From Merchant to Messenger
If You Can’t Believe God …
It would be easier to believe that what the Messenger was revealing were immutable truths from god, if some of Allah's affirmation were consistent throughout the text.
Take for instance revelation 3.7 where Allah admits that some of his reveal truths are ambiguous and that some whose faith is not without reservations take advantage of this ambiguity to seek an interpretation which He admits is not forthcoming.
3:7 It is He Who has revealed to you the Book, with verses which are precise in meaning and which are the Mother of the Book, and others which are ambiguous. As to those in whose hearts there is a vacillation, they follow what is ambiguous in it, seeking sedition and intending to interpret it. However, no one except Allah knows its interpretation. Those well-grounded in knowledge say: “We believe in it; all is from our Lord”; yet none remembers save those possessed of understanding!
How can truths that are supposed to stand the test of time be ambiguous if they are "clearly expounded"?
THE PROPHET HUD
11 Sûrat Hud
In the Name of Allah,
the Compassionate, the Merciful
11:1 Alif – Lam – Ra.
[This is] a Book with Verses which are elaborately formulated and clearly expounded from the Wise, the All-Aware.
11:2 That you should worship none other than Allah; I am truly a warner and a bearer of good news to you from him;
11:3 And ask forgiveness of your Lord; then turn to Him in repentance, that He may allow you a fair enjoyment [in this life] for a fixed term, and may bestow His Bounty on every worthy one; but if you turn away I fear for you the punishment of a Great Day.
11:4 Unto Allah is your return, and He has power over everything.
Perhaps Allah, by "clearly expounded" means clearly expounded if you have His understanding of what He is revealing, which obviously mortals do not. As He often reminds His Messenger, when even he is not clear on a concept, to tell the enquiring mind that all be made clear on Judgment Day, when unto Allah they will all return. Fair enough.
If the Koran is the Word of God, any god, then is it possible that it is the word of a god with a sense of humour.
4:82 Do they not, then, ponder over the Qur’an? Had it been from someone other than Allah, they would have found in it many inconsistencies.
There is a concept in Islam called abrogation, revelation nullifying revelation. It was a concept that was developed to explain the "inconsistencies" in the Koran, the more than two hundred contradictory immutable facts. In the world of revealed truths i.e. immutable facts communicated to a mortal by a god, abrogation should not even be the exception, it defies logic, and there lies the incongruity, the weirdness (recommended Let Me Rephrase That, You Guide to Abrogation, Boreal Books 2015).
For the rational mind, it is inconceivable that a god, in a book He claims to have written, in Arabic no less (classical Arabic* is assumed), at the beginning of time, if not earlier, and in which He lays claim to infallibility, has to retract, annul, abolish, modify … what He said earlier. Unless, the joke is on us.
Can Allah's sense of humour be more clearly expounding than in revelation 45:8 where He tell His Messenger to reveal to an unbeliever the good news of a painful punishment.
45:8 He hears Allah’s Signs recited to him, then perseveres in his arrogance as though he did not hear them. Announce to him, then, the good news of a painful punishment.
What about if you spend every waking moment praying and having sex with your lawfully wedded spouses and slave-girls – interrupting your fornicating and worship to give the beggar a little something – you will be granted Paradise. That has to be a joke.
70:19 Man was truly created apprehensive.
70:20 When misfortune visits him, he is frightened;
70:21 But when good fortune visits him, he is avaricious.
70:22 Except for those who pray;
70:23 Those who are constantly at prayer;
70:24 And those who have set aside a fixed portion of their wealth,
70:25 For the beggar and the destitute.
70:26 And those who believe firmly in the Day of Judgement;
70:27 And those who fear the punishment of their Lord.
70:28 The punishment of their Lord cannot be averted;
70:29 And those who guard their private parts;
70:30 Except from their wives or what their right-hands possess (their slave-girls); for they are not therein blameworthy.
70:31 He who seeks [pleasure] beyond that – those are the transgressors.
