Page images

be of the third and fourth centuries of the Christian era are merely the productions of the Middle Ages, while alterations in both the Old and the New Testament are admitted by experts themselves. As for the Coran, Sir William Muir himself admits that there is probably in the world no other work which has remained twelve centuries with so pure a text.' This brings into prominence the verse of the Coran, 'We have surely sent down the Coran, and we certainly will preserve the same from corruption'; and the remarks of Carlyle that

A greater number of God's creatures believe in Mohammed's word at this hour than in any word whatever. Our current hypotheses about Mohammed, that he was a scheming impostor, a falsehood incarnate, that his religion is a mere mass of quackery and fatuity begin really now to be untenable to anyone. The lies which well-meaning zeal has heaped round this man are disgraceful to ourselves only.

Indeed, the opinion is gaining ground that so far from the Coran borrowing anything from the monkish Gospels and the Rabbinical literature of Spain, which do not possess even the merit of authenticity to enlist Moslem reverence, it is the latter that have borrowed from the Coran and the Moslem chronicles. In a remarkable book called The Rise of Christendom the author, Professor Edwin Johnson (late Professor of Classical Languages, New College, South Hampstead), discusses with great ability, impartiality, and unrivalled acquaintance with ecclesiastical history, the opposite side of the question, viz. how much the Jewish and Christian Scriptures owe to Islam. In his introduction, which was published only a few years ago, the author



The business of my life for more than thirty years has been mainly with classical and theological literature; the serious problem to which I have devoted all my leisure has been the ascertainment of the origin of Christianity, and the way in which it was first planted in the world. . . . In further researches I found that the whole of the earliest Church literature proceeded from the cloisters of the two primitive orders of St. Basil and St. Benedict. I studied the Coran and the great Arabian chronicle of Al Tabari. I found that the Scriptures of the Muslim had been perverted by the Benedictines with a view to make the Orientals heretics from the Church, and that the misrepresentation had never since been corrected. The great tradition of the Mosque owed not a syllable either to the Church or to the Synagogue. On the contrary, both the Church and the Synagogue were indebted in different ways to the great theological system which was in existence long before its Jewish or Catholic sisters. I examined the traditions of the synagogue, and found that the cause of our illusions in reference to the antiquity of Judaism was similar to the cause of our illusions in respect to the Catholic Church.'

The author gives the cause of all misunderstanding in the following sentences:

The truth has long been concealed from us on this matter owing to the fact that the Benedictines first mis-translated the Coran in the interest of the Church dogma, and the prejudice so created has never since been removed. . . . When we come to the Coran with minds disabused of the Medieval dishonesty we find

that the book is nothing less than the Original Bible, i.e. the source of those legends of Origins which have been retold by the Rabbins in the Bible and the Talmud.



This mistranslation of the Coran is responsible for turning Martin Luther against Mohammed. In 1529, in his Army Sermon ' against the Turk, Martin Luther, after referring to Mohammed as Daniel's Little Horn, remarks: The Little Horn's Eyes mean Mohammed's Al Coran, or the Law wherewith he ruleth. In the which Law there is nought but sheer human reason. For his Law teacheth nothing but that which human understanding may well like.' When he wrote this, he had only heard of the Coran and not read it. In 1540 he read one of the above-mentioned translations, and he wrote. an epilogue to Brother Richard's Confutatio Al Coran. This is devoted to a special disquisition as to whether Mohammed or the Pope be worse. In the twenty-second chapter of his disquisition he arrives at the final conclusion that, after all, the Pope is worse, and that he, and not Mohammed, is the real 'anti-Christ.'

