Adventures of an Islamic Reformer at Oxford, London, and Istanbul
To publicly discuss my recent book, Manifesto for Islamic Reform, I was invited to give four lectures in November 3-10, 2008. The topics were: A Manifesto for Islamic Reform, and Why Quran Alone through Reason:
- MECO, Oxford University, November 3.
- MECO, Oxford University, November 4.
- The Muslim Institute, London, November 5.
- TUYAP Book Fair, Istanbul, November 8.
Prof Taj Hargey, the founder of MECO (Muslim Educational Center of Oxford), picked me up from the airport with an old diesel Volkswagen. I had picked the wrong airport and thus he had to drive more than two hours in a heavy traffic to pick me up. Like all bloody Britons, he drove on the wrong side of the road, which made me experience constant anticipation of an imminent bloody traffic accident. Though Taj is a scholar in a prestigious school, he is not a stereotypical one. To my delight, I found him not be a pretentious snob living in ivory towers; he was a humble and a committed activist, a veteran who had tasted victory against the apartheid regime during his years in South Africa. His dedication to the message of rational monotheism or islam appeared to be exemplary. He is both a general and a soldier; a professor and a student; a leader and comrade. Almost single-handedly, with a shoe-string budget, he is putting a good fight against the powerful forces of Sunni and Shiite establishment, and at the same time fighting against the aggression of the British government. Forces of corruption from Saudi, Iran and Pakistan are spending hundreds of millions of pounds to keep the Muslim minority ignorant and backward. The bloody mullahs have interest in keeping the Muslim minority in ghettoes and Taj is struggling to create a British Muslim identity.
Taj told me that his organization lost about fifty percent of its membership for letting Prof. Amina Wadud lead the congregational prayer two weeks before my arrival. Though I find inconsistencies in Amina Wadud’s theological position, she is a brave sister who is reminding Sunni and Shiite population the Quranic verse 49:13, a universal maxim of their holy book, which they have abandoned for the sake of fabricated teachings called hadith and sunna.
As it seems, a woman leading the prayer was the last straw on mullah’s back; they unanimously excommunicated Taj and his organization. I was happy to learn that Taj was not naïve about the regressive powers against the reform movement and he was even more determined to fight against misogynistic mullahs. While he was hosting me, he was busy preparing for the upcoming annual music festival. Of course, music too is another divine blessing that mullahs prohibit. Imagine a singing muslim woman in front of men! Music + woman + spotlight! That would be a triple nightmare for them and Taj was going to organize it with an international flavor. Kill those self-righteous hair-splitting mullahs with beauty and music!
Multiple Choice Test or Theological Acid Test
My first lecture at Oxford University was received very well. We had productive discussions. A graduate student argued for historicity, that is, reading and usually limiting the Quran with its historic context. His friend criticized our reliance on science in understanding the Quranic verses. Citing a few abuses of such an approach, she wanted to refute any understanding of Quranic verses according to scientific facts. It took about ten minutes to show her the problems with her allergy against science and the problem with doubting proven mathematical statements. If there is any book on earth that should have complete compatibility with proven scientific facts and mathematics, it would be the books sent by the creator of the universe. I knew that their hidden distrust in Quran was the main factor in their rejection of science and mathematics. It is interesting that they employ impressive academic jargons to make such arguments.
I had prepared a test containing 45 multiple choice questions just the night before my travel. I duplicated them on both sides of a single sheet and I distributed to the audience before the lecture… They were asked to write their name, age, occupation, email address, favorite authors, and their sectarian affiliation. It was a bit awkward to test an audience that consisted of students and professors at one of the world’s top universities. The multiple-choice test proved to be a powerful instrument to deliver the message of Islamic Reform under the light of the Quran. The correct answer for each multiple choice question was the E option, and for the Yes or No questions was the B option. So, it would take me a few seconds to evaluate the tests after they were returned to me.
The Sunni or Shiite test-takers found themselves in quagmire of contradiction with their own sectarian teachings. They learned that they were thirty, forty or even more than fifty percent infidels or heretics. Some of those who marked Sunni as their sectarian affiliation contradicted the Sunni teachings on most of the issues. According to their own confessed sects, their lives were worthless; they deserved to be killed! I did not let this mirror or sect-o-meter remain an individual experience; I publicly declared the overall results. Many got all answers correct, including Eric, a monotheist from Unitarian church who already had a copy of the Quran: a Reformist Translation in his possession. Eric knew the original message of islam better than all the mullahs and the so-called “ulama” combined. And Eric was one of those muslims from among the People of the Book described by 2:62 and 74:31.
