The short essay below – “A train of thought” – was written between 17th and 20th of June 2014. The thoughts expressed «dawned on me» the week prior – over 3-4 days total – and ended with me sending an email to a friend asking what he thought about the idea – Sunday 15th of June. I wrote it down mostly not to forget it while I wrote the first article for document.no.
It was merely to document the thought process which led me to later publishing several articles on the website www.document.no.
A Train of thought
In 2009 the American president quoted the Quran in a speech in Cairo. He quoted 5:32 “He who saves a life ..”. On the web many found it an ill-advised choice – referring to the very next verse, 5:33
“The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger, and strive with might and main for mischief through the land is: execution, or crucifixion, or the cutting off of hands and feet from opposite sides, or exile from the land: that is their disgrace in this world, and a heavy punishment is theirs in the Hereafter;”
It’s one of those verses you love to use in online debates – «see here how cruel Islam is».
Anyway, I tend to read a lot while travelling to and from work, various books, some recommended by friends, others I’ve found recommended online. My last finished one was The Closed Circle, by David Pryce-Jones – an interesting book about Arabs. Took me a week and a half to read.
Something odd happened while I was reading it.
I had been checking out some interesting statistics online about the verses in the Quran, how many Mecca verses, how many Medina ones, how many about Jihad, Kafir and so on. In addition they pointed out an interesting fact, Muhammed got almost no converts while in Mecca, but in Medina the curve of converts went straight up – maybe at 100,000 at his death. They had a nice curve showing this, a flat line for Mekka, then rising sharply while in Medina.
All this while I read about Arab honour culture and how it had such negative impact on their development.
For some reason during this time, I read in the Quran, the very verse quoted above (5:33). My eyes wandered to the beginning of the verse and noticed the number 5 – Sura 5. And I thought – that’s odd. Then my eyes wandered down to the first line of the verse, and I saw the word *and* in front of “His Messenger” – and I thought – this is puzzling …
There is something strange here – something is not right. Sura 5 is the second to last Sura, written at the end of his life. At the time he’s the ruler of Arabia, he’s got 100,000 followers – who would possibly wage war upon him and Allah at this time?
The verse is out of place.
Muhammad was apparently not popular earlier in Mecca – but he was also nicer in Mecca, so placing the verse in chapter 2 (the first chapter from Medina – right after his stay in Mecca) – this also seems out of place.
So why is this verse here? A verse is inserted when it’s needed – whether you’re a believer or not – and at some time it must have been needed.
And what kind of “wage war” is implied? The phrase Allah and his Messenger clearly indicates critique or blasphemy of Islam – but what kind – and when? There certainly was no struggle at the time of Sura 5, and after this the muslims conquered half the world and ruled for hundreds of years.
When did anyone attack Islam itself in this time? I do believe no such struggle is recorded in history.
And why make a verse about it? The Quran has shuffled its chapters, no problem, the Quran has contradictions, no problem. What kind of critique could be so bad as to require such a verse inserted?
Then I thought – someone trained in reading and comparing scriptures – like Christians and Jews!
But that would imply the verse was deliberately inserted into the Quran after Palestine and Egypt was conquered. Well, that makes sense. So it must have been perhaps early 8th century (701 AD – 800 AD).
But what was the critique they brought forward? Shuffled chapters and contradictions – it’s all well-known? And why is nothing known about this struggle – usually every verse is explained (the mischief through the land part is explained – not the blasphemy part).
There was a struggle – a war against Allah and His Messenger – and Allah and His Messenger lost!!
The muslims responded with killing the offenders – erasing all memory of the event from history – and then inserting this verse to stop any future chance to do the same.
What did these early Christians and Jews find? What secret about the Quran was so dramatic that the critique had to be erased from historical memory and such a verse be inserted into the Quran to stop it from happening in the future?
All these thoughts went through my head as I sat in front of my PC. Then my eyes wandered to my left screen – where I saw the statistics about Quran page I mentioned earlier.
