II: Religion and Theology

Moral Laxity of Islam

Christian Benedikt Michaelis

Christian Benedikt Michaelis was born in 1680 in Ellrich in modern Thuringia, where he attended school. In 1694, Michaelis’ uncle Johann Heinrich Michaelis (d.1738) brought him to Halle, a Lutheran university and center for Pietism in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. In 1697, he went to the Gymnasium in Gotha and, in 1699, Michaelis moved to Halle to study theology and oriental languages, acquiring a Master’s degree in 1706. He was first appointed as an adjunct faculty of philosophy at Halle in 1708, then, as an associate professor in 1713, and finally, a full professor of Greek and Oriental languages in 1714. In 1731, he became a professor of theology and taught at Halle’s Collegium Orientale Theologicum, which had been founded in 1702 by his uncle, Johann Heinrich Michaelis. At the Collegium, there was a strong focus on Eastern languages and the Hebrew Bible, and many of the professors there were Jewish converts to Christianity. Michaelis contributed to the text, Biblia Hebraica, of the Old Testament edited by his uncle. He also wrote on philological topics, especially concerning Hebrew and other Semitic languages. He encouraged the study of the Syriac language, publishing a Syriac grammar in 1741, and he promoted the usefulness of the Ethiopian Ge’ez translation of the Gospels as a tool for New Testament textual criticism. He died in Halle in 1764.1

Variant Names: Christian Benedict Michel, Christian Benedikt Michael, Christianus Benedictus Michaelis, Christian Benedickt Michaelis, and Chr. B. Michaelis

Summary and Analysis

In his academic disputation, Michaelis argues that Muhammad deliberately and cunningly created a morally lax religion to win converts. He begins by remarking on Islam’s astonishing progress in the Arabian Peninsula and beyond, for which he outlines various reasons, including the warlike nature of Muslims, their enemies’ internal weaknesses and divisions, and God’s wrath. While he says that all these explanations are widely known, he has a specific reason in mind for Islam’s success: its moral laxity.

Michaelis claims that Islam is light and easy on the question of penitence, requiring believers only to keep faith in their hearts. Muhammad, he says, goes further, stating that forced blasphemy is not sinful and that God will be merciful. To deny God because of fear is not a sin, but prudent. In Islam, there is no need to fear sin since God forgives all. This idea, Michaelis claims, deepens with the Qur’an’s abuse of God’s indulgences and kindness as expressed in Q. 2:185: “God wants easiness for you and does not want difficulty for you,” because man was created weak. For Michaelis, Muhammad’s insistence that religion should be ‘easy’ and his permissive attitude toward venial sins can only lead to immorality, laziness, and moral deficiency, and even seemingly strict rules such as the prohibition of alcohol, pork, and adultery can be flouted with an appeal to ‘easiness’ under mitigating circumstances.

By giving several examples, Michaelis aims to show that Islam spread rapidly because it catered to men’s debased tastes. For instance, Islam nurtured the sensuality of its adherents both in this world and the next. For Michaelis, Muhammad gratified the Arabs’ passion and corrupt sexuality, which he claimed they were strongly addicted to. In this way, Muhammad made it ‘easier’ to draw people to his religion, which gave a full indulgence to the lusts of mankind. Michaelis brings lying and cheating in warfare or during the time of persecution as another example of moral laxity in Islam. The idea Michaelis refers to is known as taqiyya or hud‘a in Islamic literature which allows and, in some cases, promotes a lie to non-Muslims to protect and promote Islam as well as to save oneself from persecution and death. Muslim believers under the authority of non-Muslims are allowed to lie or deceive infidels by bowing and worshipping idols and crosses and offering false testimony, including lying under oath before a court. This kind of religious deception during a time of persecution is what Michaelis calls hypocrisy and immorality since Christians must never lie under any circumstances and martyrdom is celebrated in Christianity, especially in the face of persecution, as shown through the vivid example of Christ’s crucifixion.

Michaelis then outlines the laxity of the five pillars of Islam: professing God’s unity (shahada), almsgiving (zakat), prayers (salat), fasting (sawm), and pilgrimage (hajj). Professing God’s unity is meaningless, he says, since it can be denied in the face of danger; almsgiving can always be ignored by claiming that there is not enough for one’s own needs; prescribed prayers are not as demanding as the continuous prayers ordered by Christ (Luke 18:1); Islamic fasting is insufficiently strict because it allows sexual intercourse and night-time gorging; and the pilgrimage to Mecca was a concession to the pagan sensibilities of those Arabs who already used it as a shrine. Michaelis ends his disputation by dismissing the ritual ablutions of Islam as mere outward cleanliness and

Moral Laxity of Islam 61 contrasts such rituals with Protestant inner purity and piety. As a Pietist, he concludes that Islam is, like Catholicism, morally lax, superficial, and concerned only with external appearances. Reformation scholars claimed that Islam’s rapid expansion was due to the sword, the political weaknesses of Islam’s enemies, Christian divisions, and God’s punishment. However, post-Reformation Pietist scholars’ preferred reason

DISPVTATIO ACADEMICA ' DE

MVHAMMEDISMI

LAXITATE MOR ALI.

Qyim RECTORE MAGNIFICENTISSIMO , SE RE NISS1M0 PRINCIPE AC DOMINO, DN- PHILIPPO WILHELMO, PRINCIPE BORVSSIAE, MARCHIONE BRAN-DENßVRGICO, CETERA, ET DVCATVS MAGDEBVRGICI GVBERNATORE, INDFLGENTE AMPLISSIMA FACPLTATE PH1I.0S0PHICA IN ACADEMIA FRID ERICIAN A,

PRO LOCO In Eadem rite obtinendo, D, XI. AVGVST. cbkccVHI. H. L. c Publice ad ventilandum proponet PR AESES M.CHRISTIANVS BENEDICTVS MICHAELIS, RESPONDENTE

JOHANNE HENRICO POTHOVIO,

* Rhoda - Waldec.

HALAE M AGD Eß TR 6 IC AE,

LITTERIS CHRISTIAN! HENCKELII, ACAD. TYP-

Figure 1.1 Christian Benedikt Michaelis, Disputatio academica de Muhamme-dismi laxitate morali, 1708 (Courtesy of the Bavarian State Library, Munich).

for Islam’s popularity was moral laxity; this allowed them to assert the moral superiority of Protestantism.

