In the Footsteps of the Prophet: Lessons from the Life of Muhammad

In the Footsteps of the Prophet: Lessons from the Life of Muhammad

In the Footsteps of the Prophet: Lessons from the Life of Muhammad

256 Pages ·2008·36.98 MB ·English

In the Footsteps of the Prophet: Lessons from the Life of Muhammad

IN THE


FOOTSTEPS OF THE


P R O P H E T IN THE


FOOTSTEPS


OF THE


PROPHET


Lessons from the


Life of Muhammad


Tariq Ramadan


OXFORD


UNIVtiRSITY PRESS


2007 OXFORD


VNIVEIt.SITY PRESS


Oxfmd Univenil}" Press, inc., publ;shc~ 1'/OtXs th~t


further O:r.ford Unh't'nity'\ obj~"c of acclJencc


in ~:uch. scholarshp. wd rducanon.


Oxford New York


Auckland Capc TO\Io'o Dar ". Salaam Hong Kong Karachi


Kuala Lumpur M:>

Nev.' ~Ihi Shangh .. T.,pri Toronto


W';th offices In


Arg<'ntiru. Austri. Braz~ Chile Czech Ikpublic Fn.ncc G~ccc


GWl.tnnab Hungary Ir.oJy J.pm P"brod Porrugal Singapore


SOUib Koffil S"~!zcrhnd Th.ilond Turke)' Ukrunc Voemam


C.opyright 0 2007 by Oxford Univcnity PIl"', Inc.


Publi5hed by (hford Uru''t:rnry !'Tess, Inc.


198 Madiwn Avenue, ~t'>o' York, t-'.Y 10016


WW\\'.0Ilp.con.


Oxtonl is. ~stc~ tn

AU rights rcscrYc

StorM ;n a rcttir:val ')"tcm. or \t'1o.mim:d, in any form or h)' anr means,


dtttronic. mcdurucaJ, pho

,,~!hout the prior (l<'rmi ..i on of Oxford Uni'"eTSlty py."u.


Library of Congre. . C.taloging-in-Publ;catinn Data


fuunulan, Tanq.


In ,he fo<){sfCPS of the prophet: leSI

Tan,,! R2madan.


p. cm. Include, bibliographIcal referencel Qnd inde:.;.


ISRN-13: 978.o).19-53OllSo..8


1. Muhammad, Prophet, d. 632----ApprecIlH;on.


2. Muhammad, Prophet, d. 632----Ethics.


3. Muhammad, Prophet, d. 632-THdungs.


4. MUilims-ConduCI of life.


5. IslmUc "thies.


I. Tttle.


BPi6.2R36 2007


297.6'3--dc22


IH] 2()()(,(1260JO


35798642


Pnnted In the LrutM 5"'1 .... of Amenca


on acid_free po.ptr Contents


Acknowlcdb>mcnts vn


.


Introduction ox


1 Encounter with the Sacred


2 Birth and Education 9


3 Personality and Spiritual Quest 19


4 Revelation, Knowledge 29


5 The rvlcssage and Adversity 37


6 Resistance, Humility, and Exile 51


7 Trials, Elevation, and Hopes 63


8 Hijrah 81


9 J\kdina, Ufe, and \'



10 Teachings and Defeat 111


1 I Tricks and Treason 129


12 A Dream, Peace 149


13 Coming Home 165


14 At Home, Over There 181


15 Debtless 199


In History, for Eternity 211


Notes 217


Index 235 To Najma


This book is a work of dawn


And you accompanied it, with your footsteps on the stairs,


Your mischievous, laughing, or sulky eyes.


You came to CUI! up in my arms.


1 would then leave the screen through which I immersed


w:l8


In the infinite light of the Messenger's goodness and love,


To drown in the infinite warmth of your presence.


The Messenger taught me forgiveness, you offered me innocence.


i\Iay your path be brjght, my daughter, and may He love you


Through your smiles and through your tears.


I love you.


To ATlma Ali


An American encoumer and a never-ending gift


Facing trials. accepting silences.


