The House of David

"dawnbreak in the west"

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Civic nationalism exists

America was diverse from the founding of the colonies. Mostly different sorts of Brit, sure; but consider that the earlier colonies were planted just before and during the English Civil War. They were, as Apple's ex-diversity officer once put it, diverse enough ideologically and indeed by clan to fuel several more civil-wars after the English one. We'll come back to that clan issue soon enough.

When several American colonies seceded from Britain, they did so in their own private rebellions: New England first, then after the Declaration several others, amounting to thirteen in the end. During this fight, it was not clear that the colonies should all join as one. This national-asabiya had to be argued, for instance with a famous (if biologically problematic) poster of a snake cut up into slices with the motto "JOIN OR DIE". Also unclear was how to handle the labour-shortage in an underpopulated continent.

The American elites, "Founding Fathers" if you will, came up with an ideology. As of the 1940s national-asabiya was simply assumed throughout the country; to extent anyone looked at its ideology, it was just Being American or Freedom. But several minorities rooted in America today don't subscribe to it.

To explain the ideology to an outsider, or for that matter to our insiders now, it would help to have a handy label for it. It should be a label also applicable to other nations similar to the United States in their diversity, for instance France or Iran or Germany or Russia. Those other nations might not follow the American system so abstracted (certainly Iran doesn't) but it could, at least, be translated into - say - Farsi and presented as an alternative.

The label should be descriptive. It should not be insulting, should not be tied to a specific person associated with the ideology, should not be tied to a location. "Burger", "Trumpist", or "American System" are all ruled out.

What exactly is wrong with "civic nationalism"? I mean, apart from the ideology attached to it.

posted by Zimri on 12:57 | link | 0 comments

Tuesday, November 21, 2017


Robert Hoyland's Fighting In God's Path took on some scholarly critiques, and some critiques perhaps more literary than strictly scholarly. Hoyland recently has defended his method, sort-of, against (mainly) Fred Donner and Peter Webb in "Reflections on the Identity of the Arabian Conquerors". But - as Hoyland notes - that essay has ended up as a work of scholarship in its own right.

I must add here that "Reflections" is a very good such work. I wish its content had been incorporated with In God's Path in the first place. But moving on -

The concluding paragraph is a tour de force and deserves to be reprinted.

A related problem is the idea of Islam’s exceptionalism — that Islam is so radically different that it cannot be subject to the usual rules of historical enquiry. This idea lies behind the disinclination to compare Islamic civilization with any other and the desire to portray the Islamic conquests as different from that of any other group. As noted by Aziz al-Azmeh, “claims for exceptionalism are used to justify an egregious disregard to both the normal equipment of the historical science and the usual workings of human societies.” This is particularly evident in recent works dealing with the conquests. Webb states that my “purpose is to explain Islam’s rise in rational terms, comparing it to other world empires,” letting it be known that he regards both strategies as misplaced. And it is common to encounter assertions such as “the success of the conquests is virtually beyond plausible historical explanation” {Donner, “From Believers to Muslims,” [al-Abhath 50-51 (2002-03): 9-53]; 50.} and “the dynamism of Islam’s expansion defies explanation in ordinary human terms,” or even that we should “dissuade historians from striving vainly to explain the almost inexplicable in normal historical terms”.{James Howard-Johnston, Witnesses to a World Crisis: Historians and Histories of the Middle East in the Seventh Century (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), 463 and 464} I assume that there is a (presumably subconscious) apologetic aim at work, striving to counter the heavily negative press Islam receives in our day. However, to my mind such an approach, though well intentioned, does a disservice to the subject, and to Muslims for that matter, since it implies that they and their past are not part of the ordinary ebb and flow of human history. In my own words from my book, “my aim is to re-integrate these conquests and their impact into the fabric of human history, against the prevailing trend to see them as utterly exceptional, and I hope thereby to make them more explicable according to the usual norms of human behaviour” (p. 6). That does not mean that I wish to downplay their extraordinary nature—I emphasize that “the achievements of the Arab conquerors were immense” — but I feel that to give differential treatment is to risk exclusion, and it is surely better for all concerned if Muslims and their history participate, and are included, fully in the struggle of humanity to understand where it came from and where it is going.

Hoyland and I (and Webb, I presume) agree that noting an event as "inexplicable" comes off as an appeal to an outside authority - perhaps God, perhaps peer-review - and should be avoided. I disagree that Howard-Johnston or Donner were necessarily truckling to Islamist concerns.

