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A Critical Exposition of the Popular ‘Jihad’: Early followers of Mohammad bore persecutions and exile with patience and steadfastness; and never recanted—Part 5


By Moulavi Chirágh Ali

34. I will pause here for a while, and ask the indulgence of the reader to reflect upon the circumstances of the persecutions, insults and injuries, expulsion and attack suffered by Mohammad and his early followers,[130] and his unwavering adherence to preach against the gross idolatry and immorality of his people, which all show his sincere belief in his own mission, and his possession of an irresistible inward impulse to publish the Divine Truth of his Revelations regarding the unity in the Godhead and other moral reforms. His preaching’s of monotheism, and his enjoining righteousness, and forbidding evil deeds, were not attended to for many years with material success. In proportion as he preached against the gross idolatry and superstition of his people, he was subjected to ridicule and scorn, and finally to an inveterate persecution which ruined his and his follower's fortune. But he unflinchingly kept his path; no threats and no injuries hindered him from still preaching to the ungodly people a purer and higher theology and better morality than had ever been set before them. He claimed no temporal power, no spiritual domination; he asked but for simple toleration, for free permission to win men by persuasion into the way of truth. He declared he was sent neither to compel conviction by miracles, nor to constrain outward profession by the sword.[131] Does this leave any doubt of the strong conviction in his mind, as well as in the truth of his claim, to be a man sent by God to preach the Divine Perfection, and to teach mankind the ways of righteousness? He honestly and sincerely conveyed the message which he had received or which he conscientiously or intuitively believed to have received from his God and which had all the signs and marks of truth in itself. What is meant by a True Prophet or a Revelation is not more than what we find in the case of Mohammad. [132]

The general office and main business of a prophet is to proclaim to mankind the Divine Perfection, to teach publicly purer theology and higher morality, to enjoin the people to do what is right and just, and to forbid what is wrong and bad. It is neither a part of the prophet to predict future events, nor to show supernatural miracles. And further, a prophet is neither immaculate nor infallible. The Revelation is a natural product of human faculties. A prophet feels that his mind is illumined by God, and the thoughts which are expressed by him and spoken or written under this influence are to be regarded as the words of God. This illumination of the mind or the effect of the Divine Influence differ in any prophet according to the capacity of the recipient, or according to the circumstances--physical, moral, and religious--in which he is placed.

[Footnote 130: The early followers of Mohammad bore persecutions and exile with patience and steadfastness; and never recanted. Look to the increasing number of these early Moslems, their magnanimous forbearance, and the spontaneous abandonment of their dear homes and relations, and their defending their Prophet with their blood. The number of Christian believers during the whole lifetime of Christ was not more than 120 (Act I, 15). They had a material view of the Messiah's kingdom, and had fled at the first sound of danger. Two of the disciples when walking to Emmaus observed, "We trusted that it had been He who should have redeemed Israel," and the apostle asked Jesus after the so-called resurrection, "Lord, wilt Thou at this time restore the kingdom of Israel?"

"During the periods thus indicated as possible for comparison, persecution and rejection were the fate of both. But the thirteen years' ministry of Mahomet had brought about a far greater change to the external eye than the whole lifetime of Christ. The apostles fled at the first sound of danger, and however deep the inner work may have been in the 500 by whom our Lord was seen, it had produced as yet but little outward action. There was among them no spontaneous quitting of their homes, nor emigration by hundreds, such as distinguished the early Moslems; nor any rapturous resolution by the converts of a foreign city to defend the Prophet with their blood."--The Life of Mahomet by Sir W. Muir, Vol. II, page 274]

