Thought for the Day
of a perpetual and perfect measure of the divine will,
the fragments of the Koran were produced at the discretion
of Mahomet; each revelation is suited to the emergencies
of his policy or passion; and all contradiction is removed
by the saving maxim that any text of Scripture is abrogated
or modified by any subsequent passage."
recorded revelations of the prophet were stored in a chest
in the custody of one of his wives. After Muhammad's death
these gems of wisdom and divine guidance were
collected into a sacred volume, subsequently edited under
instruction of caliph Uthman – quite a challenge for
twenty two years of 'thoughts'. The arrangement is
neither chronological nor thematic but simply (after a brief
longest to shortest. In the original Arabic it is, apparently,
extremely poetic, a charm lost in translation.
Multi-Sourcing – Muhammad's
the birth of literacy in a pre-literate society the
Koran contains no direct quotes from either the Old
or New Testaments – but the fables are painfully
('Allah' in Arabic) rules supreme. He is all-powerful,
all-knowing, and all-merciful – and alone.
But most of the time the Islamic god does not have Yahweh's 'humanoid'
said that, Satan – aka 'Malik' – has
a place in the saga)
the Baptist (Yahyá) – not merely
a fore-runner but a prophet.
and her Virgin birth.
of the Prophets. Throughout history (well,
semitic history) God has sent messages and laws
to 'prophets' to guide humanity.
twist: Muhammad is another – and last – such
prophet. A bright star announces his birth.
Judaism's prophets – sinners full of human
frailty – in Islam the same cast of characters
are paragons of piety and 'righteousness'.
is born of the Virgin Mary and is the Messiah of
the Jews, a great prophet (but only human and not
twist: baby Jesus' miraculously speaks from his
cradle and he fashions a living bird out of clay.
twist: a substitute takes JC's place on the cross
therefore is not crucified but 'raised to heaven'
First man, Adam, was expelled from Paradise for eating from the forbidden tree.
twist: Satan appears but not as a serpent, both
Adam and Eve equally tempted, but repent and are
forgiven – and thus 'pains of childbirth'
not God's punishment of Woman.)
man Noah built an ark to save a select few from a
flood brought on by the wrath of God.
twist: No inherited 'original sin'; children born
'pure'. No atoning blood sacrifice required. (Eat
your heart out, JC!)
of 'Trinity' (Christian orthodoxy
Twist: the Trinity rejected is that of 'God,
Mary, Christ' – a source of huge derision
from Christian apologists but actually the doctrine
of an Arabian/Christian sect, the Collyridians.
of Eternal Paradise for Believers
twist: considerably more alluring – for
men: 72 'houris' each!
The church towers of Byzantine Syria – the
earliest minarets, square rather than round.
A form of prayer with bowings and
prostrations copied from
the pew-less Christian churches found across the
of the Patriarchs & Biblical Heroes:
Includes Abraham (aka Ibráhím) and his son Ismá'íl
(Ishmael); story of sacrifice of Isaac (Isháq ) at God's bidding. Sura
(Lot), Ya'qúb (Jacob), Yúsuf (Joseph),
Ayúb (Job). Hárún (Aaron), Dhu
l-kifl (Ezzekiel), Dawúd (David), Sulaimán,
Ilyás (Elijah), al-Yasa' (Elisha), Yúnus
(Jonas), Zakaríya (Zakariyah)
twist: prophets Hud and Saleh and the stories of
the people of Ad and Thamud (predictable tales
of rejected righteous prophets and divine retribution.)
descent direct from Abraham ('the first Muslim')
Islam trumps rival claims of precedence.
the tradition of Christian 'desert fathers' – both
the Arabia 'Hanifs' – monotheistic hermits – and
the later Sufi mystics .
of the Exodus:
Moses (Músa) led the Israelites out of Egypt and received a revelation
on Mount Sinai.
quoted (though not always accurately) more
than one hundred times in the Koran
in fact, nothing more than an Islamised Lent (the
eastern Christian churches still hold an all-day
the duty of every Muslim man to make war on unbelievers
O Prophet! Strive against the disbelievers
and the hypocrites! Be harsh with them.
