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Scots

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- of the Camerons of Erracht ]
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2Tim4 602

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With all the current talk of Scottish Independence, and given my own myopic focus on matters scriptural and theological, I thought it might be apposite to post a few verses from the New Testament in the braid tongue of my forefathers before me.

Happening across the logo at the top of this post while googling, I thought I’d bring you a taste of Chaptir Fowr of Second Timothy;

I chairge ye, i’ the presence o’God, and Christ Jesus wha is to judge the leevin and the deid, and by his shinin-forth and kingdom,

Gie oot the word! Press ye in season and oot o’ season; convince, rebute, entreat, wi’ a lang-tholin and doctrine.

For thar wull be a time whan halesome teachin they winna thole : but, conform to their ain desires, and haein a yeuck i’ their lugs, wull gaither-up teachers to theirsels;

And wull turn awa frae hearin the truth, and turn agley to glaikit tales.

But be ye watchfu’ in a’ things, thole afflictions, do the wark o’ an evangelist, fulfil yere service.

For I am bein offer’t, and the time o’ my settin-free is at haun.

The gude-fecht hae I fouchten, the race hae I run, the faith hae I keepit!

From The New Testament in Braid Scots, with a glossary of Scottish terms rendered by Rev. William Wye Smith. My copy is of the 1924 printing.

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I’m not qualified to vote, which is probably a good thing — but I’ll certainly be interested to see what my clanfolk and kinfolk decide this Thursday…

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David, Goliath, and Art Spiegelman

Thursday, September 11th, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- contrasting perspectives, asymmetric warfare, and a bible story ]
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Art Spiegelman, the creator of the acclaimed graphic treatment of the Holocaust, Maus: A Survivor’s Tale, has now posted a visual DoubleQuote of his own, along with a comment on Israel:

Spiegelman Goliath David

From today’s Jewish Daily Forward article, Art Spiegelman Breaks His Silence on Israel:

Captioned “Perspective in Gaza (The David and Goliath Illusion),” the Biblical-style art image consists of two panels. On the left is a traditional rendering of David facing Goliath. The right-hand panel presents a shrunken Goliath brought closer to the foreground. Using the tricks of size and perspective to make what is surely not an original political point, it’s a clever play on Spiegelman’s life’s work as an illustrator.

Spiegelman’s own comment, accompanying the image on his FaceBook page, reads:

I’ve spent a lifetime trying to NOT think about Israel—deciding it has nothin more to do with me, a diasporist, than the rest of the World’s Bad News on Parade. Israel is like some badly battered child with PTSD who has grown up to batter others.

That’s Spiegelman: I’m not in the business of psychologizing nations, so I won’t comment one way or the other.

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In Koan 1 — Bibi, Walt, and the concept of buffer zones, I asked:

Is Israel best seen as a Goliath towering over the Palestinians, or as a David caught between a swathe of Islamic states and the deep blue Mediterranean sea?

I see some truth in both views, which is why I call the Israeli / Palestinian question a koan.

A while earlier, in Numbers by the numbers: two, I wrote:

The second is that within the asymmetries, it is not uncommon to find a reversal of polarities by which the lesser outsmarts and defeats the greater force. I’m thinking here of David and Goliath as the archetypal version, and of Nigel Howard, in Confrontation Analysis: how to win operations other than war, writing:

the problem of defense in the modern world is the paradoxical one of finding ways for the strong to defeat the weak.

A different aspect of asymmetry emerges when one can think of Israel as both the powerful high-tech occupier of a poorly-equipped and stateless mass of Palestinians, and a tiny emergent Jewish democracy surrounded on all sides (except the sea) by Arab and or Muslim once and future foes… a Goliath seen one way, a David the other…

What’s intriguing here is that in some ways everybody wants to be David, right?

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In an ideal world..

.. but that’s not the world we live in, is it?

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Maajid Nawaz and the Hadith Qudsi

Thursday, September 11th, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- coded signalling, or "a nod is as good as a wink" ]
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Maajid-Nawaz 602

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Maajid Nawaz‘s An Ex-Radical’s Open Letter to ISIS Fighters: Quit Now While You Can! just published by The Daily Beast gives us an invaluable insight into the way a Muslim can skilfully address the “foreign fighters” who have migrated to join ISIS. His final paragraph contains the words:

.. you take one step to the good, we will all make leaps towards you.

