Revolutionary Revision of the Hadith in Turkey?

February 28, 2008

[Update: Reports of Turkey's revision plans may have been exaggerated.]

According to the BBC, Turkey’s “Department of Religious Affairs has commissioned a team of theologians at Ankara University to carry out a fundamental revision of the Hadith….” The Hadith are oral traditions about Mohammed and his cohorts, certain collections of which are generally regarded as sacred by Muslims. Here are a few noteworthy items:

  • The Turks apparently want the Hadith to support their efforts at creating a modern, secular democracy.
  • They are claiming that in their reform, they are actually returning to an original Islam (a claim which may be subject to debate).
  • They are rejecting the doctrine of abrogation (later, violent verses of the Quran replacing the earlier, peaceful verses).
  • They want to end Islamic justification for honor killings and female genital mutilation.
  • It is theoretically possible their efforts could result in a radically reformed version of Sharia, or even an official doctrine of non-Sharia. We’ll see.
  • This is the only instance I’m aware of in which Muslims with this degree of official authority have admitted problems within Islam to this extent. This in itself is a welcome step in the right direction.

And here are some issues that are not discussed in this article:

  • Time will tell how the rest of the Muslim world will respond to this reform. Let’s not expect a sudden utopia.
  • Their reform may turn out to be a worthwhile one, we don’t know yet. However, even if it does, it is quite possible that it will be used by Islamists as taqiyya. The Islamists can say, “See! Sharia’s not so bad,” to sell the West on Sharia, and then do “bait and switch” on us. We need to stay vigilant with those pesky Islamists (or, more accurately, we need to become vigilant in the first place.)
  • From this article, it is difficult to see how their approach can neutralize the many problems in the Quran, such as the calls for Jihad, Jizya tax (extra tax on non-Muslims), and massive Jew hatred.

It is good to see a sign of progress, even if it’s too soon to break out the champagne.


Which Is the Best Solution to Islamo-Fascism: Reform or Apostasy?

January 29, 2008

As I see it, there are three main options for peace- and freedom-minded Muslims to respond to Islamo-Fascism: to ignore or deny it and hope it goes away; to reform Islam into a personal religion with no political component; or to leave Islam. Since ignoring the problem is so obviously doomed to failure, I’ll focus on reform vs. apostasy. Ultimately, this choice is up to Muslims; non-Muslims have choices of their own for responding to Islamo-Fascism. However, non-Muslims can have an opinion on the subject, especially since Islamo-Fascism infringes upon non-Muslim rights. The ideal would be to eliminate Islamo-Fascism in whatever way is most effective both in the short-term and long-term, while minimizing violence.

On the plus side for reform: if a version of Islam were developed with a compelling, comprehensive rejection of all fascist ideologies, it’s possible it could be easier to get large numbers of Muslims to join such a reform rather than to leave Islam altogether. It may be more comfortable for them to preserve the familiarity of the mosques, prayer rugs, five pillars, etc. However, on the minus side, it is difficult to believe the fascist tendencies of Islam could be altogether removed in such a way that they couldn’t come right back at any time. So, it’s possible that reform would result in Islamic Jihad and Islamic Supremacy going dormant, rather than disappearing forever. This could give the non-Muslim world a false sense of security, and it might even speed up conversions to Islam, which would then come back to haunt us at such time in the future that Islamo-Fascism reawakens.

At first glance, the idea of an apostasy movement may be tougher for large numbers of Muslims to get on board with. However, since any meaningful reform of Islam is tantamount to apostasy, according to orthodox Islam, perhaps a complete apostasy wouldn’t really be that much harder. Apostasy also seems like a more permanent solution, in that changing religious identity to a different religion creates something of a “firewall” between the ex-Muslim and Islamo-Fascism. It also seems like it would be more durable from one generation to the next. Some liberal Muslim parents have been appalled that their children became radicalized Muslims; that scenario would be less likely with ex-Muslim parents. However, if the apostasy movement does not gain some serious momentum, those advantages will not be enough to avert an unpleasant future.

Why not both?

I find that many people who write about Islamo-Fascism choose one solution or the other to support (and some are quite hard-line about it). However, I don’t see reform and apostasy as mutually exclusive. At this point, I think it’s useful for reformers, apostates, and non-Muslims to all work toward solutions, even different solutions, with the common goal of freeing the world from Islamo-Fascism. A reform movement and apostasy movement might even complement each other: if people are leaving Islam in significant numbers, this loss of “market share” could make orthodox Muslims more open to reform. If Muslims are becoming less orthodox, it could make it easier for them to leave the religion altogether. Both solutions are about introducing freedom of conscience to the Muslim world. And, both solutions benefit from well-reasoned criticism of Islamo-Fascist doctrines, which is where non-Muslims could be doing more to help.

