Foreword to the Foreword by the Senior Editor:
David Pidcock, a contributor to VT, sent me a copy of Napoleon and Islam, written in 1914. On this edition, David had written the Foreword with a few interesting notes. This being a holiday weekend and a Sunday, rather than illegally poaching the entire text, a bit overwhelming but of interest to many VT readers, I jumped on his Foreword instead, as it is a “nice Sunday read”…
NAPOLEON Et l’ISLAM
By Christian Cherfills
ORIGINALY PUBLISHED IN 1914
TRANSLATED FROM THE FRENCH ORIGINAL BY JAMES-GIBB
STUART IN 1997/8
WITH A NEW FOREWORD BY DAVID M. PIDCOCK
Published by UTUSAN Publishers Kuala Lumpur 2001
Colonel.B.Turner for obtaining the original manuscript
James Gibb-Stuart for translating the main text from French into English
Jean-Louis Duvigneau for locating the original manuscript & translating its footnotes
Yusuf Al Jaro, Manoj Ladva, and Zareen Rahman for scanning services
Aadam Taha for type setting work
Shelagh Fenoughty and Jacob and Mary Pidcock for proof reading
As the prevailing accounts of history were authored by the victors of past disputes, it is often difficult, in some cases impossible, to discover where those conflicts (together with the ones of today), found their origins. Prompting Napoleon’s remarks that: “History is constructed from lies which are no longer contested…[coupled with]… the police invent more than they discover…”
The perennial strife in Northern Ireland and Palestine serve to illustrate the folly of trying to impose peace settlements without first establishing justice – in placing blame where it truly belongs. This difficulty also extends to locating, let alone obtaining, impartial accounts of Napoleon and the Napoleonic wars providing further evidence that they too have been doctored to suit the official line accommodating to the beneficiaries of the conflict – who were not the common folk of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, but, rather, those who financed Wellington and the negative programme of black propaganda which succeeded in preventing a clear picture of Napoleon’s beneficial reforms reaching the poor, down-trodden masses, in the United Kingdom. Masses, who, following Wellingon’s victory at Waterloo, and his subsequent appointment as Prime Minister, fared even worse than before. The bad harvests of 1829, the hardship among the weavers of Northern England, together with the overall national suffering were referred to in the King’s speech as being:”…beyond the reach of legislative control or remedy”, were clearly laid at Wellington’s door. As Prime Minister, he had to bear the brunt of popular outrage and like Napoleon before him became the butt of fickle political cartoonists like William Heath who, in 1830, depicted him with eyes closed: ‘Playing Blind Mans Buff – With The Poor.’ The caption at the bottom of the picture reads: “There is none so blind as Him who will not see.” The important lesson to draw from this situation is the fact that the usurers in the City of London, such as Baring and Rothschild, together with the entire Court of the Bank Of England, had successfully used Wellington, Nelson and British troops to prevent Napoleon’s policies taking effect. I believe it was Lord Acton, a little later on in the 19th century, who endorsed Napoleon’s view – together with those of David Ricardo and Abraham Lincoln, that the world would not be free-of-war until the tables of the money changers were overturned once and for all. Unfortunately, as the history of war clearly demonstrates, his call went unheeded, as time and again they succeeded to getting nation to fight against nation rather than to fight against them and their pernicious monetary policies. Leaving us to ponder the fact that: “The issue which has swept down the centuries and must be fought sooner or later is the people versus the banks.”
