The House of David

"dawnbreak in the west"

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Amr w ʿeṣâ

Among the articles in Ibn Warraq's Christmas in the Koran is Baljon, "The Amr of God in the Koran". There's a 1974 summary here. I ran across some cringe-inducing references to "pre-Islamic" poetry in there, and this sparked me off the article. But now I've slept on it, so let's salvage something from the mess.

Baljon's notion here is that "amr" for the Qur'an's first authors was how those authors interpreted Hebrew ʿeṣâ. ʿeṣâ had the connotation of a plan; so if God was involved, this is a Divine judgement. The Qur'an, for its part, treats God's amr as different stages of a carefully prepared and well-thought out world-order (Baljon's italics). To me it reads like ʿeṣâ is the intent and amr is the command (the logos); the word then is.

A more literal Qur'anic calque of ʿeṣâ, then, would be shâ': [God's] "will". But there shâ' is often arbitrary which brings us to back to Baljon's preference for amr. One might also try makar: "plot"; or ḥukm: justice. But these used with more narrow intent in the suras.

I'm left thinking that the Qur'an doesn't owe squat to Judaism here. All that is needed is a notion of a powerful God who commands His will upon Earth. This is had in all the monotheisms including the Iranians'. Baljon's squib is as damp as ever.

Here's one loose thread though: ʿÎsâ in the Qur'an. He is called "word of God" and "breath of God" in the earlier suras. However there the suras explain that there was one, specific, word used here: namely, "Be!". Thus they inform us that ʿÎsâ is the issue of this word. Ultimately the Qur'anic Jesus is (an) Ayat Allâh; not (the) Amr Allâh.

But that might not have been the case before the Qur'an, for the Jewish-Christians who are the theme of Ibn Warraq's book. Suppose some punster called Jesus, ʿEṣâʿel?

posted by Zimri on 10:35 | link | 0 comments

Saturday, September 13, 2014


Fred Donner's Muhammad and the Believers's thesis is that the Prophet’s movement concerned militant piety. Here, the Prophet gathered together a movement of everybody in the Near East who was just plain tired of the Byzantines and Sasanians. So if you were a Jew or Samaritan (still a going concern back then) and could stomach another Prophet -- you’re in. If you were a Christian and you didn’t like the Greeks much -- also, you’re in. Nestorian? Manichaean? Mandaean? Come on down!

Is this thesis plausible? Perhaps; not terribly falsifiable as yet, but plausible. But do we trust Donner to make the argument? Donner is pro-Palestinian to the expense of others.

Something Else Is At Work - and it's not scholarship. Donner wants us to think that there exists a “real Islam”, back there, somewhere, that would be worthwhile for Westerners to follow; or at least to accept as the baseline Islam, before we look at what Islam actually does to its minorities. This Western-concocted ultra-pious trans-religious Islam is, by chance, the same liberal Islam which Greenfield has marked out.

posted by Zimri on 20:48 | link | 0 comments

Elkasaite Islam

Six decades ago Schlomo Pinès asserted that Islam is Jewish-Christian at base - that is, it was informed by an actual Jewish Christian sect, and wasn't just a freeform riff on the mainstream denominations' texts (as Mormonism). Pinès's main evidence was a tract he'd extracted from Abd al-Jabbar. Several scholars in the revisionist school ran with this claim, of which I was first aware of Nevo and Koren in 2003. But three years after that, Gabriel Said Reynolds in his study of Abd al-Jabbar proved Pinès's main claim was bunk. As a result I was de-convinced of the whole thing; I wouldn't touch Pinès with a barge-pole. But now I am ready to be re-convinced, in part.

Last year I'd included "Islam, Judaeo-Christianity and Byzantine Iconoclasm" as among the works of Patricia Crone which you shouldn't bother yourself with. This was because of Reynolds again: Crone's article successfully makes a connection between the rise of Islam and Byzantine iconoclasm, but fails ... to make a connection between either of these two phenomena and Judaeo-Christianity and, by the way, cited Pinès.