Alternatively "inexplicable" could mean that the author is currently unable to explain the event, and didn't feel that an explanation was in scope. I suspect that the latter is what Donner intended in 2002-3. That was a long time ago; back then, I had no Arabic at all and was still struggling with the meaning of "shirk". And since then Donner has gone back and attempted an explanation: Muhammad and the Believers. I don't even know how far I can complain about "explicable" v. "I don't yet have an explanation", from a writer; this is the sort of slip-up which al-Abhath's QA Department editors get paid to catch. But maybe they're better at it now...

As for Howard-Johnston, I didn't see apologetic from him either. I had plenty of other complaints, to add to Hoyland's, but I shan't repeat them here.

But I do see how Hoyland got to thinking of political bias. Appeals to a consensus the text hasn't earned make people think you're doing rhetoric. And that makes people wonder if you've taken a side. Add to that, that Dr Donner (at least) has Opinions, which he's posted and signed his name to elsewhere, and - yeah.

So, in your essays, don't do what Donner and Howard-Johnston did in theirs. QA doesn't always catch all your bugs.

posted by Zimri on 14:46 | link | 0 comments

The first men of the Andalôs

Gabriel Reynolds' twitter leads me to Ilkka Lindstedt, "Muhājirūn as a Name for the First/Seventh Century Muslims", Journal of Near Eastern Studies 74.1 (April 2015), 67-73. The bulk of it is familiar: the Muhājirūn were the mostly-Arab Believers who settled into mostly-Christian regions. There, literate Syrians learnt to label them Mhaggrāyé and the Greeks, Magarites. Roaming Arab bands were just "Ṭayyāyé" or, in Armenian (I haven't seen it in Greek), "tajik".

Lindstedt demonstrates that the term anṣār wasn't a thing, until later Umayyad ahadith. And, er, sura 9; in which, Lindstedt, 70 rates as probable that neither word was used in the sense that it acquired later. He doesn't divulge the calculations behind his probability. I think sura 9 is one of those Marwānid forgeries so I would, personally, revisit whether sura 9 intended Marwānid-era connotations.

I do like this paragraph though:

Another interesting curiosity occurring in the text that might be mentioned in passing is that the word (al-)Andalus appears to be used as a name of a people instead of (just) a toponym. In another apocalyptic text, David Cook has noted the same. {David Cook, “Moral Apocalyptic in Islam,” Studia Islamica 86 (1997): 61, n. 89. Cf. Bashear, “Apocalyptic and Other Materials,” 182, who understands al-Andalus as a toponym.} The term probably means Spanish Christians who were in some way seen to participate in the last events.

Suppose it's earlier?

Nobody was using "Andalus" for Spaniards before 75 / 695. Spain was still run by Visigoths and Greeks at this point - would remain so, for another decade or more.

However I do see a similar word used for North Africans: the Vandali. These were a German people who had taken Carthage in 439 AD. Sure, Constantinople had conquered them and "restored them to Rome" in 535ish AD. But naval officers with German names were even in the 70s / 690s serving in the Greek navy: Apsimar, the future "Tiberius III", being among them.

At the same time, we must consider the language spoken in "Greek" North Africa, especially outside the cities. This was North African Romance and some scholars consider it, and not the vulgar Latin then current in Iberia, the true ancestor of Spanish. Spanish doesn't have a W sound word-initially; they've inherited (or, perhaps, retaken) Latin words like vainilla and pronounced that V like, well, an English and Spanish V. But now it's got a sound that doesn't exist in Arabic.

The Germanic term "Vandal" may already have devolved to "Andal(us)" in North African Romance. For that the accusative plural would be Andalôs; in Spanish today, that represents the nominative plural as well.

Meanwhile the Arabs (and Imazighen "Berbers") of the Maghreb would just slap that Andalôs label on all the Romance-speaking Christians who lived under German rule. For those under Roman rule, the Arabs already had a word - unimaginatively, Rûm. Once Africa was firmly Islamic, the next Andalûsiyya was Spain. Who cared if their kings identified themselves as Goths? Think "Welsh" in English, or "Chontalli" in Nahuatl. Or even how in an earlier universe the saint Augustine - a Berber - used "Punic".

posted by Zimri on 10:49 | link | 0 comments

Monday, November 20, 2017

When you say "marginalised", you are throwing an insult

To "marginalise", best I can tell, means "to push someone into the side".

