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Back to index   23 Years: Muhammad’s Prophetic Career
Chapter IV: Metaphysics

23 Years: A Study of Muhammad’s Prophetic Career
Chapter IV: Metaphysics

Professor Ali Dashti
1st Edition: December 12, 2008
2nd Edition: September 11, 2017

Welcome to Islam!
In the name of Allah, Islam grants infidels two choices: Quran or Sword!

Chapter IV: Metaphysics
God in Quran
Genies and Magic
Cosmogony and Chronology

Chapter IV: Metaphysics

God in Quran

Beside these nine enamel domes,
the earth is like a poppy-seed floating on the ocean.
When you see what size you are beside this poppy-seed,
you should laugh at your beard.
Shabestari 78

This poppy-seed, as the poet Mahmoud Shabestari described our earth, weighs six thousand billion (6 x 1021) tons and has a circumference of 40,076 km. and a surface of 510,100,000 square km. It is one of the smaller planets of the solar system. The time which it takes to revolve around the sun is a little over 365 days. Its eight known fellow-planets move in similar predetermined orbits. The most remote of them is Pluto, which has a smaller mass (about the same as Mercury's) and an orbit varying between 4.5 and 7.5 billion km. from the sun. The distance is made easier to visualize by the calculation that if a jet aeroplane flying at a steady 1000 km per hour could reach Pluto, the journey would take at least seventy years. Scientific and mathematical evidence indicates that Pluto is not the last heavenly body governed by the sun's pull, and that a journey one hundred times longer, i.e. of 7000 years at 1000 km per hour, would be needed to reach the limit of the gravitational field of another star.

History of Kaaba, Mecca, Arabia

Our sun, for all its glory and importance to us, is only a medium-sized star in the galaxy known in Persian as the Kahkashan (Straw Ribbon) and in European languages as the Milky Way, because on a summer night it looks like a straw-coloured or milk-coloured stripe across the sky. Within this particular galaxy alone, it has so far been possible to identify seven thousand stars, each of which is a sun and may be supposed, on a priori if not on empirical grounds, to have a planetary system of its own more or less similar to the solar system.

The poppy-seed floating on the ocean, with its surface of 510,100,000 sq. km., has a volume of 1,082,842,210,000 cubic km., which in relation to the sun's volume is tiny. If, for the sake of comparison, the sun could be supposed to be a hollow shell, one million globes of the size of our earth could be fitted into it. The sun contains 99.86 per cent of all the matter in the solar system, the share of its nine planets and their satellites being only 0.14 per cent of the total and that of the earth and its moon being less than 0.0014 per cent.

In space there are stars five hundred times bigger than the sun with its circumference of 1,392,000 km. and mass of approximately 1,200,000,000 billion tons. The sun, as already mentioned, is one of the stars in the Milky Way. It has been estimated that every galaxy contains at least one hundred billion stars, and on the basis of telescopic obsertatl0n~imd mathematical calculations up to the present time, it. has it has been conjectured that at least one hundred million galaxies (including our Milky Way) lie scattered through space.

The remoteness of the stars cannot conveniently be denoted by ordinary numerals and is therefore expressed in terms of light years. The speed of light being roughly 300,000 km. per second, one light year is equivalent to roughly 9.4608 billion km. The distances of certain stars from the earth are so great that the time needed for their light to reach us ranges from one hundred to one thousand years.

These figures bewilder our minds and convey only a vague idea of the universe's vastness; but they show clearly that the earth is a very small poppy-seed floating on a very large ocean. Every thoughtful man or woman who tries to visualize this immensity is bound to feel powerless and humble. If the apparently infinite universe has any limits at all, they lie beyond the grasp of the human intellect.

If the apparently infinite universe not only has a boundary .in space but also had a beginning in time, this again is something which our minds cannot conceive. If we postulate the existence of a creator of so vast a universe, we necessarily presuppose that the creator is bigger than it and surrounds it. If we assume. that this huge and awesome mechanism has a controller, we necessarily presuppose that the controller possesses infinite power. The nature of this creator-controller is therefore bound to be too remote, lofty, and abstract for comprehension by our limited and limiting intellects. In the words of Jalal od-Din Rumi, "That which we cannot conceive is He.”

In general, mankind has not been capable of far-reaching thought. Study of religious beliefs shows that human beings, with rare exceptions, can only visualize God's immense scheme as an enlarged replica of whatever system they have known in their own petty lives, and can only visualize God's unique nature as similar to their own natures, somewhat superior of course, but subject to essentially the same reactions, emotions, weaknesses, desires, and ambitions.

There is an Arabic saying, found in the Hadith and derived ultimately from the Old Testament, that God created man in His own image. It would be truer to say the exact opposite, namely that men have created God in their own image.

Some time ago, a satirical but intelligently written book entitled "And Moses created God" came by chance to my notice. Referring to the sentence "And God created Man" in the Old Testament, the book argued that the reverse is true and that God is a figment of Moses's imagination.

Throughout the Old Testament, the God who is presented to us is an imperious being, quick to anger, unwilling to relent, and avid for praise and worship. Out of the millions of His creatures, He preferred Abraham who was submissive, and therefore made Abraham's descendants His chosen people. Hence it would be right that these people should rule over the whole earth.

The choice fell on Abraham because, in the period after Noah, he was the most obedient and respectful slave whom God could find. For the same reason, God enabled Abraham's wife Sarah to become pregnant and give birth to Isaac in her old age. Since there was no virgin in all the land of Canaan suitable to be married to Isaac and to become the progenitor {originator} of the chosen people, Abraham on God's command sent a messenger to Chaldaea who requested the betrothal of Abraham's niece Rebecca to Isaac and brought her to Palestine. Then God obtained from the Children of Israel a covenant whereby they were not to worship anyone else and in return would have the rulers hip of the world. The entire attention of the Controller of the Universe was directed, not just to the solar system and the earth, but to one small part of the earth's surface, namely Palestine.

On one occasion, God was so angry when He saw the people of Sodom and Gomorrah {principle cities destroyed by fire from heaven because of their wickedness} turning to vice and sin that He decided to destroy those two towns. Even the intercession of Abraham, who was more lenient than God, proved ineffective. God sent down a thunderbolt which killed all the inhabitants, guilty and innocent, men, women, and children alike, with one exception; God, in order to please Abraham, also sent down an angel who rescued his nephew Lot from the general massacre. Throughout the Old Testament, God is similarly portrayed as a capricious, exacting, and relentless tyrant.

The texts indicate that Moses had similar despotic inclinations, and that David and Solomon cherished the same ideal of kingship when they ruled over the Israelites. The story of Uriah's wife {Bath-sheba , in the Bible, wife of Uriah the Hittite. David seduced her, effected the death of her husband, and then married her. Her second son by David was Solomon} shows how little respect King David had for other men's rights.

