Thursday, June 11, 2015

Have any deviant Qur’anic texts existed?

portalunescoorg-yemen

Christianity in the West held it’s breath, when in 1972 a manuscript of Qur’an al Kerim was found in Yemen, Sana’a’s main mosque. German scholars Gerhard Puin and H.C. Graf von Bothmer, working for Saarland University, Universität des Saarlandes, were assigned to cleanse and conserve the paper. Would at last a deviant copy of Islam’s Holy Book have been found; the book that is forbidden to question according to orthodoxy, as also many Westerners say?
For decades, both men did their job, as low key as possible, with the aid of several other experts. No sooner than 1999, Gerhard Puin opened up on the contends of the texts found, via magazine The Atlantic.com. However, Mr Puin doesn’t go beyond minor textual variations, different spelling, and text categorization: ‘Some of these fragments revealed small but intriguing aberrations from the standard Koranic text. Such aberrations, though not surprising to textual historians, are troublingly at odds with the orthodox Muslim belief that the Koran as it has reached us today is quite simply the perfect, timeless, and unchanging Word of God’. No differences, however, that would keep a Muslim awake at night; The Atlantic.com has presented the differences as more important than that they truly are. Gerhard Puin admitted this, too. Unesco apparently sells a cd of this Yemenite manuscript.
By the way, Yemeni history has known a ‘false prophet’ in the era when Islam reached Yemen, a certain Al Aswad al ‘Anzi. He claimed to have received a revelation, but he was discarded by Yemenite Muslims. As far as we know, no truly deviant Qur’anic texts have been found, and it seems unlikely that this will happen. Nevertheless, one must keep an open mind to anything at all.
Let me reiterate this: Non-Muslims have EVERY right to criticize Islamic texts. However, truth finding, proof, should be part of the effort, if they want it to move past hypothesis.


Sources:
What is the Koran? the Atlantic.com
Yemen The Sana’a Manuscripts, Unesco.org

More surprising and weird statements from Westerners on Islam: Volker Popp, Heinz Luxenburg, Eildert Mulder

projekte


In 2007, I wrote a review in online Islamic newspaper 'Nieuwsfeit.nl' on a column, written by a columnist of Dutch Christian newspaper Trouw, Eildert Mulder: ‘The four rightly guided caliphs were no Muslims, they were Christians’. Eildert Mulder wrote several similar columns for this newspaper, of which the majority have been wisely deleted, also this one. Yet, they are rather exemplary for the way 'Islamists' and 'Arabists' in the West operate and try to influence opinions. This time, Mulder used a few coins to illustrate his case. German Islam-expert Volker PoppOnline publishing office of the German Saarland University, Universität des Saarlandes, had written a few things about these coins, one of which supposedly displays khalifa Muawiyya with John the Baptist’s head in his hand. Professor Karl-Heinz Ohlig and Christoph Luxenberg are connected to this university, too. The latter has a publication, it’s name is Der Koran zum ‘islamischen Kopftuch’. Firstly, Volker Popp says in his article, 'Bildische Darstellingen aus der Frühzeit des Islam', that the coin ‘definitely’ must date from the era of the four righteous caliphs, the period 632 – 661 AD. ‘Ali ra’s caliphate indeed was contested by Abu Sufyan’s son Muawiyya, who resided in Damascus. Muawiyya may have had his own coin, however, how likely is it that he allowed himself to be immortalized with John the Baptist’s head? Would a Christian monarch be portrayed with the head of a man as important to Christianity as John the Baptist in his hand? Volker Popp must admit that the head in the man’s left hand, a ruler figure with a lance ‘might as well be an censer’. Thus the object is described in art catalogues too. The coin’s backside shows a letter M with a cross. This could, says Popp, refer to its value, a thousand talents, which could make it a Roman coin. However, the letter could also mean something else, like ‘Muawiyya’, perhaps even ‘Muhammad’. The letters DAM are mentioned on it, which must imply that the coin has been struck in Damascus, however, Popp denies the Romans had their coining production there. Thus the suggestion is made that Muawiyya very well might have been a Christian Roman ruler and not ‘Ali’s Saudi rival. Question remains whether the coin may at all be Muawiyya’s product. The exegesis by both Volker Popp and Eildert Mulder is highly speculative and is by no means supported by evidence or findings. The coin may very well represent nothing more or less than a ruler figure with a censer and it’s financial value.
On the same website, Luxenberg says, in his article ‘Der Koran zum ‘Islamischen Kopftuch’, that Qur’anic verse 24:31, which says that women should cast veils over their bosoms, in Aramaic truly means that women should 'cast a belt over their loin’. A belt around their waist. Also in Christianity, the belt is a signaficant symbol of chastity for not only women, but monks too. Also, from hadith 318 Book 60 Volume 6 by Sahih Buchari, would appear, that women used to wear a cloth around the waist covering the hips:
Volume 6, Book 60, Number 282:
Narrated Safiya bint Shaiba:
‘Aisha used to say: “When (the Verse): “They should draw their veils over their necks and bosoms,” was revealed, (the ladies) cut their waist sheets at the edges and covered their faces with the cut pieces.”
Shortly, Luxenberg thinks we should stop making things difficult, and we should read the Qur’an the Aramaic way. It’s not necessary to consider the new Islamic duties mentioned in this hadith, in his eyes.
All these efforts by Christians and other Westerners to re-write Islamic history indicate a non-acceptance of religiously-inspired records of history. For them, it is decided, that such scriptures are fabricated myths, fairy-tales, and miscellaneous gathered facts and narratives that may be fine sources for inspirational purposes, so-called allegories or deeper truths. Incessant efforts are made to parallel Islam with Judaism and Christianity. The big difference, however, is that especially Christianity, has a much less reliable historic record. Romans, the popes and other rulers destroyed much of its inheritance. Furthermore, Jewish history has a much longer time span. It is true, that the Bible holds the same narratives of the same events, but then we see that names, dates and events do not quite match. Judaism and Christianity, therefore, had to rely a lot more than is the case for Islam, on interpretation by scholars from later eras. Islam has a much clearer defined area of study with Qur’an and ahadith. One must acknowledge, that Islam has a different origine than Judaism and Christianity and also among different people. Thus, early on, one single qur’an could be recorded and memorized, which is still used by the entire Islamic umma, without modifications. Something similar goes for the recording of ahadith, however, it must be admitted, that only part of them was written down immediately, and part of the most authoritative ahadith were recorded only two centuries later, from many oral sources. This happened, though, in a way that they indeed can be used for historic reference. They may not each and everyone of them be infallible, but we can safely conclude, that the memorized events indeed took place. However, the conclusion that the Prophet pbuh indeed received Divine Revelations, is even with the ahadith at hand impossible to prove. Not often supernatural events, in the sense of spectacular ‘miracles’, took place; then to be reliably recorded. Meaning, events like walking on a water surface, apparitions of angels or Allah swt showing Himself. This aspect of it all definitely is a question of faith. Westerners try to ascribe the Prophet epilepsy or other illnesses--he underwent ‘a seizure’ at the moment he received a new Revelation. Islam, however, sees creation and the Scripture as miracle enough and has no need for stunts.
Sources:
'Bildische Darstellingen aus der Frühzeit des Islam' Volker Popp. Further reference: http://www.europainstitut.at/upload/publikationen/publikation_32.pdf or http://www.aai.uni-hamburg.de/voror/Personal/heidemann/Heidemann_Texte/Heidemann_Quran_in_Context_2010_Representation.pdf
(The links mentioned in my blog aren't always current, as they are based on a newspaper article of five years ago, but if you type the titles in your browser, you get many articles with this same content.)
University of Southern California USC-MSA Center for Muslim-Jewish Engagement (Compendium of Muslim Texts) http://www.usc.edu/org/cmje

