Is the Muslim account of Muhammad valid? To discuss this issue with us today, Frontpage Magazine has assembled a distinguished panel. Our guests today are:
Edip Yuksel, a Kurdish-Turkish-American author and progressive activist who spent four years in Turkish prisons in the 1980's for his political writings and activities promoting an Islamic revolution in Turkey. He experienced a paradigm change in 1986 transforming him from a Sunni Muslim leader to a reformed Muslim or rational monotheist. He is the founder of 19.org and the Islamic Reform organization. His personal site is yuksel.org . His recent major work, Quran: a Reformist Translation, has been recently published by BrainbowPress, after being cancelled by Palgrave-Macmillan, which followed the fatwa of a "very established scholar."
Robert Spencer, a scholar of Islamic history, theology, and law and the director of Jihad Watch. He is the author of seven books, eight monographs, and hundreds of articles about jihad and Islamic terrorism, including the New York Times Bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad. His latest book is Religion of Peace?
Bill Warner, the director of CSPI Publishing and the spokesman for Political Islam.com.
Thomas Haidon, a commentator on Islamic issues.
FP: Edip Yuksel, Thomas Haidon, Robert Spencer and Bill Warner, welcome to Frontpage Symposium.
Edip Yuksel, let me begin with you.
I think a good way to begin this discussion is to talk about Muhammad in the context of women's rights. What, for instance, are your thoughts on our video about the violent oppression of women in Islam? Some critics would argue that this reality is the outgrowth of the foundation that Muhammad laid down in terms of his own teachings and also his own actions in terms of women. Do you agree?
Yuksel: No I do not agree. The video portrays a sickening reality, but if Muhammad came back today, these same people would declare him an apostate and heretic and would perhaps stone him to death.
FP: But just a second, some would argue that the misogynist pathologies in the Islamic world (i.e. female genital mutilation, forced marriages, child marriage, forced segregation, forced veiling, honor killings etc.) are engendered by the second-class status accorded to women in Islam and the demonization of female sexuality that is rooted in Islamic theology.
Are the teachings and actions of Mohammed himself in regards to female equality, rape and sexual slavery, not a part of this issue? Is his life, what he taught, and how he led by example really irrelevant to Muslims who seek to follow their religion in terms of how women are treated?
Mr. Yuksel, what do you make of the track of evidence in terms of Mohammed as demonstrated by Bill Warner? Can you explain how and why it is irrelevant when it comes to Islamic gender apartheid? Please also take a look at how Robert Spencer has documented Mohammed's life in his new book -- and this book is based on Islamic sources.
Are Spencer's and Warner's findings about the Muslims' prophet really irrelevant, especially when they are all based on Islamic sources and agreed to -- and pointed too -- by Muslim clerics and scholars themselves?
Yuksel: None, yes none of these innovations can be found in the Quran, the only book delivered by Muhammad; they were imported from other cultures and sanctified or they were innovated centuries after the revelation of the Quran. Not only they do not exist in the Quran, they contradict it. Hadith (hearsay narrations falsely attributed to Muhammad and his companions) and their collections have been the prime tool in distorting the progressive message of Islam. The reactionary forces, misogynistic ideas and practices, racism, tribalism, superstitions, despotism, and many other vices of the "days of ignorance" were resurrected and sneaked back into the minds and lives of Muslim communities after they were rejected by the early Muslims at great cost.
Soon after Muhammad's death, thousands of hadiths (words attributed to Muhammad) were fabricated and two centuries later collected, and centuries later compiled and written in the so-called "authentic" hadith books:
* to support the teaching of a particular sect against another (such as, what nullifies ablution; which sea food is prohibited);
* to flatter or justify the authority and practice of a particular king against dissidents (such as, Mahdy and Dajjal);
* to promote the interest of a particular tribe or family (such as, favoring the Quraysh tribe or Muhammad's family);
* to justify sexual abuse and misogyny (such as, Aisha's age; barring women from leading Sala prayers);
* to justify violence, oppression and tyranny (such as, torturing members of Urayna and Uqayla tribes; massacring the Jewish population in Medina; assassinating a female poet for her critical poems);
* to exhort more rituals and righteousness (such as, nawafil prayers);
* to validate superstitions (such as, magic; worshiping the black stone near the Kaba);
* to prohibit certain things and actions (such as, prohibiting drawing animal and human figures; playing musical instruments; chess);
* to import Jewish and Christian beliefs and practices (such as, death by stoning; circumcision; head scarf; hermitism; rosary);
* to resurrect pre-Islamic beliefs and practices common among Meccans (such as, intercession; slavery; tribalism; misogyny);
* to please crowds with stories (such as the story of Miraj (ascension to heaven) and bargaining for prayers);
* to idolize Muhammad and claim his superiority to other messengers (such as, numerous miracles, including splitting the moon);
* to defend hadith fabrications against monotheists (such as, condemning those who find the Quran alone sufficient); and even
* to advertise products of a particular farm (such as, the benefits of dates grown in a town called Ajwa).
In addition to the above mentioned reasons, many hadith were fabricated to explain the meaning of the "difficult" Quranic words or phrases, or to distort the meaning of verses that contradicted the fabricated hadith, or to provide trivial information not mentioned in the Quran (such as, Saqar, 2:187; 8:35…).
In terms of discrimination against women:
Verse 49:13 unequivocally rejects sexism and racism, and reminds us that neither man nor female, neither this race nor that race is superior over the other. The only measure of superiority is righteousness; being a humble, moral and socially conscientious person who strives to help others.
49:13 - O people, We created you from a male and female, and We made you into nations and tribes, that you may know one another. Surely, the most honorable among you in the sight of God is the most righteous. God is Knowledgeable, Ever-aware.
As I have demonstrated in the Quran: a Reformist Translation and Manifesto for Islamic Reform, the message of the Quran is a liberating and progressive one. I would appreciate if you share the following table from Manifesto regarding some topics involving misogynistic ideas and practices in today's so-called Muslim societies:
Teachings Based on the Man-Made Sources, Such As, Hadith, Sunna, Ijma, and Sharia
The Quranic Verses Contradicting these Teachings, and
Brief Discussions on Their Sources
When Muhammad was 53 years-old, he married Aisha who was only 9 years-old.
This is another lie by the enemies of God and His messenger. They tried to create a moon-splitting, tree-moving, child-crippling superman with the sexual power of 30 males (Verse 24:11-12 with its non-specific language, prophetically addresses this lie too). Muhammad was an honorable person and would not have a sexual relationship with a child (68:4; see 4:5-6). Discrepancies in the historical account show a deliberate attempt to reduce Aisha's age. This lie is perhaps produced to justify the sexual excesses of kings and the wealthy. They tried to justify their violence, oppression, injustice, sexual transgressions, and many other crimes through the fabrication and promotion of hadith.
The menstruating women should not touch the Quran, should not pray and should not enter the mosques.
This is based on a misunderstanding of at least two verses. Verse 56:79 is not an inscriptive but a descriptive verse about understanding of the Quran. The only verse mentioning menstruation forbids sexual intercourse during menstruation since it is considered a painful period (2:222), and does not forbid women from praying or reading the Quran.
The Quran prohibits sexual relationship with a menstruating woman, not because she is dirty, but because menstruation is painful. The purpose is to protect women's health from being burdened by the sexual desires of their husbands. However, the male authors of the Old Testament, exaggerated and generalized this divine prohibition so much so that they turned menstruation to a reason for their humiliation, isolation, and punishment. (Leviticus 15:19-33)
Despite the Quranic rule, the followers of hadith and sunna adopted Jewish laws that consider a woman unclean, and treat her like dirt for fourteen straight days of every month. According to the fabricated rules of the Old Testament, a menstruating woman is considered unclean for seven days, and during that period wherever she sits will be considered unclean; whoever touches her or sits where she sits must wash and bathe. After she finishes the menstruation, she has to wait for seven more days to be considered clean for ceremonial purposes. (Leviticus 15:19-33)
Women should not lead congregational prayers, and it is not recommended for them to participate either.
The verse instructing those who acknowledge the truth to gather for congregational prayer does not exclude women (62:9). The Quranic expression, "O you who acknowledge…" includes both men and women. Thank God, we have ended this misogynistic rule since 1999 and women have been leading congregational prayers and giving speeches ever since The end of the world did not come, nor did anything bad happen. To the contrary, we are now blessed with being members of a balanced congregation.
Women are mentally and spiritually inferior to men.
If a donkey, a dog, or a woman passes in front of the praying person the prayer is nullified.
Hell will be filled with mostly women; women are deficient in intelligence and religion.
These are male chauvinist statements that reflect a diabolic arrogance, and lack appreciation of half of the human population, who are the mothers, sisters, friends, and wives. (9:71; 33:35)
This is another misogynistic statement falsely attributed to Muhammad by so-called "authentic" hadith books. If we measure the level of intelligence by people's response to those who questioned their dogmas and superstitious beliefs, men have not scored better than women. Most of those who committed violence against the messengers and prophets were the male leaders, and most of those who distorted their message after their departure, again were all male religious leaders.
