Sunday, December 8, 2013

Mandela, dawah and Hell

So Mandela is dead. The man who in the last few hours and days has been variously described as: "the nearest thing this world had to a saint";"one of the most influential, courageous and profoundly good human beings that any of us will share time with on this Earth" and "the nearest thing we have to proof of God", has gone to meet his maker - or, as some Muslims have to believe, is quite possibly now starting an eternity of having the skin burned off his back by a merciful god.
"What?!", I hear you splutter in indignation and incredulity. "Old Spinoza's really lost it this time!".  
But think again. For if you are a Muslim then, like my convert friend, you must believe that if Mandela "received the message of Islam in its correct form and rejected it, then things don’t look good for him." 
Even allowing for the hyperbole of politicians falling over themselves to jump on the hagiography bandwagon, there is no denying that Mandela was a man who changed the world for the better and, if countless anecdotes are to be believed, a humble, generous and selfless figure to boot. 
But that is not enough to escape eternal torture if you fail to believe in the God of Islam, apparently.
We can only hope for his sake that he wasn't visited by some Muslim keen to gain extra luxury or more houris in paradise by giving dawah to him and converting the "nearest thing this world has to a saint". Can you imagine (I'm sure some Muslims did..) the extras you'd accumulate if you had managed to convert a living saint. Remember, Muslims believe they benefit from the good works of those they convert by receiving rewards in paradise. 
"Convert a living saint and see your stock go through the roof, brothers and sisters!"
Which in turn has got me to thinking about the inherent evil of dawah. Bear with me...
My convert friend has spent many a patient hour explaining how I will only go to hell as a non-believer if I have "received the message of Islam in its correct form and then reject it". Which then surely begs the question why would selfless and good Muslims risk putting the immortal souls of those to whom they give dawah  in danger of eternal damnation by giving them the correct message of Islam?
Leave non-believers alone and there is a chance they can escape being tortured for an eternity by God, is there not? Tell them all about Islam and if they then reject it, having examined the "evidence", you've just condemned them for eternity. 
Isn't giving dawah then the ultimate selfish action? You're willing to risk condemning the man or woman to whom you're talking to Hell because you want the rewards that a putative convert's good actions will earn for you. Sheesh!
So let us all hope that poor old Nelson didn't get a knock on the door from some zealous dawahist. 
For as my convert friend says: It doesn't look good for him if he did... 
(Still, chin up everybody. Remember, Allah is the most merciful of all who are merciful...)

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Qur'an, maths and the hadith - a conundrum...

Many apparently devout Muslims have taken me to task in these pages for drawing attention to the seemingly bizarre and illogical stories in the world of the sunnah as related in the hadith* (the sayings and actions of the Prophet reported by reliable witnesses). They believe strongly that Islam has nothing to do with the hadith: "Yes, Islam IS limited to the Quran, where's your evidence that says otherwise?" one recently asked.
So be it. But if, in your keenness to distance yourselves from the shocking  (Muhammad torturing the camel thieves)  the obtuse (advice to dip a fly's wing into your drink to prevent it being contaminated by the whole fly) the insulting (women, dogs and donkeys negate prayers) the comic (monkeys stoning adulterous monkeys to death) or the simply incredible (giant hairless virgins with transparent legs waiting in Paradise), you dismiss the sunnah, then you must be prepared, surely, to defend the Qur'an as a text that can stand on its own without the need for the interpretation or explanation that the experts tell us is to be found therein.

For despite the protestations of many readers, the sunnah is officially part of the religion of Islam since, it is claimed, it explains and fleshes out the sometimes confusing and often esoteric Qur'anic passsages. This is how the necessity to read the Qur'an in conjunction with the reported sayings and actions of the Prophet is explained on one Islamic site:
Islamic law is based upon two references, the Qur'an (sayings of God) and the Sunnah (sayings and actions of the prophet). [..] All of this information is vital to the interpretation of a given Islamic law and none of it can be taken in a vacuum of the rest, based upon personal whims. At times the Qur'an contains a given law, at others the law is found in the Hadeeth, and in still other cases the broad outlines of a given law are presented in the Qur'an and the details are explained in the Hadeeth. For example, the Qur'an only commands Muslims to "pray." The details of how to pray are found in the Hadeeths of the prophet (pbuh) and described by the companions who saw him teach it and were themselves taught by him directly.
Now let us turn to one of the more problematical collection of passages of the Qur'an - one which those who choose to disbelieve the claim that it is the perfect word of God quote as proof of its fallible human source: the laws of inheritance. (Straight away let me say that I am happy to accept that the inheritance laws contained in the Qur'an represented an improvement on those existing at the time, and might very well be a sensible and fair system. This is irrelevant to my argument.)

There are numerous illustrations on the web of the mathematical inconsistencies contained within the laws of inheritance. I won't therefore labour the point but will simply quote one by Ali Sina. It is worth reading the whole article if you are in any doubt as to the mathematical problems presented by inheritance laws in the Qur'an...
According to the [...] verses, if a man dies leaving behind a wife, three daughters and his two parents,
His wife’s share of his inheritance is 1/8. (In what ye leave, their share is a fourth, if ye leave no child; but if ye leave a child, they get an eighth)  His daughters would receive 2/3 (if only daughters, two or more, their share is two-thirds of the inheritance;)  and his parents each will get 1/6 of his inheritance. (For parents, a sixth share of the inheritance to each, if the deceased left children;)When you add all these fractions the sum is more than the total of inheritance.
Wife1/8=  3/24
Daughters 2/3=16/24
Father 1/6=  4/24
Mother1/6=  4/24
Total =
Because the arithmetic is indisputable, Muslims apologists are forced to explain that the complete explanation of the inheritance laws are contained in the sunnah, since obviously the Qur'an can't be expected to cater for every eventuality.
Indeed, so many and varied are the occasions when the inheritance laws in the Qur'an leave an impossible mathematical conundrum that a whole discipline has evolved, known, inter alia, as the Laws of Awl, for when the soi-disant perfect Qur'anic laws fall short. This is how Answering Christianity explains it: "This particular example falls under the laws of "Awl" which regulate the cases when the inheritor's shares exceed or "overshoot" the sum of the total inheritance, and in which case the inheritance is recalculated according to the laws of Awl and redistributed."
So even Muslim apologists have to concede that the perfect Qur'an's laws allow for situations when the inheritance "overshoots" or "exceeds" the total.
However, the laws in the Qur'an don't just result in the occasional "overshoot". There are also cases where it is possible to arrive at a situation where the poor relatives are left with an embarrassing extra load of dosh if they follow the rules. But worry not - for (you've guessed it) there is a set of laws arrived at by studying the sunnah for such circumstances as well: "There are yet other cases when the number of inheritors and their shares do not sum to a whole 100%, in which case the laws of "Usbah" come into play in order to distribute the unclaimed shares which have no corresponding people to receive them." 

