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There Is No Exception in Islam

Several years ago there was a famous exchange between Ben Affleck and Bill Maher & Sam Harris on the nature of Islam. In response I published a post titled “ISIS’ Willing Executioners”. The overall point was that Affleck’s comments were not informed by the nature of Islam or Muslims, but broader political currents. As for his interlocutors, Bill Maher and Sam Harris, I think they were making a better faith effort to engage with the facts, though they too came up short. The primary reason that I give them more credit than Affleck is that I think to some extent their anti-Islamic talking points were counter-narrative toward their preferred ideology, which was on the Left-liberal end of the spectrum. Though a general contempt or disdain for religion is not necessarily a problem among American Left-liberals, for various reasons Muslims have become a “protected class” subject to prejudice from the ideological opponents of Maher and Harris’ normal fellow travelers.

41XeU3O2hiL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ As an intellectual Bill Maher is not a serious thinker, so there isn’t much point in engaging more deeply with his ideas. His anti-Islamic stance seems to derive from relatively old-fashioned anti-religious sentiments, which are socially acceptable among American Left-liberals so long as their targets are white Christians (“punching up”) but more “problematic” and perhaps even “Islamophobic” when the invective is hurled at Muslim “people of color” (all Muslims here being tacitly racialized as nonwhite).

Sam Harris is a more earnest individual, who clearly isn’t just parlaying a schtick into profitable provocation. I respect Harris for expressing the courage of his genuine convictions so often, instead of sanitizing his conclusions because of broader ideological commitments. That is, many Left-liberals today consider themselves “allies” of Muslims, and so tend to avoid making comments which might seem “Islamophobic”. In Left-liberal parlance ally has specific connotations: it indicates a person who has privileges, but still supports social justice for others who may be marginalized. Terms like “social justice” and “marginalized” also have rather precise meanings in terms of the theory of what they are, and the instances concretely of who may be marginalized. Rather than recapitulating the lexical subtleties of the progressive avant-garde I simply will state that a quick bit of research will clear up any possible confusion. Muslims, as marginalized people, are now considered part of a broader coalition on the progressive Left. This can be made clear for example when illustrations of “women of color” will often include one woman in a hijab (e.g., this website devoted to queer and trans issues displays a picture with three women in a tough pose, and one of them is a hijabi).

Harris, taking logical inference a bit too seriously, would probably ask about the propriety of the message it sends to display a woman in a hijab as if they are doing something meritorious, as that might strike him as anti-feminist in a traditional Left-liberal framework. And I have met progressives who agree with Harris privately in relation to a skepticism of valorization of the folkways of Muslims, but because of the broader coalition in which they are participants, they hold their critique (more concretely, they don’t want to be accused of being racist and Islamophobic). But, I suspect most people are like Ben Affleck, and genuinely believe that there is not a problem with the perpetuation of a stable multicultural society which includes large numbers of mainstream Muslims (e.g., many hijabis), as well as “sex positive” radical feminists, and queer theorists.

Sam Harris would probably respond that these people don’t take Islam seriously on its own merits, and that Islam is fundamentally and constitutively at odds with tolerance of gay people and a liberal attitude toward the rights of women. Though I disagree in the firmness and definitiveness of Harris’ conclusions, I do agree that people like Ben Affleck, and frankly most Left-liberals who might fall back on the term Islamophobia, don’t actually take Islam, or religion generally, seriously. This explains the rapid and strident recourse toward a racial analogy for Islamic identity, as that is a framework that modern Left-liberals and progressives have internalized and mastered. The problem with this is that Islam is not a racial or ethnic identity, it is a set of beliefs and practices. Being a Muslim is not about being who you are in a passive sense, but it is a proactive expression of a set of ideas about the world and your behavior within the world. This category error renders much of Left-liberal and progressive analysis of Islam superficial, and likely wrong.

51qwSfB3NBL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ But just because Sam Harris has the “right enemies” does not mean that he is right. Though I don’t believe Harris is engaging in sophistry or posturing toward some ideological ends, which is the case with many progressives as well as those on the social and political Right, I do think he is wrong in many details of his model of religion and Islam in particular. Unlike Ben Affleck and many progressives Sam Harris actually engages in ratiocination scaffolded by facts, rather than emotions derived from political commitments. But there are weaknesses to Harris’ methods, and his grasp of facts for his rationality engine to operate upon can sometimes be lacking (this is unfortunately a general problem with being a dilettante, which I would know, but it also doesn’t excuse people from taking Harris too seriously on topics where his command of the subject is outrun by his ambitions).

To get a genuine understanding of a topic as broad and boundless as Islam one needs to both set aside emotional considerations, as Ben Affleck clearly cannot, and dig deeply into the richer and more complex empirical texture, which Sam Harris has not. Islamic Exceptionalism: How the Struggle Over Islam Is Reshaping the World by Shadi Hamid is a genuine attempt to tackle a big issue with cold analysis and making recourse to a broader range of academic sources than Harris is wont. Hamid is a relatively well known figure, so his personal cards are on the table. A self-identified Muslim, and from what I can tell a Western liberal, he nevertheless arrives at a conclusion that Islam may be fundamentally and constitutively incompatible with the conventional Western liberal understanding of the relationship between the polity and faith.

18730593 One of the most obnoxious memes in my opinion during the Obama era has been the popularization of the maxim that “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” It is smug and self-assured in its presentation. Though in some sense over the long term I am broadly persuaded by it, too often it becomes an excuse for lazy thinking and shallow prognostication. Though there are broad trend lines in history, there are also cycles which oscillate around those lines. In those oscillations are consequences for human lives that can not be dismissed by asserting that the trend nevertheless remains. The cognitive psychologist Pascal Boyer has a saying which basically states that a theory gives you information for free. Modern Western liberals have a particular idea of what a religion is, and so naturally know that Islam is in many ways just like United Methodism, except with a hijab and iconoclasm. But a Western liberalism that does not take cultural and religious difference seriously is not serious, and yet all too often it is what we have on offer. This transcends the political divide, as before the Obama era we were given to thinking that the invasion of Iraq would result in Jeffersonian democracy, because George W. Bush had a particular model of the nature of man and what he craves (“freedom” and “liberty”), and from that he drew conclusions.

On both the American Left and Right there is a tendency to not even attempt to understand Islam. Rather, stylized models are preferred which lead to conclusions which are already arrived at. Islamic Exceptionalism is worth paying attention to because he frankly admits the problems of this line of thinking. Or, more honestly, he admits that this is a problem in the first place! In a piece at The Atlantic (which is based on a passage from Islamic Exceptionalism) he states:

To say that Islam—as creed, theology, and practice—says something that other religions don’t quite say is admittedly a controversial, even troubling claim, especially in the context of rising anti-Muslim bigotry in the United States and Europe. As a Muslim-American, it’s personal for me: Donald Trump’s dangerous comments on Islam and Muslims make me fear for my country. Yet “Islamic exceptionalism” is neither good nor bad. It just is.

 

This is a commendable viewpoint in our world, where too often “problematic” conclusions get swept under the rug or explained away. From what I can tell reading Islamic Exceptionalism many of the conclusions that he comes to are not his preferred conclusions as an American Muslim. But, they are is best guess as political scientist. This is how a scholar should behave, though too often this is not how scholars do behave.

In some ways the model of Islam and religion that Shadi Hamid believes is most informative for our world is rather like that of Sam Harris, despite wide differences in details and a general shift in emphasis. Out of all the religions in the world Harris believes that Islam is fundamentally exceptional. And Hamid agrees with him. I will state here that at the end of the day I disagree with both Harris and Hamid. But, we all begin with the same proximate empirical universe, where we an agree on some general facts. This is where we differ from someone like Ben Affleck, who probably finds reality rather “gross.” To get a sense of Affleck’s engagement with facts, consider his attempt to suppress the fact of his own slave-owning ancestors:

After an exhaustive search of my ancestry for “Finding Your Roots,” it was discovered that one of my distant relatives was an owner of slaves.

I didn’t want any television show about my family to include a guy who owned slaves. I was embarrassed. The very thought left a bad taste in my mouth.

Gigi_Hadid_2016

Not your typical Muslim

It’s fine to be embarrassed by reality. But you still need to face up to reality. Where Hamid, Harris, and I all start is the fact that the vast majority of the world’s Muslims do not hold views on social issues that are aligned with the Muslim friends of Hollywood actors. This is trivially obvious to anyone who digs (so obvious that even Bill Maher cites these data, they’re so easy to find). Before the Green Revolution I told people to expect there to be a Islamic revival, as 86 percent of Egyptians polled agree with the killing of apostates. This is not a comfortable fact for me, as I am technically an apostate.* But it is a fact. Progressives who exhibit a hopefulness about human nature, and confuse majoritarian democracy with liberalism and individual rights, often don’t want to confront these facts. Their polar opposites are convinced anti-Muslims who don’t need any survey data, because they know that Muslims have particular views a priori by virtue of them being Muslims. These people would miss out on the fact that 5 percent of Turks agreed with Egyptians on apostates.

There is a glass half-full/half-empty aspect to the Turkish data. 95 percent of Turks do not believe apostates should be killed. This is not surprising, I know many Turkish atheists personally. But, 5 percent is not a reassuring fraction as someone who is personally an apostate. The ideal, and frankly only acceptable, proportion is basically 0 percent. In the aughts the Turkish example was given as a case study in moderate Islamism. The regime of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was genuinely more liberal than other Islamists. During the Green Revolution he went to Tunisia and stated:

“Turkey is a democratic, secular and social state of law. As for secularism, a secular state has an equal distance to all religious groups, including Muslim, Christian, Jewish and atheist people,” Erdoğan said during a visit to Tunis, the place where the wave of pro-democracy revolts sweeping the Middle East and North Africa began late last year.

Obviously things have changed in the last few years, as Erdogan has taken a more authoritarian tack, and Islamism in more muscular form is ascendant. Nevertheless, the very idea of accepting atheists is taboo in most Arab countries, including Tunisia, which shows how far beyond them Turkey is in a classical Western reckoning (though there are conflicting reports, Ataturk himself, the founder of the modern Turkish state, may personally have been an atheist).

Harris would give a simple explanation for why Islam sanctions the death penalty for apostates. To be reductive and hyperbolic, his perspective seems to be that Islam is a totalitarian cult, and its views are quite explicit in the Quran and the Hadith. Harris is correct here, and the views of the majority of Muslims in Egypt (and many other Muslim nations) has support in Islamic law. The consensus historical tradition is that apostates are subject to the death penalty.

But Hamid adds some nuance to this picture. He seems to argue that attitude toward apostasy falls out of a broader program of Islamic civilization which goes back to the foundations of the religion. Engaging with scholarly works, such as Ancient Religions, Modern Politics: The Islamic Case in Comparative Perspective, Islamic Exceptionalism argues that the Muslim Weltanschauung has an integrated role for religion in the political order baked into its cake. To refer back to an old saying, Muhammad was his own Constantine. Islam arose and exploded with the rise of its empire. In contrast, Christianity developed slowly as a marginal sect, and later a religion among religions, in the Roman polity. Its eventually victory in the 4th century came to some extent at the sufferance of Roman elites who had their own traditions and customs which the Church had to make peace with. Render under Caesar what is Caesar’s.

614cyv0xnJL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ There are several problems with this thesis. As a believing Muslim Hamid talks about how alive the Salafs of early Islam are to modern Muslims. These are the first few generations of Muslims who remembered Muhammad personally or well well acquainted with those who did. They were the people who lived in the world before Islam became embedded within a profane state, that of the Umayyads, who transformed the polity into a hereditary monarchy. Reviled by the Shia for their role in the murder of the family of Ali, and ignored at best by the Sunni who look more to the traditions crystallized under their Abbasid successors, the Umayyad are a sort of historical cordon sanitaire between the centuries when the streams of modern Islam matured and elaborated, and the age of the Salafs.

There is a small problem with this narrative: it may be wrong. The story of Christianity is rather well known, and well disputed, in the public arena. There is a large body of scholarship which contends that orthodox Christianity, rooted in the Athanasian creed, developed organically over the centuries after the life of Jesus. Though many Christians would disagree, many scholars argue that aspects of Christianity which Christians hold to be fundamental and constitutive of their religion would have seemed exotic and alien even to St. Paul. Similarly, there is a much smaller body of work which makes the same case for Islam.

51nf9+uTZwL._AC_UL320_SR212,320_ A précis of this line of thinking is that non-Muslim sources do not make it clear that there was in fact a coherent new religion which burst forth out of south-central Arabia in the 7th century. Rather, many aspects of Islam’s 7th century were myths which developed over time, initially during the Umayyad period, but which eventually crystallized and matured into orthodoxy under the Abbasids, over a century after the death of Muhammad. This model holds that the Arab conquests were actually Arab conquests, not Muslim ones, and that a predominantly nominally Syrian Christian group of Arab tribes eventually developed a new religion to justify their status within the empire which they built, and to maintain their roles within it. The mawali (convert) revolution under the Abbasids in the latter half of the 8th century transformed a fundamentally Arab ethnic sect, into a universal religion. Robert Hoylands’ In God’s Path: The Arab Conquests and the Creation of an Islamic Empire presents this viewpoint. In contrast, Hugh Kennedy’s Great Arab Conquests presents a traditionalist view, which accepts the conventional Islamic framework in its broadest outlines (I recommend both, though Kennedy is the better prose stylist).

I was struck that in Islamic Exceptionalism Hamid observes that because so little is known about Jesus’ life there is a live debate about the historical Jesus. I agree there is little known about the historical Jesus (with even Josephus being asserted to be later interpolation by some), but this is not what believing Christians would contend. I only bring this up because here the shoe is put on the other foot. The fact that Hamid can entertain these views, along with revisionist** works such as Reza Aslan’s Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, is a function of the history of Christianity and its relationship to the West, not something natural to Christianity itself. The debate about the historical Jesus only emerged when the public space was secularized enough so that such discussions would not elicit violent hostility from the populace or sanction form the authorities. T he fact is that the debate about the historical Muhammad is positively dangerous and thankless. That is not necessarily because there is that much more known about Muhammad than Jesus, it is because post-Christian society allows for an interrogation of Christian beliefs which Islamic society does not allow for in relation to Islam’s founding narratives.

The early portion of Islamic Exceptionalism that goes back to the first centuries of Christianity and Islam is to use an overused word highly “problematic.” It isn’t that Hamid makes incorrect inferences, it is simply that the chain of inference are so rapid fire, and proffered as fait accompli, that it is difficult to keep up with them and evaluate their likelihood. Assertions that seems plausible from one angle are highly disputable from another. For example, he suggests that because Jesus is divine he does present himself as a model in the same way as Muhammad, who was a man. The problem with this assertion is that the standard Christian thesis is that Jesus is both divine and human, and that it is his incarnation into the human flesh that allows him to be relatable. As an atheist I honestly don’t even know if any of this has any content, though I understand that religious people find these sorts of assertions substantive. My point is that most of the arguments in this portion of the book can be easily flipped on their heads by deeper or alternative analysis.

Hamid’s description of Christian soteriology is very superficial, in a way that I think misleads if you take this sort of analysis of religion seriously. I happen to believe that this sort of analysis doesn’t add much value, so I don’t hold it against Hamid. But a presupposition of Islamic Exceptionalism seems to be that there is a deep and fundamental essence to religions in their ideas and foundations, so one must critique his arguments on their own terms. Consider this passage:

If salvation is through Christ and Christ alone, then there is little need for the state to regulate private and public behavior beyond providing a conducive environment for individuals to cultivate virtue and become more faith to Christ. The punishment of sins is no longer a priority, since Jesus died for them. In start contrast, whereas theologians like Martin Luther fashioned a dialectic between faith and good works, these two things are inextricably tied together in Islam….

This is just an unfortunate caricature of the majority of Christians’ views on salvation and works. Not to belabor the point, as an atheist who is skeptical of a lot of religious “analysis,” many of these distinctions that you see in probing these topics strikes me as similar to philosophizing about the number of angels on the head of a pin. But, if you believe these constructs have material consequences in this world, then you need to relay them correctly. A simple reading of this passage would suggest that all Christians are slouching toward antinomianism
.

Similarly, one could argue that Islam also slouches toward antinomianism
because predestination is the dominant view within the religion. Obviously this isn’t true. Neither Muslims nor Christians are antinomian in their behavior.

in-gods-we-trust-the-evolutionary-landscape-of-religion-evolution-and-cognition-scott-atran-complete-book-1-638 As I observed above, Hamid cites Michael Cook’s Ancient Religion, Modern Politics, to contend that ancient beliefs, forms, and models, echo down the generations and constrain the shape of the present. Having read Cook’s book I can say it’s interesting, but its argument for why textual constraint and ancient precedent matter are not particularly convincing. In fact, he comes close to asserting it as common sense.

I take a different view. When it comes to understanding religion you need to start with psychology. In particular, cognitive psychology. This feeds into the field of evolutionary anthropology in relation to the study of religion. Probably the best introduction to this field is Scott Atran’s dense In Gods We Trust: The Evolutionary Landscape of Religion. Another representative work is Theological Incorrectness: Why Religious People Believe What They Shouldn’t. This area of scholarship purports to explain why religion is ubiquitous, and, why as a phenomenon it tends to exhibit a particular distribution of characteristics.

What cognitive psychology suggests is that there is a strong disjunction between the verbal scripts that people give in terms of what they say they believe, and the internal Gestalt mental models which seem to actually be operative in terms of informing how they truly conceptualize the world. In Theological Incorrectness the author draws upon his field work in Sri Lanka and narrative interviews with religious people which don’t elicit reflexive scripts to get a sense of the internal beliefs which might shape their behavior. Though Hindus, Buddhists, and Muslims, all agreed that they had very divergent views, what the author founds is that their mental model of gods(s) were very similar. The Theravada Buddhism of Sri Lanka may notionally reject the idea that Lord Buddha is a god, but he for all practical purposes fills in the role of a god. Similarly, Muslims may aver that their god is omniscient and omnipresent, but their narrative stories in response to life circumstances seem to imply that their believe god may not see or know all things at all moments.

The deep problem here is understood bt religious professionals: they’ve made their religion too complex for common people to understand without their intermediation. In fact, I would argue that theologians themselves don’t really understand what they’re talking about. To some extent this is a feature, not a bug. If the God of Abraham is transformed into an almost incomprehensible being, then religious professionals will have perpetual work as interpreters. Some religious groups, such as Mormons, even point out that their own idea of the godhead is more concrete and less philosophical, so actually makes more coherent sense.

Which brings me to the issue of the Quran and the Bible. There is extensive discussion in Islamic Exceptionalism about the fact that the Quran is the literal Word of God (the recitation by Muhammad), while the Bible is inspired by God, but by and large is not in the voice of God. The standard thesis being proffered is that this means there is less flexibility in Islam, because all Muslims are by nature in some ways fundamentalists.

First, for the vast majority of history most Muslims and Christians have been illiterate. They could not read their scriptures. Second, even today most Muslims can not read the Quran. Most Muslims do not speak Arabic. Second, from what I have been told the Classical Arabic in the Quran is impenetrable to most Arabs. The point isn’t to understand, the point is that they are the Word of God, in the abstract. When I memorized surah Fatiha I was told the meaning of what I was reciting almost as an afterthought (though some of the terms are rather transparent from other concepts). The power of the Quran is that the Word of God is presumably potent. Comprehension is secondary to the command.

Second, Hamid admits the importance of the reality that Islam, like Judaism, and unlike Christianity, is an extensively orthopraxic religion. Though there is much talk about theology in Islamic Exceptionalism, it is more as a general catchall term than technical theology, because this is a domain where Christians have devoted a lot more resources than Jews and Muslims, whose ideas of God are relatively shorn of Greek philosophical sophistication (the Ismaili sect has a sophisticated Neoplatonic cosmology, but they are the exception not the rule). In contrast, Christians have neglected elaboration of religiously informed laws, while Jews and Muslims have developed an enormous corpus.

Aside from some radical Protestant sects religious professionals in the Christian tradition engage in extensive sacramental and liturgical activities. In the pre-modern era the Christian church had a role in collective social salvation through these activities, which it performed for the whole community. In contrast, Judaism and Islam have a quasi-clerical professional class whose roles are often focused upon legal matters, public and personal. In Judaism these are the rabbis, while in Islam they are the ulama. Historically, and even in my own generation, my family has had individuals who are members of the ulama. From what I have seen and heard there is little discussion about the details of the nature of God. Rather, the workaday consists of instruction in memorization of the Quran and elaboration of proper behavior and ritual.

Hamid to some extent discounts the analogy with Judaism for Islam in terms of political insight because after the decline of the Herodians Jewish states were few and far between. Jews had to respect the law of the land in which they lived, to the point where this became a maxim. But I think this example is illustrative, because of the family similarities between Judaism and Islam when it comes to a focus on orthopraxy. Judaism has a deep and rich history of political action and engagement, from the prophets, judges, down to the kings. After the fall of the House of David Jewish monarchies rose several times, and the Herodians themselves were the products of a forced conversion by the Hasmoneans.

And yet after two failed rebellions in antiquity Judaism became relatively quiescent. Hamid asserts that the modern Jewish state of Israel is fundamentally secular in a way that Islamic states are not. I am not entirely convinced by this. First, the secular Ashkenazi elite are now a minority of the population, though at founding they were the overwhelming majority. The Haredi population is growing, and there is a large body of Sephardic Jews for whom Jewish religious identity is stronger than for the Ashkenazi. Finally, the “national religious” block of non-Haredi religious Jews have contributed many of the individuals engaged in religious-ethnic motivated political violence. Some radical Jews even term the Palestinians Amalekites.

This was pregnant within Judaism. It simply needed the proper social context.

In terms of the historical and religious narrative Islamic Exceptionalism naturally argues that Muslims are the exceptions. I take exception to this. Rather, I think the Western liberal model based on a creedal Protestant church is the exception. In The Impossibility of Religious Freedom, the author, a lawyer, argues that America’s regnant ideology of church-state separation only retains coherence if one posits religion qua religion is fundamentally similar to creedal Protestantism. The authors shows that recent emergence of liturgical and orthopraxic traditions has been causing more issues with accommodatio, as authorities have to pick and choose what they will, or won’t, accommodate. The history of American Roman Catholicism and American Judaism are to a great extent the Protestantization of these religious traditions enforced by a dominant and xenophobic Protestant ascendancy in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Now with the emergence of multiculturalism and the decline of normative Protestantism religious traditions which take a different view of the essence of what religion is are now beginning to flourish and multiply.

k10063 Historically all political units have exhibited a sacral dimension. Some cognitive anthropologists now argue that in fact powerful supernatural agents, active gods, were essential to the emergence of larger social and political units. King James may have asserted “no bishop, no king”, but perhaps it is more general and primal. “No god, no tribe” (or the inverse, “no tribe, no god”). The relationship in the detail between religion and polity differed in various civilizations. In ancient China by and large the elite tolerated pluralism so long as cults were not socially disruptive and political active. But the state was not secular. The emperor was the Son of Heaven, the axis mundi between Heaven and Earth. In India kings became the cakravartin, the universal ruler through whom the wheel of the dharma moves. The Christian East Roman emperors were the vice-reagents of God upon earth, while the last emperor to be deified was Anastasius, a century and a half into the period of Christian emperors! The rulers of Egypt were gods, while those of Mesopotamia began as priest-kings.

In Jay Winik’s Great Upheaval there is extensive discussion of the controversy after the independence of the colonies from Britain that the federal government did not have a state religion. The original settlers were by this point not a particularly churched people, and free thinking was common, from top to bottom. But never had there been a state in the history of the world which disavowed the need for favor from the gods. In The Godless Constitution the authors argue that the lack of a national religion was quite conscious, and a radical move on the part of a coterie of founders.

If we were to rewind history what would it look like? Is the arc of the moral universe always going in the same direction? I don’t know. Perhaps secular Western liberalism wouldn’t have developed the way it did. My overall argument in this section is that the prior for historical contingency is still very strong.

The reality is that most of Islamic Exceptionalism has nothing to do with all the details above. There are chapters devoted to Turkey, Egypt, Tunisia, and ISIS, as case studies. The authors personal experience and history, as well as his academic background as a political scientist come to the foreground. There is extensive interlacing of journalistic narrative and reportage with citations of the scholarly literature on Islamism and democratization.

The theoretical scaffold here is not too surprising or novel, as the author himself admits, though it may be to Americans. In short, liberalism and individualism do not always go hand in hand with democracy. The examples from American history are legion. The rise of the Democratic party and universal white male suffrage resulted in a curtailment of the political rights of black Americans. In England when the elite wished to grant Roman Catholics more rights, the populace of London rioted. In 19th century Prussia the extension of suffrage out of the high bourgeoise to the rural population increased the base of conservatives, because the rural population looked more favorably toward their traditional aristocratic leaders and were more socially conservative. As the American political system has become more populist, expressions of religious piety and adherence among those in high office have increased.

In Islamic Exceptionalism Shadi Hamid presents Tunisian and Egyptian Islamists in a relatively sympathetic light. He observes that in some ways the secular population is more intolerant, because they fear the rise of illiberalism due to democratic will. Americans do not have the language today to process this, but what Hamid is alluding to is simply what in an earlier era would be the “mob.” Economic, social, and political, development expands suffrage and distributes power. This moves it outside of central elite control, and human nature is such that inter-group competition often emerges as old elites and arriviste proto-elites clash.

Hamid’s contention seems to be that if democracy is going to come to the Arab Middle East in the near future then it must make peace with the pious majority. He has no grand solutions, but definitely offers a diagnosis. Though liberalism has percolated through Western society, I would point out that the expansion of suffrage was almost always met with the diminishment of the liberal faction to becoming a “third force,” as a more populist party took its spot in opposition to the conservatives.

The final issue that I want to touch on is addressed somewhat in the book, but gingerly, and without great attention. The work is titled Islamic Exceptionalism: How the Struggle Over Islam Is Reshaping the World. But the focus is on the core Middle East of Arab countries, and Turkey. About 25% of the world’s Muslims are Middle Eastern. About half the world’s population of Muslims live in South Asia and Indonesia (~700 million). There is some discussion of the nature of Islamic identity and piety in these nations, but no great depth of analysis. For example, there are some data which suggest that Indonesians want more mixing of religion with politics than people in the Middle East. Hamid suggests that this shows some underlying essence of the Islamic polity. But Indonesia is a very strange case, it is a nation where conversion from Islam to Hinduism or Christianity is not entirely uncommon. A large number of Muslims in East Java maintain a religious identity which is highly synthetic, and tacitly supported by their local ulema. In Bangladesh, you have a society where Islamic and non-Islamic identities are at rough parity. This is in strong contrast with nations like Egypt and Turkey, for whom the past 1,000 years are hard to discuss without addressing Islam directly and copiously.

This book posits explanations for the nature of Islamic polities, but the reality is that this only even applies to the core Islamic nations which were part of the Abbasid caliphate. Islam’s role in maritime Southeast Asia or South Asia was far different than in the core Islamic lands, as it was contested and its period of ascendancy curtailed.

To a great extent let me gloss over the majority of the book that is focused on political and social facts in the Islamic world today. The reason is that I don’t disagree with the facts. That is the best thing about Islamic Exceptionalism, it will put more facts in front of people who are fact-starved, and theory rich. That’s good.

But how those facts came about, and why, that is a different matter. The Islamic world is here. And it will be difficult to move it elsewhere. By making it seems as if being here is inevitable, Hamid seems to be arguing that moving it to a different equilibrium will be exceedingly difficult. But if you posit that modern conditions are historically contingent and labile, then the future is less predictable. I am come not to bring answers, but the cloud of confusion.

* I have never been a big believer in Islam, but since my father is a believing Muslim, by most sharia definitions I’m an apostate.

** Aslan’s views are not new, but derive from an older scholarly tradition of Jesus as a political radical, which today is generally out of favor.

 
• Category: History • Tags: Islam 
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  1. Interesting piece. (AntiNOMianism, BTW, not antiMONianism.)

    The only point I’d make is that, while theological principles are indeed often too complicated for their adherents to understand, it’s still the case that religious tenets, however much the result of historical circumstance, *do* shape the subsequent development of societies that adopt them. In other words, two otherwise identical societies would diverge if one were to adopt Christianity and the other Islam. A society’s adoption of one religion over another, however accidental it might have been, shapes that society in ways different than if historical accident had caused it to adopt another religion.

    I also don’t think Islamic exceptionalism can survive modernity. Islam is indeed exceptional among the world’s religions, but Muslims are just people like any other. So the solution must be to let Islam crash into modernity at full speed:

    Worse is Better: https://web.archive.org/web/20070906185526/http://www.nationalreview.com/comment/comment-krikorian020502.shtml

    Two, Three, Many Islamic Republics:

    http://www.nationalreview.com/article/221900/two-three-many-islamic-republics-mark-krikorian

    Read More
    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    In other words, two otherwise identical societies would diverge if one were to adopt Christianity and the other Islam.

    how
    , @Sam Shama
    [I posted at The Corner recently that radical Islam will only be defeated when Muslims see for themselves the bankruptcy of Islam as a modern political ideology by living under Islamic regimes, like that of Iran. So our widely shared strategic objective of discrediting political Islam is undermined by our tactical efforts at preventing the establishment of Islamic regimes.

    Read more at: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/221900/two-three-many-islamic-republics-mark-krikorian ]

    I read that bit of introductory hogwash in your piece and cannily decided to read no further. Also, 'crashing' as in your prescription of 'Crashing to modernity' might unwittingly be correct, since, likelier than not, you haven't seriously examined the results of some of the the gems of what you term modernity [drone massacres come to mind]; haven't the foggiest as to what life actually is like in Iran, or, worse, engaging in the 'modern' sport of wilful mendacity. Since your reputation does not precede you I'll put it down to the first.

    I will speculate without direct evidence, that you are looking for a U.S. led war on Iran?

    , @grmbl
    Do you think your policy proposals are still as viable today as when you made them, years ago?

    Or would you agree that they have been overtaken by events. Specifically, millions and millions of Muslims (mostly men, mostly fighting age) gate-crashing their way into Europe, with no end in sight (with lots of help from Merkel, Juncker, Sutherland, Erdogan, Soros, the Economist, and the Davos crowd).

    Good fences might have made good neighbors, but that ship has sailed, hasn't it?
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  2. After watching the video, I think Ben Afflek clearly has no idea what he talking about.
    The only his factual argument that I can relate too is that Western civilization so far killed much more people than Islamic civilization.
    Not that we can infer that this will continue into the future.
    Once Islamic world will catch up with the latest technology (i.e. WMD, cyber, etc.), they will be able to scale their efforts.

    >>> “Jews had to respect the law of the land in which they lived, to the point where this became a maxim.”

    “Dina d’malkhuta dina” [1] (Aramaic: דִּינָא דְּמַלְכוּתָא דִּינָא‎‎, “the law of the land is the law”), is the halakhic rule that the law of the country is binding, and, in certain cases, is to be preferred to Jewish law.

    BTW: except Jews the only people who has something similar are Druze. Druze in Israel are loyal to Israel, Druze in Lebanon are loyal to Lebanon, etc.

    >>> “Hamid asserts that the modern Jewish state of Israel is fundamentally secular in a way that Islamic states are not. I am not entirely convinced by this. First, the secular Ashkenazi elite are now a minority of the population, though at founding they were the overwhelming majority. The Haredi population is growing, and there is a large body of Sephardic Jews for whom Jewish religious identity is stronger than for the Ashkenazi. Finally, the “national religious” block of non-Haredi religious Jews have contributed many of the individuals engaged in religious-ethnic motivated political violence. Some radical Jews even term the Palestinians Amalekites.”

    I disagree, while there is a trend of increasing religious fundamentalism, it’s mostly an effect of a wider increase in secular nationalism.

    Majority of Mizrahi Jews are also secular, though they may have a stronger traditional Jewish identity than Ashkenazim.

    It’s kind like Mizrahi Jewish identity feels more “organic”, than assimilated secular Ashkenazi or Ultraorthodox Ashkenazi.

    For Mizrahis it is more about identity, than religion. I once overheard a young Mizrahi secular girl talking on the phone: “I voted for Shas [Sephardi Ultraorthodox party], because after all it’s *OUR* religion!” [the accent was on the world "our"].

    I don’t know about who you call “Ashkenazi elites”.

    In fact in Israel “Ashkenazi” became a label for a person with European appearance, and “Mishtaknez” a slang term for Mizrahi who behave like Ashkenazi, i.e. leftist, a person who disassociated from his Mizrahi identity.

    Many famous Israelis who usually are assumed being Ashkenazi, under right circumstances would reveal that they are half Mizrahi or Sephardi (usually on the mother side, that’s why people can’t guess from the family name or appearance).
    Isaac Hertzog, who considered being a leader of “leftist Askenazi elites” is in fact half Sephardi Egyptian [2].
    Many still think that Menahem Begin was Mizrahi, just because he spoke clearly to the regular people.
    Even Benjamin Netanayhu recently bragged that he is of Sephardi ancestry [3].