What interests me about this is its close correspondence to the end of a Hadith Qudsi, or narration recounting in the Prophet’s own words, some truth that God revealed to him in person:

Abu Hurairah (RA) reports that Nabi (SAW) in a Hadith Qudsi narrated that Allah Ta’ala says:

I treat My slaves according to his expectations from Me. I am with him when he remembers Me; and if he remembers Me in his heart, I remember him in My heart; and if he remembers Me in a gathering, I remember him in a better and nobler gathering (of angels). If he comes closer to Me by one span, I go closer to him an arm’s length; if he comes towards Me an arm’s length, I go towards him two-arm’s length; and if he comes to Me walking, I run to him.

Anyone familiar with the hadith will recognize the allusion, and in fact Nawaz’ referencing it in this way can be considered akin to George W Bush‘s use of the phrase –

there’s power, wonder-working power, in the goodness and idealism and faith of the American people

— in his State of the Union address, 2002 — knowing that while those words would slip past most Americans without holding any special significance, to those familiar with the hymn “There is Power in the Blood” it would strike a distinctively Christian note.

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In Dog-Whistle Politics, Coded Communication and Religious Appeals, Bethany Albertson gives other instances, citing Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton as well as Bush, and quoting the religion scholar Bruce Lincoln as saying of Bush:

Aware that he must appeal to the center to secure reelection, he employs double-coded signals that veil much of his religious message from outsiders ..

It’s interesting to see a Muslim (and a politican, too, for Nawaz is currently running as the Liberal Democrat candidate for the seat of Hampstead and Kilburn at Westminster) using the same rhetorical form of coded messaging.

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All of which puts a new spin on the words:

He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.

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Dabiq issue 3 part 1- Hijrah

Friday, September 5th, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- a pilgrimage with no return -- IS as the victorious group, the saved sect, the strangers ]
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dabiq 3

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Hijrah is emigration for religious purposes, pilgrimage on a one-way ticket, and the archetypal Hijrah, that which was made by the Prophet and his followers from Mecca to Medina in 622, gives the Islamic calendar its starting date. The Islamic State has dedicated the third issue of Dabiq to the topic of hijrah, viewed in the shade of the Prophet’s hijrah as the emigration of Muslims from around the world to participate among the forces of the “caliphate” in the final jihad:

Contemplate – may Allah have mercy upon you – the states that existed throughout history, both the Muslim states and the mushrik states. Were any of them established by the emigration of poor strangers from the East and the West, who then gathered in an alien land of war and pledged allegiance to an “unknown” man, in spite of the political, economic, military, media, and intelligence war waged by the nations of the world against their religion, their state, and their hijrah? And in spite of the fact that they did not have any common “nationality,” ethnicity, language, or worldly interests, nor did they have any prior acquaintance!

This phenomenon is something that has never occurred in human history, except in the case of the Islamic State! And nothing like it will ever occur thereafter except in relation to it; and Allah knows best.

and:

But if you were to go to the frontlines of ar-Raqqah, al-Barakah, al-Khayr, Halab, etc., you would find the soldiers and the commanders to be of different colors, languages, and lands: the Najdi, the Jordanian, the Tunisian, the Egyptian, the Somali, the Turk, the Albanian, the Chechen, the Indonesian, the Russian, the European, the American and so on. They left their families and their lands to renew the state of the muwahhidin in Sham, and they had never known each other until they arrived in Sham!

Having stressed the uniqueness of the Islamic State in this way, the writer then makes it clear that this unique event is happening precisely because we are in the tun-up to the final battle:

I have no doubt that this state, which has gathered the bulk of the muhajirin [ie: those who have made hijrah] in Sham and has become the largest collection of muhajirin in the world, is a marvel of history that has only come about to pave the way for al-Malhamah al-Kubra (the grand battle prior to the Hour). And Allah knows best.

and:

And what a tremendous favor it is from Allah to guide one to the Islamic State and grant him companionship with its muhajirin, those who plunge into the malahim (the great battles prior to the Hour)!

