Thursday, 2 August 2018

A Response to Jordan Peterson’s Comments on Islam

NJ Bridgewater
2 August 2018

Dr. Jordan Peterson, clinical psychologist[1]

This article is written in response to some comments which Dr. Jordan Peterson made which are recorded in several videos on YouTube, including this one. The purpose of this response is not to criticise Jordan Peterson, who is an eminent scholar of our times, but to posit arguments which clarify or answer some of the objections which he has expressed. This is done in the spirit of constructive dialogue rather than as an attack. Just as in my articles responding to comments by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Fry—two notable atheists—both of whom argued against the existence of God,[2] and in my response to Stephen Crowder’s arguments against the compatibility of the Qur’ān and the United States Constitution, my intention is not to attack any individuals, nor even to denigrate their ideas. Rather, my intention is to clarify and to inform, as there is much misinformation and many misinterpretations, as well as many fallacious arguments, in relation to both of these topics. In the case of Islam, my central aim here is to defend the Qur’ān, the Prophet Muhammad and the Faith He established from inaccurate or anachronistic arguments, while acknowledging valid criticisms of various schools, sects and interpretations of this belief-system, which vary or diverge from the original intent of the Qur’ān. As an admirer of Jordan Peterson, who produces much excellent content on YouTube, I do hope that he expands his understanding of this topic even more and develops a more holistic understanding of the legacy of the Qur’ān, Islam and the Prophet, and comes to view them in a more positive light.

1. Separation of Church and State

In a video on YouTube, Jordan Peterson makes the following statement: “There’s a couple of things that I can’t wrap my head around easily in relation to Islam, and so one is what I see as the failure to separate church and state, and that’s a problem. Now, it may not be a problem as such, but’s it’s certainly a problem in relationship to the relation between Islam and the West, because we separate church from state. Now, there’s fundamentalists in the United States—Christian fundamentalists who think that that separation is a mistake, so it’s not only an idea that’s rooted in Islam that they should be united, but it’s definitely a problem with regards to our coexistence because that’s a fundamentally different presumption.”

The U.S. Bill of Rights[3]

There is some merit to this argument, as modern, Western democracies tend to separate church and state. This is true in terms of the United States, where the First Amendment to the Constitution states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press”.[4] This is perfectly in accord with the classical liberal principle of personal freedom. Everyone should be free to choose the religion that he wants. Laws, therefore, cannot be made to establish any particular church as a state-backed religious system. What the amendment does not do, however, is limit the influence or effect of religion on society. Contrary to popular belief, the amendment does not state that religion cannot be taught in schools, or that it cannot influence public policy, nor does it prevent anyone from praying in public spaces or government institutions. It merely states that the Federal Government cannot make any law establishing a state church. This is in contrast to the United Kingdom, where an established church exists, i.e. the Church of England, called the Episcopalian Church in the United States. The Queen is the Head of the Church of England, and this has been the case since Henry VIII broke with the Roman Catholic Church in 1534, after the English Parliament passed the Act of Supremacy, declaring Henry “Supreme Head on earth of the Church of England”.[5]

Now, the question arises, is separation of church necessary, and is it an essential feature of the West? In the case of the United States, no church or sect may be declared the official or state religion. This is a matter of principle, but it does not affect the influence of religion on the public space, government institutions or schools. Attempts to remove prayer or the Bible from schools is a relatively modern phenomenon, based on a popular misunderstanding of the First Amendment. In the case of Great Britain, there is both an established church and religion is actively taught in schools through Religious Studies classes. Neither of these two examples is incompatible with Western values or liberal democracy. The question, then, is: to what extent is the Islamic notion that church and state should not be separated incompatible with modern, Western democracies. In relation to that question, a few points must be considered. The separation of church and state in the West relates to a legal separation and not a cultural separation. Western culture is highly influenced by Judaeo-Christian values, which are the basis of modern human rights and the very philosophy of classical liberalism itself, and religion has been influential in the formation of English common law and the legal systems which have existed throughout the ages. Separation of church and state, then, is a separation of government institutions, i.e. Parliament or Congress, from religious authority and a strictly-religious code of laws. This differs from many contemporary interpretations of Islam, which hold that the state should be organised along religious lines, and that a Shariah law code should be enforced, as interpreted by the ‘ulamā’ (religious clerics) of one school of jurisprudence or another.

Here, an important distinction and clarification should be made. This is a distinction that is not often made by modern-day critics of Islam and that is: the distinction between the various schools and sects of Islam which now predominate and the original teachings of the Qur’ān and practice of the Prophet Muhammad. In addition, when references to the Qur’ān or life of the Prophet are made, these are taken out of their historical context and are treated anachronistically or judged based on 21st-century values. As to the first point: we must recognise that Islam, like every other religion, has gone through centuries of interpretation, development and theological reinterpretation. A huge contrast exists between the Islam of the Golden Age of Islam, during the Abbasid Caliphate, and the Islam of the Ottoman Empire, the modern Islamic State of Iran or the Taliban in Afghanistan. All of these represent vastly different interpretations of Islam based on various human understandings, interpretations and prejudices. Under the Abbasid Caliphate (750 – 1258 CE), which was a time of great scientific development and innovation, as well as freedom and tolerance, the official school of Islam, backed by the Abbasid Caliphs, was Mu‘tazilah, which was a rationalist school of thought based in Basra and Baghdad, flourishing between the 8th and 10th centuries CE.[6] The Mu‘tazilite school emphasised the importance of reason and critical thinking over ritualism, and argued that the Qur’ān was not uncreated, since God must have logically preceded His own speech. This is in contrast with most modern-day schools of Islam.

If we are to argue that the Islamic notion of church and state is fundamentally incompatible with Western values and Western democracies, then we have to examine whether this is the case with the Abbasid Caliphate, the original Islamic State established by the Prophet, and other iterations of the same state-system, and not just look to modern-day interpretations of Islam. That is where I differ with Jordan Peterson, because he is referring to Islam—a very broad term—and not to particular schools of thought within Islam, or specifically to the modern-day Muslim community. Many schools of thought within Islam are particularly problematic and incompatible with Western values, and it is these schools of thought, and these sects, that we should criticize and argue against. If one argues against Islam itself, however, then the danger is that adherents of Islam become alienated and feel under attack. This prevents any possibility of open and constructive dialogue, and it also discourages the development of a renaissance within Islam, or a resurgence in the tolerant and enlightened schools of Islam which predominated during the Golden Age of Islam (8th – 14th centuries CE).[7] Furthermore, and perhaps most importantly, we risk denying our history in the West, because the only reason that the West as we know it exists today is because of the Islamic Golden Age and the influence of Islamic interpretations of philosophy, science and culture on Western Europe, leading to the emergence of the Renaissance (14th – 17th centuries CE) and the Age of Enlightenment (18th century). This is attested by Briffault (1919), who writes:

“It is highly probable that but for the Arabs modern European civilization would never have arisen at all; it is absolutely certain that but for them, it would not have assumed the character which has enabled it to transcend all previous phases of evolution. For although there is not a single aspect of European growth in which the decisive influence of Islamic culture is not traceable, nowhere is it so clear and momentous as in the genesis of that power which constitutes the paramount distinctive force of the modern world and the supreme source of its victory—natural science and the scientific spirit… What we call science arose in Europe as a result of a new spirit of inquiry, of new methods of investigation, of the method of experiment, observation, measurement, of the development of mathematics in a form unknown to the Greeks. That spirit and those methods were introduced into the European world by the Arabs.”[8]

One could argue that it was the doctrine of the Mu‘tazilites which actually influenced the rationalism and scientific inquiry of the Renaissance thinkers, leading to the Protestant Reformation, the rise of classical liberalism, the principles of the separation of church and state, etc. All of these could be seen as being inspired by the very philosophy which predominated, from the 8th to 10th centuries, under the Abbasid Caliphate—an Islamic state. Europe prior to the Renaissance was steeped in religious orthodoxy, canon law and the dominance of the Papacy. It was only when reason and rational inquiry began to take hold of Europe, that the ideas of liberalism and natural rights could take hold. Indeed, the idea of natural rights can be traced to Qur’ānic teachings. Fundamental to the Qur’ān is the notion that life is bestowed by God, as He says: “How is it that ye believe not in God? Since ye were dead, and He gave you life; He will hereafter cause you to die, and will again restore you to life; then shall ye return unto Him.”[9] Since God created man, and only God can take it away, everyone has a divinely-bestowed right to life. Likewise, as John Locke argues: “Adam was created a perfect man, his body and mind in full possession of their strength and reason, and so was capable, from the first instant of his being to provide for his own support and preservation, and govern his actions according to the dictates of the law of reason which God had implanted in him.”[10] In other words, since Adam was endowed with the power of reason, he has the right to govern his own actions according to the law of reason.

