The Messenger – The Meanings of the Life of Muhammad

Tariq Ramadan – Penguin Books (2007)

There are many books written about the Prophet, Allah’s messenger, and the origins of Islam. I chose this one as my introduction to the man and the religion because it seemed accessible (not overloaded with verses from the Qur’an) and also because the author, Tariq Ramadan, is a well-known scholar of contemporary Islamic studies at Oxford. A good friend in Gaza first introduced me to the writings of Tariq Ramadan.  شكرا

The back-story about the author’s arduous journey to the U.S., which I described here, was rolling in my head as I read his book.


Inside the Blue Mosque in Istanbul in May 2013.

My primary education about Islam has been through the Muslims I’ve met over the past few years, primarily in Gaza and Cairo. Each shed some light on the teachings of the Prophet and the faith as it’s practiced today.

In Gaza, the curious asked me “What’s your religion?” I replied that I was raised a Christian, and I have good family members and friends who are Jews, but I’m not practicing any formal religion today.

I try to live my life by a single rule, I would tell them. With big eyes, they’d always ask, “What’s that rule?”

It’s the same rule in Judaism, Christianity and Islam — Love and treat my neighbor, as I wish to be loved and treated in return.

The Messenger: The Meanings of the Life of Muhammad is a good introduction to Islam for non-Muslims because (1) it’s written as a story about a man with plot, characters and scenes that all come alive in the story-telling; and (2) it avoids dense verses from the Qur’an which are oftentimes incomprehensible to the non-Muslim.  [Given the fact that some Muslims quote verses from the Qur’an to support Daesh, I suspect even Muslims have difficulty with the Qur’an.]

Named by Time magazine as one of the 100 most important innovators of the century, Tariq Ramadan is a leading Muslim scholar, with a large following especially among young European and American Muslims. Now, in his first book written for a wide audience, he offers a marvelous biography of the Prophet Muhammad, one that highlights the spiritual and ethical teachings of one of the most influential figures in human history.

The story of Muhammad’s life includes the highs and the lows, the tension and the peace, and most of all the faith that he had in Allah. Muhammad was a role model, teaching by example, not so much by preaching. He was human with human frailties and needs, but had an unwavering faith in Allah’s revelations to him.

The book helped consolidate alot of the bits and pieces of the Prophet’s life that I’ve heard about in recent years into one coherent whole.

Friends might ask me: “What did you appreciate the most about the Prophet Muhammad after finishing the book?” Here’s my list.

  1. He respectfully listened to others as much as he spoke.
  2. He respected and honored the advice he received from women as well as men.
  3. He was a critical thinker and wanted his followers to be critical thinkers too.
  4. He acknowledged and accepted Judaism and Christianity as the predecessors to Islam — Abraham, Jesus and other prophets were important messengers before Muhammad.
  5. He had a deep reverence for plants and animals and all living creatures. His relationship with nature was similar to how the Native Americans relate to nature, I think.
  6. He wanted to solve conflicts creatively so there would be a win-win for all.
  7. He wanted to serve, and by serving, he led his followers.

A very special man indeed.





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