Preface to the Second Edition

The speed with which the first edition of this work was exhausted has exceeded all expectations. Ten thousand copies were printed of which one-third were sold before the book came off the press. The remaining copies were sold during the first three months following its publication. If this is any indication, the reader must have been quite interested in its contents. A second printing, therefore, is as imperative as the reconsideration of those contents.

An Observation

Without a doubt, the title of the book attracted the reader most. The attraction may also have been due to the method with which the subject was treated. Whatever the reason, the thought of a second edition has occasioned the question of whether or not I should allow the book to be reprinted without change or have it corrected, considering that a need for correction, clarification, or addition has in the meantime seemed to me evident. Some, whose counsel I certainly value, have advised me to make the second edition an exact copy of the first in order to achieve equality between the earlier and later buyers and to allow myself longer time for revision thereafter. This view almost convinced me. Had I followed it, this second edition would have been put in the hands of the readers many months ago. But I hesitated to accept this advice and finally decided in favor of revisions which many considerations had made necessary. The first of such considerations concerned a number of observations which Muhammad Mustafa al Maraghi, Grand Shaykh of al Azhar, had kindly made when he read the first parts of the book as they came from the press, and kindly decided to write the foreword. When the book made its appearance, a number of `ulama' and other scholars spoke and wrote about it. Their observations were all preceded by numerous compliments for the achievement of this work, indeed more than the book actually deserved. These observations were based upon the understanding that a book about the Arab Prophet, which is so well written that it has won their approval and appreciation, ought to be absolutely free of all shortcomings. It is therefore necessary for me to take them into account and give them the consideration due.

It was perhaps this very approval and appreciation of the readers which moved them to make observations on incidental matters related neither to the essence of the book nor to its main themes. Some of them, for instance, pleaded for further clarification of certain points. Others called for closer scrutiny of my use of prepositions. Still others suggested different words better to express the meanings I intended. A number of them did focus on the themes of the book and therefore caused me to review what I have written. I certainly wish that this second edition will come closer to satisfying all these writers and scholars. All this notwithstanding, I still believe that this book provides no more than a mere beginning in the Arabic language of such studies using the modern scientific method.

A further consideration caused me to review the first edition. Having read the many observations made, most of which were not new, I became convinced as I read my work again that I ought to add, where relevant, a discussion of the points to which the observations referred in order at least to convince their authors of my point of view and of the veracity of my arguments. My reconsideration of some of these points opened new vistas which any student of the biography of the Arab Prophet will have to study. Although I am proud that the first edition did in fact deal with the points raised in the reviews, I am more proud yet today to present to the reader this second edition in which the same points have been treated more fully. No study, however, can be full or perfect which undertakes the investigation of the life of the greatest man history has known-the Seal of the Prophets and of the Messengers from on high-may God's peace and blessing be upon him.

In this edition, I have tried to address myself to a number of observations made regarding my method of investigation. I have added to the book two new chapters in which I have dealt with matters which have been only slightly referred to toward the end of the preface of the first edition. I have also re-edited the work wherever it needed editing, and added to its various sections and paragraphs such points as my rethinking has made necessary.

 

Answering the Followers of Western Orientalists

I want first to address myself to a letter I received from an Egyptian writer. He claimed that his letter is an Arabic translation of an article he wrote for a German Orientalists magazine in criticism of this book. I have not published this letter in the Arabic press because it contains many unfounded attacks; and I thought that its author had better bear the responsibility of publishing it if he wished to. Nor will I mention his name here because I believe he will repudiate his old views when he reads the critical analysis that follows. The substance of the letter is that my The Life of Muhammad is not a scientific one in the modern sense. He argues that I have depended upon Arabic sources alone and have not consulted the studies of German orientalists such as Weil, Goldziher, Noldeke, and others, and have not adopted their conclusions. The letter also blames me for regarding the Qur'an as a certain historical document, whereas the investigations of the foregoing orientalists have proven that it has been tampered with and been changed after the death of Muhammad in the first century A.H. It reported that these investigations have discovered that the name of the Prophet is a case in point; that having once been "Qutham" or "Quthamah," it was later changed to "Muhammad" in order to accord with the verse, "Jesus said: O Children of Israel, I am the Prophet of God sent to you to confirm the scripture that is already in my hand and to announce to you the advent of a prophet after me whose name shall be Ahmad."[Qur'an, 61:6] This fabrication was deemed desirable in order to forge a link between the Prophet and the Evangel's announcement of a prophet coming after Jesus. Moreover, the letter added, the researches of the orientalists have revealed that the Prophet suffered from epilepsy, that his so called revelations were really effects of his epileptic attacks; that the symptoms of epilepsy-loss of consciousness, perspiration, convulsion, foam around the mouth-were all apparent in his case. It was after he recovered from these fits that he claimed that the revelation had come to him, recited it to the believers, and claimed that it had come from God.

By itself, this letter is not worthy of attention or investigation. Its author, however, is a Muslim and an Egyptian. Had he been an orientalists or a missionary, I would have let him alone to rave as he pleased. What I have said in the preface to the first edition in this regard is sufficient refutation for such people and views. The author of this letter, however, is an example of a class of young Muslims who are too ready to accept what the orientalists say and regard it as true knowledge. It is precisely to this class of people that I want now to address myself and warn them of the errors in which the orientalists fall. Some of these orientalists are candid and scholarly despite their errors. Error nonetheless finds its way into their conclusions either because of their lack of mastery of the nuances of the Arabic language, or of their prejudice against religion as such, or Islam in particular, which, in turn, conditions them to seek to destroy the fundamental basis of religion. Both shortcomings are unworthy of scholars and it behooves them to seek a remedy therefore. We have seen Christian thinkers who, moved by this same antagonism, denied that Jesus ever existed in history; and we have seen others who have gone further and have even written about the madness of Jesus. The western thinker's innate antagonism to religion was generated by the struggle between the Church and the state and this led both the men of science and the men of religion to pull in different directions in order to wrench power from the other side and seize it for themselves. Islam, on the other hand, is free of such strife; Muslim scholars, therefore, should not be affected by it as their western colleagues have been. In most cases, to fall under such a complexus would vitiate the research. Muslim readers therefore, should watch out more carefully when they read a religious study by a westerner. They should scrutinize every claim these studies make for the truth. A large measure of their researches are deeply affected by this past strife which the men of religion and the men of science had waged against one another during long centuries.

 

 

Dependence upon the Muslim Biographers

The case of the letter from the Egyptian Muslim colleague clearly points to the need for such care. His first criticism concerned my dependence upon Arabic and Islamic sources. Of course this is not denied. But I have also consulted the books of the orientalists mentioned in my list of references. The Arabic sources, however, constituted my primary sources as they constituted the primary sources for orientalists before me. That is natural. For these sources, and the Qur'an above all, were the first ones ever to discuss the life of the Arab Prophet. There is nothing objectionable if such early historical documents are taken as primary sources for any modern and scientific biographical study of the Prophet. Noldeke, Goldziher, Weil, Sprenger, Muir, and other orientalists have all taken the same works as primary sources for their studies, just as I have done. I have also allowed myself as much liberty in scrutinizing the reports of these works as they did. And I have also not omitted to consult some of the early Christian books which the orientalists had consulted despite the fact that they were products of Christian fanaticism rather than of scholarly research and criticism. If anybody were to criticize my work on the grounds that I have allowed myself to differ from some orientalists and have arrived at conclusions other than their own, he would in fact be calling for intellectual stagnation-a conservatism not less reactionary or retrogressive than any other conservatism we have known. It is unlikely that any of the orientalists themselves agree with such call; for to do so implies approval of religious stagnation. Neither for me nor for any scholarly student of history is such a stand viable. Rather, I should ask myself, as well as any other scholar, to scrutinize the work of his colleagues. Unless he is convinced by clear evidence and incontestable proofs, he should seek other ways to the truth. To this task I call those of us, particularly the youth, who admire the researches of the Orientalists. This has also been my task. Mine is the reward where I have in fact arrived at the truth; and mine is the apology where I have erred despite my good intentions.

 

 

The Orientalists and the Bases of Religion

The aforesaid Muslim Egyptian's letter gives evidence of the western orientalists' extreme care to destroy the basis of religion. They claim that their researches have established that the Qur'an is not a historical document devoid of doubt but that it has been tampered with and edited, and many verses added to it for religious or political ulterior purposes in the first century after the death of the Prophet of Islam. I am not questioning the author of the letter from an Islamic point of view but arguing with him, as it were, as a fellow Muslim, the veracity or otherwise of the Islamic conviction that the Qur'an is the work of God and that it is impossible for it to be forged. The stand from which he wrote his letter is clearly that of the orientalists who hold that the Qur'an is a book written by Muhammad. According to a number of orientalists, Muhammad wrote the Qur'an in the belief that it was God's revelation to him; according to others, Muhammad claimed that the Qur'an was the revelation of God merely in order to prove the genuineness of his message. Let me then address the author of this letter in his own language assuming that he is one of those free thinkers who refuse to be convinced except by scientific, apodeictic proof.

