Islam, as a religion, is a composite of beliefs and traditions from divergent monotheistic prophets, those who would teach the belief in one God. It is as a social order that Islam distinguishes in creeds and practice from other religions. It is as a social order that Islam is distinct in creed and practice from other religions; it is both a social order and a functional political system. Islam in its development abandoned the initial period of spiritual teachings in favour of strict social and judicial rules for Muslims. To see how this happened, let us take an unbiased look at its development.
The alleged prophecy of Muhammad Ibn Abdullah started with the revelation of the Koran when he was 40 and living in Mecca. He started believing that he was chosen to communicate a divine message to his fellow city dwellers. Thus his prophecy began when in one of his usual meditations in Mount of Hira, near Mecca, he received the first revelation of the Koran delivered by angel Gabriel. The revelation began with the first “Ayah” (verse) of the Koran, to illiterate Muhammad, commanding him to “read with the name of Allah”. In such moments of initial revelation, he was in a kind of trance (ecstasy), with accompanying features, such as perspiring, convulsions, clouding of or loss of consciousness. All those symptoms suggest to some scholars that he was probably epileptic. Perhaps because of excessive suffering in his past, he looked to his unconscious for sources of enlightenment.
The Koran is alleged to be God’s message to mankind. It contains 114 “Surahs” (chapters), which are sub-divided into “Ayah” (verses). The writings of the Koran remained in separate pieces for some 23 years. The doctrine of the Koran emphasises strict “Tawheed” (monotheism). It challenges the pantheism of both ancient Greek and Oriental religions, which prior to Islam had identified God with the forces of nature and with the natural substances within space and time. Tawheed also rejects the 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 is created by God and is limited to divine predestination. Nothing can escape the Divine Laws, including Jinn (an intelligent being created from pure fire) and man (created from earth). However, it incorporates the idea of some ancient Greek philosophers who believed in the primary element (arche) for all that exists. Ancient Greek philosophers were the first to emphasise the rational unity of things by rejecting mythological explanations of the world. The elements of soil from Empedocles and fire from Heraclites (as the first elements of man and Jinn) have also been incorporated into the Koran.
A major part of the Koran consists of commands and warnings for Muslims; a smaller part contains stories, myths, and events also related in other Holy Books (Torah, Bible)--sometimes with some differences in detail. The allegations that the Koran is intact can be very controversial since its characteristics such as repetition, arbitrary succession, and variations in rhythmic style reflect a human collective modification in its origin. Many secular scholars are less than willing to attribute the entire Koran to Muhammad. For many critics, the Koran, taken as whole, is obscure, is both linguistically and conceptually incoherent, and it can be simply argued that the book is the product of belated editing of materials Intended for different purposes. Despite many prudent “Tafsir” (interpretations), the Koran is left untouched by criticism by Muslims. Muslims believe that the Koran is the infallible word of God, it can neither be influenced nor modified by circumstances: refuting one single verse of the Koran means to “condemn” the whole of Islam in its perfection. Muslims’ general belief is that 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 inscribed as God’s eternal word on golden tablets in paradise.
The main taboo in Islam is that no Muslim should be allowed to blame the Koran for contradictions or mistakes. To bear more resemblance to logical commands, some “modern” Muslims attempt to interpret the surahs of Koran differently. Sometimes, the forged interpretations are so controversial that these interpretations are new causes of splits among Muslims. For example, Muhammad Abduh, the founder of modernism in Egypt, interprets Jinn as a microbe (though existence of Jinn with its myths and fables was a traditional belief of the Arab pagans and has been mentioned many times in the Koran as a living being equivalent 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 incompatible—religious interpretation says it all happened several thousand years ago and took six literal days to complete--some other “modern” Muslims do not deny the whole scheme from the Big Bang, or from the singled-celled organism to homo sapiens, but they grotesquely attempt to patch up the verses of the Koran with established sciences like Evolution, the theory of General Relativity, aerodynamics, and quantum theory to prove that Islam has the final solution for everything.
Muhammad was before the prophecy a reliable businessman (Muhammad-al- amin), working for his wealthy wife, Khadijah. As a prophet in Mecca, he was a sage thinker, a quick speaker, who could invite people to believe in the only God “Allah”. He was decent, humble and generous to the poor, with whom he shared his meal. After 10 years of prophecy, he had to leave Mecca and his migration--“Hijrat”-- to Medina in 622 marks his new career.
In Medina, as a powerful prophet with personal ambitions, Muhammad did not only used and abused the existing traditional norms of society; he s also violated 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 Muhammad. As a husband, he had the advantage to arbitrarily treat his wives as he liked.
