Choice

October 2000.

The Quest for the Historical Muhammad, ed. and tr. by Ibn Warraq. 
Prometheus Books, 2000. 554p bibl. ISBN 1-57392-787-2, $34.95

In this immensely valuable resource, Ibn Warraq has collected seminal studies from several academic journals from the past 150 years. The uniting theme is, given the nature and condition of extant Arabic sources, whether it is possible to reconstruct the life of Muhammad with any degree of confidence. Most of the studies are sceptical of the possibility and represent a contrast to the more optimistic view of H. Motzki's edited The Biography of Muhammad: The Issue of Sources. Regardless of one's view, Ibn Warraq has performed a valuable service by bringing these important-and largely inaccessible--studies together in a single volume, and by translating original German and French publications into English. Fourteen studies are prefaced by two new essays, by Ibn Warraq and by Ibn Rawandi, tracing the history of the study of Muhammad in the West and providing a critical basis for the evaluation of the scholarship of the past century and a half. Each of the principal studies has a full set of notes and bibliography. Glossary of technical terms, chronological table, and brief biographical sketch of each author. Highly recommended to all college and university libraries and to public libraries with collections in the history of religion. Upper-division undergraduates and above. 

 M. Swartz, Boston University