Let’s Have Just One Percent Please, Just One Percent!
A Sunni professor who attended the lecture together with his wife could not handle the questions; he stopped after answering a few. It was amusing how during the discussion session he tried to bargain with me about the teachings of Hadith and Sunna. He realized that he could not defend most of the hadiths and sectarian teachings, so he begged for a compromise: “What about just 1% hadith?” I did not yield. I told him that we did not need to add even a tiny drop of coli bacteria into our food. Even one percent of shirk (partnership with God) is evil, and that one percent would mean that we still rejected God’s repeated assertion that His book is detailed, complete, clarified and sufficient for guidance. Furthermore, that one percent hole in the book would be small; yet, it would allow insects, then mice and then get even bigger enough for a litter of pigs, perhaps bearded ones, to intrude. I reminded him that there was no difference between associating one partner or hundred partners to God.
The following night was the continuation of the previous lecture. I focused on the importance of critical thinking and using our God-given 19 rules of inference. I warned them against developing schizophrenic personalities, which almost all religious people do. I started with the following words:
Before putting anything in our mouths we observe the color, smell its odor. If it looks rotten or smells bad we do not touch it. If food passes the eye and nose tests, then our taste buds will be the judge. If a harmful bit fools all those examinations, our stomach come to rescue; it revolts and throws them up. There are many other organs that function as stations for testing, examination, and modification of imported material into our bodies. They ultimately meet our smart and vigilant nano-guards: white cells. Sure, there are many harmful or potentially harmful foods that pass all the way through our digestive system into our blood, such as alcohol and fat. Nevertheless, without using our reasoning faculty much if at all, we have an innate system that protects our body from harmful substances. It would be a mystery then how we can input information and assertions, especially the most bizarre ones, into our brains without subjecting them to the rigorous test of critical thinking. Our brains should never become trashcans of false ideas, holy viruses, unexamined dogmas and superstitions. We should be wise!
How can we protect our minds and brains? Do we have an innate system that protects us from harmful or junky ideas, especially dogmas or jingoisms that could turn us into zombies or self-righteous evil people? Yes we do: our logic is the program that detects and protects us against the most harmful viruses, which usually find their way when we are hypnotized by crowds, salespeople, politicians or clergymen.
The Prominent Imam with an Illiterate Role Model
For the third lecture, Taj took me to London. There I was going to give a lecture at Muslim Institute. I met some of familiar names, authors that I have known decades before, such as Dr. Ziyauddin Sardar and Dr. Ghayasudding Siddiqui. I also met some young reformers such as Farouk Peru, and Yusuf Desai and Nosheen Oezcan of Forward Thinking. I was positively surprised that with the exception of an imam there, who was considered a moderate and open minded one, they did not react in angry temper tantrums to my invitation to follow the Quran alone.
The imam rejected the Manifesto for Islamic Reform wholesale with a passionate opening. He accused me of distorting the facts. To substantiate his opposition, Imam Abduljalil Sajid picked one out of my assertions. He argued that Muhammad must have been illiterate. He did not provide an alternative take against my depiction of such illiteracy to be either an insult to Muhammad’s intelligence or his intention. He did not bother to explain how a role model, a divinely selected messenger would not be able to recognize 28 Alphabet letters in 63 years of his life (two years for each letter!), or during the 23 years he received revelation that encouraged its audience to attain knowledge by reading. He did not deal with the problem of the alternative explanation, that is, how a role model could deliberately keep himself illiterate for all his life! Somehow, our imam, like all other religious leaders, had great tolerance for contradictions. His brain was filled with so many; he had perhaps given up from resolving them… A perfect example of intellectually boiled frog syndrome! I had empathy for him, since in my youth I was one of them. I let him vent his frustration.
Imam Abduljalil argued that the word Iqra did not mean read, but it meant recite. So, according to him, despite the instruction of verse 96:1, Muhammad could still have been illiterate. It was a late Monday night and we did not have time to engage in a lengthy discussion. For instance, I could remind him his own hadith which reported the first encounter of Muhammad and Angel Gabriel. According to that hadith report, when he was instructed with the first verse of chapter 96, Iqra, to make Muhammad read the visually displayed Quran, the angel squeezed him like a lemon several times when Muhammad claimed “wa ma ana biqarin” (I cannot read). Obviously that hadith report did not mean that Muhammad was incapable of repeating a word with two syllabi; it meant that he could not recognize the letters… He was contradiction with the hadith that was the basis for his assertion. I picked another argument.
— Let’s assume that you are right regarding the meaning of Iqra. Then, what is the Arabic word for “read”?
