Friday, 23 December 2011

The Islamic Threat to Europe: By the Numbers

A Neglected Report from Europol
The Islamic Threat to Europe: By the Numbers
Some things interest the media, others don't. Since the fall of the USSR, the United States has sought another menace to designate as the ultimate evil, a world threat the Americans desperately need to take on. The 9/11 attacks gave them that enemy. And when the White House speaks, the media listens obediently.
Over the last number of years the "Islamic threat" has become one of the favourite issues for media coverage. It's all over the news--Muslims leaders pronouncing threats against the countries participating in occupying Muslim land.
While America is the Western country most succumbed to the fear of Islamism, things aren't much better in Europe. Its media is highly Americanised and thus eager to reiterate U.S. governmental positions towards the non-Western world. Islamic terrorism is subsequently a theme close to the hearts of European journalists as well.
Following this, you might think the journalists would be beside themselves with joy when the European Police Office (Europol) releases its first report on terrorism in the EU. I can assure you they weren't. In fact, to my best knowledge, not a single Swedish paper or news-channel has paid any attention to it whatsoever. I haven't seen it receiving much attention in other EU countries either (kudos to the EUobserver for having the decency to report on it). The report is namely a grave disappointment for the anti-Islamic campaigners.
There were 498 incidents in eleven EU countries last year labelled as "terrorist attacks." The Basque separatist group ETA did best (136 terrorist attacks) and was responsible for the only deadly attack, killing two in Madrid. The remaining 497 fortunately cost no human lives.
How about the Islamic terrorists then? Considering the perpetual warnings in our daily papers, the findings in the Europol report is, to say the least, surprising. The truth is that Islamists only carried out one out of the 498 terrorist attacks in the European Union in 2006. Don't believe me? The entire report is available on Europol's website. Had Islamic fundamentalists been behind a higher number of attacks-say 136-it would have been front page news at every big daily. One attack is simply too few--it won't do if the image of an "Islamic threat" is to live on.
The Europol report devotes several pages to Islamist terrorism, despite the low number. Except for the one attack in Germany this group was responsible for (which, by the way, failed and resulted in no victims), also Denmark and the United Kingdom reported that Islamists plotted to carry out one attack in each country respectively (incidentally, all three countries are accessory to the illegal occupation of Iraq). However, since these plans in both cases were exposed before they were set to work, they were not included among the 498. Either way, even after taking these plots into account, the report proves the genuine magnitude of Islamic terrorism in Europe--it's not exactly a huge threat.
If we look at the people arrested on suspicion of terrorism offences, the figures are rather disproportionate; about half of them arrested were Muslim. In plain English: Muslims are a group causing very little terrorism in Europe, while at the same time much more likely to be arrested on suspicion of it. The constant media coverage of Muslims being arrested creates the false image of a serious threat in order to benefit the imperialist world-view Washington wants us to adopt. Meanwhile the Americans and their accomplices are carrying out genocide in Iraq. Clearly, something needs to be done about the media.

The Islamic Mortgage: Paradigm Shift or Trojan Horse?

All praise is due to Allah and may His peace and blessings be upon our Prophet
Muhammad, his family and all his Companions.
During recent years there has been an unprecedented expansion in the range of commercial banking products labeled as “Shari`ah compliant” in many countries of the world. Popular interest among Muslims in the Shari`ah of financial transactions has increased likewise, and in the United Kingdom the permissibility of so-called “Islamic
Mortgages” is among the most frequent topics of enquiry. We therefore thought it appropriate to record here what we see as the main problems associated with this product class from the perspective of Shari`ah, knowing that many of our criticisms can be equally well applied to other types of product that are currently available from the Islamic banking sector. Scholars who have approved the main forms of Islamic mortgage will no doubt disagree with some elements of our criticism. We mean them no harm, and remind the reader that Allah has decreed the existence of differences among people, including Muslims, as one of the tests by which Paradise may be attained.
Although we conduct a purely contractual examination of the issues, it is important not to forget the socio-political context of the discussion. Muslims in the West are attempting to implement certain elements of Shari`ah within an environment that is frequently inhospitable, and the formulation of an appropriate strategy is therefore rather complex.
The question is not limited to whether particular financial products are contractually valid. Wider concerns are also in play. For example, is it permissible to establish an Islamic bank that initially has some dealings with interest if the intention is eventually to become interest-free? Should we be content with a structure in which an essentially un-Islamic industry accommodates some Islamic products? Or should banking as an industry be avoided until a completely interest-free opportunity presents itself? If so, how will Muslims satisfy their banking needs in the meantime? Perhaps most fundamental of all, is the Western model of Islamic banking and finance something that can be ‘Islamized’ in the first place?
When approaching this subject some scholars of Islam may give greater weight to the surrounding context than they do to narrow contractual issues, particularly in Western countries where the institutional and legal framework is rooted in practices that are often prohibited in Islamic law. It is surely unreasonable to expect a wholly Islamic banking paradigm to suddenly sprout from un-Islamic foundations, and some sort of transitionary phase is therefore to be expected when developing Islamic alternatives. Moreover, in many countries of the world, Islamic and non-Islamic, the Muslim community is not in a position to effect the wide ranging institutional changes that would be required if a genuine Islamic financing paradigm is to emerge.
Whatever approach is taken to dealing with the problems that face us, we feel that one
Key rule to be obeyed is that Islamic principles and teachings should not be twisted to fit preconceived solutions. The basic Islamic prescription for success in these matters is, as always, to deal with the causes of a problem and not its symptoms. If we are asked to provide an Islamic solution to the economic problems caused by interest, without eliminating interest, then we say that Islam does not have that solution. To those who argue that “partly Islamic” financial products are an acceptable stepping stone towards an ideal solution, we respond that such products may already be part of the problem. Many of today’s Islamic financial products are neither presented nor perceived among the Muslim population as temporary solutions dictated by force of circumstance. Because of this, the drive towards improvement in the Islamic finance industry is being diminished. If existing products are already “Islamic”, why develop new ones? Now referred to as “home purchase plans” by the UK Treasury and Financial Services Authority, Islamic home financing products usually adopt one of three basic forms of Islamic contract. These are murabahah, `Ijara wa iqtina (sometimes referred to as ijaramuntahia bitamleek) and musharakah mutanaqissa. Murabahah is a sale of an item to a buyer at a disclosed profit margin over cost. In order to implement a murabahah mortgage, a bank will buy from the vendor the property that is desired by its home-buying client for the agreed price, and immediately sell it to the client at an agreed profit margin over cost. The home-buyer will pay the price of the property in installments over several years, and mortgage the property to the bank in order to secure the installments that are due. Banks that offer this form of finance usually borrow (at interest on the money market) the amount of money that they use to purchase the property in the first leg of the murabahah transaction. The installments paid by the client are therefore set at a level that is sufficient to repay the money borrowed by the bank from the money market, and provide the bank with a profit on the deal. The installments paid by the client must be fixed in total (since a contract in which the price is not specified is invalid under Shari`ah) hence a bank often uses the interest rate swap market in order to fix its interest costs. By fixing its own borrowing costs, the bank can fix its client’s installment payments. Rises or falls in interest rates during the term of the murabahah will not then have an effect upon the cash-flows of either the bank or its client.
`Ijara is a rental of an item by its owner to a client, and `Ijara wa iqtina is a rental of an item followed by its sale to the client. In the case of home financing using `Ijara wa iqtina, the bank will buy from the vendor the property desired by the home-buying client at an agreed price, rent it to the client for a period of years, and then sell it to the client at the end of the period at a price agreed between them at the outset of the contract. The client’s monthly payments to the bank will comprise two main payments. One is rent, the other an amount that is held by the bank as an assurance that the client will be able to pay for the purchase of the property when required to do so at the end of the rental period. The “assurance money” is loaned out at interest by the bank to the money market, producing a financial benefit for the bank. The client’s monthly payment under an `Ijara corresponds approximately to the payments under an amortizing interest-based loan in which capital and interest are repaid in changing proportions over the term of the loan.
This similarity allows a bank to easily adapt its interest-based lending processes to the requirements of an `Ijara mortgage. Musharakah mutanaqissa is a diminishing partnership between a financier and a homebuyer.
There are several ways in which this partnership can operate. In the case of the Al-Buraq scheme in the United Kingdom, the bank purchases the property desired by the home-buying client using its own funds plus a deposit provided by the client. Although the property is registered in the name of Al-Buraq at the Land Registry, the diminishing partnership contract splits the so called “beneficial interest” in the property between the bank and the client so as to reflect the relative size of their contributions to the
purchase price. The client now lives in the property as a tenant and pays rent to the bank. The amount of the rent is adjusted to reflect the fact that the client owns part of the
beneficial interest in the property. In addition to the rental payment, over time the client buys the bank’s beneficial interest in the property and eventually becomes the owner of all of that interest. At this stage, the client’s total rental payment is zero and the final formal step is taken of transferring ownership into the name of the client at the Land Registry. It should be noted that in some other diminishing partnership contracts, the property is held by the financier in trust for itself and the client. Of itself, this modification need not affect the cash-flows described above.

