Read This First - About the Book Islam and the Psychology (Mind) of the Musulman and its author Andre Servier
It is obvious when you begin to read Islam and the Psychology (Mind) of the Musulman
and it's author Andre Servier, are not politically correct. Those were the days! This book was published in French in 1922 and English in 1923. It will never be published again. In fact, there are many people who will find this book hateful to Islam and demand it not be available to anyone. We know who 'those people' are. But that has all changed.
This blogsite has 18 postings. You are in the Read This First posting. The remaining 17 consist of the preface to the book and each chapter (1 through 16) has an individual post.
REGARDING TYPOS: The download copies (DOC, PDF) have been updated based on reader comments and will be slightly more accurate than the postings.
You may request a MS Word doc musulman.doc OR
an Adobe Acrobat PDF by emailing me. I will send it as an attachment. It is about 550KB (half a megabyte). Relatively small. You can host that file for others to download if you wish. I will post download site links so let me know. I hope this ebook is spread far and wide around the globe. Host it everywhere. Servier, who has been rolling in his grave for decades, would be proud.
Some striking statements by Mr. Servier about the Musulman:
"The intelligence of an Arab rises as high as the faculty of imitation. Put him on a motor-car or a locomotive engine, and after a certain time of apprenticeship, they will be able to drive it; but if the machine should get out of order, he will be quite incapable of repairing it, and still less could he make a new one.”
The same mistake had been committed by the Romans in former days, when they had granted the citizenship to barbarians. "An exchange was established between Italy and the Provinces. Italy sent her sons to die in distant lands and received in compensation millions of slaves. Of these, some were attached to the land, cultivated it, and soon enriched it with their bones; others, crowded together in the towns, attentive to the vices of a master, were often freed by him and became citizens. Little by little the sons of freed men came to be in sole possession of the city, composed the Roman people, and under this name gave laws to the world. From the time of the Gracchi, they alone nearly filled the Forum. Thus, a new people succeeded to the Roman people, absent or destroyed."
'Islam was not a torch, as has been claimed, but an extinguisher. Conceived in a barbarous brain for the use of a barbarous people, it was-and it remains-incapable of adapting itself to civilization. Wherever it has dominated, it has broken the impulse towards progress and checked the evolution of society.'George Mason at Sixth Column
has written an excellent summary. For those who do not want to read the 'whole thing', or don't have the time, it's a very good overview.ANDRE’ SERVIER’S ISLAM AND THE PSYCHOLOGY OF THE MUSULMAN
(Translated by A. S. Moss-Blundell, with a preface by Louis Bertrand; Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York; 1924)
“Islam is Christianity adapted to Arab mentality, or, more exactly, it is all that the unimaginative brain of a Bedouin, obstinately faithful to ancestral practices, has been able to assimilate of the Christian doctrines. Lacking the gift of imagination, the Bedouin copies, and in copying he distorts the original. Thus Musulman law is only the Roman Code revised and corrected by Arabs; in the same way Musulman science is nothing but Greek science interpreted by the Arab brain; and again, Musulman architecture is merely a distorted imitation of the Byzantine style.” (Servier, page 61)
We are always on the lookout for books which delve into the functions of the minds of Islamists, most particularly those arch-typical Islamists, the Arabs. To date, the best book on the subject remains The Arab Mind by Raphael Patai (our review). This old timer by Andre’ Servier comes in second.
Both books come from very different parts of the 20th century. Servier published in 1924, and Patai’s final revision came in 1983. Yet, both could have been written on the same day, or even at the same time, or several centuries ago. Both deal with the most stagnant minds on the globe, stagnation devoid of any but parasitized “progress” for almost 1500 years.
Patai is long on Arab-Islamic behavior and language (psychology) while short on history. In his defense, he was not writing a history book and did not have the need to be long on history. On the other hand, Servier is long on history and short on psychology. Servier was addressing the profound ignorance of Islam and its history existing in the colonizing French of his day and needed the cite the history. Both volumes complement each other marvelously.
Servier wrote from the perspective of post-World War I. French colonization was going strongly throughout North Africa and the Middle East, where the French and British were dealing with vast concentrations of Muslims. The Ottoman Empire was just about out of business as a Caliphate, to be replaced by a semi-democracy under Mustafa Kemal (Ataturk). Egyptian nationalism underway for decades was strengthening substantially against the British, but the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood was some four years off from formation. England and France had carved up the Middle East, forcing various artificial boundaries, literal lines in the sand, including Iraq. Oil was not yet a big deal, but was close to it. Communism was flourishing here and there, and fascism was gearing up for big things ahead. Germany had been kicked out of the Middle East and Africa following defeat in World War I and was wallowing in severe economic inflation. America was in the throes of the Flapper Era and almost oblivious to the Muslim world.
Servier tried to prepare the French to deal with Muslims (or Musulmans, as he referred to them), particularly in North Africa. Those living today who have taken the time to shake off ignorance about Islam will find little new, in general, in Servier. Almost everything he wrote, you can read from our site
, Jihad Watch, Counter Jihad Education Task Force, and Daniel Pipes’ website, as well as others too numerous to mention. However, Servier said what we have learned many years before we were born. What was true about Islam and Muslims to Servier in his time is equally true, and remains completely unchanged, today. Like Patai, Servier was not troubled with cultural thought disorders such as “political correctness,” multiculturalism, moral relativism, and epistemological relativism which have prostrated Europe and Canada, and have almost brought the USA to its knees.
He made the case that to understand Islam, you must first understand the Bedouin, and to understand the Bedouin (Arabs), you must understand the desert of the Arabian peninsula. So he begins with the desert and how this molds the psychology of those who try to live off it. The people who resulted as Bedouins live a nomadic and predatory live style, with intense loyalties to families and tribes, and almost complete inability to deal with the future (conceptual range) and creativity. Theirs is close to an aconceptual existence, dominated by impulsivity, emotionality, and progress through looting, versus productivity.
Prior to Islam they had no civilization, nor have they developed one since Islam. They came close by the 9th century A.D., but managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in the nick of time. Their sole creation has been a religion. Islam, said Servier, is a “secretion of the Arab brain.”
His history is a good accounting of the first centuries of Islam, up until the final ossification of Islamia which occurred in the Ottoman Empire. He documents how fragile young Islamia was after Muhammad because of infighting and a fading sense of purpose. What happened to the conquering hordes of Islamia after conquest became the biggest threat to early Islam. The conquering hordes had come from a geographical area devoid of civilization--the Arabian peninsula. The Arabs overwhelmed civilized “neighbors” by means of sheer physical force and barbarity. Those whom they conquered were always much more civilized than these barbarian Muslims, whose primary interests were physical loot, carnality, and the joy of bloodshed using raw power--Bedouin values and virtues sanctioned by Islam.
However, the conquering Arabs kept making the same mistakes. They forced conversion to Islam on the conquered peoples; then, they themselves grew soft through their internalization of the fruits of civilization from those whom they had conquered. The conquered peoples, once converted, became utterly equal to the Muslims, as Islam dictates. The conquered peoples always set about conquering their conquerors, who grew softer and softer. Also, the early Muslims, with their Bedouin psychology, turned on each other continuously with intrigue after intrigue, On the other hand, the conquered peoples, now equal to the Arabs, just grew stronger, threatening the future of Islam. Something would have to be done to save Islam.
Before the process of ossification of Islamia really took hold, these early Muslim Arabs delighted with the inventions, discoveries, arts and sciences, and publications they had looted from the civilizations they conquered. These civilizations had been heavily enculturated through exposure to centuries of Latin, Greek, and certain other civilizations. Syria, Persia, and India were reservoirs of those cultures, and were plundered by the Islamists who moved in to take from them.
Servier is very clear about the fact that Islamists have invented absolutely nothing in their entire history, other than Islam, and yet they have received misattribution after misattribution from many ignorant sources, which have alleged Islamia to have been a high civilization, along the lines of the Arabian Nights (even this was Persian, not Arab). Medievalists mistakenly gave the Islamists credit for the knowledge passed to them from Muslim writings, not realizing that these materials did not originate with Muslims, but had simply been appropriated from others. Later on, in a backlash to Christianity, some Europeans went out of their way to praise Islam for its “high civilization,” as a means of putting Christendom in a bad light. To this day, many people, some of whom ought to know better, still misattribute the status of civilization and culture to Islamic society. Muslims copied, and usually not accurately. What original work they did do became selected histories and writings about grammar. Everything else they attempted to originate has been as universally inferior as it has been scarce.
Quoting Servier (page 18):
“To sum up: the Arab has borrowed everything from other nations, literature, art, science, and even his religious ideas. He has passed it all through the sieve of his own narrow mind, and being incapable of rising to high philosophic conceptions, he has distorted, mutilated and desiccated everything. This destructive influence explains the decadence of Musulman nations and their powerlessness to break away from barbarism…”
There is a good reason for that inferiority. Inferiority in all intellectual spheres is the spawn of Islam. Wherever Islam takes hold, human progress stops, then regresses to a basal level, where it stays. Quoting Servier, “After a century of Arab domination, there is a complete annihilation of all intellectual culture.” (p 11)
Under the Umayyad caliphates, Islamic civilization came close to existing, but when the Abbasside caliphates displaced the Umayyads, Islamia began its terminal decline and fall. Its high water mark ended in 846 A.D. with the death of the last Umayyad caliph, Wathiq. Thereafter, very decadent, if not fundamentalist, Abbasside rulers took over. Prior to 846 A.D. and for a while thereafter, cultural ferment continued to civilize Islamia, because the Arabs enjoyed utilizing their importation of knowledge, particular philosophy, medicine, and the sciences from the conquered territories and could have had their own renaissance.
Servier summarizes (pp 182-183) the end of the Umayyads:
“Islam owed them much; it was they who built up its power. Free from fanaticism, they had left some liberty to the vanquished peoples, and thus in Syria, in Egypt and in Spain, they had allowed Greco-Latin civilization to put forth new flowers. The… [Umayyads], instructed and polished by the Syrians, were to some extent and possibly unconsciously, the heirs and successors of the Byzantine Emperors. As such, they deserve some recognition. With their successors, the Abbassides, there begins the reaction of narrow fanaticism against liberty of conscience; the reign of blind piety and persecution; it is also the reaction of the Arab spirit, coarse and ignorant, against Greco-Latin culture.”
