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Comparisons: ISIS and WBC, KKK

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- humor, comparison, elucidation, analytic necessity, apocalyptic, and the matter of the Mardin fatwa ]
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SPEC ISIS WBC KKK

For many Muslims, these two comparisons explain simply and effectively just how divergent from their understanding of Islam the jihadists are.

This in no way takes away from the idea that if we are to understand IS and AQ, we need to consider their nature as specifically “end times” driven religious movements.

For the point of divergence, I recommend Sh. Hamza Yusuf‘s comments on the “Mardin Fatwa” of Ibn Taymiyya, in this clip from his address in Oxford’s Sheldonian:

I’d be interested in further details / discussion on the Mardin fatwa topic.

**

Sources:

  • Yasira Jaan, tweet
  • Clay Jones, Claytoon
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    Some wrenchingly sad news, 2: nuanced theological implications

    Wednesday, September 17th, 2014

    [ by Charles Cameron -- some surprising twists here, if you think of IS as entirely lacking compassion or religious and moral consideration ]
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    I am going to take the religious issues out of their original order to create a smoother reading experience with regard to the theological surprises in Barber’s article.

    Barber’s perplex:

    I have also been perplexed by the question of IS’ methods and behavior and have felt a need to understand the fact that they work according to specific ideals and a strict religious code for behavior, yet often seem to act outside of what such a code would permit. They are not alien creatures but human agents with aspirations of state building who even demonstrate acts of compassion.

    Once again, religion turns out to be crucial to a full understanding.

    We tend to treat IS — not surprisingly considering their barrage of beheadings videos and other publicized horrors on social media — as utterly unconstrained thugs and brutes. There’s no denying the brutalities, but a more sophisticated reading finds some relevant background in Abu Bakr Naji‘s book, The Management of Savagery, as Will McCants, lately of CTC West Point and now at Brookings, explains.

    Booty, both literal and metaphorical:

    First, it is worth noting that the taking of captured women as slaves / booty does have religious precedent:

    The philosophy underpinning the taking of Yazidi slaves is based in IS’ interpretation of the practices of Muslim figures during the early Islamic conquests, when women were taken as slave concubines—war booty—from societies being conquered.

    It’s hideous, it’s “medieval” if you like that term, but it does have arguable religious precedent.

    People of the Book vs Polytheists:

    Taking the brutality as a given, then, what are we to make of the preferential treatment afforded Christians vis-à-vis Yazidis?

    Though they have robbed them of their wealth, IS has not targeted the Christian community in the same way that they have the Yazidis. As “People of the Book,” Christians are seen as having certain rights; Yazidis, however, are viewed by IS as polytheists and are therefore seen as legitimate targets for subjugation and enslavement, if they do not convert to Islam.

    Acts of Compassion:

    This is perhaps the aspect of Barber’s piece which is most unexpected, and as such deserves our consideration. It is a part of the puzzle, after all is said and done, and our reflexive disgust at the many other brutalities of IS should not blind us to it:

    Christians who fled one Iraqi town described to me how IS fighters provided food for their elderly and disabled Christian relatives who were not able to flee, and then later transported them to an area near Kirkuk where they would be able to rejoin their relatives.

    The question:

    Barber poses the question — to himself, to the analytic community, and to all of us:

    How are we to reconcile these humane instances of goodwill with the apparent criminality and destruction that is so pervasive with IS?

    The answer:

    The answer is not yet in:

    Many discussions will continue regarding the similarities and differences between IS’ methods and the actual practice of the early Islamic community. Historical context will be discussed by scholars, and God’s intentions will be parsed out by those with a theological bent.

    The situation, therefore:

    But regardless of how our contemporaries interpret the past, IS’ attempts to recreate and relive a period in which slaves were taken in war have shattered families that now reel in pain after their children have been snatched away from them.

    The imperative:

    The imperative to relieve such gross suffering, if it is possible to do so without causing suffering that is even greater in so doing, is the topic of the third and last post in this series, in which I’ll post extracts of Barber’s assessment of the possibility of rescue.

    There is hope here, amid all the suffering and hate.

