Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Revisiting the Problem of Islamic Monotheism; Part I

Sam Shamoun

We resume our refutation of Zaatari’s “defense” of Bassam Zawadi’s unitarianism.

Whom do Muslims really fear?

Here is Zaatari trying to explain away the Qur’anic command to Muslims that they should fear Allah and the wombs:

Did it never occur to Shamoun that there could be two different categories of fear? Did it never occur to Shamoun that that fear we hold for Allah is unique and different to the fear we hold for other things?”

It would have helped Zaatari to have actually read my article which discusses this text in some depth, since he would have saved himself the embarrassment of being exposed for attacking a straw man by distorting my position.

The point isn’t simply that the Qur’an says to fear the wombs, but that it does so by conjoining it with fearing Allah through the use of the Arabic conjunction wa (“and”), which as we saw in part 1 is the conjunction of partnership and equality according to Muslim expositors and scholars!

Another supposed scholar who held this position was the late Muhammad ibn Abdul-Wahhab himself, the man who was mainly responsible for the resurgence and revival of the modern Salafi cult (considered a deviant sect by many Muslim scholars because of its blatant distortions of early Islamic teachings). He exhorted his followers in his book on monotheism to avoid using wa when referring to Allah together with someone or something else. He stated that a Muslim should rather use the conjunction thumma (“then”) or some other formulation which avoids associating Allah with anything:

A Jewish man came to the Prophet and said: "Verily, you (Muslims) commit Shirk, for you say: ‘As Allah wills AND as you will;’ and you say: ‘By the Ka’bah!’" And so the Prophet ordered whoever wanted to swear, to say: "By the Lord of the Ka’bah" and to say: "As Allah wills, THEN as you will." (An-Nasaa’ee, it was declared saheeh by Albanee in as Saheehah # 137 and declared saheeh by Adh-Dhahabee in his checking of Al Mustadrak and declared saheeh by Ibn Hajar in Al Isaabah 4/389)

A man came to the Prophet and he said: "As Allah AND you will," at which the Prophet said: "Would you set me up as a partner besides Allah? As Allah Alone Wills" (An-Nasaa’ee, declared authentic (hasan) by Albanee in as Saheehah # 139)

On the authority of At-Tufail the half brother of Aishah it is reported that he said: "I saw in a dream that I came upon a number of Jews and I said to them: ‘You are indeed a good people were it not that you claim ‘Uzair is the son of Allah.’ They replied: ‘You too are good, were it not that you say: As Allah wills AND as Muhammad wills.’ Then, I came upon a number of Christians and I said to them: ‘You are indeed a good people were it not that you claim the Messiah (Jesus) is the son of Allah.’ They replied: ‘You are also good, were it not that you say: As Allah wills AND as Muhammad wills.’ When I awoke I told someone about this then I went to the Prophet and repeated it to him. He asked me: ‘Have you told anyone about this?’ I said: ‘Yes.’ Then he went to the pulpit and, after praising Allah, he said: ‘At-Tufail had a dream which he has already communicated to some of you. You used to say something which I was prevented from forbidding to you until now. Henceforth do not say: As Allah wills AND as Muhammad wills, but say: What Allah Alone Wills.’" (Ibn Maajah, Albanee mentioned it in as Saheehah # 138, Al Haythamee said in Majma Az-Zawaaid: the men in its chain are reliable according to the conditions of Imam Muslim) (Takhreej of Kitaab at Tawheed, posted by SalafiManhaj.com, 2004, Chapter 43: Saying: "As Allah Wills and You Will", pp. 21-22; See also Kitab At-Tawheed, by Sheikh ul-Islam Muhammad ibn Abdul-Wahhab, translated by the Compilation and Research Department Dar-us-Salam [Dar-us-Salam Publications Riyadh-Saudi Arabia, 1996], Chapter No: 44. How it is to say “What Allah may will and you may will”)

This proves that the Qur’an is commanding Muslims to fear the relationships established by the wombs in the same way that they fear Allah. The Islamic scripture is therefore exhorting the so-called believers to commit shirk, or of associating partners with Allah in his exclusive worship!

