from: Voltaire [1694 - 1778], The Incomparable Infidel, by Joseph Lewis [friend of Joseph Wheless (from Robb Marks, Bookseller, Catalog, Fall, 2001, 15)], Author, The Tyranny of God, The Bible Unmasked, Lincoln, the Freethinker, Burbank, the Infidel, Jefferson, the Freethinker, Franklin, the Freethinker, etc., The Freethought Press Association: New York, 4th edition 1935 (c1929).
To my Darling Daughter
with hope that she will be inspired by Voltaire to "carry on" the work that he so nobly did towards emancipating the human race from the demoralizing influence of creeds based upon ignorance, superstition and fraud.' ["5"].
"Voltaire! a name that excites the admiration of men, the malignity of priests. Pronounced that name in the presence of a clergyman, and you will find that you have made a declaration of war. Pronounce that name, and from the face of the priest the mask of meekness will fall, and from the mouth of forgiveness will pour a Niagara of vituperation and calumny. And yet Voltaire was the greatest man of his century, and did more to free the human race than any other of the sons of men.
Robert G. Ingersoll [1833 - 1899]." ["7"].
'IT WAS AN ALTOGETHER DANGEROUS THING TO BE A PROTESTANT IN THOSE DAYS [OF VOLTAIRE]. When M. Espinasse took a Protestant clergyman into his home and gave him supper and lodging, he was pounced upon by the ravenous jackals of Catholicism, and for his monstrous crime was tried, convicted and sentenced to the galleys for the rest of his life. After having passed twenty-three long years in a dungeon for this "crime," Voltaire interceded in his behalf and secured his release. But how many thousands of poor, unknown, friendless men and women suffered at the hands of these brutally insane people, with no Voltaire to help them?' [50-51]. [End of chapter Seven].
And to those who think we are unduly cautious and watchful, and who say that the church has learned its lesson and is no longer to be feared, how important are these words of Voltaire uttered in answer to one who reproached him for continuing his attacks upon the church.
"You are in error," he said; "It is the fire that is covered, not extinguished. Those fanatics, those impostors, are mad dogs. They are muzzled, but they have not lost their teeth. It is true they bite no more; but on the first opportunity, if their teeth are not drawn, you will see if they will not bite."
The Inquisition was merely asleep, and Voltaire by his watchfulness smothered it as it struggled to awake. "Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty," is as true today as it ever was. The Beast merely sleeps, and some believe it dead; a most dangerous state of mind.
Voltaire was not to be so easily fooled and again shouted: "I shall never cease to preach tolerance from the house-tops--despite the groans of your priests...until persecution is no more. The progress of reason is slow, the roots of prejudice are deep. Doubtless, I shall never see the fruits of my efforts, but they are seeds which may some day germinate."
And although THE CHURCH now pleads and begs for some of its long prestige and privileges, it has not changed its attitude and WOULD COMMIT THE SAME ATROCITIES TODAY IF IT HAD THE POWER.
With what deep insight does Voltaire express this thought.
"....does not experience prove that influence over men's minds is only gained by offering them the difficult, nay the impossible, to perform and believe?"
No wonder the church created a heaven and a hell--gave man a soul and pictured the frightful torments that disobedience to her edicts would provoke her revengeful and jealous God to inflict. When man no longer fears the church and its teaching, the church will no longer be able to exploit and subjugate him. Voltaire called the church a quack "who would fain have us believe we are ill, in order to sell us its pills." "Keep thy drugs," he said, "and leave me my health." What a perfect characterization is that of the church! Man has not sinned, therefore, he does not have to repent. He has no soul to save. He has but a life to live.
If the church had no heaven, it could not sell man a front seat on the right hand of God. If it had no hell, it could not save him from its torments. The church is practicing fraud and should be punished, under the law like any other criminal.
The church has hypnotized man into guilt in order to free him from his crime. What a great thing it was to convince man that his legs were sound and that he needed no crutches; that it was not necessary for the church to save him from something that did not exist!
Voltaire placed the church in the same category as those fakirs who sell rain to the savages.
"The church will not cease to be persecutors," he said, "until it ceases to be absurd." "Only the foolish and the ridiculous need force in order to secure respect."' [80-83] [End of chapter Eleven].
No summary of Voltaire can be complete without some mention of his hatred of war and his efforts to abolish it. "What concern to me," he cries, "are humanity, benevolence, modesty, temperance, gentleness, wisdom, piety, so long as half an ounce of lead shatters my body, and I die at twenty in torments unspeakable, surrounded by five or six thousand dead and dying while my eyes, opening for the last time, see the town I was born in delivered to fire and sword, and the last sounds that reach my ears are the shrieks of women and children expiring in the ruins--and the whole for the pretended interest of men that we do not know?"
The Freethinker distinguishes himself from the religionist because he refuses to accept the conditions of life as specially ordained. "Whatever is, is best" is a doctrine that he cannot subscribe to. The murdering of our fellow man is a crime no matter for what purpose it is accomplished [see 1623 (Seneca)].
"GO OVER THE WHOLE HISTORY OF CHRISTIAN ASSASSINS," exclaims Voltaire, "--and it is very long--and you will see that they all had the Bible in their pockets with their daggers...!"
Voltaire treated war as the most depraved of human acts, and in this he was vastly different from the church. War is another doctrine separating the Freethinker from the Religionist. Voltaire was the first historian of modern times who placed war at the bottom of the list of human events that should attract the attention of men, whereas the clergy from time immemorial have extolled war, in their most eloquent tongues. And with what solemn piety they ["clergy"] have blessed the sword and asked their God that he destroy wantonly the enemy in order that victory might be theirs.' [84-86] [End of chapter Twelve].
"Of all the intellectual weapons that have been wielded by man, the most terrible was the mockery of Voltaire. Bigots and tyrants who had never been moved by the wailings and cursing of millions, turned pale at his name," said Lord Macaulay.
And the magnificent Ingersoll, who carried the torch so brilliantly lighted by this courageous warrior, said that at the mention of Voltaire's name, the mask of hypocrisy would fall from the face of every priest and hypocrite.
Since priests still practice hypocrisy and fraud, and prey upon the ignorant and the credulous; since religion still teaches us to hate one another, and by the use of force prevents the acquisition of knowledge and retards the material progress of man--let us resolve now, as a debt of gratitude to the memory of this great humanitarian and lover of mankind--this great Freethinker--this incomparable Infidel--never to cease mentioning the name of Voltaire and so help to "Crush the Infamous ["Ecrasez l'infame!" ("Crush" Superstition (per Voltaire. Intended? Probably, "crush": clericalism; organized religion (Catholicism; Judaism; Protestantism))]."' [90-91].
[End of chapter Fourteen] [End of text (references, and advertisements, follow)].
• • •
from: Why I Am Not A Muslim, Foreword by R. Joseph Hoffmann, Ibn Warraq, Prometheus, 1995. [first seen 12/8/2001]. [Must See!].
'In a conversation with Eckermann, Goethe advised an author accused of plagiarism to say "what is there is mine, and whether I got it from a book or from life is of no consequence. The only point is, whether I have made a right use of it." I doubt whether many Islamic scholars would openly approve of the use I have made of their research and scholarship; thus it is no formality to emphasize that all responsibility for the harsh, final judgments on Islam in this book is mine.' [xvi].
[1.] 'Margaret Mead [saw her, U.C. Davis, 1964; print dress plus staff] found "confirmation" for her theories of human nature in Samoa. What she wrote in Coming of Age in Samoa, "was true to our hopes and fears for the future of the world."48 True to our hopes, maybe, but not true to the facts.
As [Bertrand] Russell said, "One of the persistent delusions of mankind is that some sections of the human race are morally better or worse than others....[Some writers] tend to think ill of their neighbors and acquaintances, and therefore to think well of the sections of mankind to which they themselves do not belong."49
2. Despite appearances to the contrary, the majority of the people of Western Europe and the United States retain religious beliefs, even if they are vestigial. According to a Gallup poll, only 9 percent of Americans identify themselves as either atheist, agnostic, or of no religion at all. In France, only 12 percent of all those interviewed declared themselves atheist. It is not surprising that
for the sake of comfort and security there pours out daily, from pulpit and press, a sort of propaganda which, if it were put out for a nonreligious purpose, would be seen by everyone to be cynical and immoral. We are perpetually being urged to adopt the Christian creed not because it is true but because it is beneficial, or to hold that it must be true just because belief in it is beneficial....Religion is gravely infected with intellectual dishonesty....In religion it is particularly easy to escape notice, because of the common assumption that all honesty flows from religion and religion is necessarily honest whatever it does.50
On the whole, Western society in general and the media in particular are totally uncritical of religion. To quote Richard Dawkins, there is the widespread belief that
religious sensitivities are somehow especially deserving of consideration--a consideration not accorded to ordinary prejudice....EVEN SECULAR ACTIVISTS ARE INCOMPREHENSIBLY SOFT WHEN IT COMES TO RELIGION. We join feminists in condemning a work of pornography because it degrades women. But hands off a holy book that advocates stoning adultresses to death (having been convicted in courts where females are decreed unfit to give evidence)! Animal liberationists attack laboratories that scrupulously use anesthetics for all operations. But what about ritual slaughter houses in which animals have to be fully conscious when their throats are cut [(Jewish) Kosher!]?...The rest of us are expected to defend our prejudices. But ask a religious person to justify his faith and you infringe "religious liberty."51' .