Neither apostasy nor reform has much of a track record of working against Islamo-Fascism. However, we are in a new era which may change the rules in favor of peace and freedom, if we take advantage of the opportunity. With the help of the Internet and modern standards of individual rights and freedoms, maybe one or both will be successful this time.

Because both reformers and outspoken apostates are in considerable danger, it seems that either solution is greatly helped by the ability to speak freely and anonymously over the internet, which we have at least for now. This is an opportunity that has never before been available to a reform or apostasy movement of Islam. However, some people are trying very hard to end this opportunity. Whatever we do, let’s not allow this window of opportunity to close.


Can and Should Islam Be Reformed? Part VII: Conclusions

January 25, 2008

This is the final installment of a seven part series, examining the challenges, as I see them, and potential solutions, for reforming Islam. I would consider a reform to be meaningful and successful if it resulted in Islam as a personal religion (just a way of relating with God, with no fascist doctrines); if it offered persuasive, comprehensive, and truthful challenges to the version of Islam put forward by the Islamists; and if it became the prevailing view among Muslims.

There may be additional challenges I haven’t listed here. Despite the extreme challenges, there are some individuals and groups out there trying to reform Islam. Every person who tries to advance a meaningful reform of Islam is risking his life to do so, and I consider each one a hero, whether I fully agree with his approach or not. I can only hope that, if I had been born Muslim, I would act as honorably as these people do. I will again give special mention to the monumental endeavor made by Muslims Against Sharia. They are going the farthest of any Muslim reform group I’m aware of to abolish the fascist doctrines. Even so, it is not at all guaranteed that they will succeed, but at least they are making an honest effort. Unexpected things can happen, and sometimes unexpected good things do, especially when the alternative is grim. I wish them well.

Part I: The Quran
Part II: The Hadith
Part III: The Sira
Part IV: Sharia
Part V: Historical Evidence
Part VI: Muslim Culture
Part VII: Conclusions
Overview


Can and Should Islam Be Reformed? Part VI: Muslim Culture

January 25, 2008

This is the sixth installment of a seven part series, examining the challenges, as I see them, and potential solutions, for reforming Islam. I would consider a reform to be meaningful and successful if it resulted in Islam as a personal religion (just a way of relating with God, with no fascist doctrines); if it offered persuasive, comprehensive, and truthful challenges to the version of Islam put forward by the Islamists; and if it became the prevailing view among Muslims.

Challenge: Muslim Culture. Besides the religious doctrines, Islam also has a culture which has been influenced by those doctrines, but is really a separate item, with several components. For example, Islam is an honor/shame-based culture, meaning that having a good image is of primary importance. This makes it difficult to admit to problems. In addition, honesty is not an absolute virtue in Islam; there are various exceptions to the rule. The combination of an honor/shame orientation and excuses for dishonesty creates a strong tendency to blame others for problems, which we often see in practice today. Blaming others for problems created by self is a sure way NOT to solve the problems.

Also, it is psychologically difficult for Muslims to accept a “demotion” from being superior (according to Islamic law and tradition) to being no better than the low-class dhimmis or the unclean kafirs. And, many Muslims strongly identify with Islam, making it more difficult for individuals to change their beliefs.

In addition to the purely psychological factors, there’s also real danger: Sharia’s draconian punishment for apostasy has also created a culture that is dangerous to reformers, as orthodox Muslims can label any attempt at reform as being an act of apostasy, carrying the penalty of death.

How to overcome this challenge:

This is a tough set of issues, but it must be addressed. As long as Muslims cling to the idea that Islam is the world’s most perfect religion, and that all the world’s problems result from Jewish conspiracies, Western imperialism, and whatnot, nothing will change.

First, honor and shame can be redefined. “Real honor comes from admitting ones own faults.” “People who blame others for their own faults should be ashamed of themselves.” This message would be more effective coming from Muslims, and there are a few who do put out messages along these lines. We need to support them. Let’s not expect immediate results, but a sustained effort could eventually make a difference. When Muslims blame others for problems that are obviously their own responsibility, the rest of the world should not buy into it.

In addition, the Muslims’ extreme aversion to shame can be utilized by criticizing the problems within Islam and expressing outrage at barbaric Islamic practices every chance we get. If they really get the message that others see Islam’s fascist doctrines as shameful, and honor is heaped upon those who are sincerely trying to reform those doctrines, we could start to see some real change.

This isn’t about using a “gimmick”, it’s just telling the truth. The truth really could set us free, if only we were willing to tell it. This is the opposite from what the PC crowd says would be effective, but for the past thousand years the Islamic world has gotten by with little or no challenge, and what has that yielded? Stagnation and misery. If we really care about Muslims, we’ll give them what they most need: a good dose of honesty. It’s painful, but it’s about the only thing that has a chance of helping them. The serious reformers, by and large, know this already, and they’re the ones we should be allying ourselves with.

Shame can also be utilized to make it easier for Muslims to accept the “demotion” from superiority to equality with others. We need to condemn supremacist doctrines, including Islamic supremacy, as shameful.

