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Holy probelms
The IRI’s nuclear programme is not an issue of national pride

January 16, 2007

Islam, as a social order, is what distinguishes reality from other religions. In this article, considering Islam as a functional political system, I propose a democratic discussion about its authenticity and divinity, as expected by many secular Iranians.

Islam is a composite of beliefs and traditions from divergent monotheist prophets, of those who would teach the belief in God. But Muhammad, in his further career, abandoned spiritual teachings. He demanded social and moral principles with strict adherence to certain religious practices. To see how Islam grew into such a politically and socially important phenomenon, let us take an unbiased look on the development of Islam, initially alleged as a religion.

The alleged revelation of the Koran started when Muhammad was 40 and living under unknown psychological circumstances in Mecca. Sometimes he heard a noise like a resonance of bell resembling a voice, but never a real voice.

In his mind, he started believing that he was commissioned to communicate a divine message to his fellow citizens, so started his prophecy linked with the revelation of the Koran.

The first “Ayah” (verse) of the Koran was delivered by Gabriel to “illiterate” Muhammad, commanding him to “read with the name of Allah”. On such moments of first revelation, he was in a kind of trance (ecstasy) with typical appearances, such as perspiring, shivering on a cold day, etc. All those symptoms suggest he was probably epileptic.

Perhaps because of his excessive suffering in the past, he looked in his unconsciousness for sources of enlightenment. Apart from some religious books and preaching, there are no authentic sources that concretely prove any psychological stance under which Muhammad claimed his prophecy.

Muhammad Ibn Abdullah
It is generally believed that Muhammad was a man who had entirely human qualities: He was a successful businessman, a genius organiser, a sage thinker who took advantage of opportunities, and a quick speaker. He liked fine perfumes and children.  He was decent, humble and helpful to his “Ansar” (companions) and generous to the poor, with whom he shared his meal, and he was “al-amin” (reliable).

But as a powerful man in Medina, he was not only using and abusing the existing traditional norms of society; he was also violating ethical rules of his own religion to achieve his goals. As such, he had the privilege of having more wives than was permitted under his own Islamic law. He even had the controversial right to marry his daughter-in-law, Zainab--she divorced the Prophet’s adopted son (Zaid) to marry the Prophet. As a husband, he had the advantage to arbitrarily treat his wives as he wanted.

In his financial exploits, he allowed himself the right to rob caravans (for which other robbers would have been beheaded), or to impose humiliating “Jizya” (taxes charged from non-Muslims) on “Dhimmis” (conjugated Christian and Jewish minorities living in the early Islamic community). As a political leader, he ordered the confiscation of lands and properties from “Dhimmis”, his enemies. He openly claimed that “the spoils of war were made lawful unto me”.  He had the right to fight back against his rivals, and was merciless and revengeful toward his enemies and rivals, even so far that he gave orders to murder many of them.

Nevertheless, he was religiously and politically a prominent leader. He was the founder of the first Arab Empire (a Caliphate which became during a long period after the Prophet’s death one of the biggest conquerors in the then world).

Historically, many believe that Muhammad was a religious and politically prominent leader. He undoubtedly left significant marks in the history of mankind. Many Western scholars, without believing in Muhammad’s prophecy, have confirmed this fact. However, the sources of information about the personal life of Muhammad are reduced to the Koran, “Sirah” (biography of the Prophet) and some part of Hdiths which are considered as “sahih” (reliable).

The Koran
The Koran is alleged to be God’s message to mankind. It was allegedly delivered by the angel Gabriel to Muhammad in 114 “Surahs” (chapters), which are sub-divided into “Ayah” (verses). The script of the Koran continued in separate pieces over some 23 years.

The doctrine of the Koran emphasises strict “Taweed” (monotheism). It challenges the pantheism of both ancient Greek and Oriental religions, which prior to Islam had been identifying God with the forces of nature and with the natural substances within space and time.

Taweed also rejects Christian Trinity, which claims that God is three persons in one substance. It considers any idea of joining others with God as a “shirk” (an unforgivable sin).  Everything created by God is limited to a measure and reason. Nothing can escape from the divine rules, including Jinn (an intelligent being created from pure fire) and man (created from earth). This would be equivalent to saying that none of Allah’s creatures can escape from destiny--a doctrine which favours socio-economic backwardness in the Islamic world.