'In his "The Sermon of the Fifty" (1762), Voltaire attacks Christian mysteries like transubstantiation as absurd, Christian miracles as incredible, and the Bible as "full of contradictions." The God of Christianity was a "cruel and hateful tyrant." The true God, the sermon continues, "surely cannot have been born of a girl, nor died on the gibbet, not be eaten in a piece of dough." Nor could he have inspired "books filled with contradictions, madness and horror."62
By contrast, Voltaire finds the dogmas of Islam simplicity itself: there is but one God, and Muhammad is his Prophet. For all deists, the superficial rationality of Islam was appealing: no priests, no miracles, no mysteries. To this was added other false beliefs such as Islam's absolute tolerance of other religions, in contrast to Christian intolerance.' .
'Gibbon was much influenced by Boulainvilliers in particular, but also by the eighteenth-century Weltanschauung with its myths and preoccupations, in short, what we have been examining throughout this chapter. By the time Gibbon came round to writing his History (the first volume of Decline and Fall came out in 1776), there was, as Bernard Lewis puts it, "a vacancy for an Oriental myth. Islam was in many ways suitable." But what happened to the previously mentioned Chinese, who also managed to fascinate Europeans? Here is how Lewis sums up the situation in the latter half of the eighteenth century:
Europe, it seems, has always needed a myth for purposes of comparison and castigation....The eighteenth-century Enlightenment had two ideal prototypes, the noble savage and the wise and urbane Oriental. There was some competition for the latter role. For a while the Chinese, held up as a model of moral virtue by the Jesuits and of secular tolerance by the philosophers, filled it to perfection in the Western intellectual shadowplay. Then disillusionment set in, and was worsened by the reports of returning travellers whose perceptions of China were shaped by neither Jesuitry nor philosophy, but by experience. By the time Gibbon began to write, there was a vacancy for an Oriental myth. Islam was in many ways suitable.63
What Bernard Lewis tells us about Gibbon is applicable to almost all the writers on Islam in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries: "[Gibbon's] own imperfect knowledge and the defective state of European scholarship at the time hampered his work and sometimes blunted the skepticism which he usually brought to the sources and subjects of his historical inquiries....The Muslim religious myths enshrined in the traditional biographical literature on which all his sources ultimately rest were more difficult for him to detect, and there are failures of perception and analysis excusable in a historian of the time."64
Gibbon, like Voltaire, painted Islam in as favorable a light as possible to better contrast it with Christianity. The English historian emphasized Muhammad's humanity as a means of indirectly criticizing the Christian doctrine of the divinity of Christ. Gibbon's anticlericalism led him to underline Islam's supposed freedom from that accursed class, the priesthood. Indeed, the familiar pattern is reemerging--Islam is being used as a weapon against Christianity.
Gibbon's deistic view of Islam as a rational, priest-free religion, with Muhammad as a wise and tolerant lawgiver, enormously influenced the way all Europeans perceived their sister religion for years to come. Indeed, it established myths that are still accepted totally uncritically by scholars and laymen alike.' [20-21].
'Both Voltaire and Gibbon subscribed to the myth of Muslim tolerance, which to them meant Turkish tolerance. But eighteenth-century Turkey was far from being an inter-faith utopia. The traveler Carsten Niebuhr recalls that Jews were treated contemptuously. Another British ambassador describes the situation in Constantinople in 1758: "The Great Sultan himself has shown us that he is determined to maintain and enforce his laws, those concerning clothes have often been repeated and with remarkable solemnity....A Jew during his sabbath was the first victim; the Great Sultan, who was walking around incognito, met him,...and had him executed, his throat was cut on the spot. The next day, it was the turn of an Armenian, he was sent to the vizier ["a high official in certain Muslim countries" (Random House)]....A universal terror has struck everyone."65 ....' .
'Abrogation of Passages in the Koran
William Henry Burr, the author of Self-Contradictions of the Bible [; Revelations of Antichrist (see #35, 1670-1690)], would have a field day with the Koran, for the Koran abounds in contradictions. But Burr's euphoria would be short-lived; for Muslim theologians have a rather convenient doctrine, which, as Hughes247 puts it, "fell in with that law of expediency which appears to be the salient feature in Muhammad's prophetical career." According to this doctrine, certain passages of the Koran are abrogated by verses with a different or contrary meaning revealed afterwards. This was taught by Muhammad at sura 2.105: "whatever verses we [i.e., God] cancel or cause you to forget, we bring a better or its like." According to al-Suyuti, the number of abrogated verses has been estimated at from five to five hundred. As Margoliouth248 remarked,
To do this, withdraw a revelation and substitute another for it, was [Muhammad] asserted, well within the power of God [Oneself]. Doubtless it was, but so obviously within the power of man that it is to us astonishing how so compromising a procedure can have been permitted to be introduced into the system by friends and foes.
Al-Suyuti gives the example of sura [chapter] 2,240 as a verse abrogated (superseded) by verse 234, which is the abrogating verse. How can an earlier verse abrogate a later verse? The answer lies in the fact that the traditional Muslim order of the suras [chapters] and verses is not chronological, the compilers simply having placed the longer chapters at the beginning. The commentators have to decide the chronological order for doctrinal reasons; Western scholars have also worked out a chronological scheme. Though there are many differences of detail, there seems to be broad agreement about which suras belong to the Meccan (i.e., early) period of Muhammad's life and which belong to the Medinan (i.e., later) period. It is worth
noting how time-bound the "eternal" word of God is....
The doctrine of abrogation also makes a mockery of the Muslim dogma that the Koran is a faithful and unalterable reproduction of the original scriptures that are preserved in heaven. If God's words are eternal, uncreated, and of universal significance, then how can we talk of God's words being superseded or becoming obsolete? Are some words of God to be preferred to other words of God? Apparently yes. According to Muir, some 200 verses have been canceled by later ones. Thus we have the strange situation where the entire Koran is recited as the word of God, and yet there are passages that can be considered not "true"; in other words, 3 percent of the Koran is acknowledged as falsehood.
Let us take an example. Everyone knows that Muslims are not allowed to drink wine in virtue of the prohibition found in the Koran sura 2.219; yet many would no doubt be surprised to read in the Koran at sura 16.67, "And among fruits you have the palm and the vine, from which you get wine and healthful nutriment: in this, truly, are signs for those who reflect" (Rodwell). Dawood has "intoxicants" and Pickthall, "strong drink," and Sale, with eighteenth-century charm, has "inebriating liquor" in place of "wine." Yusuf Ali pretends that the Arabic word concerned, "sakar," means "wholesome drink," and in a footnote insists that nonalcoholic drinks are being referred to; but then, at the last moment, he concedes that if "sakar must be taken in the sense of fermented wine, it refers to the time before intoxicants were prohibited: this is a Meccan sura and the prohibition came in Medina."
Now we can see how useful and convenient the doctrine of abrogation is in bailing scholars out of difficulties. Of course, it does pose problems for apologists of Islam, since all the passages preaching tolerance are found in Meccan, i.e., early suras, and all the passages recommending killing, decapitating, and maiming are Medinan, i.e., later: "tolerance" has been abrogated by "intolerance." For example, the famous verse at sura 9.5, "Slay the idolaters wherever you find them," is said to have canceled 124 verses that dictate toleration and patience....' [114-115].
'There is no deity but God ("la ilaha illa llahu"). Islam is uncompromisingly monotheistic--it is one of the greatest sins to ascribe partners to God. Polytheism, idolatry, paganism, and ascribing plurality to the deity are all understood under the Arabic term "shirk." Theological apologists and perhaps nineteenth-century cultural evolutionists have all uncritically assumed that monotheism is somehow a "higher" form of belief than "polytheism." It seems to me that philosophers have paid little attention to polytheism until very recently. Is it so obvious that monotheism is philosophically or metaphysically "superior" to polytheism? In what way is it superior? If there is a natural evolution from polytheism to monotheism, then is there not a natural development from monotheism to atheism? Is monotheism doomed to be superseded by a higher form of belief, that is, atheism--via agnosticism, perhaps? In this section I wish to argue at:
1. Monotheism is not necessarily philosophically or metaphysically superior to polytheism, given that no proof for the existence of one and only one God is valid.
