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Prophet of Islam as celebrated by Western admirers

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Added 16th January 2016 11:39 AM

Prophet of Islam as celebrated by Western admirers By Sheikh Muhammad Ali Waiswa This being the month (Rabil al-Awwal) of the birth of Prophet Muhammad (SAW), it is important to recall how the Western scholars of different generations celebrated his life. The rise of Islam in the seventh century Arabia changed the course of human history, politically, eco-nomically and culturally. Inspired by the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), the tribes of Arabia became united for the first time in their history under the banner of Islam, thus carving out an empire which extended from Spain in the West to the Indus Valley in the East. As expected, the rapid ex¬pansion of the new Arab empire as well as Islam, the religion of this extraordinary empire, evoked con¬siderable fear, worry and hostility in the hearts and minds of many non-Arabs, especially the people of Western Christendom who felt that the new Muslim faith and its expanding empire posed a great threat to their existence. “The demonisation of the prophet was to become the very instrument of the making of Chris¬tian Europe. Such fear and hostility was re¬inforced by the “Arab control of what we call the Middle East and their naval command of the Medi¬terranean [which] imposed a block¬ade on Europe, which destroyed the commercial and urban society left behind by the Romans. During five centuries, from the seventh to the 12th, Europe was deprived of all overseas commerce by the long Arab barrier extending from the Atlantic to Central Asia north of Tibet. Europe, shut off from the rest of the world, was obliged to become self-supporting, and produced only its own food and home-made clothing. Throughout these 500 years, Chris¬tendom lived in constant fear of Muslim conquest. Throughout the Renaissance period in Europe, fear of the Muslims was still strong and hostility, political and commercial as well as religious, was intense. Doubtless as a result of these fac¬tors, the indebtedness of Western Christendom to Arab civilisation was systematically played down, if not completely denied. A tradi¬tion was built up, by censorship and propaganda, that the Muslim imperialists had been mere barbar¬ians and that the rebirth of learning in the West was derived directly from Roman and Greek sources alone, without any Arab interven¬tion.” (Sir John B Glubb, A Short History of the Arab Peoples, 1978, pp288-289) The demonisation, censorship and propaganda peddled in medi¬eval and modern Europe was, as expected, aimed primary at the Prophet of Islam. “The demonisation of the prophet was to become the very instrument of the making of Christian Europe. Psychologi¬cally and physically, Islam was regarded as Christianity’s worst enemy, threatening Christian iden¬tity and its very sense of superiority. The Crusades, which extended from 1095 to 1207, were only one expression of this great Christian resurgence.” (Minou Reeves, Mu¬hammad in Europe, 2000, pp73- 74) If the Crusades represented Western Europe’s desperate po¬litical and military response to the Islamic threat, then its intellectual and literary propaganda against the Muslim faith was no less ven¬omous in its tone and content. Not surprisingly, books like Mahomet Unmasked. Or a Discovery of the manifold Forgeries, Falsehoods, and Impieties of the Blasphemous Seducer Mahomet by William Bedwell (1563-1632) and The True Nature of Imposture Fully Displayed in the Life of Mahomet by Humphrey Prideaux (1648¬1724) became popular works on the life of the Prophet of Islam at the time. Although the authors of these intensely polemical works were ill- informed and misguided, however, it would be unfair and equally inac¬curate to suggest that the European perception and interpretation of Islam and its Prophet was entirely biased and one-dimensional; on the contrary, the brave and relatively sympathetic views of scholars like Henry Stubbe (1632-1676), God¬frey Higgins (1771-1833) and John Davenport (1789-1877), among others, should not be overlooked. The full title of Stubbe’s book was An Account of the Rise and Progress of Mahometanism with the Life of Mahomet and a Vin¬dication of Him and His Religion from the Calumnies of the Chris¬tians, while Higgins’s apology for Mohamed was published in 1829. Four decades later, Davenport’s Apology for Mohammed and the Koran was published privately in London. The authors of these books tried to repudiate medieval European attacks on Islam on the one hand and develop a more sym¬pathetic and accurate picture of the Arabian Prophet and his message on the other. In the Introduction to his biography of the Prophet, R V C Bodley wrote, “While we have no contemporary records of Moses or Confucius or Buddha, while we know some frag¬ments of a fragment of Christ’s life, but nothing of the thirty years which prepared the way for the culminat¬ing three, the story of Mohammed is extremely clear. Here, instead of the shadowy and the mysterious, we have history. We know as much of Mohammed as we do of men who lived much closer to our ep¬och. His external record, his youth, his relatives, his habits are neither legendary nor hearsay. His internal record, after his mission had been proclaimed, is no hazy tradition of some obscure or perplexed preach¬er. We have a contemporaneous book, absolutely unique in its ori¬gin and in its preservation, on the authenticity of which no one ever been able to cast a serious doubt. This book, known as the Koran, is available today as it was first writ¬ten under Mohammed’s supervi¬sion.” (The Messenger: The Life of Mohammed, 1946, pp1-2) Likewise, referring to the life of the Prophet of Islam, Professor Alfred Guillaume wrote, “At the outset let it be said that Muham¬mad was one of the great figures of history whose overmastering conviction was that there was one God alone and that there should be one community of believers. His ability as a statesman faced with problems of extraordinary com¬plexity is truly amazing. With all the power of armies, police, and civil service no Arab has ever suc¬ceeded in holding his countrymen together as he did. If it is objected that the Muslim territory and popu¬lation at his death was vastly less than that of the empire of the Ca¬liphs, it may be replied that all the elements of disunion were present in his lifetime but dared not show themselves until his death became known.” (Islam, 1956, p23) M M Khan is an internationally acclaimed author, literary critic and research scholar. He is a Fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland and a Member of English Pen. His books include THE MUSLIM 100 (reprinted 2010) and THE MUSLIM HERI¬TAGE OF BENGAL (forthcom¬ing). The Kindle version of THE MUSLIM 100 has been recently released (available from Amazon). He is a Founding Director of Ben¬gal Muslim Research Institute UK and editor of its website. See www.bmri.org.uk The writer is the Imam of Makerere University Business School (MUBS) and a national population champion and executive board member of the Interreligious Council of Uganda