Arab scholars scrutinized Medina-style Islam particularly, the type most fundamental and closest to Muhammad’s preachings, found it wanting as well as an obstacle to the exercise of thought and discovery. Sages ridiculed Islam in favor of freedom of thought and expression because Islam was so utterly backward and rigid. The Mutazalite sect, under the Umayyads, came very close to nullifying Islam--until they did themselves in with their own brutal enforcement of their ideas, which paradoxically extolled “free thought.”
From the mid-9th century to its end, caliphs and clerics established shari’a, and shari’a became the immutable and unquestionable law of Islamia. This was done to stop the disintegration and impending demise of Islam. Doing this ossified Islamia because it was enforced by sword. Philosophers, scientists, and artists were put to death unless they shut up and posed no further threat to the Medina-style Islam which all had to adopt. Within three generations, most progress in Islamia became a thing of the past. Progress slowed until by the time of the Ottomans, no one could remember the old days. And so it has been for at least half of a millennium and will become so for the rest of the world if Islam achieves the power it seeks.
As Servier puts it (page 153),
“Islam was not a torch, as has been claimed, but an extinguisher. Conceived in a barbarous brain for the use of a barbarous people, it was—and it remains—incapable of adapting itself to civilization. Wherever it has dominated, it has broken the impulse towards progress and checked the evolution of society.”
He does not make the point as well as Patai does about the significance of the Arabic language becoming fused, from the first, with Islam and this fusion has persisted to this day. The Arabic language, developed among the Bedouins of the Arabian peninsula, became the means expressing Arab subculture. It also became the official language of Islam and was imposed as the official language on all conquered peoples. Few were literate, so the effect of the Arabic-Islamic fusion magnified the effect of Islamizing peoples, and still does. Its importance cannot be overstressed as being the transmission belt for turning a normal child into the Muslim we see today, saw yesterday, and will see tomorrow.
Servier does address the key role of Muslim women in establishing and maintaining the rigidity of Islam by their effects on the young. Islam keeps women suppressed, repressed, and ignorant, but it requires that they raise the children. These same women literally brainwash children during their most formative years, until formal Islamic education finishes off these kids in ignorance and illiteracy to keep them and the Islamic subculture utterly stagnant.
Human minds must be thoroughly deformed in childhood for Islam to work as it does. Islam not only closes minds, it welds them shut.
From page 191,
“The deadening influence of Islam is well demonstrated by the way in which the Musulman comports himself at different stages of his life. In his early childhood, when the religion has not as yet impregnated his brain, he shows a very lively intelligence and remarkably open mind, accessible to ideas of every kind; but, in proportion as he grows up, and as, through the system of his education, Islam lays hold of him and envelops him, his brain seems to shut up, his judgment to become atrophied, and his intelligence to be stricken by paralysis and irremediable degeneration.”
It worth noting that Servier was quite aware that Islam was on the move to becoming a nuisance, if not a menace, to civilizations five decades before Khomeini took power in 1979, and long before the events of 11 September 2001. In his first chapter, he states:
“…Islam is by no means a negligible element in the destiny of humanity. The mass of three hundred million believers [Editor’s note: This was 1924. Muslims now number over one billion.] is growing daily, because in most Musulman countries the birth-rate exceeds the death-rate, and also because the religious propaganda is constantly gaining new adherents among tribes still in a state of barbarism.” (p. 2)
He adds, and do remember that he writes from the perspective of 1924,
“The number of converts during the last twenty years in British India is estimated at six millions; and a similar progress has been observed in China, Turkestan, Siberia, Malaya and Africa.” (p 2)
Rising Islamic agitation had been going on for some time and was quite evident in Servier’s day. He attributed it to Muslim reaction to British colonialism. Four years after this book, in 1928, the Muslim Brotherhood formed in Egypt, with two goals: to return to ultra-fundamentalist Islam and to throw out the British and British influence.
He also was fully aware of dissimulation which Islam inculcates in Muslims. It is a process of lying by omission, commission, playing multiple levels of meaning against whomever the Muslim deals with. This is the taqiyya which we know well today, and it made Muslims as untrustworthy then as now.
Servier had a few quirks. One was his trust of the Turks, one the author of the preface to the book, Louis Bertrand, did not share. The latter was much more accurate in his distrust. The French Servier held the Negro not only in low esteem but wrote as though they were deterministically incapable singly, in groups, or as a people, ever to be able to rise to accomplishment or responsibility. He also is unduly laudatory about Muhammad. Further, the way Servier wrote about Arabs and the Musulmans (Muslims), he would surely be accused of racism because that has become such a popular ad hominem epithet among postmodernists to attempt to discredit what someone says. However, if you examine what Servier says through the entire book, you will not conclude that he is a racist.
He summarizes his principal ideas about Islam and its effects at the end of the final chapter, and that is worth quoting since this book has long been out of print:
“Islam is a doctrine of death, inasmuch as the spiritual not being separated from the temporal, and every manifestation of activity being subjected to dogmatic law, it formally forbids any change, any evolution, any progress. It condemns all believers to live, to think, and to act as lived, thought and acted the Musulmans of the second century of the Hegira [8th century A.D.], when the law of Islam and its interpretation were definitely fixed.
“In the history of the nations, Islam, a secretion of the Arab brain, has never been an element of civilization, but on the contrary has acted as an extinguisher upon its flickering light. Individuals under Arab rule have only been able to contribute to the advance of civilization in so far as they did not conform to the Musulman dogma, but they relapsed into Arab barbarism as soon as they were obliged to make a complete submission to these dogmas.
“Islamized nations, who have not succeeded in freeing themselves from Musulman tutelage, have been stricken with intellectual paralysis and decadence. They will only escape as they succeed in withdrawing themselves from the control of Musulman law.”
Preface - Mind of the Musulman
[Proofread and Revised by George C. Jan. 2008]ISLAM
AND THE PSYCHOLOGY OF THE MUSULMAN
A. S. MOSS-BLUNDELL
WITH A PREFACE BY LOUIS BERTRAND
CHAPMAN HALL LTD.
I have not the honour of Mr. André Servier's personal acquaintance: I only know La Psychologie du Musulman, of which he has been kind enough to send me the manuscript. The work impresses me as excellent, destined to render the greatest service to the French cause throughout Northern Africa, and at the same time to enlighten the natives themselves as to their own past history.
What I admire most of all is his vigorous assault upon the great mass of French ignorance. One of the prejudices most likely to lead us to disaster lies in the belief that our African rule is nothing more than an incident in the history of the country, in the same way as we look upon the Roman dominion. There is a number of writers who persistently maintains that Rome made but a short stay in Africa, that she remained there but a century or two. That is a monstrous error. The effective empire of Rome in Africa began with the destruction of Carthage, 146 B.C., and it only came to an end with the Vandal invasion about the year 450 of the Christian era — say, six hundred years of effective rule. But the Vandals were Christians who carried on the Roman civilization in its integrity, and who spoke and wrote Latin. In the same way, the Byzantines who succeeded them, even if they did not speak Latin officially, were able to regard themselves as the legitimate heirs of Rome. That went on until the end of the seventh century.
So that Africa had eight hundred and fifty years of effective Latin domination. And if we consider that under the hegemony of Carthage the whole region, from the Syrtes [gulf near Tripoli - GC] to the Pillars of Hercules, was more or less Hellenized or Latinized, we arrive at the conclusion that Northern Africa had thirteen hundred years of Latinity, whereas it can only reckon twelve hundred years of Islam.
The numerous and very important ruins that even up to the present time cover the country bear witness to the deep penetration of Greco-Latin civilization into the soil of Africa. Of all these dead cities the only one the uninstructed Frenchman or even the Algerian knows is Timgad. But the urban network created by the Romans embraced the whole of North Africa up to the edge of the Sahara; and it is in these very regions bordering on the desert that Roman remains are most abundant. If we were willing to go to the trouble and expense of excavating them, were it only to bring to light the claims of Latinity in Africa, we should be astonished by the great number of these towns, and as often as not by their beauty. Mr. André Servier is well aware of all this; but he goes a good deal further. With a patience and minuteness equally wonderful, he proves scientifically that the Arabs have never invented anything except Islam — that “secretion of the Arab brain,” that they have made absolutely no addition to the ancient heritage of Greco-Latin civilization.
It is only a superficial knowledge that has been able to accept without critical examination the belief current among Christians during the Middle Ages, which attributed to Islam the Greek science and philosophy of which Christianity had no longer any knowledge. In the centuries that have followed, the Sectarian spirit has found it to be to its interest to confirm and propagate this error. In its hatred of Christianity it has had to give Islam the honour of what was the invention, and, if we may so express it, the personal property of our intellectual ancestors. Taking Islam from its first beginnings down to our own day, M. André Servier proves, giving chapter and verse, that all that we believe to be “Arab” or “Muslim,” or, to use an even vaguer word, “Oriental,” in the manners, the traditions and the customs of North Africa, in art as well as in the more material things of life — all that is Latin, unconsciously, or unknown to the outside world — it belongs to the Middle Ages we have left behind, our own Medievalism that we no longer recognize and that we naively credit as an invention of Islam.
The one and only creation of the Arabs is their religion. And it is this religion that is the chief obstacle between them and ourselves. In the interests of a good understanding with our Muslim subjects, we should scrupulously avoid everything that could have the effect of strengthening their religious fanaticism, and on the contrary we should encourage the knowledge of everything that could hring us closer together — especially of any traditions we may have in common.
It is certainly our duty to respect the religious opinions of the natives; but it is mistaken policy for us to appear more Muslim than they themselves, and to bow down in a mystical spirit before a form of civilization that is very much lower than our own and manifestly backward and retrograde. The times are too serious for us to indulge any longer in the antics of dilettantism or of played-out impressionism.
Mr. André Servier has said all this with equal truth, authority and opportuneness. The only reserves I would make reduce themselves to this: I have not the same robust faith as he has in the unlimited and continuous progress of humanity; and I am afraid that he is under some illusion in regard to the Turks, who are still the leaders of Islam, and are regarded by other Muslims as their future liberators. But all that is a question of proportion.
I am willing to believe in progress in a certain sense and up to a certain point; and I have no hesitation in agreeing that the Turks are the most congenial of Orientals, until the day when we, by our want of foresight and our stupidity, provide them with the means of becoming once more the enemy with whom we shall have to reckon.
23rd September, 1922.
