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Contents November 2004, Vol.99, No.


Editorial By Basit Ahmad UK ....................................................................................... 2

The Human Soul The soul is created by God from the union of two [seminal fluids]. It is
not eternal and uncreated as the Vedas claim. Nor is it created somewhere else and then injected
into the body at or just before the birth of a human being.
By Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as).. ................................................................................. 4
Universality of Islam An in-depth refutation of claims made by Western Orientalists,
that Islam was originally intended only for the local Arab tribes. Exposing the weakness of
arguments raised against the univerality of Islam and clearly establishing that the message of
Islam from the outset was for the whole world.
By Nuruddin Muneer ............................................................................................................. 15
Interview With Montgomery Watt An interview from 1999 of the one whom the Muslim
press has described as ‘the Last Orientalist.’ The Reverend Professor Montgomery Watt was 90
at the time. His interest in Islam was aroused by an argumentative Muslim back in 1937. His
study of Islam appears to have influenced his own interpretation of Christianity. Professor
Montgomery Watt is alive in Scotland and is a member of the ecumenical Iona Community.
By Bashir Maan & Alastair McIntosh .................................................................................... 42

Economic Values The author reflects on verses of the Qur’an and the hadith relating to
economic values. Economic values go hand in hand with social values. Recognising that all
prosperity proceeds from God should lead individuals and society as a whole to realise that,
even from the purely selfish point of view, the greatest benefit is to be derived from beneficent
spending and distribution of wealth and not from avariciously holding it back.
By the Late Sir Muhammad Zafrulla Khan ............................................................................ 53

Letter to the Editor Sumera Ahmed, Germany ............................................................. 63

Basit Ahmad. Chief Editor and Manager: Mansoor Ahmed Shah

Bockarie Tommy Kallon
Management Board: Special contributors: Design and layout:
Fareed Ahmad Amatul-Hadi Ahmad
Mr Munir-ud-din Shams (Chairman) Tanveer Khokhar
Fazal Ahmad Mr Mansoor Shah (Secretary) Farina Qureshi
Fauzia Bajwa Mr Naseer Ahmad Qamar Proof-readers: Al Shirkatul Islamiyyah
Mansoor Saqi Mr Mubarak Ahmad Zafar Shaukia Mir
Abdul Ghany Jahangeer Distribution:
Mahmood Hanif Mr Mirza Fakhar Ahmad
Khan Muhammad Hanif
Mr. Abdul Baqi Arshad
Mansoora Hyder-Muneeb
Navida Shahid All correspondence should The Review of Religions © Islamic Publications, 2004
Sarah Waseem be forwarded directly to the The London Mosque ISSN No: 0034-6721
editor at: 16 Gressenhall Road
Saleem Ahmad Malik London, SW18 5QL
Tanveer Khokhar United Kingdom

Views expressed in this publication are not necessarily the beliefs of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community 1
commanded to convey his message
Editorial to the whole of mankind in the
early Makkan revelations.
Muslims believe this contrasts
‘I shall cause thy message to with all other faiths whose
reach the corners of the messages were for localised
world.’ benefit and addressed to specific
nations. Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam
This was one of the earliest Ahmad(as) claimed that he was the
revelations received by Mirza Promised Messiah and Reformer
Ghulam Ahmad (as), a person of the Age awaited by all great
hardly known outside Qadian, a world revealed religions: his
village in the Punjab. At the time message was therefore addressed
of this revelation he did not even to followers of all faiths. With the
have a message to convey and spread of channels of commu-
wondered what the import of such nication, today’s world is much
a revelation might be. What is enlarged as compared with
clear from these words, however, previous ages. The message of
is that the message he was later to Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad(as),
deliver was intended for the and hence that of Muhammad(sa),
whole world and was not to be has already reached the shores of
confined just to the Punjab or just America, Australia, New Zealand,
the country of India. etc. Hence, in view of the
revelation, ‘I shall cause thy
Since he claimed to be only a message to reach the corners of the
devoted servant of Hadhrat world,’ it would be futile today to
Muhammad(sa) the founder of claim that Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam
Islam, propagating only the faith of Ahmad(as) originally envisaged his
Muhammad(sa), it was clear from remit to only cover the Indian sub-
the above revelation that Islam had continent. To suggest that it was
universal relevance and appeal. only later incidental successes that
Muslims have claimed this since led his followers to claim universal
the earliest days of Islam, for the application of his teachings, would
Holy Prophet (sa) of Islam was carry no weight. This in effect is

2 The Review of Religions – Nov 2004


what orientalists have consistently As did the followers of

claimed about the mission of the Muhammad(sa), so too have the
Holy Prophet of Islam (sa), so much followers of Mirza Ghulam
so that they question the historicity Ahmad(as) recorded in their
of the letters he sent out to the histories the fact that he sent a
rulers of surrounding nations. letter to the ruling monarch of a
great empire, inviting her to join
If similar arguments were used Islam. They too have recorded its
against Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam exact contents. This was no
Ahmad(as), objectors would be ordinary letter, it was to a monarch
saying that it is highly unlikely he and therefore carried great sig-
ever wrote a letter to the Queen of nificance for the followers of
England, head of a great empire. Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad(as).
As one who had raised serious It stands to reason that they would
questions against the faith of the record not only the fact that it was
monarch, it was likely that he sent but also the actual wording of
would suffer the wrath of her that letter.
empire for daring to invite her to
join Islam. For him to have done Perhaps Ahmadis, should be aware
so would be against common of how future generations of
sense. Mirza Ghulam Ahmad(as) objectors may try and twist history
had a great amount of common or pick holes in it. In fact,
sense. Such is the line of argument concerned at not receiving a
used by various orientalists against response, Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam
the view that Muhammad(sa) ever Ahmad(as) followed this by another
sent out letters to the neighbouring invitation to Her Majesty Queen
rulers, inviting them to join Islam. Victoria on her Jubilee. A copy can
In this issue, Nuruddin Muneer’s surely be found by any doubting
article refutes the hostile Thomases in the archives of the
criticism of orientalists who British Museum.
claim that Islam was not Basit Ahmad – UK
originally envisaged as a
universal religion.

The Review of Religions – Nov 2004 3

The Human Soul According to
Qur’anic Teachings –
from the writings of the Promised Messiah(as)
(Translated from Chashma-i-Ma’rifat of Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam
Ahmad Sahib, pp.158_168 Ruhani Khazain, Vol.23)

Unlike the Vedas, the Qur’an says

that the souls are not uncreated but
that they come into existence along
with the body. This is the truth
about the birth of souls which is
borne out by established facts and
which we cannot but accept. When
we say that the soul comes into
existence out of nothing, we do not
mean to say that before it was
created it was nothing. What we
mean to say is that before the soul
came into being, there was no pre-
The founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim
existing matter out of which man
community was Hadhrat Mirza could extract the soul with his own
Ghulam Ahmad (as). efforts. It is only the power and
In 1891, he claimed, on the basis of wisdom of God which brings the
Divine revelation, that he was the soul into existence out of some
Promised Messiah and Mahdi whose
advent had been foretold by Muhammad, matter. It was for this reason that
the Holy Prophet of Islam (peace and when the Holy Prophet (sa) was
blessings of Allah be upon him) and by asked What is the soul, he was
the scriptures of other faiths. commanded by God to respond:
His claim constitutes the basis of the
beliefs of the Ahmadiyya Muslim

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The Human Soul According to Qur’anic Teachings

individually possess, in the same

way a special quality is created in
the mould that is compounded by
the blood and sperm drops and it
takes on the colour of a type of
phosphorus. When the breeze of
the Divine manifestation blows
upon it under the command: ‘Be!’
it suddenly flares up and spreads its
effect into all parts of the mould.
Thereby the embryo comes alive. It
And the unbelievers ask thee as is then that a life is breathed into
to the reality of the soul and the the body and that bright essence
manner of its creation; say the when kindled by the command of
soul is created by the command God is called the soul. This
of my Lord. (i.e. it is a mystery command is described as the Word
of divine power) and you have of God because the faculty of the
no knowledge concerning the pregnant mother, which creates all
soul save a little, (i.e; your the limbs of the embryo by the
knowledge of the soul is command of God and weaves its
confined only to the birth of the framework like the web of the
soul: as we observe that insects, spider, has no concern with the soul
etc., come into being under our which is created by a special
observation from some matter). Divine manifestation. Though the
(Ch.17:V.86) phosphorous out of which the soul
takes birth is produced by the
The law of God pertaining to the framework or mould, the spiritual
creation of the human soul is that spark which is called the soul
the human mould is gradually cannot be born without the touch of
developed, from the union of two the heavenly breeze. This is the
seminal fluids. Then, as by the true knowledge of the soul, which
mixture of certain medicines, a is revealed to us by the Holy
certain quality is generated in their Qur’an; and the Vedas, like all
mixture which the elements did not other books, are devoid of it. It is

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The Human Soul According to Qur’anic Teachings

beyond the reach of the reason of viz., the souls characterised by

the philosophers. It is thus that the perfect love of God and perfect
soul is said to come into existence submission to the Divine Being.
out of non-existence, but by this we All other souls are represented as
do not mean to say that it is brought dead. In short, the death of the soul
into existence out of absolute consists in its being separated from
nothingness, for the whole universe its attributes. For instance, when a
depends on the system of cause and man is subjected to a kind of death
effect. during his sleep, his soul also
undergoes a simultaneous death,
The objection may be raised that if i.e. it loses the attributes it
the soul is created, it should also possessed in the state of
follow that it is mortal and subject wakefulness. In sleep, it no longer
to death. The answer to this possesses the attributes which it
objection is, that it is indeed subject possessed when the man was
to death. Anything that loses its awake and its relinquishing its
attributes is said to die. If any drug attributes during sleep may be fitly
has lost its properties, it is said to be represented as its death, for death
dead. Similarly, with regard to the only means the loss of attributes.
soul it is an established fact that The word death is often mis-
under certain circumstances the understood.
soul is bereft of its quality and loses
its attributes. In fact, it undergoes Death does not only mean non-
even greater changes that the body existence; being bereft of essential
itself. It is when these changes qualities is also a sort of death.
separate the soul from its attributes When a body dies, it does not
that it is said to die, for when a become quite extinct, for its dust
thing leaves its essential attributes, still exists. Similar is the death of
it is said to die. It is for this reason the soul, for it too is deprived of its
that the Holy Qur’an describes only attributes and properties. As the
those souls as being alive after their body ceases to do its work during
departure from this life as retain sleep, similarly the soul of a
their essential qualities and have sleeping person is deprived of the
attained the object of their creation, powers which it possessed when

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The Human Soul According to Qur’anic Teachings

the person was awake. For respecting the soul should ponder
instance, the soul of a living person much over the state of sleep. Every
meets a dead person in a dream and secret of death may be resolved
does not know that the person had through one’s experience during
died. It totally forgets this world as sleep. If you will properly ponder
soon as a person sinks into sleep. over the state of sleep and dreams
Then it casts off the garb of this and will consider attentively the
world and dons quite a new garb. It way in which the soul undergoes a
remembers nothing of this world, death during sleep, when it is bereft
except that much as God may keep of its knowledge and qualities, you
alive. It suspends all its activities will be convinced that the state of
and truly arrives before God All its death is similar to the state of sleep.
movements, words and passions So it is wrong to say that after its
pass under the control of the Divine departure from the body the soul
Being, and it is so completely under continues in the same condition in
the power of God that everything which it was in this life. Under the
which it does, or speaks, or hears, command of God, the soul is
and every movement it makes, subjected to a death similar to that
cannot be said to be proceeding to which it is subjected during
from its own will or choice. On the sleep, but that death is much
other hand, it is totally deprived of stronger than the death of the soul
all will and displays every sign of during sleep. Every attribute of the
death. During sleep the soul suffers soul is, then, ground under the
an even greater death than the body. millstone of extinction, and that is
I wonder at those who do not the death of the soul. Then only
ponder even over their state of those are raised from death, who,
sleep. If the soul was to be while here, did deeds which could
exempted from death, it ought to give life. No soul has power to
have been exempted from it even in remain alive on its own. Does it lie
sleep. The state of sleep serves a in the power of man to maintain a
mirror for the purpose of our fast hold, during sleep, of the
comprehension of our condition in attributes and knowledge which he
the state of death. One who wants possessed during wakefulness?
to attain a true knowledge Nay, the moment one closes one’s

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The Human Soul According to Qur’anic Teachings

eyes, the state of the soul is the souls that are not really
completely changed and it suffers a dead but whose condition bears
type of non-existence whereby . a close resemblance to death
are the souls of those that go to
God says with reference to the sleep. In the state of death, the
death of the soul: soul goes into the control of
God and undergoes a change
when they lose all worldly
consciousness and feeling. In
short, both in the state of death
and in sleep, the soul is so
completely under the control of
God that it parts with its choice
and will and self-
consciousness, which are the
signs of life. Then God retains
such souls as have been made
to undergo real death and sends
or restores such souls back to
the world for a time as were not
subjected to real death. In this
there are signs for those that
ponder and reflect.