Many of the myths created by Britain’s black propaganda agency were comprehensively demolished in a feature by Jess McAJee, in the April 1996 edition of ‘Focus’ The Magazine of Discovery. Myth number one being that Napoleon was a foul despot who cared nothing for his people: “It is tempting to conclude” he says, “that seeing as Boney spent millions on the war effort, he did little for ordinary Frenchmen. The truth is that his legal and constitutional reforms were a century ahead of their time. One of the acts of his rule was to draw up a revolutionary constitution: three elected assemblies to vote in new laws, an independent court of appeal, and three consuls to be elected every three years. The constitution was even put to a national referendum – and approved by an astonishing majority of 3,011,007 votes to 1,562. Another lasting Napoleonic legacy is the Code Civil – also known as the Code Napoleon – still predominantly the law of France, Belgium and Luxembourg. The fundamentals it grants are equality under the law, the ending of feudal rights, the inviolability of property, the freedom of conscience, and the right to divorce. Napoleon inserted a clause obliging parents to feed children if required – even when they were adult. He was only just dissuaded from giving grandparents the right to protect grand children from parental abuse”. For Muslims this will come as no surprise when they realise that 96% of the Code-Civil i.e. The Code Napoleon is drawn entirely from Islamic jurisprudence based on the Fiqh or rulings of Imam Malik.
McAree goes on to successfully counter a number of other myths. For example the myth that Napoleon was a cheat and a liar and could not be trusted: “The standard view has Boney as the ultimate aggressor who broke all treaties and refused to make peace. But in reality the real cheats were Britain and her allies. Far from refusing peace, Napoleon repeatedly sought it – but was rebuffed by Europe’s crowned heads. They gave him an untrustworthy reputation because they despised him and feared that France’s revolutionary republicanism might be contagious. As the Whig statesman Edmund Burke wrote to foreign minister William Grenville: “It is not the enmity but the friendship of France that is truly terrible. Her intercourse, her example, the spread of her doctrines are the most terrible of her arms.” Another major myth is that his reforms achieved nothing: “Wrong again: most of them still work well to this day. Napoleon opened primary schools and founded the modern lyc’ee system. He also created new universities, a dozen schools of law and teacher training colleges. More money was spent on education in Napoleon’s empire than on anything else – and this at a time of almost perpetual war. Surprising for a “Jacobin terrorist”, he even encouraged private schools, which eventually outnumbered their state counterparts. Today the French education system is streets ahead of our own – all thanks to Boney, the thinking man”
On the subject of Nelson and
Wellington McAjee states. “Nelson may have died a hero’s death at Trafalgar in 1805. But his victory set back European freedom a century… Although brilliant commanders, both were on the wrong side. By beating Napoleon on land and
sea, they denied the world the prosperity and political freedom it could have enjoyed under his rule”.
Further examples of the negative propaganda against Napoleon can be found in John Ashton’s major reference work: ‘English Caricatures and Satires On Napoleon The First.’ The Preface to the 1888 edition carries the following admission: “The majority of the caricatures are humorous; others silly, or spiteful and some too coarse for reproduction.” Particularly in relationship to Napoleon’s ancestry of which, Ashton points out: “I have been thus diffuse on his ancestry, because English satirists could not tell the truth on the subject – they were too swayed by the passion of the moment, and had to pander to the cravings of the mob.”
Satirists like George Cruikshank, who were given free vent in caricaturing Napoleon, went from poking fun to admitting, in his
‘Monument to Napoleon’ that he too had been pandering to ‘the cravings of the mob’: “As for me, who have skeletonised him prematurely, paring down the prodigy even to his hat and boots, I have but “carried out” a principle adopted almost in my boyhood, for I can remember the time when I did not take some patriotic pleasure in persecuting the great enemy of England. Had he been less than that, I should have felt compunction for my cruelties; having tracked him through snow and through fire, by flood and by field, insulting, degrading, and deriding him everywhere, and putting him to several humiliating deaths. All that time, however, he went on “overing” the Pyramids and the Alps, as boys “over” posts, and playing at leapfrog with the sovereigns of Europe, so as to kick a crown off at every spring he made – together with many crowns, and sovereigns, into my coffers. Deep, most deep, in a personal view of matters, are my obligations to the agitator – but what a debt the country owes to him !