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    Sheikh Imran Hosein on Islamic Apocalyptic, sorta

    Sunday, September 7th, 2014

    [ by Charles Cameron -- shifting the eschatological focus from Syria to Ukraine, with thanks to Stephanie ]
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    Stephanie Chenault pointed those of us who follow her FB page to an amazing video by Sheikh Imran Hosein, of whom I have written more than once [eg: 1, 2]:

    **

    Here’s a taste…

    We are now moving towards the Malhama (Great War) prophesied by Nabi Muhammad (Sallallaahu ‘Alaihi Wasallam). If you do not have Islamic Eschatology (knowledge of the end times) you will go to work in the morning, face the morning traffic, come home in the evening, face the evening traffic, have your Biriyani for dinner, watch TV until you go to sleep. And you will have absolutely no knowledge whatsoever that you are standing on the door of the Malhama (Great war/World War 3); that’s where we are today with our scholars of Islam (no knowledge about the reality of the world today). It is sad for me to speak these words. Once the Malhama (World War 3) takes place, we don’t have as Muslims any significant role to play in the Malhama. No, we don’t have Nuclear weapons. When these Nuclear weapons explode, that’s going to give us the Dukhan (Smoke, one of the major signs of the last day). Most of mankind will die. But they (angels) must be saying up there; most of mankind deserve to die. Israel is calculating; the rump that will be left behind would be easier for Israel to rule (the world). And it will be very convenient for Israel if the two powers (NATO alliance and Russian alliance) destroy each other…”

    If you’ve read my article on Dabiq 3, you’ll know that it too talks about the Great Final War — but with a perspective that focuses on Syria and Iraq rather than Russia and the Ukraine. In this respect, the Islamic State hews far more closely to the traditions and strategic playing out of the end proposed by Abu Musab al-Suri in his Global Islamic Resistance Call [excerpt linked is from Brynja Lia's book] and described in concentrated detail in pages 186-193 of J-P Filiu‘s Apocalypse in Islam.

    **

    The video purports to be about Islamic Eschatology, certainly, while in fact it “connects the dots” between Sheikh Hosein’s own version of that eschatology and current events as he sees them. It is a fascinating piece, with Sh. Hosein towards the end admitting that he is the only Muslim scholar holding his particular view.

    This view makes the Ukraine and Russia / Rom central to the events now unfolding, rather than al-Sham / Syria and Iraq, and puts great emphasis on an alliance between Islam and Orthodox Christianity, with Russia as the bastion of Orthodoxy. “Thank god for Vladimir Putin,” Hosein says at around the 1 hour mark.

    You really have to hear the whole thing to appreciate it — and must then understand that a second 80 minute tape could describe an entirely different Sunni Islamic end times scenario, Abu Musab’s for instance, while an umpteenth ones might offer a Shiite version, etc etc.

    **

    Some high points, with approximate times in the video for reference:

  • 38 Islam the religion did not come to conquer the world. It never came to establish its rule over the world. But it most certainly came to liberate the world from oppression.
  • 45-48 Constantinople and the Orthodox & Islamic alliance, alliance with western Christian prohibited.
  • 51 Dajjal’s Ottoman empire teaching perpetual, unjust, bogus jihad against Rum to rule the whole world
  • 56 Cathedral of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople turned into a masjid in conflict with Allah’s command
  • 58 For centuries Dajjal was at war attempting to prevent Islamic-Orthodox alliance — also Russia is Rum
  • 1 hr 03 Why the importance of Crimea becoming part of Ukraine
  • 1 hr 11 The Black Sea as eschatological focus.
  • BTW, that comment about perpetual jihad to conquer and rule the entire world being a bogus doctrine receives some pretty strong repetition!

    Sh Hosein also offers us a number of interesting asides along the way:

  • 36 where he explains what “incline to peace” means not just ceasing from battle but also giving back all “fruits” of aggression and oppression
  • 42 where he suggests that those “closest to you in love and affection” (Q 5.82) is a predictive, futuristic verse.
  • I can’t do more than note these particular points in passing, but any one or two of them might make a ine and detailed post.

    **

    For the basic “signs of the times” which are what we normally think of as basic Muslim eschatology, see Sh. Hosein’s own page.

