Short Description"With the flourishing of Arab civilization, religious toleration was absolute"
Gustave le Bon (1841-1931)
He was a French Orientalist and researcher in sociology and psychology. Among his famous books is La Civilization des Arabes (The Civilization of the Arabs), one of the most fundamental books written in Europe in the modern age, impartial and objective in judgment on Arab and Islamic civilization. In his works, he recognizes the credit of Arab and Islamic civilization on European and Western civilization, not only by transmitting the Greek and Indian cultures but also by making its own tradition. He also has many contributions in social sciences, the most important of which is the theory of Crowd Psychology which is a branch of social psychology. Ordinary people can typically gain direct power by acting collectively. Historically, because large groups of people have been able to bring about dramatic and sudden social change in a manner that bypasses the established due process, they have also provoked controversy. Social scientists have developed several different theories for explaining crowd psychology and the ways in which the psychology of the crowd differs significantly from that of the individuals within it, including the notion of the Collective Unconscious. His works include: La Civilization des Arabes (1884); La Psychologie des Foules (1895); La Psychologie de l’éducation (1910); Les opinions et les croyances (1911); La révolution française et la psychologie des Révolutions (1912); Enseignements psychologiques de la guerre européenne (1915); Premières conséquences de la guerre (1916); Hier et demain. Pensées brèves (1918); Psychologie des temps nouveaux (1920); Le déséquilibre du monde (1923); Les incertitudes de l’heure présente (1923); Bases scientifiques d’une philosophie de l’histoire (1931); and others.
His La Civilization des Arabes (the Civilization of the Arabs) is a clear witness to Islam and Islamic civilization. As important as it might be and, in spite of the fact that a lot of topics and paragraphs deserve to be quoted here, the aim of the book permitted only to choose what seemed to me to be the clearest and most important.
From La Civilization des Arabes (the Civilization of the Arabs):
Because it is the methodology of Allâh
“Islam, from among all religions, best suits the science discoveries and is the most ready to edify souls and force them to abide by justice, kindness and toleration.”
“With the flourishing of Arab civilization, religious toleration was absolute – a fact for which we have brought more than one indication. It would not be verbose to refer to what is translated by monsieur Dousi about one of the Arab scholars who devoted himself in Baghdad to many lessons in philosophy attended by Jews, atheists, Magians, Muslims, Christians and others. Whenever anyone of them spoke, attention would be paid to him with great respect and he would be asked to rely only on a logical rather than textual proof. Such toleration had not been attained in Europe even after suffering along one-thousand years of destructive wars, deep-rooted resentments and bloody carnages.”
They have never seen its like
“The reader will see, in our discussion of the conquests of the Arabs and the causes of their victory, that force was not the main factor of the spread of the Qur’an. The Arabs left the conquered free to practice their religions. If it happened that some Christians embraced Islam and took Arabic as their language, this was due to the justice they saw from the victorious Arabs the like of which they did not see from their previous masters, in addition to the ease of Islam which they knew not before.”
Religions could not be imposed by force
“It has been proven throughout history that religions cannot be imposed by force. When the Christians conquered the Arabs of Andalusia, the Arabs favored to be killed and driven out entirely rather than to leave Islam. Nevertheless, the Qur’an did not spread by the sword. On the contrary, it spread only by invitation and by invitation alone was it embraced by different peoples who later conquered the Arabs, like the Turks and Mongols.”
That is why they embraced Islam
“When ‘Umar ibn al-Khattâb entered Jerusalem (Bayt al-Maqdis), he showed a great toleration towards its inhabitants that made them feel secure for their religion, property and habits. He imposed only a little Jizyah on them. A similar toleration was shown by the Arabs in all Syrian cities, whose inhabitants soon accepted the sovereignty of the Arabs and most of them embraced Islam instead of Christianity and learnt Arabic as well.”
The great kindness
“The conduct of the Commander of the Believers, ‘Umar ibn al-Khattâb, in Jerusalem (Bayt al-Maqdis) proves how kindly the Arab conquerors dealt with the conquered peoples, the opposite of what was done by the Crusaders in Jerusalem many centuries later. ‘Umar entered the city in the company of only a small number of Muslims and asked Patriarch Safronius to accompany him in his tour to the holy sites. He granted safety to its people and gave them a pledge of respect for their churches and property and prohibited Muslims to perform their rites in their synagogues.”
