Is Islam Internally Consistent?

  • "Can they not consider the Koran? Were it from any other than God, they would surely have found in it many contradictions." (Sura 4:84).

The medieval Pact of Omar gives the ground rules for life as a dhimmi under Muslim rule. Amongst all the expected admonitions to keep your head down, keep quiet, give up your seat to a Muslim, etc., comes a surprise: "We shall not teach the Qur'an to our children. We shall not manifest our religion publicly nor convert anyone to it." (Pact of Omar). Why did the Muslim conquerors have to keep their holy book out of Christian hands? Was the Koran not an asset in winning adherents to their faith?

In fact, the Koran is a bruised reed that pierces the hands of those who lean on it. It does not stand up to 'opposition research.' Beyond failing to live up to its advertised status as confirmation of prior scripture, it has its own set of problems with internal coherence. If this book is not handled lovingly and carefully by already-convinced believers, it is prone to fly apart, breaking into pieces along the same fault lines where Mohammed ibn Abdallah cobbled it together. The Christian material which went into its formation does not sit easily with the Jewish material, and neither readily tolerates the survivals from Arab paganism: the Jesus who breathed life into clay birds is not the same Jesus as he who denied he was more than a prophet; the sinless Jesus cannot co-exist with the Jesus who is a lesser prophet than the sinful Mohammed. Some examples of the many problems this work presents its faithful expositors:


  Abrogation

  Day of Judgment

  Inheritance

  Adulterers: Stoned, Whipped or Immurred?

  Every Which Way

  Pharaoh: Drowned or Saved?

  Family values

  Change or No Change?

  Jonah and the Whale

  When Does Jesus Die?

  Satanic Verses

  Only a Sinner

  Mind Cures

  The Hadith

  Works, Faith or Mercy

  Covenant-Breakers


Need a Koran?

Abrogation

Later verses of the Koran supersede earlier:

"Whatever verses we cancel, or cause thee to forget, we bring a better or its like. Knowest thou not that God hath power over all things?" (Sura 2:100);
"And when we change one (sign) verse for another, and God knoweth best what he revealeth, they say, 'Thou art only a fabricator.' Nay! but most of them have no knowledge." (Sura 16:103).

Those verses which are 'cancelled' cannot be harmonized with those which remain; this provision is on its face an admission of contradiction in the Koran at its original reading.

A similar provision is followed regarding Mohammed's practice: "Zuhri, on this matter of fasting when travelling, is credited with the dictum: 'They used to follow the latest of the Pophet's enactments,' judging that to have abrogated all other reports on the subject." (An Introduction to the Hadith, John Burton, p. 66).

All of this churn and revision is counter-intuitive to what one expects from God's revelation, because, "It is the Law of God which has taken course aforetime. Thou wilt not find any change in the Law of God." (Sura 48:23, quoted p. 113, The Heart of Islam, Seyyed Hossein Nasr).

In any case, the Koran's remarks on its own self-consistency are not the least of its inconsistencies. On the one hand, the Koran is proclaimed to be in "unison" with itself: "The best of recitals hath God sent down — a book in unison with itself, and teaching by iteration." (Sura 39:24). Yet a protocol is also provided, the rule of abrogation...for reconciling its contradictions!

Oddly, the abrogated material still stays in the Koran:

"Narrated Ibn Az-Zubair:

"I said to 'Uthman bin 'Affan (while he was collecting the Qur'an) regarding the Verse:— 'Those of you who die and leave wives . . ." (2.240) "This Verse was abrogated by another Verse. So why should you write it? (Or leave it in the Qur'an)?' 'Uthman said. 'O son of my brother! I will not shift anything of it from its place.'" (Hadith, Sahih Bukhari, Volume 6, Book 60, Number 53)

The logic of abrogation rolled onward until later generations were heard teaching that Islam abrogated Christianity and Judaism: "The tenth principle: Is that Allah — the Exalted — has sent Prophet Muhammad — the praise and peace be upon him — as the seal of the prophets and as an abrogator of all previous Religions before him; the religions of the Jews and the Christians and the Sabians." (Abu Hamid al Ghazali, The Foundations of Islamic Belief, pp. 170-171). The unlettered prophet naively thought, when he started out, that his new teaching confirmed prior revelation; by the time later generations were obliged to concede it did not confirm but contradicted the Bible, they had nowhere to go but 'abrogation.' Why, it may be wondered, is God so confused His revelation adds up to a mass of self-contradiction? Or perhaps God only inspired some of this material, not all; and the part conceded by all as inspired is the earlier, not the later.

Day of Judgment

How long is the day of judgment? Maybe a thousand years:

"From the Heaven to the Earth He governeth all things: hereafter shall they come up to Him on a day whose length shall be a thousand of such years as ye reckon." (Sura 32:4).

After all, Sura 22:46 says a day is a thousand years: "And they will bid thee to hasten the chastisement. But God cannot fail His threat. And verily, a day with thy Lord is a thousand years, as ye reckon them!" (Sura 22:46). Or maybe fifty thousand:

"A suitor sued for punishment to light suddenly
On the infidels: none can hinder
God from inflicting it, the master of those ASCENTS,
By which the angels and the spirit ascend to him in a day, whose length is fifty thousand years." (Sura 70:1-4).

On the subject of 'days,' in how many 'days' did God create the world? Maybe six:

"We created the heavens and the earth and all that is between them in six days, and no weariness touched us." (Sura 50:38).

Or maybe eight (2+4+2):

"SAY: Do ye indeed disbelieve in Him who in two days created the earth? and do ye assign Him peers? The Lord of the Worlds is He!
"And he hath placed on the earth the firm mountains which tower above it; and He hath blessed it, and distributed food throughout it, for the cravings of all alike, in four days:
"Then He applied himself to the Heaven, which then was but smoke: and to it and to the Earth He said, ‘Come ye, whether in obedience or against your will?’ and they both said, ‘We come obedient.’
"And He made them seven heavens in two days, and in each heaven made known its office: And we furnished the lower heaven with lights and guardian angels. This, the disposition of the Almighty, the All-knowing." (Sura 41:9-12).