Academic Disputation on the Moral Laxity of Islam

(Halle, 1708)

I will begin by making some comments on Islam, the religion, which is spread today throughout most of the world. It was first born in a corner of Arabia, between Mecca and Medina, created by an enthusiast man, Muhammad. Muslim tradition says that he was illiterate [ummT]. Islam soon progressed outside Arabia, and swiftly spread through Asia, Africa, and a significant part of Europe itself. This progress was so rapid and widespread that in a short time—just as someone once said about the Arian heresy—the world was surprised that it became Muslim.

People provide various reasons for such an admirable expansion. Some assert that success of Islam is due to arms and the warlike Muslims, since it was through these agencies that their superstition poured into peaceful provinces. Others point to the misery of the Jews at that time, and the magnitude of weaknesses stemming from the Christians’ quarrels, their depraved morals and their indolence. Others blame the ignorance and blindness of that age, especially among the Arab race; religion was new to them, and they were therefore prone to be deceived by an impostor. Finally, many saner men add the wrath of God to these reasons. Due to the world’s steadfast contempt for divine truth, Islam lay heavily upon it. Islam gained influence by man’s ignorance, so that they who were unwilling to obey the truth believed lies (2. Thess. 2:10-12). As there may be many causes for one thing, therefore, I think that all of the reasons that I have mentioned came together to promote Islam.

There is a distinguished man in Holland, Adriaan Reland, who attributes the growth of Islam to its own innate qualities. He thinks that Islam is closer to the truth than Christians generally believe. Reland says this in the preface of De religione Mohammedica:

I have always thought that this religion, which diffused itself far and wide throughout Asia, Africa and Europe, can be praised for a powerful appearance of truth that persuades men, thus, it is not so worthless as many Christians think.

Reland examined some of the seemingly absurd practices of the Muslims and explained them using the Arabic works, so that they seem less absurd. However, it cannot be denied that there is a great abundance of teachings in the Qur’an, which contain much absurdity and gross error. These teachings should have aroused the suspicion of being false to the attentive reader. Even now, I find it difficult to persuade myself that Islam spread so quickly and widely due to the soundness of its doctrines.

I think that Islam spread because it was attractive and not because it appeared to be the truth; it attracted adherents rather than persuading them. I have observed that Islam accommodates itself to man’s corruption: easy, lax, seductive, indulgent in nature, carnal, titillating, deceiving—to express it in one word: ‘populist.’ What is more likely to be adopted than a religion of this kind? And what has more capacity to attract the impulsive and imprudent multitude? For this corruption (alas!) dwells in mortals, so that the seductive is followed, and the pleasurable is easily seen as the truth, and Muslims are completely captivated with lies and promises of the fruit of pleasure, like birds with allurements of bait. This error seduces men’s will with its own charm. It suspends the intellect’s judgment, and slowly gains our assent, making it so that we approve of what is pleasing to the senses and the will. As the Comic said, a man “dreams of what he wants when awake” and believes what he wants to be true.

This reflection inspired me to sketch briefly the moral laxity of Islam, through which it infiltrated so many nations. I am so well versed that I assign nothing to Islam rashly; whatever I say has been taken from the Qur’an itself and other documents of the Arab Muslims and has been accurately translated into Latin. The defects in typography prevent me providing the Arabic text alongside.

First, let us see how Muhammad himself describes his religion in the Qur’an. In various places, he commends laxity under the specious name of ‘easiness,’ such as in Q. 2:185, “God wants easiness for you and does not want difficulty for you” (2:181 in Hinckelmann edition). Muhammad abuses this word ‘easiness’ often in the Qur’an, so that it ought to be admitted to the highest principles of Islam. Of course, this easiness is most popular among the Muslims; as indeed the nature of man shrinks from adversity and difficulty. There is a similar statement in Q. 4:28: “God wants to give you relief,” that is to give you a lighter religion, “for man was created weak.” What ‘weakness’ does Muhammad exactly accommodate with his religion? Jalal al-Din, the most famous interpreter of the Qur’an among the Muslims, responds that “a man cannot restrain himself from women and pleasures.” Hence it is clear, I think, that this ‘easiness’ of Muhammad is nothing other than licentious laxity. Likewise, Q. 22:78 says: “God chose you, Muslims, and did not impose on you anything arduous or anything restrictive in religion.” Also in Q. 5:6 see: “God does not want to impose anything arduous on you; but wants to purify you” (be careful not to understand this as purification of the heart; here Muhammad is speaking about washing the body), “and to perfect His kindness towards you.” An egregious religion! How very different it is from the doctrine and religion of Christ, which requires us arduous tasks for the flesh, limiting the path of salvation to a narrow and difficult track (Matthew 19:23 and Luke 13:24).

In Q. 73:5, the impostor imagines that Gabriel spoke to him in these words in the name of God: “We will certainly cast upon you a heavy word [qawlan thaqila],” which Jalal al-Din interprets as “the Qur’an is strict and harsh because of its difficult and troublesome requirements” in its precepts. Another Muslim interpreter al-Qatadah, in his commentary Elkarae, swears by this passage: “By God!” he says, “the statutes and rulings in the Qur’an are difficult, because of what it prohibits, commands and delineates.” Muqatil agrees with al-Qatadah about this passage. But does Muhammad himself oppose the ‘easiness’ of his religion he praised before? First, in the same commentary, Elkarae, other interpreters understand the ‘heavy word’ as the ‘strength and value,’ rather than the ‘difficulty’ of the constitutions of the Qur’an. But, if you interpret it as ‘difficulty,’ Muhammad himself (what a marvel!) retracts this difficulty in the same chapter. If you examine the context, that ‘difficult word’ [qawlan thaqila] related to verses 1-4 and verse 6, concerns “passing most parts of the night not with sleep, but with prayers and reading the Qur’an.” But Muhammad is a hypocrite regarding his own precepts, because he established these things for mere show, as he soon tired of his own strictures and of the complaints of the Arabs (Q. 73:20). Thus, he makes his own words Gabriel’s: “God knows that you will not count the night in any way,” that is, you will not distinguish the hours of the night, so that you know how great a part you should spend in prayers, and a part in rest; “for which reason He is more lenient towards you. So, choose what is easy in the Qur’an,” that is, as much as you can easily do. “For God knows that there will be sick people among you; others who wander the earth for the sake of seeking sustenance and others who fight in God’s name against infidels, so they cannot be idle with prayers for much of the night.” Here the testimony of Abu ‘Ubayd b. al-Qasim b. Sallam, a Muslim writer, is relevant, in his tract on abrogation [Kitab al-Ndsikh wa’l-Manstlkh, Ar. or de Abrogante & Abrogato, Lat.]: “Whatever adversity and difficulty there is in the Qur’an, flavored with threats, was annulled through these words of God: ‘God wants light and easy things from you, not heavy and difficult things’.”

