Islam, Muslims and Islamic civilization are under siege in America. Subsequent to the tragic incidents of September 11, Afghanistan and Iraq wars and ISIS’s barbarism, Islam both as religion and community has witnessed some of the worst attacks upon its heritage and legacy unprecedented in the previous history. Islam and Muslim bashing has become a lucrative profession. The Islamophobs portray Islam as a violently barbaric faith that breeds nothing but violence, ignorance and superstitions. It is a set of irrational dogmas which promote theodicy, theocracy, barbarism, totalitarianism and terrorism. As such Islam is antithetical to liberty, freedom, democracy, republicanism and constitutionalism.
Islamic civilization is depicted as an alien culture with no or minimal contributions to human civilization and progress especially in the America context. The superiority of the Western civilization, Judeo Christian tradition and European manifest destiny are some of the underlying ethos of Euro-centrism and American specialism. The Euro-centrist Islamophobs and neo-cons forget that Islam was a dominant world power and at the pinnacle of human civilization from 634 to 1924 AD having its own system of limited monarchy, republicanism, constitutionalism, humanism, freedom of conscience and religion, tolerance for dissent whether temporal or religious, well developed and crafted socio-economic, politico-religious and scientifico-cultural institutions. The Islamic theology, philosophy, ethico-political thought and scientific discoveries served as a catalyst to the European Humanism, Renaissance, Reformation and Enlightenment which heralded both the American and French Enlightenments and Revolutions. John Locke, Isaac Newton, Voltaire, Napoleon Bonaparte and Thomas Jefferson all these enlightened leaders were more closer to the Unitarian Islamic theology and Islamic republicanism than the traditional incarnational/Trinitarian theology and divine right absolutism. They were Muhammadan Christians rather than traditional Christians.
Islam was a vital part of the Latin Scholasticism, Italian humanism and medieval Renaissance. George Makdisi in his “The Rise of Humanism in Classical Islam and the Christian West: With Special Reference to Scholasticism” has amply demonstrated that the medieval scholastic tradition, Italian Humanism and Renaissance had vital Islamic origins. He has shown that a major part of the Western intellectual culture owed its origins to Arabo-Islamic contributions including the medieval universities and centers of learning. The Latin West borrowed many of its educational institutions from the Muslim Spain and Sicily. This fact is well demonstrated in George Makdisi’s “The Rise of Colleges.”
Islam and Muslims were also a major part of Martin Luther’s (1483–1546) reformation. In fact in the medieval and pre-modern eras, the Catholics, Lutherans, Calvinists and Anglicans all acted and reacted to Islam, it’s Prophet Muhammad, its history, its theology, philosophy, socio political thought and sciences in varying degrees and capacities.
The Reformation leaders clearly acted and reacted to Islam in a number of ways. The Ottoman Muslims were not far from the Western Europe. They were in the Eastern Europe, in Balkans, and knocking at the doors of Vienna not far from Luther’s Germany and Calvin’s Geneva. According to R.W. Southern, “The existence of Islam was the most far-reaching problem in medieval Christendom.” In reality many Protestants preferred to side with the Muslims against their Catholic enemies. There are existent correspondences between Lutherans in Flanders and Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent and his successor Sultan Murad III. In his letter of 1571 Sultan Murad III wrote, “As you, for your part, do not worship idols, you have banished the idols and portraits and “bells” from churches, and declared your faith by stating that God Almighty is one and Holy Jesus is His Prophet and Servant, and now, with heart and soul, are seeking and desirous of the true faith; but the faithless one they call Papa does not recognize his Creator as One, ascribing divinity to Holy Jesus (upon him be peace!), and worshiping idols and pictures which he has made with his own hands, thus casting doubt upon the oneness of God and instigating how many servants to that path of error.”
Originally Luther himself felt an affinity with the Turkish leadership and at one time remarked that “A smart Turk makes a better ruler than a dumb Christian.” He called the Pope and Jews with derogatory names such as “Devil incarnate” and “Antichrist” while portraying the Turks in a positive fashion. He observed that some of his contemporaries “actually want the Turk to come and rule, because they think that our German people are wild and uncivilized – indeed that they are half-devil and half-man.” Many Lutherans, Calvinists and Unitarians from Transylvania, Holland and England particularly the Hungarian Protestants under the leadership of Imre Tokoly were part of the Ottoman invasion of Vienna.
Luther turned against the Turks and their religion after an imminent danger of Ottoman invasion was felt in Germany and public uproar about it. Even then he helped in publishing Theodore Bibliander’s (1509-1564) translation of the Qur’an in 1543 and wrote its’ preface with the intention of thwarting Islamic intellectual invasion before the Turkish military invasion. Luther wrote, “Since we now have the Turk and his religion at our very doorstep our people must be warned lest, either moved by the splendour of the Turkish religion and the external appearances of their customs or displeased by the meagre display of our own faith or the deformity of our customs, they deny their Christ and follow Muhammad.” He genuinely admired Islamic piety, morality, charity, virtues, religious practices and spiritualism though he scorned Islam for its emphasis upon a working rather than a gracing faith. “We see that the religion of the Turks or Muhammad is far more splendid in ceremonies—and, I might almost say, in customs—than ours, even including that of the religious or all the clerics. The modesty and the simplicity of their food, clothing, dwellings, and everything else, as well as the fasts, prayers, and common gatherings of the people [at mosque] that this book reveals are nowhere seen among us …. [W]hich of our monks, be it a Carthusian (they who wish to appear the best) or a Benedictines, is not put to shame by the miraculous and wonderous abstinence and discipline among their religious? Our religious are mere shadows when compared to them, and our people clearly profane compared to theirs. Not even true Christians, nor Christ himself, not the apostles or prophets ever exhibited so great a display [of religiosity]. This is the reason why many persons so easily depart from faith in Christ for Muhammadanism and adhere to it so tenaciously. I sincerely believe that no papist, monk, cleric or their equal in faith would be able to remain in their faith if they should spend three days among the Turks.” Luther further observed that “if it should come to the point of arguing about religion, the whole papistry with all of its trappings would fall. Nor would they be able to defend their own faith and at the same time refute the faith of Muhammad.” Luther considered Islam as God’s scourge for sinning Christians who among other things have tolerated papal abominations. The Muslims were Germany’s school teachers who must teach the Germans how to repent of their sins.
