About Mohammed II: Debunking Three Myths

February 4, 2021 Category: Religion

Appendix 1:  Ad Hoc Revelations

Islam’s canonical text comes off as largely improvised.  It is quite apparent that, over time, MoM contrived new revelations–essentially, amendments–as it suited his own purposes.  As he became more and more powerful, he became increasingly audacious–and aggressive–with his “revelations”.  This is no coincidence.

It is no secret that self-proclaimed prophets who claim to be receiving messages from the great beyond end up claiming a raft of suspiciously convenient revelations (that is: convenient for THEMSELVES).  Anyone familiar with Mohammedan lore can’t help but notice a raft of strange coincidences in which the Creator of the Universe seemed to be catering to MoM’s every wish and desire–precisely as the occasion required.

The “god told me he changed his mind” gimmick has been used by prophets as long as there have been prophets.  This avoids the rigamarole of deliberation while ensuring the revised edict retains the imprimatur of the godhead.  In 1890, Wilford Woodruff, leader of the Church of Latter-Day Saints, invoked this (regarding god’s allowance for polygamy) so as to avert persecution by the U.S. federal government.  So as not to compromising the credence of his status as god’s mouthpiece, he was forced to proclaim that god had changed his mind on the matter.  Even that didn’t quite work, as it became plain that he’d only done so for PR purposes (a bargain struck in order to secure Utah’s admission into the Union).  Consequently, a subsequent Mormon President, Joseph F. Smith, was forced to re-issue the proclamation in 1904.

When it comes to Islamic lore, the most blatant instance of MoM…err, god…changing his mind is found in 4:95.  We know this from Bukhari’s Hadith (6/61/512).  According to Bukhari, MoM initially declared (in 4:95) that those who “stay at home” (i.e. do not fight in the cause of god) are less than those who go out and fight. 

…UNTIL, that is, a blind man named Zaid brought to MoM’s attention that this judgement might be unfair to the handicapped…at which point MoM essentially said: “Oh, yeah.  Uh, good point.  Scratch that.  Instead, the revelation stipulates: ‘except for those who are disabled’.”


Meanwhile, it should be noted that physical injury would not be an issue if “jihad” were merely an internal spiritual struggle.

It is evident that MoM concocted new revelations as the need arose.  He wanted to marry a 6 year old girl?  Presto: new revelation.  He wanted more than four wives?  Presto: new revelation.  He wanted justification to kill those who challenged him?  Presto: a SLEW of new revelations.  He wanted to die a glorious death in battle?  Oops; poisoned by a woman who’s family he’d slaughtered.

As we’ve seen, MoM’s contrivance eventually had an abrupt encounter with Reality.  Where, we must wonder, was the Abrahamic deity when MoM REALLY needed him?  Such an ignominious death seems strange if MoM is who the Koran says he was.

A blatant example of MoM’s shameless arrogation of special privileges to himself was 33:50.  This verse gave him and ONLY him the right to an extra number of wives (above the four allotted in 4:3).  MoM’s child-bride, Aisha once caught him mid-coitus with one of his sex-slaves, Miriam the Copt.  The former was irked by this.  Naturally, the self-proclaimed prophet needed only conjure a new “revelation”…which, sure enough, decreed that this was his unique right.  It’s not for nothing, then, that in Bukhari (no. 4788), Aisha observed: “I feel that your god hastens to fulfill your wishes and desires.”

Even amongst those closest to the self-proclaimed prophet, there was suspicion about the self-serving “revelations” concocted ad hoc.

We need not point out that this is standard operating procedure for cult founders of all stripes…in all eras.  Throughout history, we see charismatic leaders according to themselves special exemptions from their own moral laws, and arrogating to themselves special privileges…time after time after time.  Why?  Because they CAN.  (Savvy cult founders are, if nothing else, extraordinarily opportunistic when it comes to their own interests.)

The most infamous example of the trend of suspiciously “convenient” revelations involved Zainab bint Jahsh, the (soon to be divorced) wife of MoM’s adopted son, Zayd ibn Harithah.

At one point, MoM decided that he wanted his young daughter-in-law for himself.  However, when he sought to acquire her, his followers reminded him that–according to current strictures endorsed by MoM himself–such an act was forbidden (as she was his daughter-in-law).  MoM’s response to this objection was as comic as it is was crafty.

Effectively, the justification MoM used for his acquisition of Zainab was: “Oh, uh… Check this out.  I just got a new revelation (33:37).  As it turns out, we can marry the wives of our (adopted) sons after all.  Wouldn’t you know it!”  (How did this attain?  By the self-proclaimed prophet declaring: “By the way, there’s no adoption.  So, you see, Zayd was never really my son!” ref. 33:4.)

