Modern Trends in World Religions

By A. Eustace Haydon | Go to book overview

XIII
ISLAM AND INTERCULTURAL CONTACTS

By HENRY E. ALLEN

IF ANY one of you were assigned the task of studying Christianity to find some sort of cultural picture of it, and you had to take as widely diverse regions as Abyssinia and Chile and our own New England, I think you would feel that you were up against a difficult proposition. You may then be able to appreciate my situation when I am attempting to do something of that sort for Islam, which, of course, includes not only the most barbaric of new converts in central Africa but people of a high degree of culture in such centers as Cairo, Damascus, and the great centers of India. Islam presents wide diversities --geographical, credal, and cultural--and that is not surprising, because Islam is and always has been an expanding missionary faith. Its control and its ideas have spread over wide areas, many of which, such as Persia, have cultural histories extending far back into remote antiquity. And when a new religion spreads itself over such localities one cannot expect a complete eradication of the indigenous cultures of those regions. The marvel is, rather, that one finds as much cultural uniformity in Islam as one does find, particularly since the practices of Islam were so largely of a desert origin.

Certain it is that the lands which radiate West, North, and East from Arabia display surprising cultural similarities. These similarities, I suppose, are explainable partly by their proximity to the holy cities of Mecca and Medina; partly by the fact that they were conquered almost contemporaneously in the early centuries of Islam; but pre

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