Muhammad and the Believers: At the Origins of Islam. By FRED M. DONNER. Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2010. Pp. xviii + 280. $25.95. There are many scholarly books on Islam, but few that discuss the origin of Islam from a historical perspective for the general reader. Fred Donner provides a fresh analysis of Islam at the beginning, primarily as represented in the Qur'an, in an attempt to sort through the contradictions and clear bias of early Islamic texts on Muhammad and at the same time avoid the tendency to reject all the narratives as fictional. Unlike scholars who have sought to reduce the creation of Islam to an economic or political rationale, Donner takes seriously the moral thrust of the Qur'an. "It is my conviction," he suggests, "that Islam began as a religious movement--not as a social, economic, or 'national' one; in particular, it embodied an intense concern for attaining personal salvation through righteous behavior" (p. xii). For Donner, the Quranic emphasis on piety should not be dismissed simply because one does not accept Islam as a unique divine revelation or Muhammad as the seal of the prophets. The life of Muhammad is retold and the struggles of the early community of believers described, but with a twist. Donner's main point, a novel interpretation, is that Muhammad's followers were a wide group that included believing Jews and Christians rather than the distinctively separate community that came to define Islam a century after the Prophet's death.