Ahli United Bank in London offers products that are described as murabahah and `ijara. United National Bank, HSBC, and Al-Buraq offer what they call a diminishing partnership contract. The Al-Buraq contract has been adopted by Bristol and West, Lloyds TSB and Islamic Bank of Britain. Until recently, HSBC offered an Islamic
home financing
contract in accordance with `Ijara wa iqtina principles, but this has now been replaced by its diminishing partnership product.

The Islamic principles of financial transactions are found within a part of Islamic law
called mu`amalat. As a rule, mu`amalat states what is prohibited, not what is permitted. If a contract can be shown to contain a prohibited feature, it is deemed void or partly
invalid under Islamic law. The onus is on the one who prohibits to prove his case, not on the one who permits. Hence, it is not for the bank to show that its mortgage product is halal (permissible). Rather, it is for detractors to show that the product contains a
prohibited feature such as riba (usury, of which the charging of interest is one
form) or gharar (deception or uncertainty in contractual terms). It is worth pointing out that the fashion of issuing religious judgements to approve financial products as halal goes against this basic legal approach. However, it seems that the spread of riba and
unlawful features within most contemporary financial transactions has encouraged Shari`ah scholars to issue such judgments to signify conformity rather than non-conformity.

Islam defines riba in such a way as to prohibit any benefit received by a lender for
the giving of a loan, no matter how big or small the benefit. (Riba can also occur in certain other forms of trading transaction that we do not deal with here.) The main point for our purpose is that modern interest falls under the scope of the riba prohibition. In contrast, a transaction in which goods are exchanged for money cannot contain riba. This is called trading. It is however possible that such an exchange will be invalid on other grounds, such as coercion or misrepresentation. Muslim merchants are therefore allowed to make a profit by selling goods for more than they purchased them, but they are not allowed to make a profit by lending money. This is the way in which we may understand the Qur’anic injunction that:

“… Allah has permitted trading and forbidden riba …“from ayat 275, Surah al-Baqarah
Islamic law also prohibits hila (legal trickery) that can produce a usurious loan from otherwise permissible contracts. For example, a usury-free loan, a promise and a gift
are each permissible in Islam. However, if Person A gives Person B a usury-free loan of
£100 on condition that Person B promises to give Person A gift of £10 upon repayment of that loan, then this is clearly a usurious loan when looked at as a whole. It is
therefore prohibited by all schools of Islamic thought that we are aware of. In other words, combinations of Islamically acceptable contracts cannot be used to defeat the usury prohibition. In E`lam al-Muwaqi`in, ibn Qayyimal-Jawziyyah comments:

“What matters in contracts is substance, not words and structure.”
Speaking of such contracts in a more general sense, the late Arab scholar ibn Uthaymeen described modern day Islamic banking as the “usury of deception”.
This he viewed as more serious a sin than usury on its own, for the former entails deception as well as usury, while the latter does not attempt to present itself as anything other than what it is. Similarly, at a conference in Dubai during March 2004, Justice M. Taqi Usmani is reported to have said that:

“What we are developing now is not fiqh-ul-mu`amalat (the jurisprudence of financial
transactions), but rather fiqh-ul-hiyal (the jurisprudence of legal tricks)”.
Contract combination has become very common in modern Islamic banking. For example, in the murabahah model, Person A (the bank) might buy a property for £100,000 from Person B (the seller of the property) and immediately sell it on to Person C (the home buying client) at a price of £150,000 to be paid in equal installments over 15 years.
Person C must begin the process by promising in writing that if Person A buys the property from Person B, then Person C will immediately buy the property from Person A. The few Shari`ah scholars who approve this transaction say that it is trading (buying
and selling of properties), not borrowing and lending money at interest, and that it is
therefore halal. But viewed from the bank’s perspective, as soon as the bank transfers £100,000 to Person B, the agreement with Person C automatically comes into effect requiring Person C to repay £150,000 to the bank at a later date. The transaction is referred to as “murabahah to the purchase orderer” in the Islamic banking literature.

The contractual documentation used in a murabahah to the purchase orderer transaction
Usually includes an offer letter which states that the bank does not agree to execute
any one leg of the transaction unless all legs have been agreed among the relevant parties. In this way the bank avoids the situation in which it owns the property for any
meaningful period of time, and from the bank’s perspective the transaction is merely one of “money now for more money later”. In effect, the property is used as a means of lending money at interest. The possibility that contracts of sale could be used in such a way was well recognised by ibn `Abbas. When asked about a piece of silk that was sold for a deferred price of 100 and re-purchased for a payment of 50 in cash, Ibn `Abbas commented: “dirhams for dirhams, with a piece of silk in between”.

The use of an offer letter may maintain the appearance that the transactions (property purchase followed by property sale) are independent and therefore not similar in
analogy to the combination of contracts described above as hila. However, we are not convinced by this structuring of documents, since the legal effect is identical to the inclusion of alleges of the transaction in a single contract. For example, a United Bank of Kuwait murabahah mortgage offer letter in 1998 states that:

“We [UBK] will not buy the Property from the Vendor or sell it to you [the Client]
until all the matters set out in the Schedule of Offer Conditions have been completed to our satisfaction”. We feel that if the obligations of the parties to a given financial product are to be spread among more than contract, then it is obligatory for jurists to look at the scheme as a whole rather than at its separate components before forming an opinion on its permissibility. Turning our attention to the method by which rental levels are set in `Ijara anddiminishing musharakah mortgages, we note that in many such contracts rent is linked to the London Inter-bank Offered Rate (LIBOR). This rate is determined on a daily basis for specified periods going forward. For example, the six month Sterling LIBOR rate for 11 August 2006 was 5.07688%. This means that a person borrowing £100 for the six month period starting two days after 11 August will pay an annualized interest rate of 5.07688% forth period (approximately £2.54 for the contract in question). Given that we cannot know what LIBOR will be for any period starting tomorrow or on subsequent days, clients whoserental payments depend upon that interest rate are in a position of ignorance as to whattheir future rental payments will be. With regard to the rental payments, the Al-Buraq contract states that:

“Before the start of each Rent Period, we will send you an Adjustment Notice
notifying you of the adjusted Rent and Acquisition Payments which will be payable on each of the Payment Dates in that Rent Period. The rent payable on each of those Payment Dates will be found by applying the formula P% x AC/12 where P% = the percentage found by adding LIBOR to the Margin …” [the Margin being an amount added to LIBOR in order to provide Al-Buraq with a profit].Clause 6, Al-Buraq Lease Agreement, 2006

Scholars have argued that setting rental levels in line with market interest rates is
not in itself haram. They argue this by analogy, on the basis that it is permitted
for a Muslim shopkeeper to make the same percentage profit selling lemonade as the non-Muslim shopkeeper makes selling alcohol. However, we identify a rather different and serious problem arising in the link to LIBOR, namely one of gharar. This is because the client does not know what rental amount he must pay to the bank until the beginning of each new period, remembering that the client is contractually bound to rent the property for the subsequent period. If interest rates increase dramatically, then the rental payments
will likewise increase and the client may find himself locked into the payment of rentals
that he cannot afford. This is one basic reason that traditional scholars in Islam have made the specification of price a basic requirement of any sale contract. One cannot agree
to buy or rent something without knowing the price one must pay. Wahba al-Zuhayli

Summarizes: “… general conditions specify that the sale must not include any of the
following six shortcomings: uncertainty or ignorance (al-jahala), coercion, time-restriction, uncertain specification (gharar al-wasf), harm (al-darar), and corrupting conditions (al-shurut almufsida)”

Dr. Wahba al-Zuhayli, Islamic Jurisprudence and Its Proofs, Dar al-Fikr (2003), p. 33“A sale without naming the price is defective and invalid”
Dr. Wahba al-Zuhayli, Islamic Jurisprudence and Its Proofs, Dar al-Fikr (2003), p. 56 If the home-buying client later decides that he can no longer afford the rental, both the
HSBC and Ahli United `Ijara contracts require that he or she must guarantee to repay the cash sum initially provided by the bank to fund the purchase of the property. In those cases where the property has to be sold to achieve this, the possibility arises that,
if property prices have fallen in the meantime, the sale proceeds may not be sufficient tore pay the financed amount. In this case, by requiring the client to make up any shortfall to the bank, the possibility of “negative equity” arises, a position in which
the client owes more to the bank than the property is worth.

