The Day a Goat Edited the Qur’an

A few years ago, Muslim groups in the UK sponsored some billboards with a rather bold claim about the Qur’an. This book, so it was proclaimed, in bold letters has: ‘Never Been Changed, Never Been Altered’. What this statement lacks in historical accuracy is perhaps partially redeemed by the fact that it is a rather elegant summary of the beliefs of contemporary Muslim beliefs about the Qur’an. Most modern Muslims firmly believe that there is an unbroken line from the Qur’an as supposedly revealed to Muhammad and what they hear read and recited today.

If only things were so simple! As with comparable ancient texts we can show that the Qur’an is the result of a complicated process of merging a variety of sources. We can even point out how disagreements about the end product made their way into the historical record. One of the most startling instances of this happening dealt with a disagreement about the appropriate punishment for adultery. Some Muslims clearly wanted the harshest penalty possible (i.e. stoning) while others advocated more lenient punishments (e.g. flogging or house arrest).

In the Qur’an that Muslims read today the lenient position won out in the sense that the Qur’an does not mention stoning as the punishment for any crime. Yet, all schools of Shari’a maintain that adulterers should be stoned. What is going on here?

It is clearly the case that many in the early Muslim community never made their peace with the more lenient position. Thus, they inserted their convictions into the mouths of two of the most respected members of the early Muslim community the Khalif Umar and Muhammad’s favorite wife Aisha in the form of supposedly ‘sound’ historical traditions.

Umar is made to say that people will come to corrupt the text later on but that the faithful have to remember that the ‘Verse of the Stoning’ was once part of the Qur’an: “I am afraid that after a long time has passed, people may say, “We do not find the Verses of the Rajam (stoning to death) in the Holy Book,” and consequently they may go astray by leaving an obligation that Allah has revealed. Lo! I confirm that the penalty of Rajam is to be inflicted on him who commits illegal sexual intercourse ” (Sahih Bukhari 8:816)

So how was this verse lost? The answer, is supposedly provided by Aisha, is rather comical: “The verse of stoning and of suckling an adult ten times were revealed, and they were (written) on a paper and kept under my bed. When the Messenger of Allah expired and we were preoccupied with his death a goat entered and ate away the paper.” (Sunan Ibn Majah, Book of Nikah, Hadith Number 1934)

So, there you have it Allah’s eternal word was ‘edited’ by a goat. This tradition raises all sorts of questions. These include:
1) How could Allah have been so spectacularly careless to let part of his perfect guidance to humanity get lost in this way. Especially after declaring: “It is We Who sent down the Qur’an and indeed we will be its guardian” (Qur’an 15:9)
2) How were these verses removed from the Qur’an and the memory of those who memorised it?
3) If this verse was abrogated (replaced) as claimed by some Muslims even more questions are raised: a) Where is the ‘something better’ that it was replaced by? (Qur’an 2:1 06) b) Why do the hadiths (traditions) and shari’a rulings based on it still call for the stoning of adulterers despite the Qur’an being silent on the subject? c) Why was it not left in the Qur’an like other abrogated verses?

A goat chomping away at the Qur’an is a rather funny image but this should not take away from the serious point. Far from being the product of a single mind (human or divine) the pages of the Qur’an is clearly contested territory as is shown in the incontrovertible historical evidence of serious conflict over what should ‘make the cut’.

For more about the process through which the Qur’an came into being see Chapter 6 of my book ‘The Mecca Mystery – Probing the Black Hole at the Heart of Muslim History’

 

 

On Islam and Hate Speech

One of the principal tactics of those who would stifle free speech is to characterize all speech they disagree with as ‘Hate Speech’. The obvious problem with this form of censorship is that those who make ‘Hate Speech’ claims typically set themselves up as both judge and jury. Just how arbitrary these attempts at speech policing are can be seen by looking at the set of utterances below.

Would you agree that if I made the following totally unacceptable statements about Muslims I would be guilty of ‘Hate Speech’? 1) Muslims are the worst kind of animals  2) Be merciful to one another but be hard towards Muslims 3) Muslims are perverse 4) Strike terror into the hearts of Muslims and strike off their heads and fingertips 5) Fight the Muslims who are near to you 6) When Muslims make mischief against you murder and crucify them

You would have to agree that these statements fall well within any definition of ‘Hate Speech’ and would land anyone who make them in deep legal trouble in many parts of the world. They will also be met with cries of ‘Islamophobia’! What about if these statements are used against non-Muslims? Would it still be ‘hate speech’? If not, why not? The fact is that these exact statements can be found in the Qur’an directed against those who reject Allah and his ‘prophet’. (Full Qur’anic verses below)

The fact that many of those flinging accusations of ‘Hate Speech’ around will tie themselves in knots to absolve the Qur’an of guilt in this area perfectly illustrates the facietiousness of modern attempts at censorship. It should, at the very least, alert us to the fact that issues and questions (e.g. ‘Does the Qur’an teach hatred against non-Muslims?’) should be dealt with honestly and in open debate instead of being shut up with spurious accusations and attempts at censorship.

