During the later part of the seventeenth century, the Turkish conquests in Europe came to an end. The siege of Vienna by the Turks in1683 was raised and the Peace of Karlowits (1699) ended the Turkish ambition to make any further conquests in Europe. England and Europe as a whole became less endangered by the Turkish tide. Hostility against Muslims and the Turks in particular was replaced with a more humanistic tendency to discover and explore the unknown sides in the other.
Translations of some French travelers'' records appeared in England in 1677-1684. These records were composed in much detail about Muslim lands. The travelers wrote about the religion of the Muslims and their lifestyle. In fact, these records contained much misinformation and forgery but we can''t deny that there were some honest observations about Muslims and their faith. Nevertheless these new supplies of knowledge about Muslims and Islam attracted the English writers and their audiences. A notable source of information about Islam was available in Sir Paul Rycaut''s The Present State of the Ottoman Empire. In this book there is a famous forgery which was attracting attention in Europe at that time, it is called the "Compact of Mount Carmel".
Unlike Rycaut and the French travelers, theologians of the age were completely aggressive and violent when tackling Islam and its Prophet. Mohammad was described as having all the marks of an imposter, rebellious and perfidious, lewd and lascivious and of base education.
Similar outbursts of animosity were found in the first translation of the Quran into English. A French translation of the Quran appeared in 1649 and the English translation of the French appeared in the same year. The translation was not accurate and it contained much forgery and misleading information. Along with this inaccurate translation of the Quran, a number of biographies of Mohammad appeared with the same trend of animosity and forgery. For biographers and theologians Mohammad was the imposter, animated by two ruling passions, ambition and lust.
During the first half of the eighteenth century Turkey was open to trade and travel. The Ottomans influence became feeble in Europe. Travelers continued supplying their countries with records of the Muslim lands. English travelers were active at the time like Lady Mary Montagu.
This period is distinguished by the labors of two Arabic scholars: Simon Ockley author of The Hstory of the Saracens, and George Sale translator of the Quran. Although Ockley was offensive in using some negative adjectives when talking about Prophet Mohammad like (imposter), but he mentioned many new and truthful incidents and facts concerning Islam. A good example of that is pointing out in his book the lenient instructions of Abu Baker to the army marching to conquest Syria. Sale''s translation of the Quran remained till today a standard work. He was carried by the current of his age in describing the Prophet as an imposter, but on the other hand he showed some neutral and objective attitude in some places to the extent that he was accused of putting Islam on a level with Christianity.
At this age and for the first time Mohammad is described as the great lawgiver, and '''' the wisest legislator that ever was''''.
An important event in this age concerning the image of Islam in England is the translation of The Arabian''s Entertainment into English from the French version of Antoine Galland. Writers, and for many ages later, remained under the spell of the orient through this translation.
In the second half of the eighteenth century the political power of the Muslim nations continued in declining. Islamic lands became more and more reachable by westerners. British travelers and residents of some Islamic countries made very useful records and observations about Islam. During this era Islam was treated by some scholars as anequal match for Christianity.
Jonas Hanway, a merchant and a philanthropist, published in 1733 his Historical Account of the British Trade over the Caspian Sea. Hanway''s work contained his detailed observations on Islam. British residents in Muslim countries made some more important contributions to the issue. These records represented years of social and business contact. A good example on that is The Natural History of Aleppo by Dr. Alexander Russell. The book contains a topographical description of Aleppo, a survey of its inhabitants, and a description of the plant and animal life in it. Such works gave English people a closer image of Islamic world and an opportunity for acquiring information about the Muslim community.
Positive interpretations of Mohammad appeared in this age side by side with some bigoted ones. It is important here to talk about Edward Gibbon''s great chapter on the personal description of Prophet Mohammad which is found in his book Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.. This description presented the Prophet and for the fist time in a positive and shining image. Gibbon in his book goes on drawing his new image of Islam presenting it to his readers; however this image was not totally positive as the author of the book considered the Prophet as an imposter (Maybe because of the influence of his age).
Following the same way of Gibbon, Voltaire in his Essay on Universal History sees that "Whole nations are deceived by historical errors" as he discussed the historical distortion for the reputation of the Turkish Empire.