Showing posts with label metaphysics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label metaphysics. Show all posts

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Islam, Jesus, & the Cross

'And because of their saying: We slew the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, Allah's messenger - they slew him not nor crucified him, but it appeared so unto them; and lo! those who disagree concerning it are in doubt thereof; they have no knowledge thereof save pursuit of a conjecture; they slew him not for certain. But Allah took him up unto Himself. Allah was ever Mighty, Wise. There is not one of the People of the Scripture but will believe in him before his death, and on the Day of Resurrection he will be a witness against them -' (4:157-159)

Qur'an al Kerim denies here an important topic in Christianity: The Crucifixion of Jesus. What thoughts may this lead to?

Here's a quotation of Wikipedia, which mentions the best known Muslim replies to questions about Jesus' crucifixion:

'The issue of the crucifixion, death and resurrection of Jesus (Isa) is rejected by most Muslims, but similar to Christians they believe that Jesus ascended to heaven and will return before the end of time. Most Muslims believe Jesus was not crucified, but was raised bodily to heaven by God. The general Islamic view supporting the denial of crucifixion was possibly influenced by Manichaenism (Docetism), which holds that someone else was crucified instead of Jesus, while concluding that Jesus will return during the end-times.[1]:41

Depending on the interpretation of the following verse, Muslim scholars have abstracted different opinions. Some believe that in the Biblical account, Jesus's crucifixion did not last long enough for him to die, while others opine that God gave someone Jesus's appearance or someone else replaced Jesus and the executioners thought the victim was Jesus, causing everyone to believe that Jesus was crucified. A third explanation could be that Jesus was nailed to a cross, but as his soul is immortal he did not "die" or was not "crucified" [to death]; it only appeared so (this view is rare). In opposition to the second and third foregoing proposals, yet others maintain that God does not use deceit and therefore they contend that crucifixion just did not occur.'

Islam may have a 1 - 0 setback behind Christianity, because the Crucifixion is a well-documented event, with many witnesses. Even though not all their stories fully match. But any police officer can explain us, that this is a classic issue of eye witness accounts: Contradictions. On one topic, there's no contradiction: many people were witness of Jesus' death on the cross; the empty grave next day; his appearances later; his ascension to heaven. His followers died for this story at the hands of authorities who couldn't believe their story.

What would be my suggestion? How to deal with this difference between Bible and Qur'an?

We are nearly twenty centuries later now. We notice a difference between both stories, but in all honesty, we can't explain it. We have no forensic evidence. I'd say, there's only one possible attitude: 

Do not judge.

It's one word against the other. It's very well possible, there's been a switch of men, just before captivity. Allah swt is the almighty and is most sure capable to introduce a stand-in. This may be anyone, even an angel. We also know, Qur'an al Kerim contains verses of unspecific meaning, as is mentioned in verse 3:7. It is possible to believe, that indeed Jesus didn't die at the cross. None of us know for sure, what exactly happened. Both Bible and Qur'an give reports of miraculous events. It's not up to us to dismiss them without evidence. And evidence, we don't have -- in the scientific, forensic sense of the word. Qur'an al Kerim doesn't give enough detail to give a scientific report of events. Shouldn't that be enough to abstain from filling in gaps.

There's perhaps a second aspect. The Qur'anic text mentions 'they' and 'we' killed the Messiah. It could mean, that humans have no say in life and death. They lack the authority here to claim taking the life of this important messenger of Allah swt.

USCatholic.org: What do Muslims think of Jesus?







