Muhammad: A Prophet for Our Time Info

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The Man Who Inspired the World's Fastest-Growing
Religion

Muhammad presents a fascinating portrait of the
founder of a religion that continues to change the course of world
history. Muhammad's story is more relevant than ever because it
offers crucial insight into the true origins of an increasingly
radicalized Islam. Countering those who dismiss Islam as fanatical and
violent, Armstrong offers a clear, accessible, and balanced portrait of
the central figure of one of the world's great religions.


Average Ratings and Reviews
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Reviews for Muhammad: A Prophet for Our Time:

4

Dec 01, 2011

This was one of my first forays into the life of a man who has meant so much to so very many. Muhammad: A Prophet for Our Time felt easily digestible to me, an outsider and an utterly ignorant one at that.

Having lived about 500 years after Jesus, we seem to know more concrete information about the life of this prophet, thought by Islamists to be the last prophet, than we do of the Christians' "son of god". He came from Mecca and is the man who brought all of the Arabian nations under one This was one of my first forays into the life of a man who has meant so much to so very many. Muhammad: A Prophet for Our Time felt easily digestible to me, an outsider and an utterly ignorant one at that.

Having lived about 500 years after Jesus, we seem to know more concrete information about the life of this prophet, thought by Islamists to be the last prophet, than we do of the Christians' "son of god". He came from Mecca and is the man who brought all of the Arabian nations under one religious umbrella. He was a fighter, who raised a Jihadist army that he turned upon his own hometown, in the name of god of course.

Perhaps that sounded too snarky. I do not intend to belittle the man or his religion. My scorn is for all organized religions. However, I try to set aside my prejudices when reading non-fiction on religious matters or biographies regarding their saintly figures. For instance, some of Muhammad's deeds did not seem entirely honorable in hindsight, but that is hindsight, which is distorted by the distance of time.

Muhammad: A Prophet for Our Time is a nice primer, a good first step towards greater knowledge. During these difficult times, when many of us Americans do not readily accept the followers of Islam with open arms, getting to know the history of the people is an important step in realizing our overwhelming similarities as humans, the one and only tribe of man and woman that should truly matter. ...more
3

Jun 14, 2014

Instead of a review, I'll narrate an incident that occurred a couple of days ago which captures perfectly the way most Muslims might deal with this book. It's a conversation (sort of, perhaps a bit more dramatized now that I analyze it) between myself and another individual and it would summarize the gist of Karen Armstrong's handy work nicely.

*

Limited from severe time constrictions, I often brought this book to the university and the hospital to read through during the short-lived tea breaks. Instead of a review, I'll narrate an incident that occurred a couple of days ago which captures perfectly the way most Muslims might deal with this book. It's a conversation (sort of, perhaps a bit more dramatized now that I analyze it) between myself and another individual and it would summarize the gist of Karen Armstrong's handy work nicely.

*

Limited from severe time constrictions, I often brought this book to the university and the hospital to read through during the short-lived tea breaks. Once, it happened that I was indulged in this activity when a professor of mine, and an esteemed member of our medical society, halted by, picked the book from between my hands and said with a frown:

"Why would you read the biography of our Holy Prophet, the most distinguished man on earth to our knowledge, written by a foreigner?"

Ha? I had this sudden, excessive desire to laugh. I didn't, of course, otherwise I would have likely been arrested in detention of some sort (though, it just might have been worth it). The man was an able doctor and an equally skilled teacher. I respected him. This one question, though, pierced through my image of him like a hair brush flung unaware at the dressing table mirror. I mean, the guy is working towards his Membership of the Royal College of Physicians, London. What about that part isn't foreign?

"Sir" I said, real polite and all. "Armstrong is a known historian on religions and spirituality. She's written this book after quite a lot of research."

"Are you saying we don't have our own historians to research the matter?" he exclaimed.

"Of course not" said I. "But I'd wanted to read something neutral and free of sugar-coating for a while."

Crap, I thought. I need to keep a lock on my mouth lest this polite discussion goes out of hand and climbs into a personal vendetta. Professors here, you know, can't have their students mouthing them, even if they are wrong. I was well aware of getting my grades into jeopardy.

"Hmm" came his verdict. "And what does this Armstrong woman has to say about the Prophet?"

"Well... pretty much every thing we have to say. I mean, she can't change the history, can she? All the facts remain hard, except this time she's presented them in a manner that isn't overqualified. And this book actually focuses on eradicating false Islamophobia from the West."

"I see."

He sat down opposite me. Shit.

