Monday, 19 August 2013

A Brief Analysis of the Islamic System

Islam is a system for eradicating all unbelief (in Islam). Islam is a system of rules which encapsulates the behavioural example and spoken words of Muhammad as prophet. Islam is therefore a system for eradicating all unbelief in the prophetic status of Muhammad.

Islam begins with our existential problem: what are we doing here and what happens when we die?

In common with many belief systems, Islam treats the afterlife as a given, it is not something that is seen to require justification. Many people (probably the majority) find it hard to imagine their own non-existence. They therefore feel there must be some way in which they persist after death. For the sake of this analysis we don’t have to dispute the truth of this idea either way. Muhammad based his belief system on the assumption that there is an afterlife and he terrified people into certain patterns of behaviour using this assumption. He amplifies the natural fear of death to provide the emotional fuel for his system, a system which is ultimately directed towards his own aggrandisement.

Muhammad claims to have revelations sent directly from God (Allah) via the angel Gabriel. Muhammad says he has been given the role of God’s messenger. Allah is said to control every detail of life and death. He decides who goes to Paradise and who goes to Hell when they die. He is the supreme power and must be taken very seriously. Muhammad claims to be able to tell people what they must do in order to find favour with this supreme power.

Very cleverly, Muhammad says that the first thing people must do in order to find favour with Allah is to believe that he is Allah’s messenger. This becomes the basis of the Muslim declaration of faith, the shahada. “There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.”

So the logic runs like this:

·         I am Allah’s messenger
·         I can tell you what to do in order to save yourself from eternal torment
·         The first thing you have to do is accept that I am Allah’s messenger

This is Islam’s core belief, as stated in the declaration of faith, and the logic is totally circular. Without this core belief none of the rest of Islamic doctrine would have any significance.

In declaring himself to be the mouthpiece of Allah, Muhammad is able to build on this foundation. He can even say things about himself as if they are being spoken by Allah. For example, “Ye have indeed in the Messenger of Allah a beautiful pattern (of conduct) for any one whose hope is in Allah and the Final Day, and who engages much in the Praise of Allah.” (Koran 33:21)

Muhammad is also able to say, via Allah/Gabriel, that to obey him (as messenger) is to obey Allah (as author of message).
"And We have sent you (Muhammad) as a Messenger to mankind, and Allah is sufficient as a Witness. He who obeys the Messenger, has indeed obeyed Allah, but he who turns away, then We have not sent you as a watcher over them." (Koran 4:79-80)

There are more than 25 occasions in the Koran where this assertion is made.

Muslims are therefore enjoined to both emulate and obey Muhammad.

They are also forced to be totally loyal to him. Once people have “signed up” to the core belief there are a whole set of rules to ensure they don’t go back on it. For a start, the rule regarding apostasy is clear: if you leave Islam you die. “Whoever changed his Islamic religion, then kill him.” (Sahih al-Bukhari: vol 9 book 84 number 57) To try and persuade someone to leave Islam is also punishable with death.

The Koran is used as the mouthpiece of Muhammad’s desire to avoid criticism: “Those who insult God and His Messenger will be rejected by God in this world and the next—He has prepared a humiliating punishment for them.” (Koran 33:57)

Muslim scholars are unanimously agreed that insulting, mocking, or belittling Muhammad is a grave sin, an act of apostasy and kufr (unbelief). These (not murdering innocent people) are the worst sins in Islam. See for a detailed, scholarly account from an Islamic perspective.

Various people and objects are given a sanctified status which adds to the unassailability of the core belief. The "Holy" Koran, a perfect golden copy kept in heaven; constant references to Muhammad and his companions with the "peace be upon him" invocation; cleansing rituals; halal rules; the uncleanliness of outsiders etc.
These measures are designed to protect the core belief. Blasphemy, apostasy, mockery, unbelief are all couched in terms of disrespect towards Muhammad.

Having established a group that subscribes to the core belief, Muhammad obviously needed to dress up his will-to-power as something sacred and worthwhile. The various prayer formats, rituals, festivals, and dress codes are part of this layer of the system. Binding people together through participation in shared repetitive behaviours is a component of many forms of social organisation. Islam is no exception. It also serves to demonstrate and reinforce loyalty to the group, a group that is ultimately identified with the character (and will-to-power) of Muhammad.

Dress codes also serve to delineate clearly between insiders and outsiders. This taps into the strong tendency toward out-group derogation seen in minimal groups research and the blue eyes/brown eyes studies beloved of the diversity industry. See further discussion of these here.

Muhammad was also aware that people may show an outward display of loyalty but inwardly they hold a different view. These are the people designated as hypocrites in Islam. They are those who are not truly loyal to the group inwardly as well as outwardly. Muhammad tried to intimidate such people with dire warnings about the consequences when they came to Judgement Day.

This is obviously different to the non-Muslim use of the term “hypocrite” which denotes a person who preaches one thing but practises another. It concerns inconsistency between one part of a person’s character and another and is related to personal integrity. In Islam there is no personal integrity, there is only submission and loyalty.

