Switching Baca into Mecca

In a desperate attempt to biblically legitimise their pilgrimage to Mecca, some Muslim apologists quote Psalm 84:5-6

Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage. As they pass through the Valley of Baca, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools.”

In Sura 3:96, the Quran uses the name “Bekka” (or Bakka) for Mecca: “The first House established for the people was that at Bekka, a place holy, and a guidance to all beings.” For this reason, Muslims argue that Psalm 84 is talking about pilgrimage to Mecca, consequently identifying Yahweh with the Allah of Islam. I have encountered this argument a number of times from Muslims, but it’s absolutely false on several levels.

First of all, the Hebrew word in vs. 5 is mesillot and it means “ways” or “highway” not pilgrimage. The Hebrew word “mesillot” has no linguistic link whatsoever with the Arabic word “hajj.” Furthermore vs. 7 says “They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God IN ZION.” This simply means that the destination of the people mentioned in vs. 5 – if we take it literally – is Zion which is Jerusalem, not Mecca or Arabia.

According to Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary, the valley of Baca mentioned in the verse is “a valley in Canaan, thought by some scholars to be the same place as the Valley of Rephaim (2 Sam. 5:22-24; Ps. 84:6)” (ed. Ronald Youngblood, Thomas Nelson, 1995, 153).

The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (Vol. 1, 402) says of Baca: “Hebrew: baka (Ps. 84:6); NEB ‘thirsty valley.’ A valley so named because it contained trees that exuded resins or gums, perhaps several species of balsam. The valley of Rephaim has been suggested, but the identification is uncertain (cf. S. 5:23f; 1 Ch. 14:14f).”

The Lion Handbook to the Bible (1983, p. 344) says “Baca: possibly an actual valley the pilgrim passes on his way to Jerusalem. But New English Bible ‘the thirsty valley’ gives the sense.” Scholars point out that the Hebrew word ba-kha comes from a root meaning “weep” (cf. Gen. 21:16). It therefore seems to indicate a plant, shrub or tree producing gums or its usage may have been symbolic of the valley of weeping. To suggest that Baca in the Bible means Mecca is not only a phonetic fallacy, but also based on ignorance and mischief.

One Muslim quoted John 4:19-21 as “proof of hajj in the Bible” but reading the proceeding verses blows his theory into shreds:

22 “You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”

This is the reason Christians don’t face a black stone, temple or a particular direction during prayer. That’s why we don’t need to travel to Jerusalem, Mecca or Rome in order to worship God, because true worship is spiritual and founded on truth. Spiritual worship is not based on a geographical location or rituals. African Muslims have better stones in their countries, cities and towns, but they are still mandated to spend so much money and risk their lives to travel to dance around and kiss a dirty Arabian stone. They are even promised a first class ticket to paradise if they die in Mecca. Such gross deceptions and nationalistic fetish is an exploitation of ignorance.

The Greek word for “worship” in John 4 is “proskunountas” and it means “to do reference to” (Strong #4352). It never means “hajj” or pilgrimage. Even more than a point, the Allah of Islam is not a “Father” much less “Spirit.” It’s blasphemy to address him so in Islam. Therefore, any Muslim trotting out these verses is shooting himself in the leg theologically.

Muslims also quote Micah 4:1-2:
In the last days the mountain of the LORD’s temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and peoples will stream to it. Many nations will come and say, ‘Come let us go to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths. The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.”

This prophecy is also repeated in Isaiah 2:2-4. This is speaking of the earthly millennial rule of Christ from Jerusalem. Nothing here or elsewhere speaks of pilgrimage to Mecca. In fact, this can’t be the same as “the Valley of Baca.”

On one hand, Muslims claim that “the Bible has been corrupted” but when they want to trace the ‘history’ of their religion, they don’t go to the Vedas or Puranas, they go straight to the Bible they claim is “corrupted.” So, with a semantic juggling at one point, a partial quotation at another and brazen interpolations elsewhere, the Muslim is compelled to uphold the myths of the Quran or the entire raft of his religion crumbles!

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Scientific Miracles? Not quite

Many educated Muslims are struggling to waft their Quran from its Medieval fossil form to fit into the 21st century age of science and technology. To this end, they are boldly asserting that their book foretold modern scientific findings 14 centuries ago. These portions are dubbed “scientific miracles” of the Quran. We will see if these claims hold up.