    In the 50s-60s there are were much more single Ashkenazi males than females, probably because Mizrahi Jews immigrated with entire large families, while Ashkenazi mostly as singles or with smaller families.
    Back then there were many “mixed” marriages with Ashkenazi men and Mizrahi women.
    Today for non-immigrant Israelis (except for a small number of highly endogamous communities) it’s usually very hard to guess their ancestry and the usual fallback is just guess according to an appearance.

    IMO, nowadays “Ashkenazi”/”Sephardi” is as much as political labels as a Jewish sub-ethnic identities.

    One last thing: Mizrahi/Sephardi Jews were always less fundamentalist than their Muslim neighbors, maybe because they always lived on the border of two civilizations: back then Roman and Persian empires, which today became Western/Christian/Secular and Eastern/Islamic/Fundamentalist worlds.

    [1] Dina d’malkhuta dina

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dina_d%27malkhuta_dina

    [2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isaac_Herzog

    [3] Netanyahu: I have Sephardic roots as well

    http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4807687,00.html

    Read More
    • Replies: @Anonymous
    There were Mizrahi, Sephardi and Ashkenazi Jews in Egypt. In Herzog's case, his Egyptian family is actually of Russian and Polish descent. Better examples among politicians would be Ayelet Shaked and Stav Shaffir. They come off as very Askenazi, but both have Iraqi fathers.
    , @Razib Khan
    “Dina d’malkhuta dina” [1] (Aramaic: דִּינָא דְּמַלְכוּתָא דִּינָא‎‎, “the law of the land is the law”), is the halakhic rule that the law of the country is binding, and, in certain cases, is to be preferred to Jewish law.


    i alluded to this above. why are you repeating what i said? that's why i said it is a maxim.
    , @Karl
    >>>> a large body of Sephardic Jews for whom Jewish religious identity is stronger

    substitute the word "theater" for "identity", and we will be in agreement

    anyway, you cannot really work an Israeli room (as a standup comedian) successfully on the back of Sfardim/mizrakhim anymore (for the same reason that it's not only WASPs who overeat on Thanksgiving. Mimouna has already become a meme)

    Nowadays, it's Ethiopians & FrenchJews.

    Why? The accents. Successful, fully-weaponized stand-up requires an accent to be mimicked.

    At this moment, youtube has about 8-10 clips of white guys CRACKING UP their neighbors by mimick'ing Hebrew in an Ethiopian accent.

    Just add a good rendition of the drumbeat-stomping kind of dance that Ethiopians do at their weddings...... you're youtube gold

    In my experience, a dozen or so words of Tagalog will suffice to (eventually) get you to a fuck-close with one of the pinay chicks in South Tel Aviv's Florentine neighborhood.

    Language is the basis of tribal identity.
  3. Fascinating review, deserves to be read and discussed widely beyond the readership of unz.com.

    Have you read any of the books by Hamed Abdel-Samad? Unfortunately, only one of his books (originally written in German) has been translated into English: Islamic Fascism

    Taking a global view, perhaps the best thing that could have happened was for Muslim countries to stew in their own juices, work through their own Thirty Years’ War, and come out at the other end either rejecting Islam altogether or by consensus adopting an interpretation of the quran compatible with the rest of humanity. (Though the death toll would have been high.)

    Unfortunately, Islam — which, I would agree with you, is not necessarily as solidly anchored in Muslim countries as it might seem at first glance — is being spared the pain of having to refashion itself to be compatible with modernity by western countries giving it a new lease on life through allowing mass immigration of Muslims on a scale that may yet dwarf anything seen in history. This will transform western Europe, generally for the worse, and reduce its attraction as a beacon of liberty and human rights to which discontented Muslims might look as an alternative.

    Read More
  4. I do think he is wrong in many details of his model of religion

    A long read, this bit I agree most without having to reread all again, to mention Islam in particular is not necessary after this first statement. While psychology is important in understanding religion. So much of psychology is still not on sure footing.

    Many models of religion are based on christianity, for life of me I dont understand what Hinduism means, being a Hindu. It is important to instead understand the weltanschauung of different belief systems. Traditional understanding of Indian belief systems was called darshana, which means a view or worldviews in general.There was atheist darshana, alchemist darshana,grammarians darshana,logicians darshana,buddha darshana,jaina darshana,etc etc.
    14th century madhavacharya wrote a book on this called sarva darshana sangraha, compendium of all Indic worldviews and while he presents them in a way as to support his own view, he also calls them as garland of flowers.

    Sam harris is wrong precisely for reasons reasonable liberalism seems to emphasize on, like geopolitical conflicts around the world. Not taking into account security,economy,education,diversity of thougth,geographic isolation etc into account, but traditional liberals also are wrong because they dont take into account the challenges that religion provides in challenging its hold over society.

    An integration of both is the only way forward, when one argues for challenge that each religion provides, this challenge has 3 sources of contribution. 1)intrinsic nature of belief system 2) how close to the point of origin of religion one is 3) physical matrix of elements like security,economy,education etc.

    Take all into account and one gets a diffusion model for all religions. Religions diffuse over time and over distance. This is true for Islam, consider saudi arabia and indonesia for instance. Islam entered indonesia much later and is more diffused there than in Saudi arabia. Turkey had been through ataturk transformation and hence is unique.

    But again hamid is right in pointing to the intrinsic nature of islamic doctrines and their affects in indonesia even now. So, here is the model . A religion takes over a country with diversity of beliefs, for first few centuries, there is great diversity of ideas and interplay of thought. But until something fundamental is done to preserve diversity itself by the state, in due course of time that diversity will vanish. This I believe approximately explains what happened to the golden age in middle east. It began because of diversity of new people who entered into islamic realm, and while their ideas were not entirely digested, diversity of thought thrived and great contributions were made. But after a while, the state did not value the importance of diversity of thought itself. digestion was near complete.And progress stalls after that.

    This bit in western world is ensured by the word called secularism. Islamic revivalism in my opinion must be seen along with hindu right revivalism.The only common thread to both is colonialism. What colonialism did is it destroyed the traditional educational eco system of elites. This destroyed a great deal of knowledge from the minds of the natives. To imagine this is to imagine adults in europe being ignorant of writings of aristotle,newton and many other writers. In short, this wiped the minds clean of memory of intellectual pursuits of various kinds, also destroyed the memory of wrongs done to each other and to them by their own overlords. This destroyed the cultures ability to adapt in a more reasonable manner. Hindus are helped on this issue for simple reason that there is much richer diversity of thought intrinsic to it than in islam. Also their autonomy has not been interfered as much as middle east for lack of oil.And also the inequity of caste discrimination meant they couldnt blame the british for all their ills.

    In short, religions change through accruing ideas from others, greater contact, in case of abrahamic belief systems, only through expansion/exploration can they get enough ideas to help transform themselves to develop some degree of equilibrium. This equilibrium is simply the idea of secularism. Ancient greece,china, India (exceptions are always there) already had diversity of thought, their problem was one of security,economy,education,diffusion of power in society. For christianity and islam , a method needs to be worked out which enshrines the need for diversity of thought itself. This worked out well for christianity as it did not succeed very fast, it ended up having to compromise first with the roman architecture of power and later by having to take in the trojan horse in form of greek knowledge.

    Islam due to its geography and early martial success has not accrued diverse ideas from others as much as other religions have in a longer span of time so as to temper it. Pakistan is a shining example of this. It doesnt have the military strength or economy to challenge India but lives in denial of this and regularly sends us terrorists just to spite us.It lives in denial as to who its ancestors are in order to keep themselves pure . Indonesia on other hand atleast is not in denial of its ancestors.

    What is exceptional in islam is its singular inability to acknowledge the value of others and stand up for others against its own chauvinists! Solution is for muslims to learn more of their pre islamic heritage and value some of them for their knowledge,architecture,cuisine etc. In absence of valuing diversity we are all fanatics and chauvinists of some kind.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    What is exceptional in islam is its singular inability to acknowledge the value of others and stand up for others against its own chauvinists!

    both these are wrong.

    threads of indian and chinese thought are also in great denial historically about influence from the outside (barbarians, mleccha).

    second, islam does acknowledge pre-islamic debts. philosophy still flourishes within shiism. the ayatollahs of iran often know their plato and aristotle. and the hellenic influence has not been totally expurgated from much of sunni islam.

    third, islam obviously accepts that judaism and christianity rare divinely revealed. so it does not negate that.
  5. Second, Hamid admits the importance of the reality that Islam, like Judaism, and unlike Christianity, is an extensively orthopraxic religion.

    Islam was intended to be a kind of Arabized, expansionist Judaism IMO, though various heterodox sects have diverged considerably from this. Even if we don’t buy the traditional accounts of a large Jewish presence in the Hijaz, there was even a Jewish state in Yemen and it’s not hard to imagine that Muhammad (like the Persians earlier) wanted Jewish help in defeating the Romans.

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  6. Wonderful, thoughtful post. Glad you’re still able to find the time to share your more extensive thoughts with us. Hope the fulsome praise isn’t out of place. :)

    Read More
  7. I am still on page 44, but I am surprised by how the author assumes that the founding assumptions (quran as word of god, the four righteous khalifas, Ali killed as an act of heresy, Abassid caliphate as an example of the flowering of Islam, and not the work of hardworking Syrians) are given and true, and makes not even an attempt to evaluate the bases, makes me wonder whether I should plough through the rest.

    I never understood the need to place this whole social and political flowering as a work of a divine person, and not relate it to the hard work of a number of Arab pagans, irreligious Syrians and central Asians, who worked hard from 620 AD to say 800 AD to convert a messy collection of random sayings into one book, one religion, and one rule. 150 years is not a long time to formulate a religo-political-family society. Guess how many tribes and clans must have provided input to limit the number of marriages to 4, force women into head-to-to burkha to keep them within family availability of marriage, etc. How much work would have to be conducted by men to develop the empire and the associated trappings? The genius, I believe, was the ruling that the body of rulings and laws was the final or last word, as given by the prophet, even if the prophet had little to do with it.

    I believe the exceptionalism claimed here is not due to Muhammad, but, a socio-political-religious framework formed on a clan society that was based on parallel cousin marriage. It is exceptionalism that is requested to keep women covered for marriage within family, the lack of a formalism to question this body of laws and rules developed over 5-6 generations (under the guise of the words of the prophet), and the lack of allowance to spin off as smaller tribes or just exit the whole setup. Hence the need for Shadi to go back to the region around Arabia, Iraq and Syria at 700 AD to make sense of this, because the framework only works under those conditions. If there is no in-family cousin marriage, what use is Hijab, since a person that does not follow the framework has no way to meet or interact with one from the opposite sex. If there are no tribes or clans, there is no reason to follow the strong arm of the clan leader. Granted, I have great difficulties to see this being translated to rice growing societies of South and SoutEast asia where women work and interaction with men is de riguer.

    I am having a great difficulty in getting through with the book because it appears to be written by someone who has not read or understood the texts on the rise of Islam, at least from outside Islam.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Antiquated Tory
    Most interesting comment! Can you recommend a book on the rise of Islam written from outside Islam?
  8. Anonymous says:     Show CommentNext New Comment
    @LevantineJew
    After watching the video, I think Ben Afflek clearly has no idea what he talking about.
    The only his factual argument that I can relate too is that Western civilization so far killed much more people than Islamic civilization.
    Not that we can infer that this will continue into the future.
    Once Islamic world will catch up with the latest technology (i.e. WMD, cyber, etc.), they will be able to scale their efforts.

    >>> "Jews had to respect the law of the land in which they lived, to the point where this became a maxim."


    "Dina d'malkhuta dina" [1] (Aramaic: דִּינָא דְּמַלְכוּתָא דִּינָא‎‎, "the law of the land is the law"), is the halakhic rule that the law of the country is binding, and, in certain cases, is to be preferred to Jewish law.

    BTW: except Jews the only people who has something similar are Druze. Druze in Israel are loyal to Israel, Druze in Lebanon are loyal to Lebanon, etc.

    >>> "Hamid asserts that the modern Jewish state of Israel is fundamentally secular in a way that Islamic states are not. I am not entirely convinced by this. First, the secular Ashkenazi elite are now a minority of the population, though at founding they were the overwhelming majority. The Haredi population is growing, and there is a large body of Sephardic Jews for whom Jewish religious identity is stronger than for the Ashkenazi. Finally, the “national religious” block of non-Haredi religious Jews have contributed many of the individuals engaged in religious-ethnic motivated political violence. Some radical Jews even term the Palestinians Amalekites."


    I disagree, while there is a trend of increasing religious fundamentalism, it's mostly an effect of a wider increase in secular nationalism.

    Majority of Mizrahi Jews are also secular, though they may have a stronger traditional Jewish identity than Ashkenazim.

    It's kind like Mizrahi Jewish identity feels more "organic", than assimilated secular Ashkenazi or Ultraorthodox Ashkenazi.

    For Mizrahis it is more about identity, than religion. I once overheard a young Mizrahi secular girl talking on the phone: "I voted for Shas [Sephardi Ultraorthodox party], because after all it's *OUR* religion!" [the accent was on the world "our"].

    I don't know about who you call "Ashkenazi elites".

    In fact in Israel "Ashkenazi" became a label for a person with European appearance, and "Mishtaknez" a slang term for Mizrahi who behave like Ashkenazi, i.e. leftist, a person who disassociated from his Mizrahi identity.

    Many famous Israelis who usually are assumed being Ashkenazi, under right circumstances would reveal that they are half Mizrahi or Sephardi (usually on the mother side, that's why people can't guess from the family name or appearance).
    Isaac Hertzog, who considered being a leader of "leftist Askenazi elites" is in fact half Sephardi Egyptian [2].
    Many still think that Menahem Begin was Mizrahi, just because he spoke clearly to the regular people.
    Even Benjamin Netanayhu recently bragged that he is of Sephardi ancestry [3].

    In the 50s-60s there are were much more single Ashkenazi males than females, probably because Mizrahi Jews immigrated with entire large families, while Ashkenazi mostly as singles or with smaller families.
    Back then there were many "mixed" marriages with Ashkenazi men and Mizrahi women.
    Today for non-immigrant Israelis (except for a small number of highly endogamous communities) it's usually very hard to guess their ancestry and the usual fallback is just guess according to an appearance.

    IMO, nowadays "Ashkenazi"/"Sephardi" is as much as political labels as a Jewish sub-ethnic identities.

    One last thing: Mizrahi/Sephardi Jews were always less fundamentalist than their Muslim neighbors, maybe because they always lived on the border of two civilizations: back then Roman and Persian empires, which today became Western/Christian/Secular and Eastern/Islamic/Fundamentalist worlds.


    [1] Dina d'malkhuta dina
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dina_d%27malkhuta_dina

    [2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isaac_Herzog

    [3] Netanyahu: I have Sephardic roots as well
    http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4807687,00.html

    There were Mizrahi, Sephardi and Ashkenazi Jews in Egypt. In Herzog’s case, his Egyptian family is actually of Russian and Polish descent. Better examples among politicians would be Ayelet Shaked and Stav Shaffir. They come off as very Askenazi, but both have Iraqi fathers.

    Read More
    • Replies: @LevantineJew
    thanks, I stand corrected, though I remember him saying on TV that his mother is from Egypt, omitting the Ashkenazi part ;)
  9. Thanks for a very interesting review! I was debating whether first to read this or What is Islam by Shahah Ahmed; will probably read the latter.

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  10. @Vijay
    I am still on page 44, but I am surprised by how the author assumes that the founding assumptions (quran as word of god, the four righteous khalifas, Ali killed as an act of heresy, Abassid caliphate as an example of the flowering of Islam, and not the work of hardworking Syrians) are given and true, and makes not even an attempt to evaluate the bases, makes me wonder whether I should plough through the rest.

    I never understood the need to place this whole social and political flowering as a work of a divine person, and not relate it to the hard work of a number of Arab pagans, irreligious Syrians and central Asians, who worked hard from 620 AD to say 800 AD to convert a messy collection of random sayings into one book, one religion, and one rule. 150 years is not a long time to formulate a religo-political-family society. Guess how many tribes and clans must have provided input to limit the number of marriages to 4, force women into head-to-to burkha to keep them within family availability of marriage, etc. How much work would have to be conducted by men to develop the empire and the associated trappings? The genius, I believe, was the ruling that the body of rulings and laws was the final or last word, as given by the prophet, even if the prophet had little to do with it.

    I believe the exceptionalism claimed here is not due to Muhammad, but, a socio-political-religious framework formed on a clan society that was based on parallel cousin marriage. It is exceptionalism that is requested to keep women covered for marriage within family, the lack of a formalism to question this body of laws and rules developed over 5-6 generations (under the guise of the words of the prophet), and the lack of allowance to spin off as smaller tribes or just exit the whole setup. Hence the need for Shadi to go back to the region around Arabia, Iraq and Syria at 700 AD to make sense of this, because the framework only works under those conditions. If there is no in-family cousin marriage, what use is Hijab, since a person that does not follow the framework has no way to meet or interact with one from the opposite sex. If there are no tribes or clans, there is no reason to follow the strong arm of the clan leader. Granted, I have great difficulties to see this being translated to rice growing societies of South and SoutEast asia where women work and interaction with men is de riguer.

    I am having a great difficulty in getting through with the book because it appears to be written by someone who has not read or understood the texts on the rise of Islam, at least from outside Islam.

    Most interesting comment! Can you recommend a book on the rise of Islam written from outside Islam?

    Read More
    • Replies: @Vijay
    Razib does not seem to be impressed with Crone, but Crone and Cook seem to be a best place to start, as in:

    "Hagarism: The Making of the Islamic World"

    It concludes that:
    Islam started after conquest of Persia, Iraq, Egypt; Quran was composed or collected after the conquests, and the conquest was used to prop up what was then defined as Islam.

    Crone, "Roman, Provincial, and Islamic Law" and "Meccan Trade and the Rise of Islam"
    Cook 2001 "Commanding Right and Forbidding Wrong in Islamic Thought"

    Gerard Puin after review of the Sanaa quran(s), published 3 books which say that chunks of Quran were written 100 years before 630 AD, and every 5th line or so is random.
    Puin " The hidden origins of Islam : new research into its early history "

    Also pass this article by Puin "http://www.uni-saarland.de/fileadmin/user_upload/Campus/Forschung/forschungsmagazin/1999/1/Neue_Wege.pdf" through Google translate and review.

    Fred Donner wrote 4 books; the easiest to read is "Muhammad and the Believers. At the Origins of Islam (Harvard University Press; 2010)"

    An interesting perception on how the successors to Muhammad raised him to prophethood by
    Madelung, W. - The Succession to Muhammad, Cambridge University Press, 1997

    Everybody hates the islamists, but not me! they are more intelligent and knowledgeable then any of the current islam scholars. See "John Wansbrough, Islam, and monotheism". in Quest for the Historical Muhammad"

    For a less offensive reading, see Jonathan Berkey 'The Formation of Islam: Religion and Society in the Near East, 600–1800, Cambridge University Press"

    Montgomery Watt published, what appears to be hagiography at

    Muhammad at Mecca (1953) ISBN 978-0-19-577278-4
    Muhammad at Medina (1956) ISBN 978-0-19-577307-1

    But, reading the books, it is clear that Islamic movement during Muhammad's time was much smaller in scale than what happened in the 50 years after his death.

    You can also read the works of Barnard Lewis, Joseph Schact, H.A.R Gibb, but they are mostly out of print, and tend to be very dry and skeptic.
  11. Practices of female seclusion must have been adopted from the Roman or Persian upper classes (or maybe the Jews?). Arabian women beforehand were remarkably free, think of Zenobia and Mavia, the earliest mentions of Arabs have them led by warrior queens https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zabibe

    Read More
    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    greek (or roman greek). one distinguisher for being west or east roman in origin for families in early constantinople is that aristocratic west roman women did not veil themselves. the romans of the west adopted *relative* gender egalitarian attitudes when it came to dining and socialization from the etruscans.
    , @Crawfurdmuir

    Practices of female seclusion must have been adopted from the Roman or Persian upper classes (or maybe the Jews?).
     
    I believe that purdah was originally a Hindu and Persian practice.
    , @JJ

    Practices of female seclusion must have been adopted from the Roman or Persian upper classes (or maybe the Jews?).
     
    This is not true. North African church father Tertullian, writing around the 3rd century, identified face veiling as a pagan Arabian custom in chapter 17 of his insufferable treatise "On the Veiling of Virgins":

    Arabia's heathen females will be your judges, who cover not only the head, but the face also, so entirely, that they are content, with one eye free, to enjoy rather half the light than to prostitute the entire face.

    Likewise, the Talmud associates veils with Arab culture in ch. 6 of Tractate Shabbat:

    Arabians may go out in their long veils and Medians in their mantillas; so may even all women go out, but the sages spoke of existing customs.

    It's likely that nomadic Arab women had more freedom than settled ones. But as Patricia Crone points out, the Quran seems to suggest a more agricultural audience (on that note, I find myself increasingly persuaded that the events in the Quran took places in Arabia Petraea rather than Mecca in Saudi Arabia, but that's another story).
  12. I agree with you. I think one can (and should) be able to believe that Islam has unique features/tendencies AND that there is a lot of historical contingency in what actually happens in any given time and place AND that all religions and political phenomena are ultimately derived from aspects of our biology and psychology as human beings, etc etc. To give a very concrete example, there is a large Muslim population in Punjab and these days they are the core demographic of a supremacist and separatist “Pakistanism” that officially and formally idealizes the trans-national Ummah. But while the majority of Punjabi Muslims may tell pollsters that they support worldwide Islamic unity, that apostasy should be punishable by death and that blasphemers should be lynched, that doesnt cover all that goes on in their politics and their daily lives (which are frequently far more “secularized” and “compromised” than that)..and 75 years ago these Punjabi Muslims were the most reliable and loyal allies of the British Raj and fought in large numbers (and with great distinction) FOR the British against their co-religionists in the Middle East and anywhere else the Brits wanted to use them. And another 75 years before that they were being ruled by a Sikh ruler, serving in his Sikh supremacist army; and very few responded to a Jihadist preacher who came to incite them to revolt on Islamist grounds. And another 75 years before that their main poets and intellectuals seem to have espoused a syncretic Islam that was obviously “Indian” in ways that are now anathema to “mainstream classical Islam” (which we are told, correctly, had developed its own elaborate separatist and supremacist theology centuries before the Punjabis became Muslim, yet the Punjabi Muslims dominant form of Islam was very far from this classical orthodox version).
    I have Hindu nationalist friends who tell me that the correct way to look at it is to see earlier Punjabi Islam as “not fully Islamic yet”, pointing to its current tendencies as the ones that were ALWAYS going to be the end-product of that first conversion. But it seems to me that 100s of years and millions of people were born and died without becoming rabid neo-Wahabis. The default may not be that default… and a LOT depends on what context they happen to be living in.

    Also, a shoutout to the importance of basic skills and institutions; without the CIA teaching the Pakistani special forces (back in the 50s and 60s) and then both of them teaching the Islamic mujahideen (in the 80s and 90s), the urge to fight for pure Islam may have existed, but the ability to set up cells, train fighters, make elaborate bombs, run psyops, etc. would have been very primitive indeed. Specific transmission lines of X taught Y and he taught everyone from A to M can surely be described by someone with inside knowledge of the networks. Specific people organize and teach and lead. And there are specific skills that are needed. Someone had to bring them in….someone still has to take them from A to B. Take away a few of them and the threat is very different… And continuing on this theme: I am firmly convinced that there is no such thing as a seriously capable terrorist threat (0ne that can take down a state, not just discomfit it) without a modern state willing to host and support it (usually covertly). All the ideology and grievances in the world will not create a Tibetan insurgency that can defeat China. Great empires have been built and have lasted for centuries because they were better at the coherent and targeted application of force… Muslims don’t become single-minded supermen just by becoming Muslim.

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  13. Two relatively minor points:

    1) About the racialization of Muslims as nonwhites: this obviously has to do with US history, where “race” is used to refer to groups that can both be defined by ancestry and which are distinguished by the degree to which they are considered outcasts and suffer discrimination (social, economic, legal). When groups with ancestries from different parts of Europe were fully incorporated into the larger white category and stopped being distinguished racially (e.g., along the lines of Madison Grant), what that meant practically is that legal and economic distinctions were no longer made among members of these groups according to which one they were ascribed to; eventually, slowly, the social distinctions are fading away, as well.

    IMHO, this is the lens through which most Americans view prejudice and bigotry against people that is based on membership in a group largely defined or based on one’s ancestry*. So when opposing or objecting to discrimination against Muslims, which has become problematic throughout much of the US since the first gulf war and esp. since 911, Americans have a natural tendency to see them as a race (non-white), much like we see Hispanics as a race. It’s a sloppy & misleading shorthand, and likely very frustrating to our host, who I believe would like to restrict the use of the word to a narrow biological definition, similar (?) to a sub-species when talking about non-human populations. I suppose it is praiseworthy to try to raise the level of discussion, but I suspect that it is Sisyphean.

    2) In the paragraph that includes the sentence, “The Christian East Roman emperors were the vice-reagents of God upon earth, while the last emperor to be deified was Anastasius, a century and a half into the period of Christian emperors!”, the list of examples suggests that this was not the case in western Europe. The French coronation ceremony up through the Revolution closely tied the crown to the Catholic Church; I think the same was true in England, and certainly in Russia (OK, not western Europe). My understanding of the Divine Right of Kings is that it was based on the monarch’s being God’s plenipotentiary representative in his/her country. (What became) The West was no different from the rest of the world in this way.

    *Yes, Moslems can convert, but this is rare

    Read More
    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    my implication is almost all polities (all?) have a sacral element. the french kings received a title from the pope , 'eldest daughter of the church.' byzantine caeseor-papism was somewhat different. the russians inherit this tradition.
  14. @Mark Krikorian
    Interesting piece. (AntiNOMianism, BTW, not antiMONianism.)

    The only point I'd make is that, while theological principles are indeed often too complicated for their adherents to understand, it's still the case that religious tenets, however much the result of historical circumstance, *do* shape the subsequent development of societies that adopt them. In other words, two otherwise identical societies would diverge if one were to adopt Christianity and the other Islam. A society's adoption of one religion over another, however accidental it might have been, shapes that society in ways different than if historical accident had caused it to adopt another religion.

    I also don't think Islamic exceptionalism can survive modernity. Islam is indeed exceptional among the world's religions, but Muslims are just people like any other. So the solution must be to let Islam crash into modernity at full speed:

    Worse is Better: https://web.archive.org/web/20070906185526/http://www.nationalreview.com/comment/comment-krikorian020502.shtml

    Two, Three, Many Islamic Republics:
    http://www.nationalreview.com/article/221900/two-three-many-islamic-republics-mark-krikorian

    In other words, two otherwise identical societies would diverge if one were to adopt Christianity and the other Islam.

    how

    Read More
    • Replies: @j mct
    I'd say there is way more to this, but one bans polygamy and cousin marriage and the other doesn't.
    , @LevantineJew
    Just look at former Yugoslavia. Serbs, Croats and Bosniaks are basically the same ethnicity divided among confessional lines.
    , @omarali50
    I have no idea what Mark is thinking, but I tried to imagine what would happen if, say, Tamil Nadu became Christian, or alternatively, became Muslim.

    Christian Tamil Nadu: would identify with and accept many aspects of Western civ (not all) and would be just another developing country with problems and hangups, but also accelerating modernization, women out in public on motorbikes, and relations with the modern world (whether Xtian or Confucian) that are smack in the middle or tilted towards the "relatively liberal" end of the spectrum of "third world relations with first world nations and their fashions".

    Muslim Tamil Nadu: would be all of the above except NOT smack in the middle of the spectrum. Rather, in some areas (blasphemy, apostasy, support for revivalist Islamist movements and terrorist groups, women out in public on motorbikes) would be at or near the "Islamic" end of the spectrum, which is an identifiable end of the spectrum...a spectrum in which liberal Turkey is a bit of an exception, but is still more involved in Islamist renaissance projects, Islamicate terrorism, "women as mothers", and anti-apostate and anti-blasphemer outbreaks, than other equally Europeanized and prosperous non-Muslim countries? and of course, no pork and some hypocrisy about alcohol. That is pretty standard. Russian imperialism made alcohol public in Central Asia, but a sense of that being "abnormal" still persists. In fact, I have heard that the public acceptance of alcohol in Turkey is also unstable and "feels wrong" to many in the hinterland. Or is that just my Pakisani-centric view?

    Hmm... I guess it is possible to describe this as a somewhat contingent and contemporary set of problems. Not necessarily an eternal essence issue..

    Then again, the Hui do blend in, but they dont eat pork and when they revolted, it was a jihad, not just a revolt. Is that a meaningful distinction? I am not sure. Better informed people can tell us more...
    , @epebble
    I think there are a few approximate examples, if you want to run the experiment on Islam vs. non-Islam.

    1. Jews and Palestinians are basically Semitic people who were probably indistinguishable 2k years back. But their history, contribution to civilization are vastly different today.

    2. It is my understanding that Greeks and Turks are nearly the same ethny; But significant societal differences today. Primarily, Greeks appear to like democracy while Turkey has to work very hard to maintain democracy and can turn authoritarian quickly. I would also rate intellectual output of Greeks has been more than that of Turks, over time.

    3. Most recent example seems to be South Asia; India, Pakistan, Bangladesh (probably Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Nepal too) were all part of British India till 1940s; But Pakistan and India diverged quite quickly in political and development process. Today, Pakistan is mostly a violent, intolerant, authoritarian, militant country while India, with all its problems, appears to have done better in development. Bangladesh seems to be not as bad as Pakistan but not as much on development path either. It seems to be regressing towards Islamism recently looking at all the religious killings.

    4. Singapore has done much better than Malaysia (Both were part of Malaya till 1960 or so)

    5. Muslims in Thailand, Myanmar, Philippines all seem to be more violence prone compared to non-Muslim majority.

    6. Muslim immigrants and their progeny are much more violence prone compared to other immigrants and their descendants in Europe.

    7. Muslims in Russia and its neighbors are much more violence prone and significantly underachieving compared to non-Muslim Russians etc.,

    8. Muslims in Africa are generally more violence prone compared to non-Muslim Africans. (Boko Haram, Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan etc.,)
  15. @Antiquated Tory
    Most interesting comment! Can you recommend a book on the rise of Islam written from outside Islam?

    Razib does not seem to be impressed with Crone, but Crone and Cook seem to be a best place to start, as in:

    “Hagarism: The Making of the Islamic World”

    It concludes that:
    Islam started after conquest of Persia, Iraq, Egypt; Quran was composed or collected after the conquests, and the conquest was used to prop up what was then defined as Islam.

    Crone, “Roman, Provincial, and Islamic Law” and “Meccan Trade and the Rise of Islam”
    Cook 2001 “Commanding Right and Forbidding Wrong in Islamic Thought”

    Gerard Puin after review of the Sanaa quran(s), published 3 books which say that chunks of Quran were written 100 years before 630 AD, and every 5th line or so is random.
    Puin ” The hidden origins of Islam : new research into its early history ”

    Also pass this article by Puin “http://www.uni-saarland.de/fileadmin/user_upload/Campus/Forschung/forschungsmagazin/1999/1/Neue_Wege.pdf” through Google translate and review.

    Fred Donner wrote 4 books; the easiest to read is “Muhammad and the Believers. At the Origins of Islam (Harvard University Press; 2010)”

    An interesting perception on how the successors to Muhammad raised him to prophethood by
    Madelung, W. – The Succession to Muhammad, Cambridge University Press, 1997

    Everybody hates the islamists, but not me! they are more intelligent and knowledgeable then any of the current islam scholars. See “John Wansbrough, Islam, and monotheism”. in Quest for the Historical Muhammad”

    For a less offensive reading, see Jonathan Berkey ‘The Formation of Islam: Religion and Society in the Near East, 600–1800, Cambridge University Press”

    Montgomery Watt published, what appears to be hagiography at

    Muhammad at Mecca (1953) ISBN 978-0-19-577278-4
    Muhammad at Medina (1956) ISBN 978-0-19-577307-1

    But, reading the books, it is clear that Islamic movement during Muhammad’s time was much smaller in scale than what happened in the 50 years after his death.

    You can also read the works of Barnard Lewis, Joseph Schact, H.A.R Gibb, but they are mostly out of print, and tend to be very dry and skeptic.

