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“There is no God but God, and Mohammed is his prophet.”—The Mohammedan Catechism.
O present herewith a historical account of the rise
and progress of Mohammedanism is unnecessary, as that knowledge may be acquired in a number of creditable volumes; yet a brief description of their present religious state, traditions, customs and practices, from personal observation, we hope will prove interesting. The Koran, the work of Mohammed, and the holy book of the Islam world, contains many passages of high morality and also of common sense, and in instances almost joins hands with Christianity. This is due to the conformation of a number of the Old and New Testament books into the existing traditions of the people, the two elements being curiously intermixed to form the visionary ideals of the new religious creed founded by Mohammed, who took Moses and Christ as masters in law and ethics. A translation from the third sura of the Koran will best illustrate and confirm this assertion.
“When the angel said, 'O Mary, verily God sendeth thee good tidings, that thou shalt bear the word proceeding from Himself. His name shall be Christ Jesus, the Son of Mary, honorable in this world and in the world to come, and one of those who approach near the presence of God. And He (Jesus) shall speak unto men in His cradle and when he is grown; and he shall be one of the righteous. She answered, 'Lord how shall I have a son since a man hath not touched me?' The angel said 'Lo, God createth that which he pleaseth.' When he decreeth a thing, He only saith unto it 'be,' and it is. God shall teach him the Scriptures and wisdom, and the law and the gospel, and shall appoint him his apostle to the children of Israel. And He (Jesus) shall say, 'Verily I come unto you with a sign from your Lord, for I will make before you of clay as it were, the figure of a bird; then I will breath thereon and it shall become a bird by the permission of God; and I will heal him that hath been blind from his birth, and the leper; and I will raise the dead.' But when Jesus perceived their unbelief he said: 'Who will be my helpers toward God?' and the apostles answered, “We will be the helpers of God; we believe in God, and do thou be as witnesses that we are true believers.'"
Christianity and Mohammedanism have more in common than any other two religions. Both proclaim the unity and fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. There is “no God but God," declares Mohammed. Christ is considered as one of the six apostles of God, and His Virgin Mother, one of the four perfect women. The following passage from the religious code of the Moslem, chanted in the Mosques, bears a certain resemblance to our Apostles' Creed:
“Allah is sole and eternal. He lives and is all-powerful. He knows and sees everything, is endowed with volition and action. In him is neither form nor figure, nor bounds nor limits, nor numbers nor parts, nor multiplications nor divisions; because he is neither body nor matter. He has neither beginning nor end, but exists by himself, without generation, without an abode, independent of the empire of Time; as incomparable in his nature as in his attributes, which, without being separated from his essence, do not constitute it."
Yet with these conformities, there are some points of contest and contrast between the two religions. Christ came to earth as the prophet of the spiritual life, declaring that his kingdom was not of this world, while Mohammed comes sword in hand. The religion of Christ is the law of love, proclaiming the great work of atonement. The religion of Mohammed denies the Divine act of redemption, substituting an abstract Monotheism. As has been indicated, though Islam believes like Christendom in the fundamental idea of the unity of God, she rejects the doctrine of the Trinity. Again, the Koran furnishes both the code of law and of morals, thus the religion of the desert, and the political codes, inaugurated centuries ago for a wild and barbaric people, are even to-day appointed to govern the civil state and the morals of a people everywhere in contact with civilization. Thus the old civil laws of Mohammed, the worn out timbers, are still in use by the Moslem in building up their modern civilization; while, on the other hand, the Bible of the Christians furnishes only the moral code of its followers. Christ was not a politician. He did not enforce any civil or political dogmas. Even the wise Mosaic laws are deemed out of date, for as they were given to a particular people, in a particular country at a particular time, they are not to govern the nations of Christendom to-day.
Again, Christian ethics penetrate the inner life of man. They emphasize not dogmas or words, but feelings and acts, which alone make words valuable; not truth in the abstract, but goodness in the concrete. On the other hand, Islam utterly fails to discriminate between form and essence, substance and appearance.
Let us now look at some of the strange aspects, formalities and beliefs of this religious institution, and close our chapter with an impartial comparison of the two great religions.
Mohammedanism is essentially a religion of a form, hence the disciple of Islam does not thank God for past blessings, or implore his protection for the future, though he prays five times daily. Islamism means submission. Hence the efficacy of the service is in the number of times the nemaz or prayers are said. Before prayer a preparatory service of ablution with cold water is obligatory. If this is
not done with strict conformity with the established usage, the subsequent prayers would be of no avail.
In the court yard of every mosque a large basin of water is provided, and the faithful standing straight and facing due north or south and advancing in order to it says “Bissmillah,” meaning, it is in God's name I do this. The hands are washed to the wrist, the mouth and nose three times; then beginning at the toes, the feet are washed to the ankles, after which the right hand is dipped gently into water and a part of the head is wet. The arms are washed to the elbows, beginning at the finger tips. Then the rest of the head is wet, the water being dipped up by the right hand. The inside of the ears must also be washed with the index finger of either hand, and the back of the ears with the thumb. So extremely exacting is this ritual, that the slightest digression or omission necessitates the doing of all over again. Practice makes them expert, however, and they learn to do it quickly and correctly according to the requirements. The ceremony is repeated three times. Exemption is allowed where no water can be obtained, but the form must be gone through by touching the hands to dry earth or brick, instead of dipping it into water.
The time for prayers is regulated by the sun. Morning prayer is said between dawn and sunrise, and this makes the Mohammedans early risers. Noonday prayer, just as the sun is passing the meridian. An afternoon prayer at any time between four and five o'clock. The fourth prayer at sunset. The last prayer of the day is said before retiring.