Historical Reprints Religion FAITH of ISLAM, The


Catalog # SKU1633
Publisher TGS Publishing
Weight 1.00 lbs
Author Name Edward Sell



Rev. Edward Sell

An objective view of Islam from a Westerner living within the Moslem communities in India. Sell, a Christian theologian, both praises and condemns various aspects of Islam, but maintains a general objectivity that is rare among Western writings about this major religion, society, and life-style, birthed in the Middle East.

From the Introduction:

Much that is written on Islám is written either in ignorant prejudice, or from an ideal standpoint. To understand it aright, one should know its literature and live amongst its people. I have tried faithfully to prove every statement I have made; and if, now and again, I have quoted European authors, it is only by way of illustration. I rest my case entirely upon Musalmán authorities themselves. Still more, I have ascertained from living witnesses that the principles I have tried to show as existing in Islám, are really at work now and are as potent as at any previous period.

I have thus traced up from the very foundations the rise and development of the system, seeking wherever possible to link the past with the present. In order not to interfere with this unity of plan, I have had to leave many subjects untouched, such as those connected with the civil law, with slavery, divorce, jihád or religious wars, &c. A good digest of Muhammadan Law1 will give all necessary information on these points. The basis of the Law which determines these questions is what I have described in my first chapter. Ijtihád, for example, rules quite as effectually in a question of domestic economy or political jurisprudence as on points of dogma. It was not, therefore, necessary for me to go into details on these points.

When I have drawn any conclusion from data which Muhammadan literature, and the present practice of Muslims have afforded me, I have striven to give what seems to me a just and right one. Still, I gladly take this opportunity of stating that I have found many Muslims better than their creed, men with whom it is a pleasure to associate, and whom I respect for many virtues and esteem as friends. I judge the system, not any individual in it.

In India, there are a number of enlightened Muhammadans, ornaments to native society, useful servants of the State, men who show a laudable zeal in all social reforms, so far as is consistent with a reputation for orthodoxy. Their number is far too few, and they do not, in many cases, represent orthodox Islám, nor do I believe their counterpart would be found amongst the 'Ulamá of a Muslim State. The fact is that the wave of scepticism which has passed over Europe has not left the East untouched. Hindu and Muslim alike have felt its influence, but to judge of either the one system or the other from the very liberal utterances of a few men who expound their views before English audiences is to yield oneself up to delusion on the subject. Islám in India has also felt the influence of contact with other races and creeds, though, theologically speaking, the Imán and the Dín, the faith and the practice, are unchanged, and remain as I have described them in chapters four and five.

If Islám in India has lost some of its original fierceness, it has also adopted many superstitious practices, such as those against which the Wahhábís protest. The great mass of the Musalmán people are quite as superstitious, if not more so, than their heathen neighbours. Still the manliness, the suavity of manner, the deep learning, after an oriental fashion, of many Indian Musalmáns render them a very attractive people. It is true there is a darker side-much bigotry, pride of race, scorn of other creeds, and, speaking generally, a tendency to inertness. It is thus that in Bengal, Madras and perhaps in other places, they have fallen far behind the Hindus in educational status, and in the number of appointments they hold in the Government service. Indeed, this subject is a serious one and deserves the special attention of the Indian Government. In Bengal the proportion of Musalmáns to Hindus in the upper ranks of the Uncovenanted Civil Service in 1871 was 77 to 341. In the year 1880 it had declined to 53 to 451. The state of affairs in Madras is equally bad. Yet an intelligent Muslim, as a rule, makes a good official.


The Qurán is, then, believed to be a miraculous revelation of divine eloquence, as regards both form and substance, arrangement of words, and its revelation of sacred things. It is asserted that each well-accredited prophet performed miracles in that particular department of human skill or science most flourishing in his age. Thus in the days of Moses magic exercised a wide influence, but all the magicians of Pharaoh's court had to submit to the superior skill of the Hebrew prophet. In the days of Jesus the science of medicine flourished. Men possessed great skill in the art of healing; but no physician could equal the skill of Jesus, who not only healed the sick, but raised the dead. In the days of Muhammad the special and most striking feature of the age was the wonderful power of the Arabs in the art of poetry.

Muhammad-ud-Damiri says:-"Wisdom hath alighted on three things-the brain of the Franks, the hands of the Chinese and the tongue of the Arabs." They were unrivalled for their eloquence, for the skill with which they arranged their material and gave expression to their thoughts. It is in this very particular that superior excellence is claimed for the Qurán.6 It is to the Muhammadan mind a sure evidence of its miraculous origin that it should excel in this respect. Muslims say that miracles have followed the revelations given to other prophets in order to confirm the divine message.

In this case the Qurán is both a revelation and a miracle. Muhammad himself said:-"Each prophet has received manifest signs which carried conviction to men: but that which I have received is the revelation. So I hope to have a larger following on the day of resurrection than any other prophet has." Ibn Khaldoun says that "by this the Prophet means that such a wonderful miracle as the Qurán, which is also a revelation, should carry conviction to a very large number." To a Muslim the fact is quite clear, and so to him the Qurán is far superior to all the preceding books. Muhammad is said to have convinced a rival, Lebid, a poet-laureate, of the truth of his mission by reciting to him a portion of the now second Sú ra. "Unquestionably it is one of the very grandest specimens of Koranic or Arabic diction.... But even descriptions of this kind, grand as they be, are not sufficient to kindle and preserve the enthusiasm and the faith and the hope of a nation like the Arabs.... The poets before him had sung of valour and generosity, of love and strife and revenge ... of early graves, upon which weeps the morning cloud, and of the fleeting nature of life which comes and goes as the waves of the desert sands, as the tents of a caravan, as a flower that shoots up and dies away. Or they shoot their bitter arrows of satire right into the enemy's own soul.

Muhammad sang of none of these. No love-minstrelsy his, not the joys of the world, nor sword, nor camel, nor jealousy, nor human vengeance, not the glories of tribe or ancestor. He preached Islám." The very fierceness with which this is done, the swearing such as Arab orator, proficient though he may have been in the art, had never made, the dogmatic certainty with which the Prophet proclaimed his message have tended, equally with the passionate grandeur of his utterances, to hold the Muslim world spell-bound to the letter and imbued with all the narrowness of the book.

So sacred is the text supposed to be that only the Companions8 of the Prophet are deemed worthy of being commentators on it. The work of learned divines since then has been to learn the Qurán by heart and to master the traditions, with the writings of the earliest commentators thereon. The revelation itself is never made a subject of investigation or tried by the ordinary rules of criticism. If only the Isnád, or chain of authorities for any interpretation, is good, that interpretation is unhesitatingly accepted as the correct one. It is a fundamental article of belief that no other book in the world can possibly approach near to it in thought or expression. It deals with positive precepts rather than with principles. Its decrees are held to be binding not in the spirit merely but in the very letter on all men, at all times and under every circumstance of life. This follows as a natural consequence from the belief in its eternal nature.



Softcover, 8¼" x 10¾", 210+ pages
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