Friday, November 14, 2008

Attacks on Islam

I mentioned in my last post that I've recently begun reading Why I Am Not a Muslim by Ibn Warraq. I'm now in the fourth chapter and it's obvious that his book is an all-out attack on Islam.

He states that his inspiration for writing the book was the Salman Rushdie affair. Rushdie wrote The Satanic Verses in 1988. The phrase "satanic verses" refers to some Quranic verses supposedly produced and later retracted by Muhammad about the pagan Meccan goddesses being daughters of Allah. The publication of Rushdie's book caused an outrage in the Muslim world and a fatwa was issued against him by Ayatollah Khomeini. Warraq was disturbed by Western criticism of Rushdie and even support of the fatwa.

In the introduction, Warraq states that he wouldn't be offended if his book were called an extended bibliography and that is an accurate description; he mainly gathers together, filters, and summarizes writings by many authors throughout history, both Muslim and non-Muslim. He draws extensively on Islamologists who have done extensive research on the veracity of the Quran and Hadith.

As the title of this post suggests, his book is beyond critical to the point of being hostile. As with all of my reading, I take it with a grain of salt and don't just blindly accept all of the claims made but it does raise a number of good points about which to think. Since he is very hostile, he makes no attempt to sugar-coat his arguments or keep them politically correct. This allows him to bluntly state his point and be very clear.

I haven't even finished the first four chapters but he's made many connections between the beliefs and practices of Islam and those of its immediate influences, Judaism and pre-Islamic Arabian paganism. He states that Muhammad, having initially learned pieces of Judaism and Christianity on his travels, set out to become a Jewish prophet. After failing to convince the Jews of his prophethood, his goal changed to simply creating a new religion for the Arabs and reached back to their Ishmaelite and Abrahamic roots, seeing himself as a new Moses for the Arabs. Islam obviously takes many stories and tenets from Judaism but many connections are made to Jewish writings outside of the Old Testament with which Christians would not be familiar. He draws many parallels between practices at Hajj and pre-Islamic pagan rituals, which aren't very hard to accept. Additionally, he makes a very good point that the Quran makes comments about the Christian trinity being composed of God, Jesus, and Mary, which is blatantly wrong and, one would think, something it should get correct considering it is refuting the trinity. In fact, the Quran's understanding of the trinity, leading to most Muslims' understanding of the trinity, is a pretty far cry from the accepted trinitarian theology.

He then produces many arguments stating that the Quran and Hadith were actually created after the fact to legitimize a created religion and the battles, hijrah, and various other events in early Islam never actually happened.

In any case, there's a lot of stuff to think about and carefully analyze and I still have the majority of the book to read.

Monday, November 10, 2008

More reading, videos, and a busy life

I'll confess that I haven't been reading or checking in on this blog as much as I'd like. However, I have still been reading regularly. I recently finished "The Call of the Minaret" by Kenneth Cragg, a professor and bishop and longtime student of Islam and the Middle-East. Coming from a Christian background, his analysis of Islam was very even and fair, I'd say. Although he remained unwavering in his Christianity, the book usually spoke from both the Christian and Islamic perspectives as each being true and simply related the two. It was primarily an analysis of Islam for the Christian but rather than simply introducing the tenets, it primarily focused on social and political structures within Islam, how they developed, and how they affect Christians, both those in the Western world as well as Christian populations within primarily Muslim states. It was an interesting and though-provoking book but wasn't deep in comparative religion, theology, or apologetics.

Just today I started on another book titled Why I Am Not a Muslim by Ibn Warraq, who was raised Muslim as a child but has since rejected Islam and all religions and considers himself a "secular humanist." I'm really not looking to join him in casting off religion as a whole but I figured this might provide a critical look at Islam from an inside perspective. As I just started it today, I haven't gotten very far but, from the Introduction, it seems that he is primarily critical of Islamic society and the actions committed in the name of Islam and only secondarily of the religion itself. As I make progress, I'll comment more.

I was recently sent a link to a video about a few Dutch women who converted to Islam. The documentary is an hour long and is all in Dutch with English subtitles and can be viewed here. It shows some of the hardships that they've experienced but I was impressed with their zeal and dedication through it all. I actually think they had it much harder than I would because Western Europe seems to be somewhat more critical of Islam because of the immigrant situation. Additionally, some of the women were still living at home with their parents or were in high school, making family and peer relations much scarier.

I still also intend to watch some of the other Ahmed Deedat videos.

Finally, I've been reading my Bible but not as much as I had hoped. It's interesting rereading the Old Testament stories, many of which are also in the Quran, sometimes unchanged and sometimes slightly different.

That's all for now but as always, if there are any special requests, pointers, questions, or comments, I'm very happy for any input.