Blogging the Qur’an: Sura 2, “The Cow,” verses 1-39

posted at 9:00 am on June 10, 2007 by Robert Spencer

Sura 2, Al-Baqara (“The Cow”), like almost all of the chapters of the Qur’an, takes its title from something recounted within it – in this case, the story of Moses relaying Allah’s command to the Israelites that they sacrifice a cow (2:67-73). It is the longest sura of the Qur’an – 286 verses – and begins the Qur’an’s general (but not absolute) pattern of running from the longest to the shortest chapters, with the exception of the Fatiha, which has pride of place as the first sura because of its centrality in Islam. Surat Al-Baqara, “The Cow,” was revealed to Muhammad at Medina – that is, during the second part of his prophetic career, which began in Mecca in 610. In 622 Muhammad and the fledgling Muslim community moved to Medina, where for the first time Muhammad became a political and military leader. Islamic theologians generally regard Medinan suras as taking precedence over Meccan ones wherever there is a disagreement, in accord with verse 106 of this chapter of the Qur’an, in which Allah speaks about abrogating verses and replacing them with better ones. (This interpretation of verse 106, however, is not universally accepted. Some say it refers to the abrogation of nothing in the Qur’an, but only of the Jewish and Christian Scriptures. More on that when the time comes.)

Sura 2 contains a great deal of important material for Muslims, and is held in high regard. The medieval Qur’anic commentator Ibn Kathir (whose commentary is still read and respected by Muslims) conveys in an earthy way that recitation of this sura distresses Satan, recounting that one of Muhammad’s early followers, Ibn Mas’ud, remarked that Satan “departs the house where Surat Al-Baqarah is being recited, and as he leaves, he passes gas.” Without Ibn Mas’ud’s poor taste, Muhammad himself says: “Satan runs away from the house in which Surah Baqara is recited.”

The chapter begins with three Arabic letters: alif, lam, and mim. Many chapters of the Qur’an begin with three Arabic letters in this way, which has given rise to a considerable amount of mystical speculation as to what they might mean. But the Tafsir al-Jalalayn, another classic Qur’anic commentary, succinctly sums up the prevailing view: “God knows best what He means by these [letters].”

The verse immediately following those letters contains a key Islamic doctrine: “This is the Scripture whereof there is no doubt.” The Qur’an is not to be questioned or judged by any standard outside itself; rather, it is the standard by which all other things are to be judged. That, of course, is not significantly different from the way many other religions regard their Holy Writ. But there has been no development in Islam of the historical and textual criticism that have transformed the ways Jews and Christians understand their scriptures today. The Qur’an is a book never to be doubted, never to be questioned: when one Islamic scholar, Suliman Bashear, taught his students at An-Najah National University in Nablus that the Qur’an and Islam were the products of historical development rather than being delivered in perfect form to Muhammad, his students threw him out of the window of his classroom.

2:1-29 is an extended disquisition on the perversity of those who reject belief in Allah, and sounds several themes that will recur many times. The Qur’an, we’re told, is guidance to those who believe in what was revealed to Muhammad as well as in “that which was revealed before” him (v. 4). This involves the Qur’an’s oft-stated assumption that it is the confirmation of the Torah and the Gospel, which teach the same message Muhammad is receiving in the Qur’anic revelations (see 5:44-48). When the Torah and Gospel were found not to agree with the Qur’an, the charge arose that Jews and Christians had corrupted their Scriptures — which is mainstream Islamic belief today. Muhammad Asad states it positively: “the religion of the Qur’an can be properly understood only against the background of the great monotheistic faiths which preceded it, and which, according to Muslim belief, culminate and achieve their final formulation in the faith of Islam.”

Another theme is Allah’s absolute control over everything, even the choices of individual souls to believe in him or reject him: “As to those who reject Faith, it is the same to them whether thou warn them or do not warn them; they will not believe. Allah hath set a seal on their hearts and on their hearing, and on their eyes is a veil; great is the penalty they (incur)” (vv. 6-7). The Qadaris of early Islamic history held that mankind had free will, and was thus capable of choosing to do good or evil. Their opponents maintained that Allah determined everything. While both sides had abundant Qur’anic citations to support their views, eventually Muslim authorities condemned Qadarism as a heresy, as it restricted Allah’s absolute sovereignty over all things. Thus those who reject faith do so because Allah wills it, as per these verses, not because they have free choice. Says Ibn Kathir: “These Ayat [verses] indicate that whomever Allah has written to be miserable, they shall never find anyone to guide them to happiness, and whomever Allah directs to misguidance, he shall never find anyone to guide him.” (A good brief overview of the Qadari controversy can be found in the renowned Islamic scholar Ignaz Goldziher’s Introduction to Islamic Theology and Law.)