Remember, these complex rules have been created by Islamic scholars purely because the laws as found in the Qur'an (quite literally) don't add up. The very existence of these complex rules is a tacit acceptance that the Qur'an is incomplete without them. 

Long papers have been written by impressively qualified Islamic experts on the subject of Faraid (Islamic Inheritance Law). One, written by Professor Mohd Ridzuan Awang, has this to say on the subject of using the hadith to clarify the laws: "Other than evidence (nas) from al-Qur'an, there are also the Prophet's (peace and blessings be upon him) hadiths which explain and detail out the meaning from al-Qur'an with regards to the beneficiaries and their shares. Among them is the Prophet's (peace and blessings be upon him) saying meaning: One half is for the daughter and one sixth for the son's daughter ie both shares make two thirds of the total property; and the rest is for the female sibling (Hadith by al-Bukhari) and Give the shares to those who are entitled to them and what remains over goes to the nearest beneficiary (Hadith by Muslim)"
Note the professor's choice of words: the Qur'an needs to be "explained and detailed out" using the hadith. That's the hadith from the same collections (Bukhari and Muslim) which contain those wise words about donkeys, flies, torture, monkeys and hairless giants.

So if you pride yourself on being one of those modern rational Muslims who regard the hadith as being at best an irrelevant adjunct to your faith and at worst an embarrassing anachronism, then you might wish to consider this: your perfect holy text contains laws which even Muslim scholars concede need the further explanation found in the sayings and actions of Muhammad for them to make sense. (And even then the explanations seem to be contradictory at best... see Note)

To summarise: The laws pertaining to inheritance found in the Qur'an are incomplete without the further explanation found in the hadith. This is the view of Islamic experts, since they have found it necessary to invent additional laws to overcome the many inconsistencies.  However, the Laws of Awl and Usbah rely upon commentary found in the hadith. To accept the Laws of Awl and Usbah one must, by extension, therefore accept that Muhammad tortured, believed flies wings were an effective germicide, thought monkeys capable of stoning each other for adultery and that women, dogs and donkeys somehow negated prayers.

To quote the poor confused Muslim from the Sunni Forum below: It could be possible that I'm missing something important here. So if there is any Muslim out there who'd like to explain how you can dismiss the hadith whilst still claiming the Qur'an is perfectly understandable and clear, then I'd like to hear from you.

Note: there are many honest and humble Muslims who are genuinely concerned about this issue and find little solace in the official responses. A quick trawl of the Sunni Forums reveals the following:
Ok…Rules of ‘Awl’ and ‘Usbah’ can be used to clear the problem. But those rules are the fruits of human intelligence, isn't it? And in 4:176 it is clearly claimed that, “Thus doth Allah make clear to you (His law), lest ye err. And Allah hath knowledge of all things.”…. But Sura Nisa(4 no sura)?? Do you think it’s clear? To me it’s everything else but clear.
I tried to solve it using some of the Muslim scholars writing. But I think each of them just invented different solutions to prove that Quran is correct. Their solutions are not identical, and they contradict with each other. It seems that there is no UNIQUE solution based on only Quranic Ayats. [...] It could be possible that I am missing something important here. If someone has been able to find the actual solution (which is authentic enough according to the Quran), then it would be a great help if he shares it with me. Remember that we can solve it in many ways if we ignore some part of the Quranic verse mentioned above. But I am looking for a solution that will prove Quran is logically 100% correct and we don’t need any human intervention/tricks/patch to make it work.
Seeking for an informative reply from you guys....I hope someone has the answer! 

* all hadith stories referred to are contained in the Sahih hadith of Bukhari and Muslim - those collections regarded as the epitome of reliability. If you discount these two, you cannot logically believe any of the hadith (and must ask yourself, for example, why you are praying five times a day and prostrating yourself)

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Muslim women - know your limits!

iERA has recently launched a new initiative: secrets of a Muslim Woman.

All very modern, professional and reassuring. Well done iERA. Except that it's not really how women are regarded in Islam by those whose job it is to interpret the Qur'an, is it...?

So let's be honest, iERA. Let's read what Islamic experts really think of women. Here's a question sent into - an entirely reputable and mainstream Islamic site visited by hundreds of thousands of Muslims everyday - about a verse (2:282) in the Qur'an which states that women's testimony is worth only half that of men:
Why is the witness of two women considered to be equal to the testimony of one man?
Sheikh Muhammed Salih Al-Munajjid obviously knows his onions and answers thus:
Allaah has commanded the testimony of two women so as to be sure that they remember, because the mind and memory of two women takes the place of the mind and memory of one man. (See I’laam al-Muwaqqa’een, part 1, p. 75).
This does not mean that a woman does not understand or that she cannot remember things, but she is weaker than man in these aspects – usually. Scientific and specialized studies have shown that men’s minds are more perfect than those of women, and reality and experience bear witness to that. The books of knowledge are the best witness to that; the knowledge which has been transmitted by men and the ahaadeeth which have been memorized by men far outnumber those which have come via women. 
Here might be an appropriate moment for a short interlude in the form of an educational film:

 Now let us return to the Sheik's words of wisdom:
This has to do with gender, i.e., the gender of men is more perfect than the gender of women.[...]
Nevertheless, there are some women who are far superior to men in their reason and insight, but they are few, and the ruling is based on the majority and the usual cases.
A woman may compensate for her weaknesses by striving hard, and surpass men when they are negligent. Hence we find that in some colleges, female students surpass male students because of their greater efforts and their keenness to succeed when many of the male students are negligent and are not eager to learn.[...]
So let everyone work in his or her field of specialization. Men should not interfere in pregnancy and breastfeeding, and women should not be involved in jihad, fighting the enemy, or holding the positions of khaleefah or ruler. 
I'll just remind you that this is 2013 (in case you thought you'd dreamed the last 60 years) and that western women are flocking to join a religion whose experts are happy to acknowledge believes that men's minds as more perfect than women's.