— Well, there must have been a word for reading in Arabic, since the Quran talks about books, about pen, about writing…
Our imam who started his criticism with a loud denunciation suddenly turned mute. He could not even come up with a single word. I did not wish to push him further, since everyone in the room realized that he either did not know what he was arguing about or he realized that he was wrong. I remembered the most ridiculous praises in human history, where Muhammad is praised by millions for his illiteracy with the distorted meaning of the word “ummy” uttered together with another distorted word “sally“. Thinking about the low illiteracy among the so-called Muslim population, I did not let the issue go away without a conclusive ending. I wanted to prove to him and everyone else that Muhammad was literate.
So, I used one of my successful teaching tools, which I employed first time in 1987 to convince Ali Bulaç, a prominent and prolific Muslim thinker who has numerous books and a Turkish Quran translation. After following my instructions, Ali was convinced in less than a minute that Muhammad must have been literate. Imagine the power of debunking the consensus of all Sunni and Shiite scholars in less than a minute! Imagine convincing a famous and popular Sunni author that all his Sunni scholars were wrong about an important issue. All in less than a minute! Yet, this proof has been implicitly provided in the Quran with the revelation of its first verses, through the very verses instructing how to read the Quran. What a marvelous book!
So, I tried that Quranic educational tool. I asked the imam to grab the pen and write down the beginning of chapter 96: “Bismillahirrahmanirarrahim. Iqra bismi rabbika allazi khalaq” That’s it. Surprise: he did not wish to write it. Perhaps he was scared to continue engaging in a Socratic dialog. Had he written those few words, I would ask him why he wrote both words the same. Surely, he would be justified to spell them the same, since both were pronounced the same and meant the same. Then, I would ask him to look at the spelling of the Quran. He would notice that the one in Bismillah was consisted of three letters, BSM, but the one in the following verse was spelled with an extra aleph, BISM. So, even if we assume that Muhammad did not write the revelation of the Quran with his own hand, even if we believe in the stories of him dictating to scribes, he must have at least known the letter Aleph. If he knew Aleph, then he was at least 1/28th literate! “I proved that he knew the letter Aleph and now it is your turn to prove that he did not know the letter B, the second letter in alphabet,” I would nicely ask. If our imam got stuck again, I would perhaps go forward and ask him about the different spelling of Mecca and Becca or the curious spelling of Bastata in verse 7:69.
I wanted to end the argument with the imam with an exposition. I knew his problem and I knew the fastest way to expose it. I told the audience that the gentleman was arguing about God’s system without knowledge and without an enlightening book. I announced that I was going to prove that he did not in fact have respect for the Quran. I started reading from verse 6:145 and then posed him my question: “Do you have any other source or any other witness that adds more dietary prohibitions to the four items listed in this verse?” If he said no, he would contradict numerous hadiths and all sectarian teachings. If he said Yes, he would contradict this verse and would be exposed by the following verses as a “mushrik” (polytheist) for attributing the manmade religious prohibitions to God. He did not rush into saying Yes, as most of the Sunni scholars recklessly do. To my question regarding additional dietary prohibitions, he responded with extreme caution: “May be or may be not!” What? You are an “imam” in your fifties and you have eaten thousands of meals and you still do not know what is prohibited? And you are refuting the Quran alone for a “may be or may be not”? Do you exist? “Maybe or may be not?” Is eating shrimp haram? “Maybe or maybe not!” Is eating lobster haram? “Maybe or maybe not!” Are you okay? “Maybe or maybe not!”
For some of the audiences, that was the last straw that broke their already stressed respect for the imam. Several people got frustrated with him. One of them loudly yelled at him with animated arms: “If you do not know such a simple thing, then why are you debating with the guest speaker? Let him talk.” Hearing his own people reprimanding him, the imam quietly left the room. I felt bad for him, but what he was doing was very wrong. He was trying to keep people in the darkness of ignorance. He was promoting shirk (polytheism) under the guise of monotheism. He was pretending to respect the prophet Muhammad while he was disrespecting the only book he delivered. He was insulting his intelligence by claming that he remained illiterate until his death. Yet, he insisted putting Muhammad’s name next to God every time he uttered the monotheistic maxim. I hope that after hearing the message, he will show courage and wisdom to reject the fabricated Hadith and Sunna and uphold the Quran alone.
Detention at the Airport by the Turkish Police
The moment I arrived at the airport in Istanbul, I was immediately arrested by half a dozen young police officers who appeared to be celebrating the catch. After a boring day, they had a Turkish author (again) from the USA. I was informed about three charges against me, all involving political criticism of Turkish government and its policies. Some consisted of distortions of my published articles, exaggerations, or words taken out-of-context. And most did not even belong to me; they belonged to anonymous people who visit my websites and post their political opinions and criticism at the forums.
