Faith in gods: that Absolutely Inalienable Right

Above is the title of a section towards the end of the Postface in my yet to be published book ‘49:49‘ (subtitled: ‘The Emperor’s Old Rags ‘).
Below you find the complete draft of that part of the book.

It is crucial to keep in mind what ‘inalienable’ really means: this right cannot effectively be taken away from anyone. It is not a right that you as an individual did or did not ‘get’ from governments, judges, high or low priests or officials or that you inherited from your ancestors who received it from kings, dukes or other robber knights232. A similar inalienable right exists to each individual’s hope, whatever form that hope may take. And, however many civilised adults sincerely hope others to be free from it, something similar applies to fear and pessimism.
Neither legislation nor any other activity of any kind of government has any grip on those.

However, no matter how powerful, alive and valuable your image of your own god is, it is your image. Nobody can take that image away from you, but beware of anyone who claims or even suggests to know your god, goddess or gods better than you do. The more you distance your deity or deities from yourself, the more opportunity you leave for others to use him, her or them for a different purpose.

Distrust even anyone who claims to know the same god(s) as you do: how has that other person studied your god? And the god of hundreds or millions of others?

Beware even more of men who present themselves as the spokesman of one or more gods because of what they have read or otherwise gathered from distant countries and/or from a distant past.

Do not trust any professional believer: neither prophet nor priest, bishop nor bearded man, cardinal nor caliph.

But above all, do not pay too much attention to what ‘religious role models’ are said to have said in the past. Focus on how these men, as far as we can tell, behaved towards women and children. When it comes to Abrahamic religions, this is also where the biggest difference between the three can be found.

Judaism knows no personification of ‘the right behaviour’. This religion knows one deity and many demigods. The one prophet, patriarch or ‘judge’ is held in even higher esteem than the other, but there is not a minority within Judaism, not even a tiny minority of extremists, recommending to imitate the behaviour of Moses, let alone of Abraham, Samson or Jephthah. Or of Solomon with his 1000 wives. Actually, Judaism is therefore the closest of the three to (other) mythologies. I remind you again of the issue of gods other than their own Yahweh, who may not be capitalised, but whose existence is not contradicted.

Christianity and Islam do have one example character. Example characters that are quite different from each other. And more importantly: characters that differ significantly more from each other than Yahweh, (the Christian) ‘God the father’ and Allah do.

There are quite a few things to criticise about Jesus Christ, but in terms of behaviour, his previously described rudeness to his mother is the worst thing I noticed. And then there’s the story about the expulsion of people who had made a kind of marketplace out of a synagogue. He acted alone, he did not encourage others to follow him, nobody was killed or seriously injured by him.

That horrible motto of the fast approaching end of time does not stand for Jesus Christ’s behaviour, more for his ‘omissions’ 233.

However, his ‘exemplariness’ is abused in various ways by people who claim to be Christian. For example, with the approach: “my sins will be –or have already been– washed clean by Jesus’ death on the cross”. Or with: “Jesus was such a good man that no one can be expected to resemble him in behaviour”.

But one thing is absolutely certain: people who sincerely strive to imitate the behaviour of Jesus hardly cause any problems. The worst of these problems affect themselves in particular. The phenomenon of ‘effacing oneself’ can take on obsessive forms. Sometimes so serious that it causes annoyance to others. But that’s all.

There is more to criticise about Mohammed’s behaviour towards women and children. It is not for nothing that critics of Mohammed’s teachings regularly point to Mohammed’s behaviour towards the girl Aïsha.

Before I go into Muhammad’s behaviour, I ask you to consider the nature of (earlier) ‘(re)revivals’ of Christianity. Those ‘revivals’ have come in all kinds. Longer ago, most of them could be classified according to two different categories of inspirators. One category often varied on that nasty motto.
Other inspirers were even further removed from the modern image of Jesus as a hippie: they were the men behind the Counter-Reformation and similar movements. The ecclesiastical establishment in other words: men who did not focus on the behaviour of Jesus, to use an understatement.

