Deepak Chopra writes a new book about Muhammad


by Jai
18th September, 2010 at 8:00 am    

The musician Salman Ahmad (from the Pakistani Sufi rock group Junoon; previously discussed on PP here and here) and Deepak Chopra, who has previously written the bestselling books Buddha and Jesus, will be discussing his latest book Muhammad: A Story of the Last Prophet, where he shares the life and insights of Muhammad.

Dr Chopra was recently interviewed by the New York Times about the book’s contents and his motivations for writing it. It’s a very interesting article, and indicates that as a “semi-fictionalised biography”, the nature of the book may not necessarily be quite what many people may expect. The article also includes some comments about Sufism and current issues such as the ongoing controversy surrounding the Sufi Imam Rauf of the Cordoba Initiative’s Park51 (the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque”). Three quotes in particular stand out:

Are you concerned someone will issue a fatwa against you?

I wrote the book factually and with respect. Beyond that, I can’t control anyone’s reaction.

You refer to Feisal Abdul Rauf, who is overseeing the planned Islamic center in Lower Manhattan. Are you saying Sufism represents the reform branch of Islam?

Yes. Traditional Islam is a mixture of all obedience to Allah, and if that requires militancy, so be it. Whereas Sufism exalts beauty, intuition, tenderness, affection, nurturing and love, which we associate with feminine qualities.

If someone asks what religion you are, what do you say?

I say God gave humans the truth, and the Devil came and said, “Let’s organize it, we’ll call it religion.”


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  1. cheers — on 18th September, 2010 at 8:13 am  

    Lets not mix sentiments or politics in religion. Its one own faith that matters. Be it islam or any religion in this world, every religion carries the same message to the people “LOVE EACH OTHER”

  2. Kismet Hardy — on 18th September, 2010 at 9:07 am  

    If only it also said ‘hey, but it’s okay to doubt’, then religion might not get the bad press it does…

  3. Nick — on 18th September, 2010 at 2:33 pm  

    This book sounds like a steaming load of piffle – but I’d appreciate hearing from anyone who has (actually, that’s a total lie …) What exactly qualifies Deepak Chopra to write a life of Muhammad, or make specious and vague comments about Sufism? which isn’t the ‘mystical’ side of Islam , but rather the esoteric aspect of Islamic learning – in contrast to Qur’anic studies, the Sunnah and Hadith of the Prophet, and jurisprudence etc, which are usually regarded as ‘exoteric’. But I’m sure no-one’s listening …

  4. earwicga — on 18th September, 2010 at 2:49 pm  

    There should be a review of the book on PP in due course Nick.

  5. Don — on 18th September, 2010 at 6:06 pm  

    every religion carries the same message to the people “LOVE EACH OTHER”

    No. The message of every religion is ‘obey’.

  6. Jai — on 18th September, 2010 at 8:35 pm  

    No. The message of every religion is ‘obey’.

    No. That applies primarily to the more ultraconservative, organised, ‘orthodox clergy-defined’ versions of the Abrahamic faiths, particularly Christianity and Islam.

    The message of Buddhism is not ‘obey’, and neither is it the message of Sikhism, most mainstream South Asian versions of Sufi Islam, or devotional (‘bhakti’) Hinduism. The last three in particular revolve around exactly what ‘Cheers’ has stated in #1.

  7. Jai — on 18th September, 2010 at 8:56 pm  

    What exactly qualifies Deepak Chopra to….make specious and vague comments about Sufism?

    Deepak Chopra is not exactly speaking from a position of ignorance. He’s originally from a region of India which has been more heavily influenced by Sufism during the past thousand years than any other part of the subcontinent.

    Many of the historical Sufis involved are still venerated in India by non-Muslims as well as Muslims, as they were during their own lifetimes. The founder of North Indian classical music itself as a formal art form was a member of the Chishti Sufi order (later closely affiliated with some of the most liberal and inclusive Mughal emperors) and was affiliated with Sufi saints who are revered by Indians from multiple religious backgrounds to this day. Writings by one of the Chishti order’s most important historical Indian Sufis have even been included in the hymns of Sikhism’s Guru Granth Sahib.

