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Omar Ramahi on “Choosing Between Tradition and Islam”
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Omar Ramahi, a Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Waterloo, is the author of Muslims’ Greatest Challenge: Choosing Between Tradition and Islam. The book “challenges the use of Hadith as a source of legislation by presenting arguments directly from the Mushaf (the Qur’an). It takes an unconventional approach toward the Mushaf exegeses and reaches conclusions that are based on reason and the Mushaf’s text, yet contradictory to conventional Muslims’ doctrines.”

(Republished from Truth Jihad by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Islam 
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  1. polistra says:

    In the middle of this podcast (which is highly informative and interesting!) you mention the “first hour” was an interview with poet Charles Upton. Sounds like it would be equally interesting, but it’s not showing up or not uploaded.

    • Replies: @Kevin Barrett
  2. PPB says:

    It’s hardly surprising that any widespread religion that originated in a specific revelation, and in which that revelation had to speak to and integrate itself into one or more cultural frameworks to become widespread … would end up displaying some of the foibles and prejudices, as well as the virtues and charms, of the cultural settings in question, quite aside from any deliberate ex post facto manipulations. Nor is it surprising that the guardians of tradition would be less than receptive to that obvious fact. On a positive note, that reluctance could be viewed as a necessary means of ensuring the continuity of a given tradition, while the less positive side of that tendency is more or less self-explanatory, but typically involves enshrining culturally-specific peculiarities as divine imperatives.

  3. Lin says:

    The bottom line: (Sunni)Islam geopolitically is a vehicle of arab tribal/ethnic/nationalist power; considered that :
    1)–Arabic is the language of Jannah(paradise).
    2)–The Holy Prophet who had the last words on the destiny of mankind was an arab
    3)–Islamic taboos/dos and don’ts were Arabic customs sanctified.
    4)–Often in non-arab muslim majority countries, donning arab costume is a sign of piety.
    I often ponder how did Allah/God delegate ‘His’ messages to the Prophets and ‘His’ Son.
    Jesus obviously knew Hebrew and Aramaic was his daily language. Correct me if I were wrong, the first version of the new testament was written in Latin, a language of pagans during Jesus’s time. I couldn’t conceive God spoke in a pagan(non-semite) language to Jesus(be reminded that Jesus instructed his disciples not to preach to pagans–Mathew 10:5), so I concluded God delivered his commands to his Prophets or Son through telepathy. But I was wrong; looks like Allah is an Arabic speaker OR one can’t fully understand ‘His’ teaching unless one spends lots of time studing Arabic.
    Prophet Mohammed sure has my deep admiration that he had created a major civilization.

  4. @polistra

    The Upton interview is posted at and should soon be here at as well.

  5. Hi Kevin,

    Re: Hummux & Omar Ramahi

    Wow, these guys really turn my crank! Never thought I’d hear a Muslim talking “bad” about THE PROPHET (or at least, admitting the truth) while still maintaining loyalty to the faith. Nearly unthinkable and yet … it’s realistic.

    Christians have the same problem of “worshiping the messenger”. There’s this tendency to believe that since “GOD CHOSE” a particular person to deliver a “prophetic” message to “his people” … that there HAS to be a reverence and almost worshipfulness attributed to the messenger because obviously, God chose that person because of their merits! Realistically, nothing could be further from the truth: Prophets are simply BORN to be the way they are and they have their own unique gift for the world of being able to deliver a cohesive message that will benefit others who chose to listen and apply what they hear in a constructive and caring manner.

    The same idea goes with worshiping some book. Really dumb if you stop to think about it!~ Does God LIVE between the covers of a book? And yet, that’s how religions operate: it’s all WRITTEN there as “THE WORD of GOD” … (as if God is confined to some writing that occurred once upon a time and that’s the only way he has ever been able to communicate with humanity: he only speaks about every thousand years or so).

    I recall having a lengthy personal talk with one of the brightest and best Christian ministers I ever met … by the name of Harold Mitton … back around 1973 or so. He was then pastoring First Baptist Church in Calgary (but Calgary was only a blip in his complete life as he resided primarily in New Brunswick, Canada).

