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Our Moslem Sisters
A Cry of Need from Lands of Darkness
Interpreted by Those Who Heard It
ANNIE VAN SOMMER
SAMUEL M. ZWEMER
New York Chicago Toronto
Fleming H. Revell Company
London and Edinburgh
Copyright, 1907, by
FLEMING H. REVELL COMPANY
New York: 158 Fifth Avenue
Chicago: 80 Wabash Avenue
Toronto: 25 Richmond St., W.
London: 21 Paternoster Square
Edinburgh: 100 Princes Street
This book with its sad, reiterated story of wrong and oppression is an indictment and an appeal. It is an indictment of the system which produces results so pitiful. It is an appeal to Christian womanhood to right these wrongs and enlighten this darkness by sacrifice and service. At the recent Mohammedan Educational Conference in Bombay the president of the gathering, the Agha Khan, himself a leading Moslem, spoke very trenchantly of the chief barriers to progress in the Moslem world. The first and greatest of these barriers in his opinion was “the seclusion of women which results in keeping half the community in ignorance and degradation and this hinders the progress of the whole.” Surely the ignorance and degradation of one-half of a community which has a world population of 233 millions is a question that concerns all who love humanity.
The origin of the veil of Islam was, as is well known, one of the marriage affairs of Mohammed himself, with its appropriate revelation from Allah. In the twenty-fourth Surah of the Koran women are forbidden to appear unveiled before any member of the other sex, with the exception of near relatives. And so by one verse the bright, refining, elevating influence of women was forever withdrawn from Moslem society. The evils of the zenana, the seraglio, the harem, or by whatever name it is called, are writ large over all the social life of the Moslem world. Keene says it “lies at the root of all the most important features that differentiate progress from stagnation.”
In Arabia before the advent of Islam it was customary to bury female infants alive. Mohammed improved on the barbaric method and discovered a way by which all females could be buried alive and yet live on—namely, the veil. How they live on, this book tells! Its chapters are not cunningly devised fables nor stories told for the story’s sake. Men and women who have given of their strength and service, their love and their life to ameliorate the lives of Moslem women and carry the torch of Truth into these lands of darkness write simply the truth in a straightforward way. All the chapters were written by missionaries in the various lands represented. And with three exceptions the writers were women. The chapter on Turkestan is by a converted Moslem; and the two chapters on the Yemen and the Central Soudan are by medical missionaries. The book has as many authors as there are chapters. For obvious reasons their names are not published, but their testimony is unimpeachable and unanimous. We read what their eyes have seen, what their hands have handled, and what has stirred their hearts. It has stirred the hearts of educated Moslems too, in Egypt as well as in India. A new book on this very subject was recently published at Cairo by Kasim Ameen, a learned Moslem jurist. Although he denies that Islam is the cause, yet speaking of the present relation of the Mohammedan woman to man the author says:
“Man is the absolute master and woman the slave. She is the object of his sensual pleasures, a toy, as it were, with which he plays, whenever and however he pleases. Knowledge is his, ignorance is hers. The firmament and the light are his, darkness and the dungeon are hers. His is to command, hers is to blindly obey. His is everything that is, and she is an insignificant part of that everything.
“Ask those that are married if they are loved by their wives, and they will answer in the affirmative. The truth, however, is the reverse. I have personally investigated the conditions of a number of families that are supposed to be living in harmony, peace, and love, and I have not found one husband who truly loved his wife, or one wife who evinced a sincere affection for her husband. This outward appearance of peace and harmony—this thin veneering—only means one of three things, namely, either the husband is made callous and nonchalant by incessant strife, and has finally determined to let things take their course; or the wife allows herself to be utilized as an ordinary chattel, without uttering a protest; or both parties are ignorant and do not appreciate the true value of life. In this last case, the parties are nearer to a sort of happiness than in the former two, although their happiness is negative in quantity and evanescent in nature.” …
The writers of the following chapters believe that the only remedy for these social evils is the Gospel. That is why they write.
