WARNING: The following is an up-front, critical analysis of the Quran which religious followers of Islam may find offensive. Since it is presented as a critique, I openly invite followers of Islam to comment on the article in the comments section at the end of the article.
Preface: A Christian’s Guide to the Koran
As a lifelong Christian, I possess no accurate, firsthand knowledge of Islam’s religious doctrines nor have many close personal relationships with any of its Muslim followers. What little I know about Islam stems solely from vague secondhand sources. Thus, going into this endeavor, I read the entire Koran as if I were a blank slate with no pre-existing bias other than my faith as a Christian. I knew I would have to refrain from judging the Koran’s content by the standards of our own time and recognized that I must avoid framing the themes I discovered according to news accounts of the day. In the end, my venture through the Koran turned out to be a short and easy trip but one that produced a profound impact on my understanding of the religion of Islam and the dedicated Muslim followers that adhere to its principles.
The analysis below consists of four parts: (1) brief intro, (2) synopsis, (3) short history and timeline of Muhammad and Islam, and (4) detailed analysis of the Quranic topics with sample verses. Those seeking a quick analysis may focus on the intro and synopsis while the detailed analysis will be presented for those who wish to review the extensive examples supporting the opinions I present.
Why read the Koran? A puzzled Christian seeks answers
At the time of this writing (2015), the Muslim world was in uproar. Tunisia, Libya, Sinai, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Hamas, Yemen and more were brimming with Islamic extremists who were directing their hatred towards the United States (my home) and other Western countries. Western television showed Muslim communities across the world attacking and killing Christians and burning New Testament bibles. Radical Islamists were launching vicious terrorist attacks, shooting innocent people in the streets, and murdering those whom they labelled their enemies. The violent Muslim group ISIS (aka Islamic State, ISIL, or Daesh) was storming through the Middle East and despite Westerner’s claims to the contrary, appeared to be making significant progress in their fierce quest to bring Middle Eastern cities, and entire countries, under the umbrella of their strict Islamic doctrine.
The incidents occurring around the world left me with many unanswered questions. Did the Koran advocate violence and if it did not, why weren’t followers of Islam speaking out against the attacks against non-Muslims? Although some Muslims claimed that radical Islamists’ “hard interpretation” of the Koran were a corruption of their religion, I saw no mass protests by Islamic followers attempting to correct the “corruption” of their sacred text. When a major Muslim group finally did take action against the violence, it was only after a fellow-Muslim was killed (a Jordanian pilot who was burned alive inside a cage) and their proposed response to “execute, crucify, and chop off limbs of the perpetrators”, seemed wildly barbaric and savage.
Researching the subject of Islam, particularly whether or not it promoted militant violence, presented a wide array of arguments. Some sources quoted spurious examples of shockingly militant phrases pulled directly from the pages of the Koran. Moderate Muslims made meager attempts to redirect the questions (e.g. “but the Bible contains violence too!”). Excuses and explanations on both sides were weak, feeble, and illogical. I realized that in order to resolve my deep-seated questions I would have to rely on my own cover-to-cover reading and personal interpretation of Islam’s most holy book.
Can a Christian interpret the Koran?
Interpretation of any work of literature will vary according to the reader’s perception and preexisting bias. This applies especially to religious texts which are often long, complicated, emotionally-charged tomes. A person’s upbringing, education, and even objective can twist the interpretation of a religious text to support their established beliefs. This becomes infinitely more applicable if the book contains contradictory statements, providing the reader the option to pick and choose which statement he wishes to assimilate.
Does that mean a Christian interpretation of the Quran is without merit? Not at all. In fact, given fresh eyes, a Christian’s interpretation is likely to be much more literal than a Muslim’s who has spent a lifetime conditioned by the teachings of Islam. Without preexisting notions of Islamic ideologies, contradictions clearly stand out, subtle changes in Old and New Testament stories are glaring, and statements that Muslims consider benign seem harsh through the eyes of a Christian.
What a Christian will find in their reading of the Koran
The Koran is a much different book than the Christian Bible
A simple, easy-to-digest tome directed toward the poor and uneducated
The Quran is a very quick read, much shorter in content than even the Bible’s New Testament, and can easily be digested in 15-20 hours. The Koran’s content is simple and easy to understand. Short sentences and easy-to-read prose give the appearance that the text is directed toward the poor and uneducated. In fact, it is – the Koran frequently mentions that its intended audience is “the lowest ones”.
Before I began reading the Koran, I expected to find a poetic, interesting prose that emotionally moved me. Instead, the structure of the Koran reads like a matter-of-fact dictation of rules and regulations. You find few elegant stories but rather, commands, laws, and rules, often disjointed, not flowing freely from topic to topic. Although a reading of the Koran is a simple endeavor, sophisticated readers will likely find the content dry and repetitive.
The structure of the Koran
A typical verse in the Quran contains a story, lesson, or fact applicable to their present day (i.e. 600 AD) followed by a lesson to be followed going forward. Thus it is important to take the content in context with the time period it was written in – then apply the lesson (or command) to the present day.
The Koran is arranged with 114 chapters called “Surahs”. Each Surah is given a unique, and in some cases, strange title such as The Cow, Ta-Ha, The Spider, Sad, and so on. Each Surah contains verses called ayahs, of which there are 6,237 ayahs in the Quran. Muhammad’s “companions” noted that when Muhammad received a revelation (which he said came from God or the angel Gabriel), the scribes were called to record it with Muhammad dictating where to place the particular verse in the Quran. It is interesting to note however, that during this time, Muhammad would occasionally repudiate some of the verses explaining that they had been slipped in by Satan, and not the angel Gabriel. The renounced verses were then removed from the canonical text, which may partially explain the disjointed nature of the Quran’s content.
The “tone” of the Koran differs greatly from the Christian Old and New Testaments
The “tone” of the Quran differs greatly from the Christian Old Testament and even more so from the Christian New Testament. Most Christians consider the Old Testament a historical record of events and view its “judicial laws” as relevant only to ancient Hebrews. With regards to the New Testament, Christians believe it to be a confirmation of Old Testament philosophy and moral code – one that proposes peace, goodwill, and compassion towards others regardless of their faith or moral standing. The Quran however, is explicitly presented to its readers as the final law, valid until the end of time, and delivers a moral code that is stern, infallible, and unbending. The Quran pointedly asserts it is the final religious authority and any religious doctrine before or after is a false message.
The Koran teaches a God to be feared
The Quran contains little historical perspective and focuses on a single basis tenet –Allah is the only God and only Muslims can be “saved” from eternal damnation in Hell. Although frequently referenced as “all merciful”, the God in the Koran is truly a God to be feared, a message that is supplemented with a dreary picture of Hell painted vividly in the reader’s mind.
Little emphasis on forgiveness but rather quantity of good deeds vs. bad deeds
The Christian faith accepts that man is imperfect. As a consequence, Christians are required to recognize mistakes, seek forgiveness, and commit to striving for righteousness. The religion of Islam differs slightly in this regard. Little emphasis is placed on forgiveness but rather, entry to heaven is conditioned upon the number of good deeds vs. bad deeds that a person commits during their lifetime.
The Koran is much more militant than the Bible
Detractors of the Quran often suggest the Koran promotes militant violence. It is true, the Koran is much more pugnacious than the Bible, especially as compared to the peaceful message of the New Testament. But even more alarming, the Koran’s militant directives are categorically directed at non-Muslims. Regardless, violent and militant references in the Koran must be taken in context with the Muslim wars that were occurring at the time it was written. In this light, the Koran does not overly emphasize violence against others. Still, there are many verses that command violent actions against anyone that is not a follower of Islam – certainly enough to give radical Islamists confirmation that their actions are guided by Allah.
A divisive line between Muslims and “non-believers”
It is likely surprising to Christians to find that, despite the many violent and militant references in the Koran, the overall message does not center on violence against non-Muslims. However, I found something much more disheartening and disturbing – a common theme which stands in direct contrast to Christian beliefs. The Koran draws a clear-cut line between believers and non-believers (i.e. anyone that does not follow the Muslim faith). The line between Christians/Jews and Muslims is clearly delineated and frequently emphasized.
According to the Koran, it is the final authority on all religions and quite simply, if you do not follow the Islamic faith, you are relegated to the depths of Hell. Referred to as “People of the Book”, Christians and Jews are frequently mentioned as an enemy that Muslims should avoid. Furthermore, the Koran proposes that God made Christians, Jews, and sinners who they are with no hope of redemption and thus, Muslims are taught to not only disassociate themselves from people of other faiths, but to refrain from assisting or attempting to convert non-Muslims. This overall theme of divisiveness, combined with various militant references scattered throughout, produces a premise that is rightfully alarming to anyone outside the Islamic faith.
The Koran alters stories and beliefs taught in the Christian Bible
In the early chapters of the Koran, acceptance of other religious faiths is briefly mentioned. However, this stance transforms dramatically as the Islamic themes progress and develop. The Old and New Testament stories are anointed as divine messages from “prophets”, but the stories and beliefs those prophets introduced are then noticeably altered. Later in its content, Islam’s holy book takes a new tack, condemning the people, message, and beliefs of both Judaism and Christianity.
The Koran overrides basic Christian principles
Most surprisingly, the Quran explicitly overrides commonly accepted Christian principles. Predestination is emphasized creating a hopeless view for anyone who is not Muslim. For instance, in the Koran’s version of Sodom and Gomorrah, Lot’s wife was not turned to stone because she disobeyed God’s command but because “she was destined to remain behind”.