So go ahead. Join up, dear. But please don't come running to me with your head in a spin when some chap explains what you've actually signed up to.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Islam, science and Evolution

One of the many reasons why I find my friend's conversion to Islam so disturbing (apart from his refusal to condemn FGM, or to accept that homosexuality is a perfectly natural part of life or that the Qur'an doesn't, in fact, contain a host of scientific name but a few) is his belief that Man was created in his present form by God and human evolution is wicked falsehood spread by ignorant scientists. That such beliefs are commonly held by uneducated Muslims is depressing enough, but that an educated, highly intelligent man, who considered studying medicine for a while, and who was fascinated by science before his conversion, should now hold such beliefs makes me despair. For he is not alone.
A 2007 study  found that only 8% of Egyptians, 11% of Malaysians, 14% of Pakistanis, 16% of Indonesians, and 22% of Turks agree that Darwin's theory is probably or most certainly true. 

Now, from the outset I should make it clear that this is not, of course, a problem unique to Islam. Fundamentalist Christians are infamous in their belief in Creationism or its bastard offspring, Intelligent Design. According to the most recent Gallup poll, 46% of Americans believe that God created humans in their present form. 
But what is clear is that it is adherence to a religion that so poisons people's minds that they choose to ignore the overwhelming evidence for human evolution. For as Jerry A. Coyne wrote in the introduction to his famous treatise, Why Evolution is True
You can find religions without creationism, but you never find creationism without religion
For to deny that evolution is a true account of how Man arrived at his present form is to believe that just about every scientist in the world today is either stupid, or that they are involved in a coordinated conspiracy to both invent the indisputable evidence FOR evolution and to systematically cover up the evidence AGAINST it.

And whilst it is overwhelmingly the case that it is the under-educated who dismiss Darwin's theory in the West (twice as high a percentage of Americans with a high school education or less believe in creationism as do post-grads) and the better educated can and do carry on with their lives regardless, in Muslim majority countries it is the academics who have to tread carefully when discussing the origins of man lest they invoke the ire of the religious authorities.
Such an atmosphere is hardly conducive to free inquiry, intellectual rigour or scientific progress. But it is not just in those countries which are nominally Muslim where belief in evolution is becoming dangerous.
Usama Hasan, Imam at the Masjid-al-Tawhid mosque in Leyton and senior lecturer in business-formation systems at Middlesex University and a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society had to resign from his mosque recently following death threats because he dared to teach about evolution (and women's rights). I'll say that again: he received death threats because he taught Britain.

Anyone who maintains that Islam is a force for progress in the world might want to spend some time reflecting on the above and consider the following.
Taner Edis, the author of “An Illusion of Harmony: Science and Religion in Islam,” grew up in a Muslim household but is under no illusions about Islam's contribution to modern science:
Right now, if all Muslim scientists working in basic science vanished from the face of the earth, the rest of the scientific community would barely notice. There’s very little contribution coming from Muslim lands.
Objective data backs up Edis' view. In a study by the World Bank and Unesco of 20 member states of the Organization of the Islamic Conference it was found that these countries spent 0.34 percent of their gross domestic product on scientific research from 1996 to 2003, which was just one-seventh of the global average. Perhaps these countries are fearful that if they spent any more they might discover something that contradicted the "science" in the Qur'an. It certainly stops them producing much science. In 2005 another OIC study found that these countries produced 14, 500 scientific papers - that's 2,000 fewer than Harvard University managed on its own.
Of course Muslim countries have very specific problems to contend with - not all a product of Islam - but it is Islam that produces the biggest hurdle: the wedding of religion and state. Scientists who offend clerics have no state support to fall back on because in all likelihood, the state answers to the clerics as well. Science in Muslim countries must be seen to confirm the statements in the Qur'an or it is not welcome. This has led to a skewing of scientific research and the dismally tragic failure of Islamic states to contribute to Man's progress in the last hundred years.

Thus when people ask why I don't leave Muslims alone to believe what they want - my answer is that I'd be more then happy to, if they extended the same courtesy to those who don't share their beliefs. It's bad enough that poor Muslims are taught to deny scientific fact. That such outrageous ignorance is now being spread in this country and elsewhere in Europe is beyond the pale.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Muhammad - Test the Messenger

There is none to be worshipped but God and he (Muhammad) was the Messenger of God

To test whether this claim is true we must rationally investigate the historical narratives and testimonies concerning the life of the Prophet (peace be upon him).
Once we do this, we will be in a position to come to a balanced conclusion in this regard.
The above quote is taken from the dawah (evangelical Muslim) site, iERA. As is usually the case on this site, the author is keen to convince his readers of the rational, evidence-based approach to judging the veracity of the claim that Muhammad was the final messenger of God.
He tells us how we must investigate the historical narratives and testimonies concerning the life of the Prophet.
As someone interested in such matters because of the conversion of a friend, I have done exactly that.
I set out with a simple set of criteria in mind: 
i. the narratives and testimonies should be as authentic as possible (accepted by Muslims as 100% genuine) ii. and such testimonies should not for one moment cast Muhammad in a light other than the generous, kind, spiritual and inspiring figure one would expect God to choose as his final messenger and example to mankind. 
If I found any evidence that Muhammad fell below these standards then I could reasonably reject Islam as false using the empirical, rational approach so apparently beloved of the new-wave dawah movement, as personified by the expert researchers at iERA.
What if, for example, I found stories in the hadith of Bukhari (the epitome of reliable historical narrative for Muslims) relating how Muhammad, the soi-disant final messenger of God, used torture? That would certainly make me think twice about believing God would have chosen such a person to act as the role model for humans for the rest of time. 
And that is exactly what we do find: God so loves mankind that he sends to us as his example of how we should behave towards one another someone who used torture as a punishment. 
volume 8, Book 82, Number 796:Narrated Anas:A group of people from 'Ukl (tribe) came to the Prophet and they were living with the people of As-Suffa, but they became ill as the climate of Medina did not suit them, so they said, "O Allah's Apostle! Provide us with milk." The Prophet said, I see no other way for you than to use the camels of Allah's Apostle." So they went and drank the milk and urine of the camels, (as medicine) and became healthy and fat. Then they killed the shepherd and took the camels away. When a help-seeker came to Allah's Apostle, he sent some men in their pursuit, and they were captured and brought before mid day.The Prophet ordered for some iron pieces to be made red hot, and their eyes were branded with them and their hands and feet were cut off and were not cauterized. Then they were put at a place called Al-Harra, and when they asked for water to drink they were not given till they died. (Abu Qilaba said, "Those people committed theft and murder and fought against Allah and His Apostle.")
If God believes that someone who burns out people's eyes with red hot irons, cuts off their hands and feet leaving the wounds to bleed and then refuses them water in their dying moments for good measure, is a good example to us, then He is no God I wish to believe in, let alone worship.

