Issue 50[@52:41]: Slide with voice – from the British historian Hilaire Belloc’s The Great Heresies – 1938, “…It has always seemed to me possible, and even probable, that there would be a resurrection of Islam and that our sons or our grandsons would see the renewal of that tremendous struggle between the Christian culture and what has been for more than a thousand years its greatest opponent.” “The suggestion that Islam may re-arise sounds fantastic – but this only because men are always powerfully affected by the immediate past; – one might say that they are blinded by it. …” “But not so very long ago, less than a hundred years before the Declaration of Independence … Vienna was almost taken and saved only by the Christian army under the command of the King of Poland … on a date that ought to be among the most famous in history – September 11, 1683.
Rebuttal 50: Hilaire Belloc‘s The Great Heresies (1938) is a must read from both sides of the aisle. For the producers of this documentary conclusions of the author are a touching stone on which they base their paranoia and spread the phobia against Islam. On the other hand, for Muslims, it gives them an understanding of how Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular views Islam and how the author rationalizes the permanency and success of Islam, though wishing it to go away. The author is forced to squint his jaded view in the rays of daylight sun of Islam.
The issue at hand is excerpted above from chapter 4 – “The Great and Enduring Heresy of Mohammed.” Before we proceed on a reading and commentary of the said chapter, it necessitates to fully understand the contextual meaning of Heresy. Reader can read the authors detailed discussion about heresy in chapter 1 “Introduction: What is a Heresy” of the same book or refer to Merriam Webster definition below:
Heresy – definition:
1. a : adherence to a religious opinion contrary to church dogma; b : denial of a revealed truth by a baptized member of the Roman Catholic Church; c : an opinion or doctrine contrary to church dogma
2. a : dissent or deviation from a dominant theory, opinion, or practice; b : an opinion, doctrine, or practice contrary to the truth or to generally accepted beliefs or standards
Even though the author defines at length the catechism of heresy, in summary he uses the 2a definition above i.e. dissent or deviation from a dominant theory, opinion, or practice. Using this lens of definition of heresy within the Catholic frame of reference, he makes the case that Islam is heresy of Catholicism i.e. Islam emanates from Christian teachings and has dissented and deviated from the dominant theory, opinion, and practice of Catholicism.
Heresy is an accusation levied against members of another group which has beliefs which conflict with those of the accusers. It is usually used to discuss violations of religious or traditional laws or codes…It carries the connotation of behaviors or beliefs likely to undermine accepted morality and cause tangible evils, damnation, or other punishment. In some religions, it also implies that the heretic is in alliance with the religion’s symbol of evil, such as Satan or chaos. [Wikipedia]
According to Quran, Islam is the religion of mankind since eternity revealed via various prophets, some of them are all too familiar in Judeo-Christian history:
10:47.And for every nation there is a messenger. 42:13 He has made plain to you the religion which He enjoined upon Noah and which We have revealed to you, and which We enjoined on Abraham and Moses and Jesus. 40:78. And certainly We sent messengers before you — among them are those We have mentioned to you and among them are those We have not mentioned to you [— Rama, Krishna, Buddha, Tao, Confucius, Zoroaster, Socrates etc.]. 2:285. They all believe in Allah and His angels and His Books and His messengers. We make no distinction between any of His messengers. 22:78. …He has chosen you and has not laid upon you any hardship in religion — the faith of your father Abraham. He named you Muslims before and in this…[Muhammad Ali] 21:92. (Mankind!) surely, this your religion is the one single religion (of all the Prophets), and I am your Lord, so worship Me.[Nooruddin]
At least Quran nips in the bud any possibility of Heresy attributed to it. Whereas, on the reverse, Catholicism is the Heresy of Abrahamic creed and has branched off from the its core stem, while Islam (via Muhammad) is the final growth end of this tree of religion that started with Adam.
23:53. But the people, (rather than preserve their unity) split up their affair among themselves (forming themselves into factions) considering (each portion thus split up) as (the real) Scripture, every faction rejoicing in that which was with them.[Nooruddin]
A religion as code of life must address the shortcoming that we starkly see in history. These shortcomings happened either because the religion did not foresee it coming, or lacked the ethics to stop it when they emerged, or it did not have the capacity to handle it, or was it the neglect of the peoples despite the cure and prevention of these shortcomings already prescribed in a religion? If Islam is a distortion of Catholicism, then it begets to compare and contrast both religions from simple and proven experiences of history that can be objectified on secular platform. We make the claim that Catholicism is heresy of Islam (of Adam-Noah-Abraham-Moses-Jesus-Muhammad etc.), lets take the following examples of religion as a code of life:
Christianity was for Israelites only – I was sent only to the lost sheep of the House of Israel” (Matthew 15:24), whereas Islam is international – 34:28. And We have not sent you but as a bearer of good news and as a warner to all mankind, but most people do not know. [Muhammad Ali]
Christianity itself admits its incompleteness as a religion – I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of Truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth (John 16:12-13), whereas, Islam declares itself as perfection of faith at the hands of “Spirit of Truth” i.e. Muhammad: 5:3. This day have I perfected for you your religion and completed My favour to you and chosen for you Islam as a religion. [Muhammad Ali]
The incompleteness of Christianity as a religion was further aggravated by St. Paul who depraved half of the humanity from any progress – Let a woman learn in silence with all submissiveness. I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over men; she is to keep silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor (1 Timothy 2: 11-14), whereas, 2:228…And women have rights similar to those against them in a just manner…[Muhammad Ali], 4:1. O YOU people! Take as a shield your Lord Who created you from a single being. And from the same stock (from which He created the man) He created his spouse…[Nooruddin]