Luther strongly believed in the Christian dogma of “Original Sin” and the subsequent human depravity. He held that the fallen man could have not attained his salvation through good deeds but through the atoning death of Jesus Christ, the true Lord and Savior, the second person of the Holy Trinity. The grace was a gift of God and an arbitrary bestowal. A Muslim may work hard to achieve salvation but will never get it because in “doing so, he rejects the true Ladder appointed by God in His Son and constructs his own ladder to heaven.” This is “a false righteousness that strives to be holy, not through faith in the merits of Christ but through his own self-chosen works”. Luther like Calvin emphasized upon the grace to the extent that it eliminated any possibility of a working faith, human free will and agency, and made salvation a solely predestined, predetermined and arbitrary divine prerogative.
Luther scolded Islam for denying Jesus’ divinity and worship. He also disagreed with Islamic way of government where the wicked (heretics) were not properly punished. Luther wanted Muslims to know that “Christ is the son of God, that he died for our sins, that he was raised for our life, that justified by faith in him our sins are forgiven and we are saved, etc. These are the thunder that destroys not only Muhammad but even the gates of hell.”
Islam, to Luther, was far better than Catholic idolatry and popery. His problem with Islam was mostly due to Islam’s emphasis upon a working faith, upon human free will at the expense of justification through grace, denial of Christ’s atoning crucifixion and divinity. In short, Islam’s denial of the original sin and Trinity, the two fundamental and distinctive Christian propositions, were among the main sources of Luther’s contempt for Islam. To him the Protestant Reformation was the solution to Christendom’s debacles. The subsequent Christian internal warfare and further Protestant divisions into Lutheran, Calvinist and Anglican churches proved him wrong. The so called reformed churches and monarchs were no less harsh on dissent and nonconformity than their Catholic predecessors. They did allow people an open access to the Bible but did not permit them the liberty to think for themselves. The creedal conformity was required as a prelude to societal uniformity hence imposed from the top with an iron fist. Dissenters were declared heretics and burned alive without any due process or jury. The civil authorities i.e. monarchs and spiritual authorities i.e. the Church both ruled the masses with absolute authoritarianism. The “Divine Right” monarchy and the “Divine Right” Church were absolutes to the extent that challenging their authority was made tantamount to challenging God. The early reformers set the tone of liberty by challenging the Catholic Church and its claims to divine authority and the later reformers pushed it further by defying the Protestant ecclesiastical establishments and their irrational dogmas.
The turbulent 16th and 17th centuries’ constant warfare between the Catholics and Protestant worlds on the one hand and inter-Protestant power struggles on the other rendered both the monarchs and their Church allies weak. The entire European continent was almost in shambles. Many thinking Christians tried to salvage Christendom from the miseries of traditional Christianity as epitomized in both the Catholic and Protestant Churches and looked for solutions within and without the Christian borders. They wanted a uniting rather than dividing Christianity. The irrational mysteries, scholastic jargons, cumbersome ceremonies and power hungry and greedy priestcraft and monarchs were identified as the fundamental sources of European ills. The pre-modern reformers of 16th and 17th century looked for a rational faith which can prove its reasonableness without resorting to illogical and unintelligible argots of the priests and their fanatic supporters. They needed a minimal credo religion with moral ethos which can tolerate differing views and orientations. They longed for a religious philosophy that can be translated into a rational practical political thought so as to curb the unruly kings and their ecclesiastical cronies. They required a republican tradition which could help them to limit the monarchial powers and church abuses. They found a ready-made roadmap of such an aspired reformation in the Islamic tradition as practiced by the Ottoman Muslim Empire. The Islamic tradition required just a minimal creed that there is “No God but One God and Muhammad is His prophet.” This rational and simple credo was sufficient enough to grant a person citizenship in the Ottoman Empire which tolerated almost every other intera-faith disagreements whether theological or juristic. The Ottoman Muslims also tolerated other religious communities as long as they paid a small tax called “Jizyah” as a token of their loyalty to the state. The religious minorities including the Jews and Christians were accorded freedom of religion and worship. The Sultan enjoyed the executive authority while the “Shura” mostly enjoyed the legislative power and the religious scholars were assigned the judiciary. Though not an ideal model it presented a variety of mechanisms for checks and balances and distribution of power, the mechanisms and institution totally absent in the then Christian world.
The civic and civil religion of the Muslim Turks along with its toleration for dissent and restriction of absolute monarchial and ecclesiastical powers was quite attractive to the pre-modern reformers. They gave serious thoughts to such a republican model with built in rational, natural and limited monarchy and institutions. The moderate reformers appropriated the Islamic republican model to their indigenous needs by couching it in a traditional Christian verbiage. The reformers such as John Locke, Isaac Newton took a moderate and cautious approach to gradually changing the infected wine without throwing away the bottle itself. They explained the traditional Christian dogmas such as the Trinity and Original Sin in such a fashion that it kept the bottle but totally changed the wine. Their version of the reasonable Christianity was a non-Trinitarian, rational, natural and working faith free of irrational mysteries, unintelligible scholastic jargons, unnecessary miracles, saints and unqualified grace. It was a faith congenial to human efforts, liberty, freedom, logic, commonsense, virtues and confidence.
