The First Muslim: The Story of Muhammad

Lesley Hazleton. Riverhead, $27.95 (336p) ISBN 978-1-59448-728-6
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Despite Islam’s position at the forefront of the American consciousness, the general public knows little of its founder and prophet beyond platitudes and condemnations. Hazleton (After the Prophet) attempts to rectify this imbalance with her vivid and engaging narrative of Muhammad’s life. The author portrays her subject as an unlikely and unsuspecting vehicle for the divine, “painfully aware that too many nights in solitary meditation might have driven him over the edge.” Sympathetic but not hagiographic, her work draws liberally from a long tradition of Islamic biographical literature about the prophet; the nuanced portrait that emerges is less that of an infallible saint than of a loving family man, a devoted leader of his people, an introspective and philosophical thinker who reluctantly accepted the burden of conveying the word of God, and a calculating political strategist. Hazleton writes not as a historian but as a cultural interpreter, reconstructing Muhammad’s identity and personality from the spiritual revolution that he sparked and the stories that his followers passed down. While the speculation is sometimes off-putting (as when Muhammad’s final illness is confidently diagnosed as bacterial meningitis), the result is a fluid and captivating introduction that will be invaluable for those seeking a greater understanding of Islam’s message and its messenger. Agent: Gloria Loomis, Watkins/Loomis Agency. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 11/12/2012
Release date: 01/24/2013
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 363 pages - 978-1-59463-230-3
Hardcover - 320 pages - 978-1-78239-229-3
Ebook - 179 pages - 978-1-78239-231-6
Open Ebook - 320 pages - 978-1-101-60200-3
Compact Disc - 978-1-5159-1845-5
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