Then comes the condemnation of hypocrites and false believers, who frequently bedeviled Muhammad during his career as a prophet (vv. 13-20). And finally there is the assertion of the sublimity of the Qur’an, such that doubters are challenged to produce a sura like it if they refuse to believe its divine provenance (v. 23). This is a challenge many have taken up, but of course it is the kind of challenge that can never be successfully met in the eyes of those who issue it – “they could not produce the like thereof” (17:88).

2:25 introduces the famous gardens of Paradise, wherein the believers shall reside — about which more later.

2:30-39 tells the story of Adam and Eve, in a manner suggesting that the hearers of the recitation are already familiar with the story. Allah tells the angels to prostrate themselves before Adam (v. 34), a command that appears to depend upon the Biblical notion of mankind’s having been created in the image of God, although that idea does not appear here. According to Ibn Kathir, “Allah stated the virtue of Adam above the angels, because He taught Adam, rather than them, the names of everything.” Satan refuses to prostrate himself, thereby becoming an unbeliever (v. 34), and tempts Adam and Eve with the forbidden fruit. Allah promises revelations to guide mankind, warning them that those who ignore these revelations will be punished with hellfire.

Then the sura turns in verses 40-75 to the Children of Israel, who play such an important role in the Qur’an — and, not coincidentally, in the modern Islamic consciousness — that we will devote next week’s Qur’an blog to them.

Here is a link to Bryan Preston’s introduction to the series, where you’ll find links to the earlier segments.

(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.)


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Comments

Christians have sneezes.

And Muslims have flatulence.

“departs the house where Surat Al-Baqarah is being recited, and as he leaves, he passes gas.”

I guess one better not eat any beans before a recitation of Surat Al-Baqarah, or one might get stoned?

What a bunch of bass ackwards clowns.

csdeven on June 10, 2007 at 9:13 AM

“the religion of the Qur’an can be properly understood only against the background of the great monotheistic faiths which preceded it, and which, according to Muslim belief, culminate and achieve their final formulation in the faith of Islam.”

Well, hopefully the next stage in the radical Muslims evolution is extinction.

csdeven on June 10, 2007 at 9:17 AM

eventually Muslim authorities condemned Qadarism as a heresy, as it restricted Allah’s absolute sovereignty over all things.

Therefore the “feelings” one gets from viewing uncovered meat is the will of Allah, and the uncovered meat is to be punished?

Have I used the term “extinction” yet?

csdeven on June 10, 2007 at 9:21 AM

Well, hopefully the next stage in the radical Muslims evolution is extinction.

I am hoping for Islam’s extinction, not the people, although the radical part, yes.

It seems more and more of them (and us) are seeing how false a doctrine Islam is. I think that is why I like to read Ali Sina on faithfreedom.org and Amil Imani on americanthinker.com. They have great perspective too. This series of studies, though, is a rich one I look forward to each week and bookmark.

Thank you again hotair for hosting this series!

CrimsonFisted on June 10, 2007 at 9:25 AM

Robert, is it possible that the koran is not just in order of longest to shortest by also most important to least important? Perhaps importance is the reason for the length. Just curious. Thank you.

Tony737 on June 10, 2007 at 9:35 AM

introduces the famous gardens of Paradise, wherein the believers shall reside

I like that part,….it’s clear that there are many acceptable teachings in the Koran. If it were not for Christ, the followers of the old testament could be as radical as some Muslims are. It appears that even though Muslims accept Christ as a messenger from God, they have decided that the hateful teachings of Muhammad supersedes the peaceful message from Christ.

Muslim’s reject that part of Christs message, which teaches peace walking hand in hand with free will, in favor of the teachings of a mad man, who picked and choose that which served his needs at the time, and subjugated people, especially women, to his desires.

Robert, I can’t tell you how appreciated this series is. Thanks very much.

csdeven on June 10, 2007 at 9:41 AM

Robert–

Interesting stuff on the Qu’ran. Thanks for taking the time to give an academic analysis (as opposed to the garbage which is Blogging the Bible over at Slate).

