Reference > The Library > Helen Rex Keller > Reader’s Digest of Books

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
H. R. Keller.  The Reader’s Digest of Books.
Christianity and Islam; the Bible and the Koran
William Richard Wood Stephens (1839–1902)
Christianity and Islam; the Bible and the Koran. Four lectures, by Rev. W. R. W. Stephens, Prebendary of Chichester. This book presents the estimate of Mahomet’s mission and its results, which seems fair to a conservative English Churchman. It is his desire to do justice to the teachings of the Koran, and to make a full admission of the inherent defects and vices of the races over whom the influence of this code of faith and conduct has certainly been salutary, and even spiritualizing. That is, he attributes to blood the evil tendencies and characteristics too often attributed to religion. Mr. Stephens urges the view that to his followers Mahomet was a great benefactor. “He was born in a country where political organization and rational faith and pure morals were unknown. He introduced all three. By a single stroke of masterly genius he simultaneously reformed the political condition, the religious creed, and the moral practice of his countrymen. In the place of many independent tribes, he left a nation; for a superstitious belief in gods many and lords many, he established a reasonable belief in one almighty yet beneficent Being, and taught man to live under an abiding sense of this Being’s superintending care. He vigorously attacked, and modified or suppressed, many gross and revolting customs which had prevailed in Arabia down to his time. For an abandoned profligacy was substituted a regulated polygamy, and the practice of destroying female infants was effectually abolished.” In the view of this historian, Christianity and Mahometanism are the only two really catholic religions. The likeness in their origin and progress he finds remarkable. And here again he discriminates between race taints and religious consequences. He considers that the doctrines of Mahomet, though at first a gospel of deliverance to the peoples who heard them, contain matter irreconcilable with the highest civilization. Mahomet justified three errors which the progressive world has agreed to abandon;—despotism, slavery, polygamy;—and his code was one of exclusion. He condemned the unbeliever, as such, to subjugation or destruction. After the Hegira he himself abated much of his own ideal. Believing profoundly in his mission at first, he came in the end to seek his own advancement, and degraded what should have remained a great religious movement. As both Goethe and Emerson have perceived, so this later biographer sees, that “what in Mahomet’s character is earthly, increases and develops itself; the divine retires and is obscured: his doctrine becomes a means rather than an end.” The book is valuable for its fairness of mind, though its statement of the position of Christianity is less judicial and liberal than its estimate of Mahometanism.  1

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