While there has been no independent Muslim superpower since the fall of the Ottoman Caliphate in the early 20th century, there are around 1.7 billion Muslims in the world and it is also one of the fastest growing religions. In its typical form, it is too rigid and fixated on the Prophet Mohammed and the popular narratives about his life (particularly the mysterious shift from tolerance to absolutism) to create a new superpower and make it modern and competitive enough.
Simply attacking Islam, especially in the usual ways, validates classical Islam in its traditional form in the eyes of Muslims, and ultimately benefits the Islamic fanatics and the superpowers who have infiltrated Islam as well as other religions.
The criticism of Islam that has spread among the Western population is always constructed in the same, very specific way, which prolongs and intensifies the ongoing conflict with Islam and also leaves no room for the further development of the Islamic world. The strict separation that is made between the Western, Greco-Roman tradition on the one hand and the oriental world of Mesopotamian tradition on the other makes no sense. Eastern Roman Byzantium was a major influence on the Islamic Caliphate and, conversely, both the Greeks and the Romans owe much to the ancient Mesopotamian states.
The broader base
The Islamic Caliphate, which first expanded into the Arabian Peninsula and then far beyond, was a highly complex undertaking and empire that absorbed all manner of techniques and technologies from a variety of sources; similar to what the Macedonians did under Alexander the Great or the Romans in their early phase.
Islam in its commonly transmitted and practiced form is based on the relatively short Koran, on the much more detailed stories about the life and actions of the Prophet Mohammed (the so-called hadiths) as well as on commentaries and legal opinions by scholars based on the ancient texts have to judge what is allowed today and what is not. The Koran is considered to be of absolutely divine origin, unchangeable by humans and is said to have existed in its original form in heaven before the creation of the world. The Prophet Mohammed merely received him.
This limitation and dogmatism may have brought certain advantages at times, but also serious disadvantages. If one undertakes a scientific-critical examination of Islam and includes the environment and the secret service sphere, a much broader basis and a much broader spectrum emerge.
Various variants of the term Allah for the “one god” who stands above all others were already circulating. The Kaaba of Mecca existed before Islam alongside several other Kaabas in other cities and hundreds of different idols were preserved in it during the period of polytheism.
Muhammad’s mother had ties to the Kindah tribe, whose monarchy had already attempted to unite the central Arabian tribes. The 6th-century Arabic poet Imru’ al-Qais, a major influence on pre-Islamic and later Islamic language and culture, was a prince from the Kindah monarchy. Osama bin Laden’s family also traces its origins to the Kindah, who converted to Islam in the middle of the 7th century and played a decisive role in the military conquests and expansion. The Kindah were known to the Byzantine Empire (the successor to Eastern Rome) by the middle of the sixth century at the latest and are mentioned by the Byzantine ambassador Nonnosos. Later, the Byzantines lost a lot of territory and also relevant knowledge to the Muslims. The Umayyads, who formed an entire dynasty of caliphs in the Islamic Caliphate, were originally very strongly influenced by Byzantium. The Quraish had strategic relations with Byzantium and, according to Islamic sources, both Muhammad’s grandfather and a cousin of Muhammad’s first wife made an agreement with the Byzantine emperor. Arab Christians, who at times cooperated with Byzantium (so-called confoederati), allied themselves with Muslim Arab tribes.
When the Persian Sassanid Empire came under Muslim control, the Sassanid nobility converted to Islam, contributed their knowledge and took on important functions. Ordinary research cannot or will not fully answer how Arab tribes managed to establish a caliphate that eventually grew to around 13 million square kilometers. It is repeatedly mentioned that Islam was more suitable as a unified religion for imperialism than the old polytheism, and that Byzantium and the Sassanid Empire had weakened each other too much in protracted wars and the new Islam appeared to cleverly exploit this power vacuum. However, these answers are far too thin and ignore the intelligence level, the presence of experts and advisors who sold their services and knowledge, and the role of mystery cults. It is known that both the Byzantines and the Sassanids maintained active relations with the Arab tribes before the era of Islam.
