Sunday, July 27, 2014

Koranic verses which prove a human author #3

A few facts to start with today which I would ask you to bear in mind as you read the following verses.
1.3 million earths and 64 million moons would fit inside the sun.
The moon is 384,000 km away from us and its light reaches us almost instantaneously (1.3 seconds)
The sun is 149 million km away and its light takes eight minutes to reach us.
The moon's orbit takes 28 days.
The sun's orbit takes 240 million years.

What is the most significant of the signs that Allah has given us to ponder as proof of His majesty and divinity, would you say?
If one were to go by that which is remarked upon most frequently in His final message to mankind, it is almost certainly the alternating day and night.
Not only does God mention it approximately twenty times in His Revelation, in six of those the phrasing is almost identical: night passes into day and day passes into night. Thus we can read…
3:27  Thou causest the night  to pass into the day, and Thou causest the day to pass into the night.
22:61  That is because Allah maketh the night to pass into the day and maketh the day to pass into the night, and because Allah is Hearer, Seer
31:29  Hast thou not seen how Allah causeth the night to pass into the day and causeth the day to pass into the night,
35:13  He maketh the night to pass into the day and He maketh the day to pass into the night.
39:5  […] He maketh night to succeed day, and He maketh day to succeed night, 57:6  He causeth the night to pass into the day, and He causeth the day to pass into the night, and He is Knower of all that is in the breasts.
No doubt the faithful see in the above repetition a sure sign of wonderful and super-natural literary greatness. I’m certain Hamza Tzortzis, for example, would refer us to his infamous list and possibly ask us to consider the superlative examples of chiasmus and epizeuxis.
An objective reader, however, might be tempted to see in the repetition a sign of very human forgetfulness.
But let’s leave aside the fact that the author seems obsessed with night and day to the point of repeating the same idea in exactly the same words. (It might seem churlish also to note that night doesn’t pass into day if you happen to live near or above the Arctic Circle.)
Instead let us examine why and how the author seems to be so obsessed with the diurnal cycle.
It seems that God is keen for us to appreciate that the sun and the moon obey Him and it is thus He who dictates their movements.
7:54 tells us, for example, that “He covereth the night with the day, which is in haste to follow it, and hath made the sun and the moon and the stars subservient by His command.
Whilst we learn from 13:2 and 16:12 that “Allah compelled the sun and moon to be of service” and that we are to take this as “a portent”. So Allah ties the movements of the sun and the moon very closely to the diurnal cycle and expects us to learn lessons from this.
 21:33 makes this even more explicit: And He it is Who created the night and the day, and the sun and the moon. They float, each in an orbit.
Except of course, there is a problem: the movement (or “orbit”) of the sun is irrelevant to the diurnal cycle. An omnipotent creator would know this. A 7th century desert Arab would, however, have a geocentric view of the universe, because that was the limit of man’s knowledge at the time. He would look at the sun tracking across the sky and draw the obvious conclusion that its movement was due to it orbiting the earth  rather than the earth revolving. Thus a 7th century desert Arab composing verses to show the might of the Creator as shown in the alternation of day and night  would almost certainly write something like this:
35:13 He maketh the night to pass into the day and He maketh the day to pass into the night. He hath subdued the sun and moon to service. Each runneth unto an appointed term. Or this:
36:40  It is not for the sun to overtake the moon, nor doth the night outstrip the day. They float each in an orbit.
One might be tempted to say that OF COURSE the sun doesn't overtake the moon. Such an idea is meaningless. But it is not ridiculous if one believes the sun and the moon both orbit around the Earth.
And because the author imagined the Sun and the Moon to be travelling around the earth, he might also imagine their colliding on Judgement Day:
75:9  And sun and moon are united, (“Day of Judgement”)
Another incoherent and illogical concept if one remembers the relative positions and sizes of the Earth, the Moon and the sun. An utterly reasonable threat in a 7th century geocentric universe.
And finally, he might also believe in the literal truth of  the story of Alexander the Great reaching the place where the sun sets
18:86 Till, when he reached the setting place of the sun, he found it setting in a muddy spring, and found a people thereabout: We said: O Dhul-Qarneyn! Either punish or show them kindness.