 Prophet of Islam as celebrated by Western admirers

Sheikh Muhammad Ali Waiswa is the Imam of Makerere University Business School (MUBS) and a national population champion and executive board member of the Interreligious Council of Uganda

Prophet of Islam as celebrated by Western admirers By Sheikh Muhammad Ali Waiswa This being the month (Rabil al-Awwal) of the birth of Prophet Muhammad (SAW), it is important to recall how the Western scholars of different generations celebrated his life. The rise of Islam in the seventh century Arabia changed the course of human history, politically, eco-nomically and culturally. Inspired by the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), the tribes of Arabia became united for the first time in their history under the banner of Islam, thus carving out an empire which extended from Spain in the West to the Indus Valley in the East. As expected, the rapid ex¬pansion of the new Arab empire as well as Islam, the religion of this extraordinary empire, evoked con¬siderable fear, worry and hostility in the hearts and minds of many non-Arabs, especially the people of Western Christendom who felt that the new Muslim faith and its expanding empire posed a great threat to their existence. “The demonisation of the prophet was to become the very instrument of the making of Chris¬tian Europe. Such fear and hostility was re¬inforced by the “Arab control of what we call the Middle East and their naval command of the Medi¬terranean [which] imposed a block¬ade on Europe, which destroyed the commercial and urban society left behind by the Romans. During five centuries, from the seventh to the 12th, Europe was deprived of all overseas commerce by the long Arab barrier extending from the Atlantic to Central Asia north of Tibet. Europe, shut off from the rest of the world, was obliged to become self-supporting, and produced only its own food and home-made clothing. Throughout these 500 years, Chris¬tendom lived in constant fear of Muslim conquest. Throughout the Renaissance period in Europe, fear of the Muslims was still strong and hostility, political and commercial as well as religious, was intense. Doubtless as a result of these fac¬tors, the indebtedness of Western Christendom to Arab civilisation was systematically played down, if not completely denied. A tradi¬tion was built up, by censorship and propaganda, that the Muslim imperialists had been mere barbar¬ians and that the rebirth of learning in the West was derived directly from Roman and Greek sources alone, without any Arab interven¬tion.” (Sir John B Glubb, A Short History of the Arab Peoples, 1978, pp288-289) The demonisation, censorship and propaganda peddled in medi¬eval and modern Europe was, as expected, aimed primary at the Prophet of Islam. “The demonisation of the prophet was to become the very instrument of the making of Christian Europe. Psychologi¬cally and physically, Islam was regarded as Christianity’s worst enemy, threatening Christian iden¬tity and its very sense of superiority. The Crusades, which extended from 1095 to 1207, were only one expression of this great Christian resurgence.” (Minou Reeves, Mu¬hammad in Europe, 2000, pp73- 74) If the Crusades represented Western Europe’s desperate po¬litical and military response to the Islamic threat, then its intellectual and literary propaganda against the Muslim faith was no less ven¬omous in its tone and content. Not surprisingly, books like Mahomet Unmasked. Or a Discovery of the manifold Forgeries, Falsehoods, and Impieties of the Blasphemous Seducer Mahomet by William Bedwell (1563-1632) and The True Nature of Imposture Fully Displayed in the Life of Mahomet by Humphrey Prideaux (1648¬1724) became popular works on the life of the Prophet of Islam at the time. Although the authors of these intensely polemical works were ill- informed and misguided, however, it would be unfair and equally inac¬curate to suggest that the European perception and interpretation of Islam and its Prophet was entirely biased and one-dimensional; on the contrary, the brave and relatively sympathetic views of scholars like Henry Stubbe (1632-1676), God¬frey Higgins (1771-1833) and John Davenport (1789-1877), among others, should not be overlooked. The full title of Stubbe’s book was An Account of the Rise and Progress of Mahometanism with the Life of Mahomet and a Vin¬dication of Him and His Religion from the Calumnies of the Chris¬tians, while Higgins’s apology for Mohamed was published in 1829. Four decades later, Davenport’s Apology for Mohammed and the Koran was published