||"dawnbreak in the west"|
Wednesday, July 29, 2015
Why literacy-tests are evil
After the Civil War, the winner imposed several so-called "civil rights" measures upon the losers. The losers in the South turned out to have some fight left in them. There ensued a particularly ugly period of territorial terrorism (by both sides); the South then reached an accommodation with the North (because white Southern veterans were better at the terrorism, and knew the territory). One of the means old Dixie had to maintain... let's call it the Southern Way Of Life... was to restrict the franchise. Given that I'm anti-democratic myself, I don't have a problem with that much. How the South did it was key. And - I warn you - I am not going to agree with all the means chosen.
In the 1880s the now-"redeemed" Louisianan state government proposed a "separate but equal" system of segregation as consistent with the Fourteenth Amendment. In Plessy v Ferguson, the Supreme Court (8/9ths of it) ruled Louisiana's way. But this decision, which I did actually read by the way, reaffirmed that blacks were legally equal. So Louisiana's government couldn't just say
Louisiana instead went (ostensibly) Rhodesian: to get a vote, you had to prove you were worthy of it. There was a poll-tax, for instance; if you couldn't pony up, you weren't eligible. There was also a literacy test. Blacks back then had problems amassing sufficient funds and sufficient "education". Also some whites were tossed out of the voter-rolls too.
There was however a measure of humbug involved. In some counties the whites weren't too rich or smart either, so-called "red necks". Here we get into this thing called the "grandfather clause": if the man could prove his gran'pappy had the vote, he could vote too. There was kind of a problem here in that blacks' gran'pappys were slaves at the time. Also the literacy-tests could be gamed:
A black man went down to register to vote. / "Well, boy," said the white man at the courthouse, "you have to pass a literacy test before you can vote. Can you read?" / "Yassuh, I shore can", responded the black man. / The white man handed him a Hebrew Bible. "Okay, read this to me then". / "Yassuh, I can read it. It says 'Ain't no niggers gonna vote this year' ".
I don't know if this joke was first put out amongst the whites or the blacks. I'm guessing blacks, and further guessing that some Kluxer white boy overheard it. I do know that it wasn't just bitterness by some moron who couldn't pass the test. I can think of several (more subtle) ways of gaming this test: one fine way, which has been proposed this very month, is by enforcing the rulers' view of history. The "Grandfather Clause" alone proves that not everything was on the level here.
And now we find out that literacy and even IQ does not make one a rational player in a zero-sum game ... like, oh, politics.
I will just reiterate that the South should have stuck with the poll-tax. Or raised up an Heinleinian "citizen rule" system; although I suspect that here, Appalachia would have ended up ruling over the Alabamians like kings.
Monday, July 27, 2015
That's why I say hey man, nice shot
In the spirit of Budd Dwyer, may your name and struggles not be forgotten.
Saturday, July 25, 2015
'Âd bin 'Ûtz
According to the Qur'an, once upon a time there existed an ancient nation called 'Âd (عاد). This nation was destroyed by a barbarous wind. In the Biblical book Job, a similar wind swept through the land of 'Ûtz (ארץ עוץ) - the Uz of the King James Bible, son of Aram son of Shem. It happens that Ibn Sa'd in Tabaqat v.1 (tr. MoinulHaq, 33) related a genealogy that links 'Âd to 'Ûtz: 'Âd was the son of "'Aws" bin Aram, who cannot be other than our 'Ûtz. (This has passed on to other scholars - Tabari's Tarikh, tr. Brinner as 2.13; Mas'udi's Muruj, tr. Maynard as 3.80 and so on.)
As you can see (if you know the alphabets in question), the Arabs heard the later Hebrew ץ as /tz/ and wrote it as /s/. But if you look closer... the word for "land" is a shared Semitic construction: Arabic al-ard (الأرض) corresponds to Hebrew ha-aretz (הארץ). This word alone (there are many others) shows that a shared original Semitic dental or sibilant consonant, whose "original" needn't matter here, is expressed in Hebrew as /tz/ and in Arabic as /d/.
