By Zia H Shah MD
At the time of Spanish inquisition when each and every Muslim was killed or forced to convert on the point of sword, in the fifteenth century, it was not only bloody but also ensured that no formal credit could be given to Islam or to its founder, the Holy Prophet Muhammad, may peace be upon him.
It built a psychological wall in the psyche of each and every Western Christian, through shared experience and idealization of the leading Christian personalities. The wall still exists today and makes it very hard for Christians to quickly understand Islam and its contributions to the development of human society. The wall or the barrier is very porous to criticism to Islam and impervious to all the goodness that Islam stands for.
For a more comprehensive view of Islam, spend time here at the Muslim Times and read about Islam and Human Rights and Universal Declaration of Human Rights. I have several different collections of articles with the following themes:
• An Academic Fortress against Islamophobia
• Politics and Human Rights
• The Holy Prophet Muhammad and the Holy Quran
• Religion and Science
“In 1242, for example, King Louis IX of France, a canonized saint of the Roman Catholic Church, condemned the Jewish Talmud as a vicious attack on the person of Christ. The book was banned and copies were publicly burned in the presence of the King. Louis had no interest in discussing his differences with the Jewish communities of France in a peaceful, rational way. He once claimed that the only way to debate with a Jew was to kill him ‘with a good thrust in the belly as far as the sword will go. It was Louis who called the first Inquisition to bring Christian heretics to justice and burned not merely their books but hundreds of men and women. He was also a Muslim-hater and led two crusades against the Islamic world. In Louis’ day it was not Islam but the Christian West which found it impossible to coexist with others. Indeed, the bitter history of Muslim-Western relations can be said to have begun with an attack on Muhammad in Muslim Spain.”
“There can be little doubt that at the moment of their formation these legends and fantasies were taken to represent a more or less truthful account of what they purported to describe. But as soon as they were produced they took on a literary life of their own. At the level of popular poetry, the picture of Mahomet and his Saracens changed very little from generation to generation. Like well-loved characters of fiction, they were expected to display certain characteristics, and authors faithfully reproduced them for hundreds of years.”
“In what contempt the Muslims are held by certain Christian circles! I experienced this when I tried to start an exchange of ideas arising from a comparative analysis of Biblical and Quranic stories on the same theme. I noted a systematic refusal, even for the purposes of simple reflection, to take any account of what the Quran had to say on the subject in hand. It is as if a quote from the Quran were a reference to the Devil!”
“In the 12th century, Peter the Venerable, Abbot of Cluny, initiated a dialogue with the Islamic world. ‘I approach you not with arms, but with words,’ he wrote to the Muslims whom he imagined reading his book, ‘not with force, but with reason, not with hatred, but with love.’ Yet his treatise was entitled Summary of the Whole Heresy of the Diabolical Sect of the Saracens and Segued repeatedly into spluttering intransigence. Words failed Peter when he contemplated the ‘bestial cruelty’ of Islam, which, he claimed, had established itself by the sword. Was Muhammad a true prophet? ‘I shall be worse than a donkey if I agree,’ he expostulated, ‘worse than cattle if I assent!’”She concludes this essay by stating that this prejudice is still all too pervasive, “Neither the Danish cartoonists, who published the offensive caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad last February, nor the Christian fundamentalists ….., would ordinarily make common cause with the Pope; yet on the subject of Islam they are in full agreement.”
“Since Carlyle’s (1795 – 1881) lecture on Muhammad in Heroes and. Hero worship, the West has been aware that there was a good case to be made out for believing in Muhammad’s sincerity. His readiness to undergo persecution for his beliefs, the high moral character of the men who believed in him and looked up to him as leader, and the greatness of his ultimate achievement — all argue his fundamental integrity. To suppose Muhammad an impostor raises more problems than it solves. Moreover, none of the great figures of history is so poorly appreciated in the West as Muhammad. Western writers have mostly been prone to believe the worst of Muhammad, and, wherever an objectionable interpretation of an act seemed plausible, have tended to accept it as fact. Thus, not merely must we credit Muhammad with essential honesty and integrity of purpose, if we are to understand him at all; if we are to correct the errors we have inherited from the past, we must in every particular case hold firmly to the belief in his sincerity until the opposite is conclusively proved; and we must not forget that conclusive proof is a much stricter requirement than a show of plausibility, and in a matter such as this only to be attained with difficulty.”