Inheritance

How much of her husband's estate does a widow inherit by law? An eighth, or a year's maintenance and the house?:

"And such of you as shall die and leave wives, shall bequeath their wives a year's maintenance without causing them to quit their homes; but if they quit them of their own accord, then no blame shall attach to you for any disposition they may make of themselves in a fair way. And God is Mighty, Wise." (Sura 2:241).
"And your wives shall have a fourth part of what ye leave, if ye have no issue; but if ye have issue, then they shall have an eighth part of what ye leave, after paying the bequests ye shall bequeath, and debts." (Sura 4:14).

It is up to Muslim jurists to reconcile this patchwork of ad hoc provisions. Though not obvious what the order is, later verses abrogate earlier. Tradition clarifies the order:

"'But if they leave there is no blame on you,... ' (2.240) Ibn 'Abbas said: The above Verse has cancelled the order of spending the period of the 'Iddah at her late husband's house, and so she could spend her period of the 'Iddah wherever she likes." (Hadith, Sahih Bukhari, Volume 7, Book 63, Number 256.)



Adulterers: Fit to be Stoned, Whipped or Immurred?

What's the Islamic punishment for adultery? One suggestion: "If any of your women be guilty of whoredom, then bring four witnesses against them from among yourselves; and if they bear witness to the fact, shut them up within their houses till death release them, or God make some way for them." (Sura 4:19). Students of ancient Roman history will recall a similar punishment was applied against wayward Vestal Virgins, who were literally immurred within the city walls:

"Thereupon strict inquiry was made by everyone, and at last information was given to the pontiffs that one of the virgins who guarded the sacred fire, Opimia by name, had lost her virginity and was polluting the holy rites. The pontiffs, having by tortures and other proofs found that the information was true, took from her head the fillets, and solemnly conducting her through the Forum, buried her alive inside the city walls." (Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Roman Antiquities, Book VIII, Chapter 89, p. 277, Loeb Volume 5).

Plutarch adds detail to the picture:

"She that breaks her vow of celibacy is buried alive at the Colline Gate, at which there is a mound of earth which stretches some way inside the city wall. In it they construct an underground chamber, of small size, which is entered from above. In it is a bed with bedding, and a lamp burning; and also some small means of supporting life, such as bread, a little water in a vessel, milk, and oil, as though they wished to avoid the pollution of one who had been consecrated with such holy ceremonies dying of hunger." (Plutarch's Lives, Life of Numa, Chapter X, Volume I, pp. 75-76).

According to Rodwell, this Koranic punishment, mirroring that of wayward Vestal Virgins, was actually enforced in the early days: "Women found guilty of adultery and fornication were punished at the first rise of Islam, by being literally immured." (p. 440, Everyman Koran, Rodwell's notes).

Or perhaps a hundred lashes?: "The whore and the whoremonger — scourge each of them with an hundred stripes; and let not compassion keep you from carrying out the sentence of God..." (Sura 24:2).

Or how about stoning, a punishment not found in the Koran, but reported by tradition:

"Bukhari...from Abu Salama from Jabir: 'A man who had become a Muslim came to the Prophet, God's benediction and peace be on him, and confessed to fornication.  The Prophet turned away from him.  This happened until the man had confessed four times.  Then the Prophet said to him, "Are you insane?" "No," he said. "Are you married?" He replied, "Yes," and the Prophet ordered him to be stoned at the Musalla [mosque outside Medina]. When the stones struck him, he ran away, but he was caught and stoned until he was dead.'" (Hadith, quoted from Al-Bukhari, 'Kitab al-Jam 'i al Sahih,' p. 82, Islam, John Alden Williams).

Mohammed's reported practice is important, not in spite of the Koran, but because of it: "O ye who believe! obey God and obey the apostle, and those among you invested with authority; and if in aught ye differ, bring it before God and the apostle, if ye believe in God and in the latter day." (Sura 4:62).

Since entire nations live under Islamic law, these questions cannot be evaded. Tradition and the Koran supply a thicket of contradictions through which Islamic jurists must wade.  When General Zia Ul-haq imposed Islamic law on Pakistan, he went with stoning: "The punishment for illicit sex, for an adult Muslim, was to 'be stoned to death at a public place'; for a non-Muslim, a hundred-stripe public whipping, with the possibility of death for rape. 'The punishment of stoning to death awarded under section 5 or section 6 shall be executed in the following manner namely: Such of the witnesses who deposed against the convict as may be available shall start stoning him and, while stoning is being carried on, he may be shot, whereupon stoning and shooting shall be stopped.'" (quoted from 'Combined Set of Islamic Laws, 1979', by V. S. Naipaul, Among the Believers, p. 165).

Zia was relying on a traditional solution to the problem which presupposes a 'forgotten' Koranic verse specifying stoning:

"In the course of a public address to the believers of Madina, Umar insists that the duties have been established and the obligations put in place. Men had been left in perfect clarity. Should they thereafter stray from the path, it would be their own doing. They must not neglect the stoning-'verse,' which would be the result of someone's saying, 'But we don't find two penalties in the Book of God.' Umar insists that the Prophet had stoned and the caliphs after him had stoned. Only the fear that he might be accused of 'adding to the Book of God' prevented him from then and there writing into the text: 'the mature male and female, stone them to death.' 'We certainly recited this verse in the ritual prayers.'" (Malik, 'Muwatta,' quoted in 'An Introduction to the Hadith,' John Burton, p. 83).

The hadith collection Sahih Bukhari records Omar's scruple:

"When we reached Medina, 'Umar (in a Friday Khutba-sermon) said, 'No doubt, Allah sent Muhammad with the Truth and revealed to him the Book (Quran), and among what was revealed, was the Verse of Ar-Rajm (stoning adulterers to death).'" (Sahih Bukhari, Volume 9, Book 92, Number 424).

