By Henrik R Clausen, September 10 2008
For those of simple minds, who take texts at face value, let’s look at the Quran, without prejudice, just analyzing what the text says in an unscientific manner. The Quran is the main holy book of Islam. It opens (somewhat illogically) with sura 2:
[002.001] Alif-Lâm-Mîm.[Translators note: These letters are one of the miracles of the Qur’ân and none but Allâh (Alone) knows their meanings.]
[002.002] This is the Book (the Qur’ân), whereof there is no doubt,
Hold it, right there: I am still in doubt what the first verse means! We are only 14 words into the text, and the first thing we’re asked to do is to accept an obvious contradiction at face value, and thus implicitly to be willing to abandon logic and critical thinking, as if we were requested to leave shoes outside the door. 2:2 continues:
a guidance to those who are Al-Muttaqûn [the pious believers of Islamic Monotheism who fear Allâh much
The next thing the Quran asks for is fear. That’s not a pleasent feeling. Other religions may choose to start with love, but this is Islam. Fear is also more useful for keeping adherents in a state of submission (the word ‘Islam’, literally translated, means ‘Submission’).
Now, Allah doesn’t do much by himself, locked up in a corner of the Kaaba without means of communication to make his demands known. Thus, we instead have to use complex and frequently even contradictory interpretations of old books.
abstain from all kinds of sins and evil deeds which He has forbidden) and love Allâh much (perform all kinds of good deeds which He has ordained)].
After requesting to abandon rationality, then stating that the pious are to be in a state of fear, the Quran moves on to declare Islam a guide to the life of all believers, regulating their lives. In other times and places, that would be called totalitarian. Detailed commands follow in sura 2:3:
[002.003] Who believe in the Ghaib (Note 1) and perform As-Salât (the prayers), (Note 2) and spend out of what We have provided for them [i.e. give Zakât (obligatory charity), spend on themselves, their parents, their children, their wives, and also give charity to the poor and also in Allâh’s Cause – Jihâd].
A lot goes on here. Let’s take it bit by bit:
[002.003] Who believe in the Ghaib (Note 1)
‘Ghaib’ means all kind of unseen and unprovable things – angles, miracles, books sent down from various places in the universe – and belief in this is a requirement in Islam. As is, according to the footnote, accepting everything in the Quran at face value, including the rather unusual shots at explaining things better left to science to take care of. Rational thinking would require evidence to make the claims to science credible, but the believers are requested to believe without that.
and perform As-Salât (the prayers), (Note 2)
As-Salât, as mentioned before, is the ritual prayer that shows submission and obedience to the ‘divine’ will. The footnote in the ‘Noble’ Quraan requests also gender segregation, forcing children to perform the prayers from the age of 7, and to beat the children into performing this religious duty from the age of 10 onwards. This is all explained by the representatives, who benefit from:
and spend out of what We have provided for them
Here’s something easily missed: “We have provided”? The underlying principle here is that all things, material, immaterial and living beings, ultimately belong to Allah. This is a despotic point of view, where obedience to the ruler is absolute, including sacrifice of life if needed for the rule of the absolute despot. The contrary principle is that of private property, where individuals are the ultimate owners of what they have, not some abstract or even imaginary deity.
[i.e. give Zakât (obligatory charity),
Hardly surprising, parting with money comes early on the list of religious duties. Fascist regimes need resources to purchase loyalty and implement an effective totalitarian rule. Islam, as a political ideology, is similar.
For those who wondered how long it would be before this would point towards war, comes this:
spend on themselves, their parents, their children, their wives, and also give charity to the poor and also in Allâh’s Cause – Jihâd].
First, a list of less important reasons (not ‘excuses’ according to Islamic tradition), and then comes what matters: Benefiting Islam (and by implication its representatives working for the ‘Cause’). That ‘Cause’ is the expansion of Islamic rule, and ‘Jihad’ is the effort to do so. As to whether Jihad is violent or not, the best response might be “As required”.