    Well Dr. Mitton made a rather startling statement to me (for that time, at least), when he said that the word “prophesy” and “prophet” don’t mean foretelling or future telling; they actually mean FORTH telling.

    Hmmm … that required a lot of thought for me and possibly took me years to sort out but I believe he was absolutely correct … looking back in hindsight now.

    You see, there’s absolutely no benefit in foretelling the future to mankind because -if true- it’s already a done deal and the best anyone can hope for is that doom and gloom might possibly be forestalled for a time by proper behavior but inevitably it MUST HAPPEN … or the prophet who uttered the prophecy was FALSE!

    Deuteronomy 18:22 states that, “When a prophet speaketh in the name of the LORD, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him.”

    So our fate is sealed by prophecy … if prophecy is future telling. Damned if we don’t do and/but the prophet is damned if we do do. (Check out the story of Jonah the prophet who was eaten by a fish because “God” sabotaged his prophecy and Jonah was royally pissed off about it).

    However, if prophecy is FORTH telling … that’s quite different. That’s a guy saying to his peers … “look, I can SEE where we’re all headed if we don’t start thinking and behaving differently. We’re all doomed to destruction! But here’s some instruction I’ll give you to circumvent the problems we’re facing: we need to do this, this and this and believe this and this and modify our attitude etc.” He then writes them a little bible which they can read, to refer to.

    With forth telling, WE humans are in control of our own destiny at all times … whereas, with foretelling, we’re just screwed, period … sooner or later.

    Dr. Mitton also made a rather surprising statement (for me, anyway) in a 3 hour interview of him, conducted near the end of his life … when he spoke about his own “crisis of faith” near the beginning of his pastoral journey. He said that he couldn’t go on because there were things in the bible that were contradictory. He sought counseling and was advised to simply put those issues “on the shelf” for the time being. And that’s what he did! They just STAYED on the shelf for the rest of his life (I assume)!~ When I knew him, he seemed so rock-solid and sure of himself in every way, I never would have guessed that he ever experienced any crisis of his own faith.

    But yes, that’s a phenomenon I saw with pretty well ALL of the Christian ministers whom I observed, and highly respected as very sensible good guys: they had a crisis of faith and a nervous breakdown (now known as PTSD, I believe) … and then either abandoned the faith or … made some kind of compromise in order to continue operating. Anyone who believes any book to be the infallible word of God, is going to turn themselves into a pretzel of cognitive dissonance … or go nuts … because NO BOOK can be free of contradictions in some form or another.

    Billy Graham too, made a shocking statement to Dr. Robert Schuller in an interview near the end of his own ministry.

    Billy Graham, who had always been dogmatic about JESUS being the only way, truth and life for most of his ministry was now telling Schuller that, ” -God’s purpose for this age is to call out a people for his name, And that’s what God is doing today: he’s calling out a people for his name … whether they come from the Muslim world or the Buddhist world or the Christian world or the non-believing world … ah, they are members of the body of Christ because they’ve been called by God. They may not even know the name of Jesus but they know in their hearts that they need something that they don’t have and they turn to the only light that they have and I think that they are saved and that they’re going to be with us in heaven.”

    Needless to say, this didn’t go down well with red-knecked fundamentalist Christians at all!~

    But it’s true … if one is going to be perfectly honest: there is NO ONE RELIGION that is absolutely true and infallible. Ultimately, a true, reasonable, logical seeker has to come to the conclusion that EVERYONE has equal rights, regardless of their belief or non-belief.

    I like to think of it this way, using a simile approach …

    The gods created us in a mutual structured agreement, to be autonomous. (The word “God” in the bible is actually plural, meaning gods … which has been masked by translation in order to preserve doctrine.)

    Regardless of WHICH god a group determines to “worship” … the principle is always the same: there’s good instruction and guidance to be had, for those with a righteous intention. It’s the intention that counts, not the particular belief.

    So if you think of a representative god being like a particular corporation … you have the corporation being the “god”.

