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Muhammad, a Biography of Prophet by: Karen Armstrong

By senyorpaki Nov 12, 2008 986 Words
A short history about the world's fastest growing religion and of the man, who seeded the plant of Islam himself, Muhammad (saw). Armstrong writes this book in a humanist style and introduces the reader to the cultural and historical background of the life of Mohammed and the revelation of the Quran. She first starts with the West's long history of hostility toward Islam, which has often led to the stigma of “a religion of the sword." She contradicts this ideology, by this sympathetic, captivating biography portraying Muhammad (saw) as a passionate, simple, fallible human being--a charismatic leader possessed of political as well as spiritual gifts. A prophet whose, monotheistic vision answered the deepest longings of his people. Armstrong invalidates the Western image of Muhammad (saw) as an impostor who used religion as a means to power. She finds in the Prophet's teachings a theology of peace and tolerance. The "holy war" urged by the Quran as Armstrong's states alludes to each Muslim's duty to fight for a just, decent society. She mentions how Muhammad (saw) brought the backward tribal Arabia of the seventh century into out of their darkness and draws significant parallels between Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

The book is precise and does not try to mislead, its rounded and revealing. Karen Armstrong has no axe to grind and presents her book in a straight forward manner, with notes and an excellent bibliography which the reader is able to examine concepts and events in greater depth. She has done her homework in compiling this book and it shows as she goes back and forth with the dates of different events. The book also shows maps in the beginning that help the reader to get a better idea of the geography of the area in the past times along with genealogical charts that give a clear picture of Muhammad’s gene . It’s a well written book for an intelligent person who wishes to be informed.

The main idea or it can be called an argument that Armstrong put forth was to break the wrong image of the west about the Holy Prophet. She starts describing Muhammad's rising success as a skilled and respected politician; Armstrong mentions that the Christian world has always judged this part of the prophet's life with distrust. The Western view has traditionally seen Muhammad's political success as proof that he was an impostor using religion as a means to power. To explain this attitude, Armstrong offers the following insight:

“Because the Christian world is dominated by the image of the crucified Jesus, who said that his kingdom was not of this world, we tend to see failure and humiliation as the hallmark of a religious leader. We do not expect our spiritual heroes to achieve a dazzling success in mundane terms.” (p. 164)

Armstrong depicts Muhammad (saw) in glowing colors, even when she admits his wrongdoings. In the 8th chapter, "Holy War", Armstrong recounts the massacre and summary executions of the Jewish community in Qurayzah and apologetically describes them as "a reminder of the desperate conditions of Arabia during Muhammad's lifetime" (p. 208).

If one stop’s and tries to thinks of weaknesses of the book, only one thing that comes to mind is she has a habit of saying in the book that Muhammad (saw) was reaching into himself for answers to his society’s problems, and this is her explanations for the revelations. This notion makes the book less valid.

There are many books written about the life of the holy prophet. But surprisingly when it comes to books that are aimed at the ordinary person who has no pre knowledge of Islam or Muhammad there are not easily accessible because they lack in numbers. But this one by Karen Armstrong is a remarkable addition.

Karen has wrote a fairly unbiased biography But it has a hint of bias. She lets her bringing up come in the writing for using the person of Jesus (as) as a barometer for all of Muhammad's actions (and I say that as a virtual westerner born and raised as a Christian in the west). They are two different prophets from different times, therefore cannot be judged by the actions of another.

Nonetheless, the book is a very good reflection of the prophet’s life. It contributes to the history and origins of one of the world’s largest religions. It takes the reader from the sixth-century days of the Prophet Muhammad to the present and shows Islam in the modern world. It is a great addition to the books of Islam. The book also shows insight of the politics going all the way back to the sixth century and the politics revolving around Islam and its growth over the last few centuries. It not only contributes to the history and the political aspect but also decimates the biased notion known as “a religion of the sword."

Armstrong's way of writing is for ordinary people. This book is a very good read for someone who knows little or nothing about Islam and its prophet. Or for someone who has the stigma of “a religion of the sword." Especially since 9/11 this book should be republished and brought in the market for the media to look over once again. It will teach and reason at the same time. Anyone who has the slightest interest in religion, or Islam should read this book. It is analytical and well stated. This book is very useful and utmost inspiring. It cleared a lot of misconceptions about Prophet Muhammad and Islam which people even perceive today.

This book succeeds to release the minds of many from the blinders of propaganda, and reveal a Prophet, and a people, with a real triumphant history, with a conclusion of remarkable success. The book simply is a success.

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