Questioning the Koran

William Kilpatrick is the author of Christianity, Islam and Atheism:  The Struggle for the Soul of the West (Ignatius Press) and Insecurity (Post Hill Press).


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At the Guantanamo Naval Base prison, American military personnel are required to wear gloves when touching the Koran. It’s the perfect metaphor for our official culture’s obsequious behavior toward Islam. Terrorists the world over cite the Koran as the motivation and justification for their terrorist acts, yet journalists and government officials reflexively jump to the Koran’s defense whenever it seems to be implicated in terror. Instead of thinking, “Hmm, let’s take a closer look at that book,” they assure us, on no evidence, that the terrorists have misunderstood the Koran.

Considering that large chunks of the world are sliding into the Islamic camp, it may be time to take off the gloves. We don’t have the luxury any longer of living by pre-9/11 niceties such as “we must respect religious differences”—a formula which has come to mean that we mustn’t even look into them. On the contrary, you respect differences by taking them seriously. And if the Koran is the motive force behind Islam’s militancy then the Koran deserves serious examination, not perfunctory gestures of esteem.

“Why bring religion into it?” you may ask. Well, because religion is what it’s all about. Sincere Muslims believe that God wants the whole world to be subject to Islam. They’re free to believe that, of course, but it would be very much in the interest of non-Muslims if they stopped believing it. If an unbeliever refuses to submit to Islam, Allah requires that his head be separated from his body. In light of this, it seems only reasonable that unbelievers should start thinking of ways to separate Muslims from their faith. We have a—shall we say, vital—interest in encouraging Muslims to reflect critically upon the facts of their faith. We can help them to do this, not by telling them we have deep respect for their religion, but by telling them we have deep misgivings about it.

So, the argument that the Koran is of divine origin, and therefore deserving of unquestioning obedience, ought to be challenged. And it ought to be challenged frequently and persuasively with the intention of forcing Muslims to at least entertain some doubts that God had anything to do with the composition of the Koran.

Let’s pass over the awkward fact that there were no witnesses to the revelation except Muhammad himself, and go on to look at what Muslim apologists say in defense of the Koran. The traditional belief is that the Koran, which was given to Muhammad in installments, is a perfect replica of a mother book which has existed eternally in heaven. According to apologists, the proof that God composed it is that it is a work of perfection, a literary masterpiece written in an inimitatable style. Thus, doubters are challenged to produce even one sura comparable to it (10:38). In a nutshell, only God could have said it so well.

Well, let’s see. Here is sura 81:20:

I swear by the turning planets, and by the stars that rise and set; by the night, when it descends, and the first breath of morning: this is the word of a gracious and mighty messenger…

That’s pretty good. So is sura 51:1:

By the dust-scattering winds and the heavily-laden clouds; by the swiftly-gliding ships and by the angels who deal out blessings to mankind; that which you are promised shall be fulfilled…

If the whole Koran were written to this level you might have the makings of a case for its divine authorship. But for the most part—at least for the Western reader—it falls short of other great literature. Much of it is tedious, repetitive, and didactic. While it’s true that a lot is lost in translation, how much could have been lost from: “Prophet, we have made lawful to you the wives to whom you have granted dowries and the slave-girls whom God has given you as booty: the daughters of your paternal and maternal aunts who fled with you; and any believing woman who gives herself to the Prophet and whom the Prophet wishes to take in marriage.” (sura 33:50). No matter how skillfully translated there is not much literary punch in such passages.

Of course, many readers also find parts of the Bible to be tedious, repetitive, and didactic. But this is less of a problem for Christians since they don’t claim that the Bible is a word-for-word dictation from God. For Christians, the literary merit of scripture is not a crucial issue. Still, the Bible does have considerable literary merit. Many passages in the Old Testament soar above the Koran—the Psalms, the scene of the dry bones come to life described in Ezekiel (Eze. 37), the Lord answering Job out of the whirlwind (Job 38), the temptation scene in the Garden of Eden, the vivid prophecies of Isaiah. And there is nothing in the Koran to compare with the moving scenes in the Gospels. So, if you hold to the God-dictated-it school of Koran defense, you have a problem. To put it bluntly, why can’t God write as well as human authors such as David, Solomon, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John?—not to mention Homer, Shakespeare, and Tolstoy.