By contrast, this book by Christian Cherfils, attempts to provide us with a more balanced account of Napoleon the First. Of particular interest to Muslims are the eye witness accounts of the events and exchanges which took place some 200 years ago between Napoleon and the Sheikhs of AlAzhar University in Cairo which help us to form a more accurate assessment of his religious sentiments, sensitivities, and his official policies on religion which, to put it mildly, are in opposition to the farrago of: “silly,” “spiteful,” “coarse” calumnies, which have, with a few notable exceptions, been the stock-in-trade of most British historians and commentators from that day to this. It is astonishing, that this book, which first saw the light of day in 1914 AD, has not been used more effectively in setting the record straight. And that more efforts were not made by the Arabs living, or should we say existing, under French Colonial rule, to use its contents to disarm and win over their oppressors. The basis of most, if not all, domestic and international conflicts, are the result of economic injustices overspilling national boundaries. The archives show that Napoleon recognised this – particularly how it affected relations between France and England – and how the banking system encouraged it to spill over into the international arena to draw attention away from its own malign involvement. Fractional reserve banks and bankers are the sole beneficiaries of the beggar-thy-neighbour economics which have so dominated the world since the founding of the Bank of England in 1694. In the past, as in the present, the system always succeeds in diverting attention away from the part it plays in creating those deficiencies which cause the trade wars which escalate into the shooting variety. Blaming its victims or an external enemy for the difficulties caused by its own policies is the hall mark of English banking. Napoleon, came to realise that the problems which beset Europe at that time were – like the problems of today – caused by escalating debt through the interest charged on money, which is why he took steps to eradicate it. On this point alone, he stands head and shoulder above Wellington who was a tool of the Rothschilds. On being shown a graph of debt repayments caused by interest and compound interest Napoleon is said to have remarked: –
“The deadly facts herein reveal that, it is amazing that this monster interest has not devoured the whole of humanity, it would have done so long ago had not bankruptcy and revolution acted as counter poisons.” A sentiment which was being echoed across the Atlantic by Thomas Jefferson, who similarly remarked: “The modern theory for the perpetuation of debt has drenched the earth with blood, and crushed its inhabitants under burdens ever accumulating”.
Which helps to explain Napoleon’s agreement, with the Grand Sanhedrin of France, under which, for certain concessions, the Jews agreed to give up usury – i.e., the practice of lending money at interest. On the 9th of February, 1807, Rabbi David Sinzheim, together with forty-six other rabbis and twenty-five laymen assembled in the Hotel de Ville, and confirmed the decision of its parent.
As previously mentioned, it is important to remember that: the ‘Code Napoleon,’ which had the practical effect of helping to emancipate the Jews of Europe, is almost entirely Islamic. Furthermore, there can be little doubt that the 600 year Islamic period in Spain, which the Jews call their “Golden Period”, in which Jews, Christians and Muslims lived quite harmoniously, can be attributed to an absence of interest in the economy. Though “Conflict is ever the companion of interest” people have short memories.
From a Judeo-Christian perspective the antipathy towards Napoleon is perhaps more understandable – particularly in the light of his ‘official’ conversion to Islam at the end of the 18th century. Following which, the caricaturist, James Gillray, depicts him wearing a turban with the caption reading: “Democratic Religion – Napoleon turning Turk.”
This may well have been in response to the official headlines in the Gazzette National ou Le Moniteur Universel which announced Napoleon’s conversion to Islam on the 6th of the 12th 1798, and his adoption of the name Ali Boneaparte. Which brings us to a significant bone of contention regarding the contents of this book. It is clear, from reading the original Preface by Sherif Abd el-Hakim, that he must have been commenting on selected extracts unaware of the entire contents of the book for he speaks uncritically of Napoleon’s “love” for Islam and his “blissful sojourn” amongst the Muslims. On the other hand we have the attitude of, allegedly, “well informed Muslims” who have tried to dismiss, out of hand, his conversion as a purely cosmetic exercise: “The pragmatic gamble of an astute, cynical operator who, when it suited him, professed whatever creed was necessary to achieve his political objectives.”
