On the Historical Muhammad
Prophet Muhammad names Imam Ali as his successor, according to Shia tradition, depicted in a 14th c. CE manuscript -- Image Via Wikimedia Commons.
There is no such comparable inquiry into the historical Muhammad among Muslims in general. For such an inquiry would suggest there is some variance between what we might know of Muhammad on the basis of modern historiography and what we know of Muhammad through Muslim sources as the Prophet of Islam. In the first instance our knowledge of Muhammad would depend upon the reliability of sources, upon treating these sources with the due scepticism required for scientific understanding of the subject, and that such knowledge would rest upon historical objectivity and independent criticism. In the second instance our knowledge of Muhammad as a prophet revered by
Muslims rests upon the collective memory of Muslims as a faith community (the ummah), and this memory has been enriched by re-telling from one generation to another as a sacred story that cannot be subjected to critical study for the fear of insulting the Prophet and his community of faithful. In a nutshell this is the problem when attempting to write or speak about Muhammad as a historically reliable figure distinct from Muhammad revered and venerated by Muslims as their Prophet.
But this problem is not unique in respect to what we know about Muhammad as a founder of a world religion. The problem is about the same when it comes to, for instance, what we know as historically reliable about Moses or Buddha or Jesus. Indeed, very little. With the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947 the historicity of Jesus has been undermined, yet these texts written by members belonging to a Jewish community, the Essenes, over 2000 years ago have not irreparably undone the faith of Christians believing in Jesus as divine. The problem, however, varies. Modern historiography may bring discomfort to Jews, Buddhists and Christians, but such discomfort in our time is not raised to a level of anger or rage that might turn lethal against those engaged in the critical study of religious history. In the case of Muhammad, to bring modern historiography to bear upon him is to risk the wrath of Muslims, a peril that only the foolhardy will dismiss or ignore despite the evidence in our time of the Rushdie affair, the Danish cartoon controversy, and physical threats of violence against those who could be seen as insulting Islam's Prophet and what Muslims believe.
There is one thing that most people, Muslim or non-Muslim, interested in Islam as religion, culture, or politics will agree upon. This is Muhammad's place in history. Few will dispute his importance, if not greatness. History is retrospective judgment, and a biography of a great individual is a retrospective judgment on his career and what his life has meant in giving shape to the lives of other people for good or for ill. In writing about the craft of history Jacob Burckhardt, the nineteenth century Swiss historian of cultures, devoted some thought to great men and greatness in history. He wrote,
"The great man is…a man without whom the world would seem to us incomplete because certain great achievements only became possible through him in his time and place and are otherwise unimaginable. He is an essential strand in the great web of causes and effects. "No man is irreplaceable," says the proverb. But the few that are, are great" (Burckhardt, 271-72).
Muhammad was such a man, as were Moses, Buddha and Jesus. But in Muhammad's case, perhaps much more so than in the lives of the other three great men as founders of a religion, his life came to be seen in retrospect by his followers as one fused with or indistinguishable from Islam as religion and as civilization. Long after Muhammad had passed away, his favourite wife Ayesha was asked by his followers to attest to his moral character. Ayesha responded, as recorded in the traditions of the Prophet, "His moral character was the Qur'an." Hence, the testimony of a wife who knew the Prophet most intimately indicated his character was sublime and irreproachable. It also meant that since the Qur'an was taken on faith by Muslims to be the Word of God, they came to believe that the individual through whom God's Word was revealed to humankind was by necessity sublime and faultless. Out of such testimonies, and these over time were woven into a vastly intricate tapestry of narratives by Muhammad's followers, the few known facts of his life dissolved in the myth that grew around his person. It was this myth as sacred literature that Muslims made into a protective wall around Muhammad as Prophet, and any indulgence shown in questioning that myth in whole or in part was considered insulting. Hence, the cautionary words, "Be careful with Muhammad," spread beyond the Muslim world into the West.