Muslim apologists do have an answer to such quibbles. They say that you can only appreciate the true beauty of the Koran by reading it in Arabic. Okay, then, maybe when you read, “We will put terror into the hearts of the unbelievers” (2: 226) in the original Arabic it sounds like something out of “The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyan.” But there is another problem which goes beyond the sound and sense of words. Whether or not the Koran is lacking in stylistic perfection, it is certainly lacking in coherence. And you don’t have to speak high Arabic to notice it.

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  • Asma

    I like it when Clay Cole admits that this is a Muslim hating site. However I am happy that besides these Muslim bashers ,I found two really good human beings: Ziomania and rhurt.
    The Quran says:
    This book is not to be doubted.It is a guide for the righteous,who believe in the unseen and are steadfast in prayer: who give in alms from what we gave them: who believe in what has been revealed to you and what was revealed before you,and have absolute faith in the life to come.These are rightly guided by their Lord:these shall surely triumph.

    As for the unbelievers,it is the same whether or not you forewarn them: they will not have faith. God has set a seal upon their hearts and ears; their sight is dimmed and grievous punishment awaits them.

    There are some who declare:' We believe in God and the last day,' yet they are no true believers. They seek to deceive God and those who believe in Him; but they deceive non save themselves,though they may not perceive it. There is a sickness in their hearts which God has aggravated; they shall be sternly punished for the lies they tell.

    • Clay Cole

      Asma,

      This book is not to be doubted, fine. Then you admit that the prophet was a Murderer, rapist and pediphile. This is your idea of the best man that ever lived. To me that is an evil man that should be at best thrown in prison and at worse executed.

      This may objectionable. I find venerating a man like that objectable.

      I believe in that Christ is the Son of God and as Christ when He said, "I am the way, thruth and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me." The "prophet" blasphems Christ when he claims Christ at four days old states He is not the Son of God. Believe what you want, but don't expect Christians to accept the quran as a holy book when it denies Christ. Islam is the only religion in the world that goes out of its way to deminish Christ.

      You have no problem when you are guilty of what could be call hate speach, but you sure do have a problem when someone disagrees with you.

      • Clay Cole

        Asma,

        I'm pleased you enjoyed my sarcasum.

        I think I'll give you a good example of hate, "And the rocks will say, Muslim a Jew is hiding behind me. Come and kill him."

        There is some hate speach for you.

        • Asma

          quote me the chapter and verse

          • Clay Cole

            Asma,

            Well you don't even know what is in your own book. Interesting. With your every post you give more crediblity to the critics of Islam.

          • http://www.dune-rune.blogspot.com traeh

            Gladly:
            From Sahih Bukari and Sahih Muslim, the two most canonical of hadith collections:

            CORE ISLAMIC TEXTS ABOUT HOW THE VERY STONES AND TREES WILL TELL MUSLIMS TO KILL JEWS
            http://www.usc.edu/schools/college/crcc/engagemen

            Sahih Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 52, Number 176:
            Narrated 'Abdullah bin 'Umar:
            Allah's Apostle [Muhammad] said, "You (i.e. Muslims) will fight with the Jews till some of them will hide behind stones. The stones will (betray them) saying, 'O 'Abdullah (i.e. slave of Allah)! There is a Jew hiding behind me; so kill him.' "

            http://www.usc.edu/schools/college/crcc/engagemen
            Sahih Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 52, Number 177:
            Narrated Abu Huraira:
            Allah's Apostle [Muhammad] said, "The Hour will not be established until you fight with the Jews, and the stone behind which a Jew will be hiding will say. "O Muslim! There is a Jew hiding behind me, so kill him."

            http://www.usc.edu/schools/college/crcc/engagemen
            Sahih Muslim Book 041, Number 6985:
            Abu Huraira reported Allah's Messenger [Muhammad] (may peace be upon him) as saying: The last hour would not come unless the Muslims will fight against the Jews and the Muslims would kill them until the Jews would hide themselves behind a stone or a tree and a stone or a tree would say: Muslim, or the servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me; come and kill him; but the tree Gharqad would not say, for it is the tree of the Jews.

          • http://www.dune-rune.blogspot.com traeh

            It's true that many Muslims — and perhaps Asma — don't know what there own core texts say, and there is a reason for that. According to Islam, the true Qur'an is only in Arabic. Muslims must pray and recite the Qur'an in Arabic. But 4/5 of the world's Muslims are not Arabs and do not speak Arabic. And even Arab Muslims, I gather, have some difficulty understanding the archaic Arabic of the Qur'an. Thus many Muslims have only a vague idea what their own texts say.