Back to 'Ûtz / 'Âd, the intervening /w/ was weak in old North Arabian, as was /y/; Ahmad al-Jallad notes that when either forms the third letter of a root, classical Arabic tends to make an /a/ of it - Safaitic (Brill, 2015), 11. There were other mutations: 49-51. From the Hebrew side there's this thing called the Canaanite Shift which turned what's *a in all other Semitic languages into ô in the Canaanite tongues.
If I can figure all this out, then so could earlier Arab philologers. It must have occurred to Ibn Sa'd's sources that Biblical 'Ûtz would be expressed in Arabic as either *'Âd immediately, or else *'Awd and then subject to change. The /d/ -> /d/ remains a problem, but then the Arabs didn't equate 'Âd to 'Ûtz; they related the twain.
Such Arabs as had access to the Book of Job also had Lamentations 4:21 (and Jeremiah 25:20). Those Arabs would have placed 'Âd where the poet places it - somewhere around Edom. And if Ibn Sa'd's source did this, it's hard to see how far back that equation went; I cannot rule out that the same assumption underlies the suras. Where exactly God punished the 'Âd wouldn't have mattered to later sermons like sura 46; by the Marwani era some people were putting it in the Yemen. But as for suras 7 and 89... well, at least sura 7 assumed that the 'Âd were within reach of the southern Dead Sea, Midian and the Sinai.
I am indebted to Dan Gibson's Qur'anic Geography for drawing the connexions. I think the book was (when I bought it) a mess, and it attempts a number of arguments that are dubious and/or unnecessary. But it is, still, an ever-flowing spring of useful information.
UPDATE 5:20 PM: I have also reviewed Gibson's book. Back in 16 March 2012 he had offered to send me the PDF for free so I could review it. I bought it instead - according to Amazon, the following 25 June. I received it and - couldn't figure out how to approach it. I guess now I feel more comfortable with the material. Took awhile.
UPDATE 7/28: I remembered, after some time to think on't, that al-Tabari was a student of Ibn Sa'd. So, I tracked this meme to the Tabaqat.
Friday, July 24, 2015
Upload #112 - a denial
Last weekend I managed to borrow a copy of Angelika Neuwirth's and Nicolai Sinai's 2010 collection, The Qur'an in Context. Back in 2012 I'd grabbed a couple of its component essays from Academia.edu and Google Books: Heidemann's and Hamdan's, on the coinage and on al-Hajjaj's "second masahif" respectively. I've since been curious as to what was in the rest of the book. So this week it was nice to see it all.
I've been taking notes where these essays get it wrong, sometimes badly wrong, sometimes abusively wrong; but even where wrong, the articles were often inspirational. Several of the articles propose or assume a sequential order of suras. Since 2010, and mostly innocent of these essays, I'd been posting mine own sequence.
My own 2010 effort "Interceding with God" now grapples more with the sura 39 / ha-mîm relationship; introducing for the first time its relationship with ha-mîm sajda which is sura 41. "Retrieval of Joseph" points out that Joseph's lament at God got used in Umayyad popular culture. I've winkled out for "Garden" where Ephrem Syrus mentions the Paradise. "Parodies" and "Theories of the Cross" bring in the child-saints homily where Monophysite theories on the Passion were, in fact, cited as Monophysite theories.
I didn't end up needing to change my sequence. So, sorry, Dr. Islam Dayeh: I still think sura 41 was before 39, and now I've presented some evidence that 41>39. And, much more the sorry (as the Veloxi would put it), I have been including 39 with the hawamîm since I read Bellamy's articles on the Mysterious Letters a decade ago; so I could not credit you for the insight. But I did appreciate that you at least made the case. It's always good to be challenged.
I must admit that all of these changes were five years late in the coming except for those latter three essays written in the last couple years, which essays were four/five years late. I'll just say that scholarship is an ongoing process, and sometimes Allah only provides His provisions to mortals when we are ready to receive them.