Thus in the verses dealing with the diurnal cycle an objective reader finds plenty to lead him to the supposition that the Koran is a product of a fallible man of his time and nothing to suggest it is the words of God.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Koranic verses which prove a human author #2

The prosaic and impoverished male fantasy that is the Koranic view of heaven - big breasted virgins and lying around eating and drinking all day - has been much discussed and derided, and is of course a reason to strongly suspect it is the product of a very human (and rather hormonal) author.
There is another aspect to the Islamic paradise which is, however, often neglected and yet is equally confusing for those who are told these are the words of our Creator. It concerns the "waiters" in paradise - surely a strange idea in itself.
They will pass from hand to hand a cup inspiring no idle talk, no sinful urge, and there shall wait on them young boys of their own, as fair as virgin pearls. 52:24
Ignoring for a moment the question: what sort of sinful urge one could possibly have - given that God has apparently provided booty-licious totty for an eternity of lustful bonking in this warped vision of a perfect eternity - the impartial reader must surely ask himself why the author feels the need to stress the attractions of the young serving boys.
For we of course all know what God apparently thinks of any relationship that isn't strictly heterosexual. The seven references to the "people of Lut" (Lot) in the Koran, the abundant descriptions of punishments meted out to gays in the hadith and the near universal death penalty for those caught in flagrante in the Islamic world bear ample testament. So surely I'm not suggesting there is anything improper in the promise of these delightful young men, fair as pearls, who are going to to be our personal servants in paradise ... am I? Well, the question is not so strange and becomes entirely pertinent when we learn of the long and disturbing history of pederasty in the Islamic and pre-Islamic world.
It would be a blinkered and ignorant person indeed who sought to deny that young boys have been used and abused for tens of centuries in the Middle East, Afghanistan and North Africa. Not only do we have first hand testimony, but the literature of the area is rich in references to the "joys" of young boys.
Love poetry by men about boys more than competed with that about women, it overwhelmed itEncyclopedia of Islam and the Muslim World, MacMillan Reference USA, 2004, p.316 (my bolding)
Those who have traveled through Afghanistan, for example, will be aware of the term bacha bazi to describe the tradition of selling boys to rich patrons for their sexual pleasure. How such activities can take place in a culture whose religion states homosexuality is terrible sin would be a mystery were it not for the many sociological and historical studies which describe how sexual relations between men and boys in many Islamic societies is not regarded as homosexual as long as one is not the passive partner.

The reference to being waited upon by young men as beautiful as "virgin pearls" should thus perhaps be seen in its historic context of  societies where sexual relationships between older men and boys was seen as something normal. Hence perhaps, in his desire to persuade his followers that becoming a Muslim would be rewarded by every conceivable male fantasy, Muhammad simply wanted to cover all the bases of the known proclivities of his followers.

As a reader coming to the Koran without having to believe it is the words of God, I find this a credible explanation. Certainly more credible than God creating beings whose sole purpose is to spend an eternity waiting upon men who move off their brocaded couches (how naff, my dear!) only to bonk other beings created solely to pleasure them.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Koranic verses which prove a human author # 1

Many years ago my convert Muslim friend told me I would burn in Hell for an eternity unless I accepted that the Koran is the word of God dictated to Muhammad by the angel Gabriel.
So I read it.
There were one or two moving passages but nothing to convince an impartial reader that this was God talking to Mankind for the final time. Indeed, there was much I found disturbing.
But more than that, there were certain verses which seemed to me were so obviously the product of a fallible human that I simply couldn't understand how anyone not schooled from childhood in Islam could possibly believe they were anything else. And then of course we all got sidetracked by the risible miracle claims (see the numerous entries in this blog and elsewhere on the net)
It's been a few years now since my correspondence with my Muslim friend started so I thought I'd reread the Koran. Once again I was struck by those verses.
Here then is the first in a series, going from the shortest to the longest surahs (ie reverse order to that found in the Koran)