This verse means that God This is the translation and expla-
takes hold of the souls at the nation of the verses quoted above.
time of their death. They come This verses shows that there is a
completely under the control death for the souls, as there is a
and power of God and lose all death for the body. But the Holy
choice and self-consciousness. Qur’an also shows that the souls of
They are deprived of the the righteous and elect of God are
attributes of life and become as recalled from death after some
if they were non-existent. And days, some after three days, some

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The Human Soul According to Qur’anic Teachings

after a week, and others after 40 knowledge that we possessed while

days after death. This new life of awake is buried in oblivion. We
theirs is a life of extreme bliss, experience such scenes during
sweetness and enjoyment. It is to sleep which prove beyond doubt
attain this life that the righteous that our soul has been totally
servants of God turn to God with changed and has lost all the
all their power and strength and attributes it possessed during
with complete sincerity and wakefulness. This is a condition
devotion. It is to be blessed with which bears a close resemblance to
this life that they exert themselves death, nay, it is really a kind of
to the utmost of their powers to free death, and is a conclusive evidence
themselves from the darkness of of the fact that the death which
their egos and impurities of the overtakes the soul at the time of the
worldly life. It is to achieve this life death of the body is like the death
that they adopt a bitter life here and which overtakes the soul at the time
bring on themselves a sort of death of sleep; but the real death is far
in order to win the pleasure of their greater than the death of the soul
Divine Master. during sleep.1

In short, as the foregoing verse In brief, the Vedas have committed

shows, there is a death for the soul a serious mistake in representing
as there is a death for the body. the souls as eternal and everlasting
Though the most secret conditions like God, and it is sheer ignorance
of the next life are unknown to us in to regard such a book as a source of
this dark world, yet the state of all wisdom, a book which sets up
sleep, no doubt, serves as a the creatures of God as partners
specimen of the life to come. The with Him in eternity. Unlike the
death which overtakes the soul in Vedas, the Holy Qur’an represents
this life is well exemplified in the the souls as created and subject to
state of sleep, for we know that as death and not eternal and undying.
soon as we close our eyes, all the As to the souls being created, the
attributes of our wakefulness and Holy Qur’an states:
everything connected with it is
totally forgotten, and all the

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The Human Soul According to Qur’anic Teachings

there is another verse which shows

that the souls are created. It means:

When the human mould is

prepared, We bring about in it a
new creation, i.e; We create God is He who has created
therein the soul. (Ch.23:V.15) everything; (there is nothing
creationthat has not been
Again it says: created by Him), and He has
ordained a proper measure on
(the body, powers, faculties,
properties and forms of) each,
(so that their limitations may
point to a limiter, who is God).
(Ch.25: V.3)

Say, (0 Prophet.) that the soul is But God Himself is unlimited,

created by the command of my therefore we cannot ask respecting
Lord and of the knowledge Him, who is the limiter of God?
thereof you have been given but The verse quoted above clearly
little. (Ch.17:V.86) states that every thing that has
come into existence, with all its
The Holy Qur’an has also hinted powers and faculties, has been
many times that the substance from created by God. This teaching is in
which the soul is created consonance with the perfect unity
determines its spiritual values or of God; for it represents God as the
the morals of a soul are according source of all bounties, and
to the substance of the seed. If we according to it there is nothing
consider the beasts, the birds, and which is not created by God and is
the insects, etc; we come to the not sustained by Him.
conclusion that the attributes of the
soul of each animal are according The teaching that every thing is
to the substance of the seed. In created by God is the first part of
addition to the verses quoted above, the teaching of Divine unity. The

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second part of the doctrine of

Divine unity consists in the
teaching that nothing in itself is
exempt from death, except God. On Everything will perish except
this point, God says: God. (Ch.28:V.89)

the same word, kul (every) being

repeated in this verse. Similarly, the
Everything will perish except other verse:
God, Who is free from it.

Similarly another verse says: Everything on this earth will

pass away. (Ch.55:V.27)

represents all things as subject to

Everything that is on the earth death. As the body undergoes a
will pass away. (Ch.55:V.27) death by decomposition and decay,
similarly, the soul under-goes a
As God has included all things in death when it loses its qualities. But
His creation by saying: those who lose themselves in God
are again raised to life, as they had
attained a union with God, and
because their lives adumbrated
orwere shadows of Divine life. The
He created everything. unclean souls are also given a sense
(Ch.25: V.3) so that they may be subjected to
chastsiement, but they are neither
The word kul conveying the idea of among the dead nor among the
totality, similarly He represents all living. They are, like the man who
things as subject to death by is suffering from an excruciating
saying: pain, his condition is as bad as
death and the whole earth and
heavens grow dark in his eyes. Of

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The Human Soul According to Qur’anic Teachings

these, the Holy Qur’an says: Do you not look carefully into
your ownselves?

This verse means that there are

placed in the souls wonderful
properties and reformation qualities
that are not placed in the bodies,
and that if a man reflects deeply on
the state of his soul, he can soon
recognise God. There is also a
For him who comes to his Lord saying of the Holy Prophet(sa) to that
as a sinner, there is Hell, effect. He is reported to have said:
wherein he will neither die nor
live. (Ch.20:V.75) One who recognises his own
self has recognised God.2
When a man looks into his own self
and considers how his soul Referring to the souls, God says:
undergoes changes in wakefulness
and sleep, he will not hesitate to
admit that his soul, too, like his
body, is subject to change and death
is nothing but a change and loss of I said to the souls, Am I not
attributes. When a living being your Lord? They responded,
dies, the body still exists, but we Yes. (Ch.7:V.173)
apply the word death to it on
account of the change it undergoes. This verse means that a belief in the
It is to this that God refers when he existence of God is implanted in
says: the nature of souls, and that if a
man looks carefully into his soul,
he will recognise God. But when a
man plunges himself in the
darkness of negligence and is
affected by unholy teachings, he

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The Human Soul According to Qur’anic Teachings

denies the existence of God who is this passion, in the souls? This
His creator, and entertains point deserves the deepest
doctrines which are not in consideration and is a key to the
consonance with what God has true knowledge of God.
impressed on his nature. It is
apparent that every person bears It is an admitted scientific fact that
love for his parents, so much so, the human body completely
that some children die after the superseded by new cells every
death of their mothers. So, if the three years and a new body takes
soul of man does not proceed out of shape. The old particles of matter
the Hand of God and is not created composing the body are, every
by Him, who is it that has moment, being replaced by new
implanted the love of God in its ones. How old is repaired by new
nature, and why is it that as soon as matter may best be seen when a
the eyes of man are opened and he man recovers from a long disease
casts off his negligence, his heart is which has decimated his body and
attracted towards God and a river has reduced it to a mere skeleton.
of the love of God flows in his After recovery, he gradually gains
breast? This shows that there is in flesh, until he recovers his
some connection between God and original bulk. Thus every moment,
the souls which makes them ‘mad’ the body is undergoing a death and
in divine love. They are so lost in gaining a life. And just as the body
the love of God that they are undergoes changes, similarly the
prepared to sacrifice their all in His soul also undergoes changes. The
path. The truth is, that the bond soul, too, like the body, is
which unites the souls with the undergoing a death and gaining a
Divine Being is so wonderful that life every moment. The only
the relations of children with their difference is that the changes of the
mothers and father are not body are apparent and palpable,
comparable to it. If, as the Arya while those of the soul are hidden
Samajists represent, the souls are as the soul itself is hidden. Again,
self-existent, how did this the changes of the soul are
wonderful bond come into unending. From the Holy Qur’an it
existence? Who placed this love, appears that even in paradise the

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The Human Soul According to Qur’anic Teachings

souls would be undergoing sciences realise how immersed in sleep

changes, but the changes there their were souls in childhood, and what
a new light has dawned on their souls
would be for the better. The souls after they made an advancement in
would always be advancing learning and science.
forward in their spiritual journey,
every stage of their advancement [Throughout this translation we
being so much higher than the have used the free translation of the
preceding stages, that the state of verses from the Holy Qur’an as
the souls in a later stage may be used by the author to explain its
likened to a death of the earlier meaning instead of the literal
stage. translation of the relevant verse -
Ed ]
1. We see strange scenes during sleep.
Sometimes we see ourselves as In this journal, for the ease of non-
children and we forget the fact that we Muslim readers, ‘(sa)’ or ‘sa’ after
are aged men and have children and a the words, ‘Holy Prophet’, or the
wife. These scenes which manifest name ‘Muhammad’, are used.
during sleep conclusively show that They stand for ‘Sallallahu ‘alaihi
the soul loses memory and is separated wa sallam’ meaning ‘Peace and
from its other attributes. This state may blessings of Allah be upon him’.
be justly called death. Likewise, the letters ‘(as)’ or ‘as’
after the name of all other prophets
2. Man cannot derive much benefit from is an abbreviation meaning ‘Peace
the changes which bodies undergo, for be upon him’ derived from ‘Alaihis
physical factors soon habituate. But the salatu wassalam’ for the respect a
Muslim reader utters.
changes of the soul, particularly during
our exertions to purify it and in visions,
The abbreviation ‘ra’ or (ra) stands
are so wonderful that they, seem to
for ‘Radhiallahu Ta’ala anhu and
reveal the countenance of God. At
is used for Companions of a
every stage of their spiritual
Prophet, meaning Allah be pleased
advancement, spiritual wayfarers feel
with him or her (when followed by
that the former condition of their souls
the relevant Arabic pronoun).
was a state of death, and that in their
Finally, ‘ru’ or (ru) for
earlier stages their souls did not Rahemahullahu Ta’ala means the
possess the knowledge and light which Mercy of Allah the Exalted be
they have attained in the later stages. upon him.
Even those who learn the worldly

14 The Review of Religions – Nov 2004

A refutation of hostile criticism by orientalists on the
Universality of Islam
by Nuruddin Muneer

Islam, according to its two critical appraisal of the whole

principal sources, the Holy Qur’an subject.
and the Sunnah of the Holy
Prophet(sa) is intended for the whole Hostile criticism has the potential
mankind and unlike its predecessor to shake the faith of not-so-well
it is not subject to any limitations informed Muslims in the viability
of race and time. But orientalists in of Islam. Those not well-grounded
general, excepting some like in its essentials require instruction
Noeldeke, Goldziher and T. W. in the facts of their faith. The
Arnold reject it and insist that the realisation of the prime object of
Holy Prophet(sa) had in his mind Islam in the unification of the
only the Arab nation. They profess whole mankind into one brother-
that his followers imbibing this hood presupposes disabusing non-
idea from Christianity framed it on Muslim friends of the mis-
Islam (Encyclopaedia of Islam vol. conceptions created by hostile crit-
III 1936, p.733). icism enabling them to appreciate
it in its true perspective.
More than a century has gone by
when orientalists like Muir took Sir William Muir’s Bias
this stand. Some recent orientalists Muir, in his Life of Mahomet
also maintain the same position, for (1878. p.60) asserts that the Holy
instance, Montgomery Watt, whose Prophet(sa) ‘was ordained a prophet
books Muhammad at Mecca and with a commission to the people of
Muhammad at Medina appeared as Arabia’ – But he does not quote
late as 1956, denounces this any tradition although the Holy
dimension of Islam even more Prophet’s(SA) precepts and practices
forcibly than Muir. An endeavour on every aspect of Islam have
has been made here to make a fresh come down to us.

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Universality of Islam

Contrary to what Muir asserts, with crusade had not yet dawned upon
such confidence, there is a the nation.’ (Annals of Early
tradition, conveniently ignored by Caliphate, 1883, p.189)
him, in which the Holy Prophet(sa)
unequivocally claims to be a This, if accepted, would signify
universal Redeemer. Enumerating that the Holy Prophet(sa) as well as
five distinctions relating to himself his great lieutenant, Hadhrat
he is reported to have said: Umar(ra) were both unaware of the
real scope of Islam and it was
‘While prophets before me sometime after the conquest of
were commissioned to their Persia that the nation suddenly
particular people, I have been discovered its true destiny.
sent to the whole of mankind.’
(Bukhari) Universality in the Holy Qur’an
The fact is that the universality of
Muir touches upon this subject Islam has been clearly spelt out in
again in his history of Caliphate. the Qur’an and it would be absurd
But here also he gives no proof and to suppose that the meaning of the
bases his opinion on an incident relevant verses (see below) was not
which happened in the caliphate of known to the Holy Prophet(sa), who
Hadhrat Umar(ra). had received them as revelation nor
to Hadhrat Umar (ra), his close
After their great victory at the companion and himself an ardent
battle of Qadsiyyah, Muslim student of the Qur’an. We repro-
armies had again routed the Persian duce below some of the relevant
hosts at Jalaula. The Muslim verses.
Commander Sa’d bin Abi Waqqas
wanted to advance and pursue the And we have not sent thee but
Persian forces on the run, but as a Mercy for all peoples.
Hadhrat Umar(ra) did not let him. (21:108)
Muir says that the permission was
declined, for ‘the conviction of a Say, O mankind, truly I am a
worldwide mission of Islam was messenger to you all
yet in embryo and the obligation to (7:159)
enforce its claim by a universal

16 The Review of Religions – Nov 2004

Universality of Islam

And we have not sent thee but sent’ (Sale’s translation. Frederick
as a bearer of glad tidings and Wane, London. p. 160).
a warner for all mankind; but
most men know not. Encyclopaedia of Islam’s Poor
(34:29) Knowledge
The writer of the article
Blessed is He who has sent ‘Muhammad’ in the Encyclopaedia
down Al-Furqan to His servant of Islam however differs on this
that he may be a warner to all issue and asserts that such verses
the world do not mean what they apparently
(25:2) say. The article alleges:

Rodwell admits that these four ‘It is very doubtful if

chapters were revealed in Makkah. Muhammad ever thought at all
It means that very early in his of his religion as a universal
ministry the Holy Prophet(sa), had religion of the world. The
been ordained as a universal passages in the Meccan Surahs
Messenger. In the face of this which can be quoted in favour
chronological evidence Muir’s of this theory are limited by
allegation is wholly untenable. their context.’ (Vol. III. E.J.
Brill Leiden, 1936, p. 733)
It is patent from the above verses
that the Holy Prophet(sa) fully knew The context is there. Anybody can
the scope of his mission. The refer to it and verify for himself the
words all peoples, you all, all truth of the matter. There is not a
mankind, all the worlds can in no single verse before or after these
way be construed to mean anything verses in the whole of the Qur’an,
else. It is noteworthy in this context which limits their scope or is in any
that both Rodwell and Sale have way averse to the universality of
translated these verses to cover the Islam. In fact there is no possibility
whole of mankind. Sale’s footnote of such a contingency. The Qur’an
in explanation of verse 7:158 is without any contradiction (4:83).
states: ‘that is, to all mankind in
general and not to one particular The article goes on to say:
nation as the former prophets were

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Universality of Islam

‘The decisive consideration, Christians)! believe in what we

however, is that Muhammad at have now sent down, fulfilling
the “height of” his power never that which is with you before
demanded from Jews or we destroy some of your
Christians that they should leaders or turn them on their
adopt Islam but was content backs or curse them as we
with a political subjugation and cursed the people of the
the payment of tribute. . . The Sabbath. And the decree of
idea of a great missionary Allah is bound to be fulfilled
enterprise arose later under the (4:48)
influence of Christian
traditions, notably of the In response to the call in Madinah
miracle of Pentecost.’ Abdullah Bin Salaam, a learned
Jew and a leader of the Madinite
The writer is obviously confusing Jewry, joined Islam with his entire
free conversion with political household. He exhorted his
subjugation. It is true that, as king community also to do the same.
and sovereign, the Holy Prophet(sa) Many other Jews entered the fold
never forced anyone, may he be a of Islam. For instance, Thalaba b.
Jew or a Christian or a follower of Sa’ya, Usayd b. Sa’ya. Asad b.
any other religion, to adopt Islam. Ubayd, etc. (Ibn Ishaq’s Sirat
But as a prophet of God he invited Rasul Allah . translated by A.
the whole of mankind to join Islam Guillaume p.19). 262). Similarly,
of their own free will, very early in Christians like Salman (ra) the
his ministry at Makkah. The Persian and Suhayb(ra) the Rumi
verses, which have already been and many others embraced Islam.
quoted, illustrate this point beyond
any doubt. The Holy Qur ’an Moreover, when the Holy Qur’an
expressly calls upon Jews and explicitly proclaimed that Islam
Christians to join Islam and will come to prevail over all other
threatens them with dire faiths, Judaism and Christianity are
consequences if they do not heed not exceptions.
the Divine call:
He it is Who has sent His
O people of the Book (Jews and Messenger with the guidance

18 The Review of Religions – Nov 2004

Universality of Islam

and religion of truth that He the verdict of Von Hammer:

may cause it to prevail over all that we hold the Quran as
religions, however much those surely Mahomet’s word as the
who associate partners with Mohammadans hold it to be the
Allah may dislike it. word of God.’ (Life. p.563)
As, according to this avowal, the
All faiths in the above verse Holy Qur’an portrays the concep-
obviously mean ‘all followers of tions and views of the Holy
all faiths’. This covers the whole of Prophet, the verses quoted above,
mankind. The verse quoted above, which clearly attribute universality
alone, is sufficient to establish that to Islam, would conclusively prove
the Holy Prophet (sa) was fully that it was intended to serve the
aware of the worldwide mission of whole of mankind.
Islam. Christian orientalists,
certainly of the old school, deny it, Universality in Traditions of the
as they are theologically Holy Prophet(sa)
prejudiced. Orientalists of the new The Holy Prophet’s(sa) practice also
school do the same with slightly shows that he was fully conversant
different vocabulary. with the meaning and intention of
his mission. The letters he wrote to
The Holy Qur’an, though not the potentates outside the borders
acknowledged by orientalists as the of Arabia are a visible proof. He
word of God, is frankly conceded wrote to Roman and Iranian
as the genuine and unaltered Emperors to the Negus, the ruler of
composition of the Holy Abyssinia, and to Mukawqis the
Prophet . Muir says:
(sa) Governor Of Egypt, etc. In these
letters he called upon them to join
‘We may upon the strongest Islam and to worship only One
presumption affirm that every God. Had his mission been
verse in the Qur’an is the confined to Arabia why should he
genuine and unaltered have addressed non-Arab people?
composition of Mahomet
himself and conclude with in He wrote these letters on his return
least a close approximation to from Hudaibiyyah where he had

The Review of Religions – Nov 2004 19

Universality of Islam

negotiated a ten-year truce with the of children and women who

Makkans. He had also sent similar participated in digging the trench
epistles to many Arab chiefs at that were included, the total number
period but we are not concerned would come to 3,000 at the most.
with these in connection with our In these two years, besides
subject matter. Orientalists in enlisting the allegiance of
general dub his letters to non-Arab numerous Arab tribes, the Holy
potentates as apocryphal. Prophet(sa) invited some leaders of
the non-Arab world also to Islam.
By another clause of the treaty the This was to implement the
Arab tribes were left free to forge Qur’anic injunctions to preach
alliance either with the Holy Islam to the whole of mankind
Prophet(sa) or with the Makkans, (7:159; 5:68).
whomsoever they liked. This
brought the Islamic Republic of As his companions told him that
Madinah politically at par with that kings and monarchs did not receive
of the Makkans. The clause was any dispatches unless they were
decidedly a major gain for Islam, attested by a seal, he had a seal
for by virtue of it the Holy made of silver, engraved with the
Prophet(sa) drew a great many Arab words ‘Muhammad Rasul Ullah’
tribes to him. As the treaty ended (Muhammad, Messenger of Allah)
the war between the Makkans and and sealed his letters with it. These
the Holy Prophet (sa), he now letters which the Holy Prophet(sa)
preached Islam more extensively. addressed immediately after the
The astounding success, which he truce of Hudaibiyyah were
achieved in this field, is apparent dispatched early in 7 AH (Ibn
from the fact that two years hence, Sa’d)
when he conquered Makkah in 8
AH, he had with him 10,000 Letter to Heraclius
Companions. While in the previous The text of the letter to Heraclius
period of about nineteen years he the Roman emperor, is as follows:
had rallied some l,200 persons in
all. This was the size of the force ‘In the name of Allah, the
that defended Madinah in the Compassionate, the Merciful.
Battle of the Ditch or, if the count From Muhammad, the servant

20 The Review of Religions – Nov 2004

Universality of Islam

of Allah and His Messenger, to Heraclius received this letter when

Heraclius, the chief of Rome. he was celebrating his victory over
Peace be on him who follows the Persians at Jerusalem. He
the Guidance. After this I call considered it in his court and under
you to Islam. Accept it and you his orders Abu Sufyan and his
will be saved. Embrace Islam associates were also presented to
and God will reward you him. They happened at that time to
twofold. If you turn away from be in Syria on a trade mission. Abu
the offer of Islam then on you Sufyan as yet had not joined Islam.
be the sins of your people. And,
O people of the Book, come to The story goes on that the letter
a word which is equal between was read in court and the emperor
us and you, that we worship binding Abu Sufyan to speak the
none but Allah, associate truth, asked him some questions
naught with Him and forsaking about the Holy Prophet(sa). These
Him take not any one from were about his ancestry; his
among us as God. If they integrity and character; his
(people of the Book) turn away teachings; the condition of his
tell them, beware, we are followers; whether they were
Muslims.’ (Bukhari Zurqani) increasing or decreasing; whether
they apostated or not and about his
This letter to Heraclius was observance of his compacts with
entrusted to Dihya b. Khalifa al- his enemies, etc. Abu Sufyan
Kalabi, a sagacious and devoted answered correctly fearing that if
disciple of the Holy Prophet(sa) who he lied his associates would belie
had already travelled to Syria and him. He could get no chance, as he
was quite familiar with it. The afterwards confessed, to speak
Holy Prophet (sa) further directed deprecatingly of the Holy
him to convey his letter to the Prophet(sa), and of the moral and
emperor through the latter’s spiritual revolution which he had
governor at Bosra, Harith b. Ali wrought among his followers. The
Shimr. emperor was very much impressed.

The narrative, as contained in al- This illuminating dialogue between

Bukhari, continues to say that Heraclius and Abu Sufyan is

The Review of Religions – Nov 2004 21

Universality of Islam

contained in full in Bukhari and above dialogue had taken place and
can be seen there advantageously. who was an eyewitness to the
However, this much is certain from whole affair. He is known for his
the nature of the questions he put to enmity towards Islam in which he
Abu Sufyan and his subsequent persisted up to the submission of
remarks upon his answers that Makkah when he also joined the
Heraclius was seriously seeking new faith. Previously he had
the truth about the Holy commanded the large Makkan
Prophet’s(sa) claim and had in his army that fought the believers at
heart become convinced of it. His Uhud and also which besieged
object in conducting this dialogue Madinah entailing the Battle of the
before his courtiers was obviously Ditch. Obviously, he enjoyed a
to win them over to his viewpoint position of importance in the
and he tried his utmost to convert Makkan society and his version of
them. But this was not to be. The contemporary events cannot be
narrative continues, that on hearing rejected without assigning some
the answers, the emperor testifying cogent reason.
to the truth of the Holy Prophet(sa)
told his courtiers that shortly this Moreover, he was an enemy of the
prophet would occupy the Holy Holy Prophet(sa) at the time when
Land and that had it been possible Heraclius questioned him and as
for him he would have gone to him such he had no inclination to exalt
and sought blessings by washing him in any way. His evidence, in
his feet. Upon this, the story the circumstances being against his
concludes that his courtiers began own inclinations, deserves to be
to shout their dissent and Abu admitted as authentic. This criterion
Sufyan and his companions were is implicitly accepted by Muir,
driven out of the court. when he asserts that any statement
given in his disparagement by any
Questioning the Sources of of the Holy Prophet’s(sa) friends and
traditions com-panions carries a good ground
This episode is reported by Ibn of credibility (Life p.599).
Abbas to whom it was related by
Abu Sufyan b. Harb, a prominent However, the criterion devised by
Makkan chief, with whom the Muir is extremely unfair and

22 The Review of Religions – Nov 2004

Universality of Islam

betrays his own prejudice for i.e. the Holy Prophet(sa) conceived
calumniating the Holy Prophet(sa) of Islam as a universal religion.
on the least possible ground. A However, orientalists like Muir and
companion may be a hypocrite, Montgomery Watt reject this point
mentally deficient and bereft of altogether.
discriminating power, yet accord-
ing to Muir, his words in Montgomery Watt’s Claims
abasement of the Holy Prophet(sa), Montgomery Watt, perhaps the
have the force of an unchal- latest exponent of this view, is very
lengeable truth. vehement in its denial. He sug-
gests, quite arbitrarily, that if ever
Ibn Abbas is a fully reliable these letters were written, the
transmitter of the Prophet’s purpose was to negotiate a
traditions. From an early age he had neutrality pact with the princes and
ample opportunity to benefit from not to invite them to Islam. This is
his company. He is also, in the sheer high handedness and a plain
words of Montgomery Watt example of upholding his pre-
(Encyclopaedia of Islam 1971, vol. conceived notions at the cost of
I. p 40): ‘Considered one of the history. We will find more instance
greatest scholars if not the greatest of such statements in the two
of the first generation of Muslims.’ following passages taken from his
The fact that tradionists and book Muhammad at Medina. He
historians like al-Bukhari, Ibn says:
Ishaq, Ibn Sa’d and Tabari, well
known for their probity and ‘The suggestion of some
integrity, have all included this Muslim sources, though not the
story in their collections leaves no earliest, that he (the Holy
doubt regarding its reliability. All Prophet) conceived of Islam as
these sources are taken as highly a universal religion and
reliable by orientalists inimical to summoned the Byzantine and
Islam. Persian emperors and other
lesser Potentates to accept it, is
There is no occasion for doubting almost certainly false. Islam
the authenticity of this story, or of indeed from its beginning was
the conclusion to which it leads, potentially a universal religion

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Universality of Islam

and it is not fortuitous that with (though probably at different

the expansion of the Islamic dates) and were well received,
State it became in fact a it is not impossible that the
universal religion. But it is contents of the letters have
barely credible that a wise been somewhat altered in the
statesman like Muhammad course of transmission. This
should have made this precise may be either because the
appeal at this precise stage in details were not known to the
his career and examination messenger (who is the
shows that the reports of the presumptive source of infor-
embassies to the various mation), or because later
sovereigns are full of incon- developments made the
sistencies. message seem trivial and
unworthy of a great prophet. On
The critical discussions of this hypothesis we might
European scholars have shown suppose that, while Muhammad
that, while the story cannot be may have made some reference
taken as it stands, there is a to his religions beliefs, the real
kernel of truth in it. According point was political. Perhaps he
to the story Muhammad’s proposed a neutrality pact.
envoys were favourably Perhaps he was merely anxious
received and given presents, to prevent the Meccans getting
apart from the one to the foreign help and to counteract
Persian emperor. But this is the effects of the biased
incredible if the message was a accounts they gave of their
summons to become a Muslim relations with him. It would
and accept Muhammad as have been most inappropriate
religious leader; we cannot for Muhammad at this period to
conceive of a Roman emperor summon these powerful rulers
or a Negus of Abyssinia to accept Islam. But after the
responding to such a message. siege of Medina he was
But if we admit that the persons sufficiently important to have
named actually carried some some rudimentary diplo-matic
message from Muhammad to contacts with them and that is
their respective destinations presumably the truth of the

