Honestly, I didn’t plan to write anything about this around September 11. But too many thoughts are rattling around in my head, and I wanted to get a few of them down.
Over the past few years, I’ve managed to read the entire King James Bible all the way through three times (and there is no better way to confirm one’s atheism.) I’ve also tried to slog through the Book of Mormon, but after a little while, it becomes obvious that it’s the “Phantom Menace” of the Judeo/Christian/Islamic trilogy. I’ve read through the basics of Scientology, which is a great way to make sure you never enjoy a Tom Cruise movie again.
But I’ve never read the Quran. I remember after 9/11 hearing a dozen people say, “Islam is a religion of peace.” I knew nothing of Islam. Maybe it was (unlike every other religion I’ve ever looked into. Except maybe Wiccans and Buddhists.) Then I saw Religulous, a movie Bill Mahr (whom I agree with only about half the time) made where he travels around and interviews Jews, Christians, and Muslims about their wacky beliefs. In one scene, he tries to get an Islamic rapper to say that Salman Rushdie should not be killed for writing a book critical of Islam. The rapper wouldn’t do it. Hmmm. Perhaps I should learn more about this religion.
So, having become bored by the later works of H.G. Wells, I made the Quran my nightly going to sleep reading.
It’s hard to read. It jumps around all over and every other verse ends with something on the lines of, “Allah is wise, merciful.” I found out that the surahs (chapters) were organized from longest to shortest, not chronologically. And in most cases, they were written by Mohammed to… er… clear up any sort of problem he might be having with his followers at the time. So unlike the Bible, there’s no real story. It’s just a bunch of instructions he thought up as needed. It was written in a reactionary way. There’s a great deal of repetition, often with details changed (which might make one question whether this is the perfect word of Allah.)
Let me try to hit a few of the highlights I’ve learned so far.
This is a continuation of the Jewish/Christian religion. But a number of plot points from the Old and New Testaments get retconned to fit Mohammed’s – sorry – Allah’s view of things.
For example, Jesus is demoted from Son of God (had to turn in his gun and his badge and everything) and becomes merely one in a long line of prophets going all the way back to Abraham (4:171). Mohammed – ug! Sorry! Not Mohammed! Allah! Allah dictated the Quran to Mohammed and it is absolutely perfect! (2:2) Anyway. Allah says that Jesus never called himself the Son of God, and that evil people who came after him are the ones who said that (5:72). Allah makes it clear that he is the only god, there’s no trinity, and if anyone says otherwise, theirs is a painful doom (almost everyone in the Quran gets a painful doom.)
Yes, getting into heaven is kind of hard, unless you devote all your money and your life to Islam (9:19). In fact, one of the only sure ways in is to go to war for Islam against any non-believers you have handy (3:169). But hell is pretty much the standard punishment for any transgression of Islamic law. It’s a big lake of fire, and you’ll be in agony as your skin is burned off. Ah! But then, your skin will grow back, and burn off again! (4:56) For eternity! And the guys who made it into heaven will look down on you from their garden and taunt you (7:44), because what would make for a better heaven than being able to watch people writhe in eternal agony? Allah is merciful, wise.
Good news for the ladies! The serpent in the Garden of Eden tempts Adam and his unnamed spouse, not “Eve,” as in the Bible (7:20). So women are no longer responsible for getting us kicked out of Eden. No alternate explanation of why they have periods, though.
Bad news for the ladies! You’re only worth half a man (4:176). And men can mary four women (4:3) if they’ve got the money, because you’ve got to buy the woman from their family (4:25). They are, after all, basically livestock. You can also beat your wives as needed (4:34). And if a man doesn’t like his wife, he can always trade her in for another, but he loses his deposit (I’m not making that up.) (4:20) But if you commit adultery, you only get 100 lashes (and the man does, too.) (24:2) However the Old Testament punishment of stoning seems to have crept back in, even though it’s not in the Quran directly.
If Allah likes you, he’ll throw a thousand invisible angels into a battle to help you win (8:9).
Anyway, there’s a lot more. I just wanted to get a few of my thoughts down on, er, paper. Like the Bible, the Quran is a very violent book. There are a couple of admonitions to be nice to others, but (again, like the Bible,) those rules only count towards people of your own faith. The heathens? Kill ’em all.
Islam has more control over the day to day lives of its believers than Christianity or Judaism. Mohammed was a prophet in the style of Joseph Smith or L. Ron Hubbard: his strategy was to write to ensure his control over his believers. Like Smith, Mohammed took the basic Judeo-Christian fable and altered it to suit his goals.
Islam is not a religion of peace. It’s a religion of war created by a con man (I seriously doubt he believed a word he wrote) as a way to gain power over the local tribes. It is perfectly okay – and encouraged – to kill non-believers. And killing non-believers in Allah’s name is a sure way to get into heaven.
There’s just no way around it. The hijackers, the guys running around planting IED’s in Afghanistan, the kids strapping on explosives and blowing up Israeli buses – they’re all being absolutely, 100% true to their religion. Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.