I have recently received Holger Michael Zellentin's The Qur'ân's Legal Culture: The Didascalia Apostolorum as a Point of Departure. This brings another set of sources to the Christian milieu, bridging the gap between "Jewish-Christianity" and the pre-Furqanic suras 5 and 17. (I still insist on suras 25, 26 etc being Marwanid-era; anyway those don't add much to Islamic doctrine.) I have also been independently pointed to Adolf von Harnack, Lehrbuch der Dogmengeschichte, 1909 edition (not noted in Zellentin). I cannot find this except in Google's snippet-view; but Marcus Gross has translated the relevant portion to English and I am reading it in Ibn Warraq's Christmas in the Koran. Von Harnack looked into the sects within Jewish Christianity, and dismissed the Ebionites; to focus our attention on the Elkasaites. Lastly, Zellentin's book tells us that Patricia Crone has drafted what is (unfortunately) likely to be her last book, another look at Jewish Christianity in Islam. This is likely to iron out the errors that she had transmitted before.

We can perhaps re-read Pinès with those chapters on Abd al-Jabbar deleted.

UPDATE 7:50 PM - reviews: Zellentin, Ibn Warraq.

posted by Zimri on 08:21 | link | 0 comments

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Near Eastern Christianity again

Ted Cruz got an earful.

Cruz tried arguing with these Christians. Really, he tried. But it just has to come down to this: If you will not stand with Israel and the Jews - then I will not stand with you. Good night, and God bless.

And (I have to add this, these days) not because of that whole Zion angle. There is no point in getting a united front going if the people involved have no interest in it.

posted by Zimri on 20:40 | link | 0 comments


The Struggle For The Holy Shrines is in the news again. That means, so are its apologists. Rodney Stark may be seeing his sales spike. I know the ISI has seen its hits spike.

Assuming we've all outgrown the bigot Gibbon and the fatuous Runciman - here are more recent books: Cobb, Race for Paradise and Catlos, Infidel Kings and Unholy Warriors. I've read the first part of Cobb; haven't read Catlos. Cobb does put it all in the context of the Mediterranean, as does the ISI.

posted by Zimri on 20:03 | link | 0 comments

A Sunni defends Baghdadi

Muhammad al-Bayûdh al-Tamîmî: Baghdadi follows Qur'an and Sunna. MEMRI, h/t Jihadwatch.

Now, "The Book of God and the Sunna of His Prophet" has two meanings. One is the text of the Scripture and the practice of Muslims in good standing. The other is a simple battle-cry, probably first heard at Siffîn. (Crone and Hinds, God's Caliph.) So Tamîmî could be winking at his ultra-Islamic fan-club.

Let's not take sides on what Tamîmî meant. Either way - it's time Muslims had a debate about that. On what basis does this new self-styled Caliph of... we haven't been told yet... derive his right to abrogate classical Sunna?

posted by Zimri on 19:24 | link | 0 comments

Yes, AndrVirginia, it is about journalistic collusion

Noah Dulis explains why gaming journalists keep dragging Zoe Quinn's sex life into the spotlight. In short: SQUIRREL!

On that note, here's Wired UK and the Telegraph. I especially like the latter - the illos include an unhappy Zoe (awww), a picture of a troll (snerk!) and some teenage whiteboy losers (say no more). If Joe the Plumber says something troubling to your worldview, go vet Joe the Plumber.

Journalists are a guild and they are protecting their own. The real story be damned.

posted by Zimri on 18:49 | link | 0 comments

Monday, September 08, 2014

Infidels excommunicate the caliph

Rev. Professor David Thomas; and Secretary of State John Kerry. h/t Jihadwatch.

Baghdadi's no Sunni, but he doesn't need to be a Sunni to be a Muslim. The key is what happens in Dhu'l-Hijja... next month. Will his followers be allowed to make the pilgrimage?

posted by Zimri on 21:00 | link | 0 comments

Calder > Luxenberg

What doth Q. 37:103 mean, by fa-lamma aslama wa-tallahu li'l-jabîni?

BARTH: this jabîn is Syriac, "eyebrow". Arthur Jeffrey went along with this, as have the Muslims more or less.