      • Asma

        As for the unbelievers,it is the same whether or not you forewarn them;they will not have faith

        • Clay Cole

          Paul in his letter to the Romans say the same thing about those that do not except Christ. That means you.

          You see our faiths are in direct conflict. I tell you that and you are insulted. I am not to be insulted when you tell me I'm going to hell.

          I understand that telling you if you do not believe in Christ can be offensive to you. Christ Himself told us this would be so. You don't seem to understand that denying Christ and telling us if we don't agree with a mere prophet we are going to hell is offensive to Christians or any one else for that matter.

        • http://www.dune-rune.blogspot.com traeh

          That's it, Asma. Just repeat some line over and over again. Whatever you do, don't think or question too much. It's not permitted in Islam, and you'll only get yourself in trouble, as thinking and questioning might make you come upon something you haven't memorized already in the Qur'an or sunna. My God, what if you started to have doubts, Asma? What if you actually considered that Muhammad might not be what he says he is, and your parents and imams might be wrong? Better to stick your head in the sand than to think. God might punish you for questioning, right? Whatever you do, don't take a philosophy course. Islam will have great difficulty standing up to any sustained encounter with philosophy, i.e., systematic, persistant questioning.

        • D marshall

          ill warn you asma if it was not for non muslim countrys you lot would starve to death we know everything you lot are just a burden on society dont push your luck or yours will be a painfull existance

    • Liberty Clinger

      "This book is not to be doubted."

      Wrong. The Koran was not written by God; rather by an evil mass-murdering, war-mongering pedophile, and it is to be doubted.

      "These (Muslims) are rightly guided by their Lord: these shall surely triumph."

      Wrong. Many Muslims are wrongly guided by their greedy, bloodthirsty and lust-filled Imams. These shall surely be defeated by the forces of Life, Liberty and Pursuit of Happiness.

      "As for the unbelievers, it is the same whether or not you forewarn them: they will not have faith."

      Wrong. We are believers and have faith in the Biblical God – the same God of the American Declaration of Independence – the God of man's sacred equal unalienable rights to Life, Liberty and Pursuit of Happiness. We do not have faith in your god or your Koran.

    • Martin K.

      You know Asma you should not befriend "nonbelievers” if you do so you are violating a direction given by your head-honcho called allah. I've just found out you are a “woman”? Well this explains your reluctance to “educate” your fellow Muslims. My wife would kick me out of the house and divorce me immediately if I fooled around with a girlfriend. But you as a Muslima, must share your husband with at least 3 other woman or 72 Houris! In case you both make it there which is not too certain since most woman are in Hell according to aallah! And aallah creating a special creature just so that your husband can fulfill his sexual needs with another woman, does not bother you a bit? You have to wait for your turn in this group-sex. When Jesus said "one woman and one man" did he lie? Why would the Christian men change the permission to have more then one wife. You know that Mo claimed the Gospel got corrupted? Well he got in contact only with some "fringe" sects of Christianity…..

  • 4gsltw

    "Asma," you'd be singing a different tune if you were among the first forced to choose between Islam and death. Your cowardly ancestors who chose life over truth have cursed you and all others like you to their great shame. I pity you, and I pray the true God of our Lord Jesus Christ, His Son and our savior have mercy on you and open your eyes and heart to accept His free gift of life before it's too late for you.

  • http://www.dune-rune.blogspot.com traeh

    In fact I've loved some Muslims I've known. I don't hate Muslims. What I hate is Islam as a criminal totalitarian cult that enslaves believers and seeks to enslave everyone. What I hate is the statement by Muhammad when he said, "If someone changes his Islamic religion, then kill him."

    I wish all Muslims would see through the slave cult of Islam and abandon it and Muhammad, that sand pirate cult leader. I wish all Muslims would rejoin the human race and stop trying to enslave it either literally under sharia law or else under an ethos and culture formed by Islamic law.

    It's not entirely unnatural for people to get angry at mindless cult members trying to assist the spread of a destructive, immoral, totalitarian cult on the rest of us. Better get used to it. It's only going to get worse, as Islamic supremacism and jihad continue their efforts to expand their domains and increase the numbers of their slaves.

