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The new religion established by a man named Mohammed is stirring up the hornet’s nest in my hometown of Makka. There are so many questions that linger in the air. It is a challenge to reconcile what Mohammed said in comparison to the current events of the 7th century.
However, there is something about what he said that attracted people to his cause. A close examination of his teachings will reveal that although his ideas were patterned after Judaism and Christianity he said something that captured the attention of the people. This was achieved when he made a connection to Islam and the Kaabah a major religious structure in the city.
One of the problematic issues that I had to contend with is the fact that Mohammed patterned his teachings to that of Judaism and Christianity. Judaism is an ancient religion established hundreds of years before Islam. It can be surmised through the study of Jewish sacred scriptures that Abraham founded Judaism.
But it must be pointed out that Moses was the one who was instrumental in creating the religion that became the foundation of the Jewish nation (Forta, p.13). The distinctive feature of this ancient religion that makes it stand out above the rest is the notion that there is only one God.
But just like Abraham, Mohammed said something that captured the imagination of the people because he also taught that there is only one God. In ancient times this assertion is a radical idea. It is more practical and even more prudent to worship different idols. In a superstitious society it is better to have all the bases covered so to speak.
Polytheism is the answer to the fear of sea travel, mountain spirits, crop failure, famine, accidents, and the unknown. It is a ridiculous idea to suggest to ancient fishermen that there is no need to worship or offer sacrifices to the gods of the sea. The same thing is true for tree-dwelling people who are terrified of the darkness in the heart of a forest. Judaism just like Islam declares that there is only one God the creator of the heavens and the earth.
The Struggle to Accept the New Religion
Islam on the other hand was established more than a thousand years after Abraham. The founder of Islam called himself the last prophet. Mohammed is his name. But before going any further it is interesting to examine what he meant by stating that he is the last prophet. This simply means that he is using not the beginning and simply a continuation of a belief system that started before him.
A quick comparison to the two great religions Judaism and Christianity will reveal similarities to Islam. Even Mohammed himself made mention in the Q’uran of the “People of the Book” in reference to the Jews and Christians. This raises serious doubt as to the authenticity of Mohammed’s vision and his claim that he is the messenger of God.
Mohammed said that he spoke with Gabriel the archangel who delivered the sacred scriptures of Islam. One has to ask how he knew about Gabriel. Supporters can of course reason that the angel simply appeared to him. But critics can easily counter that he had previous knowledge about it. Mohammed is not in part of any community or tradition that allows him to understand such things. Even the Jews had to learn spiritual things slowly beginning from Abraham to Moses and other prophets. It was not done overnight.
It is also important to note that Mohammed is illiterate. Since he is unable to read and write then the only way for him to document the supposedly spiritual transactions he had with a heavenly being is to dictate it to scribes. This is perhaps the reason why the Koran is difficult to read. Compared to the Jewish and Christian Bible, the Koran seemed to lack unity and the ideas are disorganized making it a challenge to figure out what it the central theme of the whole body of sacred writings.
Violence a Disturbing Trend
For the Muslims the unbelievers are called “infidels” and no matter how they try to make a politically correct statement they cannot deny the fact that even the Prophet Mohammed had nothing but contempt for those who will not submit to the will of Allah. This can be seen in the Koran and therefore the Muslims are without any excuse.
The Prophet Mohammed’s contempt for unbelievers especially those he perceive to be doing immorality reaches a point wherein even the Koran provides the blanket authority to destroy them. Muslim scholars may have a different interpretation on what these Sura verses meant but it is clear that some of the followers of Islam had already interpreted it a literal way. Their interpretation of Mohammed’s directive to punish infidels can be seen in jihad or holy war.
The Q’uran is an interesting set of sacred writings. It was a book attributed of course to God but most importantly it was supposed to have been dictated verbatim to Mohammed. It would have been easier to believe that the Koran was God given if it was written well but the sad truth is that this book is an extremely difficult read (Andrae, p.38).
The verses, ideas, and concepts are disjointed. It lacks coherence. In one sentence it speaks of one thing and then the second sentence jumps to another topic. It is rare to see a short story completed from beginning to end (Shakira, p.1). There is no concept well written (Andrae, p.38).
