Authors: Rodinson, Maxime
Publisher: New York Review Books
Synopsis: A classic, secular history of the prophet Muhammad that vividly recreates the fascinating time in which Islam was born.
Maxime Rodinson, both a maverick Marxist and a distinguished professor at the Sorbonne, first published his biography of Muhammad in 1960, and in the last half century the book has been widely read and established as a classic in its field. Rodinson, deeply familiar with the historical record and scholarly research into the Prophet's life, did not seek to add to it here but to introduce Muhammad, first of all, as "a man of flesh and blood" who led a life of extraordinary drama and shaped history as few others have. Equally, he sought to lay out an understanding of Muhammad's legacy and Islam as what he called an ideological movement, similar to the universalist religions of Christianity and Buddhism as well as the secular movement of Marxism, but possessing a singular commitment to "the deeply ingrained idea that Islam offers not only a path to salvation but (for many, above all) the ideal of a just society to be realized on earth."
Rodinson's book begins by introducing the specific land and the larger world into which Muhammad was born and the development of his prophetic calling. It then follows the steps of his career and the way his leadership gave birth to a religion and a state. A final chapter considers the world as Islam has transformed. The book as a whole offers a vivid and indispensable account of an extraordinary man and his achievement.
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