Category Archives: Established heritage of Islam

Shiites have older credentials than Sunnis



Dutch Christian newspaper Trouw continues its speculative series on critical Islam researchers and their ‘spectacular’ questions on the early days of Islam. Here follows a translation of an article by Eildert Mulder claiming that Shiites, not Sunnis, possess the oldest Islam and then my reaction in online newspaper

Eildert Mulder says:

The majority decides, this also goes for the design, structure and image of Islam. Shiites are a worldwide ten percent minority of Islam. Sunnis hold with their ninety percent an overwhelming advantage. This may explain the tendency, also among Islam studies in the West, to discard of Shiism as a younger aberration of Sunni, ‘orthodox’ Islam. Critical Islam experts resist this temptation, however. Some think that precisely Shiism has reserved an older form of Islam. Under-appreciation of the Shiites may also be caused by the fact that the main European colonizers mainly found Sunni Muslims in the conquered territories. This went for the Britisch in India, the Dutch in Indonesia, the French in Northern and West Africa and the Russians in Central Asia. Sunni confession of faith says: ‘There is no deity than Allah and Muhammad is His Messenger’. The Shiites lengthen it: ‘And ‘Ali is His Wali’. Wali can mean ‘guardian’. The result could then be ‘the guardian appointed by Allah’. This addition to Sunni confession sounds slightly artificial. It appears stuck to it and this strengthens the idea of a later aberration of the Sunna. ‘Ali Wali was according tradition Muhammad’s son in law, married to his daughter Fatima. Muhammed supposedly appointed ‘Ali as his successor, not as a prophet, but as leader of the young Muslim community. Muhammad further would have decreed that future Imams (this is the name Shiites give to the leaders of the Muslim community, Sunnis speak of Khaliphas) must descend from ‘Ali and Fatima. Sunnis disagree with this. When Shiites then add ‘Ali being ‘wali’ of God to the confession, it appears overstated. But another explanation is possible, without a person named ‘Ali appearing. That gives the Shiite ‘addition’ another dimension. The linguistic phenomenon of an adjective changing into a first name in people’s experience may have happend with ”Ali’. German linguist Christoph Luxenberg says this happened to ‘Muhammad’. Muhammad literally means ‘(intensely) praised’. The confession’s original confession cannot have been ‘Muhammad Messenger of God’, says Luxenberg, but: ‘Praised be God’s Messenger’. Luxenberg doesn’t mention ‘Ali, but analogy is obvious. ‘Ali means ‘exalted’. Also ‘Ali may originally have been an adjective, therefor one mustn’t read ”Ali God’s Wali’, but ‘Exalted is God’s Wali’. The Shiite confession no longer answers the question who should be king of the Muslims, but which (high) status he enjoys. Assuming that ‘God’s Guardian’ indeed refers to the imam or caliph, as Shiites believe. This other interpretation cut the unfortunate tie with the apocryphal narrations on Islam’s beginnings, part of which is the history of Muhammad’s promise to ‘Ali. Whether the Shiites add another sentence to the confession, remains to be seen. Perhaps it is the Sunni who deleted the second part. The difference in opinion seems obsolete and theoretical anyway. For centuries no caliphs or imams have been in power and for over a thousand years no descendants of ‘Ali and Fatima have been spotted. The twelfth and last Imam is hiding in the Iranian mountains, according to Shiites, and will appear with Jesus at the end of times. It is no more than bawls from a distant past that have little to do with reality today. Yet this doesn’t quite add up. Remnants of the conflicting views on imams versus caliphs seem to live on in the clergy’s organisation in Islam’s two main schools of thought. In Sunnism clergymen are, at least in theory, peers. Shiism, however, knows a hierarchy, with supreme ayatollah’s at the top. Since the Islamic revolution in 1978 initiated by ayatollah Khomeiny the ‘Wali al Faqih’, which means something like ‘spiritual guide’ is (Shiite) Iran’s supreme leader. The Wali al Faqih resembles a priest-king (without inherited leadership), who leaves daily leadership to the president, but keeps a sharp eye on the Islamic course and, in the end, holds power. This perhaps approaches the position of the first eleven imams. Especially ‘imam’ Khomeiny (he didn’t call himself imam, but allowed others to do so) was subject of intense worship. Yet the Wali al Faqih is not on the same level as the first twelve imams, according to Shiites these men also possessed spirtituals qualities, had received divine inspiration in their exegeses of revelations. In Sunni Islam the caliph is more modest. He is ‘the prophet’s successor’, but only politically. However, had the caliph in the very first days this limited meaning as well, or did he more resemble the Shiite imam? The Qur’an gives no definite answer. ‘Caliph’ appears eight times, twice single and six time plural. Both Adam and king David are ‘caliphs on earth’. This latter statement could imply that caliph indeed is a monarch’s title. It is not certain though. Mystical sufi poet Ibn Arabi, for instance, gives another, non-political explanation. In his eyes, caliphs are people with a soul thus pure is seems a perfectly polished mirror that shows God. Danish Islam expert Patricia Crone, now working in the USA, put the cat among the pigeons with her book God’s Califf. She discovers something in the book: old texts don’t say ‘the Prophet’s caliph (successor)’ but ‘God’s Caliph’. This means two things. The idea that ‘caliph’ means ‘Muhammad’s successor’ is of newer date. In this connection caliph can hardly mean ‘successor’, because you then may talk of ‘God’s successor’. Crone concludes that ‘God’s caliphs’ must have had a religious function too. They were Gods ‘governors’. This resembles the Shiite imam and corresponds fairly well (Crone doesn’t put it that way) with the Shiite confession of faith. It may imply that the Shiites represent ancient Islam on important issues.