That image of Jesus as a hippie came about at around the same time as the introduction of so-called ‘beat masses‘ in my teenage years. Just to be clear, I’m not using the term ‘hippie’ here purely as a swear word. I associate it not only with utter naivety but also with youthful optimism and a touch of real women’s emancipation234. Just a few years later the so-called ‘liberation theology’ was introduced. If you search for that term in the Dutch language, the very first link in the search results leads to an activist text associated with Tilburg University.

In it I read: “In the 1990s, Palestinian Christian theologians developed a liberation theology that turned against ‘Israel theology’“. Anti-Israel sentiment as liberating: illustrative of the change of direction of the Catholic Church that I already discussed in the preface. It emerged that Pope Francis should be considered more anti-Western than pro-Christian. This is best and most painfully illustrated by a SARS-CoV-2 ‘joke’ by Francis about ‘admission to heaven with a certificate of being vaccinated’. When he was still called Jorge Mario Bergoglio, he judged this new theology very differently than the man he later succeeded in a rather special way: Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger, the man who chose the name Benedict XVI when he was elected pope. When that ‘liberation theology’ emerged Ratzinger attacked the Marxist roots of it head-on235.

Over the centuries, Islam has also known ‘revivals’, which differed considerably from each other in a more distant past. The revivals of recent decades, on the other hand, have an important constant: misogyny.

For many people, this constant manifests itself in particular through the veil: the increase in the number of veiled women and the increase in the quantity of fabric in the clothes per woman and girl. After all, the change from a headscarf selected in fashionable colours to a niqab – let alone a burqa – is a bigger change than from no headscarf to a brightly coloured decorative cloth draped loosely over the head.

For those who harbour some distrust of the teachings of Mohammed, another constant stands out: the choice to make lowering the marriageable age for girls a priority. That spearhead is not directly derived from the Qur’an –although sex with prepubescent girls is indeed casually approved in it– albeit only for the exemplary behaviour of Mohammed. I remind you of what I wrote in chapter 3 in the section Reap what you have sown about Sura 65 [99], especially the fact that this sura is not addressed to Muhammad’s followers but only to Muhammad himself!

As promised in the section The twofold son-in-law and the leap month in Chapter 10 of Part II, I now return to the practice of marrying off young daughters, which is implicitly discussed in Sura 4 [92].

If you look at the lives of all of Mohammed’s daughters and wives in the 21st century, there is a significant chance that you will turn a bit dizzy. It happened to me.I wrote earlier about that curious passage in the Qur’an about marrying two sisters, especially about the addition “unless so far as it has already been done.” I previously came across that Mohammed himself had given not one but two of his own daughters in marriage to one of his mates: the richest of his followers, Osman. Yes, the same one who later succeeded Muhammad: as number three of those ‘righteous caliphs’. In itself it sounds logical: if according to Allah it was wrong to marry two sisters, Allah would grant his ‘seal of the prophets’ exemption from marrying off his daughters the way it suited him.

All the dozens of translations collected by the aforementioned website Awakened 236 mention that exemption and that it concerned being married to two sisters at the same time.

If you check whether that exemption was indeed specifically intended for the daughters of Mohammed and wonder which they were, then you almost irrevocably end up at the very special family tree of this prophet. Then you discover that it must have been the daughters Ruqayyah and Umm Kulthum, both daughters of Mohammed’s first wife Khadija. The former was the wife of Osman from her 14th until her death, at the age of 23. Sister Umm Kulthum was already 21 when she was married off to the same Osman and died when she was 27. Mohammed was also father of Zainab and Fatimah through Khadija. Zainab was two years older than Ruqayyah, Fatimah two years younger than Umm Kulthum. However, through those different sources about Mohammed’s relatives, you also discover that Osman was not married to those two sisters at the same time, but successively he was. Mohammed did not marry Umm Kultum to him until Ruqayyah died. Was Mohammed himself singular or a double father-in-law of Osman?