CALDER, "The Sa`y and the Jabîn" (1986): Pff. Sura 37 is rajaz. Don't expect fancy-shmancy borrowings from other languages. A jabîn is just a highland - the composer is screwing around with Arabic words, in this case Kufan jabbâna. And it's Biblical.

LUXENBERG, Syro-Aramaic: Barth was right, this is Syriac... but it means "firewood". Hey, Biblical! (I'm not aware if Luxenberg cited Calder but if he did, it wasn't seriously.)

KING, reviewing Luxenberg: "convoluted". (BTW, King didn't even cite Calder but, such is life.)

Calder got from the âya to the Biblical verse with the fewest detours. I side with Calder.

Although... Luxenberg deserves some credit, for - like Calder did - calling shenanigans on "eyebrows". We can perhaps credit the exegetes for bringing in Syriac where - for once - it wasn't in the original. So Luxenberg's general thesis is given the exception that tests the rule: the Muslims by now expected Syriac in their Qur'an, which means there was lots of it elsewhere.

I just wish that Luxenberg had backed off and made that argument. Hey, he could even have brought in Wansbrough, for that one's musings on tafsir.

posted by Zimri on 18:27 | link | 0 comments

Annual Ibn Warraq

Amazon tells me they have shipped Christmas in the Koran. (I owe the information that it was out there, ultimately, to Ulrich whose review I have linked.)

Ulrich advises that the book includes Aramaisms in the Quran and Their Significance ... which I had already downloaded last July. (Sigh. Ibn Warraq really should consider the effect this bloat has on his output.) Beyond that, Ulrich suggests additional material: Donner, Quranic Furqan and Dye, Traces of Bilingualism/Multilingualism in Qur'anic Arabic (I already had these too) - and Daniel King, A CHRISTIAN QUR’ĀN? (PDF) (which I didn't). Whether you've read them all or not, we owe Ulrich much thanks for bringing them all to one place. And we can thank Ibn Warraq too for not stuffing his pages even further.

On to King, whose work is (I think) the most important here - he gives us a 2009 review of Luxenberg's Syro-Aramaic Reading of the Koran, in its 2007 translation/edition of, itself, the second German edition. This review has the merit of looking into that Syro-Aramaic side of things, where other reviewers had up to then stuck with the Arabic. I am promised that the core of "Christmas in the Koran" is Luxenberg re-organising and improving more of his material. I've had mixed opinions of Luxenberg as a whole; I wasn't keen on his essays in that first Inarah volume but he did better in the second. King's essay should keep me out of mischief anyway.

posted by Zimri on 17:22 | link | 0 comments

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Wael Hallaq the parrot

This is what Wael Hallaq, signatory to the BDS petition, has to say about Orientalism:

There is a lot that can be said of this issue. To put it as briefly as possible, and paradigmatically speaking, the Western intellectual tradition has not engaged with other traditions–especially the Islamic–in any serious or half-serious way. Instead, its three-centuries history has been one of dismissing such an engagement, while passing an off-hand condemnatory judgment whenever an encounter–however brief and unthreatening–is forced upon it. To say that the reaction to Islam is downright irrational is of course not to exhaust analysis, but it is certainly on the mark. This is extremely ironic in view of the fact that Western culture has defined itself as the abode of reason and rational enquiry par excellence!

First, note how blithely this professor dismisses from the Western intellectual tradition all Christian thought. Christianity's dispute with Islam goes back to when Islam was still forming. Hallaq has to know that; that is why he doesn't count it. In more modern times: so much for Muir, Inchbald, Tisdall et c.

Hallaq also doesn't count where Enlightenment thinkers have checked into Christian thinkers on the topic and cited the latter approvingly. One example here is Gibbon's citation of Joseph White's Bampton lecture. Hallaq further doesn't count observers like Sir Richard Francis Burton. He has nothing to say on any neutral Western scholarship upon Islam for Islam's own sake (which will mostly be German): there is no Wellhausen here, for instance; no Geiger or Jeffery.