Clause 6.3 (d) of the United Bank of Kuwait `Ijara agreement from 1998 provides an example of the way in which banks seek to protect themselves from capital loss. Here,
the bank is allowed to sell the client’s property in the event of default and to subtract
such amounts as are necessary from both the proceeds of sale and the on-account payments made by the client in order to protect the bank from a loss on its investment.

From the Shari`ah perspective, it is clear that a client can only be renting a property
if he doesn't own it. Yet if the legal reality is one of rental, a question arises as to why
the client must bear the risk of a fall in the property’s price. Those who rent cars from
hire companies are not expected to compensate the hire company for a fall in the value of
the car during the period of the hire. On the other hand, if the client is bearing the risk
of a falling property value precisely because he owns the property, then it must be asked why the client is expected to pay rental to the bank.

In answer to this question some Shari`ah scholars have argued that, in a modern `ijara agreement, the bank only buys the property and rents it to the client because the
client has expressed a need for the property. It would be unfair, they argue, for the bank to suffer a loss if the client does not proceed to purchase the property at the price
agreed at the outset of the `Ijara.

Once again, we are not convinced by this argument. The essence of an ‘Ijara contract
is to free the tenant from bearing responsibility for loss or damage to the property
(unless it results from the tenant’s misuse of the property). A compensation for loss of
capital value is a condition that defeats the purpose of an `Ijara contract, and this kind of
condition is not permitted in mu`amalat. Another example would be to sell a watch to a buyer on condition that the buyer must give the watch back to the seller after one month without compensation. Such a condition defeats the purpose of sale, which is that ownership passes permanently to the buyer in return for payment of the price to the seller. If such conditions are to be permitted on the grounds of intention, what is to stop Partner A
in a partnership from asking Partner B to guarantee him against capital loss, on the basis
that Partner A entered into the partnership merely as a favour to Partner B? Such an argument would be seen as invalid under Shari`ah because it defeats the purpose of partnership, yet it is almost identical to the argument used by those scholars who
defend the rights of the bank in the aforementioned `Ijara agreement.

Furthermore, an `Ijara mortgage typically requires that the client purchases the property from the bank at the end of the `Ijara term as a means of protecting the bank’s original capital contribution. This transaction, involving a deferred delivery of both
counter values (property and price), has been prohibited by the four main schools of thought:

“Delay from both sides is not permitted by consensus either in corporeal property or in liabilities as it amounts to a proscribed exchange of a debt for a debt.”
Ibn Rushd, Bidayat al-Mujtahid (English translation), Garnet (1996), p. 154 The final issue that we wish to address here is the purchase of shares by a home-buying client under the diminishing partnership form of contract. Here, the price and timing of share purchases is usually fixed at the outset of the contract. We are aware that in one Particular case, the price of share purchases is related to the market value of the underlying property at the time of the purchase, and that in this same case such purchases are not forced upon the client contractually. This case is however an exceptionand the majority of financial institutions adopt the former model. For example, the Al-Buraq contract forces its home-buying client to purchase shares in the partnership at monthly intervals:
“We agree to sell and you agree to buy Our Share of the Property for the Acquisition Colton the terms of this Deed. The Acquisition Cost shall be payable by way of the First Acquisition Payment, which shall be paid on the date of this Deed; and the Acquisition Payments …, which shall be paid on each Payment Date …”
Clause 2, Al-Buraq Diminishing Ownership Agreement, 2006
It is worth noting that the Shari`ah standards of the Bahrain-based Accounting and Auditing Organisation for Islamic Financial Institutions (AAOIFI) prohibit the purchase of shares in a diminishing partnership at a price that is fixed in advance. This is on the basis that partners in a contractual investment (in this case, a rental property) must share any losses on their investments in proportion to their capital contribution. If one partner forces another to buy his shares at a predetermined price, he may effectively be able toprotect himself against loss, thus breaking the principle of loss sharing that must apply if an Islamic partnership is to be valid. For example, if two partners put £50 each into a business partnership, the partnership capital is £100 in total. If it is further
agreed that the first partner will purchase the shares of the second partner in one year’s time at a price of £50, then the second partner has assured himself, contractually, that he cannot make a loss on his investment in the business. AAOIFI clearly recognizes the risk that a halal partnership contract can be transformed into a riba contract by means of pre-agreed share transactions:

“It is permissible for one of the partners to give a binding promise that entitles
the other partner to acquire, on the basis of a sale contract, his equity share gradually,
according to the market value or a price agreed at the time of acquisition. However, it is not permitted to stipulate that the equity share [sic] be acquired at their original or face value, as this would constitute a guarantee of the value of the equity shares of one partner (the institution) by the other partner, which is prohibited by Shari`ah.”

AAOIFI Shari`ah Standards 2003 - 2004, section 5. Diminishing Musharakah, p. 214
The diminishing partnership contracts that have come to our attention protect the bank from capital loss on its share of the partnership by various means and to varying
degrees under English law. In the event of deterioration in the United Kingdom property
market, Muslims who default under such contracts may therefore find themselves required to guarantee the bank’s original capital contribution to the property purchase. If
property prices fall sufficiently far, the position of negative equity that was described
earlier could become widespread. This would no doubt be an unexpected surprise for many clients, given the language of “risk sharing” that typically accompanies Islamic home finance products.

In summary, we believe that any Islamic home financing scheme in which the financing organisation stipulates conditions to protect itself from a negative return on capitalis equivalent to an interest-bearing loan. Contracts in which the financier buys a
property for a client while requiring the client to buy it back at a higher deferred price are the most common (but not only) means of implementing such loans. In these cases, the property issued firstly as a tool to transact the loan, and secondly as a means of securing it.

Given that it is possible to produce genuinely Shari`ah compliant Islamic property financing contracts under English law, we feel that to permit the present range of products on contractual grounds is a flawed strategy for the Muslim community to follow.
The risk is that the benefits possible under a proper implementation of Islamic finance
will not emerge, and that what could have been the beginning of an interest-free economic renaissance will in fact become a mechanism for its suppression.

Allah knows best and may His peace and blessings be upon our Prophet Muhammad, his family and all his Companions.
The Islamic Mortgage: Paradigm Shift or Trojan Horse?

