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Muhammad and Islam Essay (Book Review)


Islam is one of the religions with many followers in the world. Many scholars have identified and talked about the origin and founder of the Islamic religion. To understand the religion, a Muslim scholar known as Tariq Ramadan wrote a book “In the footsteps of the prophet” to shed more light. Below is the book review, in comparison with Robert Spencer “The Truth about Muhammad”.

Comparing “In the footsteps of the prophet” by Tariq Ramadan with “The Truth about Muhammad” by Robert Spencer

Ramadan is a Muslim leader and an intellectual whose book presents Muhammad’s biography. Muhammad is depicted as a kind and influential leader, who championed the growth of the great Islamic faith. Besides, he reveals the dramatic events that occurred in Muhammad’s life time. Muhammad’s teaching on the Islamic values and spiritual life is also shared. Ramadan discusses the implication of Muhammad’s life in relation to the treatment of the poor, racism, the place of women in society, criminal punishment in Islamic religion, relating with other religions and war.

Ramadan is a Muslim and a Swiss philosopher. His grandfather, Hassan al-Banna from Egypt, is the leader of Muslim brotherhood. His father was a well-known figure in the Muslim Brotherhood and went into exile to Switzerland where Ramadan was born. He is a leader and a polygamist who cherishes the well being of his family. He advocates for the freedom of women to make decisions. He demonstrated a few liberal values as well as secular views. He was brought up in the Islamic religion and shows compassion for his mother, who shaped his ideas for the book (Ramadan 1).

Ramadan is a professor of Islamic studies in Oxford University. He is an Islamic scholar and has written a variety of books on Islam. He has taught in many institutions and has participated in seminars, media interviews and has been consulted on various occasions. He uses the life history of Muhammad to show compatibility of Islam and Westerners. The book can be recommended for its simple language that can be comprehended by non Muslims and Muslims. The facts are well brought out, with interpretation of Muhammad’s life being discussed clearly.

Both Ramadan and Spencer use the life history of Muhammad to draw meaning and justification for the actions of the Muslims. Muhammad is viewed as a strong leader, who inspired the lives of many. Ramadan dwells on portraying Muhammad as an accomplished leader, who is able to balance between being a spiritual leader, a father, a friend and a husband.

On the other hand, Spencer (3) uses the Quran, traditions and biographies centuries ago to understand Muhammad. Spencer rationalizes jihad and its existence from the life of Muhammad as a military leader. Unlike Ramadan, Spencer reveals the good and bad, including the non tolerant behavior towards non Muslims and the call to convert them. Spencer portrays hatred for the Jews and Christians in the book. On the other hand, Ramadan demonstrates Muhammad as a prophet who tolerated non believers and showed them mercy. The spread of Islam has been carried out through coercions and not persuasion as Ramadan implies.

Ramadan has been considered as a controversial personality. He strongly believes that western democracy could be reconciled with Islamic religion. His opinions reveal that he is a reactionary to the Islamic religion and moderate to the westerners. He holds the belief that there is an alternative to war and does not advocate for the holy war against the western democracy.

Ramadan sees Muhammad as an example. Muhammad is revealed as a compassionate leader from a humble background. As a leader, Muhammad frees the prisoners after he discovers that they had taught young children to read and write. Mohammed’s kindness is also shown when he frees a slave and adopts the slave as one of his children.

Ramadan uses the situations in the life of Muhammad to show morals and spiritual values as experienced by the prophet. Different to the notion of Jihad, the prophet is full of love, kindness and mercy and maintains a good relationship with Allah. Jihad is only justified in the case of defense. Ramadan does not support the terrorist acts and suicide bombing.

Ramadan accentuates the difference between religion and culture. It is possible for one to draw examples from the life of Muhammad and apply them in the modern world. One can be a Muslim and a European at the same time. Westerners can be Muslims, just like there are Muslims elsewhere in different parts of the world. The Quran can be translated in the context of Islam in the west, since the Westerners have their own culture.

The Muslims have a responsibility to the community, which is to avoid seeing the westerners as them and discourages the notion of us and them. He also advocates for the assistance of the needy in the community. Moreover, he calls for the increase of Muslim scholars in the west, who would also write in the western language Islamic religion.

