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 Popp, Online 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.
'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
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?