March 26, 2006
The non-speech on Islam and Coexistence (2)By James M. Arlandson
Is there no monopoly in Allah's message?
(1) Siddiqui quotes the Quran about the unity of the messengers that preceded Muhammad:
The call of the Qur'an is a call to unity of belief:
Analysis: It is true that the Quran speaks of a wide range of messengers. But these and other Quranic passages in this section are taken from either the Meccan suras, when Muhammad has no military might to conquer the Meccans and anyone else, or they are taken from early Medinan Sura 2, when he still did not have a strong enough army to conquer tribes and cities. So whether in Mecca or early Medina, it is only shrewd politics to preach tolerance. After Muhammad grows in military power, this tolerant message that has an expiration date will be drowned out by ultimatums: either convert or die and burn in hell.
Before we get to the Medinan verses, we should note Meccan Suras 42:13 and 21:92—93 quoted just now, above. They imply that Islam comes out on top. Thus, it does not matter, in practical terms, whether any past society had a warner or messenger in it. Islam is destined to control the world. Also, traditional and Quran—believing Muslims are reluctant to accept prophets who come after Muhammad and who carry a holy book, such as Nanak, founder of Sikhism, and his book, the Guru Granth Sahib, and Joseph Smith and his Book of Mormon.
For Muslims who follow the clear teaching of the Quran, these prophets challenge the claim that Muhammad is the last and the seal of the prophets and messengers, as he said this about himself (Sura 33:40). So viewed superficially, Siddiqui's portrayal of Islam as open—minded appears positive. But looked at more deeply, the Quran and Muhammad do not tolerate later messengers and warners who supersede and replace him and it.
Again, Sura 9 reveals Muhammad's violent policy against polytheists. Verse 5 says:
This hadith leaves no doubt about Muhammad's mission in Arabia and his known world:
Narrated Ibn 'Umar:
Siddiqui omits from his speech Muhammad's mission of fighting people until they repeat Islam's confession of faith, say their prayers the Muslim way, and pay the required charity tax. Is this what Siddui means by "no monopoly"?
(2) Siddiqui would like Islam to reconcile the differences between Christianity and Judaism:
Analysis: At first glance, this Islamic reconciliation between Jews and Christians appears noble and grand. But at bottom, Islam as a go—between would be disastrous, according to Sura 9:29, which commands Muslims to fight the People of the Book (Jews and Christians) for no material reason, but for theological reasons (see "Does Islam reject racism" in Part 1).
It is true that the Quran accepts the virgin birth, but it also denies the Sonship of Christ on the strange notion that God must have sexual relations with a wife or consort to have a son (Suras 3:58—60; 4:171; 5:72—75, 116; 9:30; 19:33—34). Regardless of this confusion, Christians who are educated in their New Testament reject this false notion of physical relations, and they cannot deny Christ's Sonship and at the same time remain consistent with their sacred text.
This article clarifies Jesus' role and fully human and fully divine natures according to the New Testament. For more information on the Quran's confusion about Jesus, go directly to the Conclusion of this article.
But even if Islam were to act as a go—between on non—abstract policies, then has it provided enough evidence that it would remain peaceful? Right now, relations between Jews and Evangelical Christians in America are flowing smoothly. Do we need Islam to come in between us? I have studied the Quran carefully and can find no contribution that it can make as an intermediary between the two faith communities which the Bible does not make already. Nonetheless, as far as I'm concerned, if Muslims want to join in the dialogue, then they must leave their holy book far behind them in public, especially in areas of legislation. Islamic law must be excluded from the debate, because it is too harsh and barbaric.
And this brings us to a hard question: how did Muhammad treat the Jews in reality?
This article, "Muhammad and the Jews," describes his expulsion, execution, and enslavement of three major tribes. This one focuses on the Qurayza tribe of Jews, whom Muhammad slaughtered and enslaved.
(3) Siddiqui quotes from more Quranic passages that seem to promote Islam's tolerance of Jews and Christians and their messages: Suras 4:150—151; 2:177; 5:44, 46; and 2:62. However, it is not hard to find intolerance near these verses.
(4) Siddiqui quotes Sura 4:150—151 that says no one should distinguish between messengers or preachers of God's way. Islam expresses religious equality.
Analysis: But Sura 4:153—163 launches into a long polemic against the Jews and how wrong they were in the past. This means that they are wrong to reject Muhammad as the last messenger of Allah.
(5) Siddiqui quotes Sura 2:177, which exhorts people to do good deeds.
