Thursday, April 29, 2010

Tiptoeing Through the Trilogy Part Three - Muslims and the Quran

I believe that Muslims carry in their minds a vison of the mythical person they imagine Muhammad was. At Muslims and the Seerah I describe how they deny aspects of their Prophet's biography that do not fit that image, and at Muslims and the Hadith I note that even Hadiths considered authentic for over a millennium are now suspect if they do not support the view Muslims have of their Apostle. How do they handle troublesome portions of the Quran?

Now that more Kafirs are learning Arabic, Muslims no longer claim that Muhammad's command to beat disobedient wives (004:034) (yes, the Arabic is in the Imperative form) only means "they can give them a light tap as a last resort" (and yes, I realize Muslims believe Allah, not Muhammad, authored the Quran). The verb he used, daraba, has always meant a strong blow. A boxer who receives a strong darab to the head has just received a knock-out punch. When American fighter aircraft daraba Jihadist safehouses in Iraq and Afghanistan, they flatten them to the ground. Homes of Hamas suicide bombers that are daraba by Israeli gunship helicopters are no longer standing. Even Muhammad used that word when he promised that believers who killed salamanders and geckos with one hefty darab would receive a heavenly reward.

So Muslims are now abandoning that argument. Their latest defense, articulated recently by Professor Nasr Abu Zayd at a lecture in the Netherlands, is, "Although it is true the Quran allows Muslims to beat their wives, they should not do so because Muhammad never did."

In one sense, I guess that's a good thing. If I were a Muslim wife who refused to have sex with my husband because of my fear that his second wife might carry a sexually transmitted disease, I'd rather have a husband who didn't beat me because Muhammad didn't beat his wives than a husband who did (incidentally, the courtesy that a husband might seek his wife's permission before marrying other women, or at least inform her in advance, never even crossed Muhammad's mind and millions of Muslim wives have been shocked by the news ever since!).

As could be expected, Muslim women reach for Dr. Abu Zayd's explanation like a drowning person lunging for a life preserver, only to discover it is attached to nothing. Just a few minutes of careful thought shows the weakness of the position. In the first place, as we have already noted, the Quranic injunction to beat disobedient wives is a command from Allah. Since when has Allah taken kindly to his servants ignoring his commands? Secondly, the beating is only to be given as a last resort. Troublesome wives are first to be warned, and if that is not successful banished to separate beds. Did Muhammad have any disputes with his wives that went beyond stages one and two and called for a trip to the woodshed? I invite any Muslim scholar to show me where any of Muhammad's wives continued insubordination after they were admonished and sent to separate bedrooms. Thirdly, even if the Prophet had struck his wives, how would we know? Do you honestly think the scholars who collected the Hadiths would have included stories of their Prophet mistreating his spouses? Sahih al-Bukhari lived 250 years after Muhammad, and during his lifetime whittled over 300,000 Hadiths down to the several thousand he included in his collection. For over two centuries the image of the Perfect Prophet had been inculcated into the minds and hearts of Muslims. I find it impossible to believe that any Hadith of Muhammad slapping one of his wives across the face would have made it into the final cut. Finally, is the way Muhammad did treat his wives any better than beating them? What could be worse than lying to your wife to get her out of the house so you could have sex with the beautiful slave girl you had given her, and then creating an entire sura of the Quran, chapter 66, in which you claimed God had given you permission to divorce your wife if she refused to keep silent about the affair?

The verse discussed above from Surat al-Nisa (Quran 4:34), is not the only troubling text in the Quran when it comes to marital relations. Millions of people enjoyed the movie The Parent Trap when it reappeared in 1998, just as an earlier generation enjoyed the same story when the original movie was made in 1961. It is the delightful story of two young sisters who scheme to get their divorced parents back together again. That could never take place in Muhammad's Islam. For some strange reason that might have made sense in 7th century Medieval Arabia but certainly makes no sense today, Muhammad stipulated in al-Baqarah (Quran 2:230) that a divorced woman could only return to her husband after she married and divorced a second husband. This has actually become a racket in Muslim countries where husbands can easily divorce their wives in a fit of rage by simply declaring three times that she is divorced. The husband wakes up the next morning with no-one to prepare his coffee, realizes he made a rash mistake, and decides he wants her back again. He finds someone called a Muhallil, pays him a certain amount of money to marry-rape-divorce the woman, and then takes her back again. Young girls have committed suicide rather than undergo this humiliation.

It is not only Muhammad's unique way of reuniting divorced couples that seems strange to a 21st century reader, his lack of historical understanding is as well. I've had the privilege of walking through the same valley that Muhammad walked as a young man on the camel caravans between Mecca and Syria. Carved into the rocks of the mountains on either side of the valley near Medain Saleh are enormous rooms with inscriptions written above them. One could easily believe, as the young Muhammad did, that people must have once lived in the homes they carved in those rocks. A local folk tale included in the poems of Umayya Ibn Abu Salt, whose poetry Muhammad loved to listen to, was that a hero named Saleh had once created a giant camel from those rocks whose milk fed the entire tribe. It was not a great stretch of the imagination to declare years later in the Quran that Saleh really was a Prophet who, like Muhammad, was not accepted by his people. The Quran declares in considerable detail that Saleh was from the Thamud tribe that had lived thousands of years before, just a few generations after Noah, and they were the people who lived in those cave dwellings (a much more detailed discussion including the Quranic texts is given here).

The problem is simply that the Quranic rendition is not true. Archeologists agree that it was the Nabateans who had lived in Petra over two millennium ago who moved up the coast into Arabia and built tombs for their departed just as they had in Petra. The Thamud tribe lived further north in Arabia, thousands of years later than "the time of Noah" as given in the Quran, and never lived in the Nabatean tombs.

Earlier in this post I mentioned Professor Nasr Abu Zayd, who now lives and teaches in the Netherlands. He is an Egyptian who had the bizarre experience of having the Cairo Appeals Court order his wife to divorce him because he suggested that parts of the Quran were applicable only at the time of Muhammad and should not be practiced today. He and his wife left Egypt for Europe, and he has never returned.

