by BERNARD LEWIS
MY PURPOSE HERE is to try to see how far Islam and Communism are compatible -- how far, that is, Islam predisposes those who have been brought up in it to accept or to reject the Communist teaching. I shall not attempt to examine Communist infiltration and propaganda in Islamic countries or the degree of their success or failure -- that is a task calling for professional skills and sources of information other than those which are at my disposal. Rather shall I try to consider what qualities or tendencies exist in Islam, in Islamic civilization and society, which might either facilitate or impede the advance of Communism.
The obvious objection will no doubt at once be raised that Islam is after all a religion based on revelation, belief in which is clearly incompatible with Marxist ideology. That is undoubtedly true, and the same could be said with equal truth of Orthodox, Catholic, or Protestant Christianity, of Judaism, or any other religion worthy of the name. Nevertheless, that doctrinal incompatibility has not prevented many former followers of these religions from becoming Communists. No doubt, the devout and pious Muslim theologian who has studied and understands the implications of dialectical materialism will reject that creed, but such a combination of circumstances is not of common occurrence, nor likely to be of far-reaching significance. The question before us should rather be put thus: in the present competition between the Western democracies and Soviet Communism for the support of the Islamic world, what factors or qualities are there in Islamic tradition, or in the present state of Islamic society and opinion, which might prepare the intellectually and politically active groups to embrace Communist principles and methods of government, and the rest to accept them?