Analysis: However, Sura 2:174—176 promise the fires of hell for those who conceal the Scriptures. This seems to reflect Muhammad's polemics against the Jews who were accused of concealing their Bible (Sura 2:140).
(6) Siddiqui quotes Sura 5:44 and 46, which comes around AD 628 when Muhammad has a lot of power. These two verses indicate that the Torah and Gospel have validity.
Analysis: Siddiqui omits Sura 5:45, which imposes a literal eye for eye. Would radical Muslims want to impose this around the world? The linked article has news reports and analyses that show that they would indeed. Also, Sura 5:48 asserts that Muhammad and his Scriptures confirm the Bible, but the Quran has final authority over it. Thus, Islamic tolerance comes with a price. Islam must rule over the 'reconciliation' that Siddiqui promises.
(7) Finally, Sura 2:62 says that Jews, Christians, and Sabians who do good works will have no fear during Judgment.
Analysis: Sura 2:65 says that Allah turned some disobedient Jews into apes.
The Quran promotes tolerance in one verse, but nearby a verse reveals intolerance and insults. Also, as a Christian who is educated in the Bible, I do not believe that my good works get me into heaven. Only Christ's good work on the cross does this—a bodily and literal crucifixion that the Quran denies in Sura 4:157. (See this article that examines the fine nuances of Sura 4:157).
Since this section is long, here is a quick summary. Siddiqui says that Islam has no monopoly in religious matters. However, Sura 5:48 does promote an Islamic monopoly because the Quran takes final priority; that Jews are often condemned in the Quran (Sura 4:153—63); that people, especially polytheists, are forced to convert or die (Sura 9:5); that Allah is not above turning Jews into apes and pigs (Suras 7:166; 2:65; 5:60); and that Muhammad uses this degradation to insult them, according to Ibn Ishaq.
Does Islam abhor coercion and intolerance?
In this section, Siddiqui quotes from theses verses: 2:256; 18:29; 2:114; 22:40; 109:6; 35:25; 42:48; 18:29. Then he concludes with these words:
Analysis: Again, Siddiqui quotes from Meccan suras, except in two references. It should be recalled that the Meccan suras promote a modicum of peace and tolerance, but after Muhammad's Hijrah from Mecca to Medina, his tone changes. He becomes belligerent. But in Sura 2, early in Medina, he wants to be accepted by the non—Muslim Medinans and the Jews, so some verses reflect peace.
First, Sura 2:256 says that there is no compulsion in religion, but Sura 9:5, a much later verse, says that there is compulsion (see 'No Monopoly,' above). Why would hard line Muslims not use this later verse to force people to convert? Why did Siddiqui not deal with this violent verse?
Second, Sura 2:114 says that anyone who forbids the mention of Allah's name in places of worship is unjust. This is true as far as it goes. Anyone who forbids freedom of worship is wrong. But this is precisely what Muhammad did after he conquered Mecca. He prohibited non—Muslims and polytheists from going on a pilgrimage to the Kabah shrine in the city (Sura 9:17, 28). To this day, non—Muslims are not permitted anywhere near this Black Stone. In fact, churches are not allowed to be built, or Christians may not carry their Bibles in the Islamic "Holy Land": Saudi Arabia. They may get arrested or killed.
Does Islam welcome diversity in matters of faith?
(1) Siddiqui quotes these verses: 30:22; 11:118; 5:49 (sic, it should read v. 48); 2:136; and 10:99.
Analysis: Only two verses are revealed during Muhammad's life in Medina; the rest come from Mecca. Since the Medinan suras have far more violence in them, we limit our focus to them. Many Muslims believe that the Medinan suras take priority over the Meccan ones—certainly the violent fanatics believe this, and they are the Muslims who harm people.
First, Sura 5:48 seems to say in context that Allah has assigned a law and a path to Jews, Christians, and Muhammad. But we should recall that earlier in the same verse, a long one, Muhammad says that the Quran has priority over the Bible. So Islam's tolerance reaches only so far. None of this 'dueling sacred texts' would matter if it remained in the abstract, but Islam seeks to impose its views and policies on everyone in down—to—earth, practical ways.
This imposition of practical policies on all of society—beyond simple conversions of souls—spells danger for humanity. For example, Sura 5:33 commands in a legal context torture and mutilation of criminals. And Sura 5:38 commands in a legal context that the hands of male and female thieves should be cut off. Also, Sura 5:51 preaches intolerance: 'You who believe, do not take the Jews and Christians as allies.' It is not hard to find violent and intolerant verses next to the peaceful ones.
