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Books Section > Muhammad the Prophet by Maulana Muhammad Ali > Preface


Preface:

The idea of writing an exhaustive life history of the Holy Founder of Islam has ever been present in my mind since I took up the work of translating the Holy Quran into English about fifteen years ago but, owing to various other engagements, I was not able to give it a practical shape. The short sketch that is now being presented is by no means a fulfilment of that idea. It is but a very brief and hurried account of a life which is full of the noblest lessons for humanity, a mere bird's-eye view of the greatest transformation which has been wrought in the history of man. I do not know if I shall live long enough to attempt the more laborious work of presenting that ennobling story in all its details; for the present I offer this humble tribute to the memory of him who devoted his whole life to the service of humanity.

I believe, as every Muslim does, that every nation had its superman, the luminary who gave it light, the reformer who inspired it with noble ideas, the Prophet who raised it morally. But Muhammad, may peace and the blessings of God be upon him, is par excellence THE PROPHET, because he is the Prophet not of one nation but of all the nations of the world, because it was he who declared belief in all the prophets of the world as an essential of the faith he preached and thus laid down the basis of a lasting peace among different nations, because "he is the greatest of all reformers," having brought about a transformation unparalleled either before or after him and, lastly, because "he is the most successful of all the prophets and religious personalities" [Bosworth Smith]. Every man ought to be judged by what he does, and the Holy Prophet Muhammad accomplished within twenty years what centuries of the labours of Jewish and Christian reformers could not accomplish, notwithstanding the temporal power at their back. He swept away centuries-old idolatry, superstition, credulity, ignorance, prostitution, gambling, drinking, oppression of the weak, internecine war and a hundred other evils from a whole country. History cannot show any other reformer who wrought so wonderful and complete a transformation on so large a scale within so short a time. "Never was reform more hopeless than at the advent of the Prophet," as Muir has remarked, "and never was it more complete than when he departed." In the words of Carlyle, "it was a birth from darkness into light." A life so great cannot be devoid of potentialities as great for the future; it cannot but inspire into any heart the noblest ideas of the service of humanity. If there is any one trait of his character which is more marked than another, it is his care of the orphan and the widow, his support of the weak and the helpless, his love of labour and work for the distressed. It is the life of a man who lived for God and who died for God. "If ever man on this earth found God, if ever man devoted his life to God's service with a good and great motive, it is certain that the Prophet of Arabia was that man." (Leonard).

The original work was written by me in Urdu, and the English rendering now being presented to the public is the result of the labour of love of Maulvi Muhammad Yaqub Khan, Imam of the Mosque at Woking who did this work in addition to his duties as a Muslim preacher at Woking. My sincerest thanks are due to him, as well as to Khwajah Kamal al-Din, head of the Woking Muslim Mission, who afforded every facility to M. Muhammad Yaqub Khan for completing his task. And I place the manuscript in the hands of Maulana Sadr-ud-Din, who is now propagating Islam in Germany, as I did in the case of the English Translation of the Holy Quran for supervising the work through the press and for its revision and the correction of proofs.

Muhammad ‘Ali

Ahmadiyyah Buildings
Lahore

25 August 1923


PREFACE TO THE REVISED EDITION:

Every man ought to be judged by what he does, and Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) accomplished within twenty years what centuries of the labours of other reformers could not accomplish, notwithstanding the temporal power at their back. He swept away centuries-old idolatry, superstition, credulity, ignorance, prostitution, gambling, drinking, oppression of the weak, internecine war and a hundred other evils from a whole country. History cannot show any other reformer who wrought so wonderful and complete a transformation on so large a scale within so short a time. Never was reform more hopeless than at the advent of Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and never was it more complete than when he departed.

"If greatness of purpose, smallness of means, and astounding results are the three criteria of human genius," writes the distinguished French writer, Alphonse de Lamartine, in his Histoire de la Turquo (1854), "who could dare to compare any great man in modern history with Muhammad?" The most famous men created arms, laws and empires only. They founded, if anything at all, no more than material powers which often crumbled away before their eyes. This man moved not only armies, legislations, empires, peoples and dynasties, but millions of men in one third of the then inhabited world, and more than that, he moved altars, gods, religions, ideas, beliefs and souls. On the basis of a Book, every letter of which has become law, he created a spiritual nationality which blended together peoples of every tongue and of every race. He has left us, as the indelible characteristic of this Muslim nationality, the hatred of false gods and the passion for the One and Immaterial God. This avenging patriotism against the profanation of Heaven formed the virtue of the followers of Muhammad; the conquest of one-third of the earth to his dogma was his miracle; or rather, it was not the miracle of a man but that of reason. The idea of the unity of God, proclaimed amidst the exhaustion of fabulous theogonies, was in itself such a miracle that upon its utterance from his lips it destroyed all the ancient temples of idols and set on fire one-third of the world. His life, his meditations, his heroic revilings against the superstitions of his country, and his boldness in defying the furies of idolatry, his firmness in enduring them for fifteen years at Mecca, his, acceptance of the role of public scorn and almost of being a victim of his fellow country-men: all these and, finally, his light, his incessant preaching, his wars against odds, his faith in his success and his superhuman serenity in misfortune, his forbearance in victory, his ambition, which was entirely devoted to one idea and in no manner striving for an empire; his endless prayers, his mystic conversations with God, his death and his triumph after death; all these attest not to an imposture but to a firm conviction which gave him the power to restore a dogma. This dogma was twofold, the unity of God and the immateriality of God; the former telling what God is, the latter telling what God is not; the one overthrowing false gods with the sword, the other starting an idea with the words.

"Philosopher, orator, apostle, legislator; warrior, conqueror of ideas, restorer of rational dogmas, of a cult without images; the founder of twenty terrestrial 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?"

A life so great cannot be devoid of potentialities as great for the future. It is the life of a man who lived for God and died for God. It cannot but inspire into any heart the noblest ideas of the service of humanity.

In the present revised edition, besides some minor alteration, some chapters have been combined under one heading.

Mumtaz Ahmad Faruqui

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Books Section > Muhammad the Prophet by Maulana Muhammad Ali > Preface

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