Author Topic: URGENT need to find commonalities with Islam. Destruction of Timbuktu + Pyramids  (Read 9040 times)

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David Pinnegar

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Hi!

http://edition.cnn.com/2012/07/12/world/africa/mali-shrines-destroyed/index.html

We need urgently to open religious discussion with Islam in finding the commonality of "The Construction Force" that we share from Genesis 1 in our common definition of God.

We need to find greater understanding of the common religious heritage even with former manifestations of Divine understanding. WHO WILL WORK TOGETHER IN THIS?

The library of Timbuktu is academically one of the most important in the world. It was the discovery of such an Islamic library in Teledo in 1085 which had preserved the Greek Myths that sparked the Renaissance.

Islamists appear not to understand their heritage. If spiritual rebirth is any part of Islamic philosophy then the second pyramid for a start MUST be respected as possibly a place of initiation. We need URGENTLY to find ways of investigating the ways in which religions find accord so that then all forms of worship can be respected.



Islamists who tried to destroy the heritage of The Parthenon in Athens simply did not understand the symbolism of the Frieze which they would find accorded with their teachings if only they investigated as to how . . .

http://www.rt.com/news/egypt-destroy-pyramids-islamists-007/ explains the reasons for the Timbuktu destruction

Best wishes

David P
« Last Edit: July 12, 2012, 07:04:17 PM by David Pinnegar »

Contrabombarde

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Perhaps a good starting point to understand the Islamicists' fanatism would be to try to get inside the heads of the the Roundheads whose Puritan cultural vandalism in the mid-17th century swept through England's churches, destroying centuries of history including many organs, windows, statues to saints. Plus a fanatical belief that "my interpretation of the Qur'an is the only possible interpretation and it is my religious duty to kill anyone who disagrees with me because they and their ideas are evidently a stain on Allah's world so must be eradicated". The only world the Islamicists invading northern Mali (or the Taliban for that matter) consider worth living in is the world of 7th century Arabia during the life of Mohammed, a so-called "golden age of Islam". Everything must be lived according to how things worked in the 7th century.

Unfortunately modern archeological and historical scholarship has blown wide open the central claims of the historicity of this period, meaning that the golden age these people dream of recreating never actually existed in the first place.

JBR

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I regret that Islamists are ever likely to find any commonality with anyone else!
A missionary from Yorkshire to the primitive people of Lancashire

David Pinnegar

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I regret that Islamists are ever likely to find any commonality with anyone else!

:-) Yes - perhaps - but there must be ways through the maze in order to try.

One wonders whether those with experience of counselling people in cults might have expertise or pointers for direction?

Best wishes

David P

MusingMuso

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Perhaps a good starting point to understand the Islamicists' fanatism would be to try to get inside the heads of the the Roundheads whose Puritan cultural vandalism in the mid-17th century swept through England's churches, destroying centuries of history including many organs, windows, statues to saints. Plus a fanatical belief that "my interpretation of the Qur'an is the only possible interpretation and it is my religious duty to kill anyone who disagrees with me because they and their ideas are evidently a stain on Allah's world so must be eradicated". The only world the Islamicists invading northern Mali (or the Taliban for that matter) consider worth living in is the world of 7th century Arabia during the life of Mohammed, a so-called "golden age of Islam". Everything must be lived according to how things worked in the 7th century.

Unfortunately modern archeological and historical scholarship has blown wide open the central claims of the historicity of this period, meaning that the golden age these people dream of recreating never actually existed in the first place.


I regret to suggest, taking this reply at face value, that it is the most ill-considered, absurd and prejudiced response I have ever read, but peace be with us and to the prophet as we seek a little enlightenment.

Let's start with a few facts concerning "the golden age of Islam," which was by no means restricted to 8th century Arabia, but in fact covers a period from around 750AD to maybe the 11th century AD, with considerable achievements right up to the 18th century.