The idolatrous veneration of the black stone

Zaatari splits hairs over the fact that I stated that some of Muhammad’s companions were confused and baffled over his kissing a stone that could neither hurt nor harm anyone when it was only the companion Umar who seemed to be bewildered at what his false prophet did. He further denies that Umar was confused or baffled.

Here, once again, is a narration which helps bring out Muhammad’s idolatrous veneration of this pagan idol and the confusion this caused for the Muslims:

It is Sunnah to perform certain acts in tawaf as given below:

Facing the Black Stone at the start of the tawaf while uttering a takbir (Allahu-Akbar), and a tahlil (La ilaha illahlah), and raising one's hands as they are raised in prayers, and if possible touching it with both hands and kissing it quietly, or placing one's cheek on it. Otherwise, one may touch it with one's hand and kiss the hand, or touch it with something, and then kiss it, or if even that is not possible, one may just point to it with a stick, etc. as is mentioned in some of the ahadith given below.

Ibn 'Umar said: "Allah's Messenger faced the Black Stone, touched it, and then placed his lips on I  and wept for a long time." 'Umar also wept for a long time. The Prophet said: 'O 'Umar, this is the place where one should shed tears.''' (Reported by Al-Hakim, who considers it a sound hadith with a sound chain of authorities)

It is reported by Ibn 'Abbas that 'Umar bent down towards the Black Stone and said: "By Allah! I know that you are A MERE STONE, and if I had not seen my beloved Prophet kissing you and touching you I would have never done so." The Qur'an says: "You have indeed in the Messenger of Allah a beautiful pattern (of conduct)."' (Qur'an 33.32) This was reported by Ahmad and others in slightly different words.

Nafi' said, "I have seen Ibn 'Umar touching the Black Stone with his hand, nd then kissing his hand and saying: 'Ever since I saw the Prophet doing this, I have never failed to do that.''' (Reported by Bukhari and Muslim)

Sowayd bin Ghaflah said: "I have seen 'Umar kissing the Black Stone and touching it." He further said: "I know that the Prophet was especially very particular about it.'' (Muslim)

Ibn 'Umar reported that Allah's Messenger used to come to Ka'bah, touch the Black Stone and then say: Bismillahi wallahu akbar (In the name of Allah, Allah is the Greatest.)" (Ahmad)

Muslim has reported on the authority of Abu Tufail that he said: "I have seen the Prophet making tawaf around the Ka'bah and touching it with a stick and then kissing the stick."

Bukhari, Muslim and Abu Daw'ud reported that 'Umar approached the Black Stone and kissed it. Then he said: "I know that you are A MERE STONE that can neither harm nor do any good. If I had not seen the Prophet kissing you, I would have never kissed you."

Al-Khatabi said: "This shows that abiding by the Sunnah of the Prophet is binding, regardless of whether or not we understand its reason or the wisdom behind it."

Such information devolves obligation on all those whom it reaches, even if they may not fully comprehend its significance. It is known, however, that kissing the Black Stone signifies respect for it, recognition of our obligation toward it, and using it as a means of seeking Allah's blessings. Indeed Allah has preferred some stones over others, as He preferred some countries and cities, days and nights, and months over others. The underlying spirit of all this is unquestioning submission to Allah.

In some ahadith which say that "the Black Stone is Allah's right hand on earth," we do find, however, a plausible rationale and justification for this statement. In other words whosoever touches the Black Stone he pledges allegiance to Allah, as it were, by giving his hand into the hand of Allah, just as some followers do pledge their fealty to their kings and masters, by kissing and shaking hands with them.

Al-Muhallib said: "The hadith of 'Umar refutes the assertions of those who say that 'The Black Stone is Allah's right hand on earth wherewith He shakes the hands of His slaves."' God forbid that we should ascribe any physical organs to Allah [sic]. The commandment to kiss the Black Stone is meant to test and to demonstrate palpably as to who obeys and submits. It may be compared with the command to Iblis to bow to Adam.