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    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    i like crone. i just don't think everything the revisionists say is correct.

    note that a lot of the aspects of the hebrew bible were 'myth' until archaeology found correspondences. that doesn't mean most of the 'history' in it in the older era is true. but there are germs of truth, not pure fiction....
  16. @Razib Khan
    In other words, two otherwise identical societies would diverge if one were to adopt Christianity and the other Islam.

    how

    I’d say there is way more to this, but one bans polygamy and cousin marriage and the other doesn’t.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    I’d say there is way more to this, but one bans polygamy and cousin marriage and the other doesn’t.


    don't talk if you don't know what you are talking about. the cousin marriage aspect was a function of the western church that began in the medieval period. i won't go into the details of why, though adam bellow talks about it in his book on *nepotism* cousin marriage came back after the reformation in northern europe, and it is practiced in other christian cultures (e.g., middle east).

    the polygamy aspect seems closer, though it is acceptable in modern african christianity, and was accepted in places like ireland for centuries after christianization.

    additionally, in all practicality polygny is not a major difference between the two groups, as most muslim men are monogamous while in chrisitian europe elite men who could not be polygamous engaged in informal concubinage.

    please, don't leave a comment if you don't know what you are talking about.
  17. @Anonymous
    There were Mizrahi, Sephardi and Ashkenazi Jews in Egypt. In Herzog's case, his Egyptian family is actually of Russian and Polish descent. Better examples among politicians would be Ayelet Shaked and Stav Shaffir. They come off as very Askenazi, but both have Iraqi fathers.

    thanks, I stand corrected, though I remember him saying on TV that his mother is from Egypt, omitting the Ashkenazi part ;)

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    • Replies: @Anonymous
    Pulling out all the stops courting the much needed Sephardic vote. Don't stop believing, Herzog!
  18. @Razib Khan
    In other words, two otherwise identical societies would diverge if one were to adopt Christianity and the other Islam.

    how

    Just look at former Yugoslavia. Serbs, Croats and Bosniaks are basically the same ethnicity divided among confessional lines.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    yes. though the bosniak dialect is closer to that of the croatians.
  19. @Mark Krikorian
    Interesting piece. (AntiNOMianism, BTW, not antiMONianism.)

    The only point I'd make is that, while theological principles are indeed often too complicated for their adherents to understand, it's still the case that religious tenets, however much the result of historical circumstance, *do* shape the subsequent development of societies that adopt them. In other words, two otherwise identical societies would diverge if one were to adopt Christianity and the other Islam. A society's adoption of one religion over another, however accidental it might have been, shapes that society in ways different than if historical accident had caused it to adopt another religion.

    I also don't think Islamic exceptionalism can survive modernity. Islam is indeed exceptional among the world's religions, but Muslims are just people like any other. So the solution must be to let Islam crash into modernity at full speed:

    Worse is Better: https://web.archive.org/web/20070906185526/http://www.nationalreview.com/comment/comment-krikorian020502.shtml

    Two, Three, Many Islamic Republics:
    http://www.nationalreview.com/article/221900/two-three-many-islamic-republics-mark-krikorian

    [I posted at The Corner recently that radical Islam will only be defeated when Muslims see for themselves the bankruptcy of Islam as a modern political ideology by living under Islamic regimes, like that of Iran. So our widely shared strategic objective of discrediting political Islam is undermined by our tactical efforts at preventing the establishment of Islamic regimes.

    Read more at: Read More

    • Replies: @Mark Krikorian
    Ha ha! No, actually I'm a foreign-policy minimalist. Regarding the Middle East, I'm something of a Separationist: http://www.amnation.com/vfr/archives/008636.html
  20. @j mct
    I'd say there is way more to this, but one bans polygamy and cousin marriage and the other doesn't.

    I’d say there is way more to this, but one bans polygamy and cousin marriage and the other doesn’t.

    don’t talk if you don’t know what you are talking about. the cousin marriage aspect was a function of the western church that began in the medieval period. i won’t go into the details of why, though adam bellow talks about it in his book on *nepotism* cousin marriage came back after the reformation in northern europe, and it is practiced in other christian cultures (e.g., middle east).

    the polygamy aspect seems closer, though it is acceptable in modern african christianity, and was accepted in places like ireland for centuries after christianization.

    additionally, in all practicality polygny is not a major difference between the two groups, as most muslim men are monogamous while in chrisitian europe elite men who could not be polygamous engaged in informal concubinage.

    please, don’t leave a comment if you don’t know what you are talking about.

    Read More
  21. @LevantineJew
    After watching the video, I think Ben Afflek clearly has no idea what he talking about.
    The only his factual argument that I can relate too is that Western civilization so far killed much more people than Islamic civilization.
    Not that we can infer that this will continue into the future.
    Once Islamic world will catch up with the latest technology (i.e. WMD, cyber, etc.), they will be able to scale their efforts.

    >>> "Jews had to respect the law of the land in which they lived, to the point where this became a maxim."


    "Dina d'malkhuta dina" [1] (Aramaic: דִּינָא דְּמַלְכוּתָא דִּינָא‎‎, "the law of the land is the law"), is the halakhic rule that the law of the country is binding, and, in certain cases, is to be preferred to Jewish law.

    BTW: except Jews the only people who has something similar are Druze. Druze in Israel are loyal to Israel, Druze in Lebanon are loyal to Lebanon, etc.

    >>> "Hamid asserts that the modern Jewish state of Israel is fundamentally secular in a way that Islamic states are not. I am not entirely convinced by this. First, the secular Ashkenazi elite are now a minority of the population, though at founding they were the overwhelming majority. The Haredi population is growing, and there is a large body of Sephardic Jews for whom Jewish religious identity is stronger than for the Ashkenazi. Finally, the “national religious” block of non-Haredi religious Jews have contributed many of the individuals engaged in religious-ethnic motivated political violence. Some radical Jews even term the Palestinians Amalekites."


    I disagree, while there is a trend of increasing religious fundamentalism, it's mostly an effect of a wider increase in secular nationalism.

    Majority of Mizrahi Jews are also secular, though they may have a stronger traditional Jewish identity than Ashkenazim.

    It's kind like Mizrahi Jewish identity feels more "organic", than assimilated secular Ashkenazi or Ultraorthodox Ashkenazi.

    For Mizrahis it is more about identity, than religion. I once overheard a young Mizrahi secular girl talking on the phone: "I voted for Shas [Sephardi Ultraorthodox party], because after all it's *OUR* religion!" [the accent was on the world "our"].

    I don't know about who you call "Ashkenazi elites".

    In fact in Israel "Ashkenazi" became a label for a person with European appearance, and "Mishtaknez" a slang term for Mizrahi who behave like Ashkenazi, i.e. leftist, a person who disassociated from his Mizrahi identity.

    Many famous Israelis who usually are assumed being Ashkenazi, under right circumstances would reveal that they are half Mizrahi or Sephardi (usually on the mother side, that's why people can't guess from the family name or appearance).
    Isaac Hertzog, who considered being a leader of "leftist Askenazi elites" is in fact half Sephardi Egyptian [2].
    Many still think that Menahem Begin was Mizrahi, just because he spoke clearly to the regular people.
    Even Benjamin Netanayhu recently bragged that he is of Sephardi ancestry [3].

    In the 50s-60s there are were much more single Ashkenazi males than females, probably because Mizrahi Jews immigrated with entire large families, while Ashkenazi mostly as singles or with smaller families.
    Back then there were many "mixed" marriages with Ashkenazi men and Mizrahi women.
    Today for non-immigrant Israelis (except for a small number of highly endogamous communities) it's usually very hard to guess their ancestry and the usual fallback is just guess according to an appearance.

    IMO, nowadays "Ashkenazi"/"Sephardi" is as much as political labels as a Jewish sub-ethnic identities.

    One last thing: Mizrahi/Sephardi Jews were always less fundamentalist than their Muslim neighbors, maybe because they always lived on the border of two civilizations: back then Roman and Persian empires, which today became Western/Christian/Secular and Eastern/Islamic/Fundamentalist worlds.


    [1] Dina d'malkhuta dina
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dina_d%27malkhuta_dina

    [2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isaac_Herzog

    [3] Netanyahu: I have Sephardic roots as well
    http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4807687,00.html

    “Dina d’malkhuta dina” [1] (Aramaic: דִּינָא דְּמַלְכוּתָא דִּינָא‎‎, “the law of the land is the law”), is the halakhic rule that the law of the country is binding, and, in certain cases, is to be preferred to Jewish law.

    i alluded to this above. why are you repeating what i said? that’s why i said it is a maxim.

    Read More
  22. @Vijay
    Razib does not seem to be impressed with Crone, but Crone and Cook seem to be a best place to start, as in:

    "Hagarism: The Making of the Islamic World"

    It concludes that:
    Islam started after conquest of Persia, Iraq, Egypt; Quran was composed or collected after the conquests, and the conquest was used to prop up what was then defined as Islam.

    Crone, "Roman, Provincial, and Islamic Law" and "Meccan Trade and the Rise of Islam"
    Cook 2001 "Commanding Right and Forbidding Wrong in Islamic Thought"

    Gerard Puin after review of the Sanaa quran(s), published 3 books which say that chunks of Quran were written 100 years before 630 AD, and every 5th line or so is random.
    Puin " The hidden origins of Islam : new research into its early history "

    Also pass this article by Puin "http://www.uni-saarland.de/fileadmin/user_upload/Campus/Forschung/forschungsmagazin/1999/1/Neue_Wege.pdf" through Google translate and review.

    Fred Donner wrote 4 books; the easiest to read is "Muhammad and the Believers. At the Origins of Islam (Harvard University Press; 2010)"

    An interesting perception on how the successors to Muhammad raised him to prophethood by
    Madelung, W. - The Succession to Muhammad, Cambridge University Press, 1997

    Everybody hates the islamists, but not me! they are more intelligent and knowledgeable then any of the current islam scholars. See "John Wansbrough, Islam, and monotheism". in Quest for the Historical Muhammad"

    For a less offensive reading, see Jonathan Berkey 'The Formation of Islam: Religion and Society in the Near East, 600–1800, Cambridge University Press"

    Montgomery Watt published, what appears to be hagiography at

    Muhammad at Mecca (1953) ISBN 978-0-19-577278-4
    Muhammad at Medina (1956) ISBN 978-0-19-577307-1

    But, reading the books, it is clear that Islamic movement during Muhammad's time was much smaller in scale than what happened in the 50 years after his death.

    You can also read the works of Barnard Lewis, Joseph Schact, H.A.R Gibb, but they are mostly out of print, and tend to be very dry and skeptic.

    i like crone. i just don’t think everything the revisionists say is correct.

    note that a lot of the aspects of the hebrew bible were ‘myth’ until archaeology found correspondences. that doesn’t mean most of the ‘history’ in it in the older era is true. but there are germs of truth, not pure fiction….

    Read More
  23. @LevantineJew
    Just look at former Yugoslavia. Serbs, Croats and Bosniaks are basically the same ethnicity divided among confessional lines.

    yes. though the bosniak dialect is closer to that of the croatians.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Anonymous
    It's actually closer to Serbian, the dominant standard in Yugoslavia. Before, Bosniaks used to speak a number of dialects, some closer to dialects in Serbia, some to those in Croatia. A continuum, but more complicated than that because huge numbers of people fled Bosnia during Ottoman rule and then Serbian and Croatian Muslims settled in Bosnia after being kicked out of Croatia and Serbia.

    There's never been a "Bosniak dialect". The dialects in Bosnia are not divided by nationality. Anyway, all dialects in Bosnia are pretty similar, unlike in parts of Serbia and Croatia where different mutually unintelligible dialects exist.
  24. @marcel proust
    Two relatively minor points:

    1) About the racialization of Muslims as nonwhites: this obviously has to do with US history, where "race" is used to refer to groups that can both be defined by ancestry and which are distinguished by the degree to which they are considered outcasts and suffer discrimination (social, economic, legal). When groups with ancestries from different parts of Europe were fully incorporated into the larger white category and stopped being distinguished racially (e.g., along the lines of Madison Grant), what that meant practically is that legal and economic distinctions were no longer made among members of these groups according to which one they were ascribed to; eventually, slowly, the social distinctions are fading away, as well.

    IMHO, this is the lens through which most Americans view prejudice and bigotry against people that is based on membership in a group largely defined or based on one's ancestry*. So when opposing or objecting to discrimination against Muslims, which has become problematic throughout much of the US since the first gulf war and esp. since 911, Americans have a natural tendency to see them as a race (non-white), much like we see Hispanics as a race. It's a sloppy & misleading shorthand, and likely very frustrating to our host, who I believe would like to restrict the use of the word to a narrow biological definition, similar (?) to a sub-species when talking about non-human populations. I suppose it is praiseworthy to try to raise the level of discussion, but I suspect that it is Sisyphean.

    2) In the paragraph that includes the sentence, "The Christian East Roman emperors were the vice-reagents of God upon earth, while the last emperor to be deified was Anastasius, a century and a half into the period of Christian emperors!", the list of examples suggests that this was not the case in western Europe. The French coronation ceremony up through the Revolution closely tied the crown to the Catholic Church; I think the same was true in England, and certainly in Russia (OK, not western Europe). My understanding of the Divine Right of Kings is that it was based on the monarch's being God's plenipotentiary representative in his/her country. (What became) The West was no different from the rest of the world in this way.


    *Yes, Moslems can convert, but this is rare

    my implication is almost all polities (all?) have a sacral element. the french kings received a title from the pope , ‘eldest daughter of the church.’ byzantine caeseor-papism was somewhat different. the russians inherit this tradition.

    Read More
  25. @Marcus
    Practices of female seclusion must have been adopted from the Roman or Persian upper classes (or maybe the Jews?). Arabian women beforehand were remarkably free, think of Zenobia and Mavia, the earliest mentions of Arabs have them led by warrior queens https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zabibe

    greek (or roman greek). one distinguisher for being west or east roman in origin for families in early constantinople is that aristocratic west roman women did not veil themselves. the romans of the west adopted *relative* gender egalitarian attitudes when it came to dining and socialization from the etruscans.

    Read More
  26. @Razib Khan
    In other words, two otherwise identical societies would diverge if one were to adopt Christianity and the other Islam.

    how

    I have no idea what Mark is thinking, but I tried to imagine what would happen if, say, Tamil Nadu became Christian, or alternatively, became Muslim.

    Christian Tamil Nadu: would identify with and accept many aspects of Western civ (not all) and would be just another developing country with problems and hangups, but also accelerating modernization, women out in public on motorbikes, and relations with the modern world (whether Xtian or Confucian) that are smack in the middle or tilted towards the “relatively liberal” end of the spectrum of “third world relations with first world nations and their fashions”.

    Muslim Tamil Nadu: would be all of the above except NOT smack in the middle of the spectrum. Rather, in some areas (blasphemy, apostasy, support for revivalist Islamist movements and terrorist groups, women out in public on motorbikes) would be at or near the “Islamic” end of the spectrum, which is an identifiable end of the spectrum…a spectrum in which liberal Turkey is a bit of an exception, but is still more involved in Islamist renaissance projects, Islamicate terrorism, “women as mothers”, and anti-apostate and anti-blasphemer outbreaks, than other equally Europeanized and prosperous non-Muslim countries? and of course, no pork and some hypocrisy about alcohol. That is pretty standard. Russian imperialism made alcohol public in Central Asia, but a sense of that being “abnormal” still persists. In fact, I have heard that the public acceptance of alcohol in Turkey is also unstable and “feels wrong” to many in the hinterland. Or is that just my Pakisani-centric view?

    Hmm… I guess it is possible to describe this as a somewhat contingent and contemporary set of problems. Not necessarily an eternal essence issue..

    Then again, the Hui do blend in, but they dont eat pork and when they revolted, it was a jihad, not just a revolt. Is that a meaningful distinction? I am not sure. Better informed people can tell us more…

    Read More
    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    Hmm… I guess it is possible to describe this as a somewhat contingent and contemporary set of problems. Not necessarily an eternal essence issue..


    that's my point.

    Then again, the Hui do blend in, but they dont eat pork and when they revolted, it was a jihad, not just a revolt. Is that a meaningful distinction? I am not sure. Better informed people can tell us more…


    there are aspects of folkways were serve as cultural markers. they're not substantive though. in northern europe christianization often came with banning consumption of horse flesh because of pagan associations. it was a cultural marker. but it didn't make them more or less prone to libertarianism (to give a weird example). pork is like that. pork is a good way to get protein for the chinese in a dense land, so there might be some nutritional deficiencies? that's all i can think. also some differences in disease. but for the vast majority of chinese historically meat was rare, and the elites could afford what they could afford.

    second, re: the hui, their recalcitrance in the 19th century is often attributed to their reintegration with world-islam via the naqshbandi order's push east as well as greater contact with the middle east by pilgrims, and influences from middle eastern revivalism and reform in the 18th century. hui assimilation and accommodation was reversed in large part by cultural shifts in the late 18th century that had external stimulus from the ummah. IOW, it wasn't constitutive to the hui.
    , @Vijay
    "would happen if, say, Tamil Nadu became Christian, or alternatively, became Muslim"

    Of course, I cannot let this pass without comment. Both, Islam and Christianity has been in TN for 9 and 5 (or 18) centuries, depending on what you believe.

    Christianity has been there since the time of Vasco Da Gama or St. Thomas (possibly made up). The earliest Christians follow Tamil traditions (like mangalasutra) in marriage. It is the latest converts who do not follow all Tamil customs (not that they need to). If anything, Tamil Christains seem more conservative than Tamil Brahmins! Of course, Christians have ben in the forefront of pioneering education.

    Islam has been there for 800 years. The sufi traditions of saints and mosque visits by poor of multiple religions has been popular, but Gulf workers have moved the pendulum in a slightly more conservative direction, except in girls education.

    "women out in motorbikes" is common, albeit in scooties. The Chief minister, of course, promised 50% subsidy for scooties. Do not scoff! They are primarily used for travel to school/work.

    The state is the opposite of all your beliefs; very conservative in all manners in spite of spewing "rational" cliches. It has the fewest percentage (3%) intercaste marriage. The various pieces that form Hinduism were formulated in Tamilnadu even prior to Aryan formulation of Hinduism. It can be said the Vedic Gods lost to the Trinity, and Buddhism/Jainism lost to Saivism here. The net effect has made the state moridly conservative; changing it into Islam or Christianity, may not change things substantially. This might be the only place on the earth that has Christian castes!
  27. @amcupidsvictim
    I do think he is wrong in many details of his model of religion

    A long read, this bit I agree most without having to reread all again, to mention Islam in particular is not necessary after this first statement. While psychology is important in understanding religion. So much of psychology is still not on sure footing.

    Many models of religion are based on christianity, for life of me I dont understand what Hinduism means, being a Hindu. It is important to instead understand the weltanschauung of different belief systems. Traditional understanding of Indian belief systems was called darshana, which means a view or worldviews in general.There was atheist darshana, alchemist darshana,grammarians darshana,logicians darshana,buddha darshana,jaina darshana,etc etc.
    14th century madhavacharya wrote a book on this called sarva darshana sangraha, compendium of all Indic worldviews and while he presents them in a way as to support his own view, he also calls them as garland of flowers.

    Sam harris is wrong precisely for reasons reasonable liberalism seems to emphasize on, like geopolitical conflicts around the world. Not taking into account security,economy,education,diversity of thougth,geographic isolation etc into account, but traditional liberals also are wrong because they dont take into account the challenges that religion provides in challenging its hold over society.

    An integration of both is the only way forward, when one argues for challenge that each religion provides, this challenge has 3 sources of contribution. 1)intrinsic nature of belief system 2) how close to the point of origin of religion one is 3) physical matrix of elements like security,economy,education etc.

    Take all into account and one gets a diffusion model for all religions. Religions diffuse over time and over distance. This is true for Islam, consider saudi arabia and indonesia for instance. Islam entered indonesia much later and is more diffused there than in Saudi arabia. Turkey had been through ataturk transformation and hence is unique.

    But again hamid is right in pointing to the intrinsic nature of islamic doctrines and their affects in indonesia even now. So, here is the model . A religion takes over a country with diversity of beliefs, for first few centuries, there is great diversity of ideas and interplay of thought. But until something fundamental is done to preserve diversity itself by the state, in due course of time that diversity will vanish. This I believe approximately explains what happened to the golden age in middle east. It began because of diversity of new people who entered into islamic realm, and while their ideas were not entirely digested, diversity of thought thrived and great contributions were made. But after a while, the state did not value the importance of diversity of thought itself. digestion was near complete.And progress stalls after that.

    This bit in western world is ensured by the word called secularism. Islamic revivalism in my opinion must be seen along with hindu right revivalism.The only common thread to both is colonialism. What colonialism did is it destroyed the traditional educational eco system of elites. This destroyed a great deal of knowledge from the minds of the natives. To imagine this is to imagine adults in europe being ignorant of writings of aristotle,newton and many other writers. In short, this wiped the minds clean of memory of intellectual pursuits of various kinds, also destroyed the memory of wrongs done to each other and to them by their own overlords. This destroyed the cultures ability to adapt in a more reasonable manner. Hindus are helped on this issue for simple reason that there is much richer diversity of thought intrinsic to it than in islam. Also their autonomy has not been interfered as much as middle east for lack of oil.And also the inequity of caste discrimination meant they couldnt blame the british for all their ills.

    In short, religions change through accruing ideas from others, greater contact, in case of abrahamic belief systems, only through expansion/exploration can they get enough ideas to help transform themselves to develop some degree of equilibrium. This equilibrium is simply the idea of secularism. Ancient greece,china, India (exceptions are always there) already had diversity of thought, their problem was one of security,economy,education,diffusion of power in society. For christianity and islam , a method needs to be worked out which enshrines the need for diversity of thought itself. This worked out well for christianity as it did not succeed very fast, it ended up having to compromise first with the roman architecture of power and later by having to take in the trojan horse in form of greek knowledge.

    Islam due to its geography and early martial success has not accrued diverse ideas from others as much as other religions have in a longer span of time so as to temper it. Pakistan is a shining example of this. It doesnt have the military strength or economy to challenge India but lives in denial of this and regularly sends us terrorists just to spite us.It lives in denial as to who its ancestors are in order to keep themselves pure . Indonesia on other hand atleast is not in denial of its ancestors.

    What is exceptional in islam is its singular inability to acknowledge the value of others and stand up for others against its own chauvinists! Solution is for muslims to learn more of their pre islamic heritage and value some of them for their knowledge,architecture,cuisine etc. In absence of valuing diversity we are all fanatics and chauvinists of some kind.

    What is exceptional in islam is its singular inability to acknowledge the value of others and stand up for others against its own chauvinists!

    both these are wrong.

    threads of indian and chinese thought are also in great denial historically about influence from the outside (barbarians, mleccha).

    second, islam does acknowledge pre-islamic debts. philosophy still flourishes within shiism. the ayatollahs of iran often know their plato and aristotle. and the hellenic influence has not been totally expurgated from much of sunni islam.

    third, islam obviously accepts that judaism and christianity rare divinely revealed. so it does not negate that.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Marcus
    It's my impression that modern Muslims refuse to acknowledge that their "golden age" was the product of looting the infinitely more sophisticated Indian and Greco-Roman (and to an extent Persian) civilizations. TBF many Muslims of that time acknowledged their debts, e.g. the famous mathematics text was titled "Principles of Hindu Reckoning" http://vinod11220.tripod.com/islamsciencelit.htm
    , @amcupidsvictim
    I am making a comment at present, If u read my entire view, u will realize that I am not making a general comment in absence of context along both time and geography ,this happens now after colonialism. Not earlier periods,not everywhere. I am for diffusion model of religion. A point I have come to accept in negation to sam harris view. There are periods of islamic puritanism when insecure or arrogant and periods of diffusion. Colonial experience has pushed muslims down the path of puritanism, Right wing hindu groups also are somewhat similar though there is much more diversity. As far as accepting value of others, Indian astronomer varahamira did accept knowledge of greeks and did praise them inspite of being "barbarians".
  28. some of you need to be more concise if you are going to go off topic or not going to add much value. otherwise i won’t publish your comment.

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  29. @omarali50
    I have no idea what Mark is thinking, but I tried to imagine what would happen if, say, Tamil Nadu became Christian, or alternatively, became Muslim.

    Christian Tamil Nadu: would identify with and accept many aspects of Western civ (not all) and would be just another developing country with problems and hangups, but also accelerating modernization, women out in public on motorbikes, and relations with the modern world (whether Xtian or Confucian) that are smack in the middle or tilted towards the "relatively liberal" end of the spectrum of "third world relations with first world nations and their fashions".

    Muslim Tamil Nadu: would be all of the above except NOT smack in the middle of the spectrum. Rather, in some areas (blasphemy, apostasy, support for revivalist Islamist movements and terrorist groups, women out in public on motorbikes) would be at or near the "Islamic" end of the spectrum, which is an identifiable end of the spectrum...a spectrum in which liberal Turkey is a bit of an exception, but is still more involved in Islamist renaissance projects, Islamicate terrorism, "women as mothers", and anti-apostate and anti-blasphemer outbreaks, than other equally Europeanized and prosperous non-Muslim countries? and of course, no pork and some hypocrisy about alcohol. That is pretty standard. Russian imperialism made alcohol public in Central Asia, but a sense of that being "abnormal" still persists. In fact, I have heard that the public acceptance of alcohol in Turkey is also unstable and "feels wrong" to many in the hinterland. Or is that just my Pakisani-centric view?

    Hmm... I guess it is possible to describe this as a somewhat contingent and contemporary set of problems. Not necessarily an eternal essence issue..

    Then again, the Hui do blend in, but they dont eat pork and when they revolted, it was a jihad, not just a revolt. Is that a meaningful distinction? I am not sure. Better informed people can tell us more...

    Hmm… I guess it is possible to describe this as a somewhat contingent and contemporary set of problems. Not necessarily an eternal essence issue..

    that’s my point.

    Then again, the Hui do blend in, but they dont eat pork and when they revolted, it was a jihad, not just a revolt. Is that a meaningful distinction? I am not sure. Better informed people can tell us more…

    there are aspects of folkways were serve as cultural markers. they’re not substantive though. in northern europe christianization often came with banning consumption of horse flesh because of pagan associations. it was a cultural marker. but it didn’t make them more or less prone to libertarianism (to give a weird example). pork is like that. pork is a good way to get protein for the chinese in a dense land, so there might be some nutritional deficiencies? that’s all i can think. also some differences in disease. but for the vast majority of chinese historically meat was rare, and the elites could afford what they could afford.

    second, re: the hui, their recalcitrance in the 19th century is often attributed to their reintegration with world-islam via the naqshbandi order’s push east as well as greater contact with the middle east by pilgrims, and influences from middle eastern revivalism and reform in the 18th century. hui assimilation and accommodation was reversed in large part by cultural shifts in the late 18th century that had external stimulus from the ummah. IOW, it wasn’t constitutive to the hui.

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  30. @Razib Khan
    What is exceptional in islam is its singular inability to acknowledge the value of others and stand up for others against its own chauvinists!

    both these are wrong.

    threads of indian and chinese thought are also in great denial historically about influence from the outside (barbarians, mleccha).

    second, islam does acknowledge pre-islamic debts. philosophy still flourishes within shiism. the ayatollahs of iran often know their plato and aristotle. and the hellenic influence has not been totally expurgated from much of sunni islam.

    third, islam obviously accepts that judaism and christianity rare divinely revealed. so it does not negate that.

    It’s my impression that modern Muslims refuse to acknowledge that their “golden age” was the product of looting the infinitely more sophisticated Indian and Greco-Roman (and to an extent Persian) civilizations. TBF many Muslims of that time acknowledged their debts, e.g. the famous mathematics text was titled “Principles of Hindu Reckoning” http://vinod11220.tripod.com/islamsciencelit.htm

    Read More
    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    It’s my impression that modern Muslims refuse to acknowledge that their “golden age” was the product of looting the infinitely more sophisticated Indian and Greco-Roman (and to an extent Persian) civilizations.

    looting is a stupid word. don't be stupid. it's as moronic as 'cultural appropriation.'

    like most people modern muslims are stupid and ignorant. most non-muslims are unaware of the role of non-muslims like the sabian thabit ibn qurra and the preponderance of non-arab muslims of persianate background in islamic intellectual history during its 'golden age' too.

  31. @Marcus
    It's my impression that modern Muslims refuse to acknowledge that their "golden age" was the product of looting the infinitely more sophisticated Indian and Greco-Roman (and to an extent Persian) civilizations. TBF many Muslims of that time acknowledged their debts, e.g. the famous mathematics text was titled "Principles of Hindu Reckoning" http://vinod11220.tripod.com/islamsciencelit.htm

    It’s my impression that modern Muslims refuse to acknowledge that their “golden age” was the product of looting the infinitely more sophisticated Indian and Greco-Roman (and to an extent Persian) civilizations.

    looting is a stupid word. don’t be stupid. it’s as moronic as ‘cultural appropriation.’

    like most people modern muslims are stupid and ignorant. most non-muslims are unaware of the role of non-muslims like the sabian thabit ibn qurra and the preponderance of non-arab muslims of persianate background in islamic intellectual history during its ‘golden age’ too.

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    • Replies: @Marcus
    [your comment is filled with half-truths and plain urban legends (e.g., papermaking, google it). either you don't know enough to have a good shit-filter, or you're being mendacious. either way, stop it. i don't expend 5 hours of my time writing something like this so that i can be subjected to dumb drivel. whereof you do not know, thereof you must be silent. -razib]
  32. @Razib Khan
    It’s my impression that modern Muslims refuse to acknowledge that their “golden age” was the product of looting the infinitely more sophisticated Indian and Greco-Roman (and to an extent Persian) civilizations.

    looting is a stupid word. don't be stupid. it's as moronic as 'cultural appropriation.'

    like most people modern muslims are stupid and ignorant. most non-muslims are unaware of the role of non-muslims like the sabian thabit ibn qurra and the preponderance of non-arab muslims of persianate background in islamic intellectual history during its 'golden age' too.

    [your comment is filled with half-truths and plain urban legends (e.g., papermaking, google it). either you don't know enough to have a good shit-filter, or you're being mendacious. either way, stop it. i don't expend 5 hours of my time writing something like this so that i can be subjected to dumb drivel. whereof you do not know, thereof you must be silent. -razib]

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  33. Chinese paper made from bark and the fibers of rags and hemp may have traveled on caravans following the Gobi Desert, the Desert of Takla Makan and the Tarim Valley and finally arrived in Samarkan. But papermaking was a closely guarded secret and it was not actually made there until after 751 AD. In 751 the Chinese lost a battle in Turkistan on the banks of the Tharaz River. It was recorded that among the Chinese prisoners were skilled papermakers. The craftsmen began making paper in Samarkan. (Hunter 1943,60)
    Samarkan was a good place to make paper because it had an abundant supply of hemp and flax and pure water. (Hunter 1943,61)

    http://users.stlcc.edu/nfuller/paper/

    Isn’t this the traditionally accepted account? Of course it could be wrong, but it sounds plausible. It’s not like Muslims were the only people to do this: pagan Mongols also took scientific know-how from Chinese and Korean POW’s. If there has been a widely accepted historical revision, I apologize.

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    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    it's a myth. see Paper Before Print: The History and Impact of Paper in the Islamic World. there's a chapter on how the myth became common, but it was concocted by arabs 3 centuries after 751. paper was common in central asia centuries before 751, so muslims adopted it through the process of co-option and assimilation from central asians.

    talas, like the battle of tours, is useful for one thing: it tells me that someone who brings them up doesn't have a deep grounding in history, because they're really not important as anything except for being salient markers. the revolt of an lushan and tang reliance on uighurs to defend themselves against tibetans is the real reason that the arabs took over hegemony of ferghana from the chinese. not talas. similarly, the arab-berber armies were almost certainly at their maximal point already before and after tours; raids continued afterward, and arab fortifications continued to be a presence in SW europe after tours.
  34. @Marcus

    Chinese paper made from bark and the fibers of rags and hemp may have traveled on caravans following the Gobi Desert, the Desert of Takla Makan and the Tarim Valley and finally arrived in Samarkan. But papermaking was a closely guarded secret and it was not actually made there until after 751 AD. In 751 the Chinese lost a battle in Turkistan on the banks of the Tharaz River. It was recorded that among the Chinese prisoners were skilled papermakers. The craftsmen began making paper in Samarkan. (Hunter 1943,60)
    Samarkan was a good place to make paper because it had an abundant supply of hemp and flax and pure water. (Hunter 1943,61)
     
    http://users.stlcc.edu/nfuller/paper/
    Isn't this the traditionally accepted account? Of course it could be wrong, but it sounds plausible. It's not like Muslims were the only people to do this: pagan Mongols also took scientific know-how from Chinese and Korean POW's. If there has been a widely accepted historical revision, I apologize.

    it’s a myth. see Paper Before Print: The History and Impact of Paper in the Islamic World. there’s a chapter on how the myth became common, but it was concocted by arabs 3 centuries after 751. paper was common in central asia centuries before 751, so muslims adopted it through the process of co-option and assimilation from central asians.

    talas, like the battle of tours, is useful for one thing: it tells me that someone who brings them up doesn’t have a deep grounding in history, because they’re really not important as anything except for being salient markers. the revolt of an lushan and tang reliance on uighurs to defend themselves against tibetans is the real reason that the arabs took over hegemony of ferghana from the chinese. not talas. similarly, the arab-berber armies were almost certainly at their maximal point already before and after tours; raids continued afterward, and arab fortifications continued to be a presence in SW europe after tours.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Marcus
    Thanks for the info, my knowledge of Chinese and Central Asian history is pretty limited. You're definitely right about Tours as well, I think there was also a reluctance of Western historians to give the Byzantines (and Bulgars) credit for repelling the much larger Muslim assaults in the east. Regarding the continuing minor Muslim threat to southern France: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fraxinet
    , @Twinkie

    paper was common in central asia centuries before 751, so muslims adopted it through the process of co-option and assimilation from central asians.
     
