By Amil Imani
This is the time of the year that the air is filled with everything Christmas. There is something for everyone: gifts for family and friends, prayers at churches, and Christmas music everywhere. It puts me in a contemplative mood, particularly when I hear the delightful Christian refrain, peace on earth, goodwill to men. This is the gift I want. This is my Christmas. When there is peace on earth and all people dispense and receive good will.
Yet, I am saddened to see the world as it is, particularly with what Islam is doing to it, which is the exact opposite of working for peace and extending goodwill to all people.
My contemplation takes me to the genesis of Islam. Something I have come to view as a scourge of humanity, and here are a few of my random thoughts about the founder of Islam: the person who launched a religion that has denied peace to mankind right from the start, the person who advanced a religion that began with war, continues with war, and aims to carry on with bloodletting to the end of time. All this makes me think and shake my head in bewilderment.
Starting with the premise that an all-knowing powerful God is the Creator of this awe-inspiring universe where we humans are an infinitesimally insignificant part of His creation humbles me. Muslims call this creator Allah—a recast of one of 360 idols in the pre-Islamic Idolatry of Mecca—and attribute numerous superhuman qualities to him. It is awe-inspiring to realize that a being of that description may indeed exist.
That leads me to some questions: Why would such an indescribably exalted Creator, with his ascribed boundless wisdom and resources, pick an illiterate Bedouin to become His prophet for then and forever? The man himself, Muhammad, admitted in the Quran to his own illiteracy. Yet, Allah persisted in choosing this man? Was Allah bored with the rest of his universe and playing a joke on us helpless mortals? Or was it a case of Allah not being able to get any reasonably literate man to take the job?
I don’t have an answer to this or a bevy of other questions, and the answers I have seen so far from Muslims are far from satisfactory. I am forced to mark this as one of the enigmas of life and move on to further look into Muhammad, his claims, his life and the way all might come together with Allah’s choreography of our life of drama.
Muslims claim that Muhammad was the most perfect man, the kind of saintly man that each and every one of us should adulate and aspire to follow. On the top of their list is the desire to lead their lives in such a way that would please Allah, if they can.
Muhammad has done that, Muslims claim. And apparently Allah, in His infinite kindness, does not require the rest of us mortals to do things that we are incapable of doing. And Muhammad has brought us the perfect life manual, the Quran, to help us in our quest, we are told.
Besides, a great inducement for me to check Islam out is the promise of eternal life in an indescribably lush sensual paradise of Allah if I make the grade. If I fail, I am told, my forever destination is the dreadful inferno of hell.
I have also checked out those schools of thought that say life starts here and ends here. End of discussion. Well, buying into the idea that I am going to end up as fertilizer in some desolate cemetery is not something I would like to contemplate. So, I kept looking into this Islam thing since I was born and raised in it. After all 1.5 billion people have bought into it. They can’t all be misguided, can they?
This quest led me to examine the teachings and life of Muhammad closely. And here are a few of my findings that have thrown me for a loop. Hence, I am sharing my findings with the readers in the hope that someone would supply me with explanations that would relieve me of my perplexities.
I have, in my quest, read, re-read, and read again the Quran—purportedly the literal word-for-word of Allah transmitted to Muhammad by the Archangel Gabriel over the course of some 20 years.
Right away I am troubled. Is Allah the same Creator who has created the entire universe by a single word of his mouth—kon va yakoon—be and became, as Islam claims? Then why did it take this magnificent all-knowing lightning-fast-Allah 20 years to get across a dime-novel-size hodgepodge of contradictory and nonsensical verse called the Quran, to us poor creatures?
Was it because Muhammad was illiterate and he couldn’t write them down? But that can’t be. He didn’t write down anything himself. He dictated to anyone who could write and was around at the time to do it. Therefore, in the course of some 20 years what is claimed to be the word-for-word dictates of Allah went through a number of intermediaries and materialized in several versions.
First the Archangel Gabriel whispered it to Muhammad, then Muhammad found some Arab who could write—not an easy find among the masses of the most backward illiterates of Arabia—and who happened to have a pen of some sort and a parchment to jot down what Muhammad still managed to recall.
Perhaps this does explain the several versions of the Quran that popped up after Muhammad’s death and the Caliph Othman’s choice of one as the genuine and burning of the others. The practice of burning books Muslims don’t like to talk about, goes all the way back to their venerated second Caliph, Othman.
Now, how could a fallible politician like Othman be the judge of Allah’s genuine utterances? Was there another Archangel that helped him out, or he just simply liked that particular version best? One thing you can say about Othman. He was an astute enough politician to realize that you can’t have one Islam with several versions of the word-for-word revelation of Allah.
Here is another problem. Even the chosen version of the Quran, if you can make any sense of it at all, reads like two different books. The early part is known as the Mecca Quran. This part is much about meekness, tolerance, kindness and so forth. This was the time that Muhammad’s wife Khadija—a monotheist Hanif, in contrast to polytheist idolater Muhammad—introduced her young troubled husband to her Christian uncle and exposed him to the teachings of Christianity that influenced his “revelation.”
During this early phase of his ministry, Muhammad spoke respectfully about the “people of the book,”—Christians and Jews, the people from whose book he liberally plagiarized to launch his monotheistic faith with the invaluable encouragements of his wife Khadija.
It was Khadija who convinced the young man that he was indeed chosen by Allah to be his spokesperson; that the jinn and angels communicated with him were parts of Allah’s plan for him.
Muhammad, during his Mecca years, was ridiculed for his confused sayings by his own tribe of Quraish. He was called shaeron majnoon—crazed poet. At this early stage he went by his birth name of Abulqasem. It was later that he took on the new name of Muhammad—Praiseworthy-One—to go better with his ministry.
Muhammad was judged as a hallucinating insane poet and was tormented by the Meccans in many ways. It got so bad, that after his wife’s death he left for Medina where a significant Jewish community provided a safer place for him to gather followers, build a powerbase, reveal his Medina Quran of intolerance and vilification, and launch his religion in full force and by brute force.
Once in Medina, Muhammad hit on a most powerful formula for success. He justified everything, on the spot, by saying that Allah wants it this way. And Allah was nothing to trifle with. He held the key to the most magnificent paradise as well as to the dreadful hell. The duty of a good Muslim became unquestioning obedience to everything that Muhammad said and wished. Muhammad became Allah’s gatekeeper to paradise and hell.
Muhammad’s formula worked magic with the Bedouins of Arabia who thrived on robbery and murder. His religion spread like a pandemic disease in no time at all. And here we are in the 21st century, at Christmas time, praying for peace and goodwill to men, while Muhammad’s men are working overtime to make sure that men see neither peace nor goodwill.
I would like to join the chorus of peace on earth and goodwill to men. Yet, deep in my soul, I find it my solemn duty to keep on sounding the alarm about the fire of Islam even at this poignant moment of Christmas.
Peace on earth and goodwill to men is a perennial prayer. It can be only when enough men and women of goodwill, with iron resolve arise and disempower the Islamist people of war and ill will.