Basic Principles of Islam

The following is the article What Makes Islam So Successful? separated into a linked outline. I thought it might be useful to break each of the elements into separate posts. Here are some of the key components of the package of ideas (or bundle of beliefs) known as Islam:

1. A standardized version of the idea-collection is written down.

2. The Quran includes instructions for its own spread.

3. The idea-collection includes instructions for its own preservation, protection, and duplication.

4. Islamic doctrine commands its followers to create a government that supports it.

5. Permission to spread the religion by war.

6. Lands must be conquered.

7. The idea-collection provides new soldiers by allowing polygamy.

8. It is a punishable offense to criticize Islam.

9. You can't leave Islam once you're in.

10. Islam must be your first allegiance.

11. Dying while fighting for Islam is the ONLY way to guarantee a man's entrance into Paradise.

12. You must read the Quran in Arabic.

13. You must pray five times a day.

14. The prayers involve moving together in time.

15. A woman is in a thoroughly subordinate position.

16. The only way a woman can guarantee her passage into Paradise is if her husband is happy with her when she dies.

17. Allah gives Himself permission to edit His own work.

18. The Quran uses the carrot and stick to reinforce behavior.

19. Islam provides a huge and inspiring goal.

20. Non-Muslims must pay a large tax.

21. A Muslim is forbidden to make friends with a non-Muslim.

22. The Quran counsels the use of deceit when dealing with non-Muslims.

23. Islam must always be defended.

24. Islamic writings teach the use of pretext to initiate hostilities.

25. The explicit use of double standards.

26. It is forbidden to kill a Muslim (except for a just cause).

27. If Muslims drift away from Mohammed's teachings, Allah will end the world.

28. The message in a standard Quran is difficult to decipher.

What should we do with this information about Islam? That's a good question. For some, the solution is to hate Muslims, but that doesn't make any sense. Most Muslims had no choice in their religion, and many of them don't know as much about their own religion as you now do.

I think the best thing any of us can do is to simply help other non-Muslims learn about Islam. Because Islam is so successful, its teachings are becoming more and more influential on the world stage, and its built-in aggressiveness should be curbed. But the only way it can be curbed is if enough people know about it. The way we understand Islam determines what policies we collectively endorse or reject about it.

So first, learn more about it. And then share what you know with others. And let them know what they can do about it too. To learn more, I suggest you first read the Quran. This is the version I recommend.

Learn more about the details of Islamic doctrine here.

If you'd like to do something more, start here: What Can You Do About It?

The Allegory of Pleasantville

As an allegory, Pleasantville beautifully depicts both the appeal and the downside of Islam's prime directive. For eight years, I have been immersed in studying about Islam and Islamic states like Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Afghanistan (when the Taliban were running things).

One of the most surprising things I discovered is that according to mainstream Islamic teachings, it is a Muslim's religious duty to strive to create an Islamic state (applying Sharia law), wherever they live. Naturally, many Muslims have no intention of following this particular teaching. Some have come to free countries to get away from Sharia.

Sharia law is Allah's holy law, and the Quran urges Muslims to live according to Allah's law, and if that's not the law where she or he lives, s/he should work to change it; to bring it closer to Sharia. Read more about the basic principles of Islam here.

I recently watched the movie, Pleasantville. I'd seen the movie before I learned about Islam, and this time I saw it in a new light.

Let's look at the parallels between Pleasantville and Sharia law. First, someone had a vision of a perfect world. In the movie, it was the creator of the Pleasantville TV show, and in Islam, it was Muhammad (or Allah speaking through Muhammad). They each had a vision of an ideal world.

Now, if everybody does what they're supposed to do, this vision can become a reality and people can enjoy a peaceful, orderly society. The key is getting everyone to do what they're supposed to do. The problem is, people love freedom. And of course freedom brings with it unwanted side-effects, as you see in the movie (and as you can see by looking around you).