    Yes, paper was available in Central Asia before the Battle of Talas, but it's not clear that paper-making "industry" as such was all that widespread during that time. I think it's certainly plausible and worthwhile to consider the possibility that, in the aftermath of Talas and the subsquent domination of the region by the Muslims, efficient paper manufacturing techniques were transmitted to them in earnest.

    talas, like the battle of tours, is useful for one thing: it tells me that someone who brings them up doesn’t have a deep grounding in history, because they’re really not important as anything except for being salient markers. the revolt of an lushan and tang reliance on uighurs to defend themselves against tibetans is the real reason that the arabs took over hegemony of ferghana from the chinese. not talas.
     
    While I agree that battles - events, as it were - unduly the capture the imagination of historians and the lay people who read them over lenthy "processes" of history that unfolded, your statement strikes me as possibly going too much the other way.

    Battles do have consequences, often quite significant. First of all, personnel losses of, say, 8,000 men may strike one as negligible in context of nominal military manpower of 500,000. But in reality, trained, effective, and "deployable" manpower was almost always a small, often tiny, fraction of the nominal capacity in sedentary states, so a loss of that magnitude was not trivial, particularly at the imperial edge. It likely struck a severe blow at the prestige of the Tang even if it did not actually cripple the long-term mlitary capacity of the latter.

    Second, defeats - even small ones - at the hands of outsiders in the midst of continuing civil unrests often worsen the latter (or in some cases provide the catalyst for internal tumult).

    Third, such defeats can sway the balance of allegiances among local powers, which was exactly what happened after Talas as there were significant defections of local allies to the winning side (setting aside the defection during the battle that reputedly brought about the Chinese defeat).

    I think a better Western analogy to Talas is not Tours, but Teutoberg Forest ("Give me back my legions").

  35. @Razib Khan
    it's a myth. see Paper Before Print: The History and Impact of Paper in the Islamic World. there's a chapter on how the myth became common, but it was concocted by arabs 3 centuries after 751. paper was common in central asia centuries before 751, so muslims adopted it through the process of co-option and assimilation from central asians.

    talas, like the battle of tours, is useful for one thing: it tells me that someone who brings them up doesn't have a deep grounding in history, because they're really not important as anything except for being salient markers. the revolt of an lushan and tang reliance on uighurs to defend themselves against tibetans is the real reason that the arabs took over hegemony of ferghana from the chinese. not talas. similarly, the arab-berber armies were almost certainly at their maximal point already before and after tours; raids continued afterward, and arab fortifications continued to be a presence in SW europe after tours.

    Thanks for the info, my knowledge of Chinese and Central Asian history is pretty limited. You’re definitely right about Tours as well, I think there was also a reluctance of Western historians to give the Byzantines (and Bulgars) credit for repelling the much larger Muslim assaults in the east. Regarding the continuing minor Muslim threat to southern France: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fraxinet

    Read More
    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    similarly, western europeans emphasize the transmission of learning from al-andalus. but they neglect the critical role of byzantine migrants in italy during the late medieval period. the arabs were interested in philosophy, but it is to the byzantines that we owe our ability to read the greek playwrights and other such humanistic productions.
  36. @Marcus
    Thanks for the info, my knowledge of Chinese and Central Asian history is pretty limited. You're definitely right about Tours as well, I think there was also a reluctance of Western historians to give the Byzantines (and Bulgars) credit for repelling the much larger Muslim assaults in the east. Regarding the continuing minor Muslim threat to southern France: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fraxinet

    similarly, western europeans emphasize the transmission of learning from al-andalus. but they neglect the critical role of byzantine migrants in italy during the late medieval period. the arabs were interested in philosophy, but it is to the byzantines that we owe our ability to read the greek playwrights and other such humanistic productions.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Marcus
    Sadly, Gibbon and many Enlightenment intellectuals really despised Byzantium as an entity that traded Greco-Roman vigor for Christian superstition (some truth there, but horribly simplistic), to the point of giving better press to the Muslims at times.
  37. Not necessarily an eternal essence issue.

    The Islamic world and the former Christendom seem divergent. Historically core parts of one are becoming fundamentalist, while roughly similarly important parts of the latter (such as England) are well down the road to being irreligious. At the very least they are out of sync.

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    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    The Islamic world and the former Christendom seem divergent. Historically core parts of one are becoming fundamentalist, while roughly similarly important parts of the latter (such as England) are well down the road to being irreligious. At the very least they are out of sync.

    this is a stupid analogy and comment. england is not particularly important in the development of christendom, though it is important for western civilization (apologies to the anglican communion! but john knox is more critical for radical protestantism in any case). the analog to the core middle east for christianity is southern europe, and the old lost lands of the near east itself.

    also, the term 'fundamentalist' in the context of islam isn't very informative.

    the whole comment is almost impossible to parse out to gain value and illumination.

    (i let the original comment through to point out its concise and potent stupidity in terms of lack of clarity and content)

  38. @Sean

    Not necessarily an eternal essence issue.
     
    The Islamic world and the former Christendom seem divergent. Historically core parts of one are becoming fundamentalist, while roughly similarly important parts of the latter (such as England) are well down the road to being irreligious. At the very least they are out of sync.

    The Islamic world and the former Christendom seem divergent. Historically core parts of one are becoming fundamentalist, while roughly similarly important parts of the latter (such as England) are well down the road to being irreligious. At the very least they are out of sync.

    this is a stupid analogy and comment. england is not particularly important in the development of christendom, though it is important for western civilization (apologies to the anglican communion! but john knox is more critical for radical protestantism in any case). the analog to the core middle east for christianity is southern europe, and the old lost lands of the near east itself.

    also, the term ‘fundamentalist’ in the context of islam isn’t very informative.

    the whole comment is almost impossible to parse out to gain value and illumination.

    (i let the original comment through to point out its concise and potent stupidity in terms of lack of clarity and content)

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    • Replies: @Talha
    Razib, I disagree with you on cosmology and, of course, the conclusions on the veracity of the Islamic narrative. But hats (and turbans) off to you for forcing people to defend their often glib conclusions on Islamic history and culture.

    Peace - and Ramadan Mubarak - even if just for nostalgia's sake.
    , @Sean
    Not mirror image cores both important for basic theology maybe, but countries like Holland were the first modern European states (the Dutch East India Company was the first joint stock company) and the ground zero of capitalism was connected to fanatical Calvinism. Now the churches are empty.
  39. @Sam Shama
    [I posted at The Corner recently that radical Islam will only be defeated when Muslims see for themselves the bankruptcy of Islam as a modern political ideology by living under Islamic regimes, like that of Iran. So our widely shared strategic objective of discrediting political Islam is undermined by our tactical efforts at preventing the establishment of Islamic regimes.

    Read more at: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/221900/two-three-many-islamic-republics-mark-krikorian ]

    I read that bit of introductory hogwash in your piece and cannily decided to read no further. Also, 'crashing' as in your prescription of 'Crashing to modernity' might unwittingly be correct, since, likelier than not, you haven't seriously examined the results of some of the the gems of what you term modernity [drone massacres come to mind]; haven't the foggiest as to what life actually is like in Iran, or, worse, engaging in the 'modern' sport of wilful mendacity. Since your reputation does not precede you I'll put it down to the first.

    I will speculate without direct evidence, that you are looking for a U.S. led war on Iran?

    Ha ha! No, actually I’m a foreign-policy minimalist. Regarding the Middle East, I’m something of a Separationist: http://www.amnation.com/vfr/archives/008636.html

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  40. @Razib Khan
    similarly, western europeans emphasize the transmission of learning from al-andalus. but they neglect the critical role of byzantine migrants in italy during the late medieval period. the arabs were interested in philosophy, but it is to the byzantines that we owe our ability to read the greek playwrights and other such humanistic productions.

    Sadly, Gibbon and many Enlightenment intellectuals really despised Byzantium as an entity that traded Greco-Roman vigor for Christian superstition (some truth there, but horribly simplistic), to the point of giving better press to the Muslims at times.

    Read More
  41. @Razib Khan
    The Islamic world and the former Christendom seem divergent. Historically core parts of one are becoming fundamentalist, while roughly similarly important parts of the latter (such as England) are well down the road to being irreligious. At the very least they are out of sync.

    this is a stupid analogy and comment. england is not particularly important in the development of christendom, though it is important for western civilization (apologies to the anglican communion! but john knox is more critical for radical protestantism in any case). the analog to the core middle east for christianity is southern europe, and the old lost lands of the near east itself.

    also, the term 'fundamentalist' in the context of islam isn't very informative.

    the whole comment is almost impossible to parse out to gain value and illumination.

    (i let the original comment through to point out its concise and potent stupidity in terms of lack of clarity and content)

    Razib, I disagree with you on cosmology and, of course, the conclusions on the veracity of the Islamic narrative. But hats (and turbans) off to you for forcing people to defend their often glib conclusions on Islamic history and culture.

    Peace – and Ramadan Mubarak – even if just for nostalgia’s sake.

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  42. @omarali50
    I have no idea what Mark is thinking, but I tried to imagine what would happen if, say, Tamil Nadu became Christian, or alternatively, became Muslim.

    Christian Tamil Nadu: would identify with and accept many aspects of Western civ (not all) and would be just another developing country with problems and hangups, but also accelerating modernization, women out in public on motorbikes, and relations with the modern world (whether Xtian or Confucian) that are smack in the middle or tilted towards the "relatively liberal" end of the spectrum of "third world relations with first world nations and their fashions".

    Muslim Tamil Nadu: would be all of the above except NOT smack in the middle of the spectrum. Rather, in some areas (blasphemy, apostasy, support for revivalist Islamist movements and terrorist groups, women out in public on motorbikes) would be at or near the "Islamic" end of the spectrum, which is an identifiable end of the spectrum...a spectrum in which liberal Turkey is a bit of an exception, but is still more involved in Islamist renaissance projects, Islamicate terrorism, "women as mothers", and anti-apostate and anti-blasphemer outbreaks, than other equally Europeanized and prosperous non-Muslim countries? and of course, no pork and some hypocrisy about alcohol. That is pretty standard. Russian imperialism made alcohol public in Central Asia, but a sense of that being "abnormal" still persists. In fact, I have heard that the public acceptance of alcohol in Turkey is also unstable and "feels wrong" to many in the hinterland. Or is that just my Pakisani-centric view?

    Hmm... I guess it is possible to describe this as a somewhat contingent and contemporary set of problems. Not necessarily an eternal essence issue..

    Then again, the Hui do blend in, but they dont eat pork and when they revolted, it was a jihad, not just a revolt. Is that a meaningful distinction? I am not sure. Better informed people can tell us more...

    “would happen if, say, Tamil Nadu became Christian, or alternatively, became Muslim”

    Of course, I cannot let this pass without comment. Both, Islam and Christianity has been in TN for 9 and 5 (or 18) centuries, depending on what you believe.

    Christianity has been there since the time of Vasco Da Gama or St. Thomas (possibly made up). The earliest Christians follow Tamil traditions (like mangalasutra) in marriage. It is the latest converts who do not follow all Tamil customs (not that they need to). If anything, Tamil Christains seem more conservative than Tamil Brahmins! Of course, Christians have ben in the forefront of pioneering education.

    Islam has been there for 800 years. The sufi traditions of saints and mosque visits by poor of multiple religions has been popular, but Gulf workers have moved the pendulum in a slightly more conservative direction, except in girls education.

    “women out in motorbikes” is common, albeit in scooties. The Chief minister, of course, promised 50% subsidy for scooties. Do not scoff! They are primarily used for travel to school/work.

    The state is the opposite of all your beliefs; very conservative in all manners in spite of spewing “rational” cliches. It has the fewest percentage (3%) intercaste marriage. The various pieces that form Hinduism were formulated in Tamilnadu even prior to Aryan formulation of Hinduism. It can be said the Vedic Gods lost to the Trinity, and Buddhism/Jainism lost to Saivism here. The net effect has made the state moridly conservative; changing it into Islam or Christianity, may not change things substantially. This might be the only place on the earth that has Christian castes!

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    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    This might be the only place on the earth that has Christian castes!

    i assume you're being tongue in cheek, since caste exits from kerala up to goa among christians, right?
    , @omarali50
    I know there are Muslims and Christians in Tamil Nadu. I just picked TN as a reasonably large entity in the third world that could conceivably be majority Christian or majority Muslim country on its own, and then try to imagine if it would look any different in either case. I think a majority Xtian TN independent nation may not look too different from what the state looks like now (conservative in some ways, not so conservative in others), but a majority Muslim TN may have some (superficial?) differences: there would be a party trying to discourage women from being too out and about (with or without great success) and there would be groups focused on transnational Ummah issues, but maybe not that different otherwise.
    It was a hypothetical scenario. Dont take it too literally :)
  43. @Vijay
    "would happen if, say, Tamil Nadu became Christian, or alternatively, became Muslim"

    Of course, I cannot let this pass without comment. Both, Islam and Christianity has been in TN for 9 and 5 (or 18) centuries, depending on what you believe.

    Christianity has been there since the time of Vasco Da Gama or St. Thomas (possibly made up). The earliest Christians follow Tamil traditions (like mangalasutra) in marriage. It is the latest converts who do not follow all Tamil customs (not that they need to). If anything, Tamil Christains seem more conservative than Tamil Brahmins! Of course, Christians have ben in the forefront of pioneering education.

    Islam has been there for 800 years. The sufi traditions of saints and mosque visits by poor of multiple religions has been popular, but Gulf workers have moved the pendulum in a slightly more conservative direction, except in girls education.

    "women out in motorbikes" is common, albeit in scooties. The Chief minister, of course, promised 50% subsidy for scooties. Do not scoff! They are primarily used for travel to school/work.

    The state is the opposite of all your beliefs; very conservative in all manners in spite of spewing "rational" cliches. It has the fewest percentage (3%) intercaste marriage. The various pieces that form Hinduism were formulated in Tamilnadu even prior to Aryan formulation of Hinduism. It can be said the Vedic Gods lost to the Trinity, and Buddhism/Jainism lost to Saivism here. The net effect has made the state moridly conservative; changing it into Islam or Christianity, may not change things substantially. This might be the only place on the earth that has Christian castes!

    This might be the only place on the earth that has Christian castes!

    i assume you’re being tongue in cheek, since caste exits from kerala up to goa among christians, right?

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    • Replies: @Vijay
    Yes I forgot. I meant in the sense that Nadar Christians would not let Dalit Christians drink water from their wells, but I can see Christian nails behaving similarly.
  44. Similarly, one could argue that Islam also slouches toward antinomianism because predestination is the dominant view within the religion. Obviously this isn’t true. Neither Muslims nor Christians are antinomian in their behavior.

    Maybe not most Muslims or most Christians, but there have been antinomian Christians and there seem to me to be some antinomian Muslims today.

    The theological tenets of predestination and election historically encouraged antinomianism among some Calvinists. James Hogg’s The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner was, in addition to being a story of crime, a story of the supernatural, and a psychological study, a satire on the antinomian beliefs of some of Scottish Presbyterians, represented in the novel by the Rev. Wringhim, a Calvinist parson, and the protagonist, Robert, his illegitimate son by Rabina, the wife of George Colwan, laird of Dalcastle. In the course of the novel, Robert commits fraud and rape, and murders his elder (half) brother, under the guidance of one Gil-Martin (who may be a doppelgänger, or may be the Devil himself) – at all times convinced that he is one of the elect.

    It would be easy to relocate the plot and characters from 18th-century Scotland to (say) 21st-century Syria. ISIS is made up of people like Rev. Wringhim and his misbegotten son.

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    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    there's a lot of truth in what you say. my point here though is that religious morality and models can be quite labile. for example, ISIS behavior, or that of the crusaders, can be justified post facto, and are. psychopaths gonna go psycho. they may point to some moral-ethical sanction, but it's bullshit rationalization.

    and yet sometimes it isn't psychopathic, but the outcome of ingroup/outgroup morality.
    , @syonredux

    The theological tenets of predestination and election historically encouraged antinomianism among some Calvinists. James Hogg’s The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner was, in addition to being a story of crime, a story of the supernatural, and a psychological study, a satire on the antinomian beliefs of some of Scottish Presbyterians, represented in the novel by the Rev. Wringhim, a Calvinist parson, and the protagonist, Robert, his illegitimate son by Rabina, the wife of George Colwan, laird of Dalcastle. In the course of the novel, Robert commits fraud and rape, and murders his elder (half) brother, under the guidance of one Gil-Martin (who may be a doppelgänger, or may be the Devil himself) – at all times convinced that he is one of the elect.
     
    I've read it; it's a good book. Please note, though, that it is fiction.

    As for actual Calvinists, they tended to brood rather obsessively over their status as one of the elect, always searching for signs of God's grace working upon them, etc. And people who go around raping and murdering are not exactly displaying the signs of election.
  45. Finally, the “national religious” block of non-Haredi religious Jews have contributed many of the individuals engaged in religious-ethnic motivated political violence. Some radical Jews even term the Palestinians Amalekites.

    It’s easy to find articles in Ha’aretz about how the National Religious are dangerous radicals leading the country to FASCISM!!!!. Similarly, it’s easy to find articles in NYT depicting flyover America as a land where beatific black teenagers live in fear of white supremacist policeman gunning them down for no apparent reason. The lesson in both cases is clear: don’t get your information from hysterical Liberal broadsheets with dwindling readerships.

    In reality, the national religious are the emerging civic-minded taxpaying middle class bedrock of Israel. If you want to experience what life among them is like you don’t have to even go to Israel and visit pleasant bourgeois communities like Efrat or Givat Sh’muel, just go to Teaneck NJ and you can see how totally unhinged these Ha’aretz pieces are.

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    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    the national religious are the emerging civic-minded taxpaying middle class bedrock of Israel.

    there is no contradiction in nat religious jews being prejudiced, sometimes to the extreme of being genocidal against arabs, and, being civic-minded and taxpaying. i grant that the newspapers are trying to sensationalize. but i think it is obvious there is a deep wellspring of ethnocentric racism among sectors of the israeli public, albeit with some rational basis seeing as how its neighbors are hostile to the point of genocidal.

    anyway, i am not going to let this thread devolve into jew-talk. i find that uninteresting, unlike jews and jew-haters, who are caught in an eternal conflict of jew-obsession. no more comments on this.

  46. @Crawfurdmuir

    Similarly, one could argue that Islam also slouches toward antinomianism because predestination is the dominant view within the religion. Obviously this isn’t true. Neither Muslims nor Christians are antinomian in their behavior.
     
    Maybe not most Muslims or most Christians, but there have been antinomian Christians and there seem to me to be some antinomian Muslims today.

    The theological tenets of predestination and election historically encouraged antinomianism among some Calvinists. James Hogg's The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner was, in addition to being a story of crime, a story of the supernatural, and a psychological study, a satire on the antinomian beliefs of some of Scottish Presbyterians, represented in the novel by the Rev. Wringhim, a Calvinist parson, and the protagonist, Robert, his illegitimate son by Rabina, the wife of George Colwan, laird of Dalcastle. In the course of the novel, Robert commits fraud and rape, and murders his elder (half) brother, under the guidance of one Gil-Martin (who may be a doppelgänger, or may be the Devil himself) - at all times convinced that he is one of the elect.

    It would be easy to relocate the plot and characters from 18th-century Scotland to (say) 21st-century Syria. ISIS is made up of people like Rev. Wringhim and his misbegotten son.

    there’s a lot of truth in what you say. my point here though is that religious morality and models can be quite labile. for example, ISIS behavior, or that of the crusaders, can be justified post facto, and are. psychopaths gonna go psycho. they may point to some moral-ethical sanction, but it’s bullshit rationalization.

    and yet sometimes it isn’t psychopathic, but the outcome of ingroup/outgroup morality.

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    • Replies: @iffen
    and yet sometimes it isn’t psychopathic

    If God needs you, he will send for you. He will even send you a KJV Bible if you don't have one.
  47. @Gabriel M
    Finally, the “national religious” block of non-Haredi religious Jews have contributed many of the individuals engaged in religious-ethnic motivated political violence. Some radical Jews even term the Palestinians Amalekites.

    It's easy to find articles in Ha'aretz about how the National Religious are dangerous radicals leading the country to FASCISM!!!!. Similarly, it's easy to find articles in NYT depicting flyover America as a land where beatific black teenagers live in fear of white supremacist policeman gunning them down for no apparent reason. The lesson in both cases is clear: don't get your information from hysterical Liberal broadsheets with dwindling readerships.

    In reality, the national religious are the emerging civic-minded taxpaying middle class bedrock of Israel. If you want to experience what life among them is like you don't have to even go to Israel and visit pleasant bourgeois communities like Efrat or Givat Sh'muel, just go to Teaneck NJ and you can see how totally unhinged these Ha'aretz pieces are.

    the national religious are the emerging civic-minded taxpaying middle class bedrock of Israel.

    there is no contradiction in nat religious jews being prejudiced, sometimes to the extreme of being genocidal against arabs, and, being civic-minded and taxpaying. i grant that the newspapers are trying to sensationalize. but i think it is obvious there is a deep wellspring of ethnocentric racism among sectors of the israeli public, albeit with some rational basis seeing as how its neighbors are hostile to the point of genocidal.

    anyway, i am not going to let this thread devolve into jew-talk. i find that uninteresting, unlike jews and jew-haters, who are caught in an eternal conflict of jew-obsession. no more comments on this.

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  48. @Razib Khan
    This might be the only place on the earth that has Christian castes!

    i assume you're being tongue in cheek, since caste exits from kerala up to goa among christians, right?

    Yes I forgot. I meant in the sense that Nadar Christians would not let Dalit Christians drink water from their wells, but I can see Christian nails behaving similarly.

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    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knanaya

    (genetically nasrani xtians look like nairs)
  49. @Vijay
    Yes I forgot. I meant in the sense that Nadar Christians would not let Dalit Christians drink water from their wells, but I can see Christian nails behaving similarly.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knanaya

    (genetically nasrani xtians look like nairs)

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  50. @Razib Khan
    The Islamic world and the former Christendom seem divergent. Historically core parts of one are becoming fundamentalist, while roughly similarly important parts of the latter (such as England) are well down the road to being irreligious. At the very least they are out of sync.

    this is a stupid analogy and comment. england is not particularly important in the development of christendom, though it is important for western civilization (apologies to the anglican communion! but john knox is more critical for radical protestantism in any case). the analog to the core middle east for christianity is southern europe, and the old lost lands of the near east itself.

    also, the term 'fundamentalist' in the context of islam isn't very informative.

    the whole comment is almost impossible to parse out to gain value and illumination.

    (i let the original comment through to point out its concise and potent stupidity in terms of lack of clarity and content)

    Not mirror image cores both important for basic theology maybe, but countries like Holland were the first modern European states (the Dutch East India Company was the first joint stock company) and the ground zero of capitalism was connected to fanatical Calvinism. Now the churches are empty.

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    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    Not mirror image cores both important for basic theology maybe,

    not, not basic. this is not basic:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arminianism

    this is a reemergence of pelagianism.

    but countries like Holland were the first modern European states (the Dutch East India Company was the first joint stock company) and the ground zero of capitalism was connected to fanatical Calvinism. Now the churches are empty.

    what. the. fuck. does that have to do with anything?

    stop posting your thought fragments as if it's valuable fodder for exegesis.

    (for those wondering, yes i think a lot of protestant thinking is rewarmed augustinianism. the genuine radicals veered toward things like unitarianism which were rejected as heretical by even most radical protestants)

  51. @Sean
    Not mirror image cores both important for basic theology maybe, but countries like Holland were the first modern European states (the Dutch East India Company was the first joint stock company) and the ground zero of capitalism was connected to fanatical Calvinism. Now the churches are empty.

    Not mirror image cores both important for basic theology maybe,

    not, not basic. this is not basic:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arminianism

    this is a reemergence of pelagianism.

    but countries like Holland were the first modern European states (the Dutch East India Company was the first joint stock company) and the ground zero of capitalism was connected to fanatical Calvinism. Now the churches are empty.

    what. the. fuck. does that have to do with anything?

    stop posting your thought fragments as if it’s valuable fodder for exegesis.

    (for those wondering, yes i think a lot of protestant thinking is rewarmed augustinianism. the genuine radicals veered toward things like unitarianism which were rejected as heretical by even most radical protestants)

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    • Replies: @Sean
    [some of sean's longer comments remind me of a piece of software attempting to pass the turning test by generating proper english syntax and throwing random ass facts which are superficially plausible to an idiot at the audience. just like using rare words doesn't mean you have a big vocabulary if you use a thesaurus, so ad hoc usage of google and wikipedia doesn't mean you know what the fuck you are talking about -razib]

    What does that have to do with anything?

    About half the world’s population of Muslims live in South Asia and Indonesia (~700 million). There is some discussion of the nature of Islamic identity and piety in these nations, but no great depth of analysis. For example, there are some data which suggest that Indonesians want more mixing of religion with politics than people in the Middle East. Hamid suggests that this shows some underlying essence of the Islamic polity. But Indonesia is a very strange case, it is a nation where conversion from Islam to Hinduism or Christianity is not entirely uncommon
     
    Everything in this world can be reduced by saying what it is made of. Pelagianism as the view that human beings can earn salvation by their own efforts is detectable in Arminianism, but I think the theology of Arminianism time owes quite a bit to the Dutch East India Company activities, and represents a definite parting of the West from the Islamic world as economic growth became explosive .

    Arminianism became the creed of a a successful business class in Holland who didn't like the Calvinist teaching that business success was worthless in the eyes of God. The theological underpinning of modern capitalism was largely due to "economic theologist Hugo de Groot. In The Free Sea (Mare Liberum, published 1609) Grotius defended the Dutch East India Company's seizure of the Santa Catarina

    Grotius, by claiming 'free seas' (Freedom of the seas), provided suitable ideological justification for the Dutch breaking up of various trade monopolies through its formidable naval power (and then establishing its own monopoly)
     
    Grotius or De Groot's family were on the board of the Dutch East India Company (VOC), which had quite an effect on the position of Islam in Indonesia (in a similar way to the The British East India Company in what is now Bangladesh, also mentioned in the post).

    De Groot's thought glorified the commercial elite behind the the VOC. Savage Republic: De Indis of Hugo Grotius, Republicanism and Dutch Hegemony within the Early Modern World-System (c. 1600-1619 makes clear that De Groot spoke in terns of free trade but the VOC success was dependent on the rapacious conduct of the (Calvinist) man in charge of the VOC in the Spice |islands who was critical of the Arminianist inclined elite who made up the shareholders and board of the VOC. Under Coen the early VOC was to use violent force to establish a monopoly

    On 30 May 1619, Coen, backed by a force of nineteen ships, stormed Jayakarta driving out the Banten forces; and from the ashes established Batavia as the VOC headquarters. In the 1620s almost the entire native population of the Banda Islands was driven away, starved to death, or killed [...]
     
    The world's first joint stock company was under Calvinist Coen when it laied the foundations of its success. Coen was infuriated when the board ordered him toalow the English to stay after he had defeated them. Because they distrusted the common people who were associated with Calvinism and the elite feared a strong state with military forces that Calvinist lower orders could used to curtail elite privileges. The Arminianist view of flourishing in peace and international understanding was aimed at keeping Holland commercially advanced without needing strong militarily that could be influence by nationalist Calvinist or schismatic factions in the domestic population. The policy left Holland's commercial monopolies vulnerable to military strong states like Puritan England.
  52. Anonymous says:     Show CommentNext New Comment
    @Razib Khan
    yes. though the bosniak dialect is closer to that of the croatians.

    It’s actually closer to Serbian, the dominant standard in Yugoslavia. Before, Bosniaks used to speak a number of dialects, some closer to dialects in Serbia, some to those in Croatia. A continuum, but more complicated than that because huge numbers of people fled Bosnia during Ottoman rule and then Serbian and Croatian Muslims settled in Bosnia after being kicked out of Croatia and Serbia.

    There’s never been a “Bosniak dialect”. The dialects in Bosnia are not divided by nationality. Anyway, all dialects in Bosnia are pretty similar, unlike in parts of Serbia and Croatia where different mutually unintelligible dialects exist.

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    • Replies: @LevantineJew
    My point wasn't to compare linguistic situation, but to do kind of A/B testing experiment: all other things being equal, which religion would be more advantageous?

    Why Bosniaks converted to Islam? Did they hoped to keep Bogomil [1,2] beliefs disguised as some kind of Heterodox Islamic sect? Did they wanted to get privileges under Ottoman rule?

    It seems that never mind what the conversion motifs were it was advantageous to be Muslim under Ottoman rules.
    Under Austro-Hungarian Empire it probably was more advantageous to be Catholic Croat.
    Under Nazi Germany both Bosniaks and Croats were in better situation than Serbs.
    In socialist Yugoslavia it was better to be Serb and being Muslim was a disadvantage. The Bosniak identity wasn't recognized at all [3].
    And at the time of Bosnian War most of the casualties were Muslim Bosniaks [4].

    So which religion is more advantageous?

    Sorted by per-capita GDP (PPP) - 2016 estimate (from wikipedia):

    Croatia - $21,791
    Serbia - $14,047 (excluding Kosovo)
    Bosnia and Herzegovina - $10,670

    So giving all things equal, the best results are for Catholics, the worst are for Muslims.


    1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bogomilism#Spread_of_bogomilism_in_the_Balkans
    2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bosnian_Church
    3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muslims_(nationality)
    4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bosnian_War
  53. Interesting. That Erdogan quote from his visit in Tunisia a few years ago really surprised me, wouldn’t have expected that (though given Turkey’s development under Erdogan I have my doubts how sincere he was).

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  54. From what I have seen and heard there is little discussion about the details of the nature of God. Rather, the workaday consists of instruction in memorization of the Quran and elaboration of proper behavior and ritual.

    Just one note. There are proper branches of Islamic sciences, not all of the ulama will be proficient in all of them.

    The subset you are referring to are the mutakalimeen – theologians of creed (kalam) – the work still goes on to this day, but is definitely a field of specialists.

    Also, certain regions specialize in certain aspects. For instance, the Indian subcontinent is not known for much work in kalam (now), it used to be more active in Mughal times. In contrast, it was very weak in hadith studies, but after Shah Waliullah (ra) of Delhi, became a major center for hadith such that many of the chains of living narrators (even in the Hijaz) trace back to him.

    From what I have experienced, from my teachers (some of whom are very well traveled), some of the best kalam work is (was???) being done in the Levant. And it is a very interesting subject especially since we split the atom:

    http://www.ghazali.org/articles/harding-V10N2-Summer-93.pdf

    It would be nice if more of the work is translated. But this would be for hobbyists or people deep into philosophy/metaphysics. The current creedal formulas in circulation (Athari, Ash’ari, Maturidi) – at least in the Sunni world that were developed (mostly) by Persian and Arab polymaths – are fairly concise, differ in slight semantic points and are quite comprehensible for the taxi driver in Jakarta or grocer in Cairo. Certain places, like Yemen and Western Africa, they commit these to memory in prose format.

    Peace.

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    • Replies: @syonredux

    There are proper branches of Islamic sciences,
     
    A minor quibble. "Islamic sciences" strikes me as a rather silly term.Religious studies would be more accurate.
    , @Talha
    I realize that I was remiss and may have left the wrong impression. It is not that the Indian Subcontinent did not have discussion on the 'nature of God' since the Mughal period. Shah Waliullah's magnum opus (Hujjat Allah al-Baligha) is recognized for its piercing metaphysical insights across the Muslim world. Rather, the parameters of the discussion changed priorities - since the defeat of Akbar's syncretic creed and Shiah influence. Kalam is the technical knowledge of God and the universe - i.e. the creeds. That is definitely not as big a thing in the Indian subcontinent as it used to be. Rather, the other branch of this knowledge - the experiential knowledge of God - has always been in the purview of the Sufi Orders. This is indeed alive and well. Many of the top scholars of the region are also Sufi masters. Their treatises on the nature of God and the self (including their poetry) usually takes the form of insightful letters to their disciples which are collected in book form (various 'maktubat' abound). Imam Ghazali (ra) said of this branch of knowledge, that it was more effective in achieving the goal than intricate knowledge of creedal formulas and their logical proofs.

    Peace.
  55. Anonymous says:     Show CommentNext New Comment
    @LevantineJew
    thanks, I stand corrected, though I remember him saying on TV that his mother is from Egypt, omitting the Ashkenazi part ;)

    Pulling out all the stops courting the much needed Sephardic vote. Don’t stop believing, Herzog!

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  56. @Mark Krikorian
    Interesting piece. (AntiNOMianism, BTW, not antiMONianism.)

    The only point I'd make is that, while theological principles are indeed often too complicated for their adherents to understand, it's still the case that religious tenets, however much the result of historical circumstance, *do* shape the subsequent development of societies that adopt them. In other words, two otherwise identical societies would diverge if one were to adopt Christianity and the other Islam. A society's adoption of one religion over another, however accidental it might have been, shapes that society in ways different than if historical accident had caused it to adopt another religion.

