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"Why would Muslims have said Muhammad received revelations from the devil if no Satan had appeared to give revelations to Muhammad?"

In order to explain why the sacred text and core teachings of their developing religion was changing.
2014-06-26T09:04:44+00:00 robertspencer
"Violence is built into the DNA of Islam right from the beginning. It goes back to the prophet and in that Spencer are in agreement (although I don´t see how Spencer is going to blame it on Muhammad any longer since he knowadays doubts that the prophet has existed….)"

I'm rather amazed at the persistence of this talking point. Is it so hard to see this? Muslims believe that Muhammad existed. Muslims believe that Muhammad said and did certain things, and those things are normative for Islamic law. Thus it is extremely important for Infidels to know what Muslims believe Muhammad said and did, as this will illuminate jihadist behavior and future plans. However, this belief in Muhammad doesn't mean that Muhammad was an actual historical figure. If a Christian turns the other cheek, it is because he believes in Jesus. But that belief doesn't mean that Jesus actually said those words -- whether or not he did is a separate question.
2014-06-26T01:18:49+00:00 robertspencer
"The problem with Spencer and his trolls is that they have rarely or never met normal muslims in their own countries."

I don't have "trolls," and Antonio Jerez doesn't have the slightest idea whom I have met.
2014-06-26T01:15:53+00:00 robertspencer
Macbeth "smells like reality," too. Hamlet is an awfully realistic guy. Neither are real. 2014-06-26T01:15:05+00:00 robertspencer
I ordinarily wouldn't reply to such a piece, but Loren wrote and alerted me to what Antonio Jerez had written, and I thought it might be an interesting exercise.

"The book left me a bitter aftertaste and it still does. It is those kind of books where the author is out to prove a thing at almost any price and by whatever methods."

In reality, when I started researching the book, I thought I would find that Muhammad certainly existed but that some of the material in the hadith about him that was generally considered to be authentic was actually inauthentic. The more I researched, however, the less I found -- that is, the less I found that supported the canonical picture of Muhammad.

"Spencer’s distaste for Islam and its founder is wellknown and here I got the clear impression that Spencer behaves much the way Jesus mythers do; falsify a religion in the most effective way by 'showing' that the founder never existed."

I am not in the least interested in falsifying Islam. My interest in Islam is focused on Sharia threats to human rights and the jihad threat to free societies. People who believe in Islam but leave infidels alone are fine by me and I have no interest in disturbing their myth. My interest in the question of Muhammad's existence is historical.

"Despite Spencer’s efforts to cast doubt on early sources like the Syriac gospel fragment (dated to the 630ies) I think his nitpicking is unpersuasive."

Why? Antonio Jerez does not explain why. In any case, I discuss the fragment and note that it provides us no details that authenticate the voluminous hadith literature about Muhammad. I stand by that.

"Equally unpersuasive is Spencer’s way of mostly relaying on fringe theories and fringe scholars like John Wansbrough and Christoph Luxenburg (Princeton islam scholar Patricia Crone with a slightly hidden disdain calls him an amateur)."

Jerez doesn't mention my strong reliance on the presumably "professional" Crone; nor does he note that Crone was a protege of Wansbrough. Anyway, calling someone "fringe" is not a refutation of his work; it is just a pejorative term meaning that the views espoused by this person are currently unpopular and not in favor. The real question is whether or not what they say is true. Galileo was "fringe" in his day.

"And I hardly think it is a coincidence that Spencer leaves the recently found Sanaa fragments of the Quran from Yemen (dated to the end of the 7th century) out of the discussion. These fragments show conclusively that something very close to the modern Quranic version already existed 40-70 years after Mohammad’s death. Which make it very difficult to believe that the Quran was a later invention by the Ummayads and the Abbasids."

In reality, I state in the book that the Qur'an and Islam started to take shape during the end of the 7th century, so these fragments do not refute my thesis in the slightest. However, these fragments do not in themselves "show conclusively that something very close to the modern Quranic version already existed 40-70 years after Mohammad’s death." Luxenberg and Lueling argue in different ways that the Qur'an was constructed from already existing material. The fragments could be fragments of that earlier material, and not of the Qur'an at all.

"It is also hardly a coincidence that Spencer almost totally leaves out a discussion about the internal 'evidence' of the Quran itself. I suppose one reason is that Spencer doesn’t know classical arabic himself. How is he to get into things like the peculiar style of the suras?"

This is an odd quibble, since in the book I do actually discuss the Qur'an's style, nonce words, words of unknown meaning, obvious textual interpolations, and more. These discussions are in chapter six. Did Jerez throw the book down in disgust before finishing it?

"A thing that on its own make most islam scholars who know arabic pretty certain that most of the suras go back to Muhammad himself and not to some later inventive muslims in Abbasid times."

I don't argue that the Qur'an is a product of Abbasid times, but of the Umayyads.

"I don´t know one iota of arabic myself but even reading the Quran in a translation makes me wonder why later muslims living in Ummayad and Abbasid times would make up the chronologically and thematically disjointed suras that are part of the Quaran. The hodgepodge of the Quran makes a lot more sense if the traditions about it being the utterances of Mohammad being true. Just as it makes a lot more sense if the verses were later collected at the time of Uthman (were the traditional story fits pretty well with the timing of the Saana fragments)."

This argument cuts both ways. If the standard story of how the Qur'an was put together is true, why couldn't those who collected it together in Uthman's day put it in some coherent order? Why couldn't Muhammad have done so before that? To claim that a committee (as per the stories in early Islamic sources about the Qur'an's collection) in the 650's couldn't have organized the Qur'an more coherently but a committee in the 690's would necessarily have done so is, well, ridiculous.

"What makes me weary about Robert Spencer is that I am 100 % sure that he would never use the same sloppy methods to dissect the traditions about Jesus. I am sure that he would deem even the Gospel of John about 99 % historically reliable."

I haven't studied the Gospel of John on that basis, so I couldn't say. In any case, I'm not for "sloppy methods" being used anywhere, but as I state in "Did Muhammad Exist?," I am all for historical criticism of the Bible. I merely suggest it should also be allowed to be done on the Qur'an.

"Personally I have come to the conclusion that Mohammad is unique in being a founder of a religious movement from Antiquity where we have we have the majority of his teachings as coming to us as almost out of his mouth. We really get into his mind in a way we can never do with Jesus or Buddha."

Funny how these teachings come almost out of his mouth and then Muslims clammed up about them and never mentioned that either he or these teachings existed for six decades, and for much of what came out of his mouth, even substantially longer.
2014-06-26T01:14:03+00:00 robertspencer
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Algemeiner.com / algemeiner.com

The fastest growing Jewish newspaper in America, your one stop source for all news, commentary and analysis from Israel and Jewish communities around the world.

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Pamela Geller embodies courage and love for the truth in an age when those qualities are in extremely short supply. She stands up for Israel and exposes the grim reality of the motives and goals of the foes of the Jewish State even against frenzied opposition from Jewish accommodationists. She is the quintessential 21st century Jewish leader.

2013-04-05 00:09:07 Robert Spencer
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The Diary of Daedalus / thediaryofdaedalus.com

Keeping an eye on Icarus

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Fumigating it, that is, of lizardoid stylistic tics. 2011-08-15T09:43:21-04:00 Robert Spencer
Hello everyone. Of course I read DoD. Anyway, I love the suggestion of putting back the "Designed by Little Green Footballs" tag on Jihad Watch, just to see CJ's sanctimonious fury, but it would be insulting to the man who really designed Jihad Watch, the nonpareil Charles Nolan. Nolan redesigned the site thoroughly a few years ago, completely de-lizardizing and fumigating it. So if I had the LGF tag on now, it wouldn't be true. 2011-08-15T09:42:35-04:00 Robert Spencer
XXXX, Cato the Elder, is beneath contempt. He is responsible for some of Johnson's most vicious smears and defamation of me and others. If any decent human being ever has the misfortune of being in his company, he should flee immediately. 2011-02-05T08:06:23-05:00 Robert Spencer
Someone who, at this late hour of August 2010, finally wakes up to the little tinhorn cult that Johnson is running, must have been suffering from a moral myopia of immense proportions beginning in late 07, when Johnson began his apparently never-ending campaign of lies and defamation against Pamela Geller and others, including me beginning late in 08. Such a person needs serious deprogramming and cannot possibly be considered to have judgment worth consideration by any sane and rational individual unless and until evidence of such deprogramming is presented. 2010-08-30T11:22:31-04:00 Robert Spencer
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The American Conservative / theamericanconservative.com

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2010-02-23 19:35:34 Robert Spencer
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debbieschlussel / debbieschlussel.com

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This was a sad post to see, but not for the reasons Debbie and the commenters are retailing. The reality is that Debbie, by focusing on someone who wasn’t even at the rally, has deflected attention away from where it should be — on Rifqa herself and on the heroic work Pamela Geller has done in putting the rally together. No one else has done as much as Pamela has to draw attention to the Rifqa Bary case. Her selection of speakers today was brilliant, making clear the connection between Rifqa’s case and the larger Islamic jihad worldwide. Simon Deng, the ex-slave from the Sudan, spoke movingly, along with Islamic apostate Nonie Darwish.

And Debbie makes it all about someone who wasn’t even there, whose deceptiveness Pamela discovered well before the rally took place? That’s more than disappointing. That hurts Rifqa’s cause.

RS: As you and I both know, you just signed a book deal to write a book with Pamela and her site now gets more traffic than yours, so you depend on her a lot and are not independent in this matter. However, as we also both know, you were in on this and aren’t being intellectually honest. You knew that Pamela invited this woman who sent her kids to their death and had a Muslim funeral for them against their wishes. Then, when their great-aunt, Gail Gartrell found out about it through a third party, you contacted her and offered to fly her in to be in the rally as well, according to her account, meaning that you were in on this and didn’t take a stand. Shame on you, Robert. DS

2009-11-16T22:28:00 Robert Spencer
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Hot Air / hotair.com

The world’s first, full-service conservative Internet broadcast network

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allah is just giving us information, good information. We need this information.

True. We need to know about the rising levels of violent intimidation and hatred in some sectors of American society — only not the ones that are generally accused of this.

Without any comment to preface this, it seems to be something the site embraces, and that’s ridiculous.

There’s a line between the humor of abruptness and an unhealthy portion of tastelessness.

That is also true. It was extremely irresponsible to post this without comment, and all the negative comments and questions are justified, and should be answered.

2008-10-20 10:15:37 Robert Spencer

Disturb the Universe and sven10077:

No offense, but I thought this site was going to focus solely on the presidential election. That was the reason Robert Spencer gave for Malkin’s suspension of Blogging the Koran.

Disturb the Universe on September 10, 2008 at 8:28 AM

I think blogging the Koran has a little bit more to do with the election than arts&croissants…

sven10077 on September 10, 2008 at 9:43 AM

As everyone knows, the Qur’an has nothing whatsoever to do with the current election, while Bottle Shock has everything to do with it.

In case anyone is interested (and I do not take that for granted), Blogging the Qur’an continues every Sunday morning at Jihad Watch. Watch for updates here.

2008-09-10 18:45:02 Robert Spencer


Will you still do the occasional “Jihad Watch” video here at Hot Air?

No — again, per Michelle Malkin’s request. I may do an occasional video at Jihad Watch and post it at YouTube — or I may not.

2008-08-24 12:52:44 Robert Spencer

If anyone has any questions or comments on this post, I’ll be checking in today to deal with them here, and per Michelle Malkin’s request, next week this series will continue at Jihad Watch.

2008-08-24 12:00:14 Robert Spencer


I have a question. Concerning intercession as mentioned in 39:3 39:43 and 39:44, this sounds to me like it is not asking someone to pray for the person, but praying to someone other than Allah. Is this the Islamic perception of these verses?


I know Allah has told his followers to pray (he has commanded 5 times a day), however can they pray for other people or is this useless intercession?

No, it’s very common for Muslims to ask living people to pray for them. In Islam you certainly can and should pray for other people. But one should not ask the dead — i.e., the saints — for prayers.

2008-08-18 03:54:07 Robert Spencer


How old is the newest Hadith?

Oh, about 1200-1300 years old.

Generally? Are they still be written today?

No. Hadith are traditions of the words and deeds of Muhammad. Many were forged, and there is a whole science in Islam to distinguish the false from the true, but they certainly aren’t being written today.

2008-08-18 03:18:26 Robert Spencer


But you could sense the relief in the past week when a real old fashioned enemy seemed to be in need of correction. It was as though murky Islam could be dismissed for more tangible fish.

Absolutely. And Diana West absolutely nails the difference here.

2008-08-18 03:16:43 Robert Spencer


If you could find such a course, it would probably be stating that Islam is a religion of peace and tolerance.

Oh yeah. And that anyone who says anything to the contrary is “Islamophobic.”

2008-08-18 03:15:05 Robert Spencer


Muhammad said: “A good dream that comes true is from Allah, and a bad dream is from Satan, so if anyone of you sees a bad dream, he should seek refuge with Allah from Satan and should spit on the left, for the bad dream will not harm him.”

2008-08-18 03:14:18 Robert Spencer


If this was college, you would be getting paid and we would get 4 credits.

Why it isn’t college, and why you can’t even find a simple introductory class on the Qur’anic text as it is explained by the Hadith and classical tafasir on college campuses today, is a story in itself, and not a short one.

2008-08-18 02:19:03 Robert Spencer


Oh, and in the immortal words of the Bard:

“Sleep is like a temporary death…” — Bob Dylan, “Workingman’s Blues #2”

2008-08-18 02:17:27 Robert Spencer


Oh…on another note, I saw something earlier today that said Muslims believe that if one falls asleep while praying, that Satan…how do I put this…will pee in his ear. Don’t know if that’s true or not.

Here you go.

Narrated ‘Abdullah:

It was mentioned before the Prophet that there was a man who slept the night till morning (after sunrise). The Prophet said, “He is a man in whose ears (or ear) Satan had urinated.”

That’s a hadith, Bukhari 4.54.492.

2008-08-18 02:14:32 Robert Spencer


I don’t know how I missed that.

Well, it is possible that it is one of those things that are so obvious and axiomatic to me that I never realized I should take the time to stop and explain it. But one main verse listing the People of the Book is 2:62, which promises them all — Jews, Christians, Sabeans — Paradise. However, that promise is not quite as expansively ecumenical as some Islamic apologists try to make it appear today, as I explained here.

2008-08-18 02:11:58 Robert Spencer


Are there elements in Turkey that want to impose Sharia law?


How big is this movement?

Very big. It includes the Prime Minister and the ruling party.

Is this a big problem for us in the west as Turkey is an ally of the United States?

Oh yes.

2008-08-18 02:06:26 Robert Spencer


Are Jews considered “people of the book”? I thought that was only Christians…

Oh yes. In fact, the Jews are the quintessential “People of the Book,” whose rejection of Muhammad is so outrageous and lands them Allah’s curse, because he is prophesied in their book.

2008-08-18 02:05:13 Robert Spencer


Is Allah supposedly sending the souls back to the body, of those who awake…for any other reason than he’s not ready for them?

Well, he could be not ready for them for any number of reasons.

2008-08-18 02:02:10 Robert Spencer


Does this mean that every time a Muslim sleeps, Allah takes his soul? If that person wakes up, it means Allah returned it? If they don’t wake up it means Allah kept it?

That does seem to be what Abdullah Yusuf Ali is saying.

Yup, pretty much no way a Muslim can die and not go to Paradise.

There are a few ahadith about how few Muslims will actually be saved.

On a sort of related note: why do Muslims have to bury their dead so fast? It’s something like 24 or 48 hours? Is that an old public health thing they just keep practicing or is there some religious reason for why they still adhere to it?

Yes, and yes. It is a matter of positive command, although the positive command is hard to separate from the rapid decay of dead bodies in the desert heat.

2008-08-18 02:00:30 Robert Spencer


2. No matter what a few HA knuckleheaded commenters write (I almost wrote “think” but that would have been an oxymoron) about the topic, please ignore them all because they don’t know, or play ostrich with our time. They’ll be the first casualties.

I’m sorry. I probably should have ignored him in the first place. I opened the question in the first place after I read his message because I’ve seen week by week how few commenters there are on these threads as opposed to other HA threads, and I don’t want to be blind to the possibility that the thing that I’m trying to do here is just boring and useless. But of course, most of those who think that it is will not comment here at all.

Note to the gripers – go away and play freely, while you still can.

And that won’t be for much longer, either, from the looks of things.

5. Not only do I admire you for the huge effort, the research you put into it, your insights, comparables and contrasts, but especially I’m in awe at your courage to do so, when most others, who should, are hiding and hoping the threat just disappears.

Yeah, it’s all over now. We’re back to the Cold War. There won’t be any more Islamic terror attacks, or any stealthy Islamic supremacist efforts. Nothing to be concerned about.

Therefore, please, dear Sir, do not listen to the voices of ignorance, but rather to your inner voice, which I know tells you to do that which is right, and so necessary.

Many thanks. Have you ever wished your inner voice would shut up? I have.

2008-08-18 01:56:50 Robert Spencer


Stay Robert. I might read these one day they look interesting.


2008-08-18 01:51:54 Robert Spencer


1) Do non-muslims have to pay the jizya in Turkey?

No. Turkey is a secular state that ostensibly does not discriminate against non-Muslims. However, they are subject to various nettlesome restrictions and harassment. The Turkish Government is engaged in a long-term effort to strangle and destroy the Patriarchate of Constantinople, the seat of Orthodox Christianity. The Patriarch must be a Turkish national, but they closed the only seminary — making the finding of home-grown candidates exceedingly difficult. And Protestant Evanglicals report difficulty in getting permits to build churches, etc.

2) Are there different punishments for unbelievers of different religions? Ie. Jews, Christians, and Pagans just paying the jizya if they will not convert opposed to Hindus which the only choice is conversion or death?

Yes. The People of the Book — Jews, Christians, Zoroastrians and some others — can become dhimmis, paying protection money to the Islamic state and practicing their religions freely within severe restrictions. Hindus and Buddhists and others who are not People of the Book must convert or die, although dhimmi status was awarded to the Hindus as a practical matter during the time of Islamic rule in India.

2008-08-18 01:51:28 Robert Spencer


In fact, I wrote a book about that issue last year, but it turned out to be largely a stealth publication. Still, I tend to think it wasn’t that bad a book, if I do say so myself.

2008-08-18 01:46:04 Robert Spencer


Many people, Muslim and otherwise, like to groups religions together and claim they are all basically the same. Not so true, is it?

Indeed not. But it is as common as the air we breathe. I have heard the confident assertion that “Fundamentalism of any kind is the core problem” enough for twelve lifetimes. As it Pat Robertson and Franklin Graham were cutting off heads and flying planes into buildings.

2008-08-18 01:44:50 Robert Spencer


After Sura 114, I would like to see this theme on understanding islam continued in another direction. Or from another angle.

I may wrap up with one or two summary and concluding posts, but then it will be over.

2008-08-18 01:42:56 Robert Spencer


As Robert alluded to last week, he can see the way the wind is blowing and coddling/appeasing Islam is the future for the unaware masses.

Indeed. I see former friends going wobbly all over the place — people I never expected to do so. I feel as if I am trapped in Ionesco’s “Rhinoceros.”

2008-08-18 01:41:56 Robert Spencer


Continue until you finish. Soulglo can read something else, which he will complain about as well.

Thanks. It did occur to me this morning to tell him that reading this thing is not compulsory.

2008-08-18 01:39:36 Robert Spencer


George Bush’s first acts after 9/11 amounted to da’wa…

Now there is a thought-provoking assertion if I ever heard one.

2008-08-18 01:38:45 Robert Spencer


But don’t listen to me. I’m sure secret ‘revert’ Grover Norquist has some nice ad hominem arguments to make you go back to sleep.

But it’s ok, my good man. You see, he wants to cut our taxes.

2008-08-18 01:37:42 Robert Spencer


Heh. I misread the quote. I thought it said: “The Unbelievers will be led to Hell in thongs.”

Ain’t no doubt about this, my friend: if it really did say that, then the Qur’an would not be — in the view of many Westerners ably articulated by John Derbyshire — as “wrist-slittingly boring” as it is.

Me, I don’t think it is boring at all, but I know why others think so. And I think the mind-numbing repetitiveness of certain portions of it is instructive and illuminating in its own way.

2008-08-18 01:36:22 Robert Spencer

Spirit of 1776:

There is not a single good reason for cessation (except your own personal ones).

That is another story altogether, but I plan to finish this series.

2008-08-18 01:34:30 Robert Spencer


Why do you think Michelle wants you to quit? You have mentioned that before.

No, no, no. I didn’t mean that. I mean that in the event that she asked me to stop, I would honor her request. I have no indication that that is the case. I just meant that I plan to finish this thing, unless she asks me to stop before that point.

2008-08-18 01:33:37 Robert Spencer


Man, these “Blogging the Qur’an” things are getting really old. Why do you guys even keep doing this? What’s the point?

The point is to understand the motivations and goals of the forces that have vowed to destroy American society.

I plan to stop after completing Sura 114, the last chapter of the Qur’an. That is a lot sooner than it may appear, because the chapters start getting a lot shorter soon, and I will knock off more than one a week.

Or I will stop when Michelle Malkin asks me to stop, and I’ll strongly consider doing so if I’m voted off the island in the comments field here. I will be out much of today but will be interested tonight to read what people say in favor of or possibly against your sentiments here.

2008-08-17 13:00:42 Robert Spencer


Whoa, I never expected a response from the top man, himself.

When I first agreed to write this series here, Michelle Malkin asked that I answer questions in the comments field. I have much enjoyed doing so, even though there have generally not been many comments at all. It has been an opportunity to discuss some of the relevant material here more fully, and to joust with the occasional critic.

2008-08-11 22:27:34 Robert Spencer


McDonald’s chocolate milk shake?

Well, those things make me feel miserable enough that they could well be the dark murky drink of Hell.

2008-08-11 18:04:49 Robert Spencer


this is the first one of these I have looked at–simply because I have no interest in the Q’uran (or however you spell it). But I was wondering about the Britney reference. But I still don’t see how it relates. Help?


I posit that it is interesting as an insight into the mindset and beliefs of Islamic terrorists.

But in any case, Britney: I chose the photo as a wry illustration of the Qur’an verse underneath it. “Therein will they recline at ease. Therein can they call for fruit in abundance, and delicious drink; and beside them will be chaste women restraining their glances, companions of equal age.”

That is a vision of Paradise. So I found a picture of a chaste woman of just about the requisite age — Britney — holding a delicious drink in the company of a male companion.

Just a little joke. Very little, from the looks of your post. But it beats yet another illustration of the pains of hell.

2008-08-11 16:00:20 Robert Spencer


Yes, but I don’t think that in the case of the Qur’an translations of phrases such as jihad fi sabeel Allah that it is a case of euphemisms being employed. It is a correct translation that simply doesn’t and cannot convey the theological import of the phrase itself.

Not that there aren’t euphemisms and fig leaves, of course. Abdullah Yusuf Ali, for example, in his translation of 4:34, the notorious “wife-beating verse,” renders it “beat her (lightly).” But there is no “(lightly)” in the Arabic. It’s just “beat her.”

2008-08-11 14:18:17 Robert Spencer


I have a Koran that I purchased when I lived in Cairo many years ago in a “parallel” format with English and Arabic. I have been told that many, if not all, translations available in English now are heavily “sanitized”. Could it be that Beck read one of these, with all the “icky” parts snipped out?

All the English Qur’ans fail to convey in full the violence of the original. This is not in every case due to an attempt to sanitize the original, although there are such attempts by some translators. (I should note, however, that they don’t “snip out” the “icky” parts — they just obscure them.) Some of the obscurity comes from the difficulty of conveying in English not the meaning of the Arabic words, but their import. For example, jihad fi sabeel Allah, jihad in the path of Allah, always refers in Islamic theology to hot warfare. But in some translations it is rendered as “strive hard in the way of God,” which sounds like an exhortation to piety, not to warfare. Yet strictly speaking the translation is legitimate. Only an honest explanatory footnote — which most English Qur’ans are far from having — would adequately explain something like this.

2008-08-11 12:53:02 Robert Spencer

funky chicken:

Gross. I’d like to think that the glowing portrayal of a 50 year old consummating his marriage with a 9 year old was part of the reason the book got canned. That may be giving the publisher too much credit though.

Yes. Judging from the news accounts, which of course may not be accurate, that does seem to be giving the publisher too much credit.

2008-08-11 02:02:09 Robert Spencer


To paraphrase Mark Twain, the only way that someone could read the Koran and believe Islam to be a “Religion of Peace” is if he purposely shuts the eyes of his mind and keeps them shut by force.

Indeed. On the other hand, in Beck’s defense, I did hear shortly after 9/11 about a man who bought a Qur’an on 9/12, read through it quickly, and pronounced it innocuous and nonviolent. Incredulous when I heard this, I began asking the man who told me — a friend of his — “Well, did he read chapter 9? Chapter 8? 2:190-193? 5:33? 47:4?” Etc. etc.

However, it did occur to me that the book is quite repetitive, and quite opaque in many sections, and it is not outside the realm of possibility that, numbed by the repetitive condemnations of unbelievers, one might glide by the passages that should bring the attentive reader up short.

2008-08-11 02:01:11 Robert Spencer


So, if Muhammad said first to worship one god, then switched to another, doesn’t this then cause problems for Islamic apologists?

No, because he didn’t give up the first one. He just said they were one and the same.

2008-08-11 01:58:01 Robert Spencer


It wasn’t unusual to have sex with nine-year-olds?

No, it wasn’t all that unusual for young girls to be married off. And it still isn’t in some areas, thanks to Muhammad’s example.

I had a discussion with a Muslim, and he claimed it was okay as she’d started her period.

This is a common apologetic argument among Muslims. But there is no mention of this in the early Islamic literature.

2008-08-11 01:57:18 Robert Spencer

talking mouse:

Mr. Spencer, many are the passages that promise the male believer in Islam companions in Paradise. What, if anything, is promised for the female believer in Islam, as companions in Paradise? Or will she become one of the companions of appropriate age to the male?

Pious women and promised Paradise in Qur’an 4:124, but the Qur’an never describes what Paradise is like for women. And no, the hoors seem to be some kind of special inhabitants of Paradise, not earthly women.

2008-08-11 01:55:56 Robert Spencer

Spirit of 1776:

Maybe a jinn replaced Mohammad for some of the more unique Qur’an verses as punishment for marrying Aisha purely out of desire. But as Glenn Beck says that is a story of pure unadulterated love (I kid, I kid).

No kidding, however: the novel about Muhammad and Aisha that Random House just killed for fear of the Muslim reaction actually did romanticize their relationship, and in quite lurid terms, also.

2008-08-10 20:03:25 Robert Spencer


This has come up a few times in the last couple of Suras. Such as white flowing wine that does not cause intoxication, etc. Does Mohammad ever talk about slaves or servents in Paradise? Are there slaves in heaven? What is their heavenly reward, to serve?

Yes, in a certain sense these chaste women, the hoors, are slaves. After all, they seem to have no other function than to please the male inhabitants of Paradise.

And then there are the boys! “And round about them will serve youths of perpetual freshness: If thou seest them, thou wouldst think them scattered Pearls” (Qur’an 76:19). They seem to be slaves also — devoted only to serving the blessed.

2008-08-10 19:57:44 Robert Spencer

Jimmy the Dhimmi:

The unbelievers are going to hell, blah blah blah.

When I was first slogging through the Qur’an for a college class, large sections of it did seem to be aptly summed up in that way. But on closer inspection there is a lot of interesting variation — interesting to me, anyway — and I have tried to bring it out here.

2008-08-10 17:06:42 Robert Spencer


Do you mean here that Muhammad forbade the worship of al-Rahman for a while, later absorbing him into Islam as an aspect of Allah, or that Muhammad originally demanded worship of al-Rahman as the lone god and later changed his name to Allah?

The latter.

2008-08-10 17:04:17 Robert Spencer

Bubba Redneck:

Having read through most of Robert’s summary of the Koran to date several things strike me:

1.The concept of Free Will does not exist; Allah has it all planned out and curses those whom he wills unbelievers (see Mommynator’s comment above). So this has always lead me to ask: Why pray?

Because Allah commands it.

2. Moe was a pervert and a pedophile. In fact he’d be listed as a class III sex offender today.

Maybe, but what he did was not unusual in his day. The problem comes in when he is held up as an excellent example of conduct (per Qur’an 33:21) and Muslims today imitate his actions. What would not have raised eyebrows in the 7th century can be a serious offense today.

3. The lack of logic.

“Allah’s hand is not chained” (Qur’an 5:64).

4. When in doubt slaughter. Infidels deserve to die, see 1 above and as a bonus you get to keep the loot because Allah said so.

They don’t have to be slaughtered if they “pay the jizya [tax] with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued” (Qur’an 9:29).

5. It is not good to be a woman in Islam.

Yes. Good women are obedient. Disobedient ones should be beaten (Qur’an 4:34).

2008-08-10 17:03:34 Robert Spencer


I always get a chuckle when I hear people like Glenn Beck say “I’ve read the Koran cover to cover.”

I found that rather astonishing myself. Beck actually says, “I have read the Koran and can tell you that I unequivocally believe that Islam is a religion of peace.”

As I wrote here, that’s like saying, “I have read the Koran but I read it with my eyes closed.” Beck is a good guy, but I believe he was seriously overreaching here. He probably hasn’t read the book at all in reality, or at very least he might have phrased his statement very differently — perhaps saying something like that he believes Islam is a religion of peace despite the plain meaning of many passages of the Qur’an. An Islamic movement that rejects Qur’anic literalism, however, is nowhere mainstream at this point, and never has been.

2008-08-10 16:58:58 Robert Spencer


Does any other group focus so much attention in their texts on people who simply don’t believe it’s drivel?

I don’t know of any other religious text that focuses so much attention on the unbelievers who reject its message, their perversity, and the dire fate that awaits them. As anyone who has kept up with this series knows by now, this is a central preoccupation of the Qur’an (we are almost two-thirds of the way through the book now). Maybe someone can adduce an example of another religious text that is so preoccupied with unbelievers, but I don’t think there is one.

2008-08-10 16:55:36 Robert Spencer

james hooker:

“Therein will they recline at ease. Therein can they call for fruit in abundance, and delicious drink; and beside them will be chaste women restraining their glances, companions of equal age.”

Robert, it sounds good to me. 30 bucks says there´s a catch though.

There’s no catch! The delights of Paradise are guaranteed to those who “kill and are killed” for Allah (Qur’an 9:111)! That’s all you have to do in order to enjoy the fruit, delicious drink, and chaste women, companions of equal age, forever!

Seriously, there is no doubt whatsoever that this is precisely the appeal for at least some radicalized young Muslims. See, for example, this story, and this one, and above all see the sad case of this young man.

2008-08-10 16:52:54 Robert Spencer


That’s a very interesting perspective. I will think that over. Meanwhile, I think it is also important that I address the other concern — that I am magnifying the importance of isolated instances of accommodation, and exaggerating their place in the Islamic supremacist program as delineated by the Brotherhood memorandum. I will do my best to address this at Jihad Watch in the near future.

2008-08-09 00:38:21 Robert Spencer


Thank you, thank you, thank you.

You’re welcome, you’re welcome, you’re welcome!

I don’t believe, as some implied in the last thread on this subject, that Tyson has any interest in advancing Islamic beliefs.

Of course they don’t.

I do believe that they made a misguided decision that is consistent with their past behavior, in that they are taking a short-term view towards what seems best for their bottom line.

Of course they are.

However, I do believe that this must be viewed in the context of the larger picture; this is another example of giving in to demands that would be seen as unreasonable, were they not connected to Islam and the push by groups such as CAIR and the Muslim Brotherhood to create the notion that opposition to such changes is “racist”, xenophobic, etc.

Yes — they would not be seen as unreasonable were they not connected to the Islamic supremacist agenda, which is a matter of record and established from the words of the Islamic supremacists themselves.

It is easy to dismiss the idea of incrementalism, “creep” if you will, as the paranoid fantasies of the unenlightened, until you look at the pattern of conduct of these groups and the resulting compromises and concessions made in order to mollify them and the consequential demands for more.

Not just their conduct. Look at the Muslim Brotherhood memorandum of 1991. They themselves have explained exactly what they’re up to.

This is nothing new. It is a pattern, and sadly, it seems to be working.

And working quite well — witness the difficulty even of otherwise perceptive analysts even to comprehend that it is happening.

2008-08-09 00:07:22 Robert Spencer


I just hope the wind is towards “liberty & justice for all”.

I hope so. But what I meant was that the venues in which the Islamic jihad threat can be discussed fully and honestly are continuing to shrink.

2008-08-08 23:24:08 Robert Spencer


We can’t paint all Muslims as the enemy.

It is not “painting all Muslims as the enemy” to recognize the Brotherhood’s supremacist agenda, and oppose it.

But no worries: I can see which way the wind is blowing, and have seen it for some time.

2008-08-08 23:04:36 Robert Spencer

It has to do with a great deal more than simply freedom of contract, and the opponents of Tyson on this issue are not simply “This Is A Christian Nation” hysterics, as Allahpundit disappointingly implies with his last link above.

There is a perfectly justifiable reason to oppose the union’s action here — one that has nothing to do with religious cheerleading or chauvinism. It has to do with the fact that avowedly Islamic supremacist groups are pursuing an agenda in the U.S. that involves compelling American groups to accommodate Islamic practices and beliefs, bit by bit, until the “miserable house” of “Western civilization” is “destroyed.” This is not hysterical or hearsay. It is by the own words of a Muslim Brotherhood operative in a strategic plan for America enunciated in 1991.

Given that such an initiative exists, and is being put advanced today by Brotherhood-linked groups in the U.S., it is foolish for American companies to adopt a posture of accommodation — even when such accommodation might be entirely reasonable and in keeping with American pluralism in other contexts, when requested by groups that do not have this supremacist agenda.

Details here.

2008-08-08 22:18:53 Robert Spencer

For some reason, which may or may not be interesting, my trackback is not showing up here, but in any case, I have written here about why this case matters, and should not be shrugged off.

2008-08-07 14:26:49 Robert Spencer


I am kicking myself because just yesterday I came across an Islamic source for the 72 women on 72 beds in 72 rooms idea — but today I can’t find it. In any case, what I can tell you right now is that the 72 number never appears in the Qur’an, in which the number of hoors (the heavenly babes) is never specified. Nor does it come from any of the canonical Hadith collections, and there are in fact varying traditions as to the number of the hoors.

2008-08-05 13:34:09 Robert Spencer


Thanks very much.

Norquist = enabler, do we know any consenters that we can swing?

Do they even exist?

I’m sorry. I don’t understand the question. Do you mean people who consent to what Grover Norquist is doing, who can be compelled to switch sides? I doubt it.

2008-08-05 04:28:42 Robert Spencer


Just strange to hear comparisons to wine, when Islam is supposedly against alcohol.

Well, as you can see from this sura, the prohibition is only against the “distasteful” wines of this world, not against the non-intoxicating variety that runs in streams through Paradise.

2008-08-04 10:42:07 Robert Spencer

Johan Klaus:

You should have used an American beer like Shiner. We are not dhimmified yet.

Never heard of Shiner. I was thinking of O’Doul’s, but I couldn’t find an image that said “non-alcoholic” prominently enough.

2008-08-04 10:40:52 Robert Spencer


And given the Islamic idea of the value of the pre-Islamic period of any nation, and of any non-Islamic philosophy or system of thought, the Vizzini declaration is also apt: “Plato? Aristotle? Socrates? Morons!”

That was Vizzini, wasn’t it?

2008-08-03 21:55:26 Robert Spencer


I know nothing of Beck’s non-alcoholic beer. I just found a picture I thought went with the text. My acquaintance with Beck’s line has been decidedly on the side of their alcoholic varieties.

2008-08-03 19:12:39 Robert Spencer


They’re the same. They both say that the wine of this world is distasteful, but the wine of the next world has a pleasing, delicate, fruity bouquet, reminiscent of almonds and vanilla…

2008-08-03 19:07:51 Robert Spencer


They are promised in Paradise what the are forbidden on Earth it seems.

Forbidden on earth to some degree, but Islam is not nearly as ascetic as Christianity. A man may have four wives and slave girls, if he can afford them.

2008-08-03 16:50:57 Robert Spencer


I seem to recall from Ben’s series that according to either the Hadiths or Ibn Ishaq’s Biography of of Muhammad, he originally thought himself possessed and went several times to the top of a mountain to throw himself off but each time Gabriel would appear to assure him he was Allah’s Messenger. Have I go that right?

I am not familiar with Ben’s series, but yes. Ibn Ishaq recounts that after Muhammad’s first revelation, he went home saying, “Woe is me poet or possessed.” That is, “poet” in the sense of someone who has ecstatic visions. Ibn Ishaq further recounts Muhammad’s words:

I will go to the top of the mountain and throw myself down that I may kill myself and gain rest. So I went forth to do so and then when I was midway on the mountain, I heard a voice from heaven saying: “O Muhammad! Thou art an apostle of God and I am Gabriel.” I raised my head towards heaven to see (who was speaking) and lo, Gabriel in the form of a man with feet astride the horizon, saying, “O Muhammad! Thou art the apostle of God and I am Gabriel.”

2008-08-03 16:50:03 Robert Spencer


Did Peter travel from Israel eastward to Mesepotamia on his eventual way to Rome?

No, although he did go up to Antioch. He was certainly familiar with the popular spirituality of the day.

2008-08-03 16:44:19 Robert Spencer

Shy Guy:

Robert, what is it that Islam sees in Lot?

Talking Mouse is essentially correct: he was viewed as a righteous man in those days, and so is included in the roster of Islamic prophets. The Qur’anic retellings of his story generally have him condemning homosexuality and fleeing Sodom and Gomorrah.

2008-08-03 16:43:04 Robert Spencer


Robert, How about Coltranes release – Kulu Se Mama? The track called “Welcome” is divine.

Indeed it is. You remind me of those palmy days many years ago when I used to play it myself, on soprano…….

2008-07-29 09:10:48 Robert Spencer


Just what did Muhammad have against music, or is that just a Wahhabi thing?

It ain’t just a Wahhabi thing. The prohibition of music is based on these statements by Muhammad:

“Allah Mighty and Majestic sent me as a guidance and mercy to believers and commanded me to do away with musical instruments, flutes, strings, crucifixes, and the affair of the pre-Islamic period of ignorance.”

“On the Day of Resurrection, Allah will pour molten lead into the ears of whoever sits listening to a songstress.”

“Song makes hypocrisy grow in the heart as water does herbage.”

“‘This community will experience the swallowing up of some people by the earth, metamorphosis of some into animals, and being rained upon with stones.’ Someone asked, ‘When will this be, O Messenger of Allah?’ and he said, ‘When songstresses and musical instruments appear and wine is held to be lawful.'”

“There will be peoples of my Community who will hold fornication, silk, wine, and musical instruments to be lawful.”

2008-07-29 03:27:51 Robert Spencer


Robert, I will give you this. Listening to First Meditations is the closest I ever came to God! Did you ever read the linear notes on his ‘Live in Seattle” release?

First Meditations is incredibly great. It’s hard to believe he set it aside as unsatisfactory. But Meditations itself is a whole ‘nother thing. I can’t decide which is better. Both are fine with me.

I must have read the liner notes to Live in Seattle, but many years ago, and I no longer have it so I cannot revisit them.

2008-07-28 20:31:56 Robert Spencer


Only in SF! ;)


I’ve been thinking of a few alternates today: first, on Coltrane’s Meditations there is the frenetic, tempestuous and magnificent piece “The Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost,” which many surmised was referring to Coltrane (the Father), Pharoah Sanders (the Son), and Albert Ayler (the Holy Ghost).

Or else one could see Miles as King David, Coltrane as King Solomon, and Archie Shepp and Pharoah Sanders as Rehoboam and Jeroboam, but how many people know enough OT and enough jazz to have followed me this far?

2008-07-28 17:28:32 Robert Spencer


I see your point about Miles and Trane, but Blakey as David? The chronology snags me.

Meanwhile, re Coltrane, there is of course this.

2008-07-28 04:30:41 Robert Spencer

The second paragraph in that last comment is, of course, my answer.

2008-07-28 03:48:13 Robert Spencer


So the hearers of Muhammad got it wrong? Interesting — but doesn’t that raise the possibility that the hearers may have misheard (or misinterpreted through their perspective) other things that Muhammad said, meaning that other parts of the Qur’an could also contain information that is incorrect?

I’m not sure I follow you here. There is no mishearing necessary. What I meant was that the text reflected the way the world looks — the sun rises and sets. That is, the pre-scientific understanding, based on simple visual observation.

2008-07-28 03:47:27 Robert Spencer


I thought that Dizzy was God?

I don’t think so, but close. Maybe Coltrane?

2008-07-28 03:46:04 Robert Spencer


Is it too much to ask for consistency even within the same Sura?

Oh, yes, it certainly is too much to ask. Consistency would be a limitation of the absolute sovereignty of Allah. It is the Jews — the worst enemies of the Muslims (Qur’an 5:82) — who say that “Allah’s hand is chained” (Qur’an 5:64). Allah’s hand is utterly unrestrained.

2008-07-28 01:37:04 Robert Spencer


Were Muhammad and the community around him aware of the Aristotelian Model of the Universe? It was the accepted theory at that time. This is not the first time the Qur’an has used astronomical parameters as “proof” of Allah’s might.

They had a prescientific, observation-based view of the universe. This does, as I explained above, create some problems for the oft-repeated claim that the Qur’an contains advanced scientific knowledge — advanced, that is, beyond the ken of 7th-century Arabs.

2008-07-28 01:35:08 Robert Spencer


Is the forgiveness derived from reciting ‘Ya Sin’ a daily confession thing which allows purification from a specific wrong, or a more permanent act of eternal forgiveness akin to the Christian concept of Christ’s sacrifice?

It’s not entirely clear from the various traditions regarding the virtues of “Ya Sin,” but it does seem to be a get-out-of-jail-free card. That’s why it is recited over the deceased.

2008-07-28 01:33:03 Robert Spencer


How do Muslims reconcile the parts about the sun “traveling” when the fact is that it’s the earth that does the moving, and not the sun? Surely an omnipotent Allah would not have given his prophet erroneous information?

There is much made of alleged scientific prophecies in the Qur’an. Maurice Bucaille, a French convert to Islam, wrote a book about this that circulates widely. But then there are passages like this, which reflect a pre-scientific view, and are generally explained away as reflecting the perspective of the hearers of Muhammad, and not imparting scientific fact.

2008-07-28 01:31:15 Robert Spencer


If Dizzy was playing his horn in Mecca – I would dress up as a Muslim and go!

Me too.

Meanwhile, speaking of non-Muslims going to Mecca, allow me to take this opportunity to recommend Admiral Sir Richard Burton’s Personal Narrative of a Pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina. Or some title close to that. Burton was an English officer who adopted the guise of a Muslim dervish and made the pilgrimage to Mecca in 1852. It’s a wildly entertaining and illuminating account of the Arab world in the mid-nineteenth century.

2008-07-28 01:29:10 Robert Spencer


Ignore for a moment the moral quandary this creates regarding the unbelievers victims, why on Earth would an all-knowing, all-powerful god waste his “beloved messenger’s” time preaching to people who are damned no matter what?

This may be one reason why Allah consoles Muhammad so often in the Qur’an, telling him not to grieve over those who reject his message and that his duty is discharged once he has issued the warning.

2008-07-28 01:27:00 Robert Spencer


Does Mohammed ever explain WHY the sun will rise in the west? What does this sign mean? That the day of judgment is at hand? What happens when the sun rises in the west to the earth and to man? Does he explain? Is there a cause and effect?

My impression is that this will be a sign of the end times — a warning that this life will not go on forever.

2008-07-28 01:25:17 Robert Spencer


Thanks. I don’t know where the Tips email goes, but I don’t see them. I’ve been hurtling through the skies in a sardine can all day, but I did have a minute in an airport earlier today to fix the typo. Thanks again.

2008-07-28 01:23:07 Robert Spencer


I read somewhere that reciting the Ya-Sin once = reciting the Koran in it’s entirety 10 times, is this true?

According to a hadith that pops up in Tirmidhi and several other sources, Muhammad said: “Whoever recites Yasin once Allah will record the reward of reciting the Qur’an ten times.”

2008-07-28 01:21:26 Robert Spencer


What do you think would happen if our world did a 180 and started a movement to tell the world we do not share the Book? The opposite is now being promoted as ecumenical, but how can ecumenicism be based upon a lie? Would there be fatwas against Westerners who state we do not share the same Book, or would islam back down from the aggressive insistance on more and more changes in Western behaviour?

No one who knows anything about Islam actually claims that we “share the same book.” The New Testament is bound with the Old, and it’s the same Hebrew Scriptures as are used by the Jews. But the Qur’an is never bound with the Jewish and Christian Scriptures. This simple fact in itself is enough, or should be, to establish that Muslims consider the earlier Scriptures to be corrupted.

2008-07-22 01:19:01 Robert Spencer


Yes, it could be possible, but there does seem to be some question as to whether many of these loan words were indeed in accepted use in Arabic in Muhammad’s time. The works of Ibn Warraq on the origins of the Qur’an contain some essays that go into this in depth.

2008-07-21 15:37:01 Robert Spencer


It is noteworthy that a text that advertises itself as containing only “pure Arabic” (Qur’an 16:103) contains loan words from many other languages used in Arabia at the time of Muhammad, and in the surrounding areas.

2008-07-21 15:16:58 Robert Spencer


Am I correct in assuming that the primary method of learning and teaching the Qu`ran for centuries was orally and that would have prevented any radically different readings of the text among the believers?

