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(By courtesy of the artist, Str Walter Russell R A ) 



O.B.E. (MiL) : Ph.D. (Cantab) : DXitt. (hon.) 

Bristol: D,Sc. (hon.) Acadia, Nova Scotia 

For some time Political Officer Mesopotamia: Assistant British 

Representative, Trans-Jordan: Prime Minister 

to the Sultan of Muscat and Oman 

Gold medallist of the Royal Geographical Society: 

the Royal Geographical Society of Antwerp: the 

Geographical Society of New 'York: the Royal 

Geographical Society of Scotland: and 

Burton Memorial medallist of the 

Royal Asiatic Society 


Garden City, New York 


, GARDEN CITY, N. Y,, U. S. A. 





FIRST I would acknowledge my indebtedness to ex- 
President A. Lawrence Lowell of Harvard University, 
at whose invitation I was privileged, last year, to deliver 
the Lowell Lectures on 'The Arabs 7 at the Lowell Insti- 
tute, Boston. The researches necessary for those lectures, 
following fourteen years residence in many Arab countries, 
prompted this setting forth, in a single volume, of a life 
story of the Arab people, a story of wide scope and varied 
interest for so small a compass, attempting as it does an 
outline of their history, religion, medieval civilization and 
later-day politics. In these pages my address is to the 
general reader. 

Orientalist authorities in many fields of learning have 
been freely drawn upon, and this brings me to another 
acknowledgment of deep obligation. A list of such authors 
and their works forms a brief selected bibliography at the 
end of the book. 

The index I owe to my wife's devotion and many of the 
illustrations to the kindness of friends whose names are 
acknowledged in appropriate places. Finally, the help of 



those who have been so good as to read through my manu- 
script and make valuable suggestions Professor Mar- 
goliouth, Professor Gibb, Mr Mahmood Zada, Mrs 
D. L. R. Lorimer and Sir Percy Cox is gratefully re- 
membered. The viewpoints are not always theirs, of 
course, but my own. 


Christmas 1936 









I The Arabs of Antiquity 3 

II The Prophet Muhammad 27 

III Arab World Conquest Eastwards 65 

IV Arab World Conquest Westwards 93 


V The Medieval State and Its Society 1 1 1 

VI The Arts 141 

VII The Sciences 168 



VIII Disintegration and Decline 195 

IX The Arabs of Arabia 221 

X Rise of the West : Eastern Repercussions 252 





XI The Arabs and the World War 275 

XII Palestine 293 

Epilogue 321 


Racial Origins of the Arabs 337 

Bibliography 347 

Index 353 

[ viii ] 


Bertram Thomas Frontispiece 

Facing page 

Tapping a Frankincense Bush 6 

A Desert Scene 6 

Ancient South Arabian Inscription 22 
The Oldest Known Islamic Monument 

Showing Early Arabic Character 26 

Postures of Prayer 65 

The Courtyard of Al Azhar Mosque 142 

The Tomb Mosque of Sultan Barquq 148 
The Sanctuary Screen and Lamp of 

Sultan Barquq Mosque 150 

A Glass Lamp of Fourteenth Century 158 

King Ibn Sa'ud 238 

A Small Arab Dhow on the Pearling Banks 242 

A Water-Hole in the Desert 242 

A Trans-Jordan Desert Policeman 246 

Coffee Country in the Yemen 246 

A Beduin Group 250 

A Group of Arab Townsmen 250 



Facing page 

The Late King Faisal 290 

A Palestine Arab 294 

A Palestine Jew 294 

Jews and Arabs at Work Together 302 

An Arab School 322 

Arab Racial Types : Hamitic Characters 342 

Arab Racial Types : Mediterranean Characters 342 

Arab Racial Types : Armenoid Characters 342 


Arabia before Muhammad 10 

Past and Present Political Divisions of Arabia 224 
Arab States under Turkish Dominion 

before the War 276 
Arab World Conquests, Seventh to 

Eighth Centuries End of Book 

Part One 

The Arabs of Antiquity 

To bear with a valiant front the full brunt of every stroke 

and onset of Fate, were still the fairest and best of things. 


THE DAWN of history Arabia formed a wedge of 
semibarbarism between Egypt and Sumer. It was a barren, 
forbidding, undesirable land, a natural barrier, in itself, 
to the intrusion of early civilized man. So deficient in 
rains was it that not a single river was sustained through- 
out its great length and breadth. Sharp naked mountains 
rose grimly from bleak uplifted plateaux, and wide 
horizons of rolling sands made up its greater part. By 
day a merciless sun beat down upon these wildernesses, 
and scorching winds swept across them; it was a brown 
and well-nigh treeless land where Nature with niggard 
hand withheld even decent shade and shelter, a cruel 
environment where only a brave, a cunning and a hardy 
race of men could survive. Its inhabitants were wild 
nomadic peoples who, surrounded by hardships, must 
display endurance and fortitude and, pressed by hunger, 
develop qualities of aggression and ferocity. Clans of 
kinsmen grew into tribes, but fundamentally a fierce 
individualism and an all-embracing distrust were their 



chief characteristics. Of beasts useful to man, the camel 
alone could support life in these sandy, waterless soli- 
tudes, and with their herds the Arabs wandered from 
pasture to pasture, from water hole to water hole, 
guided at night by the stars which they early learned to 
know and name. As the source of their meat and drink, 
their tents of hair and their coarse garments, the sum 
of their material existence, the camel won their reverence 
a reverence it still commands among their desert 
descendants of today. 

Where scant rains did fall and collect in the coastal 
mountain valleys sloping down to the sea the periphery 
of Arabia was more favoured as man's dwelling place. 
Copious wells in the valley floors and shady palm groves 
about them permitted of settled habitation, and in time 
the amenities of life could be increased by the introduc- 
tion of goats and cattle, the horse and the ass. These settle- 
ments developed into colonies of people who gradually 
acquired, if they did not already possess, characteristics 
quite different from their desert kinsmen. Along the 
coasts fishermen were potential boatbuilders and seamen, 
and as time went on strange mariners from overseas the 
first perhaps from ancient Egypt came to barter, bring- 
ing also the science of agriculture. 

From petty beginnings a more corporate life grew up 
in favoured spots and a comparatively enlightened out- 
look, in contrast to the insular and unchanging ways of 
the desert. But in the earliest times such settlements were 
few and insignificant, and the peoples of Arabia were for 
the most part nomadic tribes who were mainly regarded 
as barbarians by their civilized neighbours. They were 
men of predatory habit, men given to robbery with vio- 
lence. In the very first book of the Bible the Arab nomad 



is summed up for us in the person of Ishmael, 'He will 
be a wild man; his hand will be against every man, and 
every man's hand against him.' This of course is the tra- 
ditional view throughout the ages and down to this day, 
the view of the neighbouring settled man, the agricul- 
turalist and the trader, the man who has accumulated 
possessions and cherishes security. 

The inhabitants of Arabia have always comprised these 
two types, the militant nomad and the peaceful settler. 
A mutual antagonism has divided them. In a land where 
famine and ignorance combined to prevent a rational way 
of life the settled man regarded the nomad as a natural 
enemy, the nomad regarded the settled man as a legitimate 
prey. Arabia Deserta was an unsubjugated and savage, if 
thinly populated world, whose denizens, in the intervals 
of their pastoral pursuits, issued forth on plundering 
raids into the lands of the settled dwellers towards the 
coasts. Shedding innocent blood had no terror for them. 
They had their own code of tribal honour and tribal 
sanctions. Nor was it entirely without mercy. The right of 
asylum, for instance, was sacrosanct, the custom whereby 
a refugee from another's wrath once given protection by 
a desert tribe could feel as safe as they; they would 
never surrender him whatever his offence, however in- 
fluential the pursuer or tempting the inducement an 
honourable tradition to which the desert dwellers of our 
time are true. 

There was not much godly religion in Arabia before 
Muhammad's day. Those nomads who worshipped any- 
thing at all (for by nature they were not spiritually 
minded men) seem to have had a predilection for trees 
and stones, believing these to be the abodes of spirits. 
The single stone or monolith was probably a widely 



spread Semitic cult and possibly the prototype of the 
altar. The settled man doubtless tended to evolve re- 
ligious observances, but here again there was no uni- 
formity. Every settlement had its own favourite local 
spirit. Mana, the spirit of doom, was preferred here; 
Gadd, the spirit of good luck, there ; others were Yaghuth, 
the helper; Wadd, the spirit of friendship. Many of 
these spirits appear to have been propitiated or exorcised 
rather than worshipped, their influence dreaded rather 
than invoked, and to this day a cult of propitiating and 
exorcising spirits is practised throughout the coasts of 
eastern and southern Arabia, covertly where the au- 
thorities are religious and active, elsewhere quite openly. 1 
In immediate pre-Islamic times idol worship, a late in- 
novation from Syria, was practised in the settlements 
along the old trade routes, and some of the spirits came, 
too, to be represented by images. 

Marriage with the Arabs of antiquity was probably 
at first a very casual link bordering on promiscuity. It is 
likely to have differed little from the practice attributed to 
most primitive cultures, whereby the woman remained in 
her own tribe and the children she bore came to be mem- 
bers of her totem. Indeed, at the beginning of the Chris- 
tian Era it would appear that Arab children customarily 
took their names from their mothers rather than their 
fathers, after the model of Simon son of Miriam rather 
than Simon son of Jonas, and this practice survives to this 
day among the nomadic tribes of the deserts, though rarely 
found among settled Arabs. As time went on men came to 
take wives unto themselves on the more enduring basis 
familiar to us, and children were born into the father's 
tribe. Endogamous marriages between cousins were doubt- 

a For description of the rites see my Alarms and Excursions in Arabia. 






less the rule, and marriage by capture common. Men were 
of course polygynous, where they could afford it, there 
being no limit set to the number of wives one man could 
have. He had dominion over these wives and could divorce 
them at will, and if a man died his brother inherited his 
widows as though they were chattels. The Arabs love 
children, and sons must always have been desirable in the 
desert, where the aggressive qualities are those which 
Nature demands and rewards and the measure of a man 
is the number of kinsmen he has to rally to his side or to 
avenge him. Contraception must have been as repugnant 
then as now, yet the Arab traditions insist that female 
infanticide was commonly practised a sidelight on 
Arabia's habitual hunger. 

Within the peninsula the Arabs, unconcerned with an 
outside world, lived their frugal pastoral life. When their 
wanderings brought them near to settlements we can pic- 
ture them on the lookout to pick up better weapons, for 
these and their mounts formed the supreme considera- 
tion. And to this end they may have taken temporary serv- 
ice ^ith merchants as caravaners, though they would have 
been too firmly wedded to their free and easy life of the 
deserts to do this for long; and as for agriculture, none 
would have stooped so low, for the traditional view of the 
desert warrior, impecunious and ragged though he be, is 
that husbandry is a slave's job. And so with other crafts. 
There was, of course, no pottery, for fragile vessels have 
no place in nomadic life. They carried their water in skins, 
and practically all their simple wants were met by the 
roughest weaving and fashioning of the hair and hides 
provided by their camels. 

The single notable art in an otherwise artless existence 
was poetry. The desert men were notorious lovers of 



titillating rhyme, a thing to which their language lent 
itself, and in spite of their illiteracy they were great 
versifiers. Their folklore 2 was probably told in rhymed 
prose, though the boasting measures, most beloved by 
them, had chiefly to do with war or love or hospitality, and 
the sense most assuredly could be subordinated to the 
sound. Arabs today fondly cherish a tradition that some of 
the most complex metres in all the great variety known to 
Arabic verse existed among the illiterate Arabs of the pre- 
Islamic centuries; a belief, however, scarcely shared by 
our authorities. 

While Arabia Deserta followed these primitive ways 
the mountainous regions of Arabia Felix in the far south- 
west were relatively civilized. Here spice groves attracted 
traders from across the seas, and soon the civilized world 
whence they came was sending its wares in exchange for 
shipments of the local produce. With trade came cultural 
influences, and the fame of those south Arabian riches 
went echoing throughout the ancient East. Our Scriptures 
give glimpses of caravans, loaded with frankincense and 
precious spices, coming from beyond the great deserts to 
the courts of Israel. But Israel was clearly not Arabia's 
first or greatest mart. That title belongs to ancient Egypt, 
for the use of frankincense there is known to date back to 
the third millennium B.C. The purposes to which it was put 
were in part magical, in part ceremonial and probably at 
first both. It was burned on all sacred and solemn occa- 
sions in the ritual of the temple, in the process of mummifi- 
cation of princes of the royal blood and of sacred animals, 
and in funeral rites. In Israelitish times it was burnt be- 
fore the tabernacle of the Lord, it was brought with gold 

2 For the folklore of Beduin of the South Arabian desert see my Arabia 



and myrrh by the three wise men to our infant Lord, and 
later its use in the ritual of Christian worship appears 
fully established in Justinian's time (sixth century) as it 
already was in Hellenistic court ceremonial. 

The size and splendour of the caravans that later 
brought the spices up through Arabia to the Greco-Roman 
world are proverbial. We can picture the incense har- 
vesters in the southern mountains tapping the silver shrubs 
for the coveted gum ; the merchants garnering sackloads 
of the dried sweet-smelling resin in their spacious go- 
downs or supervising an army of camels couched for load- 
ing and giving their final instructions to agents who will 
accompany them to the marts of the outside world; the 
long serpentine caravans winding northwards through the 
wilderness, the caravaners ever fearful of nomads swoop- 
ing down upon them, here taking a guide to act as safe- 
conduct, there halting by day and moving forward under 
cover of night, always, we may be sure, paying bribes to 
the tribes through whose territory they passed to ensure 
immunity from attack, as has been the way of pious Mos- 
lems from the outside world all down the Islamic centuries 
when making the pilgrimage to the holy places of Mecca 
and Medina. 

"Settlements which have been dignified with the name of 
cities sprang up along these ancient trade routes, the chief 
of them in the southwest. There the merchants lived in 
what must have been opulent and cultured surroundings 
for the Arabia of those times. The main frankincense 
groves lay probably to the eastwards as they do today, lin- 
ing the red mountain valleys two thousand feet up, in the 
Qara and Qamr ranges facing inwards towards the des- 
ert. From here the main caravan route ran westwards 
along the Wadi Hadhramaut, where, as a classical author- 



Ity has it, 'even the earth exudes a sweet fragrance; 
myrrh, frankincense and cinnamon is produced , . . and bal- 
sam and other fragrant plants, though their perfume very 
soon passes away.' The great desert of Rub'al Khali, lying 
to the northwards, presented an insuperable barrier, so 
that the route continued westwards to Mariaba (Mar'ib) , 
which the Greeks tell us was a city that 'stands on a moun- 
tain full of trees . . . some of the people cultivate the fields, 
others traffic in spices either produced at home or brought 
from Ethiopia sailing thither across the straits in boats of 
bark.' 1 * From Mariaba, the capital of Saba and centre 
of the traffic (not far from Sana, the capital of the Yemen 
today), the route turned north and so continued, more or 
less parallel with the Red Sea coast to Taima, a very 
ancient settlement in the far north of Arabia. Taima was 
at the crossroads of the trade routes and so was the great 
distributing centre. From here fresh caravans set out 
the routes in later times running, one, northwards to 
Petra, Damascus and Palmyra; another, westwards 
through Sinai to Egypt; a third, eastwards to Mesopo- 
tamia. The civilization that grew up in the southwest was 
built on the riches of this spice trade. Settled communities 
lived within walled towns, practised agriculture and com- 
merce, wrote on wood and stone, feared the gods and 
honoured their kings. Their inscriptions show them to have 
been organized principalities with dynasties and hegem- 
onies going back to 1000 B.C. and some authorities con- 
sider many centuries earlier. 

Their religion was in part the worship of the heavenly 
bodies, characteristic of the river valley civilizations of 
Egypt and Mesopotamia and usually associated with a 

*This figure refers to the numbered reference in the Bibliography at the 
end of the book, and similarly throughout the text 







developed agriculture, for it is supposed that agricultura- 
lists must early have noticed that certain positions of the 
heavenly bodies coincided with their seasonal floods, and 
from this have gone on to believe that the heavenly bodies 
were the source of them. This was a fertility cult* The 
moon, under various names, was a chief among gods. The 
sun, Shams, his consort perhaps, sometimes called Al-lat, 
was chief among goddesses, and was also worshipped in 
Nabataea and Palmyra, the northern borderlands of the 
peninsula; others were Thuraiyya, identified with the 
Pleiades, the rain giver, and Uzza, possibly the planet 
Venus. Another name for the Venus god was Athtar (mas- 
culine in south Arabia), the Ashtoreth or Astarte of the 

Other pagan cults were practised whose gods, not far 
removed from members of the community, seemed to take 
a fiendish delight in sending afflictions, and Sabaeans are 
warned in one of their inscriptions against committing 
deeds offensive to the gods. For these were made wrathful 
by man's violation of forbidden foods and forbidden days, 
and, to a less extent perhaps, by moral lapses, and they 
sent disease, pestilence or some adversity upon the offender 
until their wrath subsided. They could be appeased, and 
ministering to this end were temples, sacrificial altars and 
priests. This was a propitiation cult, and sacrifices were 
made of camels, bullocks and other animals, incense and 
sweet-smelling spices entering into the ritual. In times of 
trouble the people had recourse to the priest or other holy 
man to discover which particular god was offended, what 
was the offence and the appropriate means of appeasing 
the divine wrath. In addition to the offering of sacrifices, 
statues and inscriptions were erected in honour of some 
gods. They had shrines and other places of pilgrimage, 



to which thank offerings and propitiatory gifts were 
brought, and a. survival of the sacredness of these pre- 
Islamic shrines lingers in central south Arabia where such 
are still the objects of local pilgrimages, and where, in 
case of dispute, oaths are made before them in the belief 
that, should the oath be false, the shrine will avenge itself 
on the false swearer. 

Such cults are known to have been practised by the 
four separate peoples of the ancient south. The names 
of these peoples recorded by the Greeks find confirmation 
in their own inscriptions. Thousands of inscriptions have 
been collected in southwest Arabia, though not all of them 
have as yet been translated. They are in a character which 
resembles Ethiopic and is not closely related to the Arabic 
character which, indeed, it antedates by a thousand years. 
'Of fhese ancient peoples Minasans, Sabseans, Qatabanis 
and Hadhramautis the Minaeans appear to be the oldest 
(1500 B.C. ?) , but the Sabaeans are easily the most famed. 
Indeed, as the Psalms, Job and Jeremiah suggest, they 
often gave their name to the entire civilized south. 

Their queen, the Arabs tell us, was none other than 
our Queen of Sheba, Sheba being an anglicized form of 
Saba, and her name was Bellas. That the Sabaeans had 
queens we know, for a Mesopotamian king in 750 B.C. re- 
ceived tribute from one of them who gloried in the name 
of Queen Shamsi and Ita'amara. But we learn from Jo- 
'sephus that there was an African Saba in the land of 
Nubia, too, and he assigns Egypt and Ethiopia for her 
dominion. The Queen of Sheba is, of course, claimed by 
the Abyssinians as their queen, and both Arabs and Abys- 
sinians have traditions about her which clearly have a com- 
mon origin. The languages of Ethiopia and of the southern 
kingdoms were, moreover, kindred languages, and there 



was trade and other intercourse between these peoples that 
must have led to common cultural influences on both sides 
of the Straits of Bab al Mandab, if indeed the two peoples 
were not of kindred origin, neither perhaps 'Arab' in the 
familiar sense of the word (the reader interested in racial 
origins is referred to an Appendix), and it is conceivable 
that the legendary ruler had been queen of both the 
Arabian and the African Sabaeans an issue that is left un- 
decided in our biblical story, where the queen is referred 
to vaguely as the queen of the south. 

Ancient south Arabia and ancient Nubia (one or both 
may solve the hieroglyphic riddle of the Land of Punt) 
clearly had contacts with ancient Egypt and with Baby- 
lonia. Not only were the spice lands of south Arabia 
famous, but so were the copper and turquoise mines of 
the north. These brought Egyptian garrisons in the third 
millennium B.C. to occupy Sinai (Sinai turquoises adorned 
the Great Pyramid), and in later times an Egyptian 
colony was pushed forward midway down the western 
trade route at a settlement called Yathrib, the Medina of 
the future. 

Armies of Mesopotamian kings had early swept west- 
wards across the northern Arab borderlands, one of them 
to establish itself on the shores of the Mediterranean, for 
the trade routes must be kept open and needed continued 
vigilance down into Assyrian times, as the expedition of 
the famed Sennacherib shows. But the Arabs on the desert 
fringes would stand for no meek submission to rich tres- 
passers. They raided caravans when they were hungry or 
for what it was worth, and also doubtless to keep a martial 
flame alive ; and successive generations of budding youth 
of the tribes, anxious to show manly prowess and emulate 
the deeds of their heroes or stand well in the eyes of the 


desert, would ensure no lack of recruits for the most dan- 
gerous adventure. Their camels in later times their 
horses, too carrying scarcely any weight, could swoop 
down and disappear as swiftly as they came, easily eluding 
the less mobile troops of a civilized enemy, who would be 
unable to pursue the raiders very far from ignorance of 
pastures and water holes and fear of the forbidding heat 
of the burning deserts. Depredations must have grown 
serious indeed when, in the middle of the sixth century 
B.C., the last Babylonian king led an army across the desert 
to ancient Taima, which he invested and where he built a 
palace, only to yield it erelong to a Persian conqueror. 

The maritime Arabs of the eastern seaboard, through 
these early times, were doubtless engaged in carrying on 
the sea trade between Babylonia and India. Their country, 
too, may well have been the Land of Magan, whence 
Sumer drew her copper and the wood used by the Priest- 
King Gudea in the making of his temple at Lagash. But 
eastern Arabia remained unknown to the west until the 
approach of the Christian Era, when the veil was lifted by 
one of Alexander the Great's campaigns. 

Fresh from his conquests across western Asia, Alexan- 
der arrived at the mouth of the Indus near where Karachi 
now stands. With Babylon for his objective he planned his 
long march westwards, skirting the coasts of Baluchistan 
and Persia, and to make the journey possible built a fleet 
of ships to sail along these desolate coasts in attendance 
on him, landing food and supplies at frequent intervals. 
That march, bristling with difficulties, would tax even a 
modern army's resources, but the forces led by Alexander 
achieved it in 327 B.C. On the historic voyage Nearchus, 
the admiral of the Greek fleet, secured the services of a 
Persian Gulf pilot and learned trom him that Arabia was 



a peninsula and that it was all but possible to circumnavi- 
gate it. Later on some of the Greek ships set out to make 
the attempt, but perhaps, fortunately for themselves, 
turned back, possibly intimidated by the maelstrom that 
normally lashes Cape Musandam. 

Arabia was by this time becoming known not merely as 
the land of spices, but as the highway of trade between 
India and the Hellenistic world, for Egypt and Babylonia 
were now in decline. Indian and Arab ships came, braving 
the winter northeast monsoon, loaded with such luxuries 
as pearls, beryls, ginger and pepper. The early Ptolemies 
had particularly encouraged the Red Sea trade and had by 
diplomatic means established small mercantile communi- 
ties on the African and Socotra coasts to serve its needs, 
but such was the fear of piracy in those waters that it was 
customary to send armed guards in the ships. Within living 
memory a British ship was driven ashore on the south 
Arabian coast; she was plundered and every member of 
her crew ruthlessly murdered: an echo, as it were, of 
Arabian exploits in the time of the later Ptolemies when 
the Red Sea was ravaged by pirates and freebooters, trade 
suffered, ships were taken and all on board sold Into 

To the Romans, who became masters of Egypt in 30 
B.C., this condition of things was intolerable, and they 
soon found an excellent reason for dealing effectively with 
it, though their main objective was the unlocking of the 
fabulous riches of supposed Eldorado in south Arabia. 
A fleet of one hundred and thirty Roman ships set out 
from Aqaba in 26 B.C. with ten thousand Roman infantry, 
one thousand Nabataean Irregulars, and fifty Jews. -^Elius 
Gallus, the eparch of Egypt, was himself in command and 
had for his guide and adviser on tribal matters and ter- 



rain what we should term today 'political officer to the 
force', a role the writer has filled in the stormy days of 
the Arab rebellion in Mesopotamia a Nabataean, named 
Syllaeus. The force was disembarked at Leuke Koine, a 
point some way down the Red Sea coast, and thence the 
march was begun into the interior. It is impossible to fol- 
low with certainty the actual route taken, because the 
place names of those days are no longer identifiable, but 
for the first fifty days Syllaeus led the army through water- 
less and trackless wastes, and the men suffered terribly 
from scurvy of the gums and legs. It is suspected that 
Syllaeus had a personal motive for not wishing the Romans 
to succeed too well, and that in accompanying them at all 
his object was to gain knowledge of settlements he hoped 
one day to make his own. 

Whether or not, six months passed by. The Romans had 
won battles but no treasure, and, disillusioned, they began 
their retreat. Since a retreating force may expect to have 
to fight a rearguard action in Arabia, where superior arms 
excite covetous eyes, and an enemy, particularly at night, 
is swift and elusive, it is remarkable that JElius Callus 
seems only to have been involved in one action on his way 
back to the coast, which he was able to reach in sixty days. 
From Strabo, who accompanied the expedition as war 
correspondent, we learn that Syllaeus, the discredited guide, 
was sent a prisoner to Rome, where he was beheaded in the 
streets as a traitor, while the Romans consoled themselves 
with the boast that despite all their losses from disease, 
toil and hunger only seven Roman soldiers were actually 
killed in action. But the truth seems to be that their plans 
had been ill-conceived and the army was not properly 
equipped for a tropical campaign; they were disappointed, 
too, in finding wilderness and barbarous villages where 



they expected a prosperous countryside and thriving towns. 
They never invaded Arabia again, and this expedition is 
the isolated example of a European invasion of Arabia 
Proper throughout the centuries. 

Clearly the southern principalities had already declined, 
and Minaeans, Sabaeans, Qatabanis and Attramatei dis- 
appear in the mists of antiquity. When the classical writers 
again speak of the southwest they no longer mention these 
peoples individually nor tell us of their fate ; henceforward 
they speak of one people, the Homeritae or Himyarites. 
But the days of the Himyarites were as grass, for by the 
year A.D, 350 the Abyssinian king numbered Himyar and 
Yemen among his dominions. 

The next two centuries witnessed a fitful Abyssinian 
occupation of southwest Arabia. It was probably little 
more than a shadowy hold on the Yemen coast, except 
intermittently at times of actual military invasion. Abys- 
sinia had meanwhile become the client of a new power that 
had arisen in Egypt, the Byzantine, and had adopted the 
religion of her patrons ; and hence Christianity came to be 
introduced into south Arabia by the Abyssinians. 

Jewish colonies already existed there, and these also had 
their rival imperial connection. The Sassanids, the great 
Persian dynasty of Zoroastrian creed (a nonproselytizing 
and nationalistic religion to which, indeed, none but Per- 
sians were admitted), had arisen out of the ashes of 
Babylon. For the next four hundred years Persians and 
Byzantines struggled one with another for supremacy in 
world politics, a conflict that was not without its influence 
on Arabia. 

That Christianity was the religion of foreign invaders 
the Abyssinians must have militated against its accept- 
ance by the local Himyarites. Judaism, on the other hand, 



though not a proselytizing system, made considerable 
headway in southwest Arabia, where whole tribes are be- 
lieved to have embraced it. Whether this was from spirit- 
ual conviction or political convenience is not clear, but 
traditions concerning the events that followed suggest 
that the two religions stood for opposing political factions, 
in which case Judaism came to connote a particular poli- 
tical allegiance. This faction must have grown powerful 
in the early sixth century, when it rose successfully to throw 
off the Abyssinian yoke. Tradition speaks of a trench 
filled with fire, of Christian captives offered the choice be- 
tween apostasy and burning, of a bishop's martyrdom 
and wholesale Christian massacre. The Abyssinian inva- 
sion that immediately followed was undertaken ostensibly 
to avenge these wrongs, though another tradition repre- 
sents the Abyssinians and Himyarites as struggling at this 
time for the control of the Red Sea trade. Abyssinian vic- 
tory at length brought to an end the last Himyaritic king- 
dom under its Jew-convert insurgent leader. The new 
viceroy from Aksum, with the new bishop, set immediately 
to work to restore the great dam of Mar'ib which had 
been destroyed by a flood more than half a century before, 
as a commemorative tablet bearing an inscription with a 
Christian invocation to the Holy Trinity testifies to this 

Medievally recorded Arab tradition attaches enormous 
importance to this famous waterwork. The ancient pros- 
perity of the south is bound up with it ; the south's decay 
with its destruction. But the tradition must embody a series 
of disasters stretching back over four or five centuries, 
probably more, for, as we saw, the Roman invaders even 
before the Christian Era found not continuous fertility 
and walled cities as they had expected, but comparative 



desolation. It is unlikely that Arab memory went back so 
far as the ancient southern kingdoms: the civilization of 
the south, in any case, had rested on frankincense and 
spices, not on irrigated crops* 

The last Abyssinian occupation of the Yemen endured 
for a brief half century. Whether from the decline of the 
colonists, as is probable, or from their despotic temper, 
as one tradition has it, the local opposing faction that 
leaned towards Persia soon got the upper hand again. 
Southeastern Arabia had already been conquered by the 
Persians in the fourth century, Oman already ruled by 
Persian viceroys for two hundred years 8 so that the ex- 
tension of Persian influence westwards into the Yemen 
presented few difficulties, and that influence had not en- 
tirely disappeared when the Prophet arose. 

The vast interior spaces of Arabia remained inviolate. 
The mass of the Arabs lived their lives remote from, and 
uninfluenced by, these foreign imperialistic activities along 
the fringes of the peninsula. In the north Persians and 
Byzantines secured themselves against unwelcome atten- 
tions of desert marauders by encouraging the growth of 
two small Arab buffer states along their desert frontiers. 
Hira and Ghassan were states which may well have owed 
as much to their strategic location as to inherent virtues, 
however these abounded. We have seen that the nomadic 
Beduin, goaded by hunger, were an immemorial nuisance 
to the neighbouring civilizations. At best, when impelled 
by some powerful impulse such as that which governed 
later historic migrations that revolutionized the world, 
they showed themselves capable of developing an impres- 
sive civilization ; at worst, they were ever ready, in return 

*My grammar and vocabulary of the surviving Iranian dialect found in 
southeastern Arabia was published in the JRAS. of October 1930. 



for proper remuneration, to give up their raiding and, 
indeed, to act as escorts to caravans and keep off others 
like themselves who would attack their patrons; for the 
nomads, in spite of tribal associations, are incorrigible in- 
dividualists. So all down the centuries it has been the 
policy of Powers to enlist the support, by the lure of 
financial and political advantage, of the Arabs nearest 
their frontiers, and these, given the right inducements, 
have co-operated and afforded an effective rampart against 
the hosts of their less favoured kinsmen in the deserts be- 

To start with there was probably small difference be- 
tween them. The men of Hira like those under Ghassan, 
not improbably, came originally as marauders to batten 
on the industry of the settled cultivators. Their political 
value as a potential buffer against the desert was appre- 
ciated, the right was conceded them to exact a landlord's 
tribute, and they were encouraged to give themselves up 
to a life of hunting and war and lavish hospitality while 
their bards produced poetry an aristocratic mode of life 
exactly suited to the desert temper. 

The Ghassanid principality, successor to the vanished 
Palmyrene state, adopted, as the client of the Byzantines, 
the Christian faith of its patrons, and Justinian made its 
kings patricians of his empire. These kings, claiming aris- 
tocratic Yemeni origin, lived a seminomadic life inherited 
from recent ancestors, eschewing a capital city and spend- 
ing the seasons now in one, now in another of their 
favourite resorts, where beyond the Jordan the ruins of 
their palaces and churches of Byzantine architecture still 
occasionally serve to shelter modern Beduin. The Lakh- 
mids of Hira, who also claimed Yemeni origin, were even 
more renowned, for they had a capital city and professed a 



pagan creed that was not the creed of their Persian pa- 
trons : indeed, they later flirted with Christianity, the re- 
ligion of the Byzantine enemy, so that the princes of Hira 
were compelled publicly to abjure that faith, though the 
common folk came in time to embrace it, as indeed did 
their last prince. To the desert Arabs the luxurious life of 
these prosperous borderland kinsmen seemed idyllic in- 
deed, and the earliest Arab poetry sings mostly of their 
ancient glories. But in the latter part of the sixth century 
both Byzantines and Persians had begun to reduce their 
commitments in these northern buffer states, and the 
borderland Arabs were fain to revert to their primitive 

Ancient Arabia had many tongues, all of them belong- 
ing to one Semitic family, though spoken by peoples who 
appear to have been of different racial origin. 4 In the 
northern borderlands were many settled peoples, all of 
them possessing written languages. 5 In the south were the 
four distinct lettered peoples, already mentioned as known 
to the Greeks, who made the Arabia of antiquity famous. 
Their languages belonged, as their inscriptions show, to 
the south Semitic group. The mass of the Arabs occupy- 
ing the great heart of the peninsula were, on the other 
hand, unlettered. They spoke a dialect of Semitic which 
was not a literary language before the sixth century of our 
era, when the Prophet arose. The curious thing about this 
north and central Arabian speech is that its most correct 
form was spoken not in the settlements such as Mecca and 
Yathrib, but among the nomads. Modern Arabic is its off- 

These various Arabian languages were no mere local 

*The reader interested is referred to an Appendix, pp. 337 et seq. 
G Aramaic, Syriac, Lihyani and Hebrew. 



dialects. There existed between them differences compara- 
ble to those that divide the Romance languages. There 
must, of course, have been an ancient Semitic parent 
tongue, corresponding to the Latin ancestor of the Ro- 
mance languages, and, says Dr Margoliouth, 'the classi- 
cal language of the peninsula should naturally have been 
not the patois of the Beduin, but the idiom which had for 
so long served for inscriptions commemorating laws, con- 
tracts, treaties, dedications, vows, epitaphs and the 
like.' 2 * 

In early times the languages of the south would almost 
certainly have enjoyed a superior prestige 6 because they 
were the languages of a civilization, but the position came 
naturally to be reversed in the seventh and succeeding cen- 
turies, by which time they were hi decay, because the 
Prophet arose where the northern dialect was spoken. As 
the tongue of Muhammad and the tongue of the divine 
revelations recorded in the Holy Qur'an, thence as the 
language of Arab armies that swept the world, it became 
the lingua franca of an empire, and its pre-eminence today 
is the natural consequence. But this Arabic of the Islamic 
period it was then about to enjoy what in English cor- 
responds to an Elizabethan age needs no superior an* 
tiquity among Semitic tongues to establish its greatness; 
it is inherently great. The pride of the Arabs in their lan- 
guage could rest alone on its own marvellous structural 
design, its comprehensiveness, its flexibility. 'From its 
o^n inner resources it could evolve the mot juste/ and it 
provided, centuries before our Renaissance, a ready in- 

6 The Hebraisms which have been traced in the inscriptions of the ancient 
south that are found lacking in northern Arabic, the established descent of 
Ethiopic of Abyssinia from south Semitic and the marked philological 
affinities of the ancient Akkadian language of Babylonia with south 
Semitic, alike suggest a superior antiquity for the southern forms. 



strument for the translation of the lore of ancient Greece* 
Even today, incredible as it may seem, the Arabs have sel- 
dom to go outside this ancient language of the deserts to 
express the terminology of modern sciences. 

It is odd that the Arabs, whose tongue this was, should 
have shown so scant a memory of the Sabaean and cognate 
cultures, yet the old Greek classical authorities tell of the 
sending of gold and silver plate to south Arabia, and the 
archaeological spade of recent times has unearthed Greek 
statuary there, from which we may judge of Hellenistic 
influences penetrating Arabia before Muhammad's day. 
According to the Arabs, however, the times which pre- 
ceded the Prophet, i.e., sixth-seventh century A.D., are 
par excellence the Days of Ignorance, the Dark Ages, the 
Jahiliya. Arabia such is the conventional view was 
wholly deficient of enlightenment. Savagery and ignorance 
stalked the land. The Arabs were pagan, remote in their 
deserts, sequestered from outside influences. 

The great mass of the Arabs, it is true, were pagans. 
Yet Arabia, as we have seen, had its leaven of Judaism 
and Christianity in settled areas, north, south, east and 
west. Jewish communities particularly had been estab- 
lished for centuries in the principal settlements along the 
ancient trade route, notably at Taima, Yathrib and Naj- 

Jewish penetration of Arabia is known to have been 
going on in the early Christian centuries by way of the 
north. Some colonists were possibly those Jews who had 
been turned out of Judea by Hadrian and Trajan and who, 
we are told, built synagogues in the wilderness ; others are 
supposed to have been Edomites from Nabataea, and 
Hebrew inscriptions have been found in the far southwest. 
Settled Arab tribes of the settlements, as we saw, also 



embraced Judaism ; indeed the Jewish colonies found sur- 
viving in Najran today Arab tradition prefers to regard as 
of the religion, rather than of the blood, of Israel. 

The Jews from Palestine seem to have come as agricul- 
turalists ; hence their chief colony was founded among the 
agricultural community of Yathrib, but they soon took 
to arts and crafts, in which they easily excelled the Arabs, 
and also to commerce, so that they tended to be town 
dwellers. In spite of their origin among lettered societies 
they are supposed, after a few centuries of Arabian domi- 
cile, to have given up their old native tongue and to have 
called their tribes and their sons by Arab names, though 
at the time of the Prophet Muhammad they are repre- 
sented at Yathrib as still possessing tables of the law, at- 
taching great importance to their rabbis and observing the 
Sabbath by certain food taboos. Their monotheistic reli- 
gion, as we shall see later, had an early attraction for the 
Arab Prophet and a considerable influence on his teachings. 
It does not appear, however, to have been the only mono- 
theistic cult at the time, for there were Arab communi- 
ties with one god, Rahman, and some suppose that many 
so-called Judaistic communities of ancient Arabia may have 
been Arab ones professing Rahmanism. The law of the 
market place of Yathrib, the Jewish stronghold, is said to 
have been Jewish law even as late as the time that Mu- 
hammad made his home there in the seventh century, 
though Jewish influence was already in decline. 

Christianity, too, in forms however diverse and crude, 
was practised in the two northern Arab buffer states of re- 
nown, Ghassan and Hira ; it was practised in Najran in 
the south, a settlement rivalling Mecca itself, and in the 
half-settled townships of the Persian Gulf littoral, the 
Bahrain. Not improbably it penetrated even to Nejd, for 



the legendary KInda whose seat was at Yamama numbered 
among his following Imru al Kais, the famous Christian 
warrior-poet of the Arabs. Scattered Christian communi- 
ties like these would doubtless, however, have been small 
minorities, and where Beduin professed such a religion it is 
unlikely that the allegiance had anything spiritual about it ; 
more probably it had some political connotation. 

Yet it would appear that the more enlightened mer- 
chants of the settlements having trade intercourse with 
Jews and Christians both inside and outside the peninsula 
and caravaners and travellers who annually went up to 
Syria and to Mesopotamia were, during the centuries 
that led up to the Prophet's birth, not unfamiliar with re- 
ligious cults that taught the existence of one supreme God, 
creator of all things, whose instruments were angels and 
prophets, who sent down oracles to earth and declared 
himself by miracles: cults that taught a Judgment Day 
when the dead should rise, the believers enter into ever- 
lasting life, the unbelievers into everlasting damnation. 
The very emphasis which conventional Arab tradition 
places on the ignorance and barbarism of the Arabs be- 
fore the time of the Prophet has led some Western authori- 
ties to stress, perhaps unduly, their contrary opinion. 
'Arabia,' says Dr O'Leary, 'was not so self-centred nor so 
self-contained; indeed to a great extent its later segrega- 
tion seems largely due to the influence of Islam, . . . and 
consequently the religion of Islam was not evolved among 
remote tribes with only very slight contact with the outside 
world, but in the midst of the general tide of West Asiatic 
Civilization. 51 * 



SL 4 at 

+* ** 


* > 



(By courtesy of the Royal Astatic Society) 



The Prophet Muhammad 

His humanity extended itself to the lower creation* He /or- 
bade the employment of living birds as targets for marks- 
men and remonstrated with those who ill-treated their 
camels. When some of his followers had set fire to an 
ant-hill he compelled them to extinguish it. Foolish acts of 
cruelty which were connected with old superstitions were 
swept away by him. . . . No more was a dead mans camel to 
be tied to his tomb to perish of thirst and hunger. No more 
was the evil eye to be propitiated by the bleeding of a certain 
proportion of the herd. No more was the rain to be conjured 
by tying burning-torches to the tails of oxen. . . . The manes 
and tails of horses were not to be cut, the former being 
meant by nature for their warmth and the latter as a pro- 
tection against flies: nor were asses to be branded.** MAR- 

THE YEAR A.D. 570 or thereabouts was born in Mecca 
a son of the Arabs whose fame today places him among 
the greatest men of all time: one who was destined to 
found a world religion, to inspire a revolution which raised 
his fellow countrymen from obscurity to eminence and to 
change the whole course of history. 

Muhammad, son of Abdullah son of Abd al Muttalib, 
came into the world amid lowly surroundings, of good tri- 
bal ancestry, which his followers came later to ennoble, 
and which his detractors have uncharitably sought to de- 



base. His father had died before his birth; his mother was 
to die soon after it, leaving the orphan boy to be reared by 
relations, first a grandfather and then an uncle. Both were 
kind to him, but both were poor, and the boy grew up in 
homes that knew hardship. 

The Arabia of his day was the primitive land we have 
described. The greater part of its people consisted of 
pagan nomadic tribesmen, who combined the roles of 
herdsmen and warriors ; they were also proud and brave 
men who were accustomed to much freedom and who had 
never bent the neck under the yoke of foreign conqueror. 
Each tribe had its hereditary chief, but he was regarded 
as little more than a senior among equals, to whom alle- 
giance of a light and precarious kind was due in times of 
crisis. Life in the great spaces of the desert encouraged 
equality. No man approached another there with those 
varying degrees of regard to which men in closely regi- 
mented societies today are accustomed. Other nations 
might boast of national freedom. The freedom of the 
desert was a personal freedom, a freedom to kill neighbour 
or brother, maybe, without fear of any constituted author- 
ity, a freedom to forgive the murderer of a kinsman for 
the consideration of blood money, again without recourse 
to authority. The Arabs were men of inflammable temper, 
quick to anger and swift to shed blood, capable of being 
roused to battle by an appeal to the emotions, by an im- 
passioned recital of some poem enshrining a valiant ex- 
ploit. The frugal pastoral life of the deserts bred the sol- 
dier or the bandit. Periodical drought demanded self- 
discipline or drove to rapine and plunder; inherited blood 
feuds perpetuated a lust for vengeance ; insecurity necessi- 
tated unremitting vigilance as well as skill in the art of 
riding and the use of weapons. With a sense of self-esteem 



went a suspicion of others and intolerance of strangers. 
The Beduin were the products of a cruel environment, 
volatile men whose friendship and enmity were alike capri- 
cious. Such were the men to whom Muhammad's teachings 
came early to be addressed. 

But it was not from among such men that his religion 
drew its inspiration. Islam was to take shape not in the 
deserts, but among the settled Arabs of entirely different 
temper. Its early life was cradled by the cultural influences 
of the city of Muhammad's birth. Mecca at that time was 
probably as well known and progressive a settlement as 
existed within the peninsula, though perhaps no Arab city 
had at this time acquired outside fame. It had grown up 
around the well of Zem Zem, where, according to local 
tradition, Hagar had found refreshment for her son 
Ishmael when they were cast adrift by Abraham in the 
wilderness. Whether or not this was at the root of a belief 
in the sanctity of its environs, Mecca was already a holy 
city and had been so for some centuries before the Proph- 
et's coming. It was indeed to the trade brought by an an- 
nual pilgrimage rather than to any local industry that the 
settlement owed its rise, and its importance increased as 
it came to dominate the trade route after the decline of 
the south and the decay of Byzantine shipping in the Red 

The inhabitants of Mecca belonged chiefly to a tribe 
called the Quraish. They formed a settled population such 
as is usual in Arabian townships to this day ; tribal, that is, 
in name, origin and organization, but essentially different 
in function, being composed of merchants, shopkeepers, 
caravaners and the like. As a settlement its interests were 
served by peace and security and its outlook doubtless 
marked by anti-Beduin sentiment. It had its own miniature 



government, for now that the old northern confederations 
of Hira and Ghassan had decayed there were few, if any, 
political organizations in the peninsula more comprehen- 
sive than the city-state. Its religious cult was principally 
the worship of an idol named Hubal, recently introduced 
from Syria ; it had other idols, too, representing the much 
older Arabian deities, Al Uzza, AHat and Mana ; a mono- 
theistic creed was held by a tiny sect of Arabs known as 
Hanifs; and Christianity and Judaism were both pro- 
fessed, probably among a small foreign community and by 
occasional visitors. 

We know as little of the authentic childhood of Mu- 
hammad as of Jesus of Nazareth. While yet a boy he 
found employment minding camels. At the age of twelve 
he is believed to have accompanied his uncle on a long 
caravan journey, not improbably on one of those two 
Meccan caravans that went up yearly to the fairs of Syria. 

We may picture young Muhammad with other boys at 
the time of Mecca's own annual fair, held in the month of 
Dhul Hijja. A vast concourse of pilgrims crowded the 
streets and alleyways. Townsmen from Yathrib and 
Najran jostled Beduin from the near-by deserts, a motley 
stream into which boys, naturally curious, would be drawn 
by the appeal of a variety of accent, of dress and of 
weapons. In the hostelries Muhammad would hear the 
news of the desert told with intent voice and excited ges- 
ture; he would listen breathlessly to caravaners fresh 
from Syria or Mesopotamia bringing tidings of the wars 
between Greeks and Persians, of strange beliefs and for- 
eign practices, and doubtless the youthful imagination 
would be fired to share such wonderful experiences and 
see great armies marching. 

The gala days of the fair were those when the pilgrims 



brought gifts to the heathen temple In the middle of the 
city square where the idols were housed. There, at a 
distance from the Ka'ba, as it came to be called, they dis- 
robed and circled round in procession at a quick pace, 
clapping their hands and singing. He would see them rev- 
erently kissing the black stone in the wall of the sanctuary 
and then follow them as they withdrew to make seven 
visits to the neighbouring hills and seven times throw 
stones into the Valley of Mina, and so to the scene of a 
wholesale sacrifice of camels and sheep that brought the 
rites to an end. This ritual must have burnt deep into the 
young impressionable mind, for the grown man was to 
incorporate much of it into his own religion. Trading in 
Mecca went briskly on for these thirty days, and then an 
end came to the Pilgrimage Fair with public contests in 
oratory and poetry, arts to which the illiterate Arabs were 
fondly addicted. 

When these Beduin came again they would do so by 
stealth, probably to raid the grazing grounds of Meccan 
merchants and carry off camels, killing as by immemorial 
custom anyone who stood in their way. The youth Mu- 
hammad, as a Meccan herdsman, doubtless experienced 
many scares of raiders, if not the reality, and tradition 
gives him his first military adventure at eighteen when he 
accompanied his uncle, probably in pursuit of desert braves 
who had been paying some such unwelcome visit. 

At twenty-four Muhammad, now in the service of 
Khadija, a rich widow merchant of Mecca, found himself 
leader of a caravan going to Syria. This journey, affording 
contacts with the outside world to a man who was of ma- 
ture age and commanding position, may well have had a 
profound influence on his religious outlook, but whether 
or not, it was to be the turning point in his domestic life. 



For so well did Muhammad conduct his patron's affairs 
that on his return he won her admiration, and they were 
married. Khadija was already the widow of two husbands. 
She was many years older than Muhammad, but the mar- 
riage with her brought him independence and an enhanced 
status in the life of Mecca. 

Muhammad was greatly devoted to Khadija. His life 
with her seems to have been entirely happy, and so long 
as she lived he did not marry again, an unusual fidelity 
perhaps in the polygamous society of Mecca at that time. 
During those fifteen years of early married life, as early 
manhood passed into middle age, he lived unobtrusively as 
a fond husband and father and like any other well-to-do 
private citizen. 

Tradition speaks of him as a man of striking appear- 
ance with a fine sagacious face, black piercing eyes and a 
flowing beard ; a sincere man, rather taciturn in speech, but 
gifted with penetrating insight and a natural rugged elo- 
quence a man whose rectitude won him the title of 'the 
trustworthy* ; a kindly man and a lover of children. He 
was illiterate; indeed, few of the Meccan merchants of his 
day are thought to have acquired literacy and then only as 
much as served the purpose of their business accounts, for 
books were as yet a rarity in Arabia. But Illiteracy was 
no greater handicap to him than it was to our own 
medieval English kings or to many illustrious oriental po- 
tentates of our day who can just read and write their own 
language. Book learning carries less prestige in backward 
societies than the moral and intellectual qualities of na- 
tural leadership, and with these Muhammad was abun- 
dantly endowed. He had an unusual grasp of realities, a 
deep intuitive understanding of man and nature ; he was 
a man that other men could believe in. Although religion 



seems to have been a late development, there being scarcely 
any mention of it until the commencement of his ministry 
in his middle age, he must have been a man of serious mind 
and pious disposition, one who in his travels abroad and 
intercourse at home had been curious to learn what other 
men believed and practised. There were no religious books 
in his native Arabic, and Muhammad could not have un- 
derstood the foreign scriptures of the Jews and Christians 
even if they had been read aloud to him. His knowledge 
of these and other systems could only have been such as 
he heard on 'the lips of men/ 

Suddenly Muhammad came to have remarkable reli- 
gious experiences. He had reached his fortieth year when 
in his retreat on Mount Hira he had a vision which he be- 
lieved to be supernatural, a vision to call men to repent- 
ance and the better life, to give up idol worship and to 
confess the one and only true God, an inspiration that 
man's strength and peace of mind were to be found in 
resignation to the divine will. 

From now on he began to speak of visions, of a faithful 
spirit, later identified as the angel Gabriel, who came and 
put God's words into his mouth; they were communica- 
tions, he claimed, of supernatural origin, and he himself 
was but the medium. He made no personal claims to 
divinity or even that he had the gift of prophecy or of per- 
forming miracles. On the contrary, he was to assert with 
lifelong consistency that he was a mortal man. This dis- 
claimer of divine origin brings him in one way into line 
with the Old Testament prophets. It is a reason, too, why 
our English word for his religion is really a misnomer. It 
is not Muhammadanism or Muhammadan to the Arab. 
They do not worship Muhammad, so there is really no 
analogy with our words 'Christianity* and 'Christian' from 



the word 'Christ', though Buddhism and Confucianism 
offer closer parallels. The name of the religion, accord- 
ing to its devotees, is not Muhammadanism but Islam : the 
Arab believer calls himself not Muhammadan but Muslim. 
These words, 'Islam' for the religion and 'Muslim' 
('Moslem') for the believer, derive from an Arabic 
root word which means 'surrender', or, as we should say, 
'resignation' : its full connotation being 'a sublime resig- 
nation to God's will/ 

Muhammad spent much time in prayer and fasting, and 
while in this condition the revelations of Allah came to 
him. As he sat, silent and musing, he would suddenly be 
overcome by great trembling, his face would change colour, 
and he would pass into a trance. By his followers these 
seizures were accepted as signs of divine revelation. Non- 
Moslem authorities, on the other hand, have observed 
that they are the symptoms of epilepsy, and some hold that 
Muhammad was an epileptic, an opinion which Gibbon 
branded as an absurd calumny of the Greeks. 

While in the trance or perhaps on regaining conscious- 
ness, Muhammad 'recited' what he had seen and heard to 
the intimate friends about him, who, according to Arab 
tradition, wrote down the revelations on leaves of grass 
or shoulder bones of mutton or whatever other material 
availed. These recitations were couched in language of 
great authority purporting to be the voice of God, in a 
literary style of ecstatic beauty recalling the prophetic 
manner of the Old Testament. 

Muhammad, in the first flush of these religious experi- 
ences, declared that 'There is but one God, and Muham- 
mad is a messenger of God' 1 ; that this God is the God of 

a The word used in Arabic means 'sent-one' ; the term 'prophet 7 , however, 
has the authority of established usage. 



the Jews and the God of the Christians; and that it is folly 
and wickedness to worship idols such as men rub with wax. 

The proclamation of such beliefs would doubtless have 
given offence to his idol-worshipping fellow Meccans, and 
at first Muhammad did not go out and preach publicly. 
At the outset the revelations were disclosed within the 
family circle. Some members believed and some did not. 
Khadija, his wife, was an early convert, and so was his 
cousin, Ali, but his uncle, Abu Talib, who brought him up, 
remained an unbeliever to the end of his life, which came a 
few years later. Of Muhammad's own conviction and sin- 
cerity there would appear to be no doubt. He became 
aflame with zeal to destroy the idolatrous cults of his na- 
tive Mecca and convert his fellow Arabs to monotheism ; 
in other words to bring their attitude into conformity with 
the underlying conception of Judaism and Christianity. 

Muhammad's first principle was the oneness of God 
and the universality of God. Although God of the Jews, 
He was no narrow, exclusive tribal God ; although God of 
the Christians, He was not composed of Father, Son and 
Holy Ghost. His fundamental attribute was oneness. It is 
the slogan of the Arabs of the ages, and to this day they 
are fanatical on this issue. The very word 'Trinity' is a 
blasphemy to their ears. 

Simplicity was the dominant note. The abstruse, and 
to Muhammad incomprehensible, doctrines of the Incar- 
nation and the Trinity were utterly inacceptable. To Mu- 
hammad Jesus was just another prophet. The orthodox 
Christianity of his day was thus lesa attractive to him than 
Judaism; indeed, the revelations not only required the 
concept of a pure monotheism, but even the ritual of the 
Jews, the prayer ablutions, turning towards Jerusalem in 
prayer, the banning of pig's flesh as unclean. Christians 



were rebuked for giving up these laws which had been ob- 
served by Jesus and His apostles. 

Muhammad clearly did not claim to be the founder of 
a new religion but the restorer of an old one which he 
called the religion of Abraham. We may indeed suppose 
theological differences to have been a subordinate part of 
his teachings, for the masses he addressed were pagans. 
Intellectual differences of opinion were doubtless of less 
moment to Muhammad than the sins of the world. It was 
to save humanity from their sins, to make men and women 
realize their duty to the one true God and their duty to 
one another, that filled his heart and mind. 

When Muhammad first went out into the highways 
and byways to preach, his converts were at first very few. 
Many were of lowly or even slave origin ; others, notably 
Abu Bakr, Othman and Ali, were men of position and 
influence. It required courage to damn the city gods and 
to rebuke practically the whole of his fellow Meccans. At 
first people thought him mad. His claims to be a prophet 
in the old patriarchal tradition excited their derision. How 
could they accept his teachings ? They much preferred their 
own ancestral cults to the established foreign religions of 
Jews and Christians, even as they knew them locally, and 
Muhammad's teachings must have looked to them like a 
hotchpotch. In any case they rejected outright his preten- 
sions to be a prophet. They challenged him to perform 
miracles if he was really a prophet of God. For reply 
Muhammad disclaimed the power of working miracles. 
To him the whole creation was a miracle : the earth, the 
sky, man himself. To him the truth of his message was a 
miracle, and, said Muhammad, God 'refused to give signs 
and wonders that would lessen the merit of faith and in- 
crease the guilt of unbelief.' 



Later votaries of Muhammad have, in spite of this, 
ascribed to him supernatural attributes. His nocturnal visit 
to Jerusalem, for instance, and thence to heaven for an 
interview with the Almighty (neither place, incidentally, 
is mentioned in the Qur'an, where a vision may be in- 
tended, or, if some Moslem scholars are right, a dream) 
has been believed literally by some of his followers who 
claim Palestine as having a special significance for them 
on that account. By old traditional belief Muhammad was 
carried from Mecca through the air on a mysterious ani- 
mal called Boraq and set down at the temple in Jerusalem. 
There he dismounted, tethered Boraq and thence, escorted 
by the angel Gabriel, ascended through the seven heavens, 
visiting the various patriarchs, prophets and angels in their 
apartments. Beyond the seventh heaven Gabriel was left 
behind and Muhammad permitted to pass on alone, to- 
wards the throne. While he was still two bowshots off he 
felt a cold shiver pass through his heart and the hand of 
God on his shoulder. The deity imposed upon Muhammad 
the duty of believers to pray fifty times a day, but this 
was reduced to five on the advice of Moses. Descending to 
Jerusalem, he remounted his aerial Boraq 2 and so passed 
through the skies back to Mecca, 'thus performing in the 
tenth part of a night the journey of many thousand 
years.' 11 * 

We may dismiss literal interpretation as being incon- 
sistent with Muhammad's claims and teachings. His pre- 
cepts were a simple and rational piety, observances such 
as prayer and fasting, the sinfulness of idolatry, the wor- 
ship of one true and only God and claim to men's ac- 
knowledgment of the divine authority behind his message. 

Still the Meccans scoffed. They believed, doubtless, 

word Barq in Arabic means lightning. 



that his teachings were subversive of the social order. As 
men of business they were naturally averse from changes 
which they thought might be to their loss, and clearly any 
change in the traditional cult which brought thousands of 
pilgrims to Mecca each year was to be looked on askance. 
Was not Muhammad preaching that the city idols were 
ineffectual and abhorrent ? Some members of Muhammad's 
own family were, doubtless for political reasons, among 
his bitterest opponents, though some, like Uncle Abu 
Talib, who was now his protector, were well disposed but 
too good conservatives to abandon lightly the gods of 
their fathers. Muhammad was doubtless counselled by the 
doubters to walk warily and avoid trouble. Could he not 
keep his revelations to himself instead of bringing em- 
barrassment or worse upon his family? 

The early converts were obliged to meet secretly. They 
listened to Muhammad's sermons, prayed according to a 
formula and postures he had devised for them, their faces 
turned towards Jerusalem, and pledged themselves to ab- 
stain from the particular sins he most inveighed against 
idolatry, fornication, falsehood, theft, infanticide. 

Muhammad's converts grew, and the revelations in- 
creased. The passages of the Qur'an assigned to this early 
period are few and short and deal mainly with three sub- 
jects : the unity and attributes of God, morality and the 
coming Judgment Day. His teachings about the first two 
were the teachings of the Jews ; the third was the Christian 
doctrine of the Resurrection, Judgment Day and the life 
to come. 

The sensual picture of paradise is presented as 'a gar- 
den of delight existing for eternity ; below it flow cooling 
streams, perpetual, and in it also are streams of water uh- 
corrupted, and streams of milk whose flavour changes not, 



and streams of wine which are a delight to the drinkers, 
and streams of purified honey. Those who dwell there will 
enjoy fruits of every kind and have the forgiveness of 
their Lord. Each of the blessed will recline upon a richly 
decked bed, on either side a garden in which the fruits 
grow within reach of his hands. Therein are maidens of 
modest glances whom neither men nor jinn have touched 
before. ... As though they were rubies or pearls.' 

'Hell will be brought within sight of every beholder, on 
Judgment Day, as a burning fire. Those who are damned, 
whether man or jinn, remain in it for a long time, tor- 
mented by flames, all escape from which is prevented by 
long fetters. Above the hearts of the damned the fires of 
Hell shall be raised on columns outstretched, behind which 
there is no shadow or any protection against the flames, for 
they throw off sparks like castles or like yellow camels. 
The denizens of Hell shall taste no coolness, nor any 
drink save boiling water and ichor, nor any food but 
what chokes the eaters. All must pass through Hell, but 
Allah delivers from it those whom He wishes. They are 
those who have followed the way of Allah, but only for 
them is intercession permitted.' 9 * 

An allegorical interpretation of heaven and hell is held 
by enlightened Moslems as by enlightened Christians. The 
rude Arabs of Muhammad's day, however, could probably 
only have grasped a sensual presentation as was accepted 
by Christians up to quite recent times. But the sensual pres- 
entation is only one side of the picture. Muhammad taught 
a spiritual heaven, too, where there shall be no sin, where 
the presence of the Highest shall infinitely transcend all 
other joys, where all grudges shall be taken out of men's 
hearts, and peace and concord shall reign. 

With this vision of the life to come went an insistence 



on a life here below to be lived by a far stricter ethical 
code than that to which the people were then accustomed. 

But if all these teachings were already familiar enough 
to tiny Jewish and Christian communities they were revo- 
lutionary indeed to a great mass of the nomadic inhabit- 
ants of Arabia who lived segregated lives, many indeed 
seldom if ever visiting Mecca or Yathrib or any other big 
settlement, and the bulk of them not caring for religion at 
all, certainly not for the gods of the settled Arabs. 

Muhammad's consuming desire to save the Meccans 
from their sins was in vain. One revelation referred to the 
Ka'ba, where the idols were enshrined, as 'the House of 
God', but if the Meccans mistook the toleration of their 
sanctuary for a gesture or a sop, it was in any case insuf- 
ficient for them. They scoffed at this fellow townsman of 
theirs setting up as a prophet Muhammad, one of them- 
selves, Muhammad, whom they remembered as a boy, 
whose father and mother they knew and everybody con- 
nected with him. It was this individual that now dared to 
be contemptuous of the deities sacred to them all and dared 
suggest abolishing the source of the pity's prosperity. They 
must threaten him. They bullied and mocked his converts, 
ill-treating those who had no family or tribal connections 
to afford them protection. The plight of these followers of 
Muhammad estimated in the fifth year of his ministry at 
eighty-three families, perhaps six hundred souls grew 
more serious. Taking counsel with the Prophet, they de- 
cided upon flight to Abyssinia. There they went, were sym- 
pathetically received by its Christian king and given 

Muhammad and a tiny band of faithful followers re- 
mained in Mecca. But he was, figuratively speaking, driven 
underground for the time. The Meccans were alarmed by 



the growth of the movement and were resolved to crush it. 
The Quraish were intent on silencing Muhammad or ex- 
pelling him or worse. They issued an ultimatum to his sec- 
tion of the tribe, the Bani Hashim, demanding that he 
should be outlawed. The Bani Hashim were unbelievers, 
but to withdraw their protection from one of their own 
number at the dictation of others would have been a shame- 
ful thing to do ; the issue for them was a different one. 
They proudly refused to outlaw Muhammad; in other 
words declined to abrogate their right to revenge one of 
their members. The Quraish thereupon renounced inter- 
course with them, commercial and social. 

Persecution was hence the lot of any who dared follow 
the Prophet. The loss of his beloved wife, Khadija, and 
his uncle and protector, Abu Talib, his strong shield and 
a counsellor of the Bani Hashim, made his position parlous 
indeed. Mecca was no longer safe for him. He turned for 
a refuge to the neighbouring city of Taif, but Taif , too, 
proved hostile, and he returned once more to Mecca un- 
der the protection of an influential heathen merchant. Ten 
years had passed since the commencement of his ministry. 
He was now fifty: he had few friends and few followers. 
Two years longer he remained in Mecca, but he had to ex- 
ercise great care, though he was free to address himself 
to pilgrim visitors, and if these generally treated him with 
indifference or ridicule and the Meccans still reviled and 
persecuted him, his converts increased. 

One day a party of pilgrims arrived who listened to the 
preacher with more than ordinary interest. They had come 
an eleven days journey from neighbouring Yathrib, a city 
to the north, that had had its Jewish sect for hundreds of 
years and a city whose citizens are thought to have had no 
love for the Meccans. To these pilgrims the Islamic mes- 



sage made an appeal. They felt drawn to the saintly man 
who delivered it and was the object of Meccan persecu- 
tion. During their sojourn they came more and more under 
Muhammad's influence. Their conversion, indeed, was to 
be the turning point in the fortunes of the whole move- 

These Yathrib converts went back to their city carrying 
with them the tidings of a new-found salvation and of a 
religious wonder. They yearned for the fellowship of the 
great teacher and began to consider how they could per- 
suade the elders of the city to allow him to come and settle 
in their midst. 

Muhammad, as we have seen, had of late been living on 
sufferance in Mecca. Mecca was solid against this, the 
greatest of her sons. The adage that no man is a prophet 
in his own country might well have been said of Muham- 
mad up to this time. Hostility had never abated to this 
renegade^citizen, guilty of deserting the city's deities, this 
man who dared imply that the Arabs of past ages were 
ignoramuses and fools ; how could Meccans feel anything 
but loathing for such imputations and repugnance for their 
author 1 

Two years thus passed. The Yathrib converts had come 
to the Mecca Fair again, this time bringing with them an 
invitation to Muhammad to return with them for good. 
A secret meeting was called and a solemn promise of pro- 
tection and succour given. He was ready, nay, eager but 
felt he could not abandon his Meccan followers. These in 
any case had small reason for wishing to remain behind. 
They therefore decided to fly too. They left as gradually 
and as unobtrusively as possible. The Prophet himself re- 
mained to the end, then he, too, crept away in disguise, 
eluding those more extreme Meccan elements who sought 



to slay him. For two days he hid in a cave outside Mecca, 
then continued his perilous flight (hijra 3 ) northwards 
along the coast. Sixteen days later he entered Yathrib, 
perhaps quietly and unnoticed, though one tradition gives 
him a public entry riding a she-camel, his turban flying 
ominously in the breeze like a standard, and being hailed 
with acclamation by five hundred citizens who had come 
out to welcome him. Yathrib in any case had done well. 
She had gained for herself the title to be known as 'The 
City of the Prophet' ; in Arabic Medinat al Nabi, soon to 
be shortened to Medina, as we know it today. 