Who's doing it? More: Who is doing this at IQSA, staffed to a man, woman, and other by hardcore Trump-hating elites who don't think much of low-class American Protestants? Go on. Name us some names.

It's not me. I just have a blog and some self-published material. (You can check 'em all out, right here, over on the right... margin.) I have no authority to exile anyone to any margin.

Do you actually have a grievance, up there on your stage; or are you just running a shakedown on people you already own?

posted by Zimri on 16:55 | link | 0 comments

Ross Douthat's 'are we the baddies' moment

Ross Douthat asks what if - that is, admits that it was - Ken Starr was right all along.

I've never been a fan of the beta-male Just Asking Questions line of rhetoric. If you have aught to say just say it.

Anyway: I was an adult voter at the time, over the 1990s; in college during the American Spectator articles, on my own through the rest of the Billy-Jeff Clinton Years. What I remember is how Clinton forced parents and teachers to explain Monica (a, er, stain on a good Classical-Amazigh name, herself, but that's another topic) and the rest of the Starr Report to their early-teen children. Because if Clinton had just NOT LIED about the meanings of "SEXUAL relations, with THAT woman", Starr wouldn't have had to release that paper explaining in detail what Clinton had actually done.

Spoiler: no, even today, you don't want your kids to hear it.

To Ross Douthat: that explains one part of the scale of Republican dislike for the most centrist of recent Democratic leaders. It's because Clinton was a scumbag around women, and it's because Republicans (I was one at the time) - who actually don't hate women - were upset about this, and it's because Clinton with his amoral and sociopathic character kept jujitsu-ing these allegations to be fodder against the Republicans who made it. Oh, we just hate fun; said the same feminists who were hounding the Old Boys' Club under Bush, Thomas, and Packwood.

Clinton might have had a different - older, Southern - vision of the Democrats than they've now become, but ultimately he didn't care. Mainly Bill used the Democrats for his own personal lusts, for his wife's ambitions, and for both of their private fortunes. And on the way he made deals with some of the worst Democrats, thus making them into the Inner Party they are today.

THAT is why we hate the Clintons. They were toxic to our culture, to our Public Square if you will. They exploited the Democratic Party, and allowed it to be perverted by evil. If you want to know "why Dubya? why Obama? why Trump?" look no further.

Okay - look that one step further, into the mirror. Why, in the 1990s, didn't you see this coming? Plenty of Americans did see it coming. See, I Told You So, as it were.

posted by Zimri on 16:38 | link | 0 comments

Abraham's culmination: sura 37

Dr Nicolai Sinai has brought two theses down from Heaven to scholars' attention last weekend: that the Qur'an implies a character-arc for Abraham, and that the Abraham story is anti-patriarchal. (Different scholars have taken different notes.) I've often noticed that Dr Sinai is interesting and well-informed, but not always well-informed in what is relevant to his output. This may be one of those times.

I still haven't heard Sinai's speech, and the akhbar on what ahadith have reached me are deficient. But I can certainly look into one narrow aspect of Abraham's episodic "Sira": to what extent the Qur'anic harmony handles Abraham's relationship with patriarchy. Spoiler: sura 22 won't be involved.

I wholly agree that the Qur'an proposes Abraham, at first, as a rebel against Terah's parental authority, submitting himself before God alone. In sura 6's famous words: lâ shârik lahu. Several other suras then build on that.

Those suras, however late they may be in their own composition, agree to restrain Abraham's rebellion to that first period in Abraham's life. They do not challenge Abraham's later attempt(s) to form his own family. And the suras, and Islam in general, are stuck with this since Islam wouldn't even exist without Abraham's family, and without the loyalty of at least one surviving member of said family. How else was the Arab tribe going to make appeal to Near Eastern Bible-believers?

In that light, Abraham to start his own line first had to get God's permission. From the Abrahamic-Arab perspective, none of the suras relate Ishmael's Hand-Maid Tale; several actually relate about Isaac / Dahhak instead. (I've suggested here and there that some such suras - like sura 11 - were composed by Jewish qurra' allied to the Arab project, not by Muslims as a distinct faith-community.) Ishmaelites needed more.

