Sunday, July 27, 2014

Koranic verses which prove a human author #3

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

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

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

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Koranic verses which prove a human author #2

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

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

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

Friday, July 11, 2014

Koranic verses which prove a human author # 1

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

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

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

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