Friday, May 29, 2015

Redivision of Wealth in Islam

The big difference between European economic systems, and that of Islam is, that in Islam, traditionally everyone has had a right to own, enterprise, work, and inherit. Islam doesn't strive to fully equal division of wealth, but, contrary to Western systems, it does strive to equality of opportunity and access to markets to everybody of sufficient mental health and maturity. In the short run, difference between poor and wealthy people emerges. In the long run, however, there are many barriers against centralization of property and opportunity in the hands of few. This is, because everybody has his or her estate redivided over his or her legal heirs. And those heirs may loose or gain property, from then on. Islam tries to meet the needs of everybody to be self-sufficient, yet allows for a social network for the really vulnerable, without unjustly demoralizing talented people by taking too much of their earnings. The advantage of being able to help oneself and deciding for oneself, is not only cost. As we know, in an oligarchy, prices are high. It leads to citizens and governments being perpetually in debt. The other advantage is freedom. Freedom to do independent business, or to design one's own home, whether it's a tent, a trailer, or a luxury villa. And freedom to produce your own food, if you want to. In countries like Egypt, also townspeople keep their own poultry, to mention something. In the Netherlands, that's not even allowed. Thanks to these Qur'anic verses, everybody of sane mind, has the opportunity to participate in economic life:

The parable of those who spend their wealth in the way of Allah is that of a grain of corn: it groweth seven ears, and each ear hath a hundred grains. Allah giveth manifold increase to whom He pleaseth: and Allah careth for all and He knoweth all things. Those who spend of Allah, and follow not up their gifts with reminders of their generosity or with injury, for them their reward is with their Lord: on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve. Kind words and covering of faults are better than charity followed by injury. Allah is Free of all wants and He is most Forbearing. Q:2:261-263
O mankind! Be careful of your duty to your Lord Who created you from a single soul and from it created its mate and from them twain hath spread abroad a multitude of men and women. Be careful of your duty toward Allah in Whom ye claim (your rights) of one another, and toward the wombs (that bare you). Lo! Allah hath been a watcher over you. Give unto orphans their wealth. Exchange not the good for the bad (in your management thereof) nor absorb their wealth into your own wealth. Lo! that would be a great sin. And if ye fear that ye will not deal fairly by the orphans, marry of the women, who seem good to you, two or three or four; and if ye fear that ye cannot do justice (to so many) then one (only) or (the captives) that your right hands possess. Thus it is more likely that ye will not do injustice. And give unto the women (whom ye marry) free gift of their marriage portions; but if they of their own accord remit unto you a part thereof, then ye are welcome to absorb it (in your wealth). Give not unto the foolish (what is in) your (keeping of their) wealth, which Allah hath given you to maintain; but feed and clothe them from it, and speak kindly unto them. Prove orphans till they reach the marriageable age; then, if ye find them of sound judgment, deliver over unto them their fortune; and devour it not by squandering and in haste lest they should grow up Whoso (of the guardians) is rich, let him abstain generously (from taking of the property of orphans); and whoso is poor let him take thereof in reason (for his guardianship). And when ye deliver up their fortune unto orphans, have (the transaction) witnessed in their presence. Allah sufficeth as a Reckoner. Q:4:1-6
Lo! Those who devour the wealth of orphans wrongfully, they do but swallow fire into their bellies, and they will be exposed to burning flame. Allah chargeth you concerning (the provision for) your children: to the male the equivalent of the portion of two females, and if there be women more than two, then theirs is two-thirds of the inheritance, and if there be one (only) then the half. And to each of his parents a sixth of the inheritance, if he have a son; and if he have no son and his parents are his heirs, then to his mother appertaineth the third; and if he have brethren, then to his mother appertaineth the sixth, after any legacy he may have bequeathed, or debt (hath been paid). Your parents and your children: Ye know not which of them is nearer unto you in usefulness. It is an injunction from Allah. Lo! Allah is Knower, Wise. And unto you belongeth a half of that which your wives leave, if they have no child; but if they have a child then unto you the fourth of that which they leave, after any legacy they may have bequeathed, or debt (they may have contracted, hath been paid). And unto them belongeth the fourth of that which ye leave if ye have no child, but if ye have a child then the eighth of that which ye leave, after any legacy ye may have bequeathed, or debt (ye may have contracted, hath been paid). And if a man or a woman have a distant heir (having left neither parent nor child), and he (or she) have a brother or a sister (only on the mother's side) then to each of them twain (the brother and the sister) the sixth, and if they be more than two, then they shall be sharers in the third, after any legacy that may have been bequeathed or debt (contracted) not injuring (the heirs by willing away more than a third of the heritage) hath been paid. A commandment from Allah. Allah is Knower, Indulgent. Qur'an 4:10-12

Allah has bestowed His gifts of sustenance more freely on some of you than on others: those more favoured are not going to throw back their gifts to those whom their right hands possess, so as to be equal in that respect. Will they then deny the favours of Allah? Qur'an 16:71

Woe to those that deal in fraud, those who, when they have to receive by measure from men, exact full measure, but when they have to give by measure or weight to men, give less than due, do they not think that they will be raised up? On a Mighty Day a Day when mankind will stand before the Lord of the Worlds? Q:83:1-6

Several hadiths show market regulations that also today are modern and in use also outside Muslim countries:

Volume 3, Book 34, Number 266:

Narrated Ibn ‘Abbas:

‘Ukaz, Majanna and Dhul-Majaz were market-places in the Pre-lslamic period of ignorance. When Islam came, Muslims felt that marketing there might be a sin. So, the Divine Inspiration came: “There is no harm for you to seek the bounty of your Lord (in the seasons of Hajj).” (2.198) Ibn ‘Abbas recited the Verse in this way.


Volume 3, Book 34, Number 267:

Narrated An-Nu’man bin Bashir:

The Prophet said “Both legal and illegal things are obvious, and in between them are (suspicious) doubtful matters. So who-ever forsakes those doubtful things lest he may commit a sin, will definitely avoid what is clearly illegal; and who-ever indulges in these (suspicious) doubtful things bravely, is likely to commit what is clearly illegal. Sins are Allah’s Hima (i.e. private pasture) and whoever pastures (his sheep) near it, is likely to get in it at any moment.”

Volume 3, Book 34, Number 286:
Narrated Al-Miqdam:
The Prophet said, “Nobody has ever eaten a better meal than that which one has earned by working with one’s own hands. The Prophet of Allah, David used to eat from the earnings of his manual labor.”

Volume 3, Book 34, Number 301:
Narrated ‘Abdullah bin Abu Aufa:
A man displayed some goods in the market and swore by Allah that he had been offered so much for that, that which was not offered, and he said so, so as to cheat a Muslim. On that occasion the following Verse was revealed: “Verily! Those who purchase a small gain at the cost of Allah’s covenant and their oaths (They shall have no portion in the Hereafter ..etc.)’ (3.77)

Volume 3, Book 34, Number 360:
Narrated Abu Huraira:
Allah’s Apostle said, “Do not go forward to meet the caravan (to buy from it on the way before it reaches the town). And do not urge buyers to cancel their purchases to sell them (your own goods) yourselves, and do not practice Najsh. A town dweller should not sell the goods for the desert dweller. Do not leave sheep unmilked for a long time, when they are on sale, and whoever buys such an animal has the option of returning it, after milking it, along with a Sa of dates or keeping it. it has been kept unmilked for a long period by the seller (to deceive others).

Volume 3, Book 34, Number 379:
Narrated Ibn ‘Umar:
The Prophet said, “The selling of wheat for wheat is Riba (usury) except if it is handed from hand to hand and equal in amount. Similarly the selling of barley for barley, is Riba except if it is from hand to hand and equal in amount, and dates for dates is usury except if it is from hand to hand and equal in amount. (See Riba-Fadl in the glossary).