Incidentally, one of the links, the one about throwing the professor out of a window, links to something that is a German analysis of the Qu’ran, not a story about a professor induced to free-fall.

Nethicus on June 10, 2007 at 9:46 AM

I am hoping for Islam’s extinction, not the people, although the radical part, yes.
CrimsonFisted on June 10, 2007 at 9:25 AM

I should have added conversion to Christianity to that also. Converting Muslim’s to Christianity would probably make pretty good progress if we could reach them at an early age. Muhammad needs to be exposed as the false prophet that he is. It wouldn’t be too far of a jump because they believe the teachings in the Bible and all they need to do is see Muhammad as a perverter of true faith.

csdeven on June 10, 2007 at 9:48 AM

not a story about a professor induced to free-fall.
Nethicus on June 10, 2007 at 9:46 AM

I got a chuckle out of that. Probably shouldn’t have, but I did.

csdeven on June 10, 2007 at 9:50 AM

Thanks Robert. I’m slogging through the Koran now and your series will help me quite a bit. I’m used to ancient texts as I have read the bible through over a dozen times and some parts (Leviticus comes to mind) are tough going, but the Koran is absolutely torturous to read.

Judeo/Christianity is extremely well thought out and defended due to the relentless physical/intellectual/spiritual attacks it has weathered over the centuries. These attacks often come from within the very cultures that espouse its belief.

Question: Islam is dismissed and rejected in the West but in Muslim (Sharia) countries is there any challenge to the Koran, Mohammad, or Islam itself from within? Or are all dissenting voices silenced through execution?

Mojave Mark on June 10, 2007 at 9:57 AM

This is a great service, Mr. Spencer. Americans of all faiths need to learn much more about what Islam actually is.

But I doubt that will happen. How many nominal Christians have actually taken the time to study the New Testament? Fewer than would admit it, I think. There is an aversion in most people to take seriously the founding documents of their religion, simply because it would entail too much work and too much uncomfortable questioning. Easier to go along with the flow of whatever one was born into.

Halley on June 10, 2007 at 10:10 AM

Interestingly, this section holds an immediate paradox – which the Muslims appear, according to Robert, to have embraced fully –

The Qadaris of early Islamic history held that mankind had free will, and was thus capable of choosing to do good or evil. Their opponents maintained that Allah determined everything. While both sides had abundant Qur’anic citations to support their views, eventually Muslim authorities condemned Qadarism as a heresy, as it restricted Allah’s absolute sovereignty over all things. Thus those who reject faith do so because Allah wills it, as per these verses, not because they have free choice. Says Ibn Kathir: “These Ayat [verses] indicate that whomever Allah has written to be miserable, they shall never find anyone to guide them to happiness, and whomever Allah directs to misguidance, he shall never find anyone to guide him.”

So, the fact that there are unbelievers is by the will of Allah, and there is nothing, even his believers can do to alter this fact – yet – there is still the determination to proselytize, and, where unsuccessful (although apparently against the will of Allah) – in many cases kill them.

Following that logic (or lack thereof), it’s almost surprising they don’t yell at the sunrise if it isn’t to their liking.

And touches on one of the key hypocrisies that is present in some form in many religious doctrines – that although God is supposedly in charge and omnipotent, mere mortal men presume to act as judge against others’ faith, quite often simply as a tool for wielding power over their fellow beings.

Directly contradicting the “judge not lest ye be judged” approach, the “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” idea, etc, etc.

Which begs the question that often crosses my mind – namely – who do these fucking assholes think they are, anyway?

Wind Rider on June 10, 2007 at 10:25 AM

Another theme is Allah’s absolute control over everything, even the choices of individual souls to believe in him or reject him

Oh great. So they’re also Calvinists…

KIDDING! Kidding. Anyway, thanks for all of this. It’s enlightening.

Keljeck on June 10, 2007 at 10:37 AM

The Koran is nothing more than Satan’s alternative to the Torah. And while most Jewish people smply grow out of actually believing what God said to them in the past because they have denied the fruit of His word, the Koran is still playing a very active role in the “end times” in which we all happen to live at this time. Old Testament prophecy is being fulfilled daily before our very eyes, and the world is sleeping through it all, just hoping it will all go away before they have to wake up.

