Friday, August 15, 2014

Islamic State (ISIS) and the early Muslims....where's the difference?

For moderate Muslims it's the elephant in the room. For those of a more jihadist bent, it's too perfect a synergy to ignore. ISIS' amazing victories against huge odds, its lightning advance and its territorial ambitions are a modern day version of the birth of the Islamic Empire. But what is altogether more disturbing (and potentially fatally embarrassing for Muslim apologists) are the other parallels between the two movements, and in particular those tactics that all moderate, liberal, sane people dismiss as being barbaric and beyond the pale.

Take beheading. We have all seen the awful pictures and read the horrific accounts of ISIS using this method of execution. Some may even have been traumatised by watching the videos posted by the jihadists.
Muslims know - or at least those who bother to read the salient verses do - that the Koran contains instructions to behead "the unbelievers" and that Mohammad himself ordered the beheadings of many captives.
When you meet the unbelievers, strike off their heads; then when you have made wide slaughter among them, carefully tie up the remaining captives 47:4.
If my convert friend is typical, educated Muslims maintain that here God is teaching the Muslims a more humane way of waging war since prior to this time, the pagan Arabs would crush their enemies with heavy stones. Muslims are also taught that any verse which allows violence does so only for purposes of self-defence and that there are other more peaceable verses which instruct Muslims to live side-by-side with "the people of the book".  A careful study of when the various verses were "revealed" gives a different picture, however. When Mohammad was trying to gain followers by preaching alone, the tone is peaceable, but as soon as the Muslims settle in Medina and more followers join the Muslims, the verses become more bellicose. Such is the case here.

Take crucifixion. Again we have read the accounts of ISIS using this barbaric method for torturing and killing their prisoners or displaying their corpses.
The idea for such brutality comes not from the crazed minds of the jihadists though. No. They are simply following the instructions contained in the Koran:
The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger, and strive with might and main for mischief through the land is: execution, or crucifixion, or the cutting off of hands and feet from opposite sides, or exile from the land: that is their disgrace in this world, and a heavy punishment is theirs in the Hereafter 5:33
And what of the disturbing reports of the members of ISIS taking the women of those they have beaten in battles for their sex slaves? Again the jihadists are simply taking their inspiration from their holy book and their own prophet.
 O PROPHET! Behold, We have made lawful to thee thy wives unto whom thou hast paid their dowers, as well as those whom thy right hand has come to possess from among the captives of war whom God has bestowed upon thee. 33:50
Here the phrase "whom thy right hand has come to possess" refers to slaves taken a spoils of war. God is telling Mohammad that he may have sex with his slaves taken in war without committing a sin. And in 23:1-6 this allowance is extended to his believers who are told that to get to paradise they must abstain from sex apart from with their wives or their slave girls:
TRULY, to a happy state shall attain the believers: those who humble themselves in their prayer; Who abstain from sex; Except with those joined to them in the marriage bond, or (the captives) whom their right hands possess,- for (in their case) they are free from blame,
Many Muslims will tell you that one of the proofs of the truth of Islam is the way in which God helped a small band of believers to conquer an empire against astounding odds. Battles were won when Mohammad and his followers were out-numbered by ten-to-one or more. The speed with which the Muslims over-ran territory and established the Caliphate, they say, was truly astounding and can only be explained if one understands that God was helping His prophet.

And now we have a small band of believers, who use the tactics that Mohammad himself used so successfully to inspire his followers - promises of wealth, glory and eternal bliss surrounded by doe-eyed virgins, and threats of terror and punishments without mercy to cow their enemies into submission - who are enjoying victory after victory against huge odds, making lightening advances and gaining huge amounts of territory.

Is God helping ISIS? Unless you're a heartless lunatic or your brain has been turned to mush by an extremist preacher presumably you think not. You dismiss them for what they are. Crazed, homicidal psychopaths whose minds have been turned by poisonous propaganda.

And yet...didn't you say you believe Mohammad was the prophet of God partly because of his unlikely victories?

Where's the difference?