That this was a self-serving “revelation” is blindingly obvious.  The only explanation for such a highly suspicious “amendment” is that, pursuant to new developments, god modifies his edicts.  As it so happened, this was ALWAYS done in accordance with the personal interests of MoM.  Funny how that worked out.  {1}

There is an obvious problem with this explanation.  For it countermands the claim that the Koran is an ETERNAL word–and so would not need modification in order to address new developments.  The only way around this theological “fix” is to hold that god revealed various parts of the eternal book in INSTALLMENTS; delivering certain verses at strategic points.  When he was caught (by his wife, Hafsa) engaging in coitus with one of his slave-girls (Miriam the Copt) AFTER he’d promised his wives that he would abstain from doing so, MoM opted to concoct a new revelation that granted him–and him alone–exemption from matrimonial vows: 66:1-2.  This enabled him not only to contravene his vow to abstain from sex with his slave-girl(s); it granted him permission to contravene ANY vow forevermore.  Such a self-serving license gave the self-proclaimed prophet wide berth to do whatever he wished (while claiming god’s imprimatur), it gave him license to break promises whenever he saw fit (e.g. when he wished to have sex with one of his slave-girls after he’d promised his wives he wouldn’t).

Of course, MoM’s designs on Zainab are unsurprising.  But are we to believe that the Abrahamic deity caused the divorce of a married couple so as to pave the way for Zainab’s betrothal to MoM?  It seems everything as conveniently designed to serve MoM’s carnal interests, as the need arose.  If we are to believe the Koran, the Creator of the Universe was very concerned about satisfying MoM’s sexual cravings.

PIA insist that god brought about this fortuitous scenario in order to, well, make a point.  In other words, the cosmic overlord wanted to demonstrate that men COULD marry the (ex-) wives of (adopted) sons…in order to prove that adoption was illegitimate.  (Obviously, a crucial matter for mankind!) 

But even that explanation makes no sense.  For elsewhere god DECLARED the adoption of children to be illegitimate (33:4)…thereby rendering the Zainab predicament a NON-predicament.  Was god trying to solve a problem that, according to him, didn’t exist in the first place?

Or…was MoM just coveting a nubile piece of ass?  At what point to special dispensations start to become suspect?

Verses were regularly modified as circumstances warranted.  Not only is it evident that this was done, but the Koran itself ANNOUNCES that it was being done.  In 2:106, the book’s protagonists admits that certain communiques (read: revelations) shall be abrogated (or cause to be forgotten) whenever he opts to bring a better one.  This isn’t necessarily god changing his mind; he may well have planned the sequence of the revelations ahead of time (as though accounting for a learning curve).  The problem is that the Koran is supposed to be, in its entirety, perfect and timeless: not just for the Sabahah, but for everyone for all time.

In any case, 2:106 proffers a rationalization for any apparent contradiction; and furnishes the audience with a simply way to resolve it: Heed the LATEST revelation delivered…which invariably entails the post-Hijra Surahs.  Thus, Medinan verses trump Meccan verses.  Those does not bode well for those seeking to cull conciliatory passages from the book, as the later revelations are generally the more derisive ones (e.g. 8:12 and 9:5).

But what 2:106 did IN PRACTICE was to enable MoM to change his mind, and address unexpected developments with new instructions (esp. ones that may not have jived with what he’d said previously).  In other words, 2:106 provided a quick-fix for MoM PERSONALLY…under the auspices of god’s master plan.

In many ways, the Koran itself ends up being a parody of the Koran.  It hardly serves as the ultimate guide for humanity–a fact that becomes especially stark when we see that it addresses such pressing matters as how long to remain at the table after having dinner with MoM.  Indeed, 33:53 notifies us that one should not arrive to dinner with the Prophet until the meal is ready to be served; and one should not linger after having finished eating.  After dinner, “do not stay for conversation; for doing so causes annoyance to the Prophet”: a crucial point for maintaining civil society for the next thousand years.  (We are also abjured to speak with MoM’s wives from behind a curtain, a matter the Creator of the Universe deemed sufficiently importune that it had to be included in his final instructions to the world.)

As it turns out, some of the revelations had only to do with rationalizing MoM’s own behavior (exigencies that had only to do with him personally) and NOTHING to do with guiding mankind for all time.  This becomes especially peculiar once we remind ourselves that the Koran is alleged to be eternal (i.e. composed at the creation of the universe).

Even MoM’s own wife noticed how suspiciously convenient some of his revelations were–for him personally, and for him alone.  (Were these really from an eternal book meant to guide mankind, or were they simply tailored to suit the desires of her husband?)  Reference Aisha’s comment in the most vaunted Hadith: “I feel that your Lord hastens to fulfill each of your desires” (Bukhari’s Hadith, 6/60/311; alt. no. 4078 and no. 4788).  Note that Aisha said “YOUR” Lord–phrasing that is quite telling.

Even those closest to the self-proclaimed Prophet noticed his raft of conveniently-timed revelations.  The Creator of the Universe seemed quick to fulfill MoM’s every wish and desire–just as if MoM were simply making things up as he went.  A coinky-dink, to put it mildly.

