Islamic thought and sources influenced and made important contributions both to the radical Enlightenment and the early American Revolution. Clear and credible historical evidence demonstrates that many Founding Fathers of America were either “deists” or “Unitarians.” Islamic thought directly contributed to both of these Enlightenment ideologies through figures like Michael Servetus, Henry Stubbe, John Toland, Stephen Nye, John Biddle, and Charles Blount, and movements such as the Socinians. Some of the leading Founding Fathers were directly influenced by English thinkers such as John Locke, Isaac Newton, and Thomas Hobbes, who were also exposed to Islamic sciences, philosophy, theology, political thought, and morality.
Thomas Jefferson, one of the most important Founding Fathers, the principal author of the United States Declaration of Independence of 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 considered Locke (1632-1704) the most important thinker on liberty, and Locke’s ideas and theories heavily influenced Jefferson and his writing of the Declaration of Independence. Furthermore, the document’s list of reasons and circumstances to seek independence from Great Britain reflected Locke’s philosophy.
Locke inspired another Founding Father, Thomas Paine, in his radical ideas about revolution, and also influenced George Mason, James Madison, Benjamin Franklin, and John Adams regarding principles of freedom, 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. French philosopher Voltaire called Locke “the man of the greatest wisdom. What he has not seen clearly, I despair of ever seeing.”
Carl Becker’s famous treatment of the Declaration of Independence is a scholarly witness to America’s Lockean longing for independence. Becker observed, “Most Americans had absorbed Locke’s works as a kind of political gospel; and the Declaration, in its form, in its phraseology, follows closely certain sentences in Locke’s second treatise on government.” Many other scholars such as Louis Hartz, Charles A. Beard, and Jerome Huyler who differ on numerous details and points of analytical substance agree on the Lockean foundations of the American Constitution and Locke’s influence on American civilization. Huyler, after a detailed analysis of the period, called “American founding as essentially Lockean.”
Scholars Caroline Robbins, J.G.A. Pocock, Thomas Pangle, and Steven Dworetz have discounted the Lockean contribution to American political thought and promote a republican revisionism that tries to demolish the Lockean “myth.” However, numerous contemporary accounts testify to the Lockean influence upon the founding documents of our great nation. John Adams in 1822 stated correctly that the Declaration of Independence directly reflected Locke’s ideas, as verified by Richard Henry Lee who demonstrated the document’s connection with Locke’s Treatise of Government. James Madison apologized for this plagiarism, saying, “The object was to assert, not to discover truths.” Jefferson never denied the charge but indirectly confessed,
I did not consider it as any part of my charge to invent new ideas altogether and to offer no sentiment which had ever been expressed before…All its authority rests then on the harmonizing sentiments of the day, whether expressed in conversation, in letters, printed essays, or the elementary books of public right, as Aristotle, Cicero, Locke, Sidney, etc.
The famous phrase of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” directly borrowed from Locke’s Second Treatise and represents perhaps one of the most noticeable influences on the origins of American political thought. This and many other Lockean ideas were eventually incorporated into the American Constitution and into the fabric of American society.
Adversaries of Locke, such as John Edwards (1637-1716), an ordained deacon and English Calvinistic divine, accused Locke of being a “Mohemetan” because Locke’s theological insights, moral philosophy, and political outlook resembled Islamic teachings.
Locke argued in his Reasonableness of Christianity (1695) that Jesus was neither God nor divine but just a 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 of 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 in 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 antitrinitarian Socinian and Unitarian books and struck a close friendship with the antitrinitarian 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 antitrinitarian.
There is a difference of opinion among scholars 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 advocated that the Anglican as well as the Catholic Church should do the following: reject its hierarchical structure and authority and its alliance with corrupt monarchs; abandon its superstitious theology including beliefs in mysteries and miracles, especially the irrational dogma of the Trinity; and forfeit its innovated creeds and sacraments, pagan liturgy, customs, and traditions in favor of one requirement for membership and salvation: to acknowledge and believe that Jesus Christ is the Messiah. Justin Champion and others have shown that John Locke’s adversaries saw him as a Muslim who interpreted the Christian Gospel in light of the Koran (Qur’an). Champion stated,
“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…’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 is the Messiah. Edwards slyly commented that Locke “seems to have consulted the Mahometan bible.’ We know that Locke possessed an edition of the Qur’an.”
Locke’s adversaries while vilifying his anti-Christian beliefs also identified the sources from where he derived his Christological doctrine. His adversaries genuinely believed that Locke consulted the “Mahometan bible” rather than the Christian Bible to formulate his Christological scheme. Locke’s Christology resembled the Islamic Jesus so much that a cursory read of the Qur’an or Islamic theology would reveal the striking similarity. Almost all Christian sects, including the most heretical such as the Arians and Monophysites, believed that Jesus possessed some sort of divine nature. Throughout history, the prevalent dispute over the nature of Jesus has occurred mainly between the advocates of hard and soft divinity. To Arius? A Christian ascetic presbyter in Alexandria (250 or 256-336 AD), Jesus the divine Logos was pre-existent and “performed an essential mediatorial role in the relation of God to [the] world…”
Arius, observed Hilaire Belloc, “was willing to grant our Lord every kind of honour and majesty short of the full nature of the Godhead…He was granted one might say (paradoxically) all the divine attributes – except divinity.” To Arius, Jesus did not have a human soul. “The soul of Christ was the Logos; only his body was human. As a consequence all that he did and suffered was done and suffered by the Logos.” As a result of Jesus’ actions during his earthly life and unswerving devotion to divine will, the Son was given glory and lordship and would even be called “God” and worshipped. Yet to identify him with God’s essence is to commit blasphemy. We can conclude with historian William Bright’s assertion that Arius was then “speaking of Him as, after all, only the eldest and highest of creatures; not denying to him the title of God, but by limitations and glosses abating its real power.” The Council of Nicea opposed Arianism by maintaining that “the Father and the Son are of the same substance” (homoousios).
The Alexandrian Monophysites of fourth and fifth century AD did not reject Jesus’ divinity or the dogma of the Holy Trinity. They only denied that Jesus has two natures. In opposition to the School of Antioch, which emphasized Jesus’ human nature, the Alexandrian Monophysites believed in the merger of the divine and human natures in Jesus at incarnation. To both kinds of Monophysitism (Eutychianism as well as Appollinarianism), at incarnation the human nature of Jesus was “dissolved like a drop of honey in the sea.” The first and second century Ebionites of the Jerusalem area, though disagreeing with the Trinitarian formula of three in one, did believe in an angelology that claimed Christ was the archangel who incarnated in Jesus and was adopted as the Son of God. Unfortunately historically authentic sources about Ebionites are extremely scarce. They are first mentioned in second century literature and almost always in a polemical tone as “heretical Judaizers” by the early Church Fathers like Irenaeus, Origin, and Tertullian. Therefore, the Lockean Christology of a prophetic messiah resembled only the Islamic Christology.
Some Christian scholars argue that Qur’anic Christology is misplaced because the Qur’an has an erroneous understanding of the Trinity. They wrongly contend that unlike in Christianity, the Qur’an includes Mary in the triune formula and rejects Jesus’ divine son-ship only due to sexual implications. The following verses of the Qur’an are quoted by these scholars to substantiate their erroneous claim: “Yet they ascribe as partners unto Him the jinn, although He did create them, and impute falsely, without knowledge, sons and daughters unto Him. Glorified be He and High Exalted above (all) that they ascribe (unto Him). The Originator of the heavens and the earth! How can He have a child, when there is for Him no consort, when He created all things and is Aware of all things?” (Qur’an 6:100-101)
These verses do not mention the Trinity. The Qur’an refers to the Arab polytheists who believed that Allah has sons and daughters. Verse 72:3 from the chapter “Jinn” refers to the Jinn and not to the Christian dogma of the Trinity. Nothing in the Qur’an includes Mary as the third person of the Trinity. The verse
And when Allah saith: O Jesus, son of Mary! Didst thou say unto mankind: Take me and my mother for two gods beside Allah? he saith: Be glorified! It was not mine to utter that to which I had no right. If I used to say it, then Thou knewest it. Thou knowest what is in my mind, and I know not what is in Thy Mind. Lo! Thou, only Thou, art the Knower of Things Hidden ? (5:116)
does not refer to the Trinity either. It alludes to the worship of Mary as God. The worship of Mary as a goddess was quite prevalent in some Christian circles.
St. Athanasius of Alexandria (b. ca. 296-298 – d.373 AD), the architect of the Nicean Creed (325 AD), called Mary “the Mother of God.” By the fourth century there was a common tendency among the Christian masses, especially among monks, to exalt and worship the Virgin Mary as “Mother of God” or theotokos. Nestorius, bishop of Constantinople (428 AD), cried in vain to Cyril of Alexandria (c. 376-444 AD), the Patriarch of Alexandria from 412 to 444 and to the Church in general, “Do not make the Virgin into a goddess.” Nestorius observed that “God cannot have a mother…and no creature could have engendered the Godhead; Mary bore a man, the vehicle of divinity but not God. The Godhead cannot have been carried for nine months in a woman’s womb, or have been wrapped in baby clothes, or have suffered, died and been buried.” Cyril condemned Nestorius in his letter of 430 AD: “If anyone does not confess that Emmanuel is God in truth, and therefore the holy Virgin is theotokos – for she bore in the flesh the Word of God became flesh – let him be anathema.” The Fifth Ecumenical Council at Constantinople (533) anathematized Nestorius; the worship of Mary as the mother of God was quite widespread in Christian circles at that time. She was worshipped, called upon in prayers for support and venerated through Christian iconography.
Sixteenth-century scholar George Sale wrote:
The notion of the divinity of the Virgin Mary was also believed by some at the Council of Nice, who said there were two gods besides the Father viz. Christ and the virgin Mary, and were thence named Mariamites. Others imagined her to be exempt from humanity, and deified; which goes but little beyond the popish superstition in calling her the complement of the Trinity, as if it were imperfect without her. This foolish imagination is justly condemned in the Koran as idolatrous…
Reverend W. St. Clair Tisdall wrote in his The Original Sources of The Qur’an and Edward Gibbon in his The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire that Mary was worshipped “with the name and honours of a goddess.” Therefore, the above quoted Qur’anic verse alludes to the worship of Mary as a goddess and not as a person of the Trinity. The Qur’an condemns any association with God (Allah), the One and Only God.
