Statistics and the Meaning of Islam
(By Bill Warner)
What is the "real" Islam? Is it the Islam of the nice Muslim at work? Or is it the Islam of Osama bin Laden?
To get a logical answer, we must have a logical basis. What sources are available to answer the question? We can toss out the media and all of its answers since they generally quote apologist "experts". But is there an expert we can trust? Yes, there is. Mohammed.
The most fundamental statement that can be made about Islam is: there is no god but Allah and Mohammed is His prophet. This is the bedrock of Islam and points us directly to the only sure source of Islam-Allah and Mohammed. But where are Allah and Mohammed found? The Trilogy of Koran, Sira and Hadith. Allah is found in the Koran and Mohammed is found in the Sira (his biography) and the Hadith (his traditions of small stories and sayings). There is a special name for the sum of the Sira and the Hadith, the Sunna.
The Koran and Sunna are the only sure and certain basis of Islam. All of Islam is based upon the Trilogy.
The foundational texts of Islam --the Trilogy--suffer from being deliberately difficult. It is clear to anyone who reads these texts that every effort has been made to make the material obscure and difficult. There are two reasons for this obscurity. First, difficult texts make for a secure job for the priestly caste, the imams and scholars. If the text is clear in meaning, then no help is needed to understand it. The second reason is that the texts contain horrible and contradictory messages for the world buried under the obscurity.
The usual response to this difficulty is to skip the editing and offer up some verses from the Koran. But "verse" is a biased word in that it invokes a religious overtone. In almost every case, a verse is nothing more than a sentence. There is no other field of study in which individual sentences are given so much weight.
"Verse picking", to use a statistical term, is a very poor sampling method. What we want is the meaning, and it is impossible to learn the complete meaning from a sentence. What we need to concern ourselves with are ideas and concepts, not simply a sentence.
Let us be clear here that the very best way to obtain the complete meaning is to edit (edit does not mean change the meaning, but to order, rearrange and collect) the texts and then proceed from the edited text. The Koran is famously difficult. However, if the necessary editing is done, the Koran is a very straightforward document. The first editing steps are to put the Koran in order with respect to time. In this way when you turn the page, you advance in time, just as you would in a history book. This time line order has been known since the first days of Islam. The next step is to collect all of the variations of the same story. As an example, the story of Moses and the Pharaoh is told 39 times. If they are all collected under one category, then the Koran is easier to read and less boring.
The next step is to take the Sira and weave it into the Koran to give the Koran a context. For example, there is a verse that says that it was proper to burn the palm trees. For someone who reads this verse, a question arises: what palm trees are being talked about? The Koran gives no context. But in the day of its creation, everyone who heard the verse knew that the previous week, Mohammed had attacked some Jews who were date farmers and had destroyed their date palm trees in violation of Arabic war customs. When the story of Mohammed (from the Sira) is woven into the Koran, then the context of the attack on the Jews is clear.
A Koran that is in the proper time order, categorized, and includes Mohammed's life is a straightforward book that is easily understood. CSPI has published two Korans that have been edited this way-A Simple Koran and an Abridged Koran.
But we still have a problem. We need to be able to discuss the Koran with those who do not have access to edited Korans or who would not read them anyway. We need to be able make meaningful summary statements. Picking your favorite verse is not the way to make a summary statement.
We need a method of macro-analysis, not micro-analysis. We need to be able to talk about the big picture, the complete meaning of Islam. But there is a problem in trying to summarize Islam as it is filled with contradictory statements. So how do we deal with the contradictions while looking at the big picture?
The answer to these questions is to use a statistical measure of the texts. Don't let the word statistics scare you. The only statistics needed is counting how many items are in a category.
Take for example the idea of the importance of the Koran. The most commonly belief about Islam is that it is based upon the Koran and is a religion. Neither of these ideas is true.
How important is the Koran? It contains about 153,000 words. The Sira (by Ibn
Ishaq) contains about 292,000 words, and the Hadith has 646,000 words (using the Bukhari text). So Allah is about 14% of the total of the Trilogy and the Sunna (Mohammed's words and deeds) is 86% of the total. These are only a quantitative measure, but still, it points out how important Mohammed is compared to Allah, based upon the amount of text.
