The First Time I Prayed with Muhammed

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.

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3 thoughts on “The First Time I Prayed with Muhammed

  1. “…he appears to be quite different from the one understood by the scholars of Islam.”

    Depends which scholars you mean šŸ˜‰ By my book, both Muhammad ibn al-Hasan an-Niffari and Ruzbehan Baqli are scholars (though others might disagree), and they have both written in a similar vein. Not to mention the scores of “scholars” who may not have written the same but who would certainly understand you. But there are, of course, those scholars who certainly wouldn’t understand but have something to offer a different milieu. For as the man who you met himself said, “The differences of the scholars is a blessing”.

    Would it be fair to say you were within Muhammad who was within you?

    O domain of the universal heart.

    1. I haven’t read these guys, but they sound like pretty happening dudes from what you say. Are there translations available?

      Regarding Muhammed being within, the curious thing about my experience was of me being within him, like walking through a corridor. So there was less of an internalization here, not like how people talk about the Christ/Logos within for example. This is different from my experiences with the Sakina (enumerated in this blog) – which have tended to involve her simultaneous descent/emergence without/within me …

      1. I shouldn’t worry too much about ‘the scholars of Islam’ if I were you. What do scholars understand about these things? Just words in old books… As Niffari, who lived alone in the desert with his extraordinary mystical visions, once observed: “The word is a veil…”

        There is a difference worth noting here between the experience of the Logos and the experience of the Logos bearer. The nearer equivalent of your experience in Christianity would thus be a vision of the Virgin Mary. One key aspect of this difference is that the Logos is a Divinie aspect whilst the Logos bearer – if I can speak for a moment in terms of distinction – is a human aspect. The experience of the Prophet Muhammad or the Virgin Mary is an experience of the completed human being (al insan al kamil), and is thus an experience of the completeness of this reality, which embraces its humanity as well as its dignity as the place of the Divine self-disclosure (formed of moulded clay, but also the receptacle of the Spirit). The ‘Reality of Muhammad; is thus both “I am a man like you all” and “I was a Prophet when Adam was between water and clay”.

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