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DEC 22 1831 



The following lectures were delivered in the months 
of May and June 1913, in the University of London, 
at the request of the Hibbert Trustees, to whom 
the writer wishes at the outset to express his cordial 
thanks, both for selecting the subject of Mohammed- 
anism and committing the treatment of it to him. 
Professor Goldziher in his Lectures on Islam^ has 
provided guidance for all who wish to handle this 
theme ; the topic chosen by the present writer might 
be called " the supplementing of the Koran," i.e. the 
process whereby the ex tempore, or indeed eoo momento, 
utterances thrown together in that volume were 
worked into a fabric which has marvellously resisted 
the ravages of time. 

The materials employed for these lectures are to 
a small extent unpublished MSS.," but in the main 
recently published works of early Islamic authors. 
Of three among the most eminent of these the 
writer is simultaneously publishing for the first time 

"^ Vorlesungen liher den Islam, Heidelberg, 191 0. 

2 The chief of these are the works of Muhasibi, employed in 
Lecture V. ; the Marvakif of Niffari, from which select translations 
are given in Lecture VI. ; and the monograph of Ibn 'As^ikir on 
Abu'l-Hasan al-Ash'ari, which has been used for Lecture VII. 



authentic and copious biographies from a MS. in 
his possession, through the hberaUty of the Gibb 
Trustees.^ The works of one of them, the jurist 
Shafi'i, were printed by Cairene scholars in the years 
1903-1907 ; the light which they throw on the 
history of Islamic jurisprudence is brilliant. Their 
publication was immediately preceded by that of the 
works ascribed to Shafi'i's teacher Malik, himself 
the founder of a law-school ; and these, too, are of 
the greatest utility. This year has seen the com- 
pletion of a Coiyus Juris on a still vaster scale 
belonging to the school of Abu Hanifah, but 
compiled three centuries after his time ; this, though 
highly instructive, is no substitute for the work of 
the founder. The biography of Shafi'i certainly 
helps the appreciation and possibly the understanding 
of his treatises. 

Of the other two authors, Jahiz and Tabari, the 
works have been issued partly by Eastern, partly 
by Western scholars. Each of these is a mine of 
information, and, like Shafi'i, takes us into the 
atmosphere wherein Islam developed. 

In Lecture IV., which deals with the condition 
of the " protected communities," considerable use 
has been made of later authorities ; elsewhere the 
writer has usually endeavoured to keep within the 
third, with occasional extension into the fourth. 
Islamic century. M. Massignon's interesting edition 
of a work by Hallaj enables us to follow Sufism 
into a period near its rise; the account of this 

1 YakQt's Dictionary of Leant ed Men, vol. vi. 


subject given in Lecture V. is mainly based on the 
Kut al-Kuiub of Abu Talib al-Mekki, of the middle 
fourth century of Islam, published some twenty 
years ago. Lecture VIL contains material drawn 
from the IbCinah, ascribed to Abu'l-Hasan al-Ash'ari, 
of which the genuineness seems to be attested by 
Ibn 'Asakir; it was printed some ten years ago in 
Hyderabad. Another text printed in the same 
place, the Dalail al-Nubuwwah of Abu Nu'aim, 
has furnished material for Lecture VI IL 

Throughout, an acquaintance with the elements of 
the subject, such as can be obtained from the writer's 
manuals,^ has been assumed in the reader ; in order, 
however, to render the Lectures intelligible by 
themselves, all allusions which could occasion any 
difficulty have been explained in the Index. 

The writer terminates this Preface with a tribute 
of gratitude to those Mohammedan scholars in Egypt 
and India who during the last few years have put 
into our hands so many texts of the highest import- 
ance for the study of Arabic antiquity ; and another 
to the audiences who deemed these lectures worthy 
of their attention. 

Oxford, December 1913. 

^ Mohammed anis7n, in the "Home University Library," and 
Mohammed and the Rise of Islam in the series " Heroes of the 
Nations." O p 









ETHICS ...... 135 




INDEX ....... 259 





It is a noteworthy fact about the Mohammedan 
system that since the Migration it has demanded no 
quahfications for admission to its brotherhood. To 
those who are outside its pale it in theory offers no 
faciHties whatever for the study of its nature ; a man 
must enroll himself as a member first, and then only 
may he learn what his obligations are. The Koran 
may not be sold to Unbeliev^ers ; soldiers are advised 
not to take it with them into hostile territory for fear 
the Unbeliever should get hold of it ; and many a 
copy bears upon it a warning to Unbelievers not to 
touch. Pious grammarians have refused to teach 
grammar to Jews or Christians, because the rules 
were apt to be illustrated by quotations from the 
sacred volume. The Unbeliever is by one of the 
codes ^ forbidden to enter a mosque ; and even when 

1 Malik. See Baidawi i. 10, 12. 

1 ' 1 


permission is granted him to do so, he is an un- 
welcome guest. The crowning ceremony of Islam, 
the Pilgrimage, may be witnessed by no Unbeliever ; 
the penalty for intrusion is death. 

It follows that such periods of instruction and 
probation as are enjoined by some other systems upon 
neophytes are unknown to Islam ; and indeed there 
is no occasion for them. Their purpose is to test the 
neophyte's sincerity in the first place, and his moral 
worthiness in the second. Against insincerity the 
system is sufficiently armed by the principle that 
whosoever abandons Islam forfeits his life ; there is 
then little danger of men joining for some dishonest 
purpose and quitting the community when that 
purpose has been served. A INloslem who is in peril 
of his life may indeed simulate perversion, and no 
difficulty is made about readmitting the repentant 
pervert ; but where Islam can be safely professed the 
pervert cannot legally hope to be spared. And it 
follows from this principle that martyrdom in Islam 
means something very different from what it means 
to the Christian. The Christian martyr is the man 
who dies professing his faith, but not resisting ; the 
Moslem martyr is one who dies for his faith on the 
battle-field ; more often in endeavouring to force it 
upon others than defending his own exercise thereof. 
For his sacred book expressly permits him to refrain 
from confessing where confession will result in death 
or torment. 

On the other hand, the maxim that Islam cancels 
all that was before it renders moral qualification 


unnecessary. Only after the man has joined the 
community do his acts begin to count. Whatever 
he may have done before joining may bear some 
analogy to the keeping or to the breaking of a 
commandment ; but it is not the same thing. Un- 
believers on the Day of Judgment are to be asked 
two questions only : why they associated other beings 
with the Almighty, and if Apostles were sent them 
why they repudiated them. The only thing that is 
incumbent upon them, the only duty wherewith God 
has charged them, is to study the evidence of Islam ; ^ 
or let us rather say, to accept Islam, since they have 
no access to the evidences. They may by their good 
qualities win the friendship or even the affection of 
Moslems, but they are destined to Hell-Fire not- 
withstanding. An author of the third century a.h., 
who quotes verses in praise of Jews, Christians, and 
JNIazdians, shows that even encomiasts make no 
concealment of this fact." A Jewish or Christian 
physician may be useful to a Moslem, but is none 
the less the enemy of Allah. 

It follows, then, that Islam has to be preached 
with the sword, for without going into the water one 
cannot learn to swim, and there is no probationary 
dip. If the convincing miracle of Islam be the 
Koran, which outdoes all other compositions in 
eloquence, the persons who are to be convinced by 
this miracle must have the opportunity of studying it 
in order to be convinced. This is so obvious that 

1 Al-Fark, p. 107. 

2 Jahiz, Hayawan v. 52. 


some jurists are inclined to make an exception in 
favour of a few texts, sufficient to give the inquirer 
a notion of its contents ; and they can quote the 
precedent of the Prophet, who in his imperious 
message to all peoples, nations, and languages, com- 
manding them to adopt Islam if they wished for 
safety, introduced a text from the sacred volume. 
It is clear, however, that the same objection must 
really apply to one text as to a number ; it would be 
impossible to fix a limit at which the volume became 
esoteric. No, let people pay homage to it first, 
recognise that it is the divine revelation, and then 
they may, or indeed must, study it. But such recog- 
nition can only be extorted by force, if the right to 
examine is denied. And if methods are to be judged 
by their results, no one with Mohammed's experience 
would have regarded argument as an expedient for 
conversion comparable with the sword. He argued 
for thirteen years and made converts by the unit or 
the decade ; he drew the sword and won them by the 
hundred and the thousand. Twenty years of fighting 
effected more than a thousand years of pleading and 
arguing would effect. But just as the argument of 
reason is apt to be weakened if the sword be behind 
it, so the argument of the sword is not strengthened 
by the fact that the other form of reasoning has been 
tried in vain. Hence the periods of inquiry and 
probation are not desirable. 

Now this peculiarity of Islam is closely connected 
with the history of the system. In the first place, it 
began as a secret society, and even now, if novelists 


may be believed, the secret society has a tendency 
to work upon the same theory. It cannot hve or 
succeed without a steady accretion of members ; on 
the other hand, its purposes can only be communicated 
to the loyal. It is therefore necessary that members 
should be committed to the programme of the society 
before they know what it is. 

In the second place, the claim of JNIohammed, 
though he may have formulated it differently at 
different times, was to be the channel whereby the 
Almighty communicated His behests to mankind, or 
at least to some of the Arabs. The two articles of 
the Moslem faith are reciprocally involved : unless 
Allah were the sole ruler of the community, the 
importance attaching to His messenger would be 
smaller ; the importance of the messenger of Allah 
is a corollary of the unity of Allah. Allah issues 
orders through the Prophet ; that is the meaning of 
the Islamic creed. Those orders may concern ritual 
or conduct or politics ; and from the nature of human 
life, with fresh questions ever arising, those orders are 
likely to be occasional; whence the title " occasions 
of revelation," given to works which deal with the 
chronology of the Koran, accurately expresses its 

It is this fact which explains and even excuses 
the carelessness with regard to the Koran which is 
historically attested of both the Prophet and his Com- 
panions. " When the Prophet died," we are told 
by a preacher, " he left twenty thousand Companions 
who had not done more than glance at the Koran, 


and only six who knew the whole by heart — two of 
these being doubtful cases." " A Companion of the 
Prophet who knew by heart a long Surah, or a 
seventh of the Koran, counted as a marvel." It 
would be truer to say that there was scarcely a 
Companion of the Prophet who would even have 
claimed to know the whole by heart : for when the 
Prophet died it was still in a state of flux. This 
fact is most easily explained if we suppose the Koran 
to have been ultimately thought of as a series of 
messages which do not together constitute a book. 
Both in Hebrew and Arabic the same word signifies 
" book " and " letter," and considerable confusion 
results. The " carriers of the Koran " were the 
people who knew certain portions of it by heart ; 
according to an early historian they ran some risk of 
being exterminated in the campaign of Yemamah 
which followed shortly after the Prophet's death. 
And there were many different texts. Few followers 
of the Prophet would have been present on all the 
occasions when revelations were delivered ; accident 
would decide whether such as had been revealed 
during their absence would ever be communicated 
to them. At a later period, when traditions were 
committed to memory, they were ordinarily very 
brief, usually of a single sentence. The normal 
memory is not fit to hold more. It is conceivable 
that, as a tradition informs us, there were Believers 
famous for collecting much of the Koran, i.e. many 
verses ; but before the Prophet's death no one 
probably even thought he possessed all. Nor, indeed, 


would the sense of the word " all " in such a case be 
clear ; for at an early period of the revelations the 
doctrine was enunciated that texts could be erased 
and others substituted ; and if a text be erased, it 
clearly ceases to have any further existence ; it might 
figure in a history of Islam or a biography of the 
Prophet, but could no longer figure in the sacred 
volume itself. Yet when the Koran was compiled, 
those responsible for the undertaking were conscious 
that parts of the work did abrogate other parts, 
though they did not think it their duty to decide the 
category to which any particular text belonged ; in 
a sense, then, their collection was larger than it should 
have been, because it contained matter for which 
something better had been substituted, as well as the 
substitute. So long as the Prophet lived there 
could be no complete Koran ; his death completed 
it. It had then to be collected before its nature 
could be determined. 

If we endeavour to analyse the conception of the 
Koran as revealed to us in the work itself, we shall 
find most help in a passage of Surah xxix. 46-49 • 
" And thus have we sent down unto thee the writing, 
and those to whom we have given the writing 
believe therein, and among tliese there are such as 
believe therein, and none deny our signs save the 
Unbelievers. Neither usedst thou before it to read 
any writing nor to trace it with thy right hand ; in 
that case the mendacious would have suspected. 
Nay, it is distinct signs in the breasts of those who 
have been given knowledge, and none deny our 


signs save the iniquitous. And they say : why have 
not signs [^i.e. miracles] been sent down unto him 
from his Lord ? Say : the signs are with God only, 
and I am but a distinct warner. Does it not then 
suffice them that we have sent down unto thee the 
writing to be read unto them ? " The author is here 
arguing against those who demand a sign in the 
sense of mii^acle ; he declares that the miracle of the 
Koran is sufficient. The practice with regard to 
books was that one who wished for a copy went to 
the author and obtained leave to copy the original, 
or else to hear the author dictating it. So in the 
case of a great commentary on the Koran to be 
mentioned later, the possessor of a copy said he had 
attended the author's dictation of it for eight years. ^ 
This theory was current not only in Arabia. Plato 
makes Zeno bring his work to Athens and read it 
aloud. With the Arabs the custom also prevailed 
of getting the author to testify to the correctness of 
the copy. And the writer of a popular book had 
to suffer for his success ; Hariri, the author of the 
work which perhaps comes second to the Koran in 
popularity, informs us that he would have introduced 
a correction had it not been that he had certified 
seven hundred copies — in the possession of readers 
who came to him for authorisation — and all these 
contained the reading which he would gladly have 
changed. In Mohammed's case the trouble of 
reading or taking down was spared ; in Surah xxvi. 
193 the revelation is brought down to his heart by 

1 Yakut vi. 424. 


the faithful Spirit, while at the same time it is in the 
tablets of the ancients. In Surah xxviii. 86 he is 
told that he had never hoped that the writing would 
be flung to him. The Unbelievers suggest (vi. 7) 
that it should have been flung down on parchment 
so that they could touch it with their hands ; they 
are told that they would have regarded such pro- 
cedure as imposture or legerdemain. On the other 
hand, if they had been allowed to see an angel bringing 
it down, that angel would have either annihilated them, 
or else he would have had to appear in human shape, 
whence the suspicion of imposture could not have 
been avoided. Still this " writing " is at once in the 
tablets of the ancients, i.e. in the hands of Jews and 
Christians, and is also miraculously communicated 
to the Prophet. When this miraculously communi- 
cated text is found to agree with the matter contained 
in the tablets or charts of the monotheists, and for 
this the evidence of an Israelite is adduced, obviously 
a miracle has taken place, and Mohammed is divinely 
authorised to communicate the Book of God. 

He communicates it in his own language, but 
whether the original is in Arabic is not clear ; there 
is at least a suggestion that it is in a divine language : 
" We have made it an Arabic Koran that ye might 
understand it, but in the original with us it is sublime, 
wise " (xliii. 2). " Sublime, wise " probably means 
in an exalted and learned language. " Easing it 
with thy tongue " (xliv. 58) probably means trans- 
lating it into Arabic. Its name Koran, " reading," 
refers to the Prophet's own mental experience. The 


earliest revelation, if we may believe the tradition, is 
one wherein he is told to read, and indeed what God 
had taught with the pen ; and in another passage, 
with reference to this text, God is said to have 
enjoined upon him the reading (xxviii. 85). To 
many of the Surahs letters of the alphabet are pre- 
fixed, ordinarily followed by some such sentence as, 
T.S.M. "Those are the letters of the perspicuous 
writing"; A.L.M. "That is the writing, there is no 
mistaking it"; T.S. "Those are the letters of the 
reading and a perspicuous writing " ; A.L.JNL " Those 
are the letters of the wise writing"; H.M.A.S.Q. 
" Thus doth God reveal unto thee as unto thy 
predecessors " — phrases which indicate that these 
letters are specimens of the original writing which 
Mohammed translates into Arabic in order to com- 
municate it to his fellows. The original is in God's 
possession, and like other authors He can alter 
His work at pleasure. In the year 67 a.h., one 
'Abdallah Ibn Nauf, who delivered oracles in the 
style of the Koran, prophesied a victory for his party, 
naming a certain Wednesday ; they were defeated. 
When taunted with his error, he quoted the maxim 
of the Koran, " God possesses the original of the 
Book, and can erase or enter what He likes" (xiii. 
39).^ The prophecy failed to come true because the 
original of the divine book had been altered. Tliis 
right of alteration which the author possesses at once 
explains divergence in the Koran from the contents 
of earlier revelations, and divergence between the 

1 Tabarl ii. 732. 


matter communicated to the Prophet at different 

That the contents were not communicated all at 
once, as is perhaps the case with ordinary books, 
which may be supposed to be recited continuously, 
or at least at successive periods, was noticed by 
INIohammed's contemporaries as a fact requiring 
explanation ; and the accounts given are the con- 
venience of the hearers (xvii. 107), and the confirming 
of the Prophet's mind (xxv. 34). Possibly the 
meaning of this latter phrase is "to render the 
Prophet's grasp of it ixiore certain." Whether these 
explanations were adequate or not, it was most 
important that it should not be communicated all 
at once ; for the value of the Koran clearly lay in 
what it added to former versions of the Scriptures, 
not in what it shared with them. The reasoning 
which underlies the Surahs that have been quoted 
is curiously like that which we employ in the 
case of JNISS. unearthed. We possess fragments of 
various works known in antiquity ; say an ostensible 
copy of one of these works were produced, we should 
at once look out for the fragments already known ; 
and one of the tests of its genuineness would be its 
containing those fragments ; only its value would not 
lie in those fragments, but in what it added to them. 
Hence the agreement of the Koran with earlier 
revelations had in the main evidential value, proving 
that the Prophet had really been chosen to com- 
municate the divine book to his fellows ; its intrinsic 
value lay in w^hat it added to earlier revelations. 


At times it claimed to settle points which those revela- 
tions had left obscure ; at times to alter what they con- 
tained, on the principle which we have already seen. 

Now, as we have seen, the word used for " book " 
in Arabic also means " letter," and considerable 
confusion results. A book is doubtless in all cases 
a message, but a message is not necessarily a book. 
The message need be of no permanent import- 
ance, having reference to a momentary emergency. 
Similarly, a messenger — which is the name whereby 
Mohammed ordinarily describes himself — is thought 
of as bringing an order or piece of information 
required for an immediate need rather than as 
communicating what is to be permanent. The 
ambassador communicates the wishes of his govern- 
ment as they arise ; those wishes are usually no more 
permanent than the occasions with which they are 
concerned. And although the Koran is thought of 
at times as read by the Prophet from the original 
which he could mentally see, in many cases perhaps 
the rendering " despatch " would be truer than the 
rendering " book." It has been noticed that the 
word which we ordinarily render " reveal," and which 
literally means " send down," is properly applied to 
royal rescripts ; the suppliant " raises " a petition 
and the sovereign " sends down " the reply. The 
faithful at Medinah used to await fresh revelations 
each day somewhat as we in these days are on the 
look out for the morning paper. The formula which 
we not unfrequently find employed, " They will ask 
thee : say," or " They will say, but say thou," is such 


as belongs to temporary embarrassment or temporary 
controversy. The objection or difficulty which has 
been raised is settled, and it is presumed that it will 
not recur. 

At neither the INIeccan nor the JNIedinese period of 
the Koranic revelation was its nature such as to give 
it permanence. In the former period there was 
constant repetition of the same matter ; and the 
Prophet, reading off the celestial original, naturally 
repeatedly read the same material. There is, then, 
some variation in the detail, but little in the general 
trend of the discourses. The disagreement is not 
more considerable than that between the three 
accounts, say, of the conversion of St Paul in the 
Acts of the Apostles. It is clearly not the intention 
of the author of that work to give accounts of the 
same event which supplement one another ; still less 
accounts which contradict each other ; his desire is 
not to repeat himself literally. And the same 
rhetorical or artistic principle underlies the Koranic 
treatment of the legends of the Prophets. The tales 
are told vividly ; and this vividness excludes literal 
repetition. They are, so to speak, repeated presenta- 
tions of the same theme, not copies printed off the 
same types. Some of these sermons would be more 
impressive than others, and occasionally a passage 
would occur which would attract special attention ; 
but the general sameness of the matter would prevent 
any discourse being thought to have permanent value, 
unless, indeed, some passages were selected for use in 
common worship. 


When the Prophet went to JMedinah, the Koran 
assumed another form, but even this was no more 
Hkely to secure permanence. It dealt very largely 
with current events, drawing morals from the 
immediate past instead of employing for this purpose 
the mythical or historical past. It explained why 
the Moslems had been defeated at Uhud, why the 
Prophet had taken the wife of his adopted son, why 
he had evaded a promise made to his wives ; it 
defended the honour of 'A'ishah, it extolled various 
victories, it threatened the hostile and the disaffected. 
It regulated various forms of procedure, the division 
of inheritances, the attestation of wills, disputes 
between married couples, the etiquette of the 
Prophet's court. The interest attaching to few of 
these subjects would seem to be permanent ; when 
the defeat at Uhud had been wiped out by a signal 
victory, only antiquarian interest would attach to 
it, and few would wish to remember the scandal 
about 'A'ishah. On the other hand, there was no 
reason why the Prophet should be bound by his 
own precedents, since he expressly reserved to Allah 
the right to revise the Koran. Even its legislation, 
owing to the possibility of its being revised, was 
scarcely felt to have permanent value ; when the 
Prophet was asked to decide a case, he had to wait 
until a revelation dealing with it was vouchsafed 
him, and he was not even entitled to specify the 
time wherein he could count on such a communica- 
tion being delivered.^ Since it is rare that two actual 

1 Shafi% Umm vii. 271. 


cases correspond in every detail, it would be better 
on some later occasion that the Prophet should be 
similarly favoured than that he should have to 
depend on the accuracy of his memory or of a 
document. While, then, the Prophet lived, the 
Koran could not acquire the importance which it 
afterwards received, and it is probable that little 
concern was bestowed on any parts save those 
regularly used in liturgy. 

To accept Islam meant simply to promise obedience 
to the Prophet, according to some authorities in 
matters lawful and honourable, but such a stipula- 
tion has little meaning when the Prophet was 
recognised as the dictator in such matters. And 
where the undertaking given is of this sort, the 
word 'system'' is inapplicable; since the dictator 
cannot say what he may dictate, there is no reason 
why he should tie his hands. The obligations were 
not specified because they had not been defined. 

Whether the Prophet gave much consideration to 
the effects of his own death is uncertain ; this is, we 
are told, a matter whereon mankind are most incon- 
sistent. The possibilities of the present dispensation 
coming to an end and of his own death, which indeed 
he seems sometimes to think of as an alternative, 
were clearly considered during the diflficulties and 
stress of the Meccan period ; when he became despot 
of a community he appears to have been too much 
occupied with other things to pay much attention to 
such matters. There is a tradition that he prophesied 
the complete extinction of the race within a hundred 


years of his time, but its authenticity is denied/ A 
theory that, Hke the Christian Messiah, he was to 
return was preached not long after his death, and 
based on a verse of the Koran, but the preacher 
seems to have found few adherents ; ^ for some reason 
or other the sects which looked forward to the 
appearance of a hidden Messiah ordinarily fixed on 
someone else. The common-sense which Mohammed 
almost invariably displayed makes us unwilling to 
suppose that he regarded himself as immune from 
the common calamity, though we are told that his 
followers at first declined to believe in his death 
when it occurred, and that some Arab tribes made 
this occurrence an excuse for rejecting Islam. There 
is a story that on his deathbed he desired to dictate 
a code, but that those who heard him supposed him 
to be in delirium, and declined to take advantage of 
this offer. If this be true, it indicates how deeply 
they were impressed with the belief that the Koran 
was a divine composition wherein the Prophet him- 
self had no hand ; for any ostensible revelation would 
have been welcomed and implicitly obeyed. 

Still, like other prophets and legislators, Mohammed 
died, and he had made no provision for a successor, 
or at least any such provision was suppressed. 
Prophets arose in Arabia, but they were not of this 
fold, and their claims were rejected unheard by those 
who had accepted the claims of Mohammed. Of 
modern critics very few, and of ancient IMoslems 

' Mukhtalif al-Hadlth, p. 119. 

2 Tabari i. 2942. Surah xxviii. 85. 


scarcely any, put into practice the doctrine of the 
Koran that one prophet is as good as another : that 
" we make no distinction between any of them." 
Yet it might seem that if the claim of any one man 
to legislate and govern by inspiration be admitted, 
we are not entitled to reject unheard that of another. 
If there be any uniformity in the conduct of the 
world, it is difficult to think of any one age being so 
favoured as to have the living presence of a divine 
ambassador, while previous and subsequent ages 
must content themselves with a prospect and a 
retrospect. Nevertheless, this is what the JNIoslem 
system assumes ; the place of the Prophet is occupied 
by a prince, a deputy, authorised to conduct the 
affairs of the community, but by no means either in 
direct communication with the Deity or empowered 
to tamper with the rulings of the Prophet. Among 
those who enjoyed power during the first century of 
Islam perhaps the adventurer JMukhtar, who was for 
a short time supreme in Kufah, was the only pre- 
tender to mysterious powers. He claimed to be 
infallible,^ and conveyed his commands in a style 
closely modelled on that of the Koran. His prayers 
were regarded by his lieutenants as the best of 
reinforcements." When called " Liar," he pointed 
out that other " Prophets " had been similarly 
designated. He established a cult of a Sacred Chair 
which was something between a Urim and Thummim 
and an Ark of the Covenant.^ Nevertheless, he 

1 Tabari ii. 626. 2 jj^id,^ 644, 13. 

3 Ibid., 706. 


claimed to be acting not on his own account, but on 
that of the Mahdi, i.e. the divinely guided member 
of the Prophet's household, who seems to have been 
somewhat shy of acknowledging this agent. And, 
indeed, a theory arose that the Prophet's family were 
the true interpreters of the Koran, possessed of 
mysterious knowledge, which prevented them from 
making mistakes. In the latest period of the 
Umayyad dynasty, while the two branches of the 
Prophet's house were still united in a common aim, 
a preacher not only states this doctrine, but declares 
that all the adherents of the Prophet's house were 
agreed about it. An agent who came with proper 
credentials from the head of the family must be a 
competent agent ; the danger that Satan might have 
misled the head of the family in his interpretation of 
the Koran need not even be considered.^ A few 
years before this we are told that the adherents of 
the Prophet's ftimily attributed to them knowledge 
of futurity, and even made them objects of worship.^ 
And this doctrine was never abandoned by the 
Prophet's descendants and their adherents, but it 
was not adopted for any practical purpose by the 
heirs of his uncle, who for the most important period 
of Islam were supreme. 

Had the claims been accepted of one of those 
prophets who arose after Mohammed's death, a state 
of affairs analogous to what existed when he was 
at Medinah would for a time have continued ; the 
nearest possible approach to a theocracy, since the 
1 Tabariii. I.q6l. 2 ji^ij^^ iggg. 


community would always have been subject to an 
accredited representative of its god : bound by no 
code and attached to no precedents. The rejection 
of these claims closed the avenue to the divine 
communications, whereon the community could no 
longer rely for guidance. To have accepted the 
claim of one or other of these prophets would have 
necessitated another break with the past, for this 
whole theory of prophets implies that the operation 
of the Divine Being in the world is spasmodic, not 
continuous ; there would have been no guarantee 
that the system elaborated by Mohammed during a 
decade of years might not be violently upset. More- 
over, though the Creed recognised him only, the 
Refugees and Helpers had played a conspicuous part 
in his career ; if they would not have come into 
existence without him, he would have failed egregi- 
ously without them. For a time, then, in spite of 
his removal, the organisation which he had created 
could continue. 

According to all appearances the death of the 
Prophet made at first little difference in the conduct 
of affairs, because his successors were his most 
trusted advisers, the persons most familiar with his 
ideas and plans. And the extraordinary series of 
successes which occupied these years rendered the 
cessation of prophecy easily tolerable ; for the most 
frequent purpose of prophecy in the years at Medinah 
had been apology and polemic, for neither of which 
was there now any occasion. That the Prophet's 
household should have been unable to form a 


dangerous party within the state is certainly remark- 
able ; that they were not able to do this must be 
explained partly by the political incompetence of 
Ali, which afterwards became notorious, partly by 
the fact that his relations with the Prophet's daughter, 
his wife, were wanting in cordiality. Hence the 
Companions were able to thrust the Prophet's family 
aside, and even deprive them of their inheritance, 
without endangering the permanence of the state 
which he had founded. And it is possible that the 
maxim whereby this procedure was justified was put 
into the Prophet's mouth, made one of his Acta, 
by them. 

These Acta, however, no one thought of collecting 
and preserving, and though the Prophet's letters had 
the force of law in his lifetime, there was no one who 
performed the service which has been so useful to 
posterity in the case of the correspondence of Cicero 
or of St Paul. Probably there must be some literary 
tradition current in a comnmnity before the desir- 
ability of such procedure occurs ; and such literary 
tradition was wanting in both Meccah and JNledinah, 
nor could that of the more civilised nations speedily 
to be subdued be assimilated before some decades 
had elapsed. The scribes who had composed the 
Prophet's letters and the persons to whom they had 
been delivered were not conscious of their historic 
importance. And, as has already been seen, their 
appreciation of the despatches from Almighty God 
was not much more intense. Doubtless, some verses 
of these despatches had to be recited in the daily 


worship, but according to some authorities it was of 
no consequence which the verses were ; provided they 
formed part of the Koran, any which the worshipper 
remembered might be repeated by him in his orisons.^ 
The importance of the sacred book grew at first 
slowly, though with accelerating pace ; but the 
consequences of the original neglect can be found 
in the earhest and best of the commentaries. Where 
we expect certainty, we find guesswork and fiction. 
Even the two recensions of the Koran are confused 
by the great Tabari.^ There are allusions to which 
the key is lost, though we should have expected that 
anyone who was in Medinah when the verses were 
first recited would have been able to explain them. 
If the commentaries on the Koran be compared with, 
say, the Greek comments on Homer, which do not 
claim to be more than the guesses of a later age 
on the sense of an ancient text, the difference is 
scarcely noticeable. The certainty which belongs 
to an authoritative tradition is wanting in both 

Both indulge constantly in what might be called 
cheap fictions — stories intended to account for the 
verses such as anyone could invent, and which, 
therefore, have nothing convincing about them. 
Even where explanations which we know from some 
other source to be true are given, side by side with 
them false comments are recorded as of equal 
authority. Nor do correct explanations give the 
appearance of being handed down by persons who 

1 Shafi% Umm i. 88. 2 Comm. iii. 24. 


experienced the original delivery of the messages, 
but rather of being the result of conscious and 
erudite combination. And this indicates that the 
value assigned to the revelations by their con- 
temporaries was quite different from that which is 
assigned to a permanent code. The revelations were 
thought of as solutions of questions that cropped 
up, modes of dealing with difficulties, or as having 
reference to particular emergencies, particular states 
of mind experienced by the Prophet or his followers, 
or even his enemies. However great the anxiety 
which these may have occasioned at the time, those 
eventful years speedily brought other experiences 
which obscured the former ; the crises were too 
numerous for excessive importance to be attached 
to any. And, in any case, the crisis was more likely 
to be remembered than the revelation associated 
with it. So long as the Prophet was among them 
the living voice was vastly more important than 
the letters which had been recited and largely 
served their purpose. The persons who knew may 
never have been asked about the import of particular 
words and phrases, and had no occasion to com- 
municate their knowledge ; no systematic teaching 
had begun before the best authorities had passed 
away. xVnd we have, besides, to take account of the 
fact that at times it may not have been thought 
desirable to communicate the truth. 

No contradiction should ever surprise us in human 
conduct, and there are numerous analogies which 
help us to understand the attitude of the early 


Moslems towards the words of their Prophet and 
their God. " This man spake as never man spake " 
— that is recorded of the Founder of Christianity ; 
yet, in spite of Christian dogma, we are still relegated 
to the region of conjecture as to the language in 
which these discourses were delivered, and the 
persons who are responsible for the translations in 
which we possess them. In the case of the Koran 
we are at least in possession of certainty with regard 
to these two points : the language and the collectors. 
And though, as shall be seen, great importance was 
not attached by the earliest Moslems to the wording 
of the Koran, still it was known to embody an arti- 
fice which secured a certain amount, though only a 
limited amount, of permanence, and which distin- 
guished the matter composing it from any that was 
not intentionally fabricated so as to resemble it. 
Texts which had formed part of the divine revelation 
were known to be cast in a certain mould ; and 
although that mould was somewhat elastic, the 
restriction on possible revelations which resulted was 
considerable. Verse compositions were excluded, for 
the Prophet had not been taught versification ; prose 
compositions were excluded because the genuine 
verses had an artifice, though one, it is true, of 
extreme simplicity. Further, we find in the Koran 
itself the dogma that the style of the book is inimit- 
able, and those who believed the Prophet accepted 
the dogma, and in a way perhaps expected that the 
Koran could take care of itself. In general, however, 
we attribute the carelessness with regard to this 


possession to want of familiarity with literary methods 
and habits. 

But a vision gains in importance by being sealed, 
and more than once in the Jewish and Christian 
Scriptures do we come across a command to seal the 
book, meaning not to secrete its contents, but to 
terminate it definitely so as to exclude the possibility 
of further additions. The liability to abrogation, the 
ephemeral and occasional nature of the revelations 
which prevented their hearers from overestimating 
their value, disappeared when once the spring of 
revelation had run dry. The book may have been 
closed more than once in the Prophet's time, just 
as he may have received more than one command 
to contract no more marriages ; but so long as a 
man lives he can change his mind ; God could alter 
the text. After the removal of the Prophet the 
messages which he had delivered could take his place 
to some extent, as being an authority which no one 
dare question. The consternation of the Moslems 
at the death of the Prophet was, according to the 
tradition, allayed by a quotation from the Koran 
wherein the Prophet's death was foretold ; that 
quotation appears then to have been heard for the 
first time. The lessons impressed on the mind of 
the person who produced this text may well have 
been two : the value of the Koran to those who pos- 
sessed it, and the danger of leaving this possession un- 
guarded. Short as was the reign of the first successor, 
barely two years, and those occupied by campaigns, 
the need for a collection of the Koran became acutely 


felt, and an order was issued for its execution. The 
prophecy had to be sealed. And the first successor, 
having followed the Prophet from the commence- 
ment of his career, and been his inseparable 
companion, would be likely to know better than any- 
one else what had or had not been revealed. 

Although the traditions which are quoted in con- 
nection with this scheme must be received with 
caution, they seem rightly to represent the difficulty 
as appalling. Our best authority does not appear 
to countenance the supposition that any part of the 
Koran was in writing ; for had it existed in that 
state, the danger that it would perish with the death 
of the Islamic champions would not have been serious. 
In the first account of Tabari it is the collector who 
first writes it oh the naive materials at his disposal ; 
the second successor of the Prophet has it transferred 
from these to a scroll, which remained in the 
possession of his daughter, but was afterwards 
" washed out " by order of the third successor. In 
the Koran itself there is a reference to Scripture- 
Readers, persons besides the Prophet who read aloud 
the texts (xxii. 71) ; it is likely that these men would 
have committed them to memory from MS., although 
they found permanent lodging in their breasts. 
Indeed, the difficulty of teaching without the use 
of writing is so great that we can scarcely believe 
any lengthy document would be committed to 
memory any other way. When, however, the texts 
had been thoroughly learned, the leaflet which had 
been employed in the process of learning would have 


no further value and might be allowed to perish. 
And so the mockers are thought of as " hearing and 
knowing," not as possessing and reading (xlv. 7, 8). 

The collector is represented as consulting all the 
Meccan and INIedinese followers of the Prophet, and 
putting down what they had "got," i.e. such texts 
as they had learned ; his main difficulty must have 
lain in the fact already noticed^that the Surahs 
were largely repetition of the same matter, with at 
times slight, at other times considerable, variations. 
A preacher or lecturer may well have occasion to 
repeat the same statements or their substance a 
great number of times ; but such repetition has no 
place in a book, wherein the same text can be 
repeatedly read, least of all in a communication from 
Almighty God. The theory that precepts may be 
occasional, i.e. vary with different circumstances, is 
admissible ; but the opinion of the Divine Being on 
ancient history cannot possibly vary. Where on one 
occasion the Koran quotes a number of different 
opinions about a difficult matter, viz. the number of 
the Sleepers in the Cave and whether their dog 
counted or not, it is to condemn them all as con- 
jectures, not to record them as possible solutions. 
Hence the collector had to settle the difficult question 
whether he should treat each separate account of the 
story of Moses or Abraham as a distinct Surah, or 
whether they should be regarded as different versions 
of the same. There is a tradition that the Prophet, 
when discrepancies in reading were called to his 
attention and he had declared all readings correct, 


explained that the Koran had been revealed in seven 
texts ; which may mean that the same passage in the 
original Koran had been reproduced by him in seven 
different ways. Probably the Prophet, had the 
scheme of collecting the Koran come into his mind, 
would have selected one version of each story and 
abrogated the others ; but to do this certainly 
exceeded the power of anyone but himself. 

It is usual to suppose that the last or ultimate 
version in such a case is the best and most authorita- 
tive ; and though ordinarily the different versions of 
the same narrative make no reference to each other, 
sometimes the mode of statement gives an impression 
of being a corrected edition or an increased edition of 
what has preceded. So in the lengthy account of 
Pharaoh and Moses in Surah xxviii. we have at the 
commencement the explanation that Pharaoh divided 
his people into castes, of which the oppressed, i.e. the 
Israelites, formed one ; in Surah xl., besides the 
ascription to Pharaoh of the desire to build the tower 
(probably of Babel), a wholly new personage is 
introduced, viz. a member of the Pharaonic family 
who believed but concealed his faith, yet never- 
theless delivered a homily quite indistinguishable 
from those customary in the mouths of monotheistic 
prophets. In Surah xi. the story of Noah is enriched 
with an account of a son of Noah who disobeyed his 
father and perished in the Flood. The text observes 
that this is a mystery which neither the Prophet nor 
his people had previously known. We should infer 
that these new details of the story of Noah were 


what had been unknown before this particular revela- 
tion, some account of the patriarch having previously 
been communicated. 

It is not possible for us to locate these Surahs 
chronologically on the supposition that the accounts 
gradually grow more to correspond with the Biblical 
tradition, for the human mind is both receptive and 
forgetful ; the introduction of Haman and Korah 
into the story of Moses and Pharaoh may be due to 
access of knowledge, or their omission may be due to 
such access ; this is not a matter whereon we can 
pronounce a prioi'i. The collector may possibly have 
been able to pursue investigations into the dates of 
revelation, but where the dating of events was vague, 
it would be difficult to obtain any accurate informa- 
tion on this subject. Probably, then, he introduced , 
into his collection any copies that he could find of 
revelations certified to have been actually delivered. 
And although the repetition is intolerable in the 
book, it is probable that accurate reporting of the 
Prophet's discourses during his career of twenty-three 
years would not have resulted in a much larger 
volume than the collector put together. 

From the fluid nature of the revelation it comes 
that though the Koran constantly eulogises itself, 
it rarely quotes itself; the cases in which it takes 
account of earlier statements are exceptional. A quite 
exceptional case of a series of references is to be 
found in connection with the story of Abraham. In 
Surah xix. 48, which is early in the Meccan period, 
Abraham promises to ask forgiveness for his father. 


In Surah xxvi. 86 he actually does this. He prays, 
" Forgive my father : he is one of those that go 
astray." In Surah xiv. 42 he says, " Forgive me and 
my parents and the Believers on the day whereon 
the reckoning shall be made," rather implying that 
Abraham's father was not an Unbeliever. But in 
Surah ix., nearly at the end of the Prophet's career, 
verse 114 declares that neither the Prophet nor the 
Believers have any business to ask forgiveness for 
the pagans, even though they were their relatives, 
when it has become clear that they are to be damned ; 
they are thus forbidden to do what Abraham clearly 
did in Surah xxvi. Hence Surah ix. proceeds : " Now 
Abraham's praying that his father should be forgiven 
was only due to a promise which he had made him " ; 
i.e. the promise recorded in Surah xix. is the explana- 
tion of Abraham's conduct as recorded in Surah xxvi. 
And in Surah Ix. Abraham's conduct is held up as 
exemplary, when he and his companions said to their 
people " We are quit of you and what ye worship 
other than God ; eternal enmity and hatred show 
themselves between us until ye believe in God only : 
except the saying of Abraham to his father, ' I will 
ask forgiveness for thee.'" That, it is allowed, is not 
to be imitated : it can only be excused. Surah ix. 
proceeds, in verse 115, " Now when it became clear to 
Abraham that his father was an enemy to Allah, he 
declared himself quit of him. " 

What is clear is that Surahs ix. and Ix. recognise 
the existence of Surahs xix. and xxvi., and it is fairly 
clear that Surah ix. recognises and appeals to Surah Ix. 


Equally exceptional are the cases in which we have 
the contents of two editions side by side. The 
clearest is perhaps in Surah viii., where verse 66 
asserts that one JNloslem in war is equal to ten 
Unbelievers, and this is followed by verse 67, " Now 
God has lightened the burden upon you, knowing 
that there is weakness in you,"' and reduced the 
proportion by eighty per cent. ; one Believer is to be 
equal to two Unbelievers. Here we are, so to speak, 
taken into the Prophet's study ; the Surah is re-edited 
with a necessary modification. 

At times where such references are given, they 
only produce fresh enigmas. So in a matter with 
which we shall presently deal, we find Surah xvi. 119 
quote a list of foods forbidden to the Jews which is 
to be found in Surah vi. 147; whereas Surah vi. 146 
equally clearly quotes a list of foods forbidden to 
Moslems which is given in Surah xvi. 116. The 
explanation of such a case can only be found in the 
repetition of the same matter differently arranged, 
which we have seen to be characteristic of the lecture 
as opposed to the book. 

The stories furnished by later writers of the mode 
wherein the Koran was edited are all clearly affected 
by the practice of the traditionalists, and little credit 
attaches to them. All that we can gather of the 
editor's method is that he intended to be as objective 
as possible ; i.e. to leave the employment of the 
sacred volume as free as possible to the Moslem 
community. For since the doctrine that parts of the 
work abrogated other parts was openly acknowledged, 


any suspicion of chronological arrangement would 
settle the important question, which texts were 
abrogated. And possibly this accounts for the 
mixture in the same Surahs of matter belonging to 
different years : as in Surah iii. there are verses which 
must have been delivered in the third year of the 
Hijrah, commenting on the battle of Uhud, to which 
are prefixed a series of verses clearly dealing with 
Christian controversy, and doubtless rightly assigned 
to a much later period. The text which claims to be 
the last in the Koran, " This day I have completed 
your religion," is not put at the end but in the 
middle of the volume. The verse which has every 
appearance of being the first text revealed is stowed 
away not far from the end, and evidently, short as is 
the Surah wherein it is inserted, mixed with matter 
belonging to a different period. We cannot say 
either why in certain cases several texts are put 
together to form a chapter, whereas towards the end 
of the volume we have a series of Surahs limited to 
a very few verses apiece. 

Since the collector of the Koran left no memoirs 
and composed no preface, we do not otherwise know 
precisely how he worked, or on what principle he 
admitted, arranged, and generally dealt with his 
matter. We know that some portions of the Koran 
must have been taught for ritual purposes, but can- 
not say exactly which. From a story to the effect 
that 'A'ishah, when quoting the Koran at her trial, had 
forgotten the name of Joseph's father, we should 
gather that the Surah of Joseph, perhaps the most 


continuous of the whole series, was famiharly known 
at the time, yet not so famiharly but that a member 
of the Prophet's household might be only moderately 
well acquainted with its contents. But though we 
are unable to pronounce on the skill displayed by the 
editor of the Koran, there is a strong probability that 
most of the matter which he collected had been 
actually delivered by the Prophet. The case which 
has been quoted, where the utterance of one Surah 
is confirmed by another, and apologised for in a third 
and a fourth, gives the very strongest presumption of 
genuineness. Moreover, the controversies wherewith 
it hirgely, or rather mainly, deals were stale at the time 
when the collection was made. Much of it deals with 
Jewish controversy ; the Judaism of Arabia had been 
effectively silenced by the Prophet before the taking 
of Meccah. The prophecy in Surah iii. that the 
Jews would be humiliated was fulfilled before the 
Prophet's time in Medinah had half expired ; the 
flourishing Jewish communities had been extermi- 
nated or impoverished. Both the admiration and the 
denunciation of the Banu Israil, with M'hich so many 
of the Surahs deal, had sunk from the region of 
practice to that of reminiscence or of theory, ever 
since the battle of the Trench. Scarcely less out of 
date was the polemic against idolatry ; for by the 
Prophet's death the idols had been destroyed, and 
though we hear of false prophets arising in Arabia, 
and of rebellion against the Medinese yoke, there 
appears to have been no recrudescence of paganism. 
Only in one case do we find that the collector of 


the Koran embodied what looks Hke a state paper, 

viz. the manifesto to the Arabs which forms at any 

rate the commencement of Surah ix., which, for 

some reason, lacks the invocation that is prefixed 

to all the other Surahs. It calls itself " Licence 

issued by Allah and His Apostle to the Pagans with 

whom you have made a covenant," and is evidently 

a copy of an actual document sent to Meccah. The 

co-ordination of Allah and the Apostle as authors of 

the document is unique, and makes it appear that in 

the period when it was issued the Koran had come 

to be considered as the Prophet's official utterances ; 

and that the theory of double personality, according 

to which the Prophet at times represented the Deity 

and at other times himself, yet was to be obeyed in 

the latter capacity no less than in the former, was 

making its appearance. So far as this manifesto is 

in the name of the Prophet it should perhaps have 

found no place in the Koran. Elsewhere it is hard 

to say to what extent manuscript materials were 


Our belief, then, in the general genuineness of the 

Koran rests on the agreement of its contents with 

what would be expected if the account of its genesis 

and collection were true. The greater part of the 

collection is likely to have been delivered orally, and 

indeed the matter is declared to have been sent down 

to the Prophet's heart to deliver with his tongue. 