These antitrinitarian Qur’anic statements roundly reject both interpretations of the Trinity, whether Augustinian or Cappadocian. The Augustinian model of water, ice, and vapor in one essence and the Capadocian social Trinity of James, John, and Luke sharing the same human essence are considered beliefs that associate partners with God and are unacceptable to Islam. Clearly, whether the ‘Holy’ Trinity is composed of the Father, Jesus, and Mary or the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, both viewpoints are equally and categorically condemned in the Qur’an. Any idea of associating partners with the One and Only God is totally unacceptable. By now it should be clear that John Locke followed the Islamic Christology of a Prophetic Messiah rather than the traditional Christian Trinitarian Christology.
As mentioned earlier, Locke also opposed the fundamental Christian dogma of original sin. In his An Essay Concerning Human Understanding he at once rejected the Cartesian understanding of innate ideas and the Augustinian understanding of original sin. He instead argued that human beings were born innocent without the supposed tainted nature due to men’s fall in Adam. Following Spanish Muslim philosopher Ibn Tofayl’s novel Hayy bin Yaqzan which was translated to English as The Self-Taught Philosopher, Locke argued that a child was born with a clean slate (Tabula Rasa) and one’s identity, ideas, and beliefs were the result of one’s experiences, society, and education, “of all the men we meet with, nine parts of ten, or perhaps ninety-nine of one hundred, are what they are, good or evil, useful or not, by their education. It is that which makes the great difference in mankind.”
This perspective contrasted with both the Catholic and Protestant position that original sin had corrupted Adam’s posterity and that all humans were prone to sin and had no natural tendency to goodness and morality. Locke’s views on human nature conform to Islamic teachings. Islam contends original forgiveness rather than original sin. The Qur’an, the Muslim scripture, clearly stated that both Adam and Eve repented to God after their original mistake and God forgave them.
They said: Our Lord! We have wronged ourselves. If thou forgive us not and have not mercy on us, surely we are of the lost!” (7:23) “Then Adam received from his Lord words (of revelation), and He relented toward him. Lo! He is the relenting, the Merciful. We said: Go down, all of you, from hence; but verily there cometh unto you from Me a guidance; and whoso followeth My guidance, there shall no fear come upon them neither shall they grieve.” (2:37-38)
Prophet Muhammad has explained that all children are born in a state of nature and goodness. Their immediate environment from parents, teachers, and society makes them good or bad. Therefore, human beings are capable of realizing morality and righteousness.
Locke insisted that all humans are capable of good moral choices and that their nature is not tainted by so-called original sin or fallen nature. Men do not need Christ’s blood atonement for satisfaction of original sin. They did not inherit a sinful disposition or a damaged nature but were born with a clean slate capable of attaining full-scale morality based upon experience and education. Locke did not deny that men are sinful. He argued that their sinfulness is the result of their “vices, Passions, and domineering Interest.” These vices do not need a supernatural or divine treatment such as Christ’s crucifixion but proper contemplation and education. Further, most men follow the standards of their society and ignore contemplation but are not deficient in their knowledge and understanding of moral values due to their supposed corrupted nature. They need adequate education and strong will to discipline their passions, caprices, and desires to make the right moral choices.
Locke’s position on the role of education and man’s capability of individual moral choices without supernatural intervention opposed central Christian doctrine and was in line with the Socinian and Islamic positions. No wonder that in 1690s Bishop Edward Stillingfleet vehemently attacked the Essay as supporting Socinianism.
Locke also advocated religious tolerance and a complete separation between the church and state. He insisted that men were obliged to think for themselves, and that “the care of each man’s salvation belongs only to himself.” Further, the search for truth was a sublime duty and a meritorious act rewarded by God, and the sincerity of efforts and search received more recompense than the objective truth sought. Locke encouraged everyone to seek the truth on their own rather than from society, church, tradition, or customs, because God did not give anyone authority over others to compel them in matters of faith and religion. Locke clearly rejected the Roman Church’s claims from Matthew 16:18 that the Church had the authority to interpret the scripture and that people must follow Church interpretations and traditions to avoid heresy and idolatry. He equally denounced claims by the Church of England and Puritans that they were duty-bound to establish the true religion and implement Christian teachings and dogmas with the help of civil authority. He maintained, “It appears not that God has ever given any such authority to one Man over another, as to compel any one to his Religion.”
Locke argued that religious imposition and lack of religious freedom led to communal confrontation and civil unrest. Civil authority or government must not interfere in religious matters but focus only upon safeguarding and guaranteeing human external interests such as life, liberty, health, property, and general human welfare. The Church must not intrude in man’s privacy and general welfare as its realms were connected with internal interests such as human salvation. Therefore the Church and the State were two separate entities with two very different functions and roles. “Church itself is a thing absolutely separate and distinct from the commonwealth.” Church use of violence was contrary to its nature and role as it could gain true followers only through “exhortations, admonitions, and advices.” To Locke “churches have neither any jurisdiction in worldly matters, nor are fire and sword any proper instruments wherewith to convince men’s minds of error, and inform them of the truth.”
Civil authorities, magistrates, princes, and kings had no business with saving souls or imposing religious dogmas, “This would be the case at Constantinople; and the reason of the thing is the same in any Christian kingdom. The civil power is the same in every place. Nor can that power, in the hands of a Christian prince, confer any greater authority upon the Church than in the hands of a heathen; which is to say, just none at all.” Beliefs and inner thoughts could never be changed by civil authority or coercion. It is against human nature to change their beliefs or conform their faiths to the dictates of others. “If the magistrate thinks to save men thus, he seems to understand little of the way of salvation. And if he does it not in order to save them, why is he so solicitous about the articles of faith as to enact them by a law?” Religion had nothing to do with civil liberties, “no private person has any right in any manner to prejudice another person in his civil enjoyments because he is of another church or religion. All the rights and franchises that belong to him as a man, or as a denizen, are inviolably to be preserved to him. These are not the business of religion. No violence nor injury is to be offered him, whether he be Christian or Pagan. Nay, we must not content ourselves with the narrow measures of bare justice; charity, bounty, and liberality must be added to it. This the Gospel enjoins, this reason directs, and this that natural fellowship we are born into requires of us. If any man err from the right way, it is his own misfortune, no injury to thee; nor therefore art thou to punish him in the things of this life because thou supposest he will be miserable in that which is to come.”
There was no coercion in the matters of religion and faith. This Lockean principle of toleration was in line with the Islamic teachings and antithetical to the Church history, policies and practices. The Church of England’s leading figures such as Thomas Lang and Jonas Proast roundly rejected such notions of toleration and separation of Church and State.
John Locke’s Islamic connection could possibly be traced back to his Socinian association. H. J. McLachlan and John Marshall have clearly proved that John Locke was an outright Socinian. 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 fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Martin Mulsow observes,
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.”
In Transylvania, theologian Peter Melius had already warned in 1568 that anti-Trinitarians preached a “Turkish Christ”. Theologian Johann Heinrich Hottinger of Zurich published his Historia Orientalis in 1660. He dedicated a full chapter to demonstrate Socinian affiliations with Islamic teachings. “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…”
The Socinian statement of faith as manifest in the book Racovian Catechism emphasized the significance of human reason and preferred rationality over revelation. It declared the dogma of the Trinity as irrational and maintained the unipersonality of God. It also denied Jesus’ divinity and emphasized his humanity and messianic role. The book, dedicated to King James I of England, was first published there in 1609 and later was publicly burned. In 1640 the Laudian Canon was introduced by the King of England to curb Racovian’s impact. John Biddle, the founder of English Unitarianism, translated it into English and published it in 1652. The Racovian theology was so similar to Islamic outlook that prominent English Presbyterian Francis Chennell (1608-1665), President of St. John’s College, Oxford, called it a “Racovian Alcoran.”
Thomas Calvert observed that when Christians turn to Islam, “they begin with Arianism and Socinianisme, and then Turcism [Islam] is not so strange a thing. Such a transition was a commonplace in many areas of Europe, including Holland and England. Consequently, Socinianism and Unitarianism were so closely associated with Islam that all those “who ventured into anti-Trinitarian theologies were viewed as crypto-Muslims: as a result, orthodox theologians started seeing Muslims wherever they saw Unitarians. A high number of Christians and Britons was reported in English writings to have converted to Islam.”
Several factors fed this widespread conversion to Islam in Europe. The Islamic creedal statement “There is no god but One God” was simple and logical and resonated with human nature and logic. The Christian mysteries such as the Trinity, incarnation and satisfaction through crucifixion were rationally problematic, difficult to comprehend, and discordant with human reason. The Christian religious establishment maintained a number of expensive and cumbersome rituals that only they could officiate. Leaders also claimed a special mediatorial role of forgiving human sins on the authority of God while abusing their own spiritual, economic, and civil powers. John Toland, a radical reformer and Enlightenment thinker, succinctly stated the point: “Every day yields fresh instances of the ambitious and traitorous designs of degenerate Clergymen, Whose lives make Atheists, and whose doctrine slaves. The ultimate designs of such men are to procure to themselves Riches and consequently Power and Authority: as, in order to secure both, they train up their hearers in Ignorance and consequently in Superstition and Bigotry.” This was the dominant concern of most early reformers and almost all the Enlightenment thinkers. They accused clergy of imposing irrational dogmas such as the Trinity and turning many sincere Christians into atheists.
The Church alliance with kings and princes and belief in the divine right of kings had helped the Church to persecute millions of believing Christians and burn many of them at the stake just because they either challenged the Church authority or genuinely inquired about irrational dogmas. On the other hand, Islamic religion promulgated simple, inexpensive, and socially valuable rituals such as daily prayers, alms-giving, fasting, and pilgrimage. Islam allowed freedom of religious beliefs and pluralism where the Jews, Christians, and people of other faith could freely practice their religions as long as those practices did not interfere with public discourse and political authority. Jizyah, or a small amount of tribute, was required of the minorities in return for their religious freedom.
