HISTORY OF ISLAM – A QURANIC PERSPECTIVE.
What does the Quran say about the history of Islam?
To put things in perspective, we must first understand the Quranic worldview about religion and Allah.
The Quran suggests that all religions came from Allah as He has sent messengers everywhere in the course of history; a few are named in the Quran mainly those from the Abrahamic line while the rest are not clearly mentioned at all. But definitely there were other messengers sent to other geographical areas like Asia, Europe and the Americas, etc. although the Quran strategically remains silent about the other geographical locations so as to be all inclusive. Here are clear examples.
“Of some apostles We have already told thee the story; of others We have not;- and to Moses Allah spoke direct;” - Quran 4 : 164
“We did aforetime send apostles before thee: of them there are some whose story We have related to thee, and some whose story We have not related to thee. It was not (possible) for any apostle to bring a sign except by the leave of Allah…” – Quran 40:78. Also refer to 21:25, 17:77, 43:6.
In fact, the Quran is uncompromising about this all-inclusive approach that it decrees that any Muslim, who does not accept even one of the messengers, named or unnamed, ceases to be a believer! Muslims also can’t make any distinction between any of them.
“Those who deny Allah and His apostles, and (those who) wish to separate Allah from His apostles, saying: “We believe in some but reject others”: And (those who) wish to take a course midway They are in truth (equally) unbelievers; and we have prepared for unbelievers a humiliating punishment, To those who believe in Allah and His apostles and make no distinction between any of the apostles, we shall soon give their (due) rewards: for Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful” - Quran 4:150-152. Also refer 2:136, 3:84
To stress this all-inclusive approach deeper, the Quran makes it very clear that Islamic and Muslim history must not be seen as starting from Prophet Muhammad as the Prophet himself was made to declare that he follows the religion of Abraham.
“So We have taught thee the inspired (Message), “Follow the ways of Abraham the True in Faith, and he joined not gods with Allah.” - Quran 16:123. Also refer to 16:20, 2:135, 3:95, 4:125, and 6:61
From the Quranic standpoint Prophet Muhammad is not the founder of the religion. He was the seal, the final one, the prophet who came to conclude a long string of messengers from the very beginning of human history.
“Muhammad is not the father of any of your men, but (he is) the Messenger of Allah, and the Seal of the Prophets: and Allah has full knowledge of all things.” – Quran 33:40
To make it final that Islam must be inclusive, the Quran stressed that it is Allah – not Prophet Muhammad – who named Muslims, Muslim; long before the birth of the Prophet.
“And strive in His cause as ye ought to strive, (with sincerity and under discip-line). He has chosen you, and has imposed no difficulties on you in religion; it is the cult of your father Abraham. It is He Who has named you Muslims, both before (and in this Revelation); that the Messenger may be a witness for you, and ye be witnesses for mankind! So establish regular Prayer, give regular Charity, and hold fast to Allah. He is your Protector - the Best to protect and the Best to help!” - Quran 22:78
If we use the Quran as its own witness, almost all of the history books on Islam, whether written by Muslims or Non-Muslims, that usually record Islam with the coming of Prophet Muhammad and make the Prophet as the founder of Islam run contrary to the Quranic stance. At best they are relating the history of the Arab people and how the Arabs impacted the world and built an empire based on their ‘new faith’, Islam. (Here is where the historian Albert Habib Hourani got it right by calling his book “A History of the Arab Peoples”.)
The Quran’s version of the history of mankind started with Adam, the first civilized homosapien, one who is endowed with the power of conceptual thoughts and language: our ability to talk (Quran 2:31). As such Islam’s history is world history, not the history of the Arabs.
“When thy Lord drew forth from the Children of Adam - from their loins - their descendants, and made them testify concerning themselves, (saying): “Am I not your Lord (who cherishes and sustains you)?”- They said: Yea! We do testify!” (This), lest ye should say on the Day of Judgment: “Of this we were never mindful” - Quran 7:172. Also refer to 7:31, 7:70, 2:33, 2:37, 7:27
“O ye Children of Adam! Whenever there come to you apostles from amongst you, rehearsing My signs unto you, - those who are righteous and mend (their lives), - on them shall be no fear nor shall they grieve.” - Quran 7:35
It is this myopic view and basic assumption of Islam’s history as beginning from the time of Prophet Muhammad, that over the years has steered Muslims to deviate from having a universal approach towards Islam and hence have grown to be more and more exclusive rather than inclusive of all the other communities and spiritual traditions. This in turn makes Muslim society monopolistic towards Allah and the Heavens, creating a clear dichotomy and an ‘us’ and ‘them’ approach negating the Quranic position that all who worship in the monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques are in essence venerating Allah.
“They are those who have been expelled from their homes in defiance of right,- (for no cause) except that they say, ‘our Lord is Allah..’ Did not Allah check one set of people by means of another, there would surely have been pulled down monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques, in which the name of Allah is commemorated in abundant measure. Allah will certainly aid those who aid his (cause);- for verily Allah is full of Strength, Exalted in Might, (able to enforce His Will).” - Quran 22:40
In short, in the study of the history of Islam, we must not miss this very important verse,
‘And, verily, this community of yours is one single community, since I am the Sustainer of you all: remain, then, conscious of Me!” - Quran 23:52
Thank you and Peace.
(Re-hatched from one of my books)