Monday, November 12, 2018

Socrate & Ethical Intellectualism

socrates-stelt-prangende-vraag
Socrates is the first well-documented Greek philosopher, no thanks to his own writing activity. He is known to have lived from 470 to 399 BC. His student Plato has carefully documented his words and methods. Socrates’ method was a radical breach with the past. Until then, philosophy’s interest was into explaining the cosmos through reason. Philosophers wanted to know our origine and made rational theories on the origin of matter, the celestial bodies and life. Sophism was the first school of thought to bring Greek philosophy to earth and teach people to form themselves a theory, about any topic at all, and propagate it to others with the use of convincing reason. Sophism lifted philosophy to a methodology at professional scholastic level and skipped the in their eyes unanswerable question concerning creation. Socrates was the first to make man center of philosophic interest. The main question for man to solve, is how to live a proper and responsible life. Important knowledge, therefore, is knowledge of man and society. Man has to ask himself firstly: How can you know anything, when you don’t know yourself?’ ‘Know yourself’, 'Gnote Sauton', was his first rule, for other knowledge comes from self-knowledge and who knows you, after all. 'The unexamined life is not worth living'. Wisdom is acquired self-knowledge. An important aspect of that, is knowing your own boundaries: Awareness of your own ignorance and the fields where knowledge is missing. Self-knowledge is the starting and reference point for any other gathering of knowledge. You must ask yourself questions and test the answers’ validity, firstly. Further knowledge comes from communicating with others, as a way to exchange your knowledge with other people’s knowledge. Your and other people’s knowledge must be mirrored and tested on its truthfulness and durability. Socrates' second rule, the Socratic Paradox, was that ‘the only thing I know is that I know nothing’ and from many detailed facts it is possible to work towards knowledge, a search method we call induction. Exchanging and thus gaining knowledge is made possible by asking the right questions through encouragement to carry on or to stop and sideway pushing with the right remarks. Socrates called this communication technique the midwive’s technique, maieutike techne; his mother and wife Xantippe both were midwives. Knowledge, according to Socrates, had to be authentic and his questions were only meant to test the solidity of acquired knowledge. Finding truth is possible by asking the right questions and in the process digging deeper into the subject by a new question following the answer. His technique of questioning people to test their knowledge has become known as the dialectic or Socratic dialogue. Socrates not only teached his students; he could be found in open air, having his dialogue with an audience, too. Socrates’ favorite topics were justice, self restraint, piety, bravery and wisdom. It is possible to find a general truth and ethical standards for human behavior, the ‘essentials’, by research on other people’s knowledge and behavior, and then, gathering the answers.
Through insight and knowledge, it is possible to find virtue, and virtue being a matter of intellect, can be achieved by everyone. This thinking is called ‘ethical intellectualism’. Virtue is not necessarily obedience to a good public rule. Virtue mainly is knowledge. When a person knows and understands what true virtue is, he may act within general principles, instead of self-interest. Socrates tried to make his students aware of their actions being self-interested, even though everybody agrees that the general interest has priority over self-interest. Goodness and virtue aren’t built on nice words by a clever spokesman, but on being shared by everyone. It is at the field of morality, that people have the least self-knowledge. The word-artists (the sophists!) have an easy job here in convincing others of their moral standard. Goodness and virtue come from a life of learning and teaching. Good people never stop learning and studying. Another part goodness is made of, is beauty. Masculine beauty and its benefits, lead to intellectual wisdom; feminine beauty similarly leads to a good body and thus to procreation, according to Socrates.
The ultimate goal of all action, according to Socrates, is finding happiness. If a student has gained enough knowledge of a desired goal, he or she is bound to act virtuously. Incorrect action is a consequence of insufficient knowledge of virtue. Virtue is, for both the state and the individual, the only way to happiness. Socrates did not believe in deliberate evil. Evil action comes from ignorance and everyone at least has the will to find out what is truly good for him or her. Truth is the same as goodness. The state must strive towards justice, not to power and wealth, and knowledge is the only guidance for just actions. Power without knowledge can only lead to unhappiness. ‘Ideals belong in a world only the wise man can understand’. Socrates finds it therefore necessary to elect leaders for their knowledge, not for their wealth of descent, and the ordinary civilian lacks the knowledge to elect competent leaders. Socrates disapproved of any state system, all of them giving no answer to who might possess the most intellectual baggage for leadership. Philosophers should govern the state.