Predestination is a tricky topic and for many creates a “chicken or the egg” type of dilemma (even among various Christian sects, the stance regarding predestination varies). Most branches of Christianity acknowledge God’s control over human lives with the condition that Man is still burdened with life changing choices. The Koran on the other hand, removes all aspects of free will and choice. Anything and everything that occurs in this universe is dictated by God. Believers and unbelievers exist because God guided them in that direction and every action a Muslim takes, good or bad, is guided by God. Because of this basic tenet, goodwill and compassion towards non-Muslims tends to be discouraged because, according to Islam, it’s a futile effort to attempt to influence something that cannot be changed.
The Koran tells different versions of New Testament stories
The Quran promotes its own modified view of Christianity and Jesus’ life. The Koran expands on Mary’s life, introduces new tales of Jesus’ early life, and goes to great lengths to deemphasize Jesus as a divine figure, proclaiming he was simply another “Messenger” (like Muhammad). In fact, Islam teaches its followers that Jesus’ crucifixion did not occur but rather was a cunning deception.
The Koran tells different versions of Old Testament stories
According to the Quran, God revealed new details of Old Testament stories to Muhammad. In particular, events surrounding Adam and Eve, Abraham, Lot, Joseph, Jacob, Noah, and other Old Testament characters are revised. Most Old Testament stories related in the Koran are similar to the Christian (and Jewish) versions but with additional, sometimes shocking details “revealed by God” to Muhammad.
The Koran’s message is often disjointed and contradictory
From a Christian’s point of view, especially from one that reads the Quran for the first time, the book contradicts itself at times and changes, both in tone and content, throughout. This is compounded by the repetitious, ever-circling nature of Muhammad’s style of writing. Pphrases and stories are repeated so many times, I often found myself stopping, paging backward, thinking I must have lost my place and was rereading a passage I had already read.
Contradictions and a changing message
Muhammad emphasizes throughout the Quranic text that he is simply a messenger and nothing more. He stresses that he should not be considered a “god” but merely a prophet through which God spoke to the people (i.e. “There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his prophet”). However, in later chapters of the Koran, Muhammad begins to demand more formal respect from his followers and the message distorts from a “path guided by God” to a “path guided by God and Muhammad”. As a new Koran reader, the evolution was obvious and quite suspect.
The contradictions and ever-evolving message continue throughout the Koran. The Quranic missive wavers back and forth, seemingly contingent on the time period and circumstances under which the holy message was written. In a few instances, Islam promotes peace – then pivots and promotes aggression. Women are held in high esteem – then unequivocally ranked below males. When Muhammad experienced success on the battlefield, the prose was confident and aggressive while periods of mounting losses produced a message emphasizing faith, devotion, and continuation of the fight.
In other instances, particularly in the first quarter of the Koran, the message is delivered passively, cooperatively, in a manner that takes care to not offend existing religions. However, as Muhammad’s crusade gains momentum, the message grows bolder and more aggressive in its condemnation of other religious philosophies and their followers.
It was quite evident that the people of Muhammad’s day questioned the origin of his message asking why he produced no miracles and why the Koran contained no poetry as found in other prominent religious texts. To my surprise, towards the end of the Koran, poetic prose made an unexpected entrance into the book giving the appearance that Muhammad adjusted his message to fulfill the wishes of his followers.
These inconsistencies give Islam a variety of contradicting religious mandates and moral guidelines allowing the followers of Islam the option to pick and choose which guiding principles they wish to follow. This lack of consistency made clear why there exists such a wide variety of Islamic sects with widely differing interpretations of the Koran. On the other hand, there’s no denying the fundamental underlying message from the Koran, like that of the Christian Bible, is one of a single, all-powerful God.
The Koran uses circular logic to ensure its validity
Arguments by non-Muslims which rebut the Quran’s validity will be summarily dismissed by Islamic followers. Why? Because the Koran ties itself up neatly to negate any potential debate of its holy message. Like a snake eating its own tail, the Koran warns readers up front that non-believers will claim that Muhammad’s message was not divinely delivered (particularly because Muhammad performed no miracles) and that the Koran cannot truly be understood unless you are a Muslim. Fundamentally, the Koran states that nobody outside of Islam can properly understand the Koran’s message so they have no grounds upon which to challenge its content.
… And parts of the Koran are simply impossible to understand
Admittedly, very few concepts in the Quran are difficult to grasp but occasionally an ambiguous reference, term, or idea will leave modern-day Christian readers scratching their heads. For instance, “Jinn” are mentioned frequently throughout the Koran. Typically referenced alongside man, Jinn are described as doomed creatures much like humans, but somewhat akin to angels or demons. The closest a Westerner can imagine a Jinn is analogous to a genie that grants wishes (except Muhammad’s Jinn can be good or evil). To someone outside of Islam, concepts such as Jinn will have no meaning.
In summary, the Koran is a very different tome with an uncomfortable emphasis on divisiveness
Most critics of the Quran focus on its references to violent militant action (jihad). In fact, although violent actions are mentioned frequently in shockingly vivid detail, they do not constitute the primary theme Muhammad communicated through his work. However, the Koran’s emphasis on division of humanity, according to their religious beliefs, together with an often vague, contradictory message (allowing a choice of interpretations), provide radical Muslims a means to validate their actions while at the same time, making it difficult for moderate Muslims to denounce the violent deeds of those followers who choose to take a more militant path towards Muhammad’s promise of everlasting life.
Appendix: Statistical analysis
Statistical analysis shows divisiveness mentioned in the Quran much more than violence
After completing a cover-to-cover study of the Koran, I naturally formed an opinion regarding what I felt Muhammad was attempting to communicate to his followers. To confirm that my interpretation was accurate and unbiased (basically that when compared to other religious texts, the Koran contains more violence, less focus on compassion, is open to varied interpretations, and promotes a deep divide between Muslims and non-Muslims), I undertook statistical word counts. Admittedly, a categorical enumeration of topics is not an accurate reflection of the Koran’s primary message but does provide a general idea regarding the nature of the content contained in the Koran vs. that found in the Bible – at least enough to validate my findings.
The Quran weighs in at 350 pages or about 155,000 words. Contrasted to 1,800 pages for the Bible (about 800,000 words), the Quran is only about 1/5 the size of the Bible and about 4/5 the size of the New Testament alone. The prose in the Quran is much leaner and concise. Paragraphs and sentences are shorter and targeted toward a lesser-educated reader.
Below are word statistical studies comparing the frequency of topics found in the Quran as compared to the Bible (both Old and New Testaments).
Comparing violent references (e.g. “fight”, “kill”, “slaughter”, “destroy”, death”, “curse”, etc.) in both the Quran and the Christian Bible (including the Old Testament judicial laws that modern-day Christians deem irrelevant), passages referencing violent topics occur over three times as many times in the Koran than in the Bible. A ratio of 3.2 to 1.
The opposite result was found for compassionate words such as “love” and “peace”. Word counts indicated compassionate words were found seven times as many in the Christian Bible as compared to the Quran. A ratio of 7.5 to 1.
Divisive words, particularly “unbeliever”, occur in the Quran (compared to the Bible) at an astonishing ratio of 31 to 1.
OdinText software – text analytics study
In 2015, Tom H.C. Anderson, developer of OdinText, a text analytics software package, compared mention of the eight major emotions in the Bible to the frequency those words are mentioned in the Quran.
As you can see in the chart below, with regards to joy, anticipation, anger, disgust, sadness, and surprise, the Bible and Quran are quite similar (the distance between the red/Koran and blue/Bible dots is small). However, there is a major divergence between the two texts with regards to the emotions “trust/distrust” and “fear/anxiety” (distance between red/blue dots is large). According to OdinText analysis, the Quran places a far greater emphasis on fear, anxiety, trust, and mistrust which, not surprisingly, are the primary emotions that serve to promote division between Muslims and other faiths.
Before diving deep into the Quran, a little background: Summary and history (timeline) of Islam
A discontented region has no religion to call their own
By 600 AD, Judaism (based on the Old Testament) was firmly established in the Middle East and Christianity had rapidly spread throughout the area. Jews and Christians had their own Bible and organized faith, but no prophets had been sent to the Arabs who were often taunted for being left out of God’s plan. As a result, many in the area began to believe that al-Lah (Allah), their chosen god, was the same god worshiped by both the Jews and Christians. The region was primed for the introduction of a new religion.
God reveals the Quran to Muhammad
The introduction of Islam as a new religion began in 610 AD when Muhammad received his first verses of the Quran in a cave outside Mecca (in Saudi Arabia). The first revelation came to Muhammad when he was 40 years old during a retreat into the cave of Hira’ in the hills outside Makkah (aka Mecca).
According to events recorded in the Hadith literature (a collection of reports claiming to quote what Muhammad said on any matter), an angelic presence appeared before Muhammad and said to him: “Iqra’” (meaning read or recite). Muhammad explained that he did not know how to recite (or “read” – some propose that Muhammad was illiterate). After the instructions to “recite” were repeated, Muhammad claimed that the angelic presence held him and squeezed him so tightly that he could not breathe. The angelic manifestation then instructed Muhammad to repeat with him the words that are now recorded as the first five Ayahs of the 96th Surah Al-Qalam (The Pen) of the Quran.
“Read (or recite) in the name of your Lord who created (and continues to create); Created the humankind from a clot of congealed blood. Read and your Lord is The Most Generous; Who taught by the pen; taught humankind what it did not know.”
