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’!

Muhammad: ‘Prophet’ and Slave Trader

One of the most puzzling aspects of the current debate around Islam is the fact that it is pushed as an enlightened alternative to Western values by people who are essentially clueless about its regressive teachings. Nowhere is this more evident than in the disconnect between the idea that Islam stands for human rights and its attitude towards slavery.

Even a cursory examination of the Qur’an and hadiths will quickly reveal that Muhammad enthusiastically participated in the buying and selling of fellow human beings. The following is a brief selection of texts confirming this:

“O Prophet! We have made lawful to thee thy wives to whom thou hast paid their dowers; and those (slaves) whom thy right hand possesses out of the prisoners of war whom Allah has assigned to thee” (Qur’an 33:50) This is one of the many convenient revelations that Muhammad received. In this case, he is allowed as many sexual partners as he desires from among his female slaves. This verse would presumably not have been ‘revealed’ if Muhammad did not possess any female slaves.

Jabir (Allah be pleased with him) reported: There came a slave and pledged allegiance to Allah’s Apostle (may peace be upon him) on migration; he (the Holy Prophet) did not know that he was a slave. Then there came his master and demanded him back, whereupon Allah’s Apostle (may peace be upon him) said: Sell him to me. And he bought him for two black slaves (Sahih Muslim 10:3901) Here we see the prophet of Islam actually involved in the trading of slaves (selling two black slaves in exchange for a Muslim slave). Note that there is no record whatsoever of Muhammad immediately setting the Muslim slave free. Even if he did set him free it would have been better to pay in cash rather than with the black slaves. By ‘paying in slaves’ he ensured that the freedom of the Muslim slave (if he was indeed freed) was bought at the terrible price of the continued enslavement of the two black slaves.

Narrated Anas bin Malik: Allah’s Apostle was on a journey and he had a black slave called Anjasha, and he was driving the camels (very fast, and there were women riding on those camels). Allah’s Apostle said, “Waihaka (May Allah be merciful to you), O Anjasha! Drive slowly (the camels) with the glass vessels (women)!” (Sahih Bukhari 8:73:182) This is just one of the many examples of Muhammad interacting with his slaves. Interestingly the hadiths often stress the fact that many of Muhammad’s slaves were black.

The Prophet sent for a woman from the emigrants and she had a slave who was a carpenter. The Prophet said to her “Order your slave to prepare the wood (pieces) for the pulpit.” So, she ordered her slave who went and cut the wood from the tamarisk and prepared the pulpit, for the Prophet. When he finished the pulpit, the woman informed the Prophet that it had been finished. The Prophet asked her to send that pulpit to him, so they brought it. The Prophet lifted it and placed it at the place in which you see now.” (Sahih Bukhari 3:47:743) This hadith does not deal with a slave directly owned by Muhammad, but it does show that he had no problem commanding his followers to order their slaves to work on his behalf. It is a staggering fact that the very pulpit that he used to preach Islam from was constructed with slave labor.

Not quite ‘Let Freedom Ring’ is it? So, to Western apologists for Islam we, once again, have to say: There are none so blind as those who do not wish to see.

For a fuller discussion of the incompatibility of Islam with Western values see my book ‘Questioning Islam – Tough Questions and Honest Answers About the Muslim Religion’

The Bloodcurdling Message of the Qur’an’s Most Peaceful Vers

When former US President Barack Obama delivered his famous ‘Speech to the Muslim World’ in 2009, he quite predictably trotted out the favorite verse of Western apologists for Islam. A verse seemingly custom designed to prove that Islam is indeed a ‘Religion of Peace’. Here are the President’s exact words: ““… The Holy Qur’an teaches that whoever kills an innocent — it is as if he has killed all mankind” (Cairo Speech to the Muslim World, 4 June 2009)

It is hard to imagine a more uplifting sentiment. Yet, things are not nearly as simple as it would seem on the surface! It should, for starters, be pointed out that the president inserted a word that is not in the text. That word is ‘innocent’. That is simply not part of the original Arabic. The fact that he, or his speech writers, felt the need to ‘improve’ the text should immediately alert us that there may be more to this bit of the Qur’an than meets the eye. And so, it proves, Gere is the entire passage (with the bits the president quoted in bold) in full:

On that account: We ordained for the Children of Israel that if any one slew a person – unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land – it would be as if he slew the whole people: and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people. Then although there came to them Our messengers with clear signs, yet, even after that, many of them continued to commit excesses in the land. The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger and strive with might and main for mischief through the land is: execution, or crucifixion, or the cutting off of hands and feet from opposite sides, or exile from the land: that is their disgrace in this world, and a heavy punishment is theirs in the Hereafter. (Qur’an 5:32-33) 

It should be clear from the above that these verses are not blanket condemnations of violence in the name of Allah (see especially the statements I underlined above). In fact, the Qur’an here prescribes horrific methods of execution for those who ‘makes mischief’ against Allah. Such people are to be crucified and have their limbs amputated. The Arabic word used for ‘mischief’ here is ‘fitna’ and the classical Muslim commentaries on this verse makes it clear that the rejection of Muhammad as a Prophet qualifies as ‘fitna’. So, far from declaring that all humanity is ‘innocent’, the way in which this word is traditionally interpreted makes it clear that non-Muslims are certainly not innocent and those who strive against the prophet can be put to death in the most barbarous ways possible.

The way in which this verse is used by those who want to cover for Islam in our society is deeply ironic. Critics of Islam, like myself, are often accused of quoting the Qur’an out of context. This despite every effort being taken to handle the Qur’anic text responsibly and in line with classical Muslim interpretive principles. Yet, all that Western apologists can do to get Islam off the hook for violence committed in its name is to, in fact, make use of wildly out of context quotations from the Qur’an. In this case transforming a bloodcurdling exhortation to violence against unbelievers into a warm and fuzzy call for universal peace. The mind boggles.

For much more on what the Qur’an actually teaches on violence in the name of Allah, see my book ‘Nothing to do with Islam? – Investigating the West’s Most Dangerous Blind Spot’

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