And my eyes landed on a figure in the text. A pie-chart.
And then I knew.
Today – June 2015
The pie-chart on my computer screen (when “I knew”) showed that Medina Quran was only 36% of the whole Quran – too short compared to the New Testament (it’s on page 3 here). At the moment the thought entered my mind, I had no idea how many verses where in the the New Testament (NT) – but I knew at this moment that Mecca + Medina would only be about the same size as NT.
It was all about size.
What “I knew” – or thought I knew – was that the Quran has its current form due to early Arabs inserting random verses from other sources to make it appear larger – comparable to NT.
When researching my previous article I learned some about Islamic philosophy, as well as its stand against reason. And then I recalled this document – and my guess above – that the incident took place in the century 701 AD to 800 AD.
It may be I was right – but a century off.
It seems greek classics and reasoning were introduced by Caliph Al-Mansur (d. 775 AD) – and was ended by 885 AD. Somewhere in the years leading up to 885 AD there was a massive backlash against Aristotelian reasoning – and reasoning was abandoned within Islam. In its place came over time “God wills it”, Sira (biography of Muhammad), and Hadiths (collection of short stories about Muhammad) to explain away the problems in the Quran.
It appears that the struggle I predict in my train of thoughts above have been found in time and space. In the Abbasid Empire ~ 800 AD – 885 AD. My educated guess a year ago missed by roughly 100 years.
Any theory or hypothesis is only as valid as what it can predict – I predicted some backlash within early Islam in the train of thought above. In my last article I actually found a “schism” in Islam – the point were they – for some reason – abandoned reason.
So ten months onwards, researching Islamic contribution to the Western world – I can pinpoint the event I previously thought would exist.
Any expert historian on Islam could probably have told me this ten months ago – but I only found it this month – April 2015.
Such a finding – a hypothesis predicting that you will find something – then finding it – is usually regarded as strongly supporting the hypothesis.
Today we live – unfortunately and tragically – in a politically correct (PC) world. In practice this means that academia, media, and politicians always pick the easiest – most painless stands towards anything and everything. All cultures and religions are equally “good” for example, and the weakest – financially or physically/militarily – is always the victim.
Too bad for Israel.
However, there was a time before this PC madness, and to our luck there are scholarly articles on Islam and the Quran written before PC infested the world.
Encyclopedia Britannica 1902 version – available online for everyone! Lets take some quotes from the article on the Quran:
“It must be owned that the first perusal leaves on a European an impression of chaotic confusion,- not that the book is so very extensive, for it is not quite so large as the New Testament.”
“It is no wonder if in such confused imagery the details are not always self-consistent.”
“Even in the separate narrations we may observe how readily the Koran passes from one subject to another, how little care is taken to express all the transitions of thought, and how frequently clauses are omitted, which are almost indispensable.”
“We must bear in mind that he was no cold systematic thinker, but an Oriental visionary, brought up in crass superstition, and without intellectual discipline; a man whose nervous temperament had been powerfully worked on by ascetic austerities, and who was all the more irritated by the opposition he encountered, because he had little of the heroic in his nature. Filled with his religious ideas and visions, he might well fancy he heard the angel bidding him recite what was said to him.”
“God is to him an absolute despot, who declares a thing right or wrong from no inherent necessity but by his arbitrary fiat. This God varies his commands at pleasure, prescribes one law for the Christians, another for the Jews, and a third for the Moslems; nay, even changes his instructions to the Moslems when it pleases him.”
“The most ignorant Jew or Christian could never have mistaken Haman (the minister of the Persian king Ahasuerus – Book of Esther) for the minister of Pharaoh, or identified Miriam the sister of Harun/Aaron and implicitly of Moses/Musa – Exodus) with Mary (=Miriam) the mother of Christ.”
“For instance, in his ignorance of everything out of Arabia, he makes the fertility of Egypt – where rain is almost never seen and never missed – depend on rain instead of the inundations of the Nile (xii. 49).” (it is the flooding of the Nile which brings water to Egypt – not rain) – and the egyptians building with brick – which is unusual in ancient Egypt, but common in ancient Mesopotamia.