They took me to a nearby police station. When I entered the room, I noticed a poster filled with flags under the title: Independent Turkish Republics. Yes, in plural! I have no problem with such a sense of Turkish idealism. In fact, years ago, when the Turkish nations declared independence from Russia, I hoped and promoted an aggressive Turkish policy to create a unified block. Unfortunately, Turkey missed such an opportunity. However, when I heard the phone ring of an officer, I started getting a bit concerned. It was playing the Yeni Çeri march, “Ceddin deden, ceddin baban… hep kahraman Türk milleti…” (Your ancestors your grandparents, your ancestors your fathers… The Turkish nation has always been heroic…) At that point, I knew that I was among an openly racist police department. I have suffered from Turkish racism in many ways. For instance, my young brother Metin Yüksel, a legendary youth leader, was killed by Turkish fascists in 1979. I know first hand the evil of racism.
To my surprise and delight, the Turkish police was very kind and respectful. I am not sure how much of it was because of my American passport, but I think they had a radical change in attitude. They followed the legal procedure to the letter. They informed me about my right to stay silent, my right not to stay more than 24 hour in jail without going to the court. They were music to my ears; I felt as if I was dealing with a nice American police officer. The jail, which I spent the night, was very clean. I laid down on the floor, reading the Newsweek Magazine, a book on Evolution and Intelligent design, and Professor Stewart’s Cabinet of Mathematical Curiosities. It was the best night ever I spent in a Turkish jail! Sure, this was a very low traffic police station and they could keep it cleaner than usual. Regardless, I could not believe in such a change, since it was very different from my experience with the Turkish police and jails years ago. During my heydays, in 1977-1987, I was a frequent host of those jails and they were horrible. Some would have raw sewer passing through, rats mingle with detainees, and when I get out, I would always get lice as souvenir. Compared to those Turkish jails, this one was like a five star hotel. I command the Turkish government for this great progress in respecting human dignity and rights.
Kurds, the Oppressed Minority
Well, I had also a bad experience, and should share that too. The chief of the police station treated me like a guest. He took me to his office and ordered food for me where I watched the Turkish TV for about an hour. This made me feel uncomfortable; I was kept unjustly yet I was feeling indebted to my captors. The weekly news program 32nd Day was on. The topic of the discussion was the chronic Kurdish problem. The panel had two Turkish politician or author. There was a good debate about the problem which was the making of the racist Turkish policy. The official racist ideology initially denied the existence of Kurds. Before 1970’s, you could not find the word Kurds in the newspapers. The Turkish history text books still consider the Kurdish minority as non existent. Even the great Kurdish leader Salahaddin Ayyubi is described as a Turkish leader. Later, when denial became impossible, the racist Turkish oligarchy described them as Mountain Turks. They did not have a different language, there was no such a language called Kurdish.
Yet, they later shamelessly tried to ban the non-existent language and secured the ban of the language through an article in the Constitution of 1982, which was drafted by the generals who interrupted the young and fragile Turkish democracy, for the third time. The paranoid Turkish racism terrorized those Kurds who were politically active through contra-guerillas, mafia, and Gray Wolf fascists. They kidnapped, tortured and assassinated numerous Kurdish authors and leaders… In a journal article titled “Yes, I am a Kurd,” I exposed the racist Turkish policy against Kurds. “My people are denied their identity, their culture, language, naming their own children, using their own land and living in freedom and security.” (See: http://www.yuksel.org/e/law/kurd.htm ) Kurds were even denied to celebrate their cultural holidays, such as, the Newroz (New Year). Its celebration was banned. When the racist policy politicized Kurds and led to the creation of various Kurdish political movements, including the terrorist PKK organization, the Turkish government was forced to recognize Newroz. Not as a Kurdish holiday, but a newly discovered ancient Turkish holiday! Since like religion, racism is capable of turning smart people into stupid people, they could not even think about the name of the holiday: The name of the officially hijacked Kurdish holiday was made of two Persian or Kurdish words: New (new) Roz (Day). In last decade, Kurds have received many rights, but with a huge cost, after losing the lives of tens of thousands and destruction of thousands of towns in South Eastern Turkey. The desire of Kurdish people for equality and dignity is still an ongoing struggle.
