Anecdotes from the Life of the Prophet Muhammad

by Mumtaz Ahmad Faruqui

Appendix A: Opinions of Some Non-Muslims about Prophet Muhammad

Out of the many religions in the world, today only Islam and Christianity can be called world-wide missionary religions. While Islam enjoins its followers to honour and respect the founders of other religions of the world, it is a pity that many non-Muslim writers have not done justice to Islam and its founder. This is so despite the fact that it can be proved that all the known founders of the Faith had predicted the advent of the Prophet Muhammad, the final and universal Messenger of Allah. Some of these are quoted in Appendix B.

Still, there have been some great non-Muslim writers, mostly Christian by faith, who have been just and fair enough when commenting on Islam and its founder Muhammad (Allah’s blessings be upon him). For the first time in Western literature, it was Goethe, the famous German poet and philosopher, who represented Muhammad unreservedly as a prophet — a true prophet of God. Similar opinions and quotations are given below:

“The most successful of all the Prophets and religious personalities” (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th Edition).

“The driving force of his life was his belief in the unity of Allah and his desire to bring his people to this belief…. He showed deep sincerity and must have been a man of unusual personality and charm, for he not only bound to himself men of different types, but also kept their devotion…. In his private character he showed amiability, loyalty, tenderness towards his family and a forgiving spirit. He lived at the height of his power in extreme simplicity….” (Chamber’s Encyclopaedia, under the headline “Muhammad”).

“They called him a prophet, you say? Why, he stood face to face with them, bare, not enshrined in mystery, visibly clouting his own cloak, cobbling his own shoes, fighting, counselling, ordering in the midst of them; they must have seen what kind of a man he was, let him be called what you like.

“No emperor with his tiaras was obeyed as this man in a cloak of his own clouting. During the three and twenty years of rough actual trial, I find him something of a hero, necessary for that of itself….” (Thomas Carlyle in his Essay, “Hero as Prophet”, in his book, Heroes and Hero-Worship.)

“Other men have been monotheistic in the midst of idolaters, but no other man has founded a strong and monotheistic religion. The distinction in his case was his resolution that other men should believe … certainly he had two of the most important characteristics of the Prophetic order. He saw the truth about God which his fellow men did not see, and he had an irresistible inward impulse to publish this truth….” (Dr. Marcus Dodds, about Muhammad in his book, Muhammad, Buddha and Christ.)

“We shall see, moreover, that the Koran is an exceedingly human document, reflecting every phase of Muhammad’s personality and standing in close relationship to the outward events of his life; so that here we have materials of unique and incontestable authority for tracing the origin and early development of Islam as do not exist in the case of Buddhism or Christianity or any other ancient religion.” (Professor RA Nicholson: Literary History of the Arabs, London, 1914.)

“By a fortune absolutely unique in history, Muhammad is a threefold founder, of a nation, of an empire and of a religion… Muhammad to the end of his life claimed that title only with which the highest philosophy and the truest Christianity will one day, I venture to believe, agree in yielding him, that of a Prophet, a very Prophet of God….” (R. Bosworth Smith: Muhammad and Muhammadanism, London, 1874.)

Bernard Shaw, the famous writer and critic, opined that if a man like Muhammad 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.

“In his private dealings he was just. He treated friends and strangers, the rich and the poor, the powerful and the weak, with equity, and was beloved by the common people for the affability with which he received them, and listened to their complaints.” (Washington Irving: Mahomet and His Successors, London 1909, p.193)

“…His (Muhammad’s) memory was capacious and retentive, his wit easy and social, his imagination sublime, his judgement clear, rapid and decisive. He possessed the courage of both thought and action; and although his design might gradually expand with his success, the first idea which he entertained of his divine mission bears the stamp of an original and superior genius.” (Edward Gibbon: The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, London 1838–39, Vol. 5, p.335)

Mahatma Gandhi, the great Hindu leader, on reading a book on the life of the Prophet, wrote in his newspaper, Young India:

“…. 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 pledges, his friends and followers, his intrepidity, his fearlessness, his absolute trust in God and in his own mission. These, and not the sword, carried everything before them and surmounted every obstacle…. It is enough for me to know that he was a man among millions who tried to walk in the fear of God, died a poor man, wanted no grand mausoleum for his mortal remains and did not forget even on his death-bed the least of his creditors.”

“He (Muhammad) was gifted with mighty powers of imagination, elevation of mind, delicacy and refinement of feelings… He visited the sick, followed any bier he met, accepted the invitation of a slave to dinner, mended his own clothes, milked the goats and waited upon himself, relates summarily another tradition. He never first withdrew his hand out of another man’s palm, and turned not before the other had turned…. He was the most faithful protector of those he protected, the sweetest and most agreeable in conversation. Those who saw him were suddenly filled with reverence; those who came near him loved him; they who described him would say, ‘I have never seen his like either before or after.’ He was of great taciturnity; but when he spoke it was with emphasis and deliberation, and no one could forget what he said.” (Stanley Lane-Poole: The Speeches and Table Talk of the Prophet Muhammad, London, 1882, Introduction, pp. 27–29.)

James A. Michener, the famous American writer, contributed an article entitled “Islam, the Misunderstood Religion” in the May 1955 issue of The Reader’s Digest (American Edition). Some extracts from the article are given below:

“… Later he (Muhammad) became head of the State, and the testimony of even his enemies is that he administered wisely…. In his final years, he was invited to become a dictator or a saint, but he rejected both temptations, insisting that he was an average man to whom God had sent another of His periodic messages to the world….”

“Muslims think it particularly ironic when Muhammad is charged by Western writers with having established a voluptuous religion. Among drunkards, he abolished alcohol, so that even today all good Muslims are prohibitionists. Among the lazy, he ordained individual ritual prayers five times a day. In a nation that revelled in feasting, he instituted a most rigorous daytime fasting a full month each year….”

“Western writers have based their charges of voluptuousness mainly on the question of women. Before Muhammad, however, men were encouraged to take innumerable wives; he limited them to four only and the Koran is explicit that husbands who are unable to maintain strict equality between two or more wives must confine themselves to one….”