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MOHAMMED'S VIEW OF CHARITY.

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is stronger than iron, for it melts it.'-'Is there anything stronger than fire?'-'Yes, water, for it quenches fire.'-'Is there anything stronger than water?''Yes, wind, for it puts water in motion.''O our Sustainer! is there anything in thy creation stronger than wind?'-'Yes, a good man giving alms; if he give with his right hand and conceal it from his left, he overcomes all things.' But Mohammed did not end here, or restrict his notion of charity to the somewhat narrow sense which, in common language, it bears now, that of liberal and unostentatious almsgiving; he went on to give almost as wide a definition of Charity as St. Paul himself. Every good act is charity; your smiling in your brother's face; your putting a wanderer in the right road; your giving water to the thirsty is charity; exhortations to another to do right are charity. A man's true wealth hereafter is the good he has done in this world to his fellow-man. When he dies, people will ask, what property has he left behind him? But the angels will ask, what good deeds has he sent before him ? '1

1 See 'Mishkat-ul-Masabih,' translated by Captain Matthews, I. vi. 445, 447, 450, &c. The authorities are Abu Hurairah, Abu Dhar and Anas. A friendly American critic in 'The Nation' (New York), May 20, 1875, points out that much of this view of charity is to be found in the Talmud, Baba Bathra, fol. x. a ; another proof that traditional Judaism is an important component part of Islam. Mohammed did not claim originality for this, or for any other part of his teaching.

But from one point of view the Koran has to the comparative mythologist, and therefore to the student of human nature, an interest quite unique, and not the less absorbing that it springs out of the very defects that I have pointed out. By studying the Koran, together with the history of Mohammedanism, we see with our own eyes, what we can only infer or imagine in other cases, the precise steps by which a religion naturally and necessarily developes into a mythology.

In the Koran we have, beyond all reasonable doubt, the exact words of Mohammed without subtraction and without addition. We see with our own eyes the birth and adolescence of a religion. In the history of Mohammedanism we descry the parasitical growth that fastens on it, even in its founder's lifetime. We see the way in which a man who denied that he could work miracles, is believed to work them even by his contemporaries, and how in the next generation the extravagant vision of the nocturnal flight to the seventh heaven, with all its gorgeous imagery, and the revolutions of the moon round the Kaaba, is taken for sober fact, and is propagated with all the elaboration of details, which, if they came from anybody, could have come only from Mohammed himself; and yet all of it with the most perfect good faith. We see how a man, who, though he had

GROWTH OF MYTHOLOGY.

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once in an outburst of anger uttered a prophecy which turned out true, always denied that he could predict the future, and was yet, in spite of himself, credited with all the supernatural insight of a seer. Lastly, we mark how the formalities and the sacrifices and the idolatries which he spent his life in overthrowing, revived in another shape out of the frequency of prayers and fasts that he enjoined, and of the pilgrimages he permitted. The holy places themselves became more holy, as having been the scene of his preaching and of his death, and so, in time, received more than human honours. We know from history what the outgrowth and superstructure have been, and we read in the Koran how narrow the foundation was.

But from the Bible, by its very nature, and owing to those peculiarities which constitute its special strength, we fail to know, in the same sense, the exact limits of the foundation of the Christendom that has overspread the world. In the outward shape in which it has come down to us, and in the questions connected with the authorship of its different parts and the variety of its contents, the Bible resembles not so much the Koran as the Sunnah, which, in its authorised form of the 'six correct books,' is, of course, rejected by the Shiah half of

the Mohammedan races.1 Even in the Gospels as we have them, comment and inference and the individuality of the writer are mixed with verbal accuracy and exact observation. We can detect conflicting currents of feeling and of thought which it taxes the ingenuity and honesty, even of harmonists to harmonise. The New Testament is not less, but more valuable because of these discrepancies. Its undesigned discrepancies have been as valuable in widening the base of our Christianity as its undesigned coincidences are in assuring it. Whether we may legitimately apply the inferences to be drawn from our full knowledge of the growth of Mohammedanism to our imperfect knowledge of the growth of other religions. is, of course, open to argument, but the interest and importance of the enquiry can hardly be overestimated.

And over and above the interest attaching to the one religion of the world which is strictly historical in its origin, and which therefore may, rightly or wrongly, be used to explain the origin of those of which we know less, there is the fascination that must always attach to those mixed characters of whom we know so much, and yet so little; who

The Shiahs, however, have four books of their own which they are said to look upon as only inferior in authority to the Koran itself. (See Hughes's Notes, p. 35-39.)

HISTORY OF ISLAM.

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have made the world what it is, and yet whom the world cannot read.

'Hero, impostor, fanatic, priest, or sage :'

which element predominates in the man as a whole. we may perhaps discover, and most certainly we can. say now it was not the impostor; but taking him at different times and under different circumstances, the more one reads the more one distrusts one's own conclusions, and, as Dean Milman remarks, answers with the Arab 'Allah only knows.'1

Nor does Mohammedanism lack other claims on our attention. . Glance for one moment at its marvellous history. Think how one great truth working in the brain of a shepherd of Mecca gradually produced conviction in a select band of personal adherents; how, when the Prophet was exiled to Medina, the faith gathered there fresh strength, brought him back in triumph to his native place, and secured to him for his lifetime the submission of all Arabia; how, when the master-mind was withdrawn, the whole structure he had reared seemed, for the moment, to vanish away like the baseless fabric of a vision, or like the mirage of the desert whence it had taken its rise; how the faith of Abu Bakr and the sword of Omar recalled it once more to life and crushed the false prophets that always follow in the wake of a true one, as the jackals 1 Latin Christianity, I. 555.

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