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But on the few times that the author of the Koran created one coherent argument, the messages are not about peace but anger and hatred (Darwish, p.14). Read carefully the following lines taken from the latter portion of the book in the section called The Disbelievers (Q’uran online by M.H. Shakir, p.1):
109.1 Say: O unbelievers!
109.2 I do not serve that which you serve,
109.3 Nor do you serve Him Whom I serve:
109.4 Nor am I going to serve that which you serve,
109.5 Nor are you going to serve Him Whom I serve:
109.6 You shall have your religion and I shall have my religion.
Excerpts taken from the Koran provides other disturbing ideas:
Sura 2:178-179: “…retaliation is prescribed for you in the matter of the slain … there is life for you in retaliation” (Shakir, p.1) Sura 2:190-191: “fight in the way of Allah with those who fight with you…and kill them wherever you find them, and drive them out whence they drove you out, and persecution is severer than slaughter” (Shakir, p.1).
There are many more verses that speak of killing and inflicting pain on others (Natan, p.1). This is the irrefutable evidence that murderers that kill in the name of Allah were encouraged by the teachings of Mohammed. It is not from a political idea but from a religious one.
If these men were politically driven then they would go the usual route which is armed insurrection against their government and then stay within their borders as they try to uplift their nation using revolution (Darwish, p.13). However, Mohammed taught peace. Muslim believers believe in peace. It is possible to reverse the teachings about violence and the use of force to convert people and replace it with the message of peace and reconciliation.
There are indeed many objections to the teachings of Mohammed based d on three important facets of his life and religious activities. There is a great deal of information regarding the fact that Mohammed was greatly influenced by the Jews and the Christians. It can be surmised that he met believers from these two faiths during his travels and through commercial pursuits.
Critics focused on the issue of originality and question the integrity of the message of Mohammed. Thus, there is no need for him to establish a new religion because he simply had to align himself with Judaism or Christianity. But he did not. It can be argued that he was not given access to these religions. If he was accepted and given the chance to learn and grow in any of these two faiths then Mohammed need not preach a message that says he is the last prophet.
There are also serious doubts with regards to his qualifications. His being illiterate is a serious matter because he could not communicate effectively a voluminous amount of data without having to develop a system of recording this information. His supporters can argue that Mohammed used scribes to dictate what he said but this can be easily refuted with the argument that if he cannot read then how will he know what was written.
Aside from his illiteracy Mohammed cannot prove that he belonged to a particular community or tradition that enabled him to understand the complex nature of the ideological precepts given to him.
The Jews had to go through a lengthy period of processing what were supposedly oracles and messages from God. It was a long history that showed a slow and painful process of learning. Judaism did not develop overnight. Mohammed claimed that in one night or a few occasions of supernatural encounters he was able to understand everything.
However, Mohammed connected his teachings to the existence of a religious structure called the Kaabah. There are numerous idols there and the existence of diversified forms of worship encourages regionalism and strife. By accepting the new system of belief developed by Mohammed there is now a chance to unify all the tribes. It is also much better to accept the religion of Islam because it is a major improvement to the worship of idols and gods that were created by human hands.
At first it was a struggle to accept Islam. There are so many questions to answer. However, there is something about the message of Mohammed that attracted followers. It can be traced to the connection that he made to the ancient religious structure in Makka and the concept of monotheism. By removing idol worship and replacing it with the idea that there is only one God Mohammed can create a system of worship that can unite the warring tribes in the region.
Andrae, Tor. Mohammed: The Man and His Faith. New York: Dover Publications, 2000.
Darwish, Nonie. Cruel and Unusual Punishment. TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 2008.
Forta, Arye. Judaism. UK: Heinemann Educational, 1995.
Natan, Yoel. “164 Jihad Verses in the Koran.” Q’uran online. Jan. 2011. 12 Mar. 2011 <https://www.answering-islam.org/Quran/Themes/jihad_passages.html>.
Shakir, M.H. “The Q’uran.” Q’uran online. Feb. 2008. 12 Mar. 2011 <https://quod.lib.umich.edu/k/koran/>.