I'm not really sure what to say in this post, so it might get a bit rambly. You've been warned.
I was asked why, when I was looking at Christianity and Islam and trying to decide between the two, why I didn't choose Islam. Which isn't as easy to answer as I thought it might be.
Back then, I had prayed to God to let me know if He existed. I know that sounds so simplistic, but that's what happened. I'd been driven from atheism. I was not content with the label of agnostic. I wanted to *know*. And I prayed, one night, 'If you're real, prove it.' Nothing like poking Deity in the eye...But, I mean, literally, the next morning, I woke up, and I *knew*. *holds hands up* It's unspectacular. No lightning from the sky. No Eureka! moment. I went to bed one night doubting, and woke up the next morning, knowing it in a very placid, 'this has always been' sort of way.
I say all this to say that I didn't read any scripture and go, 'aha! This proves it!'. I was reading a steady diet of Karen Armstrong, Bart Ehrman, Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins. Their arguments failed to satisfy, for me.
I eventually, though I can't recall *how*, at this point, settled on the fact that either Islam or Christianity was true. So the problem came down to a choice between one or the other. And I felt that I knew Christianity, after all, I was raised Christian, so the issue was learning about Islam.
Funnily, through a Catholic message board, I came into contact with a Muslim convert who I greatly admired. She was polite, she was respectful, even when she was being attacked, and her answers seemed to make a lot of sense. I followed her every post, eagerly. I discovered she had a blog, and I read that as well. Her Islam was a beautiful and fascinating thing. Through her blog, I came into contact with another convert who actually was a salafi.
It's a truth about myself that I am drawn to strictness and ritual. Whether that is a good thing or not is debatable, since I only like strictness when it suits me. (I know, I know. But it's true.) This sister and her husband started an Islamic message board for themselves and others like them, who were being (apparently) shouted down and/or treated badly on mainstream Islamic boards for being too harsh and extreme in their interpretation of Islam. So I went there, and hung about, speaking with all of them, and learning.
Now, I don't want people to think, 'oh, *salafi*, well *that* explains it. they scared her off.' Not at all. They majority of the people on the board (it was a small community) were kind and helpful and not at all nasty. There was one, it's true, that, well. I did not like him. He *was* extreme, and, in my opinion, likely dangerous. But he was certainly the exception, and not the rule. But I do want you guys to know who I was talking to. Not your average, 'liberal' Muslim 'on the street'.
There were things, at first, that made me go, 'huh?' One, that I recall, was, and I don't know *how* this came up in a conversation, about how a Muslim had to be careful not to praise their neighbors new tree (or the like), to avoid the possibility of giving that neighbor the praise of creating that tree. So, you couldn't go, 'Nice tree!' when they plant a new tree, because they might think that you thought that they had created the tree. And that was just...I mean, *no one* would really think that their neighbor had *created* a tree...
Anyway. I just chalked that sort of disconnect to 'translation' issues. Perhaps we were misunderstanding each other. But as I went on, learning (mainly) from them, there were other things that bothered me.
The focus on Arab culture and language. Why is God restricted to one language? If the revelation is for all people and times, why is the Qur'an only complete and understandable in an (ancient) version of one specific language?
The continuity of the message. I know that Muslims believe that the previous messages were corrupted. However, it is possible to see a connection, a continuance, from Judaism into Christianity. But from Christianity to Islam? Not so much. I know of Muslims who claim that Mohammed was prophesied in the Bible, but I looked at the verses they claim for that, and they were twisting the verses so much that it was unbelievable to me.
The claim that those verses were corrupt, and that's why they don't line up doesn't work either. Because if the message was the same, then God would have ensured that the verses prophesying Mohammed would remain intact, so that when he came, people would be able to discern the truth.
So we're left with a man who suddenly claims to get visions from God (lots of people claim that), and that he is a prophet. The last, best prophet. And I ask, where's your proof? The Qur'an. The Qur'an proves that Mohammed is a prophet. And what makes the Qur'an authoritative? It comes from God. According to who? Mohammed. And what gives Mohammed that authority? He's a prophet. See the circle?
