Islam cont.

We have just seen what was the main cause of Islam’s
extraordinarily rapid spread; a complicated and fatigued society, and one
burdened with the institution of slavery; one, moreover, in which millions
of peasants in Egypt, Syria and all the East, crushed with usury and heavy
taxation, were offered immediate relief by the new creed, or rather, the
new heresy. Its note was simplicity and therefore it was suited to the
popular mind in a society where hitherto a restricted class had pursued
its quarrels on theology and government.

That is the main fact which accounts for the sudden spread of
Islam after its first armed victory over the armies rather than the people
of the Greek-speaking Eastern Empire. But this alone would not account for
two other equally striking triumphs. The first was the power the new
heresy showed of absorbing the Asiatic people of the Near East,
Mesopotamia and the mountain land between it and India. The second was the
wealth and the splendour of the Caliphate (that is, of the central
Mohammedan monarchy) in the generations coming immediately after the first
sweep of victory.

The first of these points, the spread over Mesopotamia and Persia
and the mountain land towards India, was not, as in the case of the sudden
successes in Syria and Egypt, due to the appeal of simplicity, freedom
from slavery and relief from debt. It was due to a certain underlying
historical character in the Near East which has always influenced its
society and continues to influence it today. That character is a sort of
natural uniformity. There has been inherent in it from times earlier than
any known historical record, a sort of instinct for obedience to one
religious head, which is also the civil head, and a general similarity of
social culture. When we talk of the age-long struggle between Asia and the
West, we mean by the word “Asia” all that sparse population of the
mountain land beyond Mesopotamia towards India, its permanent influence
upon the Mesopotamian plains themselves, and its potential influence upon
even the highlands and sea coast of Syria and Palestine.

The struggle between Asia and Europe swings over a vast period
like a tide ebbing and flowing. For nearly a thousand years, from the
conquest of Alexander to the coming of the Mohammedan Reformers (333 B.C.
-634), the tide had set eastward; that is, Western influences_Greek,
and then Greek and Roman_had flooded the debatable land. For a short
period of about two and a half to three centuries even Mesopotamia was
superficially Greek_in its governing class, at any rate. Then Asia began
to flood back again westward. The old Pagan Roman Empire and the Christian
Empire, which succeeded it and which was governed from Constantinople,
were never able to hold permanently the land beyond the Euphrates. The new
push from Asia westward was led by the Persians, and the Persians and
Parthians (which last were a division of the Persians) not only kept their
hold on Mesopotamia but were able to carry out raids into Roman territory
itself, right up to the end of that period. In the last few years before
the appearance of Mohammedanism they had appeared on the Mediterranean
coast and had sacked Jerusalem.

Now when Islam came with its first furious victorious cavalry
charges springing from the desert, it powerfully reinforced this tendency
of Asia to reassert itself. The uniformity of temper which is the mark of
Asiatic society, responded at once to this new idea of one very simple,
personal form of government, sanctified by religion, and ruling with a
power theoretically absolute from one centre. The Caliphate once
established at Bagdad, Bagdad became just what Babylon had been; the
central capital of one vast society, giving its tone to all the lands from
the Indian borders to Egypt and beyond.

But even more remarkable than the flooding of all near Asia with
Mohammedanism in one lifetime was the wealth and splendour and culture of
the new Islamic Empire. Islam was in those early centuries (most of the
seventh, all the eighth and ninth), the highest material civilization of
our occidental world. The city of Constantinople was also very wealthy and
enjoyed a very high civilization, which radiated over dependent provinces,
Greece and the seaboard of the Aegean and the uplands of Asia Minor, but
it was focussed in the imperial city; in the greater part of the
country-sides culture was on the decline. In the West it was notoriously
so. Gaul and Britain, and in some degree Italy, and the valley of the
Danube, fell back towards barbarism. They never became completely
barbaric, not even in Britain, which was the most remote; but they were
harried and impoverished, and lacked proper government. From the fifth
century to the early eleventh (say A.D. 450 to A.D. 1030) ran the period
which we call “The Dark Ages” of Europe_in spite of Charlemagne’s

So much for the Christian world of that time, against which Islam
was beginning to press so heavily; which had lost to Islam the whole of
Spain and certain islands and coasts of the central Mediterranean as well.
Christendom was under siege from Islam. Islam stood up against us in
dominating splendour and wealth and power, and, what was even more
important, with superior knowledge in the practical and applied sciences.

Islam preserved the Greek philosophers, the Greek mathematicians
and their works, the physical science of the Greek and Roman earlier
writers. Islam was also far more lettered than was Christendom. In the
mass of the West most men had become illiterate. Even in Constantinople
reading and writing were not as common as they were in the world governed
by the Caliph.

One might sum up and say that the contrast between the Mohammedan
world of those early centuries and the Christian world which it threatened
to overwhelm was like the contrast between a modern industrialized state
and a backward, half-developed state next door to it: the contrast between
modern Germany, for instance, and its Russian neighbor. The contrast was
not as great as that, but the modern parallel helps one to understand it.
For centuries to come Islam was to remain a menace, even though Spain was
re-conquered. In the East it became more than a menace, and spread
continually for seven hundred years, until it had mastered the Balkans and
the Hungarian plain, and all but occupied Western Europe itself. Islam was
the one heresy that nearly destroyed Christendom through its early
material and intellectual superiority.

Now why was this? It seems inexplicable when we remember the
uncertain and petty personal leaderships, the continual changes of local
dynasties, the shifting foundation of the Mohammedan effort. That effort
began with the attack of a very few thousand desert horsemen, who were as
much drawn by desire for loot as by their enthusiasm for new doctrines.
Those doctrines had been preached to a very sparse body of nomads,
boasting but very few permanently inhabited centres. They had originated
in a man remarkable indeed for the intensity of his nature, probably more
than half convinced, probably also a little mad, and one who had never
shown constructive ability_yet Islam conquered.

Mohammed was a camel driver, who had had the good luck to make a
wealthy marriage with a woman older that himself. From the security of
that position he worked out his visions and enthusiasms, and undertook his
propaganda. But it was all done in an ignorant and very small way. There
was no organization, and the moment the first bands had succeeded in
battle, the leaders began fighting among themselves: not only fighting,
but murdering. The story of all the first lifetime, and a little more,
after the original rush_the story of the Mohammedan government (such as it
was) so long as it was centred in Damascus, is a story of successive
intrigue and murder. Yet when the second dynasty which presided for so
long over Islam, the Abbasides, with their capital further east at Bagdad,
on the Euphrates, restored the old Mesopotamian domination over Syria,
ruling also Egypt and all the Mohammedan world, that splendour and
science, material power and wealth of which I spoke, arose and dazzled all
contemporaries, and we must ask the question again: why was this?

The answer lies in the very nature of the Mohammedan conquest. It
did , as has been so frequently repeated, destroy at once what it came
across; it did
exterminate all those who would not accept Islam. It
was just the other way. It was remarkable among all the powers which have
ruled these lands throughout history for what has wrongly been called its
“tolerance.” The Mohammedan temper was not tolerant. It was, on the
contrary, fanatical and bloodthirsty. It felt no respect for, nor even
curiosity about, those from whom it differed. It was absurdly vain of
itself, regarding with contempt the high Christian culture about it. It
still so regards it even today.

But the conquerors, and those whom they converted and attached to
themselves from the native populations, were still too few to govern by
force. And (what is more important) they had no idea of organization. They
were always slipshod and haphazard. Therefore a very large majority of
the conquered remained in their old habits of life and of religion.