But the lack of freedom also has side-effects. Which is better, living in a Pleasantville world but having to do what you're supposed to do all the time — or living a life where you choose your own destiny but also have to live in a society with others who are choosing their destiny too? I don't know who can answer that question for all of us, but I know which one I prefer. I want freedom.

Pleasantville is a movie about the danger and the splendor of freedom.

When the movie begins, the teenager, David, is in a modern American high school, living in a free society complete with its dangers and side-effects. David is a fan of an old television show from the fifties. Everything was perfect in the show. It was an ideal world where people treated each other courteously, parents had loving, conflict-free marriages, and kids were wholesome and innocent. David yearns for a life like that instead of the messy, chaotic world he lives in. And he gets his wish.

But he discovers that there is a cost to living in paradise — a drastic lack of freedom. In the movie, when the teenagers started having sex and the world was going Technicolor, the leaders of the town were horrified. Things were getting out of control. And you can see they had good intentions when they tried to make it go back to the way it was.

That's what the Taliban did. And Iran. And Syria. And what Saudi Arabia is doing. They're trying to make it go back to the way it was. They're trying to fulfill the vision of Muhammad's perfect world. They are struggling against human beings' natural desire for freedom. They have to use force to get people to do what they're supposed to do all the time. They often use extreme force and they still can't get everyone to conform.

And who hasn't had the same conflict in their own life? Haven't you? Haven't you gone through cycles of cracking down on yourself and then loosening up? Haven't you ever gotten a regimen all worked out so you can get in shape or get your debts paid off and then after awhile you start feeling closed in by your regimen and you want to break out of the restricting and regimented monotony?

When I was younger, I spent many fruitless hours trying to come up with the perfect system. A perfect week would have a defined number of hours of exercise, a specified amount of communication with loved ones, writing time, goofing off time, etc. A perfect life plan is not very difficult to come up with. But actually doing it turns into a nightmare of routine. Most people would never do something like that voluntarily for very long. I loved creating the perfect system, but I hated living in it. And it was my system. What if some else created the system? It would be nearly impossible to make me conform to it.

Our longing for freedom and change and adventure always makes us want to break out. The only way a regime like that can realistically be done is to enforce the system from the outside. If you could make everyone in a society follow the perfect system, you could have a perfect society.

In the movie Pleasantville, the men join together and try to restore order, under the banner of the Pleasantville Chamber of Commerce. They try to enforce pleasant behavior. They create a code of conduct for everyone to live by and they punish the ones who rebel. And what you see is what happens in real life. People feel a conflict. Yes, they want a pleasant society, but not at the cost of their personal freedoms.

Many wonderful and terrible things didn't exist in the perfect world of Pleasantville: Art, sex, women's rights, creativity, exciting music, novelty, love, passion, anger, bigotry, awakening, self-discovery, self-expression, disagreement, conflict, change, violence, book-burning, discovery, exploration, experimentation, new experience, rebellion, defiance, personal growth, and the list goes on and on. The good, the bad, and the ugly.

What does it take to keep the ugly and bad stuff away? You have to get rid of a lot of the good stuff. That's what it takes. And you have to make it a crime to step out of line. You have to have punishments. So the perfect world has its own ugly side. Sharia law says if you steal something, you must have your hand cut off. If you have premarital sex or drink alcohol, you get flogged. For adultery, you get stoned to death.

The punishments are intentionally extreme so they are a strong deterrent. They don't cut very many hands off because that law really discourages theft, and after getting caught twice, you don't have any hands left to steal anything with. I'm not advocating this by any means. You already know how I feel. I believe in freedom.

But the point of all this is I think the movie, Pleasantville, could help freedom-lovers sympathize with the perfect-world-lovers because after all, we in the audience are also attracted to the perfect world of Pleasantville at first. We sympathize with David, who wants to get away from his ugly, sometimes painful life, and doesn't realize or appreciate how much freedom he enjoys until it is taken away from him.