The primary way of learning and teaching the Qur’an is still orally: young Muslims memorize all or large portions of the text, without necessarily knowing what it means. They do this in Arabic, whether or not they speak Arabic. One Pakistani Muslim once told me that he was very proud of his religion, and had memorized almost all of the Qur’an, and that he one day intended to get hold of a translation and find out what it meant. The task of interpreting the text is now and always has been the province not of the individual believer, but of the various theological authorities: the schools of jurisprudence, the ulema of various countries, etc.

2008-07-21 15:14:19 Robert Spencer


But doesn’t Allah do that himself at his will? That question above from your email has plagued me as well. Although you’ve answered it, I still feel confused (not your fault!) about all this predestination in Islam vs. Faith.

Ultimately, this is an unresolved paradox.

I find it interesting as well that, much like various Christian bibles, the Koran also has differing translations. Is there any particular one translation that is most widely used? And are the main differences because of the translation difficulty re: vowels, or does it represent differences between Sunni/Shia understandings?

No, this is not what I meant. I was discussing some scholarly investigations that have been undertaken by only a very few people. The pointing is not at all disputed among Muslims themselves. There is a standard way in which the Qur’an is pointed, and an Arabic text that is official and standard. For Muslims, only the Arabic Qur’an is the Qur’an (in accordance with its own words), and any translation is simply a summary of the meanings of the Qur’an, not the Qur’an itself. Muslims the world over, whether they understand Arabic or not, must recite the Qur’an in Arabic in Islamic prayers. To recite it in any other language would not be to recite the Qur’an at all.

As for the Shi’ites, they do have a few extra chapters of the Qur’an, although some Shi’ites deny this. It is not clear whether or not their denial is an example of taqiyya or not. But those extra chapters (which you can find online fairly easily) have nothing to do with the pointing of the Qur’anic text.

2008-07-21 13:32:29 Robert Spencer

I got this question in my Jihad Watch email:

Why not encourage HotAir to open up their discussion list?

I have no control over this, but consider them duly encouraged.

My question: If Allah has all these negative plans for non-believers, why do living Muslims feel obliged to preempt Allah and carry out what they think Allah will do, long before Allah has an opportunity to inflict his own punishment of non-believers. Frankly, I don’t think muslims really have that much faith in Allah if they have to do his work for him, maybe they think Allah might actually NOT do all that stuff claimed in the miracle publication then cite to prove the existence of Allah, namely the Koran.

The Qur’an tells Muslims to kill various groups of people: renegades who have rejected Islam (4:89), idolators (9:5), etc. Thus they are only doing what they’re told. The punishments of Allah can be executed by means of the Muslims.

2008-07-21 12:05:39 Robert Spencer


The Muhammadan exgetes – as usual with their methodology – DELIBERATELY mistranslated a HEBREW LOAN word to Arabic to mean LAST when in fact it meant INSCRIBED

This is a fascinating area of study: Christoph Luxenberg and my friends Hans Jansen and Ibn Warraq have done notable work in this area, and I thank you for yours also.

In the Blogging the Qur’an series I am explaining only the mainstream understanding of the Qur’an among Muslims. I thus haven’t gotten into and don’t intend to get into (although you are welcome to do so in the comments) the problems with the Arabic text, but since the original Qur’anic text is not pointed, there are many.

That is, for those of you who are unfamiliar with Arabic, the original Qur’anic text lacks not only vowels but the points that allow one Arabic letter to be distinguished from another: many Arabic letters are ONLY distinguishable from other ones by means of these points. Accordingly, several courageous modern scholars are exploring the origins of the Qur’an by positing that the thing has been pointed incorrectly. Once I had an unforgettable dinner with Hans Jansen during which he took a Qur’anic phrase about the virgins of Paradise and explained how, if differently pointed, it became a standard Christian hymn of the early Byzantine era.

2008-07-21 11:49:28 Robert Spencer


How do you keep sane? Assuming that you continue to be sane, that is.

There are many people who would give you some very interesting answers on this!

2008-07-21 11:39:40 Robert Spencer


Paging Ms. Malkin!! Ms. Malkin, please come to the reception area!!! At your earliest convenience, please ask Mr. Spencer to continue.

I didn’t mean to give the impression that I was stopping. Certainly I had hoped for more of a response, but we’ve been through that. I am going to go on through to Qur’an 114 unless I am expressly asked to stop, in which case I will continue on to the end at Jihad Watch.

2008-07-21 11:37:45 Robert Spencer

dentalque, JetBoy:

Sounds great. I’ll bring the Dos Equis.

2008-07-21 01:49:52 Robert Spencer


There should be something at the end of this, it has been a long journey and should be marked.

There is still a long way to go, and I will continue here as long as Michelle Malkin wishes. It will start to go faster now, however, as the suras grow shorter, and shouldn’t take more than another year. Although it might. In any case, at the end I was planning at least one summation week, and then so long, good luck, and goodbye.

And I have already contracted with Regnery Publishing to write in 2009 The Infidel’s Guide to the Koran, which will not be this series in book form (although I’d still like to publish that sometime), but will be a thematic guide to the Qur’an based on this series.

2008-07-20 23:25:26 Robert Spencer


You, and everyone, are most welcome to comment here. Thanks.

2008-07-20 22:37:27 Robert Spencer


As when, if Muhammed is the last messenger (or prophet) then I take that as there have been, nor will be, any more.

Right. This has been a very serious point of contention between Muslims and groups like the Bahais that claim to follow an additional, post-Muhammad messenger.

As one last question for the evening…Does that mean peoples like those who lived in the Americas at the time, who mainly adhered to multitheism, and the peoples of Australia, and Eskimos in the North…all had an Islamic messenger of Allah sent to them? And is this really taken a fable, or serious Islamic thought?

This is indeed the idea in Islam. Messengers have been sent everywhere. This is related also to the idea that everyone was originally Muslim, until they are corrupted by their parents and societies. This is why Muslims call converts “reverts” — they are returning to their original religion, the religion that everyone is born with.

Thank you again, Mr. Spencer for what truly is an educational journey into the Koran. Wish we could all meet up and throw you a big party at series end! You deserve it.

That would be great fun, especially if there were much open display of wine and pork, in defiance of the regulations for dhimmis.

2008-07-20 22:36:41 Robert Spencer


every religion has aspects which can easily be seen ways that makes them look stupid, ridiculous, or frighteningly violent to an outside observer; but which seem perfectly reasonable and explainable from within.

Sure, but that is not my objective here, and that is not something in any case that I believe can be done to an equal extent with every religion in the same way.

2008-07-20 22:31:27 Robert Spencer


I guess I was also thinking of other messengers in a modern sense, sort of like missionaries if you will, who brings the Islamic message to people today. According to Islam, after Mohammed, that was the end of the messengers. That was where I was going.

There are plenty of Islamic missionaries. They are not “messengers” in the way Muhammad was. They are simply carrying out da’wa, Islamic proselytizing — spreading the message of Islam. They do not receive their own new message from the supreme being, as Muhammad claimed to have received (although he claimed to have received not a new message, but the same old message that had been given to all the other prophets).

2008-07-20 22:23:26 Robert Spencer


Is there a difference between Prophet and Messenger?

No. The word for prophet in Arabic, rasool, is “messenger.”

Have there been other identified messengers?

Yes. We’ve discussed them all through the Qur’an blog: Abraham, Noah, Lot, Moses, Hud, Shuaib, Salih, David, Solomon, Jesus, etc. etc. See, for example, sura 21, for a kind of general overview, but you can find mention of other messengers in many suras of the Qur’an that we’ve already covered.

2008-07-20 22:11:00 Robert Spencer


If I may…So if one believes in a monotheistic godhead, as you say Jews and Christians included, that that makes them Muslim in the eyes of the Koran?

As I’ve explained in previous Qur’an blogs, the Islamic idea is that the Biblical prophets — Abraham, Moses, David, Solomon, etc., as well as Jesus — were all Muslims who taught Islam. It was their followers who perverted their teachings to create Judaism and Christianity. So in the eyes of the Qur’an, the true Jews and Christians are essentially…Muslims.

As for the term “allah” being used by Jews and Christians, I hadn’t ever heard of that. There was a Dutch Catholic (I believe) Bishop who actually suggested that Christians start calling God by that name.

Needless to say, it didn’t go over very well.

Yes, but that was in Holland. In Lebanon, Syria, etc., as well as in expatriate Arabic-speaking Christian communities, the word “Allah” is used for God, referring to the God of the Bible, not to the deity of the Qur’an. I have considerable first-hand experience of this.

2008-07-20 22:07:14 Robert Spencer


OK…so to all the peoples of the world, Allah has sent a messenger. Now, I know Muhammed was the last prophet. I take it a “messenger” is something else entirely.

No, a messenger is a prophet. In Islamic fable, every people on earth has been sent a prophet. This is, of course, just fable.

2008-07-20 22:04:21 Robert Spencer


Based upon this statement ALL Israelites, Jews, Unitarian Christians and the like ARE MUSLIMS!

Most Christians are Trinitarians. The great preponderence of Christian tradition is Trinitarian. But in any case, yes, you may be interested to know that in this Blogging the Qur’an series I have discussed at great length the fact that Islam considers those who bear the name of Jew or Christian to be renegades who have perverted the true faith of Moses and Jesus, which was Islam.

2008-07-20 21:57:48 Robert Spencer


There is, I believe, evidence of pre-Islamic Jews and Christians in Arabia using “Allah,” but I am on the road and do not have access to my library, so I can’t check that immediately.

2008-07-20 21:49:49 Robert Spencer


Not at all! More like my limitations coming off a huge weekend seeing Billy Joel at Shea, and the fact that my brain is finally coming to after being dragged (?) out to the clubs til 4am last night. ;-)

When will you realize Vienna waits for you?

So then…if one hears the “truth” of Islam, yet rejects it, he shall be in hell. You may have answered this previously, but I can’t remember…if one has never heard the word of Islam, say by simple geographics (and given the time the Koran was written, most of the Earth wouldn’t have heard it) are they too condemned to hell, even though they never had the chance to know the Koran?

Every people has been sent a messenger. They will be judged for rejecting that messenger. “To every people was sent a messenger: when their messenger comes before them, the matter will be judged between them with justice, and they will not be wronged.” — Qur’an 10:47

2008-07-20 21:40:49 Robert Spencer


Thanks. I much appreciate it.

2008-07-20 21:33:32 Robert Spencer


Probably it is my limitations as a narrator. What confuses you?

2008-07-20 20:35:50 Robert Spencer


A hostile reading of the Bible will result in a highly inaccurate understanding of Judaism and Christianity for similar reasons — though Christian and Jewish veneration for the Bible is usually a pale and paltry thing compared to the absolute veneration most Muslims have for the Koran. Obviously this is true with a hotile reading of the Koran. However, it should also be noted that some of the most ‘hostile’ readings of the Koran, which make it out to be a handbook for mayhem and murder, are written by perfectly devout and learned Muslims as some of the Tasfir you link show quite clearly. THAT is troubling.

While most people assume that this is a hostile reading of the Qur’an, given that I am opposed to Islamic jihad and Islamic supremacism, in fact it isn’t. It is simply an accurate reading of the Qur’an and explanation of how it is understood by mainstream Muslims. The standing challenge is for anyone to show that anything I have written here is inaccurate. No one has done so yet.

2008-07-20 20:15:43 Robert Spencer


What are your plans once the Koran overview is complete? A review of the several theological schools, and a bit more about the Hadith? You have been bringing the Hadith into this discussion, which is good, but there’s a lot there.

I don’t have any such plans. After this is over, it is over. If, however, Michelle Malkin asks me to continue with something else once this is done, I would be happy to oblige.

2008-07-20 20:11:59 Robert Spencer


I do wonder how things would have been different if these people: had become the dominent school within Sunni Islam.

It is an interesting thought experiment, but it is no surprise, given the contents of the Qur’an and Hadith, that they were ultimately declared heretics.

2008-07-20 20:10:42 Robert Spencer


Also you are correct in that the Calvinists (and the theological offspring of Calvinism) believed God did not so much lead people astry as refuse to grant his Grace to them, but either way in those schools of thought the vast majority of people were born just to burn. This is an important point, I think.

Sure. But in the USA we can get an exaggerated idea of the importance of this perspective in Christian history. In reality it was never the Christian mainstream. None of the apostolic churches, or anything close to even a half or a quarter of all Christians, ever subscribed to such a view.

2008-07-20 20:09:18 Robert Spencer


Perhaps, but, if it can be shown that the pagan Quraysh worshiped Allah prior to Muhammad and Muhammad kept the symbol of Allah (the black stone) while banishing the other 360 gods (except the 3 daughters who made a short Islamic appearance) it seriously undermines the idea that he was divinely inspired. It would be like a Greek Muhammad saying, “There is no God but Zeus and Greek Muhammad is his Messenger,” and keeping all the symbols of Zeus while tying him to the God of Abraham to give him a new pedigree.

Actually the Greek word Dios, used by Christians, is related to the word “Zeus” — which indicates again what I believe to be the weakness of arguments about Islam’s divine inspiration that are based on the word “Allah.” If the use of the word undermines Islam, it also undermines Christianity, since Arabic-speaking Christians have survived 14 centuries in difficult circumstances and maintained their faith, while using this very word.

2008-07-20 20:03:26 Robert Spencer


You’re quite right about “Allah”: Arabic-speaking Jews and Christians use the word for God (with the partial and notable exception of the Copts), and I do believe that many American non-Muslims make much too much of the word.

With respect to hardening Pharaoh’s heart, that passage is certainly there, but the Bible cannot be understand apart from its attendant traditions any more than the Qur’an can. The idea that God leads people away from the truth has never been taught by the Catholic or Orthodox Churches, which comprise the great bulk of Christians, or by most Protestant sects. And even the Calvinists do not believe that God, as in the Qur’an’s words, actually leads people astray.

In any case, we have been down this road before. The object of this exercise is not to say that the Qur’an is worse than the Bible. But to pretend that they teach the same thing is simply to ignore the data.

2008-07-20 16:57:58 Robert Spencer


He wasn’t a founder, but he was one of the Brotherhood’s leading intellectual lights.

2008-07-20 15:21:35 Robert Spencer


Really? It seems like “I was an unbeliever because you, Allah, willed me to be” would be the ultimate excuse for being an unbeliever.

Yes, indeed, but the Qur’an posits two contradictory propositions together at once: Allah wills and controls all things, including the disbelief of the disbelievers, but the disbelievers are responsible nevertheless and will be punished.

The unbelievers actually make the complaint you suggest, and are brushed aside:

“The worshippers of false gods say: ‘If Allah had so willed, we should not have worshipped aught but Him – neither we nor our fathers, nor should we have prescribed prohibitions other than His.’ So did those who went before them. But what is the mission of messengers but to preach the Clear Message?” — Qur’an 16:35

And the correctness of their complaint is indirectly acknowledged:

“And unto Allah leads straight the Way, but there are ways that turn aside: if Allah had willed, He could have guided all of you.” — Qur’an 16:9

So if Allah could have guided all of them, but chose not to, the unbelievers are perfectly correct in their complaint that if Allah had willed, they would not have been idolators. But they are damned to hell nevertheless.

2008-07-20 14:26:57 Robert Spencer


Since Allah decides who is a believer and who is not, what purpose is served by having sent a messenger to the unbelievers? Since Allah knew all along that the unbelievers would not heed the messenger’s warning (since Allah willed it so), what is the point of reminding the damned (unbelievers) about the messenger that Allah willed them to ignore?

The point seems to be that, once having been warned, the unbelievers will have no excuse for their unbelief when they are judged.

2008-07-20 14:14:33 Robert Spencer


O ye who believe! Ask not questions about things which, if made plain to you, may cause you trouble.

That’s Qur’an 5:101. The verse continues, however, with a promise that things will be made plain to the questioner who asks at the right time:

But if ye ask about things when the Qur’an is being revealed, they will be made plain to you, Allah will forgive those: for Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Forbearing.

2008-07-20 14:13:27 Robert Spencer


Yes, that contradiction runs through Islamic history. If you read the writings of Sayyid Qutb (1906-1966), the foremost jihad theorist of the 20th century, wrote eloquently of how purity of adherence to Islamic principles would lead to earthly prosperity. But then he decries the wickedness of both capitalists and communists in plundering the Islamic world and leaving it in poverty. He never seems to notice the contradiction.

2008-07-20 14:08:52 Robert Spencer


Did Muhammad order the murdered of two poets that satirized him? One of them was reported to be a 120 year old man, and the other, a mother of 5 who was killed in her bed while she was suckling one of her children. Since Muslims are ordered to follow Muhammad’s Sunnah, wouldn’t it stand to reason they see insults to their faith as an affront punishable by death?

Yes. The old poet (120? I doubt it) was Abu Afak, and the poetess and mother was Asma bint Marwan. I believe she was actually pregnant, and the murderer ran her through along with her unborn child. And yes, these incidents form the foundation for the Islamic idea that insults are punishable by death.

Said Mujahid: “He does not punish anyone except the disbelievers.”

Does that help explain why they always blame any misfortune on not being pious enough?


Is it true that:
1) Allah was the name of supreme pagan rock god of the Ka`ba and Muhammad adopted him and the traditions of the Quraysh and tied him to the God of the Bible?

Allah does seem to have been the name of a pagan deity, but it seems that pre-Islamic Jews and Christians in Arabia also used the word “Allah.”

2) Muhammad prayed in the Ka`ba with pagan Quraysh while it still contained all 360 of their Pagan gods?

Probably, but Islamic traditions insist that he never did, and was a precocious monotheist.

Men should not be deceived by this present life (v. 5) or by Satan (v. 6);

Like how the self-proclaimed greatest of all the Prophets was when he told the Quraysh in the Ka`ba (filled with all the pagan idols) that Allah’s daughters were gods who intercession was to be hoped for?

Yes, that story is coming in sura 53.

Also, is it true that in Islam ringing bells is associated with Satan yet Muhammad describes hearing bells during some of his revelations?

Bells are forbidden because they’re associated with Christian churches. Christian churches under the laws of dhimmitude could not have bells. Muhammad did say he heard a ringing sound on occasion.

Verses 9-17 and 27-28 detail Allah’s power as manifest in the natural world, in contrast to the powerlessness of the idols

Is it true that Muhammad kissed the back stone in the Ka`ba leading one of his companions to remark something like, “I know you are just a stone and can do no harm or good and I wouldn’t have kissed you unless I had seen the Prophet do so?”

Yes. In Islam all law is based essentially on fiat, although there are attempts to relate all provisions of Sharia to the preservation of life, religion, lineage, reason and property.

Those whom people worship besides Allah are powerless, and don’t even have a book (as does Muhammad)

Is it true that there wasn’t a single written version of the Qur’an during Muhammad’s lifetime and in fact it wasn’t committed to writing until after the battle of Yamama where a lot of the memorizers were killed?

Yes. But it was still a book. In an oral culture, a book was often something memorized, not written down. The Qur’an was collected and written down after Muhammad’s death when the caliph Uthman feared that those who had parts of it memorized would start dying, and parts of the Qur’an would be lost.

Is it also correct that the memorizers had different versions they all claimed were correct. When Muhammad was asked which was correct, he revealed that they all were as the Qu`ran was revealed to him in 7 versions?

Yes, that most revealing hadith is here.

Is it also correct that there were many excellent, illiterate poets throughout Arab history prior to Muhammad?


2008-07-20 13:38:03 Robert Spencer


What kind of contradictions did you see?

2008-07-20 12:43:14 Robert Spencer


It’s a fair bet that Grover’s addressing this conservative bloggers’ conference is a good indication of why you and I were not.


2008-07-20 04:16:14 Robert Spencer

I think the reaction here indicates some of the immense fog that surrounds this issue. I point out that Norquist has aided and abetted Islamic supremacists at the highest levels of government, and we end up discussing whether or not it is good to reach out to moderate Muslims.

Sure, it is great to reach out to moderate Muslims. It is also great not to be fooled by false moderates, as Norquist was — unless he knew what they were about all along.

2008-07-19 21:56:41 Robert Spencer


What’s the point of reaching out to any Muslim if, by this statement, even the ones who are “moderate” are out to destroy the American political system?

I don’t read the statement that way. Where do you see it saying that every self-proclaimed moderate is out to do this? But do you deny, even after the careers of Alamoudi and Al-Arian, and the well-known record of CAIR, that many who are widely known as moderates are indeed engaged in such an effort?

2008-07-19 20:08:50 Robert Spencer


It’s unlikely that they would have shouted “Allahu akbar” and declared their thirst for jihad at the Weddnesday meetings. But Norquist’s record is clear: Alamoudi, Al-Arian, Khaled Saffuri, etc. etc. etc. If he had sponsored individuals and groups that had taken their place alongside other American political individuals and groups and worked within the political process, then one could say that opposition to his efforts was sheer bigotry and a foolish attempt to marginalize moderate Muslims. But his proteges haven’t exactly done that.

2008-07-19 19:48:22 Robert Spencer


Precisely. His chief clients were Alamoudi, now serving 25 years in prison on terror-finance charges, and Al-Arian, who led Palestinian Islamic Jihad from the U. of South Florida.

2008-07-19 19:30:57 Robert Spencer


While I would acknowledge the controversies to which Dr. Spencer refers (and would love to host a debate on that between Robert and Grover!)

There are indeed principles he and I could debate, but the Gaffney article to which I linked contains facts that are not in question. Nevertheless, I would be happy to debate him, but given what I referred to above about his influence in sidelining and marginalizing Islamorealistic voices, I would be very surprised if Grover Norquist ever agreed to such a debate.

2008-07-19 17:40:14 Robert Spencer

Grover Norquist has been responsible, more than any other individual, for the infiltration of Islamic supremacists into the highest levels of the U.S. government. See here the seminal expose by Frank Gaffney of the immense damage Norquist has done.

The continuing general ignorance among conservatives of the political aspects of Islam, and of the efforts by Islamic jihadists to impose political Islam, piece by piece, over the West, can largely be attributed to the baneful influence of Norquist. He has energetically aided and abetted the branding by CAIR and others of critics of Islamic supremacism and of those who tell the truth about this Islamic political and societal agenda as “bigots” — such that frank discussion of the full nature and magnitude of this issue has been generally unwelcome even in conservative gatherings and on conservative media outlets.

2008-07-19 16:13:26 Robert Spencer

Infidel Pride:

If the Qur’an were to ever turn out to really be from God (although how that’d ever be demonstrated?) I’d rather make hell my home.

And you would, too, if Allah so willed: “Many are the Jinns and men we have made for Hell…” (Qur’an 7:179).

2008-07-14 15:24:43 Robert Spencer


But doesn’t that have to do with the jihadists threatening anyone who hosts anti-jihad videos with violence? We’ve seen this before with LiveLeak hosting Fitna. Another avenue is the characterization of it as “hate speech.” They really want to silence any criticism whatsoever of Islam.

I don’t know if it has to do with that, because I don’t know if anyone threatened YouTube, or the producer of these videos, with violence. I rather think it is more likely to be an example of YouTube’s tendency to act against (almost certainly after complaints) anti-jihad material, and to favor pro-jihad material.

2008-07-14 01:07:03 Robert Spencer


I have to ask, do you know this guy and have you gone through his Youtube series?

I never saw this site before, and wasn’t able to find any identification of who is behind it. The link to YouTube went to a page that said, “This account is suspended.”

It’s interesting that YouTube allows open jihadists to have accounts, but not virulent anti-jihadists.

2008-07-14 00:04:00 Robert Spencer

barry norris:

Gee, sometimes I wonder if, just if, the Koran is from God? Then what?

Then we all should become Muslims.

But in any case, this Blogging the Qur’an series is not about whether or not the Qur’an is true. It is simply about what the Qur’an says and how mainstream Muslim commentators understand it, with particular attention to what it says (and what the commentators say) about how Muslims should treat those who don’t believe it is from God.

2008-07-13 21:43:42 Robert Spencer


Just for clarity, what happens to Muhammad’s adopted son Zayd bin Haritha?

He was killed in 629 in the Battle of Mut’ah (between the Muslims and soldiers of the Byzantine Empire).

2008-07-13 18:56:24 Robert Spencer


So basically Muhammad did whatever he wanted to do by phrasing it as a divine revaluation from Allah? Did anyone else realize this besides and call him out besides Aihsa?

Offhand I can’t think of anyone else who did. There were some apostates, including one who had spent some time transcribing his Qur’anic revelations, that worried Muhammad. But I can’t think right now of anyone else who ever noticed how convenient some of his revelations were.

2008-07-13 18:03:40 Robert Spencer


There was so much to fit in on this sura that I had to push that to next week. So, as you will see, this week covers verses 1-27, and next week verses 21-73. A small bit of overlap. I left Zaynab for next week also, although she is foreshadowed in verses 1-8 and so I had to give a hint of what is to come in this week’s entry.

2008-07-08 10:29:56 Robert Spencer


You got the wrong the guy.

That should of course be:

“You got the wrong guy.”

There I go again! Dumber than dirt!

2008-07-07 18:39:31 Robert Spencer


I think all religious people are dumber than dirt.

Very well. You have made it very clear that you think I’m dumber than dirt. Now: are you aware that you’re contradicting yourself below when you say that I write accurately about Islam? How could I do that, being “dumber than dirt”?

I’m sure you’ve had enough arguments with atheists, as I have had with believers, to know it’s a waste of time to argue about it.

Actually, no, I am not interested in arguing with atheists.

I never said that Christians can’t “speak accurately about Islam”. I don’t think there is any other writer I have ever read that writes more accurately about Islam than you do.

What you said was this: “When Christians argue with Muslims, or criticize Islam, you’re like Superman fans arguing about Batman.” Your position in that statement as well as here below seems to be that someone who believes in one religion cannot speak about another, for to do so would be simply to jockey for market share.

But you’re never going to get anywhere. The people who really need to read you won’t. Why? Because most people seem to think you’re Jewish, and once they find out you’re a Christian that just gives them more reason to take everything you write as being biased. They don’t care that you are actually quoting Islamic sources. They won’t even get that far.

So I guess I should just give up, eh?

What you apparently fail to realize is how thorough and indefatigable is the Islamic apologetic propaganda machine. If they weren’t saying I’m doing this because I’m Jewish, or Christian, they’d be saying something else. They say anything that they think will get people to turn away. Does it work? Certainly. But I would say that I’ve already “gotten somewhere,” and I’m certainly not going to give up because there are obstacles.

Or perhaps you would have me discard my own religion in order to be able to resist the jihad more effectively. Well, sorry. I just don’t see atheists, with the exception of a few like my friend Hugh Fitzgerald, Sam Harris, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, etc., on the front lines of this battle. And it just doesn’t keep me up nights that you think I’m “dumber than dirt.”

As far as how all of you religious people think of atheists who think you’re dumb? You know what? When you can all summon up the same amount of outrage and offense against the people who want you dead as you can about being called stupid, then maybe we might have a chance.

I don’t spend any outrage on atheists at all. You got the wrong the guy.

But that won’t happen. I suspect that is because none of you can bring yourselves to admit that another religion might not be true. Might make you think about your own too much. And we can’t have that, can we?

I’ve thought about my own religion a great deal, thank you. But of course, I’m “dumber than dirt,” so that’s what I get for thinking.

2008-07-07 18:22:38 Robert Spencer


From what I’ve read of Aisha’s words these last few years, I’ve come to a couple of conclusions about her: first, she was a very perceptive and at least mildly cynical woman. Second, she had a very dry, very funny wit. :)

Yes, I’ve always found Aisha a fascinating figure, much more complex and interesting than dull-witted fanatics like Abu Bakr. She seems to have been a true believer, with perhaps (as this comment shows) a trace of wry skepticism about her husband — all the more remarkable since he took her when she was six, clutching her dolls, and consummated the marriage when she was nine. One may have assumed that she would have remained in awe and fear of him ever after.

Aisha was strong enough, after Muhammad’s death, and in a time when women were essentially commodities, to lead an army against Ali in one of the early Sunni-Shi’ite clashes. She never forgave Ali for remarking to Muhammad, when she was accused of adultery, that he shouldn’t be pining away over Aisha, since women were not hard to come by, and they could always get him another one.

2008-07-07 13:58:36 Robert Spencer


They missed the opportunity to be surprised.

Oh, they’ll be surprised, all right. A lot of very self-satisfied people will be very surprised. But it won’t happen soon, and I am not talking about a terrorist attack, either, or any act of violence.

2008-07-07 02:25:43 Robert Spencer


Usually the reaction was on of indignation that anyone would bother studying the Qur’an.

Odd. Did you see the movie Patton with George C. Scott? Remember when he read Rommel’s book on military strategy? I know that part of the movie is familiar to some people who are not friends or supporters of what I am doing. Yet the principle is the same.

2008-07-07 02:10:04 Robert Spencer


That idea is indeed part of it, regarding Israel, but by no means all. Qur’an 5:82 says that the worst enemies of the Muslims will be the Jews — this will still be taken seriously by some Muslims even if Israel disappeared tomorrow.

2008-07-07 02:01:36 Robert Spencer


No kidding! When Blogging the Quran first started, I spread the word on a blog I was contributing to at the time – and I was similarly flamed for it. I was excited to learn about the religion and scripture that continues to influence *billions*, but I guess not. In fact, QBlog was the sole reason I signed up for HotAir.

Same questions as I addressed above to TheBigOldDog. I’d be interested to know what reaction people had to this, as generally I’ve gotten virtually no feedback outside of the comments here.

There is a prevailing assumption, even among some people you might expect to be friendly to this enterprise, that it is somehow “bigoted.” I fail to see how it is “bigoted” to report accurately on what Islamic teachings are, and I refer you to Jihad Watch for daily reports showing Muslims around the world taking those Islamic teachings seriously.

Nevertheless, some even say that to explore Islamic teachings with an eye toward understanding the sources of Islamic violence and supremacism would be only to enflame Muslims further, and that these things are better off ignored. They have not learned their Sun Tzu. Others believe that with U.S. victories in Iraq, the “war on terror” will soon be over and Islam will resume being a “religion of peace,” and that therefore this exercise is useless at best. I invite them to look in again in a year’s time.

In the meantime, however, venues for this point of view continue to shrink, the fogs of political correctness and naive complacency continue to spread and mingle, and I thank Michelle Malkin for her ongoing kindness and support.

2008-07-07 01:38:04 Robert Spencer


Few people seem to know why the Muslims hate the Jews. Most people think it has to do with Israel and have no idea how it’s codified in the Qur’an.


Like most Americans, I was at a Cookout for the 4th and began explaining this to people when the subject came up and they were truly surprised. These were otherwise educated, middle aged adults who simply had no clue.

Educated, middle aged adults in the U.S. generally learn nothing about Islam except possibly the five pillars and the fact that it is one of the World’s Great Religions. And since Americans generally assume that religions are generically things that teach universal benevolence and charity, they can’t conceive of the possibility of a religion that would not extend that benevolence and charity to those outside the fold.

Unfortunately, few people seem eager to learn the truth. When this series first started I was trying to spread the word via FreeRepublic and basically got flamed for it. It seemed most people were content to be against something without at least fully appreciating what is was.

You got flamed for it on what grounds? Can you possibly point me to the Free Republic thread? Was it because it would be boring? The Qur’an certainly can be — or, that is, I can understand people who find it such, although I never have. Or was it because of the common conservative view that it is wrong and counterproductive to explore Islam in order to understand what is going on in the world today, since some Muslims are on our side, and to do so might offend them? Or because all things called religions are good, or because all religions are irrelevant, or because of some variant on these?

Or was it because I myself am supposed to be incorrigibly biased, although no one who makes that charge has ever come up with the contrary material I am allegedly leaving out?

2008-07-07 01:28:27 Robert Spencer


Bostom just wrote another book on Islamic antisemitism.

It’s a great book, too. It destroys, by sheer weight of evidence, the fashionable notion that Islamic antisemitism is an import from Christian Europe, and is not intrinsic to Islam itself.

2008-07-07 01:22:11 Robert Spencer


Aisha herself, Muhammad’s favorite wife, said it: “I feel that your Lord hastens in fulfilling your wishes and desires.”

That’s here.

2008-07-07 00:16:07 Robert Spencer


Adoption is allowed under restricted circumstances. As I mentioned in this week’s installment, in Islamic law an adopted child keeps his biological family name, and is not considered related to his adoptive family. Also, inheritance from the adoptive family is forbidden; he inherits from his biological family.

Islamic apologists justify the Zaynab incident by explaining that Allah wanted to reform Arabic adoption practices — an example of this comes from Maududi here, and there are many such. This seems to me to be one of the most egregious examples of special pleading to be found in a field that is filled with special pleading, and it carries a human cost: left unexplained is what exactly was so wrong about adoption that it had to be restricted in this way (as well as why the only way to accomplish this reform was to give Muhammad another wife, and a comely one at that). The only losers are the children who are not adopted, or who have no living biological parents to give them an inheritance, etc.

2008-07-06 21:23:34 Robert Spencer


I understand you were trying to make a point on how Islam may have been created, and why. But to begin your point by bashing anyone and everyone who believes in God is an absurd way to make it.



Since you think I am “dumber than dirt,” I doubt you are interested in discussing these matters, but I took issue last week with your claim that Christians could not speak accurately about Islam. If that were true, it would also seem to disqualify atheists from speaking about Islam as well.

2008-07-06 20:29:35 Robert Spencer


…there is no God, never has been a God, and anybody who believes that kind of nonsense is dumber than dirt and will believe anything.

Sure, you just condemned most of the human race now on the planet and most of the people who ever lived, including the progenitors of modern science and people far more accomplished than you or I will ever be. The arrogance of this is beyond breathtaking.

2008-07-06 20:15:00 Robert Spencer


But didn’t Christians at the time also reject the Koran?

There were Christians in Arabia who likewise rejected Muhammad’s claim of prophetic status. This earned them condemnation in the Qur’an, which criticizes them repeatedly for saying that God has a Son, and says they are under Allah’s curse for making this claim (9:30). But they were not as numerous or powerful in Arabia at the time of Muhammad as the Jews were, and so in the Qur’an they are decidedly supporting villains.

2008-07-06 18:38:27 Robert Spencer

Dog, not Dogh.


Perhaps you should move to Venice and call yourself The Big Old Doge.

2008-07-06 17:16:16 Robert Spencer


Why is it that the Koran, although it is hard on all “unbelievers” and the Christian “people of the book”, seems to have a particular disdain for the Jews?

There were originally three powerful Jewish tribes in Medina, and Muhammad earnestly courted their favor. When it became clear that they were not going to accept his prophetic claim, he turned against them with particular ferocity.

2008-07-06 16:25:19 Robert Spencer


What caused the Confederate tribes to join together to attack Medina?

By this time antagonism was well-developed between the Muslims and the pagan Arabs. They had already met in the Battle of Badr and the Battle of Uhud, and it was clear that ultimately one group was going to prevail and conquer the other.

2008-07-06 16:22:00 Robert Spencer

As promised above, for the record:

Qur’an 10:99-100 says: “If it had been thy Lord’s will, they would all have believed, all who are on earth! Wilt thou then compel mankind, against their will, to believe? No soul can believe, except by the will of Allah, and He will place doubt (or obscurity) on those who will not understand.”

The Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs explains the passage this way (the parts in parentheses are the text of the Qur’anic verse): “(It is not for any) disbelieving (soul to believe) in Allah (save by the permission of Allah) save by Allah’s will and given success. (He hath set uncleanness) He leaves denial (upon those) in the hearts of those (who have no sense) who do not apprehend Allah’s divine Oneness. This verse was revealed about Abu Talib. The Prophet (pbuh) was so keen that he believes, but Allah did not want him to believe.”

“Allah did not want him to believe.” Did Abu Talib have free will? Apparently not. Ibn Kathir, in commenting on the same passage, refers us to Qur’an 35:8 and 2:272, which say that Allah leads astray whom he wills, and guides whom he wills.

In fact, in early Islam there was a controversy about free will and divine sovereignty, and the Qadariyya, the upholders of free will, emerged as the losers — the heretical party. The Qur’an — and particularly the Shia in interpreting it — affirms that a person is responsible for his actions, but it also simultaneously affirms that Allah decides everything and guides everyone to truth or falsehood (“Allah leads astray those whom he wills,” Qur’an 35:8). This is not quite the same thing as the proposition that humans have been given free will to choose their destiny. In fact, it is just the opposite.

2008-07-05 17:16:20 Robert Spencer


Call me what you will, but I will never call myself a Roman Catholic.

2008-07-05 17:15:00 Robert Spencer


Robert, is there any evidence that Mo’s father or grandfather was a Nestorian?

You are thinking of Waraqa bin Naufal, the uncle of Muhammad’s wife Khadija and the person who told Muhammad he was a prophet after he had received his first, terrifying vision. In some versions of the story he seems to be a Nestorian priest.

2008-07-01 14:29:55 Robert Spencer

River Cocytus:

St. John of Damascus and Fr. Thomas Hopko! Two great writers.

John of Damascus, you may already know, wrote one of the earliest Christian treatises on Islam. The fact that the author was a Christian neither adds to nor diminishes the possibility that he was representing Islamic teachings accurately.

2008-07-01 14:28:00 Robert Spencer


HelsSailing: There are really only two ‘Traditional’ Christianities, that is, two that can legitimately claim that their teachings originated with the apostles (i.e. the teachings of what things in scripture mean were passed down from teacher to student and so forth.)

That is, Eastern Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism. Everyone else denied a bunch of important stuff and lost the stuff that keeps us together, that is, the Spirit.

And that little-noted and marginal hybrid to which I belong, Eastern Catholicism. But yes, this is how I was using the term “traditional.”

2008-07-01 14:26:16 Robert Spencer


I find the teaching of eternal salvation for the believer and eternal damnation for the non-believer to be abhorant – in both Christianity and Islam.

Agreed. In the early Fathers of the Church, however, and in Eastern Byzantine Christianity, there is not this idea. There is rather the understanding that Heaven and Hell are not diametrically opposed places, to which God sends people and sometimes does so arbitrarily, but the same place, in which the presence of God is experienced in quite different ways by people depending on how they have formed their souls on earth.

2008-07-01 14:24:46 Robert Spencer


I just read Sura 32. Based on that reading, can you not say that Islam also teaches a kind of Pre-Destination/FreeWill paradox, like the kind I mentioned above?

Yes, there is definitely an element of such a paradox involved here: from the human perspective one must act as if it is all about human will, but from the divine perspective it is all foreordained. However, there is an absoluteness to Allah’s sovereignty — witnessed by how common it is for Muslims to qualify all statements with “inshallah” — God willing. This is in the New Testament also, to be sure, but it is much, much stronger an idea in Islam.

2008-07-01 14:21:34 Robert Spencer


It seems to me that ‘traditional Christianity’ has more faces than a politician.

I was using it to mean generally the apostolic Churches: Catholic, Orthodox, and Oriental. It is hard to see this in the United States, but these groups still make up roughly two-thirds of the world’s Christians.

The churches I was raised in certainly believed in pre-destination from God. The grace of God was akin to the arbitrariness of God – he saved whom he willed. As I grew older I was taught that God did pre-ordain whom he saved, but we were also given free-will to choose salvation – a paradox which I now consider to be an unworkable contradiction.

Probably that represents a movement in your church from strict Calvinism to…a less strict variety of Calvinism.

Anyway, it seems to me there are many ‘traditional’ Christianities. Presbyterianism, and particularly Calvinism is now roughly 500 years old, and adhered to by who knows how many – dosen’t the ‘traditional’ tag apply here also?

Sure, but as a member of a Church roughly four times older than that, I admit I do tend to see such a group as rather newfangled.

2008-07-01 14:18:39 Robert Spencer


I am fairly certain he meant both of us, and everyone who looks favorably upon this enterprise.

2008-07-01 02:54:09 Robert Spencer

Barry Norris:

Yes, please do.

I will, but speaking of hurt credibility, I note (again) that you had nothing whatsoever to say about the evidence I posted above in support of my position.

Like so many others, you accuse me of inaccuracy, but cannot back it up, and make no response when I prove that what I wrote was indeed accurate.

2008-06-30 23:35:02 Robert Spencer


I much appreciate your kind words.

2008-06-30 23:04:53 Robert Spencer

Barry Norris:

Oh, it’s quite over. I have already answered that question several times, and this thread speaks for itself on that and other matters.

However, for the record, as soon as I get back into my office, later this week, I will post here (on this thread if possible, or at Jihad Watch, if not) some additional supporting evidence from Islamic sources for the proposition that mainstream, traditional Islam denies the freedom of the human will. After all, pointing that out is what started this whole thing, and that is where it will end.

2008-06-30 23:03:40 Robert Spencer

Barry Norris:

You can plug in Koran and New Testament if you wish. It’s all in the interpretation, isn’t it?

Not entirely. Words have meanings. There is a huge gray area, and yet human beings sometimes manage to make themselves understood fairly well. Mein Kampf is not a cookbook and has never been interpreted as such, and no one is worrying about violent passages in the Bhagavad Gita today not just because no one is interpreting them as such, but because there aren’t any.

As I have already told you several times, I do not think the Bible or the Qur’an should be understood in isolation from their respective traditions. This is why I continually quote Islamic sources for interpretation, as in the Islamic material I posted above denying free will — material which you have so far ignored, including my question about why you were ignoring it.

Let’s remember the initial point here. I made a comparison between Christianity and Islam that led you to call me a fool. The comparison was, however, accurate. Facts may be inconvenient or unwelcome but they are no less facts for being so. If Islam has not generally taught free will and Christianity has, I have not suddenly become Franklin Graham or Craig Winn by pointing that out. And I ask you again, since you sidestepped the question above:

Aside from whether one is “great” and the other “evil,” do you think that the New Testament and the Qur’an are essentially equivalent in the material they contain that their adherents can use to harm other human beings?

2008-06-30 20:44:11 Robert Spencer

Barry Norris:

You’re being very dishonest, Robert.

I disagree. I offered a characterization of your posts, and I stand by it. I suggest that you are not in my mind to know whether or not I meant it sincerely.

You’re taking my comments out of context by not showing what was posted to me. It was not me who threw the first stone. Maybe you should give your advice to venividivici.

Maybe, or maybe not. He offered you substantive arguments, which you dismissed contemptuously but not by offering any counterarguments of your own.

2008-06-30 20:38:34 Robert Spencer


Why is the word “we” used when the almight is speaking in Qur’an? Is this a direct translation of the Arabic word for “we” as in “نَحْنْ – Nahnu” or is this an English translation using the “We” used by English Royalty as in “We are not amused”?

It is definitely in the Arabic, and repeatedly. For example, in 32:13, which has been the object of so much discussion here, the word لاتينا — latyna — is used: “we could have given” in the phrase “we could have given each soul its guidance.

But this is not considered by Muslims to compromise Allah’s oneness. The idea is that it is very like a royal we — an honorific usage, but most emphatically not one that implies anything about the nature of God.

2008-06-30 20:36:35 Robert Spencer

Barry Norris:

Why haven’t you responded to any of my posts giving you evidence about free will in Islam?

You have no idea what you’re talking about and are hardly mature enough to discuss anything with adults.

No, you’re missing the point. If you’re just going to tell me that the teachings of Christianity and the Bible (New Testament) are great while Mohammed and the Koran are evil, then don’t bother replying to my comments because this discussion has obviously gone over your head.

Attempting to win an argument by insulting your opponent is not a wise — or effective — strategy.

Aside from whether one is “great” and the other “evil,” do you think that the New Testament and the Qur’an are essentially equivalent in the material they contain that their adherents can use to harm other human beings?

A serious question.

2008-06-30 19:58:50 Robert Spencer

Barry Norris,

In answer to your question, as I explained above, I don’t think either Christianity or Islam can be evaluated by their Scriptures alone without reference to the traditions within which they developed and of which they are a part.

I reject your assumption that to point out a difference between Islamic and Christian teaching — the mainstreams of both — is to engage in religious proselytizing.

2008-06-30 06:35:41 Robert Spencer

Barry Norris:

Let’s just look at the title of one of your books (and no, I haven’t read any of your books):

‘Religion of Peace?: Why Christianity Is and Islam Isn’t’

I don’t think Islam is a religion of peace, but I think it’s debatable to say that Christianity is. It’s pretty obvious what the agenda here is.

Is it really? You know all about what is in the book — which you haven’t read — by its title, eh?

2008-06-30 06:33:27 Robert Spencer

Barry Norris:

As I said above, I’ll be away from my office for a few days. But here is something to chew on:


Al-Suyuti succintly defined Qadari doctrine as “the claim that evil is created by human beings.”[8] Ibn Abi Ya`la relates the following description of the Qadariyya: “They are those who claim that they possess in full the capacity to act (al-istita`a), free will (al-mashEE’a), and effective power (al-qudra). They consider that they hold in their grasp the ability to do good and evil, avoid harm and obtain benefit, obey and disobey, and be guided or misguided. They claim that human beings retain full initiative, without any priority in Allah’s will for their acts, nor even in His knowledge of them. Their doctrine is similar to that of Zoroastrians and Christians. That is the very root of heresy.”[9] […]

The status of Qadaris in the eyes of Ahl al-Sunna varied. Al-Subki spoke of “a difference of opinion concerning the apostasy (takfEEr) of the Qadariyya.”[11] Ibn Abi Hatim in the introduction to his al-Jarh wa al-Ta`dil (1:373) relates that Ibn al-Mubarak stopped narrating from `Amr ibn `Ubayd because “he used to propagate the doctrine of absolute free will.” Al-Dhahabi refuses to call `Amr a disbeliever,[12] although some early sources such as Ibn Abi `Asim’s (d. 287) al-Sunna, al-Ajurri’s (d. 360) al-Shari`a and Ibn Batta’s (d. 387) al-Ibana relate that the Qadariyya were held so by Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid, `Umar ibn `Abd al-`Aziz, Malik ibn Anas, Ibn al-Mubarak, Sufyan al-Thawri, and Ahmad ibn Hanbal among others.

