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Salah Ali: Philosophy is wasted on me. Koran translations are a waste too

Reader comment on item: Niqabs and Burqas - The Veiled Threat Continues
in response to reader comment: Even Einstein ended up with approximations

Submitted by Plato (India), Sep 19, 2009 at 13:05

Salah Ali, you wrote,

>>Well, I was talking about ontology.<<

Ontology: The metaphysical study of the nature of being and existence (Wordweb). I could not find anything metaphysical (Highly abstract and overly theoretical metaphysical reasoning? Wordweb. ) about your story about apples, oranges, asses and donkeys or of black cows coming out white milk. I am not trained in western philosophy so maybe I am wrong.

>> I wrote somewhere else the following passage which I will quote here. So it would give you some idea about my world-view: I write it without any intention to convince or persuade. because there is no hateful creatures to me as those who try to impose convictions on others. Mullas and monks alike can be as stupid.<<

Good thing you claim to be an atheist later in the post because otherwise you will end up hating Allah as the one constant in the Koran is His wanting to impose His conviction that He is the only one worthy of worship. Just two verses will do for now:

003.085 YUSUFALI: If anyone desires a religion other than Islam (submission to Allah), never will it be accepted of him; and in the Hereafter He will be in the ranks of those who have lost (All spiritual good).

009.033 YUSUFALI: It is He Who hath sent His Messenger with guidance and the Religion of Truth, to proclaim it over all religion, even though the Pagans may detest (it).

>> But I should be grareful if your answer to the following is not biased or driven by desirability. Let's be objective and just. I cannot see God but justice.<<

God should be justice and in most religions, especially polytheistic ones, gods are just. Probably because the gods have to compete with one another for people's affection. But what does the Koran reveal about Allah? Read these verses and judge for yourself:

004.048 YUSUFALI: Allah forgiveth not that partners should be set up with Him; but He forgiveth anything else, to whom He pleaseth; to set up partners with Allah is to devise a sin Most heinous indeed.

Is this just? What is so heinous about worshipping someone besides this hectoring god?

004.092 YUSUFALI: Never should a believer kill a believer; but (If it so happens) by mistake, (Compensation is due): If one (so) kills a believer, it is ordained that he should free a believing slave, and pay compensation to the deceased's family….

004.093 YUSUFALI: If a man kills a believer intentionally, his recompense is Hell, to abide therein….

Isn't an unbeliever if killed intentionally or not entitled to justice? Is there anywhere in the Koran where Allah gives justice to non-Muslims. Can you anything biased in my comments on these verses?

>>I have seen much of agony in Iraq to compare with the 11/9 but this is politics and we may have a come back to later.<<


>>Now my comment on the HOLY QUR'AN: By the way Europe cannot do without oil and Arabic is the sixth working language in the UNO. There is so fine poetry in Arabic and many USA and European Universities teach Arabic.<<

Is there no fine poetry in other languages? Many US and European universities also teach Chinese, Hindi…

>>It is inhuman to play down the significance of any human being and this is what I understand as the essence of Islam, of all religions:<<

Unless all the translators of the Koran have got things totally and absolutely wrong the essence of Islam is dividing up humans into Muslims and non-Muslims. And threatening the non-Muslims, for mere disbelief, with inhuman punishments certainly argues for downgrading them to insignificance.

It is the Koran which plays down the significance of humans verse after verse. Women are made less significant than men in 4:34. Muslims are said to be the best of people in and the Christians and Jews are called perverted in 3:110. And you know what Islam thinks of polytheists.

If your claim is, that like other religions, Islam does not downplay some humans is correct, then the Arabic Koran must be totally incomprehensible to all translators of Allah's words.

Dear Plato,

>>Many thanks for your pains-taking comments. There is always the other side of the coin in almost everything. Years ago I was avid reader of Kant, Hegel, Sartre, Husserl. Phenomenology and philosophies of perception were my topics of interest indeed. …... As you see my first introduction was not to Islam, but to Existentialism and German philosophy. I owe much of my mind and personality formation to the West and to European man. …... In speaking about world-view, it is not mind alone that must be depended on. The whole of man's experience. I would define man as a just creature or creature of justice. In other words, we cannot keep to our impressionistic experience and conceptualize or internalize what we purely received as perceptions because we will image what we like as the truth. I never deny that much of our world, mental world, is sensual and our judgments follow our senses.<<

That is pretty heavy stuff. Many of the finer points you are trying to make escape me. But I fail to see the connection between man being a just creature and his judgment depending on his senses. If man is by nature a just creature (I suppose that is what you are trying to convey, keep in mind that I am not a trained philosopher) his senses and experiences should not interfere with his judgment, for if they do then he is not a naturally just creature.