Not surprisingly, therefore, significance is given to the location of the Islamic State in Greater Sham. A major section is headed:

Sham is the Land of Malahim

and in it, we read:

Then, these nuzza’ gathered in Sham, the land of malahim and the land of al-Malhamah al-Kubra. Allah’s Messenger (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) has informed of battles that will occur in places within Sham and its vicinity, such as al-Ghutah, Damascus, Dabiq (or al-A’maq), the Euphrates River, and Constantinople (which is near Sham), as well as Baytul-Maqdis (Jerusalem), the gate of Lod, Lake Tiberius, the Jordan River, Mount Sinai, and so on.

The immediately following sentence, as Tim Furnish pointed out, contains the first explicit reference to the Mahdi in an issue of Dabiq:

And he (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) linked this blessed land with many of the events related to al-Masih, al-Mahdi, and the Dajjal.

The following hadith detailing the site of the final battle — compare Har Megiddo in Christian scripture — is then quoted:

Abud-Darda’ (radiyallAhu ‘anh) said that Allah’s Messenger (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said, “Indeed the camp of the Muslims on the day of al-Malhamah al-Kubra will be in al-Ghutah, next to a city called Damascus, one of the best cities of Sham” [sahih – reported by Imam Ahmad, Abu Dawud, and al-Hakim].

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The group of foreigners from around the world coming to al-Sham is also described as “strangers” — a term with its own reference both to the earliest companions and to the latest among fighters in the final battle:

Ibn Mas’ud (radiyallahu ‘anh) said that the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said, “Verily Islam began as something strange, and it will return to being something strange as it first began, so glad tidings to the strangers.” Someone asked, “Who are the strangers?” He said, “Those who break off from their tribes” [reported by Imam Ahmad, ad-Darimi, and Ibn Majah, with a sahih isnad].

The earliest Muslims were strange because they were few among their fellow-tribespeople of Mecca, the latest because they are a comparatively small vanguard — favorite term of bin Laden’s — among all those hundreds of millions who today call themselves Muslims — but also and specifically because they come from “strange” lands. There’s even an echo of I Peter 2.9 in the New Testament here:

But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light..

Think also of John 15,16:

Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you.

And indeed of Israel in the Torah, eg D’varim / Deuteronomy 14.2:

For thou art a holy people unto HaShem thy G-d, and HaShem hath chosen thee to be His own treasure out of all peoples that are upon the face of the earth.

In all of these verses, the sense of “chosenness” is almost palpable: IS is strumming an ancient and powerful chord here.

But what does it mean, in a specifically Islamic and apocalyptic context, to be “strange” and “chosen” in this way? Another paragraph from Dabiq gives us further insight:

Shaykh Hamid at-Tuwayjiri (rahimahullah), in commenting on some of the narrations about the tribulations and battles in Sham, said, “In these narrations is evidence that the bulk of at-Ta’ifatul-Mansurah (the victorious group) will be in Sham near the end of times, because the Khilafah will be there. They will continue to be there clearly upon the truth until ..

I’ll leave the “until” for later, and simply report some ahadith here that concern the “victorious group” and the “saved sect”:

It was reported from ‘Awf ibn Maalik who said: the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said:

“The Jews were divided into seventy-one sects, one of which is in Paradise and seventy are in the Fire. The Christians were divided into seventy-two sects, seventy-one of which are in the Fire and one is in Paradise. By the One in Whose hand is the soul of Muhammad, my Ummah will be divided into seventy-three sects, one of which will be in Paradise and seventy-two will be in the Fire.” It was said, O Messenger of Allaah, who are they? He said, “Al-Jamaa’ah.” [Sunan Ibn Maajah, no. 3982]

That’s one of numerous variants on the same message. And another hadith connects the “victorious group” specifically with the “saved sect” thus:

They are in this world “The Victorious Group” [at-Taa'ifah al-Mansoorah] and in the hereafter “The Saved Sect”. [al-Firqah an-Naajiyyah]

Furthermore, Muhammad ibn al-Uthaymin, in his Methodology (Minhaaj) of Ahlus-Sunnah wa-l-Jamaa’ah makes the connection with the end times explicit:

There will always be a group of my Ummah victorious upon the truth, until the last of them fight against Ad-Dajjal.

