Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Embryology in the Quran: Much Ado About Nothing - Hamza Tzortzis Refuted

Captain Disguise and associates have made a video of a detailed refutation of Hamza Tzortzis' claims regarding the "miracle" of embryology in the Qur'an.
They have also created a website concerned with the same topic. I have just visited. It is a very impressive piece of work. Please do take a look. Herewith a taster:

 The purpose of this paper is to critically examine the claims made by Hamza Tzortzis in his purported “lexical analysis” of the terms in the Qur’an. The Qur’anic verses in question are 12-14 from chapter 23 which states the following,

(Yusuf Ali translation): “Man We did create from a quintessence (of clay) (sulalatin min tin); (12) Then We placed him as (a drop of) sperm (nutfah) in a place of rest firmly fixed (qararin makeen); (13) Then We made the sperm (nutfah) into a clot of congealed blood (alaqah); then of that clot (alaqah) We made a (foetus) lump (mudghahh) ; then We made out of that lump (mudghahhbones (idhaamen) and clothed the bones with flesh (Fakasawna Idhaama Lahman); then We developed out of it another creature: so blessed be Allah, the Best to create! (14)”

Note: The relevant Arabic terms have been transliterated and can be found in red inside the parenthesis. The English terms in parenthesis are usually the interpretations of the translator and are not explicitly stated in the original language.
            Regarding these verses, Hamza states the following on page 5 of version v2.1b,[iv]

            One might wonder if in reality, the Qur’anic verse is “uninvolved” and “simplistic” in the original Arabic as well. It is rather intriguing how the same verse which was described as “uninvolved” and “simplistic” by Hamza himself, mutates into the following monstrosity after Hamza’s supposedly legitimate method of lexical analysis;

“Man We did create from “the essential elements required for human life and functioning, found in clay” (sulalatin min tin)[v]; (12) Then We placed him as “the formation of the zygote, via the mingling of two fluids from the mother and the father, which contains two small cell structures (the oocyte and the spermatozoon)" (nutfah)[vi] in “the blastocyst sinking in the endometrium, being completely encased i.e. the process of implantation”  (qararin makeen)[vii]; (13) Then We made the “zygote” (nutfah) into “the embryo...connected to the cytotrophoblast via a connecting stalk, as if it were hanging or suspended...upon the culmination of two processes - neurulation and the folding of the embryo” where “the embryo appears worm or leech-like” and “obtains its nutrients via contact with the maternal blood vessels” and “the external features of the embryo resembles a blood-clot...due to the formation of the primary cardiovascular system and the lack of blood circulation until the end of the third week.” (alaqah)[viii]; then of that “hanging leech-like blood suckling clot-like embryo” (alaqah) We made “The development of somites giving the embryo the appearance of a chewed substance” during “the organogenetic period (the development of organs, not yet fully formed)“ (mudghahh)[ix] ; then We made out of that “chewed fleshy  substance with developed somites undergoing organogenesis” (mudghahh) “the formation of the axial, limb and appendicular skeleton”(idhaamen)[x] and clothed “the formation of the axial, limb and appendicular skeleton” with “the migration and aggregation of the muscles cells around the developing limb and axial skeleton, to form muscles, tendons and connective tissue” (Fakasawna Idhaama Lahman)[xi]; then We developed out of it another creature: so blessed be Allah, the Best to create! (14)”

            A single word such as “alaqah” (i.e blood clot) has a meaning that is now four sentences long. Words such as “qararin makeen or “place of rest” (i.e womb) now refer to various technical stages of developmental biology involving discrete terms like blastocyst and implantation. Even the least curious person in the world should have raised a red flag when presented with such a flamboyant display of the apologetic tactic of putting ‘lipstick on a pig.’ 

Regular readers of Rational Islam? will know that this is a major bugbear of mine so I am delighted to pass on any information which may help to dispel the myth that the Qur'an contains details concerning embryology which it would have been impossible for a 7th century desert dweller to have known.
All power to your elbow, fellas...
And may I leave you with the same question I always pose about this time: If the Qur'an really is the uncreated word of God, why does it require such suspiciously UNscientific loons as Hamza and Sheik Azzindani and Yusuf Estes to draw our attention to it?

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Innocence of Muslims film: Questions to a Muslim

Dear friend,
I have some questions prompted by the recent furore over that stupid film, which you may or may not wish to answer.

