Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Searching for the True Religion? Part II

From Part I

The scriptures of a religion should be authentic and traceable to its origin. Also, all the records should not be adulterated or tainted with any Human ideas or perception. The original writer, or writers of the scriptures should be known, and there should be sufficient evidence for the trustworthiness of the writers. The subject of authenticity should be very clear and definite without any confusion about who actually wrote the scriptures.

… No serious scholar ever questions the authenticity of the Qur’an.

Problems and Questions
Concerning the Gospels ing eneral and Matthew in particular, the author wrote in the chapter on the Gospels:

Many scholars regard Matthew as a writer with wild imagination. He includes stories in his Gospel that are unbelievable. An example, of his outrageous imagination, is the description of the events relating to the crucifixion of Jesus. The whole country became dark for three hours, the temple was torn into two pieces, the tears started at the top and tore all the way to the bottom, an earthquake happened, and many dead people were resurrected and went to Jerusalem, and were seen by many (27:51-53). Thisis a big story. It should have been reported in the other Gospels. Did these stories convert a large number of people to Christianity? These stories have no correspondence in the other three Gospels.

The most debatable story inthe Gospel of Matthew concerns Jonas’ sign (12:38:40). When the Pharisees ask Jesus for a proof, Jesus replies that the son of man will give the miracle that happened to Jonas. Luke has the same story, but Mark is in contradiction with Matthew and Luke withregards to the sign of Jonas
.” (Source)

Let us look at some of the statements that are totally lacking in evidence. Who are the “many scholars”? No reference is given. What is unbelievable about the stories? For many atheists and agnostics the resurrection is unbelievable. There is a reference outside the Bible relating to the darkness. A Christian historian in the 3rdcentury wrote a world history up to the time of 220 AD in five volumes. In it this comment is made: “In the third book of his history, Thallus calls this darkness an eclipse of the sun--wrongly in my opinion. (5.50)” (Go here.)

Muslims seem to ignore anything contrary to their belief system.

What is the big story ofthe gospel of Matthew? It is the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.

That is the big story of all the gospels. The author indicates that the Temple was torn in two. What was torn was not the building but the curtain. The events of the curtain tearing, the resurrection of other people is a side story to the Big One. They have no meaning apart from the big story of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection.

Moreover, Matthew records:

When the centurion and those guarding Jesus withhim saw the earthquake and the other things that were taking place, they were terrified and said, "This man certainly was the Son of God!" (27:54)

What are the other things? Did they see the resurrected people? We are told that the authorities provided hush money for their silence about the resurrection. (Matthew 28:11-15) Muslims today do not want to quote sources that affirm belief in the crucifixion and resurrection. Neither did the authorities back then.

Is it necessary that all the Gospels tell the same story? If they all told the same story the criticism would be that they are all copies of the first one. Their credibility would be charged on the basis of copying. The independent stories found in the different gospels warrant the conclusion that they were not in collusion with one another.

The author regards the story about the sign of Jonas as being the most debatable story in the Gospel of Matthew. However, he does not tell us why it is debatable. The passage reads:

But Jesus replied: You want a sign because you are evil and won't believe! But the only sign you will get is the sign of the prophet Jonah. He was in the stomach of a big fish for three days and nights, just as the Son of Man will be deep in the earth for three days and nights. (Matthew 12:39-40)

The fact that Jesus was referring to his crucifixion, death, and resurrection seems so obvious. However, to a Muslim who rejects the crucifixion that may be a problem.

The author concludes concerning the story of Jonah that “Mark is in contradiction with Matthew and Luke with regards to the sign of Jonas.” This is not explained. How is it a contradiction?

No information is given. Moreover, the word “Jonah” does not appear in Mark at all, so how can there be a contradiction?

It is impossible to read the texts concerning the Gospels without raising so many questions it would require writing a book to deal with all the inferences and bad conclusions.

On the other hand, one should raise questions about “no serious scholar ever questions the authenticity of the Qur’an.” What should be said is that “nos erious MUSLIM scholar ever questions the authenticity of the Qur’an.”Why is that? Who wants to be killed? That is why!! If the Qur’an were examined by critics –and it is increasingly happening – the Qur’an will be torn to shreds.