In Sahih Bukhari Volume 8, Book 82, Number 718, the information is added that "we did recite this Verse and understood and memorized it. Allah's Apostle did carry out the punishment of stoning and so did we after him." So if you believe these unimpeachable Islamic sources, you understand that Koran as we have it is missing a verse, and the punishment laid down for adultery in the extant text is the wrong one! Further riling this jumbled mess are combo mix-and-match punishments, such as whipping for the man and stoning for the woman.

Every Which Way

For someone claiming divine guidance, Mohammed had trouble making up his mind.  Should the people pray facing Jerusalem, or Mecca? He turned them first one way, then the other:

"Narrated Al-Bara' (bin 'Azib): When the Prophet came to Medina, he stayed first with his grandfathers or maternal uncles from Ansar. He offered his prayers facing Baitul-Maqdis (Jerusalem) for sixteen or seventeen months, but he wished that he could pray facing the Ka'ba (at Mecca). The first prayer which he offered facing the Ka'ba was the 'Asr prayer in the company of some people. Then one of those who had offered that prayer with him came out and passed by some people in a mosque who were bowing during their prayers (facing Jerusalem). He said addressing them, 'By Allah, I testify that I have prayed with Allah's Apostle facing Mecca (Ka'ba).' Hearing that, those people changed their direction towards the Ka'ba immediately. Jews and the people of the scriptures used to be pleased to see the Prophet facing Jerusalem in prayers but when he changed his direction towards the Ka'ba, during the prayers, they disapproved of it." (Hadith, Sahih Bukhari, Volume 1, Book 2, Number 39.)

According to Mohammed, the confusion originated with God Himself:

"We appointed the kebla which thou formerly hadst, only that we might know him who followeth the apostle, from him who turneth on his heels: The change is a difficulty, but not to those whom God hath guided...We have seen thee turning thy face towards every part of Heaven; but we will have thee turn to a kebla which shall please thee.  Turn then thy face towards the sacred Mosque, and wherever ye be, turn your faces towards that part..." (Sura 2:138-139).

Did Pharaoh Drown?

Saved: "And we led the children of Israel through the sea; and Pharaoh and his hosts followed them in eager and hostile sort until, when the drowning overtook him, he said, 'I believe that there is no God but he on whom the children of Israel believe, and I am none of the Muslims.'...But this day will we rescue thee with thy body that thou mayest be a sign to those who shall be after thee; but truly, most men are of our signs regardless!'" (Sura 10:90-92).

Drowned: "So Pharaoh sought to drive them out of the land; but we drowned him and all of his followers.  And after his death, we said to the children of Israel, 'Dwell ye in the land'..." (Sura 17:105-106); "But we seized on him and his hosts and cast them into the sea: Behold, then, the end of the wrongful doers. . ." (Sura 28:40); "And when they had angered us, we took vengeance on them, and we drowned them all." (Sura 43:55).

The unlettered prophet displays a similar confusion about the outcome of Noah's flood. As in the Bible, in Sura 21, Noah is saved with his family:

"And remember Noah when aforetime he cried to us and we heard him, and delivered him and his family from the great calamity; And we helped him against the people who treated our signs as impostures. An evil people verily were they, and we drowned them all." (Sura 21:76-77).

Sura 11, however, introduces a little set-piece in which Noah expostulates with a son, not otherwise known,— he is absent from the Bible,— who is left behind:

"And the Ark moved on with them amid waves like mountains: and Noah called to his son — for he was apart — ‘Embark with us, O my child! and be not with the unbelievers.’

"He said, ‘I will betake me to a mountain that shall secure me from the water.’ He said, ‘None shall be secure this day from the decree of God, save him on whom He shall have mercy.’ And a wave passed between them, and he was among the drowned." (Sura 11:44-45).

Need a Koran?



Family Values

"Why, O Prophet! dost thou hold that to be FORBIDDEN which God hath made lawful to thee, from a desire to please thy wives, since God is Lenient, Merciful?...'Haply if he put you both away, his Lord will give him in exchange other wives better than you, Muslims, believers, devout, penitent, obedient, observant of fasting, both known of men and virgins.'" (Sura 66:1-5). The "forbidden" thing in question was Mary, a Christian slave girl from Egypt.

In the Hadith, Mohammed is held up as living under the same rules as everybody else: "Bukhari...from A'isha: 'The prophet did something and thus permitted it for others, but some people still abstained from it.  And that came to the Prophet, and he went into the pulpit, and praised God.  Then he said, 'What ails these people who refrain from a thing I have done? For by God, I know God better than they do, and I am more fearful of offending him.'" (The Hadith, p. 82, Islam, John Alden Williams).

Yet as a matter of fact, he lived by a different set of rules than he laid on them. Muslim men are allowed up to four wives: "And if ye are apprehensive that ye shall not deal fairly with orphans, then, of other women who seem good in your eyes, marry but two, or three, or four; and if ye still fear that ye shall not act equitably, then one only; or the slaves whom ye have acquired: this will make justice on your part easier..." (Sura 4:2).  Yet he collected wives like some folks collect postage stamps — by special permit, it would seem: "O Prophet! we allow thee thy wives whom thou hast dowered, and the slaves whom thy right hand possesseth out of the booty which God hath granted thee, and the daughters of thy uncle, and of thy paternal and maternal aunts who fled with thee to Medina, and any believing woman who hath given herself up to the Prophet, if the Prophet desired to wed her — a Privilege for thee above the rest of the Faithful." (Sura 33:49).  His wife A'isha said it all when she told Mohammed, "Truly thy Lord makes haste to do thy pleasure." (quoted p. 40, The Emergence of Islam, Mostafa Vaziri).




Change or No Change?

The Bible and the Koran agree that man is not permitted to change the word of God, and that God does not change His decrees. The Koran goes even further, boasting that no change can be made in the word of God:

"Before thee have apostles already been charged with falsehood: but they bore the charge and the wrong with constancy, till our help came to them;—for none can change the words of God." (Sura 6:34).
"And the words of thy Lord are perfect in truth and in justice: none can change his words: He is the Hearing, Knowing." (Sura 6:115).