"I'm sure she wouldn't have published anything without a thorough research" he continued, "But I highly doubt that a non-muslim of any kind would be able to do justice to the depth of the persona of our Prophet. Maybe just the glimpse of a star in a universe."

"He was a great man, but he was still a man. His characteristics are particularly well known to those outside the religion. Armstrong hasn't tried to record the depth of his personality, just what was visible about him, and yes, that would be like a glimpse of a star in a universe. In fact, she has written the book in a manner that says she was rather fond of him."

I was bordering reckless now, though he didn't seem angry at all. Just sat with a poker face going 'Hmm hmm'. What's a student to do but prattle with fluster? It was like a damned full-fledged viva in a cafeteria.

"Not a surprise. What of the 'sugar-free' parts though?"

"Not exactly sugar-free. She's just cited some of the minor mistakes that the Prophet had committed while trying to embrace his new responsibility. Mistakes to prevent the compromise of Islam itself, actually. Our textbooks kind of left out those parts... though, of course, all this was to signify that he was a human being as well. And, uh, yeah."

"And uh?"

"No, just that the state of the Arabs before the beginning of Islam was pretty sorry. We weren't given the full image at school."

"That's correct. It's still a bit sorry, actually."

Finally. Some sign of recognition that he wouldn't have me suspended. Thank you, God. I was half in excitement and half in tears. Please go away now, Professor, I have enough of you during the tedious lectures.

He got up. Yes!

"You're not wrong, Komal."

Wait, he knew me by name? Among 86 students? Shit. No wait, my coat damn it. My coat had my name plastered to it. Thank you, God.

"But" he said. "It seems to me that you're eager to throw away what some of our own people say. I acknowledge that most among us are unreliable, but Armstrong really can't catch the deeper essences of Islam and Muhammad if she doesn't practise it. I think you're looking in the wrong places for this topic. This book, like you said, is focused towards the non-Islamic nation. I can give you a few recommendations on Islamic authors that wouldn't track you off the legitimate things, keep the sugar away, all the while explaining the better intricacies of Islam that Armstrong can never hope to capture. While I admit that we're not the greatest society on earth, you should stop concluding that there are no credibly literate people to be found. There are plenty."

He smiled at the end. Thank you, God. I'd almost pee'd my pants.

"Yes Sir. That would be great."

"See you at the lecture."

I picked up the mirror pieces and started gluing them together. Well, the mirror appears more stronger now. ...more
4

Feb 03, 2008

I learned a lot from Karen Armstrong's portrait of the prophet (not profit!)Muhammad and it gave me a lot of things to consider. The book is definitely written for Western Jews or Christians who may be distrustful of Islam, particularly its relationship with Judaism or Christianity. Armstrong explains the life of Muhammad with particular emphasis on his culture and continuing the line of prophets from Abraham through Jesus. To balance out her views, though, I'd like to read something about I learned a lot from Karen Armstrong's portrait of the prophet (not profit!)Muhammad and it gave me a lot of things to consider. The book is definitely written for Western Jews or Christians who may be distrustful of Islam, particularly its relationship with Judaism or Christianity. Armstrong explains the life of Muhammad with particular emphasis on his culture and continuing the line of prophets from Abraham through Jesus. To balance out her views, though, I'd like to read something about Muhammad that came from more of an Islamic perspective and not so focused on making Muhammad understandable to Christians or the West.

She also pulled some beautiful lines from the Quran and from other accounts- I was very moved by some of the accounts of people turning to Islam.

Recommended as an introduction to the prophet, especially if you are curious about Islam and its relationship with the other "Ahl el Kitaab" or People of the Book (Jews/Christians). ...more
4

Jan 20, 2008

For those seeking an Islam 101 course, this isn't the book for you. This is a history of the man who planted the seeds, but it doesn't delve into the fruits of that labor and the many off-shoots of it.

Karen Armstrong is a foremost religious scholar. She's able to convey very complex and intricate histories and ideas in a digestible way. This book introduces the life and path of the Prophet Muhammad and his struggle to bring monotheism to Arabia; to usher out the old pagan, clan-based system and For those seeking an Islam 101 course, this isn't the book for you. This is a history of the man who planted the seeds, but it doesn't delve into the fruits of that labor and the many off-shoots of it.

