The Qur’ān, the Mu’mins, the Ahl-e-Qitāb and The Kāfirs – III



Read the previous section of this series here

The Qur’ān Laid Bare (1)

In his judgement against the petitioners in the ‘Calcutta Quran Petition’, Justice Bimal Chandra Basak skirted the pith of the petitioner’s case that was to determine whether Qur’ān’s teachings produce in Muslims, as contended, behaviour pattern inimical to public peace, communal amity and the beliefs of those who did not subscribe to Islam. This could have only been evaluated in terms of natural justice and common sense, from observable behavioural trend of Muslims and correlating with passages in the Qur’ān. But Basak instead postulated a legal concept, that the Qur’ān is sacred scripture and no court of India could sit on judgement on its contents while citing no relevant law by which scriptures are exempted from legal review. However, “a free and forthright discussion of the Quran cannot and should not come to a stop simply because the existing law is not competent to take cognisance of its contents.”[1]

The purport of the Qur’ān cannot be realistically assessed unless its contents are laid out in open for inspection. But before we go into that we revisit another similar case not long after the Calcutta Quran Petition (CQP).

In 1986, a contentious poster published on behalf of ‘Hindu Raksha Dal’, Delhi, by its President, Indra Sain Sharma, and Secretary, Raj Kumar Arya, was impugned and the two members arrested under the same sections as CQP (sections 153A and 295A). The poster titled ‘Why riots take place in the country?’ cited 24 ayāts, which figure in CQP as well, stating that these verses “command the believers (Musalmans) to fight against followers of other faiths,” and that “so long as these ayāts are not removed  [from the Qur’ān], riots in the country cannot be prevented.” The poster further said “these ayāts carry commandments which promote enmity, ill-will, hatred, deception, fraud, strife, robbery and murder. That is why riots take place between Muslims and non-Muslims, in this country as well as [the rest of] the world.”

The poster was in Hindi that reproduced the ayāts verbatim from an authentic edition of the Qur’ān, which provided the Arabic text along with its translation in Hindi and English, published by an orthodox Islamic organisation ‘Maktaba-al-Hasnāt’, of Rampur (Uttar Pradesh).

Since Indra Sain Sharma was also the Vice President of All India Hindu Mahasabha at that time, the case carried considerable weight and the prosecution representing the ‘secular’ State rubbed their hands together in glee thinking they had caught a big fish. To their chagrin, the Metropolitan Magistrate of Delhi, Z S Lohat, thought otherwise as he discharged the detainees saying that the prosecution had failed to provide sufficient grounds for framing of charges. In his judgement he observed percipiently that: “By no stretch of imagination the opinion expressed by the writer, that unless these ‘Aytes’ are removed from the holy book of ‘Quran Majeed’ there will be no hope of stopping the communal disturbances in different parts of India, can be said to promote and attempt to promote feeling of enmity or hatred between different classes of citizens of India. In my opinion, it is a sort of suggestion to the readers or at the most a fair criticism… and by publishing such… has not in any way outraged or attempted to outrage the religious feelings of the Mohammedan community… nor suggest anything that the same were published with malicious intent.”

The judgement concluded that “With due regard to the holy book of ‘Quran Majeed’, a close perusal of the ‘Aytes’ shows that they are harmful and teach hatred, and are likely to create differences between Mohammedans on one hand and remaining communities on another.” (July 31, 1986) [emphasis added]

Rather than list the bespoken offensive verses from the Qur’ān which can be found with a quick internet search these days, let us go over some of the key events from Mohammad’s life to determine their concrete context, as also try to gauge the nature of the Allāh of Qur’ān, and against these appraise the CQP judgement as well as test the claim that these stem from a divine source.[2]

Muslims believe that the Qur’an is the literal word of God recited to Mohammad through the angel Gabriel in the period 610–632 CE, which he rendered perfectly, word-for-word for his companions to record and memorize.

The Qur’ān contains 114 surās (chapters) and over 6,200 ayāts (verses), the bulk of its material drawn from Judeo-Christian mythos prevalent in Arabia during Muhammad’s time. Many of the rituals as well as its formative and normative elements were appropriated from pagan Arab traditions and digested to give them the appearance of original Islamic features. The distinctive parts are made up of “revelations” interspersed over its chapters that were presumably relayed by Allāh at critical junctures during the Prophet’s career, which however are not chronologically arranged.

But we will chart his course sequentially here.

