No God but God/A review(VII)

A continuation

Logical conclusions, and the ability of the author to convince the reader with his ideology:

Aslan said,“There are those who will call it (the book) apostasy, but that is not troubling. No one speaks for God- not even the prophet (who speaks about God). There are also those who will call it apology.” I would call it none of the above; the best description of it (the book) would be a shallow analysis and a limited vision. Unfortunately Aslan could not use his talents and well-equipped facilities to see the obvious, and the reason for that is best described by Daniel C. Dennett in his bestseller “Breaking the Spell”, “We may be too close to religion to be able to see it at first. This has been a familiar theme among artists and philosophers for years. One of their self-appointed task is to “make the familiar strange,” and some of the great strokes of creative genius get us to break through the crust of excessive familiarity and look at ordinary, obvious things with fresh eyes…the remarkable autistic author and animal expert Temple Grandin gave neurologist Oliver Sacks a great title for one of his collections of case studies of unusual human beings: An Anthropologist on Mars (1995). That’s what she felt like, she told Sacks, when dealing with other people right here on earth. Usually such alienation is a hindrance, but getting some distance from the ordinary world helps focus our attention on what is otherwise too obvious to notice, and it will help if we temporarily put ourselves into the (three bright green) shoes of a “Martian,” one of the team of alien investigators who can be imagined to be unfamiliar with the phenomena they are observing here on planet earth.”
This familiarity hindered Aslan’s ability to see the big picture. Islam is not the little detailed bits and pieces that he tried to glue together, it is a whole, complete system of life. And the core of this system is the family, upon which the whole system was built. Role designation of genders was built on the tribal system of the desert. And accordingly; the responsibilities and the rights of each individual in the society were drawn. And therefore, a huge chunk of the rules of Shareea were based on that principal. Now tampering with any aspect of Shareea is like pushing a tile of dominos on which many other tiles are dependant. And modernizing Islam to make it compatible with civil human rights would definitely demolish the bases of Shareea, and the essence of Islam. And here is my concern; would traditional Moslems of both major sects accept that? If that was easy, then Mutzalas who tried to do that centuries ago would have succeeded. And Islam would have had a difference face today.
Tampering with the rules of God calls for Jihad, and the fight will never stop. We can’t compare Islam with Christianity simply because the Bible was written over more than 1,500 years by vastly different writers, while Muslims believe that Quran is the direct word of God dictated to Muhammad. And if Christianity had to go through seas of blood to endorse reform, “protestant reform and Catholic intransigence, a violent body argument that engulfed Europe in devastation and war for more than a century”, then one can imagine what Islam has to go through with such reform.
As Daniel C. Dennett said in the same source above, “Now that we have created the technologies to cause global catastrophe, our jeopardy is multiplied to the maximum: a toxic religious mania could end human civilization overnight. We need to understand what makes religion work, so we can protect ourselves in an informed manner from the circumstances in which religion go haywire. What is religion composed of? How do the parts fit together? How do they mesh? Which effects depend on which causes? Which features, if any, invariably occur together? Which exclude each other? What constitutes the health and pathology of religious phenomena? These questions can be addressed by anthropology, psychology, history, and any other variety of cultural studies that you like, but it is simply inexcusable for researchers in these fields to let disciplinary jealousy and fear of “scientific imperialism” create an ideological iron curtain that could conceal important underlying constraints and opportunities from them,“ and this is exactly what I expected from Aslan; A thorough analysis independent of the background and devoid of prejudice. Islam’s main objective is to conquer the world, that is so obvious from all the Islamic sources, the prophet himself declared that he was Ordered by God to fight all, until the last person on earth say “no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his messenger.” And the situation is much more dangerous than to move in a circle of bloody wars that would only lead to mass destruction.
I expected from a learned person like Aslant to show that Islam is a philosophy and not a holy system from the above, since he himself does not believe in myths. For only when someone can educate the Muslim masses that this is the truth about Islam. Then, and only then, people would accept the reform and not take the scriptures literally without the fear of being punished hereafter.
Religion was part of our social evolution, it did its part of some reform in human history, and we should respect it, and place it in its rightful position in the past. But now mysteries are history, with the new age and science development, we know today a lot of things that we did not know before, and the circle of fear that engulfed us centuries before is diminishing today. It would be illogical and stupid to continue moving in the same circle when we know better today. And I believe that it’s the duty of any researcher or educator to enlighten the masses. For humanity has to move forward and not backward. The world is getting smaller, and each individual’s fate is becoming dependant on the actions of the other. One small mistake or stupidity could cost us all a dear price. (no points here)