Islam has as its roots the historic beliefs of ancient Judaism, and the Quran was the first religious document written in one hand, which sought to codify and present, (in the most beautiful, poetic language), all that was good and decent; notwithstanding the limitations in the sum of human knowledge in the 8th Century. Although I cannot verify or bring to mind the considerable amount of detail, Islam was born at a time when the trade routes crossed and re-crossed an area of the Islamic world we know as Syria and Damascus. Those trade routes exchanged learning and ideas from several continents....Europe, Arabia, India, China and Central Asia. I forget the exact reason why, but the Islamic world was pushed east, and then centred upon Baghdad, with Mecca still the focal point of believers.

In a previous post, I mentioned to David the remarkable philosopher and scholar Al-Kindi, who would have been a "Renaissance Man”, were it not for his dates. He lived at a time when the Islamic culture was open to the most profound thinking in art, science, religion and philosophy, both from the ancient world and the contemporary, cosmopolitan world of Damascus and Baghdad. This was the age of the "translators," when scholars in all disciplines sought to improve their knowledge from as many sources as they could lay hands on. It was possible because of one very simple invention.....paper!  Prior to that velum was rare and expensive, and the old papyrus process slow. By inventing machinery which made paper production quick and relatively cheap, the scholars were able to translate all the great works from other cultures, and assemble them in great libraries.

If you had an enquiring mind in the 10th-12th centuries, your hope of finding great libraries in the Christian world would have been dashed. Were you a scholar in Baghdad, Damascus or even Granada in what was Moorish Spain, you would have found books on art, calligraphy, optometry, medicine, philosophy and dozens of other subjects. In Granada, you would have walked among spectacular architecture, (still to be seen in the Alhambra Palace, Granada, as well as the great Mosque of Cordoba, since converted into a cathedral). You would have walked on pavements, you would have been taught to read, write, understand mathematics (among other things), and you would have had free medical and hospital care. The streets were even lit by oil lamps at night. Meanwhile, the 12th century Christians in the rest of Europe would have gone to their wattle and daub houses, along muddy paths strewn with straw and excrement, and they would be completely illiterate as well as superstitious.

Whatever your prejudices, early Islam was peaceful, considerate, tolerant and dynamic, and like all great faiths could share points of disagreement as well as agreement, simply because it had yet to be corrupted by the quest for power and the stain of political-Islam.
Before we cast stones, perhaps we should recall the bloodshed instigated by the Christians. As for the "believe or else" approach,  the arch exponents of that particular political craft were the Emperor Charlemagne, those who instigated the inquisition or sacked the highly civilised Moors from Spain as well as people like Henry VIII.

The peaceful, tolerant Islam is still there, but fundamentalism is the strident voice we hear, as well as the acts of the Taliban. Unfortunately, the language of the Quran is not properly understood to-day: even less understood than our reading of Shakespearian language in the Bible. As with all historic and ancient things, all that remains of great thoughts are the words passed on, and as language changes, the original meanings can easily be lost or corrupted, as well as used to political advantage.

I think we should try and be balanced and just, as far as possible, and not every Christian wants to "kill a queer for Christ" like Anita Bryant, or put Jews in concentration camps because "people like them killed Jesus." (Yes, I know it was the Romans....but that's pragmatism for you!)
I'm sorry if I come across as judgemental, but I think it is very important to establish the facts, (at least some of them), before committing our prejudices to paper or splashing them around on the internet.

MM


MusingMuso

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Hi!

http://edition.cnn.com/2012/07/12/world/africa/mali-shrines-destroyed/index.html

We need urgently to open religious discussion with Islam in finding the commonality of "The Construction Force" that we share from Genesis 1 in our common definition of God.

We need to find greater understanding of the common religious heritage even with former manifestations of Divine understanding. WHO WILL WORK TOGETHER IN THIS?

The library of Timbuktu is academically one of the most important in the world. It was the discovery of such an Islamic library in Teledo in 1085 which had preserved the Greek Myths that sparked the Renaissance.

Islamists appear not to understand their heritage. If spiritual rebirth is any part of Islamic philosophy then the second pyramid for a start MUST be respected as possibly a place of initiation. We need URGENTLY to find ways of investigating the ways in which religions find accord so that then all forms of worship can be respected.