Volume 3, Book 34, Number 430:
Narrated Abu Huraira:
The Prophet said, “Allah says, ‘I will be against three persons on the Day of Resurrection:
1. One who makes a covenant in My Name, but he proves treacherous.
2. One who sells a free person (as a slave) and eats the price,
3. And one who employs a laborer and gets the full work done by him but does not pay him his wages.’ ”

Volume 3, Book 34, Number 414:
Narrated Hisham bin ‘Urwa from his father:
who heard Aisha saying, “The Holy Verse; ‘Whoever amongst the guardians is rich, he should take no wages (from the property of the orphans) but If he is poor, let him have for himself what is just and reasonable (according to his labors)’ (4.6) was revealed concerning the guardian of the orphans who looks after them and manages favorably their financial affairs; If the guardian Is poor, he could have from It what Is just and reasonable, (according to his labors).”

Narrated Ibn ‘Abbas:
The Prophet sent Mu’adh to Yemen and said, “Be afraid, from the curse of the oppressed as there is no screen between his invocation and Allah.”

Volume 3, Book 43, Number 629:
Narrated Abu Huraira:
Allah’s Apostle said, “Whoever has oppressed another person concerning his reputation or anything else, he should beg him to forgive him before the Day of Resurrection when there will be no money (to compensate for wrong deeds), but if he has good deeds, those good deeds will be taken from him according to his oppression which he has done, and if he has no good deeds, the sins of the oppressed person will be loaded on him.”

Volume 3, Book 43, Number 634:
Narrated Salim’s father (i.e. ‘Abdullah):
The Prophet said, “Whoever takes a piece of the land of others unjustly, he will sink down the seven earths on the Day of Resurrection.”


Volume 3, Book 43, Number 639:
Narrated ‘Abdullah bin ‘Amr:
The Prophet said, “Whoever has (the following) four characters will be a hypocrite, and whoever has one of the following four characteristics will have one characteristic of hypocrisy until he gives it up. These are: (1 ) Whenever he talks, he tells a lie; (2) whenever he makes a promise, he breaks it; (3) whenever he makes a covenant he proves treacherous; (4) and whenever he quarrels, he behaves impudently in an evil insulting manner.” (See Hadith No. 33 Vol. 1)

Volume 3, Book 43, Number 640:
Narrated Aisha:
Hind bint ‘Utba (Abu Sufyan’s wife) came and said, “O Allah’s Apostle! Abu Sufyan is a miser. Is there any harm if I spend something from his property for our children?” He said, there is no harm for you if you feed them from it justly and reasonably (with no extravagance).”

Source:
University of Southern California USC-MSA Center for Muslim-Jewish Engagement (Compendium of Muslim Texts) http://www.usc.edu/org/cmje








Thursday, May 28, 2015

Christoph Luxenberg, Patricia Crone, Michael Cook, Eildert Mulder: 'Shiites have older credentials than Sunnis' meaning Muhammad & `Ali never existed

