In the Name of Allah (God Almighty), Most Gracious, Most Merciful

Western Perceptions of ISLAM



For the first three centuries of its existence (Circa 650 A.C. - 1000 A.C.) the realm of Islam was the most civilized and progressive portion of the world. Studded with splendid cities, gracious mosques, and quiet universities where the wisdom of the ancient world was preserved and appreciated, the Moslem world offered a striking contrast to the Christian West, then sunk in the night of the Dark Ages.- The New World Of Islam, London 1932, Page 1 - A.M. Lothrop Stoddard (Ph.D.).


"The extinction of race consciousness as between Muslims is one of the outstanding achievements of Islam, and in the contemporary world there is , as it happens, a crying need for the propagation of this Islamic virtue."- Civilization On Trial, New York 1948, Page 205 - Professor A.J. Toynbee.


"Islam had the power of peacefully conquering souls by the simplicity of its theology, the clearness of its dogma and principles, and the definite number of the practices which it demands. In contrast to Christianity which has been undergoing continual transformation since its origin, Islam had remained identical with itself." - Etude sur L'Islamisme, Page 35 - Jean L'heureux.


"From a new angle and with a fresh vigour it (the Arab mind) took up that systematic development of positive knowledge which the Greeks had begun and relinquished. If the Greek was the father, then the Arab was the foster-father of the scientific method of dealing with reality, that is to say, by absolute frankness, the utmost simplicity of statement and explanation, exact record and exhaustive criticism. Through the Arabs it was and not by the Latin route that the modern world received that gift of light and power." - The Outline Of History, London 1920 - H.G.Wells.


"Two features in the Creed of Islam have always specially attracted me. One is the conception of God, the other is its unquestionable sincerity - a tremendous asset in human affairs, the religious aspect of them especially."- Islam : Her Moral And Spiritual London 1927 - Major Arthur Glyn Leonard.


"But Islam has yet a further service to render to the cause of humanity .... No other society has such a record of success in uniting in an equality of status, of opportunity and of endeavour so many and so various races of mankind. The great Muslim communities of Africa, India, Indonesia, and perhaps also the small Muslim community in Japan, show that Islam has still the power to reconcile apparently irreconcilable elements of race and tradition. If ever the opposition of the great societies of the East and West is to be replaced by co-operation, the mediation of Islam is an indispensable condition." - Whither Islam? London 1932, Page 379 - H.A.R. Gibb.


George Bernard Shaw says:
"I have always held the religion of Muhammad in high estimation because of its wonderful vitality. It is the only religion which appears to possess that assimilating capability to the changing phases of existence which can make itself appeal to every age."

"I have prophesied about the faith of Muhammad that it would be acceptable tomorrow as it is beginning to be acceptable to the Europe of today. Mediaeval ecclesiastics, either through ignorance or bigotry, painted Muhammadanism in the darkest colours. They were, in fact, trained to hate both the man Muhammad and his religion. To them Muhammad was anti-Christ. I have studied him, the wonderful man, and in my opinion far from being an anti-Christ 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 the problems in a way that would bring it the much-needed peace and happiness. Europe is beginning to be enamoured of the creed of Muhammad. In the next century it may go still further in recognizing the utility of that creed in solving its problems, and it is in this sense that you must understand my prediction."- A Collection Of Writings Of Some Of The Eminent Scholars, Page 77, Published 1935.


" 'Take away that black man! I can have no discussion with him', exclaimed the Christian Archbishop Cyrus when the Arab conquerors had sent a deputation of their ablest men to discuss terms of surrender of the capital of Egypt, headed by Negro Ubadah as the ablest of them all."

"To the sacred archbishop's astonishment, he was told that this man was commissioned by General Amr; that the Moslems held Negroes and white men in equal respect - judging a man by his character and not by his colour."

" 'Well, if the Negro must lead, he must speak gently,' ordered the prelate, 'so as not to frighten his white auditors.' "

" 'There are a thousand blacks, as black as myself, amongst our companions. I and they would be ready to meet and fight a hundred enemies together. We live only to fight for God, and to follow His Will. We care naught for wealth, so long as we have the wherewithal to stay our hunger and to clothe our bodies. This world is naught for us, the next world is all.' "

"Such a spirit of class distinction is certainly the greatest hindrance to missionary work in the East, as every impartial observer has noted. How, for instance, can any other appeal stand against that of the Moslem who, in approaching the pagan, says to him, however obscure or degraded he maybe, 'Embrace the faith, and you are at once equal and a brother'. Islam knows no colour line." - Veiled Mysteries Of Egypt, London 1912, Page 332 - S.S. Leeder.


