feature film ‘Muhammad: The Last Prophet.’.
(photo credit: MCT)
Countless books have been written about the life of Muhammad, Islam’s prophet.
Spirituality guru Deepak Chopra has added another to the mix: A novel generally
rooted in facts but liberally embellished.
In Muhammad: A Story of the
Last Prophet, Chopra employs a wide cast of narrators to tell the story of how
an orphan boy raised in a pagan society grew up to lead a nation of believers in
the oneness of God. All the usual highlights are here: Muhammad’s infancy and
toddlerhood living with his Bedouin wet nurse in the fresh air of the desert;
his brief time with his mother in the city before her death when he was only six
(his father died before he was born); his precociousness as a child living with
relatives; and his marriage to a wealthy widow with whom he had four daughters
as well as two sons who died in infancy.
Then, at 40, came the turning
point in Muhammad’s life, when the angel Gabriel appeared before him as he was
meditating in a cave. “The man who wished for God to notice him was terrified
once he was noticed,” Chopra writes. He imagines Muhammad thinking: “I didn’t
ask for this. Let me go. I am nothing, a man among men.”
It is this
ordinary nature of Muhammad that surprised Chopra when he began writing the
book, which follows Buddha
in his series on founders of world
religions. What links the three men is their pursuit of higher consciousness,
Chopra writes in his introduction.
“[Muhammad] appeals to me most because
he remade the world by going inward... In the light of what the Prophet
achieved, he raises my hopes that all of us who lead everyday lives can be
touched by the divine.”
Chopra appears to rely on a mix of Muslim and
non-Muslim sources to inform his novel, which may irritate those who would
prefer more wholehearted acceptance – or more sharp challenging – of Muslims’
version of history. As for Chopra’s writing style, solid storytelling in the
beginning of the book unfortunately peters out.
The final chapters include a
bizarre tale of a reformed prostitute waiting for a soldier to return home – her
connection to the story of the prophet is unclear – and anticlimactic, rushed
chapters on Muhammad’s return to Mecca and his death. Even so, Muhammad
appeal to those interested in a dramatic retelling of the prophet’s life.