Crone’s intentions become more obvious in another book that she wrote with another author, Michael Cook: Hagarism. With aid of documents from Christian contemporaries of the first Muslims they conclude that the word Muslim was not yet in use. Followers of the new religion are called mahgraye, an Aramaic word meaning something like migrants, call them migrants from the desert. It is related to the Arabic word hijrah, according to orthodox exegesis Muhammed’s and his followers’ ‘flight’ from Mecca to Medinah in 622. These migrants meet, when arriving in Palestine, first the Jews, from whom they adopt many things. Later they oppose themselves against the Jews. They find a new role model, the Samaritans, related to the Jews, but fiercely rallying against them. From them the migrants adopt high priesthood, according to Crone and Cook, namely ‘God’s Caliph’. ‘God’s Caliph’ goes astray when halfway the eigth century the center of the Arabian state shifts towards Irak. The new religion meets once again a rich Jewish tradition, with scholars in religious law as its leading characters. Scholars in Islamic law developed themselves in scholasticism after their example. Through time they laid the fundament for the shariah legislation to come according to Qur’an and transmitted traditions of the Prophet. The scholars of law become the professional explainers of God’s Will. Therewith the spiritual function of the caliph diminishes. He degrades into ‘Prophet’s Caliph’, who, like everyone else, lives under shariah law. From now on he is a ‘constiutional monarch’ and not a priest or half-prophet with his own, direct line to God. The attenuation continues. The caliphs later loose their worldly power to soldier-kings (sultans), usually Turks and sometimes Kurds. The symbolism, however, remains forceful, sultans fight for the honour to ‘protect’ the powerless caliph. But the revolution of scholasticism against ‘Allah’s exalted Guardian’ is irrevocable. And the ancient essential conflict over the leadership of the ummah has been congealed in a tale of Muhammad’s promise to ‘Ali. Eildert Mulder (With special thanks to Thomas Milo.)

The first part of this article is the most bizarre part. Trouw has claimed before that the name Muhammad didn’t exist yet in the known Prophet’s era and would be an adjective or honorary title, with the meaning of the praised one. According Trouw the name Muhammad might as well refer to Jesus. Now they say that the name ‘Ali didn’t exist yet in those days and would also be nothing more than an adjective meaning protector, guardian. They relate this to the speculation that the Shiite confession of faith could be older than the Sunni and not just that: the Shiite may very well be the right one. After all the word khalifa, leader, is not connected to a specific name in Qur’an al Kerim and is also used for Prophet Dawud for instance, king David. They forget, however, that Qur’an also gives the word ‘messenger’ and this happens to be reserved for the prophets, among whom Muhammad. For good reason Qur’an dedicates an entire chapter to Prophet Muhammad pbuh. Trouw just about doesn’t proclaim ‘Ali ra to be Islam’s real prophet, which is something Shiites happen to proclaim neither, for those among us who happen to not know. We may even conclude from the article that there wasn’t at all a prophet of Islam. Shortly, what is it that Trouw really wants to say? 🙂

This cat among the pigeons is a bit weird too, in my opinion. As if Muslims didn’t know yet that the word khalifa, caliph, figures in their Book and if they didn’t know that indeed it means ‘leader’. Shiites indeed believe that Allah wouldn’t leave man without guidance after the Prophet’s death. Leadership in the sense of approved and inspired leaders by Allah swt Himself. By the way: ahadith recorded by Sahih Buchari, which are important to Sunnis too, confirm this issue:

Volume 9, Book 89, Number 306:

Narrated Abu Sa’id Al-Khudri:

The Prophet said, “Allah never sends a prophet or gives the Caliphate to a Caliph but that he (the prophet or the Caliph) has two groups of advisors: A group advising him to do good and exhorts him to do it, and the other group advising him to do evil and exhorts him to do it. But the protected person (against such evil advisors) is the one protected by Allah.’ ”

Volume 9, Book 89, Number 329:

Narrated Jabir bin Samura:

I heard the Prophet saying, “There will be twelve Muslim rulers (who will rule all the Islamic world).” He then said a sentence which I did not hear. My father said, “All of them (those rulers) will be from Quraish.”

The fact that Qur’an gives no definite answer, is not surprising either. Later leaders after the Prophets have a lower status than the Prophets. Their names aren’t mentioned. This is why the majority of Muslims criticize the efforts to re-instate the four schools, maddhahib, of Sunni law in their former high status; their wisdom may very well be followed, however, it cannot be imposed upon us to follow a maddhab and pledge it an oath of allegiance. Secondly, the majority of Muslims criticize the Shiite practice to proclaim the traditions transmitted from ‘Ali ra and the ten Imams into compulsory religious ahadith. The sayings and practices of these people have, to my best knowledge, been recorded and are teached by the Shiites. Large part of Sunni criticism focuses on this overstated status of the Imams.

Sunni main criticism, however, deals with the misunderstandings concerning ‘Ali’s caliphate. Shiites are not justified to suppose ‘Ali ra receiving not enough honorable credit in Sunni Islam. ‘Ali was made caliph and belongs to the four righteous caliphs. He does receive honor. Secondly, just before his passing away the Prophet appointed not ‘Ali but Abu Bakr to lead to people in prayer:

Volume 1, Book 11, Number 649:

Narrated Anas:

The Prophet did not come out for three days. The people stood for the prayer and Abu Bakr went ahead to lead the prayer. (In the meantime) the Prophet caught hold of the curtain and lifted it. When the face of the Prophet appeared we had never seen a scene more pleasing than the face of the Prophet as it appeared then. The Prophet beckoned to Abu Bakr to lead the people in the prayer and then let the curtain fall. We did not see him (again) till he died.

Apparently someone other than ‘Ali was allowed to lead the faithful. Neither had the Prophet saws appointed a successor or caliph, also according ‘Ali’s own words:

Volume 5, Book 59, Number 728:

Narrated ‘Abdullah bin Abbas:

Ali bin Abu Talib came out of the house of Allah’s Apostle during his fatal illness. The people asked, “O Abu Hasan (i.e. Ali)! How is the health of Allah’s Apostle this morning?” ‘Ali replied, “He has recovered with the Grace of Allah.” ‘Abbas bin ‘Abdul Muttalib held him by the hand and said to him, “In three days you, by Allah, will be ruled (by somebody else ), And by Allah, I feel that Allah’s Apostle will die from this ailment of his, for I know how the faces of the offspring of ‘Abdul Muttalib look at the time of their death. So let us go to Allah’s Apostle and ask him who will take over the Caliphate. If it is given to us we will know as to it, and if it is given to somebody else, we will inform him so that he may tell the new ruler to take care of us.” ‘Ali said, “By Allah, if we asked Allah’s Apostle for it (i.e. the Caliphate) and he denied it us, the people will never give it to us after that. And by Allah, I will not ask Allah’s Apostle for it.”