Speaking from personal experience, as a politically active European convert, the publication of this fact could not have helped him politically as it galvanised the disparate forces of Polytheism and high finance into an effective, zealous alliance, with unlimited financial resources at their disposal to mobilise sufficient men, materials and black propaganda to frustrate his reforms. Being notorious for often throwing out their babies with the bath water, one of the main stumbling blocks for Muslims in studying this book, and turning it into a useful weapon, stems from a injudicious declaration by Napoleon which stated that he believed that he was destined to achieve greater military victories than the Prophet Muhammad, a man he greatly admired: (See Document xxxviii). Furthermore, or so it would appear, he believed that he (like the Mahdi AS), was destined to play a major, preordained role, in the revival of Islam. This is not unusual for zealous converts or converts wishing to appear zealous. His Russian campaign, according to McNair Wilson, was not a misjudged, reckless affair, but a situation forced upon him through a treacherous betrayal, by amongst others Talleyrand. Muslims would do well to recall that the Sudanese Mahdi – who attracted a huge following – but could not have been the one ordained to revive Islam, because he did not fulfil the criteria set down in all the authentic hadith literature. It was not uncommon, even amongst divinely inspired prophets, peace be upon them all, for them to introduce some personal elements of desire into the messages they were entrusted to convey, a point clearly made in verse 52 of Surah 22 the Hajj or the Pilgrimage in the Qur’an: “Never did we send an apostle or a prophet before you (Muhammad), but when he framed a desire, Satan through some vanity into his desire: but Allah will cancel anything vain that Satan throws in…” Napoleon, after all, was only human.
Having said that – The Memorial of Napoleon by William Hazlitt, the British essayist and critic (1778-1830), is a fitting tribute to Bonaparte, who, whatever the case may be, must be regarded as an enlightened individual, certainly when compared with the likes of Nelson, Wellington and their paymasters at N.M.Rothschild:-
“He put his foot on the neck of Kings, who would have put their yokes upon the necks of the People: he scattered before him with fiery execution, millions of hired slaves, who came at the bidding of their Masters to deny the rights of others to be free. The monument of greatness and of Glory he erected, was raised on ground forfeited again and again to humanity – it reared its majestic front on the ruins of the shattered hopes and broken faith of the common enemies of mankind. If he could not secure the freedom, peace, and happiness of his country, he made her a terror to those who by sowing civil dissension, and exciting foreign wars, would not let her enjoy those blessings. They who had trampled upon Liberty could not at least triumph in her shame and her despair, but themselves became objects of pity and derision. Their determination to persist in extremity of wrong, only brought on them repeated defeat, disaster, and dismay: the accumulated aggressions their infuriated pride and disappointed malice meditated against others, returned in just and aggravated punishment upon themselves: they heaped the coals of fire upon their own heads: they drank deep and long, in gall and bitterness, of the poisoned chalice they had prepared for others: the destruction with which they threatened a people daring to call itself free, hung suspended over their heads, like a precipice, ready to fall upon and crush them. ‘A while they stood abashed,’ abstracted from their evil purposes, and felt how awful Freedom is, its power how dreadful. Shrunk from the boasted pomp of royal state into their littleness as men, defeated of their revenge, baulked of their prey, their schemes stripped of their bloated pride, and with nothing left but the deformity of their malice, not daring to utter a syllable or move a finger, the lords of the earth, who had looked upon men as of an inferior species, born for their use, and devoted to be their slaves, turned an imploring eye to the People, and with coward hearts and hollow tongues invoked the Name of Liberty, thus to get the people once more within their unhallowed grip, and to stifle the name of Liberty for ever.”
[No doubt a reference to the likes of Lafitte, the Liberal Banker, who, following the July Revolution, whilst on his way to the Hotel De’Ville, let slip the remark to the Duke of Orleans: ‘Hence forth the bankers will be in control’].
