Thursday, January 31, 2008

Post 7. Mohammedanism an offshoot of Christianity?

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La', ila illaa, la', Allah!
( An interview with Cristoph Luxenberg, by Alfred Hackensberger, published originally in german on " Suddeutsche Zeitung ", translated into italian by Elisabeth Horvat for the italian magazine " Espresso ", dated 18th March 2004, translated into english by the Templar Ferrerix ( as the blogger ), who, although a barbuto ( i.e., a word used by the Benedectine Order of Monks to indicate a lay-worker of the monastery; not a knight of noble birth and a self-elected member ), nevertheless a qualified theologian from the United Faculty of Theology, Melbourne. )
Translator's personal views--:
I have allowed myself to add to the original in order to make the subject more clear to the average western reader, too busy with earning a living and keeping pace with the escalating changes of technology, thus unable to accumulate the knowlege required to appreciate fundamental problems such as the un--reformed condition of Qu'ranic interpretation and exegesis which allows ignorant and scheming leaders of islamic societies to send their nations on paths of hatred, destruction, evil. Reformation has been attempted in the past by several islamic scholars but has always been drowned in blood. See articles on Islam by " Encyclopedia Britannica ".
For the sake of justice however, I must also add that western christianity is degenerate, and also needs reformation, western society having embraced the abominable and obscene idols of indiscriminate freedoms. The decadence and degeneration of western societies may explain, although it cannot justify it, the irrational behaviour and activities of islamic leaders and fundamentalists. My advise to these people is to reform and rationalise the readings of the Qu'ran on the foundation of peace and love that inspired it, through the work of eastern churches' missionaries, numerous congregations of which have been massacred and oppressed by the very arabic cultures they have helped to build up in the centuries between the I and VII. However, no one is totally innocent in front of God.
We must shelve our past ( must not forget it though ) and focus on the future. Only those who are able to do this shall survive.
Deus vult!
My recognition of the worth of Mohammedanism ( I wish to differentiate here between Mohammedanism and Islamism which are not necessarily the same, as, while the former may be a religion, the latter is a religious ideology ) is based on the understanding that it has historically been willed by God, as christianity in the days of the Byzantine Empire was even then degenerate and corrupt and in need of reformation, as all religions shall always be. Islam has in fact acted as a punishing sword for christianity. I also base my acceptance of the place of Islam, side by side with Christianity and Judaism, on the basis of the significance to me of the encounter between Abram and Melchizedek ( Genesis 14:18-20 ). However my acceptance also includes the realization and belief no one can claim exclusive knowlege of the truth and the right to dictate to and dominate over others' religious beliefs. Hence the futility and waste of attempts at conversions. Finally, justice and common sense must eventually prevail. Moslems must understand that ‘ Jihad ‘ is not their monopoly and that, as it is written, Allah, Jehovah is one, in the unity of all believers. Unity, Peace, Love, Hospitality are the only and true signs of being with God.
All other behaviours are of the devil. Amen !
page 1.
(Shared views of all-; Professor, interviewer and translator. )
Question-: The Qu'ran ?
::"The religious part of it is a christianity-inspired writing. Compiled (loosely put-together, not necessarily written down in a sytematic order with any distinctive newly adapted message or purpose ) in the syro-aramaic language and orally in the various arabic dialects to preach christianity to the expatriate arabic ethnic groups living in Mesopotamia between the I and VII centuries. Note please my use of the word expatriate and ethnic enphasizing the fact that the arabic people were then strangers in the countries of Mesopotamia, with the exception of the Arabian Peninsula.
At this point I wish to enphasize as written in the following paragraphs, for the benefit of Mohammedan believers whose duty is to reform their potentially, worthy world-religion as envisaged by Mohammed, the great Prophet, before the late redaction of the Qu'ran took place that-: In relation to the heavy arabic/cultural, political and ideological bias loading, the Qu'ran in its post-Mohammedan redaction ( which is still its present, never-reformed form to-day), with its materialistic worldy concerns ( of which even the Old Testament suffers ), unreformed Islamism may not strictly and legitimately ( by present-world theological standards ) qualify as a pure and universal religion, but rather be considered as a religious-ideology ( see Juan Luis Segundo's theological definitions in "Jesus of Nazareth, Yesterday and To-Day "), thus becoming disqualified from claims only a reformed, pure religion ( very few can qualify ) can hold.
