Here are some useful works on the life and teachings of Muhammad:
I have just penned three articles on Islam’s founder Muhammad, mainly because our state premier Dan Andrews recently came out and said all Victorians should know all about ‘his works, teachings, life, and journey.’ Of course it seems clear that Andrews knows little or nothing about the man and his message, and if he does, he is very much carrying on like a dhimmi and a shill for Islam – mainly for political purposes.
The truth is, anyone who actually does start to learn a bit about the prophet will NOT readily be encouraging others to embrace and celebrate his life and teachings. Quite the contrary. As to the other three pieces that I previously wrote on these issues, they are found here:
Those who do in fact know something about this religious, military and political leader will not be anywhere near as enthusiastic as our clueless premier seems to be. As to what can be known about him, there are – as would be expected – many thousands of books on Islam in general and Muhammad in particular that are available to choose from.
Of course they all tend to come with differing slants and biases. Some would be out and out hagiographies. So some selectivity is in order here. I will lay my cards on the table: As a Christian I admittedly have my own bias, so books that I recommend on the topic do come from that particular point of view. Also, as one who loves freedom and does not much enjoy things such as sharia law, I have those biases in place as well.
Therefore some of the main Islamic biographies and secular academic ones I will not feature here. But the earliest biography that Muslim Ibn Ishaq did of Muhammad some 150 years after his death – and which we now only have in a later edited form – is often quoted (along with others) in the various books I feature here.
So bear those qualifications in mind. And let me mention that a decade ago I posted a recommended reading list on Islam, terrorism, jihad, sharia law, the Koran, Muhammad, and so on. It featured 130 titles from Christian and non-Christian authors. It is found here: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2012/10/25/recommended-reading-on-islam/
Being ten years old, that list is somewhat out of date now, and I need to do a fully revised version of it one day, with so many new titles needing to be added. And many of those books would have chapters or sections on Muhammad of course. But here I want to narrow things down a bit, featuring just a dozen books that are either all about Muhammad, or at least in good measure discuss Islam’s founder.
The first thing to be said about these books is that many of them take the route of looking at both Jesus and Muhammad. And as anyone who knows a bit of each religious leader can affirm, to properly do this is NOT by way of comparison, but by way of contrast. The two could not be more different. Indeed, I did a piece on this a few years ago: billmuehlenberg.com/2019/12/30/muhammad-versus-jesus/
So a number of the books featured below do offer contrasts between the pair. Others look at various aspects of the life, deeds and words of Muhammad. I will give each one a very quick overview. Here then are twelve books, mainly penned by Christians, that offer much helpful information and insight about the subject at hand:
Burleigh, F. W., It’s All About Muhammad. Zenga Books, 2014.
This book is the longest of the lot, and not authored by a Christian. The 550-page biography of Muhammad is quite critical and hard-hitting, but at the same time it is very well documented, making use of all the major primary sources and documents of Islam.
Cotterell, Peter, Muhammad: The Man Who Transformed Arabia. Acorn Press, 2011.
In addition to the book just mentioned above, this is the main volume that can properly be called a biography, or historical overview, of Muhammad. So if you mainly want a manageable volume that looks at his life from birth to death, this will be the book for you.
Durie, Mark, Revelation? Do We Worship the Same God? CityHarvest Publications, 2006.
Although looking more at the bigger picture of the contrast between Islam and Christianity, much is said here about the prophet Muhammad and how he lines up with Jesus and the Bible. Mark Durie is an expert on Islam and linguistics, and like Bernie Power, is an Australian also involved in outreach to Muslims.
Gabriel, Mark, Jesus and Muhammad. Charisma House, 2004.
This is a very helpful point by point study in contrasts, looking at the two men in terms of their birth, upbringing, teachings, actions, deaths and legacies. Especially useful since Gabriel was once a devout Muslim and Islamic scholar before converting to Christianity.
Ibrahim, Ayman, A Concise Guide to the Life of Muhammad. Baker, 2022.
This very helpful volume answers in detail 30 key questions, such as: what about his wives, his wars, his treatment of the Jews, his use of the sword, his views on Jesus, his treatment of infidels and apostates, and so on. Well documented and referenced.
Licona, Michael, Paul Meets Muhammad. Baker, 2006.
This is a bit different from the other volumes contrasting Jesus and Muhammad. But Licona thinks Paul is a better fit here, because both men claimed supernatural revelation, and also because each religion considers the other to be lacking in authority. A useful way to help make the contrasting cases for Islam and Christianity.
Moucarry, Chawkat, The Prophet & the Messiah: An Arab Christian’s Perspective on Islam & Christianity (British edition: Faith To Faith). IVP, 2002.
While looking at a number of issues, Jesus and Muhammad receive quite a bit of attention in this valuable volume. Because it seeks dialogue with Muslims, it is a useful book to share with them.
Power, Bernie, Understanding Jesus and Muhammad. Acorn Press, 2016.
Another helpful look at the contrasts between Jesus and Muhammad, and Yahweh and Allah. Topics include matters of faith, sin, miracles, treatment of women, use of violence, prophecy, and the end of the age. Power, an Australian, has lived and worked in the Middle East.
Richardson, Harry, The Story of Mohammed. 2013.
Richardson is the third and final Australian writer featured here. This is a quite short and easy to read look at the life and activities of Muhammad. However it is lacking in the extensive documentation and referencing that the other volumes have.
Spencer, Robert, Did Muhammad Exist? ISI Books, 2012.
Yes there is real discussion and debate as to whether Muhammad was an actual historical figure. The origins of Islam are obscure, and plenty of myth and legend has to be separated from fact. A well documented look at a vexing question.
Spencer, Robert, The Truth About Muhammad. Regenery Publishers, 2006.
This is partially a biography, and partially an examination of many aspects of Muhammad: his life, his work, his teaching, his politics, his legacy, and so on. Drawing only on Islamic sources, Spencer, an expert in all things Islam, gives us a very important look at just who Muhammad was.
White, James, What Every Christian Needs to Know About the Qur’an. Bethany House, 2013.
As the title indicates, this volume covers much more than just the person of Muhammad. However useful chapters are featured on aspects of his life, activity and his role in helping to bring about the Koran. Since Muhammad and the Koran are so closely connected, we find much of use in this book concerning both.
If I have to pick some favourites, that would be difficult. As mentioned, for a shorter but quite helpful biography, go with Cotterell. Gabriel and Power do quite good jobs of contrasting Muhammad with Jesus. Spencer has written around 15 books on Islam, and Durie is a top notch scholar. But each volume has something to offer.
So why not grab a few of them and learn more about who this prophet was and what he has done and said – for good or ill.