An inconvenient parchment

Are Muslims required to get an ironioctomy before they convert to this so-called "religion"?
New archaeological evidence regarding the origins and the age of the Koran are resulting in some rather interesting questions being asked of the one "religion" on Earth that is least tolerant of such inquiries:
Fragments of the world's oldest Koran, found in Birmingham last month, may predate the Prophet Muhammad and could even rewrite the early history of Islam, according to scholars. 
The pages, thought to be between 1,448 and 1,371 years old, were discovered bound within the pages of another Koran from the late seventh century at the library of the University of Birmingham. 
Written in ink in an early form of Arabic script on parchment made from animal skin, the pages contain parts of the Suras, or chapters, 18 to 20, which may have been written by someone who actually knew the Prophet Muhammad - founder of the Islamic faith. 
The pages were carbon-dated by experts at the University of Oxford, a process which showed the Islamic holy book manuscript could be the oldest Koran in the world. 
The discovery was said to be particularly significant as in the early years of Islam, the Koran was thought to have been memorised and passed down orally rather written.

But now several historians have said that the parchment might even predate Muhammad. 
It is believed that the Birmingham Koran was produced between 568AD and 645AD, while the dates usually given for Muhammad are between 570AD and 632AD. 
Historian Tom Holland, told the Times: 'It destabilises, to put it mildly, the idea that we can know anything with certainty about how the Koran emerged - and that in turn has implications for the history of Muhammad and the Companions.' 
Keith Small, from the University of Oxford's Bodleian Library, added: 'This gives more ground to what have been peripheral views of the Koran's genesis, like that Muhammad and his early followers used a text that was already in existence and shaped it to fit their own political and theological agenda, rather than Muhammad receiving a revelation from heaven. 
However, these claims are strongly disputed by Muslim scholars [Didact: of course they are- Islam's foundations as a religion were shaky to begin with, and Islamists have never encouraged exploration into its roots], with Mustafa Shah from the School of Oriental and African Studies in London also telling the paper: 'If anything, the manuscript has consolidated traditional accounts of the Koran's origins.' 
The Prophet Muhammad is thought to have founded Islam sometime after 610AD and the first Muslim community was founded in Medina in 622AD.
One very important caveat before we proceed: the carbon-dating that was done here was carried out on the parchment, not on the ink. The distinction is rather important. The carbon-dating on the parchment simply tells us that whatever animal was killed and skinned to make the pages of the Birmingham Koran, existed probably before the time of the supposed prophet.

That says nothing about when the actual Koranic words were inscribed into it, of course.

However, if you've done any sort of investigation into the origins of Islam- and if you are interested in this line of inquiry, I strongly recommend Robert Spencer's excellent guide, Did Mohammed Exist?- then you will know that there are certain very sticky questions about the whole back-story of Islam that its apologists have never really answered properly.

As the article states, Mohammed is canonically thought to have lived between 570 and 632AD, and his prophetic career is generally thought to have started around the time he was about 40 years old.

At this time, according to the canon, the angel Gabriel came to Mohammed in a series of visions and transliterated the Koran's words to him, so that he might pass on the wisdom of Allah to his followers. The Koran itself, as represented on Earth, is "the perfect copy of the perfect book", the latter having existed throughout all time beside Allah in... well, whatever metaphysical reality that so-called moon-god exists in.

In practice, of course, we know that the Koran's words exist in many cases to benefit Mohammed himself. As Dr. Spencer's book points out, and as other sources affirm, there are examples within the Koran of blatant plagiarism of existing Jewish and Christian texts.

We also know that there are in fact two Korans. The first is the Mecca Koran, at the beginning of his career as a prophet, when he had to use reason and eloquence to convert the Jews and Christians of Mecca to his cause. This is where you'll find the typical "peaceful" verses that Islamist apologists so love to quote when they claim that Islam is a "religion of peace". (Try saying that five times fast with a straight face.)

The second is the Medina Koran, which contains "revelations" given to Mohammed after he fled to Medina when the inhabitants of Mecca, essentially fed up with his nonsense and his inability to perform miracles as previous prophets like Moses, Samuel, Elijah, Hosea, and of course the Lord Christ had performed, told him to hit the road. Indeed, Mohammed himself apparently did quite a lot to piss them off. These revelations are blood-curdlingly nasty and violent, and- thanks to the Islamic doctrine of abrogation- supercede prior, "peaceful" verses and revelations.