The Qu'ran was redacted, written and organised in classical arabic only after the VIII century, at least 150 years after Mohammed's death, and given the specific and distinctive purpose to politically and ideologically unite all Arabs and their future converts in a society of people determined to conquer and convert the whole world by any possible and available mean. It is quite possible that, whereas Mohammed may have been principally concerned with the eradication of paganism/polytheism, inter-tribal warfare and any foreign influence among his people in the Arabic Peninsula, the idea of a world-wide conquest may have been his followers' alone. As a reformer Mohammed would concurr to-day in the need to reform the interpretation of the Qu'ran for the sake of peace and the survival of the earth.
The latest estimate for the compilation ( as distinct from its redaction which must have occurred later ) of the Qu'ran is 150 years before arabic became a written language ( i.e., AL-KHalil ben Ahmad, the organiser of arabic lexicography ( dictionary ) ‘ Kitab al-ayn ‘, who died in 786 A.D. and Sibawwayh, the developer of the classical arabic grammar, who died in 796 A.D. ).In view of the need for a written language in order for these works to be published, and in view of the complexity and beauty of the classical arabic in which the Qu'ran has been written, in contrast to the poverty and primitiveness of the original compiled in a mixture of syro-aramaic and various arabic dialects, the redaction of the Qu'ran must have occurred at least 150 years after Mohammed's death. The redactors ( writers and organisers) of the Qu'ran, must have worked with oral or even written compilations in vulgar arabic, the semantic and lexicographical content of which, originating as it did from siro-aramaic language and cultures, must have become lost or corrupt following the death of the original compilers or transmitters of the sources who were massacred or enslaved into forced labours by the fanatical warriors from the deserts of Arabia. Arabic conquests began in fact in the life of Mohammed and in about 100 years, with the Qu'ran still unwritten, while both the classical arabic grammar and lexicon were being developed, most of North Africa and of Mesopotamia had been conquered.This explains the need to go back to the original siro-aramaic linguistic and cultural sources of the christian documents which inspired the religious parts of the Q'uran, for a true understanding of the meaning behind the classical arabic text.
Mohammed, the Prophet, died in 632 A.D. (VII century).[It is the opinion of the present translator, that Luxenbergh's thesis does not deny the possibility that Mohammed may indeed have been an inspired prophet, who having learnt from both jewish and christian missionaries ( St.Paul the Apostle himself spent three years preaching the kerygma in the deserts in the I century A.D.) about the monotheistic religions with their various branching sects, murdering one another for minor theological differences in belief, decided to adapt his new found learning to a naively and excessively simplified way of belief and worship which totally neglected to observe how the New Testament and the orthodox understanding of Jesus of Nazareth's mission and person, alone could fill and mediate for humanity through the immensity of the gap between the biblical God and human beings. One must not forget also the hypocrisy and corruption of the Byzantine Empire, heir to the degenerated and fallen Roman Empire of the West. However, having said this, there is no doubt that the interpretation of the Qu'ran must be reformed!
These are the thesis and facts offered by Christoph Luxenberg, a german scholar, who is an expert in semitic and middle eastern languages.
In many islamic societies, those who become concerned with the rationalization and normalization of Qu'ranic interpretation( exegesis ), independently from the closed circle of the Imams, many of whom are not scholars at all, place their lives at risk. This has been demonstrated in recent times by the murder of an egyptian scholar Faragh Foda, shot in the open streets and by that of Suliman Bashear, a professor at the University of Nablus, in Palestine, thrown down a window by his students. The accusation in both cases was--: Insulting the Qu'ran, by doubting the sacred and unquestionable word of God.
Here we are presenting the doubts of a non-moslem, hence of one who is free from the condemnation visited upon doubting moslems, of a german scholar called Christoph Luxenbergh ( an assumed name to cover the possibility a fanatical fundamentalist assassin deciding to act independently and attempt to kill him ), who is an expert in semitic and middle-eastern languages.
Luxenbergh states to have found numerous and fundamental " errors in reading [ from a lexicographical viewpoint ] and interpretation " concerning the sacred book of the Qu'ran.
In Germany, the second edition of his book ‘ Die Siro-Aramaische Leseart Des Korans ‘ ( A Siro-Aramaic Reading of the Qu'ran ), which two years ago had already generated interest and concern, is about to be published in a revised and extended form.While many Moslems have already accused Luxenbergh to have profaned what is the foundation of their faith, scholarly circles have received with great interest his readings of the Qu'ran ( lexicographical findings ), which was written 1400 years ago:"
Question-: Professor, what has motivated your reading of the Qu'ran ?
::" The fact that the attempts to interpret a series of obscure passages of the Qu'ran, with a plausible meaning, have failed and have occurred since the redaction [ as distinct from compilation ] of the Qu'ran. This has been so much so that even the first arab commentators have been compelled to confess their uncertainty ":

