My Story with the Quran and Losing My Religion
08 Sep, 2008
"Without raising an eyebrow, I also read about Mohammed's genocide of the Jewish tribe of Bani Quryza. I had developed the concept that committing Islamic genocides against the Jews are no more disturbing to an Arab than slaughtering a herd of cattle."
- I was reluctant to write the story of my departure from Islam, because it lacks any of the moral elements of the kind mentioned in some of the touching testimonies published on the Internet. I cannot claim that I wasn't aware of Mohammed's assassinations of his adversaries, because I read about it and accepted it as a justifiable action against the enemies of Allah. Neither I can claim that I wasn't aware of Mohammed's pedophilic marriage to Aysha because I knew about it and accepted it as a perfectly normal practice during Mohammed's time. Without raising an eyebrow, I also read about Mohammed's genocide of the Jewish tribe of Bani Quryza. I had developed the concept that committing Islamic genocides against the Jews are no more disturbing to an Arab than slaughtering a herd of cattle.
My problem with Islam was mainly about the Quran which seemed to continuously require external human boasters in the form of interpretations and reinterpretations and endless justifications for much of the Quran's inanities. For a person with a free mind and good knowledge of the Arabic language, it is a fierce struggle with the mind to accept anything about the Quran; its language, style and contents. The Quran is only convincing for those whose knowledge in Arabic is nonexistent or poor, which is the case in the vast majority of Muslims including the Arabs. It is especially true for those who are conditioned to read it year after year with only one thing in their minds- to earn hasanat that helps them to avoid hell fire. For decades, I belonged to the second group, but although my starting point was the false assumption that the Quran is absolutely correct, as all Muslims do, I found it increasingly harder to accept all that collection of nonsense as my knowledge of Arabic developed over the years.
I am afraid that in my case, the language and logical absurdities of the Quran sent a louder alarm than the cruelties of Mohammed. I rejected the Quran because I expected from Allah a much better book!
A Muslim Child
I was brought up in a small village in southern Syria in the early 1950s. My parents were ordinary farmers with simple education. Like the rest of the villagers, they performed the prayers and observed Ramadan fasting, which were more of a social and cultural duties. Like the rest of the children in the village, I was taught to recite some of the Quranic verses by heart well before the school age. It is still customary for the Middle Eastern parents to teach their young children to recite at least the first sura of the Quran, known as alfatiha. Some parents begin to work on this from the moment their children start to talk!
That was my first encounter with Quran but by no means the only one; the Quran was always around me whatever I did and wherever I went. In the background, there was always that voice of the Quari who reads the Quran in a distinguished tajweed style that spreads an atmosphere of gravity and fear. Such recitations seemed to go forever; they came from the mosque's loud speakers as well as from the radio and other audio devices. No ceremony or gathering or activity could start, or finish, without reciting some verses from the Quran. It is not only that I could hear the Quran all the time, but also I could see it all the time. Wherever I turned my eyes I could see some verses of the Quran written in special calligraphy and framed on the walls of every house or every shop, even means of transport were decorated with Quranic verses.
I attended the village's only school, which was an ordinary government school that had no particular emphasis on religious education. In the beginning of every school year, children were handed the relevant books for that particular year. Those books kept changing year after year except for one book-the Quran, which we called mushaf. The Quran was a truly intimidating book to any child; it was so intimidating to me that I couldn't even express my feelings towards it. Children dare not say anything negative about the Quran. I even didn't dare to allow any negative thoughts about it to surface in my mind for the fear of extreme punishment from Allah. I was taught to respect the book and do the Islamic washing ritual before even touching it, and never to hold it with my left hand. I was told to kiss the book immediately after I hold it and touch it with my forehead as a sign of respect. I was also taught of the special ritual of how to finish reading from the book. I mustn't stop reading before finishing the verse; even if it was a long one. After finishing the recitation I had to say in Arabic sadka allahu alazeem meaning 'Allah told the truth'. Then I was allowed to close the book respectfully and place it on top of the other books. I wasn't allowed to place any book on top of the Quran.