What I find interesting is that even though Professor Abu Zayd was declared Murtedd, an Apostate, in Egypt, he is very much a Muslim who believes as all Muslims do that the text of the Quran was given verbatim from God to Muhammad. Even realizing that the Quran is a document that cannot be applied to 21st century civilization is not enough to release him from the grip that Muhammad has on him. Like all Muslims who find their identify in following Muhammad and who cannot imagine life without him, he continues to believe in the Prophet whose image is burned into his mind and heart.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Tiptoeing Through the Trilogy Part Two - Muslims and the Hadith

Q - When is an authentic Hadith no longer authentic?
A - When it says something about Muhammad you don't want to believe.

At Muslims and the Seerah I suggested that Muslims deny unsavory parts of Muhammad's biography that do not correspond with the mental image they hold of their Prophet. Do they do the same with the Hadith?

Dr. Yusuf al-Qaradawi was quick to respond when Wafa Sultan quoted Muhammad saying the gates of heaven are under the shadow of swords (Bk 4, Nr 4681). "She is Jahilah, an ignorant woman," he thundered on the next al-Jazeera episode of Shariah and Life. "Besides, that is a weak Hadith."

The first part of his retort was to be expected. Ignorance is the favorite word used by Muslims to describe their opponents; you haven't criticized Islam if you haven't been called ignorant. After all, if the Jewish and Christian tribes of the Arab Peninsula were all living in Jahaliya before Muhammad blinded them with the glorious light of Islam, is it to be expected that anyone who turns away from that light 14 centuries later could avoid the same epithat?

But the second part of his answer was fascinating. Sahih Muslim, who along with al-Bukhari was the greatest Muslim scholar of the Hadith, slipped a weak Hadith into his collection that escaped the Ulema for over 1200 years until al-Qaradawi discovered it? Or did the Hadith communicate something about Muhammad that the Shaykh does not want us to know?

Western Muslims love to remind us that Muhammad said that Paradise is at the feet of mothers. That Hadith, narrated by Muawiyah ibn Jahimah from the al-Tirmidhi collection, truly is a weak Hadith (comment: Islam must have numerous Paradises, if one is at the feet of mothers and another is under the shadow of swords. Muhammad stated repeatedly that most of the inhabitants of Hell are women (Vol 1 Bk 6 Nr 301). Almost all Arab women are mothers. How can most of them be in Hell if heaven is at their feet?).

Fatima Mernissi is a Muslim writer popular among her readers for her attemps to demonstrate that Hadiths considered authentic for centuries but detrimental to women are really "weak Hadiths". She claims, for example, that Muhammad's statement that the prayer of a man is invalidated if a woman, donkey, or dog passes in front of him is a weak Hadith (Bk 4, Nr 1034). Although her fans think of her as bold, she really is doing nothing different than Yusuf al-Qaradawi. Rather than raise the question of whether Muhamad was a misogynist, she simply denies any evidence that suggests that he was.

In his Book of Songs, 10th century Iranian scholar Abulfaraj told the story of a poet named Attabi who was eating bread in a mosque. When a friend asked if he was not ashamed to eat in front of people, Atabi replied, "Would you be ashamed to eat in front of a cow? These people are no more intelligent than cattle; let me show you." He gathered a crowd together and invented a Hadith in which the Prophet said that whoever touched the tip of his nose with his tongue would escape hell. The entire audience began trying to do that, with Attabi turning to his friend and asking, "Do you see what I mean?"

I think Muslims are similar today. Correct me if I'm wrong, but Muslims are allowed only three responses when they hear their Prophet say that a newborn child will resemble the parent who first reached orgasm, a woman is only allowed to be in the presence of a non-family male if she has nursed him, or you don't need to worry about flies dropping in your soup because the bacteria on one wing will be neutralized by the medicinal value of the other (Bk 4, Vol 54, Nr 537). They can claim it is a weak Hadith (meaning that Muhammad did not really say it), they can argue it is a strong Hadith but was valid only for the time of the Prophet, or they can believe that it is a strong Hadith valid for all time. The one thing they are not permitted to do is simply respond, "Yeah, he could have said that. It was a ridiculous thing to say, wasn't it?"

Bear with me as I engage in a little Tafseer (Quranic and Hadith exposition) of just one of many subjects in the Hadith hundreds of millions of Muslims around the world accept without thought or question.

The Prophet and the Gecko:

1. Muhammad did not like the "wazagh" (variously translated as gecko or salamander), that often strikingly-beautiful little creature that runs up and down walls and across deserts throughout the Middle East. It was an evil creature, the Prophet said, because it used its cheeks as billows to stir the flames of the fire of Abraham (Vol 4, Bk 55, Nr 579):

Any intelligent person should already sense their truth antennae rapidly rising. The story of Abraham was one of many that Muhammad stole from the Hebrew Scriptures and inserted into the Quran. When the story itself did not serve his purpose, which was to demonstrate that these ancient Prophets had all been persecuted as he was, he added details that he either made up or found in local folk or religious traditions. One of these was the claim that Abraham was thrown into a fire (according to the Hebrew Scriptures, it was the three friends of Daniel who were thrown into a furnace but textual accuracy was never one of Muhammad's strong points).  This fire, according to Islamic tradition, was so large that a bird flying above it was burned. Can you really believe that a gecko blew into the fire to fan the flames? Does it make any sense that its descendants thousands of years later should be cursed as a result?

2. As a result of this dislike for the salamander, Muhammad told his followers to kill them. He even promised they would gain one hundred brownie points with Allah if they killed them on the first blow, but less if it took two or more blows (Bk 26, Nr 5564) (incidentally, the Arabic used here for "blow" is the exact same word used in the Quran to beat disobedient wives, but more of that in my next post).

I know that "brownie points" sounds like a trivial translation for the important Arabic word hasanat, but I'm not sure I know a better one. Muslims believe our acts of virtue are balanced against our sins on Judgement Day, with destiny depending upon the outcome. Before looking more closely at what the Quran says about hasanat, let's first consider Muhammad's command to kill the geckos. How can you seriously follow a God who grants "hasanat", not for following the Golden Rule or acts of compassion, but for killing salamanders? How can you believe that the weak old man who can only kill them after three blows gains less virtue than the strong young man who kills them with one blow? At any rate, suppose you've had a good day and killed 10 geckos with one blow each. According to Muhammad, you have gained 1000 hasanat, or good points with God. What's next?

3. In a type of heavenly matching donation game, Allah promises his devotees in Surat al-Anam (Quran 6:160) that he will multiply any virtuous hasanats presented to him by ten. The young man who killed 10 geckos to gain 1000 hasanats suddenly has them multiplied to 10,000! The same verse promises that sins will not be multiplied. In other words, if you commit only one sin, but have killed ten geckos, you have 10,000 hasanats in your favor against only one sin for which you are liable. It's not a bad deal!