Athens those days experimented with democracy. However, a true democracy, it was not. Women, slaves and foreigners (they might be Greeks from outside Athens) were excluded from the right to vote in the general assembly (the Ekklesia), an institution which existed since it was founded by statesman Clisthenes (ca 570 – 507 BC). Men and women leaded secluded lives and erotic relations between boys and young men were more or less approved of. Finding beauty and wisdom among men, had educational intellectual worth, provided a man was not ‘enslaved’ by his physical ‘passions’. After marriage, men had to find physical beauty in women. Procreation was seen as an important part of that. Homosexual relations among adult men met more disapproval. However, pederastic relations between adult men (eromenos) and boys (erastes) were commonplace and were considered a patronage relation. Nowadays, in modern standards, we would recognize aspects of prostitution in them. Socrates and his students lived in this world and are known to have made approving comments on homosexuality. Sexuality, even masturbation, were displayed more openly in Ancient Greece, than after the arrival of Christianity. Slavery was another part of a natural and ethical world order. A slave could be as noble as a free man, but human relations are naturally determined by dominance; some people are braver and stronger and, therefore, are able to provide patronage to others. In Classical Greece, slavery gained a formal absolute status. Socrates and Aristoteles both made acquiescenting comments on the phenomenon. Freedom of religion only went so far. The state religion allowed for non-dogmatic and equal worship of several deities, mostly ancient traditional deities, among whom important leaders and thinkers, to be allowed into the ‘pantheon’, the temple for all religions. But, it was not allowed to either reject a deity or introduce a new one without official consent, or reject the pantheon itself. Many a philosopher was put to trial and banned or executed. This fate also fell on Socrates. He was accused of rejecting the city’s gods, introducing new deities and rejecting Athens' democratic institutions. Socrates was not a man to run from civil law he had paid allegiance to. As a consistent thinker, he saw it as his moral duty to undergo the verdict, which he could have avoided through many legal channels. So, finally, he was executed.
Socrates’ sayings were recorded by his students, mostly Plato, but also by Xenophon, Aristotle and Aristophanes. It is uncertain, how reliable their accounts are; it is said, that some writings reflect the ideas, admiration or criticism of the authors, rather than Socrates’ exact words.
Also today, universities and institutions in the western world like to work within Socrates' principle. They use his name in their programs. The Socratic dialogue is anything but obsolete. Institutions say, it can bring awareness, that learning should last a lifetime and never finishes -- an attitude greatly appreciated also nowadays. A new aspect, however, is democratisation of knowledge. A quote of a teacher site at Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Universiteit van Amsterdam, and Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences has said: ‘Socratic method is not the art of teaching philosophy, but of teaching how to do philosophy; it's not the art of teaching about philosophers, but to make pupils into philosophers’ (Leonard Nelson) This teacher, Kristof van Rossem, offers training courses in Socratic Dialogues on many institutions over Europe, as many others do. Van Rossem thinks, the Socratic dialogue is a good tool at school, even primary schools, as it stimulates citizenry in young people: A good citizen actively participates in a society based on knowledge and professionalism. A teacher as leader of a Socratic dialogue is rather a stimulating, democratic facilitator than an expert who brings dogmatic knowledge. Van Rossem mentions several differences between a discussion and a dialogue, the first being ‘aimed at shaking out, it is rhetoric, aimed at decisions and actions, judging, attacking and defending, going for your own right, convincing, taking a standpoint, defensive or offensive in attitude, answering; it's speed and individualism oriented’. A dialogue would be ‘aimed at knowing via, be dialectic, aimed at insight in the value of judgements; suspending judgements, investigating and checking, wanting to know the truth, investigation, listening to yourself and others, attitude of taking the other’s point of view, questioning, slowness and community oriented’.
A next question could be: is any part of Islamic revelation suited for a Socratic dialogue? 