[Footnote 131: "Let us for a moment look back to the period when a ban was proclaimed at Mecca against all the citizens, whether professed converts or not, who espoused his cause; when they were shut up in the _Sheb_ or quarter of Abu Tâlib, and there for three years without prospect of relief endured want and hardship. Those must have been steadfast and mighty motives which enabled him amidst all this opposition and apparent hopelessness of success, to maintain his principles unshaken. No sooner was he relieved from confinement, than, despairing of his native city, he went forth to Tâyif and summoned its rulers and inhabitants to repentance; he was solitary and unaided, but he had a message, he said, from his Lord. On the third day he was driven out of the town with ignominy, blood trickling from the wounds inflicted on him by the populace. He retired to a little distance, and there poured forth his complaint to God: then he returned to Mecca, there to carry on the same outwardly hopeless cause with the same high confidence in its ultimate success. We search in vain through the pages of profane history for a parallel to the struggle in which for thirteen years the Prophet of Arabia in the face of discouragement and threats, rejection and persecution retained his faith unwavering, preached repentance, and denounced God's wrath against his godless fellow-citizens. Surrounded by a little band of faithful men and women, he met insults, menaces, dangers, with a high and patient trust in the future. And when at last the promise of safety came from a distant quarter, he calmly waited until his followers had all departed, and then disappeared from amongst his ungrateful and rebellious people."--Muir, Vol. IV, pages 314-15.]

[Footnote 132: "That he was the impostor pictured by some writers is refuted alike by his unwavering belief in the truth of his own mission, by the loyalty and unshaken confidence of his companions, who had ample opportunity of forming a right estimate of his sincerity, and finally, by the magnitude of the task which he brought to so successful an issue. No impostor, it may safely be said, could have accomplished so mighty a work. No one unsupported by a living faith in the reality of his commission, in the goodness of his cause, could have maintained the same consistent attitude through long years of adverse fortune, alike in the day of victory and in the hour of defeat, in the plenitude of his power and at the moment of death."--Islam and its Founder, by J.W.H. Stobart, M.A., page 23.

"Of the sincerity of his belief in his own mission there can be no doubt. The great merit is his that among a people given up to idolatry he rose to a vivid perception of the Unity of God, and preached this great doctrine with firmness and constancy, amid ridicule and persecution. But there it seems to me that the eulogy of the Prophet ought to cease."--Islam under the Arabs by R.D. Osborn. London 1876, p. 90.]

[Sidenote: Striking effects of Mohammad's reforms.]

35. Although his mission was only to convey the message and preach publicly what was revealed to him, and he was not responsible for the conversion of the ungodly polytheists to the purer theology and higher morality, or in other words, to the faith of Islam, yet whatever success and beneficial results in the sphere of theology, morality, and reforms in social matters he achieved was a strong evidence of his Divine mission. In the name of God and in the character of His Apostle, he wrought a great reform according to his light in his own country. "Every good tree bringeth forth good fruit."-- (Matt. VII, 17)  Facts are stubborn things, and facts are conclusive in these points.

The effects produced by his preaching, and the changes wrought by them in the religious, social, and political sphere of the polytheists, the idolatrous and grossly superstitious Arabs within a comparatively short period, mostly consisting of persecutions at Mecca, and struggles at Medina, were very striking. From an indiscriminate mass of polytheism and gross superstitious belief in gods, genii, the sons and daughters of God, he gave them a pure monotheistic belief, recognizing no other superior power but the Almighty. He raised the moral standard of his countrymen, ameliorated the condition of women, curtailed and mitigated polygamy and slavery, and virtually abolished them as well as infanticide. He most sternly denounced and absolutely forbade many heinous evils of the Arab society. He united a number of wild and independent tribes into a nation and abolished their internecine wars.

Sir W. Muir says:--

     "Few and simple as the positive precepts of Mahomet up to this time appear, they had wrought a marvellous and a mighty work. Never, since the days when primitive Christianity startled the world from its sleep, and waged a mortal combat with Heathenism, had men seen

the like arousing of spiritual life, the like faith that suffered sacrifice and took joyfully the spoiling of goods for conscience sake.

     "From time beyond memory, Mecca and the whole Peninsula had been steeped into spiritual torpor. The slight and transient influence of Judaism, Christianity, or Philosophy upon the Arab mind, had been but as the ruffling here and there the surface of a quiet lake;--all remained still and motionless below. The people were sunk in superstition, cruelty, and vice. It was a common practice for the eldest son to marry his father's widows inherited as property with the rest of the estate. Pride and poverty had introduced among them, as it has among the Hindus, the crime of female infanticide. Their religion consisted in gross idolatry, and their faith was rather the dark superstitious dread of unseen beings, whose goodwill they sought to propitiate, and to avert their displeasure, than the belief in an over-ruling Providence. The Life to come and Retribution of good and evil were, as motives of action, practically unknown.