    You think of corporation reps being chosen by the corporation to go spread the word about the corporation … the products, how they work, how best to utilize them etc. The rep is the “prophet” of the corporation.

    And then you have the user manual which is the guide for using the product and that’s the bible or the Quran etc.

    Now … do you WORSHIP Ford Motor company or Mitsubishi or Toshiba etc.? Of course not! Well, I hope not, anyway.

    Do you need to listen to the rep giving talks? Yes … if you’re going to get a better idea of what the company is doing and how NOT to screw up, using the company’s product. Is HE to be worshiped because he’s chosen? No … the guy may be a scallywag in his personal life! But he’s “chosen” because he fulfills his job demand.

    Should you consider the user manual to be holy and sacred and to be read over and over again to get fresh information from it?

    Well, uh … I think anyone who does that has to be a bit nuts. You read it over ENOUGH to understand what it says … and then you APPLY what you learned to the product you own. Every so often, you refer to it though … because there’s something you forgot or didn’t get the first time over.

    Books are REFERENCE material … that’s all. It’s you the owner who has to apply that knowledge and your own experience in order to become an expert user.

    The same holds true for any religious ideal. YOU become the expert through learning, applying and then practicing the techniques written down or conveyed by live messenger.

    Which … rather strips away any particular religious barriers of exclusiveness. A car is a car and you simply learn to drive it, regardless of the brand name. A computer is a computer and they all serve the same functions … even if they run a bit differently.

    So is there or are there any silver bullets which fulfill all religious demands? Sure … generally there are. It’s to fulfill the golden rule, basically, which encompasses most of the other attributes like respect, honor, empathy, love etc.

    Should forgiveness be the key factor? I don’t think so but it’s a good attitude to have, regardless. Too much forgiveness and you become a door mat and a push-over … right?

    But forgiveness is often a pragmatic decision too. What are the best over-all returns? Punishment or forgiveness?

    Always try to practice co-operation in place of competition. Competition is occasionally a good thing but it easily results in destruction. You can do much better by teaching and learning co-operation.

    That’s my little feed-back spiel on these two recent guests of yours which I thoroughly enjoyed listening to.

    -Alberta Vince

  6. Dear Albert,
    I am very surprised at this comment. I never spoke “bad” or bad of the Prophet Muhammad. In fact, I glorified him and stressed his mission as a mercy to mankind rather than all those negative things attributed to him through the doctrines of Sunnah and Hadith. Please and kindly listen to the interview very carefully. In fact, if you happen to get hold of my book, look carefully at pages 314 and 315.

    Most Sincerely,
    Omar M. Ramahi

    • Replies: @Alberta Vince
  7. Dear Albert,
    I did not intend the previous message as a slaes pitch. Please find below the quote from pages 314 and 315. Sincere wishes
    Omar M. Ramahi

    ” The Mushaf embodies Islam and all that needs to be known about Islam. For Muslims, it is expected that everything outside the Mushaf should be subjected to the principles and guidelines of the Mushaf. In other words, the Mushaf is the primary and complete source for the religion, not other material whose authenticity is constantly speculated and debated and yet to be fully validated. If Allah wanted the believers to be aware of specific practices, He would have spelled them out within the Mushaf. If Muslims needed to know anything about the man to whom Allah chose to be his last Messenger, they need look no further than the Mushaf.

    The Sunnah and Hadith evolved with time to achieve a status that qualifies them to be parallel to the Mushaf. Effectively a parallel reli-gion emerged that is characteristically and substantively different from the religion of Allah. The new religion, despite being different, cannot be justified as complementary to the Mushaf. This religion extensively expanded the scope of prohibitions (tahrim) and presented an image of Muhammad so radically different from the one presented by the divine revelation.