The following rebuttals were drawn out from dialogues with several Muslims on this topic. When I asked them to present their strongest “proofs” for the Quran’s divine inspiration, their favourite trump cards were the “scientific miracle” passages. But as it often turns out, the cards quietly slips back into their pockets and the propaganda backfires.

(I) Quran 24:40 says “(The unbelievers’ state) is like the depth of darkness, in a vast deep ocean, overwhelmed with a great wave toppled with (another) great wave, toppled with (dark) clouds, darkness one above another; If a man stretches out his hand, he can hardly see it; for whom Allah gives no light, there is no light.” It’s a miracle that the Quran described layers of darkness in the ocean 1400 years ago. This has now been recently confirmed by marine scientists stating that the ocean becomes progressively dark at very distinct layers of its depths.

Reading through the various English translations of the Quran, it’s clear that this passage is referring to darkness covering the surface of sea, not dark layers within it.

Arberry: “Or they are as shadows upon a sea obscure covered by a billow above which is a billow above which are clouds, shadows piled one upon another…”

Palmer: “Or like darkness on a deep sea, there covers it a wave above which is wave, above which is a cloud – darknesses one above the other…”

Rodwell: “Or like the darkness on the deep sea when covered by billows, above which are clouds; darkness upon darkness…”

Sher Ali: “Or, their deeds are like thick layers of darkness spread over a vast and deep sea, on whose surface rises waves, above which are clouds…”

Pickthall: “Or as darkness on a vast, abysmal sea. There covereth him like a wave, above which is a wave, above which is a cloud. Layer upon layer of darkness…”

There are no clouds within the sea, certainly this verse refers to darkness above the sea. One would have to be so desperate to force oceanography into this banal allegory.

(II) Sura 21:30 says “Have they not who disbelieve seen that the heaven and earth were joimed together (as one piece), then We parted them.” Here, Allah explained a mystery unknown to the greatest physicists and astronauts for centuries. It described the creation of the universe by joining together heavens and the earth and separating them. This harmonizes with Big Bang Theory of the creation of the universe which holds that about 20 million years ago, the universe began with an explosive expansion of a single condensed matter.

I appeal to all Muslims who don’t wish to be exposed to ridicule to read up about the Big Bang theory before including it in their dawah memo. This theory stipulates that about 13.7 billion years ago, a tremendous explosion started the universe. Prior to this, the energy that transformed the matter was contained at one infinitely small point, thus, the explosion supposedly gave rise to the particles that became matter as well as space and time. It proposes that the galaxies were not all clumped together, so the claim of heavens and earth “being separated” as the Quran says is false.

Even more than a point, the Big Bang theory excludes Creationism, so the term “Big Bang theory of creation” is ludicrous. The Big Bang is just that – a theory – not a scientific fact. If it’s true, that means God didn’t create the earth and there were no Adam and Eve. Most believers in the Big Bang theory are atheists and agnostics. Appealing to speculative theories in place of facts is self-defeating.

(III) Sura 78:12-13 says “We have built above you seven strong (heavens) and placed therein a blazing lamp.” It’s clear from this verse that the sun is the only light for our solar system. Astronomers have now established that the moon merely reflects the light of the sun. The Qur’an stated this fact centuries before the astronomers could establish this by their findings

These verses actually prove that the Quran is not from an all-knowing Allah. The idea of “seven solid (heavens)” built up like some storey buildings is absurd. No astronomer will buy such gobbledygook. And finally, the sun is not “a blazing lamp,” that’s what an illiterate 7th century cave man would say. It would have been scientifically accurate if the Quran said that the sun is the star at the centre of the solar system around which the earth rotates.

(IV) Sura 16:68-69 “And your Lord inspired the bee, saying: Take your habitations in hills, on trees, and in (men’s) habitations. Then eat of all fruits, and follow the way of your Lord made easy (for you); There comes forth from their bellies, a drink of varying colours wherein is healing for men; Verily, in this indeed a sign for people who think.” The Quran in this verse used the female form of the verb, thus is stating that the female bee is entrusted with the task of collecting food and making the honey. Muhammad wasn’t an expert entomologist, so he couldn’t have known this 14 centuries ago

There are a number of problems with these verses. One, bees have a more complex navigation, communication and social mechanism. They live in a wide variety of environments and are certainly not restricted to hills, trees and houses. The Muslim who wrote this obviously has a poor information about bees at his disposal. For one, bees are classified into queen, drones and workers based on their responsibilities.

