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and to the prophecies which he pretended were therein concerning himself, as proofs of his mission.” To guard, however, against any adverse consequence of acknowledging the original authority of these books, he represented that they had undergone so many alterations and corruptions, that no credit was to be given to the copies then in the hands of Jews or Christians. His comprehensive scheme was evidently contrived with a view to attach to his interests both Jews and Christians, as well as Pagans. The 42d chapter of the Koran begins in these words: “ Thus doth the mighty, the wise God, reveal his will unto thee; and in like manner did he reveal it unto the prophets who were before thee. He hath ordained you the religion which he commanded Noah, and which we have revealed unto thee, O Mohammed, and which we commanded Abraham, and Moses, and Jesus ; saying, Observe this religion and be not divided therein.”
The code of Mohammedan morals exhibits a singular and artful compromise between vice and virtue. It enforces so many principles of justice, of benevolence, and even of self-denial, as to have the semblance of an elevated morality, while, at the same time, it compensates the Mussulman for the unwelcome restraint imposed upon his inclinations, by granting indulgences to his most impetuous passions. The problem to be solved by Mohammed may be conceived to have been this—How shall the demands of conscience, requiring a certain standard of morals, be reconciled with the indulgence of the passions and appetites ? The problem, I doubt not, was long studied in the cave of Hera, and the Koran exhibits the solution. The idolaters of Mecca and of Medina were more easily reconciled to the unitarian creed of Mohammed, and to the moral proverbs of Ali, when associated with the licence of polygamy and concubinage. “Four wives,” says Dr. Paley, “ with the liberty of changing them at pleasure, was an irresistible bribe. God is minded, says Mohammed, speaking of this very subject, to make his religion light unto you, for man was created weak!"
Mohammed's doctrine of future rewards and punishments was well adapted to the purpose it was designed to serve. “ His paradise,” it has been justly said, “is an eastern seraglio, attached to an enchanted palace.— But his master-piece was his hell.” The balance suspended over both worlds; the bridge of Al-Sirat, finer than a hair and sharper than a sword, the shoes of fire, the cauldrons of flame, the alternations of shivering and of burning, and the seven receptacles of the lost ;-were all presented to the imagination as horrific warnings of the consequences of refusing
credence to the Koran or subjection to the Prophet. Is it surprising that minds uncultivated and unenlightened should be dismayed by images of horror and threatenings of torment; or that when terror, under the guidance of effrontery, led the way, credulity should follow in the train ?
A system such as this, was in its own nature adapted to the ambitious designs of iis framer, because it was calculated to act with power both upon the fears and the hopes, both upon the conscience and the passions of those to whom it made its appeal. They consisted, as we have seen, of three classes : Pagans, Jews, and Christians. To Arabians, and even to Persians, destitute of divine revelation, they presented a religion, superior, it must be confessed, to the idolatry of the Caaba, and to the more refined superstition of the Magians. The difficulty to be encountered in making proselytes among Jews, and among those who called themselves Christians, was unquestionably greater ; but many of the former were only Jews by descent, and many of the latter were only Christians in name. The glimmering of the light they had received, in the midst of prevailing darkness, must, indeed, have been unfavourable to a Mohammedan conversion; but, without true faith in the God of Abraham, and without true faith in the divine Redeemer, is it at all surprising, that at the point of the sword, and with the only alternative of Islamism or death, there should have been extorted from multitudes the reluctant exclamation, “ There is one God, and Mohammed is his prophet ?”
It is contended by some writers, that great credit is due to Mohammed for elevating among his countrymen the standard of morals. It is also contended, that it would be unfair to bring his code into comparison with the high standard of Christianity. But let it be remembered, that Mohammed fabricated his system in the seventh century of the Christian æra; and that there is sufficient evidence, from his plagiarisms and parodies, that he had access both to the Jewish and the Christian Scriptures. Surely, then, it is just to bring his system into comparison and contrast with the religion of Christ; and to the Impostor there must attach the wilful and tremendous guilt of concealing, and disguising, and corrupting, and denying, and opposing the truth of God! What then are we to think of the assertion made by the learned translator of the Koran-that “ Mohammed gave his Arabs the best religion he could !"
“ But it is the permanence of this extraordinary superstition which has never been accounted for," affirms Mr. Forster. “ Satisfactory
grounds,” he allows, “ have been advanced for the successful progress of a faith, which silenced opposition by force, and seconded its pretensions with the sword; but no sufficient account has yet been given of that character of permanence which the lapse of twelve centuries has impressed upon Mohammedism.” He lays great stress on the absolute dominion which this creed continues to exert over the minds of men; and on the power of the system to change the creeds and characters of the subject nations, and even “ to absorb conquerors and their religions in submission to its faith.”
That the facts are striking and remarkable cannot be denied, but I confess myself unable to perceive that the difficulty of accounting for them is one of such extreme perplexity. The true solution is, I think, to be derived from the principles and considerations already adduced. Over what elements of religion, and over what orders of minds has Mohammedism thus achieved its triumph and consolidated its power? It has triumphed, we acknowledge, “ in every clime where Paganism flourished, whether in its best or in its most degrading forms.” But this triumph, we are told,“ sinks into insignificance in comparison with another triumph of Mohammedism, the almost utter subversion of Christianity in the East.” Startling, indeed, is the assertion;