Finality of Prophethood
Alphonse de Lamartine (1854)
has a man set for himself, voluntarily or involuntarily, a more sublime aim,
since this aim was superhuman: to subvert superstitions which had been
interposed between man and his creator, to render God unto man and man unto
God; to restore the rational and sacred idea of divinity amidst the chaos of
the material and disfigured gods of idolatry, then existing.
has a man undertaken a work so far beyond human power with so feeble means,
for he (Muhammad) had in the conception as well as in the execution of such
a great design no other instrument than himself, and no other aid, except a
handful of men living in a corner of the desert. Finally, never has a man
accomplished such a huge and lasting revolution in the world, because in
less than two centuries after its appearance, Islam, in faith and in arms,
reigned over the whole of Arabia, and conquered, in God's name, Persia,
Khorasan, Transoxania, Western India, Syria, Egypt, Abyssinia, all the known
continent of Northern Africa, numerous islands of the Mediterranean, Spain,
and a part of Gaul.
greatness of purpose, smallness of means, and astounding results are the
true criteria of human genius, who could dare to compare any great man in
modern history with Muhammad? The most famous men created arms, laws and
empires only. They founded, if anything at all, no more than material powers
which often crumbled away before their eyes.
man moved not only armies, legislations, empires, peoples and dynasties, but
millions of men in one-third of the inhabited world; and more than that, he
moved the altars, the gods, the religions, the ideas, the beliefs and the
basis of a Book, every letter of which has become law, he created a
spiritual nationality which blended together peoples of every tongue and of
every race. He has left us as the indelible characteristic of this Muslim
nationality the hatred of false gods and the passion for the One and
Immaterial God. This avenging patriotism against the profanation of Heaven
formed the virtue of the followers of Muhammad; the conquest of one-third of
the earth to his dogma was his miracle; or rather it was not the miracle of
a man but that of reason.
idea of the Unity of God, proclaimed amidst the exhaustion of fabulous
theogonies, was in itself such a miracle that upon its utterance from his
lips it destroyed all the ancient temples of idols and set on fire one-third
of the world. His life, his meditations, his heroic revilings against the
superstitions of his country, and his boldness in defying the furies of
idolatry, his firmness in enduring them for fifteen years at Mecca, his
acceptance of the role of public scorn and almost of being a victim of his
fellow countrymen: all these and, finally, his flight, his incessant
preaching, his wars against odds, his faith in his success and his
superhuman security in misfortune, his forbearance in victory, his ambition,
which was entirely devoted to one idea and in no manner striving for an
empire; his endless prayers, his mystic conversations with God, his death
and his triumph after death: all these attest not to an imposture but to
affirm conviction which gave him the power to restore a dogma.
dogma was twofold, the unity of God and the immateriality of God: the former
telling what God is, the latter telling what God is not; the one
overthrowing false gods with the sword, the other starting an idea with the
Philosopher, orator, apostle, legislator, warrior, conqueror of ideas,
restorer of rational dogmas, of a cult without images; the founder of twenty
terrestrial empires and of one spiritual empire, that is Muhammad. As
regards all standards by which human greatness may be measured, we may well
ask, is there any man greater than he?
Alphonse de Lamartine (1979-1869) was the French poet and statesman whose
works established him as one of the key figures in the French literature.
The above is an English translation from his French work Histoire de la
Turquie, Paris 1854, Vol. II, pp. 276- 277.