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Muhammad: A Prophet for Our Time

(Eminent Lives)

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  2,466 ratings  ·  277 reviews
Muhammad was born in 570 CE, and over the following sixty years built a thriving spiritual community, laying the foundations of a religion that changed the course of world history. There is more historical data on his life than on that of the founder of any other major faith, and yet his story is little known. Karen Armstrong's immaculately researched new biography of ...more
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published October 17th 2006 by Eminent Lives (first published January 1st 2006)
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Average rating 4.07  · 
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 ·  2,466 ratings  ·  277 reviews


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Jason Koivu
Dec 01, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography, history
This was one of my first forays into the life of a man who has meant so much to so very many. Muhammad: A Prophet for Our Time felt easily digestible to me, an outsider and an utterly ignorant one at that.

Having lived about 500 years after Jesus, we seem to know more concrete information about the life of this prophet, thought by Islamists to be the last prophet, than we do of the Christians' "son of god". He came from Mecca and is the man who brought all of the Arabian nations under one
...more
Komal
Jun 14, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Instead of a review, I'll narrate an incident that occurred a couple of days ago which captures perfectly the way most Muslims might deal with this book. It's a conversation (sort of, perhaps a bit more dramatized now that I analyze it) between myself and another individual and it would summarize the gist of Karen Armstrong's handy work nicely.

*

Limited from severe time constrictions, I often brought this book to the university and the hospital to read through during the short-lived tea breaks.
...more
Helen
Feb 03, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I learned a lot from Karen Armstrong's portrait of the prophet (not profit!)Muhammad and it gave me a lot of things to consider. The book is definitely written for Western Jews or Christians who may be distrustful of Islam, particularly its relationship with Judaism or Christianity. Armstrong explains the life of Muhammad with particular emphasis on his culture and continuing the line of prophets from Abraham through Jesus. To balance out her views, though, I'd like to read something about ...more
Susan
Jan 20, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For those seeking an Islam 101 course, this isn't the book for you. This is a history of the man who planted the seeds, but it doesn't delve into the fruits of that labor and the many off-shoots of it.

Karen Armstrong is a foremost religious scholar. She's able to convey very complex and intricate histories and ideas in a digestible way. This book introduces the life and path of the Prophet Muhammad and his struggle to bring monotheism to Arabia; to usher out the old pagan, clan-based system and
...more
B.J. Richardson
Jul 22, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This is an, *interesting* work of fiction. Bearing only the vaguest resemblance to an accurate biography, Karen Armstrong masterfully weaves a fanciful tale of the life of Muhammad the way she wished he really was. She does this through three separate but not unrelated strategies:

First, she does an excellent job of cherry picking her sources. I have read at least one of her primary sources (Ibn Ishaq) and the picture he paints of the prophet is vastly different from what Armstrong would have
...more
Joseph
Mar 03, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Had I known this book would be a deliberate apologetic for the liberal, secular, sympathetic perspective of Islam, I wouldn't have bothered to read it. Instead of an historical account of Muhammad featuring the facts, his own words, and the explanations of his closest contemporaries, we get a deliberate message of "Islam is peace" that explains everything away. Armstrong takes Muhammad's actions and gives them her own justifications. So, some decisions are described as based upon eternal, ...more
Cheryl Gatling
Like many well-educated people of my place and time, I learned practically nothing in school about the history of Islam, or even much about the Middle East in general. That made it hard to fully grasp the content of this one book. The Arabian names sounded alike to me, so that it was hard to keep many of the characters separate in my mind, beyond Muhammad, and some of his wives. My understanding of the geography and historical context was also a bit blurry. Fortunately Ms Armstrong knows she is ...more
Jon Stout
Nov 29, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: religion
Karen Armstrong first came to my attention when she participated in a debate with Richard Dawkins, in the Wall Street Journal. She seemed to me to articulate a more complete understanding of religion than Dawkins did, and I’m currently waiting for A Case for Religion by Karen Armstrong to be returned to the library so that I can read it. She has written many books on the history of religion, especially fundamentalism, and also an autobiography, The Spiral Staircase.

Her book on Muhammad is a
...more
Amber
Dec 05, 2007 rated it liked it
This was a great overview of the life of Prophet Muhammed and I learned lots about the connections between Islam, Christianity, and Judaism (Muhammed really saw Islam as a relative of the latter two -- all within the family of Abraham). What I missed most of, however, is more of Karen Armstrongs wise commentary on religion. She is a great voice of wisdom in our time and I found myself wanting to hear more about her thoughts on Muhammed and Islam. I still recommend that we all read this book, ...more
Saad Merchant
Oct 15, 2012 rated it liked it
I am a Muslim (so take my prejudice and also knowledge about my religion into account) whilst reading this review.