And with this final conclusion, my overall rating for “No God but God” by Reza Aslan would be two stars out of five.

The End

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No God but God/A review(VI)

A continuation
It is a well-known fact that Quran was not gathered and compiled at the time of Muhammad, but rather, during the reign of the third khaleefa Uthman Ibn Afan, which was taken mainly from Hafsa’s copy that was gathered at the second Khaleefa’s time with some edition from other copies that were available at the time. So what makes Aslan think that this copy that we have today is the most authentic one, especially when history tells us about the political haywire of the time? And why did Uthman burn other copies, of which one was Ibn Masud’s, who was the companion of the prophet and the writer of the revelation, and his version was believed to be the most authentic? Even Omar Ibn Alkhatab decreed the penalty of rajm (stoning the adulterers) when he reigned, claiming that the prophet mentioned the aforementioned verse and that he heard it himself. Aslan even admitted that by saying,” chief among those (series of severe penal ordinances aimed primarily at women) was the stoning to death of adulterers, a punishment which has absolutely no foundation whatsoever in the Quran but which Omar justified by claiming it had originally been part of the revelation and had somehow been left out of the authorized text.” This was not Omar’s claim only; many other scripts of tradition also asserted that there are other passages missing. The mere fact that Uthman destroyed different editions of the Quran after having the “standard” edition compiled means that Quran had textual variants. And the missing passages assert that Quran is doctrinally erroneous, and it defies the fact that God would protect it from errors and textual inaccuracies that occur in transmission which the Quranic text itself proclaims a divine protection of its message” Surely We have revealed the Reminder and We will most surely be its guardian”.
That copy which was compiled by Uthman is not even the same copy that we have today. That copy did not have the accent markings of diacritic or glottal stops (Hamza, sukoon), which defines the vowels in Arabic script, nor it had dots that differentiate one letter from another. And it is obvious how adding dots and accent markings could change the letter, the word, the sentence and eventually the meaning. Naskh script from which modern Arabic script style developed did not appear until the 11th century AD, and it gradually replaced the other script as the most popular script for copying the Quran. Now, no matter how one tries to be accurate, one can’t deny the fact that human errors are inevitable when copying is performed over a long period of time, and transmitted through the word of mouth.
And the last point I would like to mention here is the abrogation of the Quran, “whenever We abrogate a verse or cause it to be forgotten, We exchange it with a better or similar one; don’t you know that God can do anything?” (2:106; see also 16:101). Aslan mentioned this fact in his book, yet he failed to see the contradiction of this very verse with other verse(s) in Quran, “this is a Glorious Qur’an, (Inscribed) in a Tablet Preserved!” (alburooj 21, 22).
If Quran was preserved at the time of Adam, then how could one revelation abrogate another? And why wouldn’t the ultimate knowledge come as it was originally preserved and passed through individuals?

But regardless of all that; If one wants to study Islamic history, one has to consider all the documentations in his search, regardless of the authenticity of some. Or simply discard it all. If one is folklore the rest is folklore. But since a lot of efforts were spent on those documents, we can’t just dismiss any part. It’s through those books that one can guess what might have happened on those days and draw the logical analysis.
And here I come to the end of this category in my search that deals with the “impartiality of the author to a religion, cult or sect” and I believe that Aslan failed to gain the two designated points.