The Quran, a difficult book to read
It didn't escape my notice that the Quran was not a reader friendly book and certainly not a child friendly one, but I attributed that to the greatness of the book! It had no pictures at all and no titles or paragraphs and not even spaces between its verses or chapters; just a continuous writing from the beginning to the end. Its verses cannot be considered full sentences or paragraphs; they are just collections of words. A sentence may start in a verse and end in another one! If you take away the numbering of the verses, the whole Quran would look like one very long paragraph!
As I progressed in school, I became more talented in reading in Arabic, but I always had problems in reading the Quran. My consolation was that I was not alone; all the other children had the same problem. The only chapters I read easily were the ones I already know by heart or the ones I read before many times. Reading a new chapter was always a struggle, but, at the time, I never worked out why.
Even today, I still believe the Quran is not a particularly easy book to read for a first timer. I do not think it is possible for a person to read a page from the Quran for the first time without making many mistakes. The only way to read a chapter from the Quran without making mistakes is actually to read it many times before hand to become familiar with that chapter. Once you become familiar with a chapter, reading it becomes more of a reminder of what you already know (or nearly know ) by heart,.
The Muslim scholars have deliberately made the Quran a very difficult book to read. The Quran is deliberately scribed in a way that violates all the writing protocols of the Arabic language. The Muslim scholars are keen on this bizarre practice to ensure that the Quarn is well wrapped in a thick and dark coat of mystic ambiguity, which is the Quran's fiercest defense.
How can anybody read a book where the standard punctuation marks are not used at all? To confuse the reader even more, the Quran contains what appear to be scriptural errors in every verse. These deliberate violations to the Arabic writing protocols are peculiar to the Quran. As an example the word salat (prayer) is deliberately written like salowat and the word zakat is written like zakowat. Then every letter in every word is surrounded by coded pronunciation marks that are special to the Quran, to describe how that particular letter, in that particular position, should be pronounced. To add to the confusion, those pronunciation marks often look like smaller versions of the normal Arabic letters. Just in case all the above is not enough to confuse the reader, they add to every word the tajweed marks because every letter in the Quran has to be pronounced in a special way, according to its position in the word and sentence, to give a special sound effect, called tajweed, which is the Quran's musical note, as we may put it.
The Quran, a difficult text to hear or understand
Hearing and understanding the Quran were other tortures that my Islamic mind had to put up with. I could listen to the radio for ten minutes and all the Quari has done was to read only few verses that he repeated many times with many pauses in between, which only helps to distract the listener. Reading the interpretations or tafseer books is a true torture. Some tafseer books, especially the modern ones, are massive in volumes and interpreting one word can take many pages.
Such excessive writings intimidate the ordinary readers, which explains why not many people bother to read them, but also follows an imbedded psychological definition for intellectuality as perceived by many Arabs. There is a common misconception among many Arabs that a highly intellectual person is expected to produce highly complex writings. Many Arabs think it is all right if ordinary people cannot understand the complex and lengthy writings of the highly intelligent authors. Many Arabs may become impressed and speak highly of a scholar who writes many pages, or speak for hours explaining one word in the Quran, even though they did not understand a word of it! Simplicity, as some Arabs understand it, is only for the simple people.
Al Mutanabbi (915-965), one of the most talented Arab poets, reflected on such unusual misconception in one of his poems. He described his intelligence by claiming that he says what he wants to say then sleeps well, but the rest of the world spends the night trying to understand it! Almutanabbi said what some Arabs wanted to hear, and reflected a common cultural misconception. To be fair to the man, all his poetry is clear and powerful, but he reminds us with another author who prides himself that he alone can understand what he writes.
"Q.3:7. …but none knows its meanings except Allâh…."
The Quran and black magic
The above intensive and continuous brainwashing process that starts from the moment a child is born to a Muslim family, results in a state where Muslims are unable to consider the Quran in an objective way. The Muslims' minds are never free when it comes to anything to do with the Quran. The fact is that the Quran never looked to Muslims as normal, never sounded as normal and was never understood as normal.