In the Qur’an, God is endowed with all the qualities of perfection. He is knowing, strong, hearing, seeing, wise, independent of all needs, and benevolent.. These are not, His only qualities, however, as He is also often imperious and wrathful, and sometimes even sly; in verses47,of Sura3 and 30 of sura 8, He is "the best of the schemers." . .

These attributes are not mutually compatible. If God is self-subsistent and intrinsically perfect, how can He be susceptible to accidents such as anger and desire for revenge? Why should He ever become angry when His strength is absolute and anger is an involuntary mood induced by weakness? Why should He, in His absolute independence, be angry about the ignorance and stupidity of some humans incapable of discerning His existence and mastery of the universe? Why too, when God is "the most merciful of the merciful" (sura 12, verse 92), should He warn people that He will never forgive those who imagine that He has partners (sura 4, verse 116), but will punish them with eternal torment? Despite God's own words "I am not unjust to (My) slaves" (sura 50, verse 28), He throws sinners into Hell for ever, and lest they think that incineration in its fire may end their torment, He states that "every time their skins are consumed, We shall give them other skins instead so that they may (continue to) taste the punishment" (sura4, verse 59). Only an insatiable anger could induce such cruelty, and anger is a sign of weakness. Can weakness be attributed to Almighty God?

In the Qur’an there are, on the one hand, numerous verses which state that guidance and error depend entirely on God's decision, and on the other hand, numerous verses which impose specific obligations on men and women together with harsh penalties on those who decide not to observe them.

There are also times when the Omnipotent and Omniscient God needs the help of humans. "Jesus, the son of Mary, said to the disciples, 'Who will be my supporters in God's cause?' The disciples said, 'We will be God's supporters'" (sura 61, os-Saff, verse 14). "And We sent down iron, (because) in it lie great power and benefits for the people, and so that God in the unseen world may know who support Him and His Apostles" (sura 57, ol-Hadid, verse 25).

These problems are fundamental, but will not be pursued further here. For many centuries Islamic theologians and Qur’an commentators have striven to explain away the seeming contradictions or at least discordances. In the context of this book, it will be sufficient to proceed to a brief examination of some of the Qur’anic passages concerning events in the twenty three years understudy.

God, the omnipotent controller of the infinite universe, took offence with Abu Lahab for saying to the Prophet, "Perish you, Mohammad! Did you invite us here for this?" Like a thunderbolt, sura III (ol-Masad) came down onto Abu Lahab's head, and his wife was not spared from its blast: "Perish Abu Lahab's hands, and may he (himself) perish! His wealth will not give him security, nor will the gains that he has made. He will roast in a flaming fire. And his wife, the carrier of the firewood sticks, will have a rope of palm fiber on her neck!”

Abu'l-Ashadd's conceit brought down the stinging rebuke which Almighty God gave to him in sura 90 (ol-Balad).

Sura 104 (ol-Homaza) is a similar slap in the face for ol-Wand b. ol-Moghira and Omayya b. Khalaf, who in Mohammad's presence had boasted of their wealth and mocked him with innuendos and winks. Sura 108 (ol-Kawlhar) reprimands ol-As b. Wa'el, who after the death of the Prophet's son had insultingly called him heirless.

Ka'b b. ol-Ashrafs journey to Mecca after the battle of Badr particularly angered the Master of the Universe because Ka'b, being a Jew and therefore a possessor of scripture, was expressing sympathy with the defeated polytheists and rating them higher than Mohammad, who was a strict monotheist. Verses 54-57 of sura 4 (on-Nesa) attest the vehemence of God's wrath over this matter.

In sura 59 (ol-Hashar), however, God takes pride in the eradication of the Nadir tribe and describes it as a merited punishment for their persistent adherence to Judaism. Abdollah b. ol-Abbas is reported to have given the name Surat Bani'n-Nadir to this sura.

In the Qur’an, God not only refutes and denounces persons and groups who obstructed the advance of Mohammad's cause; He also intervenes in His Prophet's problems with. women. One problem was the Prophet's love for Zaynab, the daughter of Jahsh and wife of Zayd, and the resultant estrangement of Zayd from Zaynab. After the execution of her divorce and completion of her waiting period, God gave her in marriage to His Prophet through the revelation of verse 37 of sura 33 (oJ-Ahzab). In verses 28 and 29 of the same sura, the problem of the demands of the Prophet's wives for higher allowances out of the booty taken from the massacred Banu Qorayza is settled by God's decision that the wives must be content with their present allowances or face divorce. The later problem of his wife Hafsa's complaint about his relations with his concubine Mariya is the subject of the numerous verses in sura 66 (ot-Tahrim) which were discussed in the preceding chapter. Hafsa's and A'esha's jealousy greatly displeased God, who warned these two women that unless they ceased to vex the Prophet and repented, God and Gabriel and the righteous believers would go to the Prophet's support, and that if the Prophet divorced them, God would give him better wives instead - obedient Moslem women ready to fast and pray, who had migrated from Mecca, and who might be widowed, divorced, or virgin. It has already been mentioned that one Qur’an-commentary takes "widowed" to mean Pharaoh's wife Asiya and "virgin" to mean Jesus's mother Mary, and states that both will be married to the Prophet in heaven; since the Qur’an says nothing to this effect, the only significance of the statement is that it illustrates the mentality of the commentator.

Sura 24 (on-Nur) deals mainly with the lie about A'esha and prescribes the penalty of eighty lashes for slandering chaste wives. Through the retrospective infliction of this penalty on Hassan b. Thabet and Hamna b. Jahsh, A'esha's innocence was proclaimed.

Throughout the years 1 A.H./622-11 A.H./632, not only the infinite universe but also the earth's other regions were forgotten or ignored because some Arabs in the Hejaz and Najd had begun to think about the one great God but had sometimes, from fear or laxity, neglected duties such as participation in raids. To punish them, the fire of hell was made hotter, while to reward those who, from faith or hope of booty, had given proof of valour and steadfastness, gardens with rivers flowing beneath were prepared.

When the feelings of God's beloved Apostle were hurt by taunts or sneers, he was consoled by the assurance that "We have given you sufficient (protection) against the mockers" (sura 15, a/-Heir, verse 95).

