The Preaching of Islam: A History of the Propagation of the Muslim Faith


The Preaching of Islam: A History of the Propagation of the Muslim Faith is an important early work by the British Orientalist and historian of Islamic art Sir Thomas Walker Arnold (1864–1930). Arnold was born in Devonport, Devon, England, and graduated from Magdalene College, Cambridge. In 1888 he moved to British India, where he taught philosophy at the Mohammedan Anglo-Oriental College (present-day Aligarh Muslim University). It was there that he began to form strong bonds with Indian Muslim reformists such as Sir Sayyid Ahmad Khan and Shibli Numani. Arnold had a long career in teaching, which took him to Government College, Lahore, and then back to England, where he became professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies at the University of London. In 13 chapters, the book traces the spread of the Muslim faith from Arabia westward into Christian Europe and eastward into Persia, Central Asia, India, and beyond. Later Muslim expansions into Africa, the Balkans, and the Malay Archipelago also are covered. Following German Orientalist Max Müller’s categorization of both Christianity and Islam as “missionary” religions, Arnold contrasts the ways missionary work is carried out in Islam and Christianity. He credits “the absence of any priesthood and any ecclesiastical organization” in Islam with the success of Muslim preachers. Overall, the book gives a nuanced explanation for the spread of Islam into former Christian territories, pivoting away from the common argument about Muslim persecution of Christians to consider such factors such as economics, tolerance, politics, and trade. Arnold was also the author of Painting in Islam, a classic on the subject. Presented here is the revised and enlarged second edition (1913) of The Preaching of Islam, a work first published in 1896.

Last updated: June 16, 2016