The material was, as perhaps is the case with most 

preachers, meagre ; he was acquainted with only a 

few stories, and the doctrines which he had to com:- 



municate were during a long period exceedingly simple. 
Whether improvised or prepared, and probably both 
methods were employed, these discourses impressed 
many hearers, and were recollected in different forms. 
In accounts of dialogues and public discourses, both 
real and fictitious, we find authors who lived before 
the invention of* printing speak of the report as put 
together from the accounts of hearers, and we not 
unfrequently meet the assumption that a hearer of 
an oration will remember it, and be able to repeat it. 
Such reports of the Prophet's sermons must have 
been found in the minds or hands of various Believers, 
and in the later Medinese period a reading public 
may have begun to exist. 

The Koran, then, was what remained to take the 
place of the Prophet, and the dead letter is a poor 
substitute in any case for the living voice. In the 
Prophet's time the divine ordinances could be changed 
from day to day ; after his death they became stereo- 
typed for ever. " Do you doubt," asks a catechist 
rather more than a hundred years after that event, 
" that the Koran was brought down to the Propliet 
by Gabriel the faithful spirit : that therein God had 
declared what is lawful and unlawful, prescribed His 
rules and established His practices, and told the history 
of the past and of the future to the end of time ? " ^ 
The catechumen replies, " I doubt not." This parti- 
cular sect held, indeed, that there was somewhere an 
esoteric tradition whereby it could be supplemented, 
some person or persons who might deal with it some- 

1 fabari ii. 1961. 


what as the Prophet had dealt with its divine original ; 
but the greater part of Islam rejected this doctrine, 
and so closed the avenue, little used, it must be 
admitted, to possible improvements. Yet in some 
way the community had to be supplied with some- 
thing more than was contained in the fragments 
put together by the first Caliph's order : with law, 
ritual, moralsj theology, and even history. The task 
before us is to trace these several supplements to 
their source. 



So:me twelve years are said to have elapsed between 
the collecting of the Koran, which is supposed to have 
been executed by order and for the use of the first 
successor of the Prophet, and the issuing of an official 
edition. In the meantime it would appear that un- 
official texts must have been promulgated, of which, 
however, little more than the rumour reaches us ; 
different families were supposed to possess their own 
recensions, and this was likely to lead to serious mis- 
chief. The third successor of the Prophet had all 
these texts collected and either burned or washed out 
— a more economical process, permitting the use of 
the material for some other purpose ; in their place 
authorised copies were sent to the chief Islamic cities. 
It is asserted that even the fair copy which had been 
made by the second successor, and after his death had 
got into the possession of his daughter, was obtained 
from her heir and destroyed. So valuable a relic 
would not have been so treated had not its preserva- 
tion been dangerous to someone. Little is said by 
the Islamic historians of this act, which, however, must 
have been in the highest degree sensational ; for the 



Koran-readers were developing into a profession, and 
doubtless possessed in their Korans a lucrative asset. 
Yet since the destruction of the earlier copies was 
effectively carried out, the Moslems are compelled to 
assume that the text which remains is authoritative ; 
for otherwise they would be casting doubts on the 
basis of their system. The act of Othman is there- 
fore commended by the historians who mention it, 
and the use of non-Othmanic readings was afterwards 
punishable with death ; ^ though whether his contem- 
poraries regarded it in the same light may well 
be doubted. Among the charges brought against 
Othman by those who afterwards besieged him in 
Medinah and murdered him, one is that he found the 
Korans many and left one ; " and that he had " torn 
up the Book " ; ^ and for a long time his enemies 
called him "the tearer of the Books." ^ The party 
who are associated with his assassination are some- 
times called ''the Readers."^ The reason alleged for 
this drastic measure is the fear that different readings 
would lead to the development of sectarianism, this 
having happened in the Christian Church ; although 
it might not be easy to demonstrate that the various 
readings of the Bible had effected much in this direc- 
tion ; and Othman's expedient by no means proved 
itself effective, since sects developed in Islam with 
great rapidity. The story of the destruction of 

1 Yakut, Dictionary of Learned Men, vi. 300, 499. 

2 Tabarl i. 2952, 10. 3 md^ jj, 516, 5. 
4 Ibid., ii. 74.7, anno 67. 

^ i. 3323, 15. The charge that he was the first who altered the 
Prophet's sunnah seems an echo of this. Aghani xx. 101, 14. 


Omar's copy suggests that the official edition con- 
tained matter which current copies did not contain ; 
and, indeed, we may easily believe that the text did 
not escape interpolation during the period which 
separated the ultimate edition from the original col- 
lection.^ The first successor is said to have composed 
a text wherein the Prophet's death is foretold, and a 
little tampering with the sacred volume is likely to 
have been executed from time to time. Some verses 
which give the appearance of being post-Mohammedan 
are a set which recognise a distinction between two 
classes of texts in the Koran : those which have been 
revised and those which are equivocal. This division 
seems unnecessary when the doctrine of abrogation 
has been adopted ; nor while the Prophet lived can 
we well believe that any portion of the Koran was 
equivocal, for he was there to interpret it. Further, 
the word " clear " or " perspicuous," used as the 
contrary of " equivocal," is so frequently employed of 
the Koran that he would probably have disapproved 
the use of the latter term except in the sense of 
" uniform," in which signification it is indeed applied 
to the Koran as a whole. 

Besides this, the Koran is treated as a unit, which 
it can never have been while the Prophet lived : the 
well of revelation had not then run dry. Further, the 
revised texts are here said to be the " Mother of the 
Book " ; but that phrase as used by the Prophet means 

1 One sect of Khawarij declared Surah xii. (Joseph) spurious. 
Ghunyah i. 76. The Ibadites charge Othman with having "altered 
God's word.'' Sachau, Anschmmngen der Ihaditen, p. 53. 


something very different, viz. the divine original, the 
copy in the possession of the Celestial Author, who is 
at liberty to revise as He will. Hence this passage 
seems intended to deal with difficulties which can 
scarcely have cropped up while the Prophet lived, but 
necessarily arose when the letter had to take the place 
of the living intermediary between God and man. 

A controversy on which we never seem to hear the 
last word is whether or not the Alexandrian library 
was burned by the Moslem conquerors ; and even as 
late as 1912 some severe language has been heard 
about it. The real difficulty about the story is — 
What is meant by the Alexandrian library ? but the 
important question from some points of view is 
whether the belief that the Koran rendered all other 
literature dangerous or superfluous was or was not 
current at the time when this disaster is supposed to 
have taken place. Now, that the Moslems wilfully 
destroyed books belonging to other communities, 
composed in foreign languages, is not credible ; they 
would not have regarded the preservation of such 
literature as a matter affiscting themselves. But the 
rise of the Islamic state was an occasion which would 
naturally have produced a mass of literature, each 
person recording what he knew of the remarkable 
man who had founded the Arabian empire, or of the 
campaigns which had brought such brilliant results ; 
yet those who in later times endeavoured to discover 
what was the first book written after the Koran give 
us a selection of authors whose death-dates come 
between the years 149-160 of the Migration; and 


though a work by an author who died in 110 is some- 
times mentioned, it would seem that its genuineness 
is ordinarily denied. Of those prose works which have 
come down to us, little is earlier than 150, and 
literature begins to accumulate in masses only after 
another decade or two. Thus the first actual treatises 
on jurisprudence as a science were those of Shafi'I, 
who flourished in the second half of the second 
century ; previously the science had been locked up 
with its possessors.^ 

Considerable vagueness, in consequence, attaches 
to the history of the first century and a half, and even 
in the case of events of primary importance we are 
confronted with puzzles. We cannot, however, credit 
the whole Moslem population with inability to express 
themselves otherwise than in lyric verse. The long 
silence of the Arabs under Islam is to be accounted 
for by the importance attached to the Koran, which, 
it was thought, no more tolerated other books beside 
itself than Allah tolerated other deities. The claim 
which, according to the story of the Alexandrian 
library, was made by Omar for the Koran does not 
exceed what it claims for itself It is "a detailed 
account of everything."^ It was delivered in a night 
wherein every difficult matter was distinguished.^ 
"We have neglected nothing in the Book."* Now, 
a " detailed account of everything," " a Book wherein 
nothing is neglected," clearly renders all other litera- 

1 YakOt vi. 388. In the Ihyfi al-'Ulum i. 65 this matter is dis- 
cussed ; see also Ithaf i. 434. 

2 Surah xii. 111. 3 xHv. 3. " vi. 38. 


ture superfluous or dangerous ; and, indeed, when 
Bonaparte asked some sheikhs whether the Koran in 
its complete account of everything included formulae 
for the casting of cannon and making of gunpowder, 
they had to reply that it did, though they admitted 
that not every reader would know how to find them. 
Hence, it would seem, Moslems were precluded from 
composing books, and references to others than the 
Koran in the early generations of Islam are rare. 
Such references are usually to such as contained 
oracles ; thus a son of the conqueror of Egypt, when 
in that country, read the works of Daniel, and made 
prophetic calculations on its data ; ^ but even these 
books appear to be ordinarily in the hands of Jews and 
Christians," or in those of converted Israelites, who 
may have retained them from their earlier days.^ 
Even letters were ordinarily brief or rather laconic ; 
the first author of prolix epistles comes into history 
in the year 60, only, however, to have his despatch 
rejected for one which was conciser/ Attempts at 
preserving history seem to have taken the form of 
tribal narratives, to which reference is sometimes 
made ; ^ these were recited in the home,^ or more 
often in the mosques, and at times some particular 
mosque was a favourite resort of such narrators.' 

These narrators are not easily distinguished from 
preachers, who (sometimes after the afternoon prayer^) 

1 Tabari ii. 399, anno 6l. ^ jhi^,^ ii. uss, 1464. 

3 Ibid., ii. 786, anno 68. " /ftj^_^ ^ 270 ('Amr b. Nafi^). 

5 Ibid., ii. 856, 1180. ^ Ibid., ii. 1919- 

7 Ibid., ii. 455, Q5Q. » Ibid., ii. 1968. 


were employed by commanders to inspirit the troops 
by recounting to them the wars of the Lord and the 
merits of the Holy Family/ Probably it was in the 
recitations of these " narrators," as they were called, 
that the bulk of the Prophet's biography was preserved, 
whence the ordinary Moslem obtained a general ac- 
quaintance with it and would understand allusions 
to its details.'^ The profession of " narrator " does 
not appear to have been originally distinct from that 
of Koran-reader and jurist.^ A jurist was the author 
of one of the earliest attempts at written history of 
which we hear, viz. a list of the Caliphs with their 
ages; though its author died as early as 124 a.h., 
many of his figures were uncertain ; * and contra- 
dictory accounts have been handed down to us with 
respect to the dates of highly important events. In 
general, if anything was taken down, the copy would 
appear to have been retained only until its contents 
had been committed to memory ; and the author of 
this chronological table is said to have been ex- 
ceptional in taking down matter that was not strictly 
juristic.^ He became, indeed, thereby the greatest 
scholar of his time ; but it was not in his power to 
compensate for the want of contemporary histories, 
or to discriminate between the basis of fact and 
the accumulations brought about by the process of 

The notion that the sacred book is the whole of 

1 Tabarl ii. 949, 950, 1055. - Ibid., ii. 231, 1226, 1242, 1338. 
3 Ibid., ii. 1086. ' Ibid., ii. 428. 

^ Jahiz, Bayan ii. 26. 


the national literature has been too often current for 
us to be surprised at the Moslems adopting it. A 
Koranic theory is that every nation has its book — 
naturally one only/ With whatever sanctity a text 
may be surrounded, probably the only way to 
effectually guard it against rivals is to prevent the 
possibility of rivalry. The Jews interpreted a verse 
near the end of Ecclesiastes as definitely forbidding 
the addition of anything to their national literature ; 
and for three parts of a millennium they observed 
this precept faithfully. Hence the national history 
of that race between the fall of Jerusalem and the 
foundation of Baghdad is a blank. The Apocalypse 
ends with a terrible threat against those who venture 
to make any addition to the prophecy of this book, 
which may indeed refer to that particular collection 
of oracles, but is quite likely to be interpreted of 
putting anything at all that is to be permanent on 
writing material. Possibly there were fewer scruples 
among Moslems about the writing of poetry, to which 
there are occasional allusions,^ since such compositions 
were by their form clearly distinguished from the 
Koran. We have seen that some scruples were felt 
about collecting the Koran itself; it need not then 
surprise us that there were yet greater scruples about 
collecting anything else. And if, as was the case, 
even those Scriptures which the Koran professed to 
confirm and corroborate might not be put into the 
hands of Moslems, still less, we can imagine, might 
any other form of literature ; though it seems clear 

1 Surah xlv. 27. 2 Tabari ii. 1732. 


that the Prophet had no idea that any other form of 
literature existed. But even had he known of it, it 
is improbable that his attitude would have been 
altered thereby ; for his system, as might be expected 
of a man who was by instinct a military commander, 
was decidedly one of short cuts. This appears clearly 
in his calendar. The brains of mathematicians and 
astronomers had been wearied with endeavours to 
find a formula which would harmonise the supposed 
motions of the sun and the moon ; Mohammed settles 
the whole difficulty in a moment by declaring that 
the year in God's estimation is one of twelve lunar 
months. Christianity had been rent to pieces with 
the difficulty of formulating the nature of Christ, 
whose mother, it was agreed, was a virgin ; Moham- 
med settles the matter straight off: the nature of 
Christ is like that of Adam. Now, when difficulties 
can be settled with this directness, clearly research is 
useless ; for the students of these matters had arrived 
at nothing so simple. And the Koran makes state- 
ments on so many subjects that its claim to settle 
everything is at least plausible. We can learn from 
it where the sun sinks, and where it rises ; that the 
period from birth to weaning is two years, and from 
conception to weaning thirty months ; besides a precis 
of Old Testament and New Testament history, it is 
generally encyclopaedic in its range of information. 

But whether the collection of Surahs was intended 
as a manual of either ritual or law, civil and criminal, 
or of ethics, its utility was decidedly limited. In the 
first place, there is no principle of arrangement, whence 


the whole book must be perused in order to find the 
enactment on any subject. In the second place, the 
enactments on the same subject are apt to be numerous 
and contradictory. We may take the case of lawful 
foods. In Surah xxii. certain beasts are declared lawful, 
" except what shall be read unto you " — where there 
is thus a promise of further information. In Surah 
xvi. 116 such information is given: here the excep- 
tions are four — " God has made unlawful for you 
that which has died a natural death, blood, swine's 
flesh, and what has been consecrated to any other 
than Allah." It must be confessed that the classifica- 
tion leaves something to be desired ; and, indeed, some 
argued that the fat of swine was lawful according to 
the wording of this text. In vi. 119 we are told 
that the details have been given, only it is there 
explained that "what has been consecrated to any 
other than Allah" means "what has not had Allah's 
name mentioned over it." And in verse 146 the 
Prophet is told to say that in what has been revealed 
to him he finds nothing forbidden save the four things 
mentioned in Surah xvi. In Surah ii. 168 the same 
list is given again. In Surah v., however, the first 
verse tells us that graminivorous beasts are lawful 
food, except what shall be read unto you, and the 
list follows in verse 4 : but here no fewer than six 
fresh exceptions are added. Since there follows the 
expression, " To-day I have completed for you your 
religion," it may be reasonably inferred that this is 
the final utterance on the subject of lawful and un- 
lawful food ; but one feels that the assertion in 


Surah vi., " I only find in what has been revealed 
to me," followed by the shorter list, ought not to 
have been left unmodified by an editor ; for though 
the statement in Surah v. may well be the final utter- 
ance on the subject, it contradicts Surah vi. Since, 
then, the verse in Surah vi. is abrogated, it ought 
either to have been omitted, or some chronological 
note should have been appended ; and, indeed, in 
Surah vi., which takes its name from these beasts, 
the author goes out of his way to give what he 
supposes to be the Jewish law as well as that of his 
own community, and to this revelation reference is 
made in Surah xvi. 

Now, if on a matter which admits of such precision 
as this, the ruling of the Koran is inconsistent and 
self-contradictory, we cannot reasonably expect pre- 
cision on those moral and metaphysical questions 
which taxed the ability even of an Aristotle, who 
to his natural endowments had added a long and 
profound study of the theory of classification. 

To speak of the metaphysics of the Koran might 
seem to be an anachronism, but the evidence which 
justifies our using the phrase is irrefragable. It re- 
peatedly attributes the unbelief of its opponents to 
the act of God ; a man's acceptance of Islam is said 
to be due to God's expanding his breast (vi. 125), his 
refusal of it to his breast being straitened : God has 
rendered such a person deaf and blind, and sealed 
up his brains so that he cannot make use of them. 
Had God willed, everyone on earth without excep- 
tion would have believed (x. 99) ; no soul can believe 


save by the permission of God (100) ; he, Mohammed, 
cannot force people to beheve ; his preaching would 
be unavailing if God willed to lead people astray 
(xi. 36). It was impossible to rescue those who 
were doomed to punishment (xxxix. 20). To all 
this tliere was the obvious retort on the part of 
the Unbelievers that they too could not alter what 
God had decreed (vi. 149, xvi. 37); "had God 
willed, neither we nor our forefathers would have 
been pagans, nor should we have declared any 
lawful food unlawful." And this objection is re- 
peatedly recorded. The only reply that the Koran 
can offer is that Unbelievers in old times said the 
same, and that the people who say this have no real 
knowledge, but are only guessing. 

With regard, to morals there is the same difficulty. 
The Koran certainly is consistent on one point, the 
first commandment, " Thou shalt have none other gods 
but JNle " ; and this is practically the sole message 
which all the prophets communicate. If we come to 
other commandments, we have to read through the 
whole work in order to be sure what is actually 
meant. Where something analogous to a code is 
given, e.g. in Surah vi. 152 and following. Surah xvii. 
24, XXV. 65 following, Surah xxxi. 12, Surah xvi. 92, 
the second commandment is usually "kindness to 
parents " ; but then comes the difficulty noticed in 
the case of Abraham: what happens if the parent is 
an Unbeliever ? In Surah xxix. 7 the injunction is 
followed by the rider, " But if they urge thee to 
associate with Me that concerning which thou hast 


no knowledge, then obey them not"; in xxxi. 14 
there is added to this, " But associate with them 
kindly." But in Surah Ix., when, owing to the 
Migration and the battle of Badr, this matter has 
assumed serious proportions, the Moslems are told 
to declare that there is perpetual enmity between 
them and the Unbelievers, whatever the relationship ; 
Abraham's promise to pray for his father is stated to 
be an exception which is not to be imitated. 

We see, then, that the second commandment has 
had to undergo serious alteration as time goes on ; 
and without the theory of abrogation it is impossible 
to make use of Koranic rulings on the commandment 
concerning the honour due to parents. With other 
commandments we can trace the same process. In 
the code of Surah xvi. 93 there is a commandment 
to keep oaths ; but in Surah v. 91 this rule is modified 
by the introduction of the principle of compensation, 
whereby the violation of an oath may be atoned by 
some other performance ; and in Surah Ixvi. this 
new principle is confirmed and applied to a case 
wherein the Prophet himself is concerned. The 
tendency here, then, as in the former case, is towards 
laxity ; and it has had the decidedly serious result 
that there appears to be no mode known to Moham- 
medan law whereby an oath can be made legally 
bhiding ; for not only does the Koran expressly state 
that the performance of certain charitable acts will 
serve as a substitute for specific performance, but the 
Prophet is credited with the maxim according to 
which if a man having taken an oath to do some- 


thing discovers some preferable course, he is to take 
that preferable course and make compensation. And, 
indeed, the jurists appear to devote their attention 
entirely to the nature of the compensation to be 
adopted in such cases, without disputing the legality 
of perjury. It cannot, however, be easily believed 
that the Prophet would have failed to see the danger 
of admitting this principle unrestrictedly, though 
there may be cases in which the existence of an 
authority empowered to release men from such 
obligations is conceivably desirable. 

If in lieu of a code we endeavour to collect 
occasional precepts or to analyse the general spirit 
of the Koran, the result is somewhat wanting in 
precision and consistency. It is clearly an untenable 
view that the moral law can vary with the varying 
conditions of an individual or of a community ; it 
may be wise to fight with Unbelievers only when 
there is a good chance of defeating them, but the 
question whether it is right or not to do so cannot 
be settled on this ground. On this subject, however, 
we have a series of utterances which steadily increase 
in intolerance until they culminate in the ferocious 
document that forms Surah ix. We can indeed 
gauge the agitation of the Prophet in that Surah by 
the fact that he mentions a battle-field by name — 
Hunain ; elsewhere he uses veiled phrases, e.g. the 
day of Deliverance, or the day when the two parties 
met. Similarly, in the disagreeable episode connected 
with his adopted son, he goes so far as to mention 
Zaid by name. Still, it is not possible to harmonise 


a precept which forbids any sort of dispute, a precept 
which urges the rendering of good for evil, and a 
precept which enjoins the extermination of pagans, 
fighting with them wherever they are to be found, 
disregarding all family ties when religion is con- 
cerned. If we admit the theory that God's com- 
mands are dictates of prudence, i.e. are temporary 
rules accommodated to the varying circumstances of 
a few days or years, the question suggests itself : did 
circumstances cease to change on the Prophet's 
death ? Changing so quickly within the twenty 
years of his activity that the rule which suited the 
first year was wholly inapplicable in the last, can 
they in the last year have become so stereotyped 
that no further alteration is required ? 

Just, then, as we find that metaphysical difficulties 
are not really abstruse, but on the surface as well 
as in the depth, so the problems suggested by the 
theory of rev^elation formulated themselves even to 
untrained minds. The Prophet's answer is that of 
a dictator, who sees no difficulty about altering his 
rulings from day to day ; the texts which had ceased 
to be applicable were wiped out, erased, and something 
equally good if not better substituted for them. 

Even with regard to ritual we are confronted by 
the same difficulties. Doubtless the Koran con- 
sistently enjoins prayer and alms, and it certainly 
prescribes the pilgrimage to the Ancient House ; 
yet it is agreed that the Koran cannot be quoted 
for the number and exact nature of the ceremonies 
which together constitute prayer, or even for a 


complete definition of what is meant by ceremonial 
washing. Of the system which occupies so many 
pages in the law-books, and of the minute details 
connected with this performance, only the beginnings 
can be found in the Koran ; and it is by no means 
certain that the prescriptions in that book which 
are concerned with nightly prayer are meant to 
apply to anyone but the Prophet himself. Similarly, 
though charity is constantly enjoined, and the alms 
spoken of as an institution, there is no guidance as 
to the amount to be paid. Slightly more detail 
perhaps is given of the ceremonies connected with 
the pilgrimage which it was the intention of the 
Prophet to preserve or to abolish ; but even on this 
subject the statements are scanty. It is probably 
true that in the Prophet's time none of these 
"pillars of Islam," as they are termed, assumed 
quite as stereotyped a shape as that into which the 
studies of the first century of the Migration brought 
them ; yet where the leading principle of a system 
is that one particular teacher should be obeyed and 
imitated, the accurate formulation of duties is 
evidently required. If prayer and alms are per- 
formances which God demands, it becomes necessary 
to know what constitutes them ; where there is a 
claim to be satisfied, the debtor should know the 
exact amount of the claim. Since God is, according 
to the Koran, " quick at accounts," the debtor must 
also have an opportunity of keeping his own. 
Moreover, the alms being a tax which the sovereign 
has to collect, its amount must be definitely known. 


In the third place, it is clear that the legislation 
of the Koran is imperfect, and fails to deal with 
numerous subjects on which rules are required. 
Such a subject is constitutional law, the principle 
whereon the ruler or sovereign is appointed, and the 
limits of his power. When a dispute concerning 
the succession arose, the only Koranic text which 
seemed to deal with the matter was one referring 
to disputes arising between a man and his wife, in 
which case an umpire was to be appointed from 
either side ; what was to happen in the event of 
these umpires disagreeing was not specified. Those 
who were appointed to decide the succession to the 
throne were enjoined to settle the matter according 
to the Koran, if this were possible ; to do so was 
found quite impracticable, though it would appear 
that one of the parties endeavoured to effect this 
by extending the principle of analogy which had 
already been employed in the case of the arbitrators. 
It was then argued that where a murder had been 
committed, " authority " was given to the avenger of 
blood, i.e. the kinsman on whom that duty naturally 
fell ; and the word " authority " might conceivably 
apply to general authority, though tlie context would 
be against this. The occurrence, however, of this 
text, which might thus have some bearing on the 
question of the successor to the murdered Othman, 
was probably what encouraged one of the parties to 
stake its cause on the ruling of the Koran. 

If the Prophet's mission was analogous to what 
he supposed that of Jesus to have been, i.e. the 


relaxation of some parts of an earlier code, but in 
general the maintenance of it, it would have been 
natural for the community to adopt the codes in 
use among either Jews or Christians, merely intro- 
ducing such changes as the new revelation had 
brought. And, indeed, the academic question is 
sometimes posed : are we bound by the codes of 
our predecessors ? The question is clearly academic, 
for there is practically no mode of getting at those 
codes. The doctrine that the Jewish and Christian 
scriptures had been wilfully corrupted beyond re- 
cognition seems to have become a dogma of Islam 
at a very early date : it is the regular apology for 
the astounding diversity of the Koran in matters of 
history from the Christian and Jewish documents, 
and any system which involved the employment of 
those scriptures had necessarily to be rejected. It 
will be seen that this theory is actually made a 
principle of law, and regulates the relations of the 
Moslem government with its Christian subjects. 

Still, though the nature of the Koran was not such 
as to render it a convenient handbook for consultation 
on the various difficulties which arose, there were 
certain sources of information which for a time might 
be utilised. The Prophet had governed a community 
a sufficient length of time in a variety of circumstances 
for the Moslem life to have developed in a particular 
way, and for Islam itself to have exhibited what might 
be called a spirit ; the Prophet's career had for some 
years at least been in miniature what was to be the 
career of his successors : the conquest and adminis- 


tration of provinces. And, on the other hand, from 
the different conditions wherein he had hved with his 
followers, there was more than a general notion current 
of what he approved and disapproved. Victorious 
over internal and external enemies, recognised as 
absolute dictator on all questions connected with 
morality and law, he had been free to do as he 
liked ; there was little reason to suppose that greater 
success would have seriously changed his methods. 
Hence there was already a style or system which 
admitted of continuation. 

One result was, then, to make the Moslems hero- 
worshippers to a greater degree than any other 
community has attained. The Koran bids its 
devotees take as their models those who have been 
guided, and in particular urges that the Prophet 
is a pattern of conduct. Naturally, his immediate 
associates were supposed to have resembled him most 
closely, and what they did became a norm of conduct 
far below, indeed, that which was attributed to the 
Prophet, but at least analogous to it ; whoso followed 
their example could not go wrong. This prin- 
ciple eventually developed into a cult of saints, 
with numerous extraordinary superstitions. Moslem 
essays have a tendency to consist of citations of 
sayings bearing on the subject which are attributed 
to the Companions of the Prophet. But though 
much of this matter, if not the whole of it, is apo- 
cryphal, we cannot doubt that the mode of life 
pursued by the Prophet exercised a great influence 
on his environment, and the process spread through 


the ever-expanding area of Islam. During the early- 
generations the character thus disseminated was 
fairly preserved ; as time went on and the state 
became more settled, it became remodelled, and its 
old features were blurred ; but some were too clearly 
cut to be rendered indistinguishable. And in the 
encomia Avhich certain historians bestow on Moslem 
sovereigns, and their assessment of the conduct which 
they record, they retain the old valuations derived 
from a study of the lives of the Prophet and the 
foremost of the Companions. 

If, leaving theory, we turn to practice, and 
endeavour to picture to ourselves the life of the 
earliest Moslems, the Companions of the Prophet, 
who occupy in this system the same place as is 
occupied in Christianity by Apostles and Saints, we 
shall probably understand the ethical value of the 
Koran better than if we study it with orthodox com- 
mentaries. These persons accepted the Koran as 
guidance at the time of its author or at any rate 
authorised expounder. What effect had it on their 
lives ? Two qualities it certainly encouraged : courage 
and discipline. The Prophet spared neither himself 
nor his followers ; they fought many a battle at 
great odds and won. The boast of the Koran that 
a Believer was worth two Unbelievers on the battle- 
field, if not ten, justified itself repeatedly. Not only 
the Jews, whose religion disarms them, but the legions 
of the Greek and Persian empires, were unable to face 
the Believers' onslaught. 

The heroic life, as depicted in the Greek Iliad, bears 


a close resemblance to the life of the early Moslems ; 
they fight in tribes, and the capable fighter is the 
tribal hero. Nor is the religious basis entirely dis- 
similar ; the loves and hates of the fighters in both 
cases are the loves and hates of their gods. The best 
fighter is also the best worshipper. But it follows 
from this proposition that the best worshipper is 
often the best fighter ; and the government is to a 
certain extent priestly in consequence. When the 
Yemenite tribes at Kufah were making common 
cause against the usurper Mukhtar, the rivalry 
between their chieftains was likely to lead to 
disaster ; the affair was settled by making the chief 
of the Readers, i.e. the person best acquainted with 
the Koran, leader of prayer and so leader of the forces.^ 
The experiences of the Prophet's life, the constant 
bloodshed which marked his career at Medinah, 
seem to have impressed his followers with a pro- 
found belief in the value of bloodshed as opening the 
gates of Paradise. Among the many pathetic stories 
which Tabari has preserved is that of the Penitents, 
inhabitants of Kufah who had invited the Prophet's 
grandson Husain to come and be their sovereign, but, 
owing to the vigorous measures of the Umayyad 
governor of Kufah, left Husain in the lurch, who was 
presently surrounded by the Umayyad troops at 
Kerbela, where he and many members of his family 
met their deaths. The death of Husain has been to 
a large portion of the Moslem world the analogue of 
the Crucifixion : the culminating crime of the whole 

1 Tabari ii, 654, 


world, too horrible to mention, yet always to be kept 
in mind. When these Penitents became conscious 
of the offence which they had committed, they 
decided that they durst not appear before their 
Creator without having taken steps to atone for it ; 
they must take the life of those by whose hands 
Husain had fallen. When they had taken this 
resolution, there was already a considerable reaction 
against the Umayyads, for indeed the slaughter of 
the Prophet's household was eminently calculated 
to produce one ; the authorities in Kufah promised 
the Penitents their aid and support, merely desiring 
that this endeavour to avenge Husain should be 
undertaken with caution and prudence ; only the 
Penitents declined. It appeared that their desire 
was far more to lose their own lives in the pursuit 
of their aim than to compass that aim ; an avenue 
to Paradise was opened to them, and they hastened 
to take it. On their way to battle with the Umayyad 
forces they met other sympathisers, who also urged 
caution, and deprecated unnecessary waste of life, 
and especially of noble lives ; the sympathisers were 
thanked, but their assistance and their counsel 
declined. On the battle-field many were offered 
amnesty by their fellow-tribesmen who happened 
to be in the Umayyad army ; in the cases quoted 
the amnesty was declined ; the Penitents fought 
till they fell. Similarly, we read of generals who, 
hurrying to battle, asked their friends to pray for 
their martyrdom ;^ and of those who, mortally wounded 
1 Tabariii. 644, l6. 


in battle, expired congratulating themselves that 
they were dying in the mode they best desired/ 
The Caliph Ibn Zubair finds consolation for the 
death of his brother on the battle-field in the fact 
that he is following the family tradition ; unlike the 
Umayyads, who regularly died in their beds.- Other 
men as they reach old age anxiously seize what may 
be their last chance of martyrdom.^ This spirit seems 
to have regularly animated the Khawarij, the most 
ferocious as well as the most pious of the Moslems.* 
They were habitually able to defeat many times their 
number in consequence. But it also animated those 
who extended the Islamic empire to the far East.'' 

But beyond these virtues, courage and discipline, 
it might be difficult to find any which the Com- 
panions of the Prophet exhibited above other men. 
Temperance, in the sense of total abstinence, was 
part of their discipline ; the amount of chastity 
demanded was very slight. The ordinary ills of 
humanity, envy, hatred, and malice, seem to have 
been rife even in the Prophet's household, and the 
Shi'ites seem historically correct in asserting that 
after his death his staff subordinated all other con- 
siderations to an intrigue for the succession. Where 
the goods of infidels were in view, the precept " Thou 
shaft not covet" does not appear to have been en- 
joined ; and the thirst at any rate for infidel blood 
was encouraged rather than suppressed. Those who 
had to deal with the Prophet or his immediate suc- 

1 Tabarl ii. 657. ^- u. 819- ^ n. 1037. 

4 ii. 1378. ^ ii. l604. 


cessors in Medinah had to deal with an armed camp : 
with a fighting force as effective as has ever been 
organised, when fighting depended not on brain 
power but on physical force. The Prophet rightly 
claims to have set a good example in resolution and 
contempt of danger and fatigue. But that any of 
the gentler virtues were cultivated does not appear ; 
and the vices which are associated with Asiatic 
despotisms seem to have displayed themselves from 
the time when the despotism of Medinah was 
founded. The Prophet's successor and bosom friend, 
according to the best authorities, deprived the 
Prophet's daughter of her property in order to 
avenge an insult which his own daughter had received 
some years before. And, in general, little love seems 
to have been lost between the Companions of the 

The shedding of blood, indeed, became a passion 
which at times assumed strange shapes. The sect of 
Khawarij or professional rebels, which was called after 
al-Azrak, made a point of killing women and children 
as well as male Moslems who would not accept their 
symbol ; a letter is extant wherein this practice is 
justified from the Koran : these monsters spared 
Christians and Jews.^ In the civil wars at times 
some of the conquerors could see that the Moslems 
whom they had defeated were brave men, who could 
ill be spared for the defence of the frontiers, and that 
it was improper to treat the prisoners of war as 
responsible for the deaths of the victor's comrades ; 

1 See, e.g., Tabarl ii. 760. 


but such voices were rarely able to convince : the 
thirst for blood was too strong. When the 
adventurer Mukhtar undertook to avenge the death 
of Husain, he slaughtered hundreds, meaning to kill 
all the troops that had been engaged against Husain ; 
the real head of the house of Ali advised him to spill 
less blood. A pious insurgent in the year 76 advised 
his leader to kill all who disagreed with him before 
even summoning them to a change.^ And some of 
his followers carried out this principle without even 
consulting their commanders.^ The less religious, 
e.g. the founder of the Umayyad dynasty, seem to 
have developed this horrible taste less than the 
devotees ; but even their record is terrible. We 
cannot fail to find the source of this most painful 
feature of Islam throughout its history in the 
Prophet's massacres of his opponents, and in the 
theory of the Koran that copious bloodshed is 
characteristic of a true prophet at a certain stage of 
his career. 

Dangerous consequences were drawn from the 
Prophet's doctrine, emphasised on the occasion of a 
domestic irregularity, that an oath might be cancelled 
by some substituted performance. According to the 
tradition, one of the Companions of the Prophet, 
Zubair, who had started the revolt against Ah, was 
persuaded by the latter to abandon his project, and 
gave what seemed a solemn oath, that he would not 
take part in a war against the Cahph. Zubair's son, 
who afterwards endeavoured to maintain himself as 

1 Tabari ii. 886. 2 m^ ^ ij. 975. 


sovereign, persuaded his father to make atonement 
for his oath by freeing a slave, and take his place in 
the battle-field as if nothing had happened. The un- 
scrupulous adventurer Mukhtar, who by posing as 
the avenger of Husain shed blood in rivers, had been 
imprisoned by the governor of Kufah, when some 
suspicion of his plans leaked out ; owing to the 
intercession of Omar's highly respected son, the 
governor was persuaded to give Mukhtar his liberty, 
but not before making him take the most solemn 
oaths that he would not head an insurrection. 
Mukhtar, we are told, readily took the oaths offered, 
thinking to himself what a fool the governor of 
Kufah must be to suppose an oath could make any 
difference, when it was so easy to substitute some 
other performance for it ; particularly as it might 
easily be maintained that taking vengeance for the 
death of Husain was a duty which took precedence 
of all others. Like Zubair, then, Mukhtar perjured 
himself without scruple. Yet in perjuring themselves 
they had the authority of the Koran behind them, 
and were acting well within the law. The oath of a 
Moslem sovereign or commander was worth nothing 
at all, though public opinion seems sometimes to 
have been moved by very flagrant violations. 

Still, it is possible to formulate some more general 
theory of the spirit which animated the Prophet him- 
self, and with which he endeavoured to impress his 
followers. The political philosophers of the East 
inform us that men follow the religion of their 
sovereigns, and imitation of the Prophet, which the 


later Moslems carry on according to their lights, is 
repeatedly enjoined in the Koran. Certain rights 
doubtless belonged to his office, and there are revela- 
tions which deal with this matter ; the Believers are 
not to treat him as one of themselves, and are to 
observe in their dealings with him something of the 
etiquette usual in courts. But, discovering what his 
spirit is, they are to animate themselves so far as 
possible with the same. 

The spirit of Islam as it appears in the Koran 
might be said to be 3Ioderation. Although the 
Prophet may have had falsely attributed to him the 
saying, " The best of things are the mean," he would 
probably have accepted the doctrine with little 
hesitation. With regard to devotional acts he is 
credited with the saying, " The best religious observ- 
ance is the least cumbersome," and he is supposed to 
have forbidden various extravagances in this matter. 
Where charity towards relations and beggars is en- 
joined, the Koran adds, " Yet do be not lavish ; the 
spendthrifts are brethren of Satan, who was un- 
grateful to his lord. Do not tie your hand to your 
neck, and do not open it to its full width " (xvii. 
28-31). In the list of the virtuous (xxv. 67) are 
those who when they spend are not lavish and not 
stingy, but on the right line between the two. In 
managing the goods of orphans the poor trustee is 
told he may take a little for himself, but is not to be 
wasteful (iv. 6). If a tribesman has been murdered, 
retaliation is permissible, but the avenger of blood 
should not perpetrate a massacre (xvii. 35). Feasting 


is recommended on certain days, but there should 
be no excess (vii. 29). Chastity is repeatedly recom- 
mended, but there is no objection to unlimited 
concubinage. The " people of the book " are blamed 
for fanaticism in their religion (v. 81). 

In the time of the Prophet himself these somewhat 
homely precepts were modified by the enthusiasm of 
fighting and conquest. Although it appears that he 
fainted the first time that he saw blood shed, he very 
soon got over that weakness, and probably was never 
so happy as on the battle-field. The portions of the 
Koran which deal with the sacred war exhibit the 
spirit which fills the song of Deborah, with its scorn 
for all weakness and irresolution, its contempt of all 
excuses for staying away from the conflict, and its 
admiration for those who fight to the death, who 
neither ask nor give quarter. And for the rising 
state this quality was so desirable that the Prophet 
appears to have pardoned many a peccadillo in those 
who displayed it to the full. Like other Arab 
chieftains he was perpetually engaged in warfare ; 
only by organisation and discipline he ensured 
success, by fighting with a steady imperialistic aim 
he grew stronger instead of weaker after each engage- 
ment, and his promise of Paradise to those who fell 
evoked a kind of enthusiasm which went beyond 
anything which paganism had been able to arouse. 

Down to the end of the Prophet's life the dogma 
of Islam was still rather negative than positive. A 
Moslem was one who, like Abraham, was not one of 
the polytheists ; besides this, he was one of those who 


feared, i.e. were in alarm at the prospect of the Day of 
Judgment. But as regards other beUefs and practices 
he was a follower of the Prophet ; whatever orders 
the Prophet issued were incumbent upon him. Those 
orders, if the Prophet's biography may be trusted, 
were not always such as approved themselves to the 
consciences of the Believers ; but few of them ventured 
to disobey, and those who did venture were sternly 
reproved. Very little was fixed by the time of the 
Prophet's death ; at best some of the Companions 
were in a position to teach neophytes certain portions 
of the Koran, but we cannot say how much or what 
portions. The whole fabric of beliefs and practices, 
such as fills many a volume, has grown up since that 
event. The new religion ostensibly took little or 
nothing over from older systems ; with the difficulty 
which is discussed in the Acts of the Apostles, what 
authority is to be assigned to the Old Testament, a 
matter which even the Christianity of our day has at 
times to face, Islam was never troubled. The attitude 
of the Jews in Medinah decided the Prophet to break 
with them entirely, even to the extent of denying the 
authenticity of their scriptures, and with paganism 
he had already broken ; to Christianity his debt had 
at no time been considerable. He had, therefore, a 
tabula ?risa to write on,, and himself used the space at 
his disposal sparingly. Any further writing upon it 
might be styled reformation, since that word signifies 
only altering the shape ; and this might be done in 
many ways. 



For the reasons that have been given, the Koran 
could not by itself serve as a code, or even as a basis 
of legislation. And the notion that any documents 
other than the Koran survived from the time of the 
Prophet, and could be used to supplement it, was 
ordinarily ridiculed. When Ali was asked whether 
he possessed any information given him by the 
Prophet other than the Koran, he replied, " Only what 
is in the Scroll " ; this scroll contained the maxim 
that Believer should not be slain for Unbeliever, but 
little else.^ According to another account, this scroll 
was kept in the sheath of the Prophet's sword, and 
All's son gave a very different account of its contents." 
Possibly this scroll is identical with one called the 
Veracious, which was in the hands of Abdallah, son 
of 'Amr, the conqueror of Egypt ; for which a tradi- 
tionalist said he would not give one farthing.^ A 
document of somewhat greater importance was the 
alms-tariff, which was preserved in various forms ; 
the Prophet's biographer gives it in the form of a 

1 Umm vii. 292. 2 /^^-^^ yj 3 

3 iMukhtalif al-Hadith 93. 

65 5 


letter from him to the Yemenite communities ; 
according to others it was a document handed by 
him to Abu Bakr; according to others it was a 
revelation, and as such ought to have found a place 
in the Koran. ^ A similar tariff of compensation for 
wounds was to be found in another letter of the 
Prophet," which, however, does not appear to have 
been preserved. The jurists and traditionalists when 
they cite these documents cite them by oral tradition. 
There is no suggestion that the originals were any- 
where preserved, although the work from which the 
references have been taken" was not separated from 
the supposed date of the letters by two centuries. 

Since the Prophet described the mission of Jesus 
as for the purpose of removing some of the restric- 
tions imposed by earlier legislation, it is likely that 
he meant current practice to continue except where 
his legislation had abrogated it. So long as this 
theory could work, there were, then, two sources of 
law : custom and the Koran. We arrange them in 
that order, because the matters for which the Koran 
provided were limited in number. In some of the 
earliest occurrences of Islam we find custom further 
defined as the custom whereupon people are agreed 
rather than that wherein they differ. And to some 
extent the word " custom " continued to be employed 
of various institutions which had certainly been taken 
over by Islam from the earlier practice of Arabia. 

The transformation of Arabia into an empire, and 
the incorporation in Islam of numerous nations and 

1 Umm ii. 4. 2 /^/c?., vii. 295 ; cf. 171. 


communities with very divergent practice, rendered 
this earhest theory unworkable ; for Arab governors 
had to be sent out to the provinces, and the need for 
uniformity made itself felt. Hence a fresh source of 
law was required, and the Jewish theory suggested an 
expedient. The Jews have, as is well known, two 
laws, a AVritten I^aw and an Oral Law ; the latter 
has, indeed, for so many centuries been committed to 
writing that the meaning of the word " oral " in this 
context is often blurred, and the importance of the 
distinction forgotten. There is strong reason for 
believing that the Jewish Oral Law w^as still oral in 
the time of the first Caliphs, and even for some time 
later. Although this Oral Law in the form wherein 
we possess it consists of lawyers' opinions, in theory 
it was all delivered to Moses on Sinai. Hence the 
conjecture lay near that Mohammed had had delivered 
to him an Oral as well as a Written Law. And the 
doctrine that this second source of law was not 
written or to be written lasted for a considerable time. 
The Prophet is said to have forbidden the wTiting of 
it.^ In some dying injunctions ascribed to a general 
in the year 82 a man bids his sons read the Koran 
and teach the practice.'^ The general who won the 
throne for the Abbasids is said to have heard from 
his master and have remembered traditions.^ A century 
later, when at least one corpus of tradition already 
existed, the formula still is, "I have read the Koran 
and heard the tradition " ; ^ but in the third century 

1 Musnad of Ibn Hanbal iii. 26. 2 Tabari ii. 1083. 

3 ii. 1726. ^ iii. 774. 


it runs, " I have learned the Koran by heart and 
written the tradition," i.e. copied it down from some 
teacher's dictation.^ One of the teachers of the 
historian Tabari took the trouble to find out whether 
the pupils had committed to memory what they had 
written. It was, however, a token of sanctity never 
to be seen employing written material," other, of 
course, than the Koran ; but in the case of that work 
greater merit was acquired by reading than by reciting 
from memory.^ 

Nor was it difficult to find in the Koran itself 
evidence for the existence of this second source of 
law. AVe repeatedly read of " the Wisdom " as dis- 
tinguished from the Book. Wisdom besides the 
Book was given to the Prophets, and was also re- 
vealed or sent down to the Moslems.* It is true 
that this Wisdom seems in places to be identified 
with the Koran, and together with the texts of God 
it was read in the houses occupied by the Prophet's 
wives.^ It might be difficult, even with the most 
careful consideration of the texts wherein this Wisdom 
is mentioned, to determine whether the Prophet really 
thought of it as separate from the Koran ; and on the 
whole it is probable that he did not really distinguish 
the two. The Koran is called the Wise Record, and 
the term muhkam applied to God's revision of the 
texts points the same way. Still, it was possible to 
take a different view ; and in the legislation of the end 

1 Yakut vi. 429. - Dhahabi, Huffaz i. 303. 

3 Kut al-Kulub i. 6l. ^ ii. 231 ; iii. 75. 

^ xxxiii. 34. 


of the second century of Islam we have the definite 
statement that the Wisdom means ordinances made 
by the Prophet, yet not embodied in the Koran. 
And the texts wherein the Moslems are commanded 
to obey God and obey the Prophet furnished a sound 
argument for recognising this second source of law — 
the precedents of the Prophet. 