The people of Medina who sympathized with the 
refugees gave them of hospitality; those who did not suf- 
fered them with an ill grace. Some there were who opposed 
them and intrigued against them, and among this number 
were the Jews. At the outset a plot of ground was pro- 
vided, and on this was built the Prophet's house and the 
first mosque, the two possibly under one roof, the mosque 
being a simple room in which a palm tree served the pur- 
pose of chair or pulpit as befitted the essential puritanism 
of the Prophet's teachings. Revelations came, converts 

For ten years Medina was the home of the Prophet and 
the refuge of his followers. He continued throughout this 

'The hijra is the starting point of the Islamic Era. Such manner of dating 
differs conspicuously from that of our Christian calendar. We date our era 
from the birth of Christ, of course, but the Moslems do not date theirs from 
the birth of Muhammad or even from the year in which he commenced his 
ministry. They date it from the year of his flight to Medina (from the hijra, 
hence A.H.) when he had reached the age of fifty-two. This reckoning is not 
without significance, for the year of flight marks the year when Muhammad 
first enjoyed 'temporal protection to preach openly. 3 Islam was to become 
a theocracy, temporal power to have a valid and intimate connection with 
instituted religion, and the orthodox Islamic tradition, right down to the 
War, has been that the strongest temporal Islamic power, latterly Turkey, 
was the appropriate seat of the Prophet's successor the caliph. 



time with unabated vigour to teach the message which was 
being revealed to him. He taught men to pray 4 and in- 
spired them to lead better lives. He taught the wayward 
Arabs respect for authority. These ten years were also 
to witness the development of the movement from a reli- 
gion to a theocratic state. The faithful, hitherto a perse- 
cuted minority, became involved in a series of military 
operations that resulted in their becoming a majority: the 
Prophet, hitherto missionary, became soldier and states- 
man, too, which, at the end of his life, led to a temporal 
mastery not only of Mecca and Medina, but of the Yemen 
southwards and Najran. 

The early revelations which had counselled liberty of 
conscience and religious toleration had been utterly in- 
acceptable to the unbelieving Meccans. They had hounded 
the Prophet forth, they had sent an embassy off to Abys- 
sinia demanding the expulsion of his followers, and now 
they stretched forth their arm to strike at the movement 
that, to their alarm, was growing in Medina. 

The enmity of the Meccans was a perpetual menace. 
Muhammad as a God-fearing man would have preferred 
peace, but as a good Arab was not for peace at any price. 
The Moslems believed that the Meccans were set upon 
their extermination. Islam must now draw the sword in 
defence of itself. 

Persecution made Islam militant. To the Arabs of all 
time battle had been an honourable arbiter. The Arabs 
were a warlike people. They possessed the manly virtues. 
'The sword is the key of heaven and of hell; a drop of 
blood shed in the cause of God, a night spent in arms, 
is of more avail than two months of fasting and prayer : 

*In the second year at Medina a revelation changed the direction of 
prayer from facing Jerusalem to facing Mecca. 



whosoever falls in battle, his sins are forgiven: at the Day 
of Judgment his wounds shall be respendent as vermilion 
and odoriferous as musk and the loss of his limbs shall be 
supplied by the wings of angels and cherubim.' To ascribe 
this to the Prophet himself, as Gibbon does, is inconsistent 
with the revelations in which peace is exalted, yet the 
Arab writers who came to compose in this vein with the 
zeal of patriotism or devotion give us an insight into the 
psychology of the desert man who was soon to sweep across 
the world and make himself master of it. 

The intrigues of the Meccans with the faction in Medina 
opposed to Muhammad grew from provocation to threat. 
A revelation came, justifying recourse to the sword under 
the compulsion of tyranny, but it was a qualified use of the 
sword, justifying defence but not attack. This led the 
Prophet to despatch reconnoitring parties from time to 
time to keep a watch on the enemy's movements, such par- 
ties being given instructions to avoid collisions. One party, 
however, responding to its old-time impulses, raided a 
caravan of the Quraish, killed a Meccan and took two 
other prisoners. Now the raid in Arabia is the equivalent 
of war. By desert canons, then as now, one is as honour- 
able with them as the other is with us : for the spoils are 
taken in combat, a feature differentiating it from petty 
theft, which to the Arabs of all ages is wholly despicable. 
In a hungry land raiding is a natural condition, and, as 
with aggression in Western war, the motive is material 

Muhammad no sooner heard of this aggression than he 
condemned it ; it had indeed taken place in defiance of his 
orders. But even now, had the Quraish been as peacefully 
disposed as the Prophet the matter could have been com- 
posed amicably by the normal payment of blood money 



and restitution of the spoils. 5 This course the Quraish 
spurned. The incident gave them the pretext for war. 

Thus in the second year of Muhammad's exile a thou- 
sand Meccans marched north to encounter the Prophet 
and three hundred men at a well, not far from Medina, 
called Badr. Not only numerically were the odds over- 
whelmingly against the Moslems, but the Meccans were 
far better equipped. The Prophet retired into a small hut 
and offered up special prayers, then emerged, reciting the 
Qur'anic verse, revealed long since : 'Soon shall the hosts 
be routed, and they shall turn their backs.' 4 * 

It was a custom in Arab warfare of old, as a prelude to 
battle, for a champion from each side to enter the lists 
in individual combat. Of Badr Arab tradition records three 
such combats, and in each case the Moslem was the victor. 
The Meccans, goaded to fury, fell upon their adversaries, 
but in vain, and at last were obliged to fall back for lack 
of water and, being better mounted, were able to retire 
from the field, leaving, however, seventy killed and as 
many wounded. Although this was the first battle of its 
kind between those who had been exiled from Mecca and 
those who had exiled them, believers and unbelievers, Mu- 
hammad commanded the kindly treatment of prisoners, 
and some of these remained and embraced Islam. Others, 
who were rich, were ransomed ; those who were poor were 
freed. The success of Badr naturally had an influence on 
Medina opinion. Success against such odds connoted divine 

division of the spoils in the wars to follow the Prophet's death, 
whether of gold or silver, captives, cattle or merchandise, was determined 
by the division that followed this incident at Nakhla. One fifth was the 
Prophet's share and set aside for pious and charitable purposes; the re- 
mainder was equally divided between the raiders; later practice gave a 
double share to a horseman as an inducement to increase the mounted arm, 
and the share of the slain went to the widows and children. 



blessing; those Moslems who fought at Badr were hon- 
oured throughout life and those who were slain counted 

Mecca, smarting under the defeat, raised a force of a 
thousand horse and two thousand foot to move against the 
city that dared give Muhammad protection. Now Medina 
was not a commercial city like Mecca, but a group of vil- 
lage settlements that lived by agriculture, so that its out- 
lying fields were exposed to the ravages of an attacker, and 
Muhammad, doubtless with this consideration uppermost 
in his mind, marched out with his smaller force of only a 
thousand men to outlying Uhud. The Meccans advanced, 
accompanied by their women. ( I have myself witnessed the 
women of the Bani Bu Ali tribe in southeast Arabia run- 
ning at the heels of their advancing men, carrying full 
water skins. Another custom of the Arabs of antiquity 
was for men to go into battle shouting the names of their 
sisters that they might do nothing ignoble in the face of an 

Before the battle was joined three hundred of Muham- 
mad's force defected under the leadership of a hypocritical 
ally, yet so valiantly did the Moslems fight that the enemy 
at last withdrew, having gained no advantage. Rumour 
had reached them that Muhammad had been slain he had 
indeed fallen to a javelin wound, but a faithful few had 
rallied to his help and saved him so that the Meccans 
left the field of Uhud with Badr unavenged. 

Medina now lived under the continual peril of invasion. 
The hostility of Mecca was implacable, and soon came 
news of a great army assembling there with a large 
Beduin contingent whose object was to crush Muhammad 
once for all. All the resources of Medina were clearly 
necessary to parry the coming blow. On this occasion there 



was no marching out as at Uhud. Not only were Muham- 
mad's forces concentrated within Medina's defences, but 
these defences were of a novel kind. A trench was dug 
across the side of the city that was most exposed to at- 
tack a practice of the Persians whence the battle that 
ensued came to be known as the Battle of the Trench. 

A tradition of prophetic vision recorded by Muhammad 
Ali runs thus : 'In the course of the excavation they came 
to a hard stone. All exerted themselves to their utmost but 
they could not break it. It was therefore suggested to the 
Prophet, who had chalked out the limits with his own 
hands, to allow a slight deviation from the original plan. 
Taking up a pickaxe he addressed himself to the task which 
others had failed to accomplish. Getting down into the 
ditch, he struck hard at the stone which gave way, emitting 
at the same time sparks of fire, on which the Prophet, 
followed by his companions, raised a cry of "God is Great" 
and said that he saw in the spark that he had been awarded 
the keys of the Palace of the Syrian King. A second stroke 
and the stone was split, the same spark of light coming out. 
Once more "God is Great" was shouted aloud, the Prophet 
observing that he had been given the keys of the Persian 
kingdom. The third attempt broke the stone to pieces, and 
the Prophet announced to have seen the keys of Yemen 
coming into his possession. Then he explained that he had 
been informed that his followers would gain possession of 
all those countries.' 6 4 * 

The Meccans were now to advance. Although they 
made no sustained attack, preferring the methods of 
siege, troops of their horsemen made occasional sorties 

6 Many Arabs hold that the military enterprises which subsequently 
brought about the spread of Islam across the world were ordained by God 
and known to the Prophet: to them the true world religion, Islam, was in 
full vigour from the moment of its revelation. 



only to withdraw from the trench under a shower of ar- 
rows and stones. A deciding handicap was a shortage of 
supplies, for the Medina gardens failed to yield that 
which was expected of them. This also affected the de- 
fenders, and both forces would have welcomed an honour- 
able compromise, but the supply factor was favourable to 
the besieged, and a tempest of wind, hail and rain arose 
to scatter the tents of the Meccans. They had already suf- 
fered from desertions and were compelled ignominiously 
to withdraw* 

The course of events, not of Muhammad's seeking, had 
elevated him to the leadership of Medina. His followers 
had steadily been increasing, though a hostile faction still 
existed and became active, particularly in times of crisis. 
Belonging to this faction were the Medina Jews, and 
Muhammad had to turn aside from time to time to punish 
them for their treachery. Following Badr he had banished 
the prime offenders to Syria ; from the Battle of Uhud he 
had occasion to expel another Jewish tribe, who had 
sought to encompass his murder, to neighbouring Khai- 
bar; and after the Battle of the Trench he laid siege to 
the fastnesses of the intriguing Quraiza. After their sur- 
render Arab tradition makes them prefer that their fate 
should be settled not by the Prophet, but by a Jewish 
convert to Islam. His judgment was duly carried out. It 
accorded with the Jewish way prescribed in the Scriptures 
of Deuteronomy XX, 13, 14 the males (three hundred) 
were put to death, females and children were enslaved, 
their property was confiscated. 4 * 

Within a year of the Battle of the Trench Muhammad 
set forth from Medina to visit Mecca for the purpose of 
making the pilgrimage. Although the few hundred faithful 
followers who accompanied him went unarmed the Mec- 



cans were suspicious. They marched out with Beduin 
allies to block the Prophet's approach. He was forbidden 
entry. A ten years truce was entered into between the two 
cities, and an agreement made by which Muhammad 
should withdraw on this occasion but would be allowed to 
make the pilgrimage the following year, provided his 
followers again came unarmed and remained for no more 
than three days. 

Pilgrimage time came round again. The Prophet set 
forth for Mecca with two thousand devoted followers. 
This time there was no hindrance, and he performed the 
traditional ceremonies. But his outward homage at the 
holy shrine that contained the idols concealed an inward 
resolution to sweep them away when the favourable hour 
should strike. The strength and devotion of his following 
and his own bearing impressed the Meccans, and two 
eminent converts were made, Khalid ibn al Walid and 
Amr ibn al As, destined to be great military leaders in 
wars of world conquest. 

The Prophet returned to Medina, of which place he 
was now the master, and according to Arab historians 
forthwith despatched embassies to the great rulers of the 
earth, the Byzantine emperor, the Chosroes of Persia, the 
Aziz of Egypt, and the Negus of Abyssinia, summoning 
them to accept God and His apostle. The fire-worshipping 
Persian emperor is supposed to have treated the demand 
with contempt, whereas the Christian Byzantine emperor 
received the embassy favourably, but he must fain conceal 
his hand because he feared his ecclesiastical hierarchy. 

A tragedy, to which momentous consequences are at- 
tached by Arab authorities, attended the return of this 
mission. Muhammad's messengers were killed on the 
Syrian border. It was a contravention of the laws of 



tribal morality, an act of war, A force of three thousand 
men was hastily got together in Medina and marched 
north. It encountered an unexpectedly large opposing 
force of the lieges of Byzantium at Muta, just south of 
the Dead Sea and after suffering the loss of three com- 
manders was driven to retire on Medina. 

During this time the Meccans had broken their truce 
with Medina by killing an ally of the Prophet's and, al- 
though offered alternative terms, preferred to accept the 
consequences of their action. Losing no time, the Prophet 
gathered ten thousand men, placed himself at their head 
and marched southwards towards Mecca. 

In spite of the way the Meccans had treated him 
through life Muhammad, now an old man of sixty, bore 
them no grudge. He forbore to declare war though his 
object was investment. The city capitulated without a 
blow, and the Prophet marched in. A general amnesty 
was proclaimed for all but ten offenders. The Ka'ba was 
purified by the destruction of Hubal and the other idols ; 
the black stone of special sanctity which pilgrims had 
been accustomed to stroke and kiss and which was said 
to have been placed there by the prophet Abraham was 
spared, the old ceremonies being incorporated into the 
rites of the Islamic pilgrimage. 

The conquest of Mecca had its inevitable moral effect. 
Even the Quraish soon became converts, and if their idols 
were destroyed before their eyes their material interests 
were not only to be safeguarded under the new dispensa- 
tion, but to be enhanced. The surrounding tribesmen were 
stampeded by the conquest. Godless by inclination, they 
would doubtless have sought their own advantage. At 
first this led them into opposition, to support the intran- 
sigeance of Taif, but within a year Taif had capitulated, 



and thus Muhammad lived to see even the surrounding 
Beduin submit. Thus did the Prophet also become a 
temporal ruler, the master of a state, the middle-western 
province of Arabia, familiar to us today as the Hijaz. 

The dissensions and the enmity which had divided the 
settled man and the nomad, had divided Mecca and Me- 
dina, were thus brought to an end. Unity took their place. 
Rumour of an impending Byzantine invasion is held to 
have led the Prophet to collect a force and march north 
towards the Syrian border. The rumour proved insub- 
stantial, and the Arabs swept through Jewish and Chris- 
tian villages, subjugating them. The religious toleration 
which Muhammad showed was an example which his fol- 
lowers were faithfully to follow in the subsequent wars. 
The inhabitants were not asked to forswear their religion, 
and they were left in possession of their property; they 
were compelled only to pay tribute. 

The pilgrims to Mecca now contained an ever-increasing 
majority of those professing the faith. It was as profitable 
to be a Moslem now as it had been unprofitable in those 
days of persecution before the hijra. Muhammad issued a 
proclamation that only Moslems were in future to be per- 
mitted to make the pilgrimage, and to this day no non- 
Moslem has gone to Mecca for this purpose without 
affirming his belief in Allah and His prophet. 

It was one of Muhammad's last acts. On returning to 
Medina from his final pilgrimage, his health declined and 
he was overtaken by a mortal fever. For twelve days 
he presided at public prayers, and three days later the 
end came calmly. He died in the arms of his favourite 
wife, A'isha, at the age of sixty-two in the year A.D. 632. 

Our knowledge of Muhammad's life and works is de- 
rived from Arab sources. There are no contemporary non- 


Moslem authorities. Western authorities today suppose 
that much of this knowledge derives from oral tradition, 
cherished by companions, mostly illiterate and recorded 
later by believers in much the same way as our Gospels. 
This is not the view of pious Arabs. They believe that 
his utterances were faithfully recorded verbatim at the 
time, that the texts of the Qur'an were committed to 
writing at the moment of revelation ; it was only the collec- 
tion into book form that came about after the Prophet's 
death. Significant, they hold, is the fact that Muhammad 
ended his life in triumph, a national hero, a ruler as well 
as a prophet, so that his every saying, every action, every 
manner, every incident of his life would naturally have 
been the object of interest and investigation; indeed, they 
believe schools sprang up immediately after his death 
dedicated to his service in which A'isha, his wife, and 
Ali, his son-in-law, were foremost among the lecturers. 
According to the Arabs 'more is known of the life and 
character of Muhammad than of any other figure in his- 
tory. 5 

He was a man without pride, without ostentation, with- 
out cant, not a mealymouthed man, but a strong, just man 
and a generous man. Such indeed was the munificence of 
his good works that he died in debt, some of his belong- 
ings in pawn with a Jew among them his only shield, 
for which he obtained three measures of meal. 

By the standards of his people and times Muhammad 
lived a normally moral life. He was a bachelor till twenty- 
six, the husband of one wife till fifty. After Khadija's 
death he married a second wife, Sauda, in Mecca, and 
from the time he came to Medina, at the age of fifty-two, 
he acquired many wives. Eleven of them occupied cham- 
bers around his house at one time, a revelation having 


absolved him from the limit of four wives which the revela- 
tions imposed upon his followers. All appear to have been 
elderly widows except A'isha, the daughter of Abu Bakr, 
who was nine when she was betrothed to Muhammad and 
fourteen at the time of marriage (a normal age in Arabia, 
where twenty is considered passee the oriental girl of 
fourteen is indeed the equal of the European one of 
eighteen) . The elderly wives were widows of companions 
who had fallen in the wars, and Muhammad married 
them to shelter them and provide them with homes. None 
bore children; indeed, after Khadija, A'isha is thought 
to have been Muhammad's only real wife, except the Copt 
slave girl, Mary, who was one of the presents sent by 
Makawkis of Egypt in reply to the embassy summoning 
him to accept the Prophet's divine mission. Mary Mu- 
hammad freed before marrying and she won favour in 
his sight by bearing him a son, but the child died in 
infancy. Khadija, the wife of the Prophet's middle age, 
bore him four sons and four daughters. The sons all died 
in infancy, and the daughters all predeceased Muham- 
mad except the youngest one, Fatima, who as the wife of 
Ali became the mother of a considerable posterity. 

Muhammad despised pomp and lived an utterly simple 
life. Wine he forbade. Barley bread, dates and water, 
milk and honey formed his simple diet, but mortification 
of the flesh was no part of his religion. Except for the 
Fast of Ramadhan it is thought to have been odious to 
him, and Moslem fakirs and dervishes made their ap- 
pearance only some centuries after his death, and then 
not generally among the Arabs. He lived in great humility, 
performing the most menial tasks with his own hands ; he 
kindled the fire, swept the floor, milked the ewes, patched 
his own garments and cobbled his own shoes. There was 



an essential puritanism in his system. Divine revelation 
forbade the believer to wear either gold or silk a curb 
on covetous passions. 

His moral teachings sprang from a pure and exalted 
mind aflame with religious enthusiasm. From being a 
persecuted preacher, exiled to Medina, he rose, by a 
militant statecraft the Arabs believe a civil war not of 
his choosing to political power. 

This he enjoyed only in the last few years of his life, 
and this he used for the spiritual and material welfare 
of Moslems. He must clearly have acted in accordance 
with the best traditions of the Arabs, for without real 
sincerity and sustained goodness on his part those first 
ardent converts would not have stood by him through all 
the vicissitudes of a crowded and critical twenty-three 
years. His authority clearly sprang from moral as well 
as intellectual qualities. 

Muhammad, as we saw, made no claims to miracles, 
yet the sociological reforms he was instrumental in setting 
in motion among his fellow countrymen were little short 
of the miraculous. Before his coming the Arabs, animated 
by the fiercest passions, were immemorially at feud one 
with another. The incident following the Battle of Uhud 
when Hind tore the liver out of Hamza and chewed it, 
strung his internal organs and garlanded herself, shows 
the manner of man to whom Muhammad brought the 
message of brotherhood. 

Another barbarous practice of the Arabs of those times 
was that of putting girl children to death at birth a 
practice found today only in China, engendered there as 
in Arabia of the seventh century by hunger and poverty. 
To this day you do not congratulate the wild man of the 
deserts on the birth of a daughter: it is a matter that may 



with propriety be passed over in silence. One revelation 
deplores this attitude : 'And when a daughter is announced 
to one of them his face becomes dark and full of anger. 
He hides himself from the people because of the evil of 
that which is announced to him. Shall he keep it with 
disgrace or bury it in the dust.' 

The tradition remains of a companion who used to 
weep in repentance at having buried so many of his female 
children alive. This horrible practice the Prophet de- 
nounced and swept away. 'Whoever has a female child,' 
says a tradition ascribed to him, 'and does not bury her 
alive, nor hold her in contempt, nor prefer his male child 
to her, shall enter Paradise.' 

His humanity was all embracing. He never ceased to 
champion the cause of woman against the ill-treatment of 
his contemporaries. He condemned the practice of inherit- 
ing the widow with the rest of an estate as though she were 
a chattel. She must not be a despised creature to be 
ashamed of and to be ill-treated any more, but a person 
to love and cherish and respect : at her feet lay the gates 
of paradise. 

And so with slavery : he laboured for the amelioration 
of the slaves' lot, liberating any that were presented to 
him. He taught that the slave mother should never be 
separated from her children a precept not always ob- 
served in later-day Arabian slavery extolled the freeing 
of slaves as a penance, lauded the feeding of the orphan 
in times of famine and 'the poor man who lies in the 

Muhammad was clearly a man of sound judgment. He 
was a realist. He was a gradualist. To have attempted to 
achieve his reforms in a single stroke would doubtless have 
imperilled them. He first forbade his followers' using 



wine before coming to prayers lest they should not under- 
stand what they were saying ; at a later stage came total 
prohibition. Similarly polygamy without limit was radically 
restricted, 'You may marry as many wives as two or three 
or four; but if you fear you cannot be equitable between 
them, then marry only one. And you will never be able 
to be just between women no matter how much you may 
strive to do so.' Modern Moslem thought is persuaded 
that Muhammad was working towards the abolition of 
slavery and the institution of monogamy, but whether or 
not, the Arabs of his day were not ripe for these things. 
What he achieved, however, was a great and wonderful 

The obstacles that stood in the way of his aims Mu- 
hammad overcame as a practical man. A visionary ideal- 
ism would have left untouched the savage tribal culture 
of seventh-century Arabia. Muhammad had recourse to 
the sword, but his supposed zest for war is scouted by 
Arabs as a Western prejudice. And in spite of fond boasts 
of their own prowess in battle the theme of so much of 
their verse they are unanimous in the assertion that 
Muhammad never killed a man with his own hands. To 
him war was utterly distasteful, and he only took up arms 
and justified the taking up of arms in self-defence. Tight 
in the way of God against those who attack you but begin 
not hostilities,' he said. 'Verily God loveth not the 
aggressors. . . . And if they incline towards peace thou 
shalt also incline towards it.' 

The revelations which are ascribed to the early period 
before the Prophet's flight from Mecca had, as we have 
seen, chiefly to do with faith and morals, but as a com- 
munity professing Islam grew in Medina, so the divine 
revelations came to take on a political character. Positive 



secular as well as religious enactments are found in the 
part of the Qur'an assigned to the post-hijra period. Each 
revelation is said to have arisen out of some particular 
political situation. 6 * 

The great bulk of the Moslem scriptures is, however, 
devoted to the inculcation of high moral precepts. The 
essential teachings are a belief in an all-embracing universal 
God, one and indivisible, merciful and compassionate; a 
belief that God has revealed Himself through the 
prophets (in other words, a revealed religion) ; a belief in 
a future life to which death is the portal and which is a 
continuation of the present life. In a fundamental sense, 
therefore, Islam has a large common basis with our own 
religion, both, of course, having their roots in Judaism. 
The Moslem differs from the Christian in that he denies 
that God sent His Son into the world for its redemption 
by His suffering, for the Divine Essence was neither be- 
gotten nor can beget. The Moslem conception of God 
is therefore less personal than ours: His decrees are 
absolute and predestined and not to be swayed by inter- 
cession or sacrifice. There are, therefore, no priests in 
Islam, no confession, no intercession, no absolution, no 
sacrificial redemption. 

The Qur'an denies that Jesus Christ or any other person 
can be the Son of God; asserts, however, that Jesus was a 
true prophet, born of a virgin, and could work miracles. 
It denies His crucifixion; instead His enemies were per- 
mitted by God to crucify a criminal or a phantom, believ- 
ing it to be Jesus. Jesus was a mortal man and on the 
Day of Judgment will reproach both the Jews and the 
Christians, the one for denying Him, the other for deify- 
ing Him. Yet Jesus, according to Muhammad, was a true 
prophet every bit as much as himself, and references to 


Him, both in the Qur'an and by Islamic usage, take the 
form of 'Our Lord', while His Mother is never referred to 
except as 'Our Lady/ When the name of either is men- 
tioned, moreover, it is followed by the phrase 'on whom 
be peace.' It seems quite clear that Muhammad treated 
Christians with tolerance and respected their religion and 
their places of worship* It was the misunderstanding and 
misrepresentation that grew out of subsequent wars that 
led to the bitterness and the hatred, now happily dying. 

A fundamental difference between Moslem and Chris- 
tian is in the respective attitude towards their scriptures. 
To the former the Qur'an is the very word of God, so 
that the contradictions between it and the Bible are, in a 
Moslem's eyes, God's rectification of the mistakes that 
have crept into the scriptures of Christians and Jews. 
This conception does not invalidate the earlier prophets' 
message, for their message and Muhammad's message 
are held to have been the same: the earlier scriptures be- 
came corrupted and hence Muhammad's mission to restore 
them. Muhammad was not teaching a new religion : it was 
but an extension or a modification of the earlier religions, 
which he pronounced equally God-revealed in their pristine 

On Muhammad's lips our familiar Bible stories seem 
to us to be garbled versions, and Western authorities sup- 
pose that they were forms current in the largely unlettered 
Arabian society of Muhammad's day, for by tradition the 
Jews of Arabia had in many places forgotten the Hebrew 
tongue and had become illiterate. Moslems answer that 
the change will be found to be in the interests of reason, 
morality or decency; that according to the Qur'an the 
prophets did not commit the sins attributed to them in 
the Bible. 



More difficult of acceptance in the West is the form of 
creation 'jinn', which the revelations showed God to have 
created out of fire before He created man out of clay, 
among whom are believers and unbelievers and to whom 
God sent apostles. As with Christian scholars faced in the 
Gospel with first-century beliefs in evil spirits, such as 
figure in the Gadarene miracle, so also modern Moslem 
scholars look for a more rational interpretation of 'jinn' 
than the traditionally accepted one. 

But orthodoxy demands of the Moslem the acceptance 
of the Qur'anic revelations in their entirety. To the faith- 
ful the Qur'an is not a man-made book, not the work of 
Muhammad, who was just its passive medium, nor of 
later compilers. It is not merely divinely inspired as our 
Christian Scriptures are held to be. It is in itself divine. 'Its 
substance is uncreated and eternal subsisting in the Es- 
sence of the Deity. Its text is incorruptible.' Its ordinances, 
its precepts and its sanctions are held to have been not 
revealed for the exclusive regeneration of seventh-century 
Arabia, they are applicable to all countries and all times 
the revealed word of God in man's midst. 

The form and institutions of Islam came to take a final 
shape during those last ten years of the Prophet's life. 
Five cardinal tenets emerged : 

(1) Acceptance of the unity of God and the message 
of Muhammad. 

(2) The due performance of daily prayers. 

(3) The poor rate. 

(4) Fasting throughout the month of Ramadhan. 

(5) Making if possible the pilgrimage to Mecca. 

The Moslem rule of life is no easy one. Alcohol is for- 
bidden. The poor rate is an obligation rather than a merit, 
for religious law has decided that one fortieth of the 



believer's income is the property of the poor: to give less 
is a sin, to give more is alms a meritorious act and a 
pious duty. The Fast of Ramadhan, when no morsel of 
food, no drop of drink may pass a believer's lips between 
dawn and sunset, is more rigorous, particularly in hot 
climates, than our Lenten Fast. Prayer five times a day 
is de rigueur wherever the believer finds himself at the 
appointed hour between dawn and early evening 7 in the 
street, at his house, his place of business or elsewhere ; he 
must suspend his activities, free his mind from worldly 
thoughts and perform the set devotions. The spirit of 
Islam in its pure religious conception, like that of Chris- 
tianity, is to elevate and ennoble the believer. 

As has been noticed, Islam is not a sacerdotal religion. 
It condemns mediation between man and his Maker, Vho 
knew him before he was born, and is closer to him than 
his jugular vein.' Any Moslem of good character can 
lead the prayers in the mosque, though in practice an imam, 
a leader recognized for his piety and scholarship and 
devoted to the service of the mosque, does so. 8 It is a 
simple, dignified form of worship following a set formula 
of postures and devotions 9 (petitions and responses faintly 
suggesting an unintoned litany in the English church serv- 
ice). The worshippers do not bare their heads; they re- 
move their shoes or sandals, perform certain ritualistic 
ablutions and then assemble to form a long line facing 
Mecca (the Ka'ba), the leader taking up a position a 
little to the front of them in the centre. 

7 (i) Dawn or sunrise. (2) Midday. (3) Midafternoon. (4) Sunset. 
(5) Evening (bedtime). 

8 Friday is the Moslem day for congregational worship in the mosque, 
corresponding to the Saturday of the Jews, the Sunday of Christians. 

9 For those here given I am indebted to my friend Mr Mahmood Zada, 
of the Royal Legation of Sa'udi Arabia in London. 



Posture i. They stand in a reverent way, with the 
palms of their hands raised to the ears. 

Affirmations and prayers in a low reverent voice. 

f God is greater than all else' 

Posture 2. Still standing, the arms are lowered and 
the right hand placed over the left one. 

f Glory and praise to Thee, O God! Blessed is Thy name and ex- 
alted is Thy Majesty. There is no one worthy of worship and service 
but Thee. In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate. 
Praise be to God the Lord of the Worlds, the Merciful, the Com- 
passionate. The Master of the day of Judgment. Thee, O God, Thee 
only do we worship, and Thee only do we beseech for help. Guide 
us unto the right path, the path of those Thou hast blest, not of those 
with whom Thou art displeased, nor of those who have gone 

The worshipper then recites a portion of the Qur'an he 
has committed to memory, e.g. 

Say f Verily my prayers and my worship, my life and my death are 
unto God; the Lord of the Worlds. No associate has He. Thus have 
I been commanded and I am the first to surrender myself unto Him! 
'God is greater than all else.' 

Posture 3. Bodies are bent forward at right angles, 
the hands are lowered and placed on the knees. 

'Glory to my Lord, the Exalted.' 

A bow that is repeated twice more, each time with the 
same words. 

Posture 4. The standing position is resumed. 

f God accepts him who is grateful to Him. 
O our Lord! All praise be to Thee. 
God is greater than all else! 

Posture 5. The worshippers next kneel down, their 
bodies bowed over, supported with the hands on the 



ground, palms downwards, their heads bowed reverently, 
so that their brows touch the ground. 

'Glory to my Lord, the Most High? 

A bow that is repeated twice more, each time with the 
same words and ending 

'God is greater than all else? 

Posture 6. A sitting-kneeling position follows with 
the hands resting on the knees. 

f Glory to my Lord, the Most Exalted/ 

(repeated thrice) 
'God is greater than all else! 

Posture 7. The words and obeisances as in Posture 5. 

Posture 8. Is like Posture 6 and concludes the first 
phase of the devotions and is called a Rakat. Prayers are 
some of two, some of three, some of four Rakats. To end 
with, a prayer is said for the Prophets, the faithful and for 
the worshippers in some such form as the following 

'Homage be to God and all sincere worship is unto Him. 

f Peace and the mercy of God and His blessings be upon thee, 
O Prophet! Peace be upon us and all righteous servants of God. 

e l bear witness that there is but one God and that Muhammad is 
His servant and His messenger. 

'May it please Thee, O God, to be gracious to Muhammad and 
the followers of Muhammad as Thou wast gracious to Abraham 
and the followers of Abraham and to bless Muhammad and the fol- 
lowers of Muhammad as Thou didst bless Abraham and the fol- 
lowers of Abraham* for surely Thou art Praised and Magnified* 

This is usually followed by 

f O Lord! Grant that I may always observe my prayers and that 
my offspring may do so also and accept, O our Lord, this supplica- 
tion of mine. Our Lord! Forgive me and forgive my parents and all 
believers on the day of reckoning.' 



And finally the worshippers turn their heads to right 
and left with the greeting 

'Peace be with you, and the mercy of Allah/ 


D. S. Margoliouth's Mohammed. 
courtesy of G. P. Putnam's Sons. 

[6 4 3 


Arab World Conquest Eastwards 


PROPHET was dead. And now the rude Arabs were 
to surge out of Arabia under the banner of Islam and 
vanquish the great nations of the earth and set going a 
movement that went on for upwards of a century to 
follow, which history remembers as the wars of the 
Saracenic expansion. (See map at end of book.) 

The traditional view that the Arabs, following the 
birth of Islam, were fired by religious zeal to march forth 
on a mission of proselytizing the world is no longer ac- 
ceptable. Although Arabs themselves believe that the 
widespread propagation of the faith, of which they were 
the militant instruments, came about as God willed, it is 
extremely unlikely that the Beduin hosts at the time of 
the Prophet's death had any strong spiritual convictions; 
and Arab authorities, moreover, tell us that the wars 
were precipitated by acts of aggression on the part of their 
enemies, that the early expedition against Syria was to 
check the depredations of the Christian Roman Empire 
against peaceful Moslems over the border, that the raids 



against the Persians were the outcome of Persian provoca- 
tion in eastern Arabia. The militant policy of the Medina 
caliphate they thus hold to have been imposed by outside 
political events, which necessitated massing the Arabs to 
meet the invasion of two formidable powers. 

Here we must part company with the Arab interpreta- 
tion of history to follow those Western authorities who 
believe that the Arab wars were in their inception neither 
purely religious nor purely political, but chiefly economic. 7 * 

It was hunger and want that drove the Arabs forth to 
their wars of world conquest. Arabia was immemorially 
hungry, as is reflected in her earlier population movements : 
the Canaanite migration was one; possibly the Hyksos 
and Akkadian movements were others. A historic role of 
hers seems to have been that of a human reservoir that 
periodically overflowed, and in the centuries before the 
Prophet there were signs of another welling up. South to 
north waves of peoples from the decaying Yemen are 
associated with the tradition of the bursting dam of 
Mar'ib, and doubtless a steady spilling over of borderline 
Arabs into the fertile plains of Syria and the Euphrates 
Valley was always going on. Now in the new powerful 
state that was emerging within Arabia the two old safety 
valves that had relieved population-pressure infanticide 
and internecine warfare were forbidden. 

To return to that day in Medina when the Prophet 
died. He left no son to succeed him. Tradition represents 
his death as a surprise and a shock to the faithful, who 
had come to regard him, in spite of his protestations, as 
more than mortal man. He does not seem to have foreseen 
a near end or to have named a successor, but among his 
companions must have been those who thought on these 
things. So long as he lived, however, personal rivalries lay 



dormant. His decease was now to raise the thorny issue of 

The Prophet's nearest kinsman was Ali, his cousin and 
'the legatee', the husband of his daughter Fatima, the 
father of the Prophet's grandchildren, whom he was 
known to love, the son of Abu Talib, who had shielded the 
Prophet in his dark early days. Ali was one of the first 
converts, too, and his zeal for the cause, both in peace and 
war, had never wavered. His claims looked incontestable. 
But Ali's enemies were many. The aged Abu Bakr, father 
of A'isha, the Prophet's favourite wife, was an older and 
more venerable companion. He, too, was one of the 
earliest converts, and one on whose advice the Prophet was 
known to have placed the greatest reliance. The issue was 
decided by Omar, a companion of the greatest influence, 
and Omar sided with Abu Bakr. Their more powerful and 
active following lost no time in forestalling a feud and 
rallying the faithful to one leader. They met and acclaimed 
Abu Bakr khalifa (=caliph). This term, originally de- 
noting no more than 'successor', came to be a title rivalling 
'emperor' In majesty. Ali, greatly mortified that another 
was preferred before him, retired for a time. The indecent 
haste, as it seemed to him, of the selection has been sug- 
gested as the reason for his precipitate burial of the 
Prophet in the room where he died, though tradition has 
it that Muhammad had expressed a wish that public cere- 
monial attaching to a formal funeral should be avoided. 

Arabia, according to an Arab view, had achieved some- 
thing like unity under the Prophet's genius. Its tribes are 
supposed already to have been in adherence; but now 
some of them, supposing Islam to be dead with its founder, 
seceded. Military expeditions had therefore to be sent 
out from Medina to compel, at the point of the sword, 


the return of the renegades to the allegiance. This view 
that Arabia, vast and uncontrollable land that it was, 
should at the very outset have formed a political and re- 
ligious entity is thought by Western authorities to be 
historically improbable, for even Mecca itself and its sur- 
rounding tribes were in opposition to the movement up till 
a year or two before the Prophet's death. It is more prob- 
able that at the time of Abu Bakr's succession only the 
middle-western province about Mecca and Medina with the 
neighbouring Yemeni and Nejdi tribes formed a Moslem 
polity. Here indeed the Prophet had founded a theocratic 
state, but only very suddenly and at the end of his life. 
Except for the nominal adherence of Beduin tribes on its 
borders, therefore, the greater part of the peninsula 
would appear to have lain outside the pale of his political 
dominion, and certainly not to have been deeply affected 
as yet by the spiritual teachings of Islam. 

Abu Bakr now found himself the temporal and re- 
ligious head of this first Islamic state. The moment was 
one when it would have been opportune to distract atten- 
tion from the disintegrating effects of the Prophet's sud- 
den and unexpected end, prudent to find active employment 
for those Beduin who had been lured by its prizes to take 
up a profession of arms in the service of the state. 

For the tribes close at hand, who had become Moslems 
from political expediency, promptly seceded on the death 
of the Prophet to rally round other leaders pronounced 
'false prophets' by the orthodox. Khalid ibn al Walid, who 
had earned military distinction when serving with the 
Prophet, was sent against those who deserted to one 
named Tulaiha and later won renown as the 'Sword of 
God', the greatest soldier in the Islamic cause. Khalid 
passed on to deal equally successfully with still more for- 



midable opposition under another false prophet named 
Musailima. These and other expeditions sent against the 
seceders achieved their appointed end and extended the 
dominion of Medina throughout the peninsula. Their 
effect was to transform the wild Beduin into something 
like military organizations and to spread the belief that 
soldiers in the Islamic cause were licensed to plunder or 
exact tribute from unbelievers with whom the Moslems 
were at war, while to the pious, to die in the cause insured 
the believer the delights of paradise. During the brief 
caliphate of Abu Bakr the peninsula was brought under 
one political hegemony; there were no tribes left within 
whom it was lawful for others to attack. The Arabs were 
a unity. The spoils of the raid could only legitimately be 
looked for in the outside world. If in Medina and Mecca 
a pure religious ardour found for the wars a religious or 
a political mandate, the Beduin who waged them were 
doubtless actuated by worldly considerations. Products of 
a cruel environment and of ages of war, their resultant 
psychology was such that it did not change in a flash with 
the change of political or even religious allegiance. 

Arabia's powerful neighbours, Byzantines and Persians, 
had in the days of their strength been able to keep the 
peninsular peoples pent up, but at the time of the Prophet 
these powers themselves were declining. Their ancient 
rivalry had grown into a death struggle of continuous 
warfare. The year of the Prophet's birth coincided with 
a Persian invasion of Syria, and Aleppo was in Persian 
possession. While he was not yet thirty, maybe while 
still away on that caravan visit to Syria undertaken at 
the behest of his future wife, a Greek army was marching 
into Persia to place its own protege on the throne. At 
the time he was telling the unbelieving Meccans of those 

[6 9 ] 


early visions caravans from Syria must have been bringing 
news that the Persians were back again, overrunning Syria 
and Palestine, invading Egypt and Asia Minor; these fol- 
lowed shortly by news of a Byzantine army advancing 
through Armenia to attack Persia in the rear and enter 
the royal city of Dastagird. (See map B at end of book.) 
At one period six sovereigns had ascended the throne of 
Persia in the course of six months, so riven was she by 
internal dissension. Both these great powers on Arabia's 
borders were exhausted, their outlying dependencies in 
chronic unrest from neglect and discontent. For them 
there was a writing on the wall. The way was opening for 
the hungry, virile and warlike Arab hosts. The old ram- 
parts to the north had crumbled. 

It was a mistake then to suppose that when these hosts 
did first appear they came like Cromwell's Roundheads, 
inspired with a fanatically religious mission. It was not 
primarily a beneficent eagerness to share with others the 
blessings of Islam that brought them. Nor indeed did they 
come to impose Islam, for Islam in a political sense had 
only recently been imposed on many of themselves. 

We cannot suppose the Beduin to have been pious, God- 
fearing zealots like the companions of the Prophet; they 
were principally raiding bands of desert warriors whose 
allegiance to the new state was based primarily on self- 
interest. And whatever the higher motives of the caliphs 
of Medina and the enlightened Moslems of the settle- 
ments, there can be little doubt that the desert man himself 
was principally inspired by the hope of plunder. 

Those earlier expeditions of bona fide religious con- 
verts, one under the leadership of the Prophet himself, 
were clearly not proselytizing missions : for the Jews and 
Christians subjugated were allowed to keep their own 



religion if they cared to. What they must do, however 
(for the Arabs conceived of themselves as being at war 
with Byzantines) was to pay tribute. Higher motives can 
scarcely be ascribed to later activities carried out by 
desert warriors of less religious zeal and to whom, doubt- 
less, Islam was primarily a political allegiance. 

But however cause and purpose of the raiders them- 
selves may for the most part have been economic, the 
immediate and stupendous success met with gave the 
movement a new impetus and a new goal. The possibility 
of permanent conquest was forced upon the Arab imagina- 
tion by the very feebleness of the resistance, so easily over- 
come. The Arabs marched from victory to victory, from 
ambition to ambition ; the modest pillaging raids grew to 
be wars of territorial conquest; Arab sovereignty came 
to be the inspiration of the desert hosts. 

Before his death the Prophet had planned another 
expedition against the Byzantine borderlands. This was 
now allowed to go forward by Abu Bakr, while Khalid,, 
less eminent for religious zeal than for military prowess, 
next seized an opportunity of going off with five hundred 
braves to raid Iraq, his appetite whetted for fresh fame 
and riches. Khalid, on this latest adventure, had the luck 
that proverbially attends the successful general. His ar- 
rival at Hira, at this time the seat of a Christian bishop, 
coincided with an upheaval in Persia. The garrison was 
depleted and, though able to maintain itself within the 
fortification, was powerless to issue forth for open war- 
fare, so that the country round was at the raiders' mercy. 
Hira was therefore well content to buy off the raiders and 
promise to pay henceforward annual tribute as the price 
of peace. The raiders thereupon withdrew, some to return 
to their local tribes, while Khalid and the nucleus of his 


force turned north up the Euphrates, plundering as they 
went, to join forces with other Medina elements operating 
in Syria. For it was Syria rather than Iraq that loomed 
large in Arabian eyes, and expeditions thither suffered 
from no dearth of recruits. Had not the Prophet himself 
shown the way ! And now Abu Bakr had sent three more 
parties, said to number seven thousand tribesmen, one fac- 
tion under the redoubtable Amr ibn al As, a leader whose 
generalship in the annals of the conquest stands second 
only to that of Khalid himself. 

The native population of Syria, as the Arabs knew, 
were alienated from their Greek masters the Byzantines. 
These, embarrassed by financial difficulties arising out of 
the Persian wars, were obliged to make economies, and 
one of the most impolitic was to suspend subsidies to the 
Beduin tribes on the Arabian borders. Disaffection was 
the upshot, and the victims, although nominally Christian, 
appear to have made common cause with the Medina 
raiders an interesting commentary on the supposed 
proselytizing fanaticism of the invaders. 

The Arabs are not credited, at this stage, with having 
any concerted tactical plans of campaign. Each tribe had 
its own banner round which it rallied, while the leader 
harangued his men before and during battle, urging them 
on to valiant deeds. The old Arab tactics of the raid had 
been a sudden charge, withdrawal, a return to the charge 
and an exchange of arrows, when the weaker side would 
perhaps submit in order not so to antagonize the stronger 
as to be utterly despoiled. But the Arabs were quick to 
learn more subtle and sounder tactics from the trained 
Byzantine soldiery. Although as bowmen they were less 
accomplished their skill and courage with sword and 
lance established early superiority in close fighting. 



Compared with their adversaries, they were ill 
equipped ; their bows, spears and lances were inferior, and 
even slings are mentioned as part of their primitive 
equipment. Only the commanders and a favoured few 
could at first boast a coat of mail, though each man is 
thought to have acquired a helmet, a breastplate and a 
round shield. But the Arabs had not long to wait before 
acquiring better arms from prisoners and the slain and 
from armourers of the lands they conquered. They 
soon learned, too, to adopt the Persian practice of digging 
a defensive trench around an encampment when resting 
for a long period. On the move the force divided itself 
into a main body, flank guards and advance and rear 
guard, the last named bringing up the baggage, war 
stores, women and children, possibly also flocks and herds. 
They seemed to have favoured a 'five' formation, and 
drums were beaten, the stopping of which signified a halt. 

The successful early raids had the effect of attracting 
more and more Beduin adventurers from the deserts, so 
that the Arab concentrations south of the Dead Sea as- 
sumed alarming proportions, and they fed themselves by 
ravaging southern Palestine. The emperor, greatly 
alarmed, had sent his brother Theodoras south from 
Damascus, and he temporarily forced the Arabs back into 
their mountain valley bivouacs. Then a new factor came 
into play. This was the redoubtable Khalid. 

Khalid and his Arab braves, after Hira, had marched 
up the Euphrates Valley, thence across to Palmyra, and 
then appeared suddenly before Damascus in Theodoras' 
rear* Eschewing what must have been a great temptation, 
they turned aside and marched south through Trans- 
Jordan to effect a junction with their Arab comrades. The 
combined Arabs, probably led by Khalid, now hurled them- 



selves against the Byzantines, who had taken up a strong 
position between Jerusalem and Gaza, and utterly de- 
feated them. Theodorus fled from the field and was later 
recalled to Constantinople, and the Arabs freely dispersed 
themselves over the countryside of Judaea and Samaria. 

Medina awaited the return of her raiding columns that 
had left two years before, but she waited in vain. They 
had set forth to plunder, they were staying to conquer. 
Rich countries lay at their feet, far better blessed than 
their hungry Arabian home. The sight of undreamed-of 
prizes made of these barbarous invaders an invincible 
host. Success in battle was changing their outlook. They 
could not help seeing that a systematic occupation of these 
fair lands was within their grasp. 

At this stage, after a brief two years of office, the 
Caliph Abu Bakr died in his modest house at Medina. 
Again a successor must be chosen, and again Ali's claims 
were set aside. The late caliph had taken upon himself to 
nominate his own successor, and the matter was thus 
taken out of the arena of party strife. Abu Bakr's nominee 
was Omar ibn al Khattab, his own strongest supporter 
against Ali's claims at the time of the Prophet's death. 
Omar was a religious zealot and a man of resolute action, 
a man whose sincerity won the approbation of the faithful 
and the esteem of even the disappointed Ali, though later 
his name came to be execrated by the great division of 
Islam that championed Ali's cause. 

From the first days of Omar's caliphate news of the 
striking military successes of their raiding columns came 
trickling back to the tribes in Arabia. The effect was 
much like that of the discovery of a gold mine in a new 
country. Arabia oozed forth its peoples, the young men 
to join Khalid's forces, others with families to settle ad- 



venturously in the northern borderlands. The implications 
of these early migrations, within ten years of the Prophet's 
death, are significant. The Arabs were not proselytizing 
bands ; they were not merely out for plunder. They were 
already colonizing expeditions. 

The weakness of the Hellenized garrisons and the 
friendliness of the native peoples combined to bring a 
great rallying and reinforcing of the Arabs. Palestine, 
except for Jerusalem and a few coastal ports that could 
be reinforced from Egypt, was already evacuated. Da- 
mascus, the capital of Syria itself, became the Arab goal, 
and thither they marched on the heels of the fleeing 
Theodoras. Khalid, aided by malcontent Christian in- 
habitants, actually marched into the city but could not 
hope to hold it before a greatly superior Byzantine army 
that now approached from the north, and he prudently 
retired down the desert side of the Jordan. 

In the valley of the Yarmuk he called a halt. The Byzan- 
tine army approached from the west. The two forces 
faced each other for a long period under the hot summer 
sun a delay that favoured the Arabs, for they grew 
stronger by a steady accretion from the desert, while the 
enemy grew weaker by defection of native irregulars, 
and soon the numerical strength was about equal. Khalid 
having detached a part of his force to send it north to 
cut off the enemy's retreat, himself attacked from a direc- 
tion that forced Theodoras into a sector of the Yarmuk 
where his position was tactically hopeless. Here the de- 
fenders were thrown into great confusion, and the Arabs, 
pressing their advantage with energy, obtained a decisive 
victory: this famous Battle of the Yarmuk settling in 
A.D. 636 the fate both of Syria and Palestine. The Arabs 
marched on to Damascus to invest it a second time this 



time permanently. Catapults and mangonels that ejected 
stones, fire and naphtha, whose use the Arabs had now 
learned, were used against the gates in the walls of Da- 
mascus, ineffectually it would seem, for the city is said to 
have been taken by men who swam the moat on inflated 
skins, flung ropes with running nooses over the turrets and 
so hauled themselves up over the walls. 

The Greeks suffered losses at Yarmuk from which they 
never recovered, and the remnants of the imperial forces 
retired northwards to the Taurus Mountains. The Arabs 
quickly following up, Baalbek, Aleppo and Antioch fell 
easily into their hands. A few Hellenized cities of Pales- 
tine held out for a year or two longer, but the last of these, 
Jerusalem, capitulated to the Moslems in 638 and Caesarea 
in 640. 

Consolidation of their gains was no difficult matter 
for the Arabs. The native Semitic-speaking peoples, 
Christian though they were, welcomed the Moslems as 
deliverers an interesting commentary again on the sup- 
posed proselytizing fanaticism of the conquerors. Nor is 
the Syrian attitude to be greatly wondered at. Victims for 
centuries of the ravages of Byzantine-Persian wars, now 
subject to one power, now to another, their country had 
been wrested from the Persians by the Emperor Heraclius 
only ten years before the Moslem invasion. When at last 
peace came they found themselves burdened by heavy 
taxation and their Christian sectarianism penalized by 
the Orthodox Greek State Church. 1 They had risen in 
revolt; indeed, it had taken the emperor a year to raise 
the force that faced the Arabs in the Yarmuk, and, as the 
event showed, the Syrian irregulars had no heart for 

Heresy in Egypt and Syria at this time weakened the Byzantine power 
just as Arab nationalism weakened the Turkish power in the Great War. 



fighting. The Greeks had come to be hated far more than 
the Arab invaders who, at this early stage, assured the 
country complete religious freedom. 

For the Arabs the mastery of Syria soon led to the 
tail wagging the dog. Syria was obviously of more ac- 
count than Arabia, Damascus and Jerusalem vastly su- 
perior cities to Mecca and Medina, and the Caliph Omar, 
shrewd man that he was, foresaw the inevitable displace- 
ment of the political centre of gravity, which In fact took 
place at no very distant date. The Arabs were notoriously 
a race of individualists, and strong men would rise among 
them and play for their own hands. Khalid the Conqueror 
was known to be a member of All's party, and to have per- 
mitted him to be governor would have made him powerful 

After Damascus fell Omar sent a trusted companion to 
relieve Khalid of administrative duties. And now the 
caliph decided to visit his army in the field. 

Omar's visit was necessary to determine the manner 
of government of the newly occupied territories and to 
decide upon the disposal of lands. The division of spoils 
of conquest, whether money, goods or captives, had re- 
mained in the same proportions as decreed by the Prophet. 
That is, one fifth went to the caliph at Medina, the 
remainder was divided equally between the soldiers. But 
spoils of land had not in the early days been envisaged. 
The Caliph Omar saw that the acquisition and division of 
land between the Arab soldiers would not only be a thorny 
problem, but would lead to the political ends he most 
wished to avoid. He wisely decreed that landed property 
was not the right of the conqueror but belonged to the 
original private holders, and that, where these were un- 
believers, they must pay a special unbeliever's tax on it, 


the proceeds of which must be remitted to him at Medina. 

He instituted another unbeliever's tax, a capitation tax. 
The Syrians were largely exempted from the land tax be- 
cause of their assistance in the wars of conquest, so that 
Iraq, where the double tax was enforced, came later to 
be the main source of the caliphate revenues at Medina. 
In the light of the times the Christian Syrians must have 
regarded the imposts as light indeed, probably more 
favourable to the cultivator than the heavy war taxation 
of the hated Byzantines, so that Omar's decree on the 
land question was both benevolent and politic. On the 
other hand, another Omar, Omar II, half a century later 
imposed severe disabilities on subject peoples who would 
not embrace Islam. Unbelievers must not ride in a be- 
liever's presence. They might not wear the dress or the 
arms of a Moslem. They must abase themselves and not 
look to have their word believed against that of a Moslem. 
If they were permitted to retain their churches and syna- 
gogues they must cease using church bells or conches or 
any other obtrusive call to worship offensive to Moslem 
ears, and if they prayed they must do so under their 
breath. The great Omar of Medina made no attempt to 
upset the administrative machinery of local government 
as the Arabs found it, for the Arabs at this time had 
neither the education nor the experience to attempt recon- 
struction, and they wisely left well alone. 

It was Persia's turn next. The Persians were staggered 
by the Byzantine collapse. Mesopotamia had not so far 
been unduly harassed since Khalid's visit to Hira, for 
raids in that region were not popular with the Beduin, 
the opposition met with being far more formidable than 
that in Syria. The conquest of Syria, the Persians saw, 
would liberate a strong force for use against them, and 



soon an Arab army was marching down the Euphrates to 
join hands with another from Arabia that was biding 
its time west of the Euphrates. Qadisiya, not far from 
Hira, was the Persian stronghold. Here the Arabs at- 
tacked during a blinding sandstorm. Rustem, the Persian 
general, was killed, and his force was routed. The Arabs, 
pursuing, swept across the heart of Mesopotamia, crossed 
the river Tigris to storm Mada'in, the twin cities of 
Seleucia and Ctesiphon, the Persian winter capital. King 
Yezdegird, whose hold on the throne was already pre- 
carious and who feared assassination, did not attempt to 
hold Ctesiphon 2 but fled, and so the wealth and treasure 
of yet another capital city passed into the hands of the 

The two battles of Yarmuk in Syria and Qadisiya in 
Iraq 8 represent a turning point in the whole Arabian 
movement. From now on a steady migration flowed out of 
Arabia, never to return. Up to this point the Arabs had 
been raiding columns based on Medina; henceforth they 
were armies maintaining themselves in the field. In the 
early days the raiders were adventurers picked up from 
tribes here and there, growing in numbers as they marched 
along; from now on whole tribes took part in large mili- 
tary operations. The idea of dependence upon Medina 
faded into the background ; a quickening ideal of Arabian 
empire took its place. 

The unprecedented success in Iraq led immediately to 
the establishment of two military camps there, one at 
Kuf a near old Hira, the other on a site where Basrah now 

*The old arch of the Persian palace still stands on the Tigris banks. It 
is the widest span of any brick arch in the world, and where the British 
forces under General Townshend turned back in 1915- 

s lraq, the Arab word, has now superseded the Greek term Mesopotamia. 



stands, and these camps, designed as bases of operations 
against the Persians, in north and south, grew to be 
great cities in succeeding centuries. 

After his flight from Ctesiphon, Yezdegird held on 
despairingly on the northern Mesopotamian-Persian bor- 
der for more than two years, but his own unstable per- 
sonal position, weakened further by abortive enterprises 
against the invaders, led him to retire into Persia. Thither 
the Arabs followed him and, coming up with his forces 
near the royal city of Nihavand, once again gained a 
decisive victory. Yezdegird saved his life by flight from 
the field, only to lose it later by assassination. 

Another Arab force operating from Basrah was mean- 
while overrunning the southern provinces of Khuzistan, 
and a sea assault was made from Oman on the islands 
of the Persian Gulf and on the Persian coasts, an Omani 
force marching inland to Persepolis, which city fell as 
did many others. 

The capture of Nihavand in A.D. 641 gave the Arabs 
a strong Persian foothold, though it was'not until several 
years more that they scaled the mountain barriers and 
brought about the fall of Ispahan, Hamadan and other 
garrisoned centres in the interior. Nor was the pacifica- 
tion of Persia to be the easy matter that the pacification 
of Palestine and Syria had been. In the Levant the Arabs 
met with a welcoming reception from Semitic-speaking 
peoples long subjected to foreign masters; in Persia they 
met with stubborn resistance born of a different cultural 
consciousness and of a proud imperial past. Indeed Persia 
never became completely Arabicized, as were Syria and 
Palestine, for her language and her institutions survived 
the conquests; and, indeed, Islam itself came to undergo 
a Persianized development that was to make Shi' ism the 


great dissenting sect and one to which a considerable 
minority of Moslems belongs to this day. 'Never has 
captor more swiftly and subtly been captured by his captive 
than Arabia by Persia,' says Dr Hogarth. 24 * 

The Arabs, with astounding eclat, were conquering 
Egypt at the same time as they were so successfully prose- 
cuting their Persian campaign. The inception of that con- 
quest is the subject of a jolly Arab tradition. Amr ibn al As, 
most prominent of Khalid's lieutenants in Syria, conceived 
of the conquest of Egypt, acted on his own initiative, 
quickly raised a force from the Syrian garrisons and 
marched, without as much as 'by your leave' from the 
caliph. The caliph, on hearing of it, promptly sent orders 
after the zealous Amr, commanding him to return unless 
he was too far engaged In operations; and to meet the 
situation the intrepid general with f his blind eye to the 
telescope' as it were, speeded up his braves and crossed 
the Palestine-Egyptian frontier before acquainting him- 
self with his orders. On he went and abundantly justified 
himself. Modern authorities are inclined to view this 
tradition with their own blind eye to the telescope. 7 * 

The conquest of Egypt was necessary to the safety of 
Syria at this time, for the Byzantine fleet at Alexandria 
was a continual menace to the coastal towns of Syria 
and the means of reinvasion. The Egyptians were a sub- 
ject people, too, and no happier under their Greek rulers 
than the Syrians had been, and so were not any more likely 
to resent a change of masters. Whether or not, Amr, at 
the head of four thousand Arabs, crossed the Egyptian 
frontier in A.D. 640, It was a small force for so great an 
undertaking, but reinforcements of five thousand allowed 
him to march on Heliopolis, where he encountered and 
defeated the Byzantines. For a year or more he maintained 



himself in a fortified position at the head of the Nile delta 
and then pushed on to lay siege to Alexandria, the capital. 
During the long siege the unfortunate Emperor Heraclius 
died in Constantinople, and the Egyptian patriarch, re- 
turning thence, concluded a treaty with Amr by which 
the Greeks agreed to cede Alexandria, and so Egypt 
passed into the hands of its new Arab masters in the year 
A.D. 642. 

The headquarters of government were moved from 
Alexandria to Fustat, a military camp that the Arabs had 
just established in Egypt after the model of Kufa and 
Basrah in Iraq and, like them, to grow in after years into 
a mighty city Cairo. The year of its foundation was the 
year that witnessed the overthrow of the Persian king at 
Arab hands. It marked a period of amazing military 
achievement; for during the lifetime of these two first 
caliphs, that is to say, within twelve years of the Prophet's 
death, the untutored Arabs of the desert had defeated the 
armies of the two great contemporary empires of the 
time, Persia and Byzantium, and had wrested from them 
Syria, Iraq, western Persia and Egypt. 

But imperial expansion meant embarrassment for the 
Arabian caliphate. The days of the political domination 
of Medina were numbered. Omar the Caliph, a man of 
great capacity, doubtless foresaw it, but before it came 
about he was able, by his edicts, to found the institutions 
of the Islamic state in the occupied territories on a sure 

Omar's great task was completed before he fell, 
stabbed to death by a Christian slave of Persian origin. 
His successor in the caliphate was an unworthy one. 
Othman was an aristocrat and a man of great piety, but 
he was conspicuously ineffective. The high offices of state, 



both inside Arabia and without, were flooded by nominees 
of his family or faction regardless of their abilities. The 
followers of All accepted his unsatisfactory election by 
a reluctant vote of a committee of six with a bad grace 
and continued to intrigue against him. The new Arab 
world, too, fell more and more away; indeed, Mu'awiya, 
the governor of Syria, a gifted kinsman, already cherished 
personal ambitions. 

The Arab conquerors, supreme on land, saw the sea 
power of the Byzantines still unchallenged and the Greek 
fleet, based on Cyprus, a menace to their Syrian and 
Egyptian shores. Whether the northern Arab, unlike his 
southern kinsman, lacked a sea tradition but now took 
to the sea and rapidly developed a nautical arm, or 
whether the Arabs used native ships and seamen to trans- 
port their armies, they were ready in 649 to launch a 
successful attack on the enemy's sea base, and by this 
single stroke Cyprus fell into their hands. 

Emboldened by this spectacular success, they conceived 
plans for a fleet attack against Constantinople itself. In 
655 all was ready, but off the Lycian coast the Arabs 
encountered a Byzantine fleet of superior size, and 
though they were able to scatter five hundred ships, them- 
selves sustained such losses that the project had to be 
abandoned; and Mu'awiya was obliged to conclude an 
unsatisfactory peace, owing to a crisis that had arisen in 

The caliphate of Othman was tottering. The very mag- 
nitude of the Arab successes without was destined to lead 
to its fall, and Othman's maladministration and local un- 
popularity hastened the end. Hitherto the wars of con- 
quest had brought great revenues from the Prophet's fifth 
and the unbelievers' taxes to the caliph at Medina. The 

[8 3 ] 


Caliph Omar, while refusing to have a state treasury, 
wisely administered these funds in characteristic auto- 
cratic Eastern fashion, maintaining civil and religious 
officials, providing for pensions for the old and honoured, 
for charitable bequests and the like, and so building up a 
strong personal position. Medina did well, though its new 
affluence had led in Othman's time to luxurious standards 
of living in contrast to the simplicity of the lives of the 
Prophet and his companions. 

But now, under Othman, the wars of conquest had come 
to a temporary halt. No new worlds were being conquered 
except the remote fringes of Persia and Turkestan, and 
Medina revenues shrank to a trickle of their former flood. 
Medina suffered from a depression, and its government 
was blamed as better governments in more enlightened 
times and places have been blamed at such moments. But 
Othman, in feeble old age, seconded by a maliciously dis- 
loyal secretary, was not the man to face such a situation. 
The Arabs without, who had fought and were to fight 
again, had interests in such taxes as were being remitted 
to the caliph at Medina and there notoriously squandered 
on his relations and his unpopular following. Both Oth- 
man' s representatives governing Egypt and Iraq were very 
unpopular, and the peoples wished to be rid of them. Pro- 
tests grew into revolt. A body of five hundred malcontents 
from Egypt came on deputation to Medina to intercede 
with the caliph, but after despairing of satisfaction at his 
hands, besieged his house, broke in and slew the old man 
while he was at prayers. 

The murder of the discredited Othman by a fellow 
Moslem was a blow to the Medina caliphate from which it 
never recovered. Ali was now to achieve his heart's desire, 
but only when it was too late. A week elapsed before the 

[8 4 ] 


excitement caused by the assassination died down. AH is 
represented at the hour of prayer going to the mosque 
clothed in a poor cotton garment and a coarse turban, 
for, like his master, he despised the pomp and vanity of 
the world. In one hand he carried his slippers, in the other 
his bow, and as he passed reverent onlookers would 
salute him as their new caliph. But to be caliph now it was 
essential to command the allegiance of the Arabs of Egypt, 
Syria, Iraq, Persia, and their support was in grave doubt. 

Ali, as we have seen, was a disappointed man. He felt 
that his rights, based on a close relationship to the 
Prophet, had already been violated on three previous oc- 
casions ; his followers held indeed that the three previous 
caliphs were usurpers and no true caliphs. The question 
whether the Prophet's only surviving child, a daughter, 
and wife of Ali, was the rightful residual legatee or not 
now became a major issue and split Islam into the two 
great divisions of Sunni and Shi' a as we know them today. 

Syria, under Mu'awiya, already ripe for secession from 
any caliphate, promptly refused to acknowledge Ali as 
caliph, accusing him of connivance in the murder of Oth- 
man. Egypt and Iraq did accept Ali's representatives as 
governors, but if Ali were indeed to be caliph of Islam, 
Syria could not be permitted to remain outside the hegem- 
ony, and to win Syria the active support of Iraq was 
necessary. And so to Iraq Ali fled. Medina was thus left 
without a caliph, her treasury was empty, her voice of 
authority silent, and in her bereavement Arabia ceased 
to be the centre of the caliphate. 

