Knowledge Test on Religion

Category: Faith & Spirituality Topics: Quran Values: Education, Knowledge Channel: Opinion Views: 11336

In the New York Times, Nicholas Kristof asked 13 questions to test knowledge of his readers on religion ("Test Your Savvy on Religion," October 9, 2010). The questions are:

1. Which holy book stipulates that a girl who does not bleed on her wedding night should be stoned to death?
a. Koran
b. Old Testament
c. (Hindu) Upanishads

2. Which holy text declares: "Let there be no compulsion in religion"?
a. Koran
b. Gospel of Matthew
c. Letter of Paul to the Romans

3. The terrorists who pioneered the suicide vest in modern times, and the use of women in terror attacks, were affiliated with which major religion?
a. Islam
b. Christianity
c. Hinduism

4. "Every child is touched by the devil as soon as he is born and this contact makes him cry. Excepted are Mary and her Son." This verse is from:
a. Letters of Paul to the Corinthians
b. The Book of Revelation
c. An Islamic hadith, or religious tale

5. Which holy text is sympathetic to slavery?
a. Old Testament
b. New Testament
c. Koran

6. In the New Testament, Jesus' views of homosexuality are:
a. strongly condemnatory
b. forgiving
c. never mentioned

7. Which holy text urges responding to evil with kindness, saying: "repel the evil deed with one which is better."
a. Gospel of Luke
b. Book of Isaiah
c. Koran

8. Which religious figure preaches tolerance by suggesting that God looks after all peoples and leads them all to their promised lands?
a. Muhammad
b. Amos
c. Jesus

9. Which of these religious leaders was a polygamist?
a. Jacob
b. King David
c. Muhammad

10. What characterizes Muhammad's behavior toward the Jews of his time?
a. He killed them.
b. He married one.
c. He praised them as a chosen people.

11. Which holy scripture urges that the "little ones" of the enemy be dashed against the stones?
a. Book of Psalms
b. Koran
c. Leviticus

12. Which holy scripture suggests beating wives who misbehave?
a. Koran
b. Letters of Paul to the Corinthians
c. Book of Judges

13. Which religious leader is quoted as commanding women to be silent during services?
a. The first Dalai Lama
b. St. Paul
c. Muhammad

His answers are:
1. b. Deuteronomy 22:21.
2. a. Koran, 2:256. But other sections of the Koran do describe coercion.
3. c. Most early suicide bombings were by Tamil Hindus (some secular) in Sri Lanka and India.
4. c. Hadith. Islam teaches that Jesus was a prophet to be revered.
5. All of the above.
6. c. Other parts of the New and Old Testaments object to homosexuality, but there's no indication of Jesus' views.
7. c. Koran, 41:34. Jesus says much the same thing in different words.
8. b. Amos 9:7
9. all of them
10. all of these. Muhammad's Jewish wife was seized in battle, which undermines the spirit of the gesture. By some accounts he had a second Jewish wife as well.
11. a. Psalm 137
12. a. Koran 4:34
13. b. St. Paul, both in 1 Corinthians 14 and 1 Timothy 2, but many scholars believe that neither section was actually written by Paul.

While I am appreciative of Kristof's attempt to clear many such commonly held misconceptions, especially about Islam, he made some errors with his answers. Here are my corrections: 

1. Muslims pronounce their Holy Scripture as the Qur'an, which should have been used by the author for better accuracy.

2. Contrary to his opinion about Q. 2 there is not a single verse in the Qur'an that prescribes coercion in matters of religion. Allah (God of the Qur'an) leaves the choice to either accept or reject Islam to human beings, although He warns those that reject Islam as the final revelation with dire consequences in the Hereafter. 

3. Kristof's remarks on Q. 5 vis-a-vis Islam are not accurate. While the Qur'an, like both the so-called Old and New Testament, does not explicitly abolish slavery, it is unique in providing the basis for emancipation from and elimination of slavery. See, for instance, the Surah al-Balad (ch. 90), verses 12-18, in which Allah says, "Ah, what will convey unto thee what the Ascent (rising to higher status in Islam, a sure recipe for entering Paradise) is: It is to free a slave, and to feed in the day of hunger an orphan near of kin or some poor wretch in misery, and to be of those who believe and exhort one another to perseverance and exhort one another to the deeds of kindness and compassion." And there are many such verses (see, e.g., 4:92, 5:89, 58:3.) and prophetic hadith (sayings) that required believing Muslims to freeing slave as a remission of their sins. The verse 24:33 says, "And if any of your slaves ask for a deed in writing (for emancipation) give them such a deed if you know any good in them; yea, give them something yourselves out of the means which Allah has given to you." 