Islam’s Forsaken Renaissance

Mahathir Bin Mohamad
Prime Minister of Malaysia (1981-2003)
Children often play a game where they sit in a circle. One whispers something to his neighbor, who then whispers that information to the next child, and so on, around the circle. By the time the last child whispers the information to the first, it is totally different from what was originally said.
Something like that seems to have happened within Islam. The Prophet of Islam, Muhammad, brought one – and only one – religion. Yet today we have perhaps a thousand religions that all claim to be Islam.
Divided by their different interpretations, Muslims do not play the role they once did in the world; instead, they are weakened and victimized. The Shia/Sunni schism is so deep that each side condemns followers of the other as apostates, kafir. The belief that the other’s religion is not Islam, and its followers not Muslim, has underpinned internecine wars in which millions have died – and continue to die.
Even among the Sunnis and Shias there are further divisions. The Sunnis have four imams and the Shias have twelve; their teachings all differ. Then there are other divisions, including the Druze, the Alawites, and the Wahabis.
We are also taught by our ulemas (religious instructors) that their teachings must not be questioned. Islam is a faith. It must be believed. Logic and reason play no part in it. But what is it that we must believe when each branch of Islam thinks the other one is wrong? The Koran, after all, is one book, not two or three, or a thousand.
According to the Koran, a Muslim is anyone who bears witness that “there is no God (Allah) but Allah”. If no other qualification is added, then all those who subscribe to these precepts must be regarded as Muslims. But because we Muslims like to add qualifications that often derive from sources other than the Koran, our religion’s unity has been broken.
But perhaps the greatest problem is the progressive isolation of Islamic scholarship – and much of Islamic life – from the rest of the modern world. We live in an age of science in which people can see around corners, hear and see things happening in outer space, and clone animals. And all of these things seem to contradict our belief in the Koran.
This is so because those who interpret the Koran are learned only in religion, in its laws and practices, and thus are usually unable to understand today’s scientific miracles. The fatwas (legal opinions concerning Islamic law) that they issue appear unreasonable and cannot be accepted by those with scientific knowledge.
One learned religious teacher, for example, refused to believe that a man had landed on the moon. Others assert that the world was created 2,000 years ago. The age of the universe and its size measured in light years – these are things that the purely religiously trained ulamas cannot comprehend.
This failure is largely responsible for the sad plight of so many Muslims. Today’s oppression, the killings and the humiliations of Muslims, occurs because we are weak, unlike the Muslims of the past. We can feel victimized and criticize the oppressors, but to stop them we need to look at ourselves. We must change for our own good. We cannot ask our detractors to change, so that Muslims benefit.
So what do we need to do? In the past, Muslims were strong because they were learned. Muhammad’s injunction was to read, but the Koran does not say what to read. Indeed, there was no “Muslim scholarship” at the time, so to read meant to read whatever was available. The early Muslims read the works of the great Greek scientists, mathematicians, and philosophers. They also studied the works of the Persians, the Indians, and the Chinese.
The result was a flowering of science and mathematics. Muslim scholars added to the body of knowledge and developed new disciplines, such as astronomy, geography, and new branches of mathematics. They introduced numerals, enabling simple and limitless calculations.
But around the fifteenth century, the learned in Islam began to curb scientific study. They began to study religion alone, insisting that only those who study religion – particularly Islamic jurisprudence – gain merit in the afterlife. The result was intellectual regression at the very moment that Europe began embracing scientific and mathematical knowledge.
And so, as Muslims were intellectually regressing, Europeans began their renaissance, developing improved ways of meeting their needs, including the manufacture of weapons that eventually allowed them to dominate the world.
By contrast, Muslims fatally weakened their ability to defend themselves by neglecting, even rejecting, the study of allegedly secular science and mathematics, and this myopia remains a fundamental source of the oppression suffered by Muslims today. Many Muslims still condemn the founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kamal, because he tried to modernize his country. But would Turkey be Muslim today without Ataturk? Mustafa Kamal’s clear-sightedness saved Islam in Turkey and saved Turkey for Islam.
Failure to understand and interpret the true and fundamental message of the Koran has brought only misfortune to Muslims. By limiting our reading to religious works and neglecting modern science, we destroyed Islamic civilization and lost our way in the world.
The Koran says that “Allah will not change our unfortunate situation unless we make the effort to change it.” Many Muslims continue to ignore this and, instead, merely pray to Allah to save us, to bring back our lost glory. But the Koran is not a talisman to be hung around the neck for protection against evil. Allah helps those who improve their minds.

The Hijab has Nothing to do With Morality

Originally a source of modesty, the hijab, or Muslim head scarf, has become a political tool. Its latest manifestation came this week with the sight of 10-year old Muslim girls refusing to give up their hijab in a Quebec tae kwon do tournament, when the helmets would have served the same purpose of modesty and much more.
All Canadian women have, at some time in their lives, chosen to wear a head cover. In blinding snow storms or freezing rain, the covering of the head, irrespective of what religion one practises, is crucial to one's survival. Halfway across the world, in the deserts of Arabia, whether one was a Muslim or a pagan, the covering of one's head and face was an absolute necessity -- not just when facing a blistering sandstorm, but any time one stepped out of the home in the searing sun. What was essentially attire for a particular climate and weather has been turned into a modern symbol of defiance and, at best, a show of piety by Islamists and orthodox Muslims.
There is not a single reference in the Koran that obliges Muslim women to cover their hair or their face. The only verse that comes close to such a dress code (Sura 24, "The Light," verse 31) directs believing women to let their head coverings obscure their bosoms.
Yet, in the past few decades, Islamists and orthodox Muslims have made the covering of a woman's head the cornerstone of Muslim identity. The head cover been pushed as a symbol of piety and only the Egyptian and Saudi version of the head cover -- the hijab -- is considered worthy of respect. Coverings that originate in South Asia, the sari or the dupatta, have been relegated as less authentic under Islam.
It is true that through history, Muslim women have chosen to wear the hijab for reasons of modesty. Today, however, some wear it for the opposite reason. "Young women put on a hijab and go dancing, wearing high heels and lipstick. They wear tight jeans that show their bellies," 75-year old Nawal Al-Saadawi, Egypt's leading feminist, noted recently. She is bitter at how the covering of a women's head has been misrepresented as an act of piety and the most defining symbol of Islam.
Beyond fashion, however, this supposed symbol of modesty has assumed a decidedly political and religious tenor, dominating the debate on civil liberties and religious freedoms in the West. Any opposition to the hijab is viewed as a manifestation of Islamophobia.
This was the argument when young Asmahan Mansour was barred from a soccer league in Quebec, as she refused to remove her hijab while playing the sport. Quebec's electoral officer recently moved to disallow fully veiled Muslim women from voting, as they would not be able to identify themselves adequately.
The piece of cloth becomes a subject of controversy also because those who favour its use claim it is religiously mandated and regard its use as their Charter-protected right. To dispense with the garment while playing a sport would amount to committing a sacrilege. An inquiry into historical precedent, however, suggests the Koran does not mandate the hijab at all.
It should be noted that the khimar, a head scarf that predated the hijab, was worn by Arab women before the Koran's stipulations on modesty of dress and demeanour. Verse 24:31 did not introduce the garment, but modified its use when it said that Muslim women should "wear their head-coverings over their bosoms" -- previously, they were left bare, although decked with jewellery and ornaments.
The intent of the verse was to exhort believing women to cover their nakedness rather than their hair, which was left partially uncovered even though the khimar was a head dress. Moreover, the khimar was never rooted in religious precept -- it was rooted in custom. Modifications for its use were introduced into Islamic practice when the religion spread into Byzantine and Persian territories, where once again the head dress was prevalent as a social custom.
The khimar was also a symbol of class and distinction rather than of religion precept in pre-Islamic and early Islamic history. Indeed, there existed a hierarchy of sorts where slave women were actually barred from veiling. Omar bin Khattab, Islam's second caliph, for example, ordered harsh treatment to slave women who donned the veil. Surely, if the veil was based on religious precept, its use would not be enforced so selectively.
Therefore, to turn the hijab or khimar into a religious and political issue belies its original intent. Muslim women who so vociferously defend its religious use should consider its history before determining whether they must wear it.
Islamists have turned the hijab into the central pillar of Islam. They consider Muslim women who do not cover their heads -- the vast majority -- as sinners or lesser Muslims. They should come out and debate the issue rather than using young Muslim girls as shields to pursue a political agenda.

Farzana Hassan, president of the Muslim Canadian Congress, is author of Islam, Women and the Challenges of Today.
Tarek Fatah, a founder of the Muslim Canadian Congress, is author of Chasing a Mirage: An Islamic State or a State of Islam, to be published next year.

The “God of the Gaps” fallacy and the Koran

What is the “God of the Gaps” fallacy?
To believe the existence of God because of the results which have a sensible reason behind it but not explained yet because of the gaps in the human knowledge, is called as the “God of the Gaps” by westerners. As an example, we can give the beliefs of the people who were living in the Middle Ages about the existence of God with thinking that the sky matters were being moved by the angels. It had not been clearly understood that this situation was not true until Newton explained his laws of movement.
If Koran was written 1400 years ago and if it was the sentence of a person who was conditioned to see God everywhere he looked at, we have to see the signs of this situation in Koran exactly.