Slowly the influence of Islam spread through these, but during the
first centuries the great majority in Syria, and even in Mesopotamia and
Egypt, were Christian, keeping the Christian Mass, the Christian Gospels,
and all the Christian tradition. It was they who preserved the
Graeco-Roman civilization from which they descended, and it was that
civilization, surviving under the surface of Mohammedan government, which
gave their learning and material power to the wide territories which we
must call, even so early, “the Mohammedan world,” though the bulk of it
was not yet Mohammedan in creed.

But there was another and it is the most important cause. The
fiscal cause: the overwhelming wealth of the early Mohammedan Caliphate.
The merchant and the tiller of the land, the owner of property and the
negotiator, were everywhere relieved by the Mohammedan conquest; for a
mass of usury was swept away, as was an intricate system of taxation which
had become clogged, ruining the taxpayer without corresponding results for
the government. What the Arabian conquerors and their successors in
Mesopotamia did was to replace all that by a simple, straight system of

What ever was not Mohammedan in the immense Mohammedan Empire_that
is, much the most of its population_was subject to a special tribute; and
it was this tribute which furnished directly, without loss from the
intricacies of bureaucracy, the wealth of the central power: the revenue
of the Caliph. That revenue remained enormous during all the first
generations. The result was that which always follows upon a high
concentration of wealth in one governing centre; the whole of the society
governed from that centre reflects the opulence of its directors.

There we have the explanation of that strange, that unique
phenomenon in history_a revolt against civilization which did not destroy
civilization; a consuming heresy which did not destroy the Christian
religion against which it was directed.

The world of Islam became and long remained, the heir of the old
Graeco-Roman culture and the preserver thereof. Thence was it that, alone
of all the great heresies, Mohammedanism not only survived, and is, after
nearly fourteen centuries, as strong as ever spiritually. In time it
struck roots and established a civilization of its own over against ours,
and a permanent rival to us.

Now that we have understood why Islam, the most formidable of
heresies, achieved its strength and astounding success we must try to
understand why, alone of all the heresies, it has survived in full
strength and even continues (after a fashion) to expand to this day.

This is a point of decisive importance to the understanding not
only of our subject but of the history of the world in general. Yet it is
one which is, unfortunately, left almost entirely undiscussed in the
modern world.

Millions of modern people of the white civilization_that is, the
civilization of Europe and America_have forgotten all about Islam. They
have never come in contact with it. they take for granted that it is
decaying, and that, anyway, it is just a foreign religion which will not
concern them. It is, as a fact, the most formidable and persistent enemy
which our civilization has had, and may at any moment become as large a
menace in the future as it has been in the past.

To that point of its future menace I shall return in the last of
these pages on Mohammedanism.

All the great heresies_save this one of Mohammedanism_seem to go
through the same phases.

First they rise with great violence and become fashionable; they
do so by insisting on some one of the great Catholic doctrines in an
exaggerated fashion; and because the great Catholic doctrines combined
form the only full and satisfactory philosophy known to mankind, each
doctrine is bound to have its special appeal.

Thus Arianism insisted on the unity of God, combined with the
majesty and creative power of Our Lord. At the same time it appealed to
imperfect minds because it tried to rationalize a mystery. Calvinism again
had a great success because it insisted on another main doctrine, the
Omnipotence and Omniscience of God. It got the rest out of proportion and
went violently wrong on Predestination; but it had its moment of triumph
when it looked as though it were going to conquer all our
civilization_which it would have done if the French had not fought it in
their great religious war and conquered its adherents on that soil of Gaul
which has always been the battle ground and testing place of European

After this first phase of the great heresies, when they are in
their initial vigour and spread like a flame from man to man, there comes
a second phase of decline, lasting, apparently (according to some obscure
law), through about five or six generations: say a couple of hundred years
or a little more. The adherents of the heresy grow less numerous and less
convinced until at last only quite a small number can be called full and
faithful followers of the original movement.

Then comes the third phase, when each heresy wholly disappears as
a bit of doctrine: no one believes the doctrine any more or only such a
tiny fraction remain believers that they no longer count. But the social
and moral factors of the heresy remain and may be of powerful effect for
generations more. We see that in the case of Calvinism today. Calvinism
produced the Puritan movement and from that there proceeded as a necessary
consequence of the isolation of the soul, the backup of corporate social
action, unbridled competition and greed, and at last the full
establishment of what we call “Industrial Capital- ism” today, whereby
civilization is now imperilled through the discontent of the vast
destitute majority with their few plutocratic masters. There is no one
left except perhaps a handful of people in Scotland who really believe the
doctrines Calvin taught, but the spirit of Calvinism is still very strong
in the countries it originally infected, and its social fruits remain.

Now in the case of Islam none of all this happened except the
phase. There was no second phase of gradual decline in the numbers
and conviction of its followers. On the contrary Islam grew from strength
to strength acquiring more and more territory, converting more and more
followers, until it had established itself as a quite separate
civilization and seemed so like a new religion that most people came to
forget its origin as a heresy.

Islam increased not only in numbers and in the conviction of its
followers but in territory and in actual political and armed power until
close on the eighteenth century. Less than 100 years before the American
War of Independence a Mohammedan army was threatening to overrun and
destroy Christian civilization, and would have done so if the Catholic
King of Poland had not destroyed that army outside Vienna.

Since then the armed power of Mohammedanism has declined; but
neither its numbers nor the conviction of its followers have appreciably
declined; and as to the territory annexed by it, though it has lost places
in which it ruled over subject Christian majorities, it has gained new
adherents_to some extent in Asia, and largely in Africa. Indeed in Africa
it is still expanding among the negroid populations, and that expansion
provides an important future problem for the European Governments who have
divided Africa between them.

And there is another point in connection with this power of Islam.
Islam is apparently .

The missionary efforts made by great Catholic orders which have
been occupied in trying to turn Mohammedans into Christians for nearly 400
years have everywhere wholly failed. We have in some places driven the
Mohammedan master out and freed his Christian subjects from Mohammedan
control, but we have had hardly any effect in converting individual
Mohammedans save perhaps to some small amount in Southern Spain 500 years
ago; and even so that was rather an example of political than of religious

Now what is the explanation of all this? Why should Islam alone of
all the great heresies show such continued vitality?

Those who are sympathetic with Mohammedanism and still more those
who are actually Mohammedans explain it by proclaiming it the best and
most human of religions, the best suited to mankind, and the most

Strange as it may seem, there are a certain number of highly
educated men, European gentlemen, who have actually joined Islam, that is,
who are personal converts to Mohammedanism. I myself have known and talked
to some half-dozen of them in various parts of the world, and there are a
very much larger number of similar men, well instructed Europeans, who,
having lost their faith in Catholicism or in some form of Protestantism in
which they were brought up, feel sympathy with the Mohammedan social
scheme although they do not actually join it or profess belief in its
religion. We constantly meet men of this kind today among those who have
travelled in the East.

These men always give the same answer_Islam is indestructible
because it is founded on simplicity and justice. It has kept those
Christian doctrines which are evidently true and which appeal to the
common sense of millions, while getting rid of priestcraft, mysteries,
sacraments, and all the rest of it. It proclaims and practices human
equality. It loves justice and forbids usury. It produces a society in
which men are happier and feel their own dignity more than in any other.
That is its strength and that is why it still converts people and endures
and will perhaps return to power in the near future.