Islam was now divided against itself. Iraq and Syria 
revived their ancient feud : no longer Christian Byzantium 
against Zoroastrian Persia, but Moslem versus Moslem. 
The feud at first threatened to develop into interstate 



warfare but resolved itself into a fight for temporal 
supremacy within Islam. For a hundred years Syria tri- 
umphed under the Umaiyyads at Damascus, until the 
supremacy passed to Iraq under the famous Abbasid 
caliphs of Baghdad. 

But to return to Ali. Even Iraq did not rise unanimously 
to acclaim him, for A'isha, the Prophet's young and 
favourite wife, and daughter of the first caliph, Abu Bakr, 
who had always been Ali's implacable enemy, had gone 
there before him with two other of Ali's personal enemies 
to raise the forces of revolt. According to one Arab tra- 
dition 'the Mother of the Faithful' rode her camel in and 
out among the hostile forces on the day of battle to 
hearten them and then took her place where the fighting 
waxed fiercest. 'In the heat of action seventy men who 
held the bridle of her camel were successively killed or 
wounded ; and the cage or litter in which she sat was struck 
with javelins and darts like the quills of a porcupine.' 11 * 

'The Day of the Camel,' as this battle is known in the 
Arab memory, went in favour of Ali and united Iraq in 
his favour. He now assembled an army and early in 657 
moved up the Euphrates against Syria. Mu'awiya, the 
governor, marched down to oppose him, and the two 
armies met in the plain to the west of the river opposite 
Siffin. One tradition revels in an account of ninety battles 
and fabulous casualties in which both Ali and Mu'awiya 
performed great fegts of valour and Ali displayed the 
quality of mercy, for his forces were enjoined to await 
the onset of their opponents, to spare them in flight, to 
respect the bodies of the dead and the chastity of female 
captives. Another tradition, perhaps more authentic, has 
it that battle was joined on one day in July, only to be 
broken off the very next day. 



All's opponents contrived to avoid a pitched battle, 
which might well have resulted in a victory for him. On 
the morning of the second day the vanguard of Mu'awiya 
advanced with copies of the Holy Qur'an tied to their 
lances. Awed by this solemn appeal to the Tablets of 
God, their opponents were restrained from onslaught 
against fellow Moslems. A truce followed, the parties 
agreed to abandon warfare and accept adjudication a year 
hence, when a representative of each side should meet for 
the purpose on the Iraqo-Syrian frontier. 

AH had taken a fatal step. Not only had he let slip a 
great opportunity to achieve his ends, but by agreeing to 
arbitration at all he abandoned the cardinal point of his 
case. In the eyes of his following his right was a divine 
right, not a claim susceptible of argument. A considerable 
body of his supporters left him next day, holding that the 
judgment should have been God's, i.e. battle, and these 
Khawarij, as they came to be known, were henceforth his 
enemies. Ali's forces lost heart, and, conscious of his 
losing cause, he led them sorrowfully back to Kufa. 

The conference to decide whether Ali were a true 
caliph or not duly assembled. Mu'awiya's representative 
was one devoted to his cause, no less a man than the 
gallant Amr ibn al As, the conqueror of Egypt. He had 
returned to Mu'awiya's service in Syria when All's repre- 
sentative assumed the governorship in Egypt, a post he 
was known to covet himself. All's representative at the 
conference was a lesser person and one whose attachment 
to Ali's cause was suspect. The result of their delibera- 
tions (if any deliberations took place) was interpreted by 
Mu'awiya as giving him a free hand. He forthwith pro- 
claimed himself caliph at Jerusalem in AJD. 660 and thus 
founded the Umaiyyad dynasty of Syria, whose capital 

[8 7 ] 


was Damascus. All's cup was full, and before another 
year had passed he was assassinated on the doorstep of 
the mosque at Kufa in Iraq by three fanatics who had at 
one time espoused his cause. 

Thus ended the fourth and last of the Medina caliphs. 
They had all of them been early converts and companions 
of the Prophet ; they were men of deep religious convic- 
tions, men who amid power and riches lived simple, strict, 
God-fearing lives. That three out of four of them should 
have come to violent ends is a commentary on the strong 
passions of their people. 

With the transfer of the seat of government from 
Arabia to Syria a great change came over the rulers. 
Yezid, the son of Mu'awiya and second caliph of Da- 
mascus, was feeble and dissolute, but that did not in- 
validate his succession, for caliphs were in future to rule, 
not in virtue of piety and religion as did the early caliphs 
of Medina, but as Arab aristocrats in virtue of hereditary 

The tragedy of Ali's assassination did not end there. 
His two sons, Hassan and Husain, were also fated to a 
violent end. Hassan, who had inherited his father's po- 
sition in Iraq, but not his ambition, submissively agreed to 
retire on a pension to Medina in favour of Mu'awiya 
rather than be the instrument of plunging Irak Moslems 
into civil war with their Syrian brethren. There in Medina 
he lived piously and devoted himself to charitable works, 
only to be poisoned eight years later by one of his wives. 
Husain, endowed with more of his father's fervour, 
dreamt of wresting Iraq from Yezid. Lured by an invita- 
tion from a discontented faction in Iraq to come and lead 
them in revolt against the Syrian yoke, he trustingly 
crossed the desert, but on approaching Kufa he discovered 



that he had been misled as to the extent of the unrest and 
that his approach had been anticipated by the Caliph 
Yezid's representative, who had sent out five thousand 
men to surround him. 

It is possible that Husain could have escaped into the 
desert and awaited a more favourable opportunity, and 
this course his sister spent the night imploring him to 
take, but his passionate belief in his cause drove him on. 
One tradition, doubtless apocryphal, tells of how he and 
his handful of supporters cut off their own retreat after 
the manner of the brave men of old by digging a trench 
in their rear and filling it with faggots* Then Husain, a 
sword in one hand and a Qur'an in the other, led his 
martyrs forward. One of the opposing chiefs, moved 
by the heroism, himself deserted to their side, knowing 
full well that it led to the immediate joys of paradise. 
Steeled to a supernatural strength, they were irresistible 
in close combat, but their enemy, greatly outnumbering 
them, had only to keep off and send a shower of arrows 
into them to achieve success. One by one they fell, till only 
Husain remained. Though struck in the mouth by an ar- 
row, the grandson of the Prophet could still have been 
spared by a merciful enemy ; but this mercy was wanting, 
and he fell at last, lacerated with the wounds of thirty- 
three strokes of sword and lance. His body was trampled 
on, his head was cut off and brought to the governor of 
Kufa, who, when he saw it, struck with his cane across 
the bleeding mouth. 'Alas 1 J burst out an aged stander-by 
c on those lips I have seen the lips of the Prophet of God 1* 

The surviving sisters and children of Ali the Martyr 
were brought in chains before the Caliph Yezid at Da- 
mascus, who might have rid himself of them had he cared 
but instead exercised his clemency and allowed them to 


depart. Their posterity in later centuries grew and were 
especially revered. I have many times witnessed the south 
Arabian native holding the back of the hand of one of 
them to his own nostrils, to take a hearty sniff, believing 
that he imbibed virtue by this act. In Persia and Iraq their 
descendants till recent times were not obliged to work, 
for all would give alms to them. 

But it was the imams, i.e., Ali, Hassan, Husain and 
Husain's nine lineal descendants, who enjoyed the special 
veneration of the Shi 5 a branch of Islam as the only right- 
ful caliphs following the Prophet, and whose tombs, 
glorious specimens of Persian art, are found today over- 
looking the Euphrates in Iraq and in Khorasan places of 
Shi'a pilgrimage. The most notable and venerated are the 
mosque of Ali at Najaf and the mosque of Husain at Ker- 
bela. The twelfth and last imam of this hereditary apostolic 
succession of the Shi'as did not die, it is held, but disap- 
peared into a cave at Samarra. He is alive still, after 
nearly a thousand years, though hidden from men's eyes, 
and will manifest himself some day to denounce and over- 
throw an anti-Christ who will appear and disturb the 
earth before the Judgment Day. The mahdi, as this 
twelfth imam is called, has on at least one occasion been 
impersonated in the Sudan with disconcerting effects to 
public peace and the tranquillity of British authorities. 

It is the martyrdom of Ali and his sons, almost more 
than the doctrine of their exclusive hereditary right to 
succeed the Prophet, that characterizes the Shi' a faith 
of later times, and around these saints and martyrs the 
famous Passion play of the East is woven, to sadden the 
streets of the Shi'a towns of Persia and Iraq on the 
tenth day of Muharram. The growth of this movement 
is bound up with the conquest of the old Persian empire, 



for the Arabs in overcoming communities with a more 
advanced culture than their own themselves became Per- 
sianized, and their religion also came to undergo this 
Persianized development. Schism developed early arounc 
the principle of Ali's divine right to succeed, based on the 
belief of exclusive spiritual heir ship to the Prophet, a doc- 
trine the Persians made peculiarly their own. This doctrine 
of an hereditary apostolic succession by which divine virtue 
could pass only in the Prophet's seed came near to a doc- 
trine of incarnation, and whatever the teachings of the 
Prophet, the idea could not have been new or distasteful 
to converts from Christianity, who were then or 
later to embrace the Shi'a form of Islam. As a challenge 
to the legality of the Umaiyyad caliphs, Shi' ism was in the 
course of a century to become a political weapon for end- 
ing Arab dominance in the Islamic state. 

Meanwhile under the Damascus caliphate the Arab 
armies carried on their campaign in eastern Persia with the 
same indomitable spirit that had carried them there. 
Within twenty years of the fall of Nihavand they had 
overcome the two easternmost provinces of Khorasan and 
Seistan and were raiding into Afghanistan, undaunted by 
native outbreaks in the unpacified areas behind them. 
Hajjaj ibn Yusuf, the strong governor of Iraq, seems to 
have been the moving spirit of these distant activities, and 
when recruits for them fell off, presumably as a result of 
improved conditions of life in growing Arab communities, 
for the old camps of Basrah and Kufa were fast becoming 
rich cities, he resorted to compulsory levies under penalty 
of death. No less than twenty thousand men are supposed 
to have been drafted to the Persian wars from Iraq. Even 
then the shortage of men in the field is known to have 
driven Arab generals to the bold course of enlisting Per- 



sian irregulars before Persia had been properly subju- 
gated, and the victorious army of five thousand that 
crossed the Oxus after the fall of Balkh in 669 is held to 
have been one fifth Persian. 

Within a generation the invincible Arabs had overrun 
the entire province of Trans-Oxiana and annexed the 
mighty cities of Samarkand and Bokhara. At this point, 
a borderland between two races of mankind the Cau- 
cusoids and the Mongoloids it is of interest to note Arab 
military expansion into Asia reached its uttermost limit. 4 

*The expansion of Islam into further Asia, as also into inner Africa and 
eastern Europe, does not properly belong to these Arab wars. It came about 
later, either as the result of waves of conquest carried on by non-Arab 
peoples who had embraced Islam or from the proselytizing zeal of Moslems, 
Arabs and others. The starting point was this last-to-be-acquired Trans- 
Oxus fringe of Islam. The Emperor Mahmud of Ghazna, who had made 
himself independent of the Persian Samanids, invaded India, and the 
province of the Punjab was annexed by his son early in the eleventh cen- 
tury. Another wave of Iranian Moslems overran Gujerat and Kashmir, to 
be followed a century later by an Afghan annexation of Sind and Mooltan, 
and thus Islam was spread across northern India. Thence towards the 
close of the thirteenth century it was carried under a Turkish house through 
the Deccan into southern India. The Turks from the steppes of Central 
Asia carried Islam into southeastern Europe in the fourteenth century. Else- 
where the extension of Islam came about by peaceable means. From India 
it naturally spread by trade intercourse through the East Indies, Java 
becoming its particular stronghold from the missionary efforts of south 
Arabians who had settled there. From Egypt Islam was carried up the 
Nile into the Sudan, and at a much later time the establishment of Arab 
sultanates in East Africa, notably Zanzibar, led to its penetration into 
equatorial Africa. 



Arab World Conquest Westwards 

STWARDS the wave of Arab expansion along the 
north coast of Africa rolled more uncertainly. It was a 
slowed-down wave that broke over the walls of Carthage, 
a midway point, after caliphs had been reigning in Damas- 
cus for upwards of a quarter of a century and Arab do* 
minion eastwards had well-nigh reached its utmost Asiatic 
limit beyond the Oxus. 

On this western front the Arabs, after their early con- 
quest of Egypt, had for a generation been content with 
plundering forays into Cyrenaica, Tripoli and latterly into 
Tunis then called Ifrikiya and to be identified with our 
word 'Africa ' and with a light and precarious occupa- 
tion of the lowlands. Authorities are prone to ascribe this 
delay in a determined penetration to the fierce opposition 
of the native inhabitants of north Africa on the grounds 
that the Berbers were a race not so naturally predisposed 
to the Arabs as the kindred Aramaeans of Syria had been, 
and were therefore prepared to defend more vigorously 
their nationality, customs and language against fresh alien 



Rather it would seem that the Arab hunger for fresh 
territory had been sated by the conquest of the Near and 
Middle East. The superior material rewards of the east- 
ern campaigns as compared with those of the north Afri- 
can deserts acted as a stronger magnet, while the 
formidable obstacles that lay in the way of the eastern at- 
tainments fully occupied the Arabs at this time. It would be 
strange indeed if the unorganized Berbers could have 
stemmed a flood which was submerging the imperial Per- 
sians, a people not less proud of their own language and 
customs and possessing a highly developed political and 
military organization. 

The difference in race and outlook between Berber and 
Arab is wont to be overstressed. Even allowing for the 
Arab strain in north African populations that followed 
the infiltrations of the seventh and eleventh centuries, the 
indigenous non-Arabic speaking Berbers of the High Atlas 
today strike the writer as being racially akin to Arabs he 
has met in Aleppo and the faraway mountains of Oman ; 
in a cultural sense, too, the Berbers were made up of tribes 
of rude pastoralists, and their minds could scarcely have 
been of essentially different temper from those of the 
early Arab invaders. 

The lowlands of Cyrenaica and Tripoli are said to have 
been early and easily Islamized, but traditions speak of 
the Berbers of Tunisia as Jews and Christians, though it 
is more likely that they were chiefly pagans practising ani- 
mistic cults like the bulk of their brethren to the west 
the Berbers of central Maghrib (Algeria) and western 
Maghrib (Morocco). At the time of the Arab invasion 
the Byzantines were masters of the coasts, a prefect of 
the emperor ruling from Tripoli to Tangier, but it is 
thought that outside the garrisoned towns the Berbers had 



never at any time been properly subjugated whoever the 
invader Byzantine, Vandal, Roman or Phoenician. 

In the year 670 the earlier spasmodic warfare of the 
Arabs gave place to something far more serious that boded 
ill alike for Berber independence and Byzantine suze- 
rainty. This was the establishment of a regular military 
camp at Qairawan to the south of Tunis as a base of oper- 
ations, after the model of Basrah and Kufa a camp that 
was destined to grow in a few years to be the capital city 
of the Arab west. Its conception is associated with the 
Arab hero Uqba, a haughty and brave leader, who, greatly 
to the taste of the Arabs, was no soft-spoken diplomat 
but a master of the sword, and whose exploits at the head 
of a body of horsemen riding madly through the oases of 
the northern Sahara fringe, striking terror into the foe, 
make him a legend in north African deserts to this day. 
Uqba seems to have lost the confidence of his caliph, for 
he was superseded for a time by one Dinar, not so flashy 
a soldier perhaps, but a more farseeing one, for Dinar's 
policy of conciliating the Berbers and regarding the By- 
zantines as the main enemy was one that was ultimately 
adopted and proved successful. Meanwhile Uqba was re- 
instated, and according to tradition he kept Dinar as his 
prisoner in chains and thus took him on his raids against 
the Berbers. Greatly daring, he is held to have cut his way 
through to the Atlantic shores at Tangier in 682, but on 
his return was ambushed in the Atlas and slain, Dinar 
sharing his fate. 

A temporary reconquest of Qairawan from the Arabs 
under a priestess (kahina), according to tradition a Jew- 
ess of the priestly tribe of Levi (Kahina=Cohen), was 
the outstanding feature of a period of resistance which 
lasted for twenty years, while Moslem fortunes waxed and 



waned so that some Berbers are said to have apostatized 
a dozen times. It was only when the Arabs persuaded the 
Berbers that their interests lay with Islam, when the Ber- 
bers saw the opportunity of joining hands with the Arabs 
to expel the Hellenized and Latin populations of north 
Africa to Spain and Sicily and of following them across 
the sea to plunder the treasuries of southern Europe, that 
the Arab path westwards was made smooth; but if the 
Berbers ever regarded the Arabs as liberators from a for- 
eign yoke they were soon to find that they had only 
changed masters. 

Carthage fell in 697698, and with it fell the power of 
the Byzantines and that of their local Berber allies of 
Tunis and Algeria. The Arabs had obtained the command 
of the sea in the Mediterranean at about this time, and 
their fleet played an important part in the siege of Car- 
thage, and thereafter its co-operation was to afford effec- 
tive assistance in the movement westwards to the shores 
of the Atlantic and northwards across the straits into 
southern Europe. 

With the investment of Tangier in 710, Spain loomed 
up temptingly beyond the straits, but there was neither 
need nor desire on the part of the Arabs for further ex- 
pansion. It was the allied Berbers who seized the chance 
of improving their material condition by promptly set- 
ting off on piratical raids to the Balearic Islands and to 
southern Spain. 

Spain at this time was ruled by a Visigothic aristocracy, 
but it was not a united country. As in Persia before its 
fall, the state had been undermined by internal dissensions 
and traitorous factions and was ready to collapse before 
a conqueror possessing the military prowess of the Mos- 
lems. Visigothic and Spanish-Roman antagonisms had only 



ately been composed ; strife between Visigoth nobles them- 
,elves still continued; the Jews were utterly estranged by 
>ersecution; and the enslaved classes did not care who 
uled them. For a hundred years a struggle had been in 
)rogress between king and nobility ; the king, supported by 
he clergy, was anxious to establish an hereditary dynasty 
vith despotic powers ; the nobles, ambitious for their own 
iggrandisement, preferred to elect one of themselves to 
he throne whenever it became vacant, thus, at time of 
uccession, causing political unrest by supporting some one 
andidate, some another. 

The only continuity during that period had been a con- 
inuity of Jewish persecution by the king's council, in 
Fhich church influence was dominant. At the outset the 
"ews increased and prospered under protection of the old 
Ionian law. This, in theory, did impose disabilities; mar- 
iages with Christians, for instance, were forbidden, and 
ews might not occupy public office or own Christian slaves, 
>ut in practice the law was administered laxly, and all 
hese things had been allowed. Early in the seventh cen- 
ury, however, under a bigoted Visigoth sovereign, the law 
ame to be more rigorously enforced, and Jews were of- 
ered the alternative of being baptized into the Catholic 
aith or suffering banishment and the confiscation of their 
troperty/ Persecution ebbed and flowed under successive 
aonarchs. It was at its height but a few years later when 
ews were required to forswear their religion on penalty 
>f death and henceforth profess and practise Christianity; 
n oath was devised for future kings, whereby they must 
ndertake not to permit Jews to violate the Christian 
aith or allow them 'to open up the path of prevarication 
o those who are hovering on the brink of unbelief.' In the 
diddle of the century the king had to bind himself to 



maintain the Catholic religion, prosecute all Jews and 
heretics, and those who refused to be converted were to be 
stoned to death or burnt alive. Thirty years later Jews 
were required to receive baptism under penalty of banish- 
ment, scourging and loss of hair. 

It is scarcely to be wondered at, therefore, that in A.D. 
694 the Jews were guilty of conspiring with those who 
dwelt in lands beyond the sea, i.e. north Africa, with a 
view to overthrowing the state a conspiracy that brought 
upon its perpetrators penal measures by which the for- 
tunate suffered the loss of their property, others were re- 
duced to slavery. Within fifteen years the Moslems in- 
vaded Spain and brought the Jews deliverance. 

A year before the landing the death of the Visigothic 
king and the ensuing struggle for the succession had the 
usual disturbing effects throughout the land. Roderick 
and Achila, two nobles, were the rival claimants to the 
throne; Roderick was chosen, whereupon Achila and his 
immediate" supporters fled to Africa for refuge, as Visi- 
goth nobles had done in 642 under similar circumstances 
and probably on many earlier occasions. But meanwhile the 
rule of north Africa had passed into Moslem hands, the 
ruler and representative of the caliph of Damascus was 
an Arab, Musa ibn Nusair, and Musa readily agreed to 
espouse Achila's cause. 

The first invasion of Spain was undertaken ostensibly 
to assist Achila, in reality probably with a view rather to 
plunder than to conquest, for the caliphs are supposed to 
have regarded these later military expeditions in the dis- 
tant outposts of empire with misgiving. Musa probably 
thought of it as just another summer raid, a means of keep- 
ing the Berbers happily occupied ; three years before they 
had raided Majorca, and only the year before had passed 



on to the mainland, skirmished through Andalusia and re- 
turned to Algeciras loaded with spoils. But if he did, he 
underestimated his Berber general, the freed slave Tariq, 
who had been appointed governor of Tangier, for Tariq 
was now to conquer Spain. 

With a force of seven thousand men, mostly Berbers, 
Tariq crossed the straits in the year A.D. 711 and landed 
near Gibraltar, a name that immortalizes his own, for it is 
the anglicized form of the arabic Jabal Tariq, i.e. the 
mount of Tariq. At first the force indulged in piracy and 
highway robbery along the coast, spreading terror far and 
wide. The unpopular King Roderick gathered a force to 
oppose the invaders, and at Salado a great battle took 
place. The day went in Tariq's favour, and Roderick, the 
victim of the treachery of his political enemies, was 
slain. Emboldened by this success and by the knowledge 
that the native populations hated their Gothic rulers, 
Tariq conceived the bold plan of marching on the capital, 
at that time Toledo. The Jews welcomed and assisted the 
invaders, a natural enough revenge for their long perse- 
cution, and their reward came later when Spanish trade 
passed largely into their hands. Cordova fell by treachery, 
the aristocracy and priesthood did not await the Moslems 
but fled, and Tariq had only one serious battle to fight 
during his triumphal march on Toledo, which city, again 
by treacherous act, threw open its gates to him. 

Tariq's boldness had, by one lightning stroke, destroyed 
the Gothic rule in Spain, and Musa, lord of north Africa, 
though staggered by the event, was quick to seize the op- 
portunity of adding Spain to the caliphate despite the 
caliph and incalculable riches to his own purse. He 
gathered an army of eighteen thousand men and next year 
himself landed in Spain at their head. Tariq's way had 



been the bold and dangerous one of marching through the 
very heart of the country to the capital, leaving great for- 
tified cities in his rear, a plan that invited disaster, for in 
normal conditions his retreat might well have been cut off. 
Musa followed the more orthodox course of laying siege 
to all fortified places on his way. Seville, a former capital 
and the intellectual centre of Spain, was strongly garri- 
soned and stood his siege for many months, and other 
cities in which the Goths were powerful stubbornly re- 
sisted, but one by one these fell, and after two years of 
arduous campaigning Musa, too, reached his objective, 
Toledo. One of his first acts there was to disgrace Tariq, 
whose brilliant success had aroused his jealousy, but within 
a few weeks he himself was to suffer similarly at the hands 
of an ungrateful caliph who recalled him to Damascus. 

The pacification of Spain fell to his successors, but after 
four years Moslem hold was already sufficiently consoli- 
dated over the whole country (except for the mountainous 
strip of northern coast, Asturias, which continued to be 
a Latin principality) to permit of raids over the Pyrenees 
into Gaul. In the north the France of the future was at this 
time in the making, but the south was divided up into petty 
principalities perpetually at war one with another. It was 
this disunity among the Franks that gave the invaders' 
lust for plunder the necessary provocation and oppor- 
tunity. Under Samh, the fifth successor of Musa, these 
sporadic raids gave place to a more ambitious design. 
Narbonne was captured in A.D. 720, a place that served as 
a base for more extended operations and in which the 
Arabs maintained a footing for nearly forty years. But 
on Toulouse a Moslem attack with battering rams was 
easily repelled, the invaders being weakened by quarrels 
between Arabs and Berbers. 



Emboldened, however, by the internecine warfare in 
which the small Frankish states continued to indulge, a 
large Saracen force was assembled by Abdul Rahman, one 
of Musa's successors, who now himself crossed the Pyre- 
nees ; Avignon fell in 730, the march was continued down 
the Garonne, and Bordeaux was captured thence the in- 
vaders turned northeastwards, with the rich city of Tours 
as their objective. But between Tours and Poitiers they 
were intercepted by an army of Franks under Charles 
Martel, the grandfather of Charlemagne, who had 
marched south to resist them. The Saracens were no match 
for the Franks on this occasion, and after an unequal 
contest they fled, abandoning all their war stores. 

This battle of Tours, or Poitiers as it is sometimes 
called, was the turning point of Arab fortunes, marking the 
limit of Arab penetration into France. 1 If the conquest of 
Gaul was ever contemplated, which is doubtful, the ambi- 
tion was born of a tradition of infallible success rather 
than of a sober appreciation of a new and difficult situa- 
tion. The Frankish soldiers were of comparatively im- 
perturbable temper, and they withstood the light cavalry 
of the volatile Saracens in a way to which the latter had 
not been accustomed. It is sometimes heard said that had 
the Arabs defeated Charles Martel they would have swept 
through Europe, and Islam would have come to take the 
place of Christianity. But the importance attached to the 
battle of A.D. 732 is probably exaggerated, for the Arabs 
had by this time shot their bolt after a century of war- 
fare ; they represented but a tiny fraction of the Moslems 
in Spain, and thus the wars of expansion really came to an 
end from the inherent exhaustion of the caliphate forces. 

defeat of the Arabs before Constantinople in 717 by the Emperor 
Lea III was the first decisive setback to Arab fortunes in the West 


After Tours they fell back on Narbonne, and for the 
following seven years occasional raids were made, the 
most impressive being that of 734 when the Rhone was 
crossed, Aries sacked and Avignon recaptured. For twenty 
years more they were content, however, passively to hold 
Narbonne, till the Franks rose in revolt and massacred 
their garrison. But if France was no longer to be mo- 
lested, Spain, except for a strip of coast along the Bay of 
Biscay, had become a possession of the caliph of Damas- 
cus, and in the course of time was largely to abandon its 
Catholic faith and follow the teachings of the Arab 
prophet and to turn many of its churches into mosques. 

At the outset Spain, with Morroco, formed the province 
of Maghrib, whose capital was at Qairawan. There the 
caliph's representative was the supreme governor, and 
Spain was left to a subprefect to rule, first from Seville 
and later from Cordova. The strong individuality of the 
Berbers was soon to make trouble for the Arabs. At home, 
in north Africa, these Berbers were a subject people of the 
Arabs, a condition that made them feel resentful ; whereas 
in Spain, not only were they not a subject people, they were 
themselves the conquerors, or at least they had taken a 
major part in the conquest. All was well so long as Berbers 
and Arabs were actually engaged in pursuit of some com- 
mon advantage, but once the objective was secured and 
peace came about, the Berbers were in no mood to be 
treated as less than equals. The arrogance of some of the 
officials and soldiers sent from imperial Damascus was 
more than they would stand, and out of their dissatisfac- 
tion grew large-scale revolts. 

A rising of Berbers in Morocco in 741 was signalized 
by a repudiation of allegiance to Damascus, and the Arab 
troops sent to crush it from Qairawan were themselves 



vanquished. Peace was restored, but it was only a tem- 
porary peace, and the events, in any case, were bound to 
have serious repercussions in Spain. Another ominous 
feature was the declining authority of the Umaiyyad 
caliphs of Damascus themselves. The loss of their pre- 
carious footing in north Africa and Spain was only a ques- 
tion of time, for if the Moors 2 were intolerant of caliphate 
despotism the local Arab governors, individualists that 
they were, were not less ready to seize a means of realizing 
their own personal ambitions by becoming independent 
rulers. Tunis, in A.D. 745, was the first to throw off its al- 
legiance to Damascus; parts of Morocco followed; then 
Spain herself, within thirty-five years of Tariq's conquest, 
repudiated the caliphate and asserted her independence. 
Ten years later a young Arab prince who had fled from 
Syria to north Africa after the fall of his dynasty, the 
famous Abdul Rahman al Mu'awiya, landed in Spain and 
was soon acclaimed its ruler. 

In the more backward territories of north Africa con- 
ditions grew anarchic, and the caliph was powerless to 
prevent dissolution of his dependencies into barbarous 
robber states. Thus by the time the Umaiyyad dynasty was 
overthrown and the centre of government shifted from 
Damascus to Baghdad, only Qairawan remained loyal, and 
this final African allegiance had become little more than 
nominal in A.D. 800 under the ruling Aghlabids. Though 
the territory of these Aghlabids of Qairawan was small, 
they are historically notable because their fleet in 82743 
conquered Sicily and thus planted Islam at the very 
threshold of the Papal See. 

word Moor, clearly to be identified with the word Morocco, is in 
fact a European term that acquired the loose usage for Spanish Moslems 
generally, whether of Arab or Berber ancestry; doubtless by this time they 
were intermixed. 



From the moment the Arabs had established supremacy 
over the Byzantines at sea the fate of the islands of the 
Mediterranean was sealed, and one by one they passed 
into Moslem hands. In the eastern Mediterranean the first 
generation of Arab newcomers to Syria and Egypt raided 
the islands of Rhodes, Crete and Cyprus (holding the 
last-named intermittently for three and a half centuries 
till Richard Coeur de Lion came and conquered it during 
the crusades) . In the western Mediterranean the island of 
Pallentaria, a steppingstone between Africa and Sicily, was 
early occupied, and Corsica and Sardinia were plundered. 
It was next the turn of Sicily- Sicily had been raided from 
Egypt as early as the middle of the seventh century, but 
the island remained loyal to the Byzantines till 826. The 
Berbers with a sprinkling of Arab chiefs then obtained a 
footing in Palermo, spent fifty years gradually reducing 
the western part of the island and by 962 had become its 
masters. They had invaded Malta at about the same time 
as Sicily, ruled it till 1091 and were resident for another 
three hundred and fifty years, when they departed, leaving 
behind them their dialect of Arabic, which is the language 
of the Maltese to this day. 

From these islands and from north Africa Moslem 
pirates ravaged southern Europe. In the earliest days Ber- 
bers from Sicily joined with others from Tunis to raid the 
Italian coasts, and the savage Barbary pirates from here 
and elsewhere kept up the old activities. Owing allegiance 
to none, they were lured by the riches of seaports and 
monasteries, they carried off captive women and church 
treasures, which, according to one Arab authority, were 
sold to idolatrous India for gold. The terror which their 
swift visitations caused in Italy led to the building of 
watchtowers along the coast between Naples and Palermo 



which stand to this day. Later on the Saracens enlisted as 
mercenaries of one Italian state against another. On one 
such expedition they reached the Adriatic and seized the 
shipping in the Venetian roads. On another the important 
town of Bar! fell into their hands, and, recognizing its 
strategic importance, they decided to keep it themselves 
and fortify it as a base for future operations. 

The sultans of Ban threw off their allegiance to Sicily 
(where Moslem occupation had a very different signifi- 
cance, for civilization had begun to flourish there) and 
lived by plundering the south, their onslaughts, according 
to Western historians, being of the most savage kind. But 
it was the fabulous treasures of Rome itself that had long 
attracted the Barbary pirates of north Africa, and one 
summer morning in A.D. 840 the holy city awoke to find 
eleven hundred Saracens before its walls. They swarmed 
in to plunder the Church of St Peter and the Cathedral of 
St Paul and to violate the graves of pontiffs, but just as 
they re-embarked a violent storm swallowed up their 
seventy-three spoil-laden ships and every man on board; 
so Christian authorities record, for the pirates themselves 
were unlettered men who have left no records of these 

The Saracens' next step was to obtain a footing on 
the Calabrian coast, where they became such a menace 
that the pope of the time, John VIII, was compelled, in 
878, to pay tribute as the price of peace. Their depreda- 
tions lasted for another generation until Pope John X 
was able to drive the last Moslem from Italian soil. Mos- 
lems remained in occupation of Sicily for 200 years longer 
until the Normans came in 1091, while their occupation of 
Spain continued for many centuries, though in the later 
period their dominance gradually declined. The small 



Latin kingdoms in the north of the peninsula grew in 
power and little by little encroached southwards till the 
final expulsion of Moors in 1492, when they were driven 
back to Africa. The Spanish mosques were transformed 
into churches, though for two centuries more secret com- 
munities practised the faith of the Arab prophet till they, 
too, the Moriscos, were banished from the land, and 
Islam faded into a memory. But it was the earlier with- 
drawal from Italy towards the end of the ninth century 
that marked the beginning of Saracenic decline. 

Arab military power was never again to attain the 
eminence it enjoyed in those first two centuries after the 
Prophet, the seventh and eighth centuries of our era, when 
the Arabs imposed their dominion from the Himalayas 
across Asia and Africa to the Pyrenees. The later activi- 
ties of the Moslemized Berbers in the Mediterranean may 
seem heinous, judged by modern standards of warfare, but 
both robbery and slavery were probably regarded as legiti- 
mate by at least some of the maritime southern Europeans 
of the time, and against the sum of the injuries inflicted 
by the conquests must be set the splendour of the Arab era 
that followed, when a great civilization dawned upon the 
Islamic world, and Iraq and Spain, the seats of the eastern 
and western caliphates with connecting links of Egypt and 
Sicily, became great centres of learning. 

This splendour had modest beginnings, as we have seen. 
A tiny revolution in seventh-century Arabia sent a stream 
of Arabs overrunning the civilized world. The ancient 
peoples were infused with a quickening influence, the old 
lifeblood invigorated by a young and strongly pulsating 
heart, and the Islamic civilization came into being. There- 
after for four centuries or more, while Europe lay slum- 
bering in the Middle Ages immediately before her own 



Renaissance, it was the Islamized countries under Arab 
rulers at the outset that became pre-eminent in the earth 
for their learning, their culture and their material pros- 
perity. 3 

s AIthough Saracen is sometimes applied to all these Arab wars, it is a 
slovenly European term for the Moslems of the early period generally 
Arabs, Berbers or whoever else. 


Part Two 


The Medieval State and Its Society 



.HE original Arab warriors who poured out of Arabia 
immediately after the Prophet's death were for the most 
part unlettered and semibarbarous men. They were on a 
lower cultural level than the peoples they overcame, the 
peoples of Egypt, Mesopotamia and Persia in particular, 
each of them heirs of ancient civilizations however much 
then in decay. If they could at first rest on their laurels as 
conquering invaders their descendants must adapt them- 
selves to their new world in order to justify ascendancy 
among communities more cultured than themselves. That 
the newcomers had no learning was perhaps an advantage, 
for it entailed a minimum of disturbance for the lands they 
occupied local administrations, for instance, went on 
much as they did before. The Arabs were not imposing a 
new civilization. They had none to impose. What time had 
in store for them to do was to invigorate the scattered 
civilizations then in decline and give them a new life and 
character of their own. 

That revolution is most easily understood if we re- 



member what it was they brought out of Arabia with them 
to a tired and distracted world, the factors that made for 
extension of their dominion and led to the recognition of 
their eminence among nations. The Arabs, in the first place, 
were the source of two mighty influences : a great religion 
and a great language ; the one a creed, simple, rational and 
in essence democratic, that proved capable of inspiring 
supernational loyalties and growing to world dimensions ; 
the other a tongue so rich and flexible that it was fitted to 
become the scientific and classical as well as the religious 
idiom of an empire, in much the same way as Latin served 
for medieval Europe. But it took time for these influences 
to pervade the earlier cultures and then prevail within 
them. The first wave of rude warriors spent itself to 
different ends. Under Khalid and Amr these original con- 
querors were largely Beduin, of the generation that saw 
the new religion's birth. The majority could only just have 
given adherence to the new movement, a great many from 
expediency, though others, of course, from honest con- 
viction, but, as the first raids showed, they were animated 
chiefly by the hope of improving their material condition, 
rather than aflame with zeal to share with others a com- 
mon salvation. Illuminating is the message of the Caliph 
Omar to a distant expedition. 'Pacification and tribute,' he 
remonstrated, 'are to be preferred to loot that soon passes 

The all-conquering Arabs were in the first place and for 
the most part hungry, brave and ruthless warriors. Their 
psychology was the psychology of Arabia Deserta : they 
inherited a belief in force; they had been reared in an en- 
vironment where force was necessary and therefore ac- 
quired social justification; they were by conviction as by 
nature manly, militant and aggressive, and the immediate 



and dazzling rewards of their first easy conquests not only 
justified this secular creed, but fixed them in its ways. It 
was fitting, perhaps, that the first coin the Arabs adapted 
from the Byzantines, about a half century later ( A.H. 70) , 
should bear the design it did, and in place of a Byzantine 
emperor, staff in hand, we have a caliph holding a sword. 

In Arabia they had been ranged tribe against tribe; 
they would naturally at first think of themselves as fight- 
ing under a supertribal banner, the enemy being the tribes 
outside their own allegiance and meet therefore to be 
spoiled. The Arab tribe, before its recent allegiance to the 
new larger unit, had grown out of a clan whose basis was 
blood kinship. Injury done to a member of a tribe from 
outside was regarded as injury done to the tribe as a whole, 
and any member of the tribe could avenge it ; so, too, the 
original offender need not be the target; any other mem- 
ber of his tribe would do equally well for the purpose of 
revenge. Such usage had the sanction of immemorial prac- 
tice and endures in tribal Arabia to this day in spite of the 
Prophet's reforms. 

The immediate revolution that Muhammad wrought 
later to grow into a great practical brotherhood was the 
creation, in effect, of a supertribe whose basis was not 
blood kinship but a religious faith, whose sanctions were 
revealed by God and whose loyalties must outweigh those 
of either kin or tribe. Those who embraced the new alle- 
giance became members of this supertribe, a chosen people 
sworn not to injure but to assist and succour one another. 

Aggression had been condemned by the Prophet, and 
Western authorities do not believe that he planned or even 
foresaw the century of wars of conquest which immedi- 
ately followed his death. But if the early raiding parties 
were tribally minded and worldly minded the caliphs of 


Medina were pious and good men who sent on their heels 
others who had come under the influence of the Prophet's 
religious teachings, Arabs of high character and moral rec- 
titude, most of them men of the settlements doubtless, so 
that the seed of the religious movement was sown in the 
outside Arab world and in the course of time came to a 
splendid fruition. 

4 In the whole history of the world, till then,* says Mar- 
maduke Pickthall, a convert to Islam, 'the conquered had 
been absolutely at the mercy of the conqueror, no matter 
how complete his submission might be, no matter though 
he might be of the same religion as the conqueror. That is 
still the theory of war outside Islam. But it is not the Is- 
lamic theory. According to the Moslem Laws of War, 
those of the conquered peoples who embraced Islam be- 
came the equals of the conquerors in all respects. And those 
who chose to keep their own religion had to pay a tribute 
for the cost of their defence, but after that enjoyed full 
liberty of conscience and were secured and protected in 
their occupations.' 10 * 

And so among these diverse peoples across western Asia 
and north Africa burst this new conqueror. In many of 
these lands a wide gulf had divided the alien nobility from 
the native populations. The social structure had been one 
in which luxury and culture flourished at the top ; below, 
the common herd were in a condition not much above serf- 
dom. The Arab invaders, unlettered men, no lovers of 
luxury, innately democratic, were strangers to such in- 
equalities. The religion brought by them inveighed against 
colour or race prejudice, taught human equality and human 
brotherhood. Servility was foreign to the nature of the 
man of the deserts. His coming introduced to the subject 
peoples a sense of release from servitude. If the Arabs had 


much to learn, culturally, from those they conquered, they 
had an example of human worth to set forth, and it was 
this that led to the acceptance, as military prowess led to 
the extension, of their dominion. Hence these scattered 
peoples came one by one to be swallowed up in a super- 
national state. 

The small Moslem community grew from a supertribe 
of Moslems within Arabia to a superstate of mixed races 
and religions without. 

The leader of the supertribe was at first Muhammad, 
its creator. But in theory God alone ruled the community 
through his divinely revealed ordinances delivered through 
the Prophet's lips, and when the Prophet died Allah's 
guidance was stored up in the Prophet's ordinances and 
traditions. The Prophet's successor, the caliph, according 
to original intention, was not to be a ruler over his people, 
not a sovereign, not even a pontiff, for all believers were 
equal. He was merely a successor of the Prophet, to in- 
terpret the holy law and administer justice between Mos- 
lems, merely a commander of the faithful. It was a theo- 
cratic state in which the nominal head, the caliph, must 
guide, not by personal caprice (the tribal shaikh could not, 
either, of course), not even by personal right, but in ac- 
cordance with the laws of God already revealed, and the 
faithful must obey the caliph only so long as he kept within 
the bounds set by the Qur'anic ordinances. 

In this community, wherein rights of intertribal re- 
venge were surrendered, an offence against an individual 
was to be expiated by the offender himself, though the com- 
munity, as by religious duty, were interested that justice 
should be done. 

Now the Qur'an contained legal rulings which had 
been revealed to meet a great variety of situations and 


needs. Some of the sanctions may well have been not very 
different from the usages of the tribe of Quraish, the 
Prophet's own settled tribe of Mecca, in which case they 
must have been admirably suited to the early Arab urban 
communities that sprang up around the great military 
camps of Basrah, Kufa, Fustat, etc., offshoots of a similar 
social culture. The thief, for instance, must suffer his of- 
fending hand to be cut off. The underlying principle of 
this law was the principle of retaliation or reciprocity, 
the principle of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. 
The talio was, of course, an old Semitic conception of the 
Jewish code, a conception quite Arabian in spirit. Under 
Islam there was no permission to go beyond the measure 
of the criminal's own deed : it must be equitable retaliation, 
and religion forbade making an example of punishment. 
Moreover it was a merit in him who showed kindliness 
and forgave the offender. 

Shari'a, or the Islamic law, was the Code of Sanctions 
collated from the Qur'an. As part of the divine revela- 
tions, law and religion were thus complementary, and so 
to disobey Shari'a was to infringe religious ordinance. It 
specified conditions, for instance, about marriage and 
divorce, laid down how family inheritances must be di- 
vided, limited the rights of private property and those of 
individuals making contracts, forbade usury, defined the 
rights of husbands and wives, of masters and slaves and of 
parents and daughters. Such laws, whether or not revealed 
for specific cases, acquired the validity of general divine 
ordinance. They were applied by orthodox Moslem com- 
munities then as now. 

The first collation of the Qur'an was not made before 
the Caliph Abu Bakr's day, and for a long time after- 
wards the lack of literacy and the slowness of book- 



copying restricted the dissemination of the written word, 
though learning the verses of the Qur'an by heart was a 
passion with the pious. Now during those first two or three 
decades while the Arabs were overrunning Egypt, Syria, 
Iraq and Persia, brushing against cultures that were dif- 
ferent from and more complex than their own, the leaders 
came to be confronted with problems, political and social, 
for which they could remember no specific scriptural guid- 
ances, and they were thrown back on their private judg- 

Time passed, and the Arab conquerors, growing ac- 
customed to their position of dominance in the community, 
not unnaturally came to regard life through different eyes. 
In the deserts their social structure had been simple and 
homogeneous. Such aristocracy as Arabia had known 
comprised the shaikhly families in the tribes and the rich 
merchant class of the settlements. Ancestry in the one case, 
wealth and patronage in the other, exalted certain indi- 
viduals, but in spirit the Arab paid small attention to social 
refinements; his was a natural and easy assumption of 
equality; he grovelled to none and rated personal free- 
dom over all things; it was sufficiently aristocratic for 
him to be a worthy scion of an ancient tribe, and the only 
individuals he instinctively felt reverence for were bards 
and warriors of renown. 

His world had its depressed class of course; indeed, 
there were two clearly marked (and rightly enough) 
classes in his scheme of life : freemen and slaves. Muham- 
mad had discouraged class distinctions among his follow- 
ers. Islam, within Arabia, frowned on human claims to 
superiority. It counted the lowly equal with the great, 
recognized goodness as the only criterion of superiority. It 
was essentially democratic in temper and in this reflected 


the spirit of the desert. Had not the first caliph, indeed, 
gone to the lengths of dividing the spoils of the raid 
equally between young and old, slave and free, male and 
female, for were not all believers brothers ? Had not the 
second clothed himself in coarse linen and sandals of 
fibre ; had he not on that historic visit to Jerusalem to re- 
ceive its surrender entered the city walking, while at his 
side his servant rode the horse that they had shared be- 
tween them turn by turn, on the journey thither? 

Thirty years had passed since the Prophet's death. They 
were thirty years of continuous fighting. The purely Arab 
and Moslem theocracy of Arabia had grown to become 
a political state of many religions and peoples. Medina 
had been superseded by Damascus* The old ideological con- 
ception, of the caliph as the interpreter of holy law in a 
theocratic state, holding his office in virtue of great piety, 
had now given place to kingship, the rule of the sword, a 
hereditary dynasty. Damascus, now the capital of an em- 
pire predominantly non-Moslem, brought personal rule 
and political expediency. Whatever misgivings the truly 
orthodox felt, they were powerless to prevent what had 
come about by the inexorable compulsion of growth. When 
Islam had been a small, homogeneous, self-contained 
Arabian community the Prophet himself, or an early 
caliph, had been able to control it as its judge and guide, 
but the ever-widening horizons of a vast empire and the 
increasing complexities of its affairs led inevitably to a 
devolution of powers to military leaders and governors of 
provinces, whose problems doubtless called more for 
statecraft than for theology. It was an age for temporal 
rulers rather than for spiritual guides. 

The Arabs were engaged in world war, ever conquering, 
ever advancing. However much heaven may condemn 



aggression or proclaim equality of peoples before God, 
there could have been no doubt in the minds of men, 
victors and vanquished alike, about Arab racial pre- 
eminence in that century of triumphant ascendancy. 
Across a world as yet minority-Arab and minority-Moslem 
ran a network of Arab military garrisons, and peoples of 
all nations and languages acknowledged the Arab 
sceptre. Within these garrisons the ordinances of holy law 
were observed. Outside them the Arabs with a wide tolera- 
tion allowed the subject peoples to continue their own 
legal usages, practise their own sanctions. The 'people of 
the book' that is to say, those having scriptures, namely 
Jews, Christians and, for some less clear reason, star- 
worshipping Sabians were absolutely free to practise 
their own religions subject only to the two special forms 
of tribute, a poll tax and a land tax. It was the exception 
and not the rule for them to be subjected by an occasional 
intolerant and harsh caliph of Damascus to disabilities 
such as the restrictive ordinances of Omar II which we 
have noticed. 

Still a stigma came to attach to the term 'Christian', 
Nasrani, i.e. Nazarene, which has not wholly disappeared 
from some Moslem lands to this day, in much the same way 
that the term Jew once had a contemptuous sound among 
Christian societies. In other ways, however, the Arabs 
showed what was for those days a broad toleration. They 
used no terrorism in their proselytizing. They did not 
compel apostasy to Islam, whereas, by contrast, at that 
._very time the Christian church was compelling Jews to 
apostatize in Spain under dire penalties. 

It is doubtful if many of the Umaiyyad provincial 
governors really desired conversion of the subject peo- 
ples, for it meant loss of a convenient docility as well as 



loss of taxes which went to support their garrisons. One 
governor of Khorasan is indeed known to have put 
obstacles in the way of his pious caliph and was recalled. 
The religious ends were achieved by his successor but at 
the expense of a weakened garrison, and when taxes 
came to be reimposed brought on a rebellion which lost 
Trans-Oxiana to the Arabs for many years. 

The general absence of religious persecution by the 
Arabs, however, is well shown by what happened in 
Egypt. At the end of the Umaiyyad period the population 
of Lower Egypt, then Arab-ruled for nearly a century, 
was still predominantly Christian, and five hundred years 
passed before the Moslems were in a majority. Persia 
afforded yet another example. As the Persians were fire 
worshippers, they were not people of the book and, 
strictly speaking, were not entitled to keep their lands on 
the tributary terms Muhammad had laid down for Jews 
and Christians, or indeed to practise their faith. But in 
practice they fared little worse for their obduracy. True 
there were instances where Persians suffered the confisca- 
tion of their properties an exceptional thing to happen 
in the light of Omar's liberal land decrees but that was 
as punishment by military commanders where they had 
too stubbornly resisted the invaders, and such escheated 
lands were administered for the common good. 

Within the purely Arab or Moslem communities the 
theocratic sanctions were those observed. In Islam 're- 
ligion is the law and the law is religion. 5 When purely 
practised there is no other law, for all law derives from 
religious principles, based on religious texts. But these 
were not narrowly conceived of in those early centuries, 
when the Arabs were in the ascendant ; indeed, great jurists 
were to arise and give the law a liberal interpretation, 



leading to wide development. To be a judge in the Moslem 
community a deep study of the Qur'an was the first 
requisite, so that the judge or qadhi a term familiar to 
the reader of The Arabian Nights was therefore origi- 
nally a man of religion, though his office was not in itself 
a holy one, for Islam has no priests, no hierarchy, no 
consecration for sacred duties. Such officials had been 
first sent off by the Caliph Omar to the military camps, 
in later times qadhis were sent to the camps of Qairawan 
in north Africa and away beyond the Oxus to Bokhara 
and Samarkand. They were not limited to purely magis- 
terial duties but presided at public prayers and witnessed 
marriages, were missionaries, too, and so played an im- 
portant part in bringing about the conversion of the non- 
Arab populations. 

These qadhis, faced almost at once by strange and 
complex law problems and seeking in vain for specific 
Qur'anic guidance, came to be guided by practices ascribed 
to the Prophet. These precedents were codified and, 
known as Traditions ^=Sunna, hence the term 'Sunni' for 
him who practiced them. To the Sunnis the Traditions had 
a validity inferior only to Qur'anic sanctions. By the Shi'as, 
the other great branch of Islam, the Traditions were held 
to be largely apocryphal, for the source of many of them 
was to be found among companions who supported the 
first three caliphs whom the Shi'as regarded as usurpers. 
Only those traditions attributed to Ali's camp were there- 
fore acceptable to them. Hence in details of law the two 
main divisions of Islam, which, as we saw, originally 
split over the political issue of caliphate succession the 
hereditary versus the elective principle came to adopt in 
some particulars different law usages. 

"The non-Moslems following their own usages were at 



first in a majority of the population, but soon Moslem 
cities appeared where the Beduin military camps had been, 
and mixed urban communities, with roots in alien cultures, 
grew up, and gradually there came about a change of re- 
ligious adherence in favour of the faith of the dominant 

The holy law under the Arabs in those first two or 
three centuries was essentially progressive and underwent 
phases of considerable development. The Moslem Laws 
of Evidence in those early days are said to have had no 
equal in Europe till the seventeenth century; so also the 
Moslem Laws of Contract are claimed to have been a 
thousand years ahead of their European counterparts. The 
mercantile laws of the Arabs begat bills of exchange; to 
their practices we owe our words 'cheque', 'douane', i.e. 
diwan, and perhaps 'tariff/ Much of the Code Napoleon 
and other modern Western law, also, is held to derive 
from the corpus of medieval Arab jurists. 

For several centuries while in the ascendant the Arabs 
were great reformers. It was mostly after our eleventh 
century and during the later period of decay that their 
criminal and civil law came to be reduced to the rigid 
forms that led to stagnation. The Arabs at their best were 
liberal minded. Legal research and the consequent evolu- 
tion of new laws was not only unrestricted but encouraged, 
so that criminal and civil law differed greatly, not only 
between one country and another, but between two periods 
In the history of the same country. The Arabs were not 
averse to adopting the law usages of other peoples, placed 
no hindrance to the extension of alien sanctions where 
these did not conflict with the sanctions found in the 
Qur'an. Where Qur'anic sanctions were categorically laid 



down, however, as for instance in the cutting off the hand 
for theft or flogging for fornication, the dictates of holy 
writ were observed. 

There were periods of upheaval when godless gover- 
nors took the law into their own hands and acted arbi- 
trarily. In an age when 'strong action 5 was admired, strong 
action was usually taken, and tyrannous methods, such 
as imprisonment and torture to extort confession, were not 
unknown in Iraq. How far the spirit of holy law was 
abandoned at this time is shown by the conduct of the 
prefect of Kufa, a local Judge Jefferies, who under 
Hajjaj, the famous mail-fisted governor of Iraq, trans- 
fixed and burnt alive ; cut off the hand of one who threat- 
ened the life of another ; gave three hundred lashes to a 
suspected thief. Kufa, we are told and may well believe it, 
enjoyed long spells of freedom from any crime whatever, 
and its strong man was promoted to be prefect of Basrah 
as well. 

The change of dynastic rule from the Umaiyyads to 
the Abbasids coincided with a widening scope for religious 
law. It was a tendency of the age that came about as a 
result of far-reaching social and religious changes. Con- 
versions to Islam had steadily been going on to absorb a 
large alien element of public opinion. The decay of the 
Umaiyyads, as we saw, was brought about largely by the 
growing strength of Persian converts. Proselytism had 
naturally been followed by a wave of religious fervour; 
everywhere there was an intense interest in the Qur'an 
and an eager study, doubtless, of its legal aspects. Among 
Sunnis, who had extended the basis of holy law by the 
addition of Traditions, four schools of jurisprudence 
sprang up within the century, preserved in the names of 
their founders, Hanafi, Shafi'i, Maliki, Hanbali. 


Such developments in the law were by no means the 
only or most important feature of the period which fol- 
lowed the change of capital from Damascus to Baghdad. 
The functions of the caliph were transformed, and, most 
radical of all, perhaps, an end came to the supremacy of 
the Arab, as such, within the political system. Under the 
caliphs of Damascus the dominant note in the state had 
been Arab racial superiority. Victorious wars of expan- 
sion had continued to give the imperial Arabs an un- 
paralleled national prestige. The caliph himself was an 
absolute ruler in an Arab patriarchal setting; the great 
offices of state were held by Arabs. With the advent of the 
caliphs of Baghdad in the second century after the Prophet 
the wars of conquest, chief instrument of Arab supremacy, 
had come to an end, the centre of the caliphate moved 
east where Arab Moslems were in a minority, and Per- 
sians held the upper hand. 

The Abbasid caliphs were no longer absolute Arab 
rulers but emperors after the old Sassanian model, c accept- 
ing a reverence and a manner of address rightly-guided 
Caliphs would have rebelled against as blasphemous.' 10 * 
They were no longer accessible to their subjects in open 
court but surrounded by ministers of state, at first Persians, 
in whom were vested great powers. The pomp and luxury 
of their courts vastly excelled Damascus and was in an 
altogether different world from the rude simplicity of 

An era of great prosperity was dawning, an age of 
refinement in living and an age in which the arts and 
sciences flourished. Rich revenues poured in from the 
conquered territories, the land tax was now collected from 
Moslems and unbelievers alike, though the latter must 
still pay their poll tax, too, and the national income 


steadily grew to vast proportions. The state treasury and 
the caliph's privy purse profited together, as later in times 
of adversity they suffered together. The most famous of 
the Baghdad caliphs, Harun al Rashid, a contemporary 
of Charlemagne, was popularly believed to have amassed 
a private fortune of nine hundred million dirhams a 
mere twenty millions sterling perhaps! which, even 
allowing for wild exaggeration, is a safe enough Indica- 
tion of phenomenal prosperity. 

The caliph, his plentiful palaces, bodyguards and harem 
were supported by state expenditure, as were the army 
and the civil administration; all descendants of the 
Prophet enjoyed state pensions, and poets and musicians 
won impulsive and princely rewards in these spacious 
days of the eastern caliphate. 

The form of government was a thoroughgoing autoc- 
racy. The caliph was supported by his wazir, at first a 
private and personal duce as it were, who, while in favour, 
had supreme powers of patronage and upon whose in- 
tegrity and ability depended the just government of the 
times. He made and unmade governors, appointed all the 
principal civil officers of state and combined in his person 
the lucrative functions of an appellate court for the ex- 
tensive judiciary of Islam. To the young aspirant, the ear 
of the wazir led to place and fortune, and conversely his 
opposition meant adversity, until the day when the caliph 
lost patience with that particular wazir and relieved him 
of his office if not his head. 

The reader familiar with the pages of The Arabian 
Nights will need no reminding that the Arab-ruled country 
of the times was *a man's country.' But it would be unfair 
to suppose that this was a peculiarly Arab contribution. 
The sex inferiority of women was doubtless part of the 


established order of the universe and man's dominance 
over woman a phase of sociological evolution common the 
world over. 

Doubtless under the Arabs woman's status, though 
upheld by religious precepts, deteriorated in the later 
centuries. The common Western view, however, that the 
woman was at all times repressed under the Arabs, meets 
with a vigorous challenge by Judge Pierre Crabites, an 
American judge in the Cairo mixed tribunals, who, after a 
long experience of Moslem law as administered in the 
Egyptian capital, has favoured the thesis that Muhammad 
was probably the greatest champion of women's rights 
the world has ever seen. 

'Muhammad's outstanding contribution, 5 says Judge 
Crabites, 'to the cause of woman resides in the property 
rights that he conferred upon the wives of his people. The 
juridical status of a wife, if so technical a term may be 
pardoned, is exactly the same as that of a husband. The 
Moslem spouse in so far as her property is concerned, is 
as free as a bird. The law permits her to do with her 
financial assets whatever she pleases without consulting 
her consort. In such matters he has no greater rights than 
would have any perfect stranger.' 34 * 

Before the Propet's time Arab women's rights of in- 
heritance were negligible, and when a man died his sons 
inherited his widows as well as his property. A revelation 
ensured her an inalienable share in a relative's estate. The 
divisions of inheritance were categorically laid down : to 
the mother one third of a man's estate unless he had 
brothers, in which case one sixth. If a man left but two 
daughters two thirds of the estate passed to them, if one 
daughter her share was to be one half. Where there were 
sons and daughters one share to a daughter and two shares 


to a son. A husband was to be entitled to one half of his 
wife's property if she died without child, otherwise one 
quarter, and so on. The general underlying principle was 
that the rewards of male relatives, in inheritance, were 
double those of the female a principle by no means as 
inequitable as it seems, being based on the theory that the 
female will be supported by a husband, while the male will 
have to support a wife. 

The right of bequest among Arabs at death was thus 
circumscribed. The Arab cannot will his property so as to 
deprive his wife or his children of their rightful share of 
his estate; he cannot cut his wife off with less than the 
share specified as her right under religious law. By divorce 
only will she be deprived of it. 

A feature of the marriage contract which Judge Pierre 
Crabites singles out for special praise is its fluidity that 
any wise provision may be written into it ; thus the girl's 
father can reserve the right of the girl to divorce under 
certain circumstances or even the right to divorce un- 
conditionally, e.g. in the event of the man's remarriage, 
or he can require the bridegroom to forego the right of 
divorcing his daughter. Moreover, he says, 'A wife, 
technically speaking, does not even take her husband's 
name. A Moslem girl born Aisha bint Omar (Aisha 
daughter of Omar) may marry ten times, but her indi- 
viduality is not absorbed by that of her various husbands. 
She is not a moon that shines through reflected light. 
She is a solar planet, with a name and a legal personality 
of her own !' 

The law of divorce required the man's utterance, fc l 
divorce thee,* to be said three times with an interval of a 
month between each occasion the idea being to provide 
for a period of three months during which time reconcilia- 



tion could be effected. As soon as estrangement was felt 
between the married couple a family council could be 
formed in order to bring about a rapprochement. Divorce 
was not encouraged by the Prophet, to whom is attributed 
the saying that of the permissible things it was one dis- 
tasteful to God. Although there was no lifelong alimony 
for the divorced wife the dowry was in itself conceived as 
an obstacle to divorce, for the wife was entitled to a 
sum equivalent to the dowry paid to her at her wedding, 
a sum therefore fixed high when the man was in a gallant 
mood. It was fixed at the highest amount compatible with 
the social position of the contracting parties and the 
ability of the husband to pay. Where the dowry was 
small and the poor husband later acquired wealth, the 
qadhi in case of divorce assessed the sum on the husband's 
improved status instead of the original contract. 

The Prophet not only conferred rights on women, he 
taught men to treat wives considerately and humanely, 
not preferring one over another: the gift of a robe to 
one, for instance, was to entail robes all round; and so 
with conjugal felicity: he brought amelioration in mar- 
riage, divorce and inheritance laws hence early Islam 
'under rightly guided Caliphs' is held to have protected 
her interests and given her a status which had never been 
hers before. In later times, however, the generous spirit 
waned, practice fell away from the precept, and low 
standards came to be the established fashion. 

In the medieval state the man could take not merely 
the four wives which religious law permitted at any 
one time, but slave concubines without limit a practice 
which present interpretation considers to have been a 
violation of Islamic canons and enlightened Arabs frown 
on wherever they meet with it in their midst today. He 


could marry an unbeliever so long as she was a 'chaste 
woman of the Book', e.g., a Jewess, a Christian or a 
Sabian, but not an idolatress, e.g., a Hindu. He could 
marry his slave girl if he first of all freed her, or could 
cohabit with her as his concubine, without marriage, so 
long as she was not an idolatress. The children of con- 
cubines were legitimate; indeed, many of the later 
Abbasid caliphs were sons of concubines, a parallel found 
today in some aristocratic families in Arab countries. 
Concubinage with free women was forbidden. First- 
cousin marriages were common; they are still the rule 
rather than the exception in many parts of tribal Arabia, 
where the man has the right to the hand of the daughter 
of his uncle (father's brother) whatever the disparity of 
age, she on the other hand having no corresponding right 
to his. The prohibited degrees of marriage were for the 
most part similar to those of the Old Testament, though 
a Moslem may not marry his niece as is permitted by the 
Jews, nor may he marry two sisters or even two unrelated 
women who, as children, had been suckled by the same 
wet nurse ; the same stricture applied also to cohabitation 
with two concubines. Brother and sister marriages, forbid- 
den by Islam, may have affected Persian practice, where, 
under Zoroastrianism, such unions are said to have been 

The woman could not have more than one husband 
at a time an inequality justified in the interests of the 
child that is to say, to ensure the establishment without 
doubt of its male parent. Although the spirit of the law 
had been to give women new rights and protect those 
rights, practice in unenlightened circles led to abuses, and 
the dowry for the girl often came to be a cash payment to 
her parents, so that with the poor and needy a rich old 



suitor was probably preferred to a poor young one, the 
girl's inclinations on the occasion of her first marriage 
being subordinated to her interests as conceived of by her 
parents. A marriage contract of Morocco, quoted by Levi, 
is as follows 

'Glory be to God, the Lord of the Worlds I 

'The honourable Kaddur, being of age and living in 
Algiers, a trader by calling, son of Sulayman, has con- 
tracted a marriage by God's blessing . . . with the noble 
virgin Fatima, now passed the period of puberty, 18 years 
of age, daughter of Muhammad bin Ali, weaver, domiciled 
in Algiers. The marriage is contracted in consideration of 
a dower of blessed augury amounting to 30 douros, of 
which half is at once due, before consummation of the 
marriage, and the remaining half payable within four 
years. The husband will only be acquitted of this debt 
by lawful means. The bride's father was contracted in her 
name, and this by virtue of the powers conferred on him 
by God and after obtaining her consent, expressed by 
silence, which is considered the equivalent to consent. The 
husband has appeared in person: he has accepted the 
contract, the offer and the acceptance have been made as 
required by Law. 

'All that precedes has been witnessed (by two wit- 
nesses).' 9 * 

The usual procedure of the Arab wedding was that on 
the day of the nuptials guests, male and female, were bid- 
den to the house of the girl's father, the men forgathered 
in one part and the women, veiled and secluded, in another. 
The qadhi or imam called forth the witnesses, a male 
representative of the bride, another of the bridegroom, or, 
in the absence of one male, two female witnesses, though 
to have all witnesses female was not lawful, the presence 



of one male witness being imperative. The witnesses then 
signified their agreement to the terms of the marriage, 
whereupon the qadhi took the hands of the bride and 
bridegroom and held their hands together in such a way 
that their thumbs touched, while all present recited the 
opening chapter of the Qur'an. 

In a polygynous society the state of lifelong spinster- 
hood for a girl was extremely rare. The girl was normally 
married for the first time at the age of thirteen or fourteen 
girls reach physical maturity at an earlier age in the 
East than the West; she was usually given no choice in 
the matter of her first husband any more than she is today 
in backward Arabian communities that was her father's 
concern. She was generally not consulted in the matter, be- 
ing of tender age and without knowledge of the world. 
Some such procedure as this was followed. The mother of 
a son old enough to take a wife approached the mother 
of the girl she thought desirable, and if they both agreed 
to the match the suitor approached the girl's father, or in 
default of one, her nearest male kinsman to arrange mat- 
ters. A marriage contract was then drawn up specifying 
the dowry and other legal obligations. Marriage being a 
civil contract, it could be performed by a qadhi (not in 
the mosque, however) or by any Moslem provided there 
were two reputable witnesses. 