2. Historically speaking, monotheistic creeds often secretly harbor at the popular level a de facto polytheism, despite the official dogma.
3. Superstitions are not reduced in monotheism but concentrated into the one god or his apostle.
4. Historically speaking, monotheism has often shown itself to be ferociously intolerant, in contrast to polytheism on behalf of which religious wars have never [?] been waged. This intolerance follows logically from monotheistic ideology. Monotheism has a lot to answer for. As Gore Vidal250 says
THE GREAT UNMENTIONABLE EVIL AT THE CENTRE OF OUR CULTURE IS MONOTHEISM. FROM A BARBARIC BRONZE AGE TEXT KNOWN AS THE OLD TESTAMENT, THREE ANTI-HUMAN RELIGIONS HAVE EVOLVED--JUDAISM, CHRISTIANITY AND ISLAM. THESE ARE SKY-GOD RELIGIONS. THEY ARE PATRIARCHAL--GOD IS THE OMNIPOTENT FATHER--HENCE THE LOATHING OF WOMEN FOR 2,000 YEARS IN THOSE COUNTRIES AFFLICTED BY THE SKY-GOD AND HIS MALE DELEGATES. THE SKY-GOD IS JEALOUS. HE REQUIRES TOTAL OBEDIENCE. THOSE WHO WOULD REJECT HIM MUST BE CONVERTED OR KILLED. TOTALITARIANISM IS THE ONLY POLITICS THAT CAN TRULY SERVE THE SKY-GOD'S PURPOSE. ANY MOVEMENT OF A LIBERAL NATURE ENDANGERS HIS AUTHORITY. ONE GOD, ONE KING, ONE POPE, ONE MASTER IN THE FACTORY, ONE FATHER-LEADER IN THE FAMILY.' .
'Schopenhauer259 asks us to reflect on the "cruelties to which religions, especially the Christian and Mohammedan, have given rise" and "the misery they have brought on the world."
Think of the fanaticism, the endless persecutions, then the religious wars, that bloody madness of which the ancients had no conception. Think of the crusades which were a quite inexcusable butchery and lasted for two hundred years, their battle cry being: "It is the will of God." Christianity is no more spared than Islam in Schopenhauer's indictment. The object [plunder, etc.] of the Crusades [see 1999, 2010-2011] was
[Schopenhauer] to capture the grave of him who preached love, tolerance, and indulgence. Think of the cruel expulsion and extermination of the Moors and Jews from Spain; of the blood baths, inquisitions, and other courts for heretics; and also of the bloody and terrible conquests of the Mohammedans in three continents....In particular, let us not forget India...where first Mohammedans and then Christians furiously and most cruelly attacked the followers of mankind's sacred and original faith. the ever-deplorable, wanton, and ruthless destruction and disfigurement of ancient temples and images reveal to us even
to this day traces of the monotheistic fury [my [author's (Ibn Warraq)] emphasis] of the Mohammedans which was pursued from Mahmud of Ghazni of accursed memory down to Aurangzeb the fratricide.
Schopenhauer contrasts the peaceable historical record of the Hindus and the Buddhists with the wickedness and cruelty of the monotheists, and then concludes:
[Schopenhauer] Indeed, intolerance is essential only to monotheism; an only God is by nature a jealous God who will not allow another to live. On the other hand, polytheistic gods are naturally tolerant; they live and let live. In the first place, they gladly tolerate their colleagues, the gods of the same religion, and this tolerance is afterwards extended even to foreign gods who are accordingly, hospitably received and later admitted, in some cases, even to an equality of rights. An instance of this is seen in the Romans who willingly admitted and respected Phrygian, Egyptian and other foreign gods. Thus it is only the monotheistic religions that furnish us with the spectacle of religious wars, religious persecutions, courts for trying heretics, and also with that of iconoclasm, the destruction of the images of foreign gods, the demolition of Indian temples and Egyptian colossi that had looked at the sun for three thousand years; all this because their jealous God had said: "Thou shalt make no graven image" and so on.
Nearly a hundred years earlier than Schopenhauer [Arthur Schopenhauer 1788 - 1860], Hume [David Hume 1711 - 1776]260 with his customary genius saw the same advantages of polytheism:
[David Hume] Idolatry is attended with this evident advantage, that, by limiting the powers and functions of its deities, it naturally admits the gods of other sects and nations to a share of divinity, and renders all the various deities, as well as rites, ceremonies, or traditions, compatible with each other....While one sole object of devotion is acknowledged [by monotheists], the worship of other deities is regarded as absurd and impious. Nay, this unity of object seems naturally to require the unity of faith and ceremonies, and furnishes designing men with a pretext for representing their adversaries as prophane [profane], and the subjects of divine as well as human vengeance. For as each sect is positive that its own faith and worship are entirely acceptable to the deity, and as no one can conceive that the same being should be pleased with different and opposite rites and principles; the several sects fall naturally into animosity, and mutually discharge on each other, that sacred zeal and rancor, the most furious and implacable of all human passions.
The tolerating spirit of idolaters both in ancient and modern times, is very obvious to any one, who is the least conversant in the writings of historians or travelers....The intolerance of almost all religious, which have maintained the unity of god, is as remarkable as the contrary principle in polytheists. The implacable, narrow spirit of the Jews is well-known. Mahometanism set out with still more bloody principles, and even to this day, deals out damnation, tho' not fire and faggot, to all other sects.' [120-121].
'Every national church or religion has established itself by pretending some special mission from God, communicated to certain individuals. The Jews have their Moses; the Christians their Jesus Christ, their apostles and saints; and the Turks their Mahomet, as if the way to God was not open to every man alike. Each of those churches show certain books, which they call revelation, or the Word of God. The Jews say that their Word of God was given by God to Moses, face to face; the Christians that their Word of God came by divine inspiration; and the Turks say that their Word of God (the Koran) was brought by an angel from heaven. EACH OF THOSE CHURCHES ACCUSES THE OTHER OF UNBELIEF; AND FOR MY OWN PART, I DISBELIEVE THEM ALL.
--Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason274' .
'Robin Lane Fox282 takes up our story:
In the Bible the four earlier sources were combined by a fifth person, an unknown author who must have worked on them at some point between c. 520 and 400 B.C., in my view, nearer to 400 B.C. As he interwove these sources, he tried to save their contents and have the best of several worlds (and Creations). He was a natural sub-editor...he was not, in my view, a historian, but I think he would be amazed if somebody told him that nothing in his amalgamated work was true....Its chances of being historically true were minimal because none of those sources was written from primary evidence or within centuries, perhaps a millennium of what they tried to describe. How could an oral tradition have preserved true details across such a gap?...As for the "giants on earth," the Tower of Babel or the exploits of Jacob or Abraham, there is no good reason to believe any of them: the most detailed story in Genesis is the story of Joseph, a marvelous tale, woven from two separate sources, neither of which needs to rest on any historical truth.
The Torah was not written by, nor "given" to, Moses, and there is no good reason to believe any of the exploits of Abraham and others to be true. Certainly no historian would dream of going to the Muslim sources for the historical verification of any biblical material; the Muslim accounts of Abraham, Moses, and others are, as we saw earlier, taken from rabbinical Jewish scriptures or are nothing more than legends (the building of the Kaaba, etc.) invented several thousand years after the events they purport to describe.
Historians have gone even farther. There seems to be a distinct possibility that Abraham never existed: "The J tradition about the wandering of Abraham is largely unhistorical in character....
"the quest for the historical Abraham is a basically fruitless occupation both for the historian and the student of the Bible."283
And Lane Fox observes: "Historians no longer believe the stories of Abraham as if they are history: like Aeneaas or Heracles, ABRAHAM IS A FIGURE OF LEGEND."284' [132-133].
'Noah and the Flood
The building of the ark by Noah, the saving of all the animals, the universal deluge are all taken over into the Koran from Genesis. As the manifest absurdities of the tale were pointed out, Christians were no longer prone to take the fable literally; except, of course, the literal minded fundamentalists, many of whom still set out every year to look for the remnants of the lost ark [fun outing!]. Muslims, on the other hand, seem immune to rational thought, and refuse to look the evidence in the face. I shall set out the arguments to show the absurdities in the legend, even though it may seem I am belaboring the obvious. I WISH MORE PEOPLE WOULD BELABOR THE OBVIOUS AND MORE OFTEN.
