STUDY OF THE
LIFE OF MUHAMMAD CONSIDERED AS
A PREACHER OF ISLAM.
A History of the Propagation of the Muslim Faith
T.W. Arnold Ma. C.I.F
Professor of Arabic, University of London, University College. Written in 1896, revised in 1913
Rearranged by Dr. A.S. Hashim
Upon Arriving in Medina:
Muhammad first care after his arrival in Yathrib, or Medina as it was called from
this period—Madinat al-Nabi, the city of the Prophet—was to build a mosque, to
serve both as a place of prayer and of general assembly for his followers,
who had hitherto met for that purpose in the dwelling-place of one of their number.
at first used to turn their faces in the direction of Jerusalem. In many other ways, by
constant appeals to
their own sacred Scriptures, by according them perfect freedom of worship and political equality,
Muhammad endeavored to conciliate the Jews, but they met his
advances with scorn and derision. It is then that a Verse was revealed to him as to change his direction in prayer from Jerusalem to the Ka'ba. Prophet, Muhammad bade his
followers turn their faces in prayer towards the Ka'ba in Mecca. (ii. 144.)
This change of direction during prayer has a deeper significance
than might at first sight appear. It was really the beginning of the National Life of Islam: it established the Ka'ba at Mecca as a religious centre for all the Muslim
people, just as from time immemorial it had been a place of pilgrimage for all the tribes of Arabia. Of similar importance was the incorporation of the ancient Arab custom of
pilgrimage to Mecca into the circle of the religious ordinances of Islam, a duty that was to be performed by every Muslim at least once in his lifetime.
There are many passages in the Quran that appeal to this germ of national feeling and urge the people of Arabia to realize the privilege that had been granted them of a divine
revelation in their own language and by the lips of one of their own countrymen.
"Verily We have made it
an Arabic Quran that ye may haply understand. (xliii. 2-3.)
"And thus We have
revealed to thee an Arabic Quran, that thou mayest warn the mother of cities and those around it. (xlii. 5.)
"And if We had made it
a Quran in a foreign tongue, they had surely said, ' Unless its verses be clearly explained (we will not receive it).' (xli. 44.)
"And verily We have set
before men in this Quran every kind of parable that haply they be monished:
"An Arabic Quran, free
from tortuous (wording), that haply they may fear (God). (xxxix. 28-29.)
"Verily from the Lord
of all creatures hath this (book) come down, ... in the clear Arabic tongue. (xxvi. 192, I95.)
"And We have only made
it (i.e. the Quran) easy, in thine own tongue, in order that thou mayest announce
glad tidings thereby to the God-fearing, and that thou mayest warn the contentious thereby." (xix.
the message of Islam was not for Arabia only; the whole world was to share in it.
As there was but one God, so there was to be but one religion into which all men
were to be invited.
This claim to be universal, to hold
sway over all men and all nations, found a practical illustration
in the letters which Muhammad is said to have sent in the year
a.d. 688 (a.h. 6) to the great potentates
of that time.
An invitation to embrace Islam was sent
in this year to the Emperor Heracleus, the king of Persia,
the Governor of Yemen, the governor of Egypt and the
king of Abyssinia. The letter to Heracleus is said to have
been as follows :—
"In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate, Muhammad, who is the servant
of God and His apostle, to Heracleus of Rum.
Peace be on whoever has gone on the straight road.
After this I say,
Verily I call you to Islam. Embrace Islam, and God will
reward you twofold. If you turn away from the offer of
Islam, then on you be the sins of your people.
of the Book, come towards a creed which is fit both for us
and for you. It is this—to worship none but God, and not
to associate anything with God, and not to call others God.
Therefore, O ye people of the Book, if ye refuse, beware.
We are Muslims and our religion is Islam."
this summons may have seemed to those who then
received it, succeeding years showed that it was dictated
by no empty enthusiasm.
These letters only gave a more open and widespread expression to the claim to
the universal acceptance which is repeatedly made for Islam in the
"Of a truth it (i.e.
the Quran) is no other than an admonition to all created beings, and after a
time shall ye surely know its message. (xxxviii. 87-88.)