Byzantine embassy to the Abbasid Caliph Ma’mūn[11]

This quotation from John Locke echoes the Qur’ān (2:30 - 31): “When thy Lord said to the angels, ‘Verily, I am about to place one in my stead on earth,’ they said, ‘Wilt thou place there one who will do ill therein and shed blood, when we celebrate thy praise and extol thy holiness?’ God said, ‘Verily, I know what ye know not.’ And he taught Adam the names of all things, and then set them before the angels, and said, ‘Tell me the names of these, if ye are endued with wisdom.’”[12] This is interesting for several reasons. First of all, God states that Adam is His viceregent on earth. In other words, since human beings are created by God in His image, they are given power and authority over the physical world, much as a caretaker in a property or a gardener in a garden. Secondly, the angels argue that man will do wrong on earth and shed blood, but God responds by saying: “I know what ye know not”. In other words, God has a higher wisdom in creating man, since He has given man free will to determine his own actions. This is because man is “endued with wisdom”, which is in accord with Locke’s statement that Adam’s “body and mind” was “in full possession of their strength and reason”. Likewise, according to the Qur’ān, God taught Adam “the names of all things”. In other words, man potentially knows all things, but this can only be unleashed by actively searching and investigating the world. This explains the obsession of Muslim scholars during the Golden Age of Islam, who were keen to uncover the mysteries of all things. Perhaps they would have continued their glorious civilisation if the Caliphate, and Baghdad—its capitalhad not been wiped out by the Mongolian conquest of Baghdad in 1268 CE, during which the city was razed to the ground and tens of thousands of people were slaughtered. This ended the Abbasid Caliphate and an efflorescence of arts, culture, science and civilisation that has yet to be fully paralleled.

Baghdad during the Abbasid Caliphate[13]

Now, the Abbasid Caliphate did not distinguish between the religious and political aspects of society, as the Caliph was, at the same, time, the Head of Church and State, much as Henry VIII (1491 – 1547) was during the Tudor period. His daughter, Mary, swung the other way, making England subject to the Roman Pontiff, while Elizabeth I settled the question of authority in 1558 with the Elizabethan Settlement, which established a middle path between Protestantism and Roman Catholicism known as the via media.[14] Medieval canon law was maintained and there was an established church, i.e. the Church of England. None of this differs significantly from the Islamic position that religious authority and temporal authority should, ultimately, go hand-in-hand. Now, the West has advanced considerably, since the Renaissance and Enlightenment, towards a more secular system of governance and less direct influence of religion on the state. The Abbasid Caliphate ended in the 13th century, so we cannot be certain what direction it would have taken as time went on. What we do know, however, is the state of religion and authority within that caliphate and can use this to understand something about the nature of religion within Islamic society and governance. What must be understood, however, is that the Islamic conception of the state includes both the religious community of Muslims and the structures of governance and laws. In other words, the Islamic community, or ummah, is both a community and a state, and should be governed according to a system of laws which are established by that community. These are based on the laws of the Qur’ān and the Hadiths, i.e. traditions, of the Prophet Muhammad. In addition, in cases where no law exists, reason is used to determine coherent solutions to problems that are in accord with the spirit of the Qur’ān and Hadiths. This is called ijtihād (independent reasoning to find solutions to a legal problem), which is quite similar to the premise of English common law. English common law is, itself, based on a combination of tradition, common values and reason.

Jordan Peterson is right when he says that secularism and the argument for a religious state are fundamentally incompatible and could lead to problems with regards to coexistence. This must be understood, however, in light of the dichotomy between the individual and the society. An individual is subject to laws and governance so long as he or she is a citizen of a given state and/or resides within that state. In other words, a citizen of the United States is subject to the laws of the United States, especially while living in that country. He is also subject to the legal system and English common law, which is the basic system in most, if not all, anglophone countries. The individual of English extraction cannot move to France and then impose his own legal system on the French. That would be tantamount to an attempt to subvert the state. Islam has a word for this. In the Qur’ān (7:56), God commands believers: “And commit not disorders on the earth after it hath been well ordered.”[15] In other words, subverting or trying to overthrow the state is completely forbidden. This naturally implies that trying to impose Islamic law on British society, for example, is completely forbidden in the Qur’ān. The words here are lā tafsidū, which means “do not commit fasād”. Fasād has a variety of meanings, including rottenness, corruption, depravity, and disturbance of the public peace.[16] In fact, the punishment for terrorism in the Qur’ān is execution, banishment or the removal of one’s hands. Severe indeed, but also a serious deterrent to those who wish to put innocent lives in danger or subvert the state.[17] Far from being encouraged, terrorism and anti-state activities are strongly condemned in the Qur’ān.

So, where does the compatibility problem come from? Actually, the reason that so many individuals do want to impose Islamic law on Western societies is because of a virulent, 18th century ideology that emerged in the region of Najd in Arabia, called Wahhabism or Salafism. This was, itself, a derivation of the earlier ideas of Ibn Taymiyyah (1263 – 1328 CE), who was a medieval Sunni Muslim theologian and reformer. Ibn Taymiyyah was an incredibly controversial cleric, being imprisoned several times for breaching the scholarly consensus on Islamic teachings. Like Martin Luther, he had strong views on the concept of intercession, believing that only God could intercede on behalf of human beings, e.g. in matters of sin, miracles, etc. He was also a strict literalist, refusing more rational and contextual interpretations of Qur’ānic verses and, instead, taking them literally. His beliefs were particularly threatening to the state, however, because he argued that the original Rightly-Guided Caliphs ruled correctly but that subsequent Caliphs had fallen short of true Islamic practice and governance.[18] In other words, the Caliphs of his time had fallen off the true path and were leading incorrectly. This, in other words, was a direct challenge to the authority of the state. It was only in the 18th century, under Muhammad ibn ‘Abdu’l-Wahhāb (1703 – 1792 CE), however, that these ideas took the form of a concrete movement, which held that the whole Muslim world was in error, and that a true Islamic state should be established by fighting against other Muslims who had apostatised. Ibn ‘Abdu’l-Wahhāb’s view of the world was black-and-white, consisting of believer and infidel, truth and apostasy, etc. He was a strict literalist who sought to impose a literal interpretation of the Qur’ān on society, which he regarded as being true Islam and a restoration of the Righty-Guided rule of the first Caliphs (prior to the Umayyad and Abbasid dynasties).  And it is this ideology, not Islam or the Qur’ān itself, which is so uncompromising, and which is incompatible with Western values. That is not to argue that the Islamic legal system is suitable for this day and age. That’s another topic entirely, but merely to assert that Islam, in its essence, is compatible with Western civilisation.

2. Warlord vs. Legislator and Leader

Peterson goes on to say: “Problem number two, for me, and again, this may be a consequence of my ignorance, which I am trying to rectify—Muhammad was a warlord, and I don’t know what to do about that fact. Like, one thing you can say about Christ, hypothetically, let’s say—I’m not talking about a historical reality necessarily, although I’m not denying it either—is that, of all the things he was, warlord was definitely not one of them, and I don’t know what to do about that, and so, I don’t know how to reconcile that…”

This is a common misconception, which results from an anachronistic reading of history, not taking into account the historical circumstances in which the Prophet Muhammad lived. I have already addressed this issue in my response to Stephen Crowder’s blog post on 5 reasons why the Qur’an can Never ‘Coexist’ with the Constitution, which I titled 5 Reasons the Qur’ān and US Constitution Can Coexist. Let us go back to basics. Here, Peterson is comparing the lives of two great religious leaders—the Prophet Muhammad and Jesus Christ. What do we know about these two great Figures? The story of Jesus Christ is contained in the four canonical Gospels, which basically tell the same story with greater or lesser detail and different emphases. Peterson is right in stating that Jesus was far from a warlord. Rather, in His short, three-year ministry, Jesus wandered between Galilee and Judea, teaching, instructing, healing and performing miracles. A number of followers grouped around Him, including the Twelve Apostles, who appeared to be His permanent disciples, while there likely was a larger group of followers who did not accompany Him in all of His travels and trials. The core Message of Jesus Christ is contained within the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5 – 7). This doctrine contains the same basic spiritual teachings which could be called the core of Judaism—updated and given a deeper and more refined spiritual nature. Whereas Judaism had focused on the lex talionis, for example, i.e. eye for an eye, Jesus introduced the concept of turning the other cheek (Matthew 5:38 – 40).

The main emphasis of Jesus Christ’s Message was love, and He taught His core followers to understand spiritual truths, metaphors and parables which contained the key elements of the Gospel. This includes the spiritual nature of human beings, the ability of each person to mirror the love of God in his heart, and the importance of establishing the Kingdom of God on earth. Christ’s identification with the Messiah was seen as a threat to the Romans, who regarded Him as being an upstart and a rebel; hence why He was mocked as the “King of the Jews” and was interrogated on that point by Pontius Pilate. The Jewish leadership, the Sanhedrin, which condemned Him to death, was insistent on this point, with the chief priests reportedly saying: “Write not, The King of the Jews; but that he said, I am King of the Jews.”[20] Jesus Christ was then crucified—a common Roman punishment—and His body buried within a tomb. After three days, some of His disciples said that the tomb was empty, and the rest is history. His message and story were passed down as a series of sayings, which were later weaved into a narrative. This narrative—the Four Gospels—may be largely regarded as metaphorical or symbolic, with a basic narrative that is historically accurate. Most of the stories, however, are probably metaphorical. That is, in sum, a brief analysis of some of the main features in Jesus Christ’s life. He never married, as far as we are aware, His followers were mostly poor and illiterate, while His opponents were priests, leaders, and the Roman establishment. They never established a state or community which needed to be defended, and Jesus told Peter to put away his sword, saying: “Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.”[21]

Let us consider, then, the life of the Prophet Muhammad. What was His life and Message? Like Jesus, the Prophet Muhammad was a descendant of Abraham, being descended from the Kedarites who branched from the progeny of Ishmael. Muhammad, like Jesus, did not know His father. He was born an orphan and sent away to be suckled by a Bedouin woman of the Banū Sa‘d called Halimah. She took Him reluctantly, as He was fatherless, and a fatherless child was not likely to bring a great reward for her services. After five years of desert life, Muhammad returned to the town of His birth, Mecca. Here, Muhammad was under the care of His paternal uncle, Abū-Tālib, who was the father of ‘Alī, His cousin and eventual son-in-law. Now, both Abū-Tālib and Muhammad belonged to the Hāshim branch of the Quraysh Tribe. The Quraysh were the dominant tribe of Mecca, and controlled access to its holy-of-holies, the Kaaba. According to legend, the Kaaba was originally constructed by the Prophet Abraham, with some writers alleging that the foundations were laid on the site of an even earlier temple, built by Adam. Now, the Hāshimites were not the dominant clan of Mecca. This position was taken up by the Umayyads, eventually led by Abū-Sufyān. Muhammad grew up and took up the profession of His father, which was trade. He became a humble merchant and travelled the various trade routes in and out of Mecca. During the time, He became widely renowned for His honesty, truthfulness and trustworthiness. Everyone could rely on Muhammad, and they knew that He never told a lie. He conducted His business in an impeccable manner, and never defrauded or cheated anyone. We can only imagine how exceptional this must have been in that time and place.

