By James Bishop|
1. Problems with the Koran: The Islamic Catch 22
It is important to observe that Muslims view the Koran as the book of divine guidance revealed from God to Muhammad (1). It is considered to be verbatim words of Allah to Muhammad through the angel Gabriel. So, if the Koran makes an error then it is Allah who also makes the error since he revealed it word for word to Muhammad. However, Muslims maintain that the Koran is infallible, which means that it is incapable of making mistakes or being wrong. I do not believe this to be the case.
The Koran seems to affirm the revelation of the holy book of Christians, the Bible. Numerous Koranic passages claim that the Koran is not only consistent with Christian scriptures but also that the Torah, the Psalms, and the Gospel (the “injil”) are previous revelations from Allah. The following verses are most relevant:
Surah 3:3 – “He has sent down upon you, [O Muhammad], the Book in truth, confirming what was before it. And He revealed the Torah and the Gospel.”
Surah 2:135 – Say, “We have believed in Allah and what (is) revealed to us and what was revealed to Ibrahim and Ismail and Ishaq and Yaqub and the descendants, and what was given (to) Musa and Isa and what was given (to) the Prophets from their Lord. Not we make distinction between any of them. And we to Him (are) submissive.”
Surah 4:163 – Indeed, We have revealed to you as We revealed to Nuh and the Prophets after him, and We revealed to Ibrahim and Ismail, and Ishaq and Yaqub, and the tribes, and Isa and Ayyub, and Yunus, and Harun and Sulaiman and We gave (to) Dawood the Zaboor.”
Surah 21:105 – “And We have written in Zabur (Psalms) after the advice that the land will be inherited by My righteous slaves.”
So, according to these passages within the Koran, Allah revealed the Torah and Psalms found within the Old Testament of the Christian Bible, as well as the Gospel to be found within the New Testament. Now, that the Koran affirms this raises significant issues that threaten to undermine the entire Islamic religion. Let’s examine a few of these,
i. The Crucifixion – The death of Jesus by means of Roman crucifixion is considered by all scholars to be a bedrock historical fact (2), though it is one fact that the Koran denies (Surah 4:157-58). The Koran presents the historically implausible scenario that it was only made to appear that Jesus was crucified, and, according to the late and historically questionable pseudepigraphical text, the Gospel of Barnabas, it was Judas who was crucified in Jesus’ place.
Note that the Gospel of Barnabas is not to be confused with the canonical gospels (Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John. The canonical gospels were all penned within the 1st century) of the New Testament. There are a number of issues one faces should he hold The Gospel of Barnabas to be an authoritative historical source on the crucifixion of the historical Jesus.
The most significant of these is that it was written long after the advent of Islam (which itself post-dates Christianity by nearly 700 years), and was likely penned some time within the 2nd millennium, and thus cannot be trusted as a historical source for any events within the 1st century (3).
Nonetheless, returning to the crucifixion, according to James Dunn the crucifixion of Jesus is of the “two facts in the life of Jesus command almost universal assent” and that it “rank[s] so high on the ‘almost impossible to doubt or deny’ scale of historical facts” (4). Prominent scholar Bart Ehrman agrees that “The crucifixion of Jesus by the Romans is one of the most secure facts we have about his life” (5).
There are several reasons for affirming the crucifixion of Jesus as bedrock history. One, the crucifixion is attested to in early sources. Two, it is independently attested in numerous Roman, Jewish, early Christian historical sources both within and external to the New Testament corpus. Three, it satisfies what scholars refer to as the criterion of embarrassment, the criterion of plausibility, and it contains Aramaic traces suggesting an early tradition.
Taken together all these give the crucifixion a very high historical probability. Four, it explains other historical data such as the gospel testimony of the flight of Jesus’ early disciples for fear of meeting a similar fate, the crucifixion as being an ultimate stumbling block for early Christian evangelical efforts (as mentioned by the earliest Christian writer, the Apostle Paul), and so on.
