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Muhammad: A Biography of the Prophet Paperback – 3 Dec 2001
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Respectful, knowledgeable, and, above all, readable. It succeeds because [Armstrong] brings Muhammad to life as a fully rounded human being.--The Economist Karen Armstrong s sympathetic profile paints a portrait of a very human prophet--Wall Street Journal Karen Armstrong's sympathetic profile paints a portrait of a very human prophet--Wall Street Journal A good glimpse of how the vast majority of the world's Muslims understand their prophet.--New York Times
A life of the prophet Muhammad by bestselling religious writer Karen Armstrong.See all Product description
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I bought several translations of the Qur’an, but the one I found easiest to get along with is the one by Maulana Muhammad Ali, which has the added benefit of having a commentary included.
Karen Armstrong’s book has proved a real “can’t put down” read. It is not an academic book, but is written with the intelligent layman in mind. Easy reading, but covering an amazing depth of knowledge. It has also blown away some of the cobwebs that were obscuring the truth about Islam. I suppose I am like many western people, having had a rather poor view of Islam. I looked on the “religion of peace” as being anything but, as I watched Islamic terrorists cause death, destruction and mayhem all over the world. All in the name of Allah !
What I did not realise was that these “Jihadis” are an aberration, and really have little to do with Islam. They are politically motivated and are only using God as their excuse for violence. As Karen Armstrong points out, the word “jihad” does not mean holy war, it simply means “struggle”. The struggle we all have to overcome ourselves, and become more as God intended. God really has no need of paltry human beings to take up arms in His name. He truly does not need their help !
Neither does Islam preach hatred of Jews and Christians. Indeed The Prophet called them the “People of the book” and said they were worthy of respect. More …. The second chapter of the Qur’an has this to say, “Surely those who believe, and those who are Jews, and the Christians, and the Sabians, whoever believes in God and the Last Day and does good, they have their reward with their Lord, and there is no fear for them” (Note …. As Karen Armstrong points out, the name Allah is not a name. It just means God.). So it would seem that the hatred some “Jihadis” appear to have for all Jews and Christians is not sanctioned by the Qur’an itself.
Karen Armstrong also notes that Muhammad very deliberately did not seek public office, and had no political ambitions. God had told him that he was simply a nadhir, a messenger with a warning. It is a terrible thing when politically motivated people use and abuse religion to achieve their political ends, and Islam is not alone in having its beliefs abused in this way. Christianity too was a “religion of peace”, whose founder said we should love our enemies and do good to those who use us badly. That was until it became a state religion, and politics came into the equation bringing in its wake “holy” crusades and inquisitions in which millions died ! So let us not be too harsh on Islam. It had some good teachers.
Karen also points out that, like other great religious sages, Muhammad was not a lover of orthodoxy. Islam, along with other religions formed around the teachings of an iconoclastic founder, has forgotten Muhammad’s unorthodox beginnings. As soon as the originator of the faith is no longer there in any faith, the priests, ministers, mullahs and imams take over and orthodoxy takes over in place of the original emphasis on personal betterment by faith in God and good works. She points out that Muhammad was convinced that, “Metaphysical speculation tended to make people quarrelsome and could be divisive. It was more important to practice the “works of justice” than to insist on a theological position”. Amen to that !
Armstrong takes the position, when discussing the Hudaybiyyah when Muhammad won a total victory over the Quraysh at Mecca without arms or violence, that this peaceful way is what The Prophet saw as the way forward for Islam. As she says, “Muslims were not supposed to be men of war; they were characterised by the spirit of hilm, a peace and forbearance that allied them with the Jews and Christians, the People of the Book. Instead of posturing aggressively as the Quraysh had done at Hudaybiyyah, the true followers of Allah prostrated themselves humbly before God in prayer”.
One is therefor tempted to wonder if Muhammad would be upset at how some followers of Islam today have turned to violence as a means of promoting their faith, not realising just how totally counter-productive that is. It has long been my belief that if Islamic militants were not causing death and destruction in about forty countries round the world, then Islam would be much more successful in gaining converts in the West.
But ‘twas ever thus. When religion gets mixed up in politics, mayhem is the result. And of course we should not get too proud as “People of the Book”, for when Judaism and Christianity got mixed up with politics it had the same result, as in the Inquisition and the Crusades. Perhaps the Islamic terrorists are just following their Christian teachers !
I heartily commend this book to those who, like myself, would like to gain some understanding about Islam. Karen Armstrong has done a fine job with this book and I now intend to read her “Islam – A Short History”.
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Armstrong's one-sided narrative is evident as she tries to continuously portray the prophet as a benevolent pacifist,...Read more