CHAPTER 1 7
France needs a Muslim policy inspired by realities and not by received opinions and legends — We can only understand any given portion of the Muslim people by studying Arab history, because of the solidarity of all Muslims and because Islam is nothing but a secretion of the Arab brain — There is no such thing as Arab civilization — The origins of the legend — How modern historians and the scholars of the Middle Ages were deceived — The Arab is a realist and has no imagination — He has copied the ideas of other peoples, distorting them in the process — Islam, by its immutable dogmas, has paralysed the brain and killed all initiative
CHAPTER 2 15
For any comprehensive knowledge of Islam and the Muslim, it is necessary to study the Desert — The Arabian Desert — The Bedouin — The influence of the Desert — Nomadism — The dangerous life — Warrior and bandit — Fatalism — Endurance — Insensibility — The spirit of independence — Semitic anarchy — Egoism — Social organization — The tribe — Semitic Pride — Sensuality — The ideal — Religion — Lack of Imagination — Essential characteristics of the Bedouin.
CHAPTER 3 25
Arabia in the time of Mohammed — No Arab nation — A dust or tribes without ethnic or religious bonds — A prodigious diversity of cults and beliefs — “ Two mutually hostile groups: Yemenites and Moaddites — Sedentaries and nomads — Rivalry of the two centers: Yathreb and Mecca — Jewish and Christian propaganda at Yathreb — Life of the Meccans — Their evolution — Federation of the Fodhoul — The precursors of Islam.
CHAPTER 4 32
Mohammed was a degenerate Bedouin of Mecca — Circumstances made him a man of opposition — His lonely and unhappy boyhood — Camel-driver and shepherd — His marriage to Khadija — His good fortune — How he conceived Islam — Islam was a reaction against the life of Mecca — His failures at Mecca — He betrays his tribe — His alliance with the men of Yathreb — His flight — First difficulties at Medina — How he had to resort to force — The principal cause of his
success: the lure of booty — The taking of Mecca — Triumph of the Prophet — His death.
CHAPTER 5 43
Mohammed's doctrine — Islam is Christianity adapted to Arab mentality — The practical essentials of Islam — The Koran is the work not of a sectarian but of a politician — Mohammed seeks to recruit his followers by every possible means — He deals tactfully with forces he cannot beat down, and with customs that he cannot abolish — Muslim morality — Fatalism — The essential principles of the reform brought about by the Prophet — Extension to all Muslims of family solidarity — Prohibition of martyrdom — The Muslim bows to force, but keeps his own ideas — The Koran is animated by the spirit of tolerance, Islam is not; the fault rests with the commentators of the second century, who by stereotyping the doctrine and forbidding all subsequent modification, have rendered all progress impossible.
CHAPTER 6 52
Islam under the successors of Mohammed — Even in Arabia the new faith was only able to impose itself by force — The first Muslim conquerors were actuated by the desire for plunder not by any anxiety to proselytize — The expansion of Islam to Persia, Syria and Egypt was favoured by the hostility of the natives of those countries to the Persian and Byzantine Governments — The struggle for influence between Mecca and Medina, which had contributed to Mohammed's success, was continued under his successors, sometimes favourable to Medina, under the Caliphates of Abu-Bekr Omar and Ali; sometimes to Mecca, under the Caliphate of Othman — The Mecca party finally triumph with the coming of Maowiah — Conflicts between the tribes, between individuals, chronic anarchy: characteristics of Muslim society and the causes of its future ruin.
CHAPTER 7 69
Islam under the Ommeyads — The Theocratic Republic becomes a Military Monarchy — The Caliphate established at Damascus, where it comes under Syrian influence, that is to say, Greco-Latin — The rivalries which divided Mecca and Medina break out between these towns and Damascus — The conquest of the Maghreb, then of Spain, realized through the complicity of the inhabitants, anxious to get rid of the Greeks and Visigoths — The attempted conquest of Gaul fails owing to the stubborn resistance of the Franks, and marks the limit of Moslem expansion — The Ommeyad dynasty, extinguished in orgies of Byzantine decadence, gives place to the dynasty of the Abbassids.
CHAPTER 8 87
Islam under the Abbassids — The Caliphate is transferred from Damascus to Bagdad, where it comes under Greco-Persian influence — Through the administration of the Barmecids, ministers of Persian origin, the Caliphs surround themselves with foreign savants and men of letters, who give to their reign an incomparable splendor; but, in their desire to organize Muslim legislation, the Caliphs, under the inspiration of the Old Muslims, fix the Islamic doctrine immutably and render all progress impossible — This was the cause and the beginning of the decadence of Mohammedan nations — Spain breaks off from the Empire, setting an example of insubordination which is to find imitators later on.
CHAPTER 9 94
Islam under the last Abbassids — The Muslim Empire on the road to ruin — The Arab conquerors, drowned in the midst of subject peoples and incapable of governing them, lose their war-like qualities by contact with the good-for-nothing — Caliphs, reduced to the role of rois faineants, are obliged in self-defence to have recourse to foreign mercenaries, who soon become their masters — Provinces in obedience to nationalist sentiment break away from the Empire — The last Abbassid Caliphs retain possession of Bagdad only — Their dynasty dies out in ignominy.
CHAPTER 10 99
Causes of the dismemberment of the Muslim Empire — The chief is the inability of the Arabs to govern — The history of the Caliphs in Spain is identical with that of the Caliphs at Damascus and at Bagdad: the same causes of ephemeral grandeur, the same causes of decay — There was no Arab civilization in Spain, but merely a revival of Latin civilization — This was developed behind a Muslim facade, and in spite of the Muslims — The monuments attributed to the Arabs are the work of Spanish architects.
CHAPTER 11 114
Arab decadence in Persia, Mesopotamia, and Egypt — The provinces, relapsed into barbarism temporarily under Arab dominion, are re-born into civilization as soon as they are able to free themselves — General causes of the decay of the Arab Empire: Political nullity — Absence of creative genius — Absence of discipline — Bad administration — No national unity — The Arab could only govern with the collaboration of foreigners — Secondary causes: Religion, the vehicle of Arab thought — Too great a diversity among the conquered peoples — Despotic power of the prince — Servile position of women — The Islamization of the subject peoples raised them to the level of the conqueror and allowed them to submerge him — Mixed marriages — Negro influence — Diminution of the Imperial revenues — The mercenaries.
CHAPTER 12 123
The Muslim community is theocratic — Religious law, inflexible and immutable, regulates its institutions as well as individual conduct — Legislation — Education — Government — The position of women — Commerce — Property — No originality in Muslim institutions — The Arab has imitated and distorted — In his manifestations of intellectual activity he appears to be paralytic, and since he has impregnated Islam with his inertia, the nations who have adopted this religion are stricken with the same sterility — All Muslims, whatever their ethnic origin, think and act like a Bedouin barbarian of the time of Mohammed.
CHAPTER 13 136
The Sterility of the Arab mind is apparent in every manifestation of intellectual activity — Arab civilization is the result of the intellectual efforts of non-Arab peoples converted to Islam — Arab science, astronomy, mathematics, chemistry, medicine, is only a copy of Greek science — In history and geography the Arabs have left a few original works — In philosophy they are the pupils of the School of Alexandria — In literature, with the exception of a few lyric poems of no great value, they are under the inspiration of Greek and Persian models — The literature of the Moors in Spain is of Latin inspiration — In the fine arts, sculpture, painting and music, the nullity of the Arabs is absolute.
CHAPTER 14 152
The psychology of the Muslim — Steadfast faith in his intellectual superiority — Contempt and horror of what is not Muslim — The world divided into two parts: believers and infidels — Everything that proceeds from infidels is detestable — The Muslim escapes all propaganda — By mental reservation he even escapes violence — Check to the attempts to Introduce Western civilization into the Muslim world — Averrhoës.
CHAPTER 15 161
Islam in conflict with European nations — The Nationalist movement in Egypt — Its origin — The National Party — Moustafa Kamel Pasha-Mohammed Farid Bey — The popular party — Loufti Bey es Sayed — The party of constitutional reform — Sheikh Aly Yousef — The attitude of England — Egyptian Nationalist's intrigues in North Africa .
CHAPTER 16 166
France's foreign Muslim policy — We should help Turkey — The lessons of the Wahabite movement — In the Muslim world the Arab is an element of disorder, the Turk is an element of stability — The Arab is doomed to disappear; he will be replaced by the Turk — A policy of neutrality towards the Arabs: of friendly support towards Turkey — Conclusion
Ch. I ( 1) Mind of the Musulman
[Proofread and revised GC Jan 2008]
France needs a Muslim policy inspired by realities and not by received opinions and legends — We can only understand any given portion of the Muslim people by studying Arab history, because of the solidarity of all Muslims and because Islam is nothing but a secretion of the Arab brain — There is no such thing as Arab civilization — The origins of the legend — How modern historians and the scholars of the Middle Ages were deceived — The Arab is a realist and has no imagination — He has copied the ideas of other peoples, distorting them in the process — Islam, by its immutable dogmas, has paralysed the brain and killed all initiative.
THAT France is a great Mohammedan Power may be a commonplace, but it is a truth that ceases to be a platitude, however often repeated, when we remember that our country holds in tutelage more than twenty million Mohammedans; and that these millions are firmly united by the solidarity of their religion to the formidable block of three hundred million adherents of the Prophet.
This block is divided superficially by racial rivalries, and even at times by conflicting interests. But such is the influence exerted by religion upon individuality, so great is its power of domination, that the mass forms a true nation in the midst of other peoples, a nation whose various portions, melted in the same crucible, obedient to the same ideal, sharing the same philosophic conceptions, are animated by the samc bigoted belief in the excellence of their sacred dogma, and by the same hostile mistrust of the foreigner — the infidel.
Such is the Muslim nation.
Islam is not only a religious doctrine that includes neither skeptics nor renegades, (1) it is a country; and if the religious nationalism, with which all Muslim brains are impregnated, has not as yet succeeded in threatening humanity with serious danger, it is because the various peoples, made one by virtue of this bond, have fallen into such a state of decrepitude and decadence that it is impossible for them to struggle against the material forces placed by science and progress at the disposal of Western civilization. (2) It is to the very rigidity of its dogma, the merciless constraint it exercises over their minds, and the intellectual paralysis with which it strikes them, that this low mentality is to be attributed.
(1) De Castries, L'Islam.
(2) André Semer, Le Nationalisme Musulman;
P. Antomarohi, Le Nationalisme Egyptien;
Henri Marchand, L'Egypte et le Nationalisme Egyptien.
But even such as it is, Islam is by no means a negligible element in the destiny of humanity. The mass of three hundred million believers is growing daily, because in most Muslim countries the birth-rate exceeds the death-rate, and also because the religious propaganda is constantly gaining new adherents among tribes still in a state of barbarism.