Noah was asked to take into the ark a pair from every species (sura 11.36-41). Some zoologists285 estimate that there are perhaps ten million living species of insects; would they all fit into the ark? It is true they do not take up much room, so let us concentrate on the larger animals: reptiles, 5,000 species; birds, 9,000 species; and 4,500 species of class Mammalia (p. 239). In all, in the phylum Chordata, there are 45,000 species (p. 236). What sized ark would hold nearly 45,000 species of animals? A pair from each species makes nearly 90,000 individual animals, from snakes to elephants, from birds to horses, from hippopotamuses to rhinoceroses. How did Noah get them all together so quickly? How long did he wait for the sloth to make his slothful way from the Amazon? How did the kangaroo get out of Australia, which is an island? How did the polar bear know where to find Noah? As Robert Ingersoll asks,286 "Can absurdities go farther than this?" Either we conclude that this fantastic tale is not to be taken literally, or we have recourse to some rather feeble answer, such as, for God all is possible. Why, in that case, did God go through all this rather complicated, time-consuming (at least for Noah) procedure? Why not save Noah and other righteous people with a rapid miracle rather than a protracted one?
No geological evidence indicates a universal flood. There is indeed evidence of local floods but not one that covered the entire world, not even the entire Middle East. We now know that the biblical accounts of the Flood, on which the Koranic account is based, are derived from Mesopotamian legends: "There is no reason to trace the Mesopotamian and Hebrew stories back to any one flood in particular; the HEBREW FICTION is most likely to have developed from the Mesopotamians' legends. THE STORIES ARE FICTIONS, NOT HISTORY."287' [133-134].
'Has the famous story that stands at the beginning of the Bible really been understood? the story of God's hellish fear of science?...Man himself had turned out to be [God's] greatest mistake; he had created a rival for himself; science makes godlike--it is all over with priests and gods when man becomes scientific....Knowledge, the emancipation from the priest, continues to grow.
Nietzsche, The Antichrist [see #23, 484-487]297' .
'The Koran tells us that Jesus was miraculously born of the Virgin Mary. The Annunciation of the Virgin is recounted at sura [one of "114" chapters in the Koran] 19.16-21 [below quotation] and sura 3.45-48:
Behold! the angels said: "O Mary! God gives you glad tidings of a Word from Him: his name will be Jesus Christ, the son of Mary, held in honour in this world and the hereafter and of those nearest to God; he shall speak to the people in childhood and in maturity. And he shall be of the righteous." "How, O my Lord, shall I have a son, when no man has touched me?" asked Mary. He said, "Thus: God creates whatever He wants, when He decrees a thing He only has to say, 'Be,' and it is. And God will teach him the Book and Wisdom, the Torah ["Law" (The Holy Qur-an, Abdullah Yusuf Ali, 2 Volumes, Pakistan, 1938] and the Gospel."
Although it remains a tenet of orthodox Christian theology, liberal Christian theologians and many Christians now, and even the Bishop of Durham (England), no longer accept the story as literally true, preferring to interpret "virgin" as "pure" or morally without reproach, in other words, symbolically. Martin Luther (1483-1546), writing in the sixteenth century, conceded that "We Christians seem fools to the world for believing that Mary was the true mother of this child, and nevertheless a pure virgin. For this is not only against all reason, but also against the creation of God, who said to Adam and Eve, 'Be fruitful and multiply.'"305
The treatment of the Virgin Birth by Christian biblical scholars is a good example of how Muslims cannot hide from their conclusions, for these conclusions have a direct bearing on the veracity or at least the literal truth of the Koran. Charles Guignebert (1867-1939)306 has made a detailed examination of the legend of the Virgin birth. Guignebert points out the striking parallels to the Virgin birth legend in the Greco-Roman world:
It is here that we find the legend of Perseus, born of Danae, a virgin who was impregnated by a shower of gold, [and] the story of Attis whose mother Nana, became pregnant as a result of eating a pomegranate. It was here especially that the birth of notable men--Pythagoras, Plato, Augustus himself--tended to be explained by some kind of parthenogenesis [see #3, 98, 403.], or by the mysterious intervention of a god. It is quite conceivable that, in a community in which so many stories of this kind were current, the Christians, desirous of adducing conclusive vindication of their faith in the divinity of Jesus, naturally turned to the sign by which men bearing the divine stamp were commonly identified. There was no question, of course, of a conscious imitation of any particular story, but simply of THE INFLUENCE OF A CERTAIN ATMOSPHERE OF BELIEF [see #3, 57, 289.].' [144-145].
'DID JESUS EXIST?
IT MAY COME AS A SURPRISE TO MUSLIMS THAT THERE WERE, AND ARE STILL, SCHOLARS WHO DOUBT THE HISTORICITY OF JESUS, TO WHOSE EXISTENCE MUSLIMS ARE TOTALLY COMMITTED.
Bruno Bauer (1809-1882), J.M. Robertson (1856-1933), Arthur Drews (1865-1935), van den Bergh van Eysinga, Albert Kalthoff, and in recent years, Guy Fau (Le Fable de Jesus Christ, Paris, 1967), Prosper Alfaric (Origines Sociales du Christianisme, Paris, 1959), W.B. Smith (The Birth of the Gospel, New York, 1957), and Professor G.A. Wells of Birkbeck College, University of London, have all developed the "Christ-Myth" theory [fact!].307' .
"[1.]....None of the stories of Jesus in the Koran is accepted as true; most of them contain gross superstitions and "miracles" that only the most credulous would deem worthy of attention. It is worth remarking that if the Koran is absolutely true and the literal word of God, WHY IS IT THAT NO CHRISTIAN THEOLOGIAN ADDUCES IT [KORAN] AS PROOF OF JESUS' EXISTENCE? No historian has ever looked at the Koran for historical enlightenment, for the simple reason that no historian will look at a document, which he will presume to be of human origin, written some six hundred years after the events it purports to describe when there are documents written some fifty or sixty years after the same events. We also know the source of the Koran stories, namely, heretical Gnostic gospels such as the Gospel of St. Thomas, which in turn have been dismissed as unhistorical.
Even if we do not accept the thesis that Jesus never existed, the conclusions of the New Testament historians throw a very illuminating light on the growth of religions and religious mythology; furthermore, they point to the striking similarities to the recent theories put forward by Islamicist scholars on the rise of Islam and the Muhammad legend of the Muslim traditions.
2. Many of the criticisms of Christianity to be found in the works to be discussed apply, mutatis mutandis, to all religions, including Islam...." [148-149].
'In his Life of Jesus Critically Examined (1835), David Strauss [1808 - 1874] pointed out that we could not take the gospels as historical biographies; that was not their primary function. The early Christians wanted to win converts to their cause "through the propagation of a synthetic religious myth."312
Strauss's main thesis is that the stories in the New Testament were the result of the messianic expectations of the Jewish people.
The evangelists made Jesus say and do what they expected--from their knowledge of the Old Testament--that the Messiah would say and do; and many passages that in fact make no reference to the Messiah were nevertheless taken as messianic prophecies. Thus, "then shall the eyes of the blind be opened" (Isa. 35) expresses the joy of Jewish exiles in Babylon at the prospect of release from captivity, but was understood by the evangelists as prophesying that the Messiah would cure blindness, which they accordingly make Jesus do.313
Bauer [Bruno Bauer 1809 - 1882]
Bauer went a step further and contended that the early Christians fashioned Jesus Christ from the portraits of the prophets found in the Old Testament. JESUS NEVER EXISTED, and Christianity arose in the middle of the first century from a fusion of Judaic and Greco-Roman ideas. Bauer argues, for example, that the Christian use of the Greek term "Logos" ultimately derives from Philo, the Stoics, and Heraclitus. For Philo, the Logos was the creative power that orders the world and the intermediary through whom men knew God. Of course, in St. John's Gospel, the Logos is equated with God, who becomes incarnate in Jesus Christ.' .
"Despite the fact that there were approximately sixty historians active during the first century in the Roman world, there is remarkably little [no] corroboration of the Christian story of Jesus outside the Christian traditions. What there is, is very inconclusive and unhelpful--Josephus, Tacitus, Suetonius, the Younger Pliny.317" .
'It is now recognized that the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) were not written by the disciples of Jesus. They are not eyewitness accounts, and they were written by unknown authors some forty to eighty years after the supposed crucifixion of Christ. Matthew, Mark, and Luke are usually called the synoptic Gospels because of the common subject matter and similarity of phrasing to be found in them. Mark is considered the earliest of the three and was probably used by the other two as their source. It now seems highly unlikely that any of the savings attributed to Jesus in the Gospels were ever spoken by a historical figure. As Hoffmann [R. Joseph Hoffmann] concludes,
it is difficult even to speak of an "historical" Jesus, given the proportions and immediacy of the myth-making process that characterises the earliest days of the Jesus-cult. Whether or not there was an historical founder (and such is not needed, as the mystery religions testify, for the success of a cult and a coherent story about its "founder"), scholars now count it a certainty that the Gospels are compilations of "traditions" cherished by the early Christians rather than historical annals.318' .
