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Critical Analysis: Miscellaneous


Importance of Prayer in Islam

Islam: A Critical Analysis
By: S.T.
Introduction
Ch.1: Burden Of Proof
Ch.2: Judaism and Islam
Ch.3: Imperfect Text
Ch.4: Qur'anic Grammar
Ch.5: What Others Say
Ch.6: Hypocrisy in Islam
Ch.7: Hell
Ch.8: Violence in Islam
Ch.9: Logical Fallacies
Ch.10: Women in Islam
Ch.11: Muhammad’s Wives
Ch.12: Inheritance Laws
Ch.13: Qur'anic Ethics
Ch.14: Existence of Allah
Ch.15: What is Prophecy?
Ch.16: Unclear Qur'an
Ch.17: The Need for Hadith?
Ch.18: Miscellaneous
Ch.19: Numerical Patterns in the Qur'an
Ch.20: Summary
Ch.20: Quotations
Ch.22: Further Reading
[2.186] And when My servants ask you concerning Me, then surely I am very near; I answer the prayer of the suppliant when he calls on Me, so they should answer My call and believe in Me that they may walk in the right way.

If one prays to live to 300 years, or prays to win the lottery tomorrow, it is doubtful that one’s prayer would be fulfilled. If one prays for 10 things and 3 are fulfilled, a religious person is likely to give God credit for the 3 and rationalize the other 7.


"Understanding the Hadith: The Sacred Traditions of Islam" by Ram Swarup elaborates on Sahih Muslim:

The fourth book is the "Book of Prayer" (Salat). It is the longest, with 1,398 ahadis divided into 203 chapters. But in all these pages, one looks in vain for any reference to such problems as self-exploration and self-knowledge, problems of enduring concern for the spirituality of the Indian tradition. There is not even a remote hint of different men endowed with different natures taking different paths toward a divinity differently figured. As there is one Allah, one Guide, one Book, there is also one Prayer, caught and fixed in a single formula. From the titles of the 203 chapters this book contains, one can see that they all relate to the externals: azan (the call to prayer), postures like bowing, prostrating and rising, the number and times of the different prayers, the place of imam in the system of prayers, the merits of prayers at different times, the prayer for rain, the prayer for protection against windstorms and other calamities, the prayer relating to the dead, and so on.


Presumably, an all-knowing God does not need a person’s guidance on how to run the world. Some argue that prayer is to give people direction on what to strive for, but the Quran gives little guidance as to the content of prayer.

[3.61] But whoever disputes with you in this matter after what has come to you of knowledge, then say: Come let us call our sons and your sons and our women and your women and our near people and your near people, then let us be earnest in prayer, and pray for the curse of Allah on the liars.


Major Issues

The Quran very often mentions peace, belief and separates the world into believers and unbelievers. How do we achieve Peace? Believe in what? The definitions of believer and unbeliever are unclear and why is that so important?

If we have trouble applying the Quran in cases it constantly mentions, it becomes harder to extrapolate the Quran on topics it barely mentions.


What the Quran Does Not Discuss

Below are important issues that are hardly discussed in the "complete and clear" Quran:

1. Love
2. Happiness
3. Being healthy
4. Education
5. How to raise a child
6. Type of political system
7. Peaceful trade between nations
8. How a society should be organized to produce wealth
9. Eradicating various mental and physical illnesses
10. World hunger
11. Poverty/unemployment/homelessness
12. Dealing with disasters
13. Environmental issues
14. Obtaining world peace


Mind Control

In order to get along with others one should be able to be exposed to their ideas and beliefs. In order to determine which set of ideas are true and which are false one should be exposed to a diversity of views. Islam tries to shut Muslims off from being exposed to other ideas and people. It threatens its victims with severe punishment for being influenced by foreign ideas.

For example, when scanning for words that begin with "believe" in the Quran there were 714 matches[1] as well as 125 matches for "unbelieve" and 271 for "disbelieve".


[2.39] And (as to) those who disbelieve in and reject My communications, they are the inmates of the fire, in it they shall abide.

[2.99] And certainly We have revealed to you clear communications and none disbelieve in them except the transgressors.

[2.161] Surely those who disbelieve and die while they are disbelievers, these it is on whom is the curse of Allah and the angels and men all;

[4.144] O you who believe! do not take the unbelievers for friends rather than the believers; do you desire that you should give to Allah a manifest proof against yourselves?

Also, the Quran claims to be complete and clear[2] and often discourages questioning its worldview. This can cause people to just be exposed to Islam and not bother learning other materials as well as preventing Muslims from critically evaluating and questioning their own worldview.


Theological Biases

A politician may feel reluctant to openly discuss her unpopular views. Similarly, a religious leader may not openly discuss certain unpopular theological views. And when such behavior goes on for centuries, the religion evolves over time. Hence, a society that believes in women’s rights, may interpret women’s role in Islam differently than another society that does not. It is hard to determine the unbiased version of a faith. Even the most sincere religious leaders may have relied on biased religious leaders, and religious leaders are limited in understanding.


