Saturday, March 31, 2012

London Muslim's call to Vote for Ken Livingstone

The victory of George Galloway in the recent Bradford West by-election raises some interesting issues which have been widely discussed in the media. More intriguing, perhaps, is the way Muslim bloggers have been responding. Below is an extract from London Muslim's latest in a series of increasingly excited posts about how wonderful Galloway is, and how the Muslim yoof have spoken... 
Bradford is the template which perfectly exemplifies how non sectarian we Muslims are by voting for a Non Muslim ahead of a Muslim thus illustrating the need for Political address to address our concerns or face political oblivion.
While Jews in London have sent warnings to Ken Livingstone to change his pro Muslim views it is Bradford Muslims and inshallah we London Muslims that will fire the ultimate warning and send the Israelites into a tailspin. Bradford will be our catalyst and also a warning to you useless buffoons in the Mosques that have treated your own community with arrogance and contempt expecting us to follow your diktats.
The Muslim Youth have spoken, prove to us you will reflect and represent our interests and causes and we will reward you with the authority or is it power you politicians so desire. Increasingly gone are the days when we simply act like sheep and Labour politicians in "safe seats" weigh our votes. Immigration and visas are no longer the line in the sand issue for us as it was for the elder generation.
Demography and time is on our side along with technology as we understand social media, Twitter, and Text messaging which is the future of political campaigning. As our cohesiveness, unity and crucually political literacy improves we will confront our enemies with a weapon that our brothers and sisters are dying for in the Middle East, Democracy and the freedom to vote.
Leaving to one side the gross irony of claiming that a vote for Galloway was "non-sectarian" (by which I suppose LM means Galloway's victory had nothing to do with his shameful and transparent targeting of the Muslim vote) what strikes the casual reader is the disturbingly (if you're not a youthful, urban Muslim that is) strident tone.
It is surely not unreasonable to see in such phrases as "we shall fire the ultimate warning to send the Israelites into a tailspin...demography and time is on our side...we will confront our enemies with a weapon..." a very clear sectarian (to use LM's own terminology) tone.
Democracy is now viewed, quite literally, as a weapon. By "demography and time" it is clear LM is referring to the fact that the Muslim population is growing faster than others by dint of having larger families. His call to London Muslims to elect Ken Livingstone can, no should, be regarded therefore as the opening salvo in a sectarian political battle that could threaten the traditional democratic process. Voters are being encouraged to vote not on economic, local or even environmental issues but purely on the basis of their religion.
For let no-one be in any doubt about the end game. Democracy for LM and other Muslims is a means to an end. It is not an end. As my Muslim convert friend explained to me when I questioned whether freedom of political and religious thought and speech would be allowed in a perfect Muslim state..."Democracy is not an end in Islam"
I found that response chilling then. I find it all the more so now.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Developing Human - Keith Moore's "gift" to humanity

Many Muslims, including my friend, love to refer to a medical text book entitled The Developing Human when endeavouring to prove the miraculous nature of the Qur'an. They bang on about how the author, a world renowned expert in embryology, has shown that the "detailed references" in the Qur'an to embryology and the stages in the development of the human embryo can be seen to be strikingly and miraculously similar - way beyond what could be expected were the Qur'an  written by a 7th century illiterate desert dweller.
What they inevitably fail to mention is that the book they delight in quoting is the third edition. "So what?", I hear you say. Well, it just so happens that the third edition of Dr Moore's book is a rather special one - as you can see from the front cover and the publisher's description reproduced below. 


