The book Muhammad, by Michael Cook, describes the impact Muhammad has had on the world as we know it. It explains why Muhammad chose the paths he did, and how certain laws came about. Cook offers a very objective view of the laws and policies Muhammad outlined in the Koran, and the traditions that are carried on that supplement his written law.
The author first summarizes the historical life of Muhammad. This begins with his birth and life before he was given his mission. Next comes his struggle to spread his religion. Since the days of Abraham, people had fallen back to worshipping many Gods. Muhammad’s task was to restore monotheism that Abraham had established. To do this, he had to move to Medina for protection. This whole period is referred to as the Hijra. Thousands of followers made this journey with Muhammad, and it is here that Muhammad would struggle to convert his world back to a monotheistic one. The author does a good job explaining the world in which Muhammad was born into. The book does not go into any depth about his life before his prophecy, but this is probably because there isn’t much information on the subject.
The book takes a look at the Koran, and how thorough it is. A wide variety of laws are presented in the Koran, it has been said to be the sole basis of Islamic law. However the Koran doesn’t describe all its rules with equal favor. The book sites this example-“Thieves are to be punished by having their hands cut off, but the fate of the unrepentant userer is not prescribed.”(Cook, 1983: 46). Much of the law is left to the traditions and sayings of Muhammad. This raises certain questions of my own-How accurately and vigorously are these traditions kept? If they are not written in the Koran, are they written down somewhere else?
In addition, Cook goes on to investigate other details of Koranic custom. The Hajj can seemingly be carried out by anyone who knows his or her religious tradition. This is one of the five pillars of Islam, and one needs no middle man, such as a priest, between himself and God to carry this out. One must change into the sacred dress, ihram, before one performs rituals of the Hajj. “By donning the attire of ihram, a Muslim enters a consecrated state.”(Martin, 1986: 185).To me, this is a neat idea; one is as devoted as they choose to their religion. There is no reason to cheat your own faith. T...
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...tead of accepting one’s fate, one must strive to change it for the better, not complain about it. In short, if life gives you lemons, make lemonade.
The author also explained that shortly after the Hijra, another verse was revealed to him, giving permission for one to fight if they feel they have been wronged. Furthermore, war against unbelievers, or Jihad, is encouraged. One who fights for his purpose will have a far greater reward than one who chooses not to. Those who are killed in battle will have paradise to look forward to, “They have struck a bargain with God.”(Cook, 1983: 54). This policy is very convenient and effective for Muhammad to spread his religion. It is very motivating to believe you have God on your side during a war.
I have been somewhat critical of the author at times, but this is only because he opens the door for the reader to think. I would not be able to formulate opinions if he hadn’t questioned whether Muhammad was being a fair and effective leader. After all, he greatly changed the course of history as we know it. Cook’s objective way of looking at Muhammad’s life allows one to attain a clear view of just how deep of an impact he made.
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