With a few exceptions based on biological differences or special conditions, men and women are considered equal in every aspect. The Quran expressly states the equality of man and woman, by the expression "you are from each other" ( 4:25). Furthermore, it reminds us of the common origin of both sexes and the purpose of why God created us as male and female, is the purpose being love and care (30:21) . Hadith sources do not reflect a loving and caring relationship between man and woman, but an arrogant, chauvinistic and patronizing attitude towards women. Unfortunately, when consultation and election was replaced by monarchy and satanic khilafa (theocratic rule), the rights women enjoyed with the revelation of the Quran were taken one by one, and within two centuries after Muhammad, Muslims reverted to the misogynistic attitudes and practices of the pre-Islamic days of ignorance.
The rights of women during the time of prophet Muhammad is reflected with all its power in verse 58:1, where a Muslim woman argues with Muhammad regarding her husband. God does not reprimand that woman; to the contrary, God sides with the grievances of the woman and criticizes the superstition. A critical study of hadith and history books will reveal that even those books contain many hints regarding the individual, social and political rights enjoyed by women during the era of revelation and even decades afterwards. History books report that Aisha, Muhammad's wife, in her old age became the leader and commander of a major faction that participated in a civil war that took place thirty years after the departure of Muhammad.
Verse 60:12 informs us of the rights and privileges enjoyed by women in the early Muslim community during the life of Prophet Muhammad. In that verse, the prophet acknowledges women's right to vote, by taking the pledge of believing women to peacefully surrender themselves to God alone and lead a righteous life. The word " BaYA'" used in the verse implies the political nature of the pledge; they accepted the leadership of the prophet individually, with their free choice. This verse is not about some pagan or mushrik women embracing Islam, but rather about a group of Muslim women publicly announcing their allegiance to Muhammad who became a founder of a federally secular constitutional government in central Arabia. This is a historical document that Muslim women were not considered default appendices of their decision-making husbands, brothers, fathers or male guardians, but Muslim women were treated as independent political entities who could vote and enter into social contract with their leaders. Unfortunately, many of the human rights recognized by Islam were later one by one taken away from individuals, especially from women, by the leaders of Sunni and Shiite religions; they replaced the progressive teaching of the Quran and practices of the early Muslims with hearsay fabrications thereby resurrecting the dogmas and practices of the days of ignorance. It took humanity centuries to grant women their God-given rights. For instance, the US recognized the right of women to vote in 1919 by passing the 19th Amendment, exactly, 13 centuries after it was recognized by the Quran. As for the region that once led the world in human rights and freedom, it is more than 13 centuries behind! After women, the men too lost their dignity to elect their leaders. What a regression!
According to the Quran, Mary was a sign for the world just as Jesus was (21:91). The Quran reports that Abraham's wife together with her husband welcomed male guests, participated in conversation, and laughed loud in their presence. She was not reprimanded for participating. To the contrary, at that meeting, God blesses her with the good news of pregnancy with Ishaq (11:71).
Verse 49:13 unequivocally rejects sexism and racism, and it reminds us that neither male nor female, neither this race nor that race is superior over the other. The only measure of superiority is righteousness; being a humble, moral and socially conscientious person who strives to help others.
The Quran is filled with verses referring to men and women in a neutral language that treats them equally (3:195; 4:7,25,32,124; 9:68-72; 16:97; 24:6-9; 33:35-36; 40:40; 49:13; 51:49; 53:45; 57.18; 66:10; 75:37-39; 92:3).
The Old Testament and St. Paul's Letters in the New Testament contain many misogynistic instructions. I recommend comparing Torrey's index for entries on 'Man' and 'Woman.' The comparison will show how the Old Testament and St. Paul are biased against women. St. Paul 's misogynistic teaching is a reflection and extension of a historical trend. The Old Testament contains many man-made misogynist teachings. For instance, a woman is considered unclean for one week if she gives birth to a son, but unclean for two weeks if she gives birth to a daughter (Leviticus 12:1-5).
Here are some of the misogynistic Biblical verses that changed so-called Muslims' attitudes towards women centuries after the Quran:
- Woman was created from Adam's ribs (Genesis 2:21-22).
- Woman was deceived by Satan (Genesis 3:1-6; 2 Corinthians 11:3; 1 Timothy 2:14 ).
- Woman led man to disobey God (Genesis 3:6,11-12);
- Woman was cursed (Genesis 3:16);
- Woman is weaker than man (1 Peter 3:7);
- Woman is subordinate to man (1 Corinthians 11:7).
Women should be covered from head to toe under a veil. Women should be confined in their homes. Women should be segregated in public places.
Societies, on certain occasions, times, or places might choose to segregate the sexes, but none can sanctify those decisions in the name of God.
After a brief period of freedom and progress women enjoyed during the revelation of the Quran and several decades afterwards, they lost many of their human rights because of the fabricated misogynistic teachings introduced under the title of hadith, sunna, and sharia of various sects (3:195; 4:19,32; 9:71; 2:228).
The word "KHuMuR" in 24:31 is a plural noun that comes from the root word of "KHaMaRa" which means, "to cover." It is used for any cover, not exclusively for headscarves. An extensive Arabic dictionary, Lisan-ul Arab, informs us that the word was even used for rugs and carpets, since they cover the floor. The singular form of the same word "KHaMR," has been used for intoxicants, which "cover" the mind (5:90). In verse 24:31, God advises female Muslims to maintain their chastity and put their covers on their chests, not their heads! Additionally, the word " fel yedribne = they shall put, they shall cover" is significant in that verse. If KHuMuR meant head cover, the verb, "fel yudnine = they shall lengthen," (like in 33:59) would be more appropriate.
Another distortion involves the word "ZiYNa" of verse 24:31. Muslim clergymen have abused this word to cover women from head to toe. They considered almost all parts of female body as ZiYNa. Reflecting on the rituals of ablution for the daily prayers, one can easily infer that women can publicly open their faces, hair, arms, and feet as an act of worship (5:6). Therefore, opening their faces and arms is indeed an act of worship; and they are not required to worship in secret or segregated places (17:110). If a man stares at a woman who is taking ablution and is sexually aroused it is not her fault, but it is either a symptom of his psychological problems or an indication of the deep-rooted problems in that society. By requiring women to cover any of these parts of their body, religious scholars have turned a religious ritual into a matter of sexual expression.
It is up to women to cover themselves for their own protection. It is not up to men or moral police to mandate or impose this divine instruction on women, since the instruction is personal and specific to women. Besides, the language of the instruction is deliberately designed to accommodate different cultures, norms, conditions, and individual comfort level. A divine recommendation to protect women from the harassment of unrighteous men should not be abused to justify the harassment and oppression of self-righteous misogynistic men.
Verse 33:52 informs us that Muhammad was attracted to the physical beauty of women. No reasonable man is attracted to the "beauty" of women walking in black sacks. Despite this verse informing us that Muslim women during the time of Muhammad were interacting with men, their faces open, those who tried to deprive women from social and political life and from their individual and group identity, went to the extreme and issued religious fatwas mandating a veil to cover their faces. The veil is a satanic innovation designed to turn women into the slaves of men who claim to be lords and masters.
Verse 60:12 mentions the practice of another role model, prophet Muhammad. Muhammad did not receive any divine warning regarding the danger of the devil during this face-to-face interaction! Furthermore, the Quran permits men and woman to eat together or to help each other (24:61; 3:195; 9:71).
The Quran, for important political reasons, advises to the wives of the Prophet not to mingle with people as they used to (33:32-33). The advice is due to protecting Muhammad and his spouses from the defamation campaign started by the unappreciative crowd ( 8:30-31; 24:11-20).
Ironically, the followers of hadith ignore their own history regarding the condition of women during the time of Muhammad and the four "guide leaders": Aisha, Muhammad's wife, is reported to lead a faction of Muhammad's companions after his departure. How could have Aisha lead men and women, in peace and war, if she did not interact and communicate with them, if she did not have her own identity, if she was imprisoned in her home or in her black veil?
The Quran provides several examples of women being active role models in their societies and interacting with men, such as Abraham's wife (11:69-71; 60:4-6), Muslim women in Madyan with one whom Moses married (28:23-28), the Queen of Sheba who later surrenders to the will of God (27:34:40), and Mary (19:16-30; 3:42-43; 66:11-12). Muslim women were so outspoken that they could engage in debate with Muhammad (58:1), and women pledged allegiance and voted for Muhammad's leadership (60:12).
Therefore, segregating men and women has no Islamic basis; it is a un-Quranic practice imported from misogynistic teachings of St. Paul and the Old Testament.
Segregation in places of worship existed as an innovation among Jews (Exodus 38:8; 1 Samuel 2:22 ) and reached its zenith with additional condemnation and degradation with St. Paul who condemned women for Adam's sin and silenced them in the public arena.
"Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says." (I Corinthians 14: 34)
"For a woman is not covered, let her also be shorn. But if it is shameful for a woman to be shorn or shaved, let her be covered. For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. For man is not from woman, but woman from man. Nor was man created for the woman, but woman for the man." (I Corinthians 11:6-9)
"Let a women learn in silence with all submission. And do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. Nevertheless, she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love and holiness, with self-control." (I Timothy 2:11-15)
The followers of hadith and sunna adopted the misogynistic teachings of St. Paul , and still many of them clung onto them as their religion, while most of Christendom has meanwhile mutated many times and quietly ignored and abandoned those teachings. In the Christian world, St. Paul's teachings have been partially rejected; women no longer cover their heads, and they no longer stay silent in churches. It is ironic that today's Sunnis and Shiites follow more seriously many of the teachings of Judaism and Christianity than the Jews and Christians themselves.
A woman cannot divorce her husband on her own.