Description from the publisher: 
Now available! Numerous Muslims have constantly referred to the work of acclaimed embryologist Keith L. Moore. Here is his complete original textbook (third edition), superbly updated with the "Islamic Additions" (commentary, relevance, Qur'an and Hadith references, and more) of Shaykh Abdul-Majeed A. Azzindani of Saudi Arabia.
Moore's popular textbook is written primarily for students of medicine, specializing in clinically oriented embryology. Shaykh Azzindani, a reputed scholar of Islam, has been interested in the same phenomenon on but from the perspective of the teachings of the Qur'an and Hadith. The two collaborated, with other scientists, in the relation of the two foci of thought. The volume herein conclusively shows that the information contained in the Qur'an and Sunnah is not only consistent with modern scientific discoveries in the field of embryology but also it is a fore-runner by some fourteen hundred years. 
You will notice that the 3rd edition has a subtitle: With Islamic Additions and was written in conjunction with none other than our friend Abdul Majeed al-Zindani (also known as: Abdelmajid al-Zendani, Abdul Majeed Zendani, Abd Al Majid Zandani) 
Now again, many of you may be tempted to say, "So what?". Well, al-Zindani just so happens to be the father of "Rational Islam", the man who set up (with the help of Saudi funding) the Commission on Scientific Signs - the movement responsible for convincing so many naive and gullible westerners that the Qur'an is full of scientific miracles. 
Regular readers may remember a previous post in which I listed the "scientific" credentials of al-Zindani which include discovering an Islamic cure for aids (click link to read an interview with al-Zindani about his discovery) and having "proof" that women can't speak and think at the same time. 
But perhaps the most intriguing, not to say disturbing, thing about the special 3rd edition (apart from the ludicrous chapters added by Zindani quoted endlessly by dawah sites across the internet) is to be found on the acknowledgements page where among "distinguished scholars" who gave "full support in their personal and official capacities," Mr. Zindani lists a certain  Sheikh Osama bin Laden. Bin Laden apparently became intrigued by Bucailleism in his college days after hearing Mr. Zindani lecture, and helped pay for the book's publication. 
So whenever you hear a Muslim miracle seeker quote the famous embryologist, Keith Moore and his book, you might point out to them that it was co-written by a man who thinks women are incapable of rational thought and funded by the world's most infamous terrorist. 
It just might make them think. But then again, probably not...

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Teman near Medina my arse!

The Jews were expecting another prophet to come after Jesus and they expected him to come from an area in modern day Arabia. Among the verses in the Old Testament predicting this event is Habakkuk 3 (Revised English Bible) which states that “God comes from Teman, the Holy One from Mount Paran”. “Teman” is the name of an oasis near Medina. 

I'll try to examine your references to "Teman" today, and your subsequent suggestion that this helps the Muslims' claim that Mohammad is prophesied in the Bible. However, before I do, can I ask how you square the Qur'an referring to Jesus as the Messiah, with the Jews expecting another prophet to come after Jesus? Surely if Jesus was/is theMessiah then He is the fulfilment of the prophesies (no more prophets etc) and and you cannot use the Jewish scripture as support for Mohammad being predicted in the Bible. Just wondering...

You say that Teman is the "name of an oasis near Medina". Can you tell me how you know this? The reason I ask is that I have found that modern references to this "fact" on dawah sites seem to originate from a certain Al-Kadhi  whose claims to  scholarly reliability seem dubious, to say the least, if this paper  quoted below is anything to go by:

It is actually very easy to trace Al-Kadhi's sources. The suggestion that according to J. Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible, Teman is an Oasis just North of Madinah is copied nearly verbatim from Dr. Jamal Badawi's article "Muhammad in the Bible" but the problem is that Al-Kadhi [...] did not care to verify the claim for himself. He is, however, even more specific and audacious in his claims than Dr. Badawi was when continuing with
    Muhammad (pbuh) did indeed come from Paran. About 622 AD, he and his followers were forced to migrate from Makkah (Paran) to Madinah (Teman) ...
In fact, Dr. Badawi only wrote that "Teman is north of Medina" which is true, even though it is 800 km north, but by adding "just" and stating "Teman is an Oasis just North of Madinah" Al-Kadhi transformed this into a statement of gross ignorance. Even if the switch of Tema and Teman by Dr. Badawi had not occured, one cannot with honesty identify Medina with Tema (modern Tayma', a city about 400 km away from Medina) as Al-Kadhi does in his bold claims. According to the dictionaries this use of the word "just" means "closely, nearly, almost", or "by a small margin". 400 km is not a small margin. Tayma' is about the same distance from Medinah as Mecca. Al-Kadhi seriously misleads the reader. 

(My bolding and highlighting)

Let's look at a perhaps more scholarly work to find where Teman might be...The following information is from Baker Encyclopedia of Bible Places:Towns & Cities, Countries & States, Archaeology & Topography Consulting Editor John J. Bimson, © Inter-Varsity Press, 1995Published in the USA by Baker Books. ISBN 0-85110-657-9, pp. 296-7:

The modern site is Taima', about 400 kilometres north-north-west of Medina in north-western Arabia. It became an urban centre around 600 BC and excavations show that it reached its peak of prosperity in the 5th century BC. Several Aramaic inscriptions date from this period.
The city (Babylonian Tema') is also named in documents recording its occupation by Nabonidus during his exile in northern Arabia, 553-543 BC (AS 8, 1958, p.80; ANET, 3rd edition, p.562).
D. J. Wiseman

