Understanding Islam

By Fr. Gnana Pragash Suresh, SSPX

Catholics should have a working Knowledge of one of the largest sects in the world.

I. Biblical background

The Old Testament tells us that God's glorious plan of redemption was initiated through Abram. With this man, God made an everlasting covenant and God changed his name to Abraham, the father of many nations (Genesis 17:5). This covenant was later to be fulfilled through the seed of one of Abraham's descendants, the promised Messiah.

'"For it is written that Abraham had two sons, the one by a slave-girl and the other by a free woman." (Galatians 4:22). Abraham had two sons. His first son, Ismael, was born of the Egyptian bondwoman named Hagar. His second son was Issac, who was born of Abraham's wife, Sara. God laid the foundation for the fulfillment of His covenant through Isaac, the son of Sara, the freewoman. It was through Isaac's seed that the Messiah would later appear (Genesis 17).

Even though Ismael was Abraham's first son, God chose to fulfill His covenant through Isaac, his younger son. All the future prophets of God and the Messiah would appear only from the lineage of Isaac, the chosen son of Abraham, without any exception.

In favor of Sara and her son Isaac, Hagar and Ismael were expelled from the household of Abraham and, consequently, from the heritage and lineage of the descendants of Isaac (Genesis 21:10). The Arabian nations (the desert dwellers) are descendants of Ismael but not of Isaac. So, on that day, a great division was born between the children of Ismael and the children of Isaac and the Messiah.

II. Pre-Islamic Arabia

Muslims frequently argue that since Islam and the Quran (or Koran: the Muslim bible - ed.) were sent down out of heaven, no earthly  source or materials could have been used in their construction. They begin with the assumption that such things cannot be. But the truth is that the Islamic faith and the Quran itself can be completely and sufficiently explained in terms of pre-Islamic Arabian culture, custom and religion.

Archaeological and linguistic work done since the latter part of the 19th century has unearthed overwhelming evidence that Muhammad constructed his religion and the Quran from pre-existing material in Arabian culture as the following will show us.

a. The meaning of Islam

The very word Islam was not revealed from heaven nor was it invented by Muhammad. It is an Arabic word, which originally referred to an attribute of manliness and described someone who was heroic and brave in battle.

The word Islam did not originally mean submission, as many people have supposed. Instead, it referred to that strength which characterized a desert warrior who, even when faced with impossible odds, would fight to the death for his role.

b. Pre-Islamic tribal life

The tribal-society aspect of pre-Islamic Arabia explains many of the things that can be found in Islam today. For example, it was perfectly in line with Arab morality to mount raids on other tribes in order to obtain wealth, wives and slaves, and so the tribes were constantly at war with one another. These desert tribes lived by the code "än eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth". Vengeance was extracted whenever anything was done to hurt any member of the tribe. Forcing people into slavery or kidnapping women, holding them in a harem, and raping them at will was considered just and proper.

The harsh Arab climate produced a harsh tribal society in which violence was the norm. And violence is still an attribute of Islamic societies. It is very interesting to note that the English word "assassin" is actually an Arabic word. It comes from the Latin word assassinus, which is taken from the Arabic word hashshashin. Hashshashin literally means "smokers of hashish" and was used as a description of those Muslims who smoked hashish to whip themselves into a religious frenzy before killing their enemies.

It came into the European vocabulary through the Muslim sect called "The Assassins" who believed that Allah had called them to kill people as a sacred duty.

c. Pre-Islamic Religion

The Arab population was basically animist in orientation. The male and female spirits existed in trees; stones, rivers and mountains, and they were worshiped and feared. Sacred magic stones were believed to protect the tribes. The Quraysh tribe had adopted a black stone as their tribal magic stone and had set it up at the Kabah. This magical black was kissed when people came on their pilgrimage to worship at the Kabah. It was no doubt an asteroid that had fallen out of the sky and thus was viewed as being divine in some way!

The Quraysh tribe (Muhammad's tribe) saw to it that there was an idol for every religion at the pagan temple called the Kabah. The word Kabah is Arabic for "cube" and refers to the square stone temple in Mecca where the idols were worshipped. The temple contained a virtual smorgasbord of deities with something for everyone. At least 360 gods were represented at the Kabah and a new one could be added if some stranger came into town and wanted to worship his own god in addition to the ones that were already represented.