In an instant, a man with no previous worldly ambitions and unknown for eloquence and speech, became the most persistent and persuasive critic of his culture, advocating reform based on the worship of one God and insisting on the dignity, equality, and justice for the poor.
The experience of his first revelation shook Muhammad. He rushed home where his wife, Khadijah, covered him with a blanket. While recovering from the stunning encounter, and fearing that he may have been hallucinating or losing his mind, he told Khadijah about his experience in the cave. She assured him that he was fine and suggested that his experience may have been a supernatural, possibly even divine event. She took Muhammad to one of her relatives, Waraqa ibn Naufal , who had knowledge of religious scriptures.
Waraqa ibn Naufal pointed out that that Muhammad’s experience resembled Old Testament stories of Moses and other prophets. She suggested that Muhammad had been chosen as a messenger of God and warned him that people would likely resist his message as they had done with previous prophets.
Several months passed with no additional messages delivered to Muhammad. Muhammad began to worry that God had removed him from his divine plan. Then the revelation of Ayahs 1 through 7 of the 74th Surah Al-Moddaththir (The One Wrapped) was delivered to him.
“O you wrapped up (in your cloak), Arise and deliver the warning. And proclaim the glory of your Lord. And purify and cleanse your garments. And shun all idolatry and filth. And do no favors, expecting gain in return. And for the sake of your Lord, be patient and constant.“
According to Islam, further Quranic revelations were revealed to Muhammad during the remaining thirty-three years of his life. The revelations were relayed to scribes who documented the “message” in what we now know as the Quran (or Koran).
Historical timeline of Islam and Muhammad’s development of the Koran
Below is a brief historical timeline of events that occurred during the creation of the Islamic religion. The events below are important in order to understand the circumstances under which the Quran was written.
610 AD: Prophet Muhammad receives first revelations of the Quran in a cave outside Mecca. Keeps quiet for a while but family is convinced the words came from God.
612 AD: Muhammad begins to preach publicly. The words of the Quran are revealed to Muhammad, surah by surah, for the next 21 years (often in response to a crisis or question posed to him earlier). It is written that during the delivery of the revelations, his body convulsed, he sweated, and heard strange sounds and voices.
616 AD: Muhammad’s unpopularity in Mecca grows.
622 AD: Muhammad and seventy Muslim families make the hijrab (migration) from Mecca to Medina.
624 AD: Muslims raid Meccan caravan for bounty. Meccans send army to defend against the Muslim attack. Against the odds, Muslims win Battle of Badr against larger Meccan army.
625 AD: Muslims suffer devastating loss against Meccas in the Battle of Uhud. Muslims expel Jews that they believe assisted Mecca and contributed to their defeat.
627 AD: Muslims defeat Meccan arm at Battle of the Trench. Muslims massacre men of Jewish tribe of Qurayzah who had support the Meccans against the Muslims.
628 AD: Treaty of Hudaybiyyah between Mecca and Medina. By this time, Muhammad is seen as most powerful ruler in Arabia.
630 AD: Meccans violate Treaty of Hudaybiyyah and Muhammad attacks in retaliation. Mecca opens the gates surrenders without a fight.
632 AD: Prophet Muhammad dies. Abu Bakr is elected his khalifah (representative).
634 AD: Muslim armies raid Iraq, Syria, and Egypt. Caliph Umar elected. Muslims emphasize that Muhammad was the last and greatest of the prophets.
638 AD: Muslims conquer Jerusalem. Jerusalem becomes third holiest city after Mecca and Medina.
644-650 AD: Muslim armies conquer Cyprus, Tripoli, Iran, and Afghanistan. Caliph Umar stabbed to death in mosque of Medina by Persian prisoner-of-war. Arabs find themselves in possession of a sizeable empire providing themselves with further evidence that they had received God’s endorsement of the Quran.
654 AD: Interpretations of the Quran have already begun to diverge. Caliph Uthman insists only one version of Quran be used creating discontent in some Muslim sects.
656 AD: Caliph Uthman assassinated by discontent soldiers.
656 – 935 AD: Wars, rebellions, assassinations, etc. The conflicts continue in the region and last into modern-day.
A Christian’s detailed analysis of the Quran (Koran)
Below is an detailed analysis of the Quran’s contents – the various areas of interest I discovered along with example verses related to each topic presented. It is important to recognize that the analysis below derives from the Quranic interpretation by a Christian with no pre-existing familiarity with the Koran or religion of Islam.
The Koran – example quotes from the Koran
The Quran frequently emphasizes that its message was delivered from God to Muhammad. The majority of the Quranic text is written as if dictated from a third person.
“Muhammad, they ask you about wine and gambling. Tell them that there is great sin in them.”
“They ask you about women’s menses. Tell them, “It is an ailment. Avoid having carnal relations with them until their period is over.” Then you may have carnal relations with them.”
“Our Messenger has come to you to guide you at a time when none of Our other Messengers are living among you. We sent him so that you will not complain about having no one to tell you of what is good or warn you of what is bad.”
“Muhammad, do not be hasty in reading the Quran to the people before the revelation has been completed. “Say, My Lord, grant me more knowledge.” (20:114)”
The Koran frequently emphasizes that the Quranic message is from God and not a “made up” story created by Muhammad. The frequency and context of the claim makes clear that Muhammad was (at the time) delivering the message to a people who had trouble believing in the divinity of the message.
“Say, “Think, if the Quran is from God.”
“The unbelievers say, “Why has his Lord not given him some miracles to support his claim of being His Messenger?” Say “The knowledge of the unseen certainly belongs to God.”
“Your companion (Muhammad) does not suffer from any mental illness (22) He (Muhammad) is not accused of lying about the unseen (24). The Quran is not the word of condemned Satan (25).”
Initial acceptance of other religions (e.g. Jewish, Christian)
Initially the Quran accommodates other religions and in particular, accepts the word of the Old and New Testaments as messages from God. While initially seeming tolerant of Jewish and Christian beliefs, it quickly reveals that the Koran has the authority to override Old and New Testament teachings.
“You have nothing unless you follow the Old and New Testaments and that which (the Quran) God has revealed to you.”
“We have blessed this Book (the Quran) and revealed it to confirm that which was revealed to the Prophets who lived before you and to warn the people of the mother land (Mecca).”
“We have revealed the Book to you (Muhammad) in all Truth. It confirms the original Bible and has the authority to preserve or revoke what the Bible contains.”
Common themes found in the Koran
Some themes in the Quran are similar to topics in the Christian Bible including the concept of tithes which Muslims call “religious tax”. Religious taxes are mentioned frequently in the Koran albeit in its characteristic compact prose.
“Pay the religious tax.”
The following verse instructs Muslims to pay the religious tax and also begins to reveal why non-Muslims are forbidden from entering mosques.
“Only those who believe in God, the Day of Judgment, perform their prayers, pay the religious tax, and have fear of God alone have the right to establish and patronize the mosque of God.”
Doubt that the Koran is a message from God
Another theme that occurs frequently in the Quran is strangely enough, doubt – doubt that the religion of Islam is a legitimate message delivered from God. It appears as if at the time, there was much doubt about the divinity of Muhammad’s message. Thus, Muhammad frequently defends his message attempting to explain why he does not produce miracle and poetic prose and assuring his followers that he is sane.
“The unbelievers say, “Why has God not sent him, (Muhammad), some miracles.” (Muhammad), you are only a warner.”
“The unbelievers say, “Why have not some miracles been sent to him, (Muhammad), from his Lord.”
“When God replaces one revelation with another, He knows best what to reveal. But they say, “(Muhammad), you have falsely invented it.” Most people are ignorant.”
“They have said, “Why has he, (Muhammad), not brought some miracle from his Lord?” Have they not received the previously revealed heavenly Books as the evidence of the Truth (20:133).”
“They have said, “It, (the Quran), is only the result of some confused dreams. He is only a poet. He should show us some miracles, as the ancient Prophets had done.” (21:5)”
“Muhammad, whenever the unbelievers see you, they think that you deserve nothing more than to be mocked.”
Blasphemy and speaking God’s name
Christians are aware of the sacredness of God’s name and the concept of blasphemy. Muslims however, project an extreme concern for the phonetics and vocalization of God’s title. For instance, Muslims are cautioned to not utter bad words against non-believers for fear that even non-believers may be prompted to vocalize blasphemy against God.
“Believers, do not say bad words against the idols lest they (pagans) in their hostility and ignorance say such words against God.”
The Koran message directed towards the poor and uneducated
Why the prose was made easy to read
In several instances, the Quran points out that its compact, easy-to-read prose is intended to make the message easy to understand for all – including the poor and uneducated (this probably bodes well for the religion’s popularity in third-world countries).
“We have made the Quran easy for you to recite so that perhaps they may take heed (44:58).”
“We have revealed clear verses in it so that perhaps you may take heed. (24:1).”
Blessings on lower class people
As such, Muhammad frequently emphasizes righteousness and blessings upon the uneducated, lower class citizens. For instance, in this verse, Muhammad tells the story of Noah and the Ark mentioning that only the “lowliest” followed God.
“We sent Noah to his people to give them the clear warning (11:25). The disbelievers among his people said, “We do not believe that you are any better than the rest of us; we see that only the worthless hasty ones, the lowliest among us follow you.”
Riches on earth mean nothing
Similarly, Muhammad frequently attempts to pacify the poor by pointing out that riches on Earth mean nothing.
“Do not be envious of what We have given to some people as means of enjoyment and worldly delight. Such means are a trial for them, but the reward that you will receive from your Lord will be far better and everlasting (20:131).”
