CHAPTER XXXIV

THE KORAN AND THE BIBLE

 

THE peculiar state of mind which has enabled the Turk to commit outrages on humanity that have shocked and insulted the entire race have been due to three things: his own nature, the teachings of the Koran and the example of the Prophet. This is what Gladstone means when he speaks of the “combination of his nature and his religion.”

This is better understood when we take into consideration that other branches of the Mohammedans have made great contributions to the progress and culture of the world. The Arabs have distinguished themselves in architecture, science, poetry, art and letters. It is the opinion of that distinguished churchman, Canon William Barry, expressed in an article in “The Nineteenth Century and After” for August, 1919, that other Moslems should repudiate the Turk and his outrages. Canon Barry says:

 “Wise Moslems, instead of being stirred up in defense of a system condemned by history and experience, should be led to perceive in the Turk, not any ‘Bulwark of Islam,’ but a stain upon their civilization, a lapse from the glory of their illustrious Caliphs, a scandal and a weakness not to be endured any more.”

In support of this, one has only to hark back to the splendid days of Bagdad and Cordova. In the days of Haroun al Raschid, Bagdad was renowned as the greatest city in the world, a center of refinement, learning and art. This monarch is described as having gathered about him a brilliant company of poets, jurists, learned men and wits. That civilization has left behind one classic, which has immortalized it—even though it naively treats of a monarch who had a new wife every night whose head he cut off in the morning.

But here we have the same old story: Bagdad fell into insignificance after it came under the sway of the Turks; and at the time of its final capture in 1638 by the Sultan Murad IV, that monarch massacred most of its inhabitants, contrary to the terms of capitulation.

The Moors have left behind them in Spain monuments of architecture, which are to this day a delight to the world; we have only to cite the Mosque—now the Cathedral—at Cordova, and the Alhambra of Grenada. The famous Algebra of Omar Khayyám was written in Arabic and many contributions to science and literature have first appeared in that language. The Arab of Africa is described by travelers as the noblest specimen, physically, of the human race, and even the casual tourist who has touched at Algiers, has confirmed this fact by observation of the men in its streets. The difference, mentally, between the Arab and the Turk, is thus depicted by Buckhardt:

“The Arab displays his manly character when he defends his guest at the peril of his own life and submits to the reverses of fortune, to disappointment and distress with the most patient resignation. He is distinguished from the Turk by the virtues of pity and gratitude. The Turk is cruel, the Arab is of a more kindly temper; he pities and supports the wretched and never forgets the generosity shown him even by an enemy.”

Without having gone deeply into the subject, I am convinced that the Turks are the only branch of the Mohammedan faith, which has never made any contributions to the progress of civilization or produced anything which, as Sir Edwin Pears says, “the world would gladly keep.” They have been destructive and not constructive.

To understand how human beings could have developed such traits of ferocity and have left such a record of massacres, and for the benefit of those who believe that a high state of civilization is now to be built up by these people, who have definitely rejected the teachings of Christ, let us cast a glance at the comparative doctrines of the Koran and the Bible.

That the teachings of the New Testament are infinitely more softening and uplifting than those of the Koran, no one can deny after a brief and intelligent comparative study. The general spirit of the latter book—and the statement is made despite the contention of those commentators who hold the contrary—is that of spreading its doctrines and the power and dominion of its followers by the sword; to destroy the unbeliever or make him pay tribute. It is polygamous in its teachings.

It is founded on the Old Testament and in it appear the chief historical characters of that book. It is completed, or rounded out, by much of Oriental fable and belief in supernatural beings, such as the Jinns of the Arabian Nights; to which are added the so-called Revelations of the Prophet. Some of these are merely for the purpose of allowing Mohammed to gratify his own desires, as, for instance, the case in which one of his friends is commanded by the angel to give his beautiful wife to the Prophet.

A great literature of commentary has grown up around the Koran, and it would be possible for its defenders to find much in it preaching tolerance, but its general effect upon its disciples, combined with the example of the Prophet’s life, convincingly prove that Mohammedanism is a creed to be spread by the sword. Written originally in Arabic, it is claimed for it that its beauties can only be appreciated in that language and that the lines in which it is composed make a peculiar appeal to its readers and linger in the memory.