Now I do not think that explanation to be the true one. All heresy
talks in those terms. Every heresy will tell you that it has purified the
corruptions of Christian doctrines and in general done nothing but good to
mankind, satisfied the human soul, and so on. Yet every one of them
Mohammedanism has faded out. Why?

In order to get the answer to the problem we must remark in what
the fortunes of Islam have differed from those of all the other great
heresies, and when we remark that I think we shall have the clue to the

Islam has differed from all the other heresies in two main points
which must be carefully noticed:

(1) It did not rise within the Church, that is, within the
frontiers of our civilization. Its heresiarch was not a man originally
Catholic who led away Catholic followers by his novel doctrine as did
Arius or Calvin. He was an outsider born a pagan, living among pagans, and
never baptized. He adopted Christian doctrines and selected among them in
the true heresiarch fashion. He dropped those that did not suit him and
insisted on those that did_which is the mark of the heresiarch_but he did
not do this as from within; his action was external.

Those first small but fierce armies of nomad Arabs who won their
astounding victories in Syria and Egypt against the Catholic world of the
early seventh century were made of men who had all been pagans before they
became Mohammedan. There was among them no previous Catholicism to which
they might return.

(2) This body of Islam attacking Christendom from beyond its
frontiers and not breaking it up from within, happened to be continually
recruited with fighting material of the strongest kind and drafted in from
the pagan outer darkness.

This recruitment went on in waves, incessantly, through the
centuries until the end of the Middle Ages. It was mainly Mongol coming
from Asia (though some of it was Berber coming from North Africa), and it
was this ceaseless, recurrent impact of new adherents, conquerors and
fighters as the original Arabs had been, which gave Islam its formidable
resistance and continuance of power.

Not long after the first conquest of Syria and Egypt it looked as
though the enthusiastic new heresy, in spite of its dazzling sudden
triumph, would fail. The continuity in leadership broke down. So did the
political unity of the whole scheme. The original capital of the movement
was Damascus and at first Mohammedanism was a Syrian thing (and, by
extension, an Egyptian thing); but after quite a short time a break-up was
apparent. A new dynasty began ruling from Mesopotamia and no longer from
Syria. The Western Districts, that is North Africa and Spain (after the
conquest of Spain), formed a separate political government under a
separate obedience.

The characteristic of these nomadic Mongols (who come after the
fifth century over and over again in waves to the assault against our
civilization), is that they are indomitable fighters and at the same
time almost purely destructive. They massacre by the million; they burn
and destroy; they turn fertile districts into desert. They seem incapable
of creative effort.
Twice we in the Christian European West have barely escaped final
destruction at their hands; once when we defeated the vast Asiatic army of
Attila near Chalons in France, in the middle of the fifth century
(not before he had committed horrible outrage and left ruin behind him
everywhere), and again in the thirteenth century, 800 years later. Then
the advancing Asiatic Mongol power was checked, not by our armies but by
the death of the man who had united it in his one hand. But it was not
checked till it reached north Italy and was approaching Venice.

It was this recruitment of Mongol bodyguards in successive
instalments which kept Islam going and prevented its suffering the fate
that all other heresies had suffered. It kept Islam thundering like a
battering ram from of Europe, making breaches in our
defence and penetrating further and further into what had been Christian

The Mongol invaders readily accepted Islam; the men who served as
mercenary soldiers and formed the real power of the Caliphs were quite
ready to conform to the simple requirements of Mohammedanism. They had no
regular religion of their own strong enough to counteract the effects of
those doctrines of Islam which, mutilated as they were, were in the main
Christian doctrines_the unity and majesty of God, the immortality of the
soul and all the rest of it. The Mongol mercenaries supporting the
political power of the Caliphs were attracted to these main doctrines and
easily adopted them. They became good Moslems and as soldiers supporting
the Caliphs were thus propagators and maintainers of Islam.

When in the heart of the Middle Ages it looked as though again
Islam had failed, a new batch of Mongol soldiers, “Turks” by name, came in

and saved the fortunes of Mohammedanism again although they began
by the most abominable destruction of such civilization as Mohammedanism
had preserved. That is why in the struggles of the Crusades Christians
regarded the enemy as “The Turk”; a general name common to many of these
nomad tribes. The Christian preachers of the Crusades and captains of the
soldiers and the Crusaders in their songs speak of “The Turk” as the enemy
much more than they do in general of Mohammedanism.

In spite of the advantage of being fed by continual recruitment,
the pressure of Mohammedanism upon Christendom might have failed after
all, had one supreme attempt to relieve that pressure upon the Christian
West succeeded. That supreme attempt was made in the middle of the whole
business (A.D. 1095-1200) and is called in history “The Crusades.”
Catholic Christendom succeeded in recapturing Spain; it nearly succeeded
in pushing back Mohammedanism from Syria, in saving the Christian
civilization of Asia, and in cutting off the Asiatic Mohammedan from the
African. Had it done so perhaps Mohammedanism would have died.

But the Crusades failed. Their failure is the major tragedy in the
history of our struggle against Islam, that is, against Asia_against the

What the Crusades were, and why and how they failed I shall now

The success of Mohammedanism had not been due to its offering
something more satisfactory in the way of philosophy and morals, but, as I
have said, to the opportunity it afforded of freedom to the slave and
debtor, and an extreme simplicity which pleased the unintelligent masses
who were perplexed by the mysteries inseparable from the profound
intellectual life of Catholicism, and from its radical doctrine of the
Incarnation. But it was spreading and it looked as though it were bound to
win universally, as do all great heresies in their beginnings, because it
was the fashionable thing of the time_the conquering thing.

Now against the great heresies, when they acquire the driving
power of being the new and fashionable thing, there arises a reaction
within the Christian and Catholic mind, which reaction gradually turns the
current backward, gets rid of the poison and re-establishes Christian
civilization. Such reactions, begin, I repeat, obscurely. It is the plain
man who gets uncomfortable and says to himself, “This may be the fashion
of the moment, but I don’t like it.” It is the mass of Christian men who
feel in their bones that there is something wrong, though they have
difficulty in explaining it. The reaction is usually slow and muddled and
for a long time not successful. But in the long run with internal heresy
it has always succeeded; just as the native health of the human body
succeeds in getting rid of some internal infection.

A heresy, when it is full of its original power, affects even
Catholic thought_thus Arianism produced a mass of semi-Arianism running
throughout Christendom. The Manichean dread of the body and the false
doctrine that matter is evil affected even the greatest Catholics of the
time. There is a touch of it in the letters of the great St. Gregory. In
the same way Mohammedanism had its affect on the Christian Emperors of
Byzantium and on Charlemagne, the Emperor of the West; for instance there
was a powerful movement started against the use of images, which are so
essential to Catholic worship. Even in the West, where Mohammedanism had
never reached, the attempt to get rid of images in the churches nearly