Let us see some examples of the religion departing from its own precepts so that we can judge more properly about Muhammad’s ‘easiness.’ The law of Christ is holy: he abolishes private revenge and orders that enemies themselves be loved (Matthew 5:38). But there is nothing more troublesome to the mind than this law, since those who suffer injustice are most prone to taking revenge; they are roused as if with a goad, exchanging hatred for hatred, and injustice for injustice. But now Muhammad seems to have said in a similarly holy manner in Q. 23:96, “Drive out evil through what is best,” almost like how Paul (Romans 12:21) says “Conquer evil by what is good.” Likewise, in Q. 28:54, Muhammad praises those “who are patient, and repel the bad with the good.” Indeed, it seems that hardly anyone can express the meaning of Proverbs 25:21 and Romans 12:20 concerning the hot coals to be piled up on the enemy’s head better than Muhammad. For he says in Q. 41:34:

“Repel the evil with one which is good; then whenever enmity comes between you and him, he will become as if he were your close devoted friend.” I think this is pious, heartfelt and serious enough! However, from the whole character of the Qur’an, I am persuaded that Muhammad, while he seems to speak truthfully and piously in some places, helps mortals to obtain serious piety and sincere holiness in vain, thus deceiving the imprudent under the guise of piety more easily.

Muhammad most intelligently debilitates the law against private revenge, which he had sanctified elsewhere so piously, as if it were not a requirement, but (to use the Pontific phrase) only counsel. For Q. 16:126 says: “If you decide to avenge an injustice, do it by the same measure after you have carefully weighed the injustices done to you,” that is, do not exceed the limit, but only return like for like. “But if you are patient,” refraining from revenge, “indeed it is better for those who are patient.” Q. 2:191 not only allows for private revenge, but also orders it in these words: “Kill those who oppose you whenever you catch them, and cast them out from where they cast you.” And in verse 194: “whoever does you wrong, do wrong to them,” in turn, “just as he did wrong to you.” Indeed, he decrees that a reward is to be expected from God if someone avenges an injustice done to them (Q. 42:36-41).

Whatever is given to you is only the fruit of the present life; but what is with God is better and everlasting for those who believe and for those who, when some injury befalls them, avenge themselves. But let compensation for evil brought upon you be through a similar evil,

that is, let like be returned for like: “but also anyone who condones injustice, and brings harmony, his reward will be with God. And whoever avenges himself after receiving an injury does not merit punishment” and is not condemned to punishment by law. However, what Muhammad said about having to love enemies clearly goes against his own intentions. For in Q. 3:119 he says it is a most absurd thing that they love their enemies: “Look,” he says, “you yourselves (poor confused men!) love them, although they do not love you.” In Q. 9:23, he says: “O believers, oppose those who are unbelievers among you, and practice cruelty on you.” Therefore, Abu al-Qasim says:

Whenever Muhammad says in the Qur’an, ‘withdraw from those,’ or ‘depart from those’, these mean that ‘do not harm them because of the injury they have inflicted,’ or anything of this kind, is understood to be annulled through the ‘little line of the sword,’ which orders the sword to be taken up against infidels. Whenever Qur’an orders patiently enduring Jews and Christians, and forgiving them, it is annulled through these words: ‘Fight against those who do not believe in God and the last day.’

Therefore, let the reader judge whether Muhammad accommodated himself to his own and his people’s inclination and strayed from Christ’s doctrine. Indeed, this is so evident that it twisted a confession from someone among the Muslims themselves. This is a certain Muhammad, an Arab, who pretended to be Moldavian, and acted as a spy of the Turkish Sultan for forty-five years in Paris disguised as a monk. He sent copious letters to the elders of the Ottoman Kingdom, in which he wrote about deeds of great importance accomplished in all of Europe and France under Richelius, Mazarinus, and King Louis XIV. He wrote:

Above all, let’s observe with care this precept written in the Holy Book of the Christian people, a precept that is not always imprinted in their hearts. Do unto others, even your enemies, as you would have them do unto you. A Duke of Guise set the example for the entire French people, and this is what you shall preach throughout the vast Muslim empire.

Expounding upon this example, he continues thus:

Sage Brededin! (this is the man to whom the letter was written) Muhammad never showed such generous sentiments when he made this precept into law against those Christians who never offended him. When you cross the path of infidels, kill them, cut their heads off, imprison them and keep them in shackles until they pay their ransom or until you decide it fit to free them. Persecute them all into submission, or until they are all lost.

Furthermore, how lax and licentious is Muhammad’s teaching regarding chastity and modesty? Certainly, he condemns whoring and adultery, but only external acts: it is so far from him to reprehend the lusts lying within from which shameful acts sprout that he excuses and permits them as if they were indifferent. In Q. 2:235, Muhammad says

You will not be guilty of a crime if you reveal your mind to women in some conversation, or if you hide anything of this kind in your soul. For God knows that you think of them, and that you cannot refrain from them.

It seems as if it is the Prophet’s duty to act like a teacher and trainer of lovers. The good Muhammad, since he was himself most lascivious, divined that his followers could not have been charmed more easily than by being persuaded that God willingly tolerated lustful thoughts of men. Shame prevents me from saying how much he promotes promiscuous lust. In Q. 2:223, he says: “Your women are a place of sowing seed for you: so come to your field, however you want; but do also some good works for your souls.” What superstition and nefarious hypocrisy! I think this defends lust so grossly that even the Muslim interpreters affirm that impious sex with women, that is, the Sodomitic sin, is allowed by this passage. Marracci quotes their words, but it is better to be damned to eternal darkness than to read them and offend one’s modesty.