The fact is that Sufyan al-Thawri, Ibn al-Mubarak, and Ahmad all narrated from Qadaris, such as Thawr ibn Yazid, Dawud ibn al-Husayn, Zakariyya ibn Ishaq, Dawud al-Dastuwa’i and others, all of which are also among Bukhari and Muslim’s narrators as shown by Suyuti’s list of Qadaris in the two books of Sahih in his Tadrib (1:389). These narrators could never have been retained if the imams had considered them disbelievers. However, the verdict of apostasy is true from Imam Malik who did not narrate from a single Qadari in his Muwatta’. Malik held that they should be killed unless they repented, and the narrations reporting his position of takfEEr of the Qadariyya are sound.[13]

Imam al-Nawawi gave the following explanations of the belief in Allah’s Decree in his “Commentary on the Forty Hadiths”:

The way of the People of Truth is to firmly believe in Allah’s Decree. The meaning of this is that Allah has decreed matters from pre-eternity and that He knows that they shall take place at times known to Him and at places known to Him; and they do occur exactly according to what He has decreed.

Know that there are four kinds of decrees:

(a) The Decree in the Divine Foreknowledge. It is said concerning it: Care (`inaya) before friendship (wilaya), pleasure before childbirth, and continual harvest from first-fruits. Allah the Exalted said: “He is made to turn away from it who has been made to turn away” (51:9). In other words, one is turned away from hearing the Qur’an and from believing in this life who was driven from them in pre-eternity. Allah’s Messenger said: “Allah does not destroy except one who is already destroyed.”[14]

(b) The Decree in the Preserved Tablet. Such Decree may be changed. Allah said: “Allah erases what He will, and He consolidates what He will, and with Him is the Mother of the Book” (13:39). We know that Ibn `Umar used to say in his supplications: “O Allah, if You have foreordained hardship for me, erase it and write felicity for me.”

(c) The Decree in the womb concerning which the angel is ordered to foreordain one’s sustenance, term of life, and whether he shall be unfortunate or prosperous.

(d) The Decree which consists in joining specific forewritten matters to the appointed times in which they are to befall, for Allah the Exalted has created both good and evil and has ordained that they should befall His servant at times appointed by Him.

The evidence that Allah Almighty created both good and evil is His saying: “The guilty are in error and madness. On the day they are dragged to the fire on their faces, they will be told: ‘Taste the touch of hell.’ Lo! We created every thing with proportion and measure (qadar)” (54:47-49). That verse was revealed concerning the proponents of absolute free will or Qadariyya who were thus told: “That belief of yours is in hellfire.”

As further evidence of what has been decreed the Exalted said: “Say: I seek refuge in the Lord of the Cleaving from the evil of what He has created” (113:1). The reading of that oath at the time something good befalls Allah’s servant will repel (foreordained) evil before it reaches him. There is also in the hadith that good deeds and upholding family ties repel a bad death and eventually turn it into a good one.[15] Also, “Supplication (al-du`a) and affliction (al-bala’) are suspended between heaven and earth, vying, and supplication repels affliction before the latter is able to come down.”[16] […]

Now the latter-day Qadariyya say that the good is from Allah while the bad is from other than Him. Allah is also Exalted high above such a statement. In a sound hadith the Prophet said: “The Qadariyya are the Zoroastrians of this Community.”[17] He named them Zoroastrians because their school of thought resembles that of Zoroastrian dualism. The Dualists claim that good is effected by light and evil by darkness, and thus earned their name. Similarly the proponents of free will ascribe the good to Allah and the bad to other than Him, whereas He is the creator of both good and evil.

So sure — is there a difference of opinion? Of course. But is the traditional view as I characterized it? Yes.

2008-06-30 06:31:36 Robert Spencer

Barry Norris:

generally speaking, do you think it’s an exercise in futility to compare the Koran and the Bible in order to conclude that one book/one God is superior to the other?

Please point out where I have ever done such a thing anywhere in any segment of this Qur’an Blog, or at Jihad Watch.

2008-06-30 05:08:05 Robert Spencer

Barry Norris:

I think the objective reader understands why “an axe to grind” applies to you and others on this blog.

I wonder if you’d be so kind as to explain it to me anyway. I ask because I actually have no interest in doing anything but telling the truth about Islam, with no axes or what have you. No one has ever shown that I have not done so, although some have claimed to have done so when they themselves were bending the truth. Have at it, please.

2008-06-30 05:06:13 Robert Spencer

Barry Norris:

Robert, the problem is not that you’re either right or wrong. The problem is there is only one perspective. You say mainstream Islam rejects free will and with the little research I’ve done so far, I’ve found the opposite. The problem with the Bible and the Koran is that a lot of it is up to interpretation and there are verses which seem to contradict each other.

Do you know anything about Islam Online and the Islamic Circle of North America? Are you aware that Islam Online is an operation of the Muslim Brotherhood, and that the Islamic Circle of North America is a Brotherhood organization? Are you aware of what the Brotherhood is trying to do in the West, according to its own documents?

I stand by my statement: the denial of free will is the position of traditional and mainstream Islam. I am fully prepared to back this up with Islamic sources as soon as I am back in my office, which unfortunately will be a few days, but I will certainly do it for the record in any case. The sources you are using are trying to give American non-Muslims a particular perspective on Islam. That perspective is not a traditional Islamic one, but it is one that Americans will find more palatable.

2008-06-30 05:04:04 Robert Spencer

Jaynie and Barry Norris et al would probably be surprised to learn that my closest colleague at Jihad Watch, Hugh Fitzgerald, is an atheist. I encourage them to check out his articles here.

2008-06-30 02:24:10 Robert Spencer


It’s almost impossible to avoid comparing Islam to other religions as a pedagogical and rhetorical device. It helps those with brains to think.


This canard is a common tool in the arsenal of jihad apologists. Remember that when Stephen Coughlin, the Pentagon’s sole expert on Islamic law, was fired, he had previously been criticized by Hesham Islam, a top aide to Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England, as a “Christian zealot with a pen.” There was absolutely nothing to this: Coughlin is a Christian, but just try to find proselytizing or cheerleading for Christianity in his massive thesis on Islamic legal teaching on jihad warfare, which is available online and well worth reading. You would search for such things in vain, just as you would search for them in vain in all the segments of my Qur’an blog, or at Jihad Watch, or in my biography of Muhammad, and on and on.

Even in my book about Christianity and Islam I engaged in no discussion of the truth claims of either religion, and certainly no proselytizing. I was simply evaluating the common claim that radical Christianity is just as threatening as radical Islam.

But the jihad apologists find it useful to consign all honest discussion of Islam’s jihad ideology or its supremacist assumptions to some kind of jockeying for religious market share. And Jaynie and others like her, although she is not a jihad apologist, unwittingly abets this by saying that a Christian should not “criticize Islam.”

Axe to grind? I can’t for the life of me figure out why telling the truth about Islamic teaching is griding an axe. When non-Muslims say this I can only think it is because they don’t know anything about Islam, and have perhaps been taken in by some deceptive and distorted material, and are just certain that it couldn’t be the way I am saying it is. All right, then. Show me where I’m wrong, from the Islamic texts. I have to catch another flight, but I’ll check in here later on.

2008-06-30 02:21:55 Robert Spencer


You fail to see it because you believe in your own religion. None of you see how foolish you look when you try to compare religions to determine a “winner”. Which is really what you’re doing.

Is it, now? And on what do you base this idea? That I say Islam teaches one thing, and Christianity another? So I must claim, against all evidence, that they are exactly the same, or else I am a foolish proselytizer?

It’s an exercise in futility that none of you can see because you are trying to compare something you think is true with something you don’t think is true.

That traditional Islam denies free will and traditional Christianity affirms free will has nothing to do with whether either of them is true or false. It is simply a statement of fact. Prove the fact wrong, if you can, but I will thank you not to ascribe motives to me that I do not hold when I am not discussing, and have nowhere claimed in this Qur’an Blog, that Christianity is true and Islam false.

None of it is true, but you can’t understand that because you believe your version of it to be true.

You are arguing against an opponent you imagine in your own head, as you did before when you claimed I was dissembling about Islam’s violent teachings. I am not going to held responsible for something I did not say and have never said, either in that case or this one.

When two Christians argue about the different sects of Christianity they are like two Superman fans arguing about two different editions of the same comic book.

When Christians argue with Muslims, or criticize Islam, you’re like Superman fans arguing about Batman.

I am a Christian, certainly. But I do not base my analysis of Islam upon any theological critique of it, or any championing of Christianity. If you think otherwise, I challenge you to find one proselytizing statement in this Qur’an Blog. Explaining the differences in the Islamic and Christian understandings of free will doesn’t count, as it is not proselytizing, it is, as I said above, stating facts.

In saying that a Christian cannot “criticize Islam,” you sound like the Organization of the Islamic Conference, which would outlaw things like this Qur’an Blog and uphold the spurious claim that only Muslim believers can speak about Islam.

Well, I am not a Muslim believer, but I am standing for the right of anyone to speak about these things if he so desires. I refuse to accept the privileged status for Muslims and Islam, off limits to discussion and criticism, that the OIC is trying to establish. I have studied the Qur’an, Sunnah, and fiqh, and I stand by everything I have written here as genuinely reflective of the Islamic understanding of the Qur’anic texts I have discussed. If you think it is inaccurate, say exactly where, and bring your proof. If you’re right, I will acknowledge it and make the correction.

Otherwise, again: stop telling me I’m doing things I’m not doing.

2008-06-30 02:00:08 Robert Spencer

Barry Norris:

Yes, most Christians believe in free will but some, like Presbyterians, do not based on a particular interpretation of the Bible.

Indeed. You may be surprised to know that I pointed that out myself in a previous discussion of this topic, here.

And Evangelical Christians believe that if a person doesn’t accept Jesus as the son of God, he/she is going to hell. Objectively speaking, is this just or is it just as bad as God arbitrarily condemning people?

If the Evangelical Christian in question believes that God condemns people to hell who never had a chance to hear about or accept Jesus, then I would say yes, it is essentially just as arbitrary.

It is not my idea, it’s in 1 TIMOTHY 2!!! Did you not read the passage?
14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.

The Bible contradicting itself?!? No way!

The point being made in I Timothy is different, but I am not going to argue the point. People will see contradictions there or elsewhere, or not see them, depending on their point of view. In this case and others, I believe it is unwise to take the Bible — or the Qur’an — in isolation from the traditions in which they are situated. Neither book exists or ever has existed in a vacuum, and that is why I rely in this series on Islamic exegetes to show how Muslims have traditionally understood the Qur’an, rather than giving my own interpretation of the various passages.

It’s the spin. For instance your use of 1 Timothy 2:3 to contrast Islam and Christianity’s belief in free will makes the New Testament look good, that is until someone decides to show the rest of that passage and then the New Testament doesn’t look so good.

Your opinion of the New Testament is immaterial to me. You may think it looks worse than anything in the world, and that would have nothing to do with this Qur’an commentary. I am not trying to make the New Testament “look good” or the Qur’an “look bad.” I am trying to show what the Qur’an says and what mainstream Islam has understood it to be saying. Since the readers are Westerners, Jews and Christians, I sometimes refer to the Bible to show similarities and differences. In this case, whatever you think of I Timothy, it is a fact that mainstream Islam has denied free will and most Christian traditions have upheld it. You may believe they are contradicting their own Scriptures in doing so — that’s just fine with me. But it doesn’t change the facts of the case, or the fact that I set out those facts accurately.

And you provide very little commentary by Islamic scholars on the issue of free will (at least in this blog entry).

This is an issue that is more important to readers than I thought: I haven’t spent much time on it thus far. I will have opportunities to return to it. Here is a brief discussion of it from my Qur’an blog on the beginning of sura 2, with a reference to a book that provides a full and fascinating discussion of the controversy on this issue in Islamic history.

Here’s what I found just with google:
Islam Online-free will
” Man can be regarded as higher than the angels from the perspective that he has free will and can choose to do right or wrong; he can choose to worship and obey Allah.”

Also read the links at the bottom to see more on the Koran and free will.

In this they are contradicting the traditional teachings of Islam. I am writing this in an airport and don’t have access to more sources, but here is Ibn Kathir, quoted in the Qur’an Blog I linked to just above: “These Ayat [verses] indicate that whomever Allah has written to be miserable, they shall never find anyone to guide them to happiness, and whomever Allah directs to misguidance, he shall never find anyone to guide him.”

Historically, the free will party lost out in Islam. Read about the Qadaris and see.

I wish more Muslims would blog on hotair to give us non-believers a better understanding of the Koran rather than the interpretation of someone with an axe to grind.

Exactly what axe do I have to grind? I hear this constantly, and yet no one has ever demonstrated that anything I am saying is false — they’re just sure it must be, or at least biased beyond usefulness. In reality, I am supposed to have an axe to grind because I point out that Islam teaches warfare against and the subjugation of unbelievers. But what if it really does? Then wouldn’t those who say that I am biased and have an axe to grind, and that Islam is peaceful, be the real biased axe grinders here?

It’s a question of fact, in any case. Read the Qur’an and Hadith and study Islamic history for yourself, and show me where I am wrong.

2008-06-30 01:48:56 Robert Spencer

Barry Norris:

Your post is apples and oranges. The Qur’an and orthodox Islam teach that human beings do not have free will and that God damns those whom he pleases. The Christian tradition generally has upheld free will and rejects the idea that God condemns people arbitrarily.

This question has nothing whatsoever to do with the view of women in the New Testament, but in any case your idea that the Bible, unlike the Qur’an, blames only Eve for original sin is plainly contradicted by Genesis in the Old Testament and Paul’s Letter to the Romans in the New (“in Adam all die” is in chapter six).

This is not a Bible blog, or a Compare-the-Qur’an-and-the-Bible blog, but I am not unwilling to do so as long as it is done accurately.

I fail to see how reporting accurately on the contents of the Qur’an and how it has been understood by mainstream Muslim commentators, and on the teachings of traditional Islamic theology on free will, makes me or anyone else look like an “utter fool to the rest of the world.”

2008-06-29 17:40:26 Robert Spencer

Southern Gent:

Are there “Trinitarian muslims” and “Oneness muslims” like there are in Christianity?

There are no Trinitarian Muslims. The Trinity is anathema to Islamic thought about the oneness of Allah, although the Qur’an appears to get it wrong. In sura 5:116 of the Qur’an, Allah asks Jesus, “O Jesus, son of Mary! Didst thou say unto mankind: Take me and my mother for two gods beside Allah?” Jesus responds no, of course he didn’t. But this seems to assume that the Christian Trinity is Allah, Jesus, and Mary. The notion of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, one God, does not appear in the Qur’an, but is considered by Muslims to be condemned by the Qur’an when it says to the Christians: “Say not “Three” – Cease! It is better for you! Allah is only One Allah” (4:171).

2008-06-29 17:05:02 Robert Spencer


Yeah, I just can’t understand that. Without self-determination and free will, it makes no sense.

The Qadariyya, the party that upheld the freedom of the will, was deemed heretical early in Islamic history.

2008-06-29 17:00:13 Robert Spencer


I assume there are no passages in the Koran that say Allah will feel remorse for creating those to go to hell? Or pity?

You assume correctly. After all, v. 13, quoted on the main page (“If We had so willed, We could certainly have brought every soul its true guidance: but the Word from Me will come true, ‘I will fill Hell with Jinns and men all together.'”) and its cognate verse 7:179 actually have Allah saying he could have saved everyone if he had wanted to do so, but instead he will “fill Hell” with damned souls. As I have pointed out before, this is utterly opposed to the Biblical view that God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

2008-06-29 16:59:24 Robert Spencer


Is there any prophecy offered in the Qur’an and if so what has it’s track record been for accuracy?

Here you go. We just covered that last week. The Qur’an’s most celebrated prophecy is in sura 30.

2008-06-29 16:53:38 Robert Spencer


Yep. See my quote of Qur’an 7:179 above.

Also, there’s Qur’an 10:99:

“If it had been thy Lord’s will, they would all have believed, all who are on earth! wilt thou then compel mankind, against their will, to believe!”

And there are plenty of others in this vein.

2008-06-22 22:03:06 Robert Spencer


Thanks. When I am in prison for telling the truth about Islamic jihad, I do hope you will bake me a cake with a file in it.

2008-06-22 21:45:42 Robert Spencer


Religion poisons everything.

A pinched, narrow, blinkered view of religion, and of the world.

2008-06-22 20:11:37 Robert Spencer

Oh, and Arbalest, one thing I overlooked:

Have the Muslims decided on the question Allah misguiding some men?

Yes, that is quite clear in the Qur’an. See 7:179:

“Many are the Jinns and men we have made for Hell: They have hearts wherewith they understand not, eyes wherewith they see not, and ears wherewith they hear not. They are like cattle,- nay more misguided: for they are heedless (of warning).”

2008-06-22 20:10:54 Robert Spencer


Have the Muslims decided on the question Allah misguiding some men? If Allah does this, then it is the will of Allah, and therefore these men are meant to live this way, and the Muslims should not interfere. Why, then do the Muslims interfere?

Because Allah tells them to call all men to Islam, even though he leaves some to go astray, and even leads them astray.

I find it surprising that Mo was able to:

– Repeatedly ignore calls for signs, miracles and any proof that he was a messenger of God,

He didn’t ignore them. He repeatedly offers excuses/explanations throughout the Qur’an. I have touched on these in passing throughout the Q-Blog. He says that they wouldn’t believe no matter what they saw, and that the Qur’an is itself a sign, etc.

– Repeatedly make assertions (that his words were true, that other religions had distorted their own doctrine, etc.) yet fail to prove them,

In 7th century Arabia, he didn’t have to prove it. No one had ancient manuscripts lying around. It was his word against theirs.

– Violate his own commandments (from God, no less) and get called on it (by Aisha’s father),

He gave himself an out for this in 33:21: he is the excellent example of conduct, so what he does is proper because he did it.

– Contradict himself (the Quran is created perfect, vs. Sura 106; which is it?),

You mean 2:106. Islamic apologists say that Allah canceled material by way of progressive instruction, to lead the Muslims to accept principles (such as the prohibition of alcohol) that they would presumably have not accepted had he sprung them on them all at once.

and still retain a loyal following.

He was, evidently, a clever, quick-witted, and unscrupulous person.

Apparently, the restriction of education combined with free use of sharp swords and an appeal to lust, booty and the baser instincts of the rabble was quite effective.

That was certainly part of it.

2008-06-22 20:09:40 Robert Spencer


I’m surprised you have an admiration for things Islamic. I find the enslavement of souls in a bastardized criminal/religious cult to contain nothing of praiseworthiness. And Islamic music and art are suspect if not outright haram in Islam are they not? It’s the vestiges of humanity left in Muslims that you admire. Imagine if the cultures ensnared in Islam were free to be fully human.

Yes, music and representational art are haram. Do these things exist despite Islam or because of it? A bit of both. Human beings are human beings everywhere, and the human spirit is unconquerable.

2008-06-22 20:04:25 Robert Spencer


On a less personal note I should perhaps point out that this was a controversy in early Islam — does Allah control absolutely everything, or do human beings have free will? The Qadariyya, the free will party, lost this debate, given the weight of Qur’anic evidence that contradicted their position, and were deemed heretics. A few months ago Alt.Muslim took notice of my Qur’an blog — on sura 10, if I recall correctly — and claimed that I misrepresented Islamic doctrine in noting that it denied free will. When I brought up the Qadariyya, the guy said something like, Well, Spencer just hates Muslims. Yeah, I guess that means Islam teaches free will!

2008-06-22 16:39:52 Robert Spencer


I feel the same way about Heraclius. I root for him all the way, and he has such a hard time. One of the tragic figures of history, and a great hero in many ways.

2008-06-22 16:26:54 Robert Spencer


So Allah controls who believes and who does not, and he subjects the unbelievers (who are unbelievers because Allah wills them to be) to unrelenting punishment? Nice.

Yes, that’s about the size of it. Contrary to caricature, I love Islamic culture, Islamic art, Islamic music (and the food, yes, the food), and many things about the Qur’an and Sunnah, or I wouldn’t have studied them for so long and in such depth. But I am not going to lie about what they contain, and they do contain doctrines of warfare against unbelievers, doctrines oppressing women, and this: the idea that the supreme deity creates beings in order to torture them. I can’t sign up with that.

2008-06-22 16:25:33 Robert Spencer


So, if not for Allah, my wife might have been, say, a squid or something?

Yes, like poor Mr. Loopner, who was born without a spine.

2008-06-22 16:22:50 Robert Spencer


To this, I’d add that a substantial number of Christians don’t even embrace the concept of free will before salvation. Instead, some are elected and other are not – God is sovereign.

A substantial number? With respect, I don’t think so. You’re describing Calvinism in its pure form, and the idea of “double predestination” as it is sometimes known. This is not the faith of the apostolic Churches — the Catholics and the Orthodox — and is not the faith of most Protestants either.

It is contradicted by several passages of Scripture — both NT and OT. “God wills that all men be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth” (I Timothy 2:3) and God has no pleasure in the death of the sinner (Ezekiel 18:23, 32 and 33:11).

This blog is not about my opinions, but since we are on the topic I will say that I am not a Calvinist. I am, in fact, quite firmly anti-Calvinist. I believe that the idea that God creates people in order to torture them for eternity is monstrous, and incompatible with Christian notions of God’s love. In Islam, this idea is just as monstrous, although less contradictory, since there are no statements in the Qur’an that say anything like what is said in the passages from I Timothy and Ezekiel that I refer to above.

2008-06-17 18:20:48 Robert Spencer


I didn’t say there was a single central authority — there isn’t. Nor did I say that anyone belonging to one sect will recognize the authority of someone belonging to another sect.

What I was saying was that while Islamic apologists will deny the authority of any Islamic text or teacher when speaking with a non-Muslim, there are actually authorities that Muslims do recognize. For example, once many years ago I was in a radio debate with As’ad AbuKhalil, the “Angry Arab.” When I mentioned the Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar, the great Islamic university in Cairo that is the most respected institution among Sunni Muslims, endorsing suicide attacks, AbuKhalil said this just showed my ignorance, for Muslims actually laugh at Al-Azhar, he said, and hold it in contempt. But many times I’ve been in debates with other Muslims who quote authorities from Al-Azhar to make “moderate” points, and praise Al-Azhar to the skies. And in reality, most Muslims really don’t laugh at Al-Azhar, or hold it in contempt.

In other words, Muslim apologists in debating non-Muslims will throw any authority under the bus, but this doesn’t mean that Muslims recognize no authorities. They do in fact recognize many. Al-Azhar is one of the most prominent.

2008-06-15 23:53:10 Robert Spencer


Thanks. What piqued me was Dante’s divine comedy. IIRC, there is some place distinct from hell, where unbaptized(unbelievers ?) are placed, till they gain belief. I believe this is somewhat similar to what catholicism professes.

You are possibly referring to Limbo, a not particularly unpleasant (but not very pleasant) place where the righteous but unbaptized unbelievers dwell in Dante’s Commedia. This was a longstanding Roman Catholic theological opinion, never a doctrine, which has been rejected quite recently by Pope Benedict XVI.

2008-06-15 19:36:08 Robert Spencer



The Qur’an teaches that everything happens by Allah’s will. As we have seen many times, Allah decides who will be guided to the truth of Islam and who won’t (2:272; 4:88; 6:125; 10:99; 11:34; 11:117-119; 14:4; 39:37-38, etc). He even created some men in order to torture them in hell (7:179).

The fate of the believers is in his hands: “Say: ‘Nothing will happen to us except what Allah has decreed for us: He is our protector'” (9:51). Allah determines the times of the deaths of individuals: “Nor can a soul die except by Allah’s leave, the term being fixed as by writing” (3:145). He knows everything: “He knoweth whatever there is on the earth and in the sea” (6:59).

2008-06-15 19:32:35 Robert Spencer

Thanks for all the spider info, everyone. Looking at the photo closely I do suspect that there are two of them. Charming creatures!

2008-06-15 19:21:44 Robert Spencer


I am no authority on Judaism or much of Protestant Christianity. In Islam, certainly unbelievers suffer hellfire. Catholicism is not so sure.

2008-06-15 19:21:00 Robert Spencer


Is v 41 directed at the Christians and Jews as well as others? If so, how because as stated in v.46, it is the same Allah?

Yes, it certainly is. How, if we all worship the same God? Because the Jews and Christians have twisted the teachings of their prophets to create their false religions. The religion of Moses and Jesus, according to Islam, was Islam. What we know of as Judaism and Christianity are just twisted forms of the original teachings of Moses and Jesus.

2008-06-15 16:59:36 Robert Spencer


Do we Christians use a similar argument or do we simply say, it’s not a lack of understanding but simply a lack of faith, of belief, that keeps people from becoming Christians? I mean, who could really argue the inability to understand the Gospels keeps people from believing in Christ? It’s an interesting distinction I think. One is simple and meant for all to understand and accept, the other is complex and meant only for the chosen it seams…

The difference here is that Christianity would acknowledge the possibility that someone might in good faith and good conscience reject Christianity. The Roman Catholic Church discusses this at the Second Vatican Council, “Dignitatus Humanae,” etc. But in Islam, there is no concept of someone rejecting Islam except for selfish and perverse reasons.

2008-06-15 16:57:05 Robert Spencer

By the way, there was an imam who said that Allah had sent giant spiders against the Americans in Iraq. I think he was working from this photo. Details here.

2008-06-15 16:53:38 Robert Spencer


Ugh…camel spiders. Have I mentioned that I hate spiders?

I was told after I put up this pic that it was a Photoshop job, and that there aren’t actually spiders that large. I thought the picture was real. Does anyone have any facts on this?

2008-06-15 16:52:23 Robert Spencer


Allah is just and all-powerful. Yet if I’m some primitive tribesman from the Amazon jungle, and have never heard of Islam or Allah, I’m still going straight to hell on the day of judgment, even if I’ve lived an otherwise righteous life?


If Allah is so just and all-powerful, how does he allow this?

It is his will: “If it had been thy Lord’s will, they would all have believed, all who are on earth! Wilt thou then compel mankind, against their will, to believe!” — Qur’an 10:99

2008-06-15 16:51:11 Robert Spencer


The conclusion I came to over time was that each individual Muslim gets to decide what constitutes “learning and scholarship”. In other words, they believe whoever they want to believe, and anyone who says something different is wrong because they are interpreting it wrong. Or they belong to the wrong side.

Referring to Islamic apologists and jihad apologists, this is absolutely true: they will throw any authority under the bus, even the Qur’an, in arguing with a non-Muslim and defending Islam from charges that it encourages warfare and violence.

But within Islam, there are actually recognized authorities, and chains of authority, which Muslims are bound to respect. The apologists are just counting on your not knowing that.

2008-06-15 16:49:42 Robert Spencer

Pax Americana:

My experience of Ahmadiyya Muslims has matched yours.

2008-06-09 22:12:33 Robert Spencer

Anyway, I don’t think a 1400-year-old, billion-strong belief system can be easily rendered to “room temp,” especially given that people aren’t really persuaded by rational arguments.

2008-06-09 19:51:01 Robert Spencer


2008-06-09 19:34:59 Robert Spencer


Can we ban Islam now?

While I am aware of the Islamic supremacist threat to the U.S. and the free world in general, please remember: we don’t have thoughtcrime in the United States.

2008-06-09 19:14:53 Robert Spencer

When I posted this story at Jihad Watch this morning, I noted that the Ahmadis are being charged with “insulting Islam” simply for their not accepting it.

Ponder that. Ponder the implications.

2008-06-09 19:09:34 Robert Spencer

The EJS:

His followers who twisted his message to create Judaism are apes and pigs

Doesn’t “Companions of the Trench” show there wasn’t a twist, but that Islam set itself up almost as the anti-Judeo antithesis in the struggle for the “greater narrative”?

Sure, but it was “the anti-Judeo antithesis” because it was the true message of Moses, which the Jews had twisted.

2008-06-09 09:45:59 Robert Spencer

Up above of course “Isn’t it more likely the story of Moses…is an attempt to legitimize Muhammad?” is the words of EJS, not of me.

2008-06-09 09:42:57 Robert Spencer

The EJS:

Remember, in this view Moses taught Islam.

Isn’t it more likely the story of Moses, part of the “greater narrative”, is an attempt to legitimize Muhammad?

This is not an either/or. In the traditional Muslim view, derived from the Qur’an (see 3:67, etc.), the Biblical prophets, including Moses, taught Islam. But this claim in itself arises from or is part of an attempt to legitimize Muhammad. He presented himself as a prophet in the Biblical line. So if his message differed from that of the earlier prophets, either he was a false prophet, which of course he was not going to acknowledge, or else their message had been tampered with by their wicked followers.

2008-06-09 09:27:58 Robert Spencer


Remember, in this view Moses taught Islam. His followers who twisted his message to create Judaism are apes and pigs. The others became Muslims.

2008-06-08 18:04:09 Robert Spencer

Just in case it isn’t obvious,

“…Ali, the hero if the Shi’ites…” above should be:

“…Ali, the hero of the Shi’ites…”

I am hoping someone will be able to fix it in the piece, but until then this note will have to suffice.

2008-06-08 18:03:23 Robert Spencer

That should be 2003, not 2002.

2008-06-03 11:20:52 Robert Spencer

Great news.

A few questions:

1. The Taliban seems to be winning in Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province (NWFP). If they are able to push the Taliban over the brink of defeat in Afghanistan, will British and American forces then target them in Pakistan?

2. The Taliban were defeated in Afghanistan in 2002. How is this defeat different from that one, such that we may be sure that they will not experience yet another resurgence?

3. What study is being undertaken or has been undertaken of the Taliban’s ideology, and the prevalence of elements of it among non-Taliban groups in Afghanistan?

4. What pressure is being brought to bear upon the Karzai government to remove the provision in the Afghan constitution that no law will be made that contradicts Islamic law — a provision that infringes upon the freedom of conscience (as we saw in the case of the Afghan convert to Christianity, Abdul Rahman), the rights of women, and the rights of non-Muslims?

2008-06-03 11:10:44 Robert Spencer


Yes, Islam is a replacement theology par excellence. Islam is the true form of Judaism and of Christianity. This is unparalleled in religious history, as far as I know. Some point to Christianity’s relationship with Judaism, but that is much different. Christianity shares Scriptures with Judaism; it understands them differently, but does not say that the Jews have corrupted them and does not offer uncorrupted versions. Also, while there has been a Christian replacement theology that sees the Jews as cast off and the Church as the new Israel, this has never been the unanimous view and is almost universally rejected today. After all, St. Paul says in the New Testament that “the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable” (Romans 11:29, if I recall correctly) — specifically in reference to the Jews being God’s chosen people. So the proper Christian attitude toward Jews is one of charity, respect, openness, and gratitude.

2008-06-02 14:06:47 Robert Spencer


By the way, Muslims don’t actually have to give alms. The desire to give is enough to satisfy that Pillar.

Only if they’re indigent. Those who can, must.

2008-06-02 01:33:46 Robert Spencer


So they all go to Paradise.

Not necessarily. But the only ones in Paradise are Muslims, certainly.

2008-06-02 01:32:04 Robert Spencer


I read somewhere, and I can’t remember where it was, if it was a Hadith or just a Q&A, that a Muslim who dies from the flu will also go to Paradise. I can’t remember if the word “martyr” was used, but it was clear that any Muslim will get into Paradise as long as they defend Islam. And the highest honor any Muslim can hope to achieve in this life is to be a martyr in defense of Islam.

It’s a hadith. Here is one version:

The Prophet said, “He (a Muslim) who dies of an abdominal disease is a a martyr, and he who dies of plague is a martyr.”

2008-06-02 01:18:27 Robert Spencer


More seriously, I’m not at all familiar with the state of the Jewish faith in Arabia at the time of Muhammad. Robert, given that the stories in the Qur’an vary so much from the Old Testament, is it likely that the Jewish groups were themselves (heretical?) split-offs from mainstream Judaism? I’m wondering if he just rewrote things to suit his needs, or if we’re hearing echoes of what was then a heterodox Judaism?

It’s almost impossible to know, since documentary evidence is so sketchy. But since no Jewish sect of any kind has ever at any time according to any known records asserted that Ezra is the Son of God (9:30), it seems likely that the Jews of Arabia were more or less orthodox, but that Muhammad understood the material he heard from them imperfectly, or changed it for his own ends, or both.

2008-06-02 01:14:42 Robert Spencer


Lots of verses citing Allah’s vengeance on the corrupt and unbelievers…But what’s Islam’s explanation when say, a natural disaster wipes out a mosque or an Islamic city or locale that is known for it’s strict Islamic rules and traditions?

Is it really as simple an explanation as “they weren’t holy enough”?

Yes. We saw this in Indonesia after the tsunami. You can always be more holy, more observant, more fervent, more devout. Always. There is always something else you can be doing.

2008-06-02 01:12:33 Robert Spencer


Here’s a hoopoe for you.

2008-06-02 01:10:36 Robert Spencer


One of the MAJOR differences I’m seeing between the Bible and the koran is that the Bible is more or less chronological. There are re-tellings of stories, more like a book by two different historians, who tell essentially the same story, but with different viewpoints and emphases.

This to me smacks of the stupidity of islam – that mohammed has to retell things to suit his current claims and justification for power and all that.

Coincidentally, I begin sura 28 (next week’s entry) with a discussion of how the Qur’an is a series of sermons, not a series of chronological histories. Stories are brought up in order to make a homiletic point. This is different from the Bible, and interesting (I think), but it doesn’t in and of itself manifest duplicity on Muhammad’s part. There are plenty of ways in which I believe Muhammad is not the supreme exemplar of human behavior, and I don’t believe he was a prophet, but I don’t see any moral or other failing in his not telling stories of the prophets in chronological order.

2008-06-02 01:09:11 Robert Spencer


Blogging the Bible

Chimpy on June 1, 2008 at 11:43 AM

You are apparently unaware of the fact, but actually the Slate series inspired this one, although my approach is a bit different. Instead of just writing about how passages hit me, as the guy at Slate did, I am showing how mainstream Muslim commentators explain them.

2008-06-02 01:01:41 Robert Spencer


I was under the impression there were no assurance of Paradise in Islam except martyrdom which is a major part of the allure of being a suicide bomber. Everybody else gets judged. Am I wrong?

The language promising Paradise to those who “kill and are killed” for Allah in Qur’an 9:111 is much stronger than the language here in 27:3. Also 27:3 is a bit vague — if you miss one prayer, are you assured? Two? Five? A week’s worth? And how much zakat must one pay? Etc. 9:111 is much clearer and more direct.

2008-06-02 00:59:58 Robert Spencer


Very briefly, in traditional Islam there is no separation of religion from state power. Jihadists decry secular Muslim governments — Mubarak, Musharraf — for not following Islamic law and introducting the Western concept of a sacred/secular division.

2008-06-02 00:56:29 Robert Spencer


I’m guessing that their answer for this is that it wasn’t Mohammed who knew the ‘real story’, but Allah.


2008-06-02 00:54:14 Robert Spencer


It takes an idiot to be a Muslim.

I disagree. Al-Ghazali was no idiot, and he was pious and orthodox. In modern times, whatever evil one may ascribe to someone like Khomeini, he was no idiot. People who grow up in Muslim cultures with no access to the material that you are probably taking as axiomatic in writing this sentence cannot be called idiots for not knowing what they have no way of knowing.

2008-06-02 00:53:19 Robert Spencer


It’s always amazing to me to read your posts Robert. If Mohammed were alive today he’d be penalized for plagiarism.

Strictly speaking, plagiarism is taking over someone else’s actual wording as one’s own. Muhammad doesn’t do that: there is no textual dependence of the Qur’an upon the Bible. And Muslims would say that it’s only natural that stories would recur in the Qur’an that were in the Bible, since the Qur’an is the perfect revelation sent to correct the earlier ones that had become corrupted.

I suppose I can understand if the people were illiterate and had not heard the stories from the Bible that Mohammed was told during his travels as a merchant, they would find comfort in these verses. But to believe that this one man (who glorified himself above all others) knew more about what happened in Biblical times than the people who actually wrote the stories DURING the times that they happened is just absurd. Any rational comprehension would lead anyone to the same conclusion.

Of course, if the supreme deity is really speaking to him and using him to correct stories that had become corrupted and changed, then his versions would be more accurate than the older ones.

2008-06-02 00:50:46 Robert Spencer


Yes, they did. And she also mocked him.

2008-05-25 23:58:37 Robert Spencer


So are most non-Muslims in Muslim societys.

The difference is that mine was a voluntary gesture of kindness to an ally, involving no sacrifice of anything I believe, versus a coerced gesture of submission to an adversary.

What you point out is happening in the schools is more like the latter than the former.

2008-05-25 21:50:28 Robert Spencer


I was just trying to be nice.

2008-05-25 21:32:01 Robert Spencer

Saint Olaf:

I would say that there is…(at least in the New Testament)..the similarities between Apollyon, the false prophet and the hidden mahdi and false muslim jesus are striking.

That isn’t, of course, quite what Muhammad had in mind!

Qur’an 61:6 has Jesus prophesying about the coming of Muhammad, and his words there appear to be based on Jesus’ words about the coming of the Holy Spirit in John 14-16. Indeed, Muslims often point to that passage in John and claim it is an altered version of Jesus’ original prophecy about Muhammad. The only catch there is that there is absolutely no textual or historical evidence to back up that claim.

2008-05-25 18:44:34 Robert Spencer

Shy Guy:

Do Islamists even try to place a period when this tampering took place? It must have been before the destruction of the 1st Temple, because after that Jews were scattered far and wide yet still retained the exact same Torah texts, as if they carried it in a PDF file on a USB key in their pockets. :)

No, it couldn’t have been then. It had to have been after Muhammad came, since Allah refers Muhammad to those who received the Scriptures before him in order to assuage his doubts (Qur’an 10:94-95). That assumes that the real Torah and real Gospel existed as of around 620 CE, and that the corruption happened after that or around that time — which is historically preposterous for both Torah and Gospel.

Also what reason would there have been for all Jewish communities all over to remove these supposed exact references to Muhamed/Islam/Quran? The whole Jewish religion is based on G-d’s direct communication to Moses and then the further conveyance of prophetic messages through G-d’s prophets. Or did the prophets lie, too? Yet Islam gripes all the time about the Jews’s disobeying their prophets.

These prophets, in the Muslim view, taught Islam. The fact the Jewish books do not reflect the Islamic character of their teaching is, for Muslims, proof that those books have been corrupted. But this is an ex post facto claim, based on absolutely zero historical evidence.

Is there one single Islamic scholar in Islam’s history who tries to logically explain all of this?

I have seen Islamic apologists make canny use of the historical criticism that both Jewish and Christian scholars have undertaken since the 19th century. They quote some of the more extreme assertions of those scholars — assertions which are by no means accepted by the mainstream — for both the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures to posit the idea that the originals have been drastically altered, and then they claim that the originals were Islamic.

A variant of this is a newer claim, based on the “DaVinci Code”‘s fictionalization of Christian history, that the Council of Nicaea in 325 CE was the occasion of the corruption by the Christians. The “DaVinci Code” states, falsely, that the New Testament canon was settled at the Council of Nicaea, and despite this being complete fiction — the Council did not deal with canonical issues at all — I’ve been amazed how quickly it has entered the popular consciousness that at Nicaea the assembled divines essentially created mainstream Christianity by approving some books and throwing out others.

The Muslim view of this is that Arius, the heretic whose teachings were (really) condemned at Nicaea, and who denied the divinity of Christ, was actually a follower of the Islamic prophet Jesus, and that’s why he was denying his divinity, which in this view was a late invention that had nothing to do with Jesus’ real teachings. There are two problems with this, aside from the canon fantasy: one is that Arius himself taught that Jesus was indeed divine, but was a lesser god, and that doesn’t square with Islamic theology at all. Another is that the divinity of Christ was not invented at Nicaea, but was clearly taught by Christians from the first century on. It was Arius’ teaching that was the new invention.

2008-05-25 18:40:22 Robert Spencer


Moses, Abraham, Noah…and I know Islam considers Jesus to be a prophet as well. Were the early converts to Islam coming from Christianity, Judaism, or something similar?

They were pagan Arabs, Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians.

2008-05-25 18:18:34 Robert Spencer


This explains so much. The Muslims are right and evryone else is WRONG. Non-believers are either deluded or stuck in willfull sin.

Yes, I do believe that understanding this serves well to illumine the attitude of many Muslim spokesmen today toward non-Muslims with whom they enter into dialogue. I myself have had many, many experiences of this: they come in assuming I am lying or stupid or both, and never can deal with me with minimal respect as an equal.

2008-05-25 18:17:52 Robert Spencer


Different reasons are put forward as to why these punishments are no longer valid or applied. Some say, simply, that Christ rendered all that stuff no longer applicable but no one seemed to have informed Pope Innocent III and some of his successors.

Pope Innocent III didn’t apply any of those laws. Whatever he did do, he didn’t justify it on the basis of Deuteronomic law, which Catholicism and all other Christian sects have consistently held to be no longer applicable after the resurrection of Christ.

2008-05-25 18:15:43 Robert Spencer


And the Bible is HONEST. Not one infallible cartoon in there. There are liars and adulterers and thieves and the fearful, murderers and all other sorts, warts and all, portrayed as real men and women whom God, for His own reasons, chooses to do His work.

Nicely put.

2008-05-25 18:14:07 Robert Spencer


Perhaps what is needed is a ‘Jefferson Qur’an’ with all the superstition, hellfire, misogyny and general cruelty removed and a ‘yes we can’ missionary to sell the product.

Maybe, but take all those things out and the remaining book would fit neatly on a 3 by 5 card, or perhaps in a trifold pamphlet.

2008-05-25 18:13:17 Robert Spencer


(Nonetheless, I’ve heard several loonies, Christian and Jew, say the literal Leviticus still applies and were it not for the satanical secular forces in place, they would be just fine with that.)

I cannot speak for Judaism, but I can tell you that any Christian who believes that the laws of Leviticus still apply has placed himself outside the mainstream of Christianity as it has been consistently understood since the apostolic council recorded in Acts 15.

2008-05-25 18:11:28 Robert Spencer


As someone with a Jewish religious educational background, including several years of Talmudic study, can anyone give me a hint where there’s anything near a mention of this nonsensical book called the Quran within Jewish Scriptures?

I am not Talmudic scholar by a long shot, but I would venture to say that there is no prophesy of Muhammad or the Qur’an within Jewish Scriptures. Islamic tradition claims that there is in both Jewish and Christian Scripture, but there isn’t. The Muslim claim seems to have been manufactured to buttress the claim that Muhammad’s message merely confirms that of the earlier prophets. If it doesn’t confirm their messages, it must be because their followers have tampered with their holy books to remove references to Muhammad’s coming.

2008-05-25 18:09:57 Robert Spencer


If memory serves Muhammad did put out some contracts on a few poets later on.

Yes, notably Kab bin Ashraf, and Asma bint Marwan.

2008-05-25 18:07:18 Robert Spencer


What do these commentators say when someone points out these added voices?

They take them in stride. Here is Ibn Kathir on 25:1: “Here Allah praises Himself for the Noble Qur’an He has revealed to His noble Messenger.”

2008-05-19 10:24:24 Robert Spencer


How many Hadiths are there? Hundreds? Thousands?

Tens of thousands.

Who decides which are “valid” and which are “invalid”? Who decides to believe those who have decided?

There is a whole science of hadith evaluation, undertaken by religious scholars based on various criteria: the quality of the chain of transmission from Muhammad, the number of times a tradition is repeated by different authorities, etc.
The authentic hadith are generally agreed upon and are taught as such by the schools of Islamic jurisprudence. There is not a huge area of disagreement here.

I’ve never read a coherent, or even a half assed explanation, of why, if the Koran is the last, literal, true word of God, why does that book not stand on it’s own.

Well, because it says it doesn’t. It instructs Muslims repeatedly to obey Muhammad (3:32; 3:132; 4:13; 4:59; 4:69; 5:92; 8:1; 8:20; 8:46; 9:71; 24:47; 24:51; 24:52; 24:54; 24:56; 33:33; 47:33; 49:14; 58:13; 64:12). Since Muhammad is dead, the only way Muslims can fulfill this command to obey him — made in the perfect, eternal book — is by imitating his actions and obeying his counsels. And these are found in the hadith.

2008-05-18 22:42:30 Robert Spencer


I agree with you 100%.

2008-05-18 22:29:55 Robert Spencer

But, Tony737, didn’t I also see you at that meeting of the Five Families? Just before the guys in the helicopter started shooting through the window?

2008-05-18 21:48:05 Robert Spencer


Oh yes, I remember our discussing this now. Sorry I missed you. Next time I fly Southwest I’ll look for you!

2008-05-18 21:41:17 Robert Spencer


I’ve seen you in person (still kicking myself in the butt for not saying hello)

By the way, where was this? That sleazy bar on the South Side? The meeting of the Five Families? Where?

2008-05-18 20:25:08 Robert Spencer


Thanks. I always did prefer the Ringo thing. I confess, however, that many years ago on separate occasions I did go as both to costume parties — in both cases I didn’t have a costume and so just showed up and said I was dressed as Ringo, or Yasir (I did have a toy gun for the latter).

2008-05-18 19:43:16 Robert Spencer


Matthew 25:321-46

Oops. Sorry. That should of course be Matthew 25:31-46.

2008-05-18 18:38:09 Robert Spencer


Well… that passage from Matthew does not really address my question. Either you misunderstood, or I did not state my question very well.

The distinction you were asking for was between believers and unbelievers, no? The closest I could give you was that passage, which makes a distinction between the just and the unjust, because you’ll note that Matthew 25:321-46 has the divine judgment proceeding entirely on the basis of how people behaved, not on what they believed at all.

