Sunday, December 18, 2011

Alcohol in the Qur'an - Booze is God-given!

My latest mail to "Kevin"
In An-Nahl (The Bee) there is a series of verses listing the wondrous things God has provided for mankind (I'm sure you know it)
16:65 starts the list with the rain that brings forth life - "a sign for those who listen", 16:66 talks of milk coming from cattle - "an instructive sign", 16:68 talks of the eponymous bee, and 16:69 finishes this section with the following: Then to eat of all the produce (of the earth), and find with skill the spacious paths of its Lord: there issues from within their bodies a drink of varying colours, wherein is healing for men: verily in this is a Sign for those who give thought.
Now, do you know what we find right in the middle of this wondrous bounty that God has provided? This...
16:67: And of the fruits of the palms and the grapes-- you obtain from them intoxication and goodly provision; most surely there is a sign in this for a people who ponder. (Shakir) or And of the fruits of the date-palm, and grapes, whence ye derive strong drink and (also) good nourishment. Lo! therein is indeed a portent for people who have sense. (Pickthall) Yet strangely Yusuf Ali appears to have found a different version of the original Arabic, for any mention of strong liquor is absent: And from the fruit of the date-palm and the vine, ye get out wholesome drink and food: behold, in this also is a sign for those who are wise.

Now, I know that Muslims say that the mention of strong drink in this verse is to show that we can choose to abuse God's gifts, and the mention of "a sign to ponder" reinforces this, and I have no doubt you will say this is the case.... But as you can see, all the other verses in this section have the same ending about "signs". This is the first time I've gone back and read the whole surah which puts the verse in context. It seems clear to me (and presumably to Yusuf Ali as well, since he felt the need to redact the offending words - why else would the mention of strong drink be missed out?) that the list is designed to be read as just that, a list of the bounty provided by God: He has provided the Arabs with milk, rain, honey and the necessary to make strong drink. There is no reason to read this verse any other way, and taken together with the other verses about alcohol from the Meccan period, any other understanding requires interpretation after the fact.

This is what worries me in a nutshell about the "experts" to whom the believers turn when they have doubts as to how a certain verse should be read. That the Qur'an later states alcohol is to be avoided, and it is impossible that God should contradict himself, it follows that the only interpretation possible is the one that you have learned to accept. Read it from the point of view of someone with no preconceived notions as to what it MUST mean, however, and a very different conclusion is, I think, inevitable.

Sure your too busy, but I'd be intrigued to hear what you make of this.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Questions to Muslims

This is a small selection of the many more questions posted by ex-Muslims on the Council of Ex-Muslims internet forum from a video posted by CEMBadmins on Youtube.

Does God’s stated purpose of creating Man so that he can worship Him seem worthy of an intelligent and immensely powerful being? If God is self-sufficient and does nothing in vain, isn’t His creation the height of vanity?
If creation is for our benefit, then what is the benefit to those who will burn forever?
What is the point of God’s test when he knows the outcome? Is it just so that He can have a reason to punish and reward?
Can a being who creates humans he knows will fail His test and will be tortured without end be called “the most merciful of those who show mercy”?
If God wanted us to freely choose to worship Him, then why threaten us? Does someone with a gun to his head really have a free choice?
Why does God cause so much suffering to humans? Is it part of God’s test?... to prompt them to turn to Him in obedience and worship? Isn’t that like a conman who causes a problem and then offers to fix it for you?
Why would God give humans the ability to reason, then punish them for rejecting beliefs that reason cannot reconcile?
Why does the human body look suspiciously like it was the result of a long cumulative process of evolution, resulting in imperfections, and vestigial organs and genes and not the result of the instant and perfectly planned creation of Adam and Eve?
Which is more evil, the imperfect creature who commits evil or the perfect entity that created evil?
Is being good because you fear God, really being good?
Why did God send all known prophets, miracles and books to one small area of the world and at a time when people were superstitious and gullible?
Why did God protect only the Qur’an from corruption? Could He have protected the Bible and prevented billions from claiming He had a son?
What’ so special about prophet Jesus that God made him born to a virgin, took him up to Heaven before he was crucified, and is going to bring him back again before the day of Judgement?
Do you believe it’s acceptable for a husband to hit a rebellious wife?
Why do so many characteristics of Allah, like anger and vengefulness, seem like human ones?
Why does the Qur’an say “Don’t ask questions about things you don’t understand when the answer will trouble you”?
Should followers of other religions also not ask questions about their religion when it might trouble them?
Why will God never forgive shirk? What are they guilty of? Ignorance? Being born to the wrong family? The Qur’an often criticises idolaters for following the religion of their parents. Are you really any different?
You believe other people are following false, unfounded or corrupted beliefs. Are you certain you are not also?"

Friday, December 9, 2011

# 1 Sperm emerging from between the backbone and ribs - Top 5 reasons to believe the Qu'ran is manmade

Consider for a moment Muslims' oft repeated challenge  to those who question the authenticity of their holy book: Find one mistake -just one - in the Qur'an, they say,  and we will accept that Islam is a false creed.
So completely do Muslims believe that that their revelation is the perfect word of God, unchanged and unchanging, that they cannot conceive of any error being possible.

And yet there are many statements in the Qur'an that seem to contradict common sense and run counter to what we know about the world, the animal kingdom and our own bodies. I have listed some of the more glaring examples in previous posts in this series, but there is one error that leaves Muslims grasping at semantic straws and inventing imaginative interpretations that, quite frankly, beggar belief.
Here is the offending ayat (86:5-7) in Pickthall's translation:
So let man consider from what he is created. He is created from a gushing fluid that issued from between the loins and ribs. Transliteration: Falyanthuri al-insanu mimma khuliqa Khuliqa min ma-in dafiqin Yakhruju min bayni alssulbi waalttara-ibi

Picture showing testes and prostate - anyone spot the ribs?

For the sake of completeness, let us examine some other translations, lest Muslims accuse us of cherry picking...
Yusuf Ali: proceeding from between the backbone and the ribs.
Pickthal: that issued from between the loins and ribs.
Arberry: issuing between the loins and the breast-bones.
Shakir: coming from between the back and the ribs.
Sarwar: which comes out of the loins and ribs.
Khalifa: from between the spine and the viscera.
Hilali/Khan: proceeding from between the back-bone and the ribs.
Malik: that is produced from between the loins and the ribs.
QXP: that issued from between tough rocks and mingled dust.????????
Maulana Ali: coming from between the back and the ribs.
Free Minds: it comes out from between the spine and the testicles.!!!!!!!!

(The reason for giving multiple translations becomes clear when one tries to debate issues such as the above with Muslims, for one of the favourite ways of muddying the waters when presented with a clear error in the Qur'an is the old "Ah, but Arabic is such a difficult language - you cannot hope to understand its myriad complexities")

Not only is the above statement about semen being produced from a region between the backbone and the ribs patently incorrect, it also bears a striking similarity with the teachings of the Greek physician, Hippocrates, who believed that semen was produced throughout the body before being collected in the kidneys (located between the ribs and the backbone) and thence to the penis. Given that we know such writings were available to Muhammad's followers (see here for a fuller examination of this) it seems that not only do we have a clear error in the Qur'an but also a fair idea how and why the author might have made such a mistake.

