Women and Islam

80 Years Ago

80 YEARS AGO ISLAM AND COMMON SENSE (The following is an extract from the Review of Religions dated June, 1989) “Islam., the Religion of Common Sense” is the heading of an article in the current issue of the Hibbert Journal. This valuable contribution to this well-known journal comes from the pen of an educated Indian Muhammadan who conceals his identity under the assumed name of Ibn Ishaq. Beyond two or three mistakes due to the writer’s want of knowledge concerning those particular points, the article is an able exposition of the principles of the Muslim religion. But in the introductory remarks by Mr. Hughes, author of “A Dictionary of Islam,” the reader is asked to believe that the writer was compelled to conceal his name from fear of assassination at the hands of exasperated Muhammadan readers of the article. For our own part, we find the article contributed by Ibn Ishaq to be so interesting and instructive for both Christians and Muhammadans that we think Mr. Hughes had no need of introducing the above fantastic explanation to add to its charm. The writer of the article in question considers the institutions and injunctions of Islam to be pre-eminently consistent with common sense. The native simplicity of a Muslim’s creed, “There is no god but God and Muhammad is the Messenger of God,” commends itself to every man of common sense. The daily prayer of the Muslims and the call to prayer are unparalleled in their impressiveness in the religious observances of the world. Priestcraft which is the bane of civilization has no place in Islam and the writer considers even the Ottoman Caliph as “an excrescence and an intrusion in Islam. To the average man Islam preaches the pure morality which is within his reach. Its principles of morality are clear and broad and “there is no splitting of hairs over questions of right and wrong.” Speaking of polygamy he says— “The polygamy of Islam is considered immoral by Christian writers and it always seems to excite the prurient curiosity of the Western traveller. No sensible Muslim regards it as an immoral feature in Islam. Nay, more, he is fully convinced that Jesus Christ never forbade it. ‘They 48 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS twain shall be our flesh? (Matt, xix, 5) means precisely the same as ‘They twain are of one soul’ in the Holy Quran (Sura iv, 1). Its meaning is evident to any sensible person, but when Martin Luther, of pious memory, and John Milton, the Puritan poet, advocate both polygamy and divorce, it does not seem necessary that the Muslim should defend his Prophet when he endorsed both these institutions, which had the divine sanction of the Almighty in the time of Moses. The restrictions of Islam put Western civilization to shame. Not ten per cent of the seventy-five millions of Muslims in India are polygamists, and divorce is not nearly as common among the Muslims as it is in America at the present time. The unlimited concubinage (in which the woman has no rights at all) as it exists in the large cities) of Protestant countries is infinitely more immoral than the pplygamy of Islam. The dower rights of the Muslim woman are a great protection. Besides this, divorce is held to be a very disgraceful thing, and was condemned by the Prophet. Sensible Muslims who have travelled in Europe and America believe that a restricted polygamy must eventually be introduced into Christian lands.” Islam is a religion which guides a man not only in his relations to God, but also in his relations to his fellow-beings, and in every phase of the individual’s life it takes a paramount place. It furnishes guiding rules from the cradle to the grave. It abolished many of the evils which have been for many centuries, and many of which even now are, the bane of Christian society. The emancipation of slaves was declared by the Prophet to be an act of greatest piety and thus an impetus was given to the abolition of slavery. Ordinary traffic in human beings was strictly prohibited, and the captives of war who were some times, enslaved were treated with the greatest indulgence. Infrantacide, which was as prevalent in Arabia at^ the appearance of the Holy Prophet was suppressed by Islam. The taking of intoxicating liquors was strictly forbidden and thus Muhammadan countries have escaped the degeneration of many Christian lands. The writer refers to a large number of other sensible reforms introduced by Islam which have proved of lasting benefit. But with all this sensibility, the article is not free from blunders. The assertion that “Islam has been propagated and enforced by the power of the sword” is accepted as true. It is astonishing to find an educated Muhammadan accepting a position which shows an entire ignorance of the early Musim history of the circumstances under which the Holy Prophet was compelled to allow his followers to take the sword, and of 49 the object with which this extreme measure was taken. Even an ordinary reader of the Holy Quran cannot mistake the plain meaning of the holy book. The circumstances under which, and the object with which, the sword was taken up are clearly stated in a verse which forms the basis of the permission to Muhammadans to fight against their opponents, it is contained in the fortieth verse of the chapter entitled the “Pilgrimage” and runs thus: “Permission (to fight) is given to those against whom arms have been taken up, because they have been subjected to oppression and outrages, and verily God is able to assist them-those who have been expelled from their homes wrongfully only because they snid ‘Our Lord is God.’ And if God had not repelled some men by others, cloisters and churches and synagogues and mosques wherein the name of God is ever commemorated, would surely have been destroyed. “This was the first verse which sanctioned the taking up of arms by the Muhammadans, and the qasis of the Muslim doctrine of Jehad. It first speaks of the circumstances under which the permission was given: the opponents of the Muslims had taken up arms against them and were bent upon extirpating them with the sword. And the object which the Muslims were enjoined to keep before them in fighting was that religious liberty should be established in the land and that no one should be molested or persecuted for his religious beliefs. Almighty God permitted the Muslims to “repel” their opponents so that cloisters, churches, synagogues and mosques might be saved from destruction and the followers of different religions might be free to worship God in their own way, A later injuction speaks of the Muslim wars in the same strain “And fight for the cause of God against those who fight against you: but commit not the injustice of attacking first… And do battle against them until there be no persecution and religion may be professed only for the sake of God (ii, 186, 189). Such ignorance of the Holy Quran as is betrayed by the writer of the article in question cannot be excused in an educated Muhammadan who sits down to expound the principles of the Muslim faith. The REVIEW of RELIGIONS The Review of Religions is the oldest magazine of its kind published in English language in the Indo-Pakistan Sub-Continent. Its first issue was published in 1902 and it has been continuously published since. It bears the distinction that it was initiated under the direction of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian, the Promised Messiah himself. During more than eighty-seven years the message of Islam has been conveyed through this magazine to millions of readers and many fortunate persons have recognized the truth of Islam and accepted it through its study. The articles published in it deal not only with the doctrines and teachings of Islam but also set forth a comparative appreciation of the teachings of other faiths. One of its outstanding features is the refutation of the criticism of Islamic teachings by orientalists and non-muslim scholars. It also presents solutions in the light of Islamic teachings of the problems with which the Islamic world is from time to time confronted. A study of this magazine is indispensable for the appreciation of the doctrines of the Ahmadiyya Movement and the teachings of its Holy Founder. Printed by Raqeem Press:, Islamabad, Shwphatch Lane, TiHoid, Surrey GU10 2AQ, U.K. Published by The Review of Religions, The London Mosque, 16 Gressenhall Road, London SW18 SQL