From Publishers Weekly
Chopra, an iconic figure in American popular culture, proves with this biography of Muhammad that he is more than just a New Age talking head. Varying by chapter the narrative viewpoints and using actual characters from the life of Muhammad, such as Muhammad's first wife, Khadijah, and his daughter Fatima, Chopra tells the story of Muhammad's life in this "teaching novel." Similar volumes by Chopra have already profiled Buddha and Jesus. While technically this is fiction, several historical events--including ones dear to many Muslims' hearts--are related. The result is one of the most imaginative and touching biographies of Muhammad. For instance, in the prelude, inventively narrated by the Angel Gabriel, the angel bringing the revelation of the Qur'an to Muhammad, describes the illiterate caravan trader who had married his wealthy female boss. The next chapter, narrated by Muhammad's grandfather Abdul Muttalib, tells the legend of the Zamzam well, which Muslims visit to this day in their annual hajj pilgrimage. Chopra goes on to describe a people yearning for a message that would liberate them from polytheistic tribalism and the messenger, a trustworthy but frightened man who became a prophet. Chopra's grasp of Muhammad's mission and life is accessible and extends his range in a surprising direction; his popularization is welcome. (Oct.) (c)
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Although ostensibly a novel, Chopra bookends his story about the Muslim prophet with an author’s note and an afterword, offering the reader a history lesson while reflecting on the current relationship between Islam and the rest of the world. The novel emphasizes that of all the founders of the great world religions, Muhammad is the most like us. Muhammad, a merchant who marries a rich widow and routinely travels in caravans as part of his trade, lives a regular life until the day the archangel Gabriel appears and orders the reluctant 40-year-old Muhammad to recite. (To recite, Chopra reminds, is the root word of Koran.) Using multiple first-person narrators—slaves and merchants, hermits, and scribes—he portrays life (including its brutality) on the streets of Mecca. Each chapter is self-contained. Muhammad’s wife, Khadijah, laments there have been no warnings that this tumultuous, life-changing event is about to occur; Ali, the first convert, explains how the Prophet approached him. Compellingly told, this is not only good storytelling; it also helps readers, especially non-Muslims, better understand the complexities and contradictions surrounding Islam. --June Sawyers