Indeed in the Messenger of Allah you have an excellent example to follow for whoever hopes in Allah and the Last Day and remembers Allah much.”Qur’an 33:21
Muslims believe that Muhammad (peace be upon him) is the final Prophet in a long chain of Prophets sent to call the people to the obedience and worship of God alone (‘Allah’ in Arabic). Some of these Prophets include Adam, Noah, Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David, Solomon and Jesus (peace be upon them all).
Just as Moses (peace be upon him) was sent with the Torah (the original uncorrupted revelation sent to Moses) and Jesus (peace be upon him) with the Gospel (the original, uncorrupted revelation – not the present-day versions), Muslims believe that Muhammad (peace be upon him) was sent with the Qur’an to demonstrate how its teachings should be applied.
The Prophet’s (peace be upon him) wife, ‘A’isha, was once asked to describe the Prophet (peace be upon him), and she replied that “his character was a reflection of the Quran” (Muslim, 40), meaning he meticulously implemented the noble teachings of the Qur’an into his daily life. We will demonstrate how he translated these noble teachings into noble actions.
Mission of Mercy
And We (God) have not sent you (Muhammad) except as a mercy for mankind.”Qur’an 21:107
As well as calling people to pray, fast and give charity, the Prophet (peace be upon him) taught that one’s faith in God should also affect one’s treatment of others. He said: “The best of you are they who have the best character.”
Many sayings of the Prophet (peace be upon him) emphasise the relationship between belief and action, for example: “Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, should not hurt his neighbour, and whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, should serve his guest generously, and whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, should speak what is good or keep quiet.”
The final Messenger (Peace be upon him) taught humans to show mercy and to respect each other:“He who does not show mercy to others, will not be shown mercy.”
In another narration, some people requested the Prophet (peace be upon him) to invoke God to punish the disbelievers but he replied: “I have not been sent as one to curse but as a mercy.”
Let them forgive and overlook: do you not wish that Allah should forgive you? For Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.”Qur’an 24:22)
The Prophet (peace be upon him) was the most forgiving of all people and the kindest. If someone abused him, he would forgive him, and the harsher a person was, the more patient he would become. He was extremely lenient and forgiving, especially when he had the upper hand and the power to retaliate.
Muhammad (peace be upon him) was all for forgiveness and no amount of crime or aggression against him was too great to be forgiven by him. He was the best example of forgiveness and kindness, as mentioned in the following verse of the Qur’an: “Keep to forgiveness (O Muhammad), and enjoin kindness, and turn away from the ignorant.” (Al-Qur’an 7:199)
Indeed the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you.”Qur’an 49:13
In the following sayings of the Prophet (peace be upon him), he taught that all humans are equal in the sight of God:
“All humanity is from Adam and Adam is from clay. There is no superiority for an Arab over a non-Arab, nor for a black over a white; except through piety.”
“God does not judge you according to your appearance and your wealth, but He looks at your hearts and looks into your deeds.”
It is related that once a companion of the Prophet (peace be upon him) called another companion in an offensive way, “Son of a black woman!” The Prophet (peace be upon him), became angry and replied, “Do you condemn him because of the blackness of his mother? You still have within you traces of ignorance from the pre-Islamic period.”
Good deeds and evil deeds are not equal. Repel evil with what is best, then he with whom you had enmity shall become as a loyal friend.”Qur’an 41:34
“You should not do evil to those who do evil to you, but you should deal with them with forgiveness and kindness.” This is how the final Messenger of God (peace be upon him) reacted to personal attacks and abuse.
Islamic sources include a number of instances where the Prophet (peace be upon him) had the opportunity to take revenge upon those who wronged him, but refrained from doing so.
He taught man to exercise patience in the face of adversity: “The strong is not the one who overcomes people by his strength, but the strong is the one who controls himself while in anger.”
Practising patience and tolerance does not mean that a Muslim should be a passivist and not defend himself in case of attack. Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him) stated that, “Do not wish to meet the enemy, but when you meet (face) the enemy, be patient (i.e. stand firm when facing the enemy).”
By the grace of Allah, you are gentle towards the people; if you had been harsh and hard-hearted, they would have dispersed from around you.”Qur’an 3:159
A companion who served Muhammad (peace be upon him) for ten years said that Muhammad (peace be upon him) was always gentle in his dealings with him. “When I did something, he never questioned my manner of doing it; and when I did not do something, he never questioned my failure to do it. He was the friendliest of all men.”
On one occasion, the wife of the Prophet (peace be upon him) reacted angrily after being insulted by a person.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) advised her: “Be gentle and calm, O ‘Aisha, as Allah likes gentleness in all affairs.”
He also said: “Show gentleness! For if gentleness is found in something, it beautifies it, and when it is taken out from anything, it makes it deficient.”
And the servants of The Most Gracious (God) are those who walk on the earth in humbleness, and when the ignorant address them, they say: ‘Peace.’ ”Qur’an 25:63
The Prophet (peace be upon him) used to prevent people from standing up for him out of respect. He used to sit wherever there was a place available in an assembly and never sought a prominent or elevated place. He never wore anything to distinguish himself from his companions or appear in higher rank than them. He used to mix with the poor and the needy; he used to sit with the elderly and support the widows. People who did not know him could not tell him apart from the rest of the crowd.
