A incisive discussion on Muslims' "language" and "out of context" arguments to shut up critics of Islam...
Presently the debate on Islam is in full swing on various social networking as well as in many ex-Muslim and anti-Islam websites. Yet, the truth is not embraced easily. Old beliefs die hard. Though many sympathizers of Islam, e.g., Karen Armstrong, Edward Said and John Esposito, try to portray a deceptive rosy picture of Islam, the true Muslims show the real face of Islam with their constant readiness to harass, intimidate and assassinate anyone who may slight their religion. For this reason, Theo Van Gogh was shot and stabbed to death in the Netherlands and his associate Ayaan Hirsi Ali had to live with bodyguards and armored cars (Ali, 2007, p. xii), Taslima Nasrin has been living in exile since 1994, Faraj Foda was shot dead in front of his office in Cairo, Nasr Hamid Abu Zayd fled out of Egypt to escape the death penalty, and Sayyid Mahmoud al-Qimni was forced to recant all his writings (Ahmed, 2006, p. ix). Unfortunately, before the outside world would get a chance to read their works, these writers were silenced through murder, terror, and death-threats, and their writings were banned in the Muslim world. But who can stop the truth from spreading?
Today who can deny the fact that Islam is different from all other religions, because of the threat of violence to its critics? All other religions can be criticized and even ridiculed without fear of violence. Only with Islam is there a credible threat of violence to its critics. Muslims can criticize Christianity and Hinduism without any fear of violence, but Christians and Hindus cannot criticize Islam without an ever-present fear of Islamic violence. It needs far more bravery to be on that side. A simple, calm, rational debate between all religions is not possible, because the fear of Islamic violence is always in the background. If Islam is, as Muslims claim, a mature, modern, tolerant religion, then why there is a need to the threat of violence? Muslims don’t understand the self-contradiction.
Since Muslims cannot argue their religion with reason (Islam cannot survive if argued with reason), they resort to sudden abnormal rage. If it does not help, they opt for habitual lying and flawed arguments. We often hear two such arguments from them – the “language” argument and the “out of context” argument (Warraq, 2003, pp. 400-4). In this article, we will have a closer look at these two arguments.
The language argument
When the Qur’anic contradictions, or absurdities, or the violent verses are pointed out, Muslims will ask aggressively, “Do you know Arabic?” Then they tell triumphantly, “You have to read it in original Arabic to understand it fully”, or “These are not there in original Arabic Qur’an”, or, “The beauty of the Qur’an is lost in the translation”, or “There are many fake translations of the Qur’an to malign Islam” etc. With this, Western critics generally become silent. Now the question is: How many Muslims have read the Qur’an in original Arabic? Since the majority of Muslims are not Arabs, they have to rely on translations. In fact, most Muslims who raise the language arguments are non-Arabs and don’t understand Arabic.
Secondly, a large section of the Qur’an is just meaningless blabbering of an illiterate seventh-century mental patient whom Muslims revere as their Prophet. In this respect, Puin, the great scholar of Islam (cited Warraq, 2002, pp. 112, 121) commented,
“My idea is that the Qur’an is a kind of cocktail of texts that were not all understood even at the time of Muhammad. Many of them may even be a hundred years older than Islam itself. The Qur’an claims for itself that it is ‘mubeen’, or clear. But [contrary to popular belief] if you look at it, you will notice that every fifth sentence or so simply does not make sense … the fact is that a fifth of the Qur’anic text is just incomprehensible. If the Qur’an is not comprehensible, if it cannot even be understood in Arabic, then it’s not translatable into any language. That is why Muslims are afraid. Since the Qur’an claims repeatedly to be clear but is not — there is an obvious and serious contradiction. Something else must be going on”.
The Qur’an is indeed a confusing text, which confuses everyone – whether one knows Arabic or not. In fact, the Qur’an was not written fully in the purest Arabic. There are many foreign words, which got included in this supposed to be “God’s unaltered word” (Warraq, 1995, p. 108). The very word “Qur’an” itself is of foreign origin. Contrary to popular Muslim belief, the meaning of the Qur’an is not recitation. It is actually derived from an Aramaic word, “Qariyun”, meaning a lectionary of scripture portions appointed to be recited at divine service. Qur’an contains most of the Biblical stories in a shorter form, and as Puin commented (cited Das, 2012, p. 158), is “a summary of the Bible to be read in service”.