    The Hadith portrayed Muhammad: as a pedophile; as a sexual pervert who flirted with foreign women; as a selfish person to the point of using religion to achieve his own salvation and satisfaction; as vengeful and bloodthirsty; as a temperamental leader who did not follow due process and who sought satisfaction from torture; to have been irrational to the point of ordering executions without trial or even giving the accused an opportunity to defend himself; to have al-lowed his men followers to fondle the breasts of foreign women; as a highwayman; as a leader who condoned deception; as disobeying Allah’s Mushaf commands; as an untrustworthy leader who broke the covenants and treaties he established with neighboring tribes; to have been a magician making water spring from (or between or through) his hands; as a future teller. If all these stories are true then the Muhammad of Hadith is not the Muhammad of the Mushaf but a dramatically different character, or the Muhammad of Hadith decided to go against the Mushaf. It is impossible to foresee a third alternative.

    The Mushaf stressed that Muhammad was a human, a husband, a Prophet and a Messenger. Muhammad the human: could have been killed (M3:144); had made errors in judgement (M80:1); was misguided until he received guidance from Allah (M93:7); and never knew his ultimate fate (M46:9). The Mushaf gives no indication that Muhammad was a perfect human. Was Muhammad the “chosen” or the “selected” as many Muslims claim? The Mushaf states that Adam, Noah, Ibrahim and the progeny of Imraan were chosen above all human-ity (chosen is possibly the most accurate translation of istafa in M3:33), but Muhammad was not amongst this group. Was Muhammad better than all other Prophets and Messengers? The Mushaf does not engage in such favoritism discourse, perhaps because it is irrelevant. Was Muhammad born as a Messenger or did he evolve to a status that was eventually deserving of the Prophethood and deliverer of the final Message? The Mushaf might give indications that shed light on such a question, but, again, perhaps such a question has little relevance to the Message and to Islam. ”

    • Replies: @Alberta Vince
  8. @Omar M. Ramahi

    OK, let me review the interview by Kevin Barrett again …

    At 2:42 in the interview, you say, “I found contradictions. One would say that the prophet Mohammad wasn’t as a mercy to mankind … not to the Arabs, not to a certain group but to all mankind … that (unintelligible) … and then I find the so-called Muslim tradition, that it’s full of contradictory statements. A prophet that was impatient, intolerant, blood-thirsty, who violates treaties, easily, who is a womanizer, uh-heh, so I said, ‘you know -having an engineering training helps me because as an engineer we cannot build a system on contradiction. Snip – so I started looking at both and I find they don’t match.”

    I heartily agree with what I understood about the above statement to be your own expressed opinion and my bad, if I misunderstood but your bad if you don’t agree with your own statement!~ ( The muted fidelity and the accent may have caused my attention to derail … no offense to you … but I must be missing something if that’s not what you meant).

    Oh and, please read carefully: my handle is Alberta Vince to differentiate myself from New Zealand’s Vinny Eastwood. Alberta is a province of Canada you see. So I’m not “Albert” by any means.

    -Alberta Vince

  9. Dear Alberta,
    first, profound apology for not addressing you properly. Sometime the mind wants to “see” something different from what the eyes see. Completely unintentional and my apology once more.
    And also, I forgot to sincerely thank you for listening to the interview and for your strong interest in the subject. Much appreciated.

    Regarding your postings above, I believe I found the problem.

    You said you heard the following:

    “I found contradictions. One would say that the prophet Mohammad wasn’t as a mercy to mankind … not to the Arabs, not to a certain group but to all mankind …”

    but I said the following:

    I found contradictions. One would say that the prophet Mohammad was a mercy to mankind … not to the Arabs, not to a certain group but to all mankind …”

    best wishes
    Omar M. Ramahi

    • Replies: @Alberta Vince
  10. @Omar M. Ramahi

    And thank YOU for your replies Doctor! I wasn’t actually offended by anything you said or did … I just found it a bit amusing that we both weren’t acutely “paying” enough “attention.”~

    -Alberta Vince

  11. @Omar M. Ramahi

    Hi, it’s me again, A. Vince.

    Somehow, the above posting of yours at 9:18 PM on August 25 didn’t show up until after I had posted my reply at 10:36. In fact, I only saw it for the first time today! Very strange.