Addressing his companions, he said: “Allah has revealed to me, that you must be humble. No one should boast over one another, and no one should oppress another.”
Such was his humbleness that he was fearful of being worshipped, a privilege only befitting God:
“Do not exceed bounds in praising me as the Christians do in praising Jesus, Son of Mary. I am only the Lord’s servant; then call me the Servant of Allah and His Messenger.”
The Ideal Husband
And live with them (your spouses) in kindness.”Qur’an 4:19
The Prophet’s beloved wife, Aa’isha, said of her noble husband: “He used to repair his shoes, sew or mend his clothes and do what ordinary men did in their houses.”
Not only was he a devoted husband, he also encouraged his companions to follow his example: “The most perfect of the believers in faith are the best of them in morals. And the best among them are those who are best to their wives.”
The Ideal Example
Indeed you (O Muhammad) are on an exalted standard of character.”Qur’an 68:4
What has preceded is only a glimpse of how Muhammad (peace be upon him) lived his life. The examples of kindness and mercy mentioned may come as a surprise to some people given the portrayal of Islam in the media and its constant misrepresentation.
It is important when trying to understand Islam that one goes directly to its sources: The Qur’an, and the sayings and actions of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), and that anyone does not judge Islam based on the errant actions of a few Muslims.
Comments from Non-Muslims
Mahatma K Gandhi, a major political and spiritual leader of the Indian independence movement, remarked: “It was the rigid simplicity, the utter self-effacement of the Prophet, the scrupulous regard for his pledges, his intense devotion to his friends and followers, his intrepidity, his fearlessness, his absolute trust in God and in his own mission. These and not the sword carried everything before them and surmounted every obstacle.”
George Bernard Shaw, the British playwright, declared: “The world is in dire need of a man with the mind of Muhammad; religious people in the Middle Ages, due to their ignorance and prejudice, had pictured him in a very dark way as they used to consider him the enemy of Christianity. But after looking into the story of this man I found it to be an amazing and a miraculous one, and I came to the conclusion that he was never an enemy of Christianity, and must be called instead the saviour of humanity. In my opinion, if he was to be given control over the world today, he would solve our problems and secure the peace and happiness which the world is longing for.”
Allah (God), the Creator of the universe and everything in it, created humans for a noble purpose: to worship Him alone and lead a virtuous life based on His teachings and guidance. However, one cannot fulfil this purpose without receiving clear guidelines from Allah. Allah, the Most Merciful and Just, did not leave us to wander the Earth aimlessly. In order to inform us of our purpose, Allah appointed certain individuals to communicate and demonstrate His message to all of mankind. These individuals are known as Prophets, which include Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad – may peace be upon them all.
The Characteristics of Prophets
All Prophets have common characteristics which make them exceptional human beings.
Prophets receive revelation
The main difference between an ordinary human being and a Prophet is that a Prophet receives revelation from Allah.
Prophets have noble character
Prophets never sought personal benefits such as wealth, high status or power – rather, they only sought the approval of God.
Prophets were the best examples amongst their people in character and righteousness. They lived in obedience to God, with excellent morals and were always truthful in speech and conduct. For this reason, Muslims reject totally the false attribution of major sins to the Prophets, as appears in some scriptures of other religions.
Prophets perform miracles
Many Prophets performed miracles, usually in a field which their people excelled. For example, the people of Moses (peace be upon him) excelled in magic; therefore, Moses (peace be upon him) was able to perform miraculous acts which even magicians could not perform. The people of Jesus (peace be upon him) excelled in matters of medicine; therefore, Jesus (peace be upon him) was able to perform acts of healing beyond the skill of his own people. The people of Muhammad (peace be upon him) excelled in poetry; therefore, Muhammad (peace be upon him) delivered the Quran, containing such eloquent words which no poet could ever compete with. In addition, many Prophets conveyed truthful prophecies of future events. Such miracles were performed only with the permission and assistance of Allah, proving that they were human, and not divine.
Prophets are not divine
While Prophets are chosen by Allah Almighty, they are in no way divine and should not be worshipped. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was commanded to say, “I am only a man like you. It has been revealed to me that your God is One God.” Quran 18:110
It is clear even from the Bible, both the Old and New Testaments, that the Prophets were not divine, and would worship and prostrate to the One True God.
“And he [Jesus] went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed…” Matthew 26:39
“And they [Moses and Aaron] fell upon their faces…” Numbers 16:22
“And Abram [i.e. Abraham] fell on his face: and God talked with him…” Genesis 17:3
Prophets have necessary qualities
Allah gave all Prophets certain characteristics in order for them to successfully fulfil their mission, such as persistence, courage, leadership, patience and wisdom.
Some examples include:
The persistence of Noah (peace be upon him) in calling his people to Allah, even though very few accepted.
The courage of Abraham (peace be upon him) to singlehandedly confront his entire community regarding their false beliefs, while he was still very young.
The leadership of Moses (peace be upon him) in directing the escape of his people from the most oppressive tyrant of his time – Pharaoh.