            There are 3 ways of explaining an event:
            Necessity: These are the events which can be explained by the Laws of Nature. For example, remaining of the cloud in the air… Because of being lighter than the air, or rather its specific weight is lower than the specific weight of the air; it can remain in the air. 
            Chance: It is the way of explaining an event which can not be explained by a law of nature directly. For example, “the turning over and over of the wind”… The turning over and over of the wind is completely a chaotic process. The winds can blow in different directions and in different intensity because of various conditions.
We do not imply that these types of systems completely mean disorder and also are completely independent from the Laws of Nature with starting from the words of “Chaotic” and “Chance”. The chaotic systems are the systems which “are excessively sensitive against the beginning conditions” and because of this situation, it is too hard to estimate the results of them, although it is not impossible. This situation is known as the “Butterfly Effect”. The Butterfly effect expresses that the fluttering its wings of a butterfly causes little changes in the atmosphere, thus a tornado can exist (or not).  Here, the fluttering its wings of a butterfly, expresses a little change in the beginning conditions of the system (atmosphere). Even this little change can affect the result of the system with causing a series of events.
The atmosphere events, the solar system and the movements of the earth’s surface layers can be included among these types of systems.
Of course, it can be said that showing all these as an example is falling into a kind of “God of the Gaps” fallacy, with starting from the relation of the “chaotic” systems with the laws of nature. But here, it is interesting that Koran only presents the chaotic systems or designs as an example and when it will present the things as an example which is directly the laws of nature, it especially avoids from explaining it by saying “God does this”.
            Design: The events which can not be explained by the laws of nature or by chance, are in this category. The points where it is separated from the chance are both the it's incredibly small realization possibility and the fact that an “aim” can be seen in it. For example, the suitable structures of the birds to fly… 
After “much ado about nothing”, we can make our distinction clear between necessity and chance/design by saying that “an event is an example of chance/design if you can not eliminate chance from the explanation of it at all”.
            Infact you can not eliminate chance from the explanation of anything at all. But human beings tend to think by means of abstractions. When we see a cause-effect relationship, we call it a necessity by ignoring all the parameters that make up the cause. And scientists try to go all the way down to the big-bang by following the cause-effect relationships and hope to find just one parameter to explain everything with it. But then how will they explain that solely one parameter. Most probably with chance!
            In this article, we will see that Koran also makes use of abstractions. For example, when referring to “sending water down from the skies”, after a certain point in the chain of events, Koran presents the last step (“rain”) as a necessity. So, do not get confused with what is infact a necessity or chance or design. Just remember that Koran is a book sent for human beings and it has to stick to the same abstraction principles as of human mind, and it calls an event as necessity if there is a certain cause-effect relationship in it by accepting all the parameters that make up the cause as given.

This article was written to show that it was not fallen into “God of the Gaps” fallacy in the Koran. Well then, what kind of a method will be followed to show this?  First of all, in an anthem book like the Koran, we have to accept that we will of course see verses in which God says “I perform this” for the things which are infact a “necessity”. It will be foolishness not to expect this. (Here, we mean the things which can be explained by a law of nature when we say “necessity”). Because, the Creator will of course say that “I created”, the Designer will of course say that “I designed”. Being a necessity of something, namely being explained by a law of nature directly can not change the reality of its being created by God. Thus, it does not mean the falling into “God of Gaps” fallacy even if there are some verses like these in the Koran (as long as they are not presented as “signs”).
Well then, finding what kinds of verses in the Koran means to fall into “God of the Gaps” fallacy? The answer of this question is hidden in the “necessity”… But, with an important point: If, in the Koran, anything arising from the necessity was shown as a sign for the existence of God without indicating that it is infact a necessity in any way, then it means Koran was fallen into the “God of the Gaps” fallacy. 
Consequently, the verses which we will examine are the verses which were said as “there are proofs (or lessons or signs or remembrance) in this for the thinkers (for human mind)” by God or simply the verses in which God presents the events and the creatures to the human mind as the proofs (or signs …) of his existence/unity.
Well, which things are we waiting from God to be shown the proofs of his existence/unity and what kinds of things save the Koran to fall into the “God of the Gaps” fallacy? The answer of this is hidden in explaining the existence of any thing… As it was explained in the previous part, the existence of a thing can be explained in 3 ways: Necessity, Chance and Design… Then, we expect the thing which was presented by God as the proof of his existence/unity must hardly be a sample which can be explained either by the “chance” or by the “design”.
Of course, in a verse of Koran, there can be some things which can be explained both by chance, design and “necessity” which are presented as the proofs of God’s existence/unity. The natural flow of the subject may necessitate this. But, in this situation we are expecting that God will express that this thing is a necessity, without saying that “it happens because I did it”. 
Let us explain our subject with an example, the 57th verse of Araf sura (section) of the Koran.
And He it is Who sends forth the winds bearing good news before His mercy, until, when they bring up a laden cloud, We drive it to a dead land, then We send down water on it, then bring forth with it of fruits of all kinds; thus shall We bring forth the dead that you may be mindful.
This verse is suitable for us to work on it because in this verse God is presenting some samples as the proofs to human intelligence. The verse starts with saying “And He it is Who sends forth the winds bearing good news before His mercy”. We are asking right now: Is “the sending of the winds” a necessity? Of course not! The blowing of the winds is a chaotic process which completely based on the chance. The verse is continuing with “until, when they bring up a laden cloud”. Here, this is a necessity. “The carrying of the clouds by the winds” can easily be explained by the natural law of lightness of the clouds than the air. The interesting part of this situation is that the Koran is expressing this as a necessity, too. Attention, the Koran is not saying that this is “realized by the God”. On the contrary, Koran emphasizes that this is a necessity! The verse is continuing as “We drive it to a dead land, and then We send down water on it”. “Sending the clouds to a dead land and bringing down water there is completely a chaotic process which is based on chance. Here, it will be better to tell about an important method to define the chance.  If an event can happen “in another way”, then that means it is based on chance. Here, “the sending of the cloud to a dead land” can happen in another way and also the “raining there”, too… The clouds can never come to that country or they can but without the rain. The verse is continuing with saying “then bring forth with it of fruits of all kinds”. This event is neither a necessity nor a chance. Well then, what is it? Of course, the “design”… God lets those plants to reproduce themselves from their seeds by the help of the rain and this is one of his designs, namely, it is related with the genetic programme which was placed in its seed by God. The verse is ending with saying “thus shall We bring forth the dead that you may be mindful”. The “we will take out the deads like this” part of the verse is not an example to take lessons, but news about the future.
In this single verse of the Koran, we see that the “chance”, the “necessity” and the”design” were used in a proper way and it was especially avoided from the “God of the Gaps” fallacy. Here, in the rest of this article, we will examine the other verses like this one under this frame of logic and we will try to prove that there is no “God of the Gaps” fallacy in the Koran. But, we will not explain the expressions again and again in every verse, which were explained before.
Besides, we have to explain this, too: from our point of view, the way of expressing the events, as they are presented to give a sign about the existence/unity of God, which can be explained either by chance or by design is not important. Namely, it does not change anything for us whether it is being said “We are sending the clouds to a dead country” or “the clouds are going to a dead country”. If it is once presented as “making of God” in a “sign” verse, then it is always taken as “making of God”. The only thing which is important for us is not to find a phrase like “God is directly doing this” in Koran when referring to a “necessity” as it is presented to give a sign about the existence/unity of God.
Another important point is related with the things which are “necessities: A necessary event, or rather an order which arises from a necessity, can not be used as a proof for the existence of God, but can be used as a proof for the “uniqueness” of God. For example, the “lower specific weight of the cloud than the air” which helps the cloud remaining in the air, and “the gravity force which prevents the cloud from escaping to space” and “the buoyancy feature of the air” is the proof of their creation by a “unique” God!
Now, let us start to examine the verses which are related with our subject. While doing this, we firstly will indicate the verse(s) and then we will try to explain them.
Nahl/79 and “Design”
Do they not look at the birds, held poised in the midst of the sky? Nothing holds them up but Allah. Verily in this are signs for those who believe.
In this verse, it was said that the birds are kept by God in the sky. This situation is not unbelievable although it seems so. The staying of the birds in the sky is not a necessity, but the result of a design. Thus, the one who keeps them in the sky is only the God! This verse is clearly a design argument.
He has made subject to you the Night and the Day; the sun and the moon; and the stars are in subjection by His Command: verily in this are Signs for men who are wise.
And among His Signs is this, that heaven and earth stand by His Command: then when He calls you, by a single call, from the earth, behold, ye (straightway) come forth.

