Saturday, January 23, 2016

Belloc on Islam (2)

In his book The Great Heresies Hilaire Belloc explains that Islam spread because the social conditions were right.

Both in the world of Hither Asia and in the Graeco-Roman world of the Mediterranean, but especially in the latter, society had fallen, much as our society has today, into a tangle wherein the bulk of men were disappointed and angry and seeking for a solution to the whole group of social strains. There was indebtedness everywhere; the power of money and consequent usury. There was slavery everywhere. Society reposed upon it, as ours reposes upon wage slavery today. There was weariness and discontent with theological debate, which, for all its intensity, had grown out of touch with the masses. There lay upon the freemen, already tortured with debt, a heavy burden of imperial taxation; and there was the irritant of existing central government interfering with men’s lives; there was the tyranny of the lawyers and their charges.

To all this, Islam came as a vast relief and a solution of strain. The slave who admitted that Mohammed was the prophet of God and that the new teaching had, therefore, divine authority, ceased to be a slave. The slave who adopted Islam was henceforward free. The debtor who “accepted” was rid of his debts. Usury was forbidden. The small farmer was relieved not only of his debts but of his crushing taxation. Above all, justice could be had without buying it from lawyers... All this in theory. The practice was not nearly so complete. Many a convert remained a debtor, many were still slaves. But wherever Islam conquered there was a new spirit of freedom and relaxation.
It was the combination of all these things, the attractive simplicity of the doctrine, the sweeping away of clerical and imperial discipline, the huge immediate practical advantage of freedom for the slave and riddance of anxiety for the debtor, the crowning advantage of free justice under few and simple new laws easily understood— that formed the driving force behind the astonishing Mohammedan social victory. The courts were everywhere accessible to all without payment and giving verdicts which all could understand.

But there was another— and it is the most important cause. The fiscal cause: the overwhelming wealth of the early Mohammedan Caliphate. The merchant and the tiller of the land, the owner of property and the negotiator, were everywhere relieved by the Mohammedan conquest; for a mass of usury was swept away, as was an intricate system of taxation which had become clogged, ruining the taxpayer without corresponding results for the government.

The success of Mohammedanism had not been due to its offering something more satisfactory in the way of philosophy and morals, but, as I have said, to the opportunity it afforded of freedom to the slave and debtor, and an extreme simplicity which pleased the unintelligent masses.

Many Christians in America are scared of a take over by Islam. They assume that it will succeed by force. What they do not understand, is that if society continues in its current direction, Islam might be welcomed by people who have forgotten Christianity. Many of the conditions that Belloc described, already exist in the Western world.
  • Justice is very expensive and only available to the wealthy.
  • Many people are in bondage to debt.
  • The precariat are slaves to zero-hour uncertain contracts.
  • Taxation is excessive for everyone.
  • Theological arguments seem distracting and pointless.
  • Many Christians in America are more committed to military force and the right to bear arms than to the the incarnation and the Trinity.
The gospel has been ineffective against these things. Unless there is serious change, Islam might be welcomed in America, as it was in its early days in the Middle East.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I was living in the West Bank when Hamas won the 2006 elections, which were monitored by Western observers and which were by all accounts orderly and clean. Christians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem voted in droves for Hamas because of its poverty-relief programs and its reputation for being much more honest than the secular Fatah party.