Muhammad and History's 100 Most Influential People
This article analyzes the validity of apologetic assumptions based on reading Michael H. Hart's book, "The 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History".
|Author||Michael H. Hart|
|Subject(s)||World history, biographies|
|Followed by||A View from the Year 3000|
In 1978, Jewish American astrophysicist Michael H. Hart (born April 28, 1932) released a book titled "The 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History". This book, which has sold over 500,000 copies to date, has been somewhat controversial, not least due to its placing of Prophet Muhammad, the founder of Islam, over Jesus Christ, the founder of Christianity.
This has led to the list, as with Paul Vallely's list of "20 greatest Islamic inventions", being used for the purpose of propaganda. Its choice of Muhammad as the most influential person in history has been, and still is being, celebrated on numerous Islamic websites and blogs, used in various videos on user-contributed media sites, and has been cited during the course of countless forum discussions.
The Top Ten
|1||Muhammad||Prophet of Islam; conqueror of Arabia|
|2||Isaac Newton||Physicist; theory of universal gravitation; laws of motion|
|3||Jesus Christ||Founder of Christianity|
|4||Buddha||Founder of Buddhism|
|5||Confucius||Founder of Confucianism|
|6||St. Paul||Proselytizer of Christianity|
|7||Ts'ai Lun||Inventor of paper|
|8||Johann Gutenberg||Developed movable type; printed Bibles|
|9||Christopher Columbus||Explorer; led Europe to Americas|
|10||Albert Einstein||Physicist; relativity; Einsteinian physics|
When faced with criticism of Muhammad's actions, apologists will often resort to protesting and gloating in equal measures:
How accurate is this conclusion? Does ranking number one on a list bolster Muhammad's claim to prophethood and exonerate him from everything he is accused of by Islam's own scriptures?
Subjective vs Objective Nature
To begin with, it must be noted that any list which attempts to measure greatness or influence of any sort is highly subjective, it is nothing more than merely a personal opinion. There are hundreds of similar lists which have been compiled by others.
For example, in December 2009, the St. Petersburg Times ranked the Muslim terrorist, Osama bin Laden, as the decades most influential person. So what makes this list by Hart, which is more than three decades old, any more authoritative than the next one?
Moreover, it rates Sir Isaac Newton above 'Isa (Jesus) the second most revered prophet of Islam. Does this mean Muslims consider a Christian scientist to be a greater and more moral man than one of Islam's very own prophets?
In 2013, computer scientist Steven Skiena and Google engineer Charles Ward released, "Who's Bigger: Where Historical Figures Really Rank". This book ranks historical figures in order of significance. Unlike Hart's method of using only his personal opinions, the methods used here were based on objective mathematical data and resulted in a reversal of Muhammad and Jesus' placing:
|1||Jesus||7 BC-30 AD||Central figure of Christianity|
|2||Napoleon||1769-1821||Emperor of France (Battle of Waterloo)|
|3||Muhammad||570-632||Central figure of Islam|
|4||William Shakespeare||1564-1616||English playwright (Hamlet)|
|5||Abraham Lincoln||1809-1865||16th President of the United States (U.S. Civil War)|
|6||George Washington||1732-1799||1st President of the United States (American Revolution)|
|7||Adolf Hitler||1889-1945||Führer of Nazi Germany (World War II)|
|8||Aristotle||384-322 BC||Greek philosopher and polymath|
|9||Alexander the Great||356-323 BC||Macedonian king and conqueror of the known world|
|10||Thomas Jefferson||1743-1826||3rd President of the United States (U.S Declaration of Independence)|
The accuracy of the methods used are open to questioning, but it is certainly a huge step forward from Hart's approach which lacked any sort of scientific method at all.
Positive or Negative Influence
The list compiled by Hart only attempts to measure influence. Contrary to how it is often presented by apologists (for example; one site claims Hart's book is a rating of "men who contributed towards the benefit and upliftment of mankind"), it has nothing to say on “greatness”, moral character or personal deeds. And it most certainly does not state whether that influence was of a positive or negative nature.
