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Posts Tagged ‘Qur’

Burning of the Qur’ans

February 29th, 2012 Comments off
My latest blog post on the burning of the Qur’ans in Afghanistan.

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On Reading the Qur’an: Hazleton

December 10th, 2010 Comments off

Jenkins: Bible Far More Violent than Qur’an

March 21st, 2010 Comments off

Philip Jenkins studied violence in the Bible and in the Qur’an, and found that the Bible is ‘far more violent.’

This conclusion is obvious to anyone who seriously studies the two scriptures. The NPR article quotes someone named Bostom who claims that violence in the Bible has a context but in Qur’an is commanded to be ongoing. This is an extremely ignorant comment and completely untrue.

The passages in the Qur’an that command fighting pertain to the early Muslims’ struggle with the militant pagans (kafirun, kuffar) of ancient Mecca. The mercantile Meccan elite dominate lower Red Sea trade and worshipped star goddesses; they determined to wipe out the new religion of Islam as it gathered converts through the 610s and set up as a city-state in Yathrib/ Medina in the 620s CE. As I have pointed out before, a careful study of the word kafir or infidel in the Qur’an will show that it never is used in an unadorned way to refer to non-Muslims in general. It implies paganism, or alliance with paganism, and often has overtones of militant hostility to Muslims and Islam. In contrast, the Christians are called ‘closest in love’ to the Muslims, and the Children of Israel are repeatedly praised. There is a passage referring to those who commit kufr or infidelity from among the people of the book (i.e. Jews and Christians) [2:105]. But this diction demonstrates that the word for infidel does not ordinarily extend to those groups. The ones condemned probably had allied with the pagans who were trying to destroy Islam and kill all Muslims, against whom the Qur’an advises believers to wage defensive war (“kill them wherever you find them” [2:191]– i.e. defend yourself against the fanatic pagans trying to kill you).

There are fundamentalist Muslims who use the word ‘kafir’ to refer to all non-Muslims, but the Qur’an does not support this usage. Anti-Muslim bigots in the US use these simplistic ideas of fundamentalists to condemn Islam and all Muslims.

All you have to do is look at the fate of the conquered Canaanites under Joshua (who were to be wiped out in a biblical genocide) and the fate of the Meccans when the Muslims overcame them (almost none were killed and they went on to flourish in the Islamic empire despite their earlier attempt at mass murder aimed at the prophet and his followers), to see the difference between the two.

Jenkins goes on to caution that Jews and Christians are not more violent than Muslims, despite the differences in scripture.

Actually I figure Europeans polished off a good 70 million people in the 20th century, whereas Muslims probably killed no more than 2 million (mainly in the Iran-Iraq War and Afghanistan, the latter of which a European power provoked). But this vast difference is not because Christian-heritage Europeans are such worse human beings than Muslim Middle Easterners. Rather, Europe industrialized warfare first, and also had the political independence to launch wars.

My experience is, people are people. They’re all equally capable of the same good and evil, across religions and cultures, and how much of each they commit has to do with both their opportunities and their character at any point in history.

The amazing thing is that the West has managed to convince itself that all its wars and killing were someone else’s fault (even though it was mainly elements of the West fighting other elements of the West that produced the charnel houses of the twentieth century).

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Shi`ite translations of the Qur’an

February 14th, 2010 Comments off

I ran into professor Hamid Algar at the UC, Berkeley library. So we were talking about translations of the Qur’an. I asked him about translations by Shi`ites. He sent me this per my request (I cite with his permission). “I was intending to send you the details about the Quran’ translations done by Shi’is. They are:1) The Holy Quran, trans. Aqa Mirza Mahdi Puya, Peermohamed Ebrahim Trust, Karachi, 1990; this translator was the son of an Iranian scholar who migrated to Karachi during the reign of Reza Shah. 2) The Qur’an, with a Phrase-by-Phrase English translation, trans. ‘Ali Quli Qara’i, Islamic College for Advanced Studies, London, 2004. (Excellent) There is also a fifteen volume translation with commentary called An Enlightening Commentary into the Light of the Holy Qu’ran, published in Isfahan; it has been translated from the Persian original into an execrable English.”

PS By the way, per the suggestion of Tarif Khalidi, I will post occasional interviews with people. I will start with an interview with Tarif about his translation of the Qur’an and about Islamic studies in general. Hamid Alger agreed to be the subject of the second interview.

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Ali Gomaa on phonetones

January 29th, 2010 Comments off

IslamOnline, Setting Qur’anic Verses as Ringtones: Permissible?, 28 Jan 2010 "Dr. Ali Jum`ah, the current grand mufti of Egypt, stated,""Setting Qur’anic verses and the Adhan as mobile ringtones is legally impermissible, since Almighty Allah’s words are sacred and should not be used in any way that drives them out of their Shari`ah framework.It is improper, and even immoral, to use the Glorious
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Foreign, Afghan Troops Allegedly Kill 6 at Rally against Western Burning of Qur’an

January 14th, 2010 Comments off

Oh, no. Here we go again. Some 2000 villagers from near Lashkar Gah in Helmand province mounted a demonstration against the alleged desecration of the holy Qur’an by NATO troops.

The rally turned violent, and Afghan and foreign troops opened fire, allegedly killing at least 6 persons. (NATO denied the deaths, saying only a sniper was killed). Helmand is a hotbed of Taliban activity and its Pashtun population is relatively anti-Western.

Aljazeera English has video:

Similar controversies over Qur’an desecration provoked anti-American rallies by the Muqtada al-Sadr group in Iraq some years ago. This cycle, of charges of foreign blasphemy, big rallies to protest it, and then the shooting of protesters, is a deliberate ploy by the Taliban to turn locals against NATO and the Afghan army.

