The New Arab is carrying a review of my new book, Muhammad: Prophet of Peace amid the Clash of Empires by Usman Butt, “multimedia television researcher, filmmaker and writer based in London. Usman read International Relations and Arabic Language at the University of Westminster and completed a Master of Arts in Palestine Studies at the University of Exeter.”
The review is generally quite favorable, though with some reservations. Mr. Butt does justice in concise, coherent summaries to the historical argument I make in the book, writing
- “The Byzantine world had been thrown into chaos the year before, in 602, when the Roman army led by General Phokas launched a coup against Emperor Maurikios and killed him and his family. The assassination enraged the Persian emperor Khosrow II who regarded Emperor Maurikios to be an ally and his murder to be an act of war. The war that followed drew in troops from different parts of the world and lasted two and half decades. The war ended with the rise of a movement with a radical peace message and that movement was Islam.”
Butt, having studied Arabic and Islam academically, also understands and correctly states my methodology: “Cole draws upon the Quran and contemporary records as well as the latest scholarship to historically place the Prophet Muhammad and the rise of Islam. ”
He also correctly states my findings that the Qur’an permits only defensive warfare, putting forward a doctrine of “just war.”
- “A . . . verse in Surah al-Baqarah 2:256 reads: “There can be no compulsion at all in religion.” The book argues that liberty of individual faith is at the centre of the new society, as the immortal soul hangs in the balance according to Islamic belief, thus no one should be forced to believe or disbelieve in Islam or any other religion. Peace cannot exist until these rights are protected. While I have reservations about some of the claims made in the book, Cole does succeed in contributing usefully to the public discourse on early Islam which will make for a better-informed discussion.”
Given how controversial some of my findings will be, and given that Mr. Butt mentions that he has disliked some of my political positions, this is an extremely fair review and well worth reading by anyone interested in the issues raised by my book.
Read the review here.