But while Mohammedanism was spreading, absorbing greater and
greater numbers into its own body; out of the subject Christian
populations of East and North Africa, occupying more and more territory, a
defensive reaction against it had begun. Islam gradually absorbed North
Africa and crossed over into Spain; less than a century after those first
victories in Syria it even pushed across the Pyrenees, right into France.
Luckily it was defeated in battle halfway between Tours and Poitiers in
the north centre of the country. Some think that if the Christian leaders
had not won battle, the whole of Christendom would have been swamped by
Mohammedanism. At any rate from that moment in the West it never advanced
further. It was pushed back to the Pyrenees, and very slowly indeed over a
period of 300 years it was thrust further and further south toward the
centre of Spain, the north of which was cleared again of Mohammedan
influence. In the East, however, as we shall see, it continued to be an
overwhelming threat.
Pg. 11—————————————————————————————————
Now the success of Christian men in pushing back the Mohammedan
from France and halfway down Spain began a sort of re-awakening in Europe.
It was high time. We of the West had been besieged in three ways; pagan
Asiatics had come upon us in the very heart of the Germanies; pagan
pirates of the most cruel and disgusting sort had swarmed over the
Northern Seas and nearly wiped out Christian civilization in England and
hurt it also in Northern France; and with all that there had been this
pressure of Mohammedanism coming from the South and South-east_a much more
civilized pressure than that of the Asiatics or Scandinavian pirates but
still a menace, under which our Christian civilization came near to

It is most interesting to take a map of Europe and mark off the
extreme limits reached by the enemies of Christendom during the worst of
this struggle for existence. The outriders of the worst Asiatic raid got
as far as Tournus on the Sa{ne, which is in the very middle of what is
France today; the Mohammedan got, as we have seen, to the very middle of
France also, somewhere between Tournus and Poitiers. The horrible
Scandinavian pagan pirates raided Ireland, all England, and came up all
the rivers of Northern France and Northern Germany. They got as far as
Cologne, they besieged Paris, they nearly took Hamburg. People today
forget how very doubtful a thing it was in the height of the Dark Ages,
between the middle of the eighth and the end of the ninth century, whether
Catholic civilization would survive at all. Half the Mediterranean Islands
had fallen to the Mohammedan, all the Near East; he was fighting to get
hold of Asia Minor; and the North and centre of Europe were perpetually
raided by the Asiatics and the Northern pagans.

Then came the great reaction and the awakening of Europe.

The chivalry which poured out of Gaul into Spain and the native
Spanish knights forcing back the Mohammedans began the affair. The
Scandinavian pirates and the raiders from Asia had been defeated two
generations before. Pilgrimages to Jerusalem, distant, expensive and
perilous, but continuous throughout the Dark Ages, were now especially
imperilled through a new Mongol wave of Mohammedan soldiers establishing
themselves over the East and especially in Palestine; and the cry arose
that the Holy Places, the True Cross (which was preserved in Jerusalem)
and the remaining Christian communities of Syria and Palestine, and above
all the Holy Sepulchre_the site of the Resurrection, the main object of
every pilgrimage_ought to be saved from the usurping hands of Islam.
Enthusiastic men preached the duty of marching eastward and rescuing the
Holy Land; the reigning Pope, Urban, put himself at the head of the
movement in a famous sermon delivered in France to vast crowds, who cried
out: “God wills it.” Irregular bodies began to pour out eastward for the
thrusting back of Islam from the Holy Land, and in due time the regular
levies of great Christian Princes prepared for an organized effort on a
vast scale. Those who vowed themselves to pursue the effort took the badge
of the Cross on their clothing, and from this the struggle became to be
known as the Crusades.

The First Crusade was launched in three great bodies of more or
less organized Christian soldiery, who set out to march from Western
Europe to the Holy Land. I say “more or less organized” because the feudal
army was never highly organized; it was divided into units of very
different sizes each following a feudal lord_but of course it had
sufficient organization to carry a military enterprise through, because a
mere herd of men can never do that. In order not to exhaust the provisions
of the countries through which they had to march the Christian leaders
went in three bodies, one from Northern France, going down the valley of
the Danube; another from Southern France, going across Italy; and a third
of Frenchmen who had recently acquired dominion in Southern Italy and who
crossed the Adriatic directly, making for Constantinople through the
Balkans. they all joined at Constantinople, and by the time they got
there, there were still in spite of losses on the way something which may
have been a quarter of a million men_perhaps more. The numbers were never
accurately known or computed.

The Emperor at Constantinople was still free, at the head of his
great Christian capital, but he was dangerously menaced by the fighting
Mohammedan Turks who were only just over the water in Asia Minor, and
whose object it was to get hold of Constantinople and so press on to the
ruin of Christendom. This pressure on Constantinople the great mass of the
Crusaders immediately relieved; they won a battle against the Turks at
Dorylaeum and pressed on with great difficulty and further large losses of
men till they reached the corner where Syria joins onto Asia Minor at the
Gulf of Alexandretta. There, one of the Crusading leaders carved out a
kingdom for himself, making his capital at the Christian town of Edessa,
to serve as a bulwark against further Mohammedan pressure from the East.
The last of the now dwindling Christian forces besieged and with great
difficulty took Antioch, which the Mohammedans had got hold of a few years
before. Here another Crusading leader made himself feudal lord, and there
was a long delay and a bad quarrel between the Crusaders and the Emperor
of Constantinople, who naturally wanted them to return to him what had
been portions of his realm before Mohammedanism had grown up_while the
Crusaders wanted to keep what they had conquered so that the revenues
might become an income for each of them.

At last they got away from Antioch at the beginning of the open
season of the third year after they started_the last year of the eleventh
century, 1099; they took all the towns along the coast as they marched;
when they got on a level with Jerusalem they struck inland and stormed the
city on the 15th of July of that year, killing all the Mohammedan garrison
and establishing themselves firmly within the walls of the Holy City. They
then organized their capture into a feudal kingdom, making one of their
number titular King of the new realm of Jerusalem. They chose for that
office a great noble of the country where the Teutonic and Gallic races
meet in the north-east of France_Godfrey of Bouillon, a powerful Lord of
the Marches. He had under him as nominal inferiors the great feudal lords
who had carved out districts for themselves from Edessa southwards, and
those who had built and established themselves in the great stone castles
which still remain, among the finest ruins in the world.

By the time the Crusaders had accomplished their object and seized
the Holy Places they had dwindled to a very small number of men. It is
probable that the actual fighting men, as distinguished from servants,
camp followers and the rest, present at the siege of Jerusalem, did not
count much more than 15,000. And upon that force everything turned. Syria
had not been thoroughly recovered, nor the Mohammedans finally thrust
back; the seacoast was held with the support of a population still largely
Christian, but the plain and the seacoast and Palestine up to the Jordan
make only a narrow strip behind which and parallel to which comes a range
of hills which in the middle of the country are great mountains_the
Lebanon and the Anti-Lebanon. Behind that again the country turns into
desert, and on the edge of the desert there is a string of towns which
are, as it were, the ports of the desert_that is, the points where the
caravans arrive.

These “ports of the desert” have always been rendered very
important by commerce, and their names go back well beyond the beginning
of recorded history. A string of towns thus stretched along the edge of
the desert begins from Aleppo in the north down as far as Petra, south of
the Dead Sea. They were united by the great caravan route which reaches to
North Arabia, and they were all predominantly Mohammedan by the time of
the Crusading effort. The central one of these towns and the richest, the
great mark of Syria, is Damascus. If the first Crusaders had had enough
men to take Damascus their effort would have been permanently successful.
But their forces were insufficient for that, they could only barely hold
the sea coast of Palestine up to the Jordan_and even so they held it only
by the aid of immense fortified works.

There was a good deal of commerce with Europe, but not sufficient
recruitment of forces, and the consequence was that the vast sea of
Mohammedanism all around began to seep in and undermine the Christian
position. The first sign of what was coming was the fall of Edessa (the
capital of the north-eastern state of the Crusading federation, the state
most exposed to attack), less than half a century after the first capture
of Jerusalem.

