Muhammad: A Biography of the Prophet – Karen Armstrong

I’ve been on a quest to read more about Islam, (so I will not be an absolute ignoramus about it, as Americans are often accused of being.). I’ve read a few books on the topic, but this is the first one I can honestly recommend. Karen Armstrong has not written a page-turner with this biography of Muhammad – in fact, I brought it with me for a long plane-flight, figuring only total boredom would force me to read it. But she has written a powerful biography that not only details Muhammad’s long and very interesting career, it also reveals his beating heart, his absolute sincerity, and his humanity in both its frailty and its spiritual strength. I was genuinely touched by what I learned of Muhammad’s spiritual visions, his kindness, his integrity, and especially his relationships with women. And, oh yes, I definitely did improve my knowledge of Islam, which Armstrong is able to unpack with great skill.

It IS a bit tedious to plow through in places. But truly: if you want to understand the spiritual core of Islam – not the Islam that has been co-opted by terrorists – this is a great place to start.  Baca segera dalam buku ini!

A great biography of Muhammad (PBUH) that follows him throughout his life. If a person is used to some spellings of Arabic words, it will take time to learn other spellings. This book is a great companion to the Qur’an, and will allow the reader a greater understanding of the development of one of the world’s greatest religions: Islam.

An insight for us ignorant westerners brought up on purely Christian doctrine as to what makes the other half of the world tick. This book eases the reader through the violent landscape of tribal Arabia to help us appreciate just why Muhammad is important, not only as the Muslim prophet, but as a complex, political character who could unite nations.
Whether read on a secular or religious level the book entertains the reader with its exotic backdrops, entertaining cast and non-judgemental text. One is left to form ones own opinions on the merits of Muhammad’s life as the author adeptly records events without ever making the error of sounding like a dry, dusty, critical historian.
All the details are in place, but in a format that reads like an adventure novel rather than a lecture, highly entertaining and fresh.
Current events are touched upon in a sensitive, restrained fashion but really they are the one unnecessary aspect of the book. The storyline alone provides many answers as to just why fanatical adherents are willing to go to such extremes in the name of their prophet.
One comes away from the book, if not fully understanding the Muslim mindset, then at least appreciating why the devotion is there.
A wonderful, entertaining read.

I was doubtful at first — Armstrong seemed to be biased too much in the other way (i.e. going out of her way to portray Islam in a good light to counteract what she perceives as centuries of Western ignorance and prejudice). She spent a good chapter at first excoriating the West for its reprehensible attitude toward Islam.

But then the biography got really good. You know, once it actually started. Armstrong’s descriptions of life, traditions, and politics in 7th century Arabia are fascinating. Her narrative of the beginnings of Islam is quite compelling. And, of course, the characters are vivid: Muhammad, all of his wives (Khadija and Aisha were particularly interesting), Abu Bakr, Umar Uthman, Ali, and all of his enemies. It was an engrossing and informative read

Very interesting !!!

When I first started reading this book, I was sorta doubtful, putting in mind that; a book about the prophet or Islam written by a non-Muslim would be somehow biased, inaccurate or misleading. But to my surprise, this book was beyond my wildest expectations!

Karen Armstrong was concerned enough to write a book about the prophet Muhammad (PBUH) to clarify some of the most controversial and debatable issues about him and Islam a whole. Especially after the wake of September 11 and all the Islamophobic attitudes which increasingly started to break out in the air. In her book, Armstrong does a very good job in introducing an analytical, well-written, decent biography about Muhammad (PBUH) with a cleverly clear emphasis on issues have been always subject to a great criticism by westerns such as the concept of jihad and war, his multi wives and hijab. She also portrays amazingly the ideology of Arabia in the 6th century before the Islam would be introduced and before the prophethood of Muhammad (PBUH), in order to show the massive complex challenges faced the prophet when he began to reform the social, political and economic systems.

It was so interesting to read a biography about the prophet (PBUH) from a western and non-Muslim perspective. I loved the way her analysis went so profoundly to shed light on the different aspects of the prophet’s life, and then relating them to today’s misunderstood conceptions of Islam. For me, the most astonishing part was when she talked about the Qur’an. The way she talked about it was remarkably marvelous to the extent that I really couldn’t believe that she is not a Muslim!!! She didn’t only talk about the Qur’anic tolerable teachings but her deep analysis extended to consider the rich allusive language used and its spiritual effects on humans’ consciousness.

Armstrong seeks through her book to encourage a new understanding towards Islam taking Muhammad (PBUH) as a starting point. It was crystal clear also that she is trying to advance understanding and appreciating one another religion. Finally, although her research and study are notably valid as she refers to people such as Ibn Ishaq and Tabari, some of the events and facts were incorrect and inaccurately addressed.

Comparative religions writer, Karen Armstrong’s book, Mohammad, really helps us to understand the Prophet of Islam; I believe that this book is a must read for all Westerners who really care to know, in an unbiased way, the foundations of Islam. Because we often do NOT understand, in being “western” we can often cause more harm than good in the wrongful “opinions” that we believe and espouse.

In working to help Christian and Jews of the west to understand people of Islam, I have often used this as a reference, a recommendation for church groups, and for people helping refugees and immigrants from Islamic countries integrate here in the west. Unlike many writers from the East, Armstrong tries to show us exactly who Mohammad was, his strengths, his weaknesses, and his actual life. She gives us background in the area, especially where Mecca is, and its historical background so we can understand Mohammad’s early life and the importance of what this religion brought to the area when it came forth.

Armstrong helps us to understand Mohammad’s early life – His father dead before he was born, his mother dead by the time he was seven, being brought up as an orphan by his uncle, going to work for Kajika, a woman in her forties who had survived four husbands and was a major business person who employed and promoted many men in the trade business that she conducted – – – Kajika’s marriage proposal to Mohammad, 16 years her junior and their 26 year marriage; Kajika’s providing support for Mohammad’s spiritual searching and then becoming the first convert to Islam after his remarkable interactions with the angel, Gabriel – – for the Islamics, Gibreal.

The book then goes on to give us and account of his mistakes, his struggles, the wars, Kajka’s eventual death and his eventual marrying of many women and why this occured, why it was important for women of the time, and how we can fully understand it.

Armstrong then gives us a history of the rest of Mohammad’s life and the after math after his death with the political and wars happening between his cousin, and named successor, Ali, married to Mohammad’s daughter, Fatima – – and his youngest wife, Aisha that give us the present major factions of Islam, the Sunni and the Shi’ite.

Over all this book is one of the best, non biased books to help all of us understand Islam and how it relates to Judaism and Christianity. It points out the many wrong stereotypes that we have
came from the Roman Catholic church who felt so threatened by Islam’s direct relationship with God, that even in Mohammad’s time the Roman church was making up lies about Mohammad and Islam.

For understanding Islam and women for westerners, I highly recommend, Nine parts of Desire: the Hidden World of Islamic Women by Geraldine Brooks who helps us to break down our sterotypes and see the problems of living within many cultures from the actual view point of the Islamic Women themselves who help us to understand where we do NOT understand them.

In understanding what is going on in Afghanistan and in part the middle east right now – I also recommend Holy War, Unholy Victory: Eyewitness to the Cia’s Secret War in Afghanistan for a real understanding of the roots of where we are right now with the Afghan war. Although it only covers up to the early nineties, it helps us understand the Soviet invasion of 1979, our creation of the Tailiban, and what is really going on right now. It takes away many of the false premises that we have been given for the current war.