 

 

The False Charge of Forgery

Our young author depends upon the western orientalists and their views. A number of these do think of the Qur'an in the manner this young author exemplified. Their claim is based upon flagrant motives which stand at the farthest possible remove from science and the scientific method. Suffice it to expose the incoherence of their arguments that the phrase, "and announcing the advent of a prophet after me whose name shall be Ahmad"[Qur'an, 61:6] was added to the Qur'an after the death of the Prophet in order to establish proof of Muhammad's prophethood based upon the scriptures preceding the Qur'an. Had these orientalists who make this claim truly sought to serve the purpose of science, they would not have recoursed to this cheap propaganda that the Torah and the Evangel are truly revealed books. Had they honored science for its own sake, they would have treated the Qur'an on a par with the scriptures antecedent to it. Either they would have regarded the Qur'an as sacred as these scriptures-in which case it would have been natural for it to refer to its antecedents-or, they would have regarded all these books as they did the Qur'an and imputed to them the same kind of doubtful nature as they did to it, holding as well their authors to have forged or written them in satisfaction of ulterior religious or political purposes. Had the orientalists held such a view, logic would rule out their claim that the Qur'an had been tampered with and forged for political and religious purposes. It is inadmissible that the Muslims would have sought such confirmation of Muhammad's claim to prophethood from these scriptures after Muslim dominion had been established, the Christian empire vanquished, so many other peoples of the earth subjugated and, indeed, after the Christians themselves had entered into Islam en masse. The inadmissibility of these orientalists' claims is demanded by genuine scientific thought. Furthermore, the claim that the Torah and the Evangel are sacred whereas the Qur'an is not is devoid of scientific support. Therefore, the claim that the Qur'an had been tampered with and forged in order to seek confirmation of Muhammad's prophethood on the basis of the Torah and the Evangel is a piece of sheer nonsense unacceptable to either logic or history.

Those western orientalists who have made this false claim are very few and belong to the more fanatic group. The majority of them do believe that the Qur'an which is in our hands today is precisely the Qur'an which Muhammad had recited to the Muslims during his lifetime; that it has neither been tampered with nor forged. They admit this explicitly in their writings while criticizing the method by which the verses of the Qur'an were collected and its chapters arranged-a matter of discussion which does not belong here. The Muslim students of the Qur'an did in fact study these criticisms and exposed their errors. As for our purpose here, suffice it to look at some orientalists' writing on this subject. Perhaps our young Muslim Egyptian author would thereby be convinced and, perhaps, he would convince those of his fellows who think like him.

 

 

Muir Rejects the Forgery of the Qur'an

The orientalists have written a great deal on this subject. We can select a passage by Sir William Muir from his book, The Life of Mahomet, in the hope that those who claim that the Qur'an has been forged will realize wherein they have erred, to the detriment of both the truth and their own scholarship. It should be remembered that our author, Muir, is a Christian, an engage and proud Christian, as well as a missionary who never misses occasion to criticize the Prophet of Islam or its scripture.

When he came to speak of the Qur'an and the veracity and precision of its text, he wrote

"The divine revelation was the cornerstone of Islam. The recital of a passage from it formed an essential part of daily prayer public and private; and its perusal and repetition were enforced as a duty and a privilege fraught with religious merit. This is the universal voice of early tradition, and may be gathered also from the revelation itself. The Coran was accordingly committed to memory more or less by every adherent of Islam, and the extent to which it could be recited was one of the chief distinctions of nobility in the early Moslem empire. The custom of Arabia favoured the task. Passionately fond of poetry, yet possessed of but limited means and skill in committing to writing the effusions of their bards, the Arabs had long been habituated to imprint these, as well as the tradition of genealogical and other tribal events, on the living tablets of their hearts. The recollective faculty was thus cultivated to the highest pitch; and it was applied, with all the ardour of an awakened spirit, to the Coran. Such was the tenacity of their memory, and so great their power of application, that several of Mahomet's followers, according to early tradition, could, during his life-time, repeat with scrupulous accuracy the entire revelation.

"However retentive the Arab memory, we should still have regarded with distrust a transcript made entirely from that source. But there is good reason for believing that many fragmentary copies, embracing amongst them the whole Coran, or nearly the whole, were made by Mahomet's followers during his life. Writing was without doubt generally known at Mecca long before Mahomet assumed the prophetical office. Many of his followers are expressly mentioned as employed by the Prophet at Medina in writing his letters or despatches . . . Some of the poorer Meccan captives taken at Badr were offered their release on condition that they would teach a certain number of the ignorant citizens of Medina to write. And although the people of Medina were not so generally educated as those of Mecca, yet many are distinctly noticed as having been able to write before Islam. The ability thus existing, it may be safely inferred that the verses which were so indefatigably committed to memory, would be likewise committed carefully to writing.

"We also know that when a tribe first joined Islam, Mahomet was in the habit of deputing one or more of his followers to teach them the Coran and the requirements of the faith. We are frequently informed that they carried written instructions with them on the latter point, and they would naturally provide themselves also with transcripts of the more important parts of the Revelation, especially those upon which the ceremonies of Islam were founded, and such as were usually recited at the public prayers. Besides the reference in the Coran to its own existence in a written form, we have express mention made in the authentic traditions of Omar's conversion, of a copy of the 20th Sura being used by his sister's family for social and private devotional reading. This refers to a period preceding, by three or four years, the emigration to Medina. If transcripts of the revelations were made, and in common use, at that early time when the followers of Islam were few and oppressed, it is certain that they must have multiplied exceedingly when the Prophet came to power, and his Book formed the law of the greater part of Arabia.

"Such was the condition of the text of the Coran during Mahomet's life-time, and such it remained for about a year after his death, imprinted upon the hearts of his people, and fragmentary transcripts increasing daily. The two sources would correspond closely with each other; for the Coran, even while the Prophet was yet alive, was regarded with a superstitious awe as containing the very words of God; so that any variations would be reconciled by a direct reference to Mahomet himself, and after his death to the originals where they existed, or copies from the same, and to the memory of the Prophet's confidential friends and amanuenses.

"It was not till the overthrow of Moseilama, when a great carnage took place amongst the Moslems at Yemama, and large numbers of the best reciters of the Coran were slain, that a misgiving arose in Omar's mind as to the uncertainty which would be experienced regarding the text, when all those who had received it from the original source, and thence stored it in their memories, should have passed away. `I fear,' said he, addressing the Caliph Abu Bakr, `that slaughter may again wax hot amongst the reciters of the Coran, in other fields of battle; and that much may be lost therefrom. Now, therefore, my advice is, that thou shouldest give speedy orders for the collection of the Coran.' Abu Bakr agreed, and thus made known his wishes to Zeid ibn Thabit, a citizen of Medina, and the Prophet's chief amanuensis: 'Thou art a young man, and wise; against whom no one amongst us can cast an imputation; and thou wert wont to write down the inspired revelations of the Prophet of the Lord. Wherefore now search out the Coran, and bring it together.' So new and unexpected was the enterprise that Zeid at first shrank from it, and doubted the propriety, or even lawfulness, of attempting that which Mahomet had neither himself done nor commanded to be done. At last he yielded to the joint entreaties of Abu Bakr and Omar, and seeking out the fragments of the Coran from every quarter, 'gathered it together, from dateleaves, and tablets of white stone, and from the breasts of men.' By the labours of Zeid, these scattered and confused materials were reduced to the order and sequence in which we now find them, and in which it is said that Zeid used to repeat the Coran in the presence of Mahomet. The original copy prepared by Zeid was probably kept by Abu Bakr during the short remainder of his reign. It then came into the possession of Omar who . . . committed it to the custody of his daughter Hap hsa, the Prophet's widow. The compilation of Zeid, as embodied in this exemplar, continued during Omar's ten years' Caliphate to be the standard and authoritative text.

"But variety of expression either prevailed in the previous transcripts and modes of recitation, or soon crept into the copies which were made from Zeid's edition. Mussulmans were scandalized. The Coran sent down from heaven was ONE, but where was now its unity? Hodzeifa, who had warred both in Armenia and Adzerbaijan and had observed the different readings of the Syrians and of the men of Irac, alarmed at the number and extent of the variations, warned Othman to interpose, and 'stop the people, before they should differ regarding their Scripture, as did the Jews and Christians.' The Caliph was persuaded, and to remedy the evil had recourse again to Zeid, with whom he associated a syndicate of three Coreish. The original copy of the first edition was obtained from Haphsa's depository, the various readings were sought out from the different provinces, and a careful recension of the whole set on foot. In case of difference between Zeid and his coadjutors, the voice of the latter, as conclusive of the Coreishite idiom, was to preponderate; and the new collation was thus assimilated exclusively to the Meccan dialect, in which the Prophet had given utterance to his inspiration. Transcripts were multiplied and forwarded to the chief cities in the empire, and the previously existing copies were all, by the Caliph's command, committed to the flames. The old original was returned to Haphsa's custody.

"The recension of Othman had been handed down to us unaltered. So carefully, indeed, has it been preserved, that there are no variations of importance-we might almost say no variations at all-among the innumerable copies of the Coran scattered throughout the vast bounds of the empire of Islam. Contending and embittered factions, taking their rise in the murder of Othman himself within a quarter of a century from the death of Mahomet, have ever since rent the Mahometan world. Yet but ONE CORAN has been current amongst them; and the consentaneous use by them all in every age up to the present day of the same Scripture, is an irrefragable proof that we have now before us the very text prepared by command of the unfortunate Caliph. There is probably in the world no other work which has remained twelve centuries with so pure a text. The various readings are wonderfully few in number, and are chiefly confined to differences in the vowel points and diacritical signs. But these marks were invented at a later date. They did not exist at all in the early copies, and can hardly be said to affect the text of Othman.