So Muhammad has succeeded in building a group of followers who are bound to the core belief through life and death rules regarding the upholding of his status and an assortment of rituals to help them bond with each other. Plus, there are severe warnings for those who pretend to be loyal but are inwardly not.

These measures trigger the Loyalty/Betrayal foundation outlined in "The Righteous Mind", thus giving these social pressures a moral feel. The rules and invocations regarding sanctity trigger the Sanctity/Degradation foundation. For more on this see here...

Respecting the sanctities of Islam is also a way of demonstrating group loyalty and full assimilation into the system. To the extent that non-Muslims (eg. today's left/liberal establishment) show respect toward these sanctities they are also showing a degree of group loyalty and partial assimilation into the system.
The system is not going to serve Muhammad’s desire for self-aggrandisement if it remains small and irrelevant. The system must expand in order to achieve this. For 13 years Muhammad tried to expand his system through preaching and persuasion. He got virtually nowhere. At the end of 13 years he had 150 followers.

He therefore developed the idea that “fighting unbelief” in whatever way possible was an important duty of Muslims.

Muhammad thus creates a new layer to the system. This layer is concerned to impose the core belief on outsiders. Persuasion is always a component but the threat of force is a far more potent weapon.  This graph by Bill Warner shows the different levels of success associated with the preaching and warfare phases.

Progress of Islam - Thanks to Bill Warner CSPI
Outsiders are given 3 options:

  1. become insiders and allow Muhammad’s system to assimilate them. They do this by the declaration of faith, the shahada, thus signing up to the core belief.
  2. live as semi-assimilated people who live under rules of subjugation and potential annihilation (dhimmis). This is really a slow death assimilation.
  3. death.
As the number of insiders (Muslims) grows it becomes possible to impose the core belief on more and more outsiders, either eliminating them or turning them into insiders.

Insiders are told to be kind to one another and harsh towards outsiders. This is a bonding message and a way of directing discord away from the system and towards outsiders. Outsiders are demonised as the worst of creatures, the sons of apes and pigs etc. They are destined for eternal torment and are to be despised. Muhammad often speaks of their fate as humiliating and shameful, thus playing on the honour and shame culture. So wretched is their condition and prospects that jihad is actually a blessing brought to them by Muslims (you can’t get much more self-serving than that!).

The strong group loyalty serves another function as it gives each member a strong sense of belonging. This is important from an existential point of view. Belonging to a group with shared beliefs is probably the best way of staving off existential angst. This also creates a further prohibition (as if one were needed) against leaving the group.

Jihad and martyrdom (at least the bastardised version of martyrdom that Islam uses) are elevated into the best rewarded behaviours for insiders. To die fighting to impose the core belief is the surest way of attaining paradise and avoiding hell. Thus a strong reward system is established for the most self-destructive and aggressive behaviour. Those who die in this way are lionised and their behaviour sanctified. This is the source of Islam’s apparently fearless warriors. It’s not actually that they are fearless, it’s simply that they have been persuaded to fear something more than their own death.

This produces a body of insiders dedicated to the elimination of any opposition or doubt regarding the core belief. Islam becomes a system for the eradication of unbelief (kufr). And, as stated above, the unbelief is ultimately about Muhammad’s status as set out in the shahada..

To the extent that the system is successful in achieving its goal of imposing the core belief, then the perceived validity and truth of the core belief to insiders and outsiders is strengthened (if they are that successful they must have God on their side). This perceived vindication of the core belief spurs outsiders to convert and insiders to eliminate or convert yet more outsiders. This energises the system yet further and strengthens the core belief. It is a very powerful system of rapacious conquest.

The attitude of hatred and persecution cultivated towards outsiders means that the prospect of becoming an outsider is made as unattractive as possible. It also becomes a demonstration of group loyalty to show intolerance towards outsiders, thus avoiding the charge of hypocrisy.

As the spread of Islam makes life increasingly cruel and intolerable, the compensatory attractions of the afterlife become ever more important. Paradoxically, this feeds back into a reinforcement of the core belief and intolerance of dissent.

The logic goes like this: life is miserable and vicious and the afterlife is looking increasingly like the only happiness I’ll ever find. How do I ensure I get there? I must do what Muhammad told me to do. Muhammad told me to impose the core belief and if I die fighting to do so I’ll definitely go to paradise.

What we have in Islam is therefore a rapacious system of strong insider bonding where aggression is directed towards outsiders in order to either eliminate them or turn them into insiders who will behave in the same aggressive way towards other outsiders. The belief at the centre of this system is set out in the shahada and it is ultimately this belief (a belief resting totally on Muhammad’s self-declared status) which is imposed by the system. Given that Muhammad is the author of this belief and the system established to deliver its dominance, Islam is ultimately the expression of Muhammad’s will to power.

Muslims are therefore submitting to Muhammad's will-to-power not Allah's will. Muhammad used Muslims for his own purposes and Islam, as the expression of his will-to-power, still uses Muslims in the same way.