Another and exceptional form of marriage that came 
to be practised among the Shi'a Moslems of Iraq and 
Persia, more particularly during pilgrimage to their sacred 
shrines, was the mut'a marriage, a temporary union for a 
fixed term of years or months or weeks or even days, as 
the case might be. It did not entail reference to a woman's 
kin and was practised by a limited and special poor class 
of townswoman. It was a system that lent itself to abuse, 



although perfectly within the Shi'a religious law, the 
children of such so-called marriages being legitimate* But 
as we have seen, generally speaking, the female member 
of the Moslem family was carefully protected and honour- 
ably betrothed, and her honour, involving the family 
honour, was counted of the greatest concern* 

Divorce under the Arabs, as we have seen, involved an 
outright payment based on the dowry and did not entail 
lifelong alimony. In spite of the difficulties which the 
Prophet set in the way the man could normally divorce 
quite easily without recourse to a court by uttering the 
simple formula already noticed three times. The woman 
could not obtain divorce so lightly, though mental disease, 
infectious disease, cruel behaviour and other similar 
grounds were recognized as sufficient; physical imperfec- 
tion in either party gave grounds for annulment, as also 
the false description in the marriage contract of the bride 
as a virgin. The mother had custody of the children dur- 
ing infancy and thereafter the father, the age for boys 
and girls varying with the sect of Islam to which the 
parents belonged. A divorced woman must wait three 
months before marrying again, the widow four months 
and ten days. Similiarly, if a man bought a female slave 
he must allow the necessary time to pass before she could 
be his concubine, in order to obviate the risk of doubtful 

The veiling of women is thought to have been rare in 
the early days of the Arab period. The common Western 
view that It is Arab or Islamic in origin is contested by 
educated Arabs who are opposed to the practice today and 
who hold that the only veiling required in Islam is the cov- 
ering of the head and neck, not the face. Be that as it may, 
the practice of close veiling is one that has survived only 



among Moslem communities and is still the rule rather 
than the exception in most Arab countries. 

Such Arab authorities suppose that the custom was in 
origin Persian or Byzantine, that in the Arab period it 
first was adopted by the wives of Baghdad caliphs and 
the great ladies about the courts, so that it was a fashion 
of rank; hence, naturally, it spread downwards and out- 

In the early period, they hold, it was nowhere popular 
and it never took root among the peasantry, where the 
female continued to work unveiled side by side with her 
menfolk in the fields as she does today though not in 
Arabia but it gradually acquired rigidity in the towns 
and was made law by the Caliph al Qadir Billah (eleventh 
century) who ordered that women must wear a veil when 
mixing with men and appearing in the mosque or other 
public places. 

So it has continued down to this day. The girl born in 
strictest circles must, on reaching maturity, wear a veil 
and never again show her face to any male except her hus- 
band and those of her relatives within the prohibited de- 
grees of marriage. For a woman to expose to the public 
gaze more than her hands and her feet (ankles and wrists 
must be concealed) came to be regarded as shameful, the 
rigour of veiling and seclusion increasing the higher her 
status in the social scale. Here the slave girl and the 
peasant girl were at a great advantage, braving the world 
with naked face and fancy free. But al Qadir Billah's 
proscription was a great blow to the educated class of 
woman who, up to this time, played a part in the life of 
the empire, and from the time of these restrictions in the 
eleventh century the position of the woman under the 
Arabs deteriorated. 



The harem system, the practice of enforced seclusion 
Persian women, it is believed, were secluded long before 
the coming of the Arabs was soon established, and 
women were now confined to their houses by force of 
public opinion. They seldom went out at all ; never alone 
and rarely by day, and of course social intercourse between 
the sexes was impossible. This banishment of women from 
the streets and from society is a noticeable feature of most 
oriental towns to this day. 

It became the fashion for women of the wealthy classes 
to be secluded in a part of the house by themselves and 
be waited upon by eunuchs, though the practice of muti- 
lating slaves for these duties had been expressly for- 
bidden by the Prophet himself. These social practices 
led, moreover, to the gradual effacement of women from 
public festivities and from public worship in the Friday 
mosques, in contrast to the earlier days when women not 
only attended mosques but gave lectures in them. 

Such usages which have been handed down to the back- 
ward Arabs of our day are responsible for the current 
Western view that women under the Arabs were through- 
out a lower order of creation. In those first centuries of 
the Arab period, however, the position of the Arab woman 
was very different. She was not closely veiled and little 
more segregated than her European or Asiatic sister of 
the time; indeed, in Spain she continued to mix freely 
with men and to pray openly in the mosques. There had 
been no prejudice against her education in early Islam, and 
the upper-class women were literate and accomplished 
indeed, a millennium ago when Al Azhar University of 
Cairo was first opened it was attended by men and women 
alike; and the Arab jurist Abu Hanifa could declare in 
our eighth century that woman was as much entitled to 



practise the profession of law as man. In Iraq, in Egypt 
and in Spain during the enlightened periods it was the 
same : women played notable parts Sukaina, Nafisat al 
Ilm, a great-great-granddaughter of the Prophet, Umm 
Salma, the wife of the first caliph of Baghdad, Zubaida, 
the wife of Harun al Rashid, Khadija, the sister of 
Saladin in Egypt, and in Spain the wife of Abdul Rah- 
man III, to mention but a few. Some were devoted to let- 
ters, some to good works, and colleges, orphanages, hostels 
for the blind, the aged and the infirm, still proudly bear 
the names of women founders. 

In these selfsame days chivalry found its way into 
Europe by way of Spain. To Spain it had come from the 
eastern lands of the Arabs. Hence it would seem that the 
belief which persists in the West concerning the general 
degradation of women under the Arabs is based on ob- 
servances of later decadence; in reality the Arabs at 
their best were perhaps the most chivalrous people in the 

Slavery, of course, persisted all through the Arab 
period. It was a recognized and legitimate institution of 
society. It had existed from time immemorial, was sanc- 
tioned by Judaism and survived the early Christian cen- 
turies. Muhammad himself was clearly a resolute opponent 
of all the evils of slavery and wrought such reforms for 
its amelioration as were possible in his time. Manumission 
of slaves was not only praised but gave atonement for 
small sins. 'Your brothers/ he taught, c are they who 
are your servants, God having placed them under your 
care ; and he whose brother has been placed under his care 
must feed him with that which he eats, and clothe him 
with that wherewith he clothes himself. Do not ask them 
to do more than they can, and if you have assigned them 



a task greater than they are able to cope with, then give 
them the help they require/ 

The Arabs of subsequent generations were to take the 
word for the spirit and look for implied sanction in it. Ac- 
cording to the most enlightened present-day interpreta- 
tions of Islam there was never any warrant for the keeping 
of slaves other than prisoners of war, nor should slaves 
have been bought and sold. Under medieval caliphs, how- 
ever, slaves were freely bought and sold, bequeathed and 
inherited, as they still are in Arabia. They were inferior 
beings, suffering certain recognized civil and social dis- 

Yet the attitude of the Arabs to their slaves removed 
the stigma elsewhere attaching to slave status, for a 
feature of present-day Arabian slavery is the general 
absence of a grovelling and abject mentality, which the 
untravelled European may naturally suppose inevitable. 
*The slave is the slave of his master, but otherwise as free 
as you/ runs an Omani saying. Still, generally speaking, 
the blood-feud scale of values ran : a freeman for a free- 
man, a woman for a woman, a slave for a slave. 

The essential democracy of the Islamic system, how- 
ever, allowed slaveborn individuals to rise to command 
armies, to govern provinces, to acquire great wealth. 
Under the Arabs slaves rose to found Moslem dynasties 
in Egypt and elsewhere, and many famous caliphs of 
Baghdad had slave mothers. But these were exceptional 
slaves. The vast majority of the class did the menial 
offices and the hard work. 

The holy law provided some ways in which a slave 
could win freedom: a concubine, for instance, who had 
borne her master children became free ; a slave of either 
sex who came into possession of an owner within a certain 



degree of blood relationship was automatically freed; a 
slave might, with his master's consent, redeem himself by 
purchase or labour, though in the latter case he remained 
under his master's protection. This was perhaps a rare 
thing to happen, for the master had the right to hire out a 
slave to work for him, as is practised in the Persian Gulf 
pearl fisheries to this day, or to use his slave as a pledge. 

Slaves were a valuable property in medieval times, and 
doubtless only those masters who had religious scruples 
conceded slaves such rights as they were entitled to. Buy- 
ing and selling slaves was a highly profitable business, 
not only in the Arab countries but with them the Slavonic 
peoples ominously preserving in name the memory of the 
role they played. The Venetians are said to have had a 
slave market in Rome itself in the eighth century, and 
the slave market of the Moors at Cordova, two centuries 
later, was famous for its wares of fair captives from 
northern Spain. Thousands of white slaves from Central 
Asia were drawn into the eastern caliphate by way of 
Samarkand, while black slaves swarmed in the bazaars of 
Samarra and Baghdad. 

Early in the Arab conquests it became an article of 
faith that there could be no enslavement of Moslems, 
though In the tenth century this rule was relaxed by the 
sect of Carmathians in Arabia itself on the grounds that 
only they were true Moslems, and as late as the nine- 
teenth century Turcomans are known to have suffered 
a similar illusion. In our sixteenth, seventeenth and eight- 
eenth centuries Turkish and Barbary corsairs hunted and 
enslaved Christian mariners in the Mediterranean, some, 
very daring, reaching parts of Ireland and the Bristol 
Channel ; and monks who were sent on missions of ransom 
brought back harrowing stories of the life in the galleys. 



One of the most famous victims was, of course, Cervantes, 
who spent thus five years of his life in chains. 

But let us not be forgetful of our own record, for but 
a brief century ago Britain and America practised slavery 
in their tobacco and sugar plantations, and Gladstone as 
a young Member of Parliament could make his maiden 
speech in defense of the system. At one time Britain en- 
joyed a monopoly of importing slaves into the Spanish 
colonies, and advertisements for slaves appeared in the 
most reputable of our newspapers. Moreover, plantation 
slavery was incomparably more inhuman than the domestic 
slavery of the Arabs of the medieval period. 

The common people under the caliphs of Baghdad 
enjoyed greater liberty and greater prosperity than could 
be found in any other country whatsoever. Personal 
cleanliness was a feature of the Arab world as the lack 
of it was characteristic of contemporary Europe this 
arising doubtless from the frequent ablutions required by 
Moslem prayer and other rules of life. While in Europe 
the serfs were bound to the lands they cultivated and the 
artisans still had their servile status, their counterparts 
under the Arabs, the smiths and the cultivators, were free 
men. Difference of rank and wealth existed, of course, 
but without the rigid distinctions of society in medieval 
Europe. There was no hindrance to education. Learning 
was held in the highest respect, freedom of thought was 
for several centuries encouraged and secular subjects 
taught in the mosques. Decay came later when the Arabs 
came to be satisfied with a way of life as conservative 
and hidebound as in earlier times it had been liberal and 

The social structure, while containing features repellent 
in a twentieth-century view, must in fairness be compared 



with other systems contemporary with itself. More de- 
pends on the spirit of a social system than the letter of its 
regulations, and in the Middle Ages Eastern enlighten- 
ment was pre-eminent in the world, and the religion of the 
Arabs insisted with the greatest emphasis on humani- 

To conceive of the Arab system as being in the likeness 
of our own, with a grafting onto it of its less pleasant 
features, is wholly misleading ; it had another and wholly 
differing ethos: it was in essence as in origin patriarchal. 
The approved relationships between man and woman, par- 
ents and children, masters and servants approximated 
to the ideals of Abraham rather than to those of Lenin. 
It is not so much that one was four thousand years behind 
the other as that they were products of two differing en- 
vironments and two utterly opposed philosophies. 

If under the Arabs women as a sex enjoyed less of the 
social and political liberties than they enjoy under modern 
European civilization mixed dancing, mixed bathing and 
the like are still objectionable, of course, to the orthodox 
yet no woman went unmarried and was thereby un- 
naturally debarred from motherhood, and motherhood 
was held by Arabs of all time in the prof oundest respect. 
If slaves were deprived of all political privileges there 
is still less difference by far in the material rewards of life 
between the freeman and the slave in 'subsistence cultures', 
such as in Arabia today, than between the 'haves 1 and 
'have-nots' in our European civilization. This is said in 
no way to slur over those features of the medieval Arab 
way of life which in a twentieth-century view are re- 
pugnant, but as an indication that in practice it had a hu- 
manity of its own, a humanity untainted by the worst 
features of our modern economic industrialism* Without 


a wide humanity, indeed, the old Arab system could 
scarcely have displaced the earlier systems of so many 
different peoples across the medieval world from the 
Himalayas to the Atlas, and survived in a large measure 
down to this day. 

'What struck me even In the decay and poverty,' wrote 
an Englishman a few years back, 'was the joyousness of 
that life compared with anything I had seen in Europe. 
These peoples seemed quite independent of our cares of 
life, our anxious clutching after wealth, our fear of death. 
And then their charity ! No man in the cities of the Mos- 
lem Empire ever died of hunger or exposure at his neigh- 
bour's gate!' 



Arab Civilization: The Arts 

In the Middle Ages art was first and foremost a religious 
expression. We instinctively identify the great orders of 
medieval art with the creeds that shaped them, for however 
clearly certain elements in their composition and technical 
procedure may unite them in common ancestry, they were 
moulded into distinct entities by religious influences?** 



JL HE INSPIRATION of Moslem arts owed much then to 
the Arabs an odd thought when we remember that the 
Arabs were an artless people. For the desert hosts that 
vanquished Greeks and Persians originated, as we saw, 
in a culture conspicuously devoid of any artistic tradition. 
Indeed, as they swept across the civilized world of their 
time they carried with them a suspicious attitude towards 
art if not an aversion to it, for was not the graven image 
anathema and a decoration in the likeness of man or bird 
or beast an affront to the true faith, did not silken apparel 
and vessels of gold, proper enough for the mansions of 
the hereafter, come under religious interdiction here be- 

Now in the lands the Arabs overran they came upon arts 
highly flourishing, arts with a long local history going 
back to the civilizations of the Nile and the Euphrates. 


In the former, Christianity had arisen a few centuries 
earlier and remoulded a new and beautiful Byzantine 
art ; in the latter the Eastern genius still survived among 
the Persians. But the arts of unbelieving Greeks and 
Persians, however superb, were little better than heathen 
abominations to the rude puritan invaders in the seventh 
century. Yet it was Islam, borne by these unlettered desert 
men, that was destined to set the world aflame, fuse the 
great artistic inheritances of the ages and bring in a new 
and splendid tradition. 

The Prophet's ban on the portrayal of human and 
animal forms was of course scarcely propitious. Indeed, 
it atrophied the fine arts from the first. Under a newborn 
vigorous Islam there could be no great statuary in a Greek 
or Roman sense, no more sculptures like those of ancient 
Susa and Persepolis, no great painting such as that of 
the later Italian, Dutch or Spanish schools. Islam not 
only discouraged the fine arts, it forbade them in God's 
name, and its first rude votaries were active iconoclasts, so 
that our later Western schools of both painting and 
sculpture were not able to profit from any Moslem in- 
heritance but grew straight out of the classical tradition. 
One shining exception 'brightens the period of Arab 
civilization, and that is architecture. Here there was no 
ban. Indeed, the ritualistic requirements of the new faith 
called into existence new needs, while glorious examples 
of cathedrals and temples enshrining Christianity and 
other rival religions stood before rising generations of 
Arabs, provocatively challenging. Thus it was that 
Saracenic architecture came to have its birth and develop- 
ment in the Moslem congregational place of worship, the 
Friday mosque. 

The first callow invaders from the deserts could scarcely 


have remained unimpressed in the face of the architectural 
splendour they encountered. Beyond the Euphrates, Sas- 
sanian palaces stood near the sites of ancient Babylonian 
cities, some but recently decayed, some still inhabited ; over 
the Jordan, the Greco-Roman Decapolis formed a group 
of cities of arcaded streets and marble pavements, colon- 
naded forums and splendid amphitheatres and temples; 
Alexandria, a great Greek seaport already famed for 
close on a thousand years, possessed one of the archi- 
tectural wonders of the world, the Manara, a famous 
lighthouse built by Ptolemy Suter, which was destined 
to give the word 'minaret' to the mosque tower. But a 
still greater wealth than these had fallen to the Arabs, 
namely, the inherited artistic traditions at the back of 
such monuments the accumulated technical skill of the 
conquered peoples* 

The Arabs, before their emergence from Arabia, had 
raised a mosque at Medina after their own rude fashion- 
ing, an unpretentious building with a roof of palm 
branches covered with mud and supported on palm trunks. 
Under the immediately succeeding caliphs of Medina the 
first mosques outside Arabia sprang up at Jerusalem, 
Fustat and Kufa, still, doubtless, simple and chaste, in 
keeping with the puritanism of the times, but necessarily 
more elegant from the excellence of ready-made columns 
and other building material taken from the ruins of 
classical temple or palace and from the skill of competent 
local craftsmen who raised them. 

By the time this first spiritual phase of the caliphate 
had run its course and an imperial Arab dynasty had risen 
at Damascus a generation of Arabs had grown up amid 
alien cultural influences who had become conscious of 
great architecture, conscious of their own deficiency, and 



were persuaded that Islam must have worthy shrines, 
fitting, too, for her votaries as men of the dominant 
race. Already the Arab conquerors of Damascus had 
annexed for their own use one half of the magnificent 
Christian church of St John the Baptist, in origin a Roman 
temple, and before very long acquired the whole of it, a 
precedent to be followed at Cordova in Spain within the 
century; for where the subject peoples came to give up 
Christianity in favor of Islam old churches were auto- 
matically changed into mosques. The faithful thus became 
familiar with architectural splendour associated with re- 
ligion and formed standards which they came naturally 
to adopt in their own new religious buildings. 

The main features of the mosque, as it is known today, 
had already appeared by the time of the first Damascus 
caliph. The building was oriented towards Mecca, the 
direction indicated in the appropriate wall, facing which 
the worshippers lined up in a long row; this wall formed 
the long axis of the sanctuary, and midway along it was 
the mihrab, a praying niche corresponding somewhat to 
the apse of a Christian church. The mosque had its pulpit; 
its screen or grill (within which the caliph worshipped), 
recalling a chancel screen; its minaret, the parallel of a 
church tower, where the muezzin the Moslem precentor, 
as it were ascended to chant the call to prayer this a 
distinction from church bells or the clappers which pre- 
ceded them in Christian usage ; and its font in the court- 
yard for the necessary Moslem ablutions before prayer. 

These ritualistic needs were gradual developments. 
The first mosque in Egypt had no mihrab, but a stone was 
set up in the direction of Mecca; indeed, in the first 
mosque of all at Medina the worshippers, led by the 
Prophet, at first faced Jerusalem after the manner of the 



Jews. So, too, the mosques built in Mesopotamia during 
the next century did not adopt the praying niche of rival 
Syria but had their own device of three arched openings. 
The Egyptian mosque was the first to have a pulpit, an 
innovation which, by elevating the preacher, provoked 
the democratic wrath of the Caliph Omar, so that its 
adoption came only after his day. If the screen is rightly 
ascribed to his successor, following the lesson of Omar's 
assassination, it belongs to Medina, while the first minaret 
to be built is believed to have appeared only at the end 
of the century, its function having presumably first been 
suggested and served by one of the four Roman towers 
of the temple-church-mosque of Damascus. 

At first it was the conquered peoples who alone could 
provide the architects, masons, paviors and all the sub- 
sidiary craftsmen which fine building entailed, yet it was 
the Arabs who, by creating the needs and supplying the 
will and commandment, brought about a great archi- 
tectural renaissance and, in the course of time, a new 
school. It was, indeed, the very vastness of their conquests 
that brought together the two great classical building tra- 
ditions of the time and so led to the new synthesis. 

These two traditions were the stone-building tradition 
of the West and the brick-and-plaster tradition of the 
East. The former, belonging naturally to the stony coun- 
tries of the eastern Mediterranean and beyond Egypt, 
Syria, North Mesopotamia, Armenia was exemplified 
in the solid, stately, naked masonry of Egyptian temple 
or Byzantine cathedral ; the latter was a tradition rooted 
in the mud plains of Mesopotamia, extending eastwards 
through Persia and across the Oxus to Samarkand, the 
old Babylonian-Sassanian brick tradition, the appeal of 
which lay in its lighter shapes under a mantle of exquisite 


ornamentation of glazed tiles and mosaics, sumptuous 
interiors of stucco, carved and painted panelling, coloured 
glass and similar features of a richly decorative oriental 

The earliest Arab architecture of the Umaiyyad period 
the Great Mosque of Damascus which was the re- 
modelled church of St John, the Dome of the Rock in 
Jerusalem and the Mosque of Uqba at Qairawan be- 
longed to the stonework tradition, proper both to their 
geography and the prevailing political influence of the 
day. With the change of government to Baghdad, under 
the Abbasids, the brick-and-plaster tradition of the Per- 
sians came to be the dominating influence and continued to 
be so for the next four centuries. Not only did the first 
great mosques built in eighth-century Mesopotamia be- 
long to this tradition, but also those built in the im- 
mediately succeeding centuries in Egypt and north Africa. 

This wave of oriental tradition, sweeping westwards to 
invade the stone-building countries, was a natural conse- 
quence of the diffusion of Islam. Autocratic governments 
sent bodies of craftsmen skilled in the arts of one tradi- 
tion to the lands of the other ; the common language and 
religion encouraged enterprising craftsmen on their own 
account to move to courts and cities whose star was in the 
ascendant; the annual pilgrimage brought men of wealth 
and taste as well as craftsmen from the remotest corners 
of the Arab conquests through countries and cities having 
different building traditions, and what they saw to be 
novel or attractive was carried back and adopted in their 
own lands; and finally, the great Asiatic inroads of Turks 
and Mongols later drove craftsmen westwards from lands 
that were the source of so much artistic inspiration. Thus 
across the world from Merv to Marakkesh a continuous 


permeation of common ideas brought about an archi- 
tecture of that distinctive shape and quality by which we 
now recognize it. 

The foreign visitor cannot but be impressed by some 
of the beautiful and arresting features of Moslem archi- 
tecture, notably, perhaps, massive domes and lofty min- 
arets that raise themselves above flat-roofed cities. If he 
has travelled as far afield as Egypt or the Holy Land, 
Persia or India, he will have experienced the effect of dome 
and minaret in combination an entrancing outline against 
a brilliant Eastern night. If north Africa and Spain are 
the limit of his wanderings he will have missed the great 
domes and the circular minarets, though horseshoe arches 
with a characteristically exaggerated pinch forming the 
portal of mosque and city wall will have struck a novel and 
pleasing note. If he has been privileged to enter the walled 
seclusion of a great mosque (intolerance will have 
thwarted him in Morocco and Persia) and passed by way 
of arcaded cloisters across the spacious courtyard, scene of 
ritualistic ablutions, to the roofed sanctuary, he will there 
have met with a luxuriance of interior effect he may not 
have expected in the service of the puritanical religion of 
the Arab Prophet. 

But it is the exteriors of the famous mosques, particu- 
larly the domed ones, which are at first so impressive. The 
dome became, from the first, a favourite device of the 
Arabs. As a traditional tomb form it is met with in 
earlier buildings, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in 
Jerusalem, for instance it was well known, of course, in 
the lands of the conquests as far back as Roman times. The 
Arabs at first placed it in the mosque over and just in 
front of the praying niche* Later on it became, in Egypt, 
the central feature of the smaller tomb mosques of the 



caliphs, some mosques being given twin domes. The build- 
ing of these domes, the transition from a square substruc- 
ture through an octagonal phase and thence to the circle, 
effected by arches across the corners, led to the develop- 
ment of brilliant devices of corbelled masonry with pen- 
dentive carvings, a feature for which Moslem architecture 
is distinguished. In the tomb mosque of Egypt one minaret 
later came to be the fashion in place of two or even four, 
and this was usually built over the doorway, as had been 
the custom in Iraq. 

Domes under Islamic development became infinitely 
various. 'In Cairo the dome form was usually stilted, in 
Persia and Turkestan bulbous or ovoid domes were pre- 
ferred, while in Constantinople the mosques had low By- 
zantine domes. Externally the stone domes of Egypt were 
decorated with lace-like patterning in the fifteenth cen- 
tury: in Persia they were covered with dazzling glazed 
tiles. Stalactite pendentives supported them, and indeed 
stalactites were used everywhere, often in excess, and 
sometimes hanging from the ceilings like the "pendants" 
of our English fan vaults. But whereas the Saracen dome 
had little influence on our Renaissance domes in the West, 
it seems possible that Muhammadan minarets of the grace- 
ful type, found especially in Cairene buildings of the four- 
teenth and fifteenth centuries, may have influenced the de- 
sign of the later Renaissance campanili of Italy, and hence 
some of Wren's fine city steeples.' 13 * 

One of the notable characteristics of the Persian tradi- 
tion was its roundnesses. The minarets were round in con- 
trast to the square type of north Africa and Spain; the 
corners of walls were rounded, too, this a relic, of course, 
of a mud-brick ancestry when sharp corners, being most 
susceptible to damage, must be avoided. But with the 


spread of the round and chamfered forms to the stone 
countries they were copied in stone and so persisted and 
became characteristic of the later stone buildings of Islam. 
This feature of Arab architecture is credited by scholars 
with having begotten a notable line of developments which 
were to flourish, too, in Europe. *It is not a long step,' 
says Ernest Richmond, 22 * 'to evolve from a rounded corner 
the conception of an engaged shaft, and from an engaged 
shaft to conceive the device of an independent corner col- 
umn, both of which are features of Moslem architecture 
from very early times, first appearing in brick as in the 
engaged shafts at the corners of the brick piers ; then In 
the form of independent shafts in stone or in marble 
placed at the angles of entrance recesses ... or at any 
corner where their appearance might be considered pleas- 
ing, as, for instance, on either side of a mihrab or on 
either side of a window in a minaret.' 

And to this introduction of engaged shafts at the 
angles of piers and edges of columns the system of vault- 
ing so important in our later Gothic architecture is held 
to be under a great debt. Vaulting, based on intersecting 
arches, may originally have evolved in Armenia or Persia, 
but it seems to have found its way into the ecclesiastical 
architecture of Europe by way of Spain, where examples 
of it belong to Immediately preceding centuries. Gothic 
architecture Is held by some to have derived its pointed 
arch, its multifoil windows and ornamental battlements 
from the East, while its tracery patterning on surfaces is 
also a feature of the earlier Arab period. The horseshoe 
arch, suited best perhaps to low squat buildings and sup- 
ported on the slenderest of pillars, both features so char- 
acteristic of Arab buildings, made no appeal to 
contemporary European architects with their desire for 


OF SULTAN BARQUQ: extra muros. 

(From L'Art Arabe, Presse d'Avennfs] 


perpendicular forms. The Moslem architects paid the 
penalty for their too-slender supports by having to fortify 
them with straight timber rods extending from column to 
column to us an eyesore even in some of their most 
famous monuments. 

Bright and garish decoration, a characteristic of Mos- 
lem architecture in Africa and Spain as well as in Asia, 
is of Perso-Mesopotamian ancestry. It sprang from the 
need of a mantle for inferior surfaces of naked brick and 
timber. Mosques everywhere, the mosque of the Dome 
of the Rock in Jerusalem, as well as the Mosques of All 
at Najaf and Husain in Kerbela, are thus clothed in a 
luxurious Persian dress. In Jerusalem, for instance, the 
dome is covered with glazed tiles, the substructure of glass 
mosaics, edged with dados of marble with windows of 
coloured glass or filled with Intricate traceries ; elsewhere 
domes are often completely covered with gold. For devices 
so splendid the crafts of wood carver and metalworker, of 
workers in plaster, mosaics and marble, makers of glazed 
earthenware and tilers must have been at a high degree 
of perfection, indeed one that has perhaps never been 

In the matter of decorative design the craftsmen, for- 
bidden by religion to copy naturalistic forms, were driven 
to seek expression in other channels. Thus came a prolific 
invention of new patterns, at first geometrical, later in 
floral traceries, patterns of great Intricacy, delicacy and 
charm which were used in stucco, in glazed tiles in mosaics, 
in wood and metal and every other medium. This orna- 
mentation gave Its most characteristic imprint to the 
Moslem minor arts. By its name, 'arabesque', it Is most 
familiar to us. The Arabic character, an exquisite orna- 
ment in itself, susceptible of angular Kufic and other varia- 


tion, was another favourite design. The craftsmen of 
medieval Europe flatteringly imitated it and so came un- 
wittingly to adorn the coin of a Christian king and the 
cross of a Christian country with a characteristic Islamic 
text from the Qur'an. 

Persian influences continued to survive in Egyptian ar- 
chitecture under the Fatimids even after the Abbasid yoke 
had been thrown off. One of the great monuments of the 
period, the Al Azhar Mosque, famous today as the Theo- 
logical University of Cairo, shows this with its tiled bands 
of Kufic inscriptions round the minaret, gilded bands of 
stucco inscriptions in the interior and pierced arabesques in 
the stone grills of the window openings. But when a 
Kurdish dynasty succeeded and the Seljuq invasion of Asia 
Minor drove stone-building craftsmen, both Christians 
and Moslems, to take refuge in Egypt, there was a gradual 
creeping back to the ancient stone tradition. 

Two new mosque forms were thence to appear, the 
theological school mosque and the tomb mosque. In the 
tomb mosques the fagade came to undergo architectural 
treatment ; stone entrances in the form of giant archways 
were recessed in the walls, the roof of these being beauti- 
fully shaped in corbelled stonework. While in the school 
mosque the old flat roof on rafters gave place to the 
vaulted roof of stone ancestry. This school-mosque innova- 
tion, associated with the short-lived dynasty founded by 
the famous Saladin, was intended to teach Sunni rites and 
to purge Egypt of the Shi'a tenets of its late Fatimid 
rulers. The visitor to Morocco will doubtless also recall 
the famous madarsas of Fez and Marakkesh. The long 
axis of the building was now aligned differently, the shrine 
being subordinated to the courtyard, around which stu- 
dents' cells were placed, and another feature, the barrel 



vault of the school mosque, came henceforth to be asso- 
ciated in Islam with education. 

Under the next dynasty Egypt came to build entirely in 
stone, turning the ornamental designs of the brick-and- 
plaster traditions of the Persians into the new medium. 
It was this age when for two hundred and fifty years 
Egypt was ruled by the slave dynasty of Mamlukes of 
Turkish and Circassian blood that oddly enough con- 
stitutes her age of greatest architectural splendour. The 
final expulsion of the crusaders, who for centuries had 
driven a wedge between Egypt and Asia Minor, brought 
the Mamlukes into touch both with the Christian archi- 
tecture of Palestine and Syria and with Seljuq architecture 
beyond, where the splendid stone-building traditions of 
Armenians and Byzantines survived. And this, together 
with the great wealth which the Mamlukes derived from 
the control of all trade between Europe and the East 
for the Cape of Good Hope route had not yet been dis- 
covered provided the means of raising in Cairo (A.IX 
12501500) a series of monuments which, according to 
the brilliant analysis of a great authority, 22 * is unsur- 
passed in Moslem architecture. The glory of Cairo came 
to an end with its conquest by the Turks, and hence an 
army of medieval craftsmen turned for a livelihood, as 
by Islamic precedent, to the new court that had arisen 

In Palestine and Syria the crusades brought the build- 
ing of fine mosques to a complete standstill. From the end 
of the ninth to the end of the twelfth century military 
architecture monopolized the scene, the only notable ex- 
ception being the reconstruction of the mosque of the 
Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, a work of the tenth 
century. But defensive walls and solid fortresses kept the 



masons fully occupied, especially during those next two 
centuries when the Holy Land was being overrun by Chris- 
tian invaders from the West. 

If the Prankish builders, brought by the crusaders, made 
contributions in the form of churches and military works, 
they also learned a good deal from the monuments of the 
Saracens, and they carried^back novel ideas and practices 
to Eurbpe. One such feature was machicolation. The 
machicoulis consisted of a platform projecting out high in 
the wall of a fortress or city rampart in which was a trap- 
door through which boiling oil or arrows could be dropped 
on an enemy. This somewhat inhospitable device seems 
first to have appeared in a gateway tower of the city walls 
of Cairo, when constructed anew of stone, by the famous 
Armenian general, Badr al Jumali (eleventh century), 
but it was too neat and effective a feature to be missed by 
the crusaders and soon was to make its appearance in the 
medieval architecture of Winchester and Norwich, where 
it survives to this day. Another borrowing found in our 
medieval castles is the crooked entrance Inside the gate- 
way, designed to curb the attackers' onslaught when they 
had gained the gate, a feature the visitor to the citadel of 
Aleppo (ascribed largely to Saladin) will have seen the 
prototype of and the visitor to the Alhambra at Granada 
may recall. 

Domestic architecture during the Arab period, judged 
by its relics, does not seem to have been particularly note- 
worthy* The first Arab camps of Kufa and Basrah had 
been made of reeds, probably a collection of local madhifs, 
a thatched tunnel of hayrick-like proportions such as are 
met with nowadays as guesthouses among the marsh Arabs 
of the lower Euphrates. But later peacetime generations 
of Arabs soon took to the manner of living of their better- 



housed urban subjects. The second Abbasid caliph, in AJX 
762, founded the capital city of Baghdad, a city of yellow 
brick, which grew to be one of the most splendid metrop- 
olises of the world and remained so for nearly five hun- 
dred years till the Mongols came and utterly destroyed it. 
Mesopotamian domestic architecture was naturally Asiatic 
in feeling, whereas the houses of Syrian and Egyptian 
Arabs were of east Mediterranean type. But rich men in 
the spacious days of the Abbasids in Mesopotomia, the 
Fatimids and Mamlukes in Egypt and the Umaiyyads in 
Spain built palaces for themselves which developed com- 
mon features. 

The typical Moslem house of the more pretentious sort 
was built round double courtyards, the outer a public one 
where only men foregathered during the day, the inner 
a private one reserved for domestic life. In origin this ar- 
rangement is thought to have been Persian and to have 
been introduced into Egypt during Abbasid times when 
Persian influence was paramount and Cairo went in for 
Persian fashions. But if the prototype of this house is 
found in old Sassanian palaces it was a design eminently 
suited to the social organization of the times with its 
segregation of women. The women's part of the house was 
devoid of windows in the exterior walls, thus screening 
them from outside attention. Their windows opened on to 
the interior courtyard and even then must be filled with 
lattice woodwork or plaster or metal grills to ensure a 
maximum of privacy. In the decoration of the house glazed 
coloured tiles in bright designs were a favourite feature, 
as they still are in Persia and Spain, for facing the fronts 
of houses, garden seats and fountains and for paving court- 
yards. The Moorish palace of Alhambra, one of the few 
remaining worthy monuments of the Moslem era in Spain, 


but a very precious one, preserves In grandiose form some 
of the elements of the domestic architecture of the Arabs : 
the severe, unimpressive exterior, the lavishly ornate in- 
teriors, open tiled courtyards enclosed by arcading car- 
ried on slender columns, walls in exquisite stucco panelling, 
timbered ceilings, carved, coloured and gilded, window 
openings filled with stone slabs of pierced traceries. 

Offshoots of Moslem architecture are found today in 
such differing idiom as that of the National Spanish School 
and that of the palaces of many ruling princes in India* 
Regional influences have naturally brought about variation 
in a school of architecture that has persisted for a thou- 
sand years and well-nigh half encircled the globe. In 
India the glorious Taj Mahal has closer affinities with Per- 
sia than with Egypt and yet is different from both; in 
Turkey the influences are largely Armenian and Byzan- 
tine; in Morocco and Spain the two glorious square mina- 
rets, the Giraldo Tower of Seville and the Qasbah of 
Rabat, are obviously close kindred, as are cusped and 
horseshoe arches. Thus comes about the fivefold Saracenic 
building forms Syro-Egyptian, Hispano-Moresque, Per- 
sian, Ottoman and Lido-Saracenic. 

As regards the minor arts of the Arab period, these, 
in a large measure, were linked up with fine architecture, 
so that the early indifference of the first Arabs was a phase 
that quickly passed. Within a generation of the conquests 
a kingly court of Damascus, as we have seen, had risen 
to take the place of the simple dwellings of the Medina 
caliphs; a century more, and the palaces of Baghdad had 
as greatly excelled the courts of Damascus. Thence an 
affluent leisured class of Arabs grew up with a taste for 
the ancient refinements of their un-Arabian surroundings. 
A 'court art' was already in being before the Dasmascus 


caliphate decayed, and luxurious banqueting vessels and 
rich textile furnishings had come to be regarded with a 
friendly and tolerant eye. 

But it was the removal of the seat of government from 
Arab Damascus to Persian Baghdad, in the second century 
after the Prophet, that marked the establishment of a real 
tradition. Moslems henceforth adopted the luxury of the 
Sassanian inheritance and delighted in exquisitely wrought 
gold and silver plates, vessels of bronze and brass and 
copper inlaid with precious metals, painted pottery, sump- 
tuous silks and brocades, carved and painted ivories, in- 
scribed manuscripts with water-colour miniatures and the 
like. The Arabs had embarked upon a new and great ad- 
venture, which the puritans among them must have re- 
garded a little dubiously, for they were shaping a course 
close hauled to the winds of early orthodoxy. The inspira- 
tion for that adventure came from the Persians, for the 
Persians were a nation of artists as the Arabs had been a 
nation of warriors* 

Carpet weaving, a cottage handicraft among the Per- 
sians, was to attain world eminence. Beautiful examples 
of the art came in time to be made for the great mosques. 
There, their colours mellowed with age, and their smooth 
sensuous quality was enhanced by the naked feet of multi- 
tudinous worshippers. In the diwans of the well-to-do the 
walls were hung with carpets of shimmering silk, infinitely 
various in colour and design, though carpets of wool 
served the commonest ends as floor coverings; there were 
tiny prayer rugs, too, that were drawn out of their closets 
and unrolled five times a day, these more chaste and sober, 
as suited their sacred purpose. 

Among the minor arts that Europe came earliest to ad- 
mire, perhaps, was the metalwork of the Moslems. Lur- 



istan, with its mysterious bronzes, must have enjoyed 
ancient fame, the Mosul school, too, shaped by Armenian 
and Persian influences, had flourished from very early 
times. It continued to prosper under the Arabs until the 
Mongolian invasion scattered its craftsmen westwards 
and led to the promotion of a school at Damascus and an 
Egyptian revival at Cairo. The most characteristic product 
of these schools was an inlay work of gold and silver in 
brass or bronze, a process which Europe learned late from 
Damascus and chose to remember as 'damascening.' Do- 
mestic utensils of the house of the Arab period, such as 
vases, candlesticks, writing boxes, were commonly made in 
this work. The common metal had first to be cast to the 
shape ; it was then incised with delicate traceries of floral 
designs, geometrical arabesques, possibly a familiar coup- 
let in ornate Arabic lettering, and these were filled in with 
black mastic and a thread of the precious metal. Metal 
enamelling with colours, however, such as the cloisonne 
work of the Chinese, was not a Moslem handicraft. Schools 
did spring up later both in India and Spain, but too late in 
the day to be regarded as traditional Moslem art. Spain, 
however, like Egypt, shared in all the other Moslem arts : 
the swordmakers of Toledo were famous, and goldsmiths 
and silversmiths enjoyed European renown in the Middle 
Ages; even today the designs of earrings and suchlike 
jewelry in gold filigree seen in the Spanish shopwindows 
are strongly suggestive of oriental affinities. 

If enamelling on metal found no favour in the Arab 
period, enamelling on glass had been an old industry both 
in Syria and Mesopotamia, and beautiful specimens con- 
tinued to be made throughout Islamic times. 1 A notable 

1 Glass mirrors, too, are thought to have found their way into Europe 
from the Arab East 

r - ^ 


(By courtesy of the British Museum) 


use was in the giant hanging lamps of the mosques. These 
hung on massive chains from the ceiling, candelabralike, 
a circle of coloured bowls, faintly illumined from within, 
which gave to the sanctuary its dim religious light. Bottles 
and beakers were other popular forms of enamelled glass- 
ware. The Moslem nobility were accustomed to emblazon 
their heraldic arms In coloured enamels on these. 'Their 
use of such figures influenced the development of Western 
heraldry which, during the crusades, evolved into a sys- 
tematic science with a peculiar nomenclature of its own. In 
this the technical term for blue, azure, is derived from the 
Persian word denoting the blue stone called lapis lazuli. 
There are other interesting links between European and 
oriental heraldry, such as that curious figure the double- 
headed eagle, which makes its first appearance in remote 
antiquity on Hittite monuments. It became the badge of 
the Seljuq Sultans early in the twelfth century, and in the 
fourteenth was adopted as the blazon of the Holy Roman 
Emperors.' 12 * 

Painted earthenware and pottery were other crafts, 
long famous in Egypt and Persia, that underwent their 
own Islamic development. Centres sprang up from end 
to end of the Arab conquests, devoted especially to tile- 
making to satisfy the demands of religious and domestic 
architecture. Beautiful faience appeared, too, an elegant 
floral design making Damascus work celebrated, though 
Persian work, in which draughtsmanship and colouring 
reached their highest excellence, was still more famous. 
The realistic representations of tulips, lilac and other 
flowers on Persian pottery is said to have been the means 
of their introduction into Europe. Rayy was the famous 
ceramics centre in Persia, the home perhaps of that ex- 
quisite vase handle, in the form of gold-winged ibex, fa- 


miliar to European students. Rayy made famous wares in 
blue, green, red, brown and purple, until the Mongols 
came in the thirteenth century and destroyed it. 

One of the most widespread forms of Moslem pottery 
was lustreware with its shimmering quality of gold lustre 
that came from a process of painting a metal salt on a 
glaze and firing in smoke. It is still made in southern Spain 
and, although not to everybody's liking in these times of 
severer taste, enjoys local favour, Blue-and-white pottery 
and porcelain, such as Europe later drew from China, was 
being imported from the same source by the Abbasid Arabs 
in the ninth century; indeed, the characteristic cobalt 
colour, known as muhammadan blue, is thought to have 
been of Persian origin and to have been copied by the 
Chinese orginally for the Arab market. Faience in perfect 
taste, objets d'art such as lapis lazuli jars beautifully in- 
scribed, silver- and gold-encrusted bronze vessels and the 
like, found in museums today, give some indication of the 
taste in domestic furnishings of the wealthy under the 

The divine disapproval of the wearing of silk a taboo 
still faithfully observed by the Wahhabis of Arabia was 
beyond the endurance of the non-Arabian Arabs cradled in 
the lands of the conquests. Indeed they became the great 
silk mercers of the Middle Ages. Beautifully woven silk 
fabrics, such as had been sought after by Roman emperors, 
and rich brocades for the textile arts of Byzantines and 
Persians were at a high pitch of excellence at the time of 
the Arab invasion continued to be made in new Islamic 

Europe, in later times, when oriental trade came to 
flourish, became an enthusiastic purchaser of these fabrics, 
at once technically and artistically perfect. Even chasubles 



and other church vestments and canopies for Christian al- 
tars were commonly made of them. The tombs in the 
larger mosques were draped, too, with these exquisitely 
woven coverings of coloured silk and gold. Spanish silk 
shawls with designs suggestive of Chinese influence en- 
joyed a vogue which has not disappeared to this day, and 
Persian designs were similarly much earlier affected. Not 
only did silk in the first place come from China and the 
caravan route between China and Persia existed from 
early times but the Mongolian conquests of China and 
of Persia in the twelfth to thirteenth centuries (towards 
the close of the Arab period) established kindred hegem- 
onies across Asia and so greatly facilitated trade and 
cultural influences from end to end of the Continent. 

Chinese motifs were woven into silk fabrics by the 
Moslem weavers, side by side with their own, so that exotic 
birds and beasts and figures enjoyed popularity at times 
when orthodoxies were relaxed and perhaps at all times 
with the non-Moslem elements of the population; for 
tradition was too deeply rooted, human inclinations too 
strong to prevent it, and despite religious discouragement 
the human and animal figure never utterly disappeared 
from Persian works of art. When we read of the gold 
throne of an Egyptian Fatimid caliph, of carved trees set 
with precious stones and hoards of other art treasures, it 
clearly testifies to the mundane taste of the Shi'a elect as 
well as to their wealth. 

At a time when the courts of Baghdad, Cairo and Cor- 
dova were resplendent with unparalleled collections of art 
treasures, Europe, in her Dark Ages, was deficient in such 
arts as these. Specimens which formed presents from Mos- 
lem caliph to Christian monarch (tradition makes Harun 
al Rashid send presents to Charlemagne), objets d'art 



brought back by travellers to the Orient and novelties that 
appeared from trade contacts following the crusades were 
soon to minister to Europe's growing inspiration. Oriental 
canons came to be studied, oriental technique to be adopted. 
Spain and Sicily, where Latins and Moslems lived side by 
side, were natural contact points by which Moslem arts 
became known, but it was the port of Venice, as the 
flourishing port of crusade times and after and the home 
of rich and enterprising merchant princes, that became the 
gateway by which they were introduced. 

The Italian aristocracy had already acquired a taste 
for Moslem arts, and oriental craftsmen and oriental 
guilds were soon installed in Venice. Italian workmen were 
the first in Europe to learn from Persian carpetmakers 
how to make pile carpets, learn inlaid metalwork and Mos- 
lem ceramics from Persian and Egyptian craftsmen and 
to master the art of weaving precious silks on a loom of 
Moslem origin introduced from Sicily. From Venice these 
arts and crafts passed into pre-Renaissance Europe. 

As with architecture and the lesser arts, so with music, 
the original Arabs could only have been familiar with 
forms of a very rudimentary kind. Swarming out of 
Arabia, they immediately came into contact with the more 
developed music of Byzantines and Persians. A century 
and a half later the translation of Greek musical theorists, 
adapted to the taste of the leisured and artistic class that 
was growing up in Abbasid times, created an Arab musical 

In the deserts we may suppose the Arabs, like the 
Beduin of today, to have possessed a full repertory of 
camel chants and not much else. These they sang lustily 
as they went about special occasions, much as our sailors 
of another day used their sea chanteys; the loading up 



of camels, the march, the trot, the halt over a water hole 
each had its appropriate chant shouted in unison to 
familiar words endlessly iterated. 2 Of instrumental music 
they had none, unless it was a crude shepherd's pipe made 
from the horn of an antelope, and near the settlements a 
drum and perhaps an instrument of a rudimentary fiddle- 
banjo kind, strung chiefly with animal gut. But simple vocal 
music was their stand-by, and poetry, which they loved, 
was doubtless often intoned to some simple chant. 

To the original militant zealots of Islam music was 
associated with impiety and levity and was therefore to be 
frowned on, as it is to this day by the very orthodox among 
peninsular Arabian communities, among whom drums are 
suspect as instruments of Satan, and no decent girl with 
a thought for her good name would dare to sing aloud. As 
with other arts, so with music, a sharp line divided the 
Arabs of Arabia from the Arabs of the conquests. Arab 
music belongs to the latter, both in time and place. 

The Umaiyyad Arabs in the early part of the eighth 
century favoured a musical mode based on the Pythag- 
orean scale, the scale at that time in use in Europe, where 
it was, of course, an inheritance of the Greeks but was 
here coloured by both Persian and Byzantine influences ; 
and this continued in common use in Islam for five cen- 
turies to come, till it was superseded by the quarter-tone 
scale which is the one found throughout the East to this 

Arab music was essentially different from the music 
to which our modern ears are accustomed. Melody, not 
harmony, was its chief feature. It was rudimentary a 
horizontal one-dimensional music incapable of the struc- 

*I have set down in European musical notation, not a very satisfactory 
medium, all those I heard in Arabia. See Arabia Felix. 96 * 



from this seed sprang our strolling minstrelsy of the 
Middle Ages ; indeed our word 'troubadour' may well de- 
rive from the Arabic word for minstrel. This class of artist 
affecting painted faces, gaudy costume and long hair under 
a cap with jingling bells, a tabor in one hand, a pipe in the 
other, disseminated the practice of music through medieval 
Europe. They gave us, too, our Morris dancers, a verbal 
corruption of Moorish dancers. 

Europe had also its intellectual contacts with Arab 
music when wandering scholars went to Spain in the twelfth 
century to acquire the new learning, but in this there was 
small profit, for very little of the Arabic literature on 
music, in contrast to that on philosophy and science, seems 
to have been translated into Latin or Hebrew. The trouba- 
dour was a better advertising medium than the theorist, 
and he brought into Europe the lute, the guitar and a one- 
stringed fiddle said to have been a favourite of the poet 
Chaucer. Seville was the centre of the manufacture of such 
instruments. Those most favoured by the Arabs were of 
the string or percussion sort, such as lutes (of which the 
mandolin was one), guitars, harps, psalteries and dulci- 
mers; cymbals, castanets, drums and tambourines, the 
last named sometimes square and 'unsalvationist' in shape. 
Reed and metal wind instruments were also made and, 
not improbably, the first harmoniums. The earlier Euro- 
pean stringed instruments, such as zithers and harps, had 
been tuned by ear, but the finger boards of the Arab in- 
struments were mathematically marked by frets (Arabic 
fard) and it is supposed that to the fretting of the 
Arabian lute European music may have owed the major 
mode. Mensural or measured music seems, however, to 
have been the greatest contribution that the Arabs made 
to the art. 



The musical literature of the Arabs records some 
famous names of both composers and theorists, but in 
Spain, as in Baghdad, much of it is work of religious jurists 
and devoted to the issue whether music is permissible ac- 
cording to religion or not. The argument had already been 
won by the 'antis' in the East in the thirteenth century, 
after which time no great composer appeared. In Spain, 
however, Arab music flourished for a century longer, 
though its greatest exponent, Avempace, belonged to the 
tenth century. 

But in Islam music was, clearly, always under suspicion* 
And thus, whereas in the West, Christianity was later to 
inspire some of the immortal masterpieces of Handel, 
Bach, Brahms and the rest, the religious system of the 
Arabs so discouraged the musical art that their music 
remains, by European standards, a crude thing indeed. 
Certainly such encouragement as it enjoyed brought no 
comparable development, and this may well have been be- 
cause music was never permitted in the mosques to become 
a medium of divine worship. 



Arab Civilization: The Sciences 

Civilizations, like individuals, spring from two parents, 
and in all civilizations we can trace, the heritage from the 
Civilized Mother has been more important than that from 
the barbarian who violated her. 2 ** ARNOLD TOYNBEE. 


"UR MIDDLE AGES rang with the fame of the Arab 
sciences, an interesting thought when we remember that 
but a century or two earlier the Arabs had not yet emerged 
from an agelong desert obscurantism. The Arab sciences 
were, of course, a flower of the Arab world outside Arabia. 
They owed neither seed nor soil to the Arabian peninsula. 
Religion, language, social system all these elements of 
Moslem civilization were of peninsular origin ; not, how- 
ever, the arts and sciences. Still, it was in the Arabic tongue 
that the scientists and the philosophers of the age wrote, 
irrespective of their nationality. Arabic was, as it were, a 
torch, no sooner lighted in a corner of the eastern caliphate 
than beacons flared across the new Islamic world, whose 
radiance Christian Europe called Arab. 

The evolution from the conquering Arab raider to 
imperial ruler, the change from penury to affluence, from 
tents of hair to palaces of marble, was the miracle of little 
more than a hundred years. The revolution that the Arabs 
stood for stirred the world to its depths. Racial and reli- 



gious loyalties were soon in the melting pot. The world 
became convulsed with intellectual unrest, ancient philoso- 
phies and sciences were haled forth and rejuvenated, and 
out of it all grew the civilization which the Middle Ages 
knew and bequeathed as Arab civilization. 

The seed of the new learning was the legacy of 
Hellenism, the soil was first and foremost ancient Persia, 
but the stimulus that quickened life and induced the first 
vigorous growth came from the religion of the Arabs. 
They burst in upon societies intellectually more advanced 
than themselves and possessing developed religious sys- 
tems that had come under the influence of Greek philo- 
sophic thought ; they soon had to look to their laurels. In 
the early days of the conquests the Arabs could listen to 
that strong inner voice that assured them possession of a 
God-revealed and utterly true religion, based on a book 
that was not man made but a revelation of the eternal veri- 
ties. Erelong they heard many voices, the most insistent, 
perhaps, that of foreign learning. They had come armed 
with a religion at once authoritative and satisfying, one 
which, moreover, bore all the recent marks of divine bless- 
ing. Worldly wisdom must have seemed to the religious 
zealot either heretical or unnecessary. When philosophical 
speculation first came to dawn on their intelligences the 
narrowly orthodox doubtless felt antagonism for it as so 
much dubious foreign wisdom. For them, as yet, Allah's 
revelations, through Muhammad, were enough. Time was 
to shatter their sufficiency. As the first century wore on and 
they acquired a wider knowledge of the universe, as they 
came into contact with other systems, religious and pagan, 
and with men who continued to live under them, men who 
intellectually were their superiors or, at least, admittedly 
not less rational than themselves, and yet could not accept 



the Islamic faith despite the inducements of escape from 
taxation and social disabilities, the conviction that Islam 
embraced all knowledge worth knowing met with a serious 

Now these rapidly changing Arabs of the outside Arab 
world were, for their times, not religious bigots; there 
was room outside the circle of narrow orthodoxy, espe- 
cially in a world as yet predominantly non-Moslem, for 
men resolved to pursue knowledge wherever found. Was 
there not warranty, indeed, in abundance in the Qur'an 
itself and in the Traditions, which besought men to search 
for knowledge? Why should there be apprehension lest 
'foreign science 7 should upset divine truth how could it? 
Rather the tokens and wonders of creation would be all 
the more manifest, the Omnipotent proclaimed, the faith 
vindicated. It is due to the enlightenment of some of the 
early Abbasid caliphs of Baghdad, notably Mansur and 
Ma'mun, that official Islam, cast off from the moorings of 
narrow and intolerant orthodoxies, was swung into the 
wide stream of classical learning. 

Religious arguments between the rival imams of Islam 
and the leaders of other faiths doubtless early took place 
around the familiar issues, of the nature of God and of 
the universe. 

. . . and reasoned high 

Of providence, foreknowledge, will, and fate* 
Fix'd fate, free-will, foreknowledge absolute; 
And found no end, in wand" ring mazes lost?- 

Intellectually the classicists must have been at an ad- 
vantage, and the Moslem doctors could only hope to con- 
found or win them by demonstrating the rational basis of 
Islam in the terms of the ancient wisdom. This, it is 
^ilton, Paradise Lost, ii. 



posed, was at the root of the new and eager study of Greek 

The intermediary between the ancient masters and the 
Moslem pupils was at the outset the Nestorian Church. 
It was this Christian sect, exiled in Persia, that first trans- 
lated Aristotle into Arabic, and once translations had be- 
gun they did not cease for a century and a half, during 
which time nearly all the Greek literature in the natural 
sciences passed into the thought of scholars professing 
Islam. Hellenistic traditions had naturally survived in 
parts of the lands wrenched from the Byzantines, notably 
in Egypt, but the Greek spirit, curiously enough, had best 
been kept alive in Persia. There, in tolerant Sassanian 
times, the 'heretical* Nestorian Church had for some cen- 
turies found refuge. Old Hira, on the Euphrates, was the 
seat of a Nestorian bishop. 

But the real centre of Greek learning was Jundeshapur, 
a city in southwest Persia. It had been so for a century 
before the Arab conquest and remained so during the cen- 
tury that followed. There a famous academy attracted 
wandering scholars of the East a meeting ground for the 
learning of Greece, Persia and India. Scarcely less famous 
was its hospital which sent doctors successively to the 
courts of Damascus and Baghdad. Christian medicine en- 
joyed pre-eminent prestige in these centuries, and that 
medicine was founded largely on Greek medical science, 
that is to say, the works of Galen. Greek physicians, often 
Monophysite priests, when taken prisoner in the old 
Greco-Byzantine wars, had been well received in Persian 
court circles and their skill and knowledge put to use, so 
now, under the Baghdad caliphs the translation of Galen 
into Arabic early came to be desired and accomplished. 

But it was not in Jundeshapur, the centre of Hellenistic 



thought, not even in Baghdad, the new city of the caliphs, 
that Moslem scholarship first blazed forth. The great 
figures of the new learning sprang up in northeast Persia 
and beyond, in an area that embraced the provinces of 
Khorasan and Trans-Oxiana, familiar to us as Bactria and 
Turkestan territory which today is in a very backward 
state. Here, not far from the borderlands of India, a land 
already at this time with a considerable scholastic tradi- 
tion, the old Persian spirit lived on. But the new learning 
was not long to be confined there. The common Arabic 
tongue and the brotherhood of Islam rapidly diffused it 
across the Islamic world. Political disintegration Spain 
and Egypt soon achieved independence was no impedi- 
ment to its spread from east to west, and from Spain the 
Arab sciences passed into Europe. It is this role of inter- 
mediary played by Spain that makes her contribution loom 
large in European eyes, but her greatest figures, most 
notable in medicine and philosophy, did not appear till the 
third century of Moslem occupation, so that in some ways 
the Spanish period was but a reflection of the earlier glory 
of the Moslem East. 

To resume. The first century of the Arab period was 
not a time of great learning. It was a period of racio- 
political supremacy. The Arabs were too busy with their 
world conquest and their internal dynastic upheavals to 
concern themselves deeply with books. Doubtless the dawn 
of a coming glory was looming; indeed some Umaiyyad 
caliphs are thought to have had a taste for philosophical 
subjects, but the fact remains that we have no books in 
Arabic at all, except poetical diwans, from these Umaiyyad 
times. Such secular learning as existed in the caliphate 
would appear to have been an inheritance of the lettered 
classes among Christian, Sabian, Jewish and Persian com- 



munities and the Persianized-Arab aristocracy of Iraq. 

The rise of the Abbasids, the change of the seat of 
government from Damascus to Baghdad and the accession 
to office and influence of those who cherished learning 
brought about the new era of scholastic splendour in the 
East. Philosophers, mathematicians, astronomers, medical 
scientists, scholars of world reputation in the science of the 
Greeks, passed in a continuous procession during the 
ninth, tenth and eleventh centuries across the stage of the 
eastern caliphate, lending it a glamour which is the pride 
of the Arabs to this day, and if few of its principal figures 
were men of wholly Arab blood 2 it is fair to remember 
that the Arabs formed but a small minority In their huge 

Before the coming of the Arabs scholars of Jundeshapur 
had known their Aristotle and their Galen as well as 

*A list by no means exhaustive of some of the great names in Arab 
civilization with their respective origins is givn by Baron Carra de 
Vaux 15 * as follows 

al Khwarizmi was a native of Khiva. 

al Farghani of Trans-Oxiana. 

Abu'l Wafa) 

al Battani [ were of Persian origin. 

al Biruni ) 

al Kindi was of pure Arab stock. 

Farabi was a Turk by origin. 

Avicenna (Ibn Sina) hailed from near Balkh. 

al Ghazah ? came from Tug j n the east of p ers j a . 

Nasir al Dm) 

Omar Khayyam was a Persian. 

Averroes (Ibn Rushd) \ 

Alpetragius (Al Bitruji) | were Arabs of Spain. 

Arzachel (Al Zarkali) ) 

Hunain bin Ishaq\ 

Ishaq bin Hunain > the translators were Christians. 

Qusta bin Luqa ) 

Thabit bin Qurra? . 

al Battani ) 

Masha'allah was a Jew. 




miscellaneous Indian masters, these having been long ago 
translated into Syriac, the language of the Nestorian 
Church, and to some extent into Pahlevi, the contemporary 
language of Persia. The earliest translations of the Greek 
learning under the encouragement of the caliph-founder 
of Baghdad were thus made into Arabic from Syriac. With 
the extension of the fields of knowledge under succeeding 
caliphs translations at Jundeshapur came to be made, how- 
ever, direct from the Greek, the movement reaching its 
greatest activity half a century or so later. 

The Caliph Ma'mun, under whom this took place, held 
a view the first caliph ever to have done so that the 
Qur'an had been created in time, in opposition to the 
orthodox tenet that it was eternal before all worlds, co- 
existent with God, so that he took a long step forward 
towards giving a caliphial blessing, as it were, to the 
validity of reason in matters of faith. A school of liberal 
theologians had already sprung up in Iraq, antagonistic to 
those bigots who condemned the new learning as being in- 
consistent with the Qur'an and the Traditions, and who 
preferred to occupy themselves with such issues as whether 
horseflesh did or did not come under the religious taboo. 
Two movements were thus active. On the one hand the 
intellectuals were devoting themselves to the Greek 
sciences, which indeed were becoming their overmastering 
passion ; truth must be pursued for its own sake and tra- 
ditional beliefs modified where they were not reconcilable 
with scientific fact ; on the other hand the religious leaders 
of the many bemoaned the heresy or even atheism to which 
the love of pagan wisdom must lead. It thus came about 
that under the enlightened aegis of the early Baghdad 
caliphs an unfettered spirit of inquiry existed side by side 
with narrow dogmatism. 



A great library in Baghdad called the House of Wis- 
dom was founded by the Caliph Ma'mun, an example to 
be followed a century and a half later by a Fatimid caliph 
of Cairo. The grandees of the court vied with each other 
in collecting books, and every mosque of the times was en- 
couraged to do the same. A school of translation was es- 
tablished in Baghdad at the same time, Hunain ibn Ishaq, 
at once a great Christian physician and the most brilliant 
and prolific of the translators, being appointed to direct it. 
The remaining scholars and physicians of Jundeshapur 
were transferred to the courts at Baghdad and Samarra 
under the Caliph Mutawakkil, and hence its own famous 
academy and hospital fell into decay. 

The new library of Baghdad now enjoyed even more 
munificent royal patronage ; staffs of translators, most of 
them Christians and Sabians, who, as yet, alone had the 
scholarship, were sent to Alexandria and other ancient 
libraries of the Near and Middle East to hunt out old 
Greek manuscripts and bring them back to Baghdad for 
translation. Thus before the ninth century had run its 
course not only Galen and Aristotle, but Plato's political 
works, and the geographical, mathematical and astronomi- 
cal works of Ptolemy, Euclid and Archimedes had all 
been turned into Arabic. It is curious that classical poetry, 
classical drama and Greek history should have been passed 
by. But no translation of them was made, and so the 
Arabs missed the more intimate touch with the inner spirit 
of the Greeks. Whether this neglect is to be put down to 
utilitarianism or not, the Arabs were doubtless by nature 
realists and attached importance chiefly to knowledge that 
served practical ends medicine, mechanics, geography, 

One of the greatest tools of civilization which we owe 



to the Arab period is the zero the foundation stone on 
which all our arithmetic and mathematics rest and our 
everyday numeral system. These are almost certainly an 
Indian invention and are, in fact, called Indian by the 
Arabs themselves. The other peoples of antiquity, includ- 
ing even the Greeks, had no numbers ; they used the letters 
of the alphabet in their order as numerals. Our earliest 
trace of numbers is found in the Arabic works of the tenth 
century. Numbers I to 5 are represented by a correspond- 
ing number of strokes ligatured ; 6 to 9 by simple conven- 
tional signs ; the nought by a dot or a circle, thus : 


1 r r I 1 V A S * 

The introduction of the nought or zero the Arabic 
word is sifr, from which our word 'cipher' may ultimately 
derive simplified and revolutionized arithmetic. It had 
previously been necessary to keep separate columns for 
units, tens, hundreds, etc. the abacus system still met 
with in shops in China. But the introduction of the nought 
allowed figures to be kept in a row, in the series of units, 
tens, hundreds, etc., familiar to us and so did away with 
the need for a separate column for each. This discovery, 
under the name 'algorism', found its way into Europe in 
the twelfth century, after having been current among the 
Arabs for two hundred and fifty years. Such terms as 
'algorism', 'cipher' and 'algebra' bear witness to the part 
played by the Arabs in our systems of calculation. 15 * 

The algebraists under the Arabs made advances on 
the knowledge of the Greeks. The works on the solution 
of cubic equations by Omar Khayyam is held in high esti- 
mation, and Omar was no mean astronomer, too, though 

- [176] 


we prefer to think of him in his minor role of poet. Meas- 
urements on plane and spherical surfaces were developed 
quite early in the Arab period, the greatest geometer of 
all being a Sabian named Thabit bin Qurra, who improved 
on Euclid's Elements, who translated into Arabic seven of 
the eight books on conic sections of Apollonius and wrote 
the earliest known work on the sundial. Trigonometry 
owes the discovery of the secant to Abu'l Wafa, though it 
is sometimes attributed to Copernicus; trigonometrical 
ratios, as we use them today, were the remarkable dis- 
covery of the unbeliever, al Battani, while logarithms 
came within an ace of discovery by al Farabi in his work 
on musical intervals. Infinite quantities were dealt with by 
the great Avicenna among others; measurements were 
made of equilibrium and specific gravity, al Kindi already 
experimenting in the ninth century with the object of dis- 
covering the laws governing a falling body. 

In mechanics astronomical instruments were of major 
importance. New forms of astrolabes, improvements on 
Ptolemy's, were invented both in the East and the West. 
For land purposes they were generally designed for a par- 
ticular latitude and served to find the position of Mecca 
and so the direction of prayer ; while at sea their use for 
navigational purposes continued down to the seventeenth 
century. Spanish astronomers devoted attention to the 
construction of armillary or celestial spheres, making them 
as big as possible to minimize error. In major engineering 
the Abbasid times produced extensive canalization of 
Tigris and Euphrates for irrigation purposes ; a tradition 
is also cherished by the Arabs that one of the caliphs 
planned to make the Suez Canal and was only prevented 
by the danger it entailed to the holy places at the time of 
the crusades. 



