Recently I offered 38 questions to ask those carrying signs proclaiming, “I’m A Muslim — Ask Me Anything.” Here are answers to questions sixteen through twenty-three.
16. This question again underscores the harsh treatment of critics of Muhammad raised in the previous question. When he was asked about Abu Afak, Muhammad is reported in a hadith as saying: “Who will rid me of this pestilent fellow?” — which is what one of his loyal followers promptly did, stabbing Abu Afak to death. There is no direct quote from Muhammad after the killing, unlike the report of his exclamation after the killing of Asma bint Marwan, but it is safe to assume that if the person he called a “pestilent fellow” was gotten rid of, Muhammad was well satisfied. You want to make sure your listeners learn of these political murders carried out by followers of Muhammad to please him, as they are constantly barraged with propaganda — see any Muslim website — as to Muhammad’s “kind and gentle nature,” and his teaching of “love, kindness, and compassion.” You beg to differ, and so do the ghosts of Asma bint Marwan and Abu Afak.
17. An impossible question for the M.I. to answer. If he doesn’t answer at all, he will look bad. If he claims there are “so many different views expressed in the Qur’an and Hadith,” but “on the whole the Qur’an is deeply respectful of Christians and Jews” – “Moses and Jesus, after all, are considered to be prophets in Islam” — he will look bad once you respond by quoting Qur’an 98:6, where Christians and Jews are called “the most vile of created beings.” That will make a deep impression on the onlookers who, never forget, are your real audience.
18. Not quite so impossible a question as #17, but it should provide a salutary shock for onlookers to discover that the Qur’an describes Muslims as the “best of peoples” (3:110), especially after having just learned that they themselves, the non-Muslims listening to your exchange with that“Ask-Me-Anything” Muslim, are described in no uncertain terms in the Qur’an as “the most vile of created beings.” There is no possible way for the M.I. to put an exculpatory spin on either 98:6 or 3:110.
19. While Islam makes universalist claims, it is in fact a vehicle for Arab supremacism. Muslims must turn toward Arabia – the Hejaz – five times a day in prayer, must ideally read the Qur’an in Arabic, should model their behavior on that of Muhammad, and also in some cases on that of his Companions. The way of life that is normative in Islam is thus based on the teachings and practices of a 7th century Arab.
While taking an Arabic name is not required of converts, it is a longstanding practice, a way to slough off a previous, non-Islamic identity, and to express disdain for one’s previous life as an Infidel, while signalling a complete embrace of this new Islamic identity. The mass adoption of Arab names is prompted by, and in turn further promotes, the belief among Muslims that an Arab identity is superior to a non-Arab one. The M.I. will have difficulty deflecting attention from this matter, much less deny it altogether, as there are so many well-known examples (Adam Gadahn becomes Azzam al-Amriki, Cat Stevens becomes Yusuf Islam, Cassius Clay becomes Muhammad Ali). This business of name-changing is one more example of Islam as a vehicle for Arab supremacism, a theme you want to keep hammering home, to the great and well-deserved discomfort of your Ask-Me-Anything Muslim interlocutor.
20. This question is meant to raise the matter of the many contradictions in the Qur’anic text. Muslim scholars, having to reconcile these contradictions, came up with the doctrine of “abrogation” or naskh, in which later passages are said to “abrogate” earlier ones. The main internal contradictions in the Qur’an are between the later ones, identified as coming from the period when Muhammad was in Medina (hence called “the Medinan verses”) which are much harsher than the earlier ones from his time in Mecca (“the Meccan verses”). Why does this matter? It means that those milder verses that Muslim apologists tend to quote are often those earlier verses that have been abrogated by the later more unyielding Medinan verses, but the listeners are blissfully unaware of this, and assume that the milder abrogated verses are still valid. You must clearly explain how naskh applies, and give an example of verses that have been abrogated, and by what later verses. The Verse of the Sword, Qur’an 9:5, abrogated many earlier less violent verses. You can find them listed here. Muslim apologists, of course, will quote the abrogated verses as if they are still valid, in an attempt to give non-Muslims a false view of the Qur’an and of Islam.
21. This is to raise the matter of misogyny in Islam. Assuming that the M.I. will either deny that Muslim men are allowed to beat their wives, or will claim (falsely) that they can do so, but only “lightly,” you should be ready to respond with Qur’an 4:34: “Men are the maintainers of women because Allah has made some of them to excel others and because they spend out of their property; the good women are therefore obedient, guarding the unseen as Allah has guarded; and (as to) those on whose part you fear desertion, admonish them, and leave them alone in the sleeping-places and beat them; then if they obey you, do not seek a way against them; surely Allah is High, Great.” Contemporary translations sometimes water down the word “beat,” but it is the same one used in verse 8:12 and clearly means “to strike.”
22. The Muslim heaven, Jannah, is described in the Qur’an and hadith in great and loving detail as an material paradise, with gardens of bliss, endless and delicious food that is forever fresh and can never rot, flagons of pure water and other drinks, fruit without thorns, fountains scented with camphor or ginger, and “maidens restraining their glances.” You get the picture – the Muslims are promised a very different sort of paradise from the spiritual one of Christianity, and let’s not forget the many fabled dark-eyed virgins available to service each Muslim man (contrary to popular belief, the number of houris is specified as 72 only in one hadith collection, Sunan al-Tirmidhi). The important point to be made is the stark contrast between the spirituality of Christianity’s heaven and the thoroughly material heaven promised to Muslims.
23. This question is meant to raise the horrific business of “honor killings,” in which a Muslim father can kill his daughter without facing any punishment in an Islamic society. M.I. will deny that the father can escape punishment. But you should be ready with the following: The authority for allowing the father to kill his daughter is Umdat al-Salik or Reliance of the Traveller, a manual of Islamic law, certified in 1991 as a reliable guide to Sunni Islam by Muslim Council of Cairo’s al-Azhar University. This 14th-century law-manual states that punishment or “retaliation is obligatory against anyone, who kills a human being purely intentionally and without right,” EXCEPT when “a father or mother (or their fathers or mothers)” kills their “offspring, or offspring’s offspring” (section o1.1-2). In other words, when a parent, murders his/her child for the sake of honor, this is not a crime under Islamic law. You can also have at the ready a few examples of such “honor” killings where the father got off scot-free. You can also, if you wish, give a few recent examples of honor killings that went unpunished, to show that this is a continuing problem. For example, in 2008, a woman was killed in Saudi Arabia by her father for “chatting” with a man on Facebook. “The killing became public only when a Saudi cleric referred to the case, to criticize Facebook for the strife it caused.” Or in 2013 in Yemen, a “15-year-old girl was killed by her father, who burned her to death, because she talked to her fiancé.’ That should be enough to leave onlookers aghast.