Shiites themselves, however, see this differently. They state that the Prophet saws did introduce his son in law ‘Ali as the people’s future leader during his farewell sermon after his last pilgrimage to Mecca. Who likes to know more of it, should visit search engines and follow the name Ghadir Khumm… that should give you quite some hours of reading material.

Patricia Crone seems to ignore that Sunni development took another path after ‘Ali’s death than Shiite. The Umayyad and Abbasid caliphs named themselves caliph, but Sunnis themselves don’t recognize them as righteous caliphs. ‘Ali was their last one and he died less than thirty years after his father in law. ‘Ali was to Shiites, however, the first of eleven caliphs, who swiftly succeeded each other. Already early in their history the eleventh caliphate was over. The twelfth caliph, whom they await now, disappeared as a child in 941 AD and will return one day. However, their caliphate era had indeed ended then. This is how caliphate ended.

Whoever likes to read more of Trouw’s unrealistic and unfounded views on the birth of Islam and masters Dutch, should look under the head De Verdieping. (Indepth)

Trouw sees itself as quite the scholar now, but with which evidence, especially when we check Shiite statements, where Ali and his sons were not seen as prophets:

Imam Hussain

The Imam was one of Prophet Muhammad’s (saws) much beloved grandsons. As soon as he heard of his grandson’s birth, he ran to Fatima’s (ra) house and shouted immediately: ‘bring me my son!’ Asma came with Imam Hussein to the Prophet, he kissed him, covered him with a white cloth and read adhan into his right ear and iqama into the left. The Prophet was full of joy, but also full of sadness. He knew what was to happen to this Holy Imam in Karbala and could not hold his tears. Imam Hussein holds an important position in Islam that only few, the Imams, could achieve. Imam Hussein was brought into mubahala by the Prophet. Mubahala is the state where a person has a strong conviction and believe it to be true, but cannot persuade others. They then pray to Allah to curse the one who lies, or holds the wrong view. On this occasion the country’s best people are chosen to perform this Mubahala. Ahlubait Jongeren.

It is fascinating, nice, to philosophize on how Islam might alternatively had developed, however, we are still bound to existing historic records. It concerns onetime events and they can only be proved by witness. The arrival of Islam under Prophet Muhammad saws has extensively been recorded by many oral and writing witnesses, plus that many  of the Prophet’s and his near companions’ personal belongings have been carefully conserved. It is hard fighting such large legacy and Christian and Jewish efforts to do so cannot be seen as highly professional or scientific. It is allowed of course, however, they are stuck in the level of childish and hobbyist efforts leading to nothing tangible.



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How the West likes to lash back: the Prophet Muhammad never existed


Columnist Eildert Mulder wrote 12 April 2006 in Dutch on (and off-)line Christian newspaper Trouw that Prophet Muhammad pbuh never existed, according ‘dissident Islam experts’. Any solid evidence for this claim is missing, however. These claims are real old news, but annoyingly enough this newspaper, which is widely read in the Netherlands, trying to revitalise them. Here follows my responsive article in online newspaper Nieuwsfeit.

Friend and foe of Islam agree on one thing: that Islam existed in the seventh century AD and that the religion had as good as reached its final shape. Opinions differ, says Mulder, on the period in between: seventh until ninth century. German author Christoph Luxenberg, who is often quoted in Trouw, also in other articles, would have said that Qur’an has ’emerged’ from a ‘lengthy’ process, at least a century would have lapsed between the ‘Meccan’ and ‘Medina’ era. This same Eildert Mulder says, however, two weeks later, on 5 May, that this Mr Luxenberg has claimed that Qur’an al Kerim has been copied from a ‘pre-Qur’an’ in Aramaic and that therefore ‘many Aramaic words’ appear. And on 26 April he said that Qur’an ‘according to Luxenberg’ must have emerged in the fifth century AD. No evidence of these ‘pre-qur’ans’ has been presented. It sounds contradictory at first sight, as Aramaic is an ancient Semitic  language which lived and lives in the northern Arabic countries, being Syria, Lebanon, Palestine and also in Irak. The language has existed thousands of years and in its glory days it was court language of the Babylonian Empire and lost its importance after 200 AD. Luxenberg, however, appears to have kindred spirits who try to elaborate on the Aramaic story line. The American author John Wansbrough says that Qur’an al Kerim is an adapted scripture of a Jewish-Christian sect and that Muhammad is a fabricated figure and according to this mr Wansborough, too, Qur’an would have emerged in a centuries long process. Egyptian professor Abu Zeid, teaching in a Netherlands university, is said to be among his followers, according Wikipedia. If such is the case, this kind of opinions will gain unassailable status among the Dutch. However, the words by a refugee from a country with questionable governance need not necessarily be true. Nevertheless: on first hearing one might think: plausible, if it weren’t that quite a lot of Qur’anic contend differs from Biblical text and this alone makes such statement hard to believe.

Mulder shows his true colors when we see the evidence he produces for his theory. What is it that he says? ‘Luxenberg and Wansbrough are supported by archeology. Israeli archeologists Yehuda Nevo and Judith Koren investigated religious writings on buildings. It appears that more than a century after Muhammad died, according to biographers, that the official inscriptions are clearly Islamic ones. The writing of ordinary people in caves follow this development some forty years later.’ We call such writings graffiti. These two published their conclusions in the book ‘Crossroads to Islam’. What must those inscriptions prove? For a starter, that Muhammad hasn’t existed. The Caliphs, however, have existed and fabricated a carefully orchestrated publicity campaign where the name ‘Muhammad’ was introduced. A lengthy text in Jerusalem’s Dome of the Rock was its first proof, say Nevo and Koren; at that time the slogan ‘Praiseworthy is God’s Messenger’ was introduced. Trouw readers are familiar with the paper’s view that the name Muhammad is not the Prophet’s own first name, but an honorary title meaning ‘praiseworthy’. Mulder goes a step further by adding, not hindered by any academic standards such as proof, that the rest of the text in the Dome ‘further writes about Jesus only’. We may wonder why. Based on other articles from his hand this seems unlikely. Nevo and Koren, too, call this inscription in the Dome of the Rock a ‘good summary of Jewish-Christian religion’. As long as we confine ourselves to these generals, nothing can be said to discredit that, Qur’an itself confirms that ‘this Scripture was brought as a confirmation of the previous one’. Open door kicked open, but no proof of Muhammad’s non-existence. Nevo and Koren said further that the East-Roman empire gladly and voluntarily surrendered its possessions in the Middle East to the Arabs, which enabled them to build the Dome of the Rock. It wasn’t until later that the Arabs were expelled by the East-Roman Empire towards Syria, whence they could pass on their Bible knowledge to the Arabs.