    As mentioned in the main article, Deepak Chopra is also currently being fully supported by Salman Ahmad, a Sufi himself who not only has ties with the Qadiri Sufi order but whose own mentor was the late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, a hugely respected and influential individual whose family members have been Sufis since the medieval period and whose role models include the most influential Sufis in Indian history.

  8. muslim — on 18th September, 2010 at 10:06 pm  

    [Deleted by Jai]

  9. Don — on 18th September, 2010 at 10:28 pm  

    Jai,

    Yes, I should have qualified that. I do tend to see the word ‘religion’ and assume the abrahamic version.

  10. muslim — on 18th September, 2010 at 11:52 pm  

    “Are you concerned someone will issue a fatwa against you?

    I wrote the book factually and with respect. Beyond that, I can’t control anyone’s reaction.”

    Wow this guy doesnt even know what a fatwa means . He thinks it means a death threat. How can someone so ignorant of basic Islamic terminology expect to be taken seriously when writing a book on Islam?

  11. amz — on 19th September, 2010 at 3:31 am  

    @muslim: No actually nowhere in his reply does he allude to a fatwa being a death threat. How did you come to that conclusion?

  12. boyo — on 19th September, 2010 at 9:44 am  

    @11 yes, that’s funny – maybe “Muslim” needs to be a bit less ignorant.

  13. Jai — on 19th September, 2010 at 11:58 am  

    I’ve left #10 on the thread as several people have already replied to it; however, I’ve deleted #8 and will remove any further comments by “Muslim” as he is actually Munir/Blah, who was banned from this website last year.

    I have similarly left #3 on the thread as Earwigca had replied to that post, but I will also delete any further posts by anyone attempting to push the usual anti-Muslim propaganda.

    “Free discussion” is one thing, but wilful ignorance & outright bigotry is quite another. As regular readers of PP will be aware, I have a zero tolerance policy towards people like that when it comes to my own discussion threads — irrespective of their own “ethnic” and/or religious background and irrespective of the background of their targets. They will not be given the opportunity to exploit this thread as a platform for their own bigoted agenda, and any comments along those lines will therefore be summarily deleted.

  14. Jai — on 19th September, 2010 at 12:26 pm  

    Regarding Sufism in general, there is already ample information on the subject and its noteable South Asian figures in particular elsewhere on this website; however, Fareed Zakaria of CNN (an Indian-born Muslim himself and the son of an Islamic scholar) gave a short overview of Sufism here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tyxVl_ATkIU , and you can also hear a much longer discussion by Salman Ahmad on BBC HARDtalk here: http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/9748

    As mentioned in #7, Salman Ahmad (who I see has plugged this article to his followers on Twitter) also has some ties with the Qadiri Sufi order, via his activities with Dr Tahir ul-Qadri of the Sufi humanitarian organisation Minhaj ul-Quran. Dr ul-Qadri, who is a vocal critic of Wahhabism, is most recently famous for his extremely detailed global fatwa unequivocally condemning Islamist terrorism and extremism, especially Al-Qaeda. During the summer he also ran a successful three-day event in Coventry which was attended by more than a thousand young Muslims and was specifically geared towards priming them to combat Islamist extremism (see: http://uk.reuters.com/article/idUKTRE5792AT20090810 ).

    The Qadiris have been involved in opposing religious extremism and promoting interfaith friendship for centuries — in India, at the very least since the Mughal era. Noteable historical Qadiri Sufis include Mian Mir, who laid the foundation stone of Sikhism’s Golden Temple in Amritsar; Mian Mir was also the main religious mentor of Dara Shukoh, the liberal & philosophical Mughal crown prince (and chosen heir of Emperor Shah Jahan, who built the Taj Mahal) who was himself involved in numerous activities promoting religious pluralism and tolerance, along with being a patron of music and arts. Bulleh Shah, one of the most famous historical Sufis in India and Pakistan, was also part of the Qadiri order; an example of one of his songs, as performed by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, can be heard via the recent PP article about Eid & Rosh Hashanah here: http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/10047 .

