September 21st, 2010
01:22 PM ET
Editor’s Note: Deepak Chopra is a founding member of the Chopra Center for Wellbeing located in Carlsbad, California. He is the author of over 50 books on health, success, relationships and spirituality. His newest book, "Muhammad: A Story of the Last Prophet” is a fictional biography of the Muslim Prophet Muhammad. It hits bookstores Tuesday, September 21st. He spoke with CNN in depth about the new book. This is an edited transcript of that conversation.
Why do you think the time is right for a novel about Muhammad?
I was just doing this as part of my trilogy; it started with Buddha and then Jesus, and now it turns out serendipitously that the timing is appropriate because there is so much discussion about Islam in the world. It all stems from not being aware of the other person. The only way this outrage can occur is when you demonize the other. When we expand our awareness, we have a more contextual knowing of why things are; then, we don’t react with violence, we respond with creativity. There is a lot of room for creativity right now.
I am not, because first of all, it’s all historically true and nobody denies that. Not even the more fringe elements or the radical elements. It’s all the more astonishing that Muhammad is illiterate and does not know how to read and write but when he utters the Koran, it has the lyrical quality that listening to it allows you to enter these amazing realms of consciousness…
As far as his young wife, we have no idea of evaluating what the customs were in those days and how relationships were forged. There is no way to judge a culture across the yawning abyss of time… I’m not really concerned about any backlash. I did the book factually, honestly with respect, beyond that, of course, one can’t control anyone’s reaction.
HarperCollins, your book’s publisher, authorized e-book retailers to sell the book a week before its print publication. This is the first time they’ve ever placed an e-book for sale before the print edition.
This has to do with the timing and also on Twitter. If you go on Twitter and you [search] #Muhammad, you’ll see a lot of traffic around the book and the topic because, first of all, there are 1.5 billion Muslims in the world, they are obviously very curious. When I visit Twitter, I’m seeing reactions from people [all over the world.] They’re all having a conversation right now.
Some of them have been a little critical, some are skeptical, but everybody is curious, and I think it’s starting a new conversation. Its easier to related to Muhammad than to Jesus or Buddha because he never claimed that he was of divine origin, he was as shocked at his revelation as anybody else, he frequently said many times “I’m a man amongst men,” he frequently said “all the good that happens comes from Allah and everything that is not good is my fault,” he’s very human and that is what makes him relatable. We can connect to him.
I think part of it is we are, to some extent, ethnocentric, and we are very nationalistic, and extreme nationalism is a recent trend. America is a melting pot. I’m in NY City right now. You can walk through the city and visit almost every culture. This is the future of the world.
I have a grandson now who is three years old. He speaks English, Mandarin Chinese, Spanish and Hindi and he’s only three-years-old. His mother is a Chinese-American, his nanny is Spanish, we speak German, Hindi and Urdu, and he speaks English in school and he’s comfortable with all of that. This is the future of humanity and particularly of America.
I’ve had the wife of the Imam, Daisy Khan on my radio show. She is from Kashmir, the disputed territory between India and Pakistan. Her husband, the Imam, is Egyptian. They’ve been very involved in interfaith dialogues for many years; in fact, they’re just the kind of Muslims we should be looking at and encouraging dialogue with because they’ve been doing it for 10 years… Some people are trying to convince the Imam to focus on the multi-faith aspect of this and perhaps dedicate the whole institution to the victims of 9/11. That would be a creative solution in my opinion.
I spent a lot of time with him, he was curious about every tradition. So yes, Islam was an influence on him for a while, but he was more interested in the origins and the life of Muhammad than actually the tradition itself.
Buddha, Jesus, now Muhammad… who will you write about next?
Next, I’m going to look at the lives of all of the great saints of East and West. I am going to look at Christian mystics, and I’m going to do a book that looks at their lives and their revelatory experiences, and I’m going to call it ‘When God Spoke.’
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.