The patience of Jesus (peace be upon him) in enduring the hardships and persecution imposed upon him by his people.
The wisdom of Muhammad (peace be upon him) in uniting the many rival tribes of Arabia, who had a long history of conflict, into one peaceful community.
The Message of the Prophets
And certainly We sent to every nation a Messenger (saying): ‘Worship Allah and avoid false gods.
Since all Prophets were sent by the One True God, they all conveyed the same message and had the same mission – to remind and educate their people of the purpose of life.
Their message was to:
Clarify the true concept of God and reject false beliefs
Teach the true purpose of life
Demonstrate how Allah should be worshipped
Convey Allah’s definition of righteous and sinful conduct, and advise people accordingly
Describe the rewards for obedience (Heaven) and warn of the punishment for disobedience (Hell)
Explain commonly misunderstood issues such as the soul, angels and spirits, the afterlife and fate
And We sent not a Messenger except with the language of his people, in order that he might make (the Message) clear for them…
The main focus of all the Prophets was to clarify the concept of God: that He has no partners or equals, and that all worship should be directed exclusively toward Him. In the Quran, there are numerous examples of Prophets proclaiming this message:
Noah (peace be upon him) said [Quran 7:59],
O my people! Worship Allah! You have no other gods besides Him.
Abraham (peace be upon him) said [Quran 21:66],
Do you worship besides Allah, things that can neither bring you benefit nor cause you harm?”
Moses (peace be upon him) said [Quran 7:140],
What! Shall I seek for you a god other than Allah even though He has made you excel (all) created things?”
Jesus (peace be upon him) said [Quran 3:51],
Indeed Allah is my Lord and your Lord: so worship Him (alone): this is the Straight Way.”
Muhammad (peace be upon him) said [Quran 18:110],
It has been revealed to me that your God is One God. So whoever expects to meet his Lord then let him do good deeds and associate none as a partner in the worship of his Lord.”
This message was consistent throughout the generations, and highlights the importance of having the correct belief in God.
Every Nation was Sent a Prophet
And for every nation there is a messenger.
Muslims believe that thousands of Prophets were sent periodically by Allah, at least one to every nation, as a mercy to mankind for their guidance. In certain circumstances, the message of the Prophets was lost, corrupted, forgotten, neglected, or denied by the people. These were some of the reasons why a new Prophet would be sent to re-convey Allah’s message.
Muslims believe in and respect every Prophet sent by God. Muslims also believe in all of the divine books which were revealed to the Prophets, mindful of the fact that none of these books exist today in their original form, aside from the Quran. “It is He (Allah) Who has sent down the Book (the Quran) to you (Muhammad) with truth, confirming what came before it. And He sent down the Torah and the Gospel.” Quran 3:3
Why Doesn’t Everyone Receive Direct Revelation?
Allah created life and gave humans free will and intellect, as a test to see who will willingly follow His path and who will deviate. If every person received direct revelation, life would not be a true test of faith. The real test of one’s faith is in using one’s intellect and reason to contemplate and recognise God’s signs, rather than being spoken to directly by God, which would not require any effort, and would render belief meaningless.
Although Prophets received direct revelation, this did not exempt them from life’s tests, as Prophethood brings with it many difficulties and trials.
The Final Prophet
Prophets were sent to specific groups of people, and over time, the messages with which they came were lost or corrupted. However, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was not sent to a specific people, but to mankind as a whole, and his message has been preserved both in the form of the Quran and the Sunnah. Since the Quran and Sunnah are preserved and easily accessible, there is no need for another Prophet.
The Quran is the spoken word of Allah, and is free of any corruption, errors or contradictions. It is a book of “guidance for mankind… and the distinction (between right and wrong).” Quran 2:185
The Sunnah is a collection of the sayings and actions of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), as recorded by his companions and their students. The fact that there are thousands of these recorded and rigorously authenticated makes it very easy for anyone to follow Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) correctly.
The message of Prophet Muhammad is in complete harmony with the teachings of the previous Prophets, and reaffirms their message.
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is the final Prophet for all mankind from his time up until the end of time, including current and future generations. He was a perfect example of an honest, just, merciful, compassionate, truthful and brave human being. He, like other Prophets before him, did not have any evil characteristics and strove solely for the sake of Allah.
Indeed in the Messenger of Allah [Prophet Muhammad] you have an excellent example to follow for whoever hopes in (the meeting with) Allah and the Last Day, and remembers Allah much.
Prophets were sent as a mercy by Allah, to convey His message and to teach people how to live a righteous life. They have the best of characteristics and are to be followed and obeyed. Following a Prophet is obedience to God and rejecting a Prophet is disobedience to God. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is the last of the Prophets, so God’s guidance was complete with his coming, and our salvation is complete with the obedience to God and His Final Prophet.
To give an unbiased yet positive account of his character to the readers, in this section, I intend to quote some of the writings of Non-Muslim writers to illustrate how he appeared in the eyes of some of the Non-Muslim writers.