Thursday, July 23, 2015
How not to rebut an article
Robert Spencer's off at FrontPage. Here he is, again, saying stuff he should know better than to say, and by the way contradicting the evidence right in front of his face.
I must interject that the earliest articles I saw showed screencaps. Those screencaps did tell us what portion it was; at least those sheets which had the last part of sura 19 with the first part of 20. It does not take a great scholar in Qur'anic Arabic to read
Anyhow, the fact of that ornamental line, and that of the sequence 18>19>20, and - subsequent clearer images show - that of the rosettes dividing verses, all point to a canonical text. That is, to a text of what we're now calling "the Qur'an". We don't know if this particular Qur'an had "The Cow"; I'll concede that much. It was still a theological text of importance to Arabic-speakers of the first or early-second century Levant. Which called itself a Qur'an right on the printed page Q. 20:2, and also 18:54 and 20:113-4.
So here, he says, we have something that isn't the Qur'an; despite that this very portion of text is calling itself... the Qur'an, and is presented to us in a sequence to reiterate that it is the Qur'an.
The man needs to try harder.
Wednesday, July 22, 2015
Congratulations to Dr. Alba Fedeli
Alba Fedeli has been a fixture of Qur'anic palaeography for at least a decade now, and has now been recognised for it. (For my part, I would have stuck the Phi'i Delta letters by her name just for "A Perg 2: a non palimpsest and the corrections in Qur'anic Manuscripts", Manuscripta Orientalia 11.1 (2005), 20-7. Throne of Glass has made much use of that one.)
What tipped the scale was her work on the suras 18-20 pages in Birmingham.
She is not to blame for what opportunists and media have made of her findings. I don't like saying that "she is not to blame" has to be said but, it does. If she publishes her thesis outside the academy, I hope she finds space to "asterisk" where she speaks of radiocarbon.
News to rejoice Muslim hearts
Because that's what the UK taxpayers and Brummie tuition-payers want from their libraries and universities,
I can understand this sentiment from Islamic Awareness; that's what they do. I don't appreciate it from the Lead Curator for Persian and Turkish Manuscripts at the British Library. And why the University of Birmingham feels it has to pass on such prattle, and why Archaeology Online can't be bothered to fact-check such claims before laundering them further - well, that's a question that needs to be posed to both institutions.
The Birmingham Qur'an
I am directed to a press release. I'll deal with the people directing me to it in a later post.
The claim is that here we have a parchment Qur'an. Parchment is made from animal hide; the radiocarbon has dated the animal's death
Already I see some problems.
First, that the suras follow 18>19>20 smells wrong to me. This is standard for the canonical Qur'an which derives from the al-Hajjaj revision in the 80s AH / 700s AD. It was not a standard before then; there was no standard before then. The "Ibn Mas'ud", "Ubayy", and "Ibn 'Abbas" traditions didn't follow that order; nor did the order of the sira-dependent Qur'ans associated with 'Ali and others. The ancient Qur'ans recently dug out of the Sanaa Mosque go still another way.
Also, look closely at this from teh Beeb, the 19>20 part (remember, right-to-left):
I'm seeing a red wiggly pattern separating the black-inked suras. Pattern-separators are standard for Marwani Qur'ans, as pointed out in Deroche's book. It's not so common before 70 / 690. Islam was simply different then. This pattern is less elaborate than some; so I would posit an early Marwani date, earlier than al-Walid I.
Tom Holland has pointed out (beaten me to it, really) that van Bladel has already dated sura 18 to after the Alexander Nes'hana, 10 / 630. This is already scraping the upper bound of their 568-645 confidence-interval. And then we must get into Stephen Shoemaker's theory, that sura 19 belongs as late as the Marwani era. (I'm too polite to mention mine own work in this context.)