"This (book) is no
other than an admonition and a clear Quran, to warn whoever liveth; and that
against the unbelievers sentence may be justly given.
"We have not sent thee
save as a mercy to all created beings. (xxi. 107.)
"Blessed is He who
hath sent down al-Furqan upon His servant, that he may be a warner unto all
created beings. (xxv. 1.)
"And We have not sent
thee otherwise than to mankind at large, to announce and to warn. (xxxiv. 27.)
"He it is who hath
sent His apostle with guidance and the religion of truth, that He may make it
victorious over every other religion, though the polytheists are
averse to it." (lxi. 9.)
the hour of his deepest despair, when the people of Mecca persistently turned a
deaf ear to the words of their prophet (xvi, 23, 114, etc.), when the converts he
had made were tortured until they recanted (xvi. 108), and others were
forced to flee from the country to escape the rage of their persecutors (xvi. 43, 111)—then was
delivered the promise:
"One day we will raise up a witness out of every nation." (xvi. 86.)
This claim upon the acceptance of all mankind which the Prophet makes in these
passages is further prophetically indicated in the words
Abyssinia," used by Muhammad in reference to Bilal, and
Greece," to Suhayb;
Salman, the first Persian convert, was a Christian
slave in Medina, who embraced the new faith in the first
year of the Hijrah.
Thus long before any career of conquest was so
much as dreamed of, the Prophet had clearly shown that Islam was not to be confined to the Arab race.
The following account of the sending out of missionaries to preach Islam to all nations, points to the same claim to
be a universal religion:
"The Apostle of God said to his companions, 'Come to me all of you early in the morning.'
After the morning prayer he spent some time in praising and
supplicating God, as was his wont;
then he turned to them and sent forth some in one direction and others in
'Be faithful to God in your dealings with His servants (i.e. with men), for whosoever is entrusted
with any matter that concerns mankind and is not faithful in his
service of them, to him God shuts the gate of Paradise:
go forth and be not like the messengers of Jesus, the son of
Mary, for they went only to those that lived near and neglected
those that dwelt in far countries.'
Then each of these messengers came to speak the language of the people
to whom he was sent. When this was told to the Prophet he said, 'This
is the greatest of the duties that they owe to God with respect to His servants.' "
The proof of the
universality of Islam, of its claim on the acceptance of all men, lay in the fact
that it was the religion divinely appointed for the whole human race and
was now revealed to them anew through Muhammad, " the seal of the prophets
" (xxxiii. 40), as it had been to former generations by other prophets.
"Men were of one
religion only: then they disagreed one with another and had not a decree (of respite) previously
gone forth from thy Lord, judgment would surely have been given between them in the matter
wherein they disagree. (x. 20.)
"I am no apostle of
new doctrines, (xlvi. 8.)
"Mankind was but one
people: then God raised up prophets to announce glad tidings and to warn: and
He sent down with them the Book with the Truth,
that it might decide the disputes of men: and none
disagreed save those to whom the book had been
given, after the clear tokens had reached them, through mutual
jealousy. And God guided those who believed into the truth concerning which they
had disagreed, by His will; and God guideth whom He pleaseth into the straight path. (ii. 209.)
"And We revealed to thee,
' follow the religion of Abraham, the sound in faith, for he was not of those
who join gods with God.' (xvi. 124.)
"Say: As for me, my Lord hath guided me
into a straight path: a true faith, the religion of Abraham, the sound in faith; for he was not of
those who join gods with God. (vi. 162.)
"Say: Nay, the
religion of Abraham, the sound in faith and not one of those who join gods with
God (is our religion). (ii. 129.)
"Say: God speaketh truth. Follow
therefore the religion of Abraham, he being a Ḥanif and not one of those who join other gods with
"Verily the first
temple that was set up for men was that which is in Bakka, blessed and a guidance
for all created beings. (iii. 89, 90.)