privately in London. The authors of these books tried to repudiate medieval European attacks on Islam on the one hand and develop a more sym¬pathetic and accurate picture of the Arabian Prophet and his message on the other. In the Introduction to his biography of the Prophet, R V C Bodley wrote, “While we have no contemporary records of Moses or Confucius or Buddha, while we know some frag¬ments of a fragment of Christ’s life, but nothing of the thirty years which prepared the way for the culminat¬ing three, the story of Mohammed is extremely clear. Here, instead of the shadowy and the mysterious, we have history. We know as much of Mohammed as we do of men who lived much closer to our ep¬och. His external record, his youth, his relatives, his habits are neither legendary nor hearsay. His internal record, after his mission had been proclaimed, is no hazy tradition of some obscure or perplexed preach¬er. We have a contemporaneous book, absolutely unique in its ori¬gin and in its preservation, on the authenticity of which no one ever been able to cast a serious doubt. This book, known as the Koran, is available today as it was first writ¬ten under Mohammed’s supervi¬sion.” (The Messenger: The Life of Mohammed, 1946, pp1-2) Likewise, referring to the life of the Prophet of Islam, Professor Alfred Guillaume wrote, “At the outset let it be said that Muham¬mad was one of the great figures of history whose overmastering conviction was that there was one God alone and that there should be one community of believers. His ability as a statesman faced with problems of extraordinary com¬plexity is truly amazing. With all the power of armies, police, and civil service no Arab has ever suc¬ceeded in holding his countrymen together as he did. If it is objected that the Muslim territory and popu¬lation at his death was vastly less than that of the empire of the Ca¬liphs, it may be replied that all the elements of disunion were present in his lifetime but dared not show themselves until his death became known.” (Islam, 1956, p23) M M Khan is an internationally acclaimed author, literary critic and research scholar. He is a Fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland and a Member of English Pen. His books include THE MUSLIM 100 (reprinted 2010) and THE MUSLIM HERI¬TAGE OF BENGAL (forthcom¬ing). The Kindle version of THE MUSLIM 100 has been recently released (available from Amazon). He is a Founding Director of Ben¬gal Muslim Research Institute UK and editor of its website. See www.bmri.org.uk The writer is the Imam of Makerere University Business School (MUBS) and a national population champion and executive board member of the Interreligious Council of Uganda


By Sheikh Muhammad Ali Waiswa

This being the month (Rabil al-Awwal) of the birth of Prophet Muhammad (SAW), it is important to recall how the Western scholars of different generations celebrated his life.


The rise of Islam in the seventh century Arabia changed the course of human history, politically, eco-nomically and culturally. Inspired by the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), the tribes of Arabia became united for the first time in their history under the banner of Islam, thus carving out an empire which extended from Spain in the West to the Indus Valley in the East.


As expected, the rapid ex¬pansion of the new Arab empire as well as Islam, the religion of this extraordinary empire, evoked con¬siderable fear, worry and hostility in the hearts and minds of many non-Arabs, especially the people of Western Christendom who felt that the new Muslim faith and its expanding empire posed a great threat to their existence.


"The demonisation of the prophet was to become the very instrument of the making of Christian EuropeSuch fear and hostility was re¬inforced by the "Arab control of what we call the Middle East and their naval command of the Medi¬terranean [which] imposed a blockade on Europe, which destroyed the commercial and urban society left behind by the Romans. During five centuries, from the seventh to the 12th, Europe was deprived of all overseas commerce by the long Arab barrier extending from the Atlantic to Central Asia north of Tibet.


Europe, shut off from the rest of the world, was obliged to become self-supporting, and produced only its own food and home-made clothing. Throughout these 500 years, Chris¬tendom lived in constant fear of Muslim conquest. Throughout the Renaissance period in Europe, fear of the Muslims was still strong and hostility, political and commercial as well as religious, was intense.