The Creator's most conspicuous and effective intervention in Arab affairs took place in 2 A.H./624 at the battle of Badr and is the subject of the whole of sura 8 (o/-Anfal). A caravan, bearing a large cargo and led by Abu Sofyan, was on its way back from Damascus to Mecca. When the Prophet heard about it, he set forth from Madina with a party of his companions to attack it and seize the valuable goods. Abu Sofyan, having obtained information, requested help from Mecca, and Abu Jahlled out a Qorayshite force which was to guard the caravan. As an additional precaution, Abu Sofyan changed the caravan's route. He succeeded in bringing it safely to Mecca. The Prophet Mohammad and his party did not catch the caravan but ran into Abu Jahl's troops at a place called Badr. Not unnaturally some of the Prophet's men, who had been expecting to get a lot of booty without much trouble, flinched from battle with the large Qorayshite force and advised return to Madina. In verse 7 of sura 8, God reprimanded these men and called on them to fight the unbelievers. Verse 9 states that God had promised to reinforce them with a thousand angels, and verse 17 that not they, but God, had slain the enemies who fell in the battle.  One of these fallen enemies was Abu Jahl, on whom the curse was thus fulfilled. Verse 17 goes on to address the Prophet, saying "You (singular) did not throw when you threw, but God threw.” This refers to the Prophet's symbolic gesture of flinging a handful of sand in the direction of the polytheists for the purpose of blinding them, and means that it was God, not the Prophet, who thereby caused their invisibility and defeat of the large enemy force.

This victory over the polytheists gave rise to problems of division of the booty. God allotted one fifth of it to His Apostle and the public treasury of the Moslems, and made provisions for its distribution (sura 8, verse 42).

The next problem was how to deal with the captives. At first God endorsed Omar's advice to behead them all and thereby intimidate adversaries: "It is not for a Prophet to have prisoners until he has spread fear of slaughter in the land" (sura 8, verse 68).

A little later, however, God accepted Abu Bakr's calmer advice to ransom them: “O Prophet, say (this) to the prisoners in your hands! 'If God knows of any good in your hearts, He will give you something better than that which will have been taken from you. And He will pardon you'" (verse 71).

The whole of sura 8 is devoted to solutions of problems arising from the relations of the Moslems with the polytheists and the Jews.

God's intervention in the crisis which arose when the Ghatafan tribe entered into an alliance with the Qoraysh, and their combined forces laid siege to Madina, is described in verse9 of sura33 (ol-Ahzab): “O believers, remember God's bounty to you when armies came against you, and We sent against them a wind and armies that you did not see!" Verses 10-13 give more information about this crisis in which God so greatly helped the Moslems.

The Cambridge Tafsir gives the following account of what happened: "God.on High sent a wind to uproot their tent pegs, blow their fires out, and smash the stable where they kept their horses, with the result that they all fell on top of each other. And the angels cried out, 'God is great.' “

The pious commentator never thought of asking why Almighty God had not sent the wind three weeks earlier. If God had done that, He would have relieved the Moslems of the gruelling task of digging the defensive trench around Madina and would have spared them many days and nights of acute anxiety.
Nor did it occur to this commentator or to any contemporary or later Moslems to wonder why, at the battle of Mount Ohod, God had not sent a reinforcement of angels, as at Badr, or a windstorm, as in the war of the trench, in order to avert the painful defeat and the martyrdom of seventy Moslem fighters, one of whom was the Prophet's intrepid and popular youngest uncle, Hamza b. Abd ol-Mottaleb. If some angels or a tempest had helped at Mount Ohod, the Prophet would have been spared the embarrassment of a military reverse and the experience of being hit in the face by a stone and only rescued from martyrdom himself thanks to the bravery of Ali who shielded him.

A broad picture of contemporary social conditions in the Hejaz can be pieced together from the study of various passages in the Qur’an. In addition to commandments and moral precepts, there are mentions of contemporary events and conflicts. Hundreds of verses are devoted to controversy, rebuttal of traducers, arbitration of private disputes, exhortation to fight, censure of draft dodgers, promise of booty and possession of other people's wives and property, and threat of hell-fire for opponents and disobeyers. The thunderbolt of God's wrath is suspended over the heads of righteous and wicked persons alike, ready to destroy a whole town if a few of its inhabitants are disobedient or sinful.

God in the Qur’an has the typical characteristics of a human being. At times He is happy, at other times irate. He has likes and dislikes, and can be pleased. In short, all the propensities of our weak and unstable human nature, such as love, anger, vengefulness, and even guile, are also experienced by the Supreme Being. Yet if we postulate the existence of a creator and controller of the infinite universe, we must rationally believe him to be exempt from such accidents. We are therefore bound to interpret the Qur’anic attributions of incongruous qualities to the Creator as expressions of the Prophet Mohammad's own human feelings, and all the more so because the Prophet himself said that he too was human. We know that, like any other man, he took offense, felt grief and mourned the loss of his son, and was so upset by the sight of Hamza's mutilated body at Mount Ohod that he heatedly vowed to mutilate the bodies of thirty Qorayshites.

The foregoing observations prompt the question whether a confusion between God and Mohammad is discernible in the Qur’an. This is the only hypothesis capable of resolving the difficulties presented by a large number of Qur’anic passages. A study of some of them will perhaps make the problem rather more clear.

All Moslems believe that the Qur’an is God's word. This premiss is based on information frequently given in the text of the Qur’an, e.g. in verses 3 and 4 of sura S3 (on-Najm), "And he (the Prophet) does not speak at will. It is nothing but revelation being revealed"; and in verse 1of sura 97 (ol-Qadr), "We sent it down on the night of power." Thus the Qur’an became for Moslems the sole document of the faith, incontrovertible, majestic, and sacrosanct.

The reverence for the Qur’an was so great that after a hundred years a fierce controversy arose among the religious scholars on the question whether it was created or is, like God himself, uncreated, i.e. not preceded by non-existence. This controversy went on for centuries. All that need be said here is that the doctrine of the Qur’an's uncreatedness conflicts with the factual evidence, the criteria of reason, and the basic principles of Islamic theology.

Nevertheless, in the reign of the Abbasid caliph Mo'tasem (218/833-227/842), the leading Sonnite exponent, Ahmad b. Hanbal, believed so strongly in this doctrine that, rather than abjure it, he endured a flogging of so many lashes that he fell unconscious. Presumably he even believed the words "Perish Abu Lahab's hands" to be as eternal as God Himself.

When a community has succumbed to a fever, it cannot be calmed with words and proofs. Yet for all who read the Qur’an and study its contents, the facts are plain.

An immediately striking example is the content of the opening sura (ol-Fateha). It is made up of seven verses79 called the seven repetitions80 and is placed first in the Qur’an because of its great importance in Islamic prayer. A translation is given below:

"In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful!
Praise to God, the Lord of the Worlds,
 the Compassionate, the Merciful,
the Master of the Judgement Day!
You (alone) we worship and from You (alone) we seek help.
Guide us to the straight path,
the path of those on whom You have bestowed bounty,
not of those with whom You are angry and who have gone astray!”

These words cannot be God's words. From their content it is clear that they are the Prophet Mohammad's words, because they consist of praise to God, homage to God, and supplication for God's help. God himself would not say "Praise to God, the Lord of the Worlds, the Compassionate, the Merciful, the Master of the Judgement Day." This difficulty would not have arisen if the Surat ol-Fateha had been introduced with the word "say" (Arabic qol) in the same way as many suras and verses, for example sura 112, verse 1, "Say 'He is God alone"'; sura 109, verse 1, "Say 'O unbelievers"'; sura 18, verse 110, "Say 'I am only a human like you"'. It is logically untenable, however, that God should say "Guide us to the straight path, the path of those on whom You have bestowed bounty, not of those with whom You are angry and who have gone astray.”