The ad hoc nature of the revelation-deliveries indicates that they were concocted by MoM to suite his own purposes.  This was no more evident than when a revelation (33:37) was conjured when MoM decided he wanted the rights to Zainab, his step-son’s beautiful wife. {2}

Yet another indication (and thus a corroboration) of this can be found in the most vaunted Hadith, that of Bukhari (4/55/546).  Here, there is an encounter with a Jewish man named Abdullah bin Salam, who poses three questions to MoM (as a sort of test).  MoM responds by declaring that the angel Gabriel “has just delivered” to him the answers: That a great fire (as portent of the Last Day) would eventually unite people from east and west; that the first meal served in heaven would be fish viscera; and that children resemble either the father or the mother’s brother depending on which parent “discharges first” during copulation.  (Elsewhere, MoM notifies us that whether or not an offspring is male or female depends on whether the father’s or mother’s fluids prevail pursuant to conception.)

For a tract that purports to be timeless (or at least a guide for all mankind for the next few millennia), the Koran seems oddly designed to address MoM’s personal affairs–as with the passages pertaining to when to arrive, and when to depart, when dining with MoM (don’t come too early, and don’t tarry). 

In several places, we find the material conveniently catering to MoM’s own concerns.  33:30-31 specifically addresses MoM’s wives–telling them that they will receive unique treatment–unlike any other woman in the world: double the reward for piety; double the punishment for getting out of line.  66:5 then gives wives a guilt-trip if they displease their husbands.

66:1-2 even gives MoM–and only MoM–permission to break his promises (as he sees fit).  Such wonderfully convenient dispensations from the Creator of the Universe strain credulity.  Unsurprisingly, 66:1-2 pertains to–you guessed it–access to sex (in this case, with a Coptic slave-girl named Maryam al-Quibtiyya, who was one of MoM’s concubines).  Even Aisha noted at one point that god always seemed to be clamoring to satisfy her prophet’s desires.  (Funny how that works.)  This passage is especially comic if we remind ourselves that the Koran is supposed to be the UN-CREATED speech of the Abrahamic deity.

These verses are a reaction to a development that seems to take the book’s protagonist by surprise: “Why are you forbidding to yourself that which god has not forbidden for you?” god inquires of MoM.  Of course, when MoM was caught having sex with the slave-girl in one of his wives’ beds, he needed to justify it.  66:1-2 was promptly delivered, and served the purpose.  One can’t help but laugh at the zany nature of such a passage–which does not benefit mankind one iota.

But it certainly benefited MoM.

The abuse of (manufactured) clout by charismatic leaders is a reminder that social cache can be leveraged to get what one desires from others–as every panjandrum can attest since time immemorial.  From Pontiffs and muftis to public officials and Hollywood executives, this disreputable dynamic has been played out ad nauseam in every culture on Earth.  Such power asymmetry is bad enough.  But when it comes to CULT activity, sycophancy compounds with the usual cowing (hence: supplication couple with intimidation) to ensure devotees always do as they are told…lest they displease their exalted paladin (on who’s good graces they have become dependent).  There is no doubt that “god told me X” is the quickest way to rationalize X to credulous followers.  The lesson from this is that we should get out of the revelation business and into the (critical) deliberation business.

If this does not demonstrate that MoM was just making things up as he went, nothing possibly could.  (Needless to say, this would have been an excellent opportunity for god to notify mankind of gene theory; or at least the nature of gametes and zygotes.)  Meanwhile, this is EXACTLY the kind of nonsense that we’d expect from an illiterate Bedouin from the Dark Ages. {3}

The incidence of special dispensation for cult leaders is commonplace; and is standard operating procedure.  The line typically goes as follows: “Here are the rules for everyone else.  However, due to my (unique) exalted position, I am exempt.  For it is god’s will that I have special privileges.”  Usually, those special privileges involve sex with young girls (and/or boys).  And usually this maneuver is justified by revelations of convenience.  There was nothing special about MoM in this respect.

Suffice to say, this was being done long before Jim Jones and David Koresh.  So when Joseph Smith received a special revelation from the angel, Moroni, giving him license to have FORTY wives, he was engaging in a sham that goes back THOUSANDS of years.

Soon, cracks in the halo start to appear; and the patina of righteousness dissipates; as everything is exposed to sunlight.