Atheist historian Gerd Ludemann thus concludes that “Jesus’ death as a result of crucifixion is indisputable” (6). Therefore, the Muslim who denies the crucifixion is not doing so because of historical reasons. He does so on theological grounds because he assumes the Koran is the word of God, thus, making the Koran the trump card over and above everything else saying anything to the contrary. The Koran, if one is simply open to evidence in history, must be judged as mistaken in its denial of the death of Jesus by crucifixion.
ii. Jesus, as Mistaken Prophet – Moreover, a far larger problem still yet presents itself to the Koran. This is that Jesus predicted his death, which is not particularly surprising given the tensions he cultivated with the religious authorities and leaders in his day and, according to him, his God ordained mission to save sinners by facing death by crucifixion as the ultimate sacrifice to make humankind right with God again.
Our historical gospel sources widely attest to Jesus’ prediction of his imminent violent death in Mark (8:31, 9:9, 9:30-31, 10:33-34, 10:45, 12:1-12 14:18-28), M (Sign of Jonah: Matt. 12:38-40), L (Prophet Cannot Die Outside of Jerusalem: Luke 13:32-33), John (2:18-22, 3:13-14; 8:28; 12:32-34), and possibly even within hypothetical Q. Thus, historically, that Jesus predicted his death is well established in early, multiple, and independent sources, and ought to be considered historical. This leads to the following point,
iii. The Islamic Catch 22 – But now arises the issue for Islam. One, is that the Muslim, according to his own holy book, has to accept the gospel testimony that Jesus prophesied his death, after all, the Koran says God revealed the Gospel (see Surahs 68, 70, 199). This seems to challenge the Muslim’s charge that the Gospel has been corrupted because if the Gospel truly has been corrupted then the Koran is mistaken.
It is mistaken in its assertion that Allah revealed the Gospel, unless Allah is a flawed being who makes grievous errors in revelation. However, the problem is propounded in that Muslims, in denying that Jesus actually died by crucifixion, essentially see Jesus as a false prophet since his predictions failed to come true.
However, the Koran repeatedly refers to Jesus as being a true prophet (see Surahs 2:87, 136, 253; 3:45; 4:171; 5:75; 57:27; 61:6). So, the Koran says that Jesus is a true prophet but, to the contrary, Jesus prophesied his death that the Koran denies ever happened. Either way, whether Jesus died by crucifixion or not, the Koran is wrong. This is what we can refer to as “The Islamic Catch 22,” and can be represented as follows:
1- The Koran claims that Jesus was a true prophet (2:87, 136, 253; 3:45; 4:171; 5:75; 57:27; 61:6)
2- Jesus prophesied his death (canonical gospels)
3- The Koran claims that Jesus never died (4:157-58)
4- The Koran is therefore mistaken on both fronts:
i. If Jesus did not die as he prophesied then he is a false prophet, and the Koran is mistaken.
ii. If Jesus did die then the Koran is mistaken.
5- Either way, the Koran is mistaken.
6- The Koran is not the infallible, revealed word of God.
Given this insurmountable objection to the Koran I cannot hold it to being the infallible word of God.
2. Responding to The Central Argument for the Truth of Islam: Literary Excellence
This is the main argument for the Koran, namely the argument from literary excellence (7). The common argument, as put forth by one Muslim, is that “Only the holy Quran achieves the highest level of literary excellence – so much so that it brings people to ecstasy and tears.
Quran is so masterfully written, so brilliant and awe-inspiring in every detail, it could only have come from God. It deal with matters of belief, law, politics, ritual, spirituality, and economics in an ‘entirely new literary form. There does not exist a single book, secular or religious, which has as many memorisers of it, as the holy Quran” (8),
We find support for this in Surah 2:23-24 in which the Prophet Muhammad said, “And if you are in doubt about what We have sent down upon Our Servant [Muhammad], then produce a surah the like thereof and call upon your witnesses other than Allah, if you should be truthful.”
This passage is addressed to those who doubt the revelation of the Koran and that the revelation comes from God. The Koran thus lays down a simple challenge: if one doesn’t believe the Koran is the world of God then try and produce something, a chapter or a text, as wonderful as it. It can represented in the following syllogism:
1- If unbelievers can’t produce something comparable to a chapter of the Koran, then it must be from God.
2- Unbelievers can’t produce something comparable to a chapter of the Koran.
3- Therefore, the Koran must be from God.
Now, the logic of this argument is ironclad in that it commits no logical fallacies. The real question, however, is whether or not we should accept its premises. In fact, both premise 1 and 2 can be rejected. Consider just a few short chapters from the Koran,
Surah 108 – “Surely We have given you Kausar, Therefore pray to your Lord and make a sacrifice. Surely your enemy is the one who shall be without posterity.”