You have accompanied my thought and my questions,


And read and reread and rephrased, often better than I could have done.


Faithfulness of the heart and soul in the Light of the 110st High


In the footsteps of His Messenger.


I forget nothing.


To Claude D"bbak


To tell you here of my eSteem and respect


For that deep modesty and constant humility.


Behind the translator, one senses deeply rich learning


And an immense gift offered to \Vestern Muslims.


Your name too often hides behind authors' works.


debt is immense, mine in particular.


OUf


In the name of us all, truly, from the bottom of my heart,


Thank you! Acknowledgments


In the hours of dawn when trus book was written, there was silence, med(cid:173)


itative solitude, and the experience of a journey, beyond time and space,


toward the heart, the essence of spirihlal quest, and initiation into mean(cid:173)


ing. lvlomenrs of plenitude, and often of tcars; of contemplation and vul(cid:173)


nerability. I needed this.


As time went on, the list of the women and men who made it possible


to complete this project grew longer. I am almost sure that some of these


precious names are going to escape me, though this in no way lessens the


importance of their presence and contribution. Others have been moved


by discretion or other reasons to remain anonymous; I understand, and


my heart thanks them beyond these pages with the affection and gratitude


they know go out to them.


I would first of all like to thank Faris Kermani and Neil Cameron, who


0/


two years ago asked me to narrate a film, Tn the Footrteps the Prophet Mu(cid:173)


hammad, for a British television channel. Political considerations (n\'o Arab


governments having banned me from entering their territory) unfortunate(cid:173)


ly made that project impossible. I then decided to do something entirely dif(cid:173)


ferent and write a biography of the Prophet Muhammad, endeavoring to


throw light on the spiritual and contemporary teachings in the life of the


laSt Prophet. Many people around me encouraged me to carry this


Out


work. 1 am indebted to Iman, 1hryam, Sami, !. ..I oussa, and Najma for their


constant accompaniment and support, and to my mother for some original


ideas that came up hete and there in our discussions. 1 would like to thank


Cynthia Read, of Oxford University Press (Nev.' York), very warmly for her


permanent enthusiasm, faithfulness, and humanity. In her Oxford-based


collaborators, I have also found thoughtful and kind women and men. VIii


During this academic year, my work has been accompanied by the pres(cid:173)


ence of Gwen Griffith-Dickson and Vicky Mohammed of the Lokahi


Foundation, based in London. At Saint Antony's College, Oxford Uni(cid:173)


versity, Walter Armbrust and Eugene Rogan (Middle East Center) as well


as Timothy Garton Ash and Kalypso Nicolaidis (European Studies


Center) also enabled me to complete this work in the best possible con(cid:173)


ditions through their academic support and friendship. I do not forget


Polly Friedhoff (who has now gone into wcll-desecved retirement), Franca


POttS, and Collette Caffrey, who have been constantly available. To all of


them, and to all those \\'Omen and men who have surrounded me \\~th


their recognition and unobtrusive suppon , I would here Jjke to express


my deepest gratitude.


There is of course Yasmina Dif, my assistant, who manages my Euro(cid:173)


pean office in such a warm and efficient manner. Shellna Mcrani, in


Canada, has also undertaken difficult work with heart and solidarity. ~-funa


Ali, more than an assistant based in the United States, keeps reading, com(cid:173)


menting, and sharing ideas faithfully and seriously. Claude Dabbak has


translated this book and has, with great humility, never failed to put her


learning at the servjce of the necessary corrections. This book could not


have been completed without the collaboration of this team, at once fra(cid:173)


ternal, demanding, and devoted. With aU my heart, I thank them for being


with me on trus journey and making it possible for us to advance togeth(cid:173)


er, in I-lis light, against wind and tide.


My final thanks and my last prayer go to the One, the Most Near, that


He may accept and receive this Jjfe of the Prophet, that He may forgive


me its possible errors or failings-which arc due to none but myself-and


that He may allow it to be a small landmark in the human enterprise of


understanding and reconciliation: with oneself, with others, with His love.