la-ilaha-illaallah

inscriptie-imam-ali-moskee
Another reply to Dutch Christian newspaper Trouw and its speculative series on critical Islam researchers and their ‘spectacular’ questions on the early days of Islam. Here follows a translation of an article by Eildert Mulder claiming that Shiites, not Sunnis, possess the oldest Islam and then my reaction in online newspaper Nieuwsfeit.nl. This is what I think they really try to say: Muhammad saws and `Ali ra haven't existed, and Jesus, `Issa saws, was Islam's real prophet ;) Okay, the part on Jesus isn't said out loud in Trouw. But it feels very much, like it is what they want to say :) Trouw wrote these articles in 2006; I wrote my reply in 2007; Trouw has been wise enough to delete most of it; and me, I read all of it now with a smile. I hope it brings my reader today a smile, too.
Eildert Mulder said:
The majority decides, this also goes for the design, structure and image of Islam. Shiites are a worldwide ten percent minority of Islam. Sunnis hold with their ninety percent an overwhelming advantage. This may explain the tendency, also among Islam studies in the West, to discard of Shiism as a younger aberration of Sunni, ‘orthodox’ Islam. Critical Islam experts resist this temptation, however. Some think that precisely Shiism has reserved an older form of Islam. Under-appreciation of the Shiites may also be caused by the fact that the main European colonizers mainly found Sunni Muslims in the conquered territories. This went for the Britisch in India, the Dutch in Indonesia, the French in Northern and Western Africa, and the Russians in Central Asia. Sunni confession of faith says: ‘There is no deity than Allah and Muhammad is His Messenger’. The Shiites lengthen it: ‘And ‘Ali is His Wali’. Wali can mean ‘guardian’. The result could then be ‘the guardian appointed by Allah’. This addition to Sunni confession sounds slightly artificial. It appears stuck to it and this strengthens the idea of a later aberration of the Sunna. ‘Ali Wali was, according tradition, Muhammad’s son in law, married to his daughter Fatima. Muhammed supposedly appointed ‘Ali as his successor, not as a prophet, but as leader of the young Muslim community. Muhammad further would have decreed that future Imams (this is the name Shiites give to the leaders of the Muslim community, Sunnis speak of Khaliphas) must descend from ‘Ali and Fatima. Sunnis disagree with this. When Shiites then add ‘Ali being ‘wali’ of God to the confession, it appears overstated. But another explanation is possible, without a person named ‘Ali added. That gives the Shiite ‘addition’ another dimension. The linguistic phenomenon of an adjective changing into a first name in people’s experience may have happened with ”Ali’. German linguist Christoph Luxenberg says this happened to ‘Muhammad’. Muhammad literally means ‘(intensely) praised’. The confession’s original confession cannot have been ‘Muhammad Messenger of God’, says Luxenberg, but: ‘Praised be God’s Messenger’. Luxenberg doesn’t mention ‘Ali, but analogy is obvious. ‘Ali means ‘exalted’. Also ‘Ali may originally have been an adjective, therefor one mustn’t read ”Ali God’s Wali’, but ‘Exalted is God’s Wali’. The Shiite confession no longer answers the question who should be king of the Muslims, but which (high) status he enjoys. Assuming that ‘God’s Guardian’ indeed refers to the imam or caliph, as Shiites believe. This other interpretation cut the unfortunate tie with the apocryphal narrations on Islam’s beginnings, part of which is the history of Muhammad’s promise to ‘Ali. Whether the Shiites add another sentence to the confession, remains to be seen. Perhaps it is the Sunni who deleted the second part. The difference in opinion seems obsolete and theoretical anyway. For centuries no caliphs or imams have been in power and for over a thousand years no descendants of ‘Ali and Fatima have been spotted. The twelfth and last Imam is hiding in the Iranian mountains, according to Shiites, and will appear with Jesus at the end of times. It is no more than bawls from a distant past that have little to do with reality today. Yet this doesn’t quite add up. Remnants of the conflicting views on imams versus caliphs seem to live on in the clergy’s organisation in Islam’s two main schools of thought. In Sunnism, clergymen are, at least in theory, peers. Shiism, however, knows a hierarchy, with supreme ayatollah’s at the top. Since the Islamic revolution in 1978 initiated by ayatollah Khomeiny the ‘Wali al Faqih’, which means something like ‘spiritual guide’ is (Shiite) Iran’s supreme leader. The Wali al Faqih resembles a priest-king (without inherited leadership), who leaves daily leadership to the president, but keeps a sharp eye on the Islamic course and, in the end, holds power. This, perhaps, approaches the position of the first eleven imams. Especially ‘imam’ Khomeiny (he didn’t call himself imam, but allowed others to do so) was subject of intense worship. Yet the Wali al Faqih is not on the same level as the first twelve imams, according to Shiites these men also possessed spirtituals qualities, had received divine inspiration in their exegeses of revelations. In Sunni Islam the caliph is more modest. He is ‘the prophet’s successor’, but only politically. However, had the caliph in the very first days this limited meaning as well, or did he more resemble the Shiite imam? The Qur’an gives no definite answer. ‘Caliph’ appears eight times, twice single and six time plural. Both Adam and king David are ‘caliphs on earth’. This latter statement could imply that caliph indeed is a monarch’s title. It is not certain though. Mystical sufi poet Ibn Arabi, for instance, gives another, non-political explanation. In his eyes, caliphs are people with a soul thus pure is seems a perfectly polished mirror that shows God. Danish Islam expert Patricia Crone, now working in the USA, put the cat among the pigeons with her book God’s Califf. She discovers something in the book: old texts don’t say ‘the Prophet’s caliph (successor)’ but ‘God’s Caliph’. This means two things. The idea that ‘caliph’ means ‘Muhammad’s successor’ is of newer date. In this connection caliph can hardly mean ‘successor’, because you then may talk of ‘God’s successor’. Crone concludes that ‘God’s caliphs’ must have had a religious function too. They were Gods ‘governors’. This resembles the Shiite imam and corresponds fairly well (Crone doesn’t put it that way) with the Shiite confession of faith. It may imply that the Shiites represent ancient Islam on important issues.
Crone’s intentions become more obvious in another book that she wrote with another author, Michael Cook: Hagarism. With aid of documents from Christian contemporaries of the first Muslims they conclude that the word Muslim was not yet in use. Followers of the new religion are called mahgraye, an Aramaic word meaning something like migrants, call them migrants from the desert. It is related to the Arabic word hijrah, according to orthodox exegesis Muhammed’s and his followers’ ‘flight’ from Mecca to Medinah in 622. These migrants meet, when arriving in Palestine, first the Jews, from whom they adopt many things. Later they oppose themselves against the Jews. They find a new role model, the Samaritans, related to the Jews, but fiercely rallying against them. From them the migrants adopt high priesthood, according to Crone and Cook, namely ‘God’s Caliph’. ‘God’s Caliph’ goes astray when halfway the eigth century the center of the Arabian state shifts towards Irak. The new religion meets once again a rich Jewish tradition, with scholars in religious law as its leading characters. Scholars in Islamic law developed themselves in scholasticism after their example. Through time they laid the fundament for the shariah legislation to come according to Qur’an and transmitted traditions of the Prophet. The scholars of law become the professional explainers of God’s Will. Therewith the spiritual function of the caliph diminishes. He degrades into ‘Prophet’s Caliph’, who, like everyone else, lives under shariah law. From now on he is a ‘constiutional monarch’ and not a priest or half-prophet with his own, direct line to God. The attenuation continues. The caliphs later loose their worldly power to soldier-kings (sultans), usually Turks and sometimes Kurds. The symbolism, however, remains forceful, sultans fight for the honour to ‘protect’ the powerless caliph. But the revolution of scholasticism against ‘Allah’s exalted Guardian’ is irrevocable. And the ancient essential conflict over the leadership of the ummah has been congealed in a tale of Muhammad’s promise to ‘Ali. Eildert Mulder (With special thanks to Thomas Milo.)
The first part of this article is the most bizarre part. Trouw has claimed before that the name Muhammad didn’t exist yet in the known Prophet’s era and would be an adjective or honorary title, with the meaning of the praised one. According Trouw the name Muhammad might as well refer to Jesus. Now they say that the name ‘Ali didn’t exist yet in those days and would also be nothing more than an adjective meaning protector, guardian. They relate this to the speculation that the Shiite confession of faith could be older than the Sunni and not just that: The Shiite may very well be the right one. After all the word khalifa, leader, is not connected to a specific name in Qur’an al Kerim and is also used for Prophet Dawud for instance, king David. They forget, however, that Qur’an also gives the word ‘messenger’ and this happens to be reserved for the prophets, among whom Muhammad. For good reason Qur’an dedicates an entire chapter to Prophet Muhammad pbuh. Trouw just about doesn’t proclaim ‘Ali ra to be Islam’s real prophet, which is something Shiites happen to proclaim neither, for those among us who happen to not know. We may even conclude from the article that there wasn’t at all a prophet of Islam. Shortly, what is it that Trouw really wants to say?:)
This cat among the pigeons is a bit weird too, in my opinion. As if Muslims didn’t know yet that the word khalifa, caliph, figures in their Book and if they didn’t know that indeed it means ‘leader’. Shiites indeed believe that Allah wouldn’t leave man without guidance after the Prophet’s death. Leadership in the sense of approved and inspired leaders by Allah swt Himself. By the way: ahadith recorded by Sahih Buchari, which are important to Sunnis too, confirm this issue:
Narrated Abu Sa’id Al-Khudri:
The Prophet said, “Allah never sends a prophet or gives the Caliphate to a Caliph but that he (the prophet or the Caliph) has two groups of advisors: A group advising him to do good and exhorts him to do it, and the other group advising him to do evil and exhorts him to do it. But the protected person (against such evil advisors) is the one protected by Allah.’ ”
Volume 9, Book 89, Number 329:
Narrated Jabir bin Samura:
I heard the Prophet saying, “There will be twelve Muslim rulers (who will rule all the Islamic world).” He then said a sentence which I did not hear. My father said, “All of them (those rulers) will be from Quraish.”
The fact that Qur’an gives no definite answer, is not surprising either. Later leaders after the Prophets have a lower status than the Prophets. Their names aren’t mentioned. This is why the majority of Muslims, nowadays, criticize the efforts to re-instate the four schools, maddhahib, of Sunni law in their former high status. Their wisdom may very well be followed. However, since they aren't seen as infallible, following a maddhab and pledging it an oath of allegiance, can never be imposed on us. Only those leaders explicitly mentioned in Qur'an and ahadith as infallible, can be seen as integral part of Islamic teachings. Secondly, the majority of Muslims criticize the Shiite practice to proclaim the traditions transmitted from ‘Ali ra and the ten Imams into compulsory religious ahadith. The sayings and practices of these people have, to my best knowledge, been recorded and are teached by the Shiites. Large part of Sunni criticism focuses on this special status of the Imams.
Sunni main criticism, however, deals with the misunderstandings concerning ‘Ali’s caliphate. Shiites are not justified, when they suppose that  ‘Ali ra doesn't receive enough honorable credit in Sunni Islam. ‘Ali was made caliph and belongs to the four righteous caliphs. So he does receive great honor. Secondly, just before his passing away, the Prophet appointed not ‘Ali but Abu Bakr to lead to people in prayer:
Narrated Anas:
The Prophet did not come out for three days. The people stood for the prayer and Abu Bakr went ahead to lead the prayer. (In the meantime) the Prophet caught hold of the curtain and lifted it. When the face of the Prophet appeared we had never seen a scene more pleasing than the face of the Prophet as it appeared then. The Prophet beckoned to Abu Bakr to lead the people in the prayer and then let the curtain fall. We did not see him (again) till he died.
Apparently, someone other than ‘Ali was allowed to lead the faithful. Neither had the Prophet saws appointed a successor or caliph, also according ‘Ali’s own words:
Narrated ‘Abdullah bin Abbas:
Ali bin Abu Talib came out of the house of Allah’s Apostle during his fatal illness. The people asked, “O Abu Hasan (i.e. Ali)! How is the health of Allah’s Apostle this morning?” ‘Ali replied, “He has recovered with the Grace of Allah.” ‘Abbas bin ‘Abdul Muttalib held him by the hand and said to him, “In three days you, by Allah, will be ruled (by somebody else ), And by Allah, I feel that Allah’s Apostle will die from this ailment of his, for I know how the faces of the offspring of ‘Abdul Muttalib look at the time of their death. So let us go to Allah’s Apostle and ask him who will take over the Caliphate. If it is given to us we will know as to it, and if it is given to somebody else, we will inform him so that he may tell the new ruler to take care of us.” ‘Ali said, “By Allah, if we asked Allah’s Apostle for it (i.e. the Caliphate) and he denied it us, the people will never give it to us after that. And by Allah, I will not ask Allah’s Apostle for it.”
Shiites themselves, however, see this differently. They say, that the Prophet saws did introduce his son in law ‘Ali as the people’s future leader during his farewell sermon after his last pilgrimage to Mecca. Who likes to know more of it, should visit search engines and follow the name Ghadir Khumm… that should give you quite some hours of reading material.
Patricia Crone and others seem to ignore, that Sunni development took another path after ‘Ali’s death than Shiite. The Umayyad and Abbasid caliphs named themselves 'caliph', but Sunnis themselves don’t recognize them as righteous caliphs. ‘Ali was their last one, and he died less than thirty years after his father in law. ‘Ali was to Shiites, however, the first of eleven righteous, infallible caliphs, who swiftly succeeded each other. Already early in their history, the eleventh caliphate was over. The twelfth caliph, whom they await now, disappeared as a child in 941 AD and will return some day in the future. However, their caliphate era had, indeed, ended then. This is how caliphate ended.
Whoever likes to read more of Trouw’s unrealistic, unproven, and therefore unfounded views on the birth of Islam, and masters Dutch, should look under the head De Verdieping.(Indepth)
Trouw sees itself as quite the scholar now, but with what evidence--especially when we check Shiite statements, where `Ali and his sons were not seen as prophets:
Imam Hussayn
The Imam was one of Prophet Muhammad’s (saws) much beloved grandsons. As soon as he heard of his grandson’s birth, he ran to Fatima’s (ra) house and shouted immediately: ‘bring me my son!’ Asma came with Imam Hussein to the Prophet, he kissed him, covered him with a white cloth and read adhan into his right ear and iqama into the left. The Prophet was full of joy, but also full of sadness. He knew what was to happen to this Holy Imam in Karbala and could not hold his tears. Imam Hussein holds an important position in Islam that only few, the Imams, could achieve. Imam Hussein was brought into mubahala by the Prophet. Mubahala is the state where a person has a strong conviction and believe it to be true, but cannot persuade others. They then pray to Allah to curse the one who lies, or holds the wrong view. On this occasion the country’s best people are chosen to perform this Mubahala. Those who like to read more in Dutch, can find more with Ahlubait Jongeren, or in English, with Al-Islam.org.
It is fascinating and entertaining to philosophize on how Islam might alternatively had developed, however, we are still bound to existing historic records. It concerns onetime events and they can only be proved by witness. The arrival of Islam under Prophet Muhammad saws has extensively been recorded by many speaking and writing witnesses. And many of the Prophet’s, and his near companions’, personal belongings have been carefully conserved. It is hard fighting such large legacy. Christian and Jewish efforts to do so, cannot be seen as highly professional or scientific. It is allowed of course, however, they are stuck in the level of childish and hobbyist efforts leading to nothing tangible.
Sources:
University of Southern California USC-MSA Center for Muslim-Jewish Engagement (Compendium of Muslim Texts) http://www.usc.edu/org/cmje
Al-Islam.org http://www.al-islam.org
Ahlalbait Jongeren Organisatie http://www.ahlalbait.nl