Surah Prohibition (66). Herein God tells of how Mohammad chastises one of his wives who has divulged to another a secret told her by the prophet:
She said, "Who told you this?" He said, "The Wise One. The All-Knowing one told me"
God then speaks directly to Hafsa and Ai'sha, the two wives concerned:
If you two turn to God in penitence [...] you shall be pardoned; but if you conspire against him, know that God is his protector, and Gabriel, and the righteous among the faithful. The angels too are his helpers.
As an impartial, objective reader, looking for evidence to justify the astounding claim that the Koran contains the very words of the Almighty, I'm confused to find that He should have spent some of those precious words on what is...let's face it...a domestic. And it gets worse.
It may well be that, if he divorce you, his Lord will give him in your place better wives than yourselves, submissive to God and full of faith, obedient, penitent, devout, and given to fasting; both formerly wedded and virgins.
Funny that. How God happens to threaten the recalcitrant wives of His prophet with being replaced by "better" ones just as His prophet was obviously having a bit of trouble with them.*

To finish, let me ask Muslims to imagine they are reading the Koran for the very first time, without any preconceptions or cultural demands being placed upon them. Is there anything here to convince you that this must be God's words?

*Note: There are plenty of other occasions when God reveals verses that "suit" the domestic situation of His prophet, as we shall find out later.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Boko Haram, Pharaoh and Glamorgan University...

Now, of course, erstwhile Glamorgan University business science student and suspected Boko Haram mastermind of the recent Nigerian bomb attacks, Aminu Sadiq Ogwuche, is not typical of Muslim students at that or any other university.

The fact that Ogwuche became radicalised is a tragedy for him and for his family, and an even greater tragedy, of course, for those 100 or so victims of his alleged attacks on non-Muslims in Nigeria.

And surely anyone who suggests that he has followed the teachings of the Prophet or the Qur'an is an Islamophobe little better than those who so obviously willingly mis-interpret the teachings of the "religion of peace" for nefarious and despicable purposes.

Let's take one of the more outrageous and hateful postings that Ogwoche put up on his Facebook page in 2011, for example, and quoted in the various news reports as an illustration of how far down the road to extremism he had traveled  :
The only punishment for those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger and strive to make mischief in the land is that they should be murdered, or crucified, or their hands and their feet should be cut off, or they should be imprisoned
Who on earth could possibly believe that poor, misguided Ogwoche got this malevolent drivel from his religion? Those of us liberal, educated, tolerant Westerners know an ignorant, right-wing Islamophobic wind-up when we see one.... Don't we?

In fact Ogwoche was quoting directly from the Qur'an. Here is verse 5:33:
The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger, and strive with might and main for mischief through the land is: execution, or crucifixion, or the cutting off of hands and feet from opposite sides, or exile from the land: that is their disgrace in this world, and a heavy punishment is theirs in the Hereafter
So here's my question. As a liberal and tolerant seeker after truth, what am I to make of a faith which brands itself as a religion of peace but has such clear exhortations to violence?

My Muslim convert friend defends such punishment by saying that treason is still punishable by execution in many western democracies. States, he says, must have recourse to extreme punishment when under extreme threat. Islam simply makes this explicit. So be it. But isn't crucifixion pointlessly cruel and as such the recourse of tyrants and bullies?

I only ask because the way I see it, the Qur'an, rather awkwardly, makes this very point.

Allah is repeatedly at pains throughout the Qur'an to underline the evil depravity of the pagan, polytheist Pharaoh. He does so by showing us the cruel and unusual punishments Pharaoh promises to inflict upon Moses and his followers:
Surely I shall have your hands and feet cut off upon alternate sides. Then I shall crucify you every one! (7:124)
Seem familiar?
In case the message didn't get through the first time regarding what a mean b*stard Pharaoh is, Allah reiterates it thirteen chapters later:
(Pharaoh) said: Ye put faith in him before I give you leave. Lo! he is your chief who taught you magic. Now surely I shall cut off your hands and your feet alternately, and I shall crucify you on the trunks of palm trees, and ye shall know for certain which of us hath sterner and more lasting punishment. (20:71)
and again a further six chapters later:
 (Pharaoh) said, Ye put your faith in him before I give you leave. Lo! he doubtless is your chief who taught you magic! But verily ye shall come to know. Verily I will cut off your hands and your feet alternately, and verily I will crucify you everyone. (26:49)
To recap. Allah tells his followers such as the poor, misguided Glamorgan university student and Boko Haram "mastermind" to crucify those who "make mischief" in Muslim lands (or alternatively - no pun intended) to chop off alternate hands and feet of the miscreants.
But He also wants us to boo and hiss at the evil tyrant who threatened Moses with EXACTLY THE SAME PUNISHMENT.