In any case, through his most famous daughter, Fatimah, he was only a singular father-in- law of Ali, who became Mohammed’s fourth successor after Osman’s murder. Yes, the same Ali who pretty much became the founder of the minority Shia movement. I also learned that “Many of Muhammad’s companions asked for Fatimah’s hand in marriage, including Abu Bakr and Omar”. Whether that was before Abu Bakr became Muhammad’s father-in-law through Aisha, or Muhammad became father-in-law of Osman: those genealogies and accompanying texts fail to mention it.

The marriage of Mohammed and Khadijah’s eldest daughter, Zainab, was quite different from that of her younger sisters. Mohammed hadn’t yet fled to Medina when he married her off as an 11-year-old —or was it actually a decision of Khadijah?— to a cousin of her mother who was not a follower of Mohammed, let alone a close companion.
Thanks to that search in those texts about the family tree of Mohammed, I was naturally treated to painful defences of marrying very young girls like this: “It is worth noting that early marriage (after the puberty age) was valued and widely practised in that era, as a means to encourage chastity.

Holy Misogyny, I would almost exclaim.

But was Mohammed’s behaviour exceptionally misogynistic for his time?
Still thanks to that search for that family tree, I came across a special relativization of this, linked to one Maria al-Qibtiyya.

She is mentioned as Muhammad’s twelfth wife. All kinds of stories can be found about her, from different kinds of sources, but always with a similar purport: she was a present to Mohammed from a non-Muslim ruler. For example, on September 11 (!) 2009, ArabNews published another piece about her, entitled AgiftfromtherulerofEgypt… Sending a young woman to a fellow tyrant as an asset to his harem: when the Ottoman Empire was not yet known as ‘sick man of Europe‘, these women even got their own ‘title’: odalisque. The odalisque Mary is also referred to as ‘the Coptic’. Mohammed received her in one mission along with her sister. He passed that sister on as a present. The stories do not mention whether he first unwrapped that present himself…

You understand: that last sentence was pure sarcasm. I add right away: for his time, and even for many centuries afterwards, Mohammed was not exceptionally misogynistic. And I would also add that in trying to fathom what is actually known about this Mary, you naturally come across extensive deliberations as to whether she was a real wife of Mohammed or ‘just’ a concubine, or maybe even ‘but’ a slave girl. In other words, you encounter the same kind of perverse misogynistic interest as when you delve into the different categories of women that men like Abraham and Solomon ‘possessed’.

Such a striking and perverse interest is partly at the root of the fact that you can come across the most diverse ‘views’ about Mohammed’s sex life. On the one hand, of the type that brags, as it were, that he was “as virile as 40 men ”. On the other hand, one finds suggestions that all his ‘marriages’ were strategic in nature, sometimes supported in part by claims that, taken into consideration the large number of wives and concubines, he fathered very few children in his marriages and thus must have had very little sex with those women

I curb my inclination here to go into much greater detail about the lives of the various “wives” of the prophet. I limit myself to his wives with the first name Zaynab and something worth knowing about a female companion of Mohammed, whom he did not marry. Nevertheless, the next passage is still dizzying enough.

Zaynab bint Khuzaymah, was Muhammad’s wife number five. She was previously married to one Tufail and then to his brother, a cousin of Muhammad, who is said to have been the first follower of Muhammad to fall on the battlefield of holy war. He had fathered ten children with her and after that husband’s death, she ran into financial and other problems. Within the narrative of those strategic marriages, one could therefore refer to Mohammed’s marriage to her as a form of care for the relatives of his veterans.

Zaynab bint Jahsh, was wife number seven. Niece of Mohammed himself, maternal half- sister of Mohammed’s 11th wife, and previously wife of ‘adoptive son’ Zaïd, who was discussed in the section ‘Aunt’ Lahab and the prohibition of adoption of Part I. That marriage between this Zaynab and Zaïd had first been arranged by Muhammad himself, whereby he would also have had to use some persuasion.

