It was some time in 2009. I spent the night praying in what is now the girls’ room.
At some point during my recitation, reality shifted, so that the Qur’an coming from my mouth became like a kind of tunnel, so that I was praying with (or within) Muhammed. Not a concept, but the man, the real man. I was standing in the room, now, but was also acutely aware of the trans-spatial-temporal nature of the contact. I was definitely standing in Seven Kings and yet, simultaneously, in 7th century Arabia. I was struck by how alien he was in form to me, and at the same time I comprehended his point, who he was exactly in relation to me.
I’ve spent a fair amount of effort trying to make sense of that experience – or, more accurately, enumerate it’s implications using the vocabulary at my disposal. It’s one of the reasons I was writing the Doctrine with such conviction, bordering on arrogance, particularly when it came to Islam (a religion I really know very little about). And that experience also sources my communication failure to Muslims.
Because these kinds of experiences are very personal, very subjective, aren’t they? And they are objectionable to religious people, for that reason: at least, religion in the sense of a normative, rationalist tradition (that denies the possibility of personal experiences). I’d certainly be fine with the truth of it being entirely subjective — an hallucination, brought about by a confined space, a day’s fasting, fatigue the repetition of the act of prayer, etc.
As I have learnt, “my” Muhammed, the one I met/hallucinated, the one I’ve been trying to enunciate since — he appears to be quite different from the one understood by the scholars of Islam. To begin with, that Muhammed, the scholars’ Muhammed, doesn’t time travel (though he’s an excellent and just statesman).
At least from the scholars’ perspective, if you have met Muhammed, you can’t be a Muslim. From time to time I find myself rather let down with respect to this irony.