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Muhammad: A Biography of the Prophet

4.06 of 5 stars 4.06  ·  rating details  ·  3,233 ratings  ·  207 reviews
A fresh, evenhanded biography of the founder of Islam by the author of "A History of God." "Portrays Muhammad as a passionate, complex, fallible human being."-- "Publishers Weekly"
Paperback, 290 pages
Published September 10th 1993 by HarperOne (first published April 1st 1991)
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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 ...more
Oct 24, 2007 Charlie rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: everyone, especially Americans
Shelves: own, islam
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. On
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.
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 a
مصطفي سليمان
كتاب حلو قوي
من كاتبة مستشرقة
وان كنت بكره اللفظ دا
بحسه مريب ومثير للشك
بس ما علينا الكتاب بيتحدث عن السيرة العطرة للنبي
وعن كل الاشاعات اللي بتقال
وبترد عليه بسهولة
كتاب تتعجب ان سيدة غربية
تتوصل لتلك المعاني بينما العرب
بيقراءو الفهرست
ودا اخرهم ف الدين
والقنوات المريبة
اللي شاغله بالها بدخول الحمام
والخروج منه
بينما اصلا مفيش حمام
كتاب لابد ان تقرائه
David C. Mueller
This is an important book about a Person Westerners need to know more about. The author has set an example of balanced scholarship and sensitivity that all religious scholars would be well served to emulate. In the book, the author not only chronicles the life of the Founder of Islam, but also documents the many false statements promulgated in the West for centuries about Muhammad and Islam. The author courageously explains such difficult subjects for Westerners such as the station of women in M ...more
Deborah Blair

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
Written in the years following 9/11, this book has a clear goal of trying to convince Westerners that the origins of Islam include much that is appealing. Others may fault her for bias, but I think it is successful and honest at the same time. Armstrong does not conceal those acts of the Prophet that are hardest for moderns to understand (most notably, in my view, the execution of 700 men and the sale of their women and children into slavery because of an act of tribal perfidy); she does, howeve ...more
Jan 16, 2009 Larry rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Larry by: I read all of Ms. Armstrong's works.
As it is sub-titled this work is more a biography than a review of Muhammad's theology and yet it provides a deeper understanding of the social forces that gave rise to that theology. He was a man of exceptional insight and uncommon courage. The Arabian peninsula was a hard and unforegiving place where strength and power only barely insured survival. Its peoples lived on the edge of extinction constantly and many social mores were adaptations to those conditions, the infacide of daughters and th ...more
I've read several biographies of the prophet Muhammad peace be upon him, but this one was unique. Karen is respectful and yet not reverential, and although she uses orthodox Muslim historical sources (Ibn Ishaq, Tabari, Muhammad Ibn Sa'd and al-Waqidi) her outsider approach produced some surprises in what I thought was a familiar topic.

She tries to rationalize several incidents, sometimes ignoring the sources in the search for a more credible explanation. An early example is that the army of Abr
Allyson Abu-hajar
I had read this some time back, and just recently purchased my own copy. Karen Armstrong provides a great source of history during the time period and brings clarity to what transpired. I recommend this book to those interested in reverting to Islam, before reading the Quran; as well as, to non-Muslims, so they would have a better understanding of whom Muhammad (pbuh) actually was. In the beginning of this book, Karen does a great job of writing how other religious groups have suffered for their ...more
I have always heard good things about Karen Armstrong’s books; however, I was extremely disappointed in this biography of the Prophet (peace be upon him). Of course, as an outsider to Islam, Armstrong’s writings do not confirm or support Islam as the religion of God. Rather, most of the book is dedicated to proving what a genius the Prophet (peace be upon him) was to create such a religion. She attempts to connect many of the Islamic traditions with the old Arab pagan traditions. From an Anthrop ...more
Christian Layow
This is an excellent book about the life and times of Muhammad. It is a short read, but gives those of us without much knowledge of Islam a great introduction to its beginnings. It is well written and comes with a glossary of Arabic terms and Arabic people that lived during those changing times. What we get is a man dedicated to changing a people of hostile habits into a people of peaceful existence. The degree to which he is humiliated, ridiculed and endangered and yet still works continually f ...more
Gregory Milliron
This is an excellent book. It is rare that a person who has influenced the development of nearly all modern civilizations on Earth, especially one from such an early part of history, receives such a thorough account of his life. History is fortunate to have non-scriptural accounts of the life of Muhammad; and, it is equally unfortunate that we do not possess similar accounts of Jesus of Nazareth. I find Karen Armstrongs prose mostly engaging and clear, and the organization of the book is sensibl ...more
Vikrant Rana
This book reads like an apology coming from the west and particularly from the Christian world. Instead of reporting the Prophet's biography from an objective standpoint, an effort has been made at every page to compare the situation and resulting actions in the erstwhile Arabian peninsula with the ones that have been perpetrated by the Christian world over the course of history. I was hoping to get more insights into the current state of affairs in and around Islam and how they are rooted in th ...more
Susan Devy
for me, as moslem, I almost didn't find any new story about our Prophet in this book, but Karen Armstrong had elaborate the life of Mohammad meticulously and in such a way which I believe everyone could digest the message

my Highlight in this book is about Mohammad's polygamy
surprisingly, Armstrong described those marriages ( Mohammad married about 13 moslem women and a jew woman during that era ) were intended to bring unity in scattered Islamic tribes, by marrying women from those tribes event
It seems like it's always going to be tricky to find a good starter book on such a controversial figure as Muhammad. Armstrong is neither a Christian nor a Muslim (although a theist of an uncommitted sort I think) so I thought her popular biography might be a reasonable starting point. I think it was.