"Just as we find that the early Christians fabricated details of the life of Jesus in order to answer doctrinal points, so we find that Arab storytellers invented biographical material about Muhammad in order to explain difficult passages in the Koran." .
'What was the one thing that Mohammed later borrowed from Christianity? Paul's invention, his means to priestly tyranny, to herd formation: the faith in immortality--that is, the doctrine of the "judgment."
--Nietzsche [Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche 1844 - 1900], The Anti Christ [see #23, 484-487]328
Apart from the empirical and logical objections to the doctrine of resurrection of the body, there are some powerful moral objections to the whole Islamic notion of the afterlife. Nietzsche has argued in the Twilight of the Idols and the AntiChrist that to talk of an afterlife is to do dirt on, to denigrate and besmirch this life. Far from making this life meaningful, the doctrine of an afterlife makes this life meaningless.
[Nietzsche] To invent fables about a world "other" than this one has no meaning at all, unless an instinct of slander, detraction, and suspicion against life has gained the upper hand in us: in that case, we avenge ourselves against life with a phantasmagoria of "another," a "better" life.329
[Nietzsche] The "Last judgment" is the sweet comfort of revenge....The "beyond"--why a beyond, if not as a means for besmirching this world?330
Furthermore, the beyond is a way for the self-proclaimed prophets and priests to retain control, to terrorize the people with the tortures of hell, and equally to seduce them with the licentious pleasures of paradise. "The concepts 'beyond,' 'Last Judgment,' 'immortality of the soul,' and 'soul' itself are instruments of torture, systems of cruelties by virtue of which the priest became master, remained master.["]331' [155-156].
'Religion is based, I think, primarily and mainly upon fear. It is partly the terror of the unknown, and partly...the wish to feel that you have a kind of elder brother who will stand by you in all your troubles and disputes. Fear is the basis of the whole thing--fear of the mysterious, fear of defeat, fear of death. Fear is the parent of cruelty, and therefore it is no wonder if cruelty and religion have gone hand-in-hand.
--Bertrand Russell, Why I Am Not A Christian335
We have already referred to the fact that the Koranic ethical system is based entirely on fear. Muhammad uses God's wrath-to-come as a weapon with which to threaten his opponents, and to terrorize his own followers into pious acts and total obedience to himself. As Sir Hamilton Gibb put it, "That God is the omnipotent master and man His creature who is ever in danger of incurring His wrath--this is the basis of all Muslim theology and ethics."336 ....
fear corrupts all true morality--under its yoke humans act out of prudent self-interest, to avoid the tortures of hell, which are no less real to the believers than the delights of the cosmic bordello that goes by the name of paradise.' .
[Bertrand Russell] 'You find this curious fact, that the more intense has been the religion of any period and more profound has been the dogmatic belief, the greater has been the cruelty and worse has been the state of affairs. In the so called ages of faith, when men really did believe the Christian religion in all its completeness, there was the Inquisition, with its tortures; there were millions of unfortunate women burnt as witches; and there was every kind of cruelty practiced upon all sorts of people in the name of religion.
We are all familiar with the wars perpetrated by Christianity, but less familiar are the ones waged by Muslims [see: 2014-2021 (Jihad in the West)]. I discuss the intolerance and cruelty of Islam in chapter 9. I shall only point to some of the atrocities committed in the name of Allah in the twentieth century. For the past few years, the self-righteous and sanctimonious leaders of various Islamic groups in Afghanistan have been waging a bitter civil war to gain total power. In between their five prayers to the most compassionate and merciful God, they have managed to kill hundreds of innocent civilians. Many thousands of these civilians have fled to neighboring Pakistan, where they have expressed a distinct nostalgia for the halcyon days of the godless Communists. According to a report in the International Herald Tribune (26 April 1994, the civil war, now entering its third year, has claimed more than ten thousand lives. In Kabul alone, fifteen hundred people were killed between January and April 1994.' [159-160]. [Note: this book was published 1995].
'The pragmatic suggestion, that we had better teach the Christian religion whether it is true or not, because people will be much less criminal if they believe it, is disgusting and degrading; ...and it is a natural consequence of the fundamental religious attitude that comfort and security must always prevail over rational inquiry.
The argument that though religion might be false we must keep it for moral guidance, is also morally reprehensible, since it perverts man's reason and encourages hypocrisy, but above all, it leads to the abandonment of the ideal of truth. As Russell pointed out,
As soon as it is held that any belief, no matter what, is important for some other reason than that it is true, a whole host of evils is ready to spring up. Discouragement of inquiry,...is the first of these, but others are pretty sure to follow. Positions of authority will be open to the orthodox. Historical records must be falsified if they throw doubt on received opinion. Sooner or later unorthodoxy will come to be considered a crime to be dealt with by the stake, the purge, or the concentration camp. I [Bertrand Russell] can [(2001, United States) I [Lino Sanchez] cannot] respect the men who argue that religion is true and therefore ought to be believed, but I can only feel profound moral reprobation for those who say that religion ought to be believed because it is useful, and that to ask whether it is true is a waste of time.342' .
'Western ideas of individualism, liberalism, constitutionalism, human rights, equality, liberty, the rule of law, democracy, free markets, the separation of church and state often have little resonance in Islamic, Confucian, Japanese, Hindu, Buddhist or Orthodox cultures.
Samuel P. Huntington [see 2072], The Clash of Civilizations?364' .
'....Once the principle of the separation of church and state is admitted, a free discussion of religion should follow without fear of torture. However, this is precisely what theocratic governments or religious autocrats fear--freethought. As Paine367 put it,
The adulterous connection of church and state, wherever it has taken place, whether Jewish, Christian or Turkish [Muslim], has so effectually prohibited by pains and penalties every discussion upon established creeds, and upon first principles of religion, that until the system of government should be changed, those subjects could not be brought fairly and openly before the world; but that whenever this should be done, a revolution in the system of religion would follow. Human inventions and priestcraft would be detected; and man would return to the pure, unmixed and unadulterated belief of one God, and no more.' [178-179].
The totalitarian nature of Islam is nowhere more apparent than in the concept of jihad, the holy war, whose ultimate aim is to conquer the entire world and submit it to the one true faith, to the law of Allah. To Islam alone has been granted the truth: there is no possibility of salvation outside it. It is the sacred duty--an incumbent religious duty established in the Koran and the traditions--of all Muslims to bring Islam to all humanity. Jihad is a divine institution, enjoined specially for the purpose of advancing Islam. Muslims must strive, fight, and kill in the name of God.
9.5-6: "Kill those who join other gods with God wherever you may find them."
4.76: "Those who believe fight in the cause of God."
8.12: "I will instill terror into the hearts of the Infidels, strike off their heads then, and strike off from them every fingertip."
8.39-42: "Say to the Infidels: If they desist from their unbelief, what is now past shall be forgiven them; but if they return to it, they have already before them the doom of the ancients! Fight then against them till strife be at an end, and the religion be all of it God's."
2.256: "But they who believe, and who fly their country, and fight in the cause of God may hope for God's mercy: and God is Gracious, Merciful."
It is a grave sin for a Muslim to shirk the battle against the unbelievers--those who do will roast in hell.
8.15, 16: "Believers, when you meet the unbelievers preparing for battle do not turn your backs to them. [Anyone who does] shall incur the wrath of God and hell shall be his home: an evil dwelling indeed."
9.39: "If you do not fight, He will punish you severely, and put others in your place."
Those who die fighting for the only true religion, Islam, will be amply rewarded in the life to come.
4.74: "Let those fight in the cause of God who barter the life of this world for that which is to come; for whoever fights on God's path, whether he is killed or triumphs, We will give him a handsome reward."
It is abundantly clear from many of the above verses that the Koran is not talking of metaphorical battles or of moral crusades: it is talking of the battlefield. To read such blood thirsty injunctions in a holy book is shocking.
MANKIND IS DIVIDED INTO TWO GROUPS, MUSLIMS AND NON-MUSLIMS.' [217-218].
'Here, I shall refer to the thesis put forward by the economist Joseph Schumpeter440 (1883-1950), a thesis that Bousquet found convincing and important enough to translate into French. My summary is based on Bousquet's French version.
ACCORDING TO SCHUMPETER (1950), THE ARABS HAD ALWAYS BEEN A RACE OF WARRIORS WHO LIVED BY PILLAGE AND THE EXPLOITATION OF SETTLED POPULATIONS.