The Arabs were particularly well placed to make con- 
tributions to geography. The pilgrimage to Mecca early 
led to the compilation of books that set forth the journeys 
to the holy cities from the uttermost ends of the Islamic 
world and gave detailed descriptions and names of cities 
and villages en route and the distances of the various 

The early Arabs conceived of the world as disc shaped, 
its interior a land mass of which Arabia was the centre ; 
without was an encircling ocean having two deep intrud- 
ing arms presumably the Indian Ocean and the Mediter- 
ranean. They do not appear to have had any geography 
in a scientific sense till the translation of Ptolemy, and this 
led, among the scholars at any rate, to an acceptance of 
Greek conceptions. By the end of the tenth century their 
geographical knowledge had far outgrown that of con- 
temporary Europe, and if their maps of the Mediter- 
ranean represent it as a circular or elliptical shape, this 
doubtless was a cartographical convention of the times, for 
they knew better from Ptolemy's maps. 16 * Ptolemy's meth- 
ods, which they used as their model, had been scientific. 
He used parallels of latitude and parallels of longitude, 
as in a Mercator's projection, the former based on the 
equator, the latter measured from the westernmost me- 
ridian then known, the Island of Ferrol. He plotted his 
point of latitude and longitude from data obtained by the 
rough methods of his day the logs of sea captains, the 
diaries of army officers home from campaigns, distances 
obtained by dead reckoning and other data such as the 
duration of the hours of daylight and the times of the 
rising and setting of heavenly bodies. 

The Arab astronomers, al Farghani, al Battani and al 
Biruni, were soon producing their own tables of latitudes 



and longitudes. But astronomers and geographers at first 
worked independently. The land mass of the world had 
been conceived of as divided by the equator into a habitable 
northern part and an uninhabited southern part. The 
habitable part was further divided into seven climes, a 
series of parallel zones running east to west and lying one 
beyond the other northwards, diminishing in extent as 
they went. A literary geographical school sprang up in 
the tenth century. One of its luminaries, al Mas'udi (he 
was a widely travelled author who had visited China but 
possessed little astronomical knowledge) , held the opinion 
that all cities in one clime must necessarily be in the same 
latitude. But Idrisi, who followed him, co-ordinated the 
scientific with the descriptive aspects of the science. The 
Norman king of Sicily commissioned this brilliant geogra- 
pher to write a geographical description of the world 
an interesting light on how Europe regarded Moslem 
scholarship. Voluminous writings of travellers (one of the 
most important was Ibn Batuta, a Moor who had visited 
Ceylon and Africa as well as every part of the Islamic 
world) were inspired perhaps by the earlier encyclopaedic 
works of Abu'l Fida and Yaqut, the latter a particularly 
notable contribution to knowledge. 

The Arabs had a great sea tradition, too, particularly in 
the East, which is reflected in the popularity of sea litera- 
ture at the time, and of which we get a glimmering in the 
voyages of Sindbad the Sailor in the Arabian Nights. It 
was indeed an Arab mariner named Ibn Majid who is be- 
lieved to have piloted the Portuguese explorer, Vasco da 
Gama, on his historical voyage of discovery around the 
Cape of Good Hope (A.D. 1492), thus opening the ocean 
way to India, and a legend makes Ibn Majid the actual 
inventor of the mariner's compass. That the compass was 



in some way an Arab contribution is logically within the 
tradition, but the compass was already known in France 
and Italy, and Majid's own ascription of it to King David, 
the great ironmaster of antiquity in which role I have 
many times heard of him from Arab Beduin suggests a 
much earlier knowledge of the compass. The Chinese in- 
deed claim to have used it continuously from the second 
century, and this may suggest that Arab mariners intro- 
duced it to the West from their Far Eastern voyages. 

It was Arabian astronomy, however, rather than Ara- 
bian geography, that exercised an enduring Influence on 
European thought. Although we owed much of our earliest 
specialized knowledge of Eastern countries to the geogra- 
phers their half knowledge and rudimentary map making 
came in time to be superseded and the debt due to their 
pioneer contributions forgotten or underestimated. To the 
Moslem astronomer is due the credit of accepting the 
roundness of the earth, however unenthusiastically, at a 
time when it was as yet too big a pill for Europe to swal- 
low. Accompanying the conception of the earth as a sphere 
was a curious theory that somewhere in the centre of one 
hemisphere was a summit, c the cupola of Arin,' and Chris- 
topher Columbus three hundred years later held the quest- 
provoking belief that in the opposite hemisphere, the An- 
tipodes of Arin, must be another and still more elevated 
summit, giving to the earth a pear-shaped form. 'It is 
highly probable,' says Kramers, 16 * 'that it induced Dante, 
whose indebtedness to Muhammadan traditions has been 
established in many respects, to localize his Purgatorio, 
in the shape of a mountain, in the western hemisphere, by 
combining with it, in an ingenious way, the ancient Chris- 
tian belief that the terrestrial Paradise was situated in the 
extreme east of the world, behind the sea.' 



As did the Hebrew scriptures, the original Arabs had 
doubtless conceived of our earth being the hub of the 
universe. Within two centuries of the conquests Moslem 
scholars had accepted the Ptolemaic conception. In the 
tenth century they speak of the planets of which they 
regarded the sun and the moon as two each with its hol- 
low concentric sky; the outer sky of all contained the fixed 
stars and turned round and round like a water wheel on 
two pivots, or celestial poles, thus keeping the inner skies 
of the planets revolving in their several motions. Two 
centuries earlier a Hindu astronomer brought to the new 
court at Baghdad an Indian work on astronomy which was 
soon translated, and the astronomical tables of the Caliph 
Ma'mun, who set up an observatory at Baghdad fifty years 
later, were prepared according to the Indian method. At 
this observatory the great Thabit took altitudes of the 
sun to discover the length of the solar year, and his fellow 
Sabian, Battani the astronomer most admired during our 
Renaissance period calculated the first appearance of the 
moon, the inclination of the ecliptic, the length of the 
tropic and sidereal year, and parallaxes. 

The passion for astronomy spread to Spain, where, in 
the eleventh and twelfth centuries, it flourished exceed- 
ingly, the Spanish school calculating its longitudes in rela- 
tion to the meridian of Toledo. Al Bitruji ( Alpetragius) in 
the twelfth century was developing his own original views 
on planetary movements. He boldly criticized the com- 
plexity of Ptolemy's theories and looked for a simpler ex- 
planation of the entire stellar system. Al Biruni had 
already in the eleventh century had glimmerings of what 
Aristarchus of Samos and Seleucus of Babylon had in- 
tuitively felt more than a thousand years before, a belief 
sometimes ascribed to Indian savants, namely that the 



phenomena of the skies may be explained by the rotation 
of the earth on its own axis and its progress on an orbital 
path around the sun. 15 * But that thesis and its mathematics 
had to await the Renaissance and the Pole, Copernicus. 

Arab civilization is scarcely less distinguished in the do- 
main of medicine than in mathematics. Arab medicine was 
rooted in Greek medicine, and the original centre of medi- 
cal learning was, as we saw, Jundeshapur in southwest 
Persia. The famous hospital there produced seven genera- 
tions of a celebrated family of physicians known to the 
East as Bakhtishu, i.e. Fortuna Jesu, With its decay medi- 
cine ceased to be a Christian and Sabian preserve, Moslem 
doctors were trained in the new hospital at Baghdad, and 
in the course of a century or so thirty similar hospitals 
sprang up in the principal cities throughout the Moslem 

Hunain, the physician and translator, had written 
several original medical works in Arabic, including ten 
treatises on the eyes, and Thabit, also physician-translator, 
is credited with a big work on hygiene. But before this 
first century of Arab science had passed a Persian Moslem 
was born near Teheran who became one of the greatest 
figures of the era. This was Rhazes, a pupil of Hunain, who 
surpassed his master in the prolixity of his works. One on 
smallpox and measles gave the first clear account of these 
diseases; it found its way into many languages, including 
English, and was still being published in East and West 
a thousand years later. Rhazes's masterpiece, called The 
Comprehensive Book, brought together the knowledge and 
treatment of Greeks, Arabs, Persians and Indians, re- 
spectively, for every known disease, together with the 
author's summing up, a stupendous piece of scholarship 
which was later to influence European practice. 



There were many other medical scientists, the most 
notable of them Avicenna, whose Canon of Medicine was 
at once an encyclopaedia and pharmacopoeia. It was 
translated into Latin, and it is still used in the East. At 
about this time a medical school was springing up in 
Spain which was to achieve eminence in surgery. The 
Materia Medica of Dioscorides had, at the outset, been 
translated for the Cordova court by a Jewish doctor, and 
Abulcasis, another famous court physician, soon after- 
wards produced his treatise on surgery, illustrated with 
drawings of instruments. This work had a wide vogue ; it 
was translated into Spanish, Latin and Hebrew, and some 
experts claim that it laid the foundations of European 

Optics reached their highest development under Al- 
hazen, who, at the beginning of the tenth century, was In 
the service of the Fatimid caliph of north Africa. Alhazen 
rejected the theory of Ptolemy and Euclid that the eye 
sends out rays to the object beheld and asserted the reverse 
process, a discovery that is at the bottom of photography. 
He examined the refraction of rays through light and 
water, estimated that the atmosphere around the earth 
was ten miles high and came very near to discovering the 
magnifying glass; his researches carried Arab optical 
science far beyond the limits of Greek knowledge. All this 
time the Arabs were becoming highly proficient in the prac- 
tical treatment of eye diseases, and their methods of A.D. 
1000 were being followed in Europe down to the begin- 
ning of the eighteenth century. 

The decline of the Eastern sciences coincides with the 
revival of narrow religious- orthodoxies in Islam, which 
dated from the early part of the twelfth century, and 
the work of the great religious teacher, al Ghazali. If a 



pious caliph of Baghdad was to burn the works of 
Avicenna, Spain was free to advance for a century longer. 
Indeed at this very time she produced two of her great 
figures, Avenzoar and Averroes. But by the fourteenth 
century Arabic writings had so far declined that magic 
and superstitious practices were appearing. Not that these 
were ever entirely absent, even in the halcyon days of the 
tenth to twelfth centuries, for both astrology and alchemy 
were widely believed in. Quite competent astronomers ac- 
cepted the influence of the heavenly bodies upon terrestrial 
affairs, and despite the Traditions which forbade belief in 
omens Mas'udi, among others, was a believer in them. The 
popular mind associated astronomy with astrology, so 
that astrolabes came to be suspected by the vulgar as par- 
taking of the magical, whence at the end of the tenth 
century, one pope, who was an enthusiastic astronomer, 
was held to have 'dealings with the devil at Cordova.' 

The case for alchemy was stronger. It was founded on 
the theory that all metals are fundamentally the same a 
basis not incompatible with the Aristotelian theory that 
everything ultimately is composed of four elements : mois- 
ture, dryness, heat and cold. Transmutation from one 
metal to another was therefore held to be not impossible. 
Gold was the purest, silver the next purest, and the desire 
for them was, of course, in order of their preciousness. 
Alchemy postulated a substance that was capable of turn- 
ing a base metal into a precious one, and it was the hunt 
after this elixir that occupied some of the best thought of 
the age. Even such eminent scientists as Rhazes and al 
Farabi were enthusiastic experimenters, though others, 
notably al Biruni and Avicenna, were in a nonbelievers' 
camp, holding by a theory that metals were fundamentally 
different (elements?). An interesting feature of Rhazes' 


book on alchemy is his division of substances into vege- 
table, animal and mineral, a verbal usage that has passed 
into our modern speech, while the so-called father of Arab 
alchemy, Jabir, is supposed nowadays to have been a 
secret company that was at work not earlier than the 
tenth century. 

'The legacy of the Islamic world in medicine and natural 
science,' says Dr Max Meyerhof, 17 * 'is the legacy of 
Greece, increased by many additions, mostly practical. 
. . . But the additions of the Islamic physicians refer almost 
solely to clinical and therapeutic experience. The theory 
and thought of the Greeks were left untouched and treas- 
ured up after careful systematization and classification. It 
must be remembered that the Moslems were strictly pro- 
hibited from dissecting either human bodies or living ani- 
mals. Thus experiment was practically impossible in 
medicine, so that none of Galen's anatomical and physio- 
logical errors could be corrected. On the other hand, they 
received some impetus from the experience of Persian, 
Indian, and Central Asian scholars concerning particular 
lines of treatment, operations, and the knowledge of drugs 
and minerals. ... In other sciences some of the best Greek 
works were unknown to the Moslems, as, for example, the 
botany of Theophrastus. Their own share in this branch 
is a considerable one, but, again, of purely practical im- 
portance. The Moslem scholars, although acute observers, 
were thinkers only in a restricted sense. It is the same in 
zoology, mineralogy, and mechanics. The glory of Moslem 
science is in the field of optics. Here the mathematical 
ability of Alhazen and Kamal al Din outshone that of 
Euclid and Ptolemy. Real and lasting advances stand to 
their credit in this department of science.' 

Original Arab contributions In the field of philosophic 


thought are often belittled by Western authorities, who 
indeed have dubbed them negligible, in opposition to some 
modern Arab authorities who think that during the golden 
age of the caliphate a system of philosophy flourished 
which was peculiarly Arab or Islamic and which pro- 
foundly affected European thought and achievement. Pro- 
fessor Guillaume, in his brilliant essay on Philosophy and 
Theology* to which the present writer acknowledges a 
deep obligation, holds that while the Arab addition to 
Greek philosophy was not substantial, it seems unfair to 
deny to the Arabs a 'peculiar synthesis of philosophic 
thought' which gives Arab philosophy a definite meaning. 
During our Middle Ages it was the world under Arab 
domination that rediscovered Greek philosophy, devoted 
itself to a rational interpretation of God, man and the 
universe, and arrived at intellectual standpoints that 
greatly influenced the teachings, not only of Islam, but 
also of medieval Christianity. We have seen that the first 
Arabs accepted the Qur'an much in the same way that 
fundamentalists accept the Bible a literal acceptance 
through faith. The impact of Greek philosophical ideas on 
the increasingly enlightened generations following the con- 
quests brought intellectual questionings. Soon a school of 
Moslem thinkers arose, the Mu'tazilite or Secessionists, 
who held 'that God could not predestinate man's actions 
because He was a moral being who was bound to do what 
was righteous' and who demanded that 'theology should 
be subjected to investigation by the mind/ To this society 
the Caliph Ma'mun himself belonged, and its activities in 
pressing the translation and study of the ancient thinkers 
were such that its influences are thought to have spread 
across the Islamic world into Spain, to survive there after 
its own suppression in the East as a heretical body. 



While the orthodox were suspicious of innovations of 
foreign origin and was not philosophy 'wisdom mixed 
with unbelief ? the Arab philosophers took the path of 
intellectual approach. The earliest distinguished name 
among them is that of al Kindi, whose theories of the soul 
formed, with some modifications, the basis of later Arab 
philosophical thought. His conception of the universe was 
akin to that of Aristotle: 'The divine intelligence is the 
cause of the world's existence: its activity is mediated 
through the heavenly spheres to the terrestrial world. The 
world-soul is intermediate between God and the world of 
bodies. This world-soul created the heavenly spheres. The 
human soul is an emanation from the world-soul. There 
is thus a duality in man : inasmuch as the soul is tied to the 
body it is influenced by the heavenly spheres, but in so far 
as it is true to its spiritual origin it is free and independent. 
Both freedom and immortality are only attainable in the 
world of intelligence, so that if man would attain thereto 
he must set himself to develop his intellectual powers by 
acquiring a right knowledge of God and the universe!' 18 * 

The philosopher, al Farabi, who followed al Kindi and 
was also a commentator of Aristotle, argued 'the impos- 
sibility of an infinite chain of causes and the postulate 
of a first cause necessarily existent in and for itself.' 
Al Farabi was an enthusiastic exponent of the theory that 
the world had no beginning, a doctrine which was an 
offence to Islam and Christianity. 

The philosopher whom the West regarded as the great- 
est exponent of Arab philosophy till Averroes arose in 
Spain two centuries later was Avicenna. His lucid inter- 
pretations of his predecessor's philosophy were indeed 
translated later by the Christian archbishop of Toledo. 
Avicenna, following Plotinus, laid down the principle 



*that from the one and indivisible only one being can origi- 
nate. . . . Therefore it is not permissible to assert that 
form and matter spring directly from God for that would 
involve the assumption that there are two different modes 
in the divine essence. Matter, indeed, is not to be thought 
of as coming from God, because it is the very principle of 
multiplicity and diversity. Again, argued Avicenna, we may 
not suggest that a necessary being which has no final cause 
is influenced by a purpose in the sense that he acts for the 
sake of something other than himself. For if he did he 
would be dominated in his actions by regard for a being in- 
ferior to himself. It would then be necessary to distinguish 
within the divine nature : (a) the good of the thing which 
made it desirable; (b) the divine knowledge of that good; 
and (c) the divine intention of acquiring or producing that 
good. Therefore something intermediary between God 
the "necessary being" and the world of multiplicity must 
be postulated. The problem, therefore, was how to ac- 
count for the fact of a complex universe and a simple 
creator.' 18 * 

The philosophical thought of the East passed naturally 
across the Arabic speaking world to Spain, where, how- 
ever, for the first three centuries religious orthodoxy re- 
sisted Mu'tazalite doctrines. The great thinkers of Spain 
do not belong to the centuries of the Arab rulers at Cor- 
dova but to the later ones of political upheaval under 
Berber rulers. These, though inclined to fanaticism and 
narrow orthodoxies, seem to have connived at the specu- 
lation of the philosophers so long as it was kept out of 
the reach of the common herd. 

The Christian Church in Spain, unlike the Nestorian 
Church in Persia, was not in contact with Greek phil- 
osophic thought, so that whereas in the East Greek 



philosophy had come to Islam through a Christian link, 
in the West it was to come to Christianity through a Mos- 
lem link. Three great Spanish thinkers arose, Ibn Mu- 
sarra, Ibn al Arabi, and Ibn Rushd (Averroes), whose 
ideas were to exercise great influence in Europe during the 
succeeding centuries, as did those of a Jewish school whose 
principal figure was Avicebron (Ibn Gabirol). Many of 
the Moslems had been mystics. The greatest Moslem mys- 
tic, a man of wonderful erudition and deep piety, was al 
Ghazali, called the St Thomas Aquinas of Islam. His 
arguments in favour of the 'creatio ex nihilo', proofs that 
God's knowledge comprises particulars and the dogma 
of the resurrection of the dead commended themselves to 
Christian scholars. Al Ghazali had passed through a stage 
of scepticism to set himself the task of exploring the four 
ways which claimed to lead to the truth, namely Scholas- 
tic theology, belief in an infallible teacher, Aristotelian 
philosophy and Sufism, i.e. the way of Persian mystics who 
held that God could be mystically apprehended in ecstasy. 
He emerged a mystic. 

The philosopher who had the most pronounced in- 
fluence on the West was Averroes of Cordova, though he 
does not appear to have occupied a corresponding posi- 
tion in Islam, for at one stage he was accused of apostasy 
to Judaism and banished to Africa. By the orthodox, 
Averroism was indeed generally equated with rationalism. 
Averroes, however, did not argue that philosophy and re- 
vealed religion were irreconcilable but held like St Thomas 
Aquinas that when they appeared to conflict the error lay 
in the interpretation. For Averroes the interpretation of 
the Qur'an by the ignorant was not possible. Better they 
be left with their crude ideas while 'the philosopher in- 
terpreted the sacred text in the light of reason.' Such 



ideas and others came from the East by way of Moslem 
Spain to colour Christian outlook. 'The resemblances be- 
tween Averroes and St Thomas Aquinas indeed are so 
numerous it is only natural to conclude that Averroes has 
bequeathed something more than a commentary on Aris- 
totle to Christian scholarship.' 18 * 

Thus European scholars hold that 'however small the 
Arab contribution to pure philosophic thought may have 
been their service to theology was of considerable extent.' 
'We may be sure,' says Professor Guillaume, 'that those 
who accuse Moslem scholars of lack of originality and of 
intellectual decadence have never read Averroes or looked 
into al Ghazali, but have accepted second-hand judgments. 
The presence of doctrines of Islamic origin in the very 
citadel of Western Christianity, the Summa of Aquinas, 
is a sufficient refutation of the charge of lack of original- 
ity and sterility.' 18 * 

The influence of the Arabs on medieval civilization was 
clearly very considerable, the term 'Arab' being used in 
its broad cultural connotation; for Arab civilization, as 
we have seen, was not the civilization of the Arabs as a 
race, still less of Arabia as a country ; it was the civilization 
that sprang up among the heterogeneous peoples of the 
Arab-conquered world in the early centuries of Islam. Its 
great figures, indeed, seem to have been mostly of Persian 
blood, and not a few were outside the allegiance of the 
Arab faith. Still, for all that, without the Arabs it probably 
would never have taken place. 

One very striking thing about these scholars was their 
amazing versatility. Thus a philosopher of distinction like 
al Farabi could be eminent in music and in mathematics. 
Rhazes seemed equally at home in theology, in astronomy 
and in the natural sciences, and al Biruni had the time and 



talents to be physician and physicist, geographer and as- 
tronomer, and still write learnedly about arithmetic. The 
Arabs may 'not have had the same gift of scientific imagi- 
nation, the same powerful genius as had the Greeks', 15 * 
but they made themselves masters of the Greek heritage 
and kept alive the higher intellectual life. 

Europe, as yet backward, profited from intercourse 
with this civilization particularly through Moslem Spain. 
In the tenth century Cordova was the most civilized city 
in Europe ; 19 * Seville, a hundred years later, was to rival, 
but only Toledo was to excel her and in the eleventh 
century become the first seat of learning in Moslem Spain. 
Wandering scholars from Europe now came to acquire, 
through the medium of Jewish interpreters, a taste for 
Aristotle. Others, following in succeeding centuries, came 
to study Arabic, the eminent among them, like Robertus 
Augustus and Adelard of Bath, making translations of 
their own. As the conflict between the Latin and Berber 
kingdoms led to the gradual withdrawal of Moslem power 
Spain became more congenial to European taste, and more 
and more of those with a bent towards scholarship turned 
to her. 

Just as the Arabs had profited from the Greek trans- 
lations in the eighth and ninth centuries, so in the twelfth 
and succeeding centuries Europe profited by these Latin 
translations from the Arabic. And so Greco-Arabic learn- 
ing spread across Europe, and the first universities sprang 
up in response to the demand for it Bologna, Padua, 
Paris. The Christian West was awakening. She had al- 
ready inherited a large part of the Moslem legacy when 
the crusades brought her into closer contact with the 
Greek Church of Eastern Christendom. She had become 
fully aware of the legacy of the Greeks bequeathed 


through the Arabs, and as time passed she abandoned 
Arabic to go straight to the Greek originals. 

The Arabs had meanwhile forsaken their Greek idols, 
had in turn become conquered peoples and so sank back 
into obscurity. Their work was done. They had held aloft 
the torch of Greek civilization and after four hundred 
years passed it, still more brightly burning, to the Chris- 
tian West. That heritage contained the seed of the Renais- 
sance, and out of the Renaissance grew European civiliza- 
tion and European ascendancy. 


Part Three 


Disintegration and Decline 

EW PEOPLES have left their impress on the world as the 
Arabs have left theirs. At this day in a vast sweep of 
territory across north Africa eastwards into the heart of 
Asia the religion, the dress, the habits, the very outlook of 
the peoples, the Arabic tongue, the written character where 
the tongue is not Arabic, are all living monuments to the 
great medieval empire of the Arabs. 

Yet, strange though it may seem, the Arabs were a peo- 
ple without taste for discipline, without capacity for or- 
ganization, lacking stability. The marvellous expansion 
of the seventh and eighth centuries that carried their 
sway over an area as vast as the Roman Empire was fol- 
lowed immediately by a period of disintegration almost as 
rapid. There was scarcely any marking time at the top of 
the hill, scarcely any sustained imperial dominion. Political 
unity crumbled from the moment the soldiers stopped 
marching; the conquered territories split up, regional 
dynasties followed one after another; and within three 
centuries political ascendancy had virtually passed almost 




everywhere to men of non-Arab blood. Within another 
century or two foreign invaders were thundering at the 
inner gates, the crusaders from western Europe, heathen 
Mongols from Hither Asia. The Arabs knew no peace. 
As they had lived by the sword, so must they perish by it. 
And thus for five centuries the sword was seldom sheathed. 
Yet despite the clashings, latterly of three races of man- 
kind, despite the political submergence of the Arabs them- 
selves, their faith emerged from the contest a world 
faith; their social culture, inextricably bound up with that 
faith, had laid hold of the ultimate victors. If the Arabs 
suffered political eclipse, yet they triumphed in the 
Arabization of their masters. 

The new Arab world that had come to exist at the end 
of the expansionist wars was not predominantly Arab in 
blood. For colonization and conquest are ultimately two 
very different processes, and while the conquests were al- 
most world wide in extent, as the world was then conceived, 
Arab colonization was not. It well-nigh exhausted itself in 
the Fertile Crescent, the lands half encircling Arabia's 
northern confines Palestine, Syria, Mesopotamia. Here 
more than anywhere else the proportion of Arab invad- 
ers to indigenes stood high and grew to be dominant. 
Egypt and Persia, on the other hand, were conquered 
rather than colonized, the Arab minority element ulti- 
mately dominating the one, being submerged by the other. 
In the outward extensions, north Africa and Spain to the 
westwards, Trans-Oxiana to the eastwards, the Arabs were 
still more thin spread, these outermost conquests having 
been achieved indeed only with the aid of allies. Most 
notably was this the case in Spain where Tariq's original 
conquering army of seven thousand contained a mere hand- 
ful of three hundred Arabs, 19 * and the backing-up force 


of eighteen thousand commanded by an Arab the following 
year was a composite one of Berbers, Arabs, Egyptians 
and Syrians, doubtless again preponderantly north African 
in personnel. Marriage with Spanish women rapidly multi- 
plied the newcomers' stock, but it still must have repre- 
sented but a tiny fraction of the entire population of Spain, 
while its blood in the second generation was for the most 
part half Spanish and grew more diluted with succeeding 
generations; indeed the more local generations a Spanish 
Moslem could boast of, the less Arab blood he was likely 
to have in his veins. 

Disintegration not unnaturally started in these remote 
fringes. Spain was conquered in 711; it threw off the 
Damascus yoke and asserted its own independence in 746, 
after a brief thirty-five years allegiance. Tunis had re- 
pudiated the contact a year before. Parts of Morocco fol- 
lowed rapidly. It was a state of affairs arising not from 
native discontent with local Arab rulers, however, for 
these continued to maintain themselves for hundreds of 
years, such was Moslem military prestige. The root cause 
was the strong individualism, the overmastering ambition 
of the local Arabs themselves to carve out independent 
kingdoms and found personal fortunes. Indeed those very 
qualities which had been the strength of the expansion 
when distances from headquarters daily grew greater and 
communications across a slow-moving world made de- 
pendence upon central authority impossible qualities of 
independence, of opportunism, of courageous initiative 
were, when peace came, to be the undoing of imperial 
unity. Arab world dominion had been brought about by 
independent local action of brilliant individual leaders 
rather than as the result of a clearly thought-out and co- 
ordinated policy vigorously prosecuted by a general staff. 



Do not the traditions tell us that the invasion of Egypt was 
made despite the opposition of a caliph of Medina, Spain 
invaded despite a caliph of Damascus ? 

When the expansionist phase ceased the Arab leaders in 
the field did not change their spots. The farther removed 
they were from the central government the less dependent 
they were upon caliphs who often were jealous of them. 
They were impatient of interference; they were oppor- 
tunists still. If the first Arab coins minted at Damascus 
omitted the caliph's name, those issued a year later in 
Iraq bore the name of his provincial governor who struck 
them. Among a people of individualists so prone to 
self-assertion peace had the effect of diverting energies 
into disruptive channels. 

Disagreement between caliphs of Damascus and their 
provincial governors in eastern Persia, Khorasan and 
Trans-Oxiana soon led to rifts, and although the native 
populations steadily embraced the Islamic faith the au- 
thority of Damascus dwindled so as to be almost non- 
existent ten years before the Umaiyyad dynasty came to 
an end. Representing the Arab caliphs as loose-living, 
wicked and dissolute tyrants, the Persians were already 
espousing another cause under the banner of a rival 
claimant to the caliphate, a Persian-born descendant of 
the Prophet's uncle, Abbas. Rebellion came to a head, the 
Umaiyyad garrisons were expelled first from Persia then 
from Iraq, the last caliph of Damascus was defeated in the 
Battle of the Greater Zab, pursued to Egypt and there 
with most of his family exterminated. 

The Abbasid caliphs thus owed their throne to Persian 
and Khorasan levies and must shape their rule accordingly. 
As time went on Eastern influences continued increasingly 
to dominate the affairs of the new caliphate. But later 


Turkish mercenaries recruited from beyond the Oxus 
as the caliph's bodyguard climbed to supreme power 
at the expense of Persians and established a military 
ascendancy within the state, the most powerful Turkish 
amir of the day becoming the de facto ruler. 

Away beyond Egypt, north Africa had never properly 
been subjugated, had indeed already started crumbling 
when the Spanish buttress fell away, so that at the time 
of the removal eastwards of the caliphate capital from 
Damascus to Baghdad, Qairawan alone of Barbary was 
in allegiance. To assert Abbasid authority, Aghlab, an 
Arab general, and native of eastern Persia, was sent to 
north Africa. Aghlab found Qairawan a far cry from 
Baghdad. He succeeded only too well, identified himself 
with local disaffection or at least profited from it, so that 
in A.D. 800 he ruled as an independent prince and founded 
a north African dynasty. 

Seventy years later Egypt was to travel the same path. 
Ibn Tulun, a Turkish viceroy of the Baghdad caliph sent 
to Fustat, became virtually independent while carrying out 
his mission, and Egypt, ripe for independence, now 
achieved it under him. Thus within a century and a half 
after the Arab conquest of Spain practically the whole of 
north Africa as well as Spain had become independent of 
the great Arab caliphate of the East and had broken up 
into many independent states. 

But Qairawan was the scene of a new movement that 
was destined to unite north Africa again under a single 
ruler of Cairo and to give rise to a caliphate that in its 
heyday was to rival the prestige of the contemporary 
Abbasid caliphate of Baghdad. The Fatimids, as the rulers 
of this African caliphate came to be called, owed their 
name to a blood claim of descent from Fatima, the daugh- 



ter of the Prophet, wife of the martyr AH, and mother of 
the saints, Husain and Hassan* They were of Shi'a sect ; 
indeed the first Fatimid caliph claimed to be the Madhi 
himself, though his Abbasid traducers represented him 
as an impostor of Persian origin and with Jewish blood 
in the female line. The genesis of the movement which 
brought him to power is thought to have been a secret 
society started by his grandfather some half-century be- 
fore. This man, Abdullah ibn Maimun, is said to have 
been a Persian oculist, a rationalist who had conceived a 
violent hatred for orthodox Arabian Islamism. In origin 
the movement stood for rational belief, requiring none 
too high a code of personal behaviour judged by orthodox 
standards, though it had a religious veneer in a cult 
of Mahdism. The imminent expectation of a great teacher 
was proclaimed; not, however, the occluded member of 
the twelfth generation of the Prophet as in the Shi'a 
cult of the East, though like him a Mahdi who would 
sweep away false caliphs and usher in an age of peace 
and justice. The movement had at its head Sa'id ibn 
Husain, the grandson of the founder, when it attracted 
to its ranks one Abu Abdullah, the Shi'ite, a native of 
Basrah. Aghlabid rule was in decay at this time, and 
Abu Abdullah put himself at the head <of the rebellion 
to dethrone the last of the line. Sa'id was thereupon pro- 
claimed caliph at Qairawan and assumed the name of 
Ubaidallah the Mahdi. But caliph and popular leader 
were soon quarrelling. The former proved, in the event, to 
be a pious and orthodox Shi'a Moslem, and, whatever the 
indulgences asssociated with the movement of his grand- 
father, early made it clear that he was not going to stand 
for 'free love, pig's flesh, and wine-bibbing.' The ladder by 
which he had climbed to power could now be kicked aside, 



Abu Abdullah was accused of casting doubts on the 
Mahdi's credentials and so was put to death. 

Fourth in this Fatimid line came a great caliph, Mu'izz, 
scholar and statesman, to whom is ascribed a knowledge 
of the Greek, Slav and Berber tongues. Mu'izz rose 
about the middle of the tenth century at Qairawan to 
make himself master of the Islamic world about him. His 
iron hand extended westwards to subject the whole of 
north Africa ; his ambitious eye looked still more eagerly 
eastwards to Egypt, with her appanages of Palestine and 
Syria. And thither Jauhar the Sicilian, his great slave 
general, was dispatched at the head of an army. Fustat, the 
capital, fell, and where the victors encamped on its out- 
skirts rose the new Fatimid capital of Cairo. (Arabic = 
Qahira. ) 

'And, 1 says Maqrizi, 'it is said that the origin of the 
city's name was as follows: When the Cornmander-in- 
Chief Jauhar desired to build the city, he summoned the 
astrologers, and told them that he wished to construct a 
town outside the city of Misr (i.e. Fustat) in order that 
the army should abide in it, and he ordered them to choose 
an auspicious moment (a happy rising) for laying the 
foundations, with the object of insuring that the place 
would never be lost to them and their successors : and the 
astrologers chose a moment for laying, and a moment 
for excavating the foundations; and they placed timber 
poles round the circuit of the site, and between the poles 
a rope was strung, and on it bells were fastened : and they 
said to the workers, "when the bells ring, throw down 
(into the already completed trenches) what is in your 
hands of stones and mud" (i.e. mortar) . Then they stood 
watching for the happy moment. Whereupon it happened 
that a crow alighted upon one of the ropes whereon the 

. [ 201 ] 


bells were hung, so that all the bells rang : and the workers 
thought that the astrologers had rung them; therefore 
they threw down (into the trenches) what was in their 
hands of stone and mud (mortar) and began to build; and 
the astrologers shouted "Al Qahir (the victorious) is 
rising." Thus it happened that they missed what they had 
intended, and it is said that it was the planet Mars, vic- 
torious at dawn, that was in the ascendant when the foun- 
dations were begun : and so they named the city Al Qahira 
(Cairo) (the victorious) : and their insight is justified, 
for the city has remained under (subject to) conquest till 
this day.' 22 * 

Two centuries later the crusaders were to come to find 
the 'insight 5 still working. Meanwhile the fortunes of 
the Fatimids of Egypt waxed and waned, the ties with 
Syria and north Africa were not always and everywhere 
maintained, the arts and sciences flourished, the spiritual 
orthodoxies flagged. One mad and cruel caliph, the no- 
torious Hakim, believed himself to be the incarnation of 
the divine wisdom till a religious zealot assassinated him 
on one of his lonely night rides, while the capital, Cairo, 
was the home of a secret society that aimed at the under- 
mining of religious orthodoxies. Initiates came to learn 
towards the end of the nine degrees of initiation that 
religious beliefs were fundamentally a means to secular 
ends, to wit, the preservation of public order in a regi- 
mented state ; they were a soporific for keeping the com- 
mon herd in subjection. European modernism was thus 
having a vogue in Islam before the coming of the cru- 
saders, but whether or not as a result of their challenge to 
Islam, dogmatic religion was soon to be enthroned again, 
a reaction which not only damped the ardour of the 
libertine but dried up the sources of scientific inspiration. 



Before this set in, however, the Arabs were to suffer 
politically in the general subjugation of western Asia by 
a new power which had risen in the East the Seljuq 
Turks. The eastern caliphate had for long been virtually 
ruled by a Perso-Dailamite family, the Buwayhids, the 
Arab caliph of Baghdad himself being little more than a 
religious figurehead. Its influence waning, Baghdad had 
lost hold of its eastern borderlands ; Trans-Oxiana threw 
off the Arab yoke in the tenth century under the Persian 
Samanids and was seized in turn by the rising Seljuqs. 
These were a tribe of Turks who just before this time 
(circa 960) had settled in the Khorasan-Trans-Oxiana 
empire and embraced the Sunni branch of Islam. A cen- 
tury more, and they were not only masters of the local 
situation but had moved west to Baghdad, superseded 
the power of the Buwayhids and secured, at the caliph's 
hands, the title of sultans. Twenty years later these 
Seljuqs were streaming on westwards in two main lines, 
one in the north to invade the Byzantine Empire, annex 
Armenia and Georgia and lay the foundations of the Asia 
Minor kingdom of Rum, the other to sweep southwards 
through the Arab lands of the Egyptian Fatimids, capture 
Damascus and annex Syria and Palestine, sending Shi'a 
refugees flying before them to the more congenial atmos- 
phere of Egypt; for medieval times had a way of being 
unkind to those who persisted in officially branded heresies, 
and religious sectarianism and dynastic loyalty were closely 
connected, as they still are in Arabia, The Fatimid general, 
the famous Armenian, Badr al Jumali al Juyushi, was 
forced to fall back on Egypt where he became, in turn, the 
great wazir. 

'^Weakness meanwhile grew in the Seljuq ranks, for their 
vast conquests soon split up and fell to ambitious generals, 



so that in place of a solid empire, western Asia was dotted 
over with small principalities under tributary chiefs. Fifty 
years later Egypt was ready to advance again under 
Juyushi's equally famous son, Afdal, who marched into 
Palestine and reconquered Jerusalem from its Seljuq 
ruler. In the north the Seljuq invaders of Asia Minor who 
had originally driven the Christian Byzantines westwards 
against the Aegean coasts had similarly grown weak by 
disunity, but the cry for help from Constantinople had 
been heard in Western Christendom, and towards the end 
of the eleventh century the crusaders were girding on their 

The Arabs of Syria and Palestine whose lands had 
within half a century been thrice overrun by Seljuqs and 
Fatimids now found these inter-Moslem wars dwarfed by 
a menace far more terrifying. A strange and incalculable 
invader was coming out of the West, an invader imbued 
with a hatred of the Arab faith and resolved to expel it 
from Jerusalem and the Holy Land and impose its own re- 
ligious and political dominion. 

During the two centuries that followed, the lands of 
these Arabs were the main battlefield of that epoch-making 
struggle between Christianity and Islam which the West 
remembers as the crusades. The Arabs formed the bulk 
of the inhabitants. They had done so for four and a half 
centuries, since, indeed, their armies had wrested the 
land by the sword from the Christian Byzantines. Chris- 
tianity and Islam had since then learned to live side by 
side, and whatever the rivalries between the two faiths, 
a spirit of considerable tolerance had normally existed. 
The traditional view that the original Arab conquerors 
were religion-inspired zealots who came to trample on 
other peoples' religion with a fiery mission analogous to 



the crusaders' own is doubtless exaggerated. For in Pales- 
tine, Syria and Egypt the native Christians offered no de- 
termined resistance to these first rude Moslem Arabs 
but welcomed them as deliverers from their Greek imperial 
Christian rulers. It seems more probable that the coming 
of the simple Arabs promised to bring religious toleration 
for native Christian sectarianism which had been the ob- 
ject of persecution by an orthodox state church, promised 
a less burdensome taxation however invidious it might 
be than the old imperial exactions, while the simple 
Moslem slogan 'There is one God' involved no funda- 
mental contradiction of Christianity. It was only in later 
times when Islam became Intellectual and contentious, 
eager to assert her supremacy, when proselytism sapped 
the walls of the rival religion and carried dissension into 
the family household, that religious antagonism sprang 
up. All through these early centuries of Arab occupation 
the Arabs not only permitted the practice of Christianity 
within the Holy Land but had allowed Christians from 
without to perform the pilgrimage to the Holy Sepulchre 
of Jerusalem. This pilgrimage, which the pious believed 
carried with it a remission of sins, brought Christians 
not only from Syria, Egypt and Iraq, but from Europe, 
in a regular annual invasion. Such special European inter- 
ests had indeed grown up as induced the Caliph Harun al 
Rashid according to some Western authorities to rec- 
ognize the title, Protector of Jerusalem and Owner of the 
Holy Sepulchre, assumed by his great Christian con- 
temporary, Charlemagne. 

It was an age when the rulers of Islam were passing 
through an enlightened phase, were much more interested 
in scientific speculation and Greek philosophy than in 
hindering the pious exercises of 'The people of the book' 



coming from dark western Europe. In Europe, on the 
other hand, the times were shaping for a religious revival. 
The public conscience had been deeply outraged by the 
act of the mad Caliph Hakim, who, in 1010, destroyed the 
Holy Sepulchre; the violent unrest caused by Seljuq- 
Fatimid wars had greatly interfered with peaceful pil- 
grimage to the Holy Land ; the clarion call for help from 
Eastern Christendom, following its loss of territory to 
Moslems in Asia Minor, yet another provocation to West- 
ern Christendom. 

Europe was emerging from her Dark Ages and, if not 
fully conscious of her destinies, had reached a stage of 
concerted self-assertiveness. Religion was all powerful. 
The authority of a single voice in Rome could suspend old 
feudal antagonisms, old private wars, and send warriors, 
recently hostile to one another, to wage war across the 
seas in a common cause. Fighting instincts sharpened by 
want, by famine, by overpopulation, by greed, could be 
consecrated to the establishment of Christian rule in the 
Holy Land ; the bellicose spirit of the younger son with- 
out a heritage could be legitimately directed to the ambi- 
tion of an estate or principality in the East at the expense 
of the infidel. This cure for Europe's growing pains had 
the blessing of religious authority. Western Christendom 
was swept by a fever of religion and war. 'It was an age 
which was dominated by the spirit of other-worldliness, 
and accordingly ruled by the clerical power which repre- 
sented the other world, 5 says Professor Barker, 25 * 'a new 
path to Heaven, to tread which counted "f or full and com- 
plete satisfaction" and gave forgiveness of sins . . . the 
foreign policy of the Papacy, directing its faithful subjects 
to the great war of Christianity against the Infidel. As a 
new way of salvation, the Crusades connect themselves 



with the history of the penitentiary system ; as the foreign 
policy of the Church, they belong to that clerical purifica- 
tion and direction of feudal society and its instincts, which 
appears in the institution of "God's Truce'* and in chivalry 

If commerce had not attained the significance it has in 
modern statecraft, yet the growing maritime ambitions 
of Venice and Genoa were, even at this early stage, not an 
entirely negligible factor. The Mediterranean had virtu- 
ally been an Arab sea all down the early Islamic centuries. 
Its shores on three sides, south, west and for a large part 
east, were still Moslem; on the northern shore the Italian 
ports of Bari and Amalfi as well as the Mediterranean 
Islands had for centuries been Moslem footholds too. 

At first there had been no direct maritime commerce 
between the Christian and Islamic worlds. It had been op- 
posed on both sides, wherefore Tunis, the midway point 
between Spain and Egypt, had risen and Alexandria de- 
clined. Moslem shipping dominated the Mediterranean, 
Moslem ships traded only between Moslem ports, visitors 
to European shores at this time being Berber pirates on 
plunder bent. 

But in the tenth and eleventh centuries the disintegra- 
tion of the Islamic world and the relative weakness of its 
dismembered western parts was an encouragement for 
southern Europe to be up and doing, and Christian ships 
began to multiply upon the seas. Moslem and Christian 
sailors served side by side in the same ships, not, let it be 
supposed, because they had become animated by a new and 
tolerant religious spirit, for both were no better than 
pirates when occasion offered. But isolation had gone, 
Venetian and Genoese shipping came to grow and share 
the eastern trade, and by the twelfth century Ibn Jubair, 



the Arab traveller, can tell us that he travelled from Ceuta 
to Alexandria in a Christian ship. 

Europe was shaking off her sloth. It is true that in the 
century before the crusades the heart of Asia Minor 
had expelled the rule of Christian Constantinople. But at 
the same time Christian rulers had been driving the Mos- 
lems of Spain out of their capital of Toledo and farther 
towards the south, driving the Moslems of Italy out of 
their Italian footholds and expelling their rule from Sicily. 
These wars against Moslems in Europe, prosecuted by 
Iberians in Spain and Normans in Italy, had naturally 
produced an exacerbation of religious feeling, and this, 
with the events taking place in the East, nourished that 
spirit of hatred for the infidel which animated the early 
crusaders* In Europe the Saracens were on the run; in 
the Holy Land they were fighting one another under 
Seljuq and Fatimid; it seemed a propitious moment for 
the eastern adventure. Thus in the year 1096 there as- 
sembled at Constantinople a hundred and fifty thousand 
armed pilgrims ready to embark upon the first militant 
pilgrimage into the lands of the Arabs. 

Marching southwards under the banner of the Cross, 
they first encountered the banner of the Crescent in Asia 
Minor. There the opposition of Seljuq Turks was brushed 
aside and a trail of Christian garrisons left in many prin- 
cipal cities, Edessa and Antioch, among others, to form 
Latin principalities. Southwards, in the lands of the Arabs, 
authority vested in Fatimid governors of Egypt. Before 
the clash Afdal, the Egyptian wazir, had been prepared 
to come to terms with the crusaders as a means of alliance 
against the Seljuqs ; for the invaders, however, in the first 
flush of their religious fervour and strength, there c6uld 
be no trafficking with the infidel. By the year 1099 the 


Fatimids had been expelled from the greater part of the 
coasts of Syria and Palestine; in the following year, 1 100, 
the Latin Kingdom came into being with Baldwin as 
king of Jerusalem, and so the Arabs passed under the rule 
of the Terenghi.' 1 

The initial successes of the crusaders turned ambitious 
eyes eastwards to Baghdad and southwards to Cairo, but 
presumptuous dreamings were soon shattered by Seljuq 
successes in Asia Minor, The crusaders profited from the 
lack of co-ordination between the two Moslem fronts. The 
rival Sunni and Shi'a divisions of Islam split Cairo and 
Baghdad. Arabs had recently been at war, one with an- 
other, for the mastery of the land that had now passed 
to the stranger and the unbeliever. But this did not heal 
their divisions, and the Latin Kingdom was thus able to 
maintain itself for eighty years to come. Before a third of 
that time had passed the kingdom reached its greatest 
development, exceeding in size present-day Palestine, for 
it extended northwards to Beyrout, eastwards over the 
Jordan and southwards to the head of the Red Sea. 

Divisions within the Seljuq ranks enabled the Prankish 
principalities to maintain themselves the more easily, and 
Christian princes made alliances with one Moslem leader 

term 'Ferenghi' is a corruption of the word Trank.' It is commonly 
used by Arabs today for any European, and so bears witness to the supreme 
part played by the French, particularly the Norman French, in the crusades. 
The first crusade was preached on French soil by a pope of French descent 
and was largely French in personnel. All through the Holy Wars for two 
hundred years to follow the French played a major part. The Latin King- 
dom of Jerusalem was French in body, soul and mind. The language was 
French, and when Latin rule was finally extinguished at the end of the 
thirteenth century, French fleets still harried the coasts of Syria for a cen- 
tury afterwards, and French influence in the Levant has continued down 
through the centuries. Whatever the result of the crusades for Christendom, 
the part France played in the wars, and her colonization of the Holy 
Land, exalted her prestige in contemporary Europe. 25 * 



against another. Aleppo and Damascus were held by rivals, 
and the alliance of Damascus with Latin Jerusalem was a 
source of great strength to tliem both. Seljuq rulers, 
known as atabegs or regents, were in many cases emanci- 
pated slaves who had held high positions under the mili- 
tary founders and in time had passed from regency to 
rule. One of these, the famous Zangi, atabeg of Mosul, 
rose in the year 1127 to extend his power westwards, ab- 
sorb some of his weaker atabeg neighbours and carry war 
into the Christian camps. He captured Edessa, marched on 
Damascus and invaded the Latin Kingdom, reaching the 
walls of Jerusalem and Acre. Oscillations of political 
fortunes led to a union of the Christian Antioch and 
Jerusalem, and with it the Greek Church's influence in- 
creased at the expense of the Latin West ; for Christendom 
had its two divisions no less than Islam, and Constanti- 
nople held a rigid view of its historical rights and interests 
to which the West must conform, however irksome it 
found that conformity. 

Dissensions within the ranks of both Christians and 
Moslems brought greater toleration as between repre- 
sentatives of the two religions. A generation of Franks 
had grown up in the East whose zeal to fight the infidel 
had given place to a desire to live on terms of amity 
with him, who preferred to trade rather than to fight and 
was not averse to adopting Arab dress and customs. On 
the other hand renewed zeal for prosecuting the Holy War 
came with fresh blood from the West, the new arrivals 
not being always welcomed since they antagonized the 
infidel. A contingent from the Low Countries and from 
England that came by the long sea route and put in at Lis- 
bon to succour coreligionists had captured the city from the 
Moslems and so laid the foundations of the kingdom of 



Portugal a close friendship between that country and 
England surviving to this day. But the maintenance of 
Christian political domination in the Holy Land remained 
the supreme object of crusading policy. 

To the north of the Latin Kingdom Zangi's mantle had 
fallen upon his powerful son, Nur al Din. To the south 
the Fatimid caliphate was in decline, and Egypt was torn 
between rival ministers contending for power. One sought 
the aid of the Seljuqs, another of the Latins, till Nur al 
Din, sending an army into Egypt, carried the day for his 
protege. In this force was a young Kurdish officer named 
Saladin, a man of destiny, who was later to shake the 
crusading movement to its foundations and send the 
Latin kings of Jerusalem into a forty years exile. Sala- 
din's uncle, the general of this force, soon after his arrival 
himself became the caliph's wazir in Egypt, and when the 
caliph died, Saladin, who had succeeded his uncle, seized 
the power and made himself ruler. Thus the Shi'a caliphate 
of the Egyptian Fatimids was brought to an end after 
two hundred years, and prayers were once more said in 
the Friday mosques for the Abbasid caliph of Baghdad. 
But this allegiance was not a permanent one, for Saladin 
was to entrench himself, become absolute and found a 

He first turned north to make himself master of the 
Syrian Moslems. Damascus and then Aleppo were con- 
quered, and, by bringing about the fall of Nur al Din's 
successor, he achieved his object. On all sides but the sea 
the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem was thus faced for the 
first time by a united Moslem front. Its days were num- 
bered. Saladin marched south from Aleppo at the head of 
an army that was animated by a militant religious spirit 
akin to that of the early crusaders themselves- He swept 



everything before him. Jerusalem capitulated after a 
fortnight's siege, and so, in 1187, the kingdom fell, all 
that remained of it being the seaports of Tyre, Tripoli 
and Antioch. 

The Christian West was roused again, and France, 
England and Germany mustered crusaders to restore the 
shattered position. The immediate objective, Acre, the 
sea gateway to Jerusalem, was shortly attained, but forty 
years passed in continuous struggle, as crusade after cru- 
sade poured forth its zealots, before Jerusalem again 
came under Christian rule. The first fine flush of religious 
frenzy under the inspiration of the papacy had meanwhile 
faded, and a new spirit of compromise and adjustment had 
come to colour the counsels of the movement. To us the 
most picturesque, if not the greatest, of the crusaders who 
was to measure his strength against that of Saladin was 
England's gallant King Richard, Coeur de Lion. His 
journey out was memorable by his capture of the island of 
Cyprus, and though he promptly sold it to become a Latin 
kingdom, he had nonetheless founded a base of future 
operations against the enemy in the Holy Land. But for 
all Richard's exploits, the great prowess of Saladin could 
not be humbled, and a truce was made, and the two great 
and opposing protagonists spent a year in trying to find a 
peaceful solution. The clerical domination of the crusades 
had been passing. The movement had been growing secu- 
lar. Richard could enter into friendly negotiations with 
Saladin, who, like himself, was the chivalrous soldier 
rather than the religious fanatic. He arrived to find the 
mere vestiges of a coastal strip representing a Latin 
kingdom; he would have been content with the addition of 
Jerusalem linked by a corridor of the port of Acre. 
For this he strove and to achieve it went to the lengths of 



offering his own sister in marriage to the brother of 
Saladin that they might jointly rule the kingdom, but 
Saladin was unyielding. 

Saladin's death threw Egypt into a turmoil, and this 
gave a stimulus to fresh crusading activity. Cairo, as the 
capital and centre of the enemy's power in the West, 
was now the target. The fate of Jerusalem was seen to de- 
pend not on overcoming the local Arab opposition but on 
vanquishing the Egyptian masters of the land, and 
throughout the remaining phase of the crusades, lasting 
through the thirteenth century, this remained the crux 
of Prankish strategy. Egypt became the crusaders' battle- 
front if Jerusalem remained their goal. 

Thus the crusade, which followed the death of Saladin, 
became a sea crusade. The fleet was got ready for sea, 
the crusaders were ready to embark when at the last 
moment the plans were changed and a new and different 
campaign was launched. The deciding factor might have 
been the maritime interests of Italian ports, which are 
said to have been enjoying advantages under trade agree- 
ments with Cairo, but whether or not, the fleet sailed for 
Christian Constantinople, its ostensible object being to 
wrest the throne from the hands of a usurper. The up- 
shot was that Constantinople, not Cairo, was stormed, and 
so Constantinople, the original begetter, became the 
victim of the crusades. France and Venice shared the spoils 
between them. The new empire emerged. Baldwin of 
Flanders became the first Latin emperor of Constanti- 
nople, while the coasts and islands of the archipelago 
passed to the Venetians. But the new empire proved a 
source, not of strength but of weakness to the crusades, 
for it drained the resources of the Holy Wars for years 
to follow. 



The projected crusade against Egypt took fifteen more 
years to gather strength. In the West there had been an 
attempt at reviving the religious stimulus, and a cardinal 
accompanied the expedition. The Prankish fleet appeared 
before the port of Damietta, which fell to a siege, a land- 
ing was made and the march on Cairo begun. Saladin's 
successor offered terms the half of which would have 
satisfied Richard of the Lion's Heart, namely the cession 
of Jerusalem, the surrender of the Cross (Saladin had 
captured it in 1187) and the liberation of prisoners. But 
the crusaders wanted more. They wanted an indemnity, 
and when this was not forthcoming war was resumed. 
Nemesis now flung them back to the coasts, and they were 
content to evacuate Damietta in exchange for the Cross. 

When the crusaders came again they did so under 
Frederick II of Sicily, a great man if a freethinking 
monarch of a lately oriental state whose title to the throne 
of Jerusalem was based on a wife's inheritance. Frederick 
was no religious zealot. He came not to fight the infidel but 
to treat with him, and the papal blessing had been with- 
held* Frederick's was a calculating peace crusade, and it 
succeeded. The caliph of Cairo in 1229 was ready to yield 
what Richard had pleaded for in vain. The treaty between 
Egypt and Sicily conceded the holy city, Nazareth, Bethle- 
hem and a way to the sea at Acre, and thus Frederick en- 
tered Jerusalem as its king without having to strike a 
blow. Political bargaining had succeeded where arms had 
failed for forty years, and the outcome was that Chris- 
tian authority was enthroned for another fifteen years. 
This success, however, proved to be the last gasp of the 
Latin Kingdom. 

Egypt was stirring again. The caliph's authority had 
been undermined by the rivalries of Mamlukes. One of 


these rose in course of time to absolute power and founded 
a dynasty, figured in the final Moslem conquest of Syria 
and reduced Latin authority to the point of extinction. 
Baibars' first step on the road to dominance was as general 
of the force which marched against Frederick, The latter's 
authority was crumbling amid the internal dissensions 
of the Latin nobles, so to Baibars the Latin Kingdom 
looked an easy and tempting prey, and at Gaza in 1244 
he routed the Christian forces so completely that Jerusa- 
lem passed once more into Moslem hands. Cairo had 
again become its master. The cry went up for help, and 
western Europe again took measures to respond. Under 
St Louis the crusaders attacked Damietta as they had 
done before. History repeated itself by the launching of 
another march on Cairo. But this time there was no 
Egyptian attempt to buy off the invader. A force marched 
out and utterly routed him. St Louis was able to escape 
only by payment of a large ransom, and the stricken 
army fell back to Acre. There, as in other coastal towns, 
a Christian governor maintained a precarious existence 
for another half -century, aided at first by Moslem allies 
in Syria who had broken away after Saladin's death. 
Still Egypt, aided by Baibars' military prowess, would 
doubtless have swept it into the sea but for the appearance 
of a new menace looming out of the East the arrival of 
another great non-Moslem invader. The Mongols were 

Just as the Arabs had swarmed out of the Arabian 
peninsula across the known world in the seventh to 
eighth centuries, so now in the thirteenth, armed bands 
of Mongols from Central Asia swept east and west under 
Chingis Khan to strike terror from Pekin to Persia. Next 
they ascended into the plains of Iraq, and so it came 



about that while the Arabs of the West were delivering 
themselves from the Prankish yoke those of Iraq were 
swept by an avalanche of Mongols. The year 1258 saw 
the conqueror Hulagu, Chingis Khan's grandson, swoop 
down to the destruction of Baghdad and put the last 
Abbasid caliph, Musta'sim, and his family to death. Two 
years later they swarmed westwards through Syria and 
Palestine, subjecting the Arabs to devasting destruction, 
and only the prowess of Baibars at Gaza again prevented 
their invasion of Egypt. 

If to the Arabs these pagan Mongols (they were Sha- 
manists) brought pandemonium, the crusaders saw in their 
victories a new hope. The idea of converting these heathen 
to Christianity fired their imagination. This would, so it 
seemed, be a means of achieving for all time the crusaders' 
goal and of driving Islam back into its Arabian home. The 
existence of a sprinkling of Christians within the Mongol 
ranks a backwash of Asiatic Nestorianism the fact 
that Kilboga, the leader of the Mongol invasion of Syria, 
was himself a Christian, lent fair ground for hope. 
Eagerly the pope sent off missions to the Mongols of Rus- 
sia and to those of Persia ; Christian missionaries pene- 
trated Asia and established themselves as far east as 
Pekin. The historic military contest between Christianity 
and Islam now seemed to depend not a little on the con- 
version to Christianity of the Mongol invaders. 

But the prestige of the sword rather than the persua- 
sions of preachers was decisive. Again the fundamental 
distinction between conquest and colonization was to 
influence the issue. The Mongols were too thin spread to 
be colonizers. They were but a whirlwind army that swept 
down and as quickly veered away. How thin spread they 
were is clear to an observant visitor to the Middle East 


who today will look in vain for survivals of the telltale 
slit eye, the round head and stubby hair. If the Mongol 
invaders of the Arab lands were Mongols in a racial sense, 
they came and went. 

The Latin hope of establishing a permanent kingdom 
in the Holy Land, solidly supported by Mongol allies, 
vanished with the vanishing Mongols. Egypt, galvanised 
into activity under the energetic Baibars, marched in to 
occupy the vacated spaces. Jaffa and Damascus fell easily, 
and the Mongols retired to Asia Minor, where they were 
able for a brief time to usurp the power of the Seljuq 

Syria and Egypt were now again united as they had been 
in Saladin's time, but Baibars was no tolerant chivalrous 
Saladin; he was as uncompromising a religious zealot as 
the fieriest crusader, and he resolved to drive Christian 
rule from the East, propitiously starting by taking An- 
tioch, one of the remaining four Christian principalities. 

A final and pathetic throw to restore shattered cru- 
sading fortunes was made by the English Prince Edward, 
who in 1272 landed at Acre and strove in vain to court 
Mongol succour* His departure in despair was followed 
by ten years of precarious peace between Franks and 
Arabs, when Baibars' successor rose to expel the Chris- 
tians from their final footholds of Tripoli and Acre. And 
thus, in 1291, after nearly two hundred years of incessant 
warfare the last vestige of Latin rule was extinguished. 
Military success had increased Moslem prestige through- 
out the East; the apathy of the West for Europe had, in 
those two hundred years, grown to be secular, legal, 
scholastic was reflected in the long-drawn-out, losing, 
rear-guard action. By the end of the century the western 
Mongols, the crusaders' last hope, had themselves em- 



braced Islam, the religion of the dominant power, and 
Asia was thereby lost to Christianity. 

The military offensive passed from the Cross to the 
Crescent. The battlefields were thereafter to lie a full 
month's march to the north of the Holy Land. The Isla- 
mic standard-bearers were no longer Arabs but Ottoman 
Turks a tribe of Turks that had established itself in 
Asia Minor during the Mongol upheaval and had since 
then inherited the sceptre of their Seljuq kindred, Turkish 
aggression against imperial Christian neighbours to the 
west had already provoked a landing of Cypriots and 
Venetians who, anxious to protect their Aegean interests, 
came to occupy Smyrna. But they were in the long run 
powerless to stem the Ottoman tide which, in 1363, swept 
across the Hellespont into Europe, overrunning the coun- 
tries of the southern Balkans Thrace, Bulgaria, Mace- 
donia, Serbia. A check came to the Ottomans, but only at 
the hands of another Asiatic invader who fell upon their 
rear. The Tartars, under Tamerlane, king of Trans- 
Oxiana, invader of India and conqueror of southern Rus- 
sia, reached out at the beginning of the fifteenth century 
to strike at the Turkish province of Asia Minor at 
Angora. This was, however, only another lightning Asi- 
atic stroke that lacked continuance. The Ottoman ad- 
venture in Europe was only momentarily affected by it, 
and under the next ruler Ottoman pressure was resumed, 
and Constantinople itself fell into the hands of the Turks 

in 1453- 

Strong in their European possessions, the Osmanlis 2 
turned their faces back on Asia. There were forty inde- 
pendent Turkish principalities in Anatolia at the beginning 
of the fourteenth century, but by the end of the fifteenth 

9 Osman was the eponymous ancestor. 



these had all been united, and this great and growing 
Moslem power in the north was now a menace to the 
Arabs of the Holy Land and, indeed, to Egyptian inde- 
pendence. The Arab peoples of Syria and Palestine, tribu- 
taries of the Mamlukes, had already been mustered to 
defend themselves against the attacks of Tamerlane, had 
marched on two occasions northwards against Turcoman 
states. But there was to be no rest for them under the 
threat of Ottoman aggression. In the early sixteenth cen- 
tury the Sultan Selim, after defeating the Persians, turned 
south to invade the Arab states. North of Aleppo the 
Egyptian forces gathered to fight a decisive battle. It went 
against them, the Ottoman way was open into Syria, and 
early in the following year (1517) Selim marched tri- 
umphantly into Cairo. The rule of the Cairo Mamlukes 
thus came to an end ; the caliphate passed to European soil 
and to men of Turkish blood, the Ottoman sultans of 

The Arabs had changed masters once again. Yet they 
remained, in a sense, the victors, for they belonged to 
the Moslem empire that within a quarter of a century 
that followed extended its European conquests eastwards 
through the Crimea, westwards through Hungary. Thus 
was the religion of the Arabs carried to the gateway of 
Vienna and maintained there for a hundred years. 

The duel between Cross and Crescent reached the end 
of a definite phase. It had been waged for four hundred 
years. For the first two hundred the crusaders had waged 
an offensive war, for the last two hundred Christendom 
was on the defensive. When the crusades opened, Europe 
(if Spain, which ultimately came to be wholly Christian, 
is excluded) was under Christian rule, and western Asia 
Minor too. During the first two crusading centuries more 



of Asia Minor as well as Palestine and Syria were in 
part and at times added. By the end of the next two cen- 
turies Christian rule had not only been expelled from the 
lands of the Arabs and from the Asiatic continent, but 
Islam had penetrated deep into eastern Europe and 
established itself on the shores of the Danube. The Arabs, 
during those four centuries, were in turn the subjects of 
Seljuqs, Fatimids, Franks, Mongols, Mamlukes and Otto- 
mans, but if the history of the period in the Near East is 
conceived of as a duel between the civilization of East and 
West, they emerged exalted, they had lived not in vain, 
for in spirit they had made captives of their captors and 
witnessed the extension and triumph of their Arab faith. 



The Arabs of Arabia 

The Najdian spirit leads the oasis dwellers to reject all but 
the simplest doctrine of Islam, and to regard expansions or 
interpretations of this by any society, living under other con- 
ditions than theirs, as offences, against the God they have 
made in their own image. Such a spirit (not, of course, un- 
known elsewhere in the histories of other creeds), remains 
passive in stern self-righteousness till reminded with suf- 
ficient force that man's responsibility to the One God of the 
Universe cannot be acquitted by securing Him less than, 
universal honour! 2 ** DAVTD HOGARTH 



.HERE ARE two Arabs. There is the Arab within 
Arabia ; there is the Arab without ; broadly speaking, the 
one representative of a patriarchal culture, the other 
the product of a medieval civilization; the one cut off in 
a little-known backwater of the world, the other borne 
upon a restless tide amid the interplay of world currents. 

It is the second Arab, the historical Arab, whose for- 
tunes we have been following down to the sixteenth cen- 
tury. And now, at the risk of breaking the continuity of 
his story, we must turn aside to consider, for a brief chap- 
ter, how it has fared with the other Arab, his stay-at- 
home brother, the Arab of Arabia. It is, moreover, nec- 
essary to distinguish between the two cultures in order 



to understand the respective parts 'the Arabs' played, and 
did not play, in the Great War, their varying outlook and 
the several roads they are now travelling. For the single 
term 'Arab' on Western lips is responsible for much mis- 
understanding and confusion of thought. When, for in- 
stance, our newspapers talk of the political aspirations of 
'the Arabs' they are almost invariably referring not to the 
Arabs of Arabia, but to those outside, to wit, the Arabs of 
Syria, of Iraq or of Palestine. The danger of equating 
Arabs and Arabia is seen in the journalistic tag used in 
connection with the late T. E. Lawrence, 'The Uncrowned 
King of Arabia,' for, with the exception of the western 
coastal fringe from Mecca northwards along the Pilgrim 
railway that saw his gallant doings in 1917, his brilliant 
'exploits during 1918 were performed outside the Arabian 
peninsula, into which country indeed he never had occasion 
deeply to penetrate, and at the time of the early peninsular 
adventures most of the Arabs of Arabia could scarcely 
have known of his existence, while the suggestion implied 
of Arabian unification under a foreigner and a non-Moslem 
is, of course, a myth. This is not in anyway to be under- 
stood as detracting from Lawrence, for whose masterly 
and heroic achievements on the Arab front the writer has 
the greatest admiration. But we must get the terms 
'Arabs' and 'Arabia' clear. 