2008-05-18 18:34:42 Robert Spencer


in my Catholocism and others, ignorance of the Word is no reason for damnation.

No, it is in no sense Catholic teaching that those who are ignorant of the word, or even those who reject it without understanding it fully, will be damned.

But is that same ignorance of the Word the same in Islam?

It’s a bit ambiguous, but it does seem that, yes, everyone is originally Muslim, and so those who are not at the end of their lives will bear the responsibility for that.

2008-05-18 18:32:39 Robert Spencer


Are unbelievers in Islam those who willfully reject the ‘Truth’ of Allah and Islam – and are all non-Muslims lumped into that category?

No, not really, although the fact that converts are termed “reverts” — with the idea being that everyone is originally Muslim until he is corrupted away from the faith — does carry with it for unbelievers a certain sense of responsibility for not being Muslim. That said, however, there is still a distinction between those who have never heard the word, and who must be invited to accept Islam, and those who have heard and rejected it, who must be warred against.

2008-05-18 18:30:31 Robert Spencer


Robert, according to Islam, are non-Muslims who have not been “called” to Islam considered the equivalent of “unbelievers” who have rejected Islam?

No, not at all.

2008-05-18 18:27:41 Robert Spencer


Of course then there was the Bush of a few days later.

Actually what I say is you’re not a religious person if you’re a murderer, but you’re right, I’ve got to do a better job of making it clear when I talk about Islam I talk about a peaceful religion, which I talk about a lot.

In case you or anyone else is interested, some commentary on this can be found here.

2008-05-18 18:27:06 Robert Spencer


Is there some Christian tradition that draws a distinction between these two? I don’t think the Bible does.

How about this?

But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you salute only your brethren, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Matthew 5:44-48.

2008-05-18 18:25:44 Robert Spencer


Could the Islamic commentator also be comparing his own Scriptures to a Sword? When v52 says to “strive against them with the utmost strenuousness, with the (Qur’an)”, is a sword just gratuitously added to the commentary out of bloodlust, or could the commentator mean to use the power of the Quran as its own weapon against unbelievers?

The sword is not gratuitously added out of bloodlust, but it isn’t referring to the Qur’an either — it is distinct from the Qur’an, and refers to a literal sword, as is clear from numerous Islamic texts and authorities counseling warfare against unbelievers.

2008-05-18 18:22:24 Robert Spencer


The comparison between Qur’an 48:29 and Matthew 5:44 is not exact, because the New Testament nowhere characterizes those who do not believe in Christ as the enemies of those who do. Still, it is serviceable.

2008-05-18 18:20:45 Robert Spencer


How is the Quran different in this respect from Christianity

It is different because it teaches hatred and contempt for the unbelievers in this world, while the New Testament teaches love for one’s enemies and for all people. The contrast is between Qur’an 48:29 — “Muhammad is the apostle of Allah. Those who follow him are merciful to one another and ruthless to the unbelievers” and Matthew 5:44, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

2008-05-18 18:12:13 Robert Spencer


I guess implying it was Allah after all?

Yes, the idea is that this scribe was punished by Allah.

2008-05-18 18:09:55 Robert Spencer


Robert, is there any consensus at all yet on who may have taught Muhammad about Christianity/monotheism?

No, but there is a lot of speculation. There are the Nestorian priest Waraqa, his wife’s uncle, and Salman the Persian, and this Christian scribe, and others.

Or is it generally assumed that he simply picked it up from Nestorians and others in his travels?

Well, not necessarily in his travels: Waraqa was a Nestorian.

Is there any specific information on the monk Babira and his relationship with Muhammad?

Bahira. He is supposed to have met the youthful Muhammad and Muhammad’s uncle when they made a trip to Syria, and he identified Muhammad as a prophet according to, supposedly, the signs specified in Christian tradition for the coming prophet.

2008-05-18 18:09:11 Robert Spencer

Shy Guy and whomever may be interested:

Re the jinns, don’t miss Tahir Shah’s delightful book The Caliph’s House, a magnificently funny and illuminating account of an English writer of Afghan descent and his family’s adventures in the first year of their decision to move to Morocco and make a new life there.

2008-05-18 18:05:47 Robert Spencer


I commented at some length on that story, about a U.S. soldier who used a Qur’an for target practice and the “apology ceremony” that U.S. officials staged afterward, here.

2008-05-18 18:03:01 Robert Spencer


Isn’t it claimed that mohammed was illiterate, and his koran was such a ‘rube goldberg’ abomination of literature that the Arabic language actually had to re-formulated to fit mohammed’s ‘miracle’?

Yes, Muhammad is supposed to have been illiterate. Muslims claim that Muhammad was illiterate in order to throw into sharp relief what they consider to be the miraculous character of the Qur’an. This sublime book of poetry, they say, could not have been written by any ordinary man — and certainly not by one who was illiterate.

However, this claim has no actual Qur’anic support at all. Islamic commentators on the Qur’an and Hadith base their claims on the Arabic word ome, which they translate as “illiterate.” This is one meaning of the word. However, it has another meaning that has nothing to do with reading or writing. The Qur’an’s use of the word actually establishes that this meaning is the one it is using. Qur’an 62:2 says, “It is He that sent forth among the omeyeen [the plural of ome] an apostle of their own….”

This same word is repeated in many other places in the Qur’an, including 2:78, 3:20, 3:75, and 7:157-158. Almost all Muslim scholars interpret the word omeyeen in these passages as meaning “illiterate.” Yet if the word omeyeen refers to illiteracy, 62:2 would be saying that Allah sent forth to all illiterates one of their own. In fact, in classical Arabic, omeyeen never referred to illiterates or to illiteracy. It refers to non-Jewish people: the verse says that Allah has sent a gentile apostle to the gentiles. Omeyeen is an adjectival form of the Arabic noun for gentiles, and not all gentiles were illiterate during the time of Muhammad.

Also, were you and Iraq’s PM, Al-Maliki, separated at birth?

No one has ever told me I look like Maliki. In my younger, thinner days, I used to get Ringo Starr and Yasir Arafat a lot. Maliki is a new one.

2008-05-18 18:01:18 Robert Spencer


I read online somewhere (on a site with testimonials from ex-Muslims who converted to Christianity, sharing their reasons for conversion) that ALL Muslims will have to go to Hell, some for just a little while, others for longer, etc etc.

I don’t think so. See, for example, this from Ibn Kathir:

“The passing of the Muslims (over the Hellfire) means their passing over a bridge that is over it. But the passing of the idolators over the Hellfire refers to their admission to the Fire.”

2008-05-18 17:54:15 Robert Spencer

Amy Proctor,

With all respect, I request that you answer the questions I asked you in my replies to your earlier post before I assay another lengthy reply to another lengthy post. The questions were not rhetorical ones: I would honestly like to know your answers to them.

Thanks and kind regards

2008-05-12 19:10:03 Robert Spencer

Luttwak is about a year late, and he misses one important point, which I discuss here:


2008-05-12 17:33:12 Robert Spencer

And this, also from Anne Crockett:

and another thing…
Amy asked, “Are we prepared to condemn Judaism?” My answer, “Yes, of course. And I am prepared to condemn Christianity, and Islam and any other religion that walks through the room.” It is up to the religion to convince ME that it should be treated respectfully, and not MY job to put on a Stepford wife smile whenever anyone talks about religion.

2008-05-12 16:04:35 Robert Spencer

Jihad Watch reader and occasional contributor Anne Crockett asked me to post this here:

I am not registered to comment at Hot Air, but I really wanted to respond to Amy’s comments.

I myself have read the Bible. You know what happens? I come across something that is opaque and I find myself asking, “Well, what is that all about?” For example, “Why is the sacrifice of Abel accepted but not Cain’s?” “Lot’s daughter’s did what with him?” “Why is Jacob’s treachery rewarded?” and those are just off the top of my head recalling questions from Genesis.

So what do I do with these questions? I don’t just give a dumb, happy grin and say, “Well it’s in the Bible so it must be okey-dokely!” Instead I try to find out how Jews and Christians throughout the ages have considered these passages. What do the Fathers of the Church say, what do Biblical scholars say, what do Jewish rabbis say?

I could go on at length about interpreting each of the points you raised, but that would deprive you of the useful exercise of researching something. On the other hand, I am not sure you would. It seems to me from your criticism of David’s behavior that you must have flung the Bible from your hand in mid-verse. Otherwise you might have noticed the second part of 2 Sam 11:27, “But the LORD was displeased with what David had done.” Hello??? That’s a clue in the text itself about how to view the behavior, and it is fundamentally dishonest of you to present this as a problem of Biblical morality. You are simply taking refuge in willful ignorance of both the Bible and the Koran.

Robert is in fact providing context about each and every part of the Koran. He is systematically, week-by-week going through the Koran and showing how Muslim commenters view the passage.

Comments at Hot Air are closed, but Jihad Watch is open, and anyone with an alternative commentary is entirely welcome to post it.

Most people are too lazy to wonder why adulterers are not stoned to death in Jewish or Christian societies, and why they are in Muslim societies. They buy into a watered down historical determinism that says, “Ah yes! Islam is such a young religion, and we used to stone adulterers back in the day, and I am sure Muslims will grow out of it.” I suppose that if you turn your head and pretend you don’t see what is going on in Muslim societies and even Muslim communities in the west that you think that you will have nobody’s blood on your hands. Countless women can be put in prison or murdered for the crime of being raped, and you can ignore it, and feel ever-so-good about yourself for being tolerant and respectful of other religions.

Perhaps Robert could post this at Hot Air where Amy commented. If so, thanks.

2008-05-12 16:00:28 Robert Spencer


I get the importance of reading and understanding the Koran (know thy enemy), but it can be summed up as: they wish me dead

Actually you have two other choices as well.

, and cannot be talked out of this, negotiated with, or contained. The details are just that: details.

Not contained? Really? Only by our own choice.

The real question is: what can I do about the “believers”?

A number of things. Defend against the ideological challenge. Raise awareness among your countrymen, because sound policy will never come without adequate awareness of the issues involved here, and there is abysmal ignorance about them even at the highest levels.

Many other things will flow from there.

2008-05-12 09:48:31 Robert Spencer


Yes, I have seen that before, and thanks, but of course no comments out of indifference and no comments out of having nothing to add look the same, and are hard to distinguish.

2008-05-12 09:46:07 Robert Spencer


But the book formed the culture, not vice versa

That, sir, ain’t necessarily so — not at all. Christoph Luxenberg, Ibn Warraq, Hans Jansen and others have been doing so fascinating work in this area.

…even granted that the Koran simply ratified many of the things that pre-existed it…

Yes, it did.

…so it is logical to wonder how anyone could have believed in the book so much as to build the culture around it and in that sense you can abstract the book from the culture.

All right.

I read the same Koran as Muslims do, but I don’t find any of it compelling as a belief system and not just because of the culture I was born into, but because reason doesn’t allow me to find it compelling.

Actually your response to it does have a great deal to do with the culture you were born into. You are freer, in fact, to take it on its own terms as a series of claims and propositions, etc., whereas for someone born into Islamic culture it is much harder to approach the Qur’an that way. That is why there are so few people like Ibn Warraq, Wafa Sultan, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Nonie Darwish, etc., who grew up in that milieu and yet freed themselves intellectually. That is not as easy to do as it may seem to be, and that’s why I initially cautioned the guy above against assuming that anyone who believes this is nuts. It is a lot easier to believe it growing up in Karachi than it is growing up in New York.

If you go back far enough in history, it’s reasonable to ask why the first Muslims would have found it compelling, when, as the poster you were responding to pointed out, the text is clearly full of “crap”.

Fair enough, but even then, you have to consider what they had to compare it to in seventh-century Arabia. After the Night Journey incident Muhammad lost many of his followers, but Abu Bakr scoffed at the idea of leaving Muhammad, and said essentially that he would believe anything he told him. I do marvel at that kind of a mindset, and have pondered the source of Muhammad’s appeal — it’s obviously a very strong appeal, and I think we sell ourselves short analytically by dismissing it as “crap” without trying to understand what can make it so compelling for some people. After all, it is the ones who find it most compelling who are our most determined foes around the world today.

That there was ever a single Muslim besides Mohammed is mind-boggling. That Muslims persist in holding out Mohammed as some sort of model makes me wonder if they aren’t all as crazy as he was, or at least crazy in the same way Charles Manson’s followers are crazy.

I think you dismiss Muhammad, and his ancient and modern followers, far too lightly. I do not believe Muhammad is any kind of adequate role model, but the fact that so many do can’t possibly be explained by some kind of Mansonian mystique, when Manson commanded — what? — 20 followers? and a movement with no staying power at all, compared to one that has lasted through 14 centuries and is newly resurgent. To understand its appeal is not to accept or believe it or to fall into relativism, and I invite you to distinguish between those things.

2008-05-12 02:29:38 Robert Spencer


Thanks, I think. Maybe I’ll go have another beer.

2008-05-12 02:15:44 Robert Spencer


Thanks. I apologize. Frustrating days for many reasons.

2008-05-12 01:14:18 Robert Spencer

Amy Proctor:

My point is this: We cannot judge an entire religion by literally interpreting its past. Both Muslim and Israeli cultures had to overcome rampant paganism which led to some of the problems we see in the Quran and Torah today. The verses Robert Spencer posted above could easily have a couple words changed and come out of the Torah. We we prepared to condemn Judaism?

The Qur’an is not Islam’s “past.” The Qur’an is the supreme guide to Islamic behavior, and I have been for a year posting mainstream Muslim commentary on it. Where there are disagreements about the understanding of various passages, I have noted them — as most notoriously in sura 1, the Fatihah, during the discussion of which I noted by name the Muslim commentators who consider it to be condemning Jews and Christians, and also by name those who do not.

Can you please explain to me how it is “condemning” Islam to report on how mainstream commentators — ancient and modern — understand its holy book?

I am not a defender of Muslim theology. I am a Christian and would love everyone to convert to Christianity. But in the meantime, there is a war to be won and the misperceptions generated in this feature, along with Michelle Malkin’s “What Muslims Don’t Like”, go to damage the efforts of soldiers and commanders in Iraq, Afghanistan and throughout the world.

Do you have any evidence for this assertion?

We must lose our religious and cultural arrogance and get on board with what we have to deal with today, not thousands of years ago.

I couldn’t agree more. That’s why I do this, and all the work I do.

That is, billions of people who are rejecting terrorism under the name of their religion (we Christians might want to remind ourselves of our darker days and the Crusades when pointing fingers) who are ready to move ahead. This is clearly evidenced by the plethora of Muslim groups like “Terrorism is not Us” and “Terrorism has no Religion”, etc., Muslim scholars reaching out to the pope…..

When sincere, these efforts are to be commended. Unfortunately, however, you may not be aware that many of these efforts in the West have been spearheaded by groups such as the Council on American Islamic Relations — an unindicted co-conspirator in a terror funding case — and others, suggesting that these condemnations of terrorism may not be all that they appear to be. Also, as I’ve discussed many times at my website Jihad Watch (here is one example), condemnations of terrorism from Muslim groups have generally avoided the key issues: defining what is meant by “terror,” and by “innocent” (some Muslims say no non-Muslims can be innocent), and rejecting Islamic supremacism and the imperative to subjugate non-Muslims, as prescribed by Qur’an 9:29 and all the schools of Islamic jurisprudence.

This is not to say that no Muslims condemn jihad terror. Some do. But we should, as a matter of simple prudence, approach all such condemnations with a prudent and watchful eye, given the possibility of deception (already amply demonstrated — the now-deported jihadist Imam Fawaz Damra, formerly of Cleveland, signed the Fiqh Council of North America’s condemnation of terror), and examine them to see if they really do what needs to be done to convince Muslims to stop doing violence in the name of their religion, or if they’re just designed to lull unwary infidels into thinking that all is well when it isn’t.

I seem to recall this blog and Michelle Malkin’s praising Muslims helping raise the cross on a Catholic church in Baghdad, and Muslim clerics showing solidarity with Iraq’s Christians time and time again at risk of their own safety, sitting in the pews with Catholics in Mass for example… why do we only demonize Muslims after those glossy stories from Michael Yon have disappeared from the headlines?

But you’re quite right: Michelle did feature those stories. So why is it “demonizing” Muslims to explore how they themselves — today, not 700 years ago — understand the teachings of their holy book?

How many here supported Mitt Romney and loved his speech on religion in America? I did. If there is any religion that is strange it is Mormonism, but that is for them to work out.

I don’t have a thing to say about Mormonism. As far as I know it has no supremacist agenda, or an imperative for political rule comparable to Qur’an 24:55. If it does, that is a legitimate cause for concern for non-Mormons, just as Qur’an 24:55 and 9:29 etc., acted upon today by Islamic jihadists around the world who quote chapter and verse of the Qur’an to present themselves as the pure and true Muslims, are legitimate causes of concern for non-Muslims.

It isn’t a war against Islam we’re involved in.

That may be, but it is undeniable that there are millions of Muslims who believe that that is exactly what they are engaged in — a war on behalf of Islam. Is it not prudent to understand fully their point of view?

The battle at Waco wasn’t a war against Christianity, it was a war against a quack who used Christianity for his own purposes (David Koresh). We are in a war against terrorists who misuse and literally interpret Islam to suit their desires.

Can you please provide for me evidence of this misuse? There is as far as I know no orthodox Sunni or Shi’ite sect or school of Islamic jurisprudence that does not teach the necessity for the Islamic community as a whole to make war against unbelievers and subjugate them under the rule of Islamic law. Do you know of one? If so, can you please point it out to me?

We damage all the hard work of our soldiers, of whom my husband and our friends are among, when we continue to mispresent Islam. Leave the theology to Muslims.

Can you please give me an example of where exactly I have misrepresented Islam? In this series I have relied most heavily on Ibn Kathir and the Tafsir al-Jalalayn. Ask any Muslim who are the two most important and widely consulted commentators on the Qur’an — today — and he will say Ibn Kathir and the two Jalals (that is, the authors of the Tafsir al-Jalalayn). Can you please explain to me why it would be misrepresenting Islam for me to quote such sources, and point out where specifically in this series I have misrepresented Islam, with evidence from Islamic sources demonstrating the misrepresentation?

I don’t respect the commentary by Protestants about Catholic (I am Catholic). When Muslim scholars and devout followers emerge to correct our misconceptions and we marginalize him, we’re stupid and really don’t care about winning the war on terrorism despite our lip service.

Who exactly have I marginalized, and on what occasion?

Thanks in advance for your answers.

2008-05-12 01:13:19 Robert Spencer

Amy Proctor:

I find this entire series completely counterproductive. […]

-Adam and Eve’s children had incestous relationships to begin expanding the human race.
-Lot, who is considered a saint and called by St. Paul a member of the “hall of faith”, offered up his daughters to a crowd of homosexual men in Sodom and Gomorrah, later had sex with his two daughters. He may have been drunk, but NO one is THAT DRUNK.
-Abraham, the father of both Israel and the Arabs, had sex with his maidservant and fathered her child, Ishmael.
-King David commanded another man’s wife to have sex with him, father her child and had her husband murdered so he wouldn’t find out. David also had many concubines and wives.
-King Solomon had hundreds of wives and concubines.
-God commanded Israel not intermarry with other races.
-God sanctioned many of Israel’s wars and commanded that the enemy be killed down to the women and children.
-God commanded Moses, who told Israel, that anyone committing adultery, being rebellious to parents, etc., should be stoned to death.
-Jews had temple prostitutes (compare that with “temporary marriages” in Islam)
-God struck dead a man in the OT for masturbating instead of impregnating his new wife.

Where’s the outrage? There has got to be some context to these verses. We cannot look at ancient civilization, whether Jewish or Arab, and make cultural sense of it today. I’m not sure Mohammad was all that much worse than the fathers of Israel.

I’m not sure you have actually read much or any of the Blogging the Qur’an series, but actually in all cases I’ve tried to provide all relevant historical context, and commentary from approved mainstream Islamic commentators.

The relevance of reading the Qur’an today, and at a site like Hot Air, of course, is to understand more fully the motives and goals of those who have vowed to destroy us in the name of the teachings of this book. And there your analogy breaks down. If there were organized multinational groups numbering in the hundreds of thousands or millions of Jews and/or Christians advocating incest on the basis of Adam and Eve, or the destruction of cities on the basis of Israel’s wars, or the stoning of adulterers, it would be cause for concern. But there aren’t such groups, because both Judaism and Christianity have developed interpretative traditions that militate against the literal understanding of such verses, and anyway those verses aren’t presented as commands to all the faithful for all time.

But there are multinational organized groups teaching Islamic supremacism and jihad warfare against all governments that are not organized according to Islamic law. When we see Qur’an 24:55, it helps illuminate where they got such a notion — to take an example from this present Q-Blog.

More soon — I have to take care of something here in the office, and will return asap.

2008-05-12 00:48:19 Robert Spencer


I cannot agree with those who rank modesty among the virtues. To the logician all things should be seen exactly as they are, and to underestimate one’s self is as much a departure from truth as to exaggerate one’s own powers.

Thanks, but you just don’t know me.

2008-05-12 00:39:14 Robert Spencer


I am glad you are doing this, Mr. Spencer, as it is an eye-opening series. It does make me curious of both the culture in which Mohammed spread his words, and of the culture Islam itself fostered. Perhaps, with enough interest, you could write on this as well? It seems as if it is difficult to discuss one topic without a comprehensive understanding of the other.

It is an important and fascinating issue. I doubt anything I could write on it would surpass The Arab Mind by Raphael Patai or The Closed Circle by David Pryce-Jones.

2008-05-12 00:36:30 Robert Spencer


Let us rant once in a while. These people want us dead. We’re entitled to a little rant.

My problem with ranting is that it can play into the hands of the very people who wish to destroy us.

2008-05-12 00:34:17 Robert Spencer


Using euphemisms and qualifiers like “moderate” and “radical” and “extremists” have gotten us nowhere. Even that’s not enough now. Call them what they are. Muslims.

While there are people who use such terms to imply that the core teachings of Islam are peaceful and the problem is just a few “extremists” who have hijacked the religion, I believe too much is made of this terminology. There needs to be some term to distinguish those Muslims who are waging jihad against us from those who aren’t, and those terms are useful in that way — and I don’t believe they necessarily do imply or have to imply that the violent and supremacist teachings of Islam do not exist.

Let’s just say I’m of the Pamela Gellar school of thought on this subject.

If you’re trying to oppose Pamela to me on this subject, you might wish to consult with Pamela first. She and I are good friends and as far as I know have no disagreements on these issues.

2008-05-12 00:33:16 Robert Spencer


I’m not here for a scholarly discussion of Islam. I’ve read all I need to about it and I made up my mind a long time ago. You will never convince me that it is NOT all Muslims who are a threat

That may be, but it’s simply a fact. Not everyone who calls himself a Muslim is pursuing the Islamic supremacist agenda. All Muslims are not a threat, but unfortunately there is no way to distinguish those who are from those who are not and never will be, and so a prudent government would take steps accordingly.

…and that it’s NOT Islam itself that is the problem. It is Islam and it is all Muslims.

In fact, what I have said for years now is that the problem is embedded within core texts and teachings of Islam, texts and teachings that are violent and supremacist, and that that fact, however politically incorrect, is ignored at our own peril.

2008-05-12 00:30:17 Robert Spencer


Speaking only for myself here, but maybe one of the reasons these posts don’t get many comments is because nobody wants to offend you, or make you look bad.

I can’t imagine why that would be so. I’ve never shied away from answering hostile questions, and invite them here or anywhere.

Anybody who has followed your work, and read your critics, knows that the comments on your posts are often used to attack you. You seem to take offense yourself at some of them, or feel the need to deride to comments in an attempt to distance yourself from them.

If I have ever taken offense at or “derided” a comment without explaining why I disagree with its substance, I apologize, but it has never been my intention to do so. But I do reserve the right to disagree with comments that may be made here, just as much as everyone else has the right to disagree with what I say here.

2008-05-12 00:26:44 Robert Spencer


If a Muslim man chooses to not believe the four witnesses, can he over rule them?


Or do those four witnesses take away the husband’s “right” to believe what he wants to about her, as Muhammad did?

If they accuse a woman, and their testimony agrees, then their testimony is established.

I read that if a Muslim man kills another Muslim man, and he offers payment to the mans family to atone for his act, and the family accepts, then he is off the hook as far as any kind of formal charge or judgment goes.

Yes. See this Q-Blog (v. 178) for an explanation of that.

Seems like adultery should have the same kind of out. Other than the fact that it’s about women.

It doesn’t.

As far as you giving up the series? You’ll just be accused of giving up, period.

As Nixon said, “I am not a quitter.”

Unfortunately, a lot of people are not interested in it. Learning anything about it, anyway.


Maybe you could continue it at Jihad Watch where registration is open and you have a more interested audience.

I post it there every Monday.

I don’t know if it would make you feel any better about it, but I can’t wait until 8AM to read it.

Much appreciated indeed. Thanks.

2008-05-11 21:28:58 Robert Spencer


I find that the culture spawned by the Koran is just as poor an example of humanity’s potential as the theology embedded in the text.

I wasn’t actually characterizing the culture in any way. I was just saying that it existed, and that its existence should be taken into account when one is pondering, as was the fellow above, how it is that anyone could believe all this.

It’s ironic that Muslims think they are superior to me, yet I also think, unabashedly so, I am superior to them and to anyone who sympathizes with them.

Glad to know you. I myself ain’t superior to nobody.

Yes, Islamic society often resembles the “golden chain” concept of the Middle Ages, when everyone, from the serf to the king, had his place in God’s universe, but the fact that there exists some kind of abstract order in the Muslim world can’t blind us to the patent absurdity of the Koran’s claims, where those claims can be tested.

This has nothing whatsoever to do with what I was saying above. I was saying we should avoid abstracting the book from the culture when considering the power of Islamic belief. I was not saying that because the Qur’an gives some abstract order to the universe, that that order is therefore in itself compelling.

I realize that there are times when religous people hesitate to criticize other’s religion due to the inscrutability of it all (and even though I adhere to no particular religion, I do concur that they can be inscrutable), but even setting the bar low doesn’t allow me to give Islam a pass.

That is not what I said, or meant, at all.

2008-05-11 21:25:34 Robert Spencer


I mean, this series of yours should really be syndicated in every major newspaper in the country, so more people could have a better understanding of Islam.

Pigs will fly!

Anyway, thank you. I certainly enjoy doing it and think it should be done, and will keep on Michelle wants me to. I just don’t want to be completely oblivious to the possibility, as evidenced by the sparse commentage, that there just isn’t much interest.

2008-05-11 21:22:18 Robert Spencer


It’s really maddening and sad that about 1 BILLION people believe this crap.

Well, religious belief is a complex issue, but consider that when one grows up surrounded by a culture formed by this, and by people of all kinds and stations expressing reverence for it, and everything suffused by it, coming to believe in it isn’t as simple as simply expressing consent to a number of propositions on a printed page, and it isn’t at all easy to reject, either. It is an entire way of life, an entire culture, an entire world — this is something we cannot approximate just by reading the book alone.

Of course, I am all for reading the book — if I weren’t, I wouldn’t be leading this exercise, although with returns ever diminishing, maybe I’m getting a subtle hint that it is getting to be time to pack it in, rather than to press on ahead to the second half of the Qur’an. Still, whatever happens with this, I would caution you and everyone against conceptualizing the contents of the book in a way abstracted from the culture and civilization to which it has given birth. This book doesn’t stand alone any more than any book does.

2008-05-11 20:18:54 Robert Spencer


At what point does the “four witness” rule override the judgment of Allah when He picks who should be married to who?

I’m not sure I understand the question. The four witnesses are needed to establish whether or not adultery took place. They have nothing to do with who marries whom, which traditionally was usually settled by dealings between the prospective groom and the father-in-law.

2008-05-11 19:57:25 Robert Spencer


So the niqab is better than the hijab?

By the standards of the hadith I quoted above and the passage from the Tafsir al-Jalalayn, yes.

2008-05-11 18:09:32 Robert Spencer


But the Koran seems to state that a false accuser will incur “Allah’s curse” and “Allah will pay them back”…But does the false accuser, under Islamic law, receive punishment from man…such as penalties or jail time? Or is it simply understood that Allah alone will take care of it?

“And those who launch a charge against chaste women, and produce not four witnesses (to support their allegations), flog them with eighty stripes, and reject their evidence ever after: for such men are wicked transgressors…” (Qur’an 24:4)

2008-05-11 18:08:01 Robert Spencer


Given this rift, whenever any hadiths say ‘Narrated Aisha’…, do Shia Muslims automatically discount it, since Ali too discounted Aisha’s protestations of innocence in this incident?

No, not automatically.

Or is she given as much credibility as others, such as Abu Huraira? Reason I ask is that I’ve heard that Shia reject hadiths, but is that true, or is it just that they reject Aisha’s accounts that appear in any Hadiths, be it Bukhari, Muslim, et al? Also, do Shia follow the same Bukhari and Muslim hadiths, or do they prefer other hadiths instead?

Instead of the canonical Sunni collections, Shi’ites use Kulaini’s Kitab al-Kafi, Saduq’s Man la yahduruhu al-Faqih, the Tahdhib al-Ahkam, the Nahj al-Balagha, etc. In content they’re not all that different from the Sunni Sahih Sittah.

2008-05-04 19:34:04 Robert Spencer


If Aisha had actually been guilty of adultery but had asked for and received Allah’s forgiveness as Muhammad suggested, would she still have been subject to death under Muslim law?

Probably. The punishment for the crime is distinct from forgiveness. The stoning might have taken place anyway, as per the second story in my answer immediately above this one.

2008-05-04 18:49:28 Robert Spencer


Who did Muhammad carry out the penalty of Rajam against? His favorite wife, the falsely accused Aisha, was innocent of adultery, according to Allah himself. Was there another wife whom Muhammad killed because of adultery?

No, he didn’t stone his wives. It was other people.

Here are three such incidents:

Abu Sa’id reported that a person belonging to the clan of Aslam, who was called Ma, iz b. Malik, came to Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) and said: I have committed immorality (adultery), so inflict punishment upon me. Allah’s Apostle (may peace be upon him) turned him away again and again. He then asked his people (about the state of his mind). They said: We do not know of any ailment of his except that he has committed something about which he thinks that he would not be able to relieve himself of its burden but with the Hadd being imposed upon him. He (Ma’iz) came back to Allah’s Apostle (may peace be upon him) and he commanded us to stone him. We took him to the Baqi’ al-Gharqad (the graveyard of Medina). We neither tied him nor dug any ditch for him. We attacked him with bones, with clods and pebbles. He ran away and we ran after him until he came upon the stone ground (al-Harra) and stopped there and we stoned him with heavy stones of the Harra until he became motionless (lie dead). He (the Holy Prophet) then addressed (us) in the evening saying Whenever we set forth on an expedition in the cause of Allah, some one of those connected with us shrieked (under the pressure of sexual lust) as the bleating of a male goat. It is essential that if a person having committed such a deed is brought to me, I should punish him. He neither begged forgiveness for him nor cursed him.

That’s from here.

Second one:

There came to him (the Holy Prophet) a woman from Ghamid and said: Allah’s Messenger, I have committed adultery, so purify me. He (the Holy Prophet) turned her away. On the following day she said: Allah’s Messenger, Why do you turn me away? Perhaps, you turn me away as you turned away Ma’iz. By Allah, I have become pregnant. He said: Well, if you insist upon it, then go away until you give birth to (the child). When she was delivered she came with the child (wrapped) in a rag and said: Here is the child whom I have given birth to. He said: Go away and suckle him until you wean him. When she had weaned him, she came to him (the Holy Prophet) with the child who was holding a piece of bread in his hand. She said: Allah’s Apostle, here is he as I have weaned him and he eats food. He (the Holy Prophet) entrusted the child to one of the Muslims and then pronounced punishment. And she was put in a ditch up to her chest and he commanded people and they stoned her. Khalid b Walid came forward with a stone which he flung at her head and there spurted blood on the face of Khalid and so he abused her. Allah’s Apostle (may peace be upon him) heard his (Khalid’s) curse that he had huried upon her. Thereupon he (the Holy Prophet) said: Khalid, be gentle. By Him in Whose Hand is my life, she has made such a repentance that even if a wrongful tax-collector were to repent, he would have been forgiven. Then giving command regarding her, he prayed over her and she was buried.

That’s from here.

And third:

A Jew and Jewess were brought to the Prophet on a charge of committing an illegal sexual intercourse. The Prophet asked the Jews, “What do you (usually) do with them?” They said, “We blacken their faces and disgrace them.” He said, “Bring here the Torah and recite it, if you are truthful.” They (fetched it and) came and asked a one-eyed man to recite. He went on reciting till he reached a portion on which he put his hand. The Prophet said, “Lift up your hand!” He lifted his hand up and behold, there appeared the verse of Ar-Rajm (stoning of the adulterers to death). Then he said, “O Muhammad! They should be stoned to death but we conceal this Divine Law among ourselves.” Then the Prophet ordered that the two sinners be stoned to death and, and they were stoned to death, and I saw the man protecting the woman from the stones.

That’s from here.

2008-05-04 18:47:49 Robert Spencer


If the part of the Qur’an mandating stoning for adulterers somehow mysteriously “dropped out” of the Qur’an, then how do we know that other important parts haven’t also dropped out as well?

From the standpoint of unbelief, we don’t. From the standpoint of belief, what is in the Qur’an is what Allah wants there, and what isn’t in there is what he doesn’t want in there.

2008-05-04 18:23:30 Robert Spencer


Robert, if Umar is right and the verse concerning Rajam somehow went missing, how then can devout Muslims claim the Qur’an is a literal, error-free copy of a book in Paradise? Doesn’t this tear a large hole in the “unadulterated Word of Allah” claim?

It only tears a hole in it if Allah did not will that the verses of Rajam be dropped, and remembered by Umar.

2008-05-04 18:22:03 Robert Spencer


Interesting. Liberal muslims and non-mulim apologists always say that veiling of women is not a requirement of islam.

Stay tuned: this is next week’s topic.

2008-05-04 18:21:18 Robert Spencer


I wonder of American Liberals and Feminists in particular realize this.

They don’t. They appear not to care to realize it.

2008-05-04 18:20:31 Robert Spencer


Also, what does it say about Muhammad that he so easily believed such a sleazy rumor about his favorite wife?

True, but this must also be balanced against the fact that he received what he represented as a divine revelation exonerating her.

2008-05-04 18:19:46 Robert Spencer


But what constitutes a “witness” in this case? Someone who saw the deed happen, or perhaps heard the man boast of his conquest? Who would decide if a witness is acceptable or not?

The schools of Islamic jurisprudence are agreed that to be a witness one has to be a male Muslim who saw the act. Four such witnesses would establish that it happened.

2008-05-04 18:18:46 Robert Spencer


Does this mean that you would need 8 women to convict someone, or are sexual crimes different? In Sura 4, it states that a woman’s testimony is worth one half of a man’s.

Sexual crimes are different. The schools of Islamic jurisprudence are agreed in ruling a woman’s testimony inadmissible in a sexual crime, even one in which she was the victim.

2008-05-04 18:17:38 Robert Spencer


I have another question about the Koran that I haven’t seen you address in these posts.

When I read the Koran and Hadiths there was one aspect that really jumped out at me and I still don’t understand. Money.


Slavery. Kidnapping and Ransoms. The tax non Muslims have to pay.

I’ve addressed slavery and the tax. For kidnapping and ransom, stay tuned for Sura 47.

The Qur’an takes slavery for granted:

Slave women as war prizes (see. v. 3)

Slave women and marriage (see v. 24)

Freeing a slave as a penalty for oath-breaking (see v. 88)

The tax on non-Muslims:

Part I

Part II

2008-04-28 15:06:59 Robert Spencer


The Qur’an doesn’t specify a number of virgins, although the virgins of Paradise — the houris — are very much in the book. The number 72 comes from a hadith, but not even a canonical one.

2008-04-27 21:44:51 Robert Spencer


I’m not Robert (nor do I play him on TV), but ibn Warraq’s “Why I am not a Muslim” has a good discussion (including references) of Zoroastrian influences on Islam, especially pages 43-48.

Irish Spy, Ibn Warraq is an extraordinary man, one of the great heroes of our age, and everything he has written is essential reading: Why I Am Not A Muslim certainly, and also his latest, Defending the West, which is a book of stunning originality and depth of insight, and all his other books as well.

2008-04-27 20:59:29 Robert Spencer


Ok, so anybody who lived and died before 632 AD went straight to hell? Oh Allah is mercyful!

No, not at all. If you have read any of the other recent Q-Blogs (or if you go back), you’ll see that the Qur’an speaks with great frequency of the other prophets, all of whom are supposed to have brought a message identical to that of Muhammad in all important particulars. These include Abraham, Noah, Moses, Jesus, etc. So anyone who followed the true Islamic message of those prophets, before their messages were corrupted by their followers, had a chance to be saved before 632AD.

2008-04-27 20:56:35 Robert Spencer


Sounds like Calvin and his predestination.

Yes, they’re both iconoclastic determinists.

So what’s the point of converting or trying? You’re predetermined.

My colleague Hugh Fitzgerald over at Jihad Watch calls it “inshallah fatalism” — a resignation that stifles initiative and is found all too commonly in the Islamic world.

2008-04-27 20:53:43 Robert Spencer


Plus, when mohammed states that allah ‘revealed to him xy&z’, is this an audible discussion? or written instructions? or…? Is it ever detailed the exact nature of this transmission of information?

Muhammad would report on his discussions with Allah afterward to his followers. Once one of them asked him: “How does the revelation come to you?”

He answered: “Sometimes it comes to me like the ringing of a bell, and that is the hardest for me, and when it leaves me I remember what it has said. And sometimes the angel appears to me in the likeness of a man and talks to me and I remember what he says.”

His favorite wife, young Aisha, noted: “I saw it coming down on him on an intensely cold day, and when it had left him his forehead was dripping with sweat.”

That is all from this hadith.

2008-04-27 20:51:37 Robert Spencer


Any commentary on how zoroastrian philosophy may have influenced young mohammed?

Here is a good piece on the Zoroastrian influences in Islam from William St. Clair Tisdall’s Sources of the Koran.

2008-04-27 20:49:05 Robert Spencer


So then, in Islam, there is no “redemption”? Since everything is the “will of Allah”, everything including the believers and unbelievers. No “free will” so to speak…

No, there is no free will in traditional Islam, in any case. While there are many verses in the Qur’an that assume that human beings have free will, early in Islamic history the proponents of this idea, the Qadariyya, were defeated, and human free will was declared a heretical infringement of Allah’s absolute sovereignty.

There is not in Islam an idea of redemption. There is just the idea, discussed in this very chapter, of the scales on the Day of Judgment: if one’s good deeds outweigh one’s evil deeds, one enters Paradise. If not, one enters hell. The uncertainty and logical difficulty (regarding the divine judgment and mercy) of this has led more than one Muslim to convert to Christianity — here is the story of one of them.

2008-04-27 20:46:46 Robert Spencer


The idea that it’s all predetermined would seem to be the import of this Qur’anic passage:

If it had been thy Lord’s will, they would all have believed, all who are on earth! Wilt thou then compel mankind, against their will, to believe! No soul can believe, except by the will of Allah, and He will place doubt (or obscurity) on those who will not understand. — 10:99-100

2008-04-27 13:02:21 Robert Spencer

Madison Conservative:

Hey Ed, who’s the artist of that pic?

That would be my friend David Washburn, a premier caricaturist.


2008-04-24 20:23:01 Robert Spencer


I hope it’s a strong hadith, with a well-attested transmission chain.

Yes, it is, in fact. It’s from Bukhari, the hadith collection that Muslims consider most reliable. Only a small minority of Bukhari ahadith (not including this one) are questioned as to their reliability.

2008-04-20 18:36:05 Robert Spencer


Did the, “Satanic versus” cause Muhammad any lost credibility at the time?

Clearly yes, by the record of the early Islamic sources on this.

I would think that incident could have completely undermined Islam at the time and even today cause major problems…

Today most Muslim scholars deny that the incident happened at all. Many of their predecessors, however (notably Zamarkhshari), were not so sure.

his motivations for writing them was clear. The inconsistency was clear. His excuse, “the devil made me do it”, seems hollow since he must have known they weren’t coming from Allah if for no other reason than it contradicted what he had already been told and surely Allah does not make mistakes. It just seems to me this must have been a serious gaff that he somehow managed to overcome.


Also, are these versus the subject of Rushdie’s book by the same name?

Essentially, yes. Rushdie’s book is a novel, but it uses the actual incident as a jumping-off point.

2008-04-20 18:22:08 Robert Spencer


For those Muslims that believe in this 999 out of 1000 junk (and they all should, since the Koran is the literal word of their god and all that),

Please note that “this 999 out of 1000 junk” is from the Hadith, not from the Qur’an itself, although it does come up in the context of commentary on this sura.

2008-04-20 18:19:20 Robert Spencer


Have you ever read/blogged the Torah or Bible? I seem to remember the Jews receiving commands from their god to wage war, indeed to wipe out entire populations, sparing none. Not even the women and children, or cattle for that matter. According to their myths, wasn’t their first king Saul actually punished for not carrying out such commands to the letter, sparing the cattle for sacrifice? Where would be the difference?

The difference would be that the commands in the Old Testament were localized, and uniformly spiritualized by Jewish and Christian exegetes. No Jews or Christians have ever taken these passages as normative for their behavior or as marching orders in later ages.

In contrast, as the use of 22:39 as an epigraph by Osama bin Laden (which I noted above) indicates, the Qur’an does contain instructions to believers to wage war against and subjugate unbelievers — instructions which mainstream Muslim exegetes have interpreted as valid and binding upon believers for all time.

There are many passages involved in this, but see especially my discussions of Qur’an 9:29:

Part 1
Part 2

Are you sir a practicing Muslim, Christian or Jew, or perhaps like myself, (and from my understanding the illustious Allahpundit), an atheist?

Yes, I am one of those things, and actually it is no secret. But the Qur’an blog is not written from a sectarian standpoint. A primary concern is the Qur’an’s abundant teaching on unbelievers, since that teaching is of pressing moment in world politics today, but if you read a few of the segments you will see that I am concentrating on how Muslim interpreters have understood the Qur’an, not on how it has been understood by people of different faiths.

2008-04-20 13:05:48 Robert Spencer


I couldn’t disagree with you more in your zealousness to underestimate Muslims, but it’s interesting that even as you characterize them as stupid half-wits, you have given up, and I, who do not believe Muslims are stupid half-wits in any greater proportion than any other group, have not given up the struggle against the global jihad and Islamic supremacism, and never will.

2008-04-13 21:52:05 Robert Spencer


Why would an all-knowing God/Allah be asking questions of Jesus (or anyone else, for that matter)? Wouldn’t God/Allah already know exactly what Jesus had done?

Yes, he would. The fact that Allah asks Jesus a question about what Jesus did poses no difficulty for Muslims in believing in Allah’s omniscience. It’s just like Genesis 3:9 and 3:13, in which the Lord questions Adam and Eve about what they have done — and this poses no difficulty for Jews and Christians who believe in the divine omniscience. In both cases, the deity is understood as asking what he already knows in order to elicit a particular response from the one he is questioning, or to illustrate a particular point.

2008-04-13 21:47:56 Robert Spencer


Did Muhammad ever claim to be a greater prophet than Jesus?

Not that I can recall, but he didn’t claim to be a lesser one either. The idea that he is greater comes from his connection to the final and perfect revelation, the Qur’an, and from his connection to the best of people, the Muslims, a la Qur’an 3:110.

Is there any reason given in the Qur’an for why God/Allah chose Jesus to triumph over Satan at the end times, as opposed to another prophet, such as Muhammad?

No. From a historical standpoint, as opposed to a pious Muslim standpoint, this is probably attributable to Muhammad’s being aware of Christian traditions about the Second Coming of Christ, which he attempted to work into his schema.

2008-04-13 21:44:05 Robert Spencer


Is Mohammed speaking of himself in this book?

The entire Qur’an is Allah speaking to Muhammad. If you look at verses 4, 24, 42 and 45 of this sura, and many other similar verses in other chapters, you’ll see Allah telling Muhammad to say various things to his detractors or to the unbelievers in general. Of course, all this comes from the testimony of Muhammad that Allah was indeed speaking to him, so in a sense, yes, it is Muhammad speaking of himself.

He did not regard himself a prophet as I understand it, but others assigned that title to him later?

He most certainly did understand himself as a prophet. This entire sura is a defense of his prophetic role, as it tells the stories of the prophets in ways that Muhammad’s hearers would understand as analogous to his own situation.

And is the rejection of a multiplicity in a god a rejection of the Trinity in Christianity? Or did they simply not understand it?

Islam rejects the Christian Trinity, and does not understand it. In Qur’an 5:116 Allah asks Jesus if he told his followers to worship his mother and himself as gods along with Allah. This strongly suggests that Muhammad thought the Trinity consisted of Allah, Jesus, and Mary.

2008-04-13 20:23:20 Robert Spencer


But, a question for you, R.S. If ’shirk’ is such a great sin and not tolerated, who is this ‘We’ that is mentioned repeatedly in V. 6-9. Are there other examples in the koran of allah being plural?

Allah refers to himself as “We” all through the Qur’an, in many, many places. Never “I,” always “We.” But Muslim commentators unanimously insist that this is just a royal “We,” and does not in any sense imply a multiplicity. Allah is an absolute unity.

2008-04-13 20:17:48 Robert Spencer


If Muslims believe in Christ, the virgin birth and the prophets of the OT, how can they believe Mo was greater than Christ or any of the OT prophets? What did Mo do that was so god like or even great?

From the Muslim perspective, Muhammad did one thing that makes him greater: he was the one chosen to bring the Qur’an to the world.