70:32 And those who honour their trusts and their pledges;
70:33 And those who stand by their testimonies;
70:34 And those who observe their prayer;
70:35 All those shall be in Gardens, well-honoured.
If it's not Allah having a little fun at humanity’s expense, then maybe it is instructions from God meant for the time in which His Messenger lived. This would explain the many revelations that are only meant to benefit His Messenger. The sexual favours you should already be familiar with, but there are others.
Ephemeral Revelations On Etiquette
Do any of the following revelations about how to behave in the presence of the Prophet Muhammad, ostensibly the last of the Messengers, and the threats of dire consequences if you don’t, make any sense in a book meant for the ages or as a prayer which all verses of the Koran are intended to be?
24:62 The true believers, who believe in Allah and His Messenger, if they are with him for some common affair, will not depart till they take their leave. Indeed, those who ask leave from you are those who believe in Allah and His Messenger. If they ask leave from you for some affair of theirs, give leave to whom you wish and ask Allah’s forgiveness for them. Allah is surely All-Forgiving, Merciful.
24:63 Do not make calling the Messenger out among you like your calling one another out. Allah knows those of you who slip away stealthily. So, let those who disobey His command beware of an ordeal that might befall them, or a very painful punishment that might befall them.
In the Name of Allah,
the Compassionate, the Merciful
49:1 O believers, do not advance hastily before Allah and His Messenger, and fear Allah. Allah is indeed All-Hearing, All-Knowing.
49:2 O believers, do not raise your voices above the Prophet’s voice and do not be loud in speaking to him, as you speak loudly to one another, lest your works come to grief while you are unaware.
49:3 Surely, those who lower their voices in the presence of Allah’s Messenger are those whose hearts Allah has tested for piety. They will have forgiveness and a great wage.
Narrated Ibn Abi Mulaika:
The two righteous persons were about to be ruined. They were Abu Bakr and Umar who raised their voices in the presence of the Prophet when a mission from Bani Tamim came to him.
One of the two recommended Al-Aqra bin Habeas, the brother of Bani Mujashi (to be their governor) while the other recommended somebody else.
Abu Bakr said to Umar, "You wanted nothing but to oppose me!"
Umar said, "I did not intend to oppose you."
Their voices grew loud in that argument, so Allah revealed: 'O you who believe! Raise not your voices above the voice of the Prophet.' (49.2)
Ibn Az-Zubair said, "Since the revelation of this Verse, Umar used to speak in such a low tone that the Prophet had to ask him to repeat his statements."
He will come to you when he is ready, no need to shout.
49:4 Those who call you from behind the Chambers, most of them do not understand.
49:5 Had they waited for you to come to meet them, it would have been better for them. Allah is All-Forgiving and Merciful.
Paying for a Private Audience
The revelation about making room in assemblies may be lasting advice, but paying His Messenger – who will have departed this world for a better one in a few short years – if he grants you a private audience, surely cannot be construed as such?
58:11 O believers, if you are told: “Make room in assemblies”, then make room that Allah may make room for you; and if you are told: “Sally forth”, then sally forth, that Allah may elevate those of you that have believed and those who have been given knowledge many steps. Allah is Fully Aware of what you do.
58:12 O believers, if you converse privately with the Messenger, then tender a free offering before your secret conversing. That is better for you and purer; but if you do not have the means, then Allah is All-Forgiving, Merciful.
58:13 Do you dread to make free offerings before your private converse? If you do not do so and Allah pardons you, then perform the prayer, give the alms and obey Allah and His Messenger. Allah is Aware of what you do.
Man on a Mission
The way Allah revealed what He revealed, especially the lucid visions, could be misinterpreted as the beneficiary of such apparitions having a psychotic episode.
Jay Ingram in Theatre of the Mind – Raising the Question on Consciousness (2005) introduces the reader to Julian Jaynes’ controversial idea which he presents in his book The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind (1976) that consciousness first developed among city dwellers about three thousand years ago because their brain could no longer depend on voices or hallucinations to guide them in their increasingly complex everyday affairs.