Question-:Uncertainty ?
::" As I have already said, numerous obscure passages are to be found in the Qu'ran, about which even arab commentators, from the beginning [ i.e., after its redaction in written classical arabic in VIII century ] could not supply a plausible translation and exegesis. ":
A usual attitude about these texts is that God only understands the obscure passages of the Q'uran.Western Qu'ranic research has begun in a systematic way only around the middle of the XIX century, and, as a rule, has always adopted, as a foundation, the arabic scholars' commentaries. These commentaries however did not go beyond the etymological [ historical origins and changes of the word, from an arabic cultural point of view ] explanation of terms of foreign origin ":

Question-: You claim to have succeeded to interpret correctly even those ‘obscure passages' which no one until now has been able to understand.What differentiates your method from that of those who preceded you ?
::" My approach is based on the idea that the language of the Qu'ran has to be seen through Historical-Linguistic glasses. You see, at the time when the Qu'ran began to be compiled [ as a siro-aramaic collection of christian homilies which may initially have been translated in spoken vulgar arabic for the use of arabic ethnic communities in Mesopotamia ], the arabic language did not yet have a written form; it has therefore occurred to me that the reading and interpretation of the Qu'ran must take into consideration above all, the aramaic language which, in the historical period comprised between the IV and the VII centuries was the officially spoken and written language in that area of western Asia where the compilation of the sacred text had its origins.This is why 10 years ago I have begun to read the Qu'ran using this approach :"

Question-: Please explain this method of reading.
::" Initially reading was ‘ synchronous ‘--: Holding symultaneously both the arabic and its parallel in the aramaic language. Thanks to this procedure I have been able to find out the level of influence, hitherto unsuspected, that the aramaic language has had on the language of the Qu'ran-: In fact, a great deal of what to-day is defined as ‘ classical arabic ‘ is of aramaic derivation ":

