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on 3 June 2017
This book took Holland twice as long to write (6 years) than his usual work because he assumed there would be plenty of accessible evidence and documentation to digest and work through, but no, very little existed, so he was searching for 'evidence' that did not exist. In many ways similar to the Jesus story, nothing seemed to be written about Muhammad and Mecca while he was alive, it all came decades after. The late Dr Patricia Crone has similar issues when she did similar research. Does raise many questions as history certainly was being recorded at the time, but nothing about this monumental event we are told occurred. A great read, and only criticism is that it could have been a tad shorter, and I would say that if anyone has problems getting past the first 100 pages, then read the last 100 pages first, it is well worth it,.
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on 16 January 2016
An excellent read, which attempts to describe in detail the regional history and prevailing culture at the time of Mohamed's existence in the Arabian Peninsular. The book tries to assess the arrival of Islam asking the awkward question: did the Arab Empire create Islam or did Islam create the Arab Empire?

For me, the one let down in this book is that Tom Holland is very selective about his choice of examples from history and is extremely erratic in his selections from history. This is confusing for the reader and even encourages one to believe that he is simply picking examples that support his various arguments - true or not. Tom Holland knows well that there are many people keen to pick holes in his beliefs and therefore he should be alot clearer and more honest in his presentation.

That said, I recommend this book for a different view on an extremely interesting and influential part of history which still has consequences on our lives today.
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on 15 August 2014
This is a very insightful and journalistically researched book. It gives you a real insight into the reasons for the many of the conflicts in the Middle East today and their historical context. The style is very hard to read because he uses very rich and advanced vocabulary. It is not a book for those who are used to reading novels. Having said that, the book gives you an independent account of religious conflicts and power struggles. Religious followers may not agree with some of its content but that is to be expected. This author has done thorough background research into the material, interviewed individuals etc. to produce this mammoth book. I fully recommend it for anyone who wishes to learn about this troublesome Middle east conflicts.
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on 28 February 2015
Excellent book looking at a very interesting and relevant subject. There is also a documentary that accompanies the book that can be watched for free online here: https://vimeo.com/79053193

The origins of Islam, like any other question, should be open to investigation and debate like the origins of any other religion or idea, and Tom Holland makes a great contribution to the public awareness and research.
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on 19 May 2016
A well written and excellent review of the early history of Christianity and Islam and the influences of other traditions and faiths on the emerging stories of these two major world religions. A half way house between a novel and a history. This work of scholarship throws a search light on myth, legend and belief and encourages a humanitarian understanding of the spiritual lives of believers today and their burden of history and tradition.
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on 13 May 2014
Tom Holland deserves much wider recognition
I have listened to audio versions of all his work and he has the gift of seeing the ancient world through the eyes of our ancestors and makes it all come to life.

this particular book is one of what appears to be a new genre, ie applying modern historic methods to the middle east / Arabia so that we can begin to understand the phenomenon of islam from a rational perspective which does not take as a given that is has any supernatural underpinning.
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on 22 March 2015
I liked the book because it introduced me to the 'history' of religions of which i was unaware. However Tom Holland lost me in his explanations of the 'branching out' of the various strands. I can understand why some reviewers, more knowledgeable than me, might have baulked at his historical accuracy or his interpretations. But a good read for someone wanting a starting point and is readable.
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on 18 September 2015
Great read - very well researched with some eye opening lessons. I really enjoyed this and learnt a great deal. It could have been a hard slog but his style is engaging and though provoking.
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on 21 September 2012
Fascinating stuff, no doubt. But it does go on a bit - like he didn't have time to write a good short book.

I also found it very hard to relate where each of the several hundred (thousand?) little episodes fitted into the overall timeline and geography. This could easily be overcome with a bit more "signposting" work on the part of author and editor.
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on 23 March 2018
One of the best histories I have ever read. Brave man great historian and highly recommended.
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