||"dawnbreak in the west"|
Sunday, June 16, 2013
"Common sense" is not a programme, but a pose.
The "moderate" can dismiss his opponents as lunatics unworthy of consideration. And he can nod to his own side that he agrees with them in secret.
Beware, above all, the "moderate" in power. He can threaten everyone else, implicitly, that if he doesn't get what he wants he'll take more extreme positions in future.
Saturday, June 15, 2013
Toba makes headlines (and they're awful)
Mount Toba in Sumatra went bang sometime in the late 70s-thousand BC. It sent a vast cloud of ash over the Indian Ocean to its west.
The human population, and several other animal species, underwent a DNA bottleneck around this time. It has been mused that these phenomena are related. Also, some spoor of humanity has turned up in India, dating just prior. So, this event matters; both in of itself, and as a marker for the settlement of the subcontinent.
On the former, it's now known that, at least, Toba did not affect the equatorial climate. Whatever the fallout did was on the level of a Tambora: impermanent. Still, the eruption more directly would have sent over enough obsidian ash to tear up peoples' lungs; so it could still have bottlenecked our ancestors (that way). I have to say, the title
As for India: it is now known that pre-Toba Indians, whoever they were, did not contribute to modern India. Again, I don't like the headline,
It helps to read the full article.
Hickenlooper, the worst arsonist in Colorado history
The legality of the Syrian expedition
4500 troops are going to Jordan, and in the meantime the CIA is funneling weapons to Syria's rebels.
It is true that Assad and his part of Syria have allied with our enemies - namely the Shi'a regime in Iran, which invaded American soil in 1979, not to mention all the terrorist atrocities they've sponsored against us. Khomeini's brethren are ruling Iran to this day, whoever the current Presidential figurehead is.
But Syria's rebels are also our enemies. I don't believe for a minute that the secular opposition to Assad amounts to anything. In effect Obama has delivered an order for our troops to cover for his government's aid to al-Qaeda.
An aside here - yes, it is Obama's government. This government serves itself, believes itself righteous for so doing, and holds Obama up as its Imam of Guidance. It's not a government for anyone outside the "clerisy"; we are dhimmis at best.
So, back to the American troops massing around Syria. Is it legal for us to be providing aid and comfort to the intrinsic enemies of America's culture, Constitution, and people?
Does "legality" even retain a meaning anymore under this regime?
Sunday, June 09, 2013
My records say that I had fixed up "Islamic Ethics", "In Ranks", and "Smoke" last April; but for the life of me I can't remember what all I did. Anyway it's been a few months, so another upload is in order.
More to the point, "The Covenant of Those Given The Book" now has (much) better footnoting. And I've made a major overhaul of "A Test for the Jami of Hakam". The problem with this last one, is that it started as a footnote to another project I was working on in 2009. So not only was it a rush-job, but my Arabic was weaker. I'd just not got around to cleaning it up since then. Well, now it's better.
Tuesday, June 04, 2013
Let’s talk about the Qahtani.
You might know the name "Qahtani" from that loon in 1979 who took over the mosque at Mecca. That particular Qahtani, despite appearances, wasn't entirely crazy. A few days back, I found this hadith from Bukhari (tr. Khan, 9.88.233):
For this hadith, Sahih Bukhari traces the isnad Abd al-Aziz b Abd Allah < Sulayman b. Bilal al-Madani. The hadith is also in some fairly important apocalyptic collections: Dani's Sunan al-Warida (tracing from Yahya b Fulayh) and Nuaym b Hammad Marwazi's Fitan (from Abd al-Aziz b Muhammad al-Darawardi d. 187/803, of Madina).
They agree upon this "common-link" isnad: Thawr b. Zayd [mawla of Banu al-Dyl, of the Banu Bakr, d. 135 / mid 750s] < Abu'l-Ghayth [Salim, the mawla of ibn Muti] < Abu Hurayra. We can ignore Abu Hurayra; maybe Abu'l-Ghayth too. Thawr b. Zayd is my concern. He was transmitting this hadith during the last Umayyad Fitna, running through to the `Abbâsid takeover.