24 The Review of Religions – Nov 2004

Universality of Islam

matter.’ (Muhammad at to al-Hudaibiyyah. The mission

Medina Oxford. 1956 pp.41- of Dihya to Bosra must have
42) been in the summer of 627,
since he was plundered by
Expressing the same idea in Judham on his return and a
another passage under the title punitive expedition was sent
‘Muhammad’s letters to princes’, against them about October 627
he says: (vi/6). The two slave girls
brought back by the envoy to
The position has been adopted the Mukawqis appear to have
that the material collected by been in Medina soon after
Ibn Sa’d in volume 1/2 pp. 15- January 627 (viii/5), since
86 is in general to be regarded Muhammad presented one of
as authentic. An exception them to Hassan bin Thabit at
must be made, however, of the the conclusion of the affair of
story with which the collection the lie. Further, it is possible to
opens, that in May 628 (1/7) on discern a theological motive for
his return from al-Hudaibiyyah. the alteration of the stories. Ibn
Muhammad sent his Ishaq makes Muhammad
messengers to the rulers of the himself refer to the sending out
surrounding countries sum- of the apostles by Jesus, and
moning them to accept Islam. with this connects the gift of
languages at Pentecost. This
This story cannot be accepted appears to be intended to
as it stands. Muhammad was a substantiate the claim that
wise and far-seeing statesman Muhammad was a prophet to
and he did not “lose his head” all nations and not simply to the
after the measure of success he Arabs.’
obtained at al-Hudaibiyyah. To
appeal to these princes at this An analysis of the two above-
period to accept Islam would quoted extensive passages will
have done more harm than reveal that despite some alleged
good. Moreover, close exami- inconsistencies in the reports about
nation shows that the sending these letters, Montgomery Watt
of some of the envoys was prior admits their factual possibility. But

The Review of Religions – Nov 2004 25

Universality of Islam

then immediately he tries to nullify statesman, so he did not write the

whatever he has conceded. He letter attributed to him.
asserts that if ever these letters
were written, the object was not to The first premise is certainly false
call the princes to Islam but to and so is the inference drawn from
negotiate with them a neutrality it. The whole exercise is without
pact or to dissuade them from the least bit of logic in it. The
helping the Makkans against the clause brought in to rationalise the
Holy Prophet(sa). He insists on this first premise sadly falls short of its
point with all the emphasis he can object, because it is not a statement
command. of fact but purely a matter of
Montgomery Watt’s treatment of
Ibn Sa’d is paradoxical. He holds It can equally be stressed that the
him reliable and unreliable at the time after al-Hudaibiyyah, when the
same time. He has depended Holy Prophet (sa) had gained a
mostly upon him for his materials spectacular victory over his enemies
but rejected the story of the Holy was the most appropriate time for
Prophet’s(sa) envoys to the princes, inviting the princes to Islam. So in
though Ibn Sa’d has opened his agreement with the dictates of wise
collection with it. The reasons set statesmanship and at the first
forth by him for this exclusion are opportunity when he could free
here examined in detail. himself from the mundane
involvements in which the Makkans
Arguments Rejecting had entangled him, he promptly
Montgomery Watt’s Inference attended to his Divine and supreme
The first argument adduced by mission, i.e. to call the whole of
Montgomery Watt in support of his mankind, including non-Arab races,
stand is no argument at all. He to Islam and thus to unite the whole
says that wisdom and states- humanity into one brotherhood
manship, in the circumstances in (vide Qur’an 21:108; 7:59; 34:29;
which the Holy Prophet(sa) was 25:2). So, if he invited at that
then placed, required that he particular moment the leaders of the
should not invite the princes to non-Arab world to Islam it was
Islam and, as he was a wise natural for him and quite consistent

26 The Review of Religions – Nov 2004

Universality of Islam

with the pattern of his personality. However, this argument cannot

In fact, whatever the Holy Prophet hold. Montgomery Watt forgets
did at various junctures in his life that the Holy Qur’an very early in
was most appropriate to the his ministry at Makkah proclaimed
requirements of wisdom and the Holy Prophet(sa) as a universal
completely in consonance with the teacher (vide 21:108; 7:159; 34:29;
compulsion of his Divine Mission. 25:2). When this concept is clearly
spelt out in the Makkan Surahs, the
The text of the letters which has transmitters of hadith must have
come down to us clearly aims at fully known it. At least lbn Abbas,
calling the princes to Islam. The who is one of the greatest scholars
sources, al-Bukhari and Ibn Sa’d, of those times and who transmitted
etc., which have reproduced them the hadith contained in Bukhari,
are reliable in the eyes of cannot be imagined to have been
orientalists also. However, ignorant of the Qur’anic intention.
Montgomery Watt says that the text What was then the need to tamper
has been altered in the course of with the text of the letters, and
transmission. He has no proof to what motive did subscribe to it?
support this assumption. Had he
shown that the text in an earlier Bias or Fact
edition of the source book differed The point at the back of all this
from what was given in its later contention is that, according to the
edition, as is the case with some Bible, Jesus (as) never claimed to be
biblical stories, that would have a universal teacher and confessed
carried some weight. But he bases frankly to be a Prophet for the sons
his assertion merely on speculation, of Israel only. So, the orientalists
which he calls by the name of who come of padre families are
‘tendential shaping’. This term theologically interested in denying
means that as the Holy Prophet(sa) a greater status to the Holy
had omitted to proclaim himself a Prophet(sa) also. They do so under
universal teacher, his followers had the garb of ‘scientific research’
developed a ‘tendency’ to present while trying to pass off their
him as such and motivated by this prejudice as objective fact. The
tendency they ‘shaped’ the text of New Testament says:
the letters to suit their purpose.

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Universality of Islam

‘These twelve Jesus sent forth seen objectively, there was no such
and commanded them saying: possibility.
Go not into the way of the
Gentiles, and into any city of When we consider the case of
the Samaritans enter you not: Heraclius in this context we find
But go rather to the lost sheep that there was not a whit of any
of the house of Israel.’ danger in inviting him to Islam. He
(Matthew 10:5, 6) was not an uncouth and uncultured
barbarian. Gibbon praises his
‘But he (Jesus) answered and ‘wisdom’, ‘intrepidity’ and
said: I am not sent but unto the ‘magnanimous sentiments’ and, in
lost sheep of the house of the words of the Encyclopaedia
Israel.’ Britannica, he possessed ‘deep
(Ibid. 15:24) Christian faith’. It goes without
saying then that he must be
And Jesus said unto them: familiar with the Christian
Verily I say unto you, that ye traditions regarding the coming of
which have followed me in the prophets and the deliverance of
regeneration when the son of Divine messages by them, and the
man shall sit in the throne of his biblical prophecies concerning the
Glory, ye shall also sit upon advent of a mighty prophet after
twelve thrones, judging the Jesus(as). In view of the frame of
twelve tribes of Israel’ (ibid. mind which these factors must
19:28) have engendered in Heraclius, who
can apprehend that he would fly
Harm Theory’s Imposing Edifice into a passionate rage on such an
Now let us look into the ‘harm’ innocent invitation and hasten to
theory on which Montgomery Watt harm the Holy Prophet (sa)? The
has built his seemingly imposing most he would feel inclined to do
edifice. He says that the Holy would be to investigate, which he
Prophet(sa) did not call the princes did as already explained.
to Islam, as such a step would have
entailed great harm to him. This Even if there was a danger of harm
harm theory is wholly the product as Montgomery Watt insists, we
of his imagination otherwise, if cannot imagine that the Holy

28 The Review of Religions – Nov 2004

Universality of Islam

Prophet(sa) would have neglected predilections against it. We can

his duty. According to the Holy only say that though they were
Qur’an (5:68), deliverance of sovereigns yet they were not
Divine message was his supreme devoid of good manners. After all,
obligation and come what may he the call was a message of love and
was to fulfil it. His conduct at peace to them and they did not find
Makkah and Taif shows that he did in it anything offensive to their
his duty even when his life was in sensibilities. So if they treated the
peril. embassies with consideration there
is nothing anomalous in it.
If Montgomery Watt’s theory is
correct, then Moses(as) should not History of Revelation
have pressed the Pharaoh to release Questioned
the Israelites from his cruel An objection raised against the
bondage for it imperilled his life validity of these letters is that they
and the life of his community. contain inconsistencies. For
Similarly, Jesus Christ (as) should instance, it is alleged by some
not have denounced the Jews of his orientalists that the verse of the
time because as a sequel to it he Holy Qur’an included in the epistle
suffered grievously at their hands sent to Heraclius, calling the
and was saved only by a miracle. people of the Book to a word
which is equal between them and
Polite Treatment of the believers, was revealed to the
Ambassadors Holy Prophet(sa) in 9 AH when a
Montgomery Watt expresses great Christian deputation from Najran
surprise at the reported polite visited him. The letter to Heraclius
treatment by Heraclius, Mukawqis was written in the end of 6 AH or
and Negus of the Holy Prophet’s the beginning of 7 AH. So the
ambassadors. He says, had the argument goes that if the letter had
Holy Prophet (sa) called them to been genuine, the verse could not
Islam it is incredible and incon- have formed part of it.
ceivable that they would have
responded so gently. The answer is This is not a new objection.
that it is a fact of history that Reputed commentators and
cannot be set aside by anyone’s historians have refuted it in Fath

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Universality of Islam

al-Bari, Tafsir Ibn Kathir and same surah would come to him in
Zurqani, etc. The fact is that some cases on quite different dates.
revelation did not come to the
Prophet(sa) all at once. It came So it is possible that the Holy
piecemeal and at different times. Prophet(sa) had used this phrase in
Sometimes a verse would be his letter to Heraclius and
revealed to him twice on different subsequently it came to him as
dates; sometimes a phrase which he revelation or the verse was revealed
had uttered in some context would to him twice, once immediately
subsequently descend upon him as after Hijra and for the second time
revelation. There is a consensus of when the deputation of Najran
Muslim commentators upon this Christians visited him. In either
point and orientalists also recognise case the objection does not stand.
it. For instance, in his commentary
on the Qur’an, Rev. E. M. Wherry, Montgomery Watt has said that
following Noeldeke, has assigned some envoys, for instance to Bosra,
different dates to revelation’1 of were dispatched prior to al-
different verses of chapter Al- Hudaibiyyah. Authentic sources
Maida (vide E. M. Wherry, A like Bukhari, Ibn Ishaq and Ibn
comprehensive commentary on the Sa’d categorically place the
Koran, vol. II, p.119) dispatch of missions to Heraclius,
Negus, Khusro Perwez and
For instance, This day have I Mukawqis after al-Hudaibiyyah.
perfected your religion for you and Dihya went to Bosra previously
completed my favour upon you and also, but privately. Possibly his
have chosen for you Islam as earlier acquaintance with Heraclius
religion (5:4) the last verse to be led the Holy Prophet (sa), after
revealed to the Holy Prophet(sa), Hudaibiyyah, to entrust him with
descended upon him on the his epistle to the emperor. Further,
momentous occasion of the these authorities declare unani-
farewell pilgrimage, eighty-two mously that the object of these
days prior to his demise while the missions was to call the princes to
rest of the chapter had been Islam and on this count there is
received by him long before. This absolutely no dissent.
shows that verses of the one and the

30 The Review of Religions – Nov 2004

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Margoliouth’s Confusion n), Abu Sufyan is represented

Before we consider the remaining as a near relation of
letters it seems proper to review Muhammad which does not
some remarks about it by suit the more famous Abu
Margoliouth. He admits its receipt Sufyan so well.’
by Heraclius and quotes Greek
authorities as well (Muralt, Essai Similarly, he denies that Abu
de Chronologie Byzantine; Sufyan had answered Heraclius’
Drapeyon L’empereur Heraclius. questions in the latter’s court, not
Paris. 1869). He says: on any historical evidence, but
merely on his own preconceived
Arabic and Greek writers agree notions. He says:
in making 628 the year in which
Muhammad’s letter reached ‘Had he (Abu Sufyan) really
Heraclius. (Margoliouth been summoned, he could
Muhammad and the Rise of scarcely have lost the
Islam, G. P. Putnam’s Sons, opportunity of endeavouring
London. 1905. p.365) to obtain help for Mecca
against the dangerous exile;
Then he makes a confusing of pointing out the menace
insinuation. Traditionists like Ibn to the neighbouring
Ishaq, Ibn Sa’d, al-Bukhari agree provinces which was
that it was Abu Sufyan bin Harb contained in the rise of
who appeared in the court of Moslem Power.’ (Ibid.,
Heraclius and answered his p.366)
questions regarding the Holy
Prophet. But Margoliouth says it Margoliouth, however, forgets, that
was Abu Sufyan bin al-Harith. For by the time Heraclius received this
proof, he adds remarks that do not letter much water had flowed under
lend any support to his contention, the bridge and the Makkans had
as Abu Sufyan bin Harb was also a become thoroughly disillusioned
near kinsman of the Holy about their power to undermine
Prophet(sa). Islam. The battles of Badr, Uhud
and the Ditch had opened their
‘In the story (Wakidi W–329, eyes and warned them of the

