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A parallel between New Testament and Qur’an noted

Saturday, May 9th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — picking up on a point in conversation with Itamar Marcus ]
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There’s a Qur’anic passage that is often quoted by opponents of Islam to suggest the Prophet acted lecherously and composed certain Qur’anic verses to grant himself divine authorization for sleeping with those with whom he would not otherwise have had the right to sleep. I don‘t presume to sit in judgment of the Prophet here, nor intend to get into the discussion of cross-cultural sexual morality. I take scriptures as scriptures with respect, and my interest is solely in the wording by which Allah instructs the Prophet, in the Qur’an, at 66.1 – here quoted in the upper panel in AJ Arberry’s translation:

SPEC DQ Peter and Muhammad

The lower panel – and again, I don’t intend to get into the spirituality of Jewish dietary restrictions – comes from a passage in the New Testament book of Acts (10. 9-16), in which Peter in a vision refuses to eat food he considers unclean, and is reproved by God for considering ritually impure what God is declaring pure.

What interests me here is that in each case we see a divine “loosening” of a previously “tight” behavioral injunction.

It is probably wise, too, to remember that dietary morality in Judaism in the time of the Acts of the Apostles may well have been taken as seriously as sexual morality in the time of the Sunna and Companions of the Prophet: different cultures in different centuries weigh such things very differently from the secular (and sometimes puritanical / salacious) western mind of today.

**

Let us look at the context of the remark made by God to Peter in a vision, taking that context in two stages. The immediate story of Peter, God and the pure / impure food is found in verses 9-16 of Acts, chapter 10:

Peter went up on the roof to pray. He became hungry and wanted something to eat; and while it was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw the heaven opened and something like a large sheet coming down, being lowered to the ground by its four corners. In it were all kinds of four-footed creatures and reptiles and birds of the air. Then he heard a voice saying, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat.” But Peter said, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is profane or unclean.” The voice said to him again, a second time, “What God has made clean, you must not call profane.” This happened three times, and the thing was suddenly taken up to heaven.

There are various translations of the verse I highlighted in the DoubleQuote, verse 15, as you might expect — and they could probably be graded from “easily digestible” to “venerable and archaic” with varying degrees of nuance in between. Thus The Living Bible (TLB, a paraphrase) has:

The voice spoke again, “Don’t contradict God! If he says something is kosher, then it is.”

which at least tells us it’s kashrut the passage is talking about. But for utter simplicity it’s hard to beat The Message:

The voice came a second time: “If God says it’s okay, it’s okay.”

So. Peter felt himself unauthorized to kill and eat something “unclean” and God rebukes him for imposing on himself a restriction God himself claims he is free from, telling him that the visionary food is in fact pure.

The Orthodox Jewish Bible translates the verse (Gevurot 10.15):

And the bat kol came to Kefa again for a second time, “What Hashem made tahor (clean), you should no longer regard as tameh (unclean).”

— noting a reference to Bereshis (ie Genesis) 9.3.

**

But there’s a context to that context, too, and it’s fascinating in part because it indicates that Peter’s vision contains not a literal but a metaphorical meaning and morality. Peter himself is confused once he returns to his senses. And then all becomes clear…

The whole event takes place while a Roman centurion’s messengers are approaching Peter, who then accompanies them at their request to the centurion’s house, where Peter says (verse 28):

Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean.

So the understanding of ritual purity in respect of food is, in the vision, a metaphor for a parallel understanding of ritual purity in respect of tribe and humanity.

It is only then, for the first time, the Christian gospel or kerygma is preached to one who is not a Jew, and Christianity becomes universal (“catholic”) whereas previously it had preached solely within a Jewish context, ie as a school within Judaism.

Unsurprisingly, for Christianity this is a radical point of departure and redefinition.

And it is notably accomplished by vision and metaphor — not by text or literal interpretation.

Definitely my “Best Book” of 2014

Monday, February 23rd, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — I’m posting this not just to recommend Brown’s book, but also to make a significant excerpt from it readily available on the net ]
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Misquoting Muhammad cover

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One book I received this year has given me a greater depth of understanding than any other by a wide margin. That book is Professor Jonathan AC Brown‘s book, Misquoting Muhammad: The Challenge and Choices of Interpreting the Prophet’s Legacy.