Since the Surat ol-Fateha cannot consist of God's words when its whole content is praise and supplication to God, it must be deemed to consist of the Prophet Mohammad's words and to be a prayer which he composed. For this reason Abdollah b. Mas'ud, who was one of the scribes who wrote down the revelations and knew the Qur’an by heart and later became a respected transmitter of Hadiths, considered that the Surt ol-Fateha and also suras 113 (ol-Falaq) and 114 (on-Nas), both of which contain the words "I take refuge with the Lord", are not part of the Qur’an.

Another utterance which, by the nature of its subject, cannot be attributed to the Sustainer of the Universe is sura III (ol-Masad), the retort to Abu Lahab. The Prophet had invited some .relatives and influential Qorayshites to hear him expound the principles of Islam. When he began to speak, Abu Lahab angrily interrupted him, shouting "Perish you, Mohammad! Did you invite us here for this?" The sura, with its repetition of Abu Lahab's word "Perish", voices the Prophet's indignation at the rudeness of Abu Lahab and the malice of his wife, Omm Jomayyel, who had strewn thorns along the Prophet's route. The retort as such is not out of proportion. On the other hand, it ill becomes the Sustainer of the Universe to curse an ignorant Arab and call his wife a firewood-carrier.

In some Qur’anic verses the verb is in the first person, and in others it is in the third person. Evidently God speaks first, and the Prophet Mohammad then speaks on God's behalf. In sura 53 (on-Najm), the first speaker is God, who confirms Mohammad's prophethood with the words "Your comrade is not lost, not astray, and he does not speak at will. It is nothing but revelation being revealed." In verses 21-28, however, the speaker is evidently Mohammad, who refers to the pagan notion that the idols Lat, Ozza, and Manat were God's daughters and reproachfully asks the Arabs, "Do you have male (children) and does He (God) have female (children)?" These words cannot be words of God, who would not ask Himself whether He has daughters. They clearly express the Prophet's censure of the customs and morals of the Hejazi Arabs, whose pride in having sons and shame in having daughters is the subject of several other Qur’anic verses, for example verse 42 of sura 17 (ol-Esra): "Has your Lord favoured you with sons and chosen for Himself female (children) from among the angels? Surely you are saying a monstrous thing." This question can only have been asked by the Prophet Mohammad, because if it had been asked by God, the wording would be "Have I favoured you with sons and chosen for Myself daughters?" Obviously God, for whom the sex of children makes no difference, would not have asked such a question.

The short-sighted prejudice against daughters is still widespread, even among civilized nations. The ancient Arabs boasted of having sons, and some of them were so barbarous as to practice female infanticide; but at the same time they absurdly supposed angels to be of the female sex. The Prophet Mohammad himself was not exempt 'from the traditional Arab desire to have sons.  Every time that he married a wife, he hoped that she would bear him a son. When his son Qasem died, he was sorely distressed, and at the same time deeply hurt by ol-As b. Wa'el's taunt about his being without a heir, because in the Arab view only sons were real heirs. He rejoiced when Mariya the Copt gave binh to his son Ebrahim, and wept with grief when the child died. Such was the Mohammad who said to the polytheists, "Has God favoured you with sons?”

The Qur’an contains many instances of confusion between the two speakers, God and Mohammad, in the same verse. One is the first verse of sura 17 (o/-Esra), which is the only Qur’anic mention, and for Moslems the sole proof, of the Prophet's night journey:

"Exalted is He who carried His servant by night from the Mosque of the Sanctuary to the Furthest Mosque, whose precincts We have blessed, so that We might allow him some of Our signs. He is (all-)hearing, (all-)seeing." The praise of Him who carried His servant from Mecca to Palestine cannot be God's utterance, because God does not praise Himself, and must be Mohammad's thanksgiving to God for this favour. The next part of the sentence, describing the Furthest Mosque "whose precincts We have blessed", is spoken by God, and so too is the following clause "so that We might show him some of Our signs". The closing words "He is (all-)hearing, (all-)seeing" seem most likely to be Mohammad's.

Another striking example of change of subject from the first to the third person is the opening sentence of sura 48 (o/-Fat-h): "We have given you a clear victory so that God may forgive your earlier and later sin." The sequence of thought would require the wording to be "so that We may forgive your earlier and later sin.” Among these many passages are some, like the above, which can easily be explained, but also others which present great difficulty.

One of these is in sura 33 (ol-Ahzab), verses 21-24. Verse 21 states:

"In God's Apostle you (people) have had a good example for those who hope for God and the Last Day and have remembered God often." Surely if God had been the speaker, the sentence ought to have been worded in a way which would give the meaning "Those who seek Me should take My Apostle as their model." In verses 22 and 23, the sincere believers are commended for their steadfastness in the war of the trench, and in verse 24 a qualifying clause is appended: "in order that God may reward the sincere for their sincerity and punish the hypocrites, if He so wishes, or else absolve them. He is forgiving, merciful." Here again the speaker is clearly not God but the Prophet, because God would have spoken in the first person ("in order that We may reward the sincere for their sincerity. . .").

It is related that the Prophet, when preparing the expedition against the Romans (i.e. Byzantine Greeks) in 8 A.H./630, asked why 01-Jadd b. Qays, the chief of a Madinan clan, was not going to join in the fighting that year. In reply, ol-Jadd b. Qays said to the Prophet, "Excuse me from going and save me from temptation! I am very fond of women, and I fear that if! saw the Roman women, I might be unable to resist the temptation." This was the occasion of the revelation of verse 49 of sura 9 (ot-Tawba): "There is one of them who says, Excuse me and do not let me fall into temptation!' Have not they (already) fallen into temptation? Hell encircles unbelievers." Plainly the verse is from Mohammad's tongue, not from God, because ol-Jadd b. Qays had asked Mohammad, not God, for exemption from military service. God supported His Apostle by making hell available for the punishment of persons presuming to make this improper demand, but He did not speak on that occasion.

The presence of confusions between God and the Prophet in the Qur’an cannot objectively be disputed. Sometimes God speaks, giving to the Prophet the command "say" (i.e. to the people). Sometimes the sentence structure proves that it is the Prophet who speaks, expressing devotion to God. The impression conveyed by the Qur’an is that a hidden voice in Mohammad's soul or subconscious mind was continually impelling him to guide people, restraining him from lapses, and providing him with solutions to problems.
No other hypothesis can explain certain Qur’anic passages which attribute excellence in guile and scheming to God. Verses 44 and 45 of sura 68 (ol-Qalam) advise: "Leave to Me those who call these words lies! We shall lure them on, (and) they will not know whence. And I shall give them rein. My guile is sure." In verses 181 and 182 of sura 7 (ol-A'raf), the passage is repeated with the omission of "Leave to me", beginning "And those who call these words lies, We shall lure them on".

