Quran and the common criticism of Islam

What-is-the-Quran1

While there is a lot of criticism of Islam available online there are some controversial issues that get more attention than others. In this blog I try to understand those controversial issues from the Quranic perspective. This article is not a testimony of what Islam and Muslims are, nor is this an attempt to present an apologia for the atrocities committed in the name of Islam or in the name of Mohammed, the prophet of Islam.

Apostasy

There is no verse in the Quran that says that people who quit Islam should be punished or harmed. There are verses in the Quran that say there is no compulsion in matters of religion (2:256). Then Quran goes further to make a case against forcing religion on people. “If your God had willed he would have created everyone a believer, will you then force religion on people?” it asks (10:99). So the “Islamic” problem of punishment for apostasy has an Islamic solution.

Blasphemy

There is no concept of punishment for blasphemy in the Quran. On the contrary Quran says Muslims should disassociate with people who mock their faith so they don’t become like those who indulge in such acts (4:140). Then Quran goes further and stops Muslims from mocking the religious leaders and gods of other faiths. (6:108)

Child Marriage

Quran prescribes marriage between adults who have a sound mind. Quran also forbids from marrying women against their will. (4:6)

Divorce

Quran prescribes a long negotiated settlement between the husband and the wife after appointing one lawyer for the man and one lawyer for the woman. (4:35)

Polygamy

Quran allows polygamy recommends monogamy (4:3 and 4:129). There was no way earlier tribes could have survived without the concept of polygamy when a large proportion of men died in wars. Polygamy allowed widows and their children another chance to become a part of family as family was the most important unit of tribal culture.

Female Genital Mutilation

There is absolutely nothing in the Quran that sanctions female genital mutilation. FGM is mainly practiced in some African countries both by Muslims and non Muslims. There is nothing in the Quran that sanctions this practice.

Circumcision

There is nothing in the Quran that sanctions male circumcision. Circumcision for males comes from an ancient Jewish practice that Muslims adopted. Today both Jews and Muslims follow this practice. So it may not be in the Quran but since Jews practice it and since it is not prohibited in the Quran then it means that circumcision can be considered as a practice sanctioned by Islam.

Female infanticide

Quran explicitly forbids female infanticide.(17:31, 81:8-9)

Violence against non believers

Quran asks Muslims to be fully equitable towards those non believers who peacefully live with Muslims (60:8). Quran allows Muslims to form marriage bonds with Christians and Jews (5:5). The idea that Quran has a general sanction to fight or kill non believers is baseless. Quran sanctions Muslims to fight those who threaten their nation state. This is a common modern law. If you try to challenge Indian state then Indian state will fight against you. If you try to fight any state in the modern world the state will fight against you. So Quran sanctions a just war and says that hostilities must cease when the enemy offers peace. Quran forbids killing of innocents saying that killing one innocent is like killing entire humanity (5:32).

Jizya (Tax on non believers)

Since Quran says that Zakat (charity) is compulsory on Muslims (9:60,2:177) it recommends that Jizya could be collected from non Muslims. Millions of Hindus have worked in the middle east, forget about paying Jizya they are not even required to pay any tax. Since Zakat is not being charged by the state there is no point of imposing Jizya either. So why cant Zakat be charged from non Muslims? For the simple reason that Zakat is a Islamic ritual while Jizya is tax imposed by the state hence imposing Zakat on non Muslims would be forcing an aspect of Islam on non believers. This is not permissible.

Slavery

Quran says freeing slaves from bondage is true righteousness (2:177,9:60,5:89). During those days there was no concept of nation providing security, it was the responsibility of the tribes and clans to guarantee security of the people. The people who lost the war were taken captives and then they were kept as slaves forever.Tribes guaranteed security to the captives in return for their services.

Quran allowed marriage between captives and victors (4:25). The eventual aim was to free all captives after war.  The earliest converts to Islam like Bilal were African slaves freed by Mohammed. In fact Quran bans trading in usury (3:130) because the unending cycle of interest eventually resulted in slavery. People borrowed money from the loan sharks and when they could not return the interest they were forced to become bonded labor. Mohammed banned this in the seventh century. India banned the practice of bonded labor in 1976.

Niqab

There is no verse in the Quran that asks Muslim women to cover their face, however there is a verse that prescribes covering of head and bosom (24:31). Quran also prescribes men to dress modestly (33:35). Also asks people not to walk with arrogance and pride (17:37). Also asks people not to eat more than what is required (20:81,7:31). Basically ask Muslims to be moderate in whatever they do.

Alcohol and Gambling

Quran prohibits Muslims from consuming alcohol and playing game of chance.(2:219-220)

Diversity

Quran does not give racial or cultural superiority to Arabs. Quran acknowledges cultural diversity in the world and asks people to learn from each other (49:13).

Science

While Quran endorses the concept of past miracles it definitely puts an end to the concept of miracles (6:109). There is nothing in the Quran that asks Muslims to do something that would harm their well being. In fact Quran even allows Muslims to eat pork in times of peril (2:173). Quran asks Muslims to go and explore the world (29:20). So there is nothing as such in the Quran that stops Muslims from exploring Science. In fact early Islam had many Muslim scientists.

72 Virgins

There is no verse in the Quran that talks about 72 virgins.

Stoning

There is no verse in the Quran that prescribes stoning as a punishment for any crime.

 

The Intermediaries

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Model of an ancient Jerusalem Temple

Matthew 21:12-13

Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves.

“It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’

Jerusalem

Irrespective of the popular narrative, Jesus was not a pacifist. He was strongly against the clergy and the way they used the name of God for commercial gains. The temples were in control of the clergy. Architecturally the temples had a layered structure with the inner most part (sanctum sanctorum) only accessible to the clergy symbolizing an important aspect of religion; You cannot reach gods unless you go through people who have access to gods.