I've been looking into why Muslims should get so upset about Muhammad being insulted while the followers of other religions seem to be less sensitive.  
I visited the Islamic Q&A site you recommended on which I found the following question:
I heard on a tape that whoever insults the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) should be executed even if he shows that he has repented. Should he be killed as a hadd punishment or because of kufr? If his repentance is sincere, will Allaah forgive him or will he go to Hell and his repentance will be of no avail? 
The answer starts as follows:
Praise be to Allaah.  The answer to this question may be given by addressing the two following issues: 1 – The ruling on one who insults the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) The scholars are unanimously agreed that a Muslim who insults the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) becomes a kaafir and an apostate who is to be executed. 
The answer continues to make references to various hadith such as:
With regard to the Sunnah, Abu Dawood (4362) narrated from ‘Ali that a Jewish woman  used to insult the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) and say bad things about him, so a man strangled her until she died, and the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) ruled that no blood money was due in this case. Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah said in al-Saarim al-Maslool (1/162): This hadeeth is jayyid, and there is a corroborating report in the hadeeth of Ibn ‘Abbaas which we will quote below. This hadeeth clearly indicates that it was permissible to kill that woman because she used to insult the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him). Abu Dawood (4361) narrated from Ibn ‘Abbaas that a blind man had a freed concubine (umm walad) who used to insult the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) and say bad things about him. He told her not to do that but she did not stop, and he rebuked her but she did not heed him. One night, when she started to say bad things about the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) and insult him, he took a short sword or dagger, put it on her belly and pressed it and killed her. The following morning that was mentioned to the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him). He called the people together and said, “I adjure by Allah the man who has done this action and I adjure him by my right over him that he should stand up.” The blind man stood up and said, “O Messenger of Allaah, I am the one who did it; she used to insult you and say bad things about you. I forbade her, but she did not stop, and I rebuked her, but she did not give up her habit. I have two sons like pearls from her, and she was kind to me. Last night she began to insult you and say bad things about you. So I took a dagger, put it on her belly and pressed it till I killed her.” Thereupon the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Bear witness, there is no blood money due for her.”(Classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Saheeh Abi Dawood, 3655) 

You can see that Muhammad thought the killing of a Jewish woman and a female slave of one of his followers (with whom the follower had two sons) did not require a rebuke because they had "insulted" him. As the cleric writing this says: This hadeeth clearly states that it was permissible to kill that woman because she used to insult the Prophet [...].

I therefore have three questions arising from this:
Do you think the idea (implied by this answer) that it is permissible to kill those who insult the Prophet is a commonly held belief among Muslims?
Is the arrogance and pride implied by allowing someone to kill a woman because she insulted you worthy of the "best human ever to have walked the Earth"?

I suppose I might also ask is it not inevitable, given the above and the belief in the sunnah, that Muslims will commit atrocities such as the murder of the American Ambassador? 

Now look at this from the same answer:

It may be noted from this that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) had the right to kill whoever insulted him and spoke harshly to him, and that included both Muslims and kaafirs. 

Why if, as we are constantly being told, the religion of Islam is not violent, instead of labouring the fact that Muhammad had the right to kill those who spoke harshly to him, doesn't the cleric say that killing anyone for a perceived insult is abhorrent and uncivilised?

Do you believe that your Prophet "had the right to kill whoever insulted him and spoke harshly to him, and that included both Muslims and kaafirs"?

Is it any wonder that those in the West who are beginning to research Islam in depth feel that the claim that it is a "religion of peace" rings increasingly hollow?

Saturday, September 22, 2012

That's just plain offensive, Mr. Ashraf

Example 1

Example 2
"The Holocaust was a fantasy. Millions of Jewish men women and children didn't die in the gas chambers."

There is an interesting parallel being drawn in the Muslim community between the offence caused by depictions of Muhammad and that of Holocaust denial. Muslim poster, London Muslim, in an otherwise sensible post wrote yesterday:
 Ridiculing our beloved Prophet Muhammad (saw) is as heinous to Muslims as ridiculing or denying the Holicaust (sic) is offensive to Jews. It's time both are stopped.
 This is not an unusual viewpoint. The Guardian today reports the ire of young Muslims in the Middle East and quotes a speech made by the Pakistani prime minister no less, Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, addressing a gathering of politicians and top clerics in Islamabad. 
While he called for peaceful protests, he also used language likely to inflame the many protests that have claimed the video is part of a plot involving Jewish, Israeli and US interests. "It is ironical that denial of holocaust is considered a crime but no consideration is paid to the feelings of Muslims," he said. "I hope the international community and Islamic world will be successful in preventing such things."
Call me a white Western imperialist  bigot if you wish, but I'm sorry - there is NO COMPARISON, Mr Ashraf. To say to a Jew that the murder of his family and millions of others by the most vile doctrine of ethnic cleansing ever to exist didn't happen is like drawing pictures of your Prophet, really is offensive.

