The Life of Muhammad
Plenty of people have founded plenty of religions. Plenty of people have led armies and founded empires. Many of them, in fact, are on this list. But not many people managed to do both in such a small space of time. How was it that a relatively unremarkable merchant in modern day Saudi Arabia became the founder of an empire and a religion followed by one and a half billion people in the modern age? That’s one of the key questions surrounding the life of Muhammad.
Somewhat uniquely among historical figures, we have first hand sources from the man’s life. The stories and documented events laid out in the Quran help us fill in the details on the life of Muhammad as he found himself the latest in a long line of Abrahamic prophets. Unlike Jesus or Moses, we have his extant writings still available in a language many people speak on a day-to-day basis.
The spreading of the Islamic empire during Muhammad lifetime, as well as the religion it brought with it, has had a lasting impact on the shape of the modern world. The events surrounding his death – including the Shia/Sunni schism – continue to shape world events to this day. All in all, he was undoubtedly a major historical figure.