Verse 2:228 establishes equal rights to both genders. By associating and even preferring numerous collections of lies and innovations to the Quran, the followers of hadith and sunna denied Muslim women the right to divorce and turned them into slaves of male despotism.
A man can divorce his wife by uttering some words three times.
Sectarian scholars who ignored the Quran and upheld volumes of books of hadith and sunna, issued laws (sharia) allowing the marriage contract to be terminated with several words coming from the husband's mouth. Divorce is an event lasting several months; it is not just an oral declaration of the male spouse. A wife cannot be divorced by announcing, "I divorce you three times." This ease and one-sided divorce created miserable marriages and destroyed many families. Many men, who "divorced" their wives by uttering the magical word " talaq" (divorce) unintentionally or in the heat of anger, desperately looked for a solution (fatwa), and found mullahs and religious judges selling fatwas to save their marriage! The class that created the problem in the first place became the benefactor of the solution (2:226-230; 9:34-35; 33:49).
The New Testament takes the opposite direction; divorce is considered a great offense and after the marriage, none should divorce, except for reasons of adultery. Marriage after divorce is committing adultery (Matthew 5:32; 19:9).
Polygamy up to four women is permitted. One can marry four previously unmarried women. Men do not need the consent of his wife(s) for polygamy.
The Quran does not limit the number of women. Though the Quran allows polygamy (4:3), it discourages its practice by requiring certain conditions: a man can marry more than one, only to the widows with children and should try to treat them equally ( 4:19-20, 127-129). Besides the consent of the former wife(s) is essential since they have the right to object or divorce their husbands. Unfortunately, verse 4:127 has been traditionally mistranslated as to allow marriage with juvenile orphans rather than their mothers. The word " ibkar" in verse 66:5 too has been mistranslated. For discussion on verses, 4:127 and 66:5 please see the notes.
It is an injustice to blame the Quran for advising us to care about the orphaned children and their widowed mothers. These verses primarily advocate the economic interests, psychological and biological needs, and social status of orphans, especially during war. Unfortunately, the enemies of the last prophet who attributed volumes of fabrications to him (6:112-116), have distorted the meaning and purpose of these wonderful divine precepts.
Muhammad's marriages to widows had political and social reasons. Unfortunately, the permission for polygamy was distorted and it became a means to satisfy the libido of the rich and dominant males. The all-male scholars, to achieve their goal used hadith and distorted the meaning of verses, such as 4:3-6, 4:127 and 66:5.
Here, we should note that exaggerated examples of polygamy, explicit details of sexual affairs, and stories of incest have been inserted into the Bible. We find much similarity between stories in hadith books and those Biblical stories. For instance, 1 King 11:3 claims that Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines. Anyone familiar with the current versions of the Bible would know that it contains numerous textual problems, translational errors, and contradictions. Numbers in the Bible are easily subjected to distortion, exaggeration, or simple scribing errors. For instance, we see a big difference in the number of charioteers killed by David. It is 700 according to II Samuel 10:18 and it is 7000 according to I Chronicles 19:18. Note that both numbers are whole numbers and the discrepancy is ten times.
A little attention to the numbers of wives and concubines attributed to Solomon would reveal a deliberate attempt to make it as round as possible. 700+300=1000. Total of seven zeroes! Most likely Solomon had a few wives. Contrary to the Quran that exhorts muslims to help widows, the misogynistic Rabbinical teachings inserted to the Old Testament put them in the category of harlots, and finds them unworthy of marriage by the privileged class, priests (Leviticus 21:14).
In terms of male and female circumcision:
Modifying God's creation for religious purposes is considered evil (See 4:119). Obviously, foreskin is not an abnormality in God's creation; it is the norm. Attempting to change such a creation through surgery to attain salvation is superstition (13:8; 25:2; 32:7; 40:64; 64:3; 82:6-9).
Sunni sources report many contradictory stories regarding circumcision. For instance, Ahmed B. Hanbal in his Musnad reports that Usman bin el-As refused to participate in a circumcision ceremony, since he considered circumcision an innovation. The Sunni historian Taberi reports that Caliph Abd al-Aziz rejected the suggestion of his advisors that the people of Khurasan should be circumcised; they were converted to "Islam" to avoid paying extra tax! Bukhari gives contradictory numbers for the year Abraham was allegedly circumcised, 80 versus 120. Bukhari who reports hearsay regarding the circumcision of converts and women, also reports that when Greeks and Abyssinians embraced islam they were not examined at all by Muhammad.
Hadith books, including Bukhari, contain numerous hadiths promoting circumcision including female circumcision, which is a torturous mutilation. However, hadith fabricators somehow forgot to fabricate hadiths about the circumcision of prominent figures during the time of Muhammad. More interestingly, since the practice of circumcision was adopted centuries later, they missed the opportunity to attribute this practice to Muhammad himself. Sunni scholars, therefore, came up with another so-called miracle: Muhammad was born circumcised. This would answer those who wondered about the absence of such an "important" record in the books of hadith and sunna.
The Quran never mentions Abraham practicing circumcision. If indeed Abraham did such a surgery on himself, perhaps he wanted to eliminate some kind of infection, and the blind followers who later idolized him turned his personal deed into a religious ritual. Looking at the history of the Jewish people and their trials and tribulations, it is more likely that this is an invention of Rabbis to mark the endangered race and protect it from extinction. Introducing innovations in religious communities may need some "holy stories" to attribute the innovation to historical idols.
The Quran never mentions the adventures of the Biblical character Samson who had a bizarre hobby of collecting the foreskins of the thousands of people he killed by the jaw of an ass (Old Testament Judges 15:16).
The Old Testament contains hyperbolic exaggerations and bizarre practices. For instance, ignoring the discrepancy in the number of mutilated penises read the following verses from Bible:
"So David rose and he and his men went and struck down among the Philistines two hundred men, and David came bringing their foreskins and giving them in full number to the king, to form a marriage alliance with the king. In turn Saul gave him Michal, his daughter, as a wife." (1 Samuel 18:27).
"Then David sent messengers to Ish-Bosheth son of Saul, demanding, 'Give me my wife Michal, whom I engaged to myself for a hundred foreskins of the Philistines" (2 Samuel 3:14).
Using a bundle of foreskins of mutilated genitals of the dead bodies of enemy as the symbolic show of manhood, and literally using them in exchange for a woman is appalling and insulting to women.
Men and women, in general, have some differences because of their different biology, and have some different needs and roles. However, some sex roles and inequalities are created by society and exploited by men. In order to let nature and justice prevail over superficiality and injustice, it is imperative to have the following: 1) Equal respect and appreciation of roles regardless of their gender, 2) Equal chance for both males and females to choose their roles freely and responsibly, And 3) Laws to promote and guarantee these two goals.
FP: Thank you Mr. Yuksel. Robert Spencer, go ahead.
Spencer: All sincere and genuine attempts to reform Islamic theology so as to reinterpret and/or remove violent and supremacist elements are to be welcomed. They are to be welcomed all the more wholeheartedly when they keep a consistent focus on the purpose that all such efforts have or should have in the first place: to convince Muslims that jihad violence and Islamic supremacism are not "pure" and "true" Islam, as the jihadists themselves claim, but that there is another way to live out their faith that is consistent and authentic on its own terms.
Edip Yuksel, when he says that "none of these innovations can be found in the Quran, the only book delivered by Muhammad" and that the Hadith are "hearsay narrations falsely attributed to Muhammad and his companions" that "contradict" the Qur'an, argues for the proposition that the Qur'an alone holds authority for Muslims, and that the Hadith is to be dismissed out of hand. This view is being espoused by an increasing number of reform-minded Muslim thinkers in the West, and there are certainly many immediate apparent merits to this view – stoning for adultery, the death penalty for apostasy and the compulsory covering of all but a woman's face and hands all come from the Hadith, not the Qur'an. A Qur'an-only Islam gives the hope that such practices, and others that have no Qur'anic foundation (although stoning is a bit of a problematic case, since in one Hadith Umar informs us that it was originally in the Qur'an, and should be considered to be from Allah, and some Muslim exegetes see the death penalty for apostasy in Qur'an 2:217 and/or 4:89) could easily be jettisoned.
As comforting as this may be to non-Muslims and Western-minded Muslims, the fundamental question for this and for all genuine reform efforts is: what chance do they have to become widely accepted among Muslims? One way to evaluate this is to examine the obstacles it will face in gaining such acceptance. The chief obstacle that Yuksel's blanket dismissal of the Hadith will encounter among Muslims is the fact that acceptance of ahadith that have been deemed authentic by traditional Islamic authorities is very deeply rooted within Islamic tradition. All Muslims agree that some ahadith were fabricated, but few would agree with Yuksel that all of them are. While he may be able to make a case for this on strict historical grounds, since in reality the historical foundations even for the ahadith that Muslims deem authentic are quite shaky, he will have a harder time compelling Muslims to accept such historical judgments even against ahadith that have been deemed authentic by authoritative Islamic scholars such as the Imams Bukhari and Muslim.
In fact, the acceptance of the Hadith is itself grounded in the Qur'an, in its exhortations to Muslims to "obey Allah and his Messenger" – that is, Muhammad (3:32; 3:132; 4:13; 4:59; 4:69; 5:92; 8:1; 8:20; 8:46; 9:71; 24:52; 24:54; 33:33; 47:33; 49:14; 58:13; 64:12; cf. also 24:47; 24:51; 24:56). Qur'an 4:80 even says, "He who obeys the Messenger, obeys Allah." It is Muhammad who "commands them what is just and forbids them what is evil; he allows them as lawful what is good (and pure) and prohibits them from what is bad (and impure)" (Qur'an 7:157).
