Bartleby the Scrivener (vegan27) wrote in quran_thugs,
Bartleby the Scrivener
vegan27
quran_thugs

Sura No. 1 - The Opening

In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.

Praise be to Allah, the Lord of the worlds,
The Beneficent, the Merciful,
Master of the day of Requital.
Thee do we serve and Thee do we beseech for help.
Guide us on the right path,
The path of those upon whom Thou hast bestowed favours,
Not those upon whom wrath is brought down, nor those who go astray.
(1-7)


This is the entire first sura (chapter) of the Qur'an. Don't get your hopes up--they're not all this short. Oh, and "day of Requital" refers to Judgment Day. (I had to look it up. My vocabulary is pathetic.)

And now, it is necessary to write:

An Introduction to Islam


Abu al-Qasim Muhammad ibn 'Abd Allah ibn 'Abd al-Muttalib ibn Hashim (aka "Muhammad"--peace be upon him) was born in the city of Mecca in about 570 A.D. His father died before he was born, and his mother died when he was six. At the age of twenty-five, he received an offer of marriage from a wealthy, older woman named Khadijah. They had four daughters who survived childhood.

Muhammad had a habit of spending nights in a cave near the city for reflection. One night, when he was about forty years old, he had a vision of a messenger of God (who later turned out to be the angel Gabriel, from the Judeo-Christian tradition). Gabriel commanded Muhammad to recite the word of God that was being transmitted to him. There is a common belief that the prophet was illiterate, and that his verbal recitation of verses in very beautiful Arabic is a miracle. In fact, his illiteracy turns out to be most likely a myth.

Muhammad wrote a full, complete compilation of the verses he received in chronological order in his own hand along with instructions on the order in which they should be arranged. The Qur'an as we know it is arranged according to his instructions. Sura no. 1 was the fifth to be revealed; sura no. 2 was the 87th. The first sura to be revealed now stands in the 96th position in the Quran, and it begins:
Read (or "recite") in the name of thy Lord Who creates --
Creates man from a clot,
Read and thy Lord is most Generous,
Who taught by the pen,
Taught man what he knew not.
(96.1-5)

The reasons for controversy surrounding the events of Muhammad's life is that he didn't fill up too much of the Qur'an going on about his life story. Much of what we have comes from the hadithn (a plural word)--traditions of the words and deeds of the prophet. The website from which I first learned some details on Islam (www.submission.org) is very anti-hadith. It holds that the Qur'an is the ONLY reliable guide for the lives of Muslims, and that the the hadith are pretty much a sacrilege.

The hadith contain many really revolting anecdotes. Let me give an example. Muhammad was a polygamist. The Qur'an allows men to take multiple wives, but wives cannot take multiple husbands. One of his wives was Aisha. He married her when she was six years old, and consummated the marriage when she was nine. You read that correctly. The holy prophet found nine year old girls sexually arousing. He was a pedophile. A monster.

Or maybe the hadith are just as inaccurate as some believe...

That is all for today. We can go over the theology and other events from the early days of Islam in other posts.
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1) that article talking about "illiterate" was alright, it brings up a lot of points that most people do, including the fact that he was a merchant and probably knew how to write. But what is interesting is that it also means "gentiles." Most people claim that "illiterate" in this sense meant that he had not read the holy books of other religions. this is the claim that most muslims make.

2) where did you find that thing about how he wrote down each surah and put them in chronological order? i've never heard that, ever. i learned that we still don't know the exact order of revelation, and that most of the work of scholars trying to figure out what order they were revealed in was done in the 11th century and around then.

3) that thing about 'aisha is very unfair. you'll read in Muhammad: Prophet and Statesman that most of his marriages, including 'aisha, were political. He married many women in order to make ties to other clans, and that was a very common thing to do at the time, to marry off one's daughters as a way to seal the deal and cement the relationship between one clan leader to another, and the muslims at the time were considered a new clan. Part of the marriage thing was, of course, consummation. Now, whether they actually 'did it,' or just said they 'did it' to complete the ritual is their knowledge only, but all of the evidence about their lives subsequently says that their relationship was not sexual, she had no children, and they behaved towards each other more like siblings than a married couple, and that 'aisha was Muhammad's "beloved wife" because she was his best friend. Calling him a pedophile and a monster for something for different reasons under a different culture in a different time and a different place is very, very unfair.
I'm sad to learn that submission.org turns out to be inaccurate. They are what presented Islam in such a way that made me want to convert (until I bought a Qur'an and started to read it). They explain that a lot of the extreme rules associated with Islam are not actually found in the Qur'an and they introduced me to the number 19 "miracle".

It was also from them that I read the following:
When the Prophet died, he left the complete Quran written down with his own hand in the chronological order of revelation, along with specific instructions as to where to place every verse. The divine instructions recorded by the Prophet were designed to put the Quran together into the final format intended for God's Final Testament to the world (75:17).

Source: http://submission.org/mu-wrote.html

If that's just not true, then I'll just have to stop using them as a source of information.