"Since, then, we possess the undoubted text of Othman's recension, it remains to be enquired whether that text was, an honest reproduction of Abu Bakr's edition, with the simple reconcilement of unimportant variations. There is the fullest ground for believing that it was so. No early or trustworthy traditions throw suspicion upon Othman of tampering with the Coran in order to support his own claims. The Sheeahs of later times, indeed, pretend that Othman left out certain Suras or passages which favoured Ali. But this is incredible ....

"When Othman's edition was prepared, no open breach had taken place between the Omeyads and the Alyites. The unity of Islam was still complete and unthreatened. Ali's pretensions were as yet undeveloped. No sufficient object can, therefore, be assigned for the perpetration by Othman of an offence which Moslems regard as one of the blackest dye . . . At the time of the recension, there were still multitudes alive who had the Coran, as originally delivered, by heart; and of the supposed passages favouring Ali-had any ever existed-there would have been numerous transcripts in the hands of his family and followers. Both of these sources must have proved an effectual check upon any attempt at suppression. Fourth: The party of Ali shortly after assumed an independent attitude, and he himself succeeded to the Caliphate. Is it conceivable that either Ali, or his party, when thus arrived at power, would have tolerated a mutilated Coran-mutilated expressly to destroy his claims? Yet we find that they used the same Coran as their opponents, and raised no shadow of an objection against it. The insurgents are indeed said to have made it one of their complaints against Othman that he had caused a new edition to be made, and had committed the old copies of the sacred volume to the flames; but these proceedings were objected to simply as unauthorised and sacrilegious. No hint was dropped of alteration or omission. Such a supposition, palpably absurd at the time, is altogether an after-thought of the modern Sheeas.

"We may then safely conclude that Othman's recension was, what it professed to be, namely, the reproduction of Abu Bakr's edition, with a more perfect conformity to the dialect of Mecca, and possibly a more uniform arrangement of the component parts-but still a faithful reproduction. The most important question yet remains, viz., Whether Abu Bakr's edition was itself an authentic and complete collection of Mahomet's Revelations. The following considerations warrant the belief that it was authentic and in the main as complete as at the time was possible.

"First.-We have no reason to doubt that Abu Bakr was a sincere follower of Mahomet, and an earnest believer in the divine origin of the Coran. His faithful attachment to the Prophet's person, conspicuous for the last twenty years of his life, and his simple, consistent, and unambitious deportment as Caliph, admit no other supposition. Firmly believing the revelations of his friend to be the revelations of God himself, his first object would be to secure a pure and complete transcript of them. A similar argument applies with almost equal force to Omar and the other agents in the revision. The great mass of Mussulmans were undoubtedly sincere in their belief. From the scribes themselves, employed in the compilation, down to the humblest Believer who brought his little store of writing on stones or palm-leaves, all would be influenced by the same earnest desire to reproduce the very words which their Prophet had declared as his message from the Lord. And a similar guarantee existed in the feelings of the people at large, in whose soul no principle was more deeply rooted than an awful reverence for the supposed word of God. The Coran itself contains frequent denunciations against those who should presume to `fabricate anything in the name of the Lord,' or conceal any part of that which He had revealed. Such an action, represented as the very worst description of crime, we cannot believe that the first Moslems, in the early ardour of their faith and love, would have dared to contemplate.

"Second.-The compilation was made within two years of Mahomet's death. We have seen that several of his followers had the entire revelation . . . by heart; that every Moslem treasured up more or less some portions in his memory; and that there were official Reciters of it, for public worship and tuition, in all countries to which Islam extended. These formed a living link between the Revelation fresh from Mahomet's lips, and the edition of it by Zeid. Thus the people were not only sincere and fervent in wishing for a faithful copy of the Coran : they were also in possession of ample means for realizing their desire, and for testing the accuracy and completeness of the volume placed in their hands by Abu Bakr.

"Third.-A still greater security would be obtained from the fragmentary transcripts which existed in Mahomet's life-time, and which must have greatly multiplied before the Coran was compiled. These were in the possession, probably, of all who could read. And as we know that the compilation of Abu Bakr came into immediate and unquestioned use, it is reasonable to conclude that it embraced and corresponded with every extant fragment; and therefore, by common consent, superseded them. We hear of no fragments, sentences, or word intentionally omitted by the compilers, nor of any that differed from the received edition. Had any such been discoverable, they would undoubtedly have been preserved and noticed in those traditional repositories which treasured up the minutest and most trivial acts and sayings of the Prophet.

"Fourth.-The contents and the arrangement of the Coran speak forcibly for its authenticity. All the fragments that could be obtained have, with artless simplicity, been joined together. The patchwork bears no marks of a designing genius or moulding hand. It testifies to the faith and reverence of the compilers, and proves that they dared no more than simply collect the sacred fragments and place them in juxtaposition.

"The conclusion, which we may now with confidence draw, is that the editions of Abu Bakr and of Othman were not only faithful, but, so far as the materials went, complete; and that whatever omissions there may have been, were not on the part of the compilers intentional . . . we may upon the strongest presumption affirm that every verse in the Coran is the genuine and unaltered composition[Dr. Haykal translated this term so as to mean "recitation" rather than "composition," in conformity with the Islamic position. -Tr.] of Mahomet himself."[Sir William Muir, The Life of Mahomet, London: Smith, Elder and Company, 1878, pp. 551-562]

 

 

The Slanderers of Islam

We have quoted Sir William Muir at length. Hence, we do not need to bring further quotations from the work of Father Lammens, Von Hammer, and other orientalists who hold this view. All these are absolutely certain that the Qur'an which we recite today contains all that Muhammad reported in all candidness as having been revealed to him from his Lord. If a certain group of orientalists do not agree and insist that the Qur'an is forged without regard to these rational proofs which Muir had listed and which most orientalists had in fact taken from Muslim historians and scholars, it is in order to slander Islam and its Prophet. Such is the dictate of hate and resentment. However clever and adept such orientalists may be in formulating their slander, they will never be able to pass it as genuine scientific research; nor will they ever be able to fool any Muslims, except perhaps those young men deluded enough to think that free research demands of them the denial of their tradition and the naive acceptance of any nicely presented falsehood and attacks against their legacy, regardless of the validity or falsity of its premises and assumptions.

We could have quoted these same arguments of Sir William Muir and other orientalists directly from their primary Muslim sources as written by the scholars of Islam. But we have preferred to quote them in the words of an Orientalists in order to show those of our youths who are spellbound by western works that precision in scientific research and a candid desire to seek the truth are sufficient to lead anyone to the ultimate facts of history. It was also our intention to show that the investigator ought to be very exact and precise in his investigation if he is to arrive at an understanding of his objective unaffected by ulterior motives or prejudice. Some orientalists undoubtedly arrive at the truth in some cases; others have not been as fortunate. The research which we have conducted in the writing of this book has convinced us that as regards the problem which the life of the Prophet poses to the scholar most of the orientalists have indeed erred.

 

 

Proper Methodology

It behooves us here to remember that the researcher should never assert or deny a thesis until his research and analysis have led him to perfect conviction that he has actually grasped all there is to know concerning the given problem. Here, the historian stands in the same predicament as his colleague researcher in the natural sciences. Such is his duty regardless of whether the material he analyzes is the work of an Orientalists or that of a Muslim scholar. If we sincerely seek the truth, our duty is to scrutinize critically all that the Arab and the Muslim scholars have written in the fields of medicine, astronomy, chemistry and other sciences, and to reject all that does not hold its ground before the tribunal of science and to confirm that which does. The search for truth imposes upon us such exactitude in historical matters even though they may be related to the life of the Prophet-may God's peace and blessing be upon him. The historian is not a mere reporter. He is also a critic of what he reports, analyzing it and ascertaining the truth that it contains. There is no criticism without analytic scrutiny; and science and knowledge constitute the foundation of such criticism and analysis.

The exacting analysis which we have quoted in the foregoing pages regarding the Qur'an is not enough. It does not obviate the need to respond to the letter of that Egyptian Muslim who naively believes all the writings of the orientalists, more particularly their claim that verses have been added to the Qur'an regarding the name of the Prophet, that it was once "Qutham" or "Quthamah." This claim is false, and it is motivated by the same ulterior motive that stands behind the charge of the forgery of the Qur'an.

Let us then return to the last point in the letter of our young Muslim Egyptian author. He says that the investigations of the orientalists have established that the Prophet suffered from epilepsy, that the symptoms of the disease were all present in him and that he used to lose consciousness, perspire, fall into convulsions and sputter. After recovering from such seizures, the claim continues, Muhammad would recite to the believers what he then claimed to be a revelation from God, whereas that was only an aftereffect of the epileptic fits which he suffered.