They avoided any association with non-Christian dogmas or entities to protect themselves against the harsh and heavy hammers of heresy hunting priestcraft. Both John Locke and Isaac Newton like their countless friends were closet Unitarians and Socinians, the two theological strands closely linked to Islamic monotheism and theology, as will be seen below. The radical reformers such as Henry Stubbe and John Toland along with their Unitarian and Deist friends pushed for a completion of reform of Christianity on Islamic lines. They connected Islamic monotheism with the universal monotheistic prophetic tradition passing through Moses and Jesus and culminating in Muhammad. They insisted upon completing the reformatory project by replacing the corrupt priestly Christianity with simple, rational and republican Muhammaden Christianity. Their clandestine and radical works were known to the moderate reformers such as John Locke as they were friends and colleagues. Actually Henry Stubbe worked for Shaftesbury and helped him in his political campaigns against the royalists just like John Locke did during his London career. John Toland met with Locke at Oates and had the opportunity to share his writings with him. John Locke’s closeness to the famous deist Anthony Collins and his reading of Charles Blount and John Biddle’s works is a well-known fact. The moderate reformers incorporated the radical ideas into their writings but with a sense of sobriety and serenity. They had learned from the fate of Thomas Aikenhead (1676-1697) who was burned alive on the charges of Socinianism.
Therefore, Islamic theological and philosophical ideas were an integral part of the unfinished reformation as well as the finished reformation which heralded the 18th century Enlightenment. Both the radicals as well as the moderate enlightenment figures agreed that Islam was a genuine heir to the universal monotheistic prophetic tradition, as will be shown in the coming page.
The Christendom had known Islam from its very inception in a number of different capacities, encounters and ways. In addition to the early confrontations with Byzantine Christians from 7th to 11th centuries, the Muslims ruled Spain and Sicily for a long time. Southern Italy and Northern France were not far from the Muslim borders. Cultural transmission and dissemination of Islamic ideas to the Latin West is a known story. The encounters in the Holy Land during the Crusades were not trivial. The Mighty Ottoman armies, as shown above, were at the doorsteps of Vienna, the gateway to Western Europe by 1529 and continued the push until 1680’s. The Protestant Hungarian rebel Imre Tokoly (1657-1705), the Prince of Transylvania, known as Count Teckely in England, had sought out Ottoman Sultan Mehmed IV’s protection and help against the Catholic Hapsburg monarchs. He fought along with the Ottomans against the Catholics till the battle of Zenta in 1697 and lived under the Ottoman auspices till his death in 1705. He like the Hungarian King John Sigismund Zápolya (1540 -1571) preferred the Unitarian Islamic faith and relatively tolerant Islamic law in opposition to the Trinitarian and intolerant Catholic Austrians. The Euro Ottoman affairs had their resonance all around Europe including England and France. The Protestant alliances with Ottoman Muslims were widely discussed in Europe. In England the Muslims and their so called secret hegemonic agendas were connected with the Whig parliamentarians. For instance, Count Teckely was often identified with the English republicans, the Whigs who were dubbed as seditious “Teckelites” or as the Protestant allies of the Turco-Islamic cause. The anonymous writer of “The rebels association in Hungary for reformation of religion and advancement of Empire (1682), invoked such a close collaboration in the following words:
“The Teckelites are in Discipline and Principles much the same with those they call Whigs in England, Religion being the ground of their Exorbitances. Under pretence of Religion (which is indeed but Rebellion,) they will Levy Arms against the Emperour, and for Defence of the Gospel, join with the Turk against their Christian Sovereign.”
Matthew Birchwood and Nabil Matar have consistently shown that “images of Islam and the dreaded Ottoman Turk have played a crucial role in the formation of national identity and religious difference in Restoration England.” Humberto Garcia has proven beyond doubt that “English radical Protestantism achieved historical, philosophical, and ideological coherence, in part, through its sympathetic identification with what I am calling Islamic republicanism, a flexible and malleable trope that casts Mahomet’s revolutionary reestablishment of the Christian prophetic monarchy as the epitome of English constitutional virtue.” He has also noticed that the above mentioned satire “The rebels association” “seeks to expose the defense of a limited Protestant monarchy as a false pretense for concealing an international conspiracy between radical Protestants and Muslims intent on overthrowing Christendom, renewing the English Civil War, and welcoming an Ottoman invasion.” He has demonstrated that the “satirical figuration of English reformers as Teckelite infidels has its political and literary roots in Henry Stubbe’s defense of Islam—The Rise and Progress of Mahometanism (circa 1671; published in 1911).”
As mentioned earlier, Stubbe was a close friend of John Locke and had attended both Westminster and Christ Church College with Locke. He was also an important part of Shaftesbury’s entourage. Stubbe propagated a policy of toleration for dissenters as promulgated and popularized by Anthony Ashley Cooper, the First Earl of Shaftesbury, who also fought for a limited monarchy. James R. Jacob shows that “Stubbe’s career rests on his defense of Mahomet, depicted as a wise legislator who founded a tolerant republican monarchy.” This way Islam was considered, as Garcia argues, “the natural ally of the Radical Enlightenment, an underground international movement that tended to borrow the legends, stories, and motifs associated with various prophetic strains of near-eastern monotheism in order to define its theological and political heterodoxy in republican-constitutionalist terms.” In short, Islam was part and parcel of the reformatory project and the Enlightenment landscape. The reformers completed the unfinished reformation of Luther by rejecting the Trinity, Original Sin and justification through grace and went far ahead in promoting the Mohammaden Christianity and its republican ideals. The Christianity which they bequeathed to posterity was far more identical to Muhammaden Christianity i.e. Islam than the traditional, incarnational and irrational Christianity of the ancient and medieval Church establishments. Many of the Founding Fathers of America inherited such a revised version of Christianity more akin to deism and Unitarianism than incarnational Trinitarian Christianity.