The number of converts during the last twenty years in British India is estimated at six millions; and a similar progress has been observed in China, Turkestan, Siberia, Malaysia, and Africa. Nevertheless the active propaganda of the White Fathers is successfully combating Muslim proselytism in the Dark Continent. It behooves us then, as Le Chatelier says, to make an intelligent study of Islam, and to found thereon a Muslim policy whose beneficent action may extend not only over our African colonies but over the whole Muslim world.
We have got to realize the necessity of treating over twenty million natives in some better way than tacitly ignoring them. For they will always be the only active population of our Central and West African colonies, whilst their present numerical superiority in Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco cannot fail to increase as time goes on. (3)
(3) Alfred Le ChateIier, La Politique Musulmane.
Only by a thorough understanding of the mentality and psychology of the Muslim, and by discarding prejudice and legend, can we achieve any really useful and permanent work.
It would be puerile to imagine that we can safely confine this study to our own Muslim subjects, with the object of governing them wisely. As we have already remarked, the Muslim is not an isolated individual; the Tunisian, the Algerian, the Moroccan, the Soudanese are not individuals whose horizon stops at the artificial boundaries created by diplomatists and geographers. To whatever political formation they may belong, they are first and foremost citizens of Islam. They belong morally, religiously, intellectually to the great Muslim Fatherland, of which the capital is Mecca, and whose ruler — theoretically undisputed — is the Commander of the Faithful. Their mentality has in the course of centuries been slowly kneaded, molded and impregnated by the religious doctrine of the Prophet, and as this doctrine is nothing but a secretion of the Arab brain, it follows that we must study Arab history if we want to know and understand any portion of the Muslim world.
Such a study is difficult, not from any dearth of documents — on the contrary, they abound, for Islam was born and grew up in the full light of history — but because the Muslim religion and the Arabs are veiled from our sight by so vast a cloud of accepted opinions, legends, errors, and prejudices that it seems almost impossible to sweep it away. And yet the task must be undertaken if we wish to get out of the depths of ignorance in which we are now sunk in regard to Muslim psychology.
Jules Lemaitre was once called upon to introduce to the public the work of a young Egyptian writer on Arab poetry. The author, a novice, declared with fine assurance that Arab literature was the richest and the most brilliant of all known literatures, and that Arab civilization was the highest and the most splendid. Jules Lemaitre, who in his judgments resembled Sainte-Beuve in his preference for moderate opinions, felt some reluctance to countersign such a statement. On the other hand the obligations of courtesy prevented him from laying too much stress upon the poverty and bareness of Arab literature. He got out of the difficulty very cleverly by the following somewhat reserved statement:
“It is difficult to understand how a civilization so noble, so brilliant, whose manifestations have never lost their charm, and which in times past had so remarkable a power of expansion, seems to have lost its virtue in these latter days. It is one of the sorrows and mysteries of history.”
As the observation of a subtle mind, accustomed never to accept blindly current opinions as such, this is perfectly justified. For if we admit all the qualities that are habitually attributed to Arab civilization, if we are ready to bow in pious awe before the fascinating splendour with which poets and historians have adorned it, then it is indeed difficult to explain how the Empire of the Caliphs can have fallen into the state of decrepitude in which we see it today, dragging downward in its fall nations who, under other governance, had shown unquestionable aptitudes for civilization.
How is it that the Syrians, the Egyptians, the Berbers, as soon as they became Islamized, lost the energy, the intelligence and the spirit of initiative they exhibited under the domination of Greece and Rome? How has it come about that the Arabs themselves, who, according to the historians, were the professors of science and philosophy in the West, can have forgotten all their brilliant accomplishments and have sunk into a state of ignorance that today relegates them to the barbarous nations?
If we persist in asking these questions, it is for the sole reason that we have never really got to the bottom of the causes of the rapid expansion of Arab conquest, that we have never placed this conquest in its proper historical frame, in a circle of exceptionally favorable circumstances. We have never penetrated the psychology of the Muslim, and are consequently not in a position to understand how and why the immense Empire of the Caliphs went to pieces; how and why it was fated to collapse; how, stricken by paralysis and death by a rigid religious doctrine that dominated and controlled every act of daily life, every manifestation of activity, having no conception of material progress as an ideal worthy to be pursued, how this baneful influence has kept its adherents apart from and outside of the great currents of civilization.
In all that concerns Islam and the Muslim nations, we, in Europe, live under the shadow of an ancient error that from the remotest epochs has falsified the judgment of historians and has often led statesmen to assume an attitude and come to decisions by no means in accordance with actual facts. This error lies in crediting the Arabs with a civilizing influence they have never possessed.
The mediaeval writers, for want of exact documentation, used to include under the designation of Arabs any people professing the Muslim religion; they saw the East through a fabulous mirage of those legends with which ignorance then surrounded all far distant countries; they thus labored unconsciously to spread this error.
In this they were helped by the Crusaders, rough and coarse men for the most part, soldiers rather than scholars, who had been dazzled by the superficial luxury of Oriental courts, and who brought back from their sojourn in Palestine, Syria or Egypt, judgments devoid of all critical value. Other circumstances contributed equally to create this legend of Arab civilization.
The establishment of the government of the Caliphs in the North of Africa, in Sicily, and then in Spain, brought about relations between the West and the countries of the Orient. In consequence of these relations, certain scientific and philosophical works written in Arabic or translated from Arabic into Latin, reached Europe, and the learned clerks of the Middle Ages, whose scientific baggage was of the lightest, frankly admired these writings, which revealed to them knowledge and methods of reasoning that to them were new.
They became enthusiastic over this literature, and, in perfect good faith, drew from it the conclusion that the Arabs had reached a high degree of scientific culture.
Now, these writings were not the original productions of Arab genius, but translations of Greek works from the Schools of Alexandria and Damascus, first drawn up in Syriac, then in Arabic at the request of the Abbassid Caliphs, by Syrian scribes who had gone over to Islam.
These translations were not even faithful reproductions of the original works, but were rather compilations of extracts and glosses, taken from the commentators upon Aristotle, Galen, and Hippocrates, belonging to the Schools of Alexandria and Damascus; notably of Ammonius Saccas, Plotinus, Porphyrius, Lamblichus, Longinus, Proclus, etc. (4)
(4) Barthélémy Saint-HiIaire, Histoire de l'École d'Alexandrie
And these extracts already distorted by two successive translations, from Greek into Syriac, and from Syriac into Arabic, were still further disfigured and curtailed by the spirit of intolerance of the Muslim scribes. The thought of the Greek authors was drowned in the religious formulae imposed by Islamic dogma; the name of the author translated was not mentioned, so that European scholars could have no suspicion that the work before them was a translation, an imitation, or an adaptation; and so they attributed to the Arabs what really belonged to the Greeks. (5)
(5) Snouck Hurgronje, Le Droit Musulman
The majority of the mediaeval scholars did not even know these works, but only adaptations of them made by Abulcasis, Avicenna, Maimonides and Averrhoës. The latter drew especially from the Pandects of Medicine of Aaron, a Christian priest of Alexandria, who had himself compiled certain fragments of Galen and translated them into Syriac. The works of Averrhoës, Avicenna, and Maimonides were translated into Latin, and it was from this latest version that the mediaeval scholars made acquaintance with Arab science.
It is well to remember that at that epoch the greater part of the works of antiquity were unknown in Europe. The Arabs thus passed for inventors and initiators when in reality they were nothing but copyists. It was not until later, at the time of the Renaissance, when the manuscripts of the original authors were discovered, that the error was detected. But the legend of Arab civilization had already been implanted in the minds of men, where it has remained, and the most serious historians still speak of it in this year of grace as an indisputable fact.
Montesquieu has remarked: “There are some things that everybody says, because somebody once said them.”
Moreover, the historians have been deceived by appearances. The rapid expansion of Islam, which, in less than half a century after the death of Mohammad, brought into subjection to the Caliphs an immense empire stretching from Spain to India, has led them to suppose that the Arabs had attained a high degree of civilization. After the historians, the contemporary men of letters, in their fondness for exoticism, contributed still more to falsify judgment by showing us a conventional Arab world, in the same way as they have shown us an imaginary Japan, China, or Russia. (6)
(6) Dr. Gustave Le Bon, La Civilization des Arabes
It is in this way that the legend of Arab civilization has been created. Whoever attempted to combat it was at once assailed with Caliph Haroun-al-Raschid’s presents to Charlemagne — that wonderful clock that struck with astonishment the contemporaries of the old Emperor with the flowing beard.
Then so many illustrious names are quoted: Averrhoës, Avicenna, Avenzoar, Maimonides, Alkendi, to mention only those best known.
We shall show later on that these names cannot be invoked in favor of Arab civilization, and that moreover that civilization never existed.
There is a Greek civilization, and a Latin civilization; there is no Arab civilization, if by that word is meant the effort personal and original of a people towards progress. There may, perhaps, be a Muslim civilization, but it owes nothing to the Arabs, nor even to Islam. Nations converted to Mohammedanism only made progress because they belonged to other races than the Arab, and because they had not yet received too deeply the impress of Islam. Their effort was accomplished in spite of the Arabs, and in spite of Islamic dogma.
The prodigious success of the Arab conquest proves nothing. Attila, Genseric and Gengis Khan brought many peoples into subjection, and yet civilization owes them nothing.
A conquering people only exercises a civilizing influence when it is itself more civilized than the people conquered. Now, all the nations vanquished by the armies of the Caliph had attained, long before the Arabs, a high degree of culture, so that they were able to impart a little of what they knew, but received nothing in exchange. We shall come back to this later. Let us confine ourselves for the moment to the case of the Syrians and the Egyptians, whose Schools of Damascus and Alexandria collected the traditions of Hellenism; to North Africa, Sicily, and Spain, where Latin culture still survived; to Persia, India, and China, all three inheritors of illustrious civilizations.
The Arabs might have learned much by contact with these different peoples, It was thus that the Berbers of North Africa and the Spaniards very quickly assimilated Latin civilization, and in the same way the Syrians and the Egyptians assimilated Greek civilization so thoroughly that many of them, having become citizens of the Roman or of the Byzantine Empire, did honor in the career of art or letters to the country of their adoption.
In striking contrast to these examples, the conquering Arab remained a barbarian; but worse still, he stifled civilization in the conquered countries.
What have the Syrians, the Egyptians, the Spaniards, the Berbers, the Byzantines become under the Muslim yoke? And the people of India and Persia, what became of them after their submission to the law of the Prophet?