Surah 109 – “Say, “O disbelievers, I do not worship what you worship. Nor are you worshippers of what I worship. Nor will I be a worshipper of what you worship. Nor will you be worshippers of what I worship. For you is your religion, and for me is my religion.”
Surah 111 – “May the hands of Abu Lahab be ruined, and ruined is he. His wealth will not avail him or that which he gained. He will [enter to] burn in a Fire of [blazing] flame. And his wife [as well] – the carrier of firewood. Around her neck is a rope of [twisted] fiber.”
Now, I contend that these texts are hardly remarkable. Do we spot anything truly exceptional in them? Is there anything within these passages that are so gripping and unique that it should persuade unbelievers that they are the very infallible words of God? Of course not. On what grounds are these words from the Koran so profound that nothing like them can be produced?
In fact, far from it being humanly impossible to write something like this, there is literature, both present and ancient, that exceeds it many ways in depth, form, style, beauty, and wisdom. I’m not saying that these Koranic texts are terrible, rather, what I am arguing is that they certainly aren’t anything that would stand out to convince anyone that they come from God.
Thus, premise 1 must be false unless, by logical inference, all of the world’s most prolific and talented authors received their works from God! This is a problem for the Koran since should one be able to write something like these texts then, by the Koran’s own standard, we can reject the Koran.
But what about the Muslim’s retort that such passages are English translations of the Koran, and that the Koran’s miraculous nature is only seen in the original Arabic? This response is problematic in at least three ways.
First, the problem is that in both Arabic and English these Surahs are no more than a composition of words put together and arranged to convey some sort of meaning. Simply put, the sentences mean what they mean in both languages. So, it really doesn’t matter if we receive the message in Arabic or English.
Secondly, this response doesn’t make much sense given that it would seem to say that only a very few people could ever be capable of examining the central argument for Islam, namely, its literary excellence. So, is Islam’s central argument off limits to the vast majority of the world including many Arabic speakers who, as opposed to a few, are untrained in Classical Arabic?
Indeed. Thus, as an argument for the Koran, the argument is essentially pointless and therefore useless for convincing anyone of the divine miracle that is the Koran. This also raises the question as to why Allah is incapable of revealing the Koran in a more suitable language.
But Muhammad’s claim of literary excellence didn’t fall on deaf ears by some of his earliest followers, some of whom were openly unimpressed by the Koran. For example, we learn that a man named Nadr ibn al-Harith used to follow Muhammad around the city of Mecca, and when Muhammad would recite a passage from the Koran, al-Harith would stand up and say, “I can tell a better story than that” (9). al-Harith would then recite some verses of his own, and challenge the listeners by saying,
“In what way is Muhammad’s story better than mine?” There was also Abdullah ibn Sarh, one of Muhammad’s earliest scribes who would leave Islam temporarily because he became convinced that the Koran was not inspired (10). After all, if the Koran was inspired by Allah, what mere scribe should be allowed to change the words as ibn Sarh himself did?
Sahr thus became a twofold threat, one, to the credibility of the Koran and, two, the Muhammad himself. Sometime later when Muhammad had conquered Mecca he order a number of people to be executed (11), and one such person in his list was ibn Sarh due to him being an apostate (12).
Though Muhammad wanted to kill ibn Sarh, he later pardoned him. ibn Sarh would soon become a Muslim again though his damage to the credibility of Koran could not be reversed. al-Harith wasn’t so lucky, however, as Muhammad ordered his decapitation for daring to challenge him.
Furthermore, a linguistic approach suggests that not only is the Koran in any way unique, but also that it has its own problems. Ali Dashti, a 20th century scholar from Iran, explained that
“The Qur’an contains sentences which are incomplete and not fully intelligible without the aid of commentaries; foreign words, unfamiliar Arabic words, and words used with other than the normal meaning; adjectives and verbs inflected without observance of the concords of gender and number; illogically and ungrammatically applied pronouns which sometimes have no referent; and predicates which in rhymed passages are often remote from the subjects. These and other such aberrations in the language have given scope to critics who deny the Qor’an’s eloquence” (13).
