I am culturally a Muslim, recenlty moved to Denmark and have a few months ago come as an atheist. Truth is, I was not much of a practicing Muslim growing up in a secular but Muslim country, Tunisia. Religion (read Islam) is taught in school throughout the curriculum, but it is by no way imposed on us, and I have always been critical and asking questions of my religion teachers… I remember the first one I asked, when introduced to the the prophet Muhammad, we were taught his father's name was Abdallah (Allah's slave, a most Muslim name)… and I interrupted the teacher asking the obvious question. How can the father of the founder of Islam have a Muslim name ? She was extremely surprised and did not seem to have thought about it before, I think she replied something in the line of he changed his name.
I must also say evolution is taught as a fact in Tunisian schools, my lovely science teacher who taught me that was actually wearing a religious scarf.
Nevertheless growing up I managed to fit the Origins question with the Koran as follows, (don't laugh):
Origin of humans. I had trouble fitting Adam in the evolutionary tree but I managed. Homo Sapiens is 150.000ish years old. Fine let's call the first one of the line Adam. He probably mated with a non Homo Sapiens (since he was the first) got a daughter, let's call her Eve. Brain gymnastic, but it fits the story in the Koran, kinda.
Origin of life, according to the Koran god created us from mud and he also says all life is coming from water. Fits nicely with Life emerging from the sea and probably some mud was nearby when the first cell became alive.
Origin of the universe. The Koran says god created the universe by cleaving the Earth from the seven heavens… hmm makes no sense there is a few billion years between heaven and earth but then string theory came along (I am not a physicist by the way, just an Engineer). Physicist need 10 dimensions to make their string theory work,… gosh what god actually meant was that she cleaved our 3 (Earth) dimenstions from the 7 (Heaven) dimensions… it fits!
Funny in retrospective, I admit.
I was not much of a Muslim, I know, but until, I read the God Delusion, I still believed that the Koran was literally the world of God. Despite the fact that many criticisms in your book actually confirms Islamic metaphysics (“Hey we have been telling you all along that Jesus is not God's son”).
It is hard for you to imagine how hard it is for someone raised as a Muslim to accept that the Koran is not god's word. I was scared that picking up the Koran after the God Delusion, I would lose my atheism (apologies to Sam Harris)… but rereading it with non-Muslim glasses contradictions are very easy to spot,… apart from the obvious (paraphrasing) “I am Merciful. You will rot in hell forever if you do not believe in me. And each time your skin burns up we will give you a new skin so it can burn again, forever. [and by the way] I am Just and Kind”… no apart from the obvious verses like that what struck me as I reread from the very first pages, is contradictions like this one: God created Earth, then all the angels got angry at god for making it a reward for Man instead of them. Hang on… angels ? Being of Light and Fire ? You don't need the Earth's biosphere to thrive you can live on any other planet of any other galaxy,… even on a star for all I know… what's up with being annoyed with carbon based lifeforms, living on the only planet that can support them. Later in the same Sourate, Earth is described as a place Man got sent for punishment of a sin in the garden of Eden…. Hang on a second,… was earth a reward so great to make angels jealous or was it a place of punishment. And so on…
In brief my fears were misplaced! Reading the Koran (yes in Arabic) after the God Delusion, did not make me lapse back into Deism, quite the contrary.
There is a concept in Islam called “I'jaz Ilmi” loosely translated to scientific evidence available in the Koran that is unavailable to anyone in the middle ages.
Muslim preachers are often using “I'jaz Ilmi”as THE argument to convert non-Muslims of today's day and age. I have not heard the one which was most convincing to me: 3 Earth dimensions + 7 Heavens (dimensions) mentioned by anyone else though. But really it is like saying Snowwhite and the seven dwarves is “I'jaz Ilmi” actually it fits quite well since the 7 extra dimensions we are told are small. Likewise, the Avatars of Vishnu so perfectly fit the theory of evolution, that the Muslim preacher himself would probably have to convert to Hinduism because surely this is the most amazing piece of “I'jaz Ilmi” in any religion I know of.
I do not see Islam as inherently evil, even now though. It is true that it gives woman half the rights of man in inheritance and when bearing witness, and does not outlaw slavery, but just asks that they are treated well and freed when possible. But that is tremendous progress for those women and slaves in the middle-ages who had no rights at all, and if Muhammed had to threaten his contemporals with hellfire to get those ideas through so be it. And even as a believer I thought that well God showed us the first step, the second step of giving the Woman the other half of her right and so on, logically follows
Another benefit of Islam is that we always take about *sub-sahran* africa when we talk about AIDS ravaging the continent,… but it does not change the truth and fact for me at least, now, thanks to you, that god does not exist.
Sorry for the tremendously long letter, but I guess I am one of the very few Muslim Atheists you can claim.