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The truth about Voltaire’s attitude towards Prophet Muhammad and his message

The truth about Voltaire’s attitude towards Prophet Muhammad and his message

Initially, we, as Muslims,  recognize the greatness of Prophet Muhammad and his sublime status, by virtue of which he needs no glorification by humans after Allah  commended him and raised his unmatched status. . It was the Divine will, however, which made some non-Muslims testify in favor of the Prophet with truthfulness and justice.

François-Marie Aroue (1694 – 1778), better known by the penname Voltaire, is a case in point. In 1742 he wrote “Fanaticism”, a play where he attacked Islam, and claimed that women are forced to accept the Islamic faith. He also raised doubts about the talk of Prophet Muhammad (may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) with Gabriel (Jibreel), (peace be upon him)  and he (i.e. Voltaire) provided an abusive portrayal of the Messenger of Allah. One year after publication, the play was banned because the Church had reservations concerning the content. The Church thought that Voltaire wanted to criticize it from the Islamic perspective.
Voltaire’s prejudiced description and attacks against Prophet Muhammad aimed to antagonize religious thought in general to cope with the trend of his time. Large-scale campaigns were launched against the Christian thoughts, in compliance with the principles of the so-called Age of Renaissance and Enlightenment that was prevalent in Europe at that time.

Actually, Voltaire renounced fanaticism in the French society and called upon others to fight it. However, he committed a gross mistake by authoring his play “Fanaticism” or “Mahomet” which was primarily based on the principles of fanaticism, falsehood, and calumny. Indeed, he wanted to criticize the Church and profane all the sanctities, perceiving that both the church and the community would accept his attacks against Islam and Prophet Muhammad.. The contemplated reaction was revealed at the beginning until the play was presented to the Church, which consequently banned it again  because the church  realized that it  was meant by the critique.

Later on, Voltaire refuted these malicious allegations against Islam as he knew the truth about Islam, its guidelines, and lofty principles. He was affected  by “The Life of Muhammad”, a book authored by Henri de Boulainvilliers and published in London in 1720. The book gloriously defended Prophet Muhammad and refuted the allegations that were raised against him. The author explained that Muhammad was a religious and rational innovator who deserved appreciation even by the West.

In 1765, Voltaire authored “ A Treatise on Tolerance” where he praised Islam, extolled Muhammad, and appreciated the Qur’an. He said that Muhammad, Confucius, and Zoroaster were the greatest lawmakers of the world. In 1751, Voltaire authored his book “Essay on the Manners of Nations” where he defended Muhammad as a judicious political thinker and a wise founder of religion. He indicated that the Islamic countries always enjoyed tolerance, while the Christian tradition lacked tolerance throughout history.

In light of that, it would have been fair and perfect that French intellectuals in particular, Western intellectuals in general, and the common people who admire Voltaire’s thought to give precedence to “Treatise on Tolerance” over “Fanaticism”, or do they prefer the latter out of bigotry?

In the midst of the campaign launched by Western extremists against Islam and Prophet Muhammad, we would probably ask those extremists to reconsider their situation in this age of scientific advancement and amazing communication between nations and cultures. They are due  to recheck themselves to match the spirit of the age with all of its facts, one of which is demonstrated by proofs of the truthfulness and virtue of Muhammad.

This is the time, given the scientific advancement and the astonishing communication between nations and cultures, for the Western mind to resettle its accounts and take an attitude closer to the spirit of the age and more harmonious with its facts.

This is an urgent demand as the world witnesses many disorders which induced blood shedding and claimed the souls of people unfairly. This has created a desperate need for promoting the causes of peace and justice and establishing respect for the Divine laws, Prophets, and Messengers. Following this approach will maintain the human necessities and keep people’s souls, honor, wealth, rights, and elements of a noble life.

The offensive hostilities against the sanctities reinforce the wretchedness and misery of the world, because all people need mercy and guidance, and these two things  were divinely provided by  Prophet Muhammad. However, those who ridicule Prophet Muhammad and defame his life and message drive people away from virtue and deprive the world from stability and tranquility. These people are condemned and threatened by the Qur’an. Allah says in His Glrious Book, : {The ones who prefer the worldly life over the Hereafter and avert [people] from the way of Allah, seeking to make it (seem) deviant. Those are in extreme error.} [chapter of Abraham, 14:3]

It is unfortunate for the humankind that progress has been achieved in different spheres of knowledge and amazing discoveries have been made. However, many world-class claimers of civilization profane the religious sanctities in writings which bring about the fall of their own societies due to the moral reflections involved.

There is no doubt that Muslims assume a great responsibility to prevent the defamation of Islam, Prophet Muhammad, and the Qur’an. Each Muslim shares the  responsibility, whether major or minor. Leaders, scholars, intellects, media professionals, communities, etc. are responsible according to the position that they hold.

written by: Dr.Khalid Shaya

Assistant Secretary General Global Center for Introducing the Messenger

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