Infidel's Guide to the Koran
8 May 2010
The next book I would like to tell you about is The Complete Infidel's Guide to the Koran by Robert Spencer.
This book, published in 2009, is a follow-up to Spencer's bestselling The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam and the Crusades. If you have not read my review of that book, simply click on the book title — it might be good if you read what I have to say about that book before you read my thoughts on this book.
In my previous article regarding Spencer's earlier book, I made the comment that it was written in a tone that felt more popular than scholarly. I had also remarked that it was written in a style that slightly detracted from the credibility of the material presented.
The Complete Infidel's Guide to the Koran continues in the same vein — actually, I think that that tone and style is even more pronounced is this newer book. While this may attract some readers, and make the material more accessible to others, I feel that in the end it makes the book less forceful, less serious. At times throughout the book, Spencer indulges in an irritating glibness that works against what he is trying to communicate.
Again, as in his previous book, there are numerous side-boxes throughout each chapter which give additional information related to the main text. A fair number of them are comparing quotes from the Qur'an with quotes from the Bible. But as I read through them, sometimes it felt like the verses were comparing apples to oranges, and not apples to apples. As I have found out when writing these articles, there is a great temptation to compare the worst verse you can find in the Qur'an with the best verse you can find in the Bible. There is also the temptation to pick and choose which version of the Qur'an and which version of the Bible to quote from, so that the meaning is closer to what you want the verse to say.
Spencer also quotes a lot of passages from the Hadith (which I have mentioned in previous articles). Again, the more I read through them, the more I felt that he had specifically chosen the most ridiculous quotations possible in order to make Islam look bad. Well, I guess it's true that much of what Islam holds dear IS ridiculous and DOES make it look bad. I suppose what bothered me in this book was an apparent desire to ridicule Islam, and that mocking attitude somehow rubbed me the wrong way. It seems to me that simply stating the facts makes Islam look bad enough, but resorting to ridicule starts to make the anti-Islam side look bad too.
Well, enough of my quibbles — on to the contents of the book. Spencer starts off by explaining why every American needs to know what the Qur'an says. And why is that? Because of all of the ignorance and lies and disinformation being spread by politicians and the media and the Islamists themselves. In the next chapter he gives a history of how the Qur'an came to be. Then he goes on to show how large chunks of the Qur'an are actually distorted and inaccurate recountings of passages from the Bible.
One chapter focuses specifically on what the Qur'an says about Muhammad, the next looks at what the Qur'an says about non-Muslim (and it's not good!), the next chapter specifically at what it says about the Jews (more bad news!), and after that the Christians (obviously, more bad news!). Chapter nine reveals the very low opinion the Qur'an has of women, the following chapter discusses what the Qur'an says about violence (a lot) and non-violence (not much). Chapter eleven tackles the topic of what is NOT in the Qur'an that IS in the Bible. He ends the book by discussing some ways we can respond to what we have learned reading his book.
To summarize, I'll say what I said in my review of his previous book: Even though I don't agree with everything in this book, and even though the style in which it is written detracts from the credibility of the material presented, I still think this is a valuable book that is well worth reading. It definitely gives the reader a good overview of exactly what is in the Qur'an, how it compares to the Bible, and how it's teachings are totally different than Christianity. To close, I will leave you with a quote from the book:
The disparity in the treatment of Muslims and non-Muslims — and in the value placed upon the lives of each — runs through the entire Koran and all of Islamic tradition and law. It has also left its mark on Islamic societies; even today, although Islamic law is not fully enforced in most majority-Muslim countries, nonetheless non-Muslims do not enjoy full legal equality with Muslims in any of those countries — not even secular Turkey.
This is logical, since the Koran contains nothing comparable to the Golden Rule. Jesus enunciates a universal ethic when he says in the New Testament, "So whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them" (Matthew 7:12). And the twentieth-century Christian apologist C.S. Lewis showed in his book The Abolition of Man that the same principle, which he calls the Law of General Beneficence, prevailed among people in a wide variety of cultures and civilizations. To illustrate this commonality, he quotes material from the ancient Babylonians, Confucius' Analects, Roman writers, the Hebrew Scriptures, and other sources — but nothing from the Koran, Hadith, or any other Islamic text.
One might assume this was an unintentional omission, or one borne of ignorance. After all, Lewis could have quoted the Koranic passages that direct Muslims to "overcome evil with good," or "repel evil with that which is better" (13:22; 23:96; 28:54; 41:34). He could have noted the passage that counseled forgiving wrongs: "The recompense for an injury is an injury equal thereto (in degree): but if a person forgives and makes reconciliation, his reward is due from Allah: for (Allah) loveth not those who do wrong" (42:40). He could even have quoted the passage that counsels Muslims to "do good" to "neighbors who are near, neighbors who are strangers, the companion by your side, the wayfarer (ye meet), and what your right hands posses" (4:36).
That is essentially the same as the Judeo-Christian "love thy neighbor as thyself" — isn't it?
That depends on how a Muslim would answer the question that the lawyer asks Jesus, eliciting from Christ the parable of the Good Samaritan: "Who is my neighbor?" (Luke 11:29). The Koran says that "Muhammad is the messenger of Allah," and that "those with him are hard against the disbelievers and merciful among themselves" (48:29). This would suggest that non-Muslims are not deemed worthy of charity and kindness. And indeed, the reader of the Koran will search in vain for even a single verse that specifically tells Muslims to be kind to Infidels or to befriend them, unless it be "by way of precaution, that ye may guard yourselves from them" (3:28) — a verse that, as we have seen, Islamic theologians explain as mandating a false solicitude toward unbelievers for self-protection and/or the protection of Islam.
The Koran also lacks any admonition that all human beings are equal in dignity before God, or the corresponding conviction that all people should have legal equality. And the absence of these principles makes itself felt all through Islamic cultures and societies.
For more books by Robert Spencer, see the Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam and The Truth About Muhammad.