4. If this was not clear enough, Surat Hud (Quran 11:114) promises Muslims that if they perform the required five daily prayers, their good deeds (read Arabic "hasanat") will remove their sins. Again, the ratio is one-for-one. One hasanat will remove one sin. Imagine that our friend who killed ten geckos on the first blow for 1000 hasanat that were multiplied by Allah to 10,000, got drunk and cheated on his girlfriend last night, but lied about it to her today. Three hasanats will take care of those three sins, leaving him with 9,997 hasanats to his credit for future mistakes.

The Arabic verb "to laugh", dahaka, includes the concept of laughing at people because of their naivete. Several Hadiths, including this by Bin Majah, note that a slave woman (yes, Muhammad had slaves) entered Aisha's house and saw a spear hanging on the wall. When she asked the reason for the spear, Aisha replied, "The Prophet of Allah told us that when Ibrahim was thrown into the fire, the salamander was blowing on the fire to keep it burning. So the Prophet of Allah told us that they must be killed."

Can you not visualize Muhammad mocking the innocence of his nine-year-old child bride, sexual partner, and house servant, by telling her this boogie-man story of the evil salamander? Speaking of mockery, Muslims often make fun of Christians for their belief that they are saved by the blood of Jesus. This from the religion that apparently finds salvation in the blood of geckos?

Your Western-educated Muslim intellectual friends will without doubt quickly dismiss all that I have said above. They like to use academic expressions such as "extensive narrative tradition" when discussing the Hadith to give the impression there are deep moral and spiritual truths hidden within them that I have yet to find.

If you understand Arabic and really want to know the significance of Hadiths such as these, simply google "kutl al-wazagh", killing the gecko, in an Arabic web browser. Immediately almost 85,000 references will pop up. Most are in Arabic, although some such as this have pages in English. Read them carefully, and you will find thousands of Muslims all over the world writing to their Imams and Shaykhs with questions about geckos. "Do I get more hasanats if I kill a big gecko?" "I've committed a major sin; how many salamandars must I kill to be forgiven?" Again, Western Muslims brush aside the significance of questions such as this, but they are at the heart of Islam.

Karen Armstrong recently spoke to students in Sharjah about the Golden Rule. Can you imagine 85,000 young Muslims asking their Imams for advice on how to practically follow the Golden Rule rather than inquiring about how many geckos they have to kill to be forgiven for this or that sin? I'm an optimist who believes it could happen, but never will until Muslims begin to leave Muhammad behind.

Acknowledgement: some of the above material was discussed at the Arabic TV show Daring Question with host Rashid.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Tiptoeing Through the Trilogy Part One - Muslims and the Seerah

For many years (12 centuries to be precise), what Muslims believe about their God, their Prophet, and the Universe has been based upon a trilogy of texts. These are the Quran (what Allah said), the Hadith (what Muhammad said), and the Seerah (Muhammad's biography, or what others said about him).

The trilogy is based upon a hierarchy of authority. Every single letter and word of the Arabic Quran is considered to be without error. Not only what it says about Allah, but also what it relates about history, the natural and supernatural universe, and everything else is absolute perfection.

The authority of the Hadith is based upon a "science" that early Muslim scholars devoted years to develop. Tens of thousands of alleged sayings of Muhammad were carefully examined. Their authenticity was determined, not by whether or not a particular hadith made any historical, theological, or scientific sense, but by who related the information. If Aisha said that Muhammad said this or that, it was considered much more authentic than if someone less reliable reported what he said (comment: Muslims even argue the reason Allah commanded his Prophet to initiate a sexual relationship with this nine-year-old child was to give her those added years to hear and remember what he said!). At the top of the chain are the "Hadith Qudsi", or the "Holy Hadith". These are utterances given directly to Muhammad by God that for one reason or another did not make it into the Quran. Next in authority are the Hadiths found in books named after the men who collected them, of whom Bukhari and Muslim are the best known.

Muhammad's first extant biographies were only written about two centuries after his birth. Earlier writers such as al-Waqidi had given accounts of his raids, or "Maghazi", but these are not considered full biographies. The most authentic and earliest Seerah is that of Ibn Ishaq (translated in English as The Life of Muhammad by Guillaume but also available as an abridged version here).

Ibn Ishaq often noted that even he was unsure about the authenticity of material that he related. He began many sentences with "zaama" (it is alleged), and ended many others with "Allah yaalam" (only God knows if this is really true). Still others began with the sceptical phrase, "fi ma dhukira li" (it was told me...). This was particularly true when he recounted miraculous events associated with the life of Muhammad. As one example among many, Ibn Ishaq wrote, "It is alleged that (a woman who wanted Muhammad's father Abdallah to marry her instead of Amina, Muhammad's mother) used to say that a light blazed between Abdallah's eyes, but after he had sex with Amina (and she conceived the Prophet) the light went away." What Ibn Ishaq was saying was, "OK...I'm going to tell it the way I heard it, but I don't really believe that's the way it happened."

Muslims have always acknowledged these exaggerations in the Seerah, but until recently have accepted the historical events recounted therein as true. What I find fascinating is that the recent shift away from believing the Seerah has nothing to do with new historical or archeological evidence that might cast doubt upon the former accounts, but is simply that more non-Muslims are becoming familiar with what the Seerah actually says. In an Arabic interview, Wafa Sultan stated that it was "impossible to read the biography of Muhammad and really believe it, and emerge a mentally healthy person". Modern Muslims, particularly those living in the West, simply respond by stating they do not believe those elements of the Seerah that do not correspond with their wishful, mystical conception of their Prophet.

I've had a learning experience over the past few months since I posted Muslims and Muhammad and listed a dozen or so reasons why I did not believe anyone who did the things Muhammad did could be a Prophet of God. Initially Muslims, most of whom know nothing of the darker side of Muhammad, predictably responded that I was lying. One described me as a "bad person" who must be influenced by anti-Islamic literature. So I spent the next few weeks presenting the historical evidence from Islamic sources for the things I had mentioned, ending here. The response of Muslims suddenly changed; they no longer accused me of lying, but now said they did not believe material just because it was in the Seerah. To be valid, information about Muhammad had to be not only in the Seerah, but also in the Hadith. Muhammad could not have killed the poetess Asma bint Marwan, because her name does not appear in the Hadith. He could not have tortured Kinana to death at Khaybar to steal his wealth, because the Hadith does not mention that.

