I grew up in an Islamic environment where being joyful and looking well-presented were against the Sharia. From the age of 4-5 children are told -or it is better to say forced- by parents and the authorities to act based on Islamic rules and regulations. For an instance, I remember one sad memory of my childhood that at the age of 7 when I was walking down a street with my mum, in my home town in Iran, I was stopped by 2 women who were from the revolutionary guard. What had bothered them was that I had a dress and a pair of tights on with no scarf. They shouted at my mother because of taking me to the street in that state saying are you not scared of god? And my question which I had in mind at that moment was what is god??
We were also obligated to pray at schools after adhan in the afternoon which was around 11-12 o’clock. There was no way to skip that, otherwise we would have been told off by the principles and then our families would have been informed. I never wanted to pray but I had no choice. So I had to fake a prayer by just standing and kneeling without saying the prayer words. I also refused to do the ablution beforehand which made my prayer unacceptable from the beginning. The reason was that I could not understand the reason behind the compulsory prayer.
These were only very small and harmless examples of being a member of an Islamic country. I was always skeptical about the existence of god, but as a person who was born in a radical country like Iran it was impossible to admit my gut instinct. I always questioned his existence, looked and search for him but found nothing. I did not wake up one day saying oh! I have decided not to believe in god! No, it was not like that all. I went through different circumstances in life and had to consider my religion. As I said, I searched for god but couldn’t find him. I assume he showed himself to some people but not to me. It was not just the fact that I failed to pray and fast. I struggled with the illusion of religion. I got to the point in life that I decided to stand up and be counted. I decided to find out more about my compulsory religion and its god.
Apparently, the main difference between humans and animals is that we can choose as we get older, but where was my choice? It was impossible to ask questions about god’s existence; even we were not allowed to rethink about our own beliefs. Our beliefs were dictated to us by the authority or society and we were obligated to believe that we were superior to non- Muslims and even non- Shias. We were told that we are the only residence in heaven after death, without even being asked that if we want to go to heaven? What if somebody didn’t believe in hell or heaven or what if someone wanted to choose his own way? Surprisingly, it seems that everybody in radical Islamic countries is in denial or perhaps they are scared of the consequences of their awareness.
I decided to answer my questions about the origin of Islam and existence of god I by starting my own research. Therefore, I read scholars’ articles, spoke to religious and non-religious experts, analyzed their debates and at the end I came to a conclusion. All I found was unjustifiable and then I completely understood the Salman Rushdi’s statement when he said “from the beginning men used God to justify the unjustifiable”. At last, I realized that I am better off without any religions and became an atheist. Sam Harris explains that “Atheism is not a philosophy; it is not even a view of the world; it is simply an admission of the obvious. Atheism is nothing more than the noises reasonable people make in the presence of unjustified religious beliefs.” Also Christopher Hitchens about the existence of god said “That which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence.”
I looked for the origin of Quran and all I found proves its implausibility. Based on what I have been told all my life and Muslim scholars confirmed too, the Quran was verbally revealed from God to Muhammad through the angel Gabriel (Jibril), gradually over a period of approximately 23 years, beginning in 609 CE, when Muhammad was 40, and concluding in 632 CE, the year of his death. Muslims regard the Quran as the most important miracle of Muhammad, a proof of his prophet-hood. They consider the Quran to be the only holy book that has been protected by God from corruption. On the contrary, it has been proved by historians that the first Quran was started to be written by Othman between 653-656, 20 years after the prophet passed away. John Gilchrist states: “The oldest manuscripts of the Quran still in existence date from not earlier than about one hundred years after Muhammad’s death”. One of the three Qur’ans attributed to Othman, the Samarkand Kufic Quran is according to Islamic tradition, preserved at Tashkent. Based on studies, this is unlikely as it probably dates to the 8th century CE, possibly as late as the beginning of the 9th century CE.
My question now is how am I supposed to rely on the Quran when it was written 200 years after the prophet? Muslims’ excuse is that most of them were unable to read and write at that time, therefore they used oral tradition. Obviously, oral traditions are not reliable. Even during ‘telephone game’ or ‘Chinese Whisper’ what the first person says is different from what the last person hears. Oral traditions mean only what you want to hear or what you want to remember as a result it is very unlikely to be 100% accurate. So why should I base my life on a book that doesn’t even have a certain author? It has been said that the first version of the book was written by Othman who is disliked by Shias. Because Shias believe he betrayed Imam Ali and his family and took over his leadership. I am wondering why must I let this book lead me when the author is a person who is considered as an enemy to Shias based on what I have been told all my life?
