Ideas of Mohammed, by Theme

[Arabian, 570 - 632, Born at Mecca. Taught by Abu Talib. Prophet, and founder of Islam. Died at Medina.]

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1. Philosophy / D. Nature of Philosophy / 7. Despair over Philosophy
Instead of prayer and charity, sinners pursue vain disputes and want their own personal scripture
     Full Idea: The sinners will say 'we never prayed or fed the hungry. We engaged in vain disputes and denied the Day of Reckoning'. Indeed, each one of them demands a scripture of his own to be unrolled before him.
     From: Mohammed (The Koran [c.622], Ch.74)
     A reaction: The implication seems to be that most disputes are 'vain'. The charge that everyone wants a 'scripture of his own' is a nice challenge to the world of liberal education, where we are all enjoined to pursue our personalised routes to our own truth.
23. Ethics / B. Contract Ethics / 1. Contractarianism
You may break off a treaty if you fear treachery from your ally
     Full Idea: If you fear treachery from any of your allies, you may retaliate by breaking off your treaty with them; Allah does not love the treacherous.
     From: Mohammed (The Koran [c.622], Ch.8)
     A reaction: I do not think this is good advice. Everybody fears treachery, but if we all acted on that fear human relationships and society would immediately collapse. If anyone thought this was good advice, I would not want to make a treaty with them.
Repay evil with good and your enemies will become friends (though this is hard)
     Full Idea: Requite evil with good, and he who is your enemy will become your dearest friend; but none will attain this save those who endure with fortitude and are greatly favoured by Allah.
     From: Mohammed (The Koran [c.622], Ch.41)
     A reaction: This seems opposed to some of the more vengeful remarks in the Koran. It strikes me as good common sense, since vengeance only seems to breed counter-vengeance. It doesn't carry the full altruistic commitment, though, of unrewarded love.
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 3. Virtues / a. Virtues
Allah rewards those who are devout, sincere, patient, humble, charitable, chaste, and who fast
     Full Idea: Allah will bestow forgiveness and a rich reward on those, both men and women, who are devout, sincere, patient, humble, charitable and chaste; who fast and are ever mindful of Allah.
     From: Mohammed (The Koran [c.622], Ch.33)
     A reaction: Most people would still agree that all of these are virtues, though other lists will show interesting virtues that are not mentioned here, and many on this list seem overrated in the modern pantheon of virtues.
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 3. Virtues / c. Justice
Those who avenge themselves when wronged incur no guilt
     Full Idea: Those who avenge themselves when wronged incur no guilt.
     From: Mohammed (The Koran [c.622], Ch.42)
     A reaction: Compare Ideas 1659 (Protagoras), 346 (Socrates), 6288 (Jesus), and 4286 (Scruton!). In the light of those ideas, this comment in the Koran strikes me as coming from an older and less civilized world.
24. Applied Ethics / C. Death Issues / 2. Causing Death
Killing a human, except as just punishment, is like killing all mankind
     Full Idea: We laid it down for the Israelites that whoever killed a human being, except as a punishment for murder or other wicked crimes, should be looked upon as though he had killed all mankind.
     From: Mohammed (The Koran [c.622], Ch.5)
     A reaction: It seems inconceivable that the Koran could be used to justify indiscriminate terrorism, in the light of remarks such as this.
Do not kill except for a just cause
     Full Idea: Do not kill except for a just cause.
     From: Mohammed (The Koran [c.622], Ch.25)
     A reaction: Slippery slope! I can see that pleasure would not be a just cause, and ensuring the entry of all humanity to paradise might be one, but I find the area in between a little unclear. The Koran seems to allow you to decide for yourself.
25. Society / C. Social Justice / 5. Right to Punish / c. Deterrence of crime
Punish theft in men or women by cutting off their hands
     Full Idea: As for the man or woman who is guilty of theft, cut off their hands to punish them for their crimes.
     From: Mohammed (The Koran [c.622], Ch.5)
     A reaction: I find this shocking because it is irrevocable and offers no hope of redemption. It is particularly shocking that the text does not enjoin any caution about inflicting the punishment on the young, most of whom reform from thieving in later life.
28. God / A. Divine Nature / 2. Divine Nature
Allah is lord of creation, compassionate, merciful, king of judgement-day
     Full Idea: Praise be to Allah, Lord of Creation, The Compassionate, the Merciful, King of Judgement-day!
     From: Mohammed (The Koran [c.622], Exord)
     A reaction: The Muslim concept of God confronts directly a clear theological difficulty, a difficulty faced by any judge: the conflict between mercy and justice. Christianity seems to emphasise mercy, and Islam emphasises justice.
28. God / B. Proving God / 3. Proofs of Evidence / b. Teleological Proof
True believers see that Allah made the night for rest and the day to give light
     Full Idea: Do they not see how We have made the night for them to rest in and the day to give them light? Surely there are signs in this for true believers.
     From: Mohammed (The Koran [c.622], Ch.27)
     A reaction: The main traditional argument for God implied in the Koran is the design argument. It is clear from this that Islam will not be comfortable with Darwinian evolution, which implies we are 'designed' for the Earth, not the Earth for us.
29. Religion / B. Monotheistic Religion / 4. Christianity / a. Christianity
Allah cannot have begotten a son, as He is self-sufficient
     Full Idea: They say: 'Allah has begotten a son.' Allah forbid! Self-sufficient is He.