The solution, perhaps, was sura 37. Here Abraham sets out to sacrifice his son. We're - famously - not told which one. About 13 years ago, I'd joked to a colleague that maybe Abraham had tried to do in both of them. It's time to put that joke into this blog and to take it seriously: Maybe the word should be interpreted "progeny", sons taken in the singular. Maybe it's a dreamscape. The exact son is left vague for a reason, a political reason.

Either way, by this act Abraham's devotion to God was demonstrated as total. Whatever offspring Abraham then had, knew it as such. After this none of them was going to "Terah-ize" Abraham by holiness-competition. Abraham was Patriarch by God's command.

posted by Zimri on 11:27 | link | 0 comments

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Professor Kecia Ali: woman woman woman

Here is where I go into the deepest depths of IQSA Hell and cite DOCTOR KECIA ALI again. (Never forget the honorific.)

Michael Pregill: Amazing lecture by @kecia_ali at #AARSBL17 about who gets cited, whose labor is valued, and how women's roles and contributions in the academy and Islamic Studies are rendered invisible; Hussein Rashid: @kecia_ali doing an eye-roll at men getting credit for women’s work and mansplaining.

Folks, here we got a first-class Woman. In. Scholarship. With a touch of the dismissive and arrogant behaviour which Scott Adams warned us about, showing that she hasn't a case on the merits. (And Dr Pregill gets this year's Zellentin Award for Feminist-Ally Signalling At A Conference.)

Doctor-o'-Philosophy Kecia Ali seems to be auditioning for the female lead in the Soumission reboot: an academic of limited skill and less value who had the bad luck to be born into the wrong race and background - although she did luck into the right sex. So, to self-inoculate against professional attacks on her scholarship, she converts to a Protected Class. It beats doing, you know, actual work.

I give Kecia Ali, Ph. D., credit for not lying about her race, or for going gay and/or trans. So, there is that.

posted by Zimri on 19:53 | link | 0 comments

More responses

Prof. Emran El Badawi is in Boston, running a commentary as well.

Nicolai Sinai: Qur’anic Abraham is anti-paternalistic & represents rupture of paternal authority. This is true inasmuch as the Qur'an subordinates paternal authority to God, as far back as sura 6. Once Abrah*m becomes a God-fearer, Isaac and Ishmael subordinate themselves to ... well, even here, not to Dad but to God. Note that this leaves Muslim parents vulnerable to their own children for not being Muslim enough, like the luckless parents of Spies in 1984. Other suras have to remind the kids not to attack their parents if they get a little off in the head as adults; Luqman advises this in sura 31. UPDATE 11/20 - How the Qur'an solved the problem for Abraham.

Dan Madigan: “Lamentation” on matters in Qur’anic Studies; Shawkat Toorawa: there is a taking of account that needs to take place, on Qur’anic Studies. Unless specifics are specified, I am afraid this tweet is free of content. That's on Badawi. And unless people are taking part in fixing problems, lamentations and asking for passive-voice Taking Of Accounts is so much wind. That's (likely) on Madigan and Toorawa.

posted by Zimri on 19:01 | link | 0 comments

Responsa ad IQSAm MMXVII (via tweetorum)

Prof. Gabriel Reynolds is over in Boston, confirming that this year is a good year. I'll respond to some of what he's tweeted thence. Note here that NONE of what I am reposting here represents Reynolds' opinions; but, also, that they ALL represent his summaries of others'. So, to the extent I get stuff wrong, blame... all of us.

Nicolai Sinai: Abraham as “your father” in Q 22 is climax of his development in the Quran. Here I think Dr Reynolds has been too vague (although, for sura 22, I agree with their Zubayrist orthography, against "Ibrahîm"...). Suras 19, 21, 26, and 37 all offer highly-detailed portraits of Abraham; all postdate sura 22. It happens that what they develop, from Abraham's career, is the Abraham of sura 6. This is the Mesopotamian Ibrahîm (Iraq? Harran?); where sura 22 cares about the Makki Ibrahâm. By the way the Qur'an offers yet a third Abraham: the Canaan-dwelling Ibrahîm from suras 11 and 15 (51 is their harmony), the father of Isaac: here, too, sura 37 offers a development, in fact a hitherto unnoted story. If Dr Sinai hadn't made these distinctions on what "development" meant - development of the Qur'an over its suras, or development of Abraham / Ibrahîm's character over the Qur'an as harmonised into a sort of "Abrahamic Sira", or... - then someone's got to ask him.