Among His Signs is this, that He sends the Winds, as heralds of Glad Tidings, giving you a taste of His Mercy,- that the ships may sail by His Command and that ye may seek of His Bounty: in order that ye may be grateful.
In these 3 verses it was emphasized that events are directed by God with the intervention of the things known as the “laws of the nature”, by the usage of the word “command”. In these verses, the usage of the word “command” and not saying that “God is doing” directly is so meaningful…
 “Grace” and “Command”
Seest thou not that the ships sail through the ocean by the Grace of Allah?- that He may show you of His Signs? Verily in this are Signs for all who constantly persevere and give thanks.

In this verse it is told that “ships are sailing with the grace of God”. If carefully read it will be easy to catch that it is not stated as float. Floating is based on the laws of nature. But the sailing is bound to this law of nature and the “grace”. This “grace” is the wind. Blowing of the wind is an example of the chaotic order and having this chaotic order as a benefit to human beings is a grace of God. The verse below is referring to the “command” of God for the buoyancy of water and its importance in this matter.

Among His Signs is this, that He sends the Winds, as heralds of Glad Tidings, giving you a taste of His Mercy,- that the ships may sail by His Command and that ye may seek of His Bounty: in order that ye may be grateful.
Night and Day

It is Allah Who alternates the Night and the Day: verily in these things is an instructive example for those who have vision!
And it is He Who made the Night and the Day to follow each other: for such as desire to be mindful or to show their gratitude.

See they not that We have made the Night for them to rest in and the Day to give them light? Verily in this are Signs for any people that believe!

Verily, in the alternation of the night and the day, and in all that Allah hath created, in the heavens and the earth, are Signs for those who fear Him.

He it is that hath made you the night that ye may rest therein, and the day to make things visible (to you). Verily in this are Signs for those who listen (to His Message).

He has made subject to you the Night and the Day; the sun and the moon; and the stars are in subjection by His Command: verily in this are Signs for men who are wise.
Ali İmran-190
Behold! In the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the alternation of night and day,- there are indeed Signs for men of understanding,

And in the alternation of Night and Day, and the fact that Allah sends down Sustenance from the sky, and revives therewith the earth after its death, and in the change of the winds,- are Signs for those that are wise.

“The coming of the night and day one after another” is not a necessity. Actually, there is no need to look for an answer by the help of our intelligence. The answer is standing upwards in the sky. The people who have knowledge about the Moon, the satellite of the World, all know that one surface of the Moon is never seen from the World, because of the same time periods of the turning of the Moon around itself and turning of it around the World. If the same situation was valid for the World and the Sun, one surface of the world would always be in daylight, namely daytime, and the other surface would always be dark, namely the night. But, this situation is not valid for the World and both the night and the day are continuously following each other in a time period of 24 hours. Of course, there are reasons of this situation. But, these reasons are never “necessities”, and a clear mind can see God behind this or a disbeliever can explain this by chance.
Besides, the Koran already explains the thing from which you can draw a lesson: the perfect harmony of the night and daytime periods with the living creatures! If the night and daytimes are like the ones in the Mercury, namely a daytime is equal to a time of over 50 days, then what can we do?
The orientation of the Winds

If it be His Will, He can still the Wind: then would they become motionless on the back of the (ocean). Verily in this are Signs for everyone who patiently perseveres and is grateful.

Among His Signs is this, that He sends the Winds, as heralds of Glad Tidings, giving you a taste of His Mercy,- that the ships may sail by His Command and that ye may seek of His Bounty: in order that ye may be grateful.

In these verses, the purpose of using the expression of the orientation of the winds is the resign of a benefit for the people from this chaotic system as it was said in these verses again, and this is not a necessity.
Behold! in the creation of the heavens and the earth; in the alternation of the night and the day; in the sailing of the ships through the ocean for the profit of mankind; in the water which Allah Sends down from the skies, and the life which He gives therewith to an earth that is dead; in the beasts of all kinds that He scatters through the earth; in the change of the winds, and the clouds which they trail like their slaves between the sky and the earth;- (Here) indeed are Signs for a people that are wise.
           “in the creation of the heavens and the earth”: is certainly not a necessity.
           “in the alternation of the night and the day”: as we showed before, is not a necessity.
           “in the sailing of the ships through the ocean for the profit of mankind”: NECESSITY (and Grace)! The ships flow on the sea by the help of the buoyancy of water. It is interesting that the Koran did not say “God performs it” for this event! (also look at the “Grace and Command” section)
           “in the water which Allah Sends down from the skies, and the life which He gives therewith to an earth that is dead; in the beasts of all kinds that He scatters through the earth; in the change of the winds”: none of them are the necessities as we show before. For example, the creation of the animals is a design but the changing of the winds is chaotic process based on the chance. 
           “and the clouds which they trail like their slaves between the sky and the earth”: NECESSITY! The cloud is resting between the sky and the earth because of its specific weight is lighter than the air. The Koran left this event as a necessity also and did not say “God performs it”!
            In this verse, the chance, the necessity and the design were used in a way that we expect, namely without falling into the “God of Gaps” fallacy! (Note: As we mentioned before, anything which is a necessity can be used as a proof for the “uniqueness” of God.)

Seest thou not that Allah sends down water from the sky, and leads it through springs in the earth? Then He causes to grow, therewith, produce of various colors: then it withers; thou wilt see it grow yellow; then He makes it dry up and crumble away. Truly, in this, is a Message of remembrance to men of understanding.
This verse needs a special analysis. The phrase “He causes to grow, therewith, produce of various colors” is clearly a design argument. The verse goes on as “and leads it through springs in the earth”. Is the build up of the underground water resources a necessity?
One quotation of a text that I found on the internet about the underground water reservoirs says ”In order to collect underground water resources it is very important to give water the chance to penetrate beneath the surface by means of cracks and similar openings in the upper levels of soil. Exactly here there is another miracle of creation to be witnessed because the upper surface of soil constitutes of such a kind of sandy layers so that water can easily penetrate below the surface into the deep until it hits another kind of soil which is argillaceous soil. This type of soil serves as a boundary to water and prevents it from diffusing further to the ground and enabling it to collect.” As seen sandy soil and argil have great importance to the underground water reservoirs. According to Wikipedia: “Sand is a granular material made up of fine rock particles most commonly quartz. Sand is a naturally occurring, finely divided rock, comprising particles or granules ranging in size up to 2 millimeters.” Its most important element is silicon and no one can say that having the element silicon on earth is a necessity. You can trust to this comment. I have just remembered the following verse of Koran:
We sent aforetime our messengers with Clear Signs and sent down with them the Book and the Balance (of Right and Wrong), that men may stand forth in justice; and We sent down Iron, in which is great might, as well as many benefits for mankind, that Allah may test who it is that will help, Unseen, Him and His messengers: For Allah is Full of Strength, Exalted in Might.
The verse continues as “then it withers; thou wilt see it grow yellow; then He makes it dry up and crumble away”. Drying up and dying of plants is a result of a design. In order to clarify the design lets look at this quote from the encyclopedia Britannica: “In summer, plants make and store food in their roots, stems, or seeds. In winter, they rest. Plants pass the winter in various ways. Annuals flower in the same season that they are planted. Then, transferring all their reserve food to their seeds, the plants wither and die. Meaning that, they die because they are designed to transfer their reserve food to their seeds. This explains the phrase “then He makes it dry up and crumble away”. It is again an argument from design. But more interesting is that the yellowing, withering part is left as a necessity in the verse. Infact it is a necessity that drying plants will wither and become yellow.

Seest thou not that Allah makes the clouds move gently, then joins them together, then makes them into a heap? - then wilt thou see rain issue forth from their midst. And He sends down from the sky mountain masses (of clouds) wherein is hail: He strikes therewith whom He pleases and He turns it away from whom He pleases, the vivid flash of its lightning well-nigh blinds the sight.
It is Allah Who alternates the Night and the Day: verily in these things is an instructive example for those who have vision!

