Sunday, 29 November 2015

MODERN MAHOMMEDANISM

Almost the whole of the modern progressive movement of Mohammedanism in this century may be traced, directly or indirectly, to a puritanical sect, the so-called Wahhabis, whose founder; Abd-al-Wahhab, appeared in the first half of the eighteenth century in the province of Nejd, in the interior of Arabia, as the reformer of a then very corrupt Mohammedanism. Before long he and his successors had such a powerful following among the nomad tribes of Arabia, that in the year 1803 they even gained possession of the two sacred cities, Mecca and Medina, and only about ten years ago was the Turkish Government able to put an end to their political power. This movement was originally directed only against the abuse of the veneration of saints, against religious superstition, and increasing luxury in worship, and therefore it aimed merely at a spiritual revival; it has, however, particularly since the destruction of its political importance, assisted a great deal in the exterior propagation of Mohammedanism. As little now could be affected by means of the sword for renewal of the faith, so much the more fervently did its adherents labor as religious teachers within the sacred mosque.
 On the occasion of the pilgrimage to Mecca, obligatory for all believers in the Koran, a certain Saiyid Ahmad, formerly a freebooter and bandit in India, became acquainted with the teaching of the Wahhabis; and, on his return home to India about 1820, with true Mohammedan fanaticism, he made it his life work to spread the new doctrine — that is, to say, pure Islamism.
 In the year 1826, he preached a jihad against the Sikhs. In spite of great successes at first over the Sikhs and the Afghans, who also opposed him, he was finally defeated and put to death. The continuous progress of Mohammedanism in Hindostan is chiefly to be ascribed to his followers, who for a long time made the Indian city of Patna their headquarters. . . .
 The striking increase among the Mohammedans beyond the natural growth of population represents, according to Dr. Jansen's calculations, 0.406 per cent, for this period of 10 years. From this it may further be calculated (as has been done by C. T. O'Donnell, one of the English census officials), that, in about 500 years, the whole of India will be an entirely Mohammedan country.
 Mohammedanism is also making a triumphal progress at the present day through the 'Dark Continent.' It will be interesting to note some of the chief movements of Islamism, especially in West Africa. Almost all these movements may be traced to Wahhabite influence, whether it be that their moving spirit has come into contact with the teaching of these Puritans, or that newly founded orders, have embraced Wahhabite doctrines in a new form, and preach these fanatically to the heathen.
 Even in districts where Christian missions seem to have gained a firm footing. Mohammedanism obtains an increasing number of followers. Thus, in the beginning of the year 1870, Islamism was entirely unknown in Sierra Leone and Lagos, the two chief English settlements, while now about a third of the entire population profess the religion of Mohammedanism.
 The chief share in these almost unexampled missionary successes is due to individual religious associations, or brotherhoods, whose aim in their rules at the propagation of Mohammedanism as well as at the inward purification of the religious life of the faithful. In the western part of North Africa, especial activity is shown by the Kadriyan, who had established themselves as early as the beginning of the sixteenth century, in Timbuktu, but who were first stirred to the zealous propagation of Mohammedanism by the movement which originated with the Wahhabis and was supported by Danfodio. Their missionary work bears an entirely peaceful character; it is founded merely upon personal example and good teaching, under the natural influence of the teacher over the pupil and upon the spreading of higher civilisation.
 In order to give some idea of the immense spread of Mohammedanism in these regions, it suffices to mention that, at the beginning of the nineteenth century, with the exception of Timbuktu, there was scarcely a Mohammedan settlement in the region of the Niger, while in the year 1897, from 40 to 50 per cent, of the entire population were Mohammedans; and at the present day the Mohammedan sphere of influence reaches as far as the northern frontier, of the French Congo State. In round numbers at the present day the Dark Continent contains 80 million of Mohammedans to about 200 millions of inhabitants. "It is hardly too much to say that one-half of the whole of Africa is already dominated by Islam; while, of the remaining half, one-quarter is leavened and another threatened by it." These numbers speak for themselves. Mohammedanism is on the way to a total conquest of the Dark Continent.
 And, if we inquire the manner in which Mohammedanism attains its almost unexampled successes, we are amazed at the simplicity of its methods. The propaganda takes place without attracting the attention of the world. Islam does not send forth its missionaries into heathen lands, like Christianity, with the prescribed task of inducing the largest number possible to embrace their own faith. The emissaries of Mohammedanism are the travellers, the merchants, who, while engaged in lucrative commercial transactions, implant their civilisation and their faith. From the first, the population mistrusts the missionaries sent 'ad hoc,' into their midst. They cannot comprehend the object of the coming of the stranger ; the people have no confidence in him, and therefore oppose his undertakings. It is otherwise with the Mohammedan merchant ; he does not seek to impose his religion upon the people, but wisely waits until they come to him to beg for enlightenment, for it is with nations as with children; what is given them they despise, while they eagerly desire what is apparently withheld from them.
 On the whole Mahommedanism shows a marvellous adaptability. Where Mohammedans find an ancient civilisation as, for example, in China, they avoid either wounding or provoking those of a different belief, and manage to adopt religious ordinances to old customs; they include the old feasts in their calendar, and take an active share in all the doings of their fellow citizens of a different faith. Their tact is also shown by small concessions in external arrangements. In China, for instance, they are careful not to build their mosques higher than the other temples, and therefore the mosques are not adorned with minarets in that country. By the power of their eloquence their preachers have brought it to pass that in China, even in Government circles, Mohammedanism is regarded as uniting the best points of Confucianism and Buddhism. One of their chief methods of propaganda is the school, as has been remarked above. Here they educate future generations in their own views.
 The main reason for the great successes of Mohammedanism, especially among the uncivilised heathen of Africa consists in the great simplicity of the religion in question. "There is no God but God, and Mohammed is the Prophet of God." The convert need only believe these two sentences, and he is at once a Mussulman. After learning this simple confession of faith, he then needs only to fulfil the following five practical duties: (1) Recital of the Creed; (2) Observance of the five appointed times of prayer : (3) Payment of the legal alms; (4.) Feasting during the month of Ramadhan : and (5) The pilgrimage to Mecca. 
And every convert has equal rights with all other members of the community. In regard to the faith there are no distinctions : for did not even the Nubian Muhammed Ahmed, rise to be the Mahdi, the Messiah of the Mohammedans ?

Daily Telegraph (Launceston, Tas.)8 May 1901

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