The Aim of Life - Submission To The Will Of The Supreme

Submission To The Will Of The Supreme

One of the first surah, or chapters, of the Koran in amanuscript produced in the 16th century


Submission To The Will Of The Supreme

Submission To The Will Of The Supreme

Submission to the Will of the Supreme


The Koran is a transcript of the messages revealed to the Prophet Muhammad by the Angel Gabriel. These revelations were supernaturally received, in states of trance, over a considerable number of years intermittently, the first dating from about AD 610, and the last shortly before Muhammad's passing away in AD 632.

The quintessence of Muhammad's teaching is that there is one God, who transcends the world, and that the aim of life is to commit oneself to Him and to submit to His will. The oneness and transcendence of God is stated again and again throughout the Koran.


He is God;

there is no god but He.

 He is the knower of the Unseen and the Visible;

He is the All-merciful, the All-compassionate.


He is God;

there is no god but He.

He is the King, the All-holy, the All-peaceable

The All-faithful, the All-preserver,

the All-mighty, the All-compeller,

 the All-sublime.

 Glory be to God, above that they associate!

Submission To The Will Of The Supreme

Submission To The Will Of The Supreme

He is God,

 the Creator the Maker, the Shaper.

  To Him belong the Names Most Beautiful.

All that is in the heavens and the earth magnifies Him; 

 He is the All-mighty, the All-wise.


In the surah (chapter) called "Sincerity", the devout Muslim is admonished to say: "God is one God, the Eternal God. He begetteth not, neither is He begotten. None is equal to Him. " (CXII) This is a part of the everyday prayers of every Muslim, repeated five times a day. The first surah of the. Koran, "The Opening", is also an ingredient of the salat, the daily obligatory prayers:





Praise be to God, Lord of Creation,

 The Compassionate, the Merciful,

King of Judgment-day:

You alone we worship, and to You alone

 we pray for help.

Guide us to the straight path

 The path of those whom You have favoured

 Not of those who have incurred Your wrath,

 Nor of those who have gone astray.2

"God is the light of the heavens and the earth", declares the surah "Light":

the likeness of His Light is as a niche

 wherein is a lamp

 (the lamp in a glass,

 the glass as it were a glittering star)

 kindled from a Blessed Tree,

an olive that is neither of the East nor of the West


1. Translation of A. J. Arberry in The Koran Interpreted, (London: Oxford University Press, 1983).

2. Translation of N. J. Dawood in The Koran, (Penguin Books, 4th edn., 1983).

Submission To The Will Of The Supreme

Submission To The Will Of The Supreme

whose oil wellnigh would shine,

 even if no fire touched it; Light upon Light;

(God guides to His Light whom He will.)

 (And God strikes similitudes for men,

 and God has knowledge of everything.)1


According to the Koran, God is the creator of time and space, far beyond the grasp of the minds of men. He is supreme over all, nowhere and yet everywhere:

To God belong the East and the West;

whithersoever you turn, there is the Face of God;

God is All-embracing, All-knowing.2

(ii. 109)

God is transcendent, never incarnated, and yet, as the voice of God in the Koran declares:


We indeed created man;

 and We know what his soul whispers within him,

 and We are nearer to him than the jugular vein.3


And again:

God, there is no god, but He, the Living, the Everlasting. Slumber seizes Him not, neither sleep; to Him belongs all that is in the heavens and the earth. Who is there that shall intercede with Him save by His leave? He knows what lies before them and what is after them, and they comprehend not anything of His knowledge save such as He will. His Throne comprises the heavens and earth; the preserving of them oppresses Him not; He is the All-high, the All-glorious.4


It is afar, far cry from the gods of pagan Arabia carved in stone who were worshipped until the voice of the Prophet swept across the land.


