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Memories of Muhammad Hardcover – November 17, 2009

4.2 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Safi recognizes that in painting a portrait of the prophet Muhammad, he does not begin with a blank canvas. Indeed, he begins by confronting the negative images of Muhammad within the Western tradition—from Dante’s horrifying portrayal of the prophet’s damned soul to the mocking caricatures proffered by twenty-first-century Danish cartoonists. Safi invites his readers to lay aside the prejudices fostered by such images as they join in a fresh investigation of Islam’s Prophet. That investigation—based on the Qur’an and on Ibn Ishaq’s eighth-century biography, supplemented by other ancient and modern sources—uncovers a complex personality: a towering spiritual leader who dramatically challenged traditional Arab polytheism and a resourceful political strategist who appealed to the socially marginal while outmaneuvering the powerful elite. As he fills in the historical picture with accounts of important figures close to Muhammad—Khadijn, Ali, Hossein—Safi must delve into the tensions that developed among Muhammad’s followers, pitting the Shi’a against the Sunni, radical against moderate. Because of the persistence of these tensions, Safi despairs of delivering a single definitive understanding of the prophet. However, his depiction of a profoundly humane and compassionate visionary offers a much-needed corrective to the darker perspective promulgated by some Islamic extremists. --Bryce Christensen


“A fresh investigation of Islam’s Prophet that uncovers a complex personality. . . . [Safi’s] depiction of a profoundly humane and compassionate visionary offers a much needed corrective to the darker perspective promulgated by some Islamic extremists.” (Booklist (starred review))

“Safi traces the three important stages of Muhammad’s life: his climb up the mountain to receive God’s revelation (through the prophet Gabriel); his flight from Mecca and Jerusalem to heaven where he has a direct encounter with God; and his migration from Mecca to Medina and back.” (Raleigh News and Observer)

“[Memories of Muhammad] attempts to discover the true Muhammad obscured by both hagiography and militant extremism...Safi is on the front edge of a generation of scholars who, with one foot in both worlds, are trying to explain Islam and the West to each other.” (Religion News Service)

“Safi… brings the prophet into clearer focus with his book Memories of Muhammad. Safi provides a sweeping look at Muhammad’s life and explores many of the controversial issues that color modern perceptions.” (Washington Post Book World Blog)

“...A rounded and revealing portrait of the life, work, and legacies of Muhammad.” (Spirituality and Practice)

“Safi responds to all these Muhammad problems by giving us a highly readable and interesting retelling of the story of this man... [and] provides important background for anyone who wants to understand our friends and enemies among the more than one billion people who embrace Islam.” (The Pilot)

“This book ranks as a milestone for non-Muslim readers. When most of the other books in this era are forgotten, people will continue to read Memories of Muhammad.” (Read the Spirit)

“Safi makes his argument by simply and beautifully narrating the life of Muhammad. Beyond offering a biography of the spiritual leader, Safi explicates his spiritual teachings and describes how he has been remembered by Muslims over 1,400 years.” (Boston Globe)

“...Safi maintains that it is necessary to learn about the Prophet Muhammad in order to understand Islam and to engage in open and constructive dialogue.” (Wisconsin Public Radio)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 346 pages
  • Publisher: HarperOne; First Edition edition (November 17, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061231347
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061231346
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.3 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #597,141 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
In this second decade of the century, we have a chance to read some remarkably mature new books on Islam, the Prophet Muhammad's legacy and the whole host of issues that were raised so explosively on 9/11/2001. As a journalist covering these issues, I collected the scores of books produced in the years immediately following 9/11--some of them good, some of them politically biased and some of them absolutely dreadful. Beyond pure bias, the haste in which many books were produced led to tragic inaccuracies and limitations in authors' perspectives.

Unfortunately, the non-Muslim world still is desperately seeking information about Islam largely because of continuing violence linked to individuals and groups claiming to represent the faith.

Whatever factors led to HarperOne's decision to publish "Memories of Muhammad," the fact is that this book ranks as a milestone for non-Muslim readers. Dr. Safi is professor of Islamic studies at the University of North Carolina and he serves as the chair of the Study of Islam at the American Academy of Religion.

He's a Muslim scholar writing for general readers from the wealth of his authority as an academic. Looking over the stacks of books available about Islam, he correctly identified the Prophet Muhammad as a central point of confusion for non-Muslims and produced this book to help guide us in understanding the significance of this major religious figure.

When most of the other books in this era are forgotten, people will continue to read "Memories of Muhammad."
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Format: Hardcover
I enjoyed readings this book a lot for a number of reasons:

[a] it is not a typical description of Muhammad's biography and important events in Muslim history. Omid Safi described/analyzed major events by contextualizing them. For example, it does not just talk about when one of the major events in Muslim history took place. He sheds light into why it happened, what were its precursors, as well as immediate and long term implications for Muslim and non-Muslim world;
[b] Omid Safi makes great attempt to associate/relate major events in Muslim history with other world religions, Judaism, Christianity and Buddhism;
[c] Though it is easy to grasp Shia-inclination, I liked how Omid Safi attempted to explain centuries-long tension between Sunni and Shia Muslims;
[d] The style and structure of the book is unprecedented. For example, one of the sub-titles reads "Muhammad, Eric Clapton, and the Tale of Layla and Majnun"...

Please don't be discouraged that Omid Safi's book includes some depictions of major events in Muslim history. One of the reviews refers to this fact and apparently that made him give 1 out of 5. But that's the problem Muslims have. We don't look at the substance and overrule something based on what someone said or what illustrations it includes... I am Sunni Muslim and yet enjoyed reading this book very much, AND would gladly read new pieces of scholarship by Omid Safi.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I'm still reading it and have a lot to learn! Dr. Safi is a gently, loving man and this comes through in his writing. He doesn't sugar coat the negative but also doesn't let the (particularly non-Muslim) reader take a stand of superiority thinking that their faith tradition is without the same negativity. And he brings the beauty out in such rich and loving ways. I can only speak to this as a justice minded Christian who wants to learn about Islam and recommend it to all who may be in the same position.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book should be a required reading for Muslims and for Non-Muslims who want to understand prophet and how and why Muslims adore him more than their own parents. Once I started reading the book, I could not put it down. At the same time there were several sections of the book, where I had to stop reading so I can ponder and absorb the beauty in this book.

Without being overly zealous Omid Safi gives arguments about need of humanity to believe in God. To quote from the book "In the begnining we imagine God to be a slightly better version of ourselves, then the comforter of all that is missing from our lives, and then a king, before we finally realize that God is the Ultimate, the One, the perfection of Love, Majesty, and Beauty." God tells Muhammad PBUH "My heaven cannot contain me, nor can my Earth. But the heart of my faithful servant contains me". The one line which touched me the most from the book is "You can not know yourself without knowing God. You can not know God without knowing yourself."

He forcefully makes the point that the prophet Muhammad was sent as the mercy to all the worlds. He reminds Muslims to practice compassion and justice practiced by the last prophet to mankind. He mentions "For me, Muhammad represents the completion of the possibilities available to us as human beings, not because he is a superhuman, but precisely because he embodies the meaning of what it means to be fully human." Author refers an incident from the life of the prophet "on the way to Mecca, Muhammad saw a female dog that had given birth to a new litter of pups.
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