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on 2 October 2016
Great book although I thought it would be slightly bigger. Really light for carrying around
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on 31 May 2011
This Very Short Introduction replaces a previous version, and benefits from being written by a more sympathetic author. The first part of the book is a standard biography of Muhammad, while the second part considers the evidence for Muhammad's life from a historiographical viewpoint. The book concludes with a review of the impact of Muhammad on various aspects of the modern world - this section ends rather abruptly, and I think the book would have been stronger for a final holistic assessment of Muhammad. The book will appeal more to readers who know virtually nothing about Muhammad - the recent biographies by Karen Armstrong, Tariq Ramadan and Barnaby Rogerson are all more detailed - but more scholarly readers will appreciate the section where the author reviews the sources and discusses how the early "lives of the prophet" differ from conventional biographies. Overall, a good starting point, but by no means the last word on Muhammad.
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on 22 June 2011
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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on 2 July 2013
I figured that "A very short introduction to Muhammad" would help draw a quick portrait of the man and inform my image of the prophet. Then I realised that this book gives a picture that could only be described as a sketch rather than a full illustration of the chap.
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on 3 May 2016
Excellent read. Very scholarly approach.
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on 3 October 2016
For a muslim to read, its somewhat disrespectful and quite cold. "He was buried under the dirt floor of Aishas house" was the word dirt floor neccassary was it also neccassary to say the last thing he did was relieve himself? Not sure if its actually factually correct either.
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on 31 January 2016
Great introduction
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