So how do Muslims try to explain away this apparent gibberish?  Shaykh `Abd al-Wahhâb al-Turayrî of is typical of the Islamic apologists. He writes:
The words translated as “backbone” (sulb) and “ribs” (tarâ’ib) are not understood in Arabic to belong to the same person. Arabs understand the “sulb” to refer to a part of the male body and the “tarâ’ib” to a part of the female. Ibn Kathîr states: “It refers to the ‘sulb’ of the man and the ‘tarâ’ib’ of the woman…” He then quotes this interpretation on the authority of the Prophet’s companion Ibn `Abbâs. This same understanding is given in all the major classical works of Qur’anic commentary.
Many non-Arabs misinterpret this verse because they think that sulb and tara’ib refer to different body parts of the male. In reality, tara’ib is feminine, and refers to the female’s body part. For fourteen hundred years, all of the scholars have held this belief, and not a single classical scholar has ever differed on this point. The reason is that the Arabic makes it clear that tara’ib refers to a feminine body part, and not a male one.
Lane’s Lexicon says:
Tara’ib: … most of the authors on strange words affirm decidedly that it (tara’ib) is peculiar to women. (Lane’s Lexicon, p.301)

So let's have a look to see what Lane's Lexicon p 301 actually says. This is the definition of tara'ib we find before the quoted section above: The part of the breast which is the place of the collar, the bones of the breast which are between the collarbone and the pap, the part of the breast or chest that is next to the two collar bones, the four ribs on the right side of the chest and the four on the left thereof.

So if I understand things correctly, we have, according to Shaykh `Abd al-Wahhâb al-Turayrî, the Qur'an stating that man is created from a gushing fluid coming from an area between the backbone/loins (take your pick) and the chest area of a woman. That's so much clearer.

And let us not forget that the Qur'an claims for itself a clarity beyond criticism: a book in clear Arabic speech (16:103) He it is who has bestowed upon thee from on high this divine writ, containing messages that are clear in and by themselves. (3:7)

Does it not seem strange to educated Muslims that their holy book should on the one hand claim to be written in clear language and on the other be so opaque as to lead to whole books of contradictory interpretations?

Perhaps we should turn to the iERA (Islamic Education and Research Association) for some help
This is a reply an acquaintance received when he put my qualms regarding this verse to the "scholars" at iERA:

The statement “sperm produced from between ribs and backbone?” is inaccurate. The most correct interpretation and translation (see Abdel Haleem’s translation of the Qur’an) states that it is not the sperm that is produced from the ribs and the backbone but rather that the baby comes from there (in other words the womb). This is the view of the classical scholar al-Razi in his al-Tafsir al-Kabir. The pronoun refers back to man and not to the gushing fluid:
5) Man should reflect on what he was created from.
6) He is created from spurting fluid,
7) then he * emerges from between the backbone and breastbone **
*= The Pronoun here is taken to refer to the person rather than the fluid.
**=Of the mother, where she carries the baby.

Ah, so now it's not the terms for backbone or ribs that are being debated, but in fact the grammar and, more specifically, the difference between a personal and a relative pronoun. I'm afraid I do find it difficult to summon up the requisite awe for God's wondrous prose and a concomitant willingness to suspend my critical faculties and believe this is divine revelation, when even expert speakers in the language of Allah can't agree on what the bloody thing means.

Let us turn to a world expert, the translator of the above verse quoted above by the iERA, and ask him why he chose this new interpretation which is so blatantly at odds with all the others that have gone before. In an email (which I'd be happy to show to anyone who requests it) Professor Abdel Haleem explains the reasons for his interpretation thus:
My interpretation is that this issuing /emerging refers to man, not the fluid, which does not violate the scheme of imagery that runs through this compact sura, or our knowledge of biology: the spurting fluid from which man is created has little to do with bones.

Let me just underline that for you, in case you missed it. We have here a leading academic, expert in the field of Qur'anic interpretation and translation, Professor of Islamic Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, an OBE no less, and editor of the Journal of Qur'anic Studies stating that he chose his translation of this ayat because "it doesn't violate ... our knowledge of biology".

Can anyone think of any other academic discipline in the world where the experts are happy to admit that they have chosen a particular interpretation of a text (which runs counter to all other previous ones) because otherwise it risks suggesting that the author is fallible?

No - I thought not.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

# 2 - Abu Lahab - Top 5 Reasons to believe the Qur'an was man-made

Let us for a moment consider the Muslim claim that the Qur'an is the uncreated word of God that has been in existence since the beginning of time and which exists in its perfection in Heaven unchanged and unchanging from the moment it sprung into being, written by the magic pen...
Then let us read the following surah
The power of Abu Lahab will perish, and he will perish. [1] His wealth and gains will not exempt him. [2] He will be plunged in flaming fire, [3] And his wife, the wood carrier, [4] Will have upon her neck a halter of palm fibre. [5] (111:1-5)

Who is this fellow who is so reviled by God that he is cursed by name in the final revelation to mankind? (Not only that, but his poor wife gets it (literally) in the neck as well...)
Abu Lahab was an uncle of Muhammad who had the temerity to question his nephew's claims to prophet-hood.
Now, of course, God knew that Uncle Lahab was going to do this because the Qur'an is "uncreated".
So ever since he was a baby, Abu Lahab's fate was to go to hell (along with his poor wife).
Do Muslims ever stop and wonder whether it might not be more reasonable to assume that the author of the Qur'an was so hacked off with his uncle pissing on his bonfire that one day he'd just had enough and decided that his god was going into bat on his behalf...
What errant nonsense it all is.
What complete bloody tosh.
Sorry - normal service will be resumed shortly...

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Trinity in the Qur'an

A recent mail to Kevin
I do admire your staunch defence...
You say the plagiarism theory raises more problems than it solves since we must ask why Muhammad should have accepted some ideas and rejected others.
How should I know? There is no evident logic, despite your assertion of “internal consistency”, to what the author of the Qur’an chose from the Judeo-Christian mythology and what he rejected. Indeed, most of his decisions show a startling and (if I were a Christian or Jew) frankly insultingly simplistic understanding of his source material.
How, for example, do you explain Muhammad’s apparent belief that the Trinity means Christians worship three Gods: Jesus, Mary and God? (They are unbelievers who say, 'God is the Third of Three (thalithu thalathatin). No god is there but One God. 5:72 ..his mother was a just woman; they both ate food (er...I don't think anyone believes Mary didn't eat food! Not unless you mistakenly think that Mary was a god for some people...). 5:75 ...and when God said, ‘O Jesus son of Mary, didst thou say unto men, "Take me and my mother as gods, apart from God"?’ 5:116) If for no other reason, you surely must begin to wonder when the author of the Qur’an shows such a crass misunderstanding of the beliefs of the people of the book. This is not simply a matter of rejecting an idea but of ignorance. And how can God be ignorant?
(In fact, according to the earliest Muslim biographer ,Ibn Ishaq , the Quran was specifically correcting this supposedly erroneous belief in God, Mary and Jesus as three separate divinities. In his work, Sirat Rasulullah, Ishaq states that a Christian deputation from Najran came to debate Muhammad on the person of Jesus. Accordingly, these Christians allegedly believed that Jesus, "is God; and He is the son of God; and He is the third Person of the Trinity, which is the doctrine of Christianity...They argue that he is the third of three in that God says: We have done, We have commanded, We have created and We have decreed, and they say, If He were one He would have said I have done, I have created, and so on, but He is He and Jesus and Mary. Concerning all these assertions the Quran came down." ." (The Life of Muhammad: A Translation of Ishaq’s Sirat Rasul Allah, [Oxford University Press, Karachi, tenth impression 1995], p. 271))
Perhaps you will argue that God was simply correcting a heresy common at the time. It seems strange, then, to make the correction of a minor and long since forgotten heresy such a pillar of faith and such a proud boast in the final revelation to mankind.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

A further thought on Muhammad copying the Infancy Gospels

Muslims are quite right, of course. There is no proof that the author of the Qur'an was inspired by the stories found in the Infancy Gospels.
If there were, then presumably all intellectually curious and well educated Muslims would have abandoned their faith. (Instead of just some of them...)
I am suggesting, however, that the balance of probabilities tips ever further towards the very strong likelihood that Muhammad (and /or others) was the author.
I find it pretty much inconceivable that stories relating to the childhood of Jesus, unknown until the 2nd or 3rd centuries, written at just the time when Christian teachers were in need of fantastical tales to keep the faithful happy and found in a collection of otherwise preposterous pagan fantasies, regarded by scholars as having no connection to the historical Jesus and circulating in Arabic in the area and at the time of Mohammad... should happen be true.
Call me an old cynic if you like and let your God burn me in Hell for an eternity for being so... but where is the argument to convince me otherwise?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Jesus in the Qur'an - copied myths