And the movie could also help the perfect-world-lovers see the beauty and magnificence of freedom — and the joy of not knowing what's going to happen next. And the satisfaction of choosing your own destiny.

In one of the scenes in the movie, David and his girlfriend are sitting on the shore of a pond. She'd just found out David has seen the world outside of Pleasantville. She never has, and until recently, didn't even know it existed. She asks him, "So what's it like out there?"

He thinks about it and tries to describe it to someone who has never seen it. He says, "'s louder. And scarier, I guess. And it's a lot more dangerous."

"It sounds fantastic!" she says enthusiastically. Sure. For someone whose life has been ordered and perfect, freedom, danger, and the unexpected would be like cool water to someone dying of thirst. That's the glory and the downside of human nature living in a free society.

With freedom, you have to learn to live with the fact that things aren't the same any more and never will be. That's both tragic and wonderful.

Once you sympathize with the perfect-worlders, you understand them better, and maybe it will make it easier to find the solutions to the many problems they create as they go about trying to push things toward their vision. This pushing can take many forms. Obviously, with some really dedicated people, it may involve violence. But the smarter ones find other ways. Read more about that here: Gentle Jihad.

Learning about the history and teachings of Islam is fascinating. If you'd like to know more, I suggest you read the Quran. Here is an easy version to read.

You can learn more right now if you'd like. Check out What Makes Islam So Successful?

John Quincy Adams on Islam

Son of one of America's most important founding fathers (John Adams), John Quincy Adams was by his father's side during the creation of a new country. He went with his father to France and the Netherlands on important diplomatic missions, and later in his life John Quincy was Secretary to the American Minister to Russia, Secretary to his father during peace negotiations that ended the American Revolution in 1783, served as U.S. foreign ambassador, both to the Netherlands and later to Portugal, under George Washington, to Prussia under his father’s presidency, and then to Russia and later to England under President James Madison. He served as a U.S. Senator, Secretary of State under President James Monroe, and then as the nation’s sixth President (1825-1829), and finally as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, where he was a staunch and fervent opponent of slavery.

After his presidency, but before his election to Congress in 1830, John Quincy wrote several essays dealing with one of the many Russo-Turkish Wars. In these essays, we see an educated description of Islam and the threat it poses to freedom in the world. This is what John Quincy Adams wrote (the capitalization is in the original):

In the seventh century of the Christian era, a wandering Arab of the lineage of Hagar, the Egyptian, combining the powers of transcendent genius, with the preternatural energy of a fanatic, and the fraudulent spirit of an impostor, proclaimed himself as a messenger from Heaven, and spread desolation and delusion over an extensive portion of the earth. Adopting from the sublime conception of the Mosaic law, the doctrine of one omnipotent God; he connected indissolubly with it, the audacious falsehood, that he was himself his prophet and apostle. Adopting from the new Revelation of Jesus, the faith and hope of immortal life, and of future retribution, he humbled it to the dust, by adapting all the rewards and sanctions of his religion to the gratification of the sexual passion. He poisoned the sources of human felicity at the fountain, by degrading the condition of the female sex, and the allowance of polygamy; and he declared undistinguishing and exterminating war, as a part of his religion, against all the rest of mankind. THE ESSENCE OF HIS DOCTRINE WAS VIOLENCE AND LUST: TO EXALT THE BRUTAL OVER THE SPIRITUAL PART OF HUMAN NATURE.

Between these two religions, thus contrasted in their characters, a war of twelve hundred years has already raged. That war is yet flagrant; nor can it cease but by the extinction of that imposture, which has been permitted by Providence to prolong the degeneracy of man. While the merciless and dissolute dogmas of the false prophet shall furnish motives to human action, there can never be peace upon earth, and good will towards men. The hand of Ishmael will be against every man, and every man’s hand against him. It is, indeed, amongst the mysterious dealings of God, that this delusion should have been suffered for so many ages, and during so many generations of human kind, to prevail over the doctrines of the meek and peaceful and benevolent Jesus.