Beginning of preaching Islam

 

Mohammad receives revelation from Angel Gabriel, illustration in Jami’al manuscript (Source: tiede.fi)

Initially, the Islamic brotherhood had been launched by Mohammad as a secret society. The new converts performed their rituals inside their homes or outside the limits of Mecca. After they reached a certain number, among them some notorious desperados of Mecca, he felt confident to proclaim publicly what Islam stood for. And immediately Allāh served him the befitting “revelations” that endorsed his feeling.[3]

 

 

The Satanic Verses

But Mohammad had apparently overestimated his strength and it was not long before he met with stiff resistance from the Meccans to his incensing sermons. He had to stop preaching Islam and some of his followers started returning to the pagan fold. His denigration of the revered goddesses of the Arab pagans[4] – al-Lāt, al-Manāt and al-‘Uzzá – as “false” and “filthy”, had raised the hackles of the Meccans, who brought sanctions upon his clan, Banū Hāshim, and he found himself out in the cold. Dejected, he yearned for reconciliation with his tribe.

al-Manāt, al-Lāt and al-‘Uzzá (Source: Etsy)

Opportunely, he received the requisite “revelation” that allowed him to proclaim that the pagan Arab goddesses could indeed intercede for Allah’s favours (Q. S. An Najm 53.19-21[5]). This was however later repudiated replacing verse 21 with verses 21-23[6]. The incident, known as Qissat al-Gharānīq[7] (the occasion when Mohammad is said to have mistaken a Satanic suggestion for divine revelation) is narrated in the earliest biographies of the Prophet (by al-Wāqidī, Ibn Sa’d, Ibn Ishāq and al-Tabari) which preserve the verse in its original form that praised the pagan goddesses as “exalted birds whose intercession Allāh approves.” However, Allāh hastened to assure Mohammad and his flock in two other verses that this was not the first time that Satan had succeeded in adulterating Allāh’s “truth” with his “untruth”.[8]

This denial of feminine divinity as equal, powerful and complementary aspects of the masculine god and wanton destruction of sites of their worship is at the heart of Islamic misogyny.

Anti-Semitism

 

Mohammad and Abu Bakr’s flight from Mecca, from ‘An Outline of History’ (Source: Wiki)

The hostility of the Meccans forced Mohammad to migrate from Mecca to Medina (hijrah), hoping that the large population of Jews would confirm his prophethood, since most of what he preached was derived from Jewish lore. But all he received from them was ridicule and contempt and he stood to lose credibility even among his existing followers. He began resenting them and looking for ways to show them as renegades who had been corrupted from the path of Abraham in order to strengthen his own claim of being Allāh’s true representative.

Soon enough, Allāh obliged him with a flurry of “revelations” perfectly suited to his need pouring denouncements upon the Jews (Q. S. Al-Baqarah 2.1-100; 3.111-12, 118-120). Abraham was arrogated to Islam as ‘the first Muslim’ and the qiblah[9] of Muslims, who had so far prayed facing the Jewish temple in Jerusalem, was changed to Kā’ba at Mecca. (Q. S. 2.142-45, 149-50). Muslims were asked to fight and subjugate those who did not accept Mohammad as the Messenger and his word as the ‘true religion’ until they were compelled to pay the jizyāh. (Q. S. At-Tawbah 9.29)

Islamic brotherhood

Mohammad formed the first brotherhood after settling down in Medina (known as Yathrib that time) in October 622, with a preamble known as the Charter of Medina (Ṣaḥīfat al-Madīnah), declaring converts to Islam of the Quraysh tribe from Mecca (Mūhājirūn – loosely, the migrants) and those from Yathrib (anșārs), including 8 Jewish groups, to constitute one nation (ummāh wāḥidah) a covenant to establish Mohammad as the mediating authority forbidding waging of war without his sanction and thereby ending the constant inter-tribal feuds. The document (referred to as qitāb) was a defensive alliance against the common foe – the Meccan pagans – which defined their rights and duties and mutual relationship.

But before long he felt it necessary to disown the Jews and leave them out of the coalition owing to their refusal to accept his Prophethood. And unfailingly “revelations” suiting his purpose were sent down anon (Q. S. 2.143, S. Ali ‘Imrān 3.110) to revoke the alliance[10], commanding him to form a Muslim ummāh, who had acquired dominion over the whole earth in preference to earlier scriptory adherents, the Jews and the Christians, who had fallen from the true path blazed by earlier Messengers, and henceforth only the Muslims who were the chosen people to spread Allāh’s word.[11]

We find in the passages of Qur’ān no message of value to the spirit, but a saga of rancour, cruelty, deception, political opportunism and self-serving delusions of the ‘Prophet’ of Islam.