THE EVER GLUTTONOUS USURER FRIENDLY JOHN BULL
INDULGING HIS INSATIABLE DESIRE FOR FISH AND SHIPS
Apologising for the ignorance above of an earlier Pidcock, Napoleon Et’L Islam is, without doubt, a major contribution to understanding someone who clearly had more than a passing interest in the Qur’an, its Message and its Messenger – peace and blessings be upon him. Whether or not he fasted or prayed five times a day is really of secondary importance (for there are many today who claim to be Muslims and do neither) what is important, however, is the fact that he truly recognised Islam as a superior system to the one prevailing elsewhere and took a great deal of it for his own use and the benefit of his empire. As the Quran states: Islam is a mercy to all creation. Furthermore he correctly concluded that the religion of Abraham would be revived through its sciences. Present day developments in Malaysia and other parts of the Islamic world seem to indicate that the Muslims are beginning to wake up to this important fact. No longer content to rehearse an endless litany of former glories – they are once again beginning to take notice of the prophet’s advice particularly where he said: “Search for knowledge even unto China”. As we approach the beginning of a new century whoever emerges this time to revive the fortunes of Islam he would do well to consider Napoleon’s vision:
“I hope that the time is not far off when I shall be able to unite all the wise and educated men in the country and establish a uniform regime based on the principles of the Qur’an which alone are true and which alone can lead men to happiness… Christianity preaches only servitude and dependence…” (See Part Four –
Correspondences of Napoleon Ist, No.3,148. page 110.)
David Moses Pidcock
Leader of the Islamic Party of Britain
POST SCRIPT JANUARY 2015
In the wake of the recent events at the offices of CHARLIE HEBDO in Paris, it is worth noting that, had France been under the control of Napoleon Bonaparte, that he would have prevented the publication of any CHARLIE HEBDO and any other journal or journalist who attempted to undermine or defame the character, motives and or the behaviour of the Prophet Muhammad; and according to the diaries of Wolfgang von Goethe in the same robust way, he had defended the Prophet’s honour against the malicious, subversive portrayal made of him by Voltaire, in his play MOHAMET. Which is contained in APPENDIX III, of this book.
NAPOLEON’S PERSISTENCE WITH BONAPARTIST IDEAS ON THE SUPERIORITY OF ISLAMIC PRINCIPLES CONVERSATION BETWEEN NAPOLEON AND GOETHE.
We do not pretend to establish, from the few documents which follow, Napoléon’s pure and simple persistence in Bonapartist ideas. Every man who thinks also evolves, and we are not writing today the history of a philosopher’s thinking, but that of his progresive thinking, in brief, the evolution of his doctrine. All the more reason why the thinking of the statesman should also be subject to evolution….
What we want to establish is no more than this :-
- Persistence of the profound effect exerted on Bonaparte by the religion of the Prophet, whom he loved;
- By implication, the absolute sincerity of the Cairo proclamations and the instructions he gave there;
- And in consequence, the compounded error levied against Bonaparte the Islamophile: shortcomings of the French leaders who did not understand him, and took it as a joke; lack of foresight within the population and among a majority of the indigenous top people, who failed to gauge the importance of the occasion.
We know the passionate interest of Goethe in everything that touches on Islamism. He had translated Voltaire’s Mahomet (1), and eliminated everything hostile to the prophet’s memory. (2) When they met, on the 2nd October 1808, Goethe and Napoléon almost immediately started talking about Mahomet.
Here is Goethe’s account:
The Emperor takes his lunch, sitting at a very large round table; on his right, at a few steps from the table, stands Talleyrand ; on his left, and close by him, is Daru, with whom he discusses the taxes to be raised.
The Emperor signals for me to make my approach.
I remain standing before him, at a respectful distance.
Having looked me over carefully, he says, “You are a man.”
I bow my head. He puts a question:. “How old are you?”
“You are well preserved. You have written dramas?” I give a mimimal response.
Here Daru takes up the theme. In order to flatter the Germans and to a certain point soften the pain he was forced to inflict upon them, he had studied a little of their literature; Daru knew Latin literature very well, indeed he was the author of an edition of Horace. He talks about me as the most favourable critics in Berlin might have done, at least I recognised in his words their ideas and mannerisms.