     "Thirteen years before the Hegira, Mecca lay lifeless in this debased state. What a change those thirteen years had now produced! A band of several hundred persons had rejected idolatry, adopted the worship of one great God, and surrendered themselves implicitly to the guidance of what they believed a revelation from Him;--praying to the Almighty with frequency and fervour, looking for pardon through His mercy, and striving to follow after good works, almsgiving, chastity and justice. They now lived under a constant sense of the Omnipotent power of God, and of His providential care over the minutest of their concerns. In all the gifts of nature, in every relation of life, at each turn of their affairs, individual or public, they saw His hand. And, above all, the new spiritual existence in which they joyed and gloried, was regarded as the mark of His especial grace, while the unbelief of their blinded fellow-citizens was the hardening stamp of His predestined reprobation. Mahomet was the minister of life to them,--the source under God of their new-born hopes; and to him they yielded a fitting and implicit submission.

    "In so short a period, Mecca had, from this wonderful movement, been rent into two factions, which, unmindful of the old land-marks of tribe and family, were arrayed in deadly opposition one against the other. The believers bore persecution with a patient and tolerant spirit. And though it was their wisdom so to do, the credit of a magnanimous forbearance may be freely accorded to them. One hundred men and women, rather than abjure the precious faith, had abandoned their homes, and sought refuge, till the storm should be overpast, in Abyssinian exile. And now even a larger number, with the Prophet himself, emigrated from their fondly-loved city, with its sacred temple,--to them the holiest spot on earth,--and fled to Medîna. There the same wonder-working charm had within two or three years prepared for them a brotherhood ready to defend the Prophet and his followers with their blood. Jewish truth had long sounded in the ears of the men of Medîna, but it was not till they heard the spirit-stirring strains of the Arabian prophet, that they too awoke from their slumber, and sprang suddenly into a new and earnest life."[133]

Further on Sir W. Muir says:--

     "And what have been the effects of the system which, established by such instrumentality, Mahomet has left behind him. We may freely concede that it banished for ever many of the darker elements of superstition which had for ages shrouded the Peninsula. Idolatry vanished before the battle-cry of Islam; the doctrine of the unity and infinite perfections of God, and of a special all-pervading Providence, became a living principle in the hearts and lives of the followers of Mahomet, even as it had in his own. An absolute surrender and submission to the divine will (the very name of _Islam_) was demanded as the first requirement of the religion. Nor are social virtues wanting. Brotherly love is inculcated within the circle of the faith; orphans are to be protected, and slaves treated with consideration; intoxicating drinks are prohibited, and Mahometanism may boast of a degree of temperance unknown to any other creed."[134]

Dr. Marcus Dods writes:--

     "But is Mahommed in no sense a Prophet? 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 publish this truth. In respect of this latter qualification Mahommed may stand comparison with the most courageous of the heroic prophets of Israel. For the truth's sake he risked his life, he suffered daily persecutions for years, and eventually banishment, the loss of property, of the goodwill of his fellow-citizens, and the confidence of his friends--he suffered in short as much as any man can suffer short of death, which he only escaped by flight, and yet he unflinchingly proclaimed his message. No bribe, threat or inducement could silence him. 'Though they array against me the sun on the right hand, and the moon on the left, I cannot renounce my purpose.' And it was this persistency, this belief in his call, to proclaim the Unity of God which was the making of Islam. Other men have been monotheists in the midst of idolaters, but no other man has founded a strong and enduring monotheistic religion. The distinction in his case was his resolution that other men should believe.... His giving himself out as a prophet of God was, in the first instance, not only sincere, but probably correct in the sense in which he himself understood it. He felt that he had thoughts of God which it deeply concerned all around him to receive, and he knew that these thoughts were given him by God, although not, as we shall see, a revelation strictly so called. His mistake lay by no means in his supposing himself to be called upon by God to speak for him and introduce a better religion, but it lay in his gradually coming to insist quite as much on men's accepting him as a prophet as on their accepting the great truth he preached. He was a prophet to his countrymen in so far as he proclaimed the Unity of God, but this was no sufficient ground for his claiming to be their guide in all matters of religion, still less for his assuming the lordship over them in all matters civil as well...."