So great was His reputation for good character and good conduct, that He attracted the attention of moderately-wealthy widow by the name of Khadijah, who was then 40 years’ old. Muhammad Himself was only 25 and had not yet taken a wife. Khadijah chose Him for a husband, and the two lived in harmony and marital bliss, having several children together. Khadijah had married twice before and had children from all of her marriages. Muhammad and Khadijah had six children together, including Qāsim, who died before His second birthday, as well as four daughters and a son called ‘Abdu’llāh (who also died in childhood). So far, none of this is particularly remarkable, other than His exceptional good character and virtuous qualities. In addition, Muhammad was known for His religious devotion and piety, but not in the traditional sense. He did not worship the various idols and statues which were the central focus of the Pagan Arabian religion; nor did He belong to Christianity or Judaism, which were also widely practised by a number of Arabian tribes. His wife, Khadijah, however, had a Christian cousin, called Waraqah bin Nawfal, who was actually a Nestorian Christian priest. So, Muhammad was familiar with Christianity and was friendly to Christians, but He was not an adherent of the Faith. Rather, He was known as a Hanīf, which means someone who follows the primitive monotheism of Abraham. Since it was believed that the Kaaba was built by Abraham, and that the Quraysh (and other descendants of ‘Adnān—a common Arab ancestor) were descendants of Abraham, and were Ishmaelites, it was not surprising that the pious young Man would turn to a pure monotheistic and individual Faith based on the idea of following the path of Abraham.

The Cave of Hira, where Muhammad received His Revelation[22]

Like Siddhartha Buddha, and Moses before them, and even Zoroaster and others, Muhammad devoted Himself to one singular aim—to find the Truth—to find out the meaning of existence and connect with the Divine Being which brought all things from nothingness into reality. He used to repair to a cave on Jabal an-Nūr (the ‘Mount of Light’), where He would sometimes spend days meditating and supplicating God, communing with His own spirit and turning to that Divine Light which illumines all the horizons of the world. Just as Jesus Christ spent forty days being tempted on a high mountain, Muhammad fasted, prayed and turned His soul to God. It was only when He was forty years old that God gave Him a clear and resounding answer to His prayer. It was then that He received a Message, a Divine Revelation which shook every fabric of His being. The following is from a short sketch of the Prophet’s life which I wrote back in 2004: “One night towards the end of Ramadan, at the age of forty, an Angel came to Him. He was in the form of a man. The Angel said unto Him:

“‘Recite!’ and He said: ‘I am not a reciter.’ As He Himself describes it: ‘the Angel took me and whelmed me in his embrace until he had reached the limit of mine endurance. Then he released Me and said: ‘Recite!’, and again I said ‘I am not a reciter.’ Then a third time He whelmed me as before, then released me and said: ‘Recite in the name of Thy Lord who created! He createth man from a clot of blood. Recite; and Thy Lord is the Most Bountiful, He who hath taught by the pen, taught man what he knew not.’ He recited these words and the Angel left Him. He said: ‘It was as though the words were written on My heart.’ He fled from the cave, but when He was half-way down the mountain He heard a voice. It said: ‘O Muhammad, Thou art the Messenger of God, and I am Gabriel.” Looking into the heavens, He saw the same Angel, no longer in the form of a man and filling the whole horizon. The Angel repeated: ‘O Muhammad, Thou art the Messenger of God, and I am Gabriel.’ Whichever way He turned, there was the Angel. Eventually, the Angel turned and left. Muhammad left and returned to His wife.”[23]

What was the result of all of this? Muhammad first disclosed His Message to His closest kin, including His wife, Khadījah, and His cousin ‘Alī, who would later go on to become one of the four Rightly-Guided Caliphs after the Prophet’s death. ‘Alī is also regarded as the first of the Twelve Imāms in Shī‘ah Islam. Word of the new Revelation spread, but it was taken up not by the rich and influential, but by the poor, slaves, and other people of lower social status, rather like the first followers of Jesus Christ. These were the meek, the poor, the lowly members of society who were left out by the ruling elite, which did not care for their interests. Moreover, Arabia was a brutal place. Families would murder their infant daughters rather than raise a girl, burying them alive in the sands. Men could take as many wives as they wanted. Women were treated terribly, and often inherited by their sons. Stepmothers could become inherited wives. Murder and warfare were rife. If a warrior conquered his enemy, he would take the women as slaves and kill his foes in vengeance. Blood feuds lasted generations, sparked by the smallest insult. Wine and drunkenness were rife. The Arabs were a proud people, renowned for their hospitality, but also for their cruelty and vindictiveness. Power and honour mattered—poverty and humility were shameful. Moreover, there was no afterlife.[24] The gods, in the form of statues, wood or clay, could be worshipped for material gain, but life was governed by Destiny, not by God. Though they believed in God as a Creator, they did not have any conception of a divine standard of Justice. After death, one simply ceased to exist, so there were no consequences for cruelty or injustice in this life. Edward Gibbon writes: “According to the remark of Pliny, the Arabian tribes are equally addicted to theft and merchandise; the caravans that traverse the desert are ransomed or pillaged; and their neighbors, since the remote times of Job and Sesostris, have been the victims of their rapacious spirit.”[25] With regards to the state of women, Zwemer writes: “As to the position of women in this ‘Time of Ignorance,’  the cruel custom of female infanticide prevailed in many parts of heathen Arabia. This was probably due, in the first instance, to poverty or famine, and afterward became a social custom to limit population. Professor Wilken suggests as a further reason that wars had tended to an excess of females over males.”[26] This was the brutal, polytheistic, hedonistic and materialistic world in which Muhammad lived, and it was in this climate of oppression, that these first spiritual souls were enlightened by a new Revelation from God.

As I wrote in my response to Stephen Crowder: “His early revelations focused on the oneness of God, the need to abstain from idol-worship, caring for the poor and needy, performing prayer, the oneness of the Prophets and anticipation of the Resurrection, Last Day and Divine Judgement… The Qur’ān proclaimed that the Torah, Psalms and Gospels were all divine revelations and recounted stories from the lives of the Prophets (e.g. Qur’ān 4:163, 5:44, 7:157, 5:110, 17:157, 21:105, 12, 19). Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus were all declared Prophets who brought divine messages to mankind and the early Muslims were required to recognise each of these Prophets and their scriptures as true. The early Muslims, like early Christians, consisted mostly of the poor and abject denizens of Mecca: the dispossessed, slaves, women, and other members of Muhammad’s clan. For a period of over ten years, they were persecuted, beaten and pressured to recant their belief ‘there is only one God’ and ‘Muhammad is His Messenger’ (lā ’ilāh-a ’illa llāh, muHammad-a r-rasūl-u llāh). Some were killed for their belief. Others lost everything they owned. Muhammad Himself was offered kingship of Mecca and political sovereignty if He would simply recant His belief in the oneness of God and would, instead, accept the worship of multiple deities and idols. Muhammad refused, proving that He had no interest in political power—His own wish was to serve God and His fellow man.

“Finally, the rulers of Mecca plotted to murder Muhammad while He slept. The clan leaders of Medina [then called Yathrib], a city not far distant full of date plantations, hearing of Muhammad’s reputation as a peacemaker and trustworthy individual, invited Him to come to their city and arbitrate their disputes. Medina was a city of multiple tribes and religions undergoing a period of conflict which only an impartial arbitrator could solve. Leaving the city secretly, Muhammad evaded the assassination plot and reached Medina together with one companion. Within a matter of a few years, Islam dominated the city, the first mosque was built, and the first Islamic state was born. This is the period when the much-discussed Shariah (sharī ‘ah) originated. The Shariah is simply the codified system of laws established through the Qur’ān and the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad. The basis of the first Islamic state was religious toleration. Muhammad created a political covenant, in which Jews and Christians were given full religious freedom. Muslims were tasked with defending the city militarily and, in lieu of this, the other inhabitants of the city paid the jizyah—a tax to support the new state, much like modern taxes. Muslims also paid their own religious tithe—zakát—which was used to support the poor, orphans and the war-wounded, as well as other charitable causes. The early Muslim state was one in which the weak and poor of society were cared for and protected by the strong, where religions lived in peace and mutual toleration, and justice was the highest standard. Women were given property rights and allowed to inherit. Prior to Islam, they were often regarded as little more than chattel to be inherited or possessed. Freeing slaves was proclaimed to be an honourable thing, and the evils of slavery were moderated. Polygamy, which formerly had been unrestrained, was limited to four wives. However, this was allowed only if each wife could be treated equally—which is impossible for ordinary human beings. Hence many commentators argue that monogamy is, in reality, ordained. In contrast, Judaism and Christianity both allow unlimited polygamy. The reason most Christian denominations today are monogamous is due to the influence of Roman law.