Christianity stood for and abetted the slavery – Servants (that is, slaves), be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to the kind and gentle but also to the overbearing. For one is approved if, mindful of God, he endures pain while suffering unjustly (1 Peter, 2:18), whereas, Islam dissipates the very institution of slavery under immorality – 24:33…your slaves who ask for a contract (to buy their freedom), give them the contract, if you know any good in them, and give them something out of the wealth of Allah which He has given you. And do not compel your slave-girls to prostitution when they desire to keep chaste, in order to seek the frail goods of this world’s life. And whoever compels them, then surely after their compulsion Allah is Forgiving, Merciful, 2:177 It is not righteousness that you turn your faces towards the East and the West, but righteous is the one who believes in Allah, and the Last Day, and the angels and the Book and the prophets, and gives away wealth out of love for Him to the near of kin and the orphans and the needy and the traveller and to those who ask and to set slaves free and keeps up prayer and gives the due charity; and the performers of their promise when they make a promise, and the patient in distress and affliction and in the time of conflict. These are they who are truthful; and these are they who keep their duty. [Muhammad Ali]
Christianity by its moral code supports monarchy and oligarchy – Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s (Matthew 22:21), whereas, Quran ordains consensus, charity, forgiveness and fairness, for the government and the individual – 42:36-43. So whatever you are given is but a provision of this world’s life, and what Allah has is better and more lasting for those who believe and rely on their Lord; and those who shun the great sins and indecencies, and whenever they are angry they forgive; and those who respond to their Lord and keep up prayer, and whose affairs are (decided) by counsel among themselves, and who spend (on good works) out of what We have given them; and those who, when great wrong afflicts them, defend themselves. And the recompense of evil is punishment like it; but whoever forgives and brings about reform, his reward is with Allah. Surely He does not love the wrongdoers. And whoever defends himself after his being oppressed, these it is against whom there is no way (of blame). The way (of blame) is only against those who oppress people and revolt in the earth unjustly. For such there is a painful punishment. And whoever is patient and forgives — that surely is an affair of great resolution. [Muhammad Ali]
While human exploitation under Colonialism, Communism, Fascism, Nazism and even Capitalism originated and flourished in Christendom without ethical checks or guidance from Bible, we find a simple and stark contrast in Quran which clearly rejects such isms: 53:38-39. …that no bearer of burden bears another’s burden, and that man can have nothing but what he strives for…, 3:130. O you who believe, do not devour usury, doubling and redoubling, and keep your duty to Allah, that you may be successful. 2:275. Those who swallow usury cannot arise except as he arises whom the devil prostrates by (his) touch [-of miserliness, obsessed by love of wealth and selfishness]. 30:39. And whatever you lay out at usury, so that it may increase through the property of (other) people, it does not increase with Allah; and whatever you give in charity, desiring Allah’s pleasure — these will get manifold. [Muhammad Ali]
Catholic doctrine was the fundamental obstacle to growth in the West, with example of Galileo as one of the many, whereas Islam encourages discovery of nature and science as an article of faith – 2:164 In the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the alternation of night and day, and the ships that run in the sea with that which benefits mankind, and the water that Allah sends down from the sky, then gives life with it to the earth after its death and spreads in it all (kinds of) animals, and the changing of the winds and the clouds made subservient between heaven and earth, there are surely signs for a people who understand. 16:12. And He has made subservient to you the night and the day and the sun and the moon. And the stars are made subservient by His command. Surely there are signs in this for a people who understand.[Muhammad Ali]
While colonialism, slavery and racism were state institutions in modern Western history with Catholicism at its center, Quran had laid out equality and brotherhood of man centuries before that – 49:13. O mankind, surely We have created you from a male and a female, and made you tribes and families that you may know each other. Surely the noblest of you with Allah is the most dutiful of you [-of the best in conduct]. Surely Allah is Knowing, Aware. [Muhammad Ali]
The passages from chapter 4 – “The Great and Enduring Heresy of Mohammed” below have been excerpted for limited nature of this discussion. In order to reduce the length, only verses of Quran and their foot notes, relevant to topic at hand are inserted without any explanatory notes and it is left up to the reader to draw their own conclusion about the pertinence of message of the Quran. Quran advocates for itself quite well. It seems Quran is writing the moral history and Hilaire Belloc, the author is only a note taker.
Author opines that before Islam, Catholicism fought off Arianism (– from Egypt, not to be confused with Nazism) and its derivatives and felt secure. But it was constantly vulnerable at the hands of pagans attacks by – Scandinavians, Germans, Slavs and Mongols; and the heretical views of Eastern Orthodox – The Byzantines. By 630 A.D. even the Gaul (– a region of Western Europe during the Iron Age and Roman era, encompassing present day France, Luxembourg and Belgium, most of Switzerland, the western part of Northern Italy, as well as the parts of the Netherlands and Germany on the left bank of the Rhine) had converted to Catholicism. By then, Catholicism had thought that it had stabilized itself, but out of nowhere came Islam:
It was just at this moment, a moment of apparently universal and permanent Catholicism, that there fell an unexpected blow of overwhelming magnitude and force. Islam arose quite suddenly. It came out of the desert and overwhelmed half our civilization.
Islam, the teaching of Mohammed conquered immediately in arms. Mohammed’s Arabian converts charged into Syria and won there two great battles, the first upon the Yarmuk to the east of Palestine in the highlands above the Jordan, the second in Mesopotamia [Qadisiyyah]. They went on to overrun Egypt; they pushed further and further into the heart of our Christian civilization with all its grandeur of Rome. They established themselves all over Northern Africa; they raided into Asia Minor [– western two thirds of the Asian part of Turkey], though they did not establish themselves there as yet. They could even occasionally threaten Constantinople itself. At last, a long lifetime after their first victories in Syria, they crossed the Straits of Gibraltar into Western Europe and began to flood Spain. They even got as far as the very heart of Northern France, between Poitiers and Tours, less than a hundred years after their first victories in Syria in A.D. 732.