Yet Mohammed also accuses the Jews, who debated with him the concordance between the Koran and the Law...of changing the words of God:

"Hast thou not remarked those to whom a part of the Scriptures hath been given? Vendors are they of error, and are desirous that ye go astray from the way. But God knoweth your enemies; and God is a sufficient patron, and God is a sufficient helper! Among the Jews are those who displace the words of their scriptures, and say, ‘We have heard, and we have not obeyed. Hear thou, but as one that heareth not; and LOOK AT US;’ perplexing with their tongues, and wounding the Faith by their revilings." (Sura 4:48).
"O Apostle! let not those who vie with one another in speeding to infidelity vex thee;— of those who say with their mouths, ‘We believe,’ but whose hearts believe not;— or of the Jews — listeners to a lie — listeners to others — but who come not to thee. They shift the words of the law from their places, and say, ‘If this be brought to you, receive it; but if this be not brought to you, then beware of it.’ For him whom God would mislead, thou canst in no wise prevail with God!" (Sura 5:45)
"But for their breaking their covenant we have cursed them, and have hardened their hearts. They shift the words of Scripture from their places, and have forgotten part of what they were taught. Thou wilt not cease to discover deceit on their part, except in a few of them. But forgive them, and pass it over: verily, God loveth those who act generously!" (Sura 5:16).

Does Mohammed mean to say that they can try to shift the words of Scripture, but can't get away with it? Yet his followers allege that they, and the Christians, have gotten away with it, having succeeded in corrupting the Bible, thus explaining the many discrepancies between Holy Writ and the Koran. Or does he mean you can get away with it with the Bible, but not the Koran? But one of his transcriptionists, by his own report, got away with it with the Koran, receiving a (later commuted) death sentence in return. Or does Mohammed mean that, what man can freely do, God cannot do? But he says "none."

If Mohammed's intent is only to communicate that the words of a speaker who changes the words of God, are no longer the words of God, one must wonder, why belabor the obvious.



  Ask the Christians


  No Change


  Confirmation


  Criterion


  Strange Bed-Fellows


  The Gospel of Barnabas


  Scripture Wresting


  Islamic History


  Bathsheba





Jonah and the Whale

Mohammed reports that Jonah was sent as an apostle:

"Jonas, too, was one of the Apostles,
When he fled unto the laden ship...
And we sent him to a hundred thousand persons, or even more,
And because they believed, we continued their enjoyments for a season." (Sura 37:139-149).

The "even more" were the Ninevites, as the Bible confirms. Jonah was a Hebrew, sent to the great city of Nineveh: “So he said to them, 'I am a Hebrew; and I fear the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.'” (Jonah 1:9).

But the Koran also says that prophets are only sent to those of their native tongue:

"And in order that He might speak plainly to them, we have not sent any Apostle, save with the speech of his own people; but God misleadeth whom He will, and whom He will he guideth: and He is the mighty, the Wise." (Sura 14:4).

But the Ninevites did not speak Hebrew!

When Does Jesus Die?

Mohammed ibn Abdallah denied that Jesus died upon a Roman cross, explaining instead that he was caught up to God: "No sure knowledge had they about him, but followed only an opinion, and they did not really slay him, but God took him up to Himself." (Sura 4:156). This is repeated elsewhere, ". . .I was a witness of their actions while I stayed among them; but since thou hast taken me to Thyself, Thou hast Thyself watched them. . ." (Sura 5:117). In thus denying the reality of the Lord's crucifixion, Mohammed makes a prediction:

"There shall not be one of the people of the Book but shall believe in Him before his death, and in the day of resurrection, He will be a witness against them." (Sura 4:157).

This seems to project Jesus' death into the eschatological future, because many of the people of the Book do not now believe in Him. But Mohammed shows no awareness of any contemporaneously surviving prophet:

"Mohammed is no more than an apostle; other apostles have already passed away before him: if he die, therefore, or be slain, will ye turn upon your heels?" (Sura 3:138).

If some prior apostle had not passed away, then what point is this verse making? If Mohammed ibn Abdallah were a greater prophet than Jesus, as some fatuously claim, why did he not expect the same extraordinary gift of rapture to heaven?

The Koran's teaching on Jesus places many road-blocks in the path of any would-be harmonizer. Mohammed's attitude toward the people of the Book, both Jews and Christians, hardened, as their unbelief became apparent. First he turned to the Christians, then to the Jews, but was left in the end friendless. Thus the Christians traverse the circuit from honored predecessors in the faith to outright idolaters. There is no way to harmonize these differing attitudes. Further divergence along this trajectory occurred after Mohammed's death, as his successors were made aware the New Testament contradicts the Koran. The gospel was accordingly taken out of the hands of the Christians, where Mohammed thought it resided:

"But if the people of the Book believe and have the fear of God, we will surely put away their sins from them, and will bring them into gardens of delight: and if that they observe the law and the Evangel, and what hath been sent down to them from their Lord, they shall surely have their fill of good things from above them and from beneath their feet." (Koran, Sura 5:70)

Notice that Mohammed shows no suspicion that the Christians don't actually have the Evangel, which is what latter-day Muslims were obliged to claim, as it was brought to their attention that the real-life Evangel contradicts the Koran. The gospel thus disappeared, leaving the reader of the Koran to wonder how the Christians might be expected to "observe" a lost religion.

Muslims reconcile this conflicting material in a variety of ways. Many believe Jesus never died. Others speculate along 'Da Vinci Code' lines: one modern-day offshoot of Islam teaches that Jesus survived the crucifixion, but was not caught up to heaven; instead he relocated to India. Perhaps the next block-buster novel will connect the dots, and give us Jesus the dead-beat dad, who fled all the way to India to avoid paying child support for his poor little abandoned French infant!

Biblically it is not possible for the Messiah to have died of old age, or in a traffic accident, or a slip and fall in the bathtub. He must be numbered among the transgressors: "And He was numbered with the transgressors, and He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors." (Isaiah 53:12). To be "numbered with the transgressors" means to be judged, by a competent authority, a transgressor of the law, as was Jesus.

