Blogging the Qur’an: Sura 1, “The Opening”

posted at 9:00 am on June 3, 2007 by Robert Spencer

The Fatiha (Opening) is the first sura (chapter) of the Qur’an and most common prayer of Islam. If you’re a pious Muslim who prays the five requisite daily prayers of Islam, you will recite the Fatiha seventeen times in the course of those prayers. According to an Islamic tradition, the Muslim prophet Muhammad said that the Fatiha surpassed anything revealed by Allah (“the God” in Arabic, and the word for God used by Arabic-speaking Christians and Jews, as well as Muslims) in the Torah, the Gospel, or the rest of the Qur’an. And indeed, it efficiently and eloquently encapsulates many of the principal themes of the Qur’an and Islam in general: Allah as the “Lord of the Worlds,” who alone is to be worshiped and asked for help, the merciful judge of every soul on the Last Day.

In Islamic theology, Allah is the speaker of every word of the Qur’an. Some have found it strange that Allah would say something like “praise be to Allah, Lord of the worlds,” but the traditional Islamic understanding is that Allah revealed this prayer to Muhammad early in his career as a prophet (which began in the year 610 AD, when he received his first revelation from Allah through the angel Gabriel – a revelation that is now contained in the Qur’an’s 96th chapter) so that the Muslims would know how to pray.

It is for its last two verses that the Fatiha is of most concern to non-Muslims, and for which it has been in the news lately. A Shi’ite imam, Husham Al-Husainy, ignited controversy by paraphrasing this passage during a prayer at a Democratic National Committee winter meeting, giving the impression that he was praying that the assembled pols convert to Islam. Then Imam Yusuf Kavakci of the Dallas Central Mosque prayed the Fatiha at the Texas State Senate, giving rise to the same concerns.

The final two verses of the Fatiha asks Allah: “Show us the straight path, the path of those whom Thou hast favoured; not the (path) of those who earn Thine anger nor of those who go astray.” The traditional Islamic understanding of this is that the “straight path” is Islam — cf. Islamic apologist John Esposito’s book Islam: The Straight Path. The path of those who have earned Allah’s anger are the Jews, and those who have gone astray are the Christians.

The classic Qur’anic commentator Ibn Kathir explains that “the two paths He described here are both misguided,” and that those “two paths are the paths of the Christians and Jews, a fact that the believer should beware of so that he avoids them. The path of the believers is knowledge of the truth and abiding by it. In comparison, the Jews abandoned practicing the religion, while the Christians lost the true knowledge. This is why ‘anger’ descended upon the Jews, while being described as ‘led astray’ is more appropriate of the Christians.”

Ibn Kathir’s understanding of this passage is not a lone “extremist” interpretation. In fact, most Muslim commentators believe that the Jews are those who have earned Allah’s wrath and the Christians are those who have gone astray. This is the view of Tabari, Zamakhshari, the Tafsir al-Jalalayn, the Tanwir al-Miqbas min Tafsir Ibn Abbas, and Ibn Arabi, as well as Ibn Kathir. One contrasting, but not majority view, is that of Nisaburi, who says that “those who have incurred Allah’s wrath are the people of negligence, and those who have gone astray are the people of immoderation.”

Wahhabis drew criticism a few years back for adding “such as the Jews” and “such as the Christians” into parenthetical glosses on this passage in Qur’ans printed in Saudi Arabia. Some Western commentators imagined that the Saudis originated this interpretation, and indeed the whole idea of Qur’anic hostility toward Jews and Christians. Muslims all over the world learn as a matter of course that the central prayer of their faith anathematizes Jews and Christians.

But unfortunately, this interpretation is venerable and mainstream in Islamic theology. The printing of the interpretation in parenthetical glosses into a translation would be unlikely to affect Muslim attitudes, since the Arabic text is always and everywhere normative in any case, and since so many mainstream commentaries contain the idea that the Jews and Christians are being criticized here. Seventeen times a day, by the pious.

Please note that I am not saying that the anti-Jewish and anti-Christian interpretation of the Fatiha is the “correct” one. While I don’t believe that religious texts are infinitely malleable and can be made to mean whatever the reader wants them to mean, as some apparently do, in this case Nisaburi’s reading has as much to commend it as the other: there is nothing in the text itself that absolutely compels one to believe that it is talking about Jews and Christians. And it is noteworthy that in his massive and evocatively named 30-volume commentary on the Qur’an, Fi Zilal al-Qur’an (In the Shade of the Qur’an), the twentieth-century jihad theorist Sayyid Qutb doesn’t mention Jews or Christians in connection with this passage. At the same time, however, the idea in Islam that Jews have earned Allah’s anger and Christians have gone astray doesn’t depend on this passage alone. The Jews have earned Allah’s anger by rejecting Muhammad (2:87-90), and the Christians have gone astray by holding to the divinity of Christ (5:72).

The Hadith, the traditions of the words and deeds of Muhammad and the early Muslims, also contains material linking Jews to Allah’s anger and Christians to his curse, which resulting from their straying from the true path. (The Jews are accursed also, according to Qur’an 2:89, and both are accursed according to 9:30). One hadith recounts that an early Muslim, Zaid bin ‘Amr bin Nufail, in his travels met with Jewish and Christian scholars. The Jewish scholar told him, “You will not embrace our religion unless you receive your share of Allah’s Anger,” and the Christian said, “You will not embrace our religion unless you get a share of Allah’s Curse.” Zaid, needless to say, became a Muslim.

