Remembering Uzza

If Islam Was Explained to Me in a Pub

Archie Loses It!

Uzza: You want interesting stuff! One night, Gabriel showed up, not to deliver another batch of communications from Allah but with a flying horse, telling Muhammad to get on it and ride it to Paradise. God wanted to talk to him personally.

Bob: A flying horse! Couldn’t God have just beamed him up?

Uzza: But then people would not have believed him; these people believed in flying horses.

Gerry: Does this horse have a name?

Uzza: Yes, al-Burak.

Archie: This is crazy.

Uzza: In Greek mythology you have Pegasus, the flying stallion with wings that Bellerophon rode in his attack on the Chimera.

Archie: Yes, but this flying horse of the Prophet is an article of faith, right? To the believers, al-Burak the flying horse is not a myth?

Uzza: If Muhammad said he rode a horse with wings to Paradise for a private meeting with God, you have to believe that it happened; to deny it is to risk being labeled a heretic and killed on the spot.

Gerry: I don’t remember reading about a flying horse in the Koran.

Uzza: The only reference in the Koran to this trip to Paradise is about a night journey between two mosques[99] during which the traveller is set upon by throngs of what are believed to be the jinn[100].

Bob: You mean genies?

Uzza: The caricature of the genie is undoubtedly based on this creature of the Koran. Of all the inhabitants of the Koran, jinns − Allah refers to them collectively as the jinn − are the most fascinating. Like men, He created the jinn to worship him, not to feed Him[101]. Jinns can be persuaded to do good if given the proper incentive. Some less-than-cooperative jinn, with a little prodding from Allah, helped Solomon build the first temple[102]. Some became believers after listening to Muhammad recite verses from the Koran[103]. They even have a chapter of the Koran named after them: surah 72, The Jinn. If some jinns are more perverted than others, it is because of humans who spent time with them and told them that Allah could not raise the dead[104]. Some even had the nerve to say that jinns have a connection with Allah, that they are kin[105]. It does not matter; they will all be lumped together on Judgment Day to be judged[106].

Bob: That is unreal!

Archie: That is ridiculous.

Uzza: You do not often hear imams preaching about the jinn. They are a bit of an embarrassment. Believing in the jinn is like believing in ghosts: you cannot see them, but you have to believe that they are there.

Bob: Just like believing in God. You can’t see Him, hear Him or smell Him but you know He’s there. Does that mean, to be a Muslim is to believe in ghosts?

Uzza: Jinns are not ghosts.

Bob: But you just said…

Uzza: I said, like believing in ghosts. Pre-Islamic Arabs believed in the existence of the jinn and this may explain their significant presence in the Koran.

Archie: How do you create something you can’t see? And how do you prove you've created anything when normal people have never seen one?

Uzza: From fire. He created them from fire, and you can see fire.

Archie: If jinns are like fire, what is it that's burning?

Uzza: I do not know. I do not even know if they are like fire. Just that Allah says he created them from fire[107].

Archie: I'm sorry, Uzza, I didn't mean to put you on the spot. It's hard enough trying to explain what our invisible so-called friend in the sky looks like, let alone the invisible things he claims to have created.

Bob: Do jinns behave like genies, and when you capture one do they grant you three wishes?

Archie: If you’re going to try to catch one, you better be wearing oven mitts.

Uzza: [hesitatingly) No. The jinn spent most of their time between heaven and Earth near the lowest of the seven heavens, eavesdropping on Allah's conversations with his angels and reporting to soothsayers who employ them about God's plan for the future.

Bob: So soothsayers can see them?

Archie: Fortune-tellers are not normal people.

Uzza: The most famous soothsayer in Islamic traditions is the one whom Muhammad’s father Abdallah consulted about the cost to renege on his promise to God that if he granted him ten sons, he would sacrifice the tenth in gratitude.

Archie: Too bad he didn’t.

Uzza: Too bad for you.

Bob: I don’t get it.

Archie: The tenth son had to be the one who would grow up to become the Prophet Muhammad.

Bob: Oh!

Archie: So how much did Allah demand to release Abdulla from his pledge?

