Dedicated to my friends


and many others, formerly
who have found salvation in
Jesus Christ, our Lord.


This brief study introduces the reader to the most important and most influential class in the world of Islam. There are nearly 300,000,000 Moslems between Morocco and China and from Warsaw to Capetown. In India alone they number ninety millions, and in Africa over fifty millions.

On the occasion of the dedication of a new site for a cathedral mosque, the London Times (Nov. 22, 1944) wrote: "His Majesty indeed has more Moslems than Christians among his subjects; and his capital, appropriately enough, holds a larger Moslem community than any other western metropolis. But while there are already two small mosques in London and a larger institution in Woking, as well as other mosques in those British cities where Moslems mainly congregate, there is nowhere in Britain a 'cathedral mosque' worthy of the heart of an Empire within whose bounds the culture and traditions of Islam flourish so mightily." There is also a proposal on foot to build a mosque in Washington."

The post-war world will bring America and Europe in closer touch with Islam than ever before. Men of the consular service, orientalists, merchants, tourists, and missionaries will find that it is supremely important to understand the soul of a people and their popular religion and folk-traditions. To achieve this, we must know their spiritual leaders. My conviction, after forty years of experience in Arabia and Egypt (including visits to North Africa, India, China, Iran, and Java) is that the key to understanding of the masses lies in personal friendship with their clergy, the so-called imams, mullahs, and sheikhs.

Since the abolition of the caliphate, the political power of Islam has waned. But the soul of Islam lives on in the village school-teacher, the clergy, the professors of canon law, and the popular saints of the darwish-orders.

The following pages, illustrated by photographs, are an introduction to these "clergy"; their origin, organization, functions, faith, zeal, and present-day influence and power. If the words of Mohammed himself, "the learned of my people are as the prophets of Israel," can be taken as prophetic, then these 'ulema (learned) are the one spiritual factor in Islam which we must try to understand if we desire to know and help the common people, and this is supremely important to those who preach the gospel.

New York City.
Samuel M. Zwemer.

"The 'ULEMA are the heirs of the prophets" - thus Mohammed is supposed to have spoken. To them falls the mission of binding and loosing. . . . They are regarded as the authorized interpreters of the consensus. It is to them that the Faithful turn when in doubt, for the solution of cases of conscience or points of doctrine.... The quadi is chosen from among the 'ulema. His Tribunal admits oral testimony alone; that of a non-Muslim is excluded. The supreme council of 'ulema is at the University of Al Azhar, Cairo.

-H. Lammens S. J. in Islam, pp.101, 102, 110.



Pulpit and Mihrab Mosque of Sultan Hassan, Cairo

Portrait of Mohammed by a Persian Artist

Chinese Mosque-Tower, Sian-fu Facing

Incense Vessels and Rosary Box, China

Pulpit in Mosque, China

Moslem Clergy Leading Funeral Procession, Algeria

Mullah of Ispahan

Principal of Moslem School, Capetown

Al Azhar Court in 1920

Seyyid of Hamadan

Tomb of Moslem Saint, Yugo-Slavia

Qadhi, a Judge of Iran

A Traveling Darwish of Iran

Moslem Graves at Bucharest and Sarajevo (2)

Egyptian Family at Tombs of Caliphs to Bless Their Children

Qadhi-Mujtahid of Kermanshah, 1928

An Indian Mullah, N. W. Province

Rosaries Used by Moslems

Go to Chapter One

Heirs of the Prophets Table of Contents