We have no definite evidence, however, to believe that any of the stones used in building the Ka'bah originally (by Ibrahim and Isma'il), is still in existence today excepting the Black Stone.
(Fiqh-Us-Sunnah, Volume 5, Number 74b – ALIM CD-ROM Version)

Let us summarize the main points of this narration:

Muhammad would touch and kiss the black stone, as well as place his cheek on it, and took its station as the place to weep.
- Muhammad would touch the stone with his hand and then kiss the hand. He would do the same thing to his stick whenever he touched the stone with it.
- According to certain narrations the black stone is Allah’s right hand on earth so touch it is to shake Allah’s right hand!
- Venerating the black stone is a means of receiving blessing from Allah.
- The Muslims imitated and continue to implement this practice of their prophet even though they didn’t/don’t understand the wisdom behind it.

The readers will see the significance of all this in a moment.

Zaatari says that the pagans worshiped their idols directly since they felt that this would insure that their so-called gods would intercede for them. He denies that this is what Muhammad did even though he kissed and caressed the black stone idol, and even wept in its presence!

What Zaatari failed to take into consideration is that kissing and caressing stone objects were an integral part of the worship which the Meccan pagans rendered to their idols! Zaatari also conveniently forgets to mention that the black stone was actually one of the idols which the pagans venerated and worshiped!

In fact, according to the Islamic sources an event took place roughly five years before Muhammad claimed to be a prophet where the Meccans decided to rebuild the Kabah. These sources say that the pagans almost came to blows over who would place the black stone in its spot. In order to resolve the matter they allowed Muhammad to decide who would put it back in its place:

When Muhammad reached thirty-five years, he settled by his judgment a grave dispute which threatened to plunge the whole of Arabia into a fresh series of her oft-recurring wars. In rebuilding the Sacred House of the Ka'ba in A.D. 605, the question arose as to who should have the honor of raising the black stone, he most holy relic of that House, into its proper place. Each tribe claimed that honor. The senior citizen advised the disputants to accept for their arbitrator the first man to enter from a certain gate. The proposal was agreed upon, and the first man who entered the gate was Muhammad "Al-Ameen." His advice satisfied all the contending parties. He ordered the stone to be placed on a piece of cloth and each tribe to share the honor of lifting it up by taking hold of a part of the cloth. The stone was thus deposited in its place, and the rebuilding of the House was completed without further interruption. (Stories of the Prophets– ALIM CD-ROM Version)

 “… When they came to him and they informed him about the matter he said, ‘Give me a cloak,’ and when it was brought to him he took the black stone and put it inside it and said that each tribe should take hold of an end of the cloak and they should lift it together. They did this so that when they got it into position he placed it with his own hand, and then building went on above it.” (The Life of Muhammad: A Translation of Ibn Ishaq’s Sirat Rasul Allah, with introduction and notes by Alfred Guillaume [Oxford University Press, Karachi, Tenth impression 1995], p. 86)

This story demonstrates just how important the black stone was to the pagans before Muhammad’s time. It is inconceivable to think that an object that held such importance would not have been worshiped by the idolators in light of their fascination with and worship of stones.

Christian Apologist John Gilchrist is worth quoting at length since he helps to bring out the significance the black stone had for the pagan Arabs:

As the Arab idols were generally made of stone - some fashioned into various forms, others unshapen - is it not probable that the Black Stone itself was an idol worshipped by the pagan Arabs? As the custom of kissing it has been retained in Islam the suggestion naturally appalls Muslims.

The Black Stone was never regarded as an idol by the pre-Islamic Arabs, nor was it ever worshipped by them like the idols of the Ka'bah…It, no doubt, contained idols, yet it was the idols that were worshipped, not the Ka'bah; and the same is true of the Black Stone. It was kissed but never taken for a god, though the Arabs worshipped even unhewn stones, trees and heaps of sand. (Ali, The Religion of Islam, p.440, 441).