I learn daily that the quest for humility cannot justify any lapse from spir(cid:173)


itual requirements or intel1eerual probity.


For myself, this book has been an initiatiol1. I pray to the 1\'lost


Gracious mat it may be so for others. Long is the road of exile leading to


oneself. ...


London


~hy 2006 Introduction


1


Countless biographies of the Prophet Muhammad already exist. From


classical sources (such as the works of Ibn Ishaq and Ibn Hisham) to


morc recent accounts of the life of God's Messenger, as well as other


renowned works by Muslim scholars over the course of history, it seems


that everything must have already been said over and over again and that


the subject matter must necessarily have been exhausted. So why should


we undertake yet another attempt?


The present biography does not aim to compete with classical sources


(which indeed arc its source material), disclose any new facts, or provide


an original or revolutionary reinterpretation of the history of prophet(cid:173)


hood and its context. The aims of the present study are far more modest,


though it does not make them any easier to achieve.


The Prophet l\Iuhammad occupies a particular place in the life and


conscience of i\fuslims today, juSt as he did in the past. According to


them, he received and transmitted the last revealed book, the Quran,


which repeatedly insists on the eminent and singular position of the Mes(cid:173)


senger of God, all at once a prophet, a bearer of news, a model, and a


guide. He was but a man, yet he acted to transform the world in the light


of Revelation and inspirations he received from God, his Educator (ar(cid:173)


Rabb). That this man was chosen and inspired by God but also fully


accepted his own humanity is what makes Muhammad an example and a


guide for the 1{uslim faithful.


Muslims do not consider the Messenger of Islam a mediator between


God and people. Each individual is invited to address God directly, and


although the 1tessenger did sometimes pray to God on behalf of his introduction


community, he often insisted on each believer's responsibility in his or her


dialogue and relationship with the One. Muhammad simply reminds the


faithful of God's presence: he initiates them into His knowledge and dis(cid:173)


closes the initiatory path of spirituality through which he teaches his


Companions and community that they must transcend the respect and


love they have for him in the worship and love they must offer to and ask


of the One, who begets not and is not begotten.


To those who, in his lifetime, wanted miracles and concrete evidence


of his prophethood, Revelation ordered him to reply: "I am but a man


like yourselves; the inspiration has come to me that your God is One


God."2 This same Revelation also infotms the believers, for aU eternjty, of


the singular status of this Mes~enger who, while chosen by God, never


lost his human qualities: ''You have indeed in the Messenger of God an


excellent example for he who hopes in God and the Final Day, and who


remembers God much.,,3 These two dimensions-the man's humanity


and the Prophet's exemplarity-setve as the focus of our interest in the


present biography.


This is not going to be a detailed account of historical facts, great


achievements, or famous wars. Classical biographies of the Messenger


give abundant information about such matters, and we see no profit in


dealing with them exhaustively. Our attention is mainly focused, through(cid:173)


out the natration of the story of his life, on situations, attitudes, or \vords


that could reveal Muhammad's personality and what it can teach and coo(cid:173)


vey to us today. \'{'hen Aishah, his wife, was once questioned about the


Prophet's personality, she answered: "His character [the ethics underlying


his behavior] was the Quran.,,4 Since the Book addresses the believing


consciousness through the ages, it seemed essential to observe how the


man who best incarnated it in his behavior could "speak" to us, guide, us


and educate us nowadays.


The initial idea was therefore to plunge into the heart of the Prophet'S


life and draw out its timeless spiritual teachings. From his birth to his


death, his life is strewn with events, situations, and statements dlat point


to the deepest spiritual edification. Adherence to faith, dialogue with God,


observing nature, self-doubt, inner peace, signs and trials, and so on are


themes that speak to us and remind us that basically nothing has changed.


