, but from a different standpoint:--

H.P. Smith. The Bible and Islam (The Ely Lectures for 1897).

W.A. Shedd. Islam and the Oriental Churches (Philadelphia, 1904).


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