    • reflecting 1a

      Traeh, keep reading and responding on sites and topics like this. You seem to have a fund of knowledge of Islam and a way of explaining it that is moderate, well thought out and factual. These are characteristics that will be needed for the long battle ahead.

      • http://www.dune-rune.blogspot.com traeh

        Thanks, reflecting 1a. Actually, on this thread I've perhaps been a bit harsher than I usually am in my comments. Quite possibly you haven't seen some of my harsher comments, as I've left maybe more than a dozen comments on this thread — I've been responding a lot to Asma. I've been experimenting a bit — I usually try to be more cool and objective. As I've learned more about Islam, I've become more outraged.

        • Timmy

          The West is in such denial about Islam, if the truth about Islam and what it has done through history was common knowledge instead of just a select few knowing the truth and the vast majority "knowing as absolute fact" abject absurd lies about Islam and the history of Islam, Muhammad and Islam and those who follow it would be treated with less respect than Hitler and Nazism. That anyone who knows the truth about Islam is able to rationally discuss it without screaming about the bloody outrages it has committed through the centuries is frankly amazing. Islam is an absolute outrage, and yet the world just shrugs it's shoulders and smiles.

  • Liberty Clinger

    "The fear of the Lord is to Hate evil." Proverbs

    Asma says "this is a Muslim hating site." Acutually most Americans by far do not hate Muslims in general any more than we hated Germans in general during World War II. What patriotic Americans do hate is the evil of Totalitarian Political Islam and mass-murdering Islamic Jihad – just as we hated the evil of Totalitarian Political Nazism and the mass-murdering Nazi SS and Gestapo. Unfortunately the evil of Totalitarian Political Islam and mass-murdering Islamic Jihad has been around since the 7th Century – a far more enduring Evil than Nazism. The mass-murdering enslaving conquests of Totalitarian Islam over the Western Roman Empire (North Africa) and the Eastern Byzantine Roman Empire (Middle East, Turkey, Balkans) puts the Third Reich to shame.

    God Hates evil, so we Hate evil. Speaking Hatred of evil is good Hate speech.

  • Timmy

    As a general comment, on the existential threat that Islam poses to the West, Asma is not unique for a Muslim, in fact she seems much more reasonable than most who comment, but note that in the end, if people in the West were to spend every waking moment discussing Islam vs. freedom and democracy with Muslims in the West, there would never be any end to the arguments, the amount of time wasted would be so immense that even just that wasting of so much time in such a pointless endeavor would in fact destroy the West. No good can come from allowing Islam into the West. It won't change Islam and it will destroy the West. Islam creates that sort of unique confusion that one imagines will exist in Hell, where endless arguing and frustration rule the day, where no satisfaction can be found in any rational discussion. The West will end up just like every other society that has Islam in it if we don't stop the spread of Islam in the West.

  • Clay Cole

    One of the attackes that Amaa uses is how Americans treated the "Red Man." (Funny how she uses a dispraging term here) I am part Commanche and Cherokee to go along with my English and German heritage. I'm very proud of all these groups. But, I'm an American. Though I have Native American heritage I'm 100% American. I'm not Commanche, Cherokee, English or German. I'm an American and have never been treated as anything else by any other American.

    • Timmy

      If Islam is allowed to spread in America, and then when it eventually obtains majority status (which has to happen eventually since people are not allowed to leave Islam) all of the various ethnic groups including "American Indians" will be erased with time and everyone will just be "Muslims" in "Islamic America." All of the past achievements of America will be counted as victories and successes of Islam. Won't it be queer to see American Indians wearing Arab dress! Oh how they will have fallen from the proud days when they wore war paint and feathers. Sad, truly tragic.

  • Asma

    Dear all,
    This is my last comment on this or any other FPM's Islamophobic article. I am glad I gave you a rare opportunity to insult, demean and denigrate a believer You in your hate for Muslims have tried to distort Islam to the Nth degree. You have twisted every word of mine to suite your agenda ,but in doing so, you have made my beliefs even stronger than ever by showing me that as a follower of Islam, I didn't denigrate you or your religions. Just by comparing your behaviour towards me and my behaviour towards you, I have found that the Prophet Of Islam(peace be upon him) has been far more effective than any other Prophet,(peace be upon all of them) in his teachings of peace and civil behaviour.
    I have also found the truth in the second verse of the Holy Quran,".It is a guide for the righteous."
    I feel sorry for your hate filled souls and forgive you for your insults to my person .
    Of course I will keep on praying for your guidance to the truth which is Islam. You can stop me from writing in this forum by not listening to me or hurling abuse at me,but You cannot stop me for praying for your guidance and opening of your heart to Islam.
    Good bye for ever
    Asma.

