Originally posted on TED Blog:
A few years ago, Lesley Hazleton, self-described “accidental theologist,” found herself waking each morning with the same question: What happened to Muhammad the night he received the revelation of the Koran? An agnostic Jew, Hazleton was writing a biography of the man who stood in the desert outside of Mecca in the year 610 at the moment that founded Islam as we know it today. It was the core mystical moment of Islam, and as such, it defied empirical analysis. Fashioning herself a rationalist, Hazleton set out to find the truth by studying existing accounts of that night.
But as Hazleton says — in a gravelly, mythic voice made for fireside storytelling — what struck her in her research was not what happened so much as what didn’t. Mohammed didn’t come floating off the mountain as though walking on air; he didn’t radiate light and joy; he…
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