Why I am not a muslim
February 4, 2011
These are just a few of my thoughts. It’s not going to be possible to write everything on this massive topic in a single post.
I don’t dispute that if God wanted to could have had the the Koran dictated to Mohamed, or taken him on the night journey. And for that matter (being a Christian) I don’t dispute that God could carry out what’s described in the Bible. The question is did he really or didn’t he? The Koran and the Bible make seemingly conflicting claims – even about ordinary things, such as whether Jesus was crucified – and so both can’t be right.
When you look at the evidence though, it is on Christian side. All of the early sources say that Jesus was crucified. Even Tacitus says so, not to mention the many early Christian writings. I really don’t see any reason to believe the Koran – particularly not when it conflicts with the early evidence.
The way the Koran and the Bible were transmitted is very different. The various writings in the Bible started out separate, being copied out to the fledgling churches. It was a decentralized process. Very quickly you had a situation where there are independent copies, translated into many different languages spread around from Ethiopia across the Roman empire even into Persia. Point being that you have not one, but many different sources, and spread so widely that it was basically impossible for someone to make the wholesale changes needed for Islam’s claims to be true.
The opposite happened for the Koran. The third Caliph, Uthman, collected together the Koran, and burnt or boiled any variant readings of it. Seemingly though some variant readings have survived (such as the Sana’a manuscripts). The Koran was centrally controlled after that.
So I guess for me personally, I find it easier to trust the many early sources which corroborate each other than one many centuries later which has a past I don’t really trust.
I guess it’s easy to point out many small things in the Koran which seem like basic mistakes. For example, in Surahs 3 and 19 Mary (mother of Jesus) is described as the brother of Aaron and the daughter of Imran. To me it seems like a pretty simple mistake – that Mary (mother of Jesus) has been mistaken for another Mary (sister of Moses and Aaron) who lived one and half thousand years beforehand.
It’s things like this that make it very difficult for me to believe that the Koran is dictated by Gabriel to Mohamed. Divinely dictated texts, in the way Muslims claim the Koran was, shouldn’t contain mistakes that a person would make. There’s many instances of things that would be perfectly explainable if it was Mohamed (and all his cultural baggage), not the angel Gabriel writing the text.
For example, there’s a story of Mary and the Palm tree (Surah 19:23-27). This story is not contained in the Bible or early Christian sources, but they are not original to the Koran either. It comes from documents which were common at Mohammed’s time in Arabia, such as Pseudo-Matthew (not to be confused with the much earlier gospel of Matthew) – which appears for all the world to be a forgery. Another example, just nearby, is Jesus and pigeons (found in the Arabic Infancy Gospel among others). This repeating of common stories exactly what you’d expect from an intelligent person, Mohamed, not knowing which texts were early or authentic but trying to make sense of them. I can respect that Mohamed was intelligent and even well meaning – but it’s not something that I can believe is dictated by God.
I’m not an expert on any of this – and so I apologize if I have written wrongly or disrespectfully to anyone – but these are my genuine thoughts and I thought that you might appreciate them.