To clarify the western misunderstanding of the Islamic religion, Ramadan separates religion from cultural traits. Ramadan explains the jihad to reverse the perceptions on Muslims as violent. Ramadan seldom supports capital punishment and sees it as one of the reasons why the Muslims seem to be alienated from the west. Instead Islamic religion and western democracy could be incorporated. Jihad is only acceptable if its purpose is defense. He does not support terrorism. Ramadan (213) believes discrimination, racism and all the forms of injustices are not acceptable. They are against the teaching of the prophet.

Ramadan books are easy to understand and follow. He provides meaning of the situations and events. He also explains why such practices as women’s dressing are persistent in Islam (Ramadan 119). Additionally, he justifies jihad and relates it to the life of Mohammed while giving adequate examples.

The biography of Muhammad is given in a practical and interpretative manner. The author begins with the history and lineage of the prophet, before proceeding to the birth and learning of Muhammad. Other historical events that happened are revealed chronologically, from being orphaned and growing spiritually to the revelations.

The experiences Muhammad gained from trials, hijrah and war as well as other events are translated into meaningful revelations. The family life and relationship with both believers and non believers is also brought out clearly. The chapters have well written topics to enable non Muslims understand. The author also refers to the Quran and classical biographies to draw accurate information on the life history of Muhammad.

Ramadan books capture the attention of the young adult Muslims in the west. Most of the audiences are in America and Europe. His book develops a new perspective of the Islamic leader and founder. Both Muslim and non Muslim believers can benefit from the reading the book that is written for the 21st century readers.

The book also tries to change the attitude of westerners on Jihad. Ramadan sees jihad as an act of defense. The book is appropriate for young adults, who have a limited knowledge of Islamic religion. One with a profound knowledge of Islam will notice that the good deeds and selected good themes of Muhammad’s life have been discussed in the book. Ramadan limits the biography of Muhammad only to good things and seldom brings the negative matter.

The book presents a meticulous view of the life of Muhammad. It emphasizes on the positive subjects about his spiritual life and success as a leader and champion of the religion. The facts presented are informative to a non believer and provide revelations to the believers. A wide range of facts shared shed light on the events happening in the present world.

According to Ramadan (74), the life of Muhammad could be compared with life in the present world. The marriage of young girls, capital punishment and violence to non Muslims, as well as devotion on prayer five times a day are not unique to the past. He is a model and inspiration (Spencer 13).

The book is well organized and brings a balance between the religious, political and social life of the founder of Muslim faith. Ramadan uses the bibliography to give relevant meaning in the present world and avoids bringing in competitiveness to the classical bibliographies of Muhammad.

The book can be recommended to people seeking to understand the life of Muhammad. The events in his life are applied in the world today and provide an explanation to actions of the Muslims. Ramadan strongly believes that Muslims could choose to abandon the fixed life of rituals and adopt a modern spiritual life with social existence and be fulfilled.

The book provides an introduction for non Muslims on the Spiritual understanding and value of the Islamic religion. However, the book dwells so much on the positive side of Muhammad’s life. It reveals Muhammad as a kind, gentle and understanding leader. In the book, Muhammad kindness and mercy to non Muslims and those in need is emphasized. The other side of Muhammad as a military leader is not emphasized. Contrary to Ramadan’s explanation of the prophet as merciful, kind and respectful to animals, Muhammad ordered the execution of captives and conducts animal sacrifice.


Ramadan, a scholar of Islam, a professor and an author writes the bibliography about the founder of the Muslim faith. He was brought up by Muslims and both the grandfather and father were prominent personalities of the Muslim brotherhood. He uses the life of Muhammad to show his kindness, mercy and love. He depicts the situations and events in the prophet’s life. He refers to the Quran and classical bibliographies of Muhammad to write the interesting life history of Muhammad.

The book is intended for both Muslims and non Muslims, where it serves as a revelation and as an introduction to Islam. Ramadan relates the prophet’s life with present day controversial issues like the place of women in community, capital punishment and jihad. As a leader, Muhammad justifies war if it is defense. The book emphasizes the kindness of Muhammad.

Works Cited

Ramadan, Tariq. In the footsteps of the prophet. NewYork: Oxford University Press, 2007.

Spencer, Robert. The Truth about Muhammad. Washington: Regnery Publishing. Inc, 2006.

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