"And who hath a
better religion than he who resigneth himself to God, who doth what is good and
followeth the faith of Abraham, the sound in faith? (iv. 124.)
"He hath elected
you, and hath not laid on you any hardship in religion, the faith of your father Abraham.
He hath named you the Muslims." (xx. 77.)
But to return to Muhammad in Medina.
In order properly
to appreciate his position after the Flight, it is important
to remember the peculiar character of Arab society at that
time, as far at least as this part of the peninsula was concerned:
There was an entire absence of any organized administrative or judicial system such as in modern times
we connect with the idea of a government.
Each tribe or clan formed a separate and absolutely
independent body, and this independence extended itself also to the individual members of the tribe. Each of them recognized the
authority, or leadership of his chief only as being the exponent of a public opinion which
he himself happened to share; but he was quite at liberty to
refuse his conformity to the (even) unanimous resolve of his fellow clansmen.
Further, there was no
regular transmission of the office of chieftain; but he was generally chosen as being the oldest member of the richest and most
powerful family of the clan. And such person as being personally most qualified to command respect.
If such a
tribe became too numerous, it would split up into several divisions, each of which continued to enjoy a separate
and independent existence, uniting only on some extraordinary occasion for common self-defense or
some more than usually important warlike expedition.
We can thus understand how Muhammad could establish himself in
Medina at the head of a large and increasing body of adherents who looked up to him as their head
and leader and acknowledged no other authority,—without exciting any feeling of insecurity, or any fear of encroachment on recognized
authority, such as would have arisen in a city of ancient Greece or any similarly organized community.
Muhammad thus exercised
temporal authority over his people just as any other independent chief might have done, the only difference being that in the
case of the Muslims a religious bond took the place of family and blood ties.
Islam thus became what, in theory, at least, it has always remained—a political as well as a religious system.
"It was Muhammad's
desire, by the command of God, to found a new religion, and in this he succeeded; but at the same time
Muhammad founded a political system of an entirely new and peculiar character.
first his only wish was to convert his fellow-countrymen to the belief in the One
But along with this he brought about the overthrow of the old system of government
in his native city,
and in place of the tribal aristocracy under which the conduct of public affairs was shared in common by the ruling
he substituted an absolute theocratic monarchy, with himself at the head as vicar
of God upon earth.
"Even before his death
almost all Arabia had submitted to him; Arabia that had never before obeyed one
prince, suddenly exhibits a political unity and swears allegiance
to the will of an absolute ruler.
Out of the numerous tribes, big and small, of a
hundred different kinds that were incessantly at feud with one
another, Muhammad's word created a nation.
The idea of a common religion
under one common head bound the different tribes together into one political
organism which developed its peculiar
characteristics with surprising rapidity.
Now only one great idea could
have produced this result, viz. the principle of national life in heathen Arabia.
The clan-system was
thus for the first time, if not entirely crushed—(that would have been impossible)—yet made subordinate to the feeling
of religious unity.
The great work succeeded, and when Muhammad died
there prevailed over by far the greater part of Arabia a peace of God such as the Arab tribes, with
their love of plunder and revenge, had never known;
It was the religion
of Islam that had brought about this reconciliation."
in the case of death, the claims of relationship were set aside and the
bond-brother inherited all the property of his deceased companion. But after the
battle of Badr, when such an artificial bond was no longer needed to unite
his followers, it was abolished; such an arrangement was
only necessary so long as the number of the Muslims was
still small and the corporate life of Islam a novelty; moreover
Muhammad had lived in Medina for a very short space of time before the rapid
increase in the number of his adherents made so communistic a social system
It was only to be
expected that the growth of an independent political body
composed of refugees from Mecca, located in a hostile city, should eventually
lead to an outbreak of hostilities;
and, as is well known, every biography of
Muhammad is largely taken up with the account of a long series of petty
encounters and bloody battles between his followers and the Quraish of Mecca,
ending in his triumphal entry into that city in
a.d. 630, and of his hostile
relations with numerous other tribes, up to the time of his death,
it is false to suppose that Muhammad in Medina laid aside his rôle of
preacher and missionary of Islam, or that when he had a large army at his
command, he ceased to invite unbelievers to accept the faith.