[002.004] And who believe in that (the Qur’ân and the Sunnah) which has been sent down (revealed) to you (Muhammad [sal-Allâhu ‘alayhi wa sallam]) and in that which was sent down before you [the Taurât (Torah) and the Injîl (Gospel)] and they believe with certainty in the Hereafter. (Resurrection, recompense of their good and bad deeds, Paradise and Hell).
Here it’s worth noting that what is in parenthesis has been inserted by the translators to clarify difficult points in the text. Of which there are many, again contradicting the initial statement that this is a book free of doubt. Effectively, books like the Noble Quraan become Quran commentaries in themselves, removing ourselves somewhat from the original (supposedly perfect) text. Removing the comments can be interesting:
[002.004] And who believe in that which has been sent down to you and in that which was sent down before you and they believe with certainty in the Hereafter.
It still refers back to the ‘pious’ of 2:2. Strangely, the supposedly eternal book now speaks directly to Muhammad, who is dead, not eternal. It claims that other texts have been sent down before, contradicting the Christian premise that the Bible is written by humans under divine inspiration.
If one is free to choose the more plausible of these, a variable supply of eternal stone tablets in the Heavens seems more complicated than divine inspiration. Applying Occams’ Razor, the Quranic version is simply too complex to be trusted without supplementing evidence. None is given.
One more fundamental assumption of Islam appears here: The belief in the ‘Hereafter’. This life is supposed to be nothing compared with what follows (in case of martyrs: 72 virgins). Which has the obvious implication that giving up the little we have here and now (in the Cause of Allah) will bring a great award in the Hereafter. No actual evidence for this irrational statement is ever presented by Muhammad.
‘Believe with certainty’ is important here, for one acts according to beliefs of certainty. We see that with LSD users who believe they can fly and jump out the window, only to be proven wrong in the most dramatic way. Anyone who believes with certainty that flying airplanes into office buildings is good will naturally seek a way to do so. Belief without the Hellenistic rationality is dangerous.
More on the pious:
[002.005] They are on (true) guidance from their Lord, and they are the successful.
The absolute and undisputed will of the Lord, Leader or whichever synonym we may choose here, is the precondition for success. This is a theme we have seen in various ideologies in the 20th century, that pitched their hopes on the divine instinct of one select leader, who was to command while others would follow. This has led to so many disasters that one may wonder how people can still believe this is a good idea. But good Muslims are supposed to do so.
[002.006] Verily, those who disbelieve, it is the same to them whether you (O Muhammad [sal-Allâhu ‘alayhi wa sallam]) warn them or do not warn them, they will not believe.
Again, the ‘eternal’ stone tablets speak directly to Muhammad. Assuming of course that this is the stone tablet speaking in the first place, but the distance to Mecca (this is a Medinian sura) makes it highly implausible that it is the black stone speaking. On the other hand, the stone (not the tablet) represents Allah, and no alternatives, no matter how implausible, should be ruled out. Perhaps it makes sense to examine the options more in depth:
The distance to Mecca (some 200 kilometers) makes it implausible that the stone speaks loud enough to be heard in Medina. While it is, under certain atmospherical circumstances, possible that sound can be transmitted that far, it is rather unusual. And even in those cases, as in the catastrophic accident in Seest, Denmark, the energy released is of such magnitude that the black stone, the Kaaba and the settlement in Mecca would have been eradicated.
Under less beneficial atmospheric circumstances, energy equivalent to that of a nuclear bomb would have to be released, which would not only utterly pulverize the black stone, but also leave the desert around Mecca glazed over in a very specific way. This is observably not the case.
So, the stone was obviously not speaking to Muhammad in the physical sense. Would it be able to do so mentally instead? The mental capacities of said stone has been subject to some debate, but so far no explicit mental activity has been recorded by the stone.