Uzza: Not Abdulla, Abdallah. The jinn who flew the mission reported to his employer that he had overheard Allah in a conversation with His angels about Abdallah’s plight and that a hundred camels would suffice. That is still how Sharia law sets the cost of a human life, should the family of a person killed by another demand blood money instead of capital punishment. Muhammad, in his last sermon, warned that anyone who asked for more than a hundred camels was from the age of ignorance[108].

Bob: And that’s in the Koran?

Uzza: The Koran sanctions blood money payments[109]; it does not set the amount.

Archie: Wish I had a jinn in my employ.

Bob: To hear what God has to say about you?

Archie: To tell God what I think of him.

Uzza: Good luck with that. It is only the odd jinn that make it past the barrage of rocks, what we call comets and shooting stars, thrown by angels to get them to keep their distance[110], even if there are many of them, as Muhammad discovered when he was swarmed[111] on his way to Paradise on the back of al-Burak to confer with God.

Archie: I need a drink. This is too weird.

Uzza: I thought bartenders did not drink when on duty.

Archie: What can I say? Islam is driving me to drink on the job. Besides, it’s only us here.

Bob: Exactly how far is heaven that a flying horse can get there in one night, with time to spare for its rider to visit God, and return home that same night, I assume?

Uzza: The Koran places Paradise just above the clouds held up by invisible pillars[112] anchored to a flat Earth[113] floating on a sea of mud[114]. A short flight for a horse like al-Burak, even if he did not fly there directly but made a detour to Jerusalem.

Archie: And getting weirder by the minute.

Gerry: Why Jerusalem? Why not take the more direct route with Paradise not much more than five miles up, nothing that a flying horse in his prime could not easily cover?

Archie: Gerry, are you serious? Do you actually believe any of this?

Gerry: It has nothing to do with what I believe but what Uzza believes. And what Uzza believes, I want to hear about.

Uzza: Thank you, Gerry, you are very kind. What I am telling you is what Islamists proclaim to be true, and what Islamists believe to be the truth is what we all must eventually profess to believe if we want to live.

Bob: Good enough for me. But why did the Prophet fly to Jerusalem first, then up to heaven?

Uzza: When he got to Jerusalem, Muhammad landed on an outcrop of rock where he rested al-Burak and over which the Dome of the Rock was built after the Muslim conquered Jerusalem, consecrating it as the third holiest site in Islam after Mecca and Medina.

Bob: The Prophet flew to Jerusalem to consecrate a rock. That is crazy!

Uzza: He did not fly to Jerusalem to sanctify anything. Others did that. He flew to Jerusalem to meet with the prophets of the Bible before his important meeting with God. His meeting with Moses, in particular, would prove extremely valuable in his negotiations with the Almighty.

Bob: I guess it would make sense for their graves to be located in Jerusalem. Still, meeting with the undead before meeting with God, that took guts.

Uzza: He did not meet with them in their graves. He met with them as he made his way up to the seventh heaven for the meeting with God. The Hebrew prophets are alive and well in that area of Paradise just above Jerusalem.

Gerry: That sort of makes sense.

Archie: NO, IT DOESN'T! And, Uzza, didn't you just say that jinns fly to the first level of heaven to listen to God’s conversations with his angels, not the seventh?

Uzza: Maybe when God speaks, His voice is heard everywhere in Paradise.

Archie: If He is that loud we would also hear him down here, wouldn’t we? And, didn't you just say that everyone, including the greatest of them all, must spend time in the grave until Judgment Day?

Uzza: Yes.

Archie: So, what are these lesser fortune-tellers doing in heaven?

Uzza: [taken aback] I am no scholar. I have not spent a lifetime making sense of these things, and prophets are not fortune-tellers.

Archie: If the shoe fits. [not letting up] The people of Jerusalem must have been surprised when a man on a flying horse landed there? The Prophet must have been the talk of the town?

Uzza: There were no witnesses to Muhammad's landing or takeoff. We only have his word that the trip actually took place.

Archie: Why am I not surprised.

Bob: I assume the Prophet made it past the swarm of genies, I mean jinns, and made it to Paradise in one piece.

Uzza: Yes, he did, and when he got to the second level he spotted Jesus in conversation with John the Baptist.

Archie: I'll bite. What does Jesus look like?

