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Strange Bedfellows: Extremists, Bigots, and the Quran

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Original guest article by Michael Elwood and Tarik Abdallah

Recently, there’s been a lot in the news as to whether extremists like ISIS are being true to the message of the Quran or not.

Some, like Rep. Keith Ellison and Prof. Rashid Khalidi claim that groups like ISIS take verses of the Quran out of context in order to justify their objectionable beliefs and practices (see: Islamic State group uses only half of a Quran verse to justify beheadings — see what’s in the other half). Others, like Sam Harris and Bill Maher, claim that so-called moderate Muslims either don’t know what their own scripture says (as incredible as that sounds!), or they’re simply lying about the “violent” and “hateful” contents of the Quran. We contend it’s extremists like ISIS, and critics of Islam like Harris and Maher, who are lying about the contents of the Quran. Below, we’ll give an overview of how they do this by taking verses out of context in order to make them appear to be advocating “violence” and “hate”.

First, we’d like to point out that taking verses out of context isn’t the only way that extremists try to justify violent and hateful interpretations of the Quran. There are two other ways that this is often accomplished. One way is to play on verses that are allegorical, or that can have more than one meaning, and try to tease a violent or hateful interpretation from them. The Quran itself mentions this:

“He sent down to you this scripture, containing straightforward verses – which constitute the essence of the scripture – as well as multiple-meaning or allegorical verses. Those who harbor doubts in their hearts will pursue the multiple-meaning verses to create confusion, and to extricate a certain meaning. None knows the true meaning thereof except GOD and those well founded in knowledge. They say, “We believe in this – all of it comes from our Lord.” Only those who possess intelligence will take heed” ~ Quran 3:7

In their footnote for 3:7, Prof. Edip Yuksel, Prof. Martha Schulte-Nafeh, et. al., point out that the verse about verses that can be interpreted in more than one way, can itself be interpreted in more than one way (See “Quran: A Reformist Translation”):

“The word [mutashabihat] can be confusing for a novice. Verse 39:23, for instance, uses mutashabihat for the entire Quran, referring to its overall similarity — in other words, its consistency. In a narrower sense, however, mutashabihat refers to all verses which can be understood in more than one way. The various meanings or implications require some special qualities from the person listening to or reading the Quran: an attentive mind, a positive attitude, contextual perspective, the patience necessary for research, and so forth.

“It is one of the intriguing features of the Quran that the verse about mutashabih verses of the Quran is itself mutashabih — that is, it has multiple meanings. The word in question, for instance, can mean ‘similar’, as we have seen; it can mean, ‘possessing multiple meanings’; it can also mean ‘allegorical’ (where one single, clearly identifiable element represents another single, clearly identifiable element).”

An example of a verse that can be interpreted in more than one way is 2:106. In this verse, some translate the word “ayah,” which means “miracle,” as “verse” in order to justify abrogating Quranic verses that are inconvenient for them (more on this later). An example of verses that are allegorical are the verses that describe heaven and hell, like 47:15. In this particular instance, the Quran actually tells us that the description is an allegory (mathalu):

“The allegory of Paradise [mathalu al-jannati] that is promised for the righteous is this: it has rivers of unpolluted water, and rivers of fresh milk, and rivers of wine – delicious for the drinkers – and rivers of strained honey. They have all kinds of fruits therein, and forgiveness from their Lord. (Are they better) or those who abide forever in the hellfire, and drink hellish water that tears up their intestines?”  ~ Quran 47:15

In his book, “The End of Faith,” and on his website, Sam Harris often cites these verses as evidence of what he calls “religious hatred” and “otherwordliness” in the Quran (see Honesty: The Muslim World’s Scarcest Resource). There are a few problems with this, however.