After Muhammad’s death, his father-in-law Abu Bakr followed as caliph, who led the Ridda Wars and was able to draw on technology and techniques from the Roman sphere, the Persian sphere, the Christian-Arab sphere, the Syrian, Yemeni and especially the Turkish-Khazar sphere . The first real Muslim naval fleet, which could even rival the Eastern Roman one, was built by Yemenis, Iraqis and Iranians; most of the sailors were Yemenis. The comparison comes to mind with the rise of Macedonia under Alexander the Great and his father, from a little-noticed hinterland to the leading power over the entire Greek area and then to a superpower, as well as the comparison to the Romans, who learned from the Greeks and eventually surpassed the Greeks. The more territories the Muslims conquered, the more they absorbed additional knowledge.
Before the caliph Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan, who ruled from 685 to 705, around 50 to 70 years after the death of Mohammed, there was no (!) public use of Islamic symbols or mentions of Mohammed. Archaeologists expected to find coins and documents and engravings all over the Arab world with Muhammad’s name and verses from the Koran from the time of Muhammad’s life, but nothing of the sort turned up.
Under the caliphs, different versions of the Koran were created and an enormous number of so-called hadiths were also written down, stories that are said to have come from Muhammad’s companions during his lifetime and that determine Islamic law much more extensively than the Koran. Thousands of hadiths were presented under the Caliph Abu Bakr, who was the father-in-law of Muhammad. A primary source was Bakr’s daughter Aisha, who was the third and youngest of Muhammad’s ten wives and is said to have provided over 2,200 such accounts. Over 5,300 hadiths are attributed to the beggar Abu Huraira. The second Caliph Omar named his son Abdullah as the source of 2,630 hadiths. Common historical traditions, especially from Islamic sources, report all sorts of disputes and even civil wars. Critics of Islam constantly point out that the caliphs presented an appropriate hadith depending on the situation and needs, which was based on hearsay from a few people and had far too great an influence on the development of the Islamic religion. The first official biographies of Muhammad were written under the caliphs and relied heavily on the hadiths. It is therefore difficult to isolate the actual Mohammed and the core of the religion.
The current criticism of Islam points to the difficult source situation and the lack of archaeological traces of Muhammad, but then focuses convulsively on the standard Koran and the common Muslim interpretations of Muhammad, with a clear focus on those aspects and stories that Muhammad in as negative a light as possible. It is precisely the negative stories that are described as particularly credible, so that Mohammed appears like a narcissist, psychopath and epileptic who, as a guru and general, commanded barbaric hordes in order to satisfy his own desire for recognition. This methodology, which can be found in identical form in various authors of criticism of Islam, is not conclusive. The larger context of the highly complex Caliphate with all the important people and influences involved, as well as the need to assert oneself against Byzantium and the Persian Sassanids, is also neglected. It’s just a matter of insulting Muhammad (and in a flash the Arab tribes) as excessively as possible, which as a result causes Muslims to cling ever more closely to the usual Muhammad traditions along with old-fashioned Islamic law. Just as Muslims are too fixated on Mohammed, opponents of Islam are too fixated on Mohammed. In right-wing extremism, an additional racist dimension is added and the dogma is preached that people from the Oriental region are fundamentally or conspicuously often vicious, primitive and eternally committed to these characteristics. The infamous “Handbook of the Jewish Question” from the Nazi era, as well as several other similar, even older works, already drew a senseless dividing line between the West and the East
When the first Crusades began, Europe was scientifically and culturally inferior in some areas even to the Muslim world. Anyone who is too narrow-minded and whose perception of reality is too clouded by group narcissism and psychopathy makes mistakes, misses the boat and runs the risk of sinking. Before their leadership role in the Greek Empire, the Macedonians were also seen as backward and negligible, just as the Romans were ridiculed at the beginning. In Roman propaganda, the Germanic tribes were considered barbarians until at some point both sides merged and Roman-Germanic empires inherited Rome.
The influences on the Koran
It is completely normal for religions to have older influences and so it is not surprising that some elements of the Koran and Islamic law pre-existed. Books like Clair Tisdall’s “The Sources of Islam” and “The Original Sources Of The Qur’an’s Origin In Pagan Legends and Mythology” are worded quite hostilely and imply that Muhammad simply stole everything he could and brazenly labeled it as tradition. As expected, Muslim authors such as Muhammad Shukri al-Alusi explain the topic in a much friendlier way. The Sabaeans, an ancient Semitic people in the southwest of the Arabian Peninsula in the area of today’s Yemen, already knew a month of fasting, the various prayer times spread throughout the day, based on the sun, there was a strong emphasis on lunar symbolism, there was the ritualized one Hajj pilgrimage and the Umrah pilgrimage to the Kaaba, there were punishments such as cutting off the hands of thieves and stoning adulterers. There were also to some extent Jewish, (Coptic) Christian, Egyptian, Zoroastrian, Persian and other influences on Islam.
