Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

but always the son of Mary. Throughout there is a perpetual acceptance of the delusion of the human Its views of destiny of the universe. As to man, Mohammed man. is diffuse enough respecting a future state, speaking with clearness of a resurrection, the judgment-day, Paradise, the torment of hell, the worm that never dies, the pains that never end; but, with all this precise description of the future, there are many errors as to the past. If modesty did not render it unsuitable to speak of such topics here, it might be shown how feeble is his physiology when he has occasion to allude to the origin or generation of man. He is hardly advanced beyond the ideas of Thales. One who is so untrustworthy a guide as to things that are past, cannot be very trustworthy as to events that are to come.

Of the literary execution of his work, it is, perhaps, scarcely possible to judge fairly from a transla

Its literary tion. It is said to be the oldest prose composi- inferiority tion among the Arabs, by whom Mohammed's with the boast of the unapproachable excellence of his Bible. work is almost universally sustained; but it must not be concealed that there have been

among

them
very

learned men who have held it in light esteem. Its most celebrated passages, as those on the nature of God, in Chapters II., XXIŤ., will bear no comparison with parallel ones in the Psalms and Book of Job. In the narrative style, the story of Joseph, in Chapter XII., compared with the same incidents related in Genesis, shows a like inferiority. Mohammed also adulterates his work with many Christian legends, derived probably from the apocryphal gospel of St. Barnabas; he mixes with many of his own inventions the scripture account of the temptation of Adam, the Deluge, Jonah and the whale, enriching the whole with stories like the later Night Entertainments of his country, the seven sleepers, Gog and Magog, and all the wonders of genii, sorcery, and charms.

An impartial reader of the Koran may doubtless be surprised that so feeble a production should serve its purpose so well. But the theory of religion is one thing, Causes of its the practice another. The Koran abounds in surprising excellent moral suggestions and precepts; its composition is so fragmentary that we cannot turn to a

influence.

single page without finding maxims of which all men must approve. This fragmentary construction yields texts, and mottoes, and rules complete in themselves, suitable for common men in any of the incidents of life. There is a perpetual insisting on the necessity of prayer, an inculcation of mercy, almsgiving, justice, fasting, pilgrimage, and other good works; institutions respecting conduct, both social and domestic, debts, witnesses, marriage, children, wine, and the like; above all, a constant stimulation to do battle with the infidel and blasphemer. For life as it passes in Asia, there is hardly a condition in which passages from the Koran cannot be recalled suitable for instruction, admonition, consolation, encouragement. To the Asiatic and to the African, such devotional fragments are of far more use than any sustained theological doctrine. The mental constitution of Mohammed did not enable him to handle important philosophical questions with the wellbalanced ability of the great Greek and Indian writers, but he has never been surpassed in adaptation to the spiritual wants of humble life, making even his fearful fatalism administer thereto. A pitiless destiny is awaiting us; yet the prophet is uncertain what it may be. “Unto every nation à fixed time is decreed. Death will overtake us even in lofty towers, but God only knoweth the place in which a man shall die.” After many an admonition of the resurrection and the judgment-day, many a promise of Paradise and threat of hell, he plaintively confesses, “I do not know what will be done with you or me hereafter."

The Koran thus betrays a human, and not a very noble Its true intellectual origin. It does not, however, follow nature. that its author was, as is so often asserted, a mere impostor. He reiterates again and again, I am nothing more than a public preacher. He defends, not always without acerbity, his work from those who, even in his own life, stigmatized it as a confused heap of dreams, or, what is worse, a forgery. He is not the only man who has supposed himself to be the subject of supernatural and divine communications, for this is a condition of disease to which any one, by fasting and mental anxiety, may be reduced.

In what I have thus said respecting a work held by so

ism.

many millions of men as a revelation from God, I have endeavoured to speak with respect, and yet with freedom, constantly bearing in mind how deeply to this book Asia and Africa are indebted for daily guidance, how deeply Europe and America for the light of science. As

might be expected, the doctrines of the Koran have received many fictitious additions and sectarian interpretations in thě course of ages. In the popular Popular Mosuperstition angels and genii largely figure. hammedanThe latter, being of a grosser fabric, eat, drink, propagate their kind, are of two sorts, good and bad, and existed long before men, having occupied the earth before Adam. Immediately after death, two greenish, livid angels, Monkir and Nekkar, examine every corpse as to its faith in God and Mohammed; but the soul, having been separated from the body by the angel of death, enters upon an intermediate state, awaiting the resurrection. There is, however, much diversity of opinion as to its precise disposal before the judgment-day: some think that it hovers near the grave; some, that it sinks into the well Zemzem ; some, that it retires into the trumpet of the Angel of the Resurrection; the difficulty apparently being that any final disposal before the day of judgment would