I noted here that Tariq Ramadan in his book In the Footsteps of the Prophet deliberately misrepresented material from the Seerah to present an image of Muhammad and his followers that Ibn Ishaq never intended. Now I'm beginning to understand how it works. If the Seerah says something positive about Muhammad (he was faithful to his first wife Khadijah), as a Muslim you believe it. If it says something that can be manipulated into something good (Abu Bakr exchanged non-Muslims slaves for Muslim slaves) you write (as Tariq did) that Abu Bakr set slaves free as an example of human rights. But if the Seerah says something that can in no way be seen as good, such as the murder of Asma bint Marwan, the Western-educated Muslim intellectual simply denies it because her name is not mentioned by al-Bukhari or Sahih Muslim (comment: back in the heartland, Muslims have no problem at all with Kinana of Khaybar or Asma bint Marwan).

The lengths to which Muslims go to protect their Prophet are amazing. First, they declare that all Prophets are maasum, protected from al-Kabair (major sins). That means that anything Muhammad did cannot be considered even sinful, much less evil. Next they accuse the Hebrew Scriptures of being corrupted because they honestly present the failures of Biblical characters (comment: the Prophet David, according to Muslims, could never have committed adultery with Bathsheba, and Lot could never have committed incest with his daughters. The fact that Jews never considered Lot a Prophet at all has no relevance in the strange discipline of Islamic scholarship). Finally, Muslims deny the evidence even from their own sources when it indicates that Muhammad was not the person they want him to be.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Karen Armstrong, Islam, and the Golden Rule

There are probably many bloggers as well as prognosticators of all kinds who are willing to admit when they are wrong, but perhaps not as many who hope they are wrong. That's how I felt today when I read Karen Armstrong's article about her trip to the United Arab Emirates to promote compassion and the Golden Rule, as well as press releases from Sharjah about her speeches there. I wish her mission success, but I have my doubts.

I believe in the Golden Rule, the simple but all-encompassing principle of treating other people the way you want them to treat you. Like many Americans, I don't always practice it well, but it is my goal. I try to tip waiters and waitresses well, not because I am wealthy or they are attractive, but because that's how I would want to be treated if I were a restaurant server or bartender.

I would argue that Western Civilization is built upon a Judeo-Christian foundation, and the Golden Rule finds its origin in the principles of those two religions (comment: But what about Buddhism? you might ask. I'm sorry; a young man who abandons his young wife and new-born son to go find himself under the Bodhi tree doesn't have a lot to say to me). The last of Moses' Ten Commandments was to not look with envy or desire upon anything that belongs to your neighbor. In Matthew 7:12, Jesus stated that the entire Hebrew Scriptures could be summarized in the command to treat others as you would like them to treat you. Many of his stories, such as the businessman who went out of his way to help a beaten and robbed Samaritan, illustrated the same principle. The Apostle Paul repeated the same idea when he said in Acts 20:35 that "it is better to give than to receive".

I haven't heard the speeches Karen Armstrong gave at the Sharjah American University, and hope they will become available online so I can do so, but I can anticipate her line of argument. People are happier and life works better when we practice the Golden Rule. All major religions include it as part of their core values. We just need to begin to work harder to incorporate it into our daily lives. And I would imagine she found a few Bukhari or Sahih Muslim Hadiths as well as Ayahs from the Quran to prove her point.

But here's my problem. The Golden Rule does not exist in Islam (comment: I am not saying no Muslims practice it, I am saying it is not a part of Islam as envisoned and practiced by Muhammad). If you gave someone totally unfamiliar with Christianity a copy of the Gospel of Mark and asked her to read it, she would probably agree after finishing that Jesus did treat other people the way he wanted them to treat him. Let her carefully read the life of Muhammad (from its earliest sources, not 20th century apologists), and it would be impossible to reach the same conclusion. Treat other Muslims the way you would like them to treat you? Possibly. Treat everybody that way? It's not there.

How did Muhammad practice the Golden Rule when he robbed an innocent nine-year-old child of her innocence and forced her into a sexual relationship with a man six times her age? How did he practice it when he began to raid the caravans returning from Syria to Mecca with the goods the Quraysh needed to survive for the next year? How was he practicing the Golden Rule when he expelled and beheaded thousands of Jews in Medina, tribes who had lived there for hundreds of years, simply because they refused to accept him as the Prophet he claimed to be? How was cutting off the hand of the woman from the Makhzumiya tribe (Bukhari Vol 8 Book 81 Nr 779)  who had a habit of "borrowing things and then not returning them" practicing the Golden Rule?  I'll stop here, but the list could go on.

Like an adolescent teenager playing air guitar and imagining himself Mick Jagger, I took a moment to imagine myself standing in front of the students in Sharjah to give a lecture about the Golden Rule. I would present it as a great and enduring principle. As an American, I would admit that my country at times strayed far from its practice, but it was a compass we could return to because it was at the heart of our faith. I would give them a brief trajectory of the life of their Prophet, noting some of the things that I mentioned above. In conclusion, I would ask them to consider whether taking the Golden Rule seriously in their lives would move them towards or away from Muhammad.

The students probably wouldn't feel as good about themselves as they did after Karen's lecture, and might be a lot more angry, but hopefully I would have given them something to think about. Hopefully as well, I'd make it safely to the airport (just kidding!). I'm not sure, however, that I'd be invited back.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Thanking Out Loud About Da'wa

When I described Tariq Ramadan as being a "missionary", a reader protested that not all Muslims engage in Da'wa. He was right, of course. Many of your Muslim friends, neighbors, and coworkers not only do not encourage you to embrace Islam, they would be dismayed if you did so.

I lived in Jeddah for a few years in the 1990's, and one of my lasting memories was meeting Americans there who had converted to Islam in the States and moved to Saudi Arabia. Some of them really went whole hog. It's quite unforgettable to see a tall, lanky American wearing his gleaming white thobe and red head-cover gutrah, walking down the street trailed by three submissive black-tent clad wives and six young children. His wives weren't Saudi; no self-respecting Saudi father would give his daughter to an American convert eaking out a living teaching English at the local college and living in a small school-provided apartment. Neither were they American; rare is the American woman who will allow her husband to "yuzawij alayha", as the Arabic goes, and take another wife. They were unfortunate girls from countries such as Bangladesh, Indonesia, and the Philippines who had come to Saudi Arabia as maids and nannies, and to whom becoming even the third wife of an American Muslim was a step up.

