Islam 101 by Peter Burrows – email@example.com 12/18/14
An ancient specter is haunting humanity again. Dormant for over three hundred years, Islam is on the march again. Not since their 1683 defeat at Vienna have the forces of this primitive cult been strong enough to wage widespread war, or jihad, again.
Enriched by petroleum money and emboldened by a compliant and ignorant foe, Islamists are killing “infidels” across the globe. In just this past November, jihadists killed 5,042 people in 14 countries. There is no end in sight to this jihad, and there is no place to hide.
Jihad has changed with the times, and Islam’s threat is not from armies in the field, but from terrorists flying airplanes into buildings, planting bombs and blowing themselves up in crowds. Soon, they will have nuclear weapons to use, and use them they will.
They are waging their modern jihad largely unopposed thanks to boneheaded political correctness concerning Muslim immigrants and converts, and an appalling ignorance of Islam. We must wake up before it’s too late. In this column, I will discuss Muhammad and the Koran. Later columns will explore other parts of Islam.
Muhammad, c.570 – 632, began receiving revelations from the angel Gabriel at the advanced age of forty. Three years later he began preaching these revelations, and slowly gained followers. Not having much success in Mecca, his birthplace, he moved his fledging congregation to Medina, where he was successful in uniting the local tribes in warfare against Mecca. By the time of his death, he had united all of Arabia under the religion of Islam (“surrender” in Arabic.)
The Koran is a compilation of the revelations Muhammad received throughout his life. These, and seemingly every other detail of his life, were faithfully recorded and/or remembered by his followers. (It was not unusual for people before literacy was widespread to commit prodigious amounts of information to memory. Homer’s Odyssey and Iliad, for example, were passed down by word of mouth for centuries.) For Muslims, the Koran is essentially a transcription of a holy text that has existed forever, one that Allah gave to Gabriel with instructions to reveal it to Muhammad, His Messenger.
Muhammad must have been charismatic and brilliant. While usually depicted as an illiterate, he may not have been. Posing as an illiterate enhances claims of Devine inspiration, but it doesn’t matter. He had slavish followers noting and committing to memory his every act and word for posterity, even those he deemed not to be revelations. .
He was also a skilled military commander, which in those days involved sharing the spoils of war with the soldiers, something sure to attract new recruits, even those not motivated by religious zeal. As his military power increased over the years, so did his malevolence toward anyone who crossed him, especially those who did not think he was Allah’s Prophet.
Thus we have revelations from his powerless days in Mecca that show compassion and tolerance, contradicted by revelations from his despotic days in Medina that are full of hate and murderous commands. Which revelations to obey?
This brings us to the Islamic doctrine of abrogation, meaning that Allah can change or cancel any law He gives Muslims. (Abrogate: To abolish or annul by authority.) The Koran says, “None of Our revelations do We abrogate or cause to be forgotten, but we substitute something better or similar: don’t you know that Allah has power over all things?” (2:106) In essence, Allah, being all powerful, can change His mind, and when He does, it will be with a new revelation similar OR BETTER than the old revelation. Therefore, the most recent revelation trumps the older one.
An infidel might be excused (by another infidel) for thinking it was Muhammad changing HIS mind as circumstances or his desires dictated, and the Islamic holy texts have many examples of Allah granting Muhammad special favors, e.g. unlimited wives instead of the four allowed all other Muslim men (sura 33:50).
Islamic scholars divide Muhammad’s revelations into four chronologies: Early Meccan, Middle Meccan, Late Meccan and Medina. When referring to Koranic passages or revelations, you have to know from which of the above the passage belongs as a first step to determine if it is still valid. It may have been abrogated by a later revelation.
Unfortunately, the Koran offers no help because it is not written in chronological order. That is a very important point. One of the reasons the Koran is a difficult read is because it is not arranged either by subject matter or chronologically. With the exception of the first chapter, al-Fatiha, Islam’s most repeated prayer, consisting of just seven sentences, the remaining 113 chapters, called suras, are arranged pretty much longest to shortest.
I know of only one translation that is arranged in chronological order, that by the Episcopal Reverend John Rodwell of London, done in 1861. I was tempted to get a copy through Amazon but one reviewer thought the translation was marred by the Reverend’s Christian oriented refutations. (I’m interested in how Muslims view the Koran today, not how it was viewed by a 19 Century Christian.)
Abrogation and the subsequent importance of the chronological order of the revelations is especially important to keep in mind today when so many Western world leaders run around saying “Islam is peace.” Muslims will encourage this by quoting peaceful verses in the Koran that are just not applicable today and haven’t been for 1400 years. The non-Muslim who wants a quick way to cut to the essence only has to read sura 9 of the Koran, the penultimate sura and the last of the major revelations, thus abrogating anything prior.
(The very last sura is 110, a three sentence revelation revealed some three months before Muhammad’s death, and is a brief celebration of Islam’s ultimate victory.)
Sura 9 is 12 pages long in my Yusuf Ali translation and has 129 verses, one of them the infamous Verse of the Sword (9:5). A number of Islamic theologians think this verse abrogates all the more peaceful and tolerant verses in the Koran, some 124 of them, including “every agreement of peace between the Prophet and any idolater –.” (See Robert Spencer’s “The Politically Incorrect Guide To Islam“ page 25.)
Sura 9:5 in part says, “ –slay the Pagan wherever you find them — ,” which could mean the People of The Book, Christians and Jews, are spared. However, Sura 9:29 dashes that hope: “Fight those who do not believe in Allah nor the Last Day, —–nor acknowledge the Religion of Truth (even if they are) People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.” (Jizya is the tax inflicted on nonbelievers living in a Muslim ruled society.)
Personally, I think Sura 47:4 , another of the 28 Medina suras, is a little more explicit: “Therefore, when you meet the Unbelievers (in fight), smite at their necks.”
Religion of peace? Only if you’re a Muslim or an infidel paying the jizya. Of course, you have to be the right kind of Muslim, or off with your head, as we are witnessing today in the Middle East conflict in which Sunni Muslims are beheading Shia Muslims by the hundreds, a fact that really complicates things for the “religion of peace” morons.
Next time, more on other sacred Islamic writings.