be anticipatory of that great event, if, indeed, it would not render it needless. As to the resurrection, some believe it to be merely spiritual, others corporeal; the latter asserting that the os coccygis, or last bone of the spinal column, will serve, as it were, as a germ, and that, vivified by a rain of forty days, the body will sprout from it. Among the signs of the approaching resurrection will be the rising of the sun in the West. It will be ushered in by three blasts of a trumpet: the first, known as the blast of consternation, will shake the earth to its centre, and extinguish the sun and stars; the second, the blast of extermination, will annihilate all material things except Paradise, hell, and the throne of God. Forty years subsequently, the angel Israfil will sound the blast of resur ction. From bis trumpet there will be blown forth the countless myriads of souls who have taken refuge therein or lain concealed. The day of judgment has now come.

The Koran contradicts itself as to the length of this day; in one place

making it a thousand, in another fifty thousand years. Most Mohammedans incline to adopt the longer period, since angels, genii, men, and animals have to be tried. As to men, they will rise in their natural state, but naked ; white winged camels, with saddles of gold, awaiting the saved. When the partition is made, the wicked will be oppressed with an intolerable heat, caused by the sun, which, having been called into existence again, will approach within a mile, provoking a sweat to issue from them, and this, according to their demerits, will immerse them from. the ankles to the mouth; but the righteous will be screened by the shadow of the throne of God. The judge will be seated in the clouds, the books open before him, and everything in its turn called on to account for its deeds. For greater dispatch, the angel Gabriel will hold forth his balance, one scale of which hangs over Paradise and. over hell. In these all works are weighed. As soon as the sentence is delivered, the assembly, in a long file, will pass over the bridge Al-Sirat. It is as sharp as the edge of a sword, and laid over the mouth of hell. Mohammed. and his followers will successfully pass the perilous ordeal; but the sinners, giddy with terror, will drop into the place of torment. The blessed will receive their first taste of happiness at a pond which is supplied by silver pipes from the river Al-Cawthor. The soil of Paradise is of musk. Its rivers tranquilly flow over pebbles of rubies and emeralds. From tents of hollow pearls, the Houris, or girls of Paradise, will come forth, attended by troops of beautiful boys. Each Saint will have eighty thousand servants and seventy-two girls. To these, some of the more merciful Mussulmans add the wives they have had upon earth; but the grimly orthodox assert that hell is already nearly filled with women. How can it be otherwise since they are not permitted to pray in a mosque upon earth? I have not space to describe the silk brocades, the green clothing, the soft carpets, the banquets, the perpetual music and songs. From the glorified body all impurities will escape, not as they did during life, but in a fragrant perspiration of camphor and musk. No one will complain I am weary; no one will say I am sick.

From the contradictions, puerilities, and impossibilities

indicated in the preceding paragraphs, it may be anticipated that the faith of Mohammed has been broken into many sects. Of such it is said that not less than The Mohamseventy-three may be numbered. Some, as the medan sects.. Sonnites, are guided by traditions; some occupy themselves with philosophical difficulties, the existence of evil in the world, the attributes of God, absolute predestination and eternal damnation, the invisibility and non-corporeality of God, his capability of local motion: these and other such topics furnish abundant opportunity for sectarian dispute. As if to show how the essential principles of the Koran may be departed from by those who still profess to be guided by it, there are, among the Shiites, those who believe that Ali was an incarnation of God; that he was in existence before the creation of things; that he never died, but ascended to heaven, and will return again in the clouds to judge the world. But the great Mohammedan philosophers, simply accepting the doctrine of the Oneness of God as the only thing of which man can be certain, look upon all the rest as idle fables, having, however, this political use, that they furnish contention, and therefore occupation to disputatious sectarians, and consolation to illiterate minds.

Effect of Mo

ianity.

Thus settled on the north of Africa the lurid phantom. of the Arabian crescent, one horn reaching to the Bosphorus and one pointing beyond the Pyrenees. For a while it seemed that the portentous meteor would increase to the full, and that all Europe would be enveloped. Christianity had lost for ever the most interesting countries over which her influence had once hammedanspread, Africa, Egypt, Syria, the Holy Land, ism on ChristAsia Minor, Spain. She was destined, in the end, to lose in the same manner the metropolis of the East. In exchange for these ancient and illustrious regions, she fell back on Gaul, Germany, Britain, Scandinavia. In those savage countries, what were there to be offered as substitutes

for the great capitals, illustrious in ecclesiastical history, for ever illustrious in the records of the human race-Carthage, Alexandria, Jerusalem, Antioch, Constantinople? It was an evil exchange. The labours, intellectual

« AnteriorContinuar »