History Channel – Biography of Muhammad
Muhammad (born 570, Mecca, Arabia [now in Saudi Arabia]—died June 8, 632, Medina) founder of the religion of Islam, accepted by Muslims throughout the world as the last of the law bringing prophets of God.
Although his name is now invoked in reverence several billion times every day, Muhammad was the most reviled figure in the history of the West from the 7th century until quite recent times. He is the only founder of a major world religion who lived in the full light of history and about whom there are numerous records in historical texts, although like other pre-modern historical figures not every detail of his life is known. Because Muhammad is one of the most influential figures in history, his life, deeds, and thoughts have been debated by followers and opponents over the centuries, which makes a biography of him difficult to write. At every turn both the Islamic understanding of Muhammad and the rationalist interpretation of him by Western scholars, which grew out of 18th- and 19th-century philosophies such as positivism, must be considered. Moreover, on the basis of both historical evidence and the Muslim understanding of Muhammad as the Prophet, a response must be fashioned to Christian polemical writings characterizing Muhammad as an apostate if not the Antichrist. These date back to the early Middle Ages and still influence to some degree the general Western conception of him. It is essential, therefore, both to examine the historical record—though not necessarily on the basis of secularist assumptions—and to make clear the Islamic understanding of Muhammad and of the Western audience.
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