Skip to comments.A Confederate Soldier in Egypt (Long Read)
Posted on 04/08/2004 10:42:12 AM PDT by ijcr
Michael Butzgy writes
"WILLIAM LORING is today known but by a scant few, yet in 1886, ten thousand people attended his burial in Florida.
He was an attorney and a member of Florida's first state legislature. He helped open the West for millions of settlers. He was the youngest colonel in the history of the U.S. Army. He commanded the Departments of Oregon, the Rio Grande, and New Mexico."
His Confederate assignments included: brigadier general, CSA (May 20, 186 1); commanding Army of the Northwest July 20-August 3, 1861 and October 1861February 9, 1862); commanding brigade, Army of the Northwest (August 3-October 1861); major general, CSA (February 17, 1862); commanding Department of Southwestern Virginia (May 8-October 16, 1862); commanding division, 2nd Military District, Department of Mississippi and East Louisiana (ca. January-April 1863); commanding division, Department of Mississippi and East Louisiana (April-May 16, 1863); commanding division, Department of the West (May 16-July 1863); commanding division, Department of Mississippi and East Louisiana July 1863-January 28, 1864); commanding division, Department of Alabama, Mississippi and East Louisiana January 28-May 4, 1864); commanding division, Polk's (Army of Mississippi)-Stewart's Corps, Army of Tennessee (May 4-June 14, June 14-July 28, 1864, September 1864-ca. March 1865, and April 9-26, 1865); and temporarily commanding the corps Uune 14, 1864).
He visited four continents, and was a respected authority on Egypt. Upon his return, he wrote this book.
http://home.earthlink.net/~atomic_rom/soldier/contents.htm titled "A Confederate Soldier in Egypt."
CHAPTER XI. MAHOMET AND HIS RELIGION.
The great Mahometan mosque at CairoThe nature of the religionCommon origin of the Jews and ArabsConditions under which the religion was foundedMahomet and his careerEvils and sensuality of the systemObligations of the Prophet to Jewish and Christian teachingsPresent status of MahometanismThe relations of Turkey to the future of IslamIts decadence and speedy downfall.
ONE of the most interesting places in Cairo is the Mosque Gama-el-Azur. Founded in A.D. 975, it is the greatest university for instruction in pure Arabic and education in the Mahometan faith that exists in the Moslem world. Without architectural beauty, it covers a vast extent of ground, and is situated in the centre of the city. The structure is supported by innumerable columns, and here, seated cross-legged on mats, as many as 12,000 students may be seen in the grand hall engaged in their studies.
They come from Europe, Asia, and Africa, representing divers colors and nationalities. Nowhere can one study at a single glance more of those races of the human family, which are not often met with unless the voyager penetrates far into the deserts of Africa or the steppes of Asia. It is here that the undefiled truths of the Koran in its original language are taught. The focus of fanaticism, votaries are sent from this seat of Islam to fire the heart of the believer, and upon their zeal and learning the hopes of Mahometanism are based for the future.
To my Arab adjutant-general, Lutfy Bey, an educated hadji (one who had been to Mecca), and who was on my staff for many years, a good man and faithful follower of the Prophet, I am indebted for much information about this university and the belief taught there, that would have been difficult to obtain otherwise.
Students first learn pure Arabic and then memorize the entire Koran, which is done while swinging to and fro and singing it in chorus. By a series of lectures the ulemas instruct the pupils in the doctrine of the unity of God. They believe that there are twelve attributes of God and the Prophet.
They also religiously believe (and this troubles them often very seriously in life) in the existence of angels and of good and evil genii, the evil genii being devils, whose chief is Iblis ; in the immortality of the soul ; the general resurrection and judgment ; in future rewards and punishments ; in paradise and hell ; in the balance in which good and evil works shall be weighed, and the bridge (El Sirat) which extends over the midst of the dark regions, finer than a hair and sharper than the edge of a sword, and over which all must pass and from which the wicked shall fall.
Instruction in these doctrines is followed by the study of the two branches of the Lawone religious, the recognition of the unity of God and of Mahomet as his Prophet, and the other secularcivil and criminal law, either expressly written in the Koran or tradition (Hatith) deducible from the sacred book. In other words, the study of the Law is the scientific interpretation of the Koran (Tufsir), and to attain a proper knowledge there are learned disquisitions, opinions, and decisions of their celebrated saints and jurists, which are thoroughly studied and committed to memory.
