As gunmen barged inside the office of French magazine Charlie Hebdo and killed 12 people including the celebrated cartoonists known for their controversial cartoons on the prophet of Islam, an anti-Muslim wave engulfed the west. The same magazine is printing record number of copies with a cartoon of Mohammad (SAW) on its cover. As provocations and condemnations are on, Zamir Ahmed compiles the observations of famous non-Muslim personalities about the last prophet of Islam


Muslims and their religion, Islam, are in news these days – mostly for the wrong reasons. The killings at the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo and the subsequent reactions to the incident added a new dimension to the already raging debate about Muslims, Islam and the Prophet of Islam. While the decision of the magazine to publish 5 million copies depicting the Prophet again on its front cover led to varied reactions, the hashtag #WhoIsMuhammad started trending on the micro-blogging site Twitter on the same day.

The general lack of knowledge about the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) has contributed to building a wrong paradigm in the approach to his life, character and teachings and has resulted in misunderstandings between the Islamic world and the West. This misrepresentation owes a lot to Orientalists like William Dunbar, Mandeville, Dante and Muir who have deliberately misrepresented the personality of the beloved Prophet. These distortions have persisted for many generations and have been adopted by large sections of the western world. Closer home these distortions have fuelled the bigoted arguments of communal elements in the largest democracy of the world.

However, there have been a huge number of works by non-Muslim biographers, rulers, historians, politicians, etc throughout history and the contemporary period which help us know better the Personality of the Prophet. A select few tributes are presented here.

Leo Tolstoy

Leo Tolstoy: Russian Writer, Thinker and Reformer

“I am one of those who are very much impressed by the Prophet Muhammad who was chosen by the One God to have His last message revealed through his soul, heart and mind.  He chose him to be the last prophet; hence, no other prophets would come after him. His acknowledgement of the prophets, who had been sent by God before him to produce the global social building for which Muhammad had been sent to complete, is indubitable evidence that he came with Islam to conclude the social building for the entire humanity everywhere. There has been no prophet who gained the respect of his enemies save the prophet Muhammad.” (Selected Sayings Of The Prophet)

Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe: German writer, painter, biologist, polymath

“Us, Europeans, with all our concepts could not reach what Mohammad has reached, and no one will be able to precede him. I have looked in the history of humanity for an example and found that it was Mohammad, as the truth must be revealed. Indeed, Mohammad succeeded to subdue the entire world to monotheism. I have searched throughout history for a role model to man and I found none but the Prophet Mohammad.” (Allah’s Sun Over The Occident, Rendition of Mahomets Gesang By Sigrid Hunke)

George Bernard Shaw

George Bernard Shaw: An Irish playwright, co-founder of the London School of Economics and the only person to have been awarded both an Oscar and a Nobel Prize for Literature

“The world is in dire need of a man with the mind of Muhammad; religious people in the Middle-Ages, due to their ignorance and prejudice, had pictured him in a very dark way as they used to consider him the enemy of Christianity. In my opinion, if he was to be given control over the world today, he would solve our problems and secure the peace and happiness, which the world is longing for.” (The Genuine Islam)

William James Durant

William James Durant: A prolific American writer, historian and philosopher

“If we judge greatness by influence, he was one of the giants of history… When he began, Arabia was a desert flotsam of idolatrous tribes; when he died it was a nation.” (The Story of Civilization)

Thomas Carlyle

Thomas Carlyle: A Scottish writer, essayist, historian

“It is a great shame for anyone to listen to the accusation that Islam is a lie and that Muhammad was a fabricator and a deceiver. We saw that he remained steadfast upon his principles, with firm determination; kind and generous, compassionate, pious, virtuous, with real manhood, hardworking and sincere. Besides all these qualities, he was lenient with others, tolerant, kind, cheerful and praiseworthy and perhaps he would joke and tease his companions.” (Heroes, Hero Worship and the Heroic in History)

Bosworth Smith

Bosworth Smith: An American Protestant Episcopal Bishop

“Head of the State as well as the Church, he was Caesar and Pope in one; but he was Pope without the Pope’s pretensions, and Caesar without the legions of Caesar, without a standing army, without a bodyguard, without a police force, without a fixed revenue. If ever a man ruled by a right Divine, it was Muhammad, for he had all the powers without their supports.” (Muhammad and Muhammadanism)

Alphonse de LaMartaine: A French writer, poet and politician

“If greatness of purpose, smallness of means, and astonishing results are the three criteria of a human genius, who could dare compare any great man in history with Muhammad? The most famous men created arms, laws, and empires only. This man moved not only armies, legislations, empires, peoples, dynasties, but millions of men in one-third of the then inhabited world; and more than that, he moved the altars, the gods, the religions, the ideas, the beliefs and the souls.” (Historie De La Turquie)

Mahatma Gandhi

Mahatma Gandhi: Known as ‘Father of the Nation’ for his contributions to Indian independence

“I became more than ever convinced that it was not the sword that won a place for Islam in those days in the scheme of life.  It was the rigid simplicity, the utter self-effacement of the Prophet the scrupulous regard for pledges, his intense devotion to his friends and followers, his intrepidity, his fearlessness, his absolute trust in God and in his own mission.” (Young India)

Prof K S Ramakrishna Rao

Prof K S Ramakrishna Rao: Professor of Philosophy, University of Mysore, India

“The personality of Mohammad- It is most difficult to get into the truth of it. Only a glimpse of it I can catch. What a dramatic succession of picturesque scenes. There is Mohammad the Prophet, there is Mohammad the General; Mohammad the King; Mohammad the Warrior; Mohammad the Businessman; Mohammad the Preacher; Mohammad the Philosopher; Mohammad the Statesman; Mohammad the Orator; Mohammad the reformer; Mohammad the Refuge of orphans; Mohammad the Protector of slaves; Mohammad the Emancipator of women; Mohammad the Law-giver; Mohammad the Judge; Mohammad the Saint. And in all these magnificent roles, in all these departments of human activities, he is like, a hero….” (Mohammad: The Prophet of Islam)

Edward Gibbon

Edward Gibbon: English historian and Member of Parliament

“The good sense of Mahomet despised the pomp of royalty. The Apostle of God submitted to the menial offices of the family; he kindled the fire; swept the floor; milked the ewes; and mended with his own hands his shoes and garments. Disdaining the penance and merit of a hermit, he observed without effort of vanity the abstemious diet of an Arab. The greatest success of Mahomet’s life was effected by sheer moral force.” (The Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire)

Barnaby Rogerson

Barnaby Rogerson: Famous British Author, Publisher and Historian

“Only by marrying the best qualities of certain characters from European civilization – a combination, say, of Alexander the Great, Diogenes and Aristotle, or the Emperor Constantine, St. Paul and St. Francis – can you begin to understand the measure of the man.” (Prophet Muhammed – A Biography)

Michael H. Hart

Michael H. Hart: An American, Astrophysicist and Historian

“My choice of Muhammad to lead the list of the world’s most influential persons may surprise some readers and may be questioned by others, but he was the only man in history who was supremely successful on both the secular and religious levels. It is this unparalleled combination of secular and religious influence which I feel entitles Muhammad to be considered the most influential single figure in human history.” (The 100:A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History)

Jules Masserman

Jules Masserman: American Psychoanalyst

“Leaders must fulfill three functions – – – provide for the well-being of the led, provide a social organization in which people feel relatively secure, and provide them with one set of beliefs.. Perhaps the greatest leader of all times was Mohammad, who combined all three functions.” (Who Were History’s Greatest Leaders?)


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