Moreover, freethinkers and critics do not need to know Arabic. All they need is a critical sense, clarity of thought, unbiased attitude and skepticism. The language of the Qur’an is a form of classical Arabic, which is totally different from the spoken Arabic of today. So, even Arabs have to rely on translations to understand their holy text. Moreover, when Muslims criticize the Bible and other sacred texts of Christianity, how many of them know a word of Hebrew, Aramaic or Greek? When they criticize the holy scriptures of Hinduism, how many of them know Sanskrit? Muslims do not understand that their flawed logic to defend Islam’s foolishness goes against them. Also, Muslims around the world preach Islam to make converts in languages other than Arabic. If the Qur’an can only be understood in Arabic, why do they do this?
Neither the “actual meaning” of the Qur’an nor its “beauty” is lost in the translation. There are translations of the Arabic Qur’an by Muslims themselves, so Muslims cannot claim that there has been deliberate tampering of the text by infidel translators. Arabic is a Semitic language related to Hebrew and Aramaic, and is no easier but also no more difficult to translate than any other language. Of course, there are all sorts of difficulties with the language and grammar of the Qur’an, but these difficulties have been recognized by Muslim scholars themselves. As example, as-Suyuti, possibly the greatest Arabist and Qur’an commentator ever, wrote about verse 11.107 that “I cannot make heads or tails out of this blessed verse.” (cited Warraq, 2011, p. 224) The Qur’an is indeed a rather opaque text, but it is opaque to everyone. Even Muslim scholars do not understand a fifth of it (Warraq, 2003, p. 400). The Arab literary scholar Nicholson noted (1969, p. 161) that the Qur’an is, “obscure, tiresome, uninteresting, a farrago of long-winded narratives and prosaic exhortations”. And regarding “beauty” of the Qur’an, it is better we say nothing; otherwise it will put Muslims more in shame. A large portion of the Qur’an is full of Jihadi verses and hate speeches against the infidels. As example, here I quote the most “beautiful and peaceful” verse of the Qur’an, known as the verse of sword.
“Then, when the sacred months have passed, slay the idolaters wherever ye find them, and take them (captive), and besiege them, and prepare for them each ambush. But if they repent and establish worship and pay the poor-due, then leave their way free. Lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.” (Q: 9.5)
This is just one example of miraculous beauty of this holy book. Let us read the Surah 111 (Al-Massad: Palm fiber, The Flame).
“The power of Abu Lahab will perish, and he will perish. His wealth and gains will not exempt him. He will be plunged in flaming Fire, and his wife, the wood-carrier will have upon her neck a halter of palm-fiber.”
The complete Surah 111 is a curse. What beauty can we find in a hate speech? The Qur’an is full of vulgar words and obscene language directed toward infidels. For example: infidels are
1) wrong-doers (Q 2.59; 2.95; 2.145; 2.150; 2.165; 2.193; 2.229; 2.246; 2.254; 2.258; 2.270; 3.57; 3.86; 3.94; 3.128; 3.140; 3.151; 4.74; 5.29; 5.45; 5.107; 6.21; 6.45; 6.58; 6.135; 7.41; 7.47; 7.148; 8.54; 9.23; 11.31, etc);
2) hypocrites (Q 4.61; 8.49; 9.64; 9.73; 29.11; 33.1; 48.6; 57.13; 59.11; 63.1; 66.9, etc.);
3) Liars (Q: 6.28; 7.66; 9.77; 11.93; 39.3; 40.24, etc); and
4) Evildoers (Q: 2.12; 2.26; 2.99; 3.63; 5.47; 5.108; 7.102; 9.24; 10.17; 11.18; 14.22; 17.47; 18.53; 19.86; 24.4; 29.4; 34.42; 37.22; 39.24, etc) (Das, 2012, p. 142).
All these hate speeches that go on verse after verse indicate the cultural heritage of illiterate Muhammad brought up in a desert. People, who are evil, attack others instead of facing their own failures. A curse is uttered by a person, who desires to harm another, but finds him or herself powerless to do so, and appeals to a supernatural power to inflict such harm oh his/her supposed opponent.