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Reputed Names of Greek Scientists and Philosophers Known in the Prophet’s Era

griekse-filosofie-versimpeld-neergezet

The realms of knowledge and science necessary to understand Islam, are not only traditional and historic knowledge. In my view, philosophy, law, linguistics and natural science are perhaps more important. History and tradition are the background to the rise of Islam; philosophy, law, linguistics and natural science, deal with the content of the message itself. First three aspects are more important than the latter, natural science, to everyday worhip. But, in the modern era, scientific findings on natural phenomena have been successfully used to prove the truthfulness of Islam. The message of Islam covers many fields. For a better understanding, it's helpful, to have at least some knowledge of philosophy, law, linguistics, and science.

The very first Greek philosophers

Greece was an early starter in scientific development. Thales, Socrates, Plato and Aristotle are leading names. Natural science was approached through the perspective of philosophy and its deductive methods. However, Aristotle (384 – 322 BC) introduced induction in the sense of observation of visible reality. Experimentation played no role yet; also Aristotle’s approach remained within the boundaries of philosophy. Thales (624 – 546 BC) was perhaps the first and founding Greek philosopher. He was interested in water and could predict sun eclipses by calculation. In his view, water was the most elementary principle of the universe and everything originates from water. Thales was famous for his arithmetic skills. According to Greek tradition, he had visited Egypt and re-taught the Egyptians to calculate the height of their pyramids by the size of their shadows. Other big names are Anaximandros (585 – 525 BC) who thought of the indefinite (apeiron), the one elementary substance out of which everything has come forth, without beginning, end or time and producing hot and cold, dry, humid and any other polarity or contradistinction; and Demokritos (app. 460 – 380/370 BC). Demokritos who was the first to think of a theory on atomic particles in which a fabric’s structure was determined by differences in ranking, shape and size of these atoms. His theory is named Atomism: The theory that says, that all materials are made of innumerable indivisable particles: a-tomos (‘indivisable’). Indian Buddhists have largely contributed to Atomism. They thought, that atoms flash into and out of existence; teachings that seem to be confirmed in western science (Heisenberg’s probability principle). An important axiom in atomism is metaphysical nihilism: If only atoms exist, discriminate objects don’t really exist, or they are not vital. Everything is one coherent set of particles. Therefore, objects themselves don't interact with us; we only observe their effects on us. We perceive honey as sweet, but sweetness itself, doesn't exis, and our senses aren't reliable enough to genuinely and objectively observe sweetness. Democritus said: 'By convention sweet, by convention bitter, by convention hot, by convention cold, by convention color: in reality atoms and the void.'

Atomism, has a natural and a philosophical dimension. In those days, like in the Prophet’s era, the philosophical aspect was the focus of interest. Topics that may be of interest to science were part of religious considerations. But, experiments in the realm of natural science were not yet practised. Cosmology was perhaps the most important focus of interest during the Antiquity. Trying to explain the mechanism of the cosmos was to be done through reason mainly. However, observation also played a big role to some thinkers. Observation of celestial bodies had led to outstanding knowledge on astronomy in several parts of the known world, and this knowledge had become a solid fundament to many religious practices.

These first Greek philosophers defined many of our present notions on being and motion. The Elea-School, Eleatism, developed the idea of reality as 'being in space': nothing cannot be; any substance or idea exists in feasible, tangible space. Its main representant was Parmenides (540 or 515 BC – ca 450 BC?); his main axiom was ‘For never shall this prevail, that things that are not, are’, meaning that the opposite between being and non-being is non-existent. There is no nothingness and everything exists in the spatial sphere, even ideas originate from tangible substance. Even thinking is part of being and Parmenides said ‘thinking and being are one and the same’. Another school of thought was the theory that ‘everything streams and nothing lasts’, ‘panta rhei kai ouden menei’. The Eleatists believed in a permanent static being, Heraclitus believed more or less the opposite; he believed in perpetual change and movement. ‘The world is the same for everyone, it was not created by men or gods, it is and will be an everlasting fire, flaming up or damping down. Heraclitus saw fire as the basic element, Parmenides water, Anaximenes air and Xenophanes earth and water.

