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The extraordinary life of the man who founded Islam, and the world he inhabited—and remade.        Muhammad’s was a life of almost unparalleled historical importance; yet for all the iconic power of his name, the intensely dramatic story of the prophet of Islam is not well known. In The First Muslim, Lesley Hazleton brings him vibrantly to life. Drawing on early eyewitness The extraordinary life of the man who founded Islam, and the world he inhabited—and remade.        Muhammad’s was a life of almost unparalleled historical importance; yet for all the iconic power of his name, the intensely dramatic story of the prophet of Islam is not well known. In The First Muslim, Lesley Hazleton brings him vibrantly to life. Drawing on early eyewitness sources and on history, politics, religion, and psychology, she renders him as a man in full, in all his complexity and vitality.        Hazleton’s account follows the arc of Muhammad’s rise from powerlessness to power, from anonymity to renown, from insignificance to lasting significance. How did a child shunted to the margins end up revolutionizing his world? How did a merchant come to challenge the established order with a new vision of social justice? How did the pariah hounded out of Mecca turn exile into a new and victorious beginning? How did the outsider become the ultimate insider?        Impeccably researched and thrillingly readable, Hazleton’s narrative creates vivid insight into a man navigating between idealism and pragmatism, faith and politics, nonviolence and violence, rejection and acclaim. The First Muslim illuminates not only an immensely significant figure but his lastingly relevant legacy.


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The extraordinary life of the man who founded Islam, and the world he inhabited—and remade.        Muhammad’s was a life of almost unparalleled historical importance; yet for all the iconic power of his name, the intensely dramatic story of the prophet of Islam is not well known. In The First Muslim, Lesley Hazleton brings him vibrantly to life. Drawing on early eyewitness The extraordinary life of the man who founded Islam, and the world he inhabited—and remade.        Muhammad’s was a life of almost unparalleled historical importance; yet for all the iconic power of his name, the intensely dramatic story of the prophet of Islam is not well known. In The First Muslim, Lesley Hazleton brings him vibrantly to life. Drawing on early eyewitness sources and on history, politics, religion, and psychology, she renders him as a man in full, in all his complexity and vitality.        Hazleton’s account follows the arc of Muhammad’s rise from powerlessness to power, from anonymity to renown, from insignificance to lasting significance. How did a child shunted to the margins end up revolutionizing his world? How did a merchant come to challenge the established order with a new vision of social justice? How did the pariah hounded out of Mecca turn exile into a new and victorious beginning? How did the outsider become the ultimate insider?        Impeccably researched and thrillingly readable, Hazleton’s narrative creates vivid insight into a man navigating between idealism and pragmatism, faith and politics, nonviolence and violence, rejection and acclaim. The First Muslim illuminates not only an immensely significant figure but his lastingly relevant legacy.

30 review for The First Muslim: The Story of Muhammad

  1. 5 out of 5

    Shahmeer

    Extremely disappointing book! Anyone looking for a quality biography of Prophet Muhammad should read 'Muhammad: Man and Prophet' by Adil Salahi. I have read 'After the Prophet' by Lesley and although it had provided good insights on the divide between Sunni & Shia, her over-analyses of every thing was a let down for me. It frustrated me because I don't know how a person living in the 21st century can tell us what people born in the 7th century were thinking. Lesley doesn't change her style in this Extremely disappointing book! Anyone looking for a quality biography of Prophet Muhammad should read 'Muhammad: Man and Prophet' by Adil Salahi. I have read 'After the Prophet' by Lesley and although it had provided good insights on the divide between Sunni & Shia, her over-analyses of every thing was a let down for me. It frustrated me because I don't know how a person living in the 21st century can tell us what people born in the 7th century were thinking. Lesley doesn't change her style in this book. She keeps on telling the readers what she thought was going through Mohammad's (PBUH) mind at specific periods in his life. She even provides us insights on what Abu-Sufyan and other opponents of Mohammad were thinking. Personally for me, this was very frustrating, I would rather read the facts and what the historians have recorded, rather than reading a Freudian style analysis of everything. (Life in the 7th century was very different than the lives we live in the 21st century and I can't imagine how Lesley with such certainty can tell us what these people were thinking). Then there is this issue where she is very biased towards Mohammad and the Muslims in Medina when they are dealing with the Medinan jews. She indirectly portrays Mohammad as the villain from his dealings with the Jews. This is easily understandable as her background is Jewish. In the book, she praises Abd-Allah ibn Ubayy for confronting Muhammad and criticizing Muhammad's decisions publicly. She fails to address that he was a coward who marched out of battle of Uhud with his 300 men. Living in a society where a man's words were stronger than a written contract; this was a cowardice act from Abd-Allah ibn Ubayy. But bacuase Abd-Allah ibn Ubayy was a former Jew, his cowardice is ignored. Similarly when the subject of Banu Qurayza comes up, she is sympathetic and bias towards them and indirectly portrays Muslims as barbaric for beheading 300 men of Bany Qurayza. She fails to go in detail about the betrayal from Banu Qurayza as it would show negatively on the Jewish tribe. A few chapters in the book have been simple copied and pasted from 'After the Prophet' which was very frustrating. I understand that she was writing about the same events again but I was expecting a rewording when writing those events or a different perspective. All the great qualities of Muhammad (PBUH) which made him a charismatic leader and a source for inspiration for his followers are simply ignored in this book. All in all this was a disappointing book. If anyone would like to read about Muhammad and his life from a non-Muslim author, I would definitively suggest Karen Armstrong's book as it is an unbiased factual book and much well written than Lesley's book.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Muhammad Ali

    As a muslim I found the book an excellent analysis. The one thing the book did do is make me as a muslim look at the view of the Prophet which is force fed to us from birth, and which itself is never challenged. But the only reasonable thing a 21st century Muslim with a critical thinking faculty can and should do is to research the unsavoury stuff for themselves. It's unforgivable to imply that her Jewishness coloured the entire narrative. She provides references for everything (all except the p As a muslim I found the book an excellent analysis. The one thing the book did do is make me as a muslim look at the view of the Prophet which is force fed to us from birth, and which itself is never challenged. But the only reasonable thing a 21st century Muslim with a critical thinking faculty can and should do is to research the unsavoury stuff for themselves. It's unforgivable to imply that her Jewishness coloured the entire narrative. She provides references for everything (all except the presumption of what was going through the prophets mind, which was sometimes over stretched even for artistic license). The book is uncomfortable reading for Muslims. But when you allow yourself to start to think, for just a minute, of all the protagonists as mere humans with emotional and political biases, the whole story of Islam takes on a different feel. Especially when you realise that many of the events are backed up by the Bukhari and Muslim narrative. It made me research everything she brought up and, as uncomfortable as it is, there is far more factual basis to the unsavoury episodes then most Muslims would like to even admit, let alone contemplate. Its clear from the comments (and no surprise) that most Muslims push readers to authors like Armstrong whose more apologetic views sit more comfortably with our own apriore beliefs, biases and world view. Armstrong is as weak/strong as Hazleton from a historical accuracy perspective. She asserts from inference too. But for Muslims we WANT the Armstrong version to be the real one. It makes us feel that all is well with the world. Its a painful process that makes anyone question the very foundations of everything you thought to be absolutely true. And not every generation is up to it. After all, you'd have to begin to declare that your Parents, your teachers, your Clerics, everyone you trusted were complicit in parsing a collective dillusion. And that maybe all the accounts weren't as impeccable as we thought. Or, God forbid, that we Muslims actually don't have a monopoly on the Truth (with a capital T).