The lack of clarity in the Koran about Jesus' fate, when ever He died if He did die, or will die if He has not yet (there is no resurrection, no joyful Easter morning in Islam; where there is no cross, there is no crown), leaves room for a wide range of interpretation and speculation amongst today's Muslims. The underlying lack of clarity stems, it would appear, from the various sources Mohammed ibn Abdallah cobbled together, without understanding their differences. The docetic opinion that Jesus cannot have died on the cross because death has no affinity with Deity chafes uncomfortably, bound up with Mohammed's denial of Jesus' deity, but there it is.




Satanic verses

The tale of the 'Satanic verses' does not originate with foes of Islam, but from early Islamic historians like Ibn Ishaq. Sura 53:19-20 reads as follows: "Do you see Al-Lat and Al-Ozza, And Manat the third idol besides?" As the Koran now stands, this is followed by ridicule of the idea that Allah would have only daughters while humankind preferred sons.  At its first reading, though, Mohammed delivered these lines next: "These are the exalted females, [or, sublime swans] And truly their intercession may be expected". The blatant polytheism of these verses met with controversy, and Mohammed later withdrew them.

Here's the story:

"Mohammed's softened attitude, which found expression in such actions as occasionally inviting pagans to his home for food and drink, was conciliatory.  However, his promise that any who followed him would become his brother, executor and successor, found no grounds for conversion among his clan, so he decided to seek other solutions.  The accounts in some early traditions suggest that he came up with an extremely incautious plan to offer as a compromise.  To please the Quaraysh, he praised three of their goddesses (in lines known as satanic verses).  This concession was a severe blow to his prophecy.  Ibn Ishaq reports: 'When the apostle saw that his people turned their backs on him and he was pained by their estrangement from what he brought them from God, he longed that there should come to him from God a message that should reconcile his people to him.' [Ibn Ishaq, d. 150/767, The Life of Mohammed, the earliest biography of Mohammed.]
"Thus, verses 53:19-20 refer to the three female idols: al-Uzza, al-Manat, and al-Lat.  As the Koran suggests, the Meccans regarded them as daughters of another male deity (to whom Mohammed referred as Allah).  Tabari (d. 310/923) a Sunni historian, indicates that, in the presence of worshippers, Mohammed added, 'These are the exalted goddesses whose intercession with the Deity (Allah) is to be sought.'
"Among his own followers, Mohammed was for a time suspect because of this 'undivine' remark, but his message was nevertheless an attempt to bring him closer to his tribe.  The attempt might have been an outgrowth of Mohammed's examination of the psychological aspects of compromise Ibn Ishaq reports: 'When the Quraysh heard that, they were delighted and greatly pleased at the way in which he spoke of their gods, and they listened to him, while the believers were holding that what their prophet brought them from the Lord was true, not suspecting a mistake or a vain desire or a slip.'
"The implications of this gesture caused many Christians and Jews to believe that the sect had renounced its monotheism and that Mohammed had reverted to his original polytheism. 'Mohammed temporarily yielded to the temptation to allow the pagan gods a place in his religion.  The move was in human terms a dramatic success.  But it was not monotheism.' [Cook, 'Mohammed', p. 17].  The impulse to engage in such a compromising exercise proved unsuitable to his prophecy. He was aggrieved. Ibn Ishaq reports:
"'Then Gabriel came to the apostle and said, "What have you done, Mohammed? You have recited to these people something I did not bring you from God and you have said what He did not say to you.' Satan had intercepted something into his desires as he had on his tongue.  So God annulled what Satan had suggested and God established His verses.
"'"Are yours the males and His the females? That indeed were an unfair division! They are but names which ye have named, ye and your fathers, for which Allah hath revealed no warrant..."'"

(The Emergence of Islam: Prophecy, Imamate, and Messianism in Perspective, Mostafa Vaziri, Ph.D., Chapter 1, Mohammed in Mecca, pp. 18-20.)




Only a Sinner

Mohammed was a self-professed sinner in need of forgiveness:

"'Walk righteously, sacrifice and be of good cheer,' he said, 'but none will enter Heaven on account of his deeds.' 'Not even you?' he was asked. 'Not even I,' he replied, 'unless God smother me in forgiveness and mercy.'" (Hadith quoted p. 95, An Introduction to the Hadith, John Burton, see Sahih Bukhari, Volume 7, Book 70, Number 577.)
"Abu Huraira reported Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: None amongst you can get into Paradise by virtue of his deeds alone. They said: Allah's Messenger, not even you? Thereupon he said: Not even I, but that Allah should wrap me in His Grace and Mercy." (Hadith Sahih Muslim Book 039, Number 6764).
"Narrated Abu Huraira: I heard Allah's Apostle saying. 'By Allah! I ask for forgiveness from Allah and turn to Him in repentance more than seventy times a day.'" (Sahih Bukhari, Invocations, Volume 8, Book 75, Number 319).

How dangerous can it be to imitate a man who, by his own confession, needs to be smothered in forgiveness and mercy? How would you know whether what you're imitating is one of those seventy-plus things for which Mohammed had repented?

Muslims insist on finding Mohammed's biography edifying and his life morally exemplary. Purportedly God thinks so, too: "Verily you have in the Messenger of God an excellent exemplar for him who looks to God and the Last Day and remembers God often." (Sura 33:21, quoted p. 28, The Heart of Islam, Seyyed Hossein Nasr). But to outsiders, the events of this man's life break the mold of what we expect from a religious founder. When did Jesus ever accept the gift of a slave girl, as Mohammed gratefully accepted Mary, the Egyptian Christian slave? When did Gautama Buddha ever mug a passing caravan, as Mohammed and his band proposed to do at Buwat? The Koran even specifies Mohammed's share of the booty (Sura 8:42). Whatever the merits of Gautama Buddha's religious innovation, you cannot call him a common thief. While there were admirable moments in this man's career, Mohammed was ultimately willing to use violence and trickery to achieve his aims. When we see people in the third world who have set themselves up in Mohammed's profession today, we call them 'war-lords.'