Far from a warmonger, Muhammad engaged only in defensive warfare. Wars of aggression were not permitted, as evidenced in the following verse (2:190): “And fight them on until there is no more Tumult or oppression, and there prevail justice and faith in God. But if they cease, Let there be no hostility except to those who practise oppression”; Qur’ān 4:90:“Therefore if they withdraw from you but fight you not, and (instead) send you (guarantees of) peace, then God hath opened no way for you (to war against them)”; Qur’ān 60:8 – 9: “God forbids you not, with regard to those who fight you not for (your) Faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them: for God loveth those who are just”. In other words, the Muslims should continue to fight the pagan Meccans as long as they continued to try to annihilate them but, when they ceased aggression, peace should be established. The pagans of Mecca were determined to exterminate Islam and root this newly-founded threat to their regime. This was despite the fact that the Muslims had left Mecca in peace and did not want to force their religion on anyone. In fact, the Qur’ān forbids conversion by force (Qur’ān 2:256): “Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from Error: whoever rejects evil and believes in God hath grasped the most trustworthy hand-hold, that never breaks. And God heareth and knoweth all things”.[27]

The city of Medina[28]

Now, let me ask you this: does this sound like Muhammad was a warlord? The argument can be made that He was, but only in the same sense that George Washington was the Warlord of the Revolutionary Forces in colonial America, or Winston Churchill was the Warlord of the Mighty British Isles. But that would be to take the word ‘warlord’ and extend it to mean the Head of State or General of an independent and sovereign community. The Islamic State was just that—it was a state based in the city of Yathrib (later called Medina), which expanded and grew as new adherents entered Islam. It was also a multi-cultural and religiously-tolerant state, allowing Jews and Christians to worship freely. Was it tolerant of Paganism? No, but neither was the Prophet Elijah when He rounded up the Baalist prophets and slew them on Mount Carmel, as the Bible states: “Take the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape. And they took them: and Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon, and slew them there.”[29] Just as the Baalists represented a distinct threat to the monotheistic society of ancient Israel, the Pagans of Mecca, who were determined to wipe out Islam and all of the men, women and children who followed Muhammad, were a threat to the community. Unlike the Old Testament Prophets, however, the Prophet Muhammad did not advocate wholesale slaughter. Rather, when He entered Mecca, He granted forgiveness and tolerance to all of its inhabitants, so long as they forsook Paganism and recognized one God. The infidels, the polytheists, are strongly condemned in the Qur’ān, but Jews, Christians, and even Zoroastrians and Sabians, are granted full tolerance and respect. As the Head of State of a new society, Muhammad was entrusted with the safety of all of its inhabitants, and it is only in that regard that He engaged in warfare. Jesus Christ, on the other hand, was not a temporal leader. Hence, He was never in a position to engage in defensive warfare. And every Christian country throughout the ages has agreed that an army and warfare are needed to defend the society from external, and even internal, threats. I would go deeper into this, and compare the lives of Muhammad, Moses and Abraham, but I think all of the above is sufficient, and I rest my argument on this point for now.

3. Byzantine Christianity and Buddhists in Afghanistan

Peterson goes on to argue: “The expansion that he initiated was unbelievably successful. I mean, within 600 years, it was the biggest empire the world had ever seen, and it demolished Byzantine Christianity, which is something that Western people don’t even know. You now, I’ve read thinkers who’ve said that the West was so traumatized—culturally, let’s say—by the demolition of Byzantine Christianity that we can’t even study it now. And so, I don’t know if that’s true, but I don’t know if it’s not true either. The Buddhists were wiped out of Afghanistan…”

This question is interesting, as it relates to the expansion of the Islamic caliphate and the eventual conversion of much of the Byzantine Empire and Afghanistan. Now for a bit of background: Prior to Islam, a number of religions were practised in Afghanistan, including Zoroastrianism, Paganism, Hinduism and Buddhism. As part of the Persian Empire, Zoroastrianism was the state religion and was practised by the Persian royal court. Persia, at the time, was ruled by the Sassanian dynasty, which was one of the two principal superpowers of the day—the other being the Byzantine Empire. The state religion of the Byzantine Empire was Orthodox Christianity. These two empires, East and West, fought it out over centuries, including via Arab proxy states such as Ghassanids and Lakhmids. These two client states themselves practised two different forms of Christianity, while the Byzantines and Persians represented Orthodox Christianity and Zoroastrianism respectively, each vying for dominance. The Persians, in fact, though once renowned for their tolerance under the Achaemenids, actively persecuted Christian communities. In fact, according to the Syriac Acts of the Persian Martyrs, the Sassanian king Shapur II began persecuting Christians shortly after Constantine’s death in 337 CE.[30] It seems, perhaps, that not much has changed in the Middle East today, where religious persecution, and persecution of ethnic and religious minorities, is all too common. The Byzantines themselves were not paragons of tolerance, however, with anti-paganism laws being enacted by the Byzantine emperors Arcadius, Honorius, Theodosius II, Marcian and Leo I the Thracian respectively.[31] This intolerance was extended, furthermore, to minority Christian denominations, regarded as heretics. Michael I, for example, executed ‘not a few’ Paulicians and Athinganoi—both regarded as heretical, and this religious persecution was justified based on verses from the New Testament.[32]

The Byzantine Empire (c. 600 CE)[33]

The above is not said in the spirit of disparaging either the Byzantines or the Persians, but merely to give some background to their eventual absorption (or much of them) within the Islamic caliphate. Both Persia and the Byzantine Empire were, by the 6th century, in a state of decline. While Justinian (527 – 565) had managed to reconquer Africa, and even Italy,[34] it was not long before the Empire began to face serious external difficulties. On the accession of the Sassanid ruler, Chosroes I Nushirvan (531 – 579), Syria suffered from incursions and Lazistan was taken by the Persians, opening a road to the Black Sea; Lazistan was only recaptured in 549 and peace was concluded in 562.[35] Justinian’s successes were soon reversed, and the empire was forced to assume its role as the last remnant of the Roman Empire, excluded from the west by barbarians and chaos and hedged in by Persians and Arabs in the east. Recognising this new status quo, the emperor Heraclius (c. 575 – 641), who reigned from 610 to 641, introduced Greek as the Eastern Roman Empire’s official language (replacing Latin).[36] Gibbon describes the Byzantines’ malaise as follows:

“From the time of Heraclius, the Byzantine theatre is contracted and darkened: the line of empire, which had been defined by the laws of Justinian and the arms of Belisarius, recedes on all sides from our view; the Roman name, the proper subject of our inquiries, is reduced to a narrow corner of Europe, to the lonely suburbs of Constantinople; and the fate of the Greek empire has been compared to that of the Rhine, which loses itself in the sands, before its waters can mingle with the ocean. The scale of dominion is diminished to our view by the distance of time and place; nor is the loss of external splendor compensated by the nobler gifts of virtue and genius.”[37]

All of this leads us to the conclusion that the Byzantine Empire was in decline, and its eventual disappearance was all but inevitable. So, how did these two empires—the Persian and the Byzantine—come to be conquered almost entirely by the Islamic caliphate? Was it a war of violence and extermination, of religious genocide and intolerance, or did the peoples of these lands willing take up Islam? The first clue to this is the verse we discussed earlier, i.e. Qur’ān 2:256: “Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from Error: whoever rejects evil and believes in God hath grasped the most trustworthy hand-hold, that never breaks. And God heareth and knoweth all things.”[38] If this principle had not been followed over thousands of years, none of the existing minority religious communities in the Middle East would have survived. Rather, it is because of this spirit of tolerance that each community was allowed to exist and given full tolerance. If that is the case, and people were not forced to adopt Islam at the point of a blade, then why did both empires becomes overwhelmingly Muslim? This is an important question that requires some consideration and relates both to socio-political, economic and other factors. The eminent scholar and historian, Ira M. Lapidus, writes that the “earlier generation of Western scholars believed that conversions to Islam were made at the point of the sword and that conquered peoples were given the choice of conversion or death. It is now apparent,”—he continues—“that conversion by force, although not unknown in Muslim countries, was, in fact, rare.”[39]

This may appear mind-blowing to some, especially considering the recent behaviour of the so-called Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) in Syria and Iraq, but that terrorist group by no means represents the historical reality of the original Islamic caliphate under the Rāshidūn, or ‘Rightly-Guided’ caliphs (i.e. the first Four Caliphs). Lapidus goes on to stress the historical circumstances which led people to convert to Islam, and it was these factors, and not forced conversion, which led to largely Islamic populations. If that is the case, and the fall of the Byzantine Empire was a gradual process of conversion and, eventually, conquest, then who are we to say that this was not a natural step in the evolution of societies and cultures? Is it unfortunate that we have lost much information about Byzantine belief and practice? Of course, if that is the case. But that does not mean that history can stay static, or that social and religious changes will not happen. They do, and conversion to Islam was one of them. The same was the case with Persia, now Iran, where large Zoroastrian communities eventually dwindled down to small numbers. Zoroastrianism, no longer backed by the state and official status, shrank to a handful of believers. The same could be seen in England where, upon the accession of Elizabeth I, the number of Roman Catholics magically dwindled to a few ardent believers, while the vast majority accepted her religious reforms. This is just history, and peoples are as fickle with their religion as they are with their allegiance to kings. The ardent supporter of Charles I one day could be a Roundhead the next. This is the nature of man. And religion fills both spiritual and social needs. There are, sometimes, advantages to following the majority religion of a country. Nevertheless, to say that Islam wiped out Byzantine Christianity or Buddhism, is like saying that the Reformation wiped out Catholicism. It didn’t. Society changed. People’s allegiances moved. And a new religion took hold. That’s just history—and that’s evolution.

