In the name of Allah, The Most Gracious, The Most Merciful. All praise be to Allah, The Creator and The Sustainer of Heaven and Earth. Peace be upon the Exalted Prophet, Sayyiduna Muhammad s.a.w., and to his family.
In my previous entry dated 29 March 2008 (click here to read the mentioned entry), I wrote a critique on Michael H. Hart’s explanation of why he chose Prophet Muhammad s.a.w., an explanation that, to me, is based on more perception than true facts about the Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. When I say ‘true facts’, I mean ‘true facts’ that is based on authentic and sound references about the exalted Prophet; references that come from distinguished Islamic scholars who are acknowledged as the authority on Sirah (the life and history of the Prophet) such as Ibnu Hisyam; and when I say ‘acknowledged’, it means acknowledged by the scholars Islam, not the Western or Christian scholars. That’s why even though Michael Hart chose Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. as the most influential person in history, he lacks the worldview to understand Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. as who he really is and to put him in his proper place.
That entry received a response from an anonymous writer who disagreed that Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. is the most influential person in history, and argued that it should be Jesus who should hold that title. I disagree, of course. I believe – with full faith and sound arguments – that Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. is the most influential person in history, and he will always be. I copy the full text of the ‘anonymous’ comment here before I continue with my arguments on why it is Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. who is the most influential person.
Just my opinion. Michael Hart wrong that Muhammad is the most influential person in history. The mere fact that there are as many or more Christians in the world as Muslims combined with the fact that Jesus lived a shorter life, and left behind fewer followers, is proof that Jesus accomplished more with less. Both Christians and Muslims forced conquered peoples into their faiths in the past, but today the vast majority of Christians are converted voluntarily while many millions of people are forced into Islam under threat of persecution. This is a testament to the reduced influence of the religion started by Muhammad. As far as I know, Muhammad did not claim to be the actual son of God, nor did he willingly sacrifice his life to save both believers and non-believers. There is simply no way that Muhammad's life or death was as impressive as that of Jesus. It cannot be disputed that Muhammad came after Jesus and was influenced himself by the teachings of both Christians and Jews. The "one God" concept did not exist in arab lands before being introduced by Jews and Christians. Therefore the life of Jesus actually influenced Muhammad's early spiritual development. The most unfortunate part of the debate that will follow Michael Hart's comments is that they will be used to divide believers in the world's two great religions. Instead of looking for the common values that we share, Muslims and Christians will continue to see each other as spiritual and even physical enemies. Muhammad was a great man and a tremendous leader. One of the greatest leaders in human history, but not "the" greatest. I thank our common God that Muhammad was part of human history. I also pray to our common God that he will bless both Muslims and Christians with the wisdom to tolerate our differences, celebrate our similarities, and work together for the world peace and prosperity that our common God surely wants for us all.
First of all, let me make it clear that in Islam, we acknowledge Prophet Isa a.s. (Jesus as the Westerners would call him) as a prophet of Allah. He was a prophet that was sent before Prophet Muhammad s.a.w., and his specific mission, as mentioned in the Glorious Qur’an, was simple: to verify the truth in the previous holy revelation – the Taurat (revealed to Prophet Musa a.s. – or Moses as the Westerners would call him), and to bring good news about the coming of the Last Prophet that is Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. Therefore, in Islam, we accept Prophet Isa a.s. and Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. as prophets of Allah. However – I feel it is imperative that I state this clearly – the Muslims understand and recognize Prophet Isa a.s. with significant difference as how the Christians understand Jesus. Therefore, when I say that we recognize and acknowledge Prophet Isa a.s., it does not – in any way – mean that we (Muslims) recognize and acknowledge Jesus as how the Christians understand him. And, we also acknowledge Injil (Bible as the Westerners would name it) as a revelation from Allah; but (I repeat: BUT) only the original Injil as was revealed to Prophet Isa, and not the Bible that is being used in the Christian world today, as we know that the Bible that is being used in the Christian world today – although the churches and the priests would deny it – has been tampered with. I am not going to write about that here, anyway. Please do your own research.
I would also like to make it a point that when I write about why Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. is the most influential person, I am not in any way trying to degrade Prophet Isa a.s. for as I have mentioned earlier, we acknowledge and recognize them both as prophets of Allah; but, in the order of all the prophets of Allah, Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. is the most exalted and honourable of them all. We have countless Qur’anic verses, sayings of the Prophet (Hadith), and views of the Ulama’ (Islamic scholars) to show us about the exaltedness and greatness of Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. In fact, my argument here is more specifically within the context of comparing Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. with Jesus (the Christian Jesus) and not Prophet Isa a.s.
Now, our ‘anonymous’ writer argued that Jesus is more influential in the sense that he accomplished more with less. That fact can be questioned. Did Jesus really accomplished more with less? The mere fact that there are more Christians than Muslims in the world today doesn’t necessarily prove that Jesus was more influential. Although I can, and am craving to do as such, I do not intend to make my point by pointing out what is wrong in the facts (or ‘claims’, perhaps) that the ‘anonymous’ writer wrote, for that would be something like a ‘direct attack’ against Christianity. Instead, I will try to correct what the ‘anonymous’ writer wrongly wrote about Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. and throw in arguments of why Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. is considered to be the most influential person.