“Does God choose for Himself the kind of children who grow up wearing ornaments and who are not strong enough to defend their rights? (43:18).”
Examples of dictates found in the Koran
There are many unique Muslim behaviors and beliefs which characterize Islam, some of which Christians who are unfamiliar with Muslim beliefs, will find unusual. Below is a collection of verses from the Quran where behaviors such as punishment, greetings, sacredness of the Mosque, etc. are dictated through the Koran.
Common Muslim dictates
“God has forbidden you to eat that which has not been properly slaughtered, blood, pork, and the flesh of any animal which has not been consecrated with a mention of the Name of God. However, in an emergency, without the intention of transgression or repeating transgression, one will not be considered to have committed a sin.”
“Believers, in case of murder, the death penalty is the sanctioned retaliation.”
“Complete the hajj and umrah two parts of the rituals of pilgrimage to Makka in obedience to God.”
“The divorced women must wait up to three menstrual cycles before another marriage.”
“Do not let the hostility of a group of people keep you away from the Sacred Mosque or make you express animosity.”
“Do not eat the flesh of an animal which has been slaughtered without a mention of the Name of God.”
How Muslims should pray
Muslims have a very ritualistic prayer practice, one that Christians may find extreme, insincere, and overtly for public display (the opposite of Christian prayer practices). Below are several verses from the Quran which specifically instruct Muslims on how they should pray.
“Believers, when you are about to pray, wash your face and your hands along with the elbows and wipe your head and your feet to the ankles.”
“Muhammad, have patience with what they say, glorify your Lord, and always praise Him before sunrise, sunset, in some hours of the night and at both the beginning and end of the day, so that perhaps you will please your Lord (20:130).”
“Say your prayers in the morning, the last portion of the day, and at the beginning of the night. Good deeds do away with the bad deeds.”
“Say your prayer when the sun declines until the darkness of night and also at dawn.”
“You, who have wrapped yourself up with a mantle, (73:1) worship God for a few hours at night (2). Worship Him for more or less than half of the night (3) and recite the Quran in a distinct tone; (4).”
“Muhammad, during prayer, turn your face towards the Sacred Mosque in Makkah. Muslims, also, wherever you are, during your prayers, turn your faces towards the Sacred Mosque.”
“In Bakka, there are many clear signs evidence of the existence of God. Among them is the spot where Abraham stood. Those who have the means and ability have a duty to God to visit the House and perform the hajj (pilgrimage) rituals.”
How to great other Muslims
Even non-Muslims are familiar with the traditional Muslim greeting, “Peace be with you” and the oft-mentioned phrase “if God be willing”. Here are the verses that instruct Muslims to use these specific phrases during greetings and conversation.
“Never say of something, “I shall do it tomorrow,” (18:23) without adding, “If God wills.”
“Their prayer shall be, “Glory be to you Lord,” and their greeting, “Peace be with you”.
In the Quran’s version of the Old Testament story of Abraham, Muhammad hints that Abraham was a Muslim, noting that he used the traditional Muslim greeting when meeting “messengers”.
“Our Messengers came to Abraham with glad news. They said, “Peace be with you.” He replied similarly.”
Punishing fornicators and covering of Muslim women
The following lengthy section of the Quran addresses punishment of fornicators (flogging or beating with a whip or stick) and the covering of women to hide their beauty.
“This is a chapter which We have revealed to you and made obligatory for you to follow its guidance. We have revealed clear verses in it so that perhaps you may take heed. (24:1). Flog the fornicatress and the fornicator with a hundred lashes each. The well-to-do and the rich among you should not fail to give to relatives, the destitute, and Emigrants for the cause of God. Muhammad, tell the believing men to cast down their eyes and guard their carnal desires. Tell the believing woman to cast down their eyes, guard their chastity, and not to show off their beauty except what is permitted by the law. Let them cover their breasts with their veils. They must not show off their beauty to anyone other than their husbands, father, father-in-laws, sons, step-sons, brothers, sons of brothers and sisters, women of their kind, their slaves, immature male servants, or immature boys. Do not force your girls into prostitution to make money if they want to be chaste. They strongly swear by God that they would march to fight for the cause of God if you were to order them to. Tell them, “You do not need to swear; fighting for the cause of God is a virtuous deed and God is Well Aware of what you do” (24:53).”
A god to be feared
Exceptions to the rule – forgiveness vs good deeds/bad deeds
In most instances, the Quran portrays God as a militant, stern figure that followers are unequivocally instructed to fear. Contrasted to the Christian New Testament, the concept of “forgiveness” for sins is extremely rare in the Koran. However, there are a few seemingly contradictory verses which mention a forgiving, compassionate God.
“Whatever hardship befalls you is the result of your own deeds. God pardons many of your sins (42:30).”
“He who pardons the evil done to him and reforms himself, will receive his reward from God.”
Rather than sin and conscious act of forgiveness, the Quran says entrance to heaven is based on the ratio of good deeds to bad deeds. Contrasted to Christian belief that entry to heaven is conditioned upon recognizing your mistakes and seeking forgiveness for them, Muslims believe entry to heaven is dependent upon the number of good deeds a person does vs. the number of bad deeds they do. As long as you do more good deeds than bad, you will gain entry to heaven.
“Those whose good deeds weigh heavier than their bad deeds will have everlasting happiness (7:8).”
“The unbelievers will always suffer afflictions that result from their deeds.”
“For a deed even as small as a mustard seed one will duly be recompensed. We are efficient in maintaining the account.”
“Respond to the injustice done to you with the better deed.”
The record of good deeds and bad deeds are recorded in two books – Sijin and Illiyin.
“Let them know that the records of the sinner’s deeds are in Sijin (7). Would that you knew what Sijin is!? (8). It is a comprehensively written Book of records (9).”
“However, the records of the deeds of the virtuous ones will certainly be in Illiyin (18). Would that you knew what Illiyin is! (19). It is a comprehensively written Book of records (83:20).”
Fear of God and emphasis on destruction in Hell
Much of the Quran characterizes God as stern, inflexible, wrathful. Muslims are directed to fear God, seemingly as a sign of respect (it’s worthy to note that many Arab leaders follow a similar principle in their personal leadership roles).
“God explained His evidence to men so that perhaps they will have fear of God.”
“When Moses’ anger calmed down, he collected the Tablets. On one of them was written, “God’s mercy and guidance are for those who have fear of Him.” (7:154)”
“People , if you have doubt about my religion, know that I worship God who causes you to die.”
“When We decide to destroy a town We warn the rich ones therein who commit evil. Thus it becomes deserving to destruction and We destroy its very foundations. (17:16)”
“The sinners had been laughing at the believers (29). They (disbelievers) plot every evil plan, (15) but I too plan against them (16).
“I shall sternly punish the unbelievers in this life and in the life to come and no one will help them.”
“Some have believed, others have disbelieved and tried to prevent people from believing. For these people, only the intense fire of hell is a sufficient punishment (4:55).”
“We did not send the Messengers for any other reason than to bring people the glad news of God’s mercy and to warn them of the torment brought on by disobedience to God.”
“Muhammad tell the unbelievers that a painful punishment has been prepared for them.”
“Those who speak ill of the Messenger of God will face a painful punishment.”
“This Quran shows the way to that which is the most upright and gives to the righteous believers the glad news of a great reward (17:9). It also declares that for the disbelievers We have prepared a painful torment in the life to come. (17:10)”
“He hears the revelations of God which are recited to him, then persists in his arrogance as if he had not even heard them. Tell him that he will suffer a painful torment (45:8).”
As would be expected, the well-to-do are singled out noting that their “path to affliction”, which leads them to destruction, is facilitated by God.
“For those who are niggardly, horde their wealth, (8) and have no faith in receiving any reward from God (9). We shall facilitate the path to affliction (92:10) and their wealth will be of no benefit to them when they face destruction (11).”
Predestination – sinners and unbelievers are doomed
The religion of Islam is based squarely on the principle of predestination – the belief that a person’s path to heaven or hell is preordained and determined upon birth. Christians respect God’s sovereignty but recognize that Man has freewill to choose which path he takes. The choices a person makes determine whether or not he will be accepted into the kingdom of heaven. According to the Quran however, this path, even if it’s a path to hell, is directed by God and cannot be changed. This founding principle is one of the primary drivers for the divisiveness that the Koran creates between Muslims and non-Muslims (I’ll discuss this divisiveness in much greater detail below).
Forgiveness and repentance mentioned occasionally
As already mentioned, the concept of forgiveness and repentance is a rare topic in the Quran. After all, if your destiny is predetermined, what’s the point? However, forgiveness is indeed mentioned a few times in the Koran. More than 1/3 of the way through the Koran, you will find the first mention of a compassionate, forgiving God.
“Seek forgiveness from your Lord and turn to Him in repentance for your sins. He will provide you good sustenance for an appointed time and will reward everyone according to his merits.”
This concept is rarely mentioned again – until near the end of the Quran (95% into the book) when we find this complementary verse.
“When they are told, “Come and let the Prophet of God seek forgiveness for you,” they shake their heads and you can see them arrogantly turning away (5).”
God made sinners and non-Muslims who they are
The Muslim principle of predestination has a profound impact on Islamic culture and sets in place the root cause of radical Muslim behavior. According to the Quran, a person’s faith (non-Muslims, Muslims) or belief is determined by God. Muslims are specifically told not to assist or attempt to help non-Muslims find a path to righteousness.