There are still two kinds of laxity with which the impostor promoted his religion as if with very strong arguments: one is polygamy, the other the licentious freedom of divorce. On the Muslim allowance of polygamy, the principle verse is Q. 4:3, “But if you are afraid that you do not treat orphans fairly,” and on that account (Marracci supplies from his commentaries) you do not take care of them, fear also that you might not treat many wives fairly. Therefore, take as many women in marriage as seems good to you, two or three or four ex-slaves. Or if you are afraid that you will not treat them fairly as well, take only one; or whatever your right hand possesses—that is, slave girls—as many as you can and want. These words prove what the distinguished Reland denies, that Muhammad, the author of the Qur’an, allowed Muslims to take as many wives as they could maintain: for the words of the Qur’an had already long been used to allow no more than four [wives]. I gladly concede this concerning ex-slave and freeborn wives; especially since in Q. 33:50, it is called a peculiar ‘privilege of Muhammad.’ But Reland omitted, “or whatever your right hand possesses”; by which indeed slave girls are permitted for marriage without being limited to a fixed number.

However, when Muhammad writes about himself, he egregiously introduces his own Gabriel, who addresses him in Q. 33:50,

O Prophet, just as I permitted you your wives, to whom you gave your wealth (although he had 21, or according to others 26, and, apart from his legitimate wives, four slave concubines as well). I permitted you whatever your right hand possesses concerning that which God assigned to you (that is, slave girls captured in war). And the daughters of your father’s brother, and the daughters of your father’s sister, and daughters of your mother’s brother, and the daughters of your mother’s sister, who fled with you from the city of Mecca, and any faithful woman, if she gave herself to the prophet, and the prophet wanted to marry her. This will be your privilege beyond other faithful men, so that you can marry as many wives as you please.

I have refrained from mentioning many other things on this matter.

The license of divorce, which the disgraceful man established in his religion, has no condition at all, except the willingness, or rather, the desire of the divorcer. In Q. 2:227, Muhammad says: “If spouses decree divorce, God indeed is listening and knows.” And verse 229 says:

“Divorce is conceded in two turns, that is, divorce can be threatened twice by a husband to wives; then either the wives are to be kept, and he should treat them justly, or they should be sent away kindly.” In Q. 4:20, he makes it permissible, “to exchange wives with others,” which is not done except for the sake of lust. In Q. 60:10-12 he allows women who have embraced Islam to marry Muslims, after deserting their ‘unbelieving’ and ‘unwilling husbands’ as Muhammad calls them; yet Paul teaches the complete opposite (1 Corinthians 7:13). And to make it even more obvious, how Muhammad crafted Islam to serve either his or others’ lust, behold a new license! The false prophet was desperately in love with Zaynab, the wife of his slave and adopted son Zayd. Zayd, more from fear than from willingness divorced his wife for Muhammad’s sake. Nevertheless Muhammad, fearing Zayd’s jealousy, was not willing to marry Zaynab until that impure Gabriel of Muhammad told him in Q. 33:37:

Remember Muhammad! When you spoke to Zayd, to whom God was kind, and you also were kind to him: Keep your wife for yourself, and fear God. And you, Muhammad, hid in your soul what God had revealed, (i.e. Zaynab’s love): and you feared a man, when, however, you should have feared God instead who made it free for you to marry her. For after Zayd had divorced Zaynab, I gave her to you as your wife.

From these words, it is easy enough to agree that Qur’anic law is so lax in restraining lust that there can be no doubt how any good and religious man could be a Muslim, and yet still be immersed in most unrestrained lusts. Muhammad made his religion more attractive with these allurements, especially to the Arabs, a lustful race which was long notorious for whoring and lasciviousness; the Talmudists in Kiddushin 49b preserved the saying: “If ten measures of whoring descended to the world, Arabia took nine, and the whole remainder of the world, one.”

Islam is so light and easy in reproving sins that it is no wonder that Muhammad infused it so easily into the hearts of so many nations. The Qur’an praises his virtue often with magnificent words, for example: “he orders vices to be despised.” Yet, there is almost no shameful deed or crime left unencouraged. What is holier than professing and worshipping true God? Yet Muslims are not concerned if they fear anything inconvenient or dangerous to deny God and pretend to some idolatry, however superstitious, as long as they keep the faith as they assume it to be in their hearts. For the flesh shrinks from martyrdom for the sake of God and the truth; and prefers to set its own comfort above professing the truth. You want to hear Muhammad’s opinion on this matter? In Q. 5:3, he says: “I have confirmed the Islamic religion

Moral Laxity of Islam 69 to you; but whoever was forced to do something blasphemous—still Muhammad speaking—as long as the believer did not deviate into sin intentionally, God certainly will be indulgent to him and merciful.” In Q. 16:106, Muhammad speaking, “Whoever denies God after taking up the faith, having been forced to this while his heart remains firm in his faith is forgiven, but whoever denies God with a willing heart God’s anger will be upon them.” Muhammad is guilty of the sin of weakness; nor indeed (as they say) does he chide softly which once caused Peter to weep a store of tears. There is no mention of penitence since to deny God out of fear is no sin at all to Muhammad, but prudence. Indeed, in Q. 48:25, Muhammad praises some of his followers who remained in Mecca and did not separate themselves from the idol worshippers so that they could still secretly be Muslims even when Muhammad himself fled to Medina. The Arab whom I have mentioned above relied on this very indulgence and pretended to be a Christian in Paris for forty-five years.

