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The First Muslim: The Story of Muhammad

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3.84 of 5 stars 3.84  ·  rating details  ·  883 ratings  ·  148 reviews
The extraordinary life of the man who founded Islam, and the world he inhabited—and remade.

Muhammad’s was a life of almost unparalleled historical importance; yet for all the iconic power of his name, the intensely dramatic story of the prophet of Islam is not well known. In The First Muslim, Lesley Hazleton brings him vibrantly to life. Drawing on early eyewitness source
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Hardcover, 320 pages
Published January 24th 2013 by Riverhead Books
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Peace My dear brothers and sisters, in my opinion, instead of picking out mistakes which does not even have any affect on the integrity of Islam, please…moreMy dear brothers and sisters, in my opinion, instead of picking out mistakes which does not even have any affect on the integrity of Islam, please think positively and try to appreciate the efforts of a non-muslim to present the righteousness of Islam during this phase of time when every one is picking and throwing absolutely wrong stuff about it. Even If you do find out any wrong translation, interpretation or presentation of Islam, still there are nicer ways to let her know (provided you are 100% sure about what you are saying with references) instead of using words like she does not know Islam or it's history. And BTW who can claim to know everything or more than some other person? Did anyone who are criticizing, tried to do research like Lesley Hazleton? Please pick and mention good things about people in your life, as that's what our noble Islam teaches us. I didn't mean to offend anyone but if I did, please forgive me. Thanks.(less)

Community Reviews

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Shahmeer
Extremely disappointing book!

Anyone looking for a quality biography of Prophet Muhammad should read 'Muhammad: Man and Prophet' by Adil Salahi.

I don't know what I was expecting from this book when I bought it. I had read 'After the Prophet' by Lesley and although it had provided good insights on the divide between Sunni & Shia, her over analyzing every thing was a let down for me. It frustrated me because I don't know how a person living in the 21st century can put words in the mouths of peo
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Louise
Leslie Hazelton's After the Prophet: The Epic Story of the Shia-Sunni Split in Islam is the best recounting of the Sunni - Shia split that I've read. For this reason, I put The First Muslim on my reading list, where it sat for months until now. Hazelton, again, clearly presents complex material and unfamiliar (to me) history. This book has more interpretation and speculation than its predecessor.

Through the story of Muhammad the story of the development of Islam is told. Some of it is a tale of
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Ulfah
although the first chapters, revealing prophet Muhammad's life before moving to Madinah seems somewhat sympathetic, it was surely surprising when the book suddenly changed into a more distanced approach on the prophet which was extremely uncomfortable for myself. somehow it doesn't follow the early chapters, that a man so humbled by his situation would take drastic measures unless something logical is behind it. but maybe because she is of the same ancestry of the very people prophet Muhammad de ...more
Muhammad Ali
As a muslim I found the book an excellent analysis. The one thing the book did do is make me as a muslim look at the view of the Prophet which is force fed to us from birth, and which itself is never challenged. But the only reasonable thing a 21st century Muslim with a critical thinking faculty can and should do is to research the unsavoury stuff for themselves. It's unforgivable to imply that her Jewishness coloured the entire narrative. She provides references for everything (all except the p ...more
Wanda
Having recently read Zealot, written by a non-Christian author about Jesus, I felt it was only fair that I also read The First Muslim by a non-Muslim author about Mohammed.

You need to be on the outside looking in if you want to write a unbiased biography of a religious figure. Both books were good and gave me unexpected insights into each religion and sometimes all religions.

I knew next to nothing about the origins of Islam. The First Muslim has educated me about the tenets of that religion and
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Mostafa Mostafa
WoW!
actually am not sure if its a 4 or 4.5 star book..
regardless of that, Hazleton provides a book that sweeps away hundred of years away to an age of deserts and camels.
for a while, you forget this is a religious biography, for it loses the complexity of religious themes, and it seems that its like any other non fiction book..
from a muslim's point of view, i guess Hazelton showed the Prophet as he really is...as human as he is..with all his manners and peacefullness...a man with the most peacef
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Donna
The First Muslim is a beautifully written and very readable account of the life of the prophet Muhammad and the rise of Islam. The author incorporates ideas about the importance of clan, lineage, home, retaliation, honor and faith in ancient Arabic culture, the remnants of which are influencing the Middle East today. In this non typical biography, she uses history, philosophy, sociology and even modern day psychology to interpret the mass of information that has accumulated about Muhammad over t ...more
William Crosby
I found this to be a fast and fascinating read. And this comes from somebody who does not like to read biographies.

The book is written as a (mostly) seamless story which is more than just a biography. So that the flow is not disturbed, all notes are at the end.