“Why are you divided into two different parties concerning the hypocrites, when God Himself has turned them to disbelief because of their misdeeds. Do you want to guide those whom God has caused to go astray? You cannot find guidance for those whom God has made to err. (4:88)”
“God leads astray or guides to the right path whomever He wants.”
“We have made every nation’s deeds seem attractive to them.”
“Had We sent the angels to them, made the dead speak to them, and resurrected all things before their very eyes, they still would not believe unless God willed it to be so.”
“God will open the hearts of whomever He wants to guide to Islam, but He will tighten the chest of one whom He has led astray.”
“In every town We have placed some sinful leaders who always make evil plans. These plans will only work against their own souls but they do not realize this.”
“God invites every one to the House of Peace and guides whomever He wants to the right path (10:25).”
“No one can have faith without the permission of God. God will cast down filth on those who have no understanding. (10:100)”
“God gives abundant sustenance to whomever He wants and determines everyone’s destiny.”
“God strengthens the faith of the believers by the true Words in this world and in the life to come. He causes the unjust to go astray and does whatever He pleases. (14:27)”
“Muhammad, even though you have a strong desire to guide them, be sure that God will not guide those who have gone astray and no one will be able to help them (16:37).”
“Have you seen the one who has chosen his desires as his lord? God has knowingly caused him to go astray, sealed his ears and heart and veiled his vision.”
“Final authority belongs only to God. Had He wanted, He would have given you all guidance”
“No one can guide those whom God has caused to go astray (13:33).”
Non-Muslims have no chance of heaven
That non-Muslims have no chance of salvation stands in direct contrast to the principles Christians uphold – compassion and assistance to anyone who asks for our help. In fact, the difference is so stark, the following statements will cause followers of the Christian faith to cringe with disbelief. The message is quite clear – if you are not a Muslim, you will not be allowed to enter heaven.
“Let those who do not believe in the Day of Judgment (non-Muslims) listen to the deceitful words with pleasure and indulge in whatever sins they want.”
“Believers, even if you invite them to true guidance, they will not follow you. It makes no difference whether you invite them or whether you keep quiet.”
“How can you rescue the one who is destined to suffer the torment? (39:19).”
“My Lord, these, my people, do not believe” (43:88). We have told him, “Ignore them and say to them ‘farewell’.”
The Muslim version of heaven – seven heavens
The Muslim vision of heaven differs slightly from the typical Christian depiction. In fact, there are seven heavens mentioned in the Quran (a concept carried over from the Jewish Talmud).
“We have created seven heavens above you.”
“The seven heavens, the earth, and whatever is between them all glorify Him.”
The Quran notes that people are “ranked” in heaven according to the number and quality of good deeds they do, and many Muslims believe this ranking dictates which “heaven” you will be admitted to.
In most instances, heaven is described as a “garden wherein streams flow”, a peaceful place where those granted entry can live an existence of luxury amongst flowing rivers, fruit trees, servants, and as noted in one verse, young virgin women. Notice that there is no mention of “72 virgins for every man” in the Koran. This often-quoted number comes from a hadith, a sort of eye-witness commentary on the Koran and life of Muhammad.
“The righteously striving believers receive, through their faith, guidance from their Lord to the bountiful gardens wherein streams flow (10:9).”
“When will be the Day of Judgment?” (6). When the eye is bewildered, (7) the moon eclipsed (8) and the sun and the moon are brought together. For their patience, He will reward them with Paradise and silk (12). They will recline therein on couches and they will find neither excessive heat nor cold (13). The shades of the garden will be closely spread over them and it will be easy for them to reach the fruits (14). They will be served with silver dishes and crystal clear goblets (15).”
“They will live amid the thornless lot trees (28) and banana trees, (29) with fruits piled up one on the other, (30) and amid the extended shade near to flowing water and abundant fruits, (33) undiminished and never denied (34) and the noble maidens (35) that We have created for the people of the right hand (36) We have made them virgins, (37) loving and of equal age.”
No compassion for unbelievers or sinners
This harsh view of others outside Islam leads to an impression of a God whose love is conditioned not only upon the good deeds a person produces in his lifetime, but of a person’s faith. This leads readers unfamiliar with the Quran to quickly perceive a lack of compassion for sinners and non-Muslims (unbelievers as the Quran calls them).
“The sinful ones are worthless in the sight of God and they deserve a severe punishment for their evil plans.”
“We will leave those who have no hope of receiving Our mercy, in the life hereafter, to continue blindly in their transgression. (10:11)”
“God defends the believers (Muslims) but He does not love any of the treacherous, ungrateful ones. (22:38)”
“On the Day of Judgment, the believers will laugh at the disbelievers (34) while reclining on couches and enjoying the bounties given to them. (35)”
All tied in a bow – no use trying to debate the Koran’s message
Throughout the Quran, an intricate knot is tied, one that tightens its scripture into a tightknit lesson that cannot be argued nor overturned. Like a snake eating its own tail, the Koran validates itself by stressing that (1) only Muslims can understand the Koran, (2) the original language it was written in is the only true representation of the holy book, (3) others will attempt to interpret the Koran for their own purposes, and (4) detractors will of course, claim that the Koran is false.
For instance, any condemnation of the Quran’s message can be explained away with these verses.
“Those whose hearts are perverse, follow the unclear statements in pursuit of their own mischievous goals by interpreting them in a way that will suit their own purpose.”
“Blind ones try to confuse what We have revealed to you so that they may falsely ascribe to Us something other than the true revelation.”
Admitting up front that the Quran’s message will be doubted by some, those that disagree with the Quran’s message are labelled disbelievers who are doomed to eternal torment.
“Those who do not judge by the laws of the Quran are disbelievers.”
“The unbelievers will continue to doubt the Quran until the Hour of Doom suddenly sizes them or the torment of the last day strikes them (22:55). The righteously striving believers will go to Paradise (22:56) and the unbelievers who called Our revelations lies will suffer humiliating torment. (22:57)”
“This Book is a revelation from God, the Majestic and All-knowing (40:2) who forgives sins, who accepts repentance, whose punishment is severe, and whose bounty is universal. No one disputes the revelations of the the Quran except the disbelievers.”
Non-Muslims reject Islam as their religion of choice because God directed them that way.
“God attracts to the religion (Islam) whomever He wants.”
Contradictions and a changing message
Reading the Quran as I did, in one fell swoop from beginning to end, it was readily apparent that there were many contradictions and inconsistencies laid on top of a message that seemed to change, swaying back and forth as outside circumstances influenced the message Muhammad relayed to his followers.
Acceptance of other religions
Note that early on in the Quran, other religions (specifically Jewish Torah and Christian New Testament) are accepted as valid messages from God. In fact, the Quran even tells us that they will indeed receive their reward in heaven.
“We gave (Abraham) Isaac and Jacob. Both had received Our guidance. We also gave guidance to Zacharias, John, Jesus, and Elias, who were all pious people, (6:85) and Ishmael, Elisha, Jonah, and Lot whom We exalted over all people (6:86).”
“Children of Israel, recall My favors to you and the preference that I gave to you over all nations.”
“Those who have become believers (the Muslims), and the Jews, the Christians and the Sabaeans who believe in God and the Day of Judgment and strive righteously will receive their reward from the Lord and will have nothing to fear nor will they be grieved.”
Before long however, the sentiment begins to change taking on a more derogatory stance against Jewish and Christian faiths.
“Why is it that every time they (the Jews) make a covenant, some of them abandon it. Most of them do not even believe (2:100).”
By the end of the Quran, the stance takes an almost angry, militant stance against other faiths (for examples, see the discussion below regarding promotion of violence and divisiveness).
Muhammad as a messenger and not revered
Muhammad as the humble messenger
Early in the Quran, Muhammad takes on the appearance of a lowly peasant, merely a messenger of God with no divine attributes. He goes to great lengths to emphasize that he is not divine (this is much more apparent in the discussion below regarding changes to the New Testament where Muhammad repeatedly emphasizes that Jesus was not the son of God).
“Muhammad, tell them, “I do not claim to have all the treasures of God in my hands, nor to know the unseen, nor do I claim to be an angel. I follow only what is revealed to me (from God).”
“I do not say that God’s treasures belong to me, that I know the unseen, or that I am an angel.”
Muhammad deserves respect
But this appearance seems to change dramatically as the Quranic message develops and begins to include demands for respect for Muhammad.
“Do not address the Messenger (Muhammad) as you would call each other.”
“Believers, do not raise your voices above the voice of the Prophet Muhammad, do not be too loud in speaking to him.”
Treasures on earth belong to God and Messengers
The message morphs further, emphasizing that treasures on earth belong to both God and “the Messengers”.
“They (the believers) ask you (Muhammad) about the booty captured from the enemies during a war. Tell them, “It belongs to God and the Messengers.”
No entry to heaven unless you believe in Muhammad
Soon, entrance to heaven is conditioned upon belief in both God and Muhammad.
“Do they not know that for displeasing God and His Messenger, one would be admitted to Hell wherein he would live forever.”
“The true believers are those who have faith in God and His Messenger.”
“Those who pledge obedience to you are, in fact, pledging obedience to God. Those who do not believe in God and His Messenger should know that We have prepared hell for the disbelievers (48:13).”
Although early Quranic verses document Muhammad stressing he is merely a messenger, the later verses introduce a more divine portrayal of the prophet which likely explains Muslims’ near-Godlike treatment of him.
Various inexplicable topics
Even with the Quran’s simplicity, there are verses which by themselves seemed contradictory, inappropriate, or unusual. For instance, this verse seems to indicate Muslims are not required to stand by their promises if the oath was “thoughtless”.