Second, Sura 2:136 shows Muhammad ordering the believers (Muslims) to tell Jews and Christians that Muslims believe in the patriarchs and prophets of old, making no distinction between them. Supposedly, this shows Islam's tolerance and open—mindedness of other religions. However, verse 137 reveals which message is the best one (Islam):
Thus, Islam must be the determining factor in matters of faith. The Jews and Christians will be in schism if they turn away—not Muhammad and his Muslims. Never mind that Muhammad is the newcomer to Medina who stirred things up with his message and who distorts Judaism and Christianity. As the later religion, it may fairly be said that Islam is in schism. Regardless, Islam must come out on top in its 'tolerance.'
(3) Then Siddiqui describes a utopia under Islam during the Middle Ages, citing Medieval Christianity's mistreatment of non—conformists and Jews and Islam's tolerance of them.
Analysis: No one should deny plain facts. Christianity indeed became abusive in some policies and practices in the Middle Ages. But these rhetorical questions must be asked: Did this brand of Christianity stray from the original teachings of Jesus and the New Testament? Is Islam above such excesses when it ruled over lands that Muslims conquered? The answer to the first question is yes (Christianity did stray), to the second, no (Islam is not above excesses).
Islamic tolerance throughout history has been questioned of late, notably by Robert Spencer in his book, The Myth of Islamic Tolerance.
This book, The Legacy of Jihad, by Andrew Bostom is the antidote to the false belief that life under Islam was always a bed of roses—the roses have big thorns. He provides many source documents, some translated for the first time. Here are online samples. This two—part article (here and here) recounts Muslim atrocities in Palestine. This two—part article (here and here) demonstrates that jihad produced the European Crusades.
This book challenges the extent of Islam's contribution to the West and the world, also examining the alleged backwardness of the West vis—�—vis Islam in the Middle Ages and later.
Siddiqui expresses a noble hope:
Everyone hopes for the unity of peace—loving people to fight and oppose bigotry and intolerance. I certainly hope for this. And interfaith dialogue is always welcome.
But the problem with Siddiqui's speech is that he omits too many bigoted and intolerant verses in the Quran that command fighting the unbigoted and tolerant. The speech he should have delivered before this one would have listed several dozens of such verses. Then he should have read each of them out loud. After that, he should have explicitly renounced them.
However, he seems to believe that the Quran is good for humanity, as written. But this whitewash or na�ve belief may end up hurting humanity. What would happen if Muslims were to preach nothing but 'tolerance' and then paradoxically force some European countries, for example, to pass laws that limit criticism of this religion?
Maybe if we reversed our roles for a moment, Siddiqui and other Muslims would understand my assessment of his speech, which was delivered at an interfaith conference, after all.
Let's imagine, contrary to fact, that Muhammad lived six hundred years before Jesus. Let's also imagine, contrary to fact, that Jesus said throughout his ministry that those who refuse his message should be fought. But he also spoke words of peace that promise Muslims no fear in the afterlife. In his last (fictional) discourse (= Sura 9) he says explicitly that Muslims and Jews should be battled and killed. Further, during his entire ministry he and his followers in fact killed people in raids and wars. Peace and love, battles and wars, mixed together. His disciples carry on his commands to wage war after he dies—even all the way to today, especially when they read the last (fictional) discourse of Jesus. Let's imagine, finally, that Siddiqui and moderate Muslims look around the world and observe (imaginatively) that it is Jesus' disciples who do most of the killing of people and the blowing up of things today in the name of their religion.
Given this (counterfactual and imaginary) scenario, would Siddiqui like it if I delivered a speech that quoted only the peaceful verses in my holy book? Would he like my speech if I did not renounce the violent verses in my holy book and the practices of my Founder? Would he like it if I called researchers of my religion who dug up these unpleasant truths bigots and haters? Maybe these researchers would be baffled, fairly asking this question of me: Why would you throw these loaded terms and accusations at us, instead of admitting that violence exists at the core of your religion and instead of reforming your religion—beginning with acknowledging the violence and intolerance in your holy book, which quote so admiringly? Why do you deny plain evidence in it?
However, let's return to reality now. Jesus did not teach or commit violence. But Muhammad did. In reality, he fits the imaginary description of Jesus, sketched out just now. Thus, the problem with Siddiqui's speech is that it does not fully disclose all of Islam. He left out the violent parts. Too many uninformed readers and citizens of any country struggling with Islam may accept its peaceful countenance or facade. But it hides a sword behind its back.
If Habib Siddiqui would like to do the right thing, then he should expose the sword of Islam for the whole world to see. But his speech leaves the sword hidden.
James M. Arlandson may be reached at email@example.com