Preface to the First Edition

Muhammad, God's peace and blessing be upon him! This noble name has been on the lips of countless millions of men. For almost fourteen centuries, millions of hearts have palpitated with deep emion at the pronouncement of it. Many more millions of people for a period as long as time, will pronounce it, and will be deeply moved thereby. Every day, as soon as the black thread becomes distinguishable from the white, the muezzin will call men to prayer. He will call them to the worship of God and the invocation of blessing upon His Prophet, a task the fulfillment of which is better for them than their sleep. Thousands and millions of men in every corner of the globe will undoubtedly respond to the muezzin's call, springing to honor through their prayers God's mercy and bounty, richly evidenced for them with the break of every new day. At high noon, the muezzin will call again for the noon prayer; then at mid-afternoon, at sunset, and after sunset. On each of these daily occasions Muslims remember Muhammad, the servant of God and His Prophet, with all reverence and piety. Even in between these prayers the Muslims never hear the name of Muhammad but they hasten to praise God and His chosen one. Thus they have been, and thus they will be until God vindicates His true religion and completes His bounty to all.

Muhammad did not have to wait long for his religion to become known, or for his dominion to spread. God has seen fit to complete the religion of Islam even before his death. It was he who laid down the plans for the propagation of this religion. He had sent to Chosroes, to Heraclius and other princes and kings of the world inviting them to join the new faith. No more than a hundred and fifty years passed from then until the flags of Islam were flying high between Spain in the west and India, Turkestan and indeed China in the east. Thus by joining Islam, the territories of al Sham[Al Sham or Diyar al Sham refers to the territories presently known as Lebanon, Syria, Palestine and Jordan. -Tr.] Iraq, Persia, and Afghanistan have linked the Arabian Peninsula with the kingdom of "the Son of Heaven."[Le., China. -Tr.] On the other hand, the Islamization of Egypt, Burqah, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco have linked the native land of Muhammad-may God's peace and blessing be upon him-with Europe and Africa. From that time until our day Islam remains supreme throughout all these territories. It withdrew from Spain only under the attack of Christendom which inflicted upon the people of Spain all kinds of suffering and persecution. As the people could not bear these tragedies, some of them returned to Africa. Others under the threats of fear and panic apostasized, withdrew from the religion of their ancestors, and entered into that of the tyrants and conquerors.

What Islam had lost in Spain and in western Europe was regained when the Ottomans conquered Constantinople and established the religion of Muhammad therein. From there, Islam spread throughout the Balkans into Russia and Poland and spread over territories many times wider than Spain. From the day of its initial conquest until now, no religion has ever conquered Islam despite the fact that its people have fallen under all kinds of tyrannies and unjust governments. Indeed, reduction of their worldly power has made the Muslims more strongly attached to their faith, to their Islamic way of life, and to their Islamic hope.

 

Islam and Christianity

The power with which Islam quickly spread brought it face to face with Christianity and involved the two religions in a guerre a outrance. Muhammad vanquished paganism and eliminated it from Arabia just as his early successors pursued it across Persia, Afghanistan and a good portion of India and eliminated it from these territories. Later on the successors of Muhammad conquered Christianity in Hirah, Yaman, Syria, Egypt, and even in the capital of the Christian empire, Constantinople. Was Christianity then to receive the same fate of extinction which befell paganism despite the fact that Muhammad had praised it and confirmed the prophethood of its founder? Were the Arabs, coming out of their arid desert peninsula, destined to conquer the gardens of Spain, of Byzantium, and all Christendom? "No! Death rather than such a fate!" Thus the fight continued for many centuries between the followers of Jesus and the followers of Muhammad. The war was not limited to swords and guns. It spread out to the fields of debate and controversy where the contenders contended in the names of Muhammad and Jesus. No means were spared to sway the community, to arouse the populace and to stir the passions of the people.

 

The Muslims and Jesus

Islam, however, prevented the Muslims from attacking the person of Jesus. It held that Jesus was a servant of God endowed with scripture and appointed as prophet. It also held that Jesus was always blessed; that he was enjoined as long as he lived to hold prayer and to give zakat[Zakat means the sharing of one's legitimately earned wealth with the community. It is not equivalent to charity because it is levied under penalty of law, has a definite ratio to wealth and is, in Islam, institutionalized. It is not a "poor tax" because its uses are not limited to those of the poor but extend to the general welfare of the community and state. -Tr.]; that his mother was innocent and that he was neither unjust nor unfortunate. It asserted that Jesus was blessed on the day of his birth, on the day of his future death as well as on the day of his resurrection. Many Christians, on the other hand, have attacked the person of Muhammad and attributed to him the most unbecoming epithets-thereby giving vent to their resentment and sowing the seeds of hatred and hostility. Despite the commonly held view that the Crusades have long been finished and forgotten, fanatic Christian antagonism still continues to rage against Muhammad. The present situation has not changed except perhaps for the worse. Moved by the same fanaticism, the missionaries resort to immoral and depraved means in their struggle against Islam. This fanaticism was never exclusive to the Church. It stirred and inspired many writers and philosophers in Europe and America who are not related to the Church.

 

 