The Qur'an is pretty "big on Jesus" (as the yoof would have it). He's mentioned 25 times, I believe. Among other things, the Qur'an relates
 i. the virgin birth
ii. miracles such as healing the blind and bringing people back from the dead
iii. the ascension to Heaven but not the crucifixion
iv. Jesus talking in the cradle and bringing clay birds to life
Jesus bringing the clay birds to life - as mentioned in the Qur'an

Muslims talk of the "importation of paganism" by the Christians who have "gone astray". I, and quite a few modern theologians, would suggest that the Christ myth is paganism tacked onto monotheism. The Qur'an contains many references to what I would consider to be the pagan (or simplisticly naive) beliefs of Christianity, and therefore any religion (like Islam) that asks its followers to believe in the literal truth of these (to me) obviously copied stories must also be false. (As a matter of interest, is it simply the trinity and attendant beliefs in the Eucharist that Muslims consider to be the pagan imports?)

Let's take each of the above points and see if there is evidence that might lead a dispassionate, objective, intelligent person to at least suspect that there is something fishy going on...
1. the virgin birth
Not a new one this. Just about any man-god who wanted to be taken seriously has claimed a virgin birth for himself: Mars fathering Romulus with the vestal virgin; Augustus (miraculous conception after Apollo and his mum Atia got together); Alexander the Great, Buddha...Virgin birth seems pretty pagan to me, and yet there it is in the Qur'an!
2. healing, curing blindness, raising the dead
Again, there is an embarrassing super-abundance of such stories. Let's take just a couple of examples. One we know is a con because we have a first-hand testimony by a witness called Lucian of Samosata. In around AD 100-50 a chap called Alexander invented a religion in which a new God called Glycon came to Earth (miraculously) as a fulfilment of divine prophesy (aren't they always?), healed the sick and raised the dead. Or how about Apollonius of Tyana who had a miraculous birth (again...) cast out demons, healed the sick, raised the dead, gathered disciples... It was going on ALL THE TIME. So such stories seem pretty pagan to me, and yet there it is in the Qur'an!
3.The ascension to Heaven
Ascension myths are present in lots of ancient religions. I won't bore you again with the gnostic heresy that was prevalent in the area that Mohammad was teaching in at the time. Suffice to say there are some very interesting parallels.
4. Jesus talking in cradle and bringing clay birds to life
The Gospel of Pseudo Matthew and the Infancy Gospel of Thomas were, it seems to me, the sources for the stories in the Qur'an relating to the infancy of Jesus. They contain much more detail of the same stories and were written, scholars believe, to flesh out the details of Jesus' early life for naive Christians. No Christian theologian, as far as I am aware, would believe they have any worth other than as historic curiosities and yet the stories appear in the Qur'an.
In addition the Injilu 't Tufuliyyah or the Gospel of the Infancy of Jesus Christ contains an Arabic translation of the Infancy Gospel of Thomas which contains a story of the infant Jesus talking: Jesus spoke when he was in the cradle, and called out to his mother Mary:— "Verily I am Jesus, the Son of God, the Word, whom thou hast given birth to according to the good tidings given thee by the Angel Gabriel, and my Father hath sent me for the Salvation of the World."
(The Infancy Gospel of Thomas is a pseudepigraphical gospel about the childhood of Jesus that dates to the 2nd and 3rd centuries. It was part of a popular genre of biblical work, written to satisfy a hunger among early Christians for more miraculous and anecdotal stories of the childhood of Jesus than the Gospel of Luke provided.)
Here is what the wikipedia entry has to say about the Infancy Gospel of Thomas:
The text describes the life of the child Jesus, with fanciful, and sometimes malevolent, supernatural events, comparable to the trickster nature of the god-child in many a Greek myth. One of the episodes involves Jesus making clay birds, which he then proceeds to bring to life...

And yet Muslims accuse Christians of importing pagan myths!

How do Muslims explain the similarities of the Qur'anic stories of Jesus with these texts?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

# 3 -The Seven Heavens -Top 5 reasons to believe the Qu'ran is man-made

If the Qur'an really is Allah's/God's final revelation, one has to wonder why He couldn't have been more original and felt the need to apparently plagiarise theories about the cosmos from other religions.

Take, for example, the description of the Seven Heavens in the Qur'an.

 "Say: Who is the Lord of the seven heavens and the Lord of the might dominions?" 23:86

 "Do you not see how Allah has created the seven heavens, one above the other?
And made the moon A light in their midst, and made the sun As a (Glorious) Lamp?"
 7:15 -16

"So He ordained them seven heavens in two periods, and revealed in every heaven its affair; and We adorned the lower heaven with brilliant stars…"  41: 12

The seven heavens were common belief of many ancient religions, so it is surely not surprising that many have concluded that Mohammad copied this idea.

We find it, for example, in Hindu mythology ( In Classical Hindu Mythology - a reader in the Sanskrit puranas by Cornelia Dimmitt, Johannes Adrianus Bernardus Buitenen Temple University Press (p24) we read: "Upwards from the Earth extend seven heavens, layered spheres of space.") and in  Judaism (In Myth and Legend of Ancient Israel, Volume 1 By Angelo S. Rappoport the third chapter is entitled The Seven Heavens or Firmaments... and lists numerous sources where such a myth is repeated: "The doctrine of the seven heavens is also found among the parsees. The Slavonic Enoch and The Testament of the Twelve Patriachs also speak of the seven heavens".

Indeed the ancients, it seems, thought the planets, the moon and the sun made up these seven heavens as follows:
Moon              Mercury             Venus             Sun                Mars              Jupiter            Saturn

We can understand how and why those in the pre-copernican world who were observing the skies before telescopes might have come to believe the above, but it is surely inconceivable that an omniscient God would have done so.

So how do Muslims explain this apparent ignorance on the part of the author of the Qur'an?
Some miracle seekers try to suggest that in fact Allah was referring to the seven layers of the atmosphere.Of course! In Miracles of the Qur' we read the following:
The word "heavens," which appears in many verses in the Qur'an, is used to refer to the sky above the Earth, as well as the entire universe. Given this meaning of the word, it is seen that the Earth's sky, or the atmosphere, is made up of seven layers.
Today, it is known that the world's atmosphere consists of different layers that lie on top of each other.19 Based on the criteria of chemical contents or air temperature, the definitions made have determined the atmosphere of the earth as seven layers.20 According to the "Limited Fine Mesh Model (LFMMII)," a model of atmosphere used to estimate weather conditions for 48 hours, the atmosphere is also 7 layers. According to the modern geological definitions the seven layers of atmosphere are as follows:
1. Troposphere
2. Stratosphere
3. Mesosphere
4. Thermosphere
5. Exosphere
6. Ionosphere
7. Magnetosphere
These charlatans fail to explain why Allah should have placed the moon (as a light) and the sun (as a lamp) in amongst the layers of the atmosphere, nor how the stars happen to be in the lowest of these levels.

Ah well, perhaps there is someone out there who can give us a rational explanation...