To be continued

No God but God/A review(V)

A continuation
Aslan partiality was not only to Muhammad and Quran, but also to the Shiite sect, and specifically to the Sufi ideology, which is commonly known as Erfaniya. He did not mention that directly in his book, but it’s obvious to those who know the ideology of Erfanism (my terminology); I was one for a long time, so I should know better. In one of his quotes he said, “in fact the Quraysh regularly chose members of their own families to succeed them in position of authority because, as mentioned, it was a common belief that noble qualities were passed through the blood from one generation to next. The Quran itself repeatedly affirms the importance of blood relations (2:177,215), and endows Muhammad’s family- the Ahl Albait- with an imminent position in the Ummah, somewhat akin to that enjoyed by the families by the other prophets.” In fact, what Aslan wanted to say is that, it was not only the noble qualities that was passed in the blood, Shiite believe that knowledge is inherited in the blood as well. The verse “and He taught Adam all the names” encompasses the eternal knowledge that was exclusively Adam’s privilege among His other creations. This knowledge is then passed by blood to selected individuals whom Quran called prophets. Now according to this hypothesis; Shiites believe that this knowledge transformation is an on-going process, which did not stop with the last prophet, but continued through his linage. Of course there are many Shiite sects who have different opinions about the route of this knowledge. But what concerns us in this study is the major Shiite sect of the twelve Emams, through the bloodline of Emam Husain. This knowledge comes through revelations; it could come as dreams, as was the case with prophet Joseph, or even actual instructions handed by archangel Gabriel even after Muhammad’s death. There is no general consensus whether this revelation stopped after the disappearance of Almehdi (the twelfth Emam) or not, but regardless of that, Shiites believe that Almehdi keeps having his representatives among his own linage, through generations of Shiite communities till he finally appears, and through them knowledge keeps transferring to generations to come. Erfanies or Shiite Sufis are usually very highly educated individuals and deep thinkers. They regard the descendants of the prophet very highly and accept their favoritisms by God. Yet, they do not believe that the descendents of the prophets are the only bearers of such knowledge. Any person who seeks the path with purity and insistence should be able to reach that ultimate knowledge without the use of a mediator. Erfanies also do not take the scriptures literally, nor they care much about the standard traditional rituals, these things are considered trivialities to them. In other words, the means are not important but the final goal is what counts. And they reach their sought after goals by thawing in the love of God until one becomes united with the essence of God. They perceive life as a distorted mirror, where with love and devotion one can slowly clear this distortion, bit by bit, till the image in the mirror becomes crystal clear, and the eyes start to see the ultimate truth. And when this happens, the impossible becomes possible. And miracles become second to nature. They may not believe in myths like angles and flying horses even if they were mentioned in Quran since they do not take the wording of the scriptures literally, but rather allegorically. In Aslan’s own words, “ It is a shame that this word, myth, which originally signifies nothing more than stories of the supernatural, has come to be regarded as synonymous with falsehood, when in fact myths are always true. By very nature, myths inhere both legitimacy and credibility. Whatever truths they convey have little to do with historical fact. To ask whether Moses actually parted the Red Sea, or whether Jesus truly raised Lazarus from the dead, or whether the word of God indeed poured through the lips of Muhammad, is to ask totally irrelevant questions. The only question that matters with regard to a religion is “what do those stories mean.” Very logical indeed, yet this logic is lost when we learn that Erfanies believe in the ability of man to walk on water when he reaches to high levels on his path.
Now this brief introduction was necessary to understand where Aslan originally came from. The direction his book takes might deceive many as modernized thinking while in fact, nothing was new, nor modernized in his approach. Sufism ideology is even older than Islam itself, although it did not bear the same name. We would understand Aslan’s perception of his version of Islamic history, once we learn that he does not believe in the credibility of the traditions of the prophet. To him; they were just repetitive tales. In other words; he believes they’re folklore, “ the great majority of which were unquestionably fabricated by individuals who sought to legitimize their own particular beliefs and practices by connecting them to prophet”. Aslan dismissed all traditions, mostly the Sunni version, and claimed that they were forgeries. Apparently he based his perception mostly on Seara (the first historical biographies of the prophet), and some other apologetic sources. And I do agree with him in that respect, a lot of traditions sound so dreadful, that one could never believe that they could be the words of a prophet, it does not at all present the prophet who is calling for a utopian Islam. But Aslan is missing the fact that a big part of Islamic history was taken from those traditions. Then which part did he take and which did he discard? And if he believes that traditions are not authentic, then what makes him think that Quran is?