The process whereby " the beaten track," ^ " pre- 
cedent," or " custom " comes to mean the precedent 
set by the Prophet is just traceable in the stories 
which survive from the early days of Islam, most of 
them indeed somewhat coloured by later ideas and 
usage. Sometimes the practice is defined as "past 
practice " ^ or as " known practice " opposed to innova- 
tion,^ or as good practice opposed to bad practice,^ 
or as order opposed to disorder.^ Sometimes the 
" practices " are mentioned without further defini- 
tion,^ but at times they are ascribed to God,^ to the 
Moslems,^ to Islam,^ to the first two Caliphs,^° or to 
the first two Caliphs and the Prophet ; ^^ at times they 
are even mentioned as something over and above the 
practice of the Prophet. ^^ In a manifesto ascribed 
to Ali, it is asserted that Allah taught the Arabs 
by Mohammed no fewer than four things — the Book, 

1 Tabari ii. 885, l6. 2 /^^v/., i. 3368, 15. 

3 ibid., i. 2937, 15, 3166, 8, 3298, 9 ; ii. 240, 19 (spurious letter), 
984, 14. Cf. 985, 15. 

* i. 3044, 9. ^ ii. 455, 14. 

c i. 3419, 6; ii. 1083, 11. 

7 i. 3427, 5. Aghani xx. 106 ; Tabari ii. 518, 14; ii. 1369, 15. 

s i. 3132, 4, 3228, 15. 9 i. 2929, 18. 

10 i. 2976, 10, 3267; ii. 1392, 10. n i. 3044, 9. 

12 ii. 1700. 


the Wisdom, the Ordinances, and the Practice.^ In 
a solemn address to the founders of the Abbasid 
dynasty, the practices are said to be contained in the 
Koran.^ Nevertheless, the " practice of the Prophet " 
in these stories is far commoner than any other 
phrase. The context in which these expressions are 
most frequently used is in reference to the third 
Caliph, Othman, whose conduct was supposed to 
differ seriously from that of his predecessors : though 
the charges formulated against him are always some- 
what vague. It seems clear that the second source of 
law was not yet anything quite definite, but merely 
what was customary, and had the approval of persons 
of authority, all of whom presently merged in the 

It might seem that this was to assign the Prophet 
a function which he expressly disclaimed ; for there 
is little doubt that he carefully distinguished between 
his utterances ev cathedra and others. AVhere he had 
a revelation to guide him he was infallible, and his 
comrades recognised that infallibility ; and indeed 
the recognition of any other sort could only be made 
at the expense of the Koran. This sort of logic is 
found wherever resort is had to oracles ; it is a con- 
dition of their genuineness and importance that they 
should not be capable of explanation as the fruit of 
ordinary speculation ; hence those who deliver oracles 
are madmen, children, jesters, persons to whose re- 
flections no value could be attached ; indeed, the 
tendency to accentuate Mohammed's illiteracy is 

1 i. 3236, 13. 2 ij ]c)6i^ 8. 


evidence of the same theory. When IMohammed 
ruined a date-crop by strangely and capriciously 
forbidding artificial fertilisation of the palms, he 
explained his mistake as due to ignorance ; he was 
not on that occasion delivering a revelation. But 
it became necessary to supplement the Koranic 
legislation from his practice, and some evidence of 
the second function assigned to him, viz. of legislator 
as well as medium, had to be found in the Koran. 
The passages then cited for this purpose are those 
in which the Prophet is said to have been sent " to 
read unto them Our texts, and to teach them the 
Book and the Wisdom and to purify them " ; and 
indeed it is stated that " God revealed unto thee the 
Book and the Wisdom and taught thee what thou 
hadst not known." Combining these statements with 
the command in the Koran to obey Allah and to obey 
the Prophet, the jurists argue that what the Book 
is to Allah, that is the Wisdom to the Prophet. 

Nevertheless it seems clear that is against the 
intention of the Koran. The Believers are told when 
they dispute about anything to " refer it to God and 
the Apostle " (iv. 62), and the Hypocrites are attacked 
for declining an invitation to refer their differences 
to what God has revealed and unto the Apostle, and 
told that they will not count as Believers until they 
make the Apostle their judge ; they are contrasted 
with those who obey God and the Apostle. The 
obedience and the belief are the same : they are con- 
ferred on the Apostle as the spokesman of God ; the 
authority and the spokesman cannot be distinguished. 


Probably the orthodox opinion is that the Prophet s 
ordinances are embodiments of the highest wisdom, 
and therefore deserve the title which is bestowed 
upon them ; but there are pious authors who admit 
that this is not necessarily the case. It is a sign of 
love of the Prophet, says a Sufi author, to prefer his 
ordinances to the results of reason and intelligence : ^ 
and this implies that the two may conceivably be at 
variance. Shafi'i confines himself to the arguments 
that have been quoted ; the injunction in the Koran 
to obey the Prophet, and the declaration that one 
who obeys the Prophet thereby obeys God. To the 
question whether the name " Revelation " may be 
applied to the Prophet's words, he declines to give an 

Professions develop by division of labour, and it 
must have taken some generations to separate 
the functions of Koran-reader, Traditionalist, and 
Jurist. The word which in the Koran means 
*' knowledge " or understanding, but afterwards 
became the technical term for " law," seems to have 
specialised somewhat slowly. The second Umaj^ad 
Caliph uses it in the sense " acquaintance with the 
Koran," the only form of book-learning recognised 
at the time. Husain, he said, had come to grief on 
the side of his Ji/yh, which he explained to mean that 
he had forgotten a text in the sacred volume wherein 
it is stated that God assigns the sovereignty to whom 
He will.^ It is rather surprising to find a man sign 

1 Kut al-Kulub ii. 85. "- Umm vii. 271. 

3 fabari ii. 381, 2. 


himself "the jurist " as early as the year 66, and one 
is inclined to fancy that the title was given him by 
some later scribe/ The "jurist" was still, as Tabari 
somewhere describes him, the pious man who per- 
forms devotional exercises in the mosque, and gives 
legal opinions when asked. ^ The home of this 
knowledge, i.e. what the Prophet had said and done, 
especially in matters which bore any relation to law, 
was naturally Medinah, where he had first assumed 
the role of ruler and judge ; and indeed the people of 
Medinah had a high appreciation of their acquaint- 
ance with this subject, and demanded that their 
governors should consult them about all cases which 
came before them — a demand which no other city 
appears to have made.^ This demand, indeed, some 
of the governors conceded of their own accord.* 
The people of JNIedinah were long recognised as the 
most thorough students of the subject and the most 
careful to supplement omissions.^ We are told that 
the year 98 was called the year of the Jurists, because 
the majority of the Medinese jurists died in it. At 
a later period Kufah obtained university rank in this 
subject.*^ Before the close of the Umayyad period 
every governor was supposed to possess some legal 

That the Medinese jurists obtained something 
more from the Jews than the mere idea of an Oral 

1 Sha'bi, Tabari ii. 6l3, 5. - ii. 881 ; 56i, l6. 

3 ii. 1452. 4 ii. 1183. 

5 Shafi% Umm vii. 242. « Tabari ii. 1620. 

7 ii. 1837, 126 A. H. 


Law is very likely ; in one or two cases the termin- 
ology of the Arabic jurisprudence can be traced to 
the language of the Mishnah. It is, however, 
characteristic of Moslem studies that they take 
very little from outside ; they develop on inde- 
pendent lines. And the fact that JVIedinah is the 
home of Moslem jurisprudence of itself indicates that 
the amount borrowed from non-Jewish sources is 
likely to have been exceedingly small ; for Medinah 
was purely Arabian and Jewish, and the level of 
cultivation among the inhabitants decidedly lower 
than that of Meccah. As questions arose, the 
persons to whom they were referred were residents 
in Medinah, notably tlie widows of the Prophet, 
because they naturally had most acquaintance with 
the Prophet's life. There is no evidence that Roman 
I^aw penetrated into this primitive city ; when the 
residents were asked for legal opinions, they had to 
rely on their memories, their intelligence, or, at best, 
local talent. The Jews who had adopted Islam were 
far better equipped than their fellow-citizens for 
practical jurisprudence, although there is no evidence 
that their law was already codified ; they had, how- 
ever, at their disposal the results of reflection and 
experience such as could be applied in many cases. 
And the general method of jurisprudence, principles 
for reconciling conflicting passages in the sacred 
book, and deducing unforeseen consequences, had 
undoubtedly been elaborated by the Jews many 
centuries before the rise of Islam. 

This, then, appears to have been the genesis of 


the second source of Law, which has provided the 
ISIoslems with their main occupation. The very 
name " beaten track " is clearly more suitable to 
general custom than to the precedents set by a single 
individual ; the other name " talk," " narrative " 
might conceivably be regarded as a translation of the 
Jewish phrase mishnah, but it may have arisen in- 
dependently, in any case in some antithesis with the 
written code. At the earliest period of the civil wars 
it appears to have been recognised that conceivably 
neither the Koran nor any other source of law 
provided for every emergency ; " This is a new affair," 
says a Companion ; "It never happened before this 
day, so that there could be a Koranic revelation about 
it, or a precedent in the conduct of the Prophet " ; ^ 
" They gave judgment without any convincing plea 
or any past precedent," complains another.^ Like 
other general negations, the former of these proposi- 
tions was hazardous, since methodical examination 
of the Koran might find much whose presence was 
unsuspected by the superficial student, whereas the 
Prophet might have provided for the emergency by 
some precept which had escaped the speaker's notice. 
And indeed it was presently discovered that the 
Prophet had foretold the future even to the extent 
of naming sects which came into existence long after 
his death. 

When this point was granted, viz. that the 
practice of the Prophet was no less binding on 
mankind than the legislation of the Koran, and that 

1 Tabarl i. 31 66, 8. 2 md,^ 3363, 14. 


both were equally revelation dictated by God, but 
merely differed in form — the one being put by God 
in His own language, the other communicated to the 
Prophet to deliver as he chose — there still remained 
a question as to the relation between the two forms 
of Law : was the Prophet's practice merely comment 
upon the Koran, i.e. limiting and explaining, or was 
it supplementary as giving rules on subjects which 
the Koran did not itself treat ? Some certainly 
asserted that it was all of it of the former sort ; there 
was no ruling of the Prophet on any subject of which 
the basis was not to be found in the Koran. But this 
proposition could not be maintained without difficulty. 
Between the two forms of revelation there was, 
however, one difference. It was maintained that 
though the Koran could abrogate itself, it could not 
be abrogated by the Prophet's practice. The argu- 
ments for this doctrine are Koranic texts ; they are 
taken from verses wherein God claims the right to 
alter the Koran, and asserts that when any text is 
abrogated, one that is better or at least as good is 
substituted. From this it is reasonable to infer that 
the substitute is invariably to be got from the Koran 
itself, and not from the Prophet's contributions. 
One other text that is quoted is less convincing ; it 
is where the Unbelievers request the Prophet to 
produce a Koran different from this, and he replies that 
he cannot possibly alter it propiio motu,^ for if the 
snnnah (practice) be revelation, such an alteration 
could not be called proprio motu. 

1 X. 16. 


Shafi'i quite correctly reasons that just as the 
Koran can only be abrogated by itself, so the sunnuh 
can only be abrogated by itself. He has, however, to 
resort to the assumption that we possess both the 
Koran and the sunnali in their entirety, since other- 
wise there would be a chance that the abrogated 
verse might in certain cases be preserved, and the 
abrogating lost ; and similarly that the abrogated 
practice had been remembered, but not the abrogating. 

One of the most important functions of the sunnah 
is clearly to settle between conflicting texts which 
abrogate the other ; for, as we have seen, the evident 
intention of the compiler of the Koran was to leave 
this matter absolutely undecided ; all suspicion of 
chronological arrangement had to be avoided. In 
the cases to which reference was made above, it was 
clear that no one could say which passage was the 
earlier. And we can scarcely be wrong in inferring 
that even at this early period of Islamic jurisprudence 
it was acknowledged that on many subjects the 
revealed law was inconsistent. 

The confession that parts of the most precise legis- 
lation in the Koran had been abrogated by other 
parts must have been a trying admission to make, 
but there was no way of avoiding it. In Surah ii. 
176 the dying JNIoslem is enjoined to bequeath his 
property to his parents and near relatives. In Surah 
iv. certain fixed portions are assigned by the law to 
these relatives ; clearly the property cannot both be 
bequeathed and divided by the state. But perhaps he 
has the right to bequeath the whole ? The tradition 


is here cited that according to the Prophet the right 
of legacy is restricted to one-third. Or perhaps the 
text of Surah ii. may be still valid, as meaning that 
legacies may be made only to relations. Here we 
have an ingenious argument based on a story that 
some Moslem whose whole property consisted of six 
slaves manumitted them by will. The Prophet 
cancelled this arrangement, and manumitted two by 
lot ; the rest were to be assigned in accordance with 
the law of Surah iv. But since the Prophet permitted 
the legacy of one-third of the estate and the bene- 
ficiaries were the legatee's slaves, and no Arab has a 
kinsman for his slave, it follows that the restriction of 
legacies to kinsmen has no existence. There is there- 
fore nothing for it but to declare the text of Surah ii. 
abrogated by that of Surah iv. 

The question of the treatment of adulteresses is 
even more serious. In Surah iv., which is called the 
Surah of Women, and contains a great deal of precise 
legislation, the punishment assigned is imprisonment 
for life. In Surah xxiv., of which the date can be 
accurately fixed, since it deals with the affair of 
'A'ishah, which again is connected with a particular 
campaign, the punishment assigned is a hundred 
stripes. But the tradition is that the Prophet 
administered the stripes to the adulterer, ordered 
him to be banished for a year, and ordered the 
adulteress to be stoned. If, then, the last was the 
practice to be followed, not only was one text of the 
Koran abrogated by another, but both were abrogated 
by practice. Some attempt might indeed be made 


to accommodate the second text and the practice to 
differing conditions, but the text of the Surah of 
Women had clearly to be disregarded. What is 
probably the case is, that the Prophet's treatment of 
the offence grew less instead of more barbarous, and 
that his final views were represented by Surah iv. ; 
but the practice of exacting the worst penalty was too 
deeply sanctioned by custom to be overridden even 
by Koranic texts. The affair of 'A'ishah had become 
so famous that the slandering of women was regarded 
as a deadly sin, which even the earliest Islamic creed 
was said to have especially prohibited, and the evidence 
on which a charge of adultery could be established 
was practically of a kind which could never be 

The inherent weaknesses of this second source of law 
are, of course, two. In the first place, we look in vain 
for evidence that exhaustive records of the Prophet's 
sayings and doings were kept. Shafi'i himself accounts 
for differences of opinion between the " learned " on 
the ground that some tradition may have escaped 
them ; had they known more, they would have been 
guided by that superior knowledge.^ In the second 
place, the memories of those who transmitted tradi- 
tions were weak, and the author of the code himself 
repeatedly confesses that he has forgotten the name 
of some intermediary or other ; ^ and at times that 
he has forgotten the exact words, though he believes 
that he has reproduced the sense correctly.^ The 
jurists of the preceding generations could not rely on 

1 Umm iv. 171. ^ /^zU, vi. 3 ; cf. iv. 71. ^ yi. 172. 


their memories with any greater certainty ; Sufyan 
Thauri forgot the name of an intermediary on whose 
authority a tradition was quoted ; one of his class 
reminded him, but this was apparently not quite 
satisfactory/ The possibility of error and ignorance 
is allowed in the case of contemporaries of the 
Prophet.- And, indeed, Shafi'i is said to have made 
a general confession that there was no one whom the 
practice of the Prophet did not escape,^ though he 
assumes that somewhere in the Moslem world this 
knowledge is preserved/ Hence when the second 
source of law is considered, there is generally the 
double doubt whether there was any precedent or 
maxim really going back to the Prophet, and if there 
was, whether it was his final opinion on the subject. 
And the omission of a name in the chain of authorities 
naturally invalidates the whole. 

Further, in the case of the Prophet's practice there 
was the same difficulty as was found in the Koran, 
viz. that his rulings varied from time to time, and 
chronology had to decide which ruling was to be 
followed. Sometimes, indeed, the chronology gave a 
satisfactory solution. Thus on the question of the 
attitude to be adopted in prayer, whether if the leader 
be prevented by infirmity from standing upright the 
followers also should refrain from standing, there were 
reports of two occasions on which the Prophet set 
precedents ; one of these happened to be on the 
occasion of the Prophet's last illness : clearly this 

^ Umm vii. 41. - Ibid., vi. l63. 

3 Yakut vi. 387. * Umm vii. 265. 


had to be followed, since there could not have been a 
later occasion. 

Besides this, there was at times conflict between the 
Prophet's maxims and his ascertained practice : on 
such occasions Shafi'i apparently holds that the maxim 
is to be followed. A serious case in which he is con- 
fronted with this difficulty is that of murder by a 
Moslem of a Jew or Christian : the historical evidence 
appeared to show that the Prophet and some of his 
successors ordered the same treatment as would have 
been adopted if the Christian had been the murderer ; 
the latter was handed over to the relatives of the 
murdered man, to kill, forgive, or compel to pay 
blood-money as they chose ; and, indeed, where the 
relatives of the murdered man expressed their desire 
to forgive the. offence, the Caliph took pains to see 
that this was not due to intimidation. On the other 
hand, the Prophet was credited with the maxim, 
" Believer shall not be slain for Unbeliever," delivered 
on a variety of occasions. The jurist, then, adopts this 
maxim as regulating procedure, and has to reject the 
historical traditions as weak, or suppose that the 
Prophet's successors were mistaken.^ And in other 
cases where the decisions ascribed to the foremost of 
the Prophet's Companions differ from the Prophet's 
practice or from his maxims, it is agreed that the 
former are not deserving of consideration. Where 
there is a known ruling of the Prophet, no one else 
has anything to say. Useful as this maxim is, it has 
the difficulty that these same persons are also the 

1 Cf. Tabari ii. 83. 


most trustworthy witnesses of what the Prophet said 
or did ; and their faUibihty to a certain extent dis- 
credits the whole system of legislating by the Prophet's 

Occasionally it is in our power to show that the 
traditions which form the basis of the codes are legal 
fictions. The historian Tabari tells us the practice of 
obtaining redress for murders by unknown persons 
by administering oaths wholesale was an innovation 
of the year 30 — a score of years after the Prophet's 
death ; ^ the jurist Shafi'i bases it on an anecdote of the 
Prophet's procedure, which indeed is on other grounds 
clearly apocryphal.^ The practice of administering 
stripes for wine-drinking is said by the historian to have 
been introduced by general consent in the time of the 
third Caliph •,^ the jurist also finds a precedent in the 
Prophet's practice. And in general the history of 
the jurists differs widely from tliat of the historians. 
European critics are inclined to attach more weight to 
the statements of the historians. It is painful to find 
one of the founders of the science of law confessing that 
he had pleaded the genuineness of a document which 
he secretly suspected of being a forgery, and therefore 
declined actually to attest ; the result, which was the 
serious one of inducing a man of ability and influence 
to join the party of the unscrupulous adventurer 
Mukhtfu*, being equally attained. In any other case, 
then, this person's inclinations may have caused him 
to play fast and loose with his critical conscience.* 

1 Tabari i. 2842. 2 (jm„^ yi. 78_ 

3 Tabari i. 3028. ^ Sha'bi. 


That the whole system of the Oral Law did not 
escape ridicule in certain quarters is natural. There 
were the objections to which allusion has been made, 
the fact that the traditionalists themselves confessed 
to lapses of memory, so that one of these persons is 
represented as quoting someone else for an assertion 
which he himself had made : " I was told by Munkidh, 
who heard it from me, who heard it from Ayyub " ; ^ 
and the fact that there were contradictory traditions 
deahng with the same matters. Then the content of 
many traditions was clearly fabulous and calculated to 
bring the system into ridicule, e.g. that the Prophet 
said the thickness of an Unbeliever's skin in hell will 
be forty divine cubits, or that the wind is^not to be 
abused because it is the breath of God. Further, 
the traditionalists were taunted with being ignorant 
and often unable to compose correct Arabic. It 
could be replied that a man might be a good tradi- 
tionalist without being a good grammarian ; that the 
collecting of traditions of various degrees of proba- 
bility was for the purpose of criticising them and 
selecting those of which the genuineness stood 
proper tests ; and the charge of stupidity could also 
be rebutted. The fact, however, was that this 
collecting of traditions had been the result of the 
needs felt by the community, and it would seem that 
those who ostensibly rejected the process were con- 
tent to profit by the results. Hence the similarity 
between the codes compiled by the different sects 
of Islam shows that the basic traditions were in 

1 Mukhtalif al-Hadith 92. 


reality recognised though there might be reasons for 
professedly ascribing the laws to a different origin, 
e.g. the esoteric knowledge communicated by the 
Prophet to members of his family. 

What must be said of the jurists and traditionalists 
is, that whatever the value of their second source of 
law, they spared no pains in endeavouring to recover 
it. In order to find out the true amount of the 
jizyah or tribute exacted from Jews and Christians 
in the Yemen under the Prophet's regulation, Shafi'i 
travelled over the whole of that country and asked 
for information in every province.^ In order to dis- 
cover the true theory of pious benefactions, he con- 
sulted many of the descendants of the Refugees and 
Helpers in the sacred cities.^ He consulted more than 
one member of the family of Omar and of the family 
of Ali about practice.^ What he did in his time was 
doubtless done by others before his time, and it is 
partly due to the rise of this source of law that 
posterity knows so much about the Companions of 
the Prophet, each one of whom was a sort of oracle. 

In order to compile a code of law on so strange a 
foundation as casual observation of what one man 
had said or done, reseai'ch had indeed to be indefatig- 
ably carried on ; and since it was impossible to leave 
questions unanswered, much had to be accepted on 
very imperfect attestation. Shafi'i has a paragraph 
in which he compares the evidence required for 
legislation with that required in a law court, and he 
admits that the latter is stricter in many particulars. 

1 Umm iv. 101. 2 /^j^f., iii. 276. '^ Ibid., iii. 281. 


For a tradition he is satisfied with the evidence of 
one man or one woman : in court he requires more. 
He will take hearsay evidence for a tradition, if the 
reporter is of good character ; but in court he re- 
quires firsthand knowledge. In the case of conflict- 
ing traditions he will accept one, using as criterion 
its agreement with some other source of law : but 
he cannot deal in the same way with conflicting 
affidavits. On the other hand, he claims to demand 
in the reporter of a tradition a higher degree of 
intelligence than he would demand from a witness, 
because it is sufficient in the case of a tradition if the 
sense be retained though the words may be altered ; 
but it requires a certain degree of intelligence to 
know when an alteration in the diction will not 
afiect the sense. Whereas, then, in court he is pre- 
pared to assume that credible witnesses guarantee 
the credibility of their authorities, in the case of 
traditions he does not take this for granted, but has 
to institute an inquiry into each link of the chain. 

Shafi'i's argument for receiving a single attestation 
in the case of a tradition, whereas the law courts are 
not satisfied with less than a double attestation, is 
highly ingenious. One of his points is that in the 
case of a tradition the attitude of the reporter is 
purely objective ; he cannot be suspected of partisan- 
ship in matters which affect all Moslems alike. It 
was, however, clear that the whole theory of tradi- 
tional law must break down if a single attestation 
was excluded. For, in numerous cases, the rulings 
of the Prophet were supposed to take, or actually did 


take, the form of messages communicated through a . 
messenger or delivered to an individual. Many a 
piece of information about his conduct was communi- 
cated to the world by one of his wives. And, indeed, 
the biography of the Prophet offered numerous 
occasions on which matters of the highest importance 
had been communicated in this way. When the 
congregation was praying at Kuba, a messenger 
arrived from the Prophet telling them that in accord- 
ance with a revelation which has just descended, they 
are to reverse the direction of prayer ; the attestation 
of a single messenger satisfies them, and they reverse 
the direction in consequence. The command to spill 
all spirituous liquors was communicated by single 
messengers and was immediately obeyed. Indeed, 
on certain occasions, when it would have been easy 
for the Prophet to have sent a number of messengers 
at once, he was satisfied with sending one and un- 
questionably expected that the message would be 

Shafi'I further points out that the individuals sent 
with messages were persons who were known to the 
individuals or communities to whom the missives 
were directed, and who therefore were in a position 
analogous to that of reporters of traditions to Moslem 
communities of a later age. 

Any precedent, however authoritative the person 
responsible for it, had to give way before a tradition 
of the Prophet. Where a tradition could be cited, 
the common sense of the individual judge had to 
give way. One saintly follower of the Prophet, 


Abu'l-Darda, declared he could not live in a country 
where the sovereign set his own opinion against the 
practice of the Prophet ; the question being whether 
an object made of a precious metal might be sold for 
more than its intrinsic value. Common sense would 
seem to be in favour of the workmanship, etc., being 
assigned some value, but the Prophet's dictum was 
against it. In discussing the credibility of witnesses, 
Shafi'i is satisfied that no Jew or Christian is a credible 
witness ; his sole argument is that the Koran charges 
these sects with corrupting the text of their sacred 
books ; into the justice of that charge it is not his 
business to inquire, neither does he consider whether, 
if it be true, it falls on all existing members of those 
communities, or whether the culprits were persons in a 
bygone age, whose work it is not now possible to undo. 
He does not even take notice of the fact that the 
Koran itself distinguishes between different members 
of those communities, allowing that there are honest 
as well as dishonest persons among them. And, as 
will be seen, he has some real difficulties to face, but 
a little experience might have shown him that if it 
was the desire of the judges to arrive at the truth, this 
ruling of his barred and bolted many of the avenues. 

One principle which is too deeply ingrained in 
these works ever to be forgotten is that only oral 
tradition counts ; written documents must be cited 
from memory, not from the text. Traditions are to 
be condemned merely on the ground that they are 
taken from documents;^ and as we have seen, "the 

1 Mukhtalifal-Hadith 9S. 


Veracious Scroll," said to be in the possession of a 
Companion, was rated very low. A man who procures 
an old letter learns it by heart, so as not to forget it, 
he does not apparently copy it.^ Letters of early 
Caliphs or other persons of importance are then 
regularly cited in this way ; and when Shfifi'I cites 
a deed of gift by Ali to some tribe, he cites it as he 
heard it read out to him by the Governor of JNIedinah, 
not as he read it.^ Hence no attempt appears to have 
been made to secure the preservation of the originals 
of these valuable documents, about which the hand- 
writing expert might perhaps occasionally have had 
something to say. The only theory which explains this 
strange delusion appears to be that the Koran tolerated 
no literature besides itself Somewhat similarly the 
supposed Letter of the Christian Saviour to Abgar, 
King of Edessa, which is cited in letter- form by 
Eusebius, is given as oral tradition in the Syriac 
account, which is not much later, for fear that this 
letter should demand admission into the Gospel ; and, 
as we have seen, a place in the Koran seems to have 
been claimed for the tariff of alms, which was con- 
tained in a letter of the Prophet. And since the 
Prophet's letters had been drawn up by his scribes, 
there might have been some difficulty about stopping 
this source of additions to the Koran if the perpetua- 
tion of any collection of letters had been tolerated. 

Hence we read of a practice whereby people took 
down traditions, learned them by heart, and then 

1 Tabarl ii. 502, 3. 

2 Umm iii. 279; letters cited, vi. 125 ; vii. 135, 291, 293. 


discarded what they had written. The cases wherein 
a permanent record was preserved somewhere seem 
isolated ; there is an interesting story that a copy of 
the poems composed by the Prophet's court-poet, 
Hassan Ibn Thabit, was preserved in Medinah, and 
regularly renewed when the writing showed signs of 
evanescing ; but written bodies of tradition appear to 
be mentioned only after the founding of Baghdad. 
The vast journeys taken by traditionalists were there- 
fore futile, since they only collected matter which 
might easily have been communicated by one man or 
learned from books ; for, from the very formulae 
wherewith the traditions are introduced, it is evident 
that the teachers claim to be nothing more than 
intermediaries ; if what they communicated was 
original, it was false. They were not like the teachers 
of the true pronunciation or even the true interpreta- 
tion of the Koran, who might well have matter to 
communicate which was either their own property 
or else only communicable orally. One dated copy 
of a collection of traditions, guarded like the poems 
of Hassan at Medinah, would have been better 
evidence of authenticity that any number of "paths." 
We can only then suppose that the fear lest the 
Koran might be superseded was what delayed the 
process of committing this matter permanently to 
parchment or papyrus ; and when at last that step 
had been taken, the notion that no written copy was 
authoritative had become too firmly implanted to be 
uprooted. It must, however, be added that the 
forgery of letters appears to have been exceedingly 


common,^ and the repeated exposure of such fabrica- 
tions may have brought the written word into 

Just as we find misquotations in the New Testa- 
ment and the Jewish tradition, one name being sub- 
stituted for another, or non-Bibhcal matter being called 
Biblical, so the Koran was occasionally misquoted, as, 
e.g., by Mansur in his letter to the Alid pretender, or 
even some secular author confused with the divine 
author to whom that work was ascribed. The 
human memory is everywhere untrustworthy ; only, 
such occasional misquotation hurts no one when 
there is a text whereby it can be remedied. In the 
case of the Tradition there was no check, and if 
even a professional student of tradition like Shafi'i 
frequently confesses that his memory is at a loss, 
we need have no confidence that the memory of any 
other reporter was better. Sometimes the ascription 
of a saying could be put right ; Abu Tfdib points 
out that one which was ordinarily ascribed to the 
Prophet really belonged to the Sufi Sahl al-Tustari 
of the third century. Some of the Prophet's sayings 
were referred to earlier revelations, and can indeed 
be identified in the Bible or Apocrypha. The 
principle of jurisprudence whereby in civil suits the 
plaintiff must produce evidence, whereas all that can 
be demanded of the defendant is an oath, is some- 
times referred to Omar, at other times to the 
Prophet, whereas it really comes from the Jewish 
Mishnah. The study, therefore, of the development 

1 Tabarlii. 1312, 1870, 1882, etc. 


of jurisprudence is exceedingly complicated ; for the 
maxims ascribed to the Prophet seem in numerous 
cases to be little more than a summary of existing 
practice, and yet there is no doubt that these maxims 
when formulated and so ascribed had a great effect 
on subsequent legislation. 

Still, codification of the accumulated mass of 
practice must at an early period have become a 
crying need ; and unofficial codes are likely to have 
been compiled and even issued before any received 
the sanction of the central authority. As early as 
the year 128 we read of an official appointing a 
committee of pious men to make a collection of 
sunciJi or approved practices and siyar rules of conduct, 
which were then to be written out by his scribe.^ 
Afterwards a document called the sh^afi of Ibn 
Suraij, or "line of conduct," was actually circulated.- 
Before this time the building up of a system of 
jurisprudence had been facilitated by the classification 
of subjects, under which precedents and maxims 
could be collected ; this appears to have been done 
during the first century in Medinah, where the study 
of Islamic law started, and where the author of the 
code which dominates in the INIaghrib passed his life. 
As in other cases, seven names during this period 
became classical in connection with the study, though 
not all agreed about the names to be placed in 
the list. 

The studies of the Medinese jurists of the first 
century are no longer in existence ; the great 

1 Tabarlii. 19I8. 2 /^^-^ jggi 


Pandects which were compiled by the doctors of the 
second century assume the work of their predecessors 
and are based upon them. It is fortunate for those 
who are interested in the historical development of 
Moslem law that the works of sev^eral of the founders 
of law-schools are still extant. In that of Shafi'i we 
find that the study has not yet quite emerged from 
the controversial and dialogue form. Shafi'i records 
the discussions in which he took the leading part, the 
arguments adduced by his opponents as well as his 
own, and so takes the reader into his workshop. We 
learn from these discussions that the collection and 
criticism of tradition had already been highly 
developed ; the disputants are already familiar with 
the traditions quoted under each heading, and with 
the chief inferences drawn from them ; some canons 
for ranging the traditions in order of credibility have 
already been formulated, and the great principle that 
the sole source of law is the Prophet in one capacity 
or another is acknowledged. When Shafi'i challenges 
his opponent to reject the principle, the audience 
permit no dispute on the point. But further, we 
find that grammatical and lexicographical studies of 
which the purpose is fixing the meaning of the 
Prophet's utterances have already gone a long way. 
And still more we are struck with the subtlety of 
the disputants, and their skill in constructing 
imaginary cases. Probably it is less subtle than the 
discussions recorded in the Jewish Gemara, but it 
has the merit of being far more practical and generally 


It was in the course of these discussions, then, that 
the systems of law got built up. The audience 
decide which of the disputants has the better of the 
argument ; and the anxiety of each to defend his 
position leads to the enucleation of various principles, 
and in general the fixing of the Sunnah, and some 
sort of rating of the traditionalists at various values. 
No amount of acuteness, however, can compensate 
for the fundamental weakness of the system : the 
possibility that any text of the Koran may have 
been abrogated, and the liability of any tradition to 
be questioned. Most of the discussions illustrate 
this. We may refer again to the question whether 
the murder of a Jew or Christian by a Moslem is 
punishable with death ; the Koran throws little light 
on this matter, except that it quotes as a precept 
given to Moses the maxim " a life for a life." Only 
it does not follow that this precept was to be taken 
on by the new religion : it may have been abrogated 
by it as many other ordinances were abrogated. 
Then we come to the practice of the Prophet : one 
tradition is to the effect that one 'Amr Ibn Umayyah 
was killed by the Prophet for a murder of this 
kind ; but to this there is the reply that this could 
not have been, since 'Amr Ibn Umayyah survived 
the Prophet. The conduct of the Prophet's 
Companions in similar cases was no less ambiguous : 
Omar wrote that the murderer should be executed, 
and then wrote to countermand the order. Othman 
ordered an execution, but was dissuaded by his 
colleagues. No less difference prevails as to the 


amount of the blood-money due. Either it is the 
same as due for a Moslem, or it is half, or it is about 
a third. 

In spite, therefore, of the keenest desire on these 
persons' part to abide by the Scripture and the 
Tradition to the exclusion of their private predilec- 
tions, they had after all to be guided by the latter ; 
those who wished to uphold the privileges of Islam 
took one line, those who thought rather of the 
welfare of the whole community took another. The 
leading jurists even employ the formula " I like," 
" I dislike," thereby implying that they are settling 
things according to their predilections : though 
doubtless these were what they supposed to be most 
agreeable to the system of the Koran. In the 
3Iudaivzva?i(lt ascribed to Mfdik in ordinary cases the 
reporter merely gives the question which he had 
addressed to the hearer of IMfdik as to Mrdik's 
handling of some question, and then reports the 
answer : which at times is to the effect that JMalik was 
not known to have expressed an opinion on it : but 
more often is an actual opinion without quotation of 
the arguments whereby JNIfdik would have defended 
it. Hence the charge made against the Jews in the 
Koran of having taken their Rabbis as gods in 
addition to God, in the sense that they assigned the 
Rabbinical legislation a value not second to that of 
the Scripture, might towards the end of the second 
century have been brought against the Moslems also : 
the words of the great jurists became a source of law, 
whereas legislation was a privilege of God Almighty. 


Having adopted this curious source of law, Shafi'i 
proceeds to deduce principles with great acuteness. 
The Prophet is supposed to have acknowledged that 
when cases were pleaded before him it was possible 
that one of the litigants might be a better pleader 
than the other, and he, the Prophet, might in con- 
sequence give an erroneous verdict : but he warned 
such pleaders that anything which was in consequence 
wrongly assigned them w^as a strip of Hell Fire, whence 
they had best not avail themselves thereof. From 
this tradition a whole series of inferences are drawn. 
One is that it is the duty of the judge to follow the 
evidence without endeavouring to go beyond it ; 
another, that the judge's ruling does not alter the 
rights and wrongs of the case ; a third, that it is 
lawful for a citizen to set aside the ruling of a judge 
when it is in his favour ; a fourth, that the divine 
vengeance is threatened to those who take moneys 
assigned to them from the public treasury which are 
not their due. 

The second of these inferences is of some import- 
ance, as it precludes the employment of precedents, 
except where they are taken from the practice of 
saints of the first order. Shafi'i indeed distinguishes 
two cases : one in which a sentence is found after- 
wards to contradict either Scripture or Tradition ; in 
such a case a succeeding judge has the right to 
reverse it. Another is the case in which there is 
no question of Scripture or Tradition, but only of 
analogy, in which different opinions might reasonably 
be held. Supposing that after taking one view a 


judge changes his mind, he is not to reverse his 
decision nor should a succeeding judge reverse it, 
though in future cases he might follow the view 
which had finally commended itself. 

The view of Omar in a letter of instructions, which 
is probably apocryphal, was that any judgment might 
be rescinded when the judge discovered that there 
was a preferable opinion to that which he had at first 

If one compares the volumes of Shafi'i and JNlalik 
with the Mishnah and Gemara, the comparison is 
favourable to the JMoslem jurists from several points 
of view. First of these is the speed with which the 
science of jurisprudence was evolved ; two centuries 
had not elapsed from the Migration before the 
Moslems had a system based on principles, which, if 
doubtfully wise, at any rate are as wise as those 
followed by the Jewish lawyers. And if there be 
any merit in excogitating questions of casuistry, the 
Moslem can conceive situations as unlikely to arise as 
any imagined by the Jew. Shafi'i describes the case 
of a Moslem aiming at a Christian and the latter 
being converted before the arrow hits him, or of a 
slave being manumitted in the interval that elapses 
between the direction of the arrow and its piercing 
the victim.^ It does not seem that the Moslems ever 
made the mistake of thinking jurisprudence easy, 
and supposing that lawyers quibbled out of pure 
malignity ; the Moslem authors certainly did not 
aspire to rise above their source, the Prophet, but 
1 Umm vi. 33 end. 


they took endless pains to ascertain what views he 
had held, and to work these out to their proper 
consequences. Although not many Greek books can 
have been rendered into Arabic before the end of the 
second century, Shafi'i displays some acquaintance 
with the Aristotelian logic, and is clear about the 
meaning of the words "genus "and "species." His 
arguments from analogy are also highly ingenious. 
The Prophet forbade the keeping of dogs, except for 
certain necessary purposes ; hence Shafi'i argues that 
there is no property in dogs, and that if a man kill a 
dog his owner has no right to compensation. Why 
not, asks the opponent, if the dog be kept for one of 
these useful purposes ? The reply is that the licence 
is limited to the owner ; the case which may be 
compared is that of carrion which under necessity 
may be eaten ; it is clear, however, that no one who 
burned such carrion would be liable to pay damages : 
and the case of the dog is comparable to that of the 
carrion, as being permanently in a state of prohibi- 
tion, from which it can be temporarily exempted, but 
which does not become property thereby. 

A study of the great Pandects on which the 
Malikite and Shafi'ite systems are based suggests 
that any influence which earlier systems of juris- 
prudence may have exercised on those of Islam must 
be looked for at the commencement, and no later. 
Some few technical terms appear to be borrowed 
from Christian or Jewish systems, but the bulk of 
the development is independent, and the possibility 
of foreign ideas being adopted seems to be excluded. 


The whole is dominated by the rough-and-ready 
nature of the Prophet's utterances ; and though we 
may refuse to beheve the authenticity of a large 
proportion of the traditions on which the reasoning 
is based, it seems difficult to put the invention of 
them later than the first century : if the maxims 
were not the hasty and capricious utterances of the 
Prophet, they were formulated by persons no more 
capable of improvisation. If we wish to know what 
is the age at which human beings become responsible 
agents, it is settled by the story of a man being 
rejected as a soldier at the age of fourteen, but 
admitted in the following year; what we may be clear 
about is that this story settled the question, and it 
makes little diffisrence whether there was any truth in 
it. The growth of this subject, then, resembles the 
growth of Arabic grammar. A few ideas, the rudi- 
ments of grammatical categories, were got from the 
Greeks through the intermediation of the Syrians ; 
but the rest of the fabric is Islamic, built up by 
observation of the usage of the Koran, and to some 
extent that of the language actually spoken in 
Arabia. In both cases the fabric is so vast that 
these foundation stones are all but concealed. 



The Prophet's chief experiment in constructive 
poHtics was the institution of tolerated cults — a sort 
of caste-system, since by this arrangement whole 
groups of the population were to enjoy a special 
status. Certain religious communities were to be 
allowed to remain outside the Moslem brotherhood, 
unmolested on condition of their paying tribute ; 
only various disabilities were imposed upon them. 
This institution differed from other caste-systems in 
one notable matter : it was in the competence of 
any member of the tolerated cults at any moment 
to join the dominant community, by pronouncing 
the Moslem creed. In other countries transference 
from one caste to a higher was an impossibility, the 
castes being supposed to be an ordinance of nature 
which no human power could alter ; or could only 
be brought about by the special favour of the 
sovereign, usually as a reward for eminent service. 
The experiment was started so late in the Prophet's 
career that the resulting problems scarcely made 
themselves felt during his lifetime ; he apparently 
desired that so long as tribute was paid, there should 


be as little interference as possible with Jews and 
Christians ; the incorporation within the Islamic 
empire of whole countries in which the population 
was Christian commenced after his death. Pro- 
selytism from Christianity to Islam scarcely took 
place — at any rate on a noticeable scale — before the 
expansion of the latter under the first Caliphs. 

So long as all that Islam demanded from members 
of tolerated cults was tribute, it might be argued 
that their condition compared favourably with that 
of the Moslems. For the difference between the 
tribute paid by the Christians and the alms paid by 
Moslems might seem to be purely a difference in 
name. It was the claim for alms which determined 
the Arabs to revolt after the Prophet's death. The 
difference in name was, however, considerable ; the 
alms constituted an honourable payment, purifying 
the Believer who contributed it ; whereas the tribute 
was a form of humiliation, which might even be 
regarded as a brand of slavery.^ Acceptance of Islam, 
on the other hand, involved a whole number of 
onerous obligations : various religious exercises, some 
of them — e.g. the fasting-month — by no means accept- 
able ; and, besides, compulsory service in the field, 
which, as we learn from the Koran itself, was at times 
found irksome, notwithstanding the prospects of booty 
and Paradise. Although the historical evolution of the 
Islamic caste-system was by no means favourable to 
the subject caste, some of the traces of this original 
condition survived. Exemption from military ser- 
1 Shafi'i, Umm vii. 292. 


vice and from the burdensome ceremonies of Islam 
aided the tolerated communities in a variety of ways, 
and counteracted some of the effects of humiliation 
and oppression. 

Unforeseen problems arose, which had to be settled 
so far as possible by the maxims of the Koran. 
Certain texts made it clear that the family tie was 
cancelled by the religious change ; the Jew or 
Christian who adopted Islam had stepped out of the 
family to which he formerly belonged, and had formed 
a new connection ; the rights and duties which had 
formerly belonged to him had all lapsed. He then 
forfeited any claim to inheritance which his member- 
ship of a family had given him, and also deprived that 
family of all right to inherit from him. The doctrine 
that there was no inheritance between members of 
different religious communities came to be asserted 
with such strictness that some jurists extended it 
to Islamic and even to Jewish and Christian sects. 

To some, however, this seemed to be dealing justice 
too evenly between Believers and Unbelievers ; it was 
argued that where conversion to the dominant com- 
munity took place it should only confer advantages 
and should occasion no detriment ; let the convert 
retain his claims to inheritance if he had any, only 
let his unbelieving relatives be excluded from any 
share in his estate. Provision had also to be made 
for the rare case wherein the transference took place 
in the opposite direction, i.e. from Islam to Judaism 
or Christianity ; such a pervert doubtless forfeited 
his life, but did his believing family thereby lose all 


claim to what they might otherwise expect to be 
theirs ? The ordinary administrator would settle this 
question in the interest of the Moslem community, 
and could argue that in certain other cases Islam 
scored both ways, or at any rate made no pretence 
of treating the subject cults as equal to itself. The 
most familiar example is the case of women : a 
Moslem man may marry a Christian or Jewish 
woman, but a Moslem woman may not become the 
wife of any but a Moslem man. We are apt, when 
we eulogise Islam for its unification of races, to forget 
that this unification is somewhat one-sided. The 
system regularly demands that the mate of a Moslem 
woman must be her equal, but makes no similar 
claim for the Moslem man — in whose case the word 
" mate " is scarcely suitable. The needs of the 
treasury were against retaining the Moslem convert's 
right to an inheritance from his former family ; the 
state was surer of its right when the inheritance 
remained with Jews or Christians. And the case of 
the pervert from Islam was rather academical than 
practical. The estimable Ali, it was said, when 
ordering the execution of a pervert, probably on a 
historic occasion, had assigned his estate to his 
Moslem relatives. Shafi'I, insisting on the maxim 
that there is no inheritance between members of 
different creeds, decided that by perversion a man 
deprived his Moslem relatives of their right to his 
estate. A theory which had been devised for dealing 
with such cases — viz. that the death of the pervert 
may be presumed, because any Moslem who found 


him would have the right to kill him, whence his 
estates might be divided on perversion as they would 
be after death — is rejected on the ground that there 
is always the chance of reconversion, which would 
restore to the man his rights as a Moslem. Never- 
theless, though Shafi'i neglects the interests of the 
pervert's family, he does not neglect those of the 
state. If the pervert be out of reach, his goods may 
be considered spoils of war, and assigned to the 
treasury for the community. 