There is crystal clear historical evidence that many of the Founding Fathers of America were directly influenced by the English thinkers such as John Lock and Isaac Newton who were thoroughly influenced, as seen above, by Islamic sciences, theology, political thinking and morality. Thomas Jefferson, one of the most important Founding Fathers, the principal author of the United States Declaration of Independence (1776) and the third President of the United States (1801–1809) identified Francis Bacon, John Locke, and Isaac Newton as "the three greatest men that have ever lived, without any exception," in his 1789 letter ordering portraits of them from the American painter, John Trumbull. Jefferson also declared Locke as the most important thinker on liberty. Jefferson and his Declaration of Independence were heavily influenced by John Locke. One can see in the text of the document, and even in the list of reasons given to separate from Great Britain, Locke's words, ideas, and theories coming into play. One of the most noticeable instances of direct influence is in the preamble, where the Declaration of Independence proclaims the right of every man to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness". These terms were borrowed from Locke's Second Treatise, as will be seen below. John Adams thought the DOI was copied from Locke, and James Madison apologized for its plagiarism by saying that "The object was to assert, not to discover truths." These and other Lockean ideas were eventually incorporated into the American Constitution and became intrinsic part of the American dream. Thomas Jefferson was also a staunch anti-Trinitarian and anti-Calvinism. His moral Christianity was far closer to the Muhammadan Christianity as advocated by Locke than the Trinitarian Christianity. Jefferson was a confessed Unitarian. He also owned a copy of the Qur’an and, like Locke, was accused of being a “Muslim” in 1800.
Locke also helped inspire another Founding Father Thomas Paine’s radical ideas about revolution. Locke fired up George Mason. From Locke, James Madison derived his principles of liberty and government. Locke’s writings were part of Benjamin Franklin’s self-education, and John Adams believed that both girls and boys should learn about Locke. The French philosopher Voltaire called Locke “the man of the greatest wisdom. What he has not seen clearly, I despair of ever seeing.”
John Locke (August 1632 – 28 October 1704), was accused of being a “Moslim” by his adversaries such as John Edwards (1637–1716), an ordained Deacon and English Calvinistic divine, because his religious beliefs and political outlook closely resembled the Islamic teachings. Locke argued in his “Reasonableness of Christianity” (1695) that Jesus was neither God nor divine but just a Messiah. He advocated that the Church should reject its hierarchical structure and authority, abandon its irrational beliefs such as Trinity and superstitious theology including beliefs in mysteries and miracles, forfeit its creed and sacraments, its pagan liturgy, customs and traditions in favor of one requirement for membership and salvation- to acknowledge and believe that Jesus Christ was the Messiah, the King of righteous believers. It is plain, argued Locke, “that the gospel was writ to induce men into a belief of this proposition, “That Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah;” which if they believed, they should have life.” He further argued that “all that was to be believed for justification, was no more but this single proposition, that “Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ, or the Messiah.”
In the period 1661–1662 Locke recorded his belief in the Trinity in his Essay on Infallibility where he also stated he did not comprehend its arguments or how it was true: the truth of Trinity could not be grasped by the mind or expressed in words other than those God had used to express it in His own words; i.e., in revelation. By the 1690s when Locke had revised his published Essay, his views of the Trinity had drastically changed as a result of his reading Socinian works.
John Marshall argues, “Indeed, given his apparently contemporaneous Socinian reading and composition of the Essay…Locke had the Trinity in his mind in composing the Essay, a series of linked arguments about the difficulties of assenting to a true faith.” Locke was quite aware of the Socinians’ theological and scriptural arguments against the Trinity as well as public opposition to the dogma, and most likely had extended his Socinian sympathies to denying the Trinity. Locke had followed the Unitarian Controversy since his return to England from Holland in 1689. He extensively read anti-Trinitarian Socinian and Unitarian books and struck a close friendship with the ant-Trinitarian Isaac Newton, shortly after his return from Holland.
Newton shared with Locke two lengthy manuscripts criticizing biblical texts that were often cited by the clergy to support the Trinity. Newton declared such texts were fraudulent insertions into the Bible. Locke copied these criticisms and forwarded them to friends such as Jean le Clerc. John Marshall observes, “It is quite possible that Newton’s willingness to send Locke his manuscript criticisms of Trinitarian texts as early as 1690 indicates that Locke had revealed to Newton that he was antitrinitarian by that date.” Marshall also argues that the absence of any discussion of Trinity in Locke’s Reasonableness of Christianity was “the result of lengthy and detailed consideration of the Trinity, and that in issuing the Reasonableness Locke was consciously willing to give succor to the Unitarian side in the Unitarian Controversy, albeit anonymously.” Arthur Wainwright has also concluded that by the end of his life, especially in his Paraphrase, Locke was unequivocally anti-Trinitarian.
Scholars differ over whether Locke believed in the pre-existence of Christ. For instance, Arthur Wainwright argues that by the end of his life Locke had come to believe that Christ was a pre-existent person to historical Jesus. Such a position would pitch Locke against the Socinian point of view of Christ. The Socinians maintained that Christ was not pre-existent in a literal sense but just a Prophetic Messiah. Locke, like the Socinians, had believed that Christ existed in God from eternity as God’s Word and not as a distinct person. This allegorical glory of Christ is very different than the Trinitarian notions of Christ as a distinct person co-equal with God in eternity and essence. Locke broadly followed the Socinian position regarding Christ’s pre-existence as he did regarding original sin, satisfaction, and Trinity.
