Islam: Sex &Violence by Anwar Shaikh

Islam: Sex &Violence
by Anwar Shaikh

The Principality Publishers

This work is the latest and almost certainly the last to come from Anwar Shaikh. Produced at his own expense and distributed free of charge, it follows the same uncompromising line as his previous publications. The argument is set out immediately in the first paragraph of the preface:

Allah thinks of unbelievers as 'the worst animals' (Q.8:55) and thus declares Himself to be the 'enemy of infidels' (Q. 2:90).  So odious is His detestation of those, who do not believe in Him, that He orders their murder and pillage on a permanent basis. To complete this most horrendous plan, He offers for these misdeeds rewards of paradise, the most luxurious place for the choicest carnal pleasures. Thus, sex and violence rank as two pillars of the Islamic faith.

Crucial to Shaikh's approach is his perception of the role of Muhammad in originating Islam, since it is undoubtedly true that in order to be a Muslim it is not sufficient to simply believe in God. As Shaikh explains: 'In fact, Allah is just a figurehead and Muhammad the real driving force behind Islam because it is he, who is the Model of Behaviour, which must be closely followed by the Muslim, and it is his Intercessory powers, which get people into paradise

Thus, the life of Muhammad, as portrayed in his biography (sira), the collections of his doings and sayings (sunna, hadith), and those parts of the Qur'an that appear to refer to him, form the model for the ideal Muslim life. If the record is to be believed, Shaikh is perfectly justified in drawing attention to the fact that that life contained a great deal of sex and violence. If the record is not to be believed it gives us a horrifying insight into the mentality of those who concocted the texts. Unfortunately, rather than letting the texts speak for themselves, Shaikh filters them through something he calls 'Islamic sexual psychology'. This is his own explanation for the Muslim attitude to sex and violence, set out in the opening chapter and forming a distracting commentary throughout.

This pop psychology apart, the book forms a useful compendium of awkward texts that apologists for Islam might wish to remain unknown, and would find difficult to explain without undermining the whole fabric of the religion. If the tradition is true, if the Qur'an is a revelation from God, and the sira and hadith authentic records of God's final prophet, then on the evidence of these texts God and Islam stand revealed as odious barbarisms the world would be a better place without. On the other hand, if the tradition is not true, if the Qur'an, the sira and hadith are simply records of the capacity of the human imagination to delude itself in service to social and psychological advantage, then Islam stands equally revealed as a pernicious psychosis.

Apologists for Islam will doubtless claim that Shaikh's view of the religion is distorted by his harrowing personal experiences, that a balanced view would show Islam's other face, its art, architecture and mysticism, its intellectual achievements in the Islamic middle ages, and so on. But none of that outweighs the fact that the texts adduced by Shaikh are there, in revered works at the heart of Islam that have indelibly coloured it from the beginning.

Despite its eccentricities and polemical approach, Shaikh's book deserves to stand with his other works on bookshop and library shelves everywhere, alongside the numerous mealy-mouthed apologies for Islam that political correctness dictates shall be the only fare served to the public. Unfortunately, the likelihood is that the watchdogs of pusillanimity will ensure that this is not allowed to happen.

IBN AL RAWANDI

Available from: The Principality Publishers, P.O. Box 918, Cardiff.U.K.
Ibn al Rawandi's book 'Islamic Mysticism.