Debate with Prof Lammi
and meaning of the Koranic verses and Relevance of hadiths/Sunnah
- Thanks you
Professor Lammi for taking time in writing your response. Our
discussions now address roughly 3 aspects:
- The context and
meaning of verses & the relevance of ahadith/Sunnah in Islam.
- The way Islam
should be addressed -rejection, reformation etc.
- The value Islam
adds to humanity.
- I seek to divide
our further discussion in three separate sections and address them
in sequence. This will keep our deliberations focused and easy for
the readers to follow. This will also keep our responses brief.
Readers often don't want to read very long discourses. In this
section, I will address the first aspect.
- Our common
purpose is open discussion of these very important matters,
and to fulfill that purpose let us not think ourselves as
antagonists, but as friends who are working together.
Therefore, I would like to register the mild complaint that
your title for my letter, "Prof. Lammi: Islam-Watch is
Irrelevant, Misdirected and has Misunderstood Islam" is
rather more provocative than I would have wished for mutually
- Your initial
letter contained those charges which to me, belittles the effort
of our website. To be frank: I have done the utmost and though, I
do believe that there could be some room for improvement of our
presentation, but this will be not at the expense of sacrificing
our goals and objectives. Actually, I haven't created anything
new. We appreciate fair criticism, which is the only way we can
improve our website and its contents. For this reason, though
irritating, we thank you for making those charges that might help
us. Your charges, in no way make us antagonists or unfriendly.
What we can guarantee you is that if we accede at the end of this
discussion to your charges, you will become a valued friend for
the helping us improve.
- Our motto is to
follow Voltaire's ideology: "I may disapprove of what you
say but I will fight to death for your right to say it."
Every man & woman is born free (without signing any kind of bonds
to anybody, society, culture or religion) and as freethinkers, we
uphold freedom and liberty and agree 100% with Article 11 of more
than 200-year-old French constitution on man's inalienable right
to free expression. We exercise it and appreciate and encourage
that others do the same.
- Also, while
it is true that I am a teacher in Cairo, I am by no means an
expert on Islam. That is not my field at all. My experience of
living here has given me a certain perspective, but that
should certainly not be confused with expertise. I speak
- This means
that I am not the person with whom to debate textual evidence.
I do have friends with some expertise in that regard, and to
the extent that our discussion requires turning with more care
to the text, I will be happy to consult with them. But for
this letter at any rate, I thought I should simply respond on
my own as best as I can.
- Let me make one
thing clear here. This site is focused on scrutinizing Islam.
Islam is based on the Koran and life of Prophet Muhammad, the
purported perfect man ever to be born and chosen by Allah as his
Messenger. Anything outside this is not necessarily Islam. So, we
will keep ourselves focused on this aspect. Any actions of today's
Muslims that are inspired by the Koran and Sunnah are within the
scope of this website. Any diversion from this core focus of ours
should be avoided in this debate. We must not forget that the core
scriptures, viz. the Koran, Sunnah, Sirah and Sharia form the
foundations of Islamic belief system.
- You have said,
"This means that I am not the person with whom to debate textual
evidence". This suggests you are not willing or able to
discuss the sole aim of our website, Islam. In this
case, this debate will not lead to any fruitful conclusions. We
make it clear again that from our side, discussion would be
centered on the Koran and Sunnah/Ahadith (the two absolute
foundations of Islam. You may wish to consult any expert whom you
might know and that will be helpful for making this discourse more
meaningful and beneficial for the readers.
begin with quotations from the Koran and Hadith to the effect
that apostasy should result in death.-..
would have to examine the provenance of the Hadith in question
in order to explore this further. As I understand it, none of
the Hadith is considered absolutely certain but there is a
range of probability.
- This has always
been the excuse of the western-minded, apologist, western-resident
neo-Muslims that Hadith is not relevant to Islam and that their
correct recording is suspect as they were recorded 200 years after
Prophet's death. Koran was also compiled 20 years after Prophet
Muhammad's death and there are also similar chances of mistake
(although to lower extent), which Muslims and their apologists are
not willing to agree.
- Having said that,
let us put attention to verses [Q
4:89] & [Q
9.66] that clearly say that apostasy is a punishable crime. In
Q 4:89, Allah explicitly specifies the punishment for this
crime by commanding the Muslims to kill such apostates wherever
found. Of course, this is to be followed by eternal hell-fire. I
cited the Ahadith - not as commands but only to affirm that these
verses from the Koran were applied by Prophet Muhammad and his
Muhammad's first biographer ibn Ishak lists cases of Prophet's
dealing with the apostates by condemning them to death.