The occasion that led to the preparation and collection of this series of papers was the Cairo Conference. One of the most interesting sessions of that first general Conference on behalf of the Mohammedan world, held at Cairo April 4-9, 1906, was that on Woman’s Work for Women. But the time was far too short nor had there been preparation for a full and free presentation and discussion of the condition and needs of our Moslem sisters. Those that loved them felt this and yet the women present seized the opportunity and unitedly sent forth the following appeal, endorsed by the whole Conference:
“We, the women missionaries, assembled at the Cairo Conference, would send this appeal on behalf of the women of Moslem lands to all the women’s missionary boards and committees of Great Britain, America, Canada, France, Germany, Switzerland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Holland, Australia, and New Zealand.
“While we have heard with deep thankfulness of many signs of God’s blessing on the efforts already put forth, yet we have been appalled at the reports which have been sent in to the Conference from all parts of the Moslem world, showing us only too plainly that as yet but a fringe of this great work has been touched.
“The same story has come from India, Persia, Arabia, Africa, and other Mohammedan lands, making evident that the condition of women under Islam is everywhere the same—and that there is no hope of effectually remedying the spiritual, moral, and physical ills which they suffer, except to take them the message of the Saviour, and that there is no chance of their hearing, unless we give ourselves to the work. No one else will do it. This lays a heavy responsibility on all Christian women.
“The number of Moslem women is so vast—not less than one hundred million—that any adequate effort to meet the need must be on a scale far wider than has ever yet been attempted.
“We do not suggest new organizations, but that every church and board of missions at present working in Moslem lands should take up their own women’s branch of work with an altogether new ideal before them, determining to reach the whole world of Moslem women in this generation. Each part of the women’s work being already carried on needs to be widely extended. Trained and consecrated women doctors; trained and consecrated women teachers; groups of women workers in the villages; an army of those with love in their hearts to seek and save the lost. And, with the willingness to take up this burden, so long neglected, for the salvation of Mohammedan women, even though it may prove a very cross of Calvary to some of us, we shall hear our Master’s voice afresh ringing words of encouragement: ‘Have faith in God. For verily I say unto you, that whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea, and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that these things which He saith shall come to pass, he shall have whatsoever he saith.’ ‘Nothing shall be impossible unto you.'”
That this wonderful appeal might reach a wider circle and that its skeleton form might be clothed with the flesh and blood of real life experiences and so be not a resolution but a revelation,—this book was written. May God give its message wings through His Spirit
S. M. Zwemer.
|I.||Hagar and Her Sisters||15|
|II.||Egypt, the Land of Bondage||24|
|III.||From Under the Yoke of Social Evils||38|
|IV.||The Women of Egypt Once More||60|
|V.||Behind the Opening Door in Tunis||72|
|VI.||“Not Dead, Only Dry“||89|
|VII.||Light in Darkest Morocco||99|
|VIII.||Mohammedan Women in the Central Soudan||118|
|IX.||A Story from East Africa||131|
|X.||Our Arabian Sisters||135|
|XI.||Women’s Life in the Yemen||146|
|XII.||Pen-and-Ink Sketches in Palestine||152|
|XIII.||Once More in Palestine||164|
|XIV.||Mohammedan Women in Syria||174|
|XV.||Behind the Lattice in Turkey||192|
|XVI.||A Voice from Bulgaria||204|
|XVII.||Darkness and Daybreak in Persia||207|
|XVIII.||Darkness and Daybreak in Persia (Part II)||228|
|XIX.||The Condition of Mohammedan Women in Baluchistan||249|
|XX.||In Southern India||253|
|XXI.||The Mohammedan Women of Turkestan||263|
|XXII.||In Far-off Cathay||276|
|XXIII.||Our Moslem Sisters in Java||283|
|XXIV.||The Mohammedan Women of Malaysia||287|
|XXV.||“What Wilt Thou Have Me to Do?“||293|
“All that took them captives hold them fast, they refuse to let them go. Their Redeemer is strong, the Lord of Hosts is His name; He shall thoroughly plead their cause.”—Jeremiah l. 33, 34.