Tuesday, 15 January 2019


The aim of this blog is for me to learn.

Which means that I hold to listening rather than speaking - or try to!
So this post from Logical Arguments Only is now my post for today.
See what you think - comments very welcome!
It was written in answer to my post for yesterday which you might like to refer to.

I took a peek Mike. You just seem to keep arriving at nefarious conclusions by making spurious comparisons, sometimes based upon false dichotomies. Examples -
a) You mention the tranquility of a muslim girl's school and attribute this to their belief that Allah knows best. You compare this with the 'feverish, thinly veiled anger in nearly all of the state schools I visited as a supply teacher.'It doesn't seem to cross your mind that state schools are dysfunctional because they are run by the state. You don't seem to have asked yourself whether this is deliberate or accidental. But by asserting that the beliefs of the religion are the difference you are only confusing the issue.b) You say 'Are we really worshipping the State instead of God? Do we look to the State when we should be looking to God? It sounds daft to say this.'You're right - it does sound daft to say this. Has it crossed your mind that many, many people are not worshipping anything, especially not a god or the state? Instead, they are thinking critically and realistically about how the state is functioning and they are thinking the same way about their life and its purpose. Religion doesn't come into it for these people because it just confuses the issue because none of it is backed up by any empirical evidence, it is all just pure fantasy.My advice to you (which you will probably ignore) is to think about some of these things without bringing religion into it whatsoever. Just consider that religion was a way of thinking which at one point made some sense to people with limited communication and educational systems, but has now been debunked comprehensively in many quarters and that this has also exposed how the state was abusing it as a system for controlling people. Perhaps they created the whole concept in the first place?

If you had made the point that the state uses a system which in some ways mirrors religion, so that those who are used to worshipping and obeying a god in some ways end up worshipping and obeying the state, then I would have agreed with you 100%.

Logical arguments only from Pete North's blog.

Monday, 14 January 2019

What has Islam got to teach us?


One of the fundamental differences between us and Muslims is the way they really do try to put God first. In a lot of sayings – insh'Allah is just one example - God comes into everyday life. But the five a day prayer cycle brings God back in with regularity, so does Ramadan, a fast which is surprisingly popular among even the most intermittent Muslim believers.
This is not our way.
We like, now God is Dead, to do it ourselves.
So it all depends on us personally – or the government.
Government has, in fact, taken the place of God Himself! And we divert the blame onto them too. (Brexit alert!!!)

The real world?

I went for a job in a Muslim Girls' School in the 1990s. The atmosphere was tranquil, relaxed. People walked around quietly confident. The headmistress who interviewed me was quiet, still, and she listened and told me her experiences. She had been an English teacher – she was herself a Westerner – and the Chairman of the Governors had asked her to stay on when the old Head left. She did. When things went wrong, the girls would tell her not to worry. “Allah knows best.”
How different this was from the feverish, thinly veiled anger in nearly all of the State Schools I visited as a Supply Teacher! “It's all your fault!” : “How dare you do this!”: “Have you done what you were expected to do?”
I remember trying to help one black boy by addressing him in Krio. The Head of Department Burst into my lesson: “That is racist!” I was told off by him, then the Head of Pastoralia personally and told never to do it again. The anger on their faces had to be seen to be believed!
The Headmaster was having a nervous breakdown at the time.
I visited the local Mosque. I was welcomed openly by Mohammed who invited me in (I knew about shoes), listened politely to my request and then told me about his life in Wisbech as a hot dog seller in a local shop. We swapped e mails and I left, quiet, relaxed and relieved.
The Peace of God…

Maybe it is time we had a little think about idolatry - shirk.

Are we really worshipping the State instead of God? Do we look to the State when we should be looking to God?
It sounds daft to say this.
And yet maybe it is right. Maybe our dependence on the State is in fact idolatry.
Muslims call idolatry “shirk”. For both Jews and Muslims, idolatry is one of the very worst sins there is.
This needs looking into.

Sunday, 13 January 2019

How reliable is oral transmission?

