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EAC-SIMILE Or A LETTER FROM HIS LATE MAJESTY,

Nasir ud-din Shah.

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THE SPIRIT OF ISLAM

OR

THE LIFE AND TEACHINGS OF MOHAMMED

BY

AMEER ALI, SYED, m.a., c. i. e.

BARRISTER- AT-LAW,

JUDGE OF HIS MAJESTY'S HICK COURT OF JUDICATURE IN BENGAL,

AUTHOR OF

"A Short History oj the Saracens," "The Ethics of Islam" " Mahommedan Law"

" The Personal Law of the Mahommedans "

"A Critical Examination of the Life and Teachings of Moliammed"

etc.

etc.

" What matters it whether the words thou utterest in prayer

are Hebrew or Syrian, or whether the place in which thou

seekest God is Jabalka or Jabalsa ?" Sanal ^^^EF^^^

Calcutta:

^J^ RN^

K. LAHIRI & Co.,

54, COLLEGE STREET.

I902.

All Rights Reserved.

PREFACE TO THE POPULAR EDITION

Since the promulgation of Islam the world has seen great

changes ; empires have risen and disappeared ; great nationa-

lities have been swept away making room for others ; know-

ledge and culture have drifted from

the East to the West ;

and with knowledge not only power but material prosperity

has changed hands. Under the influence of their Prophet, a congeries of warring tribes consolidated into a nation, had for centuries carried aloft the torch of learning for the en-

lightenment of the world. With the fall of their dominion they

ceased to be the preceptors of humanity. The younger nations

who succeeded to their heritage continued some of their glory

They too declined

in arms but less

in

arts and literature.

in power and influence, and now the greatest of them is

but a shadow of

its former self.

And yet as

an active,

living faith, Islam has lost none of its pristine force nor the

magic hold it possesses over its followers.

In certain parts

of the world it is spreading with greater rapidity than any

other creed, and its acceptance among the less advanced races

has invariably tended to raise them in the moral scale.

As the study of comparative religion, like the study of

comparative history, acquires importance in the estimation

Islam as a motive

of scholars and students, the interest in

power in the world will deepen.

For outsiders,, however,

to undestand its genius, and the causes of its unparalleled

success in vitalising humanity, and its vast potentiality for

good, it is necessary to grasp its " spirit," and its aims and

aspirations from a philosophical point of view ; for the Islamist

who desires to act up to the prescriptions of his religion, it is essential he should understand the significance of its ethics, the

true meaning of its enunciations, and learn to differentiate

between the permanent and the temporary.

It is only then

VU!

PREFACE.

,

that he can maintain

remain, an important lever, a valuable factor, for the progress

and development of the world, and be himself in a position

to keep pace with the growing ethical and social needs of a

living and advancing community. Nations like individuals,

bent of the times and the

his religion

as it

was

intended

to

when

they fail

to realise

the

necessities of the age, are doomed.

And no one saw this

more clearly or expressed it more forcibly than the Arabian Seer.

In the following pages, I have endeavoured, however feebly

and inefficiently, to portray the Islam of the Prophet and " the

Philosophers of his House," and to give expression to their \ethical teachings and spiritual aspirations. Naturally the

consideration of Islamic ethics has involved a criticism of the ethics of the earlier systems. But it has not been done in a

spirit of cavil or antagonism, nor does it imply the smallest

want of respect for any other moral creed.

I have deliberately adopted the English language for com-

municating my thoughts and views to Islamists as well as to

others. English now exercises the same unchallenged sway over

a greater part of the globe as Arabic did in Asia, Africa and

Spain for nearly seven centuries. It is the language of culture

and civilised progress.

In India it has become, within the last

thirty years, the ordinary vehicle of literary thought.

The

Mahommedan subjects of this great Empire occupy a unique

Living under a Govern-

position in the history of our times.

ment which pursues, so far as possible, a policy of strict neutra-

lity in religious matters while it is at the same time anxious

to promote the moral and intellectual development of the

people, they can, if they choose, avail themselves to the fullest

extent of the progressive tendencies of the age without aban-

doning their faith or the prescriptions of their religion.

And

by placing themselves in a line with the advancing communi- ties of the West, they can sensibly influence other Mahom-

medan communities which happen to be less favourably

situated.

1'KKfrACE.

IX

For the last few centuries Islam has become, in the minds of a large number of its votaries, associated with a lifeless

formalism ; the practice of its rules of morality has given place

to mere profession ; and its real aim as a creed to live by has

been forgotten. For myself I attach far more importance to

character than

to the faculty for passing examinations. I believe that the

continued growth of a nation depends not on mere imitative

intellectual cleverness but on the purity of its ethical stan-

duty of those who

moral vigor than

to

mental agility

to

dards.