Friday, August 8, 2014

Koranic verses which prove a human author #4

We are all, quite rightly, outraged when we witness scenes of suffering and destruction, especially when inflicted upon whole communities including women and children by an outside force which seems to have little, if any, regard for the sanctity of family or of the old and frail. Such outrage is felt all the more keenly when that outside force is so much more powerful than the victims.
How is it then, that when God decides to punish a community of "unbelievers", "idolaters" or "sinners" by killing everyone - men, women, children, the old and the frail - by leveling their homes and businesses so that nothing but the shells remain, we are expected not only to accept this as just punishment, but to worship the visitor of the destruction as "the most merciful of all who are merciful"?
I ask this since the God of the Koran seems to me to be almost as vicious as the Judeo-Christian God of the Bible.
At least thirty-two verses in the Koran relate how God has destroyed "generations" or "communities" or towns. Not once are we told that He took pains to avoid what we might refer to nowadays as collateral damage by targeting only those who were the main sinners, or the men or the priests. Far from it. In fact God delights, it seems, in telling us how no-one was spared each time He visited death and destruction upon a people.
6.6 asks the rhetorical question: Do they not see how many a generation we have destroyed before their time...?
7.4 similarly: And how many a community have we destroyed? (Assad feels the need to add the word "rebellious"  before community - in case, perhaps, we get the impression God is careless in whom he chooses to wipe out)
or 17.7 And how many a generation have we destroyed after Noah?
or 19.74 How many a generation have we destroyed before their time?
Still not got the message?
20.128 Can they learn no lesson by recalling how many a generation have we destroyed  before their time?
And so it goes...on and on and on. At least twenty more times. God destroys community after community. Nation after nation. Generation after generation. Just like in the Bible.
And in case any Muslim reading this claims, as a commentor on my piece about Noah did recently, that perhaps the children were spared because we just don't know, I would direct them to 27.51 which quite explicitly tells us that all the inhabitants were slaughtered: Then see the nature of the consequence of their plotting, for lo! We destroyed them and their people, every one.

So to be clear, God is telling us that on countless occasions he has deliberately killed women and children because they failed to worship Him.

To someone raised in the Judeo-Christian tradition, all this death and destruction is of course very familiar:
This is what the LORD Almighty says: 'I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel. Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy  everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.'  Samuel 15:2/3
Likewise  Muhammad, keen student of Jewish and Christian stories like the one above, would have heard endlessly of the vindictive nature of the one true God and surmised it to be an essential element of monotheism.
But there were other reasons for Muhammad to reference so often God's genocidal tendencies, for there was apparent "evidence" of God's jealous and destructive power in the abandoned shells of ancient towns and cities to be found near Mecca. For what other explanation could there be for the ruins?
22.45 hints strongly at this: And how many towns have We destroyed because it has been immersed in evil-doing. And now they lie deserted with their roofs caved in. And how many a well lies abandoned - and how many a castle that stood high!
28.58 hints at a similar idea: And how many a community that [once] exult­ed in its wanton wealth and ease of life have We destroyed so that those dwelling-places of theirs – all but a few - have never been dwelt-in after them: for it is indeed We alone who shall remain when all else will have passed away!

Thus anyone reading the Koran for the first time must ask themselves this question:
What kind of deity requires - on pain of extermination of not just yourself, but of your family, everyone you know, your home, your livelihood, the very society you have helped build - belief and submission without proof (for belief with proof is not faith)?

But of course we don't need to exercise our imagination too much. 
We just need to look at what the Islamic State is doing in Iraq at this very moment where the murderous loons of IS cast themselves in the role of God's agents of vengeance and appear to be on the verge of wiping an entire religion off the face of the earth.

 God came upon them in a manner which they had not expected, and cast terror into their hearts (59.2)

He has indeed.

When you weep at the suffering of the innocent civilians in Gaza, spare a thought for the multitudes of women and children and infants wiped out by your God for the sin of not believing Him to be a "merciful" deity. Imagine if the BBC or CBS had had access to the scenes of carnage, of women weeping over their dead children as God inflicts his "just punishment" on yet another township.

Outraged by the actions of the IS or perhaps the IDF, but you worship the Abrahamic god? Ten out of ten for cognitive dissonance, my friend.