What is more revealing is that the Qur'an unequivocally makes it clear that no man, irrespective of his status (including a prophet), can enslave any other human being: "It is not (possible) for any human being unto whom Allah had given him the Scripture and wisdom and 'Nabuwah' (Prophethood) that he should afterwards have said unto mankind: Be slaves of me instead of Allah ..." [3:79] It is not difficult to understand why the Prophet of Islam, Muhammad (S), not only freed his slaves from his wife's side (Khadija) but also encouraged his companions to win their freedom. Muhammad (S) bought freedom of 63 former slaves, A'isha (RA) 67, Abbas (RA) 70, Abdullah ibn Umar (RA) 1000 and Abdur Rahman ibn Awf 30,000. It was these freed slaves of Islam that became the flag-bearers of Islam. Bilal, the Abyssinian, became the first Mu'addhin (caller to prayer) in Islam, a position next only to the Imam during the salat, one of the most important pillars of Islam. To break the aristocratic arrogance of the pagan time the Prophet's own cousin sister, born to Quraysh aristocracy, was married to his freed slave, Zaid ibn Haritha (RA). In his deathbed, Muhammad (S) appointed Usama (RA), the son of Zaid (RA), to become the leader of the expedition against the Byzantine Empire that had gathered a large army to attack Muslim territories to the north in Syria. Muslim history is replete with examples of freed slaves that became the rulers and marrying into kings' daughters and sisters. 

The interested reader may like to read my articles "Anatomy of Racism" and "Islam and the question of slavery" that were posted elsewhere in 2005 and 2006, respectively.

As to Kristof's answer to Q. 10, many scholars have dwelt upon the subject of Muhammad's (S) treatment of Jews. It is a highly controversial subject. Suffice it to say that the prophet Muhammad (S) was more merciful to the Jews of Madinah than the prophet Moses (AS) was to his own community when they rebelled against him and committed blasphemous activities. The interested reader may like to read Dr. Rafiq Zakaria's book - Muhammad and the Quran, Penguin Books (1992). 

Kristof's answer to Q. 12 also shows his misreading of the Qur'anic verse. No, the Qur'an does not endorse beating wife for insubordination. If the wife shows disloyalty and ill-conduct towards her husband, the recommended steps in sequence are - (1) verbal advice or admonition, (2) separating bed so as to suspend sexual relation, (3) have sexual intercourse (so as to win her over), and if that too fails to reconcile, then (4) a family council that is comprised of two arbiters, one from each family with the intention of setting things aright (4:34-35). [See, e.g., Al-Qur'an: a Contemporary Translation by Ahmed Ali, Princeton University Press, 1993] [Note also: The Arabic root word "daraba" being taken from the prosaic example "the stud-camel covered the she-camel." (Raghib, Al-Mufridat fi Gharib Al-Qur'an)] These verses were revealed in relation to the wife of a Muslim who complained to the Prophet (S) that her husband had beaten her, and she wanted retaliation. If beating of wives were allowed in the Qur'an then it could not have prohibited it by saying, "If a wife fears cruelty or desertion on her husband's part, there is no blame on them if they arrange an amicable settlement between themselves; and such settlement is best; even though men's souls are swayed by greed. But if ye do good and practise self-restraint, God is well-acquainted with all that ye do." (Qur'an, 4:128) See also the verse: "Do not retain them (i.e., your wives) to harm them..." (Qur'an, 2:231)

I am, however, aware of the fact that because of a misinterpretation with the Arabic word Adribu in the Qur'an (derived from the word 'Daraba' which has multiple meanings, depending on the context) some translators have mistakenly assumed that the third option means scourge, or light beating. 

This discussion once again demonstrates that relying on a mistranslation in English or other languages rather than the classical Arabic of the Qur'an, in which the Islamic scripture was revealed, can distort the actual meanings intended for the verse. This problem is also quite acute with many old scriptures that are open to so many interpretations. Little knowledge on religion can actually be dangerous!


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  7 Comments   Comment

  1. MUSAH YAKUBU from GHANA

    Your submission on Kristof's answer to question 10 is not sufficient. What is the actual meaning of dharaba for that matter in the quran dictum? If the meaning is not 'to beat'. Please complete your submission by given full clear meaning to the verse. What you have done is to just leave us in limbo or confusion.

