One of the great questions of the 21st century is: What is the true nature of Islam? There are two distinct answers to this question from the media and leaders. The popular message is that Islam is one of the great world religions, a peaceful religion, a foundation of world civilization, its Golden Age was the highpoint of history, and it preserved Western thought while we were in the Dark Ages. The alternative message is that Islam is a brutal, backward, woman abusing, violent, intellectually narrow ideology that is out to annihilate civilization.
Which side is right? How do we resolve this issue? Can it even be resolved? If we turn to the “experts” of any of the opinions, they will tell you that their view is correct. What then is the ultimate authority that will give us a firm foundation for reasoning and judgment about Islam? Is it possible to use critical thought or must we just accept the authority of experts?
There is way to achieve consensus about ideas that goes beyond expert opinion. The use of facts along with logic is the basis of critical thought. The ultimate form of critical thought uses measurements and numbers to resolve questions. This paper will use the foundational texts of Islam and measure the importance of ideas by how many words are given to concepts. The assumption is that the more content that is devoted to a subject, the greater the importance of the subject is. As an example: the Koran devotes 64% of its text to the subject of the unbeliever. This is assumed to imply that the unbeliever is important in Islamic doctrine.
The use of critical thought may seem counter-intuitive since many people view Islam as a religion that does not have a rational basis. Actually, Islam is not only rational; it is hyper-rational, but it uses another form of logic than the one we take for granted.
If we are to use critical thought, we must have a firm foundation. All Muslims agree that:
“There is no god, but Allah and Mohammed is His messenger.”
When this is repeated as a public testimony, you become a Muslim. However, this statement is not only the beginning of Islam, it is also the foundation and totality of Islam. It is not enough to worship Allah; you must worship as Mohammed worshipped.
Who is Allah and where do we learn about Him? This question points directly to the Koran.
Then the Koran, in turn, points directly to Mohammed. It says 91 times that Mohammed is the perfect Muslim. He is the divine human prototype, the only pattern acceptable to Allah. The actions and words of Mohammed are so important that they have a special name—Sunna. We find the Sunna in two texts. The Sira is the biography of Mohammed and the Hadith is the collection of hadiths (small stories, traditions) about Mohammed.
Islam is based on Koran and Sunna. Since the Sunna is found in the Sira and the Hadith, this means that three books contain all the doctrine of Islam—the Trilogy. If it is in the Trilogy (Koran, Sira, Hadith), then it is Islam. If something is not in the Trilogy, then it is not Islam. All of the Islamic doctrine is found in the Trilogy. Now, we have the complete information with no missing pieces.
We have established our first criteria of knowledge. All authoritative statements about Islam must include a reference to the Trilogy to be authenticated. It does not matter what a scholar, imam, media guru, or anyone else says, if what they say cannot be supported by the doctrine in the Trilogy, then it is not Islam. If it is supported by the Trilogy, then it is Islam.
We have been taught that the Koran is the source of Islamic doctrine. However, the Koran is only 14% of the total sacred texts 1. Actually, the Sira and the Hadith are 86% of the total textual doctrine 2. Islam is 14% Allah and 86% Mohammed. This is very good news. The Koran is obscure, but anyone can understand the life and sayings of Mohammed. These statistics point to the easy way to know Islam—know Mohammed. Anyone, absolutely anyone, can understand Mohammed and hence, Islam.
Islam is a text-based doctrine, so the nature of these texts must be made clear. A Muslim believes that the Koran is perfect, complete, universal and eternal. It does not contain the slightest error and it is the exact words of the only god of the universe. Mohammed is the perfect example of how to live the sacred life. This idea of complete, final, universal, and perfect textual truth is very hard for non-Muslims to comprehend. Most people read the Koran with the attitude of: “Oh, they don’t really believe this.” When Muslims read the Koran, their attitude is: “These are the perfect words of Allah.” Muslims call themselves the “believers” and by that they mean that they believe the Koran is perfect and Mohammed is the perfect pattern of life.
Remember, we started with the question: Can we evaluate what the media commentators, politicians, imams and other “experts” say about the true nature of Islam? Yes, we can know the true nature of Islam—it is found in the Trilogy. If what the expert has to say can be supported by the doctrine found in the Trilogy, then it is valid, since the Trilogy is the final arbiter of all opinions and statements about Islam.