Several questions which arose from the recognition 
of tolerated cults were connected with the poll-tax. 
Although the Moslem conquerors seized some of 
the best provinces of the Byzantine empire, they 
recognised the independence of the latter, and 
repeatedly treated with it ; there was ordinarily no 
question of enforcing on it the payment of the tribute 
which was enforced on the Christian residents of the 
provinces which had been conquered. How far was 
this state of things in accordance with the doctrine 
that Islam was to triumph over all other cults, and that 
the realisation of that triumph was the duty of the 
Moslems ? The orthodox explanation was that a 
respite had been granted to the Greek empire because 
Heraclius had treated with respect the letter of the 
Prophet which bade him adopt Islam ; unlike the 
Persian monarch who had torn the Prophet's letter 
to pieces, Heraclius had preserved the despatch sent 
him in musk. The reception of the missive by the 
Greek emperor is indeed a very favourite subject of 
myths on the part of the Prophet's biographers, 


who regularly represent the emperor's conduct in a 
favourable light ; indeed, suppose him to have been 
converted, but to have had his hand forced by the 
ecclesiastics. Heraclius thus secured the continuance 
of his empire ; only, in order that the Meccan 
merchants who had traded with Syria might not be 
damnified, the divine providence had ordained that 
Syria should be withdrawn from Byzantine rule. 

It must, however, be emphasised that the duty 
of the Moslem sovereign to reduce all non-JNIoslem 
states to subjection by force of arms never actually 
lapsed, though circumstances may have rendered it 
difficult or even impossible to execute. The fact of 
an independent Christian state existing — or indeed of 
such a state existing belonging to any other religious 
community — is a sufficient ground for an attack. 
And the court historian of the Ottomans, who wrote 
with the express object of glorifying the first eight 
Sultans of that dynasty, makes it the great merit of 
Othman, the founder, that he attacked the Christian 
strongholds in Asia Minor and so increased the 
territory of Islam ; there were prosperous cities in his 
neighbourhood, which owing to the weakness of 
Byzantium and the rival empire could not defend 
themselves against aggression, and pay with employ- 
ment was wanted for the refugees from the relics 
of the Seljuk empire; Othman, according to this 
chronicler, who took care to say nothing which his 
masters would not approve, attacked these cities, and 
forced the inhabitants either to adopt Islam or to 
pay tribute ; the old industries were ruined, and the 


churches with few exceptions turned into mosques. 
We are not here concerned with the question 
whether other rehgious chiefs adopted the same view 
of their duties towards their neighbours, but merely 
with the question whether this was or was not the 
view taken by orthodox Islam. 

In the second place, the word " the Book," occurring 
in the text which enjoins warring on those who had 
been given it until they paid tribute, admits of various 
interpretations. And indeed the phrase " who have 
been given the Book " need not imply that they still 
possessed it ; hence Ali is quoted for the assertion 
that the Persian Mazdians had once possessed a 
revealed book, which had been taken away from 
them owing to the crime of a certain king. On the 
other hand, the tense of the words " who have been 
given the Book " confines the permission of tribute in 
lieu of Islam to those who had received the Book 
before the revelation of the Koran ; whence only 
those communities which had followed one of these 
systems before that memorable date can claim 
exemption from death or conversion. And since the 
text speaks of fighting with these sectarians till they 
pay tribute, it follows that only the fighters among 
them have to pay it : women and children are 
excluded. The theory that only those communities 
have a right to toleration who never possessed a better 
revelation is carried out to its logical consequence. 
Thus an Arab Jew or Christian is not to have the 
rights of other Jews and Christians, on the ground 
that the Arabs originally belonged to the Hanifite 


faith and abandoned it ; they are therefore in the 
position of renegades. 

For the same reason conversion from one tolerated 
cult to another is not permitted, since the principle 
which underlies toleration is continuity ; and indeed 
in the instructions which the Prophet is supposed to 
have given his earliest lieutenants, the wording of the 
order was to the effect that no Jew or Christian 
should be forced to abandon the faith wherein he had 
been born. But when once the continuity has been 
snapped, the Jew or Christian may be supposed to 
have returned to natural religion ; if, therefore, he 
joins a non- Moslem community, it may be argued 
that he is in the position of a pervert. This principle 
occasioned some difficulty when missions began to 
work among the Christian populations of the Ottoman 
empire; when the Foreign Office in the year 1840 
demanded a firman for the erection of a missionary 
Protestant church in Jerusalem, the reply was at first 
offered that the Christian subjects of the Porte were 
forbidden by law to pass from one community to 

The different Christian sects were locally separated 
in the Moslem empire ; and since they were placed 
under responsible heads who were in direct communi- 
cation with the Moslem officials, it is probable that 
the difficulties which arose from this provision were 
ordinarily small. It is noteworthy that fresh Jewish 
sects sprang up under Islamic rule, but fresh 
Christian sects appear not to have started in these 
^ Engelhai'dt, Taiisimal, i. 6l. 


regions. The reason is that the Moslem conquest of 
Mesopotamia meant the renaissance of Jewish htera- 
ture, but the practical death of the Christian literature 
of the East. 

An important feature in the condition of the 
tolerated cults according to the Islamic system was 
that the members were not to bear arms, or take 
part in the wars of the community. Nevertheless, 
Shafi'i reserves to the sovereign the right to employ 
these persons as soldiers, supposing that the Prophet's 
refusal to allow the Jews to fight on his side at Badr 
was cancelled by a later precedent : the precedent 
which he cites is absolutely fictitious and a gross 
anachronism ; two years after Badr, he states, the 
Prophet employed Jewish auxiliaries of the Banu 
Kainuka against Khaibar. However, if there be any 
truth in the Prophet's biography, the Banu Kainuka 
were banished shortly after Badr, having escaped 
with difficulty from a general massacre; and the 
attack on Khaibar was five years after Badr. Later 
exponents of Shafi'i's code make it a condition of the 
employment of Unbelievers as troops that the sove- 
reign has convinced himself of their loyalty, and that 
they do not outnumber the Believers in the army. 
Malik appears to have confined the possibility of 
employing Unbelievers in campaigns to work that 
was not, strictly speaking, fighting — as sappers or 
engineers.^ He is unaware of any precedent w^hereby 
the Prophet's practice with regard to Badr was 
annulled ; indeed, he asserts that when Medinah was 

1 Mudawwanat iii. 40. 


itself attacked in the following year he declined to 
avail himself of the help of the Jewish residents. 
The assignation of the spoil in the case of raids 
occupies a large space in Moslem law, and such a 
share so clearly falls to the fighter in virtue of his 
being a Moslem that there are difficulties about 
assigning it to an Unbeliever ; Shafi'i therefore 
prefers that when such persons are employed they 
should be treated as hirelings.^ 

The introduction of weapons of precision must 
have made a great difference in the question of 
bearing arms, and the meaning of the word "disarm " 
have come to be far more definite than when personal 
strength counted for everything in warfare. Until 
the attempt to introduce universal service in the 
Ottoman empire, when Christians fought side by 
side with Moslems, it would appear that the former 
were regularly members of independent communities; 
it is highly improbable that the loyalty of the 
Christians resident within the Islamic empires could 
be trusted, and this, as we have seen, is a condition 
of their employment. Even when Islamic cities 
were undergoing siege, it is probable that the 
Christian population could not be trusted to take 
part in the defence ; but our records seem singularly 
silent on this subject. The fact appears to be, that 
after some futile attempts at rising in the provinces 
which contained Christian communities, the latter 
gave up the idea of forcible resistance to oppression 
as hopeless ; at times they welcomed invaders, and 
1 Umm iv. 177. 


on certain occasions indulged in short-lived triumphs 
when those invaders had been successful. The jurists, 
however, forbid them to possess arms, and about this 
there would seem to be general agreement : the aban- 
donment of arms is one of the conditions to be 
demanded when they capitulate. It is rather curious 
that in the Prophet's biography the Jews figure as 
dealers in arms and armour just as they do in the 
mediaeval England of Scott. Apparently they could 
be trusted not to use them effectively. 

Another matter, for which, however, some guidance 
might be found in the old Roman law, M^as the extent 
to which the Moslem government should interfere 
with the practices of the protected communities. 
Shafi'i poses the interesting question whether if a 
protected community were raided by a foreign power, 
which proceeded to prevent it from exercising its 
rights — i.e. drinking wine and eating pork — it would 
be the duty of the Moslem powers to rescue these 
clients, and so enable them to go back to practices 
which the law of the Moslems condemned : and he 
decides that this would be the Moslem government's 
duty. He holds also that the contract whereby the 
Jews and Christians are protected involves in it 
obedience on the part of the members of these 
communities to their own magistrates : these magis- 
trates are as much officers of the ruling powers as 
are the Moslem magistrates. If a dispute between 
members of these communities be referred to the 
INIoslem magistrate, he is not obliged to decide it ; 
if the parties refuse to submit to the ruling of their 


own magistrate, they may be charged with violation 
of their contract with the Moslems ; only, if the 
Moslem magistrate choose to decide the case, then 
he must decide it according to Moslem law. And 
that ]Moslem law precludes the acceptance of any 
but Moslem witnesses. 

This last seems a harsh enactment, and one system 
admits the evidence of the tolerated cults against 
each other ; but difficulties followed from accepting 
any other doctrine. For if witnesses be accepted 
from any other community than the INIoslem, they 
must submit to analogous tests ; and then, just as 
the most pious Moslem is the most credible witness, 
so the most pious Jew or Christian will be the most 
credible among his co-religionists : which leads to the 
strange result that the persons most averse from 
Islam will be those to whose witness Islam attaches 
value. Dating by the Christian Easter was forbidden 
on the ground that its calculation was made by 
Christians ; it is not clear whether Shafi'i was aware 
that the dating had anything to do with the moon.^ 
Moreover, the law of Islam only accepts the evidence 
of freemen ; if it were to admit that of Jews or 
Christians it would be placing the free Unbeliever 
above the believing slave ; which is expressly against 
the valuation of the Koran." And, indeed, the fact 
that the free INIoslem is not necessarily a qualified 
witness without attestation to his character makes 
this question of employing witnesses of other com- 
munities exceedingly difficult. For the character 
1 Umm iii. 85. ^ ii_ 22 1. 


of a witness in the case of a JNIoslem means his 
observation of Islamic ordinances. 

Still, it was impossible to reject all non-Moslem 
attestations, and an oath may be exacted from a Jew 
or a Christian. An interesting case of such exaction 
is where a Jew or Christian has sold a JNIoslem wine 
and declares that he was not aware that such sale 
was forbidden. The magistrate is to demand an 
oath, and if the dealer takes it he is acquitted.^ 
Different views were held as to the formula of the 
oath to be employed. Some said it was to be by 
Allah only ; others allowed an oath by the Law or 
the Gospel. And some, in order to ensure greater 
sanctity, maintained that it should be taken in some 
place M'hich the member of the tolerated cult held 

It was, of course, impossible for the government 
to avoid the exercise of all jurisdiction in the case 
of members of tolerated cults. To a certain extent 
Islamic law had to be imposed upon them, and that 
distinction between civil and criminal law which the 
INIoslem jurists are on the whole justly charged with 
ignoring forces its way to the front. Malik is asked 
why he enforces on a Christian the JNIoslem penalty 
(handcutting) when he is found guilty of stealing, 
but does not enforce it in the case of adultery, 
when the crime is committed by non-Moslems : his 
reply is that the former only is injurious to the 
community. In the main, then, the principle was 
to leave these communities to their own practices 
1 Umm iv, 126. 


when the life and property of the public were not 
thereby endangered, but to interfere when such 
danger was involved ; the IMoslem government does 
not, however, undertake to protect the honour of 
the subject sects, and only interferes to protect it 
when JNloslem interests are involved. An exceptional 
case of interference with custom is its refusal to 
tolerate the incestuous marriages with which the 
Mazdians were charged. It acknowledges property 
in wine and swine, when Christians are the possessors, 
but does not acknowledge it when they are in the 
possession of Moslems. This ruling, though appar- 
ently in accordance with justice, was not approved 
by many pious sovereigns ; in Egyptian history we 
read not unfrequently of general raids on the wine 
stores and wholesale destruction of their contents. 
The excuse in such cases was doubtless that Moslems 
could not be prevented from procuring them when 
stores existed in their neighbourhood. 

For cases of murder wherein members of tolerated 
communities were involved assimilation of some sort 
to Moslem law was necessary, and complications 
arose from the differences of social organisation which 
resulted. A murder, by the law of the Koran, was 
regarded as an injury to the family which thereby 
lost a member, and which might either retaliate by 
taking the life of the murderer, or might instead 
take a sum of money or its equivalent in goods ; a 
difficulty being that the whole family of the murdered 
man had to agree before execution could take place, 
and this, according to one system, involved waiting 


until any minors in the dead man's family had grown 
up.^ Shafi'i regards all non-JVIoslem sects as one 
community for this purpose ; idolaters are to be 
allowed to retaliate on Jews, and conversely. He 
also gives these sects the right of mutual inheritance, 
which, as has been seen, some jurists disapproved. 

With regard to the relative value of Moslem and 
Unbelieving lives, it would appear that the view of 
the earlier period was more equitable than that of the 
later ; as has been seen, a number of traditions are 
cited according to which such convinced and even 
fanatical Moslems as Omar and All, when a Moslem 
had murdered a Christian, handed the murderer over 
to the family of the murdered man, or else themselves 
ordered his execution ; and a tradition even ascribed 
an act of strict justice of this sort to the Prophet 
himself Other traditions were cited to show that 
in the earliest period the blood-money was the same 
for all denominations ; and both these theories were 
accepted by Abu Hanifah, whose code is official in 
the Ottoman empire. Shafi'i, however, w^hile de- 
manding the execution of an Unbeliever for the 
murder of a Moslem," emphasises the maxim, 
" Believer is not to be slain for Unbeliever," and 
assesses the blood-money for a Jew or Christian at 
one-third that due for a Moslem, while he fixes that 
for a JNIazdian at one-fifth. The Moslem murderer 
of an Unbeliever is, however, according to him, to be 
punished, but not excessively, whether the punish- 
ment take the form of stripes or of imprisonment. 

1 Unam vii. 136. 2 i^ij^^ yi ^^ 



The former should not be numerous ; and the period 
of imprisonment ought not to be longer than a year. 

The maxim quoted is, of course, ascribed to the 
Prophet, though different views were held as to the 
occasion whereon he delivered it. In mitigation of 
it, it must be observed that murder was not regarded 
as a criminal offence, and the state provided no 
executioner for such cases : the executioner was to 
be a member of the injured family, who had to 
obtain their authorisation before he could proceed 
to retaliate : and it might well be undesirable to 
permit the execution of a member of the ruling caste 
by a tributary in any circumstances. To us it seems 
extraordinary that whereas in the case of some other 
crimes commutation of punishment is not permitted, 
in this case it is. 

Even in modern times there has been grave 
difficulty in forcing Islamic sovereigns to introduce 
equality between their subjects in this matter. 
It was asserted that the first time when any inde- 
pendent Moslem community had executed Moslems 
for the murder of Christians was after the lamentable 
massacres of Adana ; and it will be remembered that 
English journalists dreaded the results of the execu- 
tion of Butrus Pasha's murderer on the ground that 
in Egypt the execution of a Moslem for the murder 
of a Christian was contrary to the law. One would 
fancy that this was a case for the application of the 
maxim mala consuctudo abolenda est. There would 
seem to be a probability that cases must have 
occurred before the Adana affair in which such 


executions were ordered by INIoslem sovereigns, for 
the death-punishment was inflicted in all Moham- 
medan states with great readiness and capriciously. 
The maxim of the Prophet which has been quoted 
ordinarily regulated procedure. 

The law-books assume that both Jews and Chris- 
tians recognise the institution of slavery no less than 
Moslems ; and indeed they could scarcely do other- 
wise, living in a civilisation that was based on this 
institution. It is, however, a legal principle that a 
Moslem may not be slave to a member of a tolerated 
cult ; he may only be the slave of another Moslem. 
So soon, therefore, as a slave adopts Islam, it is the 
duty of the governor to enforce his sale by his 
Christian or Jewish master ; just as, if a Christian 
or Jewish wife adopts Islam, her husband is com- 
pelled to divorce her, or else to adopt the religion 
himself. Cases of difficulty arise, when the woman 
is converted during the husband's absence ; the 
governor is instructed to see whether the absence 
is likely to be long or short ; and to delay the 
divorce or enforce it accordingly. Malik forbade 
a Moslem to hire himself out to a Christian in any 
capacity, e.g. as agricultural labourer.^ He forbade 
him to let his house to anyone who intended to use 
it for the sale of wine or pork. 

A peculiar case of disability is recorded in the 
legislation of the pious Caliph Omar II., who enacted 
that the tax on trade should in the case of Christian or 
Jewish traders be double of what was paid by Moslems. 

^ Mudawwanat xi. 75, 159. 


It would seem that the relations between Moslems 
and Christians steadily deteriorated, doubtless owing 
to the natural effect of communities with different 
rights and of different status living side by side. 
During the earliest period the relations would seem 
to have been friendly and at times even affectionate. 
The persons who are accused of doing mischief in 
the land are said to raid the protected cults. ^ Gover- 
nors who are sent out to take charge of provinces are 
commanded to deal justly with the people of the 
dkimmah^ and Ali in his dying injunctions to his 
sons insists upon this.^ 

A scene is described by Tabari which occurred 
after the defeat by one of All's generals of a body 
of rebels who had been joined by their Christian 
neighbours. In accordance with the Cahph's orders 
the Moslem captives are released, but the Christians 
with their families are to be led off. Their Moslem 
allies accompany them until the general bids them 
return ; compelled to part, they embrace, and the 
scene was the most affecting which its narrator had 
ever witnessed. Presently these Christian captives 
find a Moslem chief who redeems them and gives 
them their liberty at tremendous cost ; in the 
attempt to pay this in full he afterwards loses 
his liberty. It is true that Ali's general in his 
despatch states that it was his intention to give 
these Christians a lesson and remind them that they 
are humble and degraded ; but it would appear that 

1 Tabari i. 2922, 7 ; 2993, 21 ; 3303, 15. 

2 3247, 1 ; 3430, 14. ^ 3463^ 5, 




this doctrine had not yet sunk in the Moslem 

In the references to the condition of the Christian 
subjects of the Moslem empire for the rest of the 
Umayyad period we find evidence of a condition of 
things which is on the whole satisfactory. The 
authorities regularly regard the defence of the Chris- 
tian populations as their duty.^ The usurper Yazid, 
who defended his usurpation by the iniquities of his 
predecessor, in his manifesto declares that he means 
to watch over the interests of these subjects, and do 
nothing which will tend to drive them from their 
homes or reduce their birth-rate.^ A son of the 
Caliph Hisham (who died in 125) complained to his 
father that a Christian employe had struck his slave ; 
the Caliph told him that he must bring an action in 
the ordinary way, and when another slave of the 
prince took the law into his own hands, he was 
punished by the sovereign.* Deserting soldiers are 
charged with desiring to pillage the Christian com- 
munities which they are likely to pass on their home- 
ward journey, an act which the authorities do not 
countenance.^ The accusation which meets us so 
frequently at later times of undue favour being 
shown to Christians who usurp the public offices 
scarcely is found in Umayyad times. Possibly the 
idea of working the bureaux themselves was not yet 
quite familiar to the Moslems. Some fanatics in the 

1 Tabari i. 3438, 19- 

. 2 ii. 934. 

3 ii. 1831. 

4 ii. 1731 

5v ii. 1873. 


year 119 are represented as charging a somewhat 
notorious governor with destroying mosques to build 
churches and synagogues, and giving JNIoslem women 
to men of the tolerated sects, but our historian does 
not confirm the accusation.^ 

From the third century onwards we find repeated 
allusions to the Ordinance of Omar, or general regu- 
lation of the conduct to be observed by members of 
subject cults, on pain of losing their treaty rights. 
The account of the ordinance is correctly given by 
Sir William Muir : " The dress of both sexes and of 
their slaves must be distinguished by broad stripes of 
yellow ; they were forbidden to appear on horseback, 
and if they rode a mule or an ass, the stirrups must 
be of wood and the saddle known by knobs of the 
same material. Their graves must be level with the 
ground, and the mark of the devil placed on the lintel 
of their doors. Their children must [not] be taught 
by Moslem masters. Besides the existing churches 
spared at the conquest, no new building must be 
erected for the purpose of worship ; no cross must 
remain in view outside nor any hammer be struck. 
They must refrain from processions in the streets at 
Easter and other solemn seasons." Further, it would 
seem that the churches already in their possession 
must not be repaired, and that they must be em- 
ployed in no government office, wherein Moslems 
would be under their orders. The nature of the 
saddle permitted was such as to suggest humiliation ; 
it was used for parading persons who had incurred 
1 Tabarl ii. 1 623. 


some serious punishment about the streets.^ The 
intention of the reo^ulation about the dress was to 
render it impossible to mistake one of them, even 
from a distance, for a Moslem. 

It can scarcely be said that these ordinances are 
contrary to the spirit of Islam in the second century, 
if the great jurists are authoritative interpreters of the 
latter. " Malik was asked concerning certain persons 
who went raiding, and disembarked in Cyprus, where 
they proceeded to buy sheep, honey, and butter, and 
payed for these articles with dinars and dirhems ; 
Malik disapprov^ed. He further said to us of his own 
initiative : ' I strongly object to coins which contain 
the mention of God and His Book being taken and 
given to one that is unclean. I disapprove most 
strongly of such a practice.' I asked him whether 
we might make purchases with dirhems and dinars 
of traders who disembarked on our coast, or of 
members of the tolerated cults. He replied that 
he disapproved. He was asked whether money 
might be changed by changers in Moslem markets 
who belonged to these cults. He replied that he 

According to the same jurist the capitulation of 
the subject cults involves their paying a poll-tax and 
a land-tax. Supposing such a land-owner sells his 
land to a Moslem, he, the Christian or Jewish owner, 
will continue to pay the land-tax, because this was 
one of the conditions of his capitulation ; and he is 
not even allowed to contract out. Supposing, how- 

1 Tabarl ii. 192, 7 ; l653, 6. - Mudawwanat x. 102. 


ever, that the Christian owner adopts Islam, then he 
ceases to pay either poll-tax or land-tax. 

The enactment that Jews and Christians may not 
ride horses, or use a saddle resembling that of a 
horse, is found in the code of Abu Hanifah, who is 
ordinarily the most tolerant of the four. It is agreed 
that both men and women belonging to these com- 
munities must distinguish themselves in their dress 
from the Moslems, and also that their houses must be 
distinguished by a mark, doubtless no honourable one. 

The pious Caliph Omar XL, in a rescript to a gover- 
nor, told him to destroy no churches which came 
within the contract, but also to let no new ones be 
built.^ The question whether new churches may 
be built is discussed by Mahk, who replies in the 
negative. His pupil, however, makes a distinction 
between cases. Suppose the Christians are left in 
possession of a village, having agreed to pay tribute : 
in such a case, since the land theoretically still belongs 
to them, there can be no objection to their doing what 
they like in this matter. Where, however, the chief 
community is Moslem, or where a city has been built 
by Moslems, as, e.g., Fustat, Basrah, or Kufah, they 
should not be permitted to build. The same code 
forbids a Moslem to sell his house to a Christian who 
has any intention of turning it into a church ; to let 
his house for similar use ; to sell an animal to the 
member of a non-Moslem community who is likely 
to use it for a sacrifice ; or to hire out a beast to be 
ridden at one of their feasts." 

1 Tabari ii. 1372. - Mudawwanat xi. Q6. 


The distinction between the ease in which a com- 
munity dwelling in a place was originally Christian, 
and that of Christian residents on what was from the 
first Moslem territory, is also emphasised by Shafi'i.^ 
He is particularly concerned with the outward display 
and conduct of the religious ceremonies belonging to 
these communities. These may be permitted in the 
former case, if the original contract involved such 
permission ; but are prohibited in the latter. If the 
Christians assemble at all for religious worship, it 
must be in private, and their voices must not be 
raised. Abu Hanifah gives permission for the repair 
of such churches as need it, but it is probable that 
this was not permitted by the other jurists. 

The question to whom the ordinance goes back 
does not concern us ; what is certain is that it was 
frequently enforced. The historian Tabari was born 
in 224 or 225 a.h. ; in his Chronicle he records 
the events of the year 235, and even produces 
a copy of a proclamation issued by the Caliph of 
the time, al-Mutawakkil. This letter contains the 
strictest regulations concerning the dress which the 
Christians are to wear, and the nature of the saddles. 
In Tabari's account the Caliph also commanded 
that all new churches {i.e. such as had been built 
since the capitulation of the community) should be 
destroyed, that the tenth part of their quarters 
should be seized, and a mosque be built upon it if 
it were of sufficient space, otherwise be left vacant ; 
wooden demons should be nailed to their doors in 

1 iv. 126. 


order to distinguish a Christian house from a Moslem 
house ; they were to be expelled from all offices in 
which they had any control over Moslems, their 
children were to be turned out of all Moslem schools 
and Moslems were not to give them instruction, their 
graves were to be levelled with the soil in order that 
they should not resemble the Moslem graves.^ 

Tabarl is, as we have seen, recording an affiiir that 
took place when he was ten years old or more. In 
the year 239, when he was fourteen years old, 
Mutawakkil introduced even severer measures, for- 
bidding them to ride horses ; they were only to be 
allowed asses or mules. 

Tabari records these enactments with no comment, 
^nd without adducing any justification for them. 

And what we gather from the chronicles is that 
the Ordinance of Omar was at any time liable to be 
enforced, and the members of the tolerated com- 
munities were never safe from it. It was not found 
possible to keep them permanently out of the bureaux ; 
for the public business had somehow to be transacted, 
and few Moslems were qualified to transact it, while 
little confidence was reposed in those who were 
qualified. The disabilities of the subject communities 
in a way ensured their fidelity. But their promotion 
to high office provoked jealousy, and their employers 
could not always protect them, unwilling as they 
doubtless often were to get the business of the 
bureaux into disorder. When therefore the cry was 
raised that the Ordinances of Omar had been violated, 

1 Tabarl iii. 1390. 


the jurists naturally went with the people in the 
matter, and it was difficult for the sovereign to 
refuse to listen. In the year 500 a vizier is cashiered 
and restored to office on condition that he is to 
employ none but Moslems. In the year 529 a 
Christian vizier is appointed by the Egyptian Caliph ; 
he fills his offices with Armenians, and according to 
the historian oppresses and humiliates the Moslems. 
Popular discontent finds expression in an organised 
revolt; the vizier is compelled to flee from Cairo, 
and finally enters a monastery ; vengeance is dealt 
to the Armenians whom he had favoured. We are 
not ordinarily in a position to assess the rights and 
wrongs in these cases ; sometimes, as in the last case, 
the Moslem historians assert that there was provoca- 
tion for the attack, sometimes they make no such 
suggestion. What we infer is that the Ordinance of 
Omar was frequently enforced, and was at any time 
likely to be. 

A story is told at length by Makrizi in his history 
of the year 700 (1301 a.d.), made accessible by M. 
Quatremere in his French translation. A vizier of 
the Maghribi Sultan arrives in Egypt, and sees a man 
on horseback, surrounded by numerous mendicants, 
whom he asks his attendants to remove from his path. 
The vizier, learning that this horseman was a Christian, 
was deeply wounded. He went to find the Emirs 
Baibars and Selar, told them what he had seen, ex- 
pressed his displeasure, shed copious tears, and spoke 
of the Christians with extreme contempt. " How," 
said he, " can you hope for the favour of heaven, when 


Christians in your country ride on horseback, wear 
white turbans, humiliate the Moslems, and make 
them walk in their trains ? " He expressed his dis- 
approval in strong terms, dilated on the obligation 
imposed on the members of the government to keep 
these tributaries down and compel them to adopt 
another costume. 

The Emirs bring the matter before the Sultan, and 
an edict is promulgated enforcing the " Ordinance of 
Omar." The Christians and Jews were summarily 
dismissed from all government offices ; they were for- 
bidden to ride horses or ev^en mules. The Christians 
tried hard to bribe the officials to get some relaxation 
of these orders ; but the Emir Baibars " displayed 
laudable zeal and extreme firmness in maintaining 
what had been resolved." The populace, encouraged 
by a legal decision, rushed upon the churches and 
synagogues and demolished them. All houses 
occupied by Jews or Christians in Alexandria which 
outtopped Moslem houses were pulled down. 

The theory that no new churches might be built 
and no old ones repaired, and the ordinance that no 
church might be higher than a mosque, were perpetual 
sources of chicanery. In the chronicles of Egypt 
under the Mamlukes references to this matter are 
exceedingly common. In 846 a.h. it is discovered 
that a Melkite church and certain other churches in 
Cairo had been repaired ; the authorities close them 
in order that the licence for their repair should be 
exhibited. An order bearing date 734 is produced, 
and the matter is referred to the Shafi'ite and Malikite 


Kadis. In the meantime some trouble occurs with 
the Jews and a council of state is held, after which it 
is decided that the old contract of Omar is to be re- 
newed according to which no church, synagogue, or 
convent is to be repaired or renewed. If any attempt 
at repairing one be made, the whole building is to be 
destroyed. In 851 it is discovered that in spite of 
this ordinance repairs have been effected in a Melkite 
church, and the Sultan in consequence orders its 

Clearly it was useless to allow them the churches 
at all unless repairs were permitted. It would, more- 
over, appear that in this case permission for modest 
restoration had been obtained from one of the deputies 
of the Shafi'ite Kadi. Some praying at the tomb of a 
saint was required before the order could be procured 
for the destruction of the church, which was carried 
out by the high officers of the state deputed for that 
purpose by the Sultan. 

In the year 849 a charge is brought before the 
Sultan that on Mount Sinai there are six chm'ches 
which exceed in height the old mosque that is con- 
tinuous with the convent. The question whether 
these churches are not also posterior to the capitula- 
tions is also raised. A commission is sent to inquire, 
and in consequence the churches are destroyed. 
Similarly, in 850 a complaint is brought that a 
Melkite church is higher than a neighbouring 
mosque, and the Sultan in consequence orders its 

Nor do we find that Christians have any fixity of 


tenure. Ibn lyas records that in the year 759 it 
was discovered that there were in Egypt 25,000 
feddans appropriated to churches and monasteries : 
doubtless the gifts of a long series of benefactors. 
The finance minister before whom this matter was 
brought was deeply chagrined ; he consulted the 
Sultan, who issued an order that all this land should 
be withdrawn from the possession of the Christians 
and distributed among the military chiefs as additional 
fiefs. He then issued a further order for a general 
destruction of churches and monasteries. The 
historian does not even suggest that there was any 
provocation justifying this measure, except the fact 
that the Christians were discovered to be in posses- 
sion of the property. Similarly, in recording the life 
of the Sultan Chakmak, the historian records that he 
once grew angry with the Christians and ordered a 
number of their churches to be destroyed. 

It is, of course, possible to assert that the series of 
massacres and plunderings Vv^hich have marked Moslem 
rule over Christians had always some occasion which 
was not merely the difference of belief. In the 
history of Egypt under the JNlamlukes we find the 
Christians constantly charged with incendiarism ; and, 
in consequence, during the reign of Baibars the whole 
community ran the risk of being committed to the 
flames. But, indeed, to suppose that in Moslem 
countries Christians would not undergo persecution 
for their faith is to take a view of human nature 
which is incompatible with facts. The governments 
were ordinarily tyrannical and extortionate ; there 


was constant misery caused by usurpers and invaders ; 
in such cases the resentment which cannot with safety 
be directed against the government finds its vent, with 
the approval of the government, in attacks upon the 
defenceless alien. 

Mr Pickthall speaks of poor Moslems and Christians 
chaffing each other on the subject of their religions, 
but that has at all times been a dangerous game ; for 
the poor are those who care most. The poor in 
Egypt or Syria are the scrupulous worshippers, who 
fast throughout Ramadan and say their five daily 
orisons ; comfort brings indifference. When in the 
year 284 a.h. there was a rumour that a Christian 
servant of the Sultan's Christian physician had abused 
the Prophet, the mob of a whole quarter of Baghdad 
was in an uproar ; the object of the authorities appears 
to have been to quiet them.^ 

It certainly appears from Arabic literature that the 
Moslems regularly were invited to take part in 
the Christian festivals and habitually enjoyed this 
privilege ; " we do not — to the best of my belief — 
read often of return invitations ; and, indeed, the chief 
festivals of Islam are too definitely connected with 
the system, too exclusively Islamic, to render the 
presence of one who was not of the fold any more 
welcome on these occasions than at the service of the 
mosque. And although the Christian festivals were 
on the whole an occasion for the establishment or 

1 Tabari iii. 21 62, 

2 Masari'al-'Usshak382. Ibn Athirx. 1 66. Sibt Ibn al-Ta'awldhl, 


maintenance of friendly relations between the com- 
munities, the Moslem government occasionally went 
to the length of forcibly suppressing them on the 
ground that they led to riot and debauchery. In the 
year 759 a.m., under Sultan Hasan, the feast of the 8th 
of Bashans, called the feast of the JNIartyr, whereon 
a ceremony connected with the rising of the Nile was 
celebrated and had been from time immemorial, was 
forcibly suppressed ; the church which contained the 
relic which was employed was demolished and the 
relic itself burned. The excuse was that the feast, 
which was celebrated by the erection of booths along 
the Nile, and wherein the whole Egyptian population 
took part, led to drunkenness and debauchery. In 
the year 787 A.H. Sultan Barkuk suppressed the Coptic 
New Year's Day ; this apparently was a feast which 
bore some resemblance to our Boxing Day, in that 
bakhshish could be demanded with threats, and the 
persons who refused to bestow were liable to insult ; 
the bazaars and markets were closed, and anyone 
walking in the streets, however eminent, might be 
squirted or pelted with rotten eggs. The festival 
resembled a Bank Holiday in various ways ; among 
them, that there was often much drunkenness and 
brawling. In the main, however, according to the 
description which the historian gives, it was more^ 
likely to lead to good feeling between the different 
classes of the population than anything else. 

The history of Christian communities under JMoslem 
rule cannot be adequately written ; the members of 
those comnmnities had no opportunity of describing 


their condition safely, and the Moslems naturally 
devote little space to their concerns. Generally 
speaking, they seem to have been regarded as certain 
old Greek and Roman sages regarded women : as a 
necessary annoyance. Owing to their being unarmed 
their prosperity was always hazardous ; and though it 
is true that this was the case with all the subjects of 
a despotic state under an irresponsible ruler, the non- 
Moslem population was at the mercy of the mob as 
well as of the sovereign ; they were likely scapegoats 
whenever there was distress, and even in the best 
governed countries periods of distress frequently arise. 
Owing to the unequal assessment of their rights as 
compared with those of the Moslems, wrongs com- 
mitted by them against Moslems were likely to meet 
with terrible punishment, whereas wrongs committed 
upon them were likely to go unpunished. The 
terrible reprisals occasionally taken by the Christians 
when they momentarily got the upper hand, as when 
the Mongols obtained possession of Damascus, show 
that the relations between the lower classes of the 
two communities were constantly strained. Writers 
of whom better things might be expected often 
report with evident delight excesses committed 
against them, and the name "enemy of Allah" is 
apphed to them indiscriminately without any sense of 
impropriety in the expression. 

It is probable that the attitude of the sovereigns 
and of the educated classes was on the whole friendly 
and respectful. It is rather interesting that in the 

records which we have of discussions in the fourth 



century of Islam, to which period the best Arabic 
literature on the whole belongs, the audience, who 
naturally belong to a superior class, do not approve of 
fanatical vituperation ; they treat the Christian repre- 
sentatives of science and philosophy as deserving of 
esteem. And it would seem that the sovereigns had 
good grounds for preferring to employ them in various 
offices of trust in lieu of employing their own co- 
religionists. A Fatimid Caliph wishes to poison his 
son ; he applies to his Jewish physician ; the man 
replies that this does not come within the range of 
his science, which extends no further than the very 
mildest of potions and lotions ; the Moslem physician 
when summoned immediately does what is required. 
The Christian or Jewish minister was aware that any 
exercise of power on his part would be fiercely 
resented by the Moslems who were under his control ; 
the paraphernalia of office would, in his case, be 
regarded as intolerable arrogance, and impious pre- 
sumption, likely to bring down the wrath of the 
Divine Being on the whole community ; any severe 
measure against a delinquent Moslem would be 
treated as intentional humiliation of Islam. The 
culprit would have the sympathy of the religious 
world, and his cause might be pleaded in the 
mosques. Indeed this fact was discovered very early 
in Moslem history, and is stated by the Umayyad 
governor 'Ubaidallah b. Ziyad quite naively. He 
employed Persian tax-collectors because if an Arab 
tax-collector defalcated, he had the sympathy of his 
clan ; if a Persian did, the governor could punish him 


without danger.^ Hence the Christian or Jewish 
minister had the very strongest reasons for displaying 
loyalty to his chief ; for his safety depended entirely 
on his doing so, since the highest place would never 
be given to one of his persuasion. It is true that 
loyalty to a sovereign might incur the vengeance of 
the next usurper who displaced him ; but at times 
these persons could be got to see that such loyalty 
was a valuable quality which would be of service to 
them, when the permanent official came into their 
employ, and were disposed to reward it even when it 
had been used against themselves. 

The literature, which is not, like the Arabian Nights, 
pure fiction, is full of tales of terrible oppression. A 
form of passion which is nameless would appear at 
one time to have been as familiar among Moslems as 
of old among Hellenes. Christian lads seem often to 
have been the unhappy objects of this passion. A 
story is told us by the biographer Yakiit of a young 
monk of Edessa or Urfah who had the misfortune to 
attract the fancy of one Sa'd the copyist. The visits 
and attentions of this Moslem became so offensive 
that the monks had to put a stop to them. There- 
upon this personage pined away, and was finally found 
dead outside the monastery wall. The ISIoslem 
population declared that the monks had killed him, 
and the governor proposed to execute and burn the 
young monk who had occasioned the disaster, and 
scourge his colleagues. They finally got off by paying 
a sum of 100,000 dirhems.^ 

^ Tabarl ii. -iSS. 2 Dictionary of Learned Men, ii. 26. 


Forcible conversions to Islam appear to be against 
the express orders of the Prophet, who in a letter 
ascribed to him by his biographer insisted that neither 
Jew nor Christian should be disturbed in his religion 
so long as he paid the tax. Such events, however, 
have taken place, and indeed wholesale on certain 
occasions ; the tolerated cults were not only penalised 
by the mad Hakim, but the Al-mohades in Africa 
at one time destroyed all places of worship belonging 
to Jews and Christians, and those members of these 
cults who declined to change had to escape by exile 
if they wished to preserve their lives. At certain 
periods conversion was actually discouraged by the 
maintenance of the poll-tax upon the converts ; in 
express defiance of the spirit of Islam, but the loss to 
the revenue could not otherwise be met. The dis- 
abilities which attached to the tolerated cults, how- 
ever, had their natural result in bringing over to the 
dominant community those who were either careless 
about the faith which they had inherited, or whose 
career lay in the service of the state, and who found 
themselves unable to discharge that service efficiently 
so long as their religious profession excluded them 
from all those functions for which the profession of 
Islam was required. Hence the chronicles record 
numerous cases of men who had obtained some pro- 
motion in the service of the state by their talents 
yielding to persuasion on the part of the sovereign to 
accept Islam in order to win their way to yet higher 
honours. Persons who quarrelled with their co- 
religionists, or who regarded themselves as the 


victims of oppression among them, had in conversion 
to Islam a fairly easy mode of obtaining redress. It 
would seem, however, that the relations between 
such converts and their former associates at times 
remained friendly, the imperious necessity of the 
step taken being often, or at any rate sometimes, 

Moslem authorities delight in recording conversions 
effected by other causes than imperial influence or 
command or the prospect of promotion ; nor need we 
doubt that cases of conversion out of conviction or 
temporary enthusiasm at times occurred. A writer 
who takes great pains to give chains of authorities 
for even trivial incidents records how a Christian, 
whose name he gives, heard a pious Moslem at night 
reciting the text of the Koran wherein it is asserted 
that all who are in heaven and earth offer Islam to 
God ; the words thrilled the hearer so powerfully 
that he fainted, and presently came to be admitted 
into the Moslem fold.^ We read of a bookseller who 
adopted Islam because he found that the copies of 
their sacred books made by Jews and Christians were 
careless and contained many various readings, whereas 
those made by Moslems were absolutely identical and 
scrupulously correct. At times Jews or Christians 
who wished to pursue studies qualifying them for the 
medical profession joined Islam because the leading 
teacher happened to be a Moslem and declined to 
admit any but co-religionists to his courses. 

Since in all these cases the motive could only work 

1 Masari' al-'Usshak 144. 


one way, i.e. in the direction of bringing proselytes 
over to Islam, whereas no proselytism could take 
place in the opposite direction, it is a marvel to all 
who have considered Eastern Christianity and its 
circumstances since the Islamic conquests that it 
should have survived at all ; and the experimental 
study of religion is compelled to acknowledge and 
encouraged to find reasons for this vitality which is 
in such striking contrast to the weakness of classical 
paganism, to which there was said Die ! and it died. 



Although the Moslems were frequently invited to 
sacrifice life and goods in the cause of their religion, 
asceticism is scarcely a Koranic aspiration ; since its 
Paradise offers among other delights pure water, 
clarified honey, milk that has not turned sour, and 
wine that is a pleasure to drink, administered by fair 
cupbearers,^ it evidently does not despise these good 
things ; and there are texts showing a proper appre- 
ciation for all forms of wealth, including jewellery 
and fine clothes, which indeed are to form part of the 
joys of Paradise, where the blest are to wear silk 
garments and be adorned with gold bracelets and 
pearls.^ Hence, when in the Prophet's biography we 
find persons of acknowledged sanctity anxious to 
possess themselves of such treasures, and disputes 
arising over the allotment of booty, there was nothing 
in such conduct at all contrary to the INIoslems' pro- 
fession. And this appreciation of the value of wealth 
rendered the mission far less disastrous than it might 
otherwise have been ; the wanton destructiveness 
which often accompanies such enterprises was kept 

^ xxxvii. 43; xlvii. 17. " xxxv. 34; xliv. 33. 



in check. It is highly creditable to the Prophet 
himself that he devised a system whereby the 
Moslems should be able to live by a tax on other 
communities, whom therefore they would have an 
interest in preserving. And it was afterwards found 
that his practice in the matter of destroying the 
property of enemies was regulated by economical 
doctrine. Where he felt sure of ultimate victory, 
he spared the property as much as possible, since 
it would ultimately become the possession of the 
Moslems, its owners being either slaughtered or 
enslaved ; the latter name being employed in this 
context of the tolerated communities. The later 
legislation therefore recommended the same course 
where there was a reasonable prospect of success.^ 

The Companions of the Prophet, then, for the 
most part amassed wealth, and the transformation of 
Meccah and Medinah from obscure settlements into 
the religious and political capitals of a mighty empire 
was sufficient of itself to enrich those who possessed 
land or houses in either, owing to what is now called 
unearned increment. A Meccan house which had 
been purchased in pagan days for a skin of wine was 
afterwards sold for 60,000 dirhems — and this was far 
below its value.^ The value of the estates possessed 
by the Prophet's cousin Zubair was found to be 
50,200,000 dirhems,^ and fabulous figures are quoted 
for other Companions of the Prophet* Huge 
fortunes were built up out of the plunder which 

1 Shafi% Umm vii. 324. - Jahiz, Bayaii ii. 108. 

3 Bokhari, ed. Krehl, ii. 281. * Jamharat al-Amthal 58. 


reached Medinah in camel-loads from Persia, Syria, 
and Egypt. We are told, and may well believe, 
that the Arabs had at first little knowledge of the 
value attaching to the objects which they looted so 
easily ; but better knowledge was speedily acquired, 
and the mere size of the establishments maintained 
by the Islamic heroes indicates the magnitude of the 
fortunes which they amassed. In the year 68 we 
read of a noble Moslem possessing a thousand slaves ;^ 
and a son of the pious Omar, himself reverenced for 
his sanctity, manumitted the same number^ before 
his death. 