Islamists who tried to destroy the heritage of The Parthenon in Athens simply did not understand the symbolism of the Frieze which they would find accorded with their teachings if only they investigated as to how . . .

http://www.rt.com/news/egypt-destroy-pyramids-islamists-007/ explains the reasons for the Timbuktu destruction

Best wishes

David P


===================


Dear David,

It is easy to blame specific religions, cults or tribes for acts of wanton vandalism, destruction or violence, but perhaps we should not be surprised.

In my own lifetime I have witnessed the destruction of so many beautiful churches and chapels; no doubt spawning a fair number of minor saints in their day. Whatever the achievements of the Victorians, they were among the most destructive people in British history; wiping out a great deal of cultural heritage in the rush to expand cities, dig canals and lay down railways.

As “Conbtrebombarde” pointed out, the Puritans were even worse. They destroyed priceless stained-glass, defaced carvings, burned organs and generally wrought havoc on religious art and catholic practices; all in the name of “true faith”, but actually under the political command of  Cromwell and his supporters. This is precisely how a dominant, war-mongering political movement establishes its power-base, using a combination of false promises, heightening expectations and decrying the beliefs and practices of those in power. There is an old truth, that revolution by the people only ensures one thing; the replacement of one set of rulers by another. Anything lasting or meaningful is a bonus.

Go back further still, and we had the appalling destruction of the monasteries. Every time I walk among the ruins of Fountains, Riveaulx,  Whitby or Kirkstall, I wonder just how beautiful they must have been when they were complete. Of course, Henry VIII only plundered the wealth and closed them down, but it was greedy, self-seeking commoners who plundered the lead from the roofs, used the masonry and timber  to build houses (e.g.: Fountains Hall) and allowed water, ice and wind to do the rest. Our loss, in our small island, is far greater than anything spawned by the Taliban; the Timbuktu debacle similar to the destruction of the Buddhist shrines in Afghanistan.

You cannot have meaningful dialogue with desperate people, or with those politically motivated. In the Yemen to-day, there are a quarter of a million children starving to death. In parts of Africa, in spite of great mineral wealth and oil wealth, there is unbelievable hardship and privation.

Should we be surprised that they turn to religion for salvation?

Should we be surprised that when religion fails to deliver, the religion becomes ever more extreme?

One only has to look at Afghanistan to appreciate the disparities between the promise of “freedom and democracy” and the reality of drug-barons who provide some degree of benevolent income based on a fiercely tribal and separatist agenda. (The same is true in Columbia and Mexico).

The bottom line is, that extreme religion, and criminal war lords, often work in a symbiotic manner; especially in the Islamic world.

Basically, without massive aid or huge inward investment, these regions will remain poor, unstable and potentially violent, and frankly, I cannot see that changing. Managing the situation is the best hope, but even that is a long shot, as the Russians know only too well. Whether we like it or not, perhaps the ONLY way forward is to recognise that fanaticism is a kind of tribal political statement....sabre rattling.....but of little significance to us most of the time. It is only acts of vandalism and terrorism which makes us raise an eyebrow from time to time. For the most part, we ignore it because it doesn’t affect us directly.

The reality is, that even in a region such as Central Asia, the tribal system is the dominant one.  The word “stan” means “land of,” and within quite a limited area, there are numerous “stans” inhabited by the Uzbeks, the Paks, the Tajikis, Afghans, Turkmens, Krigs (etc etc)....there are seven or eight “stans,” many of which are nominally a part of the Russian Federation, yet all with their own distinct cultures and tribal ways. You invade these people at your own peril, because they are tough mountain-people and herdsmen, who know all the hiding places in the vast mountain regions, and who are quite capable of taking on the might of the former Red Army.

The only thing which unites these peoples, is Islam, which remains their principal means of communication and co-existence, and as a recent heated debate with a few young Muslims showed me a few weeks ago, knowing a little something about Islam enabled me to find common ground and discuss differences in a quite civilised and amiable manner. Actually, what I learned, was the striking similarities between Islam and traditional Cjristian religion, but of course, the differences were, and remain, a considerable barrier.

Perhaps we could learn from history, and understand that old Islam during the very real “Golden Age”, enabled people of many faiths to interact and trade with each other in a generally civilised manner over many centuries.