Before the rise of the Prophet Arabs and Arabia may 
have been complementary and co-extensive terms. But in 
the seventh to eighth centuries the great exodus took place. 
Those who went forth grew mighty, prosperous, secular ; 
those who stayed at home remained poor, unlearned, 
orthodox. The second generation of colonials threw off 
allegiance to the mother country. They became a world 
power. The rule of Medina patriarchs was no longer 

[ 222] 


acceptable to them. At the time of the coming of the 
Turks these Arabs had had seven centuries of seeding 
amid peoples that had inherited the cultures of ancient 
Mesopotamia, ancient Persia, ancient Egypt. They had 
acquired a different psychology from that of the Arabs 
of Arabia. Theirs had been the Arab civilization, the arts, 
science, philosophy, all of which passed Arabia by; theirs 
the experience of crusader, Mongol, Tartar, impacts 
which Arabia never knew. 

The Arabs of Arabia, the peninsular Arabs, on the 
other hand, remained inviolate by their poverty, their 
remoteness, their unwillingness to change, their hostility 
to foreign intrusion. Their deserts and their dogmas re- 
mained, for them, the warp and woof of life. In pre- 
Islamic days there had been Jewish and Christian colonies 
in Arabia, but a fanatical insular spirit had within fifty 
years of the Prophet largely driven them forth. The 
peninsula today inherits the same spirit. Throughout 
Islamic times Arabia has been forbidden country for the 
foreigner and the infidel. The cause of this is not purely 
political, as I for one, in spite of official connections, have 
found opportunities of making many journeys of explora- 
tion. But such opportunities for Europeans are rare. In- 
deed no European (T. E. Lawrence excepted) has ever 
been permitted to visit the holy places of Mecca and 
Medina who has not professed himself a follower of 
Islam, nor may one go except in peril of his life. An 
intolerance survives which is almost without parallel in 
the world today and explains why so few European ex- 
plorers have penetrated deep into the peninsula scarcely 
twenty throughout the ages. 

The Arab of the desert is instinctively suspicious of the 
man who does not look like himself, dress and talk like 



him and worship his God. This dislike is not born of fear, 
for he considers himself to be a superior person. He be- 
lieves he is superior in most things but two. For some 
inscrutable reason Allah has given the infidel a temporary 
superiority in arms and money, and if you travel in his 
country it is well to be wise to these things. You must 
make very solid payment for his services, a generosity on 
your part, which, be assured, has little to do with your 
own volition; it is ascribed to the bountiful and the 

From the age of the Prophet to the age of Vasco da 
Gama the greater part of Arabia remained veiled in its 
old mystery. Doubtless regional groups of Arabs fol- 
lowed their simple and primitive ways of life as they con- 
tinue to do to this day. The barren wastes supported way- 
ward nomads, oases and mountain valleys a sparse, hun- 
gry, unlettered people; the coasts sailors and fishermen. 
Only along the western fringe of the peninsula had a 
great change taken place. Here, as Islam grew to be a 
world religion, came Persians, Turks, Kurds and Afghans, 
Iraqis, Syrians, Egyptians, Berbers and Spanish Moors 
in an annual pilgrimage. Mecca attained world eminence. 
The Mother of Cities and the City of God, the birthplace 
of Muhammad under the shadow of the Mountain of 
Light whence came the first astonishing revelations from 
the Infinite, became a cosmopolitan city. This old place 
of pilgrimage of the pagan Arabs before Muhammad's 
day was transformed into a place of pilgrimage for a 
world religion. Mecca's sister city, Medina, the city that 
gave Muhammad refuge in the years of persecution, the 
city of his later-day preachings, his burial place and the 
first capital of Arab world empire, had also become a 
place of world pilgrimage. Thus Mecca and Medina, the 






S A' U D I 




N E J D 
i A 

3" IF . 




*>* u^* 







holy cities of Islam, acquired world significance under the 
new dispensation, and if Meccans of old time valued the 
commercial side of their city's sanctity (limited as it then 
was to Arabia), Mecca, Medina and the surrounding 
tribes came to have a deep sense of a harvest increased 
fortyfold now that the Prophet had worked in the vine- 
yard. The townsfolk profited by catering for pilgrims, the 
rulers by taking a toll of their gifts, the tribesmen by the 
wages of transporting visitors come in pursuit of salva- 
tion, or by plundering them, whichever was more profit- 
able. 1 Without much other wealth of its own the Hijaz 
became assured of an eternal livelihood. 

This blessedness derived from the visiting subjects of 
outside caliphs, who must therefore be recognized as over- 
lords. But caliphs, content with the prestige attaching to 
such association, generally allowed local rulers a large 
measure of autonomy, if not complete freedom, so long 
as pilgrims could come and go without being unduly fleeced. 
The caliphs, first of Baghdad and then of Cairo, were 
obliged at times to assert more than nominal suzerainty 
and send a representative to rule the holy places, but they 
never thought it worth while to extend their domination, 
so that Arabia was virtually detached from the caliphates 
in the great days of the Arab period. There was a lack of 
identity of interests, political, cultural, economic, between 
the Arabs within and the Arabs without, and even senti- 
ment waned as the real power behind the caliphs passed 
out of Arab keeping into the hands of Persians or of 

The Arab rulers of the holy places were jealous of their 
natural priority at the Arabian end of things, were resent- 

^Under the enlightened aegis of Ibn Sa'ud this state of things exists no 



ful when the mastery, even nominal, passed to those of 
alien blood. These were grounds for friction. 

Outside Arabia the Islamic world was divided into its 
two great historic divisions, Sunni and Shi'a, but the secu- 
lar aspects of civilization at its height overshadowed the 
religious. With the primitive Arabs of the peninsula, on 
the other hand, religion remained a dominant interest, and 
there was space and leisure for cultivating all the refine- 
ments of a divided and subdivided Islam. The southern 
half of the peninsula was quite early the site of two 
principalities, the Yemen and the Oman, each with a 
theocratic form of government such as had disappeared in 
all but name from the Islamic world without. They were 
both anti-Sunm peoples, the Yemenis practising a brand 
of Shi'ism known as Zaidism, the Omanis practising Ibadh- 
Ism, dissenting from Shi'a and Sunni alike. 

Shi'ism, of course, originally found its main support 
in Iraq and Persia, but with the advent of the Seljuq 
Turks a Sunni domination established itself in Baghdad, 
whence Sunni representatives came from time to time to 
control the holy cities. Thus in southern Arabia of those 
times 'Sunni' came to be associated with 'alien.' It was 
natural that Mecca should look for alliance with the Ye- 
men, the historic province lying to the south, and the 
legitimism of the Yemen that is to say, the religious 
principle that true succession vested only in the seed of 
the Prophet was a helpful counter to the claims of the 
Baghdad caliphs. The preachings of a Yemeni mystic 
named Hamdan Carmat, in the ninth century, led to the 
spread of legitimism through eastern Arabia, too, and 
during the tenth century the Carmathians, as they called 
themselves, swept into the holy cities, removed the 
sacred Black Stone of the Ka'ba (it remained in eastern 



Arabia for twenty years) and eliminated Sunni domination 
from Mecca for a century. 

When Carmathian ardour at length grew cold and 
Arabia split up again into its normal scattered autonomies, 
legitimism still remained the religious principle of Mecca 
and the Yemen, and the two together continued to resist 
any encroachments by the caliphs. Cairo at first had filched 
Mecca's allegiance from Baghdad, as Shi'ism spread 
westwards from Iraq to take official root in Egypt under 
the Fatimids. The ruler of Mecca was not as yet ruler of 
the province about it, the Hijaz, and his authority was 
weakened by internal divisions and by the old rivalry be- 
tween the holy cities. In the dynastic struggles for power 
the house that looked to the Yemen for support was 
often opposed by a party with Medina contacts, and 
Medina, from geographical considerations, leaned to- 
wards Egypt; but Meccan rulers steadfastly cultivated 
the friendship of the imam of Yemen as a counter to the 
influence of Baghdad or of Cairo, and this went on into 
Ottoman times. When, in the twelfth century, the crusades 
drove Shi'as and Sunnis in the north into a common camp 
under Saladin, legitimist Mecca felt the pressure and must 
again offer prayers for a Sunni caliph. Indeed Sunnism was 
soon its established creed, though subservience to Egypt 
was thrown off for a time by the rise of Qatada, a local 
soldier ruler, who extended Mecca's dominion to embrace 
the whole Hijaz province and bequeathed the enlarged 
legacy for all time. When, however, the Mamlukes arose 
in Egypt, the link was renewed. Baibars, the founder of 
the new dynasty, came on 3. pilgrimage to the holy 
places, left behind an Egyptian garrison, and so in time 
the Hijaz became again an Egyptian appanage. Thus it 
came about that when the Turks took Cairo the keys of the 



Ka'ba, with Mecca's homage, were carried to Selim the 

Ottoman overlordship of Mecca (the holy places had 
known Turkish governors in Abbasid times) in no way 
implied overlordship of Arabia. Arabia was not then a 
political entity any more than it is today, and virtually 
only the Red Sea littoral provinces of the Hijaz and the 
Yemen were affected. In the Yemen, where the people 
regarded Sunnis as heretics, the yoke was light and for 
centuries nominal; the Yemen mountains, a difficult ter- 
rain, peopled by a hardy fighting stock, with an Arabian 
reputation such as is enjoyed by the frontier hillmen In 
India, allowed no secure foothold for intermittent Turkish 
garrisons. In the Hijaz, however, conditions for the new 
masters were easier. Yet the ruling Arab sharlfs enjoyed 
long periods of freedom from control, particularly in the 
seventeenth century, at a time Egypt and Syria achieved 
a measure of autonomy, though Shi'a heresies were no 
longer tolerated, and the sharif s must henceforth be Sunni 
coreligionists of the Ottoman Turk, their master. 

Arabia, outside these two provinces, remained un- 
molested, independent, able to cultivate regional sec- 
tarianism to its heart's content. The sects of Islam, the 
subdivisions of both Sunnism and Shi'ism, besides the 
dissenting sect of Ibadhism, even where not indigenous, 
all seem to have found the soil of Arabia congenial. 
There was, as there still is, an identity between sectarian- 
ism and dynastic government. 2 For Islamic sectarianism 

^Zaidism, the state religion of the Yemen a name derived from Zaid, 
the grandson of the martyr Husain is a theocratic form of government 
in which rule can only vest in the seed of the Prophet. The field thus cir- 
cumscribed, the theory allowed democratic election; the practice brought a 
hereditary religious office with a tradition of personal sanctity. 

Ibadhism, the state religion of Oman, has resemblances to Wahhabism in 



is a more vital thing than Christian sectarianism ; it is legal 
rather than religious. Our nonconformists, for instance, 
while divided by academic differences, all live under a com- 
mon law, whereas religion and law are so closely identified 
in Islam, where practised in its purity, that the difference 
between two sects assumes an important difference between 
the civil and criminal sanctions under which they re- 
spectively live. In the Islamic world outside Arabia, as 
we have seen, a liberal interpretation of holy law early 
took place, an adaptation, in communities at first pre- 
dominantly non-Moslem, to more secular forms, but in 
the primitive societies of the peninsula holy law, varying 
with the sect, is followed to this day. Zaidi canons differ 
in some particulars from Ibadhi canons, while Sunni 
canons are different again. 

To take, by way of example, a few differences between 
the four schools of thought of Sunnism, the orthodox half 
of Islam sects known as Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi'i, Hanbali 
which as we saw arose round about the second century 
over conflicting interpretations of Qur'anic law. The 
Hanafis stood notably for the validity of private judgment 
in doubtful cases, provided the judgment was based in 
inferences from the Qur'an a system of analogy or 
derived sanctions. For instance the Qur'an provided for 
theft but not for burglary. By analogy that the motive 
of burglary is theft, the Hanafis agreed that the burglar 

its puritanism. A very ancient sect, the Ibadhis, are the successors of the 
Secessionists who overthrew AH, the fourth caliph, and between whom and 
the Shi'as there is therefore the greatest antipathy. The Ibadhi imam need 
not be of the seed of the Prophet as with the Zaidis, nor need he be accepted 
on grounds of political expediency as with the Sunnis. The theory is that 
he should be democratically elected on grounds of piety and learning, 
though practice led to temporal and spiritual offices vesting in the same 
individual. For the past two centuries, however, the roles have been 
separated and still remain so. 



should suffer the same punishment as the thief, that is, his 
hand should be cut off. 

The Malikis reacted against this emphasis on the 
principle of private judgment and stood for a greater 
importance attaching to the Traditions, that is to say, to 
precedents ascribed to the Prophet. If no Tradition could 
be cited to meet a case, then, said Malik, e the consensus of 
opinion' of the theological doctors of Medina must be 

The founder of the Shafi'i sect next arose and, having 
studied in both earlier schools, evolved a compromise 
avoiding their extremes. Thus in the matter of the con- 
sensus of opinion of judges he held that this need not be 
confined to the doctors of Medina alone; he attached 
great importance, moreover, to the principle that local 
canons and long-established usage could not be overlooked 
in doubtful cases. South Arabian tribes belong pre- 
dominantly to this sect. 

The founder of the last school, Hanbali, was a 
pupil of Shafi'i but differed from his master's teachings, 
disliking the emphasis on 'private judgment' and 'theo- 
logical benches' alike, and declaring for 'back to the 
Qur'an.' Hanbali sm was the most reactionary and rigidly 
traditionalist of the four schools of thought, and after the 
sixth century, Hijra, found a lasting footing only in the 
Arabian peninsula itself, where in the Nejd, i.e. north 
central Arabia, the Wahhabis are its principal strength 

The most latitudinarian school has traditionally been 
the Hanafi, to which the most advanced Sunni communi- 
ties of today belong in Egypt, Turkey, Syria, Iraq in 
short, the old Ottoman Empire. Only the Hanafi, for 
instance, held it permissible for prayers to be said in 


tongues other than Arabic. While all four schools agreed 
that within Islamic territory Jews and Christians might 
not erect places of worship in towns and villages at will, 
the Hanafis qualified the restriction under licences to a 
one-mile limit from the city walls; while usury was for- 
bidden by all schools, the Hanafis allowed from the first 
the practice of mortgage and also that of hiring labour 
against a share of the produce ; they also provided that a 
murderer should pay the extreme penalty death or blood 
money as the next of kin may prefer even if the victim 
was a Christian, Jew or slave ; with them, too, a male may 
suffer the extreme penalty for the murder of a female, 
and an old woman for a young one. By ShafTi and Maliki 
codes, on the other hand, a Moslem could not be slain for 
the murder of an unbeliever, or a freeman for a slave. 
The Hanafis did except the cases of the man murdering 
his own son or his own slave ; the extreme penalty in such 
cases was not imposed. 9 * 

Between Shi'a and Sunni differences in domestic usage 
were along the following lines. In the matter of custody of 
children after divorce the mother in Shi'a practice retained 
the child while it was at the breast, i.e. until two years old; 
after weaning the father had the right to it. In the Shafi'i 
sect the mother kept the child till it reached the age of 
seven, when it could choose which parent it would go to. 
In the Maliki sect the boy remained in the mother's custody 
till puberty and the girl till marriage. With them all a 
son's apostasy from Islam in later times excluded him 
from a right to his share of inheritance, so also an unbe- 
liever or a slave could not inherit from a believer. Bas- 
tardy with the Sunnis excluded inheritance from the father 
but not the mother ; with the Shi'as from both. 

Outside Arabia the distribution of Islamic sects is al- 



most geographical; west of Egypt the Maliki sect of 
Sunnism runs, as in times past, throughout north Africa 
and during the Moslem period (eighth to fifteenth cen- 
turies) extended over into Spain; eastwards Shi'as pre- 
dominate in Iraq and Persia, a few are found in Afghan- 
istan, while in India they form a small minority. But 
among Moslems of this outside world the criminal sanc- 
tions of holy law have disappeared, and even some domes- 
tic aspects have been superseded by alien-derived practices. 
In Arabia itself, however, the legal sanctions of sectarian 
practice are still in many parts de rigueur. State law is the 
complement of state religion and is administered by state 
qadhis. In the most liberal states there are qadhis for each 
of the Islamic legal codes ; in others religious intolerance 
forbids any but the particular law of the state sect; while 
in many tribal areas the ancient usages, running counter to 
holy law, have survived. The Arab is born into one or other 
of the many sects after the manner of Gilbert's England, 

Every little girl and boy alive 

Is born either Liberal or Conservative. 

For in peninsular Arabia the strong religious prejudices of 
his environment make it extremely difficult or unwise for a 
man to change. Sectarianism is not a matter of intellectual 
persuasion ; it is a tribal or family escutcheon. And as for 
our modern Western secular sectionalisms Liberalism, 
Conservativism, Socialism, Communism, Capitalism, 
Fascism these are not even dimly apprehended and so 
create no problems in the peninsular mind. The Arab of 
Arabia is a Wahhabi of Nejd, an Ibadhi of Oman, a 
Shafi'i of Hadhramaut or the like. These are the realities. 
Arabia is not a political entity in spite of its common 
blood and tongue and social culture Western criteria of 



nationalism. Its patriarchal tribal culture and the Arab's 
waywardness and love of individual freedom are agents 
perpetuating disintegration. Its thin-spread population, 
not as large as the city of Greater London, and dotted 
about a country half the size of Europe, makes for want 
of cohesion; the means of livelihood of its various parts is 
mutually exclusive, so that there is no economic advantage 
in unity; and, finally, historic tradition of opposing polit- 
ical and religious divisions is strong* Arabia is made up 
of numerous governments, each with its own dynastic 
ruler, its official religious sect (law), and each jealous to 
maintain its own traditional independence. Some in the 
Hadhramaut and the Persian Gulf are little bigger than 
city-states such as Lahej, Bahrain, Qatar, Abu Dhabi, 
Dibai, Kuwait; others are loose tribal confederations 
whose paramount chiefs owe allegiance to none such as 
the Janaba, Mahra, Manahil and Sa'ar that lie continu- 
ously across south Arabia; the comparatively big terri- 
torial divisions are today three : the Yemen, the Oman, and 
greatest and most dominant, if most recent, Sa'udi Arabia, 
lying to the north of them. 

In a thinly populated, hungry country geographical size 
is not a necessary criterion of importance. The little state 
of Bahrain, 3 for instance, a British-protected group of 

8 Shi*ism is the chief sect of Bahrain, though, as in Muscat, other sects, 
notably Maliki, Shafi'i and Ismaili elements, are present. The last named 
are the followers of the Aga Khan, so well known in European circles. As 
the present-day imam of the sect he is an almost sacred figure with his 
followers not only in the Persian Gulf but parts of western India and East 
Africa too. These Ismailis, like the Zaidls of the Yemen, are historically 
a branch of Shi'ism, though now nonconforming and distinct. They are in 
agreement on the fundamental principle of succession in the Prophet's line 
but stop at the seventh generation (hence they are known as Sevenites, too) 
instead of the twelfth as do the Shi'as. They do not believe in a living con- 
cealed imam like the Shi'a Mahdi. With them there is an alternation of 
imams in public and in concealment; all, however, dying in due course. 



islands off the east coast has a world importance : to the 
fair sex for its pearls ; to commerce for its potential oil 
this struck quite recently by some American concession- 
aires; to Persia for a shadowy claim to suzerainty; and to 
Britain as an air and naval station near the source of its 
Persian oil supply and on the air route to India, 

The Yemen, lying across the left-hand bottom corner 
of the Arabian map facing Abyssinia, and Oman, lying 
across the right-hand bottom corner facing India, each 
inherits great traditions of Arabian prestige ; the Yemen 
being the soil of the ancient south Arabian civilization; 
the Oman a maritime state famous before and after Sind- 
bad the Sailor ! little more than a century ago still exer- 
cised a hegemony over the Persian littoral, held sover- 
eignty in Zanzibar and the neighbouring African coast 
and was the object of Napoleon's interest. Pre-eminent 
today is Sa'udi Arabia, lying to the north of them, an 
amalgam of three separate Arabian principalities, viz. 
the sharifate of Mecca and the two central Arabian am- 
irates of Ibn Rashid and Ibn Sa'ud the Hijaz, Nejd, 
Hasa and Asir constituting the entire northern half of 
the peninsula. 

At the time of the outbreak of the Great War these 
enjoyed separate existences. Indeed, among all the princes 
of Arabia, Husain, the grand sharif of Mecca, stood fore- 
most in the eyes of the outside Moslem world, this not in 
virtue of personal prestige, for he was the nominee of the 
Turks, but by reason of controlling the holy cities of 
Mecca and Medina. It was the custom of Turkey to recog- 
nize the head of the Hashimite family of Mecca, the fam- 
ily from which the Prophet sprang, as ex officio the Keeper 
of the Holy Places. This by no means meant that he was 
paramount among the princes in Arabia. These, in their 


various states, were rulers by hereditary right and would 
not have regarded him as in any way their superior, for, 
as a client who might be removed by a principal to make 
way for another member of his family (his own was a 
fortuitous appointment), he was in a way less than a 
dynastic ruler. 

The other two principalities of what is now Sa'udi 
Arabia, northern Nejd (dynasty of Ibn Rashid) and 
southern Nejd (Ibn Sa'ud), were both comparatively re- 
cent, neither more than two hundred years old, but they 
had had time to become hereditary enemies, and at various 
times each, in turn, had dispossessed the other to rule the 
combined territories for a generation or so. Thus at the 
beginning of the century Ibn Rashid was in possession. At 
the outbreak of the Great War the two amirates were of 
about equal strength and existed side by side, Ibn Rashid 
being on friendly terms, Ibn Sa'ud at enmity, with the 
sharif of Mecca. 

Periodical ascendancy of the Sa'udi house has mainly 
resulted from their championing the cause of a periodical 
religious revival which has come to be known by the name 
Wahhabism. The founder of this movement, Muhammad 
ibn Abdul Wahhab, was a religious reformer and revival- 
ist who, exactly two hundred years ago, returned from 
theological studies in eastern Islamic countries to set his 
native central Arabia aflame with his eloquence. An an- 
cestor of Ibn Sa'ud married the preacher's daughter and so 
strengthened still further the connection between the rul- 
ing family and the religious movement. Thirty years later 
the sword and religious fanaticism had extended the puri- 
tanical message and Sa'udi dominion over a greater part 
of the peninsula (the Yemen excepted) ; the holy cities fell 
into Wahhabi hands, and the gold ornamentation of the 



Prophet's tomb was torn off as an offense to God. Bands of 
Wahhabis invaded as far north as the grazing grounds of 
Iraq, to the west of the Euphrates, spreading terror and 
intolerance, until one day they fell upon the beautiful 
shrine of Husain at Kerbala, sacred to the whole Shi'a 
world, and stripped it of some of its artistic splendour. 

Turkey was alarmed at the sudden rise of power that 
was a constant menace to her borderlands and, conscious 
of her responsibility in the eyes of the whole Moslem 
world to keep open the Pilgrim route, would have moved 
against the desert but was too weak to do so and in any 
case found it politically prudent to allow the initiative to 
pass to the self-appointed, ambitious viceroy of Egypt, 
the Albanian, Muhammad Ali. This strong man sent an 
army via the Red Sea to invade Arabia from the west. 
The march was successfully made across the peninsula to 
the headquarters of the movement, which was destroyed 
(Riyadh, the present capital, is thus of more recent or- 
igin), and the Wahhabi power was vanquished for a 

During periods of revival Wahhabis are intolerant of 
other sects of Islam. To themselves they are the only 
man in the regiment in step, as it were ; the rest are heretics 
every one. The theological and philosophical speculations 
which made Arabian civilization famous in the Middle 
Ages are heresies to be purged, if necessary by force, from 
the faith as delivered; the wearing of silk garment or gold 
ornament is a sin, and the delinquent is beaten; smoking is 
not tolerated, either, for who is to say whether the Prophet 
would not have forbidden it ; but worse than this, the il- 
lumination of shrines of dead saints or the presentation of 
offerings to them is an abomination, so that some of the 



most beautiful architectural edifices of Islam are a re- 
proach to the faith. 

The Wahhabis consider their creed the pure and un- 
defiled religion delivered through the Arabian Prophet. 
The Prophet to them is, as he taught, just a man, and the 
temptation to exalt him must be resisted. The attributes 
which Moslem sects have invested him with, but which he 
did not himself claim, are repudiated. 

With the true Wahhabi laxity is sinful, and attendance 
at the mosque is obligatory. The wages of unbelief has, in 
times of crisis, been death, and chastisement for offences 
odious to their code is a commonplace; wherefore, in the 
later stages of my crossing of the south Arabian desert in 
1931, I, as a self-confessed Christian, and my desert 
companions of Shafi'i tenets kept a careful watch to avoid 
collisions with any of these pious folk. 

It is this movement which Arabia's outstanding figure, 
Abdul 'Aziz ibn Sa'ud, a religious man but by no means a 
fanatic himself had championed as his forefathers did 
before him when he regained possession of the state his 
father had lost. The hand of fate was against him in early 
life. Born at Riyadh, he had, at the age of nine, to accom- 
pany his father into exile after the latter's defeat by his 
northern rival, Ibn Rashid, whose star at that time was 
in the ascendant. As is often the case in Arabia, the way 
back to power lay through blood. His father, having from 
his exile in Kuwait made a final abortive attempt against 
his rival by open warfare, handed on the hereditary feud to 
the young boy. 

Ibn Sa'ud, only nineteen at the time, set out in the win- 
ter of 1900 from his asylum at Kuwait, with forty men, on 
his reckless desert mission to win back his patrimony. Ar- 
riving overnight a short distance from Riyadh, he halted, 



(By courtesy of the Royal Legation 0} Sa'udi Arabia, London) 


picked out six men to be his companions for the hazardous 
enterprise; the rest he enjoined to wait till the morning, 
when, if there was no news of him, they must fly for their 
lives back to Kuwait. Under cover of night he and his tiny 
party scaled the walls and made stealthily for the house 
next door to that of the governor, the representative of his 
father's usurper. They knocked upon the door, which was 
opened, forcibly made their entry, keeping the inmates 
under close arrest so as not to raise the alarm, then passed 
on to the governor's house and took the same precaution 
there, and so kept vigil during the dark hours against the 
governor's return in the morning, for it was his habit to 
sleep in the fort across the way. At dawn the fort gates 
were opened, and, oblivious of the presence of an enemy, 
the governor and his bodyguard came walking slowly to- 
wards the house. Ibn Sa'ud with his tiny party lying secretly 
in wait behind the door chose an opportune moment, 
rushed forth and took his enemies by surprise. There was 
a stiff fight, for the attackers were outnumbered four to 
one and, being in the open, were exposed to fire from the 
fort. The governor fell in the first onset ; his death threw 
his companions into confusion, and the attackers quickly 
became masters of the situation, the guards surrendering 
in the belief that reinforcements must be at hand. Then, 
entering the fort of his fathers, the intrepid youth pro- 
claimed himself governor of Riyadh, to the surprise and 
joy of the population. 

A revival of Wahhabism was due, and a decade or two 
later the southern Nejd was aflame with zeal to purge 
the Arabian peninsula of its heresies, and the means to 
this end were the Ikhwan, the puritan army of Ibn Sa'ud. 
During the Great War Ibn Sa'ud, in receipt of a subsidy 
from the British government, remained benevolently neu- 



tral, though an embarrassing situation arose from the 
fact that he and our more actively engaged Arabian ally, 
the sharif of Mecca, were implacable enemies. Ibn Sa'ud's 
wartime attempt against Ibn Rashid, traditionally friendly 
with the sharif, though at the time client of the Turks, 
came to nought. But after the war had ended the Wahhabi 
leader marched (192223) to a more successful attack 
and wrested Ibn Rashid's territory from him, so that 
northern Nejd became his, and a few years later by 
which time both he and the sharif had ceased to enjoy 
their war subsidies from Britain, and the sharif had 
ceased to enjoy British protection he marched against 
the Hijaz. The sharif, who had meanwhile assumed the 
title of King of the Arabs, had become discredited with 
his own people and with Moslems overseas, from his in- 
ability to quell or satisfy Hijazi tribesmen who were plun- 
dering pilgrims, rendering the pilgrimage unsafe. 

Taif fell, and King Husain's army was routed. Mecca 
submitted after a short siege, and a little later Medina 
and Jidda, too, passed into Ibn Sa'ud's hands, so that the 
Hijaz province was now added to his central Arabian 
possessions, and shortly afterwards he assumed the title 
of King of the Hijaz. The passing of the Hijaz under Ibn 
Sa'ud's sway came with a minimum of upheaval, not be- 
cause Wahhabism was loved, but because misrule was 
ended and because Ibn Sa'ud enjoyed great personal pres- 
tige and reputation for just, wise and strong rule. It was 
the triumph of the great personal leader; Arabia had 
again been true to her tradition that it is the man, not the 
system that counts. 

The possession of the holy places has been a pillar of 
strength to Ibn Sa'ud, but a source of weakness to the 
fanatical movement by which he rose to power. Pilgrim 



revenues are a vital means of keeping the hungry desert 
quiet, while the responsibility to an outside Moslem world 
compels a degree of toleration which is the very negation 
of aggressive Wahhabism. For the Sa'udi house, revenue 
and dynastic considerations must curb the desert ardour. 
Meanwhile, for pilgrims who do not go out of their way to 
off end mellowed Wahhabi susceptibilities, there is greater 
security for life and property under Ibn Sa'ud than nor- 
mally fell to the lot of their predecessors down the cen- 

The livelihood of Arabia's natives is pitched low, by 
any Western standard. Over a greater part of the country 
it is a bare subsistence economy, where man counts his 
wealth in his camels or his oxen, his asses or goats his 
menservants and maidservants perhaps rather than his 
money. Of money there is very little indeed. Only in certain 
favoured coastal regions where towns are to be found its 
most populous parts is a wage system and other resem- 
blances to a Western commercial mechanism found, and 
the houses of wealthy personages may know of the simpler 
Western amenities. 

The pilgrimage brings considerable, if artificial, local 
prosperity. Of late years, on account of the world depres- 
sion, it has declined. Medina, once a city of seventy thou- 
sand, has now a mere fifteen thousand inhabitants, though 
that is but the measure of its own fall. For centuries 
Medina was the main portal of the pilgrim's way, and the 
Pilgrim Railway from Damascus, built in the decade be- 
fore the war, had its terminus there ; but wartime destruc- 
tion of the railway and the competition of postwar motor 
transport has been to Medina's hurt, and today most pil- 
grims come first to Mecca by way of the seaport of Jidda. 
The twentieth-century Moslem prefers the motorcar to 


the camel that was the vehicle of the Prophet's pilgrimages 
and that of his own ancestors for thirteen centuries past, 
though from a spirit of piety or as the penalty of poverty 
a few eschew the foreign machine in favour of walking. 
Many of the Negro pilgrims have thus accomplished the 
long journey from central or even west Africa. They spend 
years on the pilgrimage, working their way from place to 
place across the Dark Continent, some of their brothers 
falling by the wayside, others being born en route. 

Another source of such wealth as Arabia can boast is 
her Persian Gulf pearl fisheries, centred in Bahrain. Two 
millions sterling was realized for the harvest of 1926, 
though a quarter of that income would be welcome today. 
Each year during the summer months when the inland 
sea is calm (and red, red hot!) the natives of Arabia's 
eastern littoral, freemen and slaves, abandon their normal 
avocations and swarm down to the coasts to become 
divers for the season. Dhows and other small native craft, 
packed with motley crews, go out and anchor over favour- 
ite banks, usually in about ten to fifteen fathoms of water, 
and carry on their diving in the selfsame way that the 
Moorish visitor, Ibn Batuta, saw and described six cen- 
turies ago. Nowadays the scene has one addition. A British 
naval sloop comes and goes, playing the traditional part 
in these waters of policeman and friend. 

Thirty times a day the diver takes his deep breath and 
is lowered into the sea, to remain below for about a min- 
ute and a half and then be hauled up to the surface for a 
blow. He dives naked except for his loin cloth and a bag 
slung round his neck to hold the oysters which he wrenches 
off the sea bed ; a leather clip, like a clothes peg, closes his 
nostrils; his finger tips and toes are protected by leather 
sheaths. The rest of the simple equipment consists of two 



(By courtesy of Mr K. P. Xarayan) 




ropes, one weighted by a stone on which he is lowered, the 
other a communication rope to signal to his companions 
in the boat above when he has had enough, for a jinn some- 
times enters the poor wretch's head, in which case his 
nose and ears are prone to bleed ! Throughout the season 
divers eat little and must dive fasting except for a cup of 
coffee and a few dates. It is an unhealthy occupation, and 
divers usually die young, so that the lady who, on humani- 
tarian grounds, shuns wearing fur and feathers, should, to 
be consistent, have misgivings about her pearl necklace if 
it is strung of rose pearls from the Gulf banks the most 
precious of all their kind unless of course she takes 
up the attitude : 'Would the diver who wants to dive be 
grateful for the unemployment?' The diving industry is in 
native hands, and the absence of modern methods of diving 
is due to native apprehension lest the goose be killed that 
lays the golden eggs. Arabian pearls go via Bombay to 
Paris, the world's pearl mart, and thence the most precious 
find their way to London and New York. In common with 
all luxury industries, pearling has suffered by the world 
slump, but a more insidious future enemy may be the cul- 
tured pearl industry of Japan. 

If the world's most precious pearls come from eastern 
Arabian waters, the world's best coffee comes from south- 
western Arabia, where it is native to the mountains of the 
Yemen. At the port of Mocha whence its trade name 
Portuguese mariners, soon after their discovery of the 
Cape of Good Hope, met with it and introduced it into 
Europe, so that it was a novelty in England in the same 
century that saw the introduction of tobacco and the po- 
tato, both from the New World, of course. The Arabian 
crop today is small, and Arabian coffee a luxury mainly 
bought up by London and New York. For although coffee 



is the national beverage of Arabia, only the very rich can 
afford Mocha, and the poorer Arabs buy their everyday 
coffee from the outside world to which they first taught 
its use. 

Another epicurean product of Arabia, fancied more by 
China and Malaya than the West, is the soup made from 
the fins and tails of sharks. The Persian Gulf and Indian 
Ocean swarm with sharks the pearl diver is too good a 
fatalist to be afraid of them and some hundred thousand 
are caught every year off the coasts of Oman alone. Indeed, 
these fisheries are an industry secondary only to date 
culture, and Oman's famous date groves extend for more 
than a hundred miles along its sandy tropic shores to a 
depth of a mile or two, from where the fruit, ripening 
earlier than elsewhere, is quickly rushed away to meet 
America's voracious needs. 

The spices of Arabia are a more romantic source of in- 
come. Frankincense and myrrh, both the resinous sub- 
stances of wild trees that made south Arabia famous in 
ancient times, come today almost exclusively from one 
province, Dhufar, possibly the Ophir of antiquity, a ter- 
ritory of the central south under the Muscat flag. On 
social occasions the frankincense brazier is passed around 
the assembly with the ritualistic coffee ; and when evil is 
abroad it has a magical value for exorcism, but most of 
the crop goes overseas to be used in the service of Buddhist 
temples of India and the Farther East. 

One other industry of coastal Arabia must be mentioned 
its boatbuilding. The picturesque Arab dhow with its 
forward-raking mainmast carrying a big single stretch of 
sail, a tiny mizzenmast incongruously raking the other 
way, the high Elizabethan look of the poop and the grace- 
ful droop of the waist, are features that clearly belong to 



the distant past. He who has a sentiment for our old sail- 
ing ship meets with enchantment as he voyages across the 
Indian Ocean at any time except when the southwest mon- 
soon drives these quaint fore-and-afters off the open sea 
into their summer anchorages. Here is a craft that has 
come unchanging across the ages. Almost every Arab 
seaport has its own traditional build and rig, Kuwait and 
Sur perhaps the most famous. Dhows up to two hundred 
tons burden carry dates and frankincense and shark's 
meat to India and Africa, and bring back rice, the staple 
food of the well-to-do, sugar, piece goods and other 
simple requirements of a poor oriental people. 

The hardy Arab mariners, possessed of imperfect in- 
struments and a nodding acquaintance with the rudiments 
of navigation, yet have a knowledge of the elements which 
even our more scientific sailors may envy. In the annual 
voyage to East Africa they run down before the northeast 
monsoon without too nice a sense of longitude and, on 
reaching the desired latitude, turn west to make a landfall. 
It is a common experience of British ships in these parts 
to be hailed at sea by one of these craft that has made a 
bad voyage with the request for water and its bearings. 
But the camaraderie of the sea is sometimes thought to be 
a trifle one sided when the Arab dhow, economizing in 
head or other lights up to the fifty-ninth minute, suddenly 
flashes her presence dead ahead out of a black night. 

A thousand years ago such dhows were all that these 
oceans knew. From the Persian Gulf they sailed eastwards 
to Malacca and Java for the tin required by Abbasid metal- 
workers, an intrepid adventurer among them sometimes 
voyaging on into the China Seas. With India upon their 
way, an ancient trade with it stood at a high pitch of de- 
velopment, and Arab colonies sprang up in Bombay and 



Sind, which survive to this day. Westwards, too, the 
Arabs sailed for gold to the islands of Wagwag, i.e. Mada- 
gascar their name also for Japan and sowed the seed 
which ripened into Arabian colonization and the annexa- 
tion of Zanzibar little more than a century ago. From 
these voyages came the tall yarns ascribed to Arab sea 
captains, not hampered by too strong an addiction to the 
religious truth, which found their way into the literature 
of the times, though curiously enough the doings of Sind- 
bad the Sailor and all the rest of his romantic kind in The 
Arabian Nights to us as entrancing as Greek or Nordic 
folk tales are a form of literature about which the 
serious-minded literate Arab is often a little scornful. 

Dhows hauled up along the Arab beaches have a mon- 
strous, whalelike appearance as they lean over at alarming 
angles on their bulging bilges. In process of building they 
are a joy to behold. The ribs take on a beautiful symmetry 
at the hands of craftsmen who appear to have no elaborate 
drawings to guide them and work by eye and rule of thumb- 
In Kuwait the barren woman comes by stealth at night to 
jump over a new-laid keel, an old fertility cult, while the 
watchman shoos her off lest she take virtue out of the 
Early Persian contacts and long seafaring intercourse 
with Iraq and India give the small seaports of eastern 
Arabia a cosmopolitan air and a comparatively advanced 
and tolerant outlook. The successful merchant-shipowner 
delights in bringing back to his date garden exotic plants 
he has met with on his travels. In the Hadhramaut, which 
province shares with the Yemen the pride of an ancient 
civilization and with New York a fancy for incipient sky- 
scrapers, the tradition is with Java. The native goes off 
when young to the East Indies and returns, in later life, 





with his fortune made; he has not ceased to be an Arab, 
though he has ceased to have an Arabian outlook. 

But these are the coastal fringes. Arabia's great heart 
remains untouched and her mood forbidding. The no- 
madic tribes find the camel well-nigh sufficient for their 
simple wants. They subsist almost exclusively on its milk 
and occasionally its flesh; their houses are tents of hair 
made from its wool, their clothing in some measure from 
the same source too. In prewar days there was a camel- 
raising industry in the northwest for export via Damascus 
to Egypt. At that time the camel was the ideal means of 
transport in those neighbouring countries that lacked 
roads and much water, but the introduction of the Ameri- 
can motorcar has brought great changes, and what was 
once a valuable export trade has decayed. So, too, a horse- 
raising industry flourished in the northeast, horses being 
exported to India where they were popular for polo, but 
the disappearance of the rule which imposed a height re- 
striction and which in the old days made 'the Arab' ideal, 
has put the small and beautiful animal out of the game, 
and so the horse trade has greatly declined. 

Cultural divisions of the Arabian society, if most 
marked between coast and desert, run also laterally across 
the various states. It is the old division between the 
settled Arab cultivator, merchant, townsman on the 
one hand, and our friends the Beduin on the other; the 
former wedded to ways of law and order, the latter to a 
wayward life which involves plundering each other or 
settled Arab, as occasion demands or opportunity offers. 
These two elements of the population are persuaded by 
long experience that their interests clash. They are mutu- 
ally antipathetic. Each believes in armed force as a way of 
cowing the other. If you want peace with your neighbour 



the Arab proverb tells you the Arab way: 'In one hand 
bread, in the other a sword.' 

Islam, the religion that had its cradle among the Arabs 
of Arabia, reflects their democratic spirit in its insistence 
on the equality of believers. For the non-Arab slave no 
equal social status is conceded, so that in this Arabia goes 
back on her democracy and indeed is today one of the very 
few countries left in the world to practise and justify 
slavery. Arabian male slavery is of two kinds, industrial 
and domestic. The former supplies the needs of date gar- 
dens and pearl fisheries. The latter, the more usual form, 
where the slave is the retainer, the bodyguard, the house 
servant, is not a harsh and pitiless exploitation of labour 
like the old industrial slavery of our West Indian colonies 
the usual connotation of slavery in Western minds. 
Slaves are often treated as members of the family, fed 
and clothed every bit as well as others. I have, in fact, 
known of a slave who was liberated and then voluntarily 
returned to the bondage of his old master in preference 
to the insecurity that came with freedom. But slavery is 
intolerable for all that. The slave is a property. Slave 
dealers are free to traffic in their human wares, those who 
specialize in slaves being always in touch with intending 
buyers and sellers, and they conduct would-be purchasers 
to the houses where the slaves may be inspected. The 
majority of slaves, however, certainly the more fortunate 
among them, remain in the same family for generation af- 
ter generation. 

The answer to the question Why do the Arabs want 
slaves? is in part sociological, in part economic. Slavery 
is a traditional part of the social structure. It is congenial. 
The peninsular Arabs are in the mass far too proud to 
work as servants, far too independent in spirit to obey a 



master, so that the well-to-do have either to do their work 
themselves or to resort to slavery. This is why, among a 
poor people having little more than a subsistence culture, 
all attempts at the suppression of slavery have hitherto 

In the very early wars of Islam the practice was to treat 
prisoners as slaves and allot them to Arab warriors as 
part of the plunder of war. The end of these wars brought 
a fruitful source of slave supply to its close. Slave raiding 
into Africa was thereby given a greater stimulus, and for 
the last few centuries Africa has been the chief source of 
supply. Among slaves that one sees in Arabia today 
Negroes easily predominate, though Abyssinians and 
Baluchis are to be found. 

My own experience after living for many years in parts 
of Arabia where slavery forms an integral part of the 
social structure is that few slave transhipments are com- 
ing in from overseas today. In the old days British naval 
activities did a great deal to make external slave dealing 
hazardous; today internal slavery perpetuates itself by 
slaves begetting slaves. They are usually married at 
puberty, and so fresh slaves are brought into the world 
ad infinitum, and these, by religious law as locally inter- 
preted, are the property of the master and when he dies are 
inherited like any other form of property. 

The British government, with some difficulty and much 
unpopularity, made slave agreements in times past with 
most of the coastal states of Arabia, under which slaves 
escaping to a British consulate are manumitted, while on 
the high seas British naval ships exercise the right to search 
native craft for slave runners. But within Arabia itself 
slavery flourishes with the full support of public opinion, 
and any extraneous authority interfering becomes odious 



in the eyes of the people. It is a vested interest of im- 
memorial respectability. 

Most enlightened Arabian rulers, though they doubt- 
less privately consider that it would be a very good thing 
if slavery were no more, dare not affront influential sub- 
jects who favour slavery and possess slaves. These rulers, 
no less than Western ones, must not go out of their way 
to alienate the governed if they are to survive. And, short 
of coercive measures which no one is likely to take, only a 
change of public opinion a new general attitude of mind 
will ensure permanent abolition. Today King Ibn Sa'ud 
is tackling this very difficult problem sympathetically and 
wisely, but up to recent times the measure in which Arab 
rulers co-operated with a foreign power on an issue of 
this kind was construed as the measure of their depend- 
ence upon that foreign power. No really independent Arab 
ruler could attempt to overthrow the age-hallowed institu- 
tion of slavery when he knew that such measures were 
equated in the minds of his people with a foreign and 
Christian policy, a policy obviously alien to, and subversive 
of, their own state of society. Changes in the social system 
have to be gradual if an upheaval is to be avoided. Certain 
pilgrims of affluence are being encouraged to buy a slave 
or slaves and set them free, and well-to-do Hijazis are said 
to be doing the same as an act of worship or to celebrate 
some happy occasion the birth of a child, the recovery of 
a near relative from sickness and the like. 

In the unabatement of slavery Arabia has been false 
to her Prophet. Muhammad, as we have seen, was no up- 
holder of slavery is held to have had no slaves himself. 
He exhorted his followers to manumit slaves and appor- 
tioned a part of the revenues of the state to the same ends. 
His goal may well have been total emancipation. In his 





farewell sermon on Mount Arafat he did not forget them : 
'And your slaves ! See that you feed them with such food 
as you eat yourselves and clothe them with the stuff you 
wear; and if they commit a fault for which you are not in- 
clined to forgive them, part with them for they are the 
servants of God and are not to be harshly treated. 5 


Rise of the West: Eastern Repercussions 

MUST take leave of the Arabs of Arabia to re- 
sume our outline of the greater Arab world without, 
where we left it, as the sunset glories of the Arab caliphates 
finally faded under the shadow of Ottoman conquest. Arab 
civilization was already far gone in decay. Great Moslem 
architecture, it is true, continued in Egypt and in Persia 
a country that had long ceased to be under Arab rule ; the 
arts still flourished; indeed, Persian art was to grow in 
the seventeenth century to its zenith, surpassing the splen- 
dour of its Arab period. But science had declined among 
the Arabs some hundreds of years before (about the thir- 
teenth century) with the hardening of dogmatic intoler- 
ance, when religious zeal revived and brought with it 
disapproval of philosophers because their works might 
lead to unbelief. 

From the Ottoman conquest on through the subsequent 
four centuries to our own times was a period of further 
Arab eclipse and decay. The Arabs sank back into ob- 
scurity from which the recent Great War has helped to 
rescue them continuing to be content with their subor- 


dinate part in a super-national state of Islamic form the 
Ottoman Empire. 

This same period saw the rise of Western Europe to a 
position of world ascendancy. The West was destined to 
exercise far-reaching influence on Arab destinies, Western 
political philosophy was to weaken the Turkish shackles, 
Western arms to sever them. But the process was long 
delayed. The earlier forms of civilization, especially Is- 
lamic civilization, had, as we saw, at first been moulded 
by religion rather than nationality. It was religion that had 
differentiated social cultures and shaped political alle- 
giances. Islam had evoked a loyalty transcending race or 
nation. With the remarkable rise of Western civilization, 
a civilization that in its later forms was inspired not so 
much by religion as by political ideals, oriental life and 
thought became more and more modified, and, since the 
Arab countries during this period formed part of the Ot- 
toman dominions, their conversion is part of the Ottoman 

The East, grown poor and backward, was first im- 
pressed by the material prosperity of the new West, a 
prosperity which seemed to lie at the roots of Western 
prestige and power. The growth of this prosperity, there- 
fore, especially where it had Ottoman and Arab con- 
tacts, is of much more than passing interest. As Islam lost 
control of the western Mediterranean the early maritime 
expansion of Venetians and Genoese led to their later es- 
tablishment by the crusades on the shores of the Levant; 
the Mongols, tolerant of Christianity, sweeping west- 
wards, were next to lure Marco Polo and other merchant 
adventurers Into unknown Asia and lift a corner of the 
veil that obscured remotest China. So came the growing 
knowledge of the wealth of the Indies that provoked 



Western curiosity and further adventuring, and hence, at 
the very time the Ottomans were rising to imperial do- 
minion in the Near East, Western mariners were circum- 
navigating Africa, rediscovering Arabia's seaboards, for- 
gotten since Byzantine times, and opening up the treasures 
of India and the even greater opportunities of the Amer- 

But Western influence, if founded in the material pros- 
perity which sprung from this pioneering, was not con- 
fined to it. The flowering of Renaissance learning which 
continued increasingly to flourish along the subsequent 
centuries exalted the West and impressed its growing su- 
periority on the declining East. Western enlightenment as 
well as Western prosperity gave a benediction to Western 
forms of political organization, and these In time came 
to find favour and acceptance. Thus nationalism, a West- 
ern concept of state organization and one running counter 
to Islamic internationalism, made headway in the Otto- 
man Empire and played a main part in Ottoman dissolu- 
tion and Arab revival ; democratic institutions of Western 
origin, too, that ran counter to traditional absolutism, also 
found champions in academic circles. 

The struggle which had resolved itself in crusading 
times around three civilizations Western, Near East, 
Middle East, or in other words, broadly speaking, Latin 
Christendom, Eastern Christendom and Islam we left 
at the point where the West had withdrawn, unsuccessful, 
from the contest, and Middle East had triumphed over 
Near East as the Ottoman Turks established themselves 
in the Balkans. The subsequent centuries have brought 
Middle Eastern decay and Western world ascendancy. 

The religious spirit was still active in the pioneer days 
of trade. The great explorers, Vasco da Gama, Chris- 



topher Columbus and De Albuquerque, all bore the Cross 
on their breasts and thought of themselves as inheritors 
of a sacred tradition. The first naval campaigns in the 
Indian Ocean in the sixteenth century were infused with 
this spirit, and the Portuguese records of their operations 
in the Red Sea thirty years after the discovery of the Cape 
of Good Hope show them bent upon the seizure of Mecca 
'for the Glory of God and His most Catholic Majesty.' 
A setback before Jidda sent them scurrying back to Aden, 
which served as their base for voyages of exploration into 
the Red Sea whence they penetrated to the Isthmus of 
Suez itself. 

To these Portuguese belong the honours of pioneers. 
In the great Western movement for world trade they were 
the first Europeans to make contacts, in Islamic times, with 
the Arabs of the peninsula. These early days saw their 
penetration into the Persian Gulf, too, where Hormuz, 
a flourishing medieval port on the Persian side, was their 
lure, and for its mastery they strove during a century and 
a half. De Albuquerque, their famous admiral, descended 
upon the opposite shores of eastern Arabia, built forts and 
threw garrisons into them as the splendid remains of the 
period at Muscat, the battered fort masonry and old 
muzzle-loading guns that litter the foreshore for two hun- 
dred miles to north and south, still bear eloquent testi- 
mony. But the West as yet had little to teach the Arabs. 
Portuguese activities were not even imperial; their pur- 
pose was trade, where possible by peaceful means, where 
not possible under armed occupation. Their enterprise 
must not on that account be belittled. He who is acquainted 
with these fearsome parts and can visualize their difficul- 
ties must be awed with admiration for their great qualities 
as seamen and adventurers. Their small sailing ships were 



scarcely bigger than the biggest of the opposing native 
ones, and by these many times outnumbered ; they navi- 
gated waters about which they at first had no nautical 
knowledge; they engaged an enemy thousands of miles 
from their bases, so that in reality they had no bases ; and 
to get supplies of food and water in times of war must 
land and fight an incalculable foe; they were unequipped 
for one of the hottest and most trying climates in the 
world, where indeed the Persian poet would have us be- 
lieve 'the panting sinner receives a foretaste of his future 
destiny.* At times they were driven to drastic measures, 
and a tradition lingers in Muscat of an occasion when 
they cut off the noses of every male inhabitant they could 
lay their hands on. Among a warlike people overmuch 
given to revenge, and themselves alive to the danger of 
coming back again which they must do it is clear they 
were strong men possessed of indomitable courage. 

By the seventeenth century British and Dutch traders 
had appeared upon the scene to share with Portuguese and 
Arabs what trade was going, the Turkish masters of Iraq 
taking as yet no active interest in Persian Gulf commerce. 
British mariners came and went; one of the most notable, 
the discoverer of Baffin Bay, left his bones to whiten there. 
As the official report of the day has it, 'Master Baffin 
went on shore with his geometrical instruments for the 
taking the height and distance of the castle wall for the 
better levelling of his piece to make his shot ; but as he was 
about the same he received a small shot from the castle 
into his belly, wherewith he gave three leaps by report and 
died immediately.' 33 * 

As the East India Company pushed forth its agents the 
Portuguese soon fell to third place and then dropped out 
of the race; while the Dutch, penetrating to Iraq itself 



with bigger ships and more astute factors, led the going. 
Such trading activities, part of a wider merchant enter- 
prise the world over, resulted in the West laying the foun- 
dations of greater wealth and a higher standard of living 
for itself, but trade rivalry involved political action and 
brought the Ottoman Empire into the cockpit of Western 
diplomacy. Trade agreements made in Constantinople, 
unexceptionable as they may have been in their provision 
for uniform customs duties and other equitable arrange- 
ments, were of course not wholly effective in the remoter 
provinces; here the foreign trader who most prospered 
was he who bribed the local authorities most handsomely. 
Thus, however regrettable political pressure harnessed 
to economic interests may appear to a pious armchair 
student of foreign affairs today, it was often directed 
against corruption or abuse, and in any case the Western 
nation that sat back in those pioneering days saw privileges 
and prosperity pass to others. 

In the Indian Ocean the French next came to share the 
Dutch trade, but in the eighteenth century both were 
eclipsed by the British in the race for the great market of 
India. The East India Company, soon to become the gov- 
ernment of India, now began to dominate Arabian waters; 
it set about charting the coasts, putting down piracy (in 
later times slavery and gunrunning, too) and planting 
Indian trading communities, with political agents to pro- 
tect them, on the Persian Gulf shores, where both make a 
living to this day. British mechanical genius, then pre- 
eminent in the world with inventions of railways, steam- 
ships and telegraphs, prepared the way for further ex- 
ploitation. On the high seas the British steamer came to 
take a bigger share of the carrying trade at the expense 
of the native dhow, and on the internal waterways of 



Iraq smaller British-owned vessels, through the personal 
interest of King William and Parliament, obtained a con- 
cession to ply for trade as they have continued to do down 
to this day. It was enterprise such as this, going on the 
world over, that laid the foundations of our foreign- 
derived income, which is reflected in our present-day pros- 
perity, naval power and diplomatic prestige. 

From the middle of the last century the Ottomans, and 
with them the Arabs, were brought into still closer political 
contact with Britain through new canal and telegraph en- 
terprises. A telegraph line was constructed by British en- 
gineers, under Turkish auspices, linking up the Persian 
Gulf with the Mediterranean, and the power of British 
consular agents grew in a night. Whereas before they must 
come, cap in hand, to the local authorities to beg trade 
favours for their nationals, there was now direct and 
instant touch with India, London and Constantinople, and 
they found themselves armed with readier and firmer 
answers to local obstacle-makers concerning the 'rights' 
of traders, river navigators and even archaeologists. A 
new kind of local friction arose from a new kind of local 
balance of power. The native official did not like the for- 
eign representative any better on this account, but he was 
awed by the amazing efficiency of the political organiza- 
tion behind him ; it was educative* 

Of much wider political importance was the opening of 
the Suez Canal in 1869, the work of French engineers, by 
which Egypt and Turkey came to have a new significance 
for Britain and India, Britain's need to protect the new 
trade route to her greatest market, India the most val- 
uable market in the world led her almost at once to es- 
tablish a protectorate along a strip of southwest Arabian 
coast immediately behind Aden, a fringe of Yemen terri- 



tory where Turkey was nominally suzerain. For Turkey, 
too, the Arabian coasts came to have an added importance, 
and she tightened her control where she had a footing 
the Hijaz and the Yemen and extended control where 
she had not, thus claiming suzerainty over Kuwait and 
throwing troops into the mid-Persian Gulf littoral at Hasa 
and Qatar astride Bahrain. In deference to British sus- 
ceptibilities she did not press her cherished pretensions to 
Bahrain; indeed, Turkey found herself everywhere 
thwarted in the Persian Gulf by the older and well- 
parapetted British-Indian entrenchments. Her tiny garri- 
sons did, however, give her prestige with the two desert 
principalities of South Nejd (Ibn Sa'ud) and North Nejd 
(Ibn Rashid), and during the next half-century, down to 
the Great War, each of these from time to time turned to 
her in moments of internal weakness or from fear of the 
other, promising subjection as the price of support. But 
for Turkey these adventures did not pay, and her soldiers 
had been driven from the Hasa province of the Persian 
Gulf by Ibn Sa'ud a year before the Great War descended 
upon her. 

Among these new Western agencies it was railways, 
however, that were destined to play greatest havoc with 
Turkey's future. So backward were the Arab countries 
under the Turks that up to the end of the century they 
still possessed no railroad. This was not the fault of for- 
eign railway magnates, for these in very early days had 
formed plans of a railroad across Europe to India. A 
similar scheme was revived in London in the middle of the 
nineteenth century but again came to nought. In 1854 
Lynch and Chesney, British pioneers of the Iraq river 
steamer enterprise launched a more modest and practicable 
plan for a short railway from the Mediterranean to the 


Euphrates, thence to link up with the river boats to the 
Persian Gulf. Two years later capital of a million sterling 
for the Syrian Trans-Desert Railway was oversubscribed 
in the city of London. The Ottoman government were quite 
favourably disposed and went to the length of under- 
writing six per cent dividends and holding up the rival 
concession for cutting the Suez Canal for which the French 
had plans ready. The issue was decided by extraneous 
affairs. The Indian Mutiny broke out, Britain required 
certain concessions from the French in Egypt in connection 
with the movement of British troops. The British railway 
project was dropped, and the French canal project pro- 
ceeded with. Had this railway been built the recent his- 
tory of the Middle East might well have been different. 
British influence in Constantinople would probably have 
remained powerful despite Russia and German influence 
been denied the chance of growing. Turkey would then 
probably have escaped being drawn into the Great War, 
in which case the Arab countries, Palestine, Syria and 
Iraq, would have remained under Ottoman dominion, 
possibly to this day. But the railway was not built, and 
in the eighties British Influence in Turkey began to decline 
under Mr Gladstone. The way was opened to Germany, 
and she was soon at work building all Turkey's railways. 
In 1885 the Balkan Railway was completed to Constanti- 
nople ; during the last twelve years of the century German 
engineers brought into existence the railway system of 
Asia Minor; and early in the present century the Pilgrim 
Railway down the western side of Arabia to Medina. (See 
map, page 277.) 

It was not local internal railways, however these in 
political eyes were harmless enough but projects for a 
strategic railway that came to have major interest for the 



great Western Powers. Round about the opening of the 
present century these various projects, first the Russian 
plan for a railway from Asia Minor to the Persian Gulf, 
then the German scheme for a railway from Constanti- 
nople to the Persian Gulf, had alarming significance for 
Britain. Both of these powers were known to cherish East- 
ern ambitions, and Britain as the one great Middle East 
imperial Power conceived herself challenged. Russia lay 
contiguous to Persia and Afghanistan in the north, so that 
the land threat to India via the northwest frontier, to- 
gether with this foreshadowed sea threat by way of the 
Persian Gulf made a formidable combination. Since the 
Crimean War Russia had, however, been engaged in 
other tussles with Turkey, and the rumours of the Turkish 
railway concession to the Russians proved, in the event, 
to lack substance. The apprehension that it gave rise to, 
however, led the government of India to seek a closer re- 
lationship with Kuwait, the Arab port at the head of the 
Persian Gulf the natural terminus for a strategic rail- 
way where Turkish suzerainty had not been recognized, 
and under an agreement then made the ruler undertook to 
give no such concession to any foreign state. 

Meanwhile Turkey had granted the more alarming 
railway concession to Germany, and the fat was in the 
fire. The future possibility of enemy submarine activities 
In the Indian Ocean in time of war was a less real menace 
than the threat to the Persian oil fields, which, as time 
went on, were developing and eventually formed a main 
source of Britain's oil supply. The interplay of interna- 
tional politics in the Arab countries which these activities 
involved was not lost upon the Arabs. They saw signs and 
tokens that presaged a great war, a war with which their 
own national destinies were to be bound up. 


These great contending forces of the West were nations. 
Their mighty activities were inspired and sustained in the 
name of nationalism. Western nationalism began to have 
a curious fascination for the Arabs. What was at the bot- 
tom of the political organization which seemed to have all 
the solidarity of the tribe? It was a small, compact unit, a 
homogeneous group speaking one common tongue. Despite 
their common religion the Western nations were seen to 
be each acutely conscious of its own interests, anxious to 
maintain independent existence, zealous for its own pre- 
eminence. This was not at all like the Arabs' own Middle 
East tradition where Turks, Arabs, Kurds, etc., were 
loosely grouped within an Islamic framework a hetero- 
geneous collection of peoples speaking many tongues. True 
their own Ottoman Empire was no longer held together 
by religion but by the sword, though a general attitude of 
mind that encouraged Moslem unity was a legacy of its 
tradition. The caliphate, however, in its ideological form, 
had perished in the wars wherein Moslems fought Mos- 
lems for dynastic power, when the empire split into frag- 
ments and two or three caliphs could rule in different parts 
of the world at the same time. A phase of temporal rule 
had come. He was the ruler who could impose his will. 
'The sovereign has a right to govern/ declared the four- 
teenth-century Moslem jurist, Ibn Jama' ah of Damascus, 
'until another and stronger shall oust him from power, and 
rule in his stead. The latter will rule by the same title and 
will have to be acknowledged on the same grounds.' 20 * 
Tradition did not require that the blood of the rulers 
should be that of the people. It was a state of things where 
It was politically acceptable to render unto Caesar the 
things that are Csesar's. The realism of the age recognized 
that authority fundamentally and of right rests on force. 



The late Western conception of the rights of nations 
to independent existence as being based on the homo- 
geneous cultural group speaking one tongue was thus out- 
side the Middle East tradition. In the East the traditional 
penalties of challenging him who held the sceptre did not 
encourage the growth of political self-consciousness among 
minority elements, much less of separatist movements. The 
imperial Islamic tradition was wider than nationalism, 
compelling men of diverse race and tongue into a com- 
mon hegemony; thus the early triumph of Middle East 
civilization under the Turks had placed Arabs, Armenians, 
Assyrians, Kurds, Bulgars, Greeks and the rest under the 
caliphs of Constantinople, and none at first wished or 
dared to contest their authority. 

In the West, on the other hand, individual nations de- 
veloped their political institutions out of their inner con- 
sciousness, shaped by their history, their literature, their 
temper, their economic advantage. Such groups, geo- 
graphically and ethnically compact, developed and gained 
strength. Their population increased, and to support them- 
selves they must expand and in later times find ever fresh 
outlets for their manufactures and commerce. The West- 
ern nations ranged out and mastered the world the 
Americas, India, Australasia, Africa and even the Ot- 
toman Empire itself was not free from their penetrating 
enterprises. By the late eighteenth century the Turks were 
having to look to their laurels and in the early nineteenth 1 
were organizing their army on the Prussian model; they 
were being driven, in order to survive, to adopt the meth- 
ods of a modern world that was enveloping them* And so 

Professor Temperley in his work England and the Near East the 
Crimea has some new references to the caliphate in the nineteenth cen- 
tury. 37 * 



with other aspects of the empire's political life. 'The re- 
formers/ says Professor Gibb, 'were never given a fair 
chance . , the highest Authorities (i.e. Sultans and reli- 
gious leaders) were unwilling to do anything which might 
alienate from them the support of the mass of Moslem 
opinion. Did they desire to abolish slavery the Sacred 
Law of Islam recognizes it. Did they desire to give equality 
of status to all citizens the Law insists on the political 
subordination of non-Moslems. Did they desire to reform 
the administration of justice the Law will not tolerate 
any code other than itself. Did they desire to create parli- 
amentary institutions the Law knows nothing of such and 
admits no right of legislation. And so on; on every point 
the reformers were met with a negative in the name of 
the Divine Ordinances of Islam.' 31 * 

As time went on, however, both the army and the ad- 
ministration had to be brought more into line with West- 
ern practice. But the rigid self-discipline which was at 
the bottom of the Western technique was largely wanting 
in the East. What was natural and appropriate in the 
West was alien in the East. Still the wealth, the power, the 
prestige, the achievements of the West continued to apply 
the spur. Western results argued in favour of the West. 
Western political principles, it seemed, must be right; 
hence nationalism became a contagion. Greece, Roumania, 
Bulgaria, Albania and other countries in Europe one by 
one had been able to throw off their Ottoman fetters. 