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    I really wanted to read this book, but I found her writing style so frustrating that I abandoned it after 50 pages. The author continually speculated on Muhammad's state of mind, which I found very frustrating. I would prefer being told the events in a readable manner and I'll come to my own conclusions. I really wanted to read this book, but I found her writing style so frustrating that I abandoned it after 50 pages. The author continually speculated on Muhammad's state of mind, which I found very frustrating. I would prefer being told the events in a readable manner and I'll come to my own conclusions.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Marla

    I made it a little past halfway with this book. It was well written. It's very readable, almost novel-like. I picked it up because I knew little to nothing about the life of Muhammad. Perhaps if I already had some knowledge of him, I would have finished it. But I was looking for a readable history of his life. Throughout this book, there were many "Muhammad felt...", "...he was thinking..." or "his reasoning was..." Being new to Muhammad, I wanted fact. What I got was a lot of assuming what Muha I made it a little past halfway with this book. It was well written. It's very readable, almost novel-like. I picked it up because I knew little to nothing about the life of Muhammad. Perhaps if I already had some knowledge of him, I would have finished it. But I was looking for a readable history of his life. Throughout this book, there were many "Muhammad felt...", "...he was thinking..." or "his reasoning was..." Being new to Muhammad, I wanted fact. What I got was a lot of assuming what Muhammad's feelings, thoughts and emotions were. I think reading these statements can be dangerous (especially for someone who knows little about his life). They can give a false view. Just my opinion. Like I said, it's very well written and readable. I couldn't get past the suppositions Hazelton made.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Ulfah

    although the first chapters, revealing prophet Muhammad's life before moving to Madinah seems somewhat sympathetic, it was surely surprising when the book suddenly changed into a more distanced approach on the prophet which was extremely uncomfortable for myself. somehow it doesn't follow the early chapters, that a man so humbled by his situation would take drastic measures unless something logical is behind it. but maybe because she is of the same ancestry of the very people prophet Muhammad de although the first chapters, revealing prophet Muhammad's life before moving to Madinah seems somewhat sympathetic, it was surely surprising when the book suddenly changed into a more distanced approach on the prophet which was extremely uncomfortable for myself. somehow it doesn't follow the early chapters, that a man so humbled by his situation would take drastic measures unless something logical is behind it. but maybe because she is of the same ancestry of the very people prophet Muhammad decide to take drastic measures with, it makes it hard for her to write it in a gentler way as armstrong had done (as she came from another monotheistic background), but then, it's just natural to do so. at times, i found the book simply helpful in understanding much of the miracles surrounding the prophet, which were make sense and which were not (because i just can't help to think that quran itself is the miracle rather than the necessity of the prophet to perform miracles as in Moses's time) but then really, as it gets to the second half, i really really felt distanced and left in a gap (to take another's word from goodreads) because somehow the stories became simplified, less disciplined in telling, and it dissapointed me in a way (the idea of digging a trench around madina, but it was salman al farisi's idea, not mentioned. or the appereance of maryam, hanging with no resolution as what happened to her. or the accounts on the days to his death, where he seems to be saddened rather than relieved that his 'job' was done). but then in her approach of making the prophet more 'beliavable', it is also somewhat making him a mind too simple despite all the things he endured. as if after i finished reading, i was in a disbelief that this was all she can say about the prophet... warm at the beginning but seems to be dry and matter of the fact at the end. but then again, i can't expect one to write exactly like i wanted to. it's her point of view anyways. ah well, i must be biased, that i agree. but karen armstrong did a better job on her first biography of the prophet (and yet i may be too, biased, because she wrote a sympathetic book about him) but i feel that the prophet is more relatable and plausible based on Armstrong than Hazleton (i don't know, is it in the details? i remember being pretty exhausted by Armstrong's book due to her extensive quotation, etc). there are already some reviews in goodreads about her book. and while it being particularly easy read for someone who never read prophet Muhammad's biography, it is a too simplified one for one who actually have read and learned his life's story many many times before. finishing this book makes me crave to re read some of Armstrong's or other more (internally) biased biography! so sorry!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Erdal Bodur

    I am a translator and I was offered to translate this book by my publisher into Turkish. Being an agnostic like the author herself I had very limited knowledge about Muslim religion and the prophet Mohammed. I obviously had to read the book before I decide whether to undertake the task or not, so I did then I also read the After the Prophet also from Lesley Hazleton and decided to go ahead with the project. It took me about 6 months to finish the translation as it also involved reading Kor'an fr I am a translator and I was offered to translate this book by my publisher into Turkish. Being an agnostic like the author herself I had very limited knowledge about Muslim religion and the prophet Mohammed. I obviously had to read the book before I decide whether to undertake the task or not, so I did then I also read the After the Prophet also from Lesley Hazleton and decided to go ahead with the project. It took me about 6 months to finish the translation as it also involved reading Kor'an from cover to cover. Towards the end of the project Lesley and I also became friends however geographically distant it may be. She tells her story from a very humanistic perspective and questions her characters inner worlds along with circumstances that shaped them. Lesley has a vast authoritative knowledge on religious history and sifted through hundreds of ancient titles some dating back to 9th century. Blending these references with her excellent understanding of human psychology she tells her story in an unparalleled manner that has never been done before. I would recommend any and everyone religious or not, who are interested in exploring the circumstances that shaped the history of the world and the events still continue to stir the people of the region and affect everyone around the globe.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Arvind Munshi