CHRISTIAN FANATICS AND MUHAMMAD

One may wonder why Christian fanaticism against Islam continues to rage with such power in an age which is claimed to be the age of light and science, of tolerance and larger de coeur. This fanaticism is all the more surprising when one remembers that the early Muslims were overjoyed at the news of the victory of Christianity over Zoroastrianism, when the armies of Heraclius carried the day against those of Chosroes. Persia had a dominant influence in South Arabia ever since the Persians expelled the Abyssinians from Yaman. Chosroes had sent his army in 614 C.E. under the command of his general named Shahrbaraz [In his book, Dr. Butler says that the name of this general was Khuriam, that "Shahrbaraz," "Shahrbaraz" and "Shirawazayh" by which this general has been known in other books are mistranscriptions of the Persian name "Shahr-Wazar," literally "the king's boar" and signifying as a title "great courage." A figurative representation of this title appeared on the seal of ancient Persia as well as of Armenia (The Arab Conquest, of Egypt, p. 53.)] to conquer Byzantium. When their armies met in Adhri'at and Busra, territories of al Sham close to Arabia, the Persians inflicted upon the Byzantines heavy losses in lives and destroyed their cities and orchards. The Arabs, especially the people of Makkah, used to follow the news of this war with great anxiety. At the time, the two hostile powers were the greatest on earth. The Arabs adjoined both powers and had territories which fell under the suzerainty of both. The Makkan idolaters rejoiced at the defeat of the Christians and celebrated the event. They regarded them as people with a scripture, very much like the Muslims, and they even attempted to attribute their defeat to their religion. For the Muslims, it was hard to believe the defeat of the Byzantines for the same reason, namely that like them they were a people with scripture. Muhammad and his companions especially hated to see the Zoroastrians victorious. This difference in the views of the Muslims and the idolaters of Makkah led to open contention between the two groups. The Muslims were ridiculed for holding such opinions. One of them was so bold in his show of joy in front of Abu Bakr that the latter, known for his great calm and friendliness, was prompted to say: "Don't take to joy too soon. The Byzantines will avenge themselves." When the idolater rejoined, "This is a lie," Abu Bakr became angry and said: "You are the liar, O Enemy of God: I wager ten camels that the Byzantines will win against the Zoroastrians within the scope of a year." When this came to the notice of Muhammad, he advised Abu Bakr to increase the amount of the wager and to extend its term. Abu Bakr then raised the wager to one hundred camels and extended the time to nine years. In 625 C.E. Heraclius was victorious. He defeated Persia and wrenched from it the territory of Syria as well as the cross of Christ. Abu Bakr won his wager and the prophesying of Muhammad was confirmed in the following Qur'anic revelation: "The Byzantines have been defeated in the land nearby. However, they shall win in a few years. To God belongs the command before and after. Then will the believers rejoice at the victory which God has sent. God, the Mighty and Merciful, gives His victory' to whomsoever He wishes. He never fails in His promise. Most men however do not know." [Qur'an, 30:1-7]

 

The First Principles of the Two Religions

Muslim rejoicing at the victory of Heraclius and his Christian armies was great. Despite the many controversies that had taken place between the followers of Muhammad and those who believed in Jesus, their friendly and fraternal relationships continued to be strong throughout the life of the Prophet. It was otherwise with the relationships of Muslims and Jews. There had been an armistice followed by alienation and war with consequences so disastrous and bloody that the Jews had to be moved out of the Arabian Peninsula altogether. The Qur'an confirms the bond of friendship between Muslims and Christians and denounces the enmity of the Jews. It advises the Muslims, "You will find greater enmity to the believers among those who are Jews and idolaters; but you will find greater friendliness among those who say, `We are Christians.' For they, especially the monks and priests among them, do not take to false pride."[Qur'an, 5:82]

Indeed Christianity and Islam entertain the same view of life and ethics. Their view of mankind and of creation is one and the same. Both religions believe that God created Adam and Eve, placed them in paradise and commanded them not to listen to Satan, and that eating of the tree thereby caused them to be discharged. Both religions believe that Satan is the enemy of mankind who, according to the Qur'an, refused to prostrate himself to Adam when commanded to do so by God and, according to Christian scripture, refused to honor the word of God. Satan whispered to Eve and deceived her, and she in turn deceived Adam. They ate from the tree of eternal life, discovered their nakedness, and then pleaded to God to forgive them. God sent them to earth, their descendants enemies of one another, forever open to the deception of Satan, some of them liable to fall under this deception and others capable of resisting it to the end. In order to transcend man's war against this deception, God sent Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and the other prophets, commissioning every one of them to convey in the tongue of his people a book which confirms, elaborates, and makes evident the revelations received from his predecessor-prophet. As Satan is assisted by his helpers among the evil spirits, the angels praise the Lord and adore Him. Both the good and the evil powers therefore compete to win mankind until the Day of Judgment when every soul will receive that which it has earned and when everyone will be responsible for himself alone.

 

 

The Difference between Them

Not only has the Qur'an mentioned Jesus and Mary, but it has honored them and presented them in such light that the readers cannot but feel this fraternal feeling towards Christianity when they read its verses. It is all the more perplexing, therefore, that the Muslims and Christians have continued to fight each other century after century. The confusion disappears however, when we learn that Islam has differed from Christianity in many fundamental matters which were subjects of strong controversy, without ever leading to hatred and hostility. Christianity does not acknowledge the prophethood of Muhammad as Islam acknowledges the prophethood of Jesus. Moreover, Christianity upholds trinitarianism whereas Islam strongly rejects anything but the strictest monotheism. The Christians apotheosize Jesus and, in their argument with Muslims, seek confirmation of his divinity in the Qur'anic assertion that he spoke out in the cradle (19:29-34) and in the many miracles which he alone had been favored by God to perform. During the early days of Islam, the Christians used to dispute with the Muslims in the following vein: Doesn't the Qur'an itself, which was revealed to Muhammad, confirm our view when it says:

"The angels said, `O Mary God announces to you His command that a son will be born to you whose name shall be the Messiah, Jesus, Son of Mary, and who will be honored in this world and in the next and be close to God. He will speak as a baby in the cradle and he will be righteous throughout his long age.' Mary asked: `How can I have a son when no human has touched me?' The angel answered: `Thus God creates whatever He wills. He commands a thing to be and it is.' God will teach Jesus the scripture, wisdom, the Torah and the Evangel. He will send him a prophet of Israel, and charge him with the conveyance of a new revelation from God. He will confirm him by giving him the power to blow life into birds which he could fashion out of clay, to give vision to the blind, to heal the leper, to resurrect the dead, and to prophesy about what the Jews eat and what they hide in their houses-all with God's permission-that the Jews may believe in him and thereby prove their faith."[Qur'an, 3:45-49]