Hallaq reduces the entire 1400-year-long Western encounter with Islam to Enlightenment-and-later philosophy.

Now, if Hallaq had been honest about this, and restricted himself exactly to "the output of Western atheists taking Islam seriously" - arguments could be made that Western Philosophy didn't bother sending its own messages to address the Orient; that it piggybacked upon the Christians' missionaries and the colonial armies. (By analogy, Islam did not spread its message throughout the Magians and pagans in the east, but let the Manichees and Nestorians spread theirs - until the `Abbasid era.) There is space in scholarship for discussion about what the philosophers could have done. It's even possible that the first person to attempt an apologia for Western philosophy amongst the Muslims is Ibn Warraq.

But Hallaq didn't bother making the case. Hallaq preferred to sneer and to throw out insinuations. After all, he has no real interest in the quality of Western thought himself; that would entail some personal risk and more to the point personal effort.

This is the calibre of intellectual mind behind the BDS petition: abusive, dishonest and fundamentally lazy.

posted by Zimri on 11:22 | link | 0 comments

Friday, September 05, 2014

It's getting worse

Middle-East scholars call for boycott of Israel. It's not just Esposito, Dabashi and Rashad Khalidi.

Also on the list are Wael Hallaq and Fred Donner.

[UPDATE 8 PM] So... if, perchance, I might have purchased Narratives of Islamic Origins or Islamic Legal Theories, and happen to be a Zionist with relatives who live there... are Hallaq and Donner boycotting me? More to the point are they boycotting the money I spent on those two (nearly useless) books? I also bought Muhammad and the Believers and The Origins and Evolution of Islamic Law, which I found to be a lot better but - hey. Whilst we are at it we can throw in the Dabashi edition of Stern's Muslim Studies, assuming he got royalties.

I take it the undersigned will not be so quick to boycott my filthy Joo money.

posted by Zimri on 16:14 | link | 0 comments

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Friends don't let friends use Twitter

I know I know, I know I knowwww... cliché.

But really, The Tweet is not such a medium as can lead to considered and rational thought. I mean for the sake of Allah even a blog forces some degree of editorial consideration, and if something comes up that induces a re-consideration then any decent blog portal will let you fix the original post. Twitter enforces a 140 character limit and this not even counting the fuckin' #hashtags.

The Tweet format leads to ape-hooting, is what I am saying. I mean, take this nonsense, No lady protagonists. Never mind this 31-page list, from Ms. Pac-Man to Mara Jade. Or, Christian[s']... wholly imagined persecution. Never mind that observant Christianity cannot actually be observed in several states. (This before we even get into this shit. And, by the way, I'll leave it to the reader to decide on how "Christian" my blog has been.)

Humans are animals. They react to stimuli. The short-term "fix" is pretty sweet in the short term - you got an upding, you got a retweet, OMG OMG YOU GOT A RESPONSE!! Someone interested in that, will naturally post the most pithy and humourous Tweet s/he can think up - even if it's not fair, or even true. This is what Twitter rewards.

Twitter makes you a worse person.

posted by Zimri on 21:33 | link | 0 comments

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Ben Garrison's butt is hurt

I am trying to gin up some sympathy here.

To sum up: I have recently been made aware of an artist and cartoonist, with some talent in the former and rather less in the latter, by name of Ben Garrison. He was trundling along nicely as a cartoonist for awhile and then, at some point during Obama's first administration, the man snapped and became a paranoiac. He authored a bunch of strange cartoons involving Ron Paul and the Federal Reserve. These cartoons also featured too many labels; a stylistic Fail - see Herblock, and the Onion's parodist. Where this oversupply of detail is not "meta", it is done by deeply insecure people.

Back to Dah Fed and such: the "paranoid style" lends itself, historically, to antisemitism and so when the trolls of 4chan got wind of these cartoons they ran with it. If you image-search Garrison's cartoons you will get an eyeful of awful. What's most interesting is how easily Garrison's villains can be swapped out for Joo caricatures. Few of the altered images cause damage to the original; we are still dealing with the same theme, over and again, of sinister outside forces crushing the hapless citizen. Garrison is not always to blame (we're not talking about stuff on which someone just pasted his sig)... except where he is.