Exciting times for Bible believers, disgusting times for unbelievers, and murdering times for false believers…

NRA4Freedom on June 10, 2007 at 10:43 AM

Directly contradicting the “judge not lest ye be judged” approach, the “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” idea, etc, etc.
Wind Rider on June 10, 2007 at 10:25 AM

Judge not unrighteously is the more thorough description of the commandment. If we were not to judge anything, we would not be allowed to judge between good and evil behavior. This was the state that Adam and Eve were in, not us. It is the knowledge of good and evil that forces us into judging many, many, things. Not making value judgments is the way of the secular progressive. They begin this by removing the author of value judgments (God) out of the process of judging issues.

csdeven on June 10, 2007 at 10:48 AM

Robert,

Is Islam/Muhammad connected to Ishmael? And if so, is this part of the reason Muhammad had such a hard-on for the Jews?

csdeven on June 10, 2007 at 10:55 AM

I agree with NRA4Freedom for the most part. The Qur’an is merely Satan’s response to Christianity. It’s basically the anti-thesis of Christianity. In Islam, there is only Allah, and he has never begotten a son, or anything. While in Christianity, Jesus is God’s begotten son. While Christianity is still monotheistic, Islamists will see this as polytheism. So, they reject Christianity due to this. Then there is how Christianity teaches love, kindness, turning the other cheek, praying for those who persecute you, and encourages debate. At the same time, the Qur’an teaches hatred, wrath, and the killing of those who would disagree with the traditional translation. I guess the best way to keep people from knowing the truth is to kill people who question the lies.

j_ehman on June 10, 2007 at 11:16 AM

The notion of Islam not recognizing free will is troubling. There is no compulsion in religion because Allah has already decided who is good and who isn’t. Any conversions are willed by God, regardless of how they came about. Anyone who doesn’t convert isn’t meant to convert, therefore it’s ok to kill them.

It’s circular reasoning that can justify any atrocity.

Krydor on June 10, 2007 at 11:25 AM

From what I remember, Ishmael is supposed to have started the Arab tribe and settled in Mecca, according to Islam. However, Arabs had already existed before Ishmael, but as with most things, history can be changed.

Mo was again, supposed to have received a revelation from Gabriel that he was a descendant of Ishmael.

Muslims also believe that Abraham was really going to sacrifice Ishmael and not Isaac.

I used to post on a site with Muslims, they truly believe that the Quran corrects mistakes made in the Holy Bible.

moonsbreath on June 10, 2007 at 11:27 AM

what a seemingly fatalistic and divisive faith. What attracted early followers? Perhaps giving up a sense of responsibility for your life and actions, with built in scapegoats to focus your anger, was/is appealing to some?

What religion where most of the early converts?

TheBigOldDog on June 10, 2007 at 11:46 AM

Informative. Thanks!

ScottMcC on June 10, 2007 at 11:55 AM

I used to post on a site with Muslims, they truly believe that the Quran corrects mistakes made in the Holy Bible.

moonsbreath on June 10, 2007 at 11:27 AM

I can live with that, but I cannot abide the killing of those who refuse to believe. Is “do unto others” corrected in the Koran?

csdeven on June 10, 2007 at 11:58 AM

As others stated above if Allah has predetermined who’s heart is open to Islam, and who’s is closed, the religion automatically condemns a vast number of people to extermination.

Limerick on June 10, 2007 at 12:14 PM

Incidentally, one of the links, the one about throwing the professor out of a window, links to something that is a German analysis of the Qu’ran, not a story about a professor induced to free-fall.

Nethicus on June 10, 2007 at 9:46 AM

The incident about the professor is mentioned near the begining of the text on that linked page.

A few years ago, one of his colleagues at the University of Nablus in Palestine, Suliman Bashear, was thrown out of the window by his scandalized Muslim students.

And if one follows a link from the bottom of the linked page one can find a more detailed telling of the story:

And when the Arab scholar Suliman Bashear argued that Islam developed as a religion gradually rather than emerging fully formed from the mouth of the Prophet, he was injured after being thrown from a second-story window by his students at the University of Nablus in the West Bank. Even many broad-minded liberal Muslims become upset when the historical veracity and authenticity of the Koran is questioned.

Pilgrim CW on June 10, 2007 at 12:30 PM

I can live with that, but I cannot abide the killing of those who refuse to believe. Is “do unto others” corrected in the Koran?

csdeven

There is a version of the Golden Rule – “None of you [truly] believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself.”