It was the first serious set-back, and roused great excitement in
the Christian West. The Kings of France and England set out with great
armies to re-establish the Crusading position, and this time they went for
the strategic key of the whole country_Damascus. But they failed to take
it: and when they and their men sailed back again the position of the
Crusaders in Syria was as perilous as it had been before. They were
guaranteed another lease of precarious security as long as the Mohammedan
world was divided into rival bodies, but it was certain that if ever a
leader should arise who could unify the Mohammedan power in his hands the
little Christian garrisons were doomed.

And this is exactly what happened. Salah-ed- Din_whom we call
Saladin_a soldier of genius, the son of a former Governor of Damascus,
gradually acquired all power over the Mohammedan world of the Near East.
He became master of Egypt, master of all the towns on the fringe of the
desert, and when he marched to the attack with his united forces the
remaining Christian body of Syria had no chance of victory. They made a
fine rally, withdrawing every available man from their castle garrisons
and forming a mobile force which attempted to relieve the siege of the
castle of Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee. The Christian Army was
approaching Tiberias and had got as far as the sloping mountain-side of
Hattin, about a day’s march away, when it was attacked by Saladin and

That disaster, which took place in the summer of 1187, was
followed by the collapse of nearly the whole Christian military colony in
Syria and the Holy Land. Saladin took town after town, save one or two
points on the sea coast which were to remain in Christian hands more than
another lifetime. But the kingdom of Jerusalem, the feudal Christian realm
which had recovered and held the Holy Places, was gone. Jerusalem itself
fell of course, and its fall produced an enormous effect in Europe. All
the great leaders, the King of England, Richard Plantagenet, the King of
France and the Emperor, commanding jointly a large and first-rate army
mainly German in recruitment, set out to recover what had been lost. But
they failed. They managed to get hold of one or two more points on the
coast, but they never retook Jerusalem and never re-established the old
Christian kingdom.

Thus ended a series of three mighty duels between Christendom and
Islam. Islam had won.

Had the Crusaders’ remaining force at the end of the first
Crusading march been a little more numerous, had they taken Damascus and
the string of towns on the fringe of the desert, the whole history of the
world would have been changed. The world of Islam would have been cut in
two, with the East unable to approach the West; probably we Europeans
would have recovered North Africa and Egypt_we should certainly have saved
Constantinople_and Mohammedanism would have only survived as an Oriental
religion thrust beyond the ancient boundaries of the Roman Empire. As it
was Mohammedanism not only survived but grew stronger. It was indeed
slowly thrust out of Spain and the eastern islands of the Mediterranean,
but it maintained its hold on the whole of North Africa, Syria, Palestine,
Asia Minor, and thence it went forward and conquered the Balkans and
Greece, overran Hungary and twice threatened to overrun Germany and reach
France again from the East, putting an end to our civilization. One of the
reasons that the breakdown of Christendom at the Reformation took place
was the fact that Mohammedan pressure against the German Emperor gave the
German Princes and towns the opportunity to rebel and start Protestant
Churches in their dominions.

Many expeditions followed against the Turk in one form or another;
they were called Crusades, and the idea continued until the very end of
the Middle Ages. But there was no recovery of Syria and no thrusting back
of the Moslem.

Meanwhile the first Crusading march had brought so many new
experiences to Western Europe that culture had developed very rapidly and
produced the magnificent architecture and the high philosophy and social
structure of the Middle Ages. That was the real fruit of the Crusades.
They failed in their own field but they made modern Europe. Yet they made
it at the expense of the old idea of Christian unity; with increasing
material civilization, modern nations began to form, Christendom still
held together, but it held together loosely. At last came the storm of the
Reformation; Christendom broke up, the various nations and Princes claimed
to be independent of any common control such as the moral position of the
Papacy had insured, and we slid down that slope which was to end at last
in the wholesale massacre of modern war_which may prove the destruction of
our civilization. Napoleon Bonaparte very well said: . It is profoundly true. Christian Europe is and
should be by nature one; but it has forgotten its nature in forgetting its

The last subject but one in our appreciation of the great
Mohammedan attack upon the Catholic Church and the civilization she had
produced, is the sudden last effort and subsequent rapid decline of
Mohammedan political power just after it had reached its summit. The last
subject of all in this connection, the one which I will treat next, is the
very important and almost neglected question of whether Mohammedan power
may not re-arise in the modern world.

If we recapitulate the fortunes of Islam after its triumph in
beating back the Crusaders and restoring its dominion over the East and
confirming its increasing grasp over half of what had once been a united
Graeco-Roman Christendom, Islam proceeded to develop two completely
different and even contradictory fortunes: it was gradually losing its
hold on Western Europe while it was increasing its hold over South-eastern

In Spain it had already been beaten back halfway from the Pyrenees
to the Straits of Gibraltar before the Crusades were launched and it was
destined in the next four to five centuries to lose every inch of ground
which it had governed in the Iberian Peninsula: today called Spain and
Portugal. Continental Western Europe (and even the islands attached to it)
was cleared of Mohammedan influence during the last centuries of the
Middle Ages, the twelfth to fifteenth centuries.

This was because Mohammedans of the West, that is, what was then
called “Barbary,” what is now French and Italian North Africa, were
politically separated from the vast majority of the Mohammedan world which
lay to the East.

Between the Barbary states (which we call today Tunis, Algiers and
Morocco) and Egypt, the desert made a barrier difficult to cross. The West
was less barren in former times than it is today, and the Italians are
reviving its prosperity. But the vast stretches of sand and gravel, with
very little water, always made this barrier between Egypt and the West a
deterrent and an obstacle. Yet, more important than this barrier was the
gradual disassociation between the Western Mohammedans of North Africa and
the mass of Mohammedans to the East thereof. The religion indeed remained
the same and the social habits and all the rest. Mohammedanism in North
Africa remained one world with Mohammedanism in Syria, Asia and Egypt,
just as the Christian civilization in the West of Europe remained for long
one world with the Christian civilization of Central Europe and even of
Eastern Europe. But distance and the fact that Eastern Mohammedans never
sufficiently came to their help made the Western Mohammedans of North
Africa and of Spain feel themselves something separate politically from
their Eastern brethren.

To this we must add the factor of and its effect on sea
power in those days and in those waters. The Mediterranean is much more
than two thousand miles long; the only period of the year in which any
effective fighting could be done on its waters under mediaeval conditions
was the late spring, summer and early autumn and it is precisely in those
five months of the year, when alone men could use the Mediterranean for
great expeditions, that offensive military operations were handicapped by
long calms. It is true these were met by the use of many-oared galleys so
as to make fleets as little dependent on wind as possible, but still,
distances of that kind did make unity of action difficult.