Verse 30 of sura 8 (ol-Anfal) refers to a conclave of Qoraysh chiefs in their assembly hall (dar on-nadwa) and states: "When the unbelievers scheme against you, to arrest you or kill you or expel you, while they are scheming, God (too) is scheming, and He is the best of the schemers.”

Guile is a substitute for strength, an expedient to which a person facing a more powerful adversary has recourse. In these two passages Almighty God, who created the universe by uttering the word "Be" and decides everything that happens in it, seems to have acquired the nature of an Arab sheikh wilier than his rivals. A historical analogy which springs to mind is the success of Amr b. ol-As in outwitting Abu Musa ol-Ash'ari in the arbitration of AIi's and Moawiya's claims to the caliphate. 81

Confusion between God's and Mohammad's words is again apparent in two verses of sura 10 (Yunos). "And if your Lord so wished, all the dwellers on the earth would believe together. Are you going to compel the people to be believers?" (verse 99). "It is only (possible) for a soul to believe with God's permission.

And He inflicts vileness on those who are not intelligent" (verse 100). In verse 99 the words are from God and addressed to the Prophet, but in verse 100 the words appear to be Mohammad's, a sort of self-consolation followed by an explanation of the obduracy of the polytheists who would not heed his teaching.

It is self-evident that God, having not wished that certain people should believe, would feel no anger with those people for their unbelief, because anger only arises in a person when action contrary to that person's wish takes place.

As already noted, it is obvious from the content that the Prophet (not God) spoke the words of verse 24 of sura 33: "in order that God may reward the sincere for their sincerity and punish the hypocrites, if He so wishes, or else absolve them. He is forgiving, merciful.“

The Arabs, being temperamentally unstable and fickle, veered in whatever direction the wind might blow, and thus some Moslems from Mecca had actually joined Abu jahl's force and fought against Mohammad at Badr. The inconstancy and disloyalty of t4ese men, who were very poor, displeased God so much that verses 99 and 100 of sura 4 (on-Nesa) were sent down. "(To) those whom the angels took away while they were wronging themselves, (the angels) said, 'How were you off?' They said, 'We were impoverished on the earth.' (The angels) said, 'Was not 152} God's earth spacious enough for you to emigrate in it?'

(For) those men, their shelter will be hell, a nasty destination" (verse 99). "But not for those impoverished men, women, and children who are incapable of guile and receive no guidance to a (right) path. Those God will perhaps pardon, as God is pardoning, forgiving” (verse 100).

At Mecca before the hejra, God had sent down to Mohammad the command: "Summon (people) to your Lord's path with wisdom and good preaching, and argue with them by (using arguments) that are better! Your Lord knows well who have erred from His path, and He knows well who have been (rightly) guided" (sura 16, on-Nahl, verse 126).

A few years later, after Islam's rise to power and Mohammad's triumphal entry into Mecca at the head of an army, God's tone changed and acquired a harsh, peremptory note: "When the sacred months are over, kill the polytheists wherever you find them! Catch them, besiege them, and lie in ambush for them everywhere!" (sura 9, ot-Tawba, verse 5).

In view of the limitations of human nature, it is only natural that a person should react in one way to difficulty and in another way to success, and should speak and act accordingly; but in view of the divine omnipotence and omniscience, it is inconceivable that God should experience such reactions.

Nevertheless the assurance that "there is no compulsion in religion" (sura 2, 257), which God sent down in the first year after the hejra, was followed, probably one year later, by the command to "fight in God's cause" (sura 2, 186 and 245) and by the warning that "believers who sit (at home), other than the disabled, are not the equals of those who commit their properties and their lives to the war for God's cause" (sura 4, 97). Thus the believers were required to fight people who had been told a year earlier that they would not be compelled to become Moslems if they did not so wish; and at the same time the believers were told that they were not all equal, those who contributed to the war by giving their money or wielding their swords being superior to those who only professed Islam and followed its rules.

At Mecca before the hejra, God had revealed to His Apostle the moral precept that "The kind action and the unkind action are not equal. Repay (the unkind action) with that which is kinder! Then the person who is at enmity with you will become like a close friend" (sura 41, Fosselat, verse 34). At Madina, God sent contrary instructions to His Apostle: "Do not be weak and call for peace when you are uppermost!" (sura 47, Mohammad, verse 37).

Such changes of tone and method are bound to attract attention. Also noteworthy in the Qur’an are some of the questions which the Controller of the Universe, with its myriads of stars and planets, put to the Arabs of the Hejaz. One example is the question about water in verse 68 of sura 56 (ol-Waqe'a):  "Did you bring it down from the clouds, or do We send it down?”

In some passages, the Creator seems to have the same need as any poor mortal for human help. One such passage (already quoted earlier in this chapter) is verse 25 of sura 57 (ol-Hadid):  "And We sent down iron, (because) in it lie great power and benefits for the people, and so that God in the unseen world may know who support Him and His Apostles." This appears to mean that only human use of the sword could tell God who were supporting Him and His Apostle.

There are more than fifty Qur’anic verses in which God states that the guidance of humans depends wholly on His will and choice. Three are quoted below.

"Those against whom your Lord's word has taken effect will not believe, even if every sign has come to them. In the end they will see painful punishment." (sura 10, Yunos, verses 95 and 96).

"And if We had so wished, We would have given every soul its guidance. But the word from Me has taken effect. I shall fill hell with genies and humans together." (sura 32, os-Sajda, verse 13).

"So taste (the punishment) for forgetting your encounter on this day! (i.e. with God on the judgement day). We have forgotten you. Taste eternal punishment for what you have been doing!" (sura 32, verse 14).

Reading these verses makes the hair stand on end. According to what they say, God does not desire to guide many humans aright, and then inflicts eternal and painful punishment on those humans for not being guided aright.

God's lack of desire for the right guidance of all mankind is explicitly affirmed in verse 25 of sura 6 (ol-An'am) and again, with identical wording, in verse 55 of sura 18 (ol-Kahf): "We have put covers on their hearts, in case they might understand it, and a heaviness in their ears. . . . . . “

Yes, as already said, more than fifty verses threaten eternal and painful punishment for those whom God chooses not to guide.

The subject cannot be pursued here. A different, but no less astonishing, matter requires attention. This is the presence of abrogating and abrogated verses in the Qur’an.

The Qur’an-commentators and theologians collected and explained all the cases of abrogation.82 A previously revealed verse was abrogated by a subsequently revealed verse with a different or contrary meaning.