Shame is one thing that does actually have a track record for bringing about change in the Muslim world. There have been various examples of <a href=”http://www.jihadwatch.org/archives/019017.php”<atrocities averted due to criticism from the West. Since we know shame works, and there’s so little that does, it would be foolish not to use it.

Note to PC crowd: Criticizing fascist doctrines of Islam (Jihad and Sharia) is not hate. If we hated Muslims, we’d allow these doctrines to grow unchallenged until the only possible effective response is a military one. I don’t believe we’re there yet, but the PC mentality is allowing us to drift closer to it. The first victims of Islamo-Fascism are Muslims; if we care about them, we’ll do what it takes to spare them from it.

Of course, we can expect a violent response to truthful messages, because Muslims have found violence very effective for getting their way. Think of a two year old. If they throw a tantrum and get what they want, what will happen next time? A responsible parent has to ride out the tantrum, lovingly yet firmly. Otherwise the two year old will soon be running the household, which is what we are already on a slippery slope toward. Many people believe Western culture will inevitably prevail because it is more sophisticated, forgetting the power of a two year old. We’ll have the fewest tantrums–er, the least violence–in the long run if we don’t reward it.

Making a distinction between Islamic doctrines and Muslim individuals is also useful. Muslims in general identify so strongly with Islam that they may not hear this message for a long time, but eventually it may sink in. Muslims will not be able to conceive of changing Islam until they develop their own identity, separate from Islam.

As for the danger factor, as with so many of these challenges, there’s no easy solution. However, at the very least, we who live in the relative safety of the West should be handing microphones to the brave Muslims and ex-Muslims who are willing to risk their necks to call for an Islamic reformation, rather than lavishing our attention on those who merely defend the status quo. If we even understood the danger factor better, perhaps we’d be more willing to lift a finger to amplify the effect of those few who are undeterred by death threats.

Part VII of this series will offer conclusions.

Part I: The Quran
Part II: The Hadith
Part III: The Sira
Part IV: Sharia
Part V: Historical Evidence
Part VI: Muslim Culture
Part VII: Conclusions
Overview


Can and Should Islam Be Reformed? Part IV: Sharia

January 23, 2008

This is the fourth installment of a seven part series, examining the challenges, as I see them, and potential solutions, for reforming Islam. I would consider a reform to be meaningful and successful if it resulted in Islam as a personal religion (just a way of relating with God, with no fascist doctrines); if it offered persuasive, comprehensive, and truthful challenges to the version of Islam put forward by the Islamists; and if it became the prevailing view among Muslims.

Challenge: Sharia. Islamic Law, or Sharia, is recorded in various legal manuals. Sharia is based on the Quran, Hadith, and ijma (consensus of previous Islamic legal scholars, considered to be infallible). The problems with Sharia are obvious from the examples here.

How to overcome this challenge:

Sharia depends on the Quran, Hadith, and ijma. Parts of Sharia, such as the Jizya tax and Jihad fighting, are explicitly called for in the Quran. Just as the Quran is more challenging to reform than the Hadith and Sira, aspects of Sharia based on the Quran are more difficult to deal with than the others.

However, the concept of the infallibility of ijma appears to have scant support from the Quran. Cited in Reliance of the Traveller (pgs. 24-25), there’s a verse which tells believers to obey “those in authority” among them (4:59), and another which threatens believers who do not follow “the believer’s way” (4:115). Then there are some supportive Hadith, which say things like “when the believers are in agreement, they cannot be wrong” and so forth.

Unless there is more support for ijma than what’s listed in this legal manual, it would not have to be difficult to reinterpret this in a credible fashion (at least, in comparison to the difficulties faced with the other challenges). There is a long tradition of ijma, it is highly influential to this day, but its foundation appears to be pretty weak. “Those in authority” could be secular leaders, “the believer’s way” could be reinterpreted any number of ways, and “when the believers are in agreement” could be reinterpreted more literally as a consensus of every single believer, rather than a consensus of a few scholars in the distant past. With “ijma” redefined, all the rulings of the four schools of Sharia could be reevaluated. (Ultimately, it seems the best thing would be to abolish Sharia altogether, but this could be one step in that direction.)

It would also not be difficult to make the case that none of the Hadith are sufficiently reliable to be used as a basis for law. Joseph Schacht, a great Islamicist, found evidence that “[d]etails from the life of the Prophet were invented to support legal doctrines.” [Quote from The Origins of the Koran, edited by Ibn Warraq, page 23.] Schacht also found that for the most part, Sharia was not derived from the Quran.