Muhammad also softened the rigor of his law on not eating sacrifices to idols, and carrion, blood, and pork, which he had partially borrowed from Judaism, so that it would not be burdensome for anyone. For he says in Q. 2:173: “Whoever is forced by necessity to eat those things, and not transgressing, and not acting unjustly, there is no charge against him: for God is indulgent and merciful.” And he repeats this in Q. 16:115. However, even if they care about the condition which Muhammad placed on the consumption of these things, most Muslims undoubtedly delude themselves that they meet this condition. For this is what lahias and Jalal al-Din say, “not transgressing and not acting unjustly,” to paraphrase: “Not acting unfairly against others, and not making the roads unsafe, and not rebelling from obedience to the priests, and not going too far in disobedience to God.” Marracci says that Saint Paul did not teach this and indeed, he did not permit that unlawful things be eaten, either from necessity, or to stave off death itself. And it is even less allowed to eat food if one is forced to do it in contempt of religion, as the example of the Maccabees shows.

Islam displayed another form of laxity when Muhammad allowed the continuation of certain disgraceful pagan practices. When in Q. 4:22-23 he prohibited incestuous marriages, in which he understood most of his race were still complicit, he made concessions to the Arabs. For he said:

Do not marry women wedded to your fathers, excepting those marriages which have already occurred (e.g., if anyone now has stepmothers in matrimony, they can keep them). You are forbidden from your mothers and sisters and your father’s sisters and your mother’s sisters, excepting that which has already passed; for God is indulgent and merciful.

In Q. 2:275, he gravely forbids usury [riba], but he still inserts this [clause]:

This warning from his Lord comes for those who consume interest: if anyone abstains from usury in the future [after this admonition], they may keep what they gained from usury previously; but whoever returns to usury, they will be members of Hell.

With these words, Muhammad conceded that whatever anyone had acquired illicitly through usury could be kept, without paying back the debt. For this reason, he did not need to act according to his own principles, since he had decreed usury absolutely illegal, likening it to theft. For as Augustine says, “There is no remission from sins, unless what was taken away is restored.”

Oath-swearing in religion is holy and not to be profaned by reckless abuse or perjury; but, Muhammad, as is his custom, also gave an example of laxity here. For he had no qualms about swearing in the Qur’an, without any sufficient reason, by things that were often frivolous, as a wicked example for his own followers, such as by dispersing winds, by pregnant women, by ships travelling swiftly, by distributing something, by the pen, by the sun and moon, by winds hurled like a mare’s mane, by violently blowing winds, by dividing winds, by winds taking things away, by flowing winds, by passing winds, by governing winds, by Mount Sinai, by the book written on parchment, by shooting stars, by the reddening dawn, by the layered sky, and other silly things, which I do not have time to recount now. Muhammad treated the impulsive swearing of oaths indifferently. For in Q. 2:225, he says, “God does not refute you if you swear impulsively; but he punishes you because of that which is in your heart, (i.e. if you swear intentionally and knowingly and with foreknowledge): for God is indulgent and merciful.” He repeats the same thing in Q. 5:89. In his gloss, Jalal al-Din explains what is meant by “swearing impulsively”: “If the tongue comes first, it is swearing without internal intention; as when someone says: ‘No, by God! Yes, by God!’. In this, there is no iniquity or impiety.” Finally, although someone might swear knowingly, Muhammad still gives the ability elsewhere in the Qur’an to retreat from their oath within four months, even if the oath is such that the swearer could fulfill its terms without harm to their conscience, according to Muhammad’s principles. In Q. 2:226, he says: “Those who swear that they will not want to be involved with their wives in the future,” that is, by divorcing them (because it is lawful and a matter of indifference to the Muslims), “a pause of four months” is allowed to them, within which, “if they change their mind, God will be indulgent and merciful.” Muhammad brings in this license both for his own benefit and for the benefit of others. For, as lahias himself says, “Hafsa (Muhammad’s wife) once set out to visit her father; and when she came back she caught the Messenger of God (Muhammad, a wonderful

Moral Laxity of Islam 71 messenger of God, indeed!) with her slave girl Maria in her house. And so, after Maria had come out, Hafsa came to the Messenger of God, saying: ‘Did I not see what woman was with you in my house?.’ To which God’s Messenger says: ‘By God, I swear, I will never lie down with her in the future’.” Muhammad, although he felt that it was very painful for him, abstained from shameless meetings with Maria. But he soon remembered the privilege that he had heard in Gabriel’s address, which he imagines in Q. 66:1-2,

O Prophet! Why do you abstain from that which God has made lawful out of mere desire to please your wives (who because of their jealousy hardly put up with your license); although God is in favor and merciful? For He has already sanctified it for your sake, so that you can absolve yourself from your oaths.

I cannot give more examples of the unrestrained freedom and laxity of Islam if I am to be brief; nor is there any need, since I have already said enough. But we should touch on the preconceptions from which Muhammad deduced this laxity. These are almost the same things that pseudo-Christians tend to abuse on the pretext of impiety and carnal pleasures against ‘the truth in Jesus Christ’; but these are more effective among the Muslims, since they are approved in Qur’anic law, and therefore have the authority of the divine word.

Evidently, the first [preconception] is that extraordinary indulgence of God, fashioned by the impostor; on which I have this to say in brief. Muhammad devises a religion which, by the great beneficence of God, progressively becomes more and more easy for humankind so that no cause can remain for mortals to complain about. Hence, he said that Judaism was grave and harsh, Christianity easier, and Islam the easiest. To this end, in Q. 3:50, he makes Jesus, our Messiah, speak accordingly: “I come to confirm that which was before me from the law of Moses, so that I can make lawful the part of that which was prohibited to you.” Concerning himself in Q. 7:157, he says:

Anyone who follows Muhammad the Messenger, the unlettered Prophet, whose description they find in their Torah and the Gospel, advising them about what is just, and prohibiting them from what is unjust, and allowing them what is good, and banning for them what is bad, he who takes away their heavy burden from them, and their chains that were on them; these men are blessed.

Also, in Q. 2:286, when he is speaking to his Muslims:

Do not place a heavy burden on me, just as you placed one on those who were before me; and do not force me to carry, O Lord, for what [must be carried] I do not have enough strength for; but spare me, and pardon me, and pity me.