Change of mind after the taking of a decision or making of a plan is a normal and frequent occurrence in the lives of human beings, who cannot at any time know all the relevant facts. The human mind is limited and prone to deception by outward appearances, but is capable of learning from experience and recognising mistakes. It is therefore fitting and desirable that men and women should revise their past decisions or plans. It is contrary to reason, however, that God, who is omniscient and omnipotent, should revise His commands. This point prompted Mohammad's opponents to scoff that he issued an order one day and cancelled it the next day. Their protests are answered in verse 100 of sura 2 (ol-Baqara):

"Whenever We abrogate a verse or order that it be forgotten, We bring a better one or a similar one. Do not you know that God is capable of everything?”

It is precisely because God is capable of everything that He would not reveal a verse and then abrogate {annul} it. Since omniscience and omnipotence are essential attributes of the Creator, He must be able to issue commands which do not need revision. Every thoughtful person who believes in One Almighty God is bound to ask why He should proclaim a command and then revoke it.

There is a contradiction in the above-quoted verse. Since God is capable of everything, why did not He reveal the better verse first?

It seems that there were hecklers in those days too, and that they were persistent. A reply was given to them in verses 103 and 104 of sura 16 (on-Nahl): "When We have replaced a verse with (another) verse - and God knows well what He sends down - they say, 'You are a mere fabricator.' But most of them have no knowledge. Say (to them), 'The Holy Ghost brought it down from your Lord, truly (so), in order to confirm the believers.’"

On the assumption that the Qur’an is God's word, there ought to be no trace of human intellectual imperfection in anything that God says. Yet in these two verses the incongruity is obvious. Of course God knows what He sends down. For that very reason the replacement of one verse by another made the protesters suspicious. Evidently even the simple, uneducated Hejazi Arabs could understand that Almighty God, being aware of what is best for His servants, would prescribe the best in the first place and would not have changes of mind in the same way as His imperfect creatures.

Study and reflection lead to the conclusion that this incongruity can only be explained as the product of an inextricable confusion between God and Mohammad. God had manifested Himself in the depths of Mohammad's mind and made Mohammad His messenger to guide the people. Mohammad was fulfilling the mission while retaining his human characteristics. The verses of the Qur’an are outpourings from both parts of his personality.

The observations made by Ignaz Goldziher at the start of chapter 3 of his valuable book Le dogme et Ie loi de l'Islam may seem startling, but perhaps come near to solving the problem; they certainly deserve consideration. "Prophets," he writes, "are not philosophers or theologians. The messages which their consciences prompt them to convey, and the religious beliefs which they call into being, do not form, a corpus of doctrine built on a premeditated plan and are not as a rule capable of systematization.”

In other words, teachings inspired by a prophet's conscience pour forth from his inner soul; people are drawn to his teachings, and the number of believers grows until a new religious community takes shape; scholars then appear and try to coordinate the popular beliefs into a system. If the scholars find a lacuna, they fill it, and if they find an inconsistency, they explain it away. For every simple statement by the prophet, they imagine or invent some hidden meaning, and for every inspired utterance some logical sequence. In short, they bring up meanings and concepts which never passed through the prophet's mind, and reply to questions and difficulties which never troubled him. They do all this with the aim of creating a theological and philosophical system which, they hope, will be an impregnable fortress against internal doubters and external opponents. They base the whole edifice on the Prophet's own words. These zealous scholars do not go unchallenged, however, because other theologians and commentators extract different meanings from the same words of the prophet and construct other systems at variance with the system of the first group.

Although Goldziher's perceptive observations are expressed in general terms and about all religions, his insight must have been greatly sharpened by his study of the fierce controversies which raged in the early centuries of Islam between the Kharejite83 Shi'ite, Morje'ite84 Mo'tazelite85 and Ash'arite86 sects. Being a Jew and having acquired a thorough knowledge of the history of the Christian churches, he was well aware of the similar controversies in the Jewish and Christian religions; but he clearly owed his keen insight to his extensive studies of the developments in Islam.

A few more brief illustrations of the nature of the basic issue may fittingly be included in this chapter.
The Qur’an contains many figures of speech, whose meaning ought to be obvious to every intelligent reader. For example, the words "God's hand is above their hands" in verse 10 of sura 48 (ol-Fat-h) clearly means that God's power is superior to all other powers. Likewise the meaning of "The Merciful occupied the throne" in sura 25 (ol-Forqan), verse 60 (also in 7, 52; 10, 3; 32, 3; 57, 4) is not that God, who has no body, sat on a ceremonial chair, but that God was and is the supreme master. In sura 75 (ol- Qiyama), the words of verses 22 and 23 "On that day (i.e. the judgement day), faces will be radiant, looking toward their Lord” appear from the context to mean that on that day righteous men and women will turn their thoughts to God. The repeated statement that God is hearing and seeing (suras 22, 60 and 74; 31, 27; 42, 9; 58, 1) manifestly mean that nothing is unknown to God.

Many Moslems, however, have had rigid minds. Such men only accepted interpretations which are confirmed by Hadiths, and they considered any use of reason in religious matters to be misleading and impermissible. They took the above-quoted Qur’anic phrases literally and believed that God possesses a head, mouth, eyes, ears, hands, and feet just like those of a human being. In the opinion of Abu Ma'mar al-Hodhali (d. 236/850), a preacher at Baghdad, anyone who denied this belief was an infidel. Adherents of the school of the famous traditionalist and lawyer Ahmad b. Hanbal (164/780-241/855) have stuck to the same unthinking literalism ever since. The school's chief later exponent, Ahmad b. Taymiya, was so fanatical that he called the Mo'tazelites infidels and Ghazzali a heretic; on one celebrated occasion, after quoting the Qur’an in a sermon, he said to the congregation as he stepped down from the pulpit of the Great Mosque at Damascus, "God will step down from His throne in the same way as I am stepping down from this pulpit.”

These narrow-minded bigots considered not only the Mo'tazelite but even the Ash'arite theologians to be un-Islamic and condemned any sort of divergence from their own crudely simplistic views as pernicious innovation. Abu Amer ol-Qorashi, a Moor from Majorca who died at Baghdad in 524/1130, declared that it was heretical to understand the sentence "There is nothing similar to Him" in verse 9 of sura 42 (osh-Showra) as meaning what it says; it meant, in his opinion, that nothing resembles God in respect of His divinity, because "God possesses limbs and organs like yours and mine." As proof of God's possession of such limbs and organs, Abu Amer ol-Qorashi cited the description of the last judgement in verse 42 of sura 68 (ol-Qalam) "On the day when the leg will be bared and they will be bidden to kneel but cannot," and then slapped his thigh and said, "God has legs just like mine.”