    • Timmy

      Islam is the problem not you. We pity you not hate you. It would be "hateful" for a Christian to not warn you that following Muhammad and Islam will mean eternal suffering in Hell for you. It is love for you that causes people to try to help you awaken and break yourself free from the bonds of slavery that is Islam. Instead of just quiting posting try to come up with another approach. Try to respond to critics of Islam as if they were speaking from true belief, perhaps true facts, and not just (which is silly) attacking with lies out of hate. No one has the time to waste attacking Muslims with lies. We are merely trying to save the West, to keep Islam out of the West so that there will always be at least one place for free people, and where even people who want to leave Islam can go and remain alive unlike where Islam is widespread and those who leave are killed according to the commands of the hate filled Muhammad. Compare the life of Jesus to that of Muhammad, recognize the truth of the Gospel, find the truth and it will set you free.

    • Clay Cole

      Asma,

      I pointed a passage in the quran where Muslims are instructed to kill Jews. You asked for chapter and verse as if you didn't know this exsited. It was given to you. Either you are to ignorante of your own faith much less any other to disscuss this with us or you are a liar.

      That may seem harsh and mean to you, but it is the only logical conclusion anyone who has read any of yuur postings can come to.

    • D marshall

      only one muslim on site, oh dear asma and as you faith gets stronger it will get wronger and your whole life will be deticated to demons well done but take a look around you muslims are killing each other the world over mosques are full of old men the muslim youth are more intrested in western culture your religion relies on third world ignorrence its fucked and we are gradually whittleing you down 50 years from now the mosques willbe empty

  • BB2610

    I am offended that this author freely uses 'God' in place of Allah in this article. For example in the first usage: "… God wants the whole world to be subject to Islam." No, the correct wording is "… Allah wants …". The difference is that Allah is not God. God is and always will be living, whereas Allah is the moon god; a figment god. Allah has no power nor will, which is why the Koran is written such that men are given instructions to act for Allah.

    • Timmy

      There are many problems such as this that occur whenever one tries to discuss Islam in the West. Basic concepts and words in the West have entirely different meanings under Islam and it causes no end of confusion. There is ultimately no way to reconcile the Islamic world view with that of the West. That is why Islam must be kept out of the West if the free democracies of the West are too survive.

  • http://www.dune-rune.blogspot.com traeh

    Sorry one or two of the links in my above comments don't work: html code works a little unpredictably (to me) on this website.

  • http://vizarch.blogspot.com Tim Danaher

    "And it ought to be challenged frequently and persuasively with the intention of forcing Muslims to at least entertain some doubts that God had anything to do with the composition of the Koran."

    whereas a tawdry, eastern-mediterranean, tribal god had everything to do with the writing of the bible, right?

    • Timmy

      Tawdry? If you were intellectually curious you might know that the proof of the bible being composed by a higher power resides in the miracle of the bible itself. That is, the various books were composed by different people, in different ages, who did not know one another and where the later writers in most cases did not have the ability to refer to the prior works in order to commit some sort of fraud by making them jibe with one another. The miracle is how the common thread runs through all the different books, they tie together. And whatever your small mind may think of the bible and God, it is in fact the inspiration for much of the greatest art and literature the world has known. Even Shakespeare includes biblical references liberally throughout his works. The Koran by comparison is truly a joke.

  • D marshall

    there we go again asma just because i dont believe in your discusting god i must be punished for eternitty the good news is that only 1 in a 1000 muslims will make it to paradise the rest will burn with me and that is in the qu'ran, so fuck off down the mosque and keep off our lovely anti islamic site and let us undermine your religion

  • ENH

    Enter text right here!MOHAMMED & ALLAH ARE DEAD & HAVE NO POWER, OR THEY COULD & WOULD BRING THEMSELVES BACK ALIVE LIKE GOD BROUGHT JESUS BACK ALIVE. THE ONLY ONE WHO IS GOD, IS THE GOD OF ABRAHAM, ISAAC, JACOB, & JESUS. THE ARABS ARE JUST JEALOUS & IRATE BECAUSE THEY AREN'T AS BLESSED AS ABRAHAM, THEIR KIN.