The Ummah

Many Muslims feel the importance of a united ummah[3] but they cannot accept heretics as Muslims. Should a Muslim unite with jihadists that don’t accept various Islamic sects? Should a Muslim unite with reformed Muslims?

The lack of unity is a direct result of the Quran constantly emphasizing its hatred of disbelievers without ever clearly defining "disbeliever".

[4.144] O you who believe! do not take the unbelievers for friends rather than the believers; do you desire that you should give to Allah a manifest proof against yourselves?

[40.35] Those who dispute concerning the communications of Allah without any authority that He has given them; greatly hated is it by Allah and by-those who believe. Thus does Allah set a seal over the heart of every proud, haughty one.

[61.3] It is most hateful to Allah that you should say that which you do not do.

If one believes that God created all humans, then why not be concerned about the well-being of all humans? By not expanding the ummah to all people, Muslims must determine whether jihadist-Muslims, peaceful Muslims, women’s rights Muslims, reformed-Muslims, Quran-only Muslims, Shiites, Sunnis, non-practicing-Muslims, etc. are really Muslims. Then a peaceful Muslim may not accept a jihadist, and a right-wing Muslim may not accept a reformed Muslim. So while most Muslims support the ummah, they each have a different definition of ummah. Hence, the concept of ummah causes both unity and division amongst Muslims and creates distance between Muslims and non-Muslims.

The definition of unbeliever is unclear. It is tempting for a Muslim to assume that very few people or Muslims are unbelievers, as this would make Islam respectful of most people and would make it seem like few people would go to hell. Such a view would expand the Ummah. However, the Quran does not want Muslims to take unbelievers as friends and the Quran exhibits hatred against unbelievers. So a Muslim that takes unbelievers as friends is taking a big risk, and a Muslim that preaches an expanded ummah but doesn’t befriend unbelievers risks being a hypocrite. Also, why should the Quran constantly threaten and instill fear of unbelievers if they really don’t exist?


Seven Heavens

[2.29] He it is Who created for you all that is in the earth, and He directed Himself to the heaven, so He made them complete seven heavens, and He knows all things.

[17.44] The seven heavens declare His glory and the earth (too), and those who are in them; and there is not a single thing but glorifies Him with His praise, but you do not understand their glorification; surely He is Forbearing, Forgiving.

[23.17] And certainly We made above you seven heavens; and never are We heedless of creation.

[23.86] Say: Who is the Lord of the seven heavens and the Lord of the mighty dominion?


[65.12] Allah is He Who created seven heavens, and of the earth the like of them; the decree continues to descend among them, that you may know that Allah has power over all things and that Allah indeed encompasses all things in (His) knowledge.

[67.3] Who created the seven heavens one above another; you see no incongruity in the creation of the Beneficent God; then look again, can you see any disorder?

[71.15] Do you not see how Allah has created the seven heavens ,~ one above another,

[41.12] So He ordained them seven heavens in two periods, and revealed in every heaven its affair; and We adorned the lower heaven with brilliant stars and (made it) to guard; that is the decree of the Mighty, the Knowing.


The seven heavens are the 7 planets (using the term loosely as the sun and moon are not considered planets) visible to the naked eye. Modern science claims that there are many additional planets.


[1] (Richard Carrier) writes:


Moreover, verse 41:12 repeats a popular superstition found throughout the Greco-Persian world of the day: the myth of the seven heavens. This was an inherent component of almost every pagan religion, and also of Judaism and Christianity, and a clear marker of cultural borrowing, with no practical scientific meaning. Thus, we clearly see the Koran in error here, and we can easily account for this error in natural, human terms. There is nothing more to be said. Indeed, the "seven heavens" motif is a false count of the solar bodies, and even implies geocentrism, since "the seven heavens" are traditionally delineated by the seven "planets," i.e. the sun, moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. No one yet knew of Uranus, Neptune, or Pluto, much less the asteroid belt. Nor did anyone yet know that the moon is the only body that actually orbits the earth, and that the sun doesn't orbit at all, and thus neither should be classified with the other planets.


Note: Some Muslims argue that the seven heavens are the seven layers of the earth’s atmosphere. However, the number of layers and the size of each layer are arbitrary and different web sites differ as to the names, number of layers and the size of each layer. However, it seems very safe to assume that the lower atmosphere is within 1,000 kilometers from the earth. However, the sun is the nearest star to the earth and is roughly 150,000,000 kilometers from the earth.


[41.12] So He ordained them seven heavens in two periods, and revealed in every heaven its affair; and We adorned the lower heaven with brilliant stars and (made it) to guard; that is the decree of the Mighty, the Knowing.

Notes

  1. http://quod.lib.umich.edu/k/koran/simple.html This includes all words that begin with “believe” such as believer or believed.
  2. [12.111] In their histories there is certainly a lesson for men of understanding. It is not a narrative which could be forged, but a verification of what is before it and a distinct explanation of all things and a guide and a mercy to a people who believe
  3. Islamic community