    The book starts on a unbiased note portraying Muhammad as a seeker, who tries to fill the vacuum created by the loss of his parents by praying to God, spends nights on Mt. Hira in meditation and contemplation, comes back with some revelations for his own good and for others. The exile to Medina has been excellently written, the circumstances so evident and the journey well depicted. However, in Medina, things take U-turn and Muhammad starts rationalizing gory episodes, where I think the author see The book starts on a unbiased note portraying Muhammad as a seeker, who tries to fill the vacuum created by the loss of his parents by praying to God, spends nights on Mt. Hira in meditation and contemplation, comes back with some revelations for his own good and for others. The exile to Medina has been excellently written, the circumstances so evident and the journey well depicted. However, in Medina, things take U-turn and Muhammad starts rationalizing gory episodes, where I think the author seems to be a bit biased. How could a seer, who received messages from God initially, a person who was astute, a person so humble, tolerant, religious and spiritual, a person who attracted so many tribes to leave their homes to follow him, start incubating violence, intolerance and hatred. The explanation seems to be very confusing, although the wars might have actually happened, however the rationale or reasoning given doesn't match with the persona depicted in the early pages of the book. However, I find the book as a good read and recommend this for people who don't know much about Muhammad and Islam.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Osama Siddique

    I did not approach this book as a faithful. Instead I tried to be as objective as I could be and endeavored to gauge it purely on the basis of rigor, impartiality, authenticity and flair. I had heard some great things about it and welcomed an avowed agnostic doing an impressionistic account while ostensibly relying on the earliest sources but without the piety bound restraint, decorum and devotion that traditional lives of the Prophet staunchly observe. It worked brilliantly for the first part - I did not approach this book as a faithful. Instead I tried to be as objective as I could be and endeavored to gauge it purely on the basis of rigor, impartiality, authenticity and flair. I had heard some great things about it and welcomed an avowed agnostic doing an impressionistic account while ostensibly relying on the earliest sources but without the piety bound restraint, decorum and devotion that traditional lives of the Prophet staunchly observe. It worked brilliantly for the first part - Orphan. In hindsight, this is where Hazleton manages to evocatively and persuasively transport herself to the times, shedding the inhibitions, assumptions and stereotypes of the present, and managing to excavate the essence of the times and the place. Her bringing out of the marginalized early years and alienation of the Prophet - orphaned, destitute, largely unprotected, raised by bedouins in his earliest years, vulnerable - makes the story more human than the hagiographies and also highly endearing. In the years before the bestowing of Prophethood, she brings out the development and emergence of the essence of the man and his character; his self-dependence, dignity, integrity, and his love for solitude as well as deep pursuit of the spiritual. Also, the remarkable and uplifting union with Hazrat Khadija and the unparalleled strength of their bond, the passionate devotion of the early converts, the myriad slanders and cruel persecution by the Meccans, the other-worldly desolation of the Arabian landscape, the quiet solitude of the Cave of Hira, the nights of meditation under the stars, and the bewildering and terrifying experience of the revelations. Hazleton adroitly neither expresses belief in the revelations nor disbelief. The Quranic voice is simply present in the narrative and responds to events and at other times precedes them. The Prophet is the receiving vessel - overwhelmed and overawed. It is a narrative beautifully constructed and Hazleton is poetic and even admiring. But for me it is unimportant that she is admiring. What is important is that she gets most of the known facts right and at the same time evocatively recreates a time that is highly significant as well as enigmatic but also relatively straightforward when it comes to the contestants and the contestation. It is, however, extraordinary how out of her depth Lesley Hazleton is in 'Exile' - the second of the book's three parts. What worked so well in the first part - an emotive, impressionistic and deeply personal as well as personalized capturing of the development of the Prophet as a man and then one receiving Divine instruction - just withers away as an approach in the second part. In all probability because the second part deals with subject matter much more complex as well as more documented and written about. She appears often prone to dealing with the earliest authorities rather whimsically; she tends to accept and reject received knowledge without any scientific or consistent basis and often prefers her own speculation, deliberately ignoring it appears the entire hierarchical system of hadith literature. What frequently dominates instead are not just her own sentiments, speculations and conjectures on what might have happened she regularly makes leaps of faith (or should they be called leaps of lack of faith in this case?) and pretends to read and imagine what a protagonist would be thinking or what his imperative might be, from amongst multiple possibilities, that reflect her own instincts. Her neutrality as to the Voice of Revelation also disappears and is replaced by a barely disguised communique that the revelation responds to what is expedient and exigent to the one to whom it comes. When you are not rigorous and exhaustive, and don't meaningfully engage with the literature in the area or its epistemology, then you become guilty of an almost negligent subjectivity. The further transgression that can be committed is then to not be implicit, suggestive and inferential but to state things as incontrovertible facts. She commits that transgression as well. She also divulges a great tendency to showcase and highlight a particular ascribed statement by someone to the exclusion of discordant voices and counter-authorities, often giving undue and exaggerated primacy to a voice and to a statement (invariably the more controversial one). One cannot escape the impression that a certain narrative appeals to her and she selectively cites, quotes or at times imagines the rest, often blundering through some of the most profound and rich phases of this period which she deals with sketchily and without doing justice to all necessary aspects and unignorable nuances. It is only human for a commentator to succumb to her biases and pre-conceived notions and Hazleton appears particularly fragile on that score. Of course one is neither expecting nor looking for a devotional text here and the promised critical approach of the book as well as its ostensible endeavor to show the Prophet's life at its essential human level is what makes it compelling. At the same time, that makes it all the more necessary that the authorial voice and closely held worldview don't overwhelm and taint the picture. But it often does so and at times quite inelegantly. May it be her desire to sound folksy or her all too frequent and off-putting references to a Bullish Wall Street or her forced references to Machiavelli or her obvious sensitivity when it comes to the Jewish tribes and the fairly lopsided treatment of the events surrounding them or her dislike for certain members of the Prophet's retinue and penchant for picking out statements that show them in the worst possible light or her failed endeavor to contextualize (and resent) the events leading to his marriages. The very methodology that worked for Hazleton so very effectively in the first part exposes her inadequate scholarship, her tone-deafness, and her tendency to constantly juxtapose her US liberal arts bolstered contemporary notions of politics and society on a quite different milieu. This is Orientalism of a different shade. One that cites Edward Said at the drop of a hat and scoffs at 19th century avatars of it but is no less superior, judgmental and flawed in its assessments. I am not even listing here the multiple errors and omissions: may they be of leaving out important events, missing known facts, misunderstanding traditions, or not fully covering and grasping the essential texts on a particular idea or event. The final part - Leader - is only marginally better than the previous one. By now Hazleton appears inclined to find a controversy with every development and hidden intent behind every episode. Which is not to say that this period was by any stretch pristine and sanitized. But from all accounts it was also not as embroiled as she makes it out to be. Hers is a fairly convoluted sense of the final years with ex post facto contemporary assessment deeply influencing and coloring a selective reading of some recorded quotations and renditions from the times. Often it is not even that and sounds like what she feels would or even should have happened. For a book that started so promisingly (the only reason I give it two stars) it is quite a disappointing one. I can also see how a less generous approach than mine would find it quite irreverent at times. Even I found it objectionable at places due to its flippancy and obtuseness. I wonder if Reza Aslan and others like him even read the whole book before endorsing it. If you want to do justice to this profound and exalted theme I would recommend going for a proper scholar.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Farah Firdaus

