by Ijaz Ahmed
The anti-Islamic rhetoric in America has grown dramatically in recent years, with many notable figures jumping on board spreading fear of Islam and Muslims. Thought leaders such as Donald J. Trump, candidate for the Republican Presidential nomination, and Jeffrey Falwell Jr, president of Liberty University, are just a few of the growing number of individuals pointing to Islam as the problem. It surprises me that many supposedly educated individuals have contributed greatly to this phobia. Anti-theists with PhD degrees such as Richard Dawkins, a biologist, and Sam Harris, a neurologist, have been extremely vocal in their negative views of the religion of Islam. Although a rational scientific reasoning is used as arguments against other religions’ beliefs, the anti-Islamic rhetoric utilized by these New Atheists lacks much scientific rationale.
For starters, the main focus of these arguments is the actions of Muslims rather than the teachings of Islam. A Muslim is a person who identifies as a follower of Islam. This does not mean that everything that they do is a result of them accepting Islam and its founder, the Prophet Muhammad. After all, every person has their own free will to do as they please, and can therefore commit acts in defiance of the system they subscribe to. If the governing body of a Muslim majority country denies women rights, such as the right to drive, or permits persecution of a minority religious group, the mere absurdity of such laws clearly shows that the religion of Islam played no role in the decision making.
Likewise, simply agreeing with the conclusions of a particular author of a scientific article without reviewing the data or how they reached their conclusions is not the hallmark of progressive science. Questioning the reasoning and conclusions of other scientists is vital to the progression of the science itself. It pushes us to explore other avenues for discovery while gaining a better understanding of others’ research. As scientists, one should question why these Muslims are committing such atrocities. A thorough examination of their intentions would reveal a struggle for power and dominance, far from anything taught by the Qur’an or Prophet Muhammad.
Furthermore, individuals often present Hadith, or sayings of the Prophet Muhammad, as proof of a violent and perverted Islam. It is important to note that the Hadith were compiled a few hundred years after the death of the Prophet Muhammad and are supplemental to the Qur’an. Proper authentication has been done by many scholars, but it is necessary to confirm the validity of such statements by analyzing where the narration comes from and if others have narrated similar instances. An argument typically put forth is that the Prophet Muhammad married a six-year old Aisha. But where’s the science behind this claim? As a scientist, one needs to understand how and where the data was obtained in order to fully comprehend the results and draw a reasonable conclusion.
Research into this matter unveils that virtually every narration relating that Aisha was six-years old is tied to Hisham ibn ‘Urwah. Several authentic scholars have reported that narrations by Hisham were to be trusted only prior to his move to Iraq. This is because he suffered severe memory loss as a result of old age after that migration. The Hadith about Aisha being six-years old was narrated in Iraq during his old age.1 On the other hand, numerous narrations can be corroborated and validated to prove that Aisha was, in fact, at least 15-16 years old, which is legal in most states today. Would you then trust a single data point obtained from a clunky old instrument or several data points from reliable sources with minimal deviation?
Lastly, let’s look at the Qur’an, the ultimate source of all knowledge of Islam. To really understand Islam, you need to read the Qur’an. It baffles me that Richard Dawkins consistently criticizes Islam, while claiming to have never read the Qur’an.2 That’s akin to someone claiming to know all about stars without reading a single book on astronomy. Nevertheless, Richard Dawkins and others need to thoroughly analyze the holy book of Islam if they choose to continue to criticize the religion. Then again, there are some important guidelines for properly doing this. Essentially quoting a verse or a part of a verse and claiming that it permits rape or murder is completely irrational. If I showed you a single piece of a puzzle, would you be able to guess what the picture is? Without all the pieces, I could not expect you to do so. The same can thus be applied to understanding the Qur’an. Without reading or understanding the verses prior or the verses after, how can you rationally conclude that you understand the verse in question? Context is important and should not be ignored in order to appreciate the whole picture. Even the Qur’an itself states that reason and knowledge dictate Muslims should accept and follow the whole Qur’an and not just parts here and there.3
Before you go on to criticize my beliefs, at least have an understanding of what my beliefs are. Do your research with an open and unbiased mind. There are loads of data available to be read and studied. Treat each verse of the Qur’an as a data point and each Hadith and Sunnah as an entry in a laboratory notebook (they can often get messy and hard to read). Instead of searching for violence and hate to appease your ego, scientifically critique the data and see what adds up and what doesn’t. You’ll soon find that a lot of the hateful arguments against Islam are simply untrue.
- “Muhammad Fact Check.” Myth #3: Prophet Muhammad Married Ayesha When She Was Underage. Web. 25 Feb. 2016. <http://www.muhammadfactcheck.org/?muhammad=prophet-muhammad-sa-married-ayesha-ra-when-she-was-underage>.
- Richard Dawkins Twitter Account (@RichardDawkins) https://twitter.com/richarddawkins/status/307369895031603200
- The Holy Qur’an. Chapter 3, Verse 8