"I often think that woman is more free in Islam than in Christianity . Woman is more protected by Islam than by the faith which preaches monogamy. In Al-Qur'an the law about woman is more just and liberal. It is only in the last twenty years that Christian England has recognized the right of woman to property, while Islam has allowed this right from all times." - The Life and Teachings Of Muhammad, Madras 1932, Pages 25-26 - Annie Beasant.


"Europe was darkened at sunset, Cordova shone with public lamps: Europe was covered with vermin, Cordova changed its undergarments daily: Europe lay in mud, Cordova's streets were paved; Europe's palaces had smoke-holes in the ceiling, Cordova's arabesques were exquisite; Europe's nobility could not sign its name, Cordova's children went to school; Europe's monks could not read the baptismal service, Cordova's teachers created a library of Alexandrian dimensions." - The Story Of Medicine, Page 164 - Victor Robinson.


"We may safely say, that Islam, its force and extensive power has contributed to a self-awakening of Europe from its lethargy."

"Christian spiritual culture and even political organization was influenced and moulded by Islam. There was a time when learning in Europe could be derived only through the medium of the Arabic tongue, which was the language of Islam, and European scholars went to Spain to enrich their minds with the treasures of knowledge, amassed in its schools and libraries. Arts and crafts flourished in Islamic countries to such a perfection, town life developed to such a height that when the industrious Arabs were driven out of Spain, manufacturing skill suddenly relapsed in Spain in the XVI Century." - Muslims And Learnings, December 1930 - Dr. Julius Germanus (of Hungary).


"The rise of Islam is perhaps the most amazing event in human history. Springing from a land and a people previously negligible, Islam spread within a century over half the earth, shattering great empires, overthrowing long-established religions, remoulding the souls of races, and building up a whole new world - the world of Islam."

"The closer we examine this development the more extraordinary does it (Islam) appear. The other great religions won their way slowly, by painful struggle, and finally triumphed with the aid of powerful monarchs converted to the new faith."

"Christianity had its Constantine, Buddhism its Ashoka, and Zoroastrianism its Cyrus, each lending to his chosen cult the mighty force of secular authority."

"Not so Islam. Arising in a desert land sparsely inhabited by a nomad race previously undistinguished in human annals, Islam sallied forth on its great adventure with the slenderest human backing and against the heaviest material odds. Yet Islam triumphed with seemingly miraculous case, and a couple of generations saw the Fiery Crescent borne victorious from the Pyrenees to the Himalayas and from the desert of Central Asia to the deserts of Central Africa." - New World Of Islam, London 1932, Pages 1-3 -A.M. Lothrop Stoddard (Ph. D).


"While Christianity in recent years has moved towards a social gospel, Islam has been a social gospel from the start." - Islam In the Modern World, London 1946, Pages 22-23 - Wilfred Cantwell Smith.


"It is to Mussulman science, to Mussulman art, and to Mussulman literature that Europe has been in a great measure indebted for its extrication from the darkness of the Middle Ages." - Speeches Delivered in India, London 1890, Page 24 - Marquis Of Dufferin And Ava.


Napoleon Bonaparte states:

'Moses has revealed the existence of God to his nation, Jesus Christ to the Roman world, Muhammad to the old continent."

"Arabia was idolatrous when, six centuries after Jesus, Muhammad introduced the worship of the God of Abraham, of Ishmael, of Moses and of Jesus. The Ayrians and some other sect had disturbed the tranquillity of the East by agitating the question of the nature of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Muhammad declared that there was none but One God Who had no father, no son and that the Trinity imported the idea of idolatry."

"He wrote on the flyleaf of the Qur'an : 'There is no god but God.' The Parthians, the Scythians, the Mongols, the Tartars and the Turks have generally shown themselves enemies of science and arts, but this reproach cannot be fastened on to the Arabs, no more than upon Muhammad."

"The Muslims attached so much value to this art that they regarded it as equal to bravery. Al-Mansur, Harun al-Rashid and Al-Mamun cultivated arts and sciences. They were fond of literature, chemistry and mathematics; they lived with savants, caused the Greek and Latin authors - the Iliad, the Odyssey, Euclid, etc. - to be translated into Arabic, and founded schools and colleges for medicine, astronomy and moral science. Ahmad corrected the tables of Ptolemy; Abbas was a distinguished mathematician; Costa, Alicude, Thabit and Ahmad measured one degree of meridian from Saana to Kufa. Chemistry, alembics, sun-dial, clocks and the numerical signs owe their existence to Arab invention. Nothing is more elegant than their moral tales; their poetry is full of fervour. Muhammad extolled everywhere the savants and such men as devoted themselves to a speculative life and cultivated letters."