This is born out further by noticing that the Koran does not contain enough information to practice even one of the Five Pillars of Islam. Only the Sunna (primarily the Hadith for religious practice) tells the Muslim how to worship. So the statistical measure shows that Islam is also Mohammedism.
Once the Koran is rearranged in the right time order, categorized and Mohammed's life is woven back into it, another fact leaps from the page. Very little of the Koran is devoted to how to be a Muslim, the religion of Islam. Instead, the majority of the Koran is about kafirs, non-Muslims. Kafirs are the worst of the creation. Allah hates kafirs and plots against them. Kafirs can be tortured, murdered, robbed, raped and enslaved. The Koran is fixated on kafirs, as was Mohammed.
To measure the Koranic fixation on kafirs, let us measure the fixation by counting the amount of text devoted to them. In Mecca an astounding 67% of the text is devoted to the kafir. In Medina 51% was about kafirs. The amount of text in the entire Koran devoted to kafirs is 61%.
As an aside, Islam excludes kafirs in every way from its religious practice. Since the kafir is outside of Islam, the term political Islam is used to describe the doctrine of Islam as it is applied to the "others", the kafirs. So 61% of the Koran is about political Islam, not religious Islam. (KS Lal gives the figure of 63% in Theory and Practice of Muslim State in India, Aditya
Prakashan, 1999, N. Delhi, pg. 4).
The Sira shows the importance of Islam's political nature. Mohammed preached the religion of Islam for 13 years in Mecca and only gained 150 followers. He moved to Medina where he became a politician and warrior. After 10 years of violence he became ruler of all Arabia without a single enemy left standing. He was involved in an event of violence every 6 weeks for the last 9 years of his life. Statistical conclusion-Islam's success came from war and politics, not religion.
Another statistical conclusion: Islam is primarily a political doctrine, not a religion.
Simple statistics also reveal the true nature of the political/religious idea of jihad. When the word jihad is used, Muslims say that there are two kinds of jihad. There is the religious jihad, the greater jihad--the inner struggle against personal problems. The war jihad is the lesser jihad.
The Hadith of Bukhari gives all of the tactical details of jihad. A simple counting method shows that 3% of the hadiths are about the inner struggle, whereas, 97% of the hadiths are about jihad as war. So is jihad the inner struggle? Yes, 3%. Is jihad the war against kafirs? Yes, 97%.
This leads to a very important concept. Islam is based upon contradictory statements. How do we sort them out to get the complete meaning? We measure the amount of text devoted to each side of the dichotomy. That is what we did with the question of which jihad is the real jihad. It gives a complete statistical answer.
There is nothing new here. Only single value state ideas can be measured by one number. Multi-state ideas must be evaluated by statistics that measure every state of the variable. If an idea has different manifestations, then instead of arguing which is the right manifestation, just measure all of the manifestations.
There is an exact analogy to the measurement of the state of the electron in an atom. Quantum physics does not give a single answer about the energy and position, but gives us the statistical probabilities of each possible state. The same is true about Islam. We need to know its total state, not something about one category.
In conclusion, statistics is a superior way to gain complete knowledge of the texts of Islam. Statistics allows us to explore Islam in its totality. Remember the old story of the blind men feeling the elephant? One said the elephant was like a rope, another a tree, a wall and so forth. Was each man right? Were any of them wrong? No. But none of them were completely right. Statistical analysis cannot tell us the qualitative story but it allows us to remove the blinders of only looking at one category and forces us to look at the total picture.
Notice that this approach also effectively tells us how to evaluate the "experts" that get trotted out to buttress a favorite position. This is the iron rule of Islam-only Mohammed defines the truth of Islam. If what an expert says agrees with Mohammed, then the he is right, but he is redundant. If what the expert says contradicts Mohammed, then the expert is wrong. So experts are either redundant or wrong. Only Mohammed tells us the truth about Islam and he is never wrong or redundant. Skip the experts and move straight to Mohammed. The statistical approach does just that.