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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sheds new light on a very familiar subject
Being a person very familiar with the life of Muhammad, both through personal study, and from the interactions with learned Muslims, I was at first a little ambivalent as to whether there was much for me to learn in this study. I am happy to be proved wrong in this case, as Karen Armstrong's work provides a realistic and healthy rebuttal to the many detractions against...
Published 21 months ago by A. J. Smith

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14 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A factual account without conclusions
Knowing little about Islam except the difficulty of finding a balanced viewpoint, I bought this book and `The Truth about Mohammed' by Robert Spencer in the hope of finding out.

Whereas Spencer's book is an outright condemnation, Armstrong is mild in tone. Yet the accounts she gives confirm some of Spencer's accusations, while leaving the reader to draw his...
Published on 30 April 2008 by Tempus Fugit


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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sheds new light on a very familiar subject, 22 Oct 2012
By 
A. J. Smith (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Muhammad: Prophet for Our Time (Eminent Lives) (Kindle Edition)
Being a person very familiar with the life of Muhammad, both through personal study, and from the interactions with learned Muslims, I was at first a little ambivalent as to whether there was much for me to learn in this study. I am happy to be proved wrong in this case, as Karen Armstrong's work provides a realistic and healthy rebuttal to the many detractions against Islam's Prophet.
Even the most stubborn skeptic of the supernatural would find it hard to disagree that Muhammad was a much better man than the times he lived in. He was, as Karen Armstrong demonstrates, a benevolent social reformer who tried to provide a better path forward than the eclectic paganism of his time, and the lawless, dog eat dog system of tribal honor.
Armstrong's study does not concern itself greatly with the supernatural aspects of the prophet's life. Revelations are mentioned, but only in passing, and the main bulk of the text concerns the intentions and deeds of the prophet's life.
Contrary to the claims of his detractors, Muhammad was a man who abhorred violence, and took to it only as a last resort, and even then did so with a system of rules, far more noble and lenient than the other tribes of his time.
Muhammad is presented as a man with a great degree of respect and reverance for the people of the book, and one struggles to imagine as to why the three holy faiths are at loggerheads today.
Very little attention is given to the supernatural, rather the biography simply focuses on the man, and presents a positive, yet wholly human, portrait of the prophet.
On the whole, a much needed study, and one that can be recommended to all, regardless of one's familiarity with the subject matter.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars ten out of ten, 1 May 2013
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the understanding that karen has of the prophet in pasticular and islam in general is unsurpassed in the western world,if i didnt know better id have thought it was a muslim writer,thats how much affection she shows for the subject.and her in depth analysis is refreshing for muslims alike as it breaks away from the typical style of islamic sholars and gives a fresh approach to the subject
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent introduction to Muhammad's life, 28 Aug 2012
By 
Darren Simons (Middlesex, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Muhammad: Prophet for Our Time (Eminent Lives) (Kindle Edition)
If you are looking to get a basic understanding of the life of Muhammad without too much interest in the distinction between sunni, shi'ite and sufi amongst others then I recommend this book. Written by Karen Armstrong, a former nun recognised for undertstanding and describing many religious traditions, the book takes the reader through the journey of the life of Muhammad. Little of his early life is covered, but his time in Mecca, Medina (Yathrib as well) and Mecca again is well covered. His revelations, efforts to build a religious movement and leadership and described without judgement and the glossary in the back providing some translations as well as a who's who is welcomed. I found it sometimes a bit difficult to follow who was who (the glossary did help) but other than that I learnt a lot and enjoyed reading this.

I have read several Karen Armstrong books before and will look to read more in the future - definitely recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great, 23 Jun 2012
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Loved reading this book, it is interesting unlike some of the books around on Islam. Karen Armstrong seems to have grasped the concept of an interesting history book which is concise and insightful. I would recommend this book for anyone who wants to learn about the Muslim prophet.
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4.0 out of 5 stars excellent book. I found, 24 April 2014
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This review is from: Muhammad: Prophet for Our Time (Eminent Lives) (Kindle Edition)
An extremely well written and informative book. A great contribution towards inter religious understanding. I hope that many people will read it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Informative book, 25 Feb 2014
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This review is from: Muhammad: Prophet for Our Time (Eminent Lives) (Kindle Edition)
I enjoyed this book. It was informative and objective. Peace and blessing of the all mighty be upon his prophet.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, 23 April 2013
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An excellent and concise biography of the Prophet Muhammed (peace and blessings be upon him). Whilst written by an author who is not a declared Muslim, it nonetheless helped inspire me to revert to Islam
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28 of 40 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A useful introduction, 21 Mar 2007
At a little over 200 pages I wasn't expecting this book to be a comprehensive biography of Muhammad or a detailed history of Islam. Indeed this book's strength is its very humanist approach, focusing neatly on the principle subject matter. Having a limited knowledge of Muhammad I found this book very accessible and enlightening. As an in introduction to Islam Karen Armstrong provides a refreshing perspective compared to some of the more negative portrayals prevalent in the media.
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12 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars May be a helpful introduction but be prepared to study more, 6 Aug 2008
It would be too much to expect that the founder of any of the world's major religions could be understood from one book, even at the introductory level (not counting sacred scripture, direct exposure to which may be essential). Consider Christianity, consider Buddhism. In the U.S., especialy after 9/11, it may be especially difficult to understand the life of Muhammad. Even before 9/11, even from the early times of Islam, Christian sources were critical of Islam and Muhammad. It is difficult to get a balanced read from any single source: if such a source exists, how to know which it is?