MM

David Pinnegar

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Dear MM

Thanks for your helpfully educational and thoughtful responses which really fill in the details for many of us.

I have had the privilege of meetings across cultures recently and I'm told that the major dislike of radical Islamists is not so much Christianity as Judaism itself, strange as it forms a common foundation.

However, earlier this year I had the duty to assist a lady from a radical Islamist state who had come to England last year and had found herself robbed of her savings by a con-man. All I could do was to try to give her confidence and remove her isolation in this country, so telling her to put religious differences aside she recognised what I was telling her that she needed to swim in the waters of kind people . . . and that she would be likely to find a higher concentration of kind people at her local church. So she went to her local church and the congregation welcomed her.

She is about to return to her country and going to the church this week she was given a leaving party by her congregation. She was included, felt included, and knows that the Christianity she experienced in action was more powerful than the exclusivity shown to her by the radical Islam from which she had come.

Christianity in action as practiced in churches such as this has the power to undermine more greatly the regimes of trouble in this world than do any of the weapons of destruction.

Best wishes

David P

MusingMuso

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Dear David,

A heart-warming little story...thank you.

I always maintain that it is not exclusivety which is the problem, but a lack of inclusivity....there is a difference!

She will always feel included forever, no matter how exclusive the circumstances in which she finds herself.

Best,

MM

MusingMuso

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I regret to suggest, taking this reply at face value, that it is the most ill-considered, absurd and prejudiced response I have ever read, but peace be with us and to the prophet as we seek a little enlightenment.

Let's start with a few facts concerning "the golden age of Islam," which was by no means restricted to 8th century Arabia, but in fact covers a period from around 750AD to maybe the 11th century AD, with considerable achievements right up to the 18th century.


If you had an enquiring mind in the 10th-12th centuries, your hope of finding great libraries in the Christian world would have been dashed. Were you a scholar in Baghdad, Damascus or even Granada in what was Moorish Spain, you would have found books on art, calligraphy, optometry, medicine, philosophy and dozens of other subjects. In Granada, you would have walked among spectacular architecture, (still to be seen in the Alhambra Palace, Granada, as well as the great Mosque of Cordoba, since converted into a cathedral). You would have walked on pavements, you would have been taught to read, write, understand mathematics (among other things), and you would have had free medical and hospital care. The streets were even lit by oil lamps at night. Meanwhile, the 12th century Christians in the rest of Europe would have gone to their wattle and daub houses, along muddy paths strewn with straw and excrement, and they would be completely illiterate as well as superstitious.



==================

Just to set the record straight, I misquoted the actual dates concerning the Alhambra Palace at Granada and the medieval mosque of Cordoba, both of which belong to the 14th century. This means that the "Golden Age" of Islam covers at least 600 years and more.

Of course, the Taliban are not interested in the Golden Age of Islam, or the remarkable achievements thereof. Their sole interest is in retuning to the fundamental roots of Islam, which they share of course, with other fundamentalists of other faiths. As such, it is a crude political movement, which finds favour in particularly deprived countries and regions.

MM
« Last Edit: July 22, 2012, 08:38:14 PM by MusingMuso »

Contrabombarde

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..... The only world the Islamicists invading northern Mali (or the Taliban for that matter) consider worth living in is the world of 7th century Arabia during the life of Mohammed, a so-called "golden age of Islam". Everything must be lived according to how things worked in the 7th century.

Unfortunately modern archeological and historical scholarship has blown wide open the central claims of the historicity of this period, meaning that the golden age these people dream of recreating never actually existed in the first place.

I regret to suggest, taking this reply at face value, that it is the most ill-considered, absurd and prejudiced response I have ever read, but peace be with us and to the prophet as we seek a little enlightenment.

Let's start with a few facts concerning "the golden age of Islam," which was by no means restricted to 8th century Arabia, but in fact covers a period from around 750AD to maybe the 11th century AD, with considerable achievements right up to the 18th century.