2008-04-13 20:15:51 Robert Spencer


Am I to understand, from Verse 17, that Allah could create for himself, a son had he so chosen?

That does seem to be the implication here, although elsewhere, as we have seen, the Qur’an states emphatically that to have a son would offend Allah’s transcendent majesty. The assumption seems to be that if he had a son, it would be because he needed a helper, and that would mean he wasn’t all-powerful.

The Islamic philosopher Avicenna refused to believe that Allah created the universe ex-nihilo so if Allah were gone would we live in Spinoza’s pantheist paradise?

I don’t see why we would.

2008-04-13 20:13:51 Robert Spencer


But wasn’t one of the “earlier prophets” Jesus (Isa), according to the Muslims? So are they now claiming that Jesus was just an “ordinary” man? I know they acknowledge Jesus was born to a virgin mother and that he was faultless (features that certainly don’t apply to “ordinary men”), but do Muslims acknowledge the many miracles that the Bible attributes to Jesus (e.g., that he walked on water, fed thousands with a few loaves and fishes, turned water into wine, healed lepers, restored sight to the blind, raised Lazarus from the dead, etc.). If so, that certainly seems to further contradict the notion that “the earlier prophet” Jesus was just an “ordinary” man.

Muslims generally don’t read the Bible, as they believe it to be corrupted. But they wouldn’t have any problem with Jesus working miracles. The Qur’an is clear that Jesus worked miracles, as we shall see. But this was a privilege given him by Allah, in their view, and not a sign that he was anything but an ordinary man. Likewise also the Virgin Birth and sinlessness — privileges from Allah, but no indication that he was anything more than a human being.

2008-04-13 20:11:32 Robert Spencer


Here is a fuller account of that delegation of Christians meeting Muhammad, from an earlier Q-Blog.

2008-04-06 18:55:38 Robert Spencer


Could it not be just as likely that he fabricated any additional material?

Theoretically, yes, but that doesn’t seem to have been his MO. Most everything regarding Biblical characters that is extra-Biblical in the Qur’an has been traced to various Jewish or Christian traditions. Some have speculated — and it is just speculation — that Muhammad wanted his hearers to have heard the stories he was telling from the Jews and Christians. While this would lead some to dismiss him as retailing mere “tales of the ancients,” as the Qur’an notes several times, it would also validate his claim to be a prophet in the Jewish/Christian prophetic line.

2008-04-06 18:40:31 Robert Spencer


However, I don’t think it would unreasonable to reject someone you once admired when that person ultimately shows themselves to despise and actively teach against all you believe. So, perhaps they distanced themselves after he showed his true colors?

I’m also surprised to learn that the Christian community would consider him a prophet in any fashion considering the abundant teachings in both the old and new testaments regarding false prophets.

The early Islamic accounts depict a Christian delegation coming from Najran, in southern Arabia, to meet Muhammad. Along the way, their leader tells them that Muhammad is a true prophet, but that the Byzantines will stop giving them money if they acknowledge his prophetic status, so they must reject him. In other words, their rejection is base and financially motived, not a matter of conscience. This is an assumption that many Muslims have to this day.

2008-04-06 18:35:15 Robert Spencer


Robert, have you done much research on Jewish writings concerning Islam?

No, I haven’t. I do have that bit about Maimonides saying you can teach Torah to a Christian but not to a Muslim in my book Religion of Peace?, unless it got edited out (I don’t remember), but beyond Maimonides I haven’t gone very far.

2008-04-06 18:31:05 Robert Spencer


I do find it interesting that many of the people talking about Heston’s death continue to state that the makers of the Ten Commandments looked to the Quran for inspiration.

I haven’t seen this. Where are people saying it?

It is getting a little annoying seeing that same line in all the stories? Robert, what sources (if any) do the scholars claim Muhammad pulled from for this updated, “Hollywood” version of the Mt. Sinai experience.

I myself don’t think the Qur’anic version of Sinai is remotely as Hollywoodish as Exodus, but in any case, anything that is not in Exodus that is in the Qur’an regarding Moses and Sinai is likely to come from Talmudic tradition.

2008-04-06 18:26:00 Robert Spencer


You people are nitpicking the Hell out of Mohammed’s sloppy editing of the Bible.

Why not focus on the major points: Deleting the Ten Commandments, and claiming that Jesus is not the son of God.

The Qur’an Blog is intended to be, and will be when complete, a commentary on the entire Qur’an, not just parts of it. The two points you mention have, I think, been amply covered in the series even as it stands already.

2008-04-06 18:22:49 Robert Spencer


How can it be a perfect revelation if there are such factual errors? How do Muslims reconcile this with the facts?

Particularly among Muslims, faith is very strong. If the facts don’t bear out that faith, so much worse for the facts.

2008-04-06 18:19:12 Robert Spencer


Allah gave the world the Qur’an so as to bring some people to remember him.

SOME people? Then why do they try to convert EVERYBODY?

Because the message is intended for everyone, but Allah does not will that everyone will receive it — yet no one can tell who will receive it and who won’t. See Qur’an 10:99-100.

2008-04-06 18:16:48 Robert Spencer


Is Muhammad confusing Roman and Egyptian punishments? I am not aware of the Egyptians using crucifixion until Roman times.

Yes, in this Muhammad is committing an anachronism, although of course a pious Muslim would say that of course the ancient Egyptians practiced crucifixion, because the Qur’an says they did. But there is no actual evidence that they did.

2008-04-06 18:12:54 Robert Spencer


Wow, talk about synchronicity!

Yes, I wrote this and uploaded the Heston photo earlier this week, with no idea, of course, of what was going to happen.

2008-04-06 18:10:43 Robert Spencer


When they do, what do they say about him and his movement?

Many things. St. John of Damascus argues that Islam is a heresy of Christianity. And don’t miss the Maimonides link that ShyGuy provided.

2008-04-06 18:08:24 Robert Spencer


I read or heard that early in life Muhammad traveled to the holy lands with the intent of becoming a Christian or perhaps Jewish teacher/leader but was rejected and sent away because of his arrogant habit of twisting scripture to fit his own agenda and view point. Is this true?

There is certainly no Islamic tradition that says this. In them, both Jewish and Christian leaders recognize the youthful Muhammad as a prophet, thereby underscoring the perversity of their communities when they later rejected him.

And there are no Jewish or Christian accounts mentioning Muhammad at all until much later.

2008-04-06 12:58:02 Robert Spencer

Crazy Legs:

You’re quite right. Islam believes Christians deified Jesus and Mary, who were ordinary human beings, albeit sinless (and Jesus born of a virgin).

See Qur’an 5:116.

2008-04-01 15:53:40 Robert Spencer

Steve Z:

Mohammed claimed that he received the Koran from the angel Gabriel, but in Luke’s Gospel, “the angel Gabriel was sent from God” to Mary, and announced to her that “you shall conceive in your womb and bear a son…he will be called the Son of the Most High”. (Luke 1:26-32) So, we’re left wondering whether Gabriel told Mary one thing and Mohammed the opposite (do angels really lie or change their minds?), or did Mohammed just make up the Koran and attribute it to Gabriel to give himself credibility, and not know what Gabriel had told Mary?

The Muslim answer to this is that the New Testament account is corrupted.

This is the major problem with Islam–Muslims are told that Mohammed is God’s ONLY prophet…

No, Muslims aren’t told that Muhammad is the ONLY prophet. They’re told that Abraham and Moses and Jesus and Noah and Hud and Idris and all sorts of others were also Allah’s prophets. However, it amounts to the same thing, since the Qur’an is, they’re told, the only uncorrupted message of any of the prophets.

2008-04-01 02:00:50 Robert Spencer


…historical philology is not a field in which something like the Muslim claim that the Hebrew and Christian scriptures have been falsified can be let to slide by as if it were just another metaphysical claim, and not subject to the laws of historical evidence.

That’s not what I said. In fact, I said in the Q-Blog for Qur’an 10:94-95 that the existence of copies of Jewish and Christian Scriptures dating from before Muhammad’s time creates immense difficulties for Islam’s truth claim. But to conclude from that that every believing Muslim is a half-wit is a huge and unwarranted leap that assumes that every believing Muslim has examined this evidence or even has access to this evidence, which is by no means the case.

2008-03-31 00:00:58 Robert Spencer

That should read above:

…but of course if these two suras are indeed part of the Qur’an, then they wouldn’t just be like it, they would be it…

Instead of this, the way it is now:

…but of course if these two suras are indeed part of the Qur’an, then they would just be like it, they would be it…

Sorry. But it is Miller Time, after all.

2008-03-30 22:40:31 Robert Spencer

Infidel Pride:

Listening to your interview on Blog Talk Radio, I heard you mention that the Shia have some extra verses/chapters in the Qur’an that usually isn’t found in standard editions. Two questions:

1. Do you know any place where those extra suras can be found? Or are they just extra ayats within the existing suras? Even then, where are they available?

They’re relatively easy to find on the Internet. They’re known as Surah Al-Walayah and Surah Al-Nurayn.

However, it isn’t that simple. They aren’t bound into Shi’ite Qur’ans, and many Shi’ites reject them as forgeries and claim that they were invented by Sunnis to discredit Shi’ites. Yet there is evidence, including some from Christian missionaries who don’t have a dog in this hunt, that some Shi’ites do accept them, despite the denials of others (Shi’ites, after all, refined the concept of taqiyya). Some have claimed that the missionaries exaggerated this in order to use these two suras as proof that humans could produce a “sura like it,” in response to the Qur’an’s challenge, but of course if these two suras are indeed part of the Qur’an, then they would just be like it, they would be it — and so I tend to think that the word of the missionaries and others who attested to the Shi’te acceptance of these suras (including a Shi’ite Kurd who told me about them years ago) was accurate.

2. Will you be covering those as well? Reason I ask is that if there are any distinctive features of those that make the Iranians and Hizbullah stand out differently from, say, the Pakistanis and Hamas, that would be instructive.

No, they’re just Shi’ite triumphalism, that’s all. Nothing that instructive. And no, because of their highly disputed status, I do not plan to cover them.

2008-03-30 22:38:51 Robert Spencer


Versus 66-71 state,

“Those who doubt the resurrection will not escape the Day of Judgment.”

How do the mohammendans square the koranic principle of ‘no original sin’ with a resurrected body? What’s wrong with the original one allah gave them? And what becomes of this earth once the ‘true’ muslims are all in paradise?

The original one dies, thus necessitating a resurrection. That’s essentially it. This earth will, according to many scenarios, be destroyed — after the Muslim prophet Jesus returns to earth, defeats the Dajjal, and destroys his evil followers.

Finally, any word on why Isa (Jesus) was virgin born but not mohammed or any other islamic prophet?

Well, the obvious answer from a non-Muslim standpoint is that Muhammad had heard stories of the Virgin Birth of Jesus and incorporated them into the Qur’an. But in Islam, as I have said before, reasoning from particular truths to a conclusion is not generally considered to be wise. So Jesus’ being born of a Virgin and Jesus’ returning at the Last Day and Jesus’ being sinless do not, for Muslims, mean that Jesus was greater than Muhammad or any other Prophet. These are just singular features Allah willed to give him. But Muhammad is still the greatest prophet because he received the perfect book, the Qur’an.

Still, many Christian evangelists throughout history have used the Islamic Jesus to try to show Muslims that there is something singular about Jesus, and to introduce in that way the Jesus of the New Testament.

2008-03-30 22:19:46 Robert Spencer


The fact that Muslims can actually believe that cock and bull story is pretty definitive proof of their intellectual inferiority. I know most Muslims are illiterate half-wits…

I condemn and disavow such statements in the strongest possible terms. I do not believe in the collective or innate intellectual inferiority of Muslims or any other group, and do not believe that most Muslims are half-wits.

Talk like this is not only false, it is highly damaging to the anti-jihadist cause.

Religious belief does not always proceed on the basis of rationality and evidence, and that is true not just of Muslims. I am not saying that all religions are equal or that none are true. I am a religious believer myself. But I do not believe that there are no reasonable people who have views differing from mine.

2008-03-30 22:10:13 Robert Spencer

Typo alert:

Where it says above, “Verses 59-63 returns to the delights that the blessed will enjoy in Paradise, but with being very specific,” that of course should say, “Verses 59-63 returns to the delights that the blessed will enjoy in Paradise, but without being very specific.”

That is, we have yet to see the lavish descriptions of Paradise that are famous in the West.

If any of the Hot Air High Command can fix this typo, I’d be most grateful.

2008-03-30 12:27:52 Robert Spencer


Okay, but doesn’t the Qur’an acknowledge that Jesus was born to a virgin, and that the angel who announced the conception to Mary told her that her son would be “pure” or “faultless” or words to that effect?

Stay tuned — a lot of this is in sura 19. And yes, it does say he was born of a virgin, and in several ahadith Muhammad says he and his mother were sinless.

If the Muslims claim to be the “true” followers of Jesus, then why all the emphasis on Mohammed and his life? I understand that Muslims reject the idea that Jesus was divine, but the Qur’an seems to acknowledge that Jesus was far more than just another prophet (e.g., the virgin birth, the triumph over Satan at the end times, etc.).
What am I missing?

Nothing — except that in Islam is it not legitimate to reason to a conclusion that is not explicitly stated. Jesus is all the things you say in Islam, but it also says he is not the Son of God and is just a prophet. So there you are, and that’s where you stay.

2008-03-23 21:25:51 Robert Spencer

See a horned Alexander image on a coin here.

2008-03-23 20:11:58 Robert Spencer

Shy Guy:

Hence Davinci’s ignoramous depiction of Moses in his famous statue.

I believe it was Michelangelo.

2008-03-23 19:27:13 Robert Spencer


I’ve had the same reaction trying to read the Book of Mormon.

I can’t say that I have ever made it through that book, but I will always remember Mark Twain’s deathless review of The Book of Mormon: “Chloroform in print.”

2008-03-23 19:26:37 Robert Spencer

Infidel Pride:

Alexandria in Egypt is known as Iskandariya, so Alexander must have been known in Arabic as ‘Iskander’. Given that, how did the translation of ‘Dhul-Qarnayn’ to Alexander find acceptance among ordinary Arabs?

Dhul-Qarnayn is not a translation of “Alexander.” It means “The Two-Horned One.” Alexander is Iskander, as you have noted. The equation is made between the two in Islamic tradition, but no one says that Alexander means “The Two Horned One.”

Also, the 2 horns – in those times, it’s known that Vikings wore such crowns, but all depictions of Alexander the Great show him without such crowns. Doesn’t that factor into the theories that Muslims put out about who Dhul-Qarnayn really was?

Actually, there are many common depictions of Alexander with horns, most notably on coins.

2008-03-23 18:56:22 Robert Spencer


Robert, please correct me if I’m off the mark…

No, you’re quite right.

2008-03-23 18:54:10 Robert Spencer


PS- have you seen the message at the UK site for Fitna?

Yes, I have.

2008-03-23 18:53:02 Robert Spencer

Whoops — that last sentence in my comment above was actually left from locomotive breath’s post. Not that I am not wishing you a Happy Easter. I am.

2008-03-23 18:50:41 Robert Spencer


1) Is Gog and Magog an allegory for a those people who have gone astray from the muslim way, or just folks mohammed didn’t like?

Opinions differ among Muslims as to whether Gog and Magog are individuals or groups or tribes or some such. In any case, they are unequivocally evil, and only let loose in the end times.

2) Is ‘the wall’ (not r. waters) the ‘allah ledes astray’ stuff that is mentioned time and again for unbelievers, or is it an actual wall with an archeological foundation?

Alexander’s wall is an actual wall. And that seems to be the wall referred to, if one accepts the traditional identification of Dhul-Qarnayn with Alexander.

3)If Jesus (isa) is a prophet revered among the muslims, how do they square these ‘wayward’ Christians ’shirking’ Jesus?

From the Islamic perspective, that’s precisely the problem with those Christians: they have deified a Muslim prophet and twisted his message.

4) and how do muslims mentally digest all the teachings of Jesus in the new testament (Son of God etc)??

Those teachings are why the mainstream Muslim view is that the New Testament has been corrupted, and is no longer the true or original Gospel that Jesus the Muslim prophet taught.

Happy easter and thanks for another good read!

2008-03-23 18:48:51 Robert Spencer


So at the end of time, Jesus triumphs over Satan (I assume that is “the Deceiver”), and Jesus takes believers with him while God takes care of Gog and Magog, but Mohammed says the ones to be saved will be from the Muslims? How does that make sense? Jesus is going to throw over his own followers in favor of Muslims who say he was just a prophet?

But that’s exactly the point — that Muslims say he was just a prophet, and that that is the correct understanding of Jesus. So at the end of the world Jesus will return and break all crosses, as Muhammad says here. That is, he will abolish the false religion of Christianity, and Islamize the world.

2008-03-23 18:45:16 Robert Spencer

Boot Hill:

Were any of the “tests” that Muhammad went through recorded elsewhere?

No, there aren’t even any contemporary non-Muslim records of Muhammad.

2008-03-11 07:51:01 Robert Spencer


Why would Ibn-Kathir assume this was “pre-Christian” when Muhammed lived six centuries after Christ, and three after Constantine? Something that supposedly happened 300 years before could easily have passed into folklore so quickly.

Good question. I guess he was assuming that the two groups had no contact with each other.

Also, why does the “perfect book,” the Quran, not have a definitive answer for the number of sleepers? If Muhammed was fuzzy on the number of people involved, clearly Allah wasn’t communicating with him very clearly or Allah was suffering from some form of memory disorder, or… Muhammed wasn’t a true prophet after all…

Well, this is no problem from the standpoint of Muslim belief. Allah simply didn’t will to reveal the actual number. That’s all.

2008-03-11 07:49:37 Robert Spencer


The only specific “prophesy” of Mohammad is in the Bukhari hadiths- 2; 26; 666.

There are others. For example, he prophesied that Islam would conquer Constantinople and then Rome. And of course, he famously prophesied that the end times would be ushered in by a Muslim genocide of Jews. And there are still others.

2008-03-11 07:46:05 Robert Spencer

Cowboy is a compliment:

Are they restricted from watching animations or cartoons, then?

Generally considered OK — or at least widely produced. See, for example, here.

2008-03-11 07:37:08 Robert Spencer


Never mind. I found him.

Is there a gorilla in here?

2008-03-10 18:19:09 Robert Spencer


OK, I’ll bite. Who the heck is Bunsen Honeydew, and where can I hear what he sounds like?

2008-03-10 18:17:54 Robert Spencer

The EJS:

As someone studying the Eastern Roman Empire, I’m seeing a lot of cultural transfusion, assimilation, and exclusion. At the time of the Islamic conquests outside Arabia, was there a clear meaning of Islam?

That’s not known for certain. The orthodox Islamic perspective is that yes, certainly there was: the Muslims came out of Arabia with the Qur’an and the traditions of Muhammad, albeit with the latter not yet codified, and thus they brought Islam with them.

However, the fact that the Al-Aqsa Mosque contains inscriptions that are not Qur’anic, plus other considerations including the inchoate state of the Qur’an’s earliest manuscripts, which do not separate the words or contain pointing (leading to a multiplicity of possibilities for the text and its meaning), has led some scholars (notably Christoph Luxenberg) to conclude that the Arabs did not have Islam at the time of the early conquests, but rather cobbled it together out of various available materials in order to justify the conquest and give the conquerors their own religion to compete with those of the Byzantines and Persians.

I think this is a fascinating possibility, well worth further investigation.

What I mean is that for Judaism, one has to have a Jewish mother. For Christianity, one has to know and belief in the decrees of Christ. But for Islam, all that is needed is to state “One god, and Mohammad is his prophet”.

Judaism/Christianity having the “one god” part, couldn’t there be a mix with some Christians and Jews saying “hey, maybe Mohammad had some things going and was God’s prophet”, and some Muslims saying “Jesus was an ok guy, too”. Hence when Muslims invaded Syria, they were met with a population receptive (especially after the Constantinople declaring them heathens for not believing in the “correct” Christ) and lines began to blur.

Lines like this always blur. There is some evidence that in the Qur’an there is an attempt to reconcile several competing theological positions by giving everyone a bit of what he wants: the Jewish prophets but also Jesus, albeit not Jesus as a Savior. Instead, Jesus not crucified (as per the Gnostics) and Jesus not divine (as per the Arians) — both heretical groups that had at least in some numbers left the Empire for Arabia.

B. If clerics were beginning to worry about a blurring of the faiths, and potentially Islam becoming a sub-sect of Christianity, how did they take steps to combat it?

I don’t think this was ever a worry. The earliest Islamic texts, from whatever standpoint, present themselves as a correction of and rebuke to Christianity.

C. I was listening to some Muslim students talk in the defense of the burqa, comparing it to the headscarf of Mary, and a rebuttal that the burqa concept probably came from Syriac Christians. Is there any historical evidence to support either claim, and that Muslims have assimilated something they liked.

Sure. The problem with this as a defense of the burqa, however, is that Syrian Christian women don’t wear it today (except when under Islamic pressure or influence), while Muslim women do. It is founded on the authority of Muhammad in the Hadith, not on the Syrian Christians’ example. Muslims assimilated many non-Muslim things they liked (most notably the Ka’aba) but this assimilation has to be ratified in all cases by Qur’anic word or the word of Muhammad.

2008-03-10 12:31:43 Robert Spencer


it never says whether he figured it out or not, nor is an explanation of the vision ever given.

Actually I believe that an explanation of the vision is given. The NT and all Christian traditions agree that the vision was designed to indicate that Christians were not to be bound by Mosaic food laws, a question definitively settled at the apostolic council in Acts 15.

2008-03-09 22:24:39 Robert Spencer


Why did Muhammad want his followers to memorize the first ten verses of this chapter? Is it just that it contains the ideas that the Christians are wrong and the Qur’an is perfect?

It’s generally not explained in the commentaries, and, as I noted above, traditions differ as to whether it was the first ten, or the last, or some other section. But there’s no doubt that this chapter looms large in Muslim piety. In some places in Central Asia for a considerable period the entire sura was read out at Friday prayers. And there’s no doubt that it is quite beguiling and unique. Speaking for myself, it’s one of the ones I most enjoy reading.

2008-03-09 22:17:34 Robert Spencer


Is there any explanation in the Qur’an for the angels’ antipathy to dogs?

No, and the antipathy itself is recorded not in the Qur’an, but in the Hadith.

If angels are unwilling to enter a house with a picture of a living creature, does that mean that Muslims are supposed to keep pictures out of their homes, and if so, does that prohibition include televisions and computers (since those contain pictures of living creatures)?

No, contemporary authorities such as Sheikh Al-Qaradawi have generally allowed for these. The argument is that the prohibition of representation is designed to keep human beings from imitating Allah’s creative act. But a photograph, and by extension television etc., does not involve imitating Allah’s creative act, but merely records Allah’s creative work. Thus they are OK.

2008-03-09 21:53:07 Robert Spencer


He had never heard of you and one of his comments was that I needed someone a little less biased.

Sure. But in reality I am not biased. I am scrupulous to document everything I say from Islamic sources. The Q-Blog is based mainly on the Tafsir of Ibn Kathir and the Tafsir al-Jalalayn, which anyone will tell you are the two most repected and influential traditional commentaries on the Qur’an. The charge of bias has never been substantiated by any demonstration of any actual inaccuracy on my part.

2008-03-09 21:50:02 Robert Spencer


Some Muslims believe in the guard dog exception to the dog rules. There’s an ongoing debate, with the usually reliably medieval Ahmadinejad favoring expensive imported guard dogs.

I don’t think there is really much debate on this. Muhammad said: “Whoever keeps a dog, one Qirat of the reward of his good deeds is deducted daily, unless the dog is used for guarding a farm or cattle.” This has generally been interpreted as allowing for guard dogs in general.

2008-03-09 21:46:02 Robert Spencer

Yeah, Texas Dan, it’s 10:94-95. Specifically, it directs Muhammad to ask the People of the Book if he is in doubt about what is being revealed to him in the Qur’an. But of course the Jewish and Christian Scriptures do not agree with the Qur’an, leading to the charge that they have been corrupted.

2008-03-04 02:50:12 Robert Spencer


But you can still have sex with your slave girls even those who are already married, not so?

Yes, and that wouldn’t be adultery either — but they have to be your slave girls.

2008-03-03 20:59:20 Robert Spencer

Whoops. That is, “…Sura 18 has as minor characters…”

2008-03-03 12:56:06 Robert Spencer


Could the wealth of the orphan also mean a youngster who has inherited some money from deceased parents?

Yes. As you’ll see in a couple of weeks, Sura 18 has as a minor character a couple of young men whose inheritance is threatened until they receive some unlikely help from an Islamic holy man.

2008-03-03 12:55:40 Robert Spencer

TX Mom:

Morality in Islam seems very slippery to me with the definitions in constant flux. Or were the terms only fluctuating while Muhammed was alive and it is more set now that he is no longer getting revelations?

Exactly so. It isn’t fluctuating at all now. It is very, very set.

2008-03-02 23:45:30 Robert Spencer


So Robert, I guess that is where the Shia version of the ‘temporary marriage’ came in so that they wouldn’t stone all those Muslim sinners who wanted to get their groove on.

Muhammad allowed for temporary marriage. The Sunnis say he later canceled this permission. The Shia say he didn’t. In any case, yes, it provides for an easy veneer of piety over the culture, since no one has extramarital sex. They just get married first, for an hour or two.

2008-03-02 22:15:16 Robert Spencer

Shy Guy:

Would it? Is it punishable by death?

Given the allowance for four wives, the parameters of the law are the same as in Judaism and Christianity: sexual activity with someone you’re not married to is adultery. If you have one wife or two or three or four, if you’re not married to the one you’re with, you’re in trouble.

Adultery is indeed punishable by death according to Sharia, but this is only enforced today in Sharia states, e.g. Saudi Arabia and Iran.

In the Torah, the word for adultery is “nih-oof”. The 7th Commandment is “lo tin-af” – “do not commit adultery. According to Jewish halacha, the capital crime of nih-oof, adultery, is only in cases where the woman is married.

Right. Otherwise it’s fornication — if the two aren’t married at all. That is punishable in Sharia by lashing.

The term adultery in modern English usage has long ago simply referred to an extra-marital affair, whether the woman is married or not. Is that the defintion in Islam? I thought it was closer to the Torah’s original meaning.

Extra-marital, yes. Not non-marital.

2008-03-02 22:13:44 Robert Spencer


Again with the commandment to ‘not commit adultery’. So how therefore can the Koran go on to justify 4 wives?

Four wives ain’t adultery in Islam. It’s allowed according to Qur’an 4:3. Now five wives, that would be adultery. Or having a tryst with someone who wasn’t a wife at all. That would be adultery. But four wives? Not adultery.

2008-03-02 20:59:12 Robert Spencer


Is this passage meant to elevate Mohammed’s prophet status?


2008-02-24 21:24:46 Robert Spencer


Buraq is often portrayed with the face of a woman, but as far as I know it’s just the face.

2008-02-24 21:23:50 Robert Spencer


Idris is one of the prophets, the Biblical Enoch.

2008-02-24 14:12:16 Robert Spencer


My apologies. I get 500+ emails daily, and inevitably overlook some.

2008-02-24 14:11:16 Robert Spencer


Thank you very much. I didn’t know that existed, and much appreciate it. I have just added a link to it at Jihad Watch.

It is also available in German, Italian, and (some segments) in Czech. Links here.

2008-02-24 13:53:42 Robert Spencer


So what does this mean? Jewish people could go to heaven too? I must be missing something, I thought, according to the koran, they were all cursed and on their way to hell??

Jewish people who accept all the prophets — Moses, Jesus, Muhammad and the rest — can go to Paradise. See the material on Qur’an 2:62 here.

2008-02-24 13:49:56 Robert Spencer

Fascinating. If I remember correctly, Augustine also recognized that, philosophically speaking, an all-knowing, all-powerful God simply cannot be reduced to being described in terms such as ‘good’ or even ‘loving’. Such a God must be self-sufficient, non-reactive, and never changing. Actually, in my lousy opinion, it seems to me that Islam is more consistant on this point than contemporary protestant Christianity.

I don’t know about Augustine, but Aquinas and others in the Western Christian tradition have affirmed that what we can say positively about God is very little, and that what we don’t know is far more than what we do know.

Is Islam more consistent on this point than contemporary Protestant Christianity? I don’t know exactly what you’re referring to in regard to contemporary Protestant Christianity, but I don’t think the Christian and the Muslim views of God’s sovereignty, power, and goodness are remotely comparable. Christianity squares the circle of God’s goodness with the existence of evil by means of the Cross of Christ; Islam by means of the all-powerful and unstoppable will of Allah.

2008-02-17 22:30:24 Robert Spencer


Is there any difference between Allah arbitrarily selecting whom he wills to be saved to Paradise, and Allah saving by grace?

Well, yes, there does seem to be a difference, if I understand your question correctly (which I’m not sure I do), because in Islam one only enters Paradise if one’s good works must outweigh one’s evil ones. So presumably those whom Allah wills to guide are also those who do good deeds.

2008-02-17 22:27:29 Robert Spencer


So he created everything, but hates pigs and dogs? Why then, were they created? For what purpose, according to muslims?

Why, to test you, of course.

2008-02-17 22:11:52 Robert Spencer

I mean, yes, your assumption here is correct.

2008-02-17 22:10:41 Robert Spencer


Is my assumption here correct? I know there are parts of the sunnah that would butress this verse vis a vis Shariah law re: Infidel witnesses, but is this the basis for that, or is it just another rant from the Qur’an?

Oh, absolutely.

2008-02-17 22:10:23 Robert Spencer


1. Allah is all-powerful.
2. Allah is all good.
3. Evil exists in the world.

You can square any two of those statements, but not all three. (Paraphrasing something I read not long ago.)

This looks to me like a restatement of the problem of evil which is used as an argument against Christianity. The answer to it in Christianity is very different, but the Islamic answer is that you need not square all three, because #2 is a blasphemous reduction of the sovereignty of Allah. Allah does what he pleases, and is not to be questioned, or reduced to human categories. So #1 and #3 are certainly true, and #2 is commonly assumed, but absolutely not with the understanding that most Christian and post-Christian Westerners have of what that means.

2008-02-17 22:08:19 Robert Spencer


I vote you stay. I am printing out this weeks lesson to read later today. Please do not stop!

Thank you. I only say things like this because I am aware that long stretches of the Qur’an are, to put it delicately, rather tedious. But I ask all readers’ patience: there is some very interesting material coming up soon, in suras 17, 18, and 19.

2008-02-17 13:55:29 Robert Spencer


Regarding your reference to “this False Religion”:

I am not a believer in Islam, but my belief and the truth and falsehood of Islam is not the point of this “Blogging the Qur’an” series.

The point of it is to understand more fully those who have vowed to destroy us by studying the book they point to as their supreme guide in life.

2008-02-17 13:54:17 Robert Spencer


Actually, this series was inspired by Slate’s “Blogging the Bible” series.

I don’t see why anyone would think “Blogging the Bible” would be “extreme,” or would think it shouldn’t be done.

However, I am not going to do it. I am going to finish this series, which will almost certainly take another year or so, unless I am voted off the island first.

2008-02-17 13:32:49 Robert Spencer


Awake is right.

2008-02-14 15:03:18 Robert Spencer


I understand why Spencer has to pretend that not all Muslims believe in Islam, but it does no good to the audience he pretends to want to speak to. He’s never going to get through to Muslims because as soon as they believe what he says, they are no longer Muslims.

While all puppies are not cute, all puppies are puppies. No matter how cute they are, they all bite.

Actually, all puppies don’t bite. And as for Muslims, I am not pretending anything. There are millions upon millions of people who are culturally Muslim but are not interested in advancing the jihad agenda or even necessarily aware of it.

Do you not know that there are millions of people who call themselves Christians but who pay little or no attention to the effort of conforming their lives to Christian teachings? In every belief-system there is a spectrum of belief, knowledge, and fervor, and Islam is no different.

To extrapolate from Islamic teachings to the proposition that all Muslims believe in and are advancing the jihadist cause is just as absurd as assuming that because Jesus said to love your enemies, that every last Christian is humble, self-effacing, non-combative, and forgiving.

2008-02-13 15:25:26 Robert Spencer


Mr Spencer, is there any evidence, such as in verses like this, that the early Muslim practiced henotheism as opposed to strict monotheism? That is, did they worship only Allah, while also acknowledging the existence of other gods?

According to unanimous Islamic tradition, the hallmark of Muhammad’s preaching from the very beginning was that only Allah was a true god. If there is any evidence that early Muslims were henotheistic, it is well hidden, and I’ve never come across it.

2008-02-10 21:00:46 Robert Spencer


A very interesting reading this week can you explain how a Muslim can reconcile:

Ayah 3: Leave them that they may eat and enjoy themselves and (that) hope may beguile them, for they will soon know

And Ayah 88: Do not strain your eyes after what We have given certain classes of them to enjoy, and do not grieve for them, and make yourself gentle to the believers

With their duty to convert unbelievers. Have these verses been abrogated?

Yes, this is a Meccan sura, so the Medinan sura 9, which mandates warfare against and the subjugation of unbelievers, takes precedence over this.

On another note, do you have any maps on your site or know of a map that can show the progression of Sharia over time in the world? This would be helpful.

Yes, you’ll find a map something like that here.

2008-02-10 20:58:24 Robert Spencer


I understand that the hadiths record Muhammad saying that he believed it was a jinn that came to him in the cave and demanded that he “recite”–and that he experienced an overwhelming fear, and the sensation of being choked. IIRC, his wife and daughters convinced him otherwise and urged him to comply.

You can read all about it in this hadith. It wasn’t his wife and daughters, it was his wife (Khadija) who took him to her uncle, a Christian priest named Waraqa, who convinced him he was a prophet. Muhammad’ biographer Ibn Ishaq adds that Muhammad was afraid he was possessed, and that it was Khadija and ultimately Waraqa who convinced him otherwise.

2008-02-10 20:55:59 Robert Spencer


Would I spoil the quiz for you if I asked, Are you freakin’ kidding me?


2008-02-05 22:53:07 Robert Spencer


ok, if you’re so confident in your works merits,why not submit it to a peer reviewed journal? It’s pretty easy to deflect attacks on a blog consisting of people who have never heavily studied the Qur’an, although admittedly you and I have the same amount of academic training in Islamic studies…none. If your personal studies stand on their own merits, then they should be able to do so under peer review.

Actually, I have academic training in Islamic studies. I just don’t have a doctorate in it. If you think peer reviewed journals are academically sound and unbiased these days, I suggest you read Ivory Towers on Sand by Martin Kramer, and Ibn Warraq’s elegant evisceration of Edward Said — whose perspective rules academic study of Islam and related issues these days — which I reprinted in my book The Myth of Islamic Tolerance.

Academic approval in America in 2008 signifies that your work meets the standards of hard-Left propagandists who have demonstrated again and again that they have no interest whatsoever in genuine academic inquiry.

That said, would I hesitate to go head-to-head with any of these vaunted academicians, or to stack up my work against theirs? Not for a nanosecond. In fact, I have challenged numerous Middle East Studies establishment professors to debate — including Carl Ernst, Omid Safi, Akbar Ahmed, Ahmed Afzaal, and others. All have declined. One would think that if I am really as ignorant and malicious as my detractors claim, one of these superior scholars could accept my debate challenge, mop the floor with me, and end my baneful influence forever. Yet none of them will even try. Now, why is that?

The only answer I’ve ever gotten to that question is just more ad hominems — “You’re so witless and evil it isn’t even worth refuting you.” Fine. But I continue to document everything I say very carefully from Islamic sources. People can check up on me for themselves, to see if I’m misusing or misrepresenting those sources — and they have. Professors have written to me saying they started out trying to debunk what I’ve written and ended up discovering it was true. In any case, my invitation to debate any scholar or academic remains open.

2008-02-04 21:48:40 Robert Spencer



My work stands or falls on its merits. And no one — particularly those hacks and propagandists like Carl Ernst, Omid Safi, and others who write for peer-reviewed academic journals — have ever been able to demonstrate that anything I have said about Islam or jihad or the Qur’an is false.

2008-02-04 17:41:51 Robert Spencer


I have a contract to write The Infidel’s Guide to the Koran in 2009 for Regnery (after Stealth Jihad in 2008). It will be based on this series, but will be arranged thematically and will not reproduce these posts. I hope sometime after that to publish this series as it appears here, if I can interest a publisher in doing so.

2008-02-04 15:22:30 Robert Spencer



2008-02-04 12:36:34 Robert Spencer

Shy Guy:

Robert, prior to Mohamed’s vivid imagination, were there any Arab/Beduin legends associating Abraham with Mecca? Or was this a completely new claim by Moe?

It seems to have been an invention by Muhammad, to justify his changing the qibla — the direction to face during prayer — from Jerusalem to Mecca.

2008-02-04 03:55:02 Robert Spencer


In light of the statement that “Allah sent to all the people of the earth, Arabs and non-Arabs alike,” how do Muslims reconcile the idea that they consider all translations as inauthentic? The fact is that the old Arabic of the Qur’an is not the modern version of that language so that even Arabs are disadvantaged unless they get a special annotated version. This seems much like what English readers would need to understand old English, or worse pre-Chaucer or Norse.

Allah sent, according to Islamic theology, messengers to other peoples who spoke in their own language. Muhammad and the Qur’an were sent to the Arabs, but this message is the final and perfect one and is for all mankind also. But this does create Arab supremacism. There has always been tension between Arab and non-Arab Muslims, and a sense of superiority among the former.

2008-02-03 16:36:00 Robert Spencer

Spirit of 1776:

Thanks Mr. Spencer. I have a question in reference to the events of the past week:

Do the rules of martyrdom apply to the mentally challenged? As it would seem difficult for them to practice the required piety, what I’m curious of is whether there exists some twisted rational that by forced martyrdom they are being done a “favor”, or are they just considered a tool without regard to the spiritual aspect? Thanks.

Oh sure, those two women would be considered martyrs, and that they’ve been done a favor.

2008-02-03 16:34:00 Robert Spencer


So, just how do present day Islamic scholars reconcile the contradictions in the Quran that variously say that Satan leads people astray, or that it’s Allah’s will that such people go astray and that people have free will?

Do they just ignore those contradictions?

No, they say that nothing can be done except by the will of Allah. Allah can even use Satan to affect whatever he wants to do.

2008-02-03 16:33:02 Robert Spencer


Hm, descriptions of distance in units of time. Mohammed must have spent some years in Los Angeles traffic or something. We use time to describe distance, too.

Yes, and it takes about five hundred years to get across town here, too.

2008-01-28 13:32:57 Robert Spencer

Whoops. Let me try that again.

Article on Obama and Islam

2008-01-28 10:18:32 Robert Spencer

As for Obama, I wrote about the issue of his possibly being seen as an apostate from Islam about nine months ago in this article:


2008-01-28 10:17:30 Robert Spencer


Verses 2-4 almost sound like a type of creation story (or at least a reference to Job 26:7), but Ibn Kathir’s explanation in this matter, using years to describe distance, dimension & direction, is puzzling. Can you clarify why he would use that terminology and how that disproves allah’s physicality?

I don’t think Ibn Kathir is trying to disprove Allah’s physicality. He seems to be taking that physicality for granted. As for using years to measure distance, he is talking about how long it would take to travel from one to the other.

2008-01-28 10:15:56 Robert Spencer


Recently I received emails or links to the problem in a muslim country that by law does not allow Christians to use the name Allah for God in their translation of the Bible on the principle that the Christian or Jewish God was falsely described and not the same as the true God, Allah, who owns that name exclusively.

This is going on in Malaysia:


2008-01-27 19:41:48 Robert Spencer

Jimmy the Dhimmi:

Robert, Is there evidence that Allah was worshipped, prior to Muhammad’s arrival on the scene, by the quraysh as a moon god?

I believe there is, but can’t put hand to evidence for it at the moment.

Did Mohammad, in essence, elevate the already existing pagan deity of “Allah” to the supreme, trancendent being worshipped by Christians and Jews?

Arabic-speaking Jews and Christians used the word “Allah” for the supreme God before the advent of Islam.

2008-01-27 19:39:19 Robert Spencer


But Islam does not seem to have an evangelistic, or missionary presence. If asked, will they proselytize? Do they have ‘reasons to believe’? Or do they not evangelize, because like early Calvinists, this is exclusively up to the will of Allah?

Oh yes, they proselytize energetically in some places.

2008-01-27 19:36:19 Robert Spencer


This remains the orthodox view of the Qur’an: that it is a perfect, unchanging copy of the Mother of the Book that has existed forever with Allah.

How do Islamic scholars square this with passages in the Quran that refer to contemporary events?

Allah foresees all!

2008-01-27 19:33:25 Robert Spencer


Mr Spencer, is there such a thing as a ‘mystical’ sect of Islam that practices a form of numerology for hidden meaning in the Quranic text, much like the Bible had with the likes of Ivan Panin, or his modern disciple Chuck Missler?

I never heard of Panin or Missler, but there certainly a lively “a form of numerology” that searches for “hidden meaning in the Quranic text” among Muslims.

There is a huge amount of speculative numerology centered on “Above it are nineteen,” (Qur’an 74:30).

2008-01-27 19:31:49 Robert Spencer

saint kansas,

No, I hadn’t seen it before, and yes, it does sound ominous.

2008-01-27 19:26:55 Robert Spencer


As far as I know it is pagan, pre-Islamic. I’ve seen Islamic apologists attribute it to pagan, Hindu, AND Judeo-Christian influences. But its exact origins I do not know.

It is widely accepted in some areas of the Muslim world today because all too often it is justified on Islamic grounds, despite its lack of attestation in the Qur’an and Sunnah. In 2003, the Jordanian Parliament voted down on Islamic grounds a provision designed to stiffen penalties for honor killings. In a sadly typical consequence of this early last year, a Jordanian man who murdered his sister because he thought she had a lover was given a three-month sentence, which was suspended for time served, allowing him to walk free. The Yemen Times just a few weeks ago published an article insisting that violence against women is necessary for the stability of the family and the society, and invoking Islam to support this view.

2008-01-21 21:40:25 Robert Spencer


No, she wasn’t, and no, it isn’t.

2008-01-21 18:51:42 Robert Spencer

locomotive breath:

Question for you, Robert Spencer: Sura 12:25-28 shows Joseph innocent this fleshly desire, and the woman obviously guilty for the sin, so does the koran ever state why Joseph was imprisoned, and by whom?

The text seems to be suggesting that the ruler’s wife exonerated herself by showing the other women how handsome and hence irresistible Joseph was. They’re all apparently going to seduce him now, so that he prays to go to prison (v. 33) and the men, presumably their husbands, seeing all this, decide to imprison him (v. 35). Then later the ruler’s wife admits she was trying to seduce him (v. 51) and he is released (v. 54).

2008-01-21 07:23:33 Robert Spencer


I have a general question in reference to the Islamic perception of Heaven and Hell: Does Islam teach, as the Bible does, that there are “waiting places” (Paradise/Tartaros) or places where souls are reserved until judgement; or do they teach that the soul goes directly to its reward (Heaven/Hell)? If so, what are these waiting places called?

After death the soul is in the state of Barzakh (برزخ) — see Qur’an 23:99-100. The dead will be conscious in the grave and will be questioned by two angels, Munkar and Nakeer. The pious Muslims will answer easily, but unbelievers will be confounded by their questions. He will see his good deeds and the torments of the damned, which will begin in the grave for unbelievers.

2008-01-14 12:58:56 Robert Spencer


Is Jesus was a Muslim……

……Why then, do we not see “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone” anywhere in Islam?

A Muslim who believes that Allah commands stoning would consider this an example of how the Christians have corrupted the actual message of Jesus, because they would refuse to believe the idea that Jesus’ message could contradict Muhammad’s.

2008-01-14 12:28:02 Robert Spencer


And I was wondering what Robert thinks of it. Eh Robert? The revived Quran venture? The films that Anton Spitaler had hidden and claimed lost…? Do you think they could change the way Muslims interpret their religion? Could it cause a revolution in Islam and change it in a good way? What do you think about that whole thing?

It’s all fascinating. I’d love to see what they contain. Ibn Warraq has done a lot of great work on alternate Qur’an texts and readings, and has a book coming out about it soon. Do I think it will cause a major change in Islam — if a drastically different version of the Qur’an appears? Almost certainly not. Because it will just be denounced as a Zionist forgery etc.

2008-01-14 12:25:33 Robert Spencer


Re the she-camel, the traditional Islamic story is that the unbelievers challenged the prophet Salih to perform a specific miracle: make a she-camel, 10 months pregnant appear miraculously from the rocks.

Allah did this, splitting open a rock, from which the camel came forth. Some stories say that this camel produced enough milk for the entire people of Thamud. So many of the people came to believe in Allah. But the hardened unbelievers began plotting to kill the camel. Salih heard about it, and issued the warning in 11:64. But they killed the camel anyway, and Thamud was subsequently destroyed by Allah.

2008-01-14 00:08:55 Robert Spencer


Does the story about Noah’s drowning son also parallel Muhammad? Are there any stories or legends regarding apostacy in Muhammad’s family or clan?

I didn’t mean that Noah is identical to Muhammad in every detail. I meant that the Qur’an tells the story of Noah in such a way as to make it parallel Muhammad’s experiences: he has the absolute truth and the warning of fearful punishment, and the unbelievers scoff — but their ruin is certain.

Anyway, Muhammad’s only son died in infancy. There is no parallel to that part of this story of Noah.

And yes, dentalque is right, above.

2008-01-13 23:59:32 Robert Spencer


Can you elaborate on this portion of Sura 11? I am curious to know what this is really addressing.

This is the Qur’anic challenge. This is the foremost miraculous claim in Islam: the idea that the Qur’an is perfect and inimitable, and that the unbelievers will not be able to produce anything like it. This challenge also appears in sura 10 and, if my memory serves me right, sura 2.