Two US troops and 4 Afghan soldiers were killed by bombs in eastern Afghanistan on Tuesday, and nine Afghan troops were wounded. That region of the country is a stronghold of movements such as the Islamic Party or Hizb-i Islami of Gulbadin Hikmatyar and the Haqqani Network of Siraj Haqqani, both mounting insurgencies against the US- and NATO-backed government of Hamid Karzai.

The Obama administration is dedicating $400 million to improving Afghan agriculture this year in a key change from the old Rumsfeld years when the country’s needs were neglected. Training Afghan farmers to produce valuable crops other than poppies is key to reducing narco-terrorism and strengthening the Kabul government (at least those parts of the Kabul government that are not themselves dirty with drug money).

The UN maintains that the general perception in Afghanistan that US aerial bombardment is responsible for most civilian deaths is incorrect. In fact, of the over 2400 civilians killed in 2009, two thirds were killed by Taliban or other radical fundamentalists.

What is important is that the Pashtun plurality in the country comes to know and believe that statistic. It can’t be taken for granted, and may be obscured by pious fury over alleged Qur’an desecration. I can’t tell you how dangerous the spread of such a belief among Pashtuns would be to US and NATO success.

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The Last Week of Ramadan

September 14th, 2009 Comments off

In my posting at the beginningof Ramadan I quoted Sura 97 of the Qur’an, Al-Qadr, which deals with the “Night of Power” or “Night of Destiny” (Laylat al-Qadr), and describes it as “better than a thousand months.” It represents the day of the first revelation to the Prophet Muhammad (and, in some traditions, was also the date of the completion of the revelation of the Qur’an). For Sunni Muslims no specific date is recognized, but it is said to be an odd-numbered day among the last ten days of Ramadan, so the 21st, 23rd, 25th, 27th, or 29th. There is a Shi‘ite tradition that points to the 23rd (which would have been over the past weekend), but given the uncertainty Muslms traditionally say extra prayers and are particularly devoted during the last 10 days of the month.

As I noted the other day, we have just passed Coptic new year, and Rosh Hashona this year will coincide closely with the ‘Id at the end of Ramadan. So I’ll be hard-pressed to mark all of them with seasonal best wishes to readers of various faiths.


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Ramadan Karim!

August 22nd, 2009 1 comment

We have revealed this [Qur’an] 0n the Night of Power.
And what will explain to you what is the Night of Power?
The Night of Power is better than a thousand months.
Therein come down the Angels and the spirit
By God’s permission, on every errand:
Peace! This until the rise of morn!

— Qur’an, Sura 97 (Al-Qadr)
A. Yusuf Ali translation

God’s Apostle said, “When the month of Ramadan starts, the gates of heaven are opened and the gates of Hell are closed and the devils are chained.”

— Hadith of the Prophet, Sahih Bukhari

I began early in this blog to wish all my readers of various faiths and traditions greetings on all the major holidays of the major religions of the Middle East, as well as secular and cultural holidays when I am aware of them. For Muslims, there is no celebration more central to their faith than Ramadan, which, in the United States and most countries in the Muslim world, will begin at sundown tonight, with the fast beginning at sunrise Saturday morning. A few countries will probably have declared that the waxing crescent has been sighted last night (the first night it was astronomically possible), and so will have begun the fast today. Let me wish all my Muslim readers Ramadan Karim, whether you have begun it already or will begin the prayers this evening and the fast tomorrow.

When MEI asked me to start blogging (I’d been pushing for an MEI blog for a while, and violating the traditional “never volunteer” rule, I ended up as the blogger), we agreed that part of our role is to explain the Middle East to the West, as well as vice versa, that while there’s a commentary and entertainment element involved here, there’s also a surreptitious effort at education without making the reader feel like he/she is in school. I suspect most of my readers already know a lot about Ramadan, but perhaps not all.

During Ramadan I plan to talk occasionally about the traditions of the month, but suffice it to say that just as, for Muslims, the central miracle of the faith is the Qur’an, Ramadan is, as much as anything, a celebration of the Qur’an. The book is read in segments each night, completing a full reading in the course of the month; it was in Ramadan that the Qur’an was first revealed, on the laylat al-qadr, the “night of power,” traditionally held to be one of the last 10 nights of Ramadan and an odd-numbered one (the 23rd is popular but not dogmatic), the night referred to in the Sura quoted above. (And yes, “night of power,” though familiar, may be a little misleading. Qadr has many powerful meanings and resonances, and “night of destiny” might be more accurate. Or even something like “fate.”)

And, while the other Muslim holidays I have noted, and the Christian and Jewish and secular and traditional holidays I have marked, are all important, there is no ritual or celebration that brings as many people together, throughout the Muslim world in the Middle East and beyond, as Ramadan. Not even the other great Muslim ‘id marking the hajj, though that is traditionally the other great annual feast of Islam.

And the Ramadan fast has some aspects that may surprise those familiar with other fasting traditions. In Christianity, Catholic Lent and the far more rigorous Orthodox Lent still retain traditions of fairly strict fasting (especially among the Orthodox), but these are penitential seasons leading up to the triumph of Easter. Ramadan is somewhat different, at least insofar as I, as a non-Muslim, understand it. It really is a celebration, though one marked by deprivation and fasting. It is a celebration of the revelation of the Qur’an, and the sacrifices of the day are balanced by the joys of the night, when one not only may eat but partake of special dishes specific to Ramadan, while reciting the Qur’an.

So: Ramadan Karim, and I’ll discuss other aspects of Ramadan as the month goes on.


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