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This book constitutes a compilation, analysis, and evaluation of the oldest accounts of the life of the Prophet Muhammad. These accounts were collected and spread in the last third of the 1st/7th century by Urwa ibn al-Zubayr, a grandnephew of Muhammad's and nephew of Muhammad's wife 'A'isha and are preserved in numerous sources. Working with an exhaustive corpus of traditions, the authors are able to distinguish authentic traditions going back to Urwa ibn al-Zubayr from those wrongly ascribed to him. Through a critical analysis of different versions of a tradition they can also separate later additions and embellishments from the original core of the traditions. In contrast to later accounts, the style of the thus obtained early biographical traditions is very much matter-to-fact and almost free from references to miracles or the like. Due to the age of the material and the close relation of Urwa b. al-Zubayr to some of the main characters around Muhammad, these traditions have a high claim to reflecting the general outline of the historical facts correctly. In contrast to a widespread trend in Islamic studies to reject the whole Islamic tradition on the origins of Islam as unauthentic, this book not only brings forward well-founded arguments for the existence of an authentic kernel in the traditions on the Prophet Muhammad but also shows in an exemplary manner how this kernel can be uncovered. The book will be of interest to all scholars and students of Islamic history, and for all those interested in the life of Muhammad.
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