 

 

The Slander of Epilepsy

To represent the phenomenon of Muhammad's revelations in these terms is, from the standpoint of scientific research, the gravest nonsense. The fit of epilepsy leaves the patient utterly without memory of what has taken place. In fact, the patient completely forgets that period of his life and can recollect nothing that has happened to him in the meantime because the processes of sensing and thinking come to a complete stop during the fit. Such are the symptoms of epilepsy as science has established them. This was not the case at all with the Prophet at the moment of revelation, for his cognitive faculties used to be strengthened-rather than weakened-and do so to a superlative degree hitherto unknown by the people who knew him most. Muhammad used to remember with utmost precision what he received by way of revelation and recited it to his companions without a flaw. Moreover, revelation was not always accompanied by paroxysms of the body. Much of it took place while the Prophet was perfectly conscious, during his usual wakefulness. We have advanced sufficient evidence for this in our discussion of the revelation of the surah "al Fath" upon return of the Muslims from Makkah to Yathrib after signing the Pact of Hudaybiyah.[5]

Scientific investigation therefore reveals that the case of Muhammad was not one of epilepsy. For this reason very few orientalists have upheld this claim and these turn out to be the same authors who upheld the charge of forgery against the Qur'an. Obviously, in charging Muhammad with epilepsy, their motivation was not the establishment of historical fact but the derogation of the Prophet in the eyes of his Muslim followers. Perhaps, they thought, propagation of such views would cast some suspicion upon his revelation, for it was precisely the revelation that came as a result of the so-called epileptic fits. This, of course, makes them all the more blameworthy and, from the standpoint of science, positively in error.

 

 

Return to Science

Had these western orientalists been candid, they would not have presented their non-scientific claims in the name of science. They did so in order to delude the ignorant who, ignorant though they be of the symptoms of the epileptic disease, are prevented by their own naivete from checking the orientalists' claims against the writings and opinions of the men of the medical sciences. A consultation of medical literature would have quickly exposed the errors of the orientalists, deliberate or accidental, and convinced them that in an epileptic fit all the intellectual and spiritual processes come to an absolute stop. When in a fit, the epileptic patient is either in a ridiculously mechanical state of motion or on a rampage injurious to his fellow men. He is utterly unconscious, unknowing of what he himself does, or of what happens to him, very much like the somnambulant who has no control over his movements during his sleep and who cannot remember them when he wakes up. A very great difference separates an epileptic fit from a revelation in which an intense and penetrating consciousness establishes, in full knowledge and conviction, a contact with the supernal plenum that enables the prophet to report and convey his revelation. Epilepsy, on the other hand, stops cognition. It reduces its patient to a mechanical state devoid of either feeling or sensation. Revelation is a spiritual heightening with which God prepares His prophet to receive from Him the highest and apodeictic cosmic truths that he may convey them to mankind. Science may eventually reach some of these truths and discover the secrets and laws of the universe. The rest may never become object of human knowledge until existence on this earth has come to an end. Nonetheless, these truths are apodeictically certain, furnishing true guidance to the earnest believer though they remain opaque to the ignorant whose hearts are locked and whose vision is dim.

 

 

Incapacity of Science in Some Fields

We would have understood and appreciated the western orientalists having said: "Revelation is a strange psychic phenomenon inexplicable in terms of contemporary science." Such a statement would mean that despite its wide scope and penetration, our science is still unable to explain many spiritual and psychic phenomena of which revelation is one. This statement is neither objectionable nor strange. Science is still unable to explain many natural, cosmic phenomena. The nature of the sun, moon, stars, and planets is still largely a matter for hypothesis. These heavenly bodies are only some of what the human eye, whether naked or through the telescope, reveals to us of the cosmos. Many of the inventions of the twentieth century that we presently take for granted were regarded by our predecessors in the nineteenth century as pure fiction. Psychic and spiritual phenomena are now subject to careful scientific study. But they have not yet been subject to the dominion of science so that it could be made to reveal their permanent role. We have often read about phenomena witnessed by the men of science and ascertained by them without explanation in terms coherent with scientific knowledge. Psychology, for instance, is a science which is not yet certain of the structures of many areas of psychic life. If this uncertainty is true of everyday phenomena, the demand to explain all the phenomena of life scientifically must be a shameful and futile exaggeration.

The revelations of Muhammad were phenomena witnessed by his Muslim contemporaries. The more they heard the Qur'an, the more convinced they became of the truth of these revelations. Among these contemporaries were many of extreme intelligence. Others were Jews and Christians who had argued with the Prophet for a long time before, and they believed in his mission and trusted his revelation in every detail. Some men of Quraysh had accused Muhammad of magic and madness. Later, convinced that he was neither a magician nor a madman, they believed in and followed him. Since all these facts are certain, it is as unscientific to deny the phenomenon of revelation as it is unworthy of the men of science to speak of it in derogative terms. The man of science candid in his search for the truth will not go beyond asserting that his discipline is unable to explain the phenomenon of revelation according to the materialistic theory. But he will never deny the factuality of revelation as reported by the companions of the Prophet and the historians of the first century of Islam. To do otherwise would be to fall under prejudice and betray the spirit of science.

 Slander against Muhammad Is Argumentum ad Hominem

Such obstinate prejudice only proves the determined concern of its author to arouse suspicion in Islam itself. Such people have been incapable of arguing against Islam because they had found it sublimely noble, simple, and easy to understand, and realized that these qualities are the sources of its strength. They hence resort to the trick of the impotent who shifts attention from the great idea beyond his reach to the person advocating it. That is the argumentum ad hominem fallacy which every scholar should seek to avoid. It is natural for men to concern themselves with ideas and not with the personal circumstances of their authors and advocates. Men do not give themselves the trouble to investigate the roots of a tree whose fruits they had found delectable, nor the fertilizer which had helped it to grow, as long as their purpose is not to plant a similar or better tree. When they analyze the philosophy of Plato, the plays of Shakespeare, or the paintings of Raphael, and find nothing objectionable in them, they do not look for blameworthy aspects in the lives of these great men who constitute humanity's glory and pride. And if they try to fabricate charges against these persons, they will never succeed in convincing anyone. They only succeed in betraying themselves and exposing their ulterior motives. Casting resentment in the form of scientific research does not alter it from being what it is: namely resentment. Resentment refuses to recognize the truth; and the truth will always be too proud to allow resentment to be its source or associate. Such is the case of the orientalists' charges against the person of the Arab Prophet Muhammad, Seal of the Prophets; and that is why their charges fall to the ground.

That is all I have to say by way of response to those orientalists to whom the letter of the Egyptian Muslim had referred. Having thus refuted their views, let me now direct my attention to a number of observations made on the first edition of this book by the Islamicists at home.

It is my earnest hope that such base charges unworthy of science and unacceptable to scholars will never be repeated again. Perhaps, hitherto, the orientalists felt themselves excused on the grounds that they were writing for the consumption of their fellow Christians and Europeans and that they were actually discharging a national or religious duty imposed upon them by a patriotism or faith which requires scholarly form to make its propaganda palatable. Our day, however, is different. Communication between the various corners of the globe by means of radio broadcasting and the press has made it possible for anything said or published in Europe or America today to become known throughout the Orient in that same day or even the same hour. It is therefore the duty of those who assume the scholarly profession and the pursuit of truth to tear away from their hearts and eyes every curtain of national, racial, or religious isolation. They should realize that whatever they say or write will soon reach the ears of all men throughout the world and will be subject to universal criticism and scrutiny. The absolute and unconditional truth should be the objective of every one of us; and let us all take due care to connect the present reality of mankind with its past, to regard humanity as one great unit undivided by nationality, race or religion. Let such connection be the bond of free fraternity in the pursuit of truth, goodness, and beauty, and the noblest ideal that humanity has ever known. Such a bond is alone capable of guiding humanity in its quick march toward happiness and perfection.

 

 

Observations of Muslim Islamicists

Whereas the naive believers in the exaggerations of the orientalists blame us for having recourse to the Arabic sources and depending upon them, a number of Muslim Islamicists blame us for turning to the writings of the orientalists rather than limiting ourselves to the Islamic biographies and books of Hadith. The latter have also criticized us for not following the same method as these ancient books.

It was on this basis that some of them made friendly observations in hope of reaching the fact of the matter in question. Others made observations which betray such ignorance or prejudice as no scholar would wish to associate himself with. The former took note of the fact that we have not reported the miracles of Muhammad as the biographies and Hadith have done. In this regard we wrote in the conclusion of our first edition: "The Life of Muhammad, therefore, has realized the highest ideals possible to man. Muhammad-may God's peace and blessing be upon him-was very careful that the Muslims should think of him as a human to whom revelation came. He never accepted that any miracle be attributed to him other than his association

with the advent of the Qur'an, and actually told this much to his companions." As regards the story of the splitting of Muhammad's chest we wrote: "Orientalists as well as Muslim scholars take their attitude towards this event in the life of Muhammad on the grounds that Muhammad's whole life was all too human and noble and that he never resorted to miracles as previous prophets had done, in order to prove the veracity of his revelation. In taking this attitude, the above mentioned thinkers rely upon the Arab and Muslim historians who share their view and who deny any place in the biography of the Arab Prophet to all that is irrational. They regard their stand as being in perfect accord with the Qur'an's call to man to study the creation of God and discover therein His immutable laws. They find the claim for miracles incoherent with the Qur'an's condemnation of the associationists as men who do not reason, as men who have no faculties with which to reason." Other more considerate critics criticized us for having mentioned at all the orientalists' attacks upon the Prophet, though we did so but to refute them. In their opinion, this procedure does not accord with the veneration due to the person of the Prophet-may God's blessing be upon him. Lastly, there is the class of prejudiced critics who were known even before the first edition of this book had appeared and, indeed, even before my researches had been collected in book form. Their strongest criticism was that I have given my work the title, "The Life of Muhammad," without joining it to an invocation of peace and blessing upon him. Such invocations occur frequently in the course of the book. I had thought, nonetheless, that they would discover their prejudice once the title page of the first edition came out decorated, as it was, with the verse: "God and his angels bless the Prophet. O you who believe, invoke God's peace and blessing upon him and salute him with the salutation of peace.[Qur'an, 33:56] I had also thought that the method used in this book would itself dissolve their prejudice. By insisting as they did, however, they betrayed their ignorance of Islamic truths and their satisfaction with the imitation of their ancestors.

