Western Scholars Discussed Muhammad (peace be upon him)
In the fifth and sixth centuries the civilized world stood on the verge of a chaos. The old emotional cultures that had made civilization possible, since they had given to men a sense of unity and of reverence for their rulers, had broken down, and nothing had been found adequate to take their place… It seemed then the great civilization which it had taken four thousand years to construct was on the verge of disintegration, and that mankind was likely to return to that condition of barbarism where every tribe and sect was against the next, and law and order was unknown… The old tribal sanctions had lost their power… The new sanctions created by Christianity were working division and destruction instead of unity and order. It was a time fraught with tragedy. Civilization, like a gigantic tree whose foliage had overarched the world and whose branches had borne the golden fruits of art and science and literature, stood tottering… rotted to the core. Was there any emotional culture that could be brought in to gather mankind once more into unity and to save civilization- It was among these people that the man (Muhammad) was born who was to unite the whole known world of the east and south.
`John William Draper :
Four years after the death of Justinian, 569 C.E. was born at Mecca,in Arabia, the man who, of all men,has exercised the greatest influence upon the human race.
`Sir William Muir:
Our authorities, says Muir, all agree in ascribing to the youth of Mohammad a modesty of deportment and purity of manners rare among the People of Mecca… Endowed with a refined mind and delicate taste, reserved and meditative, he lived much within himself, and the ponderings of his heart no doubt supplied occupation for leisure hours spent by others of a lower stamp in rude sports and profligacy. The fair character and honorable bearing of the unobtrusive youth won the approbation of his fellow-citizens; and he received the title, by common consent, of Al-Ameen, the Trustworthy.
`James A. Michener:
He became head of the state and the testimony even of his enemies is that he administered wisely. The wisdom he displayed in judging intricate cases became the basis for the religious law that governs Islam today.. Forced now to fight in defence of the freedom of conscience which he preached, he became an accomplished military leader. Although he repeatedly went into battle outnumbered and out-speared as much as five to one, he won some spectacular victories.
The day of Mohammad's greatest triumph over his enemies was also the day of his grandest victory over himself. He freely forgave the Koraysh all the years of sorrow and cruel scorn in which they had afflicted him and gave an amnesty to the whole population of Mekka. Four criminals whom justice condemned made up Mohammad's proscription list when he entered as a conqueror to the city of his bitterest enemies. The army followed his example, and entered quietly and peacefully: no house was robbed, no women insulted. One thing alone suffered destruction. Going to the Kaaba, Mohammad stood before each of the three hundred and sixty idols, and pointed to it with his staff, saying, 'Truth is come and falsehood is fled away!', and at these words his attendants hewed them down, and all the idols and household gods of Mekka and round about were destroyed.It was thus Mohammad entered again his native city. Through all the annals of conquest there is no triumphant entry comparable to this one.
In comparison, for example, with the cruelty of the Crusaders, who, in 1099, put seventy thousand Muslims, men, women and helpless children to death when Jerusalem fell into their hands: or with that of the English army, also fighting under the Cross, which in the year of grace 1874 burned an African capital, in its war on the Gold Coast. Muhammad's victory was in very truth one of religion and not of politics; he rejected every token of personal homage, and declined all regal authority: and when the haughty chiefs of the Korei****es appeared before him he asked:
"What can you expect at my hands?
"Mercy O generous brother!
"Be it so; you are free! He exclaimed
A year before his death, at the end of the tenth year of the Hegira, Muhammad made his last pilgrimage from Medina to Mecca. He made then a great sermon to his people… The reader will note that the first paragraph sweeps away all plunder and blood feuds among the followers of Islam. The last makes the, believing Negro the equal of the Caliph… they established in the world a great tradition of dignified fair dealing, they breathe a spirit of generosity, and they are human and workable. They created a society more free from widespread cruelty and social oppression than any society had ever been in the world before.
His (i.e., Muhammad's) memory was capacious and retentive, his wit easy and social, his imagination sublime, his judgment clear, rapid and decisive. He possessed the courage of both thought and action; and… the first idea which he entertained of his divine mission bears the stamp of an original and superior genius.
These Arabs, the man Mahomet and that one century, is it not as if a spark had fallen, one spark, on a world of what seemed black unnoticeable sand: but lo! The sand proves explosive powder, blazes heaven-high from Delhi to Grenada: I said the Great Man was always as lightning out of heaven: the, rest of the men waited for him like fuel, and then they too would aflame.
It is impossible for anyone who studies the life and character of the great Prophet of Arabia, who knows how he taught and how he lived, to feel anything but reverence for that mighty Prophet, one of the great messengers of the Supreme.
` Prof. Nathaniel Schmidt:
The essential sincerity of Muhammad's nature cannot be questioned: and an historical criticism that blinks no fact, yields nothing to credulity, weighs every testimony, has no partisan interest, and seeks only the truth, must acknowledge his claim to belong to that order of prophets who, whatever the nature of their physical experience may have been, in diverse times, in diverse manners, have admonished, taught and uttered austere and sublime thoughts, laid down principles of conduct nobler than those they found, and devoted themselves fearlessly to their high calling, being irresistibly impelled to their ministry by a power within.