Similarities to Jewish texts
In the Koran there are some parallels to old Jewish figures and stories such as Abraham (which is why Islam is also called an Abrahamic religion) and Solomon, but conversely there is nothing of the old pre-Islamic and Islamic content in the Jewish texts about Abraham the Kaaba. The Muslim theologians simply explain that Islam is much older than Judaism and Christianity. However, in a scientific sense it can only be stated that forerunners of Islam are older than Christianity and roughly as old as Judaism or older. Some texts in the Koran are almost identical to Jewish originals and deal with figures such as Abraham and Solomon, but also with more obscure figures such as the Queen of Sheba, who is said to have visited King Solomon. The angels Harut and Marut are already found in the Jewish Midrash Abkir. Some of these Jewish stories that found their way into the Koran have their origins in the older Babylonian sagas, which in turn go back to the even older Akkad. In the Quran we read how Abraham was thrown into the fire and saved by the protection of Allah. There is no comparable story to be found in the Bible, but instead in the legends from the Jewish Midrash.
Similarities to apocryphal Christian texts
In ancient Arabia there were also various Christian groups that had been expelled from the Roman Empire and were considered heretics among the Christians of Rome because they did not practice the dominant form of Christianity. Jesus is mentioned in the Koran as the last prophet before Mohammed, not as a partial figure of God, and only plays a subordinate supporting role for Islam and did not die on the cross in the Koranic narrative, as Christians teach.
The “Legend of the Seven Sleepers,” for example, can be found both among Christians (although not in the Bible and the apocryphal writings) and in the Koran. In the story, seven young Christians hide from the Roman emperor in a cave because they refused to sacrifice to the Roman gods according to Roman ritual. They are tracked down by the emperor’s men, who block the cave entrance. After 200 years, the cave is opened and the boys wake up again, without initially understanding how much time has passed and that Christianity has now spread. A few different versions of the legend exist, with differences such as the number of young and the length of sleep. The 18th Koran surah “The Cave” tells of the “companions of the cave”, young men who sought refuge in a cave, fell into years of permanent sleep and were awakened. The story is described in even more detail in the Koran commentaries.
The so-called “Childhood Gospel of Thomas”, not to be confused with the Gospel of Thomas, is an apocryphal Christian writing by an unknown author that was not included in the official Bible and was considered unreliable or heretical nonsense in Roman Christianity. It tells of miracles that Jesus was supposed to have accomplished in his early childhood and which were either useless or even quite malicious. He is said to have withered a boy who disturbed him while he was playing, he was supposedly able to transport water in his clothes and he formed five sparrows out of clay and brought them to life. According to the official Bible, Jesus’ miracles did not begin until he was over 30 years old. In Quran Sura 5, an anecdote from the life of Jesus is told:
“(Back then) when God said: Jesus, son of Mary! Remember the grace I bestowed on you and your mother, and when you, with my permission, created things out of clay that looked like birds, and blew into them, so that with my permission (real ones, after all). ) were birds.”