4. Extremism and extremist propaganda is a problem

Peterson goes on to say: “So what I’m hoping is that there is a bridge. There better be a bridge. And that’s why I want to have these discussions, because I’d like to understand if there’s a bridge… I would like to know if what I think is wrong, because, if it’s wrong, it’s important that I know it’s wrong… And there’s other things too, like I’m not happy with… the Wahhabis. I don’t think they’re our allies.”

Here Jordan Peterson touches on a sensitive topic, but one which is especially relevant. He is right to raise this issue, and he is right to point it out as problematic. Extremism is problematic, and the number of extremists among certain branches of Islam is especially problematic. It is not Islamophobic or intolerant to say this. It’s just a fact. I have actually addressed this issue earlier on, where I referenced Ibn Taymiyyah and Ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhāb, both of whom contributed to the development of a militant, literalist school of Islam which holds that a strict interpretation of religious law must be imposed on every society, through force if necessary. Strictly speaking, the peaceful belief in ‘Abd al-Wahhāb’s principles is called Salafism by adherents, though these often insist they are just following Islam as originally practiced by the ‘pious predecessors’ (Salaf as-sāliH). This would only be the case, however, if the original Muslims followed Ibn Taymiyyah’s strict literalism, which they did not. Ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhāb would only be correct if the original Muslims believed in fighting and conquering fellow Muslims, which they did not. His self-proclaimed jihād against everyone who did not adhere to his interpretations of Islam was contrary to the practice of the early Muslim community, which relied on authority, at the outset, from the Prophet himself, and, after He passed away, from the Caliph. Since Ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhāb was neither a prophet nor a caliph, he had no authority to initiate a jihād or ‘holy war’. The Caliph at the time was actually the Ottoman Sultan, and this was universally accepted by the Sunni Muslim community. Subverting his authority or failing to follow his command was actually a form of impiety. Sultan Abdülhamid I ruled from 1775 – 1789, and he was followed by Selim III, who reigned from 1789 to 1807. It was only these individuals who had the authority to launch holy wars under a strict interpretation of Sunni Islam. Under Shī‘ism, only the living Imām could launch a holy war, and he went into permanent mystical hiding in the Major Occultation (941 CE), meaning that no holy war can be called until his eventual return in glory, much like the eventual return of Jesus Christ.

Umayyad mosque, where Ibn Taymiyyah taught[40]

Islamism, which is a modern form of identity politics, is based on the idea of implementing Sharia law in society, pan-Islamic political unity, and the removal of Western economic, political and cultural influences (including Western military) from the Middle East and other Muslim countries.[41] The term Islamism has largely replaced the former term, Islamic fundamentalism, in academic circles and came into contemporary usage in the 1970s and early 1980s.[42] Most of the groups which support Islamism have relatively modern origins, so it cannot be claimed that Islamism is an old or traditional idea. Rather, with its emphasis on angst towards the West, it can be seen as primarily a reactionary movement. With the dominance of Western liberal values in the world, marginalized and unsuccessful countries, which had sprung up as the result of failed empires, including the Ottoman Empire, sowed resentment and anger among many individuals who felt that their fundamental beliefs had been challenged by a new cultural hegemony.

The West was successful, rich and powerful, while modern Middle Eastern countries were largely unsuccessful and influenced by the prestige of Western culture and political power. As a result, Islamism emerged as a way of ‘reclaiming’ power and cultural dominance. Like all types of identity politics, including radical feminism and communism, the goal of Islamism is to achieve power and control. And, as in radical feminism and communism, this is to be achieved at the expense of everyone else. Radical feminists want to redress a perceived power imbalance by gaining greater power and more rights than men, while communists want to destroy the bourgeoisie and capitalists, giving power to the no-longer-existing class of subservient manufacturing labourers. Islamism, likewise, seeks to redress the failed economies, chaos and discontent of the Middle East by achieving dominance over the West and destroying all the perceived enemies of their version of Islam (including other Muslims who think differently). This is the dangerous ideology that people should be aware of—not Islam itself. Islam and Islamism are two completely different things, just as women’s rights campaigners of the 19th century and modern, radical feminists are completely different things. The one hardly resembles the other. And all of these ideologies are based on a false premise. In feminism, it is the non-existent idea of the ‘patriarchy’.[43] In Marxism, it is the notion of ‘true communism’, which never exists and cannot exist. [For more on Marxism, see my article on ‘The Origins of Wealth’]. In Nazism, it is the Jewish conspiracy, and such a conspiracy clearly doesn’t exist. In Islamism, it is the notion of the Great Satan—the evil West—which is responsible for everything, aided by Britain and Israel. None of this is true, of course, and it is all a completely fantasy, but each type of identity politics relies on a false narrative—and they are all aimed at the goal of seizing power.

Arabia (1922)[44]

Jordan Peterson is well within his rights to be worried about Islamism, especially its most virulent forms, e.g. Qutbism, ISIS/ISIL, Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, etc., but no one should confuse this for Islam. To compare these groups of terrorists and miscreants with the Abbasid Caliphate, under which science and civilisation prospered, is like comparing a rotten apple from some random tree with the fruit of life plucked from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The two cannot be compared. Islam is, at its core, fundamentally spiritual. While Islam does not accept the dichotomy between the individual and the community—the two must be harmonious for life to fulfil its purpose—Jesus Christ’s message was primarily aimed at the spiritual development of the individual and Christian community. The teachings of forgiveness and turning the other cheek are great when practised from one person to another. They do not work when applied to laws and jurisprudence. Muhammad’s own practice was to forgive and be tolerant, while His state practice was to defend the community with an army and punish criminals with various degrees of punishment, including execution where necessary. State responsibility and individual responsibility differ. So, let us abandon all confusion. Let us recognise the similarities between Islam and Christianity and the core message which they both share, while condemning and refuting the various terrorist and extremist groups that abound, including all the various forms of Islamism and Islamic extremism. By extension, we should counter the propaganda and propagation of all varieties of radical Islam which are now, to a greater or lesser degree, pervading Western countries.

5. Parallels between Taoism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam

Peterson concludes by saying: “I’ve also seen parallels between the ideas that I’m presenting here and other religious traditions: Taoism, Buddhism, Hinduism. It’s harder for me to bridge the gap with Islam and I’m not sure why that is. I think it has something to do with the things I just laid out. Now, what I don’t know about Islam would fill very many volumes…”

This is a topic that I know something about, as I have written two books already which seek to harmonise and compare the spiritual teachings of all the above-mentioned faiths (i.e. Mindfulness: Five Ways to Achieve Real Happiness, True Knowledge and Inner Peace,[45] and Meditation: Five Ways to Master your Mind, Body and Spirit). So, let us begin by examining some of the key themes of these four religions, e.g. the transience of this passing life. Buddhism, especially, is focused on the concept of impermanence. Suffering, say the Buddhists, is the result of attachment—attachment to material senses, to the world, to our lives, and even to our very selves. It is only by casting off this material attachment that we can attain a true state of permanent bliss, known as Nirvana. Nirvana is often translated as enlightenment and can be said to be akin to the concept of finding the mystic Beloved so often expressed in Sufi Islamic poetry & mystical writings. Gautama Buddha said: “'All created things are grief and pain,' he who knows and sees this becomes passive in pain; this is the way that leads to purity. 'All forms are unreal,' he who knows and sees this becomes passive in pain; this is the way that leads to purity.”[46] Likewise, in the Qur’ān (57:20), God says: “Know ye that this world's life is only a sport, and pastime, and show, and a cause of vainglory among you! And the multiplying of riches and children is like the plants which spring up after rain - Their growth rejoiceth the husband-man; then they wither away, and thou seest them all yellow; then they become stubble. And in the next life is a severe chastisement, Or else pardon from God and His satisfaction: and this world's life is but a cheating fruition.”[47] In other words, we should not be attached to the material world, as attachment leads to suffering. This is a core teaching of both Buddhism and Islām.