    I also don't think Islamic exceptionalism can survive modernity. Islam is indeed exceptional among the world's religions, but Muslims are just people like any other. So the solution must be to let Islam crash into modernity at full speed:

    Worse is Better: https://web.archive.org/web/20070906185526/http://www.nationalreview.com/comment/comment-krikorian020502.shtml

    Two, Three, Many Islamic Republics:
    http://www.nationalreview.com/article/221900/two-three-many-islamic-republics-mark-krikorian

    Do you think your policy proposals are still as viable today as when you made them, years ago?

    Or would you agree that they have been overtaken by events. Specifically, millions and millions of Muslims (mostly men, mostly fighting age) gate-crashing their way into Europe, with no end in sight (with lots of help from Merkel, Juncker, Sutherland, Erdogan, Soros, the Economist, and the Davos crowd).

    Good fences might have made good neighbors, but that ship has sailed, hasn’t it?

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  57. @Marcus
    Practices of female seclusion must have been adopted from the Roman or Persian upper classes (or maybe the Jews?). Arabian women beforehand were remarkably free, think of Zenobia and Mavia, the earliest mentions of Arabs have them led by warrior queens https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zabibe

    Practices of female seclusion must have been adopted from the Roman or Persian upper classes (or maybe the Jews?).

    I believe that purdah was originally a Hindu and Persian practice.

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  58. @Razib Khan
    What is exceptional in islam is its singular inability to acknowledge the value of others and stand up for others against its own chauvinists!

    both these are wrong.

    threads of indian and chinese thought are also in great denial historically about influence from the outside (barbarians, mleccha).

    second, islam does acknowledge pre-islamic debts. philosophy still flourishes within shiism. the ayatollahs of iran often know their plato and aristotle. and the hellenic influence has not been totally expurgated from much of sunni islam.

    third, islam obviously accepts that judaism and christianity rare divinely revealed. so it does not negate that.

    I am making a comment at present, If u read my entire view, u will realize that I am not making a general comment in absence of context along both time and geography ,this happens now after colonialism. Not earlier periods,not everywhere. I am for diffusion model of religion. A point I have come to accept in negation to sam harris view. There are periods of islamic puritanism when insecure or arrogant and periods of diffusion. Colonial experience has pushed muslims down the path of puritanism, Right wing hindu groups also are somewhat similar though there is much more diversity. As far as accepting value of others, Indian astronomer varahamira did accept knowledge of greeks and did praise them inspite of being “barbarians”.

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    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    i don't think you are communicating properly with the way you are using the words you are using. not a criticism, just a plain statement. e.g., "islamic puritanism" is a rather vague term
    , @amcupidsvictim
    Contiuation...

    Also, I wrote "what is exceptional in Islam" and not "what is exceptional of Islam". At this moment of time in history I think this view has its merit considering boko haram, ISIS, Taliban, Pakistan being in denial of its earlier heritage (a point of reference many Indians can be guilty of when we speak of Islam). Again, this is not true entirely of Islam everywhere, both in past and present as I already mentioned Indonesia not being in denial. I think at this moment of time in comparison to others, this view has its merits.
  59. @Crawfurdmuir

    Practices of female seclusion must have been adopted from the Roman or Persian upper classes (or maybe the Jews?).
     
    I believe that purdah was originally a Hindu and Persian practice.

    athenian upper class practiced it too.

    Read More
  60. @amcupidsvictim
    I am making a comment at present, If u read my entire view, u will realize that I am not making a general comment in absence of context along both time and geography ,this happens now after colonialism. Not earlier periods,not everywhere. I am for diffusion model of religion. A point I have come to accept in negation to sam harris view. There are periods of islamic puritanism when insecure or arrogant and periods of diffusion. Colonial experience has pushed muslims down the path of puritanism, Right wing hindu groups also are somewhat similar though there is much more diversity. As far as accepting value of others, Indian astronomer varahamira did accept knowledge of greeks and did praise them inspite of being "barbarians".

    i don’t think you are communicating properly with the way you are using the words you are using. not a criticism, just a plain statement. e.g., “islamic puritanism” is a rather vague term

    Read More
    • Replies: @Talha
    I think the gist of what he is saying is that; when the Muslim world was at a place of well established political and cultural hegemony, it was expansive in its outlook and could do things like translate, incorporate and challenge Greek Hellenistic works without feeling threatened in its core. Colonialism wiped that confidence out from Senegal to Malaysia.

    The analogy (as Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad [db] has forwarded) is a bit like a hedgehog - Muslims (a large number of them) have curled up into a ball, spikes out.

    Peace.
  61. @Razib Khan
    i don't think you are communicating properly with the way you are using the words you are using. not a criticism, just a plain statement. e.g., "islamic puritanism" is a rather vague term

    I think the gist of what he is saying is that; when the Muslim world was at a place of well established political and cultural hegemony, it was expansive in its outlook and could do things like translate, incorporate and challenge Greek Hellenistic works without feeling threatened in its core. Colonialism wiped that confidence out from Senegal to Malaysia.

    The analogy (as Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad [db] has forwarded) is a bit like a hedgehog – Muslims (a large number of them) have curled up into a ball, spikes out.

    Peace.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Anonymous
    Over here I agree with wiping out of confidence in last few centuries under colonialism. But not necessarily the first bit. If more people entered then naturally they come with their ideas. But what happens when a civilization was not expanding and was just stable?. New people dont enter and hence one has to debate with ideas of believers more than ideas which come from the outside of belief. And the conversations which lead to progress I guess is more on the side of conversations between believers and outsiders than those among believers themselves.
    , @JJ
    "Colonialism wiped that confidence out from Senegal to Malaysia." Post colonial theory is such a cop out. It bascially seems to give free license for a "get out of jail" response" to any criticism. but why does colonialism only seem to applied when it is european non-muslims doing it? The Islamic empire or "Ummah" as it were were colonialists. Everything you describe (letting religions keep their own personal courts, only worried about taxes and loyalty,etc. etc) pretty much applies to "colonial" empires, the British empire in particular. Now mind you we have more details about these "colonialist" ventures as they are more recent in history and even the "colonialists" themselves would write less than flattering things about themselves, alot about colonialism I suspect you learned more through western educations, and it's more critical examinations of their own historical records, while being more generous toward native and especially "islamic" writings and records. Please use something other than "colonialism" to make excuses for "islams" close-mindnesss, or let islam take responsibility for the stifling of the non-muslim (pagan, zoroastrian, hindu, buddhist and gasp even christian) intellectual development as well in the areas that islam so innocously took control.

    Now forgive my obvious irritation at this, you are quite a informative commenter and I read your comments with interest, this is more of a in general type response as I've seen this line of thinking before. You are gracious to non-muslims commentators (as you should be, but all types, christians, moslems and even those "peaceful" buddhists and hindus" can be less than courteous and good manners should always be recognized ), and you're very knowledgeable but I find your versions of islamic theology and history a little too pat and sanitized, and explaining things away a little too naively.


    A disclaimer as well here, these are my own views (and irritations) and readings of history and I don't speak for anyone else. ;-)
  62. @amcupidsvictim
    I am making a comment at present, If u read my entire view, u will realize that I am not making a general comment in absence of context along both time and geography ,this happens now after colonialism. Not earlier periods,not everywhere. I am for diffusion model of religion. A point I have come to accept in negation to sam harris view. There are periods of islamic puritanism when insecure or arrogant and periods of diffusion. Colonial experience has pushed muslims down the path of puritanism, Right wing hindu groups also are somewhat similar though there is much more diversity. As far as accepting value of others, Indian astronomer varahamira did accept knowledge of greeks and did praise them inspite of being "barbarians".

    Contiuation…

    Also, I wrote “what is exceptional in Islam” and not “what is exceptional of Islam”. At this moment of time in history I think this view has its merit considering boko haram, ISIS, Taliban, Pakistan being in denial of its earlier heritage (a point of reference many Indians can be guilty of when we speak of Islam). Again, this is not true entirely of Islam everywhere, both in past and present as I already mentioned Indonesia not being in denial. I think at this moment of time in comparison to others, this view has its merits.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Marcus
    I've heard from some American vets of Afghanistan that, in addition to the purist element, the Taliban are seen as an expression of Pashtun nationalism (insofar as that can develop in such a tribal society).
  63. alright. plausible. what i would say to this is this: islam (like most cultures) has had various periods of openness or lack thereof to other cultures. the various exogenous influences are prominent in the first few centuries of islam…when the empire was expanding, and islam was a minority religion across much of its empire. but starting around 900 there was a period of stasis and involution. this is not correlated with decline, as much as stability (and in some areas, like s. asian and s. e. asia there was expansion). then around the time of the ‘gunpowder empires’ there was more openness, then a revival.

    i have a difficult time making a general case for cultural openness in relation to geopolitical events.

    though now that i think about it does seem to apply to china.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Anonymous
    I do not correlate with decline either. Refer to para 6 in my original comment.

    ...So, here is the model . A religion takes over a country with diversity of beliefs, for first few centuries, there is great diversity of ideas and interplay of thought. But until something fundamental is done to preserve diversity itself by the state, in due course of time that diversity will vanish. This I believe approximately explains what happened to the golden age in middle east. It began because of diversity of new people who entered into islamic realm, and while their ideas were not entirely digested, diversity of thought thrived and great contributions were made. But after a while, the state did not value the importance of diversity of thought itself. digestion was near complete.And progress stalls after that.

    Christianity changed bcos of thomas acquinas and long gestation period with relative security compared to middle east, India,China . I suppose Europe to not develop much either were it subjected to devastation of either timur or mongols.Islam in my view has either succeeded too fast. In any case, one can model till a certain time period where certain factors dominate and in later time period other factors dominate leading to same result nonetheless.
  64. anyway, i am not going to let this thread devolve into jew-talk. i find that uninteresting, unlike jews and jew-haters, who are caught in an eternal conflict of jew-obsession

    Thanks for this Razib.

    That said, it is not symmetrical to juxtapose Jews and Jew-haters.

    england is not particularly important in the development of Christendom

    King James, as in King James Version?

    Read More
    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    That said, it is not symmetrical to juxtapose Jews and Jew-haters.


    agreed.

    King James, as in King James Version?


    not that important for christianity. definitely important for english literature.
  65. @Anonymous
    It's actually closer to Serbian, the dominant standard in Yugoslavia. Before, Bosniaks used to speak a number of dialects, some closer to dialects in Serbia, some to those in Croatia. A continuum, but more complicated than that because huge numbers of people fled Bosnia during Ottoman rule and then Serbian and Croatian Muslims settled in Bosnia after being kicked out of Croatia and Serbia.

    There's never been a "Bosniak dialect". The dialects in Bosnia are not divided by nationality. Anyway, all dialects in Bosnia are pretty similar, unlike in parts of Serbia and Croatia where different mutually unintelligible dialects exist.

    My point wasn’t to compare linguistic situation, but to do kind of A/B testing experiment: all other things being equal, which religion would be more advantageous?

    Why Bosniaks converted to Islam? Did they hoped to keep Bogomil [1,2] beliefs disguised as some kind of Heterodox Islamic sect? Did they wanted to get privileges under Ottoman rule?

    It seems that never mind what the conversion motifs were it was advantageous to be Muslim under Ottoman rules.
    Under Austro-Hungarian Empire it probably was more advantageous to be Catholic Croat.
    Under Nazi Germany both Bosniaks and Croats were in better situation than Serbs.
    In socialist Yugoslavia it was better to be Serb and being Muslim was a disadvantage. The Bosniak identity wasn’t recognized at all [3].
    And at the time of Bosnian War most of the casualties were Muslim Bosniaks [4].

    So which religion is more advantageous?

    Sorted by per-capita GDP (PPP) – 2016 estimate (from wikipedia):

    Croatia – $21,791
    Serbia – $14,047 (excluding Kosovo)
    Bosnia and Herzegovina – $10,670

    So giving all things equal, the best results are for Catholics, the worst are for Muslims.

    1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bogomilism#Spread_of_bogomilism_in_the_Balkans
    2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bosnian_Church
    3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muslims_(nationality)
    4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bosnian_War

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    • Replies: @Anonymous
    So which religion is more advantageous?

    How does GDP show which religion is more advantageous? All other things weren't equal. These countries were parts of different empires most of their history. Also, Serbia and Croatia are nation states, while Bosnia is a multinational one, with each nation trying to screw over the others. Bosnia also suffered by far the most damage in the war.

    In socialist Yugoslavia it was better to be Serb and being Muslim was a disadvantage. The Bosniak identity wasn’t recognized at all

    Not true. Being openly religious was a disadvantage if you were ambitious, but that affected people practicing any religion. Yugoslavia was good for Muslims and they remain nostalgic about it, even after it turned on them the way it did. They were officially recognized as a nation (the Muslim nation) for part of Yugoslavia's existence. The recognition simply followed the evolution of Muslim national consciousness and nomenclature.

    And at the time of Bosnian War most of the casualties were Muslim Bosniaks

    Because they were a minority in the region, with terrible leaders and no nation state of their own to help them. Not because they were Muslim.

    Why Bosniaks converted to Islam? Did they hoped to keep Bogomil [1,2] beliefs disguised as some kind of Heterodox Islamic sect?

    They didn't. There were no Bosniaks back then. It's a modern national identity. Bosniaks aren't descendants of Bogumils, they're descendants of all those Muslims in Bosnia, Serbia, Croatia, Hungary who never converted back to Christianity or fled to Turkey. All those people could keep their religion in Bosnia, the last Ottoman territory in the region. People often wonder why Bosnia today has many Muslims, and the others don't, but that's really all there is to it.

  66. @iffen
    anyway, i am not going to let this thread devolve into jew-talk. i find that uninteresting, unlike jews and jew-haters, who are caught in an eternal conflict of jew-obsession

    Thanks for this Razib.

    That said, it is not symmetrical to juxtapose Jews and Jew-haters.

    england is not particularly important in the development of Christendom

    King James, as in King James Version?

    That said, it is not symmetrical to juxtapose Jews and Jew-haters.

    agreed.

    King James, as in King James Version?

    not that important for christianity. definitely important for english literature.

    Read More
  67. @Crawfurdmuir

    Similarly, one could argue that Islam also slouches toward antinomianism because predestination is the dominant view within the religion. Obviously this isn’t true. Neither Muslims nor Christians are antinomian in their behavior.
     
    Maybe not most Muslims or most Christians, but there have been antinomian Christians and there seem to me to be some antinomian Muslims today.

    The theological tenets of predestination and election historically encouraged antinomianism among some Calvinists. James Hogg's The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner was, in addition to being a story of crime, a story of the supernatural, and a psychological study, a satire on the antinomian beliefs of some of Scottish Presbyterians, represented in the novel by the Rev. Wringhim, a Calvinist parson, and the protagonist, Robert, his illegitimate son by Rabina, the wife of George Colwan, laird of Dalcastle. In the course of the novel, Robert commits fraud and rape, and murders his elder (half) brother, under the guidance of one Gil-Martin (who may be a doppelgänger, or may be the Devil himself) - at all times convinced that he is one of the elect.

    It would be easy to relocate the plot and characters from 18th-century Scotland to (say) 21st-century Syria. ISIS is made up of people like Rev. Wringhim and his misbegotten son.

    The theological tenets of predestination and election historically encouraged antinomianism among some Calvinists. James Hogg’s The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner was, in addition to being a story of crime, a story of the supernatural, and a psychological study, a satire on the antinomian beliefs of some of Scottish Presbyterians, represented in the novel by the Rev. Wringhim, a Calvinist parson, and the protagonist, Robert, his illegitimate son by Rabina, the wife of George Colwan, laird of Dalcastle. In the course of the novel, Robert commits fraud and rape, and murders his elder (half) brother, under the guidance of one Gil-Martin (who may be a doppelgänger, or may be the Devil himself) – at all times convinced that he is one of the elect.

    I’ve read it; it’s a good book. Please note, though, that it is fiction.

    As for actual Calvinists, they tended to brood rather obsessively over their status as one of the elect, always searching for signs of God’s grace working upon them, etc. And people who go around raping and murdering are not exactly displaying the signs of election.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Crawfurdmuir

    And people who go around raping and murdering are not exactly displaying the signs of election.
     
    Yet the European wars of religion, beginning in the 16th century, and culminating in the Thirty Years' War, certainly involved a lot of raping and murdering. Religious belief has motivated, or at least been used to rationalize, a great deal of cruel and violent behaviour on the parts of persons who are convinced of their own righteousness.
  68. @Talha

    From what I have seen and heard there is little discussion about the details of the nature of God. Rather, the workaday consists of instruction in memorization of the Quran and elaboration of proper behavior and ritual.
     
    Just one note. There are proper branches of Islamic sciences, not all of the ulama will be proficient in all of them.

    The subset you are referring to are the mutakalimeen - theologians of creed (kalam) - the work still goes on to this day, but is definitely a field of specialists.

    Also, certain regions specialize in certain aspects. For instance, the Indian subcontinent is not known for much work in kalam (now), it used to be more active in Mughal times. In contrast, it was very weak in hadith studies, but after Shah Waliullah (ra) of Delhi, became a major center for hadith such that many of the chains of living narrators (even in the Hijaz) trace back to him.

    From what I have experienced, from my teachers (some of whom are very well traveled), some of the best kalam work is (was???) being done in the Levant. And it is a very interesting subject especially since we split the atom:
    http://www.ghazali.org/articles/harding-V10N2-Summer-93.pdf

    It would be nice if more of the work is translated. But this would be for hobbyists or people deep into philosophy/metaphysics. The current creedal formulas in circulation (Athari, Ash'ari, Maturidi) - at least in the Sunni world that were developed (mostly) by Persian and Arab polymaths - are fairly concise, differ in slight semantic points and are quite comprehensible for the taxi driver in Jakarta or grocer in Cairo. Certain places, like Yemen and Western Africa, they commit these to memory in prose format.

    Peace.

    There are proper branches of Islamic sciences,

    A minor quibble. “Islamic sciences” strikes me as a rather silly term.Religious studies would be more accurate.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Talha
    Acknowledged. 'Science' can be a loaded term...your term is a more faithful translation of 'uloom ud-deen anyway. You could also more literally translate it as Religious Knowledge(s).

    May God honor you for correcting me with such etiquette.
  69. Anonymous says:     Show CommentNext New Comment
    @Razib Khan
    alright. plausible. what i would say to this is this: islam (like most cultures) has had various periods of openness or lack thereof to other cultures. the various exogenous influences are prominent in the first few centuries of islam...when the empire was expanding, and islam was a minority religion across much of its empire. but starting around 900 there was a period of stasis and involution. this is not correlated with decline, as much as stability (and in some areas, like s. asian and s. e. asia there was expansion). then around the time of the 'gunpowder empires' there was more openness, then a revival.

    i have a difficult time making a general case for cultural openness in relation to geopolitical events.

    though now that i think about it does seem to apply to china.

    I do not correlate with decline either. Refer to para 6 in my original comment.

    …So, here is the model . A religion takes over a country with diversity of beliefs, for first few centuries, there is great diversity of ideas and interplay of thought. But until something fundamental is done to preserve diversity itself by the state, in due course of time that diversity will vanish. This I believe approximately explains what happened to the golden age in middle east. It began because of diversity of new people who entered into islamic realm, and while their ideas were not entirely digested, diversity of thought thrived and great contributions were made. But after a while, the state did not value the importance of diversity of thought itself. digestion was near complete.And progress stalls after that.

    Christianity changed bcos of thomas acquinas and long gestation period with relative security compared to middle east, India,China . I suppose Europe to not develop much either were it subjected to devastation of either timur or mongols.Islam in my view has either succeeded too fast. In any case, one can model till a certain time period where certain factors dominate and in later time period other factors dominate leading to same result nonetheless.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    Christianity changed bcos of thomas acquinas and long gestation period with relative security compared to middle east, India,China

    this seems wrong. security? al-andalus? siege of vienna? mongol yoke? earlier depredations of magyars? huns? viking raids?

    what about thomas aquinas?
  70. @Anonymous
    I do not correlate with decline either. Refer to para 6 in my original comment.

    ...So, here is the model . A religion takes over a country with diversity of beliefs, for first few centuries, there is great diversity of ideas and interplay of thought. But until something fundamental is done to preserve diversity itself by the state, in due course of time that diversity will vanish. This I believe approximately explains what happened to the golden age in middle east. It began because of diversity of new people who entered into islamic realm, and while their ideas were not entirely digested, diversity of thought thrived and great contributions were made. But after a while, the state did not value the importance of diversity of thought itself. digestion was near complete.And progress stalls after that.

    Christianity changed bcos of thomas acquinas and long gestation period with relative security compared to middle east, India,China . I suppose Europe to not develop much either were it subjected to devastation of either timur or mongols.Islam in my view has either succeeded too fast. In any case, one can model till a certain time period where certain factors dominate and in later time period other factors dominate leading to same result nonetheless.

    Christianity changed bcos of thomas acquinas and long gestation period with relative security compared to middle east, India,China

    this seems wrong. security? al-andalus? siege of vienna? mongol yoke? earlier depredations of magyars? huns? viking raids?

    what about thomas aquinas?

    Read More
    • Replies: @amcupidsvictim
    oxford is over 900 yrs old. What comparable educational institutions have survived in other parts of the world in comparison?.
  71. @syonredux

    There are proper branches of Islamic sciences,
     
    A minor quibble. "Islamic sciences" strikes me as a rather silly term.Religious studies would be more accurate.

    Acknowledged. ‘Science’ can be a loaded term…your term is a more faithful translation of ‘uloom ud-deen anyway. You could also more literally translate it as Religious Knowledge(s).

    May God honor you for correcting me with such etiquette.

    Read More
  72. in the medieval period theology was termed “The Queen of the Sciences”.

    Read More
  73. @Razib Khan
    Christianity changed bcos of thomas acquinas and long gestation period with relative security compared to middle east, India,China

    this seems wrong. security? al-andalus? siege of vienna? mongol yoke? earlier depredations of magyars? huns? viking raids?

    what about thomas aquinas?

    oxford is over 900 yrs old. What comparable educational institutions have survived in other parts of the world in comparison?.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    what are you talking about? don't be cryptic, it's annoying me.
    , @Talha
    Qayrawan in Fez.

    http://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2012/10/59056/al-karaouin-of-fez-the-oldest-university-in-the-world/
  74. @Talha

    From what I have seen and heard there is little discussion about the details of the nature of God. Rather, the workaday consists of instruction in memorization of the Quran and elaboration of proper behavior and ritual.
     
    Just one note. There are proper branches of Islamic sciences, not all of the ulama will be proficient in all of them.

    The subset you are referring to are the mutakalimeen - theologians of creed (kalam) - the work still goes on to this day, but is definitely a field of specialists.

    Also, certain regions specialize in certain aspects. For instance, the Indian subcontinent is not known for much work in kalam (now), it used to be more active in Mughal times. In contrast, it was very weak in hadith studies, but after Shah Waliullah (ra) of Delhi, became a major center for hadith such that many of the chains of living narrators (even in the Hijaz) trace back to him.

    From what I have experienced, from my teachers (some of whom are very well traveled), some of the best kalam work is (was???) being done in the Levant. And it is a very interesting subject especially since we split the atom:
    http://www.ghazali.org/articles/harding-V10N2-Summer-93.pdf

    It would be nice if more of the work is translated. But this would be for hobbyists or people deep into philosophy/metaphysics. The current creedal formulas in circulation (Athari, Ash'ari, Maturidi) - at least in the Sunni world that were developed (mostly) by Persian and Arab polymaths - are fairly concise, differ in slight semantic points and are quite comprehensible for the taxi driver in Jakarta or grocer in Cairo. Certain places, like Yemen and Western Africa, they commit these to memory in prose format.

    Peace.

    I realize that I was remiss and may have left the wrong impression. It is not that the Indian Subcontinent did not have discussion on the ‘nature of God’ since the Mughal period. Shah Waliullah’s magnum opus (Hujjat Allah al-Baligha) is recognized for its piercing metaphysical insights across the Muslim world. Rather, the parameters of the discussion changed priorities – since the defeat of Akbar’s syncretic creed and Shiah influence. Kalam is the technical knowledge of God and the universe – i.e. the creeds. That is definitely not as big a thing in the Indian subcontinent as it used to be. Rather, the other branch of this knowledge – the experiential knowledge of God – has always been in the purview of the Sufi Orders. This is indeed alive and well. Many of the top scholars of the region are also Sufi masters. Their treatises on the nature of God and the self (including their poetry) usually takes the form of insightful letters to their disciples which are collected in book form (various ‘maktubat’ abound). Imam Ghazali (ra) said of this branch of knowledge, that it was more effective in achieving the goal than intricate knowledge of creedal formulas and their logical proofs.

    Peace.

    Read More
    • Replies: @omarali50
    "Shah Waliullah’s magnum opus (Hujjat Allah al-Baligha) is recognized for its piercing metaphysical insights across the Muslim world"

    I know you don't mean to imply "all Muslims" or even "most Muslims", but just the select few who are members of the local Kalam study circle, but I think the statement is still a bit hyperbolic. I cannot think of a single acquaintance (including several who think of themselves as Islamists and are eager readers of Islamic texts) who has ANY clue about anything written by Shah Walliullah about kalam. I think the impact of such things on the wider world has to be shown before we get too worked up about the great worldwide reputation of Shah Walliullah in the field of kalam.
    His Shia-hatred, hatred of Hindus and Muslim separatism did leave a legacy though, and are something a few of my more extremist Sunni Islamist acquaintances are likely to quote approvingly. Kalam, not so much.
    I do not doubt your sincerity and knowledge in this area, just its significance outside of a very small circle of modern Muslims. And I am open to the idea that great oaks can grown from small acorns, but I think it is important to recognize that no oak of kalam knowledge is extending its shade over the lands of Islam at this moment in history.
  75. @amcupidsvictim
    Contiuation...

    Also, I wrote "what is exceptional in Islam" and not "what is exceptional of Islam". At this moment of time in history I think this view has its merit considering boko haram, ISIS, Taliban, Pakistan being in denial of its earlier heritage (a point of reference many Indians can be guilty of when we speak of Islam). Again, this is not true entirely of Islam everywhere, both in past and present as I already mentioned Indonesia not being in denial. I think at this moment of time in comparison to others, this view has its merits.

    I’ve heard from some American vets of Afghanistan that, in addition to the purist element, the Taliban are seen as an expression of Pashtun nationalism (insofar as that can develop in such a tribal society).

    Read More
  76. @amcupidsvictim
    oxford is over 900 yrs old. What comparable educational institutions have survived in other parts of the world in comparison?.

    what are you talking about? don’t be cryptic, it’s annoying me.

    Read More
    • Replies: @amcupidsvictim
    sorry, was very busy, no sleep. The point I am making is that if u read my original comment, I take recourse to both the material interventions and inner dynamic of doctrines both. So a bit of sam harris and also the left. In my view Europe succeeded over others as it created a knowledge system which was unique compared to rest of the world in last thousand years around their universities. This is a key difference over India,china atleast . Universities in India like nalanda were destroyed by the invasions.
    One of the factors i do consider for example is the compounding nature of knowledge itself.Success in Europe are due in part to compounding nature of knowledge, survival of oldest universities in the world being more in Europe than any other place. Naturally, survival of these universities through centuries represents a certain compounding of knowledge and dissemination among elites of the like which was probably not achieved in other civilizations in medieval period. India for example has not done well because of security. There is now evidence in India of advanced mathematics related to calculus and circumstantial evidence of its transfer into europe. Medieval mathematicians in India like madhava carried forward ideas of bhaskara and aryabhata in understanding sine series,cosine series,taylor series. Which were till now credited to mathematicians in europe in 16-17th century. But this happened in the deep south which was relatively safe from invasions which were taking place in the north.

    https://books.google.co.in/books?id=b6UVpAeAzF0C&pg=PA172&lpg=PA172&dq=indian+calculus++education&source=bl&ots=63d6H8-h-k&sig=AcacaWvwadWRwsWTFD0M13wagLE&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiip7P425jNAhXIk5QKHWb3AQo4FBDoAQhHMAg#v=onepage&q=indian%20calculus%20%20education&f=false

    http://discovermagazine.com/2008/jan/calculus-was-developed-in-medieval-india
    http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/calculus-created-in-india-250-years-before-newton-study-1.632433

    In fact substantial progress on calculus was made in 12 century itself by bhaskara
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bh%C4%81skara_II
    This is truly an extraordinary discovery proving that, mathematical advances in astronomy and sciences need funding and security and where ever it is given progress is possible. But India by then did not have university system for widespread dissemination of knowledge. Unlike Europe
  77. Anonymous says:     Show CommentNext New Comment
    @LevantineJew
    My point wasn't to compare linguistic situation, but to do kind of A/B testing experiment: all other things being equal, which religion would be more advantageous?

    Why Bosniaks converted to Islam? Did they hoped to keep Bogomil [1,2] beliefs disguised as some kind of Heterodox Islamic sect? Did they wanted to get privileges under Ottoman rule?

    It seems that never mind what the conversion motifs were it was advantageous to be Muslim under Ottoman rules.
    Under Austro-Hungarian Empire it probably was more advantageous to be Catholic Croat.
    Under Nazi Germany both Bosniaks and Croats were in better situation than Serbs.
    In socialist Yugoslavia it was better to be Serb and being Muslim was a disadvantage. The Bosniak identity wasn't recognized at all [3].
    And at the time of Bosnian War most of the casualties were Muslim Bosniaks [4].

    So which religion is more advantageous?

    Sorted by per-capita GDP (PPP) - 2016 estimate (from wikipedia):

    Croatia - $21,791
    Serbia - $14,047 (excluding Kosovo)
    Bosnia and Herzegovina - $10,670

    So giving all things equal, the best results are for Catholics, the worst are for Muslims.


    1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bogomilism#Spread_of_bogomilism_in_the_Balkans
    2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bosnian_Church
    3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muslims_(nationality)
    4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bosnian_War

    So which religion is more advantageous?

    How does GDP show which religion is more advantageous? All other things weren’t equal. These countries were parts of different empires most of their history. Also, Serbia and Croatia are nation states, while Bosnia is a multinational one, with each nation trying to screw over the others. Bosnia also suffered by far the most damage in the war.

    In socialist Yugoslavia it was better to be Serb and being Muslim was a disadvantage. The Bosniak identity wasn’t recognized at all

    Not true. Being openly religious was a disadvantage if you were ambitious, but that affected people practicing any religion. Yugoslavia was good for Muslims and they remain nostalgic about it, even after it turned on them the way it did. They were officially recognized as a nation (the Muslim nation) for part of Yugoslavia’s existence. The recognition simply followed the evolution of Muslim national consciousness and nomenclature.

    And at the time of Bosnian War most of the casualties were Muslim Bosniaks

    Because they were a minority in the region, with terrible leaders and no nation state of their own to help them. Not because they were Muslim.

    Why Bosniaks converted to Islam? Did they hoped to keep Bogomil [1,2] beliefs disguised as some kind of Heterodox Islamic sect?

    They didn’t. There were no Bosniaks back then. It’s a modern national identity. Bosniaks aren’t descendants of Bogumils, they’re descendants of all those Muslims in Bosnia, Serbia, Croatia, Hungary who never converted back to Christianity or fled to Turkey. All those people could keep their religion in Bosnia, the last Ottoman territory in the region. People often wonder why Bosnia today has many Muslims, and the others don’t, but that’s really all there is to it.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    related: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pomaks
    , @LevantineJew

    How does GDP show which religion is more advantageous?

     

    I don't care about which religion has better philosophical tenets or give you better chances in the afterlife.
    What I check is a practical consequences for the people who born into religion, which for non-practicing people, basically defines their ethnic group.

    Also, Serbia and Croatia are nation states, while Bosnia is a multinational one, with each nation trying to screw over the others.
     
    agree, but assuming Bosnian Serbs and Bosnian Croats as productive as their brothers in the nation states, shouldn't this increase the GPD of Bosnia? So GDP of Bosniaks only even lower? I.e. compare with Serbia and Kosovo, their combined GDP would've been lower, since Kosovo dragging it down.

    Some more datapoints.

    Sorted by per-capita GDP (PPP) – 2016 estimate (from wikipedia):

    Croatia – $21,791
    Montenegro - $16,654
    Serbia – $14,047 (excluding Kosovo)
    Bosnia and Herzegovina – $10,670
    Macedonia - $10,718 (2012 estimate)
    Kosovo - $10,134

    Bosnia also suffered by far the most damage in the war.
     

    Because they were a minority in the region, with terrible leaders and no nation state of their own to help them. Not because they were Muslim.
     
    And why is this so?
    They are minority without nation state exactly because their ancestors decided to join Muslim faith, which maybe was rational choice at the time, but wrong choice later on.

    they’re descendants of all those Muslims in Bosnia, Serbia, Croatia, Hungary who never converted back to Christianity or fled to Turkey. All those people could keep their religion in Bosnia

     

    the rational choice would've been to convert to dominant religion or to flee to Turkey. Those who stayed and didn't converted back did irrational choice, which hurt the chances of their descendants for better life.
    , @Ikram
    Saw an article a few years ago that described the Muslims of the sandjak as "bosniaks"! Hilarious, but logical.