{1  The “Trust me, THIS is what god wants” claim is routine for avaricious charismatic leaders…especially when it comes to on-demand sex with fawning female acolytes.  Take, for instance, the notorious cult-leader Chandra Mohan Jain (popularly known as “Osho”), a faux Buddhist who was–it turns out–a big fan of Rolls Royces and coitus with naive, young girls.  It is no secret that men in power tend to use their ill-earned clout to gain access not only to prestige, but to money and sex.  In 2014, after his private jet (a $37 million Gulfstream III) was damaged, Christian mega-church leader (and “Prosperity Gospel” icon) Creflo Dollar persuaded his credulous flock to fund the purchase of a NEW jet (a $67 million Gulfstream G650) for his recreational use.  They dutifully obliged–presumably, in their own minds, just as Jesus would have wanted.  (Alas, Toufik Benedictus “Benny” Hinn still gets by with a Gulfstream IV.)  “God WANTS me to have sex with you; and god WANTS me to live in a mansion and have my own private jet” has also been used routinely by New Orleans televangelist Jesse Duplantis, already worth over $40 million, who–at the time of this writing–is asking his congregation to fork over $54 million so that he can purchase his FOURTH private jet: a Falcon 7X.}

{2  It might be argued that this was preferable to King David’s approach.  David had Uriah the Hittite sent to his death so that he could sleep with his beautiful wife, Bathsheba.  David did not derive his power from claiming to deliver revelations; he was simply the appointed monarch.  So he required no excuse for his hubris.}

{3  This is the same Hadith that tells us that a nefarious magical spell was once cast over MoM by a devious sorceress–who used strands of the prophet’s hair from a pilfered brush.  Incidentally, that spell caused MoM to–among other things–think that he’d had sex with his all wives when he really hadn’t.  This is peculiar, since elsewhere we’re told that MoM had the sexual virility of thirty men; and so presumably would not be in need of such salacious hallucinations (see footnote 4 below).  The moral of the story, it would seem, is that god’s messenger may have been susceptible to evil hexes that deluded him; but–hey–he sure could fuck like a stallion.}

{4  As it turns out, MoM did not even have the virility of ONE man.  His failure to sire a single son in all his years in power–with all the uteri he wanted at his disposal, awaiting insemination on any given day–is a rather incommodious fact that Islamic apologists prefer to elide (in favor of more flattering portrayals).  It seems the Creator of the Universe did not see fit to empower the gametes of the Last Prophet so as to ensure the most important man in history had progeny.  For comments on this, see Bukhari, no. 268; where Qatada narrates that Anas ibn Malik bragged that MoM had the sexual virility of THIRTY MEN–contending that he would copulate “in a round” with ELEVEN wives in a single night.  Heavens to Murgatroyd!  The only problem with this sophomoric boast is MoM’s (rather embarrassing) inability to sire male heirs…even with a bevy of nubile women at his disposal…on a daily basis…for many years.  This rather abashing incapacity belies such brazen claims of preternatural potency.}

Appendix 2: The Night Journey

In any religion, it is de rigueur to countenance a hyper-romanticized caricature of the hallowed founder.  It is routine to render taboo ANYTHING that brings that caricature into question.  After all, to render something sacrosanct it to forbid anything that might challenge the terms of that sacrosanctity.

The problem encountered in Islamic hagiography–especially as it pertains to the fetishization of its “Seal of the Prophets”–is as follows: So many Muslims have created in their own minds what can be best described as a fictional character (or have allowed others to inculcate them with hyper-romantic portrayals of said character).  This character is mostly the product of fabrication…based on little other than what many Muslims WANT MoM to have been.  Traits and achievements are attributed to MoM that have no basis in Reality (read: evidence).  But no matter: even the most ridiculous fables of MoM persevere.  After all: Why let intellectual integrity deter one from embracing a captivating story?

There’s romanticizing a revered historical figure…and then there’s just “making shit up”.  Sober-minded people can tell the difference.  Sycophants cannot.

Unsurprisingly, there were various outlandish fables about MoM concocted during the earliest generations of Islam.  Here, I will use the most well-known tall-tale as an illustration of the degree to which farce was incorporated into the Mohammedan legend.  According to the standard version, c. 620 or 621 (i.e. a year or so prior to the “hijra” to Yathrib), MoM went on the so-called “Night Journey”; and did so with his favorite angel, Gabriel, as his tour-guide (17:1).

In the first part of the fantastical voyage (the “Isra”), MoM travelled on a winged horse, “Buraq” [literally: “lightning”, based on the Persian “barag”] from Mecca to “the farthest mosque” (“masjid al-aqsa”; alt. “bayt al-maqdis”)–which contemporary Muslims usually identify with the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem.  This sounds marvelous…except that there was no mosque in Jerusalem in 620; there was only a Byzantine Church (i.e. Church of the Sepulcher)…which was about to be taken over by the (Zoroastrian) Sassanians…and then given to the Jews. (Oops.)

In the second part of the fabulous voyage (the “Mi’raj”), MoM toured both heaven and hell. {1}

During the trip, MoM was afforded the opportunity to converse with Adam (but not Eve), Abraham (Ibrahim), Joseph (Yusuf), Moses (Musa) and his brother Aaron, John the Baptist (Yahya), Jesus of Nazareth (Isa), and other Abrahamic prophets.  All of this happened in one night.  In the Koran, this is alluded to in 53:6-18. {2}

The more deluded Muslims take this tale literally–and presumably wonder whether or not a winged horse was able to also whisk MoM down to hell…or if some kind of magical gopher might have been required for that leg of the journey.  (Was Satan privy to the visit?  Did MoM solicit dialogue with any djinn during the sojourn to the underworld?  And, gosh-golly, how did the guided tour protect MoM from all that fire?)

