In 1927 Muhammad
Marmaduke Pickthall gave eight lectures on several aspects of Islamic
civilization at the invitation of The Committee of "Madras Lectures on
Islam" in Madras, India. This was the second in the series, the first one
was held in 1925 on "The Life of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)." Parts of
Pickthall's lectures were made available in India at various times. All of his
lectures were published under the title "The Cultural Side of Islam"
in 1961 by Sh. Muhammad Ashraf Publishers, Lahore from a manuscript provided by
M.I. Jamal Moinuddin. The book has gone through several reprints since then.
An abridged version
of his fifth lecture on "Tolerance in Islam" is presented below.
One of the commonest charges brought against Islam historically, and as a
religion, by Western writers is that it is intolerant. This is turning the
tables with a vengeance when one remembers various facts: One remembers that not
a Muslim is left alive in Spain or Sicily or Apulia. One remembers that not a
Muslim was left alive and not a mosque left standing in Greece after the great
rebellion in l821. One remembers how the Muslims of the Balkan peninsula, once
the majority, have been systematically reduced with the approval of the whole of
Europe, how the Christian under Muslim rule have in recent times been urged on
to rebel and massacre the Muslims, and how reprisals by the latter have been
condemned as quite uncalled for.
In Spain under the Umayyads and in Baghdad under the Abbasid Khalifas,
Christians and Jews, equally with Muslims, were admitted to the Schools and
universities - not only that, but were boarded and lodged in hostels at the cost
of the state. When the Moors were driven out of Spain, the Christian conquerors
held a terrific persecution of the Jews. Those who were fortunate enough to
escape fled, some of them to Morocco and many hundreds to the Turkish empire,
where their descendants still live in separate communities, and still speak
among themselves an antiquated form of Spanish. The Muslim empire was a refuge
for all those who fled from persecution by the Inquisition.
The Western Christians, till the arrival of the Encyclopaedists in the
eighteenth century, did not know and did not care to know, what the Muslim
believed, nor did the Western Christian seek to know the views of Eastern
Christians with regard to them. The Christian Church was already split in two,
and in the end, it came to such a pass that the Eastern Christians, as Gibbon
shows, preferred Muslim rule, which allowed them to practice their own form of
religion and adhere to their peculiar dogmas, to the rule of fellow Christians
who would have made them Roman Catholics or wiped them out.
The Western Christians called the Muslims pagans, paynims, even idolaters
- there are plenty of books in which they are described as worshiping an idol
called Mahomet or Mahound, and in the accounts of the conquest of Granada there
are even descriptions of the monstrous idols which they were alleged to worship
- whereas the Muslims knew what Christianity was, and in what respects it
differed from Islam. If Europe had known as much of Islam, as Muslims knew of
Christendom, in those days, those mad, adventurous, occasionally chivalrous and
heroic, but utterly fanatical outbreak known as the Crusades could not have
taken place, for they were based on a complete misapprehension.
I quote a learned French author:
"Every poet in Christendom considered a Mohammedan to be an infidel, and
an idolater, and his gods to be three; mentioned in order, they were: Mahomet
or Mahound or Mohammad, Opolane and the third Termogond. It was said that when
in Spain the Christians overpowered the Mohammadans and drove them as far as
the gates of the city of Saragossa, the Mohammadans went back and broke their
"A Christian poet of the period says that Opolane the
"god" of the Mohammadans, which was kept there in a den was awfully belabored and abused by
the Mohammadans, who, binding it hand and foot, crucified it on a pillar,
trampled it under their feet and broke it to pieces by beating it with sticks;
that their second god Mahound they threw in a pit and caused to be torn to
pieces by pigs and dogs, and that never were gods so ignominiously treated;
but that afterwards the Mohammadans repented of their sins, and once more
reinstated their gods for the accustomed worship, and that when the Emperor
Charles entered the city of Saragossa he had every mosque in the city searched
and had "Muhammad" and all their Gods broken with iron hammers."
That was the kind of "history" on which the populace in Western
Europe used to be fed. Those were the ideas which inspired the rank and file
of the crusader in their attacks on the most civilized peoples of those days.
Christendom regarded the outside world as damned eternally, and Islam did not.
There were good and tender-hearted men in Christendom who thought it sad that
any people should be damned eternally, and wished to save them by the only way
they knew - conversion to the Christian faith.
|The Qur'an repeatedly claims to be the confirmation of the truth of all
religions. The former Scriptures had become obscure, the former Prophets
appeared mythical, so extravagant were the legends which were told concerning
them, so that people doubted whether there was any truth in the old Scriptures,
whether such people as the Prophets had ever really existed.
It was not until the Western nations broke away from their religious law that
they became more tolerant; and it was only when the Muslims fell away from their
religious law that they declined in tolerance and other evidences of the highest
culture. Therefore the difference evident in that anecdote is not of manners
only but of religion. Of old, tolerance had existed here and there in the world,
among enlightened individuals; but those individuals had always been against the
prevalent religion. Tolerance was regarded of un-religious, if not irreligious.
Before the coming of Islam it had never been preached as an essential part of
For the Muslims, Judaism, Christianity and Islam are but three forms of one
religion, which, in its original purity, was the religion of Abraham: Al-Islam,
that perfect Self-Surrender to the Will of God, which is the basis of
Theocracy. The Jews, in their religion, after Moses, limited God's mercy to
their chosen nation and thought of His kingdom as the dominion of their race.
Even Christ himself, as several of his sayings show, declared that he w
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