They were ultimately thrust back to the Pyrenees, but they continued to hold all Spain except the mountainous north-western corner. They held all Roman Africa[– North Africa], including Egypt, and all Syria. They dominated the whole Mediterranean west and east: held its islands, raided and left armed settlements even on the shores of Gaul and Italy. They spread mightily throughout Hither Asia [– India and South East Asia] , overwhelming the Persian realm. They were an increasing menace to Constantinople. Within a hundred years, a main part of the Roman world had fallen under the power of this new and strange force from the Desert.
Such a revolution had never been. No earlier attack had been so sudden, so violent or so permanently successful. Within a score of years from the first assault in 634 the Christian Levant [– Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Israel, the Palestinian territories, and parts of Cyprus, Turkey and Iraq] had gone: Syria, the cradle of the Faith, and Egypt with Alexandria, the mighty Christian See. Within a lifetime half the wealth and nearly half the territory of the Christian Roman Empire was in the hands of Mohammedan masters and officials, and the mass of the population was becoming affected more and more by this new thing.
[Comment: 41:53. We will soon show them Our signs in farthest regions and among their own people [Footnote], until it is quite clear to them that it is the Truth. Is it not enough that your Lord is a Witness over all things?
Footnote: The word afaq means borders or extremeties of the earth, or its remote sides, and the great message conveyed here is that Islam will spread to the most distant regions of the earth, the words their own people denoting the Arabs. What is stated here is that Islam will quickly spread, not only in Arabia but in the remote regions of the earth, and this prophecy is contained in a chapter revealed early at Makkah, when Muslims were being severely persecuted and the message of Islam had apparently little hope of finding acceptance anywhere. If the prophecy is so clear, its fulfilment is clearer still. Within twenty years of its birth, Islam spread through the whole of Arabia, and within a hundred years, it reached the farthest regions of the earth, both in the East and the West. Both the prophecy and its fulfilment are thus two of the most amazing facts of history. – Muhammad Ali]
As to what this new thing was:
…this extraordinary thing which still calls itself Islam, that is, “The Acceptation” of the morals and simple doctrines which Mohammed had preached.
[Comment: 7:157. those who follow the Messenger-Prophet, the Ummi [– Arab], whom they find mentioned in the Torah and the Gospel [Footnote]. He enjoins them good and forbids them evil, and makes lawful to them the good things and prohibits for them impure things, and removes from them their burden and the shackles which were on them. So those who believe in him and honour him and help him, and follow the light [ – Quran, guidance] which has been sent down with him — these are the successful.
Footnote: There are many prophecies regarding the advent of the Holy Prophet in the Bible. The Torah and the Gospel are specially mentioned here because Moses and Jesus were respectively the first and the last of the Israelite prophets. Deuteronomy 18:15–18 speaks very clearly of the raising of a prophet, who shall be the like of Moses, from among the brethren of the Israelites, i.e. the Ishmaelites or the Arabs, while Deuteronomy 33:2 speaks of the shining forth of the manifestation of the Lord, i.e. his coming in full glory “from Mount Paran”. The Gospel is full of prophecies of the advent of the Holy Prophet; Matthew 21:33–44, Mark 12:1–11, Luke 20:9–18, where the Lord of the vineyard comes after the son (i.e. Jesus) is maltreated, and Matthew 13:31–32, John 1:21, John 14:16, John 14:26 all contain such prophecies.– Muhammad Ali]
As to the morals and simple doctrines which Mohammed had preached, author states:
Mohammedanism was a heresy: that is the essential point to grasp before going any further. It began as a heresy, not as a new religion. It was not a pagan contrast with the Church; it was not an alien enemy. It was a perversion of Christian doctrine. It vitality and endurance soon gave it the appearance of a new religion, but those who were contemporary with its rise saw it for what it was not a denial, but an adaptation and a misuse, of the Christian thing. It differed from most (not from all) heresies in this, that it did not arise within the bounds of the Christian Church. The chief heresiarch, Mohammed himself, was not, like most heresiarchs, a man of Catholic birth and doctrine to begin with. He sprang from pagans. But that which he taught was in the main Catholic doctrine, oversimplified. It was the great Catholic world on the frontiers of which he lived, whose influence was all around him and whose territories he had known by travel which inspired his convictions. He came of, and mixed with, the degraded idolaters of the Arabian wilderness, the conquest of which had never seemed worth the Romans’ while.
[Comment: 16:101-105. And when We change a message [– old Scriptures] for a message [– Quran] — and Allah knows best what He reveals — they say: You are only a forger. Rather, most of them do not know. Say: The Holy Spirit [– Gabriel, similar to Torah] has revealed it from your Lord with truth, that it may establish those who believe, and as a guidance and good news for those who submit. And indeed We know that they say: Only a mortal [– Christian slave(s) who were of the early convert(s) to Islam] teaches him. The tongue of him [– the alleged Christian(s) who were victims of persecution for adopting Islam] whom they hint at is foreign, and this is clear Arabic language. Those who do not believe in Allah’s messages, Allah does not guide them, and for them is a painful punishment. Only they forge lies who do not believe in Allah’s messages, and they are the liars [– i.e. a persecuted convertee cannot forge for the converter?].– Muhammad Ali]
He took over very few of those old pagan ideas which might have been native to him from his descent. On the contrary, he preached and insisted upon a whole group of ideas which were peculiar to the Catholic Church and distinguished it from the paganism which it had conquered in the Greek and Roman civilization. Thus the very foundation of his teaching was that prime Catholic doctrine, the unity and omnipotence of God. The attributes of God he also took over in the main from Catholic doctrine: the personal nature, the all-goodness, the timelessness, the providence of God, His creative power as the origin of all things, and His sustenance of all things by His power alone. The world of good spirits and angels and of evil spirits in rebellion against God was a part of the teaching, with a chief evil spirit, such as Christendom had recognized. Mohammed preached with insistence that prime Catholic doctrine, on the human side the immortality of the soul and its responsibility for actions in this life, coupled with the consequent doctrine of punishment and reward after death.