Not that Muslims tried very hard – they have apparently not even put probes on the stone to attempt any kind of measurement – but still, since this stone is special, the option should not be ruled out entirely.
As mental activity in this stone would be a world first, and a miracle in the finest sense of the word, it might be useful for Islamic scholars to equip the stone with probes and report what level of mental activity is found.
If the stone is found to have no mental activity, alternatives should be examined. And for that reason, we return to the stone tablets of the heavens where the Quran is supposed to be inscribed, without error, since the beginning of time. If these stone tablets are real, not a figment of somebodys imagination, they have to be rather large and/or plentiful, as the Quran is quite a volume, and writing inscribed in stone tablets doesn’t scale down very well.
If each tablet was to be one square meter to accommodate one page of Quranic inscriptions, some 500-1000 tablets would be needed. That is a quite observable amount of stone. Back in the time of Muhammad, the tablets were said to be in the Heavens, which in modern times could mean a geostationary orbit above Arabia, optimal for practical revelation-transmission causes. Since we now have space flight, we have examined space around Earth quite well, and not found the tablets yet.
Also, the Quran does not properly explain how the revelations were transmitted from said tablets, should they really exist, into the mind of Muhammad. Neither transmission nor reception method has been specified. It would probably be wise to call it a ‘miracle’ and move on to other matters.
Same would apply to the notion (mentioned elsewhere) that the stone tables were inscribed with a pen! Writing on stone with pens usually wear out the pen pretty quickly, and the writing is not exactly permanent. Very few pens are durable enough to make actual dents in stone. It might be proper to call this a ‘miracle’ and move on to other matters.
Given that relevant revelation technology is entirely undocumented, one might get the idea that no revelation took place, and that Muhammad was delusional on the matter and made up the idea to deceive his contemporaries.
However, this would be an insult to Islam and in contradiction of more than 13 centuries of Islamic tradition. While on scientific grounds the idea cannot be ruled out, could 1.3 billlion people really be that drastically deceived? Also, whoever speaks in the Quran, by whatever method, it states clearly that Muhammad is not possessed. Thus, we are miracuouly assured that the text is holy.
In any case, in Sura 2:6 Muhammad is reassured concerning the fact that a lot of people do not believe what he is telling them. It’s not the fault of Muhammad – how could it ever be?
[002.007] Allâh has set a seal on their hearts and on their hearing, (i.e. they are closed from accepting Allâh’s Guidance), and on their eyes there is a covering. Theirs will be a great torment.
So, a lot of people do not follow the directives of Allah (or Muhammad). That’s freedom. Following leaders of various sorts have historically led these leaders to absurd levels of megalomania, and the followers to great suffering. Here we turn things around a bit, and say that the free people who do not follow orders have been caused to do so by Allah (however that is possible) and therefore will suffer great torment. Now, why on Earth is Allah willfully doing things that causes people to suffer?
[002.008] And of mankind, there are some (hypocrites) who say: “We believe in Allâh and the Last Day,” while in fact they believe not.
Doing so could easily save the lives and property of these Muslim pretenders. From who? From those who can force people to believe. And I’m not talking David Bowie here. Forcing people into hypocritical statements is not considered civilized. However, it can be quite effective in coercing people into doing what you want.
[002.009] They (think to) deceive Allâh and those who believe, while they only deceive themselves, and perceive (it) not!
Sure isn’t the most uplifting piece of scripture in the history of religion. Some religions are created to lift people up, to make them self-confident, free and happy. Here’s the opposite trend, that people are declared to not even understand (postulated) self-deception, and in general being spoken down to. That fits well with Islamic tenets, for it encourages submission, not free will or critical thinking.
[002.010] In their hearts is a disease (of doubt and hypocrisy) and Allâh has increased their disease. A painful torment is theirs because they used to tell lies.