Why I think you should read it? -

The Number One Reason anybody should read this book is because it's written by a non-Muslim-WOMAN... Many misconceptions about the Islamic religion question the position of women, their status, their equality and freedom in Islam...

And having a non-Muslim woman explain how kind Islam (as a religion - and not as its follower's actions) is to women,
...more
Dwain
Apr 15, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
It was fascinating to read this book and "Mohammed: Founder of the world's most intolerant religion" together, as they are written from two completely different perspectives. Spencer portrays a Mohammed that has inspired generations of hate, intolerance, and violence, while Armstrong portrays somebody with the attributes of Jesus. I found them both biased, and I suspect the truth is somewhere in the middle of the two opinions, but it was refreshing to hear somebody who wasn't scared to death to ...more
Abdel-Aziz Fathy
Nov 01, 2015 rated it it was ok
Although Karen has done a great work and briefly presented the history of Islam and the prophet Muhammed based on the Islamic references,I still believe pure objectivity is something impossible to achieve especially when studying religions.

The writer has made several interpretations that do not comply with the whole context of Islam. Before you try to understand the reason behind someone's act maybe you need to know fundamentals in the way he thinks. Karen was missing important fundamentals in
...more
Micah
Jul 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
all things considered, Muhammad was pretty sweet.
Amedine Amedine
Jul 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: religion
After finishing this book I was like:

description

And you are indeed Karen Armstrong!

The way the book is written shows you the life of The Prophet in the most realistic well narrated way.

It mentions most of the important events and the years that Muhammad peace upon him tried to build a complex Islamic society, from the first day he met Gabriel (the angel) til the last day of his life.

It's one of the rarest books, or maybe the most just and fair one out there that describes the prophesy of Muhammad (puh) and
...more
Caitie
The most important thing I got out of this book is that the institutions of Islam, Christianity, and Judaism don't matter. Being God-conscious is the important thing. Focusing on the institution is like shirk.

I also learned that the prophet had a hard time figuring out what he was supposed to do, and he had to set aside his expectations and adapt to changing circumstances. He had to reflect and try to see differently than he had before.

The biggest obstacle to peace in the prophet's time was the
...more
Adrian
Oct 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Being a person very familiar with the life of Muhammad, both through personal study, and from the interactions with learned Muslims, I was at first a little ambivalent as to whether there was much for me to learn in this study. I am happy to be proved wrong in this case, as Karen Armstrong's work provides a realistic and healthy rebuttal to the many detractions against Islam's Prophet.
Even the most stubborn skeptic of the supernatural would find it hard to disagree that Muhammad was a much
...more
Socraticgadfly
Pushes the "sympathetic biography" envelope way too far

That begins with the subtitle "A Prophet for our Time." That's certainly not an unbiased opinion.

In short, Armstrong goes beyond throwing out the bath water of some Western total besmirching of Muhammad, to throwing out the baby of a critically-based biography of him at all.