Locke believed in a monotheistic prophetic tradition and insisted that since the times gone by only the unity of God was the crucial foundation of true faith and that the same unity of the One and Only God must be cherished now. “We must, therefore, examine and see what God requires us to believe now, under the revelation of the gospel; for the belief of one invisible, eternal, omnipotent God, maker of heaven and earth, was required before, as well as now.” Locke insisted upon the divine justice and required good deeds for salvation. Mere faith was not sufficient for attaining the needed salvation. “Neither, indeed, could it be otherwise; for life, eternal life, being the reward of justice or righteousness only, appointed by the righteous God (who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity) to those who only had no taint or infection of sin upon them, it is impossible that he should justify those who had no regard to justice at all whatever they believed.” Jesus did not come to die for man’s sins but “to reform the corrupt state of degenerate man; and out of those who would mend their lives, and bring forth fruit meet for repentance, erect a new kingdom.” Locke further argued that it was “not enough to believe him to be the Messiah, unless we also obey his laws, and take him to be our king to reign over us.”
Locke like Stubbe and Toland declared Islam as the heir to the true Unitarian message of Jesus Christ. His wordings are nothing but an echo of the brief and simple Islamic credo that there is but One God. Locke’s stated that “since our Saviour’s time, the “belief of one God” has prevailed and spread itself over the face of the earth. For even to the light that the Messiah brought into the world with him, we must ascribe the owning and profession of one God, which the mahometan religion hath derived and borrowed from it. So that in this sense it is certainly and manifestly true of our Saviour, what St. John says of him, 1 John iii. 8, “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.” This light the world needed, and this light is received from him: that there is but “one God,” and he “eternal, invisible;” not like to any visible objects, nor to be represented by them.”
Locke strongly bonded the belief in Unity of the One and Only God and that Jesus is His sent Messiah with morality. Morality was nothing but following the laws promulgated by the revelation. These laws were neither abrogated nor suspended by Jesus. The eternal reward or punishment was based upon conformity to these moral laws. “Open their eyes upon the endless, unspeakable joys of another life, and their hearts will find something solid and powerful to move them. The view of heaven and hell will cast a slight upon the short pleasures and pains of this present state, and give attractions and encouragements to virtue which reason and interest, and the care of ourselves, cannot but allow and prefer. Upon this foundation, and upon this only, morality stands firm, and may defy all competition. This makes it more than a name; a substantial good, worth all our aims and endeavours; and thus the gospel of Jesus Christ has delivered it to us.” In short, Lockes promoted a working faith deeply oriented towards and anchored in the life hereafter, a faith in total opposition to both the traditional Catholic as well as Protestant churches.
Locke’s “Reasonable Christianity” then was fundamentally different from both the Catholic and Reformed versions of the Christian faith. The traditional Christianity revolved around the central Christian doctrines of Trinity, justification through grace, original sin, crucifixion and atonement. Locke had strong aversion to these central Christian dogmas. Locke, in total opposition to the traditional dogmas, held that the original sin did not taint the good nature of humanity. A child was born with a clean slate without any innate ideas and learned things and constructed ideas through senses and experience. It was the education and not the original sin which contributed the most to human personality. Unlike Luther and Calvin, Locke believed that man was neither predetermined nor predestined by God but enjoyed free will. Salvation was based upon good deeds and moral choices rather than the atoning death of Christ or arbitrary grace of God. Locke’s understandings of the human self, essence and person were too individualistic to accommodate any idea of Trinitarian unity of the Godhead with allowance of distinction in persons or consciousness. Locke was a rationalist and had neither room nor tolerance for irrational mysteries such as the Trinity or divinity of a feeble historical man, Jesus of Nazareth.
Locke’s strong emphasize upon free will and human choices and insistence upon human efforts rather than the grace of God in attaining salvation was at odd with the Dutch Arminian theology. The Arminians, including Hugo Grotius (1583-1645), focused more upon the grace of God while giving less prominence to the human agency. Locke’s theology was rather closer to the Polish Socinians than the Dutch Arminians. The crypto Muslim Socinians, as they were called by the Anglicans and other traditional Christians, were anti-Trinitarian rationalist who emphasized human free will and moral agency. They denied Jesus’ divinity, emphasized upon salvation through human efforts and declared Jesus to be a model prophet and messiah. The Socinians were very close to the Islamic theological outlook and were accused of being closet Muslims. John Locke suffered the same fate.
Locke knew Islam and its theology very well. His Oxford teacher Dr. Edward Pococke (1604-1691) was a known orientalist who extensively wrote about Islam, its history, theology and civilization. He was the Arabic chair at Oxford and his Arabic history of Bar-Hebraeus (Greg. Abulfaragii historia compendiosa dynastiarum) was well received in England. Locke’s old friend Henry Stubbe (1632–1676) wrote “An Account of the Rise and Progress of Mahometanism, and a Vindication of him and his Religion from the Calumnies of the Christians”and is believed to have converted to Islam. Locke then was quite aware of Islamic theology and religion. He also owned a copy of the Qur’an.
Justin Champion and others have shown that John Locke’s adversaries saw in him a Muslim who interpreted the Christian Gospel in light of the Koran (Qur’an). Champion states that “Indeed Edwards in his Socinianism Unmasked (1696) had confronted John Locke, the author of the Reasonableness of Christianity (1695), firstly as a Socinian, and then by implication as a Moslem. He wrote with obvious malevolence, 'It is likely I shall further exasperate this author when I desire the reader to observe that this lank faith of his is in a manner no other than the faith of a Turk'. Edwards objected to Locke's assertion that there was only one necessary defining credal belief in Christianity accessible to all understandings, i.e. that Jesus was the Messiah. Edwards slyly commented that Locke 'seems to have consulted the Mahometan bible'. We know that Locke possessed an edition of the Koran.”