Even more amazing than seeing these families was hearing the reactions of Saudis to them. Were they impressed that Americans were so devoted to the Prophet that they would move to his birthplace and follow his example even in their marital lives? Not at all. "Those guys are idiots," more than one Saudi said to me, "They leave America and come out here to be like us?!"

Hmmm...I sense a theory coming on. Perhaps some of us know Mormons who dedicate two years of their lives knocking on doors to persuade people to join their church, and then spend the next twenty years never even mentioning their religion. Is it possible that people who live within a religious system that discourages (to put it mildly) questioning its leaders and its Scriptures harbor secret doubts about their faith that they are afraid to even openly express? And is it possible that these inner fears, of which they might not even be aware, are what prevent them from honestly desiring that others would join that same system?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Another View of Muhammad

Even casual readers of the Quran (if there are such people) are struck by the many Biblical characters found there.  Moses and his brother Aaron standing before Pharaoh, Noah and his family surviving the flood, and the wife of Potiphar trying to seduce Joseph all find their stories on its pages (comment: these stories were all strategically altered, of course, by Muhammad to indicate that he was not only similar to those ancient heroes, but also bigger and better).

For Muslims, the question of how Muhammad learned these stories from the Hebrew Scriptures is not even a question. Allah, who knew the stories better than anyone, relayed them to Muhammad and that was that. For anyone with a more inquiring mind, however, the story could be as fascinating as it has been unknown.

Thirty years ago, a Lebanese Maronite priest using the pen name Abu Musa al-Hariri culminated years of studying ancient Islamic and Christian texts to write a little book entitled "Qiss wa Nabi" (Nabi means Prophet, and Qiss is translated as Parson, Pastor, or Priest in various Christian traditions). The Priest and the Prophet is an analysis of the relationship that existed between Muhammad and his wife's cousin, the Ebionite Christian Priest Waraqa bin Naufal. The book was published in Lebanon in 1978, but as could be expected was pulled from library and bookshop shelves as soon as it appeared and is no longer in circulation (comment: could someone please explain again why Muslims are so terrified of critical textual examination of the Quran?).

A few weeks ago, the author of the book was interviewed on the Arabic TV show Daring Question. The interview took place by telephone, since he was unable to travel from Lebanon to the studio. For the first time he identified himself as Father Joseph al-Qazi, and explained the ideas found in his book. The rest of this post will be a brief presentation of his thesis.

Among the many and conflicting Christian Gospels that circulated in the early centuries of the Christian Church was one called The Hebrew Gospel (not to be mistaken with the New Testament Book of Hebrews). The Hebrew Gospel is no longer in existence, but was often quoted by the Early Church Fathers. It taught that Jesus was an ordinary human who was endowed with the Holy Spirit when he was baptized by  John the Baptist. He then became the Anointed Messiah, although he was not Divine. This Holy Spirit remained with Jesus until the Day of Crucifixion. It then departed from him and Jesus died, not to pay for the sins of the world, but as an ordinary person.

As church councils met in the Christian centers of Rome, Jerusalem, and Constantinople to separate Christian orthodoxy from heresy, the groups considered heretical were forced to migrate further and further away. One of these groups, the Ebionites, followed the teachings of the Hebrew Gospel. They are sometimes described as Jewish-Christian, because they continued Jewish religious practices while accepting Jesus as the Messiah. Some of them found their way to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, birthplace of Muhammad.

The true story of Muhammad does not begin with his birth, but with his ancestor Qusay five generations earlier. Qusay married the daughter of the Quraysh tribal leader, and eventually himself became their leader. He also purchased the key to the Kaaba, which provided a source of financial revenue from visiting tribes who worshipped their idols there. When Qusay died his son Abdel Manaf became leader, who in turn was followed by his son Hashim (Muhammad's great grand-father). As is true with many extended families over generations, one side became wealthier than the other. Muhammad's grandfather Abdel Mutalib and his father Abdallah were from the poorer clan. Muhammad himself was born into that side of the family, which explains the Quran's description of him as a poor orphan (Quran 93:6-9).

The wealthy side included a wealthy businesswoman named Khadija and her cousin Waraqa bin Nawfal. This side followed the teachings of the Ebionites, and Waraqa bin Nawfal was their main Priest. The common Muslim claim that the Arab tribes were all Jahiliya or ignorant before Muhammad was created by the Muslims themselves to force a wedge between them and all others. Many of these tribes followed various Christian and Jewish traditions.

Waraqa bin Nawfal, in a particular Ebionite emphasis of caring for the poor, took special care of the young and orphaned Muhammad. He taught him to read and write, and to translate their religious texts from Aramaic into Arabic. The Muslim claim that Muhammad was illiterate was another myth created by early converts to support their claim that the Quran was a special revelation from God. As Muhammad grew, Waraqa invited the young man to join him and his associates on their religious pilgrimages and meditations. He found employment for Muhammad on his cousin Khadija's camel caravans, and later arranged Muhammad's marriage to Khadija. They were married in accordance with Christian tradition, which meant that Muhammad took no other wives as long as Khadija was alive.

Waraqa bin Nawfal recognized Muhammad's religious tendencies and leadership capabilities, and hoped he would succeed him as the Ebionite leader of Mecca. The Quran itself specifies that when Muhammad first began to preach among the poor of Mecca, he called them not to "Islam", but to the monotheism of Abraham. It was only after Waraqa and Khadija both died, and Muhammad chose to follow some of his converts to the city of Medina 250 miles to the north, that his message and lifestyle drastically changed. His message became one of conquest and empire, and his lifestyle (like many self-proclaimed Prophets before and since) included Allah's giving him anything he wanted, including as many women as his heart desired.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Bending Over Backwards

American Muslims rejoiced earlier this year when Secretary of State Clinton overturned a long-standing visa refusal to allow Muslim missionary Tariq Ramadan back into America (comment: Tariq, of course, would never identify himself by using the Western word missionary but every Muslim in the world understands that he is a Da'in, performing the work of Da'wa by proclaiming and defending the truth of Islam). The news was not so rosy, however, on the other side of the world where Morocco abruptly closed down an orphanage led by Western Christians, and  Egypt last month refused to allow American missionary Josh McDowell through the Cairo International Airport.