While living among the Muslims, many Jews and Christians openly challenged Islamic beliefs while proving the validity of their own religious traditions. Moses Maimonides and other Jewish writers of that era provide good examples. Despite periods of persecutions and lack of freedom of expression, depending upon a caliph or regime’s political agenda, on the whole, Islamic civilization was relatively open to religious pluralism, interfaith debate and dialogues, and especially to intra-faith debate and controversy. Such debate or freedom was prohibited in the Christian world since the Nicean Council and the strict Justinian codes of the sixth century AD.
The Islamic world presented an allure for some Europeans at that time. The Muslim Ottoman Empire, for example, offered more opportunities of political power, economic progress, and religious freedom. Consequently, Christians of England and other European countries from different walks of life converted to Islam for various reasons. There were intellectuals, thinkers, sailors, carpenters, cabin boys, gunners, felons, and pirates who accepted Islam to escape persecutions. Many English cities, towns, and even villages had Muslim converts with Turkish turbans, traditional Muslim clothes, Turkish costumes, and coffee. Nabil Matar observes that accepting Islam in the period from 1558 to 1686 was tantamount to “joining a powerful empire and partaking of the ‘prosperous Success of the Turks.’ This is how an English convert described his condition to Robert Blake in 1638…”
Therefore, this widespread conversion to Islam was perceived as a serious threat to the English and European political and spiritual realms and as a precursor to Muslim religious and political dominance. Ecclesiastical and monarchial authorities took the threat seriously and sponsored polemical literature against Islam, Turks, and all those who subscribed to Islamic political outlook or theology, such as Socinians and Unitarians.
The anonymous author of the Historical and Critical Reflections upon Mahometanism and Socinianism did a thorough search of the Islamic and Socinian sources to show they were “impossible to distinguish…” After a detailed discussion of the Islamic doctrines, the author concluded that in the Islamic
Confessions of Faith which I have related, the Socinians find anything that, according to their own Principles, they can condemn as erroneous or impious. Nay, I am persuaded, that if they acted with Sincerity, they would own that Mahometans are Orthodox: And indeed they must be so by the Principles of all those who have embrac’d the Socinian Religion. The two sects are proud to be call’d Unitarians; a name that signifies the same thing with both Parties…The chief of the Sect has acted herein with more Sincerity…he owns, that the Alcoran speaks of the Unity of God in the same sense, that he spoke of it himself, and that his Predecessors in Poland and Transylvania had spoke of it before him.
The author further showed that the Socinian arguments against the Trinity are the same common Islamic rational arguments. He wrote that Muslims contended no
…human Understanding can perceive or comprehend, that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are at the same time, and in the same Essence, one and the same God; and the Omnipotent God never requir’d nor commanded Man to believe what can neither be perceiv’d nor understood. On the contrary, he hath given Man an Understanding apt to conceive whatever was possible and necessary, and to deny and not conceive what is impossible. We shall see presently the Socinians making use of the same Sophism. Indeed ‘tis what they insist most upon…”
He clearly denounced the Socinians’ tendency to elevate human reason and rational arguments over Christian mysteries substantiated by Christian revelation. To him, this was the old Islamic discourse quite known to Christian scholarship.
He further analyzed the Socinians’ acceptance of Jesus’ crucifixion that the Mahometans deny “puts no great difference between them; since the Socinians don’t own the Fruits and Necessity of that Death…To deny this Satisfaction, and to deny the Death that made it, is the same.” He claimed that the Socinians can never deny the Prophetic mission of Mahomet because “an able Mussulman will shew them the necessity of it, by Principles that are common to both Sects…” He presented a geographical and historical connection between Socinianism and Islam by observing,
Poland and Germany shar’d with the Turks the Ruins of Dispersion of Venice; but the Turks had the greatest Lot; and indeed they seem’d to have the best Right to it. Michael Servetus, who was the first that dogmatiz’d in the sixteenth Century against the Mystery of the Trinity, had dip’d into the Alcoran, upon the Briars of which (they are words of Lubinietski) like a Bee, he gather’d the Honey of his Doctrine. He had travel’d from Spain to Africa, doubtless with a design to communicate his Sentiments to the Mahometan Doctors, and profit by their Instructions. We ought not therefore to be surpriz’d, if the Unitarians of Transylvania, in the Infancy of their Sect, cited the Alcoran as one of the Classic Books of their Religion.”
The author further observed that other antitrinitarians such as Francis David who otherwise was an anti-Socinian “made no scruple of citing the Alcoran, to support what he advanc’d concerning the Divinity and Adoration of Jesus Christ. Certainly, says he, as ‘tis not without reason said in the Alcoran, that Jesus Christ can give no Assistance to those who worship him, because they would have him pass for God, contrary to the Doctrine which he taught…”
The original connection between the Qur’an and Socinian teachings is historically credible. Lelio Francesco Maria Sozzini (1525-1562), the uncle of Faustus Socinus, knew Arabic and Hebrew and gave a copy of the Qur’an to Theodore Bibliander (1509-1564), the Swiss orientalist who published the first printed Latin edition of the Qur’an, in Basel in 1543, based on the medieval translation of Robert of Ketton. Miguel Servet, the original thinker of antitrinitarianism, read and quoted Robert Ketton’s Qur’anic translation.
Miguel Servet (Serveto, 1511-1553) was a Spanish theologian, physician, and humanist. P. Hughes wrote that Miguel Servet came from Spain, “where Islamic rule prevailed for centuries and where still hundreds of thousands of Moriscos lived.” Servet’s work De trinitatis erroribus (1531) mentions the Qur’an several times. In “1543 Servet read Theodor Bibliander’s Latin translation of the Qur’an that was based on the medieval translation of Robert of Ketton (1143), and quoted surahs 3, 4, and 5 in his main work, Restitutio Christianismi (1553).”
Under the leadership of John Calvin, the Islamic Servet was burned at the stake as a heretic in accordance with the sixth-century Justinian code against anti-trinitarianism. Reformists like Calvin who originally aimed for religious tolerance quickly became as intolerant as the old Roman church. Both branches of Christianity persecuted hundreds and thousands of so-called heretics who deviated from or questioned accepted dogmas such as the Trinity. Servet had denied original sin, predestination, and satisfaction through crucifixion. He placed value upon human dignity, good nature, reason, and good works and through them human autonomy in moral decisions. Servet insisted that all humans have the right to think individually, express their religious views, and follow their consciences.
Servet further advanced that the Biblical God had wrongly chosen the Jewish people and graced them with his special covenant. This was arbitrary predestination antithetical to the justice of true God. Both Catholics and Protestants, following the biblical notion of covenant, extended that supposed God given grace to certain individuals at the time of creation rather than to a nation or a people such as the Jews. For instance, Calvin completely ruled out that a man can attain salvation through good works, and rather insisted that eternity and salvation was completely determined by God. Servet vehemently opposed the doctrine of arbitrary pre destination and grace while emphasizing upon salvation based upon good works and morality. Servet paid with his life for opposing Calvin and traditional Christian dogmas, but left a legacy of anti-trinitarianism, religious freedom, toleration, and salvation through good works. The Socinians followed this viewpoint by opposing Orthodox dogmas and emphasizing human autonomy, religious tolerance, freedom of religious expression, and conscience.
The same Socinian influence is seen in the writings of John Locke and other Enlightenment thinkers, through Joseph Priestly and others all the way to Founding Fathers of America such as Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and others. Islamic teachings regarding religious pluralism, original sin, free will, salvation through good deeds and individual moral responsibility were handy instruments for Servet, Socinians, and Enlightenment thinkers, especially radical reformists such as Henry Stubbe and John Toland.
Martin Mulsow observes, “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.” Further,
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 eighteenth-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.
Henry Stubbe (1632-1676), a radical reformist and influential English thinker, is believed to have converted to Islam. Stubbe was Locke’s friend at the Westminster School, London. He attended Christ Church, Oxford with Locke. At Oxford, Stubbe along with Locke and Newton, attended Dr. Edward Pococke’s (1604-1691) classes. Professor Pococke was an English Orientalist and biblical scholar who had spent many years in Aleppo and Constantinople to learn Arabic, Islam, and Islamic civilization in addition to his missionary work. He was the chair of Arabic at Oxford while Locke, Stubbe, and Newton studied there. In 1649, Pococke published the Specimen historiae arabum, a short account of the origin and manners of the Arabs, taken from the Arab writer Bar-Hebraeus’s (Abulfaragius) Arabic works. Professor Pococke was well-versed in Islamic theology, history, manners and political thought. He imparted the same to his Oxford students.
Stubbe engaged in extensive dialogue with Locke and might have influenced Locke’s thinking. Stubbe wrote in 1674 his famous book 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 and Noah and culminating in the last Prophet, Muhammad. He vehemently attacked the Christian dogma of the Trinity and divinity of Jesus and called it tri-theism and paganism. He argued that the Christian church corrupted the Gospel of Jesus and his message of salvation through good deeds and morality after the Council of Nicea. He noted that Prophet Mohammad was sent by God to rectify Christian corruptions, and his theology was in line with the original message of Jesus and his original followers, the Nazarene (Qur’anic Nasaara).
James A. Jacob has shown that Stubbe, borrowing mostly from John Seldon, Thomas Hobbes, and James Harrington “developed and advocated a civil religion which would survive the Restoration, undergoing several mutations in the course of the 1660s and 1670s. Stubbes’ civil religion was based upon a “deistical minimum, common to the Jews, the Muslims and the primitive Christian…” The original Jewish, Christian, and Islamic message was the one and same Unity of a transcendent and just God. Stubbe in An Account argued that Jesus was sent to rectify Jewish excesses and that Prophet Mohammad came to “revive ancient Christianity.” The decline of original Christianity, especially the corruptions of Christian scriptures and the introduction of irrational dogmas such as the Trinity and Church abuses spurred the advance of Islam. While “most of Christianity was sunk in superstition and internecine war, Mohammed accomplished the fourth revolution, the invention, establishment and expansion of Islam.” Mohammed’s intelligence and thoughts are “not to be scorned but admired.” Jacob sees in Stubbe a synthesis of “Mohammed’s simple creed, Hobbes’ natural religion and the deistical confessions of Cherbury and Blount.” Stubbe in conclusion of his Account said,
This is the sum of Mahometan religion, on the one hand, not clogging men’s faith with the necessity of believing a number of abstruse notions which they cannot comprehend, and which are often contrary to the dictates of reason and common sense: nor on the other hand loading them with performance of many troublesome, expensive, and superstitious ceremonies, yet enjoining a due observance of religion, as the surest method to keep men in the bounds of their duty both to God and man.
