Dr. Huston Cummings Smith (born 1919)

This prolific writer and renowned American university professor, who held the Chair of the Department of Philosophy at MIT

“The blend of admiration, respect, and affection that the Muslim feels for Muhammad is an impressive fact of history. They see him as a man who experienced life in exceptional range. Not only was he a shepherd, merchant, hermit, exile, soldier, lawmaker, prophet-priest-king, and mystic; he was also an orphan, for many years the husband of one wife much older than himself, a many times bereaved father, a widower, and finally the husband of many wives, some much younger than himself. In all of these roles he was exemplary. All this is in the minds of Muslims as they add to the mention of his name the benediction, “Blessings and peace be upon him.” Even so, they never mistake him for the earthly center of their faith. That place is reserved for the bible of Islam, the Koran. Literally, the word al-Qur’an in Arabic (and hence “Koran,”) means a recitation. Fulfilling that purpose, the Koran is perhaps the most recited (as well as read) book in the world. Certainly, it is the world’s most memorized book, and possibly the one that exerts the most influence on those who read it. So great was Muhammad’s regard for its contents that (as we have seen) he considered it the only major miracle God worked through him—God’s “standing miracle,” as he called it. That he himself, unschooled to the extent that he was unlettered (ummi) and could barely write his name, could have produced a book that provides the ground plan of all knowledge and at the same time is grammatically perfect and without poetic peer—this, Muhammad, and with him all Muslims, are convinced defies belief. He put the point in a rhetorical question: “Do you ask for a greater miracle than this, O unbelieving people, than to have your language chosen as the language of that incomparable Book, one piece of which puts all your golden poetry to shame?”

The World’s Religions – Our Great Wisdom Traditions, Huston Smith, pg. 231-232; Harper Collins Publishers Inc.