Another piece of “good news” is that the death penalty for apostasy is never explicitly given in the Quran, but is hinted at there, with more substantiation from the Hadith, and “locked in” by ijma. This does not mean this death penalty would be easy to get rid of in practice, because the tradition is deeply in-grained. Still, any good news, however small, is worth noting. Reforming this one aspect of Islam, if achievable on a large scale, could make a huge difference. Some Muslims make a good case that the death penalty for apostates is “un-Islamic” in theory, although so far as I know, significant numbers of clerics have not gotten on that bandwagon. While cheering on the reformers, it is important for us non-Muslims in the west to be realistic about the current state of things, as well.

Part V of this series will examine historical evidence of Arab conquest.

Part I: The Quran
Part II: The Hadith
Part III: The Sira
Part IV: Sharia
Part V: Historical Evidence
Part VI: Muslim Culture
Part VII: Conclusions
Overview


Can and Should Islam Be Reformed? Part III: The Sira

January 20, 2008

This is the third installment of a seven part series, examining the challenges, as I see them, and potential solutions, for reforming Islam. I would consider a reform to be meaningful and successful if it resulted in Islam as a personal religion (just a way of relating with God, with no fascist doctrines); if it offered persuasive, comprehensive, and truthful challenges to the version of Islam put forward by the Islamists; and if it became the prevailing view among Muslims.

Challenge: The Sira. “Sira” means “life” or “journey”, and the Sira are biographies of Mohammed. Like the Hadith, these are also based on oral traditions, but the Sira are different in that they are written as a continuous narrative, with events placed in sequence. The first and most important biography, Sirat Rasul Allah, was written by Ibn Ishaq just over a century after Mohammed’s death, well before the first Hadith collection. This makes it arguably the most reliable Muslim version of events, as written traditions are more durable than oral ones. No original manuscript of Ibn Ishaq’s Surat exists today, but Ibn Hisham’s edited version remains. Ibn Hisham said in his introduction, “I have omitted things which are disgraceful to discuss and matters which would distress certain people.” It’s amazing to read the whitewashed version, and wonder what could have been left out (a condensed translation is available here). Another biographer, al-Tabari, quoted extensively from Ishaq’s original manuscript in his 40-volume History, and he included some material that Ibn Hisham omitted.

There are many passages in the Sira which are problematic. Here are just a few:

Genocide: “The apostle of Allah imprisoned the Qurayza [a Jewish tribe] in Medina while trenches were dug in the market-place. Then he sent for the men and had their heads struck off so that they fell in the trenches. They were brought out in groups…. In number, they amounted to six or seven hundred, although some state it to have been eight or nine hundred. All were executed.” (Sirat Rasul Allah, Chapter 18)

Child marriage: “Since the death of Khadija, he had acquired seven wives, foremost among whom was the daughter of Abu Bakr, Aisha. She had been married to the apostle at the age of ten….” (Sirat Rasul Allah, Chapter 15) Note: Some Hadith say she was 9 when her marriage with Mohammed was consummated.

Slavery: “Now the apostle distributed the property of the Banu Qurayza, as well as their women and children, to the Muslims, reserving one-fifth for himself. Every horseman received three shares, one for himself and two for his steed, and every foot soldier one share. There were thirty-six horses present on the day of the Qurayza. The apostle dispatched an emissary to Najd with the prisoners, to barter them as slaves in exchange for horses and camels.” (Sirat Rasul Allah, Chapter 18)

How to overcome this challenge:

The same types of problems exist in the Sira as in the Hadith (see Part II), and the same types of solutions could be attempted. Scholars Caetani, Lammens and others have cast extreme doubt on the reliability of Mohammed’s entire biography.

Part IV of this series will examine Sharia.

Part I: The Quran
Part II: The Hadith
Part III: The Sira
Part IV: Sharia
Part V: Historical Evidence
Part VI: Muslim Culture
Part VII: Conclusions
Overview


Can and Should Islam Be Reformed? Part II: The Hadith

January 19, 2008

This is the second installment of a seven part series, examining the challenges, as I see them, and potential solutions, for reforming Islam. I would consider a reform to be meaningful and successful if it resulted in Islam as a personal religion (just a way of relating with God, with no fascist doctrines); if it offered persuasive, comprehensive, and truthful challenges to the version of Islam put forward by the Islamists; and if it became the prevailing view among Muslims.

Challenge: The Hadith. The Hadith (technically, the plural is “Ahadith”) are oral traditions about the sayings and actions of Mohammed. There are thousands of Hadith, organized into collections. Six of these collections (Al-Bukhari, Muslim, At-Tirmidhi, An-Nasai, Ibn Majah, and Abu Dawood) are considered “authentic” in Sunni tradition, and are generally considered synonymous with the “Sunnah”, which means “the way of the Prophet”. About 85% of Muslims are “Sunni”, which word comes from “Sunnah”. The Shia have their Hadith, as well.

The Quran contains no biographical information about Mohammed, although it says the Messenger (Mohammed) is a good example for believers (33:21). Muslims can only find out what Mohammed’s example was through the Hadith and Sira (see Part III). In addition, the Quran gives little or no context for its verses. Again, this context has traditionally been supplied by the Hadith and Sira.

