I was about twelve or thirteen when I first read the biography of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). I liked the book so much that I read it a few times before putting it away. I didn’t read another biography of the prophet until recently.
I first knew of Lesley Hazleton (a self-professed agnostic Jew) when I watched her TED talk entitled “A ‘Tourist’ Reads the Koran“. I was intrigued by this woman. A few days later, I watched an interview with Hazleton about her new book, “The First Muslim“. I felt like this is a book I have to read.
What’s different about the way Hazleton tells the story is she frames it within the context of 7th century Arabia. Muhammad was orphaned before he was born and his mother widowed at a young age. Hazleton explains what it was like for him to grow up without a father.
Like all babies from noble families, Muhammad was nursed by a Bedouin woman and lived with her family. Muhammad was returned to his family only when he was five years old, which was odd because he stayed much longer than the customary two-year period. One year after Muhammad was returned to his mother in Mecca, his mother died, leaving him in the care of his grandfather. Hazleton describes vividly the feeling of isolation the young child must have felt and how that shaped the man he was to become.
By framing the story within the context of seventh century Arabia, Hazleton gives this book a different perspective and dimension, which made it enjoyable to read. If you would like to read about the life of Muhammad from the perspective of a non Muslim, I highly recommend this book.