Islam has as its roots the historic beliefs of ancient Judaism, and the Quran was the first religious document written in one hand, which sought to codify and present, (in the most beautiful, poetic language), all that was good and decent; notwithstanding the limitations in the sum of human knowledge in the 8th Century. Although I cannot verify or bring to mind the considerable amount of detail, Islam was born at a time when the trade routes crossed and re-crossed an area of the Islamic world we know as Syria and Damascus. Those trade routes exchanged learning and ideas from several continents....Europe, Arabia, India, China and Central Asia. I forget the exact reason why, but the Islamic world was pushed east, and then centred upon Baghdad, with Mecca still the focal point of believers.....

I suppose the onus is on me to defend my "ill-considered, absurd and prejudiced response", in which case I must appeal to historical records to see what evidence we can find for such a "golden era" around the time of Mohammed. By virtue of choosing to comment on the destruction of the literary material and culture of Mali I completely accept the later achievements of Islamic scholars, astronomers, doctors and scientists writing in what we would know as the early medieval period of Western history. I have walked the streets of Samarkand in Uzbekistan and observed the many glorious mosques, the astronomical observatory and in Tashkent I visited a library in order to view one of the earliest manuscripts of the Quran, written in the Kufic script which dates it to the mid-eighth century. The phrase "golden age of Islam" is surely appropriate to be used to describe this period.

However, I was not applying that phrase to the thugs of Mali; instead I was describing their aspiration for their own "golden age of Islam", stripped of modern distractions and as close a recreation of the world of Mohammed as can practically be copied nowadays. The Taliban have a similar zeal. The point of irony is that their "golden age of Islam" - certainly not to be confused with the world of the Samarkand scholars - is but a figment of their imagination and they are destroying valuable later Islamic culture and ways of life to create a society modelled on something that never existed.

Take Mecca and Mohammed for instance. The earliest non-Muslim reference to Mecca comes from a mid-eighth century document. The earliest account of Muhammed's life was that of Ibn Ishaq who lived more than a hundred years after Mohammed's death, and other biographers wrote later still (and are even less credible). The Hadith, or sayings of Mohammed, date from two centuries after his death. If Mecca was the centre of Middle Eastern trade, the Dubai of the ancient Orient, one would have expected rather more to have been written about it at the time than what survives. And despite the claim in the Quran that the direction of prayer for Muslims was focussed on Mecca from soon after the time of the Hijra (AD 624), it is uncertain why early mosques continued to point themeslves vaguely in the direction of Jerusalem for a further two centuries. The first reference we have to anyone called Mohammed dates from a coin struck in Damascus around 690AD, the year before the Dome of the Rock was built in Jerusalem.

It's certainly true that the Quran has its origins in Judaism and Christianity, but it's pushing it to conclude that it is written in but one hand. Textual criticism of the Quran is most revealing since it shows how a bizarre concoction of Jewish and Christian apocryphal writings (more so than Biblical writings), musings on war and peace in the context of Muhammed's followers, plus a bit of ancient Greek medicine has been thrown together and it is certainly not all written by a single hand. On the one hand we have stories about Jesus' childhood, but not those of the Gospels: instead, Jesus picks up lumps of clay, models them into birds and breathes life into them, whereupon they fly off (taken straight from the apocryphal Infancy Gospel of Thomas); we read how the Queen of Sheba came to meet Solomon and on entering his court mistook the glass polished floor for a lake and pulled up her skirt so as not to get it wet (a story which first appeared in the second-century AD Jewish writings known as the Second Targum of Esther). And the stages of embryonic development taught by the second century Roman doctor Galen have also found their way into the Quran, which is perhaps not surprising given that Islamic tradition maintains that one of Mohammed's companions was a doctor who had studied medicine in present-day Iraq, where a century earlier the works of Galen were first translated from the original Greek.

The musings on war and peace follow a chronology too, though the Quran is not complied chronologically and it was later Muslims who determined the historical order in which events happen. Interestingly when Mohammed was first beginning his "ministry" and building alliances the messages are about peace and harmony; as he became stronger militarily and eventually conquered the lands around Mecca the Quranic verses become much more menacing towards non-Muslims, including Christians and Jews.