About Aisha... In order for me to even come close to accepting the idea of a man in his fifties having sexual intercourse with a nine year old child, I would have to encounter such imperical, incontovertable evidence that is so astonishing that it would utterly change my entire view of reality. Humans have not evolved significantly in 1400 years. I can imagine a man having sex with, say, a 15 year old girl a thousand years ago--maybe--as unacceptable as that would be today. But a PRE-PUBESCENT girl?

Can being in a different time and culture excuse any perversion or monstrosity? Some evils remain evil regardless of where they appear in space or time. Penetrating a pre-pubescent child is a quintessential example.

If I were a Muslim, I would simply question the authenticity of the hadith. Maybe they were written by a group of men trying to justify their own unusual lifestyles.
the general opinion of both muslims and historians was that the majority of the revelations were written down in muhammad's lifetime, most likely by his closest followers who used them for memorization. at this time in arabia, oral transmission of stories and histories was much more common and much more treasured than collation into books. this we know for a fact. so it is very likely that many of the early converts did have it memorized. he also issued quite a few sermons which were not revelations, and many of those were recorded and memorized as well, as well as being later collected into hadith. the other big problem is that muhammad did not give the people the revelations in the order he received them. in fact, he sat on a lot of them for a number of years before finally giving them as sermons. it was, however, probably with muhammad's help that the order in which they appear in the qur'an is more or less how it is; people asked him again and again how to arrange them, and he probably did give them some general guidelines. We can also be pretty certain though that the entire thing as we know it today was not written down or collected together in his lifetime, because we have a record of an edict laid down by 'umar, the second khalif, saying that the revelations of muhammad needed to be collected. this was not done until 'uthman decreed it, however, and so despite the fact that there were probably collections resembling the qur'an, a definitive volume was not made until much later.
one of the key things with hadith is the isnad, which is the chain of transmission. each of them stars with "so and so heard it from so and so, who heard it from so and so, who heard the prophet utter it on this occasion." there have been thousands of hadith written over a long period of time, and there are an alarming number of them which are simply not true, clearly fabricated, and from a much later date. the isnad was considered "closed" for this reason some time after the prophet died, and any hadith declared after that point were automatically thrown out. muslim scholars arrange hadith themselves into "probably true" "possibly true" and "ambiguous" in the "official" collection. Most of the "probably true" had their origins in 'aisha herself, or else abr bakr, 'umar, 'uthman, 'ali, etc. the prophet's most trusted comrades. the possibly true have a bit longer isnad, but are similar in substance and in spirit to the probably true ones that they are also accepted. the ambiguous ones have a longer isnad, or have themes that vary from or contradict other statements made elsewhere in hadith or in the qur'an, and are to be taken skeptically, and usually aren't put in official hadith collections but nevertheless are "close enough" that even if they didn't come from muhammad, they still have a good message and can be useful reminders for some.