Let us begin by answering their false criticism in the hope that neither they nor any others will repeat it regarding this or any other book. We shall refuse their criticism by turning to the books of the classical leaders of Islamic knowledge. Everyone will then realize the free stand Islam has taken vis--vis all verbal restrictions and will then appreciate the hadith, "This religion is indeed sound. Analyze it as you wish, but gently. You will never find a flaw therein." Abu al Baqa' wrote in his book, AL Kulliyyat: "Writing the invocation of peace and blessing on Muhammad at the beginning of a book occurred during the `Abbasi period. That is why the Sahih of al Bukhari and others are devoid of it." [1574-1624 C.E., great grammarian, court clerk, and qadi who lived in Safad, Saida, Beirut and Jerusalem.] The majority of the great men of Islamic knowledge agree that the invocation of peace and blessing upon the Prophet need not be made by the Muslim more than once in his lifetime. In his book AL Bahr al Raiq, ibn Nujaym wrote: "The religious imperative implied in the divine command, `Invoke upon him God's peace and blessing,' is that it should be made at least once in a lifetime whether during or outside the prayer. For no command by itself implies repetition. On this there is no disagreement." Likewise, al Shafi'i contended with his colleagues on "whether or not the invocation of God's peace and blessing on the Prophet is imperative during the prayer or outside of it. Prayer is itself invocation. As it stands in the above mentioned verse, to invoke God's peace and blessing upon the Prophet simply means that one should ask God to bless the Prophet and to salute him the salutation of peace." That is the lesson which the Muslim men of knowledge and their leaders have taught in this regard. It proves that those who claim that this invocation is imperative whenever the name of the Prophet is mentioned or written are simply exaggerating. Had they known the foregoing facts, and that the greatest traditionists had not written such an invocation regarding the Prophet on the title pages or beginnings of their collections of hadiths, they would perhaps have avoided falling into their present error.

 

Refutation of the Orientalists and Its Method

As to those who claim that it does not become a Muslim scholar to repeat the attacks of the Orientalists and the missionaries against the Prophet even in order to refute them, they have really nothing to stand upon except an Islamic emotion which we salute. From the religious as well as scholarly points of view, they simply have no argument at all. The Holy Qur'an itself reported much of what the associationists of Makkah used to say about the Prophet and refuted them with clear and eloquent argument. The Arabic style of the Qur'an is the highest and its morals the noblest. [Arabic "adab al Qur'an."]` It mentioned the accusation of the Quraysh that Muhammad was either possessed or a magician. It said: "We do know that they say that it is only a man who teaches Muhammad the Qur'an. But the tongue of him to whom they refer by this insinuation is foreign whereas this Qur'an is in the Arabic tongue, plain and clear." [Qur'an, 16:103] There are many such statements in the Qur'an. Moreover, an argument is not scientifically refuted unless it is honestly and precisely stated. In writing this book, my purpose has been to reach objective truth by means of scholarly research. And I have written my book so that both Muslims and non-Muslims may read it and be convinced of this objective truth. Such a purpose cannot be achieved unless the scholar be honest in his pursuit. He should never hesitate to acknowledge the truth whencesoever it may come.

 

 

Biographies and Hadith Books

Let us return to the first criticism the Muslim students of Islam have kindly directed to our work, namely, that we have not taken into consideration the Islamic biographies and Hadith books and that we have not followed the same methodology as these ancient works. It should suffice to say in reply to this criticism that I have resolved to follow the modern scientific method and to write in the style of the century and that I have taken this resolution because it is the only proper one in the eyes of the contemporary world, whether for historiography or any other discipline. This being the case, ancient methods are ruled out a priori. Between these and the methods of our agcy there is great difference, the most obvious of which is the freedom to criticize. Most of the ancient works were written for a religious purpose and as devotional exercises, whereas contemporary writers are interested only in scientific analysis and criticism. To say this much concerning my method and work should be sufficient answer to their criticism. But I see the need for a more detailed treatment in order to show the reasons why our classical scholars of the past did not, and those of the present should not, assume in wholesale fashion the veracity of all that the books of biography and Hadith have brought. It is also my intention to clarify the reasons why we ought to observe the rules of scientific criticism as closely as possible in order to guard against all possible errors.

 

 

The Difference between These Books

The first of these reasons is the difference of these books in their reporting of events supposed to have taken place in the life of the Arab Prophet. Those who studied these books have observed that the miracles and extraordinary events reported increased or decreased for no reason other than the change in the time when they were written. The earlier report fewer miracles than the later; and the miracles they do report are less unreasonable than those reported in later books. The oldest known biography, namely, that of ibn Hisham for example, has far less material than the Tarikh of Abu al Fida', than Al Shifa of Qadi `Ayyad and of most later writings. The same is true of the books of the Hadith. Some of them tell a story and others omit it, or they report it and point out that it is not trustworthy. The objective researcher investigating these books must therefore have a standard by which he can evaluate the various claims. That which agrees with the standard he would find acceptable and that which does not, he would subject to closer scrutiny wherever possible.

Our ancestors have followed this method in their investigations at times, and they have omitted doing so at others. An example of their omission is the story of "the daughters of God." It is told that when the Prophet, under ever-increasing oppression of Quraysh, recited the Qur'anic surah "al Najm" and arrived at the verse: "Consider al Lat and al `Uzza ; and Mandt, the third goddess," [Qur'an, 53:19-20] he added: "Those are the goddesses on high; their intercession with God is worthy of our prayers." He then went on reciting the surah to its end and when he finished, he prostrated himself in worship, and Muslims and associationists joined him and did likewise. This story was reported by ibn Sa'd in his Al Tabaqat al Kubrd without criticism. It also occurs with little variation in some books of Hadith. Ibn Ishaq, however, reported the story and judged it as being the fabrication of zindiqs." [Literally "hypocrite;" as a special name it applied to the Zoroastrians and Manicheans who pretended to embrace Islam but remained true to their old gods. -Tr.] In his AL Bidayah wa al Nihayah fi al Tarikh, ibn Kathir wrote: "They mentioned the story of the goddesses of Makkah, whereas we have decided to omit it for fear that the uninstructed may naively accept it as truth. The story was first reported in the books of Hadith." He then reported a tradition from Bukhari in this regard and qualified it as being "unique to Bukhari, rejected by Muslim." As for me, I did not hesitate to reject the story altogether and to agree with ibn Ishaq that it was the fabrication of zindiqs. In analyzing it I brought together several pieces of evidence. In addition to its denial of the infallibility of the Prophets in their conveyance of their divine messages, this story must also be subject to modern scientific criticism.

 

 

The Age of These Books

The books of the ancestors should be closely scrutinized and criticized in a scientific manner because the most ancient of them was written a hundred or more years after the death of the Prophet. At that time, many political and religious movements were spreading throughout the Islamic Empire, each of which fabricated all kinds of stories and hadiths to justify its own cause. The later books, written during even more turbulent and unsettled times, are more vulnerable. Political struggles caused a great deal of trouble to the collectors of Hadith because they took utmost care in scrutinizing these various reports, rejecting the suspicious, and confirming only those which passed the severest tests. It is sufficient to remember here the travails of al Bukhari in his travels throughout the Muslim World undertaken for this purpose. He told us that he had found some six hundred thousand hadiths current, of which only 4,000 he could confirm as true. The ratio is that of one to 150 hadiths. As for Abu Dawiid, he could confirm 4,800 hadiths out of half a million. Such was the task of all collectors of hadiths. Nonetheless, many of the hadiths which they had found true after criticism were found untrue by a number of other scholars under further criticism. Such was the case of the goddesses. If such is the case of Hadith, despite all the efforts spent by the early collectors, how trustworthy can the later biographies of the Prophet be? How can their reports be taken without scientific scrutiny?