After studying more about this book I faced more discrepancies and inconsistencies. In order to find out where it came from I found out that Arabs made up stories about Islam, the holy book and god in order to expand their lands and gain more power. Under the Islam’s name they invaded many countries from Spain in west to India in east. Based on history, to the ancients Arabs were savages among all people in the world and the most despised who crushed the Persian empire brutally. In the first half of the 7th century they deprived the Roman empire and had taken position of most Middle East under Islam’s name. They claimed that they got a message from god which was as clear as it was elemental. ‘There is only one god, Islam is submission to god’ was the message that gave power to the Arab empire and made them stronger. Historically, the holy city of Jerusalem used to belong to Jews and the Christians, but in 7th century god changed his plans according to Arabs!.They invaded the holy city, Jews had gone and air brushed out of the picture. The Jew’s ‘Promised Land’ full of milk and honey belonged to Arabs that was promised to them by their god. Obviously, Arabs were using a new religion, Islam, to fulfill their wants.
The historians claim that they have the holy book out of nothing, they don’t know the stories behind it and they clearly state that they have the absence of evidence about its details. The evidence of the prophet’s biography is almost non existence because the earliest biography was written almost 200 years after his life time. If I can not reject the Muslim stories, I can not accept them either. The best thing for me was to step out of the Islamic tradition and start my life again.
One of the main discrepancies in Quran that all historians face is related to the changes of Qibla location. Apparently, the Arab emperor changed the house of god’s location for their own benefit. In the program ‘Islam untold story’ is said that there is no mention of Mecca in the Quran, not even once. However, in Quran and Bible a blessed place for mankind is called ‘Becca/Bekka’. Arabs without any evidence claimed that Becca is actually Mecca where the house of god is based in. Archaeologists discovered that the earliest mosques which were built 100 years after Muhammad did not face Mecca at all. They were actually facing towards the east, probably Jerusalem, which shows at the early years of Islam, Muslims would not pray towards Mecca. There is actually no proof that the prophet was born in Mecca either. Scholars also discovered that Quran talks about olives and agriculture. Surprisingly, there was and even nowadays is no agriculture in Mecca because it is located in the middle of a desert. In the whole of the Quran there is a strange hint that shows where this book might have come from. Based on Quran, ‘Lot’ was a nephew of Abraham who used to live in a city by the Dead Sea which is between Jordan and Israel now. His tribes were guilty of rape and homosexuality according to Quran. Not surprisingly their land was turned upside down by god. About their story Quran says to Muhammad: “truly you pass by their site (Lot’s land) by day and by night”( Surah Al Saffat: 137-138). So if the prophet passed by it daily, does it not mean that he lived closed by them? Lot’s land is between Israel and Jordan thousands kilometres far from Mecca. Doesn’t it prove that this was the real place that Muhammad used to live? The mentioning of olives could be related to the land of Syria and Israel too.
In addition to this story, the first and earliest coins which have the name of Muhammad on them were produced 60 years after his life. It means that it took Arabs 60 years to make up their story. What if it was Arab empire who gave birth to Islam instead of Islam giving birth to Arab empire? The empire became rich beyond imagination by stretching from Northern Persia to Egypt in Africa, but who had the right to rule it? Abdul Malik (in the 7th century) the Arab king built mosques close to churches and Jewish temples and built house of god in Jerusalem. He was the lord of Jerusalem and another city which its name is not mentioned in any books. With no doubts, Islam was an Arab story, god talked to them in Arabic and it is clear that Quran came from Arabs not god. A century after Muhammad, Mecca was introduced as the holiest city for Muslims. Perhaps Abdul Malik was the great Arab king who wanted to make economical benefits out of Mecca being introduced as the main house of god.