I Translation of A. J. Arberry in The Koran Interpreted, (London: Oxford University Press, 1983)

2. Translation of A. J. Arberry, op. cit.

3. Translation of A. J. Arberry, op. cit.

4 Translation of A. J. Arberry, op. cit.

Submission To The Will Of The Supreme

Submission To The Will Of The Supreme

The life of a devout Muslim is entirely God-centered. Muhammad has taught him that at every instant of his life he should be aware that he has his being in God, that the Will of God moves him, that he comes from God and to God he will return.

Muhammad also taught the succession of the Messengers of God, down the ages, from Adam to his own person. Another constant theme in the Koran is the promise and warning of a Day of Judgment and Reckoning. This is what the surah called "The Winds" says:

By the dust-scattering winds and the heavily-laden clouds; by the swiftly-gliding ships, and by the angels who deal out blessings to all men; that with which you are threatened shall be fulfilled and the Last Judgment shall surely come to pass.1


The belief in a final Day of Judgment is, of course, inextricably linked with a belief in a life after death in which the individual being is punished or rewarded for the life he has led. According to the Koran, the life led in accordance with the mil of the Supreme is rewarded by heaven.

These three principles — the unity, oneness and transcendence of God; the Messengership of Muhammad (which entails belief in the messengers of the past); a Day of Judgment and a life after death in a paradise or a hell — are what all Muslims,  of whatever persuasion, accept as the pillars of their faith. There are also certain  subsidiary principles. Salat is the saying of prescribed obligatory prayers, five times a day (before sunrise, at noon, in the afternoon, at sunset, in the evening). Sawm is fasting during the month of Ramadan from dawn to dusk. Hajj is making a pilgrimage, once in a lifetime, to the holy city of Mecca, for all those who can afford the journey. Zakat is making specified payment to the Common Treasury.

The faith of the Arabian Prophet is called Islam, which means the religion of the submission to the Will of God. The perfect submission to the will of the Supreme is not attained simply by observing the prescriptions laid down. Here is how the Koran describes the essence of the teaching of Muhammad:


It is not piety, that you turn your faces

 to the East and to the West.

 True piety is this:

to believe in God, and the Last Day,                    


        1. Translation of N. J. Dawood in The Koran, (Penguin Books, 4th edn., 1983).

Submission To The Will Of The Supreme

Submission To The Will Of The Supreme

the angels, the Book, and the Prophets,
to give of one's substance, however cherished,
to kinsmen, and orphans,
the needy, the traveller, beggars,
and to ransom the slave,
to perform the prayer [salat], to pay the alms [zakat],
And they who fulfil their covenant
when they have engaged in a covenant,
and endure with fortitude
misfortune, hardship and peril,
these are they who are true in their faith,
these are the truly godfearing.1
(ii. 172)

As we study the teaching of the Koran, we are struck by the sincerity and profundity of the Prophet Muhammad. We begin to ask how he developed and how he came in contact with the revelations. In the text that follows we have a brief description of the life and work of the Prophet.


I Translation of A. J. Arberry in The Koran Interpreted, (London: Oxford University Press, 1983)

Submission To The Will Of The Supreme

Submission To The Will Of The Supreme


The name of Muhammad is indissolubly linked with that of the Koran. Even for non-Muslims, the Koran occupies an important position among the great religious books of the world. It has produced a remarkable effect on large masses of men, creating a new phase of human thought and a fresh type of character. Its first immediate effect was to transform a few heterogeneous desert tribes of the Arabian peninsula into a nation of heroes.

Muhammad is for every Muslim the prophet to whom the Koran was revealed; in fact, the Koran is unique in being entirely transmitted through one man.

Muhammad could not read or write and had to use a scribe. Yet the Koran is considered the supreme classic of Arabic literature. What is even more remarkable is that the Koran enjoys the distinction of having been the starting point of a new literary and philosophical movement which has powerfully affected some of the finest and most cultivated minds all over the world. It is probably the only case in the history of mankind that an illiterate man can be considered as the founder of new schools of thought and art.