First, as his fellow atheist Joshua Oxley points out, these verses use imagery to portray the torments of hell:

“The verses cited aren’t quite as scary as he makes them out to be. Many of them use violent imagery–fire, mostly–to convey the judgment that us unbelievers will experience at the hands of God. Not at the hands of men and women on earth. But at the Last Day. Why should this constitute a particular kind of Islamic violence. . . . Does that scare you? It doesn’t scare me. These passages put the power into Divine hands to judge and cast out, not human. I couldn’t care less, unless individuals start citing that verse in hopes of having my head. At that point, it’s not the ‘unified message’ of the text that is to blame, but an inconsistent interpretation by the religious believer. And those are two very, very different things.

“Harris, quite frankly, presents Scripture here as a fundamentalist would. It is a dry, topical understanding, devoid of historical or textual context, that makes proof-texting possible. There is no room for interpretation, for conversation, for nuance. No different schools of thought. It’s decided, ‘The text as a whole says X’. Islam becomes a robotic, artificial existence, and humankind mere automatons. And I feel like Harris should know better. When you have a bigger audience to speak to, you take on the responsibility of presenting yourself and others with as much integrity and honesty as possible. And this article just doesn’t measure up. . . .

“Please, anyone and everyone, don’t take Harris’ analysis as your own understanding of Islam. I have to say something. This atheist, who is not a Qur’anic scholar, but who was lucky enough to spend four year in undergrad studying Islam, is interested in the Muslim and secular communities engaging in dialogue over real issues. Poorly-reasoned critiques, more diatribe than discourse, will never get people to the table. And in a society with a profound ignorance of the nature of Islam, it’s even more dangerous to promulgate some of the worst misconceptions.

“Everyone deserves to be as generously understood as possible, and it’s about time the Muslim community got similar treatment from our secular circles. If I read a Muslim thinker picking any secular text apart in this kind of manner, I’d be equally miffed.” ~Joshua Oxley, When You Just Shouldn’t Say Anything: Sam Harris and the Qur’an

Second, Harris isn’t categorically against torment. He’s just against the torment of non-Muslims (or infidels as he likes to call them) in an afterlife he doesn’t believe in, by a God he doesn’t believe in. But as he has said in his book “The End of Faith,” and in a Huffington Post article aptly titled “In Defense of Torture,” he’s all for the torment of Muslims in this life.

It’s hard to understand how the torment of some non-Muslims in the afterlife constitutes “religious hatred,” but the torment of some Muslims in this life doesn’t constitute “secular hatred”.

Third, despite Harris’ subjective impression that the Quran is full of “otherworldliness,” the objective reality is quite different. The number of times the Arabic words for this life (dunya) and the afterlife (akhira) both occur in the Quran exactly 115 times (see “Quran: A Reformist Translation”). It reminds me of the Christian apologist Dave Miller who tried to demonstrate that the Quran, unlike the Bible, emphasizes hell more than heaven. He wrote:

“While the Bible certainly emphasizes the certainty and inevitability of eternal punishment, it places the subject in proper perspective and provides a divinely balanced treatment.”   ~ David Miller, Hell and the Quran

But despite Miller’s subjective impression of the Quran placing an emphasis on hell, the objective reality is quite different. The Arabic words for heaven (jannah) and hell (jahannum) both occur in the Quran exactly 77 times (see “Interpreting the Qur’an: A Guide for the Uninitiated” by Clinton Bennett). If that’s not “balanced treatment,” what is? It should also be pointed out that Christian apologists claim that overall the Quran, unlike the Bible, is more violent (see Dark passages: Does the harsh language in the Koran explain Islamic violence? Don’t answer till you’ve taken a look inside the Bible, also see Danios’ article: What the Quran-bashers Don’t Want You To Know About The Bible).