"In the library of Cairo there were 6000 volumes on astronomy, and more than 100,000 on other subjects; in the library of CordavaError! Bookmark not defined. there were 300,000 volumes. Sciences and arts reigned five hundred years under the Caliphs and made great progress, which was brought to naught by the invasion of the Mongols."

"I hope the time is not far off when I shall be able to unite all the wise and educated men of all the countries and establish a uniform regime based on the principles of the Qur'an which alone are true and which alone can lead men to happiness." - Bonaparte et I'Islam, France, Page 105-125 - Cherfils.


"But apart from all these weighty considerations, the attitude of Europe towards Islam should be one of eternal gratitude, instead of base ingratitude and forgetfulness. Never to this day has Europe acknowledged in an honest and wholehearted manner the great and everlasting debt she owes to Islamic culture and civilization. Only in a lukewarm and perfunctory way has she recognised that when, during the Dark Ages, her people were sunk in feudalism and ignorance. Moslem civilization under the Arabs reached a high standard of social and scientific splendour that kept alive the flickering embers of European society from utter decadence. Do not we, who now consider ourselves on the topmost pinnacle ever reached by culture and civilization, recognize that had it not been for the high culture, the civilization and intellectual as well as the social splendour of the Arabs, and to the soundness of the school system, Europe would to this day have remained sunk in the darkness of ignorance? Have we forgotten that the Mohammedan maxim was that the real learning of a man is of more public importance than any particular religious opinion we may entertain - that MoslemError! Bookmark not defined. liberality was in striking contrast with the intolerant state of Europe? Have we forgotten that the Khalifate arose in the most degenerate period of Rome and Persia, also that the greater part of Europe lay under the dark cloud of barbarism? Does the magnificent valour of the Arabs, inspired as it was by a theism as lofty as it was pure, not appeal to us?"

"Does it not all the more appeal to us, when we contrast this with the bitterness of the attitude of the Christian sects towards one another? Especially when we consider that in Christiandom as it was then constituted, extortion, tyranny and imperial centralization, combining with ecclesiastical despotism and persecution, had practically extinguished patriotism, by substituting in its place a schismatic and degenerate church. Is it not obvious that in her outlook on Islam, Europe has overlooked her own Dark Ages - that awful period of intellectual oblivion which commenced with the decline of classical learning subsequent to the establishment of the barbarians in Europe in the fifth century, and continued down to the Renaissance, i.e., towards the end of the fourteenth century? Is it, too, not evident that she has lost all recollection of the torn and disturbed state of Christiandom even in the middle of the fifteenth century when the renaissance was in full swing, or had at least run half its course?"

"Is it possible that Europe is unmindful of, and has the ingratitude to ignore, the splendid services of the scientists and philosophers of Arabia? Are the names of Assamh, Abu Othman, Albernin Albeithar, Abu Ali Ibn Sina (Avicenna) the great physician and philosopher Ibn Rushd (Averroes) of CordovaError! Bookmark not defined., the chief commentator on Aristotle, Ibn Bajja (Avempace) besides a host of others, but dead letters? Is the great work what they have done and the fame they have left behind them in their books, to be consigned to the limbo of oblivion, by an ungrateful because antipathetic Europe? Does the work of Alhazen, author of optical treatises, who understood the weight of air, corrected the Greek misconception or theory of vision, and determined the function of the retina, count for nothing? Do we owe no tribute to a great thinker such as Ghazali, who in speaking of his attempts to detach himself from his youthful opinions says: 'I said to myself, my aim is simply to know the truth of things, consequently it is indispensable for me to ascertain what is knowledge?' It cannot be that already we have lost sight of the amazing intellectual activity of the Moslem5 world, during the earlier part of the 'Abbasid' period more especially? It cannot be that we have quite forgotten the irrecoverable loss that was inflicted on Arabian literature and on the world at large by the wanton destruction of thousands of books that was prompted by Christian bigotry and fanaticism? It cannot surely be said of Christian Europe that for centuries she has done her best to hide her obligations to the Arabs? Yet most assuredly obligations such as these are far to sacred to lie much longer hidden!

"Let Europe - Christiandom rather - confess and acknowledge her fault. Let her proclaim aloud to her own ignorant masses, and to the world at large, the ingratitude she has displayed, and the eternal debt she owes to, the Islam she no longer despises. Open confession is good for the soul, and only a confession such as this can wipe off the black stain which has for so long besmirched her fair name. Let Christiandom once and for all recognise that the greatest of all faults is to be conscious of none - that acknowledging a fault is saying, only in other words, we are wiser today than we were yesterday. Only through magnanimity such as this can she claim redemption. For she must surely know that 'injustice founded on religious sources and national conceit cannot be perpetrated forever'."- Islam: Her Moral and Spiritual Value, London 1927, Page 142 - Major Arthur Glyn Leonard

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