So those who, for fear of losing their lives and property, were lying about their submission to Islam and Muhammad, are in for a painful torment. Again. And as above, this is for having doubt as to the truth of what Muhammad preaches. Doubt and free thinking discouraged, uncritical submission encouraged.
[002.011] And when it is said to them: “Make not mischief on the earth,” they say: “We are only peacemakers.”[002.012] Verily, they are the ones who make mischief, but they perceive not.
These two go together. The ‘peacemakers’ (presumably those unwilling to fight in the Cause of Allah) are scorned for unislamic behaviour. Again, what the ‘mischief makers’ are sensing as just and right is being condemned in a heavy-handed manner. Free thinking and independence out, submission in.
For ‘mischief on the earth’, there is some quite specific punishment. The instructions for this punishment is elaborate d in Sura 5:33, which follows the famous 5:32 (saving one life is like saving all of mankind). Sura 5:33, which really should be quoted in context with 5:32, reads:
[005:033] The recompense of those who wage war against Allâh and His Messenger and do mischief in the land is only that they shall be killed or crucified or their hands and their feet be cut off from opposite sides, or be exiled from the land. That is their disgrace in this world, and a great torment is theirs in the Hereafter.
So much for ‘no compulsion in religion’ or Islam being ‘a religion of peace’. This just isn’t very kind. Sura 2 continues:
[002.013] And when it is said to them (hypocrites): “Believe as the people (followers of Muhammad r, Al-Ansâr and Al-Muhajirûn) have believed,” they say: “Shall we believe as the fools have believed?” Verily, they are the fools, but they know not.
Obviously, many contemporaries of Muhammad considered him a fool. Now, the eternal tablets has this outstanding response to that claim: “Muhammad is not the fool, you are.” Unfortunately, nothing is brought up to substantiate how the tablets come to this particular conclusion. Or how it can be that supposedly ‘eternal’ stone tablets address such specific problems for Muhammad:
[002.014] And when they meet those who believe, they say: “We believe,” but when they are alone with their Shayatîn (devils – polytheists, hypocrites), they say: “Truly, we are with you; verily, we were but mocking.”
This seems to be another event from the life and work of Muhammad, not a particular ‘eternal’ one. People would lie to Muhammad about believing in what he said, then go back to their houses and their old friends, shaking their heads over what Muhammad said, telling the old friends that swearing loyalty to Muhammad, Allah and Islam was but a mockery of their true intent. This, of course, constitutes insufficient submission and is object of scorn from the eternal tablets.
[002.015] Allâh mocks at them and gives them increase in their wrongdoing to wander blindly.
Mockery indeed is a recurring theme in the Quran. Muhammad was mocked systematically for what he said, and his response is different from what Jesus would have done – Muhammad has the black stone mock back in kind, and even willfully keeping the non-believers away from belief.
The Quran continues through a total of 114 suras, but one sure gets a taste of the ideology of Islam through these opening verses. As humans have free will and the ability to reason, we can decide for ourselves if this is holy or not, if this is worth following or better guidance exists elsewhere.
1 Al-Ghaib: literally means a thing not seen. But this word includes vast meanings: Belief in Allâh, Angels, Holy Books, Allâh’s Messengers, Day of Resurrection and Al-Qadar (Divine Preordainments). It also includes what Allâh and His Messenger informed about the knowledge of the matters of past, present, and future, e.g., news about the creation of the heavens and earth, botanical and zoological life, the news about the nations of the past, and about Paradise and Hell.
2 Perform As-Salât: The performance of Salât (prayers). It means that:
Each and every Muslim, male or female, is obliged to offer his Salât (prayers) regularly five times a day at the specified times; the male in the mosque in congregation and as for the female it is better to offer them at home. As the Prophet has said: “Order your children to perform Salât (prayers) at the age of seven and beat them (about it) at the age of ten.” The chief (of a family, town, tribe) and the Muslim rulers of a country are held responsible before Allâh in case of non-fulfillment of this obligation by the Muslims under their authority.