‘Muhammad: A Story of the Last Prophet’ by Deepak Chopra

That’s where the surprise occurred, because among all the founders of the great world religions, Muhammad is the most like us. Muhammad saw himself as an ordinary man. His relatives and neighbors didn’t part and make way when he walked down the parched dirt streets of Mecca.
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But Muhammad sat on the periphery as a listener rather than a participant, and he remained mute, so far as history is concerned, up to the moment when Gabriel found him.
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The most remarkable fact about Muhammad is that he was so much like us, until destiny provided one of the greatest shocks in history.
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This phenomenon links Buddha, Jesus, and Muhammad. Higher consciousness is universal. It is held out as the ultimate goal of life on earth. Without guides who reached higher consciousness, the world would be bereft of its greatest visionaries—fatally bereft, in fact.
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Muhammad sensed this aching gap in the world around him. He appeals to me most because he remade the world by going inward. That’s the kind of achievement only available on the spiritual path. 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. The Koran deserves its place as a song of the soul, to be celebrated wherever the soul matters. CHRONOLOGY (Because of the lack of verified dates, the ones listed below are approximate.)
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Muhammad sensed this aching gap in the world around him. He appeals to me most because he remade the world by going inward. That’s the kind of achievement only available on the spiritual path. 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. The Koran deserves its place as a song of the soul, to be celebrated wherever the soul matters.
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CHRONOLOGY (Because of the lack of verified dates, the ones listed below are approximate.)

570CE: Birth of Muhammad

590: Muhammad’s marriage to Khadijah, which produces four daughters, and two sons who die in infancy

610(or earlier): Muhammad’s first revelation

613: First public preaching

615: Immigration of some Muslims to Abyssinia

616–619: Muhammad’s clan, the Banu Hashim, boycotted by the Quraysh tribe 619: Deaths of Khadijah and Abu Talib

622: Hijra (migration) to Medina

624: Battle of Badr, Muslim victory against larger Qurayshi forces; Jewish tribes expelled from Medina

625: Battle of Uhud, a victory for the Quraysh that is not followed up on

627: Medina besieged by Meccan army (Battle of the Trench); Qurayza Jews of Medina massacred

628: Treaty of Hudaybiyah, calling a truce with the Quraysh

629: Peaceful pilgrimage to Mecca

630: Mecca occupied by Muslims; tribal enemies defeated in other campaigns

631: Islam accepted in many parts of Arabia

632: Death of Muhammad
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I will not turn my face from you, Lord, even if you kill everyone I love.
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The man who wished for God to notice him was terrified once he was noticed.
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Dear God, in your infinite mercy, make me who I was before. Make me ordinary again.
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“A thousand curses never tore a shirt.”
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Can God’s love be so intense that it feels like hate?”
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“I cannot find a single blessing from God that is not also a curse,” I said. “And no curse that is not also a blessing. Why is this so?”
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Now Ishmael’s mother, Hagar, had only been a slave out of Egypt, belonging to Abraham’s wife, Sarah. Because she was barren, Sarah told Abraham to take Hagar as his second wife in order to have children. Fourteen years later, a miracle came to pass, and Sarah became with child. She bore a son named Isaac.
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Can God’s love be so intense that it feels like hatred?”
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“The answer doesn’t lie with God. It lies with your own guilt.”
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“If you cheated on my mother, maybe she would find out, maybe she wouldn’t. But in your guilt, you could feel her love as disguised poison. And if a man kills his brother, as Cain killed Abel, his guilt might make God’s love feel like hate.”
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I thought that being rich is a blessing, but I was a fool.”
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“I swear, if I am ever made chief of chiefs throughout Arabia, you will be my ambassador. Such smooth diplomacy. Wait until the women hear you.”
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“I beseech the blessing hidden in the curse,”
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The young never understand the sadness of growing up.
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Growing up never stops a man from prowling the alleys.
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You hear those filthy jokes all over the world, and the same laughter. Indecency is how men know that they are men.
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City women have babies, but they don’t give them the breast. It’s not because they’re lazy and pampered and don’t want sore nipples. They’re worried. Living in a city like Mecca, where breathing the air is the same as breathing in contagion, they had to be careful. So every spring we came in from the desert to offer our breasts. That was the custom and still is, although it’s on the decline. It’s a wonder the air in the city doesn’t kill all the babies before they take their first step.
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Fate was a tease.
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beautiful, pure Arabic as these corrupt young dandies
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The best hiding place is inside your own heart. I’ve tried all the others.
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What does “the believer” believe?
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Allah, endow my heart with wings, so that I may fly to the garden of eternity.
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“The veil between God and his servant does not exist in heaven or on earth. It exists in himself.”
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I also have another ritual that I keep to myself, for good reason. When I am puzzled over a mystery, large or small, I pull a sheet out at random, and whatever my eye falls upon I take to be a message.
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I have no religion. I am hanif, a believer without a faith,
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What kind of patience does it take to wait twelve years before speaking to someone again?
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He began coming to my house for tea and God.
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“A man goes in and out among the people. He eats and sleeps with them. He buys and sells in the marketplace. This everyone can see. What they cannot see is that he never forgets God for a single instant.”
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“I am one who selects friends carefully.”
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confused. No matter. I was used to being unfathomable.
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– Your Highlight on Location 846-846 | Added on Wednesday, June 6, 2018 12:28:57 AM