Another way extremists and critics try to justify violent and hateful interpretations of the Quran is to just ignore or explain away “peaceful” and “loving” verses in the Quran. One of the ways they try to accomplish this is by claiming that all the “peaceful” and “loving” verses of the Quran have been conveniently abrogated. Verse 2:106, mentioned earlier, “critics” claim can be interpreted in more than one way through abrogation. Many also claim verse 9:5 abrogates all the other “peaceful” and “loving” verses. However, some scholars disagree:

“A popular argument against such a reading of the text is based on the claim that verses such as 22:39-40 and 2:190 have been abrogated by the so-called ‘verse of the sword,’ 9:5. Proponents of this argument generally cite the portion of the verse, which says, ‘then kill the polytheists wherever you find them,’ claiming that this abrogates any previous verses that seem to restrict fighting and killing non-Muslims. However, this argument is problematic for two very important reasons.

“First, as John Burton has clearly demonstrated, there is no agreement among Muslim scholars, past or present, on the nature of abrogation, or on the specifics of the abrogating and the abrogated.[16] More important to the present discussion, however, is the fact that a literal reading of 9:5, in the surrounding context demonstrates that its message is the same as that found throughout the Qur’an.” ~ Prof. Aisha Musa, Towards a Qur’anically-Based Articulation of the Concept of ‘Just War’

For a lengthier treatment of abrogation, see Dr. Israr Khan’s article Arguments for Abrogation in the Qur’an: A Critique. Also see the article Abrogation, the biggest lie against the Quran.

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  • syed ali

    and so called hypocritical Christians want New Testament law in the U.S. heck most of the southern U.S.A. wants it and no one is concerned about that?

  • Laila Muhammad

    in Algeria in the 90’s Algerians voted in a Islamic party the army nullified the results and alegerian/French paramilitary units dressed as muslims murdered thousands of rural muslims…..ensuring no more muslim govt….in sudan western/israel helped the Christian militias create their own state [south sudan]…today these same sources trying to split north Nigeria [muslims] from south Nigerian[Christians]…by funding book haram [a Nigerian paramilitary unit] next election should have been a muslim per rules that alternate the office…but west/Israel who have close ties with Christian president of Nigeria goodluck do not want a muslim president in may Nigeria election by funding the book haram they hope no one votes for a muslim candidate oy vey

  • MichaelElwood

    Hilary Scott wrote: “I don’t care about silly religious arguments – heaven and hell are products of men. You’re both wasting your time imo.”

    Dontcha just love it when people say they don’t care about “silly religious arguments”. . . and then proceed to engage in “silly religious arguments”! 🙂

    Hilary Scott wrote: “Aisha Ahmed is right about one thing though. The more-likely punishment exceeds the less-likely reward. Thus being born is not in your interest if you believe in eternal conscious torture.”

    Fist, I don’t know on what you and your alternate personality, Aisha Ahmed, are basing the belief that hell is the “most likely” destination of humans. Second, since your alternate personality participated in this “silly religious argument” with me, you should already know that I don’t believe in “eternal conscious torture”. I pointed out that, from an Islamic point of view, that the concept was both theologically and philosophically problematic, remember?

    Hilary Scott wrote: “Especially when the odds are stacked so heavily in favor of some groups and against others.”

    Again, what are you basing these odds on?

    Hilary Scott wrote: “For people such as myself, raised in a non Muslim country, the statistics are overwhelmingly against me.”

    I was born and raised in a non-Muslim family, in a non-Muslim country, too. So how can the statistics be any more overwhelmingly against you than me?

    Hilary Scott wrote: “Of course, you can argue that individually I have the opportunity to convert, as I have read the Qur’an etc. But as a general moral principle it doesn’t add up. Only a small percentage actually convert. It only makes moral sense on an individual level, not a world level.”

    I could argue that. . . but I don’t. Islam doesn’t predicate heavenly reward on conversion, or becoming a nominal Muslim:

    “Surely, those who believe, those who are Jewish, the Christians, and the converts; anyone who (1) believes in GOD, and (2) believes in the Last Day, and (3) leads a righteous life, will receive their recompense from their Lord. They have nothing to fear, nor will they grieve.” [Quran 2:62]

    “Surely, those who believe, those who are Jewish, the converts, and the Christians; any of them who (1) believe in GOD and (2) believe in the Last Day, and (3) lead a righteous life, have nothing to fear, nor will they grieve.” [Quran 5:69]

    “Those who believe, those who are Jewish, the converts, the Christians, the Zoroastrians, and the idol worshipers, GOD is the One who will judge among them on the Day of Resurrection. GOD witnesses all things.” [Quran 22:17]

    Hilary Scott wrote: “The idea that this brief, ignorant existence could be punished by eternal torture is the most extreme case of the punishment exceeding the crime one could possibly imagine.”