Underlying the Qahtani cycle is that it claims for its hero a bloodline separate from that of Abraham. The Qahtani is the figurehead of the Yemen. People who weren't all that apocalyptic might spread this hadith to belittle non-Yemeni uprisings, like the revolt of the Hasani in 762 AD; but that wasn’t this hadith's primary goal. For the primary goal, the researcher needs a Yemeni uprising sometime in the 700s AD or prior. I don’t see anything obvious in the 750s. But before then…
By the 730s AD, the Islamic government had more-or-less settled upon a succession from Abd al-Malik bin Marwan and a capital somewhere in Syria (ideally Damascus). But this ran into a problem, familiar to Saudi-watchers: Abd al-Malik spawned a finite number of sons. The last of these was Hisham, who died in 743. Al-Walid bin Yazid sort-of succeeded next, but Yazid bin al-Walid launched a coup and killed that guy. Yazid himself died before securing his claim.
Thus began the last Umayyad-era fitna, and a “tribulation” indeed it was. This being a caliphate, the claimants all claimed to be acting in the name of God. But other actors not in the clear lines of succession could do that too.
The most successful claimant (until he wasn’t) was Marwan the Red, son of Muhammad bin Marwan. He had no real base in Syria, but he did have friends along the Byzantine border. Accordingly he sat himself at Harran – and allied himself mainly with the Qays tribe, enemy of the Yemenis.
Marwan faced Sulayman bin Hisham first, who was pro Yemen; Marwan defeated him. Also, Thabit bin Nuaym al-Judhami rebelled in Syria; and this one declared himself “the yellow Qahtani”. Judham by then was considered Yemeni. As for his use of yellow, I suppose that was just to raise up a banner that wasn’t red.
One last point: Thawr's hadith presents the Qahtani as, literally, a scourge. So the Madinans were not necessarily on the Qahtani's side. The City of the Prophet was a city for the Quraysh, sons of Ishmael. I wouldn't expect the Madinans and Qurayshi mawali to support Yemenis, and Thawr was both.
I believe that we can pin this Qahtanite hadith to Thabit’s rebellion in the middle 740s at latest; this is almost certainly what Thawr intended by it. Before then, I don’t know yet.
To reveal an apocalypse
I am currently sifting through a vast slurry of apocalyptic ahadith, mainly current in the early Abbasid period. These hadiths often coalesce around a person.
Jesus is important of course, but usually he drops down to Earth alongside more mysterious figures. Some of the latter are (also) defined by God’s chrism: “Mahdi”, “Mansur”; others, by their heritage: “Qahtani”, “Sufyani”, “he of the Prophet’s household”. The titles often descend in clouds upon singular figures: thus, the Qahtani Mansur, and the Mahdi from Ali’s shia. And sometimes, the hero of one party is the villain of the next – particularly notable of the Sufyani.
I think that whenever an apocalypse is tracked to a given transmitter, all we can say is that this transmitter published it to serve his own cause in his own time. There may or may not be an older tradition behind that.
As one example, take the tradition of the hero from “between rukn and maqam”. Something like seven decades of scholarship have pinned this upon Abd Allah bin al-Zubayr. But not all scholars are fully certain (the two Cooks, Michael and David, have voiced this skepticism); there seems to be a re-application of this trope to Muhammad Nafs al-Afaya al-Hasani (rebelled 762 AD). In this case, I have confidence that it was originally Zubayrite; on account that no less a muhaddith as Ibn Abi Shaybah bundled these rukn-maqam traditions together in a Zubayrite-era section. But we are not always so fortunate.
Sunday, June 02, 2013
Don't go swimming water falls
Stick to the innertubing streams you're used to.
Did I buy a pirate copy?
Sometime in the later part of the 2000s, I ordered Joseph Schacht's Origins - somehow. Maybe Amazon, but they deny it; maybe at a Barnes and Noble. The title page links to www.historyebook.org. It claims to be the ACLS History e-Book Project, based in Ann Arbor, MI.