And

I consider that the first

wish to free their religion from the charge of obscurantism,

bigotry or narrowness, is to endeavour to revive among the

Moslems a knowledge of true Islamic ethics, to elevate the

general tone of thought, and to create a sense of patriotism

the

and solidarity combined with a government under which they live.

feeling of loyalty to

In

India we are in the throes of a great moral, social and

intellectual revolution ; the West is jostling the East, perhaps

too vigorously at times, trying to awaken it from its lethargy,

from its intense self-satisfaction and conceit in its old civilisa-

tion.

Those, who would perhaps like to see the two retain

their separate individualities, are apt to forget that races, how-

ever remote

in their modes of thought, must,

process of coming together,

act and re-act on

by the

very

each other.

What is happening in India today happened ten centuries

ago

in the Iberian Peninsula.

The learned author

of

" Studies in History and Jurisprudence" has recently com-

pared British rule in India with Roman provincial government. He would probably find greater analogy in the Saracenic

administration of Spain.

It was equally liberal, sympathetic,

non-exclusive and expansive; it gave the freest scope to

local self-government ; it fostered trade and commerce ; encouraged agriculture and promoted education with unstint-

ed generosity ; offices of trust and emolument were open

X

PREFACE.

to all creeds and

races.

It

also

had its frontier raids and

reprisals its religious riots ; its racial prejudices. Apart, however, from political features, the splendid eclectic civilisa-

tion

which

grew up

in

Spain from the introduction of

Saracenic culture among the Vandals, the Goths and the

Romans, shows what the result must be from the contact

of a vigorous, progressive nationality with communities who

have become stationary or have lost the genius of striving for

advancement. And the intermixture of ideas, where the intermixture of races is not possible, acts as a solvent to the

ignorance which idolises old forms. It would be disastrous if

the Renaissance movement among the Moslems of India

should fail to receive the countenance and support of the

ruling classes, the only cultured

classes

in

this

country

in

the true

sense of

the

word.

Although in the main

the progress of a nation

is in its own hands,

much may be

done by them towards imparting a higher moral tone to and

creating nobler ideals among the Indian communities. In my opinion the success of Islamic Renaissance will come only from the general diffusion of true Islamic culture and it is in

this direction that the efforts of all interested in Mahomme-

dan advancement should, I venture to suggest, be directed.

Throughout this work my object has been to discuss the

Islamic teachings

in

a historical

spirit,

and

to develop

among the latter-day Islamists a perception of the difference

between ethics and ceremonialism. The book was issued to

the public only a few years ago, barely more than a decade, a

within

mere

trifle

in

the

life

of

a

nation.

And yet

this

short period, its

influence,

judging from the results,

must be admitted

by

all

lovers of

progress and

friends

of

it

of

Islam, to

be eminently satisfactory.

The opposition

has

evoked has only served

to strengthen the

hold

ideas which

it was

intended to diffuse

among the

growing generation.

PREFACE.

XI

The demand, which has sprung up in consequence, has

bring out a popular edition, enlarged

induced

me to

and

revised.

The

task

of

revision

has been

carried

through under heavy pressure of judicial work and other

literary undertakings, and I claim, therefore, some measure

of indulgence for any shortcomings that may be found in this volume.

Calcutta

AugUSt IQ02.

Amekh All

PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION.

EIGHTEEN years ago I published a small work, entitled,

A Critical Examination of the Life and Teachings of Moham-

med.

estimate of Islam as a Faith among the cultured classes of

Christendom. Writers like Johnson, Lane- Poole, Bosworth-

Smith, Isaac Taylor, have discussed, from a philosophical and

historical point of view, the merits of Islam both as a creed

and as a humanising agency. There seems, however, to be

Since then a great change has taken

place in the

still room

for an exposition of the Spirit of Islam as it was

understood by the immediate descendants of its Teacher.

which it would be a misnomer to call a

The present work,

second edition of the earlier one, is primarily intended for the

Indian Moslems. I have endeavoured to embody in these

pages the philosophical and ethical spirit of Islam, in the hope that it may assist the Moslems of India to achieve their

intellectual and moral regeneration under the auspices of the

great European power that now holds their destinies in its

hands.

some practical value to those Seekers of Truth in the West

whose minds have gone forth

At the same time, I

trust this book may prove of

in

quest of a

positive and

.

eclectic Faith suited for the noblest, and, by its disciplinary

character, also for the lowest, natures. The glamour of the

poet has not succeeded in making the Creed of Negation popu-

lar in England, that home of common sense, for Buddhism

has no vitality as a system ; its religious life is represented now

by the prayer-wheels of the Lamas.