Friday, November 4, 2011

al-Harith bin Kalada - a response to Hamza Tzortzis article published on Islamic Papers

Al-Harith bin KaladahAn analysis of Hamza Tzortzis’ refutation of the suggestion that  al-Harith bin Kalada was the source of the Prophet’s medical knowledge
The similarities between ancient Greek theories concerning the various stages of the developing human embryo and what we read in the Qur’an are very striking. (see here for details) It has led many to suggest that this is further evidence that Mohammad, rather than God/Allah, was the author of the Qur’an and to look for ways in which he might have encountered these theories. It is not surprising, then, that the famous centre of learning at Gundishapur in ancient Persia has been put forward as one of the possible sources, since there is convincing evidence to suggest that the learning of the ancient Hellenes was translated, transmitted and discussed there, where coincidentally one of Mohammad’s most trusted followers also studied.
Hamza starts his refutation of this theory thus: some historians and commentators believe the Prophet Muhammad plagiarised Aristotle’s and Galen’s accounts of the developing human embryo via bin Kalada, and sought medical advice from him.[3] This is unfounded for various reasons. He continues: Claiming the Prophet sought medical advice from bin Kalada neither implies nor stipulates the fact that he copied bin Kalada’s work. The onus of proof is on the one who is making the claim. From a historical perspective there is no direct and explicit evidence that indicates the Prophet manufactured his views on embryology via bin Kalada.
Surely if Mohammad’s close companion is known to have studied at Gundishapur where Greek theories about embryology were discussed, and then those same theories appear in the Qur’an, it does indicate at least a connection and one worth considering as a possible source.
Hamza’s next point is dubious to say the least. Early historical sources on the Prophet’s life illustrate and emphasise the integrity of his character. He was not a liar and to assert as much is indefensible. The presumption that he copied bin Kalada, while maintaining the Qur’an to be the word of God, is therefore inconceivable. He was known even by the enemies to his message as the “Trustworthy”. [..]The Prophet rejected all worldly aspirations […]he rejected riches and power.
Hamza is right in his assertion that there is much evidence to suggest that Mohammad was regarded as honest in his dealings with others and this may indeed make it less likely than otherwise that he should have copied Greek theories, but it certainly does not make it “inconceivable”.  Many apparently honest and trustworthy men have been tempted to behave disgracefully throughout history – why should Mohammad be any different? And to suggest that the Prophet rejected riches and power contradicts huge swathes of evidence from the ahadith and Qur’an itself: “Soon will your Lord give you so much you shall be well pleased.... Did He not find you poor and made you rich?" 93:4...
The next point in Hamza’s refutation seems at first glance more difficult to counter:  the existence of such a school (Gundishapur) has recently been questioned by a number of leading historians. He goes on to quote from David C Lindberg’s book, The Beginnings of Western Science: We have no persuasive evidence for the existence of a medical school or a hospital at Gondeshapur, although, there seems to have been a theological school and perhaps an attached infirmary. No doubt Gondeshapur was the scene of serious intellectual endeavour and a certain amount of medical practice. So the scale and nature of the school at Gundishapur is being questioned, but not its existence. It was, to quote Hamza’s own evidence, “the scene of serious intellectual endeavour”. Hamza then goes on to quote from Roy Porter’s, The Greatest Benefit to Mankind: A Medical History of Humanity: Jundishapur was certainly a meeting place for Arab, Greek, Syriac and Jewish intellectuals. So the best evidence Hamza can come up with to prove that Gundishapur could not have been the source of Mohammad’s Greek embryology knowledge, admits to the fact that there was a centre of learning there where “where serious intellectual endeavour” took place and where Arabs and Greeks and Jewish intellectuals met. And let us not forget that Hamza was presumably choosing his evidence very carefully to throw the best possible light on his argument.
Hamza’s next point bizarrely asks us to question the very existence of al-Harith bin Kalada, suggesting that he may have been a “legendary” figure or a “fictitious creation”: Historians such as Manfred Ullman and Franz Rosenthal are skeptical about the material referring to bin Kalada. They refer to him as a legendary figure,[10] which has literary allusions to characters of fictitious creation. I find it surprising, to say the least, that Hamza seems to question the existence of a Companion of the Prophet who is actually quoted in the hadith:  “Another doctor, Al-Harith ibn Kalada said: That which has killed mankind is the introduction of food on top of food before it has been digested”
Indeed, it seems that Hamza can’t quite decide whether bin Kalada’s non-existence is worth pursuing or not, since a few lines on we read this: There are historical reports stating that bin Kalada converted to Islam and was considered a companion of the Prophet. Ah – so he did exist, after all… Hamza then quotes someone called Abubakr Asadullah who, confusingly, seems to think bin Kalada was a physician,  and whom he calls a graduate of that non-existent medical school… “According to nearly all traditional sources, the first known Arab physician was al-Harith ibn Kalada, a graduate of Junishapur and a Jewish convert to Islam, a contemporary of Prophet Mohammad.
To confuse matters still further, Hamza then uses the fact that bin Kalada was an “educated physician” and close Companion of the Prophet in his next argument: In light of this, the Prophet copying bin Kalada is highly improbable as it is irrational to assert that an educated physician would convert to Islam […] had he known or suspected the Prophet of copying his work on embryology.
Hamza leaves his best argument ‘til last. He suggests that since Mohammad didn’t come into contact with bin Kalada until after the verses relating to embryology had been revealed, it is impossible that he could have copied from him: Bin Kalada was from al-Ta’if, a town which came into contact with Islam only in the 8th year of the Islamic calendar, and it was during this period that Islamic historical sources first mention the phycisian. Therefore, it would be impossible to suggest the Prophet Muhammad copied Bin Kalada’s views on the developing human because chapter 23 of the Qur’an and its verses referring to embryology had already been revealed by the time Bin Kalada met the Prophet Muhammad. Now this looks convincing until we examine more closely the claim that bin Kalada did not meet the Prophet until after Mohammad had received the ayats relating to embryology. Apart from the fact that the most damning ayat (86:6-7) supposedly comes from the Medinan period (“damning”in that it contains the infamous information about sperm emanating from between the backbone and the ribs – the same mistake the Greeks made)  and therefore after bin Kalada supposedly met Mohammad, the dating of surah is notoriously difficult. For example, Theodor Noldeke dated surah 23 to after the Hijra and therefore also from the Medinan and not the Meccan period, and therefore it is quite possible that all the verses relating to embryology come from when after bin Kalada was the physician to the Prophet.
In conclusion, Hamza Tzortzis has failed to dismiss the possibility that the source of the information in the Qur’an on embryology that is so suspiciously similar to ancient Greek theories was his  companion and physician, al-Harith bin Kalada.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Charlie Hebdo bombed - whither free speech...?

Un incendie criminel ravage<br/>le siège de <i>Charlie Hebdo</i> <br/>

Charlie Hebdo's offices in Paris have been destroyed, their website hacked and their journalists threatened, the day after the French satirical magazine announced the "editor" of its next edition would be the Prophet Mohammed.

La couverture du numéro de "Charlie Hebdo" rebaptisé "Charia Hebdo" après la victoire du parti islamiste Ennahda en Tunisie, et la mise en place de la charia en Libye.

The magazine is being punished for being so insensitive as to depict the Prophet (strictly prohibited in Islam).

How dare a satirical magazine in a non-Muslim, Western democracy express its disquiet at the thought of sharia law being enforced throughout the Mahgreb!

Spinoza sympathises with those who would discourage pointlessly offensive depictions of the Prophet designed to whip up anti-Muslim fervour and poke fun at believers, but this was not the case here.

Charlie Hebdo, in the tradition of Rabelais and Moliere, has long held up to ridicule what it sees as the faults and idiocies of those in positions of power and influence.

Long may in continue to do so...even if it does offend the sensibilities of those who take masochistic pleasure in being offended and use it as an excuse to flex their muscles and frighten the non-believers into kowtowing to the dictatorship of religious dogma.

At least the French political establishment has reacted quickly to denounce the outrage. Prime Minister Francois Fillon is quoted in this morning's Le Figaro newspaper as follows:
«La liberté d'expression est une valeur inaliénable de notre démocratie et toute atteinte à la liberté de la presse doit être condamnée avec la plus grande fermeté.»  