Notice that Adams not only documents the violent nature of Islam, he further exposes the mistreatment of women embedded in Islamic doctrine. A few pages later, Adams again spotlights the coercive, violent nature of Islam, as well as the permission granted to Muslims in Islamic doctrine to lie and deceive to advance Islam:

The precept of the koran is, perpetual war against all who deny, that Mahomet is the prophet of God. The vanquished may purchase their lives, by the payment of tribute; the victorious may be appeased by a false and delusive promise of peace; and the faithful follower of the prophet, may submit to the imperious necessities of defeat: but the command to propagate the Moslem creed by the sword is always obligatory, when it can be made effective. The commands of the prophet may be performed alike, by fraud, or by force.

Sources for the above: 

  • The biographical material on Adams above is an edited version of the original, which can be found here: Source 1 
  • The quotes about Islam can be found in these two books: Source 2 Source 3

Islam and Women's Rights

Ahmedi Begum, a 50 year-old woman, was showing two young women a room she was renting out when police rushed in and arrested the two girls and Ahmedi's nephew, who happened to be standing nearby.

That afternoon, Ahmedi went to the police station to see what could be done to release her nephew and the two girls, when the police arrested Ahmedi too, confiscating her jewelry and throwing her into a room.

In a short time, the two girls, naked and bleeding were thrown into the room too. Then police officers raped the girls in front of Ahmedi. She tried to look away, but they forced her to watch.

Ahmedi herself was then stripped and raped by several officers, and then beaten, and worse. At some point she passed out, and when she woke up, she had been charged with illegal fornication.

The country is Pakistan. Islamic law, otherwise known as Sharia, has been applied more and more vigorously in Pakistan since the country was formed, but it's still not applied as strictly as it is in Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Iran.

Sharia law is set up in such a way that when a woman is raped, accusing her rapist is often considered an admission of fornication, for which she may be whipped or even stoned to death. This is but one example of the abuses women suffer today in many Islamic states.

Of course, women are abused by non-Muslims and for other than religious reasons. But the purpose of this site is inquiring into Islam, and Sharia law is a key element of mainstream Islamic teachings. Islam is not just a religion in the sense Westerners think of it. Islam is also a system of laws and government. Devout Muslims consider the practice of their religion to include more than praying. They must also follow the law of Allah.

Women's lack of freedom and outright abuse is a fundamental feature of Sharia, which is the system of law used by many Islamic governments. Shaykh Ghawhi, a well-known and well-respected (in Islamic universities and throughout the Islamic world) teacher of Islamic studies and Islamic law, says according to Sharia:

  • A woman must only leave her house if she has a real need to do so.
  • Her husband or guardian must authorize her leaving the house.
  • When she is out, she must be completely covered, including her face.
  • When she is out, she must not look left or right but keep her head bowed down as she walks.
  • She must not wear perfume in public.
  • She must never shake a man's hand.

Even if she is visiting a female friend and is inside her friend's house, she must not uncover herself in case a man is hiding somewhere in the house.

Criminals under house arrest in the U.S. have more freedom than this.

Women in the Muslim world have been fighting for their rights for a long time. They've won some victories, but they have also lost some freedoms they had once gained, because on the other side of women's push for greater freedom is the religious authority's push for stricter adherence to Sharia law.

Many countries following Sharia law have gone in cycles where they begin to allow some freedoms, but then crack down again, because modernization is strictly forbidden according to basic Islamic teachings.

In Sharia, a woman is forbidden to be a head of state or a judge. She can only inherit half of what a man can inherit. In court, her testimony is only worth half of a man's. She is not allowed to choose where she will live or who she will marry. She is not allowed to marry a non-Muslim or divorce her husband.

Her husband, however, can divorce her with a wave of his hand. And according to Sharia, he can and should beat her if she disobeys him. Read more about Sharia and women.

This is beyond abuse. This is legally-sanctioned abuse on a massive scale. Devout Muslims are trying to apply 7th-century law in the 21st century.