What interests me is that the orphanage leaders as well as Josh McDowell bent over backwards to avoid offending Muslims in any way possible. The following statement appears at the orphanage website, "The Village of Hope  fully understands that the Moroccan law prohibits people from promoting a faith other than Islam and has always sought to abide by this law and recognises the right of the authorities to enforce this law. All parents, volunteers and visitors to the Village of Hope were required to sign a declaration stating that they will abide by the Moroccan law prohibiting evangelism."

Describing his ordeal in the Cairo airport, Josh McDowell said, "No Muslim has ever heard me speak one word against the Quran, against Muhammad, against Allah, and against Islam. I am known all over the Muslim world as being pro-Jesus, pro-Bible, pro-resurrection, and pro-faith in Christ."  Josh even has a video called Shariah Love in which he describes with glowing terms his three-day visit to the Arab-American Festival in Dearborn Michigan where he set up a booth and distributed one of his books.

I could be totally wrong and would be glad to be corrected, but I would like to make two suppositions. The first is that Josh McDowell went to Dearborn for the same reason he went to Cairo; to persuade Muslims to leave Muhammad behind and follow Jesus. The second is that he was no more successful in Dearborn than he was in Cairo.

Like many missionaries, Josh believes that the way to a Muslim's heart is to smile a lot and talk about Jesus. He doesn't understand that he is talking to an audience already convinced they know the truth about Jesus - the Quran tells them so. They learn from the Quran that Isa was one of only six prophets given a direct Risalah, a message from God. Isa was born of a virgin, lived a righteous and peaceful life, performed miracles, and proclaimed the true message of Islam which is submission to Allah. He is even coming back to the earth at the end of the age to defeat the Dajjal, the Anti-christ, and wrap things up for Allah. Josh also doesn't understand that when he talks about the distinctive things Christians believe about Jesus, such as his dying for the sins of the world and being resurrected from the dead, his audience just tunes him out. But as long as he doesn't say anything to challenge their faith in Muhammad or the Quran, they will give him plates of delicious Couscous and Baklava and be the most friendly people in the world. It takes quite a jolt of electricity to knock a Muslim off the pedestal of faith, and just talking about Jesus doesn't cut it.

There is a difference between tactic and strategy. If the Emir of Qatar allows you to build a large new church building for the hundreds of thousands of Christians working in the country on condition that the church not have a visible cross, it's a no-brainer tactical decision. Forget the cross. But if your strategy depends on thinking that bending over backwards to avoid asking hard questions about Muhammad and the Quran will cause Muslims to be more receptive to your message, forget that as well. You won't make it through the airport.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Joseph Smith and Muhammad: Identical Twins

I've always known that Islam and the Church of the Latter Day Saints share many similarities (white robes in the Temple and on the Hajj are only one), but it was only while watching the PBS special The Mormons that I realized the famous founders of these religions are two sides of the same coin.

There are thousands of military, political, and religious leaders strewn thoughout the pages of human history, but relatively few of them understood some basic elements of human nature that are easily susceptible to exploitation as well as Moe and Joe. To really gain the allegiance of your followers, you must persuade them that you are a Prophet as well as a King. An early and famous example of this, known to both Smith and Muhammad, was the Jewish King David. The Hebrew Scriptures record that he was anointed and accepted as Prophet  years before he was crowned as King. David claimed in II Samuel 23:2 that "The Spirit of the Lord spoke through me", and both Muhammad and Smith later claimed similar access to revelations from God. Any leader with political, military, or economic ambitions who can persuade his followers that he hears and communicates the very words of God can easily gain tremendous control over them. Joseph Smith and Muhammad were both examples second to none.

Closely related to this is the ability to promise your followers the bliss of eternal life in return for their faithful obedience. Muhammad with his virgins that awaited martyrs, and Smith with his visions of celestial families where disciples would be reunited forever, both mastered this. There is no greater motivation to entice followers than the promise that they will enjoy the rewards of their obedience throughout all eternity. People sometimes question why both Nazism and Communism, both such powerful forces in the last century, lost so much influence in so short a time. It's one thing to persuade followers they will be able to share the produce of a collective farm; it's quite another thing to convince them that millions of years from now they will still be blissfully enjoying the fruits of their allegiance.

Muhammad and Joseph Smith also understood that people like regimented lives, and want to be told what to do. Both religions organize behavior with lists of things that are allowed and prohibited, structure for family and social relationships, rewards for obedience and public displeasure for disobedience.

Each of the founders realized the significance of convincing their followers that they are somehow better, more correct, than everyone else. In the Quran the distinction is between the believers, who are the best of people, and all others who collectively are the worst of people. In Mormonism, it is the belief that only their church is free from error; only they have been restored to the truth.

Perhaps most important of all, both men understood the importance of controlling their followers. Leaders are not to be questioned, sacred texts are not to be critically examined, dissent is not tolerated, and history is only to be understood through the prism of its adherents.

Incidentally and in conclusion, both religions like to talk about how fast they are growing, but neither likes to publicize stories of people who leave. For each of them, (and I would say this is a good thing) that list is rapidly growing.

Monday, April 5, 2010

From Muhammad to Jesus - the Story of Wajdi

I've just watched an amazing story of another Arab who left Muhammad for Jesus. The four hundred million Arabic speakers of the world can watch it here. The rest of you will need to rely on me.

Wajdi is from the Shaqiyah tribe of the northern Sudan. From grade one, his entire education took place at boarding schools. The first one was a Muslim school, where at age 5 he learned the rudiments of Islam including prayers, fasting, and memorizing suras of the Quran. Several events soon took place, however, which left an indelible impression on his young mind.

The first was when a young Ethiopian refugee somehow ended up alone in his area and was enrolled in his school. It was the first Christian Wajdi had ever met. He and the other students welcomed the boy warmly, even though he was a stranger and did not speak Arabic. Wajdi was stunned, however, when his teachers told him and his friends they could not eat with the newcomer because he was an infidel, a Kafir. Rather than serve him food with the rest of the students, the staff give him leftovers and somtimes threw his food on the floor. When Wajdi and his fellow classmates asked why they could not eat with their classmate, they were informed that he was a Kafir, Christians were going to hell, and they were not allowed to associate with him. Wajdi described the inner turmoil he felt even as a young child;  on the one hand he liked the Ethiopian and felt sorry for him when the teachers beat him without cause in the classroom, but on the other he hated him as a Christian.

