بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم الحمد لله وحده و الصلاة و السلام على من لا نبي بعده و على آله و أصحابه أجمعين
Following is the reproduction of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan’s (d. 1898 A.C.) wonderful research on the origins of the epilepsy lie about the Holy Prophet –peace and blessings of Allah be upon him. The text reproduced here is part of his essay; “Birth and Childhood of Muhammad” included in his rebuttal to William Muir (d. 1905 A.C.), “The Life of Muhammad and Subjects Subsidiary Thereto” originally published in 1870 and reprinted in 2008 by Sang-e-Meel publications, Lahore.
It says a lot about the knowledge and objectivity of the most celebrated Christian “scholars” of Islam.
The Origins of Epilepsy Lie about the Holy Prophet Muhammadby Sir Syed Ahmad Khan
1. William Muir misread and mistranslated the text
Sir William Muir proceeds, to state, on Wakedi’s authority, the circumstance of opening of Muhammad’s chest and cleansing of his heart, when he was four years of age; and, on the authority of Hishami, infers therefrom that the infant was attacked with epilepsy …
Taking it for granted that the circumstance happened just as Sir William Muir has mentioned we shall now endeavour to nullify the inference which the above talented writer has, on the authority of Hishami, drawn from the tale so related, namely, that the infant Prophet had had a fit of epilepsy.
Sir William says that Hishami and other later writers add that the husband of Halimah concluded that the boy had “had a fit.”
But this translation of the passage from Hishami is incorrect. We have in our possession an edition of Hishami’s book, printed and published at Gottingen in 1858, under the care and supervision of Dr. Ferdinand Wutenfeld, and we here quote the original passage verbatim, as well as its translation into English.
قالت: وقال لي أبوه يا حليمة، لقد خشيت أن يكون هذا الغلام قد أصيب فألحقيه بأهله
“Halima said she was told by his (the Prophet’s) foster-father (Halima’s husband) that ‘O Halima, I fear that the infant has received an evil spirit –that is, is under the influence of an evil spirit –therefore let him be sent back to his family.”
The fact that Halima’s husband did not mean to infer, by these words that the infant was suffering from any actual disease, is also verified by the following remarks of Aminah, made by her on the occasion of Halimah’s returning the infant to her. “Ah!” Exclaimed she, “didst though fear that he was under the influence of evil spirits.” (أفتخوفت عليه الشيطان؟)
We do not find in Hishami the word Omeeb (أميب) , mentioned in Sir William Muir’s note, p.21, v.i ; neither does that word imply “had a fit,” as the writer had been led to understand. In Hishami there is given the word Oseeb (أصيب), as we have mentioned above, and as shall be perfectly shown hereafter. As there is but little difference in the appearance of the two words, Sir William appears to have fallen into a mistake, from having quoted a faulty manuscript.
2. Two Origins of the epilepsy lie
Almost every Christian writer of Muhammad’s life asserts as a fact that the prophet suffered from epilepsy. At first we were at a loss to conceive how such an idea, like Grotius’s story of the pigeon, could have ever entered the pericraniums of the Christians. History does not inform us that any Christian physician went to Arabia for the purpose of examining the bodily conditions of Muhammad, nor is there anything said on the subject by Oriental writers. Whence, then, could such a notion have originated, and by whom was it encouraged and propagated?
2.1 Mistranslation of the Arabic text
After considerable research we have at length ascertained that this false and ridiculous notion is to be attributed: first to the superstition of the Greek Christians, and secondly to the faulty translation of the Arabic text into Latin.
Upon a reference to page 20 of the “Life of Mahomet”, by Prideaux printed at London in 1712, the notion in question will be found to have originated in it, and also in the mistranslation into Latin, by Dr. Pococke, of some of the passages in Abulfeda’s work. This translation was, along with its original, in Arabic, printed from Pococke’s manuscript, at Oxford, in 1723. We shall first quote the text from this edition, and then point out the various mistakes therein, as well as in the translation.
فقال زوج حليمة لها: قد حشيت أن هذا الغلام قد أصيب بالحقية بأهله. فاحتملته حليمة وقدمت به إلى أمه
Fa kala zoajo Halimah laha kad khasshaito Anna hazal Gholam Kad Oseeba bil hakkeeyut bi ahlehee fah tamalut ho halimah wa Kaddamut bihe Ila Ommehe.
The faithful translation of which is:
“Then Halima’s husband said to her, ‘I fear that the infant has contracted (the influence of the evil spirit), therefore return him to his family; and she brought the boy to his mother;’” while the version of the Arabic into Latin runs thus:
“Tunc maritus Halimae; multum vereor, inquit, ne puer inter populares suos morbum Hypochondriacum contraxerit. Tollens itaque eum Halima ad matrem ejus Aminam reduxit:”
Its English rendering being:
“Then Halimah’s husband said, ‘I am greatly afraid of the boy’s catching the Hypochondriacal disease from some of his companions therefore, taking him (the boy) from Halimah, he carried him back to his mother, Aminah.’”
It should be observed that by the “Hypochondriacal disease” is probably meant epilepsy, or the falling sickness.
