An estimated 1.8 billion people in the world are said to be Muslims. It would be in the best interest of those 1.8 billion Muslims, to leave their faith behind. Islam is not a very pleasant religion. When people take it seriously, it leads to endless bloodshed and oppression. When people don’t take it seriously, eventually some young people grow angry about their plight in life, decide to read the Quran and the Hadith and start taking the religion seriously again, with fatal consequences for other people. There are millions of moderate Muslims, but they cling onto traditions that every once in a while regress to a more malignant form.
The arguments that Islam causes misery are numerous, but these arguments are generally not relevant to Muslims, as they choose to believe in the religion nonetheless. Today I want to address this issue, by undermining the basis of their faith in Islam. I expect the whole world would be better off, if Muslims come to the conclusion that they have no good basis on which to persist in their adherence to the Islamic creed. The case against Islam is a very simple one to make, as I will go on to show today.
To start with, we have to clarify what I wish to debunk here. Muslims believe that Muhammed received the Quran from an omnipotent deity known as Allah. The Quran to them, is the literal word of God. The Quran in turn, is interpreted according to a history of interpretation known as the Sunnah, which is ultimately based on the Hadith, the sayings of the prophet Muhammed. Without the Hadith, it’s an intense struggle to make any real sense of the Quran. As an example, the chapters of the Quran are not arranged chronologically, they’re arranged in order of length.
You will find various contradictory statements in the Quran, but earlier statements are abrogated by later statements. One consequence this has is that when you read verses of the Quran that seem tolerant towards non-believers, it’s easy to ignore the fact that these verses were proclaimed when Muhammed lived in a multicultural and religiously diverse environment, where he had to negotiate from a position of weakness. When Muhammed found himself in a position of strength, the tolerance and non-violence of his creed rapidly disappeared.
The case against Islam is very simple to make, as we merely have to disprove the assertion that the Quran is the work of an omnipotent, omniscient deity known as Allah, who takes the best interest of his followers to heart. If you can disprove this assertion, the whole house of cards begins to collapse. Surah 48:28 makes it clear that Islam is a universalist religion. It is supposed to dominate the whole world, its followers are meant to pursue this endeavor.
The problem of the Islamic fast
The problem however, is that Islam as a religion carries certain teachings that can not be reconciled with the prospect of global conversion. To start with, a Muslim must fast, during the month Ramadan. As noted in Surah 2:187, the fast takes place from dawn until dusk. When the sun rises you stop eating, then when the sun has set you’re free to start eating again. This makes perfect sense in the Arab peninsula. It stops making sense, when you near the polar circle. If you live near the polar circle, your fast can last for 20 hours or more. If you live far enough North, it can happen that the sun doesn’t set during Ramadan at all, making your fast physically impossible to sustain.
The problem is that Islam has no clear consistent explanation when it comes to addressing this issue. Some Muslims decide to follow the timetable of Mecca, others decide to follow the timetable of the nearest “Muslim city” (how do you define a Muslim city?). All of these solutions are based on shaky foundations however, they’re arbitrary and not based on any inherited scripture or tradition. Worse, there’s no clear indication when you should follow these alternative rules. If I’m left with an 18 hour fast, am I free to pick the rules for Mecca or another city? When is the fast I have to undergo too severe for me to follow? There’s nobody who can tell you. God’s perfect word was sent to Muhammed over a thousand years ago, but for whatever reason there was apparently no need to think of those of us who live so far away from the equator.
You might argue that what matters is the intent of the fast, not the specifics, but the rules are oddly detailed when it comes to what we’re allowed to do and what we can’t do. You’re not allowed to eat or drink, if you do you need to make up for it with another day. If you have sex, you need to free a slave, or fast for two extra months. Keep in mind that the Quran and the Hadith have specific rules determining the point during the day when you should pray too. If such attention is paid to such minute details, why did nobody think about future generations of Muslims, who would have to fast near the polar circle? The most logical conclusion would be that Islam is not an infallible revelation from God. If you were to insist that this is really the product of a deity, why would such an important issue be ignored?