In light of these and similar passages it shouldn’t be surprising that many Muslim commentators have understood the Fatiha to be encapsulating these views.

Next week: An introduction to the longest chapter of the Qur’an, Sura 2, “The Cow,” and a brief overview of verses 1-39.

(Here is a good Arabic/English Qur’an, here are two popular Muslim translations, those of Abdullah Yusuf Ali and Mohammed Marmaduke Pickthall, along with a third by M. H. Shakir. Here is another popular translation, that of Muhammad Asad. And here is an omnibus of ten Qur’an translations.)


Related Posts:

Breaking on Hot Air

Blowback

Note from Hot Air management: This section is for comments from Hot Air's community of registered readers. Please don't assume that Hot Air management agrees with or otherwise endorses any particular comment just because we let it stand. A reminder: Anyone who fails to comply with our terms of use may lose their posting privilege.

Trackbacks/Pings

Trackback URL

Comments

Thanks again Robert and HotAir. This was a really good idea. I look forward to reading and studying, sadly, after the yardwork.

Canadian Infidel on June 3, 2007 at 9:07 AM

Some have found it strange that Allah would say something like “praise be to Allah, Lord of the worlds,”

I’m not sure why this would be strange, even if one interpreted it as being a first person statement by Allah. To me it seems similar to various passages in Isaiah wherein God is speaking in first person about His own greatness. If all beings serve Allah, even Allah, then all praise, even from Allah, is due Him. A similar comparison I suppose could be made with Christ praising God, though it’s more tenuous of course.

Lehosh on June 3, 2007 at 9:17 AM

Thank you, Mr. Spencer.

It is shocking how little we know about what’s actually in the Koran. The first thing I did after 9/11 was pick up a copy. I was quite surprised by what I found in it – we “us against them” mentality on almost every page, and the vengeful tone, and the near total lack of anything we in the West would call wisdom – and I now recommend that people read it whenever I can. Ignorance of the Koran is certainly not bliss.

Looking forward to more of this.

Halley on June 3, 2007 at 9:22 AM

Is there a reasonable explanation as to why the early Koranic scholars chose to ignore chronology and assemble the suras in order of descending length? I understand that the Koran was not intended to be read in chronological order, but this structure seems completely nonsensical.

RedWinged Blackbird on June 3, 2007 at 9:42 AM

There is a subtle genius of the Koran, which takes the beautiful framework of Judaism that evolved into Christianity and then turns it against itself by promoting the tribal hatred and license for violence that is such a core principle for an unenlightened mind.

The Koran is the handbook for a theology which promotes the worse in human nature while suppressing the very things that makes us what God intended us to become, such as the working relationship of man and women, the love of others even if they are different and a sense of trying to understand what seems foreign in an effort to appreciate His creation instead of destroying it. Islam has spread through fire and the sword in an effort to counter God’s plan for creation. It’s goal is far beyond the Semitic mindset of theocracy, suppression of women and exclusion of all else since it requires the added nuance of destroying all else.

If the devil’s greatest trick was to convince mankind he does not exist, than Islam ranks beside him by having mankind believe Islam’s status of victim after almost two thousand years of genocide and wiping out cultures whenever it has the technology to spread its evil beyond the murders in smaller numbers we see today.

Hening on June 3, 2007 at 9:59 AM

Outstanding job, Robert. You just reassured me why I believe you are one of the best scholars on Islam. I enjoy your books, your website, and look forward to reading your posts each week on HotAir.

Dittohead on June 3, 2007 at 10:00 AM

Is there a reasonable explanation as to why the early Koranic scholars chose to ignore chronology and assemble the suras in order of descending length? I understand that the Koran was not intended to be read in chronological order, but this structure seems completely nonsensical.

RedWinged Blackbird on June 3, 2007 at 9:42 AM

I’ve wondered about that myself. It makes it tough to correlate Koranic revelations with the chronology of Mohammed’s life.

flipflop on June 3, 2007 at 10:03 AM

I read up on what different sects of Muslims believe and how and where the split occurred. These splits are similar to the differences found in Christianity. The difference is the ways by which those differences are dealt with. While Christians, for the most part (except for the scum “Christians” that bash Mormons and other faiths), allow God to make the judgment of who is a Christian, Muslims seem absolutely content in killing those Muslims who don’t believe as they do. This is evil. And if any religious teachings can be referred to as “The Great Whore”, as described in Revelations, it has to be a significant portion of the followers of Muhammad.

Thank you Mr. Spencer. I look forward to being able to speak more accurately on the threat of Islamic fascism.

csdeven on June 3, 2007 at 10:13 AM

With all due respect because I really like you guys, I don’t have to read the Koran to know it’s evil. Just like I don’t need to try crack to know it’s bad. Thanks anyway.

PoliticallyIncorrectSandy on June 3, 2007 at 10:22 AM

With all due respect because I really like you guys, I don’t have to read the Koran to know it’s evil.

“Know thine enemy as thyself.”
– Sun Tsu, The Art of War

RedWinged Blackbird on June 3, 2007 at 10:27 AM

It’s fascinating that it opens with an “attack” on Christians and Jews which is repeated 17 times a day. It explains a great deal.

TheBigOldDog on June 3, 2007 at 10:30 AM

PoliticallyIncorrectSandy on June 3, 2007 at 10:22 AM

I respect your stance, but I intend to learn as much about the enemy as every one of them know about me.

amerpundit on June 3, 2007 at 10:32 AM

BTW, Robert, I look forward to future posts.

amerpundit on June 3, 2007 at 10:33 AM

One of my favorite resources.