Among the persons with whom the Prophet had 
from the first to deal were those who had no aspira- 
tion after wealthy respectability, or who at least were 
not satisfied with this ideal. Their voices were 
silenced for the most part during the Prophet's 
lifetime, after his role of world-conqueror had begun, 
and during the stormy times which preceded the 
establishment of the Umayyad dynasty they could 
not easily make themselves heard. The distinction 
that is sometimes drawn by Islamic writers between 
the various dynasties as respectively spiritual and 
temporal, religious and worldly, had no existence in 
fact ; no empire can be anything other than worldly ; 
the pious Caliphs were as anxious about the revenue 
as were the impious ; the practice of assigning annual 
pensions to the Moslems in order of enrolment was 
introduced by the second Caliph, and would doubtless 
have been approved by the Prophet. The Prophet's 

1 Tabari ii. 789. "^ Ibn Khallikan. 


cousin, celebrated on the one hand as the " inter- 
preter of the Koran," and on the other as the ancestor 
of the Abbasid sovereigns, 'Abdallah Ibn 'Abbas, 
when compelled to quit his governorship of Basrah, 
secured for himself the public treasure. The Prophet's 
grandson, Hasan, son of Ali and Fatimah, and one 
of the personages held in highest reverence by both 
the chief Islamic sects, sold his claims to the sovereignty 
for a handsome sum. The unpopularity of the third 
Caliph, who, however, as the husband of two of the 
Prophet's daughters, was one of the most highly 
esteemed among the Moslems, and from an early 
time was called the possessor of the two lights, was 
said to be due to his unduly distributing the public 
treasure among his relations. 

The tradition makes the Meccan precursors of 
Mohammed ascetics, and suggests that many of his 
followers would have been better pleased had he 
established a more definitely ascetic system. Doubt- 
less, then, such concessions as he made to this taste 
were welcome to many of his followers, and certain 
prohibitions which apply to all Moslems are evidently 
ascetic in character. The most notable among pro- 
hibited enjoyments are those of wine and sport. 
The sentiment, especially among the humbler 
Moslems, on these subjects appears to have been 
regularly in favour of strictness, and though the 
Umayyad sovereigns are frequently represented by 
their successors as evil-livers, a fair number among 
them were against any sort of laxity, while those 
who were lax thereby rendered their thrones in- 


secure. The fact of a Moslem being given wine in 
lieu of vinegar by a shopman, who then declined to 
refund the money, led to a revolt in the year 119.^ 
Still, when the world has been found worth winning, 
it is usually found worth enjoying, and the fortunes 
amassed by those who took part in the successful 
wars with Unbelievers were ordinarily consumed in 
the enjoyment of luxuries of various sorts, though 
the pleasures particularly forbidden may have often 
been avoided. The third Caliph, according to the 
chronicle, confessed his inability to emulate the 
coarse diet maintained by his two predecessors, 
even when mounted on the throne. And the first 
Umayyad Caliph is represented as stating like 
Solomon that he had enjoyed all that it was possible 
to enjoy. 

A class of persons called variously "ascetics," 
" devotees," " worshippers," " saintly men," is the sub- 
ject of occasional allusions in the history of the first 
two dynasties. In some dying injunctions of the year 
82 A.H., " the ethics of the saintly " is recommended 
as a subject of study.^ An example of the proper 
conduct for such persons is given in the chronicle 
for the year 98 ; '^ a priceless crown has been taken 
in some plunder, and it occurs to the conqueror to 
try whether anyone would refuse such a gift. A 
certain saint is offered it and declines ; it is forced 
upon his acceptance, and he then presents it to a 
beggar, from whom the commander reacquires it 
for a vast sum. Persons of saintly reputation are 

1 Tabarlii. l622. 2 /^f^^ joss. ^ /^zV/., 1326, 


occasionally employed in minor political roles ; e.g. 
as messengers to induce subject kings to pay their 
tribute ; ^ as arbiters in the case of disputes between 
commanders ; ^ or as preachers dissuading the Mos- 
lems from factiousness.^ At times their studies end 
in their rebelling against the powers that be,* or 
supporting some pretender who will undertake to 
live up to their standard. The first use of wool in 
connection with them appears to be in the year 128, 
when one of these fighting ascetics has some of that 
material on his standards.^ Woollen garments, how- 
ever, not unfrequently figure in narratives of this 
period, as the dress of condemned criminals,® or of 
beggars.'^ The colour white, as the colour of grave- 
clothes, is also at this time connected with mourning 
and asceticism.^ By a man's coarse white raiment 
it was possible to guess that he was an ascetic,^ 
though he might be either a Moslem ascetic or a 
Christian monk ; and, indeed, this costume of white 
wool is identified sometimes with the attire of monks, 
who were supposed by an early Moslem observer to 
put it on in order to impress their fellows with the 
idea of their saintliness, and so obtain the right to 
live in idleness at other people's expense.^" There 

1 TabarT ii. 1228. 2 /^j^., 1386. 

3 Ihid., 1392. 4 iii^^ 1628. 

s Ibid., 1921. « Ibid., 1452. 

' Ibid., 1351. 8 H)iil^ 162; Yakut, Udabfi vi. 375. 

^ Mas'adT, Muruj ii. 231. 

10 Jahiz, Hayawan i. 103; iv. 137. At a later time the white is 
distinguished from the wool as a different degree of mourning. 
Ibn lyas iii. 20. 


can be little doubt, then, that the name Sufi means 
no more than " wearer of wool," and, indeed, a poet 
who perhaps does not yet know of it as a technical 
name for ascetic speaks of "time having put on 
wool," meaning that it has put on mourning.^ 

In the early part of the third century it appears 
that the Moslem ascetic was not easily distinguished 
from the Christian ; and, indeed, they had much in 
common. Their ancestor in the Graeco-Roman world 
was the Cynic, who in the analysis of Epictetus is 
the Stoic who carries his principles to their logical 
conclusion, and who, in order that he may be able 
to defy fortune, gives fortune no pledges. The Cynic 
in that brilliant description addresses mankind from 
a higher plane than theirs, for he is free from all their 
cares and passions. His business requires qualifica- 
tions no less remarkable and rare than those of the 
general or the steward. 

Where life was lived so much in public, any devia- 
tion from ordinary conduct was liable to be sus- 
pected and to provoke resentment. In the year 33 
a man was summoned to appear before the Caliph 
on the ground that he was a vegetarian, disapproved 
of marriage, and failed to attend the Friday service 
in the mosque." Vegetarianism might seem a harm- 
less enough practice, but it was associated with the 
name of one ISIazdak, who in the century preceding 
the rise of Islam was supposed to have shaken Persian 
society to its foundations. In the Wisdom of 

^ Abu Tammam ; ridiculed by Mutanabbi, Yakut vi. 514. 
- Tabari i. 2924 


Solomon the "just man " is charged by the others 
with following a different line of conduct from theirs. 
And, in fact, it would appear to be the case that 
ostentatious piety was often the sign of anarchical 
tendencies and the prelude to revolt. Religion in 
the first century after the Prophet's death was so 
closely connected with politics that the earnest Moslem 
was compelled to take a political line ; and that line 
would be dictated by his attitude towards those who 
had started and taken part in the civil wars. The 
greatest devotees appear to have regularly been 
against both the Umayyads and the party which 
recognised the right of the Prophet's family to suc- 
ceed ; their devotion was accompanied by a ruthless- 
ness which shocked their less religious contemporaries. 
Still, it is clear that there were pious men who kept 
out of the world altogether, and were in favour of 
nothing but peace and order, so far as they occupied 
themselves with the affairs of their time at all. The 
" conduct of the pious," which, as we have seen, 
developed into a subject of study by the year 82, 
was then elaborated by these persons, who in the 
main exaggerated or amplified what they found re- 
commended in the Koran. 

For the Umayyad period we possess few documents 
which testify to these persons' activity, but in the 
Abbasid period the ascetic becomes an institution. 
In part he attracts attention by his attitude towards 
the world, wherein he is without being of it ; the 
prizes for which others contend have no attraction 
for him. But he is also the preacher whose words 


have the power to produce ecstasy, or at least elevate 
the hearer. 

Of the first of these preachers who also figured as 
an author we possess several works in MS. They 
seem to follow the lines of the Christian sermon, to 
the extent even of reproducing matter from the New 
Testament ; they are fervent, and their moral tone is 
high ; yet it is difficult to imagine their producing 
that ecstasy among their audience with which they 
are credited. They seem quite free from the elabor- 
ate technicalities with which the later Sufi treatises 

A certain amount of licence is ordinarily allowed 
the preacher in his treatment of history, for his 
lessons must be enforced by references to patterns of 
conduct, whence the tendency arises to accommodate 
history to his ideals. As one of the later Sufis 
expresses it, the authority of a great name is wanted 
for something, and no harm seems to be done if a 
man is credited with some extra virtues. 

The use in these homiletic works of matter taken 
directly from Christian sources is sufficiently remark- 
able to justify us in finding Christian influence or 
the survival of Christian ideals at the base of the 
movement. Sometimes the matter is taken over 
bodily ; thus the Parable of the Sower is told by 
the earliest Sufi writer. Abu Talib takes over the 
dialogue in the Gospel eschatology between the 
Saviour and those who are taunted with having seen 
Him hungry and refused Him food ; only for the 
questioner he substitutes Allah, and for " the least of 


these " his INIoslem brother. Not a few of the Beati- 
tudes are taken over, sometimes with the name of 
their author. Commonplaces which are found in 
Christian homiletic works reappear with Httle or no 
alteration in the Sufi sermons. In the Acts of 
Thomas, the Apostle, when employed by a king to 
build a palace, spends the money in charity to the 
poor. Presently the king's brother dies, and finds 
that a wonderful palace has been built for the king in 
Paradise with the alms which Thomas bestowed in 
his name. This story reappears in the doctrine of 
Abu Talib that when a poor man takes charity from 
the wealthy, he is thereby building him a house in 

One name which Siifism takes over from Christian 
theorists is gnosis. As early as the Epistles of St 
Paul we read of a " wisdom " or esoteric doctrine 
which is only communicated to those that are 
advanced spiritually ; and we know that in later 
times at any rate that gnosis was something very 
different from ordinary orthodoxy. This same word 
" knowledge " is also employed by the Sufis as a 
technical description of their system, and indeed as 
the substitute which God has given them for the 
world.^ In the later developments " knowledge " 
branches out into three forms, which we might 
render " knowledge," " acquaintance," and " under- 
standing." The third is the highest stage, and the 
person who attains to it is all but deified. 

Here, however, as in the case of jurisprudence, the 

1 K. K. ii. 201. 2 /6,-^^ ii. 193 


amount taken over from earlier communities does 
not appear to have been considerable. It would 
seem fairly clear that the ascetic is an early institution 
in the East ; and even in the West there is a lurking 
feeling of respect for the man who is above caring 
for what constitute the object of ordinary aspirations. 
When once men begm to speculate upon this instinct, 
the system necessarily goes through a number of 
stages — not unlike the stages which the ascetics 
claim to go through individually. It is difficult to 
maintain that present fortune may be prudently 
resigned for a future of the same kind ; hence the 
ascetic quickly becomes dissatisfied with a sensual 
Paradise. The search after a substitute for that 
Paradise leads on to the next stage, the doctrine of 
the love of God and nirvana. Probably ideas originally 
taken from Plato had somehow found their way 
into these men's minds, just as Aristotelianism is 
traceable in the Koran ; but the influence is very 
indirect and has come tortuously. 

That volume not unjustly calls attention to its 
miscellaneous character, and though it by no means 
despises the acquisition of spoil in this world, and 
condemns lavish expenditure, whilst promising the 
faithful in Paradise delights greater in quantity but 
not differing in quality from what they might enjoy 
down here, still it occasionally takes a line more in 
accordance with ascetic spiritualism ; it pronounces 
the favour of God to be a better thing than talents of 
gold and the like. Moreover, the theory of atone- 
ment at any rate gives some hints as to the sort of 



acts which win God's favour ; if offences can be 
atoned by charity or fasting, it is clear that these acts 
must possess positive value ; other^dse they could 
not serve as makeweights against such negative 
quantities as sins. And there is a tendency to extend 
the theory of atonement to all religious observances ; 
since God does nothing in vain, the purpose of these 
performances must be to atone for acts committed 
wittingly or unwittingly which have incurred God's 
displeasure. The first line wherein asceticism can 
develop is, then, that of supererogation : doing what 
the Koran prescribes to a more liberal extent than it 
actually enjoins. And so far as Islamic asceticism is 
expressed in practice, it regularly adopts this method. 
It wins merit by excessive performance of those acts 
which on the authority of the Koran are known to 
win it. 

The work from which the details to be given in 
this lecture are mainly taken is of the fourth century 
of Islam, by which time asceticism had long been 
recognised as an institution with many provincial 
varieties. Possibly the earliest place with which it 
is connected is Kufah, the city which showed so 
infelicitous a devotion to the Prophet's family. The 
*' conduct of the saints," which, as has been seen, had 
become a recognised subject of study before the end 
of the first century, had by the fourth acquired con- 
siderable proportions ; fairly copious hagiologies had 
by that time been amassed, and numerous sayings of 
an edifying nature either recorded of or attributed to 
the saints. The question of the accuracy of these 


legends is of little importance ; what they indicate is 
the general notion of sanctity current, and what 
view of life a saint was expected to take. Although, 
then, we have ordinarily restricted ourselves to 
authorities who are not later than the third century, 
in this particular matter we are not likely to be led 
into serious error by employing a work of the fourth. 
As earlier sources of information become open to us, 
we constantly find the doctrines and the statements 
which are to be found in the later works anticipated ; 
even the astounding perversions of the Koran which 
are usually associated with the mysticism of the sixth 
century are to be found with little divergence in the 
mysticism of the third. The mystics are not only 
like the jurists conservative, but show a tendency to 
preserve theories and practices which are immemorial, 
and which have accidentally adopted Islam as their 
local attire. 

The five daily mlawdt might be thought to 
constitute a considerable devotional exercise, since 
each of them occupies some minutes. How they 
came to assume their stereotyped form will never be 
known ; it is clear that their purpose is rather 
" making mention of God," and keeping the mind in 
constant recollection of the Divine Being, than peti- 
tion or supplication. To the devout these five daily 
exercises did not nearly suffice ; their aim was rather 
to occupy the whole day and night with devotion of 
the kind, and numerous different rites were devised 
compassing this end. Traditions were invented 
promising greater and ever greater rewards to those 


who practised these extra devotions ;* their spurious- 
ness was evident, and probably Uttle importance was 
attached to them. 

The extra devotions invented by the ascetics and 
mystics introduced into Islam something far more 
analogous to the prayers of other religions than the 
saldt. Abu Talib al-Mekki prescribes forms for use 
on lying down and rising which do not differ materially 
from the prayers recommended in Christian manuals 
of devotion ; what is solicited is preservation from 
the dangers of the day and of the night. But with 
the limitation of human desires which the ascetic 
system compasses, the number of possible requests is 
naturally reduced. The discipline which frees the 
mind from worldly desire very soon liberates it from 
all desires for the next world also : the prospect of 
Hell-fire itself, from which religion at the start 
promises immunity, comes to be contemplated with 
indifference; hence even these prayers tend to 
become confessions rather than supplications, and 
the blessings which they procure become immaterial 
— immunity from forgetting the text of the Koran or 
sleeping when the saint should be vigilant. 

In the matter of the mlCit or regular devotion en- 
joined by the code, the Sufis endeavour to spiritualise 
the ceremony by making it an occasion for complete 
abstraction from the world. Some saints could boast 
that for forty years they had said their devotions 
without knowing who was on their right side or on 
their left. Saint was rendered void if the mind of 
the devotee admitted any thought besides : if, e.g.. 


he read anything written on wall or carpet. The 
formula? should not be pronounced as such, but out 
of conviction : when a man says " Allah is greater," he 
should, tacitly indeed, but because he is convinced of 
its truth, add "than the great." But in order to say 
this he must in his own mind subordinate all else to 
God ; for otherwise he will be saying what he does 
not mean. There were saints who when they started 
their salCit told their women-folk that they might 
chatter as much as they liked and even beat drums : 
they were too much absorbed in prayer to hear, how- 
ever loud the noise. When one of them was saying 
his salat in the mosque of Basrah a column fell, 
bringing down with it an erection of four storeys ; 
he continued praying, and when after he had finished 
the people congratulated him on his escape, he asked 
what from. Great names were quoted for the 
practice of praying hastily, and so shortening the 
time taken by the devotion as to give Satan no 
chance of distracting the thoughts. 

The Islamic Fast is an obscure subject, as it seems 
to belong in origin to some system with which we are 
unfamiliar, although it contains Jewish and Christian 
elements also. With the Christians, fasting" seems 
regularly to have meant not complete abstinence, but 
abstinence from dainties ; and, indeed, unless fasting 
is to interfere seriously with the business of life, this 
would seem to be the best interpretation of the 
process; food is retained as a necessity, but the 
element of enjoyment is so far as possible abstracted. 
The Jewish theory is that fasting means complete 


abstinence from food, but then they fast for one 
complete day only: which is not sufficient to per- 
manently injure the health. The Mohammedan 
theory of fasting is complete abstinence, but only 
during the day : the substitution of the night for the 
day as the feeding time, for a period somewhat 
shorter than the Christian forty days, yet during a 
month which from its name must at one time have 
been part of the hot summer. This institution clearly 
was useful as mihtary discipline, seeing that the night 
was the best time for forays ; yet it is not quite easy 
to think of it as a substitute for the Jewish fasts, 
although the text of the Koran expressly asserts 
that this is so. What the Koranic ordinance has in 
common with those of the older systems is the pre- 
scription of a number of days for this purpose ; but 
the reason assigned for the choice of Ramadan is that 
in that month the Koran was rev^ealed — it must be 
supposed was revealed for the first time. The 
connection of ideas seems to be this : it appears 
from Deuteronomy ix. 9 that Moses fasted on the 
mountain forty days and forty nights, and at the end 
of the time received the Law. With this fast of 
Moses the Christian fast of forty days is not un- 
naturally confused ; the latter is supposed to be 
commemorative of the former. From the text of 
Surah ii., then, we learn that the Moslem fast is 
similarly commemorative of the descent of the Koran, 
which the tradition connects with a similar period of 
asceticism ; this the Koran does not assert, though 
it perhaps implies it; and in Surah vii. 138 we see 


how the number forty is reduced to a month. The 
original appointment with Moses was for thirty days ; 
these " we supplemented with ten, so that the 
appointment with his Lord was made up to forty 
days." The forty days, then, represented an increase 
on an original thirty, or one whole month. And to 
this month the Koranic legislation returns. How 
the particular mode of fasting originated it might be 
hard to conjecture. 

Fasting was regarded by the Siifis not only as 
a devotional exercise, but as a pious act pleasing to 
God, whence on the one hand it is assigned propitia- 
tory value in the Koran itself, whilst on the other 
the devout were by no means satisfied with a fast 
of thirty days in the whole year ; they endeavour 
to extend the limits. Monday and Thursday in each 
week are prescribed as fast days, wherein perhaps we 
see the principle of antedating the Christian fasts, 
somewhat as the Friday anticipates the Sabbath and 
the Sunday. Calculations came to be made of the 
amount of the year which it was desirable to fast, 
and some care had to be exercised to see that the 
special glories of Ramadan were not obscured, as 
would be the case if similar sanctity attached to the 
whole year. Fasting every other day, fasting two 
days out of three, fasting one day out of three, were 
all commended practices. Nevertheless, the doctrine 
is sometimes heard that the true fasting is abstinence 
from the gratification of evil passions, and that the 
fasting of the heart is a more important matter than 
the fasting of the frame. 


It seems clear that fasting in the Sufi sense 
means something different from the normal fasting 
of Ramadan, and has nothing to do with the substi- 
tution of night for day as the meal-time. It means 
abstinence from food of all sorts. Help towards 
fasting was got from the Sufi melodies ; when these 
were sung they reminded the devotee of his spiritual 
needs and caused him to forget the pangs of hunger. 

But besides this, some methods could be suggested 
whereby the aspirant could accustom himself to the 
minimum of nourishment necessary to keep body and 
soul together. This could be done either by reducing 
the amount to one-third of what was usual, or by 
increasing the number of hours to elapse between 
meals. One meal in seventy-two hours was thought 
to be in ordinary cases the attainable limit. The 
test whether food was taken to gratify the appetite 
or merely to allay the pangs of hunger might be 
either the desire for bread without rehsh of any sort, 
or inability to distinguish between bread and other 
foods ; one who desired a particular food, and not 
food generically, was not really hungry.^ A some- 
what less savoury test was to see whether a fly 
settled on the saliva ; if none did, the aspirant might 
be satisfied that he was really hungry. 

Cases of longer abstinence than that suggested 
were narrated among the glories of various saints. 
Fasts of five or six days were not uncommon ; a 
vision of power from the spiritual world would 
appear to one who fasted forty days ; a Sufi converted 

1 K. K. ii. 165. 


a Christian monk by showing that he could fast sixty 
days successively, and so beat the Biblical records. 

Naturally the theory of fasting was extended to 
vetoing all refinements in diet ; the coarser the food 
and the simpler, the better it corresponded with the 
Sufi ideal. Some disapproved of the chase and food 
so acquired because of the cruelty inflicted on the 
animals.^ The change of raiment which the asceticism 
of the gospel condemned was also tabooed by the 
Sufis. The hungering and thirsting after righteous- 
ness in the evangelical beatitude was interpreted of 
actual hunger and thirst ; and similarly, the Prophet 
is credited with the saying, " Whoso among you is 
most filled in this life shall fast longest on the Day 
of Judgment." Satan is said to follow the course of 
the blood in the human body ; the contraction of the 
veins which was said to be produced by fasting would 
render it harder for him to get about. 

To a certain extent the Sufic fasting and simplicity 
of diet was based on medical theory, and the Prophet's 
supposed prescription of one-third the usual amount 
is said to have won warm eulogies from the faculty. 
It could be shown that the temperature of the stomach, 
i.e., as Aristotle had taught, the proportion between 
hot and cold, dry and moist, was least disturbed by 
water, wheaten bread, partridge meat, and pome- 
granate or citron. And, indeed, according to Moslem 
authorities the cosmogony of the Old Testament con- 
tained not only the four Aristotelian elements, but the 
doctrine of the four humours of the body besides.^ 

1 Hayawan iv. 137. 2 k. K. ii. 170. 


The Aristotelian philosophy could be employed 
in defence of the fasting-doctrine in another way. 
Wahb Ibn Munabbih, who is responsible for the last 
quotation frofn the Torah, observed that the stomach 
was the mean in the body ; and the secret of doing 
right lay in getting hold of the mean. He, therefore, 
who had his stomach in full control was also in 
control of his other members. But if the stomach 
was allowed to get the upper hand, the result was a 
general mutiny among them. 

Edifying stories connected with fasting are collected 
by Abu Talib, some of which have their interest. A 
Sufi desired rice-bread and fish for twenty years, but 
each time he felt the desire he resisted it. After 
death he appeared to a friend in a dream. The 
delights of Paradise were ineffable, he said ; im- 
mediately on his arrival he had been served with rice- 
bread and fish. The Prophet appeared in a dream 
to a man who had fasted thirty years ; not even 
eating bread. The Prophet seized his arm, and 
exclaimed : Hast thou fasted thus ? As he did not 
tell the ascetic to stop fasting, the latter continued 
his mode of life. 'Utbah asked 'Abd al-Wahid Ibn 
Zaid why a fellow-devotee had attained a stage of 
spiritual elevation higher than his own : he was told 
that it was by not eating dates. If he too left off 
eating them, he would attain to the same lev^el. 
'Utbah shed tears when told of this ; which the 
teacher excused on the ground that if 'Utbah once 
resolved to break with a habit, he could be counted 
upon never to resume it. 


Granting that food must at certain times be taken — 
and there were ascetics who ev^en feasted on certain 
occasions — the number of points to be observed in 
connection therewith is no fewer than one hundred 
and seventy ; ^ whence it may be doubted whether 
Islam is, after all, so simple as has been thought. 
JNlany of these points would seem to belong to 
elementary etiquette, or at best to fashion ; yet the 
pious Umayyad Omar II. thought some of them 
sufficiently important to be regulated by rescripts. 

To the employment of hunger as a means of grace 
must be added the employment of iUness. Even in 
Plato, who as a Greek favoured the development of 
physical strength and beauty, we find the suggestion 
that men are at times led to become philosophers 
by illness ; and since the holy war cannot well be 
carried on except by men in full physical vigour, we 
fancy the Prophet would have absolutely rejected the 
doctrine that ill-health should be cultivated. The 
Sufis, however, who thought only of spiritual warfare, 
naturally perceived that Satan, in the sense of the 
lusts of the eye and flesh and the pride of life, could be 
defeated with greater ease by the sickly than by the 
strong. What tempted Pharaoh to claim divinity 
was the fact that he had lived four hundred years 
without suffering fever or headache. Further, sick- 
ness has propitiatory value : a day's fever atones 
for a year's misdeeds. Health, then, to the Sufis 
signifies mental or spiritual health ; a man is in good 
health when he is free from transgression. The loss 

1 K- K. ii. 179- 


of any member or faculty took away the possibility 
of transgressing ; whence some of the Companions of 
the Prophet were credited with desiring to be blind. 
Although the Prophet was an authority on medicine 
as on other subjects, the morality of employing 
curatives was questioned ; for there was the danger 
that the effect apparently produced by the drug 
might be ascribed to the drug, and the patient or 
physician become in his secret thoughts a polytheist 
— recognising some power other than God in the 
world. On the other hand, it was clear that the 
postures to be adopted in the daily devotion required 
that the body should be in a condition of vigour: 
one saint, therefore, who was paralysed obtained by 
prayer the use of his limbs for those daily devotions : 
so soon as they were over he became bedridden as 

Still deeper meanings were found in illness. Sahl 
refused to treat himself for a malady which he cured 
in others, because a blow from the beloved did not 
pain. The saint's consciousness of God was clearest 
when he was in fever. 

Just as speculation on the meaning and purpose 
of fasting led to "perpetual fasting," for if fasting 
were a virtuous act, there was no reason why it 
should be reserved for a particular time of the year, 
so speculation led to some modification of the 
doctrine of the pilgrimage. In the case of this 
institution we have a difficulty similar to that of 
which the Pentateuch gives evidence : where a feast 
is held within or in the immediate neighbourhood of 


a city or village, it is possible for the whole com- 
munity to join in the celebration ; for an occasional 
holiday interferes with the work of no one, and even 
the suspension of all business for a short period 
is possible. But where the feasting-place is at a 
distance, various difficulties come in ; since few 
occupations can be neglected for many days at a 
time, and the quitting of habitations for months 
together by the whole population would be ruinous ; 
a yearly pilgrimage might be contemplated by a 
nomad tribe, but would be impossible in the case of 
one that was settled. The text of the Koran there- 
fore enjoins the pilgrimage on all who can take part 
in it ;^ but whereas it apparently prescribes pilgrimage 
not once in a lifetime, but every year, it also leaves 
it open to the INIoslem to make his pilgrimage in one 
or other of several months, and leaves it to him to 
fix the time. It merely enjoins on him the per- 
formance of certain ceremonies and abstinence from 
certain acts during the time in which he chooses 
to perform the rite. The old employment of the 
pilgrimage as a fair or meeting for the exchange of 
merchandise is permitted, so far as it does not 
interfere with these prescriptions. 

The Koranic texts are obscure, and the interpreters 
are evidently embarrassed by them ; this, however, 
appears to be the natural sense. The extension of 
the Islamic empire to distances which even the 
Prophet can scarcely have contemplated rendered 
the annual performance of the rite impossible for 

1 iii. 91. 


many members of the community, and exceedingly 
irksome to others ; hence the theory that it should be 
performed once at least in a lifetime. Moreover, the 
days when certain special ceremonies were usual 
apparently came to be thought of as the most 
important part of the feast ; hence the wide limits 
permitted in the Koran were restricted, and a 
distinction was made between the minor pilgrimage, 
of which the time was fixed by the devotee, and the 
major pilgrimage, of which the time was fixed by 
the law. And though annual pilgrimage was re- 
garded as meritorious, the name "pilgrimage of 
Lslam " was given to that which a Believer performed 
once in his lifetime, any other being supererogatory. 

But the question arose : if residence in Meccah 
were meritorious, if it meant in reality neighbourhood 
to God, how came it that one visit of a few days was 
sufficient ? Ought not the devotee to reside there 
all his life ? Hence there were persons who followed 
this argument to its logical conclusion, and earned 
the title " neighbour of Allah." But others felt more 
inclined to spiritualise the precept, and make the 
pilgrimage allegorical ; the intellectual journey was 
to serve instead of the actual. A man who had 
provided 2000 dirhems for journey money to Meccah 
was told by a saint that he could acquire more merit 
by disbursing them in charity than by going on 
pilgrimage with them ; ^ the very thought of pre- 
ferring the pilgrimage to the charity was a sign that 
the man's soul had been blinded by greed. 

1 K. K. i. 95. 


To the ceremonies of the pilgrimage there was no 
occasion to make any addition ; that institution 
ah'eady contained a number which originally had 
belonged to different sanctuaries and different cults. 
One point wherein the ordinary interpretation of the 
precept could be straitened was with regard to the 
period of life wherein it should be undertaken ; and 
Abu Talib decides that a man should make the 
pilgrimage so soon as the act is within his power. 
From the words of the Prophet at the Farewell 
Pilgrimage it was inferred that no man was a 
complete Moslem who had not yet gone through 
this ceremony ; Omar, it was said, had thought of 
imposing the poll-tax on all who had not yet per- 
formed it, since they were no better than Jews or 
Christians. Some authorities held that no prayers 
should be said over the graves of wealthy Moslems 
who had failed to carry out this obligation, and texts 
of the Koran wherein the lost solicit a return to this 
world in order to make good omissions were inter- 
preted of this ceremony. 

Then some additional merit could be acquired by 
rendering the journey, which in any case was fatigu- 
ing, additionally difficult. Any invention or appli- 
ance which was calculated to increase the rider's 
comfort was to be condemned ; the same was to be 
held of all ostentation or display of wealth ; the 
colour red in particular was to be avoided. The 
employment of luxurious litters on this occasion was 
said to have been an innovation of the notorious 
Hajjaj Ibn Yusuf, an Umayyad governor whose 


name became proverbial for tyranny and ruthlessness, 
and who might with certainty be reckoned among 
the lost.^ The most meritorious procedure was to 
walk ; but, since the course which caused the greatest 
amount of discomfort was the best, probably the 
sound reply was that of a jurist who held that the 
person to whom the hiring of a mount occasioned 
more mental anguish than walking, had better hire. 

In the matter of sacrifice the oldest system of 
valuation was retained : the more valuable the 
animal the better the sacrifice : quality was to be 
considered above quantity. Omar was offered the 
price of thirty beasts for the beast which he proposed 
to sacrifice, but was told by the Prophet to refuse. 
The list of possible blemishes in the animal to be 
offered is made out with an elaboration which we 
miss even in the Levitical code. It may be observed 
that the Koran is no less positive than the Hebrew 
Prophets that God can have no possible use for a 
slaughtered animal ; but this hardihood in theory was 
not accompanied by similar hardihood in practice ; it 
was not for the Prophet of Allah to deprive Allah of 
any honour which had previously been paid him. 

Further, it was possible to divest the feast of all 
festive elements by emphasising the seriousness of the 
occasion ; the same transformation M^as to be effected 
as that which the teaching of St Paul brought about 
in the Christian love-feasts. So far as possible the 
pilgrim was to fast and maintain silence ; his service 
might count on acceptance if he made his pilgrimage 

^ Jahiz, Hayawan iv. 146. 


an occasion to substitute pious for impious associates, 
and meditation on serious matters for sport. In 
Meccah only were men responsible for evil thoughts 
and punishable for entertaining them. Omar said he 
would rather commit seventy sins elsewhere than one 
in Meccah ; and there were pilgrims who pitched two 
tents, one within and one outside the sacred area, in 
order to be safe. And the danger which resulted 
from the extreme sanctity of Meccah was probably 
the reason why the " neighbourhood of Allah " was 
not ordinarily thought desirable. Besides this, it was 
clear that familiarity could not fail to produce a 
certain amount of contempt, or at least diminution of 
reverence ; Meccah at a distance was more glorious 
than it appeared to a resident. To this consideration 
there was to be. added the sordid and mundane one 
that everything was costly at Meccah, although, 
according to some, it was sinful to take rent for 
houses or apartments in the sacred city. 

The Sufi precepts on the subject of almsgiving 
agree almost verbally with those of the Sermon on the 
Mount, and doubtless to some extent are traceable to 
that source. " Let not thy left hand know what thy 
right hand doeth " is the form adopted for the regula- 
tion of the procedure ; the expression is defended as 
the sort of exaggeration tolerated by the Arabic 
language, and parallels to it are cited from the Koran. 
As in the Sermon on the Mount, any ostentation in 
charity is said to annul the merit thereby acquired, 
and some ingenious modes are recorded whereby the 

givers of charity endeavoured to conceal their 



personalities. Where such concealment is not 
practised, still the attitude of the giver should be 
humble, the recipient so far as possible spared all 
humiliation ; since it is the giver who is according 
to the etymological theory of charity purified by the 
gift, he should acknowledge that the recipient is his 
superior ; and though it is the duty of the recipient 
to render thanks, it is his duty towards God, and is 
not a claim which the giver should try to enforce. 
For it is the reward of God which the giver should 
seek to obtain, and he cannot expect a double reward 
for the same act. The gift, it is said, goes into the 
hand of God before it goes into the hand of the 
recipient ; and those recipients are to be preferred 
who thank God only for the gift. This is the moral 
of the story of 'A'ishah, who when there came the 
revelation defending her honour, declared that God 
was to be thanked for it, not Mohammed — who, 
it appears, had harboured doubts concerning her 

Since the giving of alms is a matter wherein two 
participate, there is necessarily some little conflict of 
interests, giving rise to difl'erences of opinion. It 
would seem to be the interest of the giver that the 
gift should be kept secret, since only thus can its 
sincerity be assured ; on the other hand, it is the 
interest of the recipient that it should be public, since 
the latter ought to harbour no false pride. Again, it 
is to the spiritual interest of the giver that the gift 
should be as large as possible, whereas the recipient 
should take the least which necessity permits. The 


saint Junaid — perhaps before the days of his con- 
version — hearing that another saint held out his 
hand for gifts with the view of enabhng wealthy 
people to obtain merit in the next world, sent 
a hundred dirhems plus some unknown quantity. 
The recipient accepted the unknown quantity, but 
returned the hundred dirhems ; since God would 
accept only that which was sent on the principle 
that the right hand should not know what the left 
hand doeth. Others refused gifts offered in public 
and accepted them in private, alleging that it was 
unlawful to give alms in public and they could not 
countenance breaches of the law, or more naively 
confessing that they disliked the humiliation. Yet 
another theory, which neglected the intermediaries 
and saw no cause but God, ignored the difference 
between the hidden and the open, and made no 
distinction between the public and the private alms. 
Abu Talib makes the whole question one of casuistry, 
to be settled by the character of individual donors 
and recipients, the general principle being that the 
giver should conceal and the taker reveal. 

The apparent simplicity of the Koranic teaching 
was thus gradually altered into elaborate ritualism ; 
and the moderation of Islam was forgotten. The 
weekly day of worship, which was almost a surrogate 
for the Saturday and Sunday of the Jews and 
Christians, since the text of the Koran expressly 
permits the conduct of business except actually 
during the time when public worship is going on, 
became assimilated to those other days of rest. 


although it seems clear that the Prophet regarded 
the Jewish Sabbath as anything but a blessing to the 
community which observed it. The permission to 
transact business was interpreted away as permission 
to ask God's favour by prayer. Special merit was 
assigned to an early appearance in the mosque ; he 
was to be accounted a lukewarm JNIoslem who only 
arrived in time to take part in the midday worship. 
Men were enjoined to put on festal attire ; a tradition 
ascribed to the Prophet made the Friday bath 
obligatory. Both sexes should employ perfume : 
the men such as displayed its odour but concealed 
its colour ; the women such as concealed its odour 
but displayed its colour. The visit to the mosque 
on the Friday was to be thought of as a visit to the 
House of God, wherein the ceremonies usual when 
the humble visit the great should be observed. The 
turban should not be removed from the head, at any 
rate while the public service is going on ; for that 
curious difference between Eastern and Western 
etiquette is emphasised here also. Otherwise the 
Friday is to be regarded as a day of rest, yet in the 
Puritan sense : pleasure is as reprehensible therein as 
work. The term work is not, of course, applied to 
religious study ; but any other sort should be 
avoided. Even the collection which forms part of 
most Christian services finds some imitation. The 
giving of alms at the conclusion of the Friday 
service is specially meritorious. 

The transference of a feast into a fast is noteworthy, 
but belongs to a whole class of phenomena depending 


on the spiritualisation of religion, whereas our word 
" hoHday " illustrates either the reverse process, or the 
persistence in stereotyped form of the earlier notion 
attaching to holiness. Fasting on the Friday is 
recommended by some saints — whether in imitation 
of Christians or because holiness is associated with 
fasting rather than with feasting. The laying in a 
stock of provisions on the Thursday for use on the 
Friday is deprecated : only spiritual provisions should 
be laid in. 

The fancy of pious Moslems was largely occupied 
with devising myths on the subject of the Friday ; 
besides being the day whereon Adam was created, it 
was also the day of his fall and the day of his death ; 
the two last scarcely reasons for festive commemora- 
tion. Like the Christian Sunday it is also to be the 
day of the Resurrection. Just as the Jewish Sabbath 
is thought to be kept by the Deity Himself, so there 
is a tradition that every Friday Allah performs a 
great act of manumission, which with mankind is 
especially pious : He releases sixty thousand souls that 
are imprisoned in Hell. 

Special forms of prayer were invented for the 
Friday by the Prophet Idris, and the saint Ibrahim 
Ibn Adham : their employment ensures the vouch- 
safing of whatever the Believer requests ; but, indeed, 
there is some particular time on the Friday when 
prayer is quite certain to be answered. There are, 
however, great differences of opinion as to the loca- 
tion of this moment, and some deny that it can be 
located. It is comparable to the Night of Kadar, 


which is some night but no particular night in 

Up to this point we have only traced the channels 
through which the Islamic ascetics worked their way 
to higher things, or at least to notions whose abstract- 
ness contrasts singularly with the materialism of the 
Koran, and the political and military role which the 
Islamic Prophet played. Their exercises and specu- 
lations, as will be seen, led them still further from 
the doctrines of the Koran, and exposed them to the 
censure and even execration of orthodox jurists who 
might have been prepared to accompany them in 
their earlier stages. So long, however, as their pro- 
cedure was confined to exaggerated observance of 
Koranic institutions they won the respect of their 
fellows, and earned the right to rebuke vice, and in 
general to look after the morals of the community. 
And even when their extravagances brought upon 
them official censure, and even terrible punishments, 
their memory was apt to be cherished by the masses, 
whom their saintliness had impressed. 



If we have hitherto found the ascetic occupied 
with exaggeration of the four performances enjoined 
by Islam, we shall now find him developing unlooked- 
for consequences from the primary proposition of the 
system — there is no God but Allah, with Whom 
nothingf must be associated. The sense of the former 
expression naturally depends on the meaning to be 
assigned to the word "god," whereon the pious 
perhaps preferred not to speculate ; but the meaning 
of " association " could be studied without danger, 
and it followed that nothing else might be admitted 
into any sphere where God was to be found. If, e.g.^ 
God is to be loved, then nothing else may be loved ; 
any other object of affection would be associated with 
God, and the person who bestowed the affection 
would be a pagan. The same argument excludes all 
desires ; if the worshipper's object is Paradise, then 
he is desiring something besides God, and so is a 
polytheist. The notion thereby comes in that the 
ceremonies enjoined by the code have only dis- 
ciplinary value, as helps to the attainment of the 
true knowledge and realisation of the divine unity. 



Whence we shall find that the most advanced among 
the mystics declared that these performances were no 
longer necessary in their case, but were to be kept up, 
if at all, for the edification of the vulgar. They 
formed part of a discipline to be undergone in pursuit 
of an end. 

Most of the ascetic practices enumerated could be 
summed up in the word " poverty," since that at 
which the Siifi aims is to undergo out of choice the 
privations which the poor man undergoes out of 
necessity. Doubtless the chief merit lies in the 
privation being voluntary ; and in general there is a 
tendency in all hagiologies to demonstrate that the 
saints were in origin persons of wealth and station 
who had voluntarily abandoned what most men prize. 
But if the enjoyment of luxuries is absolutely wicked, 
it would seem clear that poverty has the advantage 
of safety. And this premise is certainly assumed. 
Severe as are the doctrines formulated by Abii Talib 
on the subject of hospitality, he mentions five reasons 
which justify a man who has accepted an invitation 
to a meal in going away leaving it untasted ; one is 
the employment by the host of silver plate, to the 
extent even of the stopper of a vessel. Ahmad Ibn 
Hanbal before the Inquisition was invited to a 
banquet, and accepted the invitation ; seeing a silver 
vessel on the cloth he rose and left, his disciples or 
admirers following him ; as may be imagined, to the 
consternation of the host, who had reason to be 
thankful that they had not followed their convictions 
to the extent of damaging the goods. Similarly, the 


presence of satin is a justification for quitting ; any- 
one who by staying assents to the employment of 
such a luxury becomes a participator in the crime. 

Hence we get a series of aphorisms attributed to 
the Prophet containing glowing eulogies of poverty, 
though we should have thought the Prophet had had 
far too great experience of affairs to take such a view 
seriously. Similar aphorisms are ascribed to leading 
saints ; piety amid wealth is like a garden growing 
on a dunghill ; where there is poverty it is like a pearl 
necklace on a fair woman. 

The notion of poverty is, of course, a relative one, 
and since wealth means storage of provisions, the 
completest poverty is where there is no store of any 
sort, and the poor man is also a beggar. This mode 
of life does not appear to have had the Prophet's 
approval, and he is even said, in accepting the sub- 
mission or conversion of some tribes, to have stipulated 
that they should not beg. The limit of storage is 
fixed by the Koranic statement that God made an 
appointment with Moses for the fortieth day ; for 
if a man may count on living forty days, it follows 
that he has a licence to store for forty days. The 
better theory is doubtless that death should be 
expected momentarily, whence only a minimum of 
storage should be permitted. A mendicant Sufi to 
whom a purse containing hundreds of dirhems was 
given, had spent the whole by supper-time and had to 
beg for that meal. He explained that he had not 
expected to live so long ; had he done so, he would 
have saved up for it. 


To some extent the admiration and cultivation of 
poverty is limited by the fatalistic doctrine according 
to which a man's rizk or fortune is settled by God, 
whence he can no more evade it than he can escape 
death ; he who rejects a windfall is rejecting a gift 
of God, and so is committing an act of ingratitude 
and discourtesy. There would appear to be consider- 
able variety not only in fortunes, but in the places 
in which fortune, or at any rate sustenance, is 
assigned ; some persons will find it in ten thousand 
places, others only in one. A saint who left the city 
to live in the desert in the belief that God would 
send him his provision there, after a week was near 
dying of starvation : when he returned to the town 
he found supplies flowing in from all sides. 

Humility, or rather humiliation, is to be practised 
by the aspirant to unheard-of degrees. A man com- 
plained to Bistami that in spite of constant fasting 
and prayer he could not attain to the experiences of 
the saints. Bistami told him that the reason of this 
was that he still harboured some pride ; the exercise 
that he recommended was that the man should 
take a bag of nuts, collect the street arabs round 
him, and offer a nut to any boy who cuffed him ; 
the aspirant refused the suggestion, and Bistami 
declined to offer another. A Sufi stole the best 
clothes from a public bath, and exhibited his booty 
for no other purpose than that he might become the 
object of public contempt and reprobation. Some 
begged that alms might be put into their hands, only 
because with the Arabs it was thought humiliating 


to have anything put into the palm. The process 
which the ascetic should go through is not unHke 
that which Plato recommends the just man ; he 
should find no fault when charged with capital 
offences ; he should chafe under no depreciation or 
detraction. He should feel no pleasure when he is 
praised. Christ is said to have pointed out that 
things grow in the mould, and the divine knowledge 
only takes root in a heart that is like the mould in 
abasement. HumiUty is their trade like the sweeper's 
or the scavenger's. Yet this humility is external 
only : and it is even defined as being too proud to be 
proud. The Siifi who willingly casts his lot with 
the lowest is prepared to say Glory to me ! in his 
identification of himself with the object of his 
adoration. He can take liberties with God which 
to ordinary men seem blasphemous. 

Just as the Sufi should be satisfied with ill-health, 
so he should practise resignation in things great and 
small. He should not complain of the weather ; he 
should not say poverty is a trial and a family a 
nuisance ; he should say, like Ibn Mas'ud, " Wealth 
. and poverty are a pair of steeds, I care not which of 
the two I ride." 

According to this doctrine he has no more right 
to find fault with prosperity than with adversity ; 
finding fault at all is ingratitude, which in the Arabic 
idiom is synonymous with unbelief. Anas, who 
served the Prophet ten years, never heard him find 
fault with anything, or complain of omission or com- 
mission. When an ancient prophet prayed to be 


delivered from poverty, he was shown that this 
prayer meant a rewriting of the whole system of 
events foreordained by God : by repeating this prayer 
he would forfeit his claim to be written in the book 
of life. 

