on October 24, 2011
4.5 stars: I had braced myself to slog through Deepak Chopra's biographical novel "Muhammad: A Story of the Last Prophet." Instead, I was delightfully surprised by the compelling story of Muhammad's journey from affluent trader to reluctant prophet, and the engagingly lyrical music of the suras (verses) he channeled from Allah.
Story: 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. (From Booklist)
Spiritual/metaphysical content: Medium. The book focused more on the man than his teachings, which I found to be less than satisfying. I had hoped to gain more insight into the teachings of Islam, although Chopra does describe the five pillars and six core beliefs of Islam, along with some of his other teachings. However, other aspects of the work delighted me. I expected to learn much about Islam, but what I didn't expect was the love of poetry that suffused Arab hearts and the attendant lyricism of Muhammad's suras. I enjoyed the poetry of each sura as much as the message.
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.
Lo, I swear by the afterglow of sunset,
And by the night and all it enshrouds.
And by the moon when she is at the full,
You will journey to higher and higher worlds.
Another unexpected delight was the wealth of Arabic sayings that were both pithy and poetic: "Fate ... was like a wasp covered in honey. You cannot taste the sweetness without a sting."
My take: In addition to being a simple and easy introduction to the life and teachings of Muhammad and Islam, "Muhammad" proves to be entertaining, historically accurate, and relevant to our times. Chopra's stilted writing style made several of his non-historical novels less than enjoyable to me in the past. However, his short and direct prose works well in the context of this fictionalized biography. By writing each chapter from a different character's perspective, including Muhammad's enemies, Chopra offers fascinating perspective and varies what might otherwise be a monotonal story. The actual events of the Prophet's life provide a thrilling framework fraught with conflict that propels the story forward.
I learned a great deal about Muhammad's life and the rise of Islam. Although much blood was spilled in the evolution of Islam, violence was integral to Arabic life at that time. Muhammad struggled to project his message of peace, acceptance, and submission above the sometimes horrific reality of Arabic life in the 7th century. Chopra's author's note, afterward, timeline, and family tree helped clarify the complex history of the times and placed his life in a clearly defined context.
One of the most fascinating aspects of the story was the realization that Muhammad was a man like any other, not a son of God (such as Jesus) nor a transcendent human (such as Buddha). The angel Gabriel chose him as a medium to deliver Allah's message, and the reader clearly sees how Muhammad was forced into the role of reluctant prophet but also military commander, master politician, and sometimes brutal judge in order to ensure the survival of Allah's message. As Chopra notes, "I didn't write this book to make Muhammad more holy. I wrote it to show that holiness was just as confusing, terrifying, and exalting in the 7th century as it would be today."
on November 13, 2010
I enjoyed the book every much. Im a muslim so I already know the stories but wanted to read from a mainstream writer after watching him on CNN. The book served its purpose, Chopra wrote "I didnt write this book to make Muhammed more holy. I wrote it to show that holiness was just as confusing, terrifying, and exalting in the 7th century as it would be today" (location 120 in the book). Chopra accomplished this in the book, he showed all the confusing calamities and crazy wars that happened in the time of Muhammed peace be upon him, yet He had to take difficult actions for survival and not going against what he preached and believed in. He truly believed that God has reached out to him, even though it sounded crazy to him for the longest time. People believed him more than he believed himself. In the book preached things like "Do you want to show how much you love your Creator", the villager replied "with all my heart", Muhammed responded "then love your fellow behings first" (location 2305). There were skeptics in Muhammed's days, where they thought he was crazy, But after being around Muhammed, Muhammed told one non believer friend "I would lose any battle to win a heart of a great soul". These are teachings of islam, compassion and believing in god, yet Islam gets a bad reputation in present day today. I highly recommend this book because its an easy read. Chapter 18 Yasmin the Women at the Well made me cry so much, i was boohoo-ing as I was reading, it was very touching.
on June 1, 2011
I was browsing through the stacks at the library and saw this and was immediately intrigued. Deepak Chopra attempts to tell the life of the prophet of Islam through the eyes of the people that are often closest to him - his wife, his daughters, his followers. And it was amazing, to say the least. I had never read anything by Deepak Chopra before, so I was a little nervous, but it was totally worth it.
This book is one of a trilogy of sorts - Chopra also wrote fictional accounts of Buddha's life and Jesus' life (aptly - Buddha and Jesus) and I intend to read at least the one on Jesus but will probably end up reading the one on Buddha as well. This is a really well researched novel that discusses Muhammad's teachings and how they relate to Christainity and Judaism, both older religions relative to Islam. I was also really impressed by how Deepak Chopra chose to tell the tale - he told each part of the Prophet's life through the viewpoint of an important person in his family. It included everyone from his nursemaid, to his wife and children, to a slave and even his worst enemy. It was a very effective way of conveying the Prophet's life and his belief system and i was absolutely enthralled.