Guardian on June 3, 2007 at 10:52 AM

This is a very interesting and thought provoking first installment… thanks

I have just finished reading “The Cow” and look forward to next weeks’ explanation.

One thing however, I could use a pronunciation guide for some of the words!

Thanks again Robert.

Zorro on June 3, 2007 at 11:13 AM

If the devil’s greatest trick was to convince mankind he does not exist, than Islam ranks beside him by having mankind believe Islam’s status of victim after almost two thousand years of genocide and wiping out cultures whenever it has the technology to spread its evil beyond the murders in smaller numbers we see today.

Hening on June 3, 2007 at 9:59 AM

Ya know, we’ve been hearing this kind of thing over and over from the Islamic world, that Islam is the constant victim, that there is a vast consperacy to destroy Islam, we are attacking in defence because Islam is the victim, yada, yada….

Problem is this is the very definition of a self fulfilling prophesy. If we (the non-Muslim world) keep getting constantly attacked because we are non-Muslim, eventually we will have no choice but to attack Islam itself. Of course then the Islamic world will stand up and triumphantly proclaim “See, we were right all along”. In the meantime, those who have already come to this conclusion, if they state the thought on-line in blogs all over (or anywhere else in the politicly correct world), they are chastized or banned, even here. I have yet to hear a workable, realistic alternative to outright war with the theology of Islam from anyone, anywhere, including Muslim apostates who presumably have freinds and family they care about and would not want in harms way.

Please note, I am not advocating war here, just noting its inevitabillity. If someone does have a workable, realistic alternative, I would love to hear it.

P. James Moriarty on June 3, 2007 at 11:16 AM

It seems from the beginning that while the Old and new Testaments concern themselves with the teachings of God and Christ the Qur’an instead expends considerable effort demonizing other religions and the people who practice them.

With Muslims, is this then a game of liars dice? If I become a profit can I then shred every religion that came before?

Speakup on June 3, 2007 at 11:26 AM

Please note that I am not saying that the anti-Jewish and anti-Christian interpretation of the Fatiha is the “correct” one.

Actions speak louder than words.

fogw on June 3, 2007 at 12:19 PM

RedWingedBlackbird:

Is there a reasonable explanation as to why the early Koranic scholars chose to ignore chronology and assemble the suras in order of descending length?

Islamic theologians say the ordering of the suras was divinely ordained. Theological explanations for the ordering follow from that, but they are generally the kind of thing that occurs at times in all religions: the elaboration of a theological reason to explain something that was actually practical in origin. As we shall see, the various suras, except for the very short ones, treat of many themes. It would not be possible to put them into a chronological order of what Christians know as salvation history, with the story of the creation first, then the stories of the earlier prophets, then the stories of the later prophets, without breaking the chapters into smaller units. The chapters themselves, however, although there are some traditions involving Muhammad adding material to them at dates subsequent to their initial revelation, were not after Muhammad considered to be breakable units.

Nor was it possible to order the chapters according to the order in which they were revealed to Muhammad, because of these additions and other factors — aside from assigning each chapter to Mecca or Medina, there is not complete agreement among Muslim scholars as to the order of the chapters. Thus the (general) longest-to-shortest division was one relatively efficient way to organize the book.

Robert Spencer on June 3, 2007 at 12:27 PM

P. James Moriarty on June 3, 2007 at 11:16 AM

Like a drunk in a bar that will insist on provoking someone until he finally gets decked, then he becomes the victim.

infidel4life on June 3, 2007 at 12:33 PM

Allah revealed this prayer to Muhammad early in his career as a prophet (which began in the year 610 AD, when he received his first revelation from Allah through the angel Gabriel

Was it true that Muhammad had these revelations when he woke up from a fever? Like maybe he had a bad goat burger or something earlier that evening?

Drtuddle on June 3, 2007 at 12:37 PM

Robert Spencer on June 3, 2007 at 12:27 PM

Thanks. That explains a lot. I didn’t realize that Muhammad had added content after the fact. I still think “divinely ordained” is another way of saying “We got tired of debating and took the easy way out.” Can’t fault them too much for that. It’s how most of our laws are made.

RedWinged Blackbird on June 3, 2007 at 1:08 PM

Robert, thank you for this. I look forward to reading your posts on this. Great information.

StephC on June 3, 2007 at 1:12 PM

there is nothing in the text itself that absolutely compels one to believe that it is talking about Jews and Christians.

And thus, Robert Spencer provides the necessary wiggle room to begin a much needed reinterpretation. Well done.

Krydor on June 3, 2007 at 1:13 PM

Beware the Fatiha. Being “invited” to Islam makes me a bit nervous.

forest on June 3, 2007 at 1:16 PM

Drtuddle:

Was it true that Muhammad had these revelations when he woke up from a fever? Like maybe he had a bad goat burger or something earlier that evening?

From a strict historical standpoint we can know virtually nothing for certain about Muhammad. From the accounts of him in Islamic tradition, various theories have been developed — that he was epileptic, that he suffered various other maladies — but I don’t think there is much to credit them. It is impossible to diagnose someone based on 1,400-year-old accounts that are themselves quite removed from the time the subject actually lived.

Here is one of Muhammad’s accounts of what it was like for him to receive revelations.

Robert Spencer on June 3, 2007 at 1:31 PM

Some have found it strange that Allah would say something like “praise be to Allah, Lord of the worlds,” ….

