Saturday, September 20, 2008

quatrain 210

From Sunlight, two versions of quatrain 210:
This Love is the king,
yet a throne cannot be found.
It is the essence of the Koran
yet a verse cannot be found.
Any lover hit by the Hunter's arrow
will bleed all over,
yet a wound cannot be found.

version by Jonathan Star and Shahram Shiva

This Love is a King
but his banner is hidden.
The Koran speaks the Truth
but its miracle is concealed.
Love has pierced with its arrow
the heart of every lover.
Blood flows but the wound is invisible.

trans Azima Melita Kolin and Maryam Mafi

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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

bons mots from Hux @ FFI

Islam had its day and shot its wad. Had it any promise of rising again on its merits, it would find better ambassadors of Muslim values and leadership than Osama bin Laden, Mullah Omar and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.


I don't like this guy - "Hux" or "THHuxley_redux" - but credit where credit's due. This is well said.


Friday, September 05, 2008


The September 2008 issue of Commentary magazine has an excellent article by Bret Stephens: How to Manage Savagery. In it, Stephens examines developments in the world of Islamic terrorism and how that relates to the Muslim world at large. He considers the Huntington "clash of civilizations" paradigm against the realities of the past 15 years since it was first published and concludes:
Contrary to Huntington’s forecast, much of world conflict is now overwhelmingly characterized by fighting and competition not between or among civilizations but within them. And nowhere is this truer than in the Muslim world.

Stephens draws a dramatic parallel between al Qaeda's fate and that of the larger Islamic civilization:
Still, al Qaeda’s decline offers a kind of portrait-in-miniature of a civilization that seems perpetually to be collapsing in on itself. Here is a movement in which suicide—that is, self-destruction—is treated as the ultimate act of self-assertion. A movement that sees itself as an Islamic vanguard, leading the way toward a genuine Muslim umma, but is permanently at war with the Muslim communities it inhabits. A movement whose attacks beyond the Islamic world have mainly had the effect of accelerating the very forces by which it is sealing its own fate. To use an inexact astronomical analogy, this is a movement with the quality of a supernova: even as an envelope of superheated gas rapidly expands outward, its core is compressing and ultimately implodes.

He then considers the policy implications of this reality and identifies three broad approaches that have been considered. Below is my attempt to illustrate these three as models of relationship between the Muslim world and the Christian West:

The first model I've called "separation" and is described by Stephens as follows [my emphasis]:
As for how the United States and its allies should attempt to deal with this new reality, one temptation is simply to stay away, on the theory that no good can come from putting our hands in such a mess. This is roughly the view of the libertarian and paleoconservative Right, and perhaps a majority of the Left. But the view hardly bears discussion: all mention of Israel aside, access to Middle Eastern energy resources is a vital American interest and will almost certainly remain so for decades. The Muslim world is also inextricably a part of the Western one, particularly in Europe. Nor is the global terrorist threat likely to go away even if al Qaeda does. The possibility that a regime that sponsors or supports terrorists might be in a position to supply them with weapons of mass destruction is a direct threat to us.

The second model I've called "diplomacy" and Stephens elaborates thus:
A second option, associated with the so-called realist school, contends that with rare exceptions, the U.S. should deal with the Muslim world more or less as it is, without seeking to change it. This is a view that has much to recommend it—at least in the hands of a master diplomatic practitioner. But Metternichs are hard to come by, and in the hands of lesser statesmen, realism easily slides into passive acquiescence in an intolerable status quo—or into intolerable changes to it. Witness the readiness of Colin Powell, as chairman of the joint chiefs of staff during the first Bush administration, to accept Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990 as a fait accompli.

Finally, I have called the third model "one-way influence" and Stephens explains:
A third view, shared to varying degrees by neoconservatives and liberal internationalists, is that the U.S. and the West have no choice but actively to seek domestic reforms in Muslim countries. Needless to say, such a course is fraught with risks and often prone to mishandling, overreaching, and failure. But some version of it is the only approach that can, if not heal the pathologies of the Muslim world, then at least ameliorate and contain them so that they do not end up arriving unbidden on our doorstep, as they did one morning in September 2001.