No matter. I was used to being unfathomable.
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money. Mecca would have a second rich outcast.
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“Wisdom is like hot coals,” I said. “People enjoy the glow, but they’re not stupid enough to step in.”
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But I never took him to meet another hanif. It was contradictory. Two hanif make a congregation, three a tribe, and four a faith to be defended against other faiths with arrows and spears. Each hanif travels alone, I told him, and it seemed that Muhammad was satisfied with that explanation.
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Just as we accept life from Allah, so must we accept death, as a gift that is not ours to question.”
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Just as we accept life from Allah, so must we accept death, as a gift that is not ours to question.”
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All this cruelty is a kind of vanity,
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A man brags in the inns that he’s a bull in bed when his wife knows he’s a rabbit. So she has to pay.
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A crazy world, when one gets punished for another’s shame.
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“The dawn doesn’t come back to awaken us twice.”
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“‘Fate loves a rebel.’
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persuasion deserts a loose tongue.
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Today I’m a beggar, but I have ambitions. I hope to become a fool. People pity fools, and those who don’t are at least superstitious about them. The best fools have gone mad over God. They even think they speak with God’s voice, but it’s all babble. I think about that when I’m curled up in an alley on a cold night. Is it better to be pitied or despised? Those are my two choices.
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When fools speak of God, people are more likely to be superstitious about them.”
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it suited their mood to kick me, as if to prove that someone in this world was more miserable than they.
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Don’t be amazed that a rich man would waste so many words on a beggar. Waraqah’s God loves all men, which shows you how far this religious fever might spread.
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A woman can resist anything but attention.
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understand your despair. Bring it to me. Half your pain comes from keeping it a secret.”
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back that I married him just so I could emasculate
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“I don’t mind being hated, you know,” said Waraqah out of the blue. “A thousand curses never tore a shirt.”
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but gossip can pass through the tiniest crack in a fortress.
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‘I lost two sons before they even knew they had a father. I lost my father before he knew he had a son. Where are they now?’
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“Some things are worse than dying. There is also death in life.”
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ocean disappearing into a drop of water.
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He was only a listener, never a speaker, and listeners win no glory.
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Recite! In the name of your Lord, who created human life from congealed drops of blood. Recite, for your Lord is ever bountiful, he who teaches by the pen, who taught mankind what was not known before.
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“There is an inner man that nobody sees,” he replied. “Now he is on the outside, and the outer man, who is seen by everyone, he is gone forever.”
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Do you not see how he has lengthened the shadows? The One is He who made the night a garment for you. He gave you sleep so that you may rest, and the morning sky to be a resurrection.
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Who had ever seen the night as a garment and the morning as a resurrection? I marveled that God could combine beauty and a promise. It was magical.
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He has prepared a bonfire for those who reject the hour that is to come. They will cry out for death, and He will say, “Do not cry out this day for one death, but for many.”
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On the day that the sky is split open and the angels stream down in hosts, true authority will belong to the Lord of Mercy. On that day the unbelievers will tremble.
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They despised Muhammad’s message without even hearing it, like someone who turns his back on a feast because a rumor has spread that the food is poisoned.
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The doubters will say, “How can this be God’s messenger? He walks through the marketplace like any other man.” Tell them, all my messengers have walked through the marketplace like other men.
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“My words will mean nothing to a glutton, whose bloated belly makes him believe he will never need God.”
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“If you trusted in Allah as you should, He would sustain you in all things. In God there can be no loss.” The man, who was conscious of being the richest person in the room, had never been spoken to in this way.
