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A Mormon View of Islam, 1874

By: Ardis E. Parshall - March 22, 2010

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.”



14 Comments »

  1. Even in the 19th century Mormon views of Islam were generally much more positive than those of most other Christians, a heritage we continue to this day. I’m proud of that heritage.

    Comment by Kevin Barney — March 22, 2010 @ 10:03 am

  2. Interesting, as always.

    Teetotaling and abstinence figure prominently in many of my conversations with Muslims.

    Comment by Edje Jeter — March 22, 2010 @ 10:05 am

  3. Noted this statement:

    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.

    Certainly true today. Our stake center here in suburban Seattle is next door to a mosque. They have limited parking, so we have agreed to cooperate with them and allow them to use our parking lot for many of their meetings, especially during Ramadan. They have also in turn allowed use of their small parking lot when we have Stake Conference. We’ve supported them in there requests to build a new mosque with underground parking on the same lot, as they are not finding anyone willing to sell them property for a new mosque in the area, from what I have heard.

    Comment by kevinf — March 22, 2010 @ 1:37 pm

  4. All of which is to say that they are good neighbors.

    Comment by kevinf — March 22, 2010 @ 1:51 pm

  5. Ardis,
    Have you ever saw the quote by PPratt that he felt the Mormon women should cover (wear a vail over their face)? I believe is was Nibley who who made the comment.

    Comment by Monty Thompson — March 22, 2010 @ 2:09 pm

  6. No, Monty, I’ve never seen anything like that. It’s far enough “out there” that I would require a direct source (either to Pratt or to Nibley) that I could look up and verify myself before I’d consider it authentic.

    I kind of wish questions and comments about potentially startling claims came with the sources already supplied, because the idea, no matter how fanciful it might be, is now planted in readers’ minds and associated vaguely with Keepa.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — March 22, 2010 @ 2:22 pm

  7. On the other hand, I don’t want to discourage questions from readers who are trying to find something they once read, or aren’t sure about something they’ve been told. Questions are always welcome.

    It’s just that in an ideal world (ha! as if!), Keepa wouldn’t ever contribute to the rumors and speculations that muddy people’s perceptions of our history.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — March 22, 2010 @ 2:33 pm

  8. I’m sure that I read it from a credible source, I remember it was during the exodus to Nauvoo. My family lived in Saudi Arabia at the time I quoted it to my wife and we both had a chuckle. I also remember the “early brothern” stating that the Prophet Mohammed’s a true prophet for his people, for his time, (or something like that)I’m sure that was from Nibley, thats why I thought the vail quote was from Nibley also. I am sorry that my comment will be associated with your blog but you are good at remembering. Sorry for not providing any references, I’ll be more careful when “Its out there” it is way out.

    Comment by Monty Thompson — March 22, 2010 @ 3:34 pm

  9. Having been brought up on stories of Richard the Lionheart at the Crusades, the shock when our history teacher informed us that Muslims were very religious and learned and creative was almost palpable. It’s good to see the JI was fair and balanced. Thanks for the post, Ardis.

    Comment by Anne (U.K) — March 22, 2010 @ 4:09 pm

  10. I like the idea that, though this is the true Church in the sense that it holds true authority and teaches truths found nowhere else, other faiths can still have something to teach us, and may even have proceeded at least in part from revelation from God. It’s nice to see that this notion has a long tradition in Mormon thought. It’s really refreshing.

    I’ve read a number of talks on lds.org that reference the “Statement of the First Presidency Regarding God’s Love for All Mankind”, given in February, 1978. I’ve read text of the statement on other websites, and it promotes this same idea, stating explicitly that Muhammad and other people from all cultures were given truths from God for the betterment of their societies. Strangely, though, I’m having trouble finding the text on lds.org, or any official church website. I don’t know why this is so.

    Comment by curious — March 23, 2010 @ 1:59 am

  11. Yeah … it’s certainly quoted a lot in material published at lds.org but it isn’t there as a stand-alone document, maybe because there’s no compilation of First Presidency statements

    What appears to be the complete statement is on the website, though, quoted in the January 1988 Ensign (at the bottom of this linked page).

    Based upon ancient and modern revelation, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gladly teaches and declares the Christian doctrine that all men and women are brothers and sisters, not only by blood relationship from mortal progenitors, but also as literal spirit children of an Eternal Father.

    The great religious leaders of the world such as Mohammed, Confucius, and the Reformers, as well as philosophers including Socrates, Plato, and others, received a portion of God’s light. Moral truths were given to them by God to enlighten whole nations and to bring a higher level of understanding to individuals.

    The Hebrew prophets prepared the way for the coming of Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah, who should provide salvation for all mankind who believe in the gospel.

    Consistent with these truths, we believe that God has given and will give to all people sufficient knowledge to help them on their way to eternal salvation, either in this life or in the life to come.

    We also declare that the gospel of Jesus Christ, restored to his Church in our day, provides the only way to a mortal life of happiness and a fullness of joy forever. For those who have not received this gospel, the opportunity will come to them in the life hereafter if not in this life.

    Our message therefore is one of special love and concern for the eternal welfare of all men and women, regardless of religious belief, race, or nationality, knowing that we are truly brothers and sisters because we are the sons and daughters of the same Eternal Father.

    (Statement by the First Presidency regarding God’s Love for All Mankind, issued February 15, 1978)

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — March 23, 2010 @ 7:54 am

  12. I certainly appreciate this post. I have often thought that Latter-day Saints would feel quite comfortable in the Middle East amongst our Muslim brethren. In some matters. It seems that in mainstream Protestantism the emphasis on grace is so strong that “clean living” often has a stigma attached, at least, here in the Bible Belt.

    Comment by Arthur H. — March 23, 2010 @ 11:08 am

  13. You should have told me about this post! I don’t read your blog regularly. I’m just waiting up tonight to register for classes at the first opportunity.

    Quran 5:48

    And unto thee [O Prophet] have We vouchsafed this divine writ, setting forth the truth, confirming the truth of whatever there still remains of earlier revelations and determining what is true therein. Judge, then, between the followers of earlier revelation in accordance with what God has bestowed from on high, and do not follow their errant views, forsaking the truth that has come unto thee. Unto every one of you have We appointed a [different] law and way of life. And if God had so willed, He could surely have made you all one single community: but [He willed it otherwise] in order to test you by means of what He has vouchsafed unto, you. Vie, then, with one another in doing good works! Unto God you all must return; and then He will make you truly understand all that on which you were wont to differ.

    Comment by Your niece — March 24, 2010 @ 11:41 pm

  14. [edited]

    [Keepa is not the place for strangers to post political rants or religious screeds. — AEP]

    Comment by gfmucci — May 14, 2010 @ 10:28 am

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