The importance of Recitation

A Muslim explains.
(very slightly adapted)
The other aspect of the oral collection, which has totally been ignored by contemporary Muslim and non-Muslim scholars, is the ‘recitation’. To understand this notion, it is crucial to examine examples from the lives of the Sahabah (The term aṣ-ṣaḥābah refers to the companions, disciples, scribes and family of the Islamic prophet Muhammad.- Wikipedia).
In this case I think it sufficient to give just one example:  Sa’eed ibn Mansur in his Sunan relates: A man was reciting the Qur’an to Abdullah ibn Mas’ud and he recited, “InnamasSadaqaatu lil-Fuqara-i wal-Masaakeen.”
Ibn Mas’ud said, “This is not how the messenger of Allah recited it to me!”.
So the man inquired, “how did he recite it to you?”
So he said, “lil-Fuqaraaaa-i wal-Masaakeen”.
He prolonged the vowel, even though not to do so only constitutes lahn al-Khafi.(a minor error).
It is evident from this incident that the collection and preservation of the Qur’an was not merely a written or spoken phenomenon, but rather transmitted phonetically and linguistically in accordance with the recitation of the Prophet and ultimately the Divine.

The oral transmission of the Qur’an is done for a reason

Allah had promised Muhammad: “I am to reveal such a book upon you [Prophet], which water cannot obliterate. Clearly evident from this, is the notion of the protection of the Qur’an in the hearts of men, which could not be obliterated or distorted.
In Arabia education was not widespread; only a minority could read, and even among them only some could write. This was because the majority were illiterate.
Nevertheless they all had astonishing potential to memorise. Muhammad’s youngest wife Aa’isha, had memorised 70,000 poems.
The Prophet urged his companions to memorise the Qur’an as it was being revealed by promising them in return lofty palaces, streams of Rayyaan (one of the gates of Paradise where there is a lovely spring of pure water.- Wikipedia), high status in paradise and radiant crowns for their parents. 

This all goes to show how this recitation was a crucial task for the Muslim community right from the very beginning.

Saturday, 12 January 2019

The Baptism of Christ.

Today the Catholic Church celebrates the baptism of the Lord.

The story, as told by Luke, goes something like this: John the Baptist is baptising people by pouring water on them. People are wondering if he is the Anointed One – the Christ, the King who is going to liberate them from the pagan Romans and let them once again be free to be themselves – devout Jews.
“No,” says John, “I baptise with water, but someone is coming who will baptise you with fire and the Holy Spirit. I am not fit to do up his shoes.”
While Jesus was at prayer after his baptism, heaven opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily shape, like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; my favour rests on you.”
That is the story. You can check it out here. Luke 3.15-21-22.

Muslims, Jews, even Christians have this in common: the Semitic genius is to intermix the divine with the “real” - the ordinary – world. Here the heavens opened – as they do – and a voice speaks from heaven: “This is my Son, the Beloved.”

So what are we to make of that?

If it were a one off, then we could perhaps treat it like the story of Santa Claus – nice and moral but a myth. But it is not a one off. It is just one part of a lot of incredible happenings – miracles, superhuman feats of knowledge of people's past, and of the general future, of public execution of the cruellist kind and then resurrection bursting forth followed by tongues of fire, more miracles and St Paul, himself a Prophet of his day, with a Revelation on the road to Damascus!

Muslims take the easy road. God never had a Son! How ridiculous. God would never allow his
Prophet (downgraded Jesus) to die on a cross! No! He substituted him with someone else. Resurrection? Forget it!

Atheists simply ignore the whole thing as too ridiculous to even consider.

Problem: If the Christian take is just a good tale like Father Christmas or Shrek or Superman, what accounts for the tremendous burst of energy and faith shown by the early Christians? There was nothing in it for them. They did not go out and conquer the world like the Muslims. They just got killed in large numbers for their (stupid?) belief in a risen Christ.

Would anyone face the lions in the arena for Santa? Or even Elvis?