Indeed, these words do not seem to have such a disagreeable meaning, concerning the annulment of Jewish ceremonies; since Peter (Acts 15:10) asserted that they were “an unbearable yoke,” but the reasoning of the times prevents us from interpreting Muhammad’s statements in this way. For Muhammad generally decried “the burden of those who were before us” and chronology necessitates that both Christians and Jews are being referenced. Furthermore, the burden of the laws of the Levites, as Muslims themselves admit, had already been taken away beforehand by Christ, nor was it necessary for Muhammad to reintroduce them unless he wished to do so. But then it is a wonder if it had been decreed to Muhammad to make religion easier in this way. Nevertheless, the false prophet restored ceremonies that were already annulled by Christ, such as circumcision, the rite of washing sacred objects, forbidden foods, sacrifices, and the Nazirite vow. I pass over the rites of pilgrimage to Mecca, gargling, throwing stones near Ka‘ba or the shrine at Mecca, and so on, which Muhammad added on top of the old rites. Therefore, I think, to use Marracci’s words,

that the Great Muhammad was lax, and a friend to license and sinful freedom. And that he was not speaking about the Jews, whose graver legal or ceremonial precepts Muhammad was aware that Christ had already absolved; but about Christians, and the weight of the Gospel law: which, since the whole is holy and immaculate, prohibits divorce, polygamy, revenge, retaliation, and other laxities of this kind. On the contrary, it orders indissoluble marriage to one wife, charity towards enemies, kindness, chastity, abstinence, humility, perpetual self-denial, contempt of all worldly things, and other perfect virtues of this kind. Gospel law seemed too burdensome and completely unbearable to Muhammad, who was totally addicted to sex, his stomach, murder, rapine and worldly glory.

The second preconception is Muhammad’s opinion on God’s indulgence and kindness, which the Qur’an abuses as if it were under the protection of a veil of piety. For the reader will remember that Muhammad, when he relaxed the reins of license either to lust, or to gross hypocrisy and denial of God, or to incest, or finally to perjury, added this tagline: “For God is lenient and merciful.” He repeats this very sentence throughout the Qur’an so often that it almost turns into a sort of punctuation mark, although it is frequently irrelevant. Muhammad presumes to divine impunity with his profane reasoning, frequently and carelessly appealing to God’s mercy.

The third preconception is the tolerance for human stupidity and impotence. Muhammad inculcates a recognition of stupidity in men not with the purpose of leading them to an internal affliction over their own inability, to be seriously recognized and detested, but only to foster

Moral Laxity of Islam 73 laziness, petulance, and impudence. Let Q. 4:28, be an example, where, when he had permitted to his followers a crowd of wives, he knew of no refuge beyond this: “God wants to give you relief, since man was created weak”; as Jalal al-Din’s gloss explains, man cannot restrain himself from women and lusts. But, as if by divine grace, I have noticed that many Gentiles have abstained from these things, however blind and unknown they are to God, with only the strength of their character to abstain from gross lusts of this kind.

Yet it is a great wonder that Muhammad, although he knew that man’s nature was so enormously weak, nevertheless “required nothing more from man than what he is capable of” and this is his fourth preconception. This can only increase Muslims’ sense of security, giving a pretext for the most open intemperate behaviors. Muhammad says “I do not drive man beyond what he is capable of”; Q. 23:62, Q. 2:286, Q. 6:152, and often elsewhere. For this is as familiar a saying of Muhammad’s, as is ‘easiness’ in 6 above. Therefore, Muhammad either abolishes “the heaviness in the law,” as Christ calls it (Matthew 23:23), since it is set beyond our strength (and this indeed is Muhammad’s opinion); or, if he does not abolish it, he at least accommodates the law to man’s choice and natural ability. This is not far from popular flattery for it is pleasing to men that whatever they can manage is the true worship required by God.

The fifth preconception concerns downplaying sins of weakness as they call it or more venial sins; as if they did not offend God or impart guilt on man. On this matter Muhammad says in Q. 33:5, “A charge will not be upon you, if you are ever deluded, but only if your hearts show intention, (i.e., if you do it by design and with premeditation); for God favors you and is merciful.” In Q. 53:32, he says, “Your Lord will certainly be more indulgent on you who avoid more serious vices and do not commit anything except venial sins.” And finally, in Q. 4:31, “Avoid only more serious sins, which are prohibited to you, and I will expiate you of your evil (more venial) sins and give you the best introduction into Paradise”; the more serious sins are in Jalal al-Din’s opinion, upon which a warning of punishment falls from God, such as homicide, fornication, theft. Anyone, who is not a murderer, or fornicator, or thief, is thus capable of hoping for divine grace and salvation. But of course, if someone does not care about ‘venial’ sins they would not care greatly about ‘more serious’ sins.

Muhammad’s sixth preconception is forgiveness of all sins, even more serious ones, with a declaration of faith in professing one God, that is orthodox Islam. For Muhammad says in Q. 4:48, “Certainly God will not forgive another god being associated with Himself; but He will forgive any other sin that He wishes.” He repeats this in verse 116. But what Muhammad says about God showing remission for all sins, except idolatry and polytheism, cannot be understood, except in this sense: anysin, except idolatry and the worship of many gods, is presumed to be condoned by God, even if a sinner never repents nor ceases his sin. This is because (if Muhammad understood the sins to be forgiven after a serious renunciation and penitence for the future) not even polytheism should be called unforgivable, since Muhammad himself, along with his allies, clung to it until he was forty, and sought pardon nevertheless. But Muslim tradition agrees with this, and they heard it from Muhammad’s mouth, in the thirtieth part of al-Bukharl’s Sahih al-BukharL For it says that their Prophet said: “Gabriel came to me, and brought me a happy message; because assuredly anyone who was dead, and did not associate with another god at all (i.e., worshipped no other God except Him) will go to Paradise. The narrator says, “I said to the Prophet: ‘But, what if he was a thief, or an adulterer’? And the Prophet responded: Even if he was a thief, or an adulterer.” I leave theologians to judge whether this is analogous to the Trentines who dream about “the faithful being fornicators, adulterers, soft, lying with men, thieves, greedy, accursed, rapacious, and everyone else who commits fatal sins.” See also al-Tha‘labi’s commentary which says this: “This verse shows the falsity of the proposition of the Kharijites—the word for Heretics among the Muslims—who think that a serious sinner is an infidel.” On this agreement of Muhammad with Pontifical doctrine, Marracci, a man otherwise deserving merit against the Islamic sect, almost congratulates him.