It will be seen that their religion, which is their faith and practice, is a hard, unbending study. Making the law, which governs them in all time and in every affair of life, unchanging, it cannot but conflict with the progress of the present age ; and, tested as it is now by civilization, it is reeling with the shock, and must at an early day succumb.
The Koran and its traditions constitute the dry sediment of antique lore. Believers learn the Koran by heart, and accept it and the traditions of the Mahometan writers with implicit faith, with no questions, no criticism.
I know many sheiks of ability and learning who are opposed to the study of astronomy because the moderns insist upon the world being round. This is only mentioned as one of the thousand instances of their bigotry and opposition to enlightenment.
In his extensive travels the Prophet observed a universal neglect of all religions ; and becoming interested from conversations with intelligent Jews and Christians in the contents of the Bible, though unlettered, he was enabled through his wonderful memory to retain the most important facts of the history given him.
There are many considerations aside from biblical authority which go to show that the Arabs were originally of common origin with the Jews. Job lived in Arabia, being Semitic, and in close proximity to Palestine. The Arabs were no doubt mixed with the Jews, who planted extensive colonies in Arabia after the fall of Jerusalem and on their return from captivity. Some provinces were wholly inhabited by them, and among the Arabs to-day the physiognomy is of a marked Jewish type, while the language is very similar.
Spreading an idea of the one God which they brought with them, the expatriated Jews in their turn, wherever they lived, adopted largely the customs and habits and to some extent the religion of those among whom they had cast their fortunes. There were also many tribes in Arabia who called themselves Christians, but their faith was really a gross idolatry.
The Jew and the Christian worshipped in the same place with the Pagan. More especially was the Caaba equally sacred to them as to the idolaters, and they alike worshipped the personifications of the attributes of God. The whole people were abandoned to degraded superstitions, and so sunk in idolatry that they had long forgotten the true God and devoted themselves to an earthly object which pleased their fancy.
The Jewish and Christian people, as well as the Arabs proper, occupied the country in separate tribes, without any regular government to bind them, very much like the Bedouin or Abyssinian of to-day ; and like them they had their blood feuds which kept them in constant war. They cared little for their female children, and often destroyed them. So utterly debased were they that they were known to offer human sacrifices !
What added to their untold misery was an improvident idleness, which often entailed upon them countless evils, and afflicted great portions of their country with terrible suffering. This was the condition of the people of Arabia in the seventh century, when Mahomet like a bright meteor appeared upon the scene. Captivated by the interesting history of Moses, the great lawgiver and expounder of the patriarchal religion, his mind became impressed with its truth.
What deeply affected him and contributed to form his belief was the fact that the people of Arabia in many particulars bore a striking resemblance to the early Jews just emerging from the house of bondage. They too had departed from the true God and worshipped after the fashion of the ancient Egyptian.
To understand the followers of Islam and the religion which they profess, it is necessary to get some idea of the character of the man whose teachings they obey, and of the singular methods by which he has swayed the minds of so many people for so many centuries. It is also important to know the conditions of the age in which he lived.
It is only in this enlightened day that the world is willing to receive a candid statement of the character of Mahomet and his mission, the motives which governed him, and the influences which have chained so many millions of human beings to his despotic law. For over 1200 years the sons of the Prophet have held undisputed sway over vast portions of Asia and Africa.
They forced back upon Europe countless thousands of Crusaders, and not only raised the crescent over the holy places of the East, but blotted out the remnant of the might Greek empire, and compelled the fairest portions of Spain to submit to the rule of the scimitar.
At a still more recent date, in the last and expiring outburst of fanaticism, Europe heard the war-cry of the Mahometan invader.
Mahomet, an ignorant camel-driver, was an enthusiast of wonderful intellectual power. Living a life of the simplest habits and tastes, and travelling over vast distances, his acute observations enabled him to store up a great amount of knowledge. It was only after he was forty years of age that he became a reformer. Coming from a family which claimed descent from Ishmael, he never made any pretension to it. His family for many centuries held the priesthood of the famous temple of the Caaba at Mecca.
This holy fane contains the traditional black stone which came from heaven, or, as some say, from Adam's Paradise. The pilgrims who go there fully believe that it was blackened by the kisses of Adam mourning the loss of Eve, who afterward joined him at Mecca. It is not only now but in all time that this temple has attracted pilgrims from all parts of Asia and Africa.