Islam was a war machine that did not stop at anything once it had been set going. War is a normal activity in such a military theocracy. The Arabs did not even search for a motive to conduct their wars; their social organization needed war, and without victories it would have collapsed. Here we have expansionism denuded of any concrete objective, brutal, and born of a necessity in its past. The Arab conquests would have existed without Islam. Certain particular details of Arab imperialism can be explained by the words of the Prophet but its force lay elsewhere. Muhammad would not have succeeded had he preached humility and submission. For the Arab warriors, "true" meant successful, and "false" meant unsuccessful. Thus religion was not the prime cause for the conquests, but rather an ancient warrior instinct.' .
"Heretics and Heterodoxy, Atheism and Freethought"
'Pagan Arabs lacked any deep religious sense; they were not inclined to thank superior powers for their worldly successes. Thus it is not surprising that these pagan attitudes prevailed in the early years of Islam. Arabs converted out of cupidity and hope of booty and success in this world. Thus many outwardly confessed their belief but in fact had no inclination toward Islam and its dogma and ritual. Sprenger estimates that at the death of Muhammad the number who really converted to Muhammad's doctrine did not exceed a thousand. If things went wrong, the Bedouins were ready to drop Islam as quickly as they had adopted it. The fact that Islam restricted wine drinking and sexual intercourse, "the two delicious things," did not endear Muhammad to them, either.' .
'Greek Science and Islamic Civilization
Here in the domain of science, we come at last to the true greatness of Islamic civilization, its true universal nature. A brief glance at the words of Arabic origin that have entered European languages will reveal the extent of the influence of Islamic civilization on European science: alkali; zircon; alembic; sherbet; camphor; borax; elixir; talc; the stars Aldebaran, Altair, and Betelgeuse; nadir; zenith; azure; zero; cipher; algebra; algorism; lute; rebeck; artichoke; coffee; jasmine; saffron; and taraxacum. But of course Islamic science was founded on the works of the ancient Greeks, and the Muslims are important as the preservers and transmitters of Greek (and Hindu) learning that may well have been lost otherwise. Although the Islamic scientists did not often improve substantially on the works of the Greeks, they did make original contributions to trigonometry; indeed they are seen as the inventors of plane and spherical trigonometry; which did not exist among the Greeks. Original work was also done in optics by al-Haitham (Alhazen) (d. 1039) and al-Farisi (d. 1320). Islamic work on alchemy, magic, and astrology also played an important part in the development of European science--the idea of power over nature stimulated research and experimentation. Much work was also done in medicine, algebra, arithmetic, geometry, mechanics, and astronomy.
As Ibn Khaldun reminds us, Arabs did not play a great part in the original development of Islamic science: "It is strange that most of the learned among the Muslims who have excelled in the religious or intellectual sciences are non-Arabs with rare exceptions; and even those savants who claimed Arabian descent spoke a foreign language, grew up in foreign lands, and studied under foreign masters." As Martin Plessner says, emphasizing the internationality and inter-religiousness of Islamic science, most of the credit must go to Persians, Christians, and Jews:
Islamic science did not remain exclusively in the hands of Muslims, even after its "Arabization." Christians and Jews continued to make so active a contribution that the Fons vitae of Ibn Gabirol (Avicebron) could pass for the work of a Muslim until the nineteenth century when S. Munk identified the author as Jewish. The medical works of Isaac Israeli and Maimonides are in no way different from the works of Islamic authors; the same is true of the scientific writings of the Christian bishop Barhebraeus. The very fact that the books of Islamic authors could be translated into Hebrew and Latin without significant changes demonstrates the "interreligiousness" no less than the internationality of Islamic science.547
Plessner goes on to make two important points that are the main thrust of my arguments on Islamic science:
[Plessner] Science was perhaps the one cultural area that was least accessible to "Islamization." Moreover, the continued and undiminished hostility of official orthodoxy against the ancient sciences remained as characteristic of Islam as it was of Christianity until deep into the Middle Ages, and of orthodox Jewry to the very threshold of our present time. Knowledge not founded on revelation and tradition was deemed not only to be irrelevant but to be the first step on the path to heresy.548
THERE IS A PERSISTENT MYTH THAT ISLAM ENCOURAGED SCIENCE. Adherents of this view quote the Koran and hadith to prove their point: "Say, shall those who have knowledge and those have it not be deemed equal?" (Koran 39.12); "Seek knowledge, in China if necessary", "The search after knowledge is obligatory for every Muslim." This is nonsense, because the knowledge advocated in the preceding quotes is religious knowledge. Orthodoxy has always been suspicious of "knowledge for its own sake," and unfettered intellectual inquiry is deemed dangerous to the faith.' [272-273].
Abu 'L-ala Ahmad b. Abdallah al-Ma'arri (973-1057),562 sometimes known as the Eastern Lucretius, is the third of the great zindiqs of Islam. No true Muslim feels comfortable in his poetic presence because of his skepticism toward positive religion in general and Islam in particular...." .
"As for religion, all men unquestioningly accept the creed of their fathers out of habit, incapable of distinguishing the true from the false...." .
'FOR AL-MA'ARRI, RELIGION IS A "FABLE INVENTED BY THE ANCIENTS," worthless except for those who exploit the credulous masses:
So, too, the creeds of man: the one prevails
Until the other comes; and this one fails
When that one triumphs; ay, the lonesome world
Will always want the latest fairy-tales.' .
'He [AL-MA'ARRI] CLEARLY PUTS ISLAM ON THE SAME LEVEL AS ALL OTHER CREEDS, AND DOES NOT BELIEVE A WORD OF ANY OF THEM:
Hanifs [= Muslims] are stumbling, Christians all astray
Jews wildered, Magians far on error's way.
We mortals are composed of two great schools
Enlightened knaves or else religious fools.' [283-284].
O fools, awake! The rites ye sacred hold
Are but a cheat contrived by men of old
Who lusted after wealth and gained their lust
And died in baseness--and their law is dust.' .
"Religions have only resulted in bigotry and bloodshed, with sect fighting sect, and fanatics forcing their beliefs onto people at the point of a sword. All religions are contrary to reason and sanity: ...." .
"Space forbids us from giving further examples of his [al-Ma'arri] merciless attacks on every kind of superstition--astrology, augury, belief in omens; the custom of exclaiming "God be praised" when anyone sneezes; myths such as the patriarchs lived to be hundreds of years old, holy men walked on water or performed miracles, etc." .
"Another remarkable feature of al-Ma'arri's thought was the belief that no living creature should be injured or harmed in any way. He adopted vegetarianism in his thirtieth year and held in abhorrence all killing of animals, whether for food or sport. Von Kremer has suggested that al-Ma'arri was influenced by the Jains of India in his attitude to the sanctity of all living things. In his poetry, al-Ma'arri firmly advocates abstinence from meat, fish, milk, eggs, and honey on the ground that it is an injustice to the animals concerned. Animals are capable of feeling pain, and it is immoral to inflict unnecessary harm on our fellow creatures. Even more remarkably, al-Ma'arri protests against the use of animal skins for clothing, suggests wooden shoes, and reproaches court ladies for wearing furs. Von Kremer has justly said that al-Ma'arri was centuries ahead of his time." .
Islam in the West
In Europe, the riots, demonstrations, and book burnings carried out by fanatical Muslims subsequent to the Rushdie affair woke Europeans up to the consequences of the presence, in their midst, of several million people who did not espouse secular values, who even explicitly set out to defy those values. Since 1989, France and Great Britain have taken different positions on the Muslim spokesmen's increasingly shrill demand for greater freedom in following their own customs, sometimes in defiance of the secular laws of the two countries. Muslims were urged to murder a British citizen. Scandalously, the British police did not take a single step to arrest the people concerned, those who had publicly incited Muslims to murder Rushdie. During the same period in France, the then-prime minister, Michel Rocard, clearly and firmly told the Muslims that anyone advocating murder would be arrested immediately. The British police showed themselves unresolved and feeble when Dr. Siddiqui of the Muslim Institute, in London, urged a crowd of Muslims at a public meeting not to obey British laws if they went against the sharia, the Islamic law. In France, on the other hand, a Turkish imam who had claimed that the sharia had precedence over French laws was deported within forty-eight hours! ...." .
'Muslims in Britain and What They Want
Britain is said to have approximately one-and-a-half million Muslims, a majority from the Indian subcontinent. Most, if not all, are there of their own free will, seeking to better their economic situation. In the last fifteen years, many Muslims have made it clear that they have no intention of being assimilated into the host society; instead, it is up to the host society to change, to accord them separate rights, and separate privileges. Some of their most articulate spokesmen have spelled out what they hope to achieve. Dr. Zaki Badawi,673 former Director of the Islamic Cultural Center, London, wrote: "A proselytizing [see 2009] religion cannot stand still. It can either expand or contract. Islam endeavors to expand in Britain. Islam is a universal religion. It aims at bringing its message to all corners of the earth. It hopes that one day the whole of humanity will be one Muslim community, the Umma."' .
