The Meaning of Muhammad and our Cultural Memory By Shaykh Faid Mohammed Said

Book Review by Maggie Blenkinsop

“Shaykh Faid Mohammed Said quotes from the the many benevolent deeds and words of the Prophet towards everyone, including those of other religions, and demonstrates that the essential nature of Islam is kindness and compassion towards the whole of humanity.”

—His Holiness Pope Francis

In these times, when almost every day brings news of yet another terrorist attack carried out by Muslim extremists, this volume by Shaykh Faid Mohammed Said is particularly welcome. Here the Shaykh goes back to the beginning and examines the attitude of the Prophet of Islam towards other cultures and other religions, as evidenced by the words of the Qu’ran and his own deeds during his life as recorded by his friends in the Hadith. Because of the nature of the times in which he lived, most everyday encounters with adherents of another culture were with Christians and Jews, in truth people who, like Muslims, were followers of Abraham and whose practices were very close to those that the Prophet was passing on to his followers.

The Shaykh gives many examples, all in simple everyday English, of the respect shown by the Prophet to these people and indeed to others whose faith remains unrecorded but whose behaviour seemed to the Prophet to be admirable in itself.

Because of its straightforward language and constant references to irrefutable sources, the Qu’ran, and the Hadith, this book is a valuable offering to intelligent young people who might be thought to be at risk of so-called radicalisation. In fact, nothing could be more radical, in the true sense of the word, than this work which does in fact go back to the roots of Islam and shows that at base it has always been a broadminded and welcoming faith, more interested in kindness and generosity than in the cultural background of those whose deeds brought them to the notice of the Prophet.

It is difficult to believe that anyone, young or old, could read this book and fail to be impressed by the massive evidence of the Prophet’s openness towards goodness and elevated morality wherever he encountered these qualities. The author shows us a portrait of one who judged human acts according to their essential nature, rather than according to the background of the individual who carried out those acts. The book is short and as simple as possible given that its intention is to reveal the “authentic voice of Islam, far removed from the thunderous sounds associated with biblical traditions”.

While not a children’s book, because of the complex nature of the subject-matter and the vocabulary needed to discuss such philosophical points, this is a book that should certainly be offered to young people as soon as they can be expected to understand a text of this nature. It could certainly be used as a textbook for a course in the basic tenets of Islam where a teacher could help students with unfamiliar vocabulary and encourage them to apply the generalised points encountered in the text to situations that arise in everyday life.