ISLAM: THE STRAIGHT DOPE
A Self-styled Expert Explains Everything
THE KORAN’S ORIGIN
Muhammed’s yarn about the angel Gabriel always seemed a little bogus to me. Is that really where Muhammad got all those suras? For expert opinion I Googled ‘Koran historical authenticity’. The first thing to come up was this: ‘What commands it (Quran) so powerfully to historians is its authenticity, not as the word of God of course . . . Secular historians cannot and should not believe (that) . . .’ (My underline).
Well, there you have it. That’s E. E. Peters, Professor Emeritus of Islamic Studies, NYU. Not the word of God. Professor Peters goes on to say how the real value of the Koran, as far as historians are concerned, is the wealth of information to be gleaned from it concerning life in seventh-century Mecca. There follow pages and pages of mind-numbing detail presumably backing up his assertion. Nowhere though could I find an answer to my question: if it wasn’t God then who was it?
Nothing to do but come up with a theory of my own, which I’m now happy to share. (Remember, you heartd it here first!) It’s oftern pointed out how Muhammad himself was illiterate yet the suras are composed in an elegant form of ancient Arabic, much in rhyming verse. As if that proves anything! Obviously Muhammad had speechwriters, like any other politician. There were plenty of unemployed poets around. Muhammad would want his thoughts conveyed to the public in words most likely to catch attention. Aware of his own limitations he’d naturally turn to the best pros he could find.
One problem would be the need for absolute secrecy. Any hint of the hoax he was pulling off could scuttle the whole project. But it took more than twenty years to deliver all 113 suras. Wouldn’t somebody have squealed in all that time? The Quraysh among others would have been delighted to see Muhammad exposed. Next best thing to murder.
So here’s where my pet theory comes in. The suras were ginned up behind harem walls by Muhammed’s wives. Think about it. Those women were penned in there, no chance to blab even if they wanted to. Muhammad had a dozen or so wives on hand at any given time, plus who knows how many concubines. (Naturally he’d always save the best-looking ones for himself from all those raids.) Among all those womenfolk some are known to have been well educated.
One might go so far as to imagine it was the wives themselves who first came up with the society-of-the-future idea, everyone living in harmony. They presented the plan to Muhammed. Since he was already inclined that way, he jumped at it. That could be stretching things, and again there’s no way of knowing the truth. But I like my idea. It squares with known facts and doesn’t call for any kind of supernatural hocus pocus. You know ‘Occam’s Razor‘? That’s the principle that advises opting for explanations requiring the fewest assumptions. I’d say my explanation meets that criterion in spades.
Besides, I enjoy imagining how the Koran, and even the whole Islamic religion, could have originated as ’one small step for women’s lib’. (It’s not their fault if later it proved also to be ’one giant pain in the butt for mankind’.)
CRITIQUE PART I: A NEST OF SNAKES
What to make of all this? What do we know for sure? Let’s hear first from Ahmed Omer, obviously a true believer. Omer opens his book, ’The Prophet Muhammad, His Life and Times’ with the flat-out assertion, ‘This is the story of the greatest man ever’. Later on he summarizes, ‘A wealth of ethics never seen before was left behind, a world of hope, care and sharing’.
Hold on a sec! Are we talking about the same guy? What about the genocidal megalomaniac we’ve been discussing? It’s all a matter of perception I guess. Muhammad set out to correct a batch of social ills plaguing his country and apparently did a splendid job of it. The end justifies the means, we might say. Besides, all those people would be dead by now anyway. In the process of carrying out his mission though, Muhammad created a new set of problems that persist to this day.
For starters we see how slavish adherence to prescribed norms keeps his followers locked into a seventh-century mind set. His theory seems to have been that a ’world of hope, care and sharing’ first required the elimination of independent thought. Where Muhammad got such an idea is anybody’s guess. Remember, he was a simple uneducated man, playing it by ear. All he knew of human nature was what he saw around him, among other tribesmen as mean and superstitious as himself.
So. . . How to control minds? Well, there was that second commandment: complete submission to Allah’s will. All followers had agreed to that. Anyone who’s raised kids though knows about how far that would go in the real world. Something more was needed. The solution was, give people enough rituals to go through every day so there‘s no time left over for thinking. If they do have extra time, set them to memorizing all your previous pronouncements to where they can recite each one word for word.
That could be more of a challenge than it might sound. The high-faluting language the suras used would be hard for the common folks to deal with, about like us trying to memorize Shakespeare’s plays. (The job got even harder later on after Islam spread into countrys that don’t speak Arabic at all. They still hve to memorize and recite suras in the original Arabic, with no idea what they’re saying: page after page of nonsense syllables.)
Besides having to spend so much time in prayer, believers continually were being saddled with more and more restrictions on personal behavior. Can’t do this, can’t do that. Some, like no alcohol, might have been for the best, though we know what a disaster it was when tried in our own country. You don’t hear much about bootlegger mobs in Arabia but maybe with all their other problems that just doesn’t make the radar.
Scientific investigation was discouraged. It was felt that trying to understand the universe somehow amounted to questioning Allah’s wisdom. Better just to relax, knowing Allah had everything under control, and let it go at that. It’s easier to see why music and art, representational art, would be no-nos. We know how a beautiful piece of music can transport us. Might forget an evening prayer. Then there’s all the time musicians themselves have to spend practicing when they could be memorizing suras.
Same for works of art. The Koran’s own explanation is that ’angels do not enter a house wherein there is a dog or images of living creatures.’ Well, yes. There is that. Can’t keep angels out. Incidentally, music was really frowned on. On the day of ressurection, folks who listened to music will have molten lead poured into their ears. (Allah The Merciful was great at devising weird punishments. You should see what’s in store for hypocites and apostates,)
According to ‘The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam’, the imposition of so many stifling rules and restrictions had a dampening effect on Arabia’s cultural development (surprise, surprise). A modest flowering that had been underway went into a tailspin. Their society slipped deeper and deeper into seventh century stagnation while the rest of the world moved on. This stagnation applys to the whole world of Islam, not just Arabia.