Examples are quoted of the degree of resignation 
which some of the saints aspired to attain. One who 
claimed to be little more than a beginner expressed 
his willingness to be damned alone among mankind. 
Another who acknowledged to having got on a little 
way was satisfied to be the bridge over Hell whereby 
the saved will pass, and when all mankind had passed 
over him, to fill Hell by himself, in order that the oath 
of God, who had sworn to fill it, might not be violated. 
A saint who had been bedridden with dropsy thirty 
years repudiated sympathy, because he liked best 
what God liked best. One whose prayers were by 
the Prophet's blessing always answered, and so healed 
numbers who solicited his aid, was asked why he did 
not pray that he might recover his own sight : he 
replied that God's will was to him a better thing. 

Since resignation cannot easily be displayed save 
where there are troubles, the theory that misfortunes 
are a just cause for glorification speedily arises. No 
one of you, said a preacher, will meet God without 
having lied to Him : meaning without having con- 
cealed some misfortune : if one had a golden finger, he 
would parade it ; if he had a broken finger, he would 
conceal it. 

A question which suggested itself was the attitude 
which the devotee should adopt towards death : 


should he desire it for the sake of meeting God ; 
or should he prefer to live because life was all trouble 
and service ; or should he not mind— have no wish 
either way ? Clearly the last had attained the ideal 
state and was above the other two ; but the relative 
merits of the other two might be the subject of dis- 
cussion. There was always the danger in the case of 
the lover of life that he might be mistaken about his 
real motive : he might confuse what was in reality a 
physical repulsion to death with the desire to exhibit 
resignation ; the true attitude towards life and death 
was that of the water in a well : it remained there 
without choice of its own, ready at any time to be 

This attitude of complete passivity seems something 
very different from the active life of the followers of 
the Prophet, with its fierce enmities and warm loves. 
The only way wherein the two theories of life could 
be reconciled was by the doctrine that the devotee 
should be in complete sympathy with God, and share 
His loves and hates. 

Hence we come back to personal choice, and the 
doctrine of resignation is not found to work. The 
mystic Sirri Sakati gave up his business because he 
had said " Thank God " when he was told that all 
the shops in the street had been burned down except 
his ; he uttered this exclamation, but immediately 
became conscious of its selfishness, and selling all he 
had, gave it to the poor. Discontent, then, was what 
first started him on the road to resignation. 

Probably the conduct of Sirri Sakati will be found 


philanthropic and commendable ; but we fancy that 
the Sufi is unable to maintain his transmutation 
of values very long ; they have an extraordinary 
tendency to come back, and be assumed as current 
after they have definitely been repudiated. If loss 
of property is not a fit subject for complaint, it is not 
clear why this saint should have adopted this course ; 
his thanking God was not an act that required thirty 
years' atonement. And the willingness which these 
saints display to endure Hell-fire seriously invalidates 
the threats of the Koran ; for only that can be used 
as an effective threat which men will avoid to the 
very uttermost. 

Difficulties and contradictions also arise from the 
maxim of sympathising with God's loves and hates. 
To the Prophet this maxim was simple enough : God 
loved those who acknowledged His Prophet, hated 
those who rejected him. But in the more complicated 
conditions of the later Islamic states this simple 
distinction was insufficient : the whole population 
by no means consisted of saints. Hence high 
authority was quoted for the doctrine that a man 
who was beloved by his neighbours was necessarily a 

The cultivation of poverty, humiliation, and resig- 
nation belong to the negative aspect of the first 
proposition of the creed ; if the word " god " signifies 
an object of attachment, then the ascetic who follows 
the discipline which has been sketched has clearly 
severed bonds which ordinarily attach men to other 
things than God ; but there is also the positive side 


of the proposition to be considered — and this is 
summed up in the phrase "love of God." That 
notion is, of course, taken over from older systems, 
and is found in the Koran. The erotic sentiment, 
which is rarely quite absent from religion, has prob- 
ably been identified with it by the Snfis more than 
by any other devotees. Wives are supposed to have 
left their husbands because the love of God tolerated 
no other affection besides itself. The woman saint 
Rabi'ah 'Adwiyyah rejected one proposal of marriage 
after another, declining the most munificent offers, 
on the ground that the whole of the suitors' fortune 
was not good enough to distract her mind from the 
thought of God for a single instant. Some wonder- 
ful verses wherein she described her sentiment are 
preserved : 

" I love thee with two loves, a love that is passion 

And one which besides thou hast earned as thy due. 
The passionate love is the thought which forgetting 

All else is of you, aye, for ever of you. 
Thou earnedst the other by rending asunder 

All veils and disclosing thyself to my view. 
Not mine be the praise for the one or the other. 

The praise and the thanks are all thine for the two." 

According to Abu Talib God's love resembles 
human affection in some respects ; those whom the 
Divine Being loves can count on pardon when they 
sin. The brethren of Joseph in the Koranic narrative 
committed no fewer than forty offences ; yet, because 
they were beloved of God, all were forgiven. On the 
other hand, Ezra committed one offence only — he 


asked a question about predestination, and was erased 
from the list of prophets in consequence. God's love 
is not, however, due to anything, as human affection 
is due to kinship, to the possession of qualities, to the 
hope of advantage, etc. ; it is a free and mysterious 
choice from the beginning of the world. Such a 
mystery is known only to prophets, and to reveal it 
would be unbelief. Only by special revelation does a 
man know that he has been thus favoured ; and the 
Sufis agree with older thinkers that affliction and 
bereavement are a surer sign thereof than prosperity. 

Unintelligible as is much of the Sufi language from 
the abstruseness of their subject, the authors confess 
that there are further mysteries which either cannot 
or may not be revealed, and which can only be 
transferred from heart to heart. An example is to 
be found in the eighth fear, which Abii Talib 
mentions, but dare not describe. 

That the higher stages of Siifism were akin to 
madness is not only clear of itself, but is sometimes 
acknowledged ; Ibn 'Arabi boasts of having for a 
time lost his reason. A fraction of a grain of the 
love of God bestowed at the intercession of a saint 
upon an aspirant drove him mad ; by renewed inter- 
cession the dose was so reduced that the aspirant 
recovered his reason. Ibrahim Ibn Adham com- 
plained of the constant mental agitation which his 
spiritual progress caused : he was asked in reply if he 
knew of any lover who was free from agitation. The 
attitude of the Divine Being towards these lovers is 
made to resemble that of the capricious beauty : the 


lover's attachment is kept warm by occasional frowns 
and neglect. Perfect love does not cast out fear. 

In the Sufi poetry, as we have seen, some female 
name is employed as the symbol for the object of the 
poet's passion, and it is hard to separate this practice 
from the old worship of goddesses which was so pre- 
valent among the ancient nations. The danger of 
the practice was obvious : one Ahmad Ibn 'Isa al- 
Kharraz in a dream told another Sufi that he had 
been rebuked for putting the Hkeness of the Divine 
Being on Layla and Sauda — stock-names in the 
erotic poetry of the Arabs. Such verses, then, it is 
held, are only for those who can penetrate through 
the symbolism. 

The close connection between music and things 
erotic is evinced by the history of this Sufi poetry. 
It seems clear that music and poetry, which played 
so important a part in both Christian and Jewish 
ritual, were eschewed by the Prophet, who even 
delivered a polemic against the poets, though at a 
later period he accepted the services of a court-poet, 
whom he is even said to have declared inspired by 
the Holy Spirit. Still, the Koran says of the Prophet, 
" We have not taught him versification " ; and there 
is no place in the religious services which he instituted 
for hynms or odes. The Sufis, however, found that 
the ode had the power to remind the devotee of God, 
to stir his religious emotions, and they cannot there- 
fore neglect it as a means of approaching the Deity. 
According to Abu Talib this use of poetry goes back 

to Ja'far the winged, the brother of Ali who died a 



martyr's death at Mutah and was seen by the Prophet 
winged in Paradise. Music was employed in the 
services of the days in Ramadan called Tashrik, by 
the devotees of Arabia, the practice having been 
introduced by 'Ata Ibn Abl Rabah. This personage 
kept two singing women to aid his companions in 
their devotions. If such a performance excites the 
hearer to any worldly passion, then indeed he is not 
entitled to listen ; but if it turns his thoughts to God 
and excites purely spiritual longings, then he may 
listen with profit. To spiritual poetry of this sort 
the name kasidaJi, usually used for encomium, might 
be employed, but not ughniyah, which was too 
suggestive of the frivolous performance which aided 
the toper in the enjoyment of his wine. 

One other point wherein this spiritual love re- 
sembles the tender passion is that it should be 
concealed — kept as a secret between subject and 
object. If a man be asked whether he love God, 
he should remain silent ; to deny it would be a 
sin, to confess it would be indecorous. Yet among 
the lovers some are sober, others intoxicated, and 
this concealment can only be expected of the former : 
the latter have lost all self-control and so are to be 

If in the Prophet's time love might be bestowed 
upon him as deputy for God, since his departure it 
may instead be bestowed on the Koran. The sacred 
book inherits the affection once bestowed upon the 
Arabian goddesses, just as with the Jews the Law 
gave a vent to the passion once lavished on Ashtoreth 


— a curious psychological parallel. A Moslem does 
not merit the title " aspirant " until he finds in the 
Koran all that he desires. Love of the Koran is 
not, it would seem, quite easy to acquire. A saint 
asserted that he had enjoyed the Koran twenty years, 
but it had been a burden to him for twenty years 

Love of God is not only incompatible with the 
bestowal of affection on other rational beings, but 
even with the most innocent enjoyments. In a 
revelation to Moses fault was found with a man 
who was perfect in every other respect, but enjoyed 
the morning air. Another lost rank in the spiritual 
world because he transferred his oratory to a tree 
where he could enjoy the singing of a bird. God 
is jealous. A devotee who had given away all he 
possessed asserted that this was because he had 
heard a human lover promising his beloved the like 
— sacrifice of everything ; and the divine beloved can 
claim no less. 

This road also leads to the doctrine which is so 
characteristic of Sufism — contempt of Heaven and 
Hell. If God had created neither, they scornfully 
ask, would he be unworthy to be obeyed ? Christ, 
according to one of their Apocrypha, passed by three 
sets of ascetics : a party who feared Hell ; a party 
who hoped for Paradise ; and a party whose sole 
motive was love of God. He reprimanded the first 
and second for making created things the object of 
their hopes and fears, and took up his abode with 
the third. 


Still, it has to be confessed that the Koran contains 
a great deal about Paradise and its sensual delights, 
and that Allah therein has encouraged mankind to 
look forward thereto. Hence if a man's purpose 
in his service be the hope of attaining these delights, 
this cannot be said to affect his sincerity and devout- 
ness ; for he has the highest authority for such 
aspiration.^ All that can be said is that these 
persons fall short of the rank attained by the " lovers 
of God " ; for these persons aim at complete freedom 
from every other passion but the love of God, and, 
as we have seen, are indifferent to all pains and 
pleasures, not excepting Heaven and Hell. 

But besides the moral conclusions to be drawn 
from the doctrine of the divine unity, there is also 
a metaphysical conclusion ; and this appears to be 
the extreme attainment of the gnosis. The aim of 
mystical speculation may be formulated as the 
identification of the subject with the object ; and 
the name " unitarian " is mystically interpreted with 
reference to this identification. The true unitarian 
is he who recognises in the world no existence sa\'e 
God's ; who regards both himself and the world 
outside him as a mirror, yet rather one wherein the 
Deity shows Himself than one wherein He is re- 
flected. It is conceivable that this notion may have 
come into Islam from outside ; on the other hand, 
speculation on the doctrine of the divine unity ap- 
pears sufficient to account for its development and 
indeed for its origin. Had there been more gods 
1 K. K. ii. 151. 


than one, says the Koran, the heavens and the earth 
must have come to grief; but if any attempt be 
made to define the word " god " metaphysically, 
speculation quickly leads to something like the truly 
existing or the necessarily existing; even with 
Homer the difference between God and man is that 
the former is eternal, the latter transient. The 
relation between God and matter immediately sug- 
gests questions : is matter independent of God, or 
not? The former supposition leads to polytheism, 
the latter only is consistent with real monotheism. 
If, then, God is not outside matter. He must in a 
way be identical with matter ; and the most thought- 
ful of the Sufis, accepting this conclusion, based on 
it a series of inferences as unlike the original doctrines 
of Islam as any that could have been evolved. 

The main proposition of the esoteric Sufism is, then, 
this — that there is no distinction between subject 
and object, and that God, nature, and man are 
identical. The consciousness of this is to be obtained 
through a variety of exercises, and it would seem 
that not everyone possesses the capacity to attain 
thereunto ; but those who do attain thereto are 
apparently thought to possess divine powers. Indeed 
it would seem clear that when once the individual's 
identity with the Deity is realised he can do and will 
do what the Deity does. The earliest existing author 
who clearly formulates this theory is one Hallaj, who 
was executed in the year 922. We possess accounts 
of this personage by contemporaries and by others 
who are little later, and according to them he claimed 


divine powers, and even undertook to display them. 
He was the author of numerous works, of which 
a hst was drawn up within a century of his death ; 
they were thought by his enemies to be imposture. 
One of these treatises has recently been recovered 
and given to the world, called the Tawasin after 
a Surah of the Koran ; the composition is very 
largely infantile, consisting of the stringing together 
of rhymes with very little meaning ; but it is quite 
decided on the doctrine which has been quoted, and 
the famous words wherein Hallaj identified himself 
with God, " I am the Truth," are to be found therein. 
Like somewhat later mystics he divides mankind 
into circles, the inmost being that of the persons 
who attain to the consciousness of this identity with 
the Divine Being ; and he is followed by later mystics 
in giving the Koran interpretations which it is clear 
that its author had never conceived of its bearing. 
In that work, naturally Iblis (Satan) and Pharaoh 
are quoted not as models of conduct, but as examples 
to be avoided ; but the Siifis take a different view. 
Hallaj reports a dialogue between himself and these 
two worthies, wherein they are called his masters, and 
the words put into their mouths in the Koran are 
shown to indicate the lofty stage which they had 
attained ; when Pharaoh says he is not aware of any 
god for the Egyptians but himself, what he means 
is that he was the only person in the country who 
had attained to this esoteric knowledge of the 
identity of the creator with the created ; and when 
Iblis or Satan declined to bow down to Adam on the 


ground that he had been created of fire and Adam 
of clay, this too is shown to have been in order. 

The editor of this treatise has not furnished a 
translation, thinking perhaps that the time has not 
yet come when one could be executed with certainty ; 
and the infantile jingles in which it is very largely 
couched would render translation exceedingly difficult. 
It is, however, of considerable interest to have before 
us the actual work of the mystic who is most famous 
or most notorious for identifying himself with the 
Divine Being, and whose terrible execution is the 
subject of numerous descriptions and allusions ; 
though it would appear that it was not on account 
of this particular doctrine that he was condemned 
to a barbarous death, but because he had taught that 
specific performance was not requisite in the case 
of the pilgrimage. It is clear from the nature of the 
work that it was not intended to appeal to the reason, 
but to the emotion, and indeed that the mode of 
delivery must have been of a special sort in order to 
compass this effect. 

In a treatise which professes to be the encyclopaedia 
of a literary society of the fourth Islamic century 
a threefold division of mankind is attempted with 
reference to their religious needs. There is the 
public, i.e. the laity, who should be encouraged in 
religious exercises because they are thereby kept out 
of mischief ; for them all that is required is knowledge 
of religious ordinances, especially prayer, fasting, and 
alms, about which they need know no more than that 
they are prescribed. A second class is constituted 


by what we might call the clergy, or learned clerks, 
i.e. those who make it their business to possess a 
scholarly acquaintance with the sources of law, so 
as to be able to state what the rule or approved 
practice is on any subject into w^hich the code enters. 
But beyond this there is a third class, who occupy 
themselves with deeper matters : the nature and 
attributes of God. These are the thinkers of the 
community, and to a certain extent their learning 
must be encyclopgedic ; for they must be aware of the 
problems of providence before they can be in a 
position to find the answers. The problems suggested 
by the inequalities of nature, e.g. why a centipede 
which is so minute should require a hundred legs 
whereas the bulky elephant can do with four, have 
to be formulated first before the answer to them can 
be discovered ; and such formulation requires observa- 
tion and, indeed, occasionally experiment. Passages 
could be cited from the Koran wherein reflection or 
speculation is highly commended ; people are bidden 
to think on the works of nature, and arrive at sound 
religious opinions in that way. In our time there 
are in consequence persons who assert that the 
physicists of Europe are the true Moslems and the 
traditionalists of the East heretics. 

That these precepts and the belief that the highest 
religious stage involved encyclopaedic attainments 
led to no real scientific progress is due to another 
doctrine, viz. that there was a short-cut to knowledge, 
i.e. revelation. And, quite clearly, an explanation of 
a difficulty furnished by the Divine Being would be 


far more satisfactory than the best guess which the 
student might make ; we philologists well know that an 
authoritative explanation of a passage is a far better 
thing than the most ingenious conjecture. Now, the 
doctrine of prophecy involved the possibility that 
certain persons might be privileged to receive such 
authoritative communications. In a Surah of the 
Koran we are told how Moses went about with one 
who had been favoured with knowledge; this per- 
sonage did some very extraordinary things, which 
surprised and even shocked Moses ; Moses was 
snubbed for his inquisitiveness, but before his com- 
panion parted from him he condescended to explain 
his conduct. Other prophets had been similarly 
favoured ; they had looked down on what seemed 
gross unfairness on the part of fortune, good luck 
coming to those who neither required nor deserved 
it, persons punished for offences which they had not 
committed ; and a divine communication had shown 
that the matter was of extreme simplicity. When a 
man found a purse, the explanation was that the 
father of the loser had owed the same sum to the 
finder's father ; when a man was killed for an offence 
which he had not committed, it turned out that he 
was expiating his father's crime. When some busybody 
endeavoured to interfere with the divine arrange- 
ments, e.g. by giving a bhnd boy his sight, the result 
was the upsetting of a beneficent arrangement. 
Whether every reader of these explanations is 
perfectly satisfied with the divine economy is 
perhaps open to question ; but there is no doubt 


that, supposing these explanations to be authoritative, 
they could not have been obtained by any amount 
of study. 

The fundamental belief of mysticism is, then, 
that knowledge can be obtained in this way: com- 
munication can be established between the human 
being and the Divine Being, and the keys to the 
inner meaning of phenomena be thus obtained. 
It might indeed seem that such a pretension was 
injurious to the majesty of the Koran ; for a new 
revelation could not well be regarded as inferior to 
the earlier, but should rather supersede the earlier. 
Some, therefore, of those who have ascribed their 
works to the Divine Being have endeavoured some- 
what to soften or to modify this pretension ; they 
employ some word which, though meaning the same as 
" revelation," is not one of the synonyms ordinarily 
employed in reference to the Holy Scripture ; Ibn 
'Arabi, though boldly pretending to an office higher 
than that of prophet, professes to have received 
his book from the Prophet Mohammed in a dream — 
taking care to call attention to a tradition according 
to which Mohammed cannot be personated in a 
dream by the devil, who otherwise is a quick-change 
artist. And in the case of a work of the fourth 
century of Islam, which appears to contain the 
genuine and undiluted mysticism, the name employed 
by the writer is far removed from those used of the 
Koran : each set of aphorisms begins, " He caused 
me to understand [some term] and said unto me " ; 
where, however, the sequel shows that the speaker is 


the Divine Being Himself, and the commentator 
uses without hesitation the actual word whereby 
Koranic revelations are described in the sacred volume 
itself — " sendings down." These usually are brief 
aphorisms, but occasionally they extend to compli- 
cated paragraphs. 

The work, like several other Arabic monuments, is 
regularly embedded in a commentary, of which the 
purpose is very often to give the opinions of the 
author something like an orthodox colouring. Thus 
the formula with which most of the aphorisms are 
introduced," And he said unto me," where the pronoun 
is shown by the sequel to refer to the Divine Being, 
is explained away the first few times that it occurs : 
the author means that the matter was put so distinctly 
into his mind that it was as if the Divine Being had 
said unto him. Early as this work is in the series 
of mystic manuals, its author claims for those who 
are possessed of the esoteric knowledge nothing less 
than is claimed for them at a later time : such a 
person is God's viceroy on earth. For such a person 
religious exercises cease to have value ; he is above 
all rules and regulations. The secret which is revealed 
is that God exists and nothing exists except God ; 
the recognition of anything else except God is 
" association," what in the Koran is called paganism. 
The terms defined are largely connected with the 
progressive attainment of this esoteric knowledge ; 
knowledge is expressed by three different terms, of 
which the intermediate appears to satisfy the writer 
whom we have studied so long — Abu Talib al-]\Iekki. 


The third stage, al-wakfah, " standing " or " under- 
standing," is that which constitutes the goal of the 
true mystic ; and it is that wherein all differences 
between him and the Divine Being are sunk. For 
him neither the present nor the future world has any 
existence ; the word " other," " besides," is banished 
from his vocabulary. He cannot pray : to do so 
would be to acknowledge that God was different 
from himself, and that there were things to be had 
other than that identity. 

It is in any case a bold achievement to compose a 
long series of aphorisms supposed to be uttered by the 
Divine Being, but what must be said for al-Niffari, 
the author, is that his aphorisms are profoundly 
earnest ; they rarely suggest conscious imposture, a 
charge from which the work of his successor, Ibn 
'Arabi, cannot easily be exonerated. They appear, 
however, to contain constant repetitions of the same 
thoughts in slightly different language ; the imagery 
is at times extravagant and even grotesque ; and it 
may often be doubted whether the propositions are 
meant to convey anything like their obvious meaning. 
But whatever be the facts about the origin of the 
work, it seems clear that we have in it as bold and 
undiluted a statement of the esoteric doctrine of the 
Sufis as can be found. The treatises that are diluted 
with ethics or homilies appear to have halted half-way 
on the road ; their authors may have themselv^es 
failed to gain admittance into the inner circle, or have 
been mentally unqualified for such progress. Clearly, 
the stage at which both devotional practice and 


ascetic practice are flung aside as rudimentary dis- 
cipline lies beyond that at which the one or the 
other constitutes the main occupation of life. 

The revelations ordinarily consist of brief aphor- 
isms, chiefly definitions ; sometimes, however, a fairly 
lengthy paragraph is communicated at once, and at 
times the revelation takes the form of a dialogue 
between the author and the Divine Being ; or instead 
of a conversation there is the description of a scene. 
The practical aphorisms, i.e. such as could be called 
precepts or directions for conduct, are few in number ; 
and even these are seemingly contradictory. Certain 
words and phrases appear to be employed in highly 
technical senses, but not consistently. 

What excites the wonder of the reader is that a 
treatise of this sort should have been permitted to 
survive, since its author makes very light of the 
devotions of Islam. It would seem, however, that 
among the few precepts which he receives, while that 
of writing down his revelations is emphasised, some 
stress is also laid on secrecy and care in the choice of 
associates. Possibly he composed under an assumed 
name, since the collectors of Sufi biographies seem 
to take no notice of him ; and his commentator of 
Tlemsen has not thought it worth while to give any 
account of him, though he implies at times that he 
was acquainted with his career, at any rate to some 
extent. Nevertheless, the impression which the work 
leaves on the mind is that its author knows his 
business more than the other Sufis of the fourth 
century, e.g. Abu Talib al-Mekki. One fancies that 


he would have declared these people to have gone 
no further than the gnosis, which was only the 
second stage in the aspirant's course ; gnosis led 
to understanding, which was the highest stage. 
The understanding is the person to whom God is 

The consequence that worship is inconsistent with 
the state of understanding is quite fearlessly drawn. 
" The more the sight of God is extended, the 
narrower becomes the sphere of worship. When I 
have concentrated thy quality and thy heart upon 
sight of me, what hast thou to do with supplication ? 
Shalt thou ask me to remove the veil ? I have 
removed it. Shalt thou ask me to veil myself? 
Then with whom wilt thou converse ? When thou 
hast seen me, only two petitions remain for thee : 
thou mayest ask me in my absence to maintain thee 
in my sight ; and thou mayest ask me when thou 
seest me that thou mayest say to a thing be and 
it shall be. Yet I give thee leave to ask of me 
when I am absent. If thou canst calculate, then 
subtract the vision from the absence, and whichever 
remains over, make that prevail in the matter of 
petition — i.e. since petition is only permitted in 
absence, if there be more absence than presence, ask. 
If I am not absent when thou eatest, then I shall 
save thee the trouble of labouring for food. If I am 
not absent when thou sleepest, I shall not be absent 
w^hen thou wakest. A resolve of thine to keep 
silence when thou seest me is a screening ; how much 
more a resolve of thine to speak. Such resolve can 


only come about in absence. To no eye or heart do 
I appear but I annihilate it." 

The revelation dealing with the screening of the 
vision is rather more mysterious. " Ignorance is the 
screen of vision, and knowledge is the screen of vision. 
I am the unscreened outside and the unrevealed 
interior. Who knows the screen is near the revela- 
tion. The screen is one, but the causes which bring 
it about are many. They are the specific screens." 

Just as we find that in the idealism of Kant space 
and time are shown to be forms of thought, i.e. to 
exist for the mind only, so our mystic thinks the 
same of night and day. " Eternity worships me, and 
it is one of my qualities ; and out of its praise I have 
created the night and the day ; I have made them 
curtains spread out over the eyes and the thoughts, 
and over the hearts and over the minds. Night and 
day are two curtains spread out over all that I have 
created, but having chosen thee for myself I have 
lifted those curtains in order that thou mightest see 
me ; and now that thou hast seen me, stand in thy 
station before me, and abide in the vision of me ; 
otherwise thou shalt be snatched by every being. I 
have only raised the curtains in order that thou 
mightest see me, and that I might strengthen thee 
for the sight of the heavens splitting, and for the 
sight of that which descends how it descends, and 
that thou mightest see how that comes from my 
presence even as there come night and day, and all 
that 1 show unto thee." 

The Kantian doctrine of space and time is ex- 


pressed somewhat more distinctly in another " station." 
" Everything that is on the dust is from the dust ; 
look then at the dust, and thou shalt eliminate that 
which is from it ; and shalt see that which transformed 
it from one individual in the sight of the eyes to 
another ; thus the individuals shall not distract thee. 
Take to thyself helpers for the wandering of thy gaze ; 
and when thy gaze no longer wanders then no helpers 
are required. The dispensing with helpers shall not 
be until there is no time ; and there shall be no time 
only when there are no individuals ; and there shall 
be no individuals only when thou seest them not, but 
seest me." 

[The aspirant, then, is to direct his thoughts ttf 
the matter and the power which transforms it into 
different substances and individuals ; this transforma- 
tion takes place in time ; and only when the aspirant 
has forgotten the individual existences, and realised 
only the transforming power, can he do without 
helpers, i.e. the ascetic practices which will enable 
him to reach what is behind phenomena.] 

The following " station " deals with " vicinity," i.e. 
what is meant by being " near God," an epithet 
which in the Koran is applied to a favoured class, 
which includes the Christian Saviour. It is shown 
that the notions of distance and vicinity in this con- 
text have nothing to do with space. 

" He caused me to understand vicinity, and said to 
me : Nothing is further from me than any other 
thing, and nothing is nearer to me than any other 
thing, except as I institute its nearness or farness. 


" Distance is known to thee by vicinity, and vicinity 
is known to thee by sensation ; the most elementary 
acquaintance with vicinity is thy perceiving the 
trace of my sight in everything, so that this affects 
thee more than thy knowledge [of the thing]. 

" The vicinity which thou knowest, as compared 
with the vicinity which I know, is like thy knowledge 
compared with my knowledge. 

" Neither my vicinity nor my distance is known to 
thee, nor my description according as it really is. 

" I am the near, yet not as one thing is near another ; 
and the distant, yet not as one thing is distant from 

" Thy nearness and thy farness are not thine ; it is 
I that am the near and the distant, whose nearness 
is distance and whose distance is nearness. 

" The nearness and the distance which thou knowest 
are measured by space ; but I am near and distant 
without space. 

" I am nearer to the tongue than its utterance, when 
it utters ; whoso witnesses me makes no mention, and 
whoso mentions me witnesses not. 

" He who witnesses and mentions, if what he wit- 
nesses be not real is screened by what he mentions. 

" I make myself known to thee and thou knowest 

me not — that is distance ; thy heart sees me, yet sees 

me not— that is distance ; thou perceivest me, yet 

perceivest me not — that is distance. Thou describest 

me, yet not according to my description — that is 

distance. Thou hearest my addressing thee from thy 

heart, whereas the address is from me — that is dis- 



tance ; thou seest thyself, whereas 1 am nearer to thee 
than thy sight — that is distance." 

The following is an account of the main doctrine, 
but rather obscurely and mysteriously expressed : 

" Thou must not go out of thy house save unto 
me ; thou shalt then be in my protection, and I shall 
be thy helper. 

" I am God ; thou canst not enter unto me by bodies, 
nor perceive my knowledge by fancies. 

" Whatsoever thou seest with thine eye and thy 
heart of the realm of the manifest and the secret, and 
whose submission unto me and humiliation before 
me, and before the majesty of my might, I have made 
thee witness through some knowledge which 1 have 
established for thee, which thou knowest by witness- 
ing, not by expression — beyond that knowledge I have 
made thee pass, and from other infinite cognisances 
and the tongues of their utterers, and have opened 
unto thee therein my gates which are only entered 
by him whose knowledge is strong enough to sustain 
the knowledge of them, so that thou sustainest them 
and not they thee ; by reason of what I have made 
thee witness of them, and not permitted them to 
witness of thee ; and so thou hast reached the bound 
of the Presence, and the arrival of one and another 
has been announced : thereupon reflect who thou art 
and whence thou hast entered, and what thou didst 
know so that thou couldst enter, and why thou didst 
hear so that thou couldst sustain. 

" When I shall cause thee to witness every exist- 
ence at once, in one vision, then at that station I have 


certain forms, which if thou knowest, invoke me by 
them ; but if thou knowest them not, then invoke me 
by the pain of this vision in thy troubles. 

" The description of this vision is that thou shouldst 
see the height and the depth and the length and the 
breadth, and all that is therein, and all whereby that 
is in what is manifest and abiding and subjected and 
striving, and shouldst witness the existence of each 
returning its gaze towards itself, since each particular 
thereof cannot advance except towards its parts, 
and shouldst witness the places thereof whereon the 
eye falls, wherein existence establishes its hymnody 
directed towards me with the eulogies of its praise, 
staring at me with the glory-giving which distracts 
it from everything else than its continuance in its 
devotions ; then when thou seest [the existences] with 
their faces [so] turned, say : O thou who conquerest 
everything by the appearance of thy sovereignty, and 
who appropriatest everything by the despotism of thy 
might, thou art the Powerful who canst not be re- 
sisted, and canst not be described ; and when thou 
witnessest them staring in order to give glory, then 
say : O merciful, O pitying One ; 1 ask thee by thy 
mercy whereby thou hast established in thy know- 
ledge and strengthened and elevated unto thy mention 
and raised the minds unto yearning after thee, and 
whereby thou hast ennobled the station of whom thou 
wilt among thy creatures before thee. 

" Knowledge is what thou feelest, but the realisa- 
tion of knowledge is what thou dost witness. 

" Is not the fact that I have sent unto thee the 


sciences from the direction of thy heart a withdraw- 
ing of thee from the general to the special ? Is not 
my privileging thee by making myself known to thee, 
so that thou canst abandon thy heart and the sciences 
which have appeared to thee, revelation ? Does not 
revelation mean that thou shouldst banish from 
thee everything and the knowledge of everything, 
and witness me in that which I have made thee 
witness ? So that no alarmer alarms thee at that 
time, neither does any companion cheer thee, whilst 
I make thee witness and make myself known unto 
thee, though it were but once in thy lifetime ; telling 
thee that thou art my friend, inasmuch as thou dost 
negate everything by virtue of what 1 have made 
thee witness, so that I become the controller of thee, 
and thou comest between me and everything, and 
thou art attached to me, whilst everything [else] is 
attached to thee, not to me. And this is the descrip- 
tion of my friends, and know that thou art my friend, 
and that thy knowledge is the knowledge of my 
friendship. So commit unto me thy name that I 
may meet thee therewith, and set between me and 
thee no name nor knowledge, and discard all names 
and sciences which I display unto thee owing to the 
majesty of my vision, lest thou thereby be screened 
from me. 

" Everything has its sorcery, and the sorcery of the 
letters is the names ; depart from the names, thou 
shalt depart from the meanings. 

^' He caused me to understand the command, and 
said unto me : Execute what I command thee and 


wait not for cognisance ; verily if thou wait for 
cognisance of my command thou shalt disobey my 

" If thou dost not execute my command until the 
cognisance thereof appears to thee, thou obeyest the 
cognisance of the command, not the command. 

" Knowest thou what it is which stops thee from 
executing my command and wait for the cognisance 
thereof? It is thy soul, which seeks knowledge that 
she may be superior to my decrees, and that she may 
go by her own guidance in its paths. Verily cog- 
nisance has ways, the ways valleys, the valleys out- 
lets and highroads, and the highroads difference of 

" Execute my command when I command thee, and 
ask not concerning the cognisance thereof; even so 
those that are in my presence, the angels of the 
decrees, carry out what they are commanded and 
make no inquiries ; execute without inquiry, and thou 
shalt be of me and I of thee. 

" It is not out of grudging that I conceal from thee 
cognisance of the command ; only cognisance is that 
station of wisdom which I have set for thee ; and if 
I assent to thy cognisance of anything, I command 
thee to abide there ; and if thou abide not there, 
thou disobeyest me, because 1 have made cognisance 
a judgment, and when 1 show thee a cognisance, I 
command thee to judge thereby. 

" If I command thee, and thy intellect come and 
intervene, then banish it, and if thy heart come and 
intervene, then dismiss it, so thou mayest execute 


my command, and let nothing else accompany thee ; 
for then thou shalt advance therein ; but if anything 
else accompany thee, then it will cause thee to stop 
short of it, for thy intellect will stay thee until thou 
knowest, and only when it knows does it give prefer- 
ence, and thy heart will stay thee, and when it knows 
it will favour." 

The next translation is of a highly mystical passage : 

" Instruction of the Sea. 

*' He caused me to understand the sea, and 1 
beheld the boats sinking but the planks escaping. 
Then the planks sank, and he said unto me. None 
who sails escapes. He risks his life who flings 
himself therein and sails not. He perishes who sails 
and risks not ; in risking there is some safety ; for 
the wave comes and raises what is beneath it, and it 
sinks upon the shore. The surface of the sea is a 
light that cannot be attained owing to the distance 
of its path, and its bed is darkness that cannot be 
endured ; and between the two are monsters from 
which no one is secure. Sail not on the sea lest I 
screen thee by the instrument ; and fling not thyself 
therein lest I screen thee therewith. In the sea are 
bounds, and which of them shall support thee ? If 
thou givest thyself to the sea and art drowned there- 
in, thou shalt be like one of its creatures. 1 should 
deceive thee if I pointed thee towards any but 
thyself If thou perish in aught beside me thou 
shalt remain even as thou hast perished therein. 
The world is for him whom I have diverted from it 
and from whom I have diverted it ; and the next 


world is for him towards whom I have advanced it, 
together with myself." 

It appears from these quotations that the mysticism 
of Islam is developed on lines of its own, and has 
only a superficial resemblance to other sorts. Its 
goal, Fana, '' perdition," means losing consciousness 
of all other existences besides that of God ; and this 
goal seems so clearly suggested by the Koranic doc- 
trine that nothing should be associated with God, 
that we may even doubt the influence of India, 
which in its philosophy of Maya or " delusion " 
seems often to run on parallel lines. The problem of 
Indian philosophy is, however, a different one, being 
suggested by the doctrine of transmigration ; how is 
the soul, constantly shifting from one embodiment to 
another, to attain rest ? The problem of Islamic 
mysticism is : how is the Moslem to fulfil the 
command to associate nothing with God ? He fulfils 
it in the first place by banishing from his mind all 
desires except the desire for God ; by rejecting and 
contemning earthly joys first, and then heavenly joys : 
and since Paradise has no attraction for him, he 
speedily arrives at the conclusion that the ceremonial 
performances by which it is to be earned can have 
only disciplinary, at most sacramental, value. But he 
is then faced with the difficulty that his senses in the 
first place and his intelligence in the second tell 
him of other things existing besides God ; of various 
pha^nomena and noiimena. He must then some- 
how or other eliminate these also ; and finally elimi- 
nate himself, because he must not treat himself as 


different from God, since otherwise he will be no 
complete monotheist. 

Now, what appears from the treatise whence these 
extracts have been taken is that the author endeavours 
to set forth matters of experience, propositions which 
perhaps convey a meaning to one who has gone 
through a certain training, but which are most 
imperfectly understood by others : and it may be 
gathered that even with himself the consciousness 
was not persistent, but occasional. But just as with 
the Indian philosophies the goal was the same, 
though the methods were variable, so with the INloslem 
mystics the end was definite, though different sects 
and orders supposed it could be attained by some- 
what different modes of procedure. Philanthropy 
and social reform seem, however, to have been rather 
by-products of the movement than to have con- 
stituted an essential part of it. The essential thing 
is salvation, for which, curiously enough, a term 
signifying perdition is employed. 

Of sacred literature outside the region of Islam, 
it is probable that parts of the Fourth Gospel bear 
the closest resemblance which can be found to the 
esoteric Sufism ; a question not easily answered is 
whether we have independent products before us, or 
whether the thoughts of Niffai'i are directly inherited 
from the author of the Christian work. 



As " a detailed account of everything " the Koran 
might reasonably be expected to give clear and 
satisfactory answers to those questions which come 
within religious metaphysics, e.g. responsibility, and 
the nature of the soul and of God. Possibly a 
consistent system on these subjects is scarcely 
attainable ; and one of even ostensible consistency 
can only be devised by patient study and purely 
objective speculation. The Prophet's busy and 
active life neither favoured nor even permitted such 
processes ; whence, when these questions became 
troublesome, they had to be answered as best suited 
the immediate need. Thus the Prophet's first and 
main message appears to have been to warn his 
countrymen of an approaching Day of Judgment, 
accompanied by the resurrection of the dead ; and, 
like the ancient Pharisees and Sadducees, he and they 
appear to have differed on the question whether the 
dead are or are not to rise. It seems, however, clear 
that if the dead are to rise in order to be judged, 
Paradise and Hell cannot follow immediately upon 
death ; the ultimate condition indicated by those 



two words must come after Judgment, not before. 
Until, then, Moslems fought battles wherein they 
slew Unbelievers and were themselves slain, there 
was little difficulty in making the dead unconsciously 
await the final trump, when they were to be raised 
for judgment ; but the first of the Moslem battles 
rendered such delay intolerable. The martyrs had 
to enter Paradise at once, and the dead Unbelievers 
had immediately to be convinced of their error. 
Nevertheless, the doctrine of the Day of Judgment 
was too deeply interwoven with Islam — being 
mentioned in the familiar prayer which afterwards 
was placed at the commencement of the Koran — to 
be abandoned. Since men's natural beliefs on these 
subjects are inconsistent and contradictory, possibly 
the Koran is not thereby the less suited to the 
religious needs of the community ; just as the in- 
consistencies in the Homeric and Vergilian Infernos 
are assuredly what constitute their beauty and their 
truth. But when it is desirable to extract dogma, in 
order to know precisely what is to be believed, and 
to penalise those who hold erroneous opinions, such 
inconsistency is exceedingly troublesome. 

Now the word Metaphysics means " after physics," 
and it seerns clear that it is only after some progress 
has been made with the physical sciences that meta-_ 
physical questions can be profitably studied. For 
founding despotisms no particular knowledge of 
either appears to be requisite ; but when an empire 
has to be maintained on a religious basis, systematisa- 
tion becomes necessary, and the studies which should 


have preceded the composition of the sacred book 
cannot be permanently kept out. It was not, then, 
the variant readings of* the Koran, but the rough-and- 
ready nature of its composition, which necessarily 
brought about sectarianism. And in the opinion of 
competent authorities the sect which comes nearest to 
the original Islam is not one of those whose adherents 
can be counted by millions, but one of which there 
are scanty relics in corners of Arabia, Algeria, and 
the Tripolitaine, whose very name suggests '* going 
out," not remaining within the fold. 

The scientific and philosophical level of the Koran 
appears, then, to be but slightly, if at all, superior to 
that of the pagan Arabs ; it recommends the study 
and observation of nature, but the author clearly had 
no idea that nature had ever been methodically 
studied, and his own observations are elementary. 
The sun rises over people who are without shelter 
from it, and sinks into a muddy well or a hot spring 
— for it is uncertain how the passage should be 
read ; the mountains serve as pillars to prevent the 
earth from swaying ; domestic animals are of four 
sorts — sheep, oxen, goats, and camels. There are two 
seas, one sweet and the other salt ; there is a barrier 
between them which prevents their mixing. The 
shooting stars are flames aimed at rebellious jinn who 
eavesdrop at the heavenly council. Though the 
existence of other gods than Allah is vehemently 
denied, nevertheless these non-existent beings will 
repudiate their worshippers on the Day of Judgment. 
Birds and insects not only are credited with uttering 


the praises of God, which might well be regarded as 
a poetical expression, but they are introduced into 
narratives as reasoning and speaking, in a way which 
has since given serious trouble ; it has been argued 
from the Koran that even mountains probably have 
thought and reason, but for some cause have 
ordinarily been deprived of speech, and that beasts 
and birds are responsible agents. So we fancy that 
the doctrine of the Koran according to which Un- 
believers' hearts are as hard as stone or even harder 
has led to the belief that this is physically the case. 
The historian Tabari gravely records how, when the 
heart of the insurgent Shabib was taken out, it 
rebounded as high as a man's stature when flung 
on the ground, so hard-hearted was this insurgent.^ 

Since the Koran claims to give an exhaustive 
account of everything, it was probably entirely 
against the Prophet's wish that it should be 
supplemented by any other sort of knowledge, and 
his attitude even to the poets was hostile. As we 
have repeatedly seen, the existence of the Koran in 
his time was more like that of a running stream than 
of an accumulated mass ; if difficulties arose, they 
could be solved by the summary process of erasing 
one verse and substituting another. There isjnuch 
homily, but no dogmatic system ; even on the 
question whether the beings worshipped in addition 
to Allah have any existence the Koran is self-con- 
tradictory ; if they are merely names coined by your 
ancestors, they will not be in a position to repudi- 

1 ii. 976. 


ate their worshippers. On the question whether all 
Moslems will be saved or whether only Moslems 
will be saved, there are similarly contradictory state- 
ments : varying according to the Prophet's mood 
or political needs. By the end of three centuries 
we find a very different state of affairs. All these 
questions have been posed and a definite reply given 
as the orthodox answer ; in the treatise of Abu'l- 
Hasan al-Ash'ari, which bears date about that time, 
we have a series of results which to this day are 
accepted as the dogma of Islam by the bulk of its 

Now, it is noticeable that the literature called 
Arabian philosophy is mostly later than this date ; the 
chief translators of Greek philosophical works and 
the chief reproductions of those treatises belong to 
the fourth, fifth, and sixth centuries. The discussions 
whereby the ultimate orthodoxy was evolved there- 
fore took place at a period earlier than the whole- 
sale introduction of Greek philosophy into Moslem 
countries. When it was introduced in this fashion 
it had the reputation of unorthodoxy ; to possess the 
works of Aristotle or of Avicenna was rarely safe ; 
philosophers were denounced from the pulpit, and 
pious sovereigns made holocausts of their works. 
Hence the influence of Greek thought in building 
up the dogmatics of Islam, though considerable, 
is likely to have been in the main indirect. 

The works in which the few great thinkers of 
mankind have stated their views are in most cases 
difficult ; what suits the public far more is some 


compendium or summary. In our time the number 
of persons who have read the Origin of Species bears 
no proportion to the number of Darwinians ; and 
similarly in ancient times the number of persons 
whose thoughts were guided by the discoveries of 
Plato and Aristotle vastly exceeded that of those 
who had read their works, or, indeed, heard their 
names. Prior to the rise of Islam translations of 
Greek philosophical works had been issued in the 
languages of the nations which shortly after its rise 
were to be incorporated in its empire — the Syrians 
and the Persians ; but the ideas of the Greeks had 
been current among the peoples with whom the 
Arabs associated long before. Uneducated as was 
the author of the Koran, it is clear that even that 
work contains traces of Aristotelian thought. When 
Satan refuses to bow down before Adam on the 
ground that he had been created of fire, whereas 
Adam had been created of clay, the underlying 
thought is that of Aristotle's Physics : wherein the 
proof is given that fire is more honourable than earth, 
because in the hierarchy of the elements fire is at 
the top, whereas earth is at the bottom. Similarly, 
though the Prophet is unlikely to have heard of the 
Odyssetj, we are justified in finding an allusion to 
Penelope in the woman who undid her spinning after 
it had been wound.^ Such discoveries as Aristotle's 
analysis of the reasoning process become common 
property, and influence the thought of persons who 
are quite unacquainted with their origin ; but that 
^ Surah xvi. 94. 


origin not having been forgotten, under certain 
conditions persons are likely to arise who will go 
back to the source. 

