BLTC Press Titles

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The Secret Doctrine, Volume I Cosmogenesis

H. P. Blavatsky

Some Experiences of an Irish R. M.

Edith Somerville and Martin Ross

The Souls of Black Folk

W. E. B. DuBois

Through the Looking Glass

Lewis Carroll

Islam and missions

by Elwood Morris Wherry


has been an imitative religion. The best that

_M_ Mohammed found, in fact everything that was good in his teachings, was borrowed from Christianity, and the rest was appropriated with little or no change from other religious cults, or from the heathenism he was supposed to displace.

After a long period of success and wide advance in every direction from Mecca: after the sword of Islam had subdued nation after nation in Asia and Africa and had gained a foothold in Europe, there arose the first united resistance of Christianity that Islam had encountered. Heretofore the legions of Islam had attacked and conquered nations as such. It had made no difference whether the national faith had been heathen or Christian, the resistance offered had been a national resistance and the submission had been that of a ruling sovereign. The submission always involved the surrender of the old faith, and a formal acceptance of Islam with the avowal of the unity of God and the validity of the mission of Mohammed.

This success of Islam and its capture of the sacred places of Christianity furnished the motive necessary to unite a divided Christendom and to overcome the conflicts in Europe and to gather the great armies of all nations which followed each other in the wonderful crusades of the Middle Ages. Whatever we may say of the folly and mismanagement, the petty jealousies and conflict among the leaders, the useless waste of life and treasure involved, we cannot withhold our praise for the loyalty to Christ and sacrifice for Him involved in those unparallelled movements.

It is not our purpose here to discuss the crusades, but merely to call attention to the fact that here was the first instance of a united Christendom attacking Islam. The crusades did not exert any lasting influence on the extent or power of Islam, but they furnished a lesson which was not forgotten, and may not improperly be regarded as the seed from which the idea of pan-Islamism grew. If Christendom united under the banner of the cross and, forgetting their national divisions and rivalries, strove to rescue the tomb of the Crucified from Islam, why should not all Mohammedan nations lay aside doctrinal differences and national distinctions under the banner of the Crescent to carry the faith of Islam to the ends of the earth t

It may well be believed that the present divergences of faith in Islam, the national jealousies among those who accept the teachings of the Arabian prophet are too great and too firmly rooted to make a real pan-Islamic movement possible or permanently effective. Any such union would fall to pieces quickly and disappear from view as did the crusades. Still the existence of such an idea and especially its dissemination among wild and uncivilized peoples will have local influence that may lead to serious disturbances and may produce wide-reaching consequences of a more than local importance. It may not be possible to find a real, vital, unifying principle in Islam that will ever permanently unite Sunnis and Shiahs, or permit Turks and Persians, Hindus and Moors to work and fight in harmony and mutual confidence. Still, the fact that all ascribe their faith to Mohammed and give their religious allegiance to him, that from all these Mohammedan countries devotees dock every year in the holy pilgrimage to Mecca, and all use the sacred water of Zemzem, makes an external bond of union that gives real force to the idea of pan-Islamism and makes it a subject worthy of study by Christian missionaries and by the statesmen and rulers of Europe and Asia.

The situation in Turkey differs from that in other lands for a double reason. Mecca, the sacred city of Islam, is in Turkish territory, and the Turkish Sultan claims to hold the caliphate as a legal heritage and political right.

On the other hand, the internal situation in Turkey is by no means a simple one. The loyalty accorded to the Sultan as ruler of the empire is by no means hearty or united. This is not only true because the various Christian sects dislike to yield allegiance to a Moslem ruler, but among Moslems themselves there is a very general distrust, and especially among the Arabic speaking peoples there is a decided unwillingness to remain under the domination of the Turk, who is regarded justly as an interloper. Add to this the distinctly religious hostility of a very large part of the Mohammedan subjects of the Turk, who hold that the true Caliph can only be an Arab of the Koreish, and it is clear that internal unity in Turkey needs every possible support from the outside. How can a foreigner, a Turk, who has gained his position by military conquest, claim to hold the sacred office of Caliph, as a successor to Mohammed t At any time that the Arabs had the strength in themselves or the assurance of foreign support, this unwelcome Turkish yoke would be thrown off and the Sherif of Mecca would be proclaimed as the true Caliph. It is because the Turks are aware of this that every effort is made to honour the annual pilgrimage and keep the Arabs in good humour and uot to press them too hard in matters of political allegiance and taxes. The extension of the railroad to the "holy territory" was a shrewd move on the part of the Turk to strengthen the bonds which unite the two extremes of the empire both politically and religiously. This, however, is a mechanical, artificial method and will not permanently unite the dissimilar elements involved.

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