Also, what if it were all true? Astounding, but true. Would not the historical record be the same? It is only if it were a made up story that we have to start accounting for the facts.

Credo quia absurdum as Tertullian never said. I believe because it is absurd.


Friday, 11 January 2019

According to al Qurtubi, how did the Koran move from the lips of the Prophet of Allah to the book of today?

Who actually wrote the Koran down?

It was transmitted, he says to Iraq Syria and Egypt, by different people. Here is a list:
Zayd ibn Thabit: one of the four scribes ordered by Uthman to write the Koran. Uthman put him in charge of the project. He is a key player.
Abdullah ibn az-Zubayr,  Sa'id ibn al As, Abdurachman ibn al Harith ibn Hisham were the other three ordered to write down the sacred text by Caliph Uthman.
Abdullah ibn Masud , also known as Ibn Umm Abd (= his mother was a slave) was a young man and a personal servant to Mohammed. He was angry about not being included because he considered that he was one of the best reciters. But he had not memorised more than three quarters of the text. Mohammed liked Abdullah, who he had actually met by the roadside when asking the way. He constantly praised him and told him not to worry about coming into his house whenever he liked.

Who actually knew the entire Koran?

Four Ansari gathered the text together and learned it by heart: Ubayy, Mu'ad ibn Jabal, Zayd ibn Thabit, Abu Zaid. This is from Bukhari and Muslim, says al Qurtubi. So only one of these was entrusted with writing down the text by Uthman.
Ibn at Tabib tells it differently: Uthman, Ali, Tamim ad-Dari and several others knew the Koran too, but they learned it from other people.
Only the four mentioned actually were there for all the revelations and took them from the mouth of the Prophet of Allah.
And, of course, other people claimed to know the entire Koran too.

Is it accurate?

Every year the Prophet of Allah would recite the entire Koran back to the Angel Gabriel during Ramadan. In the year of his death, this was done twice. According to al Qurtubi, this is from “a scholar”.
From Muslim (one of the great Hadith collectors): The Prophet himself said that Abdullah Ibn Umm Abd, Mu'ad ibn Jabal, Ubayy ibn Ka'ab and Salim, client of Abu Hudayfa were listed by the Prophet of Allah himself as the ones to take the Koran from.
He also complimented Abdullah Umm Add, his personal attendant, with these words, “He recited the Qu'ran as fresh as it was revealed.”


Lots of people claimed to know the entire Koran. It was read out every year in full. The disagreements were over a couple of Suras and some unimportant details. So the provenance is actually pretty definite.
Is it fair to remark that al Qurtubi lived 600 years after the events he describes? How reliable would, say, King Arthur have been about Jesus?
As to the Prophet himself, I, as an outsider, get the impression of a rather genial man going round making helpful and encouraging comments whenever he heard the revelation which had, after all, come from his lips, being recited with respect. I am reminded of the time when Umar objected to a “wrong” recitation and the Prophet agreed that both recitations were correct – even though both were slightly different.

The Prophet is presented as “karim” - generous - and “rahman” - merciful - rather than fernickety over what is presented as the very Word of Allah..

Thursday, 10 January 2019


Click here for reference.

"We are experiencing horrible things here every day. It appears that I live in hell on earth. I wish I could just stand inside a church and cry out in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ."
It seems a simple wish, to stand in a church. But this is completely impossible for this believer in Somalia, where even being suspected of being a Christian can lead to instant execution. At least 12 suspected converts were killed in 2016. The true number is likely to be higher; for their own safety, families would want to hide the fact that one of their relatives had been discovered following Jesus, and keep the true reason for their death a secret. In this reporting period, 70 converts were forced to leave the country, while 50 more were forced to relocate within Somalia.

The militant Islamist group al-Shabaab has stated publically that it 'wants Somalia free of all Christians', and they are able to persecute Christians with impunity as the state is basically lawless. These militants have intensified their hunt for Christian leaders this year.