To be continued

A Short Break

After years of fighting for divorce with the Shareea courts, I lost my case against my ex in the second court, and starting all over again in the third court.

This is dedicated to my ex: with Shareea or without you will never mean anything to me but a pitiful EX

No God but God/A review(IV)

A continuation
Aslan mentioned that Muhammad, “granted women the right of divorce”, while he failed to address the severity of this conditional divorce by only shyly referring to the verse “if they (women) feared cruelty or ill-treatment (from their husbands)” (4:128). Divorce in Islamic Shareea is a man’s right by default, it’s not even mentioned in the marriage contract. A woman can add a clause to the contract if she demands it according to Shareea, although many Islamic courts like the Kuwaiti ones do not accept it. And adding this clause is also considered a taboo when it comes to Islamic societies; 99.99999 women do not make this demand at the time of marriage. But the aforementioned Quranic verse refers to something called “Khule”, where a woman can file for divorce. And although this process is relatively easier in Sunni courts than Shiite’s, it still remains to be a complicated issue that may take several years with no guarantees. According to that verse, a woman has to prove that her marital life inflicts dangers on her life or her beliefs, which means that she should get a document from the police station showing the injuries that the husband inflicted on her, or a proof that the husband is asking her to denounce her religion, which is almost impossible. In any case, a woman has to pay a certain amount to her husband to buy her freedom. In Sunni courts the judge decides on that amount. But in Shiite courts even with that amount, the husband has the upper hand, if he doesn’t accept it, the wife automatically looses the case. But the situation differs when the husband files for divorce, usually he can get an official paper from the Shiite court without even his wife’s knowledge. This document is then sent by court to the wife to inform her that the marriage is terminated. Sunni divorces are even easier where the husband has only to utter an oath of divorce “you are divorced” to his wife, for the marriage to be terminated.
Now Aslan may believe that this practice is not Islamic since Shareea was written by humans centuries after the death of Muhammad, but he is forgetting that these laws were stemmed from Muhammad’s traditions and Quran, which are fixed and can’t be altered.
Aslant also provided some weird interpretations of some verses of the Quran in his effort to Idealize Muhammad’s ways. In the Quranic verse “and for those (women) that you fear might rebel, admonish them and abandon them in their beds and beat them (adribuhona)”, Aslan’s interpretation for the word “beating” was, “turn away from them,” “go along with them,” and, remarkably, even “have consensual intercourse with them”. Well, that may be so in Irani language, which, by the way, I know is not, but as someone whose mother tongue is Arabic, I have never heard of such meaning before. And if this interpretation is true, then can I say “I humped eggs for breakfast”?
It is obvious that Aslan did not have a case to promote his idea of egalitarianism of Islam, but I think with his last attempt he really lost his credibility. Beating is smacking, causing injury to another, there is no need to twist and turn the words when the verse is so direct.
Aslan’s partiality to pick verses of the Quran and read them within the historical context, especially those concerning jihad is obvious. But he fails to explain the wisdom, or the purpose behind not documenting Quran chronologically by the people who were closer to the prophet’s epoch. The logic is taken from Quran itself when it said that Quran is ageless, it’s applicable to all times and everywhere. In Aslan’s words, “yet the doctrine of Jihad, like so many doctrine in Islam, was not fully developed as an ideology expression until long after Muhammad’s death.” How is that? When in the ten years of prophecy after Hijra, Muhammad went into at least ten battles; an average of a battle per year. And the verse “Jihad is written on you,” makes Jihad mandatory for all Muslims. Even the peaceful individual who does not believe in wars has the responsibility of spreading the word of God and defending it, which is the meekest type of Jihad, as Quran instructed.