When it comes to such outlandishness, one need not mock the Koran.  The Koran–it turns out–does a thorough job mocking itself.

Silly legends aside, the biggest problem with this particular tale is that it claims MoM reached the upper limit of all human knowledge (at the so-called “Lote Tree”). {3}  According to this claim, there is nothing–NOTHING–that the Enlightenment conferred upon mankind that had not already been provided by MoM.


Note that 17:1 describes the sojourn as being from the “sacred place of worship” to the “remote place of worship”.  The former, which refers to a “masjid” that is “haraam”, is (dubiously) presumed to be Mecca.  The latter, which refers to a “masjid” that is “aqsa”, is (credibly) presumed to be Jerusalem.  

The fantastical tale of the “Miraj” likely originated with a popular book (retroactively referred to as simply as the “Kitab al-Miraj”) composed by an author from Nishapur in the 11th century–four centuries after MoM’s lifetime.  But where did THAT author get the idea?  As it turns out, it was adapted from the Persian tale of “Arda” [Just] Wiraz[a] (the Book of Arda Viraf), which had been put into book form well over a century earlier.  The Persians told of the magical sojourn of the fabled Zoroastrian prophet, Viraf.  One night, he goes on a “dream journey” to the next world, where he engages in dialogues with angels (notably: Atar) and past prophets (notably: Sraosha, a variant of the “Saoshyant” figure); and even meets the godhead, Ahura Mazda.  The godhead tells the prophet that  Mazda-ism is the one true Faith, the only way to salvation.  Viraf is also given a glimpse of hell, so that he might witness the torments visited upon the damned.  All this should sound very familiar.

In the Mohammedan version, part of the sojourn in heaven included a stop at “al-Bayt-ul Mamur” [House of piety; conventionally taken to be a celestial manifestation of the Kaaba].  MoM is also said to have engaged in negotiations with the Creator of the Universe, talking the deity down to just five obligatory prayers per day–as if such an entity would be one to barter on ANYTHING, let alone on such a petty matter (and as if there were no more judicious use of his time than to haggle over the number of daily propitiations).  Indeed, when it came to how mankind should behave–there were no more pressing matters in need of addressing than frequency of “salat”.

And what of the creature that whisked MoM away?  We are given a description in Bukhari’s hadith as a “white beast smaller than a mule, bigger than a donkey” (4/54/429).  The use of magical (flying) horses is not uncommon in ancient myth.  The Greeks had their own winged horse, Pegasus, from which the Arabians likely got the idea for “al-Buraq”.

The notion of magical horses was not unfamiliar to those in the Middle East during the Dark Ages.  (The Thracians and Dacians associated their gods with horses.)  In ancient Norse mythology, the golden maned horse “Gulltoppr” was used by the shining god, Heimdallr to bring the blessings of the gods to humanity.

The magical / flying horse leitmotif is timeless.  Indeed, it goes back to the Achaemenid Empire (5th century B.C.), in which Xerxes the Great fetishized magical white horses.  In Kushan lore, Kanishka the Great is said to have ridden a magical white horse (ref. the “Sridhama Pitika” c. 470 A.D.)  Winged horses also appeared in ancient Turkic myth (“tulpar”)…and thereafter in Turkish, Tartar, Kazakh, and Mongolian myth as well.

In Hindu myth, “Uchchaihshravas” is a white, flying horse (often depicted with seven heads) ridden by the sun-god, Surya.  Also, the final incarnation of Vishnu (“Kalki”) arrives on a magical, white horse–leading an army of righteous souls to combat the forces of evil (thus ushering in a new epoch of peace).

In Taoist and Mahayana Buddhist myth, the Buddhist monk, Kumarajiva of Kucha (the man who brought Buddhism to China) is said to have been transported by a magical white horse referred to as “Tian-liu” [Heavenly Liu; referencing the clan of legendary Chinese Emperor Yao].  Tales of winged horses could also be found in ancient Chinese myths of the “qianli-ma” [“cholli-ma” in Korean, “senri-ma” in Japanese], alternately rendered as “tian-ma” [celestial horse; horse of heaven] or “long-ma” [dragon-horse].  In Confucian / Taoist lore, a unicorn (“qilin”) attended the birth of “Master K’ung”. {4}  In Siamese lore, legends are told of the flying horse (“ma-ninmangkorn”) whisking away the hero (“Sudsakorn”) when he embarks on his quest.

In Celtic myth, the divine maiden “Rhiannon” rode a magical, white horse (ref. the “Mobinogi[on]” from the 12th century), a story that is based on legends dating back to “Taliesin” in the 6th century.  In the Irish legend of the princess Niamh of Munster (a.k.a. “Nieve of the Golden Hair”), a flying horse is used to whisk her lover, Oisin away to the magical land of eternal youth, “Tir na-n-Og” (a.k.a. “Mag Mell”).  The steed is generally known as a “selkie”.