Anyway, Amazon had thought that the outfit was legit too, and linked the book - until sometime over the past year, when they killed the link. Go to historyebook.org now, and you'll see that almost all its links are dead. Except one - to cheaptextbooks.org, owned by one Mr Chan over in Glendale, AZ. Also note that they disallowed the Wayback archiver.
Here's the whois:
Note: not Ann Arbor. Also the email on the coversheet goes to "hebook.org", which is legitimate; that's the Humanities ebook project, which does belong to ACLS at Ann Arbor.
And here's Moniker in court, against Transamerica. Some of the allegations are that they registered domains under fictitious identities - and indeed I do not find anything particularly scholarly about the Charlie McRae's whom I google up.
Something stinks. If I had bought a pirate copy, I apologise.
Review: Origins of Muhammadan Jurisprudence
[This review is a transfer. I had ordered a mimeograph from, ultimately, www.historyebook.org; and I posted the review on Amazon 6 July last year. Amazon then deleted the book but left my review. So it ended up just hanging out there, describing nothing. In the meantime I have found out more relevant facts and critiques. So, I have deleted the review there, and am posting a new version here. Whilst I was at it, I've reconfigured my Tottoli review.]
Joseph Schacht's Origins of Muhammadan Jurisprudence is THE foundational work of postwar Islamic hadith and sunna criticism; the lineal successor to Goldziher's Muhammedanische Studien II. Every work that has come after it, on the topic of fiqh, has been forced to take this into account.
What this book offers, and what was elsewhere lacking (and often lacks still), is a thoroughgoing summary and - often - translation of seminal works in Sunnite law. We learn here of Abu Hanifa, Ibn Abi Layla, Abu Yusuf and other giants of fiqh before Shafi`i's time. The book argues, in admittedly confused fashion, that early Islamic law was based on local practice and that The Hadith, as a "Muhammadan" artifact, was at first marginal. Schacht blames Shafi`i, as he who forced The Hadith into the forefront. After that, The Hadith took on a life of its own and its isnads started, inexorably, to "improve".
One problem with this book, as modern critics have monotonically told us, is that Schacht did not have access to the legal-organised hadith compendia of Ibn Abi Shayba and `Abd al-Razzaq (among others). These were contemporary with the Muwatta' and held vast amounts of data on, say, the state of the Basran legal schools in Malik's time. But I think the main problem is that Shafi`i just isn't to blame for the drive toward hadith-equals-sunna. Even his disciples like Juynboll have been pedalling back from this, blaming early-Abbasid muhaddiths from Iraq instead. And... honestly, I think that Schacht shouldn't have needed all those new documents, to figure this out.
I can't exactly say "the conclusions remain sound" to the extent I did last year. The book is wrong about Shurayh, and overstates its case greatly about Shafi`i. I will however allow that it is still valuable as a guide to the proto-Sunni schools of law.
Saturday, June 01, 2013
Why the wounded are not always retrieved
William H. Regnery chimes in about the Right. The occasion of revelation, if I may, is the behaviour of "National Review" and Heritage (and, further back, "The Washington Times") against the people to their Right.
(My link is to AmRen; the original was hosted at VDare, but VDare is running a beg-a-thon at the moment.)
Mr Regnery has his own perspective. First, he is a nephew of the founder of the Regnery publisher; but more importantly he was on the board of another publisher, the Intercollegiate Studies Institute. The ISI is the outfit which put out The Closing of the Muslim Mind and Did Muhammad Exist? Regnery's account is worth quoting in full:
This seems too good to be true, and I must admit that I believed it at first. But . . . then I clicked the links he gave for "group differences and cognitive heritability". The first goes to "The Mismeasures of Gould"; the second to "New Twin Study Finding On Non-IQ Cognition". Neither of them are from before 2005. Neither of them are even by Regnery. They are however (or, were) hosted at VDare. What we have here is his attempt to rally VDare's staff and readership to his own banner.