The “Arabic Infancy Gospel” uses the “Protoevangelium of James” and the “Infancy Gospel according to Thomas”, was translated into Arabic and was apparently known in the time and region of Muhammad. Parts of it can be found in the Koran, especially the story in which Jesus speaks as a baby and utters theological wisdom. There apparently was no official, recognized Arabic version or translation of the New Testament in Muhammad’s time, so it is not surprising that there is almost nothing in the Koran from the recognized Christian gospel, but instead apocryphal content from Christian sects that are not welcome due to numerous deviations were among regular Christians of the Roman tradition. The descriptions of the Virgin Mary or Maryam in the Koran are similar to apocryphal Christian texts such as the “Pseudo-Matthew Gospel”, which is a combination of the Protevangelium of James, a report on the flight into Egypt and an edited reproduction of the Infancy Gospel according to Thomas . In Quranic Sura 19, which is named after her, she gives birth to her son Jesus under a palm tree and in Sura 21 it is made clear that she was a virgin. In Islam, however, she is not considered the mother of God and her son Jesus is only considered the last prophet before Mohammed. The Koran often speaks of the “scales” with which people’s good and bad deeds are weighed in order to judge them. This idea of a scale can be found in the “Testament of Abraham” from Egypt: angels write down the sins and good deeds and the scale then shows which side predominates. Abraham even sees a soul that lies exactly between good and evil. In the Koran, God sends the holy teachings with truth to earth, as well as the scales that decide between a righteous life and condemnation to hell. The Egyptian Book of the Dead, full of magic spells that are supposed to help the dead, is also about the court of the dead that judges the souls. The court of the dead consisted of a tribunal of 42 judges of the dead led by Osiris and had the heart of the dead person compared on a scale with an idol that represented the truth.
Similarities to Zoroastrian texts
Persian or Zoroastrian content such as the stories of Rostem, Isfandiyar and Ahriman found their way into the Koran, which is hardly surprising since the Persian Empire came into clear contact with the Arab Empire. Zoroaster was the central figure in Zoroastrianism, Ahura Mazda was the god and Avesta was the holy book. The Sassanid Empire, also known as the New Persian Empire, had been a major power that competed with Rome. Sassanid traditions also had a great influence on the Umayyads, Samanids and especially the Abbasids. Armies of Muslim Arabs finally invaded the Sassanid Empire and were able to painstakingly and gradually bring it under control and Islamize it. Several large Sassanid noble families were allowed to switch to the Muslim Arab Empire. The heroic figure Rostem from Persian mythology already has tremendous abilities as a child and over the course of his life he passes seven great adventures or tests. The German composer Richard Wagner even wanted to make an opera out of the story.
The “Ascension of Mohammed” and the “Night Journey of Mohammed” exist in different versions in Islam. The angels Gabriel and Michael accompany Mohammed in the Kaaba sanctuary to a place between the Zamzam well and the Maqām Ibrāhīm. There, Mohammed and Gabriel climbed to heaven with the help of a ladder, where Mohammed then sees the previous prophets.
A similar story can be found in the Zoroastrian “Book of Arta Viraf”, where the spirit of the eponymous person ascends to heaven through hallucinogenic drugs, accompanied by an angel, who is met by the god Ahura Mazda, who gives the instruction that the believers die five times per should pray every day. The rule of five prayers can also be found in Islam. In both religions, believers must wash their faces and extremities.
Zoroastrian descriptions of the Pa
radies are similar to the descriptions in the Koran with the beautiful virgins. In Islamic teachings, the As-Sirāt Bridge, which is “thin as a hair,” must be crossed by the dead in order to reach paradise. Those who do not have sufficient faith in Allah begin to falter and fall into Hell. The description cannot be found in the Koran, but in a collection of traditions. In Zoroastrian belief, there is the Chinvat Bridge, which connects the world of the living and the dead, and must be crossed by the souls of the dead. The bridge is only wide enough for those who were decent enough, otherwise it is too narrow and the demon Vizaresh drags the soul to hell.
The names of the angels Harut and Marut, who blaspheme against the sinful inhabitants of Babylon but succumb to temptations themselves on earth, can already be found in Zoroastrianism.