I had read the Qu'ran years ago but recently have read criticisms of Muhammad from conservative Christians. I had been impressed from my own reading of the Qu'ran and by my Muslim friends so was more than skeptical of the criticisms I read of both Islam and Muhammad. Not expecting to get to an answer easily but not wanting to spend too much time to get some perspective, I opted for this portrait which, by intent, set out to present Muhammad in a "balanced way". I had not read Karen Armstrong before. I knew she did not have a scholarly background in Islam ( excepting self-made), but that she seemed respected in the area of comparative religions, although not without critics. So I chose this book expecting it to have introductory value and to offset or put into perspective some criticisms of Muhammad I had heard from conservative Christians.

This is an exceptionally well-written book and it does not seem to dodge some of those aspects of Muhammad's life that others were critical of. It does, as Armstrong intended, appear to attest well to his contributions. I expect it will serve me well as I learn more about Muhammad and the formative history of Islam, which I mean to do.

Armstrong does bring alive the conditions under which Muhammad responded to challenges and made key decisions. The success of early Islam was far from a "done deal". On the other hand, it by no means seems that Islam was nearing any final form when Muhammad died [of course, think how far from any final form that was of Christianity or Buddhism when Jesus and the Buddha died].

Any impressions of Muhammad I have at this point are tentative but having read this book I feel better equipped to consider the impact of Muhammad on how women were treated in Islam, of the expectations on Muslims to care for one another, of how Muslims should treat others (Armstrong emphasizes the pluralism of early Islam), of how the fight for survival was mingled in to the efforts to reveal the sacred. Armstrong presents a complex and dynamic Muhammad, who changed and developed, leading his people while at the same time experience the revelations of the Qu'ran]. There is a lot to take in here and, for me, re-reading the Qu'ran seems on inevitable step.

It does seem most remarkable, as Armstrong makes quite clear, that Muhammad so strongly discouraged that he himself be regarded as divine. Armstrong writes, echoing Abu Bakr, who was close to Muhammad about a warning from Muhammad: "He was a mere mortal, no different from anybody else." Armstrong quotes Abu Bakr: "O people, if anyone worships Muhammad, Muhammad is dead. If anyone worships God, God is alive, immortal." [ Ibn Ishaaq, Sirat Rasul Allah, 1012 in Guillaume, Life of Muhammad]. How different Christianity would have been with such an understanding: the nearest Christian teaching have been as that of Arius and rejected by 4th century Christian orthodoxy.

There is plenty of information about historical events, revelations from the Qu'ran as they occurred, historical context that helped give me at the least a side of the picture of Muhammad's life. Is Armstrong's depiction too sympathetic? I can't decide yet. It will undoubtedly take time. There seems to be a struggle to control how we view Muhammad and early Islam: it would be surprising if I were otherwise but makes it difficult to expose biases and factor them out to the extent they can be.

As for the current situation, I plan to read Carl Ernst's Following Muhammad: Rethinking Islam in the Contemporary World (Islamic Civilization and Muslim Networks) soon. I recently read Alaa Al Aswany's Chicago: A Novel, an outstanding novel about Egyptian Muslims adjusting to life in the post 9/11 U.S. It provided me at least some sense of how Muhammad and Islam guide the day to day life of U.S. Muslims, fictional characters but perhaps seeming all too real.
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14 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A factual account without conclusions, 30 April 2008
Knowing little about Islam except the difficulty of finding a balanced viewpoint, I bought this book and `The Truth about Mohammed' by Robert Spencer in the hope of finding out.

Whereas Spencer's book is an outright condemnation, Armstrong is mild in tone. Yet the accounts she gives confirm some of Spencer's accusations, while leaving the reader to draw his own conclusions. For instance, she tells the story of Mohammed's revelation justifying the attack on the Qureysh caravan at Naklah apparently without emphasizing the difficult precedent which this set (p. 130). Also the reaction of Mohammed's favourite wife Aisha to the revelation justifying the marriage to Zaynab (p. 168) "How convenient! Truly thy Lord makes haste to do thy bidding!"

Most of the book is a rather rambling and confusing biography which does however give a convincing picture of a lawless society ruled by violence. A religion born in such circumstances needs a lot of interpretation to be acceptable to the modern world.

A prophet for our time? Armstrong's contention, in contrast to Spencer, is that Mohammed was a man of peace who was forced into warfare and banditry by the violent times in which he lived. I think Armstrong expects the reader to read between the lines.
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