    Full review to come. Need some time to articulate and reconcile my feelings and thoughts on Hazleton’s discomforting yet intriguing navigation of human side of the Prophet.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Louise

    Leslie Hazelton's After the Prophet: The Epic Story of the Shia-Sunni Split in Islam is the best recounting of the Sunni - Shia split that I've read. For this reason, I put The First Muslim on my reading list, where it sat for months until now. Hazelton, again, clearly presents complex material and unfamiliar (to me) history. This book has more interpretation and speculation than its predecessor. Through the story of Muhammad the story of the development of Islam is told. Some of it is a tale of Leslie Hazelton's After the Prophet: The Epic Story of the Shia-Sunni Split in Islam is the best recounting of the Sunni - Shia split that I've read. For this reason, I put The First Muslim on my reading list, where it sat for months until now. Hazelton, again, clearly presents complex material and unfamiliar (to me) history. This book has more interpretation and speculation than its predecessor. Through the story of Muhammad the story of the development of Islam is told. Some of it is a tale of the two cities, Mecca and Medina. Some of the story is how the doctrines grew incorporating elements of prior faiths (such as Judaism by recognizing Abraham as the father and local religions by maintaining the pilgrimages to the Kaaba in Mecca). Other parts are explanations of turning points for Muhammad (such as the "night journey" and the "satanic verses"). Other parts of the story are the significance of "one god", the role of the prophet's wives and their families and the vigil at the prophet's deathbed are also well explained. The interpretation of Muhammad as an "outsider" is a recurring theme. Hazelton shows how his experience as an orphan increased the emotional pain of his exile from Mecca. She speculates that he, like other exiles, dreamed of a triumphant return. While the outsider theory is well developed, it can't be applied to everything. It is not enough to explain the how the believers changed from what appears to be non-violent prayer circles in Mecca to robbing caravans and becoming an army in Medina. Hazelton also speculates on Muhammad's decision making. For instance he considers moves based on how he would keep the loyalty of this or that person, or how a move would be interpreted by followers. Hazelton has sifted through a tremendous amount of scholarly material and, as she did in After the Prophet, created a book to help the general reader understand this significant man and his times.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Inzemamul Haque

    The author is very critical in her approach to find the truth in history especially when there are incidences of miracles. The author looks unbiased throughout the book. If the reader is Muslim, he or she may feel at very few (almost rare) places that Muhammad (peace be upon him) is shown in bad light. But this paragraph from the author herself says it all. "Neither Gandhi nor Machiavelli could have done better. Muhammad had reversed the terms of engagement, turning apparent weakness into strength The author is very critical in her approach to find the truth in history especially when there are incidences of miracles. The author looks unbiased throughout the book. If the reader is Muslim, he or she may feel at very few (almost rare) places that Muhammad (peace be upon him) is shown in bad light. But this paragraph from the author herself says it all. "Neither Gandhi nor Machiavelli could have done better. Muhammad had reversed the terms of engagement, turning apparent weakness into strength. He had proved himself as effective unarmed as armed, and used the language of peace as forcefully as that of war. In fact it was precisely this dual aspect of him that would so confound his critics and his followers alike. Whether in the seventh century or the twenty-first, he would frustrate the simplistic terms of those trying to pigeonhole him as either a "prophet of peace" or a "prophet of war." This was not a matter of either/or. A complex man carving a huge profile in history, his vision went beyond seemingly irreconcilable opposites. He had allowed himself to be turned away from Mecca in the full knowledge that he had in fact completed the first stage of his return." Finally Lesley Hazleton has a great talent of story-telling. I have read her another book titled "After the prophet." You would not like to stop and go on and on reading the book.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Wanda

    Having recently read Zealot, written by a non-Christian author about Jesus, I felt it was only fair that I also read The First Muslim by a non-Muslim author about Mohammed. You need to be on the outside looking in if you want to write a unbiased biography of a religious figure. Both books were good and gave me unexpected insights into each religion and sometimes all religions. I knew next to nothing about the origins of Islam. The First Muslim has educated me about the tenets of that religion and Having recently read Zealot, written by a non-Christian author about Jesus, I felt it was only fair that I also read The First Muslim by a non-Muslim author about Mohammed. You need to be on the outside looking in if you want to write a unbiased biography of a religious figure. Both books were good and gave me unexpected insights into each religion and sometimes all religions. I knew next to nothing about the origins of Islam. The First Muslim has educated me about the tenets of that religion and given some insights into the psychology of its followers, in the same way that Zealot gave me new ways to understand both Judaism and Christianity. Suddenly, certain reactions and opinions by religious groups are explained. [Why were Muslims so upset by those Danish cartoons? Why are the Jewish settlers so aggressive about building in Palestinian territory?] It may be a historical book, but if you want to understand the conflicts of the 21st century, this would be a good starting point.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Carol Chu

    I got this book for free in exchange for an honest review. What I liked most about this book is that it's in English, because that is the first language that I speak and most of all the first language that I think in. That said, this book is very refreshing for the insights of Muhammad's early life, at his peak and until his very death. A very apt biography of one of the most influential man in Muslim dom. My thoughts is that all historical facts in this book FEELS pretty accurate (my opinion fr I got this book for free in exchange for an honest review. What I liked most about this book is that it's in English, because that is the first language that I speak and most of all the first language that I think in. That said, this book is very refreshing for the insights of Muhammad's early life, at his peak and until his very death. A very apt biography of one of the most influential man in Muslim dom. My thoughts is that all historical facts in this book FEELS pretty accurate (my opinion from the FEEL of the book) except for some cases of I heard someone said that and THAT becomes a fact, which might be valid at that time solely for the fact that those times word of mouth is a means to pass down a story. A satisfying book, an easy book to read and digest and I somewhat enjoyed it.

