This article appeared in the 9 May 1874 issue of the Juvenile Instructor, another illustration of the generally positive presentation of other religions carried by that publication. Referring to the religion as “Muhammadanism” and its adherents as “Muhammadans” (instead of “Islam” and “Muslims”) is analogous to referring to our church and us as “Smithism” or “Mormonites,” but I think no disrespect was intended – I think those were the terms in use at the time and the JI author was ignorant of any other.
I smiled when I saw which facets of Islam were especially approved of here. Please share your reactions in the comments.
Reading the Koran
The Koran is the sacred book of the Muhammadans. By Muhammadans we mean all who believe that Muhammad was a prophet of God. He was born at Mecca, a city of Arabia, in the year 752. The tribes of Arabia claim their descent from Ishmael, the son of Abraham. At the time of Muhammad’s birth the tribes of Arabia were idolatrous, and believed in numerous gods. He converted them to believe in one sole, eternal and all-powerful God – the creator of heaven and earth, and of all that we find in them. He claimed to be inspired of God, to have revelations from Him and to have the ministration of angels. In this manner he is said to have received the Koran. Doubtless Muhammad did have a prophetic gift. But he did not have the true priesthood, and therefore, erred in many things. His followers have divided into many sects, and dispute about the meaning of his writings, as many people do in Christendom about the Bible.
The Koran is written in Arabic and, it is said, must never be translated into any other language; and so in Turkey, India, China, Africa, and, indeed, wherever there is a believer in Muhammad, the Koran is read in Arabic.
Sometimes they meet in their mosques to hear it read and sometimes in other places devoted to this purpose. The sentences of the book are chanted rather than read, and the speaker usually keeps time by the swaying of his body to and fro. In some places, after reading a few chapters, the preacher will get up into his pulpit and preach a sermon.
At one time the followers of this religion aimed to bring the whole world under their sway, and with the Koran in one hand and the sword in the other, they went to country after country and compelled the people to accept their religion or pay tribute. Frequently they killed those who refused to submit to them. They believed in the power of the sword and by its help they spread their faith in the beginning with wonderful rapidity. Near the preacher in the picture stands one who holds a sword; probably this is out of respect to its power.
Much is said about the Muhammadans and their wicked cruelty, by those who know but little about them. To judge them correctly they should be known. It is too much the fashion among many so-called Christians to denounce every form of belief but their own, to imagine that they only are good and pure and acceptable to God. This is as wrong as the Muhammadan ideas respecting their own sanctity and superior holiness. The fact is, there are many good features in the religion of Muhammadans and all the other sects which flourish on the earth. There are many sincere, well-meaning people connected with all of them. Where there are no living inspired servants of God, holding the priesthood or authority from Him to teach and officiate in His name, men go astray, adopt error and fall into many wrong practices, and confusion prevails.
It is contrary to the teachings of Muhammad for his followers to drink wine or any strong drink. Among faithful persons of that belief, therefore, drunkenness is unknown. The flesh of swine is also forbidden. Polygamy is practiced, and virtue is highly prized. Travelers inform us that, as a consequence, Muhammadan nations are free from some of the vices which afflict Christendom.
The Muhammadans believe in the prophets of whom we read in the Bible. They believe Jesus to have been a prophet, but not the son of God. But they believe Muhammad to be the greatest of all the prophets. An idea of their faith on these points may be gathered from the inscriptions on the coins of the caliphs of Syria. They were, on one side: “There is no God but Allah, the sole God and who hath no equal.” On the reverse: “God is eternal; he is neither Son nor Father, nor is there any like Him.” Around the edge were the words: “Muhammad, the Messenger of Allah, who sent him with the message of the true Law to make it manifest over every other law to the confusion of infidels.”
The Muhammadans believed that he who died fighting for the faith was sure of glory. It was the most glorious way, in their view, in which they could leave the earth. They also believed that they could not be killed until the time appointed. This being their faith, they fought with extraordinary valor. They were instructed by the first successor of their prophet to “Never yield to, or turn your backs on your enemies.” “Nor let the number of your foes alarm you, even though excessive.” One of their kings, in instructing his troops before going to war, said to them: “If the enemies of the Law be not twice as numerous as you are, then he who turns his back upon them in battle hath proved himself to be a vile coward.”
Such expressions as the following, which we have taken from Muhammadan writings, show their belief in destiny:
“The most important events and those that are of the least moment, the fall of a mountain and that of a willow-leaf, all proceed alike from the Divine Will, and take place as they are written on the tables of the Eternal Destinies; when, where, and as it shall seem good to the wisdom of Allah.”
“Not all which our enemies concert against us is permitted to come to pass; that which is to happen, whether for good or evil, hath already been decreed by God before it hath been thought of either by our friends or enemies.”
“But how uncertain is the lot of man! This general, who had come forth uninjured from so many battles, who had commanded so many perilous expeditions and had returned victorious, met his death in a contemptible onslaught made by the men of Barbary. Who shall escape his destiny?”
“The unfortunate can never be secure, even though he climb to the nests of the eagles, and conceal himself on the summits of inaccessible rocks, neither shall he avoid the arrow of the powerful destiny, though he should rise to the stars.”
“But none can avoid the arrow which is leveled at him from the bow of his fate.”