Jacob rightly observes that in his Account Stubbe “turns true religion inside out. Trinitarian Christianity is dismissed as hopelessly corrupt and false in favor of Islam, which is represented as the religion of Christ and the Apostles. There are some striking similarities between Stubbe’s ‘Mahometan Christianity’ and Hobbes’ natural religion set out in Chapter 31 of Leviathan.” Stubbe had enjoyed a close friendship with Hobbes since 1656 and was mostly responsible for translating Leviathan into Latin. On “occasions Hobbes even incorporated Stubbe’s critique…” No wonder that Hobbes’ ideas about natural religion were strikingly close to Stubbe’s ‘Mahometan Christianity,’ which was Stubbe’s ideal civil religion. Jacob has shown that Stubbe’s central doctrines consisted of “the beliefs of ‘the most primitive’ Christians, revived by Mohammed.”
Stubbe was also the source of Charles Blount’s deism. Deism would later become the predominant religious ideology of many of the Founding Fathers of America. Jacob observes, “there are more striking similarities between Stubbe and the early deism of Charles Blount.” After a detailed discussion of these striking similarities and Blount’s friendship with Stubbe, Jacob concludes that “Stubbe must now be reckoned as one of the founders of English deism, though his creed wore the guise of ‘Mahometan Christianity.” Jacob also shows that Bristol Quaker leader George Bishop in his article “A Looking-Glass for the Times” published in 1668, recognized Stubbe as “the source of many of his own Quaker ideals.” Stubbes’ ideal of ‘Mahometan Christianity’ resonated with many other English dissenters in addition to Quakers, Deists, Socinians, and Unitarians.
Stubbe was also extremely impressed by the Islamic concept of religious pluralism and toleration for other religious traditions. He emphasized that Mohammad never imposed his religion upon others as long as they were not idolatrous or paid a moderate tribute (jizyah). “The security which he gave to the Jews and Christians that they might live quietly under him without molestation brought a great deal of riches into the publick treasury, and those securities were observed with so inviolate a faith that it was a great invitation to the next neighbours to come under his government.” Stubbe wanted Europeans to follow the tolerant path of the Muslim Turkish Empire and allow freedom of religious beliefs, expression, worship, and freedom of conscience. “So favorable are the conditions of Muslim rule…that Christians in contemporary Europe would prefer, if given the choice, Muslim rule to their own…”
To Stubbe it was the interests of the kings and princes “which at present keeps all Europe from submitting to the Turks.” Unlike the Christian princes and church leaders, Mohammad was “far from depriving any Ismaelite [Arab] of his liberty, that he would set even a bird free if he saw him encaged, and so remote from ambition and avarice that the greatest pleasure he takes in having anything is that he may give it away to some more indigent Moslemin.” Therefore Muhammad’s religion and his government must be a Christian ideal, “a government based upon natural prudence to match ‘the religion of Noah’ and of nature.” His Account was a theological and political prescriptive critique of European religion and government.
England would be better off if religious authority were vested in the civil sovereign, as under Islam, just as Mohammed did; moreover, the sovereign should enforce a rational religion, a ‘Mahometan Christianity’ which would represent a return to the Apostolic church. Again just as Mohammed did, the sovereign should allow for toleration of opinion beyond the enforcement of this doctrinal minimum, this rational religion of nature.
To Anthony Wood, the earliest biographer of Stubbe, he was “the most noted person of his age that these late times have produced.” Stubbe died in 1676 but his influence continued through the remainder of the Restoration and after the Revolution of 1688-1689, until at least 1720. He was the source of “the early English deism of Charles Blount and the civil religion or ‘Mahometan Christianity’ of John Toland, and hence charted the intellectual links between the radical Protestantism and subversive naturalism represented by Stubbe and the deism and vitalistic materialism or pantheism (to use Toland’s words) of the early Enlightenment. Stubbe is a key connection between the radicalism of the mid-century English revolution with the radicalism of the early eighteenth century. The principle medium of this connection…was Stubbe’s manuscript “An Account of the Rise and Progress of Mahometanism,” which circulated underground between the 1670s and 1720.”
John Toland (1670-1722) furthered Stubbe’s 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.” This book was written in 1718. He wrote earlier in 1699 Amyntor: or a Defence of Milton’s Life in which he denied the authenticity and validity of the New Testament. He classified the New Testament material into three categories: orthodox, apocryphal, and fictitious. Toland maintained that the present New Testament was canonized centuries after Jesus or his original followers and was not reliable source to know what Jesus believed or preached. He contended the original followers of Jesus were “Nazarenes” who followed the Gospel of Barnabas. In 1709 Toland discovered a manuscript of the Gospel of Barnabas in Amsterdam through his acquaintance with Prince Eugene of Vienna who possessed that manuscript. Toland began work on Nazarenus in 1710 based upon his study of the Gospel of Barnabas. Justin Champion shows that Toland “readily employed this text as evidence, following Stubbe’s argument, of the continuity of Judaic, Christian and Islamic theology.”
Toland like Stubbe believed the pristine message of divine unity was a common thread through all the Prophets starting with Adam. All the Prophets preached the same message of divine unity, charity, and moral responsibility. Jesus came to correct Jewish excesses and Mohammad came to rectify Christian corruptions such as the trinity, original sin, and satisfaction through crucifixion. He insisted that the “fundamental doctrines of Mahometanism to have their rise, not from Sergius the Nestorian monk (a person who has hitherto serv’d for a world of fine purposes) but from the earliest monuments of the Christian religion.” Toland maintained that the original followers of Jesus were Nazarene or Ebionites who were “mortal enemies to Paul…whom they stil’d an Apostate…and a transgressor of the Law…representing him as an intruder on the genuine Christianity…a stranger to the person of Christ, yet substituting his own pretended Revelations to the doctrines of those with whom Christ had convers’d, and to whom he actually communicated his will.” He concluded, “Mahometans believe concerning Christ and his doctrine, were neither the inventions of Mahomet, nor yet of those Monks who are said to have assisted him in framing of his Alcoran but that they are as old as the time of the Apostles having been the sentiments of whole sects or Churches…”
Champion observes, “Toland deployed the Islamic notion of the succession of the prophets as the authors of new institutions each increasingly perfect, ‘tho’ in substance it still be one and the same religion’.” Toland accepted the Islamic charge that Jesus’ prophecy of Mahomet, that he would come ‘to complete or perfect all things,’ had been erased from Scripture by the priests.” He was keen to see Muslims tolerated in Europe as Christians and Jews were tolerated throughout the Muslim Empire. Muslims “might with as much reason and safety be tolerated at London and Amsterdam, as the Christians of every kind are so tolerated at London and Amsterdam, as the Christians of every kind are so tolerated at Constantinople and throughout all Turkey.”
Champion rightly observes, “Stubbe and Toland can thus be seen to place the historical past of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam into a Polybian framework.” Further, “Both works set out to present an unbiased view of Islam, rejecting the slanders of the medieval canon identified in Prideaux’s work. It must be remembered that especially when Toland’s work was published it was into a public arena which had perceived Islam through the distorting lens of Prideaux’s polemic.”
Both Stubbe and Toland used Islam or ‘Mahometan Christianity’ as their ideal for a civil religion that would eliminate the corrupted Trinitarian Christianity and its stifling dogmas. The rector of St. Nicholas Church in Guildford, Thomas Mangey (1688–1755), condemned Toland’s work: “His expression of the Mahometan Christianity is the only passage in this book which I do not condemn, provided he would mean by it not the Muselmans on the other side of the water, but the Socinians here. These may truely and properly be termed Mahometan Christians.”
Stubbe’s ideal of ‘Mahometan Christianity’ and his works were highly influential among the English thinkers of his time. Champion wrote,
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 14 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.
Furthermore, Nabil Matar in Islam in Britain and Jacob in Henry Stubbe have proven beyond doubt that interest in Islamic ideas, philosophy, sciences, and institutions was prevalent among the English intelligentsia since the 1660s.
There was considerable interest at court in the 1670s and 1680s in things Islamic, from coffee to costumes to religious doctrine. Viscount Conway, who was a Privy Councillor for Ireland at the time, commissioned his brother-in-law, Sir John Finch, Ambassador to Constantinople, to write a series of reports concerning Muslim customs and culture with a view to suggesting the ways in which they might be applied in England to the reform of political and religious institutions. In 1675, Sir John compiled after some delay, and the letters exist in manuscript in the British Library.
G.A. Russell, in her book The ‘Arabick’ Interest of the Natural Philosophers in the Seventeenth-Century has shown that the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were the age of Arabic in England when thousands of Arabic manuscripts were translated into Latin and English for multiple purposes by a variety of scholars and scientists. This direct Islamic influence and Socinian missionary work apparently influenced many English thinkers of that era such as John Milton and Newton.
John Milton (1608-1674) was at first 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.
Isaac Newton (1642-1727), a close friend of John Locke, was also a Socinian. 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. “Newton’s Christology was…further from orthodoxy than Socinianism.” Just like Locke, Newton rejected the doctrines of original sin, satisfaction through crucifixion, and clerical authority. In his church history Newton stated that “the nature of the satisfaction made by Christ” among a list of adiaphora “more difficult to be understood and not so absolutely necessary to salvation.”
Moreover, Newton’s beliefs show affinity with radical and dissenting theologies of Stubbe and other dissenters like the continental radical Reformists and British non-conformists, especially the Unitarians.
Much of the antitrinitarian argumentation of writers like John Biddle, who is often termed ‘the father of Unitarianism,’ and Stephen Nye, is isomorphic with that of Newton. Additionally, Newton’s near intervention in the Trinitarian controversy of the late 1680s and early 1690s reveals that he shared some common reformist goals with the British Unitarians. Newton’s anti-Athanasian Paradoxical questions is part of the same genre as the Unitarian Tracts of the 1690s. Newton owned at least one collection of the Unitarian Tracts and would have been familiar with the teachings of the movement that produced them – a movement that developed its theology contemporaneously with Newton.