    Yes, I see that you explained your own “contradiction” of speaking bad about the prophet in this particular reply fairly cohesively when you said, “The Hadith portrayed Muhammad: as a pedophile; as a sexual pervert who flirted with foreign women …”. So those words weren’t your own expressed opinion of Mohamed but rather, a portrayal given by the Hadith?

    On the other hand, you say that, “Was Muhammad better than all other Prophets and Messengers? The Mushaf does not engage in such favoritism discourse, perhaps because it is irrelevant. Was Muhammad born as a Messenger or did he evolve to a status that was eventually deserving of the Prophethood and deliverer of the final Message? The Mushaf might give indications that shed light on such a question, but, again, perhaps such a question has little relevance to the Message and to Islam.”

    See, this is where I believe we’re on the same page. You don’t KNOW if he was perfect but you consider his perfection (or not) to be irrelevant to the Message and to Islam … and I was saying pretty much the same thing to Kevin in my original email.

    This is what’s so hard for Christians (and other religions maybe?) to grasp if/when they worship their messenger. How could God POSSIBLY have chosen an imperfect human to deliver a perfect message?

    I’m saying that prophets aren’t chosen because of their virtue; they’re chosen because of their inherent “gift” to HEAR the message in the first place … and then they pass it along to the people if they feel highly motivated to do so.

    It’s like the message is broadcast to everyone, everywhere but most people only get bits of it because of the static … whereas, certain people and prophets have more finely tuned receivers which pick it up far more clearly.

    And I would add … the ABILITY to receive the message DOESN’T make the receiver any more righteous than others! Quite to contrary. The special gift is an indication of a responsibility to SHARE the message with others so that they can benefit from it.

    -Alberta Vince

  12. The Muslim says: • Website

    – What aversion is there to authenticated reports of the path of the Prophet Muhammad (saaw)? Even reports out of this group of reports (sahih/authentic) have been contextualized and have been contextualized/interpreted when compared to known facts. I know that a certain small minority of Muslims in the modern age (post Usmani Caliphate era) have a tendency of rejecting Tawil outright but this has never been part of mainstream Islamic scholarship.

    – Qur’an is a mutawatir written compilation (during the Caliph Abu Bakr’s reign). Does one think that human beings back then were not competent to accurately record history? Was it not ancient human beings that recorded the Qur’an? And by the way these were ‘Muslim’ human beings under the Caliphate of Abu Bakr whose first and sincere rule was honesty.

    – The path (sunna) of the Prophet Muhammad (saaw) is an extension of the Qur’an — as the Qur’an states itself that the Prophet (saaw) has been sent to explain the revelation, he is the example to be followed, etc.

    – Hadith is simply a written compiling (and filtering) of the living sunna by able people under the Caliphate era.

    – The early discussion between Al-Shafi and others was not about questioning the Sunnah (following the Prophet’s way was a given by all Schools of Law and Aqidah of Islam!), rather, it surrounded the discussion of the written compilation of the sunnah, some thinkers of Ahl al-tawhid wa al-adl (so-called Mutazilites) questioned the written recording and wanted to leave it as a continuing living sunnah (by the way other Mutazilites went on to become scholars of hadith). I think the decision to rigorously record the sunnah in written format was a logically necessary endeavour so as to curb the false reports that were being floated at the time. And it is fitting that this did happen as by the time of the fall of what was left of the Caliphate (in 1924) it was at least impossible to rid this written/recorded corpus, even though the living sunnah was under attack by the colonial powers and its influence.

    – Also the compilers used the rule “Whoever tells lies about me deliberately, let him take his place in Hell.” (authentic report)

    -The teachings of the Qur’an was lived (sunnah). If this didn’t happen, humanity does not have the Creator’s revealed comprehensive example of optimal/taqwaa (God-Conscious) living. You take out the Qur’an and Sunnah, and you leave out this Creator’s demanded comprehensive living as our Reason tells us that we don’t have all the facts on certain matters or all matters – logically The Creator does, and the Prophet (saaw) lived by the Creator’s guidance. Among using Reason to understand Allah’s creation, we also use it to understand the guidance — and the guidance is the Qur’an and by extension the way/example of the Prophet (saaw) — why? Because the Qur’an makes this plain.