The Qur'an then did declare that Jesus would resurrect the dead and give vision to the blind and heal the leper, create birds out of clay and prophesy-all of which are divine prerogatives. Such was the view of the Christians who, at the time of the Prophet, were disputing and arguing with him that Jesus was a god besides God. Another group of them apotheosized Mary on the grounds that she had been the recipient of God's command. The Christian adherents to this view regarded Mary as a member of a trinity which included the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost [Christian scholars have invariably attacked Islam on the ground that it has missed the nature of trinitarianism. They impute to the Qur'an and to Muhammad the charge of having misunderstood the trinity as consisting of Father, Mary and Jesus. E.g., Gibb's statement that "the doctrine of the divine Sonship of Jesus is emphatically repudiated, in terms which betray the crassly anthropomorphic form in which it had been presented or presented itself to the Arabs . . . Mohammed had no direct knowledge of Christian doctrine" (Gibb, H. A. R., Mohammedanism, London: Oxford U. Press, 1954, p. 45). "A more serious confusion occurs, however, when Mary, the mother of Jesus, is admitted to the Trinity in the place of the Holy Spirit-Qur'an 5: 76-79, 116 (Donaldson, D. M., Studies in Muslim Ethics, London: S.P.C.K., 1953, p. 57). Like statements may be read in Guillaume, A., Islam, Edinburgh, Penguin paperback, 1956, p. 52-53 ; Cragg, K., The Call of the Minaret, New York: Oxford University Press paperback, 1964, p. 253; etc., etc. These charges are utterly groundless. The Qur'an certainly criticized and condemned trinitarianism-as in 5:171; 5:73; etc. It has certainly criticized and condemned the doctrine of theotokos or "mother of God" as in 5:75-79, 116. These are two distinct criticisms the Qur'an has directed at Christianity. But it has nowhere identified the persons of the trinity as consisting of God, the Father; Jesus, the son; and Mary, the mother. The Qur'anic position is simply that whoever and whatever the persons of the trinity may be, trinitarianism and theotokos are blasphemous compromises of divine trancendence and unity. Combining the two Qur'anic condemnations, some exegetes had regarded "The Mother of God" as part of "The Trinity." If this is a mistake, it belongs to those exegetes, not to the Qur'an. Even so, it is not necessarily a mistake. The exegetes' works constitute evidence of the current tenets of faith of their contemporaries; and there is no apriori evidence that some Near Eastern Christians have not identified the Trinity in these terms. Indeed, there is but one small step from the Christian assertion that "the Logos took human nature to Himself in the womb of the Virgin Mary-that Godhead and Manhood were united in the Incarnate logos in one Person," to use Cyril's words, to the assertion that "theotokos" implies the unity of the mother with the embryo in her womb, and hence that the Incarnation creates a bond between mother & logos separable only in theory. (See for further detail F. J. Foakes Jackson, The History of the Christian Church to C.E. .461, London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd., 1st pub. 1891, rep. 1957, pp. 459 ff.) This need not be a mistake; indeed it is quite probable that some Near Eastern Christians had held such a view, since in this, as well as in many other passages, the Qur'an is simply reporting what is being heard.]. However, those who held that Jesus and his mother were divine were but one of the many sects into which Christianity was divided in those days.

 

 

Debate of the Christians with the Prophet

The Christians of the Arabian Peninsula debated with Muhammad on the basis of their diverse views. They argued that Jesus was God, that Jesus was the Son of God, that Jesus was the third person of the trinity. The apotheosizers of Jesus had recourse to the foregoing argument. Those who held the view that Jesus was the Son of God argued that he had no known father, that he had spoken out in the cradle as no other human had ever done. Those who held that he was the third person of the trinity argued that God referred to Himself as "We" in His acts of creation, of commanding and providing, and that this was evidence for His plurality-for otherwise He would have referred to Himself as "I." Muhammad used to listen to all these arguments and debate with them in kindness. He never showed in his debates the hardness and severities which characterized his debates with the associationists[Arabic mushrikun, those who associated other gods with God.] and the worshipers of idols. Rather, he argued with them on the basis of revealed scripture and based himself on what could be deduced there from. God said: "Blasphemous are those who claim that God is Jesus, the son of Mary. Say, 'Who is capable of anything should God desire to destroy Jesus, the son of Mary, as well as his mother and all that is on the face of the earth? To Him alone belongs the dominion of heaven and earth and all that is in between. He, the Omnipotent, creates what He wills.' Both Jews and Christians claim that they are the sons of God and His favorite people. Say, 'Why does He then punish you for your sins? Rather, you are all humans, on a par with all other men He has created. God forgives whomsoever He wills and punishes whomsoever He wills" [Qur'an, 5:17-18]. God said: "Blasphemous are those who claim that God is Jesus, the son of Mary. Jesus said: '0 Children of Israel, worship God alone, your Lord and my Lord. Whoever associates aught with God, God will exclude from paradise and punish in hell. Such unjust people will have no helper.' Blasphemous are those who claim that God is the third person of a trinity. There is no God other than God, the One. Unless they stop this blasphemy, God will inflict upon them a painful punishment." [Qur'an, 5:72-73] He, to Whom is the glory, also said: "God asked Jesus, son of Mary: 'Did you ask the people to take you and your mother as two gods beside God?' Jesus answered: 'Praise be to You alone, I had not said but that which I was commanded to say. You surely know whether I am guilty of such blasphemy, for You know all that is in my thoughts, and I know none of what is in Yours. You alone are omniscient. I did convey to them that which You commanded me to convey, namely, that they ought to worship God alone, my Lord and their Lord. In their midst, I have been a witness unto You throughout my life. And when You caused me to die, knowledge of what they did was Yours for You are the witness of everything. If You punish them, they are Your creatures and servants: if You choose to forgive them, You are the Mighty and Wise.[Qur'an, 5:116-118]

Christianity upholds the trinitarian view and claims that Jesus is the Son of God. Islam, on the other hand, categorically denies that God could possibly have a son. "Say," God commands Muhammad, "God is one. God is eternal. He has neither progeny nor ancestry. He is absolutely without parallel."[Qur'an, 112:1-4] "It is not possible for God-may He be praised-to take unto Himself a son." [Qur'an, 19:35] "Jesus is to God as Adam was to Him, a creature made out of dust that had come to be at God's command." [Qur'an, 3:59] Islam is monotheistic par excellence; the unity of God it teaches is the most categorical, the clearest, the simplest, and therefore the strongest. Whatever casts the slightest doubt upon the unity of God is strongly rejected by Islam and declared blasphemous. "God does not forgive that He be associated with anyone, but He will forgive anything lesser than that to whomsoever He wills [Qur'an, 4:48]. Whatever connection Christianity may have had with ancient religions as far as its trinitarian doctrine is concerned furnished no justification at all in the eye of Muhammad. The truth is that God is one and unique, that He has no associates, that He has neither progeny nor ancestry and that He is absolutely without parallel. It is no wonder therefore that controversy arose between Muhammad and the Christians of his time, that he debated with them in kindness, and that revelation confirmed Muhammad with the foregoing Qur'anic corroborations.