In Norse myth, Odin rode a magical horse named “Sleipnir”.  The Viking hero “Sigurd” rode a magical horse named “Grani”.  Tales of flying horses even appear in “A Thousand And One Nights” [“Alf Layla” in CA], itself based on the Pahlavi (Persian) story-collection: “Hazar Afsan”.

Meanwhile, tales of an auspicious figure making a sojourn to hell date back to the 2nd millennium B.C. with the Babylonian account of Inanna’s journey.  The theme is timeless.  It was found in Homer’s “Odyssey” (late 8th century B.C.)…and was then incorporated into Roman lore by Virgil in his “Aeneid” (1st century B.C.)…which was eventually incorporated into Christian lore by Dante in his “Inferno” (early 14th century A.D.)  Thus: Sumerian to Greek to Latin to Tuscan (medieval Italian).  In each iteration, the hero of the story is given a tour of the underworld.

But where might the authors of the Koran gotten the idea?  Lo and behold: The Persian tale of Arda Viraf’s celestial journey (ref. the “Arda Wiraz Namag”) involved the protagonist being offered a libation, dialogues with astral beings (as well as past saints), holding court with the godhead, and–sure enough–being given a guided tour of hell.  This myth was the direct antecedent of the Mohammedan rendition.  It is telling that the fantastical Islamic story retained all the key plot points of its Zoroastrian precursor.  As with so much in Mohammedan lore, it was lifted from Pahlavi and/or Syriac sources.  Such material was widely available at the time.  Indeed, there existed Pahlavi Psalters in the region going back to the 6th century–which were themselves based on the (Syriac) writings of the Nestorian proselyte, “Mar” Aba of Asorestan (a.k.a. “Abba The Great”). {5}

In sum: There is almost nothing original in Mohammedan lore.  As we have seen, it appropriated elements from antecedent (pagan) Arabian lore, antecedent (Syriac) Abrahamic lore, and contemporaneous Persian lore–thereby creating a novel syncretism adapted for a Bedouin audience in the Dark Ages.  That anyone in the post-Enlightenment world would take any of this seriously is testament to the thirst people still have for enchantment.

It seems not to occur to many that once a source starts relaying tales of flying horses, it is prudent to start questioning the credence of EVERY OTHER account it provides.  The moment we’re told that a celestial steed once whisked the prophet off to the seven heavens (so that he could hold court with past prophets, then engage in negotiations with the Creator of the Universe), we should take pause.

That such an outlandish tale is found in the most vaunted Hadith (that of Bukhari) is extremely inconvenient.  Magical, white equidae equipped aside, the credibility of this fantastical tale is undermined by virtually everything else that is in the tale.  This meretricious hallucination is garbed in ornate narrative regalia.  It is a reminder that to treat MoM as a paragon of virtue is to indulge in delusive thinking.  It’s not that the Emperor has no clothes; it’s that the clothes have no emperor.

{1  Note that this extravagant tale bears a striking resemblance to a piece of fantastical apocrypha associated with the Ancient Greek philosopher, Parmenides of Elea (from the early 5th century B.C.)  According to verse attributed to Parmenides, he gleaned his insights via revelation from a goddess during an otherworldly journey, in which he was taken up to the celestial spheres.  How did he get there?  You guessed it: By riding a flying horse.  For a survey of the use of flying horses, see my essays on “Mythemes”.}

{2  It was later elaborated upon in Bukhari’s Hadith (4/54/429 and 5/58/227).  In comparing the “sahih” Hadith to virtually ANY OTHER sacred history, the former come out looking rather adolescent.  As with the Koran, the Hadith are remarkably puerile.  They present crudely hewn apocrypha, comprised–in large part–of antecedent folklore.}

{3  This tree of knowledge is also referred to as the “Sidrat al-Muntaha”, located at the end of the seventh heaven.  It is ironic, as it was eating from the tree of knowledge that led to mankind’s fall IN THE FIRST PLACE.  Suddenly, the Abrahamic deity decided that it was a GOOD thing to eat from the tree of knowledge.}

{4  The Korean version of “qilin” was “girin”, the Siamese version was “gilen”, and the Japanese version was “kirin”.  Unicorns go back to the Brahmic mythology of the Indus Valley civilization.  The Persians had “Shadhavar”.  The Russians had “Indrik”.  Even medieval Christians tried to get in on the action, translating the Hebrew “re’em” in the Book of Job as “unicorn” instead of “aurochs” (a kind of cattle).  In Arabian myth, there were also tales of a unicorn-like creature known as the “shad’havar”, which were also lifted from Persian myth.  For reasons that are elusive, unicorns–especially winged–have become the go-to creature for enchantment.}

{5  As mentioned in my essay on Mythemes, the idea of the “Sirat al-Mustaqim” (the Arabic version of the “Chinvat Bridge”) and of angelic “houri” were also appropriated from Persian lore (ref. the “Bundahishn”).}

Appendix 3: Hung-Over Henchmen

The matter of “no alcohol” becomes rather confounding upon reflection.