Aspects of Mohammed's life-style, such as polygamy, find precedent in the patriarchs. The patriarchs are great exemplars of salvation by faith. Certainly the Bible makes clear this is the ground on which they stand in claiming salvation:

“What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? 'Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.' Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works: 'Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; Blessed is the man to whom the LORD shall not impute sin.'” (Romans 4:1-8).

Those who want to follow the patriarchs into the Kingdom should join them in clinging to Christ, not set them up as tutors in a works program they never endorsed. Much less wise to follow the kings who openly violated the law in multiplying wives: "Neither shall he multiply wives for himself, lest his heart turn away; nor shall he greatly multiply silver and gold for himself." (Deuteronomy 17:17).

A man cannot safely emulate Mohammed in marrying a child bride, a girl beneath the age of consent: "At this time Mohammed married Aisha, daughter of Abu Bakr, who was then ten or eleven years old. She was a beautiful, delicate, and amiable young girl, emerging out of childhood and blossoming into full womanhood. Although she was fully grown, she was still quite attracted by amusement and play...In Mohammed, she found not only a sympathetic and loving husband but also a compassionate father who was not at all offended by her inclination to play games and amuse herself with trifles." (Muhammad H. Haykal, The Life of Mohammed, pp. 183-184). Earlier sources say that she was nine. She was still of an age to play with dolls: "Mohammed had enjoyed playing with his own daughters when they were small and he sometimes joined Aisha's games. One day, she remembered, 'the Prophet came in while I was playing with my dolls...'" (Karen Armstrong, Mohammed, A Biography of the Prophet, p. 157). You can go to jail for that! So why play the perilous game of emulating a mere man, and a sinful man at that?

Need a biography of the prophet Mohammed?:


Washington Irving
Mohammed and His
Successors


Muslims accuse Christian critics of Mohammed's character of launching an ad hominem attack. While it is usually bad logic to drag in an interlocutor's character, it cannot be overlooked that this man founded of religion one of whose tenets is the imitation of himself. But imitating Mohammed may involve the hapless imitator in grave moral peril. Mohammed had an adopted son named Zaid. Yet one day he announced, "Muhammad is not the father of any man among you..." (Sura 33:40). Why did he disinherit this blameless young man, one of his earliest followers? It turns out that adoption, a near-universal human custom which brings together two populations who very badly need one another: orphan children and childless couples,— displeases God. Who knew? This discovery was sent down to humankind just at the moment when Mohammed, who already had a sizeable harem, desired to marry Zaid's ex-wife, a move that would have scandalized even the pagan Arabs. But God, you see, not only allowed this marriage, but demanded it: "And when Zaid had settled concerning her to divorce her, we married her to thee, that it might not be a crime in the faithful to marry the wives of their adopted sons, when they have settled the affair concerning them. And the behest of God is to be performed." (Sura 33:37).

It's a good thing 'Allah' spoke up when He did, because the neighbors were scandalized; even in their times of ignorance, the Arabs had not condoned a man marrying his daughter-in-law. His morals were lower than theirs! Pagans have wandered wildly in their searching after morality, but many have understood it is scandalous to marry the spouse of your own child. The pagan Cicero spoke scathingly of a woman who married her son-in-law:

"The mother-in-law marries the son-in-law, no one looking favorably on the deed, no one approving it, all foreboding a dismal end to it. Oh, the incredible wickedness of the woman, and, with the exception of this one single instance, unheard of since the world began! Oh, the unbridled and unrestrained lust! Oh, the extraordinary audacity of her conduct! To think that she did not fear (even if she disregarded the anger of the gods and the scorn of men) that nuptial night and those bridal torches! that she did not dread the threshold of that chamber! nor the bed of her daughter! nor those very walls, the witnesses of the former wedding! She broke down and overthrew everything in her passion and her madness; lust got the better of shame, audacity subdued fear, mad passion conquered reason." (Cicero, Against Cluentius, 14-15).



Another pagan moralist, Maximus of Tyre, though plunged in the thick darkness and ignorance of polytheism, could nevertheless see clearly what the unlettered Arabian prophet could not:

"Thus too, neither the tall Indian virgin, nor the Mede with her tiara, nor the Dardan with her mitre, neither the Carian armed, nor the Lydian with her song, neither the Ionic nor the Hellespontic maid could lead the mighty Xerxes to love, who engaged the Greeks at Salamis and Plataea, and who beheld and was the lord of so many beautiful bodies; but he became enamored with Amestris, the wife of his son. O most base love! which, neglecting grateful food, requires such as is bitter and not fit to be eaten, through intemperate license abusing the power of love." (Maximus of Tyre, The Dissertations, Dissertation X, pp. 108-109).

Maximus goes on insightfully to explain that it is excessive power that leads to these abuses: "For when you deprive the soul of knowledge, but afford it power, you impart to crimes an influx, a license, and a passage." (Maximus of Tyre, The Dissertations, Dissertation X, p. 1109). Is that the case here? Don't even think of crossing GodandHisApostle; when you criticize one, the Other gets angry:

"And it is not for a believer, man or woman, to have any choice in their affairs, when God and His Apostle have decreed a matter: and whoever disobeyeth God and His Apostle, erreth with palpable error." (Sura 33:36)

There is a depressing trajectory in this man's life which mirrors what would later become of Joseph Smith in the American wilderness. He begins in all earnestness, enduring persecution and ridicule to share his awe of God and the last day. But he is not a voice in the wilderness; he amasses followers, and with followers come power. And power corrupts. Later we see him, not enduring ridicule, but murdering the ridiculers. The final absurdity comes when he and Joseph solemnly intone to the lady-folk poised at the thresh-hold of the harem that their entry is just exactly what God wants, no, demands.