Towards the end of the second century there arose 
sovereigns who had a genuine desire to possess 
accurate translations of Greek philosophical master- 
pieces ; and when such translations were published, 
there were Moslems who studied them with great care. 
A philosopher of the early third century is charged 
with substituting for the Koran Aristotle's Physics, 
de Generatione et Coi^ruptione, and Logic ; with 
spending his time on those studies, and neglecting 
his fasts/ One of the friends of Jahiz, who lived at 
that time, had a slave-girl who had mastered the 
whole of Euclid, whereas some Moslem men were 
unable to master a single proposition.^ In the middle 
of the third century the study of Greek geometry is 
recommended as necessary for the sharpening of the 
intellect, and there were both Christian and Moslem 
teachers of it. The ultra - orthodox regarded it as 
heretical and dangerous.^ There is reason for 
thinking that even towards the end of the first 
century Greek authorities on various forms of the 
black art had obtained access to the Moslem 
court. But the doctrine that only the Koran might 
be studied, which, as we have seen, at first pre- 
vailed, probably would not have given way except 
to so tremendous a breach in the continuity of 
Islam as was brought about by the transference 

1 Mukhtalif al-Hadith, p. 67. ^ Hayawan i. 28. 

3 Yakut ii. 45. 


of the capital to the new city on the Tigi-is, 
and the consequent inheritance by the CaHphs of 
the traditions of the old Persian kings. Baghdad, 
growing with phenomenal rapidity, speedily attracted 
to itself all that was in any sense remarkable in the 
Islamic empire. Shafi'i, who lived in the second half 
of the second century, when the city was still new, 
said that Baghdad was the world ; ^ all else was the 
country, or, as he expressed it, the desert. He who 
had not seen Baghdad had not seen mankind. It 
was there that Moslem literature began, and this also 
grew no less rapidly than the city ; there were 
authors of the third century whose volumes might be 
counted by the hundred or more. JNIuch of their 
matter was either derived from or suggested by 
translations from other languages. But the main 
lines of Moslem heresies had been marked out before 
the foundation of that metrop_olis, whence the influ- 
ence of philosophy upon them must, as has been seen, 
have been indirect, i.e. due to those results which 
had become the common property of mankind. 

For lack of any other matter to be read the 
first Moslems conned the Koran ; and since political 
meetings could be explained to the authorities as 
Bible-classes, it is probable that gatherings for the 
study of the sacred volume were no less common 
than private study. The sects, called by the orthodox 
" the people of fancies," when they had no intention 
of breaking with Islam, found in the sacred volume 
the basis of their systems ; even the doctrine that All 

1 K. K. ii. 49. 


was an incarnation of the divine being, held by a sect 
called the Saba'is, whom Ali himself condemned to 
the stake, could and probably did cite a text of the 
Koran wherein the adjective Ali, " sublime," is applied 
to Allah. The fanatics called Khawarij, whose main 
doctrine was that the evil-doer was an Unbeliever, 
and that in consequence the subject had a right to 
revolt against a monarch who did wrong, were firm 
upholders of the Koran. When they split into par- 
ties, one maintaining that the wives and children of 
the unorthodox (in their sense) should be massacred, 
the other disapproving of this course, each party 
based its case on Koranic texts. There is no reason 
for supposing that they did otherwise than follow 
their lights ; but very much depended on the texts 
which they treated as " The Mother of the Book," i.e. 
the principles according to which the other texts 
should be interpreted. As they studied the sacred 
volume questions of all sorts suggested themselves to 
the intelligent ; and the origin of all the sects appears 
to have been discoveries made by the pious in the 
course of their perusal. 

Our authorities would have us believe that the 
discussion of religious metaphysics went back even to 
the Prophet's time, and quote his opinions on the 
subject of sects which, we fancy, cannot in his day 
have had any conscious or recognised existence. But 
though these stories appear to be fables, we cannot 
easily shake the evidence which ascribes to many of 
the sects very high antiquity. A man who was born 

in the year 9 a.h., and whose mother was charged with 



acting as mischief-maker between the Prophet's wives, 
and was executed by him in consequence, is said to 
have been an adept in the arguments of the Mu'tazils 
or behevers in the freedom of the will, to which sect 
he belonged.^ Our earliest collection of traditions, 
the author of which died in the year 179, contains a 
saying of the Prophet concerning these heretics ; and 
the pious Caliph Omar IL, who died just at the end 
of the first century of Islam, is quoted in the same 
collection as consulting a jurist on the subject of the 
same heretics, and agreeing that the right course to 
pursue with them was to summon them to repent, 
and, in the event of their declining, to put them to the 
sword.^ It is difficult to reject the story, since the 
jurist consulted by Omar II. was the uncle of Mrdik 
himself. And before the first half of the third 
century was finished, the refutation of heretics had 
become a familiar subject.^ 

If we may believe the chronicles, the theory of the 
pious Omar II. that Believers in the Freedom of the 
Will should be summoned to repent, and in case of 
their refusing should be put to death, was actually 
put in force by his successors. The act whereby his 
successor Hisham was most likely to win the favour 
of God was, according to one of his contemporaries, 
that he slaughtered or banished these heretics.^ A 
specimen of his method is recorded. One Ghailan had 
made himself conspicuous as a heresiarch. He is 
summoned to the presence of the Caliph, and con- 

^ Aghani xvii. 95. ^ Muwatta, ed. Zurkiini, iii. 83. 

3 Jahiz, Hayawan i. 93. ^ Tabaii ii. 1777. 


fronted with an orthodox theologian. He asks : 
Does God will that He should be disobeyed ? The 
orthodox theologian replies by a counter-question : 
Is God disobeyed against His will ? Ghailan hesi- 
tates for a reply ; and the Caliph orders his hands 
and feet to be amputated. During the second 
century, though the third Yazid, whose reign was 
ephemeral, belonged to the Kadaris or Believers in 
the Freedom of the Will, and chose a successor in 
accordance with his co-religionists' advice, this sect 
remained highly unpopular ; to say a man belonged 
to it was in the year 126 sufficient to make the mob 
tear him in pieces.^ A jurist who died in 198 
formulated the opinion that one who asserted the 
Creation of the Koran — a shibboleth of the sect — 
should be decapitated and his body thrown into the 

It will be seen from this that the record of Islam 
for religious persecution in the case of sects which all 
claimed to be Mohammedan at times by no means 
fell short of that which characterised medieeval 
Christianity. And neither the Umayyads nor the 
Abbasids were specially notorious for fanaticism. A 
historian of the sects who writes early in the fifth 
century tells us that by then sectarianism had 
acquired a sort of legal status. The sectarian was to 
be allowed to be buried in a Moslem cemetery ; he 
was to receive his share of the booty in war ; and he 
was to be allowed to pray in a mosque. On the 
other hand, no prayer was to be said over him or 

1 Tabarl ii. 1828. 2 Tabakatal-Huflfaz i. 302. 


behind him ; food slaughtered by him was to be 
unlawful ; nor was there to be any jus connubii 
between him and the orthodox.^ In some ways, 
then, the heretic was to be inferior to the Jew or 
Christian, in others superior. Some rulers assimilated 
them altogether to the tolerated cults.^ 

What strikes us as noteworthy in the case of the 
particular heresy called Kadariyyah, or belief in the 
freedom of the will, is that unlike some others its 
connection with politics appears to have been slight. 
Where the heretic disallowed the claim of a sovereign, 
the reasons for persecuting him were obvious ; for no 
reliance could be placed on his allegiance. He was 
a member of a conspiracy against the existing regime. 
But persecution merely on account of dogma un- 
connected with politics is less easy to understand in 
the case of a system which to some extent tolerated 
disagreement with itself. 

In several other cases the supposed inventors of 
heretical opinions are placed at dates which seem to 
exclude their having been directly influenced by 
Greek philosophy. The origins of theological dis- 
cussions are connected by the historians not with 
discussions with Unbelievers, but with the civil wars 
which broke out fiercely before the jubilee of the 
Migration. The fact clearly appeared that persons 
whose antecedents would argue a high degree of 
saintliness were found in opposing camps. The 
Prophet's favourite wife went to war with the 
husband of the Prophet's daughter, and the foremost 
1 'Abd al-Kahir, p. 1 1 . ^ Letters of Khwarizmi. 


champion of Islam. What was forcibly brought 
home by these events was that " Believer " and 
" virtuous " could scarcely be regarded as convertible 
terms : for on the one hand it would be hard to deny 
that Ali and 'A'ishah were Believers ; on the other 
hand, where parties resort to the decision of the 
battle-field, they are intentionally aiming at each 
other's death. The Koran is so emphatic in its 
making Hell- Fire the eternal doom of one who 
intentionally kills a Believer,^ that these civil wars 
occasioned the gravest theological difficulties to those 
who regarded the Book as infallible. On the one 
hand, these heroes and heroines were certainly 
Believers : on the other hand, they had certainly led 
armies against Believers and left some slain on the 
field. The question how far their future, and indeed 
their status in this life, was affected by their having 
aimed at the unpardonable offence of compassing the 
death of Moslems suggested itself at once. And the 
individual who is perhaps most usually regarded as 
the founder of Mu'tazilism, and whose death is placed 
in the year 131, i.e. just at the termination of the 
Umayyad period, made what might seem a valu- 
able suggestion for dealing with this difficulty. By 
capital offences the Moslem did not, as the sect 
called Kharijis ordinarily taught, become an Un- 
believer ; he entered an intermediate state, in which 
he forfeited his claim to the title Believer without 
earning the other. And this opinion was regarded 
as characteristic of the school. 

1 iv. 92. 


The name " Mu'tazil," by which this school is most 
commonly known, is identical with the word for 
"neutral," used repeatedly of those who kept out 
of the civil wars and sided with neither party. ^ The 
name may then in origin be a political one ; more 
probably, however, it is taken from a passage in the 
Koran where Abraham says he will keep away or 
withdraw from the pagans and what they associate 
with God. The Mu'tazils are otherwise known to 
have called themselves the " people of monotheism 
and justice." By justice they meant that in their 
system God escaped the charge of ordaining that 
men should disobey Him and punishing them for 
doing so ; but their claim to monotheism is less 
clear, since their opponents could with some show of 
justice call them the Mazdians of Islam, inasmuch 
as they postulated a power that was co-ordinate 
with God, or at any rate restricted the arbitrary 
power which the others assigned Him. It does not 
seem possible to look for the source of these and 
similar names outside Islam with any chance of 
success ; whence it would appear that the problems 
originated in the study of the sacred volume, which 
professed to contain the answer to all questions on 
all subjects, and certainly approaches this particular 
problem more than once. What we are at liberty 
to suppose is that some help for pursuing the study 
was obtained from outside, just as some suggestions 
for the grammatical study of the Koran were certainly 
obtained from Syrians, though never acknowledged. 

1 Tabari i. 3342, 4, 9 ; 3427, etc. 


Here, too, as in the case of jurisprudence, the 
debate precedes the treatise. The mosques, where 
any teacher could form his circle, served as debating- 
rooms, where questions could be asked and opinions 
be formulated. 

One of those who attended these discussions has 
left us a notice of some that he heard. The ques- 
tioning reminds us of the Socratic dialogues ; the 
able questioner could reduce the opponent to silence. 
The Mu'tazils asserted that the epithet " hearing " 
applied to the Deity meant " knowing " ; the Koranic 
text was quoted : " Verily God has heard the speech 
of those who said," and the question was asked : Had 
God heard it before they said it ? The reply was 
in the negative. But did God know it before they 
said it ? The reply was affirmative. The questioner 
then asked whether that did not prove that the 
word " hear " in this text meant something other 
than know ? To this no answer could be given. The 
reporter of this debate says that he asked these 
reasoners why when they were thus convicted of 
error they did not revise their opinions, since they 
all claimed that reason should be followed whitherso- 
ever it led. He was told that if they allowed them- 
selves to be convinced they would find themselves 
changing their opinions many times a day. The 
hearer's conclusion was naturally very unfavourable 
to the debaters, since they were not adv^ancing upon 
a scientific road, but merely defending shibboleths ; 
and he held with some show of justice that it was 
better in that case to follow the opinions of the 


ancients, and especially the traditions of the Prophet. 
And he urges with some reason against the philo- 
sophical schools that their results exhibit no con- 
sistency ; the various sects of Mu'tazils charge each 
other with unbelief just as the orthodox charge them 
all with it. Yet in the case of the real sciences every- 
one says the same. All calculators are agreed as to 
their sums ; all physicians are agreed as to the treat- 
ment of the same maladies. 

Nevertheless, it is probable that these debates were 
far from ineffective, at any rate in guiding opinion 
and winning adherents. In the story quoted the 
narrator ascribes his own conversion to orthodoxy to 
his witnessing the nonplussing of a Mu'tazil. And 
since Mu'tazilism represents at least to a moderate 
extent freedom of thought, it is not unnatural that 
the ablest Moslem thinkers of the early centuries 
belonged to one of its branches. Indeed, in the 
biography of Abu'l-Hasan al-Ash'ari, who has the 
reputation of having won the case for orthodoxy, it 
is granted that the orthodox could not ordinarily 
produce any debater who could hold his own against 
the Mu'tazils. The biographer supposes that the 
temporary victory of Mu'tazilism in the early third 
century was owing to the fact that the orthodox 
party produced martyrs, but not debaters ; not 
because the orthodox were incompetent reasoners, 
but because they regarded it as improper to talk to 
the unorthodox or share a carpet with them. Abu'l- 
Hasan al-Ash'ari, having, indeed, special authorisa- 
tion, overcame this prejudice and defeated the 


unorthodox on their own ground. Nevertheless, 
there was occasional recrudescence of Mu'tazil 
opinions. One of the most famous of ministers and 
scholars, the Sahib Ibn 'Abbad, belonged to their 
school. In the fifth century a vizier of the Seljuk 
Sultan, who followed the same system, was strong 
enough to introduce the practice of cursing the name 
of Abu'l- Hasan al-Ash'ari in the Friday sermon, an 
honour which had once fallen to Ali ; and even 
to start a general persecution of Ash'arites, which 
was shortly afterwards followed by a counter-persecu- 
tion, when an orthodox vizier had been installed. It 
is not in favour of these supposed freethinkers that, 
on the occasions when they obtained political power, 
they should have exhibited gross intolerance towards 
their opponents ; but it is a mistake to suppose that 
in this matter one sect is much better than another. 

That the philosophical study of the Koran, in the 
sense of free speculation on its doctrines and their 
ostensible basis, would lead some minds to scepticism 
and even atheism might be expected a priori ; but 
naturally such conclusions as these were ordinarily so 
dangerous that the inquirers would keep them to 
themselves. It is, indeed, asserted by the historian of 
the sects that the Carmathians, or, as he calls them, 
the Bdtinis, who for some fifty years were the terror 
of the pilgrims, were actually atheists ; and he quotes 
a letter supposed to be addressed by one of their 
leaders to another, in which the prophets and their 
codes are criticised in the style to which we are 
accustomed in the publications of the Rational Press 


Association. Mohammed in particular is made out 
to have been a shrewd adventurer who persuaded his 
followers to pay ready money in the shape of their 
goods and lives, while he postponed payment which 
was to take the form of the Garden of Delight. This 
sect, he asserts, declared Paradise was to be found in 
this world only, and, indeed, in the shape of sensual 
pleasures ; Hell, on the other hand, was to be found 
in the religious observances which the Moslem code 
enjoined. This society, which had secret agents in 
various parts of the IMoslem world, endeavoured to 
win followers by playing on the weakness of the 
particular Moslem with whom they came in contact, 
and, having found somewhere a rift in his orthodoxy, 
endeavoured to widen it. Of course we cannot 
accept the account of the system given by an enemy, 
who acknowledges that it was esoteric, not revealed 
except to persons who, after probation, and before it 
was disclosed to them, were made to swear that they 
would not reveal it ; but his quotations from their 
literature at any rate show that there were persons 
even in the early centuries of Islam who had the 
hardihood to break away from the Koran, without 
substituting any other form of revelation for it. 

The great bulk of the sects, however, by no means 
did this. They all accepted the sacred book as of 
paramount authority, and quoted it in defence of all 
their dogmas. And a Christian polemical writer has 
with justice called attention to the inconsistency of the 
Shi'ah in accepting the Koran as genuine when it was 
known to have been collected by sovereigns whom 


they brand as wicked usurpers, who did not even 
accept the copy which Ah possessed as orthodox. 
Probably greater inconveniences would result if they 
were to abandon it. And it is probable that all 
accepted the miracle of the Koran, in some sense or 
other. The difficulty, however, of treating the literary 
style as miraculous was found appalling, and many 
had to retreat on the miracle which lay in the matter 
which the Prophet communicated being unknown to 
him through any ordinary channels ; but even this 
doctrine involved implicit belief in the accuracy of 
tradition, which many thinkers impugned. Indeed, 
when the controversy of Islam was practically closed, 
towards the beginning of its fourth century, free- 
thinking was identified with the abandonment of 
tradition. The theologian who finally won the case 
for what has since been orthodoxy, Abu'l-Hasan 
al-Ash'ari, after having for forty years been un- 
orthodox — a Mu'tazil, — was visited by the Prophet 
in a dream, who told him to undertake the defence 
of the sunnah ; an^ in consequence this theologian 
made a pile of the metaphysical works which he 
possessed, and returned to the study of tradition. 
He mounted the pulpit in the mosque of Basrah, 
divested himself of his robe, and declared that he 
divested himself of his errors in the same way. 

The fact that the command which he received 
from the Prophet was to write books in defence of 
orthodoxy shows a considerable advance during these 
three hundred years in controversial methods. The 
command which the Prophet himself received and 


delivered was to compel agreement by far more 
forcible methods. 

Since the time of this personage, Abu'1-Hasan 
al-Ash'ari, orthodox Islam is called after his name ; 
the Sunnites should also be Ash'arites. Not all his 
three hundred works appear to be preserved ; but 
one which contains an epitome of his controversies 
exists, and has recently been printed at Hyderabad. 
Orthodox theology after his time largely consists in 
defending his opinions ; and the increasing knowledge 
of Greek philosophy which subsequent centuriejs 
brought caused further objections to be raised, and 
some fresh solutions of metaphysical puzzles to be 
invented. His manuals, as often happens, gave way 
to newer compendia of the system. Yet the dogmas 
formulated by him appear to have remained un- 
altered ; and from his time the number of recognised 
sects seems scarcely to have been increased. The 
study of sectarian opinions and of the correct mode 
of dealing with them gradually stereotyped into an 
unalterable science. 

The examination of the ideas which went to make 
up Islam did not, then, commence with the period of 
written literature, but rather that written literature 
represents the outcome of the studies of a hundred 
and twenty years, if we date from the time when the 
Koran was completed and assumed its ultimate form. 
Since that work claimed to give an explanation of 
everything, as each philosophical question was posed 
the students searched the sacred volume to discover 
what its reply was ; and it clearly was made to reply 


to questions which had not been asked of its author. 
A question which occupied the Greek philosophers 
was whether the non-existent could be said to be. 
And according to our answer to that question we 
shall decide whether creation means making out of 
nothing, or making out of something. The Koran 
is found to reply to this question when the Deity 
says to Zachariah, " We created thee before when 
thou wast nothing." 

Against this simple answer it would also be possible 
to quote the sacred volume for the assertion that 
man was created from clay, and it could scarcely be 
asserted that clay was nothing. And this pheno- 
menon being found in the case of practically every 
controversy, one possible method of obtaining a 
peaceful solution was to admit that both parties were 
right. And this view was actually maintained by 
one philosopher, 'Ubaidallah b. al-Hasan, who was 
kadi or judge of Basrah in the year 158 a.h., and 
therefore early among the metaphysical speculators. 
He found the Koran contained texts which were in 
favour of free will, and others in favour of fatalism : 
he held that both views were correct. He thought 
a Moslem adulterer might be called an unbeliever or 
a believer or a hypocrite or a pagan ; since all these 
titles might be justified from the sacred volume, they 
were all correct. With regard to the wilful murderer 
of a Moslem, you would be correct in holding that 
he was saved or that he was damned or that his fate 
was undecided. His meaning was thought to be 
that, since all these opinions appeared to be found in 


the Koran, he had been ordered to beHeve in them 
all ; and it was not for him to claim any further 
knowledge.^ There were persons who endeavoured 
to settle the controversy on the creation of the Koran 
in the same satisfactory way, by allowing that both 
views might be held. Naturally, this attitude would 
not suit many minds, and it is doubtful whether this 
personage had even the honour of founding a school. 
It seems doubtful whether the most freethinking 
among the philosophers displayed a more tolerant 
spirit towards unbelievers than did the orthodox ; 
there are, however, some signs that occasionally their 
reasoning too led them to propositions which would 
involve a completer tolerance than was usually ex- 
hibited. As we have seen, the orthodox view is 
that the unbeliever's acts do not count ; the one 
iniquity of which he can be found guilty is that of 
having neglected to study the evidences of Islam. 
Abu'l-Hudhail found an ingenious argument whence 
it appeared that the unbeliever did perform certain 
acts that are pleasing to God. For the word of 
God contains commands and prohibitions, and to 
obey a prohibition is to obey a command. Now, 
the Koran declares that Islam is the only religion 
in God's eyes, and so forbids all other religions. If, 
then, the unbeliever followed all the forbidden cults, 
he would be disobeying without obeying ; but since 
he follows one cult, and eschews the rest, by the 
mere fact of his following one forbidden cult he 
obeys the command with regard to all the other 

1 Mukhtalif al-Hadith, p. 57. 


forbidden cults. The reply to this ingenious argu- 
ment is got from the observation of Aristotle that 
a thing may have more than one contrary ; whence 
it may be possible to violate a false religion without 
thereby obeying the true one. 

One of the philosophers took the view that all 
non-Moslems would, instead of being punished in the 
next world, merely turn into dust ; his theory being 
that knowledge was obligatory, i.e. it could not be 
acquired but came by compulsion ; those therefore 
to whom knowledge had not come were irresponsible, 
and could have no future life. Another philosopher, 
himself, it is said, the son of a captive, disapproved 
of captivity, i.e. of making slaves ; his argument is 
not perfectly clear, but he evidently assumes that 
captives will be non-Moslems who had as yet no 
knowledge of God, and who therefore had com- 
mitted no offence justifying their being made 
captives. This voice against slavery is almost the 
only one we can find in Islamic literature ; and it 
wins so little accord in the orthodox critic's mind 
that the latter proudly argues from it that the author 
of this doctrine, being himself the son of a captive 
and slave-girl, thereby demonstrates his own illegiti- 
macy ; for according to his own doctrine his father 
had no right to possess a slave. The works of this 
thinker, Thumamah Ibn al-Ashras, would possess 
some interest for us : he had the reputation of being 
a scoffer, and is said to have called those who flocked 
to the mosque cattle, wondering what " that Arab," 
viz. the Prophet, had made of them. A tradition 


also makes him obtain the execution of a man who 
charged the philosophers of his own school with 

Of the numerous founders of schools who arose in 
the second and third centuries of Islam, only one, it 
appears, is known at first hand ; voluminous as were 
the works of the others, they were not allowed to 
survive. The two main tendencies which sectarians 
followed — belief in the freedom of the will, and belief 
in justification by faith without works — were so un- 
popular with orthodox Moslems that books in which 
these opinions were defended had little chance of 
surviving. Traditions were invented, which are 
gravely cited by orthodox writers, in which the 
Prophet condemned the holders of both these 
opinions unsparingly ; the Believers in the Freedom 
of the Will were called by him, it was said, " the 
Mazdians of this nation " ; for by making man a free 
agent they established in nature a power outside God. 
He further asserted that the Murjis were accursed by 
the mouth of seventy prophets. Their name was then 
unknown ; but the Prophet explained that he meant 
those who regarded faith as verbal expression only. 
Yet we fancy that the verbal expression was that to 
which he attached most importance — if there be any 
truth in his biography. 

Still, numerous works have been preserved by one 
of these founders of sects — Jahiz of Basrah, probably 
the most important of all Moslem authors, whose 
treatises are mines of information on Arab antiquities 
and the civilisation of the Islam of the first centuries 


after the Migration. A certain amount of contro- 
versial matter is to be found in the most lengthy 
of his as yet published works— the zoology. It is 
curious that the same writer who charges Jahiz with 
having plagiarised his zoology from Aristotle also 
declares that Aristotle got his from the Arabs. Neither 
charge can be sustained : the amount which Jahiz 
owes to the Greek philosopher is very slight ; he 
only cites Aristotle occasionally, and probably not 
at first hand, though he is aware that the Greek 
treatises have suffered much from clerical errors and 
mistranslation. In general he appears rather anxious 
to get away from his subject than to adhere to it, 
and the reader will certainly learn more from the 
digressions than from what is said on the supposed 

This work contains some reports of discussions 
between Moslems and Jews, Christians, or Mazdians, 
and these seem to have been conducted with good 
temper. Considerable curiosity seems in most ages 
to have been displayed by Moslems with regard to 
the doctrines of those sects which they permitted to 
exist, and it is likely that their representatives were 
more often the defending than the attacking party ; 
even where the Moslem bestows praise on members 
of these subject cults, he makes no secret of his 
claim of superiority. Still, in the process of dis- 
covering their doctrines and learning how they were 
defended the Moslem naturally had his attention 
drawn to his own system and what view it was 

supposed to hold on the subject ; and, as has been 



seen, the Koran had often to decide a question on 
which it either gave no answer or gave more than 

From the statements in the zoology it would 
appear that various questions which are included in 
ontology and metaphysics had been greatly exercising 
the minds of the JNIoslem theologians, and the recon- 
ciliation of even elementary science with the Koran 
had not been found easy. If the stars and sun were 
not merely lamps, as the Koran asserted, but bodies, 
as the Greek astronomy taught, how could the 
former be flung at demons ? Jahiz discusses this 
difficult matter, and replies that it need not necessarily 
apply to all the stars, but only to some ; and since 
the stars are innumerable, it is absurd to suppose that 
any one would be missed from the sky if it were 
flung at a demon ; and the Koran need not necessarily 
mean that the whole star was so flung, but may refer 
only to its flame. 

The existence of the jinn themselves was not easy 
to reconcile with Greek science, and yet the Koran 
says too much about them to permit of their being 
simply rejected. Jahiz devotes a long section to 
proving their existence chiefly by the assertions 
of well-known persons who had come in contact 
with them. The stories here told seem excessively 
childish, e.g. accounts of unions between male jinn 
and women, or female jinn and men ; a grandson of 
Iblis himself had lived and been known in Kufah. 
Whether consciously descending to the level of his 
audience, or himself entertaining these opinions, it 


is certain that this founder of a freethinking sect 
lends his name to the grossest superstitions. He has 
a chapter on the evil eye, which he endeavours to 
explain, and of which he gives some notable examples ; 
and he is also a believer in spells. The Caliph Mansur, 
wishing to test the powers of a snake-charmer, had 
a leaden snake made and inserted in his roof: he 
then summoned a charmer to deal with it For a 
long time this leaden model resisted the utmost 
efforts of the charmer ; finally it melted— literally — 
and came down from its perch. 

The fragments of metaphysical discussions which 
this book contains seem, then, only partially serious, 
yet they are probably fair specimens of what went 
on in the mosques where these matters were discussed. 
The Koran has of course to be quoted at every stage ; 
where it fails, recourse is had to tradition. 

In the course of the discussions it became clear that 
certain beliefs could only be held by the dahriyyah 
"atheists," persons who denied the existence of 
angels, jinn, prophets, witchcraft, and spells. Such 
an opinion was that of the eternity of matter ; clearly 
matter, like everything else, was not eternal, but had 
been created by God. 

Attention has been called to this zoology because 
outside it, in lieu of the works of the heretics, we 
have selections from their doctrines made indeed 
by an author of the early fifth century of Islam, 
who appears to have possessed many of them and 
to have studied them with care, but is himself 
violently antagonistic and enumerates the dogmas 


of these persons as so many disgraces. The range 
of subjects these lost works covered seems to have 
been as wide as that covered by the encyclopaedias 
of the Greeks of old ; these theologians had their 
own physical and metaphysical systems, and to a 
certain extent their logic, their ethics, and their 
systems of law. They are quoted for innovations 
in matters which come strictly within the domain 
of the jurist no less than for such as belong to 
theology. Nazzam is charged with having limited 
the amount which constituted a theft punishable 
with loss of the hand to 200 dirhems, whereas the 
great jurists settled that the punishment was to be 
incurred by a theft of 2^ dirhems. He also denied 
that a divorce could be effected by any form of 
words other than that which expressed the husband's 
intention with absolute plainness. They also made 
incursions into the region called Principles of Juris- 
prudence. Abu'l-Hudhail demanded as evidence 
for a tradition no fewer than twenty witnesses, one 
of whom must be known to have been qualified for 
Paradise. To some extent the criticism of Moslem 
history came within their scope ; they passed judgment 
on those early Moslem heroes and heroines who had 
taken part in civil wars. 

Whether Islam gained or lost by these sectarian 
developments may be a subject of dispute ; the 
charge that Islam was ruined by the introduction 
of Greek science and philosophy is in any case 
untenable, since, as has been seen, the questions 
were posed and the sects formed before Greek 


thought had reached the INloslems except in those 
results which had become common property. The 
formulation of Islamic dogma was as much a neces- 
sity due to the settlement of the Islamic empire as 
was the codification of the law ; just as magistrates 
had to know what was the law in a variety of 
cases, so those who were constantly and perforce 
using the words " faith," " the soul," " God," " the 
next world," had to know what they ought to think 
about them. And since Islam was far more a 
political than a religious system, the opinions 
evolved could not easily be separated from Islamic 
politics, and in any classification of the sects political 
and metaphysical questions are hopelessly mixed. 
When Greek philosophy was actually pressed into 
the service, its results were at times accepted 
blindly, at times rejected fanatically. That the 
Islamic world awoke to the appreciation of these 
monuments before Western Europe seems to be 
attested, and some familiar phrases, like premise in 
logic, retain the memory of this. Yet that Islamic 
authors added nothing to Greek philosophy seems 
also to be attested, since when once Western Europe 
had recovered the Greek originals it discarded for 
good the Arabic intermediaries. 



It is said that at the time of the French Revolution 
there were persons who wished to destroy all earlier 
literature so that the world might begin afresh. It 
would seem that such a view of the function and 
nature of Islam had impressed itself on the Prophet's 
imagination towards the end of his life, when he 
supposed that a new cosmic era had commenced. 
The relative positions of the planets had come back 
to the same as they had occupied at the beginning of 
creation. Whereas, then, Islam had at first been 
conceived of as based on earlier missions, which it 
continued and applied to the special needs of Arabia 
rather than superseded, when the idea of world- 
conquest had become connected with it, it could 
afford to reject that basis. The maxim " Islam 
cancels all that is before it," of the utmost importance 
in morals and law, also came to be historically 
applied. The amount of past history which the 
Koran contained was all that was worth knowing. 
Converts to Islam desired to forget their past : when 
asked questions about the earlier condition, they 
reply with the fixed formula, " God has put an end to 



all that, so why recur to it ? " The process which we 
have seen to have been carried out in jurisprudence 
found its analogue in history : practice did not mean 
" uninterrupted practice," but the Prophet's practice ; 
the era at which human memory commenced was 
the life of the Prophet, and only such practice as 
was sanctioned then had value or was to be main- 
tained. Similarly, no preceding history had value ; 
but that time, when men were living who saw 
and heard the Prophet, could not be sufficiently 

It is doubtless owing to this that Arabic authors 
have so little that is of value to record about Arabia. 
In South Arabia, where writing was so familiar and 
so long practised, it is difficult to believe that there 
were no written chronicles ; and even in Central 
Arabia something was probably known about the 
origin and age of the most important cities. Yet it 
is the fact that with the Moslems real and continuous 
history commences with the Prophet's Migration ; 
what precedes that date is a mass of fiction, wherein 
some facts may lie buried or occasionally appear. 
It can indeed be used in illustration of matter which 
happens to be known from some trustworthy source ; 
but for other purposes it is worthless. Even of the 
pre- Islamic worships the Arabian archaeologists have 
practically nothing to add to the meagre statements 
of the Koran ; and the rule that no case may be 
judged simply by the statements of one litigant 
ought not to be discarded in this matter. We 
should like to know what the pagan priests and 


worshippers said or thought about their gods and 
goddesses as well as what the Koran says. 

Those who ventured outside the Koran and con- 
sulted the books which the Koran ostensibly confirms 
found themselves confronted with a difficulty. It 
was quite true that Pharaoh, Korah, and Haman were 
mentioned in the Old Testament; but whereas in 
the Koran Haman is the vizier of the Egyptian 
king, in the Old Testament he is the minister of a 
Persian king who lived about a thousand years later ; 
and whereas in the Koran, Korah — if he be meant by 
Karun — figures as a man of vast wealth who was 
punished for trusting to it, in the Old Testament 
there is nothing about this, and his punishment is 
for a very different offence. Now, in the Old Testa- 
ment and its continuation in the New, the narratives 
hang together in chronological sequence, and the 
transference of Haman from the time after the Exile 
to that of Moses is unthinkable. Those, therefore, 
who consulted the books of the Jews and Christians 
found themselves plunged not into light but into 
darkness — on the assumption that the Koran was 
the infallible word of God and that it confirmed 
previous revelations. 

According to the tradition, Mohammed actually 
forbade his followers to read the books which the 
Koran ostensibly confirmed, alleging that the copies 
of the Jews and Christians had been intentionally 
corrupted : a charge which in the Koran itself is 
confined to the actual recitation ; but he is also 
supposed in the case of serious discrepancies between 


his statements and those of the older sacred books 
to have harmonised them by some gentler method. 
Eventually there came to pass what might have been 
expected to happen ; when the authority of the 
Koran was so secured that there was no danger of 
its being shaken, illustration and supplementing from 
the Jewish and Christian books were occasionally 
practised, though scarcely commended ; ^ and indeed 
it is probable that certain converts from the older 
systems gladly used and even paraded their know- 
ledge, which, so far as it served to illustrate the 
Koran, would be sure of appreciation. The citation 
of these works in confirmation of the Koran was thus 
permissible, but naturally they were not to be heard 
when they contradicted it. 

To the rest of pagan history the Moslem attitude 
was not dissimilar to the modern European attitude 
with regard to far-off history : the man of ordinary 
education is not required to be familiar with the 
ancient Egyptian dynasties, or with the sequence 
of the Babylonian kings. AVhat he usually knows 
about them is what is told either in the Bible or in 
Herodotus, not what has been made out from the 
inscriptions by specialists. 

One method of dealing with the discrepancies 
between the Biblical narratives and the Koran was 
to supply the original Bible which the Jews and 
Christians had been supposed to corrupt. Copies of 
such works are occasionally found ; they are close 
imitations in style of the Koran, and therefore take 

1 Ibn Khallikan ii. 148. 


the form of addresses by the Divine Being to the 
prophets to whom they are supposed to have been 
revealed. Apparently Sprenger was misled into 
supposing that a book of this kind, bearing the name 
of Abraham, was the Roll of Abraham to which 
some early Surahs of the Koran refer. The Sufi Abu 
Talib al-Mekki makes tolerably frequent use of a 
collection which he calls " the Israelite traditions," 
some of which are evidently based on narratives 
actually found in the Bible. Thus he tells the story 
of the Temple of Jeroboam and the adventure of 
the prophet who announced its fall with very fair 
accuracy ; proper names are indeed omitted, and the 
whole story is a sort of replica of the Mosque of 
I)war or " nonconformity," which was built by some 
of the disaffected near the end of the Prophet's 
career, and of which the Prophet ordered the destruc- 
tion ; only the prophet who disobeyed the order is 
shown by a special revelation to have been eaten 
by the lion not as a punishment, but as an honour. 
One Khaithamah declared that the Gospel contained 
a statement about the keys of Korah's treasure-houses, 
which according to the Koran were a load for several 
persons ; the Gospel gave the exact weight.^ The 
" Gospel " perhaps was also responsible for a long 
story about the relations between Korah and Moses, 
in which the latter is credited with introducing a 
code identical with that of Mohammed. In these 
cases we have to do with pure fiction ; but, as we 
have seen, at times the information really goes back 
1 Tabarl, Comm. xx. 63-68. 


to the Jewish or Christian Scriptures, only it is 
altered in the interest of Islam. Abu Nu'aim gives 
a sort of epitome of the prophecies of Isaiah, wherein 
the Servant of the Lord is interpreted as the Prophet ; 
some verses are quoted almost literally, but they are 
interpolated with other matter so as to bring in the 
chief facts of the Prophet's life. He also gives a 
fairly accurate account of the Vision of Nebuchad- 
nezzar, only he naturally makes the stone cut out of 
the living rock to stand for the Mohammedan re- 
ligion. The " Israelite traditions " were not merely 
repeated orally ; Abu Talib tells us that he had 
read in a Surah of the Torah called " the Surah 
of Yearning," how the Divine Being taunted some- 
one with the interest which he took in a letter from 
a friend as compared with his neglect of the divine 
revelation and the messages which it contained. 
Yet we learn how little the actual books were 
consulted from the fact that such a scholar as Jahiz 
records stories which one of the early proselytes told 
out of the Torah on the authority of that proselyte, 
and merely guesses that by the Torah he means one 
of the other books to be found in the Jewish Bible. ^ 

The theory that we should not differentiate 
between the prophets, which is a maxim of the 
Koran, and which perhaps accounts for a certain 
carelessness that we find in the New Testament as 
to the ascription of prophecies, leads to the attribu- 
tion of sayings to personages who, we may be sure, 
never uttered them ; thus there is a saying attributed 

^ Hayawan iv, Q6. 


to Christ to the effect that by saying the prescribed 
prayers a man escapes God's vengeance, and by 
prayers of supererogation wins his way to God's 
favour ; but we are told that there was a similar 
saying ascribed to the Prophet Mohammed, to whom 
it is somewhat more appropriate. Where the older 
books are actually quoted, there is usually a tendency 
to expand or repeat, or at any rate introduce un- 
necessary verbiage, even where the sense is not 
seriously altered. A lengthy example is quoted in 
Mohavimedanism ; ^ another which may be given from 
the work of Abu Talib al-Mekki is that Christ said, 
" Sit not with the dead, lest your hearts die." He 
was asked, "Who are the dead?" He replied, "Those 
who love the world and desire it." That this is a 
reminiscence of a passage in the Gospel may be 
allowed ; but it preserves more of the commentary 
than of the text. Similar paraphrases are to be 
found of passages of Isaiah, such as " This people 
approacheth me with the lips, but their heart is far 
from me " ; though in this case the application is 
correct, or at least appears to be so. Occasionally 
the source of the references is some Jewish Midrash, 
either existing or lost. So we are told that Asaph 
committed some offence so terrible that it had best 
not be mentioned, but was pardoned ; whereas the 
offence of Balaam was comparatively mild, but it 
was not pardoned. 

These apocrypha, however, seem to have contained 
mainly homiletic matter, and possibly an occasional 

1 P. 207. 


prophecy relating to the coming of the Prophet ; 
indeed the Koran declares that the name Ahmad is 
to be found in the Gospel, and an ancient charge 
against the Jews is that of having altered a descrip- 
tion of the Prophet which was to be found in the 
Law. In consequence of these Biblical or pseudo- 
Biblical studies the Moslems became familiar with a 
few Old Testament names which are not found in 
the Koran ; those of the New Testament at all 
times remained strange to them. 

But if the records of the Jews and Christians had 
to be rewritten for edifying purposes, those of early 
Islam required something of the same sort. It is 
curious how little of the miraculous or the homiletic 
is found in the earliest life of the Prophet : its author 
Ibn Ishak composed it in a form which required 
some expurgation at the hands of its earliest editors ; 
the editor whose recension has come down to us 
confesses that he omitted matter calculated to give 
offence. Even so Ibn Ishak places all the generosity, 
the heroism, and the public and private virtues on 
the side of Mohammed's enemies. The character 
which he gives the Companions of the Prophet is 
rarely pleasing, even if it is not actually repulsive. 
All these persons had somehow to be compelled to 
live up to their characters, and to be furnished 
besides with supplies of wise and noble sayings. 
The period of the pious Caliphs came to be depicted 
as a sort of halcyon days of the world, when the 
rulers set an example of piety and justice such as the 
world has never seen at any other time. 


With regard to the Hfe of the Prophet, the fictions 
wherewith it was embeUished were rarely such as to 
impair the historical narrative. The order of events 
almost from the commencement of the mission was 
of such grave importance for a variety of reasons 
that serious alteration was not easily possible ; the 
chronology of that career had come to be bound up 
with a variety of vested interests, whence it was not 
possible to disturb it. The hands and arms whereon 
the Prophet had relied were so well known, the 
exploits of the champions of Islam so celebrated, 
that they had to be admitted. In a letter which is 
some ten years earlier in date than the first biography 
of the Prophet, the Caliph Mansur assumes that the 
main facts of it are known : the genuineness of the 
letter is evinced by the fact that its author carelessly 
misquotes the Koran. The attempts that are made 
to whitewash the heros eponymus of the Abbasids, 
the Prophet's uncle 'Abbas, by making him out a 
secret adherent of the Prophet, are either clumsy 
or unconvincing. History was not seriously affected 
by mild fictions, showing how the Prophet had 
decided various cases that had come up for decision, 
or attributing to him stores of wisdom on all subjects, 
not excepting medicine and cookery. The canon 
which we have seen to be assumed or formulated, 
that the Prophet's practices should be preferred to 
the product of the reasoning faculty, was a safeguard 
against serious misrepresentation of his career ; for 
since a thing was right because he had said or done 
it, his character would not suffer from anything that 


might be recorded about him. Still, it could not be 
expected that his followers would wish otherwise 
than that his character should be reo-arded as 
admirable by any standard ; and in treatises of 
metaphysical theology the unapproachable perfection 
of the Prophet s character is urged as a proof of his 

On the other hand, there is a principle deeply 
grounded in human nature that such claims as M'ere 
made by the Prophet, and maintained by him and 
his adherents on his behalf at the sword's point, should 
be backed by something more overwhelming than 
perfections of character, of style, or even of scholar- 
ship. The miracle of the Koran, which consists in 
the unattainable perfections of the latter, was not 
sufficient for ages in which a high standard of 
correctness and even of eloquence was demanded 
of all writers, and wherein the historical matters to 
which the Koran makes allusion were matters of 
common knowledge. It was probably difficult to 
realise the degree of ignorance wherewith the Prophet 
credits himself and his JNleccan contemporaries ; and 
the Koran itself credited certain prophets, notably 
Moses and Jesus, with performances to which the plain 
biography of Mohammed offered no parallel. When 
Moslems consented to argue with Jews or Christians, 
grave embarrassment must have been occasioned by 
this proof of superiority which the opponents could 
adduce from the irrefragable testimony of the Moslem 
Scriptures. Hence a not unnatural endeavour was 
made to meet these opponents on their own ground : 


to accept the natural opinion that a supernatural 
mission must be attested by supernatural powers ; 
but to show that the exploits of the Islamic Prophet 
in this field fell short in no way of those which 
had formed the glory of the founders of Judaism 
and Christianity. 

The miracle whereby history was least falsified was 
prophecy : Mohammed could be credited harmlessly 
with having foretold the most noteworthy events 
of the period which followed his death. Thus he 
foretold how and when Ali should die ; he warned 
Zubair that he would fight against Ali, but that he 
would be in the wrong ; he warned his wife 'A'ishah 
that at one of his wives the dogs of Hau ab would bark, 
and that this would be the worse for her ; and 'A'ishah 
recalled this saying on her way to stir up the people 
of Basrah against Ali — the commencement of that 
civil war which never really stopped. When another 
eminent follower of the Prophet, 'Ammar Ibn Yasir, 
was slain on the field of SifFin, it was remembered 
how the Prophet had foretold that he would be 
killed by usurpers, and indeed uttered this prophecy 
at the time when the Mosque of Medinah was being 
built. We have already seen him credited with 
prophecies about the chief sects of Islam, whose 
names had not been invented in his lifetime. These 
inventions naturally led to some difficulties, which 
it required some further exercise of the imagination 
to solve. If 'A'ishah had really been warned about 
the dogs of Hau'ab, how came she to continue her 
expedition ? If Ali knew who was to be his assassin, 


why did he not anticipate the blow ? If Zubair had 
been told beforehand that he would be in the wrong 
in his dispute with Ali, why did he persist therein ? 
Even in the case of Fatimah, who was told by the 
dying Prophet that she was to follow him speedily, 
it was clear that the prophecy had no influence either 
on her conduct or that of anyone else. 

A considerable collection of matter, with the usual 
chains of authorities, attesting the miraculous ele- 
ments in the Prophet's career, was put together in 
the fourth century of Islam by one Abu Nu'aim, 
under the title " Proofs of the Prophetic Mission." 
Any reader of hagiologies is aware that the human 
fancy is ordinarily somewhat sterile, and the cir- 
cumstances of a miraculous career admit of only 
slight variations. The fancy is by no means satis- 
fied with such a career commencing late in life ; 
Mohammed must have been a prophet from his 
birth — nay before his birth — nay from the beginning 
of the world. The second chapter of the Dalail 
gives evidence showing that the Prophet's call took 
place when Adam was half created, when his clay 
had been modelled but the spirit had not yet been 
infused. The statement, indeed, goes back to the 
Prophet himself; but some external attestation is 
also adduced. ^Vhen the Prophet first announced 
his mission in Meccah, a certain Jubair Ibn Mut'im 
went on a trading expedition to Bosra ; there 
some Christians assured him that in a collection of 
statues they had one of the Prophet who was to 

come forth, and requested him to see whether he 



could identify the statue of Mohammed. He could 
not find it in the first monastery into which he 
was taken, but found it easily in the second. This 
collection of prophetic statues fortunately served 
to settle another controversy, viz. that between the 
two great sects of Islam ; for this monastery con- 
tained not only the image of the Prophet, but also 
that of his legitimate successor, who turned out to 
be Abu Bakr. 