And do we not love the British understatement – here on the quality of writing of the Quran:
“In point of style and artistic effect, the different parts of the Koran are of very unequal value. An unprejudiced and critical reader will certainly find very few passages where his aesthetic susceptibilities are thoroughly satisfied.”
Or in plain English – it’s crap.
“… much of it indeed is stiff in style.”
“… but we too, from our standpoint, shall fully acquit him of poetic genius. Like many other predominantly religious characters, he had no appreciation of poetic beauty; and if we may believe one anecdote related of him, at a time when everyone made verses he affected ignorance of the most elementary rules of prosody.”
“On the whole, while many parts of the Koran undoubtedly have considerable rhetorical power, even over an unbelieving reader, the book, aesthetically considered, is by no means a first-rate performance.”
“… there is a great deal of superfluous verbiage; and nowhere do we find a steady advance in the narration.“
“Again, there is no great literary skill evinced in the frequent and needless harping on the same words and phrases; in xvii, for example, «till that» (hatta idha) occurs no fewer than eight times. Mohammed , in short, is not in any sense a master of style.”
Now consider these quotes and think about all the PC advertising for Islam we see today in documentaries on TV and everywhere else. In 1902 there was zero respect for Muhammad and his Quran in the West.
According to what I can find on the web – there is just one single source to Muhammad’s life – Ibn Ishāq (d. 767 AD?) – every later biographer uses mainly this single source as main reference. And this is what we find about him:
“He became a tutor employed by the Abbasid caliph Al-Mansur, who commissioned him to write an all-encompassing history book starting from the creation of Adam to the present day, known as «al-Mubtadaʾ wa al-Baʿth wa al-Maghāzī» (lit. «In the Beginning, the mission [of Muhammad], and the expeditions»). It was kept in the court library of Baghdad. Part of this work contains the Sîrah or biography of the Prophet, the rest was once considered a lost work, but substantial fragments of it survived. He died in Baghdad around A.H. 150-159.”
This Sira (i.e., biography) is available to read online in english translation: The Life of Muhammad translated by A. Guillaume.
The claim from Islam is that this book is written down oral and/or written sources originating in Muhammad’s own time.
Today (2nd June) was the first time I ever read in this book – and it took only a couple of minutes to realise that the above claim is pure nonsense.
The moslems have placed themselves in a catch-22 situation – they claim both the sources of the Sira and the Quran are from the same time period (i.e., when Muhammad supposedly lived). But we have already reviewed and compared the Quran to the Bible in a previous essay, and established that the Quran does not concern itself with names of people, names of places, or any dating of events, or references to people or events outside of Arabia. It does not even have a particular narrative.
And what do we find in the Sira? Names of people, places, accurate dates, a good chronological narrative, more names, and more and more names.
Did I mention there are lots of names in the Sira? It’s so many it’s total joke !
I advise the reader to check the ridiculous listings up for himself, see page 188 of the pdf – the listing of people present at the battle of Badr – listing up 12(!) pages of names.
The Sira itself is strictly chronological, and describes events prior the Muhammads birth, his life and career ending with his death and burial. Lots of events are dated to year, month, and even day or days within a month. Also, the precise date a sura was revealed (i.e., chapter in the Quran) is also documented. This conveniently clarifies the correct order of the chapters in the Quran – and allows the believer to figure out what has been replaced with a “newer” verse.
So why is it that the Sira is so extremely full of what the Quran is missing? Can we see Christians and Jews criticizing the Quran, pointing out its lack of detail, and then the Caliph ordering this to be “corrected”?
Caliph: “Make me a history of the Prophet, and fill it with names and dates and places!”
It certainly seems as Ibn Ishaq has gone completely overboard in this respect.