    Sadly, the next step will likely be for Serbs of the Sandjak to demand these fake bosniaks go " back " home to bosnia, a place neither they nor their ancestors have any link to.

    On the other hand, German speakers of Italian Tyrol have been going "back" to Austria and Germany for almost a century. So these kinds of things happen.

    Sorry for the thread drift.
  78. @Anonymous
    So which religion is more advantageous?

    How does GDP show which religion is more advantageous? All other things weren't equal. These countries were parts of different empires most of their history. Also, Serbia and Croatia are nation states, while Bosnia is a multinational one, with each nation trying to screw over the others. Bosnia also suffered by far the most damage in the war.

    In socialist Yugoslavia it was better to be Serb and being Muslim was a disadvantage. The Bosniak identity wasn’t recognized at all

    Not true. Being openly religious was a disadvantage if you were ambitious, but that affected people practicing any religion. Yugoslavia was good for Muslims and they remain nostalgic about it, even after it turned on them the way it did. They were officially recognized as a nation (the Muslim nation) for part of Yugoslavia's existence. The recognition simply followed the evolution of Muslim national consciousness and nomenclature.

    And at the time of Bosnian War most of the casualties were Muslim Bosniaks

    Because they were a minority in the region, with terrible leaders and no nation state of their own to help them. Not because they were Muslim.

    Why Bosniaks converted to Islam? Did they hoped to keep Bogomil [1,2] beliefs disguised as some kind of Heterodox Islamic sect?

    They didn't. There were no Bosniaks back then. It's a modern national identity. Bosniaks aren't descendants of Bogumils, they're descendants of all those Muslims in Bosnia, Serbia, Croatia, Hungary who never converted back to Christianity or fled to Turkey. All those people could keep their religion in Bosnia, the last Ottoman territory in the region. People often wonder why Bosnia today has many Muslims, and the others don't, but that's really all there is to it.

    Read More
  79. @Razib Khan
    it's a myth. see Paper Before Print: The History and Impact of Paper in the Islamic World. there's a chapter on how the myth became common, but it was concocted by arabs 3 centuries after 751. paper was common in central asia centuries before 751, so muslims adopted it through the process of co-option and assimilation from central asians.

    talas, like the battle of tours, is useful for one thing: it tells me that someone who brings them up doesn't have a deep grounding in history, because they're really not important as anything except for being salient markers. the revolt of an lushan and tang reliance on uighurs to defend themselves against tibetans is the real reason that the arabs took over hegemony of ferghana from the chinese. not talas. similarly, the arab-berber armies were almost certainly at their maximal point already before and after tours; raids continued afterward, and arab fortifications continued to be a presence in SW europe after tours.

    paper was common in central asia centuries before 751, so muslims adopted it through the process of co-option and assimilation from central asians.

    Yes, paper was available in Central Asia before the Battle of Talas, but it’s not clear that paper-making “industry” as such was all that widespread during that time. I think it’s certainly plausible and worthwhile to consider the possibility that, in the aftermath of Talas and the subsquent domination of the region by the Muslims, efficient paper manufacturing techniques were transmitted to them in earnest.

    talas, like the battle of tours, is useful for one thing: it tells me that someone who brings them up doesn’t have a deep grounding in history, because they’re really not important as anything except for being salient markers. the revolt of an lushan and tang reliance on uighurs to defend themselves against tibetans is the real reason that the arabs took over hegemony of ferghana from the chinese. not talas.

    While I agree that battles – events, as it were – unduly the capture the imagination of historians and the lay people who read them over lenthy “processes” of history that unfolded, your statement strikes me as possibly going too much the other way.

    Battles do have consequences, often quite significant. First of all, personnel losses of, say, 8,000 men may strike one as negligible in context of nominal military manpower of 500,000. But in reality, trained, effective, and “deployable” manpower was almost always a small, often tiny, fraction of the nominal capacity in sedentary states, so a loss of that magnitude was not trivial, particularly at the imperial edge. It likely struck a severe blow at the prestige of the Tang even if it did not actually cripple the long-term mlitary capacity of the latter.

    Second, defeats – even small ones – at the hands of outsiders in the midst of continuing civil unrests often worsen the latter (or in some cases provide the catalyst for internal tumult).

    Third, such defeats can sway the balance of allegiances among local powers, which was exactly what happened after Talas as there were significant defections of local allies to the winning side (setting aside the defection during the battle that reputedly brought about the Chinese defeat).

    I think a better Western analogy to Talas is not Tours, but Teutoberg Forest (“Give me back my legions”).

    Read More
    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    if the chinese had won talas, the only way that it would have made the difference is if it forestalled the rebellion of an lushan and the tang decline. chinese influence in the tarim basin was always tenuous, let alone the hegemony they exhibited further west during this period. in contrast, the abbasid empire's locus of power was in khorasan, rather close to central asia.

    the analogy with rome during the period of augustus does not work because the empire was in its early stages of apogee. in contrast, tang china by the middle 8th century was quite ripe. the tang aristocracy's asabiyya was declining. in contrast, the abbasids had just defeated the umayyads and were about to unleash the pent up energies of the mawali.

    i do agree talas is more significant than tours, in part because tang china and the abbasids were world empires. but the deck was starting to be stacked against the tang in central asia by the 8th century.
  80. @Twinkie

    paper was common in central asia centuries before 751, so muslims adopted it through the process of co-option and assimilation from central asians.
     
    Yes, paper was available in Central Asia before the Battle of Talas, but it's not clear that paper-making "industry" as such was all that widespread during that time. I think it's certainly plausible and worthwhile to consider the possibility that, in the aftermath of Talas and the subsquent domination of the region by the Muslims, efficient paper manufacturing techniques were transmitted to them in earnest.

    talas, like the battle of tours, is useful for one thing: it tells me that someone who brings them up doesn’t have a deep grounding in history, because they’re really not important as anything except for being salient markers. the revolt of an lushan and tang reliance on uighurs to defend themselves against tibetans is the real reason that the arabs took over hegemony of ferghana from the chinese. not talas.
     
    While I agree that battles - events, as it were - unduly the capture the imagination of historians and the lay people who read them over lenthy "processes" of history that unfolded, your statement strikes me as possibly going too much the other way.

    Battles do have consequences, often quite significant. First of all, personnel losses of, say, 8,000 men may strike one as negligible in context of nominal military manpower of 500,000. But in reality, trained, effective, and "deployable" manpower was almost always a small, often tiny, fraction of the nominal capacity in sedentary states, so a loss of that magnitude was not trivial, particularly at the imperial edge. It likely struck a severe blow at the prestige of the Tang even if it did not actually cripple the long-term mlitary capacity of the latter.

    Second, defeats - even small ones - at the hands of outsiders in the midst of continuing civil unrests often worsen the latter (or in some cases provide the catalyst for internal tumult).

    Third, such defeats can sway the balance of allegiances among local powers, which was exactly what happened after Talas as there were significant defections of local allies to the winning side (setting aside the defection during the battle that reputedly brought about the Chinese defeat).

    I think a better Western analogy to Talas is not Tours, but Teutoberg Forest ("Give me back my legions").

    if the chinese had won talas, the only way that it would have made the difference is if it forestalled the rebellion of an lushan and the tang decline. chinese influence in the tarim basin was always tenuous, let alone the hegemony they exhibited further west during this period. in contrast, the abbasid empire’s locus of power was in khorasan, rather close to central asia.

    the analogy with rome during the period of augustus does not work because the empire was in its early stages of apogee. in contrast, tang china by the middle 8th century was quite ripe. the tang aristocracy’s asabiyya was declining. in contrast, the abbasids had just defeated the umayyads and were about to unleash the pent up energies of the mawali.

    i do agree talas is more significant than tours, in part because tang china and the abbasids were world empires. but the deck was starting to be stacked against the tang in central asia by the 8th century.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Twinkie

    the analogy with rome during the period of augustus does not work because the empire was in its early stages of apogee. in contrast, tang china by the middle 8th century was quite ripe. the tang aristocracy’s asabiyya was declining.
     
    My comparison to Teutoberg Forest was not based on the similarities, or lack thereof, between the imperial stages of Rome and Tang, but rather on the after effects of the battle on both the local powers/allies and the axes of expansion.

    Both battle losses caused dramatic losses of local allies for the respective empires (remember that the Varus' legions were accompanied by a substantial allied force) and permanently closed the doors to future expansion by successors into the respective regions.


    but the deck was starting to be stacked against the tang in central asia by the 8th century.
     
    Absolutely. The Tang was in serious trouble and not just there. But history is full of "accidents" with course-changing impacts - hitorical contingencies, if you like - that buck the prevailing, long-term processes of the day. Who can tell with certainty what would have happened, what ripples would have spiraled out, if the Tang had achieved total victory at Talas.
  81. @Razib Khan
    if the chinese had won talas, the only way that it would have made the difference is if it forestalled the rebellion of an lushan and the tang decline. chinese influence in the tarim basin was always tenuous, let alone the hegemony they exhibited further west during this period. in contrast, the abbasid empire's locus of power was in khorasan, rather close to central asia.

    the analogy with rome during the period of augustus does not work because the empire was in its early stages of apogee. in contrast, tang china by the middle 8th century was quite ripe. the tang aristocracy's asabiyya was declining. in contrast, the abbasids had just defeated the umayyads and were about to unleash the pent up energies of the mawali.

    i do agree talas is more significant than tours, in part because tang china and the abbasids were world empires. but the deck was starting to be stacked against the tang in central asia by the 8th century.

    the analogy with rome during the period of augustus does not work because the empire was in its early stages of apogee. in contrast, tang china by the middle 8th century was quite ripe. the tang aristocracy’s asabiyya was declining.

    My comparison to Teutoberg Forest was not based on the similarities, or lack thereof, between the imperial stages of Rome and Tang, but rather on the after effects of the battle on both the local powers/allies and the axes of expansion.

    Both battle losses caused dramatic losses of local allies for the respective empires (remember that the Varus’ legions were accompanied by a substantial allied force) and permanently closed the doors to future expansion by successors into the respective regions.

    but the deck was starting to be stacked against the tang in central asia by the 8th century.

    Absolutely. The Tang was in serious trouble and not just there. But history is full of “accidents” with course-changing impacts – hitorical contingencies, if you like – that buck the prevailing, long-term processes of the day. Who can tell with certainty what would have happened, what ripples would have spiraled out, if the Tang had achieved total victory at Talas.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Twinkie
    I think we can state with a greater confidence that the Chinese loss at Talas worsened the already difficult position for the Tang rather than that a victory would have meant nothing.
    , @Razib Khan
    and permanently closed the doors to future expansion by successors into the respective regions.

    peter heather and others have argued that ultimately the issue was that germany was too poor to be a sustainable conquest (some have argued the same for britain, which was claudius' vanity project). i.e., gaul was already much more economically and political developed than the regions to the east of the nile, so caesar's vanity dovetailed with some benefits beyond the surfeit of short term plunder.

    germanicus went as far as the elbe, and m. aurelius apparently considered a future invasion of germany to short the frontier (commodus pulled back on this).
    , @Razib Khan
    Who can tell with certainty what would have happened, what ripples would have spiraled out, if the Tang had achieved total victory at Talas.

    there is no certainty in anything. but the key conditional is whether the abbasids are robust to this loss. if they are, it seems inevitable (to a high degree of likelihood) that they'll absorb transoxiana permanently into the abode of islam, due to proximity and cultural similarity with their core territories in khorasan.
  82. @Twinkie

    the analogy with rome during the period of augustus does not work because the empire was in its early stages of apogee. in contrast, tang china by the middle 8th century was quite ripe. the tang aristocracy’s asabiyya was declining.
     
    My comparison to Teutoberg Forest was not based on the similarities, or lack thereof, between the imperial stages of Rome and Tang, but rather on the after effects of the battle on both the local powers/allies and the axes of expansion.

    Both battle losses caused dramatic losses of local allies for the respective empires (remember that the Varus' legions were accompanied by a substantial allied force) and permanently closed the doors to future expansion by successors into the respective regions.


    but the deck was starting to be stacked against the tang in central asia by the 8th century.
     
    Absolutely. The Tang was in serious trouble and not just there. But history is full of "accidents" with course-changing impacts - hitorical contingencies, if you like - that buck the prevailing, long-term processes of the day. Who can tell with certainty what would have happened, what ripples would have spiraled out, if the Tang had achieved total victory at Talas.

    I think we can state with a greater confidence that the Chinese loss at Talas worsened the already difficult position for the Tang rather than that a victory would have meant nothing.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    I think we can state with a greater confidence that the Chinese loss at Talas worsened the already difficult position for the Tang rather than that a victory would have meant nothing.

    agreed. we're arguing about shifts on the probability dial here, no?

  83. @Twinkie
    I think we can state with a greater confidence that the Chinese loss at Talas worsened the already difficult position for the Tang rather than that a victory would have meant nothing.

    I think we can state with a greater confidence that the Chinese loss at Talas worsened the already difficult position for the Tang rather than that a victory would have meant nothing.

    agreed. we're arguing about shifts on the probability dial here, no?

    Read More
    • Replies: @Twinkie

    we're arguing about shifts on the probability dial here, no?
     
    Yes, exactly.
  84. @Twinkie

    the analogy with rome during the period of augustus does not work because the empire was in its early stages of apogee. in contrast, tang china by the middle 8th century was quite ripe. the tang aristocracy’s asabiyya was declining.
     
    My comparison to Teutoberg Forest was not based on the similarities, or lack thereof, between the imperial stages of Rome and Tang, but rather on the after effects of the battle on both the local powers/allies and the axes of expansion.

    Both battle losses caused dramatic losses of local allies for the respective empires (remember that the Varus' legions were accompanied by a substantial allied force) and permanently closed the doors to future expansion by successors into the respective regions.


    but the deck was starting to be stacked against the tang in central asia by the 8th century.
     
    Absolutely. The Tang was in serious trouble and not just there. But history is full of "accidents" with course-changing impacts - hitorical contingencies, if you like - that buck the prevailing, long-term processes of the day. Who can tell with certainty what would have happened, what ripples would have spiraled out, if the Tang had achieved total victory at Talas.

    and permanently closed the doors to future expansion by successors into the respective regions.

    peter heather and others have argued that ultimately the issue was that germany was too poor to be a sustainable conquest (some have argued the same for britain, which was claudius’ vanity project). i.e., gaul was already much more economically and political developed than the regions to the east of the nile, so caesar’s vanity dovetailed with some benefits beyond the surfeit of short term plunder.

    germanicus went as far as the elbe, and m. aurelius apparently considered a future invasion of germany to short the frontier (commodus pulled back on this).

    Read More
    • Replies: @Twinkie

    peter heather and others have argued that ultimately the issue was that germany was too poor to be a sustainable conquest
     
    I don't think that argument has been settled. In any case, we moderns attach too much rationality of "the strategy of conquest" to the ancients. They were apparently much more motivated by plunder, slaves, and glory than by the ancient equivalent of strategic planning (which was one of the major critiques of Edward Luttwak's "The Grand Strategy of the Roman Empire").

    germanicus went as far as the elbe, and m. aurelius apparently considered a future invasion of germany to short the frontier (commodus pulled back on this).
     
    I was wrong to use the phrase "permanently closed" earlier. A better one would have been "dissuaded."
  85. @Twinkie

    the analogy with rome during the period of augustus does not work because the empire was in its early stages of apogee. in contrast, tang china by the middle 8th century was quite ripe. the tang aristocracy’s asabiyya was declining.
     
    My comparison to Teutoberg Forest was not based on the similarities, or lack thereof, between the imperial stages of Rome and Tang, but rather on the after effects of the battle on both the local powers/allies and the axes of expansion.

    Both battle losses caused dramatic losses of local allies for the respective empires (remember that the Varus' legions were accompanied by a substantial allied force) and permanently closed the doors to future expansion by successors into the respective regions.


    but the deck was starting to be stacked against the tang in central asia by the 8th century.
     
    Absolutely. The Tang was in serious trouble and not just there. But history is full of "accidents" with course-changing impacts - hitorical contingencies, if you like - that buck the prevailing, long-term processes of the day. Who can tell with certainty what would have happened, what ripples would have spiraled out, if the Tang had achieved total victory at Talas.

    Who can tell with certainty what would have happened, what ripples would have spiraled out, if the Tang had achieved total victory at Talas.

    there is no certainty in anything. but the key conditional is whether the abbasids are robust to this loss. if they are, it seems inevitable (to a high degree of likelihood) that they’ll absorb transoxiana permanently into the abode of islam, due to proximity and cultural similarity with their core territories in khorasan.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Twinkie

    there is no certainty in anything. but the key conditional is whether the abbasids are robust to this loss. if they are, it seems inevitable (to a high degree of likelihood) that they’ll absorb transoxiana permanently into the abode of islam, due to proximity and cultural similarity with their core territories in khorasan.
     
    I agree with "likelihood," but disagree with "inevitable."

    After effects of battles on polities are unpredictable and highly varied. Sometimes what appears to us to be minor losses can cascade and overturn an empire while in other instances major defeats are absorbed by the seemingly exhausted that subsequently experience a resurgence.

    I guess what I am saying is that there are psychological elements (both mass and elite) at work here that do not lend well to material analyses of military capabilities and economic potentials.

    What we do know is that battles do shift what you earlier called the "probability dial" on historical processes. The problem is that we do not know by how much, except retrospectively on what actually did occur.* There are certainly instances where the range of possibilities is so narrow as to render outcomes of battles essentially meaningless (even then "miracles" do occur - Hitler, for example, was desperately holding on for a repeat of the Prussian "victory" at Seven Years' War when a single death - that of the Russian Empress Elizabeth - saved Prussia from utter ruin at the last moment). But such battles are few (indeed why fight in such a case?), and I do not think Talas was that kind of a battle of limited meaning. It certainly wasn't the cataclysmic battle of civilizations some accounts make it out to be, but I think the outcome had real and substantive effect on the subsequent history of Central Asia.

    *For the same reason, I find most "counter-factual" history unsatisfying and unconvincing. And to deviate from the topic at hand a bit, by the the same token, the recent phenomenon of fantasy football is utterly baffling for me. These endeavors are a strangely illogical kind of reductionism within a nearly infinitely complex system.
  86. @Anonymous
    So which religion is more advantageous?

    How does GDP show which religion is more advantageous? All other things weren't equal. These countries were parts of different empires most of their history. Also, Serbia and Croatia are nation states, while Bosnia is a multinational one, with each nation trying to screw over the others. Bosnia also suffered by far the most damage in the war.

    In socialist Yugoslavia it was better to be Serb and being Muslim was a disadvantage. The Bosniak identity wasn’t recognized at all

    Not true. Being openly religious was a disadvantage if you were ambitious, but that affected people practicing any religion. Yugoslavia was good for Muslims and they remain nostalgic about it, even after it turned on them the way it did. They were officially recognized as a nation (the Muslim nation) for part of Yugoslavia's existence. The recognition simply followed the evolution of Muslim national consciousness and nomenclature.

    And at the time of Bosnian War most of the casualties were Muslim Bosniaks

    Because they were a minority in the region, with terrible leaders and no nation state of their own to help them. Not because they were Muslim.

    Why Bosniaks converted to Islam? Did they hoped to keep Bogomil [1,2] beliefs disguised as some kind of Heterodox Islamic sect?

    They didn't. There were no Bosniaks back then. It's a modern national identity. Bosniaks aren't descendants of Bogumils, they're descendants of all those Muslims in Bosnia, Serbia, Croatia, Hungary who never converted back to Christianity or fled to Turkey. All those people could keep their religion in Bosnia, the last Ottoman territory in the region. People often wonder why Bosnia today has many Muslims, and the others don't, but that's really all there is to it.

    How does GDP show which religion is more advantageous?

    I don’t care about which religion has better philosophical tenets or give you better chances in the afterlife.
    What I check is a practical consequences for the people who born into religion, which for non-practicing people, basically defines their ethnic group.

    Also, Serbia and Croatia are nation states, while Bosnia is a multinational one, with each nation trying to screw over the others.

    agree, but assuming Bosnian Serbs and Bosnian Croats as productive as their brothers in the nation states, shouldn’t this increase the GPD of Bosnia? So GDP of Bosniaks only even lower? I.e. compare with Serbia and Kosovo, their combined GDP would’ve been lower, since Kosovo dragging it down.

    Some more datapoints.

    Sorted by per-capita GDP (PPP) – 2016 estimate (from wikipedia):

    Croatia – $21,791
    Montenegro – $16,654
    Serbia – $14,047 (excluding Kosovo)
    Bosnia and Herzegovina – $10,670
    Macedonia – $10,718 (2012 estimate)
    Kosovo – $10,134

    Bosnia also suffered by far the most damage in the war.

    Because they were a minority in the region, with terrible leaders and no nation state of their own to help them. Not because they were Muslim.

    And why is this so?
    They are minority without nation state exactly because their ancestors decided to join Muslim faith, which maybe was rational choice at the time, but wrong choice later on.

    they’re descendants of all those Muslims in Bosnia, Serbia, Croatia, Hungary who never converted back to Christianity or fled to Turkey. All those people could keep their religion in Bosnia

    the rational choice would’ve been to convert to dominant religion or to flee to Turkey. Those who stayed and didn’t converted back did irrational choice, which hurt the chances of their descendants for better life.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    this exchange is not productive for others. stop it.
  87. @LevantineJew

    How does GDP show which religion is more advantageous?

     

    I don't care about which religion has better philosophical tenets or give you better chances in the afterlife.
    What I check is a practical consequences for the people who born into religion, which for non-practicing people, basically defines their ethnic group.

    Also, Serbia and Croatia are nation states, while Bosnia is a multinational one, with each nation trying to screw over the others.
     
    agree, but assuming Bosnian Serbs and Bosnian Croats as productive as their brothers in the nation states, shouldn't this increase the GPD of Bosnia? So GDP of Bosniaks only even lower? I.e. compare with Serbia and Kosovo, their combined GDP would've been lower, since Kosovo dragging it down.

    Some more datapoints.

    Sorted by per-capita GDP (PPP) – 2016 estimate (from wikipedia):

    Croatia – $21,791
    Montenegro - $16,654
    Serbia – $14,047 (excluding Kosovo)
    Bosnia and Herzegovina – $10,670
    Macedonia - $10,718 (2012 estimate)
    Kosovo - $10,134

    Bosnia also suffered by far the most damage in the war.
     

    Because they were a minority in the region, with terrible leaders and no nation state of their own to help them. Not because they were Muslim.
     
    And why is this so?
    They are minority without nation state exactly because their ancestors decided to join Muslim faith, which maybe was rational choice at the time, but wrong choice later on.

    they’re descendants of all those Muslims in Bosnia, Serbia, Croatia, Hungary who never converted back to Christianity or fled to Turkey. All those people could keep their religion in Bosnia

     

    the rational choice would've been to convert to dominant religion or to flee to Turkey. Those who stayed and didn't converted back did irrational choice, which hurt the chances of their descendants for better life.

    this exchange is not productive for others. stop it.

    Read More
  88. @Razib Khan
    I think we can state with a greater confidence that the Chinese loss at Talas worsened the already difficult position for the Tang rather than that a victory would have meant nothing.

    agreed. we're arguing about shifts on the probability dial here, no?

    we’re arguing about shifts on the probability dial here, no?

    Yes, exactly.

    Read More
  89. @Razib Khan
    and permanently closed the doors to future expansion by successors into the respective regions.

    peter heather and others have argued that ultimately the issue was that germany was too poor to be a sustainable conquest (some have argued the same for britain, which was claudius' vanity project). i.e., gaul was already much more economically and political developed than the regions to the east of the nile, so caesar's vanity dovetailed with some benefits beyond the surfeit of short term plunder.

    germanicus went as far as the elbe, and m. aurelius apparently considered a future invasion of germany to short the frontier (commodus pulled back on this).

    peter heather and others have argued that ultimately the issue was that germany was too poor to be a sustainable conquest

    I don’t think that argument has been settled. In any case, we moderns attach too much rationality of “the strategy of conquest” to the ancients. They were apparently much more motivated by plunder, slaves, and glory than by the ancient equivalent of strategic planning (which was one of the major critiques of Edward Luttwak’s “The Grand Strategy of the Roman Empire”).

    germanicus went as far as the elbe, and m. aurelius apparently considered a future invasion of germany to short the frontier (commodus pulled back on this).

    I was wrong to use the phrase “permanently closed” earlier. A better one would have been “dissuaded.”

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  90. @Razib Khan
    Who can tell with certainty what would have happened, what ripples would have spiraled out, if the Tang had achieved total victory at Talas.

    there is no certainty in anything. but the key conditional is whether the abbasids are robust to this loss. if they are, it seems inevitable (to a high degree of likelihood) that they'll absorb transoxiana permanently into the abode of islam, due to proximity and cultural similarity with their core territories in khorasan.

    there is no certainty in anything. but the key conditional is whether the abbasids are robust to this loss. if they are, it seems inevitable (to a high degree of likelihood) that they’ll absorb transoxiana permanently into the abode of islam, due to proximity and cultural similarity with their core territories in khorasan.

    I agree with “likelihood,” but disagree with “inevitable.”

    After effects of battles on polities are unpredictable and highly varied. Sometimes what appears to us to be minor losses can cascade and overturn an empire while in other instances major defeats are absorbed by the seemingly exhausted that subsequently experience a resurgence.

    I guess what I am saying is that there are psychological elements (both mass and elite) at work here that do not lend well to material analyses of military capabilities and economic potentials.

    What we do know is that battles do shift what you earlier called the “probability dial” on historical processes. The problem is that we do not know by how much, except retrospectively on what actually did occur.* There are certainly instances where the range of possibilities is so narrow as to render outcomes of battles essentially meaningless (even then “miracles” do occur – Hitler, for example, was desperately holding on for a repeat of the Prussian “victory” at Seven Years’ War when a single death – that of the Russian Empress Elizabeth – saved Prussia from utter ruin at the last moment). But such battles are few (indeed why fight in such a case?), and I do not think Talas was that kind of a battle of limited meaning. It certainly wasn’t the cataclysmic battle of civilizations some accounts make it out to be, but I think the outcome had real and substantive effect on the subsequent history of Central Asia.

    *For the same reason, I find most “counter-factual” history unsatisfying and unconvincing. And to deviate from the topic at hand a bit, by the the same token, the recent phenomenon of fantasy football is utterly baffling for me. These endeavors are a strangely illogical kind of reductionism within a nearly infinitely complex system.

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  91. Well it’s fair to say that Talas or not, the Tang had a hard time projecting power that far into Central Asia, and odds were they would have lost it sooner or later. It’s not like Arabs kept the area themselves much longer either, even if they managed to convert the population.

    Some battles are close calls, and a different result might had potentially changed a lot of the outcome. But some (most?) are very well determined by the overall circumstances. What would have changed it the Tang had won at Talas? It’s not like the Tang would’ve had the capability of invading into Iran and restoring Zoroastrianism. Islam was still in the area, it’s more suited for proselytism than anything China has to offer, the Tang would’ve lost control sooner or later and the area would’ve likely been Islamicized anyway, even if a few decades later

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    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    Islam was still in the area, it’s more suited for proselytism than anything China has to offer, the Tang would’ve lost control sooner or later and the area would’ve likely been Islamicized anyway, even if a few decades later

    the main alternative i can think about is what became tibetan buddhism. the tibetans were the allies of the abbasids at the time, but their empire was the real alternative power in the region at the time.
  92. @Razib Khan
    there's a lot of truth in what you say. my point here though is that religious morality and models can be quite labile. for example, ISIS behavior, or that of the crusaders, can be justified post facto, and are. psychopaths gonna go psycho. they may point to some moral-ethical sanction, but it's bullshit rationalization.

    and yet sometimes it isn't psychopathic, but the outcome of ingroup/outgroup morality.

    and yet sometimes it isn’t psychopathic

    If God needs you, he will send for you. He will even send you a KJV Bible if you don’t have one.

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  93. Razib,

    There is a fine point to the development of Christianity and its relationship to politics that you do not mention. You may be aware of it and do not assign it the importance that I do, or you may not know about it (frankly, most Christians do not know much about it), but I would like to bring it up. It may seem trivial, but it has a lot to do with the attitude of different Christians to politics.

    Jesus mostly tried to avoid politics, the domain of the Imperium, but the tradition developed, as evidenced by a few passages, that Christians were to act a as “Judges” (in the sense of the Book of Judges, i.e. to exercise political rule) but not until after the Second Coming, i.e. after the events of the Apocalypse, called “Revelation” in the Protestant Canon.

    “Revelation” was the last book to be accepted into the Canon (419 AD) and is interpreted differently by (most) Protestants and (most) Roman Catholics. The key difference to my point is that the Roman Church generally interprets Revelation as a figurative or allegorical reference to things in the historical past while protestants, especially “Bible Believers”, regard it as a prophetic narrative of things to come.

    My point is that where (in time) you place the events of the Apocalypse has a lot to say about the relationship of the Church to politics.

    A Jesuit who wrote under the name Malachi Martin wrote a very interesting book, “The Decline and Fall of the Roman Church” that dealt with the history of the Roman Church with secular politics, which as you noted has changed in recent centuries. I am not a Roman Catholic and would not attempt to expand on his observations, but he was quite negative about the involvement of the Roman Church with politics. For centuries the Roman Church vigorously asserted its right to political dominance, but again, as you say, this has softened. I believe this was not coincidentally supported by where (in time) they placed the Apocalypse.

    Conversely, a lot of people fear the protestant religious right, but do not understand the extent to which it is restrained by the understanding that their time is not yet (but soon, many say).

    But, back to your point about Islam, in spite of the complicated history of Christianity and politics, Islam is very different, I would say exceptional, in the fact that Mohammed himself asserted political power and not just over voluntary believers, but over any and all over whom Islam could gain dominance.

    This claim to political rule is what sets Islam apart and puts it on a collision course with the rest of the world.

    I would be interested to hear criticism or comment from Roman Catholics about the above. Protestants I am pretty familiar with and since there is no unified voice or view – less so.

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    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    I would say exceptional, in the fact that Mohammed himself asserted political power and not just over voluntary believers, but over any and all over whom Islam could gain dominance.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Christian_thought_on_persecution_and_tolerance#The_Augustinian_consensus

    the differences btwn islam and xtianity are far more shaded than modern christians want to admit, especially in the past. see *the baltic crusades* for instances of christian knights behaving quite like muslim ghazis.
    , @Crawfurdmuir
    I don't think the historic involvement of the Roman Catholic Church with international politics has much to do with the Apocalypse of St. John at all. Rather it arises from the longstanding role of the papacy as a temporal monarchy in central Italy.

    The popes claimed temporal authority on the basis of the so-called Donation of Constantine, a document that purported to be that emperor's transfer of power over Rome and the Western Empire to the Church. This was shown to be a forgery in the sixteenth century by Lorenzo Valla, but by that time had been used to buttress papal authority for perhaps eight centuries.

    The mediaeval conflict between Guelphs and Ghibellines was in essence a fight between parties loyal to the papacy and those which upheld the claims of the Holy Roman Empire. The papal position was that temporal monarchs, including the emperor himself, held their kingdoms in feu from the pope. Papal intersects were used to punish and constrain kings; in order to lift his excommunication, for example, King John of England was forced to surrender his domains to the pope and to receive them back in return for feudal service of 1,000 marks (£666) annually.

    The Church always found theological grounds for its political positions, but in many cases these were dictated by practical considerations. For example, the refusal of Pope Clement VII to grant an annulment of Henry VIII's marriage to Catherine of Aragon had sound bases in canon law, but also has to be viewed in light of the sack of Rome and the status of that pope as virtually a hostage of the Emperor Charles V, Catherine's nephew.

    As the technology of warfare changed, the fragmented authority typical of feudal Europe gave way to absolute monarchy and the nation-state. Monarchs were as unhappy with an independent church as they were with fractious territorial nobles. They not only resented the church's exercise of independent authority, but also viewed its wealth with increasingly avarice. This led to the Catholic loss of most of Northern Europe to the Reformation, which established state confessional church's firmly under the control of the secular rulers. In most of the countries that remained Catholic, concordats gave monarchs the authority to appoint bishops and to publish or refuse to publish papal bulls within their realms, much limiting the powers the papacy had asserted in the Middle Ages. This brought the diocesan clergy effectively under secular control, but not the regular clergy; the Jesuits in particular were an annoyance to rulers, and this led to their suppression in the Portuguese empire (1759), France (1764), the Two Sicilies, Malta, Parma, and the Spanish Empire (1767), and finally by Pope Clement XIV (1773).

    Papal power over temporal politics further eroded during the 19th century, ending in the collapse of the Papal States during the Risorgimento. The "softening" of the Roman Church's assertion of political authority was by then almost complete, though not fully formalized until the Lateran Pacts of 1929, which established the Vatican as we know it today. It is symbolically noteworthy that the papal tiara (or "triple crown") was last used in 1963. It signified a claim to temporal power (its first crown symbolized rule over the Papal States of Italy; second crown is said to have been added by Pope Innocent III (1198–1216) as signifying both his spiritual and temporal power, since he declared that God had set him over kings and kingdoms; and its third was added at the time of the papal move to Avignon).