  15. douglas clark — on 19th September, 2010 at 12:28 pm  

    Jai @ 13,

    Well said, I think.

    It is pretty disgraceful for someone to assume the ‘moniker’ muslim.

    This is an assumption of ownership of a diverse and humane religion, on the basis of being, well, a wank, really. Why should anyone assume that the product, the words under the name, have anything whatsoever to do with the title?

    I once bought ‘Iceland’ goods on the basis that I quite like Iceland. It turned out to be a mistake…

    Just saying.

    amz and boyo are quite right. It says more about his willful stupidity than it does about the subject under discussion, which is a book, in case anyone has forgotten.

  16. Ravi Naik — on 19th September, 2010 at 12:54 pm  

    No. The message of every religion is ‘obey’.

    There is an element of truth in what you said. All organized religions I know provide a number of rules – such as following rituals, using articles of clothing/accessories, or behaving in a certain way – in order to belong to the flock. However, that could be said about British society – where individuals must obey the Law and follow social conventions, though one usually does not describe or summarize Britain values or ideals as ‘obey’.

    In my view, the problem is not ‘obeying’, but rather following blindly without questioning, which is what Kismet said in #2. And that, I believe, applies to other belief systems outside the realm of religion.

  17. ukliberty — on 19th September, 2010 at 2:59 pm  

    Ravi Naik,

    In my view, the problem is not ‘obeying’, but rather following blindly without questioning, which is what Kismet said in #2. And that, I believe, applies to other belief systems outside the realm of religion.

    Well said.

  18. Kismet Hardy — on 19th September, 2010 at 5:52 pm  

    I’m actually quite gutted not to have read Muslim’s comments. A book such as this is bound to provoke outrage, especially among those who aren’t going to make the intelligent decision to read it, but that provocation will have ripples, and in a balanced discussion, us all teaming up to say ‘la la la I can’t hear you’ to someone objecting has a slight shade of fascism and I’m not sure that’s the right way to go.

    I can understand someone saying something out and out racist or offensive, but deleting someone who says ‘I don’t like this because…’ simply because we don’t agree with what he has to say? That can’t be right

  19. Jai — on 19th September, 2010 at 6:06 pm  

    I’m actually quite gutted not to have read Muslim’s comments.

    Only one of his comments has been deleted — it was a brief post and irrelevant to the main subject, apart from serving as yet another example of Munir/Blah attempting to push his particular version of Islamist fundamentalism. His remarks about the book itself are still there, re: #10.

    In any case, as I said earlier, Munir was formally & permanently banned from this website by PP’s entire editorial team last year, and I will therefore remove any further posts by him on this thread regardless of the alias he uses.

    Apart from that, the house rules for everyone as stipulated in #13 still stand. Bigots of any stripe will receive no platform here.

  20. Hapman — on 21st September, 2010 at 3:47 am  

    I assume that the picture on the cover is of Mohammed. Will there be a fatwa to have him killed for depicting Ol’ Mo?….

  21. sufi — on 21st September, 2010 at 5:06 pm  

    [Deleted by Jai. Munir has been permanently banned from this website regardless of which alias he uses]

  22. j.stoddart — on 22nd September, 2010 at 12:12 am  

    i think anyone wishing to learn about the prophet muhammed (and i think in the current political climate, where islam is being constantly maligned, this is a must) would be better advised to read martin lings’ biography of prophet muhammed or that of adil salahi-the exact title of which i forget.

  23. j.stoddart — on 22nd September, 2010 at 12:14 am  

    a fatwa, incidentally is a non-binding ruling given by (usually) a muslim learned in the religious sciences and NOT, as some would have you believe, a death sentence.

  24. suleiman — on 27th September, 2010 at 1:19 am  

    [Deleted by Jai. Munir has been permanently banned from this website regardless of which alias he uses]

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