Another myth that is believed by Muslims is that Abraham with his son first built the house of god in Mecca. On the contrary, there is no evidence that Abraham ever lived in Saudi. Based on history and Genesis (12:10-20) he was born in Ur in Mesopotamia and lived in Egypt for a while and then was back to Canaan. After he died he was buried in Machpelah cave near Mamre in Hebron, Israel, (Genesis, 25:9) thousand miles from Mecca. There is no evidence in Bible and Torah, which were written before Quran, that Abraham has ever been to Mecca. More you search is emptiness. Maybe Mecca gave Muslim a place to put their prophet beyond the reach of history. There is no historical evidence that Moses received the Ten Commandments in Sinai either. Maybe cities of god are cities of men! That is where all the problems come from. Israel or Palestine which used to be called Canaan is the Promised Land that god promised Abraham thousands of years ago (Genesis, 17, and still nowadays Jews, Christians and Muslims fight over it. We don’t have to believe in god to believe these stories and if there was no god, Jewish and Muslims would not kill each other over a land in Gaza now.
After I was completely disappointed by the Islamic stories I decide to read the Bible to broaden my horizons about different religions. What I have been told all my life about Jesus’ crucifixion based on Quran was that “And [for] their saying, indeed, we have killed the Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary, the messenger of Allah. And they did not kill him, nor did they crucify him; but [another] was made to resemble him to them. And indeed, those who differ over it are in doubt about it. They have no knowledge of it except the following of assumption. And they did not kill him, for certain” (Surah Al-Nissa: 157). This ayah clearly states that Jesus did not die on the cross. Muslims believe that the night of Jesus’ betrayal he asked his disciples if someone would like to look like him to die on the cross instead of him then Jesus would be able to ascend to heaven. Therefore, one of the disciples by Allah’s power looked exactly like Jesus head to toe then when soldiers came to get Jesus they found his lookalike and crucified him while Jesus had gone to heaven already. Christians find this statement very offensive because they believe Jesus dies willingly in place of others for their sins and everybody who believes in him will be forgiven by god because Jesus died for his followers’ sins. According to Quran, Jesus was a coward person who ran away from death and asked an innocent person to die instead of him. In contrast, Bible indicates that he died on the cross by stating “When he had said this, he breathed his last” (Luke, 23:46) also “And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit” (Mathew, 27:50).
Trying to prove from Bible that Jesus never died is like arguing that Quran denies the existence of heaven and hell. Now, my question is going to be that why Allah lets somebody dies instead of Jesus? Is it moral? If somebody was going to die why was he not Jesus? I don’t believe Jesus’ story either and found it implausible. In my opinion, the difference between Muslim and Christian god is very vast. Apparently, in one side we have Allah who is always unhappy with his followers and looking for their mistakes to punish them by taking them to hell. On the other side of the story there is Christian god who forgives his follower’s sins very easily because of Jesus’ crucifixion. My main question here is that is it moral to believe that our sins can be forgiven by the punishment of another person? To me it sounds utterly immoral and unethical which questions the sense of responsibility.
To conclude my saying about Quran and Bible’s disagreements as a person who has read Quran and Bible I can not decide which story to believe about Jesus. When readers are in doubts, Quran tells them “So if you are in doubt, [O Muhammad], about that which we have revealed to you, then ask those who have been reading the Scripture before you. (Surah Yunus:94) and “O you who have believed, believe in Allah and His Messenger and the Book that He sent down upon His Messenger and the Scripture which He sent down before”. (An-Nisa: 136). By previous scripture Quran means Bible and Torah that are references for Muslims to look into. But are Muslims allowed to even have a look at the Bible? Based on what Quran says (above) these three holy books must complement each other, but for the matter of fact not only these books disagree with each other, they totally oppose each other too.
In my personal opinion, we have enough stuff to talk about everyday and don’t need god in our daily life and we don’t need him in the middle of everything. We don’t need a god who cares what we do to our private parts such as circumcise or Gentile mutilation which are no jokes. We don’t need a god who tells us whom we should or shouldn’t have relationship with in what ways. Who knows what we should eat and in which months of the year. I would be better off if I grew out of this, if I had grown out of it long ago! Sanderson Jones offers a parable to explain his philosophy that I agree with. He says “Imagine you had an awesome pair of shoes that you really like them, but there was a stone in them which hurt you. You wouldn’t chuck away the shoes, you would get rid of the stone”. In this case the stone would be god and his strict codes of conducts which are called ‘religions’.
