The Truth About Islam: Part 3
© 02.27.2016 By D. Eric Williams
All Muslims believe the Qur'an [Koran] is a unique book. It is the guidance from our Creator for all of mankind. It is the sacred book of Muslims and the main source of law in Islam. Every word of the Qur'an is from Allah. The Qur'an is the final revelation from Allah to mankind.1 The Koran is the purported perfect record of revelations given to Mohammed in seventh century Arabia. However, it seems this perfect revelation from Allah was subject to the whims of the copyists. As mentioned earlier, Mohammed was illiterate and thus uneducated in the finer points of literary expression. At least one of his scribes helped to remedy the prophet's deficiencies by making suggestions on how Allah's "perfect revelation" should be worded. For instance, when Mohammed had said "Allah is mighty and wise" at the close of a particular verse, his scribe Abdollah bin Abi Sarh, recommended "knowing and wise" as a preferable alternative. Mohammed acquiesced to the scribe. Having observed a succession of changes of this type Abdollah renounced Islam on the ground that the revelations, if from God, could not be changed at the prompting of a scribe such as himself.2 Abdollah later paid for his temerity. He was murdered on Mohammed's order for apostasy and showing disrespect to the prophet of Islam.
One opinion shared by many Muslims and infidels alike is that the Koran is a confusing volume. Along with chapter titles that often have little or nothing to do with the text, its contents are not presented in a chronological order but are grouped according to length. Although most of the later and longer revelations contained in the Koran appear together, placement in the Koran is no guarantee of its date of origin. In addition, there is little or no historical context in the book. It is simply the record of Allah's reflecting on a variety of subjects. This is problematic because there is no context illustrating the principles of the purported revelation. Thus, the Koran must be taken in an absolutely literal fashion with the supposition that it is literally applied today as it was in the seventh century. As one Islamic apologist has written, the Koran was badly edited and its contents are very obtusely arranged. All students of the Koran wonder why the editors did not use the natural and logical method of ordering by date of revelation. The Koran 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.3
On the other hand, it is less difficult to trace Islam's trajectory of influence when reading the Koran. Earlier revelations, given while Mohamed's new religion was weak and persecuted tend toward presenting Islam as a meek and mild religion. However, as Mohamed's ideological empire gained in strength and numbers, the revelations recorded in the Koran began to take on a militant and violent character. This is significant because according to most Islamic religious experts, the later revelations given to Mohammed take precedent over the earlier. This is in sharp contrast to the interpretation and study of the Bible. In the Christian Scriptures, it is required that the entire text be considered in any interpretive approach. Thus, no passage from the Holy Bible stands in isolation. Every verse must be understood in the context of the whole thereby placing much of the text in the class of metaphor, simile or illustrative matter.
Meanwhile, such subtleties are unknown to Islam. The general rule is very simple; the Koran must be understood literally, allowing for the most simple (literal) interpretation. Moreover, if Mohammed thought it, said it or did it then that too must be taken literally, providing the normative interpretation and understanding of the Koran for all followers of Islam. The Koran plainly states, whoever obeys the Messenger [Mohammed] is obeying God. And whoever turns away - We did not send you as a watcher over them. ...Whatever the Messenger [Mohammed ] gives you, accept it; and whatever he forbids you, abstain from it (4.80, 59.7). This fact is critical in understanding the true character of Islam.
The other primary holy books for Islam are known as the Hadith. The word "Hadith" comes from the Arabic word meaning news or information. It has a special meaning in Islam. It refers to the sayings and doings of prophet, Mohammed and the actions he approved.4 There are more than one collection of sayings and Mohammedic anecdotes that make up the Hadith. The collection referenced in this missive is Sahih al-Bukhari, one of the Kutub al-Sittah (six major hadith collections) of Sunni Islam. These prophetic traditions, or hadith, were collected by the Persian Muslim scholar Muhammad al-Bukhari, after being transmitted orally for generations. Sunni Muslims view this as one of the three most trusted collections of hadith along with Sahih Muslim and Muwatta Imam Malik. In some circles, it is considered the most authentic book after the Qur'an. The Arabic word sahih translates as authentic or correct.5 The writings claim to be an accurate record of things Mohammed said or did on a wide variety of subjects. According to Islamic belief, this means the Hadith is virtually on par with the Koran concerning its identity as "Scripture." Indeed, when there is a question concerning the right interpretation of the Koran, it is to the Hadith Islamic scholars turn. In fact, the Hadith is the primary source for the composition and application of sharia. This is why the Hadith is such interesting reading to Westerners. Within its pages are found prohibitions against silk garments for men (1.8.372, 2.23.331, 4.54. 471), visual art (7.72.834) musical instruments (7.69. 494) and death for apostates (4.52.260, 9.83.17, 9.89. 271 etc). Moreover, if a baby urinates on your garments, you are to follow the example of Mohammed and wash the spot with water - and keep wearing the garment without further washing (Hadith, 1.4.223). When a man relieves himself, he must never touch his private parts with his right hand nor clean himself after defecation with his right hand (7.69.534). If he uses stones to clean himself after elimination, it must be an odd number of stones (1.4.162). Great stuff!
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