Abu Dawud 3:11, cited in Tafsir Ibn Kathir: (abridged) Vol 9 p.88

The foreign fighters, then, will be strangers because foreigners, strange because they will be few compared to the masses of the indifferent and quiescent, select, victorious, saved, “on the truth” — they will be a “vanguard” and also a “remnant” — participating on the field of battle during the battles leading up to the final great Battle of the End Times.

Again, this is a powerful chord to strike in the hearts of the young, the uncritical — those who got in search of jihad in al-Sham, buying copies of Islam for Dummies before they leave..

So those who left their tribes – the best of Allah’s slaves – rallied together with an imam and a jama’ah upon the path of Ibrahim. They gathered together in the land of malahim shortly before the occurrence of al-Malhamah al-Kubra, announced their enmity and hatred for the cross worshippers, the apostates, their crosses, their borders, and their ballotboxes, and pledged allegiance to the Khilafah, promising to die defending it.

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Hold on, there are two more matters in this first take on Dabiq issue 3 that I’d like to mention, one having to do with faith and the unseen, the other with something not unlike current dispensationalist notions of the Rapture.

As to faith, Dabiq notes:

Allah has praised the believers for their belief in the unseen, as He said, {They believe in the unseen} [Al-Baqarah: 3]. The companions of the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) believed in both what they witnessed and what they could not see, for they believed in Allah and the Day of Judgment without seeing either of them, and they believed in the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) having seen and witnessed him. The revelation would descend [upon him] in their company, and they would see the signs and witness the miracles.

Taking up the comparative mode again, there are echoes here of Hebrews 11.1:

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

and John 20.29:

Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.

It’s my understanding that Muhammad would have been acquainted with Nestorian Christian monks, one of whom predicted his prophethood. Just how their “one person, two natures” theology and / or scriptures may have influenced him (and his teachings on the crucifixion in particular) I don’t know, but would certainly be interested to learn…

So.. Dabiq continues with more in this same line of ahadith, once again tying in the last days of the victorious group with the first days of the Companions and earliest generations of Islam:

The last part of this ummah believes in what the first part of the ummah believed in of the unseen, and believes in what the first part of the ummah believed in as eyewitnesses. This latter belief is their belief in the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam), for they do not see the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam), and because of that they’ve become the most wondrous people in faith, as reported [in the hadith] of Ibn ‘Abbas (radiyallahu ‘anhuma) that Allah’s Messenger (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said, ‘The most wondrous people in faith are a people who come after me and believe in me without having seen me, and they attest to my truthfulness without having seen me. So they are my brothers’ [reported by Imam Ahmad]” [Ma’ani al-Akhbar].

Once again, powerful and ancient memes are given a new and powerful interpretation and application.

The second point has to do with a divine force that lifts the righteous above the fray, so that only those who have earned some measure of divine wrath remain on earth — shades of the Rapture as described in the Left Behind series!

As you may recall, up above, I quoted:

They will continue to be there clearly upon the truth until ..

and said I would pick up the sentence later. The whole sentence reads:

They will continue to be there clearly upon the truth until Allah sends the pleasant breeze and it takes the soul of every person who has faith in his heart, as preceded in the sahih narrations that the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said, ‘Until the command of Allah comes while they are upon that [condition]’” [Ithaful-Jama’ah].

This is certainly another strong apocalyptic meme — the physical and / or metaphysical safeguarding of the faithful few in a time of wrath and destruction. And Dabiq hammers it home repeatedly:

In another narration, “So it [the breeze] grasps them under their armpits, taking the soul of every believer and every Muslim. And there will remain the worst of the people, having intercourse as donkeys do [in front of other people as they watch]. So it is upon them that the Hour will be established” [Sahih Muslim].

And in another narration, “Allah will send a cold breeze from the direction of Sham, so no one will remain on the face of the earth with so much as the weight of a mustard seed of goodness or faith in his heart except that it takes him. Even if one of you were to enter into the center of a mountain, the breeze would enter into it, until it takes him. Then there will remain the worst of the people, who have the agility of birds (in their haste to commit evil and satisfy their lusts) and the wits of vicious, predatory animals (in their hostility and oppression of one another). They do not know any good, nor do they denounce any evil” [Sahih Muslim].