Therefore, the Mohammedans of North Africa not being supported at
sea by the wealth and numbers of their brethren from the ports of Asia
Minor and of Syria and the mouths of the Nile, gradually lost control of
maritime communications. They lost, therefore, the Western islands,
Sicily and Corsica and Sardinia, the Balearics and even Malta at the very
moment when they were triumphantly capturing the Eastern islands in the
Aegean Sea. The only form of sea power remaining to the Mohammedan in the
West was the active piracy of the Algerian sailors operating from the
lagoon of Tunis and the half-sheltered bay of Algiers. (The word “Algiers”
comes from the Arabic word for “islands.” There was no proper harbour
before the French conquest of a hundred years ago, but there was a
roadstead partially sheltered by a string of rocks and islets.) These
pirates remained a peril right on until the seventeenth century. It is
interesting to notice, for instance, that the Mohammedan call to prayer
was heard on the coasts of Southern Ireland within the lifetime of Oliver
Cromwell, for the Algerian pirates darted about everywhere, not only in
the Western Mediterranean but along the coasts of the Atlantic, from the
Straits of Gibraltar to the English Channel. They were no longer capable
of conquest, but they could loot and take prisoners whom they held to

While this beating back of the Mohammedan into Africa was going on
to the Western side of Europe, exactly the opposite was happening on the
side. After the Crusades had failed Mohammedans made themselves
secure in Asia Minor and began that long hammering at Constantinople which
finally succeeded.
Constantinople was by far the richest and greatest capital of the
Ancient World; it was the old centre of Greek and Roman civilization and
even when it had lost all direct political power over Italy, and still
more over France, it continued to be revered as the mighty monument of the
Roman past. the Emperor of Constantinople was the direct heir of the
Caesars. On the military side this very strong city supported by great
masses of tribute and by a closely knit, well disciplined army, was the
bulwark of Christendom. So long as Constantinople stood as a Christian
city and Mass was still said in St. Sophia, the doors of Europe were
locked against Islam. It fell in the same generation that saw the
expulsion of the last Mohammedan Government from Southern Spain. Men who
in their maturity marched into Granada with the victorious armies of
Isabella the Catholic could remember how, in early childhood, they had
heard the awful news that Constantinople itself had fallen to the enemies
of the Church.

The fall of Constantinople at the end of the Middle Ages (1453)
was only the beginning of further Mohammedan advances. Islam swept all
over the Balkans; it took all the Eastern Mediterranean islands, Crete and
Rhodes and the rest; it completely occupied Greece; it began pushing up
the Danube valley and northwards into the great plains; it destroyed the
ancient kingdom of Hungary in the fatal battle of Mohacs and at last, in
the first third of the sixteenth century, just at the moment when the
storm of the Reformation had broken out Islam threatened Europe close at
hand, bringing pressure upon the heart of the Empire, at Vienna.

It is not generally appreciated how the success of Luther’s
religious revolution against Catholicism in Germany was due to the way in
which Mohammedan pressure from the East was paralysing the central
authority of the German Emperors. They had to compromise with the leaders
of the religious revolution and try to patch up a sort of awkward peace
between the irreconcilable claims of Catholic authority and Protestant
religious theory in order to meet the enemy at their gates; the enemy
which had already overthrown Hungary and might well overthrow all of
Southern Germany and perhaps reach the Rhine. If Islam had succeeded in
doing this during the chaos of violent civil dissension among the Germans,
due to the launching of the Reformation, our civilization would have been
as effectively destroyed as it would have been if the first rush of the
Mohammedans through Spain had not been checked and beaten back eight
centuries earlier in the middle of France.

This violent Mohammedan pressure on Christendom from the East made
a bid for success by sea as well as by land. The last great wave of Mongol
soldiery, the last great Turkish organization working now from the
conquered capital of Constantinople, proposed to cross the Adriatic, to
attack Italy by sea and ultimately to recover all that had been lost in
the Western Mediterranean.

There was one critical moment when it looked as though the scheme
would succeed. A huge Mohammedan armada fought at the mouth of the Gulf of
Corinth against the Christian fleet at Lepanto. The Christians won that
naval action and the Western Mediterranean was saved. But it was a very
close thing, and the name of Lepanto should remain in the minds of all men
with a sense of history as one of the half dozen great names in the
history of the Christian world. It has been a worthy theme for the finest
battle poem of our time, “The Ballad of Lepanto,” by the late Mr. Gilbert

Today we are accustomed to think of the Mohammedan world as
something backward and stagnant, in all material affairs at least. We
cannot imagine a great Mohammedan fleet made up of modern ironclads and
submarines, or a great modern Mohammedan army fully equipped with modern
artillery, flying power and the rest. But not so very long ago, , the Mohammedan
Government centred at Constantinople had better artillery and better army
equipment of every kind than had we Christians in the West. The last
effort they made to destroy Christendom was contemporary with the end of
the reign of Charles II in England and of his brother James and of the
usurper William III. It failed during the last years of the seventeenth
century, only just over two hundred years ago. Vienna, as we saw, was
almost taken and only saved by the Christian army under the command of the
King of Poland on a date that ought to be among the most famous in
history-_September 11, 1683. But the peril remained, Islam was still
immensely powerful within a few marches of Austria and it was not until
the great victory of Prince Eugene at Zenta in 1697 and the capture of
Belgrade that the tide really turned_and by that time we were at the end
of the seventeenth century.

It should be fully grasped that the generation of Dean Swift, the
men who saw the court of Louis XIV in old age, the men who saw the
Hanoverians brought in as puppet Kings for England by the dominating
English wealthy class, the men who saw the apparent extinction of Irish
freedom after the failure of James II’s campaign at the Boyne and the
later surrender of Limerick, all that lifetime which overlapped between
the end of the seventeenth and the beginning of the eighteenth century,
was dominated by a vivid memory of a Mohammedan threat which had nearly
nearly made good and which apparently might in the near future be
repeated. The Europeans of that time thought of Mohammedanism as we think
of Bolshevism or as white men in Asia think of Japanese power today.

What happened was something quite unexpected; the Mohammedan power
began to break down on the material side. The Mohammedans lost the power
of competing successfully with the Christians in the making of those
instruments whereby dominion is assured; armament, methods of
communication and all the rest of it. Not only did they not advance, they
went back. Their artillery became much worse than ours. While our use of
the sea vastly increased, theirs sank away till they had no first class
ships with which to fight naval battles.

The eighteenth century is a story of their gradual losing of the
race against the European in material things.

When that vast revolution in human affairs introduced by the
invention of modern machinery began in England and spread slowly
throughout Europe, the Mohammedan world proved itself quite incapable of
taking advantage thereof. During the Napoleonic wars, although supported
by England, Islam failed entirely to meet the French armies of Egypt; its
last effort resulted in complete defeat (the land battle of the Nile).

All during the nineteenth century the process continued. As a
result, Mohammedan North Africa was gradually subjected to European
control; the last independent piece to go being Morocco. Egypt fell under
the control of England. Long before that Greece had been liberated, and
the Balkan States. Half a lifetime ago it was taken for granted everywhere
that the last remnants of Mohammedan power in Europe would disappear.
England bolstered it up and did save Constantinople from being taken by
the Russians in 1877-78, but it seemed only a question of a few years
before the Turks would be wiped out for good. Everyone was waiting for the
end of Islam, on this side of the Bosphorus at least; while in Syria, Asia
Minor and Mesopotamia it was losing all political and military vigour.
After the Great War, what was left of Mohammedan power, even in hither
Asia, was only saved by the violent quarrels between the Allies.

Even Syria and Palestine were divided between France and England.
Mesopotamia fell under the control of England and no menace of Islamic
power remained, though it was still entrenched in Asia Minor and kept a
sort of precarious hold on the thoroughly decayed city of Constantinople
alone. The Mediterranean was gone; every inch of European territory was
gone; all full control over African territory was gone; and the great duel
between Islam and Christendom seemed at last to have been decided in our
own day.

