MANKIND’S DEBT TO THE PROPHET (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam)
John William Draper, the reputed author of A History of the Intellectual
Development of Europe, writes: Four years after the death of Justinian, A.D.
569, was born at Makkah, in Arabia, the man who, of all men, has exercised the
greatest influence upon the human race.
He says further: Muhammad possessed that combination of qualities which more
than once has decided the fate of empires ... Asserting that everlasting truth,
he did not engage in vain metaphysics, but applied himself to improving the
social condition of the people by regulations respecting personal cleanliness,
sobriety, fasting and prayer.
The great historian-philosopher of this century, A.J. Toynbee, is on record as
saying that: The extinction of race consciousness as between Muslims is one of
the outstanding achievements of Islam, and in the contemporary world there is,
as it happens, a crying need for the propagation of this Islamic virtue.
It is a strange coincidence that over a hundred years ago Thomas Carlyle chose
Muhammad (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) as the supreme hero, and now, in the
closing decades of the twentieth century, Michael H. Hart of the United States
of America has prepared a list of 100 most influential persons in history,
placing the Prophet (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) at the top.
The Prophet of Islam and his followers conferred favors on humanity which have
played an unforgettable role in the promotion and development of culture and
civilization. We will mention here only two of these, amply supported by
Students of history are aware that in the thirteenth century the civilized
world, divided by the two great religions, Christianity and Islam, was suddenly
confronted with a situation which threatened the imminent destruction of both
the then vast empires, their arts and sciences, their cultures and morals. In
short, all that the human race had laboriously achieved during the past hundreds
of years once again faced its reduction to barbarism. This was brought about by
the sudden rise of Genghis Khan (Tamuchin), a chieftain of the nomadic Mongol
tribes, who possessed remarkable qualities of leadership and was able to subdue
all that sat in his way. In 619/1219, Genghis Khan turned towards the western
and northern civilized countries, ravaging them with fire and sword. How severe
a blow the Mongol invasion dealt to all social and cultural progress can be
gauged by a few graphic descriptions of Mongol rapine and slaughter, as given by
Harold Lamb, Genghis Khan’s biographer: "cities in his path were often
obliterated, and rivers diverted from their courses; deserts were peopled with
the fleeing and dying, and when he had passed, wolves and ravens often were the
sole living things in once populated lands.
And consternation filled all Christendom, a generation after the death of
Genghis Khan, when the terrible Mongol horsemen were riding over Western Europe,
when Boleslas of Poland and Bela of Hungary fled from stricken fields, and
Henry, Duke of Silesia, died under the arrows with his Teutonic Knights at
Liegnitz12 — sharing the fate of the Grand-Duke George of Russia.
Such details are too horrible to dwell upon today. It was a war carried to its
utmost extent — an extent that was very nearly approached in the last European
War. It was the slaughter of human beings without hatred — simply to make an end
Unchecked by human valor, they were able to overcome the terrors of vast
deserts, the barriers of mountains and seas, the severities of climate, and the
ravages of famine and pestilence. No danger could appeal them, no stronghold
could resist them, no prayer for mercy could move them.
His achievement is recorded for the most part by his enemies. So devastating was
his impact upon civilization that virtually a new beginning had to be made in
half the world. The empires of Chathay, of Prester John, of Black Cathay, of
Kharesem, and — after his death — the Caliphate of Baghdad, of Russia and for a
while the principalities of Poland, ceased to be. When this indomitable
barbarian conquered a nation all other warfare come to an end. The whole scheme
of things, whether sorry or otherwise, was altered, and among the survivors of a
Mongol conquest peace endured for a long time.
Harold Lamb correctly says that the impact of the Mongols, brought about by
Genghis Khan, has been well summed up by the authors of the Cambridge Medieval
History in these words: This ‘new power in history’ — the ability of one man to
alter human civilization — began with Genghis Khan and ended with his grandson
Kublai, when the Mangol Empire tended to break up. It has not reappeared since.