    Again, “eternal torture” isn’t what Islam teaches. And atheists feigning “intellectual difficulties” with the concept of “torture” they erroneously believe Islam sanctions still doesn’t explain the lack “intellectual difficulties” they have with the torture they believe atheism sanctions.

  • HSkol

    Michael Elwood and Tarik Abdallah, thank you for this. I wish I could have visited earlier – but, life happens. Fantastic article!

  • MichaelElwood

    You pretty much answered your own question. Muhsin khan mistranslated the verse. And his mistranslation created a contradiction between the verse and its immediate context. The two words he mistranslates are “fitnah” and “zalimeen”. Khan seems to be the only translators who did this. Pickthall, Shakir, Yuksel and Schulte-Nafeh translate “fitnah” as “persecution”. And Yusuf Ali, Asad, and Khalifa translate “fitnah” as “oppression”. Only Khan translates “fitnah” as “disbelief” or “polytheism”. Khan is also the only one who translates the word “zalimeen” as “polytheists”. The verse says “if they cease, then let there be no aggression except against the oppressors/fa’ini intahaw fala udwana illa ala l-zalimina”. It doesn’t say “if they cease, then let there be no aggression except against the polytheists/fa’ini intahaw fala udwana illa ala l-mushrikina”. If it said that, there wouldn’t have been a need for Khan to put that in parenthesis.

    In the same chapter, the Quran makes it clear that people are to have religious freedom:

    “There shall be no compulsion in religion/la ikraha fi l-dini” [Quran 2:256]

    The same chapter also makes it clear that their enemies were fighting them to rob them of that religious freedom:

    “. . . .They will always fight you to revert you from your religion, if they can/wa la yazaluna yuqatilunakum hatta yaruddukum an dinikum ini istata’u. . . .” [Quran 2:217]

    Simply being a “disbeliever” or a “polytheist” isn’t a legitimate reason for aggression in Islam. Muslims are only allowed to fight those who fight them (see 2:190-192).

  • MichaelElwood

    Aisha Ahmed: “Of course i have intellectual difficulties regarding torture in this life *and* the next.”

    Stop insulting my intelligence. . . and drop the I’m-a-sunni routine! You pretend to be a sunni that’s so extreme that you don’t believe women should play sports. And you pretend to be a defender of sunnism against “hadith rejectors” like me. Yet, you claim to have “intellectual difficulties” with one of the most important, and most distinctive, sunni beliefs (i.e., the torture of the grave). The following website says:

    “Hadrat Imâm-i Suyûtî wrote a special work entitled Sharh-us sudur on the torment in the grave, in which he quoted the relevant hadîth-i sharîfs from Bukhârî, Muslim, and other hadîth books. The punishment in the grave is written in every hadîth book. A person who rejects the torment in the grave has rejected all hadîth books.”

    The site goes on to say:

    “Question: Some people say, ‘There is no torment before the Resurrection. It would be summary execution to subject a person to torment in the grave before sins and rewards are determined and before offences are brought to light. It is like smiting a person in the police station before he or she appears in court. This, in turn, is incompatible with Divine justice.’ Is the torment in the grave not true?

    “ANSWER

    “To utter such remarks means having no knowledge of the religion whatsoever, for Allahu ta’âlâ certainly knows who committed what offence and who will go to Paradise and who will go to Hell. . . .