Why, then, did the pagan Arabs make a special point of kissing it as Ali himself admits? What significance did it have for them if it was not an idol? It is, perhaps, too remarkable to believe that it was not worshipped as an idol. After all, stone gods were the very thing the Arabs reverenced, whether shapen into some form or not. Another Muslim writer says:

Is it not unfortunate that so many Orientalists have misinterpreted the Muslim's veneration of the Ka'bah, the Black Stone and the pilgrimage rites as a whole, imagining them as some kind of idol worship, or dismissing the rites as silly, ridiculous or merely the relics of idolatrous superstition? Another faulty assumption is that the rites of pilgrimage were remnants of a pre-Islamic cult included by the Prophet in an attempt to reconcile the idolatrous Meccans with the faith. (Khalifa, The Sublime Qur'an and Orientalism, p. 140).

One understands the Muslim determination to absolve Islam of a relic of idol-worship in its pilgrimage rites but it does seem most improbable that this stone, one of the sacred stones built into the Ka'aba by the pre-Islamic Arabs, just somehow happened to be exempted from the adoration and worship afforded to the others. This seems even more improbable when we remember that it was over this stone that they argued even before Muhammad's mission when rebuilding the Ka'aba, finally requesting Muhammad himself to replace it. This clearly shows that they regarded it more highly than all the other idols in the shrine and it is most unlikely that it escaped the worship paid to them. It seems far more probable that it was a "fetish pure and simple" (Gairdner, The Reproach of Islam, p.156) and that it was, if anything, the chief idol in the shrine, a stone worshipped like all the others. At least one Muslim writer has admitted as much:

In fact, the Arabs venerated these stones so much that not only did they worship the black stone in the Ka'bah, but they would take one of the stones of the Ka'bah as a holy object in their travels, praying to it and asking it to bless every move they made. (Haykal, The Life of Muhammad, p. 30)

As the Arabs worshipped all the stone idols of the Ka'aba it seems historically more probable that this worship has a legacy in the reverence paid today to the Black Stone rather than the Arab worship of stones arose out of the sanctity of the Black Stone which somehow escaped this worship and adoration.

The most singular feature in this worship was the adoration paid to unshapen stones. Mussulmans hold that this practice arose out of the Kaaba rites…The tendency to stone-worship was undoubtedly prevalent throughout Arabia; but it is more probable that it gave rise to the superstition of the Kaaba with its Black stone, than took its rise therefrom. (Muir, The Life of Mahomet, p. xci)

Another writer is probably close to the mark when he says that the Black Stone was "the great fetish, the principal though not the only divinity of the Quraish clan" (Lammens, Islam: Beliefs and Institutions, p. 17). In any event, there appears to be no point in kissing the stone and Muslims will be hard-pressed to find a really sound reason for the perpetuation of a practice more suited to primitive pagan idolatry than the true spirit of monotheistic worship.

The kiss which the pious Muhammadan pilgrim bestows on it is a survival of the old practice, which was a form of worship in Arabia as in many other lands. (Tisdall, he Original Sources of the Qur'an, p. 43). (Gilchrist, Muhammad and the Religion of Islam, 3. ISLAM: THE RELIGION AND ITS MOVEMENTS, 7. THE PRINCIPAL DUTIES OF ISLAM, D. THE HAJJ PILGRIMAGE TO MECCA, 2. Al-Hajarul-Aswad - The Black Stone)

With the foregoing in perspective let us compare Muhammad’s veneration of the black stone with the practice of the idolators:

Like Muhammad, the pagans would touch and kiss their idols.
Like Muhammad, the pagans thought that their veneration and worship of these stones brought them closer to Allah and was a means of receiving his blessings.
And just like Umar, Muhammad didn’t see the sense behind the Meccans worshiping stones and idols that could neither harm nor benefit anyone.

If ye call them to guidance, they will not obey: For you it is the same whether ye call them or ye hold your peace! Verily those whom ye call upon besides God are servants like unto you: Call upon them, and let them listen to your prayer, if ye are (indeed) truthful! Have they feet to walk with? Or hands to lay hold with? Or eyes to see with? Or ears to hear with? Say: "Call your 'god-partners', scheme (your worst) against me, and give me no respite! For my Protector is God, Who revealed the Book (from time to time), and He will choose and befriend the righteous. But those ye call upon besides Him, are unable to help you, and indeed to help themselves." S. 7:193-197 Y. Ali

Can anyone see any real difference between Muhammad’s veneration of this pagan stone object and the manner in which the Meccans worshiped their idols?