So how is it that those at iERA who spend their lives convincing others to worship this God fail to reach the same conclusion that I have done? Is it that they are unaware of this story? Or do they, like my convert friend, indulge in the sort of cognitive dissonance required of those who seem to be able to hold two conflicting beliefs in their heads at the same time. When asked how he could believe that Muhammad was the best human ever while knowing he tortured the camel thieves so horribly, my friend replied that Muhammad's punishment was presumably so that others would never again commit such actions. Thus a good, kind, intelligent man was forced by his religion to defend torture.

Perhaps there is a Muslim out there who can explain to me how we are to believe on the one hand in Muhammad's near divinely perfect character whilst at the same time rationally accepting the truth of the historical testament to his burning out the eyes of thieves.

For as I am repeatedly being asked by doubtless good and moral Muslims in this blog to look for the presence of God, so I ask them how is it that they in turn can ignore the evidence for His absence that is staring them in the face?

Can you honestly tell me you have come to a balanced conclusion if you ignore the testimony of Muslims of Muhammad's depraved violence towards his fellow men?

Monday, August 26, 2013

An open letter to Hamza Tzortzis and iERA

Dear Hamza,
I read with interest your recent paper ..A new which you admit to an apparent change of heart regarding the veracity of scientific miracles in the Qur'an, explaining how the "claims of miraculousness via verses eluding to natural phenomena does not stand in light of intellectual scrutiny".
I am glad that someone in a position of some influence within the Islamic dawah community has made such a bold and, on the face of it, unequivocal statement. Nonetheless, your admission raises some important issues which your paper fails to address.
Firstly, although you make reference to the "significant number of apostates from Islam who cite the counter movement’s work as a causal factor in deciding to leave the religion", you signally fail to mention the concomitant large number of (usually) westerners whose vulnerability has been exploited  by dawahists to convert them in the first place using the scientific miracle narrative. 
If my Muslim friend is typical, and I have no reason to doubt it, there will be many thousands of individuals whose main reason for becoming Muslim was the apparent proof of the divine nature of the Qur'an to be found in the so-called preternatural knowledge of scientific facts contained within it.
The iERA, whose research team you head, has used this claim as the main thrust in its proselytising since its inception. The Man in the Red Underpants, published and distributed by the iERA in August 2011, is a case in point. In it we read the following:
Actually what is remarkable about the Quran is not only that it does not contain any contradictions , but in fact it seems to be making statements about history, theology, philosophy, law and the natural world that defies a normal human explanation..
The pamphlet goes on to talk about, inter alia, the Big Bang Theory, embryonic development and plate tectonics and concludes,
It is easy to understand how the Creator would know about the common origin of the universe, the details of embryonic development and that mountains have roots but it is not easy to explain how Muhammad managed to include the information in the Qur'an unless we accept his claim to be a Messenger. It would seem that accepting this would be the most sensible thing for a rational, sincere person to do.
This publication is still available and there is  a FaceBook page  run by iERA entitled The Man in the Red Underpants which hosts debates about science in the Qur'an.
If you are genuine in regretting your involvement in helping to publicise such misleading ideas, then can we expect you to do everything in your power to prevent further damage being done by the iERA's involvement in this shameful episode? Can we look forward, for example, to your removing any references to scientific miracles in iERA's literature?
Further, and more pertinently given the above, can we also expect an apology for the huge damage done by this campaign. For as your confederate at iERA, Mr Green, says on page 25 of his pamphlet: "Certainly none of us wants to be conned or taken for a ride by a fraudster".
An apology is surely the very least those who have converted on the strength of your misinformation deserve.

Secondly, the scientific miracle claims are, of course, but one part of a sustained attempt to convince the unwary and naive of the miraculous nature of the Qur'an. Equally reprehensible in the eyes of many is the dawahist obsession with proving the existence of historic miracles. It is noteworthy that your paper fails to address this, other than to suggest that when talking about the Qur'an Muslims should speak about "the fact that there are historical statements that are mentioned in the Qur’ān which were not known at the time"
This is despite your quoting Maurice Bucaille as a source for the science claims.
Bucaille, of course, is responsible for one of the most infamous and despicable claims for miraculous historic knowledge in the Qur'an: that of the preservation of Pharaoh's body. Your suggestion that Muslims should talk about "historical statements"  indicates that you possibly intend for iERA to pursue this line of argument in future dawah initiatives. If so, your statement regarding the science miracles in the Qur'an begins to ring a little hollow. For there is absolutely no evidence for this particular miracle whatsoever. Nor is there any proper evidence for the other claims for miraculous historical knowledge.