Karen Armstrong is a foremost religious scholar. She's able to convey very complex and intricate histories and ideas in a digestible way. This book introduces the life and path of the Prophet Muhammad and his struggle to bring monotheism to Arabia; to usher out the old pagan, clan-based system and exalt Allah as the one and only deity. Armstrong portrays Muhammad as human, not divine - - He’s a man who struggles, has doubts and fails before ultimately (though not absolutely) triumphing and whose religious vision is inextricably tied to and influenced by the social, economic and political forces at work around him. Especially thought-provoking to me was the similarity between the experience of the Judeo-Christian tradition and that of Islam. In essence, Arabs had heard the stories of Abraham, Moses and Jesus, and many were hopefully waiting for the day when God (they regard Allah, Yahweh and the Christian God as one and the same) would send them their Prophet, one who spoke their language and understood the old ways that needed to be left behind. It’s a very conciliatory perspective that is often overlooked.


...more
1

Jul 22, 2016

This is an, *interesting* work of fiction. Bearing only the vaguest resemblance to an accurate biography, Karen Armstrong masterfully weaves a fanciful tale of the life of Muhammad the way she wished he really was. She does this through three separate but not unrelated strategies:

First, she does an excellent job of cherry picking her sources. I have read at least one of her primary sources (Ibn Ishaq) and the picture he paints of the prophet is vastly different from what Armstrong would have This is an, *interesting* work of fiction. Bearing only the vaguest resemblance to an accurate biography, Karen Armstrong masterfully weaves a fanciful tale of the life of Muhammad the way she wished he really was. She does this through three separate but not unrelated strategies:

First, she does an excellent job of cherry picking her sources. I have read at least one of her primary sources (Ibn Ishaq) and the picture he paints of the prophet is vastly different from what Armstrong would have you believe with her expertly selected quotes. (I have also read the Quran multiple times and again, it is not nearly the book of peace, equality, and justice she would lead you to believe).

Armstrong's second strategy is an abundant use of such phrases as "could have", "might have", "could possibly be", and even the occasional "one can imagine". Some of her fanciful paintings of what really happened or her rationalizations for what someone's motives were are about as likely as winning the lottery. It isn't gonna happen but, hey, you never know.

The third strategy is to gloss over or completely ignore some of the less savory aspects of Muhammad's life. Those that are less commonly known are not even brought up. The ones that cannot be ignored, like the fact this fifty year old man married a six year old, are given a sum total of two sentences. From that point forward Karen Armstrong speaks of the child as though she were an adult even though she was still only eighteen when he died in her arms more than a decade after their "marriage".

In all, this is a horrible biography. Just horrible. If you want to read a decent one from a Muslim perspective, I would suggest you go back to the source. Get a translation of Muhammad Ibn Ishaq's Sirat Rasul Allah. It presents a much more realistic (while still biased) view of Muhammad's life without having to suffer through Karen Armstrong's shallow attempt to impute onto the man modern western sensibilities. ...more
2

Mar 03, 2016

Had I known this book would be a deliberate apologetic for the liberal, secular, sympathetic perspective of Islam, I wouldn't have bothered to read it. Instead of an historical account of Muhammad featuring the facts, his own words, and the explanations of his closest contemporaries, we get a deliberate message of "Islam is peace" that explains everything away. Armstrong takes Muhammad's actions and gives them her own justifications. So, some decisions are described as based upon eternal, Had I known this book would be a deliberate apologetic for the liberal, secular, sympathetic perspective of Islam, I wouldn't have bothered to read it. Instead of an historical account of Muhammad featuring the facts, his own words, and the explanations of his closest contemporaries, we get a deliberate message of "Islam is peace" that explains everything away. Armstrong takes Muhammad's actions and gives them her own justifications. So, some decisions are described as based upon eternal, peaceful principles, when a situational understanding might make Muhammad look selfish.

Other decisions are described as purely situational, which makes Muhammad seem conniving and sneaky, but to call those decisions based upon eternal principles would make Muhammad seem violent and vindictive. Of course, both sets of decisions are accompanied by Qur'anic justifications, so neither the faithful Muslim nor the disinterested observer can be satisfied by Armstrong's logical contortions.

After reading both Armstrong's Buddha and now Muhammad, I'm not sure why she has such a high reputation. Her works are clearly slanted toward her agenda for each. The book is clearly well researched, with all most of the endnotes coming from the Quran, Hadiths, Sunnahs and early records of Muhammad's life. That said, I find it hard to believe that you can come to the explanations Armstrong gives without deciding what they will be beforehand, and I find myself still wondering what Muhammad's story really is. ...more
0