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” (subjugated Christian and Jewish minorities living in the early Islamic community). 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”.
As a political leader he had the right to fight back against his rivals, and was merciless and revengeful toward his enemies and rivals, even so far as to give orders to murder many of them. 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 world at that time). Historically, many believe that Muhammad was a religious and politically prominent leader. He undoubtedly left significant marks on 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 the Hadiths which are considered as “sahih” (reliable).
Nabuwwat, or Muhammad’s claim of being God’s prophet ((Muhammad-al-rassul-Allah) is one of the pillars of Islam. Almost 100 surahs of the Koran attempt to confirm this claim. If all these surahs were not enough, Islamic scholars have additionally narrated different sayings over different periods and circumstances to endorse the belief on Nabuwwat. The only reason to endorse this belief however remains that the Koran is God’s word delivered to Muhammad; in other words, Nabuwwat or Muhammad’s claim of divine mission is written in the Koran which is allegedly the word of God, transmitted by Muhammad. In a certain logic, this entire puzzle looks like a tricky compromise between God and Muhammad himself, which has been difficult for rational people to believe. Nabuwwat can never be rationally proved, even for some Muslim scholars like the famous rationalist M.Z Razi, quoted by the Iranian writer, Ali Dashti in his book, “23 Saal” (23 years), a reference to the duration of Muhammad’s prophecy.
Another pillar of Islam is the conviction that Muhammad is the final Prophet, and his religion, Islam, is the last and only word of God to follow (Khatam-al-Nabiyin). It is not plausibly clear why an Almighty God should deprive mankind of new prophets to solve new problems in adaptive manners. And why one of these numerous gurus or alleged prophets around the world cannot be a new handpicked prophet by God.
But in the history of Islam, the Koran was often represented beside a sword—swords beside a verse of Koran on the flag of Saudi Arabia still represent this old Islamic symbol. “Seif-al-Islam” (sword of Islam) reminds how it could compensate for the lack of rationality and logic to expand Islam in “dar-al-Islam” (territory of Islam). Only, the effect of this symbiosis of sword / Koran was not rooted in ethics but in a moral failure--when “Dawa” (demand of conversion into Islam or accepting its values, for Muslims and non Muslims alike) cannot alone be enough to convert people to Islam or an Islamic way of life.
Nevertheless, the factor of fear behind this symbiosis impedes Muslims in posing simple questions about the authenticity of Islam, questions many of us may not have learnt to ask. However, the fear resulting from this symbiosis has a long history. The typical warmongering tradition of the clan society of Arabia was used cleverly by Muhammad. He divinised the tradition by calling it “Jihad-fi-sabil Allah” (war for the sake of Allah). Holy Jihad was served by Muhammad and his successors to expand “Islamic ummah” (Islamic society).
For the early Islamic ruling class, jihad was promoted into faith-based use of violence. Islam without the use of violence could never achieve its today’s growth. Among the terrors committed by Muhammad himself, some of them are more characterised because they inspire crimes of political Islam today. According to Ali Dashti, while Muhammad surrounded Mecca in 632, a compromise of capitulation was achieved: Muhammad accepted a peaceful capitulation of Mecca; in exchange of a general amnesty for the population, though excluding certain individuals like Ibn Abdullah, who was one of Muhammad’s early companions and wrote down scripts of Koran for him. He was executed because of having publicly denounced the man-made origin of the Koran. Although Muhammad accepted the peace treaty, on his return from Mecca to Medina, he attacked a group of Bedouins en route and so the treaty was voided. According to the Collection of Bukhari, a famous scholar, the Jewish peot Ka’b Ibn Ashraf, who wrote satirical verses about Muhammad, was killed for it. His voluntary killer was praised by Muhammad.
The above examples explain many acts of atrocity committed by the IRI and Islamists around the world; among which figure the execution of several thousand political prisoners in the massacre of summer, ‘88 in Iran, the death-fatwa against “unbelievers” like the British author, Rushdie, and the Dutch Islam-critical film maker Theo Van Gogh—killed by a radical Muslim in charge of the blasphemy against Islam in his film called “Submission”-- and terror on innocent people.
The worst is that these early Islamic terrors have been promoted into the pattern model for the Constitution and especially for the judicial system of some Islamic countries. With the advent of the IRI and its atrocious methods of repression and violation to the most basic standards of human rights against the people of Iran, we need more rational debates to bring about a new capacity for secular and democratic options to unmask the ills of political Islam. It is only possible when we have courage to break any taboo on public displays of judgement.
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