Uzza: Muhammad was obviously enthralled with his trip to Paradise, and it was a busy time with all he had to do in one night. In one account of his trip, Jesus has lanky hair and is of medium height and moderate complexion. In another, Jesus has curly hair and a broad chest. And, in yet another, Jesus has a red face as if, according to Muhammad, he had just experienced a difficult bowel movement.

Bob: Whoa, too much information.

Archie: From the Prophet's description, it could be anybody.

Bob: Forget Jesus, what does God look like?

Uzza: Muhammad does not say.

Archie: Go figure.

Gerry: What was so important that God could not entrust Gabriel with the negotiations?

Uzza: It had to do with the number of prayers. God initially told Muhammad that He wanted everyone to pray fifty times a day.

Archie: Fifty times a day! You have to be kidding.

Uzza: That is more or less what Moses told Muhammad when he met him again on the way down. Moses told Muhammad to get back up there and tell God that it was unrealistic. After bouncing between Moses and God a few more times, God finally agreed to five prayers a day. Moses still thought this was too much, but Muhammad refused to ask God for a further reduction, and that is how, according to the man himself, the five daily prayers required of all Sunni Muslims were set (appendix: Negotiating the Prayers).

Bob: What about the Shias?

Uzza: They agreed with Moses, I guess, and combined the night prayer and the after sunset prayer into one and the noon and afternoon prayer into one for a total of three prayers a day.

Archie: Forget the prayers. This is nuts. This is absolutely friggin nuts. A guy who took his dreams for reality flies into the middle of what has to be one of the largest cities in the Middle East on a horse with wings, tethers it to a rock in the middle of town and nobody notices. He then gets back on the same horse, and still nobody notices, to fly to Paradise, which is held up by invisible pillars which nobody has yet to walk into or planes crash into, to be swarmed by ghosts on his way up to meet with people who should be living a zombie-like existence underground, not above it, in what has to be a massively honeycombed Earth to provide individual caves for the undead since Adam and Eve, or earlier if you believe the Earth is more than 6,000 years waiting for Judgment Day, before his meeting with the big guy, whom he can't describe, to negotiate, spurred on by Moses of all people, the number of prayers God expects his followers to perform every day.

Gerry: Breathe, Archie, breathe.

Archie: It's a bloody fairy tale, and not a very good one at that. A fairy tale for which people have been murdered in the hundreds of millions, most by people using only knives and swords. Think about that. And more millions, you are telling us, are about to meet a similar fate as the Islamists attempt to bring a war started to convert the planet through terror to a bloody end.

Gerry: Archie, relax.

Archie: Next, you will be telling us that Islamists, our enlightened self-righteous would-be murderers, believe in witches on flying brooms?

Uzza: [sheepishly] I am sorry, but yes; maybe not the flying broom part, Allah was not that specific. In the Koran, witches and sorceresses are referred to as "those who blow into knotted reeds"[115].

Archie: I've heard enough!

Gerry: I haven’t.

Bob: And neither have I.

Archie: I thought you wanted to know about what happened to the Jews after the battle of Badr?

Bob: Later, this is more interesting.

Archie: Fairy tales usually are.



17:1 Glory be to Him Who caused His servant to travel by night from the Sacred Mosque to the farthest Mosque, whose precincts We have blessed, in order to show him some of Our Signs. He is indeed the All-Hearing, the All-Seeing.


72:19 And that when the Servant of Allah (the Prophet Muhammad) got up calling on Him, they almost set upon him in throngs.


51:56 I have not created the jinn and mankind except to worship Me.

51:57 I do not desire provision from them, and I do not want them to feed Me.


34:12 And We subjected the wind to Solomon, blowing in the morning the space of a month and in the evening the space of a month; and We smelted for him the fount of brass. Of the jinn some worked before him, by the Leave of his Lord, and whoever of them swerved from Our Command, We shall make him taste the punishment of the blazing Fire.

34:13 To fashion for him whatever he wished of palaces, statues, basins like water-troughs and immovable cooking-pots. “Work thankfully, O David’s House; for few of My servants are truly thankful.”


72:1 Say (Muhammad): “It was revealed to me that a company of jinn listened; then they said: ‘We have indeed heard a wonderful Qur’an;

72:2 ‘“It guides to rectitude; so we believed in it, and we shall never associate anyone with our Lord;

The Koran is not clear, but the verses heard by these jinn, judging by their response, was probably about Allah denouncing those who would say he had consorted with a female or ever had a son, i.e., Jesus.