Apr 11, 2013

Like many well-educated people of my place and time, I learned practically nothing in school about the history of Islam, or even much about the Middle East in general. That made it hard to fully grasp the content of this one book. The Arabian names sounded alike to me, so that it was hard to keep many of the characters separate in my mind, beyond Muhammad, and some of his wives. My understanding of the geography and historical context was also a bit blurry. Fortunately Ms Armstrong knows she is Like many well-educated people of my place and time, I learned practically nothing in school about the history of Islam, or even much about the Middle East in general. That made it hard to fully grasp the content of this one book. The Arabian names sounded alike to me, so that it was hard to keep many of the characters separate in my mind, beyond Muhammad, and some of his wives. My understanding of the geography and historical context was also a bit blurry. Fortunately Ms Armstrong knows she is writing for an impaired audience, and repeats her main points over and over. Probably the mainest main point is that the culture of Arabia at the time was one of fierce pride and vengeance, the show of strength, loyalty to one's own blood relatives at the expense of everyone else, and disregard for the poor because they deserved their fate. Muhammad promoted a totally different culture, one of kindness, forgiveness, humility, patience, sharing with the poor, and respect for women. She says that he had many problems in establishing the new ways because the old ways were so deeply ingrained in people, and because there were political realities that caused him to make some concessions in order to prevent the whole Muslim community from being destroyed. I have not read another biography of Muhammad, but this one is pro-Muhammad all the way. Any action of Muhammad that might strike Westerners as inconsistent with his professed values is explained as either accepted practice of the times, or better than the alternatives practiced by his enemies, or necessary because of difficult circumstances. By training, I am cautious about any biography that is too positive. In the passages describing the death of Muhammad, Ms Armstrong writes that Muhammad always insisted that he was not God incarnate, but a mortal man like other mortal men. Therefore he must have had his faults like other men. However, she does convince me that Muhammad's intention was to create a religion based on humane values, that his intention was peaceful coexistence. She also writes that he respected Jews and Christians as fellow People of the Book. And that is a step toward decreasing the fear and hostility that exists on both sides of today's divide. ...more
4

Nov 29, 2009

Karen Armstrong first came to my attention when she participated in a debate with Richard Dawkins, in the Wall Street Journal. She seemed to me to articulate a more complete understanding of religion than Dawkins did, and I’m currently waiting for A Case for Religion by Karen Armstrong to be returned to the library so that I can read it. She has written many books on the history of religion, especially fundamentalism, and also an autobiography, The Spiral Staircase.

Her book on Muhammad is a Karen Armstrong first came to my attention when she participated in a debate with Richard Dawkins, in the Wall Street Journal. She seemed to me to articulate a more complete understanding of religion than Dawkins did, and I’m currently waiting for A Case for Religion by Karen Armstrong to be returned to the library so that I can read it. She has written many books on the history of religion, especially fundamentalism, and also an autobiography, The Spiral Staircase.

Her book on Muhammad is a lovely book, portraying the events of his life in a very human and appealing way. It is meticulously documented, with footnoted sources, several to a page, referring back to the Koran, to the early biographers of Muhammad, or to scholarly commentators.

It portrays an inspired man, at times shy and hesitant, but always intensely devoted to his vision of God. He sometimes seems to waffle between the prevailing mores of vengeful desert tribes and a higher vision of desert hospitality raised to love and social justice. Muhammad, in this portrayal, is often struggling and confused, but always steadfast in trying to understand the will of God, and to lead his community toward a holy purposefulness.

Muhammad’s interactions with Christians and Jews are many and varied. Even though illiterate, he shows an understanding of other traditions, works with them as allies, and among his many wives has a Jewish wife and a Christian wife. In this portrayal, he regards himself as at one with all Abrahamic religion.

Armstrong’s book makes me sympathetic to the prophet and to his purposes, which I would not have expected before I read it. It also makes me deeply suspicious of the contemporary authoritarian interpreters who seem so out of synch with the faithful and conscientious character of the prophet.
...more
3

Dec 05, 2007

This was a great overview of the life of Prophet Muhammed and I learned lots about the connections between Islam, Christianity, and Judaism (Muhammed really saw Islam as a relative of the latter two -- all within the family of Abraham). What I missed most of, however, is more of Karen Armstrongs wise commentary on religion. She is a great voice of wisdom in our time and I found myself wanting to hear more about her thoughts on Muhammed and Islam. I still recommend that we all read this book, This was a great overview of the life of Prophet Muhammed and I learned lots about the connections between Islam, Christianity, and Judaism (Muhammed really saw Islam as a relative of the latter two -- all within the family of Abraham). What I missed most of, however, is more of Karen Armstrong´s wise commentary on religion. She is a great voice of wisdom in our time and I found myself wanting to hear more about her thoughts on Muhammed and Islam. I still recommend that we all read this book, though, because knowledge about all religious histories is vitally important to understanding our brothers and sisters around the world. ...more
3

Oct 15, 2012

I am a Muslim (so take my prejudice and also knowledge about my religion into account) whilst reading this review.