It does a magnificent job including diverse aspects of culture to further understand Muhammad's life.
☽ Moon Rose ☯
In the wilderness of Mount Hira, deep in the deserted region of its steppe, in a self-imposed isolation and solitary meditation, God revealed Himself to Muhammad in the most unlikely state, appearing in an apparition, not of the usual vision of Light and Peace, but of the Form that can make human senses tremble in fear, different from the Spirit of God that descended like a dove to Jesus Christ and the Spirit of Oneness in Nature that Buddha realized, it signals the beginning of what would place ...more
RK-ique
RANT ALERT

This is one of those few books that I won't finish. All of the touchy freely about 3 times an orphan, all of the silly baseless questions and second guessing. This is just foolishness which I have no patience for.
Erdal Bodur
I am a translator and I was offered to translate this book by my publisher into Turkish. Being an agnostic like the author herself I had very limited knowledge about Muslim religion and the prophet Mohammed. I obviously had to read the book before I decide whether to undertake the task or not, so I did then I also read the After the Prophet also from Lesley Hazleton and decided to go ahead with the project. It took me about 6 months to finish the translation as it also involved reading Kor'an fr ...more
Blair Dowden

The Revelation on the Mount

The story opens with Muhammad receiving his first revelation on Mount Hira, described as a direct encounter between man and the divine. It was not an angelic apparition leading to a triumphant “I have seen the light!” that one might expect. Instead he experiences a feeling of terror, of being overwhelmed by a force larger than anything the mind can comprehend. He wonders if he has gone mad, and even contemplates suicide. Then there are no more another revelations for a
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Esther
Extremely interesting!

Written almost like a novel, very fluent and in a language that very often made me feel like I was there, it is nevertheless an apparently well researched biography, based on facts, of the Prophet Muhammad’s life, starting from his parents to his death (and a bit beyond).
Not having known much at all about his life, I was intrigued by the legends and myths as much as by the hard facts that Lesley Hazleton shares in this book. The reader follows an orphan through a rather di
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Arvind Munshi
The book starts on a unbiased note portraying Muhammad as a seeker, who tries to fill the vacuum created by the loss of his parents by praying to God, spends nights on Mt. Hira in meditation and contemplation, comes back with some revelations for his own good and for others.

The exile to Medina has been excellently written, the circumstances so evident and the journey well depicted.

However, in Medina, things take U-turn and Muhammad starts rationalizing gory episodes, where I think the author see
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Marla
I made it a little past halfway with this book. It was well written. It's very readable, almost novel-like. I picked it up because I knew little to nothing about the life of Muhammad. Perhaps if I already had some knowledge of him, I would have finished it. But I was looking for a readable history of his life. Throughout this book, there were many "Muhammad felt...", "...he was thinking..." or "his reasoning was..." Being new to Muhammad, I wanted fact. What I got was a lot of assuming what Muha ...more
Kirsten
Took some notes for book club - posted below.

Page 60 – interesting bit about how sophisticated the caravan trade was administration, diplomacy etc.
Fascinating story of his background
• granddad almost sacrificing Muhammad’s dad, but alas then dad dies anyway before meeting Muhammad
• living with wet nurse and Bedouin upbringing, until clearly no money and returned to mother, who dies taking him on caravan trail
• brought up by uncle

Enjoying listening to Serial, both examples of investigative journ
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Sana
The reason I got this book was because I wanted to read something unbiased and objective with regards to Muhammads life. We've all read about him, what he has done, what he has conquered - his hadeeths, about his actions - but despite knowing all this, I felt I still knew very little of him. What I really wanted was a fresh vantage point - to be honest I wasnt very interested in dates of conquests and battles, I was more interested in the man, his thoughts and behavior, his character - his chara ...more
Jennifer
I really wanted to read this book, but I found her writing style so frustrating that I abandoned it after 50 pages. The author continually speculated on Muhammad's state of mind, which I found very frustrating. I would prefer being told the events in a readable manner and I'll come to my own conclusions.
Greet
I wanted to know more about Islam, its history, the prophet Muhammad, the difference between sunnis and shias and so much more, but where to start. I combined the reading of this book with the book Islam of Paul Lunde. Both books are completely different in presenting, describing and handling it, but combined, it worked. This book of Lesley Hazleton describes in a very narrative way the life of Muhammad, his birthplace, family, tribe and clan, the revelations and the birth of Islam. She gives a ...more
Richard
I picked this up because I'd heard Lesley Hazleton speak after the publication of her book on the succession after Muhammad's death, and because i wanted a refresher to Karen Armstrong's "Muhammad: A Prophet for our Time," which I'd read a couple of years ago.

Both books cover the same turf. The First Muslim is a little more imaginative as the author sketches thoughts and conversations that could have happened, I suppose, but are really informed figments. She also describes events that are proba
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Nikki Grace
I previously read After the Prophet which was superb and gave me new insights to Islam and Muhammad.