The “making the clouds move”, “joining them together” and “making them into a heap” are certainly not the necessities, but the chaotic processes. But after the making of the heap, the arising of the rain from cloud is a necessity. The verse emphasizes the arising of the rain as a necessity not “made by God”, and thus does not attribute it to God by saying “then wilt thou see rain issue forth from their midst”. The “flash of the lightning” was also emphasized as a necessity similarly! 
and the things on this earth which He has multiplied in varying colors (and qualities): verily in this is a sign for men who are mindful.
In this verse, if it was said “God is painting” for the colors, and if this was presented as a lesson, then it would be fallen into “God of Gaps” fallacy. But, it is said that the colors was created / produced by God.
Besides, in this verse, it can be clearly seen that “a system arising from the necessity” was not emphasized… Namely, this verse was not presented as a proof for the uniqueness of God; on the contrary it had to be presented for the existence of him.
Well then, what is there in the colors to get a lesson? Here, the important word is “zerae” which was translated as the “multiply”… This word was used always for the living creatures namely the plants, the animals and the human beings. Namely, the Koran presents an event of design as a lesson again.  
And it is He Who spread out the earth, and set thereon mountains standing firm and (flowing) rivers: and fruit of every kind He made in pairs, two and two: He draweth the night as a veil o'er the Day. Behold, verily in these things there are Signs for those who consider!
In this verse, it is necessary to explain the 2 subjects because they are seen as the necessities which were emphasized as the “made by God”. The first one “the spreading out of the world” is only possible with taking a spherical shape. Taking a spherical shape is not a necessity. For “becoming round” of a sky object, its mass must be greater than a definite size. To tell the truth, this is not necessity.
For becoming round of a sky object, its diameter must be 1000 km, at least. The diameter of the World is 7900 miles. Besides, the time period of becoming round of a sky object is important, too. A sky object which has a diameter of 1000 km will become round very slowly.
The second point is the formation of the mountains. This is also not a necessity. There must be solid stratum in a planet for the formation of the mountains and then these strata must be moving. Besides, the turning of that planet around itself is also necessary for the formation of the mountains, and none of these is a necessity. 
Showing of the Lightning
And among His Signs, He shows you the lightning, by way both of fear and of hope, and He sends down water from the sky and with it gives life to the earth after it is dead: verily in that are Signs for those who are wise.
Do you say that “Here, this is a mistake”? “He is not showing the lightning, it is lightning because of the necessity”. All right, but in this verse, it was not said that the “flasher” of the lightning, but it was said that the “presenter” of it. Do you say that “he does not present, we see”? Do not forget that, you can see by your eyes which are the designs of him. 
“Sending down water from the skies” and the Rain
And in the alternation of Night and Day, and the fact that Allah sends down Sustenance from the sky, and revives therewith the earth after its death, and in the change of the winds,- are Signs for those that are wise.
Behold! in the creation of the heavens and the earth; in the alternation of the night and the day; in the sailing of the ships through the ocean for the profit of mankind; in the water which Allah Sends down from the skies, and the life which He gives therewith to an earth that is dead; in the beasts of all kinds that He scatters through the earth; in the change of the winds, and the clouds which they trail like their slaves between the sky and the earth;- (Here) indeed are Signs for a people that are wise.
It is He Who sendeth down water from the skies: with it We produce vegetation of all kinds: from some We produce green (crops), out of which We produce grain, heaped up (at harvest); out of the date-palm and its sheaths (or spathes) (come) clusters of dates hanging low and near: and (then there are) gardens of grapes, and olives, and pomegranates, each similar (in kind) yet different (in variety): when they begin to bear fruit, feast your eyes with the fruit and the ripeness thereof. Behold! In these things there are Signs for people who believe.
And Allah sends down water from the skies, and gives therewith life to the earth after its death: verily in this is a Sign for those who listen.
Taha-53-54 (In the beginning of this verse, Moses talks to pharaoh, so don’t get confused with the word “carpet”)
"He Who has, made for you the earth like a carpet spread out; has enabled you to go about therein by roads (and channels); and has sent down water from the sky." With it have We produced diverse pairs of plants each separate from the others.
Eat (for yourselves) and pasture your cattle: verily, in this are Signs for men endued with understanding.
And He it is Who sends the winds as heralds of glad tidings, going before His Mercy, and We send down pure water from the sky,-
That with it We may give life to a dead land, and slake the thirst of things We have created,- cattle and men in great numbers.
And We have distributed the (water) amongst them, in order that they may be mindful, but most men are averse (to aught) but (rank) ingratitude.
And among His Signs, He shows you the lightning, by way both of fear and of hope, and He sends down water from the sky and with it gives life to the earth after it is dead: verily in that are Signs for those who are wise.
And He it is Who sends forth the winds bearing good news before His mercy, until, when they bring up a laden cloud, We drive it to a dead land, then We send down water on it, then bring forth with it of fruits of all kinds; thus shall We bring forth the dead that you may be mindful.
I used the À. Yusuf Ali’s translation for the above verses about water & rain. But I changed his usage of the word “rain” in some verses to “water”. If you look at M.H. SHAKIR’s translation, he always uses the word “water” instead of “rain” in these verses. So, the usage of “rain” in Yusuf Ali’s translation is his interpretation. And if you also look at the Turkish translations, you will always find the word “water”, not the word “rain”.
By saying “sending water down from the sky” it is meant the whole process of sending the clouds by the help of winds, routing the clouds to a specific land, then piling them up and finally let it rain. From where do we know that? Well, the phrase speaks for itself! But, continue to read!
God mentions about “sending down the water from sky” in all of these verses, not “bringing down the rain” or “let it rain”! Why is this so? Because, the “rain” is a word commonly used for the final step of the bringing water down from the sky and it indicates a necessity.
Thus, if we look at the verse Luqman-34 which is not delivered as a sign for human intelligence,
Surely Allah is He with Whom is the knowledge of the hour, and He sends down the rain and He knows what is in the wombs; and no one knows what he shall earn on the morrow; and no one knows in what land he shall die; surely Allah is Knowing, Aware,
we can clearly see the distinction that Koran made between “sending down water from the sky” and the rain.
The following verses also explain Koran’s aim when using the phrase “sending down water from skies”:
And He it is Who sends the winds as heralds of glad tidings, going before His Mercy, and We send down pure water from the sky,-
And We send the winds fertilizing, and cause water to descend from the sky, and give it you to drink. It is not ye who are the holders of the store thereof. (
PICKTHAL’s translation)
You are expected to see the link between the winds and “sending water down from the skies”!
And Allah sends down water from the skies, and gives therewith life to the earth after its death: verily in this is a Sign for those who listen.

And verily in cattle (too) will ye find an instructive sign. From what is within their bodies between excretions and blood, We produce, for your drink, milk, pure and agreeable to those who drink it.

And from the fruit of the date-palm and the vine, ye get out strong drink and wholesome food: behold, in this also is a sign for those who are wise.

Then to eat of all the produce (of the earth), and follow the ways of thy Lord made smooth: there issues from within their bodies a drink of varying colors, wherein is healing for men: verily in this is a Sign for those who give thought.
In all of these verses, the “design” is being presented as a “lesson for the intelligence” and it is not being fallen into the “God of the Gaps” fallacy.
The samples from the other verses in which there is no “God of the Gaps” fallacy

Who made the earth for you an expanse and made for you therein paths and sent down water from the cloud; then thereby We have brought forth many species of various herbs.
Eat and pasture your cattle; most surely there are signs in this for those endowed with understanding.

And one of His signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth and the diversity of your tongues and colors; most surely there are signs in this for the learned.

And among His Signs, He shows you the lightning, by way both of fear and of hope, and He sends down water from the sky and with it gives life to the earth after it is dead: verily in that are Signs for those who are wise.

And He it is Who sends down water from the cloud, then We bring forth with it buds of all (plants), then We bring forth from it green (foliage) from which We produce grain piled up (in the ear); and of the palm-tree, of the sheaths of it, come forth clusters (of dates) within reach, and gardens of grapes and olives and pomegranates, alike and unlike; behold the fruit of it when it yields the fruit and the ripening of it; most surely there are signs in this for a people who believe.

O ye Children of Adam! We have bestowed raiment upon you to cover your shame, as well as to be an adornment to you. But the raiment of righteousness,- that is the best. Such are among the Signs of Allah, that they may receive admonition!

