A Tale of Two Cities (In Which Goliath Bites the Dust)

There’s a small city just inside the Saudi Arabian border that most Westerners have probably never heard of. It is called Najran. Najran is the kind of backwater that gets its public swimming pool listed on Tripadvisor as one of the tourist attractions. Hicksville if ever there was one.

400 miles north of Najran is a city that just about everyone on the planet has heard of. A city visited by millions every year and that is the focus of every Muslim prayer prayed anywhere on the planet. I am, of course, talking about Mecca. To say that Mecca is on the other end of the scale from Najran in terms of name recognition is perhaps to be guilty of the understatement of the century.

It has ever been thus according to traditional Muslim historiography. Mecca is portrayed in Muslim sources (written down 200 years after the events they supposedly describe) as the most important religious and trade center in central Arabia since time immemorial.

Yet, there’s something that should be deeply troubling to any devout Muslim. When we investigate the primary sources (i.e. historical sources that can be definitively traced to the period they describe) a perplexing conundrum emerges. Najran is simply everywhere. Mecca nowhere.

Najran is referred to in the works of the three giants of Roman geographical writing (Strabo, Pliny and Ptolemy). Najran is also referenced in a wide variety of pre-Islamic trade and other geographical descriptions of central Arabia. It is, furthermore, mentioned in several religious texts dealing with the coming of Judaism and Christianity to this part of the Arabian Peninsula.

Perhaps the most famous episode in the history of Najran was the martyrdom (in 524 CE) of the local Christian Bishop. Aretas, and much of his flock were martyred at the hands of the last king of the Himyarite Kingdom Yusuf As’ar Dhu Nuwas. Aretas is still recognized as a saint by both the Eastern Orthodox and the Roman Catholic Church. Because of this the name of Najran was spoken as far away as northern Europe.

I’ve barely scratched the surface as far as historical references to the relatively unimportant and obscure city of Najran is concerned. Today, and in Muslim historiography, it pales in comparison with Mecca, its much more famous northern neighbor in terms of its importance.

Here’s the conundrum. If there is so much historical evidence available for the pre-Islamic existence of the Hicksville of Central Arabia we would logically expect that the historical evidence dealing with Mecca would be orders of magnitude more substantial. Except that it isn’t.

There is, in fact, not a single shred of uncontested primary source evidence for the pre-Islamic existence of Mecca. Nothing, zilch, zip, nada! This is a fact that, to put it mildly, has tremendous implications for the truth-claims of Islam.

I realize that this may seem like a tall tale, but don’t just take my word for it. Examine the evidence by reading my book ‘The Mecca Mystery – Probing the Black Hole at the Heart of Muslim History’

Islam: The Hotel California of Religions 

In the immortal words of ‘The Eagles’, the Hotel California is place where you can ‘check out anytime, but you can never leave’. This may as well have been a description of Islam.

The Qur’an makes it clear that abandoning Islam is a very serious sin. It, therefore, contains many blood curdling reminders that those who do so will suffer a terrible fate. One example: “Lo. Those who disbelieve after their (profession of) belief, and afterward grow violent in disbelief: their repentance will not be accepted. And such are those who are astray. Lo. Those who disbelieve, and die in disbelief, the (whole) earth full of gold would not be accepted from such a one if it were offered as a ransom (for his soul). Theirs will be a painful doom and they will have no helpers.” (Qur’an 3:90-91) The fact that threats like these were even necessary is quite interesting. Could it be that a very large number of people saw through the prophet and that the only way they could be persuaded to remain committed to Islam was through this kind of dire threat?

The hadiths make it clear that the ‘painful doom’ reserved for apostates is not merely a matter for eternity, but some of it must also be meted out by Muslims on this side of the grave. Some examples:

  • Muhammad issued a chilling command on how apostates should be treated by the Muslim community: “Whoever discards his Islamic religion, then kill him.” (Sahih Bukhari 4:52:260)
  • Muhammad felt so strongly about the possibility of apostasy that he made apostasy from Islam one of only three circumstances under which a person who had previously cited the Islamic confession of faith can be killed: “Allah’s Apostle said, “The blood of a Muslim who confesses that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and that I am His Apostle, cannot be shed except in three cases: In Qisas for murder, a married person who commits illegal sexual intercourse and the one who reverts from Islam (apostate) and leaves the Muslims.” (Sahih Bukhari 9:83:17)
  • The hadiths also contain many examples of Muslims willing to carry out the punishment of Allah against apostates. For example: “Narrated Abu Musa: A man embraced Islam and then reverted back to Judaism. Mu’adh bin Jabal came and saw the man with Abu Musa. Mu’adh asked, “What is wrong with this (man)?” Abu Musa replied, “He embraced Islam and then reverted back to Judaism.” Mu’adh said, “I will not sit down unless you kill him (as it is) the verdict of Allah and His Apostle” (Sahih Bukhari 9:89:271)

There can be no doubt at all, in light of the evidence presented above, that the prescribed Islamic punishment for apostasy is death. This is not merely an archaic teaching that has long ago been dispensed with. All four Sunni legal schools as well as orthodox Shi’a doctrine agree that apostates should be executed. This is demonstrated by the fact that people are often tried (and executed) for apostasy in countries where Islamic law (shari’a) is the law of the land. Even in places where shari’a is not consistently applied, apostates often live in fear of vigilante action from Muslims eager to carry out Muhammad’s wishes.

The teaching that apostates should be killed is without parallel in any other religion or belief system. It is only Islam among the faiths and ideologies of the world that demands death for abandoning it. It should also be noted, as the hadith quoted above make clear, that the punishment for apostasy does not only apply to those who were born into Islam but also to those who converted to Islam and then decided to turn their backs on it.

This aspect of the teaching of Islam should be of particular concern to those who are thinking of converting to Islam. They need to know that, while entry into Islam is relatively easy, leaving Islam is not such a simple matter. Those who leave can, instead, be in real peril. This fact should cause everyone, including those born into Islam, to pause and reflect on what Islam’s ruling on apostasy tells us about the religion. What are we to make of a faith whose founder decreed that those who follow it should be kept inside through the use of death threats? At the very least, it should tell us that Muhammad was not certain that proof and argument would be sufficient to keep devotees loyal to Islam. A rather revealing insight.

For more a critical examination of the truth-claims of Islam see my book: “Questioning Islam – Tough Question and Honest About the Muslim Religion’

Migration and Jihad: Two Sides of the Same Coin?

It is truly incredible how Western politicians stumble into actions that wide ramifications for their countries, without asking even the most basic of question. One question that has almost even been raised in the context of increased Muslim immigration is whether there is a link between migration and jihad in Islam?

It turns out that there is. Incontrovertibly so. According to the Qur’an, emigration and “Jihad in the cause of Allah” were two sides of the same coin for the earliest Muslims, including Muhammad. The origins of Islam as a belligerent political entity can, in many ways, be traced back to the hijrah or migration of Muhammad and a band of his followers from Mecca to Medina. This event is seen as so important in the development of Islam that it represents the starting point for the Muslim calendar.

The pattern of viewing migration as a precursor to jihad left deep traces in the Qur’an. For example:

  • “Those who have believed and those who have emigrated and fought in the cause of Allah – those expect the mercy of Allah” (Qur’an 2:218)
  • “Indeed, those who have believed and emigrated and fought with their wealth and lives in the cause of Allah and those who gave shelter and aided – they are allies of one another” (Qur’an 8:72)

This strong praise given to the earliest Muslims who migrated to advance the cause of Islam gives modern Muslims a strong example to follow. It is interesting to note that this example means that migration with a view to undermine and eventually take over non-Muslim societies was seen by early Muslim theologians as the one exception to the general rule that Muslims should always seek to live under Muslim rule. This viewpoint was strongly reinforced by a hadith in which Muhammad says: “There is no migration (after the conquest), except for jihad and good intentions, and when you are called for jihad, you should immediately respond to the call” (Sahih Bukhari Volume 4 Book 52 Hadith 42)

It is, therefore, an accepted part of the Muslim belief system that it is permissible to live under non-Muslim rule if the understanding is that you are to subvert the non-Muslim society and even take up arms against it if necessary. I am obviously not suggesting that all Muslims in non-Muslim countries see this as their ultimate reason for being there, but we do need to understand that there are some for whom this is true.