Ibn Sa'd gives
a number of letters written by the Prophet
from Medina to chiefs and other members of different Arabian tribes, in addition to those addressed to
potentates living beyond the limits of Arabia, inviting them to embrace Islam;
And in the following pages will be found instances of his having
sent missionaries to preach the faith to the unconverted
members of their tribes, whose very ill-success in some cases
is a sign of the genuinely missionary character of their
efforts and the absence of an appeal to force.
example of such an unsuccessful mission is that sent to
preach Islam to the Banu
'Amir b. Sa'sa'ah in the year a.h.
4. The chief of this tribe, Abu
Bara 'Amir, visited Muhammad in Medina, listened to his teaching, but declined
to become a convert; he seemed, however, to be favorably disposed towards the new faith and asked the
Prophet to send some of his followers to Najd to preach
to the people of that country.
The Prophet sent a party
of forty Muslims, most of them young men of Medina, who
were skilled in reciting the Quran, and had been accustomed
to meet together at night for study and prayer. But in
spite of the safe conduct given them by Abu
Bara Amir, they were treacherously murdered and three only of the
party escaped with their lives.
successes of the Muslim arms, however, attracted every day members of various tribes, particularly those in
the vicinity of Medina, to swell the ranks of the followers
of the Prophet;
the courteous treatment which the deputations of these various clans experienced from
his ready attention to their grievances,
wisdom with which he composed their disputes, and
the politic assignments of territory by which he rewarded an early declaration in favor of Islam,
made his name to be popular
and spread his fame as a great and generous prince throughout the Peninsula."
not unfrequently happened that one member of a tribe would come to the Prophet
in Medina and return home as a missionary of Islam to convert his brethren; we
have the following account of such a conversion in the year 5
Sa'd b. Bakr sent one of their number, by name Dhimam b. Tha'labah as
their envoy to the Prophet. He came and made his camel kneel down at the gate of
the mosque and tied up its foreleg. Then he went into the
mosque, where the Prophet was sitting with his companions.
He went up close to them and said:
"Which among you is the son of Abd al-Mut'talib? "
"I am," replied the
"Art thou Muhammad?" "Yes," was the
"Then, if thou wilt not take it amiss, I would
fain ask thee some weighty questions." "Nay, ask what
thou wilt," answered the Prophet,
"I adjure thee by
Allah, thy God and the God of those who were before thee
and of those who are to come after thee, hath Allah sent
thee as a prophet unto us?" Muhammad answered, "Yea,
Tha'labah continued, "I adjure thee by Allah, thy
God and the God of those who were before thee and of those
who are to come after thee, hath He commanded thee to
bid us worship Him alone, and to associate naught else with Him and to
abandon these idols that our fathers worshipped?" Muhammad answered, "Yea, by Allah."
Then Tha'labah questioned the Prophet concerning all the ordinances of Islam, one after another, prayer and fasting,
pilgrimage, etc., solemnly adjuring him as before.
At the end Tha'labah said,
"Then I bear witness that there is no God save Allah and I bear witness that Muhammad is the Prophet of Allah, and I will
observe these ordinances and shun what thou hast forbidden, adding nothing thereto,
and taking nothing away."
Then Tha'labah turned away and loosened his camel
and returned unto his own people, and when he had gathered them together, the first words he
spoke unto them were: "Vile things are Lat and 'Uzza." They cried
out, "Hold! Dhimam b Tha'labah, take heed of leprosy or madness!"
"Fie on you!" Tha'labah replied. "By Allah!
they can neither work you weal nor woe, for Allah has sent a Prophet
and revealed to him a book, whereby he delivers you from your evil plight; I bear witness that there is no
God save Allah alone and that Muhammad is His servant and His Prophet;
and I have brought you tidings of what he enjoins and what he forbids."