The problem is that this rule only applies to other Muslims and not to other people of other faiths.

moonsbreath on June 10, 2007 at 12:45 PM

Let’s keep in mind that Islam is not the first religion to claim that men are without free will.

There are Christians who believe that your name is “written in the Book of Life” by God at the start of time. If your name was not written there, you were meant to go to Hell.

There are other Christians who believe that your name is written in the Book of Life only once you accept Jesus. I find the most simple minded Christians are the ones who believe the former.

So while I do believe that Islam is Satan’s answer to Christianity, that doesn’t mean that muslims have the market cornered on Satan-influenced beliefs.

Then again, sometimes Satan has nothing to do with it. Sometimes people are just stupid.

unamused on June 10, 2007 at 12:46 PM

Allah is irrational.

His commands may not be follow-able because, in his higher wisdom, he has already decided which appeals to covert will work and which will not.

Which ultimately means that Allah is a sadistic s.o.b., taking supreme satisfaction in pre-condemning billions to Hell.

Without them ever knowing why.

Because Allah’s deciding mind is unknowable.

Muslims, thus, as pawns in the grip of an unpredictable, un-forgiving, pre-determining Force.

Because only the word “Force” describes such an unentreatable demiurge.

Whatever Muslims do, Allah decide it is inadequate… on a whim. Inshallah.

He doesn’t even have to follow his own rules.

No wonder the Mohammedans are so thrilled to die.

It eases the fearfully manic state that Islam crushes their souls and hearts and minds into.

It would be a relief to be dead.

Thanks for the necessary commentary, Mr. Spencer.

profitsbeard on June 10, 2007 at 1:32 PM

Let’s keep in mind that Islam is not the first religion to claim that men are without free will.

There are Christians who believe that your name is “written in the Book of Life” by God at the start of time. If your name was not written there, you were meant to go to Hell.

There are other Christians who believe that your name is written in the Book of Life only once you accept Jesus. I find the most simple minded Christians are the ones who believe the former.

So while I do believe that Islam is Satan’s answer to Christianity, that doesn’t mean that muslims have the market cornered on Satan-influenced beliefs.

Then again, sometimes Satan has nothing to do with it. Sometimes people are just stupid.

unamused on June 10, 2007 at 12:46 PM

Is it possible that believers names were written in the Lamb’s Book of Life from the beginning because God, being God, just happened to know the future before it ever took place? And “if your name is not written there” it is merely because God knew beforehand that that persons heart would never turn towards Him?

NRA4Freedom on June 10, 2007 at 1:43 PM

Tony737:

Robert, is it possible that the koran is not just in order of longest to shortest by also most important to least important? Perhaps importance is the reason for the length. Just curious. Thank you.

Tony, I don’t know of any Islamic scholars who argue that, although, since you can find one who will argue almost anything, there probably is one. However, it is not a mainstream view.

Robert Spencer on June 10, 2007 at 2:05 PM

Mojave Mark:

Question: Islam is dismissed and rejected in the West but in Muslim (Sharia) countries is there any challenge to the Koran, Mohammad, or Islam itself from within? Or are all dissenting voices silenced through execution?

There are dissenting voices, yes, but they always have a hard time — cf. Bashear. Another, more prominent dissenter was Mahmoud Muhammad Taha of Sudan, who taught that the peaceful Meccan suras should take precedence over the more warlike Medinan suras. For this and other teachings he was tried and executed for heresy in the 1980s.

Robert Spencer on June 10, 2007 at 2:07 PM

The problem is that this rule only applies to other Muslims and not to other people of other faiths.

moonsbreath on June 10, 2007 at 12:45 PM

They’d say that was nuance.

csdeven on June 10, 2007 at 2:07 PM

csdeven:

Re Muhammad and the Jews, wait til next week, and thereafter.

Robert Spencer on June 10, 2007 at 2:08 PM

Awesome. Thanks.

csdeven on June 10, 2007 at 2:12 PM

unamused on June 10, 2007 at 12:46 PM

You can always find ‘some Christians’ who will believe just about anything, whether it is sound doctrine or not. That doesn’t change what is accepted mainstream doctrine based on scripture. Painting Christianity with a broad brush because of what ‘some’ believe is misleading.

infidel4life on June 10, 2007 at 2:26 PM

Robert–

My apologies. That article did mention it. I missed it in my initial skim.

An archived NYT article on Suliman Bashear and his being thrown from a 2nd story window is here.