The prohibition of depictions of Muhammad is not even in the Qur'an. Shia Muslims are quite relaxed about drawings and painting of the Prophet. It is only Sunnis who have been brought up to consider such things "heinous". The ruling, such as it is, actually comes from the hadith - the collection of sayings and actions of Muhammad that is a secondary source of rules for Muslims. The ahadith in question in fact prohibits all depictions of living things:

Narrated Aisha:The Prophet entered upon me while there was a curtain having pictures (of animals) in the house. His face got red with anger, and then he got hold of the curtain and tore it into pieces. The Prophet said, "Such people as paint these pictures will receive the severest punishment on the Day of Resurrection."Sahih al-Bukhari
as well as more particularly religious personages:
When the Prophet saw pictures in the Ka'ba, he did not enter it till he ordered them to be erased. When he saw (the pictures of Abraham and Ishmael carrying the arrows ofdivination, he said, '"May Allah curse them (i.e. the Quraysh)! By Allah, neither Abraham nor Ishmael practiced divination by arrows.'Sahih al-Bukhari, 
When the Prophet became ill, some of his wives talked about a church which they had seen in Ethiopia and it was called Mariya. Um Salma and Um Habiba had been to Ethiopia, and both of them narrated its (the Church's) beauty and the pictures it contained. The Prophet raised his head and said, "Those are the people who, whenever a pious man dies amongst them, make a place of worship at his grave and then they make those pictures in it. Those are the worst creatures in the Sight of Allah."Sahih al-Bukhari

 The reason behind the continued prohibition is that pictures of Muhammad were thought to encourage idolatry.

We thus have the wholly ridiculous situation where millions of excitable Muslims don't know why they are so angry - for how can a nasty, cheap little film that depicts the Prophet as a sex pest in any way be seen to encourage worship of his likeness?

How can the silly little cartoon at the top possibly encourage someone to worship it instead of reading the Qur'an.

So grow up, LM and grow up Mr Prime Minister and grow up all you young easily led Muslims and for once QUESTION what on earth you are being asked to believe. Or more pertinently perhaps - stop pretending this is a religious question and admit that it is an excuse to bash the West.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Caricatures of Muhammad - ancient history

Le Figaro newspaper today carries an interesting article on the long history of caricatures of Muhammad. The first known example, the article says, can be traced back to 1141-3 in an illustrated Latin translation of the Qur'an.  

The illuminated manuscript shows the Prophet with a fish's tail and feathers on his body. The Bible was on display at the page shown at an exhibition entitled "Books of the Word: Torah, Bible and Koran" in Paris and was seen by thousands of visitors as well as being put on-line (it still is). Nobody complained let alone demonstrated or threatened violence. Would that still be the case today if some over-sensitive Muslim decided to make this a cause-celebre?

Are we to be denied in future the opportunity of viewing such ancient manuscripts because of the sensitivities of a religious group?

La provocation de Charlie Hebdo renvoie à des pratiques très anciennes.

Détail de la première version latine du Coran (1141-1143), un ouvrage conservé à la BnF.
Détail de la première version latine du Coran (1141-1143), un ouvrage conservé à la BnF.
Caricaturer Mahomet, ce genre d'exercice remonte au Moyen Âge. La toute première caricature connue date, en effet, de 1141-1143. On voit Mahomet avec une queue de poisson et des plumes sur le corps. Elle figure dans une enluminure illustrant la première version latine du Coran, conservée à la Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF). Ce travail de traduction avait été effectué sous la direction de Pierre le Vénérable, à l'abbaye de Cluny. Cet abbé, ami de saint Bernard, d'Héloïse et d'Abélard, œuvrait dans un contexte polémique. Jusqu'alors, il était interdit de vendre le Coran aux non-musulmans. D'un autre côté, il fallait bien pouvoir le lire si l'on prétendait le réfuter.
L'ouvrage a été présenté à la BnF, en 2005, dans l'exposition «Livres de parole, Torah, Bible, Coran». Bien qu'ouvert à la page du dessin, il ne s'est trouvé personne pour s'en offusquer. L'exposition a été vue par des milliers de visiteurs et mise en ligne (elle l'est toujours). On se trouvait pourtant à l'époque de la première affaire des caricatures de Mahomet déclenchée par le journal danois Jyllands-Posten.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Anti-semitism in the Islamic community

Religious bigots exist in most faiths. Monotheism in particular encourages bigotry by its very nature: Our God is the only God! Your version is a travesty of the true faith. Persecute!