The inhabitants were renowned for wisdom (Jeremiah 49:7; Obadia 8-9). Eliphaz the Temanite was one of Job's comforters (Job 2:11, etc.).
A chief (`allup) of Teman (teman) is named among the chiefs of Edom (Genesis 36:15,42; 1 Chronicles 1:53), and Husham was one of the early rulers (Gensis 36:34).
The prophets include Teman among Edomite towns to be destroyed (Jeremiah 49:20; Ezekiel 25:13; Amos 1:12; Obadiah 9).
Habakkuk in his great vision saw God the Holy One coming from Teman (Habakkuk 3:3).
N. Glueck (The Other Side of Jordan, 1940, pp.25-26) identified it with Tawilan, since excavated to show a large Edomite town of the 8th to 6th centuries BC (RB 76, 1969, pp.386ff.). R. de Vaux argued that it denoted southern Edom (RB 77, 1969, pp.379-385).
J. A. Thompson
Teman is about 800 km north of Medina.
 TEMA. The name (Hebrew tema') of the son and descendants of Ishmael (Genesis 25:15; 1 Chronicles 1:30) and of the district they inhabited (Job 6:19). It is mentioned, with Dedan and Buz, as a remote place (Jeremiah 25:23) and as an oasis in the desert on a main trade route through Arabia (Isaiah 21:14).

TEMAN. The grandson of Esau (Genesis 36:11; 1 Chronicles 1:36), who may have given his name to the district, town or tribe of that name in northern Edom (Jeremiah 49:20; Ezkeiel 25:13; Amos 1:12).

I cannot see how you or any Muslim can claim that the Bible foretells the coming of Mohammed on this evidence, nor that Jews or Christians have somehow conspired to change their Holy Books to hide "the truth".

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Mohammad foretold in the Bible?

Muslims believe that their prophet is mentioned in the Bible. They must believe this because of a particular verse in the Qur'an:
Those who follow the Apostle, the unlettered Prophet, whom they find mentioned in their own (Scriptures) - in the Law and the Gospel. Surah 7.157
Unfortunately (for Muslims) when one looks for these references to Mohammad in the Old Testament (the Law) and the New Testament (the Gospel) there appears to be no such mention. This has led to three distinct (but by no means mutually exclusive) approaches by Muslim "scholars".
i.  claim the scriptures have been tampered with
ii.  put unusual interpretations on esoteric verses so they fit with their ideas

i. claim the scriptures have been tampered with. Muslims base this belief upon two verses in the Qur'an which appear to suggest that the Christians and Jews have indeed changed their scriptures:
 "They (i.e. Jews and Christians) changed words from their contexts and forgot a good part of the message given to them, and you will continue to find them -except a few among them- bent on new deceits…" (al-Ma'idah: 13)  
"O People of the Book, now has come to you Our Messenger, clarifying to you much of that you used to conceal of the Book and passing over much (that is now unnecessary)." (al-Ma'idah 5:15)
This is a great get-out clause for Muslim miracle seekers since anything in the Bible that seems to contradict the Qur'an (such as the story of Jesus being crucified or the belief in the Trinity) can simply be explained away as having been "tampered with". So when doubters say there appear to be no obvious references to a "Mohammed"  in the Bible, this is often a first line of defence.

A good example of this can be seen in a recent mail from my Muslim friend in which he said that "we cannot know for sure what has been edited out or in over the centuries." He went on to state:
"That such editing happens is certain, as comparison with different versions of the Bible shows.
He then went straight onto  ii.  put unusual interpretations on esoteric verses so they fit with their ideas
For example  in the King James Bible Psalm 84 states that the Jews make pilgrimage to “Bacca” (a name for Mecca) whereas in the later Revised English Bible Psalm 84 changes “Bacca” to “the waterless valley” (which could be anywhere). The Jews were expecting another prophet to come after Jesus and they expected him to come from an area in modern day Arabia. 
There was much more in his interesting mail which I intend to examine in future posts. For now, however, I'd like to deal with the common belief (among Muslims) that Mecca is mentioned in Psalm 84 and that thus the Bible relates how Jews used to make a pilgrimage there and this fact has been wickedly expunged from the record in an attempt to mislead the common people and hide the truth...

