160 Pages
107 x 171 mm
Pub date
Mar 2011
Very Short Introductions


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  • Discusses the life of Muhammad from both a Muslim and Western historical perspective
  • Explains the importance of Muhammad in medieval and modern Islam
  • Includes a discussion of some of the controversial issues in historical and contemporary times, including the Satanic verses and the Danish cartoon crisis

As the founder of Islam Muhammad is one of the most influential figures in history. The furor surrounding the Satanic Verses and the Danish cartoon crisis reminded the world of the tremendous importance of the prophet of Islam, Muhammad. Learning about his life and understanding its importance, however, has always proven difficult. Our knowledge of Muhammad comes from the biography of him written by his followers, but Western historians have questioned the reliability of this story in their quest to uncover the 'historical Muhammad'. 

As modern controversies have shown, whatever the truth about Muhammad's life, his persona has taken on numerous shapes and played a crucial role in Muslim life and civilization. This Very Short Introduction provides an introduction to the major aspects of Muhammad's life and its importance, providing both the Muslim and Western historical perspectives. It also explains the prominent roles that Muhammad's persona has played in the Islamic world, from the medieval to the modern period.


1: The Life of the Messenger of God
2: Shaping Muhammad in History
3: Muhammad in Islamic Civilization
Further Reading

About the author: 

Jonathan A.C. Brown is Assistant Professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at the University of Washington. He has studied and conducted research in Egypt, Syria, Turkey, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and Iran. He has published in the fields of Hadith, Islamic law, Sufism, Arabic lexical theory and Pre-Islamic poetry.

"'This is an excellent introduction to the life of Muhammad. Dr Brown is providing the reader with a rigorous study based on the classical Islamic tradition, yet well balanced between elements of faith and rational discussions, useful for Muslims and non Muslims alike. Very easy to read, profound and interesting to study.'" - Tariq Ramadan

"'This is a masterful treatment...informed by first rate scholarship yet engaging, accessible, and distinctively different from previous books on Muhammad'" - John L. Esposito, Georgetown University, and author of 'The Future of Islam'.

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