And they're not only doing it in Muslim countries, they're trying to impose their laws in the West, and they've been getting away with it because orthodox Muslims are exploiting a key moral strength of the Western democracies.

Honor killings are another heinous example of legally-sanctioned abuse. The word "abuse" isn't even strong enough. It is legally-sanctioned torture and murder. If a woman "dishonors" her family by falling in love with the wrong man or having an affair, her uncles and brothers are morally obligated to beat her to death. Here's a story of an honor killing in London. Read more about honor killings.

Acid attacks are another example. Read more about those here.

The religion of Islam is unique in the world. It is both a personal religion and a political system, and it is part of a Muslim's religious duty to constantly strive toward living in a country that applies Islamic law. They take this seriously. A growing number of Muslims are making a concerted effort to slowly make America and Europe follow Islamic law. Here are some of their recent victories.

If you'd like to do something about the abuse of women, help Amnesty International write letters to put political pressure on Sharia governments so they'll release unfairly imprisoned women. Their letter campaigns have a proven record of success. Here's an example of one of their campaigns.

You can support and promote groups working for women's rights, like Madre and the Girl Effect.

Let's help women gain basic human rights around the world.

Surprising Facts About the Crusades

The following is excerpted from an article by Raymond Ibrahim, former Reference Assistant at the Near East Section of the Library of Congress and Associate Director of the Middle East Forum (read the whole article here):

A mere decade after the birth of Islam in the 7th century, the jihad burst out of Arabia. Leaving aside all the thousands of miles of ancient lands and civilizations that were permanently conquered—including Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Iran, and parts of India and China—much of Europe was also, at one time or another, conquered by the sword of Islam.

Among other nations and territories that were attacked and/or came under Muslim domination are (to give them their modern names in no particular order): Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Sicily, Switzerland, Austria, Hungary, Greece, Russia, Poland, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Lithuania, Romania, Albania, Serbia, Armenia, Georgia, Crete, Cyprus, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, Belarus, Malta, Sardinia, Moldova, Slovakia, and Montenegro.

In 846 Rome was sacked and the Vatican defiled by Muslim Arab raiders; some 600 years later, in 1453, Christendom’s other great basilica, Holy Wisdom (or Hagia Sophia) was conquered by Muslim Turks, permanently. (Till this day, Turkish Muslims celebrate the sack of Constantinople, which saw much rapine and slaughter.)

The few European regions that escaped direct Islamic occupation due to their northwest remoteness include Great Britain, Scandinavia, and Germany. That, of course, does not mean that they were not attacked by Islam. Indeed, in the furthest northwest of Europe, in Iceland, Christians used to pray that God save them from the “terror of the Turk.” This was not mere paranoia; as late as 1627, Muslim corsairs raided the northern Christian island seizing four hundred captives and selling them in the slave markets of Algiers.

Nor did America escape. A few years after the formation of the United States, in 1800, American trading ships in the Mediterranean were plundered and their sailors enslaved by Muslim corsairs. The ambassador of Tripoli explained to Thomas Jefferson that it was a Muslim’s “right and duty to make war upon them [non-Muslims] wherever they could be found, and to enslave as many as they could take as prisoners.”

In short, for roughly one millennium—punctuated by a Crusader-rebuttal that the modern West is obsessed with demonizing—Islam daily posed an existential threat to Christian Europe and by extension Western civilization.

And therein lies the rub: Today, whether as taught in high school or graduate school, whether as portrayed by Hollywood or the news media, the predominant historic narrative is that Muslims are the historic “victims” of “intolerant” Western Christians. (Watch my response to a Fox News host wondering why Christians have always persecuted Muslims.)

So here we are, paying the price of being an ahistorical society: A few years after the Islamic strikes of 9/11—merely the latest in the centuries-long, continents-wide jihad on the West—Americans elected (twice) a man with a Muslim name and heritage for president; a man who condemns the Crusades while openly empowering the same Islamic ideology that Christian warriors fought for centuries.