I dislike religion for many reasons but this inevitable tendency towards intolerance and violence is surely one of the most hateful characteristics of the Abrahamic faiths.
As the wonderful Tom Lehrer in his song, National Brotherhood Week, put it:
Oh the Protestants hate the Catholics
And the Catholics hate the Protestants
And the Hindus hate the Muslims
And everybody hates the Jews
They certainly seem to over at London Muslim. LM's latest post has produced a particularly worrying outbreak of lies and falsehoods which can only serve to encourage the continuation of the nasty streak of anti-semitism that lies at the heart of Islam.

Following a post on the worrying increase of racial violence against Africans in Jerusalem, LM asks very reasonably why the world's media are not publicising this as they do the violence perpetrated by Muslims. However, someone has then posted in the comments section a list of "Quotes from the Torah - unbelievable!". The quotes (such as When the Messiah comes every Jew will have 2800 slaves.
Simeon Haddarsen, fol. 56-D) are all referenced and appear genuine.

In fact, the "quotes" are from an anti-semitic leaflet published by a Christian fundamentalist called Van Hyning in the early 20th century.
Van Hyning’s leaflet was widely reprinted, excerpted, added to and quoted from or referenced throughout the 1950s and 1960s by such publications as The Cross and the Flag, Common Sense, andThunderbolt. In the early 1970s the Rev. Gerald L.K. Smith continued to distribute a free tract quoting most of these lies. Rarely quoted today, these fabrications continue to be the foundation of many claims that Judaism is anti-Christian.

 That the leaflet is being used today by some Muslims to incite hatred of Jews is worrying... but not, I'm afraid, surprising.