To what was due this collapse? I have never seen an answer to that
question. There was no moral disintegration from within, there was no
intellectual breakdown; you will find the Egyptian or Syrian student
today, if you talk to him on any philosophical or scientific subject which
he has studied, to be the equal of any European. If Islam has no physical
science now applied to any of its problems, in arms and communications, it
has apparently ceased to be part of our world and fallen definitely below
it. Of every dozen Mohammedans in the world today, eleven are actually or
virtually subjects of an Occidental power.It would seem, I repeat, as
though the great duel was now decided.

But can we be certain it is so decided? I doubt it very much. It
has always seemed to me possible, and even probable, that there would be a
resurrection of Islam and that our sons or our grandsons would see the
renewal of that tremendous struggle between the Christian culture and what
has been for more than a thousand years its greatest opponent.

Why this conviction should have arisen in the minds of certain
observers and travellers, such as myself, I will now consider. It is
indeed a vital question, “May not Islam arise again?”

In a sense the question is already answered because Islam has
never departed. It still commands the fixed loyalty and unquestioning
adhesion of all the millions between the Atlantic and the Indus and
further afield throughout scattered communities of further Asia. But I ask
the question in the sense “Will not perhaps the temporal power of Islam
return and with it the menace of an armed Mohammedan world which will
shake off the domination of Europeans_still nominally Christian_and
reappear again as the prime enemy of our civilization?” The future always
comes as a surprise but political wisdom consists in attempting at least
some partial judgment of what that surprise may be. And for my part I
cannot but believe that a main unexpected thing of the future is the
return of Islam. Since religion is at the root of all political movements
and changes and since we have here a very great religion physically
paralysed but morally intensely alive, we are in the presence of an
unstable equilibrium which cannot remain permanently unstable. Let us then
examine the position.

I have said throughout these pages that the particular quality of
Mohammedanism, regarded as a heresy, was its vitality. Alone of all the
great heresies Mohammedanism struck permanent roots, developing a life of
its own, and became at last something like a new religion. So true is this
that today very few men, even among those who are highly instructed in
history, recall the truth that Mohammedanism was essentially in its
origins a new religion, but a .

Like all heresies, Mohammedanism lived by the Catholic truths
which it had retained. Its insistence on personal immortality, on the
Unity and Infinite Majesty of God, on His Justice and Mercy, its
insistence on the equality of human souls in the sight of their
Creator_these are its strength.

But it has survived for other reasons than these; all the other
great heresies had their truths as well as their falsehoods and vagaries,
yet they have died one after the other. The Catholic Church has seen them
pass, and though their evil consequences are still with us the heresies
themselves are dead.

The strength of Calvinism was the truth on which it insisted, the
Omnipotence of God, the dependence and insufficiency of man; but its
error, which was the negation of free-will, also killed it. For men could
not permanently accept so monstrous a denial of common sense and common
experience. Arianism lived by the truth that was in it, to wit, the fact
that the reason could not directly reconcile the opposite aspects of a
great mystery_that of the Incarnation. But Arianism died because it added
to this truth a falsehood, to wit, that the apparent contradiction could
be solved by denying the full Divinity of Our Lord.

And so on with the other heresies. But Mohammedanism, though it
also contained errors side by side with those great truths, flourished
continually, , though
thirteen hundred years have passed since its first great victories in
Syria. The causes of this vitality are very difficult to explore, and
perhaps cannot be reached. For myself I should ascribe it in some part to
the fact that Mohammedanism being a thing from the outside, a heresy that
did not arise from within the body of the Christian community but beyond
its frontiers, has always possessed a reservoir of men, newcomers pouring
in to revivify its energies. But that cannot be a full explanation;
perhaps Mohammedanism would have died but for the successive waves of
recruitment from the desert and from Asia; perhaps it would have died if
the Caliphate at Baghdad had been left entirely to itself; and if the
Moors in the West had not been able to draw upon continual recruitment
from the South.

Whatever the cause be, Mohammedanism has survived, and vigorously
survived. Missionary effort has had no appreciable effect upon it. It
still converts pagan savages wholesale. It even attracts from time to time
some European eccentric, who joins its body. . No fragment of Islam ever abandons its sacred book,
its code of morals, its organized system of prayer, its simple doctrine.

In view of this, anyone with a knowledge of history is bound to
ask himself whether we shall not see in the future a revival of Mohammedan
political power, and the renewal of the old pressure of Islam upon

We have seen how the material political power of Islam declined
very rapidly during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. We have just
followed the story of that decline. When Suleiman the Magnificent was
besieging Vienna he had better artillery, better energies and better
everything than his opponents; Islam was still in the field the material
superior of Christendom_at least it was the superior in fighting power and
fighting instruments. That was within a very few years of the opening of
the eighteenth century. Then came the inexplicable decline. The religion
did not decay, but its political power and with that its material power
declined astonishingly, and in the particular business of arms it declined
most of all. When Dr. Johnson’s father, the bookseller, was setting up
business at Lichfield, the Grand Turk was still dreaded as a potential
conqueror of Europe; before Dr. Johnson was dead no Turkish fleet or army
could trouble the West. Not a lifetime later, the Mohammedan in North
Africa had fallen subject to the French; and those who were then young men
lived to see nearly all Mohammedan territory, except for a decaying
fragment ruled from Constantinople, firmly subdued by the French and
British Governments.

These things being so, the recrudescence of Islam, the possibility
of that terror under which we lived for centuries reappearing, and of our
civilization again fighting for its life against what was its chief enemy
for a thousand years, seems fantastic. Who in the Mohammedan world today
can manufacture and maintain the complicated instruments of modern war?
Where is the political machinery whereby the religion of Islam can play an
equal part in the modern world?

I say the suggestion that Islam may re-arise sounds fantastic_but
this is only because men are always powerfully affected by the immediate
past:_one might say that they are blinded by it.

Cultures spring from religions; ultimately the vital force which
maintains any culture is its philosophy, its attitude toward the universe;(Change the thought to our universe)
the decay of a religion involves the decay of the culture corresponding to
it_we see that most clearly in the breakdown of Christendom today. The bad
work begun at the Reformation is bearing its final fruit in the
dissolution of our ancestral doctrines_the very structure of our society
is dissolving.

In the place of the old Christian enthusiasms of Europe there
came, for a time, the enthusiasm for nationality, the religion of
patriotism. But self-worship is not enough, and the forces which are
making for the destruction of our culture, notably the Jewish Communist
propaganda from Moscow, have a likelier future before them than our
old-fashioned patriotism.

In Islam there has been no such dissolution of ancestral
doctrine_or, at any rate, nothing corresponding to the universal break-up
of religion in Europe. The whole spiritual strength of Islam is still
present in the masses of Syria and Anatolia, of the East Asian mountains,
of Arabia, Egypt and North Africa.

The final fruit of this tenacity, the second period of Islamic
power, may be delayed:_but I doubt whether it can be permanently

There is nothing in the Mohammedan civilization itself which is
hostile to the development of scientific knowledge or of mechanical
aptitude. I have seen some good artillery work in the hands of Mohammedan
students of that arm; I have seen some of the best driving and maintenance
of mechanical road transport conducted by Mohammedans. There is nothing
inherent to Mohammedanism to make it incapable of modern science and
modern war. Indeed the matter is not worth discussing. It should be
self-evident to anyone who has seen the Mohammedan culture at work. That
culture happens to have fallen back in material applications; there is no
reason whatever why it should not learn its new lesson and become our
equal in all those temporal things which now give us our superiority
over it_whereas in we have fallen inferior to it.

