Muhammad:His Life Based on the Earliest SourcesBy Martin Lings
Muhammad: His Life Based on the Earliest Sources is one of the most important books that have been written about the life of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). The book won awards and translated to many languages such as French, Turkish, Dutch.
The book s the times that Kaaba was built and ends with the "succession and the burial" of Prophet Muhammad. The book has chapters such as "The Vow to Sacrifice a Son", "Bahira the Monk", "Aws and Khazraj", "The Choice". In "The Vow to Sacrifice a Son" the event about the sacrifice of Abdullah and the 100 camels; in "Bahira the Monk" the story of the Monk Bahira seeing the miracle of Muhammad; in "Aws and Khazraj" the encounter with the Jews are stated. Some of these events are familiar for the readers that have an idea about the life of the Prophet. Also there are some parts that might be interesting as details which make the reader visualize and understand that times better. "...It was the custom of all the great Arab towns to send their sons, soon after their birth, into the desert, to be suckled and weaned and spend part of their childhood among one of the Bedouin families. Nor had Mecca any reason for being an exception, since epidemics were not infrequent and the rate of infant morality was high. But it was not only the desert's fresh air that they wished their sons to imbibe. That was for their body, but the desert had also its bounty for the souls..." (Lings: 23) Even with few examples the chapters of the book, one can clearly see that the book not only includes the direct facts about the life of the Prophet but also related indirect events and points that have affected the Prophet. This way the book is an enjoyable experience both for the readers that encounters with the life of the Prophet for the first time and that are already interested and knowledgeable about it.
On the other hand all these events are described with many different and significant names which we do not encounter in general. For example in the 3rd chapter -Quraysh of the Hollow- "...Abdu Manaf's son Hashim, clearly the foremost man of his day and demanded that the rights be transferred the clan of ‘Abd ad-Dar to his clan. Those who supported Hashim and his brothers were the descendants of Zuhran and Taym, and all the Qusayy's descendants except those of the eldest lines. The descendants of Makhzum and of the other remoter counsins maintained that the rights should remain in the family of Abd ad-Dar..." (Lings: 7) At first many different names might confussion but as a whole the book certainly helps people to have a comprehensive idea about the life of Prophet Muhammad. This is one of the aspects that distinguishes Lings' biography of the Prophet similar seerah writing examples. Also another point that differentiates the book its counterparts is that it can be read with enjoyment both by the people that have encountered with the life of the Prophet and the people reading it for the first time.
Lings' "Muhammad" is a presentation of reliable sources in a novel style which makes it easier for the reader to follow. The book is beyond an ordinary novel since it has a historical background and very beneficial information that would be helpful to understand the events by taking the present situation of that time into consideration. For example in the 29th chapter, the ban of marriage and trade with other clans is stated. This shows that the situations that would be considered as exaggerated might turn out to be ordinary back then. Even this detail about the social life at those times will enable the reader to evaluate the book another perspective and to involve in the story easily. Besides this is not only a historical source but also an enhancing novel thanks to the flow of the narration and the usage of language. Throughout the book the reader in a way inhales the whole story. The effect can be clearly seen in a reader's review ‘Reads wonderfully as a narrative, while still retaining the authenticity and properness of a historical chronicle. I did occasionally get lost in the sea of names and places, but helpful charts and footnotes help with clarification, and it isn't bad enough to disrupt the flow of the book. Overall, Muhammad by Martin Lings is a great read -- very informative, inspirational and insightful.' (http://www.reviewcentre.com/)
In addition, useful and interesting words Arabic are given with their translations. For instance in the 39th chapter descriptions of the words "Ansar" and "Mujihar" are giving with their English translations. "...The Muslims of Medina had been given by the Prophet the title of Ansar which means Helpers, whereas the Muslims of Quraysh and other tribes who had left their homes and immigrated to the oasis he called Muhajirah, that is, Emigrants. All took part in the work, including the Prophet himself..." (Lings: 128)
All in all the book is significant and different the other books on the life of Prophet Muhammad with its narration technique, comprehensive content and benignant details, also with its effect on the reader who has already heard or read about the Prophet before and encountering with it for the first time. This biography by Lings is not only a book based on historical, social and Islamic facts but also a novel that has an extensive effect on the reader who gains another perspective.