What has produced this illusion, and misled the historians, is the fact that Greco-Latin civilization did not immediately die out in the conquered countries. It was so full of life that it continued for two or three generations to send forth vigorous shoots behind a frontage of Mohammedanism. The fact explains itself. In the conquered countries the inhabitants had to choose between the Muslim religion and a miserable fate. “Believe or perish. Believe or become a slave,” such were the conqueror's conditions. Since it is only the rare souls that are capable of suffering for an idea — and such chosen souls are never very numerous — and since the religions with which Islam came into collision — a moribund paganism, or Christianity hardly as yet established — did not exert any considerable influence upon men's minds, the greater part of the conquered peoples preferred conversion to death or slavery.
“Paris is well worth a Mass:” we know the formula.
The first generation, made Mohammedans by the simple will of the conqueror, received the Islamic impress but lightly, keeping its own mentality and traditions intact; it continued to think and act, in consideration of some few outward concessions to Islam, as it had always been used to do. Arabic being the official language, it expressed itself in Arabic; but it continued to think in Greek, in Latin, in Aramaic, in Italian or in Spanish. Hence those translations of the Greek authors, made by Syrians, translations that led our mediaeval scholars to believe that the Arabs had founded philosophy, astronomy and mathematics.
The second generation, brought up on Muslim dogma, but subject to the influence of its parents, still showed some originality; but the succeeding generations, now completely Islamized, soon fell into barbarism.
We observe this rapid decadence of successive generations under the Muslim yoke in all countries under Arab rule, in Syria, in Egypt and in Spain. After a century of Arab domination there is a complete annihilation of all intellectual culture.
How is it that these people who, under Greek or Latin influence, have shown such a remarkable aptitude for civilization, have been stricken with intellectual paralysis under the Muslim yoke to such a degree that they have been unable to uplift themselves again, notwithstanding the efforts of Western nations in their behalf?
The answer is that their mentality has been deformed by Islam, which in itself is only a product, a secretion of the Arab mind.
Contrary to current opinion, the Arab is devoid of all imagination. He is a realist, who notes what he sees, and records it in his memory, but is incapable of imagining or conceiving anything beyond what he can directly perceive.
Purely Arab literature is devoid of all invention. The imaginative element apparent in cerlain works, such as the Arabian Nights, is of foreign origin. (7)
(7) Dozy, ...: Essai sur I'Histoire de l'lslamisme
We shall prove that in the course of this study. It is, moreover, this absence of the inventive faculties, a Semitic failing, that accounts for the utter sterility of the Arab in the arts of painting and sculpture. In literature, as in science and philosophy, the Arab has been a compiler. His intellectual beggary shows itself in his religious conceptions. In pagan times, before Mohammad, the Arab gods had no history, no legend lends poetry to their existence, no symbolism beautifies their cult. They are mere names, borrowed in all probability from other peoples, but behind these names there is . . . nothing.
Islam itself is not an original doctrine; it is a compilation of Greco-Latin traditions, biblical and Christian; but in assimilating materials so diverse, the Arab mind has stripped them of all poetical adornment, of the symbolism and philosophy he did not understand, and from all this he has evolved a religious doctrine cold and rigid as a geometrical theorem: — God, The Prophet, Mankind.
This doctrine is sometimes adorned by the nations who have adopted it and who have not the barren brain of the Arab, with quite an efflorescence of poetry and legend. But these foreign ornaments have been attacked with savage violence by the authorized representatives of Islamic dogma, and since the second century of the Hegira the Caliphs have decided, so as to avoid any variation of the religious dogma, to lay down exactly the spirit and the letter in the works of four orthodox doctors. It is forbidden to make any interpretation of the sacred texts not sanctioned by these works, which have fixed the dogma beyond all possibility of change, and by the same stroke have killed the spirit of initiative and of intelligent criticism among all Muslim peoples, who have thus become, as it were, mumified to such an extent that they have stayed fixed like rocks in the rushing torrent that is bearing the rest of humanity onward towards progress.
From this time forward, the doctrine of Islam, reduced to the simplicity of Arab conception, has carried on its work of death with perfect efficiency inasmuch as it governs every act of the believer's life; it takes charge of him in his cradle, and leads him to the grave, through all the vicissitudes of life, never allowing him in any sphere of thought or activity the least vestige of liberty or initiative. It is a pillory that only allows a certain number of movements previously fixed upon.
To sum up: the Arab has borrowed everything from other nations, literature, art, science, and even his religious ideas. He has passed it all through the sieve of his own narrow mind, and being incapable of rising to high philosophic conceptions, he has distorted, mutilated and desiccated everything. This destructive influence explains the decadence of Muslim nations and their powerlessness to break away from barbarism; it equally explains the difficulties that confront the French in Northern Africa.
Ch. II ( 2 ) Mind of the Musulman
[Proofread and revised by GC Jan 2008]
Chapter 2 -
For any comprehensive knowledge of Islam and the Muslim, it is necessary to study the Desert — The Arabian Desert — The Bedouin — The influence of the Desert — Nomadism — The dangerous life — Warrior and bandit — Fatalism — Endurance — Insensibility — The spirit of independence — Semitic anarchy — Egoism — Social organization — The tribe — Semitic pride — Sensuality — The ideal — Religion — Lack of imagination — Essential characteristics of the Bedouin.
TO know and understand he Muslim, We must study Islam. To know and understand Islam, we must study the Bedouin of Arabia; and to know and understand the Bedouin, we must study the Desert. For the desert environment explains the special mentality of the Bedouin, his conception of existence, his qualities and his defects. Consequently it explains Islam, a secretion of the Arab brain; and finally it explains the Muslim that Islam has run into its rigid mold.
An immense plateau, rocky and sandy, 1,250 miles long with an average breadth of 500 miles, surrounded by a girdle of mountains with peaks rising 6,500 and occasionally 10,000 feet; between this lofty barrier and the sea a fertile strip of country 50 to 60 miles wide. That, in a few strokes, is the general aspect of Arabia. (1)
(1) Palgrave, A Year's Journey through Central and Eastern Arabia.
Larroque, Voyage dans l' Arabie heureuse
Strabo, Lib. xvi.
The plateau is indeed what the Bedouins call it, “the land of terror and of thirst.” Situated for the most part in the tropics, and shut off from the softening influences of the sea by a mountain wall that arrests the moist winds and causes the rain to fall on the coastal strip, it presents every variety of desert nature: the lava desert, or Harra; the stony desert, or Hammada; the desert of sand, or Nefoud, moving dunes, alkaline plains, and sebkas, whose salt crust breaks under one's footsteps.
The whole scene is wild and mournful. Those gentle undulations that rest the eye in countries with a normal climate, where centuries of cultivation have formed the soil, are unknown in the desert. There everything is disjointed, rough, bristling with hostility. In the basaltic and millstone regions the rocks are hewn into sharp edges. The undulations of the surface are abrupt and steep, without any gradual transition.
If one could imagine the chain of the Alps submerged in alluvium up to within 800 to 500 feet of the summit, one would see nothing but a series of domes, peaks, needles, fallen rocks and denuded columns rising abruptly from the ground. That is what the Harra looks like, with its tortured skyline recalling vast cosmic upheavals.
Then there is the Hammada, a barren plain of stones, a vast glittering extent of naked rocks, with all the weariness of one colour, where the wind has swept away every particle of vegetable earth, where extremes of heat and cold have split up the soil into slabs and splinters — a monstrous chaos of broken stone, where no living thing can flourish. (2)
(2) De Laborde and Linnant, Voyage dans l' Arabie Pétrée.
Further on is the Nefoud, a sea of sand passing out of sight, from whence emerge high dunes like huge waves petrified, with parallel gullies formed by the wind that keeps them incessantly in motion. Of one uniform tawny tint, this barren plain is of an appalling monotony. It is the domain of death, and either burns or freezes. The porosity of the sand multiplies the surfaces of absorption and of radiation, and the sun by day heats it up to such a degree that one dare not venture across it; at nightfall it loses this heat almost instantaneously, and becomes covered with frost.
Under the effect of the wind which is bottled up in these gullies, possibly also from expansion, the dunes give out strange sounds, which add to the wild horror of the solitude. They literally hum, like a metallic top, and some travellers have compared the noise to that made by a threshing-machine. (3)
(3) Gautier, Le Sahara Algérien.
Then there are vast stretches of gypsum, of a whiteness that is unbearable under the burning glare of the sun. And again there are the sebkas, once salt lakes, now dried up, on the surface of which the salt mixed with sand forms a crust full of holes over a quagmire.
Throughout the country vegetable soil is very scarce. Reduced to an impalpable powder by the general dryness, it is carried away by the wind, and is precipitated by the action of rain in less dry countries. Being subject within the same period of twenty-four hours to torrid heat and extreme cold (140° to 18° Fahr.), swept by winds either burning or freezing but always dry, the soil, whatever its nature, is stricken with barrenness.
Vegetation is rare in the desert; in the absence of rain, it can only obtain nourishment from water in the subsoil, and so can only thrive in deep basins, where the water-bearing stratum is near the surface. There are a few stunted plants in the ravines and the wadies — long depressions at the bottom of which one may find a little moisture by digging — some Artemisias, Brooms and Halophytic plants. Here and there, in sheltered places, a few puny shrubs of acacia and tamarisk carry on a forlorn struggle against the ever-encroaching sand.
There are no rivers, no springs, a few wells, far apart, constantly being covered by the shifting sand, and having to be cleaned out every time by the thirsty traveller.
Any considerable collection of human beings is impossible amid such hostile natural surroundings; they would be decimated by hunger and thirst. So there are no towns, nor even villages; only starveling families, for ever preoccupied by the anxieties of their existence, wandering in these wastes strewn with ambushes.
But if, leaving these dreary solitudes, one crosses the mountain barrier enclosing them, one descends suddenly into a wonderful country. The coastal region, watered by sea breezes, fertilized by the wadies, which in rainy weather roll in torrents from the heights, is, in comparison with the desert plateau, a land of plenty and delight. Between Medina and Mecca this strip is widened by the granitic plateau of Nedjed, an important mountain mass that catches the rains and feeds numerous springs. (4)
(4) Maurice Tamisier, Voyage en Arabie.
Here are wells that never dry up, and oases where beneath the palms there is a two-storied vegetation of fruit trees, cereals, and perfume plants. Here too are pastures where horses, camels and sheep can thrive.
