Max Muller, the great German Orientalist, in one of his biographical essays, observed, “Great men do not come from the sky like shooting stars; they come in fullness of time; that is the time that lay behind, and the time that lay before them. We must know the work that others had done before them in order to understand the work that they themselves were meant to do.” There is nothing self-originating and absolutely original in the world, and individuals and personalities also do not suddenly emerge into importance and come forth into view to evolve something new and act in isolation. What they do is largely determined by the existing environment and circumstances of the time and also due to what has come from the past. Undoubtedly, the venerable originator of the reformative movement was a great man. It has also to be conceded that times were ripe enough for the advent of a great and God-inspired man to act as a harbinger of much-needed reforms. But did he come as a lightning flash out of Heaven to give off a discharge of dazzling brightness? Can it be denied that all great men have some background and there is much for them to receive consciously or unconsciously from those who have gone before, and have prepared the ground for their work and mission? It may be that such great men arrive at the same identical views and ideas either through direct communication with each other, or because they catch the ideas floating in the atmosphere. They may go ahead, effect some marked improvement, prove more successful, and lay down legacies which, as a result of the efforts of their successors, prove to be more abiding and enduring. It is, however, not necessary for a student of history to become so enthused and rapturous as the votaries of the faith and take for granted all that has been said and attributed to their spiritual master and also agree fully with those who over-emphasise the continuing influence and impact of one so as to throw into the background and virtually belittle the work of others who have flourished in the past.
- by: Prof. Syed Hasan Askari