Why I think you should read it? -

The Number One Reason anybody should read this book is because it's written by a non-Muslim-WOMAN... Many misconceptions about the Islamic religion question the position of women, their status, their equality and freedom in Islam...

And having a non-Muslim woman explain how kind Islam (as a religion - and not as its follower's actions) is to women, I am a Muslim (so take my prejudice and also knowledge about my religion into account) whilst reading this review.

Why I think you should read it? -

The Number One Reason anybody should read this book is because it's written by a non-Muslim-WOMAN... Many misconceptions about the Islamic religion question the position of women, their status, their equality and freedom in Islam...

And having a non-Muslim woman explain how kind Islam (as a religion - and not as its follower's actions) is to women, along with the context, stories and necessities behind it's rules - is sure to be more effective than a Muslim's attempts.

THE TRICKY TITLE -

Muhammad A Prophet Of Our Time - as a title is true to the book but not in the sense that the book's all about it. Rather the book is more-so a retelling of the prophet Muhammad's (may peace be upon him) life from an angle that when viewed in relation with the title - will make you consider how Muhammad's message and character - can actually have solutions for all our current day problems, and how he may actually be the prophet that we need in our current times.

At-least that's the message - that seems be in it - for the non-muslim readers.

As for the Muslim's who read this book - the title (even if it wasn't intended to be so) is more like a sweetener - seeing as Muslims believe the prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) to indeed be the last prophet and his teachings (unlike the other prophets that came before him) to be for the entire world and all of it's remaining future.

This obviously helps Muslim reader to "positively-process" while reading the book, which makes it easily possible for him/her to then consider Armstrong's perspective on what and why the prophet did what he did - to be crystal.

Basically what I realized this book was about (after reading the book and then matching it with the preface/introduction/author's note) is that its basically -

1) A message to Non-Muslims saying "Oi! They're cool... so chill out!"

2) A message to the Muslims saying "Yo! yawl are supposed to be cool... so chill out!"

What I didn't like about the book -

I don't blame the author for this, seeing as i think this to be an unavoidable flaw (according to me) for the remaining goods (that I think the book had to offer) to exist perhaps. I guess sometimes you just need to be personally biased towards something or someone in order to try and understand it/them better...

At one point in the book - she makes mention of the Rushdie's Satanic Verses incident - and even-though its debated as to whether the incident actually took place or not in the prophet's life (while there is substantial evidence to prove that it most probably didn't) ... she deliberately claims that it did actually happen, that too only on the strength of just one critical scholar on the prophet's life (quite overly critical of the prophet - mind you) - who she commonly quotes - which makes one wonder why she wouldn't quote the accounts of any of the hundreds of the many other scholars/companions of the prophet, with contrary views.

Yet apart from that, I must say all in all as a muslim reader, Karen Armstrong's perspective on the prophet's life in the book - was a very very very very!!! - refreshing, different and important addition to my knowledge as a Muslim... and i think it a must-read by both Muslims and non-Muslims.

This is my first Karen Armstrong book and I surely look forward to reading more from her. ...more
2

Apr 15, 2010

It was fascinating to read this book and "Mohammed: Founder of the world's most intolerant religion" together, as they are written from two completely different perspectives. Spencer portrays a Mohammed that has inspired generations of hate, intolerance, and violence, while Armstrong portrays somebody with the attributes of Jesus. I found them both biased, and I suspect the truth is somewhere in the middle of the two opinions, but it was refreshing to hear somebody who wasn't scared to death to It was fascinating to read this book and "Mohammed: Founder of the world's most intolerant religion" together, as they are written from two completely different perspectives. Spencer portrays a Mohammed that has inspired generations of hate, intolerance, and violence, while Armstrong portrays somebody with the attributes of Jesus. I found them both biased, and I suspect the truth is somewhere in the middle of the two opinions, but it was refreshing to hear somebody who wasn't scared to death to be politically correct. At times it didn't seem possible that the two authors were talking about the same person. I think most of the difference was in what stories they told and what stories they didn't tell. Armstrong's book is filled with tales of Mohammed's compassion and how he treated his followers, while Spencer's book is concerned with stories of his battles, his punishments, and his vengeance. At times I thought Spencer was inflammatory and unfair, but there were many times that Armstrong glossed over or dismissed truly worrying episodes in Mohammed's life. Reading either one of these books individually I would give two stars, but reading them together makes the overall experience worthy of three. ...more
2

Nov 01, 2015

Although Karen has done a great work and briefly presented the history of Islam and the prophet Muhammed based on the Islamic references,I still believe pure objectivity is something impossible to achieve especially when studying religions.