Question-: What can therefore be said of the thesis, hitherto accepted, that the Qu'ran is the first book written in the classical arabic language ?
::" According to islamic tradition, the Qu'ran was redacted [not just compiled ] in the VII century [ Mohammed died in 632 A.D. ], however the first examples of arabic literature which can strictly be called as such [ classical ], are to be found only at the time of the
‘ Prophet's Biography ‘, written by IBN HISCHAM who died in 828 A.D.We can therefore conclude that arabic, post-qu'ranic literature can only have been produced in stages, following the work of Al-Khalil Bin Ahmad [ who died in 786A.D. ], the redactor of a classical arabic lexicography [ dictionary= kytab al-ayn ] and of Sibawwayh [ who died in 796 A.D. ], who organised a grammar of classical arabic.Now, [apart from the absence in the VII century of a lexicon and grammar without which a beautiful and complex written language, such as that used in the redaction of the Qu'ran, cannot exist ] if one assumes that the redaction of the Qu'ran may have been completed at the death of Mohammed the Prophet [ in 632 A.D. ], one finds it difficult to explain a 150 years interval during which there is no trace of notable, [written] arabic literature":
[ These are important considerations because one can appreciate a compilation by siro-aramaic compilers in their cultural and linguistic background over a period of six centuries, an oral synthesis and interpolation made by the prophet Mohammed during his productive life-time as a caravaneer, the oral transmission over a period of at least 150 years by various disciples of Mohammed, unlettered and raw, finally, in the VIII century, a written (redaction ) synthesis and interpolation made by cultured, rich, proud arabs reaping the fruits of a weak, degenerate, divided, corrupt, hypocritical christian conglomeration of nations.It is not difficult to see that the redaction of the Qu'ran without the necessary interpretation required to re-capture the original message of peace, love and justice intended by the poor ancient christian missionaries, became, in the hands of the Sherifs, Emirs and Khalifs ( warriors and secular ) the tool for the justification, glorification of the arabic tribes and culture, an incitation for the acquisition of empire, in the name of the humma and islam. No wonder therefore that the history of Islam is nothing else than a repetition of Roman, Byzantine, Western histories, in which love, peace and justice are made a mockery of. If one isolates Mohammed's message in the Qu'ran, one finds I am seeing the truth. This is why a reformation of the interpretation of the Qu'ran is needed, now, to re-capture the original message, before it is too late. ]
Question-: If, at the time Mohammed lived and died, the arabic language did not have yet a written form and was not used in written communications, how can ISLAM claim it has been written in the VII century ?
::" You see, at the time there were no arabic schools, with the exception perhaps of christian arabic centres at AL-ANBAR and at AL-HIRA, in the south of Mesopotamia, an area which corresponds to the modern Iraq of our present days.The arabic speaking ethnic groups [ the area became dominated by Islam only after Mohammed's death ] in that area had been converted to christianity by Syrian christians, whose language for liturgical purposes [preaching and worshipping] was siro-aramaic. This was in fact the medium of expression for their own culture and, for that area in general, theirs was also the written language in use for official, administrative and legal transactions and communications ":
Question-: What is the connection between " this language as the medium of culture and of written communication", and the birth of the Qu'ran ?
::" Since the III century, Syrian christians extended their missionary work beyond neighbouring nations-: i.e., Armenia, Persia ( modern Iran), etc. They did in fact reach China and the western coast of India, even the Arabic peninsula, even as far as Yemen and Ethiopia. It is therefore highly probable that, in order to preach the Gospels to arabic speaking people and ethnic groups in the areas adjacent their own, they used, among other languages, the language of the
‘ bedouins ‘, i.e., the arabic speaking desert tribes, that is, [what is loosely called] the arabic language.
However, since the arabic language of those times was a not yet organised [ the first arabic lexicon had to wait for the work of Al-Khalil Bin Ahmad in the VIII century] mixture of dialects without a written form, [ the first grammar of classical arabic had to wait for Sibawwayh, also in the VIII century] the missionaries had no other choice but to draw intellectually and spiritually from the existing literary language and cultural circles, which were then, siro-aramaic.It follows that, although the language used in the writing [redaction stage] of the Qu'ran was the written arabic developed in the VIII century, both the content, cultural background, and, generally, the language of the sources had been siro-aramaic at the compilation stage; moreover, these also contributed to the redaction of the lexicon and of the arabic grammar in the VIII century. It can in fact be stated that the classical arabic lexicon and grammar are both arabic-aramaic derivatives:"
Question-: Are you saying that both a non-arab scholar and an arab one cannot correctly translate and interpret the Qu'ran , on the basis of a knowledge of classical arabic alone that does not take into account the siro-aramaic influences ?
::" Yes. Whoever wishes to deeply reach into the understanding of the Qu’ran must acquire adequate training in the siro-aramaic grammar, literature and culture of [ at least ] the VII century when the compilation [of the religious part ] of the Qu’ran reached its zenith, [ i.e., when Mohammed was alive