He added that I had translated French works, notably Voltaire’s Mahomet. The Emperor replied, “That is not a good play.” And he further revealed in a very detailed fashion how little it suited the conqueror of the world to make such an unfavourable portrayal of him..
He then turned the conversation to Werther, whom he must have studied from beginning to end…..
The Emperor seemed satisfied and came back to the drama; he made significant observations like a man who had studied the dramatic scene as carefully as a criminal judge, and who had strongly felt that the mistake of the French theatre is to distance itself from Nature and truth.
While developing this aspect, he disapproved of the dramas where fate plays a major role: “These plays belong to an epoch of darkness. Besides, what do they mean by their fate? Politics is fate.” (3)
On Saint Helena, after a reading of Voltaire’s Mahomet by Marchand, Napoléon expressed his ideas on the play, and Marchand collected them.
These notes are, as the editor says, “the impulse of a frank opinion”. Therein their merit lies.
‘History’ Said Napoleon: ‘Is Constructed From Lies Which
Are No Longer Contested”
Or Facts Which Are Conveniently Or Selectively Ignored! Such As These
INTERESTING HISTORY, UNKNOWN TO MANY OF US, THE FOREIGNERS!
HISTORY IS REPEATING ITSELF!
Algerian-French War For Independence
Algeria along with Tunisia and Morocco were invaded and taken over by the French after the Ottoman Empire became too weak to protect it. While in these countries the French took away people’s land and wealth thus making them poor, and bringing in their French settlers to live in these Muslim lands. The end result was that the French setters lived a life of luxury and comfort on stolen land while the native Muslims lived a life of occupation, poverty, and subjugation. The French banned the local languages (native languages and Arabic) and forced everyone to use French only…. even now you can find these countries to have French as a second language and most schools are in French.
The Algerians fought for independence from 1954 to 1962. It was under these conditions the Algerians protested in France and they were tortured and massacred. While the French were held accountable for their crimes against the Jews at the same time they covered up the crimes against these Muslims. In Algeria the French military dropped bombs on Algerian Muslims from the Air, the Sea, and from the Land. They did not care who they were killing because their goal was to make everyone pay. After the war was over the French had killed over 1.5 million Algerian Muslims. This genocide is totally ignored by the world.
Below are some pictures of the type of atrocities committed by the French against the Muslims in these lands… http://www.imagebam.com/image/6f121e385752101
The 1961 Massacre of Muslim Algerians in Paris by the Police
Washington Report on Middle East Affairs 1 March 1997
by James J. Napoli – January 19, 2015
A Colleague of mine in Cairo told me a story a few years ago about a massacre in the streets of Paris. He was a news service reporter at the time of the violence in the French capital – Oct. 17, 1961 – and saw tens of bodies of dead Algerians piled like cordwood in the center of the city in the wake of what would now be called a police riot.
But his superiors at the news agency stopped him from telling the full story then, and most of the world paid little attention to the thin news coverage that the massacre did receive. Even now, the events of that time are not widely known and many people, like myself, had never heard of them at all.
This year is an apt time to recall what happened, and not only because this is the 35th anniversary year of Algerian independence. The continuing civil war in Algeria and the growing violence and racism in France, as well as the appalling slaughters taking place elsewhere in the world, give it a disturbing currency.
Here’s what happened:
Unarmed Algerian Muslims demonstrating in central Paris against a discriminatory curfew were beaten, shot, garrotted and even drowned by police and special troops. Thousands were rounded up and taken to detention centers around the city and the prefecture of police, where there were more beatings and killings.
BONAPARTE AND ISLAM
from French & Arab Documents by Christian Cherfils
PREFACE by the Sherif Abd el-Hakim
THE only nation in history which has sought, not to dominate Islam, but to ally herself with it in order to civilise the rest of the world, is undoubtedly France.