A third important school of philosophy was Sophism. The sophists were the first professional philosophers; they made philosophy a paid teaching job, trying to teach others the art of argumentation and discussion. Every person has his own opinions, no one can decide which opinion is true, there are no absolute fundamentals in the universe that can be found or discovered, and the effort to do so, is basically waste of time. Knowledge comes to us through observation, and worldly success and satifaction are the best achievement human beings may reach -- not truth.

A famous fourth school of thought, inspiration to philosophers as Parmenides, Empedocles, Philolaus and Plato, was Pythagorism. Pythagoras was a mystic thinker and a mathematician, but left no writings. Pythagoras and his companions were a small and close knit community with their own way of life, which even fell victim to persecution. Their theory was, says Aristoteles, ‘that numbers constitute the true nature of things and numbers have borders, the same way as objects have. Emptiness is the border between things or numbers. Emptiness exists and pervades heaven from an indefinite breath – it breathes, as it were, into the emptiness. Emptiness differentiates the nature of things; it differentiates and distinguishes successive names and terminology in a series. This, firstly, happens for numbers, as emptiness distinguishes their nature’. Emptiness, ‘apeiron‘, is indefinite and perpetual and inspires reality: The definite and finite, ‘peiron‘, the cosmos, its nature and distinguishes it from other definites and finites, other objects, forms, ‘things’. This inspiration of apeiron into peiron, makes the world a mathematical place. Purely in a mathematical way, the continuum of numbers and the domain of reality, the cosmos, are a play of form and emptiness and its rules are, that it must happen in a harmonious fashion. This harmony-principle distinguishes Pythagorism from the older theory by Anaximandros and the Elea School. Pythagoras has also, in the same line of thinking, commented on sound and tone height. Pythagoras is famous for his calculation method of triangle line lengths, the Pythagoras axiom, which some say was derived from ancient Egyptian calculations used for the construction of their pyramids, but no proof of such do we have. Others say, he may have derive his theorem on right-angled triangles, a2+b2=c2, from the Indian mathematician Baudhayana (800 BC). One of Pythagoras’ students, Alcmaeon, a philosopher and medical thinker, said that ‘we don’t think with our blood, the air or fire -- it is our brain that enables us to think, smell and see. From there, we form our thinking and opinion, and then our knowledge. As long as the brain isn’t damaged, man has his senses and herewith, I confirm that it is our brain that makes the mind speak’.

Even the evolution theory had its predecessor in ancient Greece: Empedocles (ca 492 BC – ca 432 BC). Empedocles was, among others, a doctor, poet, teacher in philosophy, and statesman, born in Sicily. He held the strong belief, that everything has emerged from the four elements earth, air, water and fire, through the two opposing elemental powers he called love and hatred, in a random perpetual flow of mixture and seperation, like mixing colors of paint. Love is the building power and hatred the destructive power. Only the strongest combinations could survive. Empedocles also believed, like Parmenides, that the cosmos is eternal; has always been present, and that no material goes missing. Empedocles called God ‘a circle the middle of which is everywhere and its periphery nowhere’. Aristotle later adopted most of Empedocles’ theory.

Sources and further reading:
Anacharsis, Demokritos, Scepticism, Atomism

Friday, November 3, 2017

Jesus and Trinity

Many of the World's religions, have, at least, some kind of monotheistic view on God, but it's a complicated multiplicity. God may have several personifications or manifestations, even when only one and the same god and creator is referred to. People have tried it, but haven't found out, whether their definition or concept was right. I'll try to give some kind of comparative parable and start with Christianity.

