Wednesday, 12 September 2012
Some Egyptians have rioted because of an American film, which they say insults the Prophet. Why are there so many Muslims who lack the self-confidence to laugh at such pinpricks? Muhammad himself ignored disrespectful talk. The Koran says (6:68): "When you hear the signs of Allah disbelieved and ridiculed, do not sit with them until they turn to other talk." Did anybody see the ridiculous film recently on Channel 4 "Islam: the Untold Story"? A clueless looking Roman historian, Tom Holland, who seems to know no Arabic, wanders around claiming that we know hardly anything about the origin of Islam. He visits several extreme sceptics, who say they can tell him next to nothing, and he consorts with a group of Bedouin as if they were experts on Islamic history. There is a minor industry out there, casting doubt on every source of information, claiming that the Koran was gradually put together to provide an origin story for the religion, scorning the oral literature that began to be compiled within a few decades of Muhammad's death, ignoring the chains of authority that the early Muslims quoted "A told me that B said that the Prophet told him..." There's nothing like that for stories in the Gospels. As for the Koran, since the same text is used by Shia Muslims as by Sunnis, it must have been finalized before they started fighting, 24 years after the Prophet died. Otherwise the Shia would surely have edited it to support their claims. This gives credence to the Muslim claim that an official edition was prepared 19 years after his death, on the basis of sheets guarded by the Prophet's widow Hafsa and probably written by his secretaries under his dictation. No other religion has a document so unassailable. What does risk bringing dishonour on Islam is the continuing violence between Sunni and Shia Muslims. The Koran says (4:93): "Whoever kills a believer intentionally, his recompense is everlasting hell..." Ninety years ago there was serious talk of recognizing Twelver Shia as a fifth, Jaafari branch of Sunni Islam. Alas it came to nothing.