THE ORIENTALISTS, THE SEERAH AND THE QUR’AN Condensed & Compiled by
Jassim Ibn Da’yan
Who is Muhammad (Pbuh)1 and who is the author of the Qur’an?
This subject has been hotly disputed by scholars from the west – the so called orientalists, who flagrantly contradicted each other, competed with each other or complemented each other to present their views. All of them had one thing in common, and that is to put forward their biased opinions, based on a narrow foundation. Namely, their belief in Christianity or Judaism only.
Before we deal with the later day orientalists, let us see whether the Qur’an had foreseen these types of insinuations and confussions. Allah says in the Qur’an, “And mix not truth with falsehood, nor conceal the Truth while you know.” Ch. 2: V 42 2 To understand the proper meaning of this verse, we need to recall that during the time of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), the Jews of Arabia were more learned than the Arabs and some of them were known even outside the Arabian peninsular. For this reason the Arabs tended to be intellectually overawed by them. In addition, the influence of the Jews had become pervasive and profound by virtue of the pomp and pageantry of their religious rites, and the magical crafts and feats of exorcism for which they were famous. The people of Madina, in particular, were greatly under the spell of the Jews. These Jews made on them the sort of impression generally created on ignorant neighbours by a better educated, more refined and more conspicuously religious group.
It was natural in such circumstances that, when the Prophet began to preach his message, the ignorant Arabs should approach the Jews and ask their opinion of the Prophet and his teachings, particularly as the Jews also believed in Prophets and scriptures.This inquiry was often made by the Makkans, and continued to be addressed to the Jews after the Prophet arrived in Madina.
In reply to this query however, the Jewish religious scholars never told the candid truth. It was impossible for them to say that the doctrine of monotheism preached by Muhammad was incorrect, that there was any error in his teachings regarding the Prophets, the divine Scriptures, the angels and the Next Life and that there was any error in the principle of moral conduct which the Prophet propounded. At the same time, however, they were not prepared to make a straightforward affirmation of the truth of his teachings. In short, they neither categorically denied the Truth nor were prepared to accept in with open heart.
Instead, they tried to plant insidious doubts in the minds of everybody who enquired about the Prophet and his mission. They sought to create one misgiving after another, disseminated new slanders, and tried to engage people’s minds in all kinds of hypothetical problems so as to keep them in a state of doubt and uncertainty. They also tried to raise controversial issues which might keep people, including the followers of the Prophet, entangled in sterile debate. It is this attitude of the Jews to which the Qur’an alludes when it askes them not to overlay the truth with falsehood, not to suppress and conceal it by resorting to false propaganda and mischievous campaign of slander, and not to attempt to deceive the world by mixing truth with flasehood.
During the early stages of the so-called orientalists, it was open hostility towards Islam, its Qur’an and its Prophet. Later on, it took a subtle way of insinuating the same things but in refined words, expressing sympathy for the Prophet of Makkah, depicting him as a victim of his own dreams and fantasies and that the Qur’an was his own sub-conscious production. These orientalists tried to maneuver their way through the Seerah - biography of the Prophet (pbuh) and the verses of the Qur’an and presented their own twisted verdict. They tried to sow seeds of doubt on the sincerity of Muhammad (pbuh) as the Prophet of Allah and the authenticity of the Qur’an as the Book of Revelation. Public libraries and bookstores of the secular world abound with literature depicting the Qur’an as a human work produced by an ‘imposter’ of Prophethood. The contribution of these orientalists of the West in promoting this theory has been so great that they ignored all norms of objectivity and fairness. They have put in immense effort and hard work to reach their objective of misguiding innocent simple-minded people under the guise of scientific research.
When one goes through this literature, it can be seen that the aversion to Islam and what it stands for has been the driving force for the writings of these Oreintalists. They have all along been encouraged and cheered on by their clergy, who had lost their important position in the society and the source of income, in the bright light of Islam. These Orientalists are immune – deaf, dumb and blind – to the Glory of Islam, that has spread its light in the hearts of millions of sincere men and women who have turned to Allah – the only One worthy of worship, to the Qur’an - His revealed book and to Muhammad (pbuh) - His final Messenger, seeking a purpose in this life and a place in Paradise.
The insinuations of these orientalists are wide and varied and most of them are trivial and and self contradictory. The knowledge of the human race has advanced tremendously in the 20 century in every field of science and the teachings of the Qur’an still remain valid because it is a book revealed by Allah for all mankind for all time, while the earlier scriptures, ‘textsinspired by God but written down by human beings’, have failed the test of time. This failure is not a recent one, but started from the very moment people started tampering with it for selfish reasons. This paper attempts to answer some of the questions persistantly raised by these orientalists, and Insha Allah should satisfy the doubts still lingering in the minds of some innocent people. We also hope that this paper will satisfy the quest of men and women, who genuinely seek the truth and guide them to Islam, which is the religion preached by every Prophet of God.