It’s not so strange if you take the rather obvious position that Mohammed fabricated Islam. This is simply a mistake of perspective by Mohammed in his narrative. The Koran is full of mistakes by Mohammed where he misunderstood pieces of other religions when he incorporated them into Islam.

Tantor on June 3, 2007 at 2:30 PM

I would really enjoy seeing the references to what he plagiarized, if possible, where Mohammed took from the New Testament, Greeks, and what are jinns anyway? Is there any source document like that in print?

CrimsonFisted on June 3, 2007 at 3:39 PM

Thanks very much for undertaking this task, Mr. Spencer; and thanks Hot Air for hosting it.

The setup is superb, by the way. I love the full explanation of each chapter, with links included for further clarification. You have put years of study into a neat, compact, clear and convenient form. Kudos!

Already looking forward to next week’s lesson.

Thanks again.

IrishEi on June 3, 2007 at 3:46 PM

‘Aisha added: Verily I saw the Prophet being inspired Divinely on a very cold day and noticed the Sweat dropping from his forehead (as the Inspiration was over).

I was trying to disprove Islam in one swell swoop as a product of bad indigestion; that’s probably disrespectful. But, if you take the divine out of the above statement and use medical science it’s possible he had a fever and was delusional not inspired. Of course maybe Allah works in strange ways.

Though their are at least a possible 127 medical reasons for sweating None are divine inspiration.

Maybe you can get the Historical Clinicopathological Conference to diagnose Muhammad’s symptoms and give us some medical possibilities. They recently did Abraham Lincoln. Every year they go back in History a research a historical persons medical conditions a see if they were misdiagnosed and if modern medical practices could have cured the Historic person. Of course they probably won’t diagnose Muhammad in fear of Beheading. Beheading is an easy diagnosis!

Drtuddle on June 3, 2007 at 3:51 PM

…Maybe you can get the Historical Clinicopathological Conference to diagnose Muhammad’s symptoms and give us some medical possibilities…

Drtuddle on June 3, 2007 at 3:51 PM

After reading Mr. Spencer’s The Truth About Muhammad, my bet would be on “paranoid schizophrenic with delusions of grandeur and magical thoughts”.

flipflop on June 3, 2007 at 4:26 PM

Please note that I am not saying that the anti-Jewish and anti-Christian interpretation of the Fatiha is the “correct” one. While I don’t believe that religious texts are infinitely malleable and can be made to mean whatever the reader wants them to mean, as some apparently do, in this case Nisaburi’s reading has as much to commend it as the other: there is nothing in the text itself that absolutely compels one to believe that it is talking about Jews and Christians.

Mr. Spencer

And thus, Robert Spencer provides the necessary wiggle room to begin a much needed reinterpretation. Well done.

Krydor on June 3, 2007 at 1:13 PM

My own opinion is that Mr. Spencer has made a basic and absolutley correct choice to decline from interpreting the Muslim sacred texts and from appearing to interpret them. By “interpret” I mean to express opinions or judgments that passage X “means” yadayada. Instead he restricts himself to summarizing Muslim interpretations and drawing conclusions like:

Ibn Kathir’s understanding of this passage is not a lone “extremist” interpretation. In fact, most Muslim commentators believe that the Jews are those who have earned Allah’s wrath and the Christians are those who have gone astray. This is the view of Tabari, Zamakhshari, the Tafsir al-Jalalayn, the Tanwir al-Miqbas min Tafsir Ibn Abbas, and Ibn Arabi, as well as Ibn Kathir. One contrasting, but not majority view, is that of Nisaburi…

Let’s say I am discussing this Koran passage with someone and I say, “The verses of the Koran repeated as a prayer 17 times a day end by comparing Judaism and Christianity unfavorably with Islam.” The other can say, “I read those verses and it doesn’t say anything about Jews and Christians and who are you to interpret someone else’s scriptures and you are just reading the conflict into the text.”

Now let’s say I am discussing the passage and I say, “The verses of the Koran repeated as a prayer 17 times a day end by contrasting the true path with the paths of those who have earned God’s anger and those who have gone astray. Almost all the Muslim commentaries, from the early times to the present, say that in this passage the true path is Islam, those who have earned God’s anger are the Jews, and those who have gone astray are the Christians.” This latter statement is in a simple sense unassailable and is a matter of scholarship rather than scriptural interpretation — that is, to assail it one would have to see what the Muslim commentators and so forth have said down through the ages. And the interpretation does not belong to Mr. Spencer but rather to the Muslims themselves. So if you want to argue the interpretation you must argue not with Mr. Spencer but with the Muslims.

Even despite his care in declining to interpret the Koran, Mr. Spencer is often accused of interpreting the Koran incorrectly, or people talk about “Robert Spencer’s interpretation of the Koran.” Imagine how bad the problem would be if he actually did interpret the Koran!

I also think this basic stance is the one that most of us should take most of the time when we are in a dispute about what the Koran does or does not say, what Islam teaches or does not teach.

To see the effect, let’s turn it around. Psalm 137 ends

“O Daughter of Babylon, doomed to destruction,
happy is he who repays you for what you have done to us –
he who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks.”

A person says, “See? Your Bible clearly rejoices in someone killing his enemies’ babies. And Babylon is in current day Iraq! Who are you to criticise the Muslims?”

One response could be: “Yes, that’s a pretty gruesome passage. I’m not aware of any major Christian interpretation that presents this passage as a model for action, certainly no major current Christian teacher has presented it that way. St. Augustine said of the passage that the babies are our sins, which we are to ruthlessly eliminate as early as possible, before they have a chance to grow up to become big sins. I will be grateful to you if you bring me major Christian commentaries or sermons advocating violence on the basis of this passage or other ones like it.”