The problem of the Islamic pilgrimage
Islam carries another important obligation for Muslims, the pilgrimage to Mecca. Every Muslim is supposed to travel to Mecca at least once during his lifetime. The pilgrimage is supposed to be performed during the 8th to 12th or in some cases 13th day of the month Dhu al-Hijjah, the last month of the Islamic calender. The Islamic calender is a few days shorter than the Gregorian calender we’re familiar with, so the period for the Hajj moves around through the cycle of seasons over the years, just like the Islamic fast. One year a Muslim in Europe might need to fast for ten hours per day, another year he might need to fast for eighteen. Similarly, one year a Muslim might be able to perform the Hajj in January, but another year, a Muslim might have to perform his Hajj during July, when temperatures are much higher.
This raises an interesting question. Temperatures around the world are going to increase dramatically in the decades ahead. It’s expected that parts of the Middle East will become intolerably hot for human beings near the end of this century, as wet bulb temperatures will simply exceed the temperature our bodies are designed to cope with. Of course, as most of you will know, if you put a lot of people together in a small room, temperatures get even warmer. Expectations are that climate change may make it too hot to perform the rituals of the Hajj during parts of the year, near the end of the century.
This certainly raises some interesting questions, but it’s not the silver bullet against Islam I was hoping to offer you. The silver bullet is as following: The Hajj can only take place during five days every year. During the rest of the year, you’re not allowed to perform the Hajj. Visiting Mecca during another part of the year is an Umrah, a non-obligatory visit to Mecca. This is nice, but it doesn’t absolve you from your religious obligation to perform the Hajj.
So, what happens is that 1.8 billion Muslims have to compete with each other, to perform this mandatory ritual during five days of the year. The rest of the year, Mecca is almost empty, people from within Saudi Arabia will visit Mecca, but most Muslims won’t bother. During those five days however, chaos effectively breaks out. Numerous people decide perform rituals that were once performed by a handful of Muslims when Islam was still a new religion. The densities of people in Mecca are so enormous, that many people end up dying. The Islamic pilgrimage, is an annual slaughter.
In 1990, a stampede killed 1,426 pilgrims. In 1994, a stampede killed 270 pilgrims. In 1998, a stampede killed 118 pilgrims. 35 pilgrims died in 2001, 14 in 2003, 251 during 2004, the list goes on and on. The problem hasn’t been solved yet, it keeps getting worse. It’s thought that a stampede in 2015 killed over 2000 pilgrims, but the Saudi government is not honest about the true figure.
Under current conditions, we already see that participants in the Hajj suffer from extreme heat exposure, as they visit a hot place in the desert surrounded by a massive crowd of people. Studies show that hundreds of people suffer from a heat stroke every year during the Hajj. When you suffer a heat stroke, you don’t just recover with some cold water. Studies show that people who suffer from a heat stroke often suffer permanent brain damage. The problem is worse, because the population of Muslims keeps growing every year. In 2010, there were an estimated 1.1 billion muslims. In 2050, expectations are the world will have 2.76 billion Muslims. All those Muslims need to visit Mecca at least once in their lifetime.
In other words, the Hajj is a deadly event that Muslims are forced to participate in once a year. The reason it’s deadly, is because Islamic rules necessitate that the pilgrimage can only be performed during a few days per year. So why does Allah insist that Muslims can only perform the Hajj during five days of the year? If Allah had warned his followers that the Hajj can be performed throughout the year when the Muslim population starts to grow, thousands of lives could have been saved.
There is no clear, sensible explanation. We could pretend that the suffering and deaths are part of Allah’s plan for humanity, but why then only now? In the early days of the religion, the Hajj didn’t have to cause this many deaths. Today it causes untold suffering. In fact, the Quran argues in 22:78, that Allah has not laid upon us any hardship in religion. It seems clear that now that the Hajj is a potentially lethal undertaking, this claim no longer makes sense, the Hajj has become a form of undue hardship placed upon Muslims.
The simplest explanation for this mystery would be that Muhammed or some later Muslims simply came up with some simple rules that made sense back when there were very few Muslims. Today, roughly 2 million Muslims participate in the ritual every year. Keep in mind, this is still very few, compared to the number of Muslims required to partake in the Hajj. Nine percent of Muslims globally have performed the Hajj. In Indonesia, just 2% have performed the Hajj. Guess what happens when Indonesians soon become able to afford the cost of flying to Saudi Arabia?
Islam has left us with no explanation in regards to what Muslims should do when the Earth becomes so overpopulated and the Hajj becomes an annual event of mass slaughter. Based on the evidence we have, we have to arrive at the conclusion that Islam is a religion invented by human beings, who knew relatively little about the world around them and how the world they inhabit would evolve over the centuries. For this reason, a Muslim would be best off by abandoning his religion.