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Books Section > Islam - My Only Choice > Chapter 1: The Historicity of Faiths and their Founders



Chapter 1: The Historicity of Faiths and their Founders:

All religions are a matter of history. Even with Islam, the latest of all, more than thirteen hundred years have passed since its birth, and if a man must look to some Holy Scripture for the light he has to receive from a religion, no religion should claim our allegiance unless its record is absolutely unimpeachable on the score of authenticity. In this respect Islam seems to me to possess merits of its own - merits which attach to no other religion. For example, the scriptures of all other religions have now been found, as is even admitted by their respective adherents, to be wanting in genuineness. Even Rabbis and high dignitaries of the church are today ceasing to believe in the authenticity of the Holy Bible. The followers of Zoroastrianism can only point to five or six verses that have come to them in their original purity, out of all the revealed mass ascribed to that great prophet of Persia. Vedicism, popularly known as Hinduism, presents another insurmountable difficulty. The Holy Vedas were written in a language now obsolete and what we should call “dead”; no one in India speaks it or understands it. The Vedic verses are susceptible of contradictory interpretations; they have given rise to innumerable sects, who differ from each other even in the fundamentals of their religion while they all receive their inspiration from the same Book. There are atheists, theists, agnostics and deists, image-worshippers and image-breakers, among Hindus, but they all take the same Book as the authority to substantiate their respective views. The translation of the Vedas given by one class of Hindus is condemned by the others.

On the other hand, al-Quran, the Holy Book of Islam, is admitted by friend and foe to be the very words revealed to the Holy Prophet Muhammad. The Book has maintained its purity till now. Fortunately we live in times when reliable criticism has established the above facts, and its verdict has not been questioned. Now whatever may be the worth of the teachings of a religion, I think I could not consider or accept its claims when the very source of our information with respect to it is of a dubious character. From this point of view I think I am justified in saying that there is no comparison between Islam and other religions.

Founders of Religions:

I was constrained to come to the same conclusion as to the founders of the various religious systems. The Vedic religion is the oldest of all; but we know nothing about the authors or recipients of Vedic revelations excepting their names, and these are but incidentally mentioned at the beginning of the different Vedic Mantras (hymns). Similarly, the strictly historical aspect of the Lord of Christianity is not free from doubt and suspicion. Even if Jesus may be admitted to be an historic character, we know very little of him. Mary, we read, gave birth to the illustrious Nazarene; but soon after the event she and her husband fled from Judaea with the child; and after some twelve years Jesus is seen in synagogues finding fault with the Rabbis and joining issue with the teachers of Judaism. Then the curtain drops again. Another gap of some eighteen years and the master comes back out of an Essenic monastery and is seen on the banks of the River Jordan. But his ministry was too short for him to become our perfect specimen and guide in the manifold and divine walks of human life. A few sermons, a few miracles, a few prayers accompanied by a few curses are not enough to give humanity a religion. His movements are of meteoric character which presents few incidents of note and consequence, excepting his crucifixion. Moses was no doubt a great law-giver, an historic character, liberator of his nation from their bondage in Egypt, worker of wonders and performer of miracles, but not an example for practical purposes in real life. In a word, the life of all these founders is enshrouded in much mystery.

My surprise knew no bounds when I began to read of the Prophet Muhammad. Like a panorama the events of his life passed before my eyes one after the other. From the cradle to the grave everything of note in his life is narrated and preserved in a well-authenticated record. I was amazed to find in him an assemblage of the best of characteristics so rare in others. I am at a loss to understand how he could unite in himself all the best qualities of discrepant characters. He is meek and at the same time courageous; modest as a maiden but the bravest of the soldiers on a battlefield. While with children, loved for his playfulness and endearing talk to the little ones; when in the company of sages and old men, respected for his wisdom and farsightedness. Truthful, honest, trustworthy; a reliable friend, a loving father and husband, a dutiful son, and a helpful brother, Muhammad is the same man whether in adversity or prosperity; affluence or indigence cannot change him; unruffled in his temperament whether in peace or in war. Kind and hospitable, liberal in giving but abstemious for himself. In short, judge the Holy Prophet Muhammad from whatever angle of human character you will, and he is nowhere found wanting.

With a critical eye, I studied all that has been said about him by his opponents. They could not lay a finger on a single flaw in his private character. It is perfect. And whatever has been said against his public character in one or two things, involves really a matter of principle. They say he had more than one wife; that he waged war; that he did this, that and the other; but before we judge him in these matters we have to decide as to the validity of the principles under which he worked. If polygamy is a matter of necessity in certain circumstances and an economic measure sometimes, then why find fault with Muhammad, when all the great men and benefactors of humanity, especially in the world of religion, have all of them had more than one wife? As to the use of the sword, the whole world until now has taken the greatest pride in unsheathing the weapon. War has hitherto been an indispensable institution. A prophet was needed to teach the world the true ethics of war, and who can deny the nobility of Muhammad in this respect? He unsheathed the sword only to crush evil and defend truth. With great care I read the accounts of every war waged by him and they were all in self-defence.

The Holy Prophet Muhammad:

There is something unique in this great man; he is the only teacher among the noble race of prophets who brought his mission to success. Jesus was crushed by evil, and words of despair and despondency were on his lips on the Cross. Muhammad really crushed the serpent, but just in the moments of his victory, when the real “generation of vipers” was at his feet, his character revealed another noble aspect - that of forgiveness. No student of history can read the conquest of Makka by the Holy Prophet Muhammad without bowing down to that great hero. He not only forgives his cruel oppressors, but raises them to places of dignity and honour. Who knows what Jesus would have done if he had achieved any victory over his enemies? After all, he said that he had not come to send peace on the earth, but a sword (Matthew 10:34). Moses, Rama-Chandra and Krishna, the other great teachers in the world of religion, disclosed not a gleam of mercy in their dealings with their enemies.



Chapter 2: The Kaleidoscopic View of Religion

Books Section > Islam - My Only Choice > Chapter 1: The Historicity of Faiths and their Founders


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