It has also been argued that roughly a fifth of the Koran’s text is incomprehensible (14), and given that there is no linearity to the Koran (i.e. no beginning, middle, or end), its textual arrangement has been thought to demonstrate a lack of continuity, and repetitiousness, a fact that “has given rise in the past to a great deal of criticism by European and American scholars of Islam, who find the Quran disorganized, repetitive and very difficult to read” (15).
Again, the Koran is nothing that we would consider unique or miraculous in any sense of the word.
3. Historical Issues on Baby Jesus
Though we’ve seen the historically problematic hypothesis put forward by the Koran and the Gospel of Barnabas seeking to account for the historical fact of Jesus’ crucifixion, we find further historical issues in the Koran pertaining to other aspects of Jesus’ life, notably his birth and childhood.
The New Testament gospels teach that Jesus was born in Bethlehem during the time of Caesar Augustus and the reign of King Herod over Bethlehem (Luke 1:5; Matt. 2:1). Jesus was also allegedly born in a stable and, upon being born, was visited by some shepherds who were apparently told of his birth by angels (Matt. 2:1-12).
According to the story Herod, threatened by Jesus being a newborn king, set out to kill him (Matt. 2:16-18). Fearing for their lives Joseph fled with Jesus to Egypt (Matt. 2:13-23) and only after Herod’s death returned to Nazareth where Jesus grew up (Matt. 2:19). In Luke’s gospel we also find a story in which Jesus, at the age of 12, is learning in the temple (Luke 2:41-52).
The Koran, however, doesn’t leave this part of Jesus’ life blank, and, contrary to the gospels, says that Jesus was born in the desert under a palm tree. According to Sura 19:24-25 when the pains of childbirth came upon Mary she held onto a nearby palm tree.
This is accompanied by a voice that came from “beneath the (palm-tree)” saying “Grieve not! for thy Lord hath provided a rivulet beneath thee; And shake towards thyself the trunk of the palm-tree: It will let fall fresh ripe dates upon thee.” Later when Mary was questioned as to how she had the baby the Koran says that Jesus begun to speak in his cradle of his prophecy for the first time (Surah 19:27-33).
The historical problems for the Koranic account of Jesus’ birth are significant. One, is that the Koran is drawing this portrait of baby Jesus from the apocryphal Gospel of Pseudo Matthew (not to be confused with the Gospel of Matthew in the New Testament). The parallels with this specific story within the Koran and the apocryphal Gospel of Pseudo Matthew are clear (16).
The issue is that Pseudo Matthew is a very late text as it is dated somewhere between 600 and 625 AD. That is nearly 600 full years after Jesus’ life (17). Not only is this late date problematic for using it as a historical source but we also find that Pseudo Matthew conflicts with the information within much earlier historical material, namely, that of the gospels of Matthew and Luke that were written well within the 1st century (+-80 AD) and probably 40 to 50 years after Jesus’ death.
No historian will view Pseudo Matthew, and the Koran that uses such a source, as more historically reliable than the accounts in the gospel of Matthew and Luke. Worse, however, is Pseudo Matthew is based on two known works of fiction such as the Infancy Gospel of James and the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, also both late sources themselves.
The Koran further attempts to divorce Jesus from his Jewish background and thus make him conform to Islam. For example, the Koran picks up other suspect pseudo-works including the Arabic Gospel of the Infancy of the Savior (18), which is also late being dated somewhere between 400 and 500 AD (19), and The Infancy Gospel of Thomas, dated to the late 2nd century (20).
But why does this pose a significant challenge to the Koran? The reason is because the Koran picks up information from known forged pseudepigraphical works, and inserts such data into its own body and presents it as if it is real history pertaining to the 1st century historical Jesus.
How can anyone be asked to trust the Koran when the sources it uses as its source material cannot themselves be trusted? The Koran is unreliable and cannot be the infallible word of God.
4. Arguments from the Morally Flawed Nature of Allah.
i – Allah is Not the Greatest Conceivable Being – I think a devastating argument can be made against the God that Muslims believed revealed the Koran from what we might term “perfect being theology.”
According to perfect being theology when one says “God,” God is thought to be the greatest conceivable being. There is no being that can be conceived of that is greater than God. In fact, if something greater than what we believed to be God existed, then that greater being would be God.
Now, the greatest conceivable being must possess what we might call great-making properties, namely moral perfection, omniscience, and omnipotence. For example, a God that is not omnipotent (all-powerful), such as in its inability and power to control, say, nature or the natural world, cannot be referred to as the greatest conceivable. In other words, in some sense this God would be subject to the physical universe.