Gerald Hawting: Material in Quran suggests the Hajj - even ritual slaughter - involves the Kaba but tradition places Hajj outside of Mecca. BOOM. Dan Gibson, tu es vengé! Although, for the 60s / 680s, you have to get around Anastasius of Sinai's sailors witnessing a sacrifice up the coast from the Red Sea...

Devin Stewart: Quran is aware of the wordplay in Genesis 18 regarding Isaac/laughter, even though the pun doesn’t work in Arabic. Here I wonder if this is Stewart's speech or from Reynolds, thinking out loud in reaction to that speech. D'Azur responds in that tweet's comments with a (yawn). I wonder if that is because D'Azur already knows that... from Reynolds himself in “The Qur’anic Sarah as Prototype of Mary” ed. David Richard Thomas, The Bible in Arab Christianity (Brill, 2007), 193-206.

posted by Zimri on 18:19 | link | 0 comments

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Opening paragraphs exist to persuade, not to inform

I have reviewed several opening-paragraphs in scholarly literature since getting into the Islamic subset of said literature. Opening paragraphs tend to be rhetorical. Sometimes they even work well as such.

John Wansbrough's first paragraph might be the most famous in the entire genre: Once separated from an extensive corpus of prophetical logia, the Islamic revelation became scripture and in time . . . If only because it is so damn hard to read past this semi-sentence, pretty much our whole field knows it. For those interested, here is a transpilation. (Transpiling is when one human-readable language, for instance Angular's TypeScript, is converted into another such, in this case JavaScript, before going to the browser's interpreter.) My point here is that Wansbrough immediately sets the reader on the wrong foot: Whoa whoa whoa there. Did you just say... did you just ASSUME... that the protoIslamic source of proof-text wasn't always the Qur'an?? What's this stuff about "prophetical logia" - where can I read some?? Immediately the reader hopes to find out more.

Another rhetorical trick is to ingratiate oneself within the community. Wael Hallaq did this in 2009: because, of course we are all tired of bias and assumption-begging. It turned out Hallaq was projecting because, Wael Hallaq. When you see complaints about the constant clash of faith claims and appeals to empirical evidence being floated at the outset you know straightaway that you are in for a line of salesmanship. Oops - do excuse me, that time I was quoting Li'l Jonny Rape Rape.

When you understand that opening paragraphs are rhetoric, especially paragraphs in essays that were delivered as spoken-word lectures in the first place, it helps in preparing you for what's coming next. It also helps in making translations.

AFTERTHOUGHT: So, why is it that Wansbrough and Casanova succeeded, where Rape Rape and Hallaq did not? I think it's because Wansbrough and Casanova hit the text, where Rape Rape and Hallaq hit their rival scholars. The former took the high ground as impartial observers of the situation, leaving aside whether or not they actually were such. Those other two came off as partisans.

posted by Zimri on 13:35 | link | 0 comments

In defence of Joseph Schacht's sidelining the Qur'an

Joseph Schacht in his works on early Islamic legal theory, usul al-fiqh, started with the ‘Abbasi-era form of the Sunnite Tradition, and worked backward. Here and there Schacht discussed where the Qur’an and the Hadith intersect, where they bear witness to Sunna, or even where they make it.

Schacht ruffled feathers even in his own day by refusing to assume the Qur’an for an earlier period. Such critics are found today among those deeming themselves to be in the Moderate Mainstream, Anti Orientalist strain of Islamic studies.

As of the 1950s, when Schacht wrote, the earliest Qur’anic texts of which men like him were aware were used - in the first century - not for law, but for rhetoric. Twentieth-century Orientalism had access to graffiti on pilgrimage-routes; to the Dome of the Rock; perhaps to the stray Qur’anic word on coinage or noted in poetry. To the extent outside first-(seventh-)century witnesses caught sight of Islamic practices, they rarely linked such to the sacred text. Some observed practices, famously, are barely mentioned in the suras: for instance circumcision, which Q. 4:155 may (or not) note in passing as ghulf.

Given that, the existence of Qur’anic legal material prior to 70 / 690 is not an axiom to be assumed, but a hypothesis to be argued. Schacht intuited this and held the Qur’an at a distance until he had already sketched out Umayyad-era Sunna. Only then could he summon back relevant pericopae, to see where (or if!) they intersect embryonic fiqh. As it turned out, some Qur’anic laws didn’t intersect early “Islamic” laws. To this very day good Muslims reject the adultery hudud of sura 24.