Many could argue that no other historical figures actions have effected the modern world more potently or negatively than those of Muhammad, so his position at number one is well deserved. In fact, Hart lists several individuals who are universally reviled, were conquerors and/or have contributed negatively to humanity. These include, but are not limited to, the following:
|29||Genghis Khan||Mongol Conqueror|
|33||Alexander the Great||Conqueror|
|34||Napoleon Bonaparte||French Conqueror|
|39||Adolf Hitler||Nazi conqueror, responsible for the deaths of 11 to 14 million people, including approximately six million Jews|
|66||Joseph Stalin||Revolutionary, ruler of USSR and responsible for the deaths of 3 to 60 million people|
Are we to assume that Hitler, who also happened to admire Islam, Stalin or Genghis Khan were not capable of, or are falsely accused of, the atrocities they committed due to them appearing alongside Muhammad on a list? Were they chosen due to Hart respecting them and their contributions towards the "benefit and upliftment of mankind", or were they, along with Muhammad, also messengers of Allah?
Other Religious Founders
The founders of seven other major religions make an appearance on the list. They are as follows:
Many followers of the religions these individuals founded would not be tolerated under the second-class dhimmi status afforded to some by Islamic law. They are responsible for leading millions along a path other than Islam, and in doing so they have, according to the Islamic faith, earned their place in Jahannam.
Would apologists agree that these people are great and righteous individuals worthy of praise? Those who use this list as evidence of Muhammad's 'greatness' have to accept every single one. Pope Urban II who called for the first Crusade even makes an appearance at number 51. Is his position also to be celebrated?
Michael H. Hart is Jewish. According to the Qur'an, the Jews, among other things, will listen to any lie. Although an individual's religious affiliation does not usually make them any more prone to telling or accepting lies than the next person, it is written in Islam's central text. So why trust the opinions of someone who your own faith brands as gullible?
Credit for Authoring Qur'an
In his book, Hart explained the reasoning behind his choice of placing Muhammad at number one. The first being Muhammad's more involved role in the development of Islam in comparison to Jesus with Christianity. For example; Muhammad is credited by him of authoring the Qur'an which he says contains Muhammad's ideas and teachings:
This is something which no Muslim would agree with. But by their refusal to accept Hart's assertion that Muhammad, and not Allah, wrote the Qur'an, apologists then by their own admission have to accept that Muhammad does not deserve the position given him by Hart.
Credit for Success as Warmonger
The second reason given for his choice was Muhammad's success as a warlord. In Hart's own words:
Are apologists now ready to admit that their prophet was a conqueror? Do they agree with Hart's parallel of Muhammad and Genghis Khan? Do they agree that Muhammad's continued influence was the "driving force behind the Arab conquests" which prompted Byzantine emperor Alexius I Comnenus' to request military aid from Pope Urban II, and eventually led to the crusades?
Preserving Western Civilization
In 2009, Hart organized and spoke at a conference held in Baltimore titled "Preserving Western Civilization". On its official website, preservingwesternciv.com, it states:
The sole reason Muhammad is on that list is due to his founding and setting in motion the Islamic ideology. If Hart himself considers Muhammad's one and only creation to be a militant invention committed to destroying the western world, is there any doubt left as to his personal opinion on whether the influence Muhammad has on the world is of a positive or negative nature?
Reading the Statement of Purpose, you may also notice his reference to "blacks". Hart is a "racial separatist", whom some would call racist. He believes that the best way forward for America is a voluntary partition of the country into three states; an integrated mixed-race state, a white state, and a black state.
Amazingly, this is the person apologists use to commit the logical fallacy of appealing to authority. If his opinions are so authoritative, then maybe they should also accept his opinions on race and that Islam itself is a threat to the freedom of the western world?
Muslim Contributions to the World
The only other Muslim to make the list is 'Umar ibn al-Khattab, the second Caliph. He is placed at number 52, below Pope Urban II. There are no Muslim scientists, philosophers or inventors on the list, only two conquerors. Percentage-wise; Christians, Jews, atheists, Pagans, Chinese traditionalists and even Platonists place higher than Muslims. Is this an admission by those who hold this list in such high esteem, of how little Islam and its followers have contributed to this world?
Finally, does Hart see this influence of Muhammad's lasting into the future? This is an important question because throughout history many religions and their founders have come and gone.