Monday, September 17, 2012

"Lies" about wife beating in the Qur'an - Yvonne Ridley

Here's Yvonne Ridley, famous former captive of the Taliban and convert to Islam, explaining to a sophisticated and worldly-wise  Muslim interviewer, how she came to Islam. The whole interview is interesting but I particularly want to draw your attention to a section from 8.03 onwards (reproduced below) where Yvonne explains how she promised her Taliban captors she would read the Qur'an if they released her:
Y.R.: "I was given a Qur'an with an index in the back. So I thought I'll make this easy, I'll cherry pick all the subjects relating to women - so I'm looking for the chapter on how to beat your wife, how to subjugate.."  
Interviewer (shocked and bemused): "How to beat your wife?"
Y.R.: Yes!
Interviewer (disbelieving): "In the Qur'an?!"
Y.R.: "Well- yes...this is twisted idea of what this evil and violent and oppresses women! And I couldn't believe what I was reading because the Qur'an makes it, as you know, crystal clear that women are equal in sprirituality, worth and education...." 
 It's worth pausing here to note how deeply shocked (apparently) the interviewer is at the thought of the Qur'an containing anything so misogynist and hateful as an instruction to beat your wife, and how Yvonne Ridley so blithely attributes this to her brain-washing in the West. Now let us look at verse 4:34 from the Qur'an. I give the three translations (Asad, Yusuf Ali and Pickthall) as found at IslamCity:Qur'an Search in case any reader should accuse me of using Western/Zionist propaganda:
4:34 (Asad) MEN SHALL take full care of women with the bounties which God has bestowed more abundantly on the former than on the latter, and with what they may spend out of their possessions. And the right­eous women are the truly devout ones, who guard the intimacy which God has [ordained to be] guar­ded.  And as for those women whose ill-will  you have reason to fear, admonish them [first]; then leave them alone in bed; then beat them; and if thereupon they pay you heed, do not seek to harm them. Behold, God is indeed most high, great!
4:34 (Y. Ali) Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has given the one more (strength) than the other, and because they support them from their means. Therefore the righteous women are devoutly obedient, and guard in (the husband's) absence what Allah would have them guard. As to those women on whose part ye fear disloyalty and ill-conduct, admonish them (first), (Next), refuse to share their beds, (And last) beat them (lightly); but if they return to obedience, seek not against them Means (of annoyance): For Allah is Most High, great (above you all). 
4:34 (Picktall) Men are in charge of women, because Allah hath men the one of them to excel the other, and because they spend of their property (for the support of women). So good women are the obedient, guarding in secret that which Allah hath guarded. As for those from whom ye fear rebellion, admonish them and banish them to beds apart, and scourge them. Then if they obey you, seek not a way against them. Lo! Allah is ever High Exalted, Great.
(Note that, as always, words in brackets have been added by the translator to aid comprehension of the "clear" Qur'an. Thus Yusuf Ali's "lightly" after the word beat is his, not Allah's words.) We are thus left with two possibilities. 1. Both the sophisticated and apparently well-educated interviewer and Ridley have genuinely never read this verse, or have forgotten its existence. 2. They are so far down the road of cognitive dissonance that they can convince themselves that this verse doesn't mean what it patently does. Oh - there's of course a third possibility: that 4:34 has been mistranslated by two Muslim Arab speakers and a Arabic specialist and these mis-translations have been allowed to stand without correction on an Islamic site. Muslims reading this might be interested to read how a respected Muslim Q&A site deals with this issue.
There is nothing in the Qur’aan that suggests that a man is allowed to beat his wife. 
Nothing? Are you absolutely sure? Well, the site does actually grudgingly admit that a hadith by Muslim mentions something about hitting your wife:
4 – And he (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Fear Allaah with regard to women, for you have taken them as a trust from Allaah and intimacy with them has become permissible to you by the words of Allaah. Your right over them is that they should not allow anyone to sit on your furniture whom you dislike; if they do that then hit them but not in a harsh manner. And their right over you is that you should provide for them and clothe them on a reasonable basis.” Narrated by Muslim, 1218. What is meant by “they should not allow anyone to sit on your furniture whom you dislike” is that they should not allow anyone whom you dislike to enter your houses, whether the person disliked is a man or a woman, or any of the woman’s mahrams [close relatives to whom marriage is forbidden]. The prohibition includes all of them. From the words of al-Nawawi. The hadeeth may be understood as meaning that a man has the right to hit his wife, in a manner that is not harsh and does not cause injury if if there is a reason for that, such as her going against his wishes or disobeying him. 
Er- but I thought you started this explanation by saying there was nothing in the Qur'an which suggested a man was allowed to beat his wife...Let's read on. Perhaps all will become clear.
This is like the verse in which Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning): “As to those women on whose part you see ill‑conduct, admonish them (first), (next) refuse to share their beds, (and last) beat them (lightly, if it is useful); but if they return to obedience, seek not against them means (of annoyance). Surely, Allaah is Ever Most High, Most Great”[al-Nisa’ 4:34] 
Ah - now we get to the nitty-gritty. But wait, what's this? More brackets? Beat them (lightly, if it is useful)?!  "Excuse me darling, I'm just going to beat you lightly as I think it may be useful"
If a woman rebels against her husband and disobeys his commands, then he should follow this method of admonishing her, forsaking her in bed and hitting her. Hitting is subject to the condition that it should not be harsh or cause injury. Al-Hasan al-Basri said: this means that it should not cause pain.  
So now it all becomes clear. There is nothing in the Qur'an saying a man may beat his wife ...except the verse that says a man may beat his wife..but he can only do this lightly so that it doesn't cause injury. Now, if you are a woman reading this, please tell me honestly that you feel comfortable believing that your God spent his time telling mankind it's OK to beat you lightly if you misbehave.
The purpose behind this is not to hurt or humiliate the woman, rather it is intended to make her realize that she has transgressed against her husband’s rights, and that her husband has the right to set her straight and discipline her. 
So says Islam Q&A. Remember Yvonne Ridley's remark to the interviewer? "The Qur'an makes it crystal clear that women are equal." How strange then that God regards an equal partnership as one wherein one partner has the right to discipline the other if she goes against the other's rights but this right is not extended back. This is obviously some magic definition of equality that only Yvonne Ridley and Islamic clerics know about.  Go ahead and worship this misogynistic creation if you want. But I'll tell you plainly now that such a deity is not worthy of polishing my wife's shoes. And Yvonne (if you ever read this) how dare you, how DARE you suggest to vulnerable women that there is nothing in the Qur'an that relates to beating women. The lies and distortions that have to be committed to portray the Qur'an as a feminist text should make any intelligent woman's blood boil.  --------------------------------  Note: Many Muslims reading this will claim that "to beat" here has the meaning to hit lightly with a bunch of fragrant grass or a tooth-pick because of various diverse hadith. I would simply ask them to consider the likelihood of the following:
"Wife! You are being rebellious - I admonish you!"
"Screw you, Ahmed. Do the washing up for once in your life!"
Right! It's separate beds tonight- we'll see how you like that!"
Next morning. "Wife - have you come to your senses yet?"
"No! Do the bloody washing up, will you?"
(Exasperated) "Right - you've really asked for it now. It's time for the tooth-pick!"
"Oh no- not the tooth-pick! Darling you were right all along! I'm so sorry! I shall do as I'm told in future!"

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Islam - political ideology or religion? Christopher Stevens knows the answer.