How can Muslims obey such emphatic and oft-repeated commands after the death of Muhammad? The traditional answer to this question has been the Hadith. Muslims are told to follow what Muhammad commands, and only in the hadith can those commands be discovered. The Tafsir Anwar ul-Bayan, for example, articulates this traditional view in sharp terms: "Those who reject the Ahadith do not accept the position that Allah accorded to the Holy Prophet…Those who reject the Ahadith seem to object to Allah for conferring this position to the Holy Prophet…In this way, they actually reject the Qur'an since verses like the one above [7:157] clearly reveal that the duty of the Holy Prophet was much more than that of a mere postman." In other words, Muhammad is more than just Allah's messenger: he is, according to Qur'an 33:21, uswa hasana, an excellent example of conduct, the supreme model for emulation. Muqtedar Khan of the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy explains:
No religious leader has as much influence on his followers as does Muhammad (Peace be upon him) the last Prophet of Islam….And Muhammad as the final messenger of God enjoys preeminence when it comes to revelation – the Qur'an – and traditions. So much so that the words, deeds and silences (that which he saw and did not forbid) of Muhammad became an independent source of Islamic law. Muslims, as a part of religious observance, not only obey, but also seek to emulate and imitate their Prophet in every aspect of life. Thus Muhammad is the medium as well as a source of the divine law. ("The Legacy of Prophet Muhammad and the Issues of Pedophilia and Polygamy," Ijtihad, June 9, 2003.)
This is a traditional and mainstream Islamic understanding. I wish Mr. Yuksel well in its efforts against it, but caution non-Muslim observers against assuming that he will achieve easy or widespread acceptance for his views among Muslims.
Unfortunately, there are also some problems with his analysis on strict Qur'anic grounds alone – problems that will also hinder the acceptance of his reform efforts among Muslims. Mr. Yuksel asserts, for instance, that Qur'an 49:13 "unequivocally rejects sexism and racism, and reminds us that neither man nor female, neither this race nor that race is superior over the other." Qur'an 49:13 says, "O people, We created you from a male and female, and We made you into nations and tribes, that you may know one another." While it would be comforting indeed to see this as a blanket rejection of the male supremacism and commodification of women that mars so much of Islamic tradition and culture, on its face it is nothing of the sort. It merely states that Allah has created people from a male and a female, and says nothing that contradicts Qur'an 4:34 -- which, interestingly enough, in his lengthy exposition Mr. Yuksel does not quote at all. Yet besides its notorious command to beat disobedient women, this verse says: "Men are in charge of women, because Allah hath made the one of them to excel the other…" That doesn't sound like an unequivocal rejection of sexism to me. Nor does the condition of women in the Islamic world in general, expecially where Islamic law is rigorously applied, testify to a widespread understanding that Qur'an 49:13 has established equality between the sexes. Here again, I wish Mr. Yuksel well with his reform efforts, but I suspect that all too many traditional Muslims will quote 4:34 against his views. I look forward to his explanation of how he might respond to them.
Similarly, in his refutation of the proposition that "women are mentally and spiritually inferior to men," Mr. Yuksel never mentions Qur'an 2:282, which stipulates that for testimony," if there are not two men, then a man and two women, such as ye choose, for witnesses, so that if one of them errs, the other can remind her." It was on the basis of this verse that, according to a hadith, Muhammad declared that women are "deficient in intelligence and religion." When a woman challenged him on this statement, he replied: "Is not the evidence of two women equal to the witness of one man? This is the deficiency in her intelligence." Mr. Yuksel may deny the hadith, but the Qur'an verse upon which it rests remains.
In conclusion, I find it unfortunate that Mr. Yuksel so often has recourse to the Bible in his attempts to show the Qur'an and Islam to stand for enlightenment and equality. For whatever the actual barbarity of any of the Biblical verses he quotes may be, the unpleasant fact remains that it is not Jews and Christians, but Muslims, who today are applying teachings that render normative "bizarre practices." Judaism and Christianity have developed interpretative traditions that mitigate the literal understanding of such material, while Islam has not – and no religious reform has ever succeeded when the reformers simply ignored uncomfortable material, as Mr. Yuksel has here so far, rather than confronting it.
Haidon: The Center's video is a sickening reminder of the nature and foundations of what we are facing. The Muslim account of Muhammad (via the Hadith and Sirah) is replete with references to Muhammad's alleged appetite for tyranny, oppression and violence of the worst kind. Both Mr. Spencer and Mr. Warner's work painstakingly sets out this account in clear terms. I am deeply troubled by much of the Muslim historical account of Muhammad as enshrined in the Hadith and Sirah. While in many instances these sources portray the Prophet as a moral and upright, other instances portray a sinister picture of violence against women, and non-Muslims, and in some cases sexual violence.
Similar to Mr.Yuksel, I advocate a Qur'anist approach to Islam which seeks to marginalise/de-emphasise the so called Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad towards greater deference to the Qur'an which, in Islam, is divine revelation (whereas the latter sources are not). Although there are some differences in our approaches. I will allow Mr Yuksel to respond to Mr. Spencer’s observations about the rationalist movement to de-emphasise the Sunnah. I will say however that there is a growing Qur'an based rationalist movement that is "walking the talk" so to speak by developing intellectual and theological responses to Islam's underlying problems which address and refute Mr. Spencer's concerns. Mr. Yuksel's translation, as well as the work of Ahmed Subhy Mansour, Caner Taslaman and the scholars at www.free-minds.org and www.quranists.org provides a framework for addressing the key issues.
In reality, however, we cannot ignore the entire written account of Muhammad, whether it be enshrined in the Quran, Hadith or Sirah. I would like nothing more than to be able to inform my co-panelists that I have every confidence that Muhammad did not commit any of the atrocities attributed to him. However I think from a practical perspective it is a difficult case indeed to sweepingly disregard the historical account of Muhammad or to categorically say that it is false. It also poses strategic problems. Nonetheless, whether or not the Muslim account of Muhammad is fictional or fact, the reality is that Muslims rely on that history regardless.
FP: Mr. Haidon, if you don’t mind me following up with you for a moment in terms of your own faith. If it is a difficult case to sweepingly disregard the historical account of Muhammad or to categorically say that it is false, as you say, how and why do you remain a Muslim? I don’t mean this in an aggressive or accusatory way, but more in a hope to open up the discussion and to crystallize, perhaps, what it means to be a Muslim for many Muslims who are ready to be honest about the truth regarding their own Prophet.
Haidon: "The Messenger said "My Lord, my people have deserted this Qur'an" (Qur'an, 25:30)
Shall I seek other than Allah as a source of law, when He has revealed this book fully detailed? ....The word of your Lord is complete , in truth and justice. Nothing shall abrogate His words; He is the hearer, the omniscient. Yet, if you obey the majority of people, they will take you away from the path of The God. That is because they follow conjecture, and they fail to think." (Qur'an, 6:114-116)
And We have sent down the Book to you as a clarity for everything, and a guidance and mercy and good news for those who Submit." (Qur'an 16:89)
Allah has revealed herein the best Hadith [the Qur'an]; a book that is consistent, and points out both ways. The skins of those who reverence their Lord cringe there from, then their skins and their hearts soften up for Allah's message. Such is Allah's guidance; He bestows it upon whoever wills. As for those sent astray by Allah , nothing can guide them." (Qur'an39:23)
In summary, I am Muslim and will remain Muslim because I believe in the primacy of the Qur'an and its wisdom. I believe that the Qur'an is complete, and provides comprehensive guidance to Muslims when interpreted contextually. I believe in the principle in the Qur'an that all Prophets are equal, and that Muslims must not distinguish between them. I believe that to blindly follow the Sunnah and place it in close parity to the Qur'an is a form of shirk.
To be clear, I believe that many of the Hadith (and aspects of the Sirah) are fabrications developed in order to help the powers that be (Ummayids and Abbasids) legitimise their power to control Islamic jurisprudence. As a rationalist, I believe that the isnad hadith verification methodology is flawed, and that the real test of whether an ahadith should become a recognised source of Islamic jurisprudence is its overall consistency with the Qur'an. Any Ahadith must be interpreted and understand in light of the Qur'an, not the other way around. The Qur'an is the Criterion in Islam and has ultimate primacy.
To reject all ahadith as false is also impractical because there are a number of early hadith which support our position that the Prophet Muhammad was vehemently opposed to recording his traditions out of a credible fear that they would become, in the eyes of Muslims, equal to the Qur'an ("The prophet said:'Do not write anything from me EXCEPT QURAN. Whoever wrote, must destroy it" (Muslim, Zuhd 72; Hanbel3/12,21,39)) . There is also historical evidence to suggest that the early, so called "rightly guided" Caliphs were opposed to the codification of Hadith for the same reasons. The impact of Muslim adherence to Hadith and Sunnah, as imposed by Islamic rule, has been devastating and has lead to the veneration and de-ification of Muhammad. Ironically, the practice of traditional Islam has almost become a form of shirk. It also contravenes the principle of the equality of the prophets as enshrined in 2:285 and 4:152. However, while I cannot reject the authenticity of all Hadith, I reject their place of authority in the realm of Islamic jurisprudence, because a significant portion of the Hadith are prima facie inconsistent with the Qur'an.
