« AnteriorContinuar »
women to a more orthodox standard of conduct. It is only among the middle and upper classes, where the women can afford to indulge in the luxury of Oriental modesty, that the rules of veiling and seclusion are observed in Egypt at all. Islam, in short, like every other creed, is obeyed when it happens to fit the general economic and political conditions; when a sufficient reason arises for ignoring it, religious scruples cease to influence the conduct of daily life. Islam may be in theory like Catholicism, an unchanging creed, but Moslems, like Catholics, contrive somehow to change.
If, however, the question arises whether Islam is ever likely to evolve from within a powerful and successful rationalising movement, it is by no means easy to feel hopeful. Western Christianity came early into contact with a mild incarnation of the spirit of rationalism, and the encounter took place while science was weak and undeveloped. The Renaissance welcomed by the Church, and in different degrees and in different ways she adapted herself betimes to the growth of thought, grew under the influence of the new currents of thought side by side with science, and built a series of half-way houses for open-minded thinkers, from Luther's to Mr. Campbell's and that of the Abbé Löisy. Islam shared the fate of Eastern Christianity. Neither was touched by the Renaissance, and that historical accident has probably decided the fate of them both. When the modern spirit broke upon Islam and the Eastern Churches in the nineteenth century, it came in a form vastly more formidable and revolutionary than it had assumed in Erasmus's day. Compromise and adaptation were now almost impossible, and Mohamedan theologians, like the clergy of the Greek confession, are as yet quite incapable of making the effort, from sheer lack of education. The phenomenon is not confined to the Mohamedan world. It is general from Moscow to Cairo. The educated classes in Russia are quite as hopelessly alienated from Orthodoxy, as those of Egypt are from Islam. The fundamental reason is in both cases the same—that the clergy have remained mere peasants in their habits of thought. The Western Church made its terms gradually and piecemeal with Galileo and Newton, and ultimately with Darwin. The Eastern Church and Islam have to face the whole completed position of Western Science, and to face it without experience or knowledge. An English boy afflicted with doubts can carry them to a clergyman who studied under T. H. Green at Oxford, or took his degree in natural science at Cambridge. An Egyptian boy has to deal with a picturesque old gentleman who can read no language but his own, and inclines to believe that the earth is flat. An
effort, it is true, has been made in the last generation in Egypt to liberalise Mohamedan theology. The late Grand Mufti, Mohamed Abdou, a remarkable man, whose chief title to fame is that be managed to win the friendship and admiration alike of Mr. Blunt and Lord Cromer, made a valiant attempt to reform the Azhar and to modernise the exegesis of the Koran. He knew French, and even translated Herbert Spencer. He has left lay disciples behind him, but it can hardly be said that he founded a school of theological thought. He was, there is little doubt, in his own inner convictions an agnostic. Bigots and free-thinkers alike dismissed his liberal opinions by pointing out that he did not observe the fast of Ramadan.
Hitherto the Moslem "modernists" in Egypt and India have worked in isolation. It has been reserved for a Russian layman, Ismail Bey Gasprinsky, to take the first steps towards creating a world-wide organisation. He has been for many years the editor of a successful newspaper, the “Terjuman," published in the Turkish language in Russia, which had a large circulation even in Turkey until the Sultan stopped its importation. A Liberal in politics as well as in religion, his influence helps to explain why it is that the Moslems of Russia have thrown in their lot with the Constitutional Democrats. He has done much in Russia for the education of his co-religionists, including even the women and the priestly caste. Convinced that the PanIslamism of Constantinople is a reactionary movement dangerous for religion as it is for liberty, he turned rather to Egypt than to Turkey for support. His aim is to organise a Pan-Islamism which shall be tolerant and progressive, and the method which he has chosen is the summoning of a congress, which is to assemble in Cairo during the coming autumn. Cairo presents two advantages. Free speech is possible, and the city, so long the residence of the Caliphs and the seat of the Azhar, still ranks as one of the sacred places of Islam. Ismail Bey Gasprinsky is a man of something more than middle age, simple, modest, yet dignified in bis demeanour, quiet and unimpressive when he talks on general topics, but capable of an almost dangerous fire when he approaches his master-idea-a man, clearly, who lives wholly for his reforms, and serves, with a gentle and hardly conscious courage, his self-less and disinterested idealism. His own point of view on such questions as the position of women is Russian rather than Oriental. He was full of praise for some Moslem country-women of his own who have boldly pursued their medical studies in the Russian universities ; but he was buman enough to laugh at the droll cunning of some Moslem deputies in the Second Duma, who supported woman's suffrage
VOL. LXXXIV. N.S.
because they realised that their well-drilled wives will simply duplicate their husbands' votes. In religious matters I have never met a man of wider tolerance. He is even prepared to invite the Persian Babis to his Congress.
