The Book – ‘The Sayings of Muhammad’ and Tolstoy

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Below I am sharing a few pages from the book ‘The Saying of Muhammad’ written by Sir Abdullah al-Mamun al-Suhrawardy. This is actually an important, but rarely known book amongst whose who love reading biographies of Prophet Muhammad [PBUH]. The book was published in the year 1905.

Sir Abdullah al-Mamun al-Suhrawardy (b. 31 May 1877 – d. 13 January 1935) was an Islamic scholar, barrister, activist and academic from Bengal. He was an excellent student, graduated from the Calcutta (Kolkata) University and moved to England for higher education.


The Muslim World was going through turmoil at that time. The Ottoman Empire was losing grips in the Balkans. Being an educated person he had a complete understanding of the situation and world politics. With few of his friends he founded ‘Pan-Islamic Organisation’ in London in order to unite the Muslims of the world. This book was part of the mission which made him popular amongst writers and scholars.

During the late 19th and early 20th century there was an effort by Muslim intellectuals to introduce to the West the biography of Prophet Muhammad based on authentic sources. Sayed Ameer Ali, a senior to Suhrawardy had already wrote the biography of Prophet of Islam – Spirit of Islam in 1891. Later Suhrawardy’s book ‘Saying of Prophet of Islam’, published in 1905 which won the heart of the famous Russian writer Leo Tolstoy.

In fact, this book played a vital role in changing his outlook towards Islam. Which lead to a continuous correspondence between Suhrawardy and Tolstoy. Tolstoy wanted to translate this book into Russian for the Russian population. Tolstoy himself was going through a difficult time. His concern for the poor and his intentions to help them was a bone of contention between him and his wife. Further, social injustices in Czars Russian was pushing him further to find a solution within religion. This made him more ‘spiritual’ in the later stage of his life. He had met Gandhi and was impressed with his philosophy of Non-violence (Ahinsa)

However the most interesting part related to this book is that this was one of the few books Tolstoy had been reading during the last period of his life. It has been verified by one of his youngest daughters, Alexandra Tolstoy; who was his secretary as well. Alexandra Tolstoy verified this to Hasan Shahid Suhrawardy, nephew of Abdullah Al Mamun Surhawardy. Hasan Shahid Surhawardy was an Oxford graduate. He taught English at the Imperial University of St Petersburg and at the Women’s University in Moscow. During his stay in Russia he met Alexandra Tolstoy, daughter of Leo Tolstoy. She was with Tolstoy during his last days. She mentioned to Hasan that ‘when Leo Tolstoy left his home in the night of cold winter and fell ill on the way to an unknown destination and died on a remote station in southern Russian the same book was in one of the pocket of his overcoat’.

I have read Tolstoy, however I am much more impressed with his life. His effort to eradicate the problems of poverty. I am sure this book must have introduced him with the aspect of social justice in Islam. I have encountered many quotes on Islam by him floats on social media. Here I have a link which verifies why he started loving Islam in the later stage of his life. Sir Abdullah al-Mamun al-Suhrawardy was in continuous correspondence with him up until the death of Leo Tolstoy in 1910.

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