"The Koran! well, come put me to the test--
Lovely old book in hideous error drest--
Believe me, I can quote the Koran too,
The unbeliever knows his Koran best."
- Omar Khayyam
This piece is written by someone who has not studied the Koran ‘in depth’ for twenty or more years. It is written by someone who does not ‘understand the nuances of the original Arabic’. It is also written by someone who has not consulted Koranic scholars in order to be given a ‘proper’ and positive take on the Koran.
Muslims and Islamophiles may also accuse me of cherry picking only negative passages from the Fourth Sura. That may be partly true. However, we have millions upon millions of Muslims in the world who seem to cherry pick only the positive parts of the Koran. Why add to this huge industry?
Introduction to Sura 4
It is noteworthy that Sura 4, ‘the Women’, comes just before the Sura ‘the Cattle’. It is in the former that women are often treated - and referred to – like cattle. Indeed there are many references to women which seem to suggest that Mohamed saw women as little above cattle and in many ways. In fact worse than cattle because cattle cannot be evil and cannot really be ‘disobedient’.
Of course this sura does not only discuss the problem of women. There are references to Jews, Christians, jihad and hell, as there are throughout the Koran.
Islamic Hell: the Worst of All Hells
This sura says that those ‘that devour the property of orphans unjustly’ will
‘swallow fire into their bellies; they shall burn in a mighty conflagration’. (4:10)
I suppose that’s fair enough. I mean. They have devoured the property of orphans. Of course it depends on what is meant by ‘devouring the property of orphans’.
Now what about those people, as well as you and I, who ‘defy Allah and His Apostle’? Well, such a person
‘shall be cast into a Fire wherein he will abide for ever.’ (4:13)
Now I wouldn’t even want my worst enemy to feel excruciating pain ‘for ever’. And yet all unbelievers, all non-Muslims, as well as you and I, are destined for an eternity of extreme pain. Think about that. Think about the mind that thought it up. Think about the religion which upholds this destiny for every single non-Muslim.
There is more of this. Much more. What about those of us who deny Allah and Mohammed’s ‘revelations’? They
‘will burn in fire. No sooner will their skins be consumed than We shall give them other skins, so that they may truly taste the scourge.’ (4:56)
The sadistic inventiveness of the man - or men - who wrote this is quite something. What a sick but inventive mind Muhammad must have had. It is not enough for Muhammad, and Islam, that the skins of non-Muslims are burnt off. But Allah gives them ‘other skins’ so that they too can be burnt off! Sick!
As everyone knows, Islam ‘provides various rights for women’. As everyone also knows, Muslims and Islam ‘respect women’. This may be true in some perverse way. But in any case, what Muslims respect is something that is far below man. And because of that, Muslim men have ‘authority’ over Muslim women. It’s as simple as that really. Now within that perverse setup some Muslim women may well be respected by some Muslim men. None of this can change what the Koran, and this particular sura, actually says.
Why do men have ‘authority’ over Muslim women? Because
‘Allah has made the one superior to the other.’ (4:34)
Now surely that line can’t be ‘interpreted’ positively or placed in its ‘proper context’, by which process it is turned into something positive. I’m sure that taqiyya technicians can do exactly that. They do exactly that. The ‘extremists’, however, know that the ‘moderates’ are talking bullshit. Non-Muslims should agree with the ‘extremists’ about this.
A lot of things follow from the fact that Muslim women are ‘inferior’ to Muslim men. Take obedience:
‘Good women are obedient.’ (4:34)
How, exactly, should they display their obedience? By guarding
‘there unseen parts because Allah has guarded them.’ (4:34)
I presume that ‘unseen parts’ must mean the sexual parts of a woman. However, on some readings, and in other parts of the Koran, it also means that the entire body of a woman should be ‘guarded’ – hence, the jilbab/burqa. In addition, how does Allah’s guarding of Muslim women entail that women should guard ‘their unseen parts’? It seems like a non sequitur. It can be just as easily said that because Muslim women are guarded by Allah that they should guard their pies or play tennis. However, there may be a fault here in translation or even, Allah forbid, a fault with Muhammad’s original grammar. It is hard to tell if the sentence means that Allah has guarded Muslim women’s ‘unseen parts’ or that he has guarded the women who have unseen parts. The idea of Allah guarding Muslim women’s sexual parts is very odd.
In the next line of this passage it is clear that Muhammad, or the Koran, is exclusively written for Muslim men. Indeed the whole of the Koran is written exclusively for men. For example, how can a woman make sense of this? -
‘As for those [women] from whom you fear disobedience, admonishing them and send them to beds apart and beat them.’ (4:34)
One wonders what Muhammad means by ‘disobedience’. Not cooking his tea? Not letting him have sex at any time of the day? Complaining about him having too many other wives (he had eleven)? Criticising him for sleeping we his ‘slave girls’ (which is allowed in the Koran)?