    For further research, the basic readings on Islamic eschatology are:

  • J-P Filiu, Apocalypse in Islam
  • David Cook, Studies in Muslim Apocalyptic
  • David Cook, Contemporary Muslim Apocalyptic Literature
  • The best account of Mahdis and Mahdist movements:

  • Timothy Furnish, Holiest Wars
  • You may also find some of my own early posts helpful for background:

  • Apocalyptic Vision: Guest Post by Charles Cameron
  • Guest Post: Iran or Afghanistan? The Black Flags of Khorasan
  • Guest Post: Connecting the Dots: Light on Light
  • — or perhaps Filiu’s recent posts in French, which Google can translate somewhat less than clearly:

  • L’État Islamique agit comme un rouleau compresseur
  • L’Etat islamique ou les chevaliers de l’apocalypse djihadiste
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    Furnish on “ISIS: Apocalypse .. How?”

    Wednesday, August 27th, 2014

    [ by Charles Cameron -- an important post with notes for Hagel & Dempsey, also my own thoughts on overlapping eschatologies ]
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    Moire effect from Marvic Textiles bois-de-rose

    Moiré effect from Marvic Textiles bois-de-rose

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    Tim Furnish has a significant piece out today on his MahdiWatch blog, ISIS: Apocalypse…How?

    What most interests me here, since I’m an eschatology watcher and it deals with what I think of as “eschatology squared” — the turmoil that results when opposing eschatologies run up against one another, creating some pretty strange intellectual moiré effects — is Furnish’s much needed comment to some of his fellow Christians:

    [T]he last thing the US military or intelligence community needs is to have the genuine war against apocalypse-fired Islamic militants conflated with a narrowly Evangelical Christian view of matters. The US government is a secular, not a religious, one — and although I have repeatedly criticized the refusal of the leader of the world’s largest Christian-populated nation to do anything about global persecution of Christians, I do NOT want our forces engaged in an Evangelical Protestant “Crusade.” Furthermore, and just as (if not more) importantly, opposing and defeating the Islamic “apocalyptic strategic vision” — which is shared by groups besides IS[IS] — can only be done by analyzing said vision on its own Muslim terms, using Muslim (Arabic, Turkish and Persian) sources. Frankly, in this fight, I don’t give a damn in this context what Revelation or Ezekiel or Daniel say — it matters more what’s in the Qur’an, the Hadiths, and Islamic commentators thereupon. I say this to my Evangelical brethren: it’s not always about you and your interpretation of Christian Scripture. The rest of us (Catholic, Orthodox, Lutherans, etc.) in the fold might have something worthwhile to say on the topic, too — but this fight against IS[IS] is neither the time nor the place.

    You’ll want to read the whole piece, but other things Tim covers include the actual extent of ” what al-Sham constituted in Middle Eastern history” and more generally some observations about, and comments addressed to, SecDef Hagel and General Dempsey.

    **

    Synchronously, Richard Landes today tweeted:


    I hope to hear more from him about the similarities & differences — stay tuned.

    **

    Wikipedia describes moiré effects thus:

    In mathematics, physics, and art, a moiré pattern is a secondary and visually evident superimposed pattern created, for example, when two identical (usually transparent) patterns on a flat or curved surface (such as closely spaced straight lines drawn radiating from a point or taking the form of a grid) are overlaid while displaced or rotated a small amount from one another.

    Linens and silks can offer us beautiful examples of such superimposed patterns. The image at the top of this post is from Marvic Textiles and their lovely bois-de-rose fabric.

    I am suggesting that when Islamic eschatologist discuss Christian eschatology, as was the case with Safar al-Hawali‘s treatment of Hal Lindsey in his Day of Wrath — or Christian eschatologists discuss Islamic eschatology, as in the case of Joel Richardson‘s book, Mideast Beast: The Scriptural Case for an Islamic Antichrist — the effect of one eschatology superimposing itself on another produces further “superimposed” patterns worth contemplating as such.

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    The dapple, shimmer, dazzle

    Saturday, August 16th, 2014

    [ by Charles Cameron -- the Jesuit poet GM Hopkins, on the dazzling diversity of life and the stark contrasts of mortality ]
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    The poet Gerard Manley Hopkins SJ made great and frequent use of the word “dapple”. I’ll get to that word, and what I make of it, by a roundabout route.