“God will not hold you responsible for your thoughtless oaths. However, He will question you about your deliberate oaths”
Wine and gambling are associated with “satanic activities”
“Wine, gambling, the stone altars and arrows (that the pagans associate with certain divine characters) are all abominable acts associated with satanic activities.”
Using God’s creatures for substance or survival seem appropriate for Christians but using them for jewelry seems exorbitant to us.
“It is God who put the oceans at your disposal so that you could find therein fresh fish for food and ornaments with which to deck yourselves with.”
In this verse, Muhammad specifically instructs Muslims to not be overly generous.
“Do not be stingy nor over generous lest you become empty handed and bankrupt (17:29).”
For a person of Christian faith, this verse made no sense whatsoever. As far as I could tell, there was no leadup to this outburst and thus, the only way to understand it would be to have knowledge of the history taking place at that time.
“May the hands of Abu Lahab perish! (111:1). May he too perish! (2). His property and worldly gains will be of no help to him (3). He will suffer in a blazing fire (4) and so too will his wife who (threw thorns and firewood in the Prophet’s way). Around her neck will be a rope of palm fibre (5).”
And then there was this verse which struck me as surprisingly poetic and whether intentional or not, quite humorous.
“On that day We shall ask hell, “Are you full?” It will say, “Are there any more?” (50:30).”
Man and Jinn
One of the most confusing topics in the Quran was the frequent mention of “Jinn”. In fact, this was the only instance where I was required to step away from the book and research what Jinn were. Jinn are mentioned frequently with Man, as if the human race consisted of two distinct species. They are not recognized by Western readers except possibly as “Genies”, the mystical creature which can be good or evil and possesses abilities beyond mere mortals.
“From the two oceans comes pearls and coral (22). Jinn and mankind – which of the favors of your Lord would you then deny? (23). By His command, the ships with raised masts sail on the sea like mountains (24). Jinn and mankind – which of the favors of your Lord do you then deny? (25). Everyone on earth is destined to die (26).”
“We thought that no man or jinn could ever tell lies about God (5).”
“This (the Quran) is certainly the guidance for all jinn and mankind. (27)”
“When the servant of God (Muhammad) preached his message, the jinn would all crowd around him (19).”
Violence and promotion of militant attacks in the Quran
There is much debate whether the Quran promotes violence or not. Non-Muslims will point out the multitude of verses which specifically dictate required militant action by Muslims. Moderate Muslims however, will explain that the relevant verses were only applicable to Muhammad’s soldiers at the time the Koran was written.
In fact, the Koran mentions violent militant actions quite often but when taken in its entirety, Islam does not promote violent actions over its primary message – that there is one God above all others. The preponderance of violent, militant verses below will make it difficult for a non-Muslim to agree (that Islam does not promote violence) and unfortunately, it would take a reading of the entire Koran to recognize that it requires a special “hard interpretation” of the Koran to reach a violent, militant consensus. Regardless, after a complete reading of the Koran, it becomes apparent that the contradictions within the Koran are much more to blame for the fragmentation of Islamic beliefs while the divisiveness that is stressed throughout promotes an alarming “wall” of sorts between followers of Islam and the world’s other religions.
Still, the number of clear militant directives provides ample justification for radical Islamists to conduct acts of violence under the guise of a sanctioned religious dictate. In fact, givens the Koran’s strong emphasis on division between Muslims and everyone else, even a single militant dictate would provide radical Muslims confirmation that their violent stance is Allah’s desire. Followers of the Christian faith will find any violent militant directive shocking and the multitude of Quranic verses promoting militant action are understandably startling to them.
The Islamic call to militant action
There is no argument, “fighting for the cause of God” is clearly advocated. According to the Quran, whether a Muslim likes it or not, fighting non-Muslims is “mandatory” and required for Islam to become the dominant religion.
“Fight for the cause of God, those who fight you.”
“Slay them wherever you may catch them and expel them from the place from which they expelled you. The sin of disbelief in God is greater than committing murder.”
“Fight them so that there will be no disbelief in God and God’s religion will become dominant.”
“Fighting is made mandatory for you, but you dislike it. You may not like something which, in fact, is for your good and something that you may love, in fact, may be evil.”
“Believers, always be well prepared and on your guard. March in small groups or all together.”
“Fight them. May God punish them by your hands, humiliate them, give you victory over them.”
“Prophet, fight the unbelievers and hypocrites vehemently for the cause of God.”
“Believers, fight the unbelievers near you for the cause of God so that they realize your strength and know that God is with the pious ones. (9:123)”
“I shall cast terror into the hearts of the unbelievers and you will strike their heads and limbs.”
Jihad guarantees of safety, rewards, and victory
“Do not consider those who are slain for the cause of God to be dead. They are alive but you are unaware of them.”
“They can never harm you beyond annoyance. In a fight, they will turn back in defeat and they will not be helped (3:111).”
“Humiliation will strike them wherever they seek protection.”
“Many godly people fought to help the Prophets in the cause of God.”
“Lord, forgive our sins and our excess in our dealings, make us steadfast in the fight for Your cause, and grant us victory over the unbelievers.””
“If God is your helper, no one can defeat you.”
“Do not think of those slain for the cause of God as dead.”
“Those who fought and were killed for My cause will find their sins expiated by Me and I will admit them into the gardens wherein streams flow.”
“Those who want to buy the life hereafter with this life should fight for the cause of God. We will give them a great reward whether they are killed or whether they are victorious.”
“Among the believers, those who stay at home without a good reason are not equal to those who strive for the cause of God in person.”
“God has promised that everyone will receive his proper share of the reward but He will grant a much greater reward to those striving for His cause.”
“Those who abandoned their homes for the cause of God and who then died or were murdered will receive honorable sustenance from God.”
“The deeds of those who are killed for the cause of God will never be without virtuous results (47:4).”
“God loves those who fight for His cause in battlefield formations firm as an unbreakable concrete wall. (61:4)”
Muslims should not kill other Muslims
A commonly accepted belief associated with Muslim militancy is the mandate that Muslims not kill other Muslims. This likely derives from verses such as this one which clearly prohibits Muslim against Muslim violence.
“Believers, if you march with arms for the cause of God, make sure that you know whom to fight. Do not accuse anyone who claims himself to be a Muslim of disbelief.”
Surprisingly specific militant directives
The directives for militancy are quite specific in some instances.
“If you are among them (your followers during a battle) and you call them for prayer, let a group of them carry their arms during prayer. The unbelievers would love to find you neglecting your arms.”
“When the sacred months are over, slay the pagans wherever you find them. Capture, besiege, and ambush them.”
Surprisingly, this verse permits military action despite any treaty that may be in place.
“If you are afraid of the treachery of some of your allies, you may disregard your treaty with them.”
Puzzling militant directives
I found these verses related to permissible religious military action quite puzzling. For instance, this shocking story that seemed to be one of compassion which suddenly turns into a surprising slaughter of the opponent.
“How many unjust towns did We destroy and replace them with other nations? (21:11). When they found Our torment approaching them they started to run away from the town. (21:12). We told them, “Do not run away. Come back to your luxuries and your houses so that you can be questioned” (21:13). They said, “Woe to us! We have been unjust” (21:14). Such was what they continued to say until We mowed them down and made them completely extinct. (21:15)”
And this seemingly-illogical section which commands Muslims strike off the heads of disbelievers, then take them as captives, and then set them free?
“They say, “(Muhammad) has invented it (Quran) by himself.” If you encounter the disbelievers in a battle, strike-off their heads. Take them as captives when they are defeated. Then you may set them free as a favor to them, with or without a ransom, when the battle is over.”
And then there was this particularly disturbing account of Muhammad’s followers asking why specific rules for jihad have not been given. Muhammad responds that if such rules were revealed, they would be terrifying to the non-believers.
“The believers say, “Why is a chapter about jihad – fighting for the cause of God – not revealed?” But when such a chapter, with clear commands and a mention of jihad is revealed, you will see those whose hearts are sick look at you as if suffering the agony of death.”
Other violent directives – “barbaric” judicial law
Not all violent verses in the Quran are related to military actions. Some shockingly violent directives relate to punishment. Verses such as the following make it clear why the judicial systems of many Middle Eastern countries contain punishments that Westerners find barbaric and cruel.
“The only proper recompense for those who fight against God and His Messenger and try to spread evil in the land is to be killed, crucified, or either to have one of their hands and feet cut from the opposite side or to be sent into exile.”
“Cut off the hands of a male or female thief as a punishment for their deed.”
The exception to the rule – promotes peace
It would be unfair to delve into the particularly shocking violent Quranic verses without pointing out other verses that, while not necessarily promoting peace, do place some limitations on the level of violence allowed. For example, killing another person is allowable in order to “stop corruption in the land” (granted, “corruption of the land” could be infinitely interpreted).
“Killing of a person for reasons other than legal retaliation or for stopping corruption in the land is as great a sin as murdering all of mankind.”
“Take not a life which God has made sacred except by way of justice and law.”
“Do not kill a respectable soul without a just cause.”
“Permission to take up arms is hereby granted to those who are attacked; they have suffered injustice.”
“Those who successfully defend themselves after being wronged will not be questioned (42:41).”
This single verse says that surrender by the enemy is acceptable (this is another example of a seemingly contradictory statement).
“If they (the unbelievers) propose peace, accept it and trust in God.”
While some take this verse to indicate Jihad is prohibited during specific times in the year.
“During the four sacred months, they (pagans) may travel peacefully through the land.”