Such a political policy took shape under Francois I, and was achieved with Napoleon. However the problem was formerly obscured because theological differences never ceased to complicate dynastic ambitions. There was on the one hand the Trinitarian dogma of Christianity and the Unitarian dogma of Islam on the other.
Today the problem is clarified. It is no longer a question of crusades, in any sense whatsoever. If Islam is still politically divided, this is a result of its being absorbed by the European powers. What will become the attitude of the latter, particularly France?
Whilst respecting their beliefs and their interests, to adopt the Muslims as citizens of the protecting power; or to consider them a negligible quantity? There are indeed only two policies – either to treat these Muslims as conquered peoples, or to look upon them as adopted children. But the foremost of those policies is fraught with danger. It implies the establishment of privileges, the which can only breed discontentment, with all its consequences. On the other hand the second of these policies – that of adoption – is simply based on justice, whilst the former rests on nothing more than the arbitrary. Is not an equitable policy the one which proves lastingly effective?
The moment has come to choose. So what will be France’s decision?
It seems to me that to ask the question is to resolve it. Those who, like me, know their France and love her, cannot see that there should be any possible hesitation on this point for the descendants of the Great Revolution.
In North Africa France has attained the goal which she has pursued for long enough. She encompasses however, in the totality of her colonies, a Muslim population at least equal to that of her own. By which policy to contain these multitudes, and how to watch them?
It is to this that the Author has applied himself, with intentional discretion, but deferring to an authority at least as venerated in the Muslim world as in Europe.
Called to Egypt by his destiny, Napoleon established a rapport, not only with the Sultan of Constantinople, but also with the Sherif of Mecca, the Sultan of Morocco, the Sultan of Darfour and the Bey of Tunis; he corresponded with Tippoo-Sahib, and thus had the entire Muslim world in his sights.
For him, properly speaking, it was not a question of conquest, but of alliances, and that explains as much as his Egyptian policy as the sum of his subsequent declarations. No less a legislator than a warrior, he sought to penetrate Islam and knew how to understand it. He did more – he loved it – and was one of us.
My prayer is that this book will usefully recall to my brother Muslims the blissful sojourn of Napoleon among them, and serve as a model for Frenchmen who today guide the political direction of a substantial part of the Muslim world.
This is the goal that the sub-joined pages on Napoleon Bonaparte can and must attain.
Paris, 10th April 1914
THE object of this study is both philosophic and social: we are researching the theories on Islam put out and applied by Bonaparte during his Egyptian expedition. The persistence of the Islamic idea in the Emperor’s mind is most extraordinary, but the issue emerges from the scope of that concept, and we were only able to refer to it briefly. (1)
The historical data is gathered in front of us; we have had to choose the most explicit texts, whatever might be the apparent trend.
These documents seem to dominate not only the past, but even more the future, of Franco-Islamic relations.
(1) See Appendix I
THEY SHOULD ALL BE AWARE THAT THE MUSLIMS HAVE BECOME A PROBLEM BECAUSE THEY IGNORED THE GUIDANCE AND WARNINGS CONTAINED IN THE FINAL MESSAGE TO MANKIND AND ITS MESSENGER; AND, IN SO DOING, THEY HAVE BECOME WHAT MUHAMMAD (PBUH) WARNED THEM THEY WOULD TURN INTO “ZABD AL BAHR” I.E. “LIKE THE FOAM ON THE SEA” WIDE SPREAD,
MULTITUDINOUS, BUT OF LITTLE OR NO SUBSTANCE” NAPOLEON, HOWEVER, RECOGNISED THAT WHILST THIS WAS AND STILL IS THE CASE, THAT ISLAM WAS AND STILL IS THE ONLY SOLUTION. THEREFORE AS THE SAYING GOES, “WHEN ALL ELSE HAS FAILED, INSTEAD OF THROWING THE BABY OUT WITH THE BATH WATER: IT’S TIME TO READ THE INSTRUCTIONS” HERE THEY ARE ENDORSED BY NAPOLEON BONAPARTE: –
PART ONE BONAPARTE and ISLAM (I)
Letters and record of the Interior Administration
- Appreciation of Islam by Bonaparte.- II. Patriotic and civilising effects. – III. Religious manifestations. – IV. Islamic hopes. – V. Theoretical conclusion. – VI.Pragmatic conclusion. Explicit formula for the regeneration of Islam by learning.