The writer has made several interpretations that do not comply with the whole context of Islam. Before you try to understand the reason behind someone's act maybe you need to know fundamentals in the way he thinks. Karen was missing important fundamentals in Although Karen has done a great work and briefly presented the history of Islam and the prophet Muhammed based on the Islamic references,I still believe pure objectivity is something impossible to achieve especially when studying religions.

The writer has made several interpretations that do not comply with the whole context of Islam. Before you try to understand the reason behind someone's act maybe you need to know fundamentals in the way he thinks. Karen was missing important fundamentals in Islam which lead her to wrong interpretations of many situations.

In this book the writer talks about controversial concepts like (Polygamy) and ( Jihad ) and did her best to explain them the way Muslims understand them given the circumstances at the early beginning of Islam.

In this book Islam was discussed as a religion founded and created by an intelligent great leader more than it was presented as a holy message given by Allah to the prophet Muhammed, and this leads to considering the prophet an inspirational leader worthy of respect, instead of taking the holy message itself and its values seriously by questioning its truthfulness as a matter of faith.

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0

Dec 07, 2010

The most important thing I got out of this book is that the institutions of Islam, Christianity, and Judaism don't matter. Being God-conscious is the important thing. Focusing on the institution is like shirk.

I also learned that the prophet had a hard time figuring out what he was supposed to do, and he had to set aside his expectations and adapt to changing circumstances. He had to reflect and try to see differently than he had before.

The biggest obstacle to peace in the prophet's time was the The most important thing I got out of this book is that the institutions of Islam, Christianity, and Judaism don't matter. Being God-conscious is the important thing. Focusing on the institution is like shirk.

I also learned that the prophet had a hard time figuring out what he was supposed to do, and he had to set aside his expectations and adapt to changing circumstances. He had to reflect and try to see differently than he had before.

The biggest obstacle to peace in the prophet's time was the ideology of jahiliyya, which Armstrong describes as characterized by arrogance, aggression, ignorance, and violence. I agree with Armstrong's assessment that we live in a time of jahiliyya today. Obviously, the jahiliyya attitude is self-destructive and I think it's obvious, too, that we have to seek ways of reform just as the prophet did. ...more
5

Jul 11, 2015

After finishing this book I was like:



And you are indeed Karen Armstrong!

The way the book is written shows you the life of The Prophet in the most realistic well narrated way.

It mentions most of the important events and the years that Muhammad peace upon him tried to build a complex Islamic society, from the first day he met Gabriel (the angel) til the last day of his life.

It's one of the rarest books, or maybe the most just and fair one out there that describes the prophesy of Muhammad (puh) and After finishing this book I was like:



And you are indeed Karen Armstrong!

The way the book is written shows you the life of The Prophet in the most realistic well narrated way.

It mentions most of the important events and the years that Muhammad peace upon him tried to build a complex Islamic society, from the first day he met Gabriel (the angel) til the last day of his life.

It's one of the rarest books, or maybe the most just and fair one out there that describes the prophesy of Muhammad (puh) and denies all the accusations such as "Muhammad was a man of war" etc...

Karen Armstrong said at the end of the book:

"The brief history of the twenty-first century shows that neither side has mastered these lessons. If we are to avoid catastrophe, the Muslim and Western worlds must learn not merely to tolerate but to appreciate one another. A good place to start is with the figure of Muhammad: a complex man, who resists facile, ideologically-driven categorization, who sometimes did things that were difficult or impossible for us to accept , but who had profound genius and founded a religion and cultural tradition that was not based on the sword but whose name—“Islam”—signified peace and reconciliation"

and that is actually the conclusion of her book. She is trying to say that the religion that Muhammad founded (from my point of view receives from God) is the solution for humanity today.

Muhammad came to claim moderation and civilization.

Muhammad is the first human that defended women rights and stood by them.

WHETHER YOU ARE A BELIEVER. NON-BELIEVER. ATHEIST OR A DEVIL. YOU CAN'T POSSIBLY DENY THAT MUHAMMAD IS THE GREATEST MAN EVER LIVED.

If you read his biography as a neutral person you'll know what I am talking about.