Pringle Kennedy has observed (Arabian Society at the Time of Muhammad, pp.8, 10, 18, 21):
Muhammad was, to use a striking expression, the man of the hour. In order to understand his wonderful success, one must study the conditions of his times. Five and half centuries and more had elapsed when he was born since Jesus had come into the world. At that time, the old religions of Greece and Rome, and of the hundred and one states along the Mediterranean, had lost their vitality. In their place, Caesarism had come as a living cult. The worship of the state as personified by the reigning Caesar, such was the religion of the Roman Empire. Other religions might exist, it was true; but they had to permit this new cult by the side of them and predominant over them. But Caesarism failed to satisfy. The Eastern religions and superstitions (Egyptian, Syrian, Persian) appealed to many in the Roman world and found numerous votaries. The fatal fault of many of these creeds was that in many respects they were so ignoble …
When Christianity conquered Caesarism at the commencement of the fourth century, it, in its turn, became Caesarised. No longer was it the pure creed which had been taught some three centuries before. It had become largely de spiritualised, ritualised, materialised …….
How, in a few years, all this was changed, how, by 650 AD a great part of this world became a different world from what it had been before, is one of the most remarkable chapters in human history …. This wonderful change followed, if it was not mainly caused by, the life of one man, the Prophet of Mecca ….
Whatever the opinion one may have of this extraordinary man, whether it be that of the devout Muslim who considers him the last and greatest herald of God’s word, or of the fanatical Christian of former days, who considered him an emissary of the Evil One, or of certain modern Orientalists, who look on him rather as a politician than a saint, as an organiser of Asia in general and Arabia in particular, against Europe, rather than as a religious reformer; there can be no difference as to the immensity of the effect which his life has had on the history of the world.
To those of us, to whom the man is everything, the milieu but little, he is the supreme instance of what can be done by one man. Even others, who hold that the conditions of time and place, the surroundings of every sort, the capacity of receptivity of the human mind, have, more than an individual effort, brought about the great steps in the world’s history, cannot well deny, that even if this step were to come, without Muhammad, it would have been indefinitely delayed.
MICHAEL H HART
He in his book The 100 has ranked the great men in history with respect to their influence on human history. He ranked the Holy Prophet Muhammmadsaw as the most influential man in the human history. He wrote the following about the Holy Prophet Muhammadsaw. The text has been quoted in its entirety, however in the few places where I differed strongly with his opinion, I have taken the liberty to insert my humble opinion within parenthesis to caution the reader.
My choice of Muhammad to lead the list of the world’s most influential persons may surprise some readers and may be questioned by others, but he was the only man in history who was supremely successful on both the religious and secular levels.
Of humble origins, Muhammad founded and promulgated one of the world’s great religions, and became an immensely effective political leader. Today, thirteen centuries after his death, his influence is still powerful and pervasive.
The majority of the persons in this book had the advantage of being born and raised in centers of civilization, highly cultured or politically pivotal nations. Muhammad, however, was born in the year 570, in the city of Makkah, in southern Arabia, at that time a backward area of the world, far from the centers of trade, art, and learning. Orphaned at age six, he was reared in modest surroundings. Islamic tradition tells us that he was illiterate. His economic position improved when, at age twenty five, he married a wealthy widow. Nevertheless, as he approached forty, there was little outward indication that he was a remarkable person.
Most Arabs at that time were pagans, who believed in many gods. There were, however, in Makkah, a small number of Jews and Christians; it was from them no doubt that Muhammad first learned of a single, omnipotent God who ruled the entire universe. When he was forty years old, Muhammad became convinced that this one true God (Allah) was speaking to him, and had chosen him to spread the true faith.
For three years, Muhammad preached only to close friends and associates. Then, about 613, he began preaching in public. As he slowly gained converts, the Makkahn authorities came to consider him a dangerous nuisance. In 622, fearing for his safety, Muhammad fled to Madinah (a city some 200 miles north of Makkah), where he had been offered a position of considerable political power. This flight, called the Higra, was the turning point of the Prophet’s life. In Makkah, he had had few followers. In Madinah, he had many more, and he soon acquired an influence that made him a virtual dictator. During the next few years, while Muhammad’s following grew rapidly, a series of battles were fought between Madinah and Makkah. This war ended in 630 with Muhammad’s triumphant return to Makkah as conqueror. The remaining two and one half years of his life witnessed the rapid conversion of the Arab tribes to the new religion. When Muhammad died, in 632, he was the effective ruler of all of southern Arabia.
The Bedouin tribesmen of Arabia had a reputation as fierce warriors. But their number was small; and plagued by disunity and internecine warfare, they had been no match for the larger armies of the kingdoms in the settled agricultural areas to the north. However, unified by Muhammad for the first time in history, and inspired by their fervent belief in the one true God, these small Arab armies now embarked upon one of the most astonishing series of conquests in human history. (However, one should note that these were not offencive wars, limitation of time and space will not allow us to dwell onto a detailed analysis of these wars and conquests). To the northeast of Arabia lay the large Neo Persian Empire of the Sassanids; to the northwest lay the Byzantine, or Eastern Roman Empire, centered in Constantinople. Numerically, the Arabs were no match for their opponents. On the field of battle, though, the inspired Arabs rapidly conquered all of Mesopotamia, Syria, and Palestine. By 642, Egypt had been wrested from the Byzantine Empire, while the Persian armies had been crushed at the key battles of Qadisiya in 637, and Nehavend in 642.
