Just finished reading this and I couldn’t help but feel how limited my knowledge of Muhammad was up until this point. Considering how influential he was and continues to be for over a billion people in the world, it amazes me how millions of supposedly educated people choose to live in wilful ignorance of one of history’s most enigmatic figures. This book left a lasting impression on me primarily due to Dr Lais’s intention to dispel all the Orientalist fabrications and hysteria surrounding Muhammad. I’m pleased he felt the theme of tolerance to be pressing enough to inspire him to write a book on the subject by linking it to a man who has been grossly misunderstood. Ignorance breeds intolerance and hatred which is why a book like this is crucial to reinstating civility among people. Humanity appears to have lost many core values which are necessary for peace and with tolerance being essential to positive social relations, the author must be commended for making the mutual understanding between faith and non-faith communities a focal objective of his research.
This book was a real eye-opener. It was refreshing to learn that Muhammad’s teachings were embraced by so many non-Muslims. I would never have thought that he would be held to such a high and noblestandard by some of Europe’s great luminaries but was clearly wrong! I’m surprised a book of this nature wasn’t already on the market so it’s much to Dr Lais’s credit that he produced what is by all means a very timely publication, given the lies, deception and propaganda which is circulating about Islam nowadays, in particular, the life and personality of Muhammad. The press are so often responsible for peddling a sinister agenda which keeps the ignorance of Islam alive. I encourage anyone with a yearning for objectivity to read this fantastic compilation of non-Muslim commentaries on Muhammad. It certainly helped me develop a dispassionate view of his life and Islam in general and I’m sure it can have a similar effect on others.
The man and prophet Muhammad has been still shaping lives of millions of people across the globe as he did in the past. Those who want to know Muhammad through the eyes of 1001 people of different ages they should read this book. For example, George Bernard Shaw says “He must be called the Saviour of Humanity. I believe that if a man like him were to assume the dictatorship of the modern world, he would succeed in solving its problems in a way that would bring it the much needed peace and happiness: I have prophesied about the faith of Muhammad that it would be acceptable to the Europe of tomorrow as it is beginning to be acceptable to the Europe of today.”
The message of Prophet Muhammad to the mankind, as the author maintains, is to live peacefully like brothers of a family irrespective of the differences due to faiths, nationalities, cultures, colours or any others factors. Every individual belongs to one class which is ‘humankind’.
A CONTRIBUTION TOWARDS UNDERSTANDING
“Muhammad (SAW): 1001 Universal Appreciations and Interfaith Understanding and Peace” written by Dr Mohammed A. Lais
Barrister Nazir Ahmed
Dr Mohammed A. Lais, an educationalist and researcher, has recently published a book entitled “Muhammad (SAW): 1001 Universal Appreciations and Interfaith Understanding and Peace.” The book consists of total 448 pages. It contains a ‘Selected Bibliography’ with more than hundred sources. The book has been dedicated to the author’s late son in law (who passed away at his early age) and four grandchildren. The author, in the acknowledgment section, expressed his thanks, appreciation and deep gratitude to many individuals, institutions and organisations for their help, support, encouragement and inspiration. The Rev. Dr. Damian Howard SJ, of Heythrope College, University of London, has written the forward to the book.
The book is divided into eight Chapters. Chapter One is an introductory chapter. Here, the author has narrated the rationale, aims and objectives of the book. He briefly describes the origins of his works and who the book is intended for. He also narrates, though shortly, the circumstances of pre-Islamic Arabia and how there was reaction among the Christians. On pages 15 and 16 of this Chapter the author gives a summary of all Chapters. Chapter Two deals with characteristics of Prophet Muhammad (SAW). Here the author has tried to refute various charges wrongly and falsely made against Muhammad (SAW) and at the same time he has highlighted comments from diverse leading personalities of all faiths stating their tremendous admirations on Prophet Muhammad (SAW). The themes of this Chapter have then been divided into three Parts. Part One looks into appreciation of the ‘greatness’ of Muhammad (SAW), Part Two to the ‘simplicity’ of Muhammad (SAW) and Part Three to the ‘honesty’ of Muhammad (SAW). Chapter Three deals with the issue of the emancipation of women and equality. The author provides evidence in this chapter of how Prophet Muhammad (SAW) was a real protector of the needy, distressed and vulnerable sections of the society – orphans, poor, women, slave etc – and how he fought for equality, rights and non-discrimination.
Chapter Four deals with the impact and influence of Islam. Here, the author has shown how Islam enlightened Europe during its darkness. Chapter Five deals with the teachings of the Holy Qur’an. Here the author has put forward the contributions the Holy Qur’an has made for mankind. Chapter Six deals with the Prophet’s noble teachings for humanity and the unjustified linking by some with the terrorism. Here the author has highlighted the false images of Islam portrayed by some media and how it has been creating social tension. Chapter Seven deals with western perceptions of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and the wrong image of him portrayed by western media. Here the author explains how Islam was spread. He has tried to provide evidence that Islam was not preached at the point of a sword. Rather, the conduct of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) attracted others. This Chapter is divided into two parts. Part One shows how ignorance about Prophet Muhammad (SAW) has created a wrong image of him in the West in particular. Part Two deals with the issue of burning the Qur’an and how it has contributed to social instability and presented obstacles to peace and unity. The final Chapter, Chapter Eight, deals with the Prophet Muhammad’s (SAW) teaching for interfaith understanding. This Chapter is divided into two Parts. Part One deals with the concept of the welfare system. The author explains how zakat (almsgiving) can help establish a healthy society which cares for neighbours and poor etc. Part Two deals with social harmony and cohesion. Here the author strives to show how the teachings of Islam and Prophet Muhammad (SAW) can encourage Muslim and non-Muslim alike to live in a multi-cultural society in peace and harmony, regardless of faith, nationality, culture, colour and other factors.