The Enigma Mohammed
According to the common narrative, based on the controversial Muhammad biographies which in turn are based on the controversial hadiths, Muhammad married a wealthy woman from a (probably Ebionite Christian) merchant family, worked as a merchant for a long time and then preached in Mecca for over 10 years For years a tolerant religious view that was intended to unite a wide variety of people. The common criticism of Islam assumes that Mohammed was pathologically addicted to attention from the start and that his tolerance was only faked because he hoped for success through it or because he completely overestimated himself. But this doesn’t make any sense. Mohammed was economically secure through his marriage and the most obvious way to increase his power would have been to cooperate shamelessly with the existing better-off circles and to extend his elbows, to follow the beaten path, to gain military experience and to have as many children as possible to procreate and to marry them off to other better-off families. Working as an honest trader and then preaching for over 10 years that people should get along peacefully and, above all, sympathize with the socially disadvantaged classes instead of ingratiating themselves with the higher circles is not befitting someone who wants to please by all means wants to gain power. Islamic scholars and critics of Islam are harping on the fact that there were doubts about Muhammad’s origins and that Muhammad was angry about it. This is how Islam explains the tensions between Mohammed and various tribes and later Mohammed’s first conquests, while the mainstream critics of Islam use this to make the argument that Mohammed was boycotted by the higher social classes because of his controversial origins and that as a result of this exclusion he always had one more narcissistic personality and aggression developed. At the same time, there are explicit indications in the Muhammad biographies that Muhammad was considered honest and trustworthy in Mecca and often took on a mediator role in order to reduce tensions between the tribes. He was able to broaden his horizons even further on trading trips to Syria. Around the age of 40, he is said to have increasingly spent time meditating in a cave and experiencing visions. The Islamic sources simply see this as the beginning of prophecy and the Koran, while critics speculate that he experienced epileptic seizures and went crazy in a mid-life crisis because he had not yet become a great guru and general. It is also conceivable that on his travels he came into contact with the typical intoxicating drugs that were used in the mysteries but also outside of them for spiritual purposes. People often describe such experiences as liberating and become more aware of how everything is connected. It is quite likely that these experiments confirmed Muhammad to become a preacher and to focus on understanding and cohesion. It is difficult to clarify how much respect he earned for this and from whom, and how much it offended whom. In the hadith collections, the written Koran and in the official biographies, which were only written well after his death, the impression arises that Mohammed suddenly saw himself in the line of succession to Abraham, no longer tolerated any contradiction to his newfound importance and increasingly went on a collision course with his surroundings. But these depictions are reminiscent of older Christian and Jewish texts and seem as if they were added later by the caliphs. The story of a man who is said to have grabbed Mohammed in the cave and asked him to read, and then uttered the first surah of the Koran, is reminiscent of the conversion experiences of Augustine and Antony, which were known during Mohammed’s time.
According to the usual reading, Muhammad was ridiculed and viewed with suspicion for his sermons, whereupon he left Mecca for Yathrib and then Medina. Criticism of Islam sees him in this phase as an insulted liverwurst who sought revenge and finally realized that he could not become a great leader with his peaceful sermons. But it doesn’t make sense to preach for ten years after a career as an honest, cosmopolitan trader and then suddenly turn into a megalomaniacal tyrant. Mohammed could have gotten involved with armed tribes and criminal groups from the start, but he didn’t. He could have gained military experience and taken part in raids from the start, but he didn’t.
Abu Bakr is said to have provided Mohammed with a few contacts late in his life. Even critics of Islam can’t really explain why he ended up in the executive chair in Yathrib after the first few rejections. According to a chronological order, there were no Quranic surahs at that time that were tailored to imperialist purposes. Why is Muhammad supposed to have visited various tribes with the suggestion of attacking the Quraish? Because he was an insulted liverwurst, as the critics think? Was this depiction simply added later under the caliphs or were the real events at least significantly changed? The story may sound narcissistic to a non-Muslim when viewed today, but from the perspective of the Caliphs, it was perhaps more of an attempt to write an epic about a man who was torn from his normal and tranquil life by the calling of Allah and the knowledge of Abraham and who, with the help of Allah, made the impossible possible. Let us remember that Arab tribes had been toying with the idea of unification since before Muhammad, that hardly anyone would have been interested in weakening Arabia with a poor and uncoordinated attempt at forced unification, and that Byzantium and the Sassanids were weakened and the prospect of The Arabs wanted to seize territory beyond the Arab borders from the Byzantines and Sassanids. Again, the Caliphate was a huge, complex undertaking with many people involved, rather than somehow the end result of the whim of one man starting with a few simple raids. Some researchers suspect that there were two or more Mohammeds and that these different people were subsequently merged into one.
Mohammed, Islam and the Caliphate belong together, of course, but must also be viewed separately and in a much broader context. If Mohammed had been exactly as Islamic scholars and critics of Islam describe him, then he would have plastered Arabia with his name, with his Koranic surahs, with statues and writings and engravings. But as we know, there is no such Muhammad iconography from his lifetime. It may seem convincing at first glance if one refers to today’s “Islamic State” in Iraq and Syria, which takes the Koran and Hadith literally in order to characterize the entire Islam from the beginning of the Arab unification and the caliphate. For many, this is the end of the case. But this argument doesn’t work any more than the attempt to describe the Nazi era as a typical expression of Germanness and to point to Germanic campaigns and dark medieval chapters.