[Comment: 2:135. And they say: Be Jews or Christians, you will be on the right course. Say: Rather, (we follow) the religion of Abraham,the upright one [– Hanif], and he was not of those who set up partners (with Allah).
Footnote: The word Hanif or “upright” is often mentioned in connection with the name of Abraham and the Holy Prophet, and his followers are also enjoined to be Hanif. Muslims are enjoined to remain firm in the right state, and thus to be the true representatives of the Abrahamic faith in the world. It is for this reason that the word Hanif is used here in opposition to the attitude of both the Jews and the Christians.
2:136. Say: We believe in Allah and (in) what has been revealed to us, and (in) what was revealed to Abraham, and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and the tribes, and (in) what was given to Moses and Jesus, and (in) what was given to the prophets from their Lord, we make no distinction between any of them and to Him we submit.
Footnote: This shows the cosmopolitan nature of a Muslim’s belief. Not only is belief in the great prophets of Israel an article of faith with a Muslim, but the words what was given to the prophets from their Lord make the Muslim conception of belief in prophets as wide as the world. And it should be noted that this broad conception was promulgated at a time when the Jews and the Christians were exerting themselves to the utmost against the new faith.
2:138. (We take) Allah’s colour, and who is better than Allah at colouring, and we are His worshippers.
Footnote: The religion of Islam is called Allah’s colour because God is uppermost in a Muslim’s ideas, and because his views are as broad as humanity. This particular word has also been adopted here as a hint to Christians that baptism of water does not effect any change in a person. It is the baptism of the broad principle of faith, accepting the prophets of all nations, that brings about change in the mentality of man. It is through this baptism that the new birth is received, because it opens the mind for the reception of all truth, and inspires it with love and reverence for all good people.
2:139. Say: Do you dispute with us about Allah, and He is our Lord and your Lord, and for us are our deeds and for you your deeds; and we are sincere to Him?
Footnote: A Muslim’s conception of Allah is very broad. It includes all that is best in all other religions, but is free from the limitations they put. Therefore no one who is true to his religion can dispute the Muslim conception of the Divine Being. Moreover, every religion of the world limits the spiritual sustenance of God to one nation or one country. Not so Islam, which says that the truth was revealed to every nation. Every nation thus accepts partial truth, only that part of the truth which was revealed to it, but Islam accepts the whole truth.– Muhammad Ali]
The preachings of Muhammad were not by itself a cause of quarrel with Christianity:
Mohammed would almost seem in this aspect to be a sort of missionary, preaching and spreading by the energy of his character the chief and fundamental doctrines of the Catholic Church among those who had hitherto been degraded pagans of the Desert.
[Comment: 9:128. Certainly a Messenger has come to you from among yourselves; very painful for him is your falling into distress, most concerned (he is) for you, to the believers (he is) compassionate, merciful.
Footnote: This is the true picture of the heart which grieved, not for his followers alone, not for one nation or country, but for all humanity. He grieves for the burdens of all, and he is most concerned for the welfare of all. The whole of humanity is meant here because the concluding words refer additionally to the believers. There is a special relation he bears to those who follow him; to them he is, in addition, compassionate and merciful.– Muhammad Ali]
He gave to Our Lord the highest reverence, and to Our Lady also, for that matter. On the day of judgment (another Catholic idea which he taught) it was Our Lord, according to Mohammed, who would be the judge of mankind, not he, Mohammed.
[Comment: 39:43-44. Or, do they take intercessors besides Allah? Say: What! Even though they control nothing, nor do they understand. Say: Allah’s is the intercession altogether. His is the kingdom of the heavens and the earth. Then to Him you will be returned.– Muhammad Ali]
The Mother of Christ, Our Lady, “the Lady Miriam” was ever for him the first of womankind.
[Comment: 3:42-43. And when the angels said: O Mary, surely Allah has chosen you and purified you and chosen you above the women of the world. O Mary, be obedient to your Lord and humble yourself and bow down with those who bow.
His followers even got from the early fathers some vague hint of her Immaculate Conception.
[Comment: 21:91. And she who guarded her chastity, so We breathed into her of Our inspiration, and made her and her son a sign for the nations. Footnote: Mary, the mother of Jesus, is meant here. Nothing is said about immaculate conception here. The guarding of chastity does not preclude the lawful union of husband and wife. – Muhammad Ali]
However, the death blows to Christianity at hands of Muhammad are based upon refutation of Trinity:
But the central point where this new heresy struck home with a mortal blow against Catholic tradition was a full denial of the Incarnation.
[Comment: 4:155-159. Then for their [– Jews] breaking their covenant and their disbelief in the messages of Allah and their killing the prophets unjustly and their saying, Our hearts are securely covered; no, Allah has sealed them on account of their disbelief, so they do not believe but a little; and for their disbelief and for their uttering against Mary a grievous slander [that Mary was guilty of fornication]; and for their saying: We have killed the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, the messenger of Allah, and they did not kill him, nor did they cause his death on the cross [Footnote 1], but he was made to appear to them as such. And certainly those who differ concerning it are in doubt about it. They have no knowledge about it, but only follow a conjecture, and they did not kill him for certain; rather, Allah exalted him in His presence [Footnote 2]. And Allah is ever Mighty, Wise. And there is none of the People of the Book but will believe in this before his death; and on the day of Resurrection he will be a witness against them [Footnote 3].
