The character and life of Muhammad based on a collection of his sayings.
Knight (Religious Studies/Univ. of Central Florida; Magic in Islam, 2016, etc.) draws on the hadith tradition in Islam—collections of sayings by Muhammad—to provide his own introduction to the prophet, seeking “Muslim traditions that offer representations of Muhammad that speak from outside canonical privilege.” The author’s portrait of Muhammad is progressive, sometimes controversial, and he aims to be inclusive of a variety of Muslim voices. The hadith structure works well as a framework for approaching the complex character of Muhammad from a variety of angles. Some chapters are relatively straightforward and portray the prophet as, for instance, a doting grandfather, an orphaned boy, or even an advocate against animal cruelty. But most chapters dig deeper into Muhammad’s personality and his legacy. Knight finds in Muhammad radical hospitality, patience in judgment, and, above all, a paragon of “the greater jihad”—the battle against one’s ego. As in previous books on Islam, the author occasionally delves into contentious territory, especially in discussions of Muhammad’s sexuality; at one point, he asks readers to “imagine the Prophet…as a gay man.” Later, in discussing the variety of forms that Islam has taken, Knight discusses the Nation of Islam and other related controversial groups. The author also uses the hadith tool to explore those who were close to Muhammad and who had an influence on the beginnings of Islam. For instance, he explores the life of Aisha, one of Muhammad’s later wives, and through her brings a feminist focus to the roots of the Muslim faith. During his conclusion, Knight states, “if someone objects to me with the clichéd charge that I treat Islam ‘like a buffet,’ I answer that I treat it like a dozen buffets.” Indeed, readers will find 40 buffets in this single book.
A worthwhile and sometimes challenging read for Muslims and non-Muslims alike.