Critical thought provides a powerful first step. Now, let us measure the doctrine of Islam. The following cases show how the technique of counting the number of words that are devoted to a topic can be used to discover the dominant themes of Islamic texts and, hence, Islamic doctrine.
Case 1: The Koran of Mohammed
Mohammed can be clearly understood, but the Koran must be the most famous book that has been read so little and understood even less. Contrast this with Mohammed’s day. In the Sira (the biography of Mohammed), we find accounts of illiterate Muslims debating the meaning of the Koran. The Muslims of Mohammed’s day understood the Koran for a simple reason. The Koran of 632 AD (Mohammed’s death) is not the one of today. Every verse had the immediate context of Mohammed’s life. A new verse had the context of what he needed at that time. To all those near Mohammed, each new verse made sense; it had a context and therefore meaning. The voice of Allah resolved Mohammed’s problems. It is Mohammed’s life that gives the Koran its context and meaning.
The Koran of the bookstore is not the historical Koran of Mohammed, because Uthman, a caliph (supreme ruler) had it arranged starting with the longest chapter and ending at the shortest chapter. After he created the Koran we know today, he burned the originals. The time and story have been annihilated by the rearrangement. From a statistical point of view, the text was randomized and, hence, very difficult to understand.
It is an easy task to reconstruct the Koran of Mohammed’s day, the historical Koran. Take the Koran and rearrange the pages of the chapters in the proper chronological order in a line on a table, since the time order of the chapters is well known. Then take the pages of the Sira (Mohammed’s biography) and lay them out in a line beneath the Koran. It will be seen that the Sira and the Koran fit together like a key in a lock. The Koran is the warp and the Sira is the woof that forms a single fabric, the historical Koran. If these two are integrated into one text, the historical Koran is reconstructed.
When this reconstruction is done, the Koran becomes the epic story of the rise and triumph of Islam over all of the native Arab culture. The historical Koran is straightforward and not confusing at all. Just as in Mohammed’s day, anyone can understand it.
The historical Koran reveals the primary division of the text. The early Koran written in Mecca is very different from the later Koran written in Medina. The early Koran is more religious and poetic. The later Koran is more historical and political. There is a radical change in its tone, subject and language in the two texts. The difference is even clear to a first-time reader. There is a Meccan Koran and a Medinan Koran. The relative sizes of the two Korans are: Meccan Koran is about 64% of the total Koran; the Medinan Koran is 36% of the total 3.
Case 2: The Kafir
There is a second division that overwhelms the reader of the historical Koran. A majority of the text concerns the kafir (unbeliever). It is not about being a Muslim, but about the kafir. A note: most Koran translations use the word “unbeliever” instead of kafir, but kafir is the actual Arabic word.
This term is so important and so unknown that the meaning of kafir must be defined. The original meaning of the word is one who covers or conceals the known truth. A kafir knows that the Koran is true, but denies it. The Koran says that the kafir may be deceived, plotted against, hated, enslaved, mocked, tortured and worse. The word is usually translated as “unbeliever” but this translation is wrong. The word “unbeliever” is logically and emotionally neutral, whereas, kafir is the most abusive, prejudiced and hateful word in any language.
There are many religious names for kafirs: polytheists, idolaters, People of the Book (Christians and Jews), atheists, agnostics, and pagans. Kafir covers them all, because no matter what the religious name is, they can all be treated the same. What Mohammed said and did to polytheists can be done to any other category of kafir.
Islam devotes a great amount of energy to the kafir. Not only is the majority (64%) of the Koran devoted to the kafir, but also nearly all of the Sira (81%) deals with Mohammed’s struggle with them. The Hadith (Traditions) devotes 32% of the text to kafirs 4.
Case 3: Political Islam
Religious Islam is defined as doctrine concerned with going to Paradise and avoiding Hell by following the Koran and the Sunna. The part of Islam that deals with the “outsider”, the kafir, is defined as political Islam. Since so much of the Trilogy is about the kafir, the statistical conclusion is that Islam is primarily a political system, not a religious system.