Mr. Spencer has correctly framed the traditional Sunni justification/arguments arguments for the legitimacy of the "Sunnah" as a primary source of Islam. These verses, along with others, have been the primary basis of the Muslim reliance on Sunnah. However, to a rationalist, this view is fatally flawed. I will defer to Mr. Yuksel to provide a more coherent explanation, as his marvelous Translation and accompanying Manifesto for Islamic reform does. Briefly, however the Qur'an is complete and is the culmination of Allah's commandments and injunctions. Mr. Spencer writes: "Muslims are told to follow what Muhammad commands, and only in the hadith can those commands be discovered". This is where we differ: Muhammad's commands and injunctions are derived from the Qur'an. Therefore his commands and injunctions must be consistent with the Qur'an. This is the essential principle which undermines the traditional Sunni view. Again, I will leave it to Mr. Yuksel to provide a more cogent articulation.
I understand where Mr. Spencer is coming from and have every respect for him. However, I am slightly surprised by Mr. Spencer's tone towards Mr. Yuksel. Mr. Spencer has, for many years exhorted Muslims to provide a practical and sustainable framework for reform. Well, its here. I would hope that Mr. Spencer would, instead of merely citing/parroting the traditional Sunni critique of the Qur'anist/rationalist movement, view it for what it is; a comprehensive, rational and practical framework for reforming Islam. That does not mean he should not challenge it of course, but I would hope that he will closely evaluate all sides of the argument.
Mr. Yuksel, nor anyone in the Qur'anist movement said that convincing Muslims will be easy. This is not because any lack of soundness in the Qur'anist approach, but again because the approach challenges Islamist power and places the powers and freedoms into the hands of individuals. Mr.Yuksel or Qur'anists cannot be faulted for not yet being able to convince the massive swarms of Muslims who believe in traditional approaches. Efforts are being made however, that go beyond rhetoric and double-speak. Mr. Yuksel's work and the work of others in the Qur'anist movement illustrate this. The rationalist movement however, as Mr. Spencer points out, represents a minority of Muslims. Much more work will need to be done to challenge the status quo. Non-Muslims, who are legitimate stake-holders to Islamic reform, should not be diluted that full scale reform will happen any time soon. However progress is being made.
Warner: I do not find the reform ideas here to be either comprehensive or rational.
All of my comments are from the standpoint of the unbeliever, the kafir. I have no interest, whatsoever, in religious Islam. My interest is only in how Islam treats the "other" or political Islam.
The amount of the material in the Trilogy (Koran, Sira and Hadith) about the kafir is considerable. About 67% of the Koran written in Mecca is about the kafir, 51% of the Koran written in Medina is about the kafir. About 75% of the text in Ishaq's Sira is about the kafir and 20% of the Hadith (Bukhari) is about the kafir.
Every mention about the kafir is negative. "Kafir" is usually translated as unbeliever, but this is wrong. The word "unbeliever" is neutral. The Koran defines the kafir by its usage and says that the kafir can be killed, hated, punished, raped, mocked, enslaved, plotted against, beheaded, tortured, insulted, condemned, stolen from, deceived, kidnapped, humiliated and on and on. The Hadith and Sira follow in the same vein. There is no word in the English language that has the negativity of the word kafir.
As a measure of the negativity it is interesting to observe the Jew hatred. The hatred of Jews accounts for 10.6% of the text written in Medina . As a comparison, 6.8% of the text in Mein Kamph is about Jew hatred.
Even Hell is political. Only 6% of the people in Hell are there for moral failings—theft, lying and so on. The majority, 94%, of the people in Hell are tortured for the simple reason of not believing Mohammed. That is a political and intellectual disagreement, not a moral failing. Allah's Hell is a political prison for kafirs.
So when the gentlemen in this symposium say they reject the violence and hatred against the kafir found in the Sira and Hadith, I applaud them. However, they are wrong about the reason to reject it. They argue that Mohammed was a wonderful man and did not do those horrible things in the Sira and Hadith. We have a way to measure the truthfulness of the Sira and Hadith regarding Mohammed.
Mohammed left four very close friends and students, the "rightly guided" caliphs. No men were as intimate with Mohammed and his teachings as these men. They carried his teaching forward into history where their actions are recorded. Abu Bakr killed thousands of Muslims who wanted to leave Islam, apostates. Umar brought jihad to the kafir world and killed, raped, stole and tortured the Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians of the Middle East . Uthman was assassinated and Ali died in an Islamic civil war. Any coach will tell you—you play like you train. The rightly guided caliphs practiced what they were taught by the master—jihad and kafir hatred.
These men lived their lives just as Mohammed taught them. The teachings are portrayed in the Sira and Hadith. They did what we would expect. Now, if Mohammed was a wonderful man, why did his best students annihilate the kafir civilization? We do not have to speculate about the "real" Mohammed, he is found in the Sira and Hadith. History proves this.
The second reason to accept the Sira and Hadith as a good portrayal of Mohammed (I am not referring to the excessive detail in them, an obvious story-telling technique) is the integrity of the Trilogy. The Koran, Sira and Hadith are a seamless fabric of ideas. The Koran is the warp and the Sira/Hadith is the weft. All three of them are based upon submission and duality. They relentlessly advance the dominance of Islam over all kafirs. They form an integral whole, a unified ideology.
Having said that, I want to help with Islamic reform. If we decide to divide the Sunna into good Sunna and bad Sunna, how do we do it? We need a rational method, not whim, taste or like/dislike.
If we take an overview of the Trilogy, we find two organizing principles—submission and duality. The Koran is a text devoted to submission and duality. Submission is straightforward enough, but duality is not as familiar. Part of the Koran's dual nature is seen in the Meccan Koran and the Medinan Koran. They contain contradictory principles.
The Koran gives a method to resolve the contradictions—abrogation. But since every word in the Koran is from the perfect god, both sides of the contradiction are true. It is just that the later verse is better than the earlier verse, but the earlier verse is still true.
This establishes an Islamic dualistic logic, which can accept both sides of a contradiction as being true.
As an example of this dualism, the nice Muslim practices the Meccan (early) Koran. Osama bin Laden practices the Medinan (later) Koran. Both are "good" and "real" Muslims, but Osama is the better Muslim.
The dualism is further seen in Islamic ethics. A Muslim must not kill another Muslim; a kafir may be killed, or not. A Muslim must not lie to another Muslim, but a kafir may be deceived, or not. A Muslim is not a friend to the kafir. So Islam has one set of rules for Muslims and another set of rules for the kafir. This is dualistic ethics.
As an aside, the word "kafir" is pure dualism.
There is no universal view of humanity in the Trilogy. It always has a dualistic view of Muslim and kafir. The closest thing to a universal view is that all of humanity must submit to Islam.
Dualism and political submission is the divide between Islam and the rest of the world. There is one principle which will heal this division. All of the world cultures, except Islam, have the ethical principle of the Golden Rule: treat others as you would be treated. The Golden Rule establishes a unitary ethical system. All people are treated the same. Our civilization includes this unitary ethic. Women's rights, ending slavery, and the Declaration of Independence, were based upon this unitary ethic. We fall short of this unitary ethic on a daily basis, but we use it as a principle to judge and correct our actions. The Golden Rule is a goal and operating principle, not always an achievement.
Unitary ethics is a rational basis for reforming political Islam and its dualistic ethics. A comprehensive reform of Islamic politics must reform the Koran as well as the Sira and Hadith.
What happens if we apply the Golden Rule to the Trilogy? All of the hurtful, negative and harmful words about the kafir disappear. The Sira is reduced in size by 75%. Only 20% of the Hadith vanishes. The Koran is reduced by 61%. But that is not the only reduction. The Golden Rule will also eliminate the prejudice about women and this will reduce the texts even more.
The way to reform Islam is to add the missing ethical principle—the Golden Rule.
But here is the problem. Not even Mohammed could make the religion of Islam a success. He preached the religion of Islam for 13 years and garnered only 150 Muslims. But when he turned to politics and jihad in Medina , he conquered all of Arabia in his last 9 years. He averaged an event of violence every 7 weeks for those 9 years, not including assassinations and executions. Political violence against the kafir succeeded, when preaching failed. Dualism and political submission worked.
My point is: why would Islam drop what has brought it success? Political submission and duality work for political Islam. Everyone fears political Islam and does what it demands due to its doctrine of political submission and duality. No one quits a winning strategy for a losing strategy. The Center for the Study of Political Islam could easily produce a Koran, Sira and Hadith based upon the Golden Rule. It would be a thin book, but who would accept it?
[A technical note: the percentages of text used here are not based upon counting verses. Verses limit an idea to one sentence. What you want to measure is ideas, not verses. See A Simple Koran for a detailed discussion.]
Yuksel: Our effort is to reform our minds, attitude, actions and culture according to monotheistic precepts, which require rational approach. We know that only truth will set us free. Thus, the Islamic Reform movement will only contribute in making this world better for all, including, Christians, Jews and Muslims; Atheists and Polytheists; Edip and Haidon; Spencer and Warner.
I find Spencer’s and Warner’s understanding of the Quran heavily distorted by the teachings of Sunni or Shiite sects. I do not blame them for this. Had they studied the Quran without the distortion of Hadith, Sunna and sectarian fatwas, they would find out that the address of their criticism and concern is wrong. I invite them to study our exposition of sectarian distortions. I invite them to reflect on the translation of those verses and our arguments in the Quran: a Reformist Translation.