Footnote 1: The words used here do not negative that Jesus was nailed to the cross; they negative his having expired on the cross as a result of being nailed to it. That Jesus died a natural death is plainly stated in 5:117 [– I [i.e. Jesus] said to them nothing but what You commanded me: Serve Allah, my Lord and your Lord; and I was a witness of them so long as I was among them, but when You caused me to die You were the Watcher over them. And You are Witness of all things.]. The Gospels contain clear testimony showing that Jesus Christ escaped death on the cross. For example, Jesus remained on the cross for a few hours only (Mark 15:25, John 19:14) but death by crucifixion was always slow. When the side of Jesus was pierced, blood rushed out and this was a certain sign of life (John 19:34). Jesus was not buried but was given into the charge of a wealthy disciple of his, who lavished care on him and put him in a spacious tomb hewn in the side of a rock (Mark 15:46). When the tomb was seen on the third day, the stone was found to have been removed from its mouth (Mark 16:4), which would not have been the case if there had been a supernatural rising. Jesus Christ prayed the whole night before his arrest to be saved from the accursed death on the cross, and he also asked his disciples to pray for him. He seems to have even received a promise from God to be saved, and it was to this promise that he referred when he cried out on the cross: “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” The statements made in the Quran corroborate the testimony found in the Gospels. Jesus did not die on the cross, nor was he killed as were the two thieves who were crucified with him, but to people he appeared as if he were dead.
Footnote 2: For “exaltation” see 3:55 [When Allah said: O Jesus, I will cause you to die and exalt you in My presence and clear you of those who disbelieve and make those who follow you above those who disbelieve to the day of Resurrection.] footnote 2. Being exalted in the Divine presence was opposed to being killed on the cross. Deuteronomy 21:23 explains this, for there we have, he who is hanged is accursed of God. If Jesus had died on the cross he would have been accursed; hence the statement made here — he was not killed on the cross and accursed but he was exalted in the Divine presence.
Footnote 3: Both Jews and Christians necessarily believe in the death of Jesus on the cross, while according to the Quran they have really no sure knowledge of it. The belief of the Jews is that since Jesus died on the cross he was accursed of God, and hence he cannot be a prophet. Following quite a different line of argument, Christians believe that Jesus died on the cross and was accursed, but that unless Jesus were accursed he could not take away the sins of those that believe in him. Hence the belief of both Jews and Christians is that Jesus died on the cross, and the meaning of the verse is clear, i.e., every Jew and Christian, despite having no sure knowledge at all, must believe before his death that Jesus died on the cross. – Muhammad Ali]
Mohammed did not merely take the first steps toward that denial, as the Arians and their followers had done; he advanced a clear affirmation, full and complete, against the whole doctrine of an incarnate God. He taught that Our Lord was the greatest of all the prophets, but still only a prophet: a man like other men. He eliminated the Trinity altogether.
[Comment: 4:171. O People of the Book, do not exaggerate in the matter of your religion nor speak anything about Allah but the truth. The Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, is only a messenger of Allah and His word which He communicated to Mary and a mercy from Him. So believe in Allah and His messengers. And do not say, Three. Refrain (from it), it is better for you. Allah is only one God. Far be it from His glory to have a son. To Him belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is in the earth. And sufficient is Allah as having charge of affairs. – Muhammad Ali]
With that denial of the Incarnation went the whole sacramental structure. He refused to know anything of the Eucharist, with its Real Presence; he stopped the sacrifice of the Mass, and therefore the institution of a special priesthood. In other words, he, like so many other lesser heresiarchs, founded his heresy on simplification.
Catholic doctrine was true (he seemed to say), but it had become encumbered with false accretions; it had become complicated by needless man-made additions, including the idea that its founder was Divine, and the growth of a parasitical caste of priests who battened on a late, imagined, system of Sacraments which they alone could administer. All those corrupt accretions must be swept away.
[Comment: 9:34. O you who believe, surely many of the doctors of law and monks eat away people’s property falsely, and hinder (them) from Allah’s way. And those who hoard up gold and silver and do not spend it in Allah’s way — announce to them a painful punishment,. – Muhammad Ali]
…the new teaching relaxed the marriage laws but in practice this did not affect the mass of his followers who still remained monogamous.
[Comment: 2:228…And women have rights similar to those against them in a just manner… – Muhammad Ali]
It made divorce as easy as possible, for the sacramental idea of marriage disappeared.
[Comment: 2:227. And if they [husband and wife] resolve on a divorce, Allah is surely Hearing, Knowing.
Footnote: The Islamic law of divorce is elastic and does not strictly limit the causes of divorce. Divorce is allowed if sufficient reason exists, but the right is to be exercised under exceptional circumstances. A wife can claim a divorce according to the Islamic law, which was not a right conferred on her by Jewish and Christian laws on divorce as formulated in Deuteronomy and Matthew. – Muhammad Ali]
It insisted upon the equality of men…Mohammed’s teaching never developed among the mass of his followers, or in his own mind, a detailed theology.
[Comment: 6:50. Say: I do not say to you, I have with me the treasures of Allah, nor do I know the unseen, nor do I say to you that I am an angel; I follow only what is revealed to me. Say: Are the blind and the seeing alike? Do you not then reflect?
Footnote: Appearing among a superstitious and ignorant people, the Holy Prophet could have claimed any supernatural powers for himself. But he told them plainly that he was a man who had no treasures, nor did he lay claim as a man to know the secrets of the future, nor did he profess to be any more than a mortal. Allah had revealed His will to him, and he faithfully followed and translated into practice everything that he received from on High. And as he himself was, so he wanted others to be. The unique greatness of the Prophet lies in the fact that he never tried to put himself before people as superhuman. – Muhammad Ali]
..Mohammedanism drew its strength from the true Catholic doctrines which it retained: the equality of all men before God “All true believers are brothers.
[Comment: 10:19. And (all) people are but a single nation, then they disagree... – Muhammad Ali]
It zealously preached and throve on the paramount claims of justice, social and economic.