  2. KC James from USA

    I appreciate the author sharing his knowledge. For those who do not have the time to learn Arabic in order to read the Holy Quran, there is an alternative. There is "The Meaning of the Holy Quran" with comments by Abdullah Yusuf Ali (a true Genius), who explains everything in detail.

  3. Babandi A. Gumel from U.K

    I am not trying to defend Nicholas Kristoff or his write up but only showing that it was a kind of survey only sampling our opinions on religions which most of us have misconception on different Religion especially that of Islam.It was a good try eventhough he was not perfect.So we should try correct those wrong perceptions and misuderstandings so as to recognise and understand one another as human beings created by the same Creator. This can lead to uni of mankind as one family of God.That was what I was trying to point out.Everything we blame Islam and the Muslims which Kam and his collegues have been waging relentless campaign of distorting the teachings of the Prophet.

  4. Ws from Hong Kong

    Beating is for discipline. its like when you join army they are really strict for discipline because if something goes wrong they are to be blamed, that is the same way.

    In Islam father or husband is questionable for his family for their duties towards God like Prayer, fulfilling the needs for the family and etc. lets me give you a example if the wife is not following Islam and the husband have not used the rule which God gave him, both on the Day of Judgement comes together and God asks the wife why you were against My guided way of life then God asks the husband why you have not used my rule to bring your wife back to my way (beating), now here the wife gets a chance to save herself by blaming on her husband that if he would have beat me i would have come to the right path. Now here the husband is in trouble.

    As i mentions that husbands are responsible for their families. as far as respect of women in islam is concern there are alot of hadiths of Prophet (S) one i will qoute. Prophet (S) said "A man who has one daughter and brought her well that man's veil from hell-fire will be his daughter." and other says a man who has 2 daughters, whose 2 daughters will be the man's eyes to see the gates of paradise.

  5. Siddeeque Zainuddeen from KSA

    I have noticed a few things about wife beating.Generally drunkards are wife beaters. They beat their wife and children without any provocation. In the country where I was born, thousands of husbands, mostly Hindus, go to their homes in the evening after drinking heavily. The wife will be waiting her husband after cooking food for dinner. The drunkard gets angry at the woman without any logical reason and beats her severely. If children begin to cry, he will beat them too. This happens regularly in thousands of home. At the end the wife commits suicide after giving poison to her kids. Such news are not rare in our newspapers. In my village, where Muslims are dominant, a Muslim man comes in the evening after drinking and beats his wife.In the same village one Christian family lived when I was young. A Father, mother and their children. Loud voice of crying children and the woman usually came out of that home the moment, head of the family, enter the home in the evening. That man named Mr. Mathai('Mathew' in English) made it a habit to beat his wife regularly. At last that family got broken. Children escaped to various places when they grew up. Mother went to her home. Father went where I dont know. Anyway they all left my village. What I want to say is that Liquor is strictly prohibited only in Islam. So drinking is least among Muslims as a community. Many of those who drink heavily for enjoyment or whatever reason makes it a habit to beat wives and children. Instead of finding fault with Islam for any wrong doings happening in this world, It is better for people to critically analyze their own life styles and views. May God Bless.

  6. Kam from -

    I am grateful to the editors who let my post be printed without any modifications. It would have come across as a criticism of Islamic law in the eyes of some editors ( I would brand them as censors!!)

    Wa Salaam

    Thanks

    Kam

  7. Kam from -

    The author says in his column, "..No, the Qur'an does not endorse beating wife for insubordination. ...". But read this. Today Federal court in UAE issued a judgement that the husband can beat his wife. Read below.

    DUBAI -- The Federal Supreme Court in the United Arab Emirates has ruled that a man can beat his wife and young children as long as no marks are left, The National newspaper reported on Monday.

    The court ruled that "a man has the right to discipline his wife and children provided he does not leave physical marks," the Abu Dhabi-owned newspaper reported in its online edition.

    "Although the (law) permits the husband to use his right (to discipline), he has to abide by the limits of this right," it quoted Chief Justice Falah al-Hajeri as having written in a ruling released in a court document on Sunday.

    The court ruled that a man who "slapped and kicked his daughter and slapped his wife" violated his "right" under sharia, or Islamic law, to discipline his wife and children, as he beat his wife too severely and his daughter, aged 23, was too old for such discipline, the newspaper said.

    The UAE is less conservative than some Gulf countries such as Saudi Arabia, where women cannot drive and need a male guardian's permission to travel.

    But Islamic religious law remains a part of the legal framework in the UAE, which also has secular laws. END

    Remember the hon'able judges I presume are far more learned than this author of this column! Will the author respond to this verdict?

    Who is right?