Muslims have been conditioned to think of the Quran in a mystical environment, which reminds me with the way the magicians set the seen to perform their tricks. The stage magicians do not do anything supernatural, but they make the audience believe the do. They dress in dark colours and choose a dark background; they distract their audience's attention by using sound effects and by saying irrelevant words or making irrelevant movements.
Nowadays, black magic is a thriving business in the Middle East, as it had always been. Black magicians perform their tricks by saying some very strange words that do not make any sense. Such strange sayings have no meaning, even to the black magicians who compose them, but it is that ambiguity that serves to stun the confused client. Mohammed has used a lot of these abracadabra-like words in the Quran and the trick seems to work on Muslims! Many chapters in the Quran begin with a random arrangement of letters, sometimes even one letter! Indeed, some entire verses are composed of only few randomly arranged letters!
If any person with sanity receives a 'clear' message that reads H. M. h/she would reject it but Muslims accept it and consider it a miracle! As a matter of fact, the above two letters make the first verse of some suras in the Quran like sura 44. The interpretation books refer to this verse as a miracle! Muslim scholars say that nobody knows the meaning of the verse except Allah, which raises the question of why send a message that cannot be understood by the receiver? The irony is that the very next verse in sura 44 (i.e. 44:2) says "the clear book"! Muslims have been reading such verses for centuries without making any sense of them, their only response is to say with amazement: subhan allah!
The use of strange words does not stop at using random letters; the Quran did actually incorporate strange or foreign words in a similar fashion to the practice of the black magicians. If we refer to the interpretations books to find the meanings for words like ababil(105:3), sijjeel (105:4), ghesleen (69:36) and dozens others we find that they do not agree to a clear meaning, which indicates that such words had no clear meanings to the early Arabs. Mohammed probably used them just to make an impression. The Arab black magicians are known to use foreign or distorted words or even coin new ones that have no meaning at all other than making an impression in the minds of their stupid audience.
A high school lesson
I still vividly remember how one day in the high school, after the teacher spent a long time explaining the wonderful eloquence of the Quran, one of the pupils asked a question about one of the verses discussed that day, which was verse 49: 9
" وإنْ طائفتان من المؤمنين اقتتلوا"
49:9. And if two parties or groups among the believers fall to fighting, then ….
In the above verse, the Quran uses the word iktatalu (translated above as fall to fighting) in a place where it should be iktatala. The question was why? I didn't think the pupil meant to be critical or had any other intentions more than asking a simple grammar question. The question surprised me, but surprised the teacher more. The teacher told the pupil off and warned him that he should be careful and respectful when it comes to discussing the Quran. It was obvious to me that the teacher noticed the above error for the first time; he struggled to find an answer and to demonstrate the non-existent eloquence of the verse. He concluded that the early Arabs were amazed by the Quran, so who are we to disagree.
Verse 49: 9 have an obvious grammatical error that cannot be denied or explained. Muslim scholars go round and round, they twist the rules and change the meanings and go to any length to tell us that the mistake is not only correct, but also is a miracle! This is the verse that was the subject of the question: The Quran has many other grammatical errors, but the one that comes to my mind is in verse 22:19 because it is very similar error to the one above:
" هذان خصمان اختصموا"
22:19. These two opponents dispute with each other ...
In the above verse, the Quran wrongly uses the word ikhtasamu (translated above as dispute with each other) in a place where it should be ikhtasama
It didn't matter to me, that day, how the teacher explained the error, I only wanted to know that there is an explanation. I satisfied myself with the usual Islamic response that is designed to deter the mind from thinking too much about these things, which I still hear from Muslims nowadays. If you bring up the issue to Muslims, you hear their classic response "Do you think all those great Arabs of the past did not notice this? Do you think you are the genius of your time? Are you sure you understand the verse well?"