In your paper you say that you believe that the apostasy of those westerners who have become disenchanted with the miracle claims  is "not entirely an intellectual decision but rather a spiritual and psychological problem." It may well be that their leaving your religion has caused them deep spiritual or psychological problems, but you fail to address the most worrying aspect of this whole affair. For you seem to be assuming that because the trauma caused by your meddling is spiritual and psychological, the answer to their problem lies in a similar approach to Islam/dawah. No, the answer lies in not making fraudulent claims to convert people. What a pity you and your fellow meddlers at iERA didn't think of that in the first place. 
But perhaps we can surmise the reason why such an approach wasn't adopted. Might it be that you knew, as the author of the Man in the Red Underpants suggests, that the thought of following "a religion which demands that those who steal should have their hands cut off" and that allows men "to beat their wives on certain occasions", "to have up to four wives and unlimited concubines" and tells us to "fight and kill the unbelievers wherever you find them" might be anathema to liberal westerners. 
The author bravely challenges his readers to ask if, just because such things lie uneasily with modern ethics, it means they can't be from God: "Perhaps the Creator doesn't like modernity or any other man-made ideology."
But he obviously knows what the likely response would be - just like you and all other Muslim evangelists do - and that is why you and they have had recourse to Rational Islam: Look!  Don't rely on anything as old fashioned as faith - Let us show you how to use your education and reasoning to come to Allah! We can PROVE God wrote the Qur'an.

Except of course, as we and you now know, you can't. Because faith requires

So how about removing ALL miracle claims from the iERA's dawah material? How about discussing Islam honestly with putative converts and addressing the issues which bother them? Forget miracles, Hamza. I know it's difficult to break the habit. Resist the lure of the literary miracle. The Qur'an may be good... in parts, but it really isn't that amazing. Give up on embryology. Leave the historic statements where they are. We don't want a new approach (Which to judge from your paper is just a euphemism for saying you can't prove the science miracles but you'll still discuss the "amazing" knowledge within the Qur'an)
We simply want you to stop desperately trying to turn the Qur'an into something it isn't. It's not a supernatural almanac. It's not a miraculous science book. It's simply a religious text. You believe it's from God. I don't. Let's leave it at that. And if you have to resort to magic, you're actually doing an ancient religion a disservice.

Oh, and one final thing: will those who used these dishonest and fraudulent claims to convert the naive and unwary still gain the benefit of their converts' (and their converts' children's) good works in paradise according to your bizarre rules? For it is surely the thought of all the dubious rewards that awaits your fellow dawahists in Paradise and your publicising of them on the iERA website that is in part responsible for their over-zealous and damaging evangelising. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Allah's obfuscation and Hamza's conversion

How long do you think it reasonable to allow the adherents of a religion to decipher the enigmatic, rich, multi-faceted and complex language of their God's final message to mankind before we can justifiably ask them what it means? 10 years? 50 years? 100 years even? What if some of those followers are so single-minded in their desire to understand their holy text that they devote their whole lives to the quest? How many lifetimes of study is it reasonable to allow before we should expect clarity on certain basic issues?
Some might argue that if a holy text claims to be a perfect message then it should at least fulfill the basic requirements of communication and be understandable by those to whom it is addressed without the need for expert interpretation . But this is not the case with the Qur'an.
After nearly one and a half thousand years of intense- some might say obsessive - study, there remain passages that are so opaque, references so esoteric, or names so exotic that they have defeated the best efforts of literally billions of man-hours of study.
Who, for example, is Zul-Qarnain, the powerful and enigmatic Muslim mentioned in the Qur'an who travelled to the ends of the Earth ? Ask some Muslims, but don't expect a clear, logical or consistent answer.
In my last post I examined verses 83-99 of surah 18 and suggested that if Zul-Qarnain was actually Alexander the Great then this proved that the Qur'an was written by a fallible human. (Since Alexander was a homosexual, pagan idolater whereas the Qur'an tells us Zul-Qarnain was a great Muslim.) I referred to the numerous tafsirs and Islamic experts who had all agreed that Zul-Qarnain was Alexander. However, when I debated this with my convert friend he, like so many modern Islamic apologists, told me that
 some commentators speculated that Dhul Qarnayn was Alexander the Great, many did not, and the Quran does not state that he was. 
How can this be? How can there be disagreement on such a fundamental issue as the identity of such a powerful Muslim?  If the Qur'an is supposed to be unimprovable and perfect, how is it that it is so impenetrable that even the so-called experts cannot agree on who this person is and thus what he is doing and why, and what the message is we are supposed to glean from it? 
Perhaps you're thinking that our inability to fathom God's wisdom is our fault. I would counter that God, being omniscient, knows our intellectual limitations and would surely make his final message to us decipherable - if not immediately, then surely after 1,400 years of intense scrutiny! That's not asking too much, is it?

How about trying to fathom the meaning of verses 5-7 of surah 86 which state that semen comes from between the backbone and the ribs. Or perhaps it doesn't. Because there are seven distinct classes of explanation. Mainly because the most obvious one leaves the Qur'an open to accusations of plagiarising Greek ideas from a thousand years before. The verdict is still out on the exact meaning of that one. Still, we've only had a millennium and a half to work on it, so let's not be too impatient.

Or how about the verses where God tells us that mountains stop Earth quakes? No, He doesn't. He tells us that mountains help stabilise the Earth's crust using isostasy. Or does He? Who knows. Certainly the experts can't seem to agree.

Or how about the extent of the Flood. It covered the world say the tafsirs. No, it was local, say the modern apologists.  Then how come the Ark came to rest 7,000 feet above sea level? Wouldn't that suggest a global catastrophe?

Now before I am bombarded by comments telling me that the multifarious interpretations of the text simply bear witness to the complex beauty and timeless appeal of the Qur'an, I should reiterate that I am not referring here to spiritual or moral teachings contained in the Qur'an. I am as capable as the next man of appreciating that great literature has depth of meaning. No, what I am talking about is quite simply the apparent inability of generations of desperate readers to agree on the basics. 

And now, we have one of the stalwarts of the iERA miracle seeker community, Hamza Tzortzis no less, releasing a paper in which he admits to an almost damascene conversion and reveals to his readers that his reading of the Qur'an regarding its scientific miracles has been er....wrong. 
I'm sorry, but I would need clarity on these issues if I were to devote my existence to believing in a Creator who demands total submission to His frankly bizarre notions of how the world works which seem to fly in the face of science, common sense and basic humanity. And all we seem to have after more than a thousand years of trying to understand God's meaning is confusion and disagreement.