This book was also really good because it provides a very simple explanation of the basic tenets of the Islamic faith. People that have read the Koran or have a much better education in the Muslim faith would probably not get a whole lot of out of this but for everyone else, it would be a pretty good introduction. It has inspired me to learn more about the Muslim faith!
on October 25, 2015
I really did enjoy this book. At first I was a little confused about what was being written. After a chapter or two, I realized that it was being written from the viewpoint of the various people who knew Muhammad. (Chopra may have mentioned that in the beginning of the book, but I just didn't catch it.) It was good getting to know a spiritual leader from another religion. It humanized Muhammad and gave me good insight into his life and how he became the prophet of Islam. If you're interested in getting an idea into another religion's history, this is a good book to read.
on March 30, 2015
Chopra's novel "Muhammad: A Story of the Last Prophet" is a fictionalization or a novelization of the life of Muhammad. The novel is generally well-written, and at times Chopra even pays out some truly lyrical prose. Chopra also relies on shifting perspective as he tells the story from the eyes of various characters in Muhammad's story. The narrating characters are not terribly well-developed as stand alone observers, and at times it is all too easy for the reader to forget which narrator is telling the story if removed too far from context.
For the causal reader that does not have some basic introduction into the life and times of Muhammad and unfamiliar with the Muslim culture and history, it is likely that a significant portion of this novel may be somewhat lost on the reader. While I wouldn't suggest Chopra's book as a starting place for most readers, given the times and the state of world affairs I would place it on the "must read" list. With such familiarity in hand, this book is likely a treat for those looking for one man's insight into the story of Muhammad.
on September 20, 2013
I loaned this book to a friend.
This was a subject I had not explored before and the book was quite illuminating. D. Chopra writes clearly and frequently elegantly. I felt while reading that I could trust his information. The style of this book is fictionalized rather than a novel. The prophet's life is told by the voices of people close to him at each significant phase. Chopra is able to convey a lot of information in few words. The book moves along at a good pace, considering that it covers a life of 62 years in a slender volume.
The afterword is an especially good addition to the body of the book. It summarizes the positive message that Muhammad offered through the structure of Islam as an alternative to the disorder, isolation and easily roused hostility that appears to have been the usual state the culture before his lifetime.
Thinking about what I read after finishing the book, I feel sad that Muhammad did nothing that changed the lives of women. As described in various media, it seems Muslin women's lives were (and are) hard and dominated by dictates and whims of males of all ages. Muhammad seemed to understand the hardships of his impoverished,widowed wet nurse as a younger man, and seemed to promise her a place in his house when he married --but then did not. This indicates that low class people were not uppermost in his concerns. Unlike messages attributed to Jesus, I mean. That Muhammad not only condoned but legitimized as many as 4 wives, and married a 9-year-old girl are only the most obvious two indicators.
And, that Islam claims God spoke through Muhammed instead of Muhammed himself religously and philosophically created a new socio/religious infrastruction implies that God gives holy imprint to societies that assign inferior position its female half. Ayaan Hirsi Ali's "Infidel" and Qanta A. Ahmed's "In the Land of Invisible Women" are two contemporary books that I recommend to anyone wanting to know what influence religion has on real women's lives today. There are many Islamist women who appear content and I am not trying to raise any other feelings in them. I am trying to explain what first-person-voice books I have read, together with Chopra's "Muhammad", cause me to continue my quest for a religion that accepts me as a child of God with equal value in this world. This is the place to be fully, vibrantly alive. Should there actually be an after life, no doubt full attention will have to be given to its mores then.
on December 26, 2011
Atlanta, Georgia- In this age of the jihad and religious conflict, it is a good idea to step back and learn about the fundamentals of the major religions.
In Muhammad: A Story of the Last Prophet by Deepak Chopra, the author delves into the misunderstood life of this prophet among men Muhammad.
Chopra uses a novel approach to share the stories behind what made Muhammad a powerful religious figure. Muhammad was a trader and God reached down and spoke to him on sharing his word. An ordinary man, who was illiterate, this book brings to life this ancient tale of the man who changed the world.
Chopra calm and detailed voice makes this text a valuable took in understanding a bit more about Muhammad.
on November 20, 2012
Prior to reading this book I little real understanding of Islam and it origins - or Arabic culture for that matter. This book was a wonderful gateway to the opening of that door. Even though it is a novel, I know that Deepak thoroughly reasearches his work, and in doing so he has created a beautiful and I'm sure reasonably accurate rendering of 4th/5th century Mecca, and the culture of the Arab peoples of that time. Reading this work gave me a great appreciation of the history of the Middle Eastern people and the Islmaic faith, and some insights as to how and why it has evolved the way it has. I know Deepak well enough to know that he believes that developing an understanding of world cultures, especially those who many people fear - is an essential step in bringing people together and ending world conflict - and I think this book is a powerful step in that direction.