I recommend this book for people who want the truth and believe only the truth and not what they want to believe! ...more
5

Oct 22, 2012

Being a person very familiar with the life of Muhammad, both through personal study, and from the interactions with learned Muslims, I was at first a little ambivalent as to whether there was much for me to learn in this study. I am happy to be proved wrong in this case, as Karen Armstrong's work provides a realistic and healthy rebuttal to the many detractions against Islam's Prophet.
Even the most stubborn skeptic of the supernatural would find it hard to disagree that Muhammad was a much Being a person very familiar with the life of Muhammad, both through personal study, and from the interactions with learned Muslims, I was at first a little ambivalent as to whether there was much for me to learn in this study. I am happy to be proved wrong in this case, as Karen Armstrong's work provides a realistic and healthy rebuttal to the many detractions against Islam's Prophet.
Even the most stubborn skeptic of the supernatural would find it hard to disagree that Muhammad was a much better man than the times he lived in. He was, as Karen Armstrong demonstrates, a benevolent social reformer who tried to provide a better path forward than the eclectic paganism of his time, and the lawless, dog eat dog system of tribal honor.
Armstrong's study does not concern itself greatly with the supernatural aspects of the prophet's life. Revelations are mentioned, but only in passing, and the main bulk of the text concerns the intentions and deeds of the prophet's life.
Contrary to the claims of his detractors, Muhammad was a man who abhorred violence, and took to it only as a last resort, and even then did so with a system of rules, far more noble and lenient than the other tribes of his time.
Muhammad is presented as a man with a great degree of respect and reverance for the people of the book, and one struggles to imagine as to why the three holy faiths are at loggerheads today.
While this may offend some, Armstrong does not present Islam as the monolithic entity that the Wahabbists of today seek to return to, but as a benevolent social and religious system that was adaptable.
On the whole, a much needed study, and one that can be recommended to all, regardless of one's familiarity with the subject matter. ...more
2

Dec 07, 2012

Pushes the "sympathetic biography" envelope way too far

That begins with the subtitle "A Prophet for our Time." That's certainly not an unbiased opinion.

In short, Armstrong goes beyond throwing out the bath water of some Western total besmirching of Muhammad, to throwing out the baby of a critically-based biography of him at all.

While I disagree with people who say this is a whitewash of Muhammad's life, it is selective. Beyond that, when Armstrong does talk about some of the less noble actions Pushes the "sympathetic biography" envelope way too far

That begins with the subtitle "A Prophet for our Time." That's certainly not an unbiased opinion.

In short, Armstrong goes beyond throwing out the bath water of some Western total besmirching of Muhammad, to throwing out the baby of a critically-based biography of him at all.

While I disagree with people who say this is a whitewash of Muhammad's life, it is selective. Beyond that, when Armstrong does talk about some of the less noble actions of Muhammad, she always tries to put the best spin possible on his actions.

A prime example is of his retreat from his original position of full equality for women in society. The only end view one can take away from Muhammad here is either henpecked husband leading to his first advocating women's equality, or male herd-follower after changing his mind.

Neither view is that of "a prophet for our time."

Armstrong's biography is also strongly biased in its lack of criticality. There's no sense of scholarship in the way of historical-critical wrestling with either the Quran itself or the later hadith about Muhammad.

In short, Armstrong's rehabilitation of Muhammad falls short precisely because it uncritically goes overboard.

I have read or skimmed other of Armstrong's books, and do find a different attitude here, in all the ways mentioned above and more.

It's different enough to have left me wondering if has converted, or is considering it. ...more
5

Nov 13, 2014

I've read " the seera" in so many books before.
But This one comes from a new perspective and an angle that's new to me
I might've found few contradictions between what the author states and what I as a Muslim learned through out my life but it sure opened my mind and made me rethink some stuff we usually classify as a certain
Reading this book was a lovely journey .. I enjoyed it and I'd recommend it to whom ever is interested in the personality of the man who changed everything in such a short I've read " the seera" in so many books before.
But This one comes from a new perspective and an angle that's new to me
I might've found few contradictions between what the author states and what I as a Muslim learned through out my life but it sure opened my mind and made me rethink some stuff we usually classify as a certain
Reading this book was a lovely journey .. I enjoyed it and I'd recommend it to whom ever is interested in the personality of the man who changed everything in such a short time
...more
4

Oct 12, 2016

I actually really liked this. I didn't think I would appreciate reading about Muhammad (swt) from someone who wasn't a Muslim, but what the hell?? This book was really good and I actually learned a lot of stuff I didn't even know about Islam in the seventh century.
3