Brown is a Muslim, a professor at Georgetown, and author of Hadith: Muhammad’s Legacy in the Medieval and Modern World. His book Misquoting Muhammad — not his choice of title, btw — lays open the varieties of interpretive possibility in dealing with the Qur’an and ahadith with comprehensive scholarship and clarity. In light of the upsurge in interest in Islamic and Islamist religious teachings occasioned by Graeme Wood‘s recent Atlantic article, I asked Prof. Brown’s permission to reproduce here the section of his book dealing with abrogation and the rules of war.

Here then, with his permission, is an extract from Misquoting Muhammad. I hope it will prove of use both here and to others beyond the circle of Zenpundit readers. Spread the word!

The whole book is worth reading, the whole of this extract is worth reading — but the section within the extract that I particularly recommend is the passage which begins with “Abrogation brought into sharp contrast” (p.100) and ends with “but were those who died not also my servants?” (p. 103).

**

By way of a bonus, here’s a related DoubleQuote:

SPEC DQ hadith & midrash

Midrash Source:

  • Rabbi David Levi, JTS Torah Commentary
  • How to fake a Mahdi and / or create a New World Religion

    Saturday, January 24th, 2015

    [ by Charles Cameron — conspiracy is stranger than scripture, partly bcoz supercomputers! ]
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    Hey, we can pick a face out of a crowd:

    face in crowd 602

    track the numberplates of individual cars around a city:

    Oakland pd tracking eff

    follow individuals by tracking their cell phones:

    Screenshot-Malte_Spitz

    and see who’s in a room by their reflection in the cornea of an eye:

    corneal reflection

    We’re asymptotic to omnipresent, eh?

    **

    Now consider this:

    Nir Rosen, in his book In the Belly of the Green Bird: The Triumph of the Martyrs in Iraq, p 129, tells us:

    Seyid Hasan Naji al-Musawi, the thirty-eight-year-old leader of Sadr City’s Muhsin mosque and commander of [Moqtada] Sadr’s Army of the Mahdi in Baghdad, said that the final days were approaching in which the Mahdi would return. … Musawi declared that America’s real purpose in coming to Iraq was to kill the Mahdi.

    You got that? America’s real purpose in coming to Iraq was to kill the Mahdi. No wonder some Iranians think of us, and specificallay of US, as The Great Satan.

    I must confess I’ve been under the impression that Mahdism, being not merely a religious concept, not merely a religious concept from an “other” religion, but an “end times” religious concept from an “other” religion, was ideally suited for those of us in the post-Enlightenment west to ignore, even though it may be a concern of immense significance to, say, Moqtada al-Sadr and his followers, or Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and his.

    But what an opportunity for conspiracy theorists the idea that the US wants to disrupt the coming of Islam’s Mahdi must be!

    **

    Now, putting one and one together, we see what a dastardly plot the US must be up to!

    Peace be upon Mohammad and the family of Mohammad.

    If I was the CIA/FBI/MI6/MOSSAD or in fact the Dajjal, here is how I would make a fake Imam.

    1 Get some the world’s most advanced supercomputers. Current supercomputers have speeds of up to 2.507 petaFLOPs per second (In layman’s terms the best way I can describe the speed of a petaflop to you is: 1 petaflop is equal to 10 times the speed of all the networked computers in the USA combined!!!). This supercomputer will be dedicated to the purpose of Imam Mahdi. It will be fed everything that is possible to find on the subject of Imam Mahdi. It will be used for planning our strategies and tactics, and it will be able to answer any questions instantly. It will be our “backbone” for our operations.

    2 Get some of the world’s most clever young children. You know how they choose children who are cleaver and give them scholarships to the best schools and universities? Well, what we would do is to get about 100 or more of the most clever geniuses that we can find around the world. They will be our “candidates”.

    3 Each candidate will be raised up by us – with a very special and specific top secret training program which will be devised with the help of our supercomputer. We will assign a role for each one, and we will brainwash them and have them truly believe that they are who we want them to be. For example, we could have 20 of them who will take the role of the Shia Imam Mahdi, and another 20 who will take the role of the Sunni Imam Mahdi. We will also have them impersonate other end time characters, such as Jesus, Khithr, Yemani, Khorasani, Sufyani etc etc etc. Each candidate will have a slightly different approach, so that we can target all the different people – with all their different beliefs about the Imam. With many years of training, they will become extremely good at impersonating an Imam at least they will NOT be making any recitation mistakes!

