Muhammad (PBUH) the Greatest
To every Muslim on this planet, irrespective of cultural, geographical and political differences, Muhammad (PBUH) is Allah’s greatest creation and was sent as a mercy for all mankind. A thousand million Muslims however, do not require any surveys, lists or research to arrive at this conclusion. It is a non-negotiable article of faith that Muhammad (PBUH) is the greatest.
BUT WHAT OF THE NON-MUSLIMS?
Surprisingly, over the centuries many an eminent non-Muslim has rated Muhammad (PBUH) most highly and given due recognition to his greatness. A selection of their quotations appear later.
Michael H. Hart, a Christian American, astronomer, mathematician, lawyer, chessmaster and scientist, after extensive research, published an incisive biography of the 100 most influential people of all time. The biographical rankings with explanations describes the careers of religious and political leaders, inventors, writers, philosophers, scientists and artists. From this research, which included illustrious personalities such as Jesus Christ, Moses, Caesar, the Wright brothers, Napoleon, Shakespeare, Columbus and Michaelangelo; Michael Hart rated Muhammad (PBUH) as number one. He concluded the biography with the words “It is this unparalleled combination of secular and religious influence which I feel entitles Muhammad to be considered the most influential single figure in human history.”
By special arrangement, we are privileged to present to you the entire chapter on Muhammad (PBUH) from Michael Hart’s “The 100”. We have also included a summary of the Holy Prophet’s (PBUH) farewell sermon delivered at Mount Arafat in the 10th year after Hijra (632 CE).
In an era when the world was awash in rivers of blind prejudices and nonsensical ignorances, the Prophet’s (PBUH) divine message and glorious teachings became the purging torrents of spiritual enlightenment. The farewell sermon is an embodiment of the dynamics of Islam. May Allah exalt Muhammad (PBUH), his family, his companions and all the believers. Insha-Allah!
(Servant of Islam)
My choice of Muhammad to lead the list of the world’s most influential persons may surprise some readers and may be questioned by others, but he was the only man in history who was supremely successful on both the religious and secular levels.
Of humble origins, Muhammad founded and promulgated one of the world’s great religions, and became an immensely effective political leader. Today, thirteen centuries after his death, his influence is still powerful and pervasive.
The majority of the persons in this book had the advantage of being born and raised in centers of civilization, highly cultured or politically pivotal nations. Muhammad, however, was born in the year 570, in the city of Mecca, in southern Arabia, at that time a backward area of the world, far from the centers of trade, art, and learning. Orphaned at age six, he was reared in modest surroundings. Islamic tradition tells us that he was illiterate. His economic position improved when, at age twenty-five, he married a wealthy widow. Nevertheless, as he approached forty, there was little outward indication that he was a remarkable person.
Most Arabs at that time were pagans, who believed in many gods. There were, however, in Mecca, a small number of Jews and Christians; it was from them no doubt that Muhammad first learned of a single, omnipotent God who ruled the entire universe. When he was forty years old, Muhammad became convinced that this one true God (Allah) was speaking to him, and had chosen him to spread the true faith.
For three years, Muhammad preached only to close friends and associates. Then, about 613, he began preaching in public. As he slowly gained converts, the Meccan authorities came to consider him a dangerous nuisance. In 622, fearing for his safety, Muhammad fled to Medina (a city some 200 miles north of Mecca), where he had been offered a position of considerable political power.
This flight, called the Hegira, was the turning point of the Prophet’s life. In Mecca, he had had few followers. In Medina, he had many more, and he soon acquired an influence that made him a virtual dictator. During the next few years, while Muhammad’s following grew rapidly, a series of battles were fought between Medina and Mecca. This was ended in 630 with Muhammad’s triumphant return to Mecca as conqueror. The remaining two and one-half years of his life witnessed the rapid conversion of the Arab tribes to the new religion. When Muhammad died, in 632, he was the effective ruler of all of southern Arabia.
The Bedouin tribesmen of Arabia had a reputation as fierce warriors. But their number was small; and plagued by disunity and internecine warfare, they had been no match for the larger armies of the kingdoms in the settled agricultural areas to the north. However, unified by Muhammad for the first time in history, and inspired by their fervent belief in the one true God, these small Arab armies now embarked upon one of the most astonishing series of conquests in human history. To the northeast of Arabia lay the large Neo-Persian Empire of the Sassanids; to the northwest lay the Byzantine, or Eastern Roman Empire, centered in Constantinople. Numerically, the Arabs were no match for their opponents. On the field of battle, though, the inspired Arabs rapidly conquered all of Mesopotamia, Syria, and Palestine. By 642, Egypt had been wrested from the Byzantine Empire, while the Persian armies had been crushed at the key battles of Qadisiya in 637, and Nehavend in 642.