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We few who believed in the new prophet began to write down his messages. Each sura came in a distinct way. If Muhammad was about to speak at God’s command, his face became shining and full of light. His voice grew higher and more intense. I swear on my soul that one could not mistake this voice for any but the holy Being reaching down from Paradise to this world of clay.
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The angel commanded Muhammad to recite, and now his followers would recite too, over and over.
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“Is this how we will change the world?” I asked. “One believer at a time?” Muhammad replied, “Has there ever been any other way?”
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He’s a madman because he doesn’t know he’s mad.”
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“A promise is a cloud. Fulfillment is the rain.”
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He will not enter hell who has faith equal to a mustard seed, and yet he will not enter heaven who has pride equal to a mustard seed.
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“A constant complainer died and was sent to hell. When he arrived, he looked around and frowned. ‘Is damp wood the best you can burn down here?’
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“The strongest wrestler has no strength compared to the man who can control his anger.”
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“The creation is like God’s family. Everything that sustains it comes from Him. Therefore, He loves most whoever shows kindness to His family.”
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After many months neither side could break the stalemate. One man of God with forty followers against every powerful family in the city. Muhammad had no choice but to ask God to bring him a solution.
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What strange creatures we are. If you beat a dog, he cringes. If you beat a horse, he runs away. But if you beat a man, he sometimes starts to dream. Such dreams may take him to places you cannot imagine.
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There is no longing when you are close to God.”
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“Because God tells me the secrets of life and death does not mean that I am the master of life and death. These are great mysteries. By God’s mercy I am closer to them than ordinary men. That is just as much a cause for grief as joy.”
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“You smudge the truth, and they pay you more,”
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would have given me a swift kick for my insolence.
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“First they persecute you. Then they need you. In the end, they convert to your religion.”
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“For three years I couldn’t even tell my uncles and cousins. Do you know what anxiety I felt? To know from God’s mouth that all sinners are damned. He sees everything. He marks every deed we do on earth, and at the last day the damned will testify against themselves out
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“For three years I couldn’t even tell my uncles and cousins. Do you know what anxiety I felt? To know from God’s mouth that all sinners are damned. He sees everything. He marks every deed we do on earth, and at the last day the damned will testify against themselves out of their own mouths. Can that day be far off?”
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“Then hear me. If we fight for justice, it isn’t violence. It’s a righteous act. When righteousness remains passive, the unjust show no mercy. The nature of evil is to spread, like a contagion.”
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“Angels are good for the troops,” he replied. “None of them ran, even when we were outnumbered. Only God can inspire a man to fight under those conditions. Allah has revealed how we’ll survive.” My heart sank. “Through war?” Ali shook his head. “Not just war. Holy war.” He was using a peculiar word new to my ears. Jihad.
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The God of Muhammad has cast down the gods of Arabia. They have crumbled to dust.
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I’m not the only hypocrite in this paradise.
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In any other war the Muslims would lose; in holy war they would prevail.
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“Allah taxes not one soul beyond its limits.”
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But ten thousand blind men cannot defeat a handful who can see.
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Lo, I swear by the afterglow of sunset, And by the night and all that it enshrouds, And by the moon when she is at the full, You will journey to higher and higher worlds.
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“A horse can be whipped into running faster. With discipline it can be made to fight in battle. But what God values is complete loyalty, and that appears only when a soul meets the sorest test.”
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But if peace is true today and war tomorrow, how are the faithful to live? The choice cannot be left up to each of us.
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Modesty is a luxury I couldn’t afford.
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“The wage of sin is desperation,”
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“When is God’s love so intense that it feels like hate?”