It did not take place in Egypt
“‘Amr ibn al-‘Âs, in his conduct in Egypt, was no less kind. He offered the Egyptians complete religious freedom, absolute justice and respect for their property, and imposed a fixed annual Jizyah of no more than fifteen franks per capita, as opposed to the high taxes levied by the Roman Caesars. The Egyptians willingly accepted and were thankful for these conditions, which encouraged them to pay the Jizyah in advance. The Arabs abided by these conditions so much that the Egyptians loved them after they had bitterly suffered from the injustice of the Christian Caesars of Constantinople. They also embraced the religion of the Arabs and learned their language willingly. Such outcomes, as I have mentioned more than once, could never have been achieved by force nor had they been attained by these who ruled Egypt before the Arabs.”
The cities hastened to welcome
“The Arabs completed the conquest of Spain very quickly because the big cities hastened to open their gates to the conquerors that entered Cordoba, Malaga, Granada and Toledo, almost with a peace treaty. … Meanwhile, the Arabs well ruled the Spaniards, the same as they had done with those of Syria and Egypt. They left them free with their property, churches and laws and made their own (rather than the Muslim) judges responsible for their legal affairs. They levied upon them only a fixed annual Jizyah as little as no more than a dinar per noble and half a dinar per slave. The Spaniards accepted it willingly and submitted to the Arabs compliantly.”
No conquerors like the Arabs have ever been known
“The early conquests of the Arabs were supposed to blind their eyes and cause them to commit the same injustices usually done by conquerors, wrong the conquered and compel them to adopt their religion which they liked to spread all over the world. … But even, the different peoples had never known tolerant conquerors like the Arabs nor a religion like theirs.”
The conquest with the help of toleration
“The forbearance and toleration that characterized the Arab conquerors, of which historians were ignorant, seemed to explain to what extent they were able to expand their conquests. Thus, a lot of peoples very easily adopted their religion, systems and language, which established itself, resisted all invasions and survived even after the disappearance of Arab sovereignty from the scene. This seemed clearer in Egypt whose Persian, Greek and Roman conquerors did not succeed in changing the ancient Pharaonic civilization and replacing it with their own.”
In the farthest West too
“The Arabs of Spain had ideal chivalry by virtue of their great toleration. They used to show mercy to the weak, be kind towards the conquered and abide by the conditions they imposed upon themselves, to the end of those good traits.”
Paris and Cordoba
However, La Bon does not hide his sorrow for the fact that the Muslims did not rule France and that their conquests in northern France came to end with Poitiers. In his sight, it does not deserve all what was said about it or about its leader, Charles Martel, who but stopped the Arab conquests only in northern France whilst their conquests went on in its south. That the Arabs did not make other attempts to conquer this region goes back to the fact that northern France was very cold and rainy and this neither suited them nor encouraged them to stay there. In his refutation to the argument that this battle rescued the West and Christianity from the Arabs, La Bon says: “Suppose that the Christians failed to overcome the Arabs and that the Arabs found the climate of northern France neither rainy nor cold in such a way that it was pleasant to them to stay there forever, what would Europe have gotten from that? No doubt, the barbarous Christian Europe would have gotten the same flourishing civilization which Spain obtained under the banner of Arab civilization and, after being edified, would have avoided such severe catastrophes of religious wars, the epic of San Barthélémy, the wrongdoings of inquisitions and, in short, all calamities from which the Muslims were far yet tinted Europe with blood along many centuries.”
As such says the one who knows
“We see from the Qur’anic verses that Muhammad’s toleration with the Jews and Christians was so great as none among the founders of the religions before him, of Judaism or Christianity, had never been, and we would see how his successors followed his method in this respect. That toleration was recognized by some European scholars who had doubts or those few in number who believed and gazed at the history of the Arabs. In the following sentences I am going to quote from the books of many of them, which proves that our opinion on this issue is not just ours.