Nationalism spread into Asia. As the empire had crum- 
bled In Europe under its influence, so in Asia it could only 
lead to disintegration. The first Asiatic groups to be af- 
fected were the Christian minorities of Armenia and else- 
where who were conscious of Near East rather than Mid- 
dle East traditions. In her treatment of these minorities 


Turkey had little to fear from her European neighbours, 
and her resistance to their aspirations, or their seditious 
activities, took the form of massacres. The conventional 
view that the Turkish massacres were primarily religious 
seems to have been too lightly accepted in the past. It is 
more probable that at root they were political (despite 
the close identity between religion and politics in the Is- 
lamic tradition). This at least is suggested by Turkey's 
own conciliatory policy in the early days. Indeed for the 
first two and a half centuries of Ottoman rule, before 
nationalism raised its head and made the Turks feel inse- 
cure, they had shown considerable tolerance and allowed 
minorities to enjoy a commendable measure of autonomy 
under a loose medieval form of government. They never 
forced Islam on their newly acquired subjects, though 
in traditional Moslem style they regarded Christians as 
an inferior caste. Most of their Balkan possessions 
Bosnia, Bulgaria, Albania (Hungary excepted) em- 
braced of their own free will the faith of the dominant 
race, and if later they expelled the Turks and reverted to 
Christianity they did so under Western influence and with 
Western military support. It was the later Turkey, driven 
by force of circumstances to resist weakness within her- 
self, that met separatist tendencies with abominable mas- 

As we have seen, in the earliest times Christian 'religious 
minorities' enjoyed 'protection* within the Islamic state so 
long as they were submissive and paid a small supertax. 
But the Middle East tradition had a different way with 
'political minorities*, a hard way for treason against the 
state. Under political absolutism minorities claiming to be 
different and opposed were not as respectable as they are 
in Western democratic states. Public opinion expected 



strong action and applauded resolute men. The minority, 
flaunting its racial and religious differences, was regarded 
as asking for extirpation. The recent Iraqi massacre of 
Assyrians to the Iraqis the Assyrians were a militant 
and extremely provocative minority is in some respects 
in the same political tradition. If England and Ireland had 
formed parts of a Middle East civilization instead of 
Western civilization the world would have had reason to 
expect some similar reactions. This is in no sense said as 
an argument for or against the spread of Western 
nationalism, which may well be as inevitable as the spread 
of taste or culture or disease. But its Western democratic 
forms that are taken for granted by untravelled West- 
erners do not form part of the common consciousness in 
the Middle East, nor do they appeal to the governing 
class where affection for strong and just and benevolent 
personal dictatorship is more in the historical tradition. 
If the Western democrat seeks with keen devotion the 
universal acceptance of his political deities, he should, if 
he abjures the sword, learn to be patient. 

The spread of Western nationalism to the Arab coun- 
tries under the Turks properly belongs to the present 
century, when the small literate class became genuinely 
converted but not the agricultural masses. The latter 
in many provinces, notably those of Iraq, had reverted 
to a social culture not much in advance of the deserts and 
were not nationally minded. The former the townsfolk 
retaining something of their historic medieval traditions, 
and educated in Turkish-speaking schools had on the 
other hand more in common with the Turks of the ruling 
class, their Sunni coreligionists, than with their own kith 
and kin who followed the plough and the Persian sectaries. 

Iraq, to take as an example the Turkish-administered 



Arab country I learned to know well, had this cultural di- 
vision between the urban dwellers and tribally minded 

To the Arab townsman the Turk was no foreign tyrant. 
The Ottoman Empire was not narrowly Turkish in spirit ; 
it was a loosely administered hegemony of diverse prov- 
inces, and if the local governor and the local general and 
the like were appointed from Constantinople, they were 
by no means always of Turkish blood* Arabs generally 
from Syria Kurds and even Cretans came, indifferently 
with Turks, to administer the provinces of Iraq. 

The Turks, till recent times tribesmen themselves, 
were by no means inexpert handlers of the Arab tribes- 
man either. They understood, if they no longer sympa- 
thized with, the wayward point of view that resented any 
close government control; their own careless medieval 
methods were indeed well suited to the taste of the tribes. 
These enjoyed much freedom from authority, and in the 
early days authority was exercised through their own local 
aristocracy, such as the Kurdish aghas In the north or the 
Sa'adun amirs in the south. 

It was when the Turks began to 'improve* their ad- 
ministrative machine on Western lines and with Western 
applause that the old personal touch was lost and they 
grew less popular. They had come to think with the 
West that an efficient administrative machine was an 
effective substitute for personal rule. The fez was to re- 
place the turban, the literate townsman to be promoted at 
the expense of the local aristocrat. But the conditions 
necessary for a Western regime were wanting. The bulk 
of the population were tribesmen and not impressed by 
literacy nor attracted by bureaucrats. If they had a sense 
of the well-being of their tribe or their area they lacked a 



sense of national public weal. Threat of closer control only 
hardened their opposition, and under the influence of their 
Shi'a divines they found religious justification for disputing 
the claims of Sunni caliphs. The demand on them for in- 
creased taxes only intensified their opposition to paying 
taxes at all. If they wanted water for their rice fields why 
shouldn't they cut canals? And what if this did flood high- 
ways? Food was an older and greater consideration for 
them than wheeled traffic, for which, indeed, they had no 
need at all. 

The agents of Ottoman authority were the Arab towns- 
men, fit only, so the tribesmen thought, to scribble at their 
taxes. This local official class had greatly deteriorated 
since the old days. It, too, was deficient in the sense of 
public service, and chiefly preoccupied with the need of 
making a precarious living. It, too, identified the public 
good with the good of its own class. Flooding public high- 
ways was not to be tolerated. And did not evasion of taxes 
prove that the tribesmen were enemies of the state ? 

In the year 1869 came Midhat Pasha, a famous Turkish 
wall, to Baghdad, determined to break the tribes once for 
all. To this end he introduced an ingenious land reform 
which conferred a form of proprietary right on the indi- 
vidual members of the tribe, a hereditary lease, on easy 
terms, calculated to wean tribesmen from local allegiances. 
Though partly effective, and enduring to this day, its suc- 
cess was hindered by Midhat's less judicious measures to 
conscript the tribes. Hence those who might have been 
coaxed into a closer allegiance by the seductive appeal of 
property in land must keep their distance to avoid being 
whipped off to force a neighbour's submission to govern- 
ment's revenue demands or lured away to fight the Rus- 
sians, whoever they might be ! 


The methods by which the Turks made their higher 
appointments were no more promising of success than 
were the ethical standards of local subordinate employees. 
Corruption ran from top to bottom. The very exalted, 
such as governors, bought their appointments in Con- 
stantinople, usually on a short-term lease, and came to 
the Arab provinces to make the investment profitable. 
Taxation was locally auctioned to tax farmers, who also 
must make good. The local subordinate Arab official re- 
ceived inadequate and irregular pay and restored to tak- 
ing bribes. The police and local garrison, their uniform 
shabby, their pay often in arrears, must be nimble with 
their muskets these often of various pattern to bully 
and extort a living. Customs officials, -who in theory took 
an eight per cent tax, were quite ready to reduce the bur- 
den to the importer in accordance with the size of the 
consideration passed under the table. In short there was 
wanting that public spirit in the service of the state which 
springs from a sense of personal security and from loyalty 
to clean and proud traditions, features which made 
bureaucratic government safe in the West. Thus West- 
ern panaceas compounded in a Turco-Arab dispensary 
brought little health to the extremities of the sick man of 
Europe. This is not to suggest that Turkish rule gave 
grounds for strong local dissatisfaction. It was too light 
to be irksome. If government is a necessary evil, a feeble 
evil is better than a virile one ; in the measure of its weak- 
ness and inefficiency it was tolerable to the tribesmen; the 
taxpayer had the means of lightening his burden by his 
own ingenuity; the petty Arab official was not unhappy 
under a system which was the only one he understood. 
Ottoman authority varied not only from decade to de- 
cade with the personality of the wali, but within the 



country from town to town and from tribe to tribe. There 
was control in the towns, a light hand on the surround- 
ing tribes, a faint supervision often vanishing altogether 
among remote marsh Arabs. Thus my own immediate 
postwar district of the Middle Gharraf (the ancient 
Lagash), midway between Tigris and Euphrates, had 
ceased to be administered by the Turks ten years before 
the war because of their inability to collect revenues, and 
three of my Turkish predecessors, who were too intent 
on revenue collection, had been murdered. Taxation was 
not uniform in Arab provinces of the Iraq, but then it 
never had been, and nobody expected it to be. The area 
under control must pay virtually a dozen times the 
amount that could be wheedled out of the inaccessible 
tribes who indeed often refused to pay anything. Arrears 
mounted up, and then would come a time when the sum 
owing must either weakly be abandoned on grounds of 
political expediency or an attempt be made at collection 
by means of a punitive column. Under the Turks the de- 
ciding factor was a simple arithmetical sum, on which 
side of the profit and loss account was a balance to be 
expected. The effect on public morality was scarcely salu- 

The administration of the law was various. The tribes 
were left to their ancient canons or their Shi'a sanctions ; 
the Ottoman law of the towns, based largely on the 
Napoleonic code, was administered by judge or qadhi. 
Justice could usually be bought and sold. Yet however 
much illicit influence and bribery were brought to bear, 
the tendency was nearly always towards getting the 
prisoner off. There was humanity in it. Custom allowed 
the relatives of the prisoner to bring him his meals, 
which the underpaid jailer was pleased to share, a practice 



that encouraged friendly relations and was suited to the 
free and easy ways of the people; while quarantine 
officials, where these existed, were never so vexatiously 
efficient as to stand in the way of the truly understanding. 

But in the present century a generation of Arabs was 
growing up dissatisfied with the Turkish connection. 
Under the influence of Western thought, achievement, ex- 
ample, the Arab intelligentsia was becoming growingly 
aware of the poverty and backwardness of their native 
lands under the Turks and saw before their eyes the grow- 
ing prosperity of Egypt, under Western guidance. The 
official elements among them had tried loyally to co- 
operate in the reform policy of the Committee of Union 
and Progress which promised so much and from which 
they at first had hopes of greater autonomy, but when 
the young Turks, in the strength derived from association 
with Germany, seemed to steer an opposite course, the 
Arabs of Iraq fell more and more away. They had their 
own proud Umaiyyad and Abbasid traditions to inspire 

But these politically minded Arabs were but a tiny frac- 
tion of the people. The mass of the f ellahin were illiterate 
and apathetic to nationalist sentiment. They had drifted 
back to a rude tribal culture, wanted no government at all 
bigger than their tribal unit. Most of them would have 
wished above all to be left alone, free from any bureau- 
cratic control including that of the official class of their 
own urban kinsmen. To the mass of the Shi'a tribesmen 
of Iraq, as indeed to any other Arab tribesmen, the con- 
stitutional reforms of Turkey, or any other constitutional 
reforms for that matter, gave them nothing that they 
needed or wanted. 

Westernization, therefore, in effect weakened Turkey 



in her Arab dominions. Turkey Westernized ceased to 
be acceptable to the Arab masses. Turkey, reeling under 
successive blows of the Balkan and Italian wars, ceased 
to hold its prestige with the Arab urban communities. 
These began to talk of Arab nationalism, to dream of 
freedom from the Turkish yoke. 


Part Four 


The Arabs and the World War 

THE YEAR 1914 the Arabs of Syria, Palestine and 
Iraq and of the western provinces of the Arabian penin- 
sula, the Hijaz, and, in a lesser degree, the Yemen, were 
under Turkish dominion. To all these lands Constanti- 
nople sent garrisons, to most of them viceroys and gover- 
nors too. In the Ottoman army Arab soldiers and officers 
served side by side with Turks, Kurds and other repre- 
sentatives of the empire. The Arab officer class, educated 
in Turkish schools, served in military and civil capacities 
on the same terms as the Turks. There was no derogating 
distinction, as with Indians under the British raj in con- 
temporary India, nothing to prevent the Arab from rising 
to the highest rank in the Ottoman services; though up 
to the war the Turks had resisted the Syrian demand that 
Arabic should be admitted as an official language along 
with Turkish. Arabs married Turkish wives Sharif, later 
King, Husain of Mecca himself had a Turkish wife 
Arabs were sent with Turks to German military staff col- 
leges. Like army officers in any other army they took an 
oath of allegiance to their ruling sovereign the Turkish 



sultan, and thus when war broke out, they found them- 
selves fighting in Gallipoli, Mesopotamia and Palestine 
on the side of the Turks against the Allies. 

But for many of them their heart was not in it. Their 
outlook had been affected by Western liberalism. They 
would have preferred to think of themselves as Arab 
patriots rather than Ottoman subjects. Their kith and 
kin at home in Syria and Iraq were of the same mind, and 
though these formed a small fraction of the Arab in- 
habitants they were the intellectual and vocal element. 
Here was a powder magazine within the Turkish terri- 
tories ready to be fired by the war in which these politically 
minded Arabs saw their chance of flinging off the Turkish 
yoke. Secret Arab societies formed with such an object 
existed in the cities, as well as literary and scientific 
societies, which, while not secret, brought men together 
whose political aspirations doubtless trended the same 
way the Arab Committee, the Arts Club and the Com- 
mittee of the Covenant. With war joined, these Arabs 
could only expect to achieve their ends if Turkey were de- 

The Turks were no tyrannous masters, however, to be 
got rid of at any price. Apart from their own easygoing 
ineffectiveness, the Turks in the Arab countries were 
crippled both in a financial and political sense. Their wars 
had led them to mortgage certain items of revenue such 
as fisheries, liquor, salt, stamps, the sale of tobacco. In 
Palestine they had conceded a form of foreign protector- 
ate of the holy places from their earliest occupation. 
Capitulations, providing for the legal rights of Chris- 
tian powers to try their own nationals in their own courts, 
and other extraterritorial rights which were in origin 
a lazy arrangement of the Turks to simplify their rela- 






tions with Genoese and Venetian traders and the like, 
grew to be another source of political weakness as the 
Western Powers arose to inherit the rights and exploit 
them to the fulL And now for a century Turkey grew still 
weaker from the undermining effects of Western nation- 
alistic doctrinairism. 

Jewry, too, had already conceived an ardent desire 
to possess Palestine. The Jew minorities of the world, 
scattered throughout fifty nations of the earth, without 
a country, a government or a flag to call their own, had, 
like the Arabs, become nationalists and started their 
movement of Zionism. Indeed, at the first Zionist Congress 
Dr Herzl had prophesied the World War and said, 'It 
may be that Turkey will refuse or be unable to understand 
us. This will not discourage us. We shall seek other means 
to accomplish our ends.' 

The French enjoyed a special position in the Turkish 
territories. They were the acknowledged protectors of 
Catholic Christian communities, so that Syria with its 
predominantly Catholic seaboard of the Lebanon had a 
special interest for France. From crusading times on 
through Napoleon's adventures there a French footing 
in the eastern Mediterranean was an axiom of their 
policy. French influence had always been stronger in 
Syria than that of any other European power. French was 
the most popular foreign language taught in Syrian 
schools; French hospitals and French schools had long 

But Germany, already strongest of all powers in Con- 
stantinople circles, was attaining growing prestige in the 
Arab countries, her great engineering skill displaying 
itself in Turkey's railways, her great project, which 
threatened the British position in the Persian Gulf, re- 



inforcing the mighty name she had as the first military 
power in Europe. Moreover, Germany had given diplo- 
matic support to Turkey in all her recent wars, had showed 
a steady indifference to Turkey's treatment of her subject 
populations, had followed that close friendship with the 
Turks which foreshadowed alliance in time of war. 

British interests in the Arab countries were most con- 
siderable in the Persian Gulf and at one or two strategic 
points on the Arabian coasts. Aden, the rocky furnace 
commanding the entrance to the Red Sea, was a British 
protectorate; Bahrain, looking across the Gulf to our 
Persian oil fields, was 'protected territory' ; and Muscat, 
facing India, a cherished ally, though in the eyes of Arab 
pirates, gunrunners, and slave dealers a sort of maritime 
Scotland Yard, and perhaps no more popular on that ac- 

In Turkey any kindly sentiment towards Britain, dating 
from Crimean associations, had waned before a later 
Gladstonian attitude, which, during the Balkan Wars, 
ranged our sympathies on the side of Turkey's Christian 
antagonists. When Turkey did try to put her house in 
order Europe, as a whole, had not been conspicuously 
helpful. Austria and Bulgaria repudiated her suzerainty 
of Bosnia-Herzegovina; Italy invaded Turkish north 
Africa and took Tripoli ; and though Britain withheld her 
hand in Egypt and France maintained a benign neu- 
trality, Germany was the only power who openly cherished 
her. 26 * 

When the Great War came the matter of moment In 
the British-Arabo-Turkish relationship was the fact that 
the sultan of Turkey was the nominal head of orthodox 
Islam and master of the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, 
while Britain was the greatest Moslem power. In India 



alone, British Indian Moslem subjects outnumbered all 
the Turks and Arabs the world over. To the Sunnis among 
these a large majority the sultan of Turkey, as caliph, 
could declare jihad, or holy war, 1 upon the infidel, and even 
among Shi'as there was a considerable sentiment In favour 
of Turkey as the one great Islamic power. Much of the 
best fighting material in India was recruited into the Indian 
army from the Moslem northwest. This explains why 
British officials, raised in the Indian school and faced 
with the possibilities of Indian upheaval, were tradition- 
ally pro-Turk, or, at least, why they looked askance when 
prewar governments at home inclined to sympathize with 
any and every adversary of Turkey. 

Just before the outbreak of the war the British sirdar 
in Egypt was Lord Kitchener. He had come from India, 
where he had served as commander-in-chief under Curzon 
and was therefore alive to caliphate influence among 
Indian Moslems. He had foreseen that if Turkey were 
ranged against Britain, as she must be as the ally of 
Germany, there would be unrest and probably Moslem 
upheaval in India. He therefore saw political advantage 
in the Arab movement towards independence. In any 
case Arab co-operation would be clearly useful as a means 
of discouraging jihad in India and of thwarting German 
ambitions in the Middle East. The holy places of Islam, 
where Indians came on annual pilgrimages, had a special 
significance in the former connection, and hence Kitchener 
and their keeper, the Sharif Husain, were in touch before 

J The original meaning of the word seems to have been 'striving*, i.e., 
'striving after good.' It can mean fighting in defence of freedom of thought 
and on behalf of the oppressed. As a military weapon for political ends it 
is not today regarded by enlightened Arabs as an Islamic institution, 
though as such a weapon it has been traditionally met with, even in the 
recent war. 



Turkey had openly joined her fortunes with those of 
Germany. 2 

In the immediately preceding years Turkey, emboldened 
by her alliance with the first military power in Europe, had 
stiffened in her attitude towards the Arabs. Arabian 
princes had in places been called upon to acknowledge 
Turkish suzerainty afresh, Turkish troops had been sent 
to the Yemen, and the sharif of Mecca had for the first 
time been told he must introduce conscription into the 
Hijaz. Between the sharif and the Turks there was little 
love lost. He had long desired an opportunity to shake 
off their mastery. His sons were educated princes who, 
having spent some of their youth in Constantinople, had 
met everyone who mattered among the Arabs in Turkey, 
Syria and Egypt ; they were in sympathy with the Arab 
nationalist movement and personae gratae with its lead- 
ers. Thus Sharif Husain became the spokesman of the 
Arab nationalist movement the spokesman of a move- 
ment that now primarily concerned not Arabia itself but 
the Arab countries outside. The 'heart of Arabia' under 
Ibn Sa'ud had already won its freedom from Turkish 
influence by its own efforts. The new Arab revolt was 
thus not the revolt of Arabia so much as the revolt of the 
Arabs ; it drew much of its political inspiration from the 
Turcofied Arab countries without, and if sackfuls of 
'golden horsemen of St George' brought needy Hijazi 
tribesmen to its banner, the great bulk of peninsular 

2 An interview between Lord Kitchener and the Amir Abdullah, the 
sharif s second son and at that time a Turkish deputy, took place in 
Cairo in February, 1914. I am informed by Professor Harold Temperley 
and Dr G. P. Gooch, editors of British Documents on the Origins of the 
War, that an account of this interview by Lord Kitchener himself and 
other relevant material will appear in Vol. X, Part II, shortly to be pub- 
lished. 38 * 



Arabia remained indifferent to its activities, while Arabia's 
greatest figure, Ibn Sa'ud, was at the time hostile to its 
Hashimite leaders on old and personal grounds. Had 
the Arab Revolt been a spontaneous Arabian movement 
Sharif Husain would scarcely have been the acceptable 
leader, even with the lure of gold and arms, poured forth 
like water to tribesmen fulsomely appreciative of them. 

Sharif Husain was told he could count on British sup- 
port only if and when Turkey joined the Central Powers 
in the field, for Britain, up to the last moment, was using 
her efforts to keep Turkey out of the war by promising 
recognition of Turkey's territorial integrity, and this, of 
course, included her Arab possessions. When the Turks 
had come in Husain did not at first move. He had many 
things to consider. Arabs of known nationalist sympathies 
were fighting on the Turkish side and would continue to 
do so until they could be taken prisoner and change their 
allegiance ; others were living behind the Turkish lines and 
openly declared Arab revolt would bring suspicion upon 
them if not worse. Also it was by no means clear that 
the Allies would win the war and so be able to fulfil Arab 
aspirations, and the Arabs never quite lost belief in the 
invincible might of the German army. Sharif Husain in 
Mecca was able to save his face with the Turks by making 
a pretence of complying with their conscription measure 
and by affording protection to some of the crew of the 
shipwrecked German raider Emden. The summer of 1915 
came and saw the Turks to the south make an abortive at* 
tack on Aden from the Yemen. 

In the north a challenge was now thrown down to 
the Arabs. The Turks ruthlessly set about attempting to 
exterminate Arab nationalism in Syria, its fountainhead. 
Suspected Arab patriots were taken out and hanged as 



traitors, and a regular reign of terror was instituted. 
This inspired Arab loathing for the Turks everywhere. 
Fear spread and dismay and a thirst to be revenged ; and 
the Arab refugees from Syria came to Mecca to implore 
Sharif Husain to throw in his lot with the Allies and raise 
revolt in the name of Arab independence. 

Arab intervention at this stage had less value to the 
Allies than it would have had a year before, and the 
sharif s terms concerning the future of Syria, Iraq and 
Palestine were not acceptable. He demanded that these 
Arab territories should be recognized as an Arab kingdom. 
Britain, already in negotiation with France and other 
Allies who had prewar interests in Turkish territories, re- 
plied, setting forth qualifications both in the scope of the 
area concerned and in the degree of administrative free- 
dom she deemed prudent. Negotiations continued, and by 
the early part of 1916 the sharif, on behalf of the Arab 
nationalist movement, felt he had reached a sufficient 
measure of agreement. 3 But he was not as yet prepared for 
intervention and suggested a wait of six months or so. 
The Arab Revolt was, however, precipitated a few months 
later, when Turkish troops started arriving by the Pilgrim 
Railway to reinforce the garrison of Medina. To dally 
might have invited the same tragic fate as had befallen 
Arab patriots in Syria. The sharif's two sons, the amirs 
Faisal and Abdullah, were already impatient of delay, 
and they now cut the railway north of Medina to start 
the Arab Revolt, the people of Mecca having already taken 
an oath of allegiance. Thus the sharif joined the Allies 
without obtaining guarantees about French claims in Syria ; 
in ignorance, necessarily, of later Zionist commitments in 

'For Macmahon's letter of October 24, 1915, see Philby, Arabia, p. 242. 



The military value of the Arab Revolt led so gallantly 
by his son, the Amir Faisal and T. E. Lawrence, won the 
unstinted praise of our famous general, that most noble 
of men, the late Lord Allenby. And however much the 
postwar activities of the revolt movement made for un- 
rest and agitation, to our acute discomfort in Mesopo- 
tamia, the immediate political influence of the revolt, with 
which we are here more concerned, is not in doubt. When 
Arabs fought Turks for Arab independence the patriotic 
issue must have had considerable effect on Arabs behind 
the Turkish lines in Syria, through which British troops 
must later advance, while the repudiation of the Turkish 
caliphate by the sharif of Mecca, descendant of the 
Prophet, living head of the Prophet's tribe, and keeper of 
the holy places, had, at the time, an effect on Indian 
opinion which could not be overestimated. 

Britain conducted two separate military campaigns 
against the Turks in the Arab countries, a western one in 
Palestine and Syria operated from Egypt, an eastern 
one in Iraq operated from India. The Arab revolters 
were a guerilla force who came to co-operate on the 
desert flank in the western campaign of Allenby's which 
drove the Turks out of Syria and Palestine. 4 They took 

*As regards military strength and the cost of the Arab Revolt, which was 
borne by the British exchequer, I owe the following figures, necessarily 
approximate, to the kindness of Captain Liddell Hart In the early part of 
the Hijaz campaign the Arabs had a nominal fifty thousand men who 
might have been tapped, and their three 'armies' had a nominal total of 
about sixteen thousand. In the advance to Wejh, Faisal's army numbered 
just over ten thousand, but this was a very fluctuating quantity, and most 
of the British officers who took part are convinced that the totals given 
them were actually exaggerated. In the later stages of the campaign in 
the north the Arab tribal forces were similarly an uncertain and fluctuating 
quantity, simply gathering for some particular expedition in numbers that 
sometimes reached a few thousand, but were more often only a few 
hundred. The only consistent part of the Arab strength was the Arab 
Tegular force which was raised after the revolt broke out. The bulk of this 



no part in the eastern campaign of the Mesopotamian Ex- 
peditionary Force which drove the Turks out of Iraq. 
Although less publicity is reserved for this latter Arab 
theatre of war, a campaign in which the Indian army took 
a large and loyal part, its scope was actually bigger than 
the South African war. The successful prosecution of these 
two campaigns freed the Arab countries from the Turkish 
yoke, and when the war ended British armies occupied the 
enemy territories, and provisional military administra- 
tions directed local affairs* 

The problem of the future government of these Arab 
territories had now to be faced. There were many inter- 
ests to be considered. It was not possible to hand the 
territories over to the Arabs, even if that had been con- 
sidered desirable. There had been strong foreign interests 
under the Turks as we have seen, and these in 1916 had 
formed the subject of secret agreement between the pow- 

was shifted up to Aqaba in August, 1917, and it then comprised eighteen 
hundred men. This was somewhat increased by 1918, when it consisted of 
a brigade of infantry, a battalion of camel corps and about eight guns. By 
the middle of 1918 the total Arab regular forces, counting those under 
Faisal and also the further forces raised by AH and Abdullah in the Hijaz, 
amounted to about ten thousand men. But only a small number of these was 
available at any time for offensive operations at a distance from their base. 
Thus, when the decisive campaign was launched in September, 1918, the 
striking forces moved up north to Azraq for this totalled a little under six 
hundred picked men. It was reinforced by about two thousand picked 

The total cost to the imperial exchequer of the Arab Revolt is thought 
to have been in the neighbourhood of 4,000,000 in gold, of which rather 
more than half came back in purchases of food* and clothing. Of this 
Lawrence himself was given a fund of 200,000 by Allenby after the latter*s 
arrival in 1917, which was increased to 500,000 by the time Damascus was 
reached; there was a balance of 10,000 remaining at the end. It is, of 
course, impossible to estimate the cost of weapons and personnel lent to 
the Arab forces, but in any case it represented only an inconsiderable frac- 
tion of that of the theatre of war of die Egyptian Expeditionary Force as a 
whole. The actual subsidy to the Arabs is thought to have been about 



ers principally concerned. By this agreement (Sykes-Picot) 
Britain, France and Russia had mutually agreed upon 
spheres of influence. 

Zionist aspirations complicated the issue as regards 
Palestine. During the course of the war the Foreign 
Offices of the Allied Powers had been approached by 
Zionist organizations concerning the future of Palestine, 
to which they advanced claims. On the Palestine front it- 
self, a British-Hebrew battalion, known euphemistically 
as the Jordan Highlanders, had fought loyally, and Jews 
played their parts on other fronts; while a considerable 
military contribution was made by a distinguished Jewish 
scientist in the form of an invention of a cheap high ex- 
plosive. This scientist, Dr Weizmann, a keen Zionist, too, 
pleaded his nation's cause to a grateful British prime 
minister. The British War Cabinet became persuaded of 
the deserving nature of Zionism, and Lord Balfour, the 
then British foreign secretary, expressed this official view 
in November, 1917, in a letter to Lord Rothschild, a let- 
ter which has come to be known and hated in Arab circles 
as the Balfour Declaration. It read : 

I have much pleasure in conveying to you, on behalf of His 
Majesty's Government, the following Declaration of sympathy with 
Jewish aspirations, which has been submitted to and approved by 
the Cabinet. 

His Majesty's Government view with favour the establishment 
in Palestine of a National Home for the Jewish people, and will use 
their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, 
it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may 
prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non- Jewish com- 
munities in Palestine, or of the rights and political status enjoyed by 
Jews in any other country. 

I shall be glad if you will bring this Declaration to the knowledge 
of the Zionist Federation. A. J. BALFOUR 



The United States, French and Italian governments 
endorsed this action, and the League of Nations approved, 
four years later, of the establishment of a national home 
for the Jews in Palestine on these conditions. 

America had joined the Allies halfway through the 
war, and her powerful and decisive contributions entitled 
her spokesman, President Wilson, to a strong voice In 
the matter of peace terms. America favoured the maxi- 
mum liberty of the small nations, favoured universal self- 
government and a policy of multinationalism. As she was 
a vast country, rich to repletion from her own ever- 
expanding home markets brought about under liberal 
immigration laws, she was less understanding of the 
traditional jealousies of her allies small, close-knit in- 
dustrial nations for overseas spheres of influence, in 
much the same way, perhaps, as Britons today, with a 
great empire and feeling no need for fresh territory, are 
impatient of the claims of Italy or Germany for space in 
Africa. The rights of small nations to independent exist- 
ence, the promotion of nationalism, based on self- 
determination, found its most powerful champions in 
America, and this doubtless had its influence on Allied 
counsels. At the conclusion of the war, November, 1918, 
an Anglo-French Declaration was issued which ran : 

The end aimed at by France and Great Britain is the complete 
and final enfranchisement of the people so long oppressed by the 
Turks, and the establishment of National Governments and Ad- 
ministrations drawing their authority from the initiative and free 
choice of the native populations. . . . Far from wishing to impose 
upon the populations any particular institutions the Allies have no 
other desire than to assure by their support and active assistance 
the normal functioning of the Governments and Administrations 
which the populations have freely given themselves. 



The 'support and active assistance' Britain and France 
envisaged was administrative advice and the garrisoning 
of the regions covered by the Sykes-Picot Agreement, but 
the Arab leaders considered this agreement it had come 
to light in Russia following the revolution as incom- 
patible in spirit with war promises to the Arabs, while the 
Balfour Declaration was even more irreconcilable with 
the new declaration of Allied aims. The position, all very 
confused, was regularized by a new political principle, a 
contribution of President Wilson, known as the manda- 
tory system. By this device the Powers were to have their 
spheres of influence, but so devoid of advantage as to 
ensure the ultimate rights of native populations. The 
mandate was designed to prevent the sphere of influence 
becoming an old-time veiled protectorate. A League of 
Nations was envisaged, under whose authority the man- 
date was juridically conferred on some great power, to 
guide and assist the young and backward state until such 
time as it could stand on its own feet. It would then be- 
come free and sovereign and able to join the League as a 
member, and the mandatory connection would auto- 
matically end. 

These principles differentiated the mandatory system 
from the old colonial system or even the protectorate. 

1. The mandatory Power must administer the territory as trus- 
tee solely in the interest of its ward and share on equal terms with 
other members of the League whatever economic or commercial 
opportunities there were. 

2. It must be a temporary arrangement whose ultimate aim was 
emancipation and independence of the territory. 

3. The mandatory was to be answerable not to its own con- 
science, but to the public opinion of the world before the bar of the 
League of Nations. 



The historic interests of France and Britain in the 
Middle East, the major share borne by British armies 
in the two campaigns which freed the Arab territories 
from the Turks, namely about fifty thousand battle cas- 
ualties in Palestine and Syria and eighty thousand in Meso- 
potamia (Iraq) 5 marked these two Powers as the natural 
mandatories. But the political idealism of the times gave 
rise, both in Peace Conference circles and in Syria itself, 
to the notion that the Arabs could choose their own manda- 
tory. A new kind of history was to begin. French interests 
from crusade times onwards could be set aside as though 
France didn't matter and 'history is all bunk/ The Arab 
nationalist leaders declined to recognize a French man- 
date for Syria or, indeed, have any dealings with the 
French, pointing out that their war negotiations had been 
with Britain, and Britain must satisfy Arab national as- 
pirations. The Arab revolters now revolted against the 
French (the British army of occupation having evacuated 
Syria in favour of France in accordance with agreement). 
Anglo-French relations became strained as postwar events 
then taking place in Turkey showed, for France supposed 
that Lawrence and the British officers attached to the 
Arab Revolt movement were at the bottom of Arab 
opposition to them. 

The French landed an army in Syria and expelled the 
Amir Faisal, who thereupon fled to London. In the same 
year, partly under the inspiration of members of the 
Arab Revolt, an Arab rebellion took place in Iraq directed 
against the local British administration. While the French 
resisted Arab demands in Syria, the British followed a con- 

B British figures, including disease casualties, for Mesopotamia alone, 
were: killed 14,814, prisoners of war and missing 13,494* wounded 51,386, 
dead of disease 12,807=92,501. 



ciliatory policy in Iraq. The Amir Faisal was allowed to 
offer himself for the throne of Iraq and was, with British 
support, accepted by the inhabitants, and the administra- 
tion was Arabized. 

Legally the country was still enemy-occupied territory, 
for the Turks did not ratify a peace treaty recognizing 
Iraq's independence till 1923, i.e. five years after the war 
ended. Its real independence, moreover, could only be 
assured by recognition of its other neighbours, and at 
first neither Persia in the east nor Ibn Sa'ud in the south 
was disposed to recognize the new Arab regime. The 
mandatory used its good offices to bring about this end, 
though its task was rendered more onerous and thankless 
by the internal situation, for, if the mandate was to live 
up to the moral standards behind its design, not only 
must the mandatory guide, but the mandated must ac- 
cept guidance. But Arab official elements in Iraq, like 
those in Syria, did not consider mandatory guidance neces- 
sary; they preferred to be untrammelled. They held that 
they were quite competent to manage their own affairs and 
were morally entitled to release from an enforced status 
of tutelage. Meanwhile Britain, as mandatory, had laid 
the foundations of a clean, progressive and well-ordered 
administration under two brilliant servants of the govern- 
ment of India, Sir Percy Cox and Sir Arnold Wilson. 
Subsequently, when Iraq's neighbours recognized the 
new experiment of Arab king, Arab parliament and a 
constitutional government, Britain found it expedient to 
recommend to the League the abrogation of the mandate 
and the election of Iraq to membership of the League as 
a sovereign state (October, 1932). 

France, after attempting at first to follow a different 
course in Syria by tightening control under a large army 



(By courtesy of Mr Lowell Thomas) 


of occupation, has lately announced her intention of 
abrogating her mandate, too, in favour of treaty relations 
on lines somewhat similar to those followed by Britain in 

Peninsular Arabia was also finally freed from the Turks 
by the Great War, the Yemen and the Hijaz both obtain- 
ing their independence. The Sharif Husain, the Arabian 
chief who played the leading part in Arab participation, 
and who, shortly after the war, proclaimed himself king of 
the Hijaz, did not long maintain his position, for the 
Wahhabi invasion under Ibn Sa'ud drove him from his 
throne to die in exile, not, however, before he had lived 
to see his line established dynastically on two new Arabian 
thrones, his son Faisal as king of Iraq, his son Abdullah as 
amir of Trans-Jordan. 

King Faisal ibn Husain was doubtless one of the two 
outstanding Arab figures of the war and postwar period, 
as King Abdul Aziz ibn Sa'ud was the other; the one, of 
Constantinople upbringing and sophisticated mien, nomi- 
nal leader of the Arab Revolt and spearpoint of wartime 
Arab nationalism, who came, as a result of Allied victory, 
to be raised to a throne ; the other, the supreme product 
of the deserts, the puritan warrior-statesman of Nejd, to- 
day the master of the holy cities and most influential 
among Arab rulers, a Cromwell who carved out his own 
kingdom and founded a royal line. Europeans who have 
come under the influence of his personality and admire 
his wonderful exploits are given to bemoan the day when 
the Allies, in supporting Faisal, 'backed the wrong horse.' 
But in the early war days it was Faisal's sire who had the 
prestige which must attach at all times to the possession 
of the holy places, nor did Ibn Sa'ud's influence with 
Ibn Rashid in the way reach far enough northwards to 


admit of his rendering effective military assistance on 
General Allenby's flank. Yet coming events had cast their 
shadows, and though Ibn Sa'ud did not take a more active 
part in the Great War, his benevolent neutrality brought 
him a handsome subsidy from the British government 6 as 
a palliative to the resentment he felt for the recognition 
and support given to the Sharif Husain, his hated enemy, 
and as a means of pacifying the tribes in Allied interests. 
Despite the fact that it was Ibn Sa'ud who was the first 
to raise the standard of revolt and expel Turkish influence 
from Arab soil this before the Great War the Arab 
nationalist movement during the war, as we have noted, 
was, in effect, a movement of the politically minded 
Turcofied Arabs outside Arabia. Thus the conception of 
the two great Arab figures of the period as the embodi- 
ment of the two Arab cultures led to a view that the 'fancy' 
of the Arab backers in the nationalist stables, at the time, 
would be for Faisal's colours. 
'60,000 per annum. 



And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the 
land of thy sojourning, all the land of Canaan^ for an ever- 
lasting possession. JEHOVAH'S PROMISE TO ABRAHAM. 

We have come not as Conquerors but as Deliverers. 




.HE military campaigns of the Allies, waged in the 
lands of the Arabs, have nearly everywhere brought these 
Arabs political emancipation. Of the five Arab provinces 
that had for centuries lain under Turkish dominion the 
Iraq, the Hijaz, the Yemen, Syria and Palestine three 
have achieved independence; the fourth appears about 
to achieve it; only Palestine remains. Viewed in a wide 
perspective, therefore, the Arabs have done better out of 
the Great War that ravaged their countries than many 
of its regular participants. The Palestine Arabs are the 
exception, and their country, too, they say, must be an 
Arab state. 

The word 'Palestine' (= Philistine) connotes to a 
stranger a country of considerable significance. In point 
of fact it is a province rather than a country, being in 
size no bigger than Wales ; its population is but that of a 
European city, having only recently passed the million 



mark; its entire revenues would scarcely pay for a modern 
battle cruiser. Yet for its mastery a local struggle goes on 
as bitter in spirit as any that it knew in crusading times ; 
though the disputants are no longer the rival peoples of 
Christendom and Islam, but Jew and Arab, and the issue 
is no longer religion but nationalism. 

At present Palestine is administered by neither Jew 
nor Arab, but by the Christian power that conquered it 
from the Turks a curious echo of the crusades, if a false 
one, being an adventitious result of an unwanted war. But 
however small the area involved and scant its population 
today (1,300,000), yet the postwar course of events in 
Palestine has been no smooth one. At intervals of every 
few years, recurring all too regularly, violent collisions 
between its Arab and Jew inhabitants have disturbed the 
peace of the land. The cause of such outbreaks, whether 
attributed to some immediate local disaffection, over land 
or religion, for instance, has been at bottom nationalistic. 
The Arabs avow that they want an Arab state ; the Zion- 
ists declare they want a Jewish majority. At the root of 
racial antagonism is the impelling desire^of each for po- 
litical ascendancy. Local agitation is further encouraged 
by the very nature of the mandatory system, namely that 
the mandatory connection is only temporary. 

The League of Nations is under commitments to the 
Zionists and to the Arabs. The mandate expresses itself in 
the same terms as the Balfour Declaration, namely that 
the aim is to bring about "the establishment of a National 
Home for the Jewish people. ... it being clearly under- 
stood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the 
civil and religious rights of existing non- Jewish communi- 

The mandatory's difficulties in implementing this policy 


w 1 








need only be stated to be understood. Palestine's popula- 
tion is predominantly Arab and has been so for the last 
twelve centuries. At the time of the British conquest Arabs 
formed ninety per cent of the population. Today no less 
than seventy per cent are Arabs, nine tenths of them 
Moslem Arabs, and their political leaders oppose the 
League's policy and declare that the outside world has 
no right to dispose of their country in opposition to its 
own wishes and contrary to the League's early de- 
clared principle of the rights of small nations to self- 
determination. The Zionists, similarly, insist on the rights 
of their own gifted people to a place in the sun, point to 
the unique position in the world today of a nation sixteen 
millions strong, scattered in hopeless minorities among 
the other nations of the earth, without a country to call 
its own. They urge that it is with Palestine that the ancient 
glories of their nation are associated, claim that all down 
the centuries, both before and after the Arab conquest in 
the seventh century, Jews have continuously lived there 
and that world Jewry has never ceased to regard Palestine 
as its spiritual home. 

The Zionist Jews consider, moreover, that they have 
moral claims upon an enlightened world because of the 
great contributions in music, art and science, in philosophy 
and religion made by the Jews to Western civilization, 
while non-Jewish sympathizers have urged that a Jewish 
national home in Palestine is but compensation for the 
persecution Jews suffered at the hands of Western Europe 
in the Middle Ages. Persecution is still their lot in Ger- 
many and parts of eastern Europe. They are tired of 
being unwanted guests in the houses of others and de- 
mand a home of their own, this home to be their own 
historic one where David and Solomon ruled three thou- 



sand years ago, the background of their ancient and superb 
literature, our Scriptures. The problem has been aggra- 
vated by their increasing numbers and by that spirit of 
renewed antipathy which is manifesting itself in Germany 
and elsewhere today. The Jews in the time of our Lord 
are thought to have numbered three millions. Under the 
persecutions of the Middle Ages their numbers fell so 
that at the beginning of the seventeenth century world 
Jewry numbered but a million or so. Early nineteenth 
century estimates place them at two or three millions ; by 
the middle of that century they had doubled their num- 
bers, and today there are some sixteen or seventeen 
million Jews. Their voice is therefore a growing one, 
however much it may be a voice in the wilderness. 

When the war ended and found Palestine occupied by a 
British army and ruled by a British administration, ad- 
vanced Zionists were urging that Palestine must be as 
Jewish as England was English, and enthusiasts among 
them in the outside world are said to have left some 
part of their new buildings unfinished as a sign that they 
were pilgrims in a strange land. At the Peace Conference 
the Zionist Organization put forward three demands : the 
recognition of Jewish claims to Palestine, opportunities 
to settle three to four million Jews there and the request 
that Britain should be the mandatory Power. A favourable 
reception was accorded Dr Weizmann, the Zionist repre- 
sentative and the distinguished chemist, who by his scien- 
tific discoveries had done great service for the Allies ; the 
immigration demand was, however, left to the discretion 
of the mandatory. 

The Arabs also had their claims to Allied consideration. 
The value of the Arab Revolt in India and Syria has al- 
ready been noticed. The Sharif Husain in his negotiations 



which brought about the Arab Revolt had asked, at the 
outset, for the autonomy of all the Arab lands, which of 
course included Palestine, and although this was not ex- 
plicitly agreed to, the Arab revolters considered that they 
entered the war without foreseeing a policy in Palestine 
which, in their view, was more damaging to Arab interests 
than the old Ottoman rule had been. The Balf our Declara- 
tion, therefore, came as a bombshell and was utterly dis- 
tasteful to them, and the name Balfour among politically 
minded Arabs today is a name of execration. On the other 
hand the Amir (later King) Faisal, who represented the 
Arab cause at the Peace Conference, is said to have been 
on friendly terms with the Zionist leaders and to have sent 
a letter to Dr Weizmann expressing cordial sympathy 
with the idea of the establishment of the Jewish National 
Home in Palestine, though it is clear that he could not 
have foreseen all the present political developments. 

From the day the mandate came into existence, on- 
wards, the proportions of Jewish immigration have been 
a matter of the deepest concern for both Arabs and Jews, 
for on it rests the ultimate numerical superiority of one or 
other within the state. In the exercise of the mandate, 
therefore, this has been the most delicate of its problems. A 
stony strip of territory along the eastern Mediterranean 
coast, bordered eastwards by the Jordan Valley and 
stretching northwards to end well short of the Sea of 
Galilee, Palestine clearly has limited potentialities for 
supporting population. The Zionists, anxious for Jewish 
immigration on a large scale, place its capacity high. The 
Arabs, anxious to stop the inflow of Jews, place it corre- 
spondingly low. Some estimators, who have no obvious 
political bias, have supposed that Palestine is capable of 
supporting a population of not much more than double 



its present number, estimates varying with the degree of 
industrialization permitted. But as a pastoral and agri- 
cultural country, with about two thirds of its soil already 
under cultivation, any considerable increase in the popu- 
lation inevitably means changing the face of the land. 
Immigration of workmen from countries having a higher 
standard of living leads to new wants, for different food, 
clothing and housing, imposes on Palestine the necessity 
for changing her ways, of no longer contenting herself 
with her own milk and honey; in short, she is being com- 
pelled, by outside influences, to become progressive ac- 
cording to one school of thought, to become alienized ac- 
cording to another. 

The Jews claim that with greater industrialization the 
population could be vastly increased, the amenities of 
life added to and the country made prosperous. Already a 
big electrification scheme from the waters of the Jordan 
is progressing under the Rutenberg Concession. But the 
highest hopes are reserved for development of her chemi- 
cal wealth. Estimates that she is capable of supplying the 
world with all the potash it will need for a thousand years 
may be exaggerated, but of the existence of large and 
valuable deposits there is no doubt, and with proper 
exploitation it is said that Palestine potash could be 
produced at half the recent German monopoly price and at 
a fraction of American war prices. That curious phenom- 
enon, the Dead Sea, with its concentration of chemical 
salts ten times that of sea water, has always attracted 
the chemical minds of the world, so that as long ago as 
1867 some sixteen hundred memoranda had already been 
published. Harbour development is another feature of 
Palestine's recent progress, and Haifa, with its oil re- 
fineries at the end of the transdesert pipe line from the 


new Mosul fields, is already the third seaport in the east- 
ern Mediterranean. 

If the Arab political leaders see in developments* 
coupled with foreign capitalistic interests, an undermining 
of their own hoped-for leadership, or for some other 
reason prefer the old order of things to the new, if they 
desire to stop Jewish immigration and Jewish concessions 
as prejudicial to the interests of their native land as they 
conceive them, the onus for measuring their complaints 
and applying a remedy where one is thought necessary 
rests with the mandatory Power. 

The political difficulties inherent in the Palestine man- 
date are clear. The liquidation of Zionist claims in full 
involves the repudiation of Arab claims and vice versa. 
The problem is one that calls for fine adjustment one that 
entails, in practice, a partial repudiation of the full- 
blooded claims of both sides, and therefore can be satis- 
factory to neither. In the administrative sphere it is pos- 
sible to hold the scales evenly between the two, but the 
moment an incident happens vital and irreconcilable 
political principles emerge to complicate the situation. 
Protagonists on either side avow that some sacred princi- 
ple is involved that does not admit of compromise. The 
problem is on the face of it insoluble peaceably, unless the 
terms 'national home' on the one hand and 'Arab rights' 
on the other are given a more limited meaning than 
partisans on the Zionist and Arab sides will at present 
allow. The situation is not made easier by the fact that 
the mandatory is only a trustee, an agent rather than a 
proprietor, in law, and that the Arab- Jew problem is not 
merely a local problem but has world ramifications. Mos- 
lems throughout the world, especially Arab kinsmen in 
Iraq, Syria and Egypt, sympathize with the Palestinian 



Arabs, and their newspapers condemn Zionist aspirations 
while doubtless in narrow religious Moslem circles 
Palestine is thought of as Islam Irredenta. On the other 
hand the Zionists also represent a world movement with 
the backing of wide financial and political interests and the 
ear of many influential chancelleries. 

For both Zionist and Arab politicians Jewish immigra- 
tion Is of fundamental importance as affecting vitally the 
ultimate constitution of Palestine's population. The man- 
datory, in its role of establishing a national home, has al- 
lowed Jewish immigration; in its role of safeguarding 
Arab civil rights it has set limits to it. The principle it has 
normally followed has been based fundamentally on Pales- 
tine's absorptive capacity at the time. There have been two 
half-yearly quotas. These, when announced, have produced 
violent and opposite reactions in the Arab and Jewish 
press. To the Arabs the figures have been as a red rag 
to a bull; by the Jews they have, till the last few years, 
been bitterly criticized as niggardly and inadequate. 

According to the last census figures the total number of 
immigrants allowed in during the thirteen years 1919 
1931 was 101,400; that is to say, one immigrant to every 
ten natives ; expressed in another way, ten immigrants to 
the square mile; or in still another, an average of 7,800 
per annum. 

The countries of origin were as follows : 

Russia and Poland 67,000 

Roumania 4,400 

Lithuania 3, 500 

United States 1,400 

Germany 1,000 

British Empire 400 

Miscellaneous (Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, the 

Yemen, etc.) 23,000 



That sixty-seven per cent of the immigrants should have 
come from Russia and Poland constituted a grievance, ac- 
cording to the Arabs, namely that the less desirable, not 
the best, Jews were being brought into Palestine. They 
held that the old native Palestinian was, for the most 
part, a simple, God-fearing, conservative-minded son of 
the soil, whereas the incoming Jew was the proletarian 
from eastern Europe, of advanced left-wing political and 
moral opinions, obnoxious to the Palestinians and sub- 
versive of their way of life. Against this it was said that 
the personnel of the incomers, which was left to the 
Zionist organizations, was the subject of their special 
care and that none was allowed in unless possessing capi- 
tal or under promise of work. 

But the capital backing of Jewish immigrants, often 
made possible by American generosity, was another sub- 
ject of Arab grievance, for this influx of capital, they held, 
was upsetting the economic equilibrium of Palestine's agri- 
culture. This agriculture, the country's basic industry, was 
founded not in raising crops to sell overseas; it was 
primarily a subsistence economy. The cultivator was a 
small holder who worked not for a profit or a wage, but 
for subsistence for food for himself and his family. 
Immigration, it was argued, with capital backing and 
modern machinery from outside, tended to upset this 
equilibrium by creating a demand for land; land values 
soared, and the urge of individual Arab landowners 
often absentee landowners to enjoy sudden wealth, led 
in places to a change of owner from native to immigrant. 
This produced unrest, because it tended to make for a 
landless class of native suddenly deprived of his habitual 
means of livelihood. 

Hence on the one hand it is held that every fresh inflow 


of immigrants with its fresh demand for land means a 
fresh tendency to dislocation; on the other, that the new 
technique and more up-to-date methods of the incoming 
agriculturist must increase productivity and result in a 
higher standard of living for the country as a whole. This 
is a feature which may lend itself to exaggeration, because 
only one tenth of Palestine's agriculture is in Jewish hands, 
and Zionists strenuously deny that Jewish immigration has 
brought about a landless class of Arab. 

It is industry, trade and commerce that have attracted 
Jewish enterprise. According to the 1931 census already 
one third of Palestine's commerce was in Jewish hands. 
This is the basis of another fear of the Arab politician, 
namely that even where immigrants today are agricultur- 
ists, their sons, the Jews of the second generation, will be 
agriculturists no longer. Natural propensities and superior 
education will draw them into nonproductive but more 
remunerative callings they will be lawyers, shopkeepers, 
landowners or, at all events, members of the rent-drawing 
classes, while the native Arabs of the country will be their 
hewers of wood and drawers of water. The Zionists an- 
swer that this fear is groundless and that the bulk of the 
immigrants have been absorbed in productive forms of 
industry which the Jews themselves have established in the 

In manner of living, dress and occupation the Arab 
community falls into three main classes, the Be4ttiiv<he 
fellahin and the city dw;^Qr^TJhj^dm 
andjtHe most primitive, element shepherds, who^cultur- 
ally correspond most nearly with their kinsman, the desert 
nomad. They are scarcely producers and do not participate 
in politics except indirectly, in times of political upheaval, 
to indulge the inherited instinct of improving the shining 



hour by robbing and looting, which they regard as a legit- 
imate phase of war. There may be sixty thousand of them, 
but they are said to be dwindling. 

The fellahin are the agriculturists the peasants and 
farmers who form the backbone of the population and are 
Palestine's producers. The average holding of a family is 
about twenty acres, which is sufficient for a peasant life 
in the Old World but means a low standard of living 
where the land is stony and poor and the methods of farm- 
ing old fashioned. 1 Tenancy conditions are severe, and the 
fruits of labour small, generally twenty per cent to thirty 
per cent of the crop, or, if the cultivator supplies the seed, 
fifty per cent. A view of the Zionists is that the lot of the 
wretched fellahin of the hills, living a precarious existence 
and often in the grip of the local usurer, will be greatly 
improved by their activities. 

The Arab town dwellers consist of the professional 
propertied and trading classes, with a small but growing 
labouring class. Here, as elsewhere in the world, it is the 
lettered urban circles that produce the politically minded 
and vocal elements. They voice the Arab opposition to a 
Jewish national home in Palestine and clamour for Arab 
freedom and independence from a foreign yoke. 

Palestine's population figures according to its census for 
the ten years 1922-31 were as follows: 

Population Population Percentage 

in in increase 

IQ22 1931 approx. 

Arabs (Moslems) 591,000 760,000 28.5 

Arabs (Christian) 82,000 101,000 23.0 

Jews 84,000 175,000 100.0 

^he Sir John Hope Simpson Report (October, 1930) ^states that the 
minimum requirement to support an Arab agricultural family, under pres- 
ent methods, is about thirty acres. 


The birth and death rates in 1931 were: 

Deaths per 1000 Births per 1000 

Arabs 26 48 

Jews 9-4 cf . England 32 


Taking these figures together, the percentage of Jewish 
increase was four times greater than the Arab increase. 
On the other hand the absolute figures show that the Arabs 
increased more than the Jews had done, viz : 

Arab increase 169,000 

Jew increase 91,000 

Thus the expansion of Palestine's population for the 
period up to 1931 an astounding one of 36.8 per cent in 
ten years came about primarily not from immigration, 
but from fertility of the existing population; Arab fertility 
exceeded Jewish fertility to an extent which largely offset 
Jewish immigration, and the population, at this rate of 
fertility plus immigration, must double itself in the short 
space of twenty years unless checks occur according to 
Malthusian principles, that is to say, checks imposed by 
subsistence limits. 

With the prospect of saturation in view assuming that 
Palestine cannot support a population more than double 
its present one the Zionist grievance was that, under the 
rate of immigration allowed for the decade 19221931, 
there was no chance of catching up with the Arab lead, so 
that the National Home, as they understood it, was not 
being brought about by the mandatory. 

During the past few years a greatly accelerated rate of 
immigration has taken place. This would appear to have 
been stimulated by external world affairs. As has been seen, 



the normal policy of the mandatory has been to base the 
quota on the purely economic consideration of Palestine's 
ability to absorb. But the persecution of Jews in Germany 
and a far-reaching economic and political discrimination 
against Jews through eastern Europe generally seem to 
have introduced a new feature. Abnormal periods of pros- 
perity, or at least unusual labour demands in Palestine, 
have coincided with a large exodus of Jews from central 
and eastern Europe at a time when the United States, 
Canada, Australia and other countries of great spaces 
where, normally, they could have turned to, have closed 
their doors during a world slump. The pressure to emi- 
grate from Poland, Austria, Roumania and central and 
eastern Europe generally seems to have encouraged Pales- 
tine, as their appropriate asylum under the National 
Home, to open wider its doors, while the inflow of fresh 
capital created scope for them, in the mandatory's judg- 
ment. 2 

Hence, as against the ten years 19221931, when only 
71,000 Jewish immigrants were allowed in (an average 
of 7, 100 a year touching its low point in 1929 with 4,000) , 
the past four years have seen the annual quota zoom up 
by 400 per cent and last year to 800 per cent, so that al- 
most as many immigrants came in last year as were allowed 
in the ten years ending 1 93 1, viz : 

1932 9,553 

1933 30,327 

1934 4^,359 

1935 61,854 

1936 14,646 (up to June) 

"Immigrants are distinguished by those having capital backing and those 
being allowed in under the labour schedule. During the peak year, 1935, 
the labour schedule accounted for 11,000 approximately. 



Of these, 35,000 came from Germany alone Jews 
who have left under the Hitler regime of which number 
8,000 came in the peak year 1935. 

It is this increased rate of Jewish immigration during 
the past few years that is at the bottom of the present 
Arab unrest (1936). The new figures, if maintained, will 
bring about a Jewish majority, and it is the prospect of 
a Jewish majority which has so alarmed the Arabs. Popu- 
lation capacity, at this rate, will soon be reached, and 
Zionists are said to be looking beyond Palestine, across 
the Jordan to the emptier spaces of the ancient lands of 
Edom and Moab, familiar nowadays as Trans- Jordan, the 
Arab buffer state against the desert, under the rule of the 
Amir Abdullah. The Arabs are hostile to this, holding that 
Trans- Jordan's exclusion from the National Home is ex- 
plicitly provided for by promises made to them. Today 
there are no Jews there, and in times past so fierce has been 
the local antagonism that a Jew crossing the Jordan with- 
out government's permission or protection did so at the 
peril of his life. Not all Arabs are politicians, of course, 
and not all Jews are Zionists, but the conflict of extremists 
in Palestine has, unfortunately, been to stir up racial an- 

Both Arab and Zionist movements have their political 
organizations whose aims, naturally, are mutually con- 
flicting. There are right-wing, left-wing and centre par- 
ties in each movement, the greatest hope of co-operation 
lying where respective right and left wings touch. But 
the wing of a movement is, in the nature of things, not 
representative, and men of most moderate opinion on one 
side with sympathies for the most moderate opinion on the 
other are swept aside by mass emotion as political crises 
periodically recur. 


The Arab Higher Committee today, the official mouth- 
piece of Arab nationalism, is formed of representatives 
of a number of Arab bodies. The Arab Congress, a repre- 
sentative body formed in 1921, immediately voiced its 
protest against the Balfour Declaration and denounced 
Jewish immigration on principle. When in 192223 the 
mandatory made certain proposals for a legislative coun- 
cil, then for an advisory council of nominated Arabs and 
Jews, and finally, when these fell through, for an Arab 
agency parallel to the Jewish Agency, these proposals, as 
made, did not satisfy the Arabs who were averse to co- 
operation because it seemed to them to be an act of recog- 
nition of the Balfour Declaration and to invalidate the 
principle of the Arab state. 

A representative but ostensibly nonpolitical Arab body 
of considerable influence today is the Moslem Supreme 
Council under the presidency of the grand mufti of Jeru- 
salem. This purely Moslem body administers waqfs, or 
sacred endowments, and so enjoys great influence as the 
source of patronage. Some of the advanced Arab nation- 
alists desire to see the lessening of the great influence 
wielded by religious leaders, as such, but religion is still a 
potent factor with the Arab masses, and such leaders have 
as much power as the political leaders, if indeed the offices 
are not in many cases identical. 

In 1934 there were three main parties, the Palestine 
Arab party, the National Defence party and the party of 

The Palestine Arab party is the majority party and sup- 
ported by the representatives of the fellahin and labour 
groups. It is opposed to co-operation with the mandatory. 

The National Defence party is the moderate party 
and attracts the wealthier and bureaucratically minded 



class of the people, including some of the intellectuals. It is 
regarded as a party aiming at co-operation with the gov- 

The party of Independence is the extremist group, an 
offshoot in 1932 of the Palestine Arab party. It is Pan- 
Arab rather than Pan-Islamic and has for its aim the uni- 
fication of Palestine, Syria and Iraq into one Arabian in- 
dependent nation as existed in the two centuries following 
the Prophet. 

In spite of religious differences between Palestine Mos- 
lems and Palestine Christians and the massacre of Nes- 
torian Assyrians in Iraq immediately following Iraq's 
achievement of independence a year or two ago bodes not 
too well for minorities who get above themselves in the 
young Arab state at this stage politics transcend religion 
in the nationalist movement in Palestine. If the masses, 
Moslem and Christian, that are being brought together 
under the common banner, as yet scarcely understand poli- 
tics in the Western sense of the word, their leaders do and 
avow enthusiastic discipleship of the political philosophy 
of John Morley, namely that self-government is to be 
preferred to good government, and also avow a fondness 
for the dictum of his successor at the India Office, Edwin 
Montagu, himself a Jew, as applied to India, namely that 
the masses should be stirred out of their apathetic content. 
The demand of Arab nationalism is for self-determination. 

The Jewish parties in Palestine are parts of larger par- 
ties in the Zionist movement throughout the world. In 
some cases divisions have occurred in Palestine itself, 
for the ideals formed outside have undergone modification 
when coming into contact with the realities of the internal 
situation. If the underlying ideal is a common one, namely 
the establishment of the Jewish National Home, there are 


several parties among the Jews with different programmes 
reflecting distinctions of class and of interests. The left- 
wing party, called the Labour party, is Socialist with a few 
Communists. It is composed largely of immigrants from 
eastern Europe who, having been oppressed, corne with 
advanced political views. The Federation of Jewish 
Labour in 1932 numbered 34,000 members, and these 
with their wives and children constituted about one third 
of the Jew population of Palestine (at the end of 1935 it 
was 67,800). They have a daily newspaper, hospitals and 
schools. Their first plank is to insist on a large and steady 
immigration of Jews into Palestine as a means of attain- 
ing the National Home ; their second plank is the national- 
ization of land; their hope is that Palestine ultimately be- 
comes a co-operative commonwealth, though it is to their 
interests at present to stand for co-operation with the 

The Jewish right-wing party, founded in 1923, is called 
the Revisionist party. Its critics describe it as Fascist, 
if that is not a paradox in view of the anti-Semitism of 
European Fascism. An anti-Socialist movement, it would 
replace the class struggle by the ultimate ideal of the state ; 
it finds support among youth who hold strong views and 
believe in strong action to bring about an out-and-out 
Jewish state. Its object is to create a self-governed Jewish 
commonwealth in Palestine with a population predomi- 
nantly Jew on both sides of the Jordan. And to attain this 
predominance it demands the sequestration of all unculti- 
vated lands and a rate of immigration at the recent tempo, 
holding that the end could be achieved in twenty-five years 
by a yearly quota of forty thousand or, if Trans- Jordan 
be included, fifty thousand to sixty thousand. The Revision- 
ists reject self-governing institutions in Palestine so long as 



the Jews are in a minority, reject negotiations with the 
Arabs so long as they do not recognize the Balfour Dec- 
laration and favour, for the time, the continuance of Brit- 
ish legislative and administrative control. They form a 
small party outside the Zionist organization. 

The middle party or liberal party of Palestine Jews are 
the General Zionists, who demand the immigration of the 
middle-class Jew rather than the wholesale admission of 
workers. It is mostly anti-Socialist and anti-Revisionist and 
is broadly attached to the principles of private enterprise 
and personal freedom and, generally speaking, is a central 
party with a social and economic programme similar to 
that of traditional centre parties in Europe. It attracts the 
merchant, the orange grower, the educationist and the like, 
and co-operates with the mandatory Power. 

An orthodox religious organization among the Palestine 
Jews, the nearest thing perhaps to the grand mufti's coun- 
cil among the Moslems, is the Orthodox or Mizrachi 
party. It is traditionalist in spirit as opposed to modernist, 
is inspired by ideals of religious and pious upbuilding of 
the state founded in the law and traditions and opposes the 
irreligious and unorthodox in the Zionist movement. Its 
activities have most to do with religion and education, 
while politically it inclines to the right wing of Zionism. 

Lastly there exists a Jewish society whose influence, 
more especially outside Palestine, is greater than the 
meagre membership suggests. It is known as Brith-Shalom, 
or Covenant of Peace. It criticizes the Zionist leaders for 
looking to the West for support instead of coming into 
closer contact with the Arabs among whom the Jews will 
have to live, and it advocates buying from Arabs instead 
of boycotting them. The Brith-Shalom enjoys neither the 
confidence of the Arabs nor the Zionists. The Arabs wel- 


come its moderation but suspect it for that very reason and 
see in it a greater danger to their ideal of the Arab state. 
Brith-Shalom's main idea seems to be that Palestine should 
be neither an Arab nor a Jewish state, but a biracial state 
in which Jews and Arabs should enjoy equal civil, religious 
and political rights without distinction between majority 
and minority. It is a group of intellectuals who construe 
the term 'national home for the Jews' less as a Jewish 
sovereign state than as a spiritual home. Both the Labour 
arfrl the Revisionist parties oppose it as standing for 'just 
another minority group of Jews, this time in Palestine.* 

Perhaps this underestimates what has already been done 
for the Jews by the mandatory, for the status of the Jews 
in Palestine is equal to that of the native Arab ; though 
the native Jew was in 19 1 8 in a minority of one to nine, to- 
day the Jews are to the Arabs as three is to seven and for 
the most part are of foreign birth ; the Hebrew language 
has been elevated to an equal official status with that of 
Arabic; the postage stamps and coins are in three lan- 
guages : Arabic, Hebrew and English; a Jewish university 
has sprung up in Jerusalem, and everywhere there has been 
a revival of the ancient Hebrew, so that from being almost 
a dead language it has now become the common tongue 
of Jewish immigrants coming from all over the world. All 
Jewish children growing up in Palestine learn Hebrew as 
their mother tongue, and whereas in the old days the pri- 
vate schools were Anglo- Jewish, German-Jewish, French- 
Jewish, today the Zionist schools are Hebrew- Jewish. 

The twin terms of the mandate that (a) Palestine must 
be a national home for the Jews, and (b) the civil and re- 
ligious rights of the Arabs must on no account be permitted 
to suffer, may be a counsel of perfection and are without 
doubt unimpeachable in intent, but for the high commis- 


sioner called upon to translate them into action they are 
often the horns of a dilemma. Periodical rebellion and the 
resultant impasse is, in origin, perhaps less the fault of the 
Arabs or of the Jews than of those in authority during the 
war, who, by idealistically framed declarations or verbal 
promises, have led both Jews and Arabs to expect too 
much, so that each one is demanding and expecting more 
than is compatible with the demand and expectation of the 
other. It is another unfortunate war legacy. The mo- 
mentous issues involved at that time led authorities in 
closest touch with Jews and Arabs severally to make 
promises, in moments of enthusiasm or gratitude, which 
are incapable of fulfilment side by side. 