But surely God, if he exists, is supreme over creation. Moreover, a God that is not omniscient (all-knowing) in that, for example, there are facts in the world that he does not know also cannot be the greatest conceivable being. A being that is infinite in knowledge is greater than a being that is limited in knowledge. Further, a God that exists contingently is limited in that it must owe its existence to something else, and is even at threat of going out of existence at some point in the future.
Thus, quite rightly, if some individual came up to me and said that he is God, I’d reject his or her claim on the basis that human beings are limited, finite, contingent things. Human beings are limited in knowledge, power, and moral goodness, and cannot claim to possess great-making properties, and therefore be God.
Thus, a being that is not contingent is greater than a being that is. This presupposition seems to be intuitively and necessarily true, since nothing can be greater than God, and Muslims would fully agree that Allah is indeed the greatest conceivable being.
Now, this presents a problem for the God of the Muslims. Why? Because Allah is presented in the Koran as being overtly partial, for example, Allah does not love sinners and unbelievers:
Surah 3:31-32 – “Obey Allah and the Apostle; but if they turn back, then surely Allah does not love the unbelievers.”
Surah 3:43-45 – “He may reward those who believe and do good out of His grace; surely He does not love the unbelievers.”
Surah 2:277 – “God loves not the impious and sinners.”
Allah’s love is thus conditional. Though the Koran does state that Allah loves those who are pure (2:222), who do good deeds (2:195), are righteous (9:7), and those who fight in his cause (61:4), it also tells us whom he doesn’t love; he doesn’t love transgressors (2:190), ungrateful sinners (2:276), the unjust (3:57), or the proud (4:36). So, Allah is not all loving, but rather conditional in his love.
Think of how devastating this is for children. We would be morally repulsed at a parent whose love is strictly conditional. Such a parent would likely say that “I will only love you if you do X and Y, my love must be earned.” Such would no doubt create an emotionally unstable child.
Thus, if Allah was really is what we would refer to as the greatest conceivable being then his love should be unconditional, all encompassing, and impartial. But it is not, thus Allah is morally flawed, and therefore cannot be God. A being that is morally perfect is greater than a being that is morally flawed.
ii – Salvation as a System of Fear – The Islamic doctrine of salvation is concerning. In the Koran we discover that even the best Muslims did not know what Allah was going to do with them on judgment day, this includes Muhammad himself (see Surah 46: 9). Even one of Muhammad’s closest companions Abu Bakr, Islam’s first caliph/leader, would say that “If I had one foot in paradise, I would still fear Allah’s deception” (21).
What this suggests is that no Muslim today knows what Allah is going to do with them on judgment day. In fact, in societies in which secular norms are most prevalent, what would a Muslim feel if he knows that he is failing to live a life as a Muslim should according to the prophet Muhammad? Perhaps he spends much time engaging in sinful means of entertainment, drinking himself into a stupor, lust, and partying.
There is surely no way that such a Muslim could ever feel safe when it comes down to whether he will inherit paradise or be condemned to hell by Allah. However, according to Sahih al-Bukhari 2787, Muhammad said that there is a way that all Muslims can be confident that Allah will approve of them and that they will enter paradise. This is Jihad, and though Jihad can refer to several things, this is best understood as holy war on unbelievers (22).
This, says Muhammad, is that “Allah guarantees that He will admit the Mujahid [the jihadi, someone who wages jihad] in His Cause into Paradise if he is killed, otherwise He will return him to his home safely with rewards and war booty.”
Thus, declares Muhammad, if the Muslim is killed while waging Jihad, Allah will guarantee him a place in paradise. This is a ticket to heaven, so to speak, and is no doubt enticing for Muslims who feel they’ve failed to live up to Islamic teachings. However, Allah still makes him an offer, and that is to indiscriminately kill unbelievers, an act that shall earn him his salvation. This no doubt factors into why Muslim extremists engage in acts of terrorism across the world.
There are two issues that I have here. One, is that Islamic teaching on salvation incites violence and therefore must be condemned as morally evil. Two, that Allah instills fear into Muslims, even the ones who are most dedicated and passionate about their religion. They too must live in fear not knowing what Allah has in stall for them on judgment day.
