The House of David

"dawnbreak in the west"

Saturday, November 08, 2014

Second-order dissimilarity

Dissimilarity, in the context of a Prophet or Messiah, means the preservation of a tradition which makes that figure look bad. I've posted here before about a dissimilarity in accounts of Jesus's life; I usually refer to a triad, if you'll pardon the blasphemy, of the Virgin Birth, the Baptism, and the Crucifixion. In short, we believe it because it is unhelpful (ineptus). Let's consider a religious tradition whose focus isn't on the religion's focus, but on that one's disciples. What does dissimilarity mean in that context?

Dissimilarity here, I think, would make the disciples look like morons. If the disciples have failed to understand their teacher, that calls the teacher into question as well.

The Gospels frequently have the disciples bickering amongst each other (John) or completely getting it wrong (Mark) - in both cases, focusing on Simeon the Rock. Peter is especially controversial for having pretended, when the pressure was on, that he had nothing to do with the Christ. This doesn't make Peter's church look good in the slightest. This event is generally considered accurate as an event in Peter's career.

I was considering that when I read Krisztina Szilágyi today. Szilágyi brings together Christian and (some) Muslim traditions, and shows that these are in parallel where they say that Muhammad died and wasn't buried until three days later - because the Muslims thought that Muhammad would rise from the dead. She concludes: In view of the general implausibility of anyone in the Arabian Peninsula not being buried on the day of his death or at the latest on the day following it, it is improbable that traditions about Muhammad’s late burial were invented.

I would count this as another second-order dissimilarity. Muslims today are upfront that of course Muhammad did not rise again. A prophet is after all just a man. Allah alone is God. BUT - Muslims would ALSO assume that the Prophet's successors were wiser than they themselves were, on account of proximity to the Prophet's teachings all this time. So the Prophet would be buried according to Islamic law on that day or the next. Certainly not three days after.

The Islamophobic kuffar might of course just make something up; to point and to laugh at the Believers. But this account of the Companions' ignorance is rampant among the Muslims as well. If the Christians had made it up, the Muslims would only have to deny it - like, when the Christians said that the Prophet was eaten by dogs or pigs, the Muslims were able to deny this (well, okay, Szilágyi reports they chose to ignore it, or else to execute whatever troll what said it). In the case of the Companions' misunderstanding, though, the Muslims couldn't deny that unequivocally.

So Szilágyi seems correct that, yes, Muhammad wasn't buried according to the custom.

To compare the two religions' second-orders: Peter's disavowal that he had much to do with Christ might, arguably, be construed as a denial that he had much to do with the Christ-as-real notion. So Peter does not actually get us to the historical Jesus, in the way of that "dissimilarity triad". With the controversy over Muhammad's burial, there's the physical stiff right there on the slab, even giving off a stench by some accounts. Clearly someone here used to exist. Advantage Islam.

posted by Zimri on 18:10 | link | 0 comments

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