Dr. Richard A. Gabriel (U.S. veteran and military historian, and adjunct professor of history and war studies at the Royal Military College of Canada in Kingston, Ontario) explores the
prophet Muhammad’s abilities as a general and rather than as a founder of a religion. Muhammad
did not learn how to be a soldier while growing up as had many other Arab boys; he developed his leadership abilities over time,
starting out as a leader of an insurgency that eventually swept all of Arabia and beyond after his death.
Muhammad used political intrigue, alliances, assassination, bribery, and military warfare to persuade people to convert to Islam or to become an ally of this new religion. Some people and tribes he forced to become converts; others he peacefully persuaded,
and still others he simply left alone. Some of these people were pagans who worshiped idols, some were Christians, and many were Jews.
Muhammad was unique in his leadership style in Arabia in that he put his followers under his unified command. The tribes of Arabia usually did not have a unified commander. They were very clannish,
fighting only for their clan or family honor or for their own personal advancement, whereas Muhammad’s
formed his followers into a community called “ummah”. The community was made up of many tribes, but all individuals were personally loyal to Muhammad instead of to their clan or family.
Gabriel presents the battles that Muhammad was personally in as well as those
commanded by his subordinates. Muhammad’s way of warfare was implemented by his successors in the expansion of the Islamic Empire,
which grew by the sword, persuasion, and other means. While this book looks at mainly the expansion by the sword since this is a military history,
religion was a motivation for men to sacrifice their lives whenever Muhammad ordered an attack on his enemies or to defend the community. This was considered martyrdom,
and its influence is seen today on terrorists like al-Qaeda and other groups.
Gabriel's book is based on many Islamic historic sources as well as other historical sources mentioned in the text. There are twelve nicely drawn and readable maps
but no additional illustrations. Endnotes and an index sandwich the bibliography,
which has English language sources and original Arabic sources translated into English. This book is highly recommended to those interested in Islamic history, Muhammad, and military history.
Dr. Richard A. Gabriel received his B.A. from Providence College, his M.A. from the University of Rhode Island, and his Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Dr. Gabriel has been featured on many
television news channels and shows like The Discovery Channel, The History Channel,
60 Minutes, Crossfire, the Today Show, Nightline, and others. He is the author of at least forty books,
including Soldiers’ Lives through History: the Ancient World (2006), Empires at War (2005),
Jesus the Egyptian: the Origins of Christianity and the Psychology of Christ (2005), and
Subotai the Valiant: Genghis Khan’s Great General (2004).