The story goes on that
ere nightfall there was not a man or woman in the camp who had not
Another such missionary was 'Amr b Murrah,
belonging to the tribe of the Banu
Juhaynah, who dwelt between Medina and the Red Sea. The date of his conversion
was prior to the Flight, in the same year (a.h. 5), and
he thus describes it:
"We had an idol that we worshipped, and I was the guardian of its shrine.
When I heard of the Prophet, I broke it in pieces and set off to Muhammad, where I accepted
Islam and bore witness to the truth, and believed on what Muhammad declared to be allowed and forbidden.
And to this my verses refer: 'I bear witness that
God is Truth and
that I am the first to abandon
the gods of stones, and
I have girded up my loins to make my way to you over rough ways
to join myself to him who in himself and for his ancestry is the noblest of men, the apostle of
the Lord whose throne is above the clouds.''
Amr b Murrah was sent by Muhammad to
preach Islam to his tribe, and his efforts were crowned with such success that there was only one man
who refused to listen to his exhortations.
the truce of Hudaibiya (a.h. 6)
relations with the people of Mecca possible, many persons
of that city, who had had the opportunity of listening to
the teaching of Muhammad in the early days of his mission, and among them some men of great influence, came
out to Medina, to embrace the faith of Islam.
The continual warfare carried on with the people of Mecca had hitherto kept the
tribes to the south of Mecca almost entirely outside the influence of the new
But this truce now made communications with southern Arabia
possible, and a small band from the tribe of the Banu Daws
came from the mountains that form the northern boundary
of Yemen, and joined themselves to the Prophet in Medina.
Even before the appearance of Muhammad, there were some members of this tribe who had
had glimmerings of a higher religion than the idolatry prevailing around them,
and argued that the world must have had a creator, though they knew not who he
was; and when Muhammad came forward as the apostle of this creator, one
of these men, by name Tufayl b. Amr, came to Mecca to learn who the
Though warned by the Quraish of the dangerous influence that Muhammad might
exercise over him if he entered into conversation with him, he followed the
Prophet to his house one day, after watching him at prayer by the Ka'ba.
Muhammad expounded to him the doctrines of Islam, and
Tufayl left Mecca full of
zeal for the new faith.
return home he succeeded in converting his father and his
wife, but found his fellow-tribesmen unwilling to abandon
their old idolatrous worship.
Disheartened at the ill-success
of his mission, he returned to the Prophet and besought him to call down the
curse of God on the Banu
Daws; but Muhammad encouraged him to persevere in
his efforts, saying, "Return to thy people and summon
them to the faith, but deal gently with them." At the
same time he prayed, " Oh God! guide the Banu
Daws in the right way."
The success of Tufayl's propaganda was
such that in the year a.h. 7 he came to Medina with between seventy and eighty families of his tribesmen who had been
won over to the faith of Islam, and after the triumphal entry of Muhammad into Mecca, Tufayl set fire to the
block of wood that had hitherto been venerated as the idol of the
a.h. 7, fifteen more tribes submitted to the Prophet,
and after the surrender of Mecca in a.h.
8, the ascendancy of Islam was assured, and those Arabs who had held aloof,
saying, "Let Muhammad and his fellow-tribesmen fight it
out; if he is victorious, then is he a genuine prophet,"
now hastened to give in their allegiance to the new religion.
Among those who came in after the fall of Mecca were
some of the most bitter persecutors of Muhammad in the
earlier days of his mission, to whom his noble forbearance
and forgiveness now gave a place in the brotherhood of Islam.