The biographical literature on Muhammad written by Muslims and non-Muslims is immensely vast and, not surprisingly, of uneven quality. For the purpose of this essay I refer to three relatively recent books that cover much of what I may only touch upon here. In no order of preference, the first is Clinton Bennett's In Search of Muhammad (1998); the second is Tarif Khalidi's Images of Muhammad: Narratives of the Prophet in Islam Across the Centuries (2009); and the third is The Quest for the Historical Muhammad (2000) edited and translated by Ibn Warraq. Bennett's study is an effort by a Christian scholar to sift through the literature on Muhammad, taking into account the writings by Muslims and non-Muslims, and through a multidisciplinary approach that draws upon the methods of critical studies in literature, history, theology and anthropology to seek an understanding of Muhammad that is respectful of Muslims without compromising objectivity. This is an admirable effort in achieving, as Bennett describes, "an understanding of what Muhammad means to those for whom he is Prophet, and of what he might, can or does mean for those for whom he is not a Prophet" (Bennett, 6). Khalidi's remarkable book is a compilation of the various images constructed by Muslims through the centuries in their writings in reverence of Muhammad to celebrate, edify, and instruct people about the greatness of their Prophet, and then in the modern age to defend the Prophet from the hostile writings of opponents and critics of Islam. Khalidi's book recalls an earlier study, And Muhammad Is His Messenger: The Veneration of the Prophet in Islamic Piety (1987), by Annemarie Schimmel. But Khalidi also refers to the writings of those Muslims in modern times who were influenced by the scientific method and sought, in an attempt to humanize or rescue the Prophet from the midst of superstition and myth-making, "the radical pruning of Muhammad's image from generations of credulity, charlatanry, and prejudice" (297). Ibn Warraq is an ex-Muslim, someone who renounced Islam and established considerable reputation as a knowledgeable and formidable opponent of Islam and its Prophet with his first book Why I Am Not A Muslim (1995), followed by a number of edited anthologies of critical studies by scholars of Islam on Muhammad and the Qur'an. I will conclude with my own thoughts on how Muhammad might be viewed in history from a comparative perspective, even as I approach this subject as a Muslim born and raised in a traditional Muslim home within the mainstream Hanafi branch or school of Sunni Islam.
The earliest biographical writing about Muhammad available, indeed the first, is from the eighth century, over a hundred years after his demise. Biographical writings are known as sira, and sira with a capital S, as Khalidi reminds us, refers to the biography of Muhammad. Sira is the external or outwardly observable narrative of the Prophet's life and career; the details of his conduct reflecting the internal dimension of a life that came to be revered as exemplary by his followers is known as the sunna. The sunna was collected, organized, given a formal structure, and standardized as Hadith or the "traditions" of the Prophet. The collections of the sunna begun in the mid-ninth century were systematized and made into the companion of the Qur'an as hadith, and which then formally prescribed the normative standard of ethical/legal conduct for Muslim religious life (faith, prayer, fasting, pilgrimage, charity) patterned after that of the Prophet. Sira or the biographical writings about Muhammad remained a sort of independent activity on the part of scholars to which Muslims referred to in order to gain a wider understanding of their Prophet's life as a leader and a statesman engaged in worldly affairs even as he was the Messenger of God (Rasul Allah).
The oldest Sira is that of Ibn Ishaq (c. 704-767), and it has been the source of all subsequent biographical writings, such as that of al-Tabari (d. 923). The original version of Ibn Ishaq's biography of Muhammad is lost, and what is available is through the redaction of Ibn Hisham (d. 833), which Alfred Guillaume made available through his English rendition, The Life of Muhammad: A Translation of Ishaq's Sirat Rasul Allah (1955). Ibn Ishaq set the pattern for subsequent biographers, and any modern biographer of the Prophet claiming his or her work is based on the earliest sources, as Martin Lings does in writing the biography Muhammad: his life based on the earliest sources (1983), is going only as far back to Ibn Ishaq. And herein is the problem. Ibn Ishaq wrote a century before the first intimations of the science or systematization of hadith-collection in the ninth century set forth by al-Bukhari and others. Ibn Ishaq's biography was based on oral reports by a chain of transmitters, and the veracity of these oral reports or transmitters he could not authenticate. But Ibn Ishaq was not alone in basing his biography on oral reports. The other three earliest biographers of the Prophet did likewise: Ibn Sa'd (d. 845), al-Baladhuri (d. 892), and al-Tabari. As Khalidi writes, "Theirs is a Sira of primitive devotion, a Sira that stands so much in awe of its subject that it gathers in its net all the reports that fall into it, paying little or no heed to their consistency. The guiding principle is inclusion rather than exclusion, and if there are stories or anecdotes about the Prophet that may offend the sensibilities of Muslims, the idea is that it is better for them to remain where they are than be excised because of any pretensions to piety" (Khalidi, 17). It was left to later generations of biographers to strive for consistency in their narratives, to provide some framework and establish some principle by which the available reports on the life and career of the Prophet were narrated, and what were considered blemishes in earlier works removed.