Nethicus on June 10, 2007 at 3:38 PM

But there has been no development in Islam of the historical and textual criticism that have transformed the ways Jews and Christians understand their scriptures today.

What was the historical/political setting in Medina when “The Cow” was revealed to Muhammad? Wars? Prosperity?….

Drtuddle on June 10, 2007 at 3:45 PM

csdeven

Glad to see you participating but why aren’t you complaining because this is supposed to be a “political blog” ?

TBinSTL on June 10, 2007 at 4:39 PM

big old dog

Islam didn’t really “catch on” until muhammad allowed ( or it was “revealed” to him)that robbery and brigandry “in the name of allah” was not only allowed but encouraged. Through this the followers of the prophet could in fact be followers of “profit”, as they were allowed to enslave certain of their captives, steal every item they could carry off in their raids, and keep it for their own use, after of course, muhammad got “his cut”. This validation of behavior should have been very appealing to the bedouin tribes of the southern arabian peninsula as raids on caravans were, for many, their major source of income. Imagine getting “authorization ” from a god to murder, rob, rape, and pillage, especially if those were your practices of choice anyway, sort of like a divine pronouncement to go forth and spread your barbarity to all the corners of the worls/

My understanding is that the earliest converts to islam ( including muhammad) were his wife and close friends, and that they were polythiests, followers of one of the hundred or so minor dieties that were worshipped in the arabian peninsula prior to muhammad.

Judaism and Christianity also had sizable followings there, though most resisted the call to conversion of muhammad.

Robert, I am certain, will say this much better and more clearly than I, but as he hasn’t answered by the time I posted this, I will await his much more scholarly answer as well.

Robert, another wonderful discussion of the qur’an, which I found to be a terribly difficult and singularly unpleasant book to read. I look forward to next weeks installment

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

colorfulbeachpersona on June 10, 2007 at 4:54 PM

colorfulbeachpersona on June 10, 2007 at 4:54 PM

That makes complete sense. Thanks.

TheBigOldDog on June 10, 2007 at 5:07 PM

Robert —

I realize that the law of contradiction isn’t entirely central to Muslim thinking. Still, the fact that Muslims consider all facets of life to be pre-determined by Allah, while Islam itself is seen as dictating a laundry list rules prescribing how good Muslims should behave, is endlessly fascinating to me.

In a way, it explains one thing to me: The apparent joy of at least some families of Palestinian suicide bombers upon hearing of their loved one’s fate. Would it be safe to say that, in their eyes, they might not even think of the event as having been something their family member chose to do, but rather look on it as the “discovery” that their loved one was always destined for a special place in paradise?

And what of the suicide bomber himself? Does he think he has arrived at a conclusion, or does he think he has discovered something about Allah’s intended role for him? Or is this simply a case where the aforementioned apathy towards contradiction comes into play, and the reasoning isn’t entirely clear?

Blacklake on June 10, 2007 at 5:52 PM

Robert Spencer on June 10, 2007 at 2:07 PM

Thanks.

I’m reading your “The Politiacally Incorrect Guide to Islam” and I have to be in a good mood when I do. This is some dark stuff.

Mojave Mark on June 10, 2007 at 6:30 PM

Is “do unto others” corrected in the Koran? -csdeven

A rather detailed discussion available at FaithFreedom:
Does Islam Contain “The Golden Rule”?-By Brian Macker

heroyalwhyness on June 10, 2007 at 8:02 PM

There is no Allah and Mohammed is his false prophet.

shokk on June 10, 2007 at 8:11 PM

The Qur’an is not to be questioned or judged by any standard outside itself; rather, it is the standard by which all other things are to be judged. That, of course, is not significantly different from the way many other religions regard their Holy Writ. But there has been no development in Islam of the historical and textual criticism that have transformed the ways Jews and Christians understand their scriptures today. The Qur’an is a book never to be doubted, never to be questioned:

Mr. Spencer, when you say, there has been no development in Islam as there has been with Christians and Jews of their scriptures; do you mean that the Jews and Christians understand their religion and Gods in a more forgiving and gentle way? ie., less violent? Do you think this is because the Jewish and Christian religions are older and there’s been more time for these changes to occur? If that is so, do you think the Muslim religion might be entering a place and time where it will be forced to change?

Thank you again for your time and devotion to this!

4shoes on June 10, 2007 at 9:30 PM

I wonder if Mosques have “gas passers” on standby to sneak in a little “mood aroma” when this sura is read?