Muslims reading this will question the very premise of the title. Of course it's a religion, they will say. And of course they're right. Up to a point. However, a brief examination of the events of the last few days shows that for many (if not most) followers of Islam, politics and religion are but two branches of the same tree.
In the West, we watch in sickened resignation the crowds massing outside the American Embassy in Benghazi, baying for blood (quite literally), tearing apart American flags and rejoicing in the death of the Mr. Stevens.
"Our Prophet is the best human ever! You cannot insult our Prophet! You cannot insult our religion!"
How hard did the evil, sh*t-stirring bastard who set in motion this whole train of events have to work to find the insignificant little film and then publicise it, I wonder. Sometimes you have to put in incredibly long hours to be insulted, it seems.
But that is not the point. The umma don't just believe in the superiority of the super-man, Muhammad and in his revelation being the actual words of God. No, they believe in the inherent, unquestionable superiority of a way of life that demands complete submission to their God (which of course is the only God) and the consequent complete submission of the whole of humanity to their belief system.
If this were an overtly political ideology then those who abhor totalitarianism could stand openly and resist. But Islam stands behind the assumption that it is a religion. Those who dare criticise it are in turn castigated for being insensitive or worse.
So please answer me this. If you are a Muslim and you believe that Allah intends for the whole of mankind to bow down (literally) and worship Him and more, that it is your duty to bring this day closer, where do you draw the line between political and religious action?
Pakistan: 14-9-12
                                               outside the US embassy in London 14-9-12
Photos courtesy of Middle East in Photos

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Under-age marriage, the Qur'an and the Prophet Mohammad

The Sunday Times today reveals the tragic prevalence of under-age marriages within the Muslim community in the UK. The fact that Muslim clerics are using religious authority to knowingly justify their breaking of the law to condemn girls as young as 10 to a life of being abused  is both disturbing but inevitable.

I shall not go over the well-worn ground of whether the Prophet married a 7 year-old and consummated the marriage when she was 9. The evidence is clear if you believe the ahadith, and the retired imam quoted by the Sunday Times makes it clear he certainly follows the actions of the Prophet described therein: "We have to follow the way of the Holy Prophet. We are his followers and that is what you have to explain to your daughter." 
Rather I shall look to the Qur'an to see if the supposed words of God make clear or clearer what Allah really wants or expects of us in this regard.

One of the most oft-quoted verses to defend the notion that the Qur'an actually explicitly requires girls to be mature before marriage  is this: 
4:6  And test the orphans [in your charge] until they reach a marriage­able age; then, if you find them to be mature of mind, hand over to them their possessions [...]

Note the very clear implication that the author doesn't necessarily equate marriageable age with sound mind. In any case, the verse is hardly a ringing endorsement of the necessity for maturity. The verse is dealing, after-all, with orphans. 

Let us then turn to an Islamic site to see if they can clarify matters. 

Misconceptions about Islam helpfully lists the verses in the Qur'an that give guidance on the age of marriage:

What does The Quran say on the age of marriage?The Quran does not state a specific legal age of marriage, however it does give a guideline and mentions situations and conditions that should be considered before marriage:
  • Determining mutual attraction/compatibility [2:221, 2:235, 30:21, 33:52]
  • Ascertaining whether the potential partner is of similar beliefs/faith [2:221, 60:10]
  • Discussion of and agreeing to the level of dower and other terms (if any) [4:4, 4:24]
  • Understanding and mutual acceptance of marriage as a solemn/strong oath/contract [4:21, 2:232, 2:237, 24:33]
  • If male, capable of providing for the family/household [2:228, 2:233, 4:34, 65:6]
  • To have physically matured / post-puberty [4:6, 24:31, 24:58-59]
Given the latest revelations in the Sunday times it seems prudent to focus on the last of these: those lines which apparently guide believers to take wives who have physically matured or who have past puberty.  I have quoted 4:6 above. Let's now look at the next verse chosen by the Islamic apologists: 24:31

24:31 (Picktall) And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and be modest, and to display of their adornment only that which is apparent, and to draw their veils over their bosoms, and not to reveal their adornment save to their own husbands or fathers or husbands' fathers, or their sons or their husbands' sons, or their brothers or their brothers' sons or sisters' sons, or their women, or their slaves, or male attendants who lack vigor, or children who know naught of women's nakedness. And let them not stamp their feet so as to reveal what they hide of their adornment. And turn unto Allah together, O believers, in order that ye may succeed.