'An imam, a prayer leader of Muslims, in Bradford, England, rejected all Gods other than Allah and dismissed the Christian doctrine of the Trinity as "an extreme and absurd example of the false divination of humans." As for Britain, "it is a sick and divided nation," and only the imposition of Islam can heal it....' .
'As Hiskett points out:
As is so often the case when considering Islam, one has to concede the power of certain of its ideas. But when it comes to having these ideas advocated within our own shores, and as alternatives to our own institutions, one must then ask oneself: Which does one prefer? Western secular, pluralist institutions, imperfect as these are? Or the Islamic theocratic alternative? And if one decides in favor of one's own institutions, warts and all, one then has to ask again: How far may the advocacy of Islamic alternatives go, before this becomes downright subversive? And at that point, what should then be done about it? Finally, do liberal, democratic politicians have the political and moral guts to do what is needed? Or will they simply give way, bit by bit and point by point, to insistent and sustained pressure from the Muslim "Parliament" and other Muslim special-interest lobbies like it?678' [This immigration (Liberal (Stupid!)) = self Destruction!] [355-356].
"The Betrayal by the Politicians...." .
"The Betrayal by the Intellectuals
I began the book with the betrayal of the intellectuals, and I shall end with it.
Here I shall concentrate on the undermining of confidence in Western secular values by certain Western intellectuals. Self-denigration is said to be a peculiarly English vice; but, it is in fact far more prevalent throughout the Western world than one would imagine...." .
'....On the world stage, too, we need to have far more confidence in our values. Judith Miller, writing in Foreign Affairs, makes the same point:
Ultimately, the triumph of militant Islam in the Middle East may say as much about the West as about the Arabs and the failure of their existing systems. Islamists, by and large, have come to power when no one is willing to oppose them at home and abroad. In any world order, Americans should not be ashamed to say that they favor pluralism, tolerance and diversity, and that they reject the notion that God is on anyone's side....Islamic militancy presents the West with a paradox. While liberals speak of the need for diversity with equality, Islamists see this as a sign of weakness. Liberalism tends not to teach its proponents to fight effectively. What is needed, rather, is almost a contradiction in terms: a liberal militancy, or a militant liberalism that is unapologetic [etc.] and unabashed.633
The West needs to be serious about democracy, and should eschew policies that compromise principles for short-term gains at home and abroad. The rise of fascism and racism in the West is proof that not everyone in the West is enamored of democracy. Therefore, the final battle will not necessarily be between Islam and the West, but BETWEEN THOSE WHO VALUE FREEDOM AND THOSE WHO DO NOT.' [End of text] .
"DHIMMI. A member of one of the protected religions, i.e., the non-Muslim religions tolerated by the Muslim state in accordance with the sharia, on payment of certain taxes and on acceptance of an inferior social status." .
"FATWA. The formal opinion of a canon lawyer (mufti)" .
"IMAM. Leader in prayer, leader of the whole community of Islam." .
"JIHAD. The duty of Muslims to fight all unbelievers." .
"KAFIR. An infidel, i.e., a non-Muslim." .
"RAMADAN. The ninth month of the Muslim calendar, during which Muslims fast between sunrise and sunset." .
"SUNNI. A member of the majority group of Muslims, usually called orthodox." .
• • •
from: The Origins of the Koran, Classic Essays on Islam's Holy Book, Edited by Ibn Warraq, Prometheus, 1998.
PART ONE: INTRODUCTION
Ibn Warraq 9
2. The Koran
Theodor Nöldeke 36
PART TWO: THE COLLECTION AND THE VARIANTS OF THE KORAN
3. 'Uthman and the Recension of the Koran
Leone Caetani 67
4. Three Ancient Korans
Alphonse Mingana 76
5. The Transmissions of the Koran
Alphonse Mingana 97
6. Materials for the History of the Text of the Koran
Arthur Jeffery 114
7. Progress in the Study of the Koran Text
Arthur Jeffery 135
8. A Variant Text of the Fatiha
Arthur Jeffery 145
9. Abu 'Ubaid on the Verses Missing from the Koran
Arthur Jeffery 150
10. Textual Variations of the Koran
David Margoliouth 154
PART THREE: THE SOURCES OF THE KORAN
11. What Did Muhammad Borrow from Judaism?
Abraham Geiger 165
12. The Sources of Islam
W. St. Clair-Tisdall 227
13. The Jewish Foundation of Islam
Charles Cutler Torrey 293
PART FOUR: MODERN TEXTUAL CRITICISM OF THE KORAN
14. Literary Analysis of Koran, Tafsir, and Sira:
The Methodologies of John Wansbrough
Andrew Rippin 351
The stereotypic image of the Muslim holy warrior with a sword in one hand and the Koran in the other would only be plausible if he was left-handed, since no devout Muslim should or would touch a Koran with his left hand which is reserved for dirty chores. All Muslims revere the Koran with a reverence that borders on bibliolatry and superstition. "It is," as Guillaume remarked, "the holy of holies. It must never rest beneath other books, but always on top of them, one must never drink or smoke when it is being read aloud, and it must be listened to in silence. It is a talisman against disease and disaster."
In some Westerners it engenders other emotions. For Gibbon it was an "incoherent rhapsody of fable,"2 for Carlyle an "insupportable stupidity,"3 while here is what the German scholar Salomon Reinach thought: "From the literary point of view, the Koran has little merit. Declamation, repetition, puerility, a lack of logic and coherence strike the unprepared reader at every turn. It is humiliating to the human intellect to think that this mediocre literature has been the subject of innumerable commentaries, and that millions of men are still wasting time absorbing it."4 ["4 S. Reinach, Orpheus [see #24, 488-490; etc.]: A History of Religion (New York, 1932), p. 176." (365)]
For us in studying the Koran it is necessary to distinguish the historical from the theological attitude. Here we are only concerned with those truths that are yielded by a process of rational enquiry, by scientific examination. "Critical investigation of the text of the Qur'an is a study which is still in its infancy,"5 wrote the Islamic scholar Arthur Jeffery in 1937. In 1977 John Wansbrough noted that "as a document susceptible of analysis by the instruments and techniques of Biblic criticism [the Koran] is virtually unknown."6 By 1990, more than fifty years after Jeffery's lament, we still have the scandalous situation described by Andrew Rippin:
I have often encountered individuals who come to the study of Islam with a background in the historical study of the Hebrew Bible or early Christianity, and who express surprise at the lack of critical thought that appears in introductory textbooks on Islam. The notion that "Islam was born in the clear light of history" still seems to be assumed by a great many writers of such texts. While the need to reconcile varying historical traditions is generally recognized, usually this seems to pose no greater problem to the authors than having to determine "what makes sense" in a given situation. To students acquainted with approaches such as source criticism, oral formulaic compositions, literary analysis and structuralism, all quite commonly employed in the study of Judaism and Christianity, such naive historical study seems to suggest that Islam is being approached with less than academic candor.7
The questions any critical investigation of the Koran hopes to answer are:
1. How did the Koran come to us?--That is the compilation and the transmission of the Koran.
2. When was it written, and who wrote it?
3. What are the sources of the Koran? Where were the stories, legends, and principles that abound in the Koran acquired?
4. What is the Koran? Since there never was a textus receptus ne varietur of the Koran, we need to decide its authenticity.
I shall begin with the traditional account that is more or less accepted by most Western scholars, and then move on to the views of a small but very formidable, influential, and growing group of scholars inspired by the work of John Wansbrough.
According to the traditional account the Koran was revealed to Muhammad, usually by an angel, gradually over a period of years until his death in 632 C.E. It is not clear how much of the Koran had been written down by the time of Muhammad's death, but it seems probable that there was no single manuscript in which the Prophet himself had collected all the revelations. Nonetheless, there are traditions which describe how the Prophet dictated this or that portion of the Koran to his secretaries.' [9-10].
THEODORE NÖLDEKE (1836-1930). The growing interest in Islamic studies in Europe led the Parisian Academie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres in 1857 to propose as the subject for a prize monography "a critical history of the text of the Coran." The subject attracted the young German scholar Nöldeke, who had already published the year before a Latin disquisition on the origin and composition of the Koran. Nöldeke won the prize, and an enlarged German version of the prize-winning work was published in Göttingen in 1860 as Geschichte des Qorâns. It became the foundation of all later Koranic studies. It is still referred to and is considered an indispensable tool for further research on the Koran. Some of his essays were gathered and published as Sketches from Eastern History.