Technically, a Hadith cannot be considered to be authentic if it contradicts the Quran (although many Hadith in the authenticated collections actually do so, such as the ones attributing miracles to Mohammed). However, there are many Hadith that have been used to develop the doctrines of Sharia and Jihad. For example, the Quran has no explicit command to kill apostates, although several verses hint at it. The Hadith, on the other hand, are very explicit on the subject, and have been relied on as source material for that ruling. Here are two examples (there are also others):

Narrated Abu Burda: “….Mu’adh asked, “Who is this (man)?” Abu Muisa said, “He was a Jew and became a Muslim and then reverted back to Judaism.” Then Abu Muisa requested Mu’adh to sit down but Mu’adh said, “I will not sit down till he has been killed. This is the judgment of Allah and His Apostle (for such cases) and repeated it thrice. Then Abu Musa ordered that the man be killed, and he was killed….” (Bukhari, Volume 9, Book 84, Number 58)

Narrated ‘Ikrima: Some Zanadiqa (atheists) were brought to ‘Ali and he burnt them. The news of this event, reached Ibn ‘Abbas who said, “If I had been in his place, I would not have burnt them, as Allah’s Apostle forbade it, saying, ‘Do not punish anybody with Allah’s punishment (fire).’ I would have killed them according to the statement of Allah’s Apostle, ‘Whoever changed his Islamic religion, then kill him.'” (Bukhari, Volume 9, Book 84, Number 57)

There are many other examples of undesirable behavior sanctioned by the Hadith, including:

Wife beating:
“Narrated Umar ibn al-Khattab: The Prophet…said: A man will not be asked as to why he beat his wife.” (Abu Dawood, Book 11, Number 2142)

Torture: “Anas reported: Eight men…killed the shepherd and drove away the camels. This (news) reached Allah’s Messenger…and he sent them on their track and they were caught and brought to him (the Holy Prophet). He commanded about them, and (thus) their hands and feet were cut off and their eyes were gouged and then they were thrown in the sun, until they died.” (Muslim, Book 016, Number 4131)

Killing Critics: “It has been narrated on the authority of Jabir that the Messenger of Allah…said: Who will kill Ka’b b. Ashraf? He has maligned Allah, the Exalted, and His Messenger. Muhammad b. Maslama said: Messenger of Allah, do you wish that I should kill him? He said: Yes. He said: Permit me to talk (to him in the way I deem fit). He said: Talk (as you like). So, Muhammad b. Maslama came to Ka’b and talked to him, referred to the old friendship between them….So when [Ka'b] came down and he was holding his cloak under his arm, they said to him: We sense from you a very fine smell. He said: Yes, I have with me a mistress who is the most scented of the women of Arabia. He said: Allow me to smell (the scent on your head). He said: Yes, you may smell. So he caught it and smelt. Then he said: Allow me to do so (once again). He then held his head fast and said to his companions: Do your job. And they killed him.” (Muslim, Book 019, Number 4436)

What can overcome this challenge?

The Hadith would be easier to throw out than the Quran, and some reformers advocate following the Quran only. However, to disavow the Hadith would mean that the Quran has no context, and little or nothing is known about Mohammed. It would seem that to throw out the Hadith and Sira would be to essentially throw out Mohammed, which I’m not personally averse to, although Muslims may be. The other alternative would be to create a new fairy tale about Mohammed, either by picking and choosing from the Hadith or pulling it out of thin air. It seems it would be hard to convincingly present this as more authentic than the current version, however.

For those who do want to throw out the Hadith, analysis of their origins gives supportive evidence. Various scholars have called the authenticity of numerous Hadith into question. Goldziher, for example, has demonstrated that a great number of Hadith were complete fabrications. And, so far as I know, none of the Hadith are conclusively confirmed by non-Muslim sources.

Part III of this series will examine the Sira.

Part I: The Quran
Part II: The Hadith
Part III: The Sira
Part IV: Sharia
Part V: Historical Evidence
Part VI: Muslim Culture
Part VII: Conclusions
Overview


Can and Should Islam Be Reformed? Part I: The Quran

January 17, 2008

This may seem an arrogant question for a non-Muslim to ask. However, I am basing my query on the fascist doctrines of Islam: namely, Jihad and Sharia. These doctrines clearly infringe upon the rights of non-Muslims, and for this reason, the subject is fair game for comment from a non-Muslim. In addition, non-Muslims can have compassion for the Muslim victims of Islamo-Fascism, who currently are the primary victims. Reform of Islam can only be done by Muslims, but non-Muslims can choose to give or withhold support for a particular reform effort.

