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Muhammad and War

by Joel Hayward

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 2022
ISBN: 9781800119802
Publisher: Claritas Books

Renowned military historian Hayward explores the war campaigns of the Prophet Muhammad in this sprawling historical study.

Perhaps no two people have influenced the world quite like Jesus and the Prophet Muhammad. And while their religious teachings are similar, Muhammad diverges in his dual role as a “warrior-prophet” who “fought militarily to fulfil [sic] the mission that he believed God had given him.” Central to Hayward’s impetus in writing this book is his belief that contemporary scholarship has inadequately addressed Muhammad’s militarism. Most studies on the prophet, for example, are written by theologians and religious scholars who fail to approach the topic with the methodology of trained historians and thus focus on issues of fiqh (jurisprudence). According to the author, many scholars are also plagued by “present-centeredness” and operate under modern assumptions that condemn warfare or rely on Western tropes that portray “Muhammad as a general” based on contemporary understandings of military organization. Eschewing these historiographic trends that attempt to speak to 21st-century issues, Hayward emphasizes the religious and military context in which Muhammad acted. Divided into three sections, the book begins by placing Muhammad in a historical context in which the “ordinariness of raiding” was the “norm.” A similar contextual approach guides the book’s subsequent sections: “Pitched Battles and Attacks on Settlements” and “Muhammad’s War With the Jews.” Arguing against allegations that Muhammad was antisemitic, the book notes that Jews were “under his sworn protection,” were given “certain freedoms,” and that there were even Jewish “strong warriors” serving as auxiliaries in his Khaybar campaign. Though Hayward is a self-described “committed Muslim,” he is uninterested in presenting religious history or defending Muhammad’s military competence. Instead, as a professor of strategic thought at Rabdan Academy in the United Arab Emirates and author of multiple books on military history, he seeks to further readers’ understanding of “the historical Muhammad” whose military actions are filtered through a seventh-century Arabic mindset. At more than 450 dense pages, the book may be overwhelming to those unfamiliar with Islamic history, though ample reading aids (from maps and charts to timelines and a glossary) are provided. With almost 1,500 endnotes, this is a remarkably well-researched book that has a solid grasp on both contemporary scholarship as well as Arabic primary sources.

A complex but readable reinterpretation of Muhammad’s role as a warrior prophet.