The following year
witnessed the martyrdom of 'Urwah b. Mas'ood, one of the
chiefs of the people of Ta'if, which city the Muslims had unsuccessfully attempted to capture.
had been absent at that time in Yemen, and returned from his journey shortly after the raising of the
siege. He had met the Prophet two years before at Hudaibiya,
and had conceived a profound veneration for him, and now came to Medina to embrace the new faith.
ardor of his
zeal he offered to go to Ta'if to convert his fellow-countrymen, and in spite of the efforts of Muhammad to dissuade him from
so dangerous an undertaking, he returned to his native city, publicly declared that he had
renounced idolatry, and called upon the people to follow his example. While he was preaching, he was mortally
wounded by an arrow, and died giving thanks to God for having granted him the glory of martyrdom.
more successful missionary effort
was made by another follower of the Prophet in Yemen—probably a year later—of which
we have the following graphic account: "The apostle of God wrote to al-Harith and Masruh,
and Nu'aym b. 'Abd al-Kulal of Himyar: 'Peace be upon you so long as
ye believe on God and His apostle. God is one God, there is no partner
with Him. He sent Moses with his signs, and created Jesus with his words.
The Jews say, "Ezra is the Son of God," and
the Christians say, "God is one of three, and Jesus is the Son of God." He sent the letter
by 'Ayyash b. Abi Rabi'ah al-MaKhzumi,
'When you reach their city, go not in by night, but wait
until the morning; then carefully perform your ablutions, and pray with two prostrations, and ask God to bless you
with success and a friendly reception, and to keep you safe from harm.
Then take my letter in your right hand, and
deliver it with your right hand into their right hands, and they will receive it.
And recite to them, "The unbelievers among
the people of the Book and the polytheists did not waver," etc. (Surah 98), to the end of the Surah;
When you have finished, say, "Muhammad has believed, and I am the first to believe."
And you will be able to meet every objection they bring against you, and every glittering book that they recite to you
will lose its light. And when they speak in a foreign tongue, say, "Translate it," and say to them,
"God is sufficient for me; I believe in the Book sent down by Him, and I am commanded to do justice among you;
God is our Lord and your Lord; to us belong our works, and to you belong your works; there is no strife between us and
you; God will unite us, and unto Him we must return."
If they now accept Islam, then ask them for their three rods, before which they
gather together to pray, one rod of tamarisk that is spotted white and yellow, and one
knotted like a cane, and one black like ebony. Bring the rods out and burn them in the market-place.' So I
set out," tells Ayyash, "to do as the Apostle of God had bid me.
When I arrived, I found that all
the people had decked themselves out for a festival: I walked on to see them, and came at
last to three enormous curtains hung in front of three doorways.
I lifted the curtain and entered the middle door, and found
people collected in the courtyard of the building. I introduced myself to them as the messenger of
the Apostle of God, and did as he had bidden me; and they gave heed to my words, and it fell out as he had said."
a.h. 9 a deputation of thirteen men from the Banu
Kilab, a branch of the Banu 'Amir b.
Sa'sa'ah, came to
the Prophet and informed him that one of his followers,
Dhahhak b. Sufyan, had come to them, reciting the Quran
and teaching the doctrines of Islam, and that his preaching
had won over their tribe to the new faith.
Another branch of the same tribe, the Banu
Ru'as b. Kilab, was converted by one of its members, named Amr b. Malik,
who had been to Medina and accepted Islam, and then
returned to his fellow tribes and persuaded them to follow
the same year a less successful attempt was made by a new convert, Wathilah
b. al-Asqa', to induce his clan to accept the faith that he himself had embraced
after an interview with the Prophet. His father scornfully cast
him off, saying, "By God! I will never speak a word to
you again," and none were found willing to believe the
doctrines he preached with the exception of his sister, who
provided him with the means of returning to the Prophet at
This ninth year of the Hijrah has been called the year of the deputations,
because of the enormous number of Arab tribes and cities that now sent delegates
to the Prophet, to give in their submission.
into Arab society of a new principle of social union in the
brotherhood of Islam had already begun to weaken the binding
force of the old tribal ideal, which erected the fabric of society on the basis
The conversion of an individual and his reception into the
new society was a breach of one of the most fundamental laws of Arab life,
and its frequent occurrence had acted as a powerful solvent
on tribal organization and had left it weak in the face of a national life so
enthusiastic and firmly-knit as that of the Muslims had become.