I would consider a reform to be meaningful and successful if it resulted in Islam as a personal religion only (just a way of relating with God, with no fascist doctrines); if it offered persuasive, comprehensive, and truthful challenges to the version of Islam put forward by the Islamo-Fascists; and if it became the prevailing view among Muslims. However, there are serious challenges to reforming Islam, which may or may not be possible to overcome. This is only a brief overview; much more could be said, and I welcome a variety of perspectives in the comments. I will examine the challenges, as I see them, and potential solutions, in this seven part series.

Challenge: The Quran. Orthodox Muslims believe the Quran was written by Allah, word-by-word and letter-by-letter. We’ve seen how some Muslims react to even a rumor that a Quran somewhere in the world has been mistreated. Non-Muslims aren’t even supposed to touch a Quran because they are “unclean”, and Muslims are supposed to go through a ritual purification before doing so. The Quran is supposedly eternal, meaning it was never created because it has always existed in its current form. Many non-Arab Muslims around the world believe there is value in learning to read the Quran in Arabic, even with no understanding of what it says. Orthodox Muslims believe they must follow every verse, and are not allowed to pick and choose.

It is important to understand the extreme nature of orthodox Muslims’ view of the Quran, which is probably more or less the prevalent view, and is not comparable to prevalent views of any other religion toward any book or other object or symbol (with the possible exception of explicit idol worship). We do not see murderous riots from other religious groups resulting from offense toward an object or symbol.

I call this “orthodox Quranic extremism”, and it is a problem because the Quran contains loads of material supporting fascist, discriminatory, and violent behavior, in addition to hate, as noted in the examples below, with more here. According to Robert Spencer, there are over a hundred Jihad verses in the Quran. Here’s a sampling of verses I find objectionable:

“Fighting is enjoined on you, and is an object of dislike to you; and it may be that you dislike a thing while it is good for you, and it may be that you love a thing while it is evil for you, and Allah knows, while you do not know.” (2:216)

“Men are the maintainers of women because Allah has made some of them to excel others and because they spend out of their property; the good women are therefore obedient, guarding the unseen as Allah has guarded; and (as to) those on whose part you fear desertion, admonish them, and leave them alone in the sleeping-places and beat them; then if they obey you, do not seek a way against them; surely Allah is High, Great.” (4:34)

“Say: O followers of the Book! do you find fault with us (for aught) except that we believe in Allah and in what has been revealed to us and what was revealed before, and that most of you are transgressors? Say: Shall I inform you of (him who is) worse than this in retribution from Allah? (Worse is he) whom Allah has cursed and brought His wrath upon, and of whom He made apes and swine, and he who served the Shaitan; these are worse in place and more erring from the straight path.” (5:59-60)

“So when the sacred months have passed away, then slay the idolaters wherever you find them, and take them captives and besiege them and lie in wait for them in every ambush, then if they repent and keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate, leave their way free to them; surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.” (9:5)

“Fight those who do not believe in Allah, nor in the latter day, nor do they prohibit what Allah and His Messenger have prohibited, nor follow the religion of truth, out of those who have been given the Book, until they pay the tax in acknowledgment of superiority and they are in a state of subjection.” (9:29)

“Surely Allah has bought of the believers their persons and their property for this, that they shall have the garden; they fight in Allah’s way, so they slay and are slain; a promise which is binding on Him in the Taurat and the Injeel and the Quran; and who is more faithful to his covenant than Allah? Rejoice therefore in the pledge which you have made; and that is the mighty achievement.” (9:111)

“Indeed, there is for you a good example in Ibrahim and those with him when they said to their people: Surely we are clear of you and of what you serve besides Allah; we declare ourselves to be clear of you, and enmity and hatred have appeared between us and you forever until you believe in Allah alone– but not [a good example] in what Ibrahim said to his father: I would certainly ask forgiveness for you, and I do not control for you aught from Allah– Our Lord! on Thee do we rely, and to Thee do we turn, and to Thee is the eventual coming.” (60:4)

For those who maintain that the Quran is no worse than the Bible, here’s a rebuttal. In addition, the fact is, there is no global jihad movement which justifies its actions by quoting the Bible, and there never has been. There is no global movement to impose “Christian Sharia” that compares with the real Sharia. Of the many Christian majority countries that exist, not one imposes Christian fascism today which could be considered the equal to Islamo-Fascist regimes abounding throughout the Muslim world. If anyone still believes the Bible or other religious book should be a priority to reform, then that can be their project.

What can overcome this challenge?

Muslims Against Sharia would like to throw out several hundred problematic verses from the Quran. To paraphrase, their arguments for doing so include: it is possible the Quran has been corrupted over the years; these verses “promote divisiveness and religious hatred, bigotry and discrimination”; and it is inconceivable that any merciful, compassionate god would advocate hate, violence, and oppression. They do have some valid points.

Other Muslim reformers want to keep all the verses, but change the interpretation to a non-literal, peaceful, tolerant one. This may be easier for some Muslims to swallow, but it is questionable whether a new interpretation, with little to no real tradition behind it, could be accepted as more authentic than current understandings. Still, it’s possible this could be a useful avenue for some Muslims.