Mind Cures

As noted, the Koran points to the Hadith by holding up the person and example of Mohammed as fit subject for emulation. But the Hadith contain such subversive information as Aisha's accusation that the Prophet was mentally ill:

"Narrated 'Aisha: 'Magic was worked on the Prophet so that he began to fancy that he was doing a thing which he was not actually doing. One day he invoked (Allah) for a long period and then said, "I feel that Allah has inspired me as how to cure myself. Two persons came to me (in my dream) and sat, one by my head and the other by my feet. One of them asked the other, "What is the ailment of this man?" The other replied, 'He has been bewitched" The first asked, 'Who has bewitched him?' The other replied, 'Lubaid bin Al-A'sam.' The first one asked, 'What material has he used?' The other replied, 'A comb, the hair gathered on it, and the outer skin of the pollen of the male date-palm.' The first asked, 'Where is that?' The other replied, 'It is in the well of Dharwan.' " So, the Prophet went out towards the well and then returned and said to me on his return, "Its date-palms (the date-palms near the well) are like the heads of the devils." I asked, "Did you take out those things with which the magic was worked?" He said, "No, for I have been cured by Allah and I am afraid that this action may spread evil amongst the people." Later on the well was filled up with earth.'" (Hadith, Sahih Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 54, Number 490.)

If Mohammed did, at times, "fancy that he was doing a thing which he was not actually doing," he was, to put it plainly, delusional.

The Hadith

As noted, reminiscences by Mohammed's contemporaries are very important to Islam. The contradictions between this material and the Koran are too numerous to list. For instance, is intercession futile or possible? The Koran says futile:

"And fear ye the day when soul shall not satisfy for soul at all, nor shall any intercession be accepted from them, nor shall any ransom be taken, neither shall they be helped." (Sura 2:45).

"Ask thou forgiveness for them, or ask it not, it will be the same. If thou ask forgiveness for them seventy times, God will by no means forgive them. This, for that they believe not in God and His Apostle! And God guideth not the ungodly people." (Sura 9:81).

"And when the trumpet shall be sounded, the ties of kindred between them shall cease on that day; neither shall they ask each other's help.
"They whose balances shall be heavy, shall be the blest." (Sura 23:103-104).
"For his own good only shall the guided yield to guidance, and to his own loss only shall the erring err; and the heavy laden shall not be laden with another's load." (Sura 17:16).

But the hadith give us Mohammed himself as intercessor:

"Abu Huraira reported Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: I shall be pre-eminent amongst the descendants of Adam on the Day of Resurrection and I will be the first intercessor and the first whose intercession will be accepted (by Allah)." (Hadith, Sahih Muslim, Book 30, Chapter 2, Number 5655).
"God will assemble the believers on the Day of Judgment. They will say, 'If only we could find an advocate to plead our cause and relieve us of this predicament.' [...] Mentioning the sin he committed, he will advise them to try Christ, God's creature and prophet, His word and His spirit. Christ will say, 'I'm not the one. Ask Muhammad, the man whom God forgave all his sins, early and late.' They will then come to me and I shall go and ask God for permission to enter and will be ushered into His presence. On seeing Him, I shall fall down in obeisance where He will leave me as long as He pleases. Then I shall be told to rise. I shall be told, 'Speak and you will be heard; ask, and you will be given; beg permission to intercede, and it will be granted.'" (Bukhari, quoted pp. 95-96, An Introduction to the Hadith, John Burton.)

Though the authenticity of the hadith is open to question, these traditions are an inextricable part of Islam. This religion's standing in the public mind would be even lower if more people were familiar with the hadith, which give us not Mohammed the poet but Mohammed the executioner and warlord.

Works, Faith, or Mercy

Mohammed denied the Biblical basis of salvation: the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ. What he substituted in its place is a hopeless muddle, Mohammed variously proclaiming 1.) salvation by works, including the terrifying promise that mankind will receive at God's hand just exactly what we deserve:

"Fear the day wherein ye shall return to God: then shall every soul be rewarded according to its desert, and none shall have injustice done to them." (Sura 2:281).
"It is not the Prophet who will defraud you; — But he who shall defraud, shall come forth with his defraudings on the day of the resurrection: then shall every soul be paid what it hath merited, and they shall not be treated with injustice." (Sura 3:155).
"But how, when we shall assemble them together for the day of (which) whose coming there is no doubt, and when every soul shall be paid what it hath earned, and they shall not be wronged?" (Sura 3:24).
"And some say, 'O our Lord! give us good in this world and good in the next, and keep us from the torment of the fire.' They shall have the lot which they have merited: and God is swift to reckon." (Sura 2:198).
"Man acquires nothing but what he himself has earned; none of his deeds is lost and each will count on the Day of Judgment." (Sura 53:40, quoted p. 560, The Life of Muhammad, Muhammad H. Haykal).

2.) salvation by faith (understood not in its New Testament meaning of absolute personal trust, but as assent to a proposition, namely the unity of God):

"Narrated Anas: The Prophet said, 'Whoever said..."None has the right to be worshipped but Allah and has in his heart good (faith) equal to the weight of an atom will be taken out of Hell." (Sahih Bukhari, Volume 1, Book 2, Number 42).
"The Prophet asked Mu'adh, 'Do you know what God can claim from men? That they worship Him and Him alone. Do you know what they can claim from Him? If they do that, that He will not punish them.'" (Bukhari, quoted p. 95, An Introduction to the Hadith, John Burton).
"The Prophet said, 'There has just come to me a messenger from God to inform me to be of good cheer, for whichever of my people died without associating any partner with God will enter Heaven. I asked him, 'Even if he commits adultery, or even if he steals?' and he said, 'Even so.'" (Bukhari, quoted p. 95, An Introduction to the Hadith, John Burton).
"Narrated Abu Dharr: 'I came to the Prophet while he was wearing white clothes and sleeping. Then I went back to him again after he had got up from his sleep. He said, "Nobody says: 'None has the right to be worshipped but Allah' and then later on he dies while believing in that, except that he will enter Paradise." I said, "Even if he had committed illegal sexual intercourse and theft?" He said. "Even if he had committed illegal sexual intercourse and theft."'" (Sahih Bukhari, Volume 7, Book 72, Number 717.)
"When he came, I could not remain patient and asked him, "O Allah's Prophet! Let Allah get me sacrificed for you! Whom were you speaking to by the side of Al-Harra? I did not hear anybody responding to your talk." He said, "It was Gabriel who appeared to me beside Al-Harra and said, 'Give the good news to your followers that whoever dies without having worshipped anything besides Allah, will enter Paradise.' I said, 'O Gabriel! Even if he had committed theft or committed illegal sexual intercourse?' He said, 'Yes.'" (Hadith, Sahih Bukhari, Volume 8, Book 76, Number 450.)

