On the next Inside Islam radio show, Wednesday, May 12th, Jean will be talking with Professor Omid Safi, the author of Memories of Muhammad: Why the Prophet Matters about the Prophet Muhammad, his image in Western discourse, his place in the Muslim worldview, and his relevance in the world today.
According to Safi, the image of the Prophet has changed throughout time in both Muslim and non-Muslim circles. Safi asserts that some negative images have continued through time even as knowledge of Islam and exposure to Muslims by non-Muslims have increased. For example, offensive and negative imagery of the Prophet Muhammad can be seen in work as old as Dante’s Inferno where the Prophet is described as residing in Hell and in contemporary situations as when Evangelical leaders like Jerry Falwell call the Prophet was a “terrorist.”
However, Safi highlights that other non-Muslim representations of the Prophet Muhammad counter these negative images. For example, he cites Thomas Carlyle’s description of the impact of Islam and the Prophet Muhammad:
To the Arab Nation it was as a birth from darkness into light; Arabia first became alive by means of it. A poor shepherd people, roaming unnoticed in the desert since the creation of the world: a Hero-Prophet was sent down to them with a word they could believe: see, the unnoticed becomes world-notable, the small has grown world-great…I said, the Great Man was always as lightening out of Heaven; the rest of men waited him like fuel, and then they too would flame.
On the other hand, Safi states that Muslims have many different memories of the Prophet Muhammad that include focusing on his incredible mercy when they were at the height of their civilization to focusing now on his military achievements and nation building when they feel at their lowest.
Whatever the image, Safi maintains that it is necessary to learn about the Prophet Muhammad in order to understand Islam and to engage in open and constructive dialogue that is in line with the Qur’anic verse that says,
O mankind! We have created you from a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know one another. (Qur’an 49: 13)
The next show will shed light on the Prophet Muhammad and what he means today.
What is your image of the Prophet Muhammad? What does he mean to you? Please share your questions and comments below and they may appear on the air on the next Inside Islam show.