If Spencer and Warner learn the historic distortions committed centuries after the revelation of the Quran, they might regret for attacking Prophet Muhammad and his message, the Quran, because of those who have deserted and betrayed it (Quran 25:30; 10:100; 6:22-24; 6:112-113; 45:6-11; 31:6-7; 68:35-38). Perhaps, one day they will hear the message of the Quran without the backward background noises and will submit themselves to God alone.
I invite both to participate in our next conference on celebration of heresy and reform in Atlanta this spring. We will, God willing, have open debates on these and other controversial issues. We invite those who wish to participate to come to the Celebration of Heresy Conference: Critical Thinking for Islamic Reform, 28-30 March 2008, Atlanta , Atlanta Perimeter Holiday Inn. Join our low activity emailing list at http://groups.google.com/group/19org or visit http://www.hereticmuslims.com and www.19.org for information.
Spencer is right that majority of Sunni and Shiite masses are not receptive to the message at this point. But, the situation is changing dramatically. When I first rejected Hadith and Sunna in 1986 and invited Turkish Muslims to reform themselves by following the Quran alone, I was a young author with a few supporters. Then, I declared jihad against powerful Sunni and Islamist organizations, foundations, sects and orders with millions of followers and billions of dollars. After about thirty years, dozens of books, thousands of emails and forum discussions, hundreds of articles, and numerous live TV debates, now there are tens of thousands of Turkish people accepting this message. The message is now receiving the attention of especially the educated Muslims all around the world.
There are threshold points in history of nations and the world; I do believe that the time has come. Muslims are getting ready for extraordinary social and political change. Despite the obstacles we encounter, from Christianists to Islamists, we are witnessing a global interest in the message of Quran alone, especially among the youth. You will hear much better and surprising news within a few years, God willing.
FP: Mr. Yuksel, just as follow-up, you say that perhaps one day Mr. Spencer and Mr. Warner “will hear the message of the Quran without the backward background noises and will submit themselves to God alone.” Just wondering, how is it that you presume that they do not have, in their own way, a belief in and relationship with God? There is the implication here that you somehow have access to the truth, or some kind of relationship with a true God that they do not have. Is this by any chance connected to the fact that you are Muslim and they are not? Are you implying here that this is a bad thing for them and that they must, in the end, come over to your religion? How come they haven’t made any such comments in your direction? And what does this signify?
And if you are here to argue that the true Islam is one that does not and should not see its believers as superior to non-Muslims and that non–Muslims should not be subjugated, why do you make comments here suggesting the superiority of your beliefs and the inferiority of the beliefs of others? Surely you are aware that this in the fertile ground on which Islamism and Islamic jihad finds its inspiration? Please explain why you assume that Spencer and Warner somehow need to start believing what you believe.
I am also interested about you mentioning “Christianists” and Islamists in the same sentence and in the same context -- as if there is some kind of moral equivalency between the two (and I am still not completely certain what exactly a “Christianist” is, but that is beside the point). There have been more than 10,000 deadly terrorist attacks carried about Islamist jihadists worldwide since 9/11. How many have the “Christianists” perpetrated? Would you yourself rather be found stuck in an environment filled with Islamists or “Christianists”? In which group do you think you would remain alive for more than five minutes? How many “Christianists” have blown themselves up lately, in a crowd of innocent people, in their effort to get to paradise? How many “Christinaists” kill non-Christianists and do so by pointing to the New Testament verses to legitimize their acts? Who are these Christianists and what verses are they pointing to? Why would you even make a moral equivalency in this regard, Mr. Yukself, when you know very well that Islamism is the totalitarian and terrorist ideology that poses a monstrous threat to the world today and that “Christianists” are completely benign in comparison?
Yuksel: I will attempt to clarify my statement. I meant what I said. Either Muhammad was one of God's messengers or he was an impostor. Since, I am convinced because of substantial evidence that the Quran is the word of God, it follows that I should consider those who have devoted themselves to distort the truth about the Quran and its messenger, to be on the wrong path. Unlike Sunni or Shiite Muslims, I support their freedom to choose any path they wish and express their faith or conviction without fear. I will side with them against any group that would try to deprive them from their God-given right to freedom.
So, if these gentlemen have the right to depict Muhammad to be an evil guy and his supporters being as evil or duped, then I should also have the right to expose their so-called scholarly work, which is merely based on hearsay books and distortion and contortion of the Quranic verses by the followers of those hearsay stories. For instance, brother Spencer generously uses the hearsay stories fabricated centuries after Muhammad's life to assassinate Muhammad's character, while he knows well that according to the same sources which he trusts, Muhammad reportedly split the Moon causing half of it to fall in Ali's backyard, or Muhammad reportedly made trees walk, Muhammad ascended to the seventh heaven with his body, and many other stories. Scholarly integrity requires consistency and honesty in using sources in evaluating a historic personality. But, your gentlemen pick and choose from those books as they wish. They take advantage of the crazy noises created by Jingoists, Crusaders and Jihadists, and hideously try to justify a bloody imperial Crusade with its resurrected Spanish Inquisition mentality against Muslims. I consider the work of these gentlemen a dishonest or ignorant attack against one of the most progressive and peaceful leaders in human history. I would like to repeat my invitation to Spencer to discuss his book about Muhammad at the Celebration of Heresy Conference, which we are organizing in Atlanta by the end of March. See: www.hereticmuslims.com.
As for the charge of superiority, I am not morally relativist nor do I find subjectivist epistemology to be accurate. I do argue that in the court of reason and evidence, Muslims (not Sunnis or Shiites, but anyone, including Christians and Jews, whoever peacefully submit themselves to the laws and message of their Creator) are indeed superior over those who are willing to discard rational thoughts or confuse fake evidences from the genuine ones to join a religious or political bandwagon. People do not need to call themselves Muslim to become muslims (with miniscule). Ironically, most of those who call themselves Muslims are not muslims according to the Quran. The flowers, insects, trees, animals, planets, stars, galaxies, everything in the universe, with the exception of human mind, are entirely muslim, since they follow God's law without deviation. So, superiority is only through righteous acts that follow right thoughts and ideas (See Quran: 49:13).
Arguing for the superiority of some maxims or actions does not necessarily lead to suppression or oppression of others. Does your belief in democracy being superior over monarchy transform you into a democratic bully? (Don't ask me the Thrasymachusian bullies exploiting the good name of democracy). Does a Christian's belief in "salvation-through-Jesus-only" necessarily turn them to torturers and bloody Crusaders? I do not believe so. I would like, however, to remind the reader that I do not glorify "faith" as it is used by adherents of religions. We, the monotheist reformists, have a problem with even the definition and implication of the word "religion." We consider faith without reason to be fakery or delusion. Appreciation and acknowledgement of God starts with questioning everything, and after rejection of all gods and religious power-brokers, including nationalistic and religious dogmas, we can reach the Truth or God.
As for morally equivocating Christianists to Islamists, you are right. They are not morally equal. The line between morality and immorality is not always categorically clear and sometimes, there are grey areas. Unfortunately, the language of propaganda ignores the many important subtle details. The ethical question is a bit deeper than the propaganda language of both parties. For instance, none questions the immorality of killing innocent people for the fun of it? This is surely reprehensible. But, what about killing innocent people to save the lives of many more innocent people, as it is used for justification of the nuking the two Japanese cities and killing hundreds of thousands of civilians and injuring millions? Is this as reprehensible as the killing of a few innocent people for fun? Perhaps, not. What about killing innocent people by sacrificing one's life in order to fight against a fascist invasion and oppression? What about killing innocent people while targeting terrorists or aggressor invaders? What about not directly killing but financially or politically supporting the terrorists or the military aggression of a government? What about voting for a fascist or warmongering government and using the children of the poor people to kill the poor children of other nations for unjustified wars? What about calling for jihad against imperialists and their supporters, or calling for pre-emptive strikes against jihadists and their supporters?
You are right, that Muslims have unfortunately adhered to many hearsay fabrications that promote intolerance, violence and aggression. It is also true the New Testament, (of course not the Old one) promotes a peaceful message that usually promotes the Golden Rule. But, despite those books we have seen mixed results. There have been periods in history where the followers of Hadith and Sunna have been more peaceful and tolerant than the followers of the Gospels, and vice versa. So, we cannot just focus on the theology alone to address the problem properly. There are more than one reason for the level of violence and anger among Muslims at our time, and without honest diagnosis we will never be able to prescribe a proper set of solutions. Weeks after the 9/11 attack, I remember Dan Rather telling David Letterman with a straight face that the reason they attacked us was because "we were number one!" Dan knew better than that, but he wanted to please the crowd and unfortunately misled them. When intellectuals play for the tribune, the truth becomes the first victim and the price can be very costly. The Islamist terrorism has ecology, and the imperialist policy of the western world is an important contributor and incubator in its emergence and continuation. Just knowing that bin Laden was trained by the CIA and was once our ally against Russians, should inspire a wider angle and better vision to address this problem.