Two, bees don’t eat fruits; they feed on nectar and pollen from flowers. That is what they use to produce honey which also results in cross pollination in flowers. If Allah authored the Quran, he should have known this, but he didn’t. Three, how exactly do insects “follow the way of their Lord”? Are they Muslims too? The Quran attributes human thinking or abilities to insects. That’s fairy tale, not science.

The “drink of various colours” from bees alluded to are beewax and royal jelly and they are not for healing; they cause allergic reactions in humans. Allah should have given a disclaimer. Finally, this passage is not a sign for thinking people. Apiculture or bee-keeping has been practiced in ancient Egypt and ancient Greece, so the Quran is saying nothing beyond what a 7th century desert man would have known.

(V) Sura 1:1 says “Praise be to Allah; the Lord of the worlds.” Fourteen centuries ago, the human mind was certainly incapable of thinking about the earth, the solar system or the galaxies. Yet the very first verse of the Quran states that Allah is the Lord of the worlds. Today, mankind knows for a fact that there are other planets besides earth. Allah revealed this to Prophet Muhammad before modern discoveries.

Planets are not “worlds” and no planet is as inhabitable as earth, so they can’t be “worlds beyond the earth.” Another absurdity in the Quran is the claim that there are 7 heavens. These “heavens” couldn’t be planets, because there are 9 planets observed so far and scientists are looking at the possibility of a 10th planet which is still too dark to see now. Maybe, Allah should have given us the number of planets instead. Me thinks that would have been the real “scientific miracle.”

(VI) Sura 10:5 “He it is Who made the sun a shining brightness and the moon a light, and ordained for it mansions that you might know the computation of years and the reckoning. Allah did not create it but with truth; He makes the sign manifest for a people who know”

Sura 25:61 “Blessed is He who made constellation in skies and placed therein a lamp (sun) and a moon giving light”

Sura 71:15-16 “Do you not see how God has created the seven heavens in stories, and has set the moon therein for a light, and set the sun for a lamp.”
Quran uses two different words for the sun (siraj or zia) and the moon (noor). It acknowledged that the sun is the source of light and the moon only reflects it

There is a big spoof here. The Arabic word “noor” used for the moon means direct light and it’s scientifically wrong. The Arabic word for an object emitting light is “munir.” The moon doesn’t have its mansions or stations. This nonsense was borrowed from Astrology which is about as scientific as placing garlics on your bed to ward off spirits.

The sun is a star and there’s no scientific evidence that the moon is in the midst of or on the same level as stars. Scientists have observed that stars are much farther away from the earth than the moon. Proxima Centauri, the closest star to the earth, is about 4.3 light years (40 trillion kilometre) away from it. No matter how you slice the cake, the Quran is premodern.

(VII) “And it is He (Allah) Who spread out the earth, and set thereon mountains standing firm, and (flowing) rivers ; and fruits of every kind he made in pairs, two and two. He draws the night as a veil over the day ; Behold ! Verily, in these things there are signs for those who consider.” (13:3) 

Who made for you earth like a carpet spread out, and has opened roads therein, and has sent down water from the sky? With it have We produced diverse pairs of plants, each separate from the other” (20:53)

“Glory be to Allah, Who created in pairs all things that the earth produces ” (36:36), Centuries before Botanists knew of plant genders, the Quran made it known. How could Muhammad have had this information if he wasn’t inspired by God?

These verses are quite revealing, though not in the way Muslims suppose. Sura 13:3 says that Allah “spread out the earth and set thereon mountains” and that the “earth [is] like a carpet spread out” (20:53). This is teaching a flat earth. It was the belief of Muhammad’s time that the earth was flat. This has been disproved by the Voyages of Discovery and the advent of science. The earth is not flat.

Sura 13:3 speaks of “fruits of every kind He made in pairs.” This is nonsense. Fruits do not have male and female sexes! One doesn’t even need to be a scientist to know this. Sura 20:53 also speaks of “diverse pairs of plants” made. This is not true. Many plant species reproduce asexually. Why was Allah unaware of this?

Sura 36:36 is totally false. The lizard Cnemidophoras reproduces asexually. All members of the Monera kingdom reproduce asexually. Higher fungi (Fungi imperfecti), as well as various plants and single-celled organisms also reproduce asexually. They were not created “in pairs.” Why did Allah not know these facts? You see, Muhammad was a good observer, but he wasn’t all-knowing. These blunders (ironically been presented as “scientific miracles”) actually prove that the Quran is entirely man-made.