Perhaps Hamza's paper is the first crack that will allow the light of reason and common sense to shine on a dark and shameful episode in the long history of religious mendacity. Perhaps.

Finally, here's a question for Hamza, his acolytes at iERA and all those others who can't seem to give me a straight answer: How is it possible to believe in a God whose final, perfect message to His creation is not fit for purpose because we still don't know what He actually means?

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Don't bring your woolly liberal thinking in here...

Thanks to Jesus and Mo - genius.
[In case you can't read the headline in Jesus' paper: Pope Says Gays Okay (women still dodgy)]

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

How Alexander the Great proves Muhammad wrote the Qur'an

For a long time I thought that Muslims everywhere accepted that the figure of Zul-Qarnain, who appears in Surah 18 of the Qur'an, was Alexander the Great. Certainly the tafsirs and experts agreed; Ibn Hisham was probably the first (c800) but the tafsirs from the 10th century onward all come to the same conclusion. Yusuf Ali, the famous Islamic scholar and translator of the Qur'an studied the episode in depth and wrote this in the appendix to his translation:
"I have not the least doubt that Zul-qarnain is meant to be Alexander the Greatthe historic Alexander, and not the legendary Alexanderof whom more presently. My first appointment after graduation was that of lecturer in Greek history. I have studied the details of Alexander's extraordinary personality in Greek historians as well as in modern writers, and have since visited most of the localities connected with his brief but brilliant career."

However, there is body of opinion in the Islamic community which is keen to deny the link. Why should this be?
Firstly, let us examine the salient verses Surah 18.
VerseAbdullah Yusuf AliPickthall
18:83They ask thee concerning Zul-qarnain Say, "I will rehearse to you something of his story."They will ask thee of Dhu'l-Qarneyn. Say: "I shall recite unto you a remembrance of him."
18:84Verily We established his power on earth, and We gave him the ways and the means to all ends.Lo! We made him strong in the land and gave him unto every thing a road.
18:85One (such) way he followed,And he followed a road
18:86Until, when he reached the setting of the sun, he found it set in a spring of murky water: near it he found a people: We said: "O Zul-qarnain! (thou hast authority), either to punish them, or to treat them with kindness."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 Dhu'l-Qarneyn! Either punish or show them kindness."
18:87He said: "Whoever doth wrong, him shall we punish; then shall he be sent back to his Lord; and He will punish him with a punishment unheard-of (before).He said: "As for him who doeth wrong, we shall punish him, and then he will be brought back unto his Lord, Who will punish him with awful punishment!"
18:88"But whoever believes, and works righteousness, he shall have a goodly reward, and easy will be his task as we order it by our command.""But as for him who believeth and doeth right, good will be his reward, and We shall speak unto him a mild command."
18:89Then followed he (another) way.Then he followed a road
18:90Until, when he came to the rising of the sun, he found it rising on a people for whom We had provided no covering protection against the sun.Till, when he reached the rising-place of the sun, he found it rising on a people for whom We had appointed no shelter therefrom.
18:91(He left them) as they were: We completely understood what was before him.So (it was). And We knew all concerning him.
18:92Then followed he (another) way.Then he followed a road
18:93Until, when he reached (a tract) between two mountains, he found, beneath them, a people who scarcely understood a word.Till, when he came between the two mountains, he found upon their hither side a folk that scarce could understand a saying.
18:94They said: "O Zul-qarnain! the Gog and Magog (people) do great mischief on earth: shall we then render thee tribute in order that thou mightest erect a barrier [wall] between us and them?"They said: "O Dhu'l-Qarneyn! Lo! Gog and Magog are spoiling the land. So may we pay thee tribute on condition that thou set a barrier [wall] between us and them?"
18:95He said: "(The power) in which my Lord has established me is better (than tribute): help me therefore with strength (and labour): I will erect a strong barrier [wall] between you and them:He said: "That wherein my Lord hath established me is better (than your tribute). Do but help me with strength (of men), I will set between you and them a bank [wall]."
18:96"Bring me blocks of iron." At length, when he had filled up the space between the two steep mountain sides, he said, "Blow (with your bellows)" then, when he had made it (red) as fire, he said: "Bring me, that I may pour over it, molten lead.""Give me pieces of iron" - till, when he had leveled up (the gap) between the cliffs, he said: "Blow!" - till, when he had made it a fire, he said: "Bring me molten copper to pour thereon."
18:97Thus were they made powerless to scale it or to dig through it.And (Gog and Magog) were not able to surmount, nor could they pierce (it).
18:98He said: "This is a mercy from my Lord: but when the promise of my Lord comes to pass, He will make it into dust; and the promise of my Lord is true."He said: "This is a mercy from my Lord; but when the promise of my Lord cometh to pass, He will lay it low, for the promise of my Lord is true."
18:99On that day We shall leave them [Gog and Magog] to surge like waves on one another: the trumpet will be blown, and We shall collect them all together.And on that day we shall let some of them [Gog and Magog] surge against others, and the Trumpet will be blown. Then We shall gather them together in one gathering.
The Qur'anic version of the story then can be summarised as follows:
i.Muhammad is asked about someone called Zul-Qarnain
ii.God tells us he spoke to Z-Q, favouring him and enabling him to achieve his ends.
iii. God tells us Z-Q went west and reached the setting sun where he found a people.
iv. He then goes east and and discovers another people at the place where the sun rises. 
v. He sets off again until he discovers another people living in fear of two triibes called Gog and Magog beyond two mountains. 
vi. He erects a great wall made of iron and molten lead to protect them but says one day God will break it down.

