Comte (Count) Henry de Castries (1850-1927)

A French researcher and author whose works include Les Moralistes populaires de l’Islam, Les sources inédites de l’histoire du Maroc and L’Islam, impressions et etudes

“The Koran is a book that personifies literary glory. This text, declared by Muhammad to be the only miracle produced in support of his divine mission, remains to this day a profound enigma. The only way to resolve this insolvable mystery is to admit that its existence is a result of supernatural intervention. The other path is to adhere to a simplistic explanation that has managed to satisfy our youth and a certain number of Christian apologists. To them the Koran is a “work of an artificial conjuror, fabricated from elements borrowed from Judaism and Christianity. It is a moral code and religion to which he added wonderful stories in order to substantiate his prophetic claims”.

If the problem of the revelation of the Koran is still awaiting a satisfactory solution, we cannot deny however that there existed in Muhammad the manifestation of a prophetic phenomenon. It is incorrect that we simply define a word in a most general manner and thus, by applying it, label a true prophet as a false imposter.

This phenomenon (Muhammad’s prophetic phenomenon) can have two different causes: “it can be a product of supernatural influence; or an excitement of the man’s internal spiritual state”. In either case, we find that both inspiration and sincerity remain intact.

Even if the Koran is not the word of God, and is purely a subjective conception of Muhammad’s mind, we should at least associate this admirable achievement, for the sake of humanity’s honor, to an Arabian Prophet and not to someone vilified as an imposter. However, such was not the opinion of many of those who are called him a false prophet. Our poor vocabulary is partly complicit in this slander, forcing us to blatantly label a perfectly sincere individual as a false prophet.

(Nevertheless, in reply to those who claim that the Koran is a product of Muhammad’s own handiwork, we present this argument) How could the (unlettered) Prophet compose a book written in an exquisite literary language, a language which, like Latin in the Middle-Ages, was exclusively owned and understood by the most cultivated of minds?”

L’Islam, Impressions et Études, Le Comte Henry de Castries, pg. 40-43; Librairie Armand Colin, Paris, 1907