The terror of the Mongol invasion was not confined to Turkistan, Iran and Iraq
alone. Mongol atrocities provoked trembling even in far-off corners of the world
where they could hardly have been expected to carry their arms. Edward Gibbon
writes in his History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire: The Latin
world was darkened by this cloud of savage hostility; a Russian fugitive carried
the alarm to Sweden; and the remote nations of the Baltic and the ocean trembled
at the approach of the Tartars, whom their fear and ignorance were inclined to
separate from the human species.
The Mongols first attacked Bukhara and razed it to dust. Not a single soul was
spared by them. Thereafter, they laid Samarkand to ruin and massacred its entire
population. The same was the fate of other urban centers in the then Islamic
world. The Tartars would indeed have most probably devastated the whole of
Christendom (then divided politically and suffering from numerous social evils),
as stated by H.G. Wells: A prophetic amateur of history surveying the world in
the opening of the seventh century might have concluded very reasonably that it
was only a question of a few centuries before the whole of Europe and Asia fell
under Mongolian domination.
Harold Lamb also writes: We only know that the German and Polish forces broke
before the onset of the Mongol standard, and were almost exterminated; Henry and
his barons died to a man, as did the Hospitallers …. In less than two months
they had overrun Europe from the headwaiters of the Elbe to the sea, had
defeated three great armies and a dozen smaller ones and had taken by assault
all the towns excepting Olmutz.
Then a miraculous event changed the course of history. It not only allowed the
civilized world to heave a sigh of relief but also permitted culture and
civilization to be built afresh. The hearts of the indomitable Mongols were
captured by the faith of their subjects who had lost all power and prestige.
Arnold writes in The Preaching of Islam: In spite of all difficulties, however,
the Mongols and savage tribes that followed in their wake were at length brought
to submit to the faith of those Muslim peoples whom they had crushed beneath
The names of only a few dedicated servants of Islam who won the savage Tartars
to their faith are known to the world, but their venture was no less daring nor
the achievement less significant than a great and successful reform movement.
Their memory shall always be cherished as much by the Muslims, as by
Christendom, or rather by all mankind, since they rescued the world from the
barbarism of a savage race, the insecurity of widespread upheaval, and allowed
it to once again devote its energies to the establishment of social and
political stability. Normalcy thus restored, the world was allowed to resume its
journey of cultural development and the promotion of arts and crafts, learning
and teaching, preaching and writing.
After the death of Genghis Khan, his vast conquests were divided into four
dominions headed by his sons’ children. The message of Islam then began to
spread among all these four sections of the Mongol empire and before long all
were converted to Islam.
The Tartars not only accepted Islam but a number of great scholars, writers,
poets, mystics and fighters in the way of Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta'aalaa), rose
from amongst them. Their conversion to Islam completely changed their outlook
and disposition as also their attitude towards humanity and civilization. This,
in turn, benefited not only the Islamic East but also Christendom and even
India. ….This achievement of Islam, the transformation of the Tartars into a
civilized people, was a service of a defensive nature rendered to humanity in
general, and to the West in particular.
Another accomplishment of Islam, in contrast to the one just described, was its
introduction of a new way of thinking and learning. It was like a flash of light
in the Dark Ages of Europe one which paved the way for its Renaissance. It
transformed not only Europe but helped the entire human race to benefitted from
new researches and discoveries. A new era of empirical sciences was inaugurated
which has changed the face of the earth. The intellectual patrimony of the
ancients (consisting of philosophy, mathematics and medicine) found it way to
Europe through Muslim Spain. This intellectual gift consisted of observation and
experiment a replacement of inductive logic with deductive logic where by
Europe’s whole way of thinking was changed. Science and technology were the main
fruits. All the discoveries made by European scientific explorations — in short,
whatever success has so far been achieved in harnessing the forces of nature —
are directly related to inductive reasoning, not known to Europe until it was
bequeathed to it by Muslim Spain. The noted French historian, Gustave Ie Bon,
writes of the Arab contribution to Modern Europe: Observation, experimentation
and inductive logic which form the fundamentals of modern knowledge are
attributed to Roger Bacon but it needs to be acknowledged that this process of
reasoning was entirely an Arab discovery.
