A History of Medieval Islam by John Joseph Saunders

By John Joseph Saunders

Will not be the phrases "Medieval Islam" a redundancy? whilst has Islam ever now not been "Medieval"? for instance, with a purpose to examine the background of the "Dark Ages", you may research eighth and ninth century Europe, otherwise you might examine any Arab kingdom this day that is guided through Islamic principles.

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Concerning the first, no non-Muslim scholar has ever doubted that it was his personal composition, the revelations he claimed to have received from God during the last twenty years of his life; it is therefore the most authentic mirror of his career and doctrine, but its figurative style, obscure allusions, and uncertain dating of its suras or chapters, make it highly unsatisfactory as a biographical source. The second consists of an enormous mass of sayings and stories attributed to the Prophet, and guaranteed by an isnad, or chain of witnesses, framed on the pattern: ‘I heard from A, who heard from B, who heard from C, that the Prophet said…’ But memory is 19 THE PROPHET 20 THE PROPHET 21 THE PROPHET fallible, and isnads may be forged, and the desire of parties or groups in later years to justify their particular beliefs or practices by citing the authority of Muhammad for them undoubtedly produced an alarming amount of falsification.

We are told that the Prophet had a stately and commanding figure, with sad and piercing eyes, that his manner was normally kind and gentle, that he loved children and animals, that his habits were so simple that even in his last days in Medina, when he governed Arabia, he mended his own clothes and cobbled his own sandals. His piety was sincere and unaffected, and his honest belief in the reality of his call can be denied only by those who are prepared to assert that a conscious impostor endured for ten or twelve years ridicule, abuse and privation, gained the confidence and affection of upright and intelligent men, and has since been revered by millions as the principal vehicle of God’s revelation to man.

To delineate the character of this extraordinary man is a task of extreme difficulty. No contemporary descriptions have reached us, and the oldest portraits which have survived are hagiographical in tone. We are told that the Prophet had a stately and commanding figure, with sad and piercing eyes, that his manner was normally kind and gentle, that he loved children and animals, that his habits were so simple that even in his last days in Medina, when he governed Arabia, he mended his own clothes and cobbled his own sandals.

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A History of Medieval Islam by John Joseph Saunders
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