The Messenger's biography points to primary and eternal existential ques(cid:173)


tions, and in this sense, his life is an initiation. A second type of lesson can nevertheless be drawn from the historical


events that filled the Prophet's life. I n the seventh cenrory, at the heart of


a specific social, political, and cui rural environment, God's j\:lessenger


acted, reacted, and expressed himself about human beings and events in


the !1ame of his faith, in the light of his morals. Studying his actions in


this particular historical and geographical setting should enable us to


throw light on a number of principles about the relation of faith to


human beings, brotherhood, love, adversity, community life, justice, laws,


and \\'2r. We have therefore endeavored to approach j\ Iuhammad's life


from the perspective of our own times, considering how it still speaks to


us and what its contemporary teachings are.


The reader, whcther :Muslim or not, is thus invited to look into the


Prophet's life and follow the steps of an account that is strictly faithful to


classical biographies (as far as facts and chronology are concerned) but


which nevertheless constantly introduces reflections and comments, of a


spiritual, philosophical, social, judicial, political, or cultural narure, in(cid:173)


spired by the facts narrated. The choice to focus on certain events rather


than others is of course determined by the wish to draw out teachings


that speak to our lives and to our times. In each section of the (deliber(cid:173)


ately short) chapters that make up this book, the reader will notice con(cid:173)


stant movements between the Prophet's life, the Quran, and the teachings


relevant to spirituality and tl1e present-day situation that can be drawn


from the various historical situations.


aim is more to get to know the Prophet himself than to learn


OUf


about his personality or the events in his life. What is sought are immer(cid:173)


sion, s}'mpathy, and, essentially, love. Whether one believes or not, it is not


impossible to uy to immerse oneself in the Prophet's quest and existence


and recapture the pulse~the spirit-that infused his mission with mean(cid:173)


ing. This is indeed the primary ambition of this work: making of the


Messenger's life a mirror through which readers facing the challenges of


Our time can explore their hearts and minds and achieve an understand(cid:173)


ing of questions of being and meaning as well as broader ethical and


social concerns.


This book is intended for a lar&re audience, both Muslim and noo(cid:173)


Muslim. The text is academically rigorous in regard to classical Islamic


Sources, which we hope makes it useful to scholars and the Islamic sciences.


By contrast, the narrative, interwoven with reflections and meditations, is


IN THE


FOOTSTEPS OF THE


P R O P H E T IN THE


FOOTSTEPS


OF THE


PROPHET


Lessons from the


Life of Muhammad


Tariq Ramadan


OXFORD


UNIVtiRSITY PRESS


2007 OXFORD


VNIVEIt.SITY PRESS


Oxfmd Univenil}" Press, inc., publ;shc~ 1'/OtXs th~t


further O:r.ford Unh't'nity'\ obj~"c of acclJencc


in ~:uch. scholarshp. wd rducanon.


Oxford New York


Auckland Capc TO\Io'o Dar ". Salaam Hong Kong Karachi


Kuala Lumpur M:>

Nev.' ~Ihi Shangh .. T.,pri Toronto


W';th offices In


Arg<'ntiru. Austri. Braz~ Chile Czech Ikpublic Fn.ncc G~ccc


GWl.tnnab Hungary Ir.oJy J.pm P"brod Porrugal Singapore


SOUib Koffil S"~!zcrhnd Th.ilond Turke)' Ukrunc Voemam


C.opyright 0 2007 by Oxford Univcnity PIl"', Inc.


Publi5hed by (hford Uru''t:rnry !'Tess, Inc.


198 Madiwn Avenue, ~t'>o' York, t-'.Y 10016


WW\\'.0Ilp.con.


Oxtonl is. ~stc~ tn

AU rights rcscrYc

StorM ;n a rcttir:val ')"tcm. or \t'1o.mim:d, in any form or h)' anr means,


dtttronic. mcdurucaJ, pho

,,~!hout the prior (l<'rmi ..i on of Oxford Uni'"eTSlty py."u.


Library of Congre. . C.taloging-in-Publ;catinn Data


fuunulan, Tanq.