Just like his friend John Locke, Newton was attacked by Edwards as a “Turk” and a “Socinian.” Newton like Locke was a cautious person who avoided persecution by keeping his views confined to his inner circle of friends, knowing that Socinian views landed Thomas Aikenhead, a student of Edinburgh University, ignominious death by public hanging in 1697. In 1698 an additional promulgation of the “Act for the more effectual Suppression of Blasphemy and Profaneness” tried to stop all discussions of the Trinitarian controversy. It introduced a denial of all civil rights and three years’ imprisonment for a second conviction. Royal command reinforced the act in 1714.
Newton kept his Socinian views and writings within a trusted circle of friends. His writings were published after his death and demonstrate his anti-trinitarianism and total appreciation for Socinian views regarding Jesus, Bible, God, and salvation. To Newton, a scientist and theologian, worship of Jesus as God was “idolatry,” “fundamental sin,” “a breach of the first and greatest commandment,” and a more dangerous crime than atheism.
In England during the Restoration period in 1660, as observed by Champion, Socinianism appears to have extended its influence to the highest levels. The coterie surrounding the philanthropist Thomas Firmin, an avowed Socinian and a Unitarian, 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).” Perhaps the most widespread of Socinian influences was reflected in the Anglican Church’s direction of broad religious toleration, and in the tendency of some leading Church leaders to reduce the essentials of Christianity to the minimal important elements such as the Messianic role of Christ, the trend usually referred to as Latitudinarianism. Many members of the clergy publicly recited the Trinitarian Athanasian Creed, as required by the Church in public worship, thirteen times a year but with a twinge of conscience and without much faith in its validity or authenticity. Reflecting the Socinian/Unitarian theological impact, even Archbishop of Canterbury John Tillotson (1630-1694) said, “I wish we were well-rid of it.”
Locke’s other Unitarian affinities are also well-attested. He befriended Anglican theologians such as Arthur Bury (1624-1714), Stephen Nye, and William Freke, who willingly acknowledged the prescriptive value of Islamic reformation, wrote about its validity, and never hesitated to share their thoughts and writing with other thinkers including Locke. William Freke (1662-1744) was an English mystical writer, of Wadham College, Oxford and a 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, which fined him and burned the book in response. Stephen Nye (1648-1719) was an English clergyman known for his theological writings and Unitarian views. Like his friends he faced much opposition from orthodox Anglicans.
Bury’s 1690 anti-trinitarian work, The Naked Gospel, first published anonymously, was commanded to burning 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. Bury’s Naked Gospel indicted the Christian Scriptures, mysteries, and Church corruptions. He demanded purification of Christian Scripture by purging them of human additions and Church manipulations. This action would clear Christianity of irrational mysteries invented by the priestcraft after the Council of Nicea. Dusting off mysteries would let the original message of Jesus and the Gospel shine through. To Bury, that message was to love your God and love your neighbor or “repent and believe.” He concluded his book observing that the “end of all is to determine between Faith and Love…Give unto Faith the things that are Faith’s and the Love that are Love’s…Do good to all especially to those that are of the household of Faith.”
In his book’s preface Bury refuted the Church establishment’s claims that Mohammad was an imposter and that Islam was spread with the power of sword rather than with God’s providence. It has been argued since St. Augustine’s time that due to merit and divine providence Christ’s message prevailed over old Jewish message although Jesus came from a meek background and his early followers were illiterate fishermen lacking resources, his message succeeded against educated philosophers and powerful kings. Bury used the same argument to defend Islam and Mohammad. He argued,
So the victories of the Alcoran over the Gospel must be evidence, that as the religion of Moses was better than that of the Canaanites, and the religion of Christ better than that of Moses; so must the religion of Mahomet be better than that of Christ. Thus may a Mahometan either disarm us of St. Augustine’s argument, or restore it against us; for either it is of no force at all or of so much more force for Mahomet, by how much more he hath prevailed over the Churches of Christ.
To Bury, Mohammad was neither a divine scourge nor an imposter but a Christian reformer sent by divine providence to rectify Christian excesses and to restore the pristine message of divine unity. Therefore, instead of condemning Islam and Mohammad, Christians must commend them as their own. William Freke also noted that the Qur’an contained over a hundred indictments of the Trinity dogma. He reiterated that the doctrine was not original to Christianity but a post-Nicean creedal innovation.
Nye perhaps was the most emphatic Unitarian to refute the Church dogmas, mysteries, and abusive authority. In his Brief History of the Unitarians, called also Socinians, first published in 1687 and republished in 1691, Nye categorically denied that the Christianity of his time had any connection with the original message of Jesus Christ. Trinitarian Christianity was a degradation and depravation of the genuine Christian message. The original followers of Jesus were Nazarenes who like the original Apostles maintained the unipersonality of God. That pristine message had only survived in the Turkish or Mahomaten tradition. This “historical model of pre-Nicene Unitarianism, and its links with Islam, was reiterated and reinforced by Nye in his ‘Letter of Resolution Concerning the Doctrines of the Trinity and Incarnation’ (1695). He strongly criticized Church teachings such as worship of Mary, saints and images, ecclesiastical authority and tradition, papal supremacy, indulgences, the mystery of transubstantiation, original sin, and satisfaction through crucifixion. To Nye, all these corruptions were post-Nicean and an extension of corrupt Trinitarian theology.
Nye also defended Islam and Mohammad as true reflections of Jesus’ message:
Mahomet had ‘no other design in pretending himself to be a prophet, but to restore the belief of the Unity of God. Mahomet proclaimed himself disciple of the ‘Messias or Christ’ aiming to restore the Unitarian ‘true intent of the Christian religion’. Mahomet’s success in converting Asia, Africa and part of Europe was not to be attributed to the force of arms but to ‘that one truth in the Alkoran, the unity of God’
As seen above, these Unitarian thinkers appreciated and were interested in Islamic monotheism and morality. They used to assemble at the house of Thomas Firmin ( 1632-1697), an English businessman, philanthropist, and Unitarian publisher. Firmin was also the main supporter of Locke and his works. Edwards was not wrong when he insisted that Locke was “confounding Turky with Christendom.”
It is commonly argued that Enlightenment thinkers such as Locke, Newton, Stubbe, Toland and others were neither theologians nor religiously-oriented. They were secular political thinkers who wanted to replace religion with reason. This modern secularistic interpretation is misplaced. A detailed analysis of writings of Locke, Newton, and other English thinkers of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries shows they were in fact religiously-oriented theologians who wanted to reform religion for religious reasons rather than banish it altogether. The alliance between the Church and state and the redefinition of this bondage were central to their desires for viable political changes.
Monarchial sovereignty and Church authority and independence were mutually interconnected. The idea of dismantling the theological foundations of Church doctrines questioned the foundations of ecclesiastical authority and monarchial sovereignty. In this viewpoint, a correct conception of God, man, and human nature was a fundamental premise for morality and good character, and a deviant conception of God, man, and human nature was the source of immoral, capricious human behavior. Their understanding of God and religion was based on the central characteristic belief in the necessity of inducing a virtuous and moral social, political, and economic life. Cumbersome rituals, irrational mysteries, and corrupt dogmas were antithetical to morality and good character. Therefore, these thinkers tried to reform Christianity rather than throw it out of the window. They tried to do so by importing heterodox theological perspectives from outside. The Islamic model and sources were helpful tools and they used them for their reformation agendas.
Locke and Newton were anti-clerical Christianity. They denounced fundamental Christian dogmas such as the Trinity, Jesus’ divinity, original sin, ecclesiastical authority, biblical inerrancy, and salvation through the redemptive death and crucifixion of Christ. Both were anti-Trinitarians subscribing to the Socinian/Unitarian theology and outlook, which was transmitted to some of the most influential Founding Fathers of America through Locke’s writings and Joseph Priestly’s preaching.
Joseph Priestley (1733-1804) was an influential Unitarian English theologian, natural philosopher, chemist, educator, and political theorist. A prolific author, he published over 150 works on a variety of subjects. His theological views and political outlook was totally Socinian and Unitarian. In 1800 the Anti-Jacobin Review claimed that Priestley was prompted by the same spirit of proselytizing that led “Mahomet …to raise a party against the Christian World.” Priestly was a close friend of Jefferson and dedicated his General History of the Christian Church to President Jefferson. He also wrote him letters about the structure and curriculum of the University of Virginia when Jefferson was working on its founding documents. Priestly’s Unitarian Christology, political thought, and moral views greatly influenced some leading Founding Fathers such as Jefferson, James Madison, and John Quincy Adams.
Another possible source of Islamic influence upon some Founding Fathers of America such as James Madison and Thomas Jefferson was George English, a friend of the Secretary of State and then-President James Madison. George Bethune English (1787-1828) was an American adventurer, diplomat, soldier, and convert to Islam. He received his Masters in Christian theology from Harvard University and was an ordained minister. English began to have doubts about central Christian dogmas while at Harvard. He recorded his misgivings in his famous book The Grounds of Christianity Examined that led to his ex-communication from the Church of Christ in 1814. His friend president James Madison appointed him to the United States’ Marine Corps as a second lieutenant in 1815.
George English sailed to the Mediterranean, and resigned from his commission while in Egypt, then renounced Christianity, converted to Islam, and joined Ismail Pasha’s army. He revamped Pasha’s artillery and was appointed as one of the chief artillery officers in the army. His River Nile’s expedition was published in 1822 as Narrative of the Expedition to Dongola and Sennaar and was read by both James Madison and Thomas Jefferson. English had become such a devout Muslim that he learned Arabic and Turkish and became fluent in both of these Islamic languages. He often debated the truthfulness of Islam with American missionaries stationed in Egypt and Istanbul, especially those who actively tried to win him back to Christianity. He was a conscious Muslim who was well-grounded in Islamic theology and other Islamic teachings. He was a proud American and a proud Muslim. He did not give up his Islamic identity even when pressurized in 1827 and 1828 by his fellow diplomats in Washington.
After working for Ismail Pasha, English returned to his native country. Madison appointed him to the Diplomatic Corps of the United States in the Levant. Due to his Islamic background, Turkish language, customs, and costumes, English was able to help secure the first trade agreement between the government of the United States and the Ottoman Empire against the will of the British Crown. This agreement had an estimated trade value of nearly $800,000 in 1822. English returned to the United States in 1827 and died as a Muslim in Washington in 1828.