The learned doctor further on in his book, "Mohammed, Buddha, and Christ," remarks:--

     "But as we endeavour to estimate the good and evil of Islam, it gradually appears that the chief point we must attend to is to distinguish between its value to Arabia in the seventh century and its value to the world at large. No one, I presume, would deny that to Mohammed's contemporaries his religion was an immense advance on anything they had previously believed in. It welded together the disunited tribes, and lifted the nation to the forefront of the important powers in the world. It effected what Christianity and Judaism had alike failed to effect--it swept away, once and for ever, idolatry, and established the idea of one true God. Its influence on Arabia was justly and pathetically put by the Moslem refugees in Abyssinia, who when required to say why they should not be sent back to Mecca, gave the following account of their religion and what it had done for them: 'O king, we were plunged in ignorance and barbarism; we worshipped idols; we ate dead bodies; we committed lewdness; disregarded family ties and the duties of neighbourhood and hospitality; we knew no law but that of the strong, when God sent among us a messenger of whose truthfulness, integrity, and innocence we were aware; and he called us to the unity of God, and taught us not to  associate any god with him; he forbade us the worship of idols, and enjoined upon us to speak the truth, to be faithful to our trusts, to be merciful, and to regard the rights of others; to love our relatives and to protect the weak; to flee vice and avoid all evil. He taught us to offer prayers, to give alms, and to fast. And because we believed in him and obeyed him, therefore are we persecuted and driven from our country to seek thy protection.'"[135]

But after all we have here seen of the opinions of Dr. Marcus Dods and Sir W. Muir, let us turn to what the Rev. Stephens thinks of Mohammad:--

     "The aim of Mahomet was to revive among his countrymen the Arabs, as Moses revived among his countrymen the Jews, the pure faith of their common forefather Abraham. In this he succeeded to a very great extent. For a confused heap of idolatrous superstitions he substituted a pure monotheistic faith; he abolished some of the most vicious practices of his countrymen, modified others; he generally raised the moral standard, improved the social condition of the people, and introduced a sober and rational ceremonial in worship. Finally he wielded by this means a number of wild independent tribes, mere floating atoms, into a compact body politic, as well prepared and as eager to subdue the kingdoms of the world to their rule and to their faith, as ever the Israelites had been to conquer the land of Canaan.

*     *     *     *     *

     "The Koran also enjoins repeatedly and in very emphatic language the duty of showing kindness to the stranger and the orphan, and of treating slaves, if converted to the faith, with the consideration and respect due to believers. The duty even of mercy to the lower animals is not forgotten, and it is to be thankfully acknowledged that Mohammedanism as well as Buddhism shares with Christianity the honour of having given birth to hospitals and asylums for the insane and sick.

*     *     *     *     *

     "The vices most prevalent in Arabia in the time of Mahomet which are most sternly denounced and absolutely forbidden in the Koran were drunkenness, unlimited concubinage and polygamy, the destruction of female infants, reckless gambling, extortionate usury, superstitious arts of divination and magic. The abolition of some of these evil customs, and the mitigation of others, was a great advance in the morality of the Arabs, and is a wonderful and honourable testimony to the zeal and influence of the reformer. The total suppression of female infanticide and of drunkenness is the most signal triumph of his work."[136]

The reverend gentleman quoted above continues:

     "First of all, it must be freely granted that to his own people Mahomet was a great benefactor. He was born in a country where political organization, and rational faith, and pure morals were unknown. He introduced all three. By a single stroke of masterly genius he simultaneously reformed the political condition, the religious creed, and the moral practice of his countrymen. In the place of many independent tribes he left a nation; for a superstitious belief in gods many and lords many he established a reasonable belief in one Almighty yet beneficent Being; taught men to live under an abiding sense of this Being's superintending care, to look to Him as the rewarder, and to fear Him as the punisher of evil-doers. He vigorously attacked, and modified and suppressed many gross and revolting customs which had prevailed in Arabia down to his time. For an abandoned profligacy was substituted a carefully regulated polygamy, and the practice of destroying female infants was effectually abolished.