The beliefs of these literalists or, as they are sometimes called, fundamentalists cannot fail to remind those who study them of the primitive notions and customs prevalent in pre-Islamic Arabia. The Arabs did not suddenly lose their materialistic outlook, their inability to think in abstract terms, their unconcern with spiritual matters, and their unruliness and obstinacy. On the whole, their minds were not much influenced by their intermingling with other nations such as the Iranians or by their contacts with intellectually inclined Islamic groups such as the Mo'tazelites, the Sufis, the Shi'ites, the Ekhwan os-Sam, and the Batenites.87
It is on record that all of the chief exponents of fundamentalism were of Arab descent, and that most of the intellectuals of early Islam were not of Arab descent. The Mo'tazelite and later religious thinkers were either non-Arabs or Arabs who had dropped the primitive outlook under the influence of Greek and Iranian ideas. These facts confirm the opinion, expressed at the start of this chapter, that men create God in their own image.

Genies and Magic

Genies resemble humans but are normally invisible. There are male genies (jenni) and female genies (jenniya), malevolent genies and benevolent genies or fairies. On rare occasions a genie is seen by a human, and it is even possible for a fairy princess to fall in love with a man or for a male genie to love a woman. There are also evil spirits, which sometimes enter human bodies and make them epileptic. Notions like these have long been found in all peoples and communities.

Equally widespread and long-standing is belief in magic. It is a notion that incantations, amulets, and drugs or other substances can procure results unobtainable by ordinary means; for instance that these things can cause a person to die, fall in love, or go mad, or that making a wax doll and sticking pins into its eyes can immediately cause a person living hundreds of miles away to go blind. Such fatuities have been in vogue among all nations since the dawn of recorded history, and are still deplorably common even among the more advanced nations.

These two types of illusion are not difficult to explain. Man is a perceptive and inquisitive animal. The human mind searches for causes of the phenomena which it perceives, and has difficulty in finding them. When the weak human mind cannot penetrate the darkness of the unknown, it has recourse to guessing and fantasy. Failure of the rational faculty gives scope to the imaginative faculty. Man is weak against nature, and subject to fears and desires which cannot be appeased by normal means.

Factors like these push mankind into the abyss of superstition. Notions such as the predictability of the future by means of omen-reading, astrology, geomancy, or arithmomancy get a grip on benighted minds, and phantasms of every kind and shape proliferate. Not surprisingly the Arabs of the 7th century A.D. were sunk in superstition. What is surprising is that in the Qur’an the two illusions which were discussed above are not only mentioned but also presented as facts.

The effects of magic and the evil eye are the subject of two suras, 113 (ol-Falaq) and 114 (on-Nas). The explanation of these suras given by most Qur’an-commentators is that the Qorayshite polytheists induced Labid b. A'sam to make a charm which would prevent the Prophet from pursuing his work, and that the Prophet consequently fell ill until Gabriel carne down and informed him. According to the Cambridge Tafsir, the Prophet, when asleep during his illness, dreamed that two angels hovered over his head and one asked the other, "Why is this man sick and groaning?” The other angel answered, "Because of the charm which Labid made for him and buried in the well of Dorwan." When the Prophet woke, he sent Ali b. Abi Taleb and Ammar b. Yaser (an early convert) to take the charm out of the well. They removed the water from the well, lifted the stone from the bottom, and as the angels had foretold, found the charm, which was a string on which eleven knots had been tied. They brought it to the Prophet. Thereupon the two suras, in which together there are eleven verses began to come down, and every time that a verse was recited a knot became untied, with the result that the Prophet was cured. Tabari gives a more highly coloured account, while the Tafsir ol-Jalalayn simply states that the recitation of each verse caused the untying of each knot. Zamakhshari, who did not accept that magic has effects, omits this story in his Kashshaf; like other rational thinkers, he interprets "the evil of what He (God) has created" in verse 2 of sura 113 as probably referring to poison or some such created thing which one human can use to injure another.

No commentator or theologian, however, has denied the existence of genies, because they are mentioned in more than ten Qur’anic passages and are explicitly stated, in verse 14 of sura 55 (or-Rahman), to have been created by God out of smokeless fire. Moreover sura 72, which is known as the Surat ol-Jenn, states in its first two verses that a company of genies listened (to the Qur’an being recited) and said;, 'We .have heard a wonderful Qur’an. It guides to righteousness, so we have believed n it and will never ascribe any partner to our Lord.”

The ancient Arabs, like other primitive peoples, believed in the existence of good and evil spirits, and all the more readily because of the harshness and solitude of their desert environment. There is a report that when an Arab dismounted to spend the night in an uninhabited waste, he would be so frightened that he would utter supplications to the king of the fairies to shelter him and to the king of the genies to prevent impudent genies from molesting him. Verse 6 of sura 72 warns that taking shelter with genies only makes them more impudent.

While it is easy to understand why illusions and irrational ideas are so common among primitive peoples and lower classes of advanced nations, it is surprising to find them in a book deemed to be God's word and in the preaching of a man who challenged his own people's superstitions and sought to reform their customs and morals.

It is conceivable that the contents of the Surtl ol-Jenn describe a dream which Mohammad saw. His glimpse of the angel during the first revelation, when he was appointed to the prophethood, has been called the beatific vision, and his second glimpse of the angel during his night journey to the Furthest Mosque has likewise been interpreted as a dream.

Another possible hypothesis is that the ideas of Mohammad's compatriots had such a strong influence on his imaginative mind that he actually came to visualize a race having the same perceptive and rational faculties and moral obligations as humans and requiring similar exhortation to belief in One God and the life to come. In that case, however, it may be asked why the genies were not aided by the appointment of an apostle of their own race to guide them, because in several Qur’anic passages (e.g. sura 10, 48 and sura 16, 38) it is stated that every nation receives its own messenger from God, i.e. one who belongs to the nation and speaks its language. Moreover it is stated in verse 97 of sura 17 that if the angels had been walking safely on the earth, God would have sent down an angel from heaven as an apostle to them.

It is also possible to regard the Surat o1-Jenn as a piece of allegorical preaching. As the poet Jalal od-Din Rumi said, "When you are dealing with children, you must use childish language.” Perhaps the Prophet, making allowance for the mentality of his people, invented the story that the genies had heard the Qur’an and been so impressed that they had become Moslems.

Whatever the explanation may be, no blame attaches to the Prophet Mohammad. The great philosophers of ancient Greece, with all their lofty ideas and achievements in mathematics and natural and social sciences could not ignore the ideas of their people; indeed they were steeped in Greek religious mythology. Nevertheless there is a dilemma. Moslems believe that the Qur’an consists of God's revelations to Mohammad and deny that any part of it was composed by Mohammad. Furthermore the Surat ol-Jenn begins with the command "Say". Does God concur with beliefs about genies and fairies once held by Hejazi Arabs? Or were these beliefs spread and perpetuated by the Prophet Mohammad's utterances?

