By Sajad Ahmad Mir
The historical groundwork of Islam is irrefutably so substantial and concrete that a confused sceptic like Earnst Renan acknowledges this fact. Prof. Bosworth Smith, the author of ‘Muhammad and Muhammadism’, holds similar views and sums up the subtle historicity of Islam as “we know indeed some fragments of a fragment of Christ’s life, but who can lift the veil of thirty years that prepared the way for the three [Here Prof. Bosworth refers to the concept of the trinity?]”
He further goes on to say, “But in Islam everything is different, here instead of the shadowy and the mysterious, we have history we know as much of Muhammad as we do even of Luther and Milton. The mythical, the legendary, the supernatural is almost wanting in the original Arab authorities, or at all events, can easily be distinguished from what is historical. Nobody here is the dupe of himself, or of others, there is the full light of day upon all that light can ever reach at all”. He further elaborates “we see with our own eyes the birth and adolescence of a religion”.
The next reason which paved the way for Dr. Nishikant to come under the fold of Islam is its simplicity and rationality. Islam is devoid of complicated philosophical conjectures which have no relevance or compatibility whatsoever with human nature, rather it defines the scheme of life in a simple and comprehensible way where there is no room for the “theatre of the absurd” . Dr Nishikant, while throwing light upon this reason maintains, “In Islam, we have not got to believe in thirty nine articles bristling with dogmas that are either unintelligible to our ordinary reason or inconsistent with our common sense. All that we have to do is to declare our sincere faith in one simple formula called kalima: La ilaaha illallah, Muhammadur Rasullullah, that is to say, “there is no deity save god, and Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is his Prophet”. He further elucidates, “In Islam, we are not asked to believe in three gods in one, or in thirty million gods and goddess as in popular Hinduism, but only in that one great being who is the creator of the universe, who is all knowing and all wise and who is at the same time also the most merciful and the most compassionate”.
This fundamental article of Islamic faith is so simple, impressive and tenable that right from a miserable destitute to the highly polished prince, from the most austere and ignorant poor to the highly cultured and refined philosopher, none can deny the existence of the all powerful creator, and subsequent adherence to the “unity of god”. Dr. Nishikant puts it as ”every sound and normal man with his human institutions not perverted either by false philosophy or gross depravity, every man, I say who is not a hopeless atheist or an inveterate agnostic, must readily give his assent to that simple and sublime truth, the unity of god. All the greatest philosophers of ancient as well as modern times have enunciated it in some shape or other, while saints, apostles and prophets, whose names are so deeply enshrined in the sacred altars of collective humanity, have lived and died for it”.
The second part of this article of faith is to believe in Muhammad (PBUH) as the last messenger of Allah (SWT). The only source of knowing God’s will and what kind of life God wants from his slaves. Muhammad (PBUH) is the only gateway to reach God and not a “necessary fiction” as Gibbon chooses to call it, but a very necessary and highly valuable truth consistent with reason, and appealing to the highest aspiration of our spiritual life. Dr. Nishikant elucidates, “Whenever the fundamental truths on which our moral and religious life is based, are either obscured or forgotten, whenever man becomes too worldly and avaricious, too immoral and materialistic, there appear, in the history of races and nations, men so highly spiritualised by birth and breeding as to be called prophets and apostles of God, and whose sole mission in life is to remind men of what they have forgotten and to revive what they have lost”. He further goes on to say, “And that the prophet Muhammad, may peace be upon Him, was all that he claimed, to be namely a prophet of God in the highest sense of that word will be evident to all fair-minded men unbiased by missionary or sectarian prejudices, who take the trouble to study his life and teachings and particularly the Quran, which has been called the “autobiography” of Muhammad.
Besides the reasons put forward earlier, there are some other chief reasons, practical and speculative which turned Dr. Nishikant Chatopadhyay into Muhammad Azizuddin and prompted him to accept Islam in preference to other great religions of the world. Dr. Nishikant is of the firm faith that a significant number of the European and general elite class hosts the same faith as envisaged by Islam. While citing a prominent English man’s last words, Dr. Nishikant says “Not long ago, we all read of a distinguished English nobleman, Lord Stanley of Alderly, whose is reputed to have declared before his death that he had all his life been a Muslim. I can assure you, that there are hundreds and thousands of all over Europe and America, who would do exactly the same, if they had the requisite moral courage to brave the social and other disadvantages attending on such a step. It was not less a man and a savant than Ernst Renan who said the following in his famous lecture “Islam and the science”: ‘I have never been inside a mosque without a feeling strong emotion, shall I confess it? Without a certain amount of regret that I am not a Muslim’”.
At last, Muhammad Azizuddin reminds us of our collective responsibility of guiding humanity to the right path which it desperately craves. But the question of will the flag bearers of Islam rise above sectarian rifts to take up the task that gives them the tile of “best of all communities” is still waiting for an answer.