One wonders if our own political leaders would have reacted so quickly and so unequivocally if Private Eye had suffered a similar outrage.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

# 4- The preservation of "The Pharaoh" - Top 5 reasons to believe the Qu'ran is man-made

This day shall We save thee in the body, that thou mayest be a sign to those who 
The Body of Pharaohcome after thee! but verily, many among mankind are heedless of Our Signs! 10:92
This ayat has been used  to "prove" the miraculous nature of the Qur'an.
It refers to the myth* of the Exodus in which Pharaoh is drowned by God as punishment for his treatment of the Israelites - but unlike the Bible, in the Qur'anic version God promises to preserve Pharaoh's body as a sign for mankind.
The miracle-seekers then point to the mummies of either Ramses II or Merneptah (it depends on which dawah video they saw most recently, presumably) as proof that God has kept his word. They further variously claim that the bodies are preserved miraculously, ie not mummified (patent nonsense) and that it would have been impossible for anyone in the 7th century to know that these bodies had been preserved.
It is not my intention here to list the innumerable problems with this particular "miracle". Previous posts have already done that- here, here and here.
I'd simply like to ask my readers to consider this: given the difficulties of the preserved  Pharaoh story and the fact that, despite duplicitous claims to the contrary, the existence of mummies and vast wealth hidden the pyramids was well known in the 7th century, it's not inconceivable, is it, that the author of the Qur'an, once he learned of the Egyptian mummies and the biblical story of the Exodus, chose to put two and two together to make twenty-four to convince his naive followers of his preternatural powers?
It's just a tragedy that millions are still being duped by this nonsense in the 21st century.

* despite decades of research, no archaeological evidence for the Exodus has ever been found. Most academics accept that it never took place. (Except, of course, Muslim academics - who have to cling to the myth, otherwise the whole mendacious tapestry starts to fall apart...)

Monday, October 31, 2011

Top 5 reasons to believe the Qu'ran is man-made: # 5- The Ark on Mount Judi

# 5 - The Ark comes to rest on Mount Judi 
When the word went forth: "O earth! swallow up thy water and O sky! withhold (thy rain)!" and the water abated and the matter was ended. The Ark rested on Mount Judi and the word went forth: "Away with those who do wrong!" 11:44
The Bible and the Qur'an both relate the eponymous story of Noah's Ark. In the  Qur'an's version, however, the Ark comes to rest not on Mount Ararat, but on Mount Judi. The Qur'anic version is also silent on the "unnecessary details", such as the dimensions of the Ark, unlike the Bible which states that the Ark is 300 cubits long and 50 cubits wide.
Why should the author of the Qur'an have specified these differences?  
Perhaps this might explain.

This picture shows what appears to be the imprint, or the fossilised remains, of a giant boat near the foot of what has been identified as Mount Judi, mentioned the Qur'an as the Ark's final resting place. Surely this is proof, say Muslims, that the Qur'an is the word of God and that the Bible has been corrupted, just as we've been saying all these centuries...
Except that it's not. What you're looking at is indeed a boat-like structure and can indeed be found near the foot of Mount Judi. And it must doubtless have seemed like an awe-inspiring confirmation of the biblical stories of a giant boat to those desert dwellers who came across it 1,400 years ago. (There was the slight problem of it being in the wrong place and and the wrong dimensions [50% too wide] but it was no doubt the remains of an ancient ship) 
But the unusual rock formations at the now infamous Durupinar Site in the Tendurek Mountains are just that - unusual rock formations. (For those wishing to investigate the veracity of the Muslim miracle-seekers claims and read the conclusions of the numerous scientific studies carried out on this site since the 1960s I refer you to my earlier post )
And, at the risk of being accused of recycling old material, I quote from another previous post : How likely is it that such an unusual rock formation - in the very distinct and unusual shape of a boat - should happen to be on the very same mountain that it is claimed in the Qur’an that the Ark came to rest?
Either one perseveres with the supernatural/divine hypothesis and claims, faute de mieux, that God shaped the rocks in such a way (perhaps as another of those tests?), or one must look for another, more rational explanation. And the only explanation that I can think of is that the writer of the Qur’an knew of the “remains of the Ark” on Mnt Judi and decided to make reference to them in his revelation - leaving out the dimensions as they were obviously not correct.  It is perhaps relevant to quote a part of the conclusion from the Collins (Department of Geological Science, California State University) article: "Finally, [it has been] suggested that, although the structure is not Noah's Ark, it may very well be the site which the ancients regarded as the ship of the Deluge and may have played a role in the Flood story. As a geologist, I find this to be a interesting speculation." Journal of Geosciences Education, v. 44, 1996, p. 439-444. If we replace "the ancients" with "Mohammed" we are left with an unpalatable, (for Muslims) but not unreasonable, supposition.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Embryology in the Qur'an - a challenge to Hamza Tzortzis, iERA and Islam Papers

So let man observe from what he has been created. He was created from a fluid, ejected, emerging from between the backbone and the ribs 

Following the recent correspondence between this blog and the dawah site, Islam Papers, and the suggestion by IP that I put my points relating to the above verse in the Qur'an to Hamza Tzortzis of iERA (Islamic Education and Research Association) I thought it might be enlightening for my readers to see what the iERA said when I did exactly that via the kind offices of a Muslim friend a few months back. Here is the reply he got. Notice that there is NO MENTION of the various translations Hamza is so keen to highlight in his latest article quoted in IP and reproduced at the end of this post.

  The statement “sperm produced from between ribs and backbone?” is inaccurate. The most correct interpretation and translation (see Abdel Haleem’s translation of the Qur’an)  states that it is not the sperm that is produced from the ribs and the backbone but rather that the baby comes from there (in other words the womb). This is the view of the classical scholar al-Razi in his al-Tafsir al-Kabir. The pronoun refers back to man and not to the gushing fluid:
86. THE NIGHT-COMER 5) Man should reflect on what he was created from.6) He is created from spurting fluid, 7) then he * emerges from between the backbone and breastbone **
*= The Pronoun here is taken to refer to the person rather than the fluid.**=Of the mother, where she carries the baby.

and here is Hamza's latest article in full:

The above verses have been condemned by various critics and commentators as being scientifically inaccurate, and any attempt to salvage an accurate meaning from them has been suggested to be tantamount to textual acrobatics. This evaluation arises from an analysis of the words sulb andtara’ib which have been translated to mean ‘backbone’ and ‘ribs’. Those who maintain the scientific inaccuracy of the Qur’an claim the above translation for the words sulb and tara’ib cannot be reconciled with modern developments in physiology. However, after a lexical analysis of these words it will be seen that these words do in fact concur with modern physiology.The word sulb carries various meanings including hard, firm, solid, stiff and rigid. It also means any portion of the backbone, particularly the lumbar portion and the loins. It is specific to males.[2][3] The word tara’ib means breastbone, the ribs[4] or the pelvic arch,[5] and this word according to most authors refers specifically to women.
With such examinations of the interpretations offered by the Arabic language, it can be inferred that the Qur’an complies with modern physiology as it is well known that the sperm and semen come from an area referred to as the loins, and the ovum comes from the pelvic arch area. Both of which are required for the creation of man, that is to say, the human being. 

So my question to all Muslim miracle seekers, the iERA, Hamza Tzortzis and Islamic Papers is this: Can you please make up your minds what your holy book actually says, because at the moment it looks horribly like you can't tell your sulb from your elbow...

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Islam Papers - interesting, very interesting...

A new blog has appeared in the dawahsphere - The Islam Papers. It claims to "host a collection of really interesting  articles, papers and posts".
My attention was drawn to the Islam Papers by a kindly soul who commented on my post Embryology in the Qur'an..."
" has an interesting article on Was Al-Harith the Source of the Prophet's embryologcal knowledge. very interesting!"
Now this commenter was really on the ball, since the Islam Papers has only just gone on line - in fact its first ever post was October 2nd.
Intrigued, I visited Islam Papers and read the article. I shall publish a proper response shortly, but just so my readers are aware of how the Islamic miracle-seekers of the iERA et al work, I hereby make a prediction:
That Islam Papers turns out to be run and financed by our friends at the Islamic Education and Research Association (iERA) and that the over-enthusiastic commenter on my article turns out to be a member of both Islam Papers and the iERA.