It is interesting to mention that the idea of the first element (arche) had been an explanation for everything since the ancient Greek philosophy. Ancient Greek philosophers were the first to emphasise rational unity of things by rejecting mythological explanations of the world. The elements of earth from Empedocles and fire from Heraclites (as the first element of man and Jinn), also, have been integrated into the Koran.

The Koran for any Time
Despite many prudent “Tafsir” (interpretations), the Koran is left untouched by criticism.

Because of the conviction that considers it as the infallible word of God, it neither can be influenced nor modified by the circumstances. Refuting one single verse of the Koran means to “condemn” the whole Islam in its perfection.

With a taboo dogma, some Muslims still believe that “The righteous Koran can contain no mistake and it cannot be suppressed by any new discovery and can apply to any circumstances with no temporal or geographical border”.  The origin of the Koran is supposed to be inserted as God’s eternal word on golden tablets in paradise.

The Koran as God’s word
A major part of the Koran consists of commands and warnings for Muslims, a smaller part contains histories, myths, and the events related also in other Holy Books (Torah, Bible)--sometimes with some differences in detail.

These differences or contradictions in the Koran, nevertheless, reveal the doubt on the divine origin of these Holy Books. The flaws and contradictions of the Koran are to explain what Muhammad might have forgotten, over many years of prophetic activities, his own previous words; or he had to update his words accordingly.  For example, creation of the earth is mentioned after heaven in some verses, but in others it is mentioned either together or before heaven. There is also an ambiguous duration in which creation took place, it is mentioned 6 and in some other verses 8 days.

The “Quibble” (the direction of pray) was Jerusalem, and then in other verses it changed to Mecca, without explaining if the change was due to a mistake of a divine pre-calculation or to a trend of the Prophet. 

But the blunders are in a few verses that imply that Moses lived at the same time as Noah, or that Moses was the uncle of Jesus! Another verse says that “Jesus taught people, even in his old age”! 

Stubborn and strict Muslims, however, account for the differences between the verses of the Koran and the texts of other Holy Books, by claiming that only the Koran is original and preserves the truth. 

The fact that the Koran is intact can be very controversial since its characteristics like repetition, arbitrary succession, and rhythmic style reflect a human collective modification in its origin. Many secular scholars are less willing to attribute the entire Koran to Muhammad.

Being restricted by respect for the Koran, modification of its origin could not lessen its obscurities, which are understood. A typical problem of this kind is the point that in some verses of the Koran, Muhammad warns his people by swearing to God, where God is understood in the third person and not as the direct source of the message.

For many critics the Koran, taken as whole is obscure, is both linguistically and conceptually inconsequent, and it can be simply argued that the book is the product of belated editing of materials for different purposes.

But the taboo is that no Muslim should be allowed to blame the Koran for contradictions or mistakes; therefore, these kinds of problems are sometimes interrelated and rephrased by “modern” Muslims so that the original meaning becomes different from the interpretation. For example, Muhammad Abduh, the founder of modernism in Egypt, interprets Jinn as microbe (though existence of Jinn with its myths and fables were traditional beliefs of the Arab pagans and has been mentioned many times in the Koran as an equivalent living being to man). In another verse, God says, “And I created not the Jinns and humans except they worship me”.

Though religion’s teachings of the creation scenario and any scientific theory are fundamentally unbridgeable, their interpretation says it all happened several thousand years ago, and it took six literal days to complete. Some other “modern” Muslims do not deny the whole scheme from Big Bang, or from the singled-celled organism to homo sapiens, but instead they are grotesquely attempting to patch up the verses of the Koran with established sciences like evolution, the theory of relativity, aerodynamics, and quantum theory to prove that Islam is the final solution.

A religious six days Creation and one that has simultaneously taken about 15 billion years (Big Bang) is the slickest bridge-building of all. These pseudo-intellectuals engineered bridges between Islam and modern sciences to explain the origin of all that exists. A religious explanation of a scientific fact is a flagrant abuse of sciences for the use of religion and to the detriment of fact. Comment

For letters section
To: Jahanshah Rashidian

Jahanshah Rashidian


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