Mohammed’s success depended on politics, not religion. The Sira, Mohammed’s biography, gives a highly detailed accounting of his rise to power. He preached the religion of Islam for 13 years in Mecca and garnered 150 followers. He was forced to move to Medina and became a politician and warrior. During the last 9 years of his life, he was involved in an event of violence every 6 weeks. When he died every Arab was a Muslim. Mohammed succeeded through politics, not religion.
An estimate can be made that there were 100,000 Muslims when Mohammed died. [The History of al-Tabari, volume XI, SUNY, Albany, NY, page 9. Khalid, the sword of Allah, went into battle in 633 AD (Mohammed died in 632 AD), with 10,000 Muslim Arab troops at the Battle of Chains. A nation at full conflict can field an army of about 10% of its population. If 10% is 10,000, then the total population is 100,000.] Using this information allows a graph to be drawn:
There are two distinct growth processes—religion and politics. Teaching and religion grew at a rate of about 12 new Muslims per year. Politics and jihad grew at a rate of 10,000 new Muslims per year, an enormous increase. This is a process yield improvement of over 800%. Politics was almost a thousand times more effective than religion.
If Mohammed had continued with preaching religion we can extrapolate that there would have only been 265 Muslims when he died, instead of the 100,000 that resulted from his politics and jihad. This gives us an estimate of 265 conversions due to religion and 99,735 [100,000 minus 265] conversions to due the political jihad process. We can calculate the relative contributions of religion and politics in growth. Islam’s success was 0.3% religion and 99.7% politics [265 of 99,735] at the time of Mohammed’s death, 632 AD.
This political importance is reflected in the text of the Sira. There are many more pages devoted to a year of jihad than there are devoted to preaching Islam. It is instructive to see the amount of the Sira text devoted to these stages of development 8.
The Sira devotes about 5 times as many words to politics than religion on a yearly basis. It gives politics 5 times the coverage because it is that much more important.
Islam’s political nature is also found in the Hadith that devotes 37% of its text to the kafir.
There would be no Islam today, if it were only a religion. Statistics show that Islamic politics is what brought Islam success, not religion. To say that Islam is the religion of peace misses the point, since the religion is not the core of Islam’s power. It is politics that count, not religion.
The statistical conclusion: Islam is primarily a political ideology.
Case 4: Abrogation and Dualism
Not only are there two Korans, Meccan and Medinan, that are different in tone and subject matter, but also the Koran has many verses that contradict each other.
Koran 2:219 says that Muslims should be tolerant and forgiving to People of the Book.
Koran 9:29 says to attack the People of the Book until they pay the jizyah, the dhimmi tax, submit to Sharia law and be humbled.
Which verse shows the true nature of Islam?
The Koran recognizes its contradictions and even gives a rule to resolve the contradictions. The later verse abrogates (supercedes) the earlier verse. This does not mean, however, that the earlier verse is wrong or in error. This would be impossible since the fundamental hypothesis is that Allah created the Koran and, hence, the earlier verse must be true or Allah would be wrong.
Abrogation has an impact on the arguments about the true nature of Islam. At endless interfaith dialogs, the early tolerant verse is quoted to show the nature of Islam as being peaceful. When both verses are quoted and then abrogation is applied, we see that the later verse trumps the earlier tolerant one. Jihad abrogates tolerance. In general, the Medinan Koran abrogates the Meccan Koran. In the two verses above, tolerance is abrogated by jihad against the Christians.
But, the earlier verse is true and still used. Abrogation does not negate the early verse. Indeed, the earlier “peaceful” verse that is abrogated is the one most apt to be used in public discourse.
This creates a logical problem, since if two things contradict each other, at least one of them must be false. This is a fundamental element of Western unitary logic. In Koranic logic, two statements can contradict each other and both are true. This is dualistic logic.
An alternative explanation is that the early verse is first stage in a process, like a seed, and the later verse is a second stage, like a plant. There is truth to this, but the process model does not take into account the fact that both truths are available at the same time. To go back to the analogy, you don’t have the seed and the plant at the same time. The verses contradict each other and are both true at the same time. This is dualistic logic.
The contradictions are usually explained by abrogation, the classical doctrine, but the principle of abrogation is limited to the Koran. Duality includes the special case of abrogation and it explains how the entire doctrine of Koran and Sunna work. It is not just the Koran that is contradictory, but all of the Sunna.