    4 Once they are fully trained and thoroughly tested, we will put them into the real world. They will be secretly connected with our dedicated supercomputer. With sophisticated technology, they will be able to send and receive information instantly and automatically without anyone knowing. For example, if someone asks our fake Imam a question, the supercomputer will “hear” it and it will give the answer instantly to the candidate without anyone hearing anything. It will give answers complete with Qur’an references and ahadith references etc… so much so that the candidate will be able to answer every single question with so much knowledge and wisdom and so many references that he could not have possibly known it will appear simply miraculous. You can even ask him to read page 205 from your CLOSED book, and he will read every word of it. It will look like he has knowledge of every single page of every single book ever written on this matter. He can look at your face (have the supercomputer link it with the intelligence
    databases and get a match) and he can tell you everything about your life (which is stored in their database).

    5 We will stage fake events such as the 313 giving allegiance in the Ka’bah to our candidate to make the deception more effective.

    6 We will stage “miracles” to make the deception more effective. For example, we will use neverbeforeseen technology, and we will stage several optical illusions (magic tricks) which are very difficult to tell from a miracle. We can also make use of the spiritual skills which have been demonstrated for years in India. There are those who do not eat or drink anything for 70 years, there are those who can stop a moving train without touching it, there are those who can make you have specific dreams, there are those who can read your thoughts, there are those who can KILL an animal just by looking at it! And these are not miracles. These are spiritual powers which mainly employ Jinn, and anyone can gain these abilities through special spiritual exercises. We will also stage “punishments” on those who do not believe in our candidate. For example, get someone to approach a scholar and say: “There is a fake Imam who is deceiving people! And I want you to talk about him in your next lecture!” And when he does, we kill him and make it look like an accident or a heart attack. This will be seen as a miracle for our fake Imam because those who speak against him are “punished by Allah!”

    What will be the obstacles:

    The scholars. The scholars know all the signs and with the help of Allah (swt), they will be able to tell that our candidates may be fake. So we will target them one by one, and make them look evil.

    The expectations of the people. The people will have very high expectations from the Imam. The biggest is the Shia belief of infallibility. Since it is difficult even with years of training to guarantee “infalliblelike conduct” from our candidates, we will have to reshape the people’s definition of infallibility using ahadith which have a broader and less strict definition of infallibility.

    And more obstacles… each with a clever remedy.

    What is the purpose of all of creating a fake Imam? Well, there are MANY purposes. But
    the most obvious is that if we succeed in getting many of the Muslims to believe in OUR fake Imam, then when the REAL Imam comes, the Muslims will automatically call him a liar and a fraud because they believe OUR candidate is the real Imam, and no one else!!!

    Also, since the Muslims believe in our fake candidate, we can slowly push our agenda in a very clever and subtle way.

    This is just a quick outline of how I would create fake Imams. There’s so much more that can be done, and I’m sure there are even better ideas which I missed. But that was just to give you an idea.

    Do not be surprised if we start seeing some very convincing imposers very soon. I’m pretty sure that the CIA and the Masons and Illuminati will do EVEN MORE than what I’ve outlined above.

    Narrated from Mufathal Ibn Umar:

    I heard Aba Abdillah (pbuhaf) saying: Beware of being weak (loose translation). By Allah, your Mahdi will be hidden for years of your era and it will be very long for you, and you will say: “what”, and “I wish”, and “maybe”, and “how”, and you will be tested, and doubts will rise within you, and it will even be said “he is dead”, or “he perished”, or “in what pit did he go?”, and the eyes of the believers will weep for him, and you will be shaken (loose translation) just as the ships are shaken by the waves of the ocean, until none will survive except those from whom Allah (swt) has taken an oath and has written faith in their hearts and has supported them with a spirit from Him, and there will rise 12 similar banners, and they do not know of their matter what they do.

    Mufathal said: I cried and said: Oh my Master, and what will your awliya (close companions) do?

    The Imam looked at the sun and it had become clearly visible (loose translation), and he said: Do you see this sun oh Mufathal?

    I said: Yes my Master.

    He said: By Allah our matter is clearer and more visible than it.

    Ref: AlHidayah AlKubra by Hussain Ibn Hamdan AlKhosaiby Chapter 4, the Chapter on the Awaited Imam Mahdi (pbuhaf) page 361.