[Comment: 4:135. O you who believe, be maintainers of justice, bearers of witness for Allah, even if it is against your own selves or (your) parents or near relatives — whether he is rich or poor, Allah has a better right over them both. So do not follow (your) low desires, that you deviate. And if you distort (the truth) or turn away (from it), surely Allah is ever Aware of what you do. – Muhammad Ali]
The documentary makers must pay full attention to the following which led to success of Muhammad’s message:
Now, why did this new, simple, energetic heresy have its sudden overwhelming success?
One answer is that it won battles. It won them at once, as we shall see when we come to the history of the thing. But winning battles could not have made Islam permanent or even strong had there not been a state of affairs awaiting some such message and ready to accept it.
Both in the world of Hither Asia and in the Graeco-Roman world of the Mediterranean, but especially in the latter, society had fallen, much as our society has today, into a tangle wherein the bulk of men were disappointed and angry and seeking for a solution to the whole group of social strains. There was indebtedness everywhere; the power of money and consequent usury. There was slavery everywhere. Society reposed upon it, as ours reposes upon wage slavery today. There was weariness and discontent with theological debate, which, for all its intensity, had grown out of touch with the masses. There lay upon the freemen, already tortured with debt, a heavy burden of imperial taxation; and there was the irritant of existing central government interfering with men’s lives; there was the tyranny of the lawyers and their charges.
[Comment: 30:41. Corruption has appeared in the land and the sea on account of what man’s hands have earned, that He may make them taste (the consequences of) some of what they have done, so that they may turn back.
Footnote: History bears evidence to the truth of these words. Before the advent of the Holy Prophet corruption and darkness prevailed in all countries of the world, affecting the beliefs of people as well as their deeds. Religions had long ceased to have any healthy effect on the lives of their votaries, and their followers had not only ceased to practice virtue, but, worst of all, they had begun to look upon vice as virtue, and many of them attributed indecent and immoral practices to their sages and their gods. Such widespread corruption had never previously existed in the world’s history. J.H. Denison writes in Emotion as the Basis of Civilization: “In the fifth and sixth centuries, the civilized world stood on the verge of chaos. The old emotional cultures that had made civilization possible … had broken down, and nothing had been found adequate to take their place.… It seemed then that the great civilization which it had taken four thousand years to construct was on the verge of disintegration, and that mankind was likely to return to that condition of barbarism where every tribe and sect was against the next and law and order were unknown.… Civilization like a gigantic tree whose foliage had over-reached the world … stood tottering … rotting to the core” (pp. 265–268). And then adds, speaking of Arabia: “It was among these people that the man was born who was to unite the whole known world of the east and south” (p. 269).
With the light of Islam, and through the torch of knowledge and civilization lit in Arabia, a new era dawned not only over Arabia, but also over other countries. Europe remained the longest in darkness, and it was only after the torch of knowledge had been lighted in Spain by Muslims that both the Renaissance and the Reformation came. – Muhammad Ali]
To all this Islam came as a vast relief and a solution of strain. The slave who admitted that Mohammed was the prophet of God and that the new teaching had, therefore, divine authority, ceased to be a slave. The slave who adopted Islam was henceforward free. The debtor who “accepted” was rid of his debts. Usury was forbidden. The small farmer was relieved not only of his debts but of his crushing taxation. Above all, justice could be had without buying it from lawyers. . . . All this in theory. The practice was not nearly so complete. Many a convert remained a debtor, many were still slaves. But wherever Islam conquered there was a new spirit of freedom and relaxation.
[editorial comment: acceptance of Islam was never a pre-condition for absolving the burden of slavery, debt etc. The issues raised above refer to good governance and were brought to light from Quran in Issue 16]
It was the combination of all these things, the attractive simplicity of the doctrine, the sweeping away of clerical and imperial discipline, the huge immediate practical advantage of freedom for the slave and riddance of anxiety for the debtor, the crowning advantage of free justice under few and simple new laws easily understood that formed the driving force behind the astonishing Mohammedan social victory. The courts were everywhere accessible to all without payment and giving verdicts which all could understand. The Mohammedan movement was essentially a “Reformation,” …
[Comment: 110:1-3. When Allah’s help and victory comes [Footnote 1], and you see people entering the religion of Allah in companies, celebrate the praise of your Lord and ask His protection [Footnote 2]. Surely He is ever Returning (to mercy).
Footnote 1: The great victory which had come was the triumph of the religion of Islam in the whole of Arabia. Deputation after deputation from all parts of Arabia came to Madinah and accepted Islam. History does not present another example of the wonderful transformation wrought by the Holy Prophet within the short space of twenty years.
Footnote 2: On witnessing the greatest triumph known to history, the Holy Prophet is told to celebrate the praise of his Lord, and to ask protection. For whom was protection to be asked? If it was for himself, it was a protection against elation at an unprecedented victory, because elation ill befitted a Teacher of righteousness. But more likely, he was required to ask protection for the masses which were now accepting Islam in companies. In fact he was required to ask Divine forgiveness or protection for his erstwhile oppressors, forgiveness for his deadly enemies, who were guilty of the gravest crimes. – Muhammad Ali]
While Christendom was dwelling in Dark Ages (A.D. 450 to A.D. 1030), Islam with its center at Baghdad was flourishing in culture, science and advancement:
Islam stood up against us in dominating splendour and wealth and power, and, what was even more important, with superior knowledge in the practical and applied sciences.
Islam preserved the Greek philosophers, the Greek mathematicians and their works, the physical science of the Greek and Roman earlier writers. Islam was also far more lettered than was Christendom. In the mass of the West most men had become illiterate. Even in Constantinople [then under Byzantines] reading and writing were not as common as they were in the world governed by the Caliph.