The dormitory Wajdi and his fellow students slept in had no electricity and was lit by kerosene lamps. One night a fire broke out and several of the cots were burned. To Wajdi's amazement, his teachers claimed that the New Testament the Ethiopian boy had among his belongings was the cause of the fire! A Muslim student in the next cot had a Quran, and the teachers said that the two books had fought with each other starting the blaze. The Christian student was beaten again, and his New Testament was taken to a distant location and buried. Wajdi noted that in the end the young boy converted to Islam to avoid the beatings and mistreatment (comment: a favorite Quranic text of Western Muslims is from surat al-Baqarah, "There is no compulsion in religion" (2:256), but there are probably thousands of untold stories such as that of Wajdi throughout the Islamic world). To this day, he says, he cannot meet an Ethiopian without remembering how they treated the young refugee in his elementary school.

Wajdi then recounted another childhood memory that left a deep impression upon him. A young girl was forced to marry a much older married man. Some time afterwards, Wajdi and his friends heard the wailing sounds of a funeral procession. To their surprise, the girl had committed suicide. They learned that her husband, after beating and abusing her, announced three times that she was divorced. Soon afterwards he changed his mind and wanted her back again. The Quran states in surat al-Baqarah that a divorced woman cannot return to her husband unless she is married and divorced by a second husband (2:229, 230) (comment: this temporary husband even has a special name in Islamic law. He is the Muhallil, or the one who makes it lawful for the first husband to again marry her). The text stipulates it cannot be a mere paper marriage, but the Muhallil must have sex with her before he divorces her (comment: civilized societies call this rape). The first husband found a willing Muhallil, but rather than face the humiliation of being sexually ravished by husband number two before returning to the abuse of husband number one, the young girl killed herself.

Although still a child, Wajdi found himself asking questions in the days following the funeral. Who was the criminal who drove this innocent girl to suicide? Was it the first husband? The Muhallil? Could it be Allah, or his Apostle? Islam describes suicide as a great sin, but was not the person who forced her to kill herself the greater sinner?

Wajdi continued his high school education in Khartoum during the time the Sudan began to implement Sharia law. He described going to see the amputation of the hand of a young man convicted of theft. The crowd was divided into two kinds of people. Some shouted Allahu Akbar Allahu Akbar as loudly as they could as the hand was amputated. Others, including Wajdi, felt sick. He found himself thinking a conviction he dared share with no-one, "The same Allah who cut off the hand of the young man is the Allah who killed the young girl. It is the same Allah who mistreated the young Ethiopian and forced him into Islam."

In Khartoum, Wajdi studied at a Christian boarding school. He could not help but compare the difference between the way he was treated, as a Muslim in a Christian school, with the way his former teachers had mistreated the Ethiopian Christian in his Muslim school. He also established contact with a woman from his own tribe who had left Islam to follow Jesus and subsequently married a Christian doctor. They took him in as their own son, and showed love to him. As a child he had heard rumors that this woman was enticed to leave Islam for money and other favors, but he realized this was not the truth. Her family's acceptance of him left a deep impression on him as he experienced for the first time Christian love in action.

The experience also frightened him. On the one hand he was attracted to what he saw, but on the other his entire identify as a Muslim was being threatened. Wajdi says he responded to his fear as many Muslims do, by running away. He completely avoided the family for the next four years.

During that time, he became involved with a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood known locally as the "kayzan". Wajdi was initially impressed with their austerity and dedication to the rituals of Islam. Outwardly they looked very religious with their "sabihah" prayer beads and the "zabibah" on their foreheads from years of rubbing their foreheads against their prayer rugs (comment: many men deliberately scar their foreheads to give this appearance). But Wajdi discovered they were inwardly filled with corruption, hatred, and immorality. They wanted to lead the country, but he could not imagine living in a Sudan with them as rulers.

Wajdi next described the internal conflict that he faced as he contemplated leaving Islam. It is a struggle that we non-Muslims cannot even imagine. If I announced tomorrow that I had become a Hindu, or an atheist, or a vegetarian, I might get a few raised eyebrows and concerned emails from friends and relatives, but that is nothing compared to what a Muslim experiences as they consider leaving Muhammad. They literally leave everything behind. Wajdi eventually made that decision, and is now living as a follower of Jesus.

As is his usual custom, host Rashid listened to Wajdi's story for about 30 minutes and then opened the phone and email lines to his Arabic-speaking listeners for the next hour. As amazed as I was by Wajdi's story, I was just as surprised by those who called in. Hardly any of them seemed to have any understanding of what they had just heard. They just repeated the same old questions they repeat every week, "What about the violence of the Old Testament? What about the Gospel of this and the Gospel of that? What about America in Iraq and Afghanistan?"

Rashid patiently answered each question, knowning he had heard them all before and would hear them all again. But I think Wajdi hit on something important. He said he had "run away" from the Christian family because he was afraid. He also said he thinks all Muslims are afraid. There is a fear deep inside that Muhammad might not be the Prophet from God he claimed to be, and Islam is not the final message from God they have been taught it was. I have a feeling Wajdi is on to something.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Easter Morning Reflections

Churches, according to the media, are in trouble. Young people are no longer attracted to them and older people - even those who have attended all their lives - are losing interest.

I found myself in category number two, and when I relocated a few months ago decided I wouldn't even bother going to the trouble of finding a new church. But old habits do die hard, and while driving down the road near my house one Sunday morning I veered into a church parking lot on the spur of the moment to check it out.

The first thing that caught my attention was 100 people milling around the foyer waiting for the service to start. They were all talking to each other in couples and small groups, and seemed to genuinely enjoy each other.

The next thing I appreciated was that the Pastor talked more about God than he did the Bible. It's a subtle difference, but significant. Just as many Muslims would never admit they deify Muhammad, but in fact do, many Christians would deny they put the Bible on the same level as the God it describes. Last week on Palm Sunday, for example, the Pastor announced he was going to tell the story of a woman. I immediately began to tune out, thinking, "Oh, no, here comes Mary Magdalene for the 500th time." My mind was yanked back into focus when he continued, "Her name is Chelsea." He went on to tell the true story of a woman who with her five children had been abandoned by an abusive husband. Members of the church - the same church I was sitting in - befriended her and helped her. She and her family were now doing much better, and had become active members of the church. It wasn't a story that had taken place some time in the distant past; this had all happened within the last several months. This is the kind of church even a crusty old cynic like me can get excited about!

