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Muhammad [a novel]

Driss Chraibi, translated by Nadia Benabid
Muhammad [a novel]
ISBN: 978-0-89410-858-7
ISBN: 978-0-89410-895-2
1998/86 pages/LC: 98-5353

"[A] moving and lyrical account of the life of Islam's most sacred personage.... While the novel's action is concentrated intensely upon a period of only a day and a half, its scope extends far beyond the here and now to embrace almost the whole of human culture.... Chraibi give[s] the reader direct access to the most intimate stirrings of the soul of a sacred figure.... If Chraibi's Muhammed has a message for contemporary readers, it is that the sacred is present everywhere, if we could only hear the desert singing."—Lucy Stone McNeece, Journal of African Studies

"One of the assets enabling the reader to appreciate this beautifully lyrical work is Nadia Benabid's flawless translation.... [Benabid] masterfully conveys into English the fluid lyricism of the original."—Mona M. Zaki, Banipal

"When fiction touches upon the sacred, the novel shifts upon its foundations and sometimes recaptures the beauty of its origins. Driss Chraïbi has given us the rare gift of such a book.... Assuredly one of the most beautiful accounts ever written of ... the Prophet Muhammad." —Quatra, revue de l'institut du monde arabe


It is the 26th day of Ramadan in the year 610, and a handsome man named Muhammad is meditating in a cave on Mount Hira. Fear grips him as he tries to sort out the visions and voices washing over him; and terrified that he is possessed, he leaves the cave to return to Mecca. The day that will transform Muhammad’s life—and change the world—has begun.

That day becomes a fluid intermingling of the ordinary and a dreamlike conviction that something indescribable is about to happen. Finally, his disquiet increasing, invading his sleep and forcing him to leave his wife's side, Muhammad returns to the cave on Mount Hira to give birth to the momentous revelations within him.

This finely crafted, poetic novel captures the mystery of religious revelation as it unfolds in all its intensity, providing a unique window on Islam's Prophet. Winner of Morocco's prestigious Grand Prix Atlas in 1996, it was first published in French in 1995 as L'homme du livre.


Born in Morocco in 1926, the late Driss Chraïbi embraced French education and culture early on and supported French colonial rule; but he soon became equally critical of the Occidental and the Islamic worlds, and his writing often focuses on the unresolved conflicts between the two. Chraïbi practiced medicine for a few years, then turned to writing in 1952. He is author of more than a dozen highly acclaimed novels.