The mistake occasioned in the text is that, instead of the expression fa alhakeehe (فألحقيه) , which means “reach him” is used that of bil hakkeyute (بالحقية) which implies “right”, or “indeed;” but when the translator found that he could not reconcile the passage with the whole text, -- for how could he? – he omitted the meaning of the word بالحقية in the translation. Again, upon coming to the word Oseeba (أصيب) he translated it “contraxerit,” or “caught,” but not finding in the original what he caught, and it being necessary, both for the sense of the passage, as well as for grammar, to find some object which he (the boy) caught, he supplied it, at a guess, by Hypochondria, the falling sickness.
The fact is that when the Arabs used such ambiguous expression they meant thereby the influence of the evil spirit.
2.2 The ancient Greek superstition
The origin of this mistake appears to have been rooted in the superstition of the ancient Greeks. “Owing to the mysterious and extraordinary character of the convulsions of epilepsy, it was always supposed by them to be due, in some special manner, to the influence either of the gods or of evil spirits.”
Two objections here present themselves. First, why should Arab idioms, and the modes of expression peculiar to that language, be interpreted conformably to Greek superstition? Secondly, admitting that the Arabs really did ascribe the falling sickness to the influence evil spirits, it seems very odd and unreasonable that, wherever such an expression is mentioned, we should understand thereby that nothing but epilepsy is meant; especially when we know to a certainty that the Arabs attributed to the influence of evil spirits the cause of all such things, the nature whereof they did not know themselves.
2.3 Testimony of the liberal European writers
2.3 Testimony of the liberal European writers
In support of what is here said, we quote the opinion of a very learned, judicious, and liberal author, who says,
“The assertion so often repeated, that Mohammed was subject to epileptic fits is a base invention of the Greeks, who would seem to impute that morbid affection to the apostle of a novel creed, as a stain upon his moral character, deserving the reprobation and abhorrence of the Christian world.”
Nor can we omit quoting here the opinion of the profound historian Gibbon, who observes,
“His epileptic fits, an absurd calumny of the Greeks, would be an object of pity rather than abhorrence;”
In another place he remarks:
“The epilepsy, or falling-sickness, of Mahomet is asserted by Theophanes, Zonaras, and the rest of the Greeks; and is greedily swallowed by the gross bigotry of Hottinger, (Hist. Orient. p. 10, 11,) Prideaux, (Life of Mahomet, p. 12,) and Maracci, (tom. ii. Alcoran, p. 762, 763.) The titles (the wrapped-up, the covered) of two chapters of the Koran, (73, 74) can hardly be strained to such an interpretation: the silence, the ignorance of the Mahometan commentators, is more conclusive than the most peremptory denial; and the charitable side is espoused by Ockley, (Hist. of the Saracens, tom. i. p. 301,) Gagnier, (ad Abulfedam, p. 9. Vie de Mahomet, tom. i. p. 118,) and Sale, (Koran, p. 469 - 474.)”
3. Refutation of the lie from medical view point
We know proceed to consider, under a medical point of view, the false and groundless imputation that Muhammad was afflicted with epilepsy.
“Epilepsy is a form of disease characterized by sudden insensibility, with convulsive movements of the voluntary muscles, and occasionally arrest of the breathing, owing to spasms of the muscles of respiration and temporary closure of the glottis. The epileptic not uncommonly gets insane, often loses his memory, and becomes subject to a certain want of acuteness, and depression of spirits which unfit him for the regular business of life. Disorders of digestion are also frequent, and there is a constant want of tone and vigour in all the bodily functions, which communicate an habitual expression of languor to the epileptic. Added to this, it can hardly be matter of surprise that the knowledge of his infirmity should deeply influence the mind of the epileptic, and produce a distaste for active occupations, especially for such as expose him to more than ordinary observation.”
Our duty now, therefore, is to inquire if all or any one of the symptoms were to be found as occurring in any portion of the prophet’s life from his infancy until his death.
No historian, whether Muhammedan or Christian, mentions that any one of the above symptoms was to be found in Muhammad, but on the contrary, they have all unanimously affirmed that Muhammad was vigorous and healthy, both in infancy and his youth. Indeed Sir William Muir himself says that “at two years of age she” (Halima) “weaned him and took him home; that Aminah was so delighted with the healthy and robust appearance of her infant, who looked like a child of double the age, that she said ‘Take him with thee back again to the desert,” etc., etc. In his youth he is said to have been strong, healthy, and robust. He walked very quickly, and firmly trod the ground. Through the whole of his life he was exposed to great perils and hardships, all of which he bore with unflinching patience and courage.
Indeed Allah knows the best!
 The Life of Mahomet, Smith Elder and Co, London 1861 vol.I p.21
 Refers to Ibn Hisham (d. 218 A.H. / 833 A.C.), one of the earliest biographers of the Holy Prophet –may Allah bless him
 It is evident by the Latin translation also that the word in question is ‘Oseeba’ (أصيب) and not ‘Omeeb’ (أميب), as has been understood by William Muir.
 John Davenport, An Apology for Mohammed and the Koran, J. Davy and Sons, London 1869 p.14
 The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, John Murray, London 1887 vol.VI p.259
 Ibid.p.259 n.149
 Chamber’s Cyclopedia