Back to the TV program… While listening to the panelists, the young police officer who had been treating me so nicely suddenly confessed: “If I did not have any expectation from life, I would get a machine gun and kill all of them.” The other police officer, who was as young and nice, joined him by declaring his solution for the Kurdish problem: “We should just adopt the ways of our Ottoman ancestors; we should erect hundreds of stakes on the streets and hang hundreds of them on them. Then, you will not hear any Kurdish problem!” Now I knew why their phones were singing Ottoman military marches.
I did not raise objection. It would be futile to discuss with a group of racist police officers while they had me in their possession. Ignorance and arrogance feed each other, and they had plenty of both. Well, later I would be engaging in a Socratic dialogue with a bored nationalist police officer who stood by curiously asking some questions through the bars. Like most racists, he was in denial of his racism. But, all his arguments were biased and Turkish-centered. According to him, there was no problem in forcing Kurdish children to say “My existence should be a sacrificial to the existence of Turkishness” or “One Turk equals to the World,” or “How happy is he who says ‘I am a Turk'”. Our discussion lasted about two hours until he was tired standing on his feet. I think, I was able to penetrate his consciousness, showed him the mirror and placed major doubts in his mind about nationalism, which is one of the worst mental diseases of modern times.
Tried in two Continents in one Day
The Turkish police shuttled me between two courts, one in Asian the other in the European part of Istanbul, rushing to beat the deadline so that I would not stay in jail until the next Monday. I was not handcuffed during this travel; except briefly while I was taken to the car by a new police officer whom later was asked by his superior to unlock the handcuff.
I was also very impressed by the temperament of the judges and their just decision to release me and continue the court. When we arrived in Sultanahmet Adliyesi we rushed to the court’s secretary’s office. The judge happened to be sitting there. When he heard my name, he ordered the secretary that he knew where was the thick folder was. He pointed at one of the shelves on the wall. Indeed the folder was filled with papers, that is, copies of the hundreds of articles posted by hundreds of people at the forums of 19.org.
The judge initially worried me by telling me that he would continue the ban for my exit. But, he turned to be a very reasonable person. Perhaps he was just bluffing. Not knowing his intention I asked for time for my attorney to come. The judge happily postponed the court to 2 pm afternoon. He read the illegal statements copied from my website’s forums. They were primitive and colloquial insult words that I never use. I am puritan and I never use cuss words even in my privacy. They were, according to the complaint prosecutor, insulting Turkishness, insulting Turkish flag, insulting Turkish generals, insulting Turkish National Congress, insulting Turkish judges, insulting Turkish prosecutors, and insulting Turkish police officers. The prosecutor had agreed with the informant citizen that I had violated the article 301 of the Criminal Code and a few others. The charges were based on a complaint letter and supportive documents of a cult member, whose name was recognized by my attorney who has been defending the victims of a mahdi wanna-be cult leader. (This cult leader has used the repressive Turkish laws to ban 19.org and many other popular sites, such as wordpress.com, youtube.com, and richarddawkins.net. Following his instructions, his followers are spamming the Internet with ugly false accusations against me.)
As later Taj would comfort me during my return to London, “if they did not accuse you of insulting Turkish pizza, Turkish bath, and Turkish coffee, no problem.” Well, I had problem with the accusations. First, I would never insult Turkish race, since I am not a racist person. I believe that God allowed the children of Adam to diversify in color, culture and language in order to enrich our lives. I know that the superiority is not by color or ethnic group, but by righteous acts. Besides teaching philosophy at college, I was also teaching Turkish classes at my younger son’s K-12 school in Arizona. According to the cultural attaché at the Turkish embassy in Washington, I was the first person in America that started teaching Turkish at a public K-12 school. I display a Turkish flag, its map, the picture of Mustafa Kamal Ataturk, and several beautiful pictures from Istanbul on the walls of the class I teach. Some parents traveled to Turkey just because of their children’s exposure to Turkish language and culture. Perhaps, those who accused me of insulting Turkishness would never serve the interest of Turkish people as much as I have done. If I had wanted to retaliate against what the racist Turks had done to me and my family, perhaps I should have joined the ranks of PKK terror organization. I am a Kurd whose mother tongue was banned by the racist Turkish laws, whose brother was killed by Turkish nationalists, and who was imprisoned and tortured for four years for expressing opposing political views, and was forced to serve in Turkish military for 18 months as a “dangerous soldier.”… As a rational monotheist, as a non-sectarian muslim, I could not have acted like my racist enemies. I promote unity and friendship between Kurds and Turks in all my writings on the issue.
