Islamic apologists often tout this as an example of the high regard that many non-Muslim scholars hold for Islam, and unveil it with an implicit “So if they think that, then it just must be true” flourish. This is of course not just Islamic propaganda, but is also an appeal to authority and does not establish any claim as actually true at all.
Why the top of the list?
So why did Mr Hart put Muhammad at the top of the list, what was his thinking here? Well, here is what he says about this …
Since there are roughly twice as many Christians as Moslems in the world, it may initially seem strange that Muhammad has been ranked higher than Jesus. There are two principal reasons for that decision. First, Muhammad played a far more important role in the development of Islam than Jesus did in the development of Christianity. Although Jesus was responsible for the main ethical and moral precepts of Christianity (insofar as these differed from Judaism), St. Paul was the main developer of Christian theology, its principal proselytizer, and the author of a large portion of the New Testament. Muhammad, however, was responsible for both the theology of Islam and its main ethical and moral principles. In addition, he played the key role in proselytizing the new faith, and in establishing the religious practices of Islam. Moreover, he is the author of the Moslem holy scriptures, the Koran, a collection of certain of Muhammad’s insights that he believed had been directly revealed to him by Allah. Most of these utterances were copied more or less faithfully during Muhammad’s lifetime and were collected together in authoritative form not long after his death. The Koran therefore, closely represents Muhammad’s ideas and teachings and to a considerable extent his exact words – Michael H. Hart – The 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History – Citadel Publishing, 2000, ISBN 9780806513508
What does this list actually mean?
OK, so that explains him making it to the top of this list, but what does the list actually tell you? If you digested the Islamic PR, that asserts Hart’s book is a rating of “men who contributed towards the benefit and upliftment of mankind”, then you might assume it to be a positive influence only, but no that is clearly not at all true. Examine the list and you will find that it includes some truly vile and abhorrent individuals …
- Genghis Khan
- Adolf Hitler
- Joseph Stalin
… and so the fact that Mohammad makes the top of the list does not in any way identify him as a jolly nice chap at all.
So yes, putting Mohammad at the top of the list as one of the most influential individuals in human history is wholly appropriate, because no other historical figures actions have effected the modern world more potently or negatively than those of Muhammad, his position at number one is well deserved.