Or perhaps I've just got the wrong end of the staff...

Friday, February 28, 2014

Qur'an Project - Dung beetles prove God exists (no really...)

I thought I'd run out of things to say regarding the idiocy of the miracle seekers at iERA and their acolytes. And then they go and produce something like this. Damn you fellas! How can I resist when you make it all so very tempting...?!

Under the striking (when are they ever anything but?) heading: New BBC article affirms ayat in the Quran the author explains how, once again, modern scientific discoveries are confirming the wisdom of the Qur'an. This time the lowly dung beetle takes centre-stage in a piece of wishful thinking that would make a school-girl at a wedding fair blush. 

Here's the ayat in question:
 "And  it  is  He  who  placed  for  you  the  stars  that  you  may  be  guided  by  them  through  the darknesses  of  the  land  and  sea.  We  have  detailed  the  signs  for  a  people  who  know". [al-An'am 6:97]

I know, I know..."Where are the dung beetles?" I hear you ask. Patience my children. All will be revealed. Now to those of us who find it difficult to discern Allah's signs in this sort of thing (because we're obviously a bit dense) it is clear that Muhammad, being a seasoned trader and traveler and lacking a sat-nav, knew how to navigate by the stars and believed that God had thoughtfully arranged them thus. If you want to see God's hand in the firmament, I'm not going to stop you. 

Ok - now here come the dung beetles...
Consider this ayat:
"And  there  is  no  creature  on  [or  within]  the  earth  or  bird  that  flies  with  its  wings  except [that  they  are]  communities  like  you" [al-An'am 6:38]
which is introduced with the explanatory phrase: Behavioural Patterns of Species are like Humans

Can you begin to see where this is headed? Our author is keen to suggest that in reality there is little difference between humans and dung beetles (as far as behavioural patterns are concerned) We'll speak for yourself, A.B. al-Mehri [Official/QP], but I can tell you unequivocally that my life does not consist of rolling huge balls of sh*t around. (Although as a  metaphor for what keeps the chaps at iERA busy during their working week it is too good, perhaps, to pass over...) Our author, A.B. al-Mehri [Official/QP], elucidates thus: - Here The Creator informs us  that the community structure and behavioural patterns of every single set of species in existence [as Allah [swt] does not exclude any] is similar to how we as human beings are -  some of us live as married couples, single parents, groups of small family, large tribes, etc you see this amongst the various manifestations in species on land, sea and air.
From the above it is clear that Allah intends us to surmise that given i. humans use the stars to navigate and ii. all species behave like humans THEN dung beetles must use stars to navigate. That is clear... isn't itA.B. al-Mehri [Official/QP] is certainly in no doubt. 
Here's how he introduces the BBC article: Now with these reflections from the blessed Ayat of the Qur'an - read the full article below - 

Oh sorry, almost forgot. HERE come the dung beetles...
Dung Beetles guided by Milky WayBy Jonathan Amos - 24 January 2013 -  They may be down in the dirt but it seems dung beetles also have their eyes on the stars.Scientists have shown how the insects will use the Milky Way to orientate themselves as they roll their balls of muck along the ground...

Do you know, sometimes I almost wish Allah did exist so that He could ask these chaps what they actually thought they were doing. 
I imagine the conversation going something like this...
Allah: Well, A.B. al-Mehri [Official/QP], pleased as I am that you devoted your life to studying my final revelation and all that, I'm afraid I've got some bad news for you. You've been spreading b*ll*cks in my name, and publishing drivel that a twelve year-old would be embarrassed to call his own and thus have brought My name and that of Islam into disrepute. As such I have no option but to cast you forever into the fiery pit.
A. B Mehri[Official/QP]: But Oh He that is most Merciful, can't you show me a bit of er...mercy?
Allah: No - s*d off!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Allah 2 - this time it's personal...