    Pope John Paul II explicitly rejected these, saying:

    The last Pope to be crowned was Paul VI in 1963, but after the solemn coronation ceremony he never used the tiara again and left his Successors free to decide in this regard. Pope John Paul I, whose memory is so vivid in our hearts, did not wish to have the tiara; nor does his Successor wish it today. This is not the time to return to a ceremony and an object considered, wrongly, to be a symbol of the temporal power of the Popes. Our time calls us, urges us, obliges us to gaze on the Lord and immerse ourselves in humble and devout meditation on the mystery of the supreme power of Christ himself.
     
  94. […] Some quotes from this excellent book review, by Razib […]

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  95. @Vijay
    "would happen if, say, Tamil Nadu became Christian, or alternatively, became Muslim"

    Of course, I cannot let this pass without comment. Both, Islam and Christianity has been in TN for 9 and 5 (or 18) centuries, depending on what you believe.

    Christianity has been there since the time of Vasco Da Gama or St. Thomas (possibly made up). The earliest Christians follow Tamil traditions (like mangalasutra) in marriage. It is the latest converts who do not follow all Tamil customs (not that they need to). If anything, Tamil Christains seem more conservative than Tamil Brahmins! Of course, Christians have ben in the forefront of pioneering education.

    Islam has been there for 800 years. The sufi traditions of saints and mosque visits by poor of multiple religions has been popular, but Gulf workers have moved the pendulum in a slightly more conservative direction, except in girls education.

    "women out in motorbikes" is common, albeit in scooties. The Chief minister, of course, promised 50% subsidy for scooties. Do not scoff! They are primarily used for travel to school/work.

    The state is the opposite of all your beliefs; very conservative in all manners in spite of spewing "rational" cliches. It has the fewest percentage (3%) intercaste marriage. The various pieces that form Hinduism were formulated in Tamilnadu even prior to Aryan formulation of Hinduism. It can be said the Vedic Gods lost to the Trinity, and Buddhism/Jainism lost to Saivism here. The net effect has made the state moridly conservative; changing it into Islam or Christianity, may not change things substantially. This might be the only place on the earth that has Christian castes!

    I know there are Muslims and Christians in Tamil Nadu. I just picked TN as a reasonably large entity in the third world that could conceivably be majority Christian or majority Muslim country on its own, and then try to imagine if it would look any different in either case. I think a majority Xtian TN independent nation may not look too different from what the state looks like now (conservative in some ways, not so conservative in others), but a majority Muslim TN may have some (superficial?) differences: there would be a party trying to discourage women from being too out and about (with or without great success) and there would be groups focused on transnational Ummah issues, but maybe not that different otherwise.
    It was a hypothetical scenario. Dont take it too literally :)

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    • Replies: @Vijay
    Which is the exact point that I do not agree with. SriLanka is a reasonable equivalent, where Muslims and Hindu Tamils (yes, the Moors are not Tamils!) are exactly the same, but the Muslims and Tamils (Hindu and Christian) took opposite positions on their place in Srilankan society. The Srilankan Muslims did not even seek an united Ummah role. They just wanted to be left alone. It would be greatly difficult to argue how a religious minority would act.
  96. @spandrell
    Well it's fair to say that Talas or not, the Tang had a hard time projecting power that far into Central Asia, and odds were they would have lost it sooner or later. It's not like Arabs kept the area themselves much longer either, even if they managed to convert the population.

    Some battles are close calls, and a different result might had potentially changed a lot of the outcome. But some (most?) are very well determined by the overall circumstances. What would have changed it the Tang had won at Talas? It's not like the Tang would've had the capability of invading into Iran and restoring Zoroastrianism. Islam was still in the area, it's more suited for proselytism than anything China has to offer, the Tang would've lost control sooner or later and the area would've likely been Islamicized anyway, even if a few decades later

    Islam was still in the area, it’s more suited for proselytism than anything China has to offer, the Tang would’ve lost control sooner or later and the area would’ve likely been Islamicized anyway, even if a few decades later

    the main alternative i can think about is what became tibetan buddhism. the tibetans were the allies of the abbasids at the time, but their empire was the real alternative power in the region at the time.

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  97. @another fred
    Razib,

    There is a fine point to the development of Christianity and its relationship to politics that you do not mention. You may be aware of it and do not assign it the importance that I do, or you may not know about it (frankly, most Christians do not know much about it), but I would like to bring it up. It may seem trivial, but it has a lot to do with the attitude of different Christians to politics.

    Jesus mostly tried to avoid politics, the domain of the Imperium, but the tradition developed, as evidenced by a few passages, that Christians were to act a as "Judges" (in the sense of the Book of Judges, i.e. to exercise political rule) but not until after the Second Coming, i.e. after the events of the Apocalypse, called "Revelation" in the Protestant Canon.

    "Revelation" was the last book to be accepted into the Canon (419 AD) and is interpreted differently by (most) Protestants and (most) Roman Catholics. The key difference to my point is that the Roman Church generally interprets Revelation as a figurative or allegorical reference to things in the historical past while protestants, especially "Bible Believers", regard it as a prophetic narrative of things to come.

    My point is that where (in time) you place the events of the Apocalypse has a lot to say about the relationship of the Church to politics.

    A Jesuit who wrote under the name Malachi Martin wrote a very interesting book, "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Church" that dealt with the history of the Roman Church with secular politics, which as you noted has changed in recent centuries. I am not a Roman Catholic and would not attempt to expand on his observations, but he was quite negative about the involvement of the Roman Church with politics. For centuries the Roman Church vigorously asserted its right to political dominance, but again, as you say, this has softened. I believe this was not coincidentally supported by where (in time) they placed the Apocalypse.

    Conversely, a lot of people fear the protestant religious right, but do not understand the extent to which it is restrained by the understanding that their time is not yet (but soon, many say).

    But, back to your point about Islam, in spite of the complicated history of Christianity and politics, Islam is very different, I would say exceptional, in the fact that Mohammed himself asserted political power and not just over voluntary believers, but over any and all over whom Islam could gain dominance.

    This claim to political rule is what sets Islam apart and puts it on a collision course with the rest of the world.

    I would be interested to hear criticism or comment from Roman Catholics about the above. Protestants I am pretty familiar with and since there is no unified voice or view - less so.

    I would say exceptional, in the fact that Mohammed himself asserted political power and not just over voluntary believers, but over any and all over whom Islam could gain dominance.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Christian_thought_on_persecution_and_tolerance#The_Augustinian_consensus

    the differences btwn islam and xtianity are far more shaded than modern christians want to admit, especially in the past. see *the baltic crusades* for instances of christian knights behaving quite like muslim ghazis.

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    • Replies: @another fred
    I understand that the behavior of all are based in human psychology and instincts and therefore not really different, but I still believe that the fundamental difference in the origins has a bearing on nuances of behavior, doctrine, and most importantly the avenues open to modify both.

    Jesus lived during a time of an ascending Roman state and could not but "render unto Caesar". Mohammed may not have stepped into a political vacuum, but he mainly dealt with tribal rivals during the formative years of Islam and was not only able to assert secular authority, but the times were ripe for it with the ages of the Roman (Byzantine) state and the Persian Empire.

    I believe that these two different modes at the founding times set a pattern that shapes differences that will persist. Secular authority is doctrinal part and parcel of Islam, it is an expression of human nature where it asserts itself in Christianity.
  98. @Talha
    I realize that I was remiss and may have left the wrong impression. It is not that the Indian Subcontinent did not have discussion on the 'nature of God' since the Mughal period. Shah Waliullah's magnum opus (Hujjat Allah al-Baligha) is recognized for its piercing metaphysical insights across the Muslim world. Rather, the parameters of the discussion changed priorities - since the defeat of Akbar's syncretic creed and Shiah influence. Kalam is the technical knowledge of God and the universe - i.e. the creeds. That is definitely not as big a thing in the Indian subcontinent as it used to be. Rather, the other branch of this knowledge - the experiential knowledge of God - has always been in the purview of the Sufi Orders. This is indeed alive and well. Many of the top scholars of the region are also Sufi masters. Their treatises on the nature of God and the self (including their poetry) usually takes the form of insightful letters to their disciples which are collected in book form (various 'maktubat' abound). Imam Ghazali (ra) said of this branch of knowledge, that it was more effective in achieving the goal than intricate knowledge of creedal formulas and their logical proofs.

    Peace.

    “Shah Waliullah’s magnum opus (Hujjat Allah al-Baligha) is recognized for its piercing metaphysical insights across the Muslim world”

    I know you don’t mean to imply “all Muslims” or even “most Muslims”, but just the select few who are members of the local Kalam study circle, but I think the statement is still a bit hyperbolic. I cannot think of a single acquaintance (including several who think of themselves as Islamists and are eager readers of Islamic texts) who has ANY clue about anything written by Shah Walliullah about kalam. I think the impact of such things on the wider world has to be shown before we get too worked up about the great worldwide reputation of Shah Walliullah in the field of kalam.
    His Shia-hatred, hatred of Hindus and Muslim separatism did leave a legacy though, and are something a few of my more extremist Sunni Islamist acquaintances are likely to quote approvingly. Kalam, not so much.
    I do not doubt your sincerity and knowledge in this area, just its significance outside of a very small circle of modern Muslims. And I am open to the idea that great oaks can grown from small acorns, but I think it is important to recognize that no oak of kalam knowledge is extending its shade over the lands of Islam at this moment in history.

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    • Replies: @Talha
    Dear Omar,

    Really? Which circles are you in? It cannot be Indo-Pakistani circles...can it?

    This book is widely distributed and you can find it published from Malaysia to Beirut to Cario:
    https://ukm.pure.elsevier.com/en/publications/hujjat-allah-albalighah(edcccd2c-86a5-46f0-9e87-3ff8094c6b85).html

    Even people (that Islamists look up to) like Shaykhs Sayyid Sabiq, Qaradawi (both of Egypt) as well as more traditional minded people like the late Shaykhs Abul Fattah Abu Ghuddah, Ramadan Buti (both of Syria) referenced him. He was even praised (and criticized) by Shaykh Kawthari (the last grand Mufti of the Ottoman Caliphate). Some have considered him to be Ghazali-lite.

    That is around the world. As far as the Indian Subcontinent, everyone references him, even the most non-political Sufi Orders (like mine), to the Jamaat Islami (and likely even the Taliban) - his influence is that wide.

    But you are right, this is mostly among scholarly circles, your average rickshaw driver won't have a clue. There is one other note to make; the Hujja, is a comprehensive work, of which only one part is kalam. The rest deals with everything from jurisprudence to delicate Sufi insights.

    His Shia-hatred, hatred of Hindus and Muslim separatism did leave a legacy
     
    Can you give specific references for this hatred? Please keep in mind the context of his time. He had been borne when the Mughal empire was at its geographic peak and had started to crumble. The legacy of the powerful Maratha Empire was reasserting itself over Mughal politics also the Sikhs - internal revolt was feared so he advocated Mughal assertion of power. Also, the British East India company had already began their (military) footprint in the region. To not assume someone would have a view that comes across as militant to some seems to lack nuance. Now, there is another note to be made here. One that even traditional scholars have criticized (not in a moral sense, but in thought and approach) the way the Muslim scholars of India generally approached the Hindu population which was alienating (i.e. keeping the language in Persian and Arabic, isolating themselves from the local population, etc.) - though this was not always the case with the Sufi Orders. This is in contrast with a large number of people who came to Islam among the Javanese due to the more down-to-earth local approach of the scholars like the Wali Songa who mixed in with the people, adopted names in the local language and presented them with an Islam that was authentically Javanese.

    I think it is important to recognize that no oak of kalam knowledge is extending its shade over the lands of Islam at this moment in history
     
    Agreed, again...context. This doesn't seem to be the preeminent need of the time, in my opinion. Kalam tends to be a reactionary discipline, it rises to meet the challenges against the Orthodox beliefs of the Muslims when groups like Jabbriyah, Qaddriyah (not the Sufi order), Jahmiyyah, etc. arise or when new ideas like Platonic and Aristotelian thought is encountered. From what I have seen, much of it is baked and I can't imagine many new frontiers on it other than commentaries, which keep coming out - can you? Keep in mind, the Sunni Orthodox creeds are basically adopted from Senegal to Malaysia and this was done without resort to synods, ecumenical councils, etc. but to a fairly open debate of ideas.

    May God preserve you and yours.
  99. @Razib Khan
    what are you talking about? don't be cryptic, it's annoying me.

    sorry, was very busy, no sleep. The point I am making is that if u read my original comment, I take recourse to both the material interventions and inner dynamic of doctrines both. So a bit of sam harris and also the left. In my view Europe succeeded over others as it created a knowledge system which was unique compared to rest of the world in last thousand years around their universities. This is a key difference over India,china atleast . Universities in India like nalanda were destroyed by the invasions.
    One of the factors i do consider for example is the compounding nature of knowledge itself.Success in Europe are due in part to compounding nature of knowledge, survival of oldest universities in the world being more in Europe than any other place. Naturally, survival of these universities through centuries represents a certain compounding of knowledge and dissemination among elites of the like which was probably not achieved in other civilizations in medieval period. India for example has not done well because of security. There is now evidence in India of advanced mathematics related to calculus and circumstantial evidence of its transfer into europe. Medieval mathematicians in India like madhava carried forward ideas of bhaskara and aryabhata in understanding sine series,cosine series,taylor series. Which were till now credited to mathematicians in europe in 16-17th century. But this happened in the deep south which was relatively safe from invasions which were taking place in the north.

    https://books.google.co.in/books?id=b6UVpAeAzF0C&pg=PA172&lpg=PA172&dq=indian+calculus++education&source=bl&ots=63d6H8-h-k&sig=AcacaWvwadWRwsWTFD0M13wagLE&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiip7P425jNAhXIk5QKHWb3AQo4FBDoAQhHMAg#v=onepage&q=indian%20calculus%20%20education&f=false

    http://discovermagazine.com/2008/jan/calculus-was-developed-in-medieval-india

    http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/calculus-created-in-india-250-years-before-newton-study-1.632433

    In fact substantial progress on calculus was made in 12 century itself by bhaskara

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bh%C4%81skara_II

    This is truly an extraordinary discovery proving that, mathematical advances in astronomy and sciences need funding and security and where ever it is given progress is possible. But India by then did not have university system for widespread dissemination of knowledge. Unlike Europe

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    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    . In my view Europe succeeded over others as it created a knowledge system which was unique compared to rest of the world in last thousand years around their universities.

    in *warriors of the cloisters* christopher beckwith argues that the european college system derives from central asian models, mediated by the islamic world.
  100. Razib,

    You do good work, and even if you don’t I think more people should care that you got renounced in a defaming way by the New York Times.

    A couple points.

    But how those facts came about, and why, that is a different matter. The Islamic world is here. And it will be difficult to move it elsewhere. By making it seems as if being here is inevitable, Hamid seems to be arguing that moving it to a different equilibrium will be exceedingly difficult. But if you posit that modern conditions are historically contingent and labile, then the future is less predictable. I am come not to bring answers, but the cloud of confusion.

    Sounds as if you believe in something like Free Will. Anyways, moving the Islamic world to a “different equilibrium” will be exceedingly difficult because” the Islamic World is here”…Yes, you’re conclusion does not do much more than proffer confusion. Practically speaking, the problem seems to me to be this, that the CIA apparently can’t figure out how to introduce and prop up the right stripe of Strongmen who can snuff out extremist actors without disaffecting extremist believers. That turns out to be harder to do than cultivating able-minded liberal socialists who don’t promote communism like the CIA did during the Cold War. In other words, Saddam was one of a kind.

    This book posits explanations for the nature of Islamic polities, but the reality is that this only even applies to the core Islamic nations which were part of the Abbasid caliphate.

    If I was your editor, that would have been from your final paragraph. Along with something like, the storied mujahedeen spirit has less to do with nurture than nature.

    That’s why I don’t bother studying Islam with any deep focus. I don’t think the world would look much different if five percent of turks did not believe in putting apostates to death. If Islam, rather than middle-eastern blood, is the crucial factor, I’d imagine the best way to define it would be the way Joe Sobran defined it to me shortly before he died, that Allah’s Will is morally arbitrary–thou shall not kill, unless this that or this or that. (That’s why, theologically, it is truer to say that Judaism’s conception of God is more like Islam’s conception of God than Christianity’s conception of God.)

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  101. @syonredux

    The theological tenets of predestination and election historically encouraged antinomianism among some Calvinists. James Hogg’s The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner was, in addition to being a story of crime, a story of the supernatural, and a psychological study, a satire on the antinomian beliefs of some of Scottish Presbyterians, represented in the novel by the Rev. Wringhim, a Calvinist parson, and the protagonist, Robert, his illegitimate son by Rabina, the wife of George Colwan, laird of Dalcastle. In the course of the novel, Robert commits fraud and rape, and murders his elder (half) brother, under the guidance of one Gil-Martin (who may be a doppelgänger, or may be the Devil himself) – at all times convinced that he is one of the elect.
     
    I've read it; it's a good book. Please note, though, that it is fiction.

    As for actual Calvinists, they tended to brood rather obsessively over their status as one of the elect, always searching for signs of God's grace working upon them, etc. And people who go around raping and murdering are not exactly displaying the signs of election.

    And people who go around raping and murdering are not exactly displaying the signs of election.

    Yet the European wars of religion, beginning in the 16th century, and culminating in the Thirty Years’ War, certainly involved a lot of raping and murdering. Religious belief has motivated, or at least been used to rationalize, a great deal of cruel and violent behaviour on the parts of persons who are convinced of their own righteousness.

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    • Replies: @another fred
    We humans have more developed cerebral cortices, but underneath we are still animals with all the murderous and lascivious urges of apes. Very often we are not rational animals so much as animals that rationalize our urges.

    Religion is a cobbled together process for channeling our urges into functioning social behavior more suited for large groups.

    One should not expect too much of it.
    , @syonredux

    And people who go around raping and murdering are not exactly displaying the signs of election.

    Yet the European wars of religion, beginning in the 16th century, and culminating in the Thirty Years’ War, certainly involved a lot of raping and murdering. Religious belief has motivated, or at least been used to rationalize, a great deal of cruel and violent behaviour on the parts of persons who are convinced of their own righteousness.
     
    Absolutely, but any system (secular or religious) can be used to justify atrocities. Cf the Catholic led Albigensian Crusade, the Maoist Cultural Revolution, Stalin’s 1937-38 Great Terror, etc. And numerous acts of mass slaughter have essentially lacked any kind of elaborate theological/philosophical scaffolding (cf the Mongol Conquests).

    And your original point was that the Calvinist doctrine of election was linked, on an operational level, to antinomian conduct. My point is that there is very little evidence for that. 17th century New England was not known for people justifying criminal conduct on the grounds that they were among the elect and, hence, beyond the law.
  102. @amcupidsvictim
    sorry, was very busy, no sleep. The point I am making is that if u read my original comment, I take recourse to both the material interventions and inner dynamic of doctrines both. So a bit of sam harris and also the left. In my view Europe succeeded over others as it created a knowledge system which was unique compared to rest of the world in last thousand years around their universities. This is a key difference over India,china atleast . Universities in India like nalanda were destroyed by the invasions.
    One of the factors i do consider for example is the compounding nature of knowledge itself.Success in Europe are due in part to compounding nature of knowledge, survival of oldest universities in the world being more in Europe than any other place. Naturally, survival of these universities through centuries represents a certain compounding of knowledge and dissemination among elites of the like which was probably not achieved in other civilizations in medieval period. India for example has not done well because of security. There is now evidence in India of advanced mathematics related to calculus and circumstantial evidence of its transfer into europe. Medieval mathematicians in India like madhava carried forward ideas of bhaskara and aryabhata in understanding sine series,cosine series,taylor series. Which were till now credited to mathematicians in europe in 16-17th century. But this happened in the deep south which was relatively safe from invasions which were taking place in the north.

    https://books.google.co.in/books?id=b6UVpAeAzF0C&pg=PA172&lpg=PA172&dq=indian+calculus++education&source=bl&ots=63d6H8-h-k&sig=AcacaWvwadWRwsWTFD0M13wagLE&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiip7P425jNAhXIk5QKHWb3AQo4FBDoAQhHMAg#v=onepage&q=indian%20calculus%20%20education&f=false

    http://discovermagazine.com/2008/jan/calculus-was-developed-in-medieval-india
    http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/calculus-created-in-india-250-years-before-newton-study-1.632433

    In fact substantial progress on calculus was made in 12 century itself by bhaskara
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bh%C4%81skara_II
    This is truly an extraordinary discovery proving that, mathematical advances in astronomy and sciences need funding and security and where ever it is given progress is possible. But India by then did not have university system for widespread dissemination of knowledge. Unlike Europe

    . In my view Europe succeeded over others as it created a knowledge system which was unique compared to rest of the world in last thousand years around their universities.

    in *warriors of the cloisters* christopher beckwith argues that the european college system derives from central asian models, mediated by the islamic world.

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    • Replies: @amcupidsvictim
    That is fine, the question is not where methods have come from, question is who pursued with it the longest and why?. I dont have independent access to find out oldest universities around the world. Most of them come from Europe. Is there any other civilization in comparison which allowed for this for those many centuries? As I said, Oxford is 900 yr old university. This is incredible. From India, the only institutions which have lasted that long are the mathas of shankaracharya from 8th century ad(and even they are perhaps not continuous).There is no comparable system of institutions anywhere in the world lasting as long.
  103. @Razib Khan
    I would say exceptional, in the fact that Mohammed himself asserted political power and not just over voluntary believers, but over any and all over whom Islam could gain dominance.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Christian_thought_on_persecution_and_tolerance#The_Augustinian_consensus

    the differences btwn islam and xtianity are far more shaded than modern christians want to admit, especially in the past. see *the baltic crusades* for instances of christian knights behaving quite like muslim ghazis.

    I understand that the behavior of all are based in human psychology and instincts and therefore not really different, but I still believe that the fundamental difference in the origins has a bearing on nuances of behavior, doctrine, and most importantly the avenues open to modify both.

    Jesus lived during a time of an ascending Roman state and could not but “render unto Caesar”. Mohammed may not have stepped into a political vacuum, but he mainly dealt with tribal rivals during the formative years of Islam and was not only able to assert secular authority, but the times were ripe for it with the ages of the Roman (Byzantine) state and the Persian Empire.

    I believe that these two different modes at the founding times set a pattern that shapes differences that will persist. Secular authority is doctrinal part and parcel of Islam, it is an expression of human nature where it asserts itself in Christianity.

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    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    I believe

    the only point of this comment is to restate a well understood position which the author of the book itself holds to? not too much value-add.
  104. @another fred
    I understand that the behavior of all are based in human psychology and instincts and therefore not really different, but I still believe that the fundamental difference in the origins has a bearing on nuances of behavior, doctrine, and most importantly the avenues open to modify both.

    Jesus lived during a time of an ascending Roman state and could not but "render unto Caesar". Mohammed may not have stepped into a political vacuum, but he mainly dealt with tribal rivals during the formative years of Islam and was not only able to assert secular authority, but the times were ripe for it with the ages of the Roman (Byzantine) state and the Persian Empire.

    I believe that these two different modes at the founding times set a pattern that shapes differences that will persist. Secular authority is doctrinal part and parcel of Islam, it is an expression of human nature where it asserts itself in Christianity.

    I believe

    the only point of this comment is to restate a well understood position which the author of the book itself holds to? not too much value-add.

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  105. @Crawfurdmuir

    And people who go around raping and murdering are not exactly displaying the signs of election.
     
    Yet the European wars of religion, beginning in the 16th century, and culminating in the Thirty Years' War, certainly involved a lot of raping and murdering. Religious belief has motivated, or at least been used to rationalize, a great deal of cruel and violent behaviour on the parts of persons who are convinced of their own righteousness.

    We humans have more developed cerebral cortices, but underneath we are still animals with all the murderous and lascivious urges of apes. Very often we are not rational animals so much as animals that rationalize our urges.

    Religion is a cobbled together process for channeling our urges into functioning social behavior more suited for large groups.

    One should not expect too much of it.

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  106. @Anonymous
    So which religion is more advantageous?

    How does GDP show which religion is more advantageous? All other things weren't equal. These countries were parts of different empires most of their history. Also, Serbia and Croatia are nation states, while Bosnia is a multinational one, with each nation trying to screw over the others. Bosnia also suffered by far the most damage in the war.

    In socialist Yugoslavia it was better to be Serb and being Muslim was a disadvantage. The Bosniak identity wasn’t recognized at all

    Not true. Being openly religious was a disadvantage if you were ambitious, but that affected people practicing any religion. Yugoslavia was good for Muslims and they remain nostalgic about it, even after it turned on them the way it did. They were officially recognized as a nation (the Muslim nation) for part of Yugoslavia's existence. The recognition simply followed the evolution of Muslim national consciousness and nomenclature.

    And at the time of Bosnian War most of the casualties were Muslim Bosniaks

    Because they were a minority in the region, with terrible leaders and no nation state of their own to help them. Not because they were Muslim.

    Why Bosniaks converted to Islam? Did they hoped to keep Bogomil [1,2] beliefs disguised as some kind of Heterodox Islamic sect?

    They didn't. There were no Bosniaks back then. It's a modern national identity. Bosniaks aren't descendants of Bogumils, they're descendants of all those Muslims in Bosnia, Serbia, Croatia, Hungary who never converted back to Christianity or fled to Turkey. All those people could keep their religion in Bosnia, the last Ottoman territory in the region. People often wonder why Bosnia today has many Muslims, and the others don't, but that's really all there is to it.

    Saw an article a few years ago that described the Muslims of the sandjak as “bosniaks”! Hilarious, but logical.

    Sadly, the next step will likely be for Serbs of the Sandjak to demand these fake bosniaks go ” back ” home to bosnia, a place neither they nor their ancestors have any link to.

    On the other hand, German speakers of Italian Tyrol have been going “back” to Austria and Germany for almost a century. So these kinds of things happen.

    Sorry for the thread drift.

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  107. @omarali50
    I know there are Muslims and Christians in Tamil Nadu. I just picked TN as a reasonably large entity in the third world that could conceivably be majority Christian or majority Muslim country on its own, and then try to imagine if it would look any different in either case. I think a majority Xtian TN independent nation may not look too different from what the state looks like now (conservative in some ways, not so conservative in others), but a majority Muslim TN may have some (superficial?) differences: there would be a party trying to discourage women from being too out and about (with or without great success) and there would be groups focused on transnational Ummah issues, but maybe not that different otherwise.
    It was a hypothetical scenario. Dont take it too literally :)

    Which is the exact point that I do not agree with. SriLanka is a reasonable equivalent, where Muslims and Hindu Tamils (yes, the Moors are not Tamils!) are exactly the same, but the Muslims and Tamils (Hindu and Christian) took opposite positions on their place in Srilankan society. The Srilankan Muslims did not even seek an united Ummah role. They just wanted to be left alone. It would be greatly difficult to argue how a religious minority would act.

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  108. I don’t know where I read this first, perhaps in V.S. Naipaul’s Among the Believers or maybe in David Warren’s reminiscences of living in pre-urbanized Pakistan, but the argument is that a spirit of moderation and compromise historically found in Islamic communities across much of the world had something to do with the fact that most Muslims were illiterate and could not read the Quran even if they knew Arabic. Pauca scriptura rather than sola scriptura. This meant that some pre-existing customs were carried over and local and regional folkways flourished, often worked out pragmatically and not in keeping with Islamic doctrine as defined by authorities (the four major “schools”?).

    As more people became literate and as Saudis funded madrasas everywhere, a more literalist interpretation of Islamic scripture began to supplant the doctrinally “impure” variants. The Reformation that some are demanding of Islam is taking place, but it does not appear to be leading to a more humane (kinder, gentler) outlook on life and on non-Muslims but the opposite. Speaking as someone who does not know a tenth of what Razib knows of Islam (nor history of religion in general), I hesitate to say this, but both the Quran and the life of Muhammad shock and repel me with the malevolence they exude, a malevolence which I cannot find to a like extent in either the Torah or the New Testament.

    Granting that I am not qualified to discuss this with Razib at his level of knowledge, I feel an uncompromising harshness coming from the Quran (and also from more than a few Muslims I have known, including even Ahmadiyya) that I do not experience to the same extent anywhere else. So to my scantily educated and not widely traveled self, Islam is different and exceptional, and not in a good way, even taking into account periods in history when Islamic cities (Granada, Baghdad) were the pinnacle of civilization.

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    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    probably the clearest case of this dynamic is indonesia, where local 'syncretistic' variants of islam often give way to more 'orthodox' modernist varieties ('santri') among the urban middle class. that being said, i wouldn't put too much emphasis on scripture. rather, it's the hadith and the legal framework of islam which becomes more relevant in a cosmopolitan less local world. additionally, there is a pull toward world normative islam as people get integrated into global networks.
  109. @another fred
    Razib,

    There is a fine point to the development of Christianity and its relationship to politics that you do not mention. You may be aware of it and do not assign it the importance that I do, or you may not know about it (frankly, most Christians do not know much about it), but I would like to bring it up. It may seem trivial, but it has a lot to do with the attitude of different Christians to politics.

    Jesus mostly tried to avoid politics, the domain of the Imperium, but the tradition developed, as evidenced by a few passages, that Christians were to act a as "Judges" (in the sense of the Book of Judges, i.e. to exercise political rule) but not until after the Second Coming, i.e. after the events of the Apocalypse, called "Revelation" in the Protestant Canon.

    "Revelation" was the last book to be accepted into the Canon (419 AD) and is interpreted differently by (most) Protestants and (most) Roman Catholics. The key difference to my point is that the Roman Church generally interprets Revelation as a figurative or allegorical reference to things in the historical past while protestants, especially "Bible Believers", regard it as a prophetic narrative of things to come.

    My point is that where (in time) you place the events of the Apocalypse has a lot to say about the relationship of the Church to politics.

    A Jesuit who wrote under the name Malachi Martin wrote a very interesting book, "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Church" that dealt with the history of the Roman Church with secular politics, which as you noted has changed in recent centuries. I am not a Roman Catholic and would not attempt to expand on his observations, but he was quite negative about the involvement of the Roman Church with politics. For centuries the Roman Church vigorously asserted its right to political dominance, but again, as you say, this has softened. I believe this was not coincidentally supported by where (in time) they placed the Apocalypse.

    Conversely, a lot of people fear the protestant religious right, but do not understand the extent to which it is restrained by the understanding that their time is not yet (but soon, many say).

    But, back to your point about Islam, in spite of the complicated history of Christianity and politics, Islam is very different, I would say exceptional, in the fact that Mohammed himself asserted political power and not just over voluntary believers, but over any and all over whom Islam could gain dominance.

    This claim to political rule is what sets Islam apart and puts it on a collision course with the rest of the world.

    I would be interested to hear criticism or comment from Roman Catholics about the above. Protestants I am pretty familiar with and since there is no unified voice or view - less so.

    I don’t think the historic involvement of the Roman Catholic Church with international politics has much to do with the Apocalypse of St. John at all. Rather it arises from the longstanding role of the papacy as a temporal monarchy in central Italy.

    The popes claimed temporal authority on the basis of the so-called Donation of Constantine, a document that purported to be that emperor’s transfer of power over Rome and the Western Empire to the Church. This was shown to be a forgery in the sixteenth century by Lorenzo Valla, but by that time had been used to buttress papal authority for perhaps eight centuries.

    The mediaeval conflict between Guelphs and Ghibellines was in essence a fight between parties loyal to the papacy and those which upheld the claims of the Holy Roman Empire. The papal position was that temporal monarchs, including the emperor himself, held their kingdoms in feu from the pope. Papal intersects were used to punish and constrain kings; in order to lift his excommunication, for example, King John of England was forced to surrender his domains to the pope and to receive them back in return for feudal service of 1,000 marks (£666) annually.

    The Church always found theological grounds for its political positions, but in many cases these were dictated by practical considerations. For example, the refusal of Pope Clement VII to grant an annulment of Henry VIII’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon had sound bases in canon law, but also has to be viewed in light of the sack of Rome and the status of that pope as virtually a hostage of the Emperor Charles V, Catherine’s nephew.

    As the technology of warfare changed, the fragmented authority typical of feudal Europe gave way to absolute monarchy and the nation-state. Monarchs were as unhappy with an independent church as they were with fractious territorial nobles. They not only resented the church’s exercise of independent authority, but also viewed its wealth with increasingly avarice. This led to the Catholic loss of most of Northern Europe to the Reformation, which established state confessional church’s firmly under the control of the secular rulers. In most of the countries that remained Catholic, concordats gave monarchs the authority to appoint bishops and to publish or refuse to publish papal bulls within their realms, much limiting the powers the papacy had asserted in the Middle Ages. This brought the diocesan clergy effectively under secular control, but not the regular clergy; the Jesuits in particular were an annoyance to rulers, and this led to their suppression in the Portuguese empire (1759), France (1764), the Two Sicilies, Malta, Parma, and the Spanish Empire (1767), and finally by Pope Clement XIV (1773).