In ,he fo<){sfCPS of the prophet: leSI

Tan,,! R2madan.


p. cm. Include, bibliographIcal referencel Qnd inde:.;.


ISRN-13: 978.o).19-53OllSo..8


1. Muhammad, Prophet, d. 632----ApprecIlH;on.


2. Muhammad, Prophet, d. 632----Ethics.


3. Muhammad, Prophet, d. 632-THdungs.


4. MUilims-ConduCI of life.


5. IslmUc "thies.


I. Tttle.


BPi6.2R36 2007


297.6'3--dc22


IH] 2()()(,(1260JO


35798642


Pnnted In the LrutM 5"'1 .... of Amenca


on acid_free po.ptr Contents


Acknowlcdb>mcnts vn


.


Introduction ox


1 Encounter with the Sacred


2 Birth and Education 9


3 Personality and Spiritual Quest 19


4 Revelation, Knowledge 29


5 The rvlcssage and Adversity 37


6 Resistance, Humility, and Exile 51


7 Trials, Elevation, and Hopes 63


8 Hijrah 81


9 J\kdina, Ufe, and \'



10 Teachings and Defeat 111


1 I Tricks and Treason 129


12 A Dream, Peace 149


13 Coming Home 165


14 At Home, Over There 181


15 Debtless 199


In History, for Eternity 211


Notes 217


Index 235 To Najma


This book is a work of dawn


And you accompanied it, with your footsteps on the stairs,


Your mischievous, laughing, or sulky eyes.


You came to CUI! up in my arms.


1 would then leave the screen through which I immersed


w:l8


In the infinite light of the Messenger's goodness and love,


To drown in the infinite warmth of your presence.


The Messenger taught me forgiveness, you offered me innocence.


i\Iay your path be brjght, my daughter, and may He love you


Through your smiles and through your tears.


I love you.


To ATlma Ali


An American encoumer and a never-ending gift


Facing trials. accepting silences.


You have accompanied my thought and my questions,


And read and reread and rephrased, often better than I could have done.


Faithfulness of the heart and soul in the Light of the 110st High


In the footsteps of His Messenger.


I forget nothing.


To Claude D"bbak


To tell you here of my eSteem and respect


For that deep modesty and constant humility.


Behind the translator, one senses deeply rich learning


And an immense gift offered to \Vestern Muslims.


Your name too often hides behind authors' works.


debt is immense, mine in particular.


OUf


In the name of us all, truly, from the bottom of my heart,


Thank you! Acknowledgments


In the hours of dawn when trus book was written, there was silence, med(cid:173)


itative solitude, and the experience of a journey, beyond time and space,


toward the heart, the essence of spirihlal quest, and initiation into mean(cid:173)


ing. lvlomenrs of plenitude, and often of tcars; of contemplation and vul(cid:173)


nerability. I needed this.


As time went on, the list of the women and men who made it possible


to complete this project grew longer. I am almost sure that some of these


precious names are going to escape me, though this in no way lessens the


importance of their presence and contribution. Others have been moved


by discretion or other reasons to remain anonymous; I understand, and


my heart thanks them beyond these pages with the affection and gratitude


they know go out to them.


I would first of all like to thank Faris Kermani and Neil Cameron, who


0/


two years ago asked me to narrate a film, Tn the Footrteps the Prophet Mu(cid:173)


hammad, for a British television channel. Political considerations (n\'o Arab


governments having banned me from entering their territory) unfortunate(cid:173)


ly made that project impossible. I then decided to do something entirely dif(cid:173)


ferent and write a biography of the Prophet Muhammad, endeavoring to


throw light on the spiritual and contemporary teachings in the life of the


laSt Prophet. Many people around me encouraged me to carry this


Out


work. 1 am indebted to Iman, 1hryam, Sami, !. ..I oussa, and Najma for their


constant accompaniment and support, and to my mother for some original


ideas that came up hete and there in our discussions. 1 would like to thank


Cynthia Read, of Oxford University Press (Nev.' York), very warmly for her


permanent enthusiasm, faithfulness, and humanity. In her Oxford-based


collaborators, I have also found thoughtful and kind women and men. VIii


During this academic year, my work has been accompanied by the pres(cid:173)