Another dualistic aspect of Islam is its ethics. One of the chief features of Islam is the doctrine of the kafir. It treats them dreadfully and horribly. No one would ever want to be treated as a kafir is treated in the Trilogy. This leads us to the Golden Rule. There is no Golden Rule in Islam because of the division of humanity into believer and kafir. The Golden Rule is to treat ALL people as you would be treated. Since no one wants be treated like a kafir, and the kafir is so central to Islamic doctrine, it proves that Islam has no Golden Rule. Islam has one set of rules for Muslims and another set of rules for kafirs. This is dualistic ethics.
An example of the dual ethics is the subject of friends. The Koran has 13 verses that say that a Muslim is not to be a friend of kafirs.
Case 5: Jews
One of the biggest examples of ethical dualism in Islam is the Jews. The Meccan Koran is filled with stories about Moses, Noah, Adam, and other Jewish figures. The early Koran is very Jewish. The perception of the Jews completely changes in Medina. Every verse, story, and hadith is negative and anti-Jew. The Trilogy devotes a great deal of material to the Jews 9.
The Trilogy of Medina is even more negative about the Jews than Hitler’s Mein Kampf. What marks the biggest difference between Mein Kampf and the Trilogy is that Hitler did not write a first section in Mein Kampf detailing how much he admired the Jews. There is a contradiction about how the Koran treats Jews in Mecca and how they are treated in Medina. Due to dualistic reasoning, both attitudes about the Jews are true, at the same time.
Case 6: The Good in the Koran
In the face of these negative statistics, everyone knows of good verses in the Koran. Exactly how much material in the Koran is positive for kafirs? There are 245 verses, 4,018 words, in the Koran that say something positive about kafirs. This is about 2.6% of the total Koranic text 10. However, in every case, the verse is followed by another verse that contradicts the “good” verses. Also, except for 7 verses (58 words), the “good” verse is abrogated later in the same chapter. The other 7 verses are contradicted in later Suras.
The media emphasizes Islam’s positive verses about the People of the Book, the Jews and Christians. Even this turns out to be illusive. Christians and Jews receive the goodness of Islam only if they agree that their sacred texts are corrupt, the Koran is true, and that Mohammed is a prophet of the Christian and Jewish religion.
In the end there is no unmitigated good for kafirs in the Koran. What good can be found in the 2.6% of the text is denied later.
Case 7: Jihad
Jihad must be one of the most famous Islamic concepts. It takes up a large portion of the Trilogy. Material for jihad is 24% of the Medinan Koran and 9% of the total of the entire Koran. Jihad takes up 21% of the Bukhari material and the Sira devotes 67% of its text to jihad 11.
Statistics gives us a measure of the claim that the real jihad is inner struggle, the so-called “greater jihad”, whereas the jihad of the sword is the “lesser jihad”. The term “greater jihad” is not found in any of the canonical texts and Reuven Firestone claims that it does not exist. [Jihad, Reuven Firestone, Oxford University Press, 1952, pg. 139,140. “The source is not given and is in fact nowhere to be found...”]
However, we do find in the Hadith that some hadiths refer to some religious acts that are equal to jihad of the sword. These quasi-greater jihad hadiths total 2% of the Bukhari hadiths that relate to jihad. Of course, the other 98% of the hadiths devoted to jihad claim that jihad of the sword is the supreme act. The statistical answer to the true nature of jihad is that the “greater jihad” of inner struggle is 2% and the “lesser jihad” of the sword is 98%. In other words, jihad is overwhelmingly violent and a little inner struggle.
Statistics also give us a measure of the importance of the jihad of pen and mouth. The Sira devotes 23% of its text to war poetry that is propaganda. This poetry, which is not the only example of how Mohammed used propaganda for his jihad, furnishes us with an insight into its importance. The Sira devotes roughly a quarter of its jihad text to the jihad of the pen and mouth, and three quarters of the text to jihad of the sword. The Sira makes no mention of the “greater jihad”, the inner struggle.
Case 8: Women
Islam demonstrates duality in its treatment of women. There are separate sets of rules for women that come from the Koran and the Sunna.
The Islamic Trilogy has a large amount of material that forms the doctrine about women. Each verse can be judged on the position of the female in society. There are a number of verses that praise the mother above all men. There are many verses that say that women and men will be judged equally as to their actions on Judgment Day. In many cases there is no power relationship at all; it is a neutral reference.