 

 

The Question of Jesus' Crucifixion

Another problem in which Islam differed from Christianity and which aroused controversy at the time of the Prophet is that of the crucifixion of Jesus as atonement for the sins of mankind. The Qur'an clearly denies that the Jews had killed or crucified the Messiah. It says: "As for the Jews' claim that they killed the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, the Prophet of God, the truth is that they have not killed him, nor have they crucified him, but that that appeared to them to be the case; whereas those who contend concerning this matter have no certain knowledge at all but merely conjecture. None of them is absolutely certain that they killed Jesus. Rather, God the Mighty and Wise raised Jesus unto Himself." [Qur'an, 4:157-158]

Despite the fact that the idea of the Messiah's sacrifice and his atonement for the sins of mankind with his own blood is undoubtedly beautiful and the writings it had inspired are worthy of poetical, moral, and psychological analysis, Islam founded itself upon the principle that moral guilt is non-transferable and that on the Day of Judgment justice shall be meted out to each according to his due. This fact rules out any logical rapprochement between the two doctrines. The logique of Islam is so precise on this matter and so clear and distinct that the difference between it and Christianity cannot be composed. The doctrine of sacrificial atonement runs diametrically counter to that of personal justice. "No father may bear the guilt of his son, and no son may earn anything for his father." [Qur'an, 31:33]

 

 

Byzantines and Muslims

Did any Christians at the time consider this new religion and ponder the possibility of harmonizing its "unization" [Arabic tawhid, the Islamic doctrine of divine unity. The English "monotheism" is not specific enough and is applied to Christianity precisely where Islam would charge its inapplicability. Hence, our new term. -Tr.] of God and their revelation of Jesus? Indeed! And many of them joined it as a result. The Byzantines, however, whose victory the Muslims had celebrated and regarded as the victory of the scriptural religions, did not take the trouble to investigate this new religion. Rather, they looked at it from a political angle, and worried about their dominion should the new religion carry the day. They therefore began to attack it and its people and sent an army of a hundred thousand soldiers (or of two hundred thousand according to another report) against it. This led to the conquest of Tabuk by the Muslims and the retreat of the Byzantines in front of the army which rallied around Muhammad to repulse the aggression with such power and determination as it deserved.

Ever since then, Muslims and Christians have followed a poll of hostility towards each other; for many centuries victory was on the side of the Muslims, enabling them to extend their empire from Spain in the west to India and China in the east. Most of the inhabitants of this empire joined the new faith and adopted its Arabic language. When history came full cycle, the Christians forced the Muslims from Spain, launched the Crusades against them, and began to attack their religion and Prophet with falsehoods, lies, and forgeries. In their prejudice, they forgot the great respect and honor accorded to Jesus-may God's blessing be upon him-by Muhammad-may God's blessing be upon him-as the tradition has reported and the Qur'an, the revelation to Muhammad, has stated.

 

Christian Scholars and Muhammad

In presenting the views Christian scholars had of Muhammad during the first half of the nineteenth century, the French Encyclopedie Larousse stated: "Muhammad remained in his moral corruption and debauchery a camel thief, a cardinal who failed to reach the throne of the papacy and win it for himself. He therefore invented a new religion with which to avenge himself against his colleagues. Many fanciful and immoral tales dominated his mind and conduct. The Life of Muhammad by Bahomet is an example of this kind of literature. Other books on Muhammad, such as those published by Renault and Frangois Michel in 1831, illustrate the idea of Muhammad prevalent in the Middle Ages. In the seventeenth century, Peel looked at the Qur'an from a historian's point of view. But he refused to divulge his conclusions to his readers though he acknowledged that the ethical and social system of Muhammad does not differ from the Christian system except in the theory of punishment and polygamy."

Emil Dermenghem, the French writer, was one of the few Orientalists who investigated the life of Muhammad with some objectivity. Quoting some of the writings of his colleagues, he wrote: "After the war between Islam and Christianity had been going on for centuries, the misunderstanding naturally increased and we are forced to admit the most serious ones were on the side of the Occidentals. Numerous were the Byzantine polemists who covered Islam with their contempt without taking the trouble to study it (with perhaps the exception of St. John of Damascus), as well as the writers and minstrels who fought the Saracens with only ridiculous calumnies. They portrayed Mahomet as a camel-thief, a rake, sorcerer, a brigand chief, and even as a Roman cardinal furious at not having been elected pope . . . they showed him as a false god to whom the faithful made human sacrifices.

"The worthy Gilbert de Nogent himself tells us that he (Muhammad) died through excessive drunkenness and that his corpse was eaten by pigs on a dunghill, explaining why the flesh of this animal and wine are prohibited . . . .

"The opposition of the two religions had not, in the main, any more serious foundations than the affirmations of heroic songs portraying Mahomet, the iconoclast, as a golden-idol, and Mussulman mosques as pantheons filled with images! The Song of Antioch describes, as if the author had seen it, a massive idol, Mahom, in gold and silver enthroned on the mosaic seat of an elephant. The Song o f Roland, which shows Charlemagne's horsemen throwing down Mussulman idols, tells us that the Saracens worshiped a Trinity composed of Termagant, Mahom and Apollo. The Roman de Mahomet asserts the Islam permitted polyandry . . . .

