This is a revisit of an old post: Why I Didn't Choose Islam
So do you ever find old posts that you've written coming to mind? I do. Not often, but this one has been coming back to me for a while now so I thought I'd revisit it. I wrote it much longer ago than I remembered, actually. It was written a little over two years ago at this point. I honestly thought I'd written it within the past year, which maybe just goes to show how long it's remained on my mind, even if it was in the back of my mind.
It's also kind of funny to look at the comments and see where everyone was then, knowing where they are now. *sighs* Ah, nostalgia.
This is basically just me going through each point I made in the original post and revisiting my feelings on them now. As with the first version of this post, I am unclear on it's clarity for anyone reading it. It makes perfect sense to me, of course.
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
I still have a problem with this, but I do wonder more now if it's an attitude of the people rather than something inherent in the religion. Arabic is a difficult language, from what I've read and understand, especially to translate. There are, as with any language, nuances that don't translate properly. So maybe this focus came from the original problem of translating a complex meaning from one language to another and then became entrenched as 'Arabic is the language of God!' or whatever. I also have a better appreciation/understanding of the fact that even something we rely on and take for granted as the Bible is better understood in the original languages. What we're reading is a translation and the translators make *choices* in how they represent what was originally written. That's part of why we have so many different 'versions' of the Bible.
2. 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.
It does still seem really strange to me that you would use a text that you believe is corrupted to prove the prophethood of the man you claim came to correct it. Wouldn't the corrupting force make certain that those things were changed so that no one would recognize the new prophet? Of course the counter argument would be that God is stronger than any corrupting force and would make certain that the relevant passages made it through intact. And it still doesn't make sense to me that God would let people get away with changing things for so long and then decide, finally, to make things simple and prevent the change of the text. That leaves aside the claims that the Qur'an itself had variant texts and readings (entirely possible and likely since it was originally an oral tradition. Play telephone, apply concept here.). But as for continuity? All three are very clearly related. It's, in my opinion, a matter of choice as to which point you want to take for your own.
re: the corruption thing: On the other hand, clearly the texts aren't viewed as *that* corrupt, or at least they weren't in the beginning, since the Qur'an is so short. If the purpose was to make corrections to some places where the original stories/messages had gone wrong, then there aren't that many places. Though a few of them could be viewed as highly significant.
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?
The same can be said for anyone claiming to be a prophet at this point. Because none of us were there. We weren't there to see the miracles and other 'proofs' that make us accept the Old Testament prophets as legitimate. So *waggles hands back and forth in the air* To-may-toh, To-mah-toh. The only reason the OT prophets seem legitimate to many of us is because we've been raised with the Judeo-Christian theme running through our lives. It's *assumed* on a level that I know I never thought about until recently and I have to think that the same is true for a great many people.
4. 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.
You know, it's one thing to be able to say that you understand the the prophets in your own tradition weren't perfect. It's another to actually internalise that and manage to apply it to your thinking. There's a habit, and I'm certain that there are exceptions but those exist in everything so can we take that as read? thanks, of presenting a 'Disney-fied' version of the Bible and Biblical stories/characters to children. And we take these versions of the stories so deeply into ourselves that we don't even recognize the difference between them and the text as written as adults. We do the exact same thing that Muslims do with Mohammed to a lesser degree. And isn't that just human nature? We're willing to forgive/overlook/explain away the flaws and missteps of our heroes where we aren't willing to overlook the same things in someone that we feel no positive emotional connection to.
I don't see, in reading the Qur'an, that Mohammed demanded that people emulate him in the way that they do now. It's something that seems to have come up with the hadith, which contain, from what I can see, the majority of the 'problematic' items, or the things that are used to back up prejudice and cruelty.
5. 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?
This one is really simple, actually: This attitude exists everywhere. It's expressed differently through different cultures/backgrounds/faiths, but it exists no matter where you turn. This was illuminated quite nicely for me when I was reading an old post on why women can't be 'head pastors' or basically in any position where they have to exercise authoritative control over men. So do I blame the religion or humanity? Since the attitude exists without the benefit of religion, I'm going to have to go with humanity.
6. 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.
I think I can actually chalk this one up to free will. Hey, if it can be used to explain why God allows evil in the universe, it can be used to explain this. Assuming that the Islamic perspective is correct, people have a choice here. They can believe the lie, that Jesus died on the cross, or they can understand the truth - that he was spared. So...*waggles hand again*. Maybe it's because I'm not so black and white on my view of God being Utterly Good and Truthful anymore. I'm not saying I'm sold on the whole thing, mind you, just that it doesn't bother me like it used to.
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?
I wonder about this, to be honest. Trying to give myself some perspective, to separate myself from subconscious assumptions that I've been making all my life is difficult. Even when I rejected religion, I still accepted that the stories of Christ in the Bible were the only truths that there were about him. But what if that's not true? There are plenty of apocryphal texts, things that were rejected for not fitting into the theme of the Bible for one reason or another. Some of those show Christ in a far more human and less perfect light. The narrative of the Bible that we have today was chosen because the books that were included were chosen. There is room for debate, for questioning whether or not all the things that we attribute to Jesus were actual events, if he was really as perfect as we view him to have been.
If you reject the premise that Jesus was, in some shape or form, divine, then he becomes just a man. And the question then becomes, if he was just a man, how many flaws have been expurgated from history because his followers chose the narrative of divinity for him?