One might sum up and say that the contrast between the Mohammedan world of those early centuries and the Christian world which it threatened to overwhelm was like the contrast between a modern industrialized state and a backward, half-developed state next door to it: the contrast between modern Germany, for instance, and its Russian neighbor. The contrast was not as great as that, but the modern parallel helps one to understand it. For centuries to come Islam was to remain a menace, even though Spain was re-conquered. In the East it became more than a menace, and spread continually for seven hundred years, until it had mastered the Balkans and the Hungarian plain, and all but occupied Western Europe itself. Islam was the one heresy that nearly destroyed Christendom through its early material and intellectual superiority.
…when the second dynasty which presided for so long over Islam, the Abbasides, with their capital further east at Bagdad, on the Euphrates, restored the old Mesopotamian domination over Syria, ruling also Egypt and all the Mohammedan world, that splendour and science, material power and wealth of which I spoke, arose and dazzled all contemporaries, and we must ask the question again: why was this?
The answer lies in the very nature of the Mohammedan conquest. It did not, as has been so frequently repeated, destroy at once what it came across; it did not exterminate all those who would not accept Islam. It was just the other way…
Slowly the influence of Islam spread through these, but during the first centuries the great majority in Syria, and even in Mesopotamia and Egypt, were Christian, keeping the Christian Mass, the Christian Gospels, and all the Christian tradition. It was they who preserved the Graeco-Roman civilization from which they descended, and it was that civilization, surviving under the surface of Mohammedan government, which gave their learning and material power to the wide territories which we must call, even so early, “the Mohammedan world,” though the bulk of it was not yet Mohammedan in creed.
But there was another and it is the most important cause. The fiscal cause: the overwhelming wealth of the early Mohammedan Caliphate. The merchant and the tiller of the land, the owner of property and the negotiator, were everywhere relieved by the Mohammedan conquest; for a mass of usury was swept away, as was an intricate system of taxation which had become clogged, ruining the taxpayer without corresponding results for the government. What the Arabian conquerors and their successors in Mesopotamia did was to replace all that by a simple, straight system of tribute.
What ever was not Mohammedan in the immense Mohammedan Empire that is, much the most of its population was subject to a special tribute; and it was this tribute which furnished directly, without loss from the intricacies of bureaucracy, the wealth of the central power: the revenue of the Caliph. That revenue remained enormous during all the first generations. The result was that which always follows upon a high concentration of wealth in one governing centre; the whole of the society governed from that centre reflects the opulence of its directors.
There we have the explanation of that strange, that unique phenomenon in history a revolt against civilization which did not destroy civilization; a consuming heresy which did not destroy the Christian religion against which it was directed.
The world of Islam became and long remained, the heir of the old Graeco-Roman culture and the preserver thereof. Thence was it that, alone of all the great heresies, Mohammedanism not only survived, and is, after nearly fourteen centuries, as strong as ever spiritually. In time it struck roots and established a civilization of its own over against ours, and a permanent rival to us.
First they rise with great violence and become fashionable…when they are in their initial vigour and spread like a flame from man to man…
…second phase of decline, lasting, apparently (according to some obscure law), through about five or six generations: say a couple of hundred years or a little more. The adherents of the heresy grow less numerous and less convinced until at last only quite a small number can be called full and faithful followers of the original movement.
…the third phase, when each heresy wholly disappears as a bit of doctrine: no one believes the doctrine any more or only such a tiny fraction remain believers that they no longer count. But the social and moral factors of the heresy remain and may be of powerful effect for generations more.
Despite, making a generic case of Islam as heresy of Christianity, the author is constrained to note its exception. This exception itself makes the case for Islam as a separate religion:
Now in the case of Islam none of all this happened except the first phase. There was no second phase of gradual decline in the numbers and conviction of its followers. On the contrary Islam grew from strength to strength acquiring more and more territory, converting more and more followers, until it had established itself as a quite separate civilization and seemed so like a new religion that most people came to forget its origin as a heresy.
Islam increased not only in numbers and in the conviction of its followers but in territory and in actual political and armed power until close on the eighteenth century. Less than 100 years before the American War of Independence a Mohammedan army was threatening to overrun and destroy Christian civilization, and would have done so if the Catholic King of Poland had not destroyed that army outside Vienna.
Author notes, that despite the loss of temporal power, Islam still continues to thrive:
Since then the armed power of Mohammedanism has declined; but neither its numbers nor the conviction of its followers have appreciably declined; and as to the territory annexed by it, though it has lost places in which it ruled over subject Christian majorities, it has gained new adherents to some extent in Asia, and largely in Africa. Indeed in Africa it is still expanding among the negroid populations, and that expansion provides an important future problem for the European Governments who have divided Africa between them.
In spite of the Christian missionary efforts of centuries and world wide colonization of Muslim lands, Islam remains impenetrable:
And there is another point in connection with this power of Islam. Islam is apparently unconvertible.
The missionary efforts made by great Catholic orders which have been occupied in trying to turn Mohammedans into Christians for nearly 400 years have everywhere wholly failed. We have in some places driven the Mohammedan master out and freed his Christian subjects from Mohammedan control, but we have had hardly any effect in converting individual Mohammedans save perhaps to some small amount in Southern Spain 500 years ago; and even so that was rather an example of political than of religious change.
Note the perplexity of the author about the permanent and expanding nature of Islam, a skewed view which emanates from none but the author wearing the lens of Catholicism:
Now what is the explanation of all this? Why should Islam alone of all the great heresies show such continued vitality?
Those who are sympathetic with Mohammedanism and still more those who are actually Mohammedans explain it by proclaiming it the best and most human of religions, the best suited to mankind, and the most attractive.
[Comment: 30:30. So set yourself for religion, being upright, the nature made by Allah in which He has created mankind. There is no altering Allah’s creation. That is the right religion — but most people do not know.