As for the 10,000 fatal terrorist acts. My ethical standard does not discriminate between on life or thousands of lives. Each human life is as important as the entire humanity. If we do not respect a single life then why should we respect the second one? So, a single terrorist act should be enough for us to seek justice on behalf of the victim. You should also know that I do not discriminate between gang terrorists and state terrorists, my dear friend. Both are evil. If gangs of terrorists are danger for humanity, just look at Iraq alone. About a million Iraqi lost their lives; millions were injured and became orphans, because of the unjustified war waged by the politicians elected by the votes of "peaceful" Christians against a country led by their former monster. I know you will try to blame the victim by telling us about Sunni and Shiite division in Iraq, but if a bigger bully invaded the USA and employed provocations and covert operations to win a victory over the American freedom fighters, that super-duper bully could have easily created multiple civil wars in the USA by exploiting her ethnic and religious fault lines. In short, I condemn every terrorist act, regardless of their religious affiliation, nationality, and colour.
In my youth, I did not lick the boots of Turkish generals nor kissed the beards of the Muslim clergymen, which led me to find freedom in the land of free that is established not by Evangelical Christians, Sunni or Zionist fanatics, but by open-minded rational humans, such as Thomas Jefferson or Ben Franklin, whom I consider Muslims (submitters to God/Truth in peace) or very close to that description according to the definition of the Quran. Any person who believes in one God, engages in good deeds, and acknowledges the Day of Judgment is a Muslim (Quran 2:62). Thus, I will not abandon my spirit of dissent against criminal politicians and corporations in my second country either. We need to save the planet from the crazy battle between the "coalition of evil" between religious zealots, jingoist nationalists and big corporations.
FP: I find it interesting that the forces that you demonize are the forces that you have sought refuge in to save your life. And due to the protection and freedom they grant you, you can say anything you want – even condemning them -- knowing nothing will happen to you. . . .not a luxury you could afford living anywhere where Islam has taken control of the state.
Needless to say, there is such a thing a thing as a just war, and the war against Fascism and Communism was just, just as our war is today against Islamo-Fascism. There is no morally equivalency between those who want to impose tyranny through terror and those free states who must engage in war to defend liberty. Muslims who engage in jihad can find the legitimacy to do so in the Quran. Christians who engage in any violence are betraying Christianity’s teachings and can find no legitimacy to do what they do in the New Testament.
Spencer: Thomas Haidon says,
“I am slightly surprised by Mr. Spencer's tone towards Mr. Yuksel. Mr. Spencer has, for many years exhorted Muslims to provide a practical and sustainable framework for reform. Well, its here. I would hope that Mr. Spencer would, instead of merely citing/parroting the traditional Sunni critique of the Qur'anist/rationalist movement, view it for what it is; a comprehensive, rational and practical framework for reforming Islam. That does not mean he should not challenge it of course, but I would hope that he will closely evaluate all sides of the argument.”
I am slightly surprised in turn that Mr. Haidon, for whom I have great respect, would take issue with my “tone” after I repeatedly wished Mr. Yuksel well with his reform efforts, and explained that I was only raising questions about them because if attempts at Islamic reform fail to be internally consistent and coherently argued on Islamic grounds, they will fail to convince any Muslims of their truth – which is the point of them in the first place. If Mr. Yuksel’s version of Qur’an-alone Islam is neither traditional nor mainstream, nor even consistent on Qur’anic grounds, as I have shown above, then it is important for non-Muslims to be aware of that, so that they can realistically assess its prospects for success.
As such I make no apologies for pointing it out. My position on this has always been consistent. In May 2005, after another self-proclaimed reformer, Khaleel Mohammed, made a similarly flimsy presentation amid similar false charges about my own work, I wrote:
“I am all for supporting moderate Muslims, but I am not for getting my intellectual pocket picked. I don't care one bit about how good any given moderate speaker can make non-Muslims feel about Islam and the war on terror. All I care about is: can this moderate's arguments from the Qur'an and Sunnah convince jihad terrorists to stop waging war in the name of Islam? If it looks as if they can, I will support the moderate wholeheartedly. But if it looks as if they can't, then I wish someone would tell me why such moderates are even worth supporting.”
I stand by those words.
Mr. Yuksel, meanwhile, claims that if Mr. Warner and I had “studied the Quran without the distortion of Hadith, Sunna and sectarian fatwas, they would find out that the address of their criticism and concern is wrong.” While that may be true, he ignores the fact that hundreds of millions of Muslims have likewise studied the Qur’an as “distorted” by the Hadith and Sunnah, and they will think of the same Qur’an verses that contradict his Qur’anic arguments that I referred to above. It is unfortunate, but revealing, that he did not deal with those points at all, thus leaving the weaknesses of his presentation exposed and making Mr. Haidon’s objection to my “tone” even more bizarre, as if I should simply be abjectly and uncritically grateful for any attempt to reform Islam, no matter how much of a farrago or how tissue-paper-thin it may be.
Mr. Yuksel also complains that Mr. Warner and I “depict Muhammad to be an evil guy and his supporters being as evil or duped” in my “so-called scholarly work, which is merely based on hearsay books and distortion and contortion of the Quranic verses by the followers of those hearsay stories.” One who is not reading closely may miss the fact that the “followers of those hearsay stories” constitute the great majority of Muslims around the world today, and that in my biography of Muhammad I was merely depicting Muhammad as he appears in texts written by pious Muslims and accepted by most Muslims as authoritative. But for Mr. Yuksel, “scholarly integrity requires consistency and honesty in using sources in evaluating a historic personality,” and Mr. Warner and I have fallen short of this, daring to “pick and choose from those books as [we] wish.”
Of course, if a book is not simply going to reproduce another book in its entirety, some picking and choosing is necessary, and Mr. Yuksel unfortunately provides no examples of what he finds so objectionable about the choices I made in my book, except that I rely on early Islamic traditions about Muhammad – traditions that he rejects. But for this also I make no apologies, as I was trying simply to illuminate some elements of mainstream Islamic belief about Muhammad as he is depicted in mainstream Islamic texts. If this makes Mr. Yuksel regard me as irresponsible and unscholarly, I trust he has the same view of the multitudes of Muslim biographers of Muhammad, such as Muhammad Husayn Haykal, Safi ur-Rahman al-Mubarakpuri, and Yahiya Emerick, as well as non-Muslim Islamic apologists such as Karen Armstrong, who rely on the same sources.
But in this Mr. Yuksel accuses me of dark motives, saying that Mr. Warner and I “take advantage of the crazy noises created by Jingoists, Crusaders and Jihadists, and hideously try to justify a bloody imperial Crusade with its resurrected Spanish Inquisition mentality against Muslims” and says that he considers “the work of these gentlemen a dishonest or ignorant attack against one of the most progressive and peaceful leaders in human history.” Now we have entered the realm of fantasy, since in reality I have repeatedly called on Islamic spokesmen to acknowledge the elements of Islam that jihadists use to recruit terrorists, repudiate those elements, and formulate some way to combat the jihadist challenge within Muslim communities, so that non-Muslims and Muslims may coexist as equals on an indefinite basis. That Mr. Yuksel would take this as heralding some “bloody imperial Crusade” casts yet more doubt upon the seriousness of his reform efforts. In that light, while I am grateful for his invitation to attend his Atlanta Conference, and am always open to discussion and debate (and am quite prepared to defend my work), I am unsure if he is inviting me to speak, or simply to be the target there of more insults and smears on my work and my integrity as a human being. If the latter, I must respectfully decline.
Haidon: I must apologize up front for contributing to any hostilities in the debate. Invariably, as often happens in these kinds of debates, we have returned to the question of Islamic reform. While I want to address some of the points raised by the co-panellists here, I hope that my response will help bring us closer to the theme of this discussion: the validity of the Muslim account of Muhammad. There is much to comment on, however, I have limited my responses in the interest of time and space.
I've read Mr. Warner's response with interest. I think his views are representative of a growing number of non-Muslims who are simply tired of atypical Muslim responses to the Islamist problem. What I find particularly interesting about Mr.. Warner's responses is that he speaks in certitudes and absolutes. I think that Mr. Warner needs to carefully read my rejoinder above. I did not state that Muhammad was a "was a wonderful man and did not do those horrible things in the Sira and Hadith". In fact, I stated that I could not categorically say that Muhammad did not do the things he was accused of. To say, without qualification, that Muhammad did not commit any of the dreadful acts accredited to him in the Sunnah is disingenuous, because we simply do not know. Mr. Spencer, in his initial comments, appears to recognise that there may very well be historical grounds to cast doubt on the veracity and validity of the hadith and Sunnah. This view is also shared by many non-Muslim and Orientalist scholars, including Ibn Warraq and Joseph Schact. Within this historical backdrop, the political context, and the motivations of the Ummayid and Abassid rulers who used Sunnah to consolidate their power, is a key consideration. For Mr. Warner to say with such certainty that Muhammad did what he did, while ignoring the historical and political arguments which challenge the veracity of hadith and the Muslim record of Muhammad, is rather weak.
But it is unlikely that the entire body of hadith are prima facie invalid. This may be a point of departure between myself and Mr. Yuksel. To be sure, many of the hadith arecan be viewed as perfectly innocuous and relate to ritual and manners. Simply casting away all hadith, is not realistic and would also remove this class of "good" hadith. I subscribe to the great Qur'anic scholar Kassim Ahmad's view that true test of authenticity of a specific ahadith lies in its consistency with the Qur'an, not in the flawedisnad chain methodology.
The real question then becomes, what is the methodology for determining consistency of ahadith with the Qur'an? Most traditional Muslims would argue that all sahih hadith are prima facie consistent with the Qur'an. Indeed, proponents of the insnad chain methodology would argue that this is a key component of that approach. This is a key challenge/question to proponents of the Qur'an alone and Qur'anist approaches.