Is the story of the Qur’an according to Muslims correct? Look at the facts.

The Qur’an developed over a period of 23 years, it was not given at once. As Mohammed gave it to his companions they memorized,or wrote some of it down. The following excerpts from John Gilchrist indicate the problems surrounding the creation of the Qur’an.

There is certainly no evidence to suggest that anyone had actually compiled the whole text of the Qur'an into a single manuscript, whether directly under Muhammad's express authority or otherwise, and from the information we have about the collection of the Qur'an after his death (which we shall shortly consider), we must rather conclude that the Qur'an had never been codified or reduced to writing in a single text.

Thus it is not surprising to find that the book was widely scattered in the memories of men and on various different materials in writing at the time of Muhammad's decease. Furthermore we shall see that the Qur'an itself makes allowance for the abrogation of its texts by Allah and, during Muhammad's lifetime, the possibility of further abrogations (in addition to a number of verses which had already been withdrawn) would likewise preclude the contemplation of a single text.

The widely accepted traditional account of the initial compilation of the Qur'an ascribes the work to Zaid ibn Thabit, one of the four companions of Muhammads aid to have known the text in its entirety. As we shall see, there is abundant evidence that other companions also began to transcribe their own codices of the Qur'anin dependently of Zaid shortly after Muhammad's death, but the most significant undertaking was that of Zaid as it was done under the authority of Abu Bakr, the first Caliph of Islam, and it is to this compilation that the Hadith literature gives the most attention. It also became the standard text of the Qur'an during the caliphate of Uthman.

Upon Muhammad's death anumber of tribes in the outer parts of the Arabian peninsula reneged from the faith they had recently adopted, whereupon Abu Bakr sent a large number of the early Muslims to subdue the revolt forcibly. This resulted in the Battle of Yamama and a number of Muhammad's close companions, who had received the Qur'an directly from him, were killed. What followed is described in this well-known hadith:

Narrated Zaid bin Thabit: Abu Bakr as-Siddiqsent for me when the people of Yamama had been killed. Then Abu Bakr said (tome): "You are a wise young man and we do not have any suspicion about you, and you used to write the Divine Inspiration for Allah's Apostle (saw). So you should search for (the fragmentary scripts of) the Qur'an and collect it (in one book)". By Allah! If they had ordered me to shift one of the mountains, it would not have been heavier for me than this ordering me to collect the Qur'an. Then I said to Abu Bakr, "How will you do something which Allah's Apostle (saw) did not do?" Abu Bakr replied "By Allah, it is a good project". (Sahih al-Bukhari, Vol. 6, p.477)

So I started looking for the Qur'an and collecting it from (what was written on) palm-leaf stalks, thin white stones, and also from the men who knew it by heart, till I found the last verse of Suratat-Tauba (repentance) with Abi Khuzaima al-Ansari, and I did not find it with anybody other than him. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Vol. 6, p.478)

It is the very character of these sources that we should at this stage assess and reconsider. Zaid relied on the memories of men andv arious written materials. No matter how much those early companions sought t omemorise the text perfectly, human memory is a fallible source, and, to the extent that a book the length of the Qur'an had been committed to memory, we should expect to find a number of variant readings in the text. As we shall shortly see, this anticipation proves to be well-founded.

Many (of the passages) of the Qur'an that were sent down were known by those who died on the day of Yamama ... but they were not known (by those who) survived them, nor were they written down, nor had Abu Bakr, Umar or Uthman (by that time) collected the Qur'an, nor were they found with even one (person) after them. (Ibn Abi Dawud, Kitab al-Masahif, p.23)

The possibility that part of the text may have been lost is strengthened by evidences inthe Hadith literature which show that even Muhammad himself occasionally forgot portions of the Qur'an. One of these traditions reads as follows andis taken from one of the earliest works of Hadith:

Aishah said: A man got up (for prayer) at night,he read the Qur'an and raised his voice in reading. When morning came, the Apostle of Allah (saw) said: May Allah have mercy on so-and-so! Last night he reminded me a number of verses I was about to forget. (Sunan Abu Dawud, Vol. 3, p.1114)

At the time of its codification Zaid knew that his text could not be regarded as an absolutely perfect record as some passages were acknowledged as having been lost and the redactor himself overlooked at least two verses until he was reminded of them by Abu Khuzaima. If Zaid and Abu Bakr were persuaded that his text was unquestionably authentic to the last word and letter, it would almost certainly have been given immediate public prominence.