Indeed, there have been Muslim groups who have made emigration for the sake of jihad a key part of their identity. The name of the, now banned, U.K. Muslim group Al-Mujahiroun (responsible for about 50% of terror attacks carried out in or originating in the U.K.) translates as “the emigrants” and it refers straight back to the Qur’anic verses that were cited above counselling “emigration in the cause of Allah”. Members of this group repeatedly made it clear that they had no loyalty whatsoever to the United Kingdom and that they saw the ideal of seeing the “black flag of Islam” flying over 10 Downing Street (home of the British Prime Minister) as their reason for being in the U.K.

All of the above should make for very sobering reading in light of the fact that most Western countries are experiencing unprecedented levels of inward migration from Muslim societies. In some cases, (e.g., the refugee crisis caused by the Syrian civil war), people are being allowed to enter Western countries without even the most basic background checks being conducted. I am not, for one moment, suggesting that every single refugee or migrant from a Muslim country settling in the West are doing so with the intention to subvert their host countries for the sake of Islam, but some clearly are. Are such people carefully screened out?

Given the sheer numbers and the level of denial in the West regarding the intentions of Islam, it is highly unlikely that anything more than the most rudimentary checks are carried out. This has been all too graphically confirmed by the fact that some of the perpetrators of the November 2015 Paris attacks passed through Greece, sheltered by the stream of refugees that were entering Europe from Turkey

We must face up to some very serious questions on the issue of Islam and migration. There must obviously be some among the stream of Muslim migrants entering Western nations who take seriously Muhammad’s words that “there is no migration except for jihad”. If so (and it would be foolish in the extreme to suggest otherwise), what percentage are we comfortable with? 20%? 5%?

Even if we settle for the ludicrously low percentage of only 1%, it means that Germany (which took in 1 million migrants from the Muslim world in 2015) has imported 10,000 people during a single calendar year who will do everything in their power to overthrow the German state. How will the current crop of Western politicians explain their rash actions to the next generation when these Qur’an 2:218 type “emigrants” (i.e., those who have emigrated and fought in the cause of Allah) begin to unleash carnage in the name of Islam?

The link between migration and jihad is further explored in my book ‘Nothing to do with Islam? – Investigating the West’s Most Dangerous Blind Spot’

Why History May Yet Save Us

Getting to grips with the truth-claims of Islam will be one of the greatest challenges of the 21st century and I’m convinced that the struggle against Islamic encroachment can never be successful unless we fundamentally undermine key Muslim beliefs.

One of the best avenues for doing this is to focus intensely upon, and dismantle, the historical accounts that form the basis of so much of Muslim faith and practice. My book The Mecca Mystery is an attempt to brings some of the glaring ‘black holes’ in Muslim history to the fore.

Consider, for example, the following facts about Mecca:
1) No archaeological evidence exists of an ancient city at the location of modern Mecca
2)  The first reference to Mecca outside the Qur’an is from the year 740 CE (more than 100 years after Muhammad’s death). The first time it appears on a map is about 900 CE.
3) The Romans and Persians kept detailed records of the Arabian Peninsula. Mecca and the Quraysh are completely absent from these records
4) The idea that Mecca was on a trade route is ridiculous as this would have necessitated a tortuous detour through empty desert for no benefit
5) Many of Muhammad’s enemies are described as livestock and arable farmers in the Qur’an (cf. 4:119). Occupations impossible in the middle of the desert
6) The Qur’an describes two high mountains (Al-Safa and Al-Marwah) at the location of Mecca (2:158). This is absent from modern Mecca where the ‘mountains’ given these names are so small that they are inside a mosque!
7) The Qur’an states that the Meccans pass by the location of Sodom and Gomorrah every day (37:137). This is hundreds of miles from modern Mecca.
8) The earliest mosques that have been excavated (Kufa, Fustat and Wasit) are all oriented not towards Mecca but to a location in far northern Arabia.  Again, hundreds of miles from modern Mecca.

These facts, and many more (focussed on the history of the Qur’an, Muhammad etc.), are discussed in detail in the book and are fully referenced.  I also provide credible alternative theories for the development of early Islam.

Why is this important? Again, if we ever hope to ‘win’ against Islam we must attack its credibility. There are few better ways to do this than by showing that the foundation upon which it is built is nothing but smoke and mirrors. The hard questions that Islam cannot answer must get ‘out there’ until they cannot be ignored any longer. Equip yourself to be one of the messengers taking these questions to the wider world by reading ‘The Mecca Mystery’!