But the general spread

of liberalism in the West has, without the factitious assistance

rendered to Buddhism, also led to the diffusion of Islamic

ideas in Europe and cultured America, and

even to the

formation of a genuine Islamic centre in England. Unitarianism

the Islam of

and Theism are neither more nor less than

PREFACE.

Xlll

Mohammed, shorn of the disciplinary rules framed for the

in every land

something more is needed than mere philosophy ; they require

practical rules and positive directions for their daily life.

Dogmatic Christianity and philosophical Unitarianism both

guidance of the common folk.

For these

inculcate the exercise

of self-restraint.

Yet do all the

preachings in churches and chapels reduce to any appre-

ciable extent

the drunkenness,

the brutality, the

licen-

tiousness of the lowest natures ? The secular law imposes

penalties, and keeps within bounds the recklessness of un-

cultured man.

The Islam of Mohammed, with its stern

discipline and its severe morality, has proved itself the only

practical religion for low natures

drifting into lawless materialism.

It

to

is

save them

from

probable, how-

ever,

that,

should the

creed

of

the

Arabian Prophet

receive acceptance among European communities, much of the rigid formalism which has been imparted to it by the

lawyers of Central Asia and Irak will have to be abandoned.

Perhaps the present exposition of the true Spirit of Islam may help in the diffusion of Islamic ideas in the West.

Calcutta, September i8go.

AMEER All

%* The transliteration

I have adopted in this work of Arabic letters

requires a word of explanation.

The Indians, the Persians, and the Turks

generally pronounce certain letters of the Arabic alphabet quite differently

from the Arabs, e. g. , they make no difference between ; and ,, pronouncing

both as an s ; and, excepting among the Arabic scholars, ^ and J are pro-

For these

reasons I have eschewed the system, recently started in Europe, of differen-

nounced alike as z.

Little difference is made between & a nd ^.

tiating the sounds of Arabic

unacquainted with Arabic, an h with a dot underneath it, and so forth, can

convey no meaning. In the present volume I have generally represented <j# as dli, excepting in the case of words in common use among non- Arabs, such as R-amazan, Fazl, and other words derived from the same root ; as > th,

letters by dots

and commas ; for to one

subject to the same exception <as in the case of Osman).

The sound of a,

occurring in the middle with a Fathha, I have represented by two a's (as in

Jaafar) ; occurring in the beginning or end, or in the middle, with a kasra

In the

use of the word Banu I have followed the Arabic rule, giving it as Banu

when a nominative, and as Bant when a dative, ablative, etc.

or zamma, as they are pronounced by non-Arabs, as in Omar, etc.

CORRIGENDUM.

P. 96, line 13 for "jewelleries " read "jewellery."

TABLE OF CONTENTS.

PART I. THE LIFE OF MOHAMMED.

INTRODUCTION.

PAC3ES

The continuity of religious development Bactria (Balkh) supposed to be the original seat of the human race Disper-

sion of the races Fetishism and Pantheism The Eastern

and Western Aryans The Assyrians Babylon and the

Jews Hinduism Zoroastrianism Judaism Christianity Gnosticism Manichreisrn Degradation of the earlier

creeds

The tribes of Arabia, their origin, their diversity

of culture and religious conceptions

Idolatry among the

Arabs The folk-lore of Arabia The advent of Mohammed

a necessity of religious development

CHAPTER I.

Mecca,

his descendants Abdul

Muttalib The Meccan decemvirs The Abyssinian inva-

sion The Era of the Elephant The birth of Mohammed

its foundation

Kossay,

Ok&z The depravity

of

the

Arabs Mohammed's

i-lix.

marriage Formation of the league of the Fuzul Moham-

med's designation of Al-Amin The period of probation,

of communion, of inspiration Commencement of the

ministry Persecution by the Koraish

Moral evidences

of Mohammed's mission Koraishite hostility The Year

of Mourning

CHAPTER II.

Visit to Tayef

of Akaba

Akaba

Ill-treatment

Return to Mecca First Pledge

Vision of the Ascension Second pledge of

The Hegira r

i

37

3846

XVI

CONTENTS.

CHAPTER III.

The Prophet at Medina Erection of the first mosque in Islam The preaching* of Mohammed

CHAPTER IV.