If the concern was–ostensibly–about “wine” (or, more generally, about beverages made from fermented grapes), then questions arise.  Not all wine is made from grapes; and not all things made from grapes are alcoholic.  Technically, the issue is about drinks that contain ETHANOL.  So we might ask: When the Chinese drink rice-wine, is THAT okay?  And if one decides to quench one’s thirst with a glass of (virgin) grape-juice, does THAT count?

So what qualifies as “khamr”?  5:90 and 16:67 refer to “strong drink” as being off-limits (along with divining arrows).  Does that mean we can’t drink (virgin) prune juice or kvass…both of which have a very potent taste?  (And so much for super-tangy beverages.)

Tellingly, MoM’s prohibition of alcohol consumption seems to have become more stringent as time progressed.  It is possible that this was in response to problems that arose during his marauding campaigns.  Most likely, the self-proclaimed prophet discouraged imbibing for practical reasons.  Surely, he did not want his band of desert-pirates to become inebriated before the next day’s pillaging spree.  Though it may not have posed much of a problem for the raping, it is difficult to plunder with hung-over henchmen.  (Tipsy bandits are ineffectual bandits.)  2:219 shows that this was the likely rational, as it points out that inebriation has certain usefulness, but that the drawbacks outweigh the benefits.  In other words, the issue was one of UTILITY, not of morality.

It is no secret that pirates like to imbibe; so this was probably an issue that needed to be addressed.  So the matter of wine was about deferred reward: wine WOULD be provided in heaven!  Hence the memo: “Don’t drink now, but you’ll get to party later (after you die).  However, if you imbibe now, you’ll be sorry.”  So it wasn’t imbibing PER SE that was bad; it was imbibing NOW, whilst in the service of the cause.  In the hereafter, it’s all well and good.  (Might we think of any other activity that is deemed iniquitous during life, yet rendered copacetic in Paradise?  Alas, there is no sin in heaven; as–presumably–there is no more need for morality amongst sentient beings.)

MoM was able to placate his followers in the interim.  Providing his brigands with a cut of the booty and a steady supply of sex-slaves also did the trick.  And, surely, terrifying them with threats of eternal damnation further served to cajole them into participating.  In any case, MoM was busy providing intoxicants of another nature.  Why fuss over libations when one could feast and fuck to one’s heart’s content?

But why GRAPES?  There were no apples or potatoes or wheat fields in Arabia.  Consequently, grapes were the only thing that fermented of which the authors of the Koran would have been aware.  Wine was the prototypical beverage made from grape fermentation; hence THAT was the primary concern.  Never mind libations made from ingredients other than fermented grapes.  It seems not to have occurred to the (putatively omniscient) Abrahamic deity to mention opioids as cognitively hampering.  (Apparently, Chinese opium dens were not on his mind when he opted to mention mentally deleterious substances to “watch out for”.  And he was certainly not concerned with today’s hyper-commercialized pharmaceutical industry.)

This is yet another reminder that the declarations of the Koran’s protagonist reflects the extremely limited knowledge of medieval Arabians (a matter I explore in Endnote *108).

Here, “historical context” becomes salient–as is typically the case when evaluating the declarations made in ancient texts.  Once we understand WHY the prohibition was originally put into effect, it is plain to see that the Koranic prohibition against drinking “khamr” has no bearing on me sipping a wine-cooler with my mother on the back porch on a quiet Sunday afternoon.

To reiterate: 2:219 reveals that the stricture spawned more from a pragmatic than a moral concern.  This particular prohibition attained, in part, because the consolation provided by MoM was efficacious: “Don’t worry, you’ll get all the wine you want in the hereafter…IF you die while serving my cause”.  Such an enticing caveat surely worked like a charm.

As with everything else he commanded, MoM (as the deliverer of the final revelation) rationalized this stricture with, “God wills it!”  End of discussion.

Alas, some Islamic apologists continue to tout the notion that the Koran does not actually forbid ALL alcohol; it only forbids wine (fermented grapes)–as that is the libation that the Koran singles out when specifying the libation served in heaven.  (There is no mention of strawberry daiquiris in Jannah.)  This involves the translation of “khamr” exclusively as intoxicants made from fermented grapes (rather than encompassing all ethanol-based intoxicants, or intoxicants-in-general).  This is plausible, as the term is traditionally construed as “fermented grape juice”.  This narrow interpretation would thus render off-limits the ONE kind of libation that might actually have some health benefits…while keeping the far more harmful libations in-bounds. *

And so it goes: According to this interpretation, becoming inebriated is copacetic…so long as it’s Chambord; because THAT is made from distilled raspberries.  However, to sip a fruity Merlot is to defy the Creator of the Universe.