Originally the Koran was not a book but a strong living voice, a kind of authoritative proclamation, a series of admonitions, promises, and instructions

Submission To The Will Of The Supreme

Submission To The Will Of The Supreme

addressed to turbulent and largely hostile assemblies of untutored Arabs. The Koranic revelations followed each other at brief intervals and were at first committed to memory by professional remembrancers. During Muhammad's lifetime, verses were written on palm leaves, stones and any material that came to hand. An authorised version was finally established some twenty years after the Prophet's death. To this day, that version remains as the authoritative word of God for all the Muslims of the world.

Who was this man of such rare destiny? From an historical point of view, little is known about the youth of the Prophet, although many legends exist about it. In one of these legends we see Muhammad as a school-boy in the classroom. The teacher, for reasons undisclosed, asked each boy to take a living pigeon and to slaughter it in a place where no one can see him. Muhammad goes off with a bird and a knife like the other boys, but later returns with the pigeon still alive. The angry teacher asks Muhammad to explain his disobedience. The boy answers: "Sir, you asked me to slaughter this bird at a place where no one would be a witness to it and I tried, but wherever I went I found God present. I was never alone, hence I could not carry out your command." This simple but emphatic pointer to the Omnipresence of God left the teacher speechless.

In spite of such early indications, Muhammad led a normal life as a child. He lost both his parents and was raised by his uncle, Abu Talib. As a youth he travelled with the trading caravans from Mecca to Syria and at the age of twenty-five married Khadija, a rich widow fifteen years his senior. Meanwhile, he had acquired a reputation for honesty and wisdom.

People trusted him and called him al Amin: the One who was honest and in whom they could have confidence, a quality illustrated by the following story. The Kaaba, the most holy shrine of Arabia, was and still is, a solid cubic structure. In a comer of it is the most revered Black Stone, which is supposed to be the stone that the Angel Gabriel brought to Abraham from Paradise. By the days of Muhammad, ravages of time and the elements necessitated extensive repairs to the cubic masonry. The Black Stone was removed, the structure was renovated, and then a furious argument began about putting the sacred stone back into place. The honour was coveted by all. Who was to do it? They turned to Muhammad for judgment. He spread his cloak on the ground and told them to put the stone upon it. Then he invited all to take hold of the cloak, lift it up and carry the stone to the spot where it was to be placed. Thus they were all participants in the act and were equally honoured. An ugly clash was averted by his wisdom and tact, and the respect which people already

Submission To The Will Of The Supreme

Submission To The Will Of The Supreme

had for him was heightened. The story also gives an indication of the value Muhammad placed on a sense of brotherhood among the faithful.

We have one description of Muhammad by Ali, the cousin whom he adopted as his son and who married his daughter Fatima. Ali describes his adopted father as "of middle structure, neither tall nor short". He further says, "His complexion was rosy- white, his eyes black; his hair, thick, brilliant, and beautiful, fell to his shoulders. His profuse beard fell to his breast... There was such sweetness in his visage that no one, once in his presence, could leave him. If I hungered, a single look at the Prophet's face dispelled the hunger. Before him, all forgot their griefs and pains."

As he approached forty he became more and more absorbed in religion. During the holy month of Ramadan he would withdraw, sometimes with his family, to a cave at the feet of Mount Hira, three miles from Mecca, and spend many days and nights in fasting, meditation, and prayer. One night in the year 610, as he was alone in the cave, the pivotal experience of all Muhammadan history came to him, Muhammad related the event as follows:

Whilst I was asleep, with a coverlet of silk brocade whereon was some writing, the angel Gabriel appeared to me and said, "Read!" I said, "I do not read." He pressed me with the coverlet so tightly that I thought it was death. Then he let me go, and said, "Read!" ... So I read aloud, and he departed from me at last. And I awoke from my sleep, and it was as though these words were written on my heart. I went forth until, when I was midway on the mountain, I heard a voice from heaven saying, "0 Muhammad! Thou art the messenger of Allah, and I am Gabriel." I raised my head toward heaven to see, and lo, Gabriel in the form of a man, with feet set evenly on the rim of the sky, saying, "0 Muhammad! Thou art the messenger of Allah, and I am Gabriel.1

Returning to his wife, Khadija, he informed her of the visions. We are told that she accepted them as a true revelation from heaven and encouraged him to announce his mission.