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Those who question the authenticity of the Islamic heritage: Christoph Luxenberg & Eildert Mulder

shahada-fout-uitgelegd

Safeguarding Islamic cultural heritage was considered a sign of ‘shirk’ by some; worship of objects is indeed prohibited in Islam. However, cultural heritage is also testimony and proof of Islamic history, and nowadays it seems necessary to safeguard items of which the historic value is undisputed. In recent days, non-Muslim scholars question the truth of Islam and its history. Professor of Arabic language and religious history Karl Heinz Ohlig, University of Saarbrücken in Germany, thinks that Prophet Muhammad pbuh never existed, and that the Qur’an al Kerim was copied from an existing Bible, written in Aramaic. He has no solid proof for this claim. However, Christians seem to follow his line of thinking, not hindered by the lack of any proof.
Aramaic is an ancient Semitic language, it’s writing was, as Hebrew and Arabic, developed from Phoenician script. The language has existed, even today, in Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Irak and, until circa 200 AD, also in the northern Arabian Peninsula (the Kingdom of Petra). From then, the language was used among Jewish writers in Irak and in small local communities in Syria, Lebanon and Palestine. In these countries, several villages  exist where Aramaic is still spoken. As far as Aramaic is still in use, its importance has been limited to that of a local tongue spoken among the elderly, and to Jewish religious circles as a written language. As we know, small local languages as Frisian and Basque, are struggling to survive all over the world. In its peak days, Aramaic was the official language of the Babylonian Empire. The language was used in the Torah also--however, mainly before Christianity. Much is known of Aramaic history, many documents are still there to witness to it. As long as no real archeological findings of even older Qur’anic copies in Aramaic have been found, it is not necessary to assume there are any. No doubt Arabic is interlarded with Aramaic words and expressions, because the Aramaic language area borders to Arabic spoken lands. Thus, also Dutch has many German, French, English, Italian expressions and a grammatical relatedness exists between these Indo-European languages. That does not automatically make Qur’an a newer and revisited translation of an older Aramaic version. (For now) no proof to this exists. In 2007, I wrote a few articles for online Dutch language news site Nieuwsfeit.nl on a few Christian exclamations on Islam. Here follows a translation of the first one:
Tsunami of westerner’s right-mindedness floods the history of the development of Islamic Scriptures
We Muslims are wrong to believe in an Arabic Qur’an, because German linguist Christoph Luxenberg says that Qur’an was written in Aramaic. Can we compare this tale with a record played backwards?
Turning records backwards meant something to a minority of Dutch Christians in the seventies, last century; they claimed to hear Satan’s voice, especially when turning backwards stout rock music. A record cannot be turned backwards, a phonograph was not made for that… national scorn for these Christians. It strongly seems that this Mr Luxenberg deserves the same treatment from the ummah, considering his stiff tenacity in favor of his hypothesis that Qur’an was written in Aramaic and all we have to do is wait for this ‘pre-Qur’an’ in Aramaic. Dutch newspaper Trouw devoted an article well worth reading on Luxenberg: ‘Like a detective searching for Pre-Koran’.
Trouw is wise enough to acknowledge that, without truly finding this pre-qur’an, any scientific evidence for the theory is missing for now and states that Luxenberg even found an ‘error in writing’ in his Aramaic Pre-Qur’an. Nevertheless, the article in Trouw is tough reading stuff, because they try to give Qur’anic exegesis with their own confusing twist. Qur’anic texts are present on tile works in the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, among which verse 72:19&20. This text narrates, according any other Qur’an-commentator of Muhammad pbuh, however Mr Luxenberg says, according to Trouw, that it might very refer to Jesus: ‘… when the Devotee of Allah stood up to invoke Him, they fell on their knees for him and worshipped him, almost as if he were a god’ at which he said ‘I do no more than invoke My Lord and I join not with Him any’. The word in question, Devotee, `abd in Arabic, is written in Arabic from the root AynBeDel. Aramaic also possesses the letter Ayn, however, its is written in almost the same fashion as the letter Lam. Then the Arabic copyist might accidentally have written EBD and not LBD. What should this imply, according to Trouw and Christoph Luxenberg? Al Ben D’Allah, God’s son? This is not possible, because the Arabic Ayn doesn’t resemble a Lam (L) at all. What’s more, the Nun (N) is missing and Del (D) doesn’t belong there. Any other Qur’an, even those of Christian translators, doesn't speak of ‘they fell on their knees for him’, but ‘they (the people) pushed forward into a big crowd around him’. Trouw calls this translation, without any clarification, ‘a dark solution’ of ‘other translator’. This all makes the Trouw article quite unreadable. Whoever knows Arabic, may find out what was meant. Trouw elaborates on the word ‘push forward’, in Arabic libada. It isn’t written with an Ayn, the well-known Semitic guttural resembling a deep aa-sound, but with a common vowel a. Luxenberg says it means that in truth the text says ‘ibada and not libada, which means ‘treat like a god’, ‘serve God’ and such. Nevertheless, ‘abdallah may still refer to no one else than Prophet Muhammad pbuh. The people worship God’s devotee, not Allah’s son. Is this good enough for our new Qur’an-virtuosi? Translators in the West came to oracle-resembling exegeses, however, doesn’t Qur’an-exegesis by westerners become any less than a match of who places the best accusation, especially in view of Christian newspapers pontificating with their incomprehensible mumbles. A childish pissing contest, in other words. The question rises, whether the man who shares my name, understands what Luxenberg tries to say.
Christoph Luxenberg worked as follows: he thinks that Qur’an was written in Aramaic, a language which, apart from the written language, shares many same words with Arabic, however, their meaning differs in both languages: So-called false friends. This way the word ‘bellen’ means ‘to bark’ in German and ‘to tinkle’ or ‘to sound a bell’ in Dutch, which is linguistically related. This is how Luxenberg reads Qur’an and thinks that the Arabic word for ‘virgin’ should have been ‘grape’, as that same word has this meaning in Aramaic. Luxenberg focused his view often on the Jerusalem Dome of the Rock, which, in his opinion, was Islam’s first monument. The Qur’anic texts written on the walls in- and outdoors, are really Aramaic texts in his opinion. Here he finds companions: Israeli archeologists Judith Koren and Yehuda Nevo. They think, that the word ‘Islam’ in the Dome really means ‘unity’ or ‘union’. The word ‘din’ means ‘religion’ in modern Arabic, but, according to this thinking, it should mean ‘the correct procedure’. A text on one of the walls meaning in Arabic ‘Muhammad is God’s Servant and His Messenger’. The religion with God is Islam’. What might that imply, according to these hyper-renewing scientists? ‘The praised one is God’s Servant and His Messenger. The correct procedure is unity’. Islamically speaking, a translation into Aramaic meanings might be just acceptable. However, how it then continues towards Christianity, as if it ‘truly’ were an Aramaic-Christian texts, needs hard evidence. And there isn’t any. Eildert Mulder palavers a little further on how the construction year of the Dome of the Rock, that is 72 Anno Hijrah, which is mentioned in one of the wall carvings too, corresponds so nicely with the 72 virgins in Paradise, Jesus’ 72 disciples and Zaratustra’s 72 students. Further, Mulder thinks that the texts on the building’s indoor walls ‘narrate extensively of Jesus’. Jesus’ name is mentioned indeed. This view is supported by Luxenberg thesis that the name Muhammad, mentioned everywhere in- and outside the Dome of the Rock, means ‘the praised one’ as an adjective only. And Luxenberg would try to prove now, that all those places where the Prophet pbuh is addressed directly, as the person spoken to, in reality refers to a Christian monk, but might also refer to Jesus. In his eyes, there is enough reason, therefore, to reduce Muhammad to an anonymous ‘you-figure’. He also thinks that--in this he might be true--that each ‘community member’ might feel addressed when the Qur’anic text uses the word ‘you’.
It is a pleasant pastime, when a certain Mr Luxenberg, some fourty years ago, tried to read and interpret Qur’an in Aramaic. However, it is slightly alarming, when Christians now try to take over his, for sure unproven, views as ‘scientific Qur’an exegesis’. The fear arises, that where Christians were scorned for their silly fluff twenty years ago, they now might gain a cheering mob behind them, if Muslims don’t keep their finger on the pulse of each and every publication. Might Christian radicals be in for a re-conquest of the building they name the Temple?
Sources:
http://www.nieuwsfeit.nl (Article apparently gone now)
Trouw 5 May 2006
Trouw 26 April 2006 (Article apparently gone now)