"Hate and prejudice were tenacious of life. From the time of Rudolph de Ludheim (620) until the present, Nicholas de Cuse, Vives, Maracci, Hottinger, Bibliander, Prideaux, etc. present Mohamet as an impostor, Islam as the cluster of all the heresies and the work of the devil, the Mussulmans as brutes, and the Koran as a tissue of absurdities. They declined to treat such a ridiculous subject seriously. However, Pierre le Venerable, author of the first Occidental treatise against Islam, made a Latin translation of the Koran in the twelfth century. Innocent III once called Mahomet Antichrist, while in the Middle Ages he was nearly always merely looked upon as a heretic. Raymond Lull in the fourteenth century, Guillaume Postel in the sixteenth, Roland and Gagnier in the eighteenth, the Abbe de Broglie and Renan in the nineteenth give rather varied opinions. Voltaire, afterwards, amended in several places the hasty judgment expressed in his famous tragedy. Montesquieu, like Pascal and Malebranche, committed serious blunders on the religion, but his views of the manners and customs of the Mussulmans are well-considered and often reasonable. Le Comte de Boulainvilliers, Scholl, Caussin de Perceval, Dozy, Sprenger, Barthelemy, Saint-Hilaire de Castries, Carlyle, etc., are generally favorable to Islam and its Prophet and sometimes vindicate him. In 1876 Doughty nonetheless called Mahomet `a dirty and perfidious nomad,' while in 1822 Foster declared that `Mahomet was Daniel's little goat's horn while the Pope was the large one.' Islam still has many ardent detractors." [Emil Dermenghem, The Life of Mahomet, translated by Arabella Yorke, New York: The Dial Press, 1930, pp. 119--121.]

What a nether world of degradation have the writers of the West sunk to! What chronic, centuries-old obstinacy to go astray and to stir hatred and hostility between men! Many of the afore-mentioned men belonged to the Age of Enlightenment, the century of science, of free thought and research, and of the establishment of brotherhood between man and man. Perhaps the gravity of this unfortunate chronicle is somewhat attenuated by the fact that a number of objective scholars, mentioned by Dermenghem, have accepted the truthfulness of Muhammad's faith in the message which God had revealed to him, have commended the spiritual and moral greatness of Muhammad, his nobility and virtue, or have written about all these matters in literary and eloquent style. On the whole, however, the West continued to attack Islam and its prophet in the harshest possible terms. Indeed, western impertinence has gone so far as to spread Christian missionaries throughout the Muslim World, to urge them to dig their claws into its body, to dissuade the Muslims from their religion and to convert them to Christianity.

  Contents

 

The Cause of Hostility between Islam and Christianity

We must search for the cause of this stormy hostility and fierce war which Christianity has been waging against Islam. We believe that western ignorance of the truth of Islam and of the life of its Prophet constitutes the first cause of this hostility. Without a doubt, ignorance is one of the most chronic causes of lethargy, conservatism and prejudice; and it is the most difficult to correct.

 

Ignorance and Fanaticism

This ignorance is centuries old. Over the years it has set up in the souls of generations idols of its own whose destruction will require a spiritual strength as great as that which characterized Islam when it first made its appearance. However, it is our opinion that there is yet another cause behind this fanaticism of the West and the terrible war it has waged and still wages against the Muslims, century after century. We are not here referring to political ambitions, or to the will of states to subjugate people for the purpose of exploiting them. In our opinion this is the result and not the cause of the fanaticism which goes beyond science and all its researches.

 

Christianity Does Not Accord with the Nature of Western Man

This deeper lying cause, we think, is the fact that Christianity-with its call for asceticism, other-worldliness, forgiveness, and the high personalist values-does not accord with the nature of western man whose religious life had for thousands of years been determined by polytheism and whose geographic position had imposed upon him the struggle against extreme cold and inclement nature. When historical circumstances brought about his Christianization, it was necessary for him to interpret it as a religion of struggle and to alter its tolerant and gentle nature. Thereby western man spoiled the spiritual sequence, completed by Islam, in which Christianity stood as a link in the chain. This spiritual continuum reconciles the claims of the body with those of the spirit; it synthesizes in harmony emotion and reason. It is a system which integrates the individual, indeed mankind, as a natural part of the cosmos and co-existent with it in its infinity of space and time. In our view, this spoiling is the cause of the fanaticism of the West vis--vis Islam and the cause of an attitude which Christian Abyssinia found beneath its dignity to adopt when the Muslims sought its protection at the beginning of the Prophet's career.

It is with reference to this cause that we can explain the exaggerated religiosity of western man as well as his extremist irreligiosity. For here too western fanatacism and hostility know neither tolerance nor temperance. Admittedly, history has known many saints among western men who in their lives have followed the example of Jesus and his disciples. But it cannot be denied that this same history affirms the life of the western people to be one of struggle, power, antagonism, and bloody war in the name of politics or religion. Nor can it be denied that the popes of the Church as well as the secular rulers have always engaged one another in strife: that one or the other was one day conqueror and the other vanquished. As secular power emerged victorious in the nineteenth century, it sought to stamp out the life of the spirit in the name of science, claiming that the latter should replace religious faith in human spirituality. Nowadays, after a long struggle, the West has come to realize its error and the impossibility of what it sought to achieve. Voices are now being heard from all sides demanding to regain the lost spirituality by looking for it in the new theosophic and other schools." [Theosophy is a doctrine founded by Madame Plawatzki, of the U.S.A., and derived from the religions of India, from Buddhism and Brahmanism especially. It is also called "religion of wisdom." A society embracing this new faith was founded in America and Madame Plawatzki has been its president. Branches of this society have arisen in many European countries. As soon as the founder passed away, the Theosophic Society divided into three main groups. However, they all believe in the unity of being and of life and observe a kind of Sufi discipline aimed at reaching Nirvana of Buddhism. Such a state is reached only when the subject achieves, by means of discipline and exercise, a total separation of the spirit from the concerns of material life and when the soul rises to such heights of holiness and purity that it joins the spirits on high. Theosophy also calls for universal fraternity among mankind, an order in which race, language and all other impediments would dissolve away.] Had Christianity accorded with the instinct of strife which among westerners is the law of life, they would have realized the bankruptcy of materialism to furnish them with the needed spiritual power. They then would have returned to the noble Christian religion of Jesus, son of Mary, unless God were to guide them toward Islam. They would not have needed to emigrate to India and other places to obtain a necessary spiritual life. Such spirituality is of the essence of the religion of Jesus, indeed its very nature and being.