See http://www.suralikeit.com for attempts to take up the challenge. But ultimately, of course, it is a subjective and impossible challenge: the true believer will never acknowledge that anything produced by an unbeliever, no matter how profound and faithful to Qur’anic style, is “like” the Qur’an.

2008-01-13 23:50:54 Robert Spencer


Are these examples of why there seems to be a lack of scientific curiosity in the Islamic World? I would say that it was left to the West to discover that the Earth was inclined 23 ½ degrees on its axis and that combined with the annual path around the sun causes the days to grow shorter and the reverse. But even, by our standards, a primitive society, yet unencumbered by such rigidity as the Qur’an, the Mayans in Central America were able to figure this out as well. Or is the verse just a metaphor attributing to God for why things are the way that they are?

Your question may best be answered by a story I recall from an American who taught in Pakistan for awhile. He explained to his students that earthquakes were caused by tectonic shifts, or whatever it is, and they countered, No, you’re quite wrong, earthquakes are caused by the will of Allah. So in other words, yes, there is a certain dogmatic rigidity that I believe can be fed by the idea of the absolute sovereignty of Allah and the perfection of the Qur’an — one can begin to assume that no other book and no other knowledge is needed.

2008-01-13 23:46:41 Robert Spencer


Is there a story in the koran about anything like babel?

Sort of. See 28:38 and 40:36-37. It’s a conflation of the story of Pharaoh and Moses, the Book of Esther, and the story of the Tower of Babel. Sort of.

2008-01-13 23:38:26 Robert Spencer

If that link doesn’t work, look for:

The Study of Political Islam
By Jamie Glazov
FrontPageMagazine.com | Monday, February 05, 2007

2008-01-13 22:09:47 Robert Spencer

the jackal:

Robert, I was just wondering (since you are intimately aquainted with the Koran), what “rough percentage” of the entire text is devoted to (1) making believers able to identify non-believers, and (2) despise them?

I haven’t ever done that kind of statistical analysis, so the best answer I can give to your question is, A lot.

Bill Warner, however, has done that kind of analysis. You might find this interesting:


2008-01-13 22:08:35 Robert Spencer

the jackal,

Shirotayama said, “From the heart, I say to you, thank you very much!”

2008-01-09 15:01:42 Robert Spencer


Wa min qalbi, ‘a’aqul alayka, shukran jiddan

Ala wajib!

2008-01-08 15:14:11 Robert Spencer

Boot Hill

Many times you write “Allah tells Muhammad”, yet Allah did not directly speak to him. Is this to assume that you mean “Allah’s message through Gabriel tells Muhammad”, or does he ever slip up and forget to mention that all his conversations with Allah were through Gabriel?

All through the Qur’an, Allah addresses Muhammad. Look on practically any page and you will see verses beginning with “Say…” This is Allah instructing Muhammad on what to say to his followers and/or the unbelievers. Muslims understand that it is all coming to Muhammad via Gabriel, but this is not emphasized in the Qur’anic text.

Also, how do the Qur’anic scholars address that all of the prophets mentioned, Jonah, Noah, Moses, Jesus, spoke directly with God, yet Muhammad did not? Or do they just not address/question it, and accept it as is?

This is not a big issue, particularly since Jewish and Christian tradition has Moses encountering God through angels as an intermediary — see Galatians 3:19.

2008-01-07 18:02:24 Robert Spencer


Do you have a blimp?

Sadly, no. I’ll add this to the list of things to ask Bryan about getting.

2008-01-07 07:47:21 Robert Spencer


And that’s another thing. When are we going to be allowed to be pissed off?

There is anger that is righteous. But even righteous anger should be channelled toward something positive.

2008-01-07 02:45:28 Robert Spencer


People take their cues from you. The impression I get is that this is meant as an academic exercise and is not meant to explain what is happening in the world today.

Actually, the whole purpose of reading through the Qur’an is to try to help explain what is happening in the world today.

Comments will just cause problems. Anyone who says anything the least bit contrary to the idea that Islam has been perverted will just be seen as one more bigot.

True, in some circles, although no one has yet produced this unperverted Islam.

I don’t know about anyone else but I’m tired of it. It’s bad enough to be called a bigot by those who know nothing about Islam, it is extremely maddening to be perceived as causing damage to “the cause” whenever the truth is told about what Islam really is and what it promotes.

Sorry. I don’t follow you here.

That was more than 2 years ago. Don’t you know by now that it doesn’t matter how unbiased you try to be? You’re Robert Spenser. All your detractors have to do is post a list of the your books.

Yes, I know that. I still think that stating things honestly, and documenting them scrupulously, will matter to some people of good will.

It doesn’t matter what you say or how you say it. You will never be taken seriously by anybody who isn’t willing to read what you actually write. And most people just aren’t willing to do that.

Yes, I know that.

Look at this series? They want audio and podcasts.

I don’t see how that follows from a discussion of the close-mindedness of some people.

How do you stand it?

How do I stand it? Well, by going insane, I suppose.

Nevermind. I give up. I’m at the point now where I am convinced it’s hopeless. Islam will win.

It’s never hopeless as long as there is still one free soul alive in the world.

2008-01-07 02:44:29 Robert Spencer


OK. They better not open the comments then.

Why not? I don’t see how that follows. I was talking about my own opinions, not anyone else’s.

2008-01-07 01:07:00 Robert Spencer


I would like more opinion.

As it happens, I am trying not to give that. Unlike the Slate “Blogging the Bible” series, which inspired this series, I am not giving my opinions about the various Qur’an passages, but am trying to illustrate how they are understood by various mainstream Islamic commentators. This provides a key to seeing how Muslims are taught to understand those passages.

2008-01-07 00:40:38 Robert Spencer

The Big Old Dog:

I wish there was an easy way to access all the lessons thus far in one place.

Here you go:


2008-01-07 00:06:02 Robert Spencer


Unlike Rushbaby, I do enjoy the long, dry academic lectures – but admit that it is probably best to keep it short and snappy..!!

Is it too long and dry? Should I shorten the segments?

Ideally, I would like to listen to Quran Scriptures that you are commenting on

I wouldn’t want to read a Qur’an translation aloud. It isn’t the real thing, and while it would be fun to try, I doubt I could recite in in Arabic with proper tajweed — and even if I could, that wouldn’t be any use to you. I think there really is something to the Muslim contention that the Qur’an isn’t the Qur’an if it isn’t in Arabic, although I don’t buy the obfuscatory apologetic nonsense about how it can be only understood in Arabic, and the translations (even those made by Muslims) are inaccurate, etc. There is a rhythm to it, a music to it, that is very beguiling — but only in Arabic.

2008-01-06 23:18:43 Robert Spencer


Aside from you commenting more in the comment section I can think of little you could do…

I do try to answer every question asked. If I missed any, it was inadvertent, and if you’d like to ask them again, I’m game.

2008-01-06 23:08:58 Robert Spencer


I say read the Q-Blog….

I’m game. I’ll ask Bryan what he thinks. I know he and everyone at HA is very strapped as it is.

2008-01-06 23:06:34 Robert Spencer

the jackal:

I lived in Saudi Arabia for four years (1996-2000) and my interest in Islam, Arabia, the whole “conflict of civilizations,” et cetera, compels me to view, on a regular basis, the following Internet sources.

Blogging the Koran, by Robert Spencer

Pipes and MEMRI: excellent sites. If you’ll pardon the self-promotion, I invite you to check out my own site, http://www.jihadwatch.org, updated daily with news and commentary on global jihad activity.

2008-01-06 23:05:30 Robert Spencer

the jackal:

If you can tell me where, other than this thread series on Hot Air, that I can get a simple, clear, authoritative and unbiased translation and analysis of the Koran (arguably the most important and relevant text on the planet at this time in history), by all means let me know and I might consider listening to somebody else.

Thanks very much. In all seriousness, I don’t know of one. In all my books and now in this series I’ve followed J. D. Salinger’s rule: Write the book that you wish you could read, but which no one has yet written.

So if a clear guide to the Qur’an existed, I wouldn’t be writing this series or the forthcoming “Infidel’s Guide”!

2008-01-06 23:04:21 Robert Spencer


I am keenly looking forward to The Infidel’s Guide to the Koran.

Thanks very much. I’m glad to hear that. Unfortunately, it probably won’t appear until 2010. I have to write another book before that one, and the publisher doesn’t want it until after the election, which means it will probably be out in early 2009, and the IGK in 2010.

2008-01-06 23:02:18 Robert Spencer


…most of my questions early on were regarding the Quran’s paralells with Gnostic Christianity.

A fascinating study, that. My earliest studies on Islam, back in 1981, were on that topic. I wrote a term paper on the connection of Qur’an 4:157, which denies the Crucifixion, to Gnostic Gospels that likewise denied it, and postulated that the Islamic tradition picked up the idea that Judas was on the Cross rather than Jesus (which appears in some extra-Qur’anic traditions) via the Gnostic identification of Jesus’ twin as “Judas Thomas,” as Thomas the Apostle (“Doubting Thomas”) is always referred to in the Gnostic literature — in which he is also identified as Jesus’ twin. I was very proud of this work at the time! And seriously, it whetted my appetite and got me reading large sections of Sahih Muslim and other hadith collections.

I have only one suggestion – have you considered doing the Quran reading along with your commentary as an audible podcast? That would be great for us people on the go, and would surely reach a wider audience via itunes.

I don’t know what this would involve. I have a video setup for the biweekly video blogs. I don’t think it would be a hard thing to read the thing into the recorder. Do you mean read the Q-Blog, or read the actual section of the Qur’an at hand? I don’t think I’d want to do the latter, but the former might be good.

2008-01-06 22:53:05 Robert Spencer

Many thanks to all for the kind words. It is hard sometimes not to think I am doing all this in a vacuum, so I much appreciate it. But I wasn’t trolling for compliments — really, if it is too short, too long, too dull, too sensationalistic, too fat, too lean, too red, too blue, let me know.

2008-01-06 22:48:10 Robert Spencer


1. The principle of abrogation is an important tool to help explain away some of the internal contradictions of the Qur’an and in large part its application depends on knowing the chronological order of the “revelation.” What is the best that can be done with respect to a chronologically ordered Qur’an. I know that an absolute order is impossible but one can surely do better than the topological order Mecca precedes Medina.

There are several such lists available, and some disagreement between them. Here are 3 such lists:


2. What secular historical references to Islam exist for the period from 610 to Ishaq’s “history,” For example, were there important people from the Byzantine empire who actually met Muhammad and wrote about their encounter?

No, not really. There is no solid evidence outside of Islamic tradition that Muhammad even existed as such. Some scholars (Luxenberg, Ibn Warraq, Jansen, etc.) contend that he was constructed, along with the Qur’an, to justify Arab conquests of the 7th century — after those conquests took place. Me, I personally think Muhammad did exist, since I find it hard to understand why elements of his life that have always embarrassed Muslims — such as his marriage to his daughter-in-law (which is sketchily referenced in Qur’an 33:37) — would have been invented. I think it is more likely that they are in Muhammad’s story simply because they really happened.

But in any case, Ibn Ishaq dates from 150 years after Muhammad’s death, and the historical reliability of any of the early Muslim material is extremely questionable.

That said, hundreds of millions of Muslims believe in the absolute historical reliability of this material, and consequently it becomes a matter of concern for all of us — given its expansionist and supremacist elements.

2008-01-06 22:45:59 Robert Spencer


Yes, I am out here and happy you are giving your time to give us all basically a free book, rather Encyclopedia on Islam, and I thank you very much.
You cover things pretty thoroughly but I do have comments and questions on occasion but have trouble getting to the comment window?
What happens is I can log on into any other thread and not be able to comment on yours. Instead of the comment window, it will have “You must be logged on to comment”. Then when I click to log on, it takes me to my preferences page. I have to then log out and log on inside your thread, sometimes it works and sometimes I get a 404 error. I go back and forth from your post to another post logging on and logging out and sometimes I am never able to get on your post, as of this morning. It gets very frustrating and I have just given up on trying to comment on your posts, but I do appreciate your knowledge. I do not know the difference between your post and a Hot Air post but something must be different. Usually I just don’t comment. Perhaps I’m not the only one with this problem?

I myself have this problem. Usually if sign in and then go back to the home page, and then open the Blogging the Q page and hit Reload, I can get in that way. I have no idea why this happens, or what to do about it. My apologies.

2008-01-06 22:40:46 Robert Spencer


Thanks. Not sure about the footnotes. I’ll ask Bryan. You mean for all the references to Qur’an verses, etc.? I have put them in the text and made them clickable so that people can see immediately what the verse actually says, so as to follow along better as well as to verify the accuracy of my paraphrase.

I certainly won’t drop you. My plan is to finish this thing in a year or so, see if someone will publish it, and write a book (“The Infidel’s Guide to the Koran”), which has already been accepted by a publisher, that will be loosely based on these posts but will be organized thematically and be directed toward explaining what the Qur’an says about this and that, and what it doesn’t say, rather than going through it passage-by-passage.

2008-01-06 22:38:54 Robert Spencer

That last comment, obviously, is for everyone, not just the esteemed Texas Dan.

Thanks again for any input. I realize this isn’t standard breezy Hot Air fare, and so let me know what I can improve about it.

2008-01-06 20:22:48 Robert Spencer

Texas Dan:

At the risk of starting a 1000 comment snowball…

I myself wouldn’t mind a 1000 comment snowball. Perhaps this is a good time to ask:

1. Helllllooooo out there! Is anyone out there actually reading this thing?
2. If your answer to #1 is yes, do you find it helpful?
3. If your answer to #1 is no, why not?
4. What do you think I should change about it, short of dropping the whole project (which I do not intend to do as long as Michelle will have me here), that would make it more useful to you?

Thanks for any input.

2008-01-06 20:21:58 Robert Spencer


Why he would create human beings only to torture them in eternal fire is left unexplained.

Regardless of who fails to live up the the agreement, Man or God, the same question could be asked of Christian dogma as well.

Actually, no. All Christian sects make hell contingent upon one’s deeds in some way, except for strict Calvinists, who are the only ones aside from Muslims who actually teach that God creates people only to damn them. Whether or not you think hell could conceivably be justified based on one’s choices, that is a very different thing from arbitrarily sending someone to hell based on nothing he has done at all.

2008-01-06 20:19:11 Robert Spencer

Texas Dan:

Perhaps you covered it in your initial post and I’ve simply forgotten, but it might be instructive, Robert, if you included here the genesis of the actual recording of the Quran–what with the burning of all but the version kept under his daughter’s bed–and the incidences recorded in the hadiths of people remembering ayat which were either altered or omitted in the version that went forward.

Dan, I haven’t. Perhaps at the end of this whole thing. Things should quicken considerably now that we are past the first nine suras.

2008-01-06 20:16:39 Robert Spencer

Also, there is some evidence that he worked with scribes, because one of them, according to Islamic tradition, left him and renounced Islam after working with Muhammad as a scribe on the Qur’an for a time.

2008-01-06 20:15:36 Robert Spencer

The Big Old Dog:

Robert, is the Qur’an still considered to be such an eloquent, clear and precise text that it could only come from Allah? Did people marvel it its perfection? Do they still? Did the eloquence of the Qur’an account for any sizable portion of converts?

Yes to all questions.

Forgive me for not remembering exactly, but, iirc, Muhammad did not write the text right? So did he dictate it word by word to a scribe?

He would recite it and others would memorize it. Different people had different portions memorized.

2008-01-06 20:14:47 Robert Spencer

jackal and mram,

Thanks. I don’t know who Achmed the Dead Terrorist is. Some kind of comedy act, I guess? Pardon me for being obtuse, but I haven’t really been keeping up with pop culture since, oh, about 1981.

Anyway, I knew jackal’s question was some kind of a send-up, but didn’t know what kind, so I figured I’d answer it seriously and see if I found out that way. Anyway, thanks.

2007-12-31 01:30:21 Robert Spencer

the jackal,

What’s your game?

Just wondering. It isn’t clear.

2007-12-31 00:57:05 Robert Spencer


I suspect you’re trying to put us on, but I’ll answer anyway: that phrase does not appear in the Qur’an or Hadith, and I have never claimed that it does.

2007-12-30 23:01:25 Robert Spencer

Anyway, you see that 110 has no doctrinal content. Sura 9 is the Qur’an’s last and most authoritative (according to Islamic exegetes) word on jihad and Muslims’ relationship with non-Muslims.

2007-12-30 19:19:32 Robert Spencer

Infidel Pride:

No, not 114. Sura 110 comes after 9, and is, according to Islamic tradition, the last sura to have been revealed. Muhammad was in the midst of consolidating his power and was planning further expansion of his burgeoning empire — he had just ordered jihad warriors into the Byzantine holdings of Syria and Palestine — when he fell ill. According to Islamic tradition, he foresaw his end approaching. A few months before his final illness began he received one last, brief Qur’anic revelation, and he believed it was telling him to ask for Allah’s mercy in preparation for his own death: “When comes the help of Allah, and victory, and thou dost see the people enter Allah’s religion in crowds, celebrate the praises of thy Lord, and pray for His Forgiveness: for He is Oft-Returning (in Grace and Mercy)” (110:1-3).

Aisha said later that Muhammad told her: “Gabriel used to recite the Qur’an to me once a year and for this year it was twice and so I perceived that my death had drawn near.”

2007-12-30 19:07:12 Robert Spencer

Whatever happened
To Tuesday* and so slow
Going down the old mine
With a transistor radio
Standing in the sunlight laughing,
Hiding behind a rainbow’s wall,
Slipping and sliding
All along the water fall, with you
My Byzantine girl,
You my Byzantine girl.

*May 29, 1453.

2007-12-16 19:57:37 Robert Spencer

When you’re lost in the rain in Constantinople
And it’s Eastertime too
And your gravity fails
And negativity don’t pull you through
Don’t put on any airs
When you’re down on Rue Morgue Avenue
They got some Byzantine women there
And they really make a mess outa you

2007-12-16 18:17:21 Robert Spencer


Thanks. I hope to put it in print eventually, if any publisher wants it.

Muhammad didn’t say the statement in question. It comes from an unnamed Muslim.

And don’t knock Byzantine women!

2007-12-16 14:44:32 Robert Spencer


Well done as always, Robert! Thanks for the great incite!

I don’t know if you meant that or not, but since others have clearly meant it, I thought I’d pop in to say that I am not “inciting” anything. If they say their book holds the key to life, and they do, and this book contradicts what they’re saying they want to do, as it appears to do, then I don’t think it’s illegitimate in any way to ask them about it.

2007-12-14 21:25:21 Robert Spencer


Their own languages. Although historically, Arabic overtook and replaced those languages among the dhimmis.

2007-12-10 00:26:08 Robert Spencer

An important note I didn’t have room for above:

Islamic apologists in the West today commonly assert that 9:29 commands warfare only against the Jews and Christians who fought against Muhammad, and no others. I wish that every Muslim believed that, but unfortunately that has never been the mainstream Islamic understanding of this verse. Indeed, if it had been, the Pact of Umar, which I detail above, would never have been made — for it was made after Muhammad’s death with Christians against whom he did not fight. That in itself, as well as the teachings of all the schools of Islamic law, illustrates that this verse was always understood as having a universal application.

2007-12-09 14:02:38 Robert Spencer

Dude, why do you bother? This is an ideological purity test and you and I have already failed. Simple as that.

Allahpundit on December 4, 2007 at 9:03 PM

Is it really as simple as that? Or aren’t you now cartoonishly demagoguing what is at issue here?

2007-12-05 02:14:24 Robert Spencer

No, Vizz, none of that follows at all. We’re talking about an approach to getting a message across, that’s all.

2007-12-05 02:01:31 Robert Spencer

Vizz, none of what you’re saying amounts to anything more than that the Left will make hay with what it can make hay with — and they were doing that, as you yourself acknowledge in your answer, long before the advent of anonymous Internet critics. And ultimately, Baldilocks is right.

2007-12-05 01:39:32 Robert Spencer


Correct. And that is because any weapon will do. The fact that the Democrats have engaged in it also never would stop them from using it as a weapon. And if they don’t have this to use as a weapon, they’ll use something else. One reason why they use it as a weapon is because it was effective against them, and that is one way they can neutralize it. I do not believe we should let the Left’s approval set our agenda or approach, for we will never, ever have that approval.

2007-12-05 01:14:47 Robert Spencer


Yes. Would you mind explaining how you think the dynamic of a 30- or 60-second TV ad has changed since ’88?


2007-12-05 01:12:49 Robert Spencer

OK, the commercial puts the issue “crassly.” It is “bufoonish and demagogic.” Is any of it inaccurate? False? No, but that’s beside the point, because, you see, this sort of crass buffoonery will make it easier for the Left to dismiss the issue as a whole.

Got it. “Demagoguery” makes it easier to dismiss valid arguments, eh? Yet recent and not-so-recent history shows that ads that “Allahpundit” would certainly have defined as “demagoguery” were actually VERY effective in focusing public attention on a key issue and helping them grasp those valid arguments — and doing so in a minute or 30 seconds in a medium in which vividness of presentation is a non-negotiable requirement for getting attention.

Two examples that spring immediately to mind are Johnson’s daisy ad in 1964 and the GHW Bush Willie Horton ad in 1988. Johnson’s ad was a vile attack on Goldwater, but if “Allah’s” reasoning were correct, it would have led to a large Goldwater groundswell, as voters dismissed Johnson as buffoonish and demagogic. And the 88 one was even worse: vote for GHW Bush or your kid will get raped and murdered by a furloughed convict! That must have made millions turn to Dukakis and away from the cartoonish, crass Bush, no?

If what “Allah” is saying were true, Goldwater would have swamped Johnson in 1964 and Dukakis Bush in 1988, riding a groundswell of public indignation over these cartoonish, buffoonish, demagogic ads.

Now, Tancredo won’t ever be President, but this ad, if it gets wide exposure, will focus attention on the immigration issue in a way that will make it hard for the eventual GOP nominee to ignore it. And it will be more effective for its vividness, its simplicity, and its focus — precisely the things for which it is denigrated here.

2007-12-05 01:02:24 Robert Spencer

locomotive breath:

Is Sura 9 v 29 viewed by (sensible?) modern muslims as a revelation specific for its time or as a perpetual, literal command that applies through the ages?

Many Muslims in the West say that 9:29 was specific for its time, and has no relevance for the modern world. Unfortunately, this is not a mainstream view. Muhammad’s first biographer, Ibn Ishaq, explains the contexts of various verses of the Qur’an by saying that Muhammad received revelations about warfare in three stages: first, tolerance; then, defensive warfare; and finally, offensive warfare in order to convert the unbelievers to Islam or make them pay the jizya. Ibn Kathir, Ibn Juzayy, As-Suyuti and others also emphasize that Surat At-Tawba abrogates every peace treaty in the Qur’an. There will be more on this next week.

In the modern age, this idea of stages of development in the Qur’an’s teaching on jihad, culminating in offensive warfare to establish the hegemony of Islamic law, has been affirmed by the jihad theorists Sayyid Qutb and Syed Abul Ala Maududi, as well as by the Pakistani Brigadier S. K. Malik (author of “The Qur’anic Concept of War,” a book that carries the endorsement of General Zia himself), Saudi Chief Justice Sheikh Abdullah bin Muhammad bin Humaid (in his “Jihad in the Qur’an and Sunnah”), and others.

2007-12-03 11:12:29 Robert Spencer


Some apologists argue that it is fair for Dhimmis to pay the jizya because they do not have to pay zakat. I have two questions about this:

1. Are the two equal?
2. Are these funds (jizya and zakat) ever equitably distributed among the Dhimmis and Muslims, or are Dhimmis limited or excluded from receiving charity benefits?

1. I have often encountered, in person and on radio shows, Muslims who claim that the jizya, the special tax required of non-Muslim dhimmis under Islamic law, was actually less than zakat, the Muslim obligation of charitable giving. This is patently absurd on the face of it, of course, since innumerable respected historians (including A.S. Tritton, Maxime Rodinson, and Bat Ye’or) have noted that it was money from the dhimmis, not from Muslims, that financed the early Islamic empires; indeed, Muslims paid nothing at all into the state treasury in the days when there were large populations (i.e., in Egypt and Syria) of conquered dhimmi Christians. Rodinson even points out in his biography of Muhammad that at certain times conversions to Islam were forbidden, as they were destroying the tax base! If the jizya had really been less than zakat, human nature being what it is, we would have seen large-scale conversions of Muslims to Christianity in the great Islamic empires — but of course we don’t, because who would want to exchange the position of the dominator for that of the dominated?

For non-Muslims in Muslim societies, there was not just jizya, but kharaj, the land tax. Tritton in The Caliphs and Their Non-Muslim Subjects equates the two: “Hafs, another governor of Egypt, announced that all dhimmis who abandoned their religion would be free from kharaj, which is jizya” (pp. 35-6). It is important to remember the two names because while the jizya was generally set at a fixed amount by the jurists (although this was highly adjustable), the kharaj was another matter. In the Hedaya, an Islamic legal manual, in a discussion about the purchase of land by a dhimmi, it declares: “it is lawful to require twice as much of a Zimmee [dhimmi] as of a Mussulman [Muslim], whence it is that, if such an one were to come before the collector with merchandise, twice as much would be exacted of him as of a Mussulman” (Hedaya I.vi).

Then there is this, from A. Ben Shemesh, Taxation in Islam Volume II, Qudama b. Ja’far’s Kitab Al-Kharaj:

The voluntary character of the zakat contribution as a religious duty is emphasized by Qudama in the beginning of Chapter Thirteen, where he states that Muslims are trusted with the declaration of what is due from them, in contradistinction to other taxes which are compulsory and pursuable. The Saudi law by charging Muslims with this religious tax is following the old precepts who lay down that the rate of the tax is fixed in accordance with the persons from whom it is collected, i.e., from a Merchant of a foreign country 10 per cent, from a merchant of an allied country 5 per cent, and from a Muslim 2.5 per cent.

And this:

There is a desire to equate Zakat with Jiziyah to emphasize the fairness of the Islamic fiscal system. The Muslims pay Zakat and the non-Muslims Jiziyah. But the analogy is fallacious. The rate of Zakat tax is as low as 2.5 per cent and that on the apparent property only. All kinds of concessions are given in Zakat with regard to nisah or taxable minimum. In its collection no force is applied because force vitiates its character. On the other hand, the rate of Jiziyah is very high for the non-Muslims- 48, 24, and 12 silver tankahs for the rich, the middling and the poor, whatever the currency and whichever the country. Besides, what is central to Jiziyah is the humiliation of infidel always, particularly at the time of collection. What is central in Zakat is that it is voluntary; at least it cannot be collected by force. In India Zakat ceased to be a religious tax imposed only on the Muslims. Here Zakat was levied in the shape of customs duties on merchandise and grazing fee on all milk-producing animals or those which went to pasture, and was realized both from Muslims and non-Muslims. According to the Islamic law, ‘import duties for Muslims were 5 per cent and for non-Muslims 10 per cent of the commodity’. For, Abu Hanifa, whose Sunni school of law prevailed in India, would tax the merchandise of the Zimmis as imposts at double the Zakat fixed for Muslims.

That’s from K.S. Lal, Theory and Practice of the Muslim State in India, pp. 139-140.

Note that both the above quotes feature Islamic authorities figuring the jizya at double the rate of zakat, as per The Hedaya.

2. Zakat, according to traditional Islamic law, can only be distributed to Muslims.

2007-12-02 19:48:49 Robert Spencer


Fair enough. All I mean to say is that they were not chattel. They did not have the status of property.

2007-12-02 19:13:14 Robert Spencer


Are there other parts of the Koran that I can look forward to that abrogate text like Chapter 9 Verse 29 or are there popular traditions that disavow parts of the Koran that are similar (apologies in advance if this question has been answered in previous posts in the series)?

I know of no Islamic school that teaches that 9:29 is abrogated by any other passage.

As for abrogation in general, you may find the piece linked above useful.

2007-12-02 18:50:34 Robert Spencer


It occurs to me that the “rules” governing the treatment of the Dhimmis within the Dar al Islam and the overarching importance of the Ummah in the Islamic mind would point to the Dhimmis being slaves to the Ummah, rather than slaves belonging to any one individual. Is this accurate?

Yes, insofar as they are subject to the Ummah as a whole, but the dhimmis were not precisely slaves. Their lives and property were subject to the whim of the Muslims, but they could and did in many places live essentially independent lives within the bounds of the rules of dhimmitude, not lives of slaves as such.

2007-12-02 18:48:58 Robert Spencer


I do believe however, that you are keenly aware of the dangers of “going against the grain” and therefore refuse to put your name behind critical study of other, more dominant, religions.

Other, more dominant religions? You’re serious, I’m sure, but are you aware of how many Muslims there are in the world, and how many Jews? Of how many nations are members of the OIC, and how many Jewish states there are? Are you aware of how many countries are likely to become Islamic in the coming decades, as opposed to how many are likely to become Jewish?

You are clearly serious. But in reality you aren’t.

2007-11-27 07:25:02 Robert Spencer


Sure. For one thing, the idea that non-Jews aren’t allowed into synagogues. As a non-Jews who has been in many synagogues, I know from personal experience that this is absolutely false.

More seriously is your contention that there is in Judaism, or in the Torah at least, an “open call for the extermination of all non-Jews.”

Finally, there is your personal imputation, that I am writing about Islam and not about Judaism not because one is used by violent people around the world to justify violence and the other isn’t, but because of an eye toward personal gain. I have many personal faults, assuredly, but if I were after personal gain, I could get it in easier ways than writing about Islamic jihad.

There are others, but that’s enough.

2007-11-27 01:12:43 Robert Spencer

Shy Guy:

Thanks again. Especially for calling this guy on his claim of the moral high ground after the scurrilous and baseless charges he has made.

I’d love to come back. Get someone to invite me!

2007-11-26 19:10:17 Robert Spencer


I wasn’t going to do this, but just one thing: I’m afraid to speak out about Judaism because accusations of antisemitism could end my career?

Besides the personally insulting aspect of this, it is arrant, paranoid rubbish. Ever heard of Pat Buchanan? Robert Novak? Walt and Mearsheimer? Jimmy Carter? Somehow accusations of anti-Semitism haven’t hurt them, or others like them, one bit.

Now you want a career ender? Try speaking out about the aspects of Islam that jihadists are using to incite violence and gain recruits among peaceful Muslims. Seen me on the major networks, or even Fox, lately?

2007-11-26 18:30:35 Robert Spencer


Thanks. I was not going to engage these ridiculous false charges about Judaism from KMC1 any longer, but I’m grateful for your clearing the air.

2007-11-26 13:30:05 Robert Spencer


Robert, is it true that Islam is more or less designed to be (Structured around being) a state religion?

Historically, yes, ever since the Hijra.

Thus, Al-Qaeda is an aberration; not in terms of what their scripture teaches, but in terms of the totality of Islam?

I wouldn’t say an aberration so much as a revivalist movement. Al-Qaeda and other jihad groups point to the abolition of the caliphate by the secular Turkish government in 1924 — the symbolic demise of political Islam — as the beginning of the troubles of the modern umma. They are trying to end those troubles by restoring the caliphate and the purity of Islam.

Do you think a Western heretical philosophy (since Islam is an amalgam, for the most part, of heretical philosophies) is responsible for the emergence of Jihad writ large? I.e. that Islam has had its ‘restorationist’ movement and this is it?

Well, Wahhab was a reformer, and this is certainly a restorationist movement. What that has to do with Western heretical philosophy, I do not know.

2007-11-26 10:35:52 Robert Spencer

KMC1: I don’t think the mass deaths of the American Indians is what is in dispute. What is in dispute is whether there was any actual genocidal intent, and whether that intent, if it existed, was animated by any authentic Christian doctrines.

HeIs Sailing:

Is there any place in the Qur’an where unbelievers are lumped in with such abominations as ‘feces, urine, dogs and pigs’?

9:28 — which identifies unbelievers as unclean, thus placing them in the same category as other unclean things.

2007-11-26 03:24:34 Robert Spencer


In broad, general terms, religion has caused incomprehensible harm for more than ten millenia, so how does Islam in particular compare to other religions?

There is no simple answer to this that I am able to give in this comments field. I’ve written a book about it, which I hope you’ll pardon me for recommending to you: Religion of Peace?. In it I contend, contrary to some of the assumptions you appear to be making, that while people have done evil in the name of every belief system, not every system of beliefs and practices that goes by the name of “religion” is equal in its effects to everything else that goes by that name, and all should not be lumped together. I invite you to read the book with an open mind.

Am I to fear or worry about Islam more than say, Judaism?


If so, why?

Because Islam has a doctrine, theology, and legal system mandating warfare against and the subjugation of unbelievers. Judaism does not. Because there are armed Islamic groups around the world today committing violent acts in the name of those doctrines. There are no such groups of Jews in countries around the world.

If atrocities have been carried out in the name of Allah, Christ, Hinduism, any number of Pharaohs, Caesars, etc. Then how can you justify singling out Islam over all the other religions?

In part because there are armed Islamic groups around the world today committing violent acts in the name of Islam’s supremacist doctrines. There are no such groups of Christians or Hindus committing violence today and justifying it on the basis of Christian or Hindu teaching. The Christians who committed violence in the past did not and could not point to the words of Christ to justify those acts of violence. Thus the possibility for reform was there. In Islam today, all too many Muslims are committing violence in the name of Islam and justifying it by reference to Islamic scripture. Muslims and non-Muslims of good will need to confront that fact, acknowledge the existence of Islamic supremacist teachings, and work to reform them.

I would like to see you begin dissecting Judaism the same way that you are Islam, in order to put your research into a context.

Sorry. This is not going to happen. But I invite you again to look at my book comparing various aspects of Christianity and Islam.

I would like to see Judaism and Islam compared, to help us who are not allowed into a Synagogue understand the two of them, in the context of each other.

I am not Jewish myself, but I have attended synagogue worship. Nobody ever said I was not welcome. Where were you not allowed into a synagogue? Islam forbids non-Muslims to attend Islamic worship, but as far as I know Judaism does not, or at very least this law is commonly ignored.

The little I do know of Judaism, it seems to have much in common with Islam and many of the basic tenents of the Muslim life style. The treatment of women, the views on marriage, the xenophobia and racism, many of the underpinnings for Islam that we are told to fear, are common themes for each religion.

I’m sorry, but from what I know of Judaism I don’t believe this is remotely the case. For example, I don’t think you’ll find anything in Judaism comparable to the notorious “wife-beating” verse in the Qur’an, 4:34.

I think it would help if you could start a “Blogging the Tanakh and Talmud” in conjuction with “Blogging the Qur’an”. It would be great if you could also do the same for Christianity. I feel you are meticulous in your research and presentation, but since many of us are already somewhat familiar with the Bible and it would be a HUGE workload for you to take on to do all three, (I’m guessing) a focus on the two would be a real eye-opener for all of us, I’m sure.

As I said, it’s not going to happen. And the bottom line is that it’s irrelevant. The Q-Blog explores the Qur’an. The Qur’an says what it says regardless of what Judaism and Christianity teach. One doesn’t need to know anything about Judaism and Christianity in order to explore the teachings of the Qur’an. Also, Judaism and Christianity may for the sake of argument be granted to be the worst belief-systems in human history, and that would tell us nothing one way or the other about what Islam teaches or what the significance of those teachings might be for non-Muslims.

2007-11-25 19:32:08 Robert Spencer

Infidel Pride:

Yes, it means unclean, but it does give the connotation of contaminated or polluted — especially in Shi’ite contexts. At one point in Iran, for example, Jews were forbidden to go out in the rain, for if rainwater splashed from them onto a nearby Muslim, the Muslim would be rendered unclean. There is, in short, nothing innocuous about this designation.

2007-11-25 19:13:09 Robert Spencer


Please blame me, not Hot Air. That is a photo of the Ayatollah Sistani, who is mentioned in this week’s Q-Blog. I suggested to Bryan that that photo be used, and even sent it to him.


Well, first off because he is mentioned in the Q-Blog, in connection with verse 28, which declares unbelievers unclean. He himself holds the view that unbelievers are unclean, as the link to his website above demonstrates. Perhaps I failed to draw out adequately the implications of this. It isn’t just a ritual or religious concept. Those who are considered unclean can never be accorded the full rights of citizens in an Islamic state. Thus Sistani’s view bodes ill for Iraqi Christians, over half of whom have now left the country because of persecution at the hands of others who likewise considered them unclean. (Some are, most certainly, returning now.)

Please look around Sistani’s website. I have long contended that there is no indication that he supported the democracy project out of some deeply held Jeffersonianism, but solely because the Shia have an absolute majority in Iraq, and he saw one-man one-vote as a chance for the Shia to gain political power in Iraq — political power they had long been denied. He refused on several occasions to meet with Paul Bremer — I suspect in part because of his views on the uncleanliness of infidels.

Sistani has been quite silent since late 2006. If he would speak up and declare his opposition to the rule of Islamic law in Iraq, it would be clear that he really does want to see a Western-style democracy there. But up to this point he has never made that clear in any way.

Anyway, I hope this thread doesn’t turn into a discussion of Iraq and Iraq policy. Sistani’s picture is up there because of his lumping unbelievers in with pigs and feces — which he does undeniably, and the link to his website where he does it is provided above. That is the only reason why his picture is there.

2007-11-25 13:36:15 Robert Spencer

MB4 and aengus:

My apologies. I hear with mind-numbing frequency from “Christianity and Islam are morally equivalent” types, and so assumed you were arguing more of the same.

2007-11-19 02:47:43 Robert Spencer


Please see my questions to MB4 above.

2007-11-18 22:44:17 Robert Spencer


Did you get that quote out of my book The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades)? You might be interested in my discussion of it there, or in my book Religion of Peace?, which discusses at greater length and detail what you are trying to do here: assert that Christianity and Islam are equally likely to incite believers to religious violence.

People present quotes like these to me about ten times a day, and I never have quite grasped the thought process behind doing so. Are you suggesting that I don’t know or don’t want others to know that Christians have committed violence in the name of their religion? That would be absurd, since I’ve now written two books (the ones mentioned above) about various aspects and implications of that fact.

Or is your point that because Christians committed violence in the name of their religion in the past, therefore Muslims are somehow excused for doing so today? Does the use of Christian Scripture for bad purposes in the past free peaceful Muslims and non-Muslims of good will from any obligation to confront the use of Islamic Scripture for bad purposes today?

But you’ll note in any case that Urban II didn’t actually point to any Christian Scripture that mandated warfare against unbelievers, so his words aren’t really the equivalent of the Qur’anic passages discussed in this week’s Q-Blog.

Or do you mean something else?

2007-11-18 22:43:43 Robert Spencer


Other than converting more people and control of the large amount of wealth that came with incorporating the journey to Mecca into islam, is there any other reasons Muhammad chose to do so?

The principal reason seems to be that Muhammad very much wanted to win over the Quraysh. He was, after all, of the Quraysh himself. By incorporating the Shrine and the pilgrimage into Islam — and Islamizing the rest of Arabia — he guaranteed that conversion to Islam would not destroy the Quraysh economically.

2007-11-18 22:33:06 Robert Spencer


How do Muslims incorporate verse 6 in these days of electronic communications?

The era of easy international travel and communications has disrupted many traditional understandings — and not just among Muslims, of course. The modern application of this verse is further complicated by the fact that most Muslim states do not implement Sharia in its fullness. In Saudi Arabia, a strict Sharia state, non-Muslims are allowed to live and work as long as they do not practice their religions (which restriction comes from Muhammad’s commands for Arabia) — they are there, of course, to perform “business transactions,” which is one thing Ibn Kathir allows for.

2007-11-18 22:30:25 Robert Spencer


There are no guarantees, but I am unaware of any actual threats being made to my publisher, or to the publishers of the works of I.W. and C.L.

2007-11-12 16:41:19 Robert Spencer


Not that I know of, although Ibn Warraq is doing work in this area. His forthcoming book, “Which Koran?”, is not to be missed.

2007-11-12 16:26:21 Robert Spencer

Western White Boy:

(aka HeIsSailing):

Even if you don’t understand it, try listening to it in Arabic. Listen to the rhythm of it, the music of it. There is no doubt whatsoever that it is beguiling, and that much of its appeal lies in this.

2007-11-11 20:58:46 Robert Spencer


Yes. C.L. is not his real name. You get the idea.

2007-11-11 20:51:31 Robert Spencer


1. Surah 8 has only 75 verses and Surah 9 has 129. If the Quran is sorted longest to shortest from Surah 2 onwards, why is this an exception? Is Surah 9 considered a continuation of surah 8, which is one explanation as to why it doesn’t start with ‘Bismillah ar-Rahman ar-Rahim’?

Yes. And together they have 204 verses, which would make 8+9 one of the seven long suras that begin the Qur’an, and explain its placement.

2. Is 9:5 the only verse that deals with non ‘people-of-the-book’ or mushrikun/pagans, such as Buddhists, Animists, Hindus, et al? (Also, are Zoroastrians considered pagans or people of the book?)

No, there are others, as we shall see. And Zoroastrians are People of the Book.

[Somehow, 9:5 was the first surah I ever heard of even before I knew about the contents of the Quran.

Quibble: 9:5 is an ayah, not a surah.

It was widely used to demonstrate what the Quran prescribes to be done to Hindus and other non-Christians/Jews.] Also, if Jews are people of the book, why is the ‘blood-money’ for them in Saudi Arabia non existant, whereas even for Hindus, it’s a meager, but actual amount? Is it simply the fact that there are 0.9b Hindus, as opposed to 12m Jews worldwide?

Jews are not allowed into Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is a special case, because of the ahadith in which Muhammad says he will expel the Jews and Christians from the Arabian peninsula. Also, the blood money is not the same thing as the jizya.

2007-11-11 20:27:00 Robert Spencer


Re Qur’an variants, see here:


2007-11-11 20:23:19 Robert Spencer


I was surprised at how powerful the Quran, well at least this section of it, is.

Interesting exercise. Did you recite it in English or Arabic? Arabic mp3s of Qur’anic recitation are readily available on the Net, and I do encourage those who are interested to seek them out. I do find it very powerful when recited in Arabic. Almost 20 years ago I used to frequent the Ukrainian bars in lower Manhattan with a hafiz who would chant Qur’an in Arabic at our table as we drank. No blasphemy or offense was intended, although I’m sure it would have been taken had what he was doing been understood. In any case, I loved the sound of it then, and thereafter, meaning aside.

2007-11-11 20:20:15 Robert Spencer


Even with that qualifier, it does seem to me that 9:1,5 and 2:190 contradict each other, and Islamic theologians harmonize one verse with the other – which verse depending on how militant the Muslim is. Ibn Kathir, for instance, seems far more militant than Asad.

Ain’t no doubt about that a-tall. Asad, aka Leopold Weiss, was a 20th century convert from Judaism whose commentary seems intent on blunting the Qur’an’s rough edges. That doesn’t mean it isn’t a legitimate position — it just is what it is.

2007-11-11 20:17:06 Robert Spencer


Mr Spencer, is there any possibility that Mohammed did not write Sura 9, but was instead written later by a militant disciple?

It’s possible. It’s also possible that he didn’t write any of the Qur’an. It’s possible that he never existed. The historical data is very, very sketchy, with the first biography of Muhammad appearing 150 years after his death. Christoph Luxenberg and other scholars are doing some fascinating work in this field.

2007-11-11 20:15:29 Robert Spencer


Is zakat enforced in nations under sharia law? And if so, how?

Some Muslim states, including some that don’t enforce Sharia in its fullness collect it. Usually it’s 2.5%.

2007-11-11 20:13:58 Robert Spencer


Robert, why is it that I never see you on the network Sunday talk shows?

Uh, is it because they’re produced by the clueless, the collaborationists and the dhimmis? Is this a test?

2007-11-11 20:12:32 Robert Spencer

locomotive breath 1901

Is there any information on who these ancients might be that told the tales?

Most likely this is how the Jews and Christians of Arabia responded when Muhammad retold Bible stories.

And, when was the mosque in mecca built, and by whom?

The reference in sura 8 is to the Ka’ba, which was at the time still a pagan shrine. According to legend it was built by Abraham and Ishmael.

Had the muslim religion been around long enough to have such a structure built and then barricaded by the quraysh?

No. It was not a Muslim house of worship at that time.

2007-11-05 02:12:32 Robert Spencer


I don’t see any disagreement between what I said about 8:39 and what I said about 2:193. What difference do you see?

I intend to go through the entire Qur’an, but that’s it. There are many, many volumes of Hadith. It would take decades to go through it all. This will take long enough as it is, and I’m grateful to Michelle Malkin and all at Hot Air for hosting it as long as they already have, and for as long as the Qur’an will take.

2007-11-05 01:41:34 Robert Spencer

Thanks to all. I appreciate it. I do wonder sometimes if anyone is actually reading this, or finds it all as fascinating as I do. Maybe I should stick with the former and give up on the latter!

Anyway, Zane, Muhammad did not die an extraordinarily wealthy man. According to the traditions, he had devoted his resources to jihad.

2007-11-04 19:43:21 Robert Spencer

Tim Burton,

What do I say about what to do with Mecca?

2007-10-30 15:37:33 Robert Spencer

Oh, and by the way, Jason Mattera has no need to say a thing about this. He is with the Young America’s Foundation, not the Young Americans for Freedom, who invited Griffin to speak.

2007-10-30 12:08:14 Robert Spencer

I have already stated a couple of times at Jihad Watch that I was not involved in the planning of the Counterjihad Summit, and that I didn’t know all the other participants. The real motives and loyalties of some of them are, obviously, hotly contested. There was no racist or neo-Nazi content to the conference, and if there were any actual racists or neo-Nazis involved, I repudiate and disavow them and everything they stand for.