    Welcome to the age of awesome deception.

    Allah (swt) alone can save us from what is to come. May He (swt) assist us and make us firm in faith and keep us on His straight path always.

    **

    That’s one Islamic eschatological vision of false messiahs — no more official than Alex Jones‘ rantings are official US policy — but it’s interesting to set it besides a somwhat similar scenario from our own western conspiracists — The Blue Beam Project:

    The infamous NASA Blue Beam Project has four different steps in order to implement the new age religion with the antichrist at its head. We must remember that the new age religion is the very foundation for the new world government, without which religion the dictatorship of the new world order is completely impossible. I’ll repeat that: Without a universal belief in the new age religion, the success of the new world order will be impossible! That is why the Blue Beam Project is so important to them, but has been so well hidden until now.

    [ .. ]

    The second step involves a gigantic “space show” with three-dimensional optical holograms and sounds, laser projection of multiple holographic images to different parts of the world, each receiving a different image according to predominating regional national religious faith. This new “god’s” voice will be speaking in all languages. In order to understand that, we must study various secret services’ research done in the last 25 years.

    The Soviet’s have perfected an advanced computer, even exported them, and fed them with the minute physio-psycological particulars based on their studies of the anatomy and electro-mechanical composition of the human body, and the studies of the electrical, chemical and biological properties of the human brain.

    These computers were fed, as well, with the languages of all human cultures and their meanings. The dialects of all cultures have been fed into the computers from satellite transmissions. The Soviets began to feed the computers with objective programs like the ones of the new messiah. It also seems that the Soviets – the new world order people – have resorted to suicidal methods with the human society by allocating electronic wavelengths for every person and every society and culture to induce suicidal thoughts if the person doesn’t comply with the dictates of the new world order.

    There are two different aspects of step two. The first is the “space show.” Where does the space show come from? The space show, the holographic images will be used in a simulation of the ending during which all nations will be shown scenes which will be the fulfillment of that which they desire to verify the prophecies and adversary events. These will be projected from satellites onto the sodium layer about 60 miles above the earth. We see tests every once in a while, but they are called UFOs and “flying saucers.” The result of these deliberately staged events will be to show the world the new “christ,” the new messiah, Matreya, for the immediate implementation of the new world religion. Enough truth will be foisted upon an unsuspecting world to hook them into the lie. “Even the most learned will be deceived.” The project has perfected the ability for some device to lift up an enormous number of people, as in a rapture, and whisk the entire group into a never-never land. We see tests of this device in the abduction of humans by those mysterious little alien greys. who snatch people out of their beds and through windows into waiting “mother ships.”

    The calculated resistance to the universal religion and the new messiah and the ensuing holy wars will result in the loss of human life on a scale never imagine before in all of human history. The Blue Beam Project will pretend to be the universal fulfillment of the prophecies of old, as major an event as that which occurred 2,000 years ago. In principle, it will make use of the skies as a movie screen (on the sodium layer at about 60 miles) as space-based laser-generating satellites project simultaneous images to the four corners of the planet in every language and dialect according to the region. It deals with the religious aspect of the new world order and is deception and seduction on a massive scale. Computers will coordinate the satellites and software already in place will run the sky show

    Oy.

    **

    I am posting thes two examples of end times religious conspiracism today because IMO we need a sense of how far out such speculations can go, as we consider the rumors of a connection between the death of King Abdullah and the coming of the Mahdi.

    Take off your tin-foil hats, people. A little common sense is required.

    Rabbi Yochanan Ben Zakkai says, according to the Avot D’Rebbe Natan:

    If you are holding a sapling in your hand, and someone says to you, ‘here comes the Messiah!’ — come and plant the sapling, and afterwards go and welcome the Messiah.

    And Anas b. Mâlik in Musnad Ahmad 12981 relates that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said:

    If the Hour arrives and one of you is holding a date palm sapling, then he should go ahead and plant it before getting up from his place if he is able to.

    Keep calm, in other words, and carry on.