ence of Gwen Griffith-Dickson and Vicky Mohammed of the Lokahi


Foundation, based in London. At Saint Antony's College, Oxford Uni(cid:173)


versity, Walter Armbrust and Eugene Rogan (Middle East Center) as well


as Timothy Garton Ash and Kalypso Nicolaidis (European Studies


Center) also enabled me to complete this work in the best possible con(cid:173)


ditions through their academic support and friendship. I do not forget


Polly Friedhoff (who has now gone into wcll-desecved retirement), Franca


POttS, and Collette Caffrey, who have been constantly available. To all of


them, and to all those \\'Omen and men who have surrounded me \\~th


their recognition and unobtrusive suppon , I would here Jjke to express


my deepest gratitude.


There is of course Yasmina Dif, my assistant, who manages my Euro(cid:173)


pean office in such a warm and efficient manner. Shellna Mcrani, in


Canada, has also undertaken difficult work with heart and solidarity. ~-funa


Ali, more than an assistant based in the United States, keeps reading, com(cid:173)


menting, and sharing ideas faithfully and seriously. Claude Dabbak has


translated this book and has, with great humility, never failed to put her


learning at the servjce of the necessary corrections. This book could not


have been completed without the collaboration of this team, at once fra(cid:173)


ternal, demanding, and devoted. With aU my heart, I thank them for being


with me on trus journey and making it possible for us to advance togeth(cid:173)


er, in I-lis light, against wind and tide.


My final thanks and my last prayer go to the One, the Most Near, that


He may accept and receive this Jjfe of the Prophet, that He may forgive


me its possible errors or failings-which arc due to none but myself-and


that He may allow it to be a small landmark in the human enterprise of


understanding and reconciliation: with oneself, with others, with His love.


I learn daily that the quest for humility cannot justify any lapse from spir(cid:173)


itual requirements or intel1eerual probity.


For myself, this book has been an initiatiol1. I pray to the 1\'lost


Gracious mat it may be so for others. Long is the road of exile leading to


oneself. ...


London


~hy 2006 Introduction


1


Countless biographies of the Prophet Muhammad already exist. From


classical sources (such as the works of Ibn Ishaq and Ibn Hisham) to


morc recent accounts of the life of God's Messenger, as well as other


renowned works by Muslim scholars over the course of history, it seems


that everything must have already been said over and over again and that


the subject matter must necessarily have been exhausted. So why should


we undertake yet another attempt?


The present biography does not aim to compete with classical sources


(which indeed arc its source material), disclose any new facts, or provide


an original or revolutionary reinterpretation of the history of prophet(cid:173)


hood and its context. The aims of the present study are far more modest,


though it does not make them any easier to achieve.


The Prophet l\Iuhammad occupies a particular place in the life and


conscience of i\fuslims today, juSt as he did in the past. According to


them, he received and transmitted the last revealed book, the Quran,


which repeatedly insists on the eminent and singular position of the Mes(cid:173)


senger of God, all at once a prophet, a bearer of news, a model, and a


guide. He was but a man, yet he acted to transform the world in the light


of Revelation and inspirations he received from God, his Educator (ar(cid:173)


Rabb). That this man was chosen and inspired by God but also fully


accepted his own humanity is what makes Muhammad an example and a


guide for the 1{uslim faithful.


Muslims do not consider the Messenger of Islam a mediator between


God and people. Each individual is invited to address God directly, and


although the 1tessenger did sometimes pray to God on behalf of his introduction


community, he often insisted on each believer's responsibility in his or her


dialogue and relationship with the One. Muhammad simply reminds the


faithful of God's presence: he initiates them into His knowledge and dis(cid:173)


closes the initiatory path of spirituality through which he teaches his


Companions and community that they must transcend the respect and


love they have for him in the worship and love they must offer to and ask


of the One, who begets not and is not begotten.