This is required to avoid the errors made by the arabic redactors and commentators [ at least 150 years after Mohammed’s death] in their adoption of arabic expressions and words, the interpretation of which as to the intended meaning of their siro-aramaic sources from which they were derivated, can be achieved only by a translation back into their siro-aramaic original statements, paying attention, of course, to the siro-aramaic cultural background in which they were born":
Question-: What is the level and degree of analogy and synonimity between arabic and siro-aramic [ lexicons ] ?
::" There are numerous common roots, but at the same time considerable semantic differences. In other words, although there exists a correspondence between dictionaries, this does not extend to symbolic and logical structures and usages":
Question-: Let us consider the errors of interpretation--: One of the most stirring examples you have mentioned is about thevirgins promised to suicidal terrorists in the islamic paradise.
::" Let us begin with the word ‘ huris ‘, for which arab scholars have not been able to find other explanation than that of the heavenly virgins.If one takes into account a siro-aramaic origin, that expression refers to ‘white grapes ‘, which is a christian symbol for paradise, in an analogy to the Supper of the Gospels.There is another qu'ranic expression wrongly interpreted as ‘ ‘ the children ' or ‘ the youths ‘ of paradise, which in the aramaic sources denotes the fruits of the vine. Now, in the Qu'ran's classical arabic these are compared to pearls.As an aside, particularly in relation to christian symbols of paradise, these errors of redaction and interpretation have certainly a lot to do with the male monopoly in the field of qu'ranic redaction, interpretation and commenting ":
Question-: The observation reminds us of a subject at the centre of widespread discussions--: i.e., the islamic injunction for the use of the veil [ by women ].
::" There is a passage in sura 24 [qu'ranic chapter ] , verse 31, that in its isolated arabic interpretation is purported to mean " Let them beat their khumur on their purses [ probably carried around their waist-line in those ancient times]."This, taken on its own, is an obscure passage, of which, on the one hand, the following arabic interpretation has been offered [ by arabic commentators ], " Let them spread their hand kerchief over their breasts ". On the other hand, if this passage is read in synchrony with its siro-aramaic source, it simply means " Let them fasten their belts around their waist-line".
Translator's digression.
[ The opinion of the present translator of this article is that the arabic interpretation of a clearly symbolic exortation to modesty in the christian siro-aramaic source has been obscured since the first rendering by arabic compilers and redactors, through their concern for low moral standards existing in the pagan societies of the middle east, before the birth of Islam. In fact, the arabic culture, as in generally all archaic, patriarcal ones, provocation has much more bearing on a judicial decision about a failure in human relationships, than it has in christian cultures--: i.e., women tend to be punished more heavily than men in sexual misbehavior. The original, christian exortation has therefore become an injunction, a coercion, which in christian, and post-christian, enlightened societies has no place. In fact, in christian morality, every individual is a free ( bearing in mind St. Tomas Aquina's definition about the freedom of the individual having to equate at every event that of the collective ) human person, and, as such, responsible for his/her actions, irrespective of provocation. In fact, Adam and Eve, as an example, were not fully excused and justified by their having been provoked by the Serpent's suggestion that they would not really die if they transgressed God's command, i.e., in fact they did not loose their vocation towards heaven, only their physical immortality.The harsh, anachronistic law of Islam, the Law of the Khaliffs must therefore be tempered by God's infinite mercy, compassion, and toleration, about which the beginning of every sura of the Qu'ran reminds the believer.In fact the severity of the Khalifs is not accepted in a world that has known christian compassion, reformation and justice, in our modern times.The wearing of veils by women, as an example, should therefore become purely voluntary, on the basis also of the biblical prophets' realization around the times of Isaiah that the perfect sacrifice offered by the human person to God should not any longer be an externally expressed one, but should consist of the purity of intention, will, and love for God, to be truly present in the human person's heart and mind. This has sometimes be called, appropriately so, ‘ the circumcision of the heart '. I am convinced that Islam, as understood by the prophet Mohammed, was meant to be a purification of what the religions of the Books had become in his times, a return to the original archaic message hidden in the story of the encounter between Abram ( not yet the circumcised Abraham ) and the King of Salem, ( Peace= Salaam, Shalom)
Melchizedek, which is simply about hospitality, love, peace, respect, the essences about Who God is ( Genesis 14:18-20 ).
End of translator's digression.
Question-: Should we therefore understand the veil as the equivalent of a chastity belt ?
[ Translator's comment-: Please note how even the question of the interviewer remains biased by the hidden understanding about the motives of the ancient arabic compilers and redactors. The real issue in christian understanding is about the purity of the heart, of intention and will, not so much about physical integrity.This is what christian symbolism is all about. ]
::" Not exactly. Even if, in the christian religion, the belt is a symbol of chastity.Mary wears a belt tied around her body. In the syrian version of the Last Supper it is written in aramaic that the Christ tied an apron about his body before washing the Apostles' feet.There are evidently numerous parallels between the ‘ veil ‘ and similar symbols in the christian faith ":

