As part of the World of Islam Series offered by the Institute of Ismaili Studies, ITREB USA hosted author Dr. Stephen Burge, at a book signing session at the Ismaili Jamatkhana and Center in Houston in November 2022. There was a Meet and Greet session that featured an in-depth, reflective dialogue between Sahil Badruddin and Dr. Burge.
“Indeed, the traces left by the Prophet, in the form of his life and achievements, would continue to influence the political, spiritual, and moral outlook of the new community in Arabia and, more significantly, all Muslim communities in the future.” Dr. Stephen Burge, The Prophet Muhammad: Islam and the Divine Message, p.269.
Through the discussion, Dr. Burge identified the purpose behind the World of Islam Series, which is to provide global readers with a reliable and balanced overview of the diverse manifestations of Islam. Books in this series seek to redress misperceptions by offering a more holistic insight into the plurality of interpretations amongst Muslims worldwide.
In his presentation, Dr. Burge reviewed several images from the book, discussing various similarities between the role of Prophet Muhammad and Moses. During his discourse, he underlined the need to understand the concept of prophethood. One of the most exciting experiences in Prophet Muhammad’s life was Jabal Al-Nur, “The Mountain of Light,” where the Prophet first received his revelation. He described seeing the Angel Gabriel as one of shock, where Prophet Muhammad requests Khadijah to “wrap him up,” as if he was suffering from a high fever, creating a very humanized lens to the life of a “Nabi” or “Rasul” - Muhammad, Moses, and Jesus, despite their life-altering states.
While providing insights into the Prophet’s work and lack of initial acceptance and protection, Dr. Burge explained how the role of the Prophet was tied to the need to create social justice, provide guidance, warn his community in accordance with the word of God, and convey the blessings for the righteous. Then he eloquently captured the plurality in history through the event in Abyssinia (now Ethiopia) where a Christian ruler, the Negus, offered protection to Prophet Muhammad and his followers from Meccans who were persecuting them.
During the conversation portion of the onstage interview with Sahil, Dr. Burge spoke about his inspiration to write the book of “how [the Prophet] Muhammad continues to play an active and meaningful role in the lives of Muslims around the world today” (pg. 19). Then, Dr. Burge reflected on the role the Prophet played in his lifetime as an intercessor for the early Muslim community.
As in other cultures, Muslim values, expressions, and observances vary by religious, social, and cultural traditions. "The Prophet Muhammad" Islam and the Divine Message invites Muslims and non-Muslims alike to explore commonalities and distinctions that define different Muslim traditions. The book raises questions about what it means to be a prophet and what prophets, as intermediaries of divine and earthly worlds, mean to people of faith.
The book reflects Dr. Burge’s comment: “In a world in which there are many strains and conflicts between different communities of faith, an increased understanding of one another is very much needed. It is only through educating and understanding each other that we can live together harmoniously.”
More about Dr. Stephen Burge and his research at IIS can be found here.