    Canyon de Chelly, in Navajo country

    **

    Philosopher-architect Christopher Alexander in his book A Pattern Language describes the “pattern” he terms Pools of light, first by dissing “uniform illumination” — which he calls “the sweetheart of the lighting engineers” — saying it “serves no useful purpose whatsoever”, and that it “destroys the social nature of space, and makes people feel disoriented and unbounded.” The engineers’ preference for uniform lighting, he continues, “is based on two mistakes.” It is the first of these that interests me here:

    First of all, the light out-doors is almost never even. Most natural places, and especially the conditions under which the human organism evolved, have dappled light which varies continuously from minute to minute, and from place to place.

    Let’s call that a contemporary version of an ancient truth.

    **

    Christopher Alexander is not alone in noticing this feature of our natural surroundings. It’s a less poetic and more prescriptive version, for instance, of the Navaho view of creation in terms of the “four cardinal lights” which play unceasingly across the gloriously striated walls of Canyon de Chelly and the lands of the Dine:

    Trudy Griffen-Pierce describes the Navaho cardinal lights thus, in her Earth is my Mother, Sky is my Father: Space, Time, and Astronomy in Navajo Sandpainting:

    the four cardinal light phenomena are results of the sun’s apparent daily motion. These phenomena are the four directions and the times of day and colors that are linked to them. A Navajo does not think of the east without envisioning hayolkaal, Dawn, and the white color of the sky at this time of day. Next is nahodeetl’iizh, which is usually glossed as “horizontal blue” or “blue haze” in reference to the band of relatively darker blue that lies on the horizon at midday; this light is associated with the south. Nahootsoii follows and literally means “around the area becomes yellow,” although this word is usually translated as “evening twilight”; it is linked to the west. Finally, chahalheel, darkness, is associated with the north and with the blackness of the night sky.

    Here a people who live, walk in beauty, balance, peace, sa’a naghai bik’e hozho, minutely observe the play of light and shade that contitutes our “dappled” world.

    **

    Hopkins was the first poet I read and loved — Trevor Huddleston introduced me to him — and the word “dappled” was and remains a central one in Hopkins’ poetry, a window on the way he saw the world, and thus a window on how we may see it ourselves.

    Poem the first:

    Pied Beauty

    Glory be to God for dappled things –
       For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
          For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
    Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
       Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;
          And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

    All things counter, original, spare, strange;
       Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
          With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
    He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
                                        Praise him.

    That would almost certainly have been the poem from which I first learned Hopkins use of the word “dappled” — and it remains a touchstone for me, more than a half-century later.

    **

    It is glorious, begins indeed with the word “glory” — and Hopkins’ world is one in which a divine glory “will flame out, like shining from shook foil” to use another phrase of his. It is the “kingdom” of the Gospel of Thomas —

    the Father’s kingdom is spread out upon the earth, and people don’t see it.

    — and one of those who did see it is the English poet Thomas Traherne, who wrote to his friend:

    The corn was orient and immortal wheat, which never should be reaped, nor was ever sown. I thought it had stood from everlasting to everlasting. The dust and stones of the street were as precious as gold: the gates were at first the end of the world. The green trees when I saw them first through one of the gates transported and ravished me, their sweetness and unusual beauty made my heart to leap, and almost mad with ecstasy, they were such strange and wonderful things: The Men! O what venerable and reverend creatures did the aged seem! Immortal Cherubims! And young men glittering and sparkling Angels, and maids strange seraphic pieces of life and beauty! Boys and girls tumbling in the street, and playing, were moving jewels. I knew not that they were born or should die; But all things abided eternally as they were in their proper places.

    I think here also of the American poet, still among us, Gary Snyder, and of one poem of his in particular, The Dazzle, from his Turtle Islamd collection:

    the dazzle, the seduction the
    design
    intoxicated and quivering,
    bees? is it flowers? why does this
    seed move around.
    the one
    divides itself, divides, and divides again.
    “we all know where that leads”
    blinding storms of gold pollen.
    – grope through that?
    the dazzle
    and the blue clay.
    “all that moves loves to sing”
    the roots are at work.
    unseen.