The process for generating the tables below selects all of the text that contains a reference to the female. Then the female data is sorted into four categories: High status, equal status, low status and neutral. Obviously, there are judgments to be made, but in general, if women are selected for special rules and treatment by men, then those rules make the woman subject to male power. The first data is from the Koran 13:
Women’s status in the Hadith 14:
Notice the broad trend here. In both the Koran and the Hadith the profiles are similar. There is very little high status and a small amount of equality. The great majority of the Koran and Hadith text places the woman in an inferior or low status to men. This is not unexpected. The Koran and the Sunna are the warp and woof, a single fabric, of Islam.
The Importance of Numbers
We have always had an interest in numbers as they relate to life. There are two numbers that come up repeatedly in Islam. The number “1” comes up with the constant proclamation of there is only one god. What is noticeable is how often the number “2” arises. There are two Korans, the division of humanity into two groups, believer and kafir, two manifestations of Mohammed, the preacher and the politician. Even the Shahada [the testimony to become a Muslim] is made of two parts, one is about god and the other is about Mohammed. The ultimate statement is both divine and human, dualism. Islam’s ethics are dualistic and based on the division of humanity into two classes, believer and kafir. The Koran advances a dualistic logic. Islam uses the practice of political duality to try to attain the goal of spiritual unity.
Statistics give us a very different vision of any text, but in the case of Islamic texts, it is a revelation. Statistics show us an entirely different view of Islam. The statistical vision is holistic and includes the entire text as a reference. It is a common criticism that any negative comment about Islam is taken out of context. Statistics gives us a complete context.
A question was posed at the beginning of this article: How do we decide which is the true view of Islam? Based upon unitary logic, we expect that one side or the other is true, but in a dualistic truth system both sides of the question can be valid. Therefore, the proper answer is that both sides are true.
In fact, the question is poorly posed. You can never resolve the question by looking for the one true answer. It does not exist in a dualistic system. Instead statistics must be used to measure the answer. We saw, in the case of the lesser jihad/greater jihad that jihad is 2% inner struggle and 98% lethal force. Only statistical answers can be used in a dualistic system. The well-posed question is how much doctrine is on one side of the question and how much doctrine is on the other side?
Statistical models give us a systemic look at Islamic doctrine and show broad trends. The usual verse-quoting method not only ignores Mohammed, but also examines a single point, a verse. Statistics gives us a macro-view, not a micro-view. We can see the entire pattern and can identify the general principles at work.
Critical thought brings new insights to the study of Islam. Islam is not a matter of opinion, but has a solid rational basis in its foundational texts. Simple statistics reveal the systemic nature of Islamic doctrine.
What do these cases demonstrate? Here are some of the principles that a simple statistical analysis shows:
Islamic doctrine is found in the Koran, the Sira and the Hadith—the Trilogy. Any explanation of Islam that does not include the doctrine found in the Trilogy is wrong or incomplete.
The Koran is a small part of Islamic doctrine. The Sunna of Mohammed is textually more important than the Koran.
The Koran can be understood by reconstructing the Koran of Mohammed, the historical Koran.
The kafir is the major doctrinal focus of Islam. The kafir has the lowest status of all animal life. The doctrine of the kafir is defined as political Islam.
Islam’s success was not based on the religion alone, but also on politics and jihad.
The Sira devotes most of its attention to jihad and politics, not religion.
Islamic doctrine is dualistic in its reasoning and ethics.
Jew hatred is an integral part of the Trilogy.
There is no unmitigated good in the Koran for kafirs.
Jihad was integral to Islam’s success and forms a large part of the Trilogy.
The Islamic doctrine subjugates women.
The Foundationalist School
It is clear by now that there is an intellectual underpinning to this paper. The actions and words of Muslims have their foundation in the doctrine of Islam found in the Koran and the Sunna, the Trilogy. This doctrine must be analyzed and understood on a rational basis and on its own merits. Know the foundational doctrine and apply it to every action by Muslims, but first know the doctrine.
If an opinion or comment about Islam does not have a reference, or a possible reference, to the foundation of the Trilogy, then the opinion has no merit.