There is some history of a non-literal approach to the Quran which held sway for a time, if we go way, way back. The Mutazilites held that the Quran was not an eternal text, valid for all situations for all of time. They favored a non-literal interpretation. However, they were also ruthlessly violent toward those who disagreed with them. They were significantly overshadowed and even marginalized by more orthodox schools by the end of the tenth century century. Some Muslims today are attempting to revive their way of thinking.

One possible approach that, if embraced by Muslims, could completely eliminate orthodox Quranic extremism is rigorous academic study of the origins of the Quran. This type of analysis has been applied in great depth to Christian and Jewish texts, often by Christian and Jewish scholars themselves. This is one reason Christians and Jews generally do not have the same beliefs about their holy texts that Muslims often do about theirs. With Islam, the study is still in its infancy, and breakthroughs have generally come from the few non-Muslim scholars of Islamic texts. Muslim scholars tend to accept the divine revelation of an eternal Quran to Mohammed as a given, and work from there, although there are a few brave exceptions.

Here are some examples from the introduction to The Origins of the Koran, edited by Ibn Warraq: The Quran was written in an imperfected script, in which various consonants are indistinguishable, and short vowels were missing. According to Charles Adams, around the early tenth century, thousands of variant readings were narrowed down to seven, ten, or fourteen, depending on which Muslim scholar one believed. These were narrowed down to three, then two, which we still have today. Scholars Bell and Watt believe that the unevenness of style points to numerous alterations in the Quran. Wansbrough also provides evidence that the Quran was not in final form before the ninth century. Michael Cook notes that the earliest Quranic quotations, from late seventh century coins and inscriptions, diverged from the Quran as we know it. There is also historical and other evidence that contradicts certain passages in the Quran; I’ll discuss that further in later parts of this series.

I also have to wonder whether the idolatry angle could be useful in loosening orthodox Quranic extremism. Islam is a strict mono-theistic religion. It even criticizes (condemns, actually) Christians for believing Jesus is the son of God. Yet it could be argued that the manner in which Muslims treat the Quran borders on idolatry. Do they worship Allah or a book?

For anyone who believes this is unaceptable criticism of Islam, I would note that it is certainly no worse than criticisms of Christianity and Judaism expressed right in the Quran (9:30). If this type of criticism of Islam were banned, in fairness, such verses would also have to be banned from the Quran, as would similar statements from numerous Islamic websites. Christianity has had a long-standing internal debate about the dangers of allowing Christian symbols or objects, even the Bible, to become idols. It is fair to challenge Muslims to engage in the same degree of introspection that other believers do. To argue otherwise is to insult Muslims, implying that unlike non-Muslims, they are not capable of introspection and handling criticism. As an aside, for this reason, I personally think the recent UN Resolution pushed by the OIC is a big insult to Muslims.

Also, since I know that people often read into things more than was said, I’ll clarify my position that orthodox Quranic extremism is probably more or less the prevalent view. This does not mean that half or more Muslims would personally participate in Jihad. Most Muslims, as most people, have a normal conscience and self-preservation instincts that make them very reluctant to do such things, and many Muslims don’t even know what’s in the Quran. However, it does mean that significant numbers of Muslims would not categorically condemn the theologies of Jihad and Sharia (which is different from condemning “terrorism”), and could be sympathetic to Jihadists, and perhaps less than enthusiastic about helping law enforcement root out Jihadist cells. In addition, Jihadist recruiters, who have a track record of influencing people to overcome their natural conscience and self-preservation instincts, view the orthodox Muslims as a huge pool of potential recruits.

This is why it is essential for all who oppose Islamo-Fascism to support efforts to counter orthodox Quranic extremism. Otherwise, time is not on our side.

Part II of this series will examine the Hadith (oral traditions).

Part I: The Quran
Part II: The Hadith
Part III: The Sira
Part IV: Sharia
Part V: Historical Evidence
Part VI: Muslim Culture
Part VII: Conclusions
Overview


Resources for Further Study of Sharia, Islam and Jihad

December 18, 2007

If you want to look further into Sharia, as well as the closely related topics of Islam and Jihad, here are some recommendations.

Ex-Muslim Sites Opposed to Sharia

First, here’s a general comment about ex-Muslim sites. As we’ve discussed, many Muslims believe ex-Muslims should be killed. For this and other reasons, many ex-Muslims are very angry at Islam. They also are among those who understand Islam the best, from the inside. These sites are a tremendous resource, but be prepared for strong language.

Faith Freedom. This is among the best-known of the apostate sites, run by the famous Ali Sina. It includes articles, a lively forum, one-on-one debates, and more.

Islam Watch. This site also includes a great deal of information, including a whole section of online books.

Apostates of Islam. This site comes from a humanist perspective.

Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain. This is a political activist group with specific human-rights goals, listed on their Manifesto. These types of organizations are springing up all over Europe. We hope they reach their goals, and we also hope the United States prevents some of the issues they are having to address in Europe.

Wafa Sultan famously said on Al Jazeera TV that the world is not witnessing a clash of religions or cultures, but a battle between modernity and barbarism. She is interviewed here.

Muslim Sites Opposed to Sharia

Irshad Manji. Author of the book, The Problem With Islam Today, Irshad Manji is calling for Muslims to open the gates of ijtihad.

Muslims Against Sharia. This group is truly looking their religion square in the eye and is willing to do whatever it takes to remove the objectionable portions, even if it means removing a few hundred verses of the Quran.

19.org. This site was founded by Edip Yuksel, a former student of Dr. Rashad Khalifa, who founded the Submitters sect and discovered a preponderance of the number 19 in the Quran. Khalifa was assassinated by a Muslim for apostasy and heresy.

American Islamic Forum for Democracy. This is a membership organization that makes a stand against Sharia in the United States. Among their stated goals and beliefs, they recognize no clergy in Islam.

Muslim Canadian Congress. This is a membership organization committed to a secular Canada.

Non-Muslim Sites Opposed to Sharia

Answering Islam. This is a Christian site with a wealth of information, including an A-Z index on Islam.

Jihad Watch. This website is directed by Robert Spencer, expert on Islam and Jihad and author of numerous well-documented books on those subjects. This site will keep you up to date regarding Jihad worldwide.

Dhimmi Watch. Another site directed by Robert Spencer, this one focuses on the creeping condition of “dhimmitude”, in which non-Muslims take on a subservient, second-class role relative to Muslims.

Blogging the Quran. This is Robert Spencer’s ongoing blog which covers the mainstream Muslim commentators and their interpretations of the Quran. If you have any interest in studying the Quran, this is a great tool, because you will find out what authoritative Muslims have said on the subject. Blogging the Quran is hosted by HotAir.com.

Mapping Sharia Project. This is a group who are gathering intelligence about the 4500 Islamic Centers across the United States. They intend to provide information to law enforcement and the public regarding which Islamic centers promote Sharia, and therefore Jihad. Although I put this in the non-Muslim section, their group includes Muslims as well.

Middle East Forum. This site is directed by Daniel Pipes, a Middle East specialist who promotes US interests in the Middle East. The Middle East Forum has a special section called “Islamist Watch”, which focuses on “Lawful Islamism”.

Sons of Apes and Pigs. The name of this site refers to the Quran’s description of Allah transforming a group of Jews into apes and pigs (2:65, 5:60, 7:166). To this day, some Muslims believe that Jews and/or Christians are the sons of apes and pigs. This site was established by Egyptian Coptic Christians, who know about dhimmitude first-hand.

Political Islam is specifically focused on the dangers of Sharia and Jihad. Their unique approach is to study the foundational Islamic texts using a statistical analysis. In addition to a series of articles, they also have published a number of books explaining Islam from their viewpoint.

The Religion of Peace offers news and information, and has a special feature of a running count of deadly Islamic terror attacks since 9/11. Last I checked, it was up over 10,000.

Islamist Watch has a fantastic resource of quotes from Islamists, as well as a nice introduction to what an Islamist is.

Dhimmitude.org offers a great selection of articles on the subject of non-Muslims subjugated under Muslim rule and forced to live as a persecuted underclass. This is what will happen to us all if the Islamists have their way. Site edited by Bat Ye’or, renowned researcher into the subject of dhimmitude.

Dhimmi.com is the site for a civil rights group, the Coalition for the Defense of Human Rights. Members include, primarily, various religious minorities that suffer as dhimmis under Sharia law.

Andrew Bostom has written numerous books and articles about Islam. His blog is very informative, as well.

Deafening Silence is a liberal blog against Islamo-Fascism! I’m thrilled to find one. I have maintained that the threat of Islamo-Fascism is too important to be a wedge issue between liberals and conservatives. I believe that many, if not most, everyday liberals would be appalled to know the extent to which liberal leadership in academia, the media, and politics have already acquiesced to the Islamist agenda.

The Center for Vigilant Freedom is an international citizens’ network with over 1000 members who are working to defeat Jihad and Sharia and defend the West. They are associated with The 910 Group, a group of anti-Islamo-Fascism bloggers including Gates of Vienna.

Sites with No Clear Religious Identity Opposed to Sharia:

Secular Islam. I have been unable to confirm who is running this site, but I believe it’s a group of humanists. They promoted a Secular Islam Summit with a mix of ex-Muslim and Muslim speakers. This Summit met in St. Petersburg in 2007 and produced a manifesto, The St. Petersburg Declaration, which affirms specific secular ideals.

These sites can keep you up late for the foreseeable future, and there are more! [Last updated 02/14/08; I have moved this material to the "Resources" page accessible from the top menu, so I will no longer be updating it here.]


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