Hart answers this question for us in his "sequel", A View from the Year 3000: A Ranking of the 100 Most Influential Persons of All Time, where (excluding fictitious entries from the years 2000-3000) he ranks Muhammad (No. 5) below Jesus (No. 4):
. . .
Christianity has long since ceased to have any political influence. However, for over a millenium and a half it had enormous political effect, and throughout that time it profoundly influenced the personal lives of one-quarter of the world’s population. All in all, that young Judean who was executed thirty centuries ago – a young man who had no money or political power, and who left behind no writings – must still be considered one of the most significant figures in history
. . .
It was difficult for me to decide where Mohammad should be placed in this book… for fifteen centuries the religion he founded intimately affected the lives of a sizable fraction of the world’s population, and was a major factor in political developments as well.
If we compare the top ten entries for the 1978 edition of his book, "The 100", and their ranking among the non-fictitious entries for, "A View from the Year 3000", we find that Hart expects all religious founders to lose some of their influence on the world, and, out of all these religious founders, he expects Muhammad's influence to decline the most dramatically.
He is no longer the "most influential person in history", nor the "most influential religious founder in history". Of the four religious founders in the top ten, Muhammad and Buddha see the biggest drop in influence (4 and 5 places), whilst Jesus and Confucius suffer comparably minor losses (1 and 3 places):
|Name||Influence||Rank (1978)||Rank (3000)|
|Muhammad||Prophet of Islam; conqueror of Arabia||1||5 (-4)|
|Isaac Newton||Physicist; theory of universal gravitation; laws of motion||2||1|
|Jesus Christ||Founder of Christianity||3||4 (-1)|
|Buddha||Founder of Buddhism||4||9 (-5)|
|Confucius||Founder of Confucianism||5||8 (-3)|
|St. Paul||Proselytizer of Christianity||6||20|
|Ts'ai Lun||Inventor of paper||7||7|
|Johann Gutenberg||Developed movable type; printed Bibles||8||2|
|Christopher Columbus||Explorer; led Europe to Americas||9||11|
|Albert Einstein||Physicist; relativity; Einsteinian physics||10||13|
Hopefully any apologist that reads this will ponder the following; what exactly do they (as followers of Islam) consider so great about a Jewish-American racist “Islamophobe's” opinion that an individual who he refers to as a “conqueror” ranked alongside Adolf Hitler is temporarily the most influential (not 'greatest') person in human history?
- Religious Affiliation of History's 100 Most Influential People - Adherents.com, accessed January 1, 2012
- Bill Duryea - The St. Petersburg Times' 10 most influential people of the decade - St. Petersburg Times, December 27, 2009
- Ryan O'Hanlon, "Jesus Christ: History's Most Successful Meme", Pacific Standard, December 9, 2013 (archived), http://www.psmag.com/culture/jesus-christ-historys-most-successful-meme-71242/.
- Steven Skiena, Charles B. Ward, "Who's Bigger: Where Historical Figures Really Rank", Cambridge University Press, p. 5, ISBN 978-1107041370, http://www.amazon.com/Whos-Bigger-Historical-Figures-Really/dp/1107041376.
- Whom do you wish to believe concerning the character of the Prophet Mohammed? - faithfreedom.COM, not to be confused with faithfreedom.ORG
- "O Messenger! let not those grieve thee, who race each other into unbelief: (whether it be) among those who say "We believe" with their lips but whose hearts have no faith; or it be among the Jews,- men who will listen to any lie,- will listen even to others who have never so much as come to thee" - Quran 5:41
- Michael H. Hart - The 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History - Citadel Publishing, 2000, ISBN 9780806513508
- Preserving Western Civilization Conference - National Policy Institute, January 16, 2009
- Statement of Purpose - Preserving Western Civilization, accessed May 20, 2011
- Swain and Nieli, pp. 184–5.
- Michael H. Hart - Racial Partition of the United States - Speech given at the 1996 American Renaissance Conference held Memorial Day Weekend in Louisville, KY.
- Michael H. Hart - A View from the Year 3000: A Ranking of the 100 Most Influential Persons of All Time - Poseidon Press, 1999, ISBN 9780967107714