(I admit I haven’t reviewed the commentaries on this passage the way Mr. Spencer has reviewed the ones about the Fatihah, so I could conceivably be embarrassed by commentaries. But I doubt it. Also, this is a peripheral passage, not one in the 17-times-a-day cateogry.)

Anyhow, I think that in a dispute it is much more productive to say “the Muslims say that the Koran says …” than to say “the Koran says …”. It seems a small point but I believe it really can make a big difference. To be able to say (with references) what the Muslim commentaries and current major imams say one needs only Mr. Spencer’s books and online articles.

Pilgrim CW on June 3, 2007 at 5:04 PM

Pilgrim CW:

Precisely. Thanks.

Robert Spencer on June 3, 2007 at 5:36 PM

CrimsonFisted:

You might find this interesting.

Robert Spencer on June 3, 2007 at 5:39 PM

Mr. Spencer,

Thank you for your diligent scholarship, and willingness to share your experience and understanding with us in this forum.

If it is not out-of-bounds to ask, can you provide a snapshot of any feedback you’ve personally received due to your decision to provide this regular feature? Such as positive vs. negative emails, and God-forbid worse. I rather suspect that some will feel threatened by having your scholarship spread more publicly.

Freelancer on June 3, 2007 at 6:15 PM

Guardian .. I agree with you. The http://www.prophetofdoom.net/ site is on the top tier of resources on the net to learn about Islam and the threat that it is.

Anyone want to see the utter mess of the Koran.. check out this Sura.

http://www.prophetofdoom.net/Quran_Surah_055.Islam

(Note that the website is juxtaposing multiple translations per verse which is why everything seems like its repeating right after each other)…

Example Sura 55.74. AA, NQ. PK, SH,YU are the various translations.

74.
AA Undeflowered by man or by jinn before them, —
NQ Whom no man or jinn yatmithhunna (has opened their hymens with sexual intercourse) before them.
PK Whom neither man nor jinni will have touched before them –
SH Man has not touched them before them nor jinni.
YU Whom no man or Jinn before them has touched;-

VinceP1974 on June 3, 2007 at 6:25 PM

Mr Spencer:

Thank you for all your efforts to date in all you do.

I took your book, PIG to Islam, to work… and the people there were in absolute shock about the undeniable things you wrote in it.

I’ve been trying my bit with my Congressmen and journalists to present the POV of the Muslims themselves so that they will wake from their stupor.

Thanks for being a resource that so many of us need in order to wake up the rest, sir.

VinceP1974 on June 3, 2007 at 6:29 PM

I consolidated some information I’ve come across recently that shows the mirror-image view of the End Time as stated in the Bible and by Islam.

http://vincep312.home.comcast.net/islamlast.html

VinceP1974 on June 3, 2007 at 6:31 PM

one of the favorite defenses islamist apologists use to excuse the violent nature of the texts of the qur’an is claiming every negative verse is “taken out of context” or “cherry picked” when in point of fact, as Robert has clearly demonstrated in this brief but very complete discussion of the
Fatiha, it is only through putting the verses INTO context that the truly malignant nature of islam can be discerned.
The careful study of the haddith in conjunction with the actual qur’an reveals the violent plan of global conquest the practitioners of islam have followed for the past 14 centuries, and continue to this day. It is only through informed, careful study that a solution to this global threat can be found, and the more people who are educated about islam and its true intent, rather than the pap spread by apologists and propaganda organisations like CAIR the better.
Another remarkable piece, Robert, and try as I might, could find nothing to fault you on, LOL. looking very forward to next weeks installment, and your continued efforts to replace the “false knowledge” so firmly planted in the mass mind are to be congratulated and saluted!

CBP

…the will of the masses is divided by far-reaching distortions and the mass mind is corrupted by a knowledge worse than ignorance because it is false.
Ely Culbertson

again might I recommend ( as the late Shah of Iran was quoted saying “going into the lions mouth and coming out with his teeth”) getting a free copy of the Qur’an FROM cair, by going to the following site
http://cair.com/

CBP

colorfulbeachpersona on June 3, 2007 at 6:35 PM

I consolidated some information I’ve come across recently that shows the mirror-image view of the End Time as stated in the Bible and by Islam.

Are there any original prophecies in the Koran that do not already appear in the Bible?

Valiant on June 3, 2007 at 7:00 PM

Mr. Spencer and HA, thanks for both this opportunity and the manner in which it is being presented. I won’t be commenting much unless I have a question or need clarification because I have little or nothing to add to the discussion and I view this as too important for my usual snarky comments.

Buzzy on June 3, 2007 at 7:15 PM

Valiant: the answer is “depends”

In the grand-arc of things, I would say no.. it invents a lot of details about the Mahdi.. and what he will do immediately following his appearance.