Hmm...Am I being stupid or is there little here to reassure us that Mohammad/Allah intended his followers not to marry children? Let's ignore the awkward references to slaves and eunuchs (how we marvel at the  universality and timelessness of the advice contained in the Qur'an...) and the laughable (I'm sorry, but it is) injunction on stamping feet in case your boobs wobble, and focus on the message. Nothing about ensuring your putative wife is mature enough to know her own mind or physically capable of sex without harm. Not a hint. But let's be generous and assume that Misconceptions simply quoted the wrong verse.

So let's examine the next verse.

24:58 -9 (Picktall) O ye who believe! Let your slaves, and those of you who have not come to puberty, ask leave of you at three times (before they come into your presence): Before the prayer of dawn, and when ye lay aside your raiment for the heat of noon, and after the prayer of night. Three times of privacy for you. It is no sin for them or for you at other times, when some of you go round attendant upon others (if they come into your presence without leave). Thus Allah maketh clear the revelations for you. Allah is Knower, Wise.
And when the children among you come to puberty then let them ask leave even as those before them used to ask it. Thus Allah maketh clear His revelations for you. Allah is knower, Wise.

Well that's cleared that up once and for all, hasn't it. Allah maketh clear, my arse.

I'm going to be presumptuous here and risk Allah's wrath (but hey, with this blog I'm going to have the the mother of all saunas anyway, so what the hell...) and suggest an improvement on how He could have made this issue clearer and saved countless children the awful bloody fate of being hitched to old abusers without recourse to any help whatsoever during their miserable lives.

Women, you (hi - sorry I've ignored you for so long) will not marry until and unless you are both physically and mentally mature and you want to. No-one shall force you against your will.
Men, you shall listen to the wishes of those you desire to marry and to your daughters' wishes. Under no circumstances shall there be compulsion in marriage or in sex. Let me make that quite clear.
I don't think even the ridiculous brain-washed old imam quoted in the Sunday Times could have misunderstood that, do you?

Actually, don't answer that.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Allah's mountains, paths and repetition and mountains and paths...did I mention the mountains?

And he has placed firm mountains on earth, lest it sway with you, and rivers and paths, so that you might find your way (16:15)

 And We have set up firm mountains on earth, lest it sway with them, and [that] We have appointed thereon broad paths, so that they might find their way. (21:31)
(Struck by the similarity? This repetition - so common in the Qur'an - is of course not a fault. Rather it is one of the literary devices that makes the Qur'an unique and inimitable. Note also the subtle differences between the two verses. This is not bad recollection on behalf of an author who has forgotten what he said the last time. It is "grammatical shift" or lltifat - the change of pronoun and concomitant possessive adjectives. So he becomes we, you becomes them and your becomes their. This is not confusing but enlightening. If you can't appreciate this it is because you are reading Allah's words in translation. Allah's style doesn't translate well into English.) 

Back to the roads. Who needs the Romans or even the Highways Commission, when you've got Allah on the job?

There I was, thinking that paths and roads were the product of very human endeavour - at their simplest the result of countless feet treading the same line between two points.
But it was Allah all along who thoughtfully provided them.

I suppose it was easy to assume that the routes taken by traders through the deserts were established by supernatural intervention if you were a 7th century illiterate desert dweller yourself. Such paths must have seemed eerily and presumably supernaturally, wondrous.
It's less easy to countenance the possibility of a cartographically literate divine path-builder from the perspective of the 21st century. 
So what is the Qur'an actually saying here? Laying claim to rivers and mountains is one thing, if you're a God - but surely paths, BY THEIR VERY NATURE, are man-made. Isn't it a bit much for Allah to claim responsibility for them as well? 

But of course the same can be said about so many of the more outrageous claims contained in the Qur'an. 

A simple, unsophisticated 7th century mind might well see mountains, for example, as immovable objects - fixed forever and serving to keep the earth stable (instead of bearing ironic testament to the seismic shifts and upheavals of the Earth's crust.) (Even more ironic is the totally disreputable claim that these verses don't refer to mountains stopping earth-quakes etc.- since not even the most ardent miracle seeker can maintain that lie in the face of modern geological knowledge -  but instead refer to the "fact" that mountains' roots prevent the mantle moving)

Mohammad's followers no doubt forgave him the endless repetition, the simplistic beliefs and the outrageous claims. They were, after all, simple folk themselves.

