|I have often written about Islam’s ‘Free Pass’. This is the tendency, very prevalent in the West, to refuse to subject Islam to the hard questions that are routinely asked about other faiths and ideologies. This means that some people who regularly pride themselves in being feminist, pro-LGBTI and open minded will in the next breath fawn about the ‘diversity’ that Islam brings. Never mind that Islam is deeply antithetical to each of those values.
It may come as a surprise to some that this tendency is not only observable on the popular level but even in academia. In countless universities and research institutions the foundational principle of free inquiry has given way to uncritical acceptance of Islam’s truth claims about itself.
Nowhere is this truer than in the field of history. In the very same institutions where deeply critical questions about traditional historical accounts dealing with every conceivable period are being asked, Islam’s history is treated with kid gloves. The very same historians who one moment would say ‘Question everything’ will essentially turn around and sanctimoniously intone Ernest Renan’s famous (and famously wrong-headed) dictum that ‘Islam was born in the full light of history’.
With the desire to give Islam a free pass, standard historiographical principles are turned on their heads. In all other forms of history writing, a focus on contemporary primary sources are seen as the gold standard. Yet, when it comes to Islam, accounts written 200-300 years after the traditional death date of Muhammad are glorified as ‘the best we have’. Even as much earlier documents that can be reliably dated from the days of the Arab Conquest are being resolutely ignored.
The absolute refusal among some historians to ask critical questions about how Muslim history came to be written is more than just a bit of forgivable intellectual laziness. It allows Muslim demagogues to make wildly overblown theological claims based on Muslim history that they can use to whip up the masses to recreate that ‘history’ in the present. The attempts by ISIS to ‘re-establish’ a supposedly vanished perfect Caliphate is a clear example of this.
Let’s be clear. Massive questions can and should be asked about the reliability of Muslim history. Questions that have the potential to shake the theological edifice of Islam to its core. This is a conversation we absolutely need to have. Especially given the challenges Islam is posing to the non-Muslim peoples of the world. May I, therefore, encourage you not to give Islam a free-pass in this area but to educate yourself to ask the hard questions?
My book ‘The Mecca Mystery – Probing the Black Hole at the Heart of Muslim History’ is essentially a re-examination of early Muslim history based on primary sources and would be a good place to start a quest to reappraise what you think you know about Islam’s early years.
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’
Muslims are fond of reminding us that they follow a book that are supposedly free from any contradictions. This is based on a statement made in the Qur’an itself: Do they not reflect upon the Qur’an? If it had been from [any] other than Allah, they would have found within it much contradiction. (Qur’an 4:82)
This is, of course, a highly questionable statement. Let us test this against what the Qur’an says about alcohol.
Most people are aware of the fact that Muslims are not supposed to drink any alcohol and, on the face of it, the case seems open and shut. Qur’an 5:90 says: O you who believe! Strong drink and games of chance and idols and divine arrows are only an infamy of Satan’s handiwork. Leave it aside that you may succeed.
But wait, that’s not all the Qur’an has to say on the topic. Qur’an 4:43 does not take believers to task for drinking but only say that they should not come to pray when they are drunk. The problem here is not drinking as such, only praying while intoxicated.
In chapter 16 of the Qur’an Allah reminds people of all the blessings that he bestows on humanity. He also lists: “And from the fruit of the date-palm and the vine, ye get out wholesome drink and food: behold, in this also is a sign for those who are wise.” (Qur’an 16:67) Note that this ‘drink’ is not grape juice. The Arabic word is ‘sakaran’ a version of the same word is used in 4:43 (sakura) to describe drunkenness. It can therefore be translated as ‘intoxicating drink’. So here the ‘handiwork’ of Satan is described as a blessing of Allah to humanity.
To confuse matters further Muslims are told they will drink wine (Satan’s handiwork remember!) in paradise (Qur’an 47:5, 83:22). Muslims are fond of piously stating that this wine will not have intoxicating effects, but this does not appear in the text itself.
This dilemma cannot be solved by the theological device of the ‘Law of Abrogation’ where a later revelation replaces an earlier one with ‘something better’ (Qur’an 2:106) as it deals with creation itself (‘Blessings from God’ vs. ‘Handiwork of Satan’). Are we supposed to believe that Allah went back to the moment of creation to ‘not make wine’ and have Satan do it in order to abrogate this verse?
This is just one of the many clear-cut contradictions that can be found in the Qur’an. Thus, comprehensively disproving the bold claim made in Qur’an 4:82. For a more in-depth discussion of how spectacularly the Qur’an fails the tests that it sets for itself see my book ‘Questioning Islam – Tough Questions and Honest Answers About the Muslim Religion’
One of the basic facts that most people know about Islam is that Muslims pray while facing Mecca. Muslims believe that this is mandated in the Qur’an where Allah instructs the faithful to pray in the direction of the ‘sacred mosque’ (cf. Qur’an 2:142-145, 149-150). Muslim commentators on this text are unanimous that this can only refer to the mosque (with the Ka’aba at its center) in Mecca that is still the focus of all Muslim prayer. Since this statement is in the Qur’an itself, and is dated to 624 CE by Muslim scholars, we can assume that all mosques built during the Islamic conquests would have had qiblas (prayer directions) pointing towards Mecca. The problem, from an Islamic perspective, is that this is simply not the case. Many ancient mosques have been excavated and the floor plans of the oldest among them do not align with an orientation towards Mecca. The map below shows just how widespread the ‘misalignment’ of all the earliest mosques that have been excavated are.
So what is going on here? At the very least we should consider the probability that early Islam had an alternative focus for devotion, much further to the north. This would inevitably mean that modern Muslims are misdirecting their prayers. Most people would dismiss such an idea as beyond preposterous but could I respectfully ask you to consider the evidence as laid out in my book ‘The Mecca Mystery – Probing the Black Hole at the Heart of Muslim History’ before finally making up your mind?