While I am describing the indulgence and laxity of Islam, the bans and precepts of the Qur’an might also come to the reader’s mind, of which there are indeed many serious ones. They appear more austere than indulgent, and therefore my words would seem not to retort against them enough. As far as the ‘bans’ are concerned, the prohibition of wine, the ban on usury, along with various kinds of forbidden food, and more of that kind, from which mortals abstain with difficulty will perhaps stands against my argument. But my concern is valid. For first, Muhammad could not be without bans of this kind since, if nothing had been totally prohibited, the deceit of his false religion would have been more easily exposed and would not have been so effective at enthralling minds. It was enough for Muhammad and his undertaking if he promised a license to his followers that neither Jewish law nor Christ’s Gospel had ever permitted, so long as the law [i.e., Muhammad’s law] still seemed to be religious. But then I hardly see what stops any Muslim, if he thinks that the bans are too heavy for him, from temporarily removing the difficulty by that canon of Abu al-Qasim; whatever harshness is contained in the Qur’an was annulled through these words: “God wills light and easy things from you, and not heavy and difficult things.” Certainly, Muhammad himself relaxed the law about not eating pork and other foods. It is also notable that Muhammad in this very prohibition of unclean food showed an example of his populism. Marracci says that pork was rejected by Arabs as they thought it was harmful to the body’s

Moral Laxity of Islam 75 health. Muhammad knew that camel (prohibited by the law of Moses, permitted by Muhammad) was greatly in use among the Arabs; for this reason, he suited the laws to their inclination and taste. Nor should there be any fear that the prohibition of interest might be too harmful to Muslims, since he devised a method of abstaining from interest, and yet of loaning out money with the hope of profit from others. Finally, Muslims should more easily go without wine, since their own legislator indulged them with the best drinks, made with grapes and other fruits. As Marracci attests, Muslims freely and copiously drink even wine, nor, as I think, without legitimate credibility: since the two primary interpreters, Jalal al-Dln2 and al-Zamakhshari, decided that the prohibition in Q. 2:219 and 5:90 does not ban wine absolutely, but “an excessive enthusiasm and devotion to it”; and Muhammad himself, elsewhere in Q. 16:67, praises wine as the best drink and God’s special favor.

But as far as the Qur’an’s requirements are concerned, at first glance they indeed seem strict; but if one considers them in depth, they are such that both hypocrites and the openly shameless can meet them without difficulty. For the Qur’an’s whole structure fosters a vain presumption of holiness; it has no relevance to true holiness or to a solid change of heart and all of man’s faculties (which the divine law of the sacred Letters demands). Most of the laws are merely civil, such as on inheritance, debt, war, marriage, or they are ceremonial like prayers, washing and sacred pilgrimages, punishing sins, and other things of this kind, which are freely performed, as the way to Paradise is thought to be made shorter through rites and exterior acts rather than through an earnest renunciation of the self and the world.

Let us suppose that the fight against infidels, which is seriously inculcated in Muslims in all of Sura 9, is inconvenient to Muslims, yet what can be more popular and more pleasing than a promise of great spoils? In Q. 8:70, this finds favor, especially among the Arabs, a race accustomed to living by plunder. Or what can lighten their sense of inconvenience more than the promise that whoever dies in the war against infidels will cross immediately into Paradise, entitled to eternal joys? In Q. 2:154-5, Muhammad says:

Do not say that those who fall (that is, in war for religion) in the path of God are dead; indeed, rather they live. You do not know the truth, upon them will be blessings from his Lord, and mercy; and they are obtained directly.

Again, in Q. 3:157-8,

If you are killed in the war against infidels, or die, certainly the indulgence and mercy from God will be better than what others who stay at home get. And if you die or are killed, you will certainly be assembled before God.

Moreover, the precepts of Muhammad do not have one kind of value among the Muslims. For some precepts are ‘of the law’ and ‘necessary,’ others of ‘tradition,’ and finally others of ‘addition.’ Therefore, let us take up some of the fundamental requirements of the previous kind, which are called “the roots and pillars of the law” by Muslims, and treated as five in Marracci’s definition in Tractatus de legibus Islamiticis: professing the unity of God, almsgiving, prayers, fasting, and pilgrimage to the shrine at Mecca, to which Abu al-Faraj adds “cleanliness in the body’s extremities.” None of these requirements are too heavy for the Muslims. For the first is discharged with that formula, which for the Muslims is symbolic: “There is no God except the one God.” This profession of faith is also a source of salvation for thieves and brigands among the Muslims. However, it can be abnegated in times of peril if it is dangerous to profess it.

Muhammad advises alms to be given often. But Marracci says that there are two kinds of alms-giving among the Muslims, one zakat, which is properly a kind of tribute or a tithe for the expense of wars against infidels, and the second sadaqa, or spontaneous alms for beggars and the poor. For the first, Q. 57:10 says,

Hence you will not refrain from alms on the path of God for war against infidels, since God has the inheritance of heaven and earth. Anyone among you who pays out (zakat) before victory and then fights has no equal; they will be greater in rank than those who fight and pay out afterwards. But God promised the best (i.e., paradise) to everyone.

Thus, it was greatly in Muhammad’s interest to exact such alms-giving from his followers if he wanted to wage war on his neighbors. Concerning this, see Q. 2:215-6, where he says, “They will ask you, what or how much should they give to poor people? Respond: the leftover.” Truly this is so generalized and ambiguous that I think that greedy Muslims will never have anything ‘leftover’: nor, if they give any alms, do they do it because of the rigor of the law, rather than for the sake of ostentation or merit.

Concerning prayers, Q. 4:103 says this: “Prayers are prescribed for the faithful, decreed at specified times.” Muslims pray five times according to their legal precept: in the morning, at noon, in the afternoon, at sunset, and finally after sunset. Because of these five prayers (arduous command, certainly!) Muslims persuade themselves that they are the true worshippers, who Christ predicted would worship God in spirit and in truth (John 4:23). But if the matter is to be measured by number of prayers, they should certainly concede to David, since he says in Psalms 119:164 that “he praises God” not just five times, as the Muslims do, but “seven times a day,” to say nothing of the unceasing prayers ordered by Christ (Luke 18:1).

