Saturday, 27 August 2011

Debunking The Nigerian Tribune

The paucity of reason and evidence Islamic apologists have in their favour is demonstrated again in this article today by Azeez Ishaq Oladimeji at the Nigerian Tribune.

Oladimeji opines that "The perception of an average non-muslim is that Islam is a violent religion, which mean that muslimas, therefore, are violent...However, all these perceptions are wrong. Islam is a religion of peace."

Aside from the fact that this is a straw man - believing that Islam is a violent religion does NOT mean that one also believes that all Muslims are violent; anyone who does believe such a thing is a fool - he then goes on to fill the rest of his article with falsehoods and ignorance.

Firstly, he quotes Qur'an 5:32 as follows: "Because of that, we ordained for the children of Israel that if anyone killed a person, not in relatiation of murder, or (and) be spread mischief in the hand [sic], it would be as if he killed all mankind. And if anyone saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of all mankind."

Notice that he does not quote the verse along with its surrounding context, which paints an entirely different picture:

For that cause We decreed for the Children of Israel that whosoever killeth a human being for other than manslaughter or corruption in the earth, it shall be as if he had killed all mankind, and whoso saveth the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind. Our messengers came unto them of old with clear proofs (of Allah's Sovereignty), but afterwards lo! many of them became prodigals in the earth.

The only reward of those who make war upon Allah and His messenger and strive after corruption in the land will be that they will be killed or crucified, or have their hands and feet on alternate sides cut off, or will be expelled out of the land. Such will be their degradation in the world, and in the Hereafter theirs will be an awful doom.” (5:32-33)

Thus, in its full context, we can see that this passage is actually a threat to the Jews not to oppose the Muslims or they will face crucifixion, mutilation or banishment.

After this, he quotes the following: "And do not kill anyone whose killing Allah has forbidden, except for a just cause. And whoever is killed wrongfully (intentionally with hostility and oppression and not by mistake), we have given his heir the authority to demand the law of equality in punishment or to forgive, or to take blood-money. But let him not exceed the limits in the matter of taking life.” (17:33)

Oladimeji omits mention of the fact that according to revered Muslim Qur'an commentators such as Ibn Kathir, this verse only applies to "wrongfully" killing Muslims, not unbelievers.

He then cites an anonymous non-Muslim author who quoted two hadith in which Muhammad is recorded as having first of all tortured a Jewish leader in order to force him to reveal the location of hidden treasure, before having him killed, as well as praising the brutal murder of a non-Muslim shepherd by one of his followers. Oladimeji asserts that these stories are pure fabrications on the part of the infidel author, and that no source can be found for them.

Well, I'll tell you the source: Ibn Ishaq's The Life of Muhammad. As I'm sure Oladimeji knows, Ibn Ishaq was a pious Muslim, and Muhammad's earliest biographer. His work is the most important biographical material on Muhammad in existence, and is highly renowned among Muslims.

The Jewish leader who was tortured to death by Muhammad was Kinana b. al-Rabi, and the incident took place at the Khaybar oasis in approximately 629 AD. It is documented on page 515 of Alfred Guillaume's English translation of Ibn Ishaq's work. The second incident was not immediately familiar to me, but after a brief flick through The Life of Muhammad, I found it - it's on page 673.

I hope the author will take the time to condemn Ibn Ishaq for fabricating these stories in order "to tarnish the image of Islam and to condemn Muslims."

Oladimeji asserts that all the violent verses in the Qur'an "were revealed to Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) at the time when non-believing were attacking Makkah’s muslims and threatening those that were in Medina. Thus, Allah allowed them to defend themselves. In other words, those verses are for special historical situation, concerning the beginning of Islam."

In fact, most of the Qur'an's most violent passages were revealed after Muhammad had already extinguished the Quraysh as a threat. Much of sura 9, for example, was revealed around the time Muhammad was launching offensive military operations against the Byzantine Empire, who had never heard of him until he started threatening their rulers and demanding that they convert to Islam. At around the same time, he was also sending his fiercest warriors, such as Khalid bin Walid, to fight the few remaining non-Muslim tribes of Arabia and convert them to Islam by force. One tribe in Yemen was told, "Break them (i.e. the arrows) and testify that None has the right to be worshipped except Allah, or else I will chop off your neck." (Bukhari v.5, b.59, no.643) Muhammad sent Khalid to the Banu Harith tribe, and "ordered him to invite them to Islam for three days before he fought them. If they were to respond and submit, he was to teach them the Book of Allah, the Sunnah of His Prophet, and the requirements of Islam. If they should decline, then he was to fight them." (Tabari v.9, p82)

The main problem with the "You have to understand it in its historical context" argument is that it is entirely selective. The entire Qur'an was revealed in relation to specific events that occurred in Muhammad's life. How, then, does Oladimeji propose that we decide which verses are supposed to be applied only to a specific time period, and which are supposed to be taken as general, everlasting principles? Why must the violent verses be seen as historical relics, but the peaceful-sounding verses be seen as applying to everyone today, when both were revealed 1400 years ago in reaction to particular circumstances? And what's more, does Oladimeji believe, as do the vast majority of Muslims, that the Qur'an is eternal and uncreated? If so, what is the point of it containing reams of commandments which are now not to be applied and are no use to anybody?

Note: This article has been emailed directly to the Nigerian Tribune. If there is any response, it will be published here in full.

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