It is He Who sends down rain from the sky: from it ye drink, and out of it (grows) the vegetation on which ye feed your cattle.
With it He produces for you corn, olives, date-palms, grapes and every kind of fruit: verily in this is a sign for those who give thought.

And in cattle (too) ye have an instructive example: from within their bodies We produce (milk) for you to drink; there are, in them, (besides), numerous (other) benefits for you; and of their (meat) ye eat;

Do they not look at the earth,- how many noble things of all kinds We have produced therein?
Verily, in this is a Sign: but most of them do not believe.

And among His Signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that ye may dwell in tranquility with them, and He has put love and mercy between your (hearts): verily in that are Signs for those who reflect.
And in the creation of yourselves and the fact that animals are scattered (through the earth), are Signs for those of assured Faith.

And He has subjected to you, as from Him, all that is in the heavens and on earth: behold, in that are Signs indeed for those who reflect.

That has created pairs in all things, and has made for you ships and cattle on which ye ride,
In order that ye may sit firm and square on their backs, and when so seated, ye may remember the (kind) favor of your Lord, and say, "Glory to Him Who has subjected these to our (use), for we could never be able to do it,
And a Sign for them is the Night: We withdraw there from the Day, and behold they are plunged in darkness;
It is Allah that takes the souls (of men) at death; and those that die not (He takes) during their sleep: those on whom He has passed the decree of death, He keeps back (from returning to life), but the rest He sends (to their bodies) for a term appointed. Verily in this are Signs for those who reflect.
and in the earth are tracts (diverse though) neighboring, and gardens of vines and fields sown with corn, and palm trees - growing out of single roots or otherwise: watered with the same water, yet some of them We make more excellent than others to eat. Behold, verily in these things there are Signs for those who understand!
All of the above verses are examples of argument from design.
The verses which were possible to be fallen into the “God of the Gaps” fallacy, but it did not become so.
The movement of the sky objects
It is He Who created the Night and the Day, and the sun and the moon: all (the celestial bodies) swim along, each in its rounded course.

Seest thou not that Allah merges Night into Day and he merges Day into Night; that He has subjected the sun, and the moon (to His Law), each running its course for a term appointed; and that Allah is well-acquainted with all that ye do?

And the Sun runs unto a resting place: that is the decree of (Him), the Exalted in Might, the All-Knowing.

It is not permitted to the Sun to catch up the Moon, nor can the Night outstrip the Day: each (just) swims along in (its own) orbit (according to Law).
In these verses, by meaning the movements of the sun and the moon, it was expressed that they were “rendered at his disposal by God”. But the surprising thing in here is the lack of usage of the expression of “made by God” about the movements of the sun and the moon, and thus not being presented as a proof of the existence/unity of God… 
When we take into consideration the beliefs of the people who were living in the Middle Ages, about the sky objects were being moved by the angels and thought that there is God with starting from this point, the importance of not being fallen into a fallacy like this in Koran can be more easily comprehended.
6- Do they not look at the sky above them?- How We have made it and adorned it, and there are no flaws in it?
7- And the earth- We have spread it out, and set thereon mountains standing firm, and produced therein every kind of beautiful growth (in pairs)-
8- For an insight and a reminder to every servant turning (to Allah).
“The fact that there is no flaws in it” which is expressed within the verse is a necessity. Within the verse this phrase is not referred to God and is used solely on its own. But the making and adornment of the skies is definitely referred to God. Actually the making of the skies and “adornment” (the term used for the stars) of the sky is strongly bound to the parameters during the creation of the universe. For example a slight difference in gravity constant or the masses of electrons or protons would make it impossible today for us to talk about stars. Scientists call this “the fine tuning of the universe” and science could not yet prove that these specific parameters were as they were because of necessity.

M. H. Shakir’s translation of Kaf/6 is also very interesting:

Kaf/6 (M.H. Shakir)
Do they not then look up to heaven above them how We have made it and adorned it and it has no gaps?
Well, no comment! (PS: This is the solely one place in his translation of Koran that the word “gap” is used – In Yusuf Ali’s translation the word “gap” never occurs.)
Explaining the “explanation”!
Allah is He Who raised the heavens without any pillars that ye can see; then He established Himself on the Throne; He has subjected the sun and the moon! Each one runs (its course) for a term appointed. He doth regulate all affairs,
explaining the signs in detail, that ye may believe with certainty in the meeting with your Lord.
It is He Who made the sun to be a shining glory and the moon to be a light (of beauty), and measured out stages for it; that ye might know the number of years and the count (of time). Nowise did Allah create this but in truth and righteousness. (Thus) doth
He explain His Signs in detail, for those who know.
We have made the Night and the Day as two (of Our) Signs: the Sign of the Night have We made dark, while the Sign of the Day We have made bright; that ye may seek bounty from your Lord, and that ye may know the number and count of the years:
all things have We explained in detail.
God said that “I am performing” for the things which are the necessities (which I underlined) in these above verses and presented them as “signs” for human intelligence. Eventually, we had fallen into the “God of the Gaps” fallacy! But, is it really so? Here the word “explain” comes to our help. The “explain” in these verses implies that human beings can not see the “signs of Allah” directly from the events mentioned in these verses. Those kinds of signs are hidden to our eyes, because they are necessities. So they need to be explained!
Is there a need for further explanation!
More samples from the other verses which were possible to be fallen into the “God of the Gaps” fallacy, but it did not become so.
It is He Who doth show you the lightning, by way both of fear and of hope: It is He Who doth raise up the clouds, heavy with (fertilizing) rain!
He created the heavens without any pillars that ye can see; He set on the earth mountains standing firm, lest it should shake with you; and He scattered through it beasts of all kinds. We send down rain from the sky, and produce on the earth every kind of noble creature, in pairs.
God said that “I am performing” for the things which are the necessities (which I underlined) in these verses, but neither in these verses nor in the continuous ones, these events were not presented as the proofs for the intelligence!
Think about the times of Koran’s revelation. Although some claim that ancient Greeks knew even at those times that earth is spherical, Koran’s claim is not that simple. During those ages, people were thinking that the alternation of day and night was because of Sun’s movement around earth. But, Koran states that Sun’s movement is a necessity while stating that the alternation of day and night is a “sign” of God. That was certainly a contradiction at those times. But as of today, we know that this is not a contradiction but a truth. This situation implies that the Author of Koran is aware of this situation and also is aware of earth’s spherical shape and of the rotation of earth around itself and around sun (otherwise, the alternation of day and night is impossible without falling into the contradiction that we mentioned above!). This is not due to our imagination. Look at the following verses of Koran:
It is not permitted to the Sun to catch up the Moon, nor can the Night outstrip the Day: each (just) swims along in (its own) orbit (according to Law).
It is He Who created the Night and the Day, and the sun and the moon: all swim along, each in its rounded course.
            The word “each” and “all” in these verses also cover the night and day. It implies that (themselves and the place of) night and day (earth) also swims along their orbits. Arabic verb used in these verses is also in a special plural form used for more than 2 objects.
Also look at the following:
He created the heavens and the earth in true (proportions): He makes the Night overlap the Day, and the Day overlap the Night: He has subjected the sun and the moon (to His law): each one follows a course for a time appointed. Is not He the Exalted in Power - He Who forgives again and again?
The Arabic word for “overlap” is “yukevviru.” The word is used to describe the act of wrapping a turban around someone’s head. This verse implies the spherical shape of earth.
Being aware of earth’s spherical shape and seeing the spherical shapes of sun and moon, and still insisting on that earth’s spherical shape is a matter of chance/design! The Author is really aware of how sky objects become spherical!
As you see, everything (necessity/chance/design) is properly used in Koran. Everything is in its proper place just like the universe. Every verse, and even the words, contributes to building a pattern. And for me, understanding is seeing the patterns.
Today, there is no way other than embracing Quran to be an intellectually full-filled believer. Quran is God’s answer to hopelessly crying people of modern ages for a miracle to believe. Is it not interesting finding a book like Quran playing with the “God of the Gaps” argument? And it is certainly justice! Justice for people of modern ages who had not a chance to see prophets performing their miracles! Justice for a time in which people bombarded with atheist arguments!