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Studies in Late Antiquity and Early Islam (SLAEI) # 5


The Eye of the Beholder


The Life of Muhammad as Viewed by the Early Muslims

(A Textual Analysis)


by Uri Rubin


About the Book:

    A textual analysis of the story of Muhammad's prophetic emergence in Mecca as documented by early Islamic tradition. The author seeks not to judge the historical value of the events described but, rather, to observe their textual dynamics and examine the traditions as a reflection of the self-image of early medieval Islamic society.

    Professor Rubin describes the process whereby Muslims read into the life of their prophet their own historical vision of Islam as a successor to previous monotheistic faiths and shows how Muslims sought to provide their prophet with a biography no less sacred than that of any other prophet of the Jews and Christians. The book also explores how certain universal prophetic themes--attestation, preparation, revelation, persecution, and salvation--were adapted to specific Arabian conditions as well as to Qur'anic models adduced to legitimate these themes in Islamic terms. The impact of political tensions within Islamic society on the shaping of Muhammad's vita is also elucidated.

    This book is distinguished not only by its approach and important new conclusions, but also by the broad range of source material: not only biographies of the Prophet, but also numerous collections of traditions and works of Qur'anic exegesis (tafsir), many seldom encountered in modern scholarship.


About the Author:

    Uri Rubin is Professor of Arabic and Islam at Tel Aviv University.



[Rubin's] encyclopedic approach to the development of various readings allows him to suggest content-related criteria that led to certain versions to be accepted and others rejected by the collectors of sira and hadith. . . . Required reading for advanced seminars on early Islam or the hagiography of Islam's Prophet and for scholars struggling with methodological issues of transmission of reports.



The book will be of great interest for anyone concerned with the traditional material about the Prophet or with the dynamics of Muslim traditional literature in general. . . . Rubin's substantial contribution to the study of Muslim tradition, attractively produced and priced, is a welcome addition to the literature.

Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society


This is a groundbreaking, thoughtful and mature book, closely argued and written in lucid prose. It is a valuable addition to the Islamic research library and will retain its position for many years.

Die Welt des Orients


Publication date: 1995; second printing, 1997

Bibliography, index

Size: 6 1/8 x 9 1/2 (15.6 x 24.1 cm); ix, 289 pages

CIP L.C. 94-49175

ISBN 978-0-87850-110-6  $39.95  Buy it at Amazon.com!