The pagan origins of the black stone

Zaatari cannot appeal to the alleged Abrahamic origins of the pagan rites associated with the Kabah in order to justify Muhammad’s blatant idolatry since there is absolutely no pre-Islamic evidence that Abraham ever traveled there or that Ishmael himself settled in that area. All the extant evidence we have indicates that the Kabah was a pagan shrine erected by pagans for the worship of a pagan god:

Maximus Tyrius, who wrote in the second century, says, "The Arabians pay homage to I know not what god, which they represent by a quadrangular stone," alluding to the Ka'bah or temple which contains the black stone. The Guebars or ancient Persians assert that the Black Stone was amongst the images and relics left by Mahabad and his successors in the Ka'bah, and that it was an emblem of Saturn. It is probably an aerolite, and owes its reputation, like many others, to its fall from the sky. Its existence as an object of adoration in an iconoclastic religious system, can only be accounted for by Muhammad's attempt to conciliate the idolaters of Arabia. (Thomas P. Hughes, A Dictionary of Islam, p. 155; )


Thirdly, secular history in no way supports the Qur'an's claim that the Ka'aba was ever a place of monotheistic, non-idolatrous worship. The first mention of the Ka'aba is found in the writings of Diodorus Siculus who, about 60 BC, described it as a "temple greatly revered by the Arabs". Accordingly the Ka'aba dates back at least to before the time of Christ. But this fact only helps to support the final conclusion we shall draw in this chapter. It certainly does not in any way suggest that the Ka'aba existed before the Jewish Temple. On the contrary, before the time of Muhammad, the Ka'aba was only known as the principal shrine of pagan idolatry of the Arab world in and around Mecca.

We do have clear evidence, however, that the Ka'aba is not of monotheistic origin. We refer to the black stone built into its east corner known as al-hajarul-aswad. Before Muhammad's time the Arabs worshiped stones and the black stone was one of these objects of worship. Not only was the kissing of this stone incorporated into Islam, but the whole form of the Hajj Pilgrimage today is fundamentally that of the Arabs before Islam. Muhammad only changed the meaning of the formalities - he made no attempt to change the forms and rites of the pilgrimage themselves.

Some have suggested that stone-worship among the Arabs arose out of veneration of the black stone, but this is highly improbable. Any form of veneration of a dead stone - especially to the extent of bowing down and kissing the stone - can only be identified with pagan idolatry rather than pure monotheistic worship. Even Umar was reluctant to imitate the pagan Arabs by kissing the stone and only did so because he saw Muhammad do it. But in our view Muhammad likewise was only perpetuating one of the forms of Meccan idolatry and we cannot possibly see how veneration of a form of idol-worship can be reconciled with the worship of the one true God.

Secular history knows of only one form of pre-Islamic veneration of the Ka'aba and that is the idolatry of the pagan Arabs. There is no corroborative evidence whatsoever for the Qur'an's claim that the Ka'aba was initially a house of monotheistic worship. Instead there certainly is evidence as far back as history can trace the origins and worship of the Ka'aba that it was thoroughly pagan and idolatrous in content and emphasis. Certainly in the six hundred-odd years between the destruction of the Temple and the final conquest of Mecca the Ka'aba was purely a shrine of thriving pagan idolatry. Therefore the Ka'aba cannot have become the form and place of true worship in God's providence when the Temple of the Jews was destroyed. (John Gilchrist, The Temple, The Ka'aba, and The Christ)

The veneration of the black stone in light of Biblical monotheism

Besides, even if Abraham built the Kabah we know from the Holy Bible that he would have never permitted the veneration of a stone since the true God expressly forbids such practices. According to the Holy Bible God prohibited his people from fashioning images which are then taken as objects of worship:

You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me,” Exodus 20:4-5

Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and all whose mouths have not kissed him.” 1 Kings 19:18

Pay attention to the fact that bowing to and kissing an idol is considered an act of worship. The next reference shows what happens when an object commissioned by a prophet of God is venerated through religious gestures such as kissing, bowing or by burning incense to it:
“In the third year of Hoshea son of Elah king of Israel, Hezekiah son of Ahaz king of Judah began to reign. He was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem twenty-nine years. His mother's name was Abijah daughter of Zechariah. He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, just as his father David had done. He removed the high places, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles. He broke into pieces the bronze snake Moses had made, for up to that time the Israelites had been burning incense to it. (It was called Nehushtan).” 2 Kings 18:1-4

The bronze serpent that the righteous king Hezekiah destroyed was one that God commanded Moses to fashion:
“From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; and the people became impatient on the way. And the people spoke against God and against Moses, ‘Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.’ Then the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. And the people came to Moses, and said, ‘We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD and against you; pray to the LORD, that he take away the serpents from us.’ So Moses prayed for the people. And the LORD said to Moses, ‘Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and every one who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.’ So Moses made a bronze serpent, and set it on a pole; and if a serpent bit any man, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.” Numbers 21:4-9

An image that God commanded Moses to make was subsequently destroyed once the people started venerating it! If this is what Yahweh did to an image fashioned by one of his greatest prophets what makes Zaatari think that the God of Abraham would change his mind and command Muhammad and his followers to start kissing a stone that can neither harm nor benefit anyone?

Moreover, Zaatari often appeals to the Holy Bible to prove that Muhammad was a true prophet on the grounds that he preached the same message of monotheism that God’s true prophets taught. He must therefore accept the fact that these Biblical passages conclusively prove beyond any reasonable doubt that his false prophet was an idolator who didn’t completely eradicate the pagan practices of the Arabs. According to the inspired Scriptures Muhammad’s sunna is the cause for countless numbers of individuals sinning against the true God of Abraham by committing blatant acts of idolatry.

Zaatari has tried to defend the inconsistent use of the Holy Bible by Muslims in a series of “replies” to my six propositions that prove that Muhammad was a false prophet. We have already begun replying to his “rebuttals” which, if the Lord Jesus wills, shall appear soon. Suffice it to say his “defense” simply further exposes the utter circularity and fallacious reasoning of Islamic polemics, as well as providing another example of the inconsistent and dishonest use of sources which has become the hallmark of Muslim polemics.

More blatant idolatry from the "prophet of monotheism"

In a recent article Zaatari writes that according to the doctrine of tauhid al-uluhiyya a Muslim must take his/her oaths only in the name of Allah:

Now it must be made clear that when we say that all worship belongs to Allah we do not simply mean your salat prayer, rather we mean all acts of obedience in the religion belong to him, worship is not restricted to your salat prayer alone, but worship extends to fear, hope, trust, love, scarifying, and oath making...

Also when you make an oath, which is when you swear, you only swear by Allah, for instance you say I swear by Allah that my repentance is sincere and truthful, you do not say I swear by Muhammad (AS), or by any other person etc. (Tawheed, the core of Islam)

However, Muhammad himself failed to practice this and didn't follow his own rules. Muhammad had told his followers that swearing in the name of someone's father was shirk, or the sin of associating partners with Allah:

Narrated 'Umar: The Prophet said, “If anybody has to take an oath, he should swear ONLY by Allah.” The people of Quraish used to swear by their fathers, but the Prophet said, “Do not swear by your fathers.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 5, Book 58, Number 177)

And: Narrated Ibn 'Umar: Allah's Apostle met 'Umar bin Al-Khattab while the latter was going with a group of camel-riders, and he was swearing by his father. The Prophet said, “Lo! Allah forbids you to swear by your fathers, so whoever has to take an oath, he should swear by Allah or keep quiet.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 8, Book 78, Number 641)

And yet the prophet of the black stone went ahead and swore in the name of a person's father, thereby committing SHIRK!

Continues on Part II

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