The legacy of his successors leaves much to be desired. Writings of terrified Christian and other historians from Syria and Palestine when invading Arab armies conquered those lands in the decades after Mohammed's death suggest that the "golden age of Islam" that the Mali militants seek to recreate was very much more "sword" than "ploughshare". But there is no historical evidence for the existence of a single entity, a book, written by one hand and called the Quran, during the period of the early Arab conquests. There is however a sea of apocryphal literature, much of it used and preserved by the various Jewish and Christian sects that lived in the Arabian peninsular in the seventh century, some of whom would have experienced persecution for their deviation from more orthodox beliefs. Thus there was no shortage of material from which to draw a narrative, a unifying book or history for a newly emergent group of conquering Arabs needing to forge a new cultural identity. From these early Muslims developed a whole mythology around Mecca as the greatest city on earth, the city Abraham visited, some would say a city Moses brought the Israelites during the wilderness years of the Exodus, and this period around Mohammed's life was the greatest period in human history. Alas, the reality is that Mecca was barely on the map until a hundred years after his death and far from any of the known trade routes, and far from being dictated in perfect Arabic, the immutable and inimical word of God, the Quran was merely a compilation of many local texts and manuscripts of dubious probity.

That is why I submit that the particular "golden age of Islam" that the Mali militants seek to impose on the people of Timbuktu, never actually existed to begin with as a model for their assault, and they are trying to impose something that never happened, so never worked then, and inevitably will not work now. And lest I stand accused of being judgemental or prejudiced, I can only say that I think the historical (lack of) evidence for their panacea speaks for itself rather more loudly than I can speak.


MusingMuso

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I suppose the onus is on me to defend my "ill-considered, absurd and prejudiced response", in which case I must appeal to historical records to see what evidence we can find for such a "golden era" around the time of Mohammed. By virtue of choosing to comment on the destruction of the literary material and culture of Mali I completely accept the later achievements of Islamic scholars, astronomers, doctors and scientists writing in what we would know as the early medieval period of Western history. I have walked the streets of Samarkand in Uzbekistan and observed the many glorious mosques, the astronomical observatory and in Tashkent I visited a library in order to view one of the earliest manuscripts of the Quran, written in the Kufic script which dates it to the mid-eighth century. The phrase "golden age of Islam" is surely appropriate to be used to describe this period.

However, I was not applying that phrase to the thugs of Mali; instead I was describing their aspiration for their own "golden age of Islam", stripped of modern distractions and as close a recreation of the world of Mohammed as can practically be copied nowadays. The Taliban have a similar zeal. The point of irony is that their "golden age of Islam" - certainly not to be confused with the world of the Samarkand scholars - is but a figment of their imagination and they are destroying valuable later Islamic culture and ways of life to create a society modelled on something that never existed.

Take Mecca and Mohammed for instance. The earliest non-Muslim reference to Mecca comes from a mid-eighth century document. The earliest account of Muhammed's life was that of Ibn Ishaq who lived more than a hundred years after Mohammed's death, and other biographers wrote later still (and are even less credible). The Hadith, or sayings of Mohammed, date from two centuries after his death. If Mecca was the centre of Middle Eastern trade, the Dubai of the ancient Orient, one would have expected rather more to have been written about it at the time than what survives. And despite the claim in the Quran that the direction of prayer for Muslims was focussed on Mecca from soon after the time of the Hijra (AD 624), it is uncertain why early mosques continued to point themeslves vaguely in the direction of Jerusalem for a further two centuries. The first reference we have to anyone called Mohammed dates from a coin struck in Damascus around 690AD, the year before the Dome of the Rock was built in Jerusalem.

It's certainly true that the Quran has its origins in Judaism and Christianity, but it's pushing it to conclude that it is written in but one hand. Textual criticism of the Quran is most revealing since it shows how a bizarre concoction of Jewish and Christian apocryphal writings (more so than Biblical writings), musings on war and peace in the context of Muhammed's followers, plus a bit of ancient Greek medicine has been thrown together and it is certainly not all written by a single hand. On the one hand we have stories about Jesus' childhood, but not those of the Gospels: instead, Jesus picks up lumps of clay, models them into birds and breathes life into them, whereupon they fly off (taken straight from the apocryphal Infancy Gospel of Thomas); we read how the Queen of Sheba came to meet Solomon and on entering his court mistook the glass polished floor for a lake and pulled up her skirt so as not to get it wet (a story which first appeared in the second-century AD Jewish writings known as the Second Targum of Esther). And the stages of embryonic development taught by the second century Roman doctor Galen have also found their way into the Quran, which is perhaps not surprising given that Islamic tradition maintains that one of Mohammed's companions was a doctor who had studied medicine in present-day Iraq, where a century earlier the works of Galen were first translated from the original Greek.