The point of departure of the new movement is rather social and economic than dogmatic. Ismail Bey Gasprinsky starts from the fact that the Mohamedan world is plainly receding and decaying before the advance of Western civilisation. The Congress will be invited to diagnose the causes of this long decay and prescribe the remedies. If it answers his wishes, it will, I fancy, proclaim a series of principles which would serve as a basis, not indeed for a religious“ reformation” in the Protestant sense of the word, but certainly for a social renovation. Science, it will doubtless argue, is not hostile to religion, and therefore a good Mohamedan, even when he is a theologian, need not fear a Western education. The Koran, it may venture to suggest, is a historical document addressed primarily to the Arabs of the seventh century, and a distinction must be made between its teaching about the unity of God, which is fundamental and eternal, and its legislation, which is no longer applicable to modern conditions. Incidentally a doctrine of complete tolerance can be founded on such a method of exegesis. Another subject which may perhaps be raised is the propriety of using Arabic, the Latin of Islam, as the language of prayer in countries where Arabic is not the vernacular. Possibly the Congress may suggest restrictions on the freedom of divorce which Islam at present allows. It will doubtless advocate the education of women, but it is not likely at its first meetings to approach a subject so contentious as their seclusion. For my part, I doubt whether Mahomet has really much more influence in locking the doors of the harem than has St. Paul in delaying woman's suffrage. It is the middle and upper classes alone which maintain this custom in Egypt, and they on the whole are agnostic. The Mohamedan home rests indeed on a crude sex-egoism. For every five marriages in Egypt there are four divorces. It is not so much religion as a primitive sense of property in women which is the real obstacle to change. But progress there is. A very able Egyptian judge, the late Kassim Bey Amin, wrote a brilliant book on the emancipation of women. The demand for education is growing, and the age of marriage rising among the educated class.
On such straight lines of common sense the Congress is likely to work, and its decisions, while they may lag behind the real views of its exceptionally enlightened leaders, will doubtless represent an immense advance on the conventional standpoint of Islam.
H. N. BRAILSFORD.
THE CRICKET SEASON OF 1908.
The past season has not been interesting only on account of the charms of a competition for the County Championship which has proved more close and exciting than ever before, but because of what is generally known and certainly best understood as the triangular scheme. This, in short, was the suggestion emanating from South Africa that the three Cricket powers, England, Australia, and South Africa, should play, every three years, a cricket tournament of three matches each against the other in the three countries. A splendid scheme on paper. But there its beauties and its possibilities come to an abrupt stop--for the simple and all-sufficing reason that Australia and South Africa cannot support two visiting teams during one and the same season -unless, of course, some Creesus came up to the scratch to stand the inevitable racket. It is quite likely that Mr. Abe Bailey would, for the sake of the sport of seeing three teams fighting it out on the matting wickets of South Africa, place a considerable portion of his banking account at the disposal of the two visiting teams, but that may or may not be so.
Certain it is that while the South Africans hold that matting wicket cricket is the fairest for both sides, Australian cricketers are of opinion that this is not so. I have had a good deal of experience of matting as well as of grass wickets, and do not hesitate to say that googlie” bowling must be more difficult on matting than on any other kind of pitch once the surface of the ball (as it does on a South African outfield) has become rough and worn.
I would for this reason always back South Africa to beat all comers on their own wickets, so long as they had good “googlie” bowlers at their behest. The South Africans themselves know this peculiar attack to be very deadly on their matting wickets, and assumed that it would be equally deadly on the hard, dry wickets of a sunny season in this country. In this estimation of the powers of the ball which turns, on pitching, the reverse way to the apparent spin imparted to it by the bowler, they were wrong. And for this reason I am rather inclined to doubt whether in a dry Australian year they would beat Australia in Australia. Their batting, which I know never showed its real worth on our wickets in 1907, does not seem powerful enough to go successfully through such an ordeal, but I daresay it is really much stronger than most of us credit it with being.
The suggestion with regard to this triangular scheme was timed to appear just when everyone is talking cricket again, viz., at the County Secretaries' Meeting at Lord's, which is annually held in December. Whether most county officials knew what was in the air I cannot say, but assuming that they did not, and going by what had gone before, I believe it to be quite likely that the question of an Australian team visiting England in 1909 would have been seriously discussed last December at Lord's if even only in an unofficial way. Though no direct invitation to the Australians to come in 1909 had been sent, it was rather generally understood that having been put off their visit which was due in 1908 owing to the South African visit of 1907, the Australians would surely be invited in 1909.
Thus, those responsible for the management of these things must have seen, directly the Triangular Scheme was mooted seriously, that the first thing to get was, not the expression of a desire on the part of the counties that there should be a triangular contest, but a promise of the support to the scheme of the Australian cricket authorities. This was not done. It was useless for the authorities of county cricket to decide that they approved of the scheme until it was certain that the three proposed parties to that scheme, especially Australia, wanted the tournament.
As old and powerful cricket antagonists, Australia needed that much consideration. It was their due. They had not then regained the cricket supremacy of the world, but later on they did this, and that, of course, strengthened their position in the matter.
At the same time a good deal of hysterical nonsense-of which in sport and games we often get too much-was written about the alleged slight put upon the Australians. There slight implied or intended that any reasonable being could see. And I am sure that none of the Australian players thought there
All the same, they refused to be a party to the scheme, and said so very bluntly, giving no reason for their refusal. This silence on their part was open to but one construction, and a great many people were not slow to put that construction upon it. This naturally placed the Australians in rather a bad light. But while most people thought they would not join in a sporting affair-by now reduced to a tentative matter for one year only-because the prospect did not offer them as much money as the members of previous teams had made in England, there was one particularly absurd suggestion which I can only ascribe to the cricket ignorance of the South African correspondent of a London daily. It was that the Australians are