Two such men were from Mecca who had accepted Islam and joined
Prophet Muhammad in
They later returned to Mecca and reverted to paganism. After his
triumphant arrival in
Mecca in 630, the Prophet ordered their execution for
renouncing Islam. There is no report that the Prophet had spared
anyone who had left Islam in his life-time. My
article on apostasy, in case you haven't read, would be
helpful to grasp the issue of apostasy in Islam.
Let me also clarify that there is no verse in the Koran which says
that Muslims must only follow the Koran and must not follow Sunnah/hadith
(words and deeds of the prophets). Allah explicitly commands
Muslims to follow the Prophet (Sunnah & Hadiths) in the Koran.
Here are 2 verses:
- Obey Allah, and obey the Messenger, and beware (of
evil): if ye do turn back, know ye that it is Our Messenger's duty
to proclaim (the message) in the clearest manner. [Q5.92]
- Certainly you have in the Messenger of Allah an excellent
exemplar for him who hopes in Allah and the latter day and
remembers Allah much. [Q33.21]
- Thus, an attempt
to discard the ahadith from Islam is mischievous, dishonest and
purely hypocritical. This amounts to violation of the commands of
Allah and a clear case of blasphemy. Living is a country festered
with Islamic fanatics, you should be careful about what you assert
which may jeopardize your life - no kidding, I am serious.
- The context
- Let me note
that the matter is complicated by an error on my part. My
statement "context is everything" may not always be true.
There may be statements that apart from context stand on their
own as authoritative. Perhaps the clear statement in the Koran
"no coercion in religion" is an example.
- I have already
agreed that context is relevant. And this is the most contextual
verse which you vainly seek to push toward a non-contextual one.
Let me first make this clear, in case, you are not aware. Prophet
Muhammad's mission to preach Islam started in his home-town of
Mecca in 610 AD where he spent around twelve years without much
success (he had less than two hundred converts by this time).
Then he relocated himself with his group of converts to Medina as
refugees (muhajirons). It was a successful strategy, which earned
him many converts. Please note that in Medina too, for the first
couple of years, Muslims were a weak force. The tone of the verses
must be read in the context of this reality.
- And this verse ('Let
there be no compulsion in religion.' Q2:256)
was revealed (or devised by Muhammad?) in Mecca, in the early days
of his mission, when he and his Muslim converts formed a very weak
force. Against one or two such benign verses in the entire Koran,
dozens of other verses revealed at later times (when
Muslims became a strong and secure force in
which urges Muslims to kill, slay, enslave and to do all sorts of
barbaric and cruel things.
This article by one of our contributor will be helpful. I
am listing a few such verses here:
purchased of the believers their
persons and their goods; for theirs (in return) is the garden (of
Paradise ): they fight in His cause, and
slay and are slain : a promise binding on Him in truth,
through the Law, the Gospel, and the Qur'an: [Koran
the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the
Pagans wherever ye find them, an seize them, beleaguer
them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem (of war); but if
they repent, and establish regular prayers and practice regular
charity, then open the way for them: for Allah is Oft-forgiving,
Fight those who believe neither in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah
and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the
religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the
Book (Christians and Jews), until they pay the Jizya with
willing submission, and feel themselves subdued. [Koran-9:29]
Therefore, when ye meet the Unbelievers (in fight), smite at
their necks; At length, when ye have thoroughly subdued
them, bind a bond firmly (on them): thereafter (is the time for)
either generosity or ransom: Until the war lays down its burdens.
rationally, these later verses become more applicable from the
simplest of logic that those were revealed as the ideology of
Islam matured and Muhammad had the military strength to take on
his detractors and foes. That is: these later verses contain more
mature and finalized views/commands of the Islamic doctrine.
Consistent with this logical conclusion, there are verses in the
Koran that also urges Muslims to discard or give less preference
to earlier revealed verses where there are 2 or more verses on the
same topic with differing stands. Here I list the verses that
assert such abrogation of verses revealed early in the formation
of Islamic theology:
- 1. Allah does not
abrogate any verse but substitutes something similar or better, He
does not cause Muhammad to forget any verse...2:106
- 2. Allah
substitutes (abrogates) one revelation with another; Allah has the
mother of the Book (the original Qur'an). ..16:101
- Thus your cited
"no compulsion in religion 2:56" has been abrogated and replaced
by later revealed verses 8:12, 8:39, 9:5, 9:29, 9:73, 9:123, 47:4,
- One more logic
point of need consideration. Note that "No compulsion in religion"
is the word of the almighty creator. This means such intent (force
compulsion on his children) ever crossed the mind of such an
all-compassionate father. Well, only if I (Allah) had the power -
which indeed came but at a later time and the almighty Allah
forced that compulsion well on His independent-minded children
(Jews, Christian, idolaters) by mass execution & enslavement (Banu
Quraiza tribes) and mass exile (Banu
Qainuqa) through Prophet Muhammad himself. Much more followed
for centuries that encompassed Asia to Europe to Africa.