    “The Mu’tazila sect, who accepted the mind as a gauge, denied the life and the torment in the grave. Ahl as-Sunnat scholars, on the other hand, substantiated the authenticity of the torment in the grave with evidence.”

    http://www.myreligionislam.com/detail.asp?Aid=5844

    Aisha Ahmed wrote: “You would easily torture an individual (ie me) who is uncomfortable with the concept of eternal conscious torment – this (in your twisted and perverse secular mind, a mind obsessed with the councilofexmuslims.com) automatically means one is in favour of temporal torment -& thus worthy of such torture.”

    I don’t believe in torturing people. You’re the one who believes in torture, both as an atheist offline and as a pretend sunni online, remember? Or have you spun so many lies that you can’t keep track of them all?

    Let’s recap, shall we. She believes that verses that she finds inconvenient can be abrogated. But I’m the one who’s taking scissors to the Quran! She has “intellectual difficulties” with torture in the afterlife, which sunni scholars say entails a rejection of “all hadîth books”. But I’m the hadith rejector! She’s an atheist pretending to be a sunni extremist on the internet. But I’m the hypocrite!

  • Lithium2006

    You misunderstood me, you have nothing worth arguing. Now get lost.

  • MichaelElwood

    Aisha Ahmed wrote: “Of course I struggle. I struggle because I actually wrestle with texts that are very confronting.”

    No, you don’t “wrestle” with the texts. If you read, let alone “wrestled” with the Quran, you would’ve at the very least accepted it’s own assertion that the descriptions of heaven and hell are allegorical (instead of acting like they’re literal, as you did in your previous comment).

    Aisha Ahmed wrote: “You on the other hand treat religion like a buffet – pick and choose until you’ve satiated your PC, hadith-rejecting belly.”

    Didn’t you bother to read the article? People like you are the ones who believe that verses you find inconvenient can be abrogated. But I’m the one treating religion like a buffet, eh? You don’t credit me with much intelligence, do you? Do you really think I don’t know why atheists like you find “hadith-rejecting” so threatening? It’s because the atheism that they’re peddling is complete nonsense. And their beliefs only seem halfway sensical when contrasted with the equally nonsensical, and largely hadith-based, beliefs of extremist groups like ISIS and the Taliban. They believe that a hadith-based Islam is easier to criticize than a Quran-based Islam (tacitly admitting that they can’t find much in the Quran to criticize). And when they think they’re among themselves and no one else is watching, atheists and ex-Muslims freely admit this. One of them said:

    “I am also biased to the traditional story. Because let’s face it, the traditional story only helps two groups: the hardline Salafists and those that want to criticize Islam. For moderate Muslims, Quran only Muslims, and Muslim apologists, the idea that the Hadiths and Sirah cannot be trusted and that most of the early rise of Islam is a mystery is the perfect way to dismiss all the unethical stuff in the hadiths.

    “So for that reason I would prefer to accept the traditional account.”

    http://www.councilofexmuslims.com/index.php?topic=22992.msg660741#msg660741

    Elsewhere, another one said:

    “Hey guys, I’m currently debating a Muslim who only believes in the Qur’an and not the hadith at all. I’ve been discussing how the Qur’an is not the word of God, and it’s been altered after the Prophet’s death. Anyways, he’s well informed on the history of the Qur’an.

    “I’ve been using Saif Rahmans’ The Allah Delusion and Ibn Warraq’s Why I am not a Muslim, and What the Koran really Says, to debate with him. However, all of his rebuttals have been good.”

    http://www.councilofexmuslims.com/index.php?topic=23009.msg660946#msg660946

    “Hardcore salafists and those that want to criticize Islam”. . . strange bedfellows indeed!

    Aisha Ahmed wrote: “I merely pointed out my intellectual difficulties with the concept.”

    You don’t have any “intellectual difficulties” with the concept. If you have “intellectual difficulties” with “torture” in the afterlife, you’d also have “intellectual difficulties” with torture in this life. But, like many atheists, you have no “intellectual difficulties” with torturing people with “dangerous beliefs” in gulags, reeducation camps, and black sites in this life. So a thinking person is justifiably skeptical when you claim to have “intellectual difficulties” with “torture” in an afterlife you don’t believe in, by a God you don’t believe in.