“With its large Muslim and Jewish populations, medieval Spain was the only multiracial and multireligious country in Western Europe, and much of the development of Spanish civilization in religion, literature, art, and architecture during the later Middle Ages stemmed from this fact. The Jews had served Spain and its monarchs well, providing an active commercial class and an educated elite for many administrative posts.”
“The first inquisitor general, Tomás de Torquemada, himself from a converse (Jews converted to Christianity) family, at once started a propaganda campaign against the Jews. In 1492 he persuaded the Catholic Monarchs to expel all Jews who refused to be baptized. Isabella and most of her contemporaries looked upon this expulsion of more than 160,000 of her subjects as a pious duty.”
“One remembers that not a Muslim is left alive in Spain or Sicily of Apulia. One remembers that not a Muslim was left alive and not a mosque left standing in Greece after the great rebellion in 1821. One remembers how the Muslims of the Balkan peninsula, once the majority, have been systematically reduced with the approval of the whole of Europe.”
“But equally the cartoonists and their publishers, who seemed impervious to Muslim sensibilities, failed to live up to their own liberal values, since the principle of free speech implies respect for the opinions of others. Islamophobia should be as unacceptable as any other form of prejudice. When 255,000 members of the so-called “Christian community” signed a petition to prevent the building of a large mosque in Abbey Mills, east London, they sent a grim message to the Muslim world: western freedom of worship did not, apparently, apply to Islam. There were similar protests by some in the Jewish community, who, as Seth Freedman pointed out in his Commentisfree piece, should be the first to protest against discrimination.
Gallup found there was as yet no blind hatred of the west in Muslim countries; only 8% of respondents condoned the 9/11 atrocities. But this could change if the extremists persuade the young that the west is bent on the destruction of their religion. When Gallup asked what the west could do to improve relations, most Muslims replied unhesitatingly that western countries must show greater respect for Islam, placing this ahead of economic aid and non-interference in their domestic affairs. Our inability to tolerate Islam not only contradicts our western values; it could also become a major security risk.”
Sherry Jones in her novel the Jewel of Medina has repeated the foul propaganda of the crusade writers of the last 1300 years. The propaganda has been exposed and invalidated adequately in the existing literature. Four sources are cited in this article:
“How he was placed with Kadijah, a rich Widow, as her Steward, and travelled in her business, again to the Fairs of Syria; how he managed all, as one can well understand, with fidelity, adroitness; how her gratitude, her regard for him grew: the story of their marriage is altogether a graceful intelligible one, as told us by the Arab authors. He was twenty‑five; she forty, though still beautiful. He seems to have lived in a most affectionate, peaceable, wholesome way with this wedded benefactress; loving her truly, and her alone. It goes greatly against the impostor theory, the fact that he lived in this entirely unexceptionable, entirely quiet and commonplace way, till the heat of his years was done. He was forty before he talked of any mission from Heaven. All his irregularities, real and supposed, date from after his fiftieth year, when the good Kadijah died. All his ‘ambition,’ seemingly, had been, hitherto, to live an honest life; his ‘fame,’ the mere good opinion of neighbours that knew him, had been sufficient hitherto. Not till he was already getting old, the prurient heat of his life all burnt out, and peace growing to be the chief thing this world could give him, did he start on the ‘career of ambition’; and, belying all his past character and existence, set‑up as a wretched empty charlatan to acquire what he could now no longer enjoy! For my share, I have no faith whatever in that.”
