As a leader of alternative medicine who was born in India and raised as a Hindu before opening a wellness center in California, what led you to write your new book, “Muhammad,” a fictionalized biography of the Muslim prophet?
I had previously written “Jesus,” and I grew up in an environment where the kids in my school were either Muslim or Jewish or Zoroastrian. New Delhi has a very eclectic mix. There wasn’t any animosity. Having said that, my grandparents were prejudiced and Islamophobic. If a Muslim’s shadow crossed my grandmother’s body — she lived with us — she would go and take a shower.
Yes! My father was a doctor, an army cardiologist. He was very secular, and we discussed how prejudiced my grandparents were and how we would never be like that. So that was my upbringing. I was always interested in going deeply into the life of the Prophet.
The Muhammad who emerges from your book is not completely admirable. He’s a fearful and illiterate orphan who runs from his visions before he finally becomes a warrior. 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.
Qualities like...claiming the U.S. brought 9/11 upon itself by killing Muslims...and touting Islamic supremacism...and refusing to say anything negative about Hamas. Yeah, it's all so nurturning. So loving. So doggone feminine.
You are pretty inventive in a chapter narrated by Eli, a Jewish scribe who is employed by Muhammad to follow him around and write down his every observation.
Medina had a Jewish population. The Jews were the ones who knew how to read and write. The Arabs, including the Prophet, were mostly illiterate. A writer of historical fiction has poetic license.
Do you think it is possible that the Koran was actually written by Jews?
How come there are so many references to Moses and the prophets in the Koran? I would not be surprised if Jewish scribes inserted a lot of that.
The Persians, too, were very literate. They gave us the poems of Rumi, the Sufi mystic.
Everyone says there are no Muslim moderates, and if there are, they never speak up. TheSufis are indeed the reformers. Imam Rauf and his wife are Sufis and reformers and have been doing great work for years.
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...
My question: does Deepak really think boosterism for Rauf's mosque is going to shield him from the crazies who may freak out at his depiction of Islam's founder and his Jewish scribe? (Or is Chopra on safe ground because he's a loon and his book has no 'toons?)
Update: How amusing--in a NYT article last month, William Dalrymple called Sufi Imam Rauf the "Muslim Deepak Chopra." Robert Spencer disposes of that one post haste:
In reality, Sufis from al-Ghazali to the present day have taught the necessity of jihad warfare, and have participated in that warfare. And in January 2009, Iraqi representatives of the Naqshabandi Sufi order met with Khaled Mashaal of Hamas, praised his jihad, donated jewelry to him, and boasted of their own jihad attacks against Americans in Iraq.But only in the Koranic sense of the word.
But never mind all that. The Sufis are peaceful!