The truth, however, is that not one single archeological finding, nor any literature from that era, is able to prove a fabricated marketing tool in the sense of a ‘product Prophet Muhammad’. This much Trouw cannot but and does admit. More so: the found cave writings and paintings seem to confirm that an Islamic presence has been present in the Negev Desert just after the Prophet’s death. As ahadith already state, when they narrate the conquests made under the four righteous Caliphs.

Trouw 12 April 2006

Trouw de Verdieping

Nieuwsfeit 21 February 2007

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Those who question the authenticity of the Islamic heritage


Safeguarding Islamic cultural heritage was considered a sign of ‘shirk’ by some; worship of objects is indeed prohibited in Islam. However, cultural heritage is also testimony and proof of Islamic history and nowadays it seems necessary to safeguard items of which the historic value is undisputed. In recent days non-Muslim scholars question the truth of Islam and its history. Professor of Arabic language and religious history Karl Heinz Ohlig, University of Saarbrücken in Germany, thinks that Prophet Muhammad pbuh never existed and that the Qur’an al Kerim was copied from an existing Bible written in Aramaic. He has no solid proof for this claim, however, Christians seem to follow his line of thinking, not hindered by the lack of any proof.

Aramaic is an ancient Semitic language, it’s writing was, as Hebrew and Arabic, developed from Phoenician script. The language has existed, even today, in Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Irak and, until circa 200 AD, also in the northern Arabian Peninsula (the Kingdom of Petra). From then the language was used among Jewish writers in Irak and in small local communities in Syria, Lebanon and Palestine. In these countries several villages  exist where Aramaic is still spoken. As far as Aramaic is still used, its importance has been limited to that of a local tongue spoken among the elderly and among Jewish religious circles as a written language. As we know, small local languages as Frisian and Basque, are struggling to survive all over the world. In its peak days Aramaic was the official language of the Babylonian Empire. The language was used in the Torah also, however, mainly before Christianity. Much is known of Aramaic history, many documents are still there to witness that. As long as no real archeological findings of even older Qur’anic copies in Aramaic have been fount, it is not necessary to assume there are any. No doubt Arabic is interlarded with Aramaic words and expressions, because the Aramaic language area borders Arabic spoken lands. Thus also Dutch has many German, French, English, Italian expressions and a grammatical relatedness exists between these Indo-European languages. That does not automatically make Qur’an a newer and revisited translation of an older Aramaic version. (For now) no proof to this exists. A year ago I wrote a few articles for online Dutch language news site on a few wild Christian exclamations on Islam. Here follows a translation of the first one:

Tsunami of westerner’s right-mindedness floods the history of the development of Islamic Scriptures

We Muslims are wrong to believe in an Arabic Qur’an, because German linguist Christoph Luxenberg says that Qur’an was written in Aramaic. Can we compare this tale with a record played backwards?

Turning records backwards meant something to a minority of Dutch Christians in the seventies, last century; they claimed to hear Satan’s voice, especially when turning backwards stout rock music. A record cannot be turned backwards, a phonograph was not made for that… national scorn for these Christians. It strongly seems that this Mr Luxenberg deserves the same treatment from the ummah, considering his stiff tenacity in favor of his hypothesis that Qur’an was written in Aramaic and all we have to do is wait for this ‘pre-Qur’an’ in Aramaic. Dutch newspaper Trouw devoted an article well worth reading on Luxenberg: ‘Like a detective searching for Pre-Koran’.

Trouw is wise enough to acknowledge that, without truly finding this pre-qur’an, any scientific evidence for the theory is missing for now and states that Luxenberg even found an ‘error in writing’ in his Aramaic Pre-Qur’an. Nevertheless the article in Trouw is tough reading stuff, because the try to give Qur’anic exegesis their own confusing twist. Qur’anic texts are present on tile works in the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, among which verse 72:19&20. This text narrates, according any other Qur’an-commentator of Muhammad pbuh, however Mr Luxenberg says, according to Trouw, that it might very refer to Jesus: ‘… when the Devotee of Allah stood up to invoke Him, they fell on their knees for him and worshipped him, almost as if he were a god’ at which he said ‘I do no more than invoke My Lord and I join not with Him any’. The word in question, Devotee, `abd in Arabic, is written in Arabic from the root AynBeDel. Aramaic also possesses the letter Ayn, however, its is written in almost the same fashion as the letter Lam. Then the Arabic copyist might accidentally have written EBD and not LBD. What should this imply, according to Trouw and Christoph Luxenberg? Al Ben D’Allah, God’s son? This is not possible, because the Arabic Ayn doesn’t resemble a Lam (L) at all. What’s more, the Nun (N) is missing and Del (D) doesn’t belong there. Any other Qur’an, even those of Christian translators, don’t speak of ‘they fell on their knees for him’, but ‘they (the people) pushed forward into a big crowd around him’. Trouw calls this translation without any enlightenment ‘a dark solution’ of ‘other translator’. This all makes the Trouw article quite unreadable. Whoever knows Arabic, may find out what was meant. Trouw elaborates on the word ‘push forward’, in Arabic libada. It isn’t written with an Ayn, the well-known Semitic guttural resembling a deep aa-sound, but with a common vowel a. Luxenberg says it means that in truth the text says ‘ibada and not libada, which means ‘treat like a god’, ‘serve God’ and such. Nevertheless, ‘abdallah may still refer to no one else than Prophet Muhammad pbuh. The people worship God’s devotee, not even Allah’s son. Is this good enough for our new Qur’an virtuosi? Translators in the West came to oracle-resembling exegeses, however, doesn’t Qur’an-exegesis by westerners become no less than a match of who places the best accusation, especially in view of Christian newspapers pontificating with their incomprehensible mumbles. The question rises whether the man who shares my name understands what Luxenberg tries to say.