So what is my gripe, you may ask.
Just this, that if Islam Papers is, as I strongly suspect, a blog run by and funded by the iERA, then it should surely admit as much and not pretend by omission to be an objective collection of "interesting articles" which thus run the risk of being taken by readers to be a dispassionate examination of the miracle claims of the Qur'an.

Addendum: I've left a comment on the Islamic Papers post on embryology. It reads as follows:
 If it is indeed the case that the translations you offer are possible and likely, can you explain why the most lauded and revered modern translation of the Qur’an by Professor Muhammad A S Abdel Haleem at the SOAS at the University of London has man emerging from between the backbone and the ribs instead of the spurting fluid/nutfah?
Will Hamza allow it, do you think?

Friday, September 23, 2011

Speed of Light Broken in Qur'an!

The idea that the speed of light could be exceeded in the universe is mentioned in the Qur'an...somewhere...if only we look hard enough....and use some imaginative translations of unusual words...and take a very vague verse...and want to believe...and shout loud enough at those who scoff.
Just wait. I give it a week.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Spinoza is "not for real" - just like Allah, then....

I'm taking a break from the Qur'an as literature to give you an insight into the Islamic miracle seekers' mindset.
Here is  part of an exchange with such a Muslim who posts on YouTube.
You need to check out the miracles in the Qur'an
I have checked all the miracles out and there is a rational explanation for every single one.
Can you please refer me to what you consider to be the most convincing scientific miracle of all - one for which there can be NO OTHER EXPLANATION OTHER THAN DIVINE, SUPERNATURAL KNOWLEDGE?
Why didn't Allah refer to the speed of light? The molten core of the Earth? Or anything else that it was IMPOSSIBLE for a man to know about?

You are not for real
Just like Allah then ;-)

Are you an Atheist? By the way Allah means God.

I know Allah means God. I know Muslims claim that the Qur'an is the FINAL revelation given to Mohammad who was the last in a long line of prophets which includes Noah, Jonah, Moses, Abraham, Jesus et al. I know that Muslims claim that the Jews used to kill hundreds of God's prophets. I know you believe that unless I believe in and worship your God he will condemn me to an eternity of the foulest torture imaginable.
And YES I am an atheist (for all of the above reasons and many more besides)

Atheism has no logic and if that's your reason for not believing in God then you are lost.  I'm not going to debate with you about the punishment for not believing in God because you obviously do not know the Qur'an very well.  I'm making a series of short video's to do with science in the Qur'an, almost 1 every week possibly 2. Because if you have seen no proof that there is a God/Creator/Designer/Supreme Intelligence/ Supreme power behind all this universe and what not then the Qur'an should open your eyes. God will only punish you if you have seen the proof and ignored or did not bother checking the proof while it was being offered to you. I hear Atheist's are very open minded (well most of them) and are ready to hear any proof of a Supreme being. Feel free to check out my video's. There are hundreds of scientific miracles in the Qur'an, so don't think if I post lets say 30 video's each with one scientific miracle that that's all there is. I don't even know all of them but feel free to watch. Peace.
(I'm at a loss to understand how you can accuse me of having as my reason for not believing in God the fact that I'm an atheist - "Atheism has no logic and if that's your reason for not believing in God then you are lost". The one is simply a name for the other...but that's by the by)
You say I don't know the Qur'an very well because I suggest the punishment for unbelievers is despicable torture. Those who reject Allah's signs (ie Unbelievers) go to Hell. Agreed? The punishments of Hell are described in graphic detail in the Qur'an and include burning the skin off and then replacing it and burning it ad infinitum, drinking boiling liquid, eating foul thorns etc. Agreed? In what sense then do I "not know the Qur'an very well"?
I have seen countless videos purporting to show proofs of miracles and read the Saudi sponsored polemic by Maurice Bucaille, The Bible, The Qur'an and Science which started the whole Islamic scientific miracle stuff off back in the '70s. None has convinced me. 
I just fail to see why a beneficent creator would feel the need to create us just so we should spend our short time on this wonderful Earth bowing and scraping in fear and awe. What sort of a god is so small minded as to have to bribe and threaten his creation to get them to believe. At least Judaism doesn't have Hell. Muslims inherited that awful dogma from the Christians. What a terrible day it was for humanity when that sadistic mind control was thought up. 

I'll let you keep you informed as to how the debate develops.

 God does not need us, we need him.
So why does he insist on our worshipping him to the point of torturing us for ever if we refuse? That sounds pretty needy to me...

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Qur'an as "literature" - Rhyme

This post forms the second part of my critical examination of the Qur'an as literature. We will look at the style of the Islamic holy book and in particular how the dictates of rhyme distort much of the content in a way incompatible with a work of literature created by a perfect being.
Firstly we must note that the Qur'an was written with lyrical recitation in mind. It followed very clearly the tradition established by Arab poets of the time. It is clearly a work of its time and not timeless. There are, however, some important and revealing differences between the poetry of the Qur'an and that which went before.
 Until the Qur'an, there seems to have been a clear distinction between rhymed or measured poetry, and and what we may term prose poetry.The Qur'an, uniquely, did not use any of the 15 or 16 established metres (or seas) of the rhymed poetry tradition but did, nonetheless, rely heavily upon rhyme. It is this of course that makes the Qur'an so easy to memorise.
 In abandoning the very strict rules of metre (using a certain number of taf'ila, or measuring unit, in each verse) the author of the Qur'an thus seemingly freed himself from one of the most difficult strictures of pre-Islamic poetry - how to ensure each verse had the correct number of syllables or beats. How this makes the Qur'an a more impressive work of literature than what preceded it is unclear. Perhaps my Muslim readers can explain.
Although there is no regular metre, the rhymes are very regular and the dictates this imposes upon the content, and choice of words in the Qur'an, are clear to see....
Spellings of the same word, for example, differ to allow the rhyme to work in many places. In 95:2, for example, the author calls Mount Sinai ,Mount Sinin, whereas in 23:20 it becomes Mount Sin'a - for no obvious reason other than to maintain the rhyme. Likewise, in 37:130 Elijah is called Ilyasin but in 6:85 and 37:123 he is referred to as Ilyas. 
It's not just spellings of words, however, which appear to be dictated by the rhyme, but also some peculiar positions of words can be explained only by the necessities of the rhyming scheme: 69:31 for example and 74:3.
In addition, neologisms and rare words are also brought into service for apparently the same reason: 19:8, 9, 11 and 16 contain the most striking examples.
And even the tense of certain passages seems to be dictated by the need to rhyme rather than logic.
Next time: order and sense

Saturday, September 3, 2011

The Qur'an as "literature" - the elephant in the room

One of the arguments Muslims use to try to convince non-believers of the sacred origins of the Qur'an is its miraculous literary merits. Not all share the believers' enthusiasm though. Edward Gibbon complained of it as an“endless incoherent rhapsody of fable and precept”. Thomas Carlyle said that it was “as toilsome reading as I ever undertook; a wearisome, confused jumble, crude, incondite”. It does seem strange that a book can so divide opinion: how many educated readers complain, for example, of Tolstoy or Shakespeare being "crude", "incoherent" or "wearisome"? So who's right?
The Qur'an itself boasts tirelessly of its own inimitable qualities (the doctrine of i'jaz) and asks doubters to produce a sura like those contained therein: 2:23, 17:88, 10:38, 11:13, 52:34. Some of these verses are remarkably similar, giving rise to the suspicion that the author was re-cycling old material. (Hell, we've all done it, haven't we?)
Or do they say, "He forged it"? say: "Bring then a Sura like unto it, and call (to your aid) anyone you can besides Allah, if it be ye speak the truth!" 10:38
Or they may say, "He forged it," Say, "Bring ye then ten suras forged, like unto it, and call (to your aid) whomsoever ye can, other than Allah!- If ye speak the truth!11:13
Apart from anything else, the author's obsession with being accused of forgery does suggest that many of his listeners were ...underwhelmed, shall we say, with his work's literary qualities. Moreover, the fact that one sura is demanded in one verse but in another ten are required, smacks of indecision surely unworthy of a perfect creator...