  14. 5 out of 5

    ἀρχαῖος (arkhaîos) withdrawn

    RANT ALERT This is one of those few books that I won't finish. All of the touchy freely about 3 times an orphan, all of the silly baseless questions and second guessing. This is just foolishness which I have no patience for. RANT ALERT This is one of those few books that I won't finish. All of the touchy freely about 3 times an orphan, all of the silly baseless questions and second guessing. This is just foolishness which I have no patience for.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Mostafa Mostafa

    WoW! actually am not sure if its a 4 or 4.5 star book.. regardless of that, Hazleton provides a book that sweeps away hundred of years away to an age of deserts and camels. for a while, you forget this is a religious biography, for it loses the complexity of religious themes, and it seems that its like any other non fiction book.. from a muslim's point of view, i guess Hazelton showed the Prophet as he really is...as human as he is..with all his manners and peacefullness...a man with the most peacef WoW! actually am not sure if its a 4 or 4.5 star book.. regardless of that, Hazleton provides a book that sweeps away hundred of years away to an age of deserts and camels. for a while, you forget this is a religious biography, for it loses the complexity of religious themes, and it seems that its like any other non fiction book.. from a muslim's point of view, i guess Hazelton showed the Prophet as he really is...as human as he is..with all his manners and peacefullness...a man with the most peacefullbrevolution on Earth...insisting on love and forgivness among his followers and other people...also, as a muslim, i discovered some new things in this book, mostly debatable which makes me want to.read more abt the topic regardless how provocative they are... one thing though shows clearly; how lesley hazelton nearly subsides with the jews in their battle against the prophet in an indirect way, she failed to be objective regarding that matter... In general, this book promises a change with huge effects on those who read it with no background about tbe history of islam.. Amid the false images arising nowadays about islam being all abt terrorism...Hazelton sends a message abt the greatness of such a man, such a religion and the holiness of the Quran..providing non-muslims a balanced view about who muslims really are! i love this book ♥

  16. 4 out of 5

    Bilal

    Though I respect the author for her many just causes and view points in other matters, I find it disturbing that, in many events mentioned in the book, the author seems to be choosing certain versions of the story that may not serve good the authenticity of the biography. For instance, there are many one sided versions chosen which encourage thinking of the prophet as being politically, rather than spiritually, driven. A variety of events could've been told each in their different versions, for Though I respect the author for her many just causes and view points in other matters, I find it disturbing that, in many events mentioned in the book, the author seems to be choosing certain versions of the story that may not serve good the authenticity of the biography. For instance, there are many one sided versions chosen which encourage thinking of the prophet as being politically, rather than spiritually, driven. A variety of events could've been told each in their different versions, for example, in the same book; in order to ensure its neutrality. Indeed, the author does so in few places here and there, but in general she fails in my opinion to show the whole picture. She succeeds also in selecting terms that indicate criticizing the prophet and analyzing him just as any other political leader. Everyone has the right to believe or not in his prophecy. But if comparison is needed in regards of his actions and motives, it should in my opinion be with others of the same level such as Jesus, Moses, Abraham and the like. At the end of the day, was he mainly a political leader? Or much more than that. I advise whoever intends to read this book to read several others as well about Muhammed in order to have the whole picture, as unfortunately I do not believe this one has it.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Cassandra

    It's worth noting at the beginning of this review that my understanding of the life of Muhammad was pretty rudimentary before this book. I really enjoyed the way the author tried to bring the human aspect of the Prophet to life, especially in his early years, sifting through some of the miracle stories to more humble beginnings. This isn't exactly a biography, because while it pulls mostly from the writings of ibn-Ishaq and al-Tabari, both of those were written many years after the death of Muha It's worth noting at the beginning of this review that my understanding of the life of Muhammad was pretty rudimentary before this book. I really enjoyed the way the author tried to bring the human aspect of the Prophet to life, especially in his early years, sifting through some of the miracle stories to more humble beginnings. This isn't exactly a biography, because while it pulls mostly from the writings of ibn-Ishaq and al-Tabari, both of those were written many years after the death of Muhammed. The author uses information about the history and culture to advance hypotheses about what is "the future written back into the past" and what seems to make sense. She also uses psychology and other disciplines to approximate what Muhammad may have been feeling at the time. Given that, while there are many facts in this book, there is also quite a bit of conjecture (as there inevitably is when there isn't much surviving written record from the time of his life) but I think the author does a good job of differentiating between the two.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Liz Janet

    An accessible introduction to the life of the prophet Muhammad peace be upon him, but beware, it is mostly interpretation, as well, most books about the prophet are, considering he lived more than a millennial ago. I am going to recommend her TED Talks because they are quite good. The Doubt essential to faith On Reading the Koran An accessible introduction to the life of the prophet Muhammad peace be upon him, but beware, it is mostly interpretation, as well, most books about the prophet are, considering he lived more than a millennial ago. I am going to recommend her TED Talks because they are quite good. The Doubt essential to faith On Reading the Koran

  19. 5 out of 5

    SaRa Hajj

    The information in the book could be found on google easily with less time specially the first part of the book which included no analysis. I mostly enjoyed the analysis found in the last part of the book which urged me to think more and perform more researches about the prophet. But I found the style of writing of the author is disturbing somehow.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Tuğba