    Aisha Ahmed wrote: “I appreciate your reply but this was not an invitation for you to take scissors to the Quran!”

    Again, people like you are the ones who believe that verses of the the Quran that you find inconvenient can be abrogated. But I’m the one taking scissors to the Quran, eh?

  • Lithium2006

    You might want to loosen that tinfoil hat. Btw, Objectivity =/= making asinine statements.

  • Lithium2006

    Straw man argument is straw man.

  • MichaelElwood

    Aisha Ahmed wrote: “I really struggle with the concept of hell.”

    No, you don’t “struggle” with the concept of hell. You don’t believe in the concept of hell, so how can you “struggle” with it? When atheists like you play Sunnis on the internet, it’s important to stay in character. You’re supposed to be a devout Sunni who thinks women shouldn’t play sports (http://www.loonwatch.com/2014/06/hijab-ban-threatens-basketball-phenom/#comment-1444789354 ), and warns people to stay away from “hadith rejectors” like ChameleonX (http://www.loonwatch.com/2014/05/unless-you-called-lords-resistance-army-christianist-stop-calling-boko-haram-islamist/#comment-1386320663 ), remember?

    Aisha Ahmed wrote: “Billions of people end up there – in fact most people (according to the hadith).”

    Is that why you warn muslims to stay away from “hadith rejectors”? Because so much of the material you use to criticize Islam comes from them?

    Aisha Ahmed wrote: “Thus it really isn’t in your interest to be born – life is a hideous curse; you are most likely destined to *forever* experience unimaginable torture – trillions of years and then trillions times trillions of years and then trillions times trillions times trillions of years times trillions of years (and i could type like this for the rest of my life and it would be a drop in the ocean of eternity).”

    Why did you emphasize the word “forever”? Time is relative. And I mean that in a practical, not physics sense. When someone is torturing you, every second feels like an eternity. Are Muslims subjected to atheist approved torture supposed to take comfort in the belief that it’s only temporary and not “forever”? I doubt that’s much consolation. By the way, the notion of an eternal hell is both theologically and philosophically problematic as the muslim philosopher Edip Yuksel pointed out in his article “Eternal Hell and Merciful God?””

    http://19.org/blog/eternal-hell-and-merciful-god/

    Aisha Ahmed wrote: “Life is so hard – life is hard for most people, all the pain and loss and heartache. And then (for most people) this pain is magnified in the afterlife, and it never ceases.”

    Life is hard. And it’s full of pain, loss, and heartache. But people navigate it differently. For some it leads to pessimism and depression. For them, life truly is a “hideous curse”. For others it leads to optimism and happiness. For them, life is a blessing. For example, Edip Yuksel was subjected to atheist approved torture as a youth (http://19.org/blog/torture/ ). However, it didn’t affect his optimism or happiness. He wrote:

    “As I said, I am happy and content. I am not an atheist yet I do not believe in God. I am a rational monotheist, since I know that there is a compassionate, omniscient and omnipotent God. As a philosopher, I also know the meaning of ‘knowing,’ and its epistemological implications and the rhetorical burden it requires. Thus, I have no worries about this life’s miserable surprises towards entropy, since like the Buzz of Toy Story, I am aiming towards ‘infinity and beyond.’

    “Those who meet me in person, observe the child in me with all his innocence and optimism jumping around in his transparent bubble, talking his mind and heart without auto-censorship. Many of those who expect to see a grumpy old man or a serious scholar who might have turned into a paranoid man because of his past and present experience are confused when they meet me. Is this guy really Edip, the internationally known iconoclast, or he is a child imprisoned in a 50+ year-old body?