Christoph Luxenberg worked as follows: he thinks that Qur’an was written in Aramaic, a language which apart from the written language, shares many same words with Arabic, however, their meaning differs in both languages: so-called false friends. This way the word ‘bellen’ means ‘to bark’ in German and ‘to tinkle’ or ‘to sound a bell’ in linguistically related Dutch. This is how Luxenberg reads Qur’an and thinks that the Arabic word for ‘virgin’ should have been ‘grape’, as that same word has this meaning in Aramaic. Luxenberg focused his view often on the Jerusalem Dome of the Rock, which in his opinion was Islam’s first monument. The Qur’anic texts written on the walls in- and outdoors are really Aramaic texts in his opinion. Here he finds companions: Israeli archeologists Judith Koren and Yehuda Nevo. They think that the word ‘Islam’ in the Dome really means ‘unity’ or ‘union’. The word ‘din’ means ‘religion’ in modern Arabic, but according this thinking it should mean ‘the correct procedure’. A text on one of the walls meaning in Arabic ‘Muhammad is God’s Servant and His Messenger’. The religion with God is Islam’. What might that imply according these hyper-renewing scientists? ‘The praised one is God’s Servant and His Messenger. The correct procedure is unity’. Islamically speaking a translation into Aramaic meanings might be just acceptable, however, how it then streams on towards Christianity, as if it ‘truly’ were an Aramaic-Christian texts, needs hard evidence. And there isn’t any. Eildert Mulder palavers a little further on how the construction year of the Dome of the Rock, that is 72 Anno Hijrah, which is mentioned in one of the wall carvings too, corresponds so nicely with the 72 virgins in Paradise, Jesus’ 72 disciples and Zaratustra’s 72 students. Further Mulder thinks that the texts on the building’s indoor walls ‘narrate extensively of Jesus’. Jesus’ name is mentioned indeed. This view is supported by Luxenberg thesis that the name Muhammad, mentioned everywhere in- and outside the Dome of the Rock, means ‘the praised one’ as an adjective only and Luxenberg would try to prove now that all those places where the Prophet pbuh is addressed directly, as the person spoken to, in reality refers to a Christian monk, but might also refer to Jesus. In his eyes there is enough reason, therefore, to reduce Muhammad to an anonymous ‘you-figure’. He also thinks that, in this he might be true, that each ‘community member’ might feel addressed when the Qur’anic text uses the word ‘you’.

It is a pleasant pastime when a certain Mr Luxenberg some fourty years ago tried to read and interpret Qur’an in Aramaic, however, it is slightly alarming when Christians now try to take over his for sure unproven views as ‘scientific Qur’an exegesis’. The fear arises, that where Christians were scorned for their silly fluff twenty years ago, they now might gain a cheering mob behind them, if Muslims don’t keep their finger on the pulse of each and every publication. Might Christian radicals be in for a re-conquest of the building they name the Temple?


Trouw 5 May 2006

Trouw 26 April 2006

Trouw de Verdieping

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History of the Written and printed Qur’an


The Islamic community has extensively documented the birth of its Holy Scripture. Many books and webpages exist on this subject. To give an example, we can find a reference to the history of the Islamic Scripture on the webpage Ahmad Von Denffer wrote an article named ‘Early and Old Manuscripts of the Qur’an and the Printed Qur’an’, April 2006.

History: Early and Old Manuscripts of the Qur’an and the Printed Qur’an
Published: 23.04.2006
History in and of the Qu’ran

Ahmad Von Denffer

Source: Ulum al-Qur’an (An Introduction to the Sciences of the Qur’an)

1. Early Manuscripts of the Qur’an

Writing Material
Early manuscripts of the Qur’an were typically written on animal skin. We know that in the lifetime of the Prophet, parts of the revelation were written on all kinds of materials, such as bone, animal skin, palm risps, etc. The ink was prepared from soot.

All old Qur’anic script is completely without any diacritical points or vowel signs as explained above. Also there are no headings or separations between the suras nor any other kind of division, nor even any formal indication of the end of a verse. Scholars distinguish between two types of early writing:

# Kufi, which is fairly heavy and not very dense.
# Hijazi, which is lighter, more dense and slightly inclined towards the right.

Some believe that the Hijazi is older than the Kufi, while others say that both were in use at the same time, but that Hijazi was the less formal style. [1]

Some Peculiarities of the Ancient Writing
Numerous copies of the Qur’an were made after the time of the Prophet Muhammad and the Rightly-Guided Caliphs, and the writers of these manuscripts strictly observed the autography of the ‘Uthmanic Qur’an. There are, compared to the usual Arabic spelling, some peculiarities. Here are a few of them, only concerning the letters alif, ya’, and waw, by way of examples: [2]

# The letter alif is often written on top of a letter instead of after it.
# The letter ya’ (or alif) of the word is omitted.
# Some words have the letter waw in place of alif.

2. Old Manuscripts of the Qur’an

Most of the early original Qur’an manuscripts, complete or in sizeable fragments, that are still available to us now, are not earlier than the second century after the Hijra. The earliest copy, which was exhibited in the British Museum during the 1976 World of Islam Festival, dated from the late second century.[3] However, there are also a number of odd fragments of Qur’anic papyri available, which date from the first century. [4]

There is a copy of the Qur’an in the Egyptian National Library on parchment made from gazelle skin, which has been dated 68 Hijra (688 A.D.), i.e. 58 years after the Prophet’s death.