A. THEORY OF PHYSICAL AND MENTAL SHORT COMINGS
William Muir, one of the widely respected orientalists has made the wildest insinuation that the Prophet (pbuh) was, since his boyhood, a life-long patient of epilepsy of “falling disease” with reference to the incident of Shaqq al Sadr – (the miraculous cleaving of Muhammad’s breast during his childhood by an angel). This insinuation originated with the Greeks and was then taken up by subsequent writers.
Some of the orientalists even misread the expression ‘fa-‘alhiqihi’ occurring in the report as bi-alhaqqiiyah and then strangely translated it as “ the hypochondriacal disease”.
Referring to the incident of Shaqq al Sadr, Muir says that it was “probably a fit of epilepsy”. To support this theory of epilepsy, Muir cites a footnote to his text referring to the work of Seerah by Ibn Hisham (Ibn Ishaq). But disregarding the fact, that in Wustenfeld’s edition of that work, as also in all other editions the material expression in the report is ‘usiba’, Muir reproduces it as ‘umiba’ which is apparently a strange and meaningless expression. He then gives its meaning as “had a fit”. If he had in fact followed a faulty manuscript or printed copy of the work, it would have been proper to refer to that. However, Muir did not do so.
When Syed Ahmed Khan pointed out in the year1870 these gross mistakes on Muir’s part, the latter simply omitted the footnote in question from the subsequent edition of his book without altering or modifying his assertion, for which the footnote had originally been given as evidence. Thus, even though the mistake and misuse of the source were pointed out, the allegation was persistently advanced.
It may be noted that in none of the reports concerning the incident of Shaqq al-sadr, is it mentioned that the boy Muhammad (pbuh) was seen unconscious or in a fit of epilepsy.
Again, none of the reports relates the incident with the physical stresses and strains that sometimes attended the coming of revelation to the Prophet much later in his life. Yet Muir mixed up the above two states and concluded that it is the result of epilepsy.
Muir is aware that the reports on Shaq al Sadr is inadequate to assume epilepsy, so he proceeds to twist the meaning of the state of the Prophet (pbuh) at certain times of revelation. Thus he sowed confusion, and later other orientalists picked up from where he left off, to write about epilepsy.
For Muslims all over the world, the so-called “excited state and ecstatic swoons” – terms used by the orientalists, are not evidence of revelation.
In the New Encyclopedia Britannica epilepsy has been defined as: ‘sudden and recurrent disturbances in mental function, state of consciousness, sensory activity, or movements of the body caused by paroxysmal malfunction of cerebral nerve cells.’ Under ‘type of seizures’ it mentions four categories: Grand Mal, Petit Mal, Psychomotor and Infantile Spasms.’
Historical, rational or medical grounds cannot substantiate the theory of Epilepsy or any such ailment, because the Prophet (pbuh) was of exceptional mental and physical health till his death. The Prophet (pbuh) did not show any sign of degeneration of body or mind, which is medically accepted as the unavoidable effects of epilepsy or hysteria. Muir himself notes that the Prophet (pbuh) was of excellent health.
When the good health of the Prophet (pbuh) and the general effects of a person suffering from epilepsy could not be reconciled, the followers of Muir go on to suggest that the Prophet (pbuh) artificially induced the symptoms in order to produce the revelations.
There could yet be other forms of epilepsy not known to medical science. Even then it would still be a case of a disease and would thus have affected his mental faculties, making him incapable of thought control. But every time Muhammad (pbuh) received a revelation he would be in complete control of himself and was completely able to recall everything later and have it recorded accordingly. He was given this assurance by Allah when the following verses were recorded in the Qur’an:
“Move not your tongue concerning [the Qur’an O Muhammad (pbuh)] to make haste therewith. It is for Us to collect it and to give you (O Muhammad) the ability to recite. And when We have recited it to you (O Muhammad through Jibrael), then follow you its (the Qur’an) recital. Then it is for Us (Allah) to make it clear to you.”Ch.75: V16-19.
The Qur’an which was recited by Muhammad (pbuh) is available today. When examined, it does not look like the weird screams and other mumblings of an epileptic. In fact the Qur’an is so easy to remember that if one gathers any small number of sincere Muslims it is possible to repeat the Qur’an from their collective memories. This, irrespective of whether these people understand Arabic or not. The Qur’an confirms this fact as follows:
“And we have indeed made the Qur’an easy to understand and remember, then is there any that will remember (or receive admonition)?” Ch.54: V17.
1 Peace and Blessings be Upond Him. Everytime the name of the Prophet Muhammad is mentioned, the Muslims utter this prayer. This is in accordance with the Qur’anic instruction and the advise of the Prophet Muhammad himself.