    This one is pretty good but I like Karen Armstrong's version best so far. "And I have been commanded to be the first [among you] of the Muslims." Qur'an [39:12] Az-Zumar --o-- "After all, the revelations insistently instructed Muhammad to say that he was “ just a messenger,” “only a man like you,” “a warner from among yourselves.” It would be years before the Quranic voice would call him “the first Muslim.” This was emphatically not about him, but about the message itself. Those who opposed it did This one is pretty good but I like Karen Armstrong's version best so far. "And I have been commanded to be the first [among you] of the Muslims." Qur'an [39:12] Az-Zumar --o-- "After all, the revelations insistently instructed Muhammad to say that he was “ just a messenger,” “only a man like you,” “a warner from among yourselves.” It would be years before the Quranic voice would call him “the first Muslim.” This was emphatically not about him, but about the message itself. Those who opposed it did make it about him, however. And in so doing, helped him. The tribal totems were powerful as intercessors, their subservience clear in the collective name given to Lat, Manat, and Uzza: “the daughters of al-Lah.” But no other gods at all? That was a direct attack on the whole tradition of tribal identity. An attack, that is, on “the ways of the fathers.” --o-- “Uncle, by God,” said Muhammad, “if they put the sun in my right hand and the moon in my left on condition that I abandon this path, I would not abandon it, even if I perish in the course of it.” And having practically given abu-Talib permission to expel him and thus sanction his execution, he broke down in tears and made for the door, only to hear abuTalib, himself now in tears, call him to stop: “Come back, nephew. Say whatever you want, for, by God, I will never give you up on any account.” --o-- His task was merely to warn his fellow Meccans, not to save them. “You cannot make the dead hear, nor the deaf listen to your call.” The cynics have “hearts they do not understand with, eyes they do not see with, ears they do not hear with.” Much as Muhammad may have wished it, “you cannot guide the blind out of their error . . . Even if they saw a piece of heaven falling down on them, they would say ‘ just a heap of clouds,’ so leave them, messenger, until they face the Day of Judgment.” --o-- With aptly Orientalist irony, this might be called the Murder on the Orient Express plot, the key to Agatha Christie’s famous novel in which all turn out to have committed the murder and thus, legally, none. If they all participated in Muhammad’s death, then no single one of them could be held responsible, and the principle of blood vengeance would be rendered moot. Not that the Hashims’ new leader abu-Lahab, “father of flame,” would be likely to invoke it anyway. In fact, he’d understand that the other clans were doing him a favor. He had already expelled Muhammad from the clan and would be only too glad to accept monetary compensation for his death. --o-- That vaunted hard-headed realist Machiavelli would define it as “the question of cruelty used well or badly.” But even the master of realpolitik found himself dogged by the terms of his own question: “We can say that cruelty is used well, if it is permissible to talk in this way of what is evil, when it is employed once and for all, and one’s safety depends on it, and then it is not persisted in but is as far as possible turned to the good of one’s subjects.” That’s four conditional phrases in one sentence—Machiavelli astutely hedging his bets. Clearly aware that this resolved nothing, he kept returning to the question. “A ruler must want to have a reputation for compassion rather than for cruelty,” he wrote, “but he must nonetheless be careful not to make bad use of compassion.” Eventually his own logic led him to earn lasting disrepute by arguing that cruelty can actually be more compassionate than compassion, coming up with a line that has served as the rationale of repressive dictators worldwide: “By making an example or two, the ruler will prove more compassionate than those who, being too compassionate, allow disorders which lead to murder and rapine.” Seen in the light of today’s ongoing Middle East conflict, the massacre of the Qureyz in the year 627 seems to set a terrible precedent. Since faith and politics are as inextricably intertwined in today’s Middle East as they were in the seventh century, the arguments given for the massacre in the early Islamic histories are still invoked, alongside the Quran’s evident anger at Medinan Jewish rejection of Muhammad’s prophethood, to justify the ugly twin offspring of the political extremism: Muslim anti-Semitism and Jewish Islamophobia. In the light of Muhammad’s political situation at the time, however, a less emotional analysis may be more to the point. The massacre of the Qureyz was indeed a demonstration of ruthlessness, but they were, in a sense, collateral damage. --o-- The exchange between them, far from being antagonistic, seems more like banter: ruefully good-natured on abu-Sufyan’s part and almost teasing on Muhammad’s. “Alas, abu-Sufyan,” he said, “hasn’t the time come for you to know that there is no god but God?” “May my father and my mother be your ransom,” abu-Sufyan replied, “you are both forbearing and generous. If there were another god along with God, I think he would have availed me somewhat before now.” It’s not hard to imagine Muhammad smiling at this, at least to himself, before pressing his advantage: “Hasn’t the time come for you to know that I am the messenger of God?” “I have indeed been thinking about that,” said abu-Sufyan. And referring to Muhammad in the formal third person, he added: “He who with God overcame me, was he whom I had driven away with all my might.” At which Muhammad punched him playfully in the chest and said, “Indeed you did!” Then and there, the leader of Mecca formally accepted Islam by reciting the shahada: “I testify that there is no god but God and Muhammad is his messenger.” He placed himself and his city under Muhammad’s protection, and the pledge was returned as Muhammad swore to ensure the safety of life and property for all who did not resist when he and his forces entered. Mecca had formally surrendered. --o-- There was to be no revenge for any bloodshed in the preIslamic days of jahiliya. In this new era, “know that every believer is a believer’s brother, and all believers are brethren.” Nobody was to be forced to convert, and Christians and Jews especially were to be respected: “If they embrace Islam of their own accord, they are among the faithful with the same privileges and obligations, but if they hold fast to their tradition, they are not to be seduced by it.” And perhaps most cogently, in the one sentence most often quoted from these days, Muhammad talked about himself in the past tense: “I have left you one thing with which, if you hold fast to it, you will never go astray: the Quran, the book of God.” --o-- “For those who worshipped Muhammad,” he announced, “Muhammad is dead. For those who worship God, God is alive, immortal.”