First of all, Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. is the only personality in this world whose life is most-properly and completely documented. We have strong and authentic references on his family tree, even lining up back to Prophet Adam a.s.; and his family tree is recorded and documented such that even until today, we know who are the descendants of Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. I have never heard of any other personality whose family tree is so completely and comprehensively recorded. Prophet Muhammad’s life is so comprehensively documented such that today, we (Muslims) are able to follow his examples in almost every aspect of our daily lives.
Please also understand that Islam never forced people to accept Islam. There is even a Qur’anic verse which means: “There is no compulsion in religion.” Once, a companion asked Sayyidatuna ‘Aisyah r.a., Prophet Muhammad’s wife, about Prophet Muhammad’s character and Sayyidatuna ‘Aisyah r.a. said that the Prophet Muhammad is like a “walking Qur’an”. This means that Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. is the living example of how to practice the teachings of the Qur’an. Therefore, Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. has never, not even once, forced people into accepting Islam. Please refer to authentic sources on the history of the prophet, not writings of Orientalists or Western scholars! The fact is, Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. was the most compassionate and gentle when it comes to spreading the message of Islam. For example, in the book entitled “Fiqh Sirah” written by Sa’id Ramadhan Al-Buti (a book on the history of Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. and its philosophy of events), it is stated how Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. preached to the people of a valley called Thoif. The people there rejected and casted him off by throwing stones at him until he bled so badly. The angels who saw the event – out of their love of the Prophet – was enraged and offered to Prophet Muhammad s.a.w., with Allah’s permission, to turn a mountain upside-down and drop it unto Thoif. But, being the compassionate person as he is, he rejected that offer, saying to the angels to “let them be, as they do not understand”. That is one of the proofs to show that in Islam, it is a principle that we do not force people into Islam. People voluntarily embrace Islam out of their understanding about the true truth that Islam brings. This, consequently, brings Muslims to practice Islam with full faith and obedience; and, although it cannot be denied that there are bad Muslims (as they are bad Christians), we still see mosques being visited regularly (five times a day, to be exact). And I believe there are more Muslims who go to mosques to pray (the obligatory five times a day) than there are Christians who go to the churches (once a week).
As for what is written by the ‘anonymous’ writer that Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. never did claim to be the actual “son of god”, or even “sacrificed” his life, as proof that his life was not as impressive as Jesus, even that is a misguided statement. In Islam, we have a completely different worldview than that of Christianity. Our concept of God is in its entirety different from the Christian concept of “god”. Which, therefore, means that I disagree with the ‘anonymous’ writer’s use of the term “common god”. Allah is, as taught by Islam, the one and only God; His existence is absolute. He is in no way (I repeat: IN NO WAY) similar to any of His creations (such as humans). Allah’s existence is an absolute Oneness! In the Holy Qur’an, this absolute Oneness is stated strongly: “He (Allah) begets not, nor is He begotten.” (Surah Al-Ikhlas: 112, verse 3). Allah is the Most Great, He is God! Being the ultimate Creator, He cannot have any of the characteristics of creation since creation has weaknesses and limitations. God is The Most Perfect! Therefore, as how we understand it in Islam, it is impossible for God to have a son, for having a son is a characteristic of creation. Therefore, Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. is truly not the son of god, but his life was very impressive. He is a human being, yet he is chosen by God to become God’s Prophet and spread God’s words (message; revelation) to humankind. He is a human being, yet God has elevated him to a status even higher than the angels, higher even than Prophet Isa a.s. The story of Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. has inspired many people – even up until today – to emulate his footsteps in any way they can, including emulating his attire!
Another important thing that has to be understood is that Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. was never influenced by the teachings of Christianity. Yes, it is true that he did once meet a priest. But, that was when he was only a 9-year-old kid and the meeting was for only a short period. In fact, what happened in that short encounter was that the priest recognized the 9-year-old kid as the Last Prophet – based on what has been revealed in the Injil – and asked Prophet Muhammad’s uncle to take good care of him. One other important fact is that Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. was an illiterate. He could neither read nor write. How then, could he have learned anything from anyone? Yes, history records it that Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. never had any teacher. How then could Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. have spread the Qur’an? How then could Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. have said all the important sayings (in Islam, we call it Hadith – which is the second authority for Islamic principles and laws after the Quran), with perfect Arabic language? The answer: it is because Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. is truly a Prophet of God, and it is God who revealed the knowledge to Prophet Muhammad s.a.w.
Prophet Muhammad’s life is truly inspiring. He has, without doubt, strongly and significantly influenced the lives of so many people, even after his death. Much more can be said, and even more proof and justification can be given. For what the ‘anonymous’ writer has written in the last part of his comment: I could agree that the believers of the world’s two great religions (Islam and Christian) should look for a way to co-exist. However, as I have said, as a Muslim I reject the notion of “common god”. For, as I have mentioned earlier, the Islamic knowledge of Allah (God) is in its entirety different from the Christian concept of god. I also disagree that we have to “tolerate” our differences. Instead, we have to “accept” that we are different; recognize and acknowledge that we are different – at all levels. I do agree, however, that we must not let our differences become the reason for disharmony or to fight against each other.
As a Muslim, I therefore would not force you (Christians) into accepting my idea that Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. is the most influential person. However, we Muslims will still believe with complete faith that Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. is the most influential person in history, in the present time, and in times to come. Before I end, please also understand that this article may not answer all of the critiques or questions regarding Islam or Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. Therefore, do delve in deeper and refer to eminent Islamic scholars (Ulama’) for a better and more comprehensive understanding.
Allah alone knows best!
Gombak, 19 January 2009.