H. J. McLachlan and John Marshall have clearly proved that John Locke was an outright Socinian and a Unitarian. Socinianism was a system of Christian doctrine named for Fausto Sozzini (Latin: Faustus Socinus), which was developed among the Polish Brethren in the Minor Reformed Church of Poland during the 15th and 16th centuries. Martin Mulsow observes that “Socinianism —or, broader: anti-trinitarianiism— was often paralleled to Islam: both the Christian heresy and the Muslim religion reject the doctrine of the Trinity and regard Jesus only as a prophet, not as a god. There are indeed numerous historical connections between both currents. From Michael Servetus onward, the Qur’ān and islamic writings had an impact on the emerging Socinian critique. Antitrinitarians tried to establish a historical genealogy from early (Ebionite) Christianity through Islam (which preserved the true monotheistic idea) to the present.” Locke’s understanding of the monotheistic prophetic tradition culminating in Islam was almost identical to the Socinian and anti-Trinitarians historical scheme.
Miguel Servet or Miguel Serveto (29 September 1511 – 27 October 1553) was a Spanish theologian, physician and humanist. P. Hughes has shown that Miguel “Servet came from Spain, where Islamic rule prevailed for centuries and where still hundreds of thousands of Moriscos lived. In his work De trinitatis erroribus (1531), Servet mentions the Qur’ān several times. After Theodor Bibliander’s Latin translation of the Qur’ān that was based on the medieval translation of Robert of Ketton (1143) had been printed in 1543, Servet had actually read it and he even quoted specific sūrah-s such as sūrah 3, 4, and 5 in his main work, Restitutio Christianismi (1553).” John Calvin, during Servet’s trial in Geneva, used Servet’s Qur’anic knowledge and quotations to prove that Servet was an Islamic infidel bent on denying Lord Jesus Christ’s divinity. Condemned by Catholics and Protestants alike, Servet was burnt at the stake as a heretic by order of the Protestant Geneva governing council.
In England during the Restoration period (beginning with 1660) the “Socinianism appears to have extended its influence to the highest levels. The coterie surrounding the philanthropist Thomas Firmin included Locke, Tillotson the future Archbishop of Canterbury, and minor members of the Anglican Church, such as Stephen Nye (1648-1719) and Henry Hedworth (1626-1705).” The believing Church leaders and their royal supporters left no stone unturned to attack Socinians and their Islamic beliefs. For instance, Charles Leslie (July 1650 – 13 April 1722), the principal non-juror polemicist, arguing against the Socinians in his Socinian Controversy Discussed (1708) maintained that “Mahomet is much more Christian than these, and an express unitarian, but these are not so well in the world as Mahomet is, therefore you would not own Mahomet to be of your party, lest the people should stone you, for they all have a great aversion to Mahomet.'” In Transylvania, Peter Melius had already warned in 1568 that anti-Trinitarians preached a «Turkish Christ». The Leiden-trained theologian Johann Heinrich Hottinger from Zurich published in 1660 in the second edition of his Historia orientalis a chapter with the title “De pseudo-Christianis illis, quos Arabes vocant al-muwahhidīn”. “It dogmatically explicitly spelled out the parallels between Socinianism and Islam, mainly based on authentic Muslim documents. Already before Hottinger, the latter’s teacher Jacob Golius, Johannes Hoornbeck and others had in some passages in their works emphasized this similarity…”
Martin Mulsow further observes that “Throughout the entire seventeenth century, it (Socinianism) became the specter of all Christian denominations until it slowly transformed into unitarianism and liberal theology during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.” He also maintains that “More interestingly, Socinianism was in fact a precursor to the Enlightenment—and to the Radical Enlightenment as well. Its rationalist opposition to everything that seemed illogical in doctrine, its interpretation of the teachings of Jesus—he was simply viewed as a human being— as some kind of moral philosophy, and its arguments for religious tolerance foreshadow the views of the eighteeenth-century Enlightenment. Indeed, especially during the second half of the eighteenth century it is possible to see a continuity between Socinians such as Andreas Wissowatius, Samuel Przypkowsky and Samuel Crell on the one hand, and early Enlightenment figures such as John Locke, Jean Le Clerc, Philipp van Limborch—even Isaac Newton and William Whiston— on the other. Around 1700 there were numerous members of the intellectual avantgarde who promoted various mixes of Socinian, Cartesian, Spinozistic, and Lockean views.”
In addition to John Locke’s Socinian affiliations, some of his close friends were either Muslims or Muslim sympathizers. As seen earlier, his Westminster School friend Henry Stubbe (1632–1676) who also attended Christ Church, Oxford with him converted to Islam. Stubbe had a great deal of dialogues with Locke and influenced Locke’s religious thinking. Stubbe wrote in 1674 “An Account of the Rise and Progress of Mahometanism, and a Vindication of him and his Religion from the Calumnies of the Christians. Both Justin Champion and J. R. Jacob place this work in the “broad context of the Unitarian-Islamic syncretism.” Stubbe argued that the Islamic concept of divine unity was the pristine message of salvation preached by all the Prophets starting with Adam, Noah and culminating in the last Prophet Muhammad. He used the Qur’anic terminology “Isa” for Jesus calling him Prophet Isa throughout his work. He vehemently attacked Christian dogma of Trinity and divinity of Jesus and called it tri-theism and paganism. He argued that the Church has corrupted the Gospel of Isa and his message of salvation (through good deeds and morality) after the Council of Nicaea. Prophet Muhammad was sent by God to rectify Christian corruptions. He noted that the theology of Prophet Muhammad was in line with the original message of Isa (Jesus) and his original followers the Nazarene (Qur’anic Nasaara). John Toland (30 November 1670 – 11 March 1722) furthered this historical thesis of Islam’s validity in his famous book “Nazarenus: or Jewish, Gentile and Mahometan Christianity, containing the history of the ancient gospel of Barnabas... Also the Original Plan of Christianity explained in the history of the Nazarens.... with... a summary of ancient Irish Christianity.” Justin Champion rightly observes that “Stubbe and Toland can thus be seen to place the historical past of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam into a Polybian framework.” Stubbe’s works were highly influential among the English thinkers of his time. Champion states that “We know that Charles Blount plagiarized a section in his Oracles of Reason (1693) and also that he sent Rochester extracts of the Account… An unnoticed influence can be found in Sir John Finch's correspondence with Lord Conway between 4 and 14th February 1675. These letters give a 'politic' account of the growth of Islam including a presentation of the Islamic notion of the unipersonality of God... Mahomet is referred to as both a wise prince and legislator. There also may be the possibility that William Temple read and adopted Stubbe's work.”