The spread of Islam and the making of an Arab-Muslim empire created a market for the Sira of the Prophet. As biographies were prepared to meet the demand and the taste of readers, the constructed images of Muhammad became increasingly distant from what little was known of the core details of his life, especially his years spent in Mecca from childhood to his flight to Medina. This core story, as Khalidi writes, could be confined to one paragraph. According to Khalidi:
"Muhammad, son of 'Abdullah son of 'Abd al-Muttalib, was born in Mecca around the year 570 A.D. He began to receive revelations around the year 610 A.D. and shortly thereafter started to preach the faith. During his early years as a preacher he seems to have achieved only a limited success in his hometown, and he had even less success in winning over converts from outside Mecca. The turning point in his career came in the year 622 A.D., when he abandoned Mecca forMedina, a town where he had established a small base of converts who were ready to protect him. This move to Medina (hijra) was later adopted by Muslims to mark the first year of the Muslim, or Hijri, calendar. From Medina Muhammad organized and often led a series of expeditions whose aim was ultimately to conquer Mecca, "God's sacred precinct," and thereafter spread the religion of Islam inside and outside Arabia. Mecca fell in 630, another landmark year. His followers increased rapidly throughout his years in Medina. The Prophet himself died in Medina in 632 (Khalidi, 1-2)."
This core narrative or the bare outline of a life was like a shadow filled out in details, layer upon layer, by Muhammad's followers beginning with Ibn Ishaq till the shadow disappeared behind the montage of images drawn of him to assure Muslims their Prophet was as great as, if not greater than, prophets of the past mentioned in the sacred books of Jews and Christians.
Let us consider the following. By the time Ibn Ishaq completed his Sira at some time in the mid-eight century, the desert Arabs united under the banner of Islam had come to rule a vast empire. Within two decades of Muhammad's demise his followers defeated the rulers of the Byzantium Empire in the area of the eastern Mediterranean, conquered
Damascus, Jerusalem, and Alexandria, vanquished the Persian Emperor Yazdagird III, seized his capital Ctesiphon, and rapidly conquered his empire on the eastern shores of the Persian Gulf. By the time Ibn Ishaq reached his mature years a century since
Muhammad's demise, the Arab-Muslim empire under the Ummayad rulers in Damascus stretched from the plains of the Iberian peninsula or al-Andalus (Spain) in southern Europe across North Africa into Egypt, Syria, the Fertile Crescent, and across the deserts of Persia to the banks of Syr Darya in Central Asia on the western fringes of China and south into the western provinces of India. The speed with which the Arab armies completed this conquest was unprecedented. Over this vast sea of peoples of different ethnicity and culture Arab imperial power was established while Jews, Christians, Zoroastrians, Buddhists, polytheists, and pagans under different circumstances embraced the religion of Arabs, the first followers of Muhammad. In the ranks of these newly converted Muslims whose first language was not Arabic there was demand and, hence, market for biographical details of the Prophet. Ibn Ishaq's biography of Muhammad as such would have been in demand, and Ibn Hisham's redacted edition of Ibn Ishaq's original text circulated widely to meet this growing demand. Other biographies were compiled in the next few centuries after Ibn Ishaq, as Khalidi points out, in which the life of the Prophet was set forth as "canonical, moral, exclusivist, and rationalizing" and Muhammad's "superhuman qualities – his pre-eternity, miraculous powers, and sinlessness" were asserted to fortify the faith of his followers (Khalidi, 18).
The speed with which the Arab-Muslim empire emerged and Islam as a new religion spread outpaced the collection, preparation and formalization of the canonical texts of Islam – the Qur'an and the Hadith – and the codification of Islamic law as the Sharia.
These latter acts occurred under the imperial gaze of the rulers, which provided legitimacy to their authority by binding themselves to the requirements prescribed by religion just as Byzantine and Persian rulers did within their respective religious orders.