The Review of Religions – Nov 2004 31

Universality of Islam

writing on the wall. They also on what evidence he has attributed

knew that they had miserably these sentiments to Heraclius. On
failed to enlist the sympathies of the contrary, according to the
the Negus against Muslim report contained in Bukhari, he had
refugees. In the circumstances it become so enamoured of the Holy
was quite sensible for Abu Sufyan Prophet(sa) that he longed to wash
to abstain from entangling himself his feet for blessings. His conduct
in any fruitless venture. Moreover, indicates that he forbade the
he was also a near relation of the expedition out of love for the Holy
Holy Prophet (sa) and his heart must Prophet(sa). Muir is so used to
have softened by that time towards depicting everything concerning
his unique countryman. the Holy Prophet(sa) in dark colour
that it seems he is not writing a
The Holy Prophet(sa) sent a similar biography but an indictment.
dispatch to a vassal of the Roman Similar is the case, more or less,
emperor, al-Harith bin Ali Shimr, with Margoliouth, another detrac-
the Prince of the Bani Ghassan or tor of the Holy Prophet(sa).
Harith VII, as Muir identifies him
in his Life, p.384. Letter to Khusro Perwez
A similar and slightly augmented
When Shuja bin Wahab al-Asadi dispatch was sent to Khusro
presented the Holy Prophet’s(sa) Perwez, Emperor of Persia, who,
letter to him, Harith threw it away on being apprised of its contents,
in anger and threatened to storm tore it to pieces and grossly
Madinah. Heraclius, however, did mistreated its bearer, Abdullah bin
not permit him to do so and called Hudhafa al-Sahmi (Ibn Ishaq;
him instead to Jerusalem for Tabari; Khamis and Zurqani).
celebrating his victory over the When the Holy Prophet(sa) was told
Persians (Zurqani, Vol. III. p.357). of the emperor’s obnoxious
reaction, he is reported to have
Referring to this incident, Muir exclaimed. ‘May God smash them
remarks, ‘But Heraclius, regarding into pieces’ (Bukhari).
the ominous voice beneath his
notice, forbade the expedition’
(Life, p. 384). He does not tell us Besides rending the letter to shreds,

32 The Review of Religions – Nov 2004

Universality of Islam

the impetuous Kisra directed Ibn Ishaq agree that the Holy
Badhan, his governor at Yemen to Prophet’s(sa) prediction about this
apprehend the Holy Prophet(sa). The murder was based on Divine revel-
two agents deputed for this purpose ation and as such constituted a
reached Madinah and urged him to proof of his Divine mission. But
accompany them to the king of Muir and Margoliouth, actuated by
kings, or to face his wrath. The a desire to deny him the gift of
Holy Prophet (sa) smiled at their prophecy, try to give it a fantastic
master’s impudence and asked touch. Muir says:
them to wait for his answer till the
morning. The next morning he ‘At the time they (the
gave them his answer. ‘Apprise emissaries of Badhan) arrived
your chief (governor of Yemen) at Medina, tidings had reached
that my God (the All-Powerful the prophet of the deposition
Allah) has killed your god (Kisra) and death of the Persian
last night.’ monarch. When the dispatch,
therefore, was read before him,
Returning to the governor, the he smiled at its contents, and
emissaries acquainted him with the summoned the ambassadors to
Holy Prophet’s(sa) response. After embrace Islam. He then
some days he received a dispatch apprised them of the murder of
from Sheeruya (Siroes) intimating Khusro and accession of his
that he had killed his cruel father son; “Go,” said he, “inform
and installed himself as the new your master of this and require
Kisra. He further forbade him from him to tender his submission to
arraigning the Holy Prophet (sa). the prophet of God”’
Badhan was so impressed by the (Ibid. p. 395)
turn of events that he embraced
Islam forthwith and so did a large Taking his cue from Muir,
number of his subjects (Ibn Ishaq: Margoliouth chimes in with him.
Tabari, Vol. III, pp. 1572-1574). He says:

The point regarding the fate of ‘Now, that Muhammad had

Kisra in this narrative is very many secret agencies for
significant. Original sources like obtaining intelligence speedily

The Review of Religions – Nov 2004 33

Universality of Islam

cannot be doubted.’ was carried to him by Amr b.

(Ibid. p. 368) Umayyah ad-Damri. The king was
not a stranger to the Holy
By this mischievous suggestion, Prophet(sa), whom he had obliged
Margoliouth wants us to believe some eleven years prior to the
that early in the seventh century receipt of this epistle. He had
AD the Holy Prophet (sa) had granted asylum to his followers,
equipped his agents with the most fleeing to him from their Makkan
sophisticated instruments of tormentors and also firmly refused
communication, perhaps more their persecutors who had
sensitive than what we have now at subsequently come to him
the end of the twentieth century. demanding their extradition.
Otherwise how could the news of
the patricide committed by Siroes The following is the text of the
be flashed to him across expansive letter which the Holy Prophet (sa)
deserts the same night in which it wrote to him. It will be observed
had occurred? When we consider that it is warmer and more
that Siroes himself took many days elaborate than the letters which he
to convey the news to Badhan the wrote to some other rulers.
absurdity of Margoliouth’s
insinuation becomes all the more ‘In the name of Allah, the
evident. There is absolutely no Beneficent, the Merciful. From
evidence to show that the facts of Muhammad, the Messenger of
Khusro Perwez had been Allah, to Najashi the king of
communicated to him by some Abyssinia. Peace on you. Next,
external means and in the absence I praise before you the one and
of any such indication there is no the only God. None else is
reason to deny that the event was worthy of worship. He is the
revealed to the Holy Prophet(sa) by Sovereign; the Holy; the
the All-Knowing God. Source of Peace; the Bestower
of Security and the Protector. I
Letter to Negus bear witness that Jesus, son of
The Holy Prophet’s (sa) letter to Mary, was a Messenger of God,
Najashi (Negus), the king of who came in fulfillment of the
Abyssinia, inviting him to Islam promise made to Mary by Him.

34 The Review of Religions – Nov 2004

Universality of Islam

I invite you to God, who is whatever you have written in it

One, having no associate and I about Jesus I do not hold him
call upon you to join with me even a whit greater than that.
and to believe in the revelation We have understood your call
which has descended upon me. towards Truth, and I bear
Surely, I am a Messenger of witness that you are a true
Allah. I invite you and your Messenger of God, of whose
armies to join the faith of the coming tidings had been given
Almighty God. I have delivered in the previous scriptures also.
to you the message of God in So, through your cousin Jaafar,
all sincerity and I trust you will I offer my adhesion to you.
respond to it in the same spirit. Peace of Allah be on you, and
I have already sent to you a His mercy and His blessings.’
number of Muslims with my (Ibn Sa’d; Zurqani Vol. III, pp.
cousin Jaafar. Peace be on him 344-345)
who follows the guidance.
(Ibn Sa’d; Zurqani Vol. III. pp. This Najashi died in 9 AH, and the
343–344) Holy Prophet(sa), when apprised of
his demise, offered funeral prayers
When this letter reached the Negus for him in Madinah. His successor,
he showed it great respect and however, did not join Islam and
answered as under: stuck to Christianity. Shortly
afterwards Muslim armies had to
‘In the name of Allah the encounter the Persian and the
Beneficent, The Merciful. To Roman Empires which they
Muhammad, the Messenger of defeated and brought completely
Allah, from Najashi Ashima under their sway.
Peace and Mercy and blessings
of Allah be upon you. O Subsequently, for nearly a
Messenger of Allah. None thousand years, Muslim generals
except Allah is worthy of conquered one country after
worship. It is He Who has another till they had subdued a
guided me to Islam. I have very large portion of Asia, Africa
received your letter, O and almost half of Europe. But
Messenger of Allah. By God, throughout this magnificent career

The Review of Religions – Nov 2004 35

Universality of Islam

of conquests they never violated however he did not join Islam but
the boundaries of Abyssinia. paid his respects to the Holy
Tradition tells us that they left it Prophet(sa) by arranging the
intact in deference to the honour safekeeping of his letter and by
which the Negus had shown to the presenting to him two Copt ladies,
Holy Prophet’s(sa) letter and to the some garments and a white mule.
fact of his acceptance of Islam.
This in itself constitutes a strong Acknowledging his letter he
evidence of the exchange of letters expressed his regard for the Holy
between the Holy Prophet(sa) and Prophet(sa) in the following words:
the Negus. Had it not been for the
deep regard which the Muslim ‘In the name of Allah, the
commanders had come to cherish beneficent, the Merciful. To
in their hearts on this account for Muhammad bin Abdullah from
the Negus they would have con- Mukawqis, Chief of the Copts,
quered this tiny kingdom in no Peace on you. Next I have read
time at all as it was hemmed in on your letter and understood what
all sides by Muslim states. It also you have mentioned therein
shows how magnanimously early and to what you have invited
Muslims responded to whatever me thereby. I certainly knew
good any nation did to them. that a prophet was yet to appear
but I thought he will rise in
Letter to Mukawqis Syria. I have duly honoured
The Holy Prophet’s (sa) letter to your ambassador and am
Mukawqis, the governor of Egypt, sending to you two girls who
delivered to him by Hatib bin Abi command great respect among
Baltas, was also well received. Its the Copts, a mantle and a mule
text is the same as the letter for riding as presents to you.’
dispatched to Heraclius and need (Ibn Sa’d)
not be reproduced. According to
Zurqani, Mukawqis discussed with Montgomery Watt has made an
Hatib many issues regarding the obscure observation (why, one can
mission of the Holy Prophet(sa) and only guess!) in this regard also
was favourably impressed by his which needs clarification. He
arguments. Unlike the Negus, remarks that the ‘two slave girls

36 The Review of Religions – Nov 2004

Universality of Islam

appear to have been in Madinah relics of the Holy Prophet(sa) in old

soon after January 627 (vi/6), since Serial. Its facsimile was published
Muhammad presented one of them in Hilal, Cairo, in November 1904
to Hassan bin Thabit at the and also in Margoliouth’s book
conclusion of the affair of the lie.’ Muhammad and the Rise of Islam
(Ibid. p.345) where it bears the following
caption: ‘Letter by the Prophet to
He does not offer any proof in the Mukawqis discovered by M.
support of this statement. As a Etiene Barthelemy; believed by
matter of fact, original sources like several scholars to be the actual
Ibn Ishaq and Ibn Sa’d clearly document.’(p.366)
affirm that the slave girls came
from Egypt to Madinah in response Commenting on the genuineness of
to the Holy Prophet’s(sa) letter to this find, Noeldeke, in the first
Mukawqis dispatched to him after edition of his Geschichte des
his return from al-Hudaibiyyah. In Quran (1860, p. 40) remarks ‘there
the circumstances it is incon- is nothing to doubt as regards the
ceivable that they were present in authenticity of the letter, whose
Madinah at the conclusion of the text is to be found in so many of the
affair of the lie which occurred best Arabic sources’ 2
long before. Montgomery Watt is
definitely wrong in forming this However, the writer of the article
opinion, as the effect could not take ‘Muhammad’ in Encyclopaedia of
place prior to its cause. Islam, Vol. III 1936, denounces it
on paleographic grounds as a
Relic of Letter discovered by forgery. But his verdict cannot be
Egyptologist taken seriously. As stated by
As stated earlier on the authority of Margoliouth, several scholars
traditions, the letter to Mukawqis (including Noeldeke) have testified
was safely preserved by him in to its genuineness. Also
original. For centuries it remained paleography, in view of the
undiscovered. Then in 1852 it was researches made about it by
found in a monastery at Akhmim modern scholars, can have no say
by the French Egyptologist E. in respect of Arabic scripts. Its hold
Barthelemy and put among the as yet is confined to Greek and

The Review of Religions – Nov 2004 37

Universality of Islam

Latin writings. Below we quote our universality of Islam proclaimed

authority. by the Holy Qur’an and recorded
by the collectors of traditions,
‘In general, however, needed no other proof.
paleography embraces writings
found principally on papyrus Reference to Past Prophets
(vellum) and paper. Today, Alluding to a tradition contained in
paleography is regarded as lbn Ishaq’s collection,
relating to Greek and Latin Montgomery Watt draws some
scripts with their derivatives, unwarranted conclusions. The
thus, as a rule, excluding tradition purports to say that when
Egyptian, Hebrew and Middle the Holy Prophet(sa) deputed some
and Far Eastern scripts.’ (New of his companions to carry his
Encyclopaedia Britannica vol. epistles to the princes he told them
13, 1973, under the article that Jesus had also sent his
‘Paleography’) disciples similarly. Montgomery
Watt’s comment on this incident is
So, when Arabic paleography in as follows:
1973 was yet unable to adjudge,
how can a verdict pronounced on ‘It is possible to discern a
an Arabic script in 1936, when this theological motive for the
science had not even formulated alteration of the stories (i.e.
its rudiments, claim any cred- about the letters under
ibility? discussion).

Further, as pointed out by Ibn Ishaq makes Muhammad

Noeldeke, the text of the document himself refer to the sending out
is the same as contained in the of the apostles by Jesus and
Arabic source books. The seal it with this connects the gift of
bears is also the same as is ascribed languages at Pentecost. This
to the Holy Prophet(sa). Moreover, appears to be intended to
the possibility of its having been substantiate the claim that
forged by some Muslim scholars is Muhammad was a Prophet to
ruled out, as they had no motive for all nations and not simply to
it. They knew full well that the Arabs.’