This is an excerpt from , I think it illustrates where Islam “differs”

http://answering-islam.org/Authors/JR/Future/ch04_the_mahdi.htm

The Ruler Of The World

The Mahdi is believed to be a future Muslim world leader who will not only rule over the Islamic world, but also the non-Muslim world as well. The Mahdi is said to lead a world revolution that will establish a new Islamic world order throughout the entire earth:

The Mahdi will establish right and justice in the world and eliminate evil and corruption. He will fight against the enemies of the Muslims who would be victorious. 12

He will reappear on the appointed day, and then he will fight against the forces of evil, lead a world revolution and set up a new world order based on justice, righteousness and virtue…ultimately the righteous will take the world administration in their hands and Islam will be victorious over all the religions. 13

He is the precursor of the victory of the Truth and the fall of all tyrants. He heralds the end of injustice and oppression and the beginning of the final rising of the sun of Islam which will never again set and which will ensure happiness and the elevation of mankind… The Mahdi is one of Allah’s clear signs which will soon be made evident to everyone. 14

The Mahdi’s means and method of accomplishing this world revolution will include multiple military campaigns or holy wars (jihad). While some Muslims believe that most of the non-Muslims of the world will convert to Islam peaceably during the reign of the Mahdi, most traditions picture the non-Muslim world coming to Islam as a result of being conquered by the Mahdi. Abduallrahman Kelani, author of The Last Apocalypse, describes the many battles of the Mahdi:

al-Mahdi will receive a pledge of allegiance as a caliph for Muslims. He will lead Muslims in many battles of jihad. His reign will be a caliphate that follows the guidance of the Prophet. Many battles will ensue between Muslims and the disbelievers during the Mahdi’s reign… 15

Even Harun Yahya, a moderate and very popular Muslim author refers to the Mahdi’s invasion of numerous non-Muslim lands:

The Mahdi will invade all the places between East and West. 16

The Army Of Black Flags

The Mahdi’s ascendancy to power is said to be preceded by an army from the east who will be carrying black flags or banners of war. Sheikh Kabbani states:

Hadith indicate that black flags coming from the area of Khorasan will signify the appearance of the Mahdi is nigh. Khorasan is in todays Iran, and some scholars have said that this hadith means when the black flags appear from Central Asia, i.e. in the direction of Khorasan, then the appearance of the Mahdi is imminent. 17

Another tradition states that:

The Messenger of Allah said: The black banners will come from the East and their hearts will be as firm as iron. Whoever hears of them should join them and give allegiance, even if it means crawling across snow. 18

In Islam there are two flags. One is white and one is black. Written across both flags in Arabic are the words, “There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his Messenger”. The white flag is called Al-Liwaa and serves as the sign for the leader of the Muslim army and is the flag of the Islamic State. The black flag is called Ar-Raya and is used by the Muslim army. It is also called the flag of jihad, and is carried into battle. One flag is governmental and the other is a military flag. 19 When Muhammad returned to his home city of Mecca after being exiled for eight years, he returned as a conqueror. With him were ten thousand Muslim soldiers. They carried with them black flags. On the flags was one word written in Arabic: punishment. 20

I was once talking to a group of young Muslim men and asking them some questions. I asked them if the obvious superior militaries of America and Israel compared to the militaries of any Islamic nations were a source of difficulty for many Muslims. One of these men then became very angry at my question and snapped out, “You Americans and Zionists better get ready, because the black flags are coming!” At the time, I had no idea what he was talking about. Later I learned the meaning.

The Conquering Of Israel

Islamic tradition pictures the Mahdi as joining with the army of Muslim warriors carrying black flags. The Mahdi will then lead this army to Israel and re-conquer it for Islam. The Jews will be slaughtered until very few remain and Jerusalem will become the location of the Mahdi’s rule over the Earth.

Rasulullah [Muhammad] said: “Armies carrying black flags will come from Khurasan. No power will be able to stop them and they will finally reach Eela (Baitul Maqdas in Jerusalem) where they will erect their flags.” 21

It is important to note here the reference above to “Baitul Maqdas”. In Arabic this means “the holy house”. This is referring to the Dome of the Rock Mosque and is located on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

In a particularly venomous manner, Egyptian authors, Muhammad ibn Izzat and Muhammd ‘Arif comment on the above tradition:

The Mahdi will be victorious and eradicate those pigs and dogs and the idols of this time so that there will once more be a caliphate based on prophethood as the hadith states… Jerusalem will be the location of the rightly guided caliphate and the center of Islamic rule, which will be headed by Imam al-Mahdi… That will abolish the leadership of the Jews… and put an end to the domination of the Satans who spit evil into people and cause corruption in the earth, making them slaves of false idols and ruling the world by laws other than the Shari’a [Islamic Law] of the Lord of the worlds. (Emphasis mine) 22

There is a very famous tradition that is often quoted throughout the Islamic world that speaks of the Mahdi’s military campaign against Israel. The tradition is both sickening and very sobering:

The Prophet said… The last hour would not come unless the Muslims will fight against the Jews and the Muslims would kill them until the Jews would hide themselves behind a stone or a tree and a stone or a tree would say: Muslim, or the servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me; come and kill him… (Emphasis mine) 23

VinceP1974 on June 3, 2007 at 7:21 PM

Thank you, HotAir, for giving Robert more exposure. I sincerely hope everybody reads these.

PRCalDude on June 3, 2007 at 7:29 PM

VinceP1974 on June 3, 2007 at 7:21 PM

I am well aware of Al Mahdi but thought he was a sectarian creation of Islam and not in the Koran.

I know belief in him is the driving force behind Ahmadinejad’s boldness.

Valiant on June 3, 2007 at 8:26 PM

Pilgrim CW,

My point was more along the lines of there is room for a reformation of Islam, but I wrote in haste. I agree with what you wrote, wholeheartedly.

Krydor on June 3, 2007 at 8:42 PM

valiant: its the hadith and sira that actually form the “rational” basis for islamic dogma… without them , the koran would be an ununderstandable jumble.
so a concept could be missing from the koran but in the other texts and be just as legitimate.