Coming back to the charge that Mohammed borrowed much from the Jewish and Christian Scriptures, it is now conceded by all the hostile critics that he had never read what they call the Testaments. They maintain that he only heard from the Jews certain things which were given in the Talmud. It is, therefore, important to know whether the Talmud, as a book, was in existence in Arabiaor, for that matter, anywhere else at all at that time. The Coran undoubtedly speaks of the Torah (Old Testament), but never of the Talmud or any other book. Professor Edwin Johnson, referring to the date of the Talmud, says:

The Rabbins who constructed the Talmud alone were in the secret of the date of the composition of the Hebrew Scriptures. Now the traditions which still linger in the synagogues with respect to the origin of the Talmud will hardly bear critical scrutiny. There is evidence in them of that same straining after an imaginary antiquity which is characteristic of all new peoples and departures.

After rejecting the belief that the Mishna was written by Rabbi Juda the Prince, in 141 A.D., he says:

It is, in fact, about the middle of the eleventh century that the Ibrim or the Jehudim or Ben-Israel of the synagogues enter the field of historical observation. Between the years 1-1200 falls the first period of the most important literature of Judaism].

But, granting that some of the sacred oral traditions had been current among the Jews in Arabia at that time, it must be remembered that the ancient Arabs also shared with them the traditions concerning Abraham and the early Patriarchs, for they claimed as much to be descended from those Patriarchs as the Jews themselves. It does not follow, therefore, that the traditions were borrowed by Mohammed from any of the Jewish sources. Among ancient Arabs there were

VOL. XLIX-No. 287


Sabeans. Their prophets were Seth and Enoch, and they had a book called the Book of Seth. Five prophets were sent to the Arabians, viz. Hud, Saleh, Abraham, Ishmael, and Shoaib. All these existed before Moses, and all of them preached monotheism. The Arabian prophet inclined neither towards Judaism nor towards Christianity, although he honoured the name of Moses and Jesus as prophets of God. Follow ye the religion of Abraham, who was neither a Jew nor a Christian; but he was pious and righteous, and no idolater.' This is the gist of Mohammed's religion. He preached monotheism, which was really his single aim and chief mission in life; secondly, he protested against all mediation, and so denounced the Trinity; thirdly, he protested against any privileged class in religion, and so he denounced Rabbinism.

Former prophets [said he] were sent to their own sect. I was sent to all. I have been sent for one thing only, to make straight the crooked path, to unite the strayed tribes, and to teach that there is no other God but Allah, by whom the eyes of the blind, and the ears of the deaf, and the hearts of those who know nothing will be opened.

Sir William Muir quotes a single verse from the Coran, viz. that the meek shall inherit the earth,' and says that this is the only passage quoted by Mohammed from the Scriptures. This verse is to be found in one of the Psalms, as the Coran itself mentions. Christ uses the verse in his Sermon on the Mount without being held guilty of plagiarism; but when Mohammed gives utterance to the same noble idea he is accused of literary piracy. It will not be difficult to trace almost the whole of the Sermon on the Mount to the Hebrew Scriptures or to the Talmud, if not also to some other religion. I have purposely confined myself to broader criticisms, and carefully avoided details, because in an article of this kind it is impossible to discuss such questions without wearying the ordinary reader. For the benefit of those who desire to possess more detailed information regarding this controversy I must mention here that all the serious objections of Sir William Muir against Islam have been answered by Sir Syed Ahmad Khan in his Essays on the Life of Mohammed; that every book which the ingenuity or sophistry of a Christian writer has as yet produced against the religion of Mohammed, and which has been brought to the notice of Islamic doctors in India or in Egypt, has invariably been answered by them. But those books are either in Hindustani or in some other Mohammedan language. Undoubtedly the result of this renewed activity and hostility on the part of Sir William and other missionaries will be-at least, in India-the establishment of a society to be called the Society for the Promotion of Islamic Knowledge. But in independent Mohammedan countries the aggressive efforts of Sir William and his friends will produce serious political and administrative troubles. Sir William recommends the translation of The Sources of Islam into

all Mohammedan languages. The author of The Sources of Islam goes one better, for in the concluding portion of his book, called The Religion of the Crescent, he says:

In the days of our fathers once and again did the cry of Peter the Hermit-and others like him-resound throughout Europe, calling on all true Christians to go forth in their might and rescue the Holy Sepulchre at Jerusalem from the hands of the Infidels. . . .