During this period from the eighth to the tenth century, subsequently described as the Classical Age of Islam, the culture of the Islamic civilization in its fundamentals in terms of religion and law was authoritatively settled. This civilization emerged in contest with the Eastern Roman or Byzantium Empire, and acquired by conquest a vast possession of Eastern Christianity with the Holy Land and ancient cities of historical importance and religious significance to Christians and Jews. The Islamic civilization became the rival, or the Other, of Europe as the Christian civilization. And since the central iconic figure of the Christian civilization was Jesus, it meant Muhammad could be no less of an iconic figure for the Islamic civilization. The rivalry and war between Christians and Muslims became transmuted into the war between the Cross and the Crescent, Christianity and Islam, and this hostility between Christians and Muslims ironically implicated Jesus and Muhammad as rivals, if not mortal foes, while their followers viewed their history as outward manifestations of their respective divinely ordained missions on earth.
The rivalry between Christianity and Islam had its effect on the biographical writings of Muhammad by both Muslims and Christians. The dispute about Jesus among Christian sects was settled several centuries before the birth of Muhammad. The Nicene Creed adopted by the Church in 325 A.D. defined for all believers and non-believers in the Christian faith the true nature of Jesus as "the only-begotten Son of God." Jesus was, therefore, unique and incomparable by the very substance of his nature as the Church declared. Jesus became for Christians the standard by which every individual of religion speaking about God was measured and found inadequate in comparison. And, consequently, anyone who claimed after Jesus to be a prophet, as Muhammad did, could only be someone who was deceitful or an imposter. Muhammad came to be viewed by Christians, as a result, as an imposter from the very outset of the venture of Islam. His life, as narrated by Muslims, was considered by Christians a testimony of the falsehood he preached, and his personal conduct as confirmation of someone committed to deceit, to violence, to sensuality, and to engage in treachery and war to advance his career.
In rejecting Jesus of the Church and Christianity, as the Qur'an does, Islam diminished Jesus in the eyes of Christians. It did not matter that the "Muslim" Jesus, or Jesus of the Qur'an, was a highly venerated and revered prophet gifted with miraculous powers right from his cradle and that his birth to a woman, Mary, untouched by any man was a miracle. But though for Muslims Jesus was a beloved prophet of God, Muhammad could not be seen by his followers being in any way less than what the Qur'an says about Jesus, son of Mary. A portrait of Muhammad as equal to Jesus, if not greater than Jesus for reasons of the worldly success that he had in establishing Islam during his lifetime among the pagan Arabs, was provided by Muslim biographers of the Prophet.
A Christian Europe threatened by the armies of Islam responded with polemics that vilified Muhammad and his religion. Muslim narratives about Muhammad, in contrast, as the "seal of the prophets" described him in superlatives and obscured the Qur'anic description of him as the simple "warner" or "messenger" preaching against the worshipping of idols or the "witness" affirming the primordial message "there is no deity but Allah" (in the manner of prophets mentioned in the sacred books of Jews and Christians).
From about mid-1700 Europe came to gradually supersede the Islamic civilization, and by the mid-nineteenth century Europe's power extended across Muslim lands in Africa and Asia. A more confident Europe had less need of strident polemics against Islam and Muhammad, and a more pressing need to understand this "Other" civilization on its own term.
The new scientific method of critical inquiry was turned upon Islam, the Qur'an, and its Prophet. The result showed internal inconsistencies in the sacred and canonical literature of Islam and the Prophet. This was not surprising, as similar study of Christianity and its sacred texts had also revealed historical inconsistencies.
The Muslim response to modern inquiry came in the form of apologetic literature. Two writers of Indian birth – Syed Ameer Ali (1849-1928) and Muhammad Iqbal (1877-1938) – are worth mentioning, and Khalidi writes about them in some detail. Ali's book,
The Spirit of Islam: A History of the Evolution and Ideals of Islam with a Life of the Prophet, first published in 1891 [by Syed Ameer Ali], was a spirited defence of the Prophet's nobility in origin and conduct. In a language of great eloquence that was a reminder of the powerful and emotive diction of Thomas Carlyle whose writing on the Prophet was most likely familiar to the author, Ali sought to turn the hostility of the western critics of Muhammad and Islam against them. According to Khalidi, Ali illustrated "how Muhammad's mission can be proven to be more rational and pragmatic, thus more progressive, than that of all other prophets" (255).