But even these enormous conquests – which were made under the leadership of Muhammad’s close friends and immediate successors, Abu Bakr and ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab – did not mark the end of the Arab advance. By 711, the Arab armies had swept completely across North Africa to the Atlantic Ocean. There they turned north and, crossing the Strait of Gibraltar, overwhelmed the Visigothic kingdom in Spain.
For a while, it must have seemed that the Moslems would overwhelm all of Christian Europe. However, in 732, at the famous Battle of Tours, a Moslem army, which had advanced into the center of France, was at last defeated by the Franks. Nevertheless, in a scant century of fighting, these Bedouin tribesmen, inspired by the word of the Prophet, had carved out an empire stretching from the borders of India to the Atlantic Ocean – the largest empire that the world had yet seen. And everywhere that the armies conquered, large-scale conversion to the new faith eventually followed.
Now, not all of these conquests proved permanent. The Persians, though they have remained faithful to the religion of the Prophet, have since regained their independence from the Arabs. And in Spain, more than seven centuries of warfare finally resulted in the Christians reconquering the entire peninsula. However, Mesopotamia and Egypt, the two cradles of ancient civilization, have remained Arab, as has the entire coast of North Africa. The new religion, of course, continued to spread, in the intervening centuries, far beyond the borders of the original Moslem conquests. Currently, it has tens of millions of adherents in Africa and Central Asia, and even more in Pakistan and northern India, and in Indonesia. In Indonesia, the new faith has been a unifying factor. In the Indian subcontinent, however, the conflict between Moslems and Hindus is still a major obstacle to unity.
How, then, is one to assess the overall impact of Muhammad on human history? Like all religions, Islam exerts an enormous influence upon the lives of its followers. It is for this reason that the founders of the world’s great religions all figure prominently in this book. Since there are roughly twice as many Christians as Moslems in the world, it may initially seem strange that Muhammad has been ranked higher than Jesus. There are two principal reasons for that decision. First, Muhammad played a far more important role in the development of Islam than Jesus did in the development of Christianity. Although Jesus was responsible for the main ethical and moral precepts of Christianity (insofar as these differed from Judaism), St.Paul was the main developer of Christian theology, its principal proselytizer, and the author of a large portion of the New Testament.
Muhammad, however, was responsible for both the theology of Islam and its main ethical and moral principles. In addition, he played the key role in proselytizing the new faith, and in establishing the religious practices of Islam. Moreover, he is the author of the Moslem holy scriptures, the Koran, a collection of certain of Muhammad’s insight that he believed had been directly revealed to him by Allah. Most of these utterances were copied more or less faithfully during Muhammad’s lifetime and were collected together in authoritative form not long after his death. The Koran, therefore, closely represents Muhammad’s ideas and teachings and to a considerable extent his exact words. No such detailed compilation of the teachings of Christ has survived. Since the Koran is at least as important to Moslems as the Bible is to Christians, the influence of Muhammad through the medium of the Koran has been enormous. It is probable that the relative influence of Muhammad on Islam has been larger than the combined influence of Jesus Christ and St. Paul on Christianity. On the purely religious level, then, it seems likely that Muhammad has been as influential in human history as Jesus.
Furthermore, Muhammad (unlike Jesus) was a secular as well as a religious leader. In fact, as the driving force behind the Arab conquests, he may well rank as the most influential political leader of all time.
Of many important historical events, one might say that they were inevitable and would have occurred even without the particular political leader who guided them. For example, the South American colonies would probably have won their independence from Spain even if Simon Bolivar had never lived. But this cannot be said of the Arab conquests. Nothing similar had occurred before Muhammad, and there is no reason to believe that the conquests would have been achieved without him. The only comparable conquests in human history are those of the Mongols in the thirteenth century, which were primarily due to the influence of Genghis Khan. These conquests, however, though more extensive than those of the Arabs, did not prove permanent, and today the only areas occupied by the Mongols are those that they held prior to the time of Genghis Khan. It is far different with the conquests of the Arabs. From Iraq to Morocco, there extends a whole chain of Arab nations united not merely by their faith in Islam, but also by their Arabic language, history, and culture. The centrality of the Koran in the Moslem religion and the fact that it is written in Arabic have probably prevented the Arab language from breaking up into mutually unintelligible dialects, which might otherwise have occurred in the intervening thirteen centuries. Differences and divisions between these Arab states exist, of course, and they are considerable, but the partial disunity should not blind us to the important elements of unity that have continued to exist. For instance, neither Iran nor Indonesia, both oil-producing states and both Islamic in religion, joined in the oil embargo of the winter of 1973-74. It is no coincidence that all of the Arab states, and only the Arab states, participated in the embargo.