  21. 5 out of 5

    Moon Rose

    In the wilderness of Mount Hira, deep in the deserted region of its steppe, in a self-imposed isolation and solitary meditation, God revealed Himself to Muhammad in the most unlikely state, appearing in an apparition, not of the usual vision of Light and Peace, but of the Form that can make human senses tremble in fear, different from the Spirit of God that descended like a dove to Jesus Christ and the Spirit of Oneness in Nature that Buddha realized, it signals the beginning of what would place In the wilderness of Mount Hira, deep in the deserted region of its steppe, in a self-imposed isolation and solitary meditation, God revealed Himself to Muhammad in the most unlikely state, appearing in an apparition, not of the usual vision of Light and Peace, but of the Form that can make human senses tremble in fear, different from the Spirit of God that descended like a dove to Jesus Christ and the Spirit of Oneness in Nature that Buddha realized, it signals the beginning of what would place Islam in striking contrast from its religious counterparts, making the last prophet of God an instrument that will radically change the world into the world we know now for only God knows why. “So the man who fled down Mount Hira trembled not with joy but with a stark, primordial fear. He was overwhelmed not with conviction, but by doubt. He was sure of only one thing: whatever this was. it was not meant to happen to him. Not to a middle-aged man who had hoped perhaps at most a simple moment of grace instead of this vast blinding weight of revelation. If he no longer feared for his life, he certainly feared his sanity, painfully aware that too many nights in solitary meditation might have driven him over the edge.” I believe that God manifests Himself in many ways we could not possibly understand, in many forms that can totally bewilder our thoughts either in belief, or disbelief. His Power is just too great for us mere humans to grasp the totality of His Purpose. His many images are somehow just a reflection of the enigma of his Sacred Singleness. For instance, for us Christians, in the Old Testament, He seemingly appeared as the God of Wrath, of Punishment and of the Law, an ascetic disciplinarian who wanted to assert His Will, demanding it from His people with great authority while in the New Testament, Jesus Christ changed His Persona into the God of Light, making Him crystal clear as the God of Humility with a limitless capacity for forgiveness and bountiful means for mercy. Yet, despite God appearing incalculably mysterious in His ways, one thing remains true, He is the One God of Love. A love from which transcendence is still beyond our collective thoughts, beyond our known definitions, yet everything there is deemed by God towards that direction. Reading the story of Muhammad made me realize this even more... From the time he was born orphaned, growing up in the boondocks with the Bedouins under the free reign of nature, he learned to appreciate its beauty at a very young age, the natural splendor of its simplicity as his only backdrop with the serene visions of the somewhat endless landscape of the desert golden under the scorching heat of the sun and the contrasting quiet stillness of its open sky at night, Muhammad became attune with Nature, developing a sensitivity similar to Buddha that made him more aware than the rest, becoming more apparent when he went back to Mecca, especially growing up with a notion in his head that he was an outsider even in his own family, he learned to see the discrepancy among the people and all the injustices he recognized that went with it. With Buddha, the spark of enlightenment was ignited when he noticed the sufferings of other people around him that was in total contrast to his own opulent life. He appeared as an outsider from without as he recognized the true inside was deemed with so much pain and suffering. With Muhammad, he was perhaps physically an outsider in Mecca, but he was truly inside its helm as he appeared from within, part of the majority of its downtrodden milieu. Buddha withdrew from all worldly things to understand and to attain the full enlightenment while Muhammad must rise to power in domination to attest of what should become. Muhammad also shares the same theological ancestry with Jesus Christ with Abraham as the root of both of their monotheistic belief, but by the time he came to Damascus, which at that time was the melting pot of existing religious beliefs, the Christians had started to have disparate interpretation in the teachings of Jesus Christ that will bring further dissension among them down the line, harbinger to impending inquisitions and persecutions in the future. This was perhaps what Muhammad had perceived as he discerned these so many truths floating in the air of Damascus sky that conclusively will help him decide when he formed his own separate religion with a force that can be likened to his first moment of revelation, where human senses can do nothing, but be awed with the Divine. This force that took hold of Muhammad by the time he went on exile in Medina after all the persecution and scrutiny he and his believers went through was thinly explained in the book. He suddenly changed from Buddha-like-stance, the-turn-the-other-cheek martyr in Mecca into a radical believer with a force of the storm that can crush anything in its path. It was like God Himself sent Him His own legion of army to unite Arabia into one faith, beating the Persians and the Byzantines in their own game of warfare. With the disentanglement of Christianity from its stronghold, Islam began to built its empire that will start to spread all over the world like the will of the wind, reaching the Far East first even before Christianity did. And like Buddhism, Islam will be able to retain the purity of its Orientalism, freed from Western influences unlike Christianity. ☾☯

  22. 5 out of 5

    Kadijah Michelle

    I had heard the TED talk that was related to this book, and I was very interested in the author's perspective. I liked how she had humanized Prophet Muhammed in her talk which is something many Muslims forget to do, but she did not deny his belief that he was a Prophet. This book is not like that. All through the book, while it seems she is on Muhammed's side, she pokes holes at his story. As if it was all made up just to obtain power. Many of her conclusions make perfect sense; I won't deny tha I had heard the TED talk that was related to this book, and I was very interested in the author's perspective. I liked how she had humanized Prophet Muhammed in her talk which is something many Muslims forget to do, but she did not deny his belief that he was a Prophet. This book is not like that. All through the book, while it seems she is on Muhammed's side, she pokes holes at his story. As if it was all made up just to obtain power. Many of her conclusions make perfect sense; I won't deny that. Also, in the second half of the book, the focus is only on the war path Muhammed went on, and not the way he revolutionized the way Arabs treated each other. Nothing is mentioned about how women were given rights that had never existed for them before or how learning became an obligation for all people so that they would not be unlettered. Military successes fade after the death of their leaders because the leaders are cruel and don't leave great legacies. Muhammad did, and the author of this book missed all of that.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Catalina

    As a non-Muslim I was interested in learning more about Islamic origins and history. Being that this is the first book of Hazelton that I just read, the author has an immediate and captivating style that is reflective of the characters and of her own questions and rationalisations. In terms of content, I feel that she does have the right to have her agnostic Jewish background colour her views (what book doesn't have bias?), but she does paint the Jews in the Muhammadan narrative quite favourably. As a non-Muslim I was interested in learning more about Islamic origins and history. Being that this is the first book of Hazelton that I just read, the author has an immediate and captivating style that is reflective of the characters and of her own questions and rationalisations. In terms of content, I feel that she does have the right to have her agnostic Jewish background colour her views (what book doesn't have bias?), but she does paint the Jews in the Muhammadan narrative quite favourably. While I still question some of the events she has interpreted of the Prophet's life (the marriage between the Prophet and Zaynab, for example), it is simple enough to be picked up by any person! It reads with refreshment, but I wouldn't utilise this book as a primer on Islam. I would have liked to have read more about the Prophet and stories of him rather than just the political events surrounding him. Still, it was certainly worth the read.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Ahmad Tekriti

    I'm always wondering about the struggles that faced prophets in their life . why did Mohammad said : " I'm just on of you " ? Are the straggles that he faced is similar to us ? Did he try to kill himself ? why did he mediate at Hiraa ? what khadija think about him when go for a meditation at night ? why did he left makka after he won the revolution ? why he left his wives and sleep alone in the mosque ? did he felt that people are depending on him ? This book gave many insight about some of thes I'm always wondering about the struggles that faced prophets in their life . why did Mohammad said : " I'm just on of you " ? Are the straggles that he faced is similar to us ? Did he try to kill himself ? why did he mediate at Hiraa ? what khadija think about him when go for a meditation at night ? why did he left makka after he won the revolution ? why he left his wives and sleep alone in the mosque ? did he felt that people are depending on him ? This book gave many insight about some of these questions and let me think about more ...

  25. 4 out of 5

    Adham Kamar aldeen

    The perfect book to see the "human" beyond the legend !! The perfect book to see the "human" beyond the legend !!