The musings on war and peace follow a chronology too, though the Quran is not complied chronologically and it was later Muslims who determined the historical order in which events happen. Interestingly when Mohammed was first beginning his "ministry" and building alliances the messages are about peace and harmony; as he became stronger militarily and eventually conquered the lands around Mecca the Quranic verses become much more menacing towards non-Muslims, including Christians and Jews.

The legacy of his successors leaves much to be desired. Writings of terrified Christian and other historians from Syria and Palestine when invading Arab armies conquered those lands in the decades after Mohammed's death suggest that the "golden age of Islam" that the Mali militants seek to recreate was very much more "sword" than "ploughshare". But there is no historical evidence for the existence of a single entity, a book, written by one hand and called the Quran, during the period of the early Arab conquests. There is however a sea of apocryphal literature, much of it used and preserved by the various Jewish and Christian sects that lived in the Arabian peninsular in the seventh century, some of whom would have experienced persecution for their deviation from more orthodox beliefs. Thus there was no shortage of material from which to draw a narrative, a unifying book or history for a newly emergent group of conquering Arabs needing to forge a new cultural identity. From these early Muslims developed a whole mythology around Mecca as the greatest city on earth, the city Abraham visited, some would say a city Moses brought the Israelites during the wilderness years of the Exodus, and this period around Mohammed's life was the greatest period in human history. Alas, the reality is that Mecca was barely on the map until a hundred years after his death and far from any of the known trade routes, and far from being dictated in perfect Arabic, the immutable and inimical word of God, the Quran was merely a compilation of many local texts and manuscripts of dubious probity.

That is why I submit that the particular "golden age of Islam" that the Mali militants seek to impose on the people of Timbuktu, never actually existed to begin with as a model for their assault, and they are trying to impose something that never happened, so never worked then, and inevitably will not work now. And lest I stand accused of being judgemental or prejudiced, I can only say that I think the historical (lack of) evidence for their panacea speaks for itself rather more loudly than I can speak.

=======================

Dear Contrabombarde and all,



I am genuinely delighted to stand corrected, and havng re-read what you actually wrote, (rather than what I thought you wrote), I can see how I made the error of assumption. Quite obviously, you are very aware of the remarkable achievements of what I, and undoubtedly you, would consider the true Islamic golden-age. Such was the brevity, (and accuracy), of your post, I had misread it is being in denial about Islamic achievements.

I'm also grateful about the sources of the Quran. Mine came rather second-hand I'm afraid, but at least the source was an obviously misinformed or ill-informed Archbishop, thus demonstrating that at least some of them are overpaid and overvalued! :)  I must confess that I was always a little scepticle of this claim, but deferred to a certain other. I had always thought it more likely that it would all have been cobbled together from tribal sources and folkelore, and now I feel slightly vindicated.


On the subject of "swords" perhaps it is highly significant that the most prized were those made from "Damascus Steel", far in advance of aything else at the time. In the west, we were still trying to hack people down with heavy iron swords in medieval times, which crushed bones better than they cut off limbs.

I think we are both in complete agreement about the radical Islam of the Taliban, which like all fundamentalism, serves no-one except those who propose and prosecute it. I feel exactly the same way about Christian fundamentalism, and in both instances, there is almost always a hidden agenda with more than a hint of the political.

All that remains, in the best tradition of gutter journalism and potential libel cases, is for me to unreservedly reatract my accusations and apolgise for any distress which may have been caused to you, your family, your tribe and your religion, as well as any pet cats, dogs and even the fleas which may jumpeth upon thy person.

Best,

MM

 


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