Suffice to say, Islamic apologists rarely think through the implications of this interpretation.  Depending on whether your libation-of-choice is made from fermented potatoes / apples / grain / berries / milk or not, you might be screwed.  If you prefer Pinot Grigio to booze, you’re outta luck; but vice-versa, and you’re in the clear.

This also leaves one to explain how:

  • Irish getting trashed on Guinness and Scottish getting trashed on scotch and Londoners getting trashed on gin are all halal, YET…when Parisians do a champagne toast at a wedding, they are somehow contravening god’s commands. **
  • Danes getting trashed on karsk and Fins getting trashed on pontikka and Germans getting trashed on lager are all halal, YET…when the Dutch serve snifters of brandy at grandpa’s birthday party, they are contravening god’s commands.
  • Russians getting trashed on samogon and Georgians getting trashed on chacha and Slavs getting trashed on palinka are all halal, YET…when Norwegians and Swedes treat themselves to some warm glogg on Christmas Eve, they are contravening god’s commands.  (They’d have been better off having akvavit!)
  • Greeks getting trashed on uzo and Albanians / Bulgarians / Serbs / Croats getting trashed on raki[ja] and Armenians getting trashed on oghee are all halal, YET…when Persians serve shiraz as a digestif after dinner, they are contravening god’s commands.
  • Ethiopians getting trashed on tella / suwa and Kenyans getting trashed on changaa and Native Americans getting trashed on perique are all halal, YET…when stodgy old Brits nurse some vermouth in the study, they are contravening god’s commands.
  • Mongols getting trashed on ayrag and Indians getting trashed on fermented molasses and Punjabis getting trashed on tharra are all halal, YET…when Turks wet their palates with a swig of raki before supping, they are contravening god’s commands.
  • Koreans getting trashed on so-ju and Chinese getting trashed on huang-jiu / bai-jiu / shao-jiu and Japanese getting trashed on sake are all halal, YET…when Latino vacationers enjoy some sangria while relaxing on the beach, they are contravening god’s commands.
  • Canucks getting trashed on cider and Yankees getting trashed on Long Island iced-tea and American Southerners getting trashed on bourbon are all halal, YET…when New York socialites order mimosas whilst meeting for brunch, they are contravening god’s commands.
  • Puerto Ricans getting trashed on piña coladas and Mexicans getting trashed on tequila and Brasilians getting trashed on caipirinha are all halal, YET…when Portuguese art-critics savor some port at a gallery opening, they are somehow contravening god’s commands.
  • Filipinos getting trashed on lambanog and Caribbean revelers getting trashed on rum and Polynesians getting trashed on mai-tais are all halal, YET…when Spanish lovers share a glass of sherry while admiring a sunset, they are somehow contravening god’s commands.

Good grief!  We may not be able to prevent frat-boys from guzzling beer, but at least we can stop Florentine artisans from sipping chianti.

Meanwhile, Arak from raisins is prohibited; but Arak from dates is fine.  How does this make sense?  Is it written in the stars: “Moonshine: fine. Wine coolers: forbidden”?  If not, then where does this leave us?  When the Koran was composed, shall we suppose that chugging vodka would have been permissible simply because it isn’t made from grapes?  When sipping a Campari spritzer is considered a greater transgression than decapitating kuffar, one might inquire into whether or not one’s priorities have perhaps gone awry.

The inconsistencies involved with this prohibition become obvious once we realize that JoN, considered a “nabi” [prophet] free of sin, even in Islam, is known not only for having drunk wine, but for providing it to crowds when water was already available!

In sum: The issue of imbibing is a memetic relic left over from an era of piracy.  The stricture had little to do with ethical behavior and more to do with protocol.  Plying henchmen with women and treasure more than made up for a prohibition on libations.

TODAY, the stricture seems not to attain beyond the common-sense rule of thumb: If you are going to imbibe, do so responsibly.  If you aim to regularly engage in physically-taxing activity (be it piracy or pilates), getting hammered the night before is probably not a good idea.  One doesn’t need to reference antiquarian edicts in a holy book to understand such things.

{*  Consumed in moderation, wine is known to mitigate heart disease while helping to increase the amount of HDL in one’s system.  Its cardiac benefits are primarily attributable to reduction in stress; as it is a relaxant (thus reducing blood pressure).  Meanwhile, while having no health benefits whatsoever, beer and “hard” alcohol cause a tremendous amount of sickness and death.  So god surely had strange priorities if “khamr” only meant fermented grapes.  One wonders: Wasn’t the Creator of the universe aware of the dangers of Absinthe?}

{**  It seems that Champagne is just as useful for inaugurating new ships and new years as it is for inaugurating new marriages.  No matter.  For with regards to those at dinner who deliberate between a Burgundy and a Bordeaux, we are to suppose that they are simply vacillating between which way they will be damned to eternal hellfire.  Be it a Cabernet and a Chardonnay, one’s fate in the hereafter may boil down to which beverage one opts to drink when having dinner.  Sticking with chocolate milk, it seems, is required in order to not irk the Creator of the Universe.}

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