I have decided to have another go. Even I have to admit the last shot was a bit of a disaster.
Here's my plan:
I will create sentient beings. Just like last time, I will communicate with them via specially chosen mouthpieces whom I shall refer to as "Prophets".
These Prophets will all be male. Obviously. Because I am.
They will all come from the same, small part of the planet. Obviously. I like sand.

I shall insist that these creatures accept it was me who created them. I want some recognition, dammit!

I shall also insist that they worship me. I said, I want some recognition. Is that too much to ask?

Once more I shall test these little critters in various ways. (For example, I shall create substances that make them feel good and then ban them from tasting it, or even being around those who fall prey to its temptations. And I shall give some of them desires that, although overwhelming and natural, I shall deem to be perverse and which I shall ban them from acting upon.) If they fail these tests I shall use this to judge whether to send them to a place where I shall inflict unspeakable tortures on them for ever. If they pass these tests, however, and spend their entire lives worshiping me, I shall send them to a place where they can indulge their most base sexual fantasies..for ever (if they're male and heterosexual...of course).

I'm also going to have another shot at leaving some confusingly convincing signs that I didn't actually create them. I loved the evolution one last time, my those fossils were a blast! And as for the junk DNA, what a stroke of genius that was!

I'll also endow some of them with intelligence and curiosity again. (That's always good for a laugh!) When these ones start to question the inherent contradictions and injustices in my laws and stories, I'll torture them for an eternity as well.

And I'm going to demand that my creatures refer to me as The most merciful of all who are merciful. Because the irony of that one never ceases to crease me up, and I need some entertainment in between all the torturing.

Oh, and one last thing...I'll jot down all my thoughts and ramblings in a book which I'll have dictated to one of my Prophets. Then I'll shut up and let them get on with it. For over a thousand years. I won't say a word.

What can possibly go wrong?

(Actually, come to think of it, it's going to be much like the last time...)

Friday, January 3, 2014

Top 10 reasons to convert to Islam in 2014

Revert to Islam in 2014 if...

1. ... you dislike questioning authority and are happier taking things on trust. Islam is for you in 2014 because Allah makes a point of telling his followers not to ask questions (the answers to which could cause distress and might lead them to leave Islam). (5:101-102) In fact He even recounts how some followers did ask awkward questions and promptly lost their faith. So relax in 2014 and leave those niggling theological doubts to others to worry about. But before you convert, ask yourself what sort of question might destroy faith and, more pertinently perhaps, what sort of faith can be destroyed by asking a question.

2. love the romance and excitement of foreign languages and fashion. Yes, the attraction of the different and the exotic... the feeling of belonging and superiority that using jargon others don't understand confers on you! If all that appeals then Islam is for you in 2014. No wonder so many Brits are (apparently) converting. To convert you'll need to say the shahada (there's that exoticism again) in Arabic (God doesn't like English, you see) and when you pray it'll be in Arabic as well (such a romantic and exciting language!) Try it now and tell me it doesn't send a shiver down your spine...lā ʾilāha ʾillā-llāh, muḥammadun rasūlu-llāh. But before you convert, ask yourself why God would demand you address him in a language you don't understand. 

3. secretly admire and long for the regimentation of those with OCD. You'll feel right at home in Islam in 2014. The instructions on how to wash, sorry- perform wudu- before you pray, for example can be up to 20 lines long* (and you thought washing your hands three times before making a sandwich made you a cert for OCD...) But before you convert, ask yourself if it's healthy to encourage obsessive behaviour such that the occurrence of OCD in Islamic countries is considered a major problem even by Muslim psychologists . Ironically, the prevalence of such obsessive thoughts has led to a theological explanation which lends a special (exotic...) term to them: wasaawis, wherein shaytan (Satan) is blamed for the problem (that's really going to help the poor sufferers gain a handle on the problem...)

4. believe in fairies. You're going to feel right at home believing in desert sprites made of smokeless fire, then. These desert sprites are called jinn and you'll love believing in these little critters who are invisible (although they can see you) and who delight in teasing humans (although if you recite the last surah in the Qur'an constantly then they can't touch you - obsessive compulsive? nah...) To find out more about jinn see here. But before you convert, ask yourself if you really want to subscribe to a religion which requires a belief in supernatural beings originating with the pagan Arabs (jinni) and so obviously a by-product of trying to find an explanation for the frightening natural phenomena found in the desert such as mini twisters and moaning sand dunes (terrifying when you don't understand the cause!)