The word Jihad in the Arabic dictionary Almowrid means: holy war (by Moslems); struggle, strife, fight(ing), battle. I don’t know what language Aslan is using to define those words. Taken from the traditions, Jihad means to give up something dear for the sake of God. Giving money to support war is Jihad, refuting all claims against Islam, either verbally or literally, is Jihad. But the noblest type of Jihad is to give one’s life for the sake of Allah, which is called in Arabic Jihad annafs. This is Jihad in my perception and not the Jihad that Aslan selectively choses from the verses of Quran, “but perhaps the most innovation in the doctrine of Jihad was its outright prohibition of all but strictly defensive wars.” I wonder why Aslan took this specific verse out of its historical context! And why is he ignoring the tradition of Muhammad that specifically summarized the purpose of Islam in one sentence “I have been commanded to fight against people till they testify to the fact that there is no god but Allah, and believe in me (that) I am the Messenger and in all that I have brought.” Muslim:C9B1N31. Even Aslan himself used part of that tradition as a title for his book. And how can he dare say, ”nevertheless, these verses have long been used by Muslims and non-Muslims alike to suggest that Islam advocates fighting unbelievers until they convert. But this is not the view that either Quran or Muhammad endorsed.” And btw, this is not the only verse that Aslan takes out of context, he also said, “ Quran also asks rhetorically, “can you compel people to believe against their will?”(10:100).Obviously not; the Quran therefore commands believers to say to those who do not believe, “to you your religion; to me mine.”(109:6). And if I remember correctly, this verse was directed to Quraysh when they did not believe him, and when Muhammad was still at the beginning of his mission and was too weak to fight. If one verse is pulled out of it’s context, all verses should be treated the same.
Aslan also said,” Despite the common perception in the West, the Muslim conquerors did not force conversion upon the conquered people; indeed, they did not even encourage it.” This perception came from the events in history and the way Islam dealt with the conquered people, Aslan denies the fact that there are many traditions that institutes how Muslims are supposed to deal with those people. First, there was Jizya (protection fee) that was imposed on Thimmis (Jews and Christians), whoever could pay, is free to stay. And whoever could not, was forced either to leave or to convert, “Fight those who do not believe until they all surrender, paying the protective tax in submission.” Qur’an:9:29. And the tradition that explains that verse, “Our Prophet, the Messenger of our Lord, ordered us to fight you till you worship Allah alone or pay us the Jizyah tribute tax in submission. Our Prophet has informed us that our Lord says: ‘Whoever amongst us is killed as a martyr shall go to Paradise to lead such a luxurious life as he has never seen, and whoever survives shall become your master.” Bukhari:V4B53N386. And don’t forget the exact wording of the Quran when it said, “pay Aljiza with humiliation (an yadin wa hom saqiroon)”, this verse is meant to degrade the Thimmis, and designate to them a lower caste in the society. Another tradition instructed not to let those Thimmis renovate their churches and synagogues, even when those sacred places got eroded with time. Not to mention the instruction to stick to a different dress code than Muslims and walk closer to a wall when encountered by a Muslim in the road. Or the fact that it is forbidden for a Muslim to Greet the Thimmi with the Islamic Greeting of “Asalam alaikom”. All these are mentioned in the traditions which are considered saheeh (reliable). The aim at the end was to make life miserable for the Thimmis and force them into conversion. As for the non-Thimmis, they did not even have a chance to survive.

To be continued