VinceP1974 on June 3, 2007 at 8:45 PM

aside from assigning each chapter to Mecca or Medina, there is not complete agreement among Muslim scholars as to the order of the chapters. Thus the (general) longest-to-shortest division was one relatively efficient way to organize the book. – posted by Robert Spencer

I’m curious about Robert Spencer’s thoughts on Craig Winn’s published version of the contents of the koran in chronological order via “Prophet of Doom”.

To write Prophet of Doom, I analyzed the Sira, the Ta’rikh, or History of al-Tabari, and the topical Hadith collections of Bukhari and Muslim. Using Islam’s most holy books I was able to reorder the Qur’an chronologically and set it into the context of Muhammad’s life.

heroyalwhyness on June 3, 2007 at 11:02 PM

There is a lot here and being a busy wife and mother it’s a little difficult for me to follow all the links though I would love to. Anyway, I’m confused as to when the Koran was written and by whom. Mohammad was illiterate and yet I thought I read that he was involved in picking the version he thought best. So forgive me if this question is too pedestrian. Also, why did so many take him seriously? Was it fear because he was victorious in battle or was it that his message resonated with poeple who felt impotent in this world (the whole thing seems so petty and angry to me)

Is there a statistical analysis of who a muslim is i.e. education…wealth…?

CCRWM on June 3, 2007 at 11:15 PM

Only on HotAir. Thank you Robert, Michelle, and the entire HA family. This is a treasure of information.

Mojave Mark on June 4, 2007 at 12:27 AM

I haven’t read this in any studious way since I was required to in class in Cairo(Maadi, actually) close to 30 years ago. We certainly didn’t get such thorough commentary on it at the time. It was more of a “read it and then write it on the chalk board” kind of thing. I am very greatful for this feature you are doing. I may have to go back and brush up on my Arabic just to follow along.
Thanks again, I’ll be passing this link on to many of my friends that have asked me for information that I did not have.

TBinSTL on June 4, 2007 at 12:57 AM

ccrwm:

From Prophet of Doom’s Islamic Terror Timeline:

http://www.prophetofdoom.net/Islamic_Terrorism_Timeline_1000-Year_Crusade.Islam

750 CE: The Battle of Zab was fought. With the fall of Damascus to Shia Muslims, Islam experienced the end of the aggressive Umayyad Dynasty and the rise of the Abbasids.

They took their name from Muhammad’s uncle, al-Abbas, because his descendants had revolted against Umayyad control. Under the Umayyads, non-Muslims in occupied territories had been relegated to slave status. The Abbasids were more content, so long as the conquered paid their taxes.

The capital of the Islamic world was moved from Damascus, Syria to Baghdad, Iraq. The flea- and lice-infested, sun-baked, mud-hut towns of Mecca and Medina were ostracized for more civil, less Islamic cultures. It was in Baghdad that the religion of Islam was born. The first written edition of the Qur’an was compiled in Kufu, on the outskirts of Baghdad, sometime around 725 CE. Ibn Ishaq’s Sirat Rasul Allah, known as the Sira, or Biography of Muhammad, was compiled in Baghdad in 750 CE (some say 768). Without this early biography chronicling Islam’s beginnings, the religion would not exist, as nothing would be known of its lone prophet and Allah’s singular voice. No Ishaq, no Prophet, no Prophet, no Islam.

Then in 850 CE, Bukhari and Muslim would compile the most authoritative Hadith collections depicting the words and deeds of Muhammad and his Companions. Their topical collection becomes the basis for Salaf, or fundamentalist, Islam. In these texts, Muhammad explained the Qur’an and established Islamic Sunnah and Sharia Law by clarifying his message regarding jihad, fighting, the slave trade, booty, taxation, the virgins in paradise, oppression, the intolerance of women, Christians, and Jews, as well as his open hostility to freedom of choice, and affinity for pagan ritual.

Next, the History of al-Tabari, depicting Muhammad’s rise to power, was compiled in Baghdad between 870 and 920 CE. Tabari’s Hadith-based depiction of Muhammad’s words and deeds as they were passed on by way of the Prophet’s Companions (the same folks who passed on the Qur’an), remains the oldest unedited, uncensored, and unabridged account of Islam’s beginnings. It is the story of a ruthless terrorist, money-grubbing pirate, and sexual pervert. While it is astonishing that anyone trusts Muhammad’s witness, this prophets words and deeds explain why Muslims were plundering the world.

What’s especially interesting here is that all five of Islam’s oldest scriptural sources are Shia, including the Qur’an. The Sunni Umayyads didn’t bother compiling or conveying any religious texts. The entire basis for the religion of Islam was compiled in Persian Baghdad, one hundred to three hundred years after it was allegedly conceived by Muhammad.

VinceP1974 on June 4, 2007 at 7:28 AM

Mr Spencer… Have you read the prophetofdoom.net website? It is actually a quite interesting (though biased) book/audio book… he draws some interesting conclusions.

I would be interested in hearing your opinions on:

1. overall accuracy of his facts/research

2. the “lost” ancient (8-900ADish I think) korans found in Yemen that were different than the ones today (wait… I thought it never changed?) that the Yemeni gov’t won’t let anyone look at after they were preserved and discrepencies discovered.

3. praying to mecca vs praying to jerusalem and the differences of the angles of earliest mosques from the ones built after the Koran was written and published as a book.

What I found interesting was his history/analysis of how a lot of islam/koran was formed not by muhammed, but by others after his death. Much like how the christians met to decide which gospels to put in the bible and which to exclude… but since this guy is so obviouly biased against islam, I’d like to hear your input.