While I disagree with people who say this is a whitewash of Muhammad's life, it is selective. Beyond that, when Armstrong does talk about some of the less noble actions
...more
Aziz
Nov 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I've read " the seera" in so many books before.
But This one comes from a new perspective and an angle that's new to me
I might've found few contradictions between what the author states and what I as a Muslim learned through out my life but it sure opened my mind and made me rethink some stuff we usually classify as a certain
Reading this book was a lovely journey .. I enjoyed it and I'd recommend it to whom ever is interested in the personality of the man who changed everything in such a short
...more
Hala
Oct 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
I actually really liked this. I didn't think I would appreciate reading about Muhammad (swt) from someone who wasn't a Muslim, but what the hell?? This book was really good and I actually learned a lot of stuff I didn't even know about Islam in the seventh century.
Ina Cawl
Nov 25, 2015 rated it liked it
this is must read book for any non muslims who wants to know more about our beloved [rp[jet
but i would say this book is very short work for any one who wants to to know prophet muhammad
Casey Taylor
Aug 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
The title says it all: Armstrong argues forcefully that Muhammad, the figure behind Islam, is a prophet for our time. This, of course, makes him either a man out of time or a man ahead of his time. Armstrong's Muhammad is a soft pluralist, simultaneously committed to radical monotheism ("There is no God but Allah") and extremely tolerant of Christian, Judaism, even paganism. Her Muhammad is a man committed to nonviolence but driven to violence by the circumstances of his day. Her Muhammad is a ...more
Chris
Feb 16, 2016 rated it it was ok
While interesting from a historical perspective, Armstrong seems so focused on presenting Muhammad as some sort of peaceful and idealized figure that she simply ignores or explains away with often confusing logic any deviation in his life from that ideal. Rather than address his complex life and try to understand how it shaped his message, Armstrong seemed to be so focused on portraying Islam in a positive religion of peace (and I don't disagree that is how it should be understood) in a post ...more
Shaimaa Ali
Aug 16, 2011 rated it liked it
It's quite interesting, reading about Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) from a Mustashreq writer .. the only missing part in this book is the warm feelings we have towards our prophet that every muslim feels, but ofcourse i wouldn't expect such feelings here..the writer used her western logical way of thinking but it was quite enough to have this wonderful conclusion..
Yumn Habjouqa
Feb 16, 2015 rated it did not like it
One of the worst books ever! The historical information were almost 99.9% inaccurate, wrong, or highly controversial. The author chose the most controversial resources to use in this book! Far from being a trustworthy book on history
Sarah El gohary
Aug 12, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Karen Armstrong in an attempt to be neutral in eulogizing the prophet, she unintentionally put INCORRECT incidents.
Barry Edwards
Oct 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
I would challenge the historical accuracy of some notions and there is definitely too much trust in the ahadith, especially the sources of Ibn Ishaq and at-Tabari are not questioned (it seems) even a little bit. And also Muhammad is taken as the definite "good" guy of the story (in a relatively more modern moral compass).

But overall it definitely is a pleasant read and opens up new perspectives (especially on commenting the Qur'an) that I haven't considered before and far less far-fetched than
...more
Caitlin
Nov 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
There is so much negative attention these days about Islam and Muhammad, and what happens if you criticize either. Lately I have been reading about Islam, and I bought a copy of the Quran, which I haven’t read yet, in an effort to educate myself. I don’t like to feel biased against a billion people, and I know that Muslims are persecuted by jihadists too, much more often than Westerners, although the media focuses on Western attacks.

I picked this Armstrong biography about Muhammad because I
...more
Esma
Feb 21, 2016 rated it liked it
This was a very quick, very well-written biographical account of the prophet's life based on early historical accounts. Despite having an engaging and accessible narrative and a clearly sympathetic approach to the prophet and Islam, the book had a few drawbacks for me.

Firstly, it is obvious from the first chapter that the author sees Quran as not the divine word of God, and the prophet's quest as not having been guided and initiated by God. The subtext of the book is that Muhammed was deeply
...more
Tammam Aloudat
This is by no means the only or deepest biography of Muhammad the prophet of Islam. Big part of its significance is that it comes from a non-Muslim female highly regarded historian and religious scholar. Karen Armstrong has put every effort in creating a view of Muhammad, and consequently of Islam, that emphasises his benevolent, tolerant, and pacifist side. This book is directed at Western audience who have very little knowledge of the man and the religion he creates.

Armstrong wrote a book
...more
Payam
Jan 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing
First of all, I listened to the audiobook. Fortunately, Karen Armstrong is great to listen to and I personally love the British accent; how can you get bored listening to that accent? :)

This is an excellent introductory book to Muhammad due to how it focuses on the revolutionary change the religion of Islam brought to its people, rather than implying Islam's perfection or by focusing on miracles a commoner would roll their eyes to. Unlike Martin Ling's biography of the prophet, Karen Armstrong
...more
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2,303 followers
Karen Armstrong, a comparative religion specialist is the author of numerous books on religion, including The Case for God, A History of God, The Battle for God, Holy War, Islam, Buddha, and Fields of Blood, as well as a memoir, The Spiral Staircase.

Her work has been translated into 45 languages. In 2008 she was awarded the TED Prize and began working with TED on the Charter for Compassion,
...more

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“He was decisive and wholehearted in everything he did, so intent non the task at hand that he never looked over his shoulder, even if his cloak got caught in a thorny bush. When he did turn to speak to somebody, he used to swing his entire body and dress him full face. When he shook hands, he was never the first to withdraw his own. He inspired such confidence that he was known as al-Amin, the Reliable One.” 15 likes
“Deeds that seemed unimportant at the time would prove to have been momentous; a tiny act of selfishness and unkindness or, conversely, an unconsidered act of generosity would become the measure of a human life” 9 likes
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