I find in this book that Hazeleton tries to explain away the cosmic consciousness experience that Muhammad and others have. If you analyse the various descriptions of this super consciousness, there is coherence and similarity. The experience is colored by the vessel which carries it. There have been kings and princes, Ram, Krishna, Siddharta, and wildmen, Shams of Tabiz, John the Baptist and wan
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Bilal
Though I respect the author for her many just causes and view points in other matters, I find it disturbing that, in many events mentioned in the book, the author seems to be choosing certain versions of the story that may not serve good the authenticity of the biography. For instance, there are many one sided versions chosen which encourage thinking of the prophet as being politically, rather than spiritually, driven. A variety of events could've been told each in their different versions, for ...more
Iman Ben chaibah
It was an interesting and a little challenging read. The author added a very new psychological and historical dimensions to the upbringing of the prophet which was insightful. some parts pushed me to research and ensure the claims are accurate, some parts I disagreed with the perspectives or claims, but it's expected cause you can't take a biography about the prophet specifically as a whole factual, some parts will always be debatable. Overall, loved the read, enjoyed it, reminded me of things i ...more
Vicky
Ini bukan buku agama. Ini buku sejarah, dan Hazleton menyajikannya dengan apik dan teliti. Mengambil sumber primer dari sejarawan Islam awal yang terkenal dengan karyanya yang luas dan dalam, Hazleton mengkombinasikannya dengan teori-teori politik dan psikologis yang dapat menjelaskan keadaan Muhammad saat itu; sebagai ayah, sebagai suami, sebagai pemimpin, dan sebagai utusan Allah. Buku yang tepat untuk mereka yang ingin mengenal Muhammad lebih dekat, tanpa merasa dibebani dengan kewajiban untu ...more
Imran
Surprised how this half baked agenda / propaganda driven book has been termed as 'very well researched' by likes of Reza Aslan. This biased commentary based on selective coverage, where writer conveniently ignored parts going against her point of view from the same sources and blindly covering other parts from same sources without raising any question, is what should be termed as 'Intellectual Dishonesty'.

The writer definitely doesn't know various aspect of Prophet's life including history of c
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Raja Subramanian
There are only two books I had read about Prophet Muhammad. Both of them were when I was probably about 15 years old - one small book(let) in Tamil and another in English I found in the school library. Then I saw a fairly riveting movie called The Message starring Anthony Quinn (a few times actually) in the late 1970's. In short I was fairly ignorant of the life and times of Prophet Muhammad. So when I came across this book by Lesley Hazleton, I had to read it.

And what a read it has been! Clearl
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Ahmed Y Khiari
As a devout Muslim, I was always interested in what a fair-minded non-Muslim had to say. It pains me that there is a scarcity in quality non-Arabic material concerning the Prophet.

To say this was completely unbiased would be a lie, and a denial of her human nature. We cannot help but be biased in some aspect or another. However, this does NOT discredit her work.

Growing up as a Muslim, I was quite familiar with the Prophetic life, and none of the historical info in the book was news to me. That
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Tim Hodges
Any time a non-Muslim writes about Muhammad or Islam you have to approach with caution, because there's a huge risk of bias and/or misinterpretation. This author does an admirable job of avoiding those mistakes. She borrows heavily from the two authoritative biographies of Muhammad, but she has created a version that is approachable by non-Muslims today. She's written this in an engaging style. This book will help more people understand who Muhammad was and what he was called to do.
Catalina
As a non-Muslim I was interested in learning more about Islamic origins and history. Being that this is the first book of Hazelton that I just read, the author has an immediate and captivating style that is reflective of the characters and of her own questions and rationalisations.

In terms of content, I feel that she does have the right to have her agnostic Jewish background colour her views (what book doesn't have bias?), but she does paint the Jews in the Muhammadan narrative quite favourably.
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Fatima Afridi
A refreshing break from the reverential, adoring, biased accounts that we're force fed due to being born in muslim households. Once again Hazleton successfully humanizes all these humans we are taught not to question. I wouldn't deem it to be complete though but it's a good glimpse into the prophet's life. As usual I found the raids on Meccans to be highly disturbing, the Qurayza carnage inexplicable and so much more. I wish we're taught to look at all sides of the story from the very beginning. ...more
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Goodreads Librari...: Page numbering for 978-1-59448-728-6 3 16 Aug 03, 2015 04:19PM  
I find the title a bit misleading 11 25 Aug 29, 2013 07:39AM  
Aslan Media Book ...: Humanizing a Prophet 2 29 May 17, 2013 10:41PM  
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192732
1. My new book 'Jezebel: the untold story of the bible's harlot queen' is just out (Doubleday). Yes, she was framed. No, she was no harlot. Yes, she was magnificent.

2. Won't bore you with the whole bio -- it's in the 'About the Author' page on www.jezebelbook.com. For now: British-born, lived for a long time in the Middle East, now live in the very Pacific Northwest.

3. Favorite drink is grappa.
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More about Lesley Hazleton...
After the Prophet: The Epic Story of the Shia-Sunni Split in Islam Jezebel: The Untold Story Of The Bible's Harlot Queen Mary: A Flesh-and-Blood Biography of the Virgin Mother Driving To Detroit: Memoirs Of A Fast Woman Jerusalem, Jerusalem: A Memoir or War and Peace, Passion and Politics

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“Those who are comfortably established in life tend to have no need to ask what it means.” 4 likes
“Those who are comfortably established in life tend to have no need to ask what it means. They are the insiders, and for them, how things are is how they should be. The status quo is so much a given that it goes not just unquestioned but unseen, and the blind eye is always turned. It is those whose place is uncertain, and who are thus uneasy in their existence, who need to ask why. And who often come up with radically new answers.” 3 likes
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