on 11 January 2003
I read Martin Lings' wonderful biography of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam --may Allah bless him and give him peace) for the first time when I was a teenager; what attracted me then was the caption on the cover which said, "based on the earliest Islamic sources"! But I loved the book the very first time I read it and since then I have read it a few times and bought my own copy. It is a book I always recommend to anyone interested in Islam as I believe it is the best introduction one can have to Islam. After all, if one does not know the Messenger, how can one ever accept the Message?
This book is wonderfully written and although the English is slightly archaic, I think that in this instance it actually adds to the books qualities, as such noble language is totally concommitant with the grandeur and theme of the book. The quality of the language used is indeed one aspect of this book which sets it apart from other biographies of the Beloved of Allah (may Allah bless him and give him peace) written in English and for that alone it is superior to the others. As the facts of the Messenger's blessed life are known in great detail, it is obvious that any biography will cover the main events including the blessed birth, the childhood events, the meeting with Bahira the Monk, the outward proclamation of Prophethood at the age of 40 (note I did not write the acquisition of Prophethood--this is a subtle point worth noting especially for Muslims which I'll briefly mention here although it does not detract from the overall quality of the book: it is this: the orthodox classical Sunni belief about all Messengers and Prophets is that they are Prophets from the moment of their creation by Allah and they are Prophets when they are born and they know about their status but they only proclaim it to the world when they are ordered to by Allah. Thus, for example, Prophet Jesus (Sayyedina Isa alayhi salaam) was ordered to announce his Prophethood [nabuwwat] soon after his blessed, immaculate, birth whilst still an infant of a few days as the Qur'an tells us (surah Maryam)whereas Our Beloved Prophet was only ordered to proclaim his Prophethood at the age of 40.In Urdu this is called izhaar-e-nabuwwat. Most books written by Western authors do not go into such details of Muslim aqeedaH [doctrine] as it is not necessary for the general reader to know but given that this book by Martin Lings' is so widely read by Muslims and non-Muslims alike, I thought it would be worth mentioning), the time in Makkah, the emigration to Madina, the Miraj journey, the battles, the conquest of Makkah, the farewell pilgrimage etc. but it is the style in which this book covers them that is so captivating--one feels one is actually there! Subhan Allah! Glory to Allah!
In addition however Martin Lings' book covers the personal and spiritual aspects of the life of the Greatest Messenger in the most beautiful and moving way. Many passages in the book moved me to tears such as the one during the preparations for the Battle of the Trench when one of the Companions sees the Beloved of Allah in a red cloth wrapped around the waist and comments on how beautiful the Master of The Prophets alayhi salaato salaam looked!
Also, Martin Lings' book is filled with intimate incidents from the life of Allah's darling Messenger which show his perfect humanity, his humbleness, humility, greatness of character and, above all, spirituality as well as his day-to-day personal interactions with his family, companions and friends as well as the foes of the Messenger of Allah. Above all, the book is saturated with the Prophet's constant and uniquely intimate relationship with Allah and it really shines through almost on every page. This biography emphasises the spirituality of the Messenger (peace be upon him) and in this way one can catch glimpses of the teachings of sufism as well which formed the highest level of the Prophet's teachings.
As others have mentioned he does not comment on any of the hadiths or events which has both advantages and disadvantages in that it is possible that some people may misinterpret a saying and not understand it as it is meant to be understood or as it is understood by Muslims wordwide. However most of the hadith used are clear and unambiguous and so this problem only arises a couple of times. (And it is only for those totally new to Islam--those with a little background in sufism will not have this problem at all.)
I could write pages for this book but I will end here by saying that it is one of the few books I would consider a "must buy". It is the (almost) perfect introduction to the amazing life of Allah's final and most beloved Messenger and the best written. Once you have read this you can then graduate to more specialist texts such as the Shifa' of Qadi Ayad al Maliki which is *the* definitive classical book about the Prophet's character and qualities of perfection (and it is now available in an excellent English edition too by Aisha Bewley) or the Sira of Ibn Hisham (very detailed but not as readable English translation by A. Guillame) or the myriad other biographies available in the islamic languages such as Arabic and Urdu.
It might be worth noting that Martin Ling's great work has won many prizes from all over the Muslim world for being the best biography of the Beloved Prophet in English including from Egypt and the government of Pakistan.
The life of Allah's Beloved is, in reality, like an endless ocean from which everyone can take whatever he wants and it will not diminish and only Allah Most High truly knows the exalted status of His Prophet, but books like this one make it possible for us mere mortals to catch a glimpse of that Prophetic majesty and to bask in his exaltedness.
I challenge anyone to read this book through to the end and not fall in love with the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him).
May Allah reward him!
on 5 February 2013
Lings has set out to tell the story of Mohammed as a narrative, which is quite a relief given that so many Islamic texts make references to common knowledge that was prevalent at the time of writing, but has fallen from popular consciousness (the Quran doesn't do a great job of telling stories at all, it just refers people to them and talks about God a lot).
If you've read "The Lord of The Rings" and are thinking "Islam/Mohammed... what's that then?" you'll be capable of dealing with this text and following the narrative style. It's presented in a similar vein to popular fiction, with very little analysis going on, instead we start with the scene being set with a battle featuring an elephant and a water source being found in Meccah. Our reluctant hero is introduced (he's into trade, and reflective sojourns in caves) and then he teams up with a variety of other larger than life characters (including Omar, a ruddy-faced shaven headed giant of a man, various bearded blokes and a freed slave who's extremely special when it comes to throwing spears at people and seems to fill a similar niche in the narrative to that Irish guy in Braveheart). Battles are fought, visions are had and women are romanced. Eventually, following a period of quest and exile, the gang ride back into Mecca... it's kind of a shame there's not a scene with a volcano, but until Hollywood decide to grow a pair and bring Mohammed and his mates to the silver screen Martin Ling's life of Mohammed is the most exciting treatment of the foundation of Islam that you're going to find.
on 24 June 2010
This is an amazing book, definitely recommend to anyone wanting to know more about Islam and the prophet Muhammad (PBUH). The book goes through the stages of the prophet's life gradually and includes the right amount of detail. Great author, wonderfully written book, highly recommended to all.