Muhammad, the prophet of Arabia, has fulfilled for his people a role that combines the functions - of a distinguished prophet, statesman, author, and reformer. He has earned for himself as a consequence the respect and reverence of countless people, Muslim and non-Muslim everywhere.
While our knowledge of men who filled similar roles from Moses to Zoroaster to Jesus is shrouded with legend, often incomplete and frequently colored, and while the accounts of Muhammad's life and deeds contain their share of incompleteness and coloring, the fact remains that he was the first to live and preach in the full light of history.
Islam: Beliefs and Observances by Caesar E. Farah
BIRTH OF THE PROPHET:
Historian, John William Draper in his well known work, "A History of the Intellectual Development of Europe", observes:
"Four years after the death of Justinian, 569 A.D., was born at Makkah, in Arabia, the man who, of all men, has exercised the greatest influence upon the human race,"
The well known British historian, Sir William Muir, in his "Life of Mohammed" adds:
"Our authorities, all agree in ascribing to the youth of Mohammad a modesty of deportment and purity of manners rare among the people of Makkah... 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."
YOUTH OF THE PROPHET:
James Michener in his well known work, "Islam, The Misunderstood Religion" writes:
"Orphaned at birth, he was always particularly solicitous of the poor and the needy, the widow and the orphan, the slave and the downtrodden. At twenty he was already a successful business man, and soon became director of camel caravans for a wealthy widow. When he reached twenty-five his employer, recognizing his merit, proposed marriage. Even though she was fifteen years the older, he married her, and as long as she lived remained a devoted husband."
MESSAGE OF THE PROPHET:
The celebrated British writer, Thomas Carlyle, in his book On Heroes, Hero-Worship and the Heroic in History-, observes:
"Ah on: this deep-hearted son of the wilderness with his beaming black eyes and open social deep soul, had other thoughts than ambition. A silent great man; he was one of those who cannot but be in earnest; whom Nature herself has appointed to be sincere. While others walk in formulas and hearsays, contented enough to dwell there, this man could not screen himself in formulas; he was alone with his own soul and the reality of things. The great mystery of Existence, as I said, glared in upon him, with its terrors, with its splendors; no hearsays could hide that unspeakable fact. 'Here am I'; such Sincerity as we name it, has in very truth something of divine. The work of such a man is a voice direct from Nature's own Heart. Men do and must listen to that as to nothing else; all else is wind in comparison."
MOTIVATION OF THE PROPHET:
Dr. Marcus Dods, in his work, "Mohammad, Buddah and Christ" writes:
"Certainly he had two of the most important characteristics of the prophetic order. He saw truth about God which his fellowmen did not see, and he had an irresistible inward impulse to publicize this truth."
John Davenport in his well known work, "An Apology for Mohammad and the Koran", admits the honesty and sincerity behind Mohammad's claim of being an apostle of God, when he says:
"It is strongly corroborative of Mohammad's sincerity that the earliest converts of Islam were his bosom friends and the people of his household, who all intimately acquainted with his private life, could not fail to have detected those discrepancies which more or less invariably exist between the pretentions of the hypocritical deceiver and his actions at home."
COMMITMENT OF THE PROPHET:
W. Montgomery Watt writes in his "Mohammad at Makkah" :
"His readiness to undergo persecution for his beliefs, the high moral character of the men who believed in him and looked up to him as leader, and the greatness of his ultimate achievement - all argue his fundamental integrity. To suppose Muhammad as imposter raises more problems than it solves. Moreover, none of the great figures of history is so poorly appreciated in the West as Muhammad. Thus, not merely must we credit Muhammad with essential honesty and integrity of purpose, if we are to understand him at all: if we are to correct the errors we have inherited from the past ..."
LEADERSHIP OF THE PROPHET:
A well known writer, Bosworth Smith, in his well known book "Mohammad and Mohammadanism", adds:
"Head of the State as well as of the Church, he was Caesar and Pope in one; but he was Pope without Pope's pretensions, Caesar without the legion of Caesar. Without a standing army, without a body-guard, without a palace, without a fixed revenue, if ever any man had the right to say that he ruled by the right divine, it was Mohammad, for he had all the power without its instructions and without its supports."
THE PROPHET AS COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF:
James A. Michener, in his invaluable work, "Islam: The Misunderstood Religion", observes:
"...Forced now to fight in defense 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."
Stanley Lane-Poole, in his work, "The Speeches and Table Talk of the Prophet Mohammad" adds:
"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 Makkah. 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 has come and falsehood has fled away!' and at these words his attendants hewed them down, and all the idols and household gods of Makkah 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."
