Taken from "The Life of Muhammad" by Muhammad Husayn Haykal,
translated by Dr. Ismail Ragi A. al Faruqi
Irving and Islamic Determinism
Washington Irving, one of the greatest writers the United States of America produced in the nineteenth century, is a real credit to his people. He has written a biography of the Arab Prophet in which the material is presented in an eloquent and captivating manner. Although his treatment is well taken at times, it is prejudiced at others. His book ends with a conclusion in which he presents the principles of Islam and what he has taken to be the historical sources of those principles. After mentioning iman in God, in His angels, Books, prophets, and the Day of Judgment, Washington Irving wrote:
"The sixth and last article of the Islam faith is PREDESTINATION, and on this Mahomet evidently reposed his chief dependence for the success of his military enterprises. He inculcated that every event had been predetermined by God, and written down in the eternal tablet previous to the creation of the world. That the destiny of every individual and the hour of his death were irrevocably fixed, and could neither be varied nor evaded by any effort of human sagacity or foresight. Under this persuasion the Moslems engaged in battle without risk; and, as death in battle was equivalent to martyrdom, and entitled them to an immediate admission into paradise, they had in either alternative, death or victory, a certainty of gain.Read more...
The Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, was in Taif, a lush town of green palm trees, fruits and vegetables, about 50 miles southeast of his arid hometown Makkah. He was hoping that perhaps the people of this town would be receptive to his message, which had been rejected by most of the Makkans for over a decade.
But the people of Taif proved just as cruel and intolerant. Not only did they scorn his message of God's Oneness, they turned their youth against the Prophet. In the face of this misery, an angel was sent and presented him with an option: have the whole town be destroyed, by God's will, for such arrogance and hatefulness.
He could have done it. He could have asked that this valley of cruel people be crushed. But he didn't.
Luqman was well known as a wise and learned man in Arabia. He has been mentioned in the poetry of the pre-Islamic poets like Imra'ul-Qais, Labid, A'asha, Tarafa and others. Some educated Arabs also possessed a collection of the wise sayings of Luqman. According to traditions, three years before the Hijrah the very first person of Madinah to be influenced by the Holy Prophet was Suwaid bin Samit. He went to Makkah for Hajj. There the Holy Prophet was as usual preaching Islam to the pilgrims coming from different places, at their residences. When Suwaid heard his speech, he submitted, "I have also got a thing similar to what you preach," When the Holy Prophet asked what it was, he said, "The roll of Luqman." Then on the Holy Prophet's asking, he read out a portion of it, whereupon the Holy Prophet said, "This discourse is fine, but that which I have is better still.' Then he recited the Qur'an to him, and Suwaid admitted that that was certainly better than the wisdom of Luqman. (Ibn Hisham, vol. II, p. 378).
According to the historians, this person (Suwaid bin Samit) was known by the title of Kamil (Perfect) in Madinah on account of his ability, bravery, nobility and poetry. But when after his meeting with the Holy Prophet he returned to Madinah, he was killed in the battle of Bu'ath, which was fought some time afterwards. His tribesmen were of the opinion that he had become a Muslim after his meeting with the Holy Prophet.
The One and Only.
Fourteen hundred years ago, the polytheists and Jews in Arabia asked Prophet Muhammad (s.a.a.w.) questions about God. Some of these questions were:
Tell us of your Lord's ancestery.
O Muhammad, tell us attributes of your Lord, who has sent you as prophet.
What is your Lord made of?
Is He made of gold, silver, iron or what?
Does He belong to a race of Gods?
Does He have parents or children?
Who will inherit the earth after Him?
The answer came in the following verse of the Holy Quran:
قُلْ هُوَ اللَّهُ أَحَدٌ
Say: "He is Allah, the One and Only.” (The Holy Quran, Surah Al-Ikhlas, Ayah 1, 112:1)
Let us first analyze the sentence, “ Huwa-Allahu Ahad”, هُوَ ٱللَّهُ أَحَدٌ lexically.
In this sentence, Huwa is the subject (mubtada) and Allahu its predicate (its khabar), and Ahad-un its second predicate (second khabar). According to this parsing the sentence means: "He (about Whom you are questioning me) is Allah, the One and Only.” Another meaning according to the language rules can be, "He is AIIah, the One."
The phrase righteous deeds is commonly translated as good actions. But, if we look deep into it, we would discover more significance hidden behind it. The two locutions ‘action’ and ‘activity’ are generally taken to convey the same sense. But there is a subtle difference in their meaning. Any kind of movement or work can be called activity, but the word action usually implies some strenuous or arduous work. On the other side, the word ‘virtuous’ or ‘righteous’ denotes something which had developmental characteristics and potential for enhancement. By combining these two, we would realize that the actual significance of this term is that it is necessary for man to put up a hard struggle to achieve that real goat for which he was potentially created, and he had to ascend certain heights to attain that goal. All this is conveyed by the comprehensive word ‘righteous deed’.