The earliest biography of Muhammad, of which no original copies have survived, is said to have taken place around a century after the generally accepted year of Muhammad’s death, around 632 AD. may have been written and is only quoted in much later texts. Muhammad Ibn Ishaq Ibn Yasar wrote this first biography of Muhammad, which was compiled in an abbreviated form by Ibn Hisham, who mentions that it was edited. Johannes Jansen states:
“Nothing of Ibn Ishaq’s work can be verified by inscriptions or other archaeological material. There are no witness reports from non-Muslim contemporaries. Greek, Armenian, Syrian and other sources about the beginnings of Islam are very difficult to date; However, none of them can be assumed to have been created in the time of the Prophet of Islam.”
A few researchers like Karl-Heinz Ohlig even completely doubt the existence of Mohammed, but we also have no 100% proof that Charlemagne lived.
Language and translation problems
The Koran researcher Christoph Luxenberg emphasizes that Syro-Aramaic was the predominant language at the time the Koran was written orally and that Arabic was not yet a written language. Then an Arabic script developed, but initially only had 15 letters without vocalization and the like
had no points and no grammar rules. Additional dots or other symbols were added to the characters. A single wrong point leads to a different meaning of a word or a completely different word and distorts the context.
The sentence in the Koran “And we will marry them to huris (women in paradise)” probably means “We let the believers rest under grapes,” which also fits the descriptions of paradise as a garden with fruits.
A back translation of the Koran from Arabic into Aramaic results in many drastic deviations: the 72 virgins for martyrs then become grapes or simply paradise. Large parts of the Koran must be retranslated and reconstructed.
Collecting the surahs was difficult, as a hadith warns:
Let none of you say that “he has received the whole Quran.” How can he know what the whole Quran contains if many parts of it have disappeared? Rather, let us say, “We have preserved what has survived.”
Karl-Heinz Ohlig explains that the oldest manuscripts of Koran suras are written ambiguously. One to three dots above an ambiguous letter character usually decides which consonant it is. In order to make the text readable, it was written out in full over time, with errors occurring, which strongly reminds us of the errors in common Bible translations.
Most of today’s copies of the Koran are based on an edition from al-Azhar University from 1923/24. The fact that this version with this reading is considered the standard is strange, since there has actually been a lively discussion among Muslims about other readings for a long time. We also do not know which manuscripts this “standard Koran” is based on.
If you read the Koran in its current version, it initially seems without any discernible order; All possible topics are treated in a confused manner and there are sometimes considerable contradictions. If you arrange the surahs chronologically, the peaceful Mecca surahs come first and then the warlike Medina surahs. Critics of Islam, as already explained, interpret this as breaking through the true character of Muhammad, although this doesn’t make much sense. Mohammed could have gained early experience with military campaigns and raids and in this way could have increased his power and satisfied his desire for recognition. Instead, he worked for a long time as a trusted trader and diplomatic pillar of society until he became more spiritual and preached peacefully for over 10 years.
Representatives of today’s Islam like to pick out old Meccan surahs to advertise their faith, while critics of Islam focus on the Medina surahs. Often it is even quoted out of context. The oft-mentioned requirement that killing an innocent person is like killing all of humanity is a reference to a Jewish commandment and is followed in the Koran by the threat that unbelievers and critics will be expelled, killed or mutilated. Because of the numerous curses and threats in the Koran and because of the parallels to today’s Islamic State, one quickly gets the impression that Islam and the original caliphate was a completely barbaric affair, but, as already explained, the caliphate was a highly complex undertaking involving many various, highly educated leading figures who copied or bought valuable things from Byzantium (East Rome) and other sources. Islamization in the expanding caliphate did not happen overnight with a crowbar, and the level of violence is no different than the expansions and campaigns of Rome or ancient Greece. In the Gallic Wars, Rome murdered and enslaved millions of people, but strangely enough today Europe is still viewed in the Roman tradition.