HUMILITY OF THE PROPHET:
Again John Davenport, in "An Apology for Mohammad and the Koran" states:
"With all that simplicity which is so natural to a great mind, he performed the humblest offices whose homeliness it would be idle to conceal with pompous diction; even while Lord of Arabia, he mended his own shoes and coarse woolen garments. milked the ewes, swept the hearth, and kindled the fire. Dates and water were his usual fare and milk and honey his luxuries. When he traveled he divided his morsel with the servant. The sincerity of his exhortations to benevolence was justified at his death by the exhausted state of his coffers"
COMPREHENSIVE PERSONALITY OF THE PROPHET:
Alphonse of Lamartine, in his well known work, "Histoire de la Turquie", observes:
"if greatness of purpose, smallness of means, and astounding results are the three criteria of human genius, who could dare to compare any great man in modern history with Muhammad? The most famous men created arms, laws and empires only. They founded, if anything at all, no more than material powers which often crumbled away before their eyes. This man moved not only armies, legislations, empires, peoples and dynasties, but millions of men in one-third of the then inhabited world; and more than that, he moved the altars, the gods, the religions, the ideas, the beliefs and the souls. On the basis of a Book, every letter of which has become law, he created a spiritual nationality which blended together peoples of every tongue and of every race. Philosopher, orator, apostle, legislator, warrior, conqueror of ideas, restorer of rational beliefs, a founder of twenty terrestrial empires and one spiritual empire. Of all standards by which human greatness can be measured, we may well ask ... is there any man greater than Mohammed?"
THE PROPHET AS A HERO:
K. S. Ramakrishna Rao in his book 'Mohammed: The Prophet of Islam' writes:
"The personality of Muhammad is most difficult to get the whole truth of it. Only a glimpse of him I can catch. What dramatic succession of picturesque scenes? There is Muhammad the Prophet; there is Muhammad the General; Muhammad the King; Muhammad the Warrior; Muhammad the Businessman; Muhammad the Preacher; Muhammad the Philosopher; Muhammad the Statesman; Muhammad the Orator; Muhammad the Reformer; Muhammad the Refuge of Orphans; Muhammad the Protector of Slaves; Muhammad the Emancipator of Women; Muhammad the Judge; Muhammad the Saint... In all these magnificent roles and in all these departments of human activities he is equally a hero."
LEGACY OF THE PROPHET:
George Bernard Shaw said about him:
"He must be called the Savior of Humanity. I believe that if a man like him were to assume the dictatorship of the modern world, he would succeed in solving its problems in a way that would bring it much needed peace and happiness." [The Genuine Islam, Singapore, Vol. 1, No. 8, 1936]
Michael H. Hart in his book on ratings of people who contributed towards the benefit and upliftment of mankind writes:
"My choice of Muhammad to lead the list of the world's most influential persons may surprise some readers and may be questioned by others, but he was the only man in history who was supremely successful on both the religious and secular levels." (The 100: A ranking of the most influential persons in history" New York, 1978, p. 33)
Dr Annie Besant in her book "The Life and Teachings of Muhammad" Madras, 1932, p. 4. says:
"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. And although in what I put to you I shall say many things which may be familiar to many, yet I myself feel whenever I re-read them, a new way of admiration, a new sense of reverence for that mighty Arabian teacher."
Mahatma Gandhi, speaking on the character of Muhammad said ...
"I wanted to know the best of one who holds today's undisputed sway over the hearts of millions of mankind....I became more than convinced that it was not the sword that won a place for Islam in those days in the scheme of life. It was the rigid simplicity, the utter self-effacement of the Prophet, the scrupulous regard for his pledges, his intense devotion to this friends and followers, his intrepidity, his fearlessness, his absolute trust in God and in his own mission. These and not the sword carried everything before them and surmounted every obstacle. When I closed the 2nd volume (of the Prophet's biography), I was sorry there was not more for me to read of the great life." [Young India]
Complied by Sa'dullah Khan. Director of Islamic Center of Irvine. He has presented lectures on Islamic Civilization at California State University at Dominguez Hills. He is a frequent lecturer for the Academy of Judaic, Christian and Islamic Studies at UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles). He is also an advisor to the Chancellor's Committee on Religion Ethics and Values at UCLA and serves as Director of Muslim Affairs at USC (University of Southern California).
You can watch his lectures on Empowerment and Hadith of the Day at IslamiTV
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