38 The Review of Religions – Nov 2004

Universality of Islam

It is simply beyond comprehension those the apostles sent to the

how mere reference to a certain act countries and kings of the
of Jesus (as) should make the Arabs and non-Arabs and what
occurrence of a similar act of the he said to his companions when
Holy Prophet(sa) doubtful. If this he sent them. I sent it to
sort of reasoning is correct, then Muhammad b. Shihab al-Zuhri
one can even deny the amnesty ( T. with a trusty countryman of
granted by him to the Makkans. his) and he recognised it. It
For it can very well be pointed out contained the statement that the
that the Qur’an speaks of the apostle went out to his
incident of Joseph(as) pardoning his companions and said, “God has
brothers (12:93) and then go on to sent me as a mercy to all men,
assert that the traditions regarding so take a message from me,
the Holy Prophet’s(sa) amnesty on God have mercy on you. Do not
the fall of Makkah are all ‘an hang back from me as the
afterthought’ and a fabrication to disciples hung back from Jesus,
show that he was as benign and son of Mary.” They asked how
merciful as Joseph(as) . It is feared they had hung back. He said.
that if this sort of logic comes in “He called them to a task
vogue then there would be left similar to that to which I have
nothing for the compilation of the called you. Those who had to
Holy Prophet’s biography, because go a short journey were pleased
most of his sublime deeds resemble and accepted. Those who had a
those of biblical prophets. long journey before them were
displeased and refused to go,
We reproduce below Ibn Ishaq’s and Jesus complained of them
tradition so that the reader may to God (T. From that very
judge for himself whether there is night) every one of them was
any justification for Montgomery able to speak the language of
Watt’s comments. the people to whom he was
sent.’ (T. Jesus said, “This is a
‘Yazid b. Abu Habib Al-Misri thing which God has
told me that he found a determined that you should do,
document in which was a so go.”)
memorandum (T. the names) of

The Review of Religions – Nov 2004 39

Universality of Islam

(T. Then the apostle divided his The universality of Islam is further
companions and sent Salit b. evident from its claim to perfection
Amr b. Abdu Shamus b. Abdu and finality (5:4 quoted above).
Wudd, brother of B. ‘Amr b. Previous to the Holy Prophet of
Lu’ayy, to Haudha b. Ali, ruler Islam(sa), prophets were raised on a
of al-Yamama. Hatib b. Abu national basis, with guidance
Balta’a to the Mukawqis, ruler suitable for a well-defined people
of Alexandria, etc.’) (Sirat and for a limited time only. The
Rasul Allah, translated by A. sequence of this progressive
Guilliaume. p.653) development culminated in the
advent of the Holy Prophet(sa) who
Acceptance by non-Arabs was given, in the shape of the Holy
Again, the admission of Hadhrat Qur’an, the most perfect and final
Bilal(ra), Hadhrat Suhayb Rumi(ra) Shariah (religious law) which was
and Hadhrat Salman(ra) into the fold to endure forever and, as envisaged
of Islam is further evidence in this in 61:10 (quoted above), to gather
regard. Hadhrat Bilal (ra) was an all nations of the world into one
Abyssinian and Hadhrat Salman(ra) brotherhood.
belonged to Persia. They had the
honour of embracing Islam at the
hands of the Holy Prophet(sa). Had This article is an edited version
the message of Islam been limited of one first printed in The
to Arabs only, why should the Holy Muslim Herald Jan. 1983 Vol.
Prophet(sa) have welcomed them? 23:1

Besides receiving them cordially in References

Islam, the Holy Prophet(sa) referred 1 In the early days of Islam, the
to Hadhrat Bilal(ra) as the ‘first fruit date of revelation was unim-
of Abyssinia’ and to Hadhrat portant. Chapters were later
Suhayb(ra) as ‘first fruit of Greece’. classified as of Makkan or
This clearly indicates that he took Madinite period. This point
his message to be universal and has repeatedly been exploited
expected non-Arab nations to join by orientalists who disregard
Islam. This evidence is from the strong evidence with the sole
Makkan period of his life.

40 The Review of Religions – Nov 2004

Universality of Islam

object of denying that the Arabic inscriptions of

Holy Prophe t(sa) may have Madinah of the early years of
foretold an event and that the Hijrah’ in Islamic Culture,
verse must have been October 1939 issue.
included after the event.

2. As quoted by Dr Hamidullah
Khan, in his article on ‘Some

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The Review of Religions – Nov 2004 41

Interview – William Montgomery Watt
An interview with ‘the Last Orientalist’ – The Rev Prof William
Montgomery Watt .
(Internet version from

by Bashir Maan & Alastair McIntosh

The Reverend Professor William Montgomery Watt has written over 30

books including Islamic Political Thought (1968) and Muslim-Christian
Encounters: Perceptions and Misconceptions (1991). In Scotland he has
been a member of the ecumenical Iona Community since 1960. Amongst
Islamic scholars he has been held in an esteemed position, described as
‘most reverential.’ The Muslim press have called him ‘the Last Orientalist.’
This interview was conducted in 1999, his ninetieth year, at his home in
Dalkeith. With Professor Watt’s approval and careful agreement of the final
text, it uses both spoken material and statements drawn from some of his
most important articles of recent years. It is, in a sense, a distillation of his
life’s work.

Alastair McIntosh’s work on ‘combating Islamophobia’ is part of the

Edinburgh-based Centre for Human Ecology’s Action for Transformation
work, supported by the Quaker Concerns programme of the Joseph
Rowntree Charitable Trust. He is an Associate of the Iona Community and
from 1986-1990 was its Business Advisor.

Dr Bashir Maan is Scottish Representative on the Executive of the Muslim

Council of Great Britain, was for 8 years chair of the Glasgow Central
Mosque Committee and, as an elected Glasgow city councillor, chairs the
Strathclyde Joint Police Board – Britain’s second-largest police force.

In reproducing this interview, the Review of Religions neither endorses nor

necessarily agrees or disagrees with some or all of the views held by
William Montgomery Watt.

42 The Review of Religions – Nov 2004

Interview – William Montgomery Watt

Professor Watt, how did being ordained priest, I began to

you become interested in learn Arabic in London. Between
Islam and Christianity? 1941 and 1943 I completed my
PhD at Edinburgh on freewill and
Well, I had studied Classics at predestination in early Islam. That
Edinburgh University and ‘Greats’ was with Richard Bell, famous for
– philosophy and ancient history – translation of the Qur’an (Koran).
at Oxford. From 1934 to 1938 I Between 1944 and 1946 I worked
taught moral philosophy at in Palestine under the Bishop of
Edinburgh University. In 1937 Jerusalem. I had hoped to have
when my mother died, I asked an discussions with Muslims, but
Indian (later Pakistani) Muslim to Jerusalem proved not to be a good
come as a paying guest to help me place to get in contact with
pay for a housekeeper. Khwaja intellectual Muslims. In 1946
Abdul Mannan was a student of things became difficult. I lost a
veterinary medicine and at that friend when they blew up the King
time, aged about 20, a member of David Hotel. After leave I decided
the Ahmadiyya Community – not to return to Jerusalem. In 1947
something he would have had to I became head of the department
give up later when he became a of Arabic & Islamic Studies at
Colonel in the Pakistani army. Edinburgh University and
Mannan, as he called himself, was continued there until my
an argumentative Muslim, and our retirement in 1979 at the age of 70.
many discussions over breakfast In 1964 I received the title of
and evening meals raised my Professor. I remain a priest in the
interest in the world of Islam. I Scottish Episcopalian Church and
believe that he is still alive in am presently writing another book
Lahore. about a Christian faith for today.

When I heard that the Anglican Your life’s work has been
Bishop in Jerusalem wanted devoted to dialogue between
someone to work on Muslim- Islam and Christianity.
Christian relations I applied for the Why is this important?
post. After studying theology and

The Review of Religions – Nov 2004 43

Interview – William Montgomery Watt

In the outburst of missionary which all are threatened by the

activity round about the year 1800 rising tide of secularism and
the ideal was to go into the non- materialism.
Christian parts of the world and
convert everyone to Christianity; Many Westerners would
and this is still the ideal of some question the value of
Christians. From Islam, however, dialogue with Islam
there were very few converts. I because, for example, they
have now come to doubt the see the Sharia as being
appropriateness of conversion in cruel. Do you think this is
many cases. The nineteenth- true?
century missionaries did not
appreciate the positive achieve- Well, similar punishments are
ments of the great religions in found in the Old Testament –
giving their communities a including, for example, the cutting
tolerable and meaningful form of off of women’s hands in
life. In the course of the years I Deuteronomy 25. In Islamic
have made many Muslim friends, teaching, such penalties may have
some of them in influential been suitable for the age in which
positions. These persons are Muhammad lived. However, as
deeply rooted in their religion and societies have since progressed
are doing excellent work not only and become more peaceful and
for their fellow-Muslims but also ordered, they are not suitable any
for wider circles. I would indeed longer.
admit that sometimes conversion
may be necessary for an If we demonise one another we
individual’s spiritual health and cannot even debate such things.
growth; but this is exceptional. For Dialogue is therefore imperative.
such reasons I hold that the It helps us to discern not just the
Christian aim for the foreseeable meaning of the Holy Scriptures,
future should be to bring the but also the relevance that God
religions together in friendly wants them to have in our times.
dialogue and, where possible, in
cooperation, for there is a sense in

44 The Review of Religions – Nov 2004

Interview – William Montgomery Watt

What about the attitude of education and divorce, he gave

Muhammad (peace be upon women certain basic safeguards.
him) towards women? Set in such historical context the
Prophet can be seen as a figure
It is true that Islam is still, in many who testified on behalf of
ways, a man’s religion. But I think women’s rights.
I’ve found evidence in some of the
early sources that seems to show A lot also depends on what sort of
that Muhammad made things Muslim society you look at. Many
better for women. It appears that in Westerners today think that Islam
some parts of Arabia, notably in holds women in the heaviest
Mecca, a matrilineal system was oppression. That may be so in
in the process of being replaced by some cases, but only because they
a patrilineal one at the time of look at certain parts of the Islamic
Muhammad. Growing prosperity world. Pakistan, Bangladesh and
caused by a shifting of trade routes Turkey have all had women heads
was accompanied by a growth in of state. I therefore don’t think the
individualism. Men were perception of Westerners is
amassing considerable personal entirely correct.
wealth and wanted to be sure that
this would be inherited by their What about war – Jihad
own actual sons, and not simply versus Crusade? Terrorism,
by an extended family of their for example, can be
sisters’ sons. This led to a considered both unislamic
deterioration in the rights of and unchristian, yet we see
women. At the time Islam began, it justified by extremists
the conditions of women were whether in Egypt or
terrible – they had no right to own Northern Ireland. Do you
property, were supposed to be the think violence can be part of
property of the man, and if the faith?
man died everything went to his
sons. Muhammad improved things Well, I think fundamentalists of
quite a lot. By instituting rights of any religion go beyond what their
property ownership, inheritance, religion is about. But let me take

The Review of Religions – Nov 2004 45

Interview – William Montgomery Watt

an example from our Old refused the government’s wish to

Testament. I’m becoming very make it a service of
worried about the Old Testament ‘thanksgiving.’ They called it,
because so much of it is instead, one of ‘reconciliation.’
unchristian. I read a passage every The time of day coincided with the
day and find it more and more so. Muslim’s evening call to prayer.
There is a serious matter, which is At first the Muslims thought this
not clear from some translations. would prevent them from
The New Jerusalem Bible that I attending. But then, to avoid any
read uses the phrase ‘curse of problem, they were allowed to say
destruction,’ and this was applied their prayers in St Giles Cathedral
to towns when the Hebrews were in front of the Christian altar while
coming into Palestine. They killed the Christian congregation kept
everyone in a town – men, women, silent. The following week
children and sometimes also Christians prayed in the
animals. This happened in Jericho community centre of the Glasgow
as we see in Joshua 6, and in about Mosque. This would mirror the
a dozen other places; and there are tradition that Muhammad allowed
also later instances. This is Christian delegations visiting him
definitely unchristian. to pray in the Mosque. Such a
happening in modern Scotland,
I think on the whole Christianity is even after a war, suggests that
against war, though in the past religion can bridge the wounds of
Christians have supported wars. I war.
don’t think Islam is basically anti-
Christian, but some extremists I therefore certainly don’t think
might take such a view. the West is locked into Jihad with
Islam, though I suppose if the
There was a formal gathering of fundamentalists go too far they’ll
Scottish Christians and Muslims at have to be opposed. Iran’s
the national service of recon- comments about the ‘Great Satan’
ciliation in Edinburgh following were aimed mostly at the United
the Gulf War a few years ago. States: they were not made
Scottish church leaders had because the West was Christian. I