Black Adam on June 11, 2007 at 2:45 AM

Is Islam/Muhammad connected to Ishmael? And if so, is this part of the reason Muhammad had such a hard-on for the Jews?

csdeven on June 10, 2007 at 10:55 AM

The traditional Arabs are the descendants of Ishmael, which is why they claim that Abraham is as much their father as he is that of the Hebrews. Since Ishmael was born before Isaac, this claim regularly includes a belief that the Abrahamic covanent and birthright is theirs, not Isaac’s.

All because Sarah didn’t think God was able to allow her to conceive. (Genesis 16)

Freelancer on June 11, 2007 at 4:12 AM

TheBigOldDog:

Most of the early converts, as CBP has noted already, were pagans. He had few followers in the early years, and the first was indeed his wife. The converts had been polytheists, worshipping Arab tribal gods. They seem to have been impressed by Muhammad personally. After the Night Journey — Muhammad’s claim to have been transported miraculously from Mecca to Jerusalem, thence to Paradise, and then back to Mecca in one night — Muhammad lost some followers.

But when Abu Bakr, one of the earliest and staunchest Muslims, was invited to leave also, he refused, saying that Muhammad had already convinced him of more unbelievable things than that, and everything he had said had proven correct.

Robert Spencer on June 11, 2007 at 4:38 AM

Blacklake,

I think you’re probably right, since the families of suicide bombers have praised Allah for granting their son the honor of being a martyr. This assumes that it was entirely a matter of the divine initiative.

Robert Spencer on June 11, 2007 at 4:40 AM

4shoes:

Mr. Spencer, when you say, there has been no development in Islam as there has been with Christians and Jews of their scriptures; do you mean that the Jews and Christians understand their religion and Gods in a more forgiving and gentle way? ie., less violent? Do you think this is because the Jewish and Christian religions are older and there’s been more time for these changes to occur? If that is so, do you think the Muslim religion might be entering a place and time where it will be forced to change?

It is extraordinarily common to hear people affirming that yes, the Islamic world tends to violence today, but Islam is 600 years younger than Christianity, and just look at the Christian world 600 years ago!

This seems to assume that all things that are labeled “religions” will develop in similar ways, along similar time frames. But there is no reason why this should be so. After all, Buddhism is a religion. Siddharta Gautama lived around 500-400BC. Since there were wars of religion in Europe 1600 years after Christ, should we assume on that basis that there were wars among Buddhists around 1100-1200AD? Judaism was radically transformed in the wake of the destruction of the Temple in 70AD. But there is no correspondingly catastrophic incident in Christian history.

The point is that there is no inevitable trajectory of development among religions. A key element neglected by those who assume that there is is is the fact that the content of the teachings of each religion is different. Religions are not infinitely malleable, able to be made over in any way the adherents wish to do so. Rather, they develop along certain parameters, as guided by the principles they teach.

So in short, I wouldn’t ever expect the development of Islam to follow that of Judaism and Christianity, because even those two didn’t develop in the same ways, and because Islam is sui generis, as are all religions. It has its own teachings and perspectives and emphases, and will develop according to them.

Robert Spencer on June 11, 2007 at 4:55 AM

The Qur’an, we’re told, is guidance to those who believe in what was revealed to Muhammad as well as in “that which was revealed before” him (v. 4). This involves the Qur’an’s oft-stated assumption that it is the confirmation of the Torah and the Gospel, which teach the same message Muhammad is receiving in the Qur’anic revelations (see 5:44-48).

Of course, Christians have textual evidence dating to the 1st and 2nd century AD proving that we’ve changed nothing. That doesn’t seem to matter to Muslims. When you ask them about the Uthmanic recension and the possibility of textual corruption of even the earliest form of the Qur’an, you get nothing but vitriol.

PRCalDude on June 11, 2007 at 11:26 AM

I realize that the law of contradiction isn’t entirely central to Muslim thinking.

Is it even there? I think this explains most of the schizophrenia in Islamic thinking.

PRCalDude on June 11, 2007 at 11:28 AM

Mr. Spencer,

Would you agree with my assertion that in many ways Islam is the antithesis of Christianity?

