The Lives of Muhammad

Kecia Ali. Harvard Univ., $29.95 (342p) ISBN 978-0-674-05060-0
Ali, an associate professor of religion at Boston University (Profiles, p. 12), takes an innovative approach to a biography of Muhammad, comparing the various accounts of his life in what is probably the only book to do so comprehensively. She concludes that, as sensibilities evolved in the time since Muhammad's life, the biographies of the prophet expanded or even altered in keeping with prevailing mores. Ali refrains from assessing the veracity of the variant readings, although some of the more obvious sinkholes would stun even the moderate Muslim reader or casual Islamic scholar. (For example, the man named Muhammad probably originally had a pagan-sounding name that was whitewashed by later historians.) Such views shatter the standard and much-cherished life story of the prophet, which, as Ali herself argues, has grown organically from the moment Muhammad died. This book calls into question most of Muhammad's biography, leaving the frustrated believer to wonder what really is true if such core understandings are shaky. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 10/06/2014
Release date: 10/01/2014
Genre: Religion
Ebook - 353 pages - 978-0-674-73551-4
Paperback - 352 pages - 978-0-674-65988-9
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