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Redivision of Wealth in the West, As Seen By a Muslim

What Went Wrong With the Role of Money and Property in the West
Economics isn't science. It's practicality, behavior and human scale.
Westerners prefer contradictory designer table models, theories, and terminology imposed by governments for shifting around money.
We don't need collectivism, we need Islamic libertarianism.



Some two years ago, I wrote this article for the Yahoo Contributor Network. Alas, it doesn't exist anymore. Here, I'll place a few of my favs... because I sincerely think they are the truth. And economics are a very important, underestimated, and under appreciated topic.

There's a lot to say about economics, money, and redistribution of wealth in Western society. What is the core of the problem? I'll try to describe it here, perhaps in some black-and-white contrast tones. I'll admit, that some countries are less plagued by the problem than others. Coming to the core, doesn't involve high profile research projects. Complicated mathematical models don't belong in household economics. They should stay where they truly belong: Design and engineering. The core of economics is digging into ourselves, our own mind, our guiding principles, and common sense. What is the function of money in my life? Which part of my estate is for me, which part is for others, and who are those others? And: What do I want to do with my life, how do I want to sustain myself and family, how do I want to realize my dreams? What are the obstacles and opportunities? Money is about the individual and those next to him or her. Each individual has certain qualities and aspirations, and likes to see those put to work. And what role can government assume to support those aspirations--in stead of stifling them, as happens now.

The function of money now

Where does this leave money, in our lands? Money is naturally linked to individualism. It gives individual people and businesses freedom, because they don't have to supply an equal-value good in return to a supplier of a good they need. They can pay with a general exchange good, called money. That may be sea shells -- or a promise written on a computer page. For individual people, money should be a reflection of their property, a mirror. If individuals can safely rely on the value of their money, so can societies. This is only possible, if money, like water, can flow freely, without too many obstacles. Yet, governments allotted money a role way above its means. They have created artificial money streams by creating corporations to serve government monopolies on services that people could have done themselves. And money has been allotted a role below its means. Not enough are we allowed to set boundaries to protect our own property. We are demanded to share it with everybody else. Yet, we need to eat several times per day for sheer survival. So it's safe to conclude that property is important, that we deserve a healthy relationship with it, and that we don't have it now. Artificial redistribution of wealth has led to permanent debt on everybody.

Now what if some people's income gathering gets hampered, even temporarily? The debt doesn't miraculously go away. What we see, is a water system where one or more of the waterways get blocked by an obstacle. The result is obvious and listens to names as "inflation" or "deflation." The river becomes a lake behind the obstacle. We also see, how much water is still present in the other waterways. Somehow, that money should also reach those waterways that are now bereft of supply. This is what we also see in our artificial tax-and-transfer economies. Governments fully control the streaming money system. They have a large chunk of tax money under them. When certain members or groups in society loose their income supply, the government must supply money, not only to them personally, but also generally. The government uses its central bank to supply this money, a process called money creation. We now see a process, where governments and corporations randomly levy and pay money. We could ask ourselves, what's the need for having a tax and contribution system at all, if institutions can supply society with freshly-printed money. This freshly-printed money might as well be directly spent on education, health care, infrastructure, the military, and other -- no tax payment necessary. The connection between money and economic performance has been broken anyway.

The issue of money creation raises another one. How do we distinguish government-created money from so-called false money? Their function is basically the same. It's freshly pressed money, issued without parallel counter-performance. In a way, both false and created money are society's illegitimate child. It had no full economic status, in the sense that it was part of economic activity, yet it ends up functioning as a full means of payment. The big difference is, that in the first case, governments issued it, and in the second place, individual citizens did. Not a country is more centralized than mine, the Netherlands, yet small business owners told me they just use a false banknote like it's regular, and spend it. However, government monopoly is on this issue fiercer than on any other. Don't get me wrong -- it's good, that there's formal central government money. It has authority, individual people know it will be accepted everywhere. Yet, local trading systems can give considerable relief on stressed markets. An example is the Kaereti, a local currency on the Greek island of Crete, founded in 2011. The solutions to financial stress should be based on openness and practicality, but why should only governments bring them? And why should all transactions be carried out with money? What's wrong with simply giving, or with goods exchange?

The causes

The West is a society with strong innate political and economic contradictions. These led to concepts and theories that rather diffuse the discussion, than that they solve anything. The terminology naming these concepts could hence only become ugly words, almost swear words. The first swear word in Western thinking is individualism. "Individualism is destroying solidarity and togetherness in Western society". Much-heard it is.