These are the favored countries of the Hedjaz, of Assir, Nedjed and the Yemen, of Hadramout and Oman, with populous towns such as Medina with Yambo as its port, Mecca with its port of Djeddah, Taif, Sana, Terim, Mirbat and Muscat. And yet the attraction of these fertile regions has not depopulated the desert.
The Bedouin has remained faithful to his desert, and as, by the side of the sedentary, less active tribes of a gentler mode of living, he represents the man of action restless and brutal, it is he who in the end has imposed his manners and mentality upon the whole of Arabia. It is him, therefore, that we have to study. No historical research is needed; immobility being the leading characteristic of the Arab tribes, the Bedouin has not changed. Such as he was when Mohammad drew him from his idol-worship, so we see him exactly described in the book of Genesis, in the passages relating to Ishmael or Joseph, or well represented in the bas-relief of the palace of Nineveh recording scenes from the wars of Assurbanipal, even so is he at the present day. (5)
(5) Dozy, Histoire des Musulmans d'Espagne, t. i., p. 3.
Delaporte, La vie de Mahomet, p. 47.
Larroque, op. cit. p. 109.
Lenormant, Histoire des peuples Orientaux, VI., p. 422.
Strabo, Lib. v. 1.
Noel DesVergers, Hist. de l' Arabie.
The desert condemns the individual to a special sort of life which develops certain faculties, certain qualities and certain defects. It is an existence full of difficulties, with danger everywhere; from the marauder prowling round the tent or round the flock, meditating a sudden dash: from the wind-enemy that dries up the water-hole and smothers the meagre vegetation in sand: from the rival who occupies a coveted pasture: from the soil that cracks into chasms.
The desert imposes as a first condition of existence — nomadism. It is not for pleasure that the Bedouin is always travelling, but from stern necessity. Cultivation being impossible on a barren soil deprived of vegetable humus and moisture, man is doomed to the shepherd's trade. But the pasturage, composed of sickly herbs growing in depressions sheltered from the wind, are of short duration and small extent. The flocks eat them down in a few days, when the shepherd must set about finding others; hence the necessity of being always on the move. When a pasture is found, he must make sure of its possession against other rivals, and, on occasion, use violence. It is a life of fever and of fighting, a rough and dangerous life.
But seldom can the Bedouin satisfy his hunger; he has everything to fear from nature and from man. Like a wild beast, he lives in a state of perpetual watchfulness. He relies chiefly upon robbery. Too poor to satisfy his desires, devoid of resources in an ill-favoured country, he is always ready to seize any chance that offers — a camel strayed from the herd provides him with a feast of meat: a sudden dash upon a caravan or the douar (camp) of a sedentary tribe furnishes him with dates, spices and women.
The practice of arms and the hard training he has always to live in have developed his warlike faculties; and, as it is these that enable him to triumph over the dangers of his wandering life and to procure the only satisfactions possible in the desert, he has come to consider them as his ideal.
The coward and the cripple are doomed to contempt and death. The respect of his neighbor is in proportion to the fear with which he inspires him. To win the praise of poets and the love of women, he must be a brilliant horseman, skilled in the use of sword and spear.
The women themselves have caught something of the martial spirit of their husbands and brothers; marching in the rear-guard they tend the wounded and encourage their fighting men by reciting verses of a wild energy: "Courage," they chant, "defenders of women. Strike with the edge of your swords. Wear the daughters of the morning star; our feet tread upon soft cushions; our necks are decked with pearls; our hair is perfumed with musk. The brave who face the enemy, we press them in our arms; the base who flee, we cast them off and we deny them our love." (6)
(6) Dozy, Histoire des Musulmans d'Espagne, t. i., pp. 16, 17
Perron, Les femmes Arabes avant l'Islamisme
Caussin de Perceval, Essai sur l'Histoire des Arabes avant
l'Islamisme, t. ii., p. 281.
The necessity of providing for his own needs makes the Bedouin an active man; he is patient because of the sufferings he has to endure; he accepts the inevitable without vain recriminations. (7) It is not Islam that has created fatalism, but the desert; Islam has done no more than accept and sanction a state of mind characteristic of the nomad. His adventurous life gives the Bedouin courage, boldness, and if not contempt for death, at any rate a certain familiarity with it. Necessity compels him to be selfish. The available pasturage is too scanty to be shared, he keeps it for himself and his own people; it is the same with the watering place. He kills his infant daughters, who are the source of difficulties; and sometimes even his little boys, when the family is becoming too numerous. Hard on himself, he is hard upon others too; holding his life so cheap, he thinks nothing of his neighbor's. "Never has lord of our race died in his bed," says a poet. "On the blades of swords flows our blood, and our blood flows only over sword-blades. " (8)
(7) Herder, Idées sur la philosophie de l'Histoire, p. ?3
(8) El Samaoual.
"We have risen," says another poet, "and our arrows have flown; the blood which stains our garments scents us more sweetly than the odor of musk." (9)
(9) Safy Il Dine II Holli.
"I was made of iron," Antal exclaims, "and of a heart more stubborn still; I have drunk the blood of mine enemies in the hollow of their skulls and am not surfeited."
In illustration of this insensibility may be quoted, two incidents in the life of Mohammed: Seven hundred Coraidite Jews who had been taken prisoner, were having their throats cut by the side of long graves, under the eyes of the Prophet; as night was falling, he had torches brought, so as not to put off the mournful business till the morrow. (10) A number of Arab captives, taken at Beder, were being put to death, to one of them who begged for mercy the Prophet said: "I thank the Lord that he has delighted my eyes by thy death"; and when the dying man asked who would take care of his little child, Mohammed replied: "The fire of hell." (11)
(10) A. Savary, Koran, p. 47.
(11) Haines, Islam a Missionary Religion, p. 36.
The solitary life of the Bedouin has developed his spirit of independence; in the desert the individual is free; he obeys no government; he escapes all laws. There is but one rule — the rule of the strongest. (12)
(12) G. Sale: Observations historiques et critiques sur le Mahométisme
Sometimes, when their independence was threatened by neighbouring nations,
Romans, Persians or Abyssinians, the tribes assembled together to defend their
liberty, but as soon as the danger was past they dispersed.
When Abraha-el-Achram invaded the Hedjaz with forty thousand Abyssinians, and after having reduced Tebala and Taief set himself to penetrate the fortress of Mecca, the neighbouring tribes leagued together under the command of Abd-el-Mottaleb; but when once the enemy had been driven back, the tribes resumed their liberty. (13) This spirit of independence, this exaggerated development of individuality appears at every turn in the course of Arab history. The Caliphs had to struggle without ceasing against the turbulence of the tribes, who were hostile to all regular government and incapable of submitting to discipline. It was these tribal rivalries that in the end broke up the unity of the Empire by adding an element of disturbance to the disruptive forces of the conquered nations.
(13) Sedillot, Histoire des Arabes, t. i., p. 43.
The spirit of anarchy is characteristic of the Semite; (14) wherever he rules, there follows disorder and revolution. Jewish history, and that of Carthage, provide us with numerous examples; and, nearer our own time, the crisis of authority that has overturned Russia, has recruited its most powerful leaders and theorists from the Jewish element.
(14) Renan, Études d'histoire religieuse
Any concentration of population is impossible in the desert owing to the lack of resources; at the same time, an isolated individual would be too feeble to contend with the dangers of a wandering life. Hence the Bedouins have been obliged to group themselves in families, and this is the basis of their social organization. The family enlarged has grown into the tribe, but the members of the same tribe do not all live together; they form small family groups united by the solidarity of birth and community of interests.
All the individuals of a tribe recognize the same common ancestor; they call this acabia, congenital solidarity, a rudimentary form of patriotism. In this way the Koreich, to whom Mohammed belonged, trace their descent back to Fihr-Koreich, of traditionally free origin, for he was regarded as the descendant of Ishmael by Adnan, Modher, etc. (15) The members of the same tribe are, literally, brothers; moreover this is the name by which men of the same age address each other. When an old man speaks to a young one, he calls him "Son of my brother."
(15) Seignette, Traduction de Sidi Khelil, p. 700.
The Bedouin is ready to make any sacrifice for his tribe; for its glory or its prosperity this egoist will risk his life and property. "Love your tribe," says a poet, "for you are bound to it by ties stronger than any existing between husband and wife." (16)
(16) Abu' Labbas M Qhamed surnamed Mobarred, quoted by Ebn
Khallikan in La vie des hommes illustres
Throughout the whole course of Muslim history, wherever the Arabs are found, in Syria, in Spain, or in Africa, one notes the devotion of the individual to his tribe, at the same time as the rivalry between the different tribes. The notable upon whom the Caliph has been pleased to confer a high appointment loses no time in devoting himself to the interests of his own tribe, and at once arouses the anger of the others, who intrigue against him until they procure his disgrace, when the game begins over again with somebody else.
The Bedouin lives for himself and his tribe, beyond it he has no friends; his neighbor is the man of his tribe, his relation. Faithfulness to his pledged word, honesty and frankness only concern members of the tribe, the contribules. (17)
(17) Dozy, op. cit. p. 40.
Each tribe selects as its chief the most intelligent habits of sobriety and plunged into the worst debauchery. Mohammed declared that he loved three things better than all else: perfumes, women and flowers. This might be the Bedouin’s device; it is at any rate his ideal, and the Prophet did not forget it. His paradise is a place of carnal pleasures and material enjoyments, such as a nomad of the desert pictures to himself.
Ceaselessly absorbed by the cares of his adventurous life, the Bedouin concerns himself only with immediate realities. He fights to live and cares but little for philosophy. He is a realist, and not a theorist; he acts and has no time to think.
His faculties of observation have been developed at the expense of his imagination, and without imagination no progress is possible. It is this that explains the stagnation of the Bedouin over whom centuries pass without in any way changing his mode of life. (18)
(18) Dozy, Essai sur l'Histoire de l'Islam
The Arab is in fact totally devoid of imagination; a contrary opinion is generally held and must be revised. The impetuosity of his nature, the warmth of his passions, the ardor of his desires have caused him to be credited with a disordered imagination. His language, poor in abstract words, and only able to express an idea exactly by the help of similes and comparisons, has maintained the illusion. Nevertheless, the Arab is the least imaginative of beings; his brain is dry; he is no philosopher; and he has never put forth an original thought, either in religion or in literature.