The lucrative trade routes and the rich caravans formed cultural link between Africa, the Middle East, the East and the West. It is therefore no surprise to find stories in the Quran whose origins can be traced back to the religious stories of Babylon, Egypt, India, Persia and Greece.

d. Pagan Rituals

The pagans of pre-Islamic Arabia taught that everyone should bow and pray towards Mecca (the religious and trade center of Arabia with its Kabah) during certain set times of the day. Everyone should also make a pilgrimage to Mecca to worship at the Kabah at least once in their life. Once they arrived at Mecca, the pagans ran around the Kabah seven times, kissed the black stone, and then ran about a mile to the Wadi Mina to throw stones at the devil. They also believed in the giving of alms and condemned usury. They even had a certain month in which fasting was to be done according to the lunar calendar. That these pagan rites comprised the religion in which Muhammad was raised by his family is acknowledge by all.

The dominant religion that had grown very powerful just before Muhammad's time was that of the Sabeans. The Sabeans had an astral religion in which they worshipped the heavenly bodies. The moon was viewed as a male deity and the sun as the female deity. Together they produced other deities such as the stars. The Quran refers to this in sura 41, 37 and elsewhere.

They used a lunar calendar to regulate their religious rites. For example, a month of fasting was regulated by the phrases of the moon. The Sabean pagan rite of fasting began with the appearance of a crescent moon and did not cease until the crescent moon reappeared. This would be later adopted as one of the five pillars of wisdom of Islam.

Finally, the influence of foreign religions, such as Judaism, Zoroastrianism (from Persia), Hinduism, Buddhism, Greek and Egyptian mythologies, and Christianity, was also present in pre-Islamic Arabia. It is no surprise to find that the Quran contains remnants of religious stories that can ultimately be traced back to these religions.

So, the religions ideas and rites found in Islam and the Quran can clearly be traced back to the influences of pre-Islamic culture, custom and religious life. Archaeologists have unearthed many examples of pre-Islamic art which includes their idols and symbols of worship. Mecca contained one of the most important, the Kabah, in which was placed the black stone, long an object of worship.

III. The Beggining of Islam

The founder of Islam is Muhammad (AD 570 - 632).  Muhammad was born in Mecca to Abdullah and Aminah.. He was born into the Quraysh tribe, which was in control of the city of Mecca and which acted as the custodian of the Kabah and of the religious worship centred around it.

Muhammad's father died before he was born, and his mother died while he was still young. He was sent to live with his rich grandparents, who later sent him to live with a wealthy uncle, who in turn passed him on to a poor uncle who raised him as well as he could.

According to the biographers and early Muslim traditions, no outstanding achievements were accomplished by Muhammad in his early life. He was a normal Arab boy who enjoyed talking with those who traveled in the caravans. He loved to explore the desert and particularly the caves. According to the early Muslim traditions, the young pagan Muhammad experienced different visions. There is a trustworthy account in which Muhammad claimed that a heavenly being had split open his stomach, stirred his insides around, and then sewed him back up! (Sura 94:1).

Muhammad's life was uneventful as a young man. At the age of 25 he was tending a caravan. The woman who owned it was 15 years older than he was and a widow. She fell in love with him and married him. Together they had two sons. , though both died young, and had four daughters. After he married the wealthy widow, Muhammad lived a life of leisure and his duties were limited to running the family stand in the market.

At the age of 40 Muhammad experience once again a visitation. As a result his religious experience, he ultimately claimed that Allah had called him to be a prophet and an apostle. It must be pointed out that there was no tradition of being a "prophet" or "apostle" in Arabian religion.

According to Muslim traditions, an angel of Allah called Gabriel appeared to Muhammad to reveal the Quran, which was supposed to have been written by Allah from eternity. But it was revealed to Muhammad in parts. There are no human authors of the Quran. Allah speaks through the angel Gabriel to man, and man is the receiver and not the originator of the Quran.

Muhammad at first shared his call only with the family and friends in secret. Indeed, his first converts were some members of his own family. But soon his message became public, and he became subject to ridicule and hostility by the population at large and even by members of his own family. At one point the hostility against Muhammad was such that people in Mecca laid siege to the section of the city where Muhammad lived.

In order to appease his pagan family members and the members of the Quraysh tribe, he decided that the best thing he could do was to admit that it was perfectly proper to pray to and worship the three daughters of Allah: Al-Lat, Al-ussa and Manat! This led to the famous "satanic verses" in which Muhammad in a moment of weakness and supposedly under the inspiration of Satan succumbed to the temptation to appease the pagan mobs in Mecca (Sura 53:19).

The Story of Muhammad's temporary appeasement of the pagans is a fact of history that is supported by all Middle East scholars, Western and Muslim.

Because of the ridicule and fast growing hostility, Muhammad eventually fled to medina, a town 250 miles away from Mecca, in AD 622. This event is called hijra by the Muslims and marks the beginning of the Muslim era and calendar.