46 The Review of Religions – Nov 2004

Interview – William Montgomery Watt

think the West should try to to a middle course and certainly

overcome these strains between not join the anti-Islamic side. I am
different religious groups. I do, sure it would like to see some
however, think that the US is balance of Jews and Muslims in
following a very dangerous policy the Middle East, and of course,
in relation to the Middle East. The fair treatment for the Palestinian
root of this trouble is that the US Arabs, some of whom are
gives too much support to Israel. Christian. The Scottish Parliament
They allow them to have nuclear might try and help them to come to
weapons and to do all sorts of terms with one another.
things, some of which are contrary
even to Jewish law. Jewish Within Scotland, the parliament
families occupy Arab houses should work for some harmony
without payment. That is stealing. between religions as there are
I think that the US should be much Muslims and Jews, as well as
firmer with Israel and put a lot of Christians, in Scotland. With luck
pressure on them, though this is there’ll be one or two Muslim
difficult because of the strong MSPs. The big question is whether
Jewish lobby. Unless something is the Nationalists will win and go on
done there’ll be dangerous conflict to demand independence which I
in the Middle East. Such danger think might be a good thing,
would be less likely to arise if all though I’m neither strongly for or
three Abrahamic faiths – Jews, against independence.
Christians and Muslims – paid
greater respect to what God Islam maintains that the
teaches us about living together. Word of God is final and we
can’t change it.
Do you think that the newly Christianity, with its under-
re-established Scottish standing of the dynamic
Parliament should take any presence of the Holy Spirit,
position on the Middle is in constant flux. Where
East? do you stand on this
The Scots Parliament should keep

The Review of Religions – Nov 2004 47

Interview – William Montgomery Watt

I would be inclined to say that the Bible. We seem to have to say that
Qur’an is the Word of God for a the precise commands which God
particular time and place and will gives to believers depend on the
not therefore necessarily suit other form of society in which they are
times and places. The prohibition living. Traditionally Muslims have
on usury may have been good for argued from God’s eternity that
a certain time and place but that the commands He gives are
doesn’t mean it will always be unalterable, and they have not
good. admitted that social forms can
You see, I think that Muslims need
help in reaching a fresh I therefore do not believe that
understanding of the Qur’an as either the Bible or the Qur’an is
God’s word, but comparison with infallibly true in the sense that all
the Bible does not help much. The their commands are valid for all
Qur’an came to Muhammad in a time. The commands given in both
period of less than 25 years, books were true and valid for the
whereas from Moses to Paul is societies to which the revelations
about 1300 years. Christians could were primarily addressed; but
perhaps show from the Bible that when the form of society changes
there is a development in God’s in important respects some
relation to the human race. For commands cease to be appropriate,
example, Moses was told to order though many others continue to be
the death penalty by stoning for valid. I do, however, believe that
anyone who broke the Sabbath by Muhammad, like the earlier
gathering firewood on it. Joshua prophets, had genuine religious
was told to exterminate the whole experiences. I believe that he really
population of various towns, men did receive something directly
women and children. Could the from God. As such, I believe that
loving God taught by Jesus have the Qur’an came from God, that it
given such barbaric and is Divinely inspired. Muhammad
bloodthirsty orders? To say ‘No,’ could not have caused the great
as one would like to do, throws upsurge in religion that he did
doubt on the inspiration of the without God’s blessing.

48 The Review of Religions – Nov 2004

Interview – William Montgomery Watt

The diagnosis of the Meccan ple might be Islamic teachings on

situation by the Qur’an is that the usury. I don’t see how it is possible
troubles of the time were primarily completely to get rid of usury.
religious, despite their economic, We’ll have to see how Islamic
social and moral undercurrents, attempts to get rid of usury work.
and as such capable of being Undoubtedly capit-alism has got
remedied only by means that are to be restricted in various ways.
primarily religious. In view of The world is certainly in a mess at
Muhammad’s effectiveness in the moment, but how we can get
addressing this, he would be a out of it, I don’t know. All I can
bold man who would question the say is that there are things that
wisdom of the Qur’an. Christianity can learn from Islam,
especially on its spiritual side, and
What do you think of the Islam can perhaps learn from
Qur’anic statement that the Christian understanding of God in
Old Testament has been relation to the universe and human
changed, thus accounting life. I think Muslims would find
for some of the differences that this might give a slightly
between the Abrahamic greater emphasis to something in
faiths? their own faith.

Well, I think that the later writers I think another thing is that we
sometimes changed earlier things have all got to come to terms with
to make them more suitable for the scientific outlook of today.
their contemporaries. I think there That is very critical of the Old
was a lot of rewriting of the Old Testament. Old Testament says a
Testament, though the form in lot about God’s anger which I
which we have it hasn’t been think is based on some of the false
changed since the Christian era. I ideas that the Old Testament
see the Old Testament as the people had. They thought, you see,
record of a developing religion. As that God could interfere with the
a religion develops some of the laws of nature. They thought that
earlier stages may have to be God made the sun stand still for a
abandoned completely. An exam- whole day so that Joshua could get

The Review of Religions – Nov 2004 49

Interview – William Montgomery Watt

a great victory. Well, that’s curing the sick. I don’t think some
impossible. They thought that God of the other miracles really
could intervene with His own happened. For instance, one of the
natural laws and punish people. outstanding things was the
Well, I think there is a sense in supposed changing of water into
which wrongdoing is punished, but wine at a marriage feast. This is
even in the Bible it is recognised given in the 4th Gospel and is said
that the wicked sometimes to be the first of the signs of Jesus’
flourish. There are different strands achievement. Clearly, this was
of thinking in the Bible. meant to be understood
symbolically, because making a lot
Islam requires belief in God of wine has nothing to do with the
as revealed in ‘the books’— Gospel. It was meant to symbolise
not just the one book. This changing something ordinary into
arguably incorporates something precious, which is what
Christian and Jewish scrip- Jesus had achieved. It was not
tures. What, then, do you meant to be taken literally – there
think Judeo-Christian was a tremendous amount of wine
understandings might have involved – the equivalent of about
to teach Islam? 900 bottles – and I do not think
Jesus was an alcoholic.
I think Muslims will have to take
the work of Christ more seriously, In the Qur’an there is very little
even if they simply regard him as a knowledge of Judaism and almost
prophet. The view I take, in none of Christianity except about
accordance with the creeds, is that such points as the virgin birth.
he was truly human. He was not a There are references to Moses and
superman. That leaves you with Abraham and so forth, but nothing
the question of how he was also about, for example, the settlement
divine, but I think we have to look of Israel in Palestine and the
much more at his humanity. I also achievements of the later prophets
don’t think he was able to work with their important emphasis on
miracles except for those that other justice. I cannot believe that God
saints could also do – such as would not bless the development

50 The Review of Religions – Nov 2004

Interview – William Montgomery Watt

of greater awareness amongst Christian with the Islamic

Muslims of these things. before the God of us all.
Might we close our
And what can Islam teach interview with that?
O Father, Son and Holy Spirit, one
Speaking personally, it has taught God, grant that the whole house of
me to think more deeply about the Islam, and we Christians with
oneness of God. I am not happy them, may come to know You
with the traditional Trinitarian more clearly, serve You more
Christian formulation of God nearly, and love You more dearly.
comprising three ‘persons’ – Amen.
Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The
word ‘person’ has changed since it Professor Watt, thank you, so
was first used in English four very much.
centuries ago. It was a translation
of the Latin persona – a face or
mask, such as that used by actors. This paper was first published in
Now the English word means an The Coracle, the Iona
individual, which is different. Community, Summer 2000, issue
Christianity is not trying to say 3:51, pp. 8-11.
that God comprises three
This is the internet version from:
individuals. Islam, with its many
different names for the qualities of
God, can help the Christian see a
more true meaning of Trinitarian Copyright is held by Alistair
doctrine. The Trinity is different McIntosh to whom we are greatly
faces or roles of the same one God. indebted for its use in this edition.
For me, that insight has been a No part of this article may be
direct result of my study of Islam. reproduced in any form in any
jursidiction without the express
There is a prayer that you authority of Alistair McIntosh or
the original copyright owner.
have long used that brings
together the Judeo-

The Review of Religions – Nov 2004 51

Interview – William Montgomery Watt

About The Iona Community

Iona is a small island off the west coast of Scotland, where in 563
Columba founded a Celtic monastery that was very influential in its
own times. In the middle ages it was the site of a Benedictine abbey
which over the centuries has attracted many thousands of pilgrims.

The Iona Community, founded in 1938 by the Rev George MacLeod,

then a parish minister in Glasgow, is an ecumenical Christian
community. The Community claims to be committed to rebuilding the
common life, through working for social and political change, striving
for the renewal of the church with an ecumenical emphasis, and
exploring new more inclusive approaches to worship.

The Community's mainland home is in Glasgow. Though the

Community is small in number, its members corporately and
individually pursue some particular areas of concern, which include:

• Justice, peace and the integrity of creation (opposing nuclear

weapons, campaigning against the arms trade and for ecological

• Political and cultural action to combat racism

• Action for economic justice, locally, nationally and globally.

The Editorial Board of the Review

of Religions wishes all its readers
a very happy Eid-Ul-Fitr

52 The Review of Religions – Nov 2004

Economic Values
by the late Sir Muhammad Zafrulla Khan (from The Review of Religions)

In the economic sphere the basic ‘In their wealth they

concept in Islam is that absolute acknowledge the right of those
ownership of everything belongs to who asked and of those who
God alone (2:108; 3:190). Man is could not’ (51:20).
God’s vicegerent on earth. God has
subjected to man’s service Part of this obligation is given
‘whatsoever is in the heavens and legal form and is made effective
whatsoever is in the earth’ (45:14). through legal sanctions, but the
This has reference to the whole of greater part is sought to be secured
mankind. ‘Allah is He Who has by voluntary effort put forth out of
appointed you (mankind) His a desire to achieve the highest
vicegerents in the earth,’ and he moral and spiritual benefits for all
who fails to recognise this dignity concerned. In fact, this supple-
and to act in accordance therewith menting of legal obligations
shall be answerable for his neglect through voluntary effort runs
and will not only suffer loss but through every part of the Islamic
will also incur the displeasure of system. Its operation can be
his Lord (35:40). observed in every sphere.

Legal ownership of the individual, The object of the Islamic economic

that is to say the right of system is to secure the widest and
possession, enjoyment and transfer most beneficent distribution of
of property, is recognised and wealth through institutions set up
safeguarded in Islam; but all by it and through moral
ownership is subject to the moral exhortation. Wealth must remain in
obligation that in all wealth all constant circulation among all
sections of society, and even sections of the community and
animals, have a right to share. should not become the monopoly
of the rich (59:8).

The Review of Religions – Nov 2004 53

Economic Values

Islam recognises the diversity of injustice, and would retard the

capacities and talents, which is in moral and spiritual development
itself beneficent, and consequently of individuals and of society as a
the diversity in earnings and whole.
material rewards (4:33). It does
not approve of a dead-level The principal economic obligation
equality in the distribution of is the payment of the capital levy
wealth, as that would defeat the called Zakat (22:79; 23:5). The
very purpose of the diversity, and word Zakat means ‘that which
would amount to denying ‘the purifies’ and ‘that which fosters.’
favour of Allah’ (16:72). It is All original sources of wealth –
obvious that if the incentive of the sun, the moon, the stars, the
proportionate reward for labour, clouds that bring rain, the winds
effort, skill and talent were to be that drive the clouds and carry the
removed, not only would initiative pollen, all phenomena of nature-
and enterprise be adversely are the gifts of God to the whole
affected, but intellectual progress of mankind. Wealth is produced
would also be arrested. That is by the application of man’s skill
why the theoretical doctrine of and labour to the resources which
equal reward irrespective of the God has provided for man’s
diversity of skill, capacities and subsistence and comfort and over
talents that have gone into the part of which man enjoys
production of wealth has never proprietary rights, to the extent
been maintained for long, even recognised by Islam. In the wealth
where it has been proclaimed as that is produced, therefore, three
State policy, and has had to be parties are entitled to share: the
modified through recourse to workman, whether skilled or
various devices designed to secure unskilled; the person who supplies
diversity in reward. On the other the capital; and the community as
hand, Islam does not leave the representing mankind. The
principle of competition and of community’s share in produced
proportionate rewards to work wealth is called Zakat. After this
itself out mechanically; that too has been set aside for the benefit
would lead to hardship and of the community, the rest is

54 The Review of Religions – Nov 2004

Economic Values

‘purified’ and may be divided Besides the Zakat, which was

between the remaining parties that described by the Prophet as ‘a levy
are entitled to share in it. imposed upon the well-to-do
which is returned to the poorer
The Zakat is assessed on both sections of the people’,1 implying
capital and income. Its incidence that it is their just due and must be
varies with reference to different paid back to them, there are other
kinds of property, but on the institutions within the economic
average it works out at two and sphere operating constantly to
one-half per cent of the capital further the objective of the whole
value. The proceeds of the Zakat system. One of these is the Islamic
are devoted towards relieving system of inheritance and
poverty and distress, winning over succession. Under this system a
the cheerful co-operation of those person may not dispose of more
who have not yet completely than one-third of his property by
adjusted their lives to the Islamic testamentary directions. While he
system, providing ransom for is in the enjoyment of normal
prisoners of war, helping those in health he may dispose of his
debt, providing comfort and property freely, subject, of course,
convenience for travellers, to the moral obligations, some of
supplying capital where talent is which have been noted; but
available but funds are lacking, neither by will nor by gift, once he
providing stipends for scholars enters upon a stage of illness
and research workers, meeting the which terminates in death, may he
expenses involved in collecting dispose of more than the permitted
and administering the Zakat, and one-third. By such disposition he
generally towards all things may provide legacies for friends,
beneficial for the community as a for servants, and for charity.
whole, such as public health,
public works, medical services, The rest of the inheritance must be
and educational institutions (9:60). divided among prescribed heirs in
It thus ‘fosters’ the welfare of the specified shares. No part of the
community (9:103). one-third permitted to be disposed
of by will may be used to augment