Why modern readers should do the same is beyond me.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Yusuf Estes and the lies about embryology

Here's our old friend again, spouting mendacious clap-trap to the good folk at Guide USTV. "Who knew -even a hundred years ago - what the egg inside the mother looks like at the moment it's fertilised? Nobody... because it's microscopic"  And your point is, Yusuf? Ah, here we go... "An' yet, in the Qur'an it's clearly described"  Is it, Yusuf? Is the "egg at the moment of fertilisation" really "clearly described" in the Qur'an?? (You know, sometimes ol' Yusuf just makes it too easy for us, doesn't he?) So...according to brother Estes, this is what is described in the Qur'an in miraculous detail 1400 years before anyone human could possibly know what it looked like.
 Or, if you prefer...this:
or this...
And what is the miraculous passage that "Sheik" Estes wants us to believe describes the microscopic scene above? Well, it all revolves, it seems, around the word "alaqa", which (as followers of the Islamic miracle seekers will know) has three distinct meanings which Estes enumerates: a leech, a blood clot or something that clings. "All three of these are an EXACT description of what a baby looks like AT THE MOMENT OF CONCEPTION", Estes tells his amazed audience.
Now forgive me if I'm being over-picky here, Yusuf...but "exactly like"??? I'm no micro-biologist, but even I can tell that the awe-inspiring pictures that scientific endeavour has allowed us to see have f*ck-all to do with a leech or a blood clot.
Once again, Yusuf Estes, you are lying to an audience of gullible people desperate to have their faith confirmed by whatever means possible.
Once again iERA you are supporting this shameful practice.
Shame on the lot of you.

Monday, September 3, 2012

How Afghanistan has benefited from being rid of the Taliban

In his recent article in the Guardian newspaper, James Stavridis listed the ways in which Afghan society has changed for the better in recent years.
1. There are now 8 million children in 15,000 schools across Afghanistan up from 1 million when the Taliban were in control.
2. Of those 8 million, 37% are girls
3. Of the 175,000 teachers, 30% are women
4. There are now over 18 million mobile phones owned by Afghans (up from basically zero under the Taliban)
5. The economy is growing by 5% annually and has done for the last 5 years.
6. At the recent Tokyo Conference over 80 nations made commitments to finance the Afghan National Security Force ( the ANSF) beyond 2014.

Contrast this with the picture painted of the country in the same newspaper four years ago. In an article by Clancy Chassay, the situation of Afghan women and young girls in 2008 was described in disturbing but telling detail:
Afghan women who defy traditional gender roles and speak out against the oppression of women are routinely subject to threats, intimidation and assassination. An increasingly powerful Taliban regularly attacks projects, schools and businesses run by women. [...] The Taliban's regional commands have varying attitudes toward women, but all those fighting under the Taliban banner are committed to enforcing their interpretation of sharia law, which forbids women from working or leaving the house without a male escort.[...] The Islamist group is just one of the many threats facing Afghanistan's few outspoken female MPs. "Our parliament is a collection of lords," said Barakzai. "Warlords, drug lords, crime lords." In parliament, she says, she is often greeted with screams of "kill her" when she stands up to speak, and she has had no shortage of personal threats from fellow MPs. They visit her privately to tell her she will be killed if she continues to speak out on such issues as the right of a woman to have a personal passport (separate from the standard "family passport") or against compulsory virginity tests for young women, and the right of a man to have custody of a child at two years old.
Thus when my Muslim convert friend tries to suggest, as does the increasingly bizarre Yvonne Ridley, that the Taliban are heroic freedom fighters with their people's best interests at heart, and the West is determined to rape and loot the Islamic Afghanistan without a thought for the inhabitants, I try...very put the other side of the argument.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Rimsha - Petition reaches 900,000!

Please sign the petition at:

"We ask you to ensure the safety and freedom of Rimsha, a mentally disabled girl jailed in Islamabad who has been accused of blasphemy, which can carry the death penalty. Please use your power to save this young girl and take immediate action to protect minorities in Pakistan."

This is a message from Misrek Masih, of Islamabad, Pakistan. 

Last week an enraged crowd threatened to burn my daughter alive and in the coming days, a judge will decide whether she goes free, or stays in jail. Rimsha is a minor with mental disabilities and often isn't in control of her actions. Yet local police here in Pakistan have charged her with desecrating the Koran, and we are afraid for her life.

Right now she is being held in a maximum-security jail, and in hours, she will face the court under Pakistan's anti-blasphemy laws, which carries the death sentence. We are a poor Christian family and witnessing mob fury over my daughter's case and many other families have faced similar intimidation forcing them to either flee or live in fear. But the international attention on Rimsha’s case has emboldened Pakistani Muslim leaders to speak out against this injustice and forced President Zardari's attention.

Please help me keep up the global outcry on my daughter's case. I urge you tosign my petition to President Zardari to save Rimsha and demand protection for us and other vulnerable minority families. Avaaz will share this campaign with the local and international media which are watched carefully by all the politicians here.