The Arab tribes
were thus impelled to give in their submission to the Prophet, not
merely as the head of the strongest military force in Arabia,
but as the exponent of a theory of social life that was making
all others weak and ineffective.
Muhammad had succeeded in introducing into the anarchical society of his time a
sentiment of national unity, a consciousness of rights and
duties towards one another such as the Arabs had not felt before.
In this way, Islam was uniting together clans that hitherto had been continually
at feud with one another, and as this great confederacy grew, it more and more
attracted to itself the weaker among the tribes of Arabia.
accounts of the conversion of the Arab tribes, there is
continual mention of the promise of security against their
enemies, made to them by the Prophet on the occasion
of their submission, "Woe is me for Muhammad!" was the cry of one of the Arab tribes on
the news of the death of the Prophet. "So long as he was alive, I lived in peace
and in safety from my enemies;" and the cry must have found an echo far and wide
superficial was the adherence of numbers of the Arab tribes to the faith of Islam
may be judged from the widespread apostasy that followed immediately on the
death of the Prophet.
Their acceptance of Islam would
seem to have been often dictated more by considerations
of political expediency, and was more frequently a bargain struck under pressure of violence than the outcome
of any enthusiasm or spiritual awakening.
They allowed themselves to be swept into the stream of
what had now become a great national movement, and we miss the fervent zeal of the early converts in the cool, calculating attitude of
those who came in after the fall of Mecca.
But even from among these must have come many to swell the ranks of
the true believers animated with a genuine zeal for the faith, and ready, as we have seen, to give
their lives in the effort to preach it to their brethren.
"These men were the true moral heirs of the Prophet, the future apostles of
Islam, the faithful trustees of all that Muhammad had revealed unto the men of
men, through their constant contact with the Prophet and
their devotion to him, there had really entered a new mode of thought and feeling,
loftier and more civilized than any they had known before;
They had really changed for the
better from every point of view, and later on as statesmen
and generals, in the most difficult moments of the war of
conquest they gave magnificent and undeniable proof
that the ideas and
the doctrines of Muhammad had been seed cast on fruitful soil, and had produced a body of men of
the very highest worth.
They were the depositaries of the sacred text of the Quran, which they alone knew by heart;
they were the jealous guardians of the memory of every word and
bidding of the Prophet,
the trustees of the moral heritage of Muhammad.
These men formed the venerable stock of Islam
from whom one day was to spring the noble band of the first jurists, theologians and traditionists of
for such men as these, so vast a movement could not have held together, much
less have recovered the shock given it by the death of the founder. For it must
not be forgotten how distinctly Islam was a new movement in heathen
Arabia, and how diametrically opposed were the ideals of the two societies.
For the introduction of Islam into Arab society did not imply merely the sweeping away
of a few barbarous and inhuman practices, but a complete
reversal of the pre-existing ideals of life.
Herein we have the most conclusive proof of the essentially
of the teaching of Muhammad, who thus comes forward as the exponent of a new
scheme of faith and practice.
Whatever may have been the conditions
favorable to the formation of a new political organization,
Muhammad certainly did not find the society of his day
prepared to receive his religious teaching and waiting only for the voice that would
express in speech the inarticulate yearnings of their hearts.
But it is just
this spirit of expectancy that is wanting among the Arabs—those at
least of the Central Arabia towards whom Muhammad's
efforts were at first directed.
They were by no means
ready to receive the preaching of a new teacher, least of all
one who came with the (to them unintelligible) title of
apostle of God.
Again, the equality in Islam of all believers and the common brotherhood of all
which suffered no distinctions between Arab and non-Arab,
between free and slave, to exist among the faithful,
was an idea that ran
directly counter to the proud clan-feeling of the pre-Islamic Arab,
his claims to personal consideration on the fame of his ancestors,
and in the strength of the same carried
on the endless blood-feuds in which his soul delighted.
