THE ONSLAUGHT OF ISLAM
THE beginnings of Islam are made more difficult of comprehension not only by the obscurity which surrounds the birth of any religion, but also by its later developments, which tend to transform the primitive characteristics, and even sometimes to replace them by opposite qualities. Islam, in its earliest stages, was a personal faith; Islam to-day, as a world-force, is a faith and culture uniting the most diverse peoples; Islam as a conquering, nationalist principle is the connecting link between the two. In summary outline, then, three aspects of Islam may be distinguished--the Faith, the Conquest, and the Culture--and it is convenient, if not strictly accurate, to label by these names three phases in its historical development.
In the case of all three, it was inevitable that misconceptions should exist in the current view taken of them. The 'paynim followers of Mahound' still suffer from their medieval reputation, and are seen through the eyes of a crusading Europe. Only in recent years has intensive criticism sought to discover what facts may lie embedded in the mass of legend and tradition which is virtually all that remains, in Christian or Moslem sources, of the earlier history of the movement. It used at one time to be thought that the Faith of Islam was a new Faith, an original Arabian religion. It is now certain that the Faith was not new, neither was it Arabian. Arabia, it is true, was its cradle, and Arab cults and social habits imposed certain limitations upon its outlook, and influenced its ritual; but the creed is actually the offspring of Judaism and Christianity, with a later admixture of Zoroastrianism. It was not new, but rather the assertion of continued revelation to the Peoples of the Book; Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Mahomet--the line of prophets is unbroken. The teaching of Islam may, in one sense, be regarded as a re-emphasis of the Semitic elements in Christianity, which had become submerged