While at Medina, Muhammad planned and organized the spread of his new religion. The only powerful method he could use was that of violence in the name of Allah - the jihad. This jihad was so successful, despite so many oppositions, that at Muhammad's death in AD 632 half of the Arabic world had become Muslim, and by AD 750 the Muslims had conquered the Persian and large parts of the Byzantine empires. Muhammad based his new religion at Mecca.

IV. The Law of Islam

The law of Islam is called the Sharia, which means the path of a waiting place. For the Muslims it is revealed/derived from four sources, which are:

I. The Quran, supposed to have been revealed by an angel to Muhammad.

II. The Hadith, a record of words and deeds of Muhammad by his relatives and friends;

III. The Sunnah, or acts of Muhammad;

IV. The Ijma, consensus of the Muslim community or of its leading scholars.

V. The Beliefs of Islam (Aqa'ed)

The beliefs of Islam, according to the Quran and Mulsim traditions are six:

I. Belief in Allah

II. Belief in the prophets

III. Belief in the day of Judgment (therefore belief in heaven and hell);

IV. Belief in the revealed books;

V. Belief in the angels;

VI. Belief in fate or providence.

Every Muslim must believe and profess these beliefs. If any Muslim renounces Islam or becomes an apostate , he will be liable to the greatest punishment, death.

VI. The obligations of Islam

Every Muslim is bound to observe the following obligations:

I. Belief in the oneness of Allah and his prophet Muhammad;

II. Offering of daily prayers;

III. Almsgiving;

IV. Observing the fast of Ramadan (30 days);

V. Performing hajj to the Kabah in Mecca once in a lifetime, if possible.

Every Mustlim is obliged to pray 5 times a day. He has to choose a mosque for prayers, if not he should turn towards the direction of Mecca from wherever he is. The prayer always begins with a profession of faith in Allah, which is: "La ilaha illÁllah wa Muhammad rasul Allah - there is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his messenger."

The Quran has to be read daily, at least a chapter, and it has to be read in Arabic. There is also a rosary prayer called the tabih, which contains 100 beads. A Muslim has to say this at least once a day if he can, saying "All glory and praise be to Allah and thanks to him. All glory and praise be to Allah, the great".

The preferable and most suitable place of prayer is a mosque. Neither a woman nor a non-Muslim are allowed inside. According to Islam they would defile it! Before entering a mosque a Muslim must perform the ritualistic ablution prescribed by the Quran. If he finds himself in the middle of the desert at the time of prayer he should cleanse himself with desert sand!!!

Friday is sacred for the Muslims and it is the best of all days according to Muslim traditions. For on a Friday, according to Islam, Adam was created by God, expelled from Paradise and was readmitted. The Day of Judgment will be on a Friday. Muhammad too, according to Islamic tradition, was born on a Friday. So Friday is a day of prayer and good works for the Muslims.

According to the Quran Friday is so great and excellent that even the fire of hell, which is stirred up every day at noon, won't be stirred up on Friday because of its excellence! The Quran clearly states the existence of heaven and hell. Heaven is represented in a very materialistic, sensual and human way. Also, heaven is promised to those Muslims who would fight in the jihad and die in it.

It never ceases to amaze us that many modern Muslims feel that they have the perfect right and freedom to criticize the Bible as being corrupt and contradictory but whenever anyone dares to criticize the Quran along the same lines, they label this as rude, offensive and blasphemous! What Muslims must understand is that if they have the freedom to criticize the Bible, then other people have the same freedom to criticize the Quran. After all, "What is sauce for the gander is sauce for the goose!" Any religion which refuses to allow people to examine its sacred book using the normal rules of research and logic evidently has something to hide.

Though there are many aspects of Islam that can be proved to be illogical and contradictory, we are going to take just one very important aspect, that is, the Quran. Since the Quran claims to be free of all error as proof of its inspiration in Sura 85:21,22, the presence of just one error in the Quran is enough to case serious doubt on that claim. Throughout his early ministry, Muhammad constantly appealed to the Old and New Testament Scriptures as the basis and standard by which his teachings should be judged. He would say that if you wanted to know whether he was speaking the truth, go to the people of the Book and ask them to look in their Scriptures to see whether or not what he was saying was true (Suras 2 to 13, 16 to 17, 20 to 21, 23,25, to 26, 28 to 29, 32, 34 to 35, 39 to 48, etc.).