Mohammed's conduct, or, rather, the Muslims view of same. Look, I am not, I hope, one of those people who judges ancient civilizations based on modern morality and ethics. People waged war, pillaged, plundered, married young, killed, and did all sorts of things, as a matter of course, that we consider barbaric and wrong. Prophets, in Judaism and Christianity, made horrible mistakes. They had flashes of temper and did things that make you look at them funny. They were *humans*. Flawed humans being used by God. Their flaws in no way negated their prophetic powers. However, in Islam, Mohammed is considered perfect. The most perfect example of man to ever walk the earth. His every move is copied, as best as can be. Everything that he did is 'good'. So when you see that he did things that, today, are unacceptable, you have a choice. You can be honest and say that these things were done then, but that they are not done now. Or you can cling to the idea of 'prophetic perfection', and fight to justify his behavior, so that he is still 'perfect' even by today's standards. The first is honest, but may make you feel that Mohammed was less than 'perfect'. The second is dishonest, but will allow you to feel that Mohammed was 'perfect'. It also allows for people to fight for their 'right' to wage war against their neighbors; for their 'right' to marry as many women as they want (I know Islam restricts it to four, but too many marry more because they can 'afford' it, it's a status symbol, and Mohammed did it - I know, I know, he had a 'special exemption' from God.); for their 'right' to child brides.
Women in Islam. You can tell me that the Qur'an granted women rights that they did not receive in the West until fairly recently all you want, but the fact remains that, in the West, we have those rights and may exercise them freely. Women under shariah law only have those rights in theory, not practice. When a woman is equal to *half* of a man, under the law, there is something flawed. And I've read explanations for that rule. They're not satisfactory either. 'Men have better memory than women'. *Not*. I have better memory than many men and women that I know. I know others who have better memories than I do. It's specific to people, not gender. A woman being 'unclean' during menstruation. Being unable to pray or *touch* the Qur'an. Sometimes being barred from mosques all together? How is that not insulting? How is that not making women less than the men?
Women being banned from schools! I know that's a matter of 'interpretation', but that, in itself, is a flaw. It's been proven that educated mothers raise more educated children. Do you want to condemn your future generations to ignorance?
The 'explanations' for why Jesus was not *really* crucified. I'm not going to delineate them now, as I'd just be going from memory, and I'm sure I'd forget one or two, but there are plenty. They boil down to the fact that Muslims view the death by crucifixion as 'shameful', and deny that God would allow a prophet to die like that. So He did...'something'. And while, at this point in time, *billions* of people have been deceived by the trick that God played on the people at the time of the crucifixion, it's *our* fault for not being able to see the 'truth'. God *tricked* people into believing it was Christ, crucified. He *lied* to us. God cannot lie. If God is *good*, then He cannot do things which are evil. And lying, bearing false witness (and I don't know how much more false witness-y it can get...) is *evil*. It's *bad*. It's counter to God.
But, finally, I think it was the comparison between Jesus and Mohammed. If Mohammed was supposed to be the last, final prophet. The 'Seal of the prophets', why did God spend miracles on Jesus' birth, but not Mohammed? What was the point there? Why was Mohammed not a better man than Jesus? If Jesus' mission 'failed', as one must assume from the fact that God needed another prophet, why is He given such honors whereas Mohammed, whose mission 'succeeded', is not?
Jesus rose above human expectation. Mohammed did not. Mohammed acted, as far as I can see, like any other man consolidating power and ruling an empire.
Take, for example, the differing reactions to 'threats' to themselves. Jesus, in the garden of Gethsemane, being arrested, being taken to His torture and death, rebuked Peter for cutting the ear off of a soldier? And then He *healed* the soldier. He restored his ear to him.
On the other hand, what about Mohammed's reaction to poems about him that were unfavorable? The poets were killed by his followers. Now, I've seen people argue that Mohammed didn't *order* the assassinations, but he didn't really have to spell it out, did he? Take Asma bint Marwan. She wrote a poem condemning the assassination of a 100 year old poet (by a follower of Mohammed), and blaming Mohammed for it. He heard of it, and said, 'Who will get rid of that woman for me?' I link this, in my mind, to Henry II of England shouting, 'Will no one rid me of this troublesome priest?' in connection to St. Thomas Becket. He wanted Becket dead, and knew that someone would deal with it for him. Henry II had power, and used it, subtly, rather than overtly at that moment.
And even if you argue that Mohammed didn't *mean* it, that he was just frustrated and blowing off steam, how do you reconcile his reaction after learning of the assassination? The assassin, who had killed her in her bed, with an infant still nursing, reported to Mohammed what he had done. Mohammed responded that he had brought victory to Allah and Mohammed. And the assassin asked if anything bad might happen to him because of his deed, if he was going to have to pay for it in some manner, and Mohammed responded that 'two goats won't butt their heads about her'. As in...it means nothing. No one cares. She was nothing. If Mohammed hadn't *really meant it*, and wanted this woman dead, why did he not condemn the assassination? Why did he not tell the man that he had sinned? Why did he reduce this woman to *nothing*?
*sigh* Okay. I'm done. I mean, I could go over the million and one little things that I see as 'wrong' with Islam, but I think this is enough. I'm not even sure if it answers the question, but there you have it. If you want to really, really boil it down, I didn't choose Islam because I don't believe that Mohammed was a prophet. And without Mohammed, there is no Islam.