Iqbal studied philosophy in Germany, and wrote poetry in Urdu and Persian. His lectures to a Muslim audience in Hyderabad, India, were later collected and published in 1930 as The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam. Iqbal's lectures were not a biographical study of the Prophet; he spoke, instead, of the renewal of Islam as faith, culture, and civilization consistent with the requirements of the modern age and in harmony with new discoveries in science and philosophy.
But modern critical historiography Ibn Warraq contends, pointing to the writings of European scholars on Islam such as those of William Muir, Henri Lammens, Ignaz Goldziher, Joseph Schacht and others in recent years, has severely undermined Muslim writings from earliest times about Muhammad. These scholars, according to Ibn Warraq, have exposed the weaknesses or fabrications in Islam's sacred texts. The problem arising over the authenticity of reporting by chains of witnesses, however, was not new. Ismail al-Bukhari's collection of Hadith – the Sahih al-Bukhari – in several volumes was considered authoritative by Muslims. In the course of his work over many years al-Bukhari (810-70) set aside as doubtful nearly ninety per cent of some 600,000 reports he collected about the conduct of the Prophet. Similarly, Abu Daud (817-88) rejected some 495,200 reports of the 500,000 he collected as weak or doubtful (Bennett, 32). Hence, non-Muslim scholars, such as Muir, and Muslim apostates, such as Ibn Warraq, rightly ask if so much of what was considered authoritative in Islam was set aside as doubtful then how can the rest be accepted as true. The problem is ultimately irresolvable, for belief, as is love, belongs to the non-rational or emotional aspect of the psychology of believers.
A new approach, under pressure of modern historiography, emerged among some Muslim biographers of Muhammad. The Iraqi poet and literary scholar Ma'ruf al-Rusafi (1875-1945) advanced the radical view, according to Khalidi, that if we wish "to learn about Muhammad as he really was, we have only two safe resorts: the Qur'an – regarded as an accurate historical source – and reason. All other narratives must be subjected to these two criteria before we can accept them" (291). Ali Dashti (1896-1982), a literary scholar, novelist and Iranian senator also took to writing the Prophet's biography. Dashti's Twenty Three Years was first published anonymously in Beirut sometime no later than 1974, since writings critical of religion and politics were banned in the last years of the Shah's monarchy in Iran. Dashti went further than al-Rusafi's view in insisting reason must be the primary basis of evaluating and explaining Muhammad's life and career. He questioned the necessity of prophethood and miracles. He suggested the problem of prophethood "be approached from another angle. It should be seen as a sort of mental and spiritual genius peculiar to an extraordinary individual" (Dashti, 21). For Dashti, as it was for al-Rusafi, the Qur'an was evidence of "prophetic eloquence," which empowered Muhammad and brought people to follow him (Khalidi, 292, 296).
A realistic and unapologetic view of Muhammad, I believe, will be close to the philosophical assessment of the Prophet as a supremely gifted man as suggested by Iqbal, and to the biographical approach as illustrated by al-Rusafi and Dashti. But first we need to acknowledge the looming presence of Christianity with the iconic image of Jesus on the Cross and what he represents to Christians that dominates the landscape when discussing Islam and Muhammad. The comparison is unavoidable. Here is the image of Jesus, the "only-begotten Son of God," gentle as the dove who makes no claim to rule in this world. He was unjustly and scandalously condemned for blasphemy in a world where religion was inseparable from politics, he was physically abused and then crucified. The story of Jesus took place inside a mighty empire, that of Rome, under the watchful eyes of the Roman rulers and their Jewish allies and surrogates in Palestine.
The story of Muhammad stands in marked contrast with that of Jesus on the Cross. Muhammad sought to preach the Word of God in peace, to bring his people to embrace the God of Abraham and to abandon the most primitive form of polytheism, the worship of idols and stones. But he was forced into exile from his native city with the threat of murder. He then became deeply enmeshed in the politics of his world far removed from any imperial centre. The world of politics has always been profane and treacherous. It required cunning to survive, and superior skills in the arts of leadership, diplomacy, and warfare to contend with those in power. Muhammad fought back his enemies and prevailed. He stood out among his people as leader, warrior, and statesman. He destroyed the idols in Mecca, ended idol worship, and established by force the Word of God among Arabs that was denied when he preached peacefully. There were violence, bloodshed and war in his life. There were family, wives, multiple marriages, children, love, desire, friendship, bereavement, doubts, reversal, persistence, and triumph. In other words, his life was full and open, and a life so lived with such drama as was his could only be one full of controversy. In the end what mattered most to him was he had been truthful to the calling of a messenger bearing the Word of God. His success, as tribes from across Arabia came to give their fealty to him and embraced the worship of the God of Abraham, was proof to him that he had remained truthful to the vision that seized him at the beginning of his prophetic career and brought him to preach in public what he understood to be a divine message.