Many Founding Fathers like Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Cornelius Harnett, Gouverneur Morris, Hugh Williamson, James Madison, John Quincy Adams, Alexander Hamilton, Ethan Allen, and Thomas Paine left behind their Judeo-Christian heritage and become advocates of “Deism.” We have already seen that “Deism” in its initial developmental stages was highly influenced by the Islamic thought. The writings and political speeches of the above-mentioned Founding Fathers show distinct deistic influence. Figures like George Washington, James Monroe, and Adams kept their Christian loyalties but were influenced by Deism. A small group including Patrick Henry, John Jay, and Samuel Adams retained their super-naturalistic worldview and remained practicing Christians.
These individuals all believed in the Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights. Ralph Barton Perry has observed, “The history of American democracy is a gradual realization, too slow for some and too rapid for others, of the implications of the Declaration of Independence.” Very often it is argued that the Declaration of Independence was and is void of any religious content or theological backdrop. This secular interpretation is incorrect. In reality, the theological and religious matrix that evolved during the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century English and European struggles against Church and monarchical authorities and heralded the Enlightenment was the same milieu and backdrop that dominated pre-Declaration America. Founding Fathers like Thomas Jefferson harbored theological views totally different from orthodox Christianity. Their heterodox theology was inextricably linked to the democratic nature and efficacy of the document. Allan Jayne has rightly observed that their “succinctly stated theology, with its heterodox concepts of God and man, was among the primary truths of the democratic polity institutionalized in the Declaration…Jefferson saw the concepts of God and man upheld by orthodox theological circles in the colonies as antithetical to the Declaration’s theological and political ideals.”
In his 1787 notes on the State of Virginia, Thomas Jefferson stated, “Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burned, tortured, fined, and imprisoned. What has been the effect of this coercion? To make one half the world fools and the other half hypocrites; to support roguery and error all over the earth…” Jefferson strongly believed that the Gospels were compromised and many of the traditional doctrines were folly:
For if we could believe that he [Jesus] really countenanced the follies, the falsehoods and the charlatanisms which his biographers father on him, and admit the misconstructions, interpolations and theorizations of the fathers of the early, and fanatics of the latter ages, the conclusion would be irresistible by every sound mind, that he was an impostor.
Jefferson aimed to eliminate these perceived follies, and his version of the Bible was free of mysteries, irrational dogmas, and creeds. He emphatically opposed the Trinity. To him, this
…paradox that one is three, and three but one, is so incomprehensible to the human mind, that no candid man can say he has any idea of it, and how can he believe what presents no idea? He who thinks he does, only deceives himself. He proves, also, that man, once surrendering his reason, has no remaining guard against absurdities the most monstrous, and like a ship without rudder, is the sport of every wind.
The later church leaders have “so distorted and deformed the doctrines of Jesus…as to shock reasonable thinkers, to revolt them against the whole, and drive them rashly to pronounce its Founder an impostor.” Jefferson further stated that the “doctrines which flowed from the lips of Jesus himself are within the comprehension of a child; but thousands of volumes have not yet explained the Platonisms engrafted on them: and for this obvious reason, that nonsense can never be explained.”
Like the Enlightenment thinkers, Jefferson denied almost all the fundamental Christian dogmas such as original Sin, biblical inerrancy, church authority, predestination, and satisfaction through crucifixion. He preferred reason over so-called Christian revelation and believed that the laws of nature rather than biblical laws were the laws of God. To Jefferson, biblical laws were “cruel” and “remorseless” and biblical God who chose the Hebrews over others was a “family God of Abraham, of Isaac and of Jacob, and the local God of Israel.” The Jews “had presented for the object of their worship, a being of terrific character, cruel, vindictive, capricious and unjust.” He argued, “Moses had bound the Jews to many idle ceremonies, mummeries and observances, of no effect towards producing the social utilities which constitute the essence of virtue…”
The laws of reason and the laws of nature were totally compatible and in reality were the true laws of God. Jefferson likewise scolded the dogmas of original sin and predestination and believed that the God portrayed by the New Testament writers was no different than the capricious God of the Old Testament. He like Stubbe, Toland, and Locke believed in a universal civil religion not limited to the Jews or the Christians. Said Allan Jayne: “Jefferson’s God of the Declaration is, therefore, antithetical to any God who would manifest partiality by choosing one people or nation over others, as did the God of the Old Testament. The God of the Declaration repudiates such partial choosing, for all peoples and all nations are equal in His eyes.”
Jefferson believed that historical Christianity and its institutions were antithetical to science and progress. He disdained how faith backed by civil government persecuted scientific inquiry. “Galileo was sent to the inquisition for affirming that the earth was a sphere: the government had declared it to be as as a trencher, and Galileo was obliged to abjure his error. This error however at length prevailed, the earth became a globe.” He ridiculed such a faith and prophesized that such an erroneous faith would soon flee once “reason and experiment have been indulged.” Jefferson believed that religious freedom was a God-given right of each and every individual. Theological exclusivism and sole claims to truth were the root causes of religious persecutions and tyranny exhibited by the history of institutionalized Christianity. He like Servet, Socinians, and Unitarians advocated a complete separation between the Church and the state.
The above-discussed theological perspectives were a reflection of Jefferson’s Unitarian leaning. Unitarian leader Priestly was a close friend of Jefferson and he attended many of Priestly’s lectures and sermons. Jefferson viewed Unitarianism as a product of the Enlightenment and critical reasoning. He hoped that “the dawn of reason, and freedom of thought in these United States, will do away all this artificial scaffolding, and restore to us the primitive and genuine doctrines of this the most venerated reformer of human errors.” Further, “I rejoice that in this blessed country of free inquiry and belief, which has surrendered its creed and conscience to neither Kings nor priests, the genuine doctrine of one only God is reviving, and I trust that there is not a young man now living in the United States who will not die an Unitarian.”
The Islamic influence led Servetus to develop first anti-trinitarian, Unitarian, and humanitarian movement that led to a full-fledged doctrinal system of Transylvania and Socinians of Poland. The Socinian influences moved continental and English thinkers towards toleration, reason, nature, and Unitarianism. The Socinians demanded a complete separation of Church and state because the church’s teachings were irrational, abusive, and manipulative. Therefore it is safe to conclude with Jacob and Mulsow that “from early anti-trinitarianism to seventeenth-century Orientalism and reception of Islamic sources by early Deism, illustrates the origins of the Radical Enlightenment.” Mulsow also maintains, “The seventeenth century saw the emergence of theories that try to establish the chain of Jewish-Christians-Islam-Socinians-Enlightenment.” Jonathan Israel in his book Enlightenment Contested has a special chapter on “Socinianism and the Social, Psychological, and Cultural Roots of Enlightenment.” This does not mean however that the Radical Reformists and Enlightenment figures absorbed Islamic sources, ideas, beliefs, or institutions for the love of Islam. There was an internal need in Europe for reformation and a matrix that necessitated or allowed absorption of the Islamic ideas. Islamic ideas were reconstituted, modified, and at times completely changed in accordance with internal English and European needs.
Enlightenment thinkers, especially the Socinians/Unitarians, significantly influenced the American Founding Fathers. The Founders compiled the Bill of Rights and the American Constitution mainly in accordance with the principles of toleration, human dignity, autonomy, and freedom of conscience and expression mostly at odd with the Christian teachings upheld and explained by the Church authorities (both Catholic as well as Protestants).
It is commonly held that Islam prioritizes revelation over reason and that the source of law in Islam is Islamic Shar’iah and not logical thinking. Islam contends that the true revelation can never go against true reason and logic. God has revealed two books: the book of revelation and the book of creation. Pondering upon the book of creation is as essential tool to understanding the book of revelation. (Qur’an: 2:190) There is an inherent alliance between the reason and true revelation. The conflict arises only if the true revelation is corrupted or the pure reason is tainted with ignorance and hidden agendas. Speculative theologians and rationalists such as Mu’tazilites; Muslim philosophers such as al-Farabi, Ibn Sina, and Ibn Rushd; the Shia school of thought; and Ismai’lis all prefer reason over revelation and accept it as a valid source of law and interpretation.
The Mu`tazilites utilized, in the first place, Greek logic and rationalism to support Islamic belief and revelation to convince non-Muslims of their vitality, but then later shifted to give priority to reason (al-`aql) over revelation (al-waḥy), as Z. Zahdi Hasan Jarallah observes, in effect subordinating the latter to the former. While the Qur’an, argues Rippin,
…had its place in the discussions, it was not so much a source, when used by Mu`tazila, as a testimony to the veracity of the claims which they were making. The basic assumptions of the Greek philosophical system…was the fundamental element underlying the whole position; it was argued that reason, and not only traditional sources, could be used as a source of reliable knowledge for human beings.
Jasser Auda, a contemporary jurist, states, “the Mu’tazili school and a few scholars of fundamental (usulis) gave ‘reason’ (al-‘aql) the status of ‘the most fundamental source of legislation, even relative to the verses of the Qur’an. Mu’tazilites argued that reason is more fundamental than the scripts because it leads us to believe in the scripts themselves.” This view of the role of reason, Rippin further argues, “is significant in terms of the ultimate fate of the Mu`tazila, for it implied that the legal scholars of Islam had, in fact, no particular claim to sole possession of the right interpretation of all Muslim dogma.”
This group of Muslim rationalists would not mind interpreting a scriptural text metaphorically and at times deny some texts just to satisfy the dictates of reason, as reason to them is a higher source of knowledge than a weak text. They did not deny the authentic Qur’anic and Prophetic texts but interpreted them metaphorically to conform to the dictates of reason.
Orthodoxy, on the other hand, does not oppose reason or interpretation either, but allows it within specified bounds with proper limitations. The context and intent of language will determine and provide the clues for interpretation, metaphorical or not. No alteration to the established semantic, grammatical, and philological nature of the text or words is permitted by the Orthodoxy in the process of metaphorical interpretation. A tedious process of linguistic and textual analysis must be followed, conforming to the leads of lexicographers, grammarians, philologists, literary exegetes, poetics and literary critics.