    Papal power over temporal politics further eroded during the 19th century, ending in the collapse of the Papal States during the Risorgimento. The “softening” of the Roman Church’s assertion of political authority was by then almost complete, though not fully formalized until the Lateran Pacts of 1929, which established the Vatican as we know it today. It is symbolically noteworthy that the papal tiara (or “triple crown”) was last used in 1963. It signified a claim to temporal power (its first crown symbolized rule over the Papal States of Italy; second crown is said to have been added by Pope Innocent III (1198–1216) as signifying both his spiritual and temporal power, since he declared that God had set him over kings and kingdoms; and its third was added at the time of the papal move to Avignon).

    Pope John Paul II explicitly rejected these, saying:

    The last Pope to be crowned was Paul VI in 1963, but after the solemn coronation ceremony he never used the tiara again and left his Successors free to decide in this regard. Pope John Paul I, whose memory is so vivid in our hearts, did not wish to have the tiara; nor does his Successor wish it today. This is not the time to return to a ceremony and an object considered, wrongly, to be a symbol of the temporal power of the Popes. Our time calls us, urges us, obliges us to gaze on the Lord and immerse ourselves in humble and devout meditation on the mystery of the supreme power of Christ himself.

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    • Replies: @Crawfurdmuir
    "Papal intersects" should have read "papal interdicts." Auto-correct strikes again!
    , @another fred

    I don’t think the historic involvement of the Roman Catholic Church with international politics has much to do with the Apocalypse of St. John at all.
     
    My argument was not that it had "much" to do with it, but that it was part of the rationalization of the behavior, necessary but not sufficient. In my view the motivation comes from human nature, but if a professed Christian wishes to exercise dominion over others he does have to rationalize away certain parts of scripture (and I understand that other parts will support the wish).

    All the rest you say is historical and true, but this part gets to my argument with Razib:

    As the technology of warfare changed, the fragmented authority typical of feudal Europe gave way to absolute monarchy and the nation-state.
     
    The point being that the Church could change and adapt to the times. I am not one who holds that we are today more moral and better because of the "lessons of history", but that we adapt to the environment around us. The fact that Jesus was not involved in secular affairs leaves his "followers"* free to adapt. That Mohammed was deeply involved with secular affairs and that his dealings are taken as the model for mankind severely restricts the options for Muslims - especially in dealing with the jihadis like ISIS. That restriction is what makes Islam "exceptional" in my mind.

    *CHRISTIAN, n. One who believes that the New Testament is a divinely inspired book admirably suited to the spiritual needs of his neighbor. One who follows the teachings of Christ in so far as they are not inconsistent with a life of sin. - Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary
  110. @grmbl
    I don't know where I read this first, perhaps in V.S. Naipaul's Among the Believers or maybe in David Warren's reminiscences of living in pre-urbanized Pakistan, but the argument is that a spirit of moderation and compromise historically found in Islamic communities across much of the world had something to do with the fact that most Muslims were illiterate and could not read the Quran even if they knew Arabic. Pauca scriptura rather than sola scriptura. This meant that some pre-existing customs were carried over and local and regional folkways flourished, often worked out pragmatically and not in keeping with Islamic doctrine as defined by authorities (the four major "schools"?).

    As more people became literate and as Saudis funded madrasas everywhere, a more literalist interpretation of Islamic scripture began to supplant the doctrinally "impure" variants. The Reformation that some are demanding of Islam is taking place, but it does not appear to be leading to a more humane (kinder, gentler) outlook on life and on non-Muslims but the opposite. Speaking as someone who does not know a tenth of what Razib knows of Islam (nor history of religion in general), I hesitate to say this, but both the Quran and the life of Muhammad shock and repel me with the malevolence they exude, a malevolence which I cannot find to a like extent in either the Torah or the New Testament.

    Granting that I am not qualified to discuss this with Razib at his level of knowledge, I feel an uncompromising harshness coming from the Quran (and also from more than a few Muslims I have known, including even Ahmadiyya) that I do not experience to the same extent anywhere else. So to my scantily educated and not widely traveled self, Islam is different and exceptional, and not in a good way, even taking into account periods in history when Islamic cities (Granada, Baghdad) were the pinnacle of civilization.

    probably the clearest case of this dynamic is indonesia, where local ‘syncretistic’ variants of islam often give way to more ‘orthodox’ modernist varieties (‘santri’) among the urban middle class. that being said, i wouldn’t put too much emphasis on scripture. rather, it’s the hadith and the legal framework of islam which becomes more relevant in a cosmopolitan less local world. additionally, there is a pull toward world normative islam as people get integrated into global networks.

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  111. @omarali50
    "Shah Waliullah’s magnum opus (Hujjat Allah al-Baligha) is recognized for its piercing metaphysical insights across the Muslim world"

    I know you don't mean to imply "all Muslims" or even "most Muslims", but just the select few who are members of the local Kalam study circle, but I think the statement is still a bit hyperbolic. I cannot think of a single acquaintance (including several who think of themselves as Islamists and are eager readers of Islamic texts) who has ANY clue about anything written by Shah Walliullah about kalam. I think the impact of such things on the wider world has to be shown before we get too worked up about the great worldwide reputation of Shah Walliullah in the field of kalam.
    His Shia-hatred, hatred of Hindus and Muslim separatism did leave a legacy though, and are something a few of my more extremist Sunni Islamist acquaintances are likely to quote approvingly. Kalam, not so much.
    I do not doubt your sincerity and knowledge in this area, just its significance outside of a very small circle of modern Muslims. And I am open to the idea that great oaks can grown from small acorns, but I think it is important to recognize that no oak of kalam knowledge is extending its shade over the lands of Islam at this moment in history.

    Dear Omar,

    Really? Which circles are you in? It cannot be Indo-Pakistani circles…can it?

    This book is widely distributed and you can find it published from Malaysia to Beirut to Cario:

    https://ukm.pure.elsevier.com/en/publications/hujjat-allah-albalighah(edcccd2c-86a5-46f0-9e87-3ff8094c6b85).html

    Even people (that Islamists look up to) like Shaykhs Sayyid Sabiq, Qaradawi (both of Egypt) as well as more traditional minded people like the late Shaykhs Abul Fattah Abu Ghuddah, Ramadan Buti (both of Syria) referenced him. He was even praised (and criticized) by Shaykh Kawthari (the last grand Mufti of the Ottoman Caliphate). Some have considered him to be Ghazali-lite.

    That is around the world. As far as the Indian Subcontinent, everyone references him, even the most non-political Sufi Orders (like mine), to the Jamaat Islami (and likely even the Taliban) – his influence is that wide.

    But you are right, this is mostly among scholarly circles, your average rickshaw driver won’t have a clue. There is one other note to make; the Hujja, is a comprehensive work, of which only one part is kalam. The rest deals with everything from jurisprudence to delicate Sufi insights.

    His Shia-hatred, hatred of Hindus and Muslim separatism did leave a legacy

    Can you give specific references for this hatred? Please keep in mind the context of his time. He had been borne when the Mughal empire was at its geographic peak and had started to crumble. The legacy of the powerful Maratha Empire was reasserting itself over Mughal politics also the Sikhs – internal revolt was feared so he advocated Mughal assertion of power. Also, the British East India company had already began their (military) footprint in the region. To not assume someone would have a view that comes across as militant to some seems to lack nuance. Now, there is another note to be made here. One that even traditional scholars have criticized (not in a moral sense, but in thought and approach) the way the Muslim scholars of India generally approached the Hindu population which was alienating (i.e. keeping the language in Persian and Arabic, isolating themselves from the local population, etc.) – though this was not always the case with the Sufi Orders. This is in contrast with a large number of people who came to Islam among the Javanese due to the more down-to-earth local approach of the scholars like the Wali Songa who mixed in with the people, adopted names in the local language and presented them with an Islam that was authentically Javanese.

    I think it is important to recognize that no oak of kalam knowledge is extending its shade over the lands of Islam at this moment in history

    Agreed, again…context. This doesn’t seem to be the preeminent need of the time, in my opinion. Kalam tends to be a reactionary discipline, it rises to meet the challenges against the Orthodox beliefs of the Muslims when groups like Jabbriyah, Qaddriyah (not the Sufi order), Jahmiyyah, etc. arise or when new ideas like Platonic and Aristotelian thought is encountered. From what I have seen, much of it is baked and I can’t imagine many new frontiers on it other than commentaries, which keep coming out – can you? Keep in mind, the Sunni Orthodox creeds are basically adopted from Senegal to Malaysia and this was done without resort to synods, ecumenical councils, etc. but to a fairly open debate of ideas.

    May God preserve you and yours.

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    • Replies: @omarali50
    I have not read his original books, and I know that he made some efforts for shia-sunni unity of some sort (under the umbrella of correct Sunni shariah of course), but pro-Shia websites certainly regard him as "anti-Shia" (see here https://lubpak.com/archives/306269 and https://lubpak.com/archives/313032 ) , as does this book https://books.google.com/books?id=TLi2BgAAQBAJ&pg=PA206&lpg=PA206&dq=shah+waliullah+fatwa+on+shia&source=bl&ots=Rsc4tljixJ&sig=H5XWgizdmBQar1cYXtEF4MrpI8A&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwio8MrIyJnNAhUPQlIKHQYLAXAQ6AEIUTAI#v=onepage&q=shah%20waliullah%20fatwa%20on%20shia&f=false and his descendants and great fans (the Deobandis) are certainly anti-Shia.

    About being anti-Hindu there is much less doubt. Here, for example, is an article from Professor Mubarak Ali (professor of history in Lahore) about Shah Waliullah and his ideals: http://www.dawn.com/news/1038270 . If you feel he is being misquoted, it would be great if you could find the original text of his letter to Abdali and other writings on the need for Muslims to separate themselves from Hindus in all matters and for outside Muslim rulers to invade India and destroy "Hindu Power" and so on.
    This fan of Shah Walliullah certainly does not regard him as a proponent of interfaith dialog and peace http://www.academia.edu/592790/SHAH_WALIULLAH_AL-DEHLAWI_THOUGHTS_AND_CONTRIBUTIONS

    Are the thoughts of Shah Walliulah on Jihad etc presented in these (Hindu writers) articles accurate or misquotes?

    http://voiceofdharma.org/books/muslimsep/ch6.htm

    http://www.kashmirherald.com/featuredarticle/shahwaliullah.html

    And so on. Whether the man wanted to or not, his legacy seems to be about Muslim separatism, supremacism and jihad (not the "inner spiritual" kind). Is that a misunderstanding? I have not read him in the original. Is he being misquoted and misrepresented? can you clarify? thanks
  112. @Razib Khan
    . In my view Europe succeeded over others as it created a knowledge system which was unique compared to rest of the world in last thousand years around their universities.

    in *warriors of the cloisters* christopher beckwith argues that the european college system derives from central asian models, mediated by the islamic world.

    That is fine, the question is not where methods have come from, question is who pursued with it the longest and why?. I dont have independent access to find out oldest universities around the world. Most of them come from Europe. Is there any other civilization in comparison which allowed for this for those many centuries? As I said, Oxford is 900 yr old university. This is incredible. From India, the only institutions which have lasted that long are the mathas of shankaracharya from 8th century ad(and even they are perhaps not continuous).There is no comparable system of institutions anywhere in the world lasting as long.

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    • Replies: @Talha
    Did you see my comment on Qarawayn? There is also Zaytuna in Tunis which is even older and trained men of wide acceptance like Ibn Khaldun (ra). And if you include al-Azhar in Cairo, then North Africa has three of the oldest universities in the world.

    Peace.

  113. @amcupidsvictim
    That is fine, the question is not where methods have come from, question is who pursued with it the longest and why?. I dont have independent access to find out oldest universities around the world. Most of them come from Europe. Is there any other civilization in comparison which allowed for this for those many centuries? As I said, Oxford is 900 yr old university. This is incredible. From India, the only institutions which have lasted that long are the mathas of shankaracharya from 8th century ad(and even they are perhaps not continuous).There is no comparable system of institutions anywhere in the world lasting as long.

    Did you see my comment on Qarawayn? There is also Zaytuna in Tunis which is even older and trained men of wide acceptance like Ibn Khaldun (ra). And if you include al-Azhar in Cairo, then North Africa has three of the oldest universities in the world.

    Peace.

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    • Replies: @amcupidsvictim
    No, sorry, thanks, I think its brilliant. But as I said, You take the quantity of these universities across the world compared to Europe and how long they stood its still small. Perhaps colonialism helped them with money to build more?. But I think this stands as a critical difference. Thank you and would appreciate more of such .
  114. @Crawfurdmuir
    I don't think the historic involvement of the Roman Catholic Church with international politics has much to do with the Apocalypse of St. John at all. Rather it arises from the longstanding role of the papacy as a temporal monarchy in central Italy.

    The popes claimed temporal authority on the basis of the so-called Donation of Constantine, a document that purported to be that emperor's transfer of power over Rome and the Western Empire to the Church. This was shown to be a forgery in the sixteenth century by Lorenzo Valla, but by that time had been used to buttress papal authority for perhaps eight centuries.

    The mediaeval conflict between Guelphs and Ghibellines was in essence a fight between parties loyal to the papacy and those which upheld the claims of the Holy Roman Empire. The papal position was that temporal monarchs, including the emperor himself, held their kingdoms in feu from the pope. Papal intersects were used to punish and constrain kings; in order to lift his excommunication, for example, King John of England was forced to surrender his domains to the pope and to receive them back in return for feudal service of 1,000 marks (£666) annually.

    The Church always found theological grounds for its political positions, but in many cases these were dictated by practical considerations. For example, the refusal of Pope Clement VII to grant an annulment of Henry VIII's marriage to Catherine of Aragon had sound bases in canon law, but also has to be viewed in light of the sack of Rome and the status of that pope as virtually a hostage of the Emperor Charles V, Catherine's nephew.

    As the technology of warfare changed, the fragmented authority typical of feudal Europe gave way to absolute monarchy and the nation-state. Monarchs were as unhappy with an independent church as they were with fractious territorial nobles. They not only resented the church's exercise of independent authority, but also viewed its wealth with increasingly avarice. This led to the Catholic loss of most of Northern Europe to the Reformation, which established state confessional church's firmly under the control of the secular rulers. In most of the countries that remained Catholic, concordats gave monarchs the authority to appoint bishops and to publish or refuse to publish papal bulls within their realms, much limiting the powers the papacy had asserted in the Middle Ages. This brought the diocesan clergy effectively under secular control, but not the regular clergy; the Jesuits in particular were an annoyance to rulers, and this led to their suppression in the Portuguese empire (1759), France (1764), the Two Sicilies, Malta, Parma, and the Spanish Empire (1767), and finally by Pope Clement XIV (1773).

    Papal power over temporal politics further eroded during the 19th century, ending in the collapse of the Papal States during the Risorgimento. The "softening" of the Roman Church's assertion of political authority was by then almost complete, though not fully formalized until the Lateran Pacts of 1929, which established the Vatican as we know it today. It is symbolically noteworthy that the papal tiara (or "triple crown") was last used in 1963. It signified a claim to temporal power (its first crown symbolized rule over the Papal States of Italy; second crown is said to have been added by Pope Innocent III (1198–1216) as signifying both his spiritual and temporal power, since he declared that God had set him over kings and kingdoms; and its third was added at the time of the papal move to Avignon).

    Pope John Paul II explicitly rejected these, saying:

    The last Pope to be crowned was Paul VI in 1963, but after the solemn coronation ceremony he never used the tiara again and left his Successors free to decide in this regard. Pope John Paul I, whose memory is so vivid in our hearts, did not wish to have the tiara; nor does his Successor wish it today. This is not the time to return to a ceremony and an object considered, wrongly, to be a symbol of the temporal power of the Popes. Our time calls us, urges us, obliges us to gaze on the Lord and immerse ourselves in humble and devout meditation on the mystery of the supreme power of Christ himself.
     

    “Papal intersects” should have read “papal interdicts.” Auto-correct strikes again!

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  115. @Crawfurdmuir
    I don't think the historic involvement of the Roman Catholic Church with international politics has much to do with the Apocalypse of St. John at all. Rather it arises from the longstanding role of the papacy as a temporal monarchy in central Italy.

    The popes claimed temporal authority on the basis of the so-called Donation of Constantine, a document that purported to be that emperor's transfer of power over Rome and the Western Empire to the Church. This was shown to be a forgery in the sixteenth century by Lorenzo Valla, but by that time had been used to buttress papal authority for perhaps eight centuries.

    The mediaeval conflict between Guelphs and Ghibellines was in essence a fight between parties loyal to the papacy and those which upheld the claims of the Holy Roman Empire. The papal position was that temporal monarchs, including the emperor himself, held their kingdoms in feu from the pope. Papal intersects were used to punish and constrain kings; in order to lift his excommunication, for example, King John of England was forced to surrender his domains to the pope and to receive them back in return for feudal service of 1,000 marks (£666) annually.

    The Church always found theological grounds for its political positions, but in many cases these were dictated by practical considerations. For example, the refusal of Pope Clement VII to grant an annulment of Henry VIII's marriage to Catherine of Aragon had sound bases in canon law, but also has to be viewed in light of the sack of Rome and the status of that pope as virtually a hostage of the Emperor Charles V, Catherine's nephew.

    As the technology of warfare changed, the fragmented authority typical of feudal Europe gave way to absolute monarchy and the nation-state. Monarchs were as unhappy with an independent church as they were with fractious territorial nobles. They not only resented the church's exercise of independent authority, but also viewed its wealth with increasingly avarice. This led to the Catholic loss of most of Northern Europe to the Reformation, which established state confessional church's firmly under the control of the secular rulers. In most of the countries that remained Catholic, concordats gave monarchs the authority to appoint bishops and to publish or refuse to publish papal bulls within their realms, much limiting the powers the papacy had asserted in the Middle Ages. This brought the diocesan clergy effectively under secular control, but not the regular clergy; the Jesuits in particular were an annoyance to rulers, and this led to their suppression in the Portuguese empire (1759), France (1764), the Two Sicilies, Malta, Parma, and the Spanish Empire (1767), and finally by Pope Clement XIV (1773).

    Papal power over temporal politics further eroded during the 19th century, ending in the collapse of the Papal States during the Risorgimento. The "softening" of the Roman Church's assertion of political authority was by then almost complete, though not fully formalized until the Lateran Pacts of 1929, which established the Vatican as we know it today. It is symbolically noteworthy that the papal tiara (or "triple crown") was last used in 1963. It signified a claim to temporal power (its first crown symbolized rule over the Papal States of Italy; second crown is said to have been added by Pope Innocent III (1198–1216) as signifying both his spiritual and temporal power, since he declared that God had set him over kings and kingdoms; and its third was added at the time of the papal move to Avignon).

    Pope John Paul II explicitly rejected these, saying:

    The last Pope to be crowned was Paul VI in 1963, but after the solemn coronation ceremony he never used the tiara again and left his Successors free to decide in this regard. Pope John Paul I, whose memory is so vivid in our hearts, did not wish to have the tiara; nor does his Successor wish it today. This is not the time to return to a ceremony and an object considered, wrongly, to be a symbol of the temporal power of the Popes. Our time calls us, urges us, obliges us to gaze on the Lord and immerse ourselves in humble and devout meditation on the mystery of the supreme power of Christ himself.
     

    I don’t think the historic involvement of the Roman Catholic Church with international politics has much to do with the Apocalypse of St. John at all.

    My argument was not that it had “much” to do with it, but that it was part of the rationalization of the behavior, necessary but not sufficient. In my view the motivation comes from human nature, but if a professed Christian wishes to exercise dominion over others he does have to rationalize away certain parts of scripture (and I understand that other parts will support the wish).

    All the rest you say is historical and true, but this part gets to my argument with Razib:

    As the technology of warfare changed, the fragmented authority typical of feudal Europe gave way to absolute monarchy and the nation-state.

    The point being that the Church could change and adapt to the times. I am not one who holds that we are today more moral and better because of the “lessons of history”, but that we adapt to the environment around us. The fact that Jesus was not involved in secular affairs leaves his “followers”* free to adapt. That Mohammed was deeply involved with secular affairs and that his dealings are taken as the model for mankind severely restricts the options for Muslims – especially in dealing with the jihadis like ISIS. That restriction is what makes Islam “exceptional” in my mind.

    *CHRISTIAN, n. One who believes that the New Testament is a divinely inspired book admirably suited to the spiritual needs of his neighbor. One who follows the teachings of Christ in so far as they are not inconsistent with a life of sin. – Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary

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  116. @Marcus
    Practices of female seclusion must have been adopted from the Roman or Persian upper classes (or maybe the Jews?). Arabian women beforehand were remarkably free, think of Zenobia and Mavia, the earliest mentions of Arabs have them led by warrior queens https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zabibe

    Practices of female seclusion must have been adopted from the Roman or Persian upper classes (or maybe the Jews?).

    This is not true. North African church father Tertullian, writing around the 3rd century, identified face veiling as a pagan Arabian custom in chapter 17 of his insufferable treatise “On the Veiling of Virgins”:

    Arabia’s heathen females will be your judges, who cover not only the head, but the face also, so entirely, that they are content, with one eye free, to enjoy rather half the light than to prostitute the entire face.

    Likewise, the Talmud associates veils with Arab culture in ch. 6 of Tractate Shabbat:

    Arabians may go out in their long veils and Medians in their mantillas; so may even all women go out, but the sages spoke of existing customs.

    It’s likely that nomadic Arab women had more freedom than settled ones. But as Patricia Crone points out, the Quran seems to suggest a more agricultural audience (on that note, I find myself increasingly persuaded that the events in the Quran took places in Arabia Petraea rather than Mecca in Saudi Arabia, but that’s another story).

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    • Replies: @Marcus
    I stand corrected. Yeah, nomadic cultures do tend to give higher status to women than sedentary counterparts.

    (on that note, I find myself increasingly persuaded that the events in the Quran took places in Arabia Petraea rather than Mecca in Saudi Arabia, but that’s another story).
     
    I agree, the idea of Mecca as a bustling trade hub doesn't seem to fit what historical records we have.
  117. @Talha
    Did you see my comment on Qarawayn? There is also Zaytuna in Tunis which is even older and trained men of wide acceptance like Ibn Khaldun (ra). And if you include al-Azhar in Cairo, then North Africa has three of the oldest universities in the world.

    Peace.

    No, sorry, thanks, I think its brilliant. But as I said, You take the quantity of these universities across the world compared to Europe and how long they stood its still small. Perhaps colonialism helped them with money to build more?. But I think this stands as a critical difference. Thank you and would appreciate more of such .

    Read More
    • Replies: @Talha
    Quantity (and even quality when it comes to secular sciences), no doubt - especially in Europe, they eclipse every other place on the planet (especially when taking into account the last few centuries). Europeans took to knowledge as few other people and the fruits of their efforts are wide and broad for everyone to see and gain benefit from. Hats (and turbans) off to them!
  118. The fact that Jesus was not involved in secular affairs leaves his “followers”* free to adapt.

    True enough, but it remains that Jesus repeatedly disavowed secular concerns. His own words were:

    “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.” [Matthew 22:21]

    “My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.” [John 18:36]

    Christianity is not a legalistic faith. It discarded the whole of the Jewish law for the New Covenant, and Jesus’s two commandments:

    “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” [Matthew 22:37-40]

    By contrast, Islam – like Judaism, on which it is in many ways patterned – is highly legalistic. Christianity could and did spread without coercive violence during its first three centuries into widely varied populations without conflicting with their laws and customs. Islam, on the other hand, had from its very beginning a need to conquer in order to spread, for its legalism was inseparable from its creed.

    Islam is not exceptional in its legalism, but it is in its insistence on the universality of its laws. Judaism is just as legalistic, but Jews regard its laws as applicable only to themselves and not to others. The type of Muslims that make up ISIS and the Taliban want to make sharia apply to everyone.

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    • Replies: @Talha

    Islam, on the other hand, had from its very beginning a need to conquer in order to spread, for its legalism was inseparable from its creed.

     

    Definitely did initially spread due to military conquest, but that is not a need per se. It spread just fine in Sub-Saharan West Africa, Malaysia and Java, and a good amount of the Cacausus without need for invading armies. Likewise, the conversion of the Golden Horde was a top-down conversion, but totally voluntary on the part of the highest levels of the Mongol elite.

    Islam is not exceptional in its legalism, but it is in its insistence on the universality of its laws.
     
    True in one sense of belief, but not true in the field of application. The majority opinion that you will find (modern Muslim ignorance of which notwithstanding) is that we don't care what non-Muslims do within their own religion (and legally) within their own communities. They can (and have historically) run their own courts and political administrations. Muslims generally cared about taxes and loyalty. Certain schools of thought and rulers have been more restrictive or less so. For example, we may believe homosexuality is a sin and a 'gay marriage' is invalid on its face, but if Christian minority changed its mind on that, that's up to them to deal with the consequences of their change in policy (for instance, the traditional rule on consanguinary marriage in the Zoroastrian community was that it was left alone). You can find this kind of stuff within the Ahkam as-Sultaniyyah of Imam Mawardi (ra) or al-Mabsut of Imam Sarakhsi (ra).

    The type of Muslims that make up ISIS and the Taliban want to make sharia apply to everyone.
     
    True, which is why they have broken with majority Orthodox opinion and need to be challenged.

    Peace.

    , @Razib Khan
    Islam, on the other hand, had from its very beginning a need to conquer in order to spread, for its legalism was inseparable from its creed.

    Islam is not exceptional in its legalism, but it is in its insistence on the universality of its laws.

    first, you don't know if the legalism was primal, you assume it! there is a strong body of scholarship that the hadith culture developed in the 8th century, especially in central asia. the arabs had spread decades and conquered from spain to afghanistan well before that. you don't know what islam was like in the first 100-150 years at all.

    second, muslims did not impose sharia on the whole non-muslims. non-muslims were governed by their own laws. that's why hindu law still exists, and it was part of the millet system. the imposition of sharia on non-muslims is more a feature of muslim aggression/majoritarianism, to show their dominance of the culture, as in parts of malaysia. there were pigs in cairo and alcohol in the middle east was produced and distributed by christians.
  119. Anonymous says:     Show CommentNext New Comment
    @Talha
    I think the gist of what he is saying is that; when the Muslim world was at a place of well established political and cultural hegemony, it was expansive in its outlook and could do things like translate, incorporate and challenge Greek Hellenistic works without feeling threatened in its core. Colonialism wiped that confidence out from Senegal to Malaysia.

    The analogy (as Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad [db] has forwarded) is a bit like a hedgehog - Muslims (a large number of them) have curled up into a ball, spikes out.

    Peace.

    Over here I agree with wiping out of confidence in last few centuries under colonialism. But not necessarily the first bit. If more people entered then naturally they come with their ideas. But what happens when a civilization was not expanding and was just stable?. New people dont enter and hence one has to debate with ideas of believers more than ideas which come from the outside of belief. And the conversations which lead to progress I guess is more on the side of conversations between believers and outsiders than those among believers themselves.

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  120. @amcupidsvictim
    No, sorry, thanks, I think its brilliant. But as I said, You take the quantity of these universities across the world compared to Europe and how long they stood its still small. Perhaps colonialism helped them with money to build more?. But I think this stands as a critical difference. Thank you and would appreciate more of such .

    Quantity (and even quality when it comes to secular sciences), no doubt – especially in Europe, they eclipse every other place on the planet (especially when taking into account the last few centuries). Europeans took to knowledge as few other people and the fruits of their efforts are wide and broad for everyone to see and gain benefit from. Hats (and turbans) off to them!

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    • Replies: @amcupidsvictim
    But mind you, all of this is mediated by security. In absence of security, everything fails. If Topography of Europe or riches of Europe was such as to attract the attention of invaders, I dont think they would have succeeded.
  121. I have now marched through pages 45 through 200 of Hamid’s book, and found it to have a child-like understanding of both, Islamic thought, world outside middle east.

    His treatment of the entire progression of political Islam from the prophet to Sayyid Qutb is that of a true believer, and never once questions the given knowledge of Islam. Not for him an understanding of the tribal sociology of MENA, excluding Turkey. He is barely knowledgeable in the patriarchy of the clans bound by marriage.

    We are subject to such sweeping statements like” it is Islam’s modern bent that make Islamism relevant to politics”, “It is only in Islam’s vast legal tradition that lend them to modern notions of social justice”, “In practice there is no reason for Muslims to choose modernity over Islam:”,” Prophet Muhammad brought a fierce egalitarianism” , “selection process (of caliphs) was consensus based”, “on issues like woman’s right, armed with God’s speech, the prophet banned female infanticide”, “All these elements are not removed from equality, egalitarianism and democratic decision making”, “Martin Luther was a modern day “Muslim””, “The shariah is a dynamic living thing, and qadi, the religious judge has considerable leeway”. Just a series of quoted copy-pastes from standard Islamic texts. Not once a question is raised as a skeptic if any of the statements are actually true.

    A discussion of Islamic reformation follows, and that is too clownish to discuss here. Finally, a discussion of the present day Egypt, Turkey and Tunisia follow. At least two of them are authoritarian with limited role for Islam or Islamists. I do not have the space to describe how Turkey has been as distance from ME as from modern Europe. I have not gone through the last chapter on Islam and liberalism, and I am literally afraid to read the simplistic thought that follows.

    I am sorry I paid 22 $ for this pablum. Not for anyone except true believers. Re; “if democracy is going to come to the Arab Middle East in the near future then it must make peace with the pious majority”, it is not clear that the majority has interest in democracy. May be I am off, as I spent all my life in India and USA; I do not understand why a pious majority is in war with democracy in first place.

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    • Replies: @iffen
    I do not understand why a pious majority is in war with democracy

    As it turns out, there may be problems with "democracy" that we are unable to handle.
  122. @Crawfurdmuir

    And people who go around raping and murdering are not exactly displaying the signs of election.
     
    Yet the European wars of religion, beginning in the 16th century, and culminating in the Thirty Years' War, certainly involved a lot of raping and murdering. Religious belief has motivated, or at least been used to rationalize, a great deal of cruel and violent behaviour on the parts of persons who are convinced of their own righteousness.

    And people who go around raping and murdering are not exactly displaying the signs of election.

    Yet the European wars of religion, beginning in the 16th century, and culminating in the Thirty Years’ War, certainly involved a lot of raping and murdering. Religious belief has motivated, or at least been used to rationalize, a great deal of cruel and violent behaviour on the parts of persons who are convinced of their own righteousness.

    Absolutely, but any system (secular or religious) can be used to justify atrocities. Cf the Catholic led Albigensian Crusade, the Maoist Cultural Revolution, Stalin’s 1937-38 Great Terror, etc. And numerous acts of mass slaughter have essentially lacked any kind of elaborate theological/philosophical scaffolding (cf the Mongol Conquests).

    And your original point was that the Calvinist doctrine of election was linked, on an operational level, to antinomian conduct. My point is that there is very little evidence for that. 17th century New England was not known for people justifying criminal conduct on the grounds that they were among the elect and, hence, beyond the law.

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    • Replies: @Crawfurdmuir

    17th century New England was not known for people justifying criminal conduct on the grounds that they were among the elect and, hence, beyond the law.
     
    What about the Salem witch trials? As I understand them, they were little more than a use of the testimony of hysterical girls before an arbitrary and irregular tribunal, for the purpose of seizing lands belonging to the accused which the judges coveted, all under the cover of an ostentatious piety.

    We can contrast the treatment those pious New England Calvinists meted out to the accused with the way in which the Anglicans of Virginia approached the trial of the "witch of Pungo," whom they bent over backwards to avoid convicting, and who was eventually freed, went on to have her lands restored, and lived to a ripe old age.

  123. @Talha
    Quantity (and even quality when it comes to secular sciences), no doubt - especially in Europe, they eclipse every other place on the planet (especially when taking into account the last few centuries). Europeans took to knowledge as few other people and the fruits of their efforts are wide and broad for everyone to see and gain benefit from. Hats (and turbans) off to them!

    But mind you, all of this is mediated by security. In absence of security, everything fails. If Topography of Europe or riches of Europe was such as to attract the attention of invaders, I dont think they would have succeeded.

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  124. @JJ

    Practices of female seclusion must have been adopted from the Roman or Persian upper classes (or maybe the Jews?).
     
    This is not true. North African church father Tertullian, writing around the 3rd century, identified face veiling as a pagan Arabian custom in chapter 17 of his insufferable treatise "On the Veiling of Virgins":

    Arabia's heathen females will be your judges, who cover not only the head, but the face also, so entirely, that they are content, with one eye free, to enjoy rather half the light than to prostitute the entire face.

    Likewise, the Talmud associates veils with Arab culture in ch. 6 of Tractate Shabbat:

    Arabians may go out in their long veils and Medians in their mantillas; so may even all women go out, but the sages spoke of existing customs.

    It's likely that nomadic Arab women had more freedom than settled ones. But as Patricia Crone points out, the Quran seems to suggest a more agricultural audience (on that note, I find myself increasingly persuaded that the events in the Quran took places in Arabia Petraea rather than Mecca in Saudi Arabia, but that's another story).

    I stand corrected. Yeah, nomadic cultures do tend to give higher status to women than sedentary counterparts.

    (on that note, I find