Secondly, there is another very strong and serious problem in the Qur’an. It affirms the scriptures of the Jews and Christians as authentic and true revelation from God. Allah confirms,
“Verily this is a Revelation from the Lord of the Worlds: With it came down the spirit of Faith and Truth Upon thy heart, that thou mayst be (one) of the warners, in the perspicuous Arabic tongue”. (Q: 26.192-5)
“And lo! it is in the Scriptures of the men of earlier (Prophets)”. (Q: 26.196)
The “earlier writings” are the Torah and the Injil for example, written in Hebrew and Greek. For Jews, Arabic was a language of poets and drunkards. How can, then, the Arabic Qur’an be contained in books of other languages? Now, we have the choice between two different lies in Allah’s revelations. Either because of verse 26.196, the words “in clear Arabic speech” is contained in the earlier revelations. This is a lie, because they are not in Arabic. Therefore, it cannot be in the earlier revelation. But then verse 26.196 becomes a lie in the Qur’an. In no way, can we save the situation. There are more such verses, e.g., the verse 16.103 also claims “this is Arabic pure and clear”, which refers to the Qur’an without doubt.
Moreover, it raises another serious question: In what language is the one and only true original of the document? Was it written in Arabic, or Latin, or in some language unknown to us? The first earthly edition of the Qur’an was published in Arabic, and subsequently it has been translated into other languages. Also, some scholars believe that initially the Qur’an was written in a popular dialect prevailed in the Hijaz (a coastal region of the western Arabian Peninsula bordering on the Red Sea), but later the book was re-written in Arabic literary language that now appears to us (Warraq, 2011, p. 83). It means the original language of the Qur’an is not pure Arabic. But then what is the original language of this supposed-to-be-sacred scripture? Nobody on earth, not even the most devout Muslim, knows the answer to this question.
Yet, there is another problem. Skeptics, who doubt that any earthly edition of the Qur’an is a transcript of a supernatural prototype, point out that earthly editions of the Qur’an contain many contradictions, inconsistencies, fallacies, errors, and absurdities. If the earthly editions are not free from error how can we be sure that the heavenly version (Q: 43.3 – “the mother of the book”; Q: 55.77 – “a concealed book”; Q: 85.22 – “a well guarded tablet”) is entirely error free?
Therefore, we can see that Muslims’ “language” argument does not stand on firm grounds. If Muslims claim that there are many “fake” translations in circulation (Jewish conspiracy?) to defame Islam, why there is no fatwa (religious verdict) to remove the fake copies from circulation? Why there is not an outrage similar to Muhammad-cartoon incident, or Salman Rushdie’s 1988 novel The Satanic Verses, or, Pope’s criticism of Muhammad on September 12, 2006? The simple fact is that there is no so-called “fake” translation of the Arabic Qur’an. This “beautiful” book is a violent and hateful text, the mother manual of today’s Islamic terrorism.
So while criticizing Islam, freethinkers should not think – who am I to criticize Islam, when I don’t know Arabic? The language argument is a Muslim tactic to defend the foolishness of Islam. For a first-rated independent thinker, who embarks on studying and searching for the discovery of truth and reality with honesty and sincerity, language is not a barrier. If not, how these freethinkers are happy to criticize Christianity or Hinduism? How many Western freethinkers and atheists know Hebrew? How many even know what the language of the Old Testament was? How many of them know the ancient Sanskrit to criticize the Hindu sacred texts? Of course, Muslims are also free in their criticism of the Bible and Christianity, and Hinduism and Bhagvada-Gita without knowing a word of Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek or Sanskrit.
The out-of-context argument
Next, let us discuss the “out of context” argument. When Jihadi verses are pointed out, Muslims say, “You have quoted out of context”. This “out of context” argument, to borrow words from Warraq, is the “old standby of crooked, lying politicians” (Warraq, 2003, p. 400). This could mean two things: (a) the historical context to which the various verses refer; and (b) the textual context, the actual place in a particular chapter that the verse quoted comes from.
The Historical Context is out of question. Qur’an is supposed to be the eternal word of God, true and valid for all places and time. If Allah is eternal, then Allah can neither have a past nor a history. Therefore, Muslims actually blaspheme against their God, when they talk about historical context. Secondly, as Spencer observed (2003, p. 127), reading the Qur’an is often like walking in on a conversation between two people with whom one is only slightly acquainted. Frequently, they make reference to people and events without bothering to explain what is going on. Even the famous Muslim scholar and one of the most influential thinkers, Sayyid Qutb, admits that most of the Surahs were not revealed as wholes, but rather bit by bit at diverse occasions, of which there is no historical record agreed upon by scholars. Hence, the only option available to us is that of assumption and preponderaton in this matter (cited Boullata, 2002, p. 363). In other words, the context is often not supplied. Therefore, if the context is not given in the Qur’an, how a verse can be quoted out of context?
