W4: Who and What is Prophet Muhammad?

I dream of the Prophet
In the centre of the garden
he stands very still
Barging through and begging pardon,
I watch from the hill
All these people watching with me
aren’t just watching him –
Do they see a man a myth see
light, or human limb?
His bright presence is enchanting
and sets all aflame;
In their eyes I see them wanting
to call him by name
In their passion they start shouting
he stands very still
To their minds there is no doubting –
voices get more shrill
Mystic, model, intercessor
Light or human limb?
God’s beloved or oppressor?
Till the day grows dim.

The sun melts slow into the sea
and sets all aflame
I love the Prophet, who loves me:
that’s all I can claim.

This week’s readings were rich – dense, even – with ideas about and perceptions of the Prophet Muhammad, something of a challenge to wrap my head around. It seems that these poets, believers, worshippers, and religious authorities all have certain conceptions of Prophet Muhammad, which cannot always be reconciled (particularly across different or conflicting strands of thinking (e.g. Wahhabi/Sufi) rather than across different roles (i.e. poets can be worshippers can be religious authorities, and so on)).

This resistance to reconciliation in the many different views of Prophet Muhammad is not just a little problem for me in my attempts to gain a deeper understanding of Islam as it is understood, believed in, and practised by Muslims of all stripes; it is also, I think, a problem for said Muslims, or even non-Muslims, who raise their voices in passing judgment on what they perceive to be the reality.

While I do not quite have a solution to proffer, I return to the idea that, whatever one’s dearly-held opinion of him, his status, and his role may be, Prophet Muhammad is the key figure that unifies a factious, unruly, and often confused (but ultimately not more so than any other community one might point to) Islamic community.

Thus, in response to these thoughts, I have created a poem that in maybe an oblique way (such as in framing it as a “dream” – how romantic : )) echoes the love poetry, the devotional poetry, that we have read this week. At the same time, in this ‘love poem for the Prophet’, I focus not only on the persona’s love for him in whatever role she fits him into (which is my interpretation, not meant to be ungenerous, of the poetry I read), but first on these questions, to which love for the Prophet actually ends up seeming like a sort of answer.

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