What happened to ‘Uthman’s Copies?
It is not known exactly how many copies of the Qur’an were made at the time of ‘Uthman, but Suyuti[5] says: ‘The well-known ones are five’. This probably excludes the copy that ‘Uthman kept for himself. The cities of Makka, Damascus, Kufa, Basra and Madina each received a copy. [6]

There are a number of references in the older Arabic literature on this topic which together with latest information available may be summarised as follows:

The Damascus Manuscript
Al-Kindi (d. around 236/850) wrote in the early third century that three out of four of the copies prepared for ‘Uthman were destroyed in fire and war, while the copy sent to Damascus was still kept at his time at Malatja. [7]

Ibn Batuta (779/1377) says he has seen copies or sheets from the copies of the Qur’an prepared under ‘Uthman in Granada, Marakesh, Basra and other cities. [8]

Ibn Kathir (d. 774/1372) relates that he has seen a copy of the Qur’an attributed to ‘Uthman, which was brought to Damascus in the year 518 Hijra from Tiberias (Palestine). He said it was ‘very large, in beautiful clear strong writing with strong ink, in parchment, I think, made of camel skin’. [9]

Some believe that the copy later on went to Leningrad and from there to England. After that nothing is known about it. Others hold that this mushaf remained in the mosque of Damascus, where it was last seen before the fire in the year 1310/1892.’ [10]

The Egyptian Manuscript
There is a copy of an old Qur’an kept in the mosque of al-Hussain in Cairo. Its script is of the old style, although Kufi, and it is quite possible that it was copied from the Mushaf of ‘Uthman. [11]

The Madina Manuscript
Ibn Jubair (d. 614/1217) saw the manuscript in the mosque of Medina in the year 580/1184. Some say it remained in Medina until the Turks took it from there in 1334/1915. It has been reported that this copy was removed by the Turkish authorities to Istanbul, from where it came to Berlin during World War I. The Treaty of Versailles, which concluded World War I, contains the following clause:

‘Article 246: Within six months from the coming into force of the present Treaty, Germany will restore to His Majesty, King of Hedjaz, the original Koran of Caliph Othman, which was removed from Medina by the Turkish authorities and is stated to have been presented to the ex-Emperor William II.” [12]

The manuscript then reached Istanbul, but not Madina. [13]

The ‘Imam’ Manuscript
This is the name used for the copy which ‘Uthman kept himself, and it is said he was killed while reading it. [14]

According to some the Umayyads took it to Andalusia, from where it came to Fas (Morocco) and according to Ibn Batuta it was there in the eighth century after the Hijra, and there were traces of blood on it. From Morocco, it might have found its way to Samarkand.

The Samarkand Manuscript’
[15] This is the copy now kept in Tashkent (Uzbekistan). It may be the Imam manuscript or one of the other copies made at the time of ‘Uthman.

It came to Samarkand in 890 Hijra (1485) and remained there till 1868. Then it was taken to St. Petersburg by the Russians in 1869. It remained there till 1917. A Russian orientalist gave a detailed description of it, saying that many pages were damaged and some were missing. A facsimile, some 50 copies, of this mushaf was produced by S. Pisareff in 1905. A copy was sent to the Ottoman Sultan ‘Abdul Hamid, to the Shah of Iran, to the Amir of Bukhara, to Afghanistan, to Fas and some important Muslim personalities. One copy is now in the Columbia University Library (U.S.A.). [16]

The manuscript was afterwards returned to its former place and reached Tashkent in 1924, where it has remained since. Apparently the Soviet authorities have made further copies, which are presented from time to time to visiting Muslim heads of state and other important personalities. In 1980, photocopies of such a facsimile were produced in the United States, with a two-page foreword by M. Hamidullah.

The writer of the History of the Mushaf of ‘Uthman in Tashkent gives a number of reasons for the authenticity of the manuscript. They are, excluding the various historical reports which suggest this, as follows:

# The fact that the mushaf is written in a script used in the first half of the first century Hijra.
# The fact that it is written on parchment from a gazelle, while later Qur’ans are written on paper-like sheets.
# The fact that it does not have any diacritical marks which were introduced around the eighth decade of the first century; hence the manuscript must have been written before that.
# The fact that it does not have the vowelling symbols introduced by Du’ali, who died in 68 Hijra; hence it is earlier than this.

In other words: two of the copies of the Qur’an which were originally prepared in the time of Caliph ‘Uthman, are still available to us today and their text and arrangement can be compared, by anyone who cares to, with any other copy of the Qur’an, be it in print or handwriting, from any place or period of time. They will be found identical.

The ‘Ali Manuscript
Some sources indicate that a copy of the Qur’an written by the fourth Caliph ‘Ali is kept in Najaf, Iraq, in the Dar al-Kutub al-‘Alawiya. It is written in Kufi script, and on it is written: “Ali bin Abi Talib wrote it in the year 40 of the Hijra’. [17]

3. The Qur’an In Print

From the sixteenth century, when the printing press with movable type was first used in Europe and later in all parts of the world, the pattern of writing and of printing the Qur’an was further standardised.

There were already printed copies of the Qur’an before this, in the so-called block-print form, and some specimens from as early as the tenth century, both of the actual wooden blocks and the printed sheets, have come down to us. [18]

The first extant Qur’an for which movable type was used was printed in Hamburg (Germany) in 1694. The text is fully vocalised. [19]Probably the first Qur’an printed by Muslims is the so-called ‘Mulay Usman edition’ of 1787, published in St. Petersburg, Russia, followed by others in Kazan (1828), Persia (1833) and Istanbul (1877). [20]

In 1858, the German orientalist Fluegel produced together with a useful concordance the so-called ‘Fluegel edition’ of the Qur’an, printed in Arabic, which has since been used by generations of orientalists. [21]The Fluegel edition has however a very basic defect: its system of verse numbering is not in accordance with general usage in the Muslim world. [22]

The Egyptian Edition
The Qur’anic text in printed form now used widely in the Muslim world and developing into a ‘standard version’, is the so-called ‘Egyptian’ edition, also known as the King Fu’ad edition, since it was introduced in Egypt under King Fu’ad. This edition is based on the reading of Hafs, as reported by ‘Asim, and was first printed in Cairo in 1925/1344H. Numerous copies have since been printed.

The Sa’id Nursi Copy
Finally, the Qur’an printed by the followers of Sa’id Nursi from Turkey should be mentioned as an example of combining a hand-written beautifully illuminated text with modern offset printing technology. The text was hand written by the Turkish calligrapher Hamid al-‘Amidi. It was first printed in Istanbul in 1947, but since 1976 has been produced in large numbers and various sizes at the printing press run by the followers of Sa’id Nursi in West Berlin (Germany).

