[ by Charles Cameron — overstatement & correction in a Foreign Policy subtitle, more ]
I believe it was the science fictioneer James Blish who first brought the idea of testing up to breaking point, but not beyond — or shall we call that, testing that’s asymptotic to one’s breaking point? — in Black Easter and Day after Judgment.
In those two novels, Blish describes a concordat between angelic and demonic forces, in which the devils can claim no soul for their own if they have tested that soul beyond its capacity, nor can the angels claim any soul for their own unless that soul has been tested up to that limit..
It’s a fascinating premise, and one that finds echoes in both the New Testament and Quran.
In the New Testament we read, for instance:
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. [James 1:2-4]
God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able.. [Corinthians 10:13]
Similarly in the Qur’an we find:
And We will surely test you with something of fear and hunger and a loss of wealth and lives and fruits, but give good tidings to the patient.. [Qur’an 2.155]
Allah puts no burden on any person beyond what He has given him. Allah will grant after hardship, ease. [Qur’an 65.7]
Bearing all of which in mind, observe the subtle change in subtitle observable between this Foreign Policy tweet (“scouring”):
and the subtitle as it now stands on the FP page itself (“digging through”):
Cole Bunzel‘s article deserves your attention — it’s just that subtitle I’m a bit annoyed by.
It really doesn’t take must “scouring” of the Qur’an to discover that trials and setbacks are part of the divine plan — and that faith, patience, endurance are what will get one through them.
To my way of thinking, ‘digging through” is a clear improvement on “scouring” — but what’s really happening here is that ISIS propagandists are swapping out more immediately optimistic quotes for quotes that are better adapted to the long haul.
That, I think, is what Bunzel is getting at here, just as that is why the IS English language magazine is no longer called Dabiq, but Rumiyah instead.
It’s not a big mystery — they’re just picking their scriptural quotes to fit the changing situation.
Edited to add:
I’m happy, but in no way surprised, to report that the subtitle in question was an editorial one, not the work of Cole Bunzel.