The other core teaching of Buddhism is virtue. Buddhism teaches that one should not follow extremes, but should follow a Middle Path or Middle Way, and that is the way of virtue. Only by developing virtue can one attain to true enlightenment. As Buddha say: “He who lives without looking for pleasures, his senses well controlled, moderate in his food, faithful and strong, him Mâra will certainly not overthrow, any more than the wind throws down a rocky mountain… But he who has cleansed himself from sin, is well grounded in all virtues, and regards also temperance and truth, he is indeed worthy of the yellow dress…  The virtuous man delights in this world, and he delights in the next; he delights in both. He delights and rejoices, when he sees the purity of his own work. The evil-doer suffers in this world, and he suffers in the next; he suffers in both. He suffers when he thinks of the evil he has done; he suffers more when going on the evil path.”[48] The Qur’ān (97:7 – 8; 4:124 – 125; 2:62), likewise, say: “Verily, those who believe and act aright, they are the best of creatures; their reward with their Lord is gardens of Eden, beneath which rivers flow, to dwell therein for aye; God shall be well pleased with them, and they with Him! that is for him who fears his Lord!”[49] “But he who doeth good works,- be it male or female,- and believes, they shall enter into Paradise, and they shall not be wronged a jot. Who has a better religion than he who resigns his face to God, and does good, and follows the faith of Abraham, as a 'Hanif?- for God took Abraham as a friend;”[50] “Verily, they who believe (Muslims), and they who follow the Jewish religion, and the Christians, and the Sabeites - whoever of these believeth in God and the last day, and doeth that which is right, shall have their reward with their Lord: fear shall not come upon them, neither shall they be grieved.”[51]

As for the Middle Path, Buddha says: “From these two extremes, O monks, the Perfect One stands aloof. He has discovered the middle path, the path that opens the eyes and opens the mind, the path that leads to rest, to knowledge, to nirvana. This sacred path, O monks, has eight branches: right faith, right resolve, right speech, right action, right living, right effort, right thought, right meditation. This, O monks, is the middle path, the path that I, the Perfect One, discovered, the path that leads to rest, to knowledge, to Nirvana.”[52] The Qur’ān says (6:153; 28:77; 2:143; 3:159): “And (He commandeth you, saying): This is My straight path, so follow it. Follow not other ways, lest ye be parted from His way. This hath He ordained for you, that ye may ward off (evil);”[53] “But seek, by means of what God hath given thee, to attain the future Mansion; and neglect not thy part in this world, but be bounteous to others as God hath been bounteous to thee, and seek not to commit excesses on the earth; for God loveth not those who commit excesses;”[54] “Thus have we made you a middle nation, to be witnesses against men, and that the Apostle may be a witness against you;”[55] “And as to the mercy granted unto the disobedient from God, thou O Mohammed hast been mild towards them; but if thou hadst been severe, and hard-hearted, they had surely separated themselves from about thee. Therefore forgive them, and ask pardon for them: And consult them in the affair of war; and after thou hast deliberated, trust in God; for God loveth those who trust in Him.”[56]

Dharmachakra, representing the Buddhist Eightfold Path[57]

What is this Straight Path and Middle Way referred to in the Qur’ān and the Buddhist Scriptures—and what is its ultimate Source? A comparison with Taoism might shed some light on this. The concept of the ‘Way’ or ‘Tao’ is central to Taosim. It is an eternal principle, without beginning or end, which pervades and sustains all things. Laozi writes: “The grandest forms of active force from Tao come, their only source. Who can of Tao the nature tell? Our sight it flies, our touch as well. Eluding sight, eluding touch, the forms of things all in it crouch; eluding touch, eluding sight, there are their semblances, all right. Profound it is, dark and obscure; things' essences all there endure. Those essences the truth enfold; of what, when seen, shall then be told.”[58] In the Qur’ān, God says (57:3; 41:53; 6:103; 42:11): “He is the First, and the Last; the Manifest, and the Hidden: And He knoweth all things;”[59] “We shall show them Our portents on the horizons and within themselves until it will be manifest unto them that it is the Truth. Doth not thy Lord suffice, since He is Witness over all things?”[60] “Vision comprehendeth Him not, but He comprehendeth (all) vision. He is the Subtile, the Aware;”[61] “Naught is as His likeness; and He is the Hearer, the Seer.”[62] All of these verses surround a common theme, which is the eternal immanence and transcendence of the Divine Being, which encompasses and pervades all things and exists beyond human description. God, says the Qur’ān, “has encompassed all things with His knowledge.”[63] Likewise, Laozi writes: “There was something undefined and complete, coming into existence before Heaven and Earth. How still it was and formless, standing alone, and undergoing no change, reaching everywhere and in no danger (of being exhausted)!”[64] This is the Divine Principle which embraces all things, and cannot be described, except with metaphors and allusions. And the Straight Path—or the Middle Way—is the moderate path to attaining the presence of the Divine Being.

The Qur’ān is, in its essence, a book of parables and metaphors. It contains numerous Biblical stories, but these are not given in the way of a narrative. Rather, the stories are woven into arguments which express spiritual themes. The main aim, therefore, of the Qur’ān, is to give a spiritual Message and bring people to a state of enlightenment, i.e. Nirvana—also described as heaven, paradise or the Garden of Eden. It also contains many arguments for the existence of God, some of which I have examined in a previous post.[65]  Often, examples are used from nature to express spiritual principles. He says (glorified be He): “Verily, in the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the alternation of night and day, and in the ship that runneth in the sea with that which profits man, and in what water God sends down from heaven and quickens therewith the earth after its death, and spreads abroad therein all kinds of cattle, and in the shifting of the winds, and in the clouds that are pressed into service betwixt heaven and earth, are signs to people who can understand.”[66] Each of these are examples which allow the seeker of truth to look for the divine attributes expressed in every aspect of nature. Rain brings life to mankind, just as God brings life to the human soul. All things move and function according to the law of nature, and nature is an expression of Divine creation. Although God exists beyond creation and is thus transcendent, He is also imminent and close, and surrounds and encompasses all things. This is manifest in every plant, fruit, grain of sand and within the human heart itself—all things are mirrors of the Divine radiance and splendour. As God says in the Qur’ān (41:54): “Are they not in a doubt as to the meeting of their Lord at the resurrection? Doth not He encompass all things?”[67] If God encompasses all things, then it must be possible for one to ‘meet’ God within his innermost being. He says: “And those who believe, and whose hearts rest securely in the meditation of God; shall not men’s hearts rest securely in the meditation of God?”[68]

Those who turn the mirror of their hearts towards God, have their eyes and ears opened to spiritual truth. Those who turn away from God, and deny the Inner Light within them, are given spiritual blindness and deafness. As the Qur’ān (7:101) says: “And verily the Messengers came to them with clear Signs. But they would not believe what they had rejected before. Thus does God seal up the hearts of the disbelievers.”[69] This is similar to Jesus Christ’s statements: “Having eyes, see ye not? and having ears, hear ye not? and do ye not remember?”[70] Speaking to His followers, Christ said: “But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear.”[71] What does this mean? It means, essentially, that those who turn to the Messenger of God, whether it be Moses, Zoroaster, Buddha, Christ or Muhammad—or others, are turning their hearts to God, and, thereby, they receive spiritual rebirth and enlightenment. This enlightenment allows them to see the Truth, even though they be surrounded by darkness and nescience. With regards to this spiritual rebirth, Christ says: “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”[72] Nicodemus then enquired what Christ meant by this. He replied: “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.”[73] In other words, by being born again, Christ does not mean physical rebirth, but spiritual rebirth. This is made clear by verse 8, where He says: “so is every one that is born of the Spirit”. He also says elsewhere: “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.”[74]

The Light Verse (Qur’ān 24:35)[75]

How can the Spirit give us life and spiritual rebirth? The answer lies in this: by meditation and by turning one’s heart to God, which is the Source of all being. In Buddhism, this takes the form of emptying oneself of all attachments and all thoughts of this world, while turning one’s attention to loving-kindness (in ‘loving-kindness meditation’) or mindfulness (in ‘mindfulness meditation’). Buddhists also focus on the Buddha as a source of illumination, as the Buddha is called the Tathāgata. The phrase Tathāgata means ‘One who has thus come’ or He who ‘knows and sees reality as-it-is’.[76] In other words, the Tathāgata is equivalent to the Biblical Prophets or the Messengers of God in the Qur’ān. Buddha says, in the Dhammapada: “A supernatural person (a Buddha) is not easily found, he is not born everywhere. Wherever such a sage is born, that race prospers.”[77] In other words, a Buddha or Messenger of God is not a common individual, but, rather, someone who appears once in every age, or millennium, or after many centuries. Since the Messenger of God is the Representative of the Divine, He is the source of Truth and Knowledge, and by turning our hearts towards that Messenger, we can approach God. As Christ says, in the Gospels: “At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you.”[78] This is a profound statement, because it means that we can know and approach God by looking at the mirror of our own hearts. In that mirror, we can find the Inner Light which gives spiritual wisdom, rebirth and resurrection. This Inner Light is God. As the Qur’ān (24:35) says, in the famous ‘Light Verse’:

“God is the LIGHT of the Heavens and of the Earth. His Light is like a niche in which is a lamp - the lamp encased in glass – the glass, as it were, a glistening star. From a blessed tree is it lighted, the olive neither of the East nor of the West, whose oil would well nigh shine out, even though fire touched it not! It is light upon light. God guideth whom He will to His light, and God setteth forth parables to men, for God knoweth all things.”[79]

In other words, God is the Light which sustains and illuminates all creation, and that Light is encapsulated within a glass—and that glass is a glistening star, i.e. the Messenger of God, through which the Light illuminates all created things. The tree referred to here, the Tree which is neither of the East nor the West, is the Sadratu’l-Muntahā, i.e. the Tree beyond which there is no passing. This refers to the Messenger of God, because He is a being so close to God that, beyond His station, there is no access for human beings. Beyond the Messenger of God, we can find the Primal Word of God, the Logos, itself, which illuminates and shines through the Messenger, Tathāgata or Buddha. This Light, which is shed throughout all creation, has a focal point, or locus, within the Messenger of God, who shines Himself like a ‘glistening star’. This light then manifests itself within the human heart, which is the innermost essence of man. By prayer, fasting, meditation, etc. we can illumine the lamp of our hearts with this eternal Light. As God says, in the Qur’ān (13:28): “And those who believe, and whose hearts rest securely in the meditation of God; shall not men’s hearts rest securely in the meditation of God?”[80] Likewise, He says: “Do they not therefore journey through the land? And have they not hearts to understand with, or ears to hear with? Surely as to these things their eyes are not blind, but the hearts are blind which are in their breasts;”[81] “And they who have no knowledge say, ‘Unless God speak to us, or thou shew us a sign . . . !’ So, with like words, said those who were before them: their hearts are alike: Clear signs have we already shewn for those who have firm faith.”[82]

