Dialogues – Biblical Quranism – Joseph Islam’s Mecca/Becca Article

I will begin the dialogue with Biblical Quranism with a critique of Joseph Islam’s article entitled Prophet Abraham’s Original Sanctuary – At Makkah (Mecca) or Bakkah (Baca) . I chose this particular article for a number of reasons, most notably because I see it as a prime of example of how Quranic discourse is taken along a different path (that is adopting the ideas of the Tri-Religious Myth) that what is in my reading the intent of the text. This happens once the presumptions of the Bible are accepted without question. Another notable reason for choosing this article is that I have a deep admiration for Joseph Islam’s work. His critique of Traditional Islam is outstanding indeed. His attitude is also very positive  as he states that he categorically denounces all forms of extremism. He is therefore unlike the QF I mentioned in the introduction. Such is the humility of this man, masha Allah. May Allah reward him for his pursuit of truth without ego.

In Joseph’s article, how loudly does Quran speak?  Joseph makes a good point at first by saying
It is asserted by the majority of Muslims that both Bakkah and Makkah are a reference to the same place. This argument is difficult to accept as there is no proof that this is the case from a Quranic scrutiny. The Quran is fully conversant with the term ‘Makkah’ as a place and refers to it. There is no support for the claim in the Quran that ‘Bakkah’ is an old name for ‘Makkah’ or another name for it.

This shows that Joseph does indeed employ the Quran as a criteria in his analyses. I fully support this. The Quran simply does not link makkah with bakkah. Joseph’s awareness of this shows that he does use the Quran as criteria. He continues to say:

The Quran makes use of the word ‘Makkah’. So why did not it use it in verse 3.96?

Again, I fully agree. The Quran should be a consistent book. Allah does not use words haphazardly as those who claim synonyms in the Quran exist would have us believe (this is due to Lingocentricism – dictionaries claim different words can mean the exact same thing and when you don’t use Quran as criteria, you would accept these propositions). If the Quran uses bakkah in 3/96, it would not use makkah in 48/24 to mean the exact same thing. Once again I applaud Joseph’s reasoning. This also proves Joseph’s defiance of Arabic language resources which claim Bakkah is simply the ancient name for Makkah. Joseph firmly sticks to Quran as criteria and this is very laudable.

However, he then goes on to say:

‘Bakkah’ (or Baca) was a place known to the People of the Book as is evidenced from their scriptures and in the dialogue captured above. What is meant by ‘Baca’ in the Hebrew text (i.e. weeping etc) does not deter from the point that this valley (Hebrew: emeq {ay-mek} valley / lowland / open country or vale) within Palestine was known to the People of the Book at the time of Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) preaching

There are so many assumptions in the above passage, all of which cannot be confirmed by Quran! It is at this point in Joseph’s analysis that Quran becomes a client text to the Bible (and more inexplicably, hadith literature). It is really no different from Traditionalist Islam where Quran is interrupted mid sentence and its ‘explanation’ completed by another text. Lets examine Joseph’s assumptions:

1. In the article, he started by quoting 3/93 and implies that the ‘children of israel’ refers to the Jews of the time. This is evident from his identification of the ‘people of the book’ from 3/98 and then the quotation of the Psalms. There is no evidence from Quran at all about this. This equivocation is made from the Bible and more interestingly, from hadith. This racialist (not racist but racialist because it pegs bani israil to a race of people as per the Bible, please take note) interpretation of bani israil is not backed by Quran itself. We must remember that the Quranic personality *musa* called for the liberation of bani israil and *firauns* magicians themselves came to believe in him. This for a start shows that bani israil was never a racial trait. Once again, it is the Bible and the Hadith which shows that bani israil is a race rather than a movement for all human beings. *bani israil* is identified as the ‘muslimeen’ (Quran 10/90) and muslimeen have never been a racial concept. The sayings of the messengers have never changed through the ages as The Reader was told (41/43).

2. In Joseph’s quote of 3/93, he implies that ‘the Law’ refers to the Torah. This is again evident from his quotation of the Psalms to explain where Baca is. If we used his principle above (makkah is not bakkah because the wording is different), then why does he not ask why the word ‘hukm’ isn’t used. Quran uses the word ‘hukm’ (law), ‘yahkum’ (governs), ‘hakeem’ (judicious), ‘hukkam’ (judges) yet doesn’t use it here. Why does Joseph not raise this question but rather accepts that ‘tawraat’ refers to the ‘Torah’? Furthermore, there are ayat in Quran which explain the concept of ‘tawraat (such as 9/111 and 48/29) ’. Why aren’t these repeated in the Torah thus showing unequivocally that Torah is indeed tawraat?

3. Joseph quotes the Psalms to characterise ‘Baca’ as a valley as told by the ‘Hebrew scriptures (which again has no Quranic validation).  Once again if we employ Joseph’s principle above, why doesn’t Quran simply say ‘in the valley of bakkah’. In truth, Quran doesn’t even say ‘IN’ (fee bakkah) but rather ‘with bakkah’ (bi bakkata).  If Joseph rightly demands of Quran precision of language use (and it should meet this demand as it comes from Allah), then why not take into account that ‘in’ is not even used in this aya (3/96)?

4. The ‘people of the book’ concept. Once again Joseph pegs this idea to the Jews (hence his mention of the non-existent ‘Hebrew scriptures’). Once again, if we employ his own principle of precision in Quranic terminology, we will see that ‘al-kitab’ has never referred to another book. It can refer to Quran itself (al-kitab wa quranun mubeen – 15/1), it can refer to the system of the Prophets (al-kitab bil haqq – 2/213) and even to natural systems (6/38). It does not refer to any external book. The notion that ahl al-kitab refers to Jews and Christians comes from Traditional literature and is very politically (and racially) motivated.

These are just some of the critiques I have for Joseph’s reasoning with regards to the issue of *bakkah*. I feel that with the use of the Bible, Quran’s own intent becomes subverted. Rather than establishing a system of peace and justice (as my reading of the context suggests), Quran is used to find some ancient shrine in the manner told by the Bible. If Hadith literature is to be questioned thoroughly for its veracity (and it should be), then the Bible must be subject to double the scrutiny because its historical distance is even further. Even if Quran approves of another text as an authoritative explanation, then it must retain its place as ‘guardian over it’ (5/48). If this is the case, how can we accept ideas like ‘valley of Bakkah’ when Quran makes no mention of it? These are only a few of the problems which makes Biblical Quranism a sub optimal method, in my opinion.

I hope to continue this critique next month where I will analyse the concept of Hebrew Prophet and Mecca.

About Farouk A. Peru

I am a human being in the world, blogging my existence. My thought systems may be found in my website: www.farouk.name
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