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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good introduction but lacked diversity of viewpoints, 22 Jun 2011
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This review is from: Muhammad: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Paperback)
I have mixed views on this book. The first chapter spans over half the book and is a fairly clear telling of the traditional accounts derived from the early sira literature. It may be interesting for a reader wholly unfamiliar with the story of Muhammad, but I was left disappointed by the lack of expansion of some of the points that are of particular contention. For example what scriptural sources convinced Bahira and Waraqa or the rabbis that Muhammad was the foretold messenger, or the central significance of the Qur'an.

The second chapter touched on some of these aspects and traced the development in thinking that created the view of Muhammad as perfection incarnate. My concern here was that a reader might lose touch with the fundamental monotheism embodied in Islam and miss the fruits of the parallel strand of Islamic philosophy that occurred at the same time as an apparently more colourful development of ideas about Muhammad.

The third chapter further developed the portrayal of Muhammad as a mystic figure but finally brought us down to earth with three pages on modern thinking about Muhammad as a human figure. That section should have been far longer to balance the incredible picture being developed in the preceding fifty pages of commentary. The life and character of Muhammad has become magnified in a complex manner, but there is enough hadith literature to indicate that the Prophet was a man who did not like to be set apart. The image of a man as well as the embodiment of perfection might have given a clearer notion of the diversity of Muslim thought about Muhammad.
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