Monday, 20 April 2009

Rebuttal, Round 2

Following on from my letter printed in the Daily Mail last week, I see that today they have once again published a treacly apologetic, this time by a presumably non-Muslim useful idiot. I haven't bothered emailing in again (I doubt lightning strikes twice), but I am going to respond to some of the absurd claims made in the letter here and now.

The writer first of all claims that "Muslims are not bound by their faith to oppose Christianity. Certainly not in the Qur'an." They then quote Qur'an 2:62, which reads as follows: “Those who believe (in the Qur'an), and those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Christians and the Sabians,- any who believe in Allah and the Last Day, and work righteousness, shall have their reward with their Lord; on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.”

At first glance, this is a wonderfully ecumenical passage: even those not of the Islamic faith can attain salvation.

But when we read the commentaries of Muslim scholars on this verse - those scholars who are generally considered by Muslims to be the best - everything changes. Most commentators are not inclined to see this as an indication of divine pluralism, tending to restrict the universal application of this passage in several ways. The main one is to assert that it only applied until Muhammad brought Islam to the world, after which embracing Islam was the only way to attain salvation. Ibn Kathir (d.1373) quotes Muhammad's cousin Ibn Abbas (d.687), who was known for his great knowledge of Islam, to assert: “Allah does not accept any deed or work from anyone, unless it conforms to the Law of Muhammad: that is, after Allah sent Muhammad. Before that, every person who followed the guidance of his own Prophet was on the correct path, following the correct guidance and was saved.” Tabari (d.923) and Qutb (d.1966) also believe that this verse only applied before Muhammad brought Islam to the world.

This view would seem to be confirmed by a hadith:

“By Him in Whose hand is the life of Muhammad, he who amongst the community of Jews or Christians hears about me, but does not affirm his belief in that with which I have been sent and dies in this state (of disbelief), he shall be but one of the denizens of Hell-Fire.” (Muslim b.1, no.284)

Other commentators restrict their interpretations by saying that the verse means that Jews and Christians will be saved only if they convert to Islam. One final common interpretation is that 2:62 only applied to a very specific group of Jews and Christians who Muhammad was talking to when this verse was revealed. The long and short of it is that it isn't as tolerant a statement as this apologist tried to make it appear.

Anyway, they then go on to purvey the usual falsehood that Muslims take Qur'anic verses and passages from the hadith "out of context" in order to foment hatred against non-Muslims. Oh really, is that so? Let's look at a few verses they've "twisted" and "distorted":

"Lo! those who disbelieve, among the People of the Scripture and the idolaters, will abide in fire of hell. They are the worst of created beings." (98:6)

"Lo! the worst of beasts in Allah's sight are the ungrateful who will not believe." (8:55)

"Muhammad is the messenger of Allah. And those with him are hard against the disbelievers and merciful among themselves." (48:29)

"He [Allah] loveth not the disbelievers..." (30:45)

"O ye who believe! take not the Jews and the Christians for your friends and protectors: They are but friends and protectors to each other. And he amongst you that turns to them (for friendship) is of them. Verily Allah guideth not a people unjust." (5:51)

I look forward to finding out what "context" turns these words from hateful to not hateful.

The letter-writer then stated, incredibly, that Muhammad "was very supportive of inter-faith dialogue." What incredible nonsense! I plan to write a series of posts about Muhammad's interactions with other religions soon, but until then here's a few names: The Quraysh. The Banu Qaynuqa. The Banu Nadir. The Banu Qurayza. The Byzantines. I doubt our apologist has heard of any of these people, but if they have, they'll know that Muhammad wasn't remotely tolerant with any of them. Here, for example, is the partial text of a letter written by Muhammad to the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius in 631 AD:

“In the name of Allah the Beneficent, the Merciful (This letter is) from Muhammad the slave of Allah and His Apostle to Heraclius the ruler of Byzantine. Peace be upon him, who follows the right path. Furthermore I invite you to Islam, and if you become a Muslim you will be safe, and Allah will double your reward, and if you reject this invitation of Islam you will be committing a sin by misguiding your Arisiyin (peasants).” (Sahih Bukhari v.1, b.1, no.6)

"I invite you to Islam, and if you become a Muslim you will be safe..." That's not "inter-faith dialogue", that's a direct threat - a threat that Muhammad and his Companions later carried out, waging war on Byzantium and capturing Jerusalem within only seven years of the writing of this letter.

Finally, the author insisted that "there are many sects of Islam, just as there are in Christianity" - presupposing that there is at least ONE of these sects that teaches that Muslims should live peacefully with non-Muslims as equals, without ever trying to subjugate or exterminate them. But there isn't. Within Sunni Islam, all four main schools of jurisprudence teach that it is the duty of the Muslim community to wage war against non-Muslims until they submit to Islamic authority. Shi'ite jurists also agree with this doctrine. There is one sect that rejects this - the Ahmadi sect. However, they are considered unorthodox and heretical by traditional Muslims, and are often persecuted in Muslim countries - often for the very reason that they do not teach armed jihad against unbelievers. Faced with these facts, the assertion that there are "many sects" of Islam is a pointless argument when it comes to trying to explain away Islam's jihad doctrines.

Anyway, you get the picture. This apologist's presentation was not at all accurate or complete. I couldn't let it go completely unchallenged.

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