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Moses: Muhammad’s Mediator

In Islam, in the story of Mohammad's accession to paradise, there is an important moment when he meets Moses. Muhammad, after having met G-d, is on his way to earth when he runs into Moses. G-d has just given the … Read More

By / September 10, 2007

In Islam, in the story of Mohammad's accession to paradise, there is an important moment when he meets Moses. Muhammad, after having met G-d, is on his way to earth when he runs into Moses. G-d has just given the gift of salat, prayer, to the Muslims. Muhammad eagerly shares the fact that Muslims are going to be responsible for praying 50 times a day. In response, Moses tell Muhammad that there is no way anyone will pray that much during one day. Moses forces Muhammad to go back and negotiate a reduction in the number of prayers. Muhammad, thus, talks to G-d and comes back with 45 prayers. Moses advises getting the number reduced further. Muhammad complies. The prayers are cut down in incriments of five, with Moses pressuring Muhammad the whole time. This continues until the number of prayers is down to 5. Moses insists Mohammed should go back again, to reduce them to three. but Muhammad replies he is too embarrassed. That, my friends, is how Muslims ended up with five required prayers a day. Or as my mum put it when she told me the story: "Thank god for that Prophet Mosa!" What are the implications of this story, and how do those tie into larger theological and political narratives in the world? Please feel free to speculate and discuss. Be as idealistic or cynical as you like. I hope to be able to use the story and discussion as a jumping off point later in the week.

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