Can the Qur’ān safely be compared with Taoism, Buddhism and Hinduism, therefore? Most certainly. As the above verses have shown, the Qur’ān is a collection of metaphors and parables, joined together with examples from nature, history and the Bible, as well as legends and stories, which are all intertwined to present a consistent spiritual message—one that is compatible with, and in concordance with, with all the earlier religions of God. The contradictions which exist between the Bible and Qur’ān, for example, relate to historical details or interpretations of doctrines, but there are no contradictions between the essential Message of both books. Likewise, the Qur’ān, being essentially spiritual in nature, is in full accord with the philosophy and spiritual teachings of Buddhism and Hinduism, as well as the teachings of the Taoism. I have elaborated more on this theme in my two books, already mentioned above: Mindfulness: Five Ways to Achieve Real Happiness, True Knowledge and Inner Peace, and Meditation: Five Ways to Master your Mind, Body and Spirit. I recommend that you read these books for further clarification. I hope that this has satisfactorily answered the questions and doubts raised by Dr. Jordan Peterson, and I wish him all the best in his continued search for truth and justice, as well as in his activism for free speech and academic freedom. I will finish with this quotation from my book on Meditation:

“Human beings are in need of patterns—of methods of behaviour—and what greater pattern is there to follow than the example of perfect human beings who lived their entire lives along a perfect path, free from faults or errors, being the perfection of every virtue and good quality. As God, the All-Glorious, says of Muhammad (peace be upon him) in the Qur’ān (53:1 – 4): “By the star when it falls, your comrade [Muhammad] errs not, nor is he deluded![83] Neither doth he speak of his own will.[84] It is but an inspiration inspired!”[85] Also, God says, speaking to Muhammad: “And thou threwest not when thou didst throw, but it was God Who threw.”[86] Likewise, Jesus Christ (peace be upon him) said: “I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you[87] meaning that the Father (God) can be seen within him, just as we can also reflect the Light of God. And he also said: “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”[88] In other words, the only way to reach God, the Heavenly Father, is through the Great Teacher, the Perfect Mirror of God, whether he be called Moses, or Jesus, or Muhammad, or Krishna, or Buddha, or Zoroaster, or many other names (may their blessings descend upon us). The important thing is that we recognize the Light in all of these Lamps and recognize every such Lamp, whenever and wherever he may appear, either in the past or the future.”[89]

If you found this article informative, see some of my related articles below:

[a response to Stephen Crowder]

NJ Bridgewater



Authorised Version of the Bible (King James Bible / KJV) (1611) The Holy Bible, Conteyning the Old Testament, and the New: Newly Translated out of the Originall tongue Newly Translated out of the Originall tongues: & with the former Translations diligently compared and reuised (London: Robert Barker). Available online at: ; ; ; ; ; (accessed 18/07/2018)

Paul C. Blum (author), Andre Ferdinand Herold (translator) (1927) The Life of Buddha: According to the Legends of Ancient India (New York: A. & C. Boni)

Gerhard Bowering (editor) (2013) The Princeton Encyclopedia of Islamic Political Thought (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press)

NJ Bridgewater (2017) Mindfulness: Five Ways to Achieve Real Happiness, True Knowledge and Inner Peace (Five Ways to Be, Book 1) (Abergavenny, UK: Jaha Publishing). Paperback. Published: February 23, 2017. URL:  (accessed 07/07/2018)

NJ Bridgewater (2018) Meditation: Five Ways to Master your Mind, Body and Spirit (Abergavenny, UK: Jaha Publishing)

Robert Briffault (1919) The making of humanity (London: G. Allen & Unwin)

John Davenport (1869) An Apology for Mohammed and the Koran (London: J. Davy and Sons)

Edward Gibbon (1781) The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Vol. IV 5 (London: W. Strahan and T. Cadell). Available online at: (accessed 17/07/2018)

Edward Gibbon (1782) History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Vol. 5 (London: W. Strahan and T. Cadell). Available online at: (accessed 16/07/2018)

Walter Emil Kaegi (2003) Heraclius, Emperor of Byzantium (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press)

Ira M. Lapidus (2014) A History of Islamic Societies (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press)

Lao-tzu (author), J. Legge (translator) (1891) Tao Te Ching (Sacred Books of the East, Vol 39) (Oxford: The Clarendon Press). URL: (accessed 17/07/2018). URL: (accessed 17/07/2018)

John Locke (1690) Two Treatises of Government (London: Printed for Awnsham Churchill). URL: (accessed 18/07/2018)

F. Max Müller (1881) The Dhammapada, Translated from the Pâli, Sacred Books of the East, Vol. 10: The Dhammapada and Sutta Nipata (Oxford: The Clarendon Press), Chapter XX, v. 278 – 279. Available online at: (accessed 17/07/2018)

Edward Henry Palmer (1880) The Qur’ân, Parts I & II (Oxford: The Clarendon Press). Available online at: ; ; (accessed 18/07/2018)

Mohammed Marmaduke Pickthall (translator) (1938) The Meaning of the Glorious Quran (Hyderabad-Deccan: Government Central Press). Available online at: (accessed 17/06/2018)

John Medows Rodwell (1876) El-Kor'ân, or The Koran, translated from the Arabic (London: B. Quaritch). Available online at: ; (accessed 18/07/2018)

George Sale (1764) The Koran: Commonly called the Alcoran of Mohammed: Translated into English immediately from the original Arabic, with explanatory notes taken from the most approved commentators, to which is prefixed a preliminary discourse (London: Printed for L. Hawkes, W. Clarke, and R. Collins). Available online at: ; ; ; (accessed 18/07/2018)

S.M. Zwemer (1900) Arabia: The Cradle of Islam: Studies in the Geography, People and Politics of the Peninsula with an account of Islam and Mission-work (Edinburgh, London: Oliphant Anderson and Ferrier)


Paul J. Alexander (1977) Religious Persecution and Resistance in the Byzantine Empire of the Eighth and Ninth Centuries: Methods and Justifications, Speculum, Vol. 52, No. 2 (Apr., 1977), pp. 238-264. URL:  (accessed 16/07/2018)

NJ Bridgewater (2004) Founders of the Divine Religions: Muhammad. URL: (accessed 16/07/2018)

NJ Bridgewater (2015) 5 Reasons the Qur’ān and US Constitution Can Coexist, Crossing the Bridge (blog), 22 September 2015. URL: (accessed 16/07/2018)

NJ Bridgewater (2015) A response to Stephen Fry’s condemnation of God, Crossing the Bridge (blog), 3 October 2015. URL: (accessed 18/07/2018)

NJ Bridgewater (2015) The Qur’ān’s Arguments for Belief in God, Crossing the Bridge (blog), 18 November 2015. URL: (accessed 18/07/2018)

NJ Bridgewater (2017) A response to Ricky Gervais and his arguments about God and religion, Crossing the Bridge (blog), 3 February 2017. URL: (accessed 18/07/2018)

NJ Bridgewater (2018) The Origins of Wealth (Part 1 of 4), Crossing the Bridge (blog), 5 July 2018.  URL: (accessed 17/07/2018)

Ernst Wilhelm Ferinand Gerland (1913) Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. 3: Byzantine Empire. Available online at: (accessed 16/07/2018)

Kyle Richard Smith (2011) The Persian Persecution: Martyrdom, Politics, and Religious Identity in Late Ancient Syriac Christianity, Dissertation, Duke University. URL: (accessed 16/07/2018)

Wikipedia articles

Anti-paganism policies of the early Byzantine Empire (Wikipedia article). URL: (accessed 16/07/2018 18:12 AST)

Church of England (Wikipedia article). URL: (accessed 16/07/2018)

English Reformation (Wikipedia article). URL: (accessed 16/07/2018 07:20)

Fasad (Wikepedia article). URL: (accessed 16/07/2018 10:59 AST)

First Amendment to the United States Constitution (Wikipedia article). URL: (accessed 16/07/2018 07:18)

Islamic Golden Age (Wikipedia article). URL: (accessed 16/07/2018 08:43 AST)

Islamism (Wikipedia article). URL: (accessed 16/07/2018)

Mu‘tazila (Wikipedia article). URL: (accessed 16/07/2018)

Tathāgata (Wikipedia article). URL: (accessed 17/07/2018 10:44 AST)