According to Robertson in his History of Charlemagne, “The great zeal the Muslims (from among all men of religions) had for their religion went side by side with a spirit of toleration toward the followers of other religions. In spite of carrying the sword to spread their religion, they left those who did not like to adopt it free with their own religious precepts.”
According to Michaud in his History of the Crusades, “The Qur’an which enjoins Jihâd upon the Muslims shows great toleration towards the followers of other religions. It exempts the patriarchs, monks and their servants from taxes. Muhammad forbade killing monks because they devoted themselves to worship. ‘Umar ibn al-Khattâb did not harm the Christians when he entered Jerusalem (Bayt al-Maqdis), whereas when the Christians entered it, they slew the Muslims and burnt the Jews mercilessly.”
In his book, A Religious Trip in the East, monk Michaud says: “Unfortunately, the Christians learnt from the Muslims the toleration which is the sign of doing good among nations, showing respect for the creeds of others and abstention from imposing any dogma upon them by force.””
“The political ingenuity of the early caliphs was no less than the military skill they acquired very soon. Since the very first events, they contacted the native inhabitants of the neighboring territories who, suffering for long centuries from the transgression of their conquerors, were willing to receive, with warmth and gladness, any new conqueror to lighten the severe pressure from them. The way the caliphs had to follow was very clear: they knew how to refrain from compelling anyone by force to leave his religion and not to put to sword those who did not embrace Islam. They announced publicly anywhere that they respected the peoples’ creeds, customs and habits and rather satisfied themselves with taking, in return for protecting those peoples, a very little Jizyah much less than what they paid to their previous masters.”
Teachers of toleration
“It is they who taught, or say, tried to teach the Christians toleration, the most cherished human characteristic. The Arabs of Spain were so forbearing with their conquered people that they allowed their bishops to hold their religious conferences, such as the Christian Seville Conference (782 A.D.) and Christian Cordoba Conference (852 A.D.). The numerous Christian churches they built during the Arab reign give a clear proof that the Arabs respected the creeds of other nations which submitted to their authority.”
In spite of restriction
“The Arab civilization produced by the followers of Muhammad was subject to the same norms which governed the previous civilizations in the world: emergence, evolution, decline and death. In spite of the fact that the Arab civilization perished much like the previous ones, nothing affected the religion of the Prophet which still has the same influence it had in the past and the same great authority over souls, although other older religions lose day after day something of their power.”
Every utensil exudes what it contains
“Saladin did not like to follow, with the Crusaders, the same barbarous approach their ancestors had followed with the Muslims. That is, he did not exterminate them entirely: he rather levied upon them a very little Jizyah and forbade the Muslims to take anything from them.”
He changed the world
“The Bedouin tribes in the Arab Peninsula adopted a religion brought by an unlettered person by virtue of which they established, within less than fifty years, a great state like that of Alexander and adorned it with many magnificent buildings which stand as a miraculous sign. … Muhammad was certain that Allâh commanded him to call people to a new religion which He revealed to him in order to renew the world and, by virtue of his certainty, he was able to change the entire world.”
Specific civilizational character
“The Arab conquests had a specific character the like of which was missing with other conquerors who came after them. The Barbarians who occupied the Roman world, Turks and others, regardless of founding great states, did not establish a civilization and, therefore, the purpose of their existence was to utilize, even with great difficulty, the civilizations of the nations they conquered. The opposite was true of the Arabs, who very quickly founded a new civilization extremely different from those prior to it and succeeded in attracting numerous peoples to their religion and language, not to mention their new civilization.”
Europe, in its civilization, is indebted to the Arabs
“The Arabs had a great influence on the West, and Europe, in its civilization, is indebted to the Arabs. Indeed, the Arabs were no less influential to the West than they were to the East. This influence on the West could be perceived only by imagining the state in which Europe was before civilization was brought to it. During the 9th and 10th centuries, when Arab civilization in Spain was very bright, the centers of culture in the West were no more than towers inhabited by brutal seniors proud of being unlettered. Meanwhile, the most knowledgeable among the Christians were from the poor, ignorant monks who stayed in their churches to submissively erase the valuable books of the ancients to have enough scrolls to transcribe the books of worship.”