Indeed – in view of what we know of the Quran, this use of names, places, dates is under the circumstances an anachronism. We should expect any sources from the same time and place as the Quran to be equally lacking in names, places, and dates.
It’s absurd to argue that two different oral traditions existed at the same time and place, one with careful dating of events to the nearest day – and another without any dating of events at all.
The stories in the Sira must have been created – made up – at a later date. And the extreme adding of names and dates suggests strongly that heavy critique had already been aimed at the Quran when this Sira was created.
Another telling anachronism in the Sira is the names of the months. Islam uses a lunar calendar with 12 months. It does not insert intercalendary months as the romans used to do (until Julius Caesar changed it to solar calendar). However, it was not always so.
During and before Muhammad – the Arabs had 12 months in a lunar calendar, but every 5 years or so they would insert an extra month, so that the seasons would stay in the same months. And it was only Muhammad who put an end to the extra months – towards the end of his life:
Sura 9:37 “Verily the transposing (of a prohibited month) is an addition to Unbelief: the Unbelievers are led to wrong thereby: for they make it lawful one year, and forbidden another year, in order to adjust the number of months forbidden by Allah and make such forbidden ones lawful. The evil of their course seems pleasing to them. But Allah guideth not those who reject Faith.”
And here is the point – never once does Ibn Ishaq mention an intercalendary month – he only ever mentions the 12 regular months. Thus – he loses more than half a year of the narrative without knowing it. Presumably he lived so far from the time when intercalendary months was used that he did not realize they were used during Muhammads lifetime. This is also an indication that his sources – if any – could not come from the time of the Quran.
It seems quite clear that the biography of Muhammad’s life is a later invention.
The Sira also creates a couple of theological problems. For example lots of people seem to claim Islam is a religion of peace. Yet, at the very battle of Badr mentioned above, chapter 8 of the Quran was revealed – Al-Anfal – concerning how to divide spoils of war.
Why would a religion of peace devote a whole chapter to dividing spoils of war?
Second, every time someone criticizes a Quran verse, a typical reply is that it must be understood in the place, context, and time it was revealed – like Al-Anfal above at the battle of Badr.
But the Quran is supposed to be perfect, if so – why is the vital information about when, where, and in what context each chapter is revealed not included? The Sira is here repairing the shortcomings of a “perfect book”.
Is this not this an admission in itself that the Quran is not perfect?
Some people have argued that Jesus never existed – based on the total lack of contemporary sources mentioning him. However we have 4 gospels and multiple letters written within decades of his life, and by people apparently with access to eye witnesses – so we must admit some documentation exists.
Christianity is also helped here by the extreme insignificance of Jesus himself. He preached to poor common people, women, and slaves – hardly those who make it into history themselves. In fact – we should not expect him to make it into any written history, as he did not riot or make any problems for the rulers of the land. Indeed his only meeting with them was when he got himself executed as a common criminal.
Indeed, the timeline from Jesus’ death to the first writings of Christianity seem quite reasonable: let’s say he died in Pontius Pilate’s last year, 36 AD. Then 14 years passes before the first letters of Paul, dated about ~ 50-60 AD. This is actually both within a generation of Jesus’ death, as well as a reasonable timeframe for having letters to distant Christian communities written.
Muhammed on the other side, is something totally different. This is a man who created history – first by conquering the whole sub continent of Arabia, and then having his direct successors conquering Persia and half of the previous Roman empire. This would put him in the rank of Cyrus the Great, Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar. Just like with these giants of history, we should expect Muhammad’s name on everybody’s lips, from Spain in the West to India in the East.
And we have nothing.
From “Seeing Islam as others saw it” the author (Hoyland) states:
“Yet before AH 72 (AD 694) the archeological record is strangely silent about Islam, and this despite the fact that we have a fair amount of material from this time. A similar problem occurs with regard to the Quran, which seems to have been ignored by Muslims as a source of law until the early eighth century (AD 700-799)
60 years of silence on the Quran and Muhammad – that’s close to 3 generations of no mentioning of either. Unthinkable if the stories of Muhammad are true.
