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 












Thursday, April 16, 2015

'Shiites have older credentials than Sunnis'

la-ilaha-illaallah

inscriptie-imam-ali-moskee
Dutch Christian newspaper Trouw had a speculative series on critical Islam researchers and their ‘spectacular’ questions on the early days of Islam, several years ago. Here follows a translation of an article by Eildert Mulder claiming that Shiites, not Sunnis, possess the oldest Islam and then my reaction. I wrote it in online newspaper Nieuwsfeit.nl, several years ago. (The article isn't there anymore.)
Eildert Mulder says:
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 British in India, the Dutch in Indonesia, the French in Northern and West 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 appearing. That gives the Shiite ‘addition’ another dimension. The linguistic phenomenon of an adjective changing into a first name in people’s experience may have happend 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, and 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 times 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, that it 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, 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. Later, 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 the concept of 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 became 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 ‘constitutional 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 reasons, the 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 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, it cannot be imposed upon us to follow a maddhab and pledge it an oath of allegiance. 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 overstated status of the Imams.
Main Sunni criticism, however, deals with the misunderstandings concerning ‘Ali’s caliphate. Shiites are not justified to suppose ‘Ali ra receiving not enough honorable credit in Sunni Islam. ‘Ali was made caliph and belongs to the four righteous caliphs. He does receive 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 state 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 a few hours of reading material.
Patricia Crone seems to ignore that Sunni development took another path after ‘Ali’s death than Shiite development. 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 caliphs, who swiftly succeeded each other. Already early in their history, the eleventh caliphate was finished. The twelfth caliph, whom they await now, disappeared as a child in 941 AD and will return one day. However, their caliphate era had indeed ended then. This is how caliphate ended.
Whoever likes to read more of Trouw’s unrealistic and 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 which evidence, especially when we check Shiite statements, where Ali and his sons were not seen as prophets:
Imam Hussain
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. Ahlulbait Jongeren.
It is fascinating, nice, 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 oral and writing witnesses, plus, many of the Prophet’s and his near companions’ personal belongings have been carefully conserved. It is hard fighting such large legacy, and 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                                                              
http://www.trouw.nl/

How Some in the West like to lash back: the Prophet Muhammad never existed: Eildert Mulder, John Wansbrough, Yehuda Nevo, Judith Koren, Abu Zeid