     From: Mohammed (The Koran [c.622], Ch.10)
     A reaction: This is quite persuasive, except that the point of Jesus is that he suffers a cruel death, and we are required to identify with God's parental feelings here, His involvement, which would not occur with the death of one of His prophets.
29. Religion / B. Monotheistic Religion / 6. Islam
Make war on the unbelievers until Allah's religion reigns supreme
     Full Idea: Make war on the unbelievers until idolatry is no more and Allah's religion reigns supreme.
     From: Mohammed (The Koran [c.622], Ch.8)
     A reaction: This should presumably be seen in context, as a war speech written during a conflict, like Churchill 'fighting them on the beaches', which does not apply to modern German tourists. However, one worries about how fundamentalists might read it.
Unbelievers try to interpret the ambiguous parts of the Koran, simply to create dissension
     Full Idea: Some of the verses of the Koran are precise in meaning - they are the foundations of the Book - and others are ambiguous. Disbelievers follow the ambiguous part, to create dissension by seeking to explain it. No one knows its meaning except Allah.
     From: Mohammed (The Koran [c.622], Ch.3)
     A reaction: It is tempting to ask why some of the verses are ambiguous. The implication here is that they are a deliberate test for believers, like the apple in the garden of Eden.
The Koran is certainly composed by Allah; no one could compose a chapter like it
     Full Idea: This Koran could not have been composed by any but Allah. It is beyond doubt from the Lord of the Creation. If they say: 'It is your own invention', say: 'Compose one chapter like it. Call on your false gods to help you!'
     From: Mohammed (The Koran [c.622], Ch.10)
     A reaction: I find this unpersuasive, firstly because I couldn't imitate the sonnets of Shakespeare either, and secondly because the authority of a text must be asserted outside the text, not within it. Scribble "this is a ten pound note" on a scrap of paper.
Do not split into sects, exulting in separate beliefs
     Full Idea: Do not split up your religion into sects, each exulting in its own beliefs.
     From: Mohammed (The Koran [c.622], Ch.30)
     A reaction: This seems like good advice to a religion, but it is very difficult to retrace steps and reunite once it has happened. Which sect should make the greatest concessions? Must they both admit to being somewhat wrong?
I created mankind that it might worship Me
     Full Idea: I created mankind and the jinn in order that they might worship Me.
     From: Mohammed (The Koran [c.622], Ch.51)
     A reaction: This seems to be a view common to all the monotheistic religions, with monasticism as its clearest (and most logical) outcome. Nietzsche is the most obvious opponent of this idea that the abasement of mankind is its highest ideal.
There shall be no compulsion in religion
     Full Idea: There shall be no compulsion in religion.
     From: Mohammed (The Koran [c.622], Ch.2)
     A reaction: This seems to contradict some of the more aggressive remarks in the Koran, such as Idea 6827. As I read it, the three non-compelling ideas that lead to true religion in the Koran are desire for paradise, fear of punishment, and worship of divine design.
Be patient with unbelievers, and leave them to the judgement of Allah
     Full Idea: Bear patiently with what the unbelievers say, and leave their company without recrimination; leave to Me those that deny the truth.
     From: Mohammed (The Koran [c.622], Ch.73)
     A reaction: This explicitly says Muslims should not attack infidels simply for their unbelief in Allah.
He that kills a believer by design shall burn in Hell for ever
     Full Idea: He that kills a believer by design shall burn in Hell for ever.
     From: Mohammed (The Koran [c.622], Ch.4)
     A reaction: This would appear to make modern indiscriminate urban terrorism a damning sin for a Muslim.
29. Religion / D. Religious Issues / 2. Immortality / d. Heaven
Heaven will be reclining on couches, eating fruit, attended by virgins
     Full Idea: All who dwell in heaven shall recline on couches lined with thick brocade, and within their reach will hang the fruits of gardens; they shall dwell with bashful virgins whom neither men nor jinnee will have touched before.
     From: Mohammed (The Koran [c.622], Ch.55)
     A reaction: In the seventh century this was more impressive than it seems now. I still find it sad (though understandable) that paradise must always be depicted in terms of physical pleasure. Aristotle wouldn't have yearned for such an immortality.
The righteous shall dwell on couches in gardens, wedded to dark-eyed houris
     Full Idea: In fair gardens the righteous shall dwell in bliss, rejoicing in what their Lord will give them. They shall recline on couches ranged in rows. To dark-eyed houris We shall wed them.
     From: Mohammed (The Koran [c.622], Ch.52)
     A reaction: What I find distressing about this is that we have gradually worked out how young men can recline on couches in gardens with dark-eyed houris before death, and the Koran seems to depict it as the highest form of living.
29. Religion / D. Religious Issues / 2. Immortality / e. Hell
The unbelievers shall drink boiling water
     Full Idea: As for the unbelievers, they shall drink boiling water.
     From: Mohammed (The Koran [c.622], Ch.10)
     A reaction: This seems to be presented not only as a threat to unbelievers, but also as a satisfaction to believers.
Unbelievers will have their skin repeatedly burned off in hell
     Full Idea: Those that deny Our revelations We will burn in Hell-fire. No sooner will their skins be consumed that We shall give them other skins, so that they may truly taste Our scourge. Allah is mighty and wise.
     From: Mohammed (The Koran [c.622], Ch.4)
     A reaction: Of all the accounts of hell in the Koran, this strikes me as the most alarming. I cannot think of a worse infliction, because here every nerve which can experience pain will suffer it (though the drinking of boiling water, Idea 6816, will make it worse).