Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Other Sellers on Amazon
+ Free Shipping
The Death of a Prophet: The End of Muhammad's Life and the Beginnings of Islam (Divinations: Rereading Late Ancient Religion) Hardcover – November 16, 2011
See the Best Books of 2017 So Far
Looking for something great to read? Browse our editors' picks for the best books of the year so far in fiction, nonfiction, mysteries, children's books, and much more.
Customers who bought this item also bought
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
"[Shoemaker] develops [previous ideas] substantially, discusses them in the light of recent publications, and also offers highly instructive parallels with the situation in (and scholarship on) early Christianity. . . . [He] has done a very good job of highlighting the issues and giving them sophisticated and thorough discussion, and [The Death of a Prophet] is a worthwhile addition to the fast-expanding body of material on Islamic origins."—Journal of the American Oriental Society
"A work of utmost importance, and one that has profound implications for our understanding of how Islam began."—Fred Donner, University of Chicago
About the Author
Stephen J. Shoemaker is Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Oregon and author of Ancient Traditions of the Virgin Mary's Dormition and Assumption.
Browse award-winning titles. See more
If you are a seller for this product, would you like to suggest updates through seller support?
Top customer reviews
The first chapter lays out eleven early witnesses to the Arab prophet's invasion of Palestine, in the mid 630s CE. Following this is an essay upon the classical Islamic account of Muhammad's death in Madina, a cluster of hadiths lately arranged into a narrative; the essay casts doubt upon this frame, and instead points out the "vestiges" of the Prophet's last day in Palestine (the Mut'a campaign). Next is an essay about the modern scholarly state-of-the-question about mission of earliest Islam; this is interspersed with Qur'anic passages on the end of the world, and it concludes that early Islam was indeed all about the end of the world. The fourth chapter deals with "sacred geography", that is where exactly was the focus of Islamic piety in those days: Jerusalem, is the answer. The book concludes that Islam probably was Palestine-focused in its origin and that Muhammad died with his back to Mecca and his face to the Temple Mount, so to speak.
The first part is the best part, by *far*. We get all the non-Muslim material right in front of us, giving the pertinent arguments in a readable fashion. In fact this part I consider indispensable.
However then the rest of the book continues to argue with other scholars on this or that minute point. These digressions seem to crop up often in books like this; starting with Wellhausen. Schacht and Juynboll worked around this stylistic problem by pushing their lemmas into smaller-print asides inlined with the text; I am unsure how well this worked for them, either. Other scholars just boot the side-arguments to the appendices. At any rate I get pulled out of the main thrust of the book when this happens; it is distracting.
More seriously, the phrase "discussed below" or "see below" recurs like a bad rash. Google Books turns up pp. 23, 24, 37, 41, 47, 73, 80, 126, 134, 139, 151, 153, 156, 167, 183, 239, 284, 287, 290, and 340 and I haven't even tried "in the following chapter" and similar synonyms. "C. Bill Lowe's" appearance in a manuscript signals its reader that the manuscript hasn't explained this point *above*. It often signals circularity. Now, I didn't mind "see below" much at first, because most of *that* material I had already accepted from other works in this field. Later on, it began to tangle up the arguments.
So this book is, organisationally, messy. (I had the same problem with Spencer's book.) I am convinced of its argument largely because I was primed to accept it before I got the book. Other readers might be less forgiving.
In this book's favour, it's better-footnoted and it handles its sources better than did Spencer's. On the minus side, it's more expensive (too expensive, IMO), and its arguments are harder to follow.
Unfortunately this book is far too expensive. In its favor, it has library quality binding, and is well produced. But a paperback edition would do the world a great service.
Lastly I was puzzled by Shoemaker's omission of what would seem to be a terrific piece of historical evidence in support of his thesis: There is a tombstone inscription, which contains the date 691 AD (i.e. one year prior to the Dome of the Rock), which seems to be the earliest "true Islamic" inscription, in the sense of explicitly referring to Islam and Muhammad. This inscription is remarkably supportive of Shoemaker's thesis that the early community of believers looked on Muhammad's death as an unexpected tragedy that wrecked their apocalyptic expectations (Muhammad being expected to lead them into Jerusalem, initiating the end times). By contrast, the inscription makes no sense in the context of the Islamic religion which later evolved, which considered Muhammad's death to be relatively insignificant since he had allegedly already delivered the complete Qur'an, and unified Central Arabia. Here is the inscription's full text, which you can access on the "Islamic Awareness" website:
In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate.
The greatest calamity of the people of
Islām (ahl al-Islām) is that which has fallen them on the death of Muḥammad the Prophet;
may God grant him peace.
This is the tomb of ʿAbāssa daughter of
Juraij (?), son of (?). May clemency
forgiveness and satisfaction of God be on her.
She died on Monday four-
teen days having elapsed from Dhul-Qaʿdah
of the year one and seventy,
confessing that there is no god but God
alone without partner and that
Muḥammad is His servant and His apostle,
may God grant him peace.
In describing Muhammad's death as the "greatest calamity" that ever beset Islam, along with its detailed Islamic proclamations, and a specific date that (slightly) precedes the Dome of the Rock, this inscription strikes me as powerful support for the thesis that the prevailing early tradition amongst the believers was one of apocalyptic expectations that were unexpectedly cut short by their prophet's untimely death. This was seen as a shocking calamity, trashing the believers' expectations. Later generations slowly modified their beliefs over decades, however, so that this derailed apocalyptic movement eventually became something radically different: Islam as we know it. It would certainly not be the first time that has happened!