Islamism -- By: James M. Hoppin

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 009:36 (Oct 1852)
Article: Islamism
Author: James M. Hoppin


Rev. James M. Hoppin

Seven centuries ago there existed between Christianity and Islam-Ism an antagonism of temporal power, in which perhaps the preponderance of authority, and certainly the higher tone of outer refinement and elevation, belonged to the latter cause; now, the visible opposition has nearly passed away, and the moral antagonism remains. But this, though it may be as strong as ever, presents a far more favorable position of things in a religious view; for while absolute interdiction still closes the mind of the Mohammedan, he has nevertheless the opportunity of reflection, and therefore for a long time past he has manifested evident signs of intellectual curiosity, of looks directed toward a higher civilization, and even of moral and religious antipathies being softened by closer and quicker contact with Christian faith and intelligence. There are indications, also, of Christian attention being directed toward the Moslem world. The rapidly and ruthlessly encroaching vastness of adjacent European powers, the dangerous condition of the Mohammedan empire, held together chiefly

by the pressure of outside forces, its compelled and unwilling admixture with European questions, its awkward attempts to meet the progress of the age in civil and social reform, the frequency of travel in Mohammedan lands, and the unavoidable encounter of Christian missionaries with Moslem mind, have in these latter days brought the Mohammedan prominently before us. His claims, we think, upon our religious sympathies, are great.2

In casting a glance back to the origin of Islamism, we see, in its very birth-place, the best explanation of its character and history. From the bosom of the still desert it sprung, which is the native place of religious enthusiasm, whether false or true. The Pentateuch shows very strongly the desert in it, not only in the solemn monotony of its imagery, and the profoundness of its conceptions of God, but in the intensity of its religious enthusiasm. It exhibits a faith not in essence but in feature, rather of an oriental or more strictly Arabian, than universal type; which, nourished in awe, quietude and contemplation, is usually passive, but when it acts, acts with terrible energy. More than once it has been observed that oriental religious thought nursed in the still, burning desert, and unguided by Divine inspiration, has issued forth in the most fierce and destructive fanaticism. The young camel-driver of the desert, Mohammed, of a priestly stock and claiming descent from Abraham himself, was without doubt of a highly religiously emotive, or at least imaginative temperam...

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