Caption:”Every Mohammedan has the greatest reverence for the sacred scriptures of his religion, called the Koran, a word that means “book,” just as our Bible does. Mohammed pretended that the chapters of the Koran were brought to him from heaven by the angel Gabriel, and to confirm this, pointed to the fact that he himself could neither read nor write. But the general opinion of scholars is that he dictated the Koran.”

Exactly 90 years ago a four-volume set of encyclopedia-like human interest books was published as The Human Interest Library: Visualized Knowledge by Midland Press in Chicago. In a previous post I commented on its thoroughly “Orientalist” flavor. In a chapter on “Epoch Makers of History,” the founders of major religions include Confucius, Zoroaster, Buddha, Lao Tsze and “Mohammed.” In the account, Muhammad is summarily dismissed as a charlatan. To add insult to injury, a full page illustration is shown (as shown above) depicting Muhammad dictating the Quran. The narrative is utterly dismissive, as you can read for yourself:

And now, last of all, we come to the most recent of religious founders, Mohammed, who is the prophet to millions of the human race, and has sometimes, very ignorantly, been compared with Christ. The truth is that Mohammed probably knew the teachings of Christ. Mohammedanism, some people have said, was Mohammed’s effort to rescue the teaching of Jesus from the confusion into which it had been brought by the Christian Church…

It is certain that Mohammed’s followers became enthusiastic in devotion to the one God, Allah. It is certain that much of Mohammed’s teaching is borrowed from the law of Moses. It is almost probable that his ideas were influenced by the primitive teachings of Christianity. He rejected the Church, but he seems, in his own fashion, to have accepted Jesus. But his ideas altogether lack the exquisite clearness and the transparent purity of the Light of the World.

With all its faults, the Koran rules millions of the human race; but it prevents progress. On the whole, it is a book neither very profitable nor very pleasant for any but students of religions. And yet it is this book which Mohammedan children must use as almost their only school-book. Mohammedanism, youngest of all religions, is perhaps the one most distasteful to European knowledge.

Distasteful indeed.

In yet another source, Richard’s Cyclopedia of 1933, Muhammad appears once again, this time veiled.