there are, however, people who find the issue of hadith problematic for probably similar reasons to you. they could have easily been fabricated early on, and they could have even been fabricated by 'aisha herself. she did, however, say that her father abu bakr was named by muhammad as his successor as he died, even though he had made it clear before he died among his closest that he intended 'ali to follow him. convenient? maybe. these people became known as the shi'a 'ali, or what we call the shi'ites. they believe that there were passages removed from the qur'an by 'uthman, who did not like 'ali, and they don't believe that the prophet, being a man, could have possibly been a role model for all humans (as with the issue of possibly having sex with a nine year old girl). instead, they look to the qur'an for guidance and also to tradition, but not by example of the prophet, as do the sunni's, who believe that no man touched by god's wisdom could have gone away without being substantially changed. sunnah, from which sunni is derived, means "example," and at the time "sunnah" was considered all over arabia to be very important, because the people who survived were the smart ones, and thus following their example insured survival for oneself. learning what works and what doesn't is very useful in the desert. the sunnis simply follow that tradition. the shi'a also believe that there was something inherently different about muhammad that made him, uniquely, out of everyone in the world, able to receive god's word, and that since 'ali was his cousin, he too must contain some spark of whatever that was, and thus he was the one more fit to rule. it should be mentioned that 'ali and 'aisha were mortal enemies, 'ali in one occasion telling muhammad that he should have put 'aisha to death.
there were many girls married off at extraordinarily young ages in arabia at that time, which for all intents and purposes was a pretty rough society. the life expectancy wasn't very high, and because it was still so much ruled over by clan warfare and "survival of the fittest," girls especially were used to satiate some of these rivalries. For instance, if someone from one clan killed someone in another clan, even if it was for a very personal reason, it was still considered to be an attack on the whole clan. the only way to make up for it was to kill someone in the clan of the killer; often the killer himself, but if he fled, then someone else. however, the clan could plead to pay back in blood money, which manifested either as a sizable payoff in real money to the family of the person killed by the family of the killer, or else giving over a baby or small child to "replace" the person killed. often this was in the form of ritual marriage. Baby girls at this time were considered quite useless, and were often buried in the desert or thrown onto garbage heaps outside of the cities. Paying off blood debts was a very convenient way to dispose of them, however, and was a bit easier on the conscience, so they were dispensed with in that way as well. Suffice to say that women were virtually worthless in this time, and were considered legal non-entities, and seen as nothing more than personal capital at best, and unnecessary baggage at worst. Muhammad's opinions of women, while not very good by today's standards, were considerably higher than this. For instance, he banned "sand abortion" of children, as well as the garbage heap method. He did not bar his wives from areas of the house, and while they maintained a respectful distance while he was in "state business," they were not altogether barred from sight. He received a lot of criticism for the "slack" he gave women in his group from people outside the muslims, but nevertheless he persisted. For this reason many early muslims were women. The "first" muslim is considered his wife Khadija, and she is treated with reverence for this fact. 'aisha in particular was a "gift" of good faith from his friend abu bakr, and muhammad was quite old by the time he married her. He couldn't have refused her in this situation; if he did, he would have violated the trust of his friend and probably would have caused a rift in the muslim community. so if you're going to blame anyone, equal blame rests on abu bakr for getting rid of her so young. a lot of people believe that they never had sex, that they simply claimed to have consummated to "seal" the gift. The event I spoke of earlier regarding 'ali was that 'aisha got lost once, and was rescued by a very young and dashing man, whom 'ali believed had sex with her in the desert. Muhammad did not believe it for a second, however, implying that he knew something about her that nobody else did. presumably that she was still "in tact." more can be said of this, but this is basically what a lot of people say.
that passage, 75:17, is part of a section, you can read it, where God is using the "royal we" to describe what is known as the Qur'an. In Islamic theology, this passage and those similar have been given a lot of thought. It is believed that the book is "unmade." That it does not have its origin in a person or in history, but was simply "transferred" from heaven to earth, and that before the universe was created and before time began, it existed in heaven. This is called the "umm al-kitab," the "mother of the book," and that it was created by the divine and exists as part of the divine and thus the earthly manifestation of the book should be treated with as much reverence as God himself. God describes in that passage that it is up to God to collect it and recite it, presumably "picking" what parts out of the umm al kitab to transmit to Muhammad, and that when it is transmitted to (and through Muhammad) it is ultimately God who is doing the speaking, and that no one but God can "explain" what it means. Furthermore, it says, that people who focus too much on the world and on physical things and presumably collecting in words what is more properly in God's domain, they forget the transcendent source and nature of the material.
also, the "Qur'an" as we know it today, probably wasn't compiled until under the third khalif, 'Uthman. Since it was documented that at this time, the muslim empire had already grown significantly, and that some of the outlying provinces had "their own" Qur'ans that varied in substance and recitation to the ones back in Mecca, so he made a committee collecting together all of the "official" surahs that were known and codified it in that way. Or at least, that is how the majority opinion goes, since there are no extant qur'ans predating the 'uthman period and that the muslim histories all agree that it was 'uthman who standardized the qur'an.
and lastly, Rashid Khalifa, the guy originally behind the ideas in submission.org, was the leader of a weird splinter sect that is considered by the majority of the muslims in the world heretical.
Worshipping God alone? Using the Qur'an alone? Let's stab him twenty-nine times!
well, again, it comes from a tribal setting, and for the first thousand years of the religion you could believe that the prophet set some sort of outstanding example by his own conduct and by his own words, or you could believe that the prophet possessed within him some sort of divine spark that was transmitted through his blood. any iranian wearing a black turban lays claim to the latter.
the problem a lot of shi'a have with the sunnis is that they feel the sunnis put too much emphasis on muhammad himself and it almost becomes sort of idolatry. sunnis of course deny this and simply say that the prophet was the receiver of the word of god and since he was chosen by god he must have set some sort of fine example and they look to his influence for guidance, but nevertheless say that he was a mortal man, and is now a dead man, and that the dead can not and should not be worshipped and that the immortal God is the only one who deserves that attention
I have yet to read the whole Qur'an, but the Shi'a view makes more sense to me right now. Again, that is due to what I'm finding to be a deeper and deeper bias in myself that comes from learning about Islam from the same website. They give many Qur'anic quotations explaining that Muhammad's only function was to deliver the book: <http://www.submission.org/muhammed/role.html>. They also say:
Throughout the Quran, Muhammed is depicted as an ordinary man and along with other messengers is chastised many times (17:73-75; 33:37, 66:1, 80:1-10). The Quran makes it clear not to revere human beings (5:44), not even the prophets (41:6; 18:110).

In one brief book I read (which was straightforwardly anti-Islam) claimed that, in religions where there is a messenger of God, the prophet begins as a humble servant of God, eventually rises to be God's equal, and finally becomes superior to God himself, telling God what to do in many instances. I noticed in that book that the author relied upon the hadith to support the idea that Islam followed this pattern. I don't remember if he was able to use anything from the Qur'an itself to justify his view.

Revering the prophet has other problems. Now, people draw silly and even insulting caricatures of God all of the time, and people say a lot of anti-God things every day. However, we only see Muslim riots when the prophet is insulted. I can't help but wonder if these evening news rioters (who don't likely reflect the views of their 1.4 billion fellow worshippers) revere Muhammad equally to or more than God.