UNFORGETTABLE words for the entire Middle East were spoken in Cairo in 1798. They were dictated and signed by Bonaparte the commander-in-chief. It was no longer France and a Muslim power, but France and Islam itself who were to become allies across the world. An Islamic renaissance, oblivion on long ordeals undergone, mutual and definitive penetration of Oriental and European civilisations: the most marvellous aspirations seem attainable.
Political declarations, one might say. Political perhaps; but the politics of Bonaparte.
Come to Egypt to protect economic interests (2), Bonaparte immediately widened the issue by forcing attention on the social aspect. Religions are like vaccines; the word is of his choosing. “I do not see in religion the mystery of incarnation, but the mystery of the social order,” he would say later. “It attributes to the heavens a concept of equality which prevents the rich from being massacred by the poor.” (3)
One might find that this is scarcely a religion, or indeed the only one which can be justified: such was, in any case, the first article of the Napoleonic code.
Among the declarations which follow, one cannot fail to notice this same religious spirit reveal itself in the merest utterance.
BONAPARTE is a deist. He does better than follow the fashion (We have too often forgotten that our forefathers instituted the cult of the Supreme Being), by temperament and disposition he is a confirmed deist.
After all, he is of a mind that, thanks to him, the affairs of this earth should be governed in the best possible manner.
And in so much that a military commander is resolved to impose respect for all creeds, he feels himself as effectively armed by Islam as disarmed by Rome, in pursuit of French foreign policy.
What hesitation, what scruples would influence such a commander in ordering his soldiers – children of the Revolution like himself – to be as tolerant towards Islam as towards catholicism, as benevolent in regard to the muftis as towards the rabbis and the bishops? If bit by bit he goes further, is that not because the political values, the social effects of Islamism, come through to him more and more clearly (4)?
Among Muslims, everything including the law stems from the Koran; one cannot therefore reach the populations without the support of the clerics. Bonaparte had talked at length with the sheikhs. He had chosen them not only for their influence and their character, but also for their understanding; and guided by his reading of the Koran, he soon became something of a thaleb.
He does not make much of a case for Catholic civilisation (we will presently hear him railing bitterly against the concept of the Trinity). What interests him is not so much a wayward charity as a sense of order, along with the justice and the power that it represents. Is not justice the very foundation of the Koran? And viewed in this light, do its principles not ring true?
Napoleon is haunted by history. As against the existing weakness of Islam, he sees on all sides the evidence of recent power and splendour. Is that splendour and that power definitely gone for ever, he asks himself? In a flash Bonaparte sums up the extent of Islam’s dynamic reserves, assumes them to be vast, and sets out to exploit them to the sure advantage of France and of civilisation itself – twin destinies which he regards as inseparable.
That, in our opinion, is what the texts demonstrate irrefutably.
- A fragment of this work appeared in The International Sociological Review of October 1912.
- See later in Appendix.
- Pelet de la Lozere.
- From the beginning Bonaparte had defined his goal; this was, curiously enough, the progressive.
Information from the Correspondence
@1-Appreciation of Islamism by Napoleon
EVEN before leaving France, Bonaparte had decided to study the Koran. (1) Under the significant heading of Politics and Morals, he had ordered them to obtain for his Camp Library copies of the Old and New Testaments, the Koran, the Vedas, Mythology and Esprit des Lois by Montesquieu. (2)
In advance the intention is signalled to follow the religious continuity of the respective countries, whilst clearly adopting for himself a politico-moral viewpoint. Immediately upon arriving in Egypt, the commander-in-chief assigns a civilising role to his expedition, not without the persisting shades of Alexander.