The words of the Prophet Mohammad are “just rantings of a schizophrenic”, best-selling author Sebastian Faulks has said.
In an interview with The Sunday Times, Mr Faulks summarised the basic message of the Koran as “the Jews and the Christians were along the right tracks, but actually, they were wrong and I’m right, and if you don’t believe me, tough — you’ll burn for ever”.
Mr Faulks, who read the Islamic scriptures while researching for his new novel, said that parts of the Bible are “also crazy”.
However, he added, “the great thing about the Old Testament is that it does have these incredible stories”.
He continued: “Of the 100 greatest stories ever told, 99 are probably in the Old Testament and the other is in Homer.
“With the Koran there are no stories. And it has no ethical dimension like the New Testament, no new plan for life.”
Mr Faulks also dismissed the idea that the Koran was an example of literary beauty and said he had found it “disappointing”.
“It’s a depressing book”, he said. “It really is. It’s just the rantings of a schizophrenic.”
Speaking to The Guardian yesterday following the publication of his Sunday Times interview, Mr Faulks was quick to explain that his comments had been pulled out of context to create a “silly season scandal”.
And in The Daily Telegraph he has since written: “While we Judaeo-Christians can take a lot of verbal rough-and-tumble about our human-written scriptures, I know that to Muslims the Koran is different; it is by definition beyond criticism.
“And if anything I said or was quoted as saying (not always the same thing) offended any Muslim sensibility, I do apologise – and without reservation.”
Inayat Bunglawala, from the Muslim Council of Britain, said: “The Prophet Mohammad has had many detractors both during his own time and later on who described him as a ‘madman’ or ‘possessed by an evil spirit’ and so forth in an effort to drown out his beautiful message”.
He continued: “Sebastian Faulks should perhaps draw a lesson from the fact that those detractors are all now long forgotten, whereas the Prophet is remembered with love and admiration.”
In 1989 the author Salman Rushdie became the object of a fatwa issued by the spiritual leader of Iran at the time, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who said his book The Satanic Verses was blasphemous.