Which means: the altered images are, themselves, parody.

Garrison counts himself a staunch libertarian. In keeping with his ethics, Garrison posted a disclaimer on his websites, just to clarify that his real work isn't to be confused with the parodies. In it he calmly acknowledged how certain weirdos had gotten into libertarianism and into the anti-bank movement, and he constructed from that a passionate disassociation of his views from such toxins. And then he looked back at the stuff he'd done and made sure to dial it all back a notch in future.

BAHAHAH! Boy, I sure had you going. No. Garrison shacked up with the Online Hate Prevention Institute (who also support censorship of "Islamophobia"). He's done his best to rat out the offenders to get them banned and to get their parodies taken down.

posted by Zimri on 19:16 | link | 0 comments

Tuesday, September 02, 2014


Allow me to call bullshit on this.

Indiana. And the comment was "infidel". Which insult isn't much used even in the Qur'an (we're kuffar-rejectors and kadhdhabun-deniers, among other despicable things, but not unfaithful as a rule).

Well it worked for the feminists and for the black-nationalists, so why not.

posted by Zimri on 23:43 | link | 0 comments

Doing well by doing good

Ex-Representative Eric Cantor has earned himself a raise. And no, his new gig isn't at home in Virginia; it's in Manhattan.

His duties involve strategic counsel to the firm’s corporate and institutional clients on key issues. His new employers know he still has buddies in DC.

The man has no shame. [UPDATE 11:50 PM: Lott and Breaux. h/t Constanza #587.] And, going back to the topic of Cory Gardner, if you - dear fellow Republican voter - think that your local milquetoast Electable! candidate is any better, well...

posted by Zimri on 22:11 | link | 0 comments

Monday, September 01, 2014

Suspended for writing a book

Ugh. [h/t, Andrea Harris's twitter retweeting Daniel José Older.]

We can spot some journalistic / blogger Fail here and there. First, Older wants us to know that the author / teacher Patrick McLaw / Dr. K.S. Voltaer happens to be black. No, dude; that doesn't matter, not in Maryland which has a large middle-class black population and votes overwhelmingly Democrat. On the other side, there's The Daily Caller which called this man "disturbingly stupid". All one can say to that is - get bent.

I'll need to raise this at the next Moron Book Thread. If not before.

posted by Zimri on 23:45 | link | 0 comments

Andrea Harris update

She was one of the first people I ever followed. Now? Blocking anyone who says "journalistic integrity".

I was shocked to read it - this wasn't the Harris I thought I knew - so I went looking for that nostalgic-value blog. This is what came up: Warning: when I said I have changed I meant it. You Have Been Warned. Bye. ... December 25th 2012.

I do recall from back in the day when she was a Carlene follower, that at one point she noted how men commenters differed from women commenters. When women get rebutted in an argument with a woman, they leave. Men would keep up the harassment. It was of course a sexist thing to say, and I didn't like reading it; but I didn't argue the point. I mean, I'm a sexist. I know that men and women are different - or we wouldn't even have the words "men" and "women" in our language. I also saw some of the obnoxious comments she got... which proved her point. That's when I figured her for a feminist. Which was still fine. I was a feminist at the time (it's impossible to be non-sexist and feminist); and she was honest, and also observant.

Later, there was this, and this is which decided me that I should step away. I only found out she was even still alive because of "you are the solution". (I think that at least I can get away without being called out as a stalker since it's been, like, over three years and, you know.)

I don't know what happened to her outlook. But at some point, between 2010 to 2011ish, she decided that seeking the truth was less important than speaking her mind.

Well - it's not. If you seek the truth, you serve the Good. If you just speak your mind you're just another ranter on the 'web. And if you think "journalistic integritaaah" is a punchline then you're being flippant.