Hitler exterminated millions of Jews, Muhammad beheaded close to 800 Jews and sold their women and children into slavery. The Nazis' senses clouded by propaganda did not see this as unjust. Similarly Muslim sensibilities clouded by religious propaganda do not see anything unjust in this cruel act. Man shows by these incidents that he is not a just creature but a creature of his senses. It is by rising above our sense experiences that attempt to cloud our judgment that we become just creatures.

>>..There is no mathematics in belief but we believe in mathematics. <<

Sounds nice and probably there is a metaphysical truth in it somewhere. But I fail to see it.

>>I tried to use my mind in judging the Qur'an (not Islam). Because I am not historian or Shari'a specialist but I read the Qur'an for understanding while I have at the background in my mind Richard Bell, Watt and Theodor Noldeke with a book like that of Hagerism among many others references that questioned the truth of the Qur'an.<<

Using the mind is the only way to judge anything, not just the Koran. Books help the mind in coming to a judgment

>>I find that the truth of the Qur'an lies in something that lies beyond words but is in the words too.<<

But what exactly. is the truth of the Koran? Can only the reader who reads it in Arabic understand it? A truth that can be understood only in a language not many understand (90% as you have estimated) is a wasted truth. Allah cannot be unaware of this truth if He is all-knowing.

>>First, I see all translations (being a translator myself) are different books.<<

This just reinforces the fact (truth?) that the Koran is unclear even to scholars of Islam. They would not have come up with different books i.e. different translated Korans otherwise. This also negates Allah's claims for the Koran being a clear book easy to understand in several verses.

002.159 YUSUFALI: Those who conceal the clear (Signs) We have sent down, and the Guidance, after We have made it clear for the people in the Book,-on them shall be Allah's curse, and the curse of those entitled to curse,-

054.040 YUSUFALI: And We have indeed made the Qur'an easy to understand and remember: then is there any that will receive admonition?

[2.99] And certainly We have revealed to you clear communications and none disbelieve in them except the transgressors.

Cclear book (5:15), easy to understand 44:58 , 54:22 , 54:32, 54:40, explained in detail (6:114), conveyed clearly, (5:16, 10:15) and with no doubt in it (2:1)

Verse after verse in the Koran claims it is a clear book. It cannot be anybody's case that a clear book, in whatever language, cannot be made clear in any other language (except perhaps the most poorly developed ones).

If you read 2:159 you hear Allah cursing people who do not understand His clear message (whatever that is). Since it is untranslatable (as even you admit all translations you have read are different books, meaning they contain different messages, then either He is cursing only the people who understand Arabic and remain unbelievers or He is unjustly cursing the majority of mankind (non-Arabic speakers).

And why is the Mighty Allah reduced to cursing humans He has created? He cannot be as mighty and all-powerful as He claims to be in so many other verses.

>> For example there had been two translation of Rilke's Leapard, one was of my colleague in Vienna University the late Mr. Robert de Beaugrande. It is on the perception of a caged leopard. The experience of writing the poem by Rilke differs from the experience of translating it. Then how can it be possible for me to transfer the experience of a poet to a reader who comes third in the transmission process.<<

With this example of translational difficulties you are reinforcing the fact that the Koran cannot be properly translated. Again, how then can it be a message for mankind. You must also ask yourself how any one can possibly understand the Koran properly, even in Arabic, as it came to Muhammad second hand via Gabriel and to us third hand via the Prophet? This makes a strong case for interpreting the Koran in the literal sense. For Gabriel could not have known the mind of Allah when he revealed the Koran to him. Nor could Mohammed have known the mind of Gabriel when he was given the Koran. You have to take the Koran in the literal sense to avoid trying to read the mind of Allah third hand.

>>Even when my mind rejects the the tyranny of God, the Qur'an still is so impressive and powerful.<<

There is some hope yet as you reject the tyranny of God (not Allah?). What if the Koran is impressive and powerful? Hitler's oratory was impressive and powerful and it resulted in devastation. The impressive and powerful message of the Koran is causing devastation to this day unlike Hitlers which was limited to a decade. During his time Muhammad conducted nearly 75 unprovoked gazwas resulting in thousands of death.

His death lead to the blood bath of the Ridda wars. His sahaba Khalid Bin Walid decapitated even people who had surrendered. There has been practically no let up in this dance of death, in the name of Allah's truth, since the Nakhla incident. Yes the Koran is a VERY impressive and powerful document. The moot question is do we need this powerful book that leads its readers to cause impressive devastation?

And, what do you find impressive and powerful in the Koran? Muslims claim that Surat Fatiha is impressive and powerful (do you?). Do you find Surat The Palm Fibre impressive and powerful?

Surah Fatiha:

001.001- 07 YUSUFALI: In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful. Praise be to Allah, the Cherisher and Sustainer of the worlds; Most Gracious, Most Merciful; Master of the Day of Judgment. Thee do we worship, and Thine aid we seek. Show us the straight way, The way of those on whom Thou hast bestowed Thy Grace, those whose (portion) is not wrath, and who go not astray.