But even these enormous conquests — which were made under the leadership of Muhammad’s close friends and immediate successors, Abu Bakr and ‘Umar ibn al Khattab did not mark the end of the Arab advance. By 711, the Arab armies had swept completely across North Africa to the Atlantic Ocean. There they turned north and, crossing the Strait of Gibraltar, overwhelmed the Visigothic kingdom in Spain. For a while, it must have seemed that the Muslims would overwhelm all of Christian Europe. However, in 732, at the famous Battle of Tours, a Muslim army, which had advanced into the center of France, was at last defeated by the Franks. Nevertheless, in a scant century of fighting, these Bedouin tribesmen, inspired by the word of the Prophet, had carved out an empire stretching from the borders of India to the Atlantic Ocean — the largest empire that the world had yet seen. And everywhere that the armies conquered, large scale conversion to the new faith eventually followed.
Now, not all of these conquests proved permanent. The Persians, though they have remained faithful to the religion of the Prophet, have since regained their independence from the Arabs. And in Spain, more than seven centuries of warfare finally resulted in the Christians reconquering the entire peninsula. However, Mesopotamia and Egypt, the two cradles of ancient civilization, have remained Arab, as has the entire coast of North Africa. The new religion, of course, continued to spread, in the intervening centuries, far beyond the borders of the original Muslim conquests. Currently, it has tens of millions of adherents in Africa and Central Asia, and even more in Pakistan and northern India, and in Indonesia. In Indonesia, the new faith has been a unifying factor. In the Indian subcontinent, however, the conflict between Muslims and Hindus is still a major obstacle to unity.
How, then, is one to assess the overall impact of Muhammad on human history? Like all religions, Islam exerts an enormous influence upon the lives of its followers. It is for this reason that the founders of the world’s great religions all figure prominently in this book. Since there are roughly twice as many Christians as Muslims in the world, it may initially seem strange that Muhammad has been ranked higher than Jesus. There are two principal reasons for that decision First, Muhammad played a far more important role in the development of Islam than Jesus did in the development of Christianity. Although Jesus was responsible for the main ethical and moral precepts of Christianity (insofar as these differed from Judaism), St. Paul was the main developer of Christian theology, its principal proselytizer, and the author of a large portion of the New Testament.
Muhammad, however, was responsible for both the theology of Islam and its main ethical and moral principles. In addition, he played the key role in proselytizing the new faith, and in establishing the religious practices of lslam. Moreover, he is the author of the Muslim holy scriptures, the Quran, (however, the Muslims believe and try to prove that it is the literal word of God), a collection of certain of Muhammad’s insights that he believed had been directly revealed to him by Allah. Most of these utterances were copied more or less faithfully during Muhammad’s lifetime and were collected together in authoritative form not long after his death. The Quran, therefore, closely represents Muhammad’s ideas and teachings and to a considerable extent his exact words. No such detailed compilation of the teachings of Christ has survived. Since the Quran is at least as important to Muslims as the Bible is to Christians, the influence of Muhammad through the medium of the Quran has been enormous. It is probable that the relative influence of Muhammad on Islam has been larger than the combined influence of Jesus Christ and St. Paul on Christianity. On the purely religious level, then, it seems likely that Muhammad has been as influential in human history as Jesus.
Furthermore, Muhammad (unlike Jesus) was a secular as well as a religious leader. In fact, as the driving force behind the Arab conquests, he may well rank as the most influential political leader of all time.
Of many important historical events, one might say that they were inevitable and would have occurred even without the particular political leader who guided them. For example, the South American colonies would probably have won their independence from Spain even if Simon Bolivar had never lived. But this cannot be said of the Arab conquests. Nothing similar had occurred before Muhammad, and there is no reason to believe that the conquests would have been achieved without him. The only comparable conquests in human history are those of the Mongols in the thirteenth century, which were primarily due to the influence of Genghis Khan. These conquests, however, though more extensive than those of the Arabs, did not prove permanent, and today the only areas occupied by the Mongols are those that they held prior to the time of Genghis Khan.
It is far different with the conquests of the Arabs. From Iraq to Morocco, there extends a whole chain of Arab nations united not merely by their faith in Islam, but also by their Arabic language, history, and culture. The centrality of the Quran in the Muslim religion and the fact that it is written in Arabic have probably prevented the Arab language from breaking up into mutually unintelligible dialects, which might otherwise have occurred in the intervening thirteen centuries. Differences and divisions between these Arab states exist, of course, and they are considerable, but the partial disunity should not blind us to the important elements of unity that have continued to exist. For instance, neither Iran nor Indonesia, both oil producing states and both Islamic in religion, joined in the oil embargo of the winter of 1973 74. It is no coincidence that all of the Arab states, and only the Arab states, participated in the embargo.
We see, then, that the Arab conquests of the seventh century have continued to play an important role in human history, down to the present day. It is this unparalleled combination of secular and religious influence which I feel entitles Muhammad to be considered the most influential single figure in human history.