The Review of Religions – Nov 2004 55

Economic Values

the share of one or more heirs to share in the inheritance is twice

the prejudice of the remaining that of a female in the same degree
heirs. Each heir can take only his of relationship as himself. Far from
or her prescribed share and no operating to the prejudice of the
more; nor can any heir be deprived female heir, this actually places her
of the whole or any part of his or in a favourable position as
her share. There is a wide circle of compared with the male heir,
heirs. If a person should die because she does not have
leaving father, mother, wife or financial obligations to the family.
husband, sons and daughters, each
is an heir and is entitled to a Thus the Islamic system of
determined share of the inheritance operates to distribute
inheritance. In some cases the wealth so that a large number of
share of a female heir in the same people may have a competence or,
degree of relationship to the at least, a little, rather than that one
deceased as a male heir is equal to or a few should have a large share
that of the male heir, but normally and the rest nothing. As if all this
it is one half of that of a male heir left something to be desired, the
in the same degree (4:8; 12-13). exhortation is added: ‘If other
relations, who are not included
The difference between the normal among the heirs, and orphans and
share of female heirs and male the poor be present at the division
heirs in the same degree of of the inheritance, bestow
relationship to the deceased is not something upon them therefrom
in fact discriminatory to the and speak to them words of
prejudice of the female heirs. kindness’ (4:9).
Under the Islamic system, the
obligation of maintaining the Another major provision is the
family always rests upon the prohibition against the making of
husband, even when, as is often the loans on interest. The word used in
case, the wife’s personal income this connection in the Qur'an is
may be larger than the husband’s. riba the connotation of which is
To enable the male to discharge his not identical with that of the word
obligations towards the family, his ‘interest’ as commonly under-

56 The Review of Religions – Nov 2004

Economic Values

stood; but for the present purpose

“interest” may be used as a rough Trade, commercial partnerships,
equivalent. Riba is prohibited co-operatives, joint stock com-
because it tends to draw wealth panies are all legitimate activities
into the hands of a small circle and and operations (2:276). Islam
to restrict the exercise of does, however, lay down regu-
beneficence towards one’s fellow lations with regard to commercial
beings. In the case of loans which activities, designed to secure that
bear interest, the lender in effect they be carried on honestly and
takes advantage of, and makes a beneficently. All contracts,
profit out of, the need or distress of whether involving large amounts
another. Islam urges the making of or small, must be reduced to
loans, but says they should be writing, setting out all the terms
beneficent loans, meaning without thereof, as ‘this is more likely to
interest. If the debtor finds himself keep out doubts, and avoid
in straitened circumstances when disputes’ (2:283). The writing
the time for repayment of the loan should set out the terms agreed
arrives, he should be granted upon fairly, and as a further
respite till his circumstances precaution it is laid down that the
improve, but ‘if you remit it terms of the contract shall be
altogether as charity, that shall be dictated by the person who
the better for you, if only you knew’ undertakes the liability. If the
(2:281). person on whose behalf the
liability is undertaken is a minor,
It is a mistake to imagine that or of unsound judgment, then his
transactions involving interest guardian or the person repre-
bring about an increase in the senting his interests should dictate
national wealth. The Qur’an says the terms of the contract (2:283).
that in the sight of Allah it is not a
beneficent increase. ‘But whatever Monopolies and the cornering of
you give in Zakat, seeking the commodities are prohibited; so
favour of Allah – it is these who also is the holding back of produce
will increase their wealth from the market in expectation of
manifold’ (30:40). a rise in prices.2 All this is opposed

The Review of Religions – Nov 2004 57

Economic Values

to beneficence, and those who Defective or worthless goods or

indulge in such practices seek to articles should not be given in
take advantage of the need or exchange for good ones (4:3). In
distress of their fellow beings. The short, any kind of transaction
seller is under obligation to which does not comply with the
disclose any defect in the article highest standards of honesty and
offered for sale. 3 Goods and integrity must be eschewed, ‘for
commodities for sale should go God loves not the dishonest.’
into the open market, and the seller (8:59).
or his agent must be aware of the
state of the market before Gambling is prohibited, inasmuch
proposals are made for purchase of as it promotes dissension and
the goods or commodities in bulk. hatred and tends to deter those
He should not be taken unawares, who indulge in it from the
lest advantage be taken of his remembrance of God and from
ignorance of the state of the prayer, thus occasioning a great
market and the prevailing prices.4 deal more harm than any possible
benefit that may be derived from it
There are stern injunctions in the (2:220; 5:91). It also brings
Qur’an with regard to the giving sudden and undeserved accession
of full weight and measure of wealth and encourages extra-
(26:182–185). ‘Woe unto those vagance. Indulgence in gambling
who give short measure; those often brings ruin and misery in its
who, when they take by measure wake.
from other people, take it full, but
when they give by measure to All unlawful means of acquiring
others or weigh out to them, they property are prohibited, as these in
give them less.’ (82:2–7). the end destroy a people (4:30).
Acquisition of property or goods
Do not such people know that they through falsehood falls in the same
will be raised again unto a terrible category. It is equally unlawful to
day, the day when mankind will seek to establish a title to property
stand before the Lord of the by obtaining judgment through
worlds? corrupt means like bribery or false

58 The Review of Religions – Nov 2004

Economic Values

evidence (2:189). The Prophet that may be derived from God’s

said that a party to a dispute which bounty (4:38). The wealth of
obtains a judgement in its favour, misers, instead of bringing them
knowing that it is not in the right, any advantage, becomes a
only collects a quantity of fire for handicap and arrests their moral
itself and not something from and spiritual development (3:181).
which it can draw any benefit.5 The other extreme, extravagance,
is equally condemned. Even when
On the other hand, goods and giving to, or sharing with, others a
property lawfully acquired are a person should not go so far as to
bounty of God which is provided render himself in turn an object of
by Him as a means of support. charity (17:30). Hoarding is
They should be properly looked absolutely prohibited because it
after and should not be wasted puts wealth out of circulation and
through neglect. A person of deprives the owner as well as the
defective judgment should not be rest of the community of its
permitted to squander away his beneficent use (9:34). The truth is
substance. It should be managed that God alone is All-Sufficient,
and administered for him, and and all prosperity proceeds from
provision should be made for his Him. It is men who are in need,
maintenance out of the income and prosperity is achieved not
(4:6). through miserliness of holding
back, but through beneficent
Niggardliness is condemned as a spending, which is spending ‘in
negative and destructive quality. the cause of Allah,’ namely, in the
While, on the one hand, service of His creatures (47:39).
ostentation and vanity are dis-
approved of, on the other, it is not As already stated, a legal owner of
considered right that a person who property is not the only person
is well off should pretend to be entitled to its use. Those in need
poor, fearing lest he be called upon who ask, and even those who do
to help others. By doing this he not ask or are unable to express
makes himself poor in effect, and their need, have a right in the
deprives himself of the benefits property of those who are better

The Review of Religions – Nov 2004 59

Economic Values

off, inasmuch as all wealth is a benefit is to be derived from

bounty of God and is acquired beneficent spending and not from
through the use of resources which parsimonious holding back. This
God has provided for the benefit is the fundamental principle which
of the whole of mankind (51:20). is the basis of all prosperity,
That is why the Qur’an directs that individual, national and universal.
kindred, the needy, the wayfarer, The Qur’an emphasises this
must be paid their due (30:39). To repeatedly. For instance: ‘Behold,
this end there is emphatic and you are those who are favoured by
repeated exhortation in the being called upon to spend in the
Qur’an. Such giving should be in way of Allah; but of you there are
proportion to the need of the some who hold back, yet
person to be helped and in accord whosoever holds back does so only
with the means of the giver, and to his own prejudice. It is Allah
should not proceed from any Who is All-Sufficient, and it is you
expectation of receiving a return who are needy’ (47:39). Holding
(17:27; 74:7). back renders a person pro-
gressively poorer in the true sense,
It is indeed the highest bounty of inasmuch as he stultifies his
God that He should have endowed faculties, and by putting that
man with appropriate faculties and which he possesses out of service
capacities and then subjected the and out of circulation, renders it
universe to man’s beneficent completely barren and unfruitful.
service to enable him to achieve
the fullest development of his The subject of charitable and
faculties in every sphere of life. beneficent spending has so many
Yet some people, instead of aspects that they can be better
putting their faculties to beneficent appreciated in the juxtaposition in
use in the service of their fellow which the Qur’an puts them. The
beings and spending that which following excerpts contain a
they possess for the same purpose, whole philosophy of spending,
have a tendency to hold back, not giving and sharing, on which no
realising that even from the purely detailed commentary is called for:
selfish point of view the greatest

60 The Review of Religions – Nov 2004

Economic Values

‘The case of those who spend ‘The likeness of those who

their wealth for the cause of spend their wealth to seek the
Allah is like that of a grain of pleasure of Allah and to
corn which grows seven ears, strengthen their souls is that of
in each ear a hundred grains. a garden on elevated ground.
Allah multiplies even more for Heavy rain falls on it so that it
whomsoever He pleases. Allah brings forth its fruit twofold,
is Bountiful, All-Knowing. and if heavy rain does not fall
on it, then light rain suffices.
‘They who spend their wealth Allah sees what you do.
for the cause of Allah, then ‘Does any one of you desire
follow not up what they have that there should be for him a
spent with reproach or injury, garden of palm trees and vines
for them is their reward with with streams flowing beneath
their Lord, and they shall have it, and with all kinds of fruit for
no fear, nor shall they grieve. him therein-while old age has
stricken him and he has
‘A kind word and forgiveness helpless offspring-and that a
are better than charity fiery whirlwind should smite it
followed by injury. Allah is All- and it be all consumed? Thus
Sufficient, Forbearing. does Allah make His Signs
‘O ye who believe, render not clear to you that you may
vain your charity by taunt and ponder.
injury, like him who spends his ‘O ye who believe, spend of the
wealth to be seen of men, and pure things that you have
he believes not in Allah and the earned, and of what We bring
Last Day. His case is like that forth for you from the earth;
of a smooth rock covered with and seek not what is bad to
earth, on which heavy rain spend out of it when you would
falls, leaving it bare and hard. not receive it yourselves except
They shall not secure the with closed eyes. Know that
benefit of aught of what they Allah is All-Sufficient,
earn. And Allah guides not the Praiseworthy.
disbelieving people. ‘Satan threatens you with

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Economic Values

poverty and enjoins upon you surely Allah has perfect

what is foul, whereas Allah knowledge thereof.
promises you forgiveness from ‘Those who spend their wealth
Himself, and Bounty. Allah is by night and day, secretly and
Bountiful, All-Knowing.’ openly, have their reward with
(2:262-269) their Lord, on them shall come
no fear, nor shall they
‘If you give alms openly, it is grieve’(2: 272-275).
well; but if you keep them
secret and give them to the
poor, it is better for you. He
will remove from you many of References
your ills. Allah is aware of 1. Bukhari 1, Sect.: Zakat, Ch.:
what you do. Obligation of Zakat.
2. Ibn Majah II, Sect.: Trade, Ch.:
‘…Whatever wealth you spend, Holding back Commodities;
it is to the benefit of your own Muslim II, Sect.: sales, Ch.:
selves, while you spend not but Prohibition of holding back
to seek the favour of Allah. Foodstuffs.
Whatever of wealth you spend, 3. Bukhari II, Sect.: Sales, Ch.:
it shall be paid back to you in Revocation, etc., Ibn Majah II,
full and you shall not be Sect.: Trade, Ch.: Seller should
disclose defects.
‘Charity is for the needy, who 4. Bukhari 11, Sect.: sales, Ch.:
are restricted in the cause of Prohibition against purchase of
goods before they arrive in the
Allah and are unable to move
about in the land. The ignorant
person thinks them to be free 5. Bukhari IV, Sect.: Judgements, Ch.:
Admonition to Parties.
from want because of their
abstaining from begging. Thou (PARANTHESSIS)
shall know them by their All other references in parenthesis are
appearance; they do not ask of to the Holy Qur’an.
men with importunity.
Whatever of wealth you spend,

62 The Review of Religions – Nov 2004

Letter to the Editor
Sir Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism,
Budhism, Sikhism, etc. and this
I am a regular reader of The knowledge is nowadays essential
Review of Religions. The work for us since we live amongst
done is great. I was recently going Christians and people of other
through the speeches from the faiths. In my opinion, it is very
various guests at the Peace important for us to have
Symposium held at Baitul Futuh knowledge about other faiths as
(Morden, UK) on 25 April. I was well as ours.
very happy that the Ahmadiyya
Muslim community organised For example, the article about
such an event and invited people Salahuddin Ayyubi (The Review of
from different faiths. This is a Religions September 2004) was
good way to learn about other very inspiring for me and would
faiths and for them to learn from be for other younger people. So
us. The problem is that Christians magazines like The Review of
and people of other faiths do not Religions are also very important
know what Islam actually is. The for young people. They give you
only information they get is from knowledge about matters that is
the media about Islam. In most hardly available in books
cases, it is the wrong description nowadays.
of Islam. Even in my school, I
have come across some Christian All I want to say is: keep up the
teachers and fellow students who good work and promote The
are not really aware of Islam. They Review of Religions also amongst
try to give a wrong picture in front younger people.
of others. It is difficult to explain
to everyone what Islam actually is. Sumera Ahmed,
Friedberg, Germany
Besides that we also lack know-
ledge about other faiths like

The Review of Religions – Nov 2004 63

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