Their ultimate abode is hell, a hapless
O ye who believe! Fight those of
the disbelievers who are near to you,
and let them find harshness in you. – Surah
Law embodied in scripture: Preaching an end
to licentiousness and need for peace, justice and
social responsibility, Muhammad advocated improving
the lot of slaves, orphans, women and the poor,
and replacing tribal loyalties with the fellowship
of a new monotheistic faith - which he called Islam,
meaning 'surrender to God.'
laws about circumcision and ablutions to
be obeyed; prohibition against eating pork, interdiction
twist:When Muhammad gave up on the Jews the Sabbath
was changed to Friday and the direction of prayers
changed from Jerusalem to Mecca.
enjoins Muslims to gather every Friday for communal
worship. This practice had
evolved in Medina where Jews had gathered on Friday
for the weekly market before the Saturday Sabbath."
(Bloom, Blair, Islam p109)
Islamic cities the congregational mosque was/is located
in the town centre, within or close by a large market
('suq' or bazaar). Unlike Jews or Christians, Muslims
are required to stop work only during the communal
prayer, not for the entire day.
Day. God will bring about the end of the world
and the Day of Judgment.
like Christianity, Islam owes a debt to paganism.
Paganism is part of its theology, history, ceremony,
60 BC, the Roman historian Diodorus Siculus commented
that there was in Arabia a temple 'greatly revered
by the Arabs.'
Ptolemy, the geographer, mentions
it in his work, calling it the 'macoraba.'
incorporated the Kabah's pagan roots into
Islam to give the Muslims a sense of identity,
legitimacy, and uniqueness. He also wanted to ease
the Arabs' strain of moving from paganism to Islam,
by continuing the practices of their fathers.
twist: The Ka'bah of Mecca was built not to honour
the black meteorite but Abraham himself, who
supposedly built a shrine on the same spot – (Sura
keenly recognized the religious and economic importance
of retaining the pilgrimage to Mecca.
were 360 idols around the Kabah (a connection
with the celestial orb seems clear). Paintings
of Jesus and Mary were said to have been on the
inner wall of the Kabah.
black stone of Mecca. Actually now in several pieces.
When facing resistance from the polytheistic Quraysh tribe Muhammad appears
to have wavered in his monotheism. At one stage he commanded his followers
to offer prayers to 'Allah's three daughters' – al-Lat, al-Uzza,
and Manat, each of which had a shrine near Mecca.
are the exalted cranes Whose intercession is
to be hoped for." (Surah 53:19-22)
retracted that particular 'revelation' and blamed
it on a trick by the Devil – hence, the
goddess Manat ('Fate') seemingly has a ghostly
presence in Islamic 'fatalism' – the perception
that everything is under God's control.
'divine revelations' were apparently memorized
by his followers or inscribed on camel
shoulder bones, leather and wood. Not until 650 – 40
years after the earliest – were the various
utterances ('suras') compiled into a single Koran
commissioned by caliph Uthman and issued as the
'authorized' version throughout his empire.
seems that in the Himyarite kingdom in the
south heterodoxy had flourished ...
7th/8th century Koranic fragments
in 1972 during restoration of the Great Mosque
of San'a, tens of thousands of fragments of a
thousand early Korans – and not all
of them identical.
it be Islam's 'Word of God' – like the
Christian version – needed a little judicious
Mosque of San'a, Yemen, originally built
W. Cook & R. Herzman, The Medieval World View (OUP,
John Gribbin, Science a History (Penguin, 2003)
William Dalrymple, From the Holy Mountain (Flamingo, 1998)
N. H. H. Sitwell, Outside the Empire-The World the Romans Knew (Paladin,
Edward Gibbon, Decline & Fall, Chapters 50-52 The Coming of Islam,
M. Brett, W. Forman, The Moors, Islam in the West (Orbis, 1980)
Justin Wintle, History of Islam (Rough Guides, 2003)
J. Bloom, S. Blair, Islam - Empire of Faith (BBC Books, 2001)
J. J. Norwich, Byzantium, The Early Centuries (Viking, 1988)
C. McEvedy, The Penguin Atlas of Medieval History (Penguin, 1987)
Robert Marshall, Storm from the East (BBC Books, 1993)
Some fifty articles are now available as a book.
For your copy order:
Copyright © 2004
by Kenneth Humphreys.
Copying is freely permitted, provided credit is given to the
author and no material herein is sold for profit.