`G. Lindsay Johnson:
The ignorance displayed by most Christians regarding the Muslim religion is appalling… Mohammad alone, among the nations at that time, believed in one God to the exclusion of all others. He insisted on righteousness as the source of conduct, of filial duty, and on frequent prayers to, the Ever-living God, and of respect to all other peoples, and of justice and mercy to and moderation in all things, and to hold in great respect learning of every kind… Most of the absurdities which Christians would have us believe to exist in the Quran were never uttered by Mohammad himself, nor are they to be found in a correct translation of the work
In all things Muhammad was profoundly practical. When his beloved son Ibrahim died, an eclipse occurred, and rumors of God's personal condolence quickly arose. Whereupon Muhammad is said to have announced, 'An eclipse is a phenomenon of nature. It is foolish to attribute such things to the death or birth of a human being'
Islam had the power of peacefully conquering souls by the simplicity of its theology, the clearness of its dogma and principles, and the definite number of the practices which it demands. In contrast to Christianity which has been undergoing continual transformation since its origin, Islam has remained identical with itself.
That his (Muhammad's) reforms enhanced the status of women in general is universally admitted.
You can find others stating that the religion (Islam) is evil, because it sanctions a limited polygamy. But you do not hear as a rule the criticism which I spoke out one day in a London hall where I knew that the audience was entirely uninstructed. I pointed out to them that monogamy with a blended mass of prostitution was a hypocrisy and more degrading than a limited polygamy.
Naturally a statement like that gives offence, but it has to be made, because it must be remembered that the law of Islam in relation to women was until lately, when parts of it have been imitated in England, the most just law, as far as women are concerned, to be found in the world. Dealing with property, dealing with rights of succession and so on, dealing with cases of divorce, it was far beyond the law of the West, in the respect that was paid to the rights of women. Those things are forgotten while people are hypnotized by the words monogamy and polygamy and do not look at what lies behind it in the West-the frightful degradation of women who are thrown into the streets when their first protectors, weary of them, no longer give them any assistance…
"I often think that woman is more free in Islam than in Christianity. Woman is more protected by Islam than by the faith which preaches Monogamy. In Al-Quran the law about woman is more just and liberal. It is only in the last twenty years that Christian England, has recognized the right of woman to property, while Islam has allowed this right from all times… It is a slander to say that Islam preaches that women have no souls.
`Marquis of Dufferin and Ava:
It is to Mussulman science, to Mussulman art, and to Mussulman literature that Europe has been in a great measure indebted for its extrication from the darkness of the Middle Ages.
Our use of the phrase 'the Dark Ages' to cover the period from 699 to 1,000 marks our undue concentration on Western Europe… From India to Spain, the brilliant civilization of Islam flourished. What was lost to Christendom at this time was not lost to civilization, but quite the contrary… To us it seems that West-European civilization is civilization; but this is a narrow view.
`E. Alexander Powell:
In their wars of conquest, however, the Muslims exhibited a degree of toleration which puts many Christian nations to shame
`A. M. Lothrop Stoddard:
The closer we examine this development the more extra-ordinary does it appear. The other great religions won their way slowly, by painful struggle, and finally triumphed with the aid of powerful monarchs converted to the new faith. Christianity had its Constantine, Buddhism its Asoka, and Zoroastrianism its Cyrus, each lending to his chosen cult the mighty force of secular authority. Not so Islam. Arising in a desert land sparsely inhabited by a nomad race previously undistinguished in human annals, Islam sallied forth on its great adventure with the slenderest human backing and against the heaviest material odds. Yet Islam triumphed with seemingly miraculous ease, and a couple of generations saw the Fiery Crescent borne victorious from the Pyrenees to the Himalayas and from the deserts of Central Asia to of Central Africa… Preaching a simple, austere monotheism, free from priest-craft or elaborate doctrinal trappings, he tapped the well-springs of religious zeal always present in the Semitic heart.
Forgetting the chronic rivalries and blood feuds which had consumed their energies in internecine strife, and welded into a glowing unity by the fire of their new-found faith, the Arabs poured forth from their deserts to conquer the earth for Allah, the one true God… "They (Arabs) were no blood thirsty savages, bent solely on loot and destruction. On the contrary, they were an innately gifted race, eager to learn and appreciative of the cultural gifts, which older civilizations had to bestow. Intermarrying freely and professing a common belief, conquerors and conquered rapidly fused, and from this fusion arose a new civilization – the Saracenic civilization, in which the ancient cultures of Greece, Rome and Persia were revitalized by the Arab genius and the Islamic spirit. For the first three centuries of its existence (circ. C.E. 650-1000) the realm of Islam was the most civilized and progressive portion of the world.
Studded with splendid cities, gracious mosques, and quiet universities where the wisdom of the ancient world was preserved and appreciated, the Moslem world offered a striking contrast to the Christian West, then sunk in the night of the Dark Ages.