I have written numerous articles critical of authoritarian generals who meddle with the Turkish democracy, or have written satires critical of flag-worshiper jingoists, or criticized the unjustified ban on women’s headscarf, but they were never crude insults as they were stated. “Those words could not have written by me,” I told the judge and the prosecutor on the bench. I was a skilled author and accusing me of authoring those primitive insults were in fact insult to my profession. “If I wished to insult those things,” I said, “I could have insulted in style, in a much better language.”
Though I find some of the Turkish laws suppressive of freedom of expression, I am very pleased that the legal system and police conduct have dramatically improved to the better. When it became clear that most of the “criminal words” did not belong to me, but belonged to the forum members at www.19.org , I was blamed for not censoring the postings of Turkish or Kurdish people who had expressed insults to Turkish government and national symbols.
The judge was a reasonable person and perhaps had problem with the article 301, which is now under consideration to be discarded. He dictated my statement, and instructed for my release and lifting the ban on my exit from Turkey. He wished to rule on the other two charges too, but they were not under his jurisdiction. We had to rush for the court at Kartal-Pendik region, on the Asian section of the city. We had less than an hour to beat the deadline of 5 pm. Otherwise I had to remain in jail until Monday, the day of my departure from Turkey. I would experience the fastest travel in Istanbul’s heavy traffic. The police officers used the siren and zigzagged through the traffic, occasionally using the shoulder, made it to the court just seven minutes before 5 pm.
The middle-aged judge, while browsing my files, looked at me and asked me whether my brother was killed about thirty years ago. I was worried that he could be affiliated with the nationalists. Well, after asking me a few questions, he instructed my release. I am very thankful to the police officers who did their best to make my release possible by the end of the day. I had very little chance to get a release from the three charges.
The following day, I had a great reception at the book fair. This was my third real public appearance since my immigration to the USA, about 19 years ago. For security reasons, I had to limit my activities with TV programs that allowed me to encounter religious scholars through live debates. The lecture room was filled with enthusiastic audience. The reporter from the weekly Tempo magazine later told me about his impression. He was surprised to see a diverse demographics: young and old, men and women, women with headscarves and women wearing modern attire… They were very peaceful and friendly to my arguments.
During the remaining two days in Istanbul, I had an interview for Tempo Magazine’s upcoming cover story on Islamic Reform movement, and I met with various groups, including an elite group from another Turkic republic. Contrasting my first night on the floor of the cell, a friend of mine gave me the key of one of his luxury apartments looking at the Bosporus Straight just above Bebek…
I was relieved the moment my airplane departed to London. When I arrived at Atlanta airport, I knew that I was at home. As much as I dislike some of the policies of the US government, especially its imperialistic and Zionist-controlled foreign policy and its promiscuous affairs with big corporations, I consider myself a very lucky person for living in a country with such a Constitution that has allowed me not to worry about expressing my progressive and liberal political and religious views. After my experience during my recent short trip, I became even more appreciative of the Constitution that protects individuals from the tyranny of government. May God reward Jefferson with eternal bliss!
Theometer or Sectometer
(First conducted on the participants of my lectures at Oxford University in November 3-5, 2008)
Email Address: __________________________________________
Phone: ______________________________________ Age: ______
Have you read the Manifesto for Islamic Reform? ______________
Favorite Books/Authors: ___________________________________
Your Sect: (a) Sunni (b) Shiite (c) Salafi (d) Other (d) No sect
Please put a CIRCLE around the letter of your choice:
1. According to the Quran, which one of these is not and cannot be idolized by people?
- Prophet Muhammad
- Desires or Wishful thinking (Hawa)
- Crowds or peers
- Ancestors or children
- Reasoning (Aql)
2. Which one of these is a true statement?
- The Quran is not sufficient to guide us; in addition we need Hadith and Sunna.
- The Quran is not sufficient to guide us; we need Hadith, Sunna and follow the teaching of a Sunni sect.
- The Quran is not sufficient to guide us; we need Hadith, Sunna and follow the teaching of a Shiite sect.
- The Quran is not sufficient to guide us; we need Hadith, Sunna, follow the teaching of a sect and join a religious order.
- The Quran is sufficient to guide us when we understand and follow it through the light of reason.
3. Which one of these hadiths narrated by Bukhari, Muslim and other “authentic” hadith books, do you think are fabricated:
- Muhammad was illiterate until he died.
- Muhammad married Aisha at age 54 while she was only 9 or 13 years-old.
- Muhammad dispatched a gang of fighters (sariyya) to kill a woman poet secretly during night in her home, for criticizing him publicly through her poems.
- Muhammad slaughtered 400 to 900 Jews belonging to Ben Qurayza for violating the treaty.
- All of the above.