The Bible must be the standard, which judges all new revelations including the Quran itself. This is simply a point of chronology. Muhammad came 600 years after Jesus Christ. The Quran thus comes after the completion of the New Testament. The Quran itself cliams that it is a continuation of the Bible and it will not contradict it (Sura 2:136). What this means logically is that whenever the Bible and the Quran have a conflict or contradiction, the Quran must give way, not the Bible. This is particularly true when the text of the Quran contradicts the text of the Bible. The Muslims position is that the same God (Allah) revealed the Bible and the Quran. Thus the Quran should never contradict the Bible; otherwise Allah would be contradicting himself. According to Muhammad there will be no conflict between the Bible and the Quran. Why? The Quran must agree with the older revelations because they all supposedly came from the same God.

On the one hand, if the Muslim rejects the Bible, he must also reject the Quran because it appeals to the Bible as God's word. On the other hand, if he accepts the Bible, he still must reject the Quran because it contradicts the Bible. Either way, the Quran loses. It must also be pointed out that the Muslims argue that the Quran must be perfect because it would preserve his word infallibly. Yet if God failed to do this for the Bible, as they claim, why should he do this for the Quran?

With these few introductory words, we will now proceed to a critical examination of the Quran. Since the Quran has so many problems, we will limit ourselves to some of the most obvious.

1. How many Days of Creation?

The Very first problem in the Quran concerns the number of days it took God to create the world. When you add up all the days mentioned in Sura 41:9,10,12, the Quran says that it took God eight days to create the world.

But it took only six days according to the Bible. Thus the Quran begins its contradiction of the Bible in the very first chapter of the Bible. Not only that. The Quran contradicts itself in Suras 7:54 & 10:3 where it says that it took Allah six days to create world. No-one can ignore this double contradiction of the bible and of the Quran in the Quran itself.

2. Mistakes about Abraham.

The Quran makes many errors concerning Abraham.

I) The Quran says that Abraham's father's name was Azar (Sura 14:37) but the bible says his name was Thare.

II) He did not live and worship in the valley of Mecca (Sura 14:37) but in Hebron according to the Bible.

III) It was his son Isaac that he went to sacrifice and not Ismael as the Quran says (Sura 37:100 -112).

IV) He did not build the Kabah, even though the Quran says so in Sura 2:2125 - 127

V) He was not thrown into a fire by Nimrod as the Quran claims in Suras 21:68,69 and 9:69.

3. Mistakes about Moses.

The Quran contains many errors concerning Moses.

I) It was not Pharaoh's wife who adopted Moses as the Quran claims in Sura 28:8,9. It was actually Pharaoh's daughter (Exodus 2:5).

II) The Quran says that Haman lived in Egypt during the time of Moses and worked for Pharaoh building the tower of Babel (Suras 28:38; 29:39; 40:23, 24,36,37). But Haman (Aman) actually lived in Persia and was in the service of King Assuerus. See the book of Esther for details. This is a very serious error as it not only contradicts the bible but secular history as well.

III) Crucifixion was not used in the time of Pharaoh although the Quran says so in Sura 7:124.

4. Self contradictions. 

The Quran contradicts itself in many ways. Since the Quran claims in Sura 39:23, 28 to be free from all contradictions, just one contradiction is sufficient to show that it is not God's word.

I) The Quran gives four conflicting accounts of Muhammad's reception of the Quran:

- We are first told that Allah came to Muhammad in the form of a man and that Muhammad saw him (Suras 53:2-18, 81:19-24).

- Then we are told that it was the "Holy Spirit" who came to Muhammad (Suras 16:102; 26:192-194).

- Later on, the Quran says that the angels were the ones who came down to Muhammed (Sura 15:6-8).

- The last and most popular version is that it was the angel Gabriel who delivered the Quran to Muhammed (Sura 2:97).

II) In Suras 2:58 and 7:161 the same quotation is given with conflicting wording. This is one of many such examples of this problem. The presence of conflicting wording is important because the Muslims claims that the Quran is absolutely perfect even in its quotations.

III) At first Muhammad told his followers to face Jerusalem in prayer. Then he told them since God was everywhere they could face any way they wanted. Then he changed his mind yet again and directed them to pray toward Mecca (Sura 2:115 Versus 2:114). Many scholars believe that the changes in direction were dependant on whether he was trying to please the Jews or Pagans.

IV) The fact that Judaism and Christianity broke up into different sects was used in the Quran to prove that they were not of God (Suras 30:30-32; 42:13-16). Yet Islam itself has broken up into many warring sects and therefore cannot be true if the Quran is right.

5. Convenient Relations.

The Quran contains convenient relations for the personal gain or pleasure of Muhammad:

- When Muhammad wanted his adopted son's wife, he suddenly got a revelation from Allah declaring it is permissible to take another man's wife (Sura 33:36-39).