 

 

Colonialism and Christian Mission against Islam

Western colonialism helped the West to continue its war against Islam and Muhammad. It encouraged the West to proclaim that Islam is the cause of the decadence of its adherents and their subjugation by others. Many western scholars still subscribe to this claim unaware that by doing so they cede the point to the Makkans who proclaimed thirteen centuries ago that Christianity is responsible for the shameful defeat of Heraclius and Byzantium by Persia, as well as to anyone who wishes to make use of the argument to explain Christendom's retreat under the blows of the Muslims. One fact alone is sufficient to refute such an obvious piece of falsehood. That is the fact that the civilization of Islam was dominant in, and its people sovereign over, the whole known world for many centuries; that in the Muslim world arose greater men of science and knowledge who lived and worked in an atmosphere of freedom which the West was not to know until very recently. If it were at all possible to attribute to a religion the decay of its adherents, no such imputation is possible in the case of Islam which aroused the Bedouins of the Arabian Peninsula and enabled them to dominate the world.

 

Islam and the Present State of the Islamic Peoples

Those who impute to Islam responsibility for the decay of the Islamic peoples are partially right in the fact that there was added to the religion of God much which neither God nor Hip Prophet would have approved of. Such additions soon became integral to the religion, and whoever denied them was declared a heretic. Apart from the doctrine itself, let us take a close look at the biography of the Prophet of Islam-may God's blessing be upon him. Most of his biographies have narrated stories which no reason would accept and which no confirmation of Muhammad's prophethood needed. It was from such additions that the western Orientalists and critics of Islam, of its Prophet and of the Muslim peoples, drew their conclusions and formed their unjust and revolting attacks. After basing themselves on these incoherent assumptions, they launched further attacks and claimed for what they wrote the status of modern scientific research. The scientific method demands that events, people, and heroes be presented objectively, that the author's judgment be given only in light of the given evidence. The writings of these authors, however, were dictated by their passion for controversy and vituperation. They were aptly cast in expressions which deluded their co-religionists into believing that they were scientific, and that they were made in seeking after truth alone. Nonetheless, God did grant His peace to a number of contented souls, for among them there were men of letters, men of science, and other free thinkers who came closer to justice and fairness.

 

 

Conservatism and ljtihad [One of the sources of Islamic law. Creative interpretation of the principles and precepts of Islam. -Tr.] among the Muslims

A number of 'ulama'[According to Webster, where it is spelled "ulema," "a body of scholars trained in Moslem religion and law," or "sometimes, erroneously, a Moslem learned man or theologian." -Tr.] in different circumstances responded to the claims of these western fanatics. The name of Muhammad 'Abduh shines most in this regard. But they have not observed the scientific method which the European writers and historians claim to have observed. Their argument would not have the same power as that of their opponents. Moreover, the same Muslim scholars-Muhammad 'Abduh above all others-were accused of heresy and blasphemy-a fact which weakened their argument before the opponents of Islam. Such accusations as were directed at them left deep impressions in the hearts of educated Muslim youths. These young men felt that for a group of Muslim 'ulama' adjudication by reason and logic amounts to heresy, that heresy is the twin of ijtihad, and that iman[Rational conviction of religious truth, possibly only as a category of critical natural theology such as Islam provides. Colloquially convertible with "faith." -Tr.] is the twin of conservatism. Hence their minds panicked, and they rushed to the books of the West seeking to learn the truth which they believed was not to be found in the books of Muslim authors. They did not at all consider the books of Christianity and of Christian history. Instead, they turned to the books of philosophy to quench their burning thirst for the truth. In western logic and scientific method they sought the light with which to illuminate their human souls, and the means by which to communicate with the universe. In the western products of pure philosophy, literature, and allied fields, these men found many great ideas by which they were deeply impressed. The methods of their presentation, the precision of their logic and their authors' candidness in the search for the truth added all the mole to their attractiveness. That is why our youths' thinking was drawn away from all the religions in general and from the methods of Islam and its carriers in particular. They were anxious not to stir a war with conservatism which they were not confident they could win, and they did not realize that spiritual intercourse with the universe is the necessary requisite of any human realization of perfection, of that moral power which is strong enough to withstand the storms.

 

Western Science and Literature

Our young men were thus drawn away from serious confrontation with the Islamic message and its carriers. In this they were encouraged by what they observed of. positive science and positivist philosophy, ruling for them that religious questions are not subject to logic, that they do not fall within the realm of scientific thinking, and that the metaphysical assumptions implied in those questions fall outside the realm of the scientific method. Our men have also observed the clear separation of state and church in the western countries. They learned that despite the fact that the constitutions of these countries prescribe that their kings are the protectors of Protestantism or Catholicism, or that the official religion of the state is Christianity, the Western states do not mean any more than to subscribe to the public observance of the feasts and other occasions of the Christian calendar. Hence they were encouraged to enter into this line of scientific thinking and to derive therefrom, as well as from the related philosophy, literature and art, all the inspiration possible. When the time came to transfer their attention from study to practical life, their occupations pulled them away further from those problems which they could not solve even at the time of their study. Their minds, therefore, continued to run in their original courses. They looked at conservatism with contempt and pity and drew their nourishment from the lifeline of western thought and philosophy. Remembering this lifeline as the source from which they obtained their nourishment in their youth, they continued to find therein their intellectual pleasure; their admiration for it was always growing.

Nevertheless, the Orient stands today in great need of learning from western thought, literature and art. The present of the Orient is separated from its past by centuries of lethargy and conservatism which have locked its old healthy mind in ignorance and suspicion of anything new. Anyone who seeks to dissolve this thick curtain must needs be assisted by the most modern thinking in the world if he is to forge anew the link between the live present and the great legacy of the past.

 

 

Efforts of Islamic Reform

It is undeniable that we must acknowledge the worthy western achievements in Islamic and Oriental studies. These have prepared the road for Muslims as well as Orientals to enter these fields of research with greater promise than was open to their western colleagues. The Muslims and Orientals are naturally closer to the spirit of Islam and the Orient which they are seeking to penetrate. As long as the new leadership in this field has come from the West, it is the Muslim's and Oriental's duty to look into the products of the West, to correct their mistakes, and to give to the discipline the proper orientation which will re-establish the unity of the old and the new. This should not be done merely on paper, for it is a living legacy, spiritual and mental, which the heirs ought to represent to themselves, to add thereto, and to illumine with their own vision and understanding of the central realities.

Many of our young men have succeeded in their undertaking of scientific researches on these lines. The Orientalists have often appreciated their work and complimented them on their contributions to scholarship.