- And no kidding,
Prophet Muhammad never broke a single command of Allah. Everything
he did, as recorded in the hadiths, was commanded by Allah in the
Koran. These mass slaughters, exile and enslavement were also
commanded by Allah, of course, only when He got the power
(strength of the Muslim converts):
And He brought those of the People of the Scripture who supported
them down from their strongholds, and cast panic into their
hearts. Some ye slew, andye made captive
33:27 And He caused you to inherit
their land and their houses and their wealth, and land ye have
not trodden. Allah is ever Able to do all things.
- Your two
Q 9.66) from the
Koran are much more difficult to understand, and off the top
of my head, even without context, I can think of alternate
interpretations for each. For example, the first could have to
do with a phenomenon I've run across many times, that those
who wish to do wrong always try to get others to join them.
You are assuming there's nothing problematic about the meaning
of "disbelieve as they have disbelieved," but there may be
many ways to disbelieve. And can we be so sure what "belief"
means in the first place?
- Now, there is
this problem in understanding what this verse says. This turns out
to be the case with all modern western-educated Muslims (and their
non-Muslim apologists), who are aware of modern humanistic values
and conscience. They cannot make out anything of those verses that
appear unacceptable in face-value. Yet, Allah says repeatedly that
the Koran is clear in transmitting the His message and has been
written in simple language which every person can easily
understand. I am listing a few such verses:
- 1. Allah had made
His Qur'an clear and easy to understand-2:242
- 2. The Qur'an is
revealed in Arabic (Muhammad's mother tongue) to make it easy to
understand and give glad tidings and to admonish people
- 3. The Qur'an is
made easy to understand...19:99
- 4. The Qur'an is
easy to understand and remember...54:17, 22, 32, 40
- There are more
verses (2:242, 5:15, 12:1, 14:4, 15:1, 16:82, 16:103, 22:16,
24:46, 6:195, 28:1-2, 43:244:2, 57:9] that says Koran is clear and
easy to understand. Allah can only be right in that the complete
book of guidance for humanity (The Qur'an is complete and makes
things clear...15:1) has to be written in a language that was to
be understood by any literate or illiterate person at the time it
was revealed at and any time to come until the world ends on the
day of Qeyamat. The truth is: human wisdom, logic, knowledge and
capacity to reason has improved by thousands of folds since the
time Koran was revealed. Yet, in today's world of excellence in
science and reason, people with the highest degrees (PhD etc.)
cannot make out what these select verses (seemingly unacceptable)
mean. I have seen modern Muslims with outstanding intellectual
achievement behind them, including decades of teaching in renowned
Universities in Asia, Europe and America do suffer from the same
crisis when comes the issue of these verses. Let me explain what
this so-difficult (for Prof Lammi) verse (which almost blew Prof
Lammi's brain) says:
- They desire that you should disbelieve as they have
disbelieved, so that you might be (all) alike; therefore take not
from among them friends until they fly (their homes) in Allah's
way; but if they turn back, then seize them and
kill them wherever you find them, and take not from among them
a friend or a helper [Q
- First part (in
blue) of this verse simply urging Muslims (believers), to keep
away from disbelievers who have left Islam/belief and who might be
urging others to follow suit. The second part (in red) urges
Muslims to wait to see if those renegades/apostates return to the
fold of Islam (fly their home in the way of Allah) but if they
don't - the believers should seize and slay them wherever found.
This verse must also be read in connection to the preceding verses
which also deals with such disbelievers or detractors from the
right path (Islam):
- What aileth you
that ye are become two parties regarding the hypocrites, when
Allah cast them back (to disbelief) because of what they earned?
Seek ye to guide him whom Allah hath
sent astray? He whom
Allah sendeth astray, for him thou (O MUhammad)
canst not find a road. [Q4:88]
- I know that this
explanation will be acceptable to those who are aware of modern
human values and conscience. Neither will they come up with any
solid meaning, nor would they agree to the example from Prophet
Muhammad's life as to how these verses were applied asserting that
ahadith's authenticity are suspect or irrelevant in Islam. The
question now arises: Are these modern Muslims and their apologists
going to suggest that these verses, which do not bear any tangible
meaning (to some highly educated modern Muslims) be removed from
the Koran? This should be done on the ground that they could be
misused by followers of Islam because of their straightforward
meaning which might cause death and suffering to mankind. This has
happened for the last 1400 years. Will Prof. Lammi make such a
suggestion to the authorities of Islam? Such a gesture will be a
highly humane act on part of Prof Lammi, since this will save
numerous (innocent) human lives in the generations to come who
would otherwise be killed for apostasy from Islam.