Another anecdote of the same sort follows, but 
it is less convincing, since it is located after the 
Prophet's death, when a mission was sent by Abu 
Bakr to the Byzantine sovereign who happened 
to be in Damascus. He exhibits to his visitors 
a whole collection of portraits on silk, among which 
they recognise that of their Prophet ; the rest, as 
the king explains, are representations of his pre- 
decessors, beginning with Adam. To the question 
whence the king had got this valuable collection of 
portraits he replied that Adam had requested to be 
shown the figures of all his prophetic posterity, and 
this request had been granted by Allah ; they 
remained in the Treasury of Adam in the AA^est 
till it was plundered by Alexander the Great. At 
some time Daniel obtained access to them and copied 
them, and apparently Daniel's copies w^ere those 
shown in Damascus. What the collection proved 
was that the Prophet's call was at the least coeval 
with the creation of Adam. 

Neither of these stories is free from religious 
objections ; for since statues are tabooed, and pictures 


disapproved by the pious, neither of these impro- 
prieties ought to be associated with the Prophet. 
On the other hand, Christianity dealt so much in 
icons of religious personages that Mohammed might 
reasonably be expected to be found somewhere in 
the company of those with whom the Koran regularly 
associates him. The story of the pictures on silk 
seems also to bear some relation to the Veronica 

If we consider how orthodox Islam denies the 
credibility of Jews or Christians, we may feel some 
surprise at the anxiety with which attestations of 
these sectarians to the genuineness of the Prophet's 
mission are got together. Immediately before the 
Prophet's arrival at JNIedinah a Jew there named 
Joshua foretold that such a personage would come 
thither from JNIeccah during the lifetime of some then 
present ; unfortunately this harbinger of the Prophet 
himself refused to believe in the mission which he 
had foretold — a circumstance which seems to have 
occurred at other times. When the Prophet's court- 
poet Hassan Ibn Thabit was seven or eight years 
of age, a Jew of the Koraizah tribe standing on the 
top of his fortress announced to the other Jews the 
rising of the Prophet Ahmad's star ; which also 
portended destruction to their countrymen in Arabia. 
It is rather interesting that by this time the Jews 
should be sufficiently associated with astrology to 
be able of themselves to discharge the task for which 
the Magi are called in in the Christian Gospel. 
Indeed the coming of Ahmad and his figure were 


so well known to the Medinese Jews before the 
Prophet's call that the children used to be taught 
all about him in the schools. Some dissentient Arabs 
after the Prophet had become powerful went to seek 
the aid of the Egyptian governor, whom the Arabs 
call Mukaukis — a puzzling expression, which has not 
yet been interpreted with certainty ; to their astonish- 
ment, the Mukaukis argued forcibly in favour of 
the Prophet's veracity, and the inquiries addressed 
to bishops of the Alexandrian communities with 
reference to the description of Mohammed to be 
found in the Christian books were so satisfactorily 
answered that these Arabs were converted. Some of 
the invaders of Irak came across a cave in which 
there lived one Darib, son of Bartholomew, who had 
remained alive since the time of Jesus ; he sent warm 
greetings to Omar with a confession of faith in 

We find that among the confessors to whose testi- 
mony some weight is attached in the Gospels are 
demons, even when they are driven out. The 
Prophet's relations with these beings were on the 
whole friendly, and we learn from the Koran that a 
number of them adopted Islam ; but it was desirable 
to get some of their testimony recorded by others 
than the Prophet himself. The first harbinger of the 
mission at Medinah was a pagan woman visited by a 
spirit which took the form of a white bird perched 
on a wall ; when the woman asked it to converse, it 
replied that a prophet had now arisen in Meccah 
who had told the jinn to quit. A sorceress consulted 


by Othman in Syria was told by her familiar that 
he could now no longer enter her door, because 
Ahmad had appeared and the jinn had to make 
themselves scarce. Other sorcerers in Arabia were 
warned by their familiars that their trade was now 
abolished, since they had now no chance of eaves- 
dropping at the heavenly council-chamber. An idol 
in Samaya, a village of Oman, found voice one day 
at a sacrifice and bade the sacrificers follow the 
religion of Ahmad who had just appeared. It seems 
rather hard on this idol that the sacrificer in answer 
to this message destroyed it. On the other hand, the 
priest obtained through the Prophet's intercession a 
variety of blessings, including four wives. Voices 
were heard from the interior of other fetishes calling 
on their worshippers to abandon idolatry and follow 
the true faith. It is conceivable that some of these 
tales may go back to the time of the Prophet, when 
the Arab chieftains were hurrying to pay homage to 
the new ruler and excogitating ingenious flatteries. 
The most popular of all is the romance of the wizard 
Satih, a creature without bones or sinews, who could 
be folded up like a garment ; and who, imitating the 
exploit of Daniel, repeated to a Ghassanide king a 
dream which he had seen, foretelling the fortunes of 
Arabia and the arrival of the Prophet. 

That the Prophet's nativity should be graced with 
miracles was to be expected, though we have here 
a difficulty which is found in other cases : such 
miraculous antecedents ought, one fancies, to have 
prepared the people of Meccah for the mission when 


it came, whereas historically they appear to have 
been wholly unprepared for it. The women who 
attended Aminah, the Prophet's mother, at her 
confinement saw the stars fall and heard mysterious 
voices ; the mother of one of the foremost Com- 
panions, named Shifa, was one of these, and she 
treasured up these experiences until the call came. 
That the powers of evil should make some attempt, 
to kill him in his youth was also to be expected ; 
when he was being reared as an infant among the 
Banu Sa'd a sorcerer endeavoured to bring about his 
death, but his nurse succeeded in rescuing him. It 
is rather strange that no such attempt seems to be 
recorded on the part of the Persian king, who was 
warned of the Prophet's birth by a whole series of 
portents, including the fall of a portion of his palace 
and the extinction of the sacred fire " which had not 
been extinguished for a thousand years " ; he so far 
plays the part of Herod that he solicits the aid of 
magicians in interpreting these prodigies ; but though 
he learns that they portend trouble to come from the 
direction of Arabia, he does not appear to have taken 
any step to anticipate it. Like Hezekiah he seems 
to have been satisfied with a promise that the trouble 
should not come in his time. 

Edifying fiction of this sort has to hover between 
two contradictory assumptions — one that the infant 
is highly esteemed, the other that he belonged to the 
humblest class ; thus we are told that Mohammed's 
clan was so wealthy, and his arrival so welcome, 
that the whole population of Meccah was entertained 


lavishly by his grandfather on the occasion of his 
birth ; on the other hand, that none of the wet-nurses 
who came to Meccah to find employment would 
look at Mohammed, because they could not expect 
to gain by nursing a fatherless boy. Hence he had 
to be taken by a woman who had failed to 
secure any foster-child, and the woman prospered 
marvellously in consequence. 

It was to be expected that the migration to 
Medinah should somehow be anticipated, and so 
Mohammed is made to go to Medinah in his sixth 
year, being taken thither by his mother on a visit 
to her relations. Some of the Jews visit the house 
where he lodges with his mother, and are allowed to 
investigate his person, where they search for the signs 
of prophecy. These, of course, they find, and inform 
his relations that they have with them the Prophet 
of the Arabs, who will one day migrate to their city, 
where he will massacre the Jews. A slave-girl who 
goes with them "treasures these things in her heart." 

The imagination is not much exercised over the 
years which he is said to have spent under the 
guardianship of his grandfather and his uncle ; the 
persons who are made to foretell his greatness are, as 
before, Jews and Christians, because it is clear that 
the Arabs have no expectation of a Prophet or 
Messiah. One member of a tribe which practised 
tracking does indeed notice the extraordinary re- 
semblance of the Prophet's foot to that of Abraham, 
whose sole had left its imprint on a stone in the 
Meccan sanctuary. At the meals, necessarily scanty. 


provided by Abu Talib for his household, it was 
observed that if the Prophet were present there was 
always enough and to spare ; if he were absent, no 
one had enough. 

In spite of his appointment to the prophetic office 
having been made when Adam was only half created, 
some further consecration was required ; and this 
was by a baptism of the heart, two angels sphtting- 
his stomach and washing the contents with snow 
before replacing them. The angels appeared in the 
form of white birds to a playmate of the Prophet, 
but he does not seem to have witnessed the rest of 
the scene. We have already seen that " purity of 
heart " is interpreted literally by the Moslem mystics, 
as a state to be produced by fasting, whence there is 
nothing incongruous about this material purgation. 
The story looks like a conscious improvement on 
that of the Saviour's baptism, especially in the 
introduction of the angels in the form of birds ; it 
was argued that an internal cleansing rather than 
an external was requisite. Further, Arabia, and 
especially Meccah, has no river which could serve as 
the analogue of the Jordan. The word " clean " is 
that which Arabic theologians employ for " holy " ; 
and in the Koran the Prophet is bidden clean his 
garments, where garments, it is supposed, may stand 
for " heart." That the heart of man is the source of 
defilement is taught in the Gospel, in a striking 
passage which was doubtless familiar to many who 
were but slightly acquainted with the Gospel. The 
pious inventor of this story, then, wished to devise 


a scheme whereby in the Prophet's case this source 
of pollution should have been rendered clean, and 
though his method is somewhat naive, it was effec- 
tive. The phrase " washing with snow " is probably- 
due to a slight confusion of thought, its author mean- 
ing washing snow-white. 

In the narrative of the Prophet's journey with the 
caravan to Syria we leave the area of the New 
Testament and get traits from the historical books of 
the Old Testament. The monk Bahira of Bosra 
notices that as the caravan proceeds a cloud rests on 
the head of Mohammed, and when they alight under 
a tree, the cloud overshadows the tree, which becomes 
covered with green leaves. Though he has previously 
shown the traders no hospitality, he on this occasion 
arranges a banquet to which he invites the whole 
caravan with an urgent request that no one should 
stay away. Naturally the Prophet, as the youngest 
of the party, does not suppose himself to be included 
in the invitation. Bahira, however, notices that the 
cloud is over the head of none among the company, 
and demands that the young absentee be sent for ; 
Mohammed comes, and is followed by the cloud, 
whereas the tree under which he had taken shelter 
pulls itself up by the roots. He adjures Mohammed 
by the idols Lat and 'Uzza to answer certain questions, 
which the Prophet willingly answers, but declares 
that he has abjured Lat and 'Uzza. Some Jews 
endeavour to enlist Bahira in a conspiracy against 
the life of Mohammed, but the monk ensures his 


The only detail in this narrative that is not based 
on the history of Moses and of David seems to be 
that of the tree, which figures rather more significantly 
in the story of the second expedition, where the 
monk who receives them bears the name Nestorius. 
The Prophet takes shelter under a tree ; and the 
monk states that his doing so is a clear sign of 
prophecy ; only prophets take shelter under that 
particular tree. The tree appears to be a reminiscence 
of the fig-tree in the first chapter of St John, where, 
however, it is the convert Nathanael who is seen 
under the fig-tree. 

Mohammed enters history as the leader of a 
caravan carrying the merchandise of the wealthy 
Khadijah ; when Khadijah learns that Mohammed is 
willing to discharge this service, she offers him twice 
the fee which she would have given to anyone else. 
This is a fiction somewhat in the style of Josephus, 
merely intended to lend the transaction additional 

Every one of these stories is preceded by its chain 
of authorities, and made to rest ultimately on the 
assertion of someone who had good opportunities of 
knowing the truth ; and Abu Nu'aim, concluding 
this collection of anecdotes dealing with the Prophet's 
youth and infancy, argues that the miraculous ele- 
ments which they contain are sufficient to attest the 
truth of the Prophet's mission, especially if we take 
into account the fact that he was identified by 
persons who were in possession of a description, and 
were on the look-out for an individual answering to 


it. The Messiah whom they were expecting was 
to have a permanent redness in the eye — a character- 
istic of Judah in the Blessing of Jacob, though 
there ascribed to the effect of wine-drinking — a 
weal between his shoulder-blades, and certain other 
peculiarities, such as are put by the police into the 
hands of detectives ; they detected the Prophet by 
these marks. Only, as appears to be regularly the 
case with oracles, people completely forgot that they 
had ever been given until after they had been fulfilled. 
Nor does the conduct of any contemporary of the 
Prophet appear to have been at all influenced by the 
phenomena which accompanied his presence. 

It was obviously undesirable that the Prophet 
should at any time of his life have been an idolator, 
and, as we have seen, quite early in his career he is 
made to repudiate all connection with the Meccan 
goddesses. It was, however, a question how he could 
have lived in Meccah for some forty years and kept 
aloof from the worships of his countrymen. Since 
all feasts were idolatrous services, he had to be kept 
away from them, and indeed by supernatural means. 
When it was his turn to touch an idol, he felt a tall 
man in white garments intervene and tell him to 
go back. At other times when he felt an inclination 
to do as the people of Meccah, he was miraculously 
sent to sleep. 

There does not appear to be in these legends any 
exact parallel to the Gospel narrative of the Temp- 
tation, but there are some analogues. When the 
Prophet was prostrating himself in Meccah, Satan 


wished to tread upon his neck ; Gabriel arrived in 
time to blow Satan away, and indeed as far as the 
Jordan. A more serious raid upon him was made by 
a troop of demons, Satan himself bearing a torch, 
with which he intended to burn the Prophet ; this 
time Gabriel taught him a spell which drove the 
horde away. Mohammed had indeed, like every 
other human being, a demon attached to him ; he 
was, however, able to convert this inconvenient 
parasite, and reduce him to submission. 

In the historical account of the Prophet's flight 
from Meccah, he escapes the attempt on his life by 
a mixture of cunning, resolution, and daring. This 
method might not seem good enough, and therefore 
something more worthy of the Prophet of God was 
devised. When he is informed that the Meccans 
have conspired together to kill him as soon as they 
see him, he comes forward boldly ; their eyes droop 
and their hands are powerless ; he flings a handful of 
pebbles at them, and all on whom those pebbles fall 
are afterwards slain at Badr. Various other people 
attempt his life, among them the notorious Abu Jahl, 
but are miraculously prevented from carrying out 
their intentions ; they seize stones, which stick to 
their hands, or else their hands wither in the style of 
Jeroboam's. Like Jeroboam they have to implore 
the Prophet's intercession before they can recover 
the use of their fingers. And lest Balaam should 
be favoured with a miracle denied the Prophet, an 
animal is made to talk for his benefit. When the 
Prophet came back from Badr victorious, a Jewess 


met him with a roast kid, which she said she had 
vowed to slaughter in the event of his coming back 
from the expedition with triumph ; but the kid rose 
up on its four legs and said to the Prophet, " Eat me 
not, I am poisoned ! " 

In the Koran itself the Prophet is made to disclaim 
miracles on various grounds, chiefly their ineffective- 
ness in producing belief among the stifFnecked. 
Nevertheless it would be more satisfactory if the 
demand had been satisfied, and the historical supple- 
ment satisfies it amply. Like Hezekiah the Meccans 
demand a sign in heaven, viz. the splitting of the full 
moon and its halves appearing on two different hills 
respectively. This actually happens in the presence 
of the leading Meccans, though there is some dis- 
crepancy as to the date. The Meccans declare it to 
be sorcery, i.e. w^hat we should call an optical illusion, 
and wish to know whether anyone outside Meccah has 
seen the phenomenon ; the next day it is confirmed 
by numerous travellers who arrive. There is indeed 
a reference to the splitting of the moon in the Koran, 
which appears to be one of the terrors which will 
accompany the Day of Judgment ; and though this 
text is probably the basis of the story, the narrators 
were probably also moved by the desire to show that 
the Prophet could do as much or more than Joshua 
and Isaiah. 

The Flight, or rather Migration, was the occasion of 
numerous miracles — two doves nested at the mouth 
of the cave in which the Prophet and his companion 
had taken refuge, and a spider took the opportunity 


to spin its web in the same place. Although, then, 
professional trackers found their way to this place of 
concealment, they were convinced that the cave had 
not been entered. At one point they were nearly 
overtaken by a pursuer on horseback ; but ere he 
could reach them the horse's legs sank down deep in 
the hard rock. The pursuer was rescued from this 
perilous plight by the Prophet on condition that he 
put the other pursuers off the scent. The refugees 
alighted at a tent, where they asked for milk ; there 
was only an emaciated ewe there, but the Prophet 
prayed, and it produced copious milk. 

Of the miracles supposed to be performed by the 
Prophet during his residence at JNledinah many took 
the form of healing, effected by his prayers. Thus a 
dumb child was brought him ; he took water, used it 
for ablutions, and then gave it to the child's mother, 
who used it both as a lotion and a draught ; by the 
end of a year the child could not only speak, but dis- 
played extraordinary intelligence. On a journey he 
met a woman with a child who was subject to fits ; 
the Prophet spat into the child's mouth, and told the 
devil in possession of the child to be quiet ; on the 
return journey they met the mother and child in the 
same place, and were informed that the fits had not 
recurred. An even closer parallel to a New Testa- 
ment miracle is told of a child possessed of a devil ; 
the Prophet stroked its chest, whereupon the child 
vomited, and the demon came out in the shape of a 
black cub. A man who had lost his sight by tread- 
ing upon snake's eggs applied to the Prophet for a 


cure ; this was effected with spittle, and was so perfect 
that the man at the age of eighty could thread his 
own needles. 

Of miraculous supplies of food we have already had 
some examples ; there are others which imitate the 
precision of detail given in the Gospel miracle of 
the loaves and fishes. The great traditionalist Abu 
Hurairah was asked by the Prophet, apparently on a 
journey, whether he had any food ; he replied that he 
had some dates, to the number of twenty-seven, in a 
wallet. The Prophet bade him lay them out ; they 
furnished a copious meal to the company, and when all 
had been satisfied Abu Hurairah was told to count 
the leavings, restore them to the wallet, and whenever 
he wanted a date to put in his hand, but by no means 
to empty out the wallet. Abu Hurairah followed 
these instructions, and the dates lasted till twenty- 
six years after the Prophet's death, when they were 
stolen during the siege of Othman's palace. In this 
narrative the Gospel miracle has been combined with 
Elijah's of the widow's cruse. A somewhat closer 
parallel to the latter is recorded of the expedition to 
Tabuk ; the oil vessel was nearly empty, when its 
keeper fell asleep ; he woke to hear it bubbling in the 
sun, and put the cover on. Had he left it alone, 
said the Prophet, the whole valley would have been 
flowing with oil. 

Abu Hurairah was also the witness of an occasion 
on which a single cup of milk served to satisfy all 
the people of the Suffah or mendicant Moslems who 
had no home save the Mosque of Medinah. Other 


occasions were recorded whereon the Prophet mira- 
culously increased supplies of water in the desert. 

That the tradition records apparently no occasions 
whereon the Prophet raised the dead is worthy of 
notice, for this would seem to be the crowning miracle 
which ought not to have been omitted in the list of 
his exploits. Although logic enters very slightly 
into edifying fabrication of the sort with which we 
are dealing, there may have been strong theological 
reasons for abstaining from invention of this style. 
The martyrs of the Holy War were seen by the 
Prophet in Paradise, winged and happy ; they sent 
messages by him expressing their satisfaction with 
their experiences, and it would be evidently hard on 
them that they should be brought back from the 
Garden of Delights. Further, it was not claimed for 
the Prophet himself that he rose from the dead, and 
if such resurrection were a privilege, it was un- 
thinkable that it should have been accorded to others 
and denied him. Besides this, the Moslem tradition 
deals almost, though not quite exclusively, with 
historical personages : people who have parents and 
children, who can be located in various ways, and 
brouijht into connection with various other historical 
personages. The Prophet could not well be made to 
restore any of these to life ; on the other hand, had 
he exercised this power at all, he could not well have 
failed to practise it on such heroes as Hamzah, or his 
own son Ibrahim. Hence the miracle-mongers have 
wisely kept to incidents which did not really affect 
the course of history ; for no one could say how 


often the people of the Suffah had to go without 
dinner or whence in any particular case they had 
procured it, nor did the Prophet's commissariat 
department keep any record of supplies and expendi- 
ture during the campaigns. The belief that hosts of 
angels fought on his side was wisely encouraged by 
the Prophet ; for while it added glory to his victories 
it minimised the disgrace of the defeated ; but it is 
clear that he never counted on the aid of these angels 
for any actual fighting, and he was probably far too 
cautious to attempt any miracle where failure might 
prove compromising. What we learn from the 
Dalail al-Nubuwwah is, then, nothing that is of value 
for the biography of the Prophet, but the effect which 
familiarity with Jews and Christians had perforce on 
the idea of a prophet as conceived by Moslem minds. 
Similarly, when the Moslems, owing to Arabic trans- 
lations of the Bible, had learned the nature of 
the Old and New Testaments, they strove to show 
that the Koran in its different parts contained the 
analogue of the various parts of the older Scriptures : 
one part corresponded with the Law, another with 
the Psalms, another with the Gospel. Somewhat 
similarly, the Jewish Moses of renaissance times 
derives many a trait from the Prophet Mohammed ; 
and when a few years ago a Jesuit writer on rhetoric 
in Arabic quoted Almighty God for rhetorical figures, 
he was certainly under the influence of his Moslem 
environment ; the degree of sanctity assigned the 
Bible by a Christian ought not to fall short of that 

which the Mohammedan assigns the Koran. If a 



prophet and Messiah was a miracle-worker, and this 
was attested for the Christian Messiah by the Koran 
itself, the seal of the prophets ought clearly to be 
able to show as lengthy and striking a record in this 
matter as the greatest of his predecessors ; and, as 
we have seen, that has on the whole been made out. 
If Mohammed fell short on any one point, he com- 
pensated for it by the number and importance of his 
other exploits. 

In the development of a religion fiction has scarcely 
less importance than fact. In order to understand 
the rise of Islam it is necessary to be acquainted 
with the historical JNIohammed — the man of extreme 
caution and extreme intrepidity : who made by force 
his merit known : who gauged with exactitude the 
intellect and the character of his associates and his 
adversaries ; for whom every fortress had its key and 
every man his price : whom no opportunity escaped, 
no scruple deterred, and no emergency found un- 
prepared. But for the continuance and development 
of the system probably the fictitious Mohammed was 
the more significant : the legislator, the saint, and the 


[Dates in brackets are given A.D. Arabic words interpreted 
are in italics.] 

'Abbas, uncle of the Prophet, 238. 

'Abbasid dynasty, named after the 
above, 67, 70. See Caliph. 

'Abdallah Ibn 'Abbas, son of the 
above, 138. 

'Abdallah Ibn 'Amr(son of the con- 
queror of Egypt), read the book 
of Daniel, 41 ; possessed a 
"Veracious Scroll," 65. 

'Abdallah Ibn Nauf, excused a falsi- 
fied prophecy, 10. 

'Abdal-Wahid Ibn Zaid, mystic, 154. 

Abraham, reproved for praying for 
his father, 29, 47 ; resemblance 
of his foot to the Prophet's, 
247 ; his Roll, 234. 

Abrogation of commands and doc- 
trines, 24, 38, 48, 50, 76-78, 93. 

Abu, " father of." 

Abii Bakr, father-in-law of the Pro- 
phet and his first successor, 24 ; 
composes a Koranic text, 38 ; 
collects the Koran, 24 ; deprives 
the Prophet's daughter of her 
inheritance, 59 ; his right to the 
succession proved by a pro- 
phetic statue, 242. 

Abu'l-Darda (t652). Companion of 
the Prophet, 87. 

Abu Hanlfah (700-767), first founder 
of a law school, 113, 120. 

Abu'l-Hasan al-Ash'arl (873-935), ^'^ 
first a Mu'tazil, was commanded 
by the Prophet in a dream to 
write books in favour of ortho- 
doxy, 219; his treatise, the 
/(^^l«a^, a manual of the opinions 
ultimately accepted as ortho- 
dox, 205. 

Abu'l-Hudhail al-'Allaf (tabout 830), 
Mu'tazilite doctor, proves that 
the Unbeliever obeys a divine 
command, 222 ; requires twenty 
witnesses for a tradition, 228. 

Abu Hurairah (t678), Companion 
of the Prophet, traditionalist, 
witnessed a miracle, 255. 

Abu Jahl, enemy of Mohammed, 

Abu Nu'aim (942-1038), his collec- 
tion of miracles demonstrating 
the genuineness of Moham- 
med's mission, 241-250. 

Abu Talib, uncle and protector of 
Mohammed, 248. 

Abu Talib al-Mekkl (1996), author 
of the Kilt al - Kulilb, Siifi 
treatise, excerpted in Lecture V. 
Quoted 90, 234, etc. 

Adam, his collection of prophetic 
portraits, 242. 

Adana, massacre of, 114. 

Ahmad = Mohammed, 237, 243, 245. 

Ahmad Ibn Hanbal (780-855), 
founder of a law school, 168. 

Ahmad Ibn 'Isa al-Kharraz (t899), 
rebuked for his erotic hymns, 

_ 177- 

'A'ishah, daughter of Abu Bakr, and 
wife of Mohammed, slandered, 
78 ; defended by a revelation, 
14, 162 ; wars with Ali, 212, 

Alexandrian library, 39. 

'All, cousin and son-in-law of the 
Prophet, and his fourth suc- 
cessor, held to be an incarnation 
of the Deity, 209 ; his political 



incompetence, 20 ; see also 
65, 88, 102, 105, 113,212, 219, 

Aminah, mother of the Prophet, 

'Ammar Ibn Yasir (+657), Com- 
panion of the Prophet, 240. 

'Amr Ibn Umayyah, Companion of 
the Prophet, 93. 

Analogy, use of by Shafi'i illustrated, 

Anas, servant of the Prophet, 

"Ancient House," i.e. the Ka'bah, 

supposed to be the first house 

built, 50. 
Arabian Jews and Christians treated 

as renegades from the religion 

of Abraham, 105. 
Aristotle, traces of his thought in 

the Koran, 206 ; works of his 

studied by Moslems, 207 ; 

charged with plagiarism from 

Arabs, 225. 
'Ata Ibn Abl Rabah (tabout 710), 

introduced music into devotion, 

Atonement for oaths, 61. 
Attestation of traditions, rules for, 

Avicenna (ti037), philosopher, 205. 

Badr, battle of, first victory won by 

the Prophet, 48, 107, 252. 
Baghdad, focus of Islamic thought, 

208 ; 43, 127. 
Bahira, Christian monk, 249. 
Baibars, Emir, 124. 
Baibars (i 260-1 277), Mamluke 

Sultan, 126. 
Barkuk (i 382-1 398), Mamluke 

Sultan, 128. 
Bashans, festival of first day of, 

Begging, discouraged by the 

Prophet, 169 ; practised by 

Sufis, ibid. 
Bible, supposed to be falsified, 53, 

87 ; spurious substitutes for, 


Bistami, Abu YazTd (about 776- 
'873), mystic, 170. 

Blood-money, amount of for differ- 
ent persons, 81, 94, 112, 113. 

Blood-thirst, a result of early 
Islamic teaching, 58. 

Bonaparte, 41. 

Books, nature of, in ancient times, 
8 ; all save the Koran super- 
fluous, 40, 43, 88. 

Butrus Pasha, 114. 

Caliphs, or successors of the 
Prophet ; reference is made to 
the following: (ist Dynasty, 
Pious Caliphs) i. Abu Bakr, 
632-634 ; ii. OmaY I., 634-644 ; 
iii. Othman, 644-656; iv. Ali, 
656-661 ; (2nd Dynasty, Um- 
ayyads) i. Mu'awiyah, 661-680 ; 
ii. YazTd I., 680-683 ; viii. Omar 
II., 717-720; X. Hisham, 724- 
743 ; xii. Yazid III., 744 ; (3rd 
Dynasty, Abbasids) ii. Mansiar, 
754-775 ; X. Mutawakkil, 847- 

Carmathians, a sect charged with 
atheism, 217. 

Casuistry, Moslem and Jewish com- 
pared, 96. 

Chakmah (1438-1453), Mamluke 
Sultan of Egypt, 126. 

Chastity, Moslem, 63. 

Christian churches, Moslem law 
concerning, 124. 

Christian elements in Sufi sermons, 


Christians and Jews, 1,9, iii, 113, 
237 ; their position under Mos- 
lem rule, Lecture IV. ; manage 
much of the business of the 
community, 117, 122, 130; 
their debates with Moslems, 
22 'J. 

Classes of community, three, 183. 

Coins, Moslem, ought not to be used 
by Unbelievers, 119. 

Commandments, Koranic list of, 


"Companions" of the Prophet, 
i.e. believing contemporaries, 
authorities for his sayings and 
doings, Lecture III. ; their 
wealth, 136. 

Creation of the Koran, controversy 
about, 211, 222. 

Dald'il al-Nubuwwah (" Evidences 
of the Mission of Mohammed"), 



treatise by Abu Nu'aim, ex- 
cerpted in Lecture VIII. 

Daniel, studied by Moslems, 41 ; 
copied pictures of prophets 
from Adam's gallery, 242. 

Debates, legal, 92, 93 ; philosophical, 

Demons converted by the Prophet, 

Dhimjnah ("covenant"), name 
used for status of protected 
communities, 116. 

Dogs, property in, 97. 

Elements, hierarchy of, 206. 
Esoteric interpretation of the Koran, 

possessed by the Prophet's 

family, 18. 
Etiquette, elaborated by Sufis, 155. 
Euclid, study of, discouraged by 

the ultra-orthodox, 207. 
Ezra, 175. 

Fana ("annihilation"), technical 
term of Sufis, 199. 

Fasting, produces literal purity, 153, 
248 ; Sufi theories of, 151 ff. 

Fatalism in the Koran, 46, 170, 172, 
214, 221. 

Fatimah, daughter of Mohammed 
and wife of Ali, 20, 241. 

Fikh, originally " knowledge," after- 
wards specialised as jurispru- 
dence, 72. 

Foods, forbidden, Koranic enact- 
ments concerning, 45. 

Friday worship, myths connected 
with, 165 ; cursing at, 217. 

Ghailan (t743), heresiarch, executed 
by Hisham, 210. 

Ghassanides, Christian Arabs pro- 
tected by the Byzantines, 245. 

Gnosis, term taken over by Sufis, 
144, 190. 

Gospel, Fourth, analogy of to 
Sufism, 200. 

Greek thought, influence of, 145, 
153, 206, 212, 220-223. 

Hajjaj Ibn Yiisuf (t7i3), Umayyad 
governor of 'Irak, first to use a 
litter on pilgrimage, and one of 
the lost, 159. 

Hakim (996-1020), Fatimid Caliph, 

persecutes Christians, etc., 132. 
Hallaj (t922), mystic, author of an 

infantile work, 181. 
Hamzah, uncle of the Prophet, 256. 
Hanifite ( = Moslem) faith, 105. 
Hariri (1054-1122), author of the 

Makamahs, "licensed" seven 

hundred copies of his work, 8. 
Hasan (1357-1351 and 1354-1361), 

Mamluke Sultan, 128. 
Hassan Ibn Thabit (tabout 670), 

court-poet to Mohammed, 243 ; 

his poems preserved in writing 

at Medinah, 89. 
Hau'ab, station on the desert road 

from Medinah to Basrah, 240. 
Hell-Fire, doom of one who kills a 

Believer, 213, 221 ; Sufi con- 
tempt for, 148, 172, 179. 
" Helpers," Mohammed's Medinese 

converts, 19, 84. 
Heraclius (610-642), Byzantine 

Emperor, supposed to have 

preserved the Prophet's letter, 

Hijrah. See Migration. 
Hisham (724 - 743), Umayyad 

Caliph, no, 117, 210. 
History, Islamic, beginnings of, 41. 
Honour of protected communities 

not ordinarily defended, 112. 
HumiUty, SQfi definition of, 171. 
Humours of the body, supposed 

to be mentioned in the Old 

Testament, 153. 
Hunain, battle of, 49. 
Husain, grandson of the Prophet, 

slain at Kerbela, 56 ; avenged, 

60, 72. 

Iblls, Arabic corruption oi Diabolos 

through the Syriac, 182, 186, 

Ib}t, plural Banfi, " son." 
Ibn 'Arabi (i 165-1240), mystic, 

176, 188. 
Ibn Ishak (t767), earliest extant 

biographer of the Prophet, 237. 
Ibn Mas'ud (t652), interpreter of 

the Koran, 171. 
Ibn Suraij, earliest author of a 

code, 91. 
Ibn Zubair, 'Abdallah, held the 

sacred cities (683-692) as 


independent Caliph against 

the Umayyads, 58 ; persuades 

his father to perjure himself 

and make atonement, 60. 
Ibrahim, son of Mohammed who 

died in infancy, 256. 
Ibrahim Ibn Adham (t777), 

mystic, 176; invents a form of 

prayer, 165. 
Idrls, prophet identified with 

Enoch, 165. 
Inheritance, between members of 

different sects or religions, loi. 
" Inquisition," persecution started 

by Caliph Ma'miin in the 

interests of Mu'tazilism, 168. 
Islam, more political than religious, . 

142, 229; obligations of, 183; 

its general character, 50 ff. 

Ja'far, son of Abu Talib, the hero 
of Mutah (first battle between 
Moslems and Byzantines), 177. 

Jahiz (t869), important Arabic 
author, his Zoology described, 
225 ; his ignorance of the 
Bible, 235. 

Jews, their status under Islam, 
Lecture IV. ; their influence 
on Islamic jurisprudence, 74 ; 
dealers in arms and armour, 
109 ; their supposed witness 
to Mohammed's mission, 244, 

Jinn, superstitions about, confirmed 

by the philosopher Jahiz, 226. 
Joseph, brethren of, 175. 
Joshua, a Jew of Medinah, 243. 
Jubair Ibn Mut'im, contemporary of 

the Prophet, 241. 
Junaid (t9io), mystic, 163. 

Kadarls = Mu'tazils. 

Kerbela. See Husain. 

Khadljah, first wife of Mohammed, 

Khaibar, last Jewish settlement in 

Arabia taken by Mohammed, 

Khaithamah (+700), interpreter of 

the Koran, 234. 
Kharijis or Khawarij = professional 

rebels, i.e. believers in the 

doctrine that an evil-doer is an 

Unbeliever, whence an unjust 

sovereign may be deposed, 
massacred Moslem women 
and children, but spared Jews 
and Christians, 59, 209, 213. 
Koraizah, Jewish tribe at Medinah, 

243- . ■ 

Koran, meaning of the name, 9, 12 ; 
delivered orally, 33 ; collection 
of, 25-28, 32,43 ; official edition 
of, 36 ; reasons for believing 
its genuineness^ 33 ; com- 
mentaries on, 8, 21 ; ritual 
and liturgical use of, 15, 21, 
31 ; Sufi affection for, 178. 

Kufah, obtains university rank after 
Medinah, 73 ; earliest seat of 
asceticism, 146 ; a grandson of 
Iblis lived there, 226. 

Land-tax, case in which the land 
is sold by a Dhimmi to a 
Moslem, 119. 

Al-Lat and Al-'Uzza, Arabian god- 
desses or "houses," 249, 251. 

Law, Moslem, its sources and 
development, Lectures III. and 

Legacies, law of, 77. 

Letters, the Prophet's, quoted, 66 ; 
not preserved or collected, 20. 

Love of God, Sufi theories concern- 
ing, 175 ; excludes all other 
affection, 179. 

Maghrib ("the West"), i.e. Africa 
West of Egypt, 91 ; adjective 
Maghribi, 123. 

Mahdi ("the guided one"), a 
Messiah looked for from the 
Prophet's family, often thought 
to be in concealment, 18. 

Malik Ibn Anas (715-801), jurist of 
Medinah, first compiler of a 
body of tradition, his legal 
opinions, called Mudawwanat, 
frequently cited in Lectures 
III. and IV. 

Mansiir (see Caliph), tried an ex- 
periment with a conjurer, 227 ; 
letter of his wherein the Koran 
is misquoted, 90, 238. 

Marriage with members of tolerated 
cults permitted to Moslem man, 
but not to woman, 102 ; in- 



cestuous marriages prohibited, 


Martyrdom in Islam different from 
Christian, 2 ; desired, 57. 

Martyrs, their state in Paradise, 
216 ; 256. 

Matter, question of its eternity, 221. 

Maxims of Islam : Islam cancels 
all that was before it, 2, 230 ; 
Believer shall not be slain for 
Unbeliever, 65, 81, 113 ; whoso 
obeys the Prophet obeys God, 

Mazdak (t529), communist, socialist, 
and vegetarian, 141. 

Mazdians = Zoroastrians, their status 
in Islam, 105, 112; debate with 
Moslems, 225 ; their name 
given to the Mu'tazils by the 
orthodox, 214, 224. 

Meccah, evil thoughts penalised 
there, 161 ; costliness of living 
there, though rent might not 
be taken for houses, ibid. 

Medicine, disapproved of by Sufis, 

Medinah, home of Islamic juris 
prudence, 73. 

Melkite ("belonging to the Greek 
orthodox Church"), 125. 

Memories of traditionalists, weak, 


Migration or Flight of Mohammed, 
the beginning of history for 
Moslems, 231 ; myths con- 
nected with, 253. 

Miracles of the Prophet, Lecture 

Missions to Christians under Mos- 
lem rule, 106. 

Moderation, characteristic of Kor- 
anic doctrine, 62, 163. 

Mohammed, pattern of conduct, 54, 
61 ; his admirable character in 
legend, 238 ; never complained, 
171 ; cannot be personified by 
Satan in dreams, 219. See 
especially Lectures I., II., and 

Moses, 185. 

Moslems take part in Christian 
feasts, 127. See Islam. 

Mosques, entrance of forbidden to 
Unbelievers, i ; used as de- 
bating rooms, 41, 215, 227. 

" Mother of the Book," divine 
archetype of the Koran, 38, 209. 

Mu'awiyah, his war with Ali, re- 
ferred to, 52, 139. See Caliph. 

Mukaukis, Moslem name for the 
Byzantine governor of Egypt, 

Mukhtar(t687), political adventurer, 
plays the part of prophet, 17, 
56, 82 ; avenges the death of 
Husain by wholesale massacres, 

Murjis, sect who held that faith took 
precedence of works, 224. 

Music, use of by Siifis, 177. 

Mutawakkil, Caliph, enforces ordin- 
ance of Omar, 121 ff. 

Mu'tazils, "neutrals" or "separat- 
ists," become prominent in 
the Umayyad period, 213 ; 
believed in the freedom of the 
will, and had little respect for 
tradition, 210, 212, 219. 

Mysticism of Islam, different from 
other forms. Lectures V., VI. 

Nazzam (tabout 840), Mu'tazilite 
doctor, 228. 

Nestorius, monk who plays a part 
in the Prophet's biography, 250. 

Niffari, Mohammed Ibn 'Abd al- 
Jabbar (t354), author of the 
Alawakif, mystic treatise de- 
scribed in Lecture VI., 188-200. 

Oaths, Moslem, can be cancelled, 

48, 60 ; those of Jews and 

Christians accepted in certain 

cases. III; may be exacted of 

defendant, 82. 
Omar I., his copy of the Koran, 25, 

36 ; his instructions to a judge, 

90. See "Ordinance." 
Omar II., his rulings on the subject 

of taxes, 115 ; of churches, 120; 

of etiquette, 155; of heretics, 

Oral tradition, 67, 84 ; alone valued, 

87 ; ridiculed, 83. 
Ordinance of Omar, explained, 118; 

its enforcement, 1 18-125. 
Othman, third Caliph, called the 

" Tearer of the Books," 37 ; his 

recension of the Koran, 36 ; 

his unpopularity, 138 ; siege of 


his palace, 255 ; murdered, 37, 
52 ; enactments during his 
reign, 82, 93. 
Othman, founder of the Ottoman 
empire, described in the Hesht 
Bihisht, 104. 

Pantheism, source of Islamic, Lec- 
ture VI. 

Paradise, its character in the Koran, 
135, 180 ; entered by martyrs 
immediately after death, 202 ; 
Siifi reaction from to a higher 
ideal, 145. 

Penalties for abandoning Islam, 2 ; 
for adultery, 78 ; for murder of 
a Jew or Christian, 93, 113; 
for theft. III, 228; for wine- 
drinking, 82. 

" Penitents," the, 56. 

Perfume, use of, 164. 

Persecution of Moslem heretics,2io- 
212, 217 ; of Jews and Chris- 
tians, Lecture IV. 

Philosophy, Moslem, origins of 
political, 212. 

Pickthall, M., quoted, 127. 

Pilgrimage, Sufi sublimation of, 1 59. 

" Pillars of Islam," i.e. the Creed, 
Prayer, the Fast of Ramadan, 
Alms, and the Pilgrimage, 51. 

Poetry, employmentof by Svifis, 177. 

Poverty, Sufi cultivation of, 168. 

Practice. See Sunnah. 

Prayer, Siifi treatment of, 148. 

Property of enemies, law concern- 
ing, 136. 

Prophets, equality of, 17, 235. 

Proselytism, Islamic, by the sword, 
3 ; examples of other methods, 
132, 133- 

Rabi'ah 'Adwiyyah, woman saint, 

her verses, 175. 
Ramadan, the fasting month, 127, 

150-152, 178. 
" Readers," i.e. of the Koran, 56 ; 

identified with the Kharijls, 37. 
" Refugees," Meccans who migrated 

with Mohammed, 19, 84. 
Resignation, Sufi notion of, 172. 

Saba'is, sect who held that Moham- 
med would reappear, 209. 
Sacrifice, rules concerning, 160. 

Sa'd the copyist, 131. 

Sahib Ibn 'Abbad (936-995), famous 

minister and scholar, a Mu'tazil, 

Sahl al-Tustari (815-896), Sufi, 90, 

Saints, cult of, 54, 125 ; their con- 
duct a recognised subject of 

study, 139, 142, 146, 166. 
Saldt, plural salawat, Moslem 

prayer, 147. 
Satih, wizard, 245. 
Schools of law, 97, 107. 
Science, natural, in the Koran, 203. 
" Scroll," the Veracious, 65. 
Sea, mystic passage about, 198. 
Sects, "people of fancies," 208; 

their origin, 209 ; their legal 

status, 211. 
Seljuk empire, 104, 217. 
" Servant of the Lord " in Isaiah 

interpreted of Mohammed, 235. 
Shabib (■f696), insurgent, his hard 

heart, 204. 
Shafi'I, Mohammed Ibn IdrTs (767- 

820), founded the science called 

Principles of Jurisprudence, 40; 

his treatise, called the Umm., 

described in Lectures III. and 

Shifa, mother of a Companion, 246. 
Shl'ites, partisans of Ali and 

his descendants, 58 ; accept 

Othman's Koran, 218. 
Sickness, Sufi appreciation of, 155. 
Siffin, battle of (37 A.H.) between 

Ali and Mu'awiyah, 240. 
Sinai, churches on, 125. 
SirrI Sakati (tabout 865), mystic, 


Slavery, name applied to status of 
tolerated cults, 100 ; rare 
example of disapproval of, 223. 

Slaves, manumission of, a virtuous 
act, 78, 137, 165 ; a non- 
Moslem may not have a 
Moslem slave, 1 15. 

State paper inserted in Koran, 33. 

Siiffah, people of the, humble 
followers of the Prophet in 
Medinah, 255, 257. 

5?(/f= " wearer of wool," 141 ; few 
notices of them till Abbasid 
times, 139, 142 ; exaggerate 
the performances prescribed 



in the Koran, Lecture V. ; pro- 
ceed to pantheism from the 
first article of the Mohammedan 
creed, Lecture VL 

Sufyan Thaurl {^777), early jurist, 

Sunnah, plural sunan, " the beaten 
track," originally the custom 
of the community, gradually 
interpreted as the practice of 
the Prophet, 66, 69-71, 75-98. 

Sunnites, orthodox Moslems who 
recognise the legitimacy of the 
first three Caliphs, 220. 

Tabarl (838-923), historian and 
commentator, 21, 25, 56, 68, 

Tabuk, Mohammed's expedition 
to, 255. 

Tawasin, treatise of Hallaj, 182. 

Thomas, Acts of, matter t&ken 
from by Sufis, 144. 

Thumamah Ibn al-Ashras (tabout 
825), philosopher who dis- 
approved of slavery, 223. 

Travels of traditionalists, 84. 

Trench, battle of, 32. 

Tribal narratives,.4i. 

Tribute {jizyaJi) from members of 
tolerated cults, 84, 99, 100, 
105, 140. 

'Ubaidallah b. al-Hasan, philoso- 
pher whoheld that contradictory 
opinions might be right, 221. 

'Ubaidallah b. Ziyad (t686), 
Umayyad governor of Kufah 

who sent forces against Husain, 
61 ; employed Persian tax- 
collectors, 130. 

Uhud, battle of, 14, 31. 

Unbelievers, question of their 
identity with evil-doers, 221. 

'Utbah, mystic, 154. 

Vicinity, technicality of the higher 
Siifism, 192. 

Wahb Ibn Munabbih (t77o), cited 

for fanciful accounts of the 

Bible, 154. 
Wakfah, "understanding," highest 

stage of pantheism, 188. 
Wealth, of the Companions, 136; 

not discouraged by the Koran, 

" Wisdom " in the Koran identified 

with the Sunnah, 68. 
Writing of any book save the Koran 

forbidden, 67. 
Written documents suspected, 87. 

Yazid L, 72, 117. 
YazTd III., 211. 

Yemamah, campaign of shortly 
after the Prophet's death, 6. 

Zachariah, 221. 

Zaid, adopted son of Mohammed, 
whose wife Zainab was taken 
by the Prophet, 14, 49. 

Zoology of Jahiz described, 225. 

Zubair, cousin of the Prophet, 60,