The government in Somalia is barely functional, meaning that the nation is largely governed by a tribal system. Many tribal leaders believe that being Somali means being Muslim, therefore leaving Islam is seen as a betrayal of the tribe. Tribal leaders and family members will harass, intimidate and even kill those who decide to leave Islam.
The formal government, for what it's worth, allows anti-Christian sentiment to exist within the tribal system, and Islam is identified in the provisional constitution as the state religion, which also makes apostasy (leaving Islam) illegal. The government even directly banned any Christmas celebrations in December 2015.

Christians must keep their faith completely secret - even a positive response to a Christian post on social media can have serious consequences. Christians are able to gather together in small underground groups, but must constantly change the locations of their meetings to avoid monitoring by al-Shabaab militants or community leaders.

It seems impossible for anyone to come to faith in Somalia - but nothing is impossible with God. An Open Doors partners broadcasts a Christian radio programme into Somalia, and was told this by one believer: "I had been a conservative Muslim and I even used to preach at you, attempting to bring you back to Islam, but now I am a believer and that is because of your programme. I am no longer a Muslim because I received and accepted the gospel after I heard it from you.
"Don't think that I only chose Christianity because of its kindness and gentleness. I chose Christianity because it is the only religion that can provide ultimate salvation from sin and God's judgment through Jesus Christ. Your radio programme's long investment in my life in terms of teaching was not in vain."

Wednesday, 9 January 2019

How do we know that the Koran we have today is the same one that was revealed to Mohammed?

Al Qurtabi tells us the answer.

He, we are reminded, lived some 600 years after Mohammed. But he was a careful scholar and collected stories (hadiths) from the most respected collectors.

This is what he said:

There was a lot of discord because people were insisting that theirs was the authentic version of the Koran. Eventually the Amir of the Faithful, Uthman (644-656),  got to hear of the discord. His judgement was that “We the people should agree on one reading.If you disagree today, then those after you will disagree more strongly.”
Uthman knew that Hafsa, the daughter of Umar the previous Caliph (634-644), had the copy which Zayd ibn Thabit had made and he sent for the copy promising to return it when it had been copied out.
He ordered four scholars, Zayd, Abdullah, Sa'id, and Abdur Rahman to make copies. He then told a group of Quraishis that if there was any disagreement, they should use the Quraishi version because Mohammed himself had been from that tribe.
They did that.
When the copies had been collected, he returned the pages to Hafsa and sent a copy to every region commanding that every sheet that did not correspond should be burned.
Uthman only did this after consulting with the Ansari and Muhijirun – the companions of the Prophet himself. They agreed to collect what was sound and firm of the readings from the Prophet and to discard all the rest. They thought this was only right and proper.
So the result was that there were at least five official copies of the Koran. One was with Hafsa, the others were distributed throughout the Muslim lands.

That is from a recognised authority.

So how does modern scholarship measure up to that?

Everyone is agreed that the very early history of the Koran is lost. But as to Uthman's offering of one authentic copy, even then, nobody is quite sure how many copies were made by the four scribes. We have the names of the four scribes, but (according to Wikipedia for example), there were six copies.
“Five of these authoritative Qurans were sent to the major Muslim cities of the era, and Uthman kept one for his own use in Medina, The only other surviving copy was thought to be the one held in Topkapı Palace in Turkey, but studies have shown that the Topkapı manuscript is also not from the 7th century, but from much later.
Uthman was succeeded by Ali, who took the uthmanic Quran to Kufa, now in Iraq. The subsequent history of this Quran is known only from legends.”
The only surviving Koran from Uthman is the Samarkand ms. which has been carbon dated and seems to fit timewise. After several adventures, it is now (mostly) in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. It is pictured at the top of this post.


The Samarkand ms, the Topkapi ms, the Tubingen fragment, the Sana'a ms, Paris-St Petersburg ms and the Birmingham Koran ms.: These are the oldest Koran copies available today. Timewise they fit and compare very favourably with the New Testament documents, especially in the time lapse between the events of the life of the events they describe, whether that is the Revelation to Mohammed or the life of Jesus.