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The Life of Muhammad Hardcover – 5 Jan 1989
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Hard read indeed. Very long and detailed. This book can BE VERY DRY but it is well worth the read. You simply cannot read the Quran nor the hadiths without this book. The Quran's referencial (to the Bible, or rather, Gnostic versions of the Bible), out of context statements can be confusing without lengthy Quranic commentary footnotes or the hadiths. The hadiths (Bukhari and Muslim being the best) are the greatest sources of explaining the Quran and the Sunna, but they fail like the Quran in having any coherent chronological order. Thus enter: THE LIFE OF MUHAMMAD! This is chronological of all the events recorded in relation to Muhammad. These events include his early years of universal proclamations of peace to his later years of unsettling sex slavery and jihad. Was he possessed as a child? When did the Spirit visit him in Hira? How was Muhammad treated by the Quraish? When did jihad enter in Muhammad's life? When did the revelations pertaining to the formations of the Islamic state descend from "Heaven"? How old was Aisha, Muhammad's child bride? How many slaves did he set free? How many did he enslave? How many concubines and wives did he have? How many battles did he participate or direct? How many assassinations did he order against poets? The Satanic verses controversy? --By Joshua on 8 August 2016
If you dare to know who Muhammad really was and the truth of how Islams perfect man and how he and his followers brutally took over Byzantium, Persia and most importantly how he overcame all his desert tribesmen especially his hatred, hostility and brutal extermination and genocide of his kindred Jewish tribes, this is the book for you to read and digest. After reading this book you will understand the violence and hostility between Muslims and Islams aggressive hostility to most of the rest of the world waiting to be conquered for Allah. --By A customer on 18 september 2016
This book was enthralling, sometimes things got a bit slow but in reading even just for fun there is a lot in here to serve that purpose. However the book is, of course, more than that: as one of the earliest records of Muhammad's life it is a precious historical resource --By Simon on 19 september 2016
About the Author
Alfred Guillaume (1888 1966) was Professor of Arabic and Head of the Department of the Near and Middle East in the SOAS, University of London, UK.
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This book is a lengthy but illuminating window into 7th century Arabia and a life which has shaped three continents, which is still curiously viewed as a pattern of purity and perfection by many.
As with any Oxford Universtity Press publication, this is a worthy piece of academic literature, which is just as well because there aren't any other publications in the English language to compare it with. There's at least one summary of Ibn Hisham's book that I know of (by The Folio Society) that's light reading and less academically oriented. Both books have a place in the literature but clearly Guillaume's book covers far more detail at 690 pages of biography plus 170 pages of Ibn Hisham's notes.
I have on small niggle, which is surprising given the academic credentials of the author and his publisher. Nowhere in the book does is tell you what "I.I.", "I.S." and "I.H." mean. It's conventional in academic literature to give the name in full together with the associated abbreviation before you start using the abbreviation, but this edition of the book doesn't do that. It's frustrating when you are trying to track down sources not to be given this information. Now obviously "I.I." means Ibn Ishaq, and "I.H." probably means Ibn Hisham, but what about "I.S."? In the end I had to go to another book on my shelf about the life of Muhammad ("Muhammad: his life based on the earliest sources" by Martin Lings) to find out what "I.S." means (Ibn Sa'd, the author of Kitab at-Tabawat al-Kabir).
Although this is the Life of Mohammed, and so roughly equivalent to being one united Gospel of Jesus, there are 64 pages before he is born, making up therefore what you could roughly call a short Muslim Old Testament, which traces Mohammed back to Adam via Ibrahim (Abraham), relates a number of tales relating to the history of Yemen and Iraq, correspondence between the Byzantine Emperor and the Emperor of Ethiopia, Arabian idolatry, pre-Islamic Mecca, and various events closer to the birth of the prophet.
Here is a sample, as the great day gets near:
“It is alleged in popular stories (and only God knows the truth) that Amina d. Wahb, the mother of God’s apostle, used to say that when she was pregnant with God’s apostle that a voice used to say to her ‘You are pregnant with the lord of this people …..’ She saw a light come forth from her by which she could see the castle of Busra in Syria”.
Notice how Ibn Ishaq is reporting what he has heard, so that the popular stories will not be forgotten, but he does not seem to think that they are all true. This is usually how he treats a number of infancy stories, quite similar to those which were rejected from the Christian Bible.
But when we get to the adult life of Mohammed, he is careful to list witnesses, in a way which is totally absent in the Bible. A lot of this is very convincing, it must be said, but apparently it was decided by Muslim scholars at some time in the Middle Ages that it is not good enough to be held to be true, it is not “reliable”. However, it dates from the early 2nd century AH, and it has no rival. Muslim scholars can’t produce anything better.
In the latter part of the book, a great deal of space is given to Mohammed’s raids and wars, most of which does ring true. If Islamic State were trying to follow some of this, it would be understandable if it turned out as it has done . But it isn’t “reliable”, according to many Muslim “scholars”, which is probably a good thing. Thus the claims of certain extremist Christian groups that Islam is based on this book as much as on the Koran are very misleading Most Muslims haven’t even heard of it, let alone own one.
The translation and the edition, by Professor Alfred Guillaume and Oxford University Press, 1955, are absolutely copper-bottomed, and of course the text translated was the best available surviving copy of the 8th century AD book. This is a nice hardback volume, printed in Pakistan. Recommended.
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