To those who, in his lifetime, wanted miracles and concrete evidence


of his prophethood, Revelation ordered him to reply: "I am but a man


like yourselves; the inspiration has come to me that your God is One


God."2 This same Revelation also infotms the believers, for aU eternjty, of


the singular status of this Mes~enger who, while chosen by God, never


lost his human qualities: ''You have indeed in the Messenger of God an


excellent example for he who hopes in God and the Final Day, and who


remembers God much.,,3 These two dimensions-the man's humanity


and the Prophet's exemplarity-setve as the focus of our interest in the


present biography.


This is not going to be a detailed account of historical facts, great


achievements, or famous wars. Classical biographies of the Messenger


give abundant information about such matters, and we see no profit in


dealing with them exhaustively. Our attention is mainly focused, through(cid:173)


out the natration of the story of his life, on situations, attitudes, or \vords


that could reveal Muhammad's personality and what it can teach and coo(cid:173)


vey to us today. \'{'hen Aishah, his wife, was once questioned about the


Prophet's personality, she answered: "His character [the ethics underlying


his behavior] was the Quran.,,4 Since the Book addresses the believing


consciousness through the ages, it seemed essential to observe how the


man who best incarnated it in his behavior could "speak" to us, guide, us


and educate us nowadays.


The initial idea was therefore to plunge into the heart of the Prophet'S


life and draw out its timeless spiritual teachings. From his birth to his


death, his life is strewn with events, situations, and statements dlat point


to the deepest spiritual edification. Adherence to faith, dialogue with God,


observing nature, self-doubt, inner peace, signs and trials, and so on are


themes that speak to us and remind us that basically nothing has changed.


The Messenger's biography points to primary and eternal existential ques(cid:173)


tions, and in this sense, his life is an initiation. A second type of lesson can nevertheless be drawn from the historical


events that filled the Prophet's life. I n the seventh cenrory, at the heart of


a specific social, political, and cui rural environment, God's j\:lessenger


acted, reacted, and expressed himself about human beings and events in


the !1ame of his faith, in the light of his morals. Studying his actions in


this particular historical and geographical setting should enable us to


throw light on a number of principles about the relation of faith to


human beings, brotherhood, love, adversity, community life, justice, laws,


and \\'2r. We have therefore endeavored to approach j\ Iuhammad's life


from the perspective of our own times, considering how it still speaks to


us and what its contemporary teachings are.


The reader, whcther :Muslim or not, is thus invited to look into the


Prophet's life and follow the steps of an account that is strictly faithful to


classical biographies (as far as facts and chronology are concerned) but


which nevertheless constantly introduces reflections and comments, of a


spiritual, philosophical, social, judicial, political, or cultural narure, in(cid:173)


spired by the facts narrated. The choice to focus on certain events rather


than others is of course determined by the wish to draw out teachings


that speak to our lives and to our times. In each section of the (deliber(cid:173)


ately short) chapters that make up this book, the reader will notice con(cid:173)


stant movements between the Prophet's life, the Quran, and the teachings


relevant to spirituality and tl1e present-day situation that can be drawn


from the various historical situations.


aim is more to get to know the Prophet himself than to learn


OUf


about his personality or the events in his life. What is sought are immer(cid:173)


sion, s}'mpathy, and, essentially, love. Whether one believes or not, it is not


impossible to uy to immerse oneself in the Prophet's quest and existence


and recapture the pulse~the spirit-that infused his mission with mean(cid:173)


ing. This is indeed the primary ambition of this work: making of the


Messenger's life a mirror through which readers facing the challenges of


Our time can explore their hearts and minds and achieve an understand(cid:173)


ing of questions of being and meaning as well as broader ethical and


social concerns.


This book is intended for a lar&re audience, both Muslim and noo(cid:173)


Muslim. The text is academically rigorous in regard to classical Islamic


Sources, which we hope makes it useful to scholars and the Islamic sciences.


By contrast, the narrative, interwoven with reflections and meditations, is


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