John Locke also have other Socinian and Unitarian friends like Anglican theologian Arthur Bury (1624-1714), Stephen Nye and William Freke who willingly acknowledged the prescriptive value of Islamic reformation, wrote about its validity and never shied away from sharing their thoughts and writing with other thinkers including Locke. Bury’s 1690 anti-trinitarian work, The Naked Gospel, first published anonymously, was commanded to be burnt at Oxford, and, in a complex sequence of events involving legal action, Bury lost his position as Rector of Exeter College, Oxford after being expelled initially in 1689. These Unitarian thinkers had a great deal of interest in and appreciation of Islamic monotheism and morality. They used to assemble at the house of Thomas Firmin (June 1632–1697) who was an English businessman and philanthropist, and Unitarian publisher. Firmin was also the main supporter of John Locke and his works. William Freke (1662–1744) was an English mystical writer, of Wadham College, Oxford and barrister of the Temple. He suffered at the hands of Parliament in 1694 for his anti-Trinitarian beliefs. William Freke sent his Brief but Clear Confutation of the Doctrine of the Trinity to both Houses of Parliament, was fined and the book burnt. Stephen Nye (1648–1719) was an English clergyman, known as a theological writer and for his Unitarian views. He also faced much opposition from orthodox Anglicans just like his other friends. These British Socinians strongly advocated reformation of the Christian dogmas, practices and morals in light of the Islamic Unitarian theology and humanistic morals. These radical reformers urged to replace the corrupt priestly Christianity with the Muhammdan Christianity.
Isaac Newton (25 December 1642 – 20 March 1727), a friend of John Locke, was also a Socinian and a Unitarian. Stephen David Snobelen in his “Isaac Newton, Socinianism and “The One Supreme God” has proven beyond doubt that Newton was a Socinian who categorically denied the Christian Dogma of Trinity. He like Locke was a cautious person who avoided persecution by keeping his views confined to his inner circle of friends. His writings were published after his death and leave no room to doubt his anti-trinitarianism and total appreciation for Socinian views regarding Jesus, Bible, God and salvation. To the scientist theologian Newton, worship of Jesus as God is “idolatry”, “the fundamental sin.” “a breach of the first and greatest commandment”, and a more dangerous crime than atheism.
John Milton (1608–1674) was initially an Arminian, a sixteenth-century Soteriological sect of Protestant Christianity but at his death he left a manuscript On Christian Doctrine, not discovered and published until 1825, which shows he had become a Socinian/Unitarian in belief. Even Voltaire exalted Socinian’s countless contributions towards enlightening the intellectual landscape of the Continent.
In Short, John Locke, John Milton and Isaac Newton were anti-traditional and anti-clerical Christianity. They denounced fundamental Christian dogmas such as Trinity, Jesus’ divinity, Original Sin, Ecclesiastical authority, biblical inerrancy and salvation through the redemptive death and crucifixion of Christ. They were anti-Trinitarians subscribing to the Socinian and Unitarian theology and outlook. They declared that the fundamental Christian dogmas and mysteries were absolutely irrational and hence an impediment to a rational discourse. They believed that "reason" was a gift of God and must be used to understand God's revelation and creation. They insisted upon using reason and common sense to understand God's will and guidance. In short, they were less of traditional Christians and more of Muhammadan Christians.
In addition to his Unitarian theological outlook, Locke was influenced by Islamic republicanism, toleration and natural law theories. He possessed a copy of the Qur’an and was greatly influenced by the Muslim philosophers especially the Spanish philosopher Ibn Tufayl (known as "Abubacer" or "Ebn Tophail in the West) whose philosophical novel Hayy bin Yaqzan was one of the sources of Locke’s political thought and theory of Tabula Rasa. Ibn Tufayl in Hayy ibn Yaqzan depicted the development of the mind of a feral child "from a tabula rasa to that of an adult, in complete isolation from society" on a desert island, through experience alone. Following him, Locke hypothesized that the human mind was a blank slate or tabula rasa. In contrast to pre-existing Cartesian philosophy, Locke maintained that humans are born without innate ideas, and that human knowledge is attained by experience and sense perception. This theory of mind is often cited as the origin of modern conceptions of self, consciousness and identity. Locke formulated this theory in An Essay Concerning Human Understanding.
For centuries the Church and Monarchs had used the theory of innate ideas to maintain their authority. Innatism held that human beings were born with certain ideas irrespective of their origin, ethnicity and education. The idea of God was innate to humanity. The Church was the agent of God on earth and the sole proprietor of his grace. The kings also claimed to be the shadows of God on earth. Obeying the Church and the monarch was equal to obeying God and vice versa. The Church claimed to govern the believers based upon the spiritual authority of Jesus Christ while the kings used the civil authority in the name of God. The divine right absolutism was a commonplace both in the Catholic and Protestant worlds.The Church and the monarchs had cut a deal to mutually support each-others’ authority and to curb the rebellion. The Church always used biblical injunction in Romans 13:1-2 to this end. The verse reads, "Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves." The Church also used the dogma of determinism and predestination towards political goals.