Surely the United States’ European forebears—who at one time or another either fought off or were conquered by Islam—must be turning in their graves.

But all this is history, you say? Why rehash it? Why not let it be and move on, begin a new chapter of mutual tolerance and respect, even if history must be “touched up” a bit?

This would be a somewhat plausible position—if not for the fact that, all around the globe, Muslims are still exhibiting the same imperial impulse and intolerant supremacism that their conquering forbears did. The only difference is that the Muslim world is currently incapable of defeating the West through a conventional war.

Yet this may not even be necessary. Thanks to the West’s ignorance of history, Muslims are flooding Europe under the guise of “immigration,” refusing to assimilate, and forming enclaves which in modern parlance are called “ghettoes” but in Islamic terminology are the ribat—frontier posts where the jihad is waged on the infidel, one way or the other.

All this leads to another, perhaps even more important point: If the true history of the West and Islam is being turned upside its head, what other historical “orthodoxies” being peddled around as truth are also false?

Were the Dark Ages truly benighted because of the “suffocating” forces of Christianity? Or were these dark ages—which “coincidentally” occurred during the same centuries when jihad was constantly harrying Europe—a product of another suffocating “religion”? Was the Spanish Inquisition a reflection of Christian barbarism or was it at least partially a reflection of Christian desperation vis-à-vis the many Muslims who, while claiming to have converted to Christianity, were practicing taqiyya and living as moles trying to subvert the Christian nation back to Islam?

Don’t expect to get true answers to these and other questions from the makers, guardians, and disseminators of the West’s fabricated epistemology.

In the future (whatever one there may be) the histories written about our times will likely stress how our era, ironically called the “information age,” was not an age when people were so well informed, but rather an age when disinformation was so widespread and unquestioned that generations of people lived in bubbles of alternate realities—till they were finally popped.

Read the whole article here: The True History of Christendom and Islam.

Why We Created This Site

After 9/11, lots of things were said about Islam, some of them contradictory, and many of them by people with believable credentials. We didn't know what to think (the two of us who created this site), so we started looking into it. We read lots of materials — pro-Islam books, anti-Islam books, and classic Islamic doctrines, like the Quran. We've been on a thirteen-year learning binge.

We have become disgusted by people whose criticisms of Islam are motivated by bigotry and racism. And we've also become frustrated by people who know nothing about Islam but are so vehemently against the racist bigots that they say and believe foolish things about Islam — things that anyone with even a smattering of knowledge would know is not true.

Islam is an active and vital religion, and it is growing. It is having an increasingly powerful influence on world affairs. And most people in the free world do not even know the most basic facts about it, and yet make the assumption that Islam must be similar to other religions they are familiar with. This widespread assumption could have unexpected consequences because Islam is, in fact, different than all other religions in many important ways.

Neither of us are Christians or Buddhists or Jews or Hindus. We are not the members of any religion. I thought this was important to point out. We don't have a religious ax to grind. We don't consider ourselves atheists either, so we don't even have an anti-religion ax to grind.

The purpose of this site is to begin the education process for non-Muslims who don't know much about Islam but are curious about it. Once your interest has been piqued, your next step would probably be to read the Quran yourself. Fortunately, reading the Quran has been made relatively easy. Learn more about that here: An Easier Way to Read the Quran.

Below is a table of contents for this site. You will find the same table of contents in the upper right sidebar of every page. The pages can be read in any order. Here they are:

What Makes Islam So Successful?

An Eight Minute Video About Islam

Islam and Women's Rights

Do You Know Much About Islam?

A Muslim Woman Speaks About Islam

An Easier Way to Read the Quran

Critique of Pure Islam

Criticism of Islam Versus Bigotry

Why Know About Islam?

Do Islamic Texts Encourage Violence?

What is Taqiyya?

Perfectly Legal Jihad

The Allegory of Pleasantville

A Conversation About Islam