Somewhere between the fourth and fifth centuries the family of the Prophet united both temporal and spiritual power, and it was in this way that he became related by blood with the most famous people of Arabia. It is not an unusual thing to trace back this blood relationship for generations, for in the East it has always been the custom to carefully preserve traditions of genealogy. There are many to-day there who claim descent from the Prophet, and as such are entitled to wear the green turban.
Numbers, from the lowest fellah to the highest prince, are alike considered to possess this title of distinction. All who go to Egypt visit the house in old Cairo where there is a family now living claiming descent from the Prophet, and whose ancestors are represented as having occupied it for eight hundred years.
Mahomet's powerful intellect deeply imbued with religious feeling was appalled by the universal superstition and idolatry around him. Professing to believe himself inspired, and that the time had come to reform the world, he boldly declared, like Moses, his faith in a personal God and the unity of God, the same that Abraham had worshipped.
That which powerfully operated upon his mind to make this strong declaration was that people among whom the Patriarchs worshipped strikingly resembled his people, in the worship of the personifications of Deity. Moses, who was the first to declare the personality of God both of heaven and earth, proclaimed at the same time that he was the God of their fathers.
Mahomet, to make his mission broader in its scope, went a step farther than Moses, and declared that Allah is the God of the universe, of all that is in heaven and earth, reigning over the whole human family. He had seen the effect in the religion of the Saviour, for Christ loved all humanity ; but wishing to preserve the similarity between Arab and Hebrew traditions, he declared that his mission was to bring back the primitive religion of the Patriarchs.
There are reasons for not thinking, with many able writers, that his entire scheme was simply the accident of common origin and circumstances which caused the resemblance of the Mosaic religion with that of the later Prophet.
There can be no doubt that he found inspiration in direct knowledge of the writings of Moses, which were learned of Jew and Christian, and which Mahomet had studied until he was forty years of age. He knew the numerous traditional truths intimately connected with the superstitious beliefs of the Arabs, and there is abundant evidence in the Koran that his subtle mind utilized these in forming and spreading his religion.
Living among a people accustomed to despotic rule, he could not conceive of any other system, either in religion or government.
Starting as a reformer, to meet with success he must speak as one with authority ; his theory must have the force of command ; and above all, to inspire confidence it was necessary to believe in himself. A delicate man, but possessing immense nervous energy, he enthusiastically entered in his first essay, upon what he thought his mission, and gave his whole mind and time to the work, with full confidence that he was the chosen of God.
He clothed the sublime doctrine of the Unity of God with such beauty, out of the imagery of his heated imagination, that it enthralled the minds of the ignorant and superstitious. His followers believed him inspired, and soon all were enchained by his dogmas, and only too willing to bow to their divine authority. In the statement, There is only one God, Mahomet is his prophet, there was no persuasion ; it was a command : Believe in what I say ; receive it without question, without argument ; otherwise you must resist the truth with force.
Starting with the idea that he was, like Moses, in direct communication with God, there could be no alternative to perfect submission to his law. He made no effort by miracles at this time to impress the popular mind. He was particular in proclaiming, I am not sent to work miracles, but to bring you to the revelations of God.
He claimed, however, that his whole doctrine was a standing miracle, and did not require special miracles to sustain it. His life and claims were contradictory, according to Western ideas, and faith in his sacred inspiration is silenced.
For, with all his austerity and ascetic life, he was steeped in sensuality. These were the indulgences that suited the Eastern man, and in adapting his religion to such inclinations his example has inflicted terrible wrong upon his followers.
It is one of those seeds in Mahometanism which is causing its decay and ultimate destruction. It is well to remark here that Mahomet, notwithstanding his low estimate of women, distinctly says, Whoso worketh righteousness, whether they be male or female, and is a true believer, we will raise them to a happy life, and reward according to merit and actions.
While he had illustrious examples for all he did, and only followed the customs and habits of those around him, as a great reformer it was to have been expected that he would cut himself loose from the sordid instincts of humanity.
If in the grand idea of a universal religion which professed an Allah for the whole human race, he had really possessed a prescient mind, while subjecting the Oriental, he would have made it acceptable to the cultivated, refined, and moral intellects of other peoples.
Unfortunately for its success, while crushing out the most debased polytheism and introducing many reforms, he indelibly stained his great work, in the minds of intelligent and moral men in all times.
