Saturday, September 7, 2013

The First Muslim - Lesley Hazleton

Sub-title: The story of Muhammad

This was a wonderfully written book.  The author tells the life story of Muhammad, from his childhood as an orphan through his revelation from God in mid-life that set him on the path to becoming the prophet of Islam. It ends with the prophet's death in the mid-sixth century and the naming of his successor.

Muhammad was orphaned as a child and was taken in by his uncle.  In his 20's he married an older woman and had four daughters and one son, that sadly died in infancy.  When his wife died many years later, he took many other wives, including two of the Jewish faith, cementing the kinship ties to family and supporters, but never had other children.  He began sharing the revelations he received with a group of followers and eventually they were driven from Mecca to Medina, where the following grew.  Muhammad and his followers had conflicts with the three Jewish tribes in Medina.  He was disappointed the Jews did not embrace his teachings as they were from the same ancestral line of Abraham. Two of the tribes were driven out and the men of the third tribe were killed, which left a lasting animosity between Jews and Muslims.
Eventually he returned triumphantly to Mecca and died there in his mid-60's.

His successor was a source of dispute.  Those who felt that the prophet had instructed them that all they needed was "the Quran and the example of his prophet" - the sunna, literally, the "custom" of the prophet, wanted abu-Bakar, a loyal supporter, to take over after the prophet and become the first caliph.  The followers of this group eventually became known as Sunnis.  Those who felt the prophet had instructed them that all they needed was "the Quran and the people of the prophet's house" backed his son-in-law, Ali. These followers called themselves shiat Ali , "the followers of Ali" which became known as Shia.

I felt I learned so much about the beginnings of the Muslim faith and the person of the prophet, Muhammad in reading this book.  I felt it was written to present him as a person who took his responsibility very seriously and felt called to share the words of God with his fellow man.  I would recommend the book to anyone who wants to understand a life that has had "almost unparalleled historical importance".

Published: 2013   Read: September 2013   Genre: History

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