 

 

Effects of Islamic Political Strife

In fact, the political struggles of the first century of Islam caused the various parties to invent, and press into their service, a great number of stories and hadiths. No Hadith has been committed to writing until the last years of the Umawi period. It was `Umar ibn `Abd al `Aziz who ordered its collection for the first time. The job, however, was not completed until the reign of al Ma'mun, the time when "the true hadith was as discernible from the false as a white hair is in the fur of a black bull," to borrow the phrase of Daraqutni. The Hadith was not collected in the first century of Islam perhaps because of the reported command of the Prophet: "Do not write down anything I say except the Qur'an. Whoever has written something other than the Qur'an, let him destroy it." Nonetheless, the hadiths of the Prophet were current in those days and must have been varied. During his caliphate, `Umar ibn al Khattab once tried to deal with the problem by committing the Hadith to writing. The companions of the Prophet whom he consulted encouraged him, but he was not quite sure whether he should proceed. One day, moved by God's inspiration, he made up his mind and announced: "I wanted to have the traditions of the Prophet written down, but I fear that the Book of God might be encroached upon. Hence I shall not permit this to happen." He therefore changed his mind and instructed the Muslims throughout the provinces: "Whoever has a document bearing a prophetic tradition shall destroy it." The Hadith therefore continued to be transmitted orally and was not collected and written down until the period of al Ma'mun.

 

 

The Standard of Hadith Criticism

Despite the great care and precision of the Hadith scholars, much of what they regarded as true was later proved to be spurious. In his commentary on the collection of Muslim, al Nawawi wrote: "A number of scholars discovered many hadiths in the collections of Muslim and Bukhari which do not fulfill the conditions of verification assumed by these men." The collectors attached the greater weight to the trustworthiness of the narrators. Their criterion was certainly valuable, but it was not sufficient. In our opinion, the criterion for the Hadith criticism, as well as standard for materials concerning the Prophet's life, is the one which the Prophet himself gave. He said: "After I am gone differences will arise among you. Compare whatever is reported to be mine with the Book of God; that which agrees therewith you may accept as having come from me; that which disagrees you will reject as a fabrication." This valid standard is observed by the great men of Islam right from the very beginning. It continues to be the standard of thinkers today. Ibn Khaldun wrote: "I do not believe any hadith or report of a companion of the Prophet to be true which differs from the common sense meaning of the Qur'an, no matter how trustworthy the narrators may have been. It is not impossible that a narrator appears to be trustworthy though he may be moved by ulterior motive. If the hadiths were criticized for their textual contents as they were for the narrators who transmitted them a great number would have had to be rejected. It is a recognized principle that a hadith could be declared spurious if it departs from the common sense meaning of the Qur'an from the recognized principles of the Shari'ah, [The Law of Islam] the rules of logic, the evidence of sense, or any other self-evident truth." This criterion, as given by the Prophet as well as ibn Khaldun, perfectly accords with modern scientific criticism.

True, after Muhammad's death the Muslims differed, and they fabricated thousands of hadiths and reports to support their various causes. From the day Abu Lu'lu'ah, the servant of al Mughirah, killed `Umar ibn al Khattab and `Uthman ibn `Affan assumed the caliphate, the old pre-Islamic enmity of Banu Hashim and Banu Umayyah reappeared. When, upon the murder of `Uthman, civil war broke out between the Muslims, `A'ishah fought against `Ali and `Ali's supporters consolidated themselves into a party, the fabrication of hadiths spread to the point where `Ali ibn Abu Talib himself had to reject the practice and warn against it. He reportedly said: "We have no book and no writing to read to you except the Qur'an and this sheet which I have received from the Prophet of God in which he specified the duties prescribed by charity." Apparently, this exhortation did not stop the Hadith narrators from fabricating their stories either in support of a cause they advocated, or of a virtue or practice to which they exhorted the Muslims and which they thought would have more appeal if vested with prophetic authority. When the Banu Umayyah firmly established themselves in power, their protagonists among the Hadith narrators deprecated the prophetic traditions reported by the party of `Ali ibn Abu Talib, and the latter defended those traditions and propagated them with all the means at their disposal. Undoubtedly they also deprecated the traditions reported by `A'ishah, "Mother of the Faithful." A humorous piece of reportage was given us by ibn `Asakir who wrote: "Abu Sa'd Isma'il ibn al Muthannaal Istrabadhi was giving a sermon one day in Damascus when a man stood up and asked him what he thought of the hadith of the Prophet: 'I am the city of knowledge and 'All is its gate.' Abu Sa'd pondered the question for a while and then replied: Indeed! No one knows this hadith of the Prophet except those who lived in the first century of Islam. What the Prophet had said, he continued, was, rather, "I am the city of knowledge; Abu Bakr is its foundation; 'Umar, its walls; 'Uthman its ceiling; and 'Ali is its gate.' The audience was quite pleased with his reply and asked him to furnish them with its chain of narrators. Abu Sa'd could not furnish any chain and was terribly embarrassed." Thus hadiths were fabricated for political and other purposes. This wanton multiplication alarmed the Muslims because many ran counter to the Book of God. The attempts to stop this wave of fabrication under the Umawis did not succeed. When the 'Abbasids took over, and al Ma'mun assumed the caliphate almost two centuries after the death of the Prophet, the fabricated hadiths numbered in the thousands and hundreds of thousands and contained an unimaginable amount of contradiction and variety. It was then that the collectors applied themselves to the task of putting the Hadith together and the biographers of the Prophet wrote their biographies. A1 Waqidi, ibn Hisham and al Mada'ini lived and wrote their books in the days of al Ma'mun. They could not afford to contradict the caliphate and hence could not apply with the precision due the Prophet's criterion that his traditions ought to be checked against the Qur'an and accepted only if they accorded therewith.

Had this criterion, which does not differ from the modern method of scientific criticism, been applied with precision, the ancient masters would have altered much of their writing. Circumstances of history imposed upon them the application of it to some of their writings but not to others. The later generations inherited their method of treating the biography of the Prophet without questioning it. Had they been true to history, they would have applied this criterion in general as well as in detail. No reported events disagreeing with the Qur'an would have been spared, and none would have been confirmed but those which agreed with the Book of God as well as the laws of nature. Even so, these hadiths would have been subject to strict analysis and established only with valid proof and incontestable evidence. This stand was taken by the greatest Muslim scholars of the past as well as of the present. The grand Shaykh of al Azhar, Muhammad Mustafa al Maraghi, wrote in his foreword to this book: "Muhammad-may God's peace and blessing be upon him-had only one irresistible miracle-the Qur'an. But it is not irrational. How eloquent is the verse of al Busayri: 'God did not try us with anything irrational. Thus, we fell under neither doubt nor illusion.' [13]

The late Muhammad Rashid Rida, editor of al Manar, wrote in answer to our critics: "The most important objection which the Azharis and the Sufis raise against Haykal concerns the problem of the miracles. In my book, Al Wahy al Muhammadi, I have analyzed the problem from all aspects in the second chapter and the second section of the fifth chapter. I have established there that the Qur'an alone is the conclusive proof of the prophethood of Muhammad-may God's peace and blessing be upon him-as well as of the other prophets of their messages and prophecies regarding him. In our age it is impossible to prove any work of the Prophet except by the Qur'an. From its standpoint, supernatural events are ipso facto doubtful. Besides the ubiquitous reports of their occurrence in all ages and places, they are believed in by the superstitious of all faiths. I have also analyzed the causes of this predeliction for belief in miracles and distinguished the miraculous from the spiritual and shown the relationship of both to cosmic laws."[Al Manar, May 3, 1935, p. 793]

In his book, Al Islam wa al Nasraniyyah, Muhammad 'Abduh, the great scholar and leader wrote: "Islam, therefore, and its demand for faith in God and in His unity, depend only on rational proof and common sense human thinking. Islam does not overwhelm the mind with the supernatural, confuse the understanding with the extraordinary, impose acquiescent silence by resorting to heavenly intervention, nor does it impede the movement of thought by any sudden cry of divinity. All the Muslims are agreed, except those whose opinion is insignificant, that faith in God is prior to faith in prophethood and that it is not possible to believe in a prophet except after one has come to believe in God. It is unreasonable to demand faith in God on the ground that the prophets or the revealed books had said so, for it is unreasonable to believe that any book had been revealed by God unless one already believed that God exists and that it is possible for Him to reveal a book or send a messenger."

I am inclined to think that those who wrote biographies of the Prophet agreed with this view. The earlier generation of them could not apply it because of the historical circumstances in which they lived. The later generation of them suspended the principle deliberately on account of their belief that the more miraculous their portrayal of the Prophet, the more faith this would engender among their audience. They assumed, quite naively, that the inclusion of these extraneous matters into his biography achieved a good purpose. Had they lived to our day and seen how the enemies of Islam had taken their writings as an argument against Islam and its people, they would have followed the Qur'an more closely and agreed with al Ghazzali, Muhammad `Abduh, al Maraghi, and all other objective scholars. And had they lived in our day and age, and witnessed how their stories have alienated many Muslim minds and hearts instead of confirming their faith, they would have been satisfied with the indubitable proofs and arguments of the Book of God.

 

 

Reports Condemned by Reason and Science

Now that the defect of reports condemned by reason and science has become obvious, scientific and critical analysis of the materials involved is demanded. This is equally the demand of Islam and a service to it as well as to the history of the Arab Prophet. It is a necessary requisite if that history is to illuminate the road of mankind towards high culture and civilization.