LEONE CAETANI (1869-1935). Caetani was born into one of the most illustrious families in Italy. His father was the Prince of Teano, and Duke of Sermoneta. Many members of the family distinguished themselves in politics and the world of scholarship. Leone was largely self-taught in Oriental languages. The first volume of his monumental work, Annali dell' Islam appeared in 1904 in Milan, and the tenth and final volume came out in 1926. Caetani brought a highly critical mind to the study of Islam; indeed his radical criticism of the sources led him to dismiss the authenticity of a large part of the traditions for the first part of the life of Muhammad.
Caetani also served as a deputy in Parliament between 1909 and 1913.
ALPHONSE MINGANA (1881-1937). Mingana was a great scholar of Arabic, especially Syriac. He was a member of the Chaldaean Church in Iraq, where he was also professor of Semitic Languages and Literature in the Syro-Chaldaean Seminary at Mosul. He collected invaluable Arabic and Syriac manuscripts that became the foundation for the famous Mingana Collection, now housed in Birmingham, U.K. The last twenty years of his life were spent in England where he taught Semitic Languages. His essays were collected in Woodbrooke Studies: Christian Documents in Syriac, Arabic, Garshuni (1927).
ARTHUR JEFFERY (18??-1952). Arthur Jeffery, professor of Semitic Languages at Columbia University and at Union Theological Seminary, was one of the great scholars of Islamic Studies.
Apart from numerous articles in learned journals, Jeffery wrote two works that are considered definitive in their respective domain, in 1937 Materials for the History of the Text of the Qur'_n: The Old Codices, and in 1938 The Foreign Vocabulary of the Qur'_n. The latter was a tour de force that reviewed about 275 words in the Koran that were regarded as foreign. This survey led Jeffery to examine texts in Ethiopic, Aramaic, Hebrew, Syriac, Greek, Latin, and Middle Persian, among other languages. His research led him to look for and at manuscripts in the Middle East, including Cairo. Other works include The Qur'_n as Scripture (1952).
DAVID S. MARGOLIOUTH (1858-1940). Margoliouth was professor of Arabic at the University of Oxford, and a member of the Council of the Royal Asiatic Society. He was the author of numerous artiles [articles] and books on Islam, including Muhammad and the Rise of Islam (London 1905) and The Early Development of Mohammedanism (London, 1914). His research into the history of early Islam led him to compare the life of Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, to that of the Prophet of Islam [Muhammad], and forced him to conclude that human beings with unusual powers fall easily into dishonesty.
ABRAHAM GEIGER (1810-1874). Geiger's study on the Jewish foundations of Islam was originally composed in Latin and submitted to the University of Bonn in 1832, in response to a contest set by the philosophy faculty. He won, and the University of Marburg later accepted his essay as a thesis and awarded him a doctorate. Geiger was but twenty-two years old when he wrote this little masterpiece. He later distinguished himself in the rabbinate as one of the founders of Reform Judaism, and as a Judaic scholar and theologian of great perception and power. Geiger was born into a very strict orthodox family in Frankfurt, and by the age of three was already receiving instruction on the Bible, and studying the Talmud by the age of six. He began his career as a rabbi in 1833, serving in Wiesbaden, Breslau, Frankfurt, and Berlin. He wrote numerous works, edited a journal, and taught until his death in Berlin in 1874.
W. ST. CLAIR-TISDALL (1859-1928). The Reverend W. St. Clair-Tisdall was the secretary of the Church Missionary Society, an organ of the Church of England for missions, in Isfahan, Persia. A brilliant linguist, he spent much time researching the sources of Islam in their original languages. He wrote, among other works, The Religion of the Crescent, The Noble Eightfold Path, and The Original Sources of the Qur'_n (1905).
C.C. TORREY (1863-1956). Torrey was professor of Semitic Languages at Yale University. He worked with the American Schools of Oriental Research in the Near East, helping to excavate a Phoenician necropolis at Sidon. He was an expert on Palestinian antiquities in general and a formidable biblical scholar with more than fifteen works to his credit, such as The Four Gospels (1947), The Apocryphal Literature (1945), and The Second Isaiah (1928).
A. RIPPIN (1950- ). Andrew Rippin is associate professor of Religious Studies, University of Calgary, Alberta, Canada. He has written numerous articles, and coedited with Jan Knappert a work that has become a standard textbook, Textual Sources of the Study of Islam (1986).' [409-411].
"Skepticism of the Sources
The traditional accounts of the life of Muhammad and the story of the origin and rise of Islam, including the compilation of the Koran are based exclusively on Muslim sources, particularly the Muslim biographies of Muhammad, and the Hadith, that is the Muslim traditions.
The Prophet Muhammad died in 632 C.E. The earliest material on his life that we possess was written by Ibn Ishaq in 750 C.E., in other words, a hundred twenty years after Muhammad's death. The question of authenticity becomes even more critical, because the original form of the Ibn Ishaq's work is lost and is only available in parts in a later recension by Ibn Hisham who died in 834 C.E., two hundred years after the death of the Prophet." .
"The Hadith are a collection of sayings and doings attributed to the Prophet and traced back to him through a series of putatively trustworthy witnesses (any particular chain of transmitters is called an isnad). These Hadith include the story of the compilation of the Koran, and the sayings of the companions of the Prophet. There are said to be six correct or authentic collections of traditions accepted by Sunni Muslims, namely, the compilations of Bukhari, Muslim, Ibn Maja, Abu Dawud, al-Tirmidhi, and al-Nisai. Again it is worth noting that all these sources are very late indeed. Bukhari died 238 years after the death of the Prophet, while al-Nisai died over 280 years after." .
'In his classic paper, "On the Development of Hadith," Goldziher "demonstrated that a vast number of Hadith accepted even in the most rigorously critical Muslim collections were outright forgeries from the late 8th and 9th centuries--and as a consequence, that the meticulous isnads [chains of transmitters] which supported them were utterly fictitious."22' . [See: Addition 36 ("Thirty Centuries of Forgeries")].
"Hadiths were liable to be fabricated even for the most trivial ritualistic details." .
"Of course many Muslims were aware that forgeries abounded. But even the so-called six authentic collections of Hadiths compiled by Bukhari and others were not as rigorous as might have been hoped. The six had varying criteria for including a Hadith as genuine or not--some were rather liberal in their choice, others rather arbitrary. Then there was the problem of the authenticity of the texts of these compilers. For example, at one point there were a dozen different Bukhari texts; and apart from these variants, there were deliberate interpolations...." .
"....The Koran was said to be handed down by God in pure Arabic...." .
'....The Arabs soon quarreled with the Jews, and their attitude to Christians softened; the Christians posed less of a political threat. There still remained a need to develop a positive religious identity, which they proceeded to do by elaborating a full-scale religion of Abraham, incorporating many pagan practices but under a new Abrahamic aegis. But they still lacked the basic religious structures to be able to stand on their own two feet, as an independent religious community. Here they were enormously influenced by the Samaritans.
The origins of the Samaritans are rather obscure. They are Israelites of central Palestine, generally considered the descendants of those who were planted in Samaria by the Assyrian kings, in about 722 B.C.E. The faith of the Samaritans was Jewish monotheism, but they had shaken off the influence of Judaism by developing their own religious identity, rather in the way the Arabs were to do later on. The Samaritan canon included only the Pentateuch, which was considered the sole source and standard for faith and conduct.
The formula "There is no God but the One" is an ever-recurring refrain in Samaritan liturgies. A constant theme in their literature is the unity of God and His absolute holiness and righteousness. We can immediately notice the similarity of the Muslim proclamation of faith: "There is no God but Allah." ....
The sacred book of the Samaritans was the Pentateuch, which embodied the supreme revelation of the divine will, and was accordingly highly venerated. Muhammad also seem to know the Pentateuch and Psalms only, and shows no knowledge of the prophetic or historical writings.
The Samaritans held Moses in high regard, Moses being the prophet through whom the Law was revealed. For the Samaritans, Mt. Gerizim was the rightful center for the worship of Yahweh; and it was further associated with Adam, Seth, and Noah, and Abraham's sacrifice of Isaac. The expectation of a coming Messiah was also an article of faith; the name given to their Messiah was the Restorer. Here we can also notice the similarity of the Muslim notion of the Mahdi.
We can tabulate the close parallels between the doctrines of the SAMARITANS and the MUSLIMS in this way:
MT. SINAI/MT. GERIZIM,
Theodor Nöldeke [see 2052]
The Koran (QUR'_N) is the foundation of Islam. It is the sacred book of more than a hundred millions of men, some of them nations of immemorial civilization, by all whom it is regarded as the immediate word of God. And since the use of the Koran in
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