5. The Flawed Nature of the Prophet Muhammad & Muhammad as a Questionable Authority.
I find that there are several reasons as to why I cannot view Muhammad as a true prophet of God even though Muslims will affirm Muhammad’s greatness in no uncertain terms, for example, one commentator says that “Fortunately [there is] no person’s life in history is better recorded than the life of Prophet Muhammad and no shortage of wonderful works exist to relate his life” (23).
As a claim of history this statement is patently false. Quite to the contrary there are many historical persons for whom we have far better historical evidence for than Muhammad (from Roman politician and general Julius Caesar to the military leader Alexander the Great). In fact, there are evidential difficulties presented to historians wishing to learn about Muhammad.
Though we have numerous sources referring to him as a historical person, these sources are often far removed from his life by more than a century (the Hadith literature and the earliest Sira work by Ibn Ishaq, for example). If historians want to get early information on Muhammad then they have little more than several Surahs in the Koran of which directly refer to the prophet of which yield little in the way of biographical information.
Though we see the world through Muhammad’s life in the Koran, we do not actually learn much about him. Thus, far from Muhammad’s life in history being better recorded than any other, there are no historical sources of any detail on Muhammad’s life that fall within a century, and no source trusted by the majority of Muslims within two centuries. However, this is just the historical question, in fact, I find the moral issues far more challenging.
Surely if one were to try and convince others that he was sent by God we would, if we don’t just outright reject his claim, wish to determine if what he says and does is representative of the claim. There are several ways I believe the Prophet Muhammad fails to satisfy this criteria:
i. According to Surah 40:55 Muhammad was capable of committing sin. In other words, Muhammad was very much like ordinary people in that all human beings are sinners. Sin signifies crime, offense, and any act having an evil result or intent. If Muhammad was just an ordinary man in this regard then why should I believe that he was God’s messenger?
ii. Muhammad stands in as the leading example of how Muslims are to conduct themselves (Surah 33:21). However, we find within the biography of Ibn Ishaq that Muhammad tried to kill himself because he didn’t want his tribe to say that he was possessed by a jinn, “I will go to the top of the mountain and throw myself down that I may kill myself and gain rest.
So I went forth to do so and then when I was midway on the mountain, I heard a voice from heaven saying, “O Muhammad! thou art the apostle of God and I am Gabriel.” Similarly, the Hadith literature says that Muhammad, several occasions, intended to throw himself from the top of high mountains (Sahih al-Bukhari 6982).
Now, how can I put my trust of salvation in someone, said to be the greatest prophet and an individual of unparalleled moral perfection, if that person repeatedly attempted to commit suicide? Rather than putting my faith and trust in such a person, and attempt to emulate his example, such a person open suicidal thoughts requires medical help and intervention.
iii. According to Sahih Al-Bukhari 3175, Muhammad was a victim of a magic spell. This is alleged to have given him delusional thoughts and false beliefs. According to Sahih Al-Bukhari, Aisha said that “Once the Prophet was bewitched so that he began to imagine that he had done a thing which in fact, he had not done.”
Again, same question as posed above, how can I trust someone who was controlled by a magic spell? Even worse, however, is that Surah 2:102 says that magic comes from demons as it is they who teach people magic. Would that suggest that Muhammad was susceptible to demonic influences?
iv. Muhammad committed many morally evil acts. Firstly, in his fight against those in Mecca, Muhammad gained an advantage through hijacking Meccan caravans that were transported through the desert. In one case some Muslim invaders killed a man during the Nakhla Raid while there existed a truce between Muslims and non-Muslims. Muhammad’s tactics were incredibly harsh on those who relied on the goods being transported in the caravans.
For example, Meccan families would have invested much, if not all, of their income into resources being brought in through these caravans. However, Muhammad attacked the caravans which would have left families starving and resourceless. That was his intent: to throttle his Meccan enemies in any way possible. In fact, though Muhammad’s raids often failed miserably he would eventually be successful. Muhammad likely took part in 27 violent campaigns during his military career (24).
A further moral evil was in Muhammad’s commanding of his followers to kill critics of Islam. In one case a defenseless old man, Abu Afak, penned a poem about Muhammad because he believed that he was dividing people and causing them to kill one another. Muhammad learned of this and, according to Ibn Ishaq, had him killed, “Who will deal with this rascal for me?” Whereupon Salim b. Umayr, brother of B. Amr b. Auf, one of the “weepers”, went forth and killed him.”