72:3 ‘“And that He, may our Lord’s majesty be exalted, has not taken a consort or a son;

The jinn who happened upon Muhammad reciting verses from the Koran now considered themselves Muslims; they now thought it foolish to have been disrespectful or to have believed that Allah would reveal anything but the truth.

72:4 ‘“And that our fools used to speak impertinently of Allah;

72:5 ‘“And that we thought that neither mankind nor the jinn will impute to Allah any falsehood;

Allah may have told Muhammad to say what he already knew.

Narrated Abdur-Rahman:

I asked Masruq, "Who informed the Prophet about the Jinns at the night when they heard the Qur'an?" He said, "Your father Abdullah informed me that a tree informed the Prophet about them."

Bukhari 58.199


72:6 ‘“And that some individual humans used to seek refuge with some men of the jinn, and so they increased them in perversion;

The jinn, like Muhammad, once thought that Allah could not raise the dead.

72:7 ‘“And that they thought, as you thought, that Allah will not raise anybody from the dead;


37:158 And they alleged a kinship between Him and the jinn, whereas the jinn know very well that they will be summoned.

37:159 May Allah be exalted above their allegation. 37:160 Except for Allah’s sincere servants.

37:161 Surely, neither you nor what you worship, 37:162 Against Him can ever turn anyone;

37:163 Except he who will be roasting in Hell.


6:128 And on the Day when He shall gather them all together [saying]: “O, company of jinn, you have misled a great many men.” Their supporters among men will say: “Lord, we have profited much from each other and we have attained the term that you assigned for us.” Then He will say: “The Fire is your resting-place, abiding therein forever, except as Allah wills. Your Lord is truly Wise, All-Knowing.”

6:129 And thus We cause some of the evildoers to dominate the others, because of what they used to do (the evil they committed).

6:130 O company of jinn and men, did there not come Messengers from among yourselves to you, reciting to you My Revelations and warning of seeing this Day of yours? They will say: “We bear witness against ourselves?” They were deluded by the earthly life and will bear witness against themselves that they were unbelievers.

6:131 That is because your Lord would not destroy cities on account of their people’s wrongdoing without warning them (by sending a Messenger to them).

Orderly processing of sinners, jinn and men, will be the order of the Day.

6:132 And to all are assigned ranks according to what they have done; and your Lord is not unaware of what they do.


15:26 And We have created man from potter’s clay, moulded out of slime.

15:27 And the jinn We created before that from blazing fire.


55:15 And He created the jinn from tongues of fire.


And intentional murder shall be punished according to Talion law; where the murderer’s intention is not clear and the victim is killed using a club or a stone, it will cost the perpetrator one hundred camels as blood money. Whoever demands more is a man from the time of ignorance.

From a translation of the Muhammad’s last sermon by Islamic scholar and author Dr. Muhammad Hamidullah’s [1908-2002]


2:178 O believers, retaliation for the slain is prescribed for you; a free [man] for a free [man], a slave for a slave and a female for a female. But if he is pardoned by his brother (the aggrieved), usage should be followed (capital punishment would be replaced by blood-money) and he should pay him (the aggrieved) liberally and kindly. This is remission and mercy from your Lord. He who transgresses after that will have a painful punishment.


72:8 ‘“And that we reached out to heaven, but we found it fill with mighty guards and comets;

72:9 ‘“And that we used to sit around it eavesdropping; but whoever listens now will find a comet in wait for him;


72:18 And that mosques are Allah’s; so do not call, besides Allah, upon anyone else;

72:19 And that when the Servant of Allah (the Prophet Muhammad) got up calling on Him, they almost set upon him in throngs.

[112] Heaven is help up by invisible pillars anchored on a flat Earth.

31:10 He created the heavens without pillars that you can see and laid down in the earth immovable mountains, lest it shake with you, and scattered throughout it every variety of beast. And We have sent down water from heaven, thereby causing it to grow in it every noble [kind of plant].

31:11 This is Allah’s Creation; so show Me what those apart from Him have created. Indeed, the wrongdoers are in manifest error.