Thereafter he had many similar visions. Often, when they came he fell to the ground in a convulsion or swoon, perspiration covered his brow; even the camel on which he was sitting felt the excitement, and moved fitfully. Muhammad later attributed his gray hairs to these experiences. When pressed to describe the process of revelation, he answered that the entire text of the Koran existed in heaven, and that one fragment at a time was communicated to him, usually by Gabriel. Asked


1. Quoted by Will Durant, in The Story of Civilization, Part IV The Age of Faith (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1950).

Submission To The Will Of The Supreme

Submission To The Will Of The Supreme

how he could remember these divine discourses, he explained that the archangel made him repeat every word.

During the next four years Muhammad more and more openly announced himself as the prophet of Allah, divinely commissioned to lead the Arab people to a new morality and a monotheistic faith. Difficulties were many. Muhammad lived in a mercantile, sceptical community, which derived some of its revenues from pilgrims coming to worship the Kaaba's many gods. He opened his house to all who would hear him — rich and poor and slaves, Arabs and Christians and Jews; and his impassioned eloquence moved a few to believe. His first convert was his aging wife, the second his cousin, Ali, the third, his servant, Zaid, whom he had bought as a slave and had immediately freed; the fourth was his kinsman, Abu Bekr, a man of high standing. Abu Bekr brought to the new faith five other Meccan leaders; he and these became the prophet's "Companions", whose memories of him would later constitute the most revered traditions of Islam. Muhammad went often to the Kaaba, accosted pilgrims, and preached the one God. This was tolerated for a while, but eventually gave rise to much resentment among the traditional elements of the community. Muhammad's attack on idolatry threatened their income, and they rose against him and would have done him injury had not his uncle Abu Talib shielded him. Abu Talib would have none of the new faith, but his very fidelity to old ways required him to defend any member of his clan.

When Muhammad was fifty he had the misfortune to lose his wife Khadija, his most faithful supporter, as well as Abu Talib. Muhammad found himself in a difficult situation. Finally, after about three years, the persecutions of him and his followers became so intense that they had to flee Mecca. The date was 16 July, AD 622. This flight is a very important event for all Muslims, since later Kaliph Omar designated the first day of the Hegira (hijra — flight) as the offical beginning of the Muhammadan era.

He went to a place named Yathrib that later took the name Medinat al-Nabi or "City of the Prophet". Compared with Mecca it was a climatic Eden, with hundreds of gardens, palm groves, and farms. As Muhammad rode into the town one group after another called to him, "Alight here, 0 Prophet! Abide with us!" — and even some caught the halter of his camel to detain him. He answered, "The choice lies with the camel; let him advance freely"; the advice quieted jealousy and hallowed his new residence as chosen by God. Where his camel stopped, Muhammad built a mosque and two adjoining homes — one for Sauda, one for Aisha, his new wives.

In leaving Mecca he had snapped many kinship ties; now he tried to replace

Submission To The Will Of The Supreme

Submission To The Will Of The Supreme

bonds of blood with those of religious brotherhood in a theocratic state. To mitigate  the jealousy already rampant between the Refugees from Mecca and the Helpers or converts in Medina, he coupled each member of the one group with a member of the other in adoptive brotherhood, and called both groups to worship in sacred union in the mosque. In the first ceremony held there he mounted the pulpit and cried in a  loud voice, "Allah is most great!" The assembly burst forth in the same I proclamation. Then, still standing with his back to the congregation, he bowed in prayer. He descended the pulpit backward and at its feet he prostrated himself thrice,  while continuing to pray. In these prostrations were symbolized that submission of  the soul to Allah which gave to the new faith its name Islam — "To surrender", "To  make peace" — and to its adherents the kindred name of Muslimin or Muslims — "The Surrendering Ones", "Those who have made their peace with God". Turning , then to the assembly, Muhammad bade it observe this ritual to the end of time; and  to this day it is the form of prayer that Muslims follow, whether at the mosque, or  travelling in the desert, or mosqueless in alien lands.