Muhammad never himself contested the status of Jesus as venerated in the Qur'an. In Martin Lings's biography, based on the earliest sources, the Prophet entered inside the Ka'aba – the sacred precinct built by Abraham and his son, Ismail, according to legends – on the day Mecca was finally conquered, and then commanded the destruction of all the idols. But he covered the icon of the Virgin Mary with child and a painting reputedly of Abraham that stood there among the Meccan idols by his hand to protect them as the rest were destroyed. This story illuminates Muhammad's respect, or affection, for Jesus and his mother and the reverence with which they are described in the Qur'an (Lings, 300).
The proper comparison of Muhammad is with the prophets of the Old Testament, and the one he is best compared to is David, King of the Jews. David was a shepherd raised to kingship, a warrior with the gift of song, a leader who aroused intense feelings among men and women who knew him, a trickster, a seducer, even a murderer, and yet favoured by God. Jonathan Kirsch, a modern day biographer of King David, writes:
"Above all, David illustrates the fundamental truth that the sacred and the profane may find full expression in a single human life, and his biography preserves the earliest evidence of the neurotic double bind that is hardwired into human nature and tugs each of us in different directions at once. Against every effort of Bible-waving moralizers who seek to make us better than we are − or to make us feel bad about the way we are − the biblical account of David is there to acknowledge and even to affirm what men and women really feel and really do (Kirsch, 2)."
In the Semitic tradition it is God who acts, and who seeks out the man He wants or favours as His messenger sent to people as His sign of mercy. God is not indifferent to the fate of humanity. "The Bible speaks not only of man's search for God," wrote Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, "but also of God's search for man. 'Thou dost hunt me like a lion,' exclaimed Job" (10:16 in Heschel, 136). It is God's inscrutable will at play when it comes to creation and revelation. We need to be reminded of Kant's declaration that "Out of the crooked timber of humanity no straight thing was ever made," and yet it is God's preserve of whom He chooses of such timber to be His instrument in the profane world. And so it is God's choosing, irrespective of their flaws, that David, as his name means, was the "beloved," and Muhammad, as his name means, was "worthy of all praise."
Poets understand well instinctively the difference, or distance, between the real and the imagined. T.S. Eliot wrote, "Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow …(Eliot, 89-92)."
And so it is only of the "shadow" behind all the images of the Prophet constructed across the centuries that we can speak or write of him as the "historical Muhammad." The shadow is the bare outline of his life that we know with some certitude. The shadow in time becomes the longing of the heart for the loved one, or the imagined presence of the selfless companion who comforts in an unforgiving world; and into that shadow is poured the tears of people mocked, betrayed, beaten by the powerful in the hope there will eventually be mercy and justice for them on the "day of reckoning." The rest is how others have seen him, and it says as much about them as they venerated him or reviled him as it purportedly does about a man some fourteen centuries removed from us.
Bennett, C. In Search of Muhammad. London and New York: Cassell,1998.
Burckhardt, J. Reflections on History. Indianapolis: Liberty Classics,1979.
Crossan, J.D. Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography. New York: HarperCollins,1994.
Dashti, E. Twenty Three Years: A Study of the Prophetic Career of Mohammad. London: George Allen & Unwin, 1985.
Eliot, T. S. "The Hollow Man." Collected Poems. London: Faber and Faber, 1963.
Heschel, A.J. God In Search Of Man. New York: The Noonday Press,1983.
Khalidi, T. Images of Muhammad: Narratives of the Prophet in Islam Across the Centuries. New York: Doubleday, 2009.
Kirsch, J. King David: The Real Life of the Man Who Ruled Israel. New York: Ballantine Books, 2000.
Lings, M. Muhammad: his life based on the earliest sources. Rochester, Vermont: Inner Traditions, 1983.
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