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Muhammad: A Western Attempt to Understand Islam (edition 1991)

by Karen Armstrong

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587816,791 (3.65)18
Member:Holman123
Title:Muhammad: A Western Attempt to Understand Islam
Authors:Karen Armstrong
Info:Gollancz (1991), Paperback, 290 pages
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Muhammad: A Biography of the Prophet by Karen Armstrong

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A meticulous quest for the historical Muhammad. This sympathetic, engrossing biography portrays Muhammad as a passionate, complex, allible human being--a charismatic leader possessed of political as well as spiritual gifts. Publishers Weekly
  PendleHillLibrary | Apr 25, 2014 |
This short biography of Muhammad should be required reading for all Americans over the age of 12. Armstrong manages, in the course of telling what is known about the life of the Prophet, to put Islam in context, explain the Sunni-Shi'a division, and much more. This is really the best introduction to Islam I have read--now I have to read her history of Islam. ( )
  nmele | Apr 6, 2013 |
I've been on a quest to read more about Islam, (so I will not be an absolute ignoramus about it, as Americans are often accused of being.). I've read a few books on the topic, but this is the first one I can honestly recommend. Karen Armstrong has not written a page-turner with this biography of Muhammad - in fact, I brought it with me for a long plane-flight, figuring only total boredom would force me to read it. But she has written a powerful biography that not only details Muhammad's long and very interesting career, it also reveals his beating heart, his absolute sincerity, and his humanity in both its frailty and its spiritual strength. I was genuinely touched by what I learned of Muhammad's spiritual visions, his kindness, his integrity, and especially his relationships with women. And, oh yes, I definitely did improve my knowledge of Islam, which Armstrong is able to unpack with great skill.

It IS a bit tedious to plow through in places. But truly: if you want to understand the spiritual core of Islam - not the Islam that has been co-opted by terrorists - this is a great place to start. ( )
  2chances | Nov 21, 2010 |
Somehwhat defensive, but still enlightening. Provides the basis for Muslim beliefs. ( )
  wamser | Nov 14, 2010 |
I bought Armstrong's book about Muhammad about a year ago, after reading her short book about the history of Islam. I liked that book, as it covered the main topics about Islam quite well, so I thought I would enjoy reading her previous, longer book about the founder of that religion: Muhammad - A biography of the Prophet.

In Muhammad Armstrong paints a loving and sympathetic picture of the man who created the world's second largest religion (soon probably to become the first largest). The prophet is described as a gentle and caring person who possessed charismatic skills and spiritual deepness, that succeeded to transform Arabia from pagan belief to monotheistic belief in a remarkably short period of time. Armstrong depicts Muhammad in glowing colours, 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 desparate conditions of Arabia during Muhammad's lifetime" (p. 208). She continually reminds the reader that the word "Islam" means peace and reconciliation, but some of the events described in the book (and the atrocities committed in the name of Islam in our times) leave us wondering about the application of these virtues by Muslims throughout history.

Prof. Emanual Sivan, one of Israel's leading historians of Islam, wrote a review about Muhammad in Ha'aretz a few months ago. He described Armstrong's book as "history soaked in rose water" and claims that the author shed all sense of criticism before writing the book and failed in distinguishing between historical facts and myths which evolved long after Muhammad died. I am no expert of Islam, but I tend to agree; I feel I know more about the life of Muhammad now, but I am left with a sense of an unbalanced view of this great man.

There was one observation in the book which I liked very much. When 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) ( )
1 vote ashergabbay | Aug 19, 2008 |
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For Sally Cockburn, who also understands the pain and power of misrepresentation.
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It has been difficult for Western people to understand the violent Muslim reaction to Salman Rushdie's fictional portrait of Muhammad in The Satanic Verses.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Muhammed: A Prophet for Our Time (c2006) is Armstrong's second biography of Muhammed. Her first was Muhammed: A Biography of the Prophet (published in 1991). Armstrong writes in the introduction to the second biography that "in the wake of September 11, we need to focus on other aspects of Muhammad's life. So this is a completely new and entirely different book, which, I hope, will speak more directly to the terrifying realities of our post-September 11 world." (p. 7)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0062508865, Paperback)

A fresh, evenhanded biography of the founder of Islam by the author of "A History of God." "Portrays Muhammad as a passionate, complex, fallible human being."-- "Publishers Weekly"

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:50:34 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

This biography attempts to strip away centuries of distortion and myth and present a balanced view of the man whose religion continues to dramatically affect the course of history.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 3 descriptions

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