During the ten years that Muhammad remained in Medina his authority created a civic rule for the town; and more and more he was compelled to address his time and inspirations to the practical problems of social organisation, daily morals, even to inter-tribal diplomacy and war. He himself planned sixty-five campaigns and personally led twenty-seven, which made him an able general. After several conflicts with the Meccans a ten-year truce was agreed upon, following which, in 629, the Medina Muslims, to the number of 2000, entered Mecca peacefully, and Muhammad and his followers made seven circuits of the Kaaba. The Prophet touched the Black Stone reverently with his staff, but led the Muslims in shouting, "There is no God but Allah alone!" Meccans were impressed by the orderly behaviour and patriotic piety of the exiles; several influential Meccans adopted the new faith; and some tribes in the neighbouring desert offered the pledge of their belief in return for the support of his arms. When Muhammad returned to Medina he felt that he was now strong enough to return definitely to Mecca.

The ten-year truce still had eight years to run, but due to an attack on a muslim tribe, Muhammad declared the truce void in AD 630. He gathered 10.000 men and marched to Mecca. Abu Sufyan, then the head man in Mecca, perceiving the strength of Muhammad's forces, allowed him to enter unopposed. Muhammad responded  handsomely by declaring a general amnesty for all but two or three of his enemies,  He destroyed the idols in and around the Kaaba, but spared the Black Stone, and sanctioned the kissing of it. He proclaimed Mecca the Holy City of Islam, and

Submission To The Will Of The Supreme

Submission To The Will Of The Supreme

Submission To The Will Of The Supreme

Submission To The Will Of The Supreme

decreed that no unbeliever should ever be allowed — to set foot on its sacred soil.

His two remaining years — spent mostly at Medina — were a continuing triumph. After some minor rebellions all Arabia submitted to his authority and creed. His days were filled with chores of Government. He gave himself conscientiously to details of legislation, judgment and civil, religious, and military organisation. Till the end, he was a man of unassuming simplicity. The apartments in which he successively dwelt were cottages of unburnt brick, twelve or fourteen feet square, eight feet high, and thatched with palm branches; the door was a screen of goat or camel hair, the furniture was a mattress and pillows spread upon the floor. He was often seen mending his clothes or shoes, kindling the fire, sweeping the floor, milking the family-got in his yard, or shopping for provisions in the market. His staple foods were dates and barley bread; milk and honey were occasional luxuries and he obeyed his own interdiction of wine. Courteous to the great, affable to the  humble, dignified to the presumptuous, indulgent to his aides, kindly to all but his  foes — so his friends and followers describe him. He visited the sick, and joined any funeral procession that he met. He put on none of the pomp of power, rejected any  special mark of reverence, accepted' the invitation of a slave to dinner, and asked no  service of a slave that he had time and strength to do for himself. Despite all the booty and revenue that came to him, he spent little upon his family, less upon  himself.

His health and energy had borne up well over the years, but at the age of fifty- nine his health began to fail. A year previously he thought that he had been served poisonous meat, and since then he had been subject to strange fevers and spells. In  the dead of night, Aisha reported, he would steal from the house, visit a graveyard,  ask for forgiveness of the dead, pray aloud for them, and congratulate them on being dead. In his sixty-third year, these fevers became more exhausting. One night he complained of a headache. For fourteen days thereafter the fevers came and went,  Three days before his passing he rose from his sickbed, walked into the mosque, saw  Abu Bekr leading the prayers in his stead, and humbly sat beside him during the  ceremony. On 7 June 632 after a long agony, he passed away.