Absolutely forbidden are arbitrary allegorical interpretations that do not follow a careful and thorough analysis, lack scholarly tools, or render the text to arbitrary fanciful interpretations without much linguistic or textual support. To conservatives like Asha’rites, the dominant Sunni school of theological thought, human reason and rationale should follow the revelation and not supersede, supplant, or nullify it. Even the most conservative Muslim sects do give an important place to reason while understanding the revelation. Most of Islamic fiqh rules and their derivative methodology are based upon (qiyas) analogy, deduction, and reasoning.
Numerous Qur’anic verses, such as 59:2, which urges people of understanding to reflect, and verse 7:184, demand believers to use reason and intellect. To Ibn Rushd (Averroes) reason or demonstration (burhan) is absolutely compatible with the explicit or implicit prescriptions of scripture. Ibn Rushd gives philosophers a higher place in his rational paradigm than the traditional scholars and common people. The other Muslim rationalists agree with him on this classification.
Locke possessed a copy of the Qur’an and was influenced by Muslim philosophers, especially Spanish philosopher Ibn Tufayl (known as Abubacer or Ebn Tophail in the West) whose philosophical novel Hayy bin Yaqzan (The Self-Taught Philosopher), was one of the main sources of Locke’s theory of tabula rasa.
Ibn Tufayl, the mentor, teacher, and trainer of Ibn Rushd, 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 reason and experience alone without the help of any book of law or revelation. 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 sensory perception. Man discovers through reason and experience ideas about external nature, God, and morality. 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” in 1671, the year when Hayy bin Yaqzan was published at Oxford in Latin and Arabic. G.A. Russell calls this work “with perfect justification, a case study for the main thesis of Locke’s Essay.
For centuries the Christian church and monarchs used the theory of innate ideas and original sin to maintain their authority. The original sin or ‘Fall’ has been central to all Christian sects and denominations since St. Paul’s times. St. Augustine expounded the doctrine further and St. Thomas Aquinas, Ignatius Loyola, Martin Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli all believed that human nature was tainted due to original sin. Both Catholics and Protestants maintained that man was incapable of proper moral decisions because of original sinful nature. The ‘Fall’ deprived people of moral authority individually as well as collectively. Only God through His Son Jesus Christ and His Word, the Bible, can determine and teach morality and good behavior. The clergy believed that moral authority adheres to apostolic tradition and scriptural interpretations. Human reason is at a loss to determine moral or ethical values. Reason has to follow the scriptures and traditions (ecclesiastical authority); otherwise its tainted nature will lead to sinful behavior and immoral values.
The Church claimed to govern its believers based upon the spiritual authority of Jesus Christ while kings exerted civil authority in the name of God. The Church and the monarchs had cut a deal to mutually support each other to curb rebellion. The Church always used a biblical injunction in Romans 13:1-2 to this end: “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.”
Voltaire once depicted organized Christianity as a tool of tyrants and oppressors that was 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 save the rights given by the Church or the Kings. Locke, like other reformists, believed the Church used the doctrine of original sin and philosophy of innatism to subjugate the human mind and abuse power. Their laws, doctrines, practices, institutions, and scriptural interpretations were hostile to rational discourse, reason, and science. They also believed that the Church teachings were utterly incapable of verification. Ibn Tofayls’ theory of tabula rasa, a clean slate, and pure human nature at birth and education and development through experience and reason provided Locke with ammunition he used very well. The result was Lockean sensory-based epistemology well-explained in his Essay Concerning Human Understanding.
As the Christian mysteries by nature were not verifiable, and by definition not known, to Locke they were just mysteries or fabrications. God could be known through nature and its laws, reason, morality, and good works. This scheme of salvation through moral actions and good works closely resembled the Islamic understanding of eternal success and salvation and resonated well with the objectives of Islamic law (Shari’ah).
Since the times of Abu Hamid al-Ghazzali (1058-1111 AD), and Abu Isaac al-Shatibi (d.1388), 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 as the 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, and liberty to choose and protect one’s family, property, and human intellect. Although the objectives have been verbalized in different terms over the centuries the original intent has not changed. Contemporary Muslim scholars tend to use modern terms to depict the historic objectives of the Islamic Shari’ah. The Qur’anic dictum of common human origins from Adam and Eve dictated absolute human equality (49:13) and universal human dignity. (17:70) These Qur’anic concepts of common origins, absolute equality, and human dignity formulated the foundations of God-given, inalienable, and universal human rights. This tradition of inalienable human rights was commonplace among the Spanish Muslim philosophers, jurists and political thinkers.
As discussed above, Muhammad ibn Tufail (1105-1185) in his philosophical novel, Hayy ibn Yaqdhan, known as Philosophus Autodidactus in the Western world, emphasized these inalienable rights of humanity. This philosophical novel was an influential bestseller throughout Western Europe in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The Latin translation was prepared by Edward Pococke and first appeared in 1671, as noted above. G.A. Russell in her book The Arabick Interest of the Natural Philosophers in Seventeenth-Century England has shown that Locke read Hayy bin Yaqzan and changed his political outlook. “The circumstances established beyond doubt that Locke had detailed acquaintance with the Philosophus Autodidactus. He could only have been unaware of it, were he the victim of some gigantic conspiracy…”
Locke summarized the inalienable human rights as life, health, liberty, and possession. In his famous Two Treatises of Government published in October 1689 with a 1690 date on the title page, Locke stated, “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 Locke’s tally of inalienable rights and summarized them further into life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Jefferson argued that liberty, health, and property on their own do not guarantee 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 of “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 Locke in his Treatises. There is no inherent conflict between the American dream and principles of the Islamic Shari’ah. Americans need not fear Islam or Islamic Shari’ah and Muslims should not hate, despise, or doubt the American dream. In its purest sense, it reflects their religious ideals and a manifestation of their lost legacy.
Notes & References:
- Alfred Noyes, Voltaire, (London: Faber and Faber, limited, 1939), p. 190
- Carl L. Becker, The Declaration of Independence: A Study in the History of Political Ideas (New York: Vintage, 1942)
- Becker, The Declaration of Independence, p.27
- Louis Hartz, The Liberal Tradition in America: An Interpretation of American Political Thought since the Revolution, (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1955)
- Charles A. Beard, An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States, (New York: Macmillan, 1913)
- Jerome Huyler, Locke in America: The Moral Philosophy of the Founding Era, (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1994)
- Jerome Huyler, Locke in America, p.40
- Caroline Robinns, The Eighteenth-Century Commonwealthman: Studies in the Transmission, Development, and Circumstances of English Liberal Thought from the Restoration of Charles II until the War with the Thirteen Colonies, (New York: Atheneum, 1968)
- J. G. A. Pocock, ed,. Politics, Language, and Time: Essays on Political Thought and History, (New York: Atheneum, 1973)
- Thomas L. Pangle, The Spirit of Modern Republicanism: The Moral Vision of the American Founders and Philosophy of Locke, (Chicago: U of Chicago Press, 1988)
- Steven M. Dworetz, The Unvarnished Doctrine: Locke, Liberalism, and the American Revolution, (Durham: Duke U Press, 1990)
- Andrew Burstein, Nancy Isenberg, Madison and Jefferson, (Random House Digital, Inc., 2010), p. 586
- Becker, The Declaration of Independence, pp.26-27
- J. R. Pole, The Pursuit of Equality in American History, (Berkeley: U of California Press, 1993)
- John Marshall, John Locke: Resistance, Religion and Responsibility, Cambridge University Press, 1994, p. 350
- John Marshall, John Locke, p. 390
- John Marshall, John Locke, p. 413
- Arthur Wainwright, A Paraphrase and Notes on the Epistles of St. Paul to the Galatians, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Romans, Ephesians, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1987, Introduction, pp.37-39
- See details in John Marshall, John Locke, pp.425-27
- Justin Champion, The Pillars of Priestcraft Shaken: The Church of England and its Enemies, 1660-1730, (1992), p.112
- Richard A. Norris, Jr., ed. and trans., The Christological Controversy (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1980), pp.17-18.
- Hilaire Belloc, The Great Heresies (New York: Sheed & Ward, n.d.), p.33.
- McGiffert, A History of Christian Thought, vol.1, p.248.
- William Bright, The Age of Fathers (New York: AMS Press, 1970), vol.1, p.57.
- Linda Edwards, A Brief Guide to Beliefs: Ideas, Theologies, Mysteries, and Movements, (Westminster John Knox Press, 2001) p. 327
- See Toshihiko Izutsu, Ethico-Religious Concepts in the Qur’án,(McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2002)
- Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines, p.311.
- Hardy, Richardson, Christology of the Later Fathers, p.353.
- George Sale, The Koran, IX Edition of 1923, (London) J B Lippincott Company, p. 25.
- Rev. W. St. Clair Tisdall, The Original Sources Of The Qur’an, 1905, Society For The Promotion Of Christian Knowledge, London, pp. 180-181.
- E. Gibbon, The History of The Decline & Fall Of The Roman Empire, 1994, Penguin Books, p. 177.
O People of the Book! Commit no excesses in your religion: nor say of Allah aught but the truth. Christ Jesus the son of Mary was (no more than) a messenger from Allah, and His Word, which He bestowed on Mary, and a spirit proceeding from Him: so believe in Allah and His Messengers. Say not “Three”: desist: It will be better for you: For Allah is One God: Glory be to Him: (Far Exalted is He) above having a son. To Him belong all things in the heavens and on earth. And enough is Allah as a Disposer of affairs. [Qur’an 4:171]
“They surely disbelieve who say: Lo! Allah is the Messiah, son of Mary. The Messiah (himself) said: O Children of Israel, worship Allah, my Lord and your Lord. Lo! whoso ascribeth partners unto Allah, for him Allah hath forbidden paradise. His abode is the Fire. For evil-doers there will be no helpers. They surely disbelieve who say: Lo! Allah is the third of three; when there is no God save the One God. If they desist not from so saying a painful doom will fall on those of them who disbelieve. Will they not rather turn unto Allah and seek forgiveness of Him ? For Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. The Messiah, son of Mary, was no other than a messenger, messengers (the like of whom) had passed away before him. And his mother was a saintly woman. And they both used to eat (earthly) food. See how We make the revelations clear for them, and see how they are turned away!”(5:72-75)
The Qur’an came as a rectifier of the trinitarian excesses against God. Hence, Allah revealed the Book (al-Qur’an) to His servant (Muhammad) “that He may warn those who say, “Allah hath begotten a son”: no knowledge have they of such a thing, nor had their fathers. It is a grievous thing that issues from their mouths as a saying. What they say is nothing but falsehood” (18:4-5). The Prophet was asked to employ different arguments to bring the point across: “Say: “Praise be to Allah, Who begets no son, and has no partner in (His) dominion: nor (needs) He any to protect Him from humiliation: yea, magnify Him for His greatness and glory!” (17:111). “Say: “If the Most Gracious had a son, I would be the first to worship.” Glory to the Lord of the heavens and the earth, the lord of the Throne He transcends the things they attribute to Him” (43:81-2). To the Qur’an, the most serious sin one can commit is the claim that God has begotten a son.