Why should we then believe that Zul-Qarain is Alexander the Great, apart from the Islamic sources themselves which were unequivocal in their support of the belief?
Well, let me lay out just some of the plentiful evidence.
a. Zul-Qarain translates as Possesses Two Horns or The Two Horned One. Alexander was depicted with the horns of Ammon as a result of his conquest of ancient Egypt in 332 BC and was consequently known throughout the conquered world as The Two Horned OneArchaeologists have found a large number of different types of ancients coins depicting Alexander the Great with two horns. Indeed,  in the late 2nd century BC, silver coins depicting Alexander with ram horns were even used as a principal coinage in Arabia.
b. Ancient stories recount how Alexander built a great wall to keep out a people known as Gog and Magog:  "The building of gates in the Caucasus Mountains by Alexander to repel the barbarian peoples identified with Gog and Magog has ancient provenance and the wall is known as the Gates of Alexander or the Caspian Gates. The name Caspian Gates originally applied to the narrow region at the southeast corner of the Caspian Sea, through which Alexander actually marched in the pursuit of Bessus in 329 BC, although he did not stop to fortify it. It was transferred to the passes through the Caucasus, on the other side of the Caspian, by the more fanciful historians of Alexander." link . Gog and Magog have been associated with the Alexander legend since ancient times. In the Syriac Christian legends for example, Alexander the Great encloses the Gog and Magog horde behind a mighty gate between two mountains, preventing Gog and Magog from invading the Earth. In addition, it is written in the Christian legend that in the end times God will cause the Gate of Gog and Magog to be destroyed, allowing the Gog and Magog horde to ravage the Earth.
c. The story of Alexander travelling to the setting of the sun was well known and is even referred to by Ibn Kathir:  As for the idea of his reaching the place in the sky where the sun sets, this is something impossible, and the tales told by storytellers that he traveled so far to the west that the sun set behind him are not true at all. Most of these stories come from the myths of the People of the Book [Jews and Christians] and the fabrications and lies of their heretics. This suggests that  Ibn Kathir was aware of the Christian legends and thought they were referring to the same figure as the Zul-Qarnain mentioned in the Qur'an.

Given the remarkable similarities between the stories of Alexander and the episodes recounted in the Qur'an of Zul-Qarnain, the fact that Islamic theologians of ancient times identified them as one and the same man, and that Christian and Jewish stories also recount Alexander's exploits and refer to him as a holy man or even a saint, it seems utterly bizarre that Muslims should now try to deny the link.

So why should certain Muslims be so keen to do so?

Let's look at a typical site, In an article entitled Why Zul Qarnain is not Alexander the author, a certain Khalid Jan, presents his "evidence". It can be summarised as follows: the Qur'an tells us that Zul-Qarain was a man beloved of God to whom God had extended special privileges and powers. Historical evidence, however, points indisputably to Alexander being a warlike, violent, pagan who worshiped pagan gods and who wanted to rule the world to gain riches.  (For completeness' sake we should note that Khalid fails to mention another reason why Muslims might be embarrassed to find God supposedly giving Alexander great powers: that of his well documented bi-sexuality and  long lasting love affair with Hephaestion )
Khalid concludes that it must therefore be impossible that the figure described in the Qur'an is Alexander.
Because the Qur'an can't be wrong.
That's it.

Generously, Khalid doesn't blame those who erroneously conflated the two figures because "academic and scientific knowledge was either limited or non-existent". (Unlike nowadays, eh Khalid?) He concludes:
The only common factor on which these scholars based their opinions is the expeditions carried by Alexander and Zul_Qarnain. Other than this, there are hardly any other characteristics that are common in both. The article thus dismisses the overwhelming evidence pointing to the figures being one and the same in a single line.

Hence we are left with a conundrum. Despite and others' attempts to convince us otherwise, it is as clear to modern readers as it was to the Islamic scholars that Zul-Qarain is Alexander the Great. It is also clear that Alexander was a pagan war-lord. Muslims cannot deny this since many of them, ironically, use the fact to "prove" that Zul-Qarain cannot be Alexander. 

How then can the Qur'an describe him as a God-fearing, Allah-worshipping, saintly individual to whom God actually spoke (usually a fool proof sign of a prophet, by the way)? 

Unless, that is, when Muhammad was asked by the Quraysh at the behest of some local rabbis what he knew about Zul-Qarnain, the "saintly" figure who conquered the ancient world, to test his prophet-hood, he simply recounted the relevant myths and legends that were common at the time (after taking fifteen days to do some research, of course.) How was he to know that many centuries later Alexander would be revealed as  a pagan who thought he was a god born of a god who was devoted to his male lover just to embarrass Muslim apologists and prove the Qur'an was written by a fallible human?
They (the rabbis) said, 'Ask him about three things which we will tell you to ask and if he answers them then he is a Prophet who has been sent (by Allah); if he does not, then he is saying things that are not true, in which case how you will deal with him will be up to you. Ask him about some young men in ancient times, what was their story? For theirs is a strange and wondrous tale. Ask him about a man who travelled a great deal and reached the east and the west of the earth. What was his story? And ask him about the Ruh (soul or spirit) —what is it? If he tells you about these things, then he is a Prophet, so follow him, but if he does not tell you, then he is a man who is making things up, so deal with him as you see fit.'(Tafsir Ibn Kathir)
The famous story in the Sira relates that when Muhammad was informed of the three questions from the Rabbis, he declared that he would have the answers in the morning. However, Muhammad did not give the answer in the morning. For fifteen days, Muhammad did not answer the question. Doubt in Muhammad began to grow amongst the people of Mecca. Then, after fifteen days, Muhammad received the revelation that is Sura Al-Kahf ("The Cave") link

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Lies, manipulation and brainwashing - another day of dawah on the net

I recently posted a typical article from an Islamic site purporting to be nothing more than an attempt to reassure a Muslim who was having doubts about his faith. I accused the author of being less than honest with his readers and suggested this sort of insidious, mendacious propaganda was increasingly widespread on the net. Millions of people are being lied to on a daily basis in a blatant attempt to mislead and confuse.

Let me reiterate, ever since a close friend converted - apparently mainly because he had been convinced  (no doubt by some overtly devout b*gger who saw it as a chance of picking up extra points for more rewards in Paradise) that there were scientific miracles in the Qur'an - my gripe  has always been with those individuals who seek to lie to and manipulate others to either convert or keep them from questioning their faith.(If, however, you want to believe in any one of the pantheon of sky fairies we've invented for ourselves for purely spiritual reasons, and you leave the rest of us alone, then that's your affair and I have no right try to change your mind.)

