IN human progress unity and complexity are the two correlatives forming together the great paradox. Life is manifold, but it is also one. So it is seldom possible, and still more seldom advisable, to divide a civilization into departments and to attempt to trace their separate developments; life nowhere can be cut in two with a hatchet. And this is emphatically true of the civilization of Islam. Its intellectual unity, for good and for evil, is its outstanding quality. It may have solved the problem of faith and science, as some hold; it may have crushed all thought which is not of faith, as many others hold. However that may be, its life and thought are a unity.
So, also, with its institutions. It might be possible to trace the developments of the European states out of the dying Roman Empire, even to watch the patrimony of the Church grow and again vanish, and yet take but little if any account of the Catholic theology. It might be possible to deal adequately with the growth of that system of theology and yet never touch either the Roman or the civil law, even to leave out of our view the canon law itself. In Europe the State may rule the Church, or the Church may rule the State; or they may stand side by side in somewhat dubious amity, supposedly taking no
account each of the other. But in Muslim countries, Church and State are one indissolubly, and until the very essence of Islam passes away, that unity cannot be relaxed. The law of the land, too, is, in theory, the law of the Church. In the earlier days at least, canon and civil law were one. Thus we can never say in Islam, "he is a great lawyer; he, a great theologian; he, a great statesman." One man may be all three, almost he must be all three, if he is to be any one. The statesman may not practice theology or law, but his training, in great part, will be that of a theologian and a legist. The theologian-legist may not be a man of action, but he will be a court of ultimate appeal on the theory of the state. He will pass upon treaties; decide disputed successions; assign to each his due rank and title. He will tell the Commander of the Faithful himself what he may do and what, by law, lies beyond his reach.
It was, then, under the pressure of necessity only that the following sketch of the development of Muslim thought was divided into three parts. By no possible arrangement did it seem feasible to treat .the whole at once. Intolerable confusions and unintelligible complications would, to all appearance, be the result. As the most concrete and simple side, the development of the state is taken first. Second, on account of the shortness of the course which it ran, comes the development of the legal ideas and schools. Third comes the long and thrice complicated thread of theological thought. It is for the student to hold firmly in mind that this division is purely mechanical and for convenience only; that it
corresponds to little or nothing in the real nature of the case. This will undoubtedly become clear to him as he proceeds. He will meet with the same names in all three divisions; he will meet with the same technicalities and the same scholastic system. A treatise on canon law is certainly different from one on theology, but each touches the other at innumerable points; their authors may easily be the same; each will be in great part unintelligible without the other. He must then labor to merge these three sections again into one another. His principal helps in this, along with diligent parallel reading, will be the chronological table and the index. In the table he will watch the succession of men and events grouped from all the three sections; from the index he will trace the activities of each man in these different spheres. The index, too, will give him the technical terms and he will observe their recurrence in historical, legal, and theological theory. Further, it will serve him as a vocabulary when he comes to read technical texts.
But, again, another warning is necessary. The sketch given here is incomplete, not only in details but in the ground that it covers. Important phases of Muslim law, theology, and state theory are of necessity passed over entirely. Thus Babism is not touched at all and the Shi‘ite theology and law hardly at all. The Ibadite systems have the merest mention and Turkish and Persian mysticism are equally neglected. For such weighty organizations the Darwish Fraternities are most inadequately dealt with, and Muslim missionary enterprise might well be treated
at length. Guidance on these and other points the student will seek in the bibliography. It, too, makes no pretence to completeness and consists of selected titles only. But it will serve at least as an introduction and clew to an exceedingly wide field. And it may be well to state here, in so many words, that no work can be done in this field without a reading knowledge of French and German, and no satisfactory work without some knowledge of Arabic.
And, again, this sketch is incomplete because the development of Islam is not yet over. If, as some say, the faith of Muhammad is a cul-de-sac, it is certainly a very long one; off it many courts and doors open; down it many peoples are still wandering. It is a faith, too, which brings us into touching distance with the great controversies of our own day. We see in it, as in a somewhat distorted mirror, the history of our own past. But we do not yet see its end, even as the end of Christianity is not yet in sight. It is for the student, then, to remember that Islam is a present reality and the Muslim faith a living organism, a knowledge of whose laws may be of life or death for us who are in another camp. For there can be little doubt that the three antagonistic and militant civilizations of the world are those of Christendom, Islam, and China. When these are unified, or come to a mutual understanding, then, and only then, will the cause of civilization be secure. To aid some little to the understanding of Islam among us is the object of this book.