Trying to figure out which is which is a tad challenging. The Koran is not the equivalent of the Bible. The latter has a clear chronological structure in telling its stories. But the Koran is merely a lot of rambling, much of it nonsense and some of it plagiarised from other texts, stuck together from longest book to shortest. If you try to read it the same way as you would read the Bible, it would make no sense whatsoever.

Now, actual forensic examination of what archaelogical evidence is available to us tells us that Mohammed, as depicted in the Koran, the Hadith, and the Sirah, almost surely did not exist. The best estimate we can come up with- and again I reference Dr. Spencer's work here, who in turn references the work of numerous great scholars of the "religion of peace"- is that the Mohammed depicted in the canonical works of Islam is probably a composite of up to 4 historical figures that existed contemporaneously during a time of considerable political and religious upheaval in the Middle East.

(In case you've ever wondered about such things, the reason why the world's great religions often seem to spring from places with serious desert, like pretty much the entire Middle East, is because those are terrific places to go and hallucinate in. I'm told it is similar to being on a three-day magic mushroom bender. I can believe it. I've been to the Negev. Trust me, a few days in that kind of heat, with nothing around you but rocks, sand, and scorpions, and you'll be seeing some seriously trippy stuff.)

That's what the Wilderness of Paran and Zin looks like
All of which brings us back to the really interesting fact about the Birmingham Koran.

Essentially, it's some of the strongest evidence we have yet- subject, of course, to that strong caveat about the carbon-dating of the parchment rather than the ink- that the entire narrative about Islam's origins is bunk.

The Koran, as originally understood, was indeed passed down orally- as were the Hadith. In fact, the inevitable results of "Chinese whispers" were so bad that the Islamist theologian Bukhari had to parse through thousands of sayings that the "prophet" supposedly uttered before putting together the Sahih Bukhari collection of hadith. This is usually regarded as the most authoritative collection within orthodox Islamic sects.

But the Koran is in something of a class by itself.

As I mentioned above, the Koran is supposed to be "perfect". We know, of course, that in reality it isn't. But until fairly recently, it was not really clear just how much doctoring and "editing" had been done before the "canonical" Koran was created.

Now that we have that evidence, we can start asking some hard questions about the origins of this so-called "religion" which has done so much to bring such misery, pestilence, suffering, and death down upon the rest of us.

Oh, and in case you're inclined to ask- similar examinations of the historicity of the Old and New Testaments have been done, to exhaustion, and the results very often strengthen the narratives and stories told in those ancient documents.

Thanks to the Dead Sea Scrolls, we know that the Old Testament, for instance, has existed pretty much in its current form for well over two thousand years, and almost certainly much, much longer than that, perhaps as long as three thousand. And we do, in fact, have clear archaelogical evidence, some of it highly compelling, supporting the story of the Exodus from Egypt.

As for the New Testament, we know that at least three of the four Gospels were written within fifty years of the Lord Christ's crucifixion. We know, based on the historical evidence, that something truly remarkable happened in the Middle East around 30 AD; even the most sceptical of modern historians accept that a prophet walked the Holy Land at around this time, that He was baptised by St. John the Baptist, and that He was crucified. While agreement on the exact timeline of events and, indeed, the events themselves is far from universal, the Christian doctrine has withstood every single attack ever levelled against it, in no small part because of the historical evidence for His resurrection.

That single, magnificent miracle is the bedrock of the entire Christian faith. Without it, Christianity is, as I have said before, utterly meaningless.

It is actually far worse than that. Without the Resurrection, Christianity as we understand it today is nothing more than a collection of the most monstrous lies ever told. What kinds of psychopaths and charlatans would promise eternal salvation from a doomed and miserable existence based on lies and myths? Only the worst demons, the most spiteful fiends, could concoct such a dastardly scheme.

It is with considerable relief, then, that I- a heathen, for now- can look at what evidence we have for this miracle and be convinced that it very probably did occur.

But we can have no such assurances about Islam.

We know, based on Koranic doctrine, that Mohammed did not perform any miracles. We know that the historicity of the Koran is deeply suspect. And we know, based again on the best available evidence, that the historical Mohammed almost certainly did not exist as he is depicted canonically.

And now, we have evidence- though subject to a critical caveat- that the Koran itself is not what Islamists would have us believe it is.

If this is not sufficient to reject the collection of lies and nonsense that is Islam's "religion", and to convince even the mildly sceptical of its dangers as a political ideology, I really don't know what is.


  1. You can take the beast out of desert, but you cannot take the desert out of the beast.


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