People who question this may be misled by a number of false
suggestions dating from the immediate past. For instance, it was a common
saying during the nineteenth century that Mohammedanism had lost its
political power through its doctrine of fatalism. But that doctrine was in
full vigour when the Mohammedan power was at its height. For that matter
Mohammedanism is no more fatalist than Calvinism; the two heresies
resemble each other exactly in their exaggerated insistence upon the
immutability of Divine decrees.

There was another more intelligent suggestion made in the
nineteenth century, which was this:_that the decline of Islam had
proceeded from its fatal habit of perpetual civil division: the splitting
up and changeability of political authority among the Mohammedans. But
that weakness of theirs was present from the beginning; it is inherent in
the very nature of the Arabian temperament from which they started. Over
and over again this individualism of theirs, this “fissiparous” tendency
of theirs, has gravely weakened them; yet over and over again they have
suddenly united under a leader and accomplished the greatest things.

Now it is probable enough that on these lines_unity under a
leader_the return of Islam may arrive. There is no leader as yet, but
enthusiasm might bring one and there are signs enough in the political
heavens today of what we may have to expect from the revolt of Islam at
some future date_perhaps not far distant.

After the Great War the Turkish power was suddenly restored by one
such man. Another such man in Arabia, with equal suddenness, affirmed
himself and destroyed all the plans laid for the incorporation of that
part of the Mohammedan world into the English sphere. Syria, which is the
connecting link, the hinge and the pivot of the whole Mohammedan world,
is, upon the map, and superficially, divided between an English and a
French mandate; but the two Powers intrigue one against the other and are
equally detested by their Mohammedan subjects, who are only kept down
precariously by force. There has been bloodshed under the French mandate
more than once and it will be renewed[2]; while under the English mandate
the forcing of an alien Jewish colony upon Palestine has raised the
animosity of the native Arab population to white heat. Meanwhile a
ubiquitous underground Bolshevist propaganda is working throughout Syria
and North Africa continually, against the domination of Europeans over the
original Mohammedan population.

Lastly there is this further point to which attention should be
paid:_the attachment (such as it is) of the Mohammedan world in India to
English rule is founded mainly upon the gulf between the Mohammedan and
Hindu religions. Every step towards a larger political independence for
either party strengthens the Mohammedan desire for renewed power. The
Indian Mohammedan will more and more tend to say: “If I am to look after
myself and not to be favoured as I have been in the past by the alien
European master in India_which I once ruled_I will rely upon the revival
of Islam.” For all these reasons (and many more might be added) men of
foresight may justly apprehend, or at any rate expect, the return of

It would seem as though the Great Heresies were granted an effect
proportionate to the lateness of their appearance in the story of

The earlier heresies on the Incarnation, when they died out, left
no enduring relic of their presence. Arianism was revived for a moment in
the general chaos of the Reformation. Sundry scholars, including Milton in
England and presumably Bruno in Italy and a whole group of Frenchmen, put
forward doctrines in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries which
attempted to reconcile a modified materialism and a denial of the Trinity
with some part of Christian religion. Milton’s effort was particularly
noticeable. English official history has, of course, suppressed it as much
as possible, by the usual method of scamping all emphasis upon it. The
English historians do not deny Milton’s materialism; quite recently
several English writers on Milton have discoursed at length on his refusal
of full Divinity to Our Lord. But this effort at suppression will break
down, for one cannot ever hide a thing so important as Milton’s attack,
not only on the Incarnation, but on the Creation, and on the Omnipotence
of Almighty God.

But of that I will speak later when we come to the Protestant
movement. It remains generally true that the earlier heresies not only
died out but left no enduring memorial of their action on European

But Mohammedanism coming as much later than Arianism as Arianism
was later than the Apostles has left a profound effect on the political
structure of Europe and upon language: even to some extent on science.

Politically, it destroyed the independence of the Eastern Empire
and though various fragments have, some of them, revived in maimed
fashion, the glory and unity of Byzantine rule disappeared for ever under
the attacks of Islam. The Russian Tsardom, oddly enough, took over a
maimed inheritance from Byzantium, but it was a very poor reflection of
the old Greek splendour. The truth is that Islam permanently wounded the
east of our civilization in such fashion the barbarism partly returned. On
North Africa its effect was almost absolute and remains so to this day.
Europe has been quite unable has been quite unable to reassert herself
there. The great Greek tradition has utterly vanished from the Valley of
the Nile and from the Delta, unless one calls Alexandria some sort of
relic thereof, with its mainly European civilization, French and Italian,
but beyond that right up to the Atlantic the old order failed apparently
for ever. The French in taking over the administration of Barbary and
planting therein a considerable body of their own colonists, of Spaniards,
and of Italians, have left the main structure of North African society
wholly Mohammedan; and there is no sign of its becoming anything else.

In what measure Islam affected our science and our philosophy is
open to debate. Its effect has been, of course, heavily exaggerated,
because to exaggerate it was a form of attack upon Catholicism. The main
part of what writers on mathematics, physical science and geography, from
the Islamic side, writers who wrote in Arabic, who professed either the
full doctrine of Islam or some heretical form of it (sometimes almost
atheist) was drawn from the Greek and Roman civilization which Islam had
overwhelmed. It remains true that Islam handed on through such writers a
great part of the advances in those departments of knowledge which the
Graeco-Roman civilization had made.

During the Dark Ages and even during the early Middle Ages, or at
any rate the very early Middle Ages, the Mohammedan world detained the
better part of academic teaching and we had to turn to it for our own

The effect of Mohammedanism on Christian language, though of
course a superficial matter, is remarkable. We find it in a host of words,
including such very familiar ones as “algebra,” “alcohol,” “admiral,” etc.
We find it in the terms of heraldry, and we find it abundantly in place
names. Indeed, it is remarkable to see how place names of Roman and Greek
origin have been replaced by totally different Semitic terms. Half the
rivers of Spain, especially in the southern part of the country, include
the term “wadi,” and it is curious to note how far in the Western
Hemisphere “Guadeloupe” preserves an Arabic form drawn from Estremadura.

The towns in North Africa and the villages for that matter as a
rule were rebaptized, the names of the most famous_for instance, Carthage
and Caesarea, disappeared. Others arose spontaneously, such as “Algiers,”
a name derived from the Arabic phrase for “the islands”_the old roadstead
of Algiers owing its partial security to a line of rocky islets parallel
with the coast.

The whole story of this replacing of the original names of towns
and rivers by Semitic forms is one of the most valuable examples we have
of the disconnection between language and race. The race in North Africa
from Libya westward is much of what it has been from the beginning of
recorded time. It is Berber. Yet the Berber language survives only in a
few hill districts and in desert tribes. The Punic, the Greek, the Latin,
the common speech of Tripoli (a surviving Greek name, by the way), Tunis,
and all Barbary, have quite gone. Such an example should have given pause
to the academic theorists who talked of the English as “Anglo-Saxon,” and
argued from their place names that the English had come over from North
Germany and Denmark in little boats, exterminated everybody east of
Cornwall and replanted it with their own communities. Yet of such
fantasies a good deal survives, most strongly, of course, at Oxford and


1. It was from this fact that certain French writers opposed to
the Church got their enormous blunder, that the Immaculate Conception came
to us from Mohammedan sources! Gibbon, of course, copies his masters
blindly here–as he always does, and he repeats the absurdity in his
“decline and Fall.”

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