Nov 25, 2015

this is must read book for any non muslims who wants to know more about our beloved [rp[jet
but i would say this book is very short work for any one who wants to to know prophet muhammad
4

Aug 27, 2015

The title says it all: Armstrong argues forcefully that Muhammad, the figure behind Islam, is a prophet for our time. This, of course, makes him either a man out of time or a man ahead of his time. Armstrong's Muhammad is a soft pluralist, simultaneously committed to radical monotheism ("There is no God but Allah") and extremely tolerant of Christian, Judaism, even paganism. Her Muhammad is a man committed to nonviolence but driven to violence by the circumstances of his day. Her Muhammad is a The title says it all: Armstrong argues forcefully that Muhammad, the figure behind Islam, is a prophet for our time. This, of course, makes him either a man out of time or a man ahead of his time. Armstrong's Muhammad is a soft pluralist, simultaneously committed to radical monotheism ("There is no God but Allah") and extremely tolerant of Christian, Judaism, even paganism. Her Muhammad is a man committed to nonviolence but driven to violence by the circumstances of his day. Her Muhammad is a man of social justice who nevertheless makes concessions to the social ills of Arabia.

Armstrong's clear storytelling skills are evident, and the reader learns the basic shape of Muhammad's life, but I constantly wondered while reading whether her agenda to depict Muhammad as a prophet with something to say to the present day gives readers a truly clear view of Islam's prophet. In fact, I wonder whether Armstrong's Muhammad is a Muslim Muhammad.

Armstrong is an Islamic outsider, which brings a unique perspective to be sure, but I'm convinced that religious practitioners - insiders - usually have a better grasp of their tradition and it's founder(s) than those outside. Would Muslims from Islam's major divisions - Sunni, Shia, Sufi, etc - write biographies similar to Armstrong's?

For basic narrative about Muhammad, it's a helpful book that clearly provides one perspective: a modern, western Liberal seeing to rescue Muhammad from Islamic fundamentalists and violent radicals. In assessing the man's legacy and truth value of his religion, however, the reader will need to keep reading. ...more
2

Feb 16, 2016

While interesting from a historical perspective, Armstrong seems so focused on presenting Muhammad as some sort of peaceful and idealized figure that she simply ignores or explains away with often confusing logic any deviation in his life from that ideal. Rather than address his complex life and try to understand how it shaped his message, Armstrong seemed to be so focused on portraying Islam in a positive religion of peace (and I don't disagree that is how it should be understood) in a post While interesting from a historical perspective, Armstrong seems so focused on presenting Muhammad as some sort of peaceful and idealized figure that she simply ignores or explains away with often confusing logic any deviation in his life from that ideal. Rather than address his complex life and try to understand how it shaped his message, Armstrong seemed to be so focused on portraying Islam in a positive religion of peace (and I don't disagree that is how it should be understood) in a post September 11th world, that I think she did a disservice to her point. ...more
3

Aug 16, 2011

It's quite interesting, reading about Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) from a Mustashreq writer .. the only missing part in this book is the warm feelings we have towards our prophet that every muslim feels, but ofcourse i wouldn't expect such feelings here..the writer used her western logical way of thinking but it was quite enough to have this wonderful conclusion..
1

Feb 16, 2015

One of the worst books ever! The historical information were almost 99.9% inaccurate, wrong, or highly controversial. The author chose the most controversial resources to use in this book! Far from being a trustworthy book on history
1

Aug 12, 2016

Karen Armstrong in an attempt to be neutral in eulogizing the prophet, she unintentionally put INCORRECT incidents.
4

Oct 21, 2018

I would challenge the historical accuracy of some notions and there is definitely too much trust in the ahadith, especially the sources of Ibn Ishaq and at-Tabari are not questioned (it seems) even a little bit. And also Muhammad is taken as the definite "good" guy of the story (in a relatively more modern moral compass).

But overall it definitely is a pleasant read and opens up new perspectives (especially on commenting the Qur'an) that I haven't considered before and far less far-fetched than I would challenge the historical accuracy of some notions and there is definitely too much trust in the ahadith, especially the sources of Ibn Ishaq and at-Tabari are not questioned (it seems) even a little bit. And also Muhammad is taken as the definite "good" guy of the story (in a relatively more modern moral compass).

But overall it definitely is a pleasant read and opens up new perspectives (especially on commenting the Qur'an) that I haven't considered before and far less far-fetched than many of the modern commentaries.

Especially considering historical evidence some of her comments are very precious. Pointing out (intentionally or not) inaccuracies in some of the modern narratives of the life of Muhammad. ...more

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