My book ‘Nothing to do with Islam – Examining the West’s Most Dangerous Blind Spot’ is one attempt to face the ‘censors’ head on by interactiong with the bigger questions of the relationship between Islam and violence committed in its name.

 

The Qur’anic verses on which the statements above are based are the following: 1) Surely the vilest of animals in Allah’s sight are those who disbelieve (8:55) 2) Muhammad is the messenger of Allah. And those with him are hard (ruthless) against the disbelievers and merciful among themselves (48:29); 3) And the Jews say: Ezra is the son of Allah, and the Christians say: The Messiah is the son of Allah… Allah (Himself) fights against them. How perverse are they! (9:30) 4) I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them (8:12) 5) O you who believe! Fight those of the unbelievers who are near to you and let them find in you hardness (9:123) 6) The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His messenger and strive to make mischief in the land is only this, that they should be murdered or crucified or their hands and their feet should be cut off on opposite sides (5:33)

Muhammad, His Prophetic Ministry and His Aorta

Many questions can be asked about the motivations of those who wrote down the ‘hadiths’ (traditions) in the centuries after the life of Muhammad. It is clear that some of those who constructed the history of Islam had political aims to further or personal scores to settle. Many of them then back-projected their views into the mouth  and actions of the ‘prophet’. Bizarrely, however, it seems that at least some of those who wrote even some of the most respected hadiths had nothing less than the undermining of the prophetic authority of Muhammad as their goal. Don’t believe me? Read on.

According to the official Muslim historical records Muhammad was deserted (during his ‘prophetic’ ministry) by his scribe, Ibn Abi Sarh. At issue was the charge that Muhammad allowed Abi Sarh to make changes to the Qur’an causing him to become disillusioned about how easily the supposedly eternal word of Allah could be changed. These events could obviously cause serious damage to Muhammad’s reputation. As a means of damage control Allah sent down another one of his many ‘convenient revelations’ (i.e. revelations designed to get the ‘prophet’ out of a sticky situation). According to Allah: “…if the messenger were to invent any sayings in Our name. We should certainly seize him by his right hand, And We should certainly then cut off the artery of his heart (aorta)” (Qur’an 69:44-46)

So the Qur’an here makes a rather stark, and utterly unique, claim: If Muhammad dies through the cutting of his aorta, he is a false prophet.

How did Muhammad, in fact, die according to the most venerable Islamic traditions? The widely accepted details of Muhammad’s death are very well known. He was given poisoned meat by a Jewish lady as revenge for his actions against her people at the Battle of Khaibar. Interestingly, she placed the poison in the meat as a test of his prophethood, stating “If he was a prophet he will be informed of what I have done.” What is even more interesting, in the context of Qur’an 69:44-46, is that there are several strong traditions that state that Muhammad died through the cutting of his aorta:

  • The Prophet in his ailment in which he died, used to say, “O Aishah! I still feel the pain caused by the food I ate at Khaibar, and at this time, I feel as if my aorta is being cut from that poison.” (Sahih Bukhari 5:59:713);
  • He then said about the pain of which he died: I continued to feel pain from the morsel which I had eaten at Khaibar. This is the time when it has cut off my aorta.” (Sunan Abu Dawud 4498)

Strange isn’t it? What do we have here? Perhaps yet another disillusioned scribe wreaking posthumous revenge of the prophet?

For more penetrating questions about the truth-claims of Islam please see my book ‘Questioning Islam – Tough Questions and Honest Answers About the Muslim Religion’ 

 

The Great ‘Unmentionable’ – Migration and Jihad

To say that migration is a hot topic must be understatement of the year. Many people in Western societies are convinced borders should be thing of the past. That we should be as welcoming as possible (as long as the taxpayer foots the bill of course). The one thing that is rarely mentioned however is that there may be at least some of the migrants who are in search of much more than a ‘better life’.

According to the Qur’an emigration and ‘jihad in the cause of Allah’ were two sides of the same coin for the earliest Muslims. This gives modern Muslims a strong example to follow.  In fact, the Quran states that “Those who have believed and those who have emigrated and fought in the cause of Allah – those expect the mercy of Allah(Qur’an 2:281)

Also: “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)

So when we see images of thousands of Muslim people in the migration queues we have to assume that at least some of them see this as only the first part of the process (i.e. migration) while hoping to eventually getting round to the second part ‘Fighting in the Cause of Allah’. Our politicians may say that only a ‘tiny minority’ may think this way. This is a very weak argument.

To give but one example. Germany took in 1 million Muslim migrants during 2015. Even if only 1% of them take the Qur’an on migration and jihad seriously that still leaves 10,000 people who will fight with all their might to bring Germany under the sway of the teachings of the ‘prophet’. Was that really a risk worth taking?