Knowing this, Allah's revelation that He keeps the sky from falling makes sense.

22:65 Do you not see that Allah has subjected to you what is on earth and the ships which sail in the sea at His Command? And He keeps the sky from falling to the ground, save by His Leave. Allah is Gracious and Merciful to mankind.

Heaven and Earth are made of the same materials, which would explain the need for pillars to stop it from crashing to the ground.

21:30 Have the unbelievers not beheld that the heavens and the earth were a solid mass, then We separated them; and of water We produced every living thing. Will they not believe, then?

21:31 And We set up in the earth immovable mountains lest it should shake with them; and We created therein wide roads, that perchance they may be guided.

21:32 And We made the sky a well-guarded canopy; and they still turn away from its signs.

[113] The Earth is flat with a solid level roof.

79:27 Are you, then, stronger in constitution than the heaven He has erected?

79:28 He raised its vault then levelled it off. 79:29 He dimmed its night and lighted its day.

79:30 Then, the earth, He flattened.

79:31 From it, He brought out its water and its pasture.

79:32 And the mountains, He established firmly,

79:33 As a source of enjoyment for you and your cattle.

The Earth may be as flat as a couch:

2:21 O people (of Mecca), worship your Lord who has created you as well as those who came before you so that you may guard against evil;

2:22 Who has made the earth a couch for you, and the heavens a canopy, and Who sent down water from the sky, bringing forth by it a variety of fruits as a provision for you. Therefore do not knowingly set up equals to Allah.

The idea of a flat Earth appears to have originated with a well-travelled 6th century Christian monk by the name of Cosmas who wrote what is recognized today as one of the first, if not the first scientific treatise on geography. In his Christian Topography, Cosmas argued that the Earth is flat and stationary, with heaven above and hell below; that pagans such as Aristotle who postulated that the Earth was a sphere were wrong.

Pythagoras (c. 580 – 500 B.C.) was the first to identify the earth as a sphere followed by Aristotle and later Hipparchus. Until Cosmas came along “Aristotle’s spherical theory of the globe had been the cornerstone of classical geography …

Aristotle determined that the earth must be a sphere; after an eclipse he had pointed out that only an orb could throw a circular shadow on the moon.”

William Manchester, A World Lit Only By Fire, The Medieval Mind and The Renaissance, Little Brown and Company, 1992

It was not until Magellan’s expedition circled the globe that the flat Earth theory was finally wholly discredited – in most of the Christian world, at any rate.

Before he became a Prophet at the age of forty, Muhammad accompanied or led trading caravans as far north as Damascus. He was twelve when he accompanied his uncle on a business trip to Syria. On the way there, the caravan passed by a Christian monastery near present day Basra where a Christian monk named Bahira began instructing the future Prophet on Christian theology and belief. It may have been Bahira who first introduced Muhammad to Cosmas’ flat Earth theory.

The biggest difference between what Cosmas advanced, and what Allah revealed is, in his Koran the sun sets in a sea of mud at one end of flat Earth and it is this disappearing act which gives rise to the night. Cosmas wrote that it was a somewhat diminutive sun disappearing behind a high mountain it circled which caused darkness to fall.

[114] Dhul-Qarnayn, in the Koran, “is believed to be Alexander the Great” writes Fakhry. Alexander walked a flat Earth to where the sun set in a sea of mud where he found “wrongdoers,” a euphemism in the Koran for unbelievers, whom he will torture then kill, the meaning of “then he will be returned over to his Lord” revelation 18:87, to be tortured some more.

18:83 And they ask you about Dhul-Qarnayn. Say: “I will give this account of him.”

18:84 We established him firmly in the land and We gave him access to everything.

18:85 And so he followed a course;

18:86 Then, when he reached the setting-place of the sun, he found that it sets in a spring of black mud and found, by it, a people. We said: “O Dhul-Qarnayn, either you punish them or show them kindness.”

18:87 He said: “As to the wrongdoer, we shall torture him; then he will be returned over to his Lord, Who will punish him a terrible punishment.


113:1 Say: “I seek refuge with the Lord of the Daybreak,

113:2 “From the evil of what He has created,

113:3 “And the evil of the darkness when it gathers,

113:4 “And the evil of those who blow into knotted reeds (witches or sorceresses),