The Bible defines God as one true god, made up of three individuals: God the Father, the Son Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. Here's a compilation of relevant Biblical verses: Genesis 1:1-2; 1 Corinthians 8:6; 1 Corinthians 12:4-6; 2 Corinthians 3:17; 2 Corinthians 13:14; 2 Corinthians 1:21-22; Colossians 1:15-17; Colossians 2:9; Isaiah 9:6; Isaiah 44:6; John 1:14; John 10:30; John 10:30-36; John 14:9-11; John 14:16-17;  1 John 5:7-8; Luke 1:35; Luke 3:21-22; Matthew 1:23; Matthew 3:16-17; Matthew 28:19; Romans 14:17-18; 1 Peter 1:1-2; Ephesians 4:4-6; and Philippians 2:5-8. God the Son, the Lord Jesus, wasn't just Prophet Jesus during his lifetime. The Bible says, there's 'one God, the Father from whom all things came and for whom we live', and there's 'one Lord, Jesus Christ, from whom all things came and for whom we live':

'For there are three that testify, the Spirit, the water, and the blood, and the three are in agreement.'
(1 John 5:7-8)

'I and the Father are one.' (John 10:30)

31 Again his Jewish opponents picked up stones to stone him, 32 but Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?” 33 “We are not stoning you for any good work,” they replied, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.” 34 Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are “gods”’[a]? 35 If he called them ‘gods,’ to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be set aside— 36 what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’?' (John 10:30-36)

15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:15-17)

According Christianity, Jesus now sits at God the Father's right hand, next to His throne:

And he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. (Luke 24:50-51)

(He) who has gone into heaven and xis at the right hand of God, ywith angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him. (Peter: 3:22)

If I may take some liberty, while avoiding dogmatism ~ I'd say, Christian Trinity may best be explained as the devine force, the devine wisdom, and the devine creation, if we see devine creation as perpetual matter, and God as living and working within creation, with His wisdom. In this case, it's impossible to separate God, devine force, and devine creation from each other. The Son, the Father, and the holy Spirit are the same and forever. Also Jesus is forever, and, also today, very much alive. For me, it makes sense to see Jesus as creation as a whole, the universe. Then, also Eucharist makes sense, because the bread and the wine are part of Jesus, as much as is the rest of creation.

Jesus will return, says the Bible, and at His arrival, Resurrection starts:

'For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.' (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17)

'... and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you.' (2 Thessalonians 1:7-10)

Islam doesn't recognize Trinity. Islam sees God as the perpetual creative force behind creation and the holy Spirit. This, because creation is a systematic structure of separate items, each with a temporary lifespan; they all are, directly or indirectly, made by God, even if people, or other creatures, function as productive intermediaries. They are God's protected property. God doesn't resemble creation in any way imaginable. To humans, and other creatures, creation and the holy spirit are tools, and a tool has to answer to God the same way as that humans have to.  Qur'an looks at creation as Allah SWT's immediate property, directly linked to Him. Thus, it's not possible to worship creation. Creatures are created to serve, not worship, each other. Reality is, that people are inclined to worship one item, or a person in creation, as a God, or manifestation of God. This would injustly favor one creature over other creatures, or a human-made concept, and that would create chaos, unjustified competition that's bound to be lost by the human-made god figure, or distortion. It would cause a wound to it all. Jesus was elavated alive, towards Allah, in heaven, without being crucified. Note well, that Jesus, Isa, is the only living prophet, now. The Holy Spirit is God's wisdom, which is revealed in the scriptures, including Qur'an; to the prophets, including Mohammad; and to the faithful. Qur'an al Kerim says:

'Allah! There is no God save Him, the Alive, the Eternal. Neither slumber nor sleep overtaketh Him. Unto Him belongeth whatsoever is in the heavens and whatsoever is in the earth. Who is he that intercedeth with Him save by His leave? He knoweth that which is in front of them and that which is behind them, while they encompass nothing of His knowledge save what He will. His throne includeth the heavens and the earth, and He is never weary of preserving them. He is the Sublime, the Tremendous.' (2:255)

