One of the great questions of the 21st century is: What is the true nature of Islam? There are two distinct answers to this question from the media and leaders. The popular message is that Islam is one of the great world religions, a peaceful religion, a foundation of world civilization, its Golden Age was the highpoint of history, and it preserved Western thought while we were in the Dark Ages. The alternative message is that Islam is a brutal, backward, woman abusing, violent, intellectually narrow ideology that is out to annihilate civilization.
Which side is right? How do we resolve this issue? Can it even be resolved? If we turn to the “experts” of any of the opinions, they will tell you that their view is correct. What then is the ultimate authority that will give us a firm foundation for reasoning and judgment about Islam? Is it possible to use critical thought or must we just accept the authority of experts?
There is way to achieve consensus about ideas that goes beyond expert opinion. The use of facts along with logic is the basis of critical thought. The ultimate form of critical thought uses measurements and numbers to resolve questions. This paper will use the foundational texts of Islam and measure the importance of ideas by how many words are given to concepts. The assumption is that the more content that is devoted to a subject, the greater the importance of the subject is. As an example: the Koran devotes 64% of its text to the subject of the unbeliever. This is assumed to imply that the unbeliever is important in Islamic doctrine.
The use of critical thought may seem counter-intuitive since many people view Islam as a religion that does not have a rational basis. Actually, Islam is not only rational; it is hyper-rational, but it uses another form of logic than the one we take for granted.
If we are to use critical thought, we must have a firm foundation. All Muslims agree that:
“There is no god, but Allah and Mohammed is His messenger.”
When this is repeated as a public testimony, you become a Muslim. However, this statement is not only the beginning of Islam, it is also the foundation and totality of Islam. It is not enough to worship Allah; you must worship as Mohammed worshipped.
Who is Allah and where do we learn about Him? This question points directly to the Koran.
Then the Koran, in turn, points directly to Mohammed. It says 91 times that Mohammed is the perfect Muslim. He is the divine human prototype, the only pattern acceptable to Allah. The actions and words of Mohammed are so important that they have a special name—Sunna. We find the Sunna in two texts. The Sira is the biography of Mohammed and the Hadith is the collection of hadiths (small stories, traditions) about Mohammed.
Islam is based on Koran and Sunna. Since the Sunna is found in the Sira and the Hadith, this means that three books contain all the doctrine of Islam—the Trilogy. If it is in the Trilogy (Koran, Sira, Hadith), then it is Islam. If something is not in the Trilogy, then it is not Islam. All of the Islamic doctrine is found in the Trilogy. Now, we have the complete information with no missing pieces.
We have established our first criteria of knowledge. All authoritative statements about Islam must include a reference to the Trilogy to be authenticated. It does not matter what a scholar, imam, media guru, or anyone else says, if what they say cannot be supported by the doctrine in the Trilogy, then it is not Islam. If it is supported by the Trilogy, then it is Islam.
We have been taught that the Koran is the source of Islamic doctrine. However, the Koran is only 14% of the total sacred texts . Actually, the Sira and the Hadith are 86% of the total textual doctrine . Islam is 14% Allah and 86% Mohammed. This is very good news. The Koran is obscure, but anyone can understand the life and sayings of Mohammed. These statistics point to the easy way to know Islam—know Mohammed. Anyone, absolutely anyone, can understand Mohammed and hence, Islam.
Islam is a text-based doctrine, so the nature of these texts must be made clear. A Muslim believes that the Koran is perfect, complete, universal and eternal. It does not contain the slightest error and it is the exact words of the only god of the universe. Mohammed is the perfect example of how to live the sacred life. This idea of complete, final, universal, and perfect textual truth is very hard for non-Muslims to comprehend. Most people read the Koran with the attitude of: “Oh, they don’t really believe this.” When Muslims read the Koran, their attitude is: “These are the perfect words of Allah.” Muslims call themselves the “believers” and by that they mean that they believe the Koran is perfect and Mohammed is the perfect pattern of life.
Remember, we started with the question: Can we evaluate what the media commentators, politicians, imams and other “experts” say about the true nature of Islam? Yes, we can know the true nature of Islam—it is found in the Trilogy. If what the expert has to say can be supported by the doctrine found in the Trilogy, then it is valid, since the Trilogy is the final arbiter of all opinions and statements about Islam.
Critical thought provides a powerful first step. Now, let us measure the doctrine of Islam. The following cases show how the technique of counting the number of words that are devoted to a topic can be used to discover the dominant themes of Islamic texts and, hence, Islamic doctrine.