5. believe all the whacky tales in the Old Testament word-for-word. You think Noah really did build an Ark to save the animals from the flood (43 references in 27 chapters in the Qur'an) . You  believe Jonah really was swallowed by a whale and lived inside it reciting prayers (37:139-144). In that case, Islam is for you. But before you convert, ask yourself why God should demand you dismiss all common sense and scientific rationalism (the common sense and scientific laws that He gave us supposedly) before you can believe in Him.

6. think belief in God is more important than leading a good life helping others and you are happy to believe in and worship a deity who regards belief in Him as the be-all-and-end-all, His raison d'etre, the sine qua non... to the extent that a murderer who repents and accepts Islam in his dying moments has more chance of entering paradise, according to Islam, than a doctor working selflessly in Africa dedicating his life to others but who rejects the idea of religion.

7. think men excel over women (4:34), are more reliable witnesses then women, that women are more likely to go to hell than men (Bukhari hadith), that men should be allowed to sleep with their (sex) slaves (4:24), that women are deficient in intellect (2:282), that women who disobey their husbands should be beaten (4:34), that men should be allowed more than one wife (4:3)...then 2014 is the year for you to become a Muslim. But before you convert, ask yourself why God should be so misogynistic when He (!) created all of us...apparently. (Or is it just perhaps that the Abrahamic religions were conceived by MEN...)

8. believe the dawahists who tell you God planted evidence for his omnipotence in the scientific knowledge we can find in the Qur'an. Such knowledge, they say, is miraculous because no-one who lived in the 7th century in Arabia and was illiterate could have known such things. But before you convert, ask yourself why God should have chosen to describe the evidence in such opaque and ambiguous terms so that they are open to numerous interpretations (embryology, cosmology etc.), and have chosen facts that were already known and described by previous ancient civilisations (embryology, honey, etc.).

9. are happy to accept that God creates some of us with appalling disabilities or disease as a test whereas others have tests such as living long, healthy lives in loving families and comfortable surroundings. You are happy also to accept the argument that those who bear their afflictions will be rewarded by an eternity in Paradise and that this life is but nothing compared to that. But before you convert, ask yourself where is the justice even in this skewed view of the world where to accept such a premise logically leads each and every one of us to regret not being tested with an awful, painful, short life so as to gain a quick ticket to Paradise.

10. are a homophobe.

Wash your hands. Use your left hand to wash your right hand. Do this three times. After that, use your right hand to wash your left hand three times. Make sure to wash in between your fingers and all the way up to your wrists Take water into your mouth. Use your right hand to cup water into your mouth three times. Swish it around in your cheeks and the back of your throat. Do this thoroughly to get all the remaining food in your mouth out. Inhale water into your nose. Use your right hand to cup water and inhale it into your nose three times. You can use your left hand to close one nostril and blow out if you need to. Snort sharply and abruptly without taking too much water into your nose and choking yourself.Wash your face. Wash your face three times by spreading your hands from your right ear to the left, and from the edge of the hair to the chin.Wash your lower arms from wrists to elbows, leaving no part dry. From your wrist to your elbow, wash your right arm with your left hand three times and then wash your left arm with your right hand three times.Clean your head. Using your wet hands, gently wipe your forehead from the eyebrow to the hairline. Also wipe down your hair, the back of your neck, and your temples. Do this one time.Wipe your ears inside and out. With the same water, use your finger to clean all the crevices of your ear. Use your thumb to clean behind your ears from the bottom upward. This is also done one time.Wash each of your feet. Clean up to the the ankles and be sure water goes between the toes. Use your pinky finger and go through each toe to eliminate anything between. Start with your right foot and scrub each foot three times. While pointing the right index finger to the sky, recite a brief prayer of witness. Generally, the prayer is as follows: "Ash-hadu anlaa ilaaha illALLAHu wahdahuu laa shariikalahu, wa ash-hadu anna Muhammadan 'abduhuu wa rasuuluhu."