    Hipbonegamer on the Art of Future Warfare

    Wednesday, January 21st, 2015

    [ by Charles Cameron — writing in a very different mode this time — I’m chuffed ]
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    Today a quasi-science-fictional scenario I wrote for The Atlantic Council’s Art of Future Warfare proect was posted as a “featured entry” in their “Great War” war-art challenge. You may recall my commenting on the challenge in an earlier post, Art of Future War? August Cole, who is running the project, encouraged me in a comment to write up an entry for the challenge, which I did.

    My entry begins like this:

    Flashing across my sub-eyes and a few dozen others today, those tiny edge of vision thunderclouds that when my saccade leaps to them indicate increasing war chance – lit by a single bolt of miniscule lightning. As my transport turns itself into its parkplace, too far from the Ed’s for me to throat her a quick morning buzz, I flipvision up and “Temple” appears in yellow and red across the sub-world, and an accompanying jolt from the adrenals gets me out of the comfort of my now stationary pod, through visual check-in and up to my console where I can dig into deets.

    I was the key-chooser of “Temple” for an accelerated, amplified and psychenhanced notification, having back in the day read Gorenberg on Temple Mount as the “most hotly contested piece of real estate on earth” – a phrase which haunts me still, since the clashing “end times” beliefs of the three relevant belief systems – all three messianic, one mahdist into the bargain – are undercurrents I track “out of the corner of my subs” on the principle that we shouldn’t overlook what seems vaguely irrational to us, when it’s passionately real to others. That way lies blindsiding, never a pleasant outcome.

    In out-reality, which my in-reality strives to keep accurately mapped and understood — though that’s a clear impossibility in practice… in out-reality, then, attempts to wipe one holy place off another’s sacred site are standard fare in crisis sparks, have been since the Ayodhya riots, hey, maybe since Hagia Sophia became a mosque or the Mezquita in Cordoba sprouted a cathedral. I could go back into antiquity, if any of my throatees are interested.

    And so on — you can read the whole thing on their site under the title News Enhancement In An Info Overloaded Age. I had me a great time writing this, and long time Zenpundit readers will recognize many familiar strands of my thinking, under cover of some fun futuristic jargon..

    **

    Overall project description:

    The Atlantic Council’s Art of Future Warfare project is driven by the Scowcroft Center on International Security’s mandate to advance thinking and planning for the future of warfare. The project’s core mission is to cultivate a community of interest in works and ideas arising from the intersection of creativity and expectations about how emerging antagonists, disruptive technologies, and novel warfighting concepts may animate tomorrow’s conflicts.

    The “Great War” challenge winning entry:

  • Nikolas Katsimpras, Coffee, Wi-Fi and the Moon
  • Other featured entries posted to date:

  • Ashley Henley, Dec. 8, 2041: Another Day of Infamy
  • Sydney J. Freedberg, Jr., Tallinn Is Burning
  • Matt Cavanaugh, Fear Paralyzes Pacific As Army Major Awaits Hearing
  • Saku, Pacific Plunged Into The Abyss!
  • **

    They’re inviting artist, writers and other creative thinkers to spin out ideas in the general direction of future preparedness — in their own way, approaching some of the same territory as the Office of Naval Research and Naval Postgraduate School‘s MMOWGLI (“Massive Multiplayer Online Wargame Leveraging the Internet”) — which Im also thinking about, and will probably dip my toes in..

    All of which is forcing me to think a whole lot about boxes and assumptions — how to recognize our assumptions and think outside our boxes — questions that are never too far from my mind in any case.

    Stay tuned, there’s more to come.

    Not Paris, much nearer home

    Sunday, January 18th, 2015

    [ by Charles Cameron — religious satire USA, plus two Charlie Hebdo resources ]
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    Jesus dinosaur detail 602

    **

    I hadn’t realized that comic book satire had entered the religion vs science debate — foolish of me, it’s an obvious medium for the task:

    jesus-and-darwin 602

    And here for total impact is the full page of Jesus riding the dinosaur (detail above), text included:

    jesusdinosaur large

    I have to say, neither these nor the Charlie Hebdo and Jyllands-Posten cartoons disturb me personally — but in our discussions of free speech and blasphemy, I think the voices of those who may be offended deserve a hearing.

    **

    Sources and Resources:

  • Popperfont, Did Jesus ride on a dinosaur?
  • Beliefnet, Jesus and Darwin fight
  • Daily Beast, 16 most ‘shocking’ Charlie Hebdo covers
  • Understanding Charlie Hebdo, Charlie Hebdo’s satire

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