A History of the Propagation of the Muslim Faith
T.W. Arnold Ma. C.I.F
Professor Of Arabic, University Of London, University College. Written in 1896, revised in 1913
Rearranged by Dr. A.S. Hashim

To pass now to Bosnia :—in this country the religious and social conditions of the people, before the Turkish conquest, merit especial attention.

The majority of the population belonged to a heretical Christian sect, called Bogomiles, who from the thirteenth century had been exposed to the persecution of the Roman Catholics and against whom Popes had on several occasions preached a Crusade.[96]

In 1325, Pope John XXII wrote thus to the king of Bosnia :

“To our beloved son and nobleman, Stephen, Prince of Bosnia,—knowing that thou art a faithful son of the Church, we therefore charge thee to exterminate the heretics in thy dominion, and to render aid and assistance to Fabian, our Inquisitor,

forasmuch as a large multitude of heretics from many and divers parts collected hath flowed together into the principality of Bosnia, trusting there to sow their obscene errors and dwell there in safety.

These men, imbued with the cunning of the Old Fiend, and armed with the venom of their falseness, corrupt the minds of Catholics by outward show of simplicity and the sham assumption of the name of Christians; their speech crawleth like a crab, and they creep in with humility, but in secret they kill, and are wolves in sheep’s clothing, covering their bestial fury as a means to deceive the simple sheep of Christ.”

In the fifteenth century, the sufferings of the Bogomiles became so intolerable that they appealed to the Turks to deliver them from their unhappy condition, for the king of Bosnia and the priests were pushing the persecution of the Bogomiles to an extreme which perhaps it had never reached before;

  1. As many as forty thousand of them fled from Bosnia and took refuge in neighboring countries;
  2. others who did not succeed in making their escape, were sent in chains to Rome.

But even these violent measures did little to diminish the strength of the Bogomiles in Bosnia, as in 1462 we are told that faith was as powerful as ever in this country.

The following year, when Bosnia was invaded by Sultan Muhammad II, the Catholic king found himself deserted by his subjects:

  1. the keys of the principal fortress, the royal city of Bobovatz, were handed over to the Turks by the Bogomile governor;
  2. the other fortresses and towns hastened to follow this example,
  3. and within a week seventy cities passed into the hands of the Sultan, and Muhammad II added Bosnia to the number of his numerous conquests.[97]

From this time forth we hear but little of the Bogomiles; they seem to have willingly embraced Islam in large numbers immediately after the Turkish conquest, and the rest seem to have gradually followed later, while the Bosnian Roman Catholics emigrated into the neighboring territories of Hungary and Austria.

It has been supposed by some[98] that a large proportion of the Bogomiles, at least in the earlier period of the conquest, embraced Islam with the intention of returning to their faith when a favorable opportunity presented itself; as, being constantly persecuted they may have learnt to deny their faith for the time being; but that, when this favorable opportunity never arrived, this intention must have gradually been lost sight of and at length have been entirely forgotten by their descendants.

Such a supposition is, however, a pure conjecture and has no direct evidence to support it. We may rather find the reason for the willingness of the Bogomiles to allow themselves to be merged in the general mass of the Muslim believers, in the numerous points of likeness between their peculiar beliefs and the tenets of Islam. They rejected the worship of the Virgin Mary, the institution of Baptism and every form of priesthood.[99]

The Bogomiles abominated the cross as a religious symbol, and considered it idolatry to bow down before religious pictures and the images and relics of the saints.

Their houses of prayer were very simple and unadorned, in contrast to the gaudily decorated Roman Catholic churches,

and they shared the Muslim dislike of bells, which they styled “the devils trumpets.”

They believed that Christ was not himself crucified but that some phantom was substituted in his place: in this respect agreeing partially with the teaching of the Quran.[100]

Their condemnation of wine and the general austerity of their mode of life and the stern severity of their outward demeanor would serve as further links to bind them to Islam,[101] for it was said of them: ” You will see heretics quiet and peaceful as lambs without, silent, and wan with hypocritical fasting, who do not speak much nor laugh loud, who let their beard grow, and leave their person incompt.”[102]

They prayed five times a day and five times a night, repeating the Lords Prayer with frequent kneelings,[103]

and would thus find it very little change to join in the services of the mosque.

I have brought together here the many points of likeness to the teachings of Islam, which we find in this Bogomilian heresy, but there were, of course, some doctrines of a distinctly Christian character which an orthodox Muslim could not hold; still, with so much in common, it can easily be understood how the Bogomiles may gradually have been persuaded to give up those doctrines that were repugnant to the Muslim faith. Their Manichean dualism was equally irreconcilable with Muslim theology, but Islam has always shown itself tolerant of such theological speculations provided that they did not issue in a schism and that a general assent and consent were given to the main principles of its theory and practice.

The Turks, as was their usual custom, offered every advantage to induce the Bosnians to accept their creed. All who embraced Islam were allowed to retain their lands and possessions, and their fiefs were exempt from all taxation,[104] and it is probable that many rightful heirs of ancient houses who had been dispossessed for heretical opinions by the Catholic faction among the nobility, now embraced the opportunity of regaining their old position by submission to the dominant creed.

The Bosnian Muslims retained their nationality and still for the most part bear Serb names and speak only their national tongue;[105]

At the same time they have always evinced a lively zeal for Islam, their new faith, and by their military prowess, their devotion to Islam and the powerful influence they exercised, the Bosnian nobility rapidly rose into high favor in Constantinople and many were entrusted with important offices of state, e. g. between the years 1544 and 1611 nine statesmen of Bosnian origin filled the post of Grand Vizier.

[97] Asboth, pp. 42-95. Evans, pp. xxxvi-xlii.
[98] Asboth, pp. 96-7.
[99] ” They revile the ceremonies of the church and all church dignitaries, and they call orthodox priests blind Pharisees, and bay at them as dogs at horses. As to the Lord’s Supper, they assert that it is not kept according to God’s commandment, and that it is not the body of God, but ordinary bread.” (Kosmas, quoted by Evans, pp. xxx-xxxi.)
[100] Sūrah iv. 156.
[101] Cf. the admiration of the Turks for Charles XII of Sweden. ” Son opiniâtreté à s’abstenir du vin, et sa régularité à assister deux fois par jour aux prières publiques, leur fesaient dire: C’est un vrai musulman.” (Œuvres de Voltaire, tome 23, p. 200.) (Paris, 1785.)
[102]Kosmas, quoted by Evans, p. xxxi.
[103] Asboth, p. 36. Wetzer und Welte, vol. ii. p. 975.
[104] Olivier, pp. 17-8.
[105] Olivier, p. 113.