An Interfaith "Muhammad"
Interfaith Experiences of Prophet Muhammad: A Book Review
One of the reasons I am drawn to Unitarian Universalism (UU) as a Muslim is because I am constantly inspired by my Arlington, Virginia UU community to look deeper within my Muslim identity as a Pakistani woman. I feel this experience highlight’s the concept of pluralism that Diane Eck wrote about, which essentially states that only by truly appreciating and understanding diversity whether it be through interfaith dialogue or cross-cultural exchanges, can we be pluralistic, hence, reaffirming and strengthening our own spiritual identity. That my UU friend asked me to review Muhammad: The Story of a Prophet and Reformer, by Sarah Conover, is another example of the powerful and positive effects of pluralism in my life. Reading Conover’s new book, I realized that Prophet Muhammad also had pluralistic experiences that influenced him to be known as “al-Amin, the honest and trustworthy”.
It was a profound learning experience for me to read about Bahirah the Christian Monk who was the first to recognize Muhammad as a future prophet. My favorite part of this book were the chapter’s filled with stories of interfaith exchanges about the non-Muslims who recognized Muhammad as a Prophet even before Muhammad knew, and that they protected him when he began to show signs of being a religious leader. I’m saddened to say I didn’t learn these stories growing up in a Muslim household or even in the Islamic school I attended as a child. Furthermore, the meeting between the believers including Muhammad and the Christian King Negus again was another example of an interfaith exchange that resulted in a non-violent outcome when Negus granted them shelter in his city.
I was thrilled to re-read the one story I did know before reading this book, which is the story of placing the black stone in the Kaaba by the four tribesmen. It places an emphasis again on interfaith mediation and shows Prophet Muhammad as being a fair mediator, while portraying his tendency to lean towards non-violent outcomes. As an interfaith youth organizer, I believe this book would be an excellent tool to use in interfaith leadership trainings for high-school age youth and/or in interfaith leadership curriculum to encourage interfaith understanding.
Lastly, I enjoyed reading Khadija and Muhammad’s love story, which I feel is often brushed over when it comes to learning about Muhammad. I think it’s incredibly important for Muslim youth and non-Muslim youth to learn about the strong relationship he had with his empowered wife, in addition to learning about Prophet Muhammad as a skilled interfaith mediator and religious leader. I’m sure as everyone has expressed, I wish is that there would be a part II to this book, as it was too short!Purchase "Muhammad: The Story of a Prophet and Reformer", published by Skinner Books at the UUA Bookstore.
Sana Saeed holds an M.S. in Conflict Resolution and Analysis and is a student at Harvard Divinity School.