Some may, at this point, bring up Harald Motzki, pointing out Qur’anic laws to times earlier than Schacht had pointed them. To that: sura 4 is not sura 24, and if one sura’s rulings are found in the 60s / 680s this says nothing about the others. And if we're to be fair to Motzki, he isn't to blame for what others have made of his pronouncements. I don't think even Motzki has dared reach back before Ibn 'Abbas and he's sparing in doing even that much.

Joseph Schacht did nothing wrong, except to mis-organize his thoughts (I admit to some exasperation here).

posted by Zimri on 10:20 | link | 0 comments

Senator Franken, renounce Title IX

Whenever you see an activist, assume they're overcompensating.

UltraChristian social-conservatives like to bang ho's on the side; if they're balls-deep all-in for The Traditional Family, those would be same sex ho's. Rightist antiSemites all seem like they're married to Jews, or are Marranos or Mischlinge. (Yo! although I like to think I'm less antiSemitic than some.)

With Male Feminist Allies, what they enjoy most in their free time is to abuse women. In that light, here's Senator Al Franken singing the Very Sorry Song.

Whatever, putz. How much mercy did you and yours give all those guys on campus whom your boy's "Dear Colleague" letter helped hound into abasement or expulsion. This is YOUR monster, Frankenstien.

posted by Zimri on 09:20 | link | 0 comments

Apartheid in Spanish South America

I think we have our explanation as to why Venezuela and Bolivia, at least, turned out the way they did. Razib (who still has a checkmark, alas) links a paper on racial deep-history in the Andes.

Parts of it look like what I've been trying to say about the Aztecs: the first empires, especially the last preColumbian empire, mixed the races in the noble and trading classes. Then came the Spanish; under them, the upper class Indios continued to mix amongst themselves. The question remains, what did the Spanish do over there . . . and with whom. It was a question I'd not seen answered properly in some other papers I could mention. It turns out that this new paper actually does it!

In New Spain / Mexico, at least up to 1700 or so, the Spanish and other Europeans mixed with the mestizos - at first, they were even learning Nahuatl. The analogy would be with the Anglo-Irish (woot!). In Peru, they are now saying: not so much. The Spanish didn't touch the locals until after independence.

They are also saying that the preColumbian Americas didn't have that gap between rich and poor which they had/have in the Old World, and which the Spaniards brought with them along with the horse and the cow. Huh. I'll buy that for Mexico. Not buying it for the Incas; they were very high handed. Although given that they're talking agriculture and farm animals, the Incas did use the mountain-camel. So the overall point seems firmer. And brings us to see how Pizarro and his boys were able to knock over and replace a kin-group hierarchy, where Cortez instead negotiated and joined a messier conglomeration.

G-d knows, Mexico isn't perfect. But Mexicans still have a common feeling about being Mexican, at least in the middle class on that side of Tehuantepec. This national asabiya doesn't seem to exist in Bolivia or Venezuela; there it is all about which asab gets to screw over the others.

posted by Zimri on 08:46 | link | 0 comments

Friday, November 17, 2017

We know where the commissars are

Twitter will give you a blue checkmark if, and will allow you to keep it as long as, you toe the Left / Social-Justice line - on the site or off it.

I've seen this before. Only then it was a green badge . . .

To sum up, if you see someone on Twitter with a green, er blue checkmark - kindly request that they disavow it. After all, plenty of Certified twitter-ers are, at this point, still legacy.

Failing that: shun him or her. Do not engage; do not employ. It's a political stool-pigeon, a lick-spittle, a worm.

posted by Zimri on 18:51 | link | 0 comments

Thursday, November 16, 2017

IQSA weekend

IQSA begins tomorrow afternoon; as is customary, the weekend prior to American Thanksgiving. It is in Boston. I will - sadly - be here, in Denver. Here is a timetable.

The events do look interesting. Certainly better than last year's.

posted by Zimri on 16:56 | link | 0 comments

The decline and fall of a scholar of Islamic law

I read two Wael B. Hallaq books in 2005; since then I've read one of his earlier essays. As I learnt more about Islamic law, I understood Hallaq's findings more, and I finally got the confidence to review his later book. On balance, despite many errors, and despite a credulous section on the original “Muhammadan jurisprudence”, I liked it.