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“Every day. I take a journey to heaven, you see. That’s the treasure the Prophet gave us all. He opened the way so that we can follow him. We don’t need Buraq to reach God. Our steed is the soul.”
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Scholars divide the revelations, amounting to thousands of separate messages, into two main parts. The ones that came in Mecca focus on theology; the messages that came in Medina, after the Hijra, or migration, of 622 CE, mostly center on managing the new faith and the newly faithful.
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The Koran is about salvation and apocalypse—just as in Jesus’s lifetime, the early converts to Islam believed that the end of the world was at hand. But the Koran is also about war, politics, infighting, treaties, jealousies, and the everyday headaches of running the government in Medina, including the collection of taxes.
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The tale of Muhammad and the five mares is central here. As recounted in the novel, Muhammad had a string of horses that he loved. It was his habit to take them out into the desert for a run. One day he took them out so far from Medina that the animals became desperately thirsty. Up ahead they smelled an oasis and began to gallop toward it. Muhammad let them reach almost to the water hole, and then he gave a sharp whistle for them to return. Most of the horses kept running, but five mares turned around and returned to the Prophet’s hand. He used these five mares to breed the strain of Arabian horses that are most prized today.
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God favors loyalty above all other virtues.
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If this is exciting, the disturbing parts aren’t far behind. The Jews of Medina were the first to welcome Muhammad and his tiny band of followers into their midst. The young faith was quite fragile. No more than a dozen close followers, the companions, had developed over the twelve years since the first revelation. For the first three years Muhammad told no one about his calling outside his family. Under constant threats from the Quraysh, perhaps forty to a hundred converts emerged before the Hijra. It is remarkable that the Jews of Medina were willing to accept Muhammad as someone to judge their disputes and to draw up a plan for bringing peace to all the warring tribes in the city. Yet in the next few years, as the faithful grew in numbers, God told Muhammad to drive the Jewish tribes out of Medina, exiling them to marginal wastelands. Later, when Jewish resentment flared up and the last remaining tribe cooperated with the invading army from Mecca, Muhammad exercised violent retribution. All the men were beheaded, and the women and children divided as the spoils of war, many to be sold into slavery. This horrifying decision, because it came by revelation, has been praised by Islamic historians. Only in recent times have some revisionists considered it as the barbaric crime it is. Here we meet the dark underside of the Prophet’s mission. His every act and word has the force of God behind it (except perhaps only the “satanic verses” in the Koran, so called because they were inspired by demonic forces to delude and briefly mislead Muhammad—he soon saw through them and returned to Allah’s guidance). I don’t think Muhammad believed himself to be infallible. We have touching stories about his humility. He admitted his mistakes, and far from being the only one to give orders in times of crisis, he sat in council with his chieftains and listened to their voices.
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Islamic extremism is no exception, and unfortunately the loud minority have poisoned our view.
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In my childhood, I was taken to visit Sufishrines, usually the graves of saints who were prayed to for miracles. There were all-night poetry readings and dancing, truly ecstatic events. For me, these Sufis, with their extreme courtesy to one another and the ever present reminder of God’s love, stood for Islam—white domes against the sky, romantic tales of princes and princesses, and the hypnotic call of the muezzins from their minarets.
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Rumi, the greatest Sufimystic: You miracle-seekers are always looking for signs, You go to bed crying and wake up in tears. You plead for what doesn’t come Until it darkens your days. You sacrifice everything, even your mind, You sit down in the fire, wanting to become ashes, And when you meet with a sword, You throw yourself on it. Fall into the habit of such helpless mad things— You will have your sign.
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The beauty of union with the One was exquisite, but the seeker burned himself to ashes before reaching his Beloved.
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Muhammad can be judged by the worst of his followers or the best.
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Muhammad can be judged by the worst of his followers or the best. He can be blamed for planting the seeds of fanaticism and jihad or praised for bringing the word of God to a wasteland. In my walk with Muhammad I found that every preconception was unfair. What the Prophet bequeathed to the world is entangled with the best and worst in all of us.
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God didn’t make life easier for Muhammad. He made it far more difficult, and the wonder of his story is how he brought light out of darkness with all the fallibility of “a man among men.” The message he brought wasn’t pure; it never is. As long as our yearning for God exceeds our ability to live in holiness, the tangled mystery of the Prophet will be our own mystery too.
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