What are we to make of these omissions?
Hoyland states: “It is of course true that only with the passage of time does a man become a hero and a book authoritative, but this does not explain the abruptness of the appearance of Muhammad and Islam in inscriptions, nor can it account the near immutability of the text of the Muslim scripture.”
The author further suggests that perhaps the Arabs coming out of the desert in 632 AD may at the time simply have been a continuation of earlier Arab kingdoms – hence nothing much really new. He also comments:
“These suggestions are meant only as stimuli to debate rather than solutions to the question, for it seems the problem in early Islam is not so much lack of the right materials, but of the right perspectives.”
So the problem is – for the first 60 years after the Arabs arrived, Muhammad is of no importance, and the Quran hardly mentioned. Then the Quran appears in writing, and suddenly the unimportant Muhammed becomes practically a demi-God, with the writing about him vastly outnumbering the pages of the Quran itself.
Even this seems absurd – why is the messenger apparently far more important than the message? And why did this happen more than 60 years after his death? After all – those who did the conquering were supposed to be his nearest friends, family, and followers. Yet, it was not until their great grand children came of age that Muhammad and the Quran “came to life”?
Now that we know of a struggle inside early Islam – as per my train of thought a year ago – we can put forward a timeline, and see how things match up. Observe when Muhammad, Sira, and Hadith becomes important. As for when the first quote from Quran first appears, I always believed it to be 692 AD on the Al-Aqsa mosque, but to my surprise I see it’s been rebuilt several times, hence how can we really know what was written on the first one – if anything.
632 AD: Conquest of Palestine, Syria, Persia, and Egypt starts.
717 AD: Arabs attempt to take Constantinople – but are humiliated and loses.
My guess is the Quran is assembled around this time, but before the end of the 8th century. It is at this point I suggest the idea that those who did the “assembly” of the Quran made the mistake of inserting contradictory texts into the Quran to make it the same size as NT.
When this has happened, Muhammad next becomes absolutely vital – the story of him being “in danger” in Mecca and “safe” in Medina is needed to explain away the contradictions. Now an industry of creating stories – histories – about Muhammed sets in.
Observe that this creation of the Quran explains 60 years of silence. The Arabs didn’t care that much about it, and they had no need for Muhammad. Now, it’s here – full of contradictions – and suddenly their honor is at stake.
And honor is very, very important to the Arabs. Now the Quran and Muhammad is a completely different ballgame – it’s about self-defense (or rather honor-defense).
754 AD – 775 AD: Caliph Al-Mansur starts copying all kinds of texts into Arabic during his reign. He may be the one who ordered a (fabricated) biography – Sira – of Muhammad to be created by Ibn Ishaq – this would be used to explain away contradictions in the Quran.
Honor trumps everything – create a history of Muhammad out of nothing if necessary.
786 AD – 809 AD: Caliph Harun Al-Rashid establishes House of Wisdom in Baghdad.
“… in which religious scholars were punished, imprisoned, or even killed unless they conceded the doctrine of the created nature of the Qur’an.” (i.e., the Caliph thought the Quran was written by people – not divinely revealed – apparently he was not willing to blindly accept the obvious fraud in front of him).
And this inquisition continues for 15 years until 848 AD.
Also this year, Muhammad Al-Bukhari (born 810 AD) is 23 years old, and is going to assemble the first – and most authoritative – Hadith, the Sahih al-Bukhari. This is in practice a common law system for Islam (as in UK/USA – previous verdicts shall guide future ones).
848 AD: Caliph Al-Mutawakkil puts an end to the Islamic inquisition (i.e., the attempt to force a rational view on the Quran). After his rule the Abbasids start going downhill.
850 AD: “In 850 Mutawakkil made a decree ordering Dhimmi wear garments to distinguish them from Muslims, their places of worship destroyed, demonic effigies nailed to the door, and that they be allowed little involvement government or official matters.”
