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:
‘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:
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).”
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:
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
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:
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:
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:
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:
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
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?