The Qur’an is the base text of Islam, which is today followed by approximately 1.2 billion people.
Most people know about the activities of so-called Islamic extremists, operating in Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and, most prominently and gaining the most attention, in the Levant conflict zone, principally Syria and Iraq. But how extreme are they? Do they have justification for their behaviour from the Qur’an, as they repeatedly claim to?
Just this week, new reports arrived of how the Islamic State in the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS or Daesh) murdered 19 Yazidi women by burning them to death in steel cages because they refused to become sex slaves. In Pakistan a mother burned her daughter to death for marrying without consent. These are but the tiniest tip of an iceberg of atrocities that never stop.
Naturally, any thinking person must be repulsed by such evil; but not a week goes by now without some example of completely intolerable behaviour, carried out by Muslims, frequently on women, somewhere in the world. In fact, hardly a day passes.
Saudi Arabia, which has gained for itself the reputation of being the most sadistic and barbarous legally constituted state on the planet, routinely carries out ‘punishments’ — better described as tortures, many ending in death — all the time. We now know that at least 14 million Africans are held as slaves by Muslims. 14 million. In 2016.
But many of us in the West know Muslims; we eat in their restaurants, shop in their convenience stores. Clearly, these Muslims are good, decent people. So the bombers, the beheaders, the immolators, the lapidators, the slavers and kidnappers must be misunderstanding Islam, right? They must be misreading the Qur’an?
How Salafism perverts decent people into monsters
Wrong. They are doing EXACTLY as the Qur’an insists they must, to be good Muslims. If they do not do so, then they will receive no reward in the afterlife. This is why the poison of Salafism — which advocates strictly following the letter of the Qur’an — is so effective and why moderate Muslim states so quickly collapse before it. Salafism — founded in and exported and funded by Saudi Arabia — perverts decent people into monsters by persuading them that if they do not follow the letter of the Qur’an, they are not ‘true Muslims’.
Unlike other Abrahamic faiths, there is no contradiction in Islam, although there appears to be. However, once you understand the Qur’an’s structure and the ‘Doctrine of Abrogation‘, which states, with Qur’anic authority, that only the last verse on any given subject has authority, the apparent contradictions disappear. Unfortunately what is left is the most savage and violent creed amongst the major religions.
Dom the Conservative
On June the 8th 2016, a Christian blogger called Dom the Conservative wrote an analysis of ISIL’s behaviour which showed, again, that the vile acts they perpetrate are absolutely in line with the Qur’an’s instructions. Every single atrocity that comes to light, carried out by groups like ISIL, Boku Harum and many others, is mandated in the Qur’an and not only that, the specific method of killing to be used is described, in detail.
Dom and I would surely disagree about many things; she is a Christian and I am an atheist. But she is an excellent and erudite scholar and she makes her case with passion and rigorous fairness. There is no disagreement between us that the fundamentals of Islam are contained in the Qur’an, along with the Hadith and Sharia, and that so-called ‘extremists’ — whose behaviour is indeed extreme — are just doing as the Qur’an tells them.
Yet in the comments to her post I saw the usual depressing litany of apology and dissembly from Muslims and their helpful idiots. ‘Oh, Islam is not like that.’ ‘Islam means peace.’ (It doesn’t; it means ‘submission’.) Well, all I can say is these people have never studied the Qur’an, have been misinformed about what it says or are lying. (Taqqiya.)
Reading the Qur’an
There is only one answer to this; you have to read the Qur’an. So I have uploaded translations of it, in English. I have placed links to these below. Please download, my apologies for their size, and distribute them widely.
Before you read the Qur’an, there are a few things you should know. In the first place, it at first appears resolutely self-contradictory. On any topic, there are peaceful verses and those of appalling violence. It is almost as if there were two writers, hopelessly at odds with each other.
It is entirely possible that there was never a living Mohamed and that the Qur’an was indeed made up by several authors. It wasn’t written down until 80 years after his putative death in any case; but that debate is for another day.
If we go with the standard narrative, Mohamed spent the first part of his life in Mecca, where he was weak and subject to the authorities, and so his preachings were peaceful and calm. After he and his followers had finally caused so much trouble that they were evicted, they fled to Medina, where they discovered highway robbery as a profession and soon moved on to large-scale banditry and genocide. The verses from this period are much more violent than the earlier ones.
Islamic scholars call these the ‘Meccan’ and the ‘Medinan’ verses respectively, for obvious reasons.
Briefly, Mohamed’s followers were aware of the inconsistencies so the Prophet (allegedly) asked Allah, who explained that when he gave a verse that contradicted an earlier one, he ‘took back’ the original so that he could substitute it with ‘something better’. The earlier verses were not to be forgotten, but they no longer had authority. So only the later verses of the Qur’an remain ‘in force’ — which means, these are the ones that ‘true Muslims’ must follow. This is called the Doctrine of Abrogation, and its effects, when understood in the context of what the Qur’an actually says, are chilling.
But how do you know which is which? The books (Suras) of the Qur’an are not ordered chronologically, but by length. Well, there are clues. The Medinan (violent) Suras are longer than the Meccan ones. The explanation is that the Prophet had more time by then. Secondly, while there are some peaceful verses in the later Suras, there are almost no violent ones in the earlier; so, if you are reading a fair few horrific verses, it’s likely to be later. Then there is geography. If the verses discuss Medina or areas close to it, then they are Medinan.
Many Islamic Scholars believe that Sura 9, which is the most violent, ‘abrogates’ or overrides all earlier Suras. It would do no harm to begin your reading there, in view of this.
Downloadable versions of the Qur’an
Quran—Saheeh-International-Translation- (‘Saheeh’ or ‘Sahih’ just mean ‘reliable.’) This is an approved translation.
Quran-by-Pickthall(A solid version made hard to read by the use of archaic English.)
The-Koran-translated—N-J-Dawood (This is the most readable version, by one of the greatest Orientalists of his era; but it is rejected by Islamic scholars because Dawood was not himself a Muslim.)
Quran-by-Yusuf-Ali (Another authorised version.)
Quran-Transliteration(This is not a translation but an attempt to let the non-Arabic speaking reader have some idea of the sound of the words.)
Finally, you should read this appraisal of the ‘Doctrine of Abrogation’. This doctrine is essential to understanding Islam and how it behaves in the context of the Qur’an. PIG_abrogration_naskh
Also published on Medium.