Then I found out Hallaq was an anti-Jewish bigot. And I've found out that his most recent books... aren't good. Today Syed Ali over on has re-alerted me to a 2009 essay Hallaq got published, somehow, in Islamic Law and Society. I'd read it before but mostly ignored it. But if something's going to be brought back up in our faces, again, eventually I'm likely to say something about it. In this case, that the essay marks the start of Hallaq's decline.

The essay in question begins pp. 239-47 with a stridency to the point of arrogance; to the point of inethicality.

This begins with the classic “negging” technique: When historians do their work, they often underestimate the crucial role their own assumptions play in shaping the historical accounts they produce, that is, if they are aware of these assumptions. Hallaq does not exclude himself from such assumption-making; but here he intends to atone for his sins. And as do many Repentant Sinners, he is going to use his past errors as implicit proof for new ones.

Hallaq first discusses Joseph Schacht. For Hallaq, Schacht did not show his work: Why the ḥadīth should have constituted the benchmark, Schacht never explained; One would think that relegating a discussion of the Qurʾān to a secondary, minuscule chapter would require substantial justification, especially in light of the text’s staggering importance for Muslims and for their law. It gets a bit Inception-ey to defend scholar B in an overview of scholar A. Here, I'll just note that the best Hallaq can do as counter-argument, in placing the suras in time and space, is to mumble muh Nöldeke, in p. 277. So Hallaq’s complaint is unjustified or at best a nitpick. “Coup de grace”, my ass.

The emotive language Hallaq uses exudes the odour of rhetoric. It is unprofessional to the point it properly belongs to the blogs and/or Twitter. Yet somehow it ended up in Islamic Law and Society.

Side note, here. Who’re editing that rag, and why didn’t they call this guy on it?

posted by Zimri on 16:50 | link | 0 comments

Wednesday, November 15, 2017


Warner Brothers' Justice League still doesn't have a rating at RottenTomatoes, despite that several important reviews are in. The Hollywood Reporter has noticed.

I'm going to throw out here that the movie is a dog, that everyone knows it's a dog, and that Warner know/s it too. I'm also going to throw out here that Warner placed some calls to RT of the Plata O Plomo variety.

All I know is that of the top nine movies as of now, as rated by box-office: five are terrible. Of the other four on this list: Thor is Marvel, which I'm not watching; Orient Express is rated unnecessary and disappointing; and Blade Runner is the same with an inflated score. That leaves Happy Death Day. I've actually seen that one. And I will tell you that its score is ALSO inflated - frankly, it's crap.

If Warner and the rest of the perverts and liars in Southern California are upset that no-one wants to watch Harvey Spanks It On A Ficus IV, then tough: that's all on them. It is a shame that they've cowed the editors at RT. Perhaps even a scandal.

REVISIT 11/18 - The Know confirms shenanigans with RottenTomatoes: Warner owns 'em. It's a Warner ad site masquerading as a metacriticlike, in short, so best avoided. In other news, DJ has reviewed the Justice League abortion.

posted by Zimri on 17:32 | link | 0 comments

Monday, November 13, 2017

Oh those poor -

All the right-thinking people on the Internet today are supposed to care about a famine in the Yemen. This famine is mostly affecting the Houthi Shi'a.

Allow me to recite the Houthi slogan. Death To America, Death To Israel, Curse On The Jews, Victory To Islam. Catchy!

I am brought back to Charlemagne against the Saxons, or to the Burmese against the Rohingya (the latter, by the way, are Sunni). If given any slack, the Houthi would do to their enemies exactly what is done to them, or worse. To the Houthis, Sunnis are Jews and the victory of "Islam" means death to Sunnite Yemenis.

What is facing the Houthiya isn't "genocide" nor any other such emotive jargon-word. It is simply defeat. A defeat they deserve, and should accept.

posted by Zimri on 19:31 | link | 0 comments

The Qurrâ did not have hamza

I'd mentioned the Arabic glottal-stop once here. I didn't have much to say on this "hamza" at the time. I've been taught that the hamza is a definite Thing, in Modern Standard Arabic and in Classical Arabic. Accordingly if you hang out on Muslim YouTube, you will observe Islamist poseurs pronouncing Qur'ân as "Qor....'ân". Most of us still just say Koraan.