The clergy determined how the sacrifices were to be made in the Temple and they determined the amount of money that will have to be spent to please the gods. Of course all the material offerings eventually belonged to the clergy. A modest compensation for helping people connect with god.

Outside the temples there were flourishing businesses selling items that were required to please the gods. The temple was essential to sustain those businesses and the temple itself became an essential part of the economy. Clergy used the temple and the fear of gods to convince people that parting away with their wealth in the form of sacrifices would please the gods which would in turn solve their health and wealth related issues.

Jesus witnessed this and in his zeal he overturned the tables of money changers and the benches of those selling doves for sacrifice. He also opened the cattle that ran through the dusty streets of Jerusalem. It was a spectacle.

Egypt

In Egypt there are an estimated seventy million mummified animals. Remnants of a culture where mummified animals were offered to please the gods or to act as intermediaries who took wrapped messages from those alive to those who have passed away. Forensic examination of animal mummies has revealed that these animals were bred in small cages and then were mercilessly killed in the most cruel ways so they can be mummified.

Mummification was big business and an essential part of the Egyptian economy. Only the clergy knew all the right mantras to properly offer the animal mummies to the gods. They too charged a modest sum for their services.

India

The Brahmins in ancient India took it a whole new level. They controlled the temples, they controlled the temple money, and they put themselves on the top of the social hierarchy, restricted others from learning religion and made rules that entitled them to social benefits. The following is an extract from Atharva Ved Book 12 Hymn 5 which explains the duty of giving cows to Brahmins and the sin and danger of withholding the gift.

O Cow, break thou the head of him who wrongs the Brāhmans, criminal, niggard, blasphemer of the Gods. Let Agni burn the spiteful wretch when crushed to death and slain by thee. Rend, rend to bits, rend through and through, scorch and consume and burn to dust,Consume thou, even from the root, the Brāhmans’ tyrant, godlike Cow! That he may go from Yama’s home afar into the worlds of sin. So, Goddess Cow, do thou from him, the Brāhmans’ tyrant, criminal, niggard, blasphemer of the Gods,With hundred-knotted thunderbolt, sharpened and edged with razor-blades,Strike off the shoulders and the head.Snatch thou the hair from off his head, and from his body strip the skin: Tear out his sinews, cause his flesh to fall in pieces from his frame. Crush thou his bones together, strike and beat the marrow out of him. Dislocate all his limbs and joints. From earth let the Carnivorous Agni drive him, let Vayu burn. him from mid-air’s broad region.From heaven let Sūrya drive him and consume him.

Phew!!

This system was successfully challenged by Gautam Buddah. Many of Buddha’s followers were Brahmins who were by their nature fair people and wanted to end this discrimination and exploitation. Buddha did not discriminate between sexes or castes. His message was simple and convincing. This was a direct challenge to the intermediaries.

Mecca

The Quraish tribe of Mecca controlled the access to the temple of the tribes known as the Kaaba. People from distant places visited Mecca to make their offerings to the gods. All these material offerings eventually ended up with the Quraish tribe. Each tribe had their own god housed inside the Kaaba and to enter the Kaaba they had to pass through the house of the leader of Quraish tribe, symbolizing the idea that the Quraish were the intermediaries between the pagan Arabs and their gods. This way the Quraish maintained their influence over the tribes in the region.

The prophet of Islam, Mohammed, was a Quraish, he was supposed to enjoy the benefits that came to his tribe through the gods of the Kaaba. He was not supposed to challenge and destroy everything his ancestors had established by shrewdly using gods to benefit their own tribe.

In every prayer that Muslims offer they renew their pledge of worshiping one God and asking one God for help (Quran 1:5). Mohammed’s God was accessible to every human, Mohammed’s God did not keep sacrifices for himself but wanted people to help their poor relatives, help the orphans, the travellers. Mohammed’s God wanted people to spend money to free slaves from bondage. (Quran 2:177).

And as per Quran, Mohammed did not promise riches to people, nor did he promise that he will get them salvation in afterlife. On the contrary he told them he has no knowledge of the unseen and he does not know his own future. (Quran 7:188)

Mohammed’s God wanted men and women to pray to him as equals. There were no queues or special lines for the special dignitaries. At the time of prayers the rich and the poor, the men and the women, the healthy and the weak all stand in rows as absolute equals and pray.

Dargah (Muslim Shrines)

Dargahs are the antithesis of Islam. Dargahs re-establish the dominant role of the clergy, they re-establish intermediaries, they potentially open up ways for exploitation of gullible masses. As per traditions, when Prophet Mohammed died, his companions destroyed the tree under which he spent time so people don’t convert it into a shrine.

There are no saints, no popes, no Brahmins in Islam. As per Islamic theology, everyone is equally answerable to God for their actions on the day of judgement and no soul will be able to help the other. (Quran 82:19)

The act of declaring someone as a saint violates the fundamental principle of Islam that only God can be the judge of someone’s deeds. To declare someone as saint is direct intrusion into God territory. The people who are buried in these shrines themselves only carried the message of Mohammed, they never asked their tombs to be glorified or turned into places of public interest. This was done by people out of love and respect.

Where do all the donations go? To the Dargah Trust which is managed by Khadims (servants of the tomb). I am sure by now you may have made the connection between various examples I presented from the past and these ‘Intermediaries to the Intermediaries’.

Let us assume that whatever I wrote in this blog is due to my lack of knowledge of Islam. Even then one question remains unanswered. If some good person can hear you from beyond the dead then why is it necessary to go close to that person’s mortal remains? A tomb can be left alone in peace and still a person can seek help of those saints.