Again, there is a grammatical problem with this passage as well. It doesn’t say ‘admonish’ disobedient women for actual disobedience. It says that Muslim men should admonish Muslim women when they ‘fear’ their disobedience. So, on this passage, women aren’t even allowed to get to the stage of actual disobedience. All that happens is that if the Muslim man fears that disobedience may happen, then that is enough of a reason for him to punish his wife. But what if the Muslim man fears disobedience all the time because he is highly strung or paranoid? What if his fears are unfounded? In any case, this passage says that women may be punished even before they are disobedient. They can be punished on the mere whiff of disobedience.
What is meant by ‘beat them’? A lot has been said on this by contemporary apologists. For example, it says elsewhere in the Koran that men should not to beat the woman’s face. That may just mean that the husband will not want other Muslims to know that he has beaten his wife. It may also mean that a couple of black eyes and a bust nose will not make a Muslim man’s wife sexually attractive to him.
However, Muhammad, as we are often told, was a deeply ‘compassionate man’. That is, after the wife has been beaten black and blue, if they then ‘obey you’, then the Muslim man need
‘take no further action against them.’ (4:34)
This seems to suggest that either the woman ‘obeys’ her husband or she is beaten until she does obey him. Perhaps she is sometimes beaten to death, which often happens in Muslim countries (as well as less frequently in our own).
I have been talking here about Islamic relations between man and wife. However, on many occasions I should actually say - between a Muslim man and his wives! In this sura, for example, it says that men
‘may marry other women who seem good to you: two, three, or four of them.’ (4:1)
Come on! Five wives would be greedy. Four is just right. Except for the fact that Muhammad had eleven wives at one time and many Muslims also have had many more than four wives. In fact, some Muslims have had over fifty wives – all at the same time. Which raises the question. Why do suicide bombers need to go to Paradise in order to secure themselves 72 ‘wives’ when they can do that on earth – at least in some Muslim countries? Maybe Palestinian Muslim men stick to four or less wives. They may not be as greedy as, say, Pakistani Muslims.
To top this. This passage also talks about marrying ‘one only or any slave-girls you may own’ (4:1). So not only is this an explicit acceptance of polygamy, it is also an explicit acceptance of slavery. No wonder Muslim men liked, and still like, being Muslims! It is a man’s religion created in heaven (or ‘Paradise’). It is tailor-made to fit man’s ego and man’s sexuality, amongst many other manly things.
Now if I turn the page we get onto the issue of women and ‘fornication’. What happens to a woman who commits fornication - who has sex outside of marriage? Firstly, the accuser (usually a man) has to ‘call in four [male!] witnesses’ to prove the act of fornication. What happens then? If women admit their guilt (which they usually do in these situations), then Muslims must
‘confine them to their houses till death overtakes them or till Allah find another way for them.’ (4:13)
Permanent imprisonment for having sex with a man outside of marriage! One wonders what Muhammad thought should happen to men who have sex with women who are not their wives. Get a slapped wrist? However, this doesn’t matter to many Muslim males because in many Muslim cultures they have something called ‘temporary marriages’. These marriages can last as little as three hours. That is, just long enough to have sex. (Actually, in that case, three hours seems too long.) Despite that, it is also true that some temporary marriages have lasted many years.
Many Muslims tell us that the Jews are the ‘People of the Book’. Thus they cannot be anti-Jewish or anti-Semitic. Jews are indeed often featured in the Koran. And nearly every time they are castigated or the victims of some violent act or other. Yes, they are the evil ‘People of the Book’.
Let’s give Muslims, or at least Muhammad and his contemporary Arabic Muslims, the benefit of the doubt and say that they had only a theological problem with the Jews. The Koran says:
‘Some Jews take words out of their context and say: “We hear, but disobey.”’ (4:46)
Let’s be clear what is being said here. Mohammed is actually saying:
Some Jews take my words out of their context.
Yes, taking Muhammad’s or the Koran’s words ‘out of context’. That old chestnut! That which current non-Muslims, or current critical non-Muslims, always seem to do. That is, to take this or that negative-sounding passage ‘out of context’. So this cliché actually began with Muhammad himself.
Anyway. It is Muhammad himself who the Jews are disobeying. Muhammad must have been a supremely arrogant man to assume that these Jews, who had practised their religion for over a thousand years (at that time), would simply give up their faith and adopt Mohammed’s new religion. What audacity! Still, Muhammad does say ‘some Jews’ rather than all Jews. That’s a start. However, just as Muslims are keen to interpret and/or translate the negative passages in the Koran into positive ones, why can’t I suggest that the translator (or former translators) here simply added the prefix ‘some’ to make Muhammad’s words more palatable to non-Muslims and indeed Jews?