 

Western Missionaries and Muslim Conservatives

Scientific cooperation in Islamic between Muslim and Oriental scholars on one hand, and western scholars on the others, is worthy of great promise. Although it has just begun to make progress, we yet notice that the Christian missionaries continue their attacks against Islam and Muhammad with the same ferocity as their predecessors to whom we have alluded earlier. In this they are encouraged and supported by the western colonialist powers in the name of freedom of opinion. These very missionaries were themselves thrown out of their countries by their own governments because they were not trusted by them to implant true faith in the hearts of their own co-religionists at home[Dr. Haykal is here referring to France's expulsion of the Jesuit, Dominican, Franciscan, and other missionary orders. -Tr.]. .Moreover this colonialism assists the leaders of conservatism among the Muslims. Colonialism in fact has brought about a coalescence of the two tendencies; on the one hand it confirms the infusion of Islam with that which is not Islamic, such as the irrational and unrefined superstitions added to the life of the Prophet; on the other hand, it confirms the antagonists of Islam in their attacks against these forgeries.

 

The Idea and Plan of This Book

The circumstances of my life have enabled me to observe all these maneuvers in the various countries of the Islamic East, indeed throughout the Muslim World, and to discover their final purpose. The objective of colonialism is to destroy in these countries the freedom of opinion, the freedom to seek the truth. I have come to feel that I stand under the duty to foil these maneuvers and spoil their purpose, for they are certainly harmful to the whole of mankind, not only to Islam and the Orient. What greater damage could befall humanity than to have its greater half, the half which has throughout history been the carrier of civilization, to wallow in sterility and conservatism? It was this consideration which led me at the end of the road of life to the study of the life of Muhammad, the carrier of the message of Islam and the target of Christian attacks on one side and of Muslim conservatives on the other. But I have resolved that this will be a scientific study, developed on the western modern method, and written for the sake of truth alone.

I began to study the history of Muhammad and to look more closely into the Sirah of Ibn Hisham, the Tabaqat of Ibn Sa'd, the Maghazi of Waqidi, and the Spirit of Islam of Sayyid Ameer Ali. Then I took care to study what some orientalists have written on the subject such as the work of Dermenghem, and also that of Washington Irving. The winter of 1932 at Luxor provided me with the occasion to begin my writing. At that time I was quite hesitant to publish my thoughts because I feared the storm which the conservatives and their followers who believe in superstitions might raise. But I was encouraged by a number of professors in the Islamic institutions of learning, many of whom took such care in studying my writing and making pertinent observations on it that I resolved to follow my scientific treatment of the life of Muhammad to a conclusion. It was the encouragement of these men that stirred me to search for the best means by which to analyze the biography of the Prophet.

 

 

The Qur'an as the Most Reliable Source

I discovered that the most reliable source of information for the biography of Muhammad is the Holy Qur'an. It contains a reference to every event in the life of the Arab Prophet which can serve the investigator as a standard norm and as a guiding light in his analysis of the reports of the various biographies and of the Sunnah. As I sought to understand all the Qur'anic references to the life of the Prophet, Professor Ahmad Lutfi al Sayyid, of Dar al Kutub al Misriyyah, offered me great assistance by letting me use a topically arranged collection of all the verses of the Qur'an. While analyzing these verses, I began to realize that it was necessary to discover the causes and occasions of their revelation. I acknowledge that despite all the effort I put in that direction I was not always successful. The books of exegesis sometimes refer to these relations but often overlook them. A1 Wahidi's Asbab al Nuzul, and Ibn Salamah's al Nasikh Wa al Mansukh treat this matter very precisely but, unfortunately, very briefly. In these as well as other books of exegesis, I discovered many facts which helped me in my analysis of the claims various biographies have made as well as the many other facts worthy of being considered and investigated by all scholars of the Qur'an and Sunnah.

 

Candid Advice

As my research progressed I found candid advice coming to me from all directions, especially from the professors of Islam and the learned men of religion. Dar al Kutub al Misriyyah and its officers were responsible for the greatest assistance. No expression of appreciation of their work is adequate. Suffice it here to mention that, encouraged by his director and other senior officers, Professor 'Abd al Rahim Mahmud, Editor in the Division of Literature, used often to save me from great trouble by borrowing for me all the needed books. Whenever I did manage to go to Dar al Kutub, all the employees were delightfully ready to assist me in my search. Some of these men were personally known to me and others were not. I referred many a question which was opaque or presented difficulties to those of my friends whom I knew would shed some light thereon; and more often than not the confusion or opaqueness was cleared. This was many times the case with the Grand Shaykh Muhammad Mustafa al Maraghi, along with my expert friend, Ja'far Pasha Waliy, who lent me several of his books, such as the Sahih of Muslim and the histories of Makkah, and who guided me in many problems. Makram 'Ubayd Pasha, another friend of mine, lent me Sir William Muir's The life of Muhammad and Father Lammens's Islam. This valuable assistance is all in addition to that which I found in the writings of the contemporary authors such as Fajr al Islam by Ahmad Amin, Qisas al Anbiya by 'Abd al Wahhab al Najjar, Fi al Adab al Jahili by Taha Husayn, The Jews in Arabia by Israel Wolfenson, and many other contemporary works mentioned in my list of old and new references used in the preparation of this book.

As I progressed in my research more and more complicated problems emerged which overtaxed my powers. Throughout, the biographies of Muhammad and the books of exegeses as well as the works of the orientalists have, assisted me in achieving a measure of certainty of purpose. I found myself compelled to limit my investigation to the events in the life of Muhammad and to refrain from tackling a number of side issues connected there-with. Had I allowed myself to indulge in the discussion of all these problems, I would have needed to write many volumes of this size or larger. Let me mention in passing that Caussin de Perceval wrote three volumes under the title Study in Arab History, of which he devoted the first two to the history and life of the Arab tribes and the third to the history of Muhammad and his first two successors, Abu Bakr and 'Umar. Likewise, the Tabaqat of Ibn Sa'd devoted one of its many volumes to the life of Muhammad and all the others to the lives of his companions. My purpose in this work has never gone beyond the investigation of the life of Muhammad itself; therefore, I did not allow myself the liberty to investigate the other problems involved.

