Last Sunday, the BBC hosted an edition of The Big Questions that examined arguments for and against the existence of God. Being an agnostic myself, I found the arguments presented by the ‘for’ side extremely weak and self-contradictory. Even more off-putting was the arrogant and smug manner in which certain individuals presented their arguments, especially the Middle Eastern sounding Muslim chap and Adam Deen. Both of these individuals touched upon the oft-repeated fallacy that the Quran must be the word of God since it contains no errors.
This is a very popular argument used by Muslim preachers who generally rely on audience’s ignorance of the Quran to win the argument. They also have a natural advantage in that people are fearful of criticising Islam and are therefore often reluctant to enter into the debate. It is also an argument that I often made when I was a young Muslim and am therefore very familiar with it.
Al-Jaʿd ibn Dirham, tutor to the Umayyad Caliph Marwan, said “The Qur’an’s eloquence is not a miracle and people can do the like of it and better.”(1)
The Mu’tazilite scholar Abu Musa said “People are able to produce the like of the Qurʾān as regards eloquence, and composition and rhetorical beauty.”(2)
The 11th century Sunni scholar Abu al-Qushairy said: “We do not claim that everything in the Qurʾān is in the highest rank of eloquence.”(3)
Ibn al-Rawandi (former Mu’tazilite scholar) (d. 910 ad) said “Indeed the Qurʾān is not the speech of a wise god. In it are contradictions and mistakes and passages that are in the realms of the absurd.”(4)
1. Mustafa Sadiq al-Rafiì, “The Miraculous Nature of the Qurʾān and the Prophetic Rhetoric.” Page 160.
2. Al-Baghdadi, “The Difference Between the Groups” Page 164–165; and al-Shahrastani, “The Book of Sects and Creeds”, 1/68–69.
This video discusses the inaccuracies of cosmology found in the Qur’an which have been derived and passed on from similar misconceptions found in the Torah, the Bible and the works of Aristotle. In the Islamic tradition these errors have been compounded and corroborated in the various tafsir (interpretations of the Qur’an) of Ibn Abbas (7th century), Ibn Kathir (14th century) and Al Jalalayn (16th century).
Muslims have always been told that the Qur’an has been perfectly preserved right down to the last letter and that the evidence proves this. But according to Muslim sources, after the death of the Prophet Muhammed, entire chapters and large sections of the Qur’an had been lost, as have individual verses. In the end, Uthman put together the bits of the Qur’an that he could and put out his own official version of the Qur’an and burnt all of the evidence of “non-official” versions.
Umar was once looking for the text of a specific verse of the Qur’an he vaguely remembered. To his deep sorrow, he discovered that the only person who had any record of that verse had been killed in the battle of Yamama and that the verse was consequently lost.
~Ibn Abi Daud, Kitab al-Masahif
i came upon this notice in synagogue this morning. it makes interesting reading – as a piece of satire, of course, which i hoped and prayed it is, but unfortunately, on investigation, it isn’t, although it was, due to its over-the-topness, taken as such by the regulars, which was a relief. i know there are synagogues where it would not occur to anyone to think it might be satire – there is at least one commentator who sympathises, but nevertheless thinks it’s “overstated”!
the state of "yiddishkeit" yesterday
anyway, it appears to be (you can download it from here) from one of the increasingly odd sub-groups of the breslover sect of hasidim, who you may have seen in the recent tv documentary partying at their annual jamboree at the sect founder’s tomb in the town of uman in the ukraine. they are regarded as somewhat odd even by other hasidim (in a kind of sufi high-on-G!D hippy kind of way) but they are rather obsessed with the kabbalistic aspects of correct sexual activity, the piece itself being extremely revealing of the attitudes that filter through in much of the discourse from the haredi world, particularly the hasidic bits, so i thought i’d share it, with some translation and commentary:
Have you ever been in or witnessed a debate where an individual’s arguments got comprehensively demolished without him/her even realising? Well if you haven’t then prepare for this treat.
Hamza Tzortiz, formerly of HT but now a pseudo-intellectual debater for IERA, decided to attend the World Atheist Conference in Dublin on the 3-5 of June 2011, along with some other inarticulate chums. They filmed their antics and produced an edited montage of clips which is available to view here.
They begin their poor propaganda by complaining that leading atheists have refused to accept their challenge to public debate, as if the likes of Dawkins would waste their time debating these idiots. They then go on to present a series of clips which shows them making long winded and misinformed comments disguised as questions, often in a rude and abrupt manner. All the clips are comical in their own way, but the improvised street debate with PZ Myers is perhaps the most comical.
following an unusually thoughtful broadcast last week by richard dawkins (he’s obviously trying to take on board how much his militancy turns people off by some of the pleas he made on behalf of sacred texts as fine language, cultural literacy and so on) i am grappling again with some of the issues raised by faith schools in the critical thinking debate. dawkins, as per usual, lumped all faith schools together as a) proponents of segregation (for which there is some justification) and b) closers, rather than openers of young minds – the segment in which he, somewhat exasperatedly, grappled with the islamic school science class with an apparent 100% rejection of evolution was a powerful statement. however, also as per usual, he implied (by saying that he “worried that”) this was inevitable in a situation where the parents’ wishes about what they wanted their children exposed to overruled the presumed human rights of children to make up their own mind about what they thought was interesting or worthwhile. this argument was given short shrift by a catholic educationalist from northern ireland, who told him he was simply imposing his own expectations over those of the parents concerned; i personally thought they struggled with the editing a little if they were seeking to show that the wishes of parents were unreasonable; this wasn’t the strongest argument i’ve ever seen against faith schools. in my opinion, they’d have done better to concentrate on the ethos of these schools as exclusivist and contrary to “community cohesion”, but then again, what do i know?
Bismillah. This is by Rashad Ali (edited by myself), in response to a discussion about whether or not Muslims can be loyal citizens of non-Muslim countries whilst remaining part of the fellowship of the people of God (which is what the Qur’anic term “ummah” means, eg in Surah al-Anbiya’ or The Prophets). It is reproduced here to stimulate discussion of this vital topic.
Ummah is not a simplistic Muslim political bloc in the Qur’an & Hadith. It is used at times to mean the faithful, as in the verse, “You are the best nation” (Al-Imran or the Family of Imran), although even Umar was said to have held the view that this referred primarily to the Companions. Sometimes in the political sense it does not imply folk of one religion only, but rather society as a whole, composed of different religions – as in the Sunnah description of the Jews and Muslims of Madinah as one Ummah (nation), separate from all other nations (ref: the Mithaq or Covenant of Madinah).
Nasr Abu Zayd, an Egyptian scholar who was declared an apostate for challenging mainstream Muslim views on the Koran, died in Cairo on Monday. He was 66.
“Religion has been used, politicized, not only by groups but also the official institutions in every Arab country,” he told Reuters in 2008. The distinction between “the domain of religion and secular space,” he said, had been eroded.
Dr. Abu Zayd’s liberal, critical approach to Islamic teachings angered some Muslim conservatives in Egypt in the 1990s, when President Hosni Mubarak’s government was combating an uprising by armed Islamic militants. Dr. Abu Zayd criticized the use of religion to exert political power. He argued that the Koran was both a literary and religious text, a view that clashes with the Islamic idea that the holy book is the final revelation of God.