The author of this book, Dr. Jonathan Brown, has published research on pre-Islamic Arabic literature, Islamic law, and hadith collections. It was, in fact, his expertise in these areas that interested me in his perspective on the Prophet’s life. Given the plethora of research on the subject and the fact that it runs a wide gamut, Dr. Brown has done amazingly well to keep the introduction short, yet the reader will come out no less educated about the breadth of issues described in most other books on the subject. And that is why I feel this work is a class by itself and has the potential to become an introductory text for courses on the Prophet.
The book is organized in three chapters. Chapter 1 takes the reader into the Arabian milieu in which the Prophet lived, and acquaints the reader to the traditional account of his biography. Dr. Brown plays no games and walks through it with the caveat that we must study the “legend” (the word is repeated thrice in the first five pages). This is important because if you have Muslim neighbors, you might be reading such a book to get a handle on what they might believe in. Chapter 1 accomplishes this goal.