Robert Briffault has also reached the same conclusion, for he says: There is not
a single aspect of European growth in which the decisive influence of Islamic
civilization is not traceable.
He further says: It is not science only which brought Europe back to life. Other
and manifold influences from the civilization of Islam communicated its first
glow to European life.
Those who have studied the history of the Catholic Church and the Reformation
are aware of the profound effect Islamic teachings had on the minds of those who
initiated reform in Christendom. We can, for example, see the influence of Islam
reflected in the thought of Martin Luther’s (1483-1546) Reformation movement.
The revolt against autocratic leadership in the Catholic Church in medieval
Europe also reveals the influence of Islam, which had no organized church.
It is, thus, our moral duty to acknowledge both these great favors conferred by
Islam which have had a revolutionary impact on the world. When we speak of those
who conferred these gifts or reassess their achievements we must at least keep
in mind the rules of courtesy which have been accepted by all nations and
cultured peoples and schools of thought. We should not abandon the norms of
politeness, moderation, dignity and truthfulness, for these have been commended
by the scriptures of all religions, moral treatises, as also by great writers
and critics. It is on such civilized behavior that good relations between
different religions, communities and peoples depend; such behavior alone makes
possible a purposeful dialogue between people holding different views. In its
absence, all serious writings, critiques and reviews must degenerate into
obscene and sensational novels, vulgar and outrageous parodies. Such writings
can unleash negative and disruptive forces, not only contemptible in themselves
and harmful to serious intellectual endeavor, but also likely to embitter
relations between different nations and countries.
The argument that any restraint placed on freedom of expression amounts to
coercion, restriction of personal freedom, or interference in the rights of
individuals under the constitution of an independent country, is simply
untenable. The obscene and offensive description of the benefactors of mankind,
prophets and reformers, particularly if such narration is against the
established facts of history, hurts the feelings of millions who respect and
revere them and is also likely to cause disharmony between different groups
within a country or even between countries. It is an intolerable infringement of
moral values, an offense against humanity that should not be overlooked by any
peace-loving nation upholding the value of harmonious co-existence between its
different ethnic and religious communities. Western political thinkers, too, do
not subscribe to such an unlimited right of freedom of expression. They have
argued that such unlimited liberty would be even more harmful than the limits
placed on freedom of expression. The subject might be treated at great length,
but I will cite here only two authorities who have explained why limitations on
freedom of expression are essential for the maintenance of public order.
Isaiah Berlin explains the two concepts of liberty in these words: To protest
against the laws governing censorship or personal morals as intolerable
infringements of personal liberty presupposes a belief that the activities which
such laws forbid are fundamental needs of men as men, in a good (or, indeed,
any) society. To defend such laws is to hold that these needs are not essential,
or that they cannot be satisfied without sacrificing other values which come
higher — satisfy deeper needs — than individual freedom, determined by some
standard that is not merely subjective, a standard for which some objective
status — in principle or a priori — is claimed.
The extent of man’s or a people’s liberty to choose to live as they desire must
be weighed against the claims of many other values, of which equality, or
justice, or happiness, or security, or public order are perhaps the most obvious
examples. For this reason, it cannot be unlimited.
A speech delivered in the American Senate by Blackstone in 1897 and which forms
the basis of American law on the subject, says about freedom of expression:
Every free man has an undoubted right in law to air what sentiment he places
before the public; to forbid this is to destroy the freedom of the press: but if
he publishes what is improper, mischievous, or illegal, he must take the
consequences of his own temerity. To subject the press to the restrictive power
of a licenser .. is to subject all freedom of sentiment to the prejudices of one
man, and make him the arbitrary and infallible judge of all controversial points
in learning, religion and Government. But to punish .. any dangerous or
offensive writings which when published, shall on fair and impartial trial be
adjudged of pernicious tendency, is necessary for the preservation of peace and
good order, of Government and religion, the only solid foundations of civil
liberty. Thus, the will of individuals is still left free; the abuse only of
that free will is the object of legal punishment.