 Anyway, back to our main point - the miraculous literary qualities of the Qur'an. Here's an example, taken from a discussion board, of the sort of argument one comes across all the time:
The Quran is the most-read book in the world. Revealed by Allah Almighty to Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him), in the 7th century CE, and revered by Muslims as being Allah’s Final Scripture and Testament, its words have been lovingly recited, memorized and implemented by Muslims of every nationality ever since. The faithful are inspired, consoled and often moved to tears by its eloquence and poetic imagery, especially when recited aloud. And yet, the Quran is unique in being the only Scripture that is free of scientific inaccuracies, whose historical authenticity can be verified, and whose text has been so carefully preserved that just one authorized version (in Arabic) exists. 
3-The Quran is also the only holy book that can be memorized in its entirety by people of all ages and intellectual abilities – including non-Arabic speakers – which Muslims consider to be one of its miracles.
You will note that the writer makes some fairly hefty claims, which are debatable to say the least, but it is on its apparent sublime literary character that we must focus today. Our apologist says readers are "inspired, consoled and often moved to tears by [the Qur'an's] eloquence and poetic imagery". Given that only 3% of the world's population speak Arabic and of those 3% only a tiny fraction understand the Classical Arabic of the Qur'an, it strikes me as odd that so many can be moved in such a way. Such apparent power to move its audience has surely much more to do with being told since childhood that the words one is hearing are the actual words of one's creator and in addition being "encouraged" to learn those words off by heart, than any inherent beauty.
But let us ignore for one moment the difficulty of understanding a purely literary language with rules that few understand and look at some of the criticism levelled at the Qur'an as literature.
C.G. Pfander, the scholar on Islam, pointed out in 1835, "It is by no means the universal opinion of unprejudiced Arabic scholars that the literary style of the Qur'an is superior to that of other books in the Arabic language. Many doubt whether in eloquence and poetry it surpasses the Mu'allaqat by Imraul Quais, or the Maqamat of Hariri, though in Muslim lands few people are courageous enough to express such an opinion." (Pfander 1835:264) Pfander elaborates by comparing the Qur'an with the Bible. "When we read the Old Covenant in the original Hebrew, scholars hold that the eloquence of Isaiah and the Psalms, for instance, is far greater than that of any part of the Qur'an. Hardly anyone but a Muslim would deny this." (Pfander 1835:266)
Note the term "unprejudiced Arabic scholars" in the quote above. Herein lies an insurmountable problem when trying to establish the true literary merits of the holy book of Islam. For almost all those who hold positions of academic authority in the field of Qur'anic study are themselves Muslims, and therefore obliged to believe that the book they are studying and teaching is perfect in every respect. Even those who are not Muslims have learned that to openly criticise the Qur'an is to ask for trouble... Imagine for a moment a world where literary criticism consisted of nothing but enumerating the ways in which the book you were studying was perfect beyond reproach....

Nonetheless, there have been scholars who have dared to raise the possibility that the Qur'an is not so perfect. The German secular scholar Salomon Reinach was quite scathing in his appraisal :
"From the literary point of view, the Koran has little merit. Declamation, repetition, puerility, a lack of logic and coherence strike the unprepared reader at every turn. It is humiliating to the human intellect to think that this mediocre literature has been the subject of innumerable commentaries, and that millions of men are still wasting time in absorbing it." (Reinach 1932:176)
And herein lies a very real problem for Muslims. For if the Qura'n is, as they claim, the perfect word of God - unchanged to the last letter - then we must indeed expect perfection beyond any criticism. The creator of the universe should surely be capable of creating a literary masterpiece of such awe-inspiring beauty as to silence event the most ardent critic. And... I'm... afraid... it... just... doesn't... really... fit... the... bill.
There- I said it!
Sorry God, but wot you wrote is actually NOT THAT GOOD.
Here's why...
It is nauseatingly repetitive... with grammatical errors, missing words, and meaningless words. One out of every five verses is senseless. The speaker ducks in and out of first, second and third person and doesn't know if he is one or many. He doesn't even know his name. There are no intelligent transitions. And it's jumbled together haphazardly, lacking any pretence of sensible organization by subject, context, or chronology. (C Winn)
Now I know that's quite a list of objections to lay at the door of one book that has moved countless people to tears of wonder and joy and I'm well aware that one can't make such accusations without producing some sort of evidence. So tomorrow we'll do just that.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Cat Stevens, Yusuf Islam and Maurice Bucaille

I'm sure you all know by now the story of rock god and all-round hairy good guy, Cat Steven's conversion to Islam in December 1977. The man who gave the world such classics as Tea for the Tillerman and Father and Son promptly sold all his guitars, changed his name to Yusuf Islam and devoted himself to good works and charity organisations within the Muslim community.
I've always been intrigued by such conversion stories. I suppose having a close friend who went through the same process which, of course led me on my journey of discovery in Islam... and to the conclusion that the Qur'an was nothing more than the writings of a 7th century desert dweller which have been hijacked by a well organised campaign originating in Saudi to convince westerners that there are "SCIENTIFIC MIRACLES" therein which PROVE the Qur'an was written by Allah.
Anyway, back to Yusuf/Cat. So what prompted or convinced Yusuf that Islam was the one and only religion and that he should abandon his previous existence which had given so much pleasure to so many millions of people for a life of prayer and "good works"?
Regular readers of this blog will probably have guessed the answer by now...our old friend Maurice Bucaille and the "miracle" of the preserved Pharaoh. Here's what you find when you visit Mountain of Light, the dawah page of Yusuf's website:
Those four words: Qur'an and Modern Science makes one's heart sink, since the inevitable miracle claims will be just around the corner.
Let's read on:
Dr. Maurice Bucaille is an eminent French surgeon, scientist, scholar and author of "THE BIBLE, THE QUR'AN AND SCIENCE" which contains the result of his research into the Judeo-Christian Revelation and the Qur'an. It is a unique contribution in the field of religion and science.
Being an outstanding scientist, he was selected to treat the mummy of Merneptah (Pharaoh), which he did. During his visit to Saudi Arabia he was shown the verses of the Holy Qur'an in which Allah says that the dead body of the Pharaoh will be preserved as a "Sign" for posterity. An impartial scientist like Dr. Bucaille, who (being also a Christian) was conversant with the Biblical version of Pharaoh's story as being drowned in pursuit of Prophet Moses. He was pleasantly surprised to learn that unknown to the world till only of late, the Holy Qur'an made definite prediction about the preservation of the body of that same Pharaoh of Moses' time. This led Dr. Bucaille to study the Holy Qur'an thoroughly after learning the Arabic language. The final conclusion of his comparative study of Qur'an and the Bible is that the statements about scientific phenomena in the Holy Qur'an are perfectly in conformity with the modern sciences whereas the Biblical narrations on the same subjects are scientifically entirely unacceptable...
 Oh Cat Stevens, how could you - of all people - have fallen for this rubbish? Well, I suppose in some ways it was inevitable - a young hippy millionaire looking for meaning to his existence -thoughtful, sensitive and ripe for exploitation by Saudi miracle machine.
"we're on the way to find out..."
It's just a pity you didn't, isn't it...