Individualism

The Catholic Encyclopedia gives a nice overview of how the various concepts of individualism have changed and developed in the West, starting in ancient Greece. Individualism has always been seen as a negative quality: A danger to the co-operation between people for the greater benefit of a caring society. Individualists care only for themselves, lack morality, and have no healthy ties with family, friends, and neighbors, is the idea. Yet, the welfare state created individuals who have ties mainly with public offices. Most tax systems disable providing for family members, nowadays. The state is the only one that can take care of people, also morally. Is there an individual left? What is left, is a group of powerless individuals, unable to fend for themselves. They have been awarded with the counter-duty of payment for public services. Paying for service rendered is an act of togetherness and solidarity in a caring society, where individuals are part of a group. We are forced to pay a heavy tax burden over our properties and earnings -- thus heavy, that the majority of us can't obtain or keep property like real estate. It led to the situation where we must first pay to the public office, and then reclaim that money, or a service, from the same office. This purely to survive. The result is: Shifting of money and property to and fro, and we are all almost numbered state property.. The safe conclusion is: There is no individualism in the West, there's only fear of it. That's not all there is. The second swearword and angstgegner in the Western mind, is property.

Property

Really nothing is feared more in Western culture than earthly possessions. They are not welcome in higher philosophy, nor truly welcome as a career goal in personal life plans. Starting with the ancient Greeks, there's always been a strong belief, that property distracts the mind from abstract philosophy and good morality. Western thinking understands concepts like love, altruism, or self worth, and how these are built from a healthy balance between personal needs and the need to be with others. It doesn't understand, that a person's relationship with money has this same need for healthy balance, simply because they need to work and live with help of these possessions. Also nowadays, people are ordered to spend their money and goods on altruistic goals and aren't allowed to keep much of it to themselves. In a very early stage of Western history, all this led to the thought that only special people can be allowed to manage the bulk of property in society. The Bible, for instance, allowed only few people inheritance. Women were excluded from economic rights as enterprise, ownership, inheritance, or paid work. The Biblical Book of Numbers, Chapter 27, explains how women were excluded from inheritance, unless there was no son. This rule doesn't exist in Islam, as shown in Qur'anic verses above. And the same Biblical Book of Numbers, Chapter 30, explains that women are not bound by their promises, unless their father or their husband allows them to make such, or stays silent. Another rule that doesn't exist in Islam, and that made it for Western women impossible to do business, acquire property, or work. Western inheritance traditionally was based on Biblical primogeniture laws: Only the eldest son could inherit the family estate, the same way as that only the King's eldest son could inherit the title and function of King. (See Gen 29:26.) In modern days, new legislation has enlarged the group of people entitled to inherit, enterprise, work, and own. But in practice, this is only a paper tiger. Also now, in most Western nations, only the government and its direct delegates, and spiritual leaders, are granted right of big ownership, which led to the need for the well-known tax-and-transfer economy. Why so? Because, obviously, if many people are denied the right to own, work, inherit, and enterprise, those same people aren't able to sustain themselves. To sustain yourself, you need tools. Either financial and material property, or the right to obtain property. How else can you feed yourself? If you can't feed yourself, others must do it for you. In the West, also now, most people are fed by those who represent them: government and its immediate delegates, large institutions. In the past it was called feudality; then communism, corporatism, fascism, and nowadays it's called collectivism or "social democracy." Thanks to traditional primogeniture laws, centralization of property emerged in a very early stage of Western history. It's true that civil law and contracts could enable women to make prenuptial contracts or to inherit, but in practice, these were exemptions.

Thus, in Western thinking, a strange discrepancy grew between thoughts on everyday material needs, on the one hand, and abstract, emotional, and philosophical idealism, on the other. In the past, not much freedom existed in either category, but only the latter group was seen as worth fighting for as an individual. You want to stand up against a government that doesn't allow you your religious practice, live with a partner of your choice, or feel whatever you want to feel, but you demand the same government's protection when you need a house, a job, or a doctor. Power to the people became known under the name "democracy," but it was and is an incomplete power. Though democracy isn't a swear word, it's rather an affirmation.

Freedom and Democracy

What is democracy in Western civilization? It is said to be the freedom to think, speak, meet, assume leadership roles, and act as you want. Since individuals couldn't fend for themselves, they needed the right to voice their needs to the authorities. This right didn't come automatically -- it took several centuries to achieve it, and the history of our lands has known many revolutions as its loud witnesses. The first important revolution in the West took place in France. It didn't strive for freedom only; it also wanted equality and brotherhood. This is where the bottleneck narrowed even more, only to stay. This is because another contradiction wasn't solved: How to define citizenship. The ideal citizen is an independent personality in a society, able to fend for himself, herself, and able to contribute to society from his, her own opinions and lifestyle. How can we rhyme this with a heavy duty to pay for everybody and everything else as ordained by a government, without own priority or choice? This is an internal clash in our present idea of democracy, that hasn't been solved. The unfortunate result is, that government and citizens have become too much entwined, there's too much conflict of interest, it isn't possible anymore to protest successfully against harmful policies or politicians. It is impossible to get rid of a government that also pays your monthly social security benefits.

Citizens

After the revolutions in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, freedom remained restricted to abstract, high-brow philosophical, religious, artistic, and political topics mainly. Economic topics like inheriting, buying, owning, and selling were restricted to a male minority group in society, like before. Only the few who payed taxes, called citizens, could take part in business and administration. They paid taxes, because they belonged to the small group of people with enough income and property to make that worthwhile. Initially, only those men were entitled to a role in governance and business in many countries. Later, that led to more revolutions and war, finally leading to a much larger group of people being allowed in the brotherhood of equal citizens with political rights. Yet important elements of business life, such as land and many economic activities -- construction, health care, education -- remained in government and corporate hands. Before this long era of revolutions, which started in the eighteenth century and was sealed off by the first and second world wars, tax paying citizens, the king, church, and nobility owned these. The working class was excluded. After that revolution, they were transferred to the hands of public officials, banks, and idealistic corporations. As if no revolution ever happened. Now, formal citizenship means owning a passport, the right to vote, and speak your mind, but it still isn't the right to live and work in freedom. It isn't the true right of satisfying your own needs, because it doesn't include right of big ownership.

Okay. Maybe it's not entirely true, that right of ownership for the small man and woman was wholly ignored in history. Since Margaret Thatcher, it was recognized as such, but in many countries in the West, mainly in Europe, still not implemented. And in a sense that led to another dire problem, a problem the West denies having: Corruption.

Corruption

What is it? Generally we understand by this ugly phenomenon a money stream without a counter-performance, or only a vague, protective counter-performance. Usually it's levied by powerful organizations, with great force. It's a problem with two sides: Perversion and the tragedy of human weakness. Firstly, it should be reiterated, that people lack unlimited moral discipline. Also leaders. There hardly ever is a magical, omnipotent, infallible, prophetic leader. Certainly not the general manager of the bank office in Birmingham, or the Welfare office in Rochester, Washington, or Copenhagen. And certainly not the Minister of Finance in office from 2008 to 2012. They have a great freedom to act, and to determine which price ticket may be adhered to that decision or account. They also get severe criticism when their decision is wrong. Therefore, not many people wish a position like that. Candidates aren't easily found. Why is that? People are not cut out to fully represent a customer group of two million people, which is the case with corporations that handle other people's interest. Politicians are better protected than leaders of corporations. Kings and presidents don't decide on their own. At least that is a result of our violent history: A more democratic system under trias politica. We care for good morals in politics, but are indifferent to finance, in the West. So both their performance and their leaving can only be rewarded with a tremendous sum of money: The infamous bonus. Laid off, failed managers may have to literally run for their life, if they really screwed up. It means that not many people are willing to do the job. That makes a huge dismissal bonus inevitable.

There's another, perhaps more dangerous side to corruption, that we choose to wholly ignore, in the West. "Corruption exists only at the top", is the wishful thought. Thinking big didn't only lead to large corporations. It also led to large worker unions. How honest were they? Here in Europe, the demand is: "Now that I got in, you may never fire me, no matter how unneeded my presence is." Full job protection is demanding payment without performance. I hate to say it, but that's another face of corruption. No one is ever too small or too insignificant for being corrupt. How could it -- why would lower rank workers be less corrupt than top rank workers. The thought is, that the small person is seen as too incapable of managing his or her own interests, and that makes him or her automatically incapable of corruption.

