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The Prophet Muhammad: A Biography by Barnaby…
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The Prophet Muhammad: A Biography (2003)

by Barnaby Rogerson

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A breezily written, enthusiastic book about the early decades of Islam. Rogerson spends a good third of the book getting to the starting point, giving us a detailed description of Arabia's geographical and political surroundings in the sixth century, before we get onto the meat of the Prophet's life.

Rogerson is clearly a sympathiser, and this means that the book cannot be considered particularly neutral. But that's perhaps not such a bad thing; I am more interested in finding out what the Prophet's followers believe than in getting the historical "facts", whatever they are. His narrative is complete enough that I did find myself taken aback at some points. Rogerson appears to expect us to be shocked that one of Muhammad's wives had previously been married to the Prophet's adopted son, but in fact while the circumstances are a bit murky this is a process that appears to have been consensual on both sides; I was much more taken aback by the fact that his marriage to Aisha took place when the latter was only nine. And whatever the record of later Muslim regimes for inter-religious tolerance (generally not bad, at least, alas, compared to many of their Christian contemporaries) the ethnic cleansing of the Jews from Medina was surely not a good start.

My biggest disappointment, however, is that we don't really get under Muhammad's skin; Rogerson is too much in awe of him to make him seem like a human being. This may be unfair of me. The thing Muhammad is best known for, his experience of divine revelation, is a long way outside the range of experience for most of us, and it may well be impossible for a biographer - especially, I suspect, a sympathetic biographer - to make it comprehensible for the general reader. But I actually I felt I had got a better idea of his character from Gibbon.

However. This was a very interesting read for me, filling in a significant gap in my knowledge which I had previously only really read in much detail in chapters L and LI of Gibbon; who is also entertaining and partisan, of course (and truth be told somewhat better written). ( )
  nwhyte | Jan 18, 2008 |
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Voor mijn vader
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'Geen vader heeft ooit zijn kind iets beters meegegeven dan goede manieren.' (De profeet Mohammed)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0349115869, Paperback)

The Prophet Muhammad is a hero for all mankind. In his lifetime he established a new religion, Islam; a new state, the first united Arabia; and a new literary language, the classical Arabic of the Qur'an, for the Qur'an is believed to be the word of God revealed to Muhammad by the angel Gabriel. A generation after his death he would be acknowledged as the founder of a world empire and a new civilisation. Any one of these achievements would have been more than enough to permanently establish his genius. To our early twenty-first century minds, what is all the more astonishing is that he also managed to stay true to himself and retained to his last days the humility, courtesy and humanity that he had learned as an orphan shepherd boy in central Arabia. If one looks for a parallel example from Christendom, you would have to combine the Emperor Constantine with St Francis and St Paul, an awesome prospect. Barnaby Rogerson's elegant biography not only looks directly at the life of the Prophet Muhammad, but beautifully evokes for western readers the Arabian world into which he was born in 570 AD.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:03:37 -0400)

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Barnaby Rogerson provides an accessible life of the founder of a world empire, a new civilization and the author of the Koran: the Prophet Mohammed.

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