In the next section we take a look at the concept of striving in the path of Allāh, or jihād.

Cover Picture: (Source: Getty Images)


Author:
Smita Mukerji

Published: July 29, 2018

 

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. Jagrit Bharat is not responsible for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information in this article. All information is provided on an as-is basis. The information, facts or opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of Jagrit Bharat and Jagrit Bharat does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.


[1] Sita Ram Goel

[2] “People are entitled to know exactly the issues that were involved and the quantum and quality of evidence marshalled by Chopra. It is only a properly informed public opinion which can decide in the long run whether a book qualifies, or not, as a religious scripture.” (The Calcutta Quran Petition – S R Goel)

[3] “O you who covers himself [with a garment],” Gabriel appeared to him and spoke, “Arise and warn! And your Lord glorify!” (Q. S. Al-Muddaththir 74.1-3)

[4] The patron deities of pre-Islamic Mecca were al-Lāh (‘The Lord’ – a moon god not the same as the God of Islam, but appropriated by them) and his three daughters. Al-Lāt is the feminine counterpart of al-Lāh, which roughly translates to ‘The Lady’ or ‘The Goddess’.

Al-Lāt was held in great reverence by the tribe of Banu Thaqif in Ta’if. Her primary shrine in Ta’if was demolished on the orders of Muhammad during the Expedition of Abu Sufyan ibn Harb, ca. 630 AD. The destruction of the idol was demanded by Muhammad as precondition for a treaty with the tribes of Ta’if under his seige. A lion statue dedicated to her survived in Syria until July 2015, when it was targeted by ISIL.
Al-‘Uzzá was the protectress of the pre-Islamic Quraysh and Kinanah tribes. The Banu Shaiban tribe were custodians of her shrine in Nakhlah which was destroyed by Khalid ibn Al-Walid during Ramadan 630 AD.
Al- Manāt was venerated as the goddess of fate, especially among the al-Aws and al-Khazraj tribes. Her temple was on the seashore in the vicinity of al-Mushallal in Qudayd, between Medina and Mecca, which was a pilgrimage site. It was raided and the idol destroyed on Muhammad’s orders in the Raid of Sa’d ibn Zaid al-Ashhali in January 630 AD.

[5] “Have you thought of al-Lāt and al-’Uzzáā and Manāt the third, the other; These are the exalted Gharānīq, whose intercession is hoped for.

[6] “So have you considered al-Lāt and al-’Uzzá? And Manāt, the third – the other one? Is the male for you and for Him the female? -That, then, is an unjust division. They are not but [mere] names you have named them – you and your forefathers – for which Allah has sent down no authority. They follow not except assumption and what [their] souls desire, and there has already come to them from their Lord guidance.” (Q. S. An-Najm, 53.19-23)

[7] Greatly revered in pre-Islamic Arabia, the Quraysh would circumambulate the Kā‘bāh and say:

“By al-Lāt and al- ’Uzzá,

And al-Manāt, the third idol besides.

Verily they are al-Gharānīq (Numidian cranes)

Whose intercession is to be sought.

This last phrase is said to be the source of the alleged Satanic Verses.

[8] “And We did not send before you any messenger or prophet except that when he spoke [or recited], Satan threw into it [some misunderstanding]. But Allāh abolishes that which Satan throws in; then Allāh makes precise His verses. And Allāh is Knowing and Wise.

[That is] so He may make what Satan throws in a trial for those within whose hearts is disease and those hard of heart. And indeed, the wrongdoers are in extreme dissension.” (Q. S. Al-Haj, 22.52-53)

[9] Direction to face while praying

[10] Maulana Abul Kalam Azad is said to have invoked this document in order to persuade Muslims to forge brotherhood with the Hindus in order to oppose the British during the Khilafat agitation (1920-22). But after being sealed it was broken without informing anyone. It turns out that this followed directly from the example set by Mohammad, fully confident of Hindu ignorance about Islam’s history and the Prophet.

[11] “And We had already destroyed generations before you when they wronged, and their messengers had come to them with clear proofs, but they were not to believe. Thus do We recompense the criminal people. Then We made you successors in the land after them so that We may observe how you will do.” (Q. S. Yunus 10.13-14)