The 100
A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History 
Updated for the Nineties
by Michael H. Hart 

A Book Review by Siddiq Osman Noormuhammad

A Muslim does not need anyone to prove that our beloved Prophet Muhammad ibn Abdullah (may Allah's peace and blessings be upon him, his family, companions and descendants), is the greatest human that ever lived or will ever live. Allah, the Glorified and the Exalted has Himself praised him in the Qur'an giving him His own Names like Rauf (most kind) and Rahim (merciful). The testimony of Sayyidina Abu Bakr As-Siddiq (may Allah be pleased with him) and the rest of the sahaba (companions) that the Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) had indeed conveyed Allah's message to the people is enough as is Imam al-Baihaqi's Dalail an-Nubuwwah and Hujjatul Islam,  Imam Ghazzali's Ihya 'Ulum al-Deen and Kimya-e-Sa'adat. But when a Muslim hears that a Christian has ranked the beloved Prophet al-Mustafa (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) as the most influential person in history, having compared what according to him are the 100 of the greatest religious personalities, statesmen, scientists, explorers, philosophers and artistic and literary figures, he is naturally interested. And when he sees the name of Rahmatullil Aalameen (mercy to all the worlds) at the very top, he is naturally pleased.

So he reads to find out why it is that a non-Muslim has ranked the Beloved Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) first. He finds that the author has taken great pains to explain why he ranks Sayyidina Muhammad (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) ahead of Sayyidina Isa (peace be upon him). To quote the author:

"My choice of Muhammad to lead 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 religious and secular levels. Of humble origins, Muhammad founded and promulgated one of the world's great religions, and became an immensely effective political leader. Today, thirteen centuries after his death, his influence is still powerful and pervasive. (Page 33).

"How, then, is one to assess the overall impact of Muhammad on human history? Like all religions, Islam exerts an enormous influence upon the lives of its followers. It is for this reason that the founders of the world's great religions all figure prominently in this book. Since there are roughly twice as many Christians as Muslims in the world, it may initially seen strange that Muhammad has been ranked higher than Jesus. There are two principle reasons for that decision. First, Muhammad played a far more important role in the development of Islam than Jesus did in the development of Christianity. Although Jesus was responsible for the main ethical and moral precepts of Christianity (insofar as these differed from Judaism), St. Paul was the main developer of Christian theology, its principle proselytizer, and the author of a large portion of the New Testament.

Muhammad, however, was responsible for both the theology of Islam and its main ethical and moral principles. In addition, he played the key role in proselytizing the new faith, and in establishing the religious practices of Islam." (Pages 38, 39)

"Christian theology, however, was shaped principally by the work of St. Paul. Jesus presented a spiritual message; Paul added to that the worship of Christ." (Page 47)

"Paul's influence on Christian theology has been incalculable. His ideas include the following: Jesus was not merely an inspired human prophet, but was actually divine. Christ died for our sins, and his suffering can redeem us. Man cannot achieve salvation by attempting to conform to biblical injunctions, but only by accepting Christ; conversely, if one accepts Christ, his sins will be forgiven." (Page 64)

In other words the religion of Christianity as is known today was founded by St. Paul. Sayyidina Isa (peace be upon him) never taught such things. We learn from the Qur'an and Hadith that his teachings were centered on the Oneness of Allah (The Glorified and the Exalted), his own prophethood, taqwa (reverential awe of Allah), amal saleh (good deeds) and zuhd (abstinence).

To quote the author further:

"Jesus himself left no writings behind, and virtually all information concerning his life comes from the accounts in the New Testament. Unfortunately, the Gospels contradict each other on various points. For example, Matthew and Luke give completely different versions of Jesus' last words, both of these versions incidentally, are direct quotations from the Old Testament." (Page 49)

The author also laments that the teachings of Sayyidina Isa (peace be upon him) are not widely followed. To quote him:

"But the truth is that they are not widely followed. In fact, they are not even generally accepted. Most Christians consider the injunction to 'Love your enemy' as at most an ideal which might be realized in some perfect world, but one which is not a reasonable guide to conduct in the actual world we live in. We do not normally practice it, do not expect others to practice it, and do not teach our children to practice it. Jesus' most distinctive teaching, therefore, remains an intriguing but basically untried suggestion." (Pages 50, 51)

"It has often been said that if Christ were to return to earth, he would be shocked at many of the things which have been done in his name, and horrified at the bloody fights between different sects of persons who call themselves his followers. Buddha too, would doubtless be amazed at many of the doctrines that have been presented as Buddhist. But while there are many sects, there is nothing in Buddhist history that remotely compares with the bloody religious wars that took place in Christian Europe. In this respect, at least, Buddha's teachings seem to have had far greater influence on his followers than Christ's teachings had on his." (Page 56)

The book, though Eurocentric, is interesting and readable, and though the author lacks in spiritual understanding, he has some basic insight into historical processes. All a Muslim can pray for is that Allah (The Glorified and the Exalted) gives him Iman (faith) so that:

1) He is able to appreciate the blessing that is Islam.

2) He compares like with like, that is, he compares the Prophets (peace be upon them) as a group and does not mix them up with other people.

3) He appreciates the true spiritual dimensions of the teachings of all the Prophets (peace be upon them) as given in the Qur'an especially of the "Ulul Azim" (the greatest prophets), that is Sayyidina Muhammad (peace be upon him), Sayyidina Isa (peace be upon him), Sayyidina Ibrahim (peace be upon him), Sayyidina Musa (peace be upon him), and Sayyidina Nuh (peace be upon him). It grieves a Muslim to see him place Sayyidina Isa (peace be upon him) third behind Issac Newton whom he has placed second. How dare he! And Sayyidina Musa (peace be upon him), is ranked sixteenth, and Sayyidina Ibrahim (peace be upon him) and Sayyidina Dawud (peace be upon him) are not ranked at all. Obviously he lacks any and all understanding of the Prophetic tradition. May Allah (The Glorified and the Exalted) give him Iman, Aameen.

But the book should be food for thought for non-Muslims, agnostics, atheists and heretics, especially those who have been taken in by the distorted picture of Islam that is sometimes presented by its enemies.

Michael H. Hart, The 100, Hart Publishing Company, New York, 1978