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Holocaust denial on

Many's the time that I hear there is no anti-semitism within the Islamic community. Indeed, in a previous post I recounted how "Kevin" had educated me in the distinction Allah draws between the racial and religious Jews and how there is no anti-Jewish race sentiment in the Qur'an (before listing the ahadith and Qur'anic verses that leave one under no illusion about what Mohammad thought of the Jews who had rejected his message). Those disturbing ayahs and hadith that mischievous islamaphobes keep on quoting are just aimed at the Jewish religion then... so that's all tickety-boo.
It doesn't take long, however, if one visits even mainstream Islamic sites, to come across some pretty worrying stuff., one of the most popular and mainstream Muslim sites on the web with pages for the ummah from Azerbaijan to Switzerland, has a delightful section linked on it's site called Jew-Watch which collates articles and news feeds specialising in stories that supposedly highlight zionist crimes and atrocities (the title Jew-watch must be some awkward mis-spelling then, huh?).
A favourite leitmotif of this section is Holocaust denial - although the articles are dressed up as "research" and "history", of course.
Here's a title from one of the articles to give you a taste of the sickening content ....

Down Sizing From EIGHT million to 30,000 dead Jews
It reminds me of a conversation about freedom of speech I had with "Kevin" a while back. I was trying to explain how important the liberty to express oneself was and how it was something of which we should be proud in the free, non-Muslim western world. "Kevin", without hesitation, asked why we couldn't deny the Holocaust then. 
Until that moment I hadn't really considered that he, an intelligent and well educated westerner, might have been contaminated by Islamic anti-semitism...

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Yvonne Ridley - a heart-warming conversion tale...

Yvonne Ridley is one of many Westerners who have converted to Islam in recent years. Her tale is undoubtedly different from most (she was abducted by the Taleban on the Pakistan-Afghan border in 2001 when working for the Daily Express and was held captive for ten days...) and yet there is something here that will be familiar to all who know the way religions use threats and bribes to win converts. Here is the story of the final days before her conversion in her own words:

But there has been a phone call from at least one male admirer - north London preacher Abu Hamza al-Masri."He said, 'Sister Yvonne, welcome to Islam, congratulations'."I explained I hadn't yet taken my final vows and he said, 'Don't be pressured or pushed, the whole community is there for you if you need any help, just call one of the sisters.'  "I thought, I can't believe it, this is the fire and brimstone cleric from Finsbury Park mosque and he is quite sweet really."I was just about to hang up when he said, 'But there is just one thing I want you to remember. Tomorrow, if you have an accident and die, you will go straight to hellfire'."I was so scared that I carried a copy of the vows in my purse until my final conversion last June."
Ah...bless! And there was me thinking that Allah was a merciful, all-loving god.

(You might also find it rewarding to google Yvonne's wise and heart-warming words about Israel and Jews since her conversion...but God forbid you should think Islam encourages anti-semitism).

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

"Allah is a vengeful, cruel deity no more deserving of worship...

then the stone idols Mohammad threw out of the Kabah."

For those who want to know and who have any intellectual curiosity whatsoever, the evidence is so overwhelming that the Qur'an is written not by an omniscient, merciful, wise, wonderful deity but by a very fallible man, that I've suddenly been overcome by a sense of overwhelming ennui. Or perhaps it's just a midlife crisis...
If you're reading this and you are a Muslim then I have a simple question that I'd like you ask yourself and to which I have never received a satisfactory answer. It is this:
Allah makes it plain that if you are a polytheist, an ancestor worshiper or an atheist, or anything other than a monotheist in the Abrahamic fold, you will go to Hell and suffer an eternity of unimaginable torment.
Your god thus condemns a very large proportion of his own creation to ever-lasting torture. And it matters not one jot to your god that these people might be good, kind, wonderfully selfless individuals who lead lives replete with good works and acts of generosity . A child-murderer who converts to Islam has his sins wiped clean and can go to paradise, however.
Do you feel happy worshipping such a deity? Don't you ever, just for one moment think there might be something wrong here? Or are you too busy selfishly scrambling to be let into paradise so you can have endless rivers of wine and beautiful maidens?

Monday, August 29, 2011

Animal miracles - animals say Allah!

This lion roars Allah! It's had over 2 million views on youtube...Allah Akbah!
There are hundreds of similar videos, sites and blogs all asking believers to swallow this gob-smacking rubbish.
So here's some gentle fun at their expense. (No doubt it's punishable by death, but hey-ho...)

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Is Islam a Cult? - pt 2

Yesterday I posted the famous definition of a cult by Janja Lalich, Ph.D.and Michael D. Langone, Ph.D.: Characteristics Associated with Cultic Groups.
Today I'd like to take the first few points in the list enumerated by Lalich and Langone and see if they are applicable to Islam.

1. The group displays excessively zealous and unquestioning commitment to its leader and (whether he is alive or dead) regards his belief system, ideology, and practices as the Truth, as law. 
There is no doubt that Islam (like many religions...) encourages what might be fairly termed excessive and unquestioning devotion, as evidenced in this hadith from Bukari:
The Prophet said "None of you will have faith till he loves me more than his father, his children and all mankind." (Sahih Bukhari 1:2:14

2. Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged or even punished.
This, I think, is one of the most worrying aspects of Islam in that its adherents seem to lose all critical faculties - perhaps because of the infamous injunction in the Qur'an:
"O ye who believe! Ask not questions about things which, if made plain to you, may cause you trouble. But if ye ask about things when the Qur'an is being revealed, they will be made plain to you, Allah will forgive those: for Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Forbearing. Some people before you did ask such questions, and on that account lost their faith." (Qur'an 5:101-102)
We should also remember that apostasy (leaving the religion) in Islam is considered a heinous enough crime for the punishment to be death, according to some interpretations.

3. Mind-altering practices (such as meditation, chanting, speaking in tongues, denunciation sessions, and debilitating work routines) are used in excess and serve to suppress doubts about the group and its leader(s)
Prayers five times a day? Fasting for a month? Madrassas where young children are encouraged to do nothing but learn the Qur'an off by heart by means of repetitive chanting, even when they have little or no idea what it is they are repeating? I think we can call these mind-altering practices.

4. The leadership dictates, sometimes in great detail, how members should think, act, and feel (for example, members must get permission to date, change jobs, marry or leaders prescribe what types of clothes to wear, where to live, whether or not to have children, how to discipline children, and so forth).
How many times have we been told that Islam "is a way of life"? What other religion dictates the minutiae of the behaviour of its followers to such mind-numbing level as Islam? Here is a link to an Islamic Q&A site where Muslims can ask an Imman for a ruling (fatwah) on any number of personal things. As an example, there are eight fatwahs on the etiquette of sneezing... (I kid you not)

Another victim of Yusuf Estes' lies - Pharaoh preserved part 4

Here's why it's important to spread the truth...Another message left for me on Youtube:

This poor individual believes the lies spread by Yusuf Estes et al.
To recap:
1. Bucaille worked as the physician to King Faisal of Saudi Arabia in 1973. Any internet search can find this fact in seconds. Why did this poster not do some research?
2. Salt in the mummy is because of Natron - "a naturally occurring mixture of sodium carbonate decahydrate (Na2CO3·10H2O, a kind of soda ash) and about 17% sodium bicarbonate (also called nahcolite or baking soda, NaHCO3) along with small quantities of household salt (halite, sodium chloride) and sodium sulfate...Historical natron was harvested directly as a salt mixture from dry lake beds in Ancient Egypt...The mineral was used to preserve mummies in Egypt because it absorbs water and behaves as a drying agent." link
3. Where the lie about the mummies not being mummified comes from I have no idea, as even Bucaille doesn't say this. And yet thousands of  Muslims believe it.
A large proportion of the humanity is being brain-washed and we seem to be incapable of stopping it...

Addendum: I shall relay further exchanges with this Youtube user in the comments section..