Voltaire once depicted organized Christianity as a tool of tyrants and oppressors and as being used to defend monarchism. This has been true throughout the Christian history. Millions have been persecuted, interrogated, burned alive and deprived of their basic human rights in the name of God. There were no inalienable human rights but the rights given by the Church or the Kings. John Locke like other reformists felt that the Church was using innatism and determinism to abuse the power and was hostile to the development of reason and the progress of science. The reformers also believed that the Church teachings were irrational defying reason and incapable of verification. Ibn Tufayls’ theory of tabula rasa provided Locke with the ammunition and he used it very well. He argued that man is a product of his experience. Man should be allowed to think for himself and adopt a discourse which satisfies his rational instincts and natural inclinations. The natural laws governing the universe are the same laws which govern the human life. A reasoned approach to life and nature can help humanity understand the universal natural laws. Empiricism rather than dogmatism was the key to unlock the hidden treasures of human nature as well as the nature around man. Reason and "Nature" were the two most emphasized terms and concepts during the Enlightenment period.
Since the times of Abu Hamid al-Ghazzali (d. 505H), and Abu Isaac al-Shatibi (d. 790H), the significant developments were made in the formulation of the theory of Al-Maqasid or the Objectives of Islamic Shari’ah. Al-Shatibi, the Spanish Muslim jurist, summarized objectives of the Islamic Shari’ah into five: Preservation of “Life, Religion, Family, Property and Reason”. Throughout history Muslim jurists have insisted that Islamic law has come to protect the universal inalienable God given rights of life, religious freedom, liberty to choose and protect ones family, property and human intellect. The Qur’anic dictum of common human origins from Adam and Eve dictated absolute human equality (Surah 49:13) and universal human dignity. (Surah 17:70) These Qur’anic concepts of common origins, absolute equality and human dignity formulated the foundations of God given, inalienable, universal human rights. This tradition of inalienable human rights was a commonplace among the Spanish Muslim philosophers, jurists and political thinkers such as Ibn Rushd (Averroes). The same tradition was transmitted to the Latin West along with Aristotelianism. The Islamic humanism heralded the Italian humanism and was transported to the middle age European continent through Renaissance and scholasticism.
Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn Abd al-Malik ibn Muhammad ibn Tufail (1105–1185) was an Andalusian theologian, philosopher and novelist. He was a friend and a teacher of Ibn Rushd, the famous Muslim philosopher, theologian and jurist who wrote extensive commentaries on Aristotle's works. Both Moses Maimonides (the renowned Jewish philosopher and theologian) and Thomas Aquinas (the famous Christian theologian and philosopher) incorporated Ibn Rushd's Greco-Islamic ideas into their writings with varying degrees. The Medieval Jewish and Christian theology as well as philosophy were thoroughly imbued with Ibn Rushd's rational and humanistic discourse. Latin Averroism was a widespread movement during the 13th century and mainly responsible for Latin Scholasticism which emphasized the rational and analytical inquiry rather than blind dogmatism. As a result of philosophical Averroism many ancient and medieval irrational and inhumane religious dogmas were rationalized and humanized. The resultant rationalized and humanized doctrines greatly served the continental reformation and enlightenment endeavors.
In his philosophical novel, Hayy ibn Yaqdhan, also known as Philosophus Autodidactus in the Western world, Ibn Tufayl emphasized the natural and inalienable rights of humanity. This philosophical novel was an influential best-seller throughout Western Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries. A Latin translation of Hayy bin Yaqzan, entitled Philosophus Autodidactus, was prepared by Edward Pococke and first appeared in 1671. Dr. Poccke was the Chair of Arabic in Oxford University and a confidant of John Locke. G. A. Russel in “The Arabick Interest of the Natural Philosophers in Seventeenth-Century England” has shown that John Locke read Hayy bin Yaqzan and changed his political outlook. Locke assimilated the Islamic philosophical ideas because they served his purpose of English and continental reformation. He molded the ideas to fit his scheme of European enlightenment. Locke used them to challenge the existing menace of absolute monarchism and irrational dogmatism, the two main sources of human misery during the pre-modern era. Locke, just like Ibn Tufayl and Ibn Rushd, insisted upon reason and nature as the two most significant sources of human religious and political endeavors.
John Lock summarized the inalienable human rights into four: Life, Health, Liberty and Possession. In his famous “Two Treatises of Government” published in October 1689 with a 1690 date on the title page Lock stated that "no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions." He incorporated “Reason”, the fifth objective of Islamic Shari’ah, as the fundamental source of all his religious, political and scientific thinking. Many historians such a J. R. Pole in “The Pursuit of Equality in America History” has shown that Thomas Jefferson took Lock’s tally of inalienable rights and summarized them further into three: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. Jefferson argued that liberty, health and property in themselves are not the guarantees of happiness. One has to make proper choices to attain true happiness. Therefore he maintained that the pursuit of happiness rather than just property or family is the inalienable human right.
Therefore, the American dream “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” is a summarized version of the five objectives of Islamic Shari’ah highlighted by Ibn Tufail and incorporated by John Lock in his Treatises. There is no inherent conflict between the American dream and the moral principles of Islamic faith, the so called Muhammadan Christianity. The Americans need not to fear Islam and Muslims should not hate, despise or doubt the American dream. In its purest sense it is nothing but a reflection of their philosophical ideals and a manifestation of their lost legacy.