 

Restriction to the Life of Muhammad

Another consideration restricted me to the frontiers of the life of Muhammad-the greatness, majesty, and brilliance which make his life unique among all others. How great was Abfi Bakr ! And how great was 'Umar! Each was a great sun eclipsing all others around him. How great, too, were the first Muslims, the companions of Muhammad, who are remembered from generation to generation with the greatest pride. All these men, however, stood beneath Muhammad, reflecting his light and his glory. It is not easy therefore for the investigator to restrict himself to the life of Muhammad alone. This is all the more so if the investigation is to follow the modern scientific method, and thereby present the greatness of that life with all its strength and moving appeal in a manner which both Muslims and non-Muslims may accept and admire.

If we were to disregard those foolish fanatics, such as the missionaries and their like, whose purpose never goes beyond vituperation of Muhammad, we could still find a clear and distinct respect for greatness in the life of Muhammad in the works of the western orientalists. In his On Heroes and Hero Worship, Thomas Carlyle devoted a chapter to Muhammad in which he described the revelation of Muhammad as issuing from a spark that is divine and holy. He understood Muhammad's greatness and portrayed it in its whole strength. Likewise, Muir, Irving, Sprenger, and Weil, among other orientalists, eloquently described the greatness of Muhammad. A lack of vision, penetration, and critical skill prevented some of them from regarding one point or another of Muhammad's life as other than blameworthy. It is probable that they had relied in their investigation on unreliable biographies and books of exegesis of the Prophet, forgetting that the earliest biography was not written down until two centuries after Muhammad's death, and that during this time a great number of Israelitisms and other forgeries were forced into his biography and into his teachings. Generally, western orientalists acknowledge this fact even though they attribute to the Prophet materials which the least investigation would reject as superfluous. The cases of the goddesses of Makkah, of Zayd and Zaynab, of the wives of the Prophet, constitute examples of such superfluous materials as I have had the occasion to investigate in this book.

 

This Book as Mere Beginning of Research

No one should think that research in the life of Muhammad is completed with this work. It is closer to the truth for me to say that my work is really only the beginning of scientific research in this field in Arabic and that all my efforts in this regard do not make my work any more than a mere beginning in the scientific as well as Islamic undertaking of this grave subject. As many scholars have devoted all their energies to the study of one period of history, even as Aulard has specialized in the study of the French Revolution, some scholars and historians ought to devote themselves to the study of the Age of Muhammad. The life of Muhammad is certainly worthy of being studied in a scientific and academic manner by more than one specialist or by more than one competent scholar. I have no doubt that any efforts spent on such scientific study of this brief period in the history of Arabia and on investigating the relations of Arabia to other countries during that age will prove beneficial to mankind as a whole, not merely to Islam or the Muslims. Such a study will clear many psychological and spiritual problems and prepare them for scholarly research. It will shed great light on the social moral and legislative life of Arabia and thus illuminate areas which so far science has been unable to penetrate on account of the religious conflict between Islam and Christianity. Such a study would dissipate the futile attempt at westernizing the Orientals or Christianizing the Muslims in a way that history has proven to be impossible and harmful to the relations of the various parts of mankind with one another.

 

 

Universal Benefits of the Study

Indeed, I would even go further. I would assert that such a study may show the road to mankind as a whole to the new civilization to which it is currently groping. If western Christendom is too proud to find the new light in Islam and in its Prophet but willingly accepts it from Indian theosophy and other religions of the Far East, then it devolves upon the Orientals themselves, Muslims, Jews or Christians, to undertake this study in all objectivity and fairness in order to reach and establish the truth. Islamic thought rests on a methodology that is scientific and modern as regards all that relates man to nature. In this respect it is perfectly realistic. But it becomes personalist the moment it leaves nature to consider the relationship of man to the cosmos as a whole and to his creator. Moreover, in the psychological and spiritual fields Islamic thought made contributions which science has not yet been able either to confirm or to deny. Although science may not regard these discoveries as facts in the scientific sense of the terms, they still remain the constituents of man's happiness and the determinants of his conduct in the world. What then is life? And what is man's relation to this world? How shall we explain his concern for life? What is the common faith which inspires human groups and by which their morale is raised to high pitch or dissolved? What is being? And what is the unity of being? What is the place of man in this being and in its unity? These are problems of metaphysics and a whole literature has arisen around them. Answers far nearer human understanding and implementation than are usually found in the literature of metaphysics are found in the life of Muhammad and his teachings. Ever since the `Abbasi period, Muslim thinkers have spent centuries looking for metaphysical answers. Likewise western thinkers have spent three centuries, from the sixteenth through the nineteenth, to lead the West to modern science in the same manner as the Muslims have done in the past. Once more, science stands today as it stood in the past as failing to realize human happiness on earth. Such happiness is impossible to realize unless we resume research for a correct understanding of the personal relationship of man to the cosmos and to the creator of the cosmos, and unless such understanding is sought on the basis of a divine unity, which is eternal and immutable, and with regard to space and time in relation to our short life. The life of Muhammad provides us with the best example of personalist communion with being as well as the best materials for a scientific study of this relationship. The same materials may equally be the object of practical study for those who are endowed therefore but naturally removed from achieving such communion with God as the Prophet had achieved. It is most likely that the scientific study, and the practical study, if felicitously undertaken, may yet shake our world loose from the paganism into which it has fallen in spite of its religious creeds and scientific doctrines. It may yet save the world from its present monolatry of wealth that has made all science, art, and ethics its servants and conscripted all man's powers to do its bidding and sing its praises. Such hopes may still be far from realization. However, the beginning of the end of this all-embracing paganism of modern times is clearly distinguishable under close observance of the current flow of events. Perhaps, these humble beginnings will grow and become surer of themselves when scholarship has found answers to these spiritual problems through the study of the life of Muhammad, of his teachings, of his age, and of the spiritual world revolution which he incepted. Should such scientific and scholarly research uncover for man his stronger bonds with the higher reality of the world, it would have then provided the new civilization with its first foundation.

As I said already, this book is only a mere beginning on this road. It will prove sufficient reward for me if it should succeed in convincing the reader of the validity of its assertions, and the scholars and researchers of the need for dedication and specialization if the final end of the study is to be reached. God will surely reward the good doers.

Muhammad Husayn Haykal