    The dapple, shimmer, dazzle.. the trembling of populus tremuloides, the quaking aspen in the canyon.. trembling of the Quakers before their God..

    **

    Hopkins illustrates this exuberant, ecstatic, exhilarating sense of “dapple” in another great poem of his, The Windhover:

    I caught this morning morning’s minion, kingdom of daylight’s dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding
       Of the rolling level underneath him steady air…

    In his poem, Duns Scotus’s Oxford he writes of the “dapple-eared lily”..

    In The May Magnificat he asks:

    May is Mary’s month, and I
    Muse at that and wonder why:

    and answers himself:

    When drop-of-blood-and-foam-dapple
    Bloom lights the orchard-apple
    And thicket and thorp are merry
    With silver-surfèd cherry
    And azuring-over greybell makes
    Wood banks and brakes wash wet like lakes
    And magic cuckoocall
    Caps, clears, and clinches all–
    This ecstacy all through mothering earth
    Tells Mary her mirth till Christ’s birth
    To remember and exultation
    In God who was her salvation.

    Dapple, dapple, dapple — the outer and inner worlds, dappled, the outer and inner worlds dappled together.

    **

    And then, as Hopkins moves towards the end of his life, and his world towards the End of Days, the dapple, the variegation, is lost, the many colors turn to black and white.

    I find Hopkins’ poems in general are wrestling matches of a sort that strengthens the fortunate reader, as Jacob wrestled with an angel, just as Rilke reported:

    I mean the Angel who appeared
    to the wrestlers of the Old Testament:
    when the wrestler’s sinews
    grew long like metal strings,
    he felt them under his fingers
    like chords of deep music.

    Poem the second is a harsh, hard poem. There is more in it of both music and meaning than I can easily wrestle from it — but these are the phrases I would pick out as delivering the central thread:

    Evening strains to night .. earth her being has unbound, her dapple is at an end… let life .. wind off her .. veined variety .. all on two spools .. páck now her all in two flocks, two folds .. black, white; right, wrong .. reckon .. mind .. but thése two.. ware of a wórld where but these two tell, each off the other ..

    Here, then, is the poem itself:

    Spelt from Sibyl’s Leaves

    Earnest, earthless, equal, attuneable, ‘ vaulty, voluminous, … stupendous
    Evening strains to be tíme’s vást, ‘ womb-of-all, home-of-all, hearse-of-all night.
    Her fond yellow hornlight wound to the west, ‘ her wild hollow hoarlight hung to the height
    Waste; her earliest stars, earl-stars, ‘ stárs principal, overbend us,
    Fíre-féaturing heaven. For earth ‘ her being has unbound, her dapple is at an end, as- 5
    tray or aswarm, all throughther, in throngs; ‘ self ín self steedèd and páshed—qúite
    Disremembering, dísmémbering ‘ áll now. Heart, you round me right
    With: Óur évening is over us; óur night ‘ whélms, whélms, ánd will end us.
    Only the beak-leaved boughs dragonish ‘ damask the tool-smooth bleak light; black,
    Ever so black on it. Óur tale, O óur oracle! ‘ Lét life, wáned, ah lét life wind 10
    Off hér once skéined stained véined variety ‘ upon, áll on twó spools; párt, pen, páck
    Now her áll in twó flocks, twó folds—black, white; ‘ right, wrong; reckon but, reck but, mind
    But thése two; wáre of a wórld where bút these ‘ twó tell, each off the óther; of a rack
    Where, selfwrung, selfstrung, sheathe- and shelterless, ‘ thóughts agaínst thoughts ín groans grínd.

    **

    Anthony Burgess, in a New York Times piece, The Ecstasy of Gerard Manley Hopkins, writes:

    To Hopkins, who was almost blindingly devout, God’s glory showed itself in the intense variety of the physical world, especially when such variety was present in a single member of it. .. Dapple was a kind of tension of opposites: nothing flaccid, everything dynamic..

    At the end, for Hopkins — at the end of his days, and at the End of Days — all that glorious variety of dazzle and dapple narrows and collapses into a stark yes or no: black or white, good or evil, pass or fail, quick or dead.

    It is a humbling thought, for one who loves the dapple, dazzle.

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