Emirates Airline Festival of Literature and Ministry of Culture and Knowledge Development Organize a Lecture by American Writer Lesley Hazleton at Zayed University

10 Feb 2020

Under the Patronage and presence of Her Excellency Noura bint Mohammed Al Kaabi, Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development, President of Zayed University, the award-winning journalist, historian, and blogger, Lesley Hazleton, gave a lecture at Zayed University her take on the story of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in her bestseller "The First Muslim: Story of Muhammed” as part of the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature’s Education Programme.

The British author's lecture, which was attended by Dr. Behjat Al Yousuf, Acting Vice-President of Zayed University, and a number of faculty, staff and students, was organised by the Ministry of Culture and Knowledge Development and the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature. The visit is a part of the Festival’s Education Programme and ZU's ongoing initiatives to ensure students' literature development and experiences improvement to contribute to and advance all aspects of society.

Throughout the talk, Hazleton addressed the extraordinary life of the man who founded Islam, Prophet Muhammed (PBUH), based on intensive hours of research and tireless nights of hard work and reading. Drawing on early eyewitness sources and on history, politics, religion, and psychology, to shape her take, with absolute respect to the Muslim communities around the world, a book that brings him, Prophet Muhammed (PBUH), vibrantly to life, and renders him as a man in full, in all his complexity and vitality.

"I narrated Muhammad's rise from powerlessness to power, from anonymity to renown, from insignificance to lasting significance. How did a child shunted to the margins end up revolutionizing his world; how did a merchant come to challenge the established order with a new vision of social justice; how did the pariah hounded out of Mecca turn exile into a new and victorious beginning; how did the outsider become the ultimate insider," she said.

She said that approaching the topic was a suggested fan approach, and that she refused to even think about it, “Upon finishing one of my novels, which devoted a comprehensive Flesh-and-Blood Biography of the mother of Jesus, Mary. A fan request came to urge my expertise to develop a new book about the Prophet of Islam. I refused because the topic would be very sensitive to the Muslim world and people might take it offensive. Yet this sparked my soul to start, and over the course of eight years, which were dedicated to reading great works done by renowned Muslim scholars and historians, such as Ibn Ishaq and Al-Tabari done about Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), I came to a point where I felt his presence around me and within me. It’s an indescribable feeling. And I picked the title (The first Muslim) from the Holy Quran, as God (Allah) mentioned it three times in different verses.”

“The biggest reference I had was the Quran, because these were the unchanged words that Muhammed actually spoke, and after reading and analyzing the book, for about three month, I’ve realized that it wasn’t an ordinary book and a lot of things struck me, especially gender justice because it encapsulates both equity and equality. I was amused by how powerful women were in the 7th century Arabia,” she said.

Hazleton's reporting, which focuses on the politics, religions, and history of the Middle East, has appeared in Time, The New York Times, The New York Review of Books, and Harper's, among other publications.

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