This pleasant breeze takes the souls of the believers everywhere on the earth: al-Hijaz, Iraq, Yemen, Sham, and so on. It will be sent forth a number of years after the demise of the Dajjal and the passing away of the Masih ‘Isa (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam).

Shaykhul-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah (rahimahullah) said, “Islam in the end of times will be more manifest in Sham. [ .. ] So the best of the people on the earth in the end of times will be those who keep to the land of Ibrahim’s hijrah, which is Sham” [Majmu’ul-Fatawa].

I’m not as impressed as others by the supposed “slickness” of the magazine, but the argumentation as illustrated here deserves careful consideration and appropriate rebuttal from qualified scholars.

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That concludes page 10 of this 42 page magazine. Whether I’ll post more on the remaining pages remains to be seen. And no doubt there are strands that I have missed here, which Tim Furnish may address.

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Sanctified payback, blowback

Friday, August 29th, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- so IS is using waterboarding? meditating on copycattism as a jihadist strategy ]
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1902waterboarding

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Here’s the basic news, from Adam Goldman and Julie Tate, Captives held by Islamic State were waterboarded, in the Washington Post today:

At least four hostages held in Syria by the Islamic State, including an American journalist who was recently executed by the group, were waterboarded in the early part of their captivity, according to people familiar with the treatment of the kidnapped Westerners.
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James Foley was among the four who were waterboarded several times by Islamic State militants who appeared to model the technique on the CIA’s use of waterboarding to interrogate suspected terrorists after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

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Some have tried to downplay the implied similarity:

“ISIL is a group that routinely crucifies and beheads people,” said a U.S. official, using one of the acronyms for the Islamic State. “To suggest that there is any correlation between ISIL’s brutality and past U.S. actions is ridiculous and feeds into their twisted propaganda.”

In this case, sadly, correlation is almost certainly causation, in the sense that the Qur’an permits the otherwise impermissible when one takes an action in war against enemies who have previously taken the same action against one.

And we have taken the action of waterboarding:

Three CIA detainees — Khalid Sheik Mohammed, Abu Zubaida and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri — were waterboarded while held in secret CIA prisons. Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, was waterboarded 183 times, according to a memo issued by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel.

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Others have vaguely waved their hands in the direction of the idea that what we do may rebound on us:

Critics of waterboarding have said for years that the practice endangered Americans, putting them at risk of being subjected to the same brutal treatment at the hands of the enemy.

“Waterboarding dates to the Spanish Inquisition and has been a favorite of dictators through the ages, including Pol Pot and the regime in Burma,” Democratic Sens. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.) said in an op-ed in 2008. “Condoning torture opens the door for our enemies to do the same to captured American troops in the future.”

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But there’s more specificity to it than that.

I suppose I first caught on to it when Osama bin Laden said:

And as I looked at those demolished towers in Lebanon, it entered my mind that we should punish the oppressor in kind and that we should destroy towers in America in order that they taste some of what we tasted and so that they be deterred from killing our women and children.

and I was instantly reminded of Qur’an 2.194, which contains the phrase in the Pickthal version:

And one who attacketh you, attack him in like manner as he attacked you.

Yusuf Ali translates the whole verse thus:

The prohibited month for the prohibited month,- and so for all things prohibited,- there is the law of equality. If then any one transgresses the prohibition against you, Transgress ye likewise against him. But fear Allah, and know that Allah is with those who restrain themselves.

But I’ve said all this before, talking about that speech of OBLs in more detail in Close reading, Synoptic- and Sembl-style, for parallels, patterns.

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Finally, waterboarding is not the only procedure that our own actions have opened us up to in this sense:

François said Foley was subjected to mock executions — something suspected al-Qaeda operative Nashiri also endured while being held in a secret CIA prison, according to a report by the inspector general of the CIA. The Justice Department did not sanction mock executions.

There’s plenty of room for innovative brutality on the part of IS, even without this kind of divine sanction — but it still might be useful for us to be aware of Qur’an 2.194 when considering psssible second-order effects of our own tactics, eh?

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