Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Preface - Mind of the Musulman

[Proofread and Revised by George C. Jan. 2008]










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.




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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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