Assuming the mantle of a great reformer, he grovelled in the frailties of the ignorant masses instead of teaching a higher morality. For present success he was content to narrow his mission to the control of the Semitic mind by gratifying the senses.
In Mahomet's evident desire of winning proselytes through the senses, his pretension to sanctity is swept away, lowering him as it does to the level of common humanity, whose conscience was satisfied with the peculiar ideas of right and wrong that base superstitions had for so many centuries deeply instilled into the Eastern mind.
So far from being entirely ignorant of the pure religion of the Saviour of men, there are evidences in the Koran to show that he was intimately acquainted with its highest morality.
But, illiterate himself, he could not fathom from study the depths of its pure philosophy. It has only been in these latter days that we have seen the effect of Christianity upon the mind of Islam in some of its beautiful lessons, which their writers have assumed to be an outspring of their religion.
While Mahomet learned much of doctrine, his memory was at fault, and led him into many errors touching history, sacred and profane. In telling the story of our Saviour, he makes Mary, whom he styles the sister of Aaron and the daughter of Amroû, the mother of the Son of man. He styled the Saviour the Word of God. He says in the Koran, O Mary, verily God sends thee good tidings, that thou shalt bear the Word, and declares him to be the Messiah, who performed miracles greater than he could, though in most respects he abrogated his authority.
Modern investigators are satisfied that he only repeated what he had heard from Jews and Christians, and through misconception ignorantly wrote the many palpable errors found in the Koran.
They have thought that he professed to be the principal mediator between God and man, and his followers believed he performed miracles, but he emphatically disclaimed both. Notwithstanding that Islam is a ceremonial law, Mahomet never concealed his uncompromising opposition to a Saviour or intermediary between man and his Creator.
This was his reason for not establishing a regular hierarchy with a numerous priesthood to explain his religion, instead of which he declares explicitly that the head of every family shall be his own priest.
No earthly power to decide questions, no other book than the Koranthat is the law in or out of the mosque. It has been said that Mahomet did not propose to perform miracles, as it was dangerous to do so without risking his credit, but it must be understood that he did claim to be a standing miracle.
Toward the close of his embassy, when he was pursued by the vindictive fury of Jew, Christian, and Pagan, he seems to have lost confidence in himself. It then became necessary to substantiate his power by some extraordinary demonstration, and to aid the great work which seemed always in his mind, the Faithful were suddenly startled by his pretended visit to heaven, escorted by the angel Gabriel.
This is beautifully pictured in the Koran, and glows with the splendid imagery of Oriental figure, with which he was so richly gifted. These heavenly voyages captivated the popular mind, and not only established belief in his inspiration, but also that his stories had been written by the finger of God.
Great numbers at once rallied to the standard of the Prophet, and, fired by a fervid fanaticism, were only too happy to court death as holy in defence of the faith. Raising the green flag, the believers in the new religion took up the line of march on their pilgrimage to the Caaba (the temple at Mecca), in the full expectation of cementing their faith with their blood.
Setting at defiance the earlier claims of the man of peace, it was here that Mahomet, with scimitar in hand, determined to propagate his religion by force. In this pilgrimage to Mecca, Mahomet destroyed forever any confidence in his mission as a great moral reformer ; and if he had not done it before, this act has sufficed to convince the world that he had lost his own self-belief, which he had so splendidly asserted in his early career.
Thus Mahomet disrobed himself of his mantle of sincerity, and is indelibly stamped upon the page of history as an imposter. Born of the sword, this religion from that day has been continued in blood and only sustained by a most cruel despotism, founded upon the ignorance of its followers, who regard it as a solemn duty to kiss the chain that manacles them.
Opposed to enlightenment, it crushes out all independence of thought and action, existing only by trampling under the heel of fanaticism education, progress, and every liberal principle. Though it has survived for many centuries, the touch of civilization is making it crumble away like the Dead Sea apple which turns to dust in the hand.
A distinguished English writer of long residence in the East has recently given it as his opinion that Mahometanism is increasing. He insists that it would make but little difference to Mahometanism if Turkey were blotted out as a power.
There is no doubt that in a certain sense both propositions are true. The increase is in the unexplored wilds of Africa, of the Indies, and of China, where it is next to impossible for Western civilization to penetrate.