I have an uncommon habit; I spend my free time studying early Islamic history and following current Arabic media, trying to figure out what's going on. I was fortunate to spend some years in the Middle East, and learned enough Arabic to be able to do that accurately (comment: always take it with a grain of salt when you hear any non-native speaker of Arabic describe themselves as "fluent" in the language). A few Arabic programs I enjoy watching contain stories of Muslims who have left Muhammad behind to follow Jesus. A common thread in all their stories is that Jesus offered them hope.

Speaking of that, someone asked me recently if hope was a focal point of Muhammad's message. Well, in one sense it was. He promised his first converts, the slaves of Mecca, that if they followed him they would acquire the riches of the Roman and Persian empires. He later promised his warriors that if they died in the battles he instigated, they would enjoy the pleasures of a sensual paradise. He promised his followers the elusive dream of Arab unity, a goal leaders such as Muammar Gaddafi are still trying to accomplish.

But hope of the kind experienced by Chelsea and her family? I'm not sure. If any Muslim readers have similar stories that took place within the Ummah, contact me. I'd like to hear them.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Sin and Evil: Observations from Islam and Christianity

Ask a theologian about differences between Islam and Christianity, and you'll get dry theological responses. Ask Muslims who have left Muhammad behind to follow Jesus, and the answers  are much more interesting.

Two ex-Muslims named Rashid and Abdelfadi recently discussed the contrasting ways in which Islam and Christianity view sin and evil on the Arabic show Daring Question. Rashid said one of the the first things he learned about Allah as a young Muslim was that Allah is the creator of evil.  The Quran says in surat al-Falaq, "I seek refuge with Allah from the evil that he has created (113:1,2). It also notes in al-Anbiyah that "Allah tests believers with evil and with good" (21:35). Islamic expositors point out that Allah tests people with evil to see their response, and everything that happens in the life of the Muslim must be accepted as maktoub, or preordained by Allah.

Abdelfadi added that as a Muslim trying to obey and please Allah, verses such as these caused him consternation. How could he love Allah when he had no idea how or when Allah was planning evil for him? (extended comment: the Quran even uses the common word for plotter or schemer, Maakir, to describe this aspect of Allah's character in numerous verses including surat al-Anfal (8:30). In their usual ingenuousness, some English translations of the Quran and Western Muslim apologists claim that Maakir actually means "planner" even though you would never see Maakir translater as planner in any Arabic media. On a related note, number 10 of the Ninety-Names of Allah is al-Jabbar, "the one who allows nothing in his domain except what he has willed"). Where was justice, pondered Abdulfadi, when Allah judged his response to evil that was beyond his control and had been planned for him by Allah? (another comment: is this really much different than the Hindu idea of Karma? The Brahmin can look at the outcast, the Dalit, without compassion because that is his fate. The wealthy Arab can look at the Indian servant who makes his tea, his chaiwallah, with the same lack of concern because both of them are living their Qadar, the fate ordained them by Allah). How could Abdulfadi trust an Allah who could at will or on a whim lead him to obedience or disobedience, triumph or tragedy, sickness or health, or wealth or poverty?

Abdelfadi quoted the Hadith from Bukhari (Vol 8 Bk 76, Nr 470) where Muhammad said that even his good deeds would not get him into heaven unless Allah chose to bestow mercy upon him. He said, "That Hadith used to make me afraid. As a Muslim I considered myself a sinful person, but believed the Prophet was protected from error. If even he was not assured of his fate, what chance did I have? On the other hand, I was frightened of even my own thoughts that Allah might not be just." He noted that as a young Muslim he was frightened to voice these fears to the Imams at the mosque, who instead of providing thoughtful answers were more likely to give him a swift cuff to the head. It was their Prophet, after all, who warned his followers in surat al-Maidah "not to ask too many questions" (5:101).

Rashid noted that while becoming a Christian he learned the exact opposite of the Quran in James 1:13-15 of the New Testament. This passage states that God does not test people with evil and no-one who is facing evil can say the source of the evil is God.

The two men next compared the way Islam and Christianity view sin, defined in both religions as individual disobedience to God. Rashid again noted that Islam detracts from individual responsibility in its emphasis that anything one does is determined by Allah.  The Quran states in surat al-Taubah, "Nothing happens to you except what Allah has preordained" (9:51). The same idea is repeated in surat al-Hadid, "Nothing bad happens to you that has not been prescribed by Allah." (57:22).

They then discussed a most fascinating authentic Hadith that is repeated numerous times including Bukhari  (Vol 8 Bk 77 Nr 611) . Adam and Moses, according to Muhammad, got into an argument about who was the greater sinner. Adam thought it was Moses who, although he had given the Children of Israel the Ten Commandments, was unable to prevent the Jews from disobeying them. Moses countered that the greatest transgresor was certainly Adam, whose eating the forbidden fruit had caused mankind to be expelled from Paradise.

Moses was unprepared, however, for Adam's trump card. "How can you blame me," Adam replied in indignation, "For something that Allah wrote in my fate 40 years before I was even created?" Both Moses and Muhammad acknowledged that Adam had indeed won the debate.

A comparison of this Hadith with the Adam and Eve story in Genesis 3 of the Old Testament shows a contrast that could not be more evident. In the Biblical story, Adam's personal choice and responsibility are presented as clearly as an interaction between a mother and her son. "If you touch that cake, I'm going to send you to your room." The child looks at the delicious chocolate icing, decides an early taste is well worth spending 30 minutes alone in his room, digs his fingers in, and goes banished to the bedroom. The scenario in Genesis was not much different.  God pointed his finger at Adam and said, "If you eat the fruit off that tree, I'm going to send you out of the garden." Adam stared at the fruit, considered the consequences, made his decision, and walked out of Eden (comment: according to the Biblical account, Eve had already eaten the fruit. I've always wondered whether Adam thought hmmm....stay here in Paradise with God, or live outside with Eve? I think I'll take Eve!).

Can you imagine the child trying to convince his mother that he was not to blame, because his DNA had been programmed 40 years before his birth that he had to eat the cake? It makes about as much sense as the argument between Adam and Moses.

In the TV show, Rashid finally posed his Daring Question, "If Allah is the source of evil, the one who tests you with evil, and the one who determines the evil you will commit, what is the difference between him and Satan?" That sounds like a good question to me.