Cosmogony and Chronology
* {A Theory of the Origin of the Universe}

The Old Testament is a precious legacy of records from the history of human thought. It illustrates the naivety of primitive people's ideas about the creation and the creator. According to its account, God created heaven and earth in six days and rested on the seventh day, which was the Sabbath day; but since the sun obviously did not exist before the creation of heaven and earth, the phenomena of sunrise and sunset, which enable humans to measure time in units of day and night, cannot then have been present. In any case, why did God need a human scale to measure the time taken in the creation? Why did He measure it in terrestrial days rather than the days of some other planet, for instance in Neptune-days? Sunrise and sunset are the ascent and descent of the sun as seen from the earth's surface. If God had not yet created the sun and the earth, how could there have been any days and nights? Did Moses place the effect before die cause?

However that may be, God's creation of the universe in six days is reaffirmed eight times in the Qur’an, as follows:

(I) "Your Lord is God who created the heavens and the earth in six days, then occupied the throne" (sura 10, Yunos, verse 3).

(II) Exactly the same words as (i) in sura 7 (ol-A'raf), verse 52.

(III) "And it was He who created the heavens and the earth in six days, while His throne was on the water, in order that He might test you (to find) which of you are better in conduct" (sura 11, Hud, verse 9). In this verse the.theme of creation in six days is supplemented with the statement that during the creation the throne was on the water, which implies that the throne and the water existed before the creation of the heavens and the earth. In sura 10, 3, and sura 7,52, it is stated that God mounted the throne after the creation of the heavens and the earth, and this may perhaps be a partial echo of the biblical story of God's rest on the seventh day. It is noteworthy that the account of the creation in the three above quoted verses is given in the third person, and that the speaker must therefore be the Prophet Mohammad. In the verse quoted below, the speaker is God.

(IV) "And We created the heavens and the earth and what is between the two in six days, and no weariness touched Us" (sura 50, Qaf, verse 37). This verse differs from the three previous ones in that it mentions not only the heavens and the earth but also the space between the two, and denies that the heavy task of creating these structures wearied God. Weariness, being an involuntary diminution of vital energy experienced by weak and mortal humans and animals, obviously cannot be attributed to an omnipotent and everlasting creator. The words "no weariness touched Us" are therefore surprising, but may perhaps be a refutation of the biblical statement that God rested on the seventh day, which implies that God was weary on that day.

(V) "Say, 'Do you disbelieve in Him who created the earth in two days?'" (sura 41, Fosselat, verse 8). Here again the speaker is not Mohammad, but God, who specifies the time taken in the creation of the earth as two days. The sentence implies that it was because all the Arabs of Mecca knew about the creation of the earth in two days that they ought not to deny the existence of the person who had accomplished that heavy task in two days. But the Arabs must have lacked this knowledge; otherwise they would not have been asked why they disbelieved in the Creator. Although God is the speaker, the wording is inappropriate for a divine utterance. God would not expect people to believe in Him because some Arabs acknowledged that there was a person who had created the earth in two days. The sentence must therefore be regarded as a product of the Prophet Mohammad's imagination.

(VI) "And He fixed towering mountains in it, on top of it, and blessed it, and predetermined its nutrients in it, in four days, equally for all who ask" (sura 41, verse 9).

(VII) "Then He occupied the heaven while it was smoke and said to it and to the earth, 'Come, both of you, willingly or unwillingly!' They both said, 'We come (and) are willing'" (sura 41, verse 10). God's throne is not mentioned in sura 41, but the heaven or sky takes its place in verse 10. Sky and earth in Arabic are feminine nouns, and the verb "said" in verse 10 is accordingly feminine and dual; but the adjective "willing" at the end of the verse is masculine and plural, and thus at variance with the rules of Arabic grammar.

(VIII) "Then He disposed them, seven heavens, in two days, and inspired into each heaven its function" (sura 41, verse Io). In this verse two extra days for the stratification of the seven heavens are added, and the time taken in the creation is thereby increased from six to eight days. This further confusion makes it impossible to regard the words as God's words. 

Another dilemma is posed by the calendar ordinance in verse 36 of sura 9 (ot-Tawba): "The number of the months in God's sight is twelve, (as written) in God's book on the day when He created the heavens and the earth. Four of them are sacred. That is the right religion.“

The world's peoples understand a year to be the period of roughly 365 ¼ days in which the earth revolves around the sun. They perceive four seasons in the year and arrange their work according to the seasons. Early civilized peoples, such as the Babylonians, Egyptians, Chinese, Iranians, and Greeks, used the solar year in their time reckoning and divided it into four quarters of three months each, making twelve months in the year; they determined the quarters by observation of the sun's varying positions in the sky.

For primitive peoples with little or no knowledge of mathematics, accurate observation of the sun was difficult; they therefore preferred the simpler method of time measurement by observation of the phases of the moon. The lunar months, however, are useless for timing agricultural operations, which are mankind's main means of subsistence.

The Arabs used the lunar months, and in order to obtain regular suspensions of fighting and feuding, treated four of those months as sacred. Some of the Arabs tried to bring their year of twelve lunar months into line with the solar calendar by periodically "postponing" the new year, i.e. increasing the length of the old year. In the Qur’an, however, the old Arab use of the lunar year is seen as an inviolable law of nature, and intercalation is prohibited in verse 37 of sura 9: "Postponement is an increase in unbelief." The Lord who made observance of ancient Arab lunar time-reckoning compulsory everywhere and for ever must have been either a local Arabian god or the Prophet Mohammad.

In like manner the Arab national custom of pilgrimage to Mecca was made a religious duty for Moslems, and the running from Safa to Marwa became an Islamic rite.

In verse 185 of sura 2 (ol-Baqara),a human custom or rule is stated to be the cause of a natural phenomenon: "They ask you about crescent moons. Say, 'They are appointed times for the people and for the pilgrimage.'" The Tafsir ol-Jalalayn makes the absurd comment that the reason for the moon's waxing and waning is to inform people of the right times for sowing, reaping, pilgrimage, fasting, and fast-breaking. The moon's phases are of course no help in agricultural timing, and the lunar months were prescribed for the timing of pilgrimage and fasting because the solar months had not come into general use in Arabia. The real reason for the moon's waxing and waning is its orbital movement around the earth with consequent change of position of its earth-facing disc in relation to the sun, and the coincidence of this phenomenon with the terrestrial phenomenon of night and day. The crescent moon and the full moon had been visible for thousands of years before the Arabs lived in the Hejaz and Najd, and no doubt been potentially visible for many millions of years before the human race existed. The Creator of the Universe is certainly aware of these facts; He would therefore not have uttered words which put an effect in the place of its cause.

Even more astonishing is the question in verse 31 of sura 21 (ol-Anbiya): "Have not the unbelievers seen that the heavens and the earth were (one) stitched piece and We unstitched them?" The unbelievers were not the only people who could not see how the heavens had once been stitched to the earth and were then unstitched; people who are not unbelievers also find it hard to understand. Continued next page

Chapter I: Muhammad
Chapter II: Religion of Islam
Chapter III: Politics
Chapter IV: Metaphysics
Chapter V: After Muhammad
Chapter VI: Summary
Back to Islam index
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