Anyway, the article in question starts by dealing with the questioner's doubts regarding the incompatibility of a literal reading of the Qur'an with the Theory of Evolution.
You see they are supporters of Theory Of Evolution which is a baseless theory and Science itself doesn't approve (sic) it. They have not provided any evidences in support of Theory of Evolution, but they only say that "Holy Qur'an is incompatible with thesis of human evolution", Lolx this is no proof to say that Holy Qur'an has an error rather this theory is itself incompatible with science. There will be no Christianity, Judaism or Islam if you believe in Theory of Evolution. I think Atheists are the owners of this website.

Lie 1 - "Evolution is a baseless theory" . Nearly every scientific society, representing hundreds of thousands of scientists, have issued statements rejecting intelligent design and a petition supporting the teaching of evolutionary biology was endorsed by 72 US Nobel Prize winners. See here for further discussion.
Lie 2 - "This theory is incompatible with science". See above ditto  
Lie 3 - "There will be no Christianity or Judaism if you believe in the Theory of Evolution" The Catholic Church and Conservative and Reform Jews accept Evolution guided by God. Christianity and Judaism have survived the advent of the theory of evolution because their mainstream adherents don't require a literal reading of their texts.

It then proceeds to reassure the reader regarding the fundamental Qur'anic tenet that God creates humans from clay.
 I must tell you it (sic) not only Islam but Christianity and Judaism also tells (sic) us that Human Being are created from Clay or Dust mixed with water and you will find many explanation in support of this from Christians as well and today Science proves this
Lie 4 "Christianity and Judaisism also tell us that Human Beings are created from clay". Well, their holy books certainly say this, but I'm afraid most Christian and Jewish theologians are grown-ups and long ago stopped attempting to interpret their texts literally.
Lie 5 "Science proves" man is made from clay. See here for an explanation why this is, for want of a better word, bollocks.

From here the author attempts to deal with the apparently troublesome verse in the Qur'an which describes the sun setting in a muddy pool.
Point to be noted here is that Holy Qur'an clearly states from the perspective of Zul-qarnain, that what Zul-qarnain saw from him (sic) eyes. Likewise when we go to a beach and during the sun-set when we see the Sun it looks like that the Sun is setting into the Sea but we all know that Sun doesn't set in Sea but our eyes see that Sun is setting into the Sea.
Lie 6 - What the author fails to tell his reader here is that Zul-qarnain doesn't just see the sun setting in a muddy pool, but he actually finds a people living by the pool and is (bizarrely) requested by God to either punish them or treat them with kindness
They ask thee concerning Zul-qarnain. Say, "I will rehearse to you something of his story. Verily We established his power on earth, and We gave him the ways and the means to all ends. One (such) way he followed. Until, when he reached the setting of the sunhe found it set in a spring of murky water: Near it he found a People: We said: "O Zul-qarnain! (thou hast authority,) either to punish them, or to treat them with kindness." 18:83-86.
It is thus less than honest to claim the Qur'anic verse is simply a turn of phrase, and draw an analogy with our experience of seeing the sun setting "in the sea". It becomes even clearer that we are expected to understand this literally when we read on, rather than taking the verses out of context:
Then followed he (another) way. Until, when he came to the rising of the sun, he found it rising on a people for whom We had provided no covering protection against the sun. 
How can we be sure the author of the Qur'an was not speaking figuratively? Because actually the whole section of the Qur'an dealing with of Zul-qarain (Alexander the Great) (18:83-97) is remarkably similar to a collection of legends about the exploits of Alexander circulating in the Middle East and Europe from the 3rd century BC, including finding a people by a muddy pond where the sun sets! This is something else the author of the article strangely fails to mention.

The article then deals with the old chestnut of Geo-centrism - the ancient belief that the Earth was the centre of the solar system which seems to be referred to in many verses of the Qur'an. The answer given is a classic...
If you read carefully they sub-consciously proved that Holy Qur'an is the word of God. Look they said "This is consistent with the beliefs that were prevalent prior to the 16th century that the Sun revolved around the Earth.", and we all know that Holy Qur'an was present 1400 years ago means 6th century so Holy Qur'an gave this information 10 centuries before which proves that Holy Qur'an is the word of God.
Not so much a lie as a willful misunderstanding of English: "prior to the 16th century" means any time before the 16th century. The Qur'an expresses beliefs that were common before the 16th century, before the discovery that the earth orbits the sun.
Secondly they said "but does not mention once that the Earth does too", I show you where Holy Qur'an says about the rotation of Earth even with the exact direction of rotation, Holy Qur’an says,And you see the mountains, thinking them rigid, while they will pass as the passing of clouds. [It is] the work of Allah , who perfected all things. Indeed, He is Acquainted with that which you do. (Holy Qur’an 27:88)The above verse emphasizes how the mountains and therefore the Earth itself moves in the same way that clouds do. The direction of movement of the main cloud masses that some 4000 meters high is always from West to East, this direction is the same as that in which the Earth rotates around its own axes, therefore it is miraculously revealed in the verse that the earth moves from West to East the same direction as followed by the clouds and this was revealed in Holy Qur’an 1400 years ago at a time when people didn’t believe that the earth was round, that it revolves around its own axes and that it travels from West to East. 
I have dealt with this ridiculous, deceitful misreading of this verse beforeThe verse has NOTHING to do with telling mankind that the Earth rotates instead of being stationary.
How can we be so sure? Because if we look at the verse which comes immediately before this one, we can understand better the intentions of the author.
And on that Day the trumpet [of judgment] will be sounded, and all [creatures] that are in the heavens and all that are on earth will be stricken with terror, except such as God wills [to exempt]: and in utter lowliness all will come unto Him. 27:87
From this it becomes clear that the author is detailing what will happen on Judgement Day (hence the reference to "trumpet [of Judgement]". On Judgement Day frightening things happen.. like the seas boiling, the heavens opening and ... mountains flying around like clouds.

Let me now give one final piece of advice in the vein of those dawah/miracle seeker sites. 
if you face problem in understanding the meaning then take help from Mufti, Imam, Hafeez, Qari....scientists and those who aren't terrified of upsetting their imaginary God. You will get satisfied and believe that Quran is true  the work of a human author and you will be released from the daily torment of worrying you might end up in Hell for an eternity.