2007-10-30 11:41:31 Robert Spencer


Was curious: How are the words or concepts of al-Anfal and ghanimah related or differentiated? (I had read somewhere before that the word “ghanimah” meant booty or spoils.)

In the Qur’an and Sunnah, the words anfal, ghanimah and fai’ are all used for the spoils of war or booty taken from the unbelievers in jihad warfare.

2007-10-29 00:27:34 Robert Spencer



In regards to the first part where Muhammed gets revenge against the people who rejected him, do you see a parallel between this event and Osama Bin Laden’s quest to destroy the Saudi government?

I think it certain that Osama regards Muhammad as a model for emulation, and takes that very seriously.

2007-10-29 00:13:59 Robert Spencer


They point to the Western historical criticism of the Bible, and say, See? Even Christian scholars admit that the Bible has been corrupted.

2007-10-21 23:06:37 Robert Spencer


No, they strongly reject the idea that Jesus was divine. Read the Qur’an blogs on suras 4 and 5, and you’ll see much discussion of this.

2007-10-21 22:25:55 Robert Spencer


Question: Is mohammed’s illiteracy, ignorance & perceived insanity veiwed as a divine sign by muslims for his ‘chosen’ status as the last (and greatest) prophet?

And where might this reference to mohammed be found in either the christian or jewish books?

1. Yes. At least as regarding his illiteracy. That is put forward as proof that he couldn’t have written this sublime poetry, the Qur’an.

2. There is no reference to Muhammad in Jewish or Christian books — which leads to the Muslim charge that Jews and Christians have corrupted those books.

2007-10-21 22:01:58 Robert Spencer


That’s my take on it. Christians are basically fools who fell for a false prophet in Jesus, but Jews are the worst because they won’t listen to anybody, and both Christians and Muslims can criticize them for that refusal to believe.

Muslims don’t believe Jesus was a false prophet. They believe he was an Islamic prophet whose teachings were corrupted by his followers.

2007-10-21 21:59:48 Robert Spencer


If Mohammed wasn’t a messenger of God, what was he?

We all know the answer, but we are afraid to say it, aren’t we?

Clearly you have something in mind, and I believe I know what it is, but it is not the sole and inescapable conclusion. In fact, Johannes Jansen, Christoph Luxenberg and other scholars suspect he never existed at all, but was created to justify Arab imperialism.

I myself suspect he did, as I don’t see why incidents that have always embarrassed Muslims — particularly Muhammad’s marriage to his daughter-in-law — would ever have been invented if they had not been based on an actual incident.

Opinions will differ.

2007-10-21 21:58:30 Robert Spencer


How do Muslims counter the argument that there were no Muslims prior to Muhammed? It seems like they would have to argue that every single person was failing to follow Islam correctly until the Prophet showed up, but that’s a pretty weak argument. What am I missing here?

They will argue, in line with the Qur’an, that there were Muslims before Muhammad: Jews and Christians who followed the authentic teachings of Moses and Jesus, and who became Muslim when Muhammad came along.

2007-10-21 21:55:57 Robert Spencer


If we are all born Muslim, and the treatment for apostates is execution…. what follows?

Nothing. Only males who apostatize after puberty are liable to a death sentence.

2007-10-21 21:54:46 Robert Spencer


1)I might be mistaken, but in an earlier lesson you pointed out that the muslims deny original sin and A & E’s fall from grace and expulsion from the garden, but Verses 19-25 recount the temptation of Adam and Eve, their sin, and their banishment from the garden. Can you clarify, please?

No, no, quite obviously they don’t deny Adam and Eve’s temptation and sin and banishment. They just deny that their sin has anything to do with anyone else — i.e., they deny original sin, the idea that the decision of our first parents has placed the world in a condition of separation from God from which all suffer.

2007-10-14 20:31:38 Robert Spencer


What I want is a resource that shows the linkage from where Mo stole stuff and brought it into this idiot book. Some I can see for myself, but others not.

I don’t endorse your language, but in any case you may find this interesting:

The Sources of the Qur’an by W. St. Clair Tisdall.

2007-10-14 19:07:28 Robert Spencer


What tradition does verse 74 come from?

(Remember) when Abraham said unto his father Azar: Takest thou idols for gods? Lo! I see thee and thy folk in error manifest.

As astute Bible students know, Terah is the father of Abraham according to the Hebrew tradition in Genesis. This conversation does not exist in Genesis either. Does this come from some other tradition lost to antiquity, or does it originate here in the Quran? The verse seems to imply that this fact is already known to the readers.

There are stories in the rabbinic tradition of Abraham having conversations like this with his father Terah. The name Azar seems to be a garbled version of Eleazar, Abraham’s servant, whom Muhammad evidently confused with his father.

2007-09-30 22:03:17 Robert Spencer


Would you not kill if you thought not doing so would result in eternal damnation? I don’t know, I cannot put myself in those shoes. It is so alien to my thinking that I cannot easily put myself in that situation. But this is the ultimate problem that faces the world gripped in Islamic terror, and I think the prime motivator is the threat of eternal Fire and unforgivable sins. If Allah was dangling me, my family, all I knew and understood over the Fires of Hell, what would I do – what would any of us do?

Now you coming to the point of why I am writing this series. If we don’t understand how those who oppose us think, we will never, ever be able to formulate some way to thwart their plans to conquer and subjugate us.

2007-09-30 22:01:47 Robert Spencer


Robert, can you expand on V 77. What’s the significance? Why is the crescent moon a symbol of Islam? What’s the connection?

The crescent moon is an Ottoman imperial symbol that over time came to be associated with Islam as a whole. The crescent moon is waxing, you see — as Islam is expanding until it encompasses the whole world. The color green is the Islamic color for the same reason: it is the color of spring, of growth, of expansion.

2007-09-30 21:58:05 Robert Spencer


Actually v. 77 is saying just the opposite: not “the moon is my Lord,” but “the moon is NOT my Lord.” This is a separate question from whether or not Allah is a pre-Islamic god, but there is no doubt that in the Islamic conception Allah is greater than the moon.

2007-09-30 21:56:22 Robert Spencer


Yes, I did, and I forgot to wear my dark glasses and red fright wig. Next time, say hello!


2007-09-18 19:05:53 Robert Spencer


The Qur’an does represent the divisions among Christians as a result of the divine displeasure, and I have spoken with Muslims who have insisted that the unity among Muslims is a manifestation of the divine favor — they brush aside the Sunni/Shi’ite split as minor and irrelevant. (This was, of course, 1980 or 1981, when that split was not in the daily headlines.)

Anyway, according to a hadith, Muhammad anticipated divisions among Muslims:

The Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) said: The Jews were split up into seventy-one or seventy-two sects; and the Christians were split up into seventy one or seventy-two sects; and my community will be split up into seventy-three sects.

2007-09-17 12:29:28 Robert Spencer


How would I respond to that? By asking you to look at the segments of the Blogging the Qur’an series so far. Note that I am not offering my own interpretation of the various Qur’anic passages, but merely reporting on how various Muslim commentators, including on occasion Muhammad Asad, interpret them.

People like your letter-writer continually ignore this and try to give the impression that I am creating my own negative interpretations through selectivity. Well, every segment has contained multiple links, not only to the Qur’an but to online Islamic tafasir — Qur’an commentaries. Check the links and judge for yourself whether I am misusing the material.

That also is how the books by Asad and Reza Aslan should be judged: do they accurately and fully portray the reality of Islamic belief as Muslims themselves do in other contexts, particularly when they are speaking to other Muslims? I don’t think they do, but here again: judge for yourself.

All my work is transparent. About five times a day I get emails from Muslims and allies of the jihadists, telling me my work is full of errors, lies, etc. I always ask the letter writers to point out, please, even one error of fact, one misrepresentation of the Islamic texts, one lie. They never have. I invite anyone reading this to check the texts also and see for yourself whether or not what I am saying is true.

2007-09-17 12:25:27 Robert Spencer

Infidel Pride:

No, you’re not wrong.


Yes, Allah always refers to himself as “We” in the Qur’an, but Muslim exegetes insist it is just a royal “We,” consistent with the strictness of Islamic monotheism, and is no reflection of the Trinity.

2007-09-17 04:20:39 Robert Spencer


The Ummah of Muhammad is immune from error when they all agree on something, a miracle that serves to increase their honor, due to the greatness of their Prophet. …

Mr Spencer, Does this also explain one reason why there is such hostility between shiite and sunni, with regards to prophetic inheritance after Muhammed’s death?

To some degree, insofar as the opposing group is seen as holdouts to consensus. Although if the opposing group is classified as heretical, as it often is, one can establish consensus anyway.

Allah will not forgive those who leave Islam twice

Really? Jesus once told Peter to forgive wrongdoers seventy times seven times. But that is usually not taken as a literal number, but as a way of saying ‘forgive continually’. Is leaving the faith twice taken literally here? It seems to me more a way of saying, “If you waffle in and out of the faith, wavering in your commitment to Allah, well, forget it, Allah will not honor that.” How is this passage usually interpreted?

Says Ibn Kathir: “Allah states that whoever embraces the faith, reverts from it, embraces it again, reverts from it and remains on disbelief and increases in it until death, then he will never have a chance to gain accepted repentance after death. Nor will Allah forgive him, or deliver him from his plight to the path of correct guidance.”


We have sent thee inspiration, as We sent it to Noah and the Messengers after him: we sent inspiration to Abraham, Isma’il, Isaac, Jacob and the Tribes, to Jesus, Job, Jonah, Aaron, and solomon, and to David We gave the Psalms.

Mr Spencer, are all these biblical characters considered ‘prophets’ in Islam? If Jesus was revered as a prophet, what does Islam teach about him specifically? So far, all we have learned is that he somehow escaped crucifiction. What else does Islam teach about Jesus and his teachings? For instance, would Islam revere Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount?

Yes, these are Islamic prophets. The views of Jesus’ teachings vary widely. Many Islamic spokesmen have quoted the New Testament, referencing sayings of Jesus, without getting into questions of the corruption of the Scriptures etc. Then there are many sayings of Jesus in Islamic tradition. You may be interested in checking out The Muslim Jesus: Sayings and Stories in Islamic Literature by Tarif Khalidi.

Mr Spencer, One more question. V171 is powerful. It in no uncertain terms says that Jesus is in no way the Son of Allah, and that Allah is one God. But, it also says that Jesus is Messiah. You also stated in your essay that Muhammed declared that Jesus will return to Earth someday to Islamicise the world. Does Islam currently teach that Jesus, while not God’s son, was still a Messiah figure of some kind who will return again to Earth in judgement?

There are varying explanations of Al-Masih (Messiah) in Islamic tradition. They usually have to do with the giving of Jesus some appellation or designation that is distinctive but doesn’t amount to how Christians see the Messiah. Islam’s current teachings are in line with Muhammad’s statements.

Thanks again for your effort.

HeIsSailing on September 9, 2007 at 12:33 PM

2007-09-10 15:43:52 Robert Spencer


Robert, to whom does v114 refer to, and what is meant by ’secrecy’? I am having trouble putting this in any kind of context:

In most of their secret talks there is no good: But if one exhorts to a deed of charity or justice or conciliation between men, (Secrecy is permissible)…

Generally it is understood as referring to lying. This means that if it is done for a good purpose, it is allowed. Muhammad allowed for lying in war, in reconciling people, and between a husband and a wife.

2007-09-10 14:34:20 Robert Spencer


I guess what I’m looking for is anything that might equate to “turn the other cheek”.

You will look in vain.

“Muhammad is the apostle of Allah. Those who follow him are merciful to one another but ruthless to the unbelievers.” (Qur’an 48:29)

2007-09-03 12:56:32 Robert Spencer


Is there anyplace in the Qur’an that defines the form that a Jihad should take or is any method of attack permissible?

There is wide latitude:

“Against them make ready your strength to the utmost of your power, including steeds of war, to strike terror into (the hearts of) the enemies, of Allah and your enemies, and others besides, whom ye may not know, but whom Allah doth know.” — Qur’an 8:60

2007-09-02 21:48:38 Robert Spencer

LocomotiveBreath1901, HeIsSailing, Maxx,

Epistemology of God and His Providence? Soteriology?

Yes, but probably not in the way you might expect. Sura 18 tells a fantastic story that is the foundation of Sufi mysticism. The later suras are full of arresting images, but they are mostly just warnings of the impending Judgment.

Of course, at this rate, it will be awhile before we get to either. I am going at the rate I’m going because I believe there is pertinent material that needs to be brought out in these early Suras, but they are more concerned with laws than later ones.

2007-08-27 12:21:52 Robert Spencer


Re representations of any living being being prohibited in Islamic law: Sho nuf.

2007-08-26 23:18:02 Robert Spencer


It’s written that these beatings are to be done after a warning. But is this “warning” frequently used?

No way to tell. No police are going around in Islamic countries issuing citations for “wife-beating without a prior warning.”

As for v. 29-33, where suicide is prohibited…and where Muslim scholars see suicide bombings as exempt since one is killing infidels…How can this be? If one is to murder the unbelievers, couldn’t one do it without killing one’s self in the process? It always seemed to me that someone wants to martyr themselves in the process…thereby pleasing Allah and taking the quick road to paradise.

I explained this above. If one’s intention is not to kill oneself but only to kill infidels, this is (by some scholars) not seen as suicide.

But I don’t see in the Koran where intentional suicide martyrdom is allowed, or am I missing something?

It is generally based on 9:111.

2007-08-26 20:41:08 Robert Spencer


Referencing v. 34, it seems different translations speak of very different punishments. To “beat” or to “chastise” seem worlds apart. Perhaps it’s been said here, but which is the most widely used translation of the Koran?

Ali’s and Pickthall’s are right up there. But I referenced the translations only to show how common the idea of a physical strike was. As I noted in the article, the Arabic is اضْرِبُوهُنََّ, idriboohunna. This is, literally, “strike them,” from the root daraba, strike or beat. Daraba can mean “go away from,” as Bakhtiar has it, only with the preposition 3an, عن, which does not appear in 4:34.

2007-08-26 20:38:55 Robert Spencer


-Why would playing chess be a major sin?

Because it absorbs the mind and distracts it from Allah and prayer.


-What does “making pictures” entail?

Drawing or painting a representation of the human form.

2007-08-26 20:29:25 Robert Spencer


Islam is in need of a reformation of thought, and the ancient writings of the Quran should be viewed in the time, place and culture that they were written.

Such a proposition directly contradicts the Islamic dogma that the Qur’an is a perfect, immutable book, valid for all times and places.

2007-08-26 20:26:34 Robert Spencer


My question is, how much blame do you place on the brutality of the Muslim world? On the Quran itself? Or on the theology and interpretations of the Muslim clerics and commentators?

Well, the Muslim clerics and commentators who justify violence frequently do so by reference to the text of the Qur’an. Is the way they use it right or wrong? Well, it makes headway among peaceful Muslims, and has not been definitively refuted by peaceful groups.

As for your other points, some commentators do take 4:30 as not referring to suicide at all, but as prohibiting the killing of fellow Muslims: in that case, “don’t kill yourselves” would refer not to suicide but to the killing of members of one’s own community. The point I was making in saying that some take it as prohibiting suicide but that other don’t see it as prohibiting suicide bombing was perhaps not stated clearly — this is, after all, the first segment of the Q-Blog I wrote in a hotel room in between talks, and I am quite sure it was poorly written in some spots.

What I meant was that those who, like Sheikh Qaradawi and others, see suicide bombing as a positive good do not see 4:30 as applying to it at all. This is because, as they see it, the suicide attacker is not exploding his bombs in order to kill himself: suicide is not his goal. He is doing what he is doing in order to kill infidels, and if he is killed in the process, he is a martyr, eligible for Allah’s guarantee of a place in Paradise for those who “kill and are killed” (9:111).

2007-08-26 20:25:00 Robert Spencer


Fundamentalists the world over share many characteristics, the most dangerous being justifications for giving someone else a beating, or worse.

Actually, Qur’an 4:34 would seem to be at rather direct variance with the ethos of the New Testament, which never directs anyone to beat anyone else.

This kind of thing is a focus of my book Religion of Peace?.

2007-08-26 20:16:08 Robert Spencer


Whoops. I see I left some things unanswered.

Also, is the Islamic law that states that if a woman is molested by her father-in-law, she becomes her husband’s mother – addressed in this chapter or another? As you may recall, this is modeled after Mohammed’s marriage to Zainab.

It doesn’t say quite that. Zeinab is referred to in sura 33, so we won’t be there for awhile.

Also, is there anything in the Quran that puts a lower limit on a marriage age for a girl?

No, that’s based on Muhammad’s marriage to Aisha, as in these ahadith.

2007-08-19 23:03:33 Robert Spencer


What is the explanation for Mohammed allowing himself as many wives as he liked, while allowing his followers only 4?

He was exempt from this provision as a favor from Allah, in recognition of his exalted prophetic role.

Also, I recall that in 2:223, which refered to the wife being a tilth, you mentioned that it’s interpreted as allowing only vaginal sex, as opposed to anal. But doesn’t a good portion of Islamic jurisprudence use this as signifing the actual role/value of women in Islamic society?

Yes. I did not mean to imply that the only use made of this verse was the one I outlined, and referred to Qutb’s explanation of the verse, which does detail in role and value of women in Islamic society.

Also, is the Islamic law that states that if a woman is molested by her father-in-law, she becomes her husband’s mother – addressed in this chapter or another? As you may recall, this is modeled after Mohammed’s marriage to Zainab.

Also, is there anything in the Quran that puts a lower limit on a marriage age for a girl?

on August 19, 2007 at 5:58 PM

2007-08-19 23:01:01 Robert Spencer


Is there any reason that the number of wives a man can have is capped at four?

Some kind of natural reason? No.

And I’m assuming that the reference to slave women doesn’t count towards any number…that any number of slave women can be “used”?


And how can it be that, if sex is merely for procreation, that slave women would come into play?

It isn’t just for procreation. It’s fun for men and women alike — more for women, which is why they must be tightly controlled.

I see that Islam puts women in the position of being the one’s who, by their nature or physical appearance, initiate the sexual urges in men, ergo the burka…or at a minimum, head scarves.

My main question would be…Do many Islamic men these days take more than one wife? It just seems that I don’t see it that often.

Yes, it happens. A man has to be wealthy enough to care for both (or all), so that cuts down on the rate of polygamy considerably.

on August 19, 2007 at 4:02 PM

2007-08-19 22:57:49 Robert Spencer


Robert, I have a question regarding the Islamic concept of marraige. When enumerating the people a man may not marry, we come to verse 24: “And all married women except those whom your right hands possess…”

Huh? I think this means that a female slave can have 2 legitimate husbands! One, her first husband also presumably held in captivity, and two, her owner.

No. Islamic law stipulates that if a woman is taken captive in war, her marriage is immediately and automatically annulled (cf. ‘Umdat al-Salik o9.13).

2007-08-19 22:53:33 Robert Spencer


Will you share your knowledge of the Talmud in Hot Air soon?

Sure. In fact, I’ll do it right now:

The Talmud. Hmmm. Mishnah and Gemara. There’s the Babylonian Talmud and the Jerusalem Talmud. Lots of volumes. A lifetime of study would not encompass it.

There. Done. That’s my knowledge of the Talmud.

Next week: My knowledge of The Bhagavad Gita!

2007-08-19 22:43:31 Robert Spencer


verse 15 gives the consequences of women guilty of ‘lewdness” (Yusufali and Pickthal) or “indecency” (Shakir). Similarly, Yusfali in verse 16 seems to be the only translation that implies homosexuality, “If *two men* among you …”, while the other translations seem to me to be ambiguous in their meaning.

My question is how many translations are given to passages like these?

Ali and Rodwell have “two men.” Hilali and Khan, on the other hand, explicitly rule that out: they have “And the two persons (man and woman)…” Most others are ambiguous. Meanwhile, some speak of “indecency,” and some of “adultery.”

Given the apparant ambiguity to my Western eyes, it seems it can mean nearly anything I wish it to. How sure are we that v16 is describing homosexual acts?

Well, as you can see above, mainstream commentators see it that way, but not all commentators. Ibn Kathir reports that Mujahid said that 4:16 “was revealed about the case of two men who do it.”

You describe lewdness as “sexual immorality”. This immorality is in the eye of the beholder. Can lewdness be interpreted as merely showing too much skin or some other minor infraction?

Islamic law on this has not generally considered 4:16 to apply simply to women who aren’t adequately covered, but to sexual immorality, which is delineated in detail as to what it is and what it isn’t in that same law. It includes adultery, fornication, homosexuality, etc.

2007-08-19 22:38:01 Robert Spencer

A general note to all the “The Bible is just as bad or worse” folks:

Please pardon the advertisement, but I discuss many of the issues you raise above, including violent passages in the Bible, slavery, and the treatment of women, from the standpoint of a comparison between Christianity and Islam in my new book Religion of Peace?. I can’t reproduce the whole book here, but I think that if you think the Bible is just as violent as the Qur’an, or that it condones slavery in the same manner and to the same extent, or relegates women to second-class status in the same way, you might find it illuminating, and/or provocative.

2007-08-19 22:25:09 Robert Spencer

By the way, Pilgrim CW, Lings’ book is not a translation of Ibn Ishaq. It is Lings’ own biography of Muhammad, based on Ibn Ishaq and other sources.

2007-08-12 23:18:04 Robert Spencer

Pilgrim CW:

Guillaume’s Ibn Ishaq is excellent.

Lings was a 20th century Englishman who became a Muslim. His biography is a bit apologetic and whitewashed, but not as much as, say, those by Karen Armstrong.

2007-08-12 23:05:05 Robert Spencer

Pilgrim CW:

Mr. Spencer, if the battles and other important historical narrative context aren’t included in the Qur’an, what are the Muslim sources? Ibn Ishaq? Sections of the hadith collections?

Yes, Ibn Ishaq is the best and earliest source for a continuous historical narrative, complete with copious citations of the Qur’an in the context of when each verse or section was revealed. The hadith give abundant material on individual battles and various other historical events, but not in a continuous narrative.

2007-08-12 21:55:40 Robert Spencer


Eid ul-Adha is a reenactment of Abraham’s sacrifice of a ram in place of his son (whether Ishmael or Isaac, depending on which tradition you’re dealing with).

There is no theology of atonement or redemption in Islam. Allah is merciful, however, and one can hope that one’s good deeds outweigh one’s bad deeds.

2007-08-12 21:34:30 Robert Spencer

Mojave Mark,

Question: Is the writing style of the Koran consistent with other ancient styles? Are most ancient non-biblical texts as jumbled as the Koran?

There is a huge variety of material. The Qur’an shares some similarities with pre-Islamic Arabic poetry, but is singular in numerous ways.

2007-08-12 21:32:27 Robert Spencer


Verses 156-158 and 160 appear (to me, at least) as explicitly Norse, which itself has roots in Persian mythologies.

Explicitly Norse? I’m sorry, but I don’t see any explicit avowal of a Norse influence. I wouldn’t doubt that there is a Persian influence, as there is ample Persian influence all over the Qur’an, but I would doubt that Norse mythology as such would have been available in 7th century Arabia.

How extensively does Islam borrow from the various ancient (polytheist) mythologies of the Middle East?

Quite extensively. See “Sources of the Qur’an” by William St. Clair Tisdall, which you’ll find here.

Is anything to be gleaned by examining such roots?

Yes, a great deal. Ibn Warraq has done some important work in this area. Others have also. Illuminating the origins of Qur’anic material can go a long way toward providing a context for its reevaluation by honest Islamic reformers.

Also, you write, “Verses 180-200 excoriate the unbelievers and promise rewards to the believers.” Can this indicate that only Allah can judge a person’s worthiness? It seems to me that jihad can only be a verdict that is not, and cannot be one’s decision.

I’m sorry, but I don’t understand the question, or the statement following the question.

2007-08-12 21:30:49 Robert Spencer


What is this referring to by a miserable gain purchased? Clearly it is not the rejection of Christ as savior, because Mohammed is guilty of the same.

No, clearly it isn’t, because Islam does not regard Christ as savior. It is referring to the gain the Christians received by rejecting Muhammad — such as the Najran delegation’s alleged rejection of Muhammad because of the goods and money they received from the Byzantines, which I discussed a couple of weeks ago.

2007-08-12 21:25:33 Robert Spencer


Reckless abandon, yes. Bloodthirsty bravado, yes. Morbid hubris, yes.

Courage? Nah.

Point taken. But nonetheless, one man’s mortal hubris is another man’s courage — which is only a statement about perceptions, not a declaration of moral relativism.

2007-08-12 21:23:39 Robert Spencer


Has such an ultimatum been given to Allah since?

I’m not sure, but I would doubt it. Who would be in a position to give him such an ultimatum once Islam had spread — as it did so quickly after Muhammad’s death — to the far corners of the globe?

If victory or defeat is the sole decision of Allah…by what standards is Allah supposed to be using? I mean, exactly what reason would Allah have to will victory or defeat?

His will is beyond our fathoming.

2007-08-12 21:22:07 Robert Spencer


I skipped ahead and read Sura 4.

What is considered “lewdness” and “indecency”? Who decides it exactly, Allah? And why does Allah give men power to punish women more severely for similar crimes. Yet when men are guilty they are given a lighter punishment, if punished at all?

Stay tuned for more. 4:15 generally refers to sexual immorality, and 4:16 to homosexual activity. Why do men get a lighter punishment? Well, perhaps because they are greater than women (4:34).

2007-08-12 17:46:54 Robert Spencer


Rob, do you think the notion of ‘revising’ history in this fashion – calling the prophets’ religion Islam and well as Abraham’s – and insisting all historical evidence given to the contrary is in fact itself revised – contributes to a conspiracy mentality?

Might this create difficulty in handling, or even inventing scientific inquiry?

I’m not sure. Possibly. I think it’s worth exploring.

2007-08-06 01:57:01 Robert Spencer


There is no Qur’anic prohibition against Islamic proselytizing. Far from it. Islam is and always has been a proselytizing faith. Here is Muhammad telling Muslims to invite their opponents to accept Islam. The Seattle Times article is pure whitewash.

2007-08-06 01:51:02 Robert Spencer

Infidel Pride:

Given that even the so called ‘people of the book’ – Jews & Christians – are forbidden from entering Mecca, isn’t it disingenuous of Ibn Khatir to slam them for not doing something that they aren’t allowed to do in the first place, even as ‘people of the book’?

I.K. is saying essentially that they don’t become Muslims, even though they could worship at Abraham’s shrine if they did — yet they claim to revere Abraham.

2007-08-06 01:47:15 Robert Spencer


The Jews would never accept Mohammad as a prophet and neither would Christians. So we didn’t admit it for “selfish” reasons that they never define?

They define them in these stories about the delegation from Najran: it was all about money.

2007-08-06 01:45:38 Robert Spencer


Is there a Jewish or Christian account of this event? To contradict the Islamic account?

I don’t think so. I’ve never heard of one.

2007-08-06 01:44:35 Robert Spencer


If islam demands the belief in the Gospel, the Gospels have Christ telling of his return, islam claims that mohammad was the last prophet and foretold by Christ. Would that not make mohammad Christ? If you follow the claims of islam?

No, because Islam demands belief in a Gospel that does not exist — the “uncorrupted” original Gospel of Jesus that teaches Islam, and which does not exist and never has existed.

2007-08-06 01:43:12 Robert Spencer


Thank you, Mr Spencer…I was always under the impression that Mohammed was the “it” guy…

“…and Mohammed is his prophet” always meant to me to be that it was Mohammed that set the standards of what the message of Islam was to be, as dictated by Allah. I don’t really see the similarities between, say, Abraham…and Mohammed, but my interest is peaked and I’ll have to do some more reading.

Muhammad IS the “it” guy. He DOES set the standards of what the message of Islam was to be, as dictated by Allah. And in the process, he says that these earlier religious figures, Abraham and Moses and Jesus, all taught what he taught.

2007-08-05 22:41:59 Robert Spencer


I still cannot see the reasoning behind the belief that Abraham and other prophets were Muslim…long before the guy who sorted it all out came along…Isn’t it true that Mohammed is THE prophet of God? And if so, how could anyone before him know?

Muhammad is the final prophet, and the one who brings the perfect book, the Qur’an. But in the Muslim view there were many, many other prophets, all of whose original message was the same as Muhammad’s. Their followers are responsible for any divergences.

2007-08-05 18:04:46 Robert Spencer

Looking at “Chuck’s” blog, I am even more convinced that this is a Leftist who thinks he’s clever and is pretending, ham-handedly, to be a conservative — in an attempt to get conservatives to agree to outrageous things he says. Then he’ll go back to Kos or wherever and laugh about the silly rightwingers he bamboozled.

2007-08-05 17:54:49 Robert Spencer


Thanks, but could anyone really be that dimwitted? I rather think this is someone who is intentionally trying to lower the tone here and to make it look as if everyone here is a slavering yahoo — so as to discredit the whole thing.

2007-08-05 17:49:44 Robert Spencer


It looks as if some provocateurs have registered as commenters here. Maybe it’s time for some cleanup.

2007-08-05 17:44:29 Robert Spencer


nuke them!

No one here is advocating that. I fail to see why you or anyone else thinks that an exploration of the Qur’an and Islamic views of it amounts to an attempt to paint Muslims in a bad light. It is what it is, it says what it says.


If Abraham, according to Sura 3, v. 65, could not have been a Jew because “the Torah and the Gospel were not revealed till after him”…How can there be justification that he was Muslim? Mohammed wasn’t to come for centuries.

The Islamic view is that Islam is the original religion of mankind and of each individual. It is the original religion of all the prophets, but the followers of Moses, Jesus, etc. corrupted their messages to form Judaism and Christianity. Then Muhammad came with the Qur’an to restore mankind’s original religion to its perfect, uncorrupted form.

Chuck in Detroit:

Oh Jeez…. when is hot going to wake up and STOP PANDERING TO TERRORISTS?!?!?!??!?!?!




I suspect you are a provocateur, and I don’t know who you think is pandering to terrorists, but no one here is. And actually, Muhammad never claimed to be God.

2007-08-05 17:15:51 Robert Spencer


Having been dragged into the conversation here as well, even if not by name, I thought I’d note that my response to Hoop is here:


2007-08-01 02:22:19 Robert Spencer


Isn’t the supposed “prediction” of Mohammad’s future “prophethood” in the New Testament a (convenient) misunderstanding of the meaning of the word “paraclete” as mentioned in “The Moslem Christ” by Samuel W. Zwemer?

The prediction is recorded in Qur’an 61:6:

And remember, Jesus, the son of Mary, said: “O Children of Israel! I am the messenger of Allah (sent) to you, confirming the Law (which came) before me, and giving Glad Tidings of a Messenger to come after me, whose name shall be Ahmad.” But when he came to them with Clear Signs, they said, “this is evident sorcery!”

“Ahmed” means “the Most Praised One,” and it is etymologically related to Muhammad, which means “Praised One.” Pickthall drives connection home by translating Ahmed simply as “Praised One.” And the verse is universally understood by Muslims as depicting Jesus predicting the coming of Muhammad.

Muslims contend that this prophecy survives in vestigial form in John 14:16-17, where Jesus says: “And I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Counselor, to be with you for ever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him; you know him, for he dwells with you, and will be in you.”

“Counselor” here is παρακλητος, Paracletos or Paraclete. Some Islamic apologists have claimed that this is a corruption of περικλυτος, Periclytos, which means “famous” or “renowned,” i.e., “Praised One.” However, there is no textual evidence whatsoever for this: no manuscripts of the New Testament exist that use the word περικλυτος in this place. Nor is it likely that the two words might have been confused. That kind of confusion may be theoretically possible in Arabic, which does not write vowels and hence would present two words with identical consonant structures. But Greek does write vowels, and so the words would never in Greek have appeared as even close to identical.

2007-07-29 20:31:51 Robert Spencer


Re that Guardian article, see:


2007-07-27 23:29:47 Robert Spencer


That would be Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

2007-07-27 20:55:17 Robert Spencer

Brigitte is great, but she is not an ex-Muslim. She is a Lebanese Christian.

You may be thinking of Nonie Darwish, who is an ex-Muslim.

2007-07-27 15:44:02 Robert Spencer


I noticed that ‘Fire’ is capitalized, so goes the interpretation of Yusufali. Placing these verses in context, just who these pagans defeated at the Battle of Badr, whom this passage refers to? They obviously think that ‘The Fire’ will only touch them temporarily after death in battle. Just curious.

The vast majority of commentators see this as the Jews, denuing that they will be in hell for very long.

Bukhari, Volume 7, Book 71, Number 669:

Narrated Abu Huraira:

When Khaibar was conquered, Allah’s Apostle was presented with a poisoned (roasted) sheep. Allah’s Apostle said, “Collect for me all the Jews present in this area.” (When they were gathered) Allah’s Apostle said to them, “I am going to ask you about something; will you tell me the truth?” They replied, “Yes, O Abal-Qasim!” Allah’s Apostle said to them, “Who is your father?” They said, “Our father is so-and-so.” Allah’s Apostle said, “You have told a lie. for your father is so-and-so,” They said, “No doubt, you have said the truth and done the correct thing.” He again said to them, “If I ask you about something; will you tell me the truth?” They replied, “Yes, O Abal-Qasim! And if we should tell a lie you will know it as you have known it regarding our father,” Allah’s Apostle then asked, “Who are the people of the (Hell) Fire?” They replied, “We will remain in the (Hell) Fire for a while and then you (Muslims) will replace us in it” Allah’s Apostle said to them. ”You will abide in it with ignominy. By Allah, we shall never replace you in it at all.” Then he asked them again, “If I ask you something, will you tell me the truth?” They replied, “Yes.” He asked. “Have you put the poison in this roasted sheep?” They replied, “Yes,” He asked, “What made you do that?” They replied, “We intended to learn if you were a liar in which case we would be relieved from you, and if you were a prophet then it would not harm you.”

2007-07-23 12:15:50 Robert Spencer


Robert, do you think that much of the Islamic craziness in today’s world is truly do to passages like the seemingly innocuous Sura 3:3-4, or the ideas of the Quran’s interpreters? Which has more influence? Note, that I am not ignoring the more militant passages in the Quran, I am convinced that they are there, but do the interpreters make it more militant than it was intended to be?

Well, I don’t see 3:3-4 as entirely innocuous even on its face, since it is appropriating Judaism and Christianity by saying that the Qur’an confirms the Torah and the Gospel, and warning hellfire for those who disagree. This entirely strips Judaism and Christianity of legitimacy, leaving Jews and Christians as renegades who have twisted the true faith. The interpreters who take this farther certainly make matters worse, but they have plenty to work with.

2007-07-23 12:12:34 Robert Spencer


“One cannot force these people to accept, but can merely advise them. Inviting them to accept Islam is the duty of the Muslim.”

Why is this ignored? Why now does radical Islam follow that it is their duty to kill you if you don’t believe?

Because the prerogative of calling an offensive jihad and calling a non-Muslim state to accept Islam or become dhimmis belongs to the caliph, and there is no caliph. So the jihads waged today are viewed as defensive jihads against the non-Muslim aggressor. We are not called to accept the Islamic social order and become dhimmis because in the jihadist view the Islamic social order is not established anywhere for us to be able to accept it.

2007-07-23 12:08:28 Robert Spencer


So, muslims only suffer when they go away from allah. Well then how do they explain the ass whoopin’ the taliban sufferred at the hands of the U.S. Armed Forces? Who is more pious than the taliban? There is considerably LESS suffering in Afghanistan now than there was under the “righteous” talibs.

This sort of thing is a source of continual cognitive dissonance. But so far it hasn’t led to any large-scale reevaluation of the principle; instead, it just leads to calls for even more Islamic purity.

2007-07-23 12:04:04 Robert Spencer


Regarding The Second Treatise of the Great Seth, the text you quoted is correct, but it nevertheless states just a few sentences before your quote that Jesus DID die in appearance only – which follows the general pattern of docetic gnosticm found in the Nag Hammadi library. Nothing about Judas susbstiting for Jesus though.

Yes, the substitution of Judas is from elsewhere, but I don’t recall where right now — I’ll see if I can find it, but I no longer have my 25-year-old paper! Anyway, the idea that Jesus died in appearance only was precisely my point: Judas was made to look like Jesus. This is Islamic exegesis of Qur’an 4:157, as we shall see, and it fits in with the Gnostic idea that Jesus only appeared to die on the cross.

2007-07-18 21:29:00 Robert Spencer


I am not aware of any Gnostic gospel that blatently says that Jesus was not crucified. Some Gospels say that it was a docetic (Jesus only seemed to suffer and die – pure gnosticism) version of Jesus (Gospel of Peter, Acts of John), but Jesus nonetheless.

See, for example, The Second Treatise of the Great Seth, a Gnostic text found at Nag Hammadi. In it, Jesus says, “For my death which they think happened, happened to them in their error and blindness, since they nailed their man unto their death….It was another…who drank the galla and the vinegar; it was not I…I was another upon whom they placed the crown of thorns….And I was laughing at their ignorance.”

The only Gospel, that I am aware of, that has Judas replacing Jesus on the Cross is the Gospel of Barnabas from the 6th-7th century, and which is not a gnostic text. Am I missing something, or could those portions of the Quran and Gospel of Barnabas have influenced each other?

The Gospel of Barnabas is not that early. It’s a Medieval Muslim forgery, reflecting Qur’anic teaching and Islamic belief about the crucifixion.

2007-07-18 18:25:28 Robert Spencer


The Isa (Jesus) in the Quran appears to be derived from fragmentary and non-canonical gnostic texts and heretical folklore that survived in Arabia.

Did any earlier Church father’s mention this?

Or, any Muslim scholars?

Muslim scholars, no. But St. John of Damascus wrote about Islam as a Christian heresy is the 8th century.

There is a great deal of fascinating material in this line. My first writing on Islam was back in college in 1981 or so — a term paper on how Islam’s denial of the crucifixion of Christ (Qur’an 4:157) is related to and may be derived from the denial of the crufixion contained in several Gnostic gospels, particularly since both affirm that Judas was made to resemble Jesus and put on the cross in his place. There were many heretical Christians in Arabia during the time of Muhammad.

2007-07-16 12:26:34 Robert Spencer


Isa al Masih and Jesus are pretty radically different personalities, and for the benefit of those who have not read both (or either) the Bible and Koran, I think it would be both more useful and accurate to use the separate names to refer to either the representation of the personage in the Bible or the Koran, and not equate the two.

You’re right: they are radically different personalities, but if I used different names for them, it would obscure the fact that Muslims believe the two are the same, and that their Isa is actually the true version of the Christian Jesus. In today’s geopolitical climate I believe it is vitally important for non-Muslims to know about the religious imperialist aspect of the Qur’an and Islamic teaching, and so I note your points but hope you will understand why I am going to continue to use the same names.

Now, this involves me in a superficial inconsistency of which I am well aware, since I generally don’t use “God” for the deity of Islam, but rather “Allah,” in order to emphasize the differences between the Christian and Islamic conceptions of God — even though the Qur’an (29:46) says that Muslims worship the God of Jews and Christians.

I’ve made this decision based on the fact that people use the word “God” much more generically than the name “Jesus,” and so it seemed prudent in one case to emphasize the difference, and in the other to emphasize the identity of the two, such that it would become clear to those who are concerned about such things that even in the act of affirming belief in Jesus Islam strips Christianity of all its legitimacy.

I am aware that the Arabic names for Jesus and Isa are spelled the same.

Actually, Arabic-speaking Christians do not call Jesus “Isa,” but rather Yasu’ — يسوع.

2007-07-16 11:54:53 Robert Spencer


Failing to appreciate their own prophet Isa’s (Jesus’) expurgated saying (one of many left out of the Koran) and his acknowledgement of: “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God that which is God’s.”

Turning Allah into Caesar.

And earth into a man-made Hell.

How can more if Isa (Jesus) be returned to the Koran?

Were there more of his sayings in any earlier Koranic document?

Muslims don’t generally consider the New Testament to be a reliable source for Jesus’ sayings, although not infrequently you’ll hear a Muslim spokesman quoting something from it as a saying of the prophet Jesus, and not only to Western non-Muslim audiences.

There is no more about Jesus than there is in the Qur’an in any alternative manuscript of the Qur’an, as far as we know.

2007-07-15 21:40:29 Robert Spencer


Is Issa (I use this term to distinguish from the Christian Jesus) supposed to convert all Jews and other infidels? Or does he, or someone else have the job of exterminating them from the face of the earth when that time comes? I understand how they think that if Issa asks all Christians to follow Mohammed, they will, but do they expect non Christian infidels to do the same?

There is the general idea that at the end of the world, with the return of Jesus and the coming of the Mahdi, Islam will conquer the world and all the dhimmis will be either converted or killed. Details about how this will happen differ. I recommend David Cook’s illuminating book Contemporary Muslim Apocalyptic Literature.

In the case of Jews, does the infamous Hadith […] imply that Jews are to be removed from the face of the earth? Also, how would it work in cases where they’ve extended dhimmi status to Zoroastrians and Hindus?

Generally, at the end of the world all will be Muslim. There is a wide divergence among exegetes and popular writers as to how this will happen.

2007-07-15 21:35:31 Robert Spencer


I guess they think some (most/all?) of his teaching were abrogated by Muhammad?

Many Muslim interpreters see Qur’an 2:106 as teaching that Islam abrogates the earlier revelations, principally the Torah and Gospel. But these are not the Old Testament and New Testament, which are considered to be corruptions of the original Torah and Gospel. As such those have no validity whatsoever, even to be abrogated.

2007-07-15 21:28:45 Robert Spencer


But does Islam see Jesus as their prophet? The one who will return to abolish the cross, and make the dhimmi tax obsolete?


If so, how does Islam see the birth and growth of Christianity?

As a progressive corruption of the original monotheistic message of Jesus, who was a prophet whose message was identical to that of all the other prophets. That message was essentially Islamic monotheism.

2007-07-15 21:24:33 Robert Spencer


I thought the notion of temporary marriages was confined to the Shi’a sect, but it sounds as if it exists with Sunnis, as well. Is that right?

Among some, but generally not. What I described in this segment of the Qur’an blog was not mut’a, the phenomenon of temporary marriage, but something else altogether. Temporary marriage is marriage with an expiration date: marriage for a night, or a weekend, etc. This is Shi’ite mut’a.

Above I describe the requirement that a woman must marry someone else, consummate the marriage, and be divorced by her new husband before she can remarry her first husband, if first hubby has divorced her three times. That is a different thing.

2007-07-15 21:21:23 Robert Spencer


“The subject peoples,” according to ‘Umdat al-Salik, a manual of Islamic law cerrtified by Al-Azhar University in Cairo in 1991 as a “reliable guide to Sunni orthodoxy,” must “pay the non-Muslim poll tax (jizya)” and “are distinguished from Muslims in dress, wearing a wide cloth belt (zunnar); are not greeted with ‘as-Salamu ‘alaykum’ [the traditional Muslim greeting, “Peace be with you”]; must keep to the side of the street; may not build higher than or as high as the Muslims’ buildings, though if they acquire a tall house, it is not razed; are forbidden to openly display wine or pork…recite the Torah or Evangel aloud, or make public display of their funerals or feastdays; and are forbidden to build new churches.” If they violate these terms, the law further stipulates that they can be killed or sold into slavery at the discretion of the Muslim leader.

I’m somewhat rushed this afternoon. More later.

2007-07-15 17:31:15 Robert Spencer

Connie, I doubt it. It would have to be an independent polity, at least in the traditional view.

2007-07-08 22:11:42 Robert Spencer


What is a Muslim land?

Traditionally, any land that was any time ruled by Islamic Sharia law is considered to belong forever to the Dar al-Islam (House of Islam), and it is the umma’s responsibility to fight to recover it. This goes today for Israel and, we are hearing increasingly, Spain — as well as other places also.

2007-07-08 21:25:43 Robert Spencer


In the Islam for Today article “Bin Laden’s violence is a heresy against Islam,” which you link above, it says this:

All this amounts to an odd and extreme violation of the normal methods of Islamic scholarship. Had the authors of such fatwas [non-binding legal opinions] followed the norms of their religion, they would have had to acknowledge that no school of traditional Islam allows the targeting of civilians. An insurrectionist who kills non-combatants is guilty of baghy, “armed transgression”, a capital offence in Islamic law. A jihad can be proclaimed only by a properly constituted state; anything else is pure vigilantism.

This, I believe, is the crux of the criticism of bin Laden: that he kills civilian non-combatants, and that a jihad can only be proclaimed by state authority.

I am glad that any Muslim holds these views. But please be so kind as to explain how you would answer arguments (by Al-Qaradawi, Ghannouchi, etc.) that there are no civilians in Israel, and thus all people there can lawfully be killed as kuffar harbi, or the contention by Anjem Choudary here that no non-Muslims are innocent, and thus all can be killed in accord with Islamic law. I’ve never seen moderate Muslims answer these arguments, which are commonly made by jihadists, and I trust you will agree that it would be essential to have answers for them so as to blunt the force of these arguments in jihadist recruitment efforts.

Same thing for the question of state authority: only the caliph can call offensive jihad, but isn’t defensive jihad fard ayn — obligatory on all believers — whenever a Muslim land is attacked? And that is how OBL et al justify their jihad actions today. How, as a moderate Muslim, would you answer them on Islamic grounds?

Looking forward to any light you can shed on these matters.

2007-07-08 18:20:28 Robert Spencer

I just read Riehl’s post.

He says “But I also know this – you can take elements from any religion, or religious tract and parse them to demonize that religion.” And that that is what I am doing, and that someone could do it with Christian sacred texts also.

Go ahead, Dan. Blog the New Testament, going through what it says and adding in copious references to Christian commentators of all sects.

Because that’s all I am doing here.