CRITIQUE PART II: THE SELF-STYLED EXPERT’S TWO CENTS
As I see it the root problem is the notion that the Koran contains Allah’s final word, a word which at all costs must scrupulously be obeyed to this day. But think about it. (Oh oh, there’s that word think. We see why thinking is so heavily discouraged among Allah’s followers; the whole swindle becomes too obvious!) What the Koran amounts to essentially is a law book addressing problems that happened to exist in one place at a particular time in history. (And addressing those problems, incidentally, by means dreamed up at the whim of an illiterate Arab tribesman. Well, maybe with the help of ladyfriends.)
By seventh-century standards the Koran did okay, but time moves on. Today’s problems are different. There’s no way those ancient laws are still going to apply. Some of today’s problems in fact are the result of those old laws while in other cases the law falls far short. This simple fact cannot be over-emphasized: as a guidebook to modern day living the Koran is hopelessly out of date
For instance, the treatment of women. Allah may have eased their lot considerably relative to what it had been but there’s still plenty of room for improvement. Then there’s the call for world-wide jihad. That hardly needs mentioning. What’s needed now is a major update to Koranic law that could bring it more in line with present day realities. According to the Islamic belief system though such an update is totally out of the question.
During Muhammad’s lifetime Allah did change his mind on several occasions. New suras would come along cancelling earlier ones, no problem. I’m sure the jihad law would have been one of those abrogated once the magnitude of the problem became clear. Like most people in those days Muhammad had no idea just how big the world really was when he issued the order - or rather when Allah issued the order - for world-wide mandatory conversion. Unfortunately Muhammad died before he could get around to changing it. With his prophet gone Allah could no longer issue new suras to abrogate old ones. The Koran remains fixed as is for all time.
BACK TO THE QUESTION
So. . . Are they ‘out to get us‘ or not? The answer is, yes they certainly are out to get us. The Islamic Brotherhood among others has made this perfectly clear. They’re going to grind us to dust. Should the Islamic Brotherhood ever be wiped out another organization will step in. There‘s no choice. Allah issued the order that all Christians must either convert to Islam or die. The same for Jews and in fact for infidels of every kind. That order is written down in the holy book. The only possibility for removing it, as noted, would be for Allah himself to change his mind. In that case though Allah would need a prophet to relay the message, and prophets are one thing Allah is all out of. He’s told us that plenty of times. His old buddy Muhammad was the last prophet he’s ever going to send, period. The bottom line then is, the order stands: kill the infidels!
Islam is routinely touted as the religion of peace. Well, yes. Once all of us infidels have been disposed of there’ll be nothing left but Muslims, and those guys by definition live peacefully. Remember how Allah spent all that time explaining how to get along? And Muslims are committed to doing just as he said, i. e. ’submitting to his will’.
So, what about us infidels? Are we to be killed some night in our sleep? Will we wake up some morning to see hordes of Muslims running around the country, chopping our neighbors’ heads off? Well it’s not quite that cut and dried. The order’s still on the books, sure, but the problem is: who’s going to enforce the darn thing? The Muslim community as a whole has no draft board. There’s no central authority that can force their people to fight us. (For the moment anyway. ISIS will fix that.) Those interested in pursuing Allah’s dream today have to rely solely on volunteers.
Most Muslims though, like people everywhere, are already plenty busy running their own lives. No way are they going to volunteer for extra duty, especially something likely to get them killed. So who does that leave? A small hard core of only the most dedicated individuals. It’s up to those few folk to do the job for everyone.
Jihadist motivations no doubt run the gamut. Probably at least a few feel convinced they’re on a holy mission. Other simply want to get away from slums or refugee camps. Quite a few most likely are looking to avenge themselves for atrocities perpetrated earlier by the West. Then there’s always the added attraction of Allah’s famous Paradise - ‘the big bordello in the sky’ - awaiting those lucky enough to die for Allah.
Ideas like these can resonate in places like the Middle East where war and other disruptions close off normal paths to personal goals. Refugees making it to the West though find something better. A new lease on life. A chance maybe to start thinking for themselves. Muhammad can go jump in the lake and take that ’final solution’ idea of his with him. That nice couple moving in next door: terrorist? Perish the thought! No possible way. (Still . . . Knowing what we do of Muhammad’s track record it might not be a bad idea to keep an eye peeled!)
SO IF THEY DON’T KILL US, THEN WHAT?
It’s obviously impossible for the jihadists to realize their objective by force. Some however do see a more subtle process already at work, something unintentional but in the long run probably much more effective than violence ever could be. The process is ‘culture creep’.
The massive influx of Arab refugees into Europe is bound to alter established social dynamics. One spokesman predicts (not entirely facetiously) that by the year 2080 tourists in Paris will be visiting the Mosque of Notre Dame. That seems a definite possibility but not because the cathedral is to be renamed.
I personally would expect them to build a new mosque, bigger and more resplendent, sporting a fancy gold dome visible all over the city. They’ll keep the cathedral next door. Why waste it? First they’ll plaster over all the art work inside then use the cathedral as the mosque’s gift shop.
You just wouldn’t listen, would you?’
Thanks for all of that. So many failings of Christianity fill my head, I rarely consider the other prophets of doom.
As I just posted, if God has a message for us humans, why not just alight the stars as letters and sky write it out for us all to see. His version of Twitter.
All of this writing, pencil and paper, by man, seems a little , IDK....weak?