On the other hand, if Zaid knew that it was only relatively authentic and no more accurate than the many other codices simultaneously being compiled by Abdullah ibn Mas'ud and others, we can understand why it quickly disappeared into relative obscurity. By the time Uthman became caliph, although the other codices were gaining prominence in the various provinces, this codex had in fact receded into the private custody of one of the widows of the Prophet of Islam who simply kept it indefinitely in her personal care. It may have been compiled under official supervision, but it was never regarded as the actual official and solely authentic text of the Qur'an. It had become just one of many codices of equal authority that had been put together at roughly the same time.

(We are not dealing here with a compilation ordered and supervised by the Prophet of Islam with a divine guarantee of its absolutely perfect preservation but rather with an honest attempt by a young man, ultimately at his own discretion as to what should be included or excluded, and that only under the eye of a subsequent leader, to produce as accurate a text as he possibly could).

Once again it must be borne in mind that, once compiled, Abu Bakr did not impose it upon the Muslim communityas Uthman later did, so it cannot be regarded as having become the official codex of the Qur'an before Uthman's time as Desai and others wish to believe.

Uthman's action was drastic, to say the least. Not one of the other codices was exempted from the order that they be destroyed. It can only be assumed that the differencesin reading between the various texts was so vast that the Caliph saw no alternative to an order for the standardising of one of the texts and the annihilation of the rest. The fact that none of the other texts was spared shows thatnone of the codices, Zaid's included, agreed with any of the others in its entirety. There must have been serious textual variants between the texts to warrant such action.

It was not the authorised text of Muhammad himself but simply one form of it among many then in existence and uncorroborated in every single point by the others in circulation. It was compiled under the discretion of only one man and came to official prominence purely because Uthman chose it as the appropriate one to represent the single codex he wanted to establish for the whole Muslim community.

One of the most well-known passages said in hadith records to be missing from the Qur'an relates to the so-called "stoning verses" where in Muhammadis said to have been commanded to stone to death married people who commitad ultery.The records all state that the second Caliph of Islam, Umar, once brought the existence of these missing verses to the attention of the Muslim public during one of his sermons from the minbar (the pulpit) of the mosque in Medina. Umar is reported as narrating the matter as follows:

Allah sent Muhammad (saw) with the Truth andrevealed the Holy Book to him, and among what Allah revealed, was the Verse of the Rajam(the stoning of married persons, male and female, who commit adultery) and wedid recite this Verse and understood and memorized it. Allah's Apostle (saw) did carry out the punishment of stoning and so did we after him. I am afraidthat after a long time has passed, somebody will say, 'By Allah, we do not find the Verse of the Rajam in Allah's Book', and thus they will go astray by leaving an obligation which Allah has revealed. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Vol. 8, p.539)

In the Qur'an as it stands today the only punishment prescribed for adulterers is a hundred stripes (Surah24.2), no distinction being made between the married or unmarried state of each of the parties involved. Umar, however, clearly stated that Allah hadoriginally revealed a passage prescribing rajam (stoning to death) for adulterers. (John Gilchrist, Jam' Al-Qur'an - TheCodification of the Qur'an Text, chapters 1-4 (excerpts); source)

The claimed promise thatAllah would guard the Qur’an is bogus? The credibility of the “revelation”seems like a nightmare for serious thinkers. Imagine the belief that the heavenly Qur’an is eternal and correct. Allah comes along and changes the revelation he has already given to Mohammed. One can easily conclude that Allah and Mohammed are making it up as they go. It does not appearto be the work of an omniscient being.

Continuing on Part III



1 comment:

  1. The Koran is so badly written and organized that I believe that God would have done much better.

    Stoning to death has to end. This punishment has no place in the modern world. Yet to rid us of this violent act will trigger violence.
    It is worth it.