Doubtless as a result of these fac¬tors, the indebtedness of Western Christendom to Arab civilisation was systematically played down, if not completely denied. A tradi¬tion was built up, by censorship and propaganda, that the Muslim imperialists had been mere barbar¬ians and that the rebirth of learning in the West was derived directly from Roman and Greek sources alone, without any Arab interven¬tion." (Sir John B Glubb, A Short History of the Arab Peoples, 1978, pp288-289)


The demonisation, censorship and propaganda peddled in medi¬eval and modern Europe was, as expected, aimed primary at the Prophet of Islam. "The demonisation of the prophet was to become the very instrument of the making of Christian Europe. Psychologi¬cally and physically, Islam was regarded as Christianity's worst enemy, threatening Christian iden¬tity and its very sense of superiority.


The Crusades, which extended from 1095 to 1207, were only one expression of this great Christian resurgence." (Minou Reeves, Mu¬hammad in Europe, 2000, pp73- 74) If the Crusades represented Western Europe's desperate po¬litical and military response to the Islamic threat, then its intellectual and literary propaganda against the Muslim faith was no less ven¬omous in its tone and content.

 

Not surprisingly, books like Mahomet Unmasked. Or a Discovery of the manifold Forgeries, Falsehoods, and Impieties of the Blasphemous Seducer Mahomet by William Bedwell (1563-1632) and The True Nature of Imposture Fully Displayed in the Life of Mahomet by Humphrey Prideaux (1648¬1724) became popular works on the life of the Prophet of Islam at the time.

Although the authors of these intensely polemical works were ill- informed and misguided, however, it would be unfair and equally inac¬curate to suggest that the European perception and interpretation of Islam and its Prophet was entirely biased and one-dimensional; on the contrary, the brave and relatively sympathetic views of scholars like Henry Stubbe (1632-1676), God¬frey Higgins (1771-1833) and John Davenport (1789-1877), among others, should not be overlooked.

The full title of Stubbe's book was An Account of the Rise and Progress of Mahometanism with the Life of Mahomet and a Vin¬dication of Him and His Religion from the Calumnies of the Chris¬tians, while Higgins's apology for Mohamed was published in 1829. Four decades later, Davenport's Apology for Mohammed and the Koran was published privately in London. The authors of these books tried to repudiate medieval European attacks on Islam on the one hand and develop a more sym¬pathetic and accurate picture of the Arabian Prophet and his message on the other.

In the Introduction to his biography of the Prophet, R V C Bodley wrote, "While we have no contemporary records of Moses or Confucius or Buddha, while we know some frag¬ments of a fragment of Christ's life, but nothing of the thirty years which prepared the way for the culminat¬ing three, the story of Mohammed is extremely clear.

Here, instead of the shadowy and the mysterious, we have history. We know as much of Mohammed as we do of men who lived much closer to our ep¬och. His external record, his youth, his relatives, his habits are neither legendary nor hearsay. His internal record, after his mission had been proclaimed, is no hazy tradition of some obscure or perplexed preach¬er.
We have a contemporaneous book, absolutely unique in its ori¬gin and in its preservation, on the authenticity of which no one ever been able to cast a serious doubt. This book, known as the Koran, is available today as it was first writ¬ten under Mohammed's supervi¬sion." (The Messenger: The Life of Mohammed, 1946, pp1-2)

Likewise, referring to the life of the Prophet of Islam, Professor Alfred Guillaume wrote, "At the outset let it be said that Muham¬mad was one of the great figures of history whose overmastering conviction was that there was one God alone and that there should be one community of believers. His ability as a statesman faced with problems of extraordinary com¬plexity is truly amazing. With all the power of armies, police, and civil service no Arab has ever suc¬ceeded in holding his countrymen together as he did. If it is objected that the Muslim territory and popu¬lation at his death was vastly less than that of the empire of the Ca¬liphs, it may be replied that all the elements of disunion were present in his lifetime but dared not show themselves until his death became known." (Islam, 1956, p23)

M M Khan is an internationally acclaimed author, literary critic and research scholar. He is a Fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland and a Member of English Pen. His books include THE MUSLIM 100 (reprinted 2010) and THE MUSLIM HERI¬TAGE OF BENGAL (forthcom¬ing). The Kindle version of THE MUSLIM 100 has been recently released (available from Amazon). He is a Founding Director of Bengal Muslim Research Institute UK and editor of its website. See www.bmri.org.uk

The writer is the Imam of Makerere University Business School (MUBS) and a national population champion and executive board member of the Interreligious Council of Uganda

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