In Islam, there is only Allah, and he has never begotten a son, or anything. While in Christianity, Jesus is God’s begotten son. While Christianity is still monotheistic, Islamists will see this as polytheism. So, they reject Christianity due to this. Then there is how Christianity teaches love, kindness, turning the other cheek, praying for those who persecute you, and encourages debate. At the same time, the Qur’an teaches hatred, wrath, and the killing of those who would disagree with the traditional translation.

or am I over simplifying it?

j_ehman on June 11, 2007 at 11:39 AM

Let’s keep in mind that Islam is not the first religion to claim that men are without free will.

There are Christians who believe that your name is “written in the Book of Life” by God at the start of time. If your name was not written there, you were meant to go to Hell.

I think Calvin might take issue with this statement.

PRCalDude on June 11, 2007 at 11:44 AM

[W]hen one Islamic scholar, Suliman Bashear, taught his students at An-Najah National University in Nablus that the Qur’an and Islam were the products of historical development rather than being delivered in perfect form to Muhammad, his students threw him out of the window of his classroom.

Fresh attempts along this line might be more effective, provided that writers and speakers took greater precautions. What Spinoza and his successors did was extremely disruptive and vitiating, so it seems we could learn much of practical value from their techniques. Augustine’s withering treatment of the old Roman religion in The City of God is probably also a useful model.

Our contemporary resources for spreading corrupting doctrines are vastly greater than those of Augustine and Spinoza. What we seem to need are writers of somewhat similar ability, who know the contemporary muslim languages, and who will relish showing their superiority to Allah.

Kralizec on June 11, 2007 at 1:04 PM

The point is that there is no inevitable trajectory of development among religions. A key element neglected by those who assume that there is is is the fact that the content of the teachings of each religion is different. Religions are not infinitely malleable, able to be made over in any way the adherents wish to do so. Rather, they develop along certain parameters, as guided by the principles they teach.

While agreeing with all of this, I offer also that religions are sometimes actively, intentionally developed, and not always by believers. Hobbes, Spinoza, and Locke made intensive use of the Scriptures in some of their writings, yet the way is certainly open to doubt the piety of one or more of them. Moreover, in selective, context-free quotation and misquotation from holy books, it seems they could have learned from the examples of previous writers too holy to name. I’m reminded of the careful use Plato made of Homer and the other Greek poets in his dialogues.

So the practice of trying to alter religious opinions from the outside is ancient. You go to spiritual war with the scriptures you have, and I agree they’re not infinitely malleable. But men who are pressed for time, or who don’t trust the believers to develop their religion on their own as they should, can take their chances with Hellfire and try to do the work themselves.

Kralizec on June 11, 2007 at 1:52 PM

Interesting that it is claimed that God taught Adam the names of things, whereas we have:

“And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof.” Genesis 2:19.

That’s something we all know to be true – we named the things.

RiverCocytus on June 11, 2007 at 11:07 PM

Mr. Spencer I don’t know if this was discussed earlier but if you don’t mind answering some questions I think it would be pertinent to understanding the origins of the Koran.

Were the original manuscripts preserved or is the Koran we have now similar to the collection of Old Testament and New Testment which are just copies of copies and even copies of copied translations, rendering them, coincidentally, incapable of ultimate scrutiny?

Also does the Koran include all of the writings of Mohammed or as in the Old Testament & New Testament were there books/suras that were lost, and or didn’t make the final cut?

Who decided how the Koran would be assembled and when was this done?

If these were addressed earlier could someone direct me there.

frreal on June 12, 2007 at 9:15 AM

j_ehman,

There are studies on Allah and any progeny he may have.

Have you thought of al-Lat and al-‘Uzza and Manat the third, the other – (Sura 53, 19-20)

Go here and go down till you get to a comment from Pass It On

http://www.jihadwatch.org/archives/010218.php

He/She does a excellent job of explaining it.

raz0r on June 12, 2007 at 2:20 PM

raz0r

I really don’t think that answers my question.

j_ehman on June 12, 2007 at 8:33 PM

I was reading about a Muslim theological argument centering around if erections in paradise are constant or allow moments of rest to eat splendid foods and drink wine. It appears the orthodox view is that you need a constant boner in order to make it with all the women made from musk and the young boys wearing silk and pearls.

Interesting that drinking wine and homosexual relationships are major sins while you are alive, but after killing innocent people for Allah and reaching paradise, you get to stay plastered and butt bump young boys. Maybe if they followed their perverted needs here on Earth it would be a more peaceful place.

Hening on June 13, 2007 at 7:50 AM