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“Islam under the Khalifs of Baghdad” is a continuation of the work I published in the spring of last year, entitled “Islam under the Arabs."
It constitutes the second in a series of three, the last of which will be devoted to a history of “ Islam in India." The series, as a whole, may be regarded as an attempt to discover the veritable character of Islam, by an investigation of its actual results in the countries dominated by its influence. I little thought, when I resolved to undertake this long and difficult task, that I should publish the results of my labours at a time when the character of Islam was the subject of such passionate debate as it is at present. In one way this may be of advantage to my book. It may have the effect of obtaining for it a greater degree of attention than it otherwise would. But from another and more important point of view, it is distinctly disadvantageous. For the moment, my subject—a question of historical fact—is almost certain to be decided by the impulses of mere sentiment; and it is well nigh inevitable that by one party at least I should be denounced
as illiberal, prejudiced, and partial. I would therefore ask my readers to understand that the conclusions set forth in this book-be they right or wronghave been in no way influenced by the “ Bulgarian massacres,” or Russo-Turkish
They were formed and committed to writing many years ago ; they are the result of a long residence in India, and of many years' study of Moslem history and literature.
But this question of the veritable character of Islam has been rendered needlessly obscure and difficult by another cause on which I should like to speak more at length. It has been mixed up with another question, which, in point of fact, has nothing to do with it. I mean the character of Muhammad.
The character of Muhammad is, of course, a problem of great interest and no small difficulty. It has been approached by different writers from different standpoints; and different theories have, in consequence, been started to account for it. In all these theories there are, probably, certain elements of truth; and none, we may be certain, which are not defective and insufficient. But the inner character of the Prophet has nothing to do with the practical consequences of Islam; and this for a very simple reason. Throughout the Moslem world his words and his acts constitute the standard of morality. The servant of Islam never thinks and never has thought of attempting to penetrate behind the recorded act or speech to the motive which might have inspired it.
In all the acts and speeches of the Prophet, the Faithful see but one and the same impelling spirit. Whatever Muhammad did, he did under Divine guidance. The Koran is not his composition, but the direct utterances of the Deity. The sayings of the Prophet handed down by tradition are not the sayings of a man, but Divine decrees recorded on “the Everlasting Table before man and the world were called into existence. And so also with the acts of Muhammad. Whatever were his motives, none can deny that he had many wives, that he massacred the men of a Jewish tribe in cold blood, that he traded in slaves, that he had recourse to the secret dagger to rid himself of dangerous opponents. These acts, in the belief of the Moslem world, are in perfect harmony with the Prophetic character, and were wrought with the Divine sanction. In estimating the results of Islam, this belief, with the distorted morality resulting from it, is the important fact to bear in mind; the motives which impelled Muhammad are indifferent.
In much that has been written on Islam, this distinction has been disregarded ; and writers who think highly of Muhammad appear to regard themselves as bound in logic and in honour to think highly of his religion also. But the broad fact which has to be accounted for, is the general decadence of the Muhammadan world. To whichever quarter we look-to Northern Africa, to Egypt, Arabia, the Ottoman Empire, Persia, or the Khanates of Central Asiathe same spectacle of decay and increasing decrepitude confronts us. There is no soundness in it, but wounds