de-quran-blijft-altijd

Columnist Eildert Mulder wrote 12 April 2006 in Dutch on (and off-)line Christian newspaper Trouw that Prophet Muhammad pbuh never existed, according ‘dissident Islam experts’. Any solid evidence for this claim is missing, however. These claims are real old news, but annoyingly enough this newspaper, which is widely read in the Netherlands, tried to revitalise their own urban legend to this effect. Their columnist Eildert Mulder, no relative, said, that 'Muhammad' was an honorary title for Jesus, and not a name. He also said, that the prophet Muhammad hadn't existed. Here follows a translation from Dutch of my own responsive article in online newspaper Nieuwsfeit, 2006:
Friend and foe of Islam agree on one thing: That Islam existed in the seventh century AD and that the religion had as good as reached its final shape. Opinions differ, says Mulder, on the period in between: seventh until ninth century. German author Christoph Luxenberg, who is often quoted in Trouw, also in other articles, would have said that Qur’an has ’emerged’ from a ‘lengthy’ process, at least a century would have lapsed between the ‘Meccan’ and ‘Medina’ era. This same Eildert Mulder says, however, two weeks later, on 5 May, that this Mr Luxenberg has claimed that Qur’an al Kerim has been copied from a ‘pre-Qur’an’ in Aramaic and that therefore ‘many Aramaic words’ appear. And on 26 April he said that Qur’an ‘according to Luxenberg’ must have emerged in the fifth century AD. No evidence of these ‘pre-qur’ans’ has been presented. It sounds contradictory at first sight, as Aramaic is an ancient Semitic  language which lived and lives in the northern Arabic countries, being Syria, Lebanon, Palestine and also in Irak. The language has existed thousands of years and in its glory days it was court language of the Babylonian Empire and lost its importance after 200 AD. Luxenberg, however, appears to have kindred spirits who try to elaborate on the Aramaic story line. The American author John Wansbrough says that Qur’an al Kerim is an adapted scripture of a Jewish-Christian sect and that Muhammad is a fabricated figure and according to this mr Wansborough, too, Qur’an would have emerged in a centuries long process. Egyptian professor Abu Zeid, teaching in a Netherlands university, is said to be among his followers, according Wikipedia. If such is the case, this kind of opinions will gain unassailable status among the Dutch. However, the words by a refugee from a country with questionable governance need not necessarily be true. Nevertheless: on first hearing one might think: plausible, if it weren’t that quite a lot of Qur’anic contend differs from Biblical text and this alone makes such statement hard to believe.
Mulder shows his true colors when we see the evidence he produces for his theory. What is it that he says? ‘Luxenberg and Wansbrough are supported by archeology. Israeli archeologists Yehuda Nevo and Judith Koren investigated religious writings on buildings. It appears that more than a century after Muhammad died, according to biographers, that the official inscriptions are clearly Islamic ones. The writing of ordinary people in caves follow this development some forty years later.’ We call such writings graffiti. These two published their conclusions in the book ‘Crossroads to Islam’. What must those inscriptions prove? For a starter, that Muhammad hasn’t existed. The Caliphs, however, have existed and fabricated a carefully orchestrated publicity campaign where the name ‘Muhammad’ was introduced. A lengthy text in Jerusalem’s Dome of the Rock was its first proof, say Nevo and Koren; at that time the slogan ‘Praiseworthy is God’s Messenger’ was introduced. Trouw readers are familiar with the paper’s view that the name Muhammad is not the Prophet’s own first name, but an honorary title meaning ‘praiseworthy’. Mulder goes a step further by adding, not hindered by any academic standards such as proof, that the rest of the text in the Dome ‘further writes about Jesus only’. We may wonder why. Based on other articles from his hand, this seems unlikely. Nevo and Koren, too, call this inscription in the Dome of the Rock a ‘good summary of Jewish-Christian religion’. As long as we confine ourselves to these generals, nothing can be said to discredit that, Qur’an itself confirms that ‘this Scripture was brought as a confirmation of the previous one’. Open door kicked open, but no proof of Muhammad’s non-existence. Nevo and Koren said further that the East-Roman empire gladly and voluntarily surrendered its possessions in the Middle East to the Arabs, which enabled them to build the Dome of the Rock. It wasn’t until later that the Arabs were expelled by the East-Roman Empire towards Syria, whence they could pass on their Bible knowledge to the Arabs.
The truth, however, is that not one single archeological finding, nor any literature from that era, is able to prove a fabricated marketing tool in the sense of a ‘product Prophet Muhammad’. This much Trouw cannot but, and does, admit. More so: the found cave writings and paintings seem to confirm that an Islamic presence has been present in the Negev Desert just after the Prophet’s death. As ahadith already state, when they narrate the conquests made under the four righteous Caliphs.
Eildert Mulder's article appeared in Dutch newspaper Trouw, on 12 April 2006. Apparently, it's
 not available anymore. However, Mulder has written a book on the subject, called 'De omstreden bronnen van de Islam', 'The questionable sources of Islam', may be available at GoodReads.com.

Professor Abu Zeid is deceased now.

Stuff like this, inspired me to start a blog on Islam, a few years ago. It disappoints me, why westerners have such hard time reading the Qur'an's contents objectively, without cultural and local coloring, and without competitive edge. I've read several westerners claiming, that Islam is a rewrite of the Bible or of Persian and Greek philosophy. They think, that Qur'an is no renewal at all. I've tried to compare Qur'anic texts with other ancient texts; a lengthy task, that is by no means finished yet. It may take me several more years of interesting read, of which the outcome isn't pre-set.

Source:
http://www.Trouw.nl 2006
http://hajarmulder.wordpress.com