I always wondered why all prophets appeared in Bronze Age in deserts in Middle East where there were no historians and no philosophers around to record or witness them! The fakery of their stories has been proved. The very falsity of their biographies, the discrepancies and inconsistencies say it all. What is most impressive is that all their witnesses were men or women illiterate and simple minded who were forced to believe in god by prophets. Christopher Hitchens points out “what religion that wants their fabrications to be believed is going to say you have got to believe it? Because some hysterical illiterate people from thousand years ago said so. Prophets’ stories were a good way of practicing fraud in some isolated Middle Eastern lands thousands of years ago where most people were superstitious not now in the 21st century”. He adds that most of them told people leave your lives behind, have no investment, no children, don’t care about your family just follow me. He concludes that there was no moral proposition.
Apparently, since men started to record, read and write god decided to stop sending prophets! For an instance, there was a recent Messiah who was killed in Iran in 18th century. Muslims like Christians believe in their Messiah. In 1844, in Shiraz, Iran, a guy called himself Ba’b as a Muslim Messiah. A while after, thousands of his fans who are called ‘Bah’i’ were tortured and killed in Iran and even nowadays they are still being persecuted in Iran. So why nobody thought he would be the real Messiah? Perhaps he would have been accepted by the authorities if he had appeared 2000 years ago but not in the 18-19th century!
To put it in a nutshell, I have to confess that Islam never made me think that I am a good person. Based on Islamic rules I was always guilty of something since I woke up in the morning until I went to bed at night. I could not satisfy Allah’s wants because he was too demanding. To be honest, when I look at countries in Middle East I am proud not be a part of them as a Muslim. Surprisingly and sadly I found out that it says clearly in Quran, in Surah Muhammad, ayah 4 “So when you meet those who disbelieve [in battle], strike [their] necks until, when you have inflicted slaughter upon them, then secure their bonds, and either [confer] favor afterwards or ransom [them] until the war lays down its burdens”. I discussed with a Muslim scholar about the real followers of Islam and his response was that “Islamic radical groups such as Al-Qaida, Taliban, Daesh, Wahabis and Sunnis who kills Shias are not real Muslims”. So I never found out who the real Muslims are. If the real Muslims are Iranian government who kills, rape and torture in prisons, I don’t want to be a part of them. Only one example that I give here is the case of Saeed Mortazavi an Iranian judge who has been accused of the torture and death in custody of Iranian-Canadian photographer Zahra Kazemi. He and was named by 2010 Iranian parliamentary report as the man responsible for abuse of dozens and death of three political prisoners at Kahrizak detention centre in 2009. He is also Muslim and Shia. He killed people who were guilty of propaganda against god and the regime. If he is a real Muslim, I am proud to be unlike him. Or are the real Shia Muslim name as Assad’s regime and Hezboallah who kill their own civilians? Or are real Muslim Sunnis who still amputate people’s hands for stealing in the 21st century? If they are the real Muslims, I will not be following their religion.
At last, I must add that atheism has offered me the chance of living without illusion. As an ordinary person I went through circumstances in life that religion made me do unforgivable and wicked things. In general, I believe that religion poisons people’s life and affects them in their most basic integrity and force them make terrible decisions. Religion makes a moral person act immoral. My decision was to grow up out of this stuff. As Daniel Dennet, philosopher, indicates religion makes people stop thinking because they have to look at everything as a matter of faith. They have to believe in what their faith said instead of thinking. For them everything is black or white. And at the end, I would like to wrap up my writing with a touching poem of Omar Khayyam the magnificent Persian poet, philosopher, mathematician and astronomer as pointed out by Christopher Hitchens:
Men talk of heaven, there is no heaven but here;
Men talk of hell, there is no hell but here;
Men of hereafters talk, and future lives,
O love, there is no other life, but here
Look not above, there is no answer there;
Pray not, for no one listens to your prayer;
Near is as near to God as any Far,
And Here is just the same deceit as There
The Koran! Well, come put me to the test
Lovely old book in hideous error drest
Believe me, I can quote the Koran too,
The unbeliever knows his Koran best