'And because of their saying: We slew the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, Allah's messenger - they slew him not nor crucified him, but it appeared so unto them; and lo! those who disagree concerning it are in doubt thereof; they have no knowledge thereof save pursuit of a conjecture; they slew him not for certain. But Allah took him up unto Himself. Allah was ever Mighty, Wise. There is not one of the People of the Scripture but will believe in him before his death, and on the Day of Resurrection he will be a witness against them -' (4:157-159)

'O People of the Scripture! Do not exaggerate in your religion nor utter aught concerning Allah save the truth. The Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, was only a messenger of Allah, and His word which He conveyed unto Mary, and a spirit from Him. So believe in Allah and His messengers, and say not "Three" - Cease! (it is) better for you! - Allah is only One God. Far is it removed from His transcendent majesty that He should have a son. His is all that is in the heavens and all that is in the earth. And Allah is sufficient as Defender. The Messiah will never scorn to be a slave unto Allah, nor will the favoured angels. Whoso scorneth His service and is proud, all such will He assemble unto Him; ...' (4:171-172)

'They surely disbelieve who say: Lo! Allah is the Messiah, son of Mary. The Messiah (himself) said: O Children of Israel, worship Allah, my Lord and your Lord. Lo! whoso ascribeth partners unto Allah, for him Allah hath forbidden paradise. His abode is the Fire. For evil-doers there will be no helpers. They surely disbelieve who say: Lo! Allah is the third of three; when there is no God save the One God. If they desist not from so saying a painful doom will fall on those of them who disbelieve. Will they not rather turn unto Allah and seek forgiveness of Him? For Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. The Messiah, son of Mary, was no other than a messenger, messengers (the like of whom) had passed away before him. And his mother was a saintly woman. And they both used to eat (earthly) food. See how We make the revelations clear for them, and see how they are turned away! Say: Serve ye in place of Allah that which possesseth for you neither hurt nor use? Allah it is Who is the Hearer, the Knower. Say: O People of the Scripture! Stress not in your religion other than the truth, and follow not the vain desires of folk who erred of old and led many astray, and erred from a plain road.' (5:72-77)

'Say: The holy Spirit hath revealed it from thy Lord with truth, that it may confirm (the faith of) those who believe, and as guidance and good tidings for those who have surrendered (to Allah). (102) And We know well that they say: Only a man teacheth him. The speech of him at whom they falsely hint is outlandish, and this is clear Arabic speech.' (16:102-103)

'They will ask thee concerning the Spirit. Say: The Spirit is by command of my Lord, and of knowledge ye have been vouchsafed but little. (85) And if We willed We could withdraw that which We have revealed unto thee, then wouldst thou find no guardian for thee against Us in respect thereof. (86) (It is naught) save mercy from thy Lord. Lo! His kindness unto thee was ever great. (87) Say: Verily, though mankind and the jinn should assemble to produce the like of this Qur'an, they could not produce the like thereof though they were helpers one of another.' (17:85-90)
'And she (Maryam) who was chaste, therefor We breathed into her (something) of Our Spirit and made her and her son a token for (all) peoples.' (21:91)

Allah hath not chosen any son, nor is there any God along with Him; else would each God have assuredly championed that which he created, and some of them would assuredly have overcome others. Glorified be Allah above all that they allege. Knower of the Invisible and the Visible! and Exalted be He over all that they ascribe as partners (unto Him)! (23:90-91)

Lo! Allah is the Knower of the Unseen of the heavens and the earth. Lo! He is Aware of the secret of (men's) breasts. He it is Who hath made you regents in the earth; so he who disbelieveth, his disbelief be on his own head. Their disbelief increaseth for the disbelievers, in their Lord's sight, naught save abhorrence. Their disbelief increaseth for the disbelievers naught save loss. Say: Have ye seen your partner-gods to whom ye pray beside Allah? Show me what they created of the earth! Or have they any portion in the heavens? Or have We given them a scripture so they act on clear proof therefrom? Nay, the evil-doers promise one another only to deceive. Lo! Allah graspeth the heavens and the earth that they deviate not, and if they were to deviate there is not one that could grasp them after Him. Lo! He is ever Clement, Forgiving. (35:38-41)