So I went on a google and I uncovered the Charles Martel Society. This is what Mr Regnery had really been up to, from 2001 to 2005. It turns out that ISI's firing wasn't because Regnery was posting stuff about IQ. It was because of the CMS, which during Regnery's tenure was the recipient of donations in honour of Glayde Whitney, and which in turn donated a cool ten grand to Kevin MacDonald. MacDonald and various others like him also contribute to CMS's "Occidental Quarterly".
One could attack or defend these ties, if one wished to; but the least Regnery should have done, when he was settling these scores, was to disclose these ties.
Monday, May 27, 2013
Why specialist books are hard to read
I've had the opportunity to read through a number of books on the field of early Islam. Some are a breeze, like Crone / Hinds God's Caliph. But some are not. With Wansbrough, we can blame his prose, and with Schacht we can blame his tendency to crosslink his arguments ("see below!", "see above!") and to head down into digressions in the middle of his text. But there is another distraction in books like this, which might in fact be a problem in the genre.
Some books are there to make an argument - often an argument against other books. I've noticed this as a subtext in Scott Lucas's Constructive Critics, Ḥadīth Literature, which frequently calls out Juynboll's work. Such confrontation of other scholars was even more prominent in Michael Cook's Muslim Dogma and in Shoemaker's Death of a Prophet. There are similar points in Julius Wellhausen's history of the Umayyads where he stops the narrative, so he can go off on some lemma, before returning to it again. GR Hawting flagged Wellhausen for this in his introduction to First Dynasty of Islam, xxi.
This is fine for journal articles; journals exist so that scholars can hash out their differences. It's ... less fine for books. I don't always have the references which the books are refuting. It gets distracting to read "X said this, Y said that" in the main text. I want to read the book's argument, not everyone else's.
I understand that one writes a book to deliver a full-form argument, and that you are often going to have to confront someone else's argument. But if you don't want your book to be restricted to the subset of readers of someone else's book, or worse many others' books - you need to concentrate on your own arguments in the main body of your text. The way Lucas dealt with it is best, in my opinion. Restrict the controversies to the footnotes as best you can, to appendices for the longer notes.
Sunday, May 26, 2013
Sunna versus Hadith
(I stole the chapter heading from Yasin Dutton's last chapter, on his study on Madinan fiqh.)
Over the last couple days, I rewrote the Wiki on Said bin al-Musayyab.
To explain this guy for the infidels amongst us: Said was a Madinan jurist, whose rulings upon Islamic law were then adopted by Ibn Shihab al-Zuhri, by Umar II, and by Yahya bin Said al-Ansari. From them, his law entered the law-codes of the Umayyad court and of Madina both. So he is a big deal in Sunni Islam. He is more secondary to the law of Iraq, now expressed by Hanafis and the Shia.
I embarked upon this project not because the article then-posted was "POV" (point-of-view), although it was. I saw no real reason to confront the Muslim high opinion of this man's character. Also, my prior experience on Wikipedia (with Hasan al-Basri) has informed me that it is pointless to argue with Islamic piety - in the West, anyway. Wiki's editors are, like all Westerners in good standing these days are, leftists; they will side with Islamists against the Enlightenment.
I limited my updates to Said's biography, which I expanded; and to Said's role in hadith and tafsir, which I debunked. Well, which role Gautier "GHA" Juynboll had debunked three decades ago. Said didn't know as many rulings of the Prophet (nor Umar) as people say he knew, and he didn't treat what rulings he did know as formal hadiths.
It occurs to me that modern Muslims need, on an emotional level, to feel that their Sunna goes straight to the Prophet. From that perspective, Sunna equals Hadith. A jurist like Said who was renowned for his legal perspective, in his own time; for our time, can be revered only insofar as he transmits the Hadith.
The people who wrote up the article, as I had found it, hold that the pinnacle of human achievement is to do exactly as the Prophet did. They are not men; they are machines. And they expect of other Muslims that they be machines, too. They expect this especially of their saints; even where the saints were not machines, but wise and jurisprudent men.
