In the name of Allah, the most merciful?
How do you define compassion and mercy? Whatever way you do, I’d be willing to bet that your definition of these terms is highly incompatible with the way the Quran’s author seems to define them.
Consider this appalling verse from the Quran that, in my book, continues to haunt the protagonist Donia Nour:
Indeed, those who disbelieve in Our verses – We will drive them into a Fire. Every time their skins are roasted through, We will replace them with other skins so they may taste the punishment. Indeed, Allah is ever Exalted in Might and Wise. (4:56)
To my mind, it takes a certain degree of inherent cruelty just to think up such a punishment. Yet the most disturbing thing about this kind of (arguably worst imaginable) torture is that it is not reserved for mass murders, sadistic paedophiles, or even petty thieves—it’s for people who happen to think the Quran is not actually particularly impressive, and so “disbelieve” it.
Never mind who these people might be—never mind the fact that they may be decent individuals who contribute to society and lead acceptably moral lives. None of that matters because, as the author has made so clear in this verse, his standard of morality is based on allegiance and morally-irrelevant beliefs, not deeds or intentions.
For me, singling this verse out of the 6235 other verses of the Quran is sufficient to discredit the alleged author—it’s like singling out a hypothetical footnote in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights about “How to lynch negros”. That would be sufficient to discredit its authors, even if the rest of the declaration did uphold some otherwise morally-laudable stances.
I suspect a moderate Muslim reading this may respond with two points: 1) That verse is symbolic and 2) You are taking things out of context.
Well, what is it symbolic of, exactly? If this is meant to be figurative speech, then it is by definition figurative of a kind of ordeal (whatever it may be) that is at least comparable to the pain we would expect from having our skin roasted over and over again.
In which case, the point still stands: this is a cruel, sadistic response to someone who disbelieves in the Quran (in fact, it’s a cruel sadistic response to pretty much anything imaginable).
As for taking things out of context, would it be taking things out of context if we stopped at that hypothetical footnote in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights mentioned above and rightly asked, “Who are the sick bastards who wrote this?” Presuming the footnote wasn’t there as a joke (and that wouldn’t be a funny joke), it would be sufficient in itself to reveal something very wrong about the authors’ ideas of justice or equality.
I argue that it’s the same with the Quran. The only difference is, there are literally hundreds of equivalent such “footnotes” in the Quran—except rather than footnotes, they are unabashedly clear and central proclamations.
The disposition of Allah towards violence, cruelty and destruction is sprinkled across almost each Quranic chapter, often numerous times. Allah boastfully destroys towns (7:4), pours boiling water on people’s heads (22:19), drowns entire civilizations (43:55), scorches faces with showers of molten lead (18:29), not to mention the dozens upon dozens of references to sending people to burn eternally in the Fire.
Here is a sample of them:
Yet the real worry is not just in his capacity to administer or allow for this (or whatever other horror these tortures might symbolize). The real worry is that in a great many cases, Allah does these things to people who did not necessarily do anything morally wrong–did not engage in genocide, rape or some unjustifiable war. Rather, he does them to people who simply don’t believe in him or his book.
Ultimately, while all these examples point to a clearly mercy-less god with severely poor moral standards, equally important is the way a great bulk of these Quranic verses end: “For Allah is Most Wise”; “Most Mighty”; “Most Compassionate”; “Most Exalted”.
To me, this aspect of Allah’s character (i.e. the boastful pride), completes his psychological diagnosis: He suffers from something that can only be described as psychopathic tyranny. If you haven’t heard of this condition before, think about all the brutal, genocidal medieval kings and the caesars of old. They too liked to boast about how merciful they were.