“Mutawakkil ordered the ancient sacred Cypress of the Zoroastrians, Cypress of Kashmar to be cut down in order to use it in constructing his new palace despite the enormous protests from the Zoroastrian community. The cypress was of legendary values to the Zoroastrians, believed to be brought from Paradise to the earth by Zoroaster was more than 1400 years old at the time.”
This is an interesting change – what wrong did the dhimmis do to deserve such mistreatment? It’s almost like the Caliph needs to revenge an insult.
About Al-Mutawakkil the Wikipedia page states:
“Al-Mutawakkil was unlike his brother and father in that he was not known for having a thirst for knowledge, but he had an eye for magnificence and a hunger to build. … Al-Mutawakkil was keen to involve himself in many religious debates, something that would show in his actions against different minorities.”
Is this the man who ordered his scholars to find a non-aristotelian solution to the problems in the Quran? I.e., accept the (obviously) fabricated story of Muhammad’s life, Sira, to explain why there are contradictions in the Quran, and ordered hadiths to be collected so they could be used as a reference for how to interpret the Quran?
The timing is certainly perfect, Al-Bukhari is 38 years old here – did he receive the order to create the first hadith compilation? It’s interesting that just from now on Muhammad’s life becomes essential in creating a law code – why now – Islam is supposed to have been around for 150 years already.
And was verse 5:33 “needed” now – to end any and all future debate on the matter? 15 years of debate was enough?
Very few places have I used any “serious” sources. Wikipedia is and will always be a secondary source, and scholars should always aim for primary sources.
In these essays though – this is really not a problem. The facts I quote are never in dispute – they are accepted by muslims and non muslims alike.
What I’ve done is not question the facts, or change them, but rather present them differently. Islam has given us certain texts (Quran, Sira, Hadith) and told us when and how and why they were made.
I merely present an idea (a perspective?) of how the same texts came to be – in the same time frame – and with the same content.
A year ago I thought little of the Quran, believed Muhammad to be an historic figure, and that the Bible had little to contribute to the Western civilization.
Just like my fellow atheists and humanists.
Over the last year I’ve had to revisit some of those views. As was commented in the last article – the Bible may have been a main reason for the success of reason and science in the West. Islam and Muhammad on the other hand appears to be nothing but deception and forgery – a religion devoid of any redeemable features.
The lack of mentioning of Muhammad and quoting from the Quran in the beginning of Islamic history has long been regarded as “strange” or a mystery. Yet, if we simply think differently about the known facts, then it’s no mystery at all.
When the first Arab armies started conquering – there was no Islam – no Muhammad – perhaps just some sort of primitive monotheism – possibly based on Abraham. Then, after being confronted with the Bible and New Testament among their new subjects, as well as being beaten by the Byzantines in 717 AD – they were deeply humiliated and needed to show their religion was better.
They created a Quran – a book to equal the New Testament (if only in size).
Some time later, the contradictions in the Quran made them a laughing stock, and the Sira was created to explain away the contradictions (God lied in Mecca to protect Muhammad). This solution to the contradiction problem elevated “Muhammad” from insignificant nobody to absolutely vital in explaining how the Quran was to be understood.
From this moment on – Muhammad was “holy” and untouchable in Islam (but of course – not before this time).
The hadiths were needed to have some kind of practical legal framework to use (the Quran is unreadable, the Sira a mere biography) – hence they ended up with three different books – two to remedy the problems with the first.
Unlike Christianity and other religions – where the authors of the religious texts honestly believes in what they write – the Islamic “holy” texts seem more akin to outright forgery – the authors knew very well they were lying.
For 1200 years little critique or thought has been allowed concerning the Quran, Sira, or Hadith. Indeed Islam has strongly worked against any kind of rational thinking – and gone to great lengths to avoid any questioning of the Quran or Muhammad.
But – dear muslim reader – if God gave you the ability to reason – did he not expect you – ye demand you – to use it?
Islam seems to be a faith built on sand – a house of cards about to fall down.