Saturday, May 25, 2013
I checked out the introduction to David Graeber, "Debt: The First 5,000 Years". To his credit (heh), Graeber lays up front at the start that he's an activist; he calls it a global debt justice movement or some such rot, others call it "anti-globalisation" which is also rot. Anyway he believes that debt is evil - and pins most of the evil upon the lenders.
His analogy is to a guy going to the bank saying, "I want 500 quid [he's English] to put on Lucky Horsie #4". In an *ethical* situation, the bank would laugh him off the premises. So, what sort of person would lend him cash anyway? Probably, he says, those who don't *expect* the loser to pay them back. They expect to take over the guy's holdings and to enslave his family. They're not bankers; they're gangsters.
The international marketplace has no rules - can have no rules. The French for instance set an arbitrary debt upon Haiti (this I knew), and later upon Madagascar (which I didn't know).
So now, the European Union has made crooked deals with several member nations, which it is now calling due. The people of Spain, Portugal and Greece were not quite asked how the deals would work; their leaders and elites drew up these contracts, and simply assured everyone it would work out. It makes one wonder if the point of the EU was not to improve the economy of Europeans, but for the rich in north Europe to gobble up prime Mediterranean coastline for pennies.
Sunday, May 19, 2013
The difference a month makes
For giggles, I've scrolled through some comments I'd made about five weeks back. These comments turn out to encapsulate predictions, if implicit predictions. Let's see how we did.
Ponnuru proved prescient on the first one, and me less so; I am still unsure I was wrong, though. Obama's Presidency has indeed been discredited. The question I still have, is whether any of Obama's minions viewed the gun-bill's failure as weakness, and if this weakness inspired some whistleblowers. Otherwise, if you roll the dice enough times, you are statistically likely to catch a six; if this is the case, then Ponnuru rolled a six and I got a one.
On this colossal "Scandal-gate", here's Drew's roundup. We need to add a bullet by the IRS scandal; several more smoking-guns have been found linking Obama's cabinet with the bureau's rampage. Geithner at least was briefed. Also, the main culprit, Ingram, was given a bonus and transferred to the prestigious Obamacare appointment. There is also rumbling that the EPA has been targeting conservatives, whilst giving the birdblenders a pass. In short, we are finding out that the US Government is running itself without the input of us proles; which is, Constitutionally, a coup. It is also increasingly clear that Obama is complicit in this subversion.
On to the Arab / bomber thing. Last I looked, Shoebat is still crying in the wilderness about the Harbi angle - but not so loud now. I get the feeling that this theory is headed for the "grassy knoll" and "John Doe #2" (X-)files. We can accept Shoebat for his exegesis of Islam and his understanding of Arab culture; we will have to ignore him for his reading of current events.
House of War is back
Two months ago, I put out a Second Edition of House of War. Over a few weeks of no sale, I'd found some more errors and also new content. (I was also hoping to get more customer feedback on the first edition; this much, I didn't get, but such is life.) So I quietly undid that "version 2.0" edition.
As of this morning, "version 2.1" is now available via Amazon and CreateSpace.
The biggest selling point: charts! Yes, we now have charts. There's isnad bundles for "Abd Allah and the Mahdi", and a chain-of-authorship for the suras involved.
For the narrative, I did more with the protagonists. I expanded the deeds of Amr al-Ashdaq, Muhammad Ibn al-Ashath, Ibrahim bin al-Ashtar, Khalid and, above all, Khalid's mother. See, for all that Umm Khalid did, including that she murdered a caliph - I neglected to mention her given name: Fakhita. Those who noticed would say that this was sexist and insensitive of me. And they'd be right; I can't defend it. But I can correct it, and so that's what I've done.
As for the individual arguments, I did more with the propaganda concepts of "ilhâd" on one hand, and "hudâ", "imâm" and "caliph" on the other. With these in play, I reconsidered the letter of Abd al-Malik to Ibn al-Ashtar - I deemed it authentic enough to quote in full.
The main text, including endnotes and illo's, is at 127 pages now. The rest of the material runs up the tally to the 230s.
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