Jaynes makes this controversial leap by pointing out that most of the myths and legends that survive to this day in religious rituals, traditions and beliefs come from mainly nomadic, desert dwellers. In essence, he seem to be saying that until about three thousand years ago most of humanity could have been diagnose as schizophrenic for hearing voices constantly telling them what to do.
According to Ingram, there is good evidence that schizophrenics are hearing their own voices. In one experiment “a schizophrenic man wore a microphone, which recorded his own voice uttering the very commands that he later reported as hallucinations.”
But what if the Prophet was really a sane man on a mission, whether that mission be a self-imposed mission, a mission from on-high, a mission from down-low ...? It does not matter! What matters is that the visions were real and not the work of the Devil; and on that We have Allah's assurances, the abject cruelty and sadism that permeates the Koran notwithstanding.
81:24 He is not, regarding the Unseen, niggardly;
81:25 And it is not the discourse of a devil, accursed.
81:26 Where, then, will you go?
81:27 It is only a Reminder to all mankind;
81:28 To whoever of you who wishes to reform their ways.
81:29 But you will not wish unless Allah, the Lord of the Worlds, wishes.
26:210 And this (the Qur’an) was not brought down by demons.
26:211 They should not and could not.
26:212 For they are barred from hearing.
Narrated Jundab bin Abdullah:
Gabriel did not come to the Prophet (for some time) and so one of the Quraish women said, "His Satan has deserted him."
The demons, however, have been known to make people believe they are doing good when they are doing bad.
16:63 By Allah, We sent forth [Messengers] to nations before you (Muhammad). But the Devil made their foul deeds seem fair to them. He is their patron, and they shall have a very painful punishment.
16:64 We have not revealed to you the Book but that you may make clear to them that wherein they differ, and as a guidance and a mercy to a people who believe.
What about angels? An angel, for many who listened to the Prophet, would have made a more believable Messenger.
17:94 Men are not prevented from believing, once the guidance has come to them, except that they say: “Has Allah sent forth a human messenger?”
17:95 Say: “Where there on earth angels strolling in peace, We would have sent down upon them from heaven an angel as a Messenger.”
17:96 Say: “Allah suffices as a witness between me and you. He is, indeed, fully Apprised and Observant of His servants.”
If the Prophet is who he says he is, why has Allah, or the knowledge imparted by God, not made him a wealthy man?
7:188 Say: “I do not have the power to benefit or harm myself, except as Allah pleases. Had I the knowledge of the Unseen, I would have acquired much good, and misfortune would not have touched me. I am only a warner and a bearer of good news to a people who believe.”
If the Koran is not the work of a God who enjoys a little too much seeing people suffer having a little fun at humanity's expense, the work of the devil or that of a determined, driven man who let his imagination and prejudices get the better of him, then we are left with two choices:
1) the Koran is word for word the unchanging instructions from God on how humanity should behave and how He should be worshipped until He decides to bring an end to His Creation;
2) or is what Nehru said it is.
… if people believe in the factual content of these [religious] stories, the whole thing [becomes] absurd and ridiculous. But as soon as one ceased believing in them, they appeared in a new light, a new beauty, a wonderful flowering of a richly endowed imagination, full of human lessons. No one believes now in the stories of Greek gods and goddesses and so, without any difficulty, we admire them as they become part of our mental heritage. But if we had to believe in them, what a burden it would be, and how, oppressed by this weight of belief, we would often miss their beauty”
Looking at scripture then as a product of the human mind, we have to remember the age in which it was written, the environment and mental climate in which it grew, the vast distance in time and thought and experience that separates it from us. We have to forget the trappings of ritual and religious usage in which it is wrapped, and remember the social background in which it expanded. Many of the problems of human life have a permanence and a touch of eternity about them, and hence the abiding interest in these ancient books. But they dealt with other problems also, limited to their particular age, which have no living interest for us now.
Jawaharlal Nehru, The Discovery of India