This Sura begins rather innocuously with the Jewish Problem, but the words against the Jews soon begin to heat up. For example, the Jews are ‘iniquitous’. That is, they are bad, wicked and sinful. Not only that, but the Koran, or Muhammad, soon stops talking about ‘some Jews’ and starts talking about ‘Jews’ and ‘them’ or ‘their’.
What’s his problem with the Jews? –
‘We forbade the Jews good things which were formerly allowed them; because time after time they have debarred other from the path of Allah; because they practise usury – although they were forbidden it – and cheat others of their possessions.’ (4:158)
Again, we should translate this into:
I, Muhammad, forbade the Jews the good things which were formerly allowed them…
In addition, we should write:
… because time after time they have debarred others from the path of Allah which I, Muhammad, have brought to the people.
That is, the Jews dared to not accept his sacred words and adopt his new religion – Islam. We also have some classics of anti-Semitism in this passage. Or, should I say, that they became classics precisely because of passages like this.
In any case, this passage ends with the fate which will befall these and all Jews:
‘We have prepared a stern chastisement for those of them that disbelieve.’ (4:158)
Of course Muhammad had historical or scriptural reasons for hating the Jews (as did the Christians). As those who read the Old Testament will know, the Jews were frequently disobedient to God and the prophets. Thus Muhammad supplies us with a list of Jewish Old Testament misdemeanours. He tells us about the Jews-worshipping-a-calf episode. About the Jews breaking the Sabbath. About the Jews who denied ‘the revelations of God’. Not only all that, but also something the Christians know something about. They
‘put to death the Messiah, Jesus the son of Mary, the apostle of God.’ (4:157)
Yes, the Jews were the killers of Christ! But Christian anti-Semites shouldn’t hold hands with Muslims too quickly. If you notice, Jesus is not referred to as the ‘son of God’, but as ‘the apostle of God’.
So Christians don’t get off scot-free either.
Firstly, let’s clarify this Jesus as apostle of God, not son of God, business. Muhammad had the decency to tell Christians the truth about Jesus or Christ. And that truth is:
‘The Messiah, Jesus the son of Mary, was no more than God’s apostle and His word which he cast to Mary: a spirit from Him.’ (4:171)
Christ was a ‘mere mortal’, not the son of God. How do Muslims and Christians get around this little problem at inter-faith meetings? After all, there is a big difference between being the son of God and being only a flesh and blood apostle.
‘So believe in God and His apostles and do not say: “Three.”’ (4:171)
God, or Allah, is a unity, He is not ‘three in one’. Thus Muslims stress Muhammad’s humanity and deny his divinity, despite the fact that they are obsessed by him, repeat his praises every time they use his name, see him as the ultimate exemplar, name millions of children after him, talk about him and his life on every occasion they can, and so on. He was just a man. A man who millions of Muslims effectively, if not officially, worship.
As with the Jews earlier, those Christians who
‘through arrogance disdain His service shall all be brought before Him.’ (4:171)
Again, this effectively means.
Those Christians, who through their arrogance disdain my [Muhammad’s] service shall all be brought before Allah.
I just mentioned InterFaith groups. How can Christian interfaith with people (Muslims) who think that they (Christians) are destined to burn in hell for eternity? Is there something that I am overlooking here? Perhaps the ‘proper context’ will change the above passages into:
I, Muhammad, love the Christians. But I am a little bit annoyed that all of them won’t convert to my religion, Islam.
Perhaps the translation or interpretation instead is at fault. Perhaps it really means:
Muslims love Christians. We Muslims have our way to God and Christians have their own. It has been prophesised that Clare Short and the InterFaithers will stress this in the 21st century AD.
Jews, Christians and Other Infidels
Sometimes the Koran, or Muhammad (or the writers who came after Mohammed), does not specify which infidels it has in mind.
To start. Infidels, or ‘unbelievers’, are not just wrong, they are the ‘enemies of all Muslims’. As the Koran puts it:
‘The unbelievers are your inveterate enemies.’ (4:97)
They are the ‘inveterate enemies’ of all Muslims because, presumably, they have both the power and the bad will to take Muslims away from Islam and towards their own religion. Nothing could be worse than this to the Koran. Indeed nothing is worse than this to virtually all Muslims as well as all Islamic regimes. And because of this possibility that non-Muslims may take Muslims away from the one True Religion, the Koran also says:
‘Believers, do not choose the infidels rather than the faithful for your friends.’ (4:141)
Thus if Muslims are commanded by the Koran not to be friends with non-Muslims, how do InterFaith meetings, which include Muslims, actually function? It could be that Muslims do not really have any genuine faith in InterFaith meetings. It may be a form of taqiyya or even dawah. That is, a way to pretend that all Muslims are as multicultural and tolerant as everyone else.
It seems almost logically from all this that Jihad, Holy War, must be the way to deal with all these unbelievers. And indeed that is the case.