But say we concede the parchment was available to a sura 18 hamala, soon after 10 / 630. By then the Arabs were - at that time - swimming in plunder from Sasanian hoards in Iraq; not long after that they'd be raking it in from Egypt as well. Also the Arabs had likely already acquired a glut in animal-hides; leather may well have been the trade which - literally - put Mecca on the map (House of War suggests that the Sasanian collapse sparked an economic crash in the Hijaz, in large part because of leather). Where leather was cheap, parchment wouldn't have been much more expensive. And during the early teens / 630s Egypt was taken. Now western Arabs had papyrus to compete with parchment, thus freeing up more parchment for the market. (Waley dude, do you even econ?)
So I would say there was parchment to go 'round for some decades after 10 / 630. Once we've conceded 10-25 / 630-45 for the parchment, we're basically done here.
To top it all off, we cannot trust the dating of this parchment itself. In my whole life I have never seen radiocarbon treated as trustworthy beyond the general century. If we're to believe the radiocarbon, van Bladel's editor Reynolds points out that we have Qur'ans from the sixth century. And now we're hearing that global climate has an effect.
Tuesday, July 21, 2015
A spark gives out
I am over a week late to this, for which I apologise but -
Dr Patricia Crone was an inspiration to many. To me, as well; although I never did get to meet her, nor even to correspond with her.
Dr Crone was more right than wrong, which alone is a fine epitaph for a scholar; more, she was right where it really mattered, and where it mattered it mattered most to the world at large.
Her family would like you to watch For The Life Of Me. Her shade would like you not to give up. Don't stop learning. Don't stop challenging the received opinion. Don't give in to threats.
Sunday, July 19, 2015
A prison called Dunya
In Sahih Muslim's book of Zuhd (2956),
The saying is surely of gnostic origin, most likely had from the Manichees.
Noted student of Islam 'Abd al-'Aziz has recently fleshed-out this parable:
As you see, the same argument is had in Gnosticism. (And in Johannine forms of Christianity, for that matter.) God is a jailer, and he has already stuck you into a prison. You don't get to question the sentence. You do get the promise of better quarters. If you trust the jailer's promises, that is. Make sure you get a good look at the guard's ID.
Personally, I don't trust those promises. (I never have.) I would treat the jailer's "study guide" as a precious window on the jailer's personal psychology. I would use it to see what arbitrary cruelties I could next expect. I might even wonder if there was a weakness I could exploit.
I can somewhat understand how a prisoner so unjustly sentenced could identify with his oppressor; Stockholm ain't just a city in Sweden. But all I can feel for such a weakling is contempt. As for those who spread "study guides", well, I just don't want them around me.
When al-Hajjaj killed the prayer
The Islamic historians agree that al-Hajjaj "killed the salat". J. Little wrote in January's ‘The Qurʾānic Milieu ("Where Was the Koran Written?")’, that this might refer to the redirection of qibla.
I didn't incorporate this into this year's edition of Throne of Glass. By then I had been acquainted with Little's blog. It is a good blog, certainly better than mine. But I might not have read that far into that particular post when I was editing my book.
My book had assumed that where we read "killing the prayer" we should look for some sort of reduction, first. Last February I found such an event: al-Hajjaj was pushing all the afternoon prayers on Friday into one service, so he could guarantee the best audience for his weekly rant. So I didn't think of mosque-redirection.
Qibla-redirection otherwise hadn't mattered much to my book's argument, although the book does mention it some. It further seems that a lot of the redirection happened at Wasit, the new city near Iraqi Kashkar. J. Little sets the big Killing The Prayer controversy to Ibn al-Ash'ath circa 700; he sets Wasit to 703 - as do I, on both counts. We agree that this redirection happened after al-Hajjaj had settled the prayer controversies, at swordpoint. Which means we can't enlist the Wasit qibla as evidence for the killing of prayer, or at least not easily.
I must conclude that I still like my idea better.
Saturday, July 18, 2015
Let us beware of Dr Kaldellis bearing, well, anything
The Byzantine historian Anthony Kaldellis now has a book out: The Byzantine Republic. I've already learnt to be wary of this guy due to his underinformed review of another text relevant to his field. I had - at the time - concluded that it wasn't entirely his fault.
