Muhammad and the Origins of Islam

By F. E. Peters

Subjects: Middle East Studies
Series: SUNY series in Near Eastern Studies
Paperback : 9780791418765, 352 pages, April 1994
Hardcover : 9780791418758, 352 pages, April 1994

Alternative formats available from:

Table of contents



1. The Founding Fathers


Abraham and Ishmael in the Hijaz
Father Qusayy and the Quraysh
The Sons of Qusayy


2. The Colonial Era in Arabia


Arabian Clients and Tributaries
The Tribes of the South
The Abyssinians Invade


3. The Arabian Oikoumene


Hashim the Trader
Northern Neighbors
The Shahs and Arabia
The Commerce of Mecca


4. The Family and City of Muhammad


A Celebrated Grandfather
"The Men Who Have the Elephant"
The Security of the Quraysh
Buying and Selling in the Sacred Months
A Religious Sodality: The Hums
The Persian Occupation of the Kingdom of Himyar
The Birth of Muhammad ibn Abdullah


5. The Gods and the Shrine


The Gods and Worship at Mecca
The Pilgrimage Before Islam
The Worship of the One True God
Personal Devotions
Muhammad and Meccan Paganism


6. A Prophet at Mecca


Coming of Age in Mecca
The Prophetic Summons
A Heavenly Journey
The Earliest Sura?
Muhammad's Public Preaching
The Warning
God on High
The Call to Prayer


7. The Migration to Medina


The Opposition of the Quraysh
The Deaths of Khadija and Abu Talib
An Invitation from a Distant Oasis
A Turn to Armed Resistance
The Hijra (622 A. D.)


8. The City of the Prophet


Jews and Arabs
Muhammad Settles In
The Medina Agreement


9. Fighting in God's Cause


Violence in the Sacred Month
The Battle at the Badr Wells
From Badr to the Battle of the Trench
The Banu Qurayza
A New Tactic
The Northern Oases
The `Umra Fulfilled
A Daring Raid into Syria


10. "The Truth Has Come and Falsehood Has Passed Away"


The Fall of Mecca
The Smashing of the Idols
Hunayn, Ta’if, and the `Umra
The Malingerers
The Establishment of an Islamic Umma, with Dues
The Hajj of Year 9: The Break with the Pagans
The Idolators Submit


11. The Pilgrimage of Farewell


An Islamic Pilgrimage
The Ban on the Pagans
The Calendar Reformed


12. Illness and Death

Appendix: The Quest of the Historical Muhammad





An inquiry into the religious environment of the person Muslims hail as the “Envoy of God” and an attempt to trace his progress along the path from paganism to that distinctive form of monotheism called Islam.

F. E. Peters is Professor and Chair of the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Literature and History at New York University's Near Eastern Center. He has written a number of books, including The Children of Abraham: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam; Jerusalem; and Judaism, Christianity, and Islam: The Classical Texts and Their Interpretation. Most recently, he has published a three-volume history of Mecca and the celebrated Islamic pilgrimage called the Hajj.


"Peters writes very well. The scholarship is excellent, and the book fills a gap in the available material. There are several lives of the Prophet, but none that does what this one does. Most are written to prove a particular thesis about the nature of the Prophet's career. This one simply puts down what can be known with any certainty about the career of Muhammad from the point of view of the contemporary secular historian. " — William C. Chittick

"This book will become a major point of reference for years to come. " — Said Amir Arjomand