Does quoting the Qur’an and quoting Ibn Kathir and other Islamic commentators amounts to “demonizing the religion”? Either I am reporting accurately on mainstream understandings of the Qur’an, or I am not. If I am not, show where I am wrong. If I am, and you think the picture I am painting is an exercise in demonization, maybe the problem lies within the content of the texts themselves, and how you regard that content.

If you think you could Blog the New Testament and Christian commentaries and come up with a similar “demonization,” then by all means go to it, and I will read it with great interest. But the bottom line is that I did not originate the doctrines of war and supremacism, and contempt for unbelievers, that I suspect make you characterize this as a “demonization.” They were there already. Millions of Muslims arund the world believe just these things, and don’t think there is anything “demonic” about them at all. And they didn’t hear them from me.

You are shooting the messenger, rather than having to deal with unpleasant facts. I certainly hope that thoughtless smears and prejudice such as yours don’t become common in the conservative movement.

2007-07-08 18:08:22 Robert Spencer


You quote Dan Riehl as saying that “the issue is one of interpretation and Spencer’s work has no practical extension except as a rationale for banning a religion.”

I don’t know where Dan Riehl is getting this. Here I argue against banning Islam. In the United States we do not ban religions, but have a Constitutional guarantee on the free exercise of religion, and I have never advocated that this be contravened.

2007-07-08 18:00:31 Robert Spencer


Muhammads last sermon is very enlightening, if what he says in his last sermon is the essence of the religion then it puts into doubt mr spencers claim that the essence of the religion is war and slaughter. thanks for the link mccguyver

Actually, I have never said that “the essence of the religion [Islam] is war and slaughter.”

If you think I have, please provide the quote.

2007-07-08 17:57:10 Robert Spencer


I remember you mentioning in several of your books about Islam that many Muslims outside of the Arab world do not understand what Qur’an says because they don’t understand Arabic. I guess my question is more about how this is possible and how a mosque can function (and incite such religious fervor) without the understanding of the group.

The prayers, including recitation of the Qur’an, are in Arabic. Muslims must learn the prayers in Arabic. So the mosque can function just fine, with the five daily prayers, without many people necessarily knowing what the Arabic says.

How is such religious fervor incited? That can be done by the imam, in his Friday sermons and other efforts, without requiring that his congregation know Qur’anic Arabic.

2007-07-03 00:38:40 Robert Spencer

Infidel Pride:

My question was partly answered, but I was also asking how the latter part of the verse

But if they cease, let there be no transgression except against Az-Zalimun (the polytheists, and wrong-doers, etc.)

fits in with the above verse? I somehow read that as meaning that if they convert to Islam or accept Islamic hegemony, let there be no transgression.

Yes, if they convert or submit, there should be peace. That’s the idea.

Also, how does ‘until all religion is for Allah’ square with allowing the ahl al Kitab (Christians & Jews) to practice their own religion, but as Dhimmis? I understand that it calls for establishing the political hegemony of Islamic law, but that isn’t waht the above phrase seems to suggest. While 9:29 calls for the hegemony over Infidels, this verse 2:193 doesn’t seem to suggest that, and the weasel phrase at the end doesn’t make that obvious.

The idea here is that dhimmitude is a temporary condition. In Sunni eschatology, and also in Shi’ite in a modified way, Jesus will return at the end of the world and abolish the dhimma, killing or Islamizing all the dhimmis.

2007-07-02 01:43:00 Robert Spencer


That would be Jafar (“Jeff”) Siddiqui, a Muslim leader in Seattle. I enjoyed that debate. If Mr. Medved is interested in another round, I’m available.

2007-07-01 19:54:15 Robert Spencer

Infidel Pride:

Also, can you elaborate on the meaning of ‘Fitnah’? I had had an argument with a Muslim on JihadWatch, where he claimed that Fitnah means ‘discord’, not ‘oppression’, as some translations such as Pickthall seem to claim. Looking at how it’s been argued that ‘temptation away from Islam’ constitutes ‘Fitnah’, such as non-Muslim neighbors of Muslims prospering, and thereby sending often an unintentional message that non-allegiance to Allah doesn’t prevent people from being prosperous, it seem incumbent on pious Muslims to negate this situation, wherever it exists.

“Discord,” not “oppression”? I’m not sure this is a distinction with a difference. Since 2:190-193 says that one should fight until the religion is for Allah, and unbelief and idolatry are routinely classified as “crimes,” (e.g., by the “moderate” Ayatollah Shirazi and many others) it is clear that Muslims are being told to fight until such offenses disappear.

Or am I misunderstanding your question?

Also, getting back to a question I had for you previously, we know that the chronological order in which the suras appear determines the precedence. How does it work within a sura? Not to jump ahead of ourselves into next weeks, but how do the tafseers determine that 2:193 trumps 2:256, and on what basis? Are there chronological priorities within the chapters themselves?

There is no consensus about chronological ordering within a given sura. 2:256 is a very important verse that I’ll discuss at length next week. I don’t think you’ll find many Islamic authorities saying that 2:193 trumps 2:256. Rather, they interpret 2:256 as forbidding forced conversion. 2:193 must be seen in light of 9:29, which allows Jews and Christians to submit as dhimmis rather than convert. Thus 2:193 doesn’t mandate forced conversion, but merely the political hegemony of Islamic law. If Jews and Christians are living as dhimmis within Islamic domains, the commands that are contained within all three verses are being observed.

2007-07-01 19:33:45 Robert Spencer


So how do any Muslims with a straight face insist that there is one interpretation of the Quran?

Anyone who asserts this is either ignorant or trying to take advantage of the ignorance of another. There is even a famous hadith in which Muhammad says: “The Jews were split up into seventy-one or seventy-two sects; and the Christians were split up into seventy one or seventy-two sects; and my community will be split up into seventy-three sects.” (Sunan Abu Dawud 4579)

2007-07-01 19:20:22 Robert Spencer


Robert, I have read that most Muslims believe you can work your way out of hell with God’s forgiveness. What do you know about that?

This is not a Qur’anic view. According to 4:169, 33:64-65, etc., the unbelievers reside in hell forever. If they ask for relief they will be given to drink water like molten brass, scalding their faces (18:29).

2007-07-01 19:16:10 Robert Spencer

P. James Moriarty:

I’ve been reading through The Art of War along with my other studies and was struck by the simularities between the ancient Chinese and the Islamic tenets of war. On reflection, given the position of ancient Persia in relation to the east/west trade routes, it’s not terribly surprising. Question: is there somewhere a comparison between the classic military strategy and the Islamic war strategy?

I don’t know of any such, but I have never studied military strategy — there may be one.

Maybe an in depth analisis of Islamic military tactics?

Well, you may be interested in The Qur’anic Concept of War by S. K. Malik, a Pakistani Brigadier General, and The Prophet’s Concept of War by Gulzar Ahmed, although these are not precisely what you asked for.

2007-07-01 19:10:09 Robert Spencer

I’d love to be knighted. Sign me up.

Um, does the supermodel come with the knighthood or are they separate?

2007-06-29 15:05:46 Robert Spencer


It seems to me these verses [2:94-96] refer to Christians, not Jews. Shakir’s translation issues the challenge to ‘polytheists’, which could be a reference to the Trinity.

No, 2:94-96 definitely refer to the Jews. Shakir doesn’t issue the challenge to polytheists, he says that the people he is talking about are “the greediest of men for life (greedier) than even those who are polytheists.” And who are these people who are greedier for life than the polytheists? They are the people to whom Moses came with clear signs (2:92) — that is, the Jews.

2007-06-26 10:58:32 Robert Spencer

crazy legs:

It does make me somewhat depressed that Allah is so tempermental and arbitrary, though it does bring the general illogic of Islam into sharp relief. If your god is that fickle that he’s changing his own revelations to suit his (and his prophet’s) mood, how can we even hope to engage them in any kind of logical arguement?

This was one of the Pope’s points in his now-notorious Regensburg address.

It also brings up another question – if Allah can change his revelations whenever it suits him, how does Islam get off saying that Judism and Christianity are “distortions of the truth?” Couldn’t they, according to Islam, be true revelations, but Allah just up and decided to change his mind a few centuries later?

That is indeed a common Islamic view: they were true revelations, at least before they were corrupted by the Jews and Christians, but even in their true forms they are abrogated by the Qur’an.

2007-06-25 16:07:48 Robert Spencer

PRCal Dude:

In regard to the integrity of the Qur’anic text, yes.

2007-06-25 16:06:25 Robert Spencer


How about giving your take on this instead? ;)


It’s an excellent overview. Is there something specific in it you’re looking for my take on? The passage you quote from As-Suyuti only underscores for Muslims the idea that Allah miraculously protected the Qur’an from error. Of course, non-Muslims may be tempted to see in it confirmation of exactly the opposite point.

2007-06-25 16:05:31 Robert Spencer


Although I think there is still support for my theory based on some 2000 years of anti-Jewish history among a great number of inauthentic Christians.

I would never dream of denying it. In fact, I discuss it at length, and compare it to Islamic antisemitism, in my forthcoming book Religion of Peace? (coming this August from Regnery Publishing).

2007-06-25 16:03:33 Robert Spencer


Christianity is based on a continuation. It does not displace, as Islam attempts to do.

Yes. Authentic Christianity does not negate Judaism or deny the Jews their status as God’s chosen. “The gifts and the call of God are irrevocable” (Romans 11:29).

2007-06-25 14:18:27 Robert Spencer


Secondly, when you mentioned religious wars going on in Europe c.600 years ago, the only thing that sprang to my (admittedly very layman) mind was the Hundred Years War (Joan of Arc to be exact) -but not any specifics…did you have something more precise in mind?

Where did I mention them? My memory fails me. But anyway, I was probably thinking more of the Thirty Years’ War.

2007-06-25 13:40:34 Robert Spencer


All the Christian apologists on this website would benefit from your take on the Uthmanic rescension and Qur’anic corruption even amongst the Qurra.

I’d be happy to help, but I’m not sure I understand the question. Do you mean that you’d like to see a critical evaluation of the Islamic claim that the Uthmanic rescension has been preserved perfectly throughout the ages?

2007-06-25 10:25:53 Robert Spencer


Robert, it’s possible that covering the head for both men and women is a middle eastern tradition that predates Islam.

It’s not only possible, it’s certain. No one is saying that Islam invented all these things. But in an Islamic context the divine sanction given to them makes them difficult to eradicate.

2007-06-24 22:57:37 Robert Spencer


Yes, see above — some people have provided some links. Seek out Toby Lester’s 1999 Atlantic Monthly article about a variant manuscript in Yemen. Very illuminating in many ways.

2007-06-24 22:27:48 Robert Spencer


In his note to verse 106, Muhammad Asad argues at length against the principle of abrogation, ending by saying, “In short, the ‘doctrinte of abrogation’ has no basis whatsoever in historical fact, and must be rejected.” Is he part of a school or tradition that denies the principle of abrogation? Is there any pattern regarding who among Muslims denies and who accepts abrogation?

Muhammad Asad was a singular individual, a Jewish convert to Islam (Leopold Weiss was his original name) who died in 1992; his Qur’an commentary seems especially inclined to smooth over passages that may trouble Western readers. In any case, his view is that 2:106 refers to the abrogation not of anything in the Qur’an by anything else in the Qur’an, but only to the Bible being abrogated by the Qur’an. Maududi seems to hold this view also.

However, the view that some parts of the Qur’an abrogate other parts was held by Al-Shafi’i, the founder of one of the four principal schools of Sunni Muslim jurisprudence, another influential scholar, Ibn Salama, and many others. This is more of a mainstream view.

In any case, while abrogation is important for the precedence of the martial verses of sura 9 over peaceful passages, that precedence doesn’t depend on abrogation. For those who have attempted to harmonize all the Qur’anic injunctions about jihad have constructed a system that calls for defensive and offensive jihad under certain circumstances, since after all sura 9 is still in the Qur’an even if it doesn’t abrogate other passages.

Thus the only way forward, or rather, the only way to end the potential of sura 9 and other passages to incite to violence, would be a wholesale rejection of literalism. That is not on the horizon.

2007-06-24 22:26:55 Robert Spencer


So is there any reasonable course for the Muslim congregation to steer away from that specific form of oppression?

Only by rejecting literalism.

2007-06-24 20:21:47 Robert Spencer


Why would changing circumstances of Muhammad’s life have an effect on the immutable revelations of Allah or how they are ruled upon? Wasn’t Qutb a literalist?

Qutb was indeed a literalist. He was commenting on 2:106 when he said that, and expressing the view that the changing circumstances of Muhammad’s life were the vehicle for the revelation of those immutable revelations of Allah — and in some cases Allah chose, in this view, to reveal his will gradually, canceling earlier temporary provisions in the process.

2007-06-24 20:21:19 Robert Spencer


Yes, that’s a fine work, but you should be aware that there is no consensus among Muslims as to the precise chronological order of the suras. The general longest-to-shortest arrangement that you’ll find in Arabic Qur’ans is the traditional ordering. Any reconstruction of the chronological order beyond the Mecca/Medina division necessarily involves some speculation.

2007-06-24 19:07:06 Robert Spencer


Well, there’s nothing in the Qur’an mandating burqa-style obfuscation of women, yet Iranian scholars in 1979 found it to be Allah’s will, and half the Muslim world agreed. So I do believe that if imams really wanted they could very well find new meaning in those ancient verses.

Actually, women covering their heads is generally understood to be mandated by Qur’an 24:31: “And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what (must ordinarily) appear thereof; that they should draw their veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to their husbands, their fathers, their husband’s fathers, their sons, their husbands’ sons, their brothers or their brothers’ sons, or their sisters’ sons, or their women, or the slaves whom their right hands possess, or male servants free of physical needs, or small children who have no sense of the shame of sex; and that they should not strike their feet in order to draw attention to their hidden ornaments. And O ye Believers! turn ye all together towards Allah, that ye may attain Bliss.”

There are also ahadith in which Muhammad says that women should cover all but face and hands.

I suspect you are referring to an article Amir Taheri wrote a few years back in which he spoke about a head covering that was introduced in Iran in 1979 and made mandatory. The article gave the impression that the covers of heads for women was something new, but actually what was new was only a particular style of covering. The command for women to be covered is as old as Islam.

2007-06-24 18:35:04 Robert Spencer


Those are all Hadith, not Qur’an.

2007-06-24 18:31:07 Robert Spencer


Is there anything comparable in the koran which speaks to God’s mercy, grace – or even love – for this flawed human race? Or is the mohammedan philosophy simply of punishment & retribution in the name of ‘divine’ justice?

“And spend of your substance in the cause of Allah, and make not your own hands contribute to your destruction; but do good; for Allah loves those who do good” — 2:195.

This is, however, something that applies only to Muslims — those who are spending of their substance in the cause of Allah — not to the human race in general.

2007-06-24 18:30:03 Robert Spencer


I have to reference the dictionary many many times on Sunday mornings since you started this Robert.

Uh, that’s good …isn’t it?

2007-06-24 18:26:34 Robert Spencer


The last book of the Bible was written around 100 AD (I think, talking about Revelation). The Qur’an wasn’t written till 622+ AD right? How can anyone take something such as the Qur’an that rewrites Biblical history in such an obvious manner so seriously?

The Muslim contention is that the Bible’s text has been corrupted, and that the Qur’an restores the truth about matters that the present text of the Bible distorts. Islamic apologists including Abdullah Yusuf Ali, Ahmed Deedat and others have made use of Western historical criticism of the Bible to say — “See? This is not the original text. It has been tampered with!”

There is, however, no manuscript evidence of any kind of any Old Testament or New Testament in whole or part that taught the Islamic message, as Moses and Jesus are, according to the Qur’an, supposed to have done.

2007-06-24 18:25:09 Robert Spencer


I get that the later violent verses supersede the earlier peaceful ones. Do moderate Muslims ignore the later verses or do they interpret them differently?

It varies. Pseudo-moderates in the U.S. often ignore them, quoting the more peaceful passages as if that is all the book says. This is one easy way to spot a pseudo-moderate.

Others argue that the Medinan verses do not apply in the present circumstances, and that therefore the Meccan verses must take priority — although that leaves the door open to the possibility that someday conditions will be right to reassert the Medinan imperatives.

2007-06-24 18:19:42 Robert Spencer

RedWinged Blackbird:


Is there a consensus among Islamic scholars as to which English translation of the Koran most faithfully reflects the Arabic meaning (acknowledging, of course, that Allah can be truly understood only in his native language)?

No, but most generally prefer Pickthall, with some opting for Asad and Fakhry. Dawood and Arberry are written in the best English, but Muslims dislike them because Dawood and Arberry weren’t Muslims. Of those, Dawood’s is the most smoothly readable, and Arberry’s the most odd and arresting with turns of phrase that actually reflect the original, with all its twists and turns.

2007-06-24 18:17:29 Robert Spencer


I think the prevailing Muslim interpretation of “turned aside” is forced onto the text.

It would be interesting to see if the phrase “turned aside” is used elsewhere in the Quran and if it is does it take on the meaning of apostasy or rejection of Islam.

There are other suras that mention a tie between the Jews and the land of Israel. While Muslim exegetes may have explained them away, the fact that the Quran mentions it, without ever explicitly revoking Jewish inheritance of the land calls into question what Muhammed really meant.

Nothing hinges on the interpretation of “turned aside.” That verse, 5:21, refers in context not to Jews of all time anyway, but to the Israelites led by Moses, who were given the land but “turned aside,” rebelled, in the wilderness. That is not why Muslims don’t believe Jews have any right to rule Israel today. They believe they don’t have any right to rule Israel today because they have been cursed by Allah (2:89, 9:30), and an accursed people does not continue to enjoy Allah’s blessings, or remain as the recipient of his promises.

2007-06-20 09:55:32 Robert Spencer


Was Yusuf Ali practicing quite a bit of taqiyya with his translation?


Check out his rendering of 4:34, the notorious wife-beating verse. He has it “beat her (lightly),” but there is no “lightly” stated or implied in the Arabic.

2007-06-18 15:55:43 Robert Spencer


5:21 promises Israel to the Jews conditionally: “O my people! Enter the holy land which Allah hath assigned unto you, and turn not back ignominiously, for then will ye be overthrown, to your own ruin.”

But they did turn back ignominiously, and were thus overthrown, when they rejected Muhammad. 3:67 says that Abraham was a Muslim, not a Jew or a Christian, and the Qur’an exhorts the Jews to become Muslims not only in 2:43 but elsewhere also. By refusing to do so, they have earned Allah’s curse (2:89, 9:30) and the promises given to them belong to those who have not thus turned aside — i.e., the Muslims.

2007-06-18 15:41:20 Robert Spencer


Is there any word on why mohammed wished to convert ‘the Jews of Arabia, whom he initially courted’? Was it simply because the Jews were another tribe decsended of Abraham, and therefore possibly open to his ‘revelation’?

Muhammad respected the Jews, and the Christians to a lesser extent, because they were monotheists with a written revelation. He believed, according to the traditions, that he has received revelations from the same One God whom they worshipped (cf. Qur’an 29:46), and thus expected them to recognize him as a prophet. When they didn’t, the denunciations began, and they still reverberate today in how many Muslims regard Jews.

2007-06-18 13:21:37 Robert Spencer


What say ye Mr. Spencer? Can we do a little history refresher to show where the arab/jew relationship started and where it went bad?

It starts with Muhammad’s relations with the Jews of Arabia, whom he initially courted and then turned against when they rejected his claim to be a prophet in the line of Abraham and Moses. Qur’anic antisemitism, which will be a recurring theme here, results from this, and subsequent poisoned relations from the suspicion exhorted in and reinforced by the Qur’an.

2007-06-17 20:45:08 Robert Spencer


Robert, does the fact that Jews are considered pigs have anything to do with Muslims thinking pork is bad? Maybe you addressed it and I missed it. Thanks!

Probably not. The prohibition was adopted from Jewish Law when Muhammad was trying to get the Jews or Arabia to accept him as a prophet. Probably the insult results from their rejection of him, and his knowledge that they considered pigs unclean.

2007-06-17 20:43:21 Robert Spencer

RedWinged Blackbird:

Was this hatred prevalent in the Arab world prior to Muhammad’s revelations, or is it strictly Islamic?

There were three powerful Jewish tribes in Medina before Muhammad — the Banu Qaynuqa, Banu Qurayza, and Banu Nadir — but, while records are sketchy, I don’t think there was significant antisemitism in Arabia before Islam. It traces fairly strongly to Muhammad’s strained relations with those tribes, and the resulting invective that is enshrined forever in the Qur’an.

In any case, many people assume that Islamic antisemitism is an import from Christian Europe, and has no theological foundation within the Qur’an or Islam in general. That could not be farther from the truth.

2007-06-17 20:41:51 Robert Spencer


Mr. Spencer, when you say, there has been no development in Islam as there has been with Christians and Jews of their scriptures; do you mean that the Jews and Christians understand their religion and Gods in a more forgiving and gentle way? ie., less violent? Do you think this is because the Jewish and Christian religions are older and there’s been more time for these changes to occur? If that is so, do you think the Muslim religion might be entering a place and time where it will be forced to change?

It is extraordinarily common to hear people affirming that yes, the Islamic world tends to violence today, but Islam is 600 years younger than Christianity, and just look at the Christian world 600 years ago!

This seems to assume that all things that are labeled “religions” will develop in similar ways, along similar time frames. But there is no reason why this should be so. After all, Buddhism is a religion. Siddharta Gautama lived around 500-400BC. Since there were wars of religion in Europe 1600 years after Christ, should we assume on that basis that there were wars among Buddhists around 1100-1200AD? Judaism was radically transformed in the wake of the destruction of the Temple in 70AD. But there is no correspondingly catastrophic incident in Christian history.

The point is that there is no inevitable trajectory of development among religions. A key element neglected by those who assume that there is is is the fact that the content of the teachings of each religion is different. Religions are not infinitely malleable, able to be made over in any way the adherents wish to do so. Rather, they develop along certain parameters, as guided by the principles they teach.

So in short, I wouldn’t ever expect the development of Islam to follow that of Judaism and Christianity, because even those two didn’t develop in the same ways, and because Islam is sui generis, as are all religions. It has its own teachings and perspectives and emphases, and will develop according to them.

2007-06-11 08:55:28 Robert Spencer


I think you’re probably right, since the families of suicide bombers have praised Allah for granting their son the honor of being a martyr. This assumes that it was entirely a matter of the divine initiative.

2007-06-11 08:40:13 Robert Spencer


Most of the early converts, as CBP has noted already, were pagans. He had few followers in the early years, and the first was indeed his wife. The converts had been polytheists, worshipping Arab tribal gods. They seem to have been impressed by Muhammad personally. After the Night Journey — Muhammad’s claim to have been transported miraculously from Mecca to Jerusalem, thence to Paradise, and then back to Mecca in one night — Muhammad lost some followers.

But when Abu Bakr, one of the earliest and staunchest Muslims, was invited to leave also, he refused, saying that Muhammad had already convinced him of more unbelievable things than that, and everything he had said had proven correct.

2007-06-11 08:38:18 Robert Spencer


Re Muhammad and the Jews, wait til next week, and thereafter.

2007-06-10 18:08:56 Robert Spencer

Mojave Mark:

Question: Islam is dismissed and rejected in the West but in Muslim (Sharia) countries is there any challenge to the Koran, Mohammad, or Islam itself from within? Or are all dissenting voices silenced through execution?

There are dissenting voices, yes, but they always have a hard time — cf. Bashear. Another, more prominent dissenter was Mahmoud Muhammad Taha of Sudan, who taught that the peaceful Meccan suras should take precedence over the more warlike Medinan suras. For this and other teachings he was tried and executed for heresy in the 1980s.

2007-06-10 18:07:39 Robert Spencer


Robert, is it possible that the koran is not just in order of longest to shortest by also most important to least important? Perhaps importance is the reason for the length. Just curious. Thank you.

Tony, I don’t know of any Islamic scholars who argue that, although, since you can find one who will argue almost anything, there probably is one. However, it is not a mainstream view.

2007-06-10 18:05:34 Robert Spencer


You might find this interesting.

2007-06-03 21:39:10 Robert Spencer

Pilgrim CW:

Precisely. Thanks.

2007-06-03 21:36:58 Robert Spencer


Was it true that Muhammad had these revelations when he woke up from a fever? Like maybe he had a bad goat burger or something earlier that evening?

From a strict historical standpoint we can know virtually nothing for certain about Muhammad. From the accounts of him in Islamic tradition, various theories have been developed — that he was epileptic, that he suffered various other maladies — but I don’t think there is much to credit them. It is impossible to diagnose someone based on 1,400-year-old accounts that are themselves quite removed from the time the subject actually lived.

Here is one of Muhammad’s accounts of what it was like for him to receive revelations.

2007-06-03 17:31:06 Robert Spencer


Is there a reasonable explanation as to why the early Koranic scholars chose to ignore chronology and assemble the suras in order of descending length?

Islamic theologians say the ordering of the suras was divinely ordained. Theological explanations for the ordering follow from that, but they are generally the kind of thing that occurs at times in all religions: the elaboration of a theological reason to explain something that was actually practical in origin. As we shall see, the various suras, except for the very short ones, treat of many themes. It would not be possible to put them into a chronological order of what Christians know as salvation history, with the story of the creation first, then the stories of the earlier prophets, then the stories of the later prophets, without breaking the chapters into smaller units. The chapters themselves, however, although there are some traditions involving Muhammad adding material to them at dates subsequent to their initial revelation, were not after Muhammad considered to be breakable units.

Nor was it possible to order the chapters according to the order in which they were revealed to Muhammad, because of these additions and other factors — aside from assigning each chapter to Mecca or Medina, there is not complete agreement among Muslim scholars as to the order of the chapters. Thus the (general) longest-to-shortest division was one relatively efficient way to organize the book.

2007-06-03 16:27:27 Robert Spencer


You’re quite right. It is a very slanted presentation, as it comes from an MSA site. I was only offering it as an overview of the basic history, and should have noted its limitations. Fregosi’s book provides a better perspective.

2007-05-28 00:41:22 Robert Spencer


I don’t have any control over the first request, but I will certainly comply with the second.

Next week: Surah 1, the Fatiha.

2007-05-27 22:59:21 Robert Spencer


Sorry if I misunderstood you. In any case, the principle is that a Muslim should tell the truth to a fellow Muslim, but need not to an unbeliever if he fears the consequences of telling the truth.

2007-05-27 22:58:37 Robert Spencer


It is not required. It is permitted. See the discussion here:


2007-05-27 22:11:47 Robert Spencer


I don’t think it’s “Islamophobic” to say we’re fighting Islamism, the political-military movement as opposed to Islam, the religion.

Sure, but that’s a Western distinction, not an Islamic one.

2007-05-27 18:34:57 Robert Spencer


I have often written about the absurdity of the “war on terror” label. I prefer “Defensive Action Against the Global Jihad.”

2007-05-27 18:19:44 Robert Spencer


The first thing I’d take objection with is the fact that many Christians do indeed believe that The Bible is the absolute word of God; not that it was “inspired” by God, but that every word in The Bible is in there because God wanted it to be in there.

Actually the doctrine of divine inspiration is not in opposition to the idea that the Bible is the absolute word of God, or in opposition to the idea that every word in the Bible is in there because God wanted it to be in there. I don’t want to get into a long discussion about the nature of Biblical inspiration as Christians understand it, as it would be off-topic here; all I was trying to do in the post above was contrast the New Testament, with its “according to Matthew…according to Mark” acknowledgment of a human element, with the Qur’an, in which Allah is the sole speaker, and nothing in it is according to anyone except him.

2007-05-27 18:18:56 Robert Spencer

Hi Vik,

I wonder – after you take out all the incitements to do harm to others from the Koran, is there anything left?

Yes, there is plenty, as you will see — many denunciations of unbelievers and unbelief, along with affirmations of absolute monotheism, and retellings of various Biblical stories, and much more. Stay tuned.

2007-05-27 17:40:54 Robert Spencer


Muhammad’s followers memorized portions of the Qur’an. Some wrote down parts of it. The third caliph, that is, the third successor of Muhammad as the spiritual, political, and military leader of the Muslim community, Uthman, gathered all these people together in the 650s, some twenty years after Muhammad’s death in 632, collected the Qur’an as we now know it, and burned the written variants.

2007-05-27 17:39:14 Robert Spencer


Thank you. It is good that they don’t deny it, because these things are obvious to anyone who actually reads the texts. In the West the entire “Islam is a religion of peace” industry depends on people NOT having read the Qur’an and NOT being acquainted with the life of Muhammad and the rulings of Islamic jurisprudence.

And of course, some people, presented with the plain facts, will continue to deny them, no matter what.

2007-05-27 17:36:43 Robert Spencer

Tony737 and Flipflop:

That’s a good chronology.

Here is one with some more detail: http://www.usc.edu/dept/MSA/history/chronology/

And a good summary book for an overview of the history of jihad conquest is Paul Fregosi’s book “Jihad,” which suffers only from its complete lack of citation.

2007-05-27 17:34:48 Robert Spencer


Yes, it is a weak argument, and that is one principal reason why it has not been successfully made.

2007-05-27 17:32:06 Robert Spencer


Briefly, as I must run out for awhile — yes and no. The prophetic career of Muhammad falls into two halves, the Meccan period (the first 13 years) and the Medinan period (the last 10). Most of the more belligerent material comes from the Medinan period, which in mainstream Islam is considered to take precedence over the Meccan, as it came chronologically later and is considered to supersede what is earlier (see Qur’an 2:106). So a case could theoretically be made that the Meccan material must supersede the Medinan, but it would be difficult to mount and sustain the argument that what Muhammad did later must be set aside in favor of what he did earlier.

2007-05-27 13:10:51 Robert Spencer

Several people have remarked on how incongruous it is for me to be arguing with a man who calls himself “dorkafork,” and now we see that there was something to that. As in all such cases, I have answered not because of the stature of the critic, or his use or non-use of a silly nickname, but because I thought the points at hand might usefully be clarified for people of good will. And as far as they may have done that, I don’t regret the exchange.

Now we have the spectacle of a man who falsely accused me of relying only on the Qur’an when I had already quoted two commentaries saying that I am disingenuous and argue in bad faith. Then he quotes another irrelevant hadith that establishes nothing either about the circumstances in which religious deception can be practiced or the nature of the deception itself, and claims I am hoping people won’t see it and am ignoring his main point. This despite the fact that I have already dealt several times with what he claims I continue to ignore.

The brazen dishonesty of this, combined with arrogance and self-righteousness, as well as a fondness for ad hominems, is unfortunately typical of a certain quality of critic on the Internet and off. I have never met “dorkafork,” but I feel as if I’ve already argued with him dozens of times. And so here again I use this case as illustrative of certain common tendencies.

2007-05-26 17:44:41 Robert Spencer

I think a summary at this point might be illuminating.

First “dorkafork” claimed that I quoted only the Qur’an, ignoring how Muslims interpreted its verses.

This was a false claim, as I had already quoted two tafasir (Qur’an commentaries).

Then he said I was ignoring contrary evidence, so I asked him to post Islamic commentaries on Qur’an 3:28 that forbade religious deception of unbelievers.

He responded by posting four commentaries and a section of hadith, none of which actually forbade religious deception of unbelievers.

Then he said I was behaving as if the two commentaries I cited were the only word on the subject.

So I produced six more Islamic commentators, four classical and two modern, allowing for deception of unbelievers in some circumstances.

This is what invariably happens: critics claim I am misusing the Islamic texts, but they can’t manage to produce a single scrap of evidence to demonstrate that alleged misuse.

In all my books, I provide abundant documentation, so that anyone can check on the accuracy of what I’m saying. There are a great many people in this area who think they know more than they actually do, or are sure I know less than I actually do. I invite anyone and everyone to investigate Islamic teachings for themselves, and see if what I am saying characterizes those teachings accurately or not.

2007-05-26 12:29:38 Robert Spencer


You say:

The hadith I linked to clearly lay out the few circumstances where it is acceptable for a Muslim to break an oath. (”An oath or vow to disobey the Lord, or to break ties of relationship or about something over which one has no control is not binding on you.”) Yet you all are determined to ignore it. Robert Spencer ignores it, as though Ibn Kathir and the Tafsir al-Jalalayn is the only writing on the subject.

All right. Let’s look at it. Here is the hadith in question:

Book 21, Number 3266:

Narrated Umar ibn al-Khattab:

Sa’id ibn al-Musayyab said: There were two brothers among the Ansar who shared an inheritance. When one of them asked the other for the portion due to him, he replied: If you ask me again for the portion due to you, all my property will be devoted to the decoration of the Ka’bah.

Umar said to him: The Ka’bah does not need your property. Make atonement for your oath and speak to your brother. I heard the Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) say: An oath or vow to disobey the Lord, or to break ties of relationship or about something over which one has no control is not binding on you.

“Two brothers among the Ansar.” As you no doubt know, the Ansar were the Medinan post-Hijra converts to Islam. So they were both Muslims. Can you please explain to us how Umar’s statement here has anything to do with the permission to deceive unbelievers given in 3:28 and explained by the commentators?

And as for Ibn Kathir and the two Jalals being the only writing on the subject, here are some more:

The Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs: “…saving yourselves from them by speaking in a friendly way towards them with, while your hearts dislikes this.”

As-Suyuti: “al-Taqiyya is with the tongue only; he who has been COERCED into saying that which angers Allah (SWT), and his heart is comfortable, then (saying that which he has been coerced to say) will NOT harm him (at all); (because) al-Taqiyya is with the tongue only, (NOT the heart).”

Ibn Abbas: “al-Taqiyya is the uttering of the tongue, while the heart is comfortable with faith….The concession here [in 3:28] must not be understood as to seek protection through acting in support of unbelievers; it must be limited only to verbal statements.”

Qutadah: “It is permissible to speak words of unbelief when al-Taqiyya is mandatory.”

And in modern times:

Maududi: “This [3:28] means that it is lawful for a believer, helpless in the grip of the enemies of Islam and in imminent danger of severe wrong and persecution, to keep his faith concealed and to behave in such a manner as to create the impression that he is on the same side as his enemies.”

Qutb: “Concessions are only granted to those who find themselves in a state of fear. Such people may try to protect themselves by pretending to support the unbelievers, but this must be understood to be only a verbal support given for a specific purpose. It cannot be an expression of any firmly established alliance or deeply rooted love.”

Want more?

2007-05-26 12:11:52 Robert Spencer


Thank you for the links. I asked you this:

Why don’t you post some Islamic interpretations of Qur’an 3:28 that rule out religious deception? I’m sure everyone will be eager to see them.

Do any of the links you provide show any Islamic authority saying that religious deception is wrong? Let’s take them one by one.

1. No
2. No
3. No
4. No

And as for the ahadith regarding oaths and vows, do any say that one must be truthful in oaths made before unbelievers? No.

If you do find any links in which an Islamic authority says that religious deception of unbelievers is wrong in all cases, send ’em on.

2007-05-26 09:56:37 Robert Spencer


Sure, I pick and choose. People always tell me that, yet they never seem to come up with what I’m leaving out. Why don’t you post some Islamic interpretations of Qur’an 3:28 that rule out religious deception? I’m sure everyone will be eager to see them.

Meanwhile, I haven’t ignored in the slightest that lying is only allowed as a form of protection. Once again you demonstrate that you aren’t actually reading what I write before attacking. Above at 7:39PM I wrote this:

Note also that in the latter quote the two Jalals don’t say this can only be done in extreme circumstances, but whenever a believer fears “something.”

Obviously if the believer fears “something,” he is lying as a form of protection. Can you think of any circumstances in which someone may fear something in a courtroom, and lie as a form of protection? I can.

2007-05-26 01:40:28 Robert Spencer


Yet you would treat Islam to a different standard. When this sort of thing is pointed out in Christianity, you point out how it is interpreted. Yet when it comes to Islam, you’re a strict constructionist. It doesn’t matter what the groups say, it’s all about the text of the Quran.

That’s demonstrably false even from this thread. In my first post above, I quoted not just the Qur’an, but two mainstream Qur’an commentaries, the Tafsir Ibn Kathir and the Tafsir Al-Jalalayn.

Likewise in my books, I do not speak only about the text of the Qur’an, but the way that text has been understood by mainstream commentators.

Perhaps instead of listening to what the truth-challenged flying-spittle crowd alleges about my work, you might try actually reading it before making assertions. I’ll even send you a few books gratis. Just let me know where dorkaforks live.

2007-05-26 01:12:16 Robert Spencer


That interpretation of Philippians 1:18 has never been held by any Christian group, Catholic, Orthodox, or Protestant, throughout history or today.

Good Shabbos.

2007-05-26 00:36:46 Robert Spencer

Thanks to all those who passed along kind words. I much appreciate them.

2007-05-26 00:17:15 Robert Spencer


The sacred texts of both Christianity and Islam do not exist in a vacuum, and cannot be separated from the theological traditions that evolved around and with them.

And in mainstream Christian tradition, oath-taking has always been permitted. Some groups disallowed it, to be sure. But Catholics and Orthodox, who form the overwhelming majority of Christians, have always allowed it. Even most Protestant groups do, as witness in the USA the fact that every President except Franklin Pierce — 40 Protestants — all swore on the Bible when taking the oath of office.

HerrMorgenholz: There’s a lot that’s good in it. I am focused on jihad, and that’s mostly bad news, but I am wrongly characterized as an “Islamophobe.” I love the arresting imagery and poetry of the short, late (chronologically early, late in the book) suras of the Qur’an. There are many admirable things about the spirituality and morality, although an injunction to tell the truth in all circumstances is not among them. Oh, and then there’s the food, which I wish I could stay away from more rigorously. But seriously, one day I will write a book called “What’s Right About Islam” (or some such; I think that title is taken) just to throw everyone off.

2007-05-26 00:13:54 Robert Spencer


Oaths arose in order to prevent perjury, in an age when Christian faith was strong, and people assumed that one would hesitate to swear before God to tell the truth and then lie.

But all that happened in a Christian context. Why would a knowledgeable and pious Muslim believe that swearing before Allah in a courtroom of unbelievers bind him to tell the truth, if to do so would cause difficulty, when in the Islamic mainstream has always been the idea that one may permissibly lie to unbelievers when under various kinds of pressure?

2007-05-25 23:51:14 Robert Spencer


Maybe the real question is, if the Koran authorizes (commands?) Muslims to lie to nonbelievers, why let Muslims testify at all?

Authorizes, not commands.

I guess this question is a reductio ad absurdum? Anyway, as I have said about 10 trillion times, what Islam teaches is not what any given Muslim necessarily believes, as there is in Islam, just as there is in any religious tradition, a spectrum of belief, knowledge, and fervor. And human nature is everywhere the same. But for the U.S. as a society to ignore the contents of the Qur’an and Sunnah, or to deny that those contents could possibly be any different in their nature or effects than the content of the Judeo-Christian tradition, is perhaps a trifle naive.

2007-05-25 23:48:11 Robert Spencer


What I don’t understand is how letting someone swear on the Koran would promote lying, which is what you seem to be suggesting.

Come on. Let’s not be silly. I didn’t say anything remotely like that.

You’re right that many Muslims will not know the Qur’an or Islam well enough to know this. As I said before, this is not a fail-safe against perjury any more than swearing on the Bible is. This practice is in fact saying something about us, our society, our civilization, and the source of our laws, not about the person giving testimony. But that, of course, was Prager’s argument, and you have already given that a once-over.

And then secondarily, it seems to me to be absurd, and possibly dangerous, to assume that all books that are held sacred are equivalent in the way they are regarded by those who hold them sacred, and in the actions they inspire in those who take them seriously. But that, although it is a public debate we very much need to have in America today, is one we are not allowed to have.

2007-05-25 23:43:32 Robert Spencer


The arguments aren’t mine. I quoted Ibn Kathir and the Tafsir al-Jalalayn above. But it is noteworthy that in their commentaries on 2:283 and 4:135 they didn’t say these principles extended even to testimony before unbelievers, and canceled the exception given in 3:28.

I suppose Ibn Kathir and the two Jalals are “academics buried neck-deep in a specific topic” and so “can’t see the forest for the Islamic trees.” And your LexOrient link hardly establishes what you seem to be wishing it to establish — not even the part you quoted.

This happens all the time. I quote Islamic sources, and their intepretation is attributed to me by those who would prefer that they didn’t say things like “believers are allowed to show friendship to the disbelievers outwardly, but never inwardly” or “We smile in the face of some people although our hearts curse them” or “you may show patronage to them through words, but not in your hearts.” Note also that in the latter quote the two Jalals don’t say this can only be done in extreme circumstances, but whenever a believer fears “something.” I wish they didn’t say things like that. But they do.

2007-05-25 23:39:03 Robert Spencer

Farmer Joe,

I think the content of the book is less important than the degree to which the swearer holds it sacred. I mean, what’s the point of swearing on a bible anyway? Is it not that one is making a show before one’s god of committing oneself to telling the truth? In which case, wouldn’t it make more sense to use the book that the swearer actually DOES hold sacred?

This assumes that if someone holds something sacred, swearing by it will make him more likely to tell the truth. This is the same assumption that “Allahpundit” made above. But the equation of “holding something sacred” with “truth-telling” is a Christian assumption. If the sacred book and the sacred traditions sanction lying to unbelievers under certain circumstances, why would someone who believes in that sacred book and those sacred traditions believe that an oath on that sacred book compelled him to tell the truth?

2007-05-25 23:23:01 Robert Spencer

Mojave Mark:

Thanks very much. I appreciate it.

2007-05-25 22:47:44 Robert Spencer

If they’re going to lie, though, then they’re going to lie no matter which book we make them swear on. Surely we’ve got a better shot at their conscience with the Koran than with the Bible.

Allahpundit on May 25, 2007 at 6:29 PM

No one has ever claimed that making people swear on the Bible was a fail-safe against perjury. The important point in this story is that the books, and their attendant traditions, are being treated as equivalent in content, which they are not. And that in turn has important implications for where we are heading as a society.

And as for “surely we’ve got a better shot at their conscience with the Koran than with the Bible,” why would that be so, given the material I posted above?

2007-05-25 22:44:15 Robert Spencer

1. “Do you promise to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?”

“I do.”

2. “Let not the believers take disbelievers for their friends in preference to believers. Whoso doeth that hath no connection with Allah unless (it be) that ye but guard yourselves against them, taking (as it were) security.” — Qur’an 3:28

3. “Allah said next, ‘unless you indeed fear a danger from them,’ [or as above, ‘unless it be that ye but guard yourselves against them’] meaning, except those believers who in some areas or times fear for their safety from the disbelievers. In this case, such believers are allowed to show friendship to the disbelievers outwardly, but never inwardly. For instance, Al-Bukhari recorded that Abu Ad-Darda’ said, ‘We smile in the face of some people although our hearts curse them.’ Al-Bukhari said that Al-Hasan said, ‘The Tuqyah [taqiyya, or religious deception] is allowed until the Day of Resurrection.'” — Ibn Kathir’s commentary on Qur’an 3:28

4. “Let not the believers take the disbelievers as patrons, rather than, that is, instead of, the believers – for whoever does that, that is, [whoever] takes them as patrons, does not belong to, the religion of, God in anyway – unless you protect yourselves against them, as a safeguard (tuqātan, ‘as a safeguard’, is the verbal noun from taqiyyatan), that is to say, [unless] you fear something, in which case you may show patronage to them through words, but not in your hearts: this was before the hegemony of Islam and [the dispensation] applies to any individual residing in a land with no say in it.” — the Tafsir al-Jalalayn on Qur’an 3:28

So now North Carolinians can swear to tell the truth on a book that has been interpreted by its mainstream commentators as allowing for deceptive words to be spoken to unbelievers.

Links to sources at http://www.jihadwatch.org/dhimmiwatch/archives/016608.php

2007-05-25 22:24:58 Robert Spencer

Eminuu has joined the many critics of my work who assert its factual flaws without providing even a single example of my alleged errors. Pardon me if I am skeptical. In fact, although I quoted only from Ibn Kathir in my explanation at Jihad Watch of the Imam’s prayer, this is not a lone “extremist” interpretation. In fact, most Muslim commentators believe that the Jews are those who have earned Allah’s wrath and the Christians are those who have gone astray. This is the view of Tabari, Zamakhshari, the Tafsir al-Jalalayn, the Tanwir al-Miqbas min Tafsir Ibn Abbas, and Ibn Arabi, as well as Ibn Kathir. One contrasting, but not majority view, is that of Nisaburi, who says that “those who have incurred Allah’s wrath are the people of negligence, and those who have gone astray are the people of immoderation.”

Wahhabis drew criticism a few years back for adding “such as the Jews” and “such as the Christians” into parenthetical glosses on this passage in Qur’ans printed in Saudi Arabia. Some Western commentators imagined that the Saudis originated this interpretation, when in fact it is venerable and mainstream in Islamic theology.

Robert Spencer

2007-02-03 17:24:06 Robert Spencer
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Anthropology Beyond Good and Evil / marranci.com

Dr Marranci

Comment Date Name Link
You have really made me laugh with this one, Marranci. Thanks!

See the Second Update to my original post here:


Robert Spencer
2007-12-30T13:45:49+00:00 Robert Spencer
Mr. Marranci:

You have a fine talent for the smear and the ad hominem attack, couched in a pious refusal to engage in "sophistic polemics."


Robert Spencer
2007-12-30T02:39:55+00:00 Robert Spencer
Site icon

Anthropology Beyond Good and Evil / marranci.com

Dr Marranci

Comment Date Name Link
You have really made me laugh with this one, Marranci. Thanks!

See the Second Update to my original post here:


Robert Spencer
2007-12-30T13:45:49+00:00 Robert Spencer
Mr. Marranci:

You have a fine talent for the smear and the ad hominem attack, couched in a pious refusal to engage in "sophistic polemics."


Robert Spencer
2007-12-30T02:39:55+00:00 Robert Spencer