For purposes of clarity, I would like to draw upon Kassim Ahmad's articulation of five key principles that, at a high level, provide the foundation of the Qur'anist approach (the book, contains the enumerable Qur'anic references, to support each principle):
· The Qur'an is complete, perfect and detailed. It is the fundamental law and the basic guidance for mankind .
· The sole mission of the Prophet Muhammad was to deliver the divine message, the Qur'an. His other roles were secondary.
· The hadith compiled by hadith scholars consists of reports of alleged sayings of the Prophet and cannot be absolutely guaranteed as to their authenticity. Those hadith that conform to the Qur'an are acceptable, while those that conflict with it are automatically rejected.
· Religious duties of prayer, fasting charities and optional pilgrimage were not delivered by way of hadith, but were religious practices handed down through generations from the time of the Prophet Abraham.
· Besides being prophet and messenger of God, Muhammad was also a leader of the medina city state and the later Arab nation state. In that role he implemented the divine imperatives of the context of the 7th century Arabia. It is impossible that he would have done anything contrary to God's commandments.
Underlying the Qur'anist approach is the core assumption that the Prophet could never issue an injunction that contradicted the Qur'an. In the context of this symposium, further discussions on the validity of the Qur'an alone/Qur'anist approach are probably unhelpful. The traditionalist view is prevalent, and widely held by Muslims across the world. Whether Mr. Yuksel and I believe in the validity of the Muslim record is irrelevant for the moment. The bleak picture painted by Robert Spencer in his autobiography of Muhammad, is not conjecture, but based exclusively on Muslim sources, and is supported by the majority of ulaema, worldwide. Mr. Spencer nor Warner cannot be blamed, or derided, for merely spelling out what this historical record is, and what potential barriers exist for reformers.
So, the answer to the question about whether or not the account of Muhammad is fictional is irrelevant in this context. For all intents and purposes, the account is real because it is drawn upon and relied upon so heavily by jihadists and Islamists. Perception, unfortunately, is everything.
Warner: This symposium started with the question: who is the “real” Mohammed? Why do we need to keep asking this question? After September 11, 2001, we heard that the Muslims who committed that act of horror were not “real Muslims” and that the real Islam is the “religion of peace”. What is there about Islam that makes us keep trying to figure out what is the real Islam?
In the same way, is the religious Koran of Mecca the real one? Or is it the political Koran of Medina? Said in another way, is the real Mohammed the preacher or the jihadist?
Duality is one of the two Islamic fundamental principles. Submission is the other. Duality means that Islam holds two contradictory views on all subjects. Thus, asking the question about which view is the real one is like asking which end of the magnet is the real magnet. Is it the north end or is it the south end? At least we can agree that both poles are just different ends of the same magnet.
Just like the magnet, the “complete, perfect and detailed” Koran is both religious and political and the real Mohammed is the jihadist and the preacher. Islam uses each one when it is needed. Yuksel and Haidon need the “good” Mohammed. But the Taliban and the Muslim Brotherhood presently are using the jihadist Mohammed. North pole. South pole. Same magnet. Preacher Mohammed. Jihadist Mohammed. Same Mohammed.
So this symposium is based on the false premise that Mohammed must be one or the other, when he is both sides of the contradiction.
It is this dualism that lets Islam deceive the kafir. When talking to kafirs and dhimmis, Islam presents a saintly man. The apologist dhimmis say, “Well, if Mohammed was such a nice guy, the other Mohammed must be false.” The shape-shifting dualism fools the dhimmis.
Which brings us to the Koran. Haidon and Yuksel think that if we didn’t have to deal with the “false” jihadist Mohammed, Islam would be acceptable. However, the Koran says over 30 times that Allah wants every human to be just like Mohammed. Then it says over 40 times, that if we aren’t like Mohammed, we burn in Hell. Islam has to have Mohammed. Without him, a Muslim does not know how to fulfill any of the Five Pillars. To be generous, the Koran is an incomplete document. Without Mohammed’s life there is no Islam.
Also the actions of Mohammed show up constantly in the Koran. Mohammed the jihadist shows up at the battles of Badr and Uhud. Mohammed the politician shows up in the Victory sura. Islam has to have Mohammed even if there were no Sira or Hadith.
All of the mentions of Mohammed in the Koran are seamless with the Hadith and Sira. That is one of the reasons that the Sira and Hadith cannot be dismissed. The Koran, Sira and Hadith are a unified intellectual work.
But let’s go along with the argument that without the Mohammed of the Sira and the Hadith, a good Islam would be a Koran-only Islam. Mr. Haidon and Mr. Yuksel are so immersed in dualism of believer/kafir that they cannot see what a dreadful document the Koran is for the kafir. They love it when the Koran says that they are the “best of people”, but they cannot see how horrible it is that I and all other kafirs are called the worst things in Allah’s creation.
The Medinan Koran has brought political misery to the kafirs for 1400 years. There is not one good statement in the Koran and Islam for us. It says that we can be tortured, beheaded, crucified, robbed, raped, enslaved, mocked, and humiliated. These are political actions and they define the Islamic worldview. Why does any Muslim think that I get a warm feeling and a smile when I am told that Allah plots against me and hates me?
A reformed Islam based upon the Koran without Mohammed is still an Islam where the kafirs are political second class citizens to be abused. The only reform that is good for kafirs is the removal of the negative language. The application of the Golden Rule to the Koran will do this, but over half of the Koran would vanish. Only a Koran with a Golden Rule and without kafirs is a reformed Koran.
I can give a criteria for a reformed Islam. Can I hear a good Mohammed joke after reform? I am very serious. There are jokes about Jesus, Noah, Adam and Moses (all supposed Islamic prophets of Allah). Why not Mohammed?
I cannot help but notice that no Muslim can discuss Islam without criticizing Christianity. The reason for this is found in the “complete, perfect and detailed” Koran. The Koran is vicious about all other religions. Due to its dualism, it has a good word in the beginning about the Jews and Christians, but in the end, the dualism prevails and the Koran’s second view is brutal. It demands that it, and it alone, determines the truth of all other religions. But the Koran does not stop with religious criticism, but it always includes political persecution of other religions. The “complete, perfect and detailed” Koran also dictates that all other religions must politically submit in this world. Islam is not just about religion, but politics. The Koran is a political text that contains only negative, pejorative, hurtful, insulting words for the kafir.
The “complete, perfect and detailed” Koran of Medina contains more Jew hatred than Hitler’s Mein Kamph. A detailed statistical analysis of Mein Kamph shows that 6.8% of the paragraphs are Jew hatred. The same analysis of the Koran written in Medina shows that 10.6% of the material is about Jew hatred.
To conclude, like Mr. Spencer, I note that Mr. Yuksel has called me to Islam. Let me use this example to show the dualism of Islam. This “call” has two meanings. The first meaning is that Mr. Yuksel has an actual concern for my well being and does not want me to be one of the citizens of Hell who is being mocked by the Muslims in Paradise as I burn with my shirt of fire and drink my molten brass. I like that interpretation.
But there is a second meaning to the call. When Mohammed attacked the Jews of Khaybar (an event referred to in the Medinan Koran) he first called them to Islam. When they rejected this call they were attacked, crushed and made dhimmis. It was in this vein that bin Laden called America to Islam before he attacked on September 11, 2001 .
So the call to Islam can be from care and concern or it can be a prelude to death by jihad. Such is the dualistic nature of political Islam and the Koran.
This makes me very sad. I wish that I could believe that Islam can be reformed and that Muslims could be convinced to stop imitating the jihadist Mohammed, obeying the Medinan Koran and killing kafirs. Look at the results. Mao was responsible for the deaths of 77,000,000 people, Stalin killed about 62,000,000 and Hitler was responsible for the deaths of 21,000,000. And for the last 1400 years those who imitate Mohammed and follow the Koran of Medina, have killed over 270,000,000 kafirs. If you could bring about a reform that would negate this effect, you and your work would be the greatest blessing to humanity in written history.
Haidon: After serious reconsideration, I wish to withdraw my comment about Mr. Spencer's "tone". I believe my remarks are an unfair characterisation of Mr. Spencer's rejoinder. Mr. Spencer was merely challenging the points put forth by Mr Yuksel, and responding with reasoned arguments (firmly rooted in Islamic history and theology) as to why Mr. Yuksel's points about Muhammad, the Sunnah and the Quran were flawed. In criticising Mr. Spencer's tone, I inadvertantly adopted a common tool of Muslim apologists when confronted by legitimate questions about Islam. It was wrong of me to do so.
Mr. Spencer, in this symposium (and through his wider work in general), has presented well constructed arguments that are firmly rooted in traditional Islamic teachings, to highlight the troubles facing traditional Islam . In many ways, Mr. Spencer is carrying out the work that genunie reforrmers need to carry out, in terms of identfying problems, and gaps (and shortcomings) of reform efforts. Instead of maligning scholars like Mr. Spencer, we need to answer the hard questions, with well developed answers, not accusations of Islamaphobia or weak accusations. As a Muslim, I firmly believe in the Qur'anic injunction: "O you who believe! Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even if it be against yourselves, your parents, and your relatives, or whether it is against the rich or the poor..." (Quran 4:135).
FP: Edip Yuksel, Thomas Haidon, Robert Spencer and Bill Warner, thank you for joining Frontpage Symposium.