Moreover, after Muhammad had captured Mecca in 630 AD he demanded that two female slaves be put to death alongside their master after having mocked him in a song (Ibn Ishaq, Hisham 819, Abu Dawud 2684). And where Muhammad did spare the lives of women it was not out of compassion as opposed to the fact that they were considered property.
Muhammad also ordered that a Jewish woman be put to death for losing her mind while her male relatives were being beheaded (Ibn Ishaq, Hisham 691) while Muhammad also tortured many captives (Muslim 4131, Ibn Ishaq 436, 595, 734, 764). Muhammad’s message was clear to his followers: people who criticized Islam or him must be executed. In fact, many early Muslims emulated Muhammad’s example and killed those who criticized his name.
According to Sunan Abu Dawud 4348, there was a blind man who had a slave-mother “who used to abuse the Prophet and disparage him.” Though the blind man forbade her to criticize Muhammad she did not listen and one night “he took a dagger, placed it on her belly, pressed it, and killed her.” Sunan Abu Dawud 4349 further recounts an incident where a Jewish woman who had disparaged Muhammad was strangled to death by a Muslim.
v. As we’ve now seen, Muhammad committed heinous acts against enemies, harmless opponents, women, towns and a city, and people who did not accept Islam. Muhammad’s commands and actions likely resulted in deaths of over 1000 people (25). However, there are indeed acts that he committed that didn’t always involve blood and slaughter.
For example, he permitted lying (Sahih Muslim 6303, Bukhari 49:85), slavery and the trading of human beings (Sahih Muslim 3901), sex slaves (Bukhari 5:268, Surah 33:50), and even had sex with a nine year old girl (Bukhari 5:268, Surah 33:50). The Koran and other Islamic texts also instruct husbands to beat their disobedient wives (Surah 4:34, Sahih Muslim 2127).
vi. Muhammad also employed a double standard, and this, in my mind, renders serious doubt over the alleged revelation and infallibility of the Koran. Surah 4:3 says that Muslim men are allowed to have up to four wives at one time, however, we find that Muhammad was married to 11 wives at one time. According to Sahih al-Bukhari 268, “Anas bin Malik said, ‘The Prophet used to visit all his wives in a round, during the day and night and they were eleven in number.’
I asked Anas, ‘Had the Prophet the strength for it?’ Anas replied, ‘We used to say that the Prophet was given the strength of thirty (men).’ And Sa’id said on the authority of Qatada that Anas had told him about nine wives only (not eleven).”
One would be fully in his or her right to question as to why Muslim men could marry no more than four wives whereas Muhammad could marry many more. The answer to this is that Muhammad simply exempted himself of having to adhere to the standards he enforced on his followers.
In other words, Allah’s revealed revelation, the Koran, makes exceptions for Muhammad which would seem to satisfy Muhammad’s own desires. One wonders if this is Muhammad speaking over and above God. One wonders if God had any role to play in the Koran itself.
Summary of Muhammad
The problems facing the historical Muhammad are significant. When I examine Muhammad from our Islamic source I see someone who was power hungry, ruthless and violent, and intolerant of his enemies as well as his opponents, many of whom presented him no threat. We also find a man that was susceptible to the influences of magic, someone who attempted to commit suicide by hurling himself off of cliffs, had sexual relations with many women, had sex with a nine year old girl, and who consented to slavery and sex slaves.
He even exempted himself of having to adhere to the same standards as he instructed his followers to obey. I therefore strongly fail to see how God would choose to reveal himself in such a man, and I therefore find it impossible to accept that Muhammad was God’s messenger, and that the Koran is God’s word.
Summary of Why I am Not a Muslim
This essay has outlined several major reasons as to why I am not a Muslim. These reasons come directly from the Koran, the Prophet Muhammad, and the Islamic concept of God, all of which I have argued are problematic in several ways.
Rather than the Koran being the infallible word of God, what I find is a morally and historically problematic text. The Koran simply gets things wrong and is confronted by an insurmountable contradiction. It gets facts about the life the historical Jesus plainly wrong, and often relies on late forgeries for its information.
Allah also fails to satisfy perfect being theology as he is morally flawed. The Prophet Muhammad too must be rejected on moral grounds for the several reasons listed above. For the reasons I cannot consider myself to be a Muslim.