[1] Image source: Jordan Peterson speaking at an event in Dallas, Texas, uploaded by Gage Skidmore, 15 June 2018 (CC-BY SA3.0). URL: (accessed 17/07/2018). For more information on the license, see: (accessed 17/07/2018 11:27 AST).
[2] NJ Bridgewater (2017) A response to Ricky Gervais and his arguments about God and religion, Crossing the Bridge (blog), 3 February 2017. URL: (accessed 18/07/2018); NJ Bridgewater (2015) A response to Stephen Fry’s condemnation of God, Crossing the Bridge (blog), 3 October 2015. URL: (accessed 18/07/2018).
[3] Image source: The Bill of Rights, twelve articles of amendment to the to the United States Constitution proposed in 1789 (public domain). URL: (accessed 17/07/2018).
[4] See: First Amendment to the United States Constitution (Wikipedia article). URL: (accessed 16/07/2018 07:18).
[5] See: English Reformation (Wikipedia article). URL: (accessed 16/07/2018 07:20).
[6] See: Mu‘tazila (Wikipedia article). URL: (accessed 16/07/2018).
[7] See: Islamic Golden Age (Wikipedia article). URL: (accessed 16/07/2018 08:43 AST).
[8] Robert Briffault (1919) The making of humanity (London: G. Allen & Unwin), pp. 190 – 192.
[9] Qur’ān 2:28 (George Sale translation).
[10] See: John Locke, Second Treatise of Government, Book II, Chapter VI, Sect. 56.
[11] Image source: The Byzantine embassy of John the Grammarian in 829 to Ma'mun (depicted left) from Theophilos (depicted right) (public domain). URL: (accessed 17/07/2018).
[12] Qur’ān 2:30 – 31 (Rodwell translation).
[13] Image source: The city of Baghdad between 767 and 912 AD. The round plan reflects pre-Islamic Persian urban design (public domain). URL: (accessed 17/07/2018 11:32 AST).
[14] See: Church of England (Wikipedia article). URL: (accessed 16/07/2018).
[15] Qur’ān 7:56 (Rodwell translation).
[16] See: Fasad (Wikepedia article). URL: (accessed 16/07/2018 10:59 AST).
[17] Qur’ān 5:33 (Rodwell translation).
[18] See: Gerhard Bowering (editor) (2013) The Princeton Encyclopedia of Islamic Political Thought (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press), p. 53.
[19] Image source: The Synaxis of the Twelve Apostles. Russian, 14th century, Moscow Museum. (public domain). URL: (accessed 17/07/2018 11:35 AST).
[20] John 19:21 (KJV).
[21] Matthew 26:52 (KJV).
[22] Image source: The entrance to the Cave of Hira in the mountain (public domain). URL: (accessed 17/07/2018 11:37 AST).
[23] NJ Bridgewater (2004) Founders of the Divine Religions: Muhammad. URL: (accessed 16/07/2018).
[24] See: John Davenport (1869) An Apology for Mohammed and the Koran (London: J. Davy and Sons), pp. 2 – 4.
[25] See: Edward Gibbon (1782) History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Vol. 5 (London: W. Strahan and T. Cadell). Available online at: (accessed 16/07/2018).
[26] See: S.M. Zwemer (1900) Arabia: The Cradle of Islam: Studies in the Geography, People and Politics of the Peninsula with an account of Islam and Mission-work (Edinburgh, London: Oliphant Anderson and Ferrier), pp. 160 – 161.
[27] NJ Bridgewater (2015) 5 Reasons the Qur’ān and US Constitution Can Coexist, Crossing the Bridge (blog), 22 September 2015. URL: (accessed 16/07/2018).
[28] Image source: Historic Medina. URL: (accessed 17/07/2018 11:39 AST).
[29] 1 Kings 18:40 (KJV).
[30] See: Kyle Richard Smith (2011) The Persian Persecution: Martyrdom, Politics, and Religious Identity in Late Ancient Syriac Christianity. URL: (accessed 16/07/2018).
[31] See: Anti-paganism policies of the early Byzantine Empire (Wikipedia article). URL: (accessed 16/07/2018 18:12 AST).
[32] Acts 5, Rom. 1.32. See: Paul J. Alexander (1977) Religious Persecution and Resistance in the Byzantine Empire of the Eighth and Ninth Centuries: Methods and Justifications, Speculum, Vol. 52, No. 2 (Apr., 1977), pp. 238-264. URL:  (accessed 16/07/2018).
[33] Image source: The Byzantine Empire in 600 AD during the reign of Emperor Maurice, created by Getoryk (own work), 21 June 2011 (CC-BY SA 3.0). URL: (accessed 17/07/2018 11:42 AST). For more information on the license, see: (accessed 17/07/2018).
[34] See: Ernst Wilhelm Ferinand Gerland (1913) Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. 3: Byzantine Empire. Available online at: (accessed 16/07/2018).
[35] See: Gerland (1913).
[36] See: Walter Emil Kaegi (2003) Heraclius, Emperor of Byzantium (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), p. 194.
[37] See: Edward Gibbon (1781) The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Vol. IV, Ch. XLVIII.
[38] Qur’ān 2:256 (Rodwell translation).
[39] Ira M. Lapidus (2014) A History of Islamic Societies (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), p. 271.
[40] Image source: Umayyad Mosque, a place where Ibn Taimiyya used to give lessons (public domain). URL: (accessed 17/07/2018 11:49 AST).
[41] See: Islamism (Wikipedia article). URL: (accessed 16/07/2018).
[42] See: Islamism (Wikipedia article).
[43] See: NJ Bridgewater (2018) The Origins of Wealth (Part 1 of 4), Crossing the Bridge (blog), 5 July 2018.  URL: (accessed 17/07/2018).
[44] Image source: Map of Arabia showing “El Katif” (public domain). URL: ; See: Mohammad Fuad Aljishi (2013) Arabian Anthroplogy (blog), Friday, November 29, 2013. URL: (accessed 17/07/2018).
[45] See: NJ Bridgewater (2017) Mindfulness: Five Ways to Achieve Real Happiness, True Knowledge and Inner Peace (Five Ways to Be, Book 1) (Abergavenny, UK: Jaha Publishing), p. 214. Paperback. Published: February 23, 2017. URL:  (accessed 07/07/2018)
[46] See: F. Max Müller (1881) The Dhammapada, Translated from the Pâli, Sacred Books of the East, Vol. 10: The Dhammapada and Sutta Nipata (Oxford: The Clarendon Press), Chapter XX, v. 278 – 279. Available online at: (accessed 17/07/2018).
[47] Qur’ān 57:20 (Rodwell translation).
[48] Buddha, Dhammapada, v. 8, 10, 16 – 17.
[49] Qur’ān 97:7 – 8 (Palmer translation).
[50] Qur’ān 4:124 – 125 (Palmer translation).
[51] Qur’ān 2:62 (Rodwell translation).
[52] See: Paul C. Blum (author), Andre Ferdinand Herold (translator) (1927) The Life of Buddha: According to the Legends of Ancient India (New York: A. & C. Boni), 4., pp. 119 – 120.
[53] Qur’ān 6:153 (Pickthall translation). Mohammed Marmaduke Pickthall (translator) (1938) The Meaning of the Glorious Quran (Hyderabad-Deccan: Government Central Press). Available online at: (accessed 17/06/2018).
[54] Qur’ān 28:77 (Rodwell translation).
[55] Qur’ān 2:143 (Rodwell translation).
[56] Qur’ān 3:159 (George Sale translation).
[57] Image source: Dharmachakra, the Buddhist eight-fold path illustrated in a wheel, by Krisse (own work), 15 November 2012 (CC-BY SA 3.0). URL: (accessed 17/07/2018 11:49 AST). For more information on the license, see: (accessed 17/07/2018).
[58] Lao-tzu (author), J. Legge (translator) (1891) Tao Te Ching (Sacred Books of the East, Vol 39) (Oxford: The Clarendon Press), 21. URL: (accessed 17/07/2018). URL: (accessed 17/07/2018).
[59] Qur’ān 57:3 (Sale translation).
[60] Qur’ān 41:53 (Pickthall translation).
[61] Qur’ān 6:103 (Pickthall translation).
[62] Qur’ān 42:11 (Pickthall translation).
[63] Qur’ān 65:12 (Palmer translation).
[64] Tao Te Ching, v. 25.
[65] See: NJ Bridgewater (2015) The Qur’ān’s Arguments for Belief in God, Crossing the Bridge (blog), 18 November 2015. URL: (accessed 18/07/2018).
[66] Qur’ān 2:164 (Palmer translation).
[67] Qur’ān 41:54 (Sale translation).
[68] Qur’ān 13:28 (Sale translation).
[69] Qur’ān 7:101 (Sale translation).
[70] Mark 8:18 (King James Version).
[71] Matthew 13:16 (KJV).
[72] John 3:3 (KJV).
[73] John 3:5 – 8 (KJV).
[74] John 6:63 (KJV).
[75] Image source: The Light Verse (Qur’ān 24:35), from Illuminated copy of the Qurʾān. The text is followed by a prayer to be recited on concluding a reading of the Qurʾān (fol. 322a, beginning wanting), and by a short treatise on how to use the Qurʾān for divination, in Persian (fol. 322b-324a), Iran, c. 15th – 16th centuries CE, Princeton University Digital Library (public domain). URL: (accessed 17/07/2018).
[76] See: Tathāgata (Wikipedia article). URL: (accessed 17/07/2018 10:44 AST).
[77] Buddha, Dhammapada, Chapter XIV., v. 193.
[78] John 14:20 (KJV).
[79] Qur’ān 24:35 (KJV).
[80] Qur’ān 13:28 (Sale translation).
[81] Qur’ān 22:46 (Sale translation).
[82] Qur’ān 2:118 (Rodwell translation).
[83] Qur’ān 53:1 – 2 (Palmer translation).
[84] Qur’ān 53:3 (Sale translation).
[85] Qur’ān 53:4 (Palmer translation).
[86] Qur’ān 8:17 (Sale translation).
[87] John 14:20 (King James Bible).
[88] John 14:6 (King James Bible).
[89] NJ Bridgewater (2018) Meditation: Five Ways to Master your Mind, Body and Spirit (Abergavenny, UK: Jaha Publishing).