Before Islam, the Bedouin, just emerged from Totemism, worshipped divinities personifying the heavenly bodies or natural phenomena: the stars, thunder, the sun, etc. But he has never had a mythology. Among the Greeks, the Hindus, the Scandinavians, the gods have a past, a history; man has molded them to his own likeness, he has given them his passions, his virtues, and even his vices. The gods of the Bedouin have no distinctive character; they are mournful divinities, one fears them, but one knows them not. The Arab Pantheon is inhabited by lifeless dolls, of whom, moreover, the greater part were brought in from outside, notably from Syria. (19)
(19) Lenormant, p. 469;
Fresnel, Lettres sur l'histoire des Arabes avant l'Islamisme
Further, the Bedouin had not much respect for his idols; he was quite ready to cheat them by sacrificing a gazelle when he had promised them a sheep, and to abuse them when they did not respond to his wishes. When Amrolcais set out to avenge the murder of his father, on the Beni-Asad, he stopped at the temple of the idol Dhou-el-Kholosa to consult fate by means of the three arrows, called "command," "prohibition" and "wait." Having drawn" prohibition," which forbade his projected vengeance, he tried again; but" prohibition" came out three times running; he then broke the arrows and throwing the pieces at the idol's head, cried: “Wretch! if it had been your father that had been killed, you would not have forbidden me to avenge him.” (20)
(20) Dozy, Histoire des Musulmans d'Espagne, t, i., pp. 21-22.
There is the same absence of imagination in the conception of Islam; its very simplicity is a reflection of the Arab brain; while its dogmas are borrowed from other religions. The principle of the unity of God is of Sabean origin; as is also the Muslim prayer and the fast of Ramadhan. (21)
(21) Renan, Études d'histoire religieuse
If the mosque is without adornment, that is not from any premeditated design, but simply because the Arab is incapable of adorning it; it is bare like the desert, bare like the Bedouin brain.
The Arab conception of the world was borrowed from the Sabeans and the Hebrews. The religious sects that came into being under the later Caliphs, and whose subtle doctrines exhibit an overflowing imagination, are of Indian and Egyptian inspiration. They represent exactly a reaction on the part of the subject peoples against the barrenness and poverty of the Muslim dogma and the Arab spirit.
In literature there is the same intellectual destitution. The Arab poets describe what they see and what they feel; but they invent nothing; if sometimes they venture on a flight of imagination, their fellow-countrymen treat them as liars. Any aspiration towards the infinite, towards the ideal, is unknown to them; and what they have always considered as of most consequence, even from the remotest times, is not invention but precision and elegance of expression, the technique of their art. Invention is so rare a quality in Arab literature that when one does meet with a poem or a story in which fancy forms any considerable element, it is safe to say at once that the work is not original, but a translation. Thus in the “Arabian Nights” all the fairy-tales are of Persian or Indian origin; in this greatcollection the only stories that are really Arab are those depicting manners and customs, and anecdotes taken from real life.
The oldest monument of pre-Islamic poetry, the Moallakat, are poor rhapsodies copied from one model: when you have read one of them you know the rest. The poet begins by celebrating his forsaken dwelling, the spring where man and beast come to quench their thirst, then the charms of his mistress, and finally his horse and his arms. (22)
(22) See translation of the Moallakat by Caussin de Perceval.
“When the Arabs, by virtue of the sword, had established themselves in immense provinces and turned their attention to scientific matters, they displayed the same absence of creative power. They translated and commented upon the works of the ancients; they enriched certain special subjects by patient, exact and minute observation; but they invented nothing; we owe to them no great and fruitful idea.” (23)
(23) Dozy, loc. cit. pp. 13-14;
Sedillot, Histoire des Arabes, II., pp. 12, 19, and 82.
From what has gone before, we may sum up the characteristics of the Bedouin in a few essential traits: he is a nomad and a fighter, incessantly preoccupied by the anxiety of finding some means of subsistence and of defending his life against man and nature; he leads a rough life full of danger. His faculties of struggle and resistance are highly developed, namely physical strength, endurance and powers of observation. Necessity has made him a robber, a man of prey; he stalks his game when he espies a caravan or the douar (camp) of some sedentary tribe. Like a wild beast, he sees a chance when it arises.
An egoist, his social horizon stops at the tribe, beyond which he knows neither friend nor neighbor. A realist, he has no other ideal than the satisfaction of his material wants — to eat, to drink, and to sleep. Having no time for thought or contemplation, his brain has become atrophied; he acts on the spur of the moment, we might almost say by his reflexes; he is totally devoid of imagination and of the creative faculty.
Finally, a simple creature, not far from primitive animality — a barbarian. Such is the man who has conceived Islam and who by the strength of his arm and the sharpness of his sword, has carved out of the world this Muslim Empire.
Ch. III ( 3 ) Mind of the Musulman
[Proofread and revised for typos George C. Jan 2008]
Arabia in the time of Mohammed – No Arab nation – A dust of tribes without ethnic or religious bonds – A prodigious diversity of cults and beliefs – Two mutually hostile groups: Yemenites and Moaddites – Sedentaries and nomads – Rivalry of the two centers: Yathreb and Mecca – Jewish and Christian propaganda at Yathreb – Life of the Meccans – Their evolution – Federation of the Fodhoul – The precursors of Islam.
KNOWING the desert and the Bedouin, it is not impossible perhaps to form some idea of what Arabia must have been in the time of Mohammed. There was no such thing as an Arab nation, if by that name we mean an aggregation of persons subject to a regular government, knowing themselves to be of common origin and pursuing the same ideal. Caussin de Perceval, who has collected into three volumes the chronicles relating to pre-Islamic times, has been unable to draw from these documents any ensemble of facts linked together logically that would convey the impression of a nation.(1) There is nothing but a dust, as it were, of tribes without connecting ties, without solidarity, in continuous conflict for trivial objects: cattle-lifting, abduction of women, disputed watering-places and pastures. (2) There is no community of origin, none of those traditions handed on from generation to generation that produce solidarity.
(1) Caussin de Perceval, Essai sur l’Histoire des Arabes avant l’Islamisme
(2) Prideaux, Vie de Mahomet
Ockley, Histoire des Sarrazins
A barbarous country, cast like a barrier into the midst of the ancient civilizations of Asia and the Mediterranean, protected by its deserts from invasion and with barely accessible coasts, Arabia has served as a place of refuge for all fugitive peoples, oppressed or dispersed from Persia, India, Syria and Africa; (3) too poor or too savage, she has escaped the great conquerors. Part of Syria was indeed under the rule of the Greek Emperors of Constantinople; the Arab coast of the Persian Gulf was under the domination of the kings of Persia; and a portion of the Red Sea littoral was for a time under the Christian kings of Abyssinia; but the influence of these conquerors was always confined to these restricted regions. (4) The ambition of the invaders was broken at the coast, and discouraged by the poverty of the country. "What is there to be found in your country?" asked a certain king of Persia of an Arab prince who had applied for the loan of some troops and offered in return the possession of a province. “Sheep and camels! I am not going to risk my armies in your deserts for such a trifle.” (5) The only people who came to stay were fugitives and wanderers, all the wreckage of the old civilizations.
(3) Herder: Idée sur la philosophie d’histoire, p.420
(4) Lenormant, op. cit. t. V., p. 337.
(5) Dozy, op. cit. p. 47.
In the attempt to extract some general idea from the rubbish-heap of the Arab chronicles we may succeed in arranging these scattered families in two principal groups: the Yemenites, and the Moaddites. (6) The former, the Aribas of the Muslim writers, that is to say the Arabs properly so called, came from Irak and India two thousand years before the Christian era; they reigned in Babylon in 2218 B.C., and in Egypt at the same period under the name of the Shepherd Kings.
They established themselves in the Yemen, but were driven out later and dispersed over the whole of Arabia. (7) The latter, the Moustaribas of the Muslim chroniclers, that is to say “those who had become Arabs,” came from Syria and Chaldea. A section of these immigrants, to which the ancestors of Mohammed belonged, claimed to be descended from Ishmael, the son of Abraham. (8)
(6) Sedillot, Histoire Générale des Arabes, t. i., p. 24.
(7) Sylvestre de Sacy, Mémoire sur l'Histoire des Arabes avant Mahomet
(8) Kazimirsky, Introduction à la traduction du Koran, p. 3.
A lively antipathy separated these two ethnic groups. The Yemenites had as their center Yathreb, which subsequently became Medina: the Moaddites had Mecca. The Yemenites, established in fertile regions, became a settled people devoted to agriculture; the Moaddites were nomads, shepherds and camel-drivers.
This is merely an outline sketch; in reality, all these tribes, of whatever origin, lived in a state of the most complete anarchy — the anarchy of the Semite. (9) Without any bond to unite them, with no past, and with none of those great traditions that float like a flag over succeeding generations, constituting a common patrimony of pride and glory, these robbers and camel-drivers, shepherds and husbandmen, living from hand to mouth, have no history; their monotonous existence — a struggle for daily bread — leaves no more trace than the camel tracks on the sand of the desert dunes.
(9) See Diodorus of Sicily, Liv. ii.;
Herodotus, Lib. ail; (?)
Strabo, Lib. xvi.;
Dion Cassius, Lib. liii.
There is not even any religious connection; (10) each tribe had its protecting idol, a vague souvenir of the worship of their forefathers. Here and there a few Jewish tribes from Syria, some Christian tribes from the Shepherd Kings.
(10) Burckhardt, op. cit. p. 160.
There was no government, no social organization beyond the family and the tribe. Neither art nor literature is to be found among men absorbed by the anxieties of a dangerous life; there are indeed a few rhapsodical poems bearing a distant resemblance to the songs of our troubadours. There was no other ideal than the satisfaction of immediate wants, no aim in life beyond the pursuit of the daily subsistence — a prey, a lucky dash, a copious meal, such was their ideal; it might perhaps suffice for an individual shrunk into his own egoism, it could never be the ideal of a nation. (11)
(11) Burckhardt, op. cit. p. 41.
These warriors and robbers were willing epicures, and their poets would seem to draw their inspiration from the same source as Horace: “Let us enjoy the present, for death will soon be upon us.” (12) However, in the midst of this general anarchy of tribes, wandering or sedentary, one fact has stood out clearly from the remotest ages — the antagonism of the Yemenites and the Moaddites; it is the old quarrel between the settled people and the nomads, between the husbandman and the shepherd. This antagonism was carried on into the conflict between Yathreb and Mecca.
(12) Moallaka of Amir-Ibn-Kolthoum.
Yathreb, more favoured than Mecca as regards climate, built against the moist mountain mass of Nejed, was surrounded by fertile lands. Its inhabitants devoted themselves to agriculture and petty trading, and as these are stationary occupations, they became sedentary.