Footnote: Islam according to this verse is the natural religion of mankind, or a religion to the truth of which human nature bears testimony. Its fundamental principles, the Unity and all-comprehensive providence of Allah, the universality of Divine revelation, and the accountability for all actions in a life after death, are recognized by all religions and all nations, and their universal acceptance is a clear evidence that it is the very nature of man that bears testimony to their truth. Islam removes all limitations upon these three fundamental doctrines of the religion of humanity, and gives them as wide a significance as humanity itself. The other fundamental principle of the natural religion of man is mentioned in v. 38. – Muhammad Ali]
It is quite obvious that the author equates certain races with certain religions only and gets perplexed if the lines cross. Ancestry seems more important in a religion to the author than the free will of the adherent:
Strange as it may seem, there are a certain number of highly educated men, European gentlemen, who have actually joined Islam, that is, who are personal converts to Mohammedanism. I myself have known and talked to some half-dozen of them in various parts of the world, and there are a very much larger number of similar men, well instructed Europeans, who, having lost their faith in Catholicism or in some form of Protestantism in which they were brought up, feel sympathy with the Mohammedan social scheme although they do not actually join it or profess belief in its religion. We constantly meet men of this kind today among those who have travelled in the East.
These men always give the same answer Islam is indestructible because it is founded on simplicity and justice. It has kept those Christian doctrines which are evidently true and which appeal to the common sense of millions, while getting rid of priestcraft, mysteries, sacraments, and all the rest of it. It proclaims and practices human equality. It loves justice and forbids usury. It produces a society in which men are happier and feel their own dignity more than in any other. That is its strength and that is why it still converts people and endures and will perhaps return to power in the near future.
From here, the author starts theorizing about success of Islam with the following questions first:
Now I do not think that explanation to be the true one. All heresy talks in those terms. Every heresy will tell you that it has purified the corruptions of Christian doctrines and in general done nothing but good to mankind, satisfied the human soul, and so on. Yet every one of them except Mohammedanism has faded out. Why?
In order to get the answer to the problem we must remark in what the fortunes of Islam have differed from those of all the other great heresies, and when we remark that I think we shall have the clue to the truth.
Reader: please read the chapter from this point onwards yourself [click this link and search for “Islam has differed” to reach the location within the document]
The only arguments for success of Islam that the author can conjure up are that Islam had stronger warriors who were mostly Arabian, Berbers and Mongols/Turks, essentially pagans, hence with passage of time like all other adherents of Catholic heresy, had no Catholicism to return back to, hence remained Muslims. But he fails in this argument by his own example of Attila and Mongols deeply penetrating Europe, who left no lasting legacy, despite being ruthlessly powerful. He is fundamentally on wrong thread of logic when he equates religion with temporal power and conquest. But he can’t help this line of thinking because he is speaking from his own experience as a Colonist where Christianity was able to convert the pagans under its rule by displacing the local mythologies with those of European Catholic with its relatively lesser number of Gods, three=one.
The author also laments the failure of crusades. Later he summarizes the weakening of temporal power of Islam and the corresponding European expansion. At his core, the author remains worried about Islamic resurgence:
…It has always seemed to me possible, and even probable, that there would be a resurrection of Islam and that our sons or our grandsons would see the renewal of that tremendous struggle between the Christian culture and what has been for more than a thousand years its greatest opponent.
Why this conviction should have arisen in the minds of certain observers and travellers, such as myself, I will now consider. It is indeed a vital question, “May not Islam arise again?”
In a sense the question is already answered because Islam has never departed. It still commands the fixed loyalty and unquestioning adhesion of all the millions between the Atlantic and the Indus and further afield throughout scattered communities of further Asia. But I ask the question in the sense “Will not perhaps the temporal power of Islam return and with it the menace of an armed Mohammedan world which will shake off the domination of Europeans still nominally Christian and reappear again as the prime enemy of our civilization?” The future always comes as a surprise but political wisdom consists in attempting at least some partial judgment of what that surprise may be. And for my part I cannot but believe that a main unexpected thing of the future is the return of Islam. Since religion is at the root of all political movements and changes and since we have here a very great religion physically paralysed but morally intensely alive, we are in the presence of an unstable equilibrium which cannot remain permanently unstable. Let us then examine the position.
I have said throughout these pages that the particular quality of Mohammedanism, regarded as a heresy, was its vitality. Alone of all the great heresies Mohammedanism struck permanent roots, developing a life of its own, and became at last something like a new religion. So true is this that today very few men, even among those who are highly instructed in history, recall the truth that Mohammedanism was essentially in its origins not a new religion, but a heresy.
Where the author is basically mistaken is that it is the Catholicism that has corrupted the doctrine of Jesus and despite efforts of many heresies, e.g. Araianism, Calvinsim etc. Catholicism is too far on the limb to be cleansed, corrected, simplified and untangled from within itself. It needed an out-of-the-box system reset, essentially a cold re-boot, which the world saw at the hands of Muhammad, a prophet like Jesus himself. The author will never be able to arrive at a correct answer for ongoing success of Islam as a faith as long he dwells on the hypothesis that Islam is a heresy of Catholicism. He incorrectly equates Islam with non-Whites only. Islam has nothing to do with Christianity, while it has everything to with Jesus, who himself was a prophet of Islam, just like Moses and Abraham before him.
5:111. And when I inspired the disciples [of Jesus], (saying): Believe in Me and in My messenger [– Jesus], they said: We believe. Bear witness that we have surrendered (unto Thee) “we are Muslims [– the submitting ones]“. – Pickthall.
Catholicism taking credit for Islam and declaring it as its heresy is akin to a rooster taking credit for sunrise.
Hillaire Belloc – Wikipedia
Islam – The Universal Religion – Ulfat Aziz Samad
The Holy Quran – Nooruddin
The Holy Quran – Muhammad Ali, edited by Dr Zahid Aziz