|Inquisition torture chamber|
|Source||Mémoires historiques pour servir à l’histoire des Inquisitions, Cologne, from Louis-Ellies Dupries|
At the end of the twentieth century the Cold War against the Soviet Union was replaced by a Cold War against Islam. It is hoped that during the current century cooler heads will prevail and the West will be able to overcome her Islamophobia. The conceptual ‘Spanish Wall’ that had been erected during the Spanish Inquisitions will be torn down soon. The first Cold War ended with the fall of the Berlin wall. On June 12, 1987, President Ronald Reagan spoke to the people of West Berlin at the base of the Brandenburg Gate, near the Berlin wall. Due to the amplification system being used, the President’s words could also be heard on the Eastern (Communist-controlled) side of the wall. The address Reagan delivered that day is considered by many to have affirmed the beginning of the end of the Cold War and the fall of communism. On Nov. 9-11, 1989, the people of a free Berlin tore down that wall. In this new Cold War, some day a preacher of rationality and harmony will passionately announce, “Oh the clergy of the Holy Christendom tear down this Spanish Wall! So, there can be one human family without any taboo subjects and learning can be free for all and from all.” Coming together of the Muslim world and the West or the Christendom in harmony and peace is the destiny for our days. The Holy Prophet Muhammad, may peace be on him, had predicted after Divine guidance, “In the latter days, the sun shall rise from the West.” So, blessed are those who promote harmony and good will and work towards tearing down the ‘Spanish Wall.’Most of the Orientalists that are the Christian writers about Islam have their received ideas about Islam. The most important among them are that the Quran is word of Muhammad and that it is borrowed from the Bible. For example, W Montgomery Watt writes, “For the study of the life of Muhammad it is hardly necessary to decide the relative importance of Jewish and Christian influences, especially since many details are disputed. The main necessity is to realize that such things were ‘in the air’ before the Qur’an came to Muhammad and were part of the preparation of himself and of his environment for his mission.” Sir William Muir writes, “We may upon the strongest presumption affirm that every verse in the Quran is the genuine and unaltered composition of Muhammad himself, and conclude with at least a close approximation to the verdict of Von Hammer: That we hold the Quran to be as surely Muhammad’s word as the Muslims hold it to be word of God.”These preconceived ideas put them at odds with the data and the facts that suggest otherwise. This leads to their ‘Freudian conflict,’ from which they have no way out and their writings become self contradictory and their ‘Freudian slips’ begin to show on almost every page of their books.The Orientalists look through their special glasses with the preconceived assumption that Muhammad cannot be a prophet like the prior Jewish prophets of God and analyze him through secular lenses. Moreover, in their zeal to uphold their assumption, according to Montgomery Watt whenever a negative or cynical interpretation of the historic information, about the Prophet, is plausible they immediately fall for it without examining the likelihood of such an interpretation.Such are the consequences of the ‘Spanish wall’ on their psyche. The results of the ‘Spanish Wall’ on the readers are that rather than reading and benefiting from the writings of great souls like Hadhrat Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmood Ahmad and Sir Muhammad Zafrulla Khan they keep falling for the Orientalists. The Muslim biographers know by their rationality that the achievements of the Prophet Muhammad would not have been possible without the constant help and succor from Allah. But, the Western readers fall for those writers who share their wrong assumptions. The false assumptions cannot satisfy human hearts; the inconsistencies of the Orientalists are very transparent in this age of information. We conclude here with a confession from the pen of Montgomery Watt, commenting on the reasons of the success of the Holy Prophet Muhammad:“The more one reflects on the history of Muhammad and of early Islam, the more one is amazed at the vastness of his achievement. Circumstances presented him with an opportunity such as few men have had, but the man was fully matched with the hour. Had it not been for his gifts as a seer, statesman, and administrator and, behind these, his trust in God and firm belief that God had sent him, a notable chapter in the history of mankind would have remained unwritten.” 
 “Spain.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2009. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 03 Jan. 2009 <http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/557573/Spain>.
 This was taken from a group of lectures given by Muhammad Marmaduke Pickthal in 1925. These were published by The Committee of Madras Lectures on Islam in 1927, under the title Cultural Side of Islam. We have reproduced it from 1976 reprinting by the Publisher, Sh. Muhammad Ashraf, Kashmiri Bazar, Lahore, Pakistan. The lectures were also published under the title Islamic Culture by the University of Michigan in 1929.