Friday, February 4, 2011

Muhammad: a Story of the Last Prophet by Deepak Chopra

Deepak Chopra began his professional life in his native India as a doctor and became a certified doctor of endocrinology when he came to the United States. Eventually he was disenchanted with traditional medicine and began exploring alternate paths for healing and spirituality. Today he does not practice medicine but acts as a guru to many, dispensing products and practices through his institute and website and sharing his philosophy of inner spirituality in his books.

He has written books about Jesus and Buddha similar to this one – “fictional” biographies. Being someone who has only “heard of” Muhammad and not read of him, I found Chopra’s story engaging and a quick read. One thing that makes the book accessible is its structure, with different characters appearing to fill in a different aspect of the story. Muhammad is shown as not wanting the fame thrust on him as the “mouthpiece” of Allah, and even not wanting to be chosen.

Muhammad says many enigmatic things in the book, like “God is not someone you can seek. He is in all things, and always has been. He created this earth and then disappeared into it, like an ocean disappearing into a drop of water.” What is impressed on the reader is how the Arabian peoples were separated from the civilized world by their harsh desert climate, and they lacked unity. Islam is the force which brings them together. Chopra suggests that one reason Islam spread as it did because of its preaching of equality, where “none has preference over another”.

Chopra records how Muhammad and his followers were banished to Medina from Mecca and how they eventually took up arms against their enemies, ushering in their first jihad, or holy war. This silenced their opposition and eventually helped win their rise to ascendency throughout the Arab world and beyond. Chopra consistently paints Muhammad’s decisions as coming from God, as expressing God’s wish to deal with those who have turned their face from Him. However, while this book has been described as a humanizing portrait of Islam’s founder, there is nothing in Chopra’s account that humanizes Islam’s God, “Allah the All-Merciful.”

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