But can fasting deter men from Islam? No, indeed it is not to be feared, since Muhammad’s fasting was arranged so that is doubtful if even the

Moral Laxity of Islam 77 fattest Epicurean could ever desire more profuse pleasures and lusts than Muhammad permitted in times of fasting. Let us hear the man himself preaching about this matter in Q. 2:187,

At night during a fast you are permitted conjugal access to your wives, for they are your garment, and you are their garment. God knows, that (in the beginning of Islam) you defrauded your souls in this: He had mercy on you and indulged you. Therefore, enter into them, and seek what God prescribed for you, and eat and drink all night until you can distinctly discern a white thread from a black one in the dawn.

An outstanding fast, and against which it can be said from the most eminent law: “What is this fasting that I have chosen?” (Isaiah 58:5). And yet assuredly, whatever justice there was in such a burdensome fast, Muhammad indulged, or as I say, managed it, not only “for the sick and likewise travelers,” so that it could be transferred to other days; but also for those “who could fast,” so that they could completely omit fasting without any pretext, “as long as they redeem it by feeding one poor person.” To which that trite phrase applies, “God wants easy things for you, and does not want hard things for you” in Q. 2:185.

Pilgrimage, or visiting the shrine of Mecca, which Marracci profusely explains, involves difficulties so small that I think it cannot dissuade any Arab from Islam since Muhammad did not introduce it as a new thing, but preserved [the shrine] already long frequented by pagan Arabs over the course of many centuries. Muhammad’s desire to please the people of Arabia with this law is indeed well-known. During the same pilgrimage, he ordered the mountains of Mecca, Safa and Marwa, once sacred idols, to be circled in the old rite of the pagans, in Q. 2:158. He had no cause for doing this except to soothe his Arabs, long accustomed to this thing. On top of that, many Muslims went on that pilgrimage for the sake of trade, which was greatest at that time at Mecca because it was the confluence of the whole Orient, and this was permitted by Muhammad, not without the precedent of this sacred ceremony, in Q. 2:196. Finally, whoever has only once set out on that account [to Mecca] in their whole life has done enough for this requirement. Also, if the route to [Mecca] was not safe, or if one could not afford to go on the pilgrimage, the religion did not oblige them.

Finally, on purification, or Muslim cleanliness, the Qur’an does not go farther than Abu al-Faraj’s precise description as washing “a man’s outermost parts, that is, the face, hands, elbows, head, feet, and ankles.” Indeed, in Q. 5:6, Muhammad says:

O faithful, when you stand to do prayers, first wash your face, and your hands up to the elbows, and scrub your head, and likewise yourfeet up to your ankles, and if you are unclean because of sex, wash yourselves with water. Or, if you are ill or on a journey, (so that water is not available, or does not help), or if one of you comes from the toilet, or if you touch women, and cannot find water, take some good dust for purification (a ridiculous purification!) and rub your face and hands with it. God does not want to place any difficulty on you.

Thus, Q. 4:43 [says the same thing], however, there is no inner spiritual purification. Although more prudent Muslims portray it as allegorical, such as al-Ghazäli, who establishes four stages of purification: first, cleanliness of the body from excrement of the stomach, impurities, and excess; second, cleanliness of the limbs from wickedness and iniquity; third, cleanliness of the heart from vices and depraved habits; and fourth, cleanliness of the secret (i.e., heart) from everything except God. Al-Ghazäli greatly grieves since Muslims meanwhile have “internal desolation and are full of the vices of arrogance, pride, ignorance and hypocrisy.” In truth, when Isma‘11, the son of ‘Ali Abü’l-Fidä, describes the difference between Christianity and Islam, he says: “Christians do not use purification before prayer, and they disapprove of the Jews’ and Muslims’ purification, asserting that the foundation should be placed in purity of the heart.” Even a Muslim affirms this. Therefore, that alone teaches us that Islam is superficial, lax, easy, and only occupied with externals.

This is what I have undertaken to explain briefly with my study. I ask God to illuminate the many races poorly deceived by Muhammad’s frauds with the light of His Gospel! May He preserve me and sanctify me in His truth since the Word is His Truth.

Notes

1 Michaelis’ biography was compiled from the following sources: Heinrich Döring, Die Gelehrten Theologen Deutschlands im achtzehnten und neunzehnten Jahrhundert. Nach ihrem Leben und Wirken dargestellt (Neustadt an der Orla: Johann Karl Gottfried Wagner, 1832), 498-502; Carl Gustav Adolf Siegfried, “Michaelis, Christian Benedikt,” in Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie, vol. 21 (Leipzig: Duncker & Humblot, 1885), 676-7; R. Kittel, “Christian Benedikt Michaelis, in Real-Enyklopädie für protestantische Theologie und Kirche, ed. Johann Herzog and Albert Hauck (Leipzig: Hinrichs, 1903), 53-54; Manfred Fleischhammer, “Die Orientalistik an der Universität Halle (1694-1937): Eine Skizze,” Wissenschaftliche Zeitschrift Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg 7 (1958): 877-84; Christoph Bochinger, Abenteuer Islam: Zur Wahrnehmung fremder Religion im Hallenser Pietismus des 18. Jahrhunderts, Habilitationsschrift (München: LMU, 1996), 58-68; Christian Stephan, Die stumme Fakultät: Biographische Beiträge zur Geschichte der theologischen Fakultät der Universität Halle (Dössel: Stekovics, 2005), 49-50; Michael C. Legaspi, The

Moral Laxity of Islam 79

Death of Scripture and the Rise of Biblical Studies (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), 84-85; Avi Lifschitz, Language and Enlightenment: The Berlin Debates of the Eighteenth Century (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), 96-99.

2 [MK] The name refers to the author of TafsTr al-Jalalayn, one of the most significant commentaries (tafsTr) of the Qur’an. Composed by the two “Jalals” - Jalal al-Dln al-Mahalli (d. 864/1459) and his pupil Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti (d. 911/1505), TafsTr al-Jalalayn is generally regarded as one of the most easily accessible works of Qur’anic exegesis because of its simple style and length.

 
Source
< Prev   CONTENTS   Source   Next >