Nay, our duty now is [says Mr. Tisdall], in God's might, to deliver from the thraldom of sin and Satan those whose bodies were created to be living temples of God's Holy Spirit, and to bring them to drink freely of the fountain of the water of life eternal. God is opening land after land to us, and we are endeavouring to enter in to bring the glad tidings of salvation through Christ to the Confucian of China and the Buddhist of Ceylon, to the Negro and the Hindu, to the Eskimo and the Red Indian. . . . But for the great Mohammedan world-for the land where Job and the earliest Patriarchs, where Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, served God, where Moses talked with God face to face, where the Redeemer of the World gave His life a ransom for many-for Egypt and Arabia, for the Sudan and Morocco, for Palestine and Syria, for Mesopotamia and Afghanistan, for Turkistan and all Central Asia, for Persia, Asia Minor and Turkey-how few are our efforts, how trifling our exertions, how limited the number of Christ's labourers! ... Then wearing the Cross in our hearts, and not only on our breasts, we shall go forth, conquering and to conquer, and the Crescent shall soon fade before the glory of our returning Lord.

Does England conquer countries to make them Christian? One can see the beginning of the flame of which Lord Salisbury spoke in such publications as the above. If this is not a warning to the Moslem to defend himself, or even to assume the aggressive against the Cross, I do not know what other language is. In conclusion, I shall quote once more from The Rise of Christendom, which I earnestly recommend every Mohammedan and every Christian to read :

Our Mohammedan friends [says Professor Johnson] may desire to learn something of us; but it is we who have to learn from them in respect to the great medieval tradition. They are the masters of it. They are of the Orthodox Church; theirs is the sublime theology and the inflexible logic. We owe it to the common civility of the great Empire to which we belong to endeavour to correct the vulgar fables which have prevailed since the fourteenth century in respect to their religion, and to desist from affronting them with what they must ever regard as a corrupt version of their own sacred legends. We need no more controversy, but mutual intelligence. . . . A fresh and exact rendering of the Book [the Coran into English] is sorely needed in the interests of literary science.

I also cordially support the proposal for a weekly organ in London in the interests of Islam. The thanks, however, of the Moslem world are due to this Review, for its generous hospitality and impartial treatment of all creeds.



THIS term, used by the contemporary press, has been explained to be derived from the blundering of a policeman in describing a gang of juvenile delinquents and their leader (Hooly's gang), and is now apparently accepted as a convenient nickname for rowdyism and ruffianism of youths and young men-something akin to the Californian hoodlum' and the Australian larrikin.' It is to be feared that the name has given a sort of romantic halo, of the 'penny dreadful' type, to a class which is somewhat sensitive to such unwholesome influence.

But the thing itself is not new, though something like a scare has been produced by paragraphs in popular newspapers, in times when the taste for excitement and the tendency to periodical panics seem to be a result of the keen competition of our organs of public opinion.' The result has been numerous leading articles in various papers, with reports of speeches and sermons on the subject, followed as usual by letters from people, some of whom are evidently very imperfectly informed on the subject.

Gangs of young roughs and thieves are no new things in London and other large towns. They constitute a feature of low society well known to the authorities, and they have been successfully dealt with in times gone by as well as in more recent days. In the course of nearly forty years' experience and observation as resident Secretary of the Philanthropic Society's Farm School at Redhill, I remember many such gangs being broken up, such as the Pontoons' of the London Docks, and numerous bodies of so called 'Forty Thieves,' &c., and even such unpromising material trained into respectable citizenship.

[ocr errors]

As a matter of history, the idea that the neglected and therefore dangerous class of juvenile delinquents deserved serious attention was grasped in a practical way for the first time in 1788, when the Philanthropic Society (two years before the death of John Howard the Prison Reformer) was founded by Robert Young. In 1806 the Society was incorporated by Act of Parliament, and in the same year the Dalston Refuge was founded. In 1815 the Prison Discipline Society was established and for some years did a great work for boys

« PreviousContinue »