These three verses are often quoted by moderate Muslims in defense of peaceful actions instead of violence. Unfortunately, verses such as these are few and far between.
“If you replace evil habits by virtuous ones, you will certainly find that your enemies will become your intimate friends (41:34).”
“If you want retaliation, let it be equal to that which you faced. But if you exercise patience it will be better for you (16:126).”
“One who is wronged and who retaliates by that which is equal to his suffering, God will certainly help him.”
Degradation of women in the Koran
Many non-Muslims see Islam as unfair and degrading to women and cite Middle Eastern judicial laws as examples of the unfair treatment of women. Customary female dress in those areas are so dissimilar to Western styles, it is easy to draw this conclusion – and the scriptures regarding the treatment of women are indeed disturbing to both Christians and Westerners. This is compounded by the Islamic ideology that still applies literal interpretations to these “laws” and upholds them in practice today.
“Your wives are as fields for you. You may enter your fields from any place you want.”
“Women have benefits as well as responsibilities. Men have a status above women.”
“After the payment of debts or anything bequeathed, let the male inherit twice as much as the female.”
“You are forbidden to marry married women except your slave-girls.”
“Men are the protectors of women because of the greater preference that God has given to some of them.”
Koran as the final authority over all other religions
Muhammad stresses frequently that the Quran is the final religious authority and supersedes all other religions that preceded it. Given the competition Islam saw during its birth (from Judaism and Christianity), this is an understandably logical tactic. However, the Koran’s stated superiority over all other religions acts as the backbone for the dangerous division of religions, nations, and people that is stressed throughout Islam’s holy book.
The verses below are illustrative of the Koran’s central theme of its unchanging superiority over all other religions.
“Quran was revealed; a guide for the people, the most authoritative of all guidance.”
“In the sight of God, Islam is the religion.”
“No religion other than Islam (submission to the will of God) will be accepted from anyone. Whoever follows a religion other than Islam will be lost on the Day of Judgment. “
“After having revealed the Quran to you in all truth and justice, your Lord’s Word has been completed. No one can change His Words.”
“This Book (Quran) which We have revealed is a blessed one. Follow its guidance and have piety so that you perhaps may receive mercy (6:155) and will not say that the Book was revealed only to two groups of people before you, or that you were ignorant of its knowledge, (6:156) or proclaim, “Had the Book been revealed to us, we would have followed its guidance better than the Jews and Christians.”
“We will give an evil recompense to those who turn away from Our revelations (the Quran) and a terrible torment for their disregard of Our guidance (6:157)”
“It is God Who sent His Messenger with guidance and a true religion (Islam) that will prevail over all other religions.”
“Muhammad, follow what is revealed to you and have patience until God issues His Judgment. Those who disbelieve in the Quran will have hell as their dwelling place. Thus, Muhammad, have no doubt about it (the Quran).”
“Whoever disregards (the Quran) will be heavily burdened with sin on the Day of Judgment (20:100) with which he will live forever.”
“Those who rejected the Book (the Quran) and the message which was given to Our Messenger (Mohammad) will soon know the consequences of their evil deeds (40:70) when fetters will be placed around their necks and chains will drag them (40:71) into boiling water and then they will be burned in the fire (40:72).”
“Thus, We have revealed a Spirit to you, (Muhammad), by Our command. Before, you did not even know what a Book or Faith was. It (the Quran) exists in the original Book with Us which is certainly Most Exalted, full of wisdom and beyond linguistic structures (43:4).”
“Muhammad, ask which of them can guarantee that on the Day of Judgment (40). they will receive the same thing that the Muslims will?”
“How strongly the unbelievers will wish that they had been Muslims.”
Only Muslims can understand the Quran
The authority of the Quran is further cemented by Muhammad’s proclamation that only Muslims can understand the content and meaning of the holy book. According to Muhammad, the Koran is only valid in its original language (some Islamic sects believe it is blasphemous to even translate it) and attempts by non-believers to understand it are futile.
“We have revealed it in the Arabic language so that you (people) would understand it. (12:2)”
“We revealed it (the Quran) as a code of conduct in the Arabic language. All the Messengers that We sent spoke the language of their people so that they could explain (their message to them).”
“This Quran is a flawless reading text in the Arabic language.”
“Had We sent down this Quran in a non-Arabic language, they would have said, “Why have its verses not been well expounded?” Could a non-Arabic Book be revealed to an Arabic speaking person? Muhammad, say, “It is a guide and a cure for the believers. As for those who do not believe, they are deaf and blind.”
Further supporting the concepts of predestination and divisiveness, the inability of non-believers to comprehend the Quran is a purposeful “blinding” by God.
“When you recite the Quran We place a curtain as a barrier between you and those who do not believe in the life to come (17:45).
“We put a veil over their hearts so that they cannot understand it.”
“We reveal the Quran which is a cure and mercy for the believers but does nothing for the unjust except to lead them to perdition. (17:82)”
“We have set-up a barrier in front of and behind them and have made them blind. Thus, they cannot see. Whether you warn them or not, they will not believe. (36:10)”
Promotion of divisiveness in the Koran
As I’ve stated throughout this analysis, the divisive wall erected between Muslims and non-Muslims is a frequent focal point in the Quran and a concept that Christians find particularly disturbing and potentially dangerous.
When “positive” emotional messages such as kindness are mentioned, they are almost always to be directed solely at Muslims (aka “believers”).
“Be kind to the believers (15:88). Say, “Indeed, I am simply one who warns.” (15:89)”
“Believers are each other’s brothers.”
“Believers, have patience, help each other with patience, establish good relations with one another, and have fear of God so that you may have everlasting happiness. (3:200)”
“Believers, do not exchange your property in wrongful ways unless it is in trade by mutual agreement. Do not kill one another. “
Note that the list of persons who Muslims should extend kindness to is concise and specific. Sinners and non-Muslims are clearly omitted from the list.
“Be kind to your parents, relatives, orphans, the destitute, your near and distant neighbors, your companions, wayfarers, and your slaves.”
Christians are taught that part of their responsibility to others is to spread the word of their religion. Not so for Muslims who are taught that attempting to spread Islam to non-believers is a hopeless effort.
“Preaching to unbelievers is like talking to someone who cannot hear anything except yells and shouts. They are deaf, dumb, and blind; they have no understanding.”
After being told that teaching Islam to non-believers is a hopeless endeavor, Muslims are commanded to keep their distance from “non-believers” who are portrayed as the devious enemy whose sole purpose is to harm followers of Islam.
“The believers must not establish friendship with the unbelievers in preference to the faithful.”
“Believers, do not expose your privacy to the unbelievers. They like to mislead you and see that you are seriously harmed. “
“They wish you to become unbelievers as they themselves are. Do not establish friendship with them until they have abandoned their homes for the cause of God. If they betray you, seize them and slay them wherever you find them. Do not establish friendship with them or seek their help (4:89) except with those who attach themselves to your allies or come to you with no desire to fight you or their own people. God could have given them power to fight you. Thus, if they retreat, stop fighting and come forward expressing faith in Islam. God will not allow you to fight them. (4:90)”
“You should only warn those who follow the Quran.”
“Believers, do not choose My enemies and your own enemies for friends, and offer them strong love. He only forbids you to be friends with those who have fought against you about the religion, expelled you from your homes or supported others in expelling you. Whoever loves these people are unjust (9).”
The reason for the never-to-be-crossed line drawn between Muslims and non-Muslims is clearly stated throughout the Quran. According to Muhammad, Muslims are superior to non-Muslims who are portrayed as horrendous, filthy creatures.
“How could God and His Messenger grant them (pagans) peace when if they were to acquire superiority over you, they would respect none of the peace treaties nor their kindred relations with you!”
“Believers, have fear of God as you should and die only as Muslims.”
“You are the best nation that ever existed among humanity.”
“Do you (pagans), because you served water to the pilgrims and constructed the Sacred Mosque, consider yourselves equal to those who have believed in God, the Day of Judgment, and have fought for the cause of God? In the sight of God you (pagans) are not equal to the believers.”
“Believers, the pagans are filthy. Do not let them come near to the Sacred Mosque.”
“Just as the blind and the seeing are not equal, so are the righteously striving believers and the sinners are not equal.”
“The disbelievers among the People of the Book (Christians) and the pagans will dwell forever in hell; they are the worst of all creatures (6).”
Changing the themes and stories of other religions
This poetic passage, beautiful in prose with just a dash of militancy, appears to unite all the major religions under a glorious banner of the same God.
“God has purchased the souls and property of the believers in exchange for Paradise. They fight for the cause of God to destroy His enemies and to sacrifice themselves. This is a true promise which He has revealed in the Torah, the Gospel, and the Quran.”
The message quickly changes however as Muhammad begins hinting that Islam is the “true religion”, one that corrects misconceptions found in Judaism and Christianity.
“We gave the Book to the Israelites, the commandments, and prophethood, granted them pure sustenance, and gave them preference above all people (45:16). We also gave them clear evidence in support of the true religion. Only after having received knowledge did they create differences among themselves because of their rebelliousness.”
“In revealing this Quran to you, We tell you the best of the stories of which you were unaware. (12:3)”
“Thus We tell you, (Muhammad), the stories of the past and We have given you the Quran (20:99).”
“Nothing has been said to you which was not said to the Messengers who lived before you.”