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Wednesday, September 03, 2008

blogging the blog

I've been following Robert Spencer's Blogging the Qur'an which, up until recently, was shown at HotAir with a repeat at the JihadWatch site itself. I'd not been commenting since the main student-style questions arose at HotAir and I've not been able to register there. With the move, I decided to take up a student role and ask some questions relating to the entry on Suras 41, “Explained in Detail,” and 42, “Consultation”. I've received patient but, at times, somewhat defensive replies from Robert Spencer.

Basically, I've questioned Spencer's scholarship and impartiality in relation to his paraphrasing of verse 42:41 which arises out of the context of the previous verse. Ten translations of these two verses are given below, followed by Spencer's paraphrase:
Koran 42:40-41

Pickthall: The guerdon of an ill-deed is an ill the like thereof. But whosoever pardoneth and amendeth, his wage is the affair of Allah. Lo! He loveth not wrong-doers. And whoso defendeth himself after he hath suffered wrong - for such, there is no way (of blame) against them.

Yusuf Ali: The recompense for an injury is an injury equal thereto (in degree): but if a person forgives and makes reconciliation, his reward is due from God: for (God) loveth not those who do wrong. But indeed if any do help and defend themselves after a wrong (done) to them, against such there is no cause of blame.

Hilali-Khan: The recompense for an evil is an evil like thereof, but whoever forgives and makes reconciliation, his reward is due from Allah. Verily, He likes not the Zalimun (oppressors, polytheists, and wrong-doers, etc.). And indeed whosoever takes revenge after he has suffered wrong, for such there is no way (of blame) against them.

Shakir: And the recompense of evil is punishment like it, but whoever forgives and amends, he shall have his reward from Allah; surely He does not love the unjust. And whoever defends himself after his being oppressed, these it is against whom there is no way (to blame).

Sher Ali: Remember that the recompense of an injury is an injury the like thereof; but whoso forgives and thereby brings about an improvement, his reward is with ALLAH. Surely, HE loves not the wrongdoers. There is no blame on those who defend themselves after they have been wronged.

Khalifa: Although the just requital for an injustice is an equivalent retribution, those who pardon and maintain righteousness are rewarded by GOD. He does not love the unjust. Certainly, those who stand up for their rights, when injustice befalls them, are not committing any error.

Arberry: and the recompense of evil is evil the like of it; but whoso pardons and puts things right, his wage falls upon God; surely He loves not the evildoers. And whosoever helps himself after he has been wronged -- against them there is no way.

Palmer: For the recompence of evil is evil like unto it; but he who pardons and does well, then his reward is with God; verily, He loves not the unjust. And he who helps himself after he has been wronged, for these - there is no way against them.

Rodwell: - Yet let the recompense of evil be only a like evil but he who forgiveth and is reconciled, shall be rewarded by God himself; for He loveth not those who act unjustly. And there shall be no way open against those who, after being wronged, avenge themselves;

Sale: - And the retaliation of evil [ought to be] an evil proportionate thereto: - But he who forgiveth, and is reconciled [unto his enemy], shall receive his reward from God; for he loveth not the unjust doers. And whoso shall avenge himself, after he hath been injured; as to these, it is not lawful to punish them [for it]:


Robert Spencer: Then v. 40 says that an equal injury should be inflicted in retaliation for an injury – but Allah will reward those who forgive. However, taking revenge is not sinful (v. 41).

I've discussed this matter further with my son who has never read any of the Koran. Reading those above translations and Spencer's paraphrasing he immediately concluded that Spencer had indeed misrepresented the verses and even more so than I had questioned him over. In my son's view verse 40 suggests than an evil deed deserves a proportionate evil deed, not that such "equal injury should be inflicted in retaliation" as Spencer has it. The next part - "Lo! He loveth not wrong-doers" - is pretty clear in saying that Allah would prefer that the conflict end amicably and no further evil deeds be committed. Finally, if attempts at forgiveness and reconciliation fail, then and only then is a forthright self-defense advised and this is without blame since it has presumably followed the earlier efforts. So, rather than being a whitewash of mere revenge as Spencer's paraphrase suggests, the Koran is demanding an approach to conflict resolution which is, in fact, quite modern.

It's a pity that Spencer missed this opportunity to give a fairer reading of the Koran and reveal some of its inherent merits, at least in these purer or more directly revelatory Meccan verses.

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