Monday, July 2, 2007

The Muslim faithless

Ridiculing and questioning Islam, Muhammad, the Qur'an and religion in general is an ancient tradition in Muslim countries.


Those Muslims who condemn such literature and views as un-Islamic and new-fangled western imports are obviously unaware of their own history. Some 12 centuries before these modern writers, Ibn al-Rawandi was establishing a controversial reputation for himself as the Richard Dawkins of ninth-century Baghdad (probably the wealthiest and most advanced city in the world at the time).

Belonging, as he did, to a more poetic age, his most famous work was not entitled The Allah Delusion, but had the more colourful title of The Emerald Book (Kitab al-Zumurrud). Nevertheless, he was no less sparing than Dawkins would be in his indictment and rejection of the divine authorship of the Qur'an, Muhammad's status as a prophet and organised religion. He argued that humans possess the gift of intellect, by which they can judge right and wrong, rendering the prophets and scripture superfluous.

According to Dawkins, most of the modern scientists who talk of "God" do so in the loosest possible sense of the word. Likewise, many of the greatest scientists of Islam's golden age sailed pretty close to the wind and, like their modern counterparts, were often deists rather than theists.


Islam's glory was a secular one based on knowledge and science. This is what makes the current drift towards scripture, ritual and conservatism in many Muslims so alarming. Just because dictators and foreign meddling spoiled the modern secular experiment, that does not mean we should throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Khaled Diab, Guardian, June 30, 2007

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