SIR THOMAS CARLYLE
Talking about the fact that Hadhrat Muhammadsaw was illiterate he writes:
One other circumstance we must not forget: that he had no school learning; of the thing we call school-learning none at all. The art of writing was but just introduced into Arabia; it seems to be the true opinion that Muhammad never could write! Life in the Desert, with its experiences, was all his education. What of this infinite Universe he, from his dim place, with his own eyes and thoughts, could take in, so much and no more of it was he to know. Curious, if we will reflect on it, this of having no books. Except by what he could see for himself, or hear of by uncertain rumour of speech in the obscure Arabian Desert, he could know nothing. The wisdom that had been before him or at a distance from him in the world, was in a manner as good as not there for him. Of the great brother souls, flame beacons through so many lands and times, no one directly communicates with this great soul. He is alone there, deep down in the bosom of the Wilderness; has to grow up so, — alone with Nature and his own Thoughts.
Talking about his marriage he writes:
How he was placed with Kadijah, a rich Widow, as her steward, and travelled in her business, again to the Fairs of Syria; how he managed all, as one can well understand, with fidelity and adroitness; how her gratitude, her regard for him grew: the story of their marriage is altogether a graceful intelligible one, as told us by the Arab authors. He was twenty five; she forty, though still beautiful. He seems to have lived in a most affectionate, peaceable, wholesome way with this wedded benefactress; loving her truly, and her alone. It goes greatly against the impostor theory, the fact that he lived in this entirely unexceptionable, entirely quiet and commonplace way, till the heat of his years was done.
H. Denison writes in his book,Emotions as the Basis of Civilisation, pp. 265 9:
In the fifth and sixth centuries, the civilised world stood on the verge of chaos. The old emotional cultures that had made civilisation possible, since they had given to man a sense of unity and of reverence for their rulers, had broken down, and nothing had been found adequate to take their place. ….. It seemed then that the great civilisation which had taken four thousand years to construct was on the verge of disintegration, and that mankind was likely to return to that condition of barbarism where every tribe and sect was against the next, and law and order were unknown ……. The new sanctions created by Christianity were creating divisions and destruction instead of unity and order …. Civilisation like a gigantic tree whose foliage had over reached the world ….. stood tottering ….. rotted to the core …. Was there any emotional culture that could be brought in to gather mankind once more to unity and to save civilisation? … It was among the Arabs that the man was born who was to unite the whole known world of the east and south.
P. Scott writes in,History of the Moorish Empire in Europe, p. 126:
If the object of religion be the inculcation of morals, the diminution of evil, the promotion of human happiness, the expansion of the human intellect, if the performance of good works will avail in the great day when mankind shall be summoned to its final reckoning it is neither irreverent nor unreasonable to admit that Muhammad was indeed an Apostle of God.
Lamartine a French historian, writes in his book, History of Turkey, p. 276:
Philosopher, orator, apostle, legislator, warrior, conqueror of ideas, restorer of rational dogmas, the founder of twenty terrestrial empires and of one spiritual empire, that is Muhammad. As regards all standards by which human greatness may be measured, we may ask, is there any man greater than he?
I“f greatness of purpose, smallness of means, and outstanding results are the three criteria of human genius, who could dare to compare any great man in modern history with Muhammad? The most famous men created arms, and empires only. They founded, if any at all, no more than material power which often crumbled away before their eyes. This man merged not only armies, legislation, empires, peoples and dynasties but millions of men in one third of the inhabited world, and more than that, moved the altars, the gods, the religions, the ideas, the beliefs and the souls on the basis of a Book, every letter of which has become law. He created a spiritual nationality of every tongue and of every race.” (Historie de la Turqu,, Vol. 2, page 76-77)
SIR WILLIAM MUIR
The following description of his person and character is taken from Sir William Muir (Life of Muhammad, pp. 510-13):
His form, though little above mean height, was stately and commanding. The depth of feeling in his dark black eyes, and the winning expression of a face otherwise attractive, gained the confidence and love of strangers, even at first sight. His features often unbended into a smile full of grace and condescension. He was, says an admiring follower, the handsomest and bravest, the brightest faced and most generous of men. It was as though the sunlight beamed in his countenance. His gait has been likened to that of one descending a hill rapidly. When he made haste, it was with difficulty that one kept pace with him. He never turned, even if his mantle caught in a thorny bush; so that his attendants talked and laughed freely behind him secure of being unobserved.
Thorough and complete in all his actions, he took in hand no work without bringing it to a close. The same habit pervaded his manner in social intercourse. If he turned in a conversation towards a friend, he turned not partially, but with his full face and his whole body. In shaking hands, he was not the first to withdraw his own; nor was he the first to break off in converse with a stranger, nor to turn away his ear. A patriarchal simplicity pervaded his life. His custom was to do everything for himself. If he gave an alms he would place it with his own hands in that of the petitioner. He aided his wives in their household duties, mended his clothes, tied up the goats, and even cobbled his sandals. His ordinary dress was of plain white cotton stuff, made like his neighbours’. He never reclined at meals. Muhammad, with his wives, lived, as we have seen, in a row of low and homely cottages built of unbaked bricks, the apartments separated by walls of palm branches rudely daubed with mud, while curtains of leather, or of black haircloth, supplied the place of doors and windows. He was to all of easy access even as the river’s bank to him that draweth water from it. Embassies and deputations were received with the utmost courtesy and consideration. In the issue of rescripts bearing on their representations, or in other matters of state, Muhammad displayed all the qualifications of an able and experienced ruler. What renders this the more strange is that he was never known himself to write.