Last week, I think it was, I found out about his new book and went to Google Books for excerpts. There I found in the conclusion (p. 200),
Byzantium has played the role of "the absolutist Orthodox Christian empire" in the western imagination for so long that it is hard to think of it as anything else. No small dose of Orientalism has been poured into this recipe.
So here we go again. Where Hoyland inveighs against "Islamophobia", here Kaldellis resurrects the Orientalism bugbear as if it were still cool to call one's predecessors a pack of racists. Not to mention what he implies of potential critics; so when I read stuff like this, I have to assume that an element of projection is at work.
Kaldellis happens to be a Greek. Is he a nationalist? That is fine with me; I'm a nationalist, a nationalist of several Western nations in fact. Is he a (small-r) republican? On this much we'll disagree; monarchy is inevitable, and at times the Byzantines could have used more of it.
My work acknowledges my positions where they matter. It also tries to keep out the namecalling; this or that essay will surely say that (say) Angelika Neuwirth might here and there be wrong, but it won't call her a "dhimmi" or whatever other slurs get used on our side of the aisle (I save that for the blog). So what's Kaldellis's book hiding?
I'm done caring. At least, unlike with Hoyland, I didn't have to buy Kaldellis's book first.
DISCLOSURE: I do say some things about the nature of that
I've generally portrayed this empire as an officially-Monothelete entity that heroically took down the Sasanian entity, and then bumbled around until Constantine IV got its sh!t back together and fended off Mu'awiya. There was, yes, some brutality involved; and some bigotry too, mainly against Jews. Full-on tyranny wasn't as much an issue... until Constantine's teenager Justinian II took over. And you'll notice that that kiddo got his metaphorical pimply arse handed to him - and then, more literally, his pimply nostrils. Later on iconoclasm happened, of which I'm not a fan either, but I also know that it happened in Yazid II's caliphate too.
The Romania hasn't been my focus. I've been treating it according to - get this - its actions, and over a very narrow period. I don't much like any of the players in the 600s-700s game-of-thrones. I figure the whole era as a scarcely-mitigated international disaster and Dark Age, from Phocas to An Lushan. If it wasn't then we'd have better sources and I'd have a different hobby. And if I'm an "Orientalist" for this then feh.
Upload #111 - summertime
School tends to be in session from September to June, and so that's when the new articles come out - or at least when the students post about 'em. The summer months are for archaeological digs; for those of us stuck at home, for lying outside in the sun. They've been pretty slow around here, too.
Unless, that is, I run across an egregiously silly mistake or omission in mine *own* work. That's when stuff like this comes out. In that spirit here I present, for your perusal, another omission in another appendix of House of War: in this case, on sura 22.
Suras 5 and 22 share a lot with one another. However they also share a lot with other suras, not least sura 6. This tangle is one I first tangled with in 2004... which tangle stayed tangled. My various essays just had to go on without discussing it; although, I believe The Arabs did manage at least to show 5>25. When the Muhkam project went down, that just delayed all this work even more.
What I think I've managed to do, now, is to show 5>22. I've also found a small 34>22; which is reasonable, since "Save Me From Heaven" had surmised that sura 34 was public by 50 / 670.
Uploaded this day is "The Qur'anic Culture of Sura 22". And now I've mentioned them, "Muhkam" has a better abstract, and I've made some major fixes to how "Addition to the Book" handled the shuraka. Also spruced up: "Save Me", "Interceding with God", "Sura of the Women", and "Ararat Tax".
Unlike that 2013 corrigendum, this 2000-plus-word essay here won't need to go into a future edition of House of War. The one sura pushed into the pre-sura-22 era is sura 5, since sura 34 was already there; and both simply don't matter much to that book's argument. Suras 5 and (more so) 34 did matter for Throne of Glass but I'd already nailed down 5>25 and 34>27, and everything in this book started from sura 27 on the basis of a pre-existent nebula of suras 25-26, so on that much I was fine. For House of War I'm more concerned with sura 69.
