Having Allah as Your Valet

Muslims claim that the Qur’an is ‘uncreated’. Existing eternally and merely transmitted through Muhammad, the ‘messenger’, as Allah’s final word to creation. We can therefore expect it to be focused on universal themes. Yet much of the Qur’an seemingly exists solely to make life easier and better for a single person. Guess who?

1. Allah reveals that Muslims are only allowed to marry four women (4:3). Muhammad wants more. How convenient: He gets a revelation allowing him to marry as many as he wants. It explicitly states that this privilege is ‘…for you only, not for the rest of the believers‘ (33:50)

2. Allah reveals that multiple wives are always to be treated equally (4:3). Yet Muhammad develops favorites among his wives, wanting to spend more time with some. How convenient: He promptly receives a revelation telling him that he can ‘postpone’ and ‘receive’ his wives as he sees fit (33:51)

3. Muhammad desires the wife (Zaynab) of Zaid, his adopted son. Zaid divorces her so that Muhammad can marry her. This causes a great deal of grumbling among his followers, many of whom regard his actions as tantamount to incest. How convenient: Allah immediately steps in with another special revelation making it clear that when adopted sons are ‘done’ with their wives their adopted fathers may marry them and that whoever questions this ruling questions Allah! (33:37)

4. Muhammad had sex with a slave (Mary the Copt) to whom he was not married. The wife (Hafsa) whose ‘turn’ it was that night furiously objected. Muhammad promised not to touch Mary again if Hafsa keeps quiet. She doesn’t, and a scandal ensues. How convenient: Ever faithful, Allah steps in to smooth things over: “O Prophet! Why do you ban (for yourself that which God has made lawful to you… ” (66:1)

The Qur’an does not contain instructions on how often to pray, the words of the shahada (Confession of Faith), instructions for keeping the fast, the words of the prayer ritual and many other standard aspects of Islamic faith and practice. Muslims must turn to secondary sources (most notably the traditions, or hadiths, for this).

Yet, Allah seems to have found space in his ‘eternal revelation’ to sort out Muhammad’s soap opera of a personal life by making sure that his every whim was gratified. Anyone else smell a rat?

For more about the suspect textual history of the Qur’an, see my book:Questioning Islam: Tough Questions and Honest Answers About the Muslim Religion

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