A remarkable feature was the urbanity and consideration with which Muhammad treated even the most insignificant of his followers. Modesty and kindliness, patience, self denial, and generosity, pervaded his conduct, and riveted the affections of all around him. He disliked to say No. If unable to answer a petitioner in the affirmative, he preferred silence. He was not known ever to refuse an invitation to the house even of the meanest, nor to decline a proffered present however small. He possessed the rare faculty of making each individual in a company think that he was the favoured guest. If he met anyone rejoicing at success he would seize him eagerly and cordially by the hand. With the bereaved and afflicted he sympathised tenderly. Gentle and unbending towards little children, he would not disdain to accost a group of them at play with the salutation of peace. He shared his food, even in times of scarcity, with others, and was sedulously solicitous for the personal comfort of everyone about him. A kindly and benevolent disposition pervaded all those illustrations of his character. Muhammad was a faithful friend. He loved Abu Bakr with the close affection of a brother; Ali, with the fond partiality of a father. Zaid, the freedman, was so strongly attached by the kindness of the Prophet, that he preferred to remain at Makkah rather than return home with his own father. ‘I will not leave thee,’ he said, clinging to his patron, ‘for thou hast been a father and mother to me.’ The friendship of Muhammad survived the death of Zaid, and his son Usama was treated by him with distinguished favour for the father’s sake. Uthman and Umar were also the objects of a special attachment; and the enthusiasm with which, at Hudaibiyya, the Prophet entered into the Pledge of the Tree and swore that he would defend his beleaguered son in law even to the death, was a signal proof of faithful friendship. Numerous other instances of Muhammad’s ardent and unwavering regard might be adduced. His affections were in no instance misplaced; they were ever reciprocated by a warm and self sacrificing love.
In the exercise of a power absolutely dictatorial, Muhammad was just and temperate. Nor was he wanting in moderation towards his enemies, when once they had cheerfully submitted to his claims. The long and obstinate struggle against his pretentions maintained by the inhabitants of Makkah might have induced its conqueror to mark his indignation in indelible traces of fire and blood. But Muhammad, excepting a few criminals, granted a universal pardon; and, nobly casting into oblivion the memory of the past, with all its mockery, its affronts and persecution, he treated even the foremost of his opponents with a gracious and even friendly consideration. Not less marked was the forbearance shown to Abdullah and the disaffected citizens of Madinah, who for so many years persistently thwarted his designs and resisted his authority, nor the clemency with which he received submiss ive advances of tribes that before had been the most hostile, even in the hour of victory.
Again he wrote:
It is strongly corroborative of Muhammad’s sincerity that the earliest converts to Islam were not only of upright character, but his own bosom friends and people of his own household who, intimately acquainted with his private life could not fail otherwise to have detected those discrepancies which even more or less exist between the profession of the hypocritical deceiver abroad and his actions at home”.
SIR JOHN GLUBB
Talking about the revelations and dreams of Hadhrat Muhammadsaw he writes:
Whatever opinion the reader may form when he reaches the end of this book, it is difficult to deny that the call of Muhammad seems to bear a striking resemblance to innumerable other accounts of similar visions, both in the Old and New Testaments, and in the experience of Christian saints, possibly also of Hindus and devotees of other religions. Such visions, moreover, have often marked the beginnings of lives of great sanctity and of heroic virtue.
To attribute such phenomena to self delusion scarcely seems an adequate explanation, for they have been experienced by many persons divided from one another by thousands of years of time and by thousands of miles of distance, who cannot conceivably have even heard of each other. Yet the accounts which they give of their visions seem to bear an extraordinary likeness to one another. It scarcely appears reasonable to suggest that all these visionaries “imagined” such strikingly similar experiences, although they were quite ignorant of each other’s existence.
Talking about the migration of the companions of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, may peace be upon him, to Abyssinia while the prophet himself was in Makkah, he writes:
The list seems to have included very nearly all the persons who had accepted Islam and the Messenger of God must have remained with a much reduced group of adherents, among the generally hostile inhabitants of Makkah, a situation which proves him to have possessed a considerable degree of moral courage and conviction.
Talking about Muhammad’s migration from Makkah to Madinah, when he had to escape like a fugitive whose life was in great danger, he writes:
When the fugitives had whispered goodbye to Abu Bakr’s son and daughter outside the cave on Mount Thaur and the camels had padded silently away into the darkness beneath the sharp Arabian stars, the curtain rose on one of the greatest dramas of human history. How little did Caesar or Chosroes, surrounded by their great armies and engaged in a long and bitter war for world supremacy (as they thought), realise that four ragged Arabs riding silently through the bare mountains of the Hejaz were about to inaugurate a movement which would put an end to both their great imperial dominions.