3.) God's arbitrary mercy, awarded or withheld according to no rational nor comprehensible schedule:

". . .and whom He pleaseth will He forgive, and whom He pleaseth will He punish; for God is All-powerful." (Sura 2:284).

"'Walk righteously, sacrifice and be of good cheer,' he said, 'but none will enter Heaven on account of his deeds.' 'Not even you?' he was asked. 'Not even I,' he replied, 'unless God smother me in forgiveness and mercy.'" (Bukhari, quoted p. 95, An Introduction to the Hadith, John Burton.)
"Verily, God will not forgive the union of other gods with Himself! But other than this will He forgive to whom He pleaseth." (Sura 4:51).
"When God created the universe, He wrote in His Book, so binding Himself, 'My mercy will overcome My wrath.' He has kept that Book by Him on the throne." (Bukhari, quoted p. 95, An Introduction to the Hadith, John Burton.)

or some combination of the three. (There are also, of course, ad hoc salvation plans like 'die in battle and go straight to heaven.') Mohammed himself pleads for mercy, not the justice he sometimes preached: "O our Lord!...blot out our sins and forgive us, and have pity on us." (Sura 2:286);

"O our Lord! forgive us then our sin, and hide away from us our evil deeds, and cause us to die with the righteous." (Sura 3:191).

Here is one latter-day combo plan, with hell softened to purgatory for the believer, and intercession, elsewhere denied, approved:

"One should believe that the believer in the Oneness of Allah (if he encounters Hell on account of his sins) will be released from Hell fire after he has been punished, so that there will not remain in Hell one single believer.
"One should believe in the intercession of the prophets, of the learned, and of the martyrs, then the rest of the believers — each according to his influence and rank before Allah.

"Whosoever remains of the believers and has no intercessor will be released through he Grace of Allah, the Mighty, the Glorified. Therefore not one single believer will abide in Hell forever; whosoever has in his heart the weight of an atom of belief will be brought out from there." (Abu Hamid al Ghazali, The Foundations of Islamic Belief, pp. 22-23)

Or at any rate, one can always hope.

The Bible does not rule out the theoretical possibility of 1.) salvation by works, but reports the set of those thus saved to be empty: "For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God..." (Romans 3:23). The criterion of righteousness is not, as some Muslims imagine, 51% good somehow mystically cancelling out the 49% bad: ". . .for the good deeds drive away the evil deeds" (Sura 11:116), but God's holiness:




Even demons make the Muslim profession of faith: "You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!" (James 2:19). And God is a God of justice, as well as of mercy.

As is understandable, the result of this confusion is not assurance, but rather, "According to one condition, 'Whoever says, "I am a believer," is an infidel; and whoever says, "I am learned," is ignorant."' (Abu Hamid al Ghazali, The Foundations of Islamic Belief, p. 251). Because they seek salvation without a Savior, they cannot rest in any of these three salvation plans, but run from one to the next. Thus all three have found proponents down through the years; their quarrel cannot be resolved, because all were proclaimed by Mohammed.

Covenant-Breakers

Back during the Cold War, communists in Western countries were great champions of civil liberties. They naturally wanted to be free to express their views, unpopular though those might be. When the communists succeeded in gaining power, however, their devotion to free speech withered, and was shown to have been only a tactic, not a principle they lived by. Certainly they did not allow dissenters to express their views, once they had the power to orchestrate silence.

After departing Mecca for Medina, Mohammed received a fraudulent vision promising the community would be able to complete the pilgrimage to the Kaba, still an idol-filled shrine. The tribe of the Quraysh stood in their way, although "The ancient sanctuary of Makkah was not a property of the Quraysh but of all the Arabs together...The fact that one tribe worshipped one idol rather than another never permitted the Quraysh to forbid any tribe from visiting the Kabah, from circumambulating it, or from filling any religious duties or acts of worship demanded by the tribe's loyalty to that god." (The Life of Muhammad, Muhammad H. Haykal, p. 342). Mohammed therefore stood upon his rights as an Arab and demanded to make the pilgrimage, even inviting pagan Arab tribes to join him to underscore the basis of his demand. In the Koran at this time, God purportedly expresses indignation at the Quraysh for arrogantly blocking entry to the shrine to those who wanted to worship: "And why should they not be punished by God when they prevent men from entering the Holy Mosque for worship?" (Koran 8:34-36, quoted p. 341, The Life of Muhammad, Muhammad H. Haykal).

Times change, civil disorder convulsed Arabia, and Mohammed ended up on top, holding the keys to the Kabah. Forgotten now was any claim that all Arabs have a right to visit. Only Muslims are welcome, thank you very much: "This is a complete absolution from God and His Prophet regarding all obligation arising from pacts made with the associationists [idolaters]...The associationists are anathema. After this year they shall not approach the holy Mosque." (Koran 9:1-36, quoted pp. 465-466, The Life of Muhammad, Muhammad H. Haykal). "After he [Ali] finished his recitation of the Qur'an, he continued in his own words: 'O Men, no unbeliever will enter Paradise; no associationist will perform pilgrimage after this year; and no naked man will be allowed to circumambulate the Holy House.'" (The Life of Muhammad, Muhammad H. Haykal, p. 466).

It is noteworthy that all the tolerant language in the Koran is heard before the community acquires the military strength to silence its detractors. After that, there is no further talk of tolerance.


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