Describe each of the following religious experiences and which religious tradition each belongs to: the prophet Muhammad, St. Paul on the road to Damascus, and the Toronto Blessing

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The Prophet Muhammad

Muhammad belongs to the Islamic tradition and is revered by Muslims as the last in a long line of prophets stretching all the way back to Adam. As a prophet and founder of a major world religion, Muhammad certainly had a number of religious experiences. As this question isn’t specific, I’ll make the assumption that you’re probably asking about one of two noteworthy experiences Muhammad was said to have had: his call by the angel Jibra’il and his night journey to Jerusalem.

The first is the most significant event in the history of Islam, when Muhammad was visited by Jibra’il while praying in a cave. Jibra’il, speaking on the behalf of God, commanded Muhammad to begin reciting the word of God. Muhammad would continue these recitations for the rest of his life, and the words he transmitted were collected in written form as the Qur’an (“recitation”). Muslims hold that the original Arabic text of the Qur’an perfectly reflects the literal word of God as communicated via Jibra’il to Muhammad.

The second experience you may be referring to is Muhammad’s night journey to Jerusalem. According to the story, Muhammad was met one night again by Jibra’il, who brought the steed Buraq to him. Muhammad rode Buraq from Mecca to Jerusalem in the span of a single night, where he ascended to heaven and met with other prophets such as Abraham, Moses, and Jesus. During this visit, Muhammad negotiated with God the number of times a day Muslims must pray (lowering it from God’s original prescription of 50 times per day to the current custom of 5 times per day).

St. Paul on the Road to Damascus

St. Paul belongs to the Christian tradition and is significant for the contributions he made to the spread of early Christianity to non-Jewish communities, as well as the impact he had on Christian practice and belief. The Road to Damascus story is the central event of St. Paul’s life. Prior to this experience, St. Paul had persecuted Christian practice as a member of the Jewish religious authority. While travelling to Damascus to arrest Christians, he was met with a blinding vision of Jesus, who told him to go into the city. While there, he spent three days blind in the house of Ananias. After receiving commands from God, Ananias laid hands on Paul and his blindness was healed. After this, Paul directed his energies towards the spread of Christianity, not its persecution. It can be said with some certainty that Christianity as we know it is largely the result of Paul’s efforts, and without this transformative event, the religion may never have spread to the level it has.

The Toronto Blessing

The Toronto Blessing was a revival event that happened in Toronto, Canada, in 1994 at the Toronto Airport Vineyard Church. As a part of the Charismatic Christian movement, the Blessing was characterized by participants laughing, crying, yelling, and shaking, which were seen to be the effects of the Holy Spirit’s presence. The Charismatic movement is characterized by its emphasis on the gifts of the Holy Spirit (such as speaking in tongues), and see such actions as confirmation that the Holy Spirit has baptized the participants, as happened during the story of Pentecost in the New Testament. Many modern Charistmatic/Pentecostal churches require that true baptism is only shown by the presence of these gifts. During the Toronto Blessing, John and Carol Arnott led a revival inspired by other revivals happening around the world. For weeks, a growing number attendants came to the church and participated in the spiritual revelry. The Blessing has been controversial in the Christian world, with some calling it self-centered or dangerous.

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