When he wanted more wives or wanted to stop his wives quarrelling, he got a quick revelation for it (Sura 33:28 -34). Eventually Allah had to put an end to Muhammad's love for woman (Sura 33:52).

- When people bothered him at his house, he received convenient revelations setting up rules concerning when to visit him and when not to bother him (Sura 33:53 -58, 29:62-63; 49:1-5).

6. Mistakes about the Holy Trinity

The Quran contains many errors about what Christians believe and practice.  One of the most significant is that the Quran misrepresents the Christian doctrine of the Trinity. Muhammad thought that Christians worshipped three gods: the Father, the Mother (Mary) and the Son (Jesus) - Sura 5:73-75;116.

The Arabic text of the Quran condemns those who say, "Allah is the third of three," that is to say Allah is only one of three gods! But many Muslim scholars mistranslate Sura 5:73 to read: "They do blaspheme who say: God is one of three in a Trinity." The words "in a Trinity" are not in the Arabic text!

If Muhammad was the prophet of the same God as that of Jesus why such a contradiction and confusion in the Word of God about the Holy Trinity revealed in the Bible by the same God?

Because of this error on the Holy Trinity the Quran also contains many errors concerning the nature, personality and mission of Jesus Christ. For the Muslims the concept that God begot a Son immediately implies a sexual act. This extreme reaction to Christ's eternal Son ship is both unnecessary and unfounded. The phrase "only begotten" does not refer to a physical generation but to a special divine relationship with the Father but unique relationship to Him. Christians use words like "generation" and "procession" in a filial and relational sense, not in a carnal and physical sense.

7. Mistakes about the Blessed Virgin Mary

The Quran contains many errors concerning the Mother of the Saviour:

I) Her fathers name was not Imram (Sura 66:12).

II) She did not give birth to Jesus under a palm tree but in a stable (Sura 19:22 versus Luke 2:1-20).

III) Muhammad confused the mother of Jesus with the Mary who was the sister of Moses and Aaron (Sura 19:27 -28).

8. Islam lowers the status of woman.

The Quran accords a lower statue for woman than for men. Men can marry many wives (polygamy) but woman cannot marry many husbands (polyandry). The Quran explicitly affords men the right to divorce their wives but does not accord any right to women, claiming "men have a degree of advantage over them" (Sura 2:228). Muslim women must wear a veil, stand behind their husbands, and kneel behind them in prayer. Finally, according to the Quran, men can even beat their wives (Sura 4:34).

9. Carnal Heaven.

The Quran promises a heaven full of wine and free sex (Suras 2:25; 4:57; 11:23; 47:15). If drunkenness and gross immorality is sinful on earth, how is it right in Paradise? The Quran's picture of paradise is exactly what the seventh-century pagan Arabs and Persians have thought about it. The carnal concept of heaven of beautif women and wine is in direct conflict with the spirituality and holines of the biblical concept of heaven (Apocalypse 22:12-17).

10. No Originals.

Muslim scholars claim that the original manuscript of the Quran is still in existence. But we ask. "Where is it?" The Shorter Encyclopedia of Islam comments: "One thing is certain and is openly recognized by tradition, namely, that there was not in existence any collection of revelations in a final form, because, as long as he (Muhammad) was alive, new revelations were being added to the earlier ones."

It is clear therefore, that the bones, stones, palm leaves, tree bark, etc.., which contained some of the material which Muhammad spoke after his seizures were gathered together after his death. It is also a fact that none of these things are in existence today. They have all long since been lost or perished.

On each occasion that we challenged a Muslim apologist to tell us the place where the "original" manuscript of the Quran was stored, he stated that he did not know where it was but that he was sure it existed because it had to. Such an argument is worse than no argument at all!

In conclusion, therefore, we must say that every ritual and belief in Islam can be traced back to pre-Islamic pagan Arabian culture. Muhammad did not preach anything new. Everything he taught had been believed and practiced in Arabia long before he was ever born. Even the idea of "only one God" was borrowed from Jews and the Christians.

This irrefutable fact casts to the ground the Muslim claim that Islam was revealed from heaven. It is no surprise, therefore, that we have to conclude along with the Middle East Scholars that Allah is not God, Muhammad was not his prophet, and the Quran is not the Word of God. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God; and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God" (John 1:1-2).


The Quran. The Presidency of Islamic Researchers, Saudi Arabia.

The Meaning of the Glorious Koran. Muhammad Marmaduke Pickthall, Labore.

The Islamic Invasion, Robert Morey, 1992, Oregon USA.

Answering Islam. Norman L. Geiser & Abul Saleeb, 1993, Michigan USA

Shorter Encyclopedia of Islam. H. Gibb & J. Kramers, 1953. New York USA.