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From the bestselling writer of ‘The History of God’ and the widely acclaimed ‘Islam – A Short History’ comes Karen Armstrong’s ‘Muhammad’.
Karen Armstrong has become one of our most important and relevant commentators on religious world affairs today, consistently providing a scholarly but accessible approach to humanity’s relationships with God and religion.
To date, there have been very few books written on the Islamic prophet of the religion that is followed by over the 1.2 billion Muslims who make up a fifth of the world’s population.
Muhammad’s staggering achievements as a human being quite simply altered the course of history as we know it and continue to this day to inspire humanity.
Muslims claim that in 650 AD, at the age of forty, Muhammad had a visitation from the Angel Gabriel telling him that he had been chosen to learn, recite and spread the words of God to man in verses that would later make up the Qu’ran. He slowly developed into a prophet, preaching monotheism to the masses.
He was initially mocked and rejected by many and risked numerous assassination attempts throughout his life. At a critical time, he also made the revolutionary decision to break all ties with his Muslim tribe thereby proclaiming that the bonds of Islam took precedence over anything else. The Islamic empire thus expanded into Palestine, Syria, Mesopotamia, Persia, Egypt, North Africa and Spain.
Karen Armstrong has written a fascinating account of this figure whose life and influence has determined the course of the spiritual life of human kind.
FIELDS OF BLOOD
Our foremost scholar of religion challenges one of the most persistent myths of our time: that religion has been the cause of all major wars.
It is the most persistent myth of our time: religion is the cause of all violence. But history suggests otherwise. Karen Armstrong, former Roman Catholic nun and one of our foremost scholars of religion, speaks out to disprove the link between religion and bloodshed.
* Religion is as old as humanity: Fields of Blood goes back to the Stone Age hunter-gatherers and traces religion through the centuries, from medieval crusaders to modern-day jihadists.
* The West today has a warped concept of religion: we regard faith as a personal and private matter, but for most of history faith has informed people’s entire outlook on life, and often been inseparable from politics.
* Humans undoubtedly have a natural propensity for aggression: the founders of the largest religions – Jesus, Buddha, the rabbis of early Judaism, the prophet Muhammad – aimed to curb violence and build a more peaceful and just society, but with our growing greed for money and wealth came collective violence and warfare.
* With the arrival of the modern all-powerful, secular state humanity’s destructive potential has begun to spiral out of control. Is humanity on the brink of destroying itself?
Fields of Blood is a celebration of the ancient religious ideas and movements that have promoted peace and reconciliation across millennia of civilization.
THE CASE FOR GOD
There is widespread confusion about the nature of religious truth. For the first time in history, a significantly large number of people want nothing to do with God. Militant atheists preach a gospel of godlessness with the zeal of missionaries and find an eager audience.
Tracing the history of faith from the Palaeolithic Age to the present, Karen Armstrong shows that meaning of words such as ‘belief’, ‘faith’, and ‘mystery’ has been entirely altered, so that atheists and theists alike now think and speak about God – and, indeed, reason itself – in a way that our ancestors would have found astonishing.
Does God have a future? Karen Armstrong examines how we can build a faith that speaks to the needs of our troubled and dangerously polarised world.
‘Karen Armstrong has been one of the most persistent and powerful voices in the eminently respectable task of popularising religious scholarship in the anglophone world’ GUARDIAN
‘Her work has a broad sweep and that is extremely important’ TLS
Buddhism is a faith that commands over 100 million followers throughout the world. Buddha stands with Christ, Confucius and Mohammed as someone who revolutionised the religious ideas of his time to advocate a new way of living.
Since Buddhism promotes no personal god, Buddhism, writes Armstrong, ‘is essentially a psychological faith’. In our own age of secular anxiety, she shows that it has profound lessons to teach about selflessness and the simple life.
All that is known about Buddha comes from a collection of ancient writings that fuse history, biography and myth. Karen Armstrong distils from these the key events of Buddha’s life: his birth as Siddhartha Gotama in the fifth century BC and his abandonment of his wife and son; his attainment of enlightenment under the Banyan tree (the moment he became a buddha, or enlightened one; his political influence; the divisions among his followers; and his serene death. Armstrong also introduces the key tenets of Buddhism: she explains the doctrine of anatta (no-soul) and the concepts of kamma (actions), samsara (keeping going), dhamma (a law or teaching that reflects the fundamental principles of existence) and the idealised state of nibbana (literally the ‘cooling of the ego’).
Karen Armstrong’s short book is a magnificent introduction to the life and thought of this most influential of spiritual thinkers.
In the public mind, Islam is a religion of extremes: it is the worldAEs fastest growing faith; more than three-quarters of the worldAEs refugees are Islamic; it has produced government by authoritarian monarchies in Saudi Arabia and ultra- republicans in Iran. Whether we are reading about civil war in Algeria or Afghanistan, the struggle for the soul of Turkey, or political turmoil in Pakistan or Malaysia, the Islamic context permeates all these situations. Yet who really understands the central tenets of this faith, or why so many people around the world have turned to aefundamentalismAE? Karen ArmstrongAEs elegant and concise book traces how Islam grew from the other religions of the book, Judaism and Christianity; introduces us to the character of Muhammed; and demonstrates that for much of its history, the religion has been a force for enlightenment that promoted liberties for women and allowed the arts and sciences to flourish. Islam shows how this progressive legacy is today often set aside as the faith struggles to come to terms with the economic and political weakness of most of its believers and with the forces of modernity itself.
THE HOLY WAR : THE CRUSADES AND THEIR IMPACT ON TODAY’S WORLD
Karen Armstrong, bestselling author of A History of God, skillfully narrates this history of the Crusades with a view toward their profound and continuing influence. In 1095 Pope Urban II summoned Christian warriors to take up the cross and reconquer the Holy Land. Thus began the holy wars that would focus the power of Europe against a common enemy and become the stuff of romantic legend. In reality the Crusades were a series of rabidly savage conflicts in the name of piety. And, as Armstrong demonstrates in this fascinating book, their legacy of religious violence continues today in the Middle East, where the age-old conflict of Christians, Jews, and Muslims persists.
VISIONS OF GOD
The mystics of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries were, writes Karen Armstrong, like “the astronauts of our own day. They broke into a new religion, blazed a new trail to God and to the depths of the self, a trail far from the beaten pilgrimage paths of Chaucer and Langland.” Mysticism is a spiritual mystery shared in some form by all faiths; it has a supernatural quality that extends beyond the given boundaries of religious creed and may be experienced by any lay person. The thrilling intensity of a mystical experience, as represented in this volume by the writings of four mystics of the Middle Ages, can inspire other spiritual seekers with its insight into the limitless wonder of both human and divine experience. Dissatisfied by the strictures of dogma and a religion that failed to quench the human thirst for knowledge of a mystical order, these four mystics–Richard Rolle of Hampole, Walter Hilton, Dame Julian of Norwich, and the unknown author of The Cloud Of Unknowing –communicate an intense and passionate experience of faith rare in any time. Because of their unique beliefs and spiritual strength, their knowledge and writings have proved timeless, and in this beautiful volume show contemporary seekers important new insights into the nature of divine love.
A life of the prophet Muhammad by bestselling religious writer Karen Armstrong.
Most people in the West know very little about the prophet Muhammad. The acclaimed religious writer Karen Armstrong has written a biography which will give us a more accurate and profound understanding of Islam and the people who adhere to it so strongly. Muhammad also offers challenging comparisons with the two religions most closely related to it – Judaism and Christianity.