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Truth and facts concerning the rise of Islam


Today some Europeans easily claim that the cultural heritage left by the Prophet and his companions is not genuine, however, they fail to produce any proof. The many carefully preserved items from the Prophet’s and his companion’s estates have been certified as genuine by witnesses from his immediate social circle, but also writers, historians and authorities and one has to stand on extremely solid ground to prove otherwise.

The Caliphs of several dynasties have carefully managed this cultural heritage, even though the items had to be moved several times. Objects belonging to the Prophet Muhammad’ personal inheritance, pbuh, are kept in Topkapi Palace in Istanbul. The Ottomans gathered them here for safekeeping since the sixteenth century. The Muslim website describes the history of gathering the Prophet’s personal belongings as follows:

Topkapi Palace was the residence of many Sultans and welcomed many visiting kings and ambassadors for centuries. However, what makes the palace so special is not only the former residents, but the Sacred Relics, which include personal belongings of prophets. Excavated from the most private and hidden rooms of the palace, the entire selection is compiled here for the first time, including those that are not on exhibit for daily visits. From the staff of Prophet Moses to the Mantle of Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon them, the Sacred Relics which Ottomans preserved in Topkapi Palace for centuries paying utmost respect, are presented in this book. When Sultan Selim returned from the Egyptian campaign (1517), he brought to Istanbul the Sacred Relics from the treasuries of the Mamluk state, Abbasid Caliphate, and Hijaz Emirate. Sultan Selim I began to collect the Sacred Relics at Topkapi Palace , and his successors continued the tradition until the beginning of the twentieth century. The sultans gathered the relics of the Prophet and other great Muslims, as well as items from respected religious sites. At the beginning of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, protecting relics from potential damage by the Wahhabis was a major concern. The Wahhabis thought those who showed reverence to objects were guilty of polytheism, so relics were sent to Istanbul for protection and care. During World War I, when the surrender of Madina was being considered, the city’s guardian, Fahreddin Pasha, sent a number of valuable gifts which had been received over the centuries, along with some Sacred Relics, to Istanbul. Most of these are preserved in the Topkapi Palace Treasury Collection. Today, there are 605 items registered in the Topkapi Palace Museum Division of Sacred Relics. Moreover, there are many objects that can be considered Sacred Relics cataloged in the museum’s treasury, arms, clothes, and library divisions. The items that belonged to the Prophet are called Amanat (Trusts), while the items belonging to other great Muslims or sacred places are called Tabarrukat (Sacred Objects). Today, all the items are called “Sacred Relics,” but in the past they were registered as Blessed Relics ( Al-Amanat al-Mubaraka ). The Ottomans did not attribute any holiness to material objects; yet, they were well aware that property belonging to the Messenger of God had a share of divine blessings. Tahsin Öz wrote the following in his book Emanat-i Mukaddese [The Sacred Relics] published in 1953: “The Sacred Relics were collected thanks to various historical manifestations of fate throughout centuries. This treasure passed to Turks piece by piece by efforts motivated by faith and sometimes by fortune. It is clear that they are not only sacred objects collected and preserved with a religious bond and love, but are valuable by world standards artistically and historically as well. The care and traditional respect shown for the protection of these sacred objects so far has been infinite. As long as we exist, this sacred duty will be performed with love, respect, and honor.”

Among all sacred relics, the Holy Mantle of Prophet Muhammad holds a special place. Due to their respect for this honorable memory from the Prophet, the sultans preserved it in gold cases in the Throne Room. Therefore, the entire complex which included the Throne Room, Audience Hall, dormitory for pages, and the Treasury hosted became to be called Apartments of the Holy Mantle. Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, met opposition and resistance when he began calling people to Islam. One of his opponents was the poet Ka‘b. After the conquest of Makka, the poet began to hide. Having been reprimanded by his brother, Ka‘b felt regret. Taking a risk, he secretly went to Madina in disguise and approached the Prophet to ask whether a person who repented his mistakes and embraced the faith would be forgiven or not. After the Messenger answered in the affirmative, the poet asked, “Even Ka‘b ibn Zuhayr?” When the Prophet affirmed this, too, Ka’b revealed his identity and began to read a poem, “Ode to the Mantle,” which would become famous. As a reward the Messenger of God took off his mantle and put it on Ka‘b ibn Zuhayr’s shoulders.

The collection consists of many objects, like Prophet Muhammad’s mantle, standard, sandal, cup, footprint on a stone, swords, bow, his tooth that broke at Uhud, soil he used for ritual ablution, and his seal. They also include a cooking vessel of the prophet Abraham; the turban of the prophet Joseph; the sword of the prophet David; a strand from Abu Bakr’s beard; the Qur’an that is believed to be the one Caliph ‘Uthman ibn ‘Affan was reading when he was assassinated; swords of the Prophet’s companions; Fatima al-Zahra’s blouse, veil, and mantle; her son Husayn’s robe, his turban, and a piece of his mantle; Imam Abu Hanifa’s robe; Uways al-Qarani’s felt cap; the crowns of ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani and Imam Sharani; the bowls of Jalal al-Din al-Rumi; the gold rain gutters of the Ka‘ba; the gold and silver covers of the Black Stone; a wing of the Door of Repentance; the lock, keys, and covers of the Ka‘ba; objects like hooks, candles, censers a nd rosewater flasks which were used in the Ka‘ba or in Masjid al-Nabawi (the Prophet’s Mosque); pieces of wood, stone, glass, porcelain tile, etc. used in repair of these places; covers and soil from the Prophet’s tomb; and the dust called Jawhar al-Saadat [The Jewel of Bliss] which was collected while cleaning the Prophet’s tomb. There are also items used for preserving the Sacred Relics through time, or for their transport from the Ka‘ba, such as chests, drawers, covers (embroidered or plain), bundle wrappers, scabbards, and rahle s (low reading desks). In addition, there are brooms and dust pans used to clean the Privy Chamber; candles; aloe wood; framed inscriptions written by famous calligraphers or the sultans; writings describing the virtues of the Prophet (hilya); prayer rugs and prayer beads; copper and silver bowls; candles; dervish headgear; zamzam water pitchers; and handkerchiefs and blocks for printing on handkerchiefs.