So... back to "you are the solution"... it could probably stand to be watched and rewatched. I'm sure I've broken every rule in the book.

posted by Zimri on 23:17 | link | 0 comments

Silverstring, Sarkeesian, Quinn

There sure has been a lot of social-justice bullshit over the past year in the video-gaming community / sphere / ghetto. I mean - there've always been complaints about "sexism" in games, but most of us have let it all slide. The sexists know who they are; they don't care. As for me, minion of Darkness - the very issue has rarely come up in the sorts of games I play. But that's just me. Leave me alone to play, has generally been my motto.

But over the last year, I've suddenly been forced to defend my not-very-often-indulged vice against critics of the entire field. It's apparently not enough that I buy pro-woman stuff for myself and ignore the Revenge Of Custer's Return. (Or, to give the floor to better efforts: Grand Theft Auto and I-0.) And so the white knights have launched what I can only describe as a holy crusade, or jihad - whichever - against this phantom heresy.

The catalyst, best I can tell, was one Anita Sarkeesian - who doesn't play many games as such (probably about as many as I do), yet somehow has raised herself as an authority on the topic (which I would never claim to be myself). I now find that Sarkeesian is an "advisor", whatever that means, for this creepy outfit called Silverstring. This is a PR firm, -ish, with links with several indie-gaming blogs. Against her opportunistic trolling, Sarkeesian has predictably received some pushback; and some of it has been less polite than what you are reading here.

The video-game journalists jumped right into action... blaming us. Jim Sterling has got into it. Even Angry Joe took it upon himself to berate his fans for issuing "death threats" and other horrible things. The journos sided with our accusers, despite the very serious questions about the motives and connexions of those accusers.

Gaming journalists, in short, don't like gamers very much.

And now all manner of cockroaches are scurrying out of their hideyholes.

Can we at least get an acknowledgement, if not an apology, from Angry Joe and other journos whom we've (for whatever reason) been following lo these many years - that perhaps we their audience weren't their enemy all along?

posted by Zimri on 22:33 | link | 0 comments

The Rapture is racist

...not that there's anything wrong with that. But it is.

To back up: A few years back, a fellow named Mr Levine developed this game which ended up with the title Bioshock. In it, Levine explored a realm based on Exit, whence Atlas has Shrugged, whither the world's productive people (who believe in Exit) have fled. The name of this sunken seasteading? "Rapture". SPOILER: It wasn't a nice place, and the reason it wasn't nice was because of the people in it.

There existeth a strain of Christianity - the majority strain, now - in which God "saves" those who believe in Christian doctrine and doesn't save the rest. (Morality is beside the point. There's handwaving about sin, redemption, the Saved naturally doing good because of the Spirit but feh.) A turbocharged version of this, teaches that God will intervene and save His people outright - will just pull the true Christians off the Earth and bring them to His Presence.

This "premilleniarial dispensation" doctrine is silly, irrational, and not very well supported in Scripture. But many Christians believe in it anyway. Nobody believes in something that is silly unless they want to believe in it. So... why do they want to?

I'm guessing that these people mainly live in the American South or in Ulster. They are living cheek-by-jowl next to people they hate. Oh, there are exceptions. "One of my best friends is [x]." But mainly, they don't want to spend Eternity next to those dirty [x]'s - at least, not to many of them.

With Rapture, the believers don't want even to spend this life near these damnable [x]'s. So, they go for a doctrine that will imminent-ize this eschaton. (Yeah, I know... same old tired Monte "Chaositech" Cook pun.) The secular version of this is the libertarian "seasteading" movement, or good ol' plain white-flight... for those who can afford it. The low-rent Christian version is as I've described it.

Again: I'm not about to condemn the thought behind it. But I do believe that people should confront the Mirror Gate, from time to time. I further consider Divine Justice, that believers in exclusionary visions of God should be judged by their own criteria.

Is the absence of charity a sin, God will say; and is the mere thought of sin itself a sin?

But of course, the Rapture-believer will respond.

God will then ask: Is it just that the righteous should, as part of their reward, be freed from the presence of sinners?

Yes, the Rapture-believer will say: that is just.

God will then bear witness that the Christian has chosen the game to be played, and has chosen the cards he wanted played in it.

*pop* goes the trapdoor.

posted by Zimri on 19:06 | link | 0 comments

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