God and his agents of terror. The cruelest genocidal madman ever to have been invented by humans.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Gaza - what would Muhammad do?

Nobody can watch the appalling pictures of women and children dying in Gaza and remain unmoved. Even those who support Israel in their right to protect themselves from the indiscriminate rockets fired by Hamas must feel that something more should be done to spare innocent lives.
The moral high ground is fought over more keenly than any strategic position and is lost by the side that is seen to care the least for the innocents.
Muslims the world over are expressing their outrage. And we can sympathise.
In the context of what we are seeing day after day in Gaza, non Muslims might also be impressed to learn of the Prophet Muhammad's injunction not to kill women and children in battle as reported in the hadith of both Bukhari and Muslim:
Saheeh Bukhari Volume 004, Book 052, Hadith Number 258.Narrated By Ibn 'Umar : During some of the Ghazawat of Allah's Apostle a woman was found killed, so Allah's Apostle forbade the killing of women and children. Saheeh Muslim Book 019, Hadith Number 4320Chapter : Prohibition of killing women and children in warIt is narrated by Ibn 'Umar that a woman was found killed in one of these battles; so the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) forbade the killing of women and children
But what is less often referred to are the reports from the same saheeh (totally reliable) hadith which throw a different light on Muhammad's desire that innocent blood should not be spilled in war.

Saheeh Muslim Book 019, Hadith Number 4321. 
Chapter : Permissibility of killing women and children in the night raids, provided it is not deliberate.
It is reported on the authority of Sa'b b. Jaththama that the Prophet of Allah (may peace be upon him), when asked about the women and children of the polytheists being killed during the night raid, said: They are from them.

Saheeh Bukhari Volume 004, Book 052, Hadith Number 256.
Narated By As-Sab bin Jaththama : The Prophet passed by me at a place called Al-Abwa or Waddan, and was asked whether it was permissible to attack the pagan warriors at night with the probability of exposing their women and children to danger. The Prophet replied, "They (i.e. women and children) are from them (i.e. pagans)." I also heard the Prophet saying, "The institution of Hima is invalid except for Allah and His Apostle."

Understandably, various attempts by Islamic scholars have been made to understand exactly what the Prophet meant by these words. Sheikh `Abd Allah al-Manî`î quoted on Answering Christianity has this to say (my bolding):
[...]  the hadîth in question actually shows us that the general rule is not to kill non-combatants, even when they are present on the battlefield. The only exception is when the non-combatants are so mixed in with the fighters that it is impossible to fight against the combatants without the possibility of some non-combatants inadvertently being killed. This is only out of dire necessity.

This seems to be reading a lot into the Prophet's words, if you ask me. If you were to ask an Israeli general about the killing of Palestinian women and children and his reply was to say simply, "They are from them," I suspect the world's press (quite rightly) would condemn such callous views as utterly inhumane and the battle for the moral high ground would be well and truly lost.
But perhaps we're taking this quote out of context and being unfair to the "the best human ever", the "example all mankind should follow".
So let us return to the hadith and look more closely at when exactly these words were uttered. You will note that the Prophet spoke in answer to a follower asking whether it was permissible to attack the pagans AT NIGHT, IN THEIR CAMP because he (the follower) feared for the lives of the sleeping women and children. 
They are from them, Muhammad replied. Nothing more. Nothing less.
All further explanation is desperate conjecture by Islamic scholars and apologists.

I don't for one moment condone the slaughter we are seeing in Gaza.
I think the Israelis could and should do more to prevent the deaths of non-combatants.
But I also think there is a degree of hypocrisy in those who claim to be outraged when innocent lives are lost and who claim that their religion trumps all whilst at the same time using their own schools and hospitals as command centres. 
What would Muhammad do if he were protecting his followers from indiscriminate attacks and his enemies placed their soldiers and weapons in close proximity to innocent civilians? 
From the evidence of the hadith I think we know the answer.

No-one comes out well from this war. Israel is to blame for many apparent atrocities. 
But there is a danger in assuming that any religion is perfect. As followers must inevitably do.
Islam is as flawed as all the others.
The real cause of so much death in the Middle East?
That murderous, homophobic, misogynistic sh*t made up by fearful men in the desert millenia ago.