- Let me take up
another logical point! Allah is the creator of the Universe. He is
the most compassionate father of all human beings - not only of
Muslims. Can Allah urge his followers to kill simply another human
being for some kind of disbelief as suggested by Prof Lammi (which
Allah did not specify, according to Prof. Lammi)? Is Prof Lammi
going ask one of his sons or daughters to kill another of his own
son or daughter who might disbelieve in something against his
- I find the
difference between your Koranic citations and the Hadith quite
- No there isn't
any striking difference in the Koran & Hadiths that have cited.
Hadith examples of killing the apostates are in complete agreement
with the Koranic command [Q4:89].
interesting how according to your own examples the Koran is so
much more difficult to take literally. After all, it's originally
poetry. Indeed, one could argue that all religious speech,
not just Muslim, is poetic. Maybe that's why the Koran is said to
be untranslatable. It has been said of poetry in general that any
good translation of a poem is a new poem. In poetry language,
sound, and meaning are inextricably linked. I doubt that we can
have an informed discussion of the meaning of the Koran without
taking the nature of the poetic word into account.]
- Here again, you
should be careful against committing blasphemy against Islam.
People are being killed by rampaging Muslim mobs or are thrown
into prison in Muslim countries for committing blasphemy on a
regular basis, which should not be uncommon in the countries you
- Having warned you
on that, I assert that Koran is not poetry. As per the Islamic
fundamental, it is revelations from Allah, the Islamic God for
perfect guidance to mankind. Allah explicitly denies
that the Koran is Book of Poetry. There are a number of verses
to confirm this. Here is an example: Muhammad does not recite any poetry; the Qur'an is a clear message.. [Q36:69].
- Indeed, the
infidels of Prophet Muhammad's time had brought similar charges
and criticized Muhammad's revelations as mumbo-jumbo poetry.
Those people were punished with death for their
criticism/blasphemy. This has always been case through the
fourteen centuries of Islamic history.
- [A Sufi of
my acquaintance distinguishes between "belief" and "faith."
"Faith," he says, is openness to the truth of religion"belief" is dogmatically closed. The second Koranic quotation
doesn't seem on the face of it to indicate a sentence of
death, but rather the judgment of God, which could go in
- We are not sure
about your friend's authority to define these terms. Anyway, they
are vague, and at best his personal opinion. More importantly, we
are not dealing with Sufism. We are talking about Real Islam here.
Islam is complete code of guidance for mankind, coming directly
from Allah through a series of Prophets, culminating to its
perfect form (Islam) through the last and best prophet Muhammad.
Islam means unquestioned submission to this perfect code of
guidance by all human beings. Aim of Islam is to bring all human
being into the fold of this perfect religion of Islam by
persuasion first. If this not successful then by applying force -
including mass enslavement and summary slaughter, as was applied
by the Prophet on the people of
Banu Quraiza. After capturing the Banu Quraiza
enclave, the prophet executed all men capable of bearing weapons
and enslaved minor children and the women. Beautiful women were to
be used as sex-slaves [Right hand possessions: Q04:03]. Please
note that this practice, first initiated by the holy prophet, was
used extensively by the Muslims throughout its history wherever
they invaded - Africa, India, Central Asia, Eastern Europe and so
- About the second
verse on not stipulating death penalty for apostasy: there are
similar other verses which also define apostasy as the greatest
crime and punishable here and afterlife. The second verse is
clearly talking about punishment here on earth. The first verse
specifies what that punishment should be (kill them wherever
found). The crux of the issue is: so long a single verse from the
Koran justifies an action, its is Islamically valid - for
eternity, to be precise. More importantly, there is no verse which
prohibits killing the apostates. Last, but not the least: apostasy
is the greatest crime, which is very clear in a number of verses.
What should be the punishment for the greatest crime? The answer
is, ultimate punishment - death. Again there is this vagary
(amongst Western education-groomed modern Muslims and their
apologists) that it is between Allah and the offender and should
be left to the Lord to decide in afterlife. Against such claim,
there are dozens of verses in the Koran, in which Allah is
commanding Muslims to hand corporeal punishment including mass
enslavement and summary execution and what not. The "greatest
crime" (for apostasy; Q9:66] has been committed here in this world
and the punishment should be starting here, and is to be continued
in afterlife (Q
88:21-24; & Q
- Thanks for your
time and patience. I look forward to your valuable comments. Once
we decide to conclude discussion in this area, I will address the
other parts of discussion, already raised. Subsequently, we can
raise new issues and discuss them.