An enlightened Christian bishop, who has earnestly devoted a life to the welfare of the African savages, and is now in Abyssinia engaged in the work, said that Mahometans were inducing great numbers of the Africans to adopt that faith without any genuine knowledge of it on the part of the converts. So it is in India and China, where no man of intelligence and character ever dreams of it.
True, there are instances within my knowledge of Frenchmen and Italians, and even of Englishmen, who have pretended conversion and adopted the habits and customs of the people. In every instance the change was through interested motives, and the Englishmen quitted the fraternity as soon as their ends were gained.
Long before Turkey became powerful, Islam, which only lived by the sword, had really lost all the moral influence it ever possessed. Turkish rule was only incited by conquest and lust, and that, among those already destroyed by religious dissension and political weakness. Turkish power has blasted every country which unfortunately has fallen under its sway. It is a fetid mass, whose only principle is waste, ignorance, and superstition, and whose prosperity is only temporarily secured by what it has gathered from the ruins of others.
Never having become a people until after they had been conquered and the slaves of the Mahometan, and never having known the fervor of their early conquerors, the Turks were moved from the beginning only by the savage cry of lust and plunder ! Their religion was only a name : it had no principle.
Thus it has happened that at the first check it received from the hand of civilization, though professedly the head of Islam, it was thrown back upon itself ; an incubus upon what little of vitality is left in Islamism.
The jealousy of the great powers of Europe alone keeps Turkey in existence as a government. One more embrace of the great bear and her empire will break into fragments. An acquaintance of many years with the Turkish dominions induces me to believe that outside of the territory immediately surrounding Constantinople, the people are kept under subjection only through force. Those in the distant provinces are hereditary enemies. The Arab, looking upon the Turk as the oppressor of his race for centuries, has a cordial hatred of him.
The real cause of this hurrying of Islam to its doomit matters not where its rallying focus may becomes back at last to the religion itself, which antagonizes all knowledge and advancement. The fact is that the Prophet in forming his religion attempted to legislate for all time, making laws which suited the primitive people of Arabia, and then called his code a religion.
It never entered his mind that these laws, incapable of expansion, and suited only to meet the exigencies of an ignorant and brutal people, would have to undergo the shock of contact with a higher civilization.
To restore the patriarchal system, where law and religion were mixed, was on his mind, and it is the thread of all his discourse in his Koran. He could entertain no other notion than that it was perfect, and the idea of its ever succumbing to any other scheme was never dreamed of in his Oriental philosophy, particularly that the Christian religion would ever be elevated from the condition in which he knew it, to test his violent dogmas.
There was a brief period in which his religion stood the ordeal of advanced ideas, and then it was founded upon what was learned from the Greeks. For a moment there was a bright era in literature and the fine arts, and even then it was the narrow and crystallized study of the past.
The arts of the Mahometans were simply confined to architecture, their science to mathematics and medicine ; and their literature, soft and voluptuous, was but an outspring of their sensual religion. Condemning sculpture and painting, they replaced them by beautiful writing and tracery on stone ; nothing was lasting.
This was only a silver lining on the dark cloud of fanaticism. History graphically describes all they ever did, which was under the caliphs of Bagdad and those of Granada. Then temporary civilization was forced upon an unwilling people, in defiance of orthodox believers. It began and disappeared with the enlightened caliphs.
The only life that Islam has is sustained by British bayonets, and only where the system exists in her path to the Indies. As it is, the girdle of civilization is so encircling the cursed thing that, like the scorpion when it has no escape, it is turning upon and stinging itself to death. In the course of Providence Islamism is in its death-throes, and its end is nearer than is generally thought.
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This ole' Rebel saw this monstrosity for what it is? Why does our media and the demorats have such a hard time seeing the same?
Alot of what he said is so very true, and insightful - he couldn't imagine how their ignorance would flourish and become fanatical :
"It will be seen that their religion, which is their faith and practice, is a hard, unbending study. Making the law, which governs them in all time and in every affair of life, unchanging, it cannot but conflict with the progress of the present age ; and, tested as it is now by civilization, it is reeling with the shock, and must at an early day succumb.
"The Koran and its traditions constitute the dry sediment of antique lore. Believers learn the Koran by heart, and accept it and the traditions of the Mahometan writers with implicit faith, with no questions, no criticism.
I know many sheiks of ability and learning who are opposed to the study of astronomy because the moderns insist upon the world being round. This is only mentioned as one of the thousand instances of their bigotry and opposition to enlightenment.
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