Changing New Testament stories and basic tenets
Giving a nascent reader the impression that Muhammad is attempting to compete against Jesus, he goes to great lengths to emphasize that Jesus was not the son of God, not divine, and like Muhammad, nothing more than a messenger. To Christian readers, the statements attributed to their faith are not only gravely disturbing, but likely blasphemous (and the reason a Christian cannot truly read the Quran without bias).
“Muhammad is only a Messenger. There lived other Messengers before him.”
Initially, the stories regarding Jesus seem harmless.
“Behold,” the angels told Mary, “God has given you the glad news of the coming birth of a son whom He calls His Word, whose name will be Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, who will be a man of honor in this life and the life to come, and who will be one of the ones nearest to God.”
“When Jesus found them denying the truth, he said, “Who will help me in the cause of God?” The disciples replied, “We are the helpers of God. We believe in Him. Jesus, bear witness that we have submitted ourselves to His will.”
Further into the Quran, the stories regarding Jesus begin taking on a subtle, unchristian-like tone. For instance, the following begins innocent enough but blends into a statement where God tells Jesus he will keep him separate from the unbelievers and even make his followers superior to the unbelievers, a direct contradiction of New Testament teachings.
“The unbelievers plotted and God planned, but God is a much better planner; (3:54) He told Jesus, “I will save you from your enemies, raise you to Myself, keep you clean from the association with the disbelievers, and give superiority to your followers over the unbelievers until the Day of Judgment.”
In this statement, Muhammad states that Jesus was not crucified on the cross but rather, an imposter was killed in his place. Note also that when Jesus is mentioned, Muhammad takes care to characterize him as “son of Mary” and “messenger of God” to remove any hint of divinity.
“Those who disbelieve in God and His Messengers try to create differences between God and His Messengers by rejecting their message. They say, “We believe in some but not in others.” Thus, they try to find a middle way. They murdered Jesus, son of Mary, the Messenger of God, when, in fact, they could not have murdered him or crucified him. They, in fact, murdered someone else by mistake.”
Finally, the Koran contains a very subtle suggestion that Jesus himself is doomed to hell.
“We sent (Messengers) to nations who lived before you. Satan made their deeds seem attractive to them and, on the Day of Judgment, Satan will be their guardian. For them there will be a painful punishment. (16:63)”
“Muhammad, tell them, “The only guidance is the guidance of God. God would never give the Book, authority, or prophesy to any person who would tell others to be his servants instead of being the servants of God.”
“A Prophet would never order you to take the angels and the Prophets as your Lords.”
“They have said that the Beneficent God has given birth to a son (19:88). This is certainly a monstrous lie! (19:89).”
“They, (the People of the Book), have said that God has taken for Himself a son. He is too glorious to have a son.”
“Jesus, son of Mary, is only a Messenger of God, His Word, and a spirit from Him whom He conveyed to Mary. So have faith in God and His Messengers. Do not say that there are three gods.”
“There is only One God. He is too glorious to give birth to a son.”
“Those who have said that the Messiah, son of Mary, is God, have, in fact, committed themselves to disbelief.”
“Jesus, the son of Mary, was no more than a Messenger before whom there lived many other Messengers.”
“Some people have said that God has begotten a son. God is too glorious to have a son!”
“The Messengers whom We sent before you were mere mortals to whom We had sent with miracles and revelations.”
“They said, “The Beneficent God has given birth to a son. He is too Exalted to give birth to a son.”
“God has never given birth to a son and there is no other god besides Him.”
“To Him belongs the kingdom of the heavens and the earth. He has not begotten any sons, nor does He have any partner in His kingdom.”
“It is only because of their false invention that they say, (37:151) ‘God has begotten a son.’ They are certainly liars (37:152). Had God wanted to have a son, He would have chosen one from His creatures according to His will. God is too Exalted to have a son.”
“Muhammad), say, “Had the Beneficent God really had a son, I would certainly have been the first one to worship him (43:81).”
To confirm his statement, Muhammad introduces a new story where Jesus himself is questioned by God who accuses him of telling others that he is divine.
“When God asked Jesus, son of Mary “Did you tell men to consider you and your mother as their gods besides God?” he replied, “Glory be to you! How could I say what I have no right to say? Had I ever said it, You would have certainly known about it.”
The following verse seems innocuous enough until you take the entire verse in context and recognize that the person speaking is Jesus – as an infant.
“He has commanded me to be good to my parents and has not made me an arrogant rebellious person (19:32).”
To strengthen his stance, Muhammad tells a story where Jesus himself announces the coming of Muhammad.
“Jesus, son of Mary, said to the Israelites, “I am the Messenger of God sent to you. I confirm the Torah which is in existence and give you the glad news of the coming of a Messenger who will come after me named Ahmad.”
The Quran contains a “true account” of the birth of Jesus, one in which a baby Jesus consoles Mary and announces that he is a “prophet”.
“Muhammad, mention in the Book (the Quran) the story of Mary how she left her family and started living in a solitary place to the East (19:16) out of her people’s sight. Then she heard the baby saying, “Do not be sad. Your Lord has caused a stream to run at your feet (19:24). He said, “I am the servant of God. He has given me the Book and has appointed me to be a Prophet (19:30). Such was the true story of Jesus, the son of Mary, about which they dispute bitterly (19:34).”
The beginnings of a divide between Muslim and Christian faiths can be gleaned from the following statements accusing Christians of a devious plan to convert Muslims to Christianity.
“Some of the People of the Book (Christians) say, “Believe in what is revealed to the Muslims during the day only and abandon it in the evening. This will perhaps make them give up their religion”
“The followers of Jesus turned themselves into quarrelling sects.”
Changing Old Testament stories and basic tenets
Muhammad also alters Old Testament stories, in some cases boldly, in other cases introducing subtle differences. For instance, Muhammad hints that Islam existed in the Old Testament but with a slightly different theological context.
“God named you Muslims before and in this Book.”
“Abraham was not a Jew or a Christian. He was an upright person (Muslim).”
The Quran’s version of Cain and Abel contains a few new twists.
“God sent down a raven which started to dig up the earth to show the killer how to bury the corpse of his brother. On seeing the raven, (Cain) said, “Woe to me! Am I less able than a raven to bury the corpse of my brother?”
The Quran’s version of Noah and the Ark remains thematically similar to the Old Testament version but changes a few innocuous facts.
“Noah said, “Lord, do not leave a single disbeliever on earth; (26) if You do, they will mislead Your servants and will only give birth to ungrateful sinners (27).”
“Then the earth was told to swallow-up its water and the sky was ordered to stop raining. The water abated and God’s command had been fulfilled. The Ark came to rest on Mount Judi. Noah prayed to his Lord saying, “Lord, my son is a member of my family. Your promise is always true and you are the best Judge” (11:45). His Lord replied, “He is not one of your family. He is a man of unrighteous deeds. Do not ask me about that which you have no knowledge. I advise you not to become an ignorant person.” (11:46). Noah said, “Lord, I ask You to prevent me from asking You ignorant questions and beg you for pardon and mercy or else I shall certainly be lost” (11:47). Noah was told, “Get down from the Ark. Your Lord will grant favors to other nations and then afflict them with a painful torment. (11:48)”
The Koran retells the stories of Joseph, David, and Solomon.
“When they took Joseph with them, they agreed to throw him into the well. We revealed to Joseph that (sometime) in the future at a time when they would not recognize him, he would remind them of all this. (12:15)”
“We made Solomon understand the law about the case and gave both David and Solomon knowledge and wisdom. We taught him the art of making coats of mail so that you could protect yourselves during a war.”
Condemnation of other religions
The divisiveness in the Koran also extends specifically to Jews and Christians.
“Believers, do not consider the Jews and Christians as your intimate friends for they are only friends with each other. Whoever does so will be considered as one of them.”
Condemnation of Jews
“Some Jews take certain words out of context and by twisting their tongues to make a jest out of the true religion. God has condemned them for their disbelief, thus, no one, except a few among them, will have faith.”
“The Jews. The rebellion and disbelief of many of them will be intensified against you because of what has been revealed to you from your Lord.”
“You find Jews and pagans among the worst of the enemies of the believers.”
“For their disregard of their solemn covenant with God, We condemned the Israelites”
Condemnation of Christians
“Fight against those People of the Book (Christians) who have no faith in God or the Day of Judgment, who do not consider unlawful what God and His Messenger have made unlawful, and who do not believe in the true religion.”
“Some of the Jews have said that Ezra is the son of God and Christians have said the same of Jesus. This is only what they say and it is similar to what the unbelievers who lived before them had said. May God destroy them wherever they exist! (9:30).”
“He has sent the Book to His servant and has made it a flawless guide for human beings (18:1) so that he could warn them of His stern retribution, give the glad news of the best and everlasting reward to the righteously striving believers, (18:2) wherein they shall remain forever, (18:3) and admonish those who say that God has begotten a son (18:4). Whatever they say about this matter is vicious blasphemy and plain lies. (18:5)”
“We had made a solemn covenant with those who call themselves Christians, but they forgot their share of the guidance that was sent to them. We have induced hatred and animosity among them which will remain with them until the Day of Judgment”
Stereotypical and cliché, we all have clear-cut perceptions of the various religious groups. We see eastern religions (e.g. Hindu, Buddhism) as calm and peaceful, Christians as bible-thumping zealots, Jews as structured and strict, and Muslims as angry, unforgiving militants. But are these caricatures based on true representations of the religions followers? In some cases, yes, but in most cases the cultural representation of the followers is based upon their mutually accepted interpretation of their chosen religious doctrine. In short, Islam is not inherently an evil religion, but one that is misinterpreted by many – and that’s something Muslims have the potential to change.