* Title: The Sacred Trusts: Pavilion of the Sacred Relics
* Author: Hilmi Aydin
* Publishing House: Light Publishing
* ISBN: 1-932099-72-7

About the Author
Having specialized in art history, Hilmi Aydin is currently the deputy manager of the Topkapi Palace Museum, Istanbul. He used to be the divisional manager of Pavilion of the Sacred Relics until recently appointed to the current position.

Source: this text above is written by, The Sacred Trusts: Pavillion of the Sacred Relics (2nd Edition).

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Truth and facts concerning religion


Scientific theories still in the process of empirical search towards validation resemble religious beliefs: the scientist and his followers put their faith in the theory. They think the theory is true, even without proof, and hope to find evidence soon. The first aspect of religious fact finding is documentation of revelations. This may be compared to documentation of historical and political events, to journalism. Unique events in peoples’ lives are recorded by other people. There is no repetition or system and the human perception always plays some part in documentation of historic events. It is not possible to do tests on historic data, because of their unique occurrence, we cannot ‘falsify’ unique historic events. This makes history a matter of trust. Yet historic writings have been preserved since the Antiquity. The ancient cultures of Egypt, Persia, China, India wrote down the lives of their kings and religious leaders, sometimes on stone and sometimes on perch.

Human perception, observation by the human mind, is under the strong influence of the person’s personality and aspects like age, culture, health, economic and political situation of the individual, or gender. Honesty, intellectual capabilities and emotional temperament form a person’s personality and ability to retain facts and events. The facts that are finally written down depend on these aspects, but also on the assignment, the reason for writing them down. Is the person writing a personal journal or is he writing on behalf of an employer? This makes some events at that moment not ‘interesting’ enough to be written down, even though history may regret this later.

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Only the attic has windows


Once I read on an internet forum a parable on knowledge and life. A young man said that our present life may be compared to a house without doors and windows. Fully locked. The attic only has windows and a very small select group has the key to this attic, the rest of men has no access. Now on this attic there is a series of windows and each person who gained access to the attic, goes standing in front of a window. So they each have a more or less different view on the reality outdoors, slightly different from the person standing at the next window. These select people talk through the floor with the people in the rest of the house. So the people downstairs must choose which of the selected people on the attic have the best view on reality outdoors. Some say: outside is Allah, others say outside is/are the Father, the Son and the holy Spirit, again others say outside is nothing at all. We must take into account that the reception of a message through the floor will always be somewhat distorted. We therefor must always interpret the words and make choices. We must always have the honesty to acknowledge we might be wrong. (Thanks to ‘raden’,

I find it a very adequate description of religious knowledge and those who guide it. I might add a second level between the the large group of the ordinary people and the selected few on the attic: a level for scholars who do a job of explaining and teaching the information to the ordinary people. The scholarly floor has open communication with the lower floor through trap-doors and stairs and new scholars will be recruited and trained from the ordinary lower floor people. Also a people’s leaders may belong to the ordinary people and the chosen few on the attic may not descend from the elites, in the world of religion.

This means that none of us view the complete picture on reality and that is the main challenge for humanity. How to accept that?

Knowledge, to know something, means to be witness of a phenomenon. One may observe a cloud in the sky, have read the works of an author and have absorbed their contents. Then one may be able to interpret the observation or writings, based on the experiences from the observation process. There are many degrees in knowledge; how far our knowledge reaches, depends on our experience, help from others with expert knowledge, our own intellect and not in the least documentation of previous observations. The tricky part is the last aspect. Natural phenomena listen to a logical and systematic set of rules which we call the laws of nature, but not necessarily so unique events. Unique events that do not repeat themselves are not necessarily supernatural miracles or strange events, they may be events in human history like the birth of a king or tsunamis and constellations of planets that rarely occur. When not documented or overgrown, they go lost to latter generations of people. It does not make them non-scientific fabrications. The realm of religion is the unique event: a prophet or messenger comes and passes on a message from the divine power. The fact that in different periods of time and among different peoples a prophet appeared, gives religion this aspect of unreliability, in the eyes of some. This demonstrates that two kinds of knowledge exist: scientific and philosophical knowledge. Both have in common that their knowledge is gained through witness and interpretation of a phenomenon. Yet for a good reason we say that paper is patient. Paper is a material that people can produce thanks to their knowledge of a production process and paper is paper, repeatedly and without deviation. Its qualities respond to certain hard scientific characteristics. However, the purpose of use and the qualities this paper must have, are based on people’s demands. People’s thinking is not constant, it is based on the changing state of the human mind. The human mind is one of the starting points of philosophy. ‘How to’-questions are answered by natural sciences and ‘why’-questions by philosophy, roughly speaking. The living human mind has development through time, preferences and tastes, interpretation of which is the field of philosophy. Reliable documentation of philosophical ideas is the only hard empirical, scientific aspect of philosophy. Teaching others philosophical ideas thus is a tricky realm of work, as the human perception is always present in the choices a teacher makes.

Yet we must distinguish unique events from philosophical knowledge. A unique event may respond to the laws of nature and be no more than that: a onetime event. It may still be an event with solid scientific explanation and thus be visible to everybody, it may repeat itself and therefor be perceived as real and true. A religious or philosophical theory may fully sprout from a creative mind. It may be an allegoric truth, or a description of a true happening, but who knows that ‘for a fact’? A philosophy, however, can be falsified by reason and sometimes observation, a religious tradition not necessarily so. The human mind develops itself through experience and gaining knowledge and may very well come to adequate conclusions on facts and happenings. Therefore knowledge depends on both observation and thinking. Training may develop our ability to think and interpret, this is why any kind of education has always been seen crucial for any society.

Religion lies on the crossroads of these two dimensions: the road of philosophy and the road of empirical observation based on the law of nature. How sure are we if prophets really did exist and how to interpret their words, are those words really theirs? Can we prove any part of religious tradition as true or false? How reliable is the role of teachers, scholars and historians in religious tradition?

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