There was some cheap (inaccurate) jibes at Christianity every now and again (for instance noting that Muhammad was so 'real', experiencing and showing emotions like grieving a dead friend, playing
Nazim Suzaly
Ok im gonna write a review asap for this book while my thoughts on it is still fresh.

I never read a biography of the prophet before so this would be my first and especially from a westerner POV and a non-muslim. She addresses on why a lot of westerners view on Islam as a very extremist and aggressive religion only linked with terrorism nowadays when the prophet himself always wanted peace and tried to avoid violence as much as possible.

I personally think Karen did a great job explaining Islam an
I am appalled at my ignorance, and I have learned much from reading Karen Armstrong's biography of the Prophet. I found that having a Catholic guide to this complex man, his times, and his teachings helped me understand both how his message is similar to and different from the teachings of the Judeo=Christian tradition.
That being said, this is a difficult book to read. It's written in a somewhat ecclesiastical style, each sentence (verse?) introducing a new character, a new action, a new respons
So far it is utterly fascinating to read a biography of the Prophet with a more in-depth examination to determine his place in history as a man and political leader, not necessarily a religious figure.

The general criticism so far seems that she is overly sympathetic to Muhammed. Just because she is positive about Islam and Muhammed, doesn't mean she is necessarily biased. As I understand it, it is just a biography by a biographer who over the course of her research has come to admire her subjec
Jud Barry
Armstrong apparently wrote this book in the wake of the Salman Rushdie "Satanic Verses" fatwah/furore--it is thus an attempt to help Western readers approach an understanding of Islam by providing them with the historical context both to Muhammad's life and to his revelations.

It is a sympathetic biography, but it is also an objective one. There is no interest in whitewashing or sanitizing the record of events so as to soothe Western sensibilities; there is however an overriding concern to situat
Amazing. I knew nothing about Muhammad until I read the book. It is an outline of his life and experiences, nothing preachy, and very informative. He really did have a life like Joseph Smith. I think he may have been inspired and then...he get's a little weird with raiding travelors and having revelations about people leaving him alone on his wedding night. That sounds like it was a terrible book, but it really is basic knowledge we should all know about Muhammad's life and the Quran.
Diana Nassar
An excellent, detailed, readable, unbiased, accurate, and intelligently-written biography of the prophet. Clever comparisons with Christianity and Judaism for some incidents. Fresh views and explanations for some of the famous misconceptions. Great effort from a Non-Muslim and a Westerner! Definitely one of the best Sirah and biography books I have ever read. I utterly recommend the book.
Melissa Barbosa
So readable and informative.
Karen Armstrong annoyed me with “Muhammad” for the same reason she annoyed me with “The Bible”, and probably for the same reason that she's so popular. “Muhammad” is an interesting, fast paced, readable biography of Muhammad's life. I believe I learned something from the book, having only had a familiarity with the broad details of his life before. But how much of her story is true? In the interest of readability and flow, she ignores almost all academic controversies, and rarely makes it clear ...more
On the one hand: apologetic & boring.

On the other: a nice biography of one of the greatest men of this world who gave rise to a powerful & diverse religion, elevated the status of women and believed in a then-revolutionary idea of racial equality. For Westerners & hardcore Islamophobes ignorant of Muhammad's contribution to the world, this is for you.

Back to the first hand, Karen Armstrong is so... on the fence. And "on the fence", "nuanced" academia is only good for defeating prej
Unless you are a scholar of Islam, what you think you know about it is probably wrong - or at best, incomplete.

Karen Armstrong is one of the most lucid modern expositors of theology and religion. The fact that she considers herself atheist somehow lends her writing even more power. She is not alone among theologians who consider the contradictions and difficulties of faith to be the very essence of meaningful discourse on religion. But she may be alone in the incisive clarity with which she cuts
Muhammad Thalal
This is one of the best biographies of Prophet Muhammad that I read, good sources and well-narrated.
Jun 15, 2007 Ashley rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: those with interests in religion, history, anthropology, or social justice
Shelves: general
This book provides a fascinating look into the birth of Islam and the religion's founder. As a historian, Armstrong clearly inserts her own views and biases but I thinkt it makes for a rich and compelling biography. For those with concerns for social justice, this book is a good read, especially in a time when Islam is painted in the blacks and whites of media defined "jihad." It shows the revolutionary quality of Muhammad's actions given the historical and cultural setting.
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British author of numerous works on comparative religion.


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More about Karen Armstrong...
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“Far from being the father of jihad, [Prophet] Mohammad was a peacemaker, who risked his life and nearly lost the loyalty of his closest companions because he was determined to effect a reconciliation with Mecca” 49 likes
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