Question-: You appear to have found that sura 97 of the Qu'ran mentions Christmass. In your translation of the famous sura about Mary, her pregnancy " is legitimated by God ( the Lord )". Moreover, the text, according to your understanding, even contains the invitation to accede to the Divine Service, that is, to the christian Mass. Could we therefore postulate that the Qu'ran is first of all, an arabic version of the christian message of the Bible ( New Testament ) ?
::" Actually, the Qu'ran is a liturgical book of siro-aramaic inspiration, with passages taken from the Scriptures, which may have been programmed for the Divine Service. These passages are found in various parts of the Qu'ran, may have been liturgical hymns, in their siro-aramaic original form. One can also see that the Qu'ran is also the result of christian missionary attempts to orally transmit belief in the Scriptures to the pagans of Mecca [ up to the days of Mohammed ], in the arabic spoken dialects [ during the long compilation period prior to its redaction into the classical arabic developed by Al-Khalil Bin Ahmad before his death in 786 A.D. ]. In so far as the socio-political part of the Qu'ran is concerned,
it has not much to do with the original Qu'ran [ the one of the compilation stage of Mohammed's concern ], and has been added later on, at Medina [ the redacted one ].Since the beginning, the Qu'ran has not been conceived as the foundation od a new religion, in so far as it presupposes faith [ belief ] in the Scriptures and was intended only to serve as a medium to transfer the message of the christian Gospels to arab ethnic groups and societies.
[ I believe that the professor errs in not separating Mohammed's from the missionaries' aims in the use of siro-aramaic sources and do not agree with these conclusions, as I believe Mohammed was concerned with the corruption and degeneracy of belief as held by the dominant classes in the Roman and Byzantine Empires, and decided to found a new religion. From this point of view, I therefore consider Mohammed even as a reformer of judaism and christianity. However, I also believe that the severe purification of judaeo-christian theological beliefs and dogmas adopted by Mohammed, set-up a retrogressive movement in the future religious evolution of islam with the fatalistic and static attitude of the Khaliffs, that stifled the reforming intentions of Mohammed and ended up making islam into a fossilized civilization, unreasonably opposing progress and evolution.]

Question-: Many mohammedan believers for whom the Qu'ran is the sacred book containing the only, all-exclusive truth, may consider your conclusions blasphemous. What reactions have you met so far ?
::" In Pakistan, sales of ‘ Newsweek ‘ have been forbidden, containing an article on my work. However, I must say that, in general, I have not noticed any hostile attitude in Moslems I have met.To the contrary, these persons have recognized, valued and honoured the commitment of a non-moslem to a study directed to an objective understanding of their sacred book.My work can only be considered blasphemous by someone who chooses to stick by the errors of interpretation of God's Word.
But, it is written---: " No one can turn back on the right path those whom God has induced into error ":. "::

Question-: Are you afraid of a fatwa, or a death-sentence like the one directed toward Salman Rushdie ?
::" I am not a Moslem, and therefore do not have to contend with this. Moreover, I have not offended against the Qu'ran ":.

Question-: Nevertheless, you have preferred to use a pseudonym........
::" I have done so upon the advice received from moslem friends, who feared some fanatical fundamentalist may decide to act without a fatwa, on his/her initiative":.

Al ham u dullahi!
God ( Allah/Jehovah) be praised !


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