Corporation, Liberalism, Neo-Liberalism, Bank, Insurance Company

Three other almost-swear words to the Western mind, when it comes to money and economics, are these: Corporation, liberalism, and bank. This is because they all have double, conflicting meanings. A corporation can be a large organization designed to serve self-interest. A large multinational company selling shampoos or computers can be such a corporation. It has become big, because many individual people choose to spend their money on the product -- a win - win situation, leading to natural growth. Or a corporation can be a large organization designed to serve other people's interest. A pension fund, a housing corporation, an office for social security benefits. This last category is the cause of a malfunctioning economy, because it usually isn't founded on a precisely measured current need. It is founded on political idealism and wants to easily levy and spend money on a not precisely measured current need. There are a lot of ifs and maybes. Yet, governments everywhere in the West have enabled this latter category of corporations to act on the market on their behalf, especially since the fall of Marxism. The thought was, that governments should no longer manage consumers' interests and that non-governmental organizations should. They are funded by compulsory member fees, or directly by tax money. Here, the disliked concept behind it is called "neo-liberalism". We forget, that under neo-liberalism we've really seen a resurrection of the feudal lords -- who we thought were dead and buried. Also in America! This is because the consumers still aren't allowed to independently manage their money and property on the fields these corporations work. After all, who is allowed to make their own retirement fund or buy some land and build a house for themselves? So liberalism has come to mean "non-governmental" instead of "free". Liberalism is seen as freedom on non-financial issues. In practice, there still is no leading concept for financial liberalism in the West.

Banks, Insurance Companies

They deserve their paragraph, because no creature in society is more contradictory and therefore more crippled by nature than they are. At least corporations, or, before, feudal estates, had some non-profit goal for the benefit of society. (That in practice they perish under their own heavy weight of profit gathering officials, is often seen as collateral damage, see above.) However, banks are corporations with a beneficiary goal for society and a profit goal. So on the one hand, they are supposed to lavishly and unselfishly spread their wealth, which they are supposed to gather back for their own good. Same goes for their protective function of other people's wealth versus their profit gain. Something obviously doesn't add up here. I'm not elaborating on the damage they caused here. The papers are filled with their sad story. Just this: Bankers and insurers freely play with other people's money as if they were non-profit corporations, yet they stumble upon the fact that their companies can go bankrupt, as private organizations. Since they manage so many people's money, the result of their collapse may ruin a large chunk of a nation's GNP. They must perform well. Truth is, we don't know how to define a proper role for money lenders in the West. They hold the most ungrateful scapegoat position in society, which may explain why especially "banker", or moneylender, traditionally weren't gladly sought-after, prestigious jobs.

Informality

This is the West's final, perhaps most disliked swearword. It's a sensitive concept, for it involves non-Western cultures, which are often more informally organized. Informality is an embellification of what is really meant: Backwardness, underdevelopment. Formalism requires, that the state has to organize economic life. Then it gets stranded in the impossibility of building an entire society on its own, with a few corporations as its only helpers. Society must be a well-polished, refined, designer table product. Even the smallest action must be planned and documented. Hoped is, that an ingenious water system emerges -- yet the bottleneck lies in the word "refined" versus "emerges". The West has always thought, that "technology" is the beautiful formal answer to the economic woes of the dispossessed masses. But what can technology do for them, if, every month, they have to pay a chunk of costs for services they'd better produce themselves, and they have been disabled to set up a livelihood the way they like? A big cost saver it would be, if we didn't have to pay rent, mortgage, social insurance and inheritance tax; could breed and produce our own poultry, solar energy, and more. It is possible--it just isn't allowed. In this country, it isn't. People shouldn't have to pay for corporations, which are merely politicians' whimsical inventions. "Informality" is often mentioned in one breath with "corruption", where it's usually assumed that "those people" are "through and through" corrupt. It's true, that a country like Egypt knows straightforward corruption. A customs officer at an airport may offer to carry your suitcase and ask a ten euro note, which he isn't allowed to do. But at least he carries your suitcase, doesn't he. Here, corruption usually is not connected to any service, and it's morally applauded under names as "workers' rights" or "risk charge."

A healthy society, that gives room to innovation, has a large chunk of informality. It is built by its inhabitants, and government has a supervisory function. Government sets rules and sanctions individuals who transgress. Government is there for those tasks that are too big or too dangerous for citizens to handle, such as long distance infrastructure, also for wild life; large scale environmental protection; water management, the military, protection against natural disaster, nuclear programs, or the most expensive and complicated health care programs. And government should be there for the weakest citizens who have no one to fend for them. Everything else should belong to personal responsibility. It means, that the public office can't decide for citizens how to take care of health issues, how to build a home or business. It should only act, when someone or something gets really hurt or damaged. It shouldn't automatically and beforehand act on every issue that arises -- which is the case now.


In this respect, I want to make a recommendation not everyone may like. The West should reconsider President Mugabe of Zimbabwe. The news reporters have burnt him down to the ground, to use a Dutchism. But someone should defend the principle he stands for, which has ensured him of re-election by his people. I hate the violence he used disowning white Zimbabweans. But he was right to disown them. Now, the large majority of Zimbabweans have their own land to support themselves with. He should, however, have granted white Zimbabweans their own, much smaller piece of land, because they are Zimbabwean citizens. In short, as a world community we shouldn't look at the West anymore as our moral compass. The West can't colonize the world anymore. It can only colonize Mars, for which plans are made now. But it will lead to the same problems as here, when (not if) those plans are feudal. The West must, like everybody else, learn to live within it's means and grant everybody economic freedom. Who is the West anyway? Does it exist at all. That brings me to a final conclusion.

There is no West

I think many people, no matter their background or skin color, see the West as their moral compass. Even in those countries and cultures, where people try to offer an alternative, such as Islamic countries. I remember an Egyptian businessman; he came with a remarkable saying: " The further North you go, the better it gets." Now, where is the world's superior Nordic nation? In Scandinavia? Or is it Siberia, Greenland? And why aren't Brazil or Chile ranked among the West, when their geographic position requires a long westward voyage from Amsterdam, and a sharp southward voyage from Oklahoma? And why isn't China seen as West. It's even further west, seen from Santiago the Chile. And the Chinese economy performs light years better than Amsterdam. And so do Japan. And maybe Brazil too. Could Western economic superiority be the last racist hurdle we still have to cross? This is where it all gets chaotic. It reminds me of Protestant churches in this country, whose bell towers are usually decorated with a wind vane, the top of which is decorated with a copper rooster, always facing towards the wind. Western superiority is like that rooster, fallen off during a storm, now trying to climb back, while all the other roosters just walk as they like.

Now, what do I want?

I want my true democratic right. This is what it means: Being able to say "Ffx$ solidarity and participation. I participate if I want, on a project that I choose. I want to turn my back on society, live like a hermit, if I want. I don't want to pay for a stranger's leaking roof, or his doctor bills. I hate groups anyway." Without the usual accusatory replies. I want to believe and speak as I want, which is allowed -- and I want economic freedom, which I'm deprived of now. Heavy taxation and compulsory solidarity payments to corporations have become yesterday's empty symbolic phetishes of a society that doesn't need them anymore, thanks to money creation. Finally, in a society where land and property have been returned to individual owners, where governments create money, money doesn't need to "circle" anymore. People can or cannot pay with money among each other. The amazing things is -- from then on it's possible to have one world currency only, as people can also pay with other means than the official currency. The one world currency could function as a credit card. It means the end of Keynesian slavery. I think this has some resemblance to how Italy works. Many highly innovative small-scale businesses, many private home owners, a small government, low taxes, and a huge government deficit. And Italy survives creatively.

That's how it's done.


Source:
The Official King James Bible Online