We see, then, that the Arab conquests of the seventh century have continued to play an important role in human history, down to the present day. It is this unparalleled combination of secular and religious influence which I feel entitles Muhammad to be considered the most influential single figure in human history.
A summary of The Prophet Mohammad’s Farewell Sermon
This sermon was delivered on the ninth day of Dhul Hijjah 10 A.H. in the Uranah Valley of Mount Arafat.
O people, listen to my words for I do not know whether I will be amongst you for another year. Just as you regard this month, this day and this city sacred, so regard the lives and property of all amongst you as sacred and inviolable.
O people, it is true that you have certain rights with regard to your wives but they also have certain rights. Treat them with kindness and love for you have taken them in trust. Keep always faithful to the trust placed in you and do not sin.
O people, listen to me in earnest, worship Allah, say your five daily prayers (salah), fast during the month of Ramadan and give Zakat generously. Go if possible on a pilgrimage (Hajj). You know that you are each others brothers and are all equal. No one is superior except in devotion to Allah and good works. Guard against committing injustices.
O people, NO PROPHET OR APOSTLE WILL COME AFTER ME AND NO NEW FAITH WILL BE BORN. Understand my words. I leave behind me two things – the QUR’AN and the SUNNAH. Follow these and you will never go astray. Beware of Satan and safeguard your religion. Pass on my words to others and those to others again; and may they understand my words better than those who listen to me directly. Be my witness O Allah, that I have conveyed Your Message.
The non-Muslim verdict on Muhammad (PBUH)
“If a man like Muhammad were to assume the dictatorship of the modern world, he would succeed in solving its problems that would bring it the much needed peace and happiness.”
George Bernard Shaw
“People like Pasteur and Salk are leaders in the first sense. People like Gandhi and Confucius, on one hand, and Alexander, Caesar and Hitler on the other, are leaders in the second and perhaps the third sense. Jesus and Buddha belong in the third category alone. Perhaps the greatest leader of all times was Mohammed, who combined all three functions. To a lesser degree, Moses did the same.”
Professor Jules Masserman
“Head of the State as well as the Church, he was Caesar and Pope in one; but, he was Pope without the Pope’s pretensions, and Caesar without the legions of Caesar, without a standing army, without a bodyguard, without a police force, without a fixed revenue. If ever a man had the right to say that he ruled by a rightdivine, it was Muhammad, for he had all the powers without their supports. He cared not for the dressings of power. The simplicity of his private life was in keeping with his public life.”
Rev. R. Bosworth-Smith
“Muhammad was the soul of kindness, and his influence was felt and never forgotten by those around him.”
Diwan Chand Sharma, The Prophets of the East,
Calcutta 1935, p.122.
“Four years after the death of Justinian, A.D. 569, was born at Mecca, in Arabia the man who, of all men exercised the greatest influence upon the human race… Mohammed… ”
]ohn William Draper, M.D., L.L.D., A History of the Intellectual
Development of Europe, London 1875, Vol. 1, pp.329-330.
“In little more than a year he was actually the spiritual, nominal and temporal ruler of Medina, with his hands on the lever that was to shake the world.”
John Austin, “Muhammad the Prophet of Allah,”
in T.P.’s and Cassel’s Weekly for 24th September 1927.
“Philosopher, Orator, Apostle, Legislator, Warrior, Conqueror of ideas, Restorer of rational beliefs, of a cult without images; the founder of twenty-terrestial empires and of one spiritual empire, that is Muhammad. As regards all standards by which human greatness may be measured, we may well ask, is there any man greater than he?”
Lamartine, Histotie de la Turquie, Paris 1854,
Vol. 11 pp.276-2727.
“It is impossible for anyone who studies the life and character of the great prophet of Arabia, who knows how he taught and how he lived, to feel anything but reverence! for that mighty Prophet, one of the great messengers of the Supreme. And although in what I put to you I shall say many things which may be familiar to many, yet I myself feel whenever I re-read them, a new way of admiration, a new of reverence for that mighty Arabian teacher.”
Annie Besant, The Life and Teachings of Muhammad,
Madras 1932, p.4
“Muhammad is the most successful of all Prophets and religious personalities.”
“I have studied him – the wonderful man – and in my opinion far from being an anti-Christ he must be called the saviour of humanity.”
George Bernard Shaw in “The Genuine Islam ”
“By a fortune absolutely unique in history, Mohammed is a threefold founder of a nation, of an empire, and of a religion.”
Rev. R. Bosworth-Smith in
“Mohammed and Mohammedanism 1946.”