Amy Schumer's Trainwreck
I just stepped out to watch Trainwreck. The conductor of this runaway vehicle is Amy Schumer, against whom the Washington Post had delivered a fatwa (ignorantly I need hardly add but, hey, affirmative-action at work). Judd Apatow directed the thing, and he's acquired a politically-incorrect rep of his own over the years.
Which is why I watched it, inappropriate jokes and all. I wondered if it might be the last real comedy we're ever allowed to see.
As romantic comedies go, yes - this one remembers to be a comedy. I lol'ed. Sometimes I lol'ed hard. I don't know what lines I can quote that wouldn't get me on a watchlist, but since I'm already on several. . .
Maybe when Amy noted to her sister that the brother-in-law's sweater had the "To Catch A Predator" style... which stone Amy will later really, really learn to regret casting. Or when Amy cracked wise about a "pole" when she saw basketball cheerleader dances... which words Amy will also be eating, later on. Or (earlier) when Amy drunkenly compared her lover's floppy(?) wiener to the whole cast of Game of Thrones. (That one might require context.) The movie even finds time to drop some flaming bags of satirical poo on Gawker's doorstep... although I admit this is slightly marred by Amy's subsequent move to, uh, Vanity Fair.
Overall the movie is hilarious. It's not been a wonderful year for cinema so far but I can heartily recommend this film.
P.S. to Schumer: don't apologise, don't even explain.
Wednesday, July 15, 2015
Toward a post about DS9's season two
The first three episodes of DS9-2 are somewhat uneasily appended to the last episode of DS9-1. But they do make for a nice sequence of capers. I couldn't complain.
I've seen this season enough times to know that Cardassians and Necessary Evil will be my next ports of call. Blood Oath kicks off where I watch this whole series through to the end without much skipping. Here I'll also be flipping to that last Ensign Ro Larren episode in TNG.
In between, I'm wondering about Playing God and Second Sight. I caught Second Sight when it came out; I think I've watched it exactly once since then. It was emotional and romantic. Personally, I didn't hate it. The reviewers have rated it poorly. And later on, Sisko gets a permanent tragic love-interest; so this episode feels dramatically pointless.
Yeah, I'll probably skip it again.
Razib Khan shows the deep roots between Bengal (with Bangladesh) and Burma. It seems that Thai-like peoples (sometimes called Dai) moved into Burma and Bengal at around the same time that Hindi-like peoples moved into the same places. The latter people were, at some later-mediaeval point, Muslim.
Khan points out that much of this area - from Bengal all the way to Cambodia - was jungle until modernish times, like 1500 AD or so. In Bengal, Burma, Thailand and Laos a tribe of about a thousand could make a serious dent into local demographics. In the ancient Romania, a migrant group of the same size might get a paragraph in a book of historical curios. More likely, might not.
The main point - since Khan comes from a Muslim tradition, although he is agnostic - is the Islamicisation of what's now Bangladesh and also of the Rohingya (although the latter is more a subtext). The Hindis (no longer Aryan) who moved into the jungle and cleared it out were led by Muslims.
I'm thinking that many of them kept going. These enterprising souls might not have braved the jungle; but there was also an ocean, fully navigable by fourteenth-century shipwrights. As Thai / Dai peoples went west and became the Munda, Hindi Muslims went east and became the Rohingya.
One large difference seems to be that the Munda didn't invite other Thai over to join them in making Bengal a "west Siam". The Bengali-Aryan Rohingya in Burma, by contrast, welcomed brother Bengali "Chittagon[g]ian" immigrants. Today the Indian state sees no threat in the Munda, and tolerates them. The Burmese state - which now identifies as Burmic and so Sino-Tibetian (and not Thai; that's another issue) - thinks wholly different of the Rohingya.
(I don't see evidence that the Rohingya are Islamists, though. Jim seems to be talking through his hat, as often happens.)
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