The following paper by Toby Jepsom does an excellent job of disproving the hypothesis. Since I can't improve upon it I shall simply reproduce it:
The whole psalm focuses on God's sanctuary and how the writer loves to spend time there. The author is one of ‘the Sons of Korah’ and internal evidence points to it being written after the building of the temple in Jerusalem by Solomon. Because of the psalm's focus on the sanctuary, there are several phrases which describe features of it, enabling us to evaluate the claim that it is Mecca:
  • v.1 - ‘How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord Almighty!’
  • v.3 - ‘... a place near your altar, O Lord Almighty ...’
  • v.4 - ‘Blessed are they who dwell in your house
  • v.7 - ‘They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion.’
  • v.10 - ‘I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God ...’
These five points count heavily against the claim outlined above. Firstly (I am open to correction on these points), I do not suppose that Muslims would accept the idea of Allah dwelling in the Ka'aba. I certainly am not aware of this way of thinking in Islam. On the other hand, the Bible repeatedly mentions the temple in Jerusalem as God's dwelling place, even though he is not limited to a building. In 1 Kings 8:27, Solomon, on the completion of his great temple, said this:
This makes it clear that the idea of God dwelling in the temple is figurative and not that he is limited to one building. However, it shows clearly that this way of thinking is found in the Bible.
Secondly, I am unaware of any altar which is given prominence at the Ka'aba, whereas the altar was an integral part of the tabernacle and then the Jerusalem temple, necessary for the sacrificial system instituted by God. (Exodus 27:1-8, 1 Kings 8:64).
Thirdly, the Ka'aba is empty and certainly no humans dwell in it. Yet Psalm 84 mentions those who dwell in God's house. This makes no sense unless it is the Jerusalem temple, which had rooms within its courts (1 Chronicles 28:11,12) for those who were responsible for its upkeep and ceremony.
Fourthly, the pilgrims in Psalm 84 are certainly not on their way to Mecca, as their destination is given as Zion. Mount Zion is one of the hills on which Jerusalem is founded. In the Bible Zion is often used synonymously with Jerusalem (Isaiah 2:2).
This point is made even stronger by examining the word used for ‘pilgrimage’ in Psalm 84:5. I don't claim to know much Hebrew or Arabic, so someone who does is welcome to correct me on this. However, I do know that both languages are Semitic and close in many ways, having the same or similar words for lots of things. That being the case, we might expect the Hebrew word translated here as ‘pilgrimage’ to be similar to the Arabic hajj. In fact, it is not. The only similar Hebrew word that I could find in my exhaustive concordance was hag, which is often translated as ‘festival’ and therefore seems to me to be in some way related to the Arabic hajj.
The Hebrew word used in Psalm 84:5 is from a completely different root to this and is usually translated as ‘road’ or ‘highway’. Thus it seems from a brief consideration that the phrase is literally like saying in English ‘those ... who have set their hearts on the highway’, meaning the way they must take to get to Jerusalem. So even the ideas of pilgrimage in the Bible and the Qur'an have a different emphasis. Just because the English translation of Psalm 84:5 says ‘pilgrimage’ we can't simply equate it with the Hajj.
Fifthly, there is no recognised function of doorkeeper for the Ka'aba, as far as I am aware. However, this was an official job at the Jerusalem Temple (2 Kings 25:18).
What Then is the Valley of Baca?
Baca has been translated either as ‘weeping’ or ‘balsam trees’ (which grow in dry places). It could be a real place, in which case it was a valley through which the pilgrims passed during their journey. Alternatively, it could be figurative. In this interpretation, even the dry, arid places through which the pilgrims pass are brought alive by their expectant joy as they near their destination. In either case, their pilgrimage is clearly to Jerusalem, as evidenced by the rest of the psalm. Why on earth would Jews, living in Israel and on their way to Jerusalem, take a huge detour through Mecca?
Whatever our conclusion as to the true identity of the valley of Baca, I think that I have made it fairly clear that the only link between it and the Bakkah of the Quran is a superficial similarity in name. The further details about the location point away from the two being identical. Since that is the case, why should we not link the Bakkah of surah 3:96 with any other place having a similar sounding name? Here is a quote from the article mentioned above:
This shows that there are other places with similar names. Why then, do we not hear people claiming that the Quran is referring to these? It seems to me that it is because there is a prior commitment on the part of some to finding evidence for the Quran in the Bible. This, if found, would strengthen the claim that Islam is completely in line with all God's earlier revelations. However, in this case, it cannot be sustained.
I hope that this short paper has made it clear that the Baca of the Bible cannot be the Bakkah of the Qur'an. Rather than being a justifiable theory, it seems that some people, in their zeal to verify the Qur'an by using the Bible, have jumped all too quickly to a mistaken conclusion. A few superficial similarities are offset by several clear contradictions. It is often easy to bend the facts to fit our own theories, rather than forming our theories around the facts. This is never easier than in religion. Both Christians and Muslims are open to this temptation: I hope that fair-minded people will see this as a case in point.