They say: “The Most Gracious has betaken a son!” Indeed ye have put forth a thing most monstrous! At it the skies are about to burst, the earth to split asunder, and the mountains to fall down in utter ruin, that they attributed a son to The Most Gracious. For it is not consonant with majesty of The Most Gracious that He should beget a son. Not one of the beings in the heavens and the earth but must come to The Most Gracious as a servant. (19:88-93).
- Henry Hallam, Introduction to the Literature of Europe: in the fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth centuries, Oxford University Press, 2007, v.2, p. 183
- John Locke, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Oxford University Press, 2007, p.421
- John Locke, The Works of John Locke, C. and J. Rivington, 1824, v. 5, p. 41
- John Locke, Works, p. 123
- Philip Hamburger, Separation of Church and State, Harvard University Press, 2004, p. 54
- John Locke, Two Treatises of Government And a Letter Concerning Toleration, Digireads.com Publishing, 2005, p. 155
- John Locke, Two Treatises of Government And a Letter Concerning Toleration, p. 157
- John Locke, Two Treatises of Government And a Letter Concerning Toleration, p. 157
- John Locke, Two Treatises of Government And a Letter Concerning Toleration, p. 168
- John Locke, Two Treatises of Government And a Letter Concerning Toleration, p. 156
- The Qur’an States “There is no compulsion in religion.” (2:256)
- Martin Mulsow, Socinianism, Islam and the Radical Uses of Arabic Scholarship, Al-Qantara, XXXI 2, July-December 2010, p. 549
- M. Mulsow, Socinianism, Islam and the Radical Uses of Arabic Scholarship, pp.559-560
- Justin Champion, Ibid, p.106
- Nabil Matar, Islam in Britain 1558-1685, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), p.48
- Matar, Ibid, p.48
- John Tolad, Nazarenus, edited by Justin Champion, (Oxford: Voltaire Foundation, 1999), pp.124-125
- Toland, Ibid, p.128
- Matar, Ibid, 49
- David A. Pailin, Attitudes to Other Religions: Comparative Religion in Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century Britain, (Manchester, Manchester U Press, 1984) p. 270
- Pailin, Attitudes to Other Religions, p.270-271
- J. Darby, Four treatises concerning the doctrine, discipline and worship of the mahometans: An abridgment of the Mahometan religion: A defence of the Mahometans, A treatise of Bobovious, Reflections on Mahometansm and Socinianism, (London: B. Lintott, and E. Sanger, 1712), p. 188
- J. Darby, Four treatises, p.183
- Pailin, Attitudes, Ibid, p. 271
- J. Darby, Four treatises, pp. 189-190
- See Lawrence & Nancy Goldstone, Out of the Flames, (New York: Broadway Books, 2002)
- P. Hughes, “Servetus and the Quran”, Journal of Unitarian Universalist History, 30 (2005), 55-70
- See John Marshall, John Locke: Resistance, Religion and Responsibility, (Cambridge: Cambridge U Press, 1994) pp. 344-346
- See Allen Jayne, Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence: Origins, Philosophy and Theology, (Louisville, Kentucky U Press, 1998), pp.10-18
- Mulsow, Socinianism, Islam and the Radical Uses of Arabic Scholarship, p.553
- Justin Champion, Ibid, p. 121
- James R. Jacob, Henry Stubbe, Radical Protestantism and the Early Enlightenment, (Cambridge: CUP, 1983), p.2
- James R. Jacob, Henry Stubbe, p.65
- Ibid, p.69
- Ibid, p.70
- Ibid, p.71
- Ibid, p.71
- Ibid, p.10
- Ibid, p.11
- Ibid, p.71
- Ibid, p.72
- Ibid, p.72
- Ibid, p.105
- Ibid, 74
- Ibid, 74
- Ibid, 74
- Ibid, p.75
- Ibid, p.75
- Ibid, p.75
- Ibid, p.9
- Ibid, p. 139
- Champion, Ibid, p. 126
- Toland, Ibid, p. 139
- Toland, Ibid, p. 135
- Toland, Ibid, p. 153
- Toland, Ibid, p. 192
- Champion, Ibid, p. 126
- Toland, Ibid, p.135
- Champion, Ibid, p. 122
- Champion, Ibid, p. 121
- Champion, Ibid, p. 127
- Champion, Ibid, p. 106
- Nabil Matar, Islam in Britain 1558-1685, (Cambridge, CUP, 1998), pp.21…
- Ibid, p.77
- G. A. Russell, Ed., The ‘Arabick’ Interest of the Natural Philosophers in Seventeenth-Century England, (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1994), pp.1-15
- Jonathan Israel, Enlightenment Contested: Philosophy, Modernity, and the Emancipation of Man 1670-1752, (Oxford: Oxford U Press, 2006) p. 121
- S. Richard Westfall, Never at Reft: The Life of Isaac Newton. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994, pp.314, 325, 827
- Champion, Ibid, p. 107
- Robert Wallace, Antitrinitarian Biography: or Sketches of the Lives and Writings of Distinguished Antitrinitarians, (London: E. T. Whitefield, 1850), p. 275
- Arthur Bury, Naked Gospel, http://ia700306.us.archive.org/30/items/nakedgospeldisco11bury/nakedgospeldisco11bury.pdf
- Bury, Naked Gospel, p. 64
- Bury, Naked Gospel, Preface
- Champion, Ibid, p. 109
- Champion, Ibid, p. p. 110
- Champion, Ibid, p. 112
- See Joseph Priestley, An history of early opinions concerning Jesus Christ: compiled from original writers; proving that the Christian church was at first Unitarian, Pearson and Rollason, 1786, V. 1, p. 36…
- See J. D. Bowers, Joseph Priestley and English Unitarianism in America, (Penn State Press, 2007), pp. 43…
- Jan Albers, “‘Papist Traitors’ and ‘Presbyterian Rogues’: Religious Identities in Eighteenth-Century Lancashire,” in The Church of England, c. 1689 – c. 1833, ed. John Walsh, Colin Haydon, and Stephen Taylor (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), p. 323
- David L. Holmes, The Faiths of the Founding Fathers, (USA: Oxford U Press, 2006)
- Ralph Barton Perry, Puritanism and Democracy, (New York: Vanguard, 1944), p. 133
- Allan Jayne, Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence, p. 7
- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Jefferson_and_religion. Also see The Works of Thomas Jefferson, Edited by Paul. L. Ford, Federal Edition (New York and London, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904-5). Vol. 4, p.298
- Letter to William Short, August 4, 1820, in Thomas Jefferson : Writings : Autobiography / Notes on the State of Virginia / Public and Private Papers / Addresses / Letters (Library of America, 1984) edited by Merril D. Peterson, Thomas Jefferson’s Dec. 8, 1822 to James Smith, Memoir, correspondence, and miscellanies: from the papers of Thomas Jefferson, Carr & Co., Charlottesville, 1829, vol. IV, p.360
- Ibid, vol. IV, p.325
- Ibid, p. 242
- See Jayne, Ibid, pp.25…
- Jefferson’s Letter to William Short, August 4, 1820
- Jefferson’s Letter to William Short, August 4, 1820
- Jefferson’s Letter to William Short, August 4, 1820
- See Jayne, Ibid, p. 56…
- Allan Jyne, Ibid, p. 38
- Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, Query 17, 157—61 (see http://press-pubs.uchicago.edu/founders/documents/amendI_religions40.html)
- Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, Query 17, 157—61
- Allan Jayne, Ibid, p. 166
http://www.beliefnet.com/resourcelib/docs/53/Letter_from_Thomas_Jefferson_to_John_Adams_1.html. For more details see Allen Jayne, Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence
Mulsow, Socinianism, Islam and the Radical Uses of Arabic Scholarship, p.586
- MuIsow, Ibid, p.554
- J. Israel, Enlightenment Contested, pp.115-134
- See Zahdi Hasan Jarallah, al-Mu`tazilah (Cairo: al-Mu’assasah al-`Arabiyyah li al-Dirāsāt wa al-Nashr, 1947), pp.33, 256; Watt, The Formative Period of Islamic Thought, pp.249-50.
- Rippin, Muslims, vol.1, p.65.
- Jasser Auda, Mqasid al-Shariah as Philosophy of Islamic Law: A Systems Approach, (Herndon: International Institute of Islamic Thought, 2008), p.79
- Ibid, p.69.
- See more details, Faith and Reason in Islam, Averroes’ Exposition of Religious Arguments, Translated with footnotes, index and bibliography by Ibrahim Y. Najjar with an introduction by Majid Fakhry, http://www.oneworld-publications.com/books/texts/faith-and-reason-intro.htm
- Russull, The ‘Arabick’ Interest of the Natural Philosophers in Seventeenth-Century, p. 224
- Russell, The ‘Arabick’ Interest of the Natural Philosophers in Seventeenth-Century, p. 224
- See Jasser Auda, Maqasid al-Shariah, pp.16-24
- See details http://www.islamland.com/Media/Books/HumanRightsinIslam.pdf
- G. A. Russell, Ed., The ‘Arabick’ Interest of the Natural Philosophers in Seventeenth-Century England, (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1994), P.252
- John Locke, Two Treatises on Government, (London: R. Butler, 1821); Tibor R. Machan, Classical Individualism: The Supreme Importance of Each Human Being, (Psychology Press, 1998), p. 173