The Curious Case of the Missing Verse

One of the key differences between the Christian and Muslim views of Jesus Christ is a sharp disagreement about the crucifixion. While the Christian Gospels are unanimous that Jesus died after being crucified, the Qur’an denies the crucifixion in the strongest terms possible: “They (the Jews) boasted we killed Christ Jesus the Son of Mary but verily they killed him not, nor did they crucify him.” (Qur’an 4:157)

This verse has obviously been a massive bone of contention between the two faiths and has been endlessly debated. The purpose of this section is not to enter into this debate, but to show that this verse was almost certainly a later addition to the Qur’an. Thus, providing another piece of evidence for the self-evident truth that the Qur’an simply did not exist in the form that it does today at the end of Muhammad’s life. The claim that this verse is a later addition is strongly confirmed by the fact that it is entirely absent from the earlier stages of the developing Islamic tradition.

The Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem was constructed in 691 CE by the Caliph Abd Al Malik (646-705 CE), quite specifically to act as a visual statement of the errors of Christianity from an Islamic perspective. There are verses on the Inner Ambulatory denying the Trinity, the idea that Christ is the Son of God and that call Christians misguided. The presence of this visual statement in the heart of Jerusalem, the place where Christianity emerged, must have been a strong reminder to believing Muslims to completely reject the Christian version of the events surrounding the life of Jesus. It was also a calculated snub directed at the Christian believers of Jerusalem. Now, what would these Christian believers regard as the most important event ever to have happened in Jerusalem? Given the attention paid to this in the Gospels, the answer should be obvious: The crucifixion. Yet, there is one verse that is conspicuous by its absence in the Dome of the Rock’s repudiation of Christianity: Qur’an 4:157 cannot be found on any of the original inscriptions of the Dome of the Rock.

The Qur’an is, furthermore, one of the most commented on books in history. Visit any Islamic library and you will see many commentaries on the sacred text so deeply revered by Muslims. Some of these commentaries will have something akin to canonical status in the sense that they are part of the official Islamic theological tradition (known as Taqlid). When we pick up these ‘official’ commentaries, we find them commenting in detail on all the verses of the Qur’an. Well, almost all of them. There is one verse that is conspicuous by its absence. You guessed it: Qur’an 4:157 is not discussed in any of the earliest commentaries!

Think for a moment why this would be the case? It cannot be because this verse has no theological importance. Instead one may consider it as one of the most theologically loaded verses in the Qur’an given its importance for the way in which the followers of Islam are supposed to view Christianity. In fact, many modern Muslims take their cue from this verse as teaching them to absolutely detest the cross. The only possible explanation as to why this verse is absent from the commentaries should be blindingly obvious. It could only have been excluded because the verse in question was not part of the Qur’an at the time when the commentaries were compiled. This conclusion obviously raises all sorts of question about Islamic history and the truth-claims that are supposedly solidly based on this history.

For more on the origins of the Qur’an and how this definitively disproves Islam’s ‘official’ historical narratives see my book ‘The Mecca Mystery – Probing the Black Hole at the Heart of Muslim History’. (Full references related to the statements above are also include the in book.

The ‘Prophet’ on Rape

Over the past few years we have regularly seen Western media outlets ‘covering’ for Islam by attempting to show that so-called ‘radical groups’ are somehow ‘Un-Islamic’. One of the most common claims made in this regard was that the members of ISIS, Al-Shabab, Boko Haram etc. cannot be good Muslims as they regularly engage in the rape of women captured during their actions.

Astounding as it may seem, however, such actions receive direct divine sanction in the Qur’an and Islamic traditions.

The two most trusted sources of Islamic traditions (ahadith) Sahih Muslim and Sahih Bukhari both relate an incident where some Muslim fighters were raping captive women (whom they intended to sell for ransom) while taking care to observe ‘coitus interruptus’ (the withdrawal of the penis before the moment of climax). They came to Muhammad to ask him whether this was lawful: His answer was staggering in its callousness and its implications for later Muslim conduct during war: “It does not matter if you do not do it (withdraw before climaxing), for every soul that is to be born up to the Day of Resurrection will be born.” (Sahih Muslim 3371, see also Sahih Bukhari 34:176:2229)

Muhammad’s reaction beggars belief. Instead of furiously commanding them to stop such vile conduct and taking the women into his protection, Muhammad (the ‘perfect example’, Qur’an 33:21) cheerfully instructs his followers to do to the women whatever they desired!