Indeed, the fundamental principles in the teaching of
Muhammad were a protest against much that the Arabs had hitherto most
and the newly-converted Muslim was taught to consider as virtues, qualities which
hitherto he had looked down upon with contempt.
the heathen Arab, friendship and hostility were as a loan which he sought to
repay with interest, and he prided himself on returning evil for evil, and looked
down on any who acted otherwise as a weak nidering.
He is the perfect man who late and early
To do a kindness to his friends and work his foes some ill.
To such men the
"Recompense evil with
that which is better" (xxiii. 98);
as they desired the
forgiveness of God, they were to pass over and pardon offences
and a Paradise, vast as the heavens and the earth, was prepared for those who mastered their anger
and forgave others. (iii. 128.)
The very institution of prayer was jeered at by the Arabs to whom Muhammad first delivered his message,
and one of the hardest parts of his task was to induce in them that pious attitude of mind towards the Creator, which Islam
inculcates equally with Judaism and Christianity, but which was practically unknown to the heathen Arabs.
self-sufficiency and this lack of the religious spirit, joined with their intense pride of race, little fitted them to receive
the teachings of one who maintained that
"The most worthy of honor in the sight of God is he that feareth
Him most" (xlix. 13).
No more could they brook the restrictions that Islam sought to lay upon the license of
their lives; wine, women, and song, were among the things most dear to the Arab's heart in the days of the ignorance, and the Prophet
was stern and severe in his injunctions respecting each of them.
Thus, from the very beginning, Islam bears the stamp of a missionary religion that seeks to win the hearts of men,
convert them and persuade them to enter the brotherhood of the faithful;
and as it was in the beginning, so has it continued to be up to the present day,
will be the object of the following pages to show.
The appointment of the fast of Ramaḍān (Qur'ān ii. 179-84), is doubtless another sign of the breaking with the Jews, the fast on the Day of Atonement being thus
"Aber Gottes Botscbaft ist nicht auf die Araber beschränkt. Sein Wille gilt für alle Creatur, es heischt unbedingten Gehorsam von aller Menschheit, und dass Muhammed als
sein Bote denselben Gehorsam zu heischen berechtigt und verpflichtet sei, scheint von Anfang an ein integrirender Bestandtheil seines Gedankensystem gewesen zu sein."
(Sachau, pp. 293-4.) Goldziher (Vorlesungen übcr den Islam, p. 25 sqq.) and Nöldeke (WZKM, vol. xxi. pp. 307-8) express a similar opinion.
On the doubtful authenticity of these letters, see Caetani, vol. i. p. 725 sqq.
Ibn Sa'd, § 10. This story may indeed be apocryphal, but is significant at least of the early realisation of the missionary character of Islam.
A. von Kremer (3), pp. 309, 310.
This would seem to be acknowledged even by Muir, when speaking of the massacre of the Banū Qurayẓah (A.H. 6): "The
ostensible grounds upon which Mahomet proceeded were purely political, for as yet he did not profess to force men to join Islam, or to punish them for not embracing it."
(Muir (2), vol. iii. p. 282.)
Ibn Isḥāq, p. 648 sq.
Muir (2), vol. iv. pp. 107-8. See also Caetani, vol. i. p. 663. "Assai più ,'che tutte le prediche
del Profeta, assai più che tutta la bontà delle dottrine islamiche, siffatti vantaggi militari contribuirono al aumentare il numero dei seguaci. La rapidità della
diffusione dell' Islām divenne in special modo sensibile per il contegno et per lo spirito di tolleranza, di libertà, e di opportunismo, che diresse il Profeta nei suoi
rapporti con i convertiti."
Ibn Isḥāq, p. 943-4. (This story rests on somewhat doubtful authority, cf. Caetani, vol. i. p. 610.)
Ibn Isḥāq, pp. 252-4.
Caetani, vol. ii. t. i. p. 341.
See Sprenger, vol. iii. pp. 360-1.
Caetani, vol. ii. p. 433.
Caetani, vol. ii. p. 429.
This has been nowhere more fully and excellently brought out than in the scholarly work of Prof. Ignaz Goldziher (Muhammedanische
Studien, vol. i.), from which I have derived the following considerations.