Montgomery Watt, the well known Orientalist, has said the following about his personality in general (Muhammad at Madinahpp 334-5):
We may distinguish three great gifts Muhammad had, each of which was indispensable to his total achievement. First, there is what may be called his gift as a seer. Through him or on the orthodox Muslim view, through the revelations made through him the Arab world was given an ideological framework within which the resolution of its social tensions became possible. The provision of such a framework involved both insight into the fundamental causes of the social malaise of the time, and the genius to express this insight in a form which would stir the hearer to the depths of his being. ………..
Secondly, there is Muhammad’s wisdom as a statesman. The conceptual structure found in the Quran was merely a framework. The framework had to support a building of concrete policies and concrete institutions. In the course of this book, much has been said of Muhammad’s far sighted political strategy and his social reforms. His wisdom in these matters is shown by the rapid expansion of a small state to a world empire, and by the adaption of his social institutions to many different environments and their continuance for thirteen centuries.
Thirdly, there is his skill and tact as an administrator and his wisdom in the choice of men to whom to delegate administrative details. Sound institutions and a sound policy will not go far if the execution of affairs is faulty and fumbling. When Muhammad died, the state he had founded was a going concern, able to withstand the shock of his removal and, once it had recovered from this shock, it expanded at prodigious speed.
The more one reflects on the history of Muhammad and of early Islam, the more one is amazed at the vastness of his achievement. Circumstances presented him with an opportunity such as few men have had, but the man was fully matched with the hour. Had it not been for his gifts as a seer, statesman, and administrator and, behind these, his trust in God and firm belief that God had sent him, a notable chapter in the history of mankind would have remained unwritten. It is my hope that this study of his life may contribute to a fresh appraisal and appreciation of one of the greatest of the sons of Adam.
Such is a testimony of a biographer who was not favorably disposed towards the Holy Prophet.
Talking about the immence influence of Muhammad on world history he wrote:
In the year 565 Justinian died, master of a great empire. Five years later Muhammad was born into a poor family in a country three quarters desert, sparsely peopled by nomad tribes whose total wealth could hardly have furnished the sanctuary of St. Sophia. No one in those years would have dreamed that within a century these nomads would conquer half of Byzantine Asia, all Persia and Egypt, most of North Africa, and be on their way to Spain. The explosion of the Arabian peninsula into the conquest and conversion of half the Mediterranean world is the most extraordinary phenomenon in medieval history.
He wrote the following in his book Islam in regards to the battles fought by the Prophet:
Muhammad accomplished his purpose in the course of three small engagements: the number of combatants in these never exceeded a few thousand, but in importance they rank among the world’s decisive battles.
REV. BOSWELL SMITH
“Head of the state as well as the Church, he was Caesar and Pope in one, but he was Pope without the Pope’s pretensions, and Caesar without the legions of Caesar, without a standing army, without a body guard, without a palace, without a fixed revenue. If ever a man had the right to rule by a right divine, it was Muhammad for he had all the power without the instruments and without its supports. (Muhammad and Muhammadanism )
On the whole, the wonder is not how much but how little, under different circumstances, Muhammad differed from himself. In the shepherd of the desert, in the Syrian trader,in the solitary of Mount Hira, in the reformer in the minority of one, in the exile of Madinah, in the acknowledged conqueror, in the equal of the Persian Chosroes and the Greek Heraclius, we can still trace substantial unity. I doubt whether any other man whose external conditions changed so much, ever himself changed less to meet them.
A modern research scholar of Islam Karen Armstrong, wrote in her book:
Muhammad had to start virtually from scratch and work his way towards the radical monotheistic spirituality of his own. When he began his mission, a dispassionate observer would not have given him a chance. The Arabs, he might have objected, were just not ready for monotheism: they were not sufficently developed for this sophisticated vision. In fact, to attempt to introduce it on a large scale in this violent, terrifying society could be extremely dangerous and Muhammad would be lucky to escape with his life.
Indeed, Muhammad was frequently in deadly peril and his survival was a near-miracle. But he did succeed. By the end of his life he had laid an axe to the root of the chronic cycle tribal violence that afflicted the region and paganism was no longer a going concern. The Arabs were ready to embark on a new phase of their history.
(Muhammad – A Biography of the Prophet page 53-54)
Finally it was the West, not Islam, which forbade the open discussion of religious matters. At the time of the Crusades, Europe seemed obsessed by a craving for intellectual conformity and punished its deviants with a zeal that has been unique in the history of religion. The witch-hunts of the inquisitors and the persecution of Protestants by the Catholics and vice versa were inspired by abtruse theoligical opinions which in both Judaism and Islam were seen as private and optional matters. Neither Judaism nor Islam share the Christian conception of heresy, which raises human ideas about the divine to an unacceptably high level and almost makes them a form of idolatry. The period of the Crusades, when the fictional Mahound was established, was also a time of the great strain and denial in Europe. This is graphically expressed in the phobia about Islam.
(Muhammad: A Biography of the Prophet, page 27).
MAJOR A. LEONARD
fever any man on this earth has found God; if ever any man has devoted his life for the sake of God with a pure and holy zeal then, without doubt, and most certainly that man was the Holy Prophet of Arabia.
(Islam, its Moral and Spiritual Values, p. 9; 1909, London)
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