    -Regarding ‘tradition’ — when Muslims mention tradition it usually means Islamic practice, especially the practice of the Prophet (saaw). So in the Islamic sense ‘tradition’ does not mean something backward (which in the english language it can in many cases connote this). By the way Islamic Tradition produced an unrivaled civilization and system on this planet. This ‘tradition’ is by far superior to the present day tradition of liberalism, secularism, hedonism & capitalism.

    – This planet requires the ‘Islamic tradition’ (the greedy powers to be and the world lovers hate it and want to neutralize it which they have so far) — see this article for more: — interestingly Lord Cromer saw the coming of the fad of ‘deism’ among Muslims “which will cast aside much of the teaching of Mohammed” to help keep the Muslims from being a threat to the global liberal/secular system.

    – Right now, one of our biggest culprits is the present day secular, liberal & capitalist system and environment we’re facing. And the ‘Quranists’ are a product of this liberal/individualistic environment:

    “Soon there will come a time that a man will be reclining on his pillow, and when one of my hadiths is narrated he will say: ‘The Book of Allah is (sufficient) between us and you. Whatever it states is permissible, we will take as permissible, and whatever it states is forbidden, we will take as forbidden.’ Verily, whatever the Messenger of Allah has forbidden is like that which Allah has forbidden.” (authentic report)

    Also see this article:

    P.S. Again in response to “Oh hadith came around 250 years after the Prophet’s death…” Hadith was an attempted written recording of the Prophet’s (saaw) Sunnah! The Sunnah was continuous, the Sunnah didnt just emerge 250 years after the Prophet’s (saaw) death! Yes, rigorous written recording of the sunnah took place at that time. And as I mentioned above, it was a logically necessary endevour so as to curb the emerging false reports of the sunnah that were being floated at the time.

  13. cactus says:

    Dear Mr. Ramahi,

    I am reading your book and currently on the second chapter. One thing that occurred to me is that when discussing Hadith scholars, Islamic thought leaders and others who are looked to for guidance about Islam you don’t mention Imams. I checked the index and didn’t see reference to Imams. Is there a reason for this? Also, given that your argument is that Muslims need to focus on the message in the Quran (which I agree with), who is there to turn to for guidance if one is a curious and skeptical Muslim when confused about certain passages of the Quran?

  14. Here

    Dear Cactus,
    Many thanks for your interest in my talk, and especially for purchasing and reading my book. I value yours (and everyone’s else) time just as much as I value mine and I truly hope you will find reading it worth your valuable time.
    Imams is a designation or a title that does not carry any uniformity it its implication and/or meaning. Imams could refer to the de facto founders of the Muslim sects (such as al-Shafi’i, ibn Hanbal, etc.) or it could designate someone who leads a prayer, a job that could have been given to him either by the local community or the state. In Shiasm, Imams imply a completely different thing as it is connected to the concept of imamat. In summary, I would rather stay of away from this usage as much as possible unless the context implies specific clarification.

    Regarding your other thought, I would say one needs to turn to anyone who makes sense and has a convincing argument. If the argument or explanation of verses are not convincing, then we can do it ourselves. Physicists turned to Niels Bohr to understand the structure of the atom, but later they found his model very “simplistic” and they were not convinced and ended up coming with a much better convincing understanding of the atom and even sub-atomic constituents. Allah had full trust in humans… can’t we have trust in ourselves. Would it be a trivial matter to understand the Qur’an or the Mushaf. Not necessarily. Just like understanding nature (say the law of gravity or thermodynamics) needs some effort, the Mushaf also needs some effort. BUT believe me my good friend, it is not as bad as they made us think it is. After all, Allah says very emphatically that guidance comes to whoever wants it. I truly trust that my perspective becomes much clearer to you once your read the Mushaf chapter in my book.

    I take this opportunity to bring your attention to several typographical errors in the book.
    you can find the list at

    Most sincerely,

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