The remaining is the textual context. No doubt, there are some peaceful verses in the Qur’an, which were revealed early in Muhammad Prophetic mission in Mecca. Muslims want to prove that Islam is a peaceful religion by quoting those verses. But all the peaceful verses were abrogated by the violent verses of the ninth Surah, because the ninth Surah was revealed toward the end of Muhammad’s life. In fact, most Muslim authorities agree that the ninth Surah was the very last section of the Qur’an revealed to him. Many Muslim theologians assert that the verse of sword (Q: 9.5) abrogates as many as 124 more peaceful and tolerant verses of the Qur’an (Spencer, 2007, p. 78; McAuliffe, 2006, p. 218). The ninth Surah is the only one of the Qur’an’s 114 chapters that does not begin with “Bismillah ar-Rahman ar-Rahim” – “In the name of Allah, the compassionate, the merciful.” It is because, Muhammad not only did not recite the Bismillah himself, but commanded that it not be recited at the beginning of this Surah. The Tafsir al-Jalalayn explains Muhammad’s command by saying that the Bismillah is security, and ninth Surah was sent down when security was removed by the sword. Ali ibn Abi Talib agrees, saying that the Bismillah “conveys security while this Surah was sent down with the sword. That is why it does not begin with security” (Oliver, 2006, p. 537; Spencer, 2009, p. 200). Ibn Kathir declares that the verse of sword (Q: 9.5) has “abrogated every agreement of peace between the Prophet and any idolater, every treaty and every term … no idolater had any more treaty or promise of safety ever since the Surah Bara’ah (ninth Surah) was revealed” (Spencer, 2003, p. 134). Ibn Juzayy, another commentator, agrees that the verse of the sword’s purpose is (Spencer, 2005, p. 25), “abrogating every peaceful treaty of the Qur’an”.
Therefore, the tolerant verses are practically meaningless. The problem began when Uthman collected the verses of the Qur’an and arranged them in a way that the abrogated verses were mixed up with the abrogating verses (Ahmed, 2006, p. 77). This arrangement led to the appearance of discrepancies and contradiction in the Uthmanic Qur’an, which is used until our present day. The second proof is that the Sharia law does not take into account the peaceful verses because these are abrogated. Muslims try to fool the non-Muslims with their twisted logic and pathological lying. They repeat the same lies again and again thinking that it will become true if often repeated. “Islam is a peaceful religion” is a lie which is as old as the birth of Islam. Why don’t we find the Taliban terrorists singing the peaceful verses from the Qur’an while beheading the captives? If the verse “There is no compulsion in religion.” (Q: 2.256) is still valid why Muslims had destroyed the world-famous Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan?
In November 2002, Osama bin Laden quoted eight jihadi verses from the Qur’an in a “Letter to the American People”, and in his 1996 declaration of jihad against the USA, he quoted sixteen jihadi verses (Spencer, 2003, p. 125). Long history of lying has caused Muslims to believe their own lies.
Secondly, reinterpretation of the Qur’anic verses is officially allowed. Sheikh Youssef Alqardawi, the most famous Muslim scholar in the Arab world, appeared on Al Jazeera’s weekly program “Sharia and Life”, to discuss issues related to Islam and answer some of the questions put to him, through phone calls. On February 22 2009, he rejected the evolution theory, because the Qur’an says otherwise; but he reassured his audience that Muslims don’t need to worry about the evolution theory as long as it remains a theory. Only if it becomes a recognized scientific fact, the Muslim scholars would reinterpret the relevant verses in the Qur’an to bring them in line with proven scientific facts (Salih, 2009). Muslims claim that Qur’an is divine, but shamelessly reinterpret the Qur’an by twisting the language and changing the meanings of the words or even introducing completely new meanings. This is how the Muslims lie to save their holy book from divine downfall. Their logic is simple, “The Qur’an is correct even when it is wrong”.
From this discussion, it is very clear that while dealing with Muslims, what they say is not the issue. The real issue is: what they actually mean in their hearts. They lie when it is in their interest to do so, and Allah will not hold them accountable for lying when it is beneficial to the cause of Islam. They lie by swearing to Allah, or by taking an oath by the Prophet, the Ka’ba and the Qur’an – all with a very sincere and pious look and innocent face without any guilt or fear of accountability or retribution. And one lie leads to another to cover up the first one. A lie in the defense of Islam is approved, even applauded, in the Qur’an. Allah and Muhammad were two of the greatest liars humanity had ever seen. It is quite fascinating that both of them could just tell a lie and make the Muslims believe it’s true. Muslims have picked up the art of lying from the Qur’an. If we don’t understand Muslims’ Qur’anic strategy of lying to propagate the cult of Islam, we just invite more death and destruction on us in the future.
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