Hostility of the Koraish

Medina ; Moslems,

and the

Jews

Munafikin, Jews

Mohammed Attack by the Koraish

Three parties in

The

charter of

Battle of Badr

Victory of Islam

Christianity

Ideas regarding angels in Islam and in

CHAPTER V.

Invasion of Medina by the Koraish Battle of Ohod Defeat of

Barbarities of the Koraish

Jewish treachery

the Moslems

PAGtt

47

51

5261

The Banu-Kainukaa, their expulsion The Band Nadhir,

their banishment Coalition against the Moslems Belea-

guerment of Medina Banu-Kuraizha, their defection

Success of the Moslems Punishment of the Kuraizha

CHAPTER VI.

62

77

Mohammed's clemency Charter granted to the monks of St.

Catherine Cruelty

prohibited Peace

of Hudaiba

Mohammed's message to Heraclius and Parviz Murder

of the Moslem envoy by the Christians

CHAPTER VII.

7885

Continued hostility of the Jews Expedition \ against Khaibar

The Jews sue for forgiveness Pilgrimage of Accom-

plishment

Violation by the

Meccans of the treaty of

Hudaiba Fall of Mecca Treatment of the Meccans

Diffusion of the Faith

CHAPTER VIII.

86

93

Deputations to Medina Apprehension of a Greek invasion

Expedition to Tabiik Conversion of Orwa His martyr- dom The Banu Tay, their conversion Adoption of the Faith by Kaab Ibn-Zuhair His eulogiurn of the Prophet

Idolaters prohibited from visiting the Kaaba

94101

CONTENTS.

xvii

CHAPTER IX.

Fulfilment of Mohammed's work

His superiority over his pre-

decessors His appeal to reason

His

Sermon on the

PAGES

J

Mount Instructions to the governors The false prophets

Last illness of Mohammed : his death, his character

PART II.

102

113

THE SPIRIT OF ISLAM.

Islam, its signification

CHAPTER I.

The ethical

principles of Islam

Idea of Godhead among the different religionists of the

world Mariolatry and Christolatry Modern idealistic

Christianity

the new dispensation, its morality

Koranic conception of God

CHAPTER II.

Primary aim of

The religious spirit of Islam

Its practical duties

Concep-

JJ7

137

tion of prayer Among the Mago-Zoroastrians and Sabeans

Jews Christians

Islamic

conception of prayer Of

Of pilgrimage to

moral purity

Mecca Their raison d'etre Intoxication and gambling

forbidden Ethical code of Islam, its disciplinary rules

The Islam of Mohammed, its aims and aspirations- Faith and charity Reprobation of hypocrisy and false-

No difference between true Christianity and true

hood

Islam Reason of their present divergence Defects of

Institution of fasting

~\ modern Mahommedanism

\

>/

138165

Sumptuary regulations of Mohammed (note 1)

CHAPTER III.

The Church militant of Islam

Its wars purely defensive-

Toleration in Islam Intolerance of the Jews, Christians,

Mago-Zoroastrians, and Hindus Islam opposed to isola-

tion and exclusiveness Wars of Islam after the Prophet

The capture of Jerusalem by the Moslems compared

with its capture by the Crusaders

166

182

XVIU

CONTENTS.

CHAPTER IV.

The status of women in Islam

Polygamy, its origin

Practi-

sed by all the nations of antiquitv^-Polygamy among the Christians Opinion of St. Augustine and the German

reformers

Polygamy among the Arabs and the Jews

/Mohammed's regulations Monogamy, result of develop-

ment Compatibility of Mohammed's regulation with every

stage of development Mohammed's marriages examined-^-

Status of women in early Christianity Conception

of

Jesus about marriage Divorce among the Romans and

the Jews Among the Christians -(Regulations of Moham-

med on the subject Concubinage forbidden Custom of

female seclusion Idealisation of womanhood Prophecy and chivalry, offspring of the desert The women of

Islam

Improvement effected by Mohammed in the status

of women /

CHAPTER V.

Slavery existed among all ancient nations Position of slaves

the

among the Romans

among

Romans

the

and and Jews Slavery

among

Christians^

ChristiansV-Regulations

Regulations of

of Mohammed about slavery

Slavery abhorrent to Islam/

CHAPTER VI.

The idea of a future existence, result of development

The

idea of future existence among the Egyptians, the Jews, the Zoroastrians The Jewish belief in a personal Messiah

Real origin of this belief Character of the Christian

traditions Strongly-developed idea of an immediate king-

dom of heaven in the mind of Jesus and the early dis-

ciples Paradise and hell, according to the traditional