This contention can only be understood, of course, by those who are versed in the Arabic. It was for a similar reason that Tupper’s Proverbial Philosophy was at one time universally popular. I have read the New Testament in the original Greek, in Latin, French, English and portions of it in German and Swedish and I am competent to state that the words of Christ lend themselves to translation because of the beauty and value of the thought intrinsically, and because of the universal appeal, in every age, which it contains.

The Sermon on the Mount is as overwhelmingly touching and irresistible in English, French or German, as it is in the original Greek. The same may be said of the Lord’s Prayer, and of most of the words of the Master. This is why, when Christianity is blotted out of vast areas of the earth’s surface by the sword, the club, by the ax and fire, we can consider that the world has retrograded for some thousands of years in those regions, and that the interests of the race have in general been irretrievably injured, no matter who gets the concessions.

The New Testament advocates purity of life and even leans toward asceticism. Christ himself was unmarried and was of spotless purity. The Koran is sensual in its teachings, both as to this life and the life hereafter. It promises the true believer an allotment of paradisiacal females -when he arrives in the other world. What the relation of the earthly wives will be to this new group is more or less uncertain. This doctrine of the Koran throws the light very clearly on the contemptuous regard, in which woman is held by the followers of Mohammed.

Such a lofty, pure and beautiful Idyl, as the life and death of Lord Tennyson and his lady, is not possible to a creed of polygamy and heavenly houries. Heaven is thus described in the Koran:

“Therein shall receive them lovely damsels refraining their eyes from beholding any but their spouses, whom no man shall have touched before, neither any spirit (Jinn) and having complexions like rubies and pearls.”

In connection with this, one must remember that Mohammedans hold the Koran in deep reverence and believe it literally. Among the great mass of them, there is not that advanced thought and development of education which might cause them to regard skeptically their sacred book, as is the case among Christians. When a Mohammedan dies on the field of battle he actually believes that he is going straight to a beautiful garden where a bevy of voluptuous females await him

According to the Koran, divorce is easy and can be obtained by the husband simply proclaiming that he is weary of his spouse. The wife, on the other hand, can only obtain divorce for sufficient causes. In fact, matrimonial ties in Mohammedan countries are flimsy. No better example of the ease of Mohammedan divorce can be given, than that of Mustapha Khemal, the Turkish leader, and his wife. The American papers explained that Khemal himself pronounced the decree, his priestly functions enabling him so to do; but the fact is that divorce in Mohammedan countries is an extremely simple process for both high and low.

The Koran teaches non-indulgences in wine, and in general devout believers are absolutely tee-toddlers. The cultivation of grape and the making of wine does not prevail among the followers of Mohammed.

Circumcision, non-eating of pork, objection to statues and photographs, are all borrowed from the Old Testament, the last named from the commandment, “Thou shalt not make to thyself any graven image.’’

Not one Turk in a thousand, if that many, can read the Koran, as it is written in Archaic Arabic, but the general conception that they are the faithful and all others are “dogs of unbelievers’’ is well fixed in their minds as also the few broad articles of faith hitherto enumerated. Illiteracy is generally prevalent among the Turkish people, and the hodjas or priests do not do much in the way of teaching except crying from the minarets “God is God and Mahomet is His Prophet.” Nevertheless, during the horrible days of massacre, fire and rape in Smyrna, the Turks were chanting, with joy: “Their wives shall be widows and their children orphans.” Hearing this, and thinking of the thousands of babes who were being made fatherless, or subjected to suffering and death, I could not help remembering the words: “Suffer the little children to come unto me, for of such is the Kingdom of Heaven.”

Mr. Geddes in his statement asserts that in no instance did he see any Moslem giving alms to Armenians, it being a criminal offense for any one to aid them, the object of the deportations being “the extermination of the race.” The teachings of the Mohammedan cult render it possible to issue such an order to an entire nation, with the certainty that it will be universally obeyed.

 

 

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