 

The Qur'an and Miracles

We will quickly agree with the views of the objective Muslim scholars as soon as we compare a number of narratives from the biography and Hadith books with the Qur'an. The latter told us that the Makkans had asked the Prophet to perform some miracles if they were to believe in him; it mentioned specifically their demands, and refuted them. God said

"They said that they will never believe in you unless you cause a fountain to spring forth from the earth; or create for yourself a garden of big trees and vines and cause abundant streams of water to run from one side of it to the other, or cause heaven to fall upon them in pieces as you had claimed, or bring God and His angels before them face to face, or create for yourself a beauteous palace, or ascend to heaven in front of them. `Nay,' they said to Muhammad, `we will not believe in your ascension unless you send down upon us a book confirming that you have done all these things clearly and unequivocally.' Answer: `Praised be my Lord: Have I ever claimed to be anything but a human and a messenger?' [Qur'an, 17:90-93]

God also said: "They swore their strongest oaths that if they could witness a miracle they would believe. Answer: `Miracles are God's prerogative, not mine.' But what would convince you [Muhammad] that they will not believe even if such miracles were to take place? Let their mind and understanding remain as confused as ever. Let them wander aimlessly in their misguidance. Indeed, unless of course God wills for them to believe, they will not believe even if We sent them the angels, caused the dead to speak to them, and placed everything squarely before them. But most of them are ignorant."[Qur'an, 6:109-111] There is no mention in the whole Qur'an of any miracle intended to support the prophethood of Muhammad except the Qur'an, notwithstanding its acknowledge of many of the miracles performed with God's permission by the prophets preceding Muhammad and description of the many other favors which God has bestowed upon him. What the Qur'an did report about the Arab Prophet does not violate any of the laws of nature in the least degree.

 

 

The Greatest Miracle

Since this is the logic of the Book of God and is demanded by the advent of His Prophet, what reason could have caused some of the Muslims of the past, and still cause some of them in the present, to attribute miracles to Muhammad? It must be their reading in the Qur'an of miracles performed by prophets preceding Muhammad and their jumping to the conclusion that such supernatural occurrences are necessary for prophethood. They thus believed the stories circulating about Muhammad's miracles despite the fact that they could not find any confirmation of them in the Qur'an. They mistakenly believed that the more of them they could muster the more convinced they and their audiences would be of their faith. To compare the Arab Prophet with his predecessor prophets is to compare the incomparable. For he was the last of the prophets and the first one sent by God unto all mankind rather than unto any specific people alone. That is why God desired that the "miracle" of Muhammad be human and rational, though unmatchable by any humans or genii. This miracle is the Qur'an itself, the greatest that God permitted. He-may His glory be praised-willed that His Prophet's mission be established by rational argument and clear proof. He willed that His religion achieve victory in the life of His prophet and that men might see in his victory the might and dominion of God. Had God willed that a material miracle force the conversion of Makkah, the miracle would have occurred and would have been mentioned in the Qur'an. But some men do not believe except in that which their reason understands and corroborates. The proper way to convince them would be to appeal to their understanding and reason. God made the Qur'an Muhammad's convincing argument, a miracle of the "illiterate Prophet." He willed that men's entry into Islam and the sense of their faith in Him be dependent upon true conviction and apodeictic evidence. A religion thus founded would be worthy of the faith of all men in all times whatever their race or language.

Should a people convert to Islam today who did not need any miracle beside the Qur'an, this fact would neither detract from their faith nor from the worth of their conversion. As long as a people is not itself recipient of a revelation, it is perfectly legitimate to subject all the reports of such revelation to the closest scrutiny. That which unquestionable proof confirms is acceptable; the rest may validly be put to question. To believe in God alone without associate does not need recourse to a miracle. Nor does it need more than consideration of the nature of this universe which God created. On the other hand, to believe in the Prophethood of Muhammad who, by command of God, called men precisely unto such faith, does not need any miracles other than the Qur'an. Nor does it need any more than the presentation of the revealed text to consciousness.

Were a people to believe today in this religion without the benefit of any miracle other than the Qur'an, its faithful would belong to one of the following kinds: the man whose mind and heart does not oscillate but is guided by God directly to the object of his faith, as was the case with Abu Bakr who believed without hesitation; and, the man who does not seek his faith in the miraculous but in the natural (i.e., the created world, unlimited in space or time and running perfectly in accordance with eternal and immutable laws), and whose reason guides him from these laws of nature to the creator and fashioner thereof. Even if miracles did exist, they would constitute no problem for either kind of believer who regards them as mere signs of divine mercy. Many leaders of Islamic knowledge regard this kind of faith as indeed the highest. Some of them even prescribe that faith should not stand on a foundation of fear of God's punishment or ambition to win His reward. They insist that it should be held purely for the sake of God and involve an actual annihilation of self in God. To Him all things belong; and so do we. To Him, we and all things shall return.

 

 

The Believers during the Life of the Prophet

Those who believe today in God and in His Prophet and whose faith does not rest on miracles are in the same position as those who believed during the life of the Prophet. History has not reported to us that any one of those early companions had entered the faith because of a miracle he witnessed. Rather, it was the conclusive divine argument conveyed through revelation and the superlatively noble life of the Prophet himself which conduced those men to their faith. In fact, all biographies mention that a number of those who believed in Muhammad before the Isrd' abandoned their faith when the Prophet reported to them that he had been transported during the night from the Mosque of Makkah to the Blessed One of Jerusalem. Even Suraqah ibn Ju'shum, who pursued Muhammad on the latter's flight to Madinah in order to capture him dead or alive and win the prize the Makkans had placed on his head, did not believe despite the miracle which the biographers have reported to have taken place on his way there. History has not reported a single case of an associationists who believed in Muhammad because of a miracle performed. Islam has no parallel to the case of the magicians of Pharaoh whose rods were swallowed up by that of Moses.' [Qur'an, 26:43-48]

 

 

The Goddesses and Tabuk

The classical biographies are not unanimous in their reportage of the so-called miracles. Many a time their narratives were subject to strong criticism despite their corroboration by the books of Hadith. We have already referred to the question of the goddesses in this preface, and we have also treated the problem in detail in the course of this work. The story of the opening of Muhammad's chest as reported by Halimah, Muhammad's wet nurse, is equally inconclusive. [18] There is a difference of opinion concerning Ualimah's reports as well as the age of Muhammad at which the story has supposedly taken place. Likewise, the reports of the biographies and of the Hadith concerning Zayd and Zaynab are` devoid of foundation, as we shall have occasion to see later.[19] Similar disagreement exists as regards the story of the military expedition to Tabuk (Jaysh al 'Usrah). In his Sahih, Muslim reported from Mu'adh ibn Jabal that "the Prophet told ibn Jabal and his companions who were marching to Tabuk: 'Tomorrow, but not before mid-day, you will, with God's leave, reach the spring of Tabuk. You will not, however, touch its waters until I come.' When we arrived, we found that two of our men had reached it before us and the spring had very little water. The Prophet asked the two men whether they had touched the water of the spring, and they confessed. He-may God's peace and blessing be upon himcriticized and scolded them as he should. They then filled a container with water from the spring. Mu'adh said: 'The Prophet of God-may God's peace and blessing be upon him-washed his face and his hands and poured the water back into the spring whereupon the spring gushed forth abundantly (he might have said 'profusely') until all men drank and were satisfied. The Prophet then said: 'If you were to live long enough, O Mu'adh, you would see this place full of gardens."[The Sahih of Muslim, Istanbul, 1332 A.H., Vol. VII, p. 60.]

In the biographies, on the other hand, the story of Tabuk is told in a different way without mention of any miracles. Thus we read in Ibn Hisham's The Life of Muhammad: "When, in the morning, the men discovered they had no water, they complained to the Prophet-may God's peace and blessing be upon him. He prayed to God, who then sent a rain cloud. So much rain fell that everybody drank his fill and filled his skin. Ibn Ishaq said: 'Asim ibn 'Umar ibn Qatadah, reporting from Mahmud ibn Labid, who in turn was reporting what he heard from some men of the Banu 'Abd al Ashhal tribe, said: `I said to Mahmud, 'Did these Muslims know that some hypocrites were among them'? He answered, 'Yes. Sometimes a man would tell a hypocrite even if he were his brother, father, uncle or fellow tribesman; at other times he would not be able to differentiate between them.' Mahmud continued: 'A fellow tribesman told me of a well-known hypocrite who used to accompany the Prophet of God-may God's peace and blessing be upon him wherever he went, and who was present at this expedition. After the miracle had taken place, we went to him and asked: `Are you still in doubt after what you saw with your own eyes?' He answered, `It was but a passing cloud.'"

Such a wide range of difference as separates the classical accounts of this story makes it impossible for us to affirm it conclusively. Those who apply themselves to the study of it should not stop at probable solutions which neither confirm nor deny the classical reports. Whenever they are confronted by a story not supported by positive evidence, the least they can do is to discard it. Should other investigators later on discover the required evidence, the duty of presenting the story with its proofclaims would devolve upon them.

 

 

My Methodology

This is the method which I have followed in my study of the life of Muhammad, the Prophet of the Islamic mission to mankind. It characterizes my work throughout; for ever since I decided to undertake this study I resolved that it would be conducted in accordance with the modern scientific method in all sincerity and for the sake of truth alone. That is what I announced in the preface of this book and prayed, in the conclusion of its first edition, that I may have accomplished, thereby paving the way for deeper and wiser investigations. I had hoped that this and similar studies would clear for science a number of psychic and spiritual problems and establish facts which would guide mankind to the new civilization for which it is groping. There is no doubt that deepening of analysis and extending the scope of the investigation would unlock many secrets which many people have thought for a long time to lie beyond scientific explanation. The clearer the understanding mankind achieves of the psychological and spiritual secrets of the world, the stronger man's relation to the world will become and, hence, the greater his happiness. Man will then be better able to rehabilitate himself in the world when he knows its secrets, just as he became better able to enjoy it when he understood the latent forces of electricity and radio.