The author divides the aims of his book into three. First, he planned to investigate the truth about Prophet Muhammad (SAW), Islam and the Qur’an. Second, he strived to investigate the reasons of misunderstanding between the Islamic world and the West. Third, he intended to investigate whether Muslims could live cohesively in an interfaith community based on the teachings of Islam. With these aims in mind, the author has gone to conduct an objective investigation “into the appreciation, judgements, opinions, gratitude and thoughts made by non-Muslims about the characteristics of Prophet Muhammad (SAW), influence and impact of Islam and teachings and guidance the Qur’an made by non-Muslims across history and also to find out if the Islamic guidance encourages the Muslims to live cohesively in a society.”
This book has attempted to cover a wide range of issues simultaneously. In that sense, it may be said that the book is not a detailed in-depth study of any particular issue based on empherical data with a conventional methodology. The terms “jihad” and “extremism” are the most used words in the contemporary western media. The author should have included these two contemporary issues in his books. However, the author himself recognises his book has this limitation. In Part 4 of the “Notes to the Reader,” the author said “One of the limitations of the present study owing to financial constraints is not to cover ‘jihad’ and its theology. Both of these are specialist areas. The author of this book feels that separate studies could be conducted to explore these areas.” I feel this is an honest admission and explanation.
Having given a mildly critical view above, I would say that this book is a distinct one in the sense that it is not a usual descriptive kind book on the life history of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) – the type, in different forms and styles, we normally see in the market. It is rather a unique type book, based on research, in which the author has assimilated 1001 appreciations of Islam and its Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAW) from different religions – Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism and Hinduism – as well as a wide variety of leading personalities of the world – from Ghandi to George Bernard Show. According to Rev. Dr. Damian Howard SJ “Dr Muhammad Lais has worked tirelessly to gather the testimony of an impressive array of witnesses, Muslim and non-Muslims, who have registered their admiration and esteem for Muhammad and for his extraordinary achievements.”
Compiling statements of admirations, gathering appreciations and findings opinions of more than 1000 leading institutions, organisations and personalities, both late and alive, are not easy tasks. It is, no doubt, a very hard, painful, expensive and lengthy task, which the author had taken in his shoulder with comfort and passion. The author has confirmed that he has personally and privately funded the entire research project and publication of this book. In doing these admirable tasks, the author has, no doubt, discharged a noble religious duty as well as contributed towards understanding interfaith and peace in multicultural and pluralist society.
The author has complied in his book statements of admirations and appreciations of Islam and Prophet Muhammad (SAW) from leading individuals through thorough research. Here are some examples: In relation to Mohammad (SAW)’s affability with neighbour, Lord Norman Lamont stressed “I would have thought that his teachings would be to look after our neighbours and be friendly with them.” Prophet Muhammad’s brotherly relations and peaceful co-existence with a neighbour is recognised by Right Honourable David Blunkett MP, who said “He believed my neighbour is my brother, we help each other when in need. He said we should behave with non-Muslims as you would behave with your brother.” In relation to the influence of Islam, George Bernard Show, an Irish Playwright and Co-Founder of the London School of Economics said “If any religion had the chance of ruling over England, nay Europe within the next hundred years, it could be Islam.” Gandhi, the icon of nonviolence, concluded that there was no violence in Islam. He said “My reading of the Qur’an has convinced me that the basis of Islam is not violence, but is unadulterated peace. It regards forbearance as a superior to vengeance. The very word ‘Islam’ means peace, which is nonviolence.” Innumerable examples along these lines can be given.
Islam is the most misunderstood religion on earth. It is misunderstood not only by non-Muslims, but also by significant numbers of Muslims as well. This is very unfortunate. Many make their judgements on Islam, its Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and his principles and teachings based on hearsay and the perception that the western media has portrayed. The ongoing mistrust, suspicion and misunderstanding between Muslims and Non-Muslims have developed mainly due to ignorance, proper understanding, lack of mutual respect and tolerance. The rich contribution of Islam in the West during the dark ages and the unique qualities and principles the Holy Prophet Mohammad (SAW) has practically shown have not been properly appreciated by the world in general and the West in particular. I hope this book will, to a great extent, help readers to understand Islam and its holy prophet and remove the ignorance and misunderstanding the West and non-Muslim world have been having. I fully agree with Imam Sheikh Abdul Qayum of East London Mosque who said “I commend Dr Lais for a tremendous effort on his part to help enlighten Muslims and non-Muslims alike about the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh.)”
Barrister Nazir Ahmed: a UK based Legal expert, analyst, writer and columnist. He can be contacted via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org