So I'm reading a couple of those at the same time I'm reading a book I've owned for about three months, but just haven't taken the time to read yet. It's No God but God by Reza Aslan. I haven't gotten too far in it, but I like what he's said in the pages I have read. I've enjoyed learning some of the background of the pre-Islamic Arab world and life in the tribes. I found it interesting to see how Muhammad was afraid he was becoming one of those guys who heard from the gods and spoke in rhyming couplets. He dreaded being one of those Kahin and vowed to throw himself off the mountain (pg. 37) before the Quraysh could say that about him. He didn't want to be one of those "reprehensible charlatans."
I enjoyed reading the jobs of the sheikhs in the tribal society and also how the Quraysh rose to power in Mecca. That Qusayy guy was quite visionary.
I read a brief account of the circumstances concerning Muhammad's first revelation and was struck - not for the first time - with how this spirit treated Muhammad. I was trying to recall biblical accounts of how people were treated by angels or in visions of God and don't recall them being quite like this. This is how Reza Aslan described it:
He sat alone in a cave, deep in meditation. Suddenly an invisible presence crushed him in its embrace. He struggled to break free but could not move. He was overwhelmed by darkness. The pressure in his chest increased until he could no longer breathe. He felt he was dying. As he surrendered his final breath, light and a terrifying voice washed over him "like the break of dawn."
"Recite!" the voice commanded.
"What shall I recite?" Muhammad gasped.
The invisible presence tightened its embrace. "Recite!"
"What shall I recite?" Muhammad asked again, his chest caving in.
Once more the presence tightened its grip and once more the voice repeated its command. Finally, at the moment when he thought he could bear no more, the pressure in his chest stopped, and in the silence that engulfed the cave, Muhammad felt these words stamped upon his heart. (pg. 34)
Do you recall other ways God or angels or spirits came to people? I recall Isaiah felt quite unclean in God's holy presence, but his guilt was taken away by a live coal being placed on his lips (see Isaiah 6). Moses was told to remove his shoes. The angels that appeared to the shepherds on the night of Jesus' birth told them not to be afraid.
Also of note was the author's view that Muhammad wasn't illiterate. As a superb trader, Muhammad would have known how to write receipts and the author believes Muhammad probably even knew basic Aramaic since he often dealt with Jews in his business dealings. Mr. Aslan said a more correct translation would be that Muhammad was a prophet to the unlettered people meaning he brought a book to people - the Arabs - who previously did not have a sacred book as did the Jews and Christians.
Also I'm reading Walking the Bible by Bruce Feiler. He's an American Jew who grew up in the South. I will share some more about that book later. The other book I've barely started. It's Growing Up bin Laden by Osama's first wife and fourth son along with Jean Sasson.
I think I'll learn a lot about various aspects of the Middle East in these books!