Thanks.

BadBrad on June 4, 2007 at 8:51 AM

the “lost” ancient (8-900ADish I think) korans found in Yemen

BadBrad,

The Yemen manuscript fragments are mentioned in Toby Lester, “What is the Koran?”, Atlantic Monthly, January 1999. That article is reprinted in Ibn Warraq, editor, What the Koran Really Says: Language, Text, and Commentary, Prometheus Books, 2002, pp. 107ff. That volume also contains a very interesting article Yehuda D. Nevo, “Towards a Prehistory of Islam” (pp. 131ff) that examines “Arabic rock inscriptions scattered all of the Syro-Jordanian deserts and the Peninsula, and specifically the Negev. . . .” The inscriptions are from the late 600s through the early 800s. The Ibn Warraq book is a collection of scholarly papers on various topics; Warraq is not the author but the editor. Another related Warraq book is in the works and may be published towards the end of 2007 — Which Koran?: Variants, Manuscripts, And the Influence of Pre-islamic Poetry. Again, he is the editor, so it’s not just Ibn Warraq talking.

Pilgrim CW on June 4, 2007 at 10:38 AM

Interestingly, the book The Syro-Aramaic reading of the Koran : a contribution to the decoding of the language of the Koran
by Christoph Luxenberg is only available for purchase here or through university libraries for review.

Language: English Type: Book
Publisher: Berlin : H. Schiler, 2007.
ISBN: 9783899300888 3899300882 | OCLC: 124038162

Rarely are these “Syro-Aramaic readings of the Koran” as spectacular as in the by now well-publicized case of the paradise huris that may be mistranslated grapes, but time and again they display the strong kinship between the Koranic text and Christian scripture of its time, not only in subject matter (which has always been obvious), but in semantics, roots, and maybe even intent

University of Notre Dame

Furman University

University of Georgia

heroyalwhyness on June 4, 2007 at 12:01 PM

Its not enough to be able to read the Quran itself… the book is a mess and what it is says really isn’t that much in doubt.

The rest of the islam sunnah makes it clear.. the destination of jihadis killed in action is an orgy in heaven. the islamic sunnah was not based on semantical readings of the koran… it was based on the life of mohemmend and his rationalizations to get muslims to kill other people. so even if a koranic maniscript does say “raisen” its absurd to think that any muslims would ever believe that that was allahs meaning.

VinceP1974 on June 4, 2007 at 10:38 PM

but since this guy is so obviouly biased against islam

What a stupid statement! how could any intelligent person not be biased against Islam once they come into knowldge of it?

VinceP1974 on June 4, 2007 at 10:40 PM

“VinceP1974 on June 4, 2007 at 7:28 AM”

Thanks. That was informative.

“In these texts, Muhammad explained the Qur’an and established Islamic Sunnah and Sharia Law by clarifying his message regarding jihad, fighting, the slave trade, booty, taxation, the virgins in paradise, oppression, the intolerance of women, Christians, and Jews, as well as his open hostility to freedom of choice, and affinity for pagan ritual.:

I’ll look up what years CE corresponds to because it seems that someone is writing that Mohammad explained these things. This is going to take some effort because the more questions I have the more I have to research. Maybe I’ll just see how Robert does. I might be trying to bite off more than I can chew.

CCRWM on June 5, 2007 at 12:44 AM

CCRWN: CE is just the Jewish/other way of stating AD.. there is no difference. It means Common Era.

For instance this year is 2007 CE

VinceP1974 on June 5, 2007 at 10:42 AM

it seems that someone is writing that Mohammad explained these things.

Mohammad was illiterate… he didn’t write a single word of any of Islam’s holy texts.

When the “angel Gabriel” started giving him his revelations the angle said “RECITE!” not “WRITE!”

Islam was strickly an oral tradition until things were written down as stated in the timeline above.

Islam is an incredibly irrational and illogical religion. So when you read things like Allah gave Mohemmed the Koran and the Koran was perfect and preserved.. they mean Allah gave him the Koran in little jumbles over a decade orally with no regard to coherency and context. It doesnt mean what a “normal” person would think it means.

SOmeone referenced Ibn Warraq above… He’d be a great author to read, I bet his book on the Koran is devastating.

I read his “Why I am not a Muslim” in 1998 (i really didn’t have an awareness of the scale of the depravity of Islam even after I read it, because of the life-long conditioning I had that it’s part of the Jewish/Chrisitan legacy.. that was hard to shake off) and it’s brutal on the religion.

VinceP1974 on June 5, 2007 at 10:51 AM

I think that in a dispute it is much more productive to say “the Muslims say that the Koran says …” than to say “the Koran says …”.

Or be even more specific than “the Muslims say” if you can. For example, based on video I’ve seen on Memri tv, Ayatollah Ali Khammenei, the “spiritual leader of Iran”, says the 9/11 attacks were justified by the Qur’an. That’s what he was teaching the thousands he was speaking to. Is someone going to say he doesn’t understand Islam???

In today’s world, it doesn’t matter how anyone from me to Mr. Spencer would interpret the Qur’an. What matters is how the person with the suicide vest strapped on interprets it. What matters is the interpretation of those who taught that person what the Qur’an means. Its pointless to argue how they should interpret it, what’s important is to understand how they do interpret it.

I’m glad there are people (like Mr. Spencer) around to tell us how they do interpret the Qur’an.

taznar on June 5, 2007 at 12:07 PM