4. Which one of these laws or rules does not exist in the Quran?
- Stone the married adulterers to death
- Do not play guitar
- Men should not wear silk and gold
- Men are superior to women
- All of the above
5. The Quran instructs us to follow the messengers. Following the messenger means:
- Follow Hadith and Sunna; Bukhari, Muslim, Ibn Hanbal, etc.
- Follow his Ahl-al-Bayt.
- Follow hadith, sunna, consensus of sahaba, ijtihad of imams and fatwas of ulama.
- Follow Muhammad.
- Follow the message he was sent with, which was Quran alone.
6. The Quran is God’s word, because:
- There are verses of the Quran stating that it is God’s word.
- The Quran is a literary miracle. None can bring a sura like it surpassing its literary qualities.
- I do not need to have a reason. Reason is not reliable. I have faith in the Quran.
- The moral teaching of the Quran is the best for individual and humanity.
- The Quranic signs (aya) do not have internal contradiction nor does it contradict the signs in nature. Besides, it is numerically coded book with an extraordinary mathematical structure integrated with its composition and Arabic language.
7. Which one of the following is correct for Muhammad:
- Muhammad was the final messenger and prophet.
- Muhammad had the highest rank above all humans.
- Muhammad demonstrated many miracles such as splitting the moon, healing the sick, and crippling a child
- All of the above´
- Muhammad was a human messenger like other messengers.
8. In what year he Bukhari started collecting hadith for his hadith collection known as the Sahih Bukhari, the most trusted Sunni hadith collection?
- During the life of Muhammad in Medina
- Ten years after Muhammad’s death.
- 130 years after Muhammad’s death.
- 200 years after Muhammad’s death
- 230 years after Muhammad’s death.
9. According to Bukhari himself, he collected the 7,275 hadith among the 700,000 hadiths he collected. If each hadith, together with its isnad (the chain of reporters) and sanad (the text that was attributed to Muhammad) took about half a book page, how many volumes of books with 500 pages would they take to record all those 700,000 hadith allegedly collected by Bukhari?
- 7 volumes
- 10 volumes
- 70 volumes
- 100 volumes
- 700 volumes
10. What are the last statements in the Farewell Sermon (Khutba al-Wida) which was reportedly witnessed by more than 100,000 sahaba, making it by far the most authentic hadith among the thousands of hadiths?
- I leave you Abu Bakr; you should follow him.
- I leave you my sahaba; you may follow any of them.
- I leave you the Quran and Sunna; you should follow both.
- I leave you the Quran and Ahl-al- Bayt (my family); you should follow them.
- I leave you the Quran, you should follow it.
11. According to some “authentic hadith” found in Bukhari and other hadith books, there was a verse instructing muslims to stone the married adulterers to death: “Al-shayhu wal-shayhatu iza zanaya farjumuhuma nakalan…” According to hadith reports, what happened to those verses?
- After the Prophet Muhammad’s death, Umayyad governor Marwan burned the pages where those verses were written.
- Angle Gebrail came down and deleted it from the scripture.
- Ibni Abbas forgot it yet Abu Hurayra never forgot it.
- There is no reference to such a verse in any authentic hadith books.
- After the Prophet Muhammad’s death, the skin which the verse was written on was protected under Aisha’s bed. A hungry goat ate it. Thus, it was abrogated literally yet kept legally.
12. According to both Bukhari and Muslim, when Muhammad was in his death bed, he asked his comrades around to bring him a paper and pen to write something for them so that they would not divert from the right path. According to the same “authentic” Sunni hadith books, Omar bin Khattab stopped a sahaba who was hurrying for a paper and pen and said the following: “The prophet is sick and has fever. He does not know what he is saying. God’s book is sufficient for us.” According to the hadith, all the prominent comrades (sahaba) agreed with Omar and Muhammad passed away without writing down his advice. What do you think about this hadith?
- If it is narrated by both Bukhari and Muslim, then it must be true
- If it is true, then, Omar and all other Sahaba must have betrayed Muhammad and committed blasphemy.
- If it is true, then, Omar and all prominent Sahaba were followers of the Quran alone.
- If it is false then all other hadith too should be rejected.
- C and D must be true
13. Do we need to SAY “sallallahu alayhi wasallam” after Muhammad’s name?
- Yes, every time Muhammad is mentioned we have to praise his name.
- Yes, but we need to say only once in our lifetime.
- Yes, the more we say the better.
- Yes, and those who do not say it after Muhammad’s name disrespect him and they will not receive his intercession.
- No, the Quran does not ask us to say anything after Muhammad’s name; muslims were asked (salli ala) to support him, as he was also asked to support them (salli alayhim).