This sounds like Allah praying to Himself (unless this is comes from just another translated book) as it does not begin with 'Say' which would have made clear it is a prayer Allah is dictating for us to pray to Him.

111.001- 005 YUSUFALI: Perish the hands of the Father of Flame! Perish he! No profit to him from all his wealth, and all his gains! Burnt soon will he be in a Fire of Blazing Flame! His wife shall carry the (crackling) wood - As fuel!- A twisted rope of palm-leaf fibre round her (own) neck!

This is Allah cursing and threatening an unknown man and his wife (unless it is assumed the Father of the Flame is Abu Lahab as some translators tells us) for no particular reason.

These five verses may sound impressive and powerful in Arabic. This is a scripture that claims to speak to mankind for all time. What is this Surat telling us? Shakespeare's verses are equally impressive and powerful but no one calls them scripture.

>> Its language cannot be understood by 90% of Moslems all over the world.<<

Why do you call them Moslems and why do they call themselves Moslems? And how can they be true Moslems if they cannot understand the Koran properly?

>>I measure that from an atheist standpoint, which is mine.<<

You are an atheist? Are you the same Salah Ali who wrote this:

"You best now read the Qur'an and learn how to get rid of all evils and worship the one God….

"And you are Godless! God is above us all and He sees and He hears we will go on building the city of God that is the city of love and justice in one world without terror, hunger or fear.." http://www.danielpipes.org/comments/161228

>>I cannot see in it but a speaker who cannot be Muhammad.<<

You could be right about this as he was accused even by the Meccans that he was just parroting what someone (A Christian cousin of Khadija) was teaching him. There was also the case of Othman's cousin who was the prophet's scribe and would sometimes put down his own words in the revelations and they would be accepted. He nearly lost his life for apostasising but the powerful Othman saved him.

>>For how can Muhammad be so comprehensive in vision?<<

What is this comprehensive vision? If it was the creator of everything who is speaking how could He say such silly stuff as this:

011.007 YUSUFALI: He it is Who created the heavens and the earth in six Days - and His Throne was over the waters - that He might try you, which of you is best in conduct. But if thou wert to say to them, "Ye shall indeed be raised up after death", the Unbelievers would be sure to say, "This is nothing but obvious sorcery!"

Did the waters exist before the Universe was created and what contained the waters?

014.033 YUSUFALI: And He hath made subject to you the sun and the moon, both diligently pursuing their courses; and the night and the day hath he (also) made subject to you.

Look at the comprehensive Allah showing off in verse 14:33. The sun and moon is not subject to us, not even to the earth on which we live. We are totally dependent on the Sun. Is the night and the day subject to us??

006.096 YUSUFALI: He it is that cleaveth the day-break (from the dark): He makes the night for rest and tranquillity, and the sun and moon for the reckoning (of time): Such is the judgment and ordering of (Him), the Exalted in Power, the Omniscient.

We need the sun for much more important purposes. The energy of the sun is what drives everything on earth. If Allah had given a hint of this fact his comprehensive vision would have been more obvious.

036.040 YUSUFALI: It is not permitted to the Sun to catch up the Moon, nor can the Night outstrip the Day: Each (just) swims along in (its own) orbit (according to Law)

The moon is tied to the earth and the two together are tied to the sun. The moon and sun racing across the skies is an illusion. Allah's comprehensive vision does not see this?

091.001 -002YUSUFALI: By the Sun and his (glorious) splendour; By the Moon as she follows him

36:40 means the sun is chasing the moon. 91:1-2 says the moon is chasing the sun.

What we see in these verses is not the comprehensive vision of a Creator of the Universe but a mind unable to comprehend the world because of the poor science of his period. That is why we find these and many other incomprehensible statements in the Koran

>>And let's suppose that he was like Plato, was so clever to compose such a work, how could such a work be rhythmically consistent. It beats my strong unbelieving mind. <<

Does composing rhythmically consistent work add up to divine composition? You are not serious? The Vedas of the Hindus are probably more rhythmic. Even if it was not and if a Hindus claims this how will you disprove her/him? C

>>Still, it is difficult for non-Arabs to see eye-to-eye or feel heart to heart as I do.<<

Nearly a billion non-Arabs do seem to see eye-to-eye and heart-to-heart. At least they seem to think they do.

>> The eye that sees in the Qur'an is cosmic eye. And this was by no means available to Muhammad.<<

Cosmic eye?? Are you back to being a theist? It is obvious from what the Koran says that it is a human creation. Would it contain curses against a man who was the prophet's unbelieving uncle. What cosmic reason is there for Surah 111?

What cosmic reason is there for Allah to interfere in the sex life of a man. Recall the verses about Zaid, Maria or permission to marry as many women as the prophet wished. These verses indicate that the roving eye of Muhammad was involved and not a cosmic one.

The silly science in the Koran makes it abundantly clear that it was composed by someone with earthly eyes.




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