A liberal Muslim
As a university student, I was a fairly open minded Muslim, as I preferred to describe myself. The only prayers I used to perform were the Friday prayers but that was an acceptable average for university students those days. By the time I started my university education I had already discovered many areas in Islam that I didn't feel comfortable with. My response was to reject most of the ahadith and commit myself only to the Quran. I considered myself to be a true logical Muslim who is truly convinced of Islam and not just inherited it, a claim that I regularly hear from Muslims nowadays.
Deep in my mind, I realized that Mohammed's sira (life story) and his ahadith were too embarrassing to accept or justify. Therefore, to maintain my allegiance to Islam I had to reject them, or most of them, and build my own beliefs around the Quran. This may look bizarre because the Quran is just as bad as ahadith. The reality was that the Quran is an easy ride for a person with good command of Arabic. Its ambiguity and contradictions cater for all tastes, you just say what you want and you can find some words in the Quran that you can use to justify your case. I simply picked what I wanted and explained as I wanted and then turned a blind eye to the rest. That was the reality of my feelings that I managed to suppress all my Islamic years because my Islamic mind couldn't face it.
I practiced islam in a very liberal way, I neglected many of my Islamic duties, sometimes sinned and justified all that from carefully selected verses from the Quran. I decorated the wall of my room with a calligraphy poster of a Quranic verse, which I selected carefully and kept for years. It was verse 39: 53, which used to be one of my favorites because it is one of the few verses that project Allah as a kind and forgiving god.
39: 53. Say: 'O my slaves who have transgressed against themselves despair not of the Mercy of Allâh…'
I had a reputation among my friends to be a fan of the classic Arabic and to have special sensitivity to language mistakes in formal writings or readings. I must have read the above verse thousands of times without ever noticing its obvious error! The verse contains an outrageous language and logical mistake.
Allah is supposed to be talking to Mohammed and asking him to tell Muslims (Allah's slaves) not to despair, but the existing wording implies that Muslims are Mohammed's slaves! The above verse should start like this: 'Say: O Allah's slaves….'
I still find difficult to explain how I read the above verse days and nights for many years without ever noticing such an evident mistake, which I only noticed when I read the Quran with a critical mind some years later. But I am not alone; in fact I never came across an Arab Muslim who noticed the error, although they all would try hard to justify it. It is sad that Muslims are never free when it comes to anything to do with the Quran. Muslims are continuously subjected to an intensive indoctrination process that leaves them with impaired senses and dysfunctional minds. Muslims, under the influence of Islam, are incapable of reading the Quran in an objective way.
I was amazed by the number of blunders, of all kinds, that started to appear as I started to read the Quran in an objective way. Removing the divine halo that surrounds the Quran reveals a very different book that doesn't require any interoperations to understand because all its mysteries are solved by one word- nonsense.
The above verse is not a one off error; actually the Quran is full with them. It is a common practice in the Quran for Allah to suddenly move from the third person to the first person or vice versa with no reason at all. In verse 6:99, such a poor usage of language implies that Allah talks about a different god who sends down rain from the sky while He is responsible for the vegetations:
6:99. It is HE who sends down water from the sky, and with it WE bring forth vegetation of all kinds…
But my favorite example of the Quran's lack of clarity is verse 6: 151, which is a list of the forbidden things that Muslims must avoid. The verse, in theory, should be one of the easiest verses to compose; it is just a matter of listing things one after the other, which the Quran failed miserably to do:
6: 151. Say: "Come, I will recite what your Lord has prohibited you from: Join not anything in worship with Him; be good and dutiful to your parents; kill not your children because of poverty - We provide sustenance for you and for them; come not near to Al-Fawâhish whether committed openly or secretly, and kill not anyone whom Allâh has forbidden, except for a just cause….
The above verse lists the forbidden things that all Muslims must avoid. The verse lists being good and dutiful to parents as one of those sins. Muslim scholars say that 'being good to parents' is not part of the list and we also sincerely hope it not. But why did Allah insert it in that position of the verse then rely on human commonsense to figure out that it is not part of that list? Is there a good writing style in the above verse? Would such writing be acceptable from any writer, past or present?
And my story with the Quran continues..
Mumin Salih is a Middle Eastern ex-Muslim.