To make matters even worse, Muslim tradition states that the following verse of the Qur’an was revealed precisely to ease the qualms of Muslim warriors about having sex with enslaved captives: “Also (prohibited are) women already married, except those whom your right hands possess” (Qur’an 4:24) So according to the word of Allah if “your right hand possesses” a woman, sex with her is totally lawful even if she is married to someone else. This is something of a theme in the Qur’an with four verses in total assuring Muslims that sex with captives is lawful while there are no verses mandating the number of daily prayers (Muslims have to turn to the hadiths for this)!

Perhaps we’ve been looking for the ‘War on Women’ in all the wrong places?

For more on some of the uncomfortable questions that should be asked about the core teachings and truth claims of Islam, see my book: “Questioning Islam – Tough Questions and Honest Answers About the Muslim Religion

Muhammad: The Conduct of the ‘Excellent Example’

How should we live our lives? For Muslims the answer cannot be clearer: “Ye have indeed in the Messenger of Allah a beautiaful pattern (of coanduct) for any one whose hope is in Allah and the Final Day, and who engages much in the Praise of Allah.” (Qur’an 33:21) This seems rather straightforward. Just follow Muhammad’s example in everything.

There is a problem however. What are we to make of the following acts of the ‘perfect example’ (all based on impeccable Islamic sources)?  According to these sources, Muhammad:

1.    Ordered raids (razzias) on caravans (and took part in several) in order to steal their contents and to sell people for ransom (Sahih Bukhari Volume1 Book 7 Hadith 331)

2.    Forced several of his enemies (e.g. Abu Sufyan) to accept his prophethood or be executed (Chronicle of Al Tabari, part 2, p. 157)

3.     Forced his adopted son (by receiving a ‘revelation’ from God) to divorce his wife so that he could marry her (Sahih Muslim Volume 2 Number 2347; Sahih Bukhari Volume 3 Number 249; see also Qur’an 33:6-38).

4.    ‘Married’, and had sex with, a woman on the same day that her husband, father, brother and most of her family were slaughtered by his followers (Sahih Bukhari Volume 2 number 68 and Volume 4 number 143,280)

5.    Instead of only taking four wives (the amount he allowed his followers) he received a special revelation allowing him to take as many as he wished (Qur’an 33:50). Prompting his favourite wife Aisha to exclaim that it seems that God sent down revelations merely to suit the prophet (Sahih Muslim Volume 2 Number 3453)!

6.    Married Aisha when she was six and consummated the marriage while she was only nine (Sahih Bukhari Volume 7 Book 62 Number 64) One tradition even states that she was still playing with dolls at the time the marriage was consummated (Sahih Muslim Volume 8 Number 3311).

7.    Committed genocide by allowing the slaughter of 900 unarmed male members of the Banu Qurayzah (Jewish) tribe after they refused to embrace Islam and received ‘divine sanction’ for it (Qur’an 33:25-26).

8.    Ordered the assassination of several people who were critical of him (e.g. the poets Asma bint Marwan and Abu Afak). (The Life of Muhammad. A translation of Ishaq’s “Sirat Rasul Allah”, p. 675–676)

9.    Ordered the torture of a man named Kinana al-Rabi to with a red-hot iron to ‘encourage’ him to reveal the whereabouts of a hidden treasure. (The Life of Muhammad. A translation of Ishaq’s “Sirat Rasul Allah”, p. 515)

10.    Broke a treaty (The treaty of Hudabiyyah) which committed him to live in peace with the people of Mecca. Again he conveniently receives a ‘revelation’ justifying his actions (Qur’an 60:10).

11.    Allowed his followers to rape captive women (Sahih Muslim Book 8 Number 3371)

All of the above leave us with an urgent question: What would a society look like that takes these things as the action of someone setting an ‘excellent example’?