But Muhammad did not marry Asmāʾ bint ʿUmays. She would have been a faithful companion of his. She did, not simultaneously of course, marry no fewer than three of Muhammad’s most loyal male companions: the brothers Ja’far ibn Abi Talib and Ali ibn Abi Talib and Muhammad’s father-in-law through Aisha, Abu Bakr. So with two of those four so-called ‘rightly guided caliphs’.

Those successive marriages stand out. Yes, those were very different times. To me something else is even more striking: there are different views between Sunni and Shia about almost every wife and son-in-law of Mohammed! 

Time to come back to my earlier ‘above all’: do not focus on what those ‘religious exemplary men’ might have said in the past, but on how, as far as we can tell, they would have behaved towards women and children.Muhammad’s behaviour differed very much from that of Jesus Christ, but not markedly from that of other warlords or kings in his day or in those for many centuries afterwards.

Muhammad came up with teachings in the Qur’an about the ‘estrangement’ of women of different ages, but unlike Constantine the Evil or Henry the Eighth and Corpulent, he didn’t kill any of his wives who no longer pleased him. While that Henry also started his own religion and is known for his misbehaviour towards women. It is a truly spectacular irony of history that Henry, just like Mohammed, failed to start a male line of successors237.

Until the 21st century –looking back, and placed in broad historical lines– this Henry is still positively assessed in certain respects. However, there is no philosophy among Britons, not even a tiny minority of extremist ones, who see him as a person whose behaviour should be followed. Mohammedanism does that with Mohammed. The fact that the number of young girls who die during the wedding night with their much older husband is sometimes portrayed as greater than actually bleeding to death, does not diminish the scandal and horror of it.

I repeat what I already wrote in Part I in other words. It is never about individuals or groups here and there in the world who –with good or malicious intentions– have misunderstood or distorted some part of the message of Mohammed. No, it always concerns one specific group of interpretations of the Quran and traditions about the behaviour of Mohammed: those that remain as close as possible to the source texts, such as sura 65 [99].

I close this section by formulating my verdict on the Abrahamic religions in really very sharp words:

If religious madness, as we know it from the Torah and the Bible, coincide with the sickest forms of male-bonding in the form of boundless contempt for women, the result many centuries later may be that someone raises the question ‘Can a widower father in law marry his widow daughter in law?‘ and then gets responses based on words from some ‘seal of prophets’ 238.


232) Not very important for the line of my argument, but for the sake of completeness I would like to add that it is my conviction that nowhere in the world and never in the whole history of mankind, any god or devil, alone or in association, has done anything wrong to anyone other than his or her own creator.

233) This painful ‘omission’ is unknown to Judaism.

234) Of course, that revolution was partly due to the availability of reliable contraception: the physical foundation of the greatest sociological change mankind has gone through to date and for a part of mankind will go through. For everyone living in the West at the time, this upheaval meant something different. The slogan ‘Make love not war’ illustrates several aspects of that turnaround. For many (young) men, this was a motto for more sex with different partners: completely at odds with thinking about their own responsibility with regard to the safety of sex partner(s), family and future generations. Many hippies left the identification of “evil” to Marxistoids: my own term for Marxists and others who rallied and run against the West, and more so against Western influences on the world as a whole in the recent or distant past.

235) It is all the more remarkable that, since the change of power in 2013, of all pope duos in the history of Catholicism, both gentlemen have now formed the best working couple. Benedict is now called ‘Pope Emeritus’. That title was chosen by himself. He was the first pope in 600 years to resign rather than ‘die in armor’.

236) See also the paragraph of that name in Chapter 9 of Part II.

237) Muhammad did begot sons by several wives, but those boys all died very young. Only Henry’s third wife gave him a son, Edward, who became king for a while, but died at 16. Henry fathered another son, Fitzroy, by a woman he did not marry. This boy Fitzroy died at 17.

238) I came across this remarkable question on the website

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