    “I am both, and both characters are in peace in the same brain, if not the same body! I have declared in the crowd the nakedness of many kings and holy stooges. No wonder, according to the Turkish proverb I am the resident of the 10th town since ‘they kick out those who say the truth from nine towns.'”

    http://19.org/blog/the-american-janus/

  • Capt. JB Hennessy

    Sam Harris likes to dumb down a subject in order to understand it, then claim he has understood a complex matter and talk about how intelligent he is. Harris took 11 years to complete a BA in Philosophy. Its more about his ego then about the subject. He is not the brightest star in the line up.

  • Lithium2006

    This has nothing to do with the topic of the article. Flagged.

  • Tarik

    Interesting. I had doubted the account , the reason I brought it up was because the blogger Enyiah (NiceMangos) brought it up a lot on her twitter feed. Maybe it’s from a contested Hadith. Anyways thank you a ton for this. I appreciate it

  • Lithium2006

    You are an idiot.

  • Lithium2006

    “I may not agree with maher but i don’t have to worry about him pointing a gun at me”

    Bill Maher pointing a gun at you is more likely than some nutjob halfway around the globe is going to cut your head off. So you can stop pissing your pants now.

  • downwithpants

    Kill em with kindness is my moto…..kindness is the name of my .45

  • MichaelElwood

    I don’t know any more than the average man on the street about this particular subject. I guess whether you accept the story of Muhammad breaking idols depends on what theory of pre-Islamic Arabian religion you adhere to. Not much is known about pre-Islamic religion in central Arabia outside of what the Quran says. According to Sunni historiography, the Quraysh were prolific idolaters, and the Kaaba was full of 360 idols (one for almost every day of the year!). However, some non-Sunnis are skeptical of this account and think that it’s an exaggeration. For example, Edip Yuksel wrote in his book “Manifesto for Islamic Reform”:

    “Meccan Arabs had deep respect for the struggle of Abraham whose courageous stand for his monotheistic belief was legendary. Therefore, they were very protective of his reputation, religious practices, and the Kaba. Knowing that Abraham rejected worshiping the statues besides God, contrary to common belief among Muslims, Arabs never worshiped statues or symbolic objects.[2] Nevertheless, they had holy names, such as Al-Lat, Al-Uzza, and Manat from whom they would ask intercession and help. Their association of other authorities and powers to God and their fabrication of myriad prohibitions and laws in the name of God is called shirk[3] and the Quran repeatedly criticizes this mindset and practice as polytheism, the source of all evil.

    “53:19-26 What do you think about Al-Lat (The Goddess), Al-Uzza? And Manat, the third one. Do you have sons, while He has daughters? What a fraudulent distribution! These are but names that you made up, you and your forefathers. God never authorized such a blasphemy. They follow conjecture, and personal desire, when the true guidance has come to them herein from their Lord. What is that the human being desires? To God belongs both the Hereafter, and this world. Not even the angels in heaven possess authority to intercede. The only ones permitted by God are those who act in accordance with His will and His approval.

    “39:43-45 Have they invented intercessors to mediate between them and God? Say, ‘What if they do not possess any power, nor understanding?’ Say, ‘All intercession belongs to God.’ To Him belongs sovereignty of the heavens and the earth, then to Him you will be returned. When God alone is mentioned, the hearts of those who do not believe in the Hereafter shrink with aversion. But when others are mentioned besides Him, they rejoice. . . .

    “Arab mushriks (those who accept other authorities besides God) never claimed that those holy names were gods, they were merely praying for their intercession. They believed that the saints and angels were mediators between them and God.

    “39:3 The system absolutely shall be devoted to God ALONE. Those who set up masters besides Him say, ‘We worship them only to bring us closer to God; they are in a good position!’ God will judge them regarding their disputes. God does not guide any liar, unappreciative.

    “. . . .There are dubious narrations that Muhammad broke statutes occupying Kaba. However, the Quran that occasionally refers to the statues of previous communities (see: 6:74; 7:138; 14:35; 21:57; 26:71) never mentions the statues or icons of Meccan mushriks. . . .”

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