Before and after
“The civil affair of the Arabs did not seem, in any country they ruled, clearer as it did in Spain which had no civilization before the Arab conquest and then came to have a flourishing civilization in the era of the Arabs before it fell to the lowest bottom of degradation after their evacuation.”
A message of civilization
“The Arabs had no sooner completed their conquest of Spain than they began to carry out the message of civilization in it. Within less than a century, they were able to cultivate dead land, build up ruined cities, construct magnificent buildings and establish trade connections with other nations. Then, they devoted themselves to the study of sciences and arts, translation of Greek and Latin books into Arabic and foundation of universities that remained the only cultural refuge in Europe for a long time.”
And also Sicily
“Sicily, at the time the Arabs left it, was culturally, industrially and socially higher than it had been when they entered it. Since the value of the civilizational influence of a nation on another is determined by the extent it develops and reforms it, the conclusion will be that the Arabs had a great influence on Sicily.”
It is not Bacon
“It is attributed to Bacon, in general, that he was the first to hold experiment and observation, the pillars of the modern scientific methodology, in the position of the instructor. But it should be recognized today that all this was the work of the Arabs alone – an opinion opted for by all scholars who studied the Arab writings.”
Novelties of excellence
“The more we delve into the study of Arab civilization, scientific books, arts and inventions, the more new facts and extensive horizons will appear to us. We will soon see that the Arabs were credited with presenting ancient knowledge to the medieval people and that the western universities, for five centuries, had no scientific resources other than their writings. It was these who civilized Europe physically, mentally and morally and no nation along history has ever produced the like of what they produced within such a short time and no people have ever excelled them in artistic innovation.”
The best nation to be produced for the people
“However, the achievements made by Muhammad in the Arab territories went beyond those of all religions before Islam, including even Judaism and Christianity. This is why the credit of Muhammad on the Arabs was extremely great.”
One of the greatest personalities known in history
“Since the value of men is measured with what they do of glorious deeds, Muhammad is one of the greatest personalities known in history. Although some western scholars were just to Muhammad, religious fanaticism blinded the sights of many others from recognizing his credit.”
The greatness of the conqueror
“Muhammad dealt with the Quraysh, his belligerent adversaries, for twenty years in kindness and patience and rescued them from (the anger of) his companions even with difficulty. It was sufficient for him to wipe away the pictures hung on the Ka‘bah and cleanse it from the 360 idols which he commanded to be overturned. He also made the Ka‘bah an Islamic place of worship and soon it became the main house of Islam.”
You are indeed on a high model of moral character
“Muhammad was a man of noble manners, wisdom, kindheartedness, compassion, mercy, truthfulness and trustworthiness.”
La Bon’s vision of the Arabs
“Few are the nations that excelled the Arabs in civility. No nation has ever achieved the greatest number of inventions within the shortest time as the Arabs did. In fact, the Arabs established one of the strongest religions which prevailed in the world and whose influence is still more vital than that of any other religion. Politically, they founded one of the greatest states known in history and civilized Europe culturally and morally. Few are the ethnic groups which rose and declined like the Arabs. No ethnos like the Arabs could be fit for a living example of the influence of the factors lying behind the foundation, magnificence and decline of states.”
 Gustave La Bon, La Civilization des Arabes, (adapted from the Arabic translation), 126.
 Ibid. 570.
 Ibid. 127.
 Ibid. 127-128.
 Ibid. 151.
 Ibid. 135.
 Ibid. 135.
 Ibid. 266
 Ibid. 605.
 Ibid. 605.
 Ibid. 278.
 Ibid. 317.
 Ibid. 128 (footnote 1).
 Ibid. 134.
 Ibid. 276-277.
 Ibid. 126.
 Ibid. 329.
 Gustave La Bon, Les opinions et les croyances, (adapted from the Arabic translation), 6.
 Gustave La Bon, La Civilization des Arabes, 135.
 Ibid. 566.
 Ibid. 272.
 Ibid. 273.
 Ibid. 308.
 Ibid. 435.
 Ibid. 26.
 Ibid. 115.
 Ibid. 116.
 Ibid. 108.
 Gustave La Bone, la religion et la vie, (adapted from the Arabic translation), 67.
 Gustave La Bon, La Civilization des Arabes, 618.