'When thy Lord said unto the angels: Lo! I am about to create a mortal out of mire, (71) And when I have fashioned him and breathed into him of My Spirit, then fall down before him prostrate,' (38:72)

'The Exalter of Ranks, the Lord of the Throne. He casteth the Spirit of His command upon whom He will of His slaves, that He may warn of the Day of Meeting, ...' (40:15)

'And thus have We inspired in thee (Muhammad) a Spirit of Our command. Thou knewest not what the Scripture was, nor what the Faith. But We have made it a light whereby We guide whom We will of Our bondmen. And lo! thou verily dost guide unto a right path, (52) The path of Allah, unto Whom belongeth whatsoever is in the heavens and whatsoever is in the earth. Do not all things reach Allah at last.' (42:52-53)

'Were We then worn out by the first creation? Yet they are in doubt about a new creation. We verily created man and We know what his soul whispereth to him, and We are nearer to him than his jugular vein. When the two Receivers receive (him), seated on the right hand and on the left, He uttereth no word but there is with him an observer ready.' (50:15-18)

'Thou wilt not find folk who believe in Allah and the Last Day loving those who oppose Allah and His messenger, even though they be their fathers or their sons or their brethren or their clan. As for such, He hath written faith upon their hearts and hath strengthened them with a Spirit from Him, and He will bring them into Gardens underneath which rivers flow, wherein they will abide. Allah is well pleased with them, and they are well pleased with Him. They are Allah's party. Lo! is it not Allah's party who are the successful?' (58:22)

'On the day when the angels and the Spirit stand arrayed, they speak not, saving him whom the Beneficent alloweth and who speaketh right. That is the True Day. So whoso will should seek recourse unto his Lord.' (78:38-39)

'Say: He is Allah, the One! Allah, the eternally Besought of all! He begetteth not nor was begotten. And there is none comparable unto Him.' (112:1-4)

There is a disclaimer ~ Thank God, it's not up to us, to decide whether the difference between Bible and Quran is only words and naming, or whether there's a genuine difference in meaning. I'd say, Qur'an and Bible describe God and His creation as one cluster, created in wisdom, but the Bible gives a bigger place to Jesus, 'Isa. There's no compulsion in religion, because we can't picture or perceive God. Allah SWT knows, and we don't. We can let loose reason on the unseen, but miss observation to back up our reasoning. This isn't always necessary, when logic is used properly. But in this case, our logic can't reach far enough to get to the truth. And, it's better to live and let live, instead of trying to falsify religious teachings about their very core. Nevertheless, what's my conclusion? Islam, accepts only one, unambiguous God. God has defined creation, but not the other way round.

Both the Bible and Qur'an say, Jesus is alive and in heaven now and, at the Day of Resurrection, Jesus will testify for, or against, each one of us. Jesus' present and future role matters, to those who believe. Qur'an and Bible resemble, and should be taken at heart, though we may question Trinity.

Sources:
Bible Study Tools https://www.biblestudytools.com/topical-verses/bible-verses-about-the-trinity/
Quran Explorer http://www.quranexplorer.com/quran/
GotQuestions.org https://www.gotquestions.org/Jesus-in-Heaven.html
BibleInfo.com http://www.bibleinfo.com/en/topics/second-coming-jesus#when
BibleGateway.com https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2+Thessalonians+1%3A7-10




Thursday, June 11, 2015

Have any deviant Qur’anic texts existed?

portalunescoorg-yemen

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


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

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

projekte


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

Thursday, May 28, 2015

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

la-ilaha-illaallah

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

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

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

shahada-fout-uitgelegd

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