     "As Islam gradually extended its conquest beyond the boundaries of Arabia, many barbarous races whom it absorbed became in like manner participators in its benefits. The Turk, the Indian, the Negro, and the Moor were compelled to cast away their idols, to abandon their licentious rites and customs, to turn to the worship of one God, to a decent ceremonial and an orderly way of life. The faith even of the more enlightened Persian was purified: he learned that good and evil are not co-ordinate powers, but that just and unjust are alike under the sway of one All-wise and Holy Ruler, who ordereth all things in heaven and earth.

     "For barbarous nations, then, especially--nations which were more or less in the condition of Arabia itself at the time of Mahomet--nations in the condition of Africa at the present day, with little or no civilisation, and without a reasonable religion--Islam certainly comes as a blessing, as a turning from darkness to light and from the power of satan unto God."[137]

[Footnote 133: The Life of Mahomet by Sir W. Muir, LL.D., Vol. II, pp. 269-71.]

[Footnote 134: The Life of Mahomet by Sir W. Muir, Vol. IV, pp. 320-21.]

[Footnote 135: Mohammed, Buddha and Christ, by Marcus Dods, D.D., pp. 17-19 & 119.]

[Footnote 136: Christianity and Islam: The Bible and the Koran, by Rev. W.R.W. Stephens, pp 94, 104, 112, London, 1877

[Footnote 137: Christianity and Islam: The Bible and the Koran, by the Rev. W.R.W. Stephens, pp. 129-30, London, 1877]

[Sidenote: Indictment against Mohammad.]

36. What the opponents of Mohammad can possibly say against his mission is his alleged moral declension at Medina. [138] They accuse him of cruelty [139] and sensuality [140] during his sojourn in that city after he had passed without any blame more than fifty-five years of his age, and had led a pious missionary life for upwards of fifteen years. These moral stains cannot be inconsistent with his office of being a prophet or reformer. It is no matter if a prophet morally degrades his character under certain circumstances, or morally degrades his character at the end of his age--after leading for upwards of fifty-five years a life of the highest moral principles, and as a paragon of temperance and high-toned living--while he has faithfully conveyed the message, and has sincerely and honestly preached religious reforms, and the sublimity of his preachings have in themselves the marks of divine truth.

If the said prophet defends his stains or immoral deeds by professed revelations, and justifies himself in his flagrant breaches of morality by producing messages from heaven, just and equally as he does when he teaches the purer theology and higher morality for which he is commissioned, then and from that time only we will consider him as an impostor, guilty of high blasphemy in forging the name of God for his licentious self indulgences.

But in the case of Mohammad, in the first place, the charges of cruelty and sensuality during a period of six or seven years towards the end of his life, excepting three years, are utterly false; and secondly, if proved to have taken place, it is not proved that Mohammad justified himself by alleging to have received a divine sanction or command to the alleged cruelties and flagrant breaches of morality. The charges of assassinations and cruelties to the prisoners of war and others, and of the alleged perfidy and craftiness enumerated by Sir W. Muir, have been examined and refuted by me in this book. _Vide_ pp. 60-73 and pp. 76-97 The cases of Maria, a slave-girl, and Zeinab not coming directly under the object of this book have been treated separately in Appendix B, pp. 211-220 of this work.

Mohammad, in his alleged cruelties towards his enemies, is not represented by Sir W. Muir to have justified himself by special revelation or sanction from on high, yet the Rev. Mr. Hughes, whose work has been pronounced as having "_the rare merit of being accurate_," makes him (Mohammad) to have done them under the sanction of God in the Koran.

     "The best defenders of the Arabian Prophet[141] are obliged to admit that the matter of Zeinab, the wife of Zeid, and again of Mary, the Coptic slave, are 'an indelible stain' upon his memory; that he is untrue once or twice to the kind and forgiving disposition of his best nature; that he is once or twice unrelenting in the punishment of his personal enemies, and that he is guilty even more than once of conniving at the assassination of inveterate opponents; but they do not give any satisfactory explanation or apology for all this being done _under the supposed sanction_ of God in the Qurán."[142]

Such is the rare accuracy of Mr. Hughes' work. It is needless for me to repeat here that none of these allegations are either true or facts, or alleged to have been committed under the sanction of God in the Quran.

URL of Part 4:ágh-ali/a-critical-exposition-of-the-popular-‘jihad’—-part-4/d/11158