Their manners grew gentler, so much so that after centuries of quiet life, they constituted at the time of Mohammed a peaceable population of cultivators, artisans and small shop-keepers. (13) The Jews and Christians, who had come in considerable numbers from Syria, propagated their religious doctrines; and the Christian ideas of human brotherhood and forgiveness of injuries had in a vague way got into men's minds. The Jews, cradled in the old Messianic tradition, spoke freely of the coming appearance of a messenger from God. The worship of idols, undermined by both Jews and Christians, was to a certain extent abandoned. In short, in a period of general anarchy. Yathreb was a town in which order was maintained, and was the most peaceable city in Arabia. (14)
(13) Larroque, Voyage dans la Palestine, p. 110.
(14) G. SaIe, Observations hist. et critiques sur le Mohammedisme,
Mecca, 250 miles to the south-west, lying in a sandy hollow, surrounded by bare and barren hills, was the abode of unruly men engaged in stock-breeding and the important caravan traffic. In contact with sea-faring nations through its port of Djeddah, it had become the principal entrepot of whatever trade there was at that time between the Indies and the countries of the West-Syria, Egypt and even Italy. (15) To Mecca came the caravans from India and Persia, laden with a precious freight of ivory, gold-dust, silks and spices.
(15) Carlyle, Heroes, p. 10 (?).
The men of Yathreb, wishing to share these tempting profits, had tried hard to divert a portion of the traffic to their city; in this they had not succeeded, for three reasons: firstly, because the caravans preferred Mecca as a sort of half-way house. Lying at an equal distance of thirty days' march from the Yemen and from Syria, it allowed them whether on the outward or on the return journey, to winter in Yemen and to spend the summer in Syria. (16) Secondly, because the Meccans, being enterprising people, did not wait for the great caravans, but organized small private caravans of their own, bartering the products of Syria, Egypt and Abyssinia against those of the Euphrates valley, of Persia and of India. The camels of the Koreich were loaded with costly burdens in the markets of Sana and Merab, and in the ports of Oman and Aden. (17) The people of Mecca became the carriers of the desert, the brokers between the peoples of Asia and the Mediterranean. The men of Yathreb, husbandmen and small shopkeepers, were incapable of any such enterprise. Finally, because Mecca had always been from the remotest ages, a place of pilgrimage, to which men repaired to bow down in the temple of the Kaaba before a certain black stone said to have been brought down from heaven in the time of Abraham by the servants of God Almighty. (18) Diodorus of Sicily records that, in the lifetime of Caesar, the Kaaba was the most frequented temple in Arabia. The Koreich, the tribe to which Mohammed belonged, were the guardians of this temple, an office that brought them in appreciable profits.
(16) Qot'B Eddin Mohammed El Mekki, Histoire de la Mekke
(18) Sedillot, op. cit. t. i., p. 12;
Dr. Lebon, La Civilization des Arabes, p. 117.
Thus both religion and commerce made Mecca an important social center, bringing her great prosperity, and thereby exciting the envy of the men of Yathreb. They detested the Meccans, who returned the sentiment with interest. Moreover, they disliked them for their licentious mode of living. Rich, broad-minded, troubled by few scruples, idolaters, recognizing no law beyond the satisfaction of their own desires, the Meccans were hedonists, holding in contempt the refinements of morality.
A poem of the period gives an exact idea of their moral state: “In the morning, when you come,” says the poet to his friend, “I will offer you a brimming cup of wine, and if you have already enjoyed this liquor in deep draughts, never mind; you shall begin again with me. The companions of my pleasures are young men of noble blood, whose faces shine like the stars. Every evening, a singer, dressed in a striped robe and a saffron-coloured tunic, comes to brighten our company. Her dress is open at the throat; she allows amorous hands to stray freely o’er her charms. . . . I have devoted myself to wine and pleasure; I have sold all I possessed, I have dissipated what wealth I acquired myself as well as that which I inherited. You, Censor, who blame my passion for pleasure and fighting, can you make me immortal? If all your wisdom cannot stave off the fatal moment, leave me in peace to squander everything on enjoyment before death can reach me. Tomorrow, severe Censor, when we shall both of us die, we shall see which of us two will be consumed by a burning thirst.” (19)
The men of Yathreb were narrow-minded, of the peasant and shopkeeping spirit, and were moreover lnfluenced by Jewish and Christian propaganda; they lived parsimoniously on small profits and quick returns. Compared to the wealthy caravan-owners of Mecca, who were great business schemers, they were small men, of austere morals, of regular habits, peaceable temperament and affable. (20) The Meccans treated them with sovereign contempt, as misers, cowards and eunuchs. Returning insult for insult, the men of Yathreb called them bandits and highwaymen.
(20) Fis-Sahmoudi, Histoire de la Médine. Trad. Wustenfeld.
Religion was dragged into the quarrel. The Jews established in Yathreb had succeeded in converting certain families of the Aus and the Khazdradj. The Meccans, attached to the old idolatrous worship, not from religious conviction but by mundane interest, since the Kaaba attracted many visitors and customers, took advantage of these conversions to lash their adversaries with the epithet of Jews.
The rivalry between Yathreb and Mecca was of considerable importance; for, in the midst of general disorder these two towns represented the only centres of Arab thought. It was their quarrels that favoured the development of Islam, and at a later date became the cause of troubles and divisions in the Muslim Empire. If Mohammed, disowned by the Meccans, hunted and threatened with death, had not found refuge and support at Medina, it is more than probable that his great adventure would have miscarried, and that his name would have fallen into oblivion like those of so many other prophets of the same period.
Owing to their enterprising spirit, the Meccans soon became very rich. The caravan trade, doubled by the trade in slaves, returned huge profits. These Bedouins became all at once merchant princes, and gave themselves corresponding airs.
Prosperity has its effect upon character; it diminishes the fighting spirit, and produces a conservative tendency. One does not risk one's life without thinking twice about it, except when one has nothing to lose; bellicose nations are always the poorest, and among fighting men the keenest in a raid are those who are not yet loaded up with booty.
The well-to-do man wishes to enjoy his competence, and this he can only do when order and security prevail. Having acquired wealth, the men of Mecca intended to live a pleasant life; their interests were seriously compromised by the general state of anarchy that prevailed, under cover of which their caravans were being held up to ransom by robber bands, and by the conflicts between tribes which also interfered with their traffic. They were very indignant at these acts of brigandage on the part of the Bedouins, and preached respect for the property of others. Being men of action, the Meccans were not content merely to advocate the principles of order, they took steps to impose them. With this object several important personages of the tribe of the Koreich founded a sort of league, in A.D. 595, called Hilfel Fodhoul, or the Fodhoul federation. The Fodhoul intended to combat by every available means the anarchy that was so injurious to trade and consequently to their interests; they first attempted to suppress, or at least to reduce the conflicts between tribes by instituting truces, or suspensions of hostilities, under the most diverse pretexts: such as the Holy Month, a pilgrimage, important markets, etc. (21) They even strove to bring the tribes together in groups, to federate them, using different methods to secure their object.
(21) Al Kazouini and Al Shahrastani.
They began with what one might call an appeal to Arab patriotism; that is, to their hatred of the foreigner. In this connection an event occurred that favored their projects. The Abyssinians, led by the Negus Abrahah, had made an attempt to take Mecca, whose wealth excited their envy. The neighboring tribes, under the threat of a common danger, had agreed to combine under the leadership of Abd el-Mottaleb, and had repulsed the enemy.
The Negus having then turned his arms against the Yemen, had been driven out by the tribes united under the command of a Hemyarite prince. (22) On receiving news of this last success, Abd-el-Mottaleb went in person to Saana to congratulate the Hemyarite prince in the name of the Koreich. This was a noteworthy step, as signifying solidarity, when sons of the same Fatherland drew together in mutual understanding. As soon as the enemy had been driven out, the tribes at once resumed their liberty; but the Fodhoul, encouraged by the success of their initiative, set to work to exploit the Bedouin sentiment of xenophobia. Circumstances favored their propaganda, since the Abyssinians on the west, the Greeks on the north, and the Persians on the east were all threatening Arabia. The Fodhoul were also contemplating a unification of the language, as a means of bringing the tribes together. People can only agree when they understand each other, and for this to be possible they must speak the same language. But Arabia was a perfect Babel of different dialects; the thread running through them all was certainly Arabic, but debased in each tribe by mispronunciation, or by the use of local expressions, to such an extent that a Bedouin of Nejed could not understand a man from the Hedjaz, and the latter could not make himself understood by his fellow-countryman of the Yemen. (23)
(22) Caussin de Perceval, op. cit.
Sylvestre de Sacy, Mémoire sur l’histoire des Arabes
(23) Sylvestre de Sacy, Histoire des Arabes avant Mahomet
The Fodhoul made very clever use of the poets, a sort of bards or troubadours, who sang the exploits of warriors and of lovers in every tribe. “These bards were commissioned to create a more general language. Their verses, which were recited everywhere, were to fix once for all the words intended to represent ideas: when several families made use of two different words to express the same idea, the word the bard had chosen was the one to be adopted, and thus the Arab language was gradually formed.” (24)
(24) Sedillot, op. cit. p. 44.
Finally, the Fodhoul tried to create unity of religion — a difficult task — as each idolatrous tribe had its own protecting divinity; but there were Jewish tribes at Yathreb and at Khaibar, Christian tribes in the Hedjaz and the Yemen, while the Sabean creed and Manicheeism counted their adherents on the shores of the Persian Gulf. Each tribe held to its own beliefs. The Fodhoul could not dream of fighting against idolatry, since the temple of the Kaaba brought many visitors to Mecca. As astute men, superior to vulgar superstition, they conceived the ingenious idea of melting all the different creeds together so as to make one, and thus satisfy everybody. They drew the outlines of a sort of Arab religion which, while respecting the ancient customs of the Bedouins, would find room for certain Sabean, Jewish, and Christian beliefs. That is how they came to adopt the Sabean principle of one God over all; and the Messianic idea of the Jews as to the coming appearance of a prophet charged to establish the reign of justice. As certain tribes claimed to be descended from Abraham, they made a great deal of this patriarch, to please the Jews and Christians.
It is evident that the Meccans, whose minds had been widened by foreign travel, were very clever men. In working, from commercial interests, for the rapprochement of the tribes and for a fusion of beliefs, they were, without suspecting it, clearing the ground for Islam. The Fodhoul were the precursors of Mohammed, who, moreover, being a member of their league, without doubt drew from this association many ideas the source of which could not be accounted for in any other way.