It therefore behooves any scholar applying himself to such a study to address his work not only to the Muslims but to mankind as a whole. The final purpose of such work is not, as some of them think, purely religious. Rather, it is, following the example of Muhammad, that all mankind may better learn the way to perfection. Fulfillment of this purpose is not possible without the guidance of reason and heart, and the conviction and certainty they bring when founded on true perception and knowledge. Speculative thinking based upon imprecise knowledge which is not conditioned by the scientific method is likely to go astray and point to conclusions far removed from the truth. By nature, our thinking is deeply influenced by temperament. Men with equal training and knowledge, common purpose and resolution, often differ from one another for no reason other than their difference in temperament. Some are passionate, deeply perceptive, over-hasty in their conclusions, mystical, stoic, ascetic, inclined towards matter, or utterly conditioned by it. Others are different, and their views of the world naturally separate them from one another. As far as artistic expression and practical living are concerned, this variety of the human kind is a great blessing. It is, however, a curse in the field of scientific endeavor which seeks to serve the higher benefit of mankind as a whole. The study of history should search for high ideals within the facts of human life. Anyone who applies himself to this search should therefore be free from passion and prejudice. No method succeeds as well in avoiding these pitfalls as the scientific method, and no method will more surely lead to error than that which uses the materials of history to propagate a certain view or bends them to corroborate a certain prejudice.

 

 

The Works of Orientalists

Many western Orientalists have been affected in their so-called scientific research by their preconceptions and passions. The same is true of many Muslim authors as well. More surprising in both is the fact that each had taken the passionate and prejudiced propaganda of the other as basic source work, and each had claimed for his writing the objectivity which belongs to a research done for the sake of truth alone. Neither realized how deeply affected he was by his own vehement reaction to the propaganda of the other. Had either party taken the trouble to analyze objectively the work of the other, the respective claims would have dissolved and crumbled. Had any author kept his own predelictions at bay, immunizing himself against them by applying scientific principles, his writings would have had a more lasting effect on his readers. In this preface I have attempted to expose as briefly as possible some of the errors of both parties; I hope I have done so with fairness and objectivity.

It is not possible to expect the western Orientalists to carry out their researches in Islamic matters with such precision and fairness, however sincere and scientific they may be. It is especially difficult for them to master the secrets of the Arabic language and to know its usage, its nuances and rules. Moreover, they are inevitably affected by the history of western Christianity which makes them regard all other religions with suspicion. The history of the struggle between Christianity and science affects equally the very few Orientalists who are still Christians. It causes them in their Islamic studies to fall under the same prejudice which generally characterizes all their Christian or religious research: namely, that one or the other party's line must be vindicated against its opposite. The candid Orientalists, however, cannot be blamed for this. For no man can completely escape the conditioning of his time and place. Nonetheless, this conditioning vitiates their Islamic researches and clouds their vision of the truth. All this imposes upon the Muslim scholars, whether in the religious or other fields of Islamic research, the very grave burden of studying their legacy with precision and exactitude, according to the scientific method. Assisted as they are by their mastery of the Arabic language and understanding of Arab life in general, their researches should convince all or some Orientalists of their errors; these researchers should also persuade them to accept the new results readily and with intellectual satisfaction.

 

 

The Muslims and Research

Such results will not be easy to achieve, nor are they impossible or altogether difficult. Patience, perseverance in study and research, sound judgment, and freethinking are all required. Moreover, this is an extremely grave matter, grave in its promise for or threat to the future of Islam, as well as mankind. It seems to me that to undertake it well, one must distinguish between two periods of Muslim history: the first begins with Muhammad and ends with the murder of `Uthman; the second begins with the murder of `Uthman and ends with the closing of the gates of ijtihad. In the first period, Muslim agreement was complete. It stood unaffected by the conquest of foreign lands, the War of Apostasy, the so-called "differences over the caliphate." After the murder of `Uthman, disagreement spread among the Muslims; civil war was declared between `All and Mu'awiyah; insurgence and rebellion continued; and politics played a serious role even in the religious life itself. In order to help the reader appreciate this difference, let us compare the principles implied in the accession speeches of Abu Bakr and al Mansur al `Abbasi. The former said: "O men! Here I have been assigned the job of ruling over you while I am not the best among you. If I do well in my job, help me. If I do wrong, redress me. Truthfulness is fidelity, and lying is treason. The weak shall be strong in my eye until I restore to them their right, and the strong shall be weak in my eye until I have dispossessed them of that right. No people give up fighting for the cause of God but He inflicts upon them abject subjection; and no people give themselves to lewdness but He envelops them with misery. Obey me as long as I obey God and His Prophet. But if I disobey God's command or His Prophet, then no obedience is incumbent upon you. Rise to your prayer so he may have mercy on you." The other said: "O men! I am the power of God on His earth. I rule you with His guidance and confirmation. I am the guardian over His wealth and I manage it by His will and in accordance with His pattern. I disburse from it with His permission, for He has made me the lock. If He chooses to open me so that you may receive therefrom and be provided for, He will. And if He chooses to keep me locked, He will . . . ." A comparison of these two speeches is sufficient to realize the great change which had taken place in the basic rules of Muslim life in less than two centuries. It was a change from the rule of shura [Rule. of consultation, or consent. Presently used as equivalent to representative government or democratic rule.] to that of absolute power derived from divine right.

Revolts and successive changes of government and political principles were the cause of the retrogression and decay of the Islamic State. Despite the fact that Islam and the civilization to which it gave birth continued to blossom two centuries after the murder of `Uthman, and despite the fact that after the first decay the Islamic state was energized again to conquer many provinces and kingdoms first by the Saljuqs and then by the Moghuls, it was during the first period which came to an end with the murder of `Uthman that the true principles of Islamic public life were established and crystallized. Therefore, one must look to that period alone if he seeks certitude regarding these principles. Later on, despite the blossoming of knowledge and science during the Umawi and especially the `Abbasi periods, these normative principles were tampered with. and often replaced by others which did not accord with the spirit of Islam. For the most part, this was done in pursuit of political shu'ubi reasons. [The Shu'ubiyyah movement (hence the adjective shu'ubi) comprehends all the fissiparous tendencies of the non-Arab Muslims in the Islamic Empire. The movement was begun in the Umawi period predominantly by Persians, but it came to include many other national, ethnic, cultural and religious minorities. The movement fomented the rebellion which brought the Umawi dynasty and period to an end, but it was itself dissipated with the triumph of Islam and the Arabic language in the succeeding two centuries.] It was the insincere converts from Judaism and Christianity as well as the Persians who propagated these new principles. They had no inhibition against the fabrication of hadiths and their attribution to the Prophet-may God's peace be upon him-nor against the fabrication of tales about the early caliphs contrary to what is known of their biographies and temperament.

None of the materials which have come to us from this late period can be depended upon without the strictest scrutiny and criticism; none may be scientifically accredited without subjection to impersonal analysis, absolutely free of prejudice. The first requirement consists of referring all controversial material concerning the Arab Prophet to the Qur'an and of discarding all that disagrees therewith. As for the rest of the period ending with the murder of `Uthman, scientific and critical analysis should accredit the materials that have come to us and thus enable us to use them as reference in our analysis of later materials. If we do this with scientific precision, we may gain a true picture of the genuine principles of Islam and of early Islamic life. We will grasp the mind and spirit of Islam which achieved such heights of power and vision that the Arab Bedouins who were caught by it sallied forth into the world to spread in a few decades the noblest humanism that history has ever known. Success in this task would lay bare for the benefit of humanity new horizons capable of leading it to communion with the realm of soul and spirit and the achievement of happiness and felicity, just as mans knowledge of electricity and radio and his resultant communion with the forces of nature have led to his greater enjoyment of his life on earth. Furthermore, our success in this undertaking would bring to Islam the same honor which belonged to it in its early history when the Arabs carried forth its high principles from the Peninsula to the farthest reaches of the earth.

If we are to serve truth, science and humanity, one of our foremost requirements is to deepen our study of the biography of the Arab Prophet in order to uncover therein the guidance mankind seeks. The Qur'an is unquestionably the truest and most reliable source for such a study. It is the book which is absolutely free of error and which no doubt can penetrate. It is the only book whose text has remained for thirteen centuries, and will remain for the rest of time, absolutely pure and unadulterated. The purity of the Qur'anic text is and will forever remain the greatest miracle of all history. God said of it: "It is We who have revealed it and it is We who will guard it."[Qur'an, 15:9] The Qur'an will always remain as it once was, the only miracle of Muhammad. Of all that concerns his life, that is true which accords with the Qur'an, and that is false which does not. I have attempted to heed this principle in this elementary study as precisely as I could. In going over the first edition of this work I praise God and thank Him for His guidance and pray that He will guide and provide for the continuation of the scientific study of the life of the Prophet.

"Oh God! It is upon You that we depend, to You that we have recourse, and to You that we shall return."[Qur'an, 60:40]