Muhammad was surely one of the giants of history. He undertook to raise the  spiritual and moral level of a people harassed into barbarism by heat and foodless wastes, and he succeeded more completely than any other reformer; seldom has any man so fully realised his dream. When he began, Arabia was a desert flotsam of idolatrous tribes; when he passed away it was a nation. He built a religion simple,  clear and strong which in a generation marched to a hundred victories, in a century

Submission To The Will Of The Supreme

Submission To The Will Of The Supreme

to empire, and remains to this day a virile force through half the world.

Is there in Muhammad's message something that can be considered as central? What comes across most powerfully is a deep sense of the one God, omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent and correspondingly, the call for surrender to the divine will. The quality of faith, of surrender to the will of God, represents an eternal value in the history of mankind. For all those who believe in a supreme consciousness at the core of all that is, whatever name they may give to It, the example of faith and surrender set by Muhammad and his followers can only be inspiring.

For introduction, text and notes, our main sources have been the following books:

H. M. Balyuzi, Muhammad and the Course of Islam (Oxford: George Ronald, 1976).

Will Durant, The Story of Civilization, Part IV: The Age of Faith (New York: Simon and

Schuster, 1950), pp. 155-205.

Joseph R. Strayer and Hans W. Catze, The Main Stream of Civilization (New York: Harcourt

Brace Jovanovich, INC., third edition, 1979).

A few dates

c. 570

— Birth of Muhammad.


 — Marriage to Khadija.

c. 610

— Muhammad has a vision of Angel Gabriel who reveals to him that he is the messenger of God.


— Death of Khadija and of Abu Talib, his protector.


— Muhammad flees to Medina (Hegira).


— Beginning of Muslim era.


— Muhammad and his followers take Mecca, which is proclaimed the Holy City of Islam


— Muhammad passes away.

Submission To The Will Of The Supreme

Submission To The Will Of The Supreme

Pre-lslamic Arabia

In the year 565, Justinian, the great byzantine emperor, died master of a great empire. Five years later, Muhammad was born into a poor family in a country three-quarter desert, sparsely peopled by nomad tribes whose total wealth could hardly have furnished the sanctuary of St Sophia, the famous church of Constantinople. No one in those years would have dreamed that within a century these nomads would conquer half of Byzantine Asia, all Persia and Egypt, most of North Africa and be on their way to Spain. The explosion of the Arabian peninsula into the conquest and conversion of half the Mediterranean world is the most extraordinary phenomenon in medieval history.

Arabia is the largest of all peninsulas, geologically a continuation of the Sahara, part of the sandy belt that runs through Persia to the Gobi desert. Arab means arid. Around some grassy oases, the sands stretch in every direction. The nights cool down to 38 degrees Fahrenheit; the daily sun bums the face  and boils the blood. Along the coast an occasional torrent of rain brings the possibility of civilisation,  most of all on the western littoral, in the Hejar district with the cities of Mecca and Medina.

Aside from some petty kingdoms the political organisation of Pre-lslamic Arabia was a primitive kinship-structure of families united in clans and tribes. The Arab felt no duty or loyalty to any  group larger than his tribe. Each tribe or clan was loosely ruled by a sheik chosen by its leaders  from a family traditionally prominent through wealth, or wisdom or war.

In spite of all this disunity certain strong ties bound them together. The desert Arab had his own  primitive and yet subtle religion. He feared and worshipped incalculable deities in stars and moons and the depths of the earth; now and then he offered human sacrifice; and here and there he worshipped sacred stones. Most of the tribes accepted a few common religious observances. There was a sacred period in each year, for example, when fighting was suspended and when many Arabs made a pilgrimage to the religious centre of Mecca; in Mecca, was the Kaaba, an ancient building full of images, including one of Christ. Here almost every god known to the Arabs could be worshipped. Here, too, was the most venerated object in the Arab world, the sacred Black Stone that had come from heaven. This habit of worshipping together at Mecca was the strongest unifying force in Arabia and one that was carefully preserved by Muhammad.

