#9: Understanding Islam (1890's)

A very suggestive point in their creed and practice was that "God Almighty never requires anything of man *the doing of which is hard*". Several commandments of the decalogue are shattered by that comforting *alibi*, and the second great command of Jesus goes glimmering. Sociology and secular law may rise above religious precepts or permission. The fact is our Moslem neighbors were really in theory fatalists. Of such events as bloodshed and pillage they said "it was impossible to prevent them for they were all written in the stars ages ago". But a fatalist has no clear ground for distinguishing between right and wrong and for the action of conscience; no real basis for moral judgements and awards.

By degrees I became quite at home in mosques, which I visited, always with feelings of real reverence, and always meeting a friendly welcome. The preachers would habitually discuss their sermons with me in talks before or after preaching, and I came to understand the language used essentially as well as English. One day a friendly caller asked me to explain the Christian theory of the divinity of Jesus, saying courteously his object was not to make me deny his divinity, but if possible for me to make him confess that divinity. Their thought of the Son of God was habitually sensual and unworthy of the Supreme Being, as their thought of human life and conduct was low and unworthy of children of God. The Apostle John said, "he that hath not the Son hath not the Father".

Mosque worship was always highly, absorbingly impressive. A thousand men (no women) standing shoulder to shoulder, breast to back, in solid phalanx, the voice of the *muezzin* rings out,--all are erect; again the voice, every man on his knees with his forehead touching the floor; another call, and again the erect position. Mosque ceremonies always seemed to me very real worship and in my place I shared as truly as I could do. I studied the first Sura of the Koran carefully and could use it in English as a prayer of my own, but I never reached a point where a Mohammedan would authorize me to use it in my worship. Translation into Turkish was taboo.

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