Muslim apologists would, no doubt, protest that we should see at least some of these events within their particular historical contexts. This is, however, an easy and unconvincing cop out.

Remember that Muhammad’s example should be followed by all Muslims, those living in the 7th century and those living in the 21st century. Yet, if modern Muslims do the things above they would end up in prison. Are we to understand that Muhammad is an ‘excellent example’, just not one that we should follow too closely?

For more on how the example and teachings of Muhammad play a significant role in inspiring violence in the name of Islam, please see my book: “Nothing to do with Islam – Investigating the West’s Most Dangerous Blind Spot.

The Qur’an on Child Marriage

Modern society rightly displays a strong abhorrence at the very idea of sex with young children. There are very good reasons for this. The physical and emotional fallout resulting from underage sex can take decades to recover from. One way in which societies around the world try to limit sex with children is through the setting of the age of consent at ages where both partners have attained (or are at the very least approaching) physical and emotional maturity. One significant exception to this trend is the Islamic world where several examples can be cited of countries including Yemen, Iran and Afghanistan where efforts to enact legislation to protect girls from child marriage, and thus child sex, are strenuously resisted. Why would this be?

The first and most obvious point to make is that setting the age of consent at anything higher than nine would send a message that Muhammad had been wrong by having sex with his child-wife Aisha when she was nine years of age. (Sahih Bukhari 5:58:234) Since Muhammad is presented as an excellent example to all of humanity (Qur’an 33:21), many Muslims feel that it should be possible to follow him in this aspect of his conduct as well. At the very least, they do not want to support legislation that could cast Muhammad in a bad light as he would have been on the wrong side of it.

It is, furthermore, the case that the Qur’an is unambiguous in legalizing marriage (and therefore sex) with little girls who had not yet reached sexual maturity. Qur’an 65:4 spells out the rules for divorcing a girl who had not yet begun to menstruate: “Such of your women as have passed the age of monthly courses, for them the prescribed period, if ye have any doubts, is three months, and for those who have no courses (it is the same)

This verse prescribes a waiting period (idda) that will have to be observed before such pre-pubescent girls can remarry. This waiting period only applies in cases where the couple actually had sex: “O ye who believe. When ye marry believing women, and then divorce them before ye have touched them, no period of ‘Idda have to count in respect of them: so give them a present. And set them free in a handsome manner.” (Qur’an 33:49). The clear implication of Qur’an 65:4 is reinforced by several sound hadiths in which the passage is explained:

  • Mujahid said that “if you have any doubt” (65:4) means if you do not know whether she menstruates or not. Those who do not longer menstruate and those who have not yet menstruated, their ‘idda is three months. (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Chapter 68: Book of Tafsir)
  • Narrated Sahl bin Sad: While we were sitting in the company of the Prophet a woman came to him and presented herself (for marriage) to him. The Prophet looked at her, lowering his eyes and raising them, but did not give a reply. One of his companions said, “Marry her to me O Allah’s Apostle.” The Prophet asked (him), “Have you got anything?” He said, “I have got nothing.” The Prophet said, “Not even an iron ring?” He said, “Not even an iron ring, but I will tear my garment into two halves and give her one half and keep the other half.” The Prophet; said, “No. Do you know some of the Quran (by heart)?” He said, “Yes.” The Prophet said, “Go, I have agreed to marry her to you with what you know of the Qur’an (as her Mahr).” ‘And for those who have no courses (i.e. they are still immature). (65.4) And the ‘Iddat for the girl before puberty is three months (in the above Verse) (Sahih Bukhari 7:62:63)

The conclusion is inescapable. Both the sacred texts of Islam and the conduct of the prophet of Islam sanction the incredibly harmful practice of sexual relations with girls before they have reached sexual maturity. It will not do to point to the fact that this was in line with the practices of the Arabian Desert during the time of Muhammad (an assertion that is in any event highly questionable). The Qur’an is regarded by Muslims as the word of Allah to all people, through all time, in all places and in all circumstances and therefore some modern Muslims therefore see it as their God given right to marry little girls.

For more on some of the troubling teachings of Islam’s ‘holy texts’ see my book ‘Questioning Islam – Tough Questions and Honest Answers About the Muslim Religion