  26. 5 out of 5

    Ming Wei

    I really enjoy this book, I was surprised how much attention to detail there is within its pages, this books provides lots of information, in a style that allows the reader to absorb it without feeling oversaturated. I was fascinated to be honest about the story of Muhammad, and this book as certainly made me want to read more on the subject. The author as spent allot of time to produce this book, nice easy to read writing style. Nice book cover, nice book length, no editorial errors that I coul I really enjoy this book, I was surprised how much attention to detail there is within its pages, this books provides lots of information, in a style that allows the reader to absorb it without feeling oversaturated. I was fascinated to be honest about the story of Muhammad, and this book as certainly made me want to read more on the subject. The author as spent allot of time to produce this book, nice easy to read writing style. Nice book cover, nice book length, no editorial errors that I could see, this book will appeal to anybody interested in historical aspects. I wont put in any spoilers about the storyline, but it really is worth reading. An enjoyable book to read.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Arbaz Fahad

    This is the fourth biography of the Prophet I've been through , the other three being : The Seerah of Ibn Hisham, The Sealed Nectar by Saifur Rahman Mubarakpuri and The Life of Muhammad by Md. Husayn Haykal. This book was special in the sense that it was the first account of the Prophet's life I've read through the lens of a Non Muslim writer. I must confess that reading along the lines of this book has been a really sublime and engaging experience. Most of the Prophet's biographers indiscriminat This is the fourth biography of the Prophet I've been through , the other three being : The Seerah of Ibn Hisham, The Sealed Nectar by Saifur Rahman Mubarakpuri and The Life of Muhammad by Md. Husayn Haykal. This book was special in the sense that it was the first account of the Prophet's life I've read through the lens of a Non Muslim writer. I must confess that reading along the lines of this book has been a really sublime and engaging experience. Most of the Prophet's biographers indiscriminately quote from the earliest valid sources without questioning the logical implications of such reports . Hazleton's account of the Prophet's life stands out in this regard. She is not shy of explicitly offering her opinion about certain events, and how, "things might have happened" and not how "things have been reported." She questions Abu Talib's devotion towards the Prophet during his early years drawing the parallels between reality and fiction. Hazleton has also suggested a really interesting theory about the "alleged" Satanic Verses and how the fallibility of the Prophet makes perfect sense, since the Quran termed him as "a mere human" who was prone to momentary weaknesses and that only God could be infallible. However Hazleton seems to betray her disciplines by presenting a biased and at places misconstrued narrative of the Prophet's relationship with the Jews of Madina. Referring to the event which led to the expulsion of the Banu Nadir from Medina, she questions the possibility of a boulder being placed on the high ground, which , as traditions suggest, was placed there with the intention of crushing the Prophet beneath it. However, while reffering to the event of Banu Qurayza, she skips over the fact that the Qurayza had themselves chosen Sa'd bin Muadh as their arbitrator. She quotes wholesomely from Ibn Ishaq while narrating this event while discrediting his reports in the Banu Nadir incident . She has also made a conscious effort to portray Abdullah ibn Ubayy as a hero, someone, who, in her words, "refused to bow down to the hegemony of Muhammad." To augment Ibn Ubayy's portrayal of the fallen hero, the tales of his notorious Machiavellianism have been entirely ignored, finding no mention in the book. Towards the end, Hazleton appeared to be preparing the premise for her succeeding book in this series, "After the Prophet:The epic story of Shia Sunni Split in Islam." Hazleton has also failed to effectively sum up the legacy of the Prophet's life, shedding virtually no light on his extraordinary diplomatic, political and military accomplishments. All in all, I liked the book and her Freudian style of analysis. I would recommend reading a biography of the Prophet from the Islamic sources before picking this one up.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Donna

    The First Muslim is a beautifully written and very readable account of the life of the prophet Muhammad and the rise of Islam. The author incorporates ideas about the importance of clan, lineage, home, retaliation, honor and faith in ancient Arabic culture, the remnants of which are influencing the Middle East today. In this non typical biography, she uses history, philosophy, sociology and even modern day psychology to interpret the mass of information that has accumulated about Muhammad over t The First Muslim is a beautifully written and very readable account of the life of the prophet Muhammad and the rise of Islam. The author incorporates ideas about the importance of clan, lineage, home, retaliation, honor and faith in ancient Arabic culture, the remnants of which are influencing the Middle East today. In this non typical biography, she uses history, philosophy, sociology and even modern day psychology to interpret the mass of information that has accumulated about Muhammad over the centuries. Muhammad was orphaned shortly after birth.From his lowly beginnings as an outsider in a patriarchal society, he gradually rose to distinguish himself as a businessman. After his initial vision on Mount Hira, Muhammad evolves from messenger to prophet to leader of what would become Islam. The book describes his exile from Mecca and eventual return, his strategies for dispatching enemies and forming alliances, as well as the origins for the veiling of women and the Shia vs Sunni divisions. On the negative side, the author makes speculative statements that seem out of place in nonfiction writing. So-and-so was thought to have said such and such and therefore, we can deduce that he must have felt this or that way. Also, some of her language and comparisons are a little jarring – comparing Mecca to Wall Street and stating that news of something in 7th century Mecca went “viral.” There’s a substantial bibliography but many assertions lack specific documentation. Nevertheless, the book is fascinating and I feel that it added significantly to my heretofore paltry knowledge about Muhammad and Islam.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Esther

    Extremely interesting! Written almost like a novel, very fluent and in a language that very often made me feel like I was there, it is nevertheless an apparently well researched biography, based on facts, of the Prophet Muhammad’s life, starting from his parents to his death (and a bit beyond). Not having known much at all about his life, I was intrigued by the legends and myths as much as by the hard facts that Lesley Hazleton shares in this book. The reader follows an orphan through a rather di Extremely interesting! Written almost like a novel, very fluent and in a language that very often made me feel like I was there, it is nevertheless an apparently well researched biography, based on facts, of the Prophet Muhammad’s life, starting from his parents to his death (and a bit beyond). Not having known much at all about his life, I was intrigued by the legends and myths as much as by the hard facts that Lesley Hazleton shares in this book. The reader follows an orphan through a rather difficult childhood and adolescence, shares some quiet and happy moments with him as adult – and almost incredulously follows how he changes, starting from the first message on Mount Hira which made him a simple and peaceful messenger to becoming a prophet, a warrior, a leader and something of a tyrant… Lesley Hazleton does not pretend to know everything, but openly admits that sometimes different sources give a rather unclear picture of the facts. She manages very convincingly to put together the different pieces, to add her insight about the time and place and eventually comes to the most probable conclusion. I only wish that she would write an equally insightful biography about Jesus…! It would be highly informative to compare the lives of these two men who influenced our cultures forever.

  30. 4 out of 5

    William Crosby

    I found this to be a fast and fascinating read. And this comes from somebody who does not like to read biographies. The book is written as a (mostly) seamless story which is more than just a biography. So that the flow is not disturbed, all notes are at the end. It does a magnificent job including diverse aspects of culture to further understand Muhammad's life. I found this to be a fast and fascinating read. And this comes from somebody who does not like to read biographies. The book is written as a (mostly) seamless story which is more than just a biography. So that the flow is not disturbed, all notes are at the end. It does a magnificent job including diverse aspects of culture to further understand Muhammad's life.

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