The issues are deeper than the agrarian discontent or 
the religious incident which in the past has been the im- 
mediately preceding cause of communal strife ; though the 
pursuit by one side or other of some unenlightened self- 
interest has been the means of bringing latent anger to 
white heat and leading to riots and rebellion. 

The occasion of the flare-up in 1929 was a religious in- 
cident connected with the Wailing Wall of Jerusalem. The 
visitor to Jerusalem who has witnessed the interesting 
ritual of the Jews praying at the Wall will remember that 
the sacred structure forms part of the temple of Herod 
the lower six courses of original stonework still actually 
remain and is the traditional site of Solomon's temple. 
Here the Jews have been accustomed from time immemor- 
ial to bewail the departed glories of Judah. Tradition goes 
back to the prophet Jeremiah that the Jews who remained 
in the Holy Land during the Babylonian captivity were in 
the habit of worshipping on these ruins; the Pilgrim of 
Bordeaux who visited Jerusalem in A.D. 33 mentions that 
all Jews came once a year to this place, weeping and la- 


menting ; Jewish writers of the tenth and eleventh centuries 
mention repairs, while in 1840 a Turkish decree forbade 
the Jews from paving the passage in front of the wall, it 
being only permissible for them to visit it l as of old', so 
that under the Turks there was no hindrance to the old 
Jewish usage. 

The troubles of 1929 were brought about by the Arabs 
erecting in this place of special sanctity for the Jews a 
place from which God's presence has never departed a 
new structure at one end, and at the other end converting 
a house into a zawiyah, fitting up a lavatory close by, and 
making a new doorway that opened up a thoroughfare 
from the sacred pavement under the Wall into the mosque 
of the Dome of the Rock, so that the Jewish worshippers 
were interrupted by a stream of men and animals over 
the pavement. The Jews did not put forward a claim to 
ownership but asserted that the Arabs were behaving 
malevolently, and bickerings led to riots. 

The Arabs alleged provocation. They held that this 
was not the crux of the matter. The Jews, they said, were 
doing what they had no right to do and had never done 
before, namely they were making use of benches, a screen 
for separating men and women, an ark with the Scrolls 
of the Law and ritual lamps, which together constituted 
an open synagogue, and this on Moslem property, for the 
Wall forms part of the western wall of the plinth on 
which the Dome of the Rock (otherwise known as the 
Mosque of Omar) is erected. This, too, is a place of 
special sanctity to the Moslem world, for, according to a 
medieval Arab writer, it was 'here that God called David 
and Solomon to repentance, here that he put all that 
worked in the earth or flew in the air under subjection to 
David, here was discovered to Solomon the Rock which 



was the first corner of the whole earth to be created, here 
unto Mary (peace be upon her) winter fruits came in sum- 
mer, and summer fruits in winter, here did Jesus speak 
when in the cradle, here where angels ascend and descend 
every night, here Gog and Magog shall conquer the 
whole earth except the sanctuary, and here shall take 
place the gathering of all men on the Day of Resurrec- 
tion.' 22 * But perhaps the greatest stress on the sacredness 
of the Wall and pavement lies in the belief that it was here 
that Muhammad the Prophet tied up his aerial steed on 
the occasion of his miraculous visit through the seven 
heavens to the throne of the Almighty, as the Qur'anic 
version, in tiles around the mosque dome, recalls, and the 
name of this steed Boraq is the name by which the local 
Arabs know the Wailing Wall to this day. 

The magnitude of the disturbances and the delicate 
nature of the religious implications led the League of 
Nations to send out a commission of inquiry. It consisted 
of three non-British members, under the chairmanship of 
a former Swedish minister of foreign affairs, and its find- 
ings were legally enacted and are now enforced under 
mandatory authority. These were that the Wall and pave- 
ment belong to the Moslems, but Jews have the right of 
usage for their services, except that they must not intro- 
duce screens and other appurtenances which constitute a 
synagogue. Moslems are forbidden the right of structural 
alterations impairing Jewish access, and the new doorway 
into the mosque must be closed on Jewish holy days and 
a prohibition placed on the driving of animals along the 
pavement during certain hours daily, when Jews are per- 
forming their devotions ; the maintenance of the Wall and 
pavement being the joint concern of Moslems and manda- 


Disturbances broke out a few years later in Jaffa fol- 
lowing a bitter press campaign around the Arabs' griev- 
ances and fears, chief among which was the question of 
illicit immigration, the Arabs declaring that during the 
preceding twelve months over fifteen thousand Jewish im- 
migrants had come in illicitly over and above the quota. 
Emphasis was placed on the land question too. The Jewish 
population in 193233 was at about the two hundred 
thousand mark, representing approximately a fifth of the 
entire population. Nearly a quarter of the Jews lived in 
agricultural settlements (today it is relatively much less) 
forming the highest proportion of Jewish rural popula- 
tion in the world. They were largely self-contained and 
autonomous communities. The Arab grievance was this: 
that lands acquired by the Jewish National Fund, whether 
from government or from a Palestinian landowner (often 
absentee), became henceforth forbidden territory to the 
native Arab cultivator. The Jewish National Fund ac- 
quired land, evicted the native Arab peasant and installed 
the Jewish immigrant. Zionist leases quite openly con- 
tained a clause forbidding the employment of non- Jewish 
labour. Inquiries after the troubles, by a judicial officer of 
the government, following Sir John Hope Simpson's re- 
port, established six hundred cases of Arabs who had been 
rendered landless by Jewish purchase of land, whether 
privately or under the National Fund, and these have since 
been offered land by the government in compensation. The 
Arabs complain of a systematic boycott of Arab labour by 
the Jews. The Zionists affirm that more Arab labour is 
employed in Jewish orange gardens than Jew. 

Such questions appear to be subsidiary. The rising of 
the Arabs this year (1936) in the form of national polit- 
ical strike, as we have seen, arose from the fundamental 



grievance the sudden great increase in the quota of Jews 
being allowed in. The Arabs are indifferent to the causes 
which have impelled acceleration, they being concerned 
only by its effect for themselves, as they see it. The Arabs 
do not want the Jews and they do not want the mandate. 
Recent history in the Arab countries, as well as Palestine, 
does not suggest that they are amenable to political subor- 
dination. Political domination under the sword of the 
strong, such as they themselves originally imposed upon 
the world, is in their recurrent moods more honourable to 
them, however distasteful for others, than a voluntary sur- 
render of rights they consider sacred. The give and take of 
Western democratic politics is as yet alien to Middle East 

The recent remarkable growth in Palestine's population 
is an index to its prosperity. It is a country which, under 
the mandate, has, comparatively speaking, been without 
an unemployment problem. It has balanced its budget, 
year after year, without recourse to foreign loans. Where 
almost every other country has experienced economic set- 
backs, Palestine has been largely free from them. This is 
due principally to the copious inflow of gold that has ac- 
companied Jewish immigration and, in part, to an efficient 
and enlightened form of administration. 

Politically Palestine has undergone a great change. 
From being a small, Turkish-administered province it has 
acquired the status of a country and is ruled under an 
elaborate crown colony form of British administration. 
The direction of affairs rests in a high commissioner, an 
executive council composed of four senior members of his 
staff and an advisory council, made up of these and five 
other chiefs of departments. Though Palestinian Arabs 
and Jews do not as yet hold these senior posts they provide 


nearly all the subordinate personnel, while in their respeiy 
tive social, economic and religious affairs they enjoy great 
freedom, in keeping with the spirit of the mandate. 

As yet there is no representative government in Pales- 
tine. Indeed to make government truly representative on 
the basis of numbers, at this stage, would entail a pre- 
dominantly Arab and actively anti-Jew majority; and the 
mandatory has therefore resisted Arab demands in this 
direction. The mandatory is in the position of not being 
able to allow Arab nationalist aspirations to debar the 
fulfilment of basic promises made to the Zionists. On the 
other hand it cannot allow Jewish immigration on the scale 
demanded by Zionists in utter opposition to the wishes of 
the native population, who claim an Arab Palestine as their 
birthright, a right, they say, as ancient as the Englishman's 
right to England. The mandatory role is to hold the scales 
evenly between Jew and Arab, to mitigate their differences 
as far as possible by inclining to the extremist of neither 
and to use its power and influence to bring the two com- 
munities in Palestine nearer to each other in the hope of 
making future co-operation between them possible. 

Sympathizers will be found for persecuted Jews of 
central and eastern Europe faced, in these days of world 
unrest and depression, with dosed doors by almost every 
country in the world and looking to Palestine as their 
principal hope. 

Sympathizers will be found for the Arabs of Palestine 
who, under the recent tempo of immigration of Jews, are 
witnessing the population of their native country passing 
against their wishes and without their consent to an alien 

Palestine is Holy Land to Jewry, to Islam and to Chris- 
tendom, and as such it has claims to consideration which 


transcend both those of Arab nationalism and Jewish 
nationalism, though the special interests of each cannot be 
overlooked. Its meagre size is such that it represents but 
a fractional part of the Arab territory freed from the yoke 
of the Turks by British armies; its scant capacity for 
population is such that it could only support a small frac- 
tion of the Jews of the world. That this little shrine of 
three world religions should be sacrificed to any one ex- 
clusive nationalism, apart from the unlikelihood of a one- 
sided settlement surviving unscathed another world war, 
is probably distasteful to the most liberal and enlightened 
thought of today. 




HAVE TRACED briefly the life story of the Arabs : 
their deliverance from a pagan barbarism in the seventh 
century by one of the great figures of history the Prophet 
Muhammad, 'threefold founder of a nation, of an empire, 
and of a religion'; their marvellous world expansion in 
the century that followed ; their splendid medieval civiliza- 
tion for three centuries more ; then disintegration and de- 
cline amid the buff etings of foreign invaders from East and 
West, crusaders, Mongols and Tartars, and so to sub- 
mergence within the Ottoman Empire during the past four 
centuries ; emergence, finally, and signs of new life in a post- 
war world swept by a wave of nationalistic revival. 

Today the Arab world in common with the rest of the 
world is stirred to its foundations. Under the pressure of 
modernism Middle East civilization is in the melting pot ; 
many of its distinctive features are disappearing or be- 
coming modified out of recognition. Politically the cal- 
iphate system of government has gone, an anachronism 
in the twentieth century even for the Arabs themselves, 
and in its place limited, constitutional, nationalistic forms 


of government of Western form and evolution hold the 

Universal education, once the .glory of _Arab civilization, 
but abandoned in the later centuries of decayTTs enthroned 
again, and with the universal cinema and the universal 
press is producing a new shape of mind in the young, while 
industrialization under the invasion of Western capital 
is changing the livelihood of their elders. This is true not 
of the Arabs of Arabia, of course, but of the Arabs with- 
out, the historical Arabs who have been liberated from 
the Ottoman yoke and awakened to the sense of a new 
destiny, whose territories, forming the ancient land bridge 
between East and West, have today as airway and oilway 
acquired a fresh world significance. 

Politically the many Arab states pursue their separate 
existences, but behind the mosaic fagade are the ties of 
common blood, common tongue and a predominantly com- 
mon historical and religious outlook. Educated Arabs 
naturally cherish the hope of ultimate political federation, 
conscious as they are not merely of a tradition of empire, 
but of empire that once dominated a civilized world. 

To a foreign observer, however sympathetically dis- 
posed, the obstacles in the way of immediate realization of 
this aspiration seem considerable, arising as they do not 
from outside political influences alone, but from inherent 
cultural and economic conditions. We have seen a clear- 
cut division between Arabs. The peninsular Arabs, among 
whom intertribal and interstate wars have been peren- 
nial through the centuries and down to our own times, 
are jealous to preserve their own light, indigenous 
tribal forms of government, still more their individual 
personal liberties. In Palestine unqualified political 
sovereignty, whether Arab or other, seems remote in view 



of the essential internationalism of that problem, and the 
present communal discord between Arab and Jew is likely 
to need the safeguard of a guide and friend as far into the 
future as it is possible to foresee. There are observers, of 
course, who suppose that during the next twenty years 
the mandatory system will everywhere disappear by com- 
mon consent of interested parties, as has recently taken 
place in Iraq and is about to take place in Syria, but Pales- 
tine may well be the exception. The present antipathy be- 
tween Arabs and Jews should, however, be softened with 
the closing of the doors of immigration which must ulti- 
mately and at no very distant time come about from the 
operation of a law of saturation, and future generations of 
Palestine Arabs will then come to regard Palestine Jews 
not as alien colonists as they can and do today, but as fel- 
low natives* In Iraq the recent coup d'etat in which an 
elected, constitutional government was overthrown by the 
army, a popular and distinguished minister was assassi- 
nated and his two most important colleagues, one of them 
the prime minister, were driven into exile, suggests that 
ruthless and overmastering individualism is still a para- 
mount quality in Arab leadership not a propitious quality 
for the wider teamwork required by real federation. 

Between Syria and Iraq we have seen a historic rivalry 
even before the Arabs came. The Syrian Arab considers 
himself and was considered by the Turks to be more ad- 
vanced and more capable than the Iraqi Arab, which, if 
true, may be expected to lead to Syrian dominance in 
any relationship between the two. Iraq, on the other hand, 
is the one part of the Arab territories with an assured 
economic future; it has great wealth in oil, great cotton 
potentialities, may well become another Egypt. Iraq, 
therefore, is not likely to be persuaded by its poor relations 



to abdicate its place of natural priority in the family coun- 

It would seem that the chief political prerequisite of 
Arab federation is the building up of an educated and 
strong public opinion. Here the Syrian Arabs seem most 
likely to lead the way. With them, Arab nationalism is 
founded in the homogeneous cultural group speaking the 
common tongue, irrespective of religious allegiance ; it is, 
in other words, the geographical-linguistic grouping of 
Western form. Thus Syrian Moslems and Syrian Chris- 
tians find a superloyalty in the ideal of Arab nationality. 
While revolting against Western domination, they are con- 
verts to Western political philosophy. 

The political problem of great importance in the deal- 
ings between East and West, one that has loomed large 
In the past and may do so again in the political evolution 
of the Middle East, is the problem of minorities. It was 
a problem that faced the Ottoman Empire and was be- 
queathed by it to the Arab states on their dismemberment. 

What the West conceives of as morally unjustifiable 
massacre of Christian minorities in Ottoman times the 
East holds to have been a perfectly legitimate suppression 
of revolt. There is a divergence of traditional viewpoint 
as to the legitimacy of agitation against authority and of 
the ways and means of dealing with it. Public opinion in 
circles with absolutist traditions differs from our own, as 
the feelings evoked among us over the attitude towards 
minority movements in Fascist Germany and Communist 
Russia show. In the Middle East repression springs pri- 
marily from political motives, not religious bigotry; in- 
deed, as we have seen when Jews were outlaws in Christen- 
dom it was the Moslem countries that gave them refuge. 
Nor is the traditional Middle East absolutism illiberal so 

long as subjects are obedient to authority and law abiding, 
but clearly where political power is an entrenchment and 
not democratically derived minority movements aimed at 
weakening it live unhealthy lives. 

The Turks were by no means illiberal, for they allowed 
minorities a large measure of autonomy. Kurds, Assyrians, 
Yezidis, living in groups in the mountains, were encour- 
aged to maintain their own laws, language and customs and 
were dealt with through their own native leaders aghas, 
begs, patriarchs and the rest. Indeed the easygoing way of 
the Turks proved to be a weakness when nationalism came 
to raise its head in Asia and liberalism had gone as far as 
it might. Intimidation and terrorism were then resorted to 
as a prevention of political disintegration. The young Arab 
state of Iraq, on the threshold of independence a brief 
decade ago, was not for repeating the Turkish experiment. 
The state within the state had no attractions for Iraq. It 
wanted the solidarity of a Western state, a thoroughgoing 
absorption of all minorities, without recognition of ad- 
ministrative distinctions for each such as the Turks had 
conceded, but providing constitutional safeguards for 
equality before the law and complete religious toleration, 
such, for instance, as Jews enjoy in Britain or France; and 
this was approved by the League under mandatory advice. 
Assyrian resistance was met in the traditional Middle East 
manner, in other words, a manner which was locally con- 
sidered justifiable. 

Those who laboured for the spirit as well as the letter 
of constitutional, democratic and parliamentary govern- 
ment of Western form for Iraq may have had their con- 
victions shaken, but 'distinctive traditions of civilization 
cannot be surrendered or borrowed precipitately without 
a shock to the system,' 26 * and political institutions in an 



"* i 

English sense require a long apprenticeship and an edu- 
cated public opinion, and in the Middle East time is 
needed. Indeed, our system of combining a democratic 
form of government with an aristocratic 'organization of 
society is, in a sense, the converse of the Eastern system. 
There we have a social democracy side 'by side with a 
governing class imbued with ideas of political autocracy. 
Certain left-wing political movements in the West appear 
to have aims not dissimilar. 

However important the political reforms that are com- 
ing about, a more revolutionary change, because it inti- 
mately affects the everyday life of the common people, is 
the industrialization of these Arab countries. It is a change 
that springs not merely from the world's appetite for oil 
and phosphates or its profits in selling machinery, but from 
a genuine demand on the part of the progressive, especially 
the youthful elements of the local populations. These are 
looking to the royalties from their oil fields, to the devel- 
opment of irrigation projects and power plants to bring 
them a higher standard of life, and they are well aware of 
the need of security to serve such ends. 

The oil pipe line, completed but a year or two ago, which 
brings oil from the new Mosul fields across the Syrian 
desert to the Mediterranean, is a triumph of a new order 
of things in desert security. Enterprises have sprung up 
along the shores of the Dead Sea oblivious of the prox- 
imity of the desert raider, which again would not have been 
possible under the Turks thirty years ago. What is the 
explanation ? It is not that the desert man on the 'fringes 
of the sown' is no longer the man he was, has suddenly lost 
his lust for plunder, but that his raiding has ceased to pay 
him, has ceased to be a menace for others. However un- 
palatable the thought, it is the deadly modern weapons 

that organized governments now possess that intimidate 
him the bomber cruising through the skies at incredible 
speed, the steel bulletproof coach with its machine gun 
scorching along the frontiers that have driven the desert 
man back into his sandy wastes. It took a Roman legion 
to do ineff ectively what a few airplanes and armoured cars 
do today in making the frontiers secure. It is weapon 
superiority, or rather the inventions of the internal-com- 
bustion engine and wireless telegraphy enabling a lightning 
use of weapon superiority, that have made possible the 
development of these borderlands, where the native war- 
like man would not otherwise have permitted intrusion. 
It is the fear of force which has compelled peace and 
progress. And thus Iraq, with wealth enough from her oil 
royalties to maintain airplanes and tanks, has, by this fact, 
the prestige to compel obedience in her lawless tribal 
areas, a peace which without them would be wanting. 
Science in the East as in the West is making governments 
more powerful, the governed more at their mercy, and 
thereby increasing the moral responsibility of those in 

But if security, necessary for progress, is indirectly 
affecting the habits and outlook of the borderlands the 
effects of industrialization among the sedentary popula- 
tions are even more far reaching. In the construction of 
the desert pipe line alone some fourteen thousand, natives 
were drawn into new forms of activity, leaving their 
ploughs, their sheep, their primitive crafts, many of them 
doubtless never to return to them. Novel dress, novel food 
and clothing perhaps, novel working conditions certainly, 
must have left their mark. If the pipe line is one day fol- 
lowed by a railway the preliminary surveys for which 
have been made, its cost computed in millions, and the 



time required to build several years the ramifications 
will be still wider and deepen The effect of industrializa- 
tion is to Europeanize the Arab. Whether for good or ill 
great sociological readjustment is in progress. The shep- 
herd must discard his loose skirt when he comes to drive 
a lorry, for the gears demand it. It may seem a small thing, 
but clothing and habits in the common people as well as 
changes in the traditional methods of government are 
signs of the extent of the change taking place in Middle 
East civilization. 

Nor is the religious outlook unaffected. In the East as 
in the West it is a time of intellectual questioning. A wider 
and more secular education and the impact of modern 
ideas, especially progressive ideas which challenge the 
whole basis of the fatalistic attitude, are naturally tending 
to a modern outlook. The familiar European notion that 
modernism and Islam are a contradiction in terms, that 
modernism is the death knell of Islam, is one, however, 
which the educated orthodox Arab vigorously contests. He 
points with conviction to the great age of Arab civilization, 
which indeed immediately followed the birth of Islam, 
when the Arabs assimilated Greek philosophy and Persian 
culture without ceasing to practise their faith. He holds 
that the depressed condition of today is not the result of 
an unprogressive religion but of an unenlightened inter- 
pretation of it in these later centuries of decay; that its 
original spirit was free, liberal, progressive, and only when 
the doors of research and independent thought were 
closed, when the laws well suited to medieval times as 
evolved by the findings of the early doctors came to be 
established as a final and irrevocable interpretation of re- 
ligion, that stagnation and narrow-mindedness brought 
their trail of woes. 



Among Arabs of the enlightened world modernism takes 
a variety of forms. To one school the rationalizing influ- 
ence of modernism is welcomed as getting rid of supersti- 
tions and outworn interpretations of religious belief which 
discredited Islam in the eyes of a scientific world. Although 
Arabs of this school are often rationalists who no longer 
believe in revealed religion and share the general outlook 
of the ruling class in Turkey they cherish Islam on his- 
torical and sentimental grounds as the faith of their fathers 
and see in the adherence thereto of the masses a valuable 
counterpoise to Bolshevism and other alien revolutionary 
movements. This attitude is found among the Arab gov- 
erning classes of Syria and Iraq who are alive to the 
value of Islam as an instrument of political solidarity, 
especially among communities not reached by the secular 
and intellectual claims of nationalism. 

Modernism in Islam has its genuinely religious side too. 
In intellectual circles a phase of agnosticism has been fol- 
lowed by one of religious revival. There are movements 
afoot among young Arabs who believe that there can be 
no health in the political state unless it is rooted in the 
religious life, no health in the world until its peoples are 
drawn into a closer brotherhood of mutual understanding, 
toleration and good will. Last year at a congress of world 
faiths held in London a paper written by a most distin- 
guished Moslem scholar, the rector of Al Azhar Uni- 
versity of Cairo, on the subject of 'World Fellowship 
through Religion', attracted wide interest. It showed how 
much closer in spirit the religions of the world are today 
than ever before, deplored that exponents of them should 
misuse their energies in attacking one another when their 
ends and aims are the same and pleaded for an allied front 
to combat the real enemy the evils of the world, and for 



a common ideal the achievement of good fellowship 
among the peoples of the earth. 

The bitter legacy inherited by East and West from the 
centuries of medieval warfare lies, misrepresentation 
and hatred one of the other is happily dwindling. Old 
intolerances, old bitternesses are disappearing before the 
spread of another spirit now cherished by good men of all 
religions, the spirit of peace on earth, good will towards 

The Arabs, in their many ways, are feeling the influence 
of modernism, their receptiveness varying with their cul- 
tural condition; hence educated circles in Syria and Iraq 
occupy a position midway between backward Moslem 
communities of the Arabian peninsula and advanced Mos- 
lem communities of India and Egypt. But it is Egypt whose 
influence must tell in the long run, for its Arabic press 
occupies a commanding position throughout the Arab 
countries, its thinkers and publicists are becoming known 
to an ever-widening circle of literate Arabs, its theological, 
social and political controversies are echoed in the press 
and the diwans of Baghdad, Damascus and Jerusalem. 
Egypt, the first of the Arabic-speaking countries to accept 
Westernization and adopt the European philosophical 
outlook, is preaching modernism to the Arab world. 

Thus has the wheel of fate turned full circle. A thou- 
sand years ago the Arab was teaching modernism to 
Europe. His civilization was then pre-eminent, his influ- 
ence of imperial extent. Great warrior though he was, his 
sword could clearly not alone have wrought his splendid 
achievements. Besides strength of purpose, there must 
have been creative genius and qualities of the spirit. Yes- 
terday and today pride, honour, love of freedom these 
are the strong elements of nobility in his character. 



If much of the cultural side of Arab civilization had its 
roots in the earlier civilizations of the Arab conquests 
some of its great human qualities derived as surely from 
the hard school of Arabia herself. Among them generosity 
and heroism stand nobly forth. There is no people in the 
world more naturally generous than the Arabs. They give 
with both hands, they give with all their heart. It is no nig- 
gardly, calculating generosity impelled by the hope of 
something better in exchange. It springs spontaneously 
from a nature that is made that way. Not once but twenty 
times during my journeyings in south Arabia I have been 
moved to admiration by little acts of humanity among my 
Beduin companions. After long thirsty hours in the saddle 
I have trotted ahead one or two of them accompanying 
me to be first at a longed-for water hole. There they 
have watched approvingly as I have eagerly slaked my 
thirst, yet would none of them allow a drop of water to 
moisten his lips till the rest of his companions an hour's 
march behind perhaps came up that they might all drink 
together. A crust I have given to one I have noticed that 
he saved to share with a companion ; and rarely has it been 
possible to pass a tent, however humble, but the owner 
has come running out with a greeting on his lips to insist 
on our sharing his bowl of milk, his few dates or whatever 
else he had, though his supply were inadequate perhaps 
for his own wants. You are a stranger, he has never seen 
you before, he will never see you again, yet he unstintingly 
gives you that of which he has dire need himself. 

Impulsive, unmeasured generosity has its counterpart 
In another quality of the spirit. The usage of sanctuary 
when the desert Arab, without any claims upon him, will 
protect with his life the outcast or the weak who has 
sought his protection has already been noticed. Driven by 


hunger to raid, he observes in a true sporting spirit the 
rules of the game, unless a blood feud absolves him. To 
shed blood is lawful enough if his adversary is unyielding, 
but let him heed in time and he will be allowed to retain 
a camel, be given rations and so return to his tribe, free 
to prepare a counter raid. 

Proud of his dominion within his horizons, the Arab 
will allow none to trespass without his permission or that 
of his kindred. On many occasions the writer, engaged in 
camel journeys through the unknown south Arabian bor- 
derlands, has been obliged to draw rein by a hail of bullets, 
some of them passing uncomfortably close carrying the 
haughty, wordless challenge: 'Halt! Who goes there?' 
But if the Arab brooks no uninvited invasion of his do- 
mains and is roused by it to immediate militancy, he is no 
unchivalrous exploiter in cold blood. True the short list 
of European travellers is not free from victims ; those who 
met with violent ends include Palmer, a professor of 
Arabic at Cambridge, Seetzen, a Swedish botanist of 
European reputation, and Huber, a French-Alsatian nat- 
uralist and archaeologist the last two professing Mos- 
lems. Yet never in the history of Arabian exploration has 
a European been held up to ransom. To be shot in the 
raid, that is legitimate ; the unwanted intruder, too, who 
comes ignorantly without safe-conduct, or the suspected 
spy, must take the consequences of his ill-mannered igno- 
rance or his bad luck, but methods such as those of the 
gangster in America or the bandit in China are foreign 
to the sporting legitimacies of the warlike Beduin. 

In my fifty-eight days crossing of Rub' al Khali, Arabia's 
great southern sandy waste, I, the first European to pene- 
trate its depths, moving with the utmost secrecy possible, 
used as my saddle bags by day and my pillows by night 



gunny bags stuffed with many thousand-dollar pieces ; my 
companions, fully aware of it, were hungry, penniless 
Beduin whom I had never seen before and who could not 
be called to account by any authority for my life the life 
of a self-confessed Christian. Their honourable conduct 
and their personal loyalty are memories I shall always 
gratefully cherish. The Arabian custom of going forth to 
battle with a woman's name as a war cry, the time- 
honoured practise of being led into action by a girl mounted 
on camel back the latter no longer possible since the in- 
troduction of firearms speak alike of the gallant in their 
attitude of mind. Chivalry was ever the quality exalted in 
their heroes, and chivalry, be it not forgotten, found its 
way into general European practice during the Arab 
period first by way of Spanish, then of French contacts. 
Had the Arabs, then, no other claims upon us and their 
claims, as history shows, are both many and significant 
their contributions to chivalry alone would entitle them to 
a proud name among the nations. 




The works hereunder are those to which I am specially indebted. 
The student will find fuller references in the works quoted. In- 
valuable to him also is the Encyclopaedia of Islam (Luaac) in process 
now of publication by instalments. 

1 DE LACY O'LEARY: Arabia before Muhammad. Kegan 

Paul, 1927. 

2 D. S. MARGOLIOUTH : The Relations between Arabs and Is- 

raelites prior to the Rise of Islam. (The Schweich Lec- 
tures.) Oxford University Press, 1931. 

8 D. S. MARGOLIOUTH: Mohammed. G. P. Putnam's Sons, 

* MAULANA MUHAMMAD ALI: Muhammad The Prophet. 
Lahore, 1924. 

5 CARLYXE : Heroes and Hero Worship. Chapman & Hall, 1897. 
*~ 7 The Cambridge Medieval History (Vol. II). Cambridge 

University Press, 1932. 

6 A. A. BEVAN : Mohamet and Islam. 

7 C. H. BECKER : Expansion of the Saracens. 

8 BUDGETT MEAKIN: The Moors. Sonnenschein, 1901. 

9 REUBEN LEVI: The Sociology of Islam (2 vols.). Williams 

and Norgate, Vol. I, 1931; Vol. II, 1933- 
10 MARMADUKE PICKTHALL : The Cultural Side of Islam. The 
Committee of 'Madras Lectures on Islam', 1927. 



11 GIBBON: Decline and Fall "of the Roman Empire (Vol. V). 

Henry G. Bohn, 1854. 

12-21 ffa L e g ac y O f Islam. Edited by Sir Thomas Arnold and Al- 
fred Guillaume. Oxford University Press, 1931. 

12 A. H. CHRISTIE: Islamic Minor Arts and Their Influence 

upon European Work. 

13 MARTIN S. BRIGGS : Architecture. 

14 H. G. FARMER: Music. 

15 CARRA DE VAUX : Astronomy and Mathematics* 

16 J. H. KRAMERS: Geography and Commerce. 

17 MAX MEYERHOF : Science and Medicine. 

18 ALFRED GUILLAUME: Philosophy and Theology. 

19 J, B. TREND: Spain and Portugal 

20 D. DE SANTILLANA: Law and Society. 

21 ERNEST BARKER: The Crusades. 

22 E. T. RICHMOND: Moslem Architecture, 6231516, Some 

Causes and Consequences. Royal Asiatic Society, 1926. 
28 D. G. HOGARTH : The Penetration of Arabia. Lawrence and 
Bullen, 1904. 

24 D. G. HOGARTH : A History of Arabia. Oxford University 

Press, 1922. 

25 ERNEST BARKER: The Crusades. Encyclopaedia Britannica, 


26 ARNOLD TOYNBEE: The Western Question in Greece and 

Turkey. Constable, 1922. 

27 H. W. V. TEMPERLEY: England and the Near East the 

Crimea. Longmans, 1936. 

28 G. P. GOOCH AND H. W. V. TEMPERLEY: British Documents 

on the Origin of the War, Vol. X, Part II. H.M.S. Office, 

29 STEPHEN LONGRIGG : Four Centuries of Modern Iraq. Oxford 

University Press, 1925. 

80 The Palestine Census Report, 1931. 

31 H. A. R. GIBB : Whither Islam? Victor Gollancz, 1932. 

82 R. A. NICHOLSON: The Idea of Personality in Sufism. Cam- 
bridge University Press, 1923. 

38 HENRY FIELD: The Arabs of Central Iraq. Field Museum, 
Chicago, 1935. 



34 JUDGE PIERRE CRABITES: Things Muhammad Did for 
Women. From the magazine Asia. U.S.A., 1927. 

85 BERTRAM THOMAS : Alarms and Excursions in Arabia. Allen 
and Unwin, 1931. 

56 BERTRAM THOMAS: Arabia Felix. Jonathan Cape, 1932, 

87 BERTRAM THOMAS: The Geography and Ethnography of 
South Arabia. Not yet published. 




Abbasids, 86, 123 ff., 155, 170, 173 

ff., 198 ff., 211, 229 
Abdul Aziz, see Ibn Sa'ud 
Abdulla, The Amir, 281, 283, 291, 


Abdullah ibn Maimun, 200 
Abdul Rahman al Mu'awiya, 103, 


Abraham, The Prophet, 36, 139, 293 
Abu Abdullah, 200 
Abu Bakr, 36, 67, 69 ff. 
Abu Dhabi, 234 

Abu Hanifa, 134, see Hanafi School 
Abulcasis, 183 
Abu'l Fida, 179 
Abu'l Wafa, 173, 177 
Abu Talib, 35, 38 
Abyssinia, 13, 18, 90, 40, 338 
Achila, 98 
Acre, 212 ff. 
Adelard of Bath, 191 
Aden, 258, 279 
Adnan, 337, 34* 
Mlius Gailus, id ff. 
Afdal, 204, 208 
Afghanistan, 91 

Aga Khan, 234 

Aghlabids, 103, 199 

A'isha, 52 ff., 86 

Akkad, 23 

Aksum, 19 

Al Azhar, 134, 152, 329 

Al Battani, 173, 177, 178 

Al Biruni, 173, 178, x8x, 184, 190 

Al Bitruji, 173, 181 

Al Farabi, 165, 173, *77, **4> 187, 


Al Farghani, 173, 178 
Al Ghazali, 173, 183, 189 
Al Kindi, 165, 173, 177, 187 
Al Khuwarizmi, 173 
Al lat, 12 
Al Mas'udi, 179 
Al Qadir Billah, 133 
Al Zarkali, 173 
Albania, 265 
Alchemy, 184 
Alcohol, 57, 60 
Aleppo, 76, 154 
Alexander the Great, 15 ff. 
Alexandria, 82, 143 
Algebra, 176 
Algeciras, 99 
Algeria, see Maghrib 



Algorism, 176 

Alhambra, 155 

Alhazen, 183, 185 

AH, The Amir, 285 

AH, The Caliph, 36, 67, 85 ff. 

Alimony, 128 

Allenby, Lord, 284, 285, 293 

Alpetragius, see al Bitruji 

Alpine Man, 342 

America, 287 

Amr ibn al As, 50, 8x, 87 

Andalusia, 99 

Anglo French Declaration, 287 

Angora, 218 

Antioch, 76, 208, 212 ff. 

Apollonius, 177 


Characteristics, 112, 197, 330 ff. 

Chivalry, 135, 331 

Civilization, 190 

Colonization, 74 ff., 196 

Committee, The, 276 

Congress, 307 

Conquests: Africa, North, 94 ff., 
196; Afghanistan and Trans- 
Oxiana, 91 ff., 196; Egypt, 81 
ff., 196 ; France, 100 ff. ; Italian, 
104 ff.; Mediterranean Is., 104; 
Persia, 78 ff., 196; Spain, 98 
ff., 196; Syria, 72 ff., 196 

Cultural Divisions, in ff., 222 ff., 

Egyptian Leaderiship of, 330 

Federation, Political, 322 ff. 

Generosity, 331 

Higher Committee, The, 307 

Mariners, 245 

Nationalism, 271, 275 ff., 296 ff., 
321 ff. 

New Thrones, 291 

Patriots Executed, 282 ff. 

Revolt, The, 284, 285, 289 

Risings : Iraq, 290 ; Palestine, 3 12- 
316; Syria, 289 

Sea Power, 83 ff., 96, 103, 244 ff. 

Slavery, see Slavery 

Tolerance, 120, 204 


Abyssinian Invasion, 18 ff. 

Cultural Divisions, 247 ff. 

Egyptian Invasions, 14, 237 

Exclusivism, 223, 331 ff. 

Livelihood, 237, 240 ff. 

Medieval Caliphates, 226 

Persian Invasion, 20 

Political Divisions, 234, 237 ff. 

Population Pressure, Early, 66 

Roman Invasion, 16 ff. 

Southern Kingdoms, 13, 343 

War Subsidies, 285, 292 
Arabian Nights, The> 125, 165, 179, 


Aramaeans, 22, 93 
Archimedes, 175 

Arch Horseshoe, 150 

Building Traditions, 145, 153 

Domes, 147 ff. 

Domestic, 154 ff. 

Mosque Features, 144 ff. 

Ornamentation, 145 ff., 150 ff. 

Roundnesses, 148 ff., 151 ff. 

Saracenic, 156 ff. 

Vaulting, 150 ff. 
Arin, Cupola of, 180 
Aristarchus of Samos, 181 
Aristotle, 171, 173, 175, 187 
Arithmetic, 176 
Aries, 102 
Armenia, 203 
Armenoid Race, 338, 342 
Arnold, Sir Thomas, 348 
Arts, The, 141 ff., 156 ff., 252 
Arts Club, The, 276 
Aryan Race, 338 
Arzachel (Al Zarkali), 173 
Assyrians, 266, 308 
Astarte (Athtar), 12 
Astrolabes, 177, 184 
Astrology, 184 
Astronomy, 180 ff. 
Asturias, zoo 
Atabegs, 210 ff. 
Athtar (Ashtoreth), xa 



Avempace (Ibn Bajja), 167 
Avenzoar (Ibn Zuhr), 184 
Averroes (Ibn Rushd), 173, 184, 

189 ff. 

Avicebron (Ibn Gabirol), 189 
Avicenna (Ibn Sina), 165, 173, 177, 

183, 184, 187 ff. 
Avignon, 101, 102 
Aziz of Egypt, 50, 54 
Azure* 159 

Baalbek, 76 

Babylonians, 18, 143 

Bactria, 172 

Badr, Battle, 46 

Badr al Jumali, 154, 203 

Baffin, 256 

Baghdad, 155, 156, 173 

Bahrain, 234 ff., 259, 279 

Baibars, 215, 228 

Bakhtishu, 182 

Baldwin o Flanders, 213 

Balfour Declaration, 286, 297, 307 

Balkans, The, 218, 260, 265, 279 

Balkh, 92 

Bani Hashing 41 

Bari, 105 

Barker, Prof. Ernest, quoted, 206, 

Basrah, 79 

Becker, C. H., 66, 81, 347 

Beduin, 29, 68, 112 ff., 162, 331 ff. 

Belkis, Queen, 13 ff. 

Berbers, 93 ff., 100, 201 

Bethlehem, 214 

Bevan, Prof. A. A., 58, 347 

Boat Building, 244 

Bokhara, 92 

Borag, 37, 314 

Bordeaux, 101 

Botahari Tongue, 343 

Briggs, Martin S., quoted, 148, 348 

Britain : 

Arab Campaigns, 284 ., 289 
Arabian Interests, 256, 279 ff. 
Mandates, 289 ff., 294 ff. 

Buwayhids, 203 

Byzantines, 20, 50, 51, 69 ff., 76, 82, 
94, 160 

Caesaria, 76 

Cairo, 82, 153, 201, 213 ff., 219 

Calabria, 105 

Caliphs of Medina: 
Abu Bakr, 36, 67, 69 ff. 
AH, 36, 67, 84 ff. 
Omar, 67, 74 ff. 
Othman, 36, 82 ff. 

Caliphs, of Baghdad, see Abbasids; 
Cario, see Fatimids; Constan- 
tinople, see Ottomans; Damas- 
cus, see Umaiyyads; see also 
proper names 

Camel Raising, 247 

Capitation Tax, 77 

Capitulations, 276 

Caravan Routes: Arabian, 9 ff., 
Asiatic, 160 ff. 

Carlyle, 347 

Carmathians, 137, 227 ff. 

Carpet Weaving, 157 

Carthage, 93, 96 

Caucusoid Race, 92, 339 

Ceramics, 159 ff. 

Cervantes, 138 

Charlemagne, 101, 161, 205 

Chaucer, 166 

Chesney, 259 

Children, Custody of, 132 

Chinese Art, 161 

Chingis Khan, 216 

Chosroes of Persia Mission, 50 

Christianity: Latins and Greeks, 
210; North Africa, 94; pre- 
Islamic Arabian, 18, 25 

Christians Enslaved, 137 

Christie, A. H., quoted 141, 149* 
159 ff., 348 

Civilization, Middle East, HI, 190, 

^20, 253, 321 



Coffee, 244 

Coinage, 113, 198, 34* 
Columbus, Christopher, 254, 255 
Committee of the Covenant, 276 
Committee of Union and Progress, 


Compass, The Mariners, 179 
Concubinage, 128 
Congress of World Faiths, 329 ff. 
Conscription, 268 

Constantinople, 101, 208, 2x3, 2x9 
Copper, 14 

Cordova, 99 ff., 137, 191 
Corsica, 104 
Court Art, 156, 161 
Covenant of Peace, 3x0 
Cox, Sir Percy, 290 
Crabites, Judge Pierre, quoted, 126, 

127, 349 
Crete, 104 

Crusades, The, 154, 204 ff., 253 
Ctesiphon, 79 
Cyprus, 83, 104, 2x2, 2x8 
Cyrenaica, 93 

d y Albuquerque, Admiral, 255 

Damascening, 158 

Damascus, 10, 73, 88, 91, 156 

Damietta, 2x4 

Dam of Mar'ib, 19, 66 

Dante, 180 

Dastagird, 70 

Date Culture, 44 

Day of the Camel, 86 

Dead Sea, 298 

Decapolis, 143 

da Gama, Vasco, 179, 224, 254 

de Santillana, D, quoted, 262, 348 

Deuteronomy, quoted, 49 

de Vaux, Baron Carra, quoted, 173, 

176, 182, 348 
Dhufar, 244 
Dibai, 234 
Dinar, 95 
Divorce, Moslem, 126 ff., 132 ff. 

Dome of the Rock, 146, 153, 3x3 

Dowry, The, 128 

Dravidians, 339 

Dutch Pioneering, 274 ff. 


Abbasid, see Abbaaids 
Aghlabid, 103, 199 
Fatimid, see Caliphs of Cairo 
Mamlukes, 153, 2x4, 219 
Umaiyyad, Spain, 103, 135 
Umaiyyad, Syria, see Umaiyyads 

Earthenware, 160 

East India Company, 256 ff. 

East Indies, 92 

Edessa, 208 

Edom, 24, 306 

Edward, Prince Crusader, 217 

Egypt: 92, 120, 196, 199, 252, 258, 

330; Arab Conquest of, 81 ff., 

Egyptian Invasions of Arabia, 14, 


Enamelling on glass, 158 
Euclid, 175 
Eunuchs, 134 
Europeanization, 327 
Exorcism Cult, 6 

Faisal, The Amir (King), 283, 284, 

291, 292, 297 
Fakirs, 54 
False Prophets, 68 
Farmer, Dr, H. G., quoted, 165, 


Fast of Ramadhan, 6x 
Fatima, 54 

Fatimids, 183, 199 ff., 208 ff., 228 
Federation, Arab Political, 322 
Federation of Jewish Labour, 309 
Ferenghi, 209 
Fez, 152 

Field, Henry, 342, 348 
Fine Arts, 142 



France: Arab Invasion of, 100 ff. 

Arab Interests, 260, 278 

Mandate (Syria), 285, 287, 

289 ff. 

Frankincense, 8, 244 ff. 
Franks, 209 

Frederick II of Sicily, 214 
French Pioneering, 257 
Fustat, 82, 143, 201 

Galen, 172, 173, *75 

Garonne, loz 

Gaul, see France 

Gaza, 74, **5 * 

Genoese, 253 

Geography, 178 

Georgia, 203 

Germany, 260, 261, 278 ff. 

Gharraf, 270 

Ghassan, 20 ff. 

Gibb, Prof. H. A. R., quoted, 26$, 


Gibbon, quoted, 86, 348 
Gibraltar, 99 

Giraldo Tower, Seville, 156 
Gladstone, 260 
Glass Ware, 159 
Gooch, Dr. G. P., 281, 348 
Granada, 155 
Grand Mufti, 307 
Greeks, see Byzantines, 10, 15, 24, 

169 ff. 

Greek Sciences, The, 168 ff. 
Gudea, 15 

Guilds, Craftsmen's, 162 
Guillaume, Alfred, quoted, 186-191, 



Hadhramaut, 9, 13 

Hadrian, Emperor, 24 

Hagar, 29 

Haifa, 298 

Hajjaj ibn Yusuf, 91, 123 

Hakim, Caliph, 202, 206 

Hamad an, 80 

Hamitic Race, 337 ff, 

Han aft School, 123, 134, 230 ff, 

Hanbali School, 123, 230 ff. 

Hanifs, 30 

Harem System, 134, 155 

Hasrusi Tongue, 343 

Harun al Rashid, 125, x6x, 205 

Hasa, 235, 259 

Hassan, The Martyr, 88 

Hebrew, 23, 311 ff. 

Heliopolis, 81 

Hell, 39 

Hellenism in pre-Islamic Arabia, 

84 ff. 

Heraclius, Emperor, 76 

Heraldry, 159 ff. 

Herzl, Dr., 278 

Hijaz, 240, 275 

Hijra, 43 

Himparites, 18, 342 ff. 

Hira, 20 ff., 71, 171 

Hittites, 338 

Hogarth, Dr. D. G., quoted* 81, 221, 

256, 348 

Holy Cities, 227, 280, 291 
Holy War, 280 

Hope Simpson, Sir John, 303, 3x5 
Hormuz, 255 
Horse Raising, 247 
House of Wisdom, 175 
Hubal, 30 
Huber, 332 
Hulagu, 2x6 

Hunain ibn Ishaq, 173, 175, 182 
Husain the Martyr, 88 ff. 
Husain, Sharif, see Sharif Husain 
Hyksos, 66 

Ibadhism, 229 

Ibn Abdul Wahhab, 236 

Ibn al Arabi, 189 

Ibn Batuta, 179, 242 

Ibn Gabirol, see Avicebron 

Ibn Jama'ah, 262 



Ibn Jubair, 207 

Ibn Majid, 179 

Ibn Musarra, 189 

Ibn Rashid, 235 ff. 

Ibn Rushd, see Averroes 

Ibn Sa'ud, 226, 235 ff,, 238 ff., 250, 

259, 291 ff. 

Ibn Sina, see Avicenna 
Ibn Tulun, 199 
Ice Age, 340 
Iconoclasm, 51, 142 
Idrisi, 179 
Ifrikiya, 93 
Ikh<wan f 239 
Imams, Shi' a, 90 ff. 
Immigration, see Palestine 
India, 92, 258, 259, 275, 279 ff. 
Indian Army, 280, 285 
Industrialization, 326 
Infanticide, 55 
Inscriptions, Ancient Southern, 10, 

12 ff., 343 

Arab: Conquest of, 78 ff., 196 
Government, 323 

British Conquest, 289 

Insurrection, 289 

Mandate, 290 

Minorities, 324, 325 

Turkish Administration! 266 ff., 


Ishaq ibn Hunain, 173 

Cardinal Tenets, 35, 60 

and Christianity, 35, 58 ff., 204 
ff-i 330 

Definition, 34 

Form of Worship, 61 ff. 

Spread of, 92 
Ismali Sect, 234 
Ispahan, 80 
Italy, 162, 279, 287 

Jabal Tariq (Gibraltar), 99 
Jaffa Riots, 315 

Jahiliya, 24 

Janaba, 234 

Japan, 246 

Japheth, 337 

Jauhar the Sicilian, 201 

Java, 92, 245 

Jerusalem, 37, 74, 7*> 87, i43 *53 

211 ff. 

Jesus, Qur'anic Teachings, 35, 58 ff. 
Jewish Nationalism, 278, 333 
Jews, see Palestine 

Arabia penetrated early, 18, 34 ff. 

Arabian Persecution, 49 

Contemporary Persecution, 295, 

305, 317 

North African Medieval, 94 

Origin, 337 

Spanish Persecution, 96 ff. 

Under Roman Law, 97 
Jihad, 280 
Jinn, 39, 60, 243 
John VIII, Pope, 105 
John X, Pope, 105 
Jokhtan, 337 
Josephus, 13 
Judaea, 74 

Judaism, pre-Islamic in Arabia, 18 
Judge, see Qadhis 
Jundeshapur, 171, 173-175 


Ka'ba, 31, 227 

Kahina, 95 

Kamal al Din, 185 

Keith, Sir Arthur, 339 ff., 349 

Khadija, 31 

Khalid ibn al Walid, 50, 68, 73 ff, 

Khalifa or Caliph, definition, 67 

Khawarij, 87, 230 

Khorasan, 90 ff., 172 

Khuzistan, 80 

Kilboga, 216 

King's Council Spain, 97 

Kitchener, 280 ff. 



Kramers, J. H., quoted, 178, 180, 


Krogman, W. M., 339 ff., 349 
Kufa, 79, 87-88, 123, 143 
Kurds, 263 
Kuwait, 234, 259, 261 

Labour Party, Palestine, 309 

Lagash, 15, 270 

Lahej, 234 

Lakhmids, 21 

Latin Kingdom, The, 209 ff. 

Latin Race, The, 338 

Law, Administration, Medieval, 
121 ff. 

Law: of Contract^ 122; of Divorce, 
126 ff., of Evidence, 121, 122; 
Holy, ii 6 ff., 229 ff., 263 ; Mer- 
cantile, 122; Turkish, 266 ff., 

Lawrence, T. E., 222, 223, 284, 285, 

League of Nations, 288, 290 ff., 314 

Lebanon, 278 

Legitimism, 228 

Lenin, 139 

Leo III, 101 

Levi, Dr. Reuben, quoted, 39, 40, 
130 ff., 232, 347 

Liberalism, 276 

Liddell Hart, Capt. B. H., 284, 285 

Lihyani, 22 

Lisbon, 210 

Longrigg, Stephen, 348 

Lorimer, Mrs. D. L. R., VI 

Luristan, 157-158 

Lustre Ware, 160 

Lycian Coast, Battle, 8$ 

Lynch, 259 


Machicolation, 154 
MacMahon, Sir Henry, 283 
Mada'in, 79 

Madagascar, 246 

Madarsas, 152 

Madhifs, 154 

Magan, Land of, 15 

Maghrib, 94 ff., 102, 197 

Mahdi, The, 90, 200 

Mahmood Zada, 61 ff. 

Mahmud of Ghazna, 92 

Mahra, 243, 343 

Malacca, 245 

Maliki School, 123, 231 ff. 

Malta, 104 

Mamlukes, The, 153, 214 ff., 219 

Ma'mun, Caliph, 170, 174, 181, 186 

Manahil, 234 


Iraq, 290 

Palestine, 289, 311 

Syria, 289 ff. 

System Defined, 289, 323 
Mansur, Caliph, 170 
Maqrizi, 201 ff. 
Marakkesh, 152 
Margoliouth, Prof. D. S., quoted, 23, 

37, 347 

Mar'ib (Mariaba), 10, 19, 66 

Marriage Law and Procedure, 
126 ff 

Martel, Charles, 101 

Mary the Copt, 54 

Massacres: Arab, 265, 308; Turk- 
ish, 265, 308 

Mas'udi, 179 

Meakin, Budget, 347 

Mecca, 29, 224 

Medical Science, 171, 182 ff. 

Medina, 43, 74, 226 

Mediterranean: Islands, 104; Race, 
333 ; Sea Command, 96, 207 

Mesopotamia, 78 ; see Iraq 

Mesopotamian Exped. Force, 285, 

Metal work, 158 

Meyerhof, Dr. Max, qu oted> 185, 348 

Midhat Pasha, 268 

Mihrabs, 144 

Milton, quoted, 170 



Minaeans, 13, 343 

Minarets, 14.3 ff., 148 ff. 

Minor Arts, 151, 156 ff., 252 ff. 

Minorities, 264 ff., 324 ff. 

Mi2rachi Party, 310 

Moab, 306 

Mocha, 243 

Modernism, 327 ff. 

Mongol Invasion, 155, 215 ff., 253 

Mongoloid Race, 92, 339 

Monophysites, 171 

Monotheism, 35 

Montagu, Edwin, 30$ 

Moors, 103, 106, 137 

Moriscos, 106 

Morley, John, 308 

Morocco, see Maghrib 

Morris Dancers, 166 

Moslem Flight, Abyssinia, 40 

Moslem Supreme Council, 307 

Mosque Features, 144 ff. 

Mosque: of AH, Najaf, 90; Great 
of Damascus, 144, 146; Hu- 
sain Kerbela, 90; Omar, see 
Dome of the Rock; School, 152; 
Tomb, 152; Uqba, Quairawan, 

Mosul Minor Arts, 158 

Mu'awiya, Governor (Caliph), 83, 
85 ff. 

Muhammad, see Prophet 

Muhammad Ali (author), quoted) 
46, 47, 49, 347 

Muhammad Ali, Governor, 237 ff. 

Muhammadanism, 34; see Islam 

Muharram, 90 

Mu'izz, Caliph, 201 ff. 

Musa ibn Nusair, 98 ff. 

Musailima, 69 

Muscat^ 234, 255, 279 

Museum, Isabella Stewart Gardner, 

Music, 162 ff. 

Musical Instruments, 164; Litera- 
ture, 167 ff. 

Musta'sim, Caliph, 216 

Muta, Battle, 51 

Muta, Marriage, 131 
Mutawakkil, Caliph, 175 
Mu'tazilite, 186, 188 
Myrrh, 244 
Mysticism, 165, 189 ff. 


Nabataeans, 12 

Nafisat al Urn, 135 

Nakhla Raid, 45 

Napoleon, 235, 278 

Nar bonne, zoo, 102 

Nasir al Din, 173 

Nasrani, 119 

National Home, Jewish, 285, 295 

Nationalism, 254, 262, 264 ff., 271, 

281, 294 ff., 308, 315, 324 
Nearchus, 15 
Negus, Mission to, 50 
Nejd, 259 

Nestorian Church, 171, 2x6 
New Empire, The, 213 
New Learning (Arab Period), 

172 ff. 

Nicholson, Prof. R. A., 165, 348 
Nihavand, 80 
Noah, 337 
Normans, 105 
Nubia, 13 
Numerals, 176 
Nur al Din, 211 

Observatory, Baghdad, 181 

Oil, 298, 326 ff. 

O'Leary, Dr. De Lacy, quoted, 10, 

26, 347 

Government, 227, 235 

Invades Persia, 80 

Invaded by Persia, 20 
Omar, Caliph, see Caliph Omar 
Omar II, Caliph, 78, 119 
Omar Khayyam, 173, 176 
Ophir, 244 



Optics, 183 fL 

Osman, Sultan, 218 

Othman, Caliph) see Caliph Othman 

Ottomans, see Turks 

Oxus, 92 

Pagan Cults, 6 
Palermo, 104 

Palestine: 196, 275, 286 ff., 293 fL, 

Administration, 335 

Agriculture, 301 

Arab Conquest, 196 

British Conquest, 289 

Casualties, War, 289 

Census Figures, 300, 304 

Commerce, 302 

Immigration, Jewish, 297, 300 ff.> 

305, 315 

Industrialization, 298 

Land Purchase, Jewish, 3x5 

Mandate, 294 

National Arab Strike, 3x5 

Political Parties, 306-11 

Population, 294, 302 

Prosperity, 316 

Riots, 312 fL, 3x5, 316 

Size, 294 

Social Classes, 302 
Pallentaria, 104 
Palmer, Professor, 332 
Palmyra, xo, 12, 21 
Paradise, 38, 180 
Parliamentary Government, 264, 

321, 325 

Passion Play, 90 
Peace Conference, 296, 297 
Pearl Fisheries, 242 fL 
People of the Book, 119 
Persepolis, 142 
Persia : 

Arab Conquest of, 78 fL, 196 

Arts, 1 60 fL, 252 

Ascendancy in Caliphate, 125, 237 

Greek Wars, 69 ff. 

Invasion of Arabia, 19, 20 

and Islam, 80 

Persian Gulf, 15 ff., 255 ff., 297 
Persians, 69 ff., X20, 155, 156 
Petra, xo 

Philby, H. St. J. B., 283 
Philosophy, 171, 186 ff., 253 
Phoenicians, 95 
Pickthall, Marmaduke, quoted, 114, 


Pilgrim of Bordeaux, 312 
Pilgrim Railway, 222, 260 
Pilgrimage, Mecca and Medina, 

30 ff., 52 ff., 146, 242 
Pilgrimage of ShVs, 90 
Plato, 175 
Plotinus, 187 
Pluvial Period, 340 
Poitiers, Battle, xox 
Popes and Saracens, 105, 183; see 


Population Pressure, Arabia, 66 
Portugal, 2i x, 255 ff. 
Potash, 298 
Pottery, 159 ff. 
Prayer, Moslem, 60 ff. 
Prefect of Kufa, 123 
Prison Administration, 220 
Prophet, The: 

Birth, 27 

Boyhood, 30 

Character, 32, 53 

Domestic Life, 31, 53 ff. 

Flight to Yathrib, 42 

Humanity, 27 

Investment of Mecca, 51 

and Jews, 49 

and Slavery, 56, 135, 250 

Summons to Foreign Rulers, 50 

Syrian Expedition, 52 

Teachings, 35, 55 

Visions and Revelations, 33, 57 

Visit to Heavens, 37 
Psychology, Tribal, 112, 271 
Ptolemies, 16 
Ptolemy, 175 
Ptolemy Sutcr, 178 



Pulpits, 145 
Punt, Land of, 14 
Purffatorio, 180 
Puritanism, 55, 14*, *4 

167, 229, 236 ff. 
Pythagorean Scale, 163 

Q ad his, i2i 
Qadisiya, 79 
Qahira, see Cairo 
Qahtan, 337, 341 
Qairawan, 95, 102 
Qara Mountains, 19, 340 
Qasbah of Rabat, 156 
Qatabanis, 13 
Qatada, 228 
Qatar, 234, 259 
Quraish, 29 

Qur'an, 58-62; and Christianity, 
58 ff.; and Old Testament, 59 
Oust a ibn Luqa, 173 

Rabat, 156 

Racial Origins, 337 ff. 

Rahmanism, 25 

Railways, 257, 259 ff. 

Ramadhan, 61 

Rayy, 159 

Reforms, Turkish, 254, 268 

Religion and Modernism, 328 ff. 

Religious Cults, p re-Islam, 6 ff., zo 

Renaissance, 107, 254 

Restrictive Ordinances, 77, 119 

Revisionist Party, 309 

Revolt, The Arab, 284, 285, 289 

Rhazes, 182, 184, 190 

Rhodes, Island of, 104 

Rhone, 102 

Richard Cceur de Lion, 212 ff. 

Richmond, T. B., quoted, 150, 153, 

201, 202, 211 ff., 314, 348 

Riyadh, 239 

Robertus Augustus, 191 

Roderick, 98 

Roman Invasion of: Arabia, 316 ff.; 

No. Africa, 94 
Roman Law, 97 
Rome, 105 

Rothschild, Lord, 286 
Rub'al Khali, 10, 332 
Rum, 203 
Russia, 261 
Rustera, 79 
Rutenberg Concession, 298 

Sa'ar, 234 

Sab a, 10, 13 

Sabaeans, 12, 13, 343 

Sacred Pavement, 312 

Sa'id ibn Husain, 200 

Saladin, 154, 211 ff. 

Salado, 99 

Samaria, 74 

Samarkand, 92, 137 

Samarra, 137, 175 

Samh, 100 

Sana, 10 

Sanctuary Usage, 331 

Saracenic Architecture, see Archi- 

Saracenic Expansion, see Arab Con- 

Saracens, 107 

Sardinia, 104 

Sargent's El Jaleo, 165 

Sassanians, 143, 155 

Sa'udi Arabia, 161, 231, 234, 236 ff., 
259, 291 

Schools of Translation, 171, 174 ff., 
188, 191 

Sciences, The, 182 ff., 252 

Sea Crusades, 213 ff. 

Sea Power, 83 ff., 96, 104, 207 

Sectarianism, 229 ff. 

Security, Armed, 326 

Seetzen, 332 

Seistan, 91 



Seleucia, 79, 82 

Selim the Grim, 219, 229 

Seljuqs, 203 ff. 

Semitism, 22, 337 

Sennacherib, 14 

Seventies, 234 

Seville, 100, 156, 166, 191 

Shafi'i School, 123, 231 ff. 

Shahari Tongue, 343 

Shamanism, 216 

Shams, Goddess, 12 

Shari'a, see Law, Holy 

Sharif, Grand, see Sharif Husain 

Sharif Husain, 235, 240, 281 ff., 

291, 296 

Sharif ate of Mecca, 235 
Shark Fisheries, 244 
Sheba, Queen of, 13 
Shem, 337 
Shi' a Caliphate of Egypt, see 

Shi'ism, 80, 90 ff., 121, 227, 229 ff., 

Ships and Shipping, 83 ff., 244 ff., 

257 . 

Sicily, 103, 105, 162 
Siffin, 86 
Silk, 161 
Sinai, 14 
Sind, 92, 246 

Sindbad the Sailor, 235, 246 
Skyscrapers, 246 

Slavery, 57, 98, 135 ff., 139* ^48 ff. 
Slavonic Peoples, 137 
Small Pox, 182 
Smyrna, 218 
Solomon's Temple, 312 

Jewish Persecution, 96 ff. 

Moslem Civilization, 172, 183, 

Saracenic Conquest, 98 ff., 196 ff. 
Spices, 8, 243 

St. John Baptist Church (Gt 
Mosque, Damascus), 144, 146 
St. Louis's Crusade, 215 fL 
St. Paul's, Rome, 215 ff. 

St. Peter's, Rome, 215 
St. Thomas Aquinas, 189 ff. 
Strabo, 17 
Sudan, 92 
Suez Canal, 258 
Sukaina, 135 

Sultans of Constantinople, see Con- 

Sum-ma of Aquinas, 190 
Sunnism, 121, 123, 229 ff. 
Surgery, 183 
Susa, 142 

Sykes-Picot Agreement, 286 
Syllaeus, 17 
Syria : 

Arab Conquest, 73 ff. 

British Conquest, 288 

Caliphate, 87 ff. 

French Invasion, 278, 289 

French Mandate, 289 ff. 

Mongol Invasion, 215 ff. 

Turkish Invasion, 275 ff. 

See also Crusades, 204 ff. 
Syriac, 22 

Taif, 41 

Tairaa, 10 

Taj Mahal, 156 

Talio, 116 

Tamerlane, 2x8 

Tangier, 95 ff. 

Tariq, Conqueror of Spain, 99 ff. t 


Tartars, 218 
Taurus Mountains, 76 
Telegraphs, First, 257 
Temperley, Prof. H. W. V., 264, 

281, 348 
Temple of Herod, see Solomon's 


Thabit ibn Qurra, 173, 177, x$3 
Theocracy, 115 ff., 120 
Theodorus, 73 
Thrones, New Arab, 291 
Thuraiyya (Pleiades), 12 



Tin, 245 

Toledo, 99 ff., 158, 191 

Toulouse, 100 

Tours, Battle of, 101 

Toynbee, Arnold, quoted, 168, 280, 

3*5, 34 

Trade Pioneer, 257 

Building, 145, 152 

Prophet's, see Sunnism, 121 

of Rule, 262 ff. 
Translations, Schools of, 171, 174 ff., 

189, 191 

Trans-Jordan, 73, 291, 306 
Trans-Oxiana, 172 
Trench, Battle of, 48 ff. 
Trend, J. B., quoted, 191, 196, 348 
Trigonometry, 177 
Tripoli (Africa), 93, 279 
Tripoli (Syria), 211 ff., 217 
Troubadours, 166 
Tulaiha, 68 

Tunisia, 93 ff., 103, 196 ff. 
Turcomans, 13.7 
Turkestan, 172 

Buwayhid, 203 

Modern, 258, 263, 266 ft, 275 ff., 
279, 281, 325 

Ottoman, Early, 218, 229 

Seljuq, 203 ff. 
Turquoises, 14 
Tyre, 212 ff. 

Ubaidallah the Mahdi, 200 
Uhud, Battle, 47 

Umaiyyad, Dynasty, 86, 87, 91, 
93 ff., 123 ff., 143 ff., 172, 197 ff. 
Umm Salma, 135 
Unbeliever's Tax, 77 
United States, see America 
Uqba, 95 

Ussher, Bishop, 337 
Uzza, 12 

Vandals, 95 

Vasco da Gama, 179, 224, 254 

Vaulting, 150 

Veiling (Women), 132 

Venetians, 137, 218, 253 

Venice, 162 

Visigoths, Spanish, 99 ff. 


Wagwag, 246 

Wahhabism, 160, 231, 236 ff. 

Wailing Wall, 312 

War, The Great, 239, 275 ff. 

Wazir, 125 

Wedding Ceremony, 130 

Weizmann, Dr., 286, 296 

Western Christendom, 191, 192, 

253 ff. f 
Westernization of Arab countries, 

271, 321 ff. 

WHiam IV of England, 258 
Wilson, Lieut-Col. Sir Arnold, 290 
Wilson, President, 287 
Woman's Status, Arab, 126 ff., 

132 ff., 139 
Wren, Christopher, 148 

Yaqut, 179 
Yarmuk, Battle, 75 
Yathrib (Medina), 14, 24, 41 ff. 
Yemen: Ancient, 20; Medieval, 277, 
229, 234 ff.; Modern, 235, 275 
Yezdegird, Emperor, 79 ff. 
Yezid, Caliph, 88 ff. 

Zaidism, 229 
Zangi, Atabeg, 210 
Zanzibar, 92, 235 
Zem Zem, 29 
Zionism, 278, 286, 294 ff. 
Zoroastrianism, 18, 129 
Zubaida, 135