14. What is the correct Testimony (shahada) according to the Quran:
- I bear witness that there is no god but the God and the Quran is God’s word.
- I bear witness that there is no god but the God and Muhammad is His messenger.
- I bear witness that there is no god but the God and Muhammad is His messenger and His servant.
- I bear witness that there is no god but the God and Abraham, Jesus, Moses and Muhammad are His messengers.
- I bear witness that there is no god but the God.
15. Should Muslims who do not observe daily prayers be beaten in public?
16. Should Muslims who are caught for consuming alcohol for the fourth time be killed?
17. Did the prophet give permission to kill women and children in the war?
18. According to the Quran, are women banned from reading Quran and pray during their menstruation periods?
19. In the daily Sala prayers, do you recite “attahiyyatu lillahi wassalawatu …. as salamu alayka ayyuhannabiyyu wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu”?
20. Does the Quran justify taxing Jewish and Christian population under Muslim authority with extra or different taxation called Jizya?
21. Does the Quran instruct women to cover their hair?
22. Are woman restricted from leading congregational prayers?
23. Are women mentally and spiritually inferior to men?
24. Does the Quran restrict women from initiating divorce?
25. Is polygamy with previously unmarried women allowed?
- Yes, up to four women.
- No, polygamy is allowed only with the widows who have orphans.
26. Do pilgrims need to cast real stones at the devil?
27. Is the black stone near Kaba holy?
28. May a muslim own slaves?
29. Is circumcision a required or encouraged practice in Islam?
30. Should converts change their names to Arabic names?
31. How much zaka charity one should give away?
- As much as one can afford, without making themselves needy.
32. Are those who break their fast during Ramadan before the sunset required to fast 60 consecutive days as a punishment for not completing the day?
33. Is leadership the right of Quraish tribe?
34. Is drawing pictures or making three dimensional statutes a sin?
35. Are there more dietary prohibitions besides pork, carcass, running blood, and animal dedicated to idolized names?
36. Is displaying Muhammad’s name and the names of his closest companions next to God’s name in the mosques idol-worship?
37. Did Muhammad advise some sick people to drink camel urine?
38. Did Muhammad gauge people’s eyes with hot nails?
39. After following the advice of Moses, did Muhammad, bargain with God about the number of prayers, lowering down from the impossible-to-observe 50 times a day to 5 times a day?
40. Does Muhammad have the power of intercession?
41. Was Muhammad sinless?
42. Did God create the universe for the sake of Muhammad?
43. Did Muhammad have sexual power of 30 males?
44. Was Muhammad bewitched by a Jew?
45. Do some verses of the Quran abrogate other verses?
Here is the story and the answer of this test:
Between November 3 and 10 of 2008, I travelled to UK and Turkey to deliver four lectures; first two at Oxford University, the third at Muslim Institute in London and the fourth one in Istanbul Book Fair. I had prepared a test containing 45 multiple choice questions just the night before my travel. I duplicated them on both sides of a single sheet and I distributed to the audience before the lecture… They were asked to write their name, age, occupation, email address, favorite authors, and their sectarian affiliation. It was a bit awkward to test an audience that consisted of students and professors at one of the world’s top universities. The multiple-choice test proved to be a powerful instrument to deliver the message of Islamic Reform under the light of the Quran. The correct answer for each multiple choice question was the E option, and for the Yes or No questions was the B option. So, it would take me a few seconds to evaluate the tests after they were returned to me.
The Sunni or Shiite test-takers found themselves in quagmire of contradiction with their own sectarian teachings. They learned that they were thirty, forty or even more than fifty percent infidels or heretics. Some of those who marked Sunni as their sectarian affiliation contradicted the Sunni teachings on most of the issues. According to their own confessed sects, their lives were worthless; they deserved to be killed! I did not let this mirror or sect-o-meter remain an individual experience; I publicly declared the overall results. Many got all answers correct, including Eric, a monotheist from Unitarian church who already had a copy of the Quran: a Reformist Translation in his possession. Eric knew the original message of islam better than all the mullahs and the so-called “ulama” combined.
If you have chosen the wrong option for any of the questions and you are wondering why you have contradicted the Quran, please visit www.islamicreform.org and read the full version of the Manifesto for Islamic Reform. If you prefer to have it in a book form, you may order it by visiting www.brainbowpress.com
 As one of the principles I have committed myself since my childhood I never use cuss words, but somehow I do not find my habitual aversion against the British cussword “bloody”. I am not exactly sure about its complete connotations and subtle innuendoes, but I am going to use it in this article as a British souvenir.