"History is philosophy teaching by example." (Lord Bolingbroke)

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Saturday, July 10, 2004

Basics of Islam (II)

In Basics of Islam (I), we stated:

The take-home lesson is that Muslims must believe Muhammad who provides the sole account of the words and will of Allah. Allah, according to Muhammad, revealed his words as the Holy Koran to Muhammad. The entire body of evidence derives from what one man said, i.e., Muhammad, with no witnesses, no substantiation, no documentation, and no evidence whatsoever. No doubt, no questioning of validity, no appeal for evidence have ever been tolerated in Islam.

Now, we need to look at the founding documents of Islam, and later on at other principles and commandments of Islam.

Keep in mind that documents establishing Judaism and Christianity are long and deep. They originate from many sources and have been cross-referenced many times. Even the Dead Sea Scrolls found early in the second half of the 20th century overap and corroborate some common period of religious history of Judaism and Christianity.

Nothing establishes Islam other than a few documents written long after Muhammad died and which relied for source material on oral accounts. These accounts used the technique of the isnad to establish “facts.” Isnads are strings of "he-said-she-saids," such as, for example, “I got this from Joe who got it from Bill who got it from Jack who got it from Martin who got it from Allan...” No one got anything first-hand because there was no documentation for a very long time for Islam.

The Qur’an was first written many decades after the illiterate Muhammad died. The major sources were descendants of Muhammad’s original band and those few of the originals left who had not been killed in battle. Even the early fragments and Korans differ in style and content substantially from the "official" versions. Islamists deal with this problem by proclaiming the Koran to be the revealed word of Allah, and one must accept this without question or face horrible punishment. That has tended to keep Muslims quiet and devoid of curiosity. No aspect of the Koran, according to Shariah, Muslim law, can be changed because it is the word of Allah; change constitutes blasphemy and results in death.

The next entry into the cadre of founding documents came 120 years after the death of Muhammad. Ibn Ishaq wrote the first biography, the Sira al-Rasul, available today under the title of Life of Muhammad. Not only were there no documents to study or first-persons to interview, but Ibn Ishaq’s original biography no longer exists. After Ibn Ishaq, another writer, Ibn Hisham, “modified” the biography, explicitly to make it more acceptable. Many wonder what Ibn Ishaq’s original biography was like, truly, since the picture of Muhammad in the modified biography is that of a blood-thirsty terrorist who plundered the lives and property of others as livelihood and as a means of forcing others to adopt his creation, Islam.

In the 8th and 9th centuries A.D., the final founding documents were written. These include The History of Al-Tabari and the Ahadith. A hadith is a collection of the purported sayings, entreaties, behaviors, customs, and so on, attributed to Muhammad, the last prophet. Scholars consider the Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim to be the most reliable of the Ahadith, although there are several others. Again, all Ahadith come from oral sources, way, way downstream from founding events and persons.

Ibn Ishaq’s Sira,The History of Al-Tabari, and other Ahadith establish the Sunnah, as it is known. While the Sunnah are not considered the revealed words of Allah, they are considered divinely inspired. Doubts or questions about validity constitute blasphemy. The Koran, of course, joins the Sunnah as founding documents.

By 900 A.D., clerics closed Islam to any further change or discovery. The Koran and the Sunnah became THE founding documents of Islam, and no others. The only further product was the shariah, or Islamic law, which codified the details from the founding documents into hard and fast rules governing every aspect of life at all times for Muslims. Fundamental change ended for Islamia from about 900 A.D. to this day.

In terms of documentation, Islam began with what someone named Muhammad said had been revealed to him. He said his god demanded total obedience and acceptance of whatever Muhammad said and did. Muhammad and his cohorts were illiterate, and none of what became the Koran was written down for decades. All of Islam is based on what someone has been alleged to say, and upon what others distantly removed from Muhammad allege he did and said. Islam stands on hear-say, and nothing more.

Islam succeeded initially by means of volunteers whose motives and behaviors put Ali Baba’s forty thieves to shame. Islam has always attracted power-lusters. Islam succeeded initially with others because it was forced on non-volunteers at sword point until they volunteered. Eventually, Islam became the culture, thus self-perpetuating. These are not intended as any but incomplete statements about the natural history of Islam; the reasons for its success come later.

For further details, consult the two books by Robert Spencer, Ibn Warraq's Why I Am Not A Muslim, and Craig Winn’s Prophet of Doom.

Next, we will explore Islam and disbelief. No one makes more of disbelief than Muslims because Islam can tolerate no doubt or independence of thought.


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