Cover image for Muhammad : prophet of peace amid the clash of empires
Muhammad : prophet of peace amid the clash of empires
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:

New York : Nation Books, 2018.
Physical Description:
vii, 326 pages : illustrations, map ; 25 cm
Map -- Preface -- 1. Sanctuary -- 2. Peace it is -- 3. Repel evil with good -- 4. City of the Prophet -- 5. Just war -- 6. The heart of Mecca -- 7. Into the way of peace -- Conclusion -- Acknowledgments -- Appendix -- Notes -- Index.
"A ... history that brings to life the fascinating and complex world of the Prophet, Muhammad is the story of how peace is the rule and not the exception for one of the world's most practiced religions."--Jacket.
Subject Term:


Material Type
Call Number
Book 297.63 Cole
Book 297.63 Cole
Book 297.63 Cole

On Order



In the midst of the dramatic seventh-century war between two empires, Muhammad was a spiritual seeker in search of community and sanctuary.

Many observers stereotype Islam and its scripture as inherently extreme or violent-a narrative that has overshadowed the truth of its roots. In this masterfully told account, preeminent Middle East expert Juan Cole takes us back to Islam's-and the Prophet Muhammad's-origin story.

Cole shows how Muhammad came of age in an era of unparalleled violence. The eastern Roman Empire and the Sasanian Empire of Iran fought savagely throughout the Near East and Asia Minor. Muhammad's profound distress at the carnage of his times led him to envision an alternative movement, one firmly grounded in peace. The religion Muhammad founded, Islam, spread widely during his lifetime, relying on soft power instead of military might, and sought armistices even when militarily attacked. Cole sheds light on this forgotten history, reminding us that in the Qur'an, the legacy of that spiritual message endures.

A vibrant history that brings to life the fascinating and complex world of the Prophet, Muhammad is the story of how peace is the rule and not the exception for one of the world's most practiced religions.

Author Notes

Juan Cole is a professor of history at the University of Michigan. A revered public intellectual, he is the author and creator of the award-winning blog Informed Comment, which averages 4.5 million page views a year. He is the author of Napoleon's Egypt, Engaging the Muslim World, and The New Arabs and has appeared on numerous television programs including the PBS Newshour , MSNBC's Rachel Maddow , CNN's Anderson Cooper 360 , ABC's Nightline , and The Colbert Report . He lives in Ann Arbor, MI.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

The modern narrative of early Muslim history has traditionally been constructed from Muslim sources from the Abbasid historians (about 200 years after the Prophet's death, and after the era of the Rightful Caliphs and the Umayyad era). This work tries to draw connections from sociopolitical conditions prior to Muhammad's birth and those during his lifetime and beyond. The seven chapters are chronologically arranged and draw heavily from the Koran and oral history. They relate major episodes from Muhammad's life and root them in the environment of the time. The historical sources, by themselves, don't provide a complete narrative, and some interpretations (required for any historical analysis) are woven together to form a coherent narrative. Although this approach to historical analysis is relatively recent, and some may disagree with the interpretations here, the ideas presented deserve consideration. This book will be of interest to those studying early Muslim history and to those who want to use this as an illustrative example of the methodology used.--Muhammed Hassanali Copyright 2018 Booklist

New York Review of Books Review

LATE-LIFE LOVE: A Memoir, by Susan Gubar. (Norton, $25.95.) The influential literary critic blends tales of her marriage, her cancer treatments and her husband's age-related infirmities with discussions of works whose meaning has changed for her over time; her rereadings confirm her talents as a teacher. MORTAL REPUBLIC: How Rome Fell Into Tyranny, by Edward J. Watts. (Basic, $32.) By the second century B.C., the proud Roman Republic had been brought low by inequity, corruption and populist politicians. Since America's founders modeled it on the Roman example, Watts, a historian, warns that it behooves us to understand what went wrong over 2,000 years ago. MUHAMMAD: Prophet of Peace Amid the Clash of Empires, by Juan Cole. (Nation, $28.) Cole offers an ambitiously revisionist picture of the father of Islam, replacing the idea of a militant leader with one of a peacemaker who wanted only to preach his monotheism freely and even sought "multicultural" harmony. INSURRECTO, by Gina Apostol. (Soho, $26.) Set in the Philippines, this novel raises provocative questions about history and hypocrisy as it follows two women with dueling modern-day film scripts about a colonial-era massacre. MY BROTHER'S HUSBAND: Volume 2, by Gengoroh Tagamé. Translated by Anne Ishii. (Pantheon, $25.95.) A sweet satire of Japan's taboo against gay marriage, this manga-style graphic novel is a sophisticated investigation into the nature of love, marriage, divorce, bereavement and nontraditional child-rearing. IN OUR MAD AND FURIOUS CITY, by Guy Gunaratne. (MCD/Farrar, Straus & Giroux, paper, $16.) Gunaratne's striking, Bookerlonglisted debut unfolds over a few restless days in a workingclass Northwest London suburb. Despite the rush of drama indicated by its title, the book should be read for its quieter details - Gunaratne, with a gift for characterization, presents the kinds of Londoners not often seen in contemporary fiction. THE DAY THE SUN DIED, by Yan Lianke. Translated by Carlos Rojas. (Grove, $26.) This brutal satirical novel takes place on a single night, when a plague of somnambulism unleashes a host of suppressed emotions among the inhabitants of a Chinese village. The ensuing chaos is promptly struck from the official record. TELL THEM OF BATTLES, KINGS, AND ELEPHANTS, by Mathias Énard. Translated by Charlotte Mandel. (New Directions, paper, $19.95.) In this intoxicating novel, set in 1506, Michelangelo sets up shop in Constantinople to design a bridge connecting Europe and Asia. SLEEP OF MEMORY, by Patrick Modiano. Translated by Mark Polizzotti. (Yale, $24.) The Nobel laureate's dreamlike novels summon elusive, half-forgotten episodes. Here, that means Paris in the '60s, love affairs, a flirtation with the occult and a shocking crime. The full reviews of these and other recent books are on the web:

Library Journal Review

Given that so many books have been written about the prophet Muhammad and early Islam, one might wonder if a new account could provide any fresh insights. Cole (history, Univ. of Michigan; Engaging the Muslim World) does just that by focusing on the key but underemphasized theme of peacemaking that runs throughout the Qur'an and in light of its historical context, providing a unique perspective on the prophet and the emergence of Islam during his lifetime. He views Muhammad as a prophet whose ideas were in conflict with those living around him, but who sought to share his message and gain followers in a peaceful manner. His approach was inclusive, seeking to establish relationships with others, particularly Christian and Jews. Only in the latter years as a prophet did he begin, out of self-defense, to engage in battle, and even then, it was from a "Just War" perspective. VERDICT Will be useful to readers interested in early Islam while offering a valuable contribution to scholarly literature.-John Jaeger, Johnson Univ., Knoxville, TN © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Illustrationsp. vii
Mapp. viii
Prefacep. 1
Chapter 1 Sanctuaryp. 5
Chapter 2 Peace It Isp. 33
Chapter 3 Repel Evil with Goodp. 59
Chapter 4 City of the Prophetp. 89
Chapter 5 Just Warp. 119
Chapter 6 The Heart of Meccap. 147
Chapter 7 Into the Way of Peacep. 173
Conclusionp. 197
Acknowledgmentsp. 209
Appendixp. 211
Notesp. 225
Indexp. 311