A brief account of how the Islamic civilisation developed

Muhammad left no very clear instructions about how his successor should be chosen. At his  death there was confusion in the rank of his followers and rebellion on the part of recently convert- ed tribes. The faithful finally decided to choose a caliph, or successor to the Prophet, who would act as both spiritual and political leader of Islam. The first caliph was Abu Bekr, one of the earliest and most pious of Muhammad's converts. Though he ruled only 2 years (AD 632-634), he succeed-  ed in suppressing the revolt and completing the unification of Arabia.

Under his successor, Omar, (634-644) the great conquest began. In their first probing attacks against the Byzantine and the Persian states, the Arabs met such slight resistance that they soon turned to wars of conquest. By 649, i.e. seventeen years only after Muhammad's passing, the Arabs

Submission To The Will Of The Supreme

Submission To The Will Of The Supreme

had conquered Syria, Armenia, Palestine and Egypt. Persia gave even less trouble and was completely in Arab hands by 642. Only the outbreak of civil war in Arabia slowed this first wave of conquest. It will be only after the foundation of the Ommiad dynasty that the entire Muslim world will again be united. Stability and prosperity made it then possible for the Arabs to undertake further conquest. By 750, the Arab empire was extended from the frontiers of India to North Africa and Spain.

At the same time, the old cultures of the conquered were eagerly absorbed by the quick-witted Arabs; (and the conquerors showed such tolerance that of the poets, scientists, and philosophers who now made Arabic one of the most learned and literary tongues in the world only a small minority were of Arab blood.) The result of this borrowing was not mere imitation but the flourishing of a rich and unique culture. For instance, the caliphs realised the wealth of Greek culture surviving in Syria, and soon translations were made into Arabic of many Greek books, especially in philosophy, medicine and mathematics and made possible further studies on these subjects. Baghdad became soon the centre of an intellectual effervescence which has been compared to the one of the European Renaissance. Much was learned from Persian and Jewish sources. Many ideas were borrowed from the Indians, notably the system of arithmetic notation, that we call Arabic figures. Their work in algebra was particularly impressive for they fashioned a whole mathematical discipline out of the few hints provided by their predecessors. Their contribution is recorded in the very word algebra, which is arable. When the Muslims captured Samarkand (712) they entered into contact with the Chinese and learned from them the technique of beating flax and drying  the pulp in thin sheets. Introduced to the Near East as a substitute for parchment and leather at a time when papyrus was not yet forgotten, the product received the namepapyros — paper. The first paper manufacturing plant in Islam was opened at Baghdad in 794. The craft was then brought by the Arabs to Sicily and Spain (950), and thence passed into Italy (1154) and France.

The Arabs, so recently nomads or merchants, started to adapt art forms and traditions of the conquered countries, and soon a brilliant synthesis emerged, and from the Alhambra in Spain to the Taj Mahal in India, Islamic art developed a unique character and expressed the human spirit with a profuse delicacy difficult to surpass.

Suggestions for further reading

Ahmad,Aziz. An Intellectual History of Islam in India. Edinburgh University Press, 1969.

Arberry, Arthur, J. The Koran Interpreted. London: Alien & Unwin,1955.

Balyuzi, H. M. Muhammad and the Course of Islam. Oxford: George Ronald, 1976.

Glubb, John Bagot. The Life and Times of Muhammad. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1970.

Hitti, Philip K. History of the Arabs. London: Macmillan and Co Ltd, 10th edn. 1970Islam. A Way of Life. Minneapolis: the University of Minnesota Press, 1970.

 Joseph Schacht & C. E.Bosworth. The Legacy of Islam. London: Oxford University Press, 1974.

Watt, W. Montgomery. Muhammad, Prophet and Statesman. Oxford U. P., (Oxford Paperbacks), 1964.

What is Islam? London and Harlow: Longman, Green and Co Ltd, 1968.

Submission To The Will Of The Supreme

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