It turns out that the Qurrâ in their first century had agreed with us infidels and 'phobes today. Professor Marijn van Putten is trolling the Abu Hamzas of the world by her article, Hamzah in the Quranic [sic] Consonantal Text. Again: it's van Putten's starting position that the Quranic Consonantal Text is accurate, an honest guide to the Qurrâ on how to recite the Qurân of G-d for their people. (Why wouldn't it be?) She goes on into various test-cases and finds, especially in ending rhyme-syllables, that a hamza would break the flow: sura 69 in particular. (I'd already incorporated this into the relevant projects, like "Blasting the Sultan".) Hamza-loss counts as an isogloss against other Arabics.

The reason I'm bringing this up now is because I am now alerted, courtesy Ahmad al-Jallad, to evidence that the Safaitic-writing Arabs also were split about whether to use hamza. Mostly Safaitic used it. But not always: Al-Jallad with Ali al-Manaser, “New Epigraphica from Jordan I: A Pre-Islamic Arabic Inscription in Greek Letters and a Greek Inscription from North-Eastern Jordan”, Arabian Epigraphic Notes 1 (2015), 51–70; 53.

posted by Zimri on 17:38 | link | 0 comments

The Qâric dialect of Arabic had declensions... but not many

Marijn van Putten and Ahmad al-Jallad are ever on the case of the ancient Arabic dialects, which have spawned both Classical Arabic and the Arabic of the Qur'an. I shall relabel that latter dialect, which the Qurrâ (no hamza!) affected - "Qâric". Anyway these dialects aren't the same.

Van Putten has an article out, The Feminine Ending -at as a Diptote. If you don't know what the hell is a "diptote", that's fine; neither did I, until today. Van Putten is writing for scholars of the Arabic language. I am not one of these. I am a Byzantinist, not in practice even in Greek - hell, I struggle with French. This paper, therefore, is not easy for me to comprehend. I apologise for whatever errors I make in this blog-post.

Van Putten and Al-Jallad have laid out some strong arguments that the Qâric dialect is real, however artificial. This dialect had noun-declensions. I know what declensions are: Latin has five-ish, and Attic Greek ended up with four - leaving aside "locatives" and other Life Of Brian out-takes. If you read Ibn Warraq, you'll know of a controversy about whether Arabic was supposed to have declensions - the "irab". The great grammarians of Arabic had argued over this too. Whatever we say about the classical dialect(s); these two modern scholars are adamant that the Qurrâ(') intended irab. The question then moves on to: what level of irab.

Now, I didn't take classes in old Arabic. I remain unsure that it's yet possible to take such a class; hence, blog-posts like this one. I did take classes in Modern Standard Arabic. This is a neoClassical concoction - like scholars' Latin. The MSA dialect has three noun cases: Nominative, Accusative, and - basically - Genitive. Other cases are handled with prefixes, prepositions, and hybrids like min. So: triptotic.

Van Putten proposes that the Qâric dialect ran its feminine declensions according to diptotic logic. Not triptotic.

In Arabic, diptotic would mean no genitive. There's nominative, for a subject; and oblique for anything else. Like in English "I" versus "me", "to me", "for me", "by me".

Since orthodox Islamic tajweed is now triptotic, says van Putten, Islam has suffered a disconnect between the Qurrâ and modern orthodoxy. This does not surprise me; Luxenberg and other scholars have been raising this same point. And... well... the 'Abbasids happened. I wonder to what extent Spanish and North/West African traditions retained the diptotes. As van Putten concludes: I leave the implications of this observation to scholars of Islamic studies.

posted by Zimri on 17:12 | link | 0 comments

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Toxic feminity

Now, technically, this is a Federal issue, not a Minnesota issue... but: MN Muslim who tried to join the Islamic State is released from federal halfway house. Elsewhere in the news today, we're hearing about that classic Greater New England municipality New Brighton, under Mayor Val Johnson, lecturing about White Privilege. So, now we know how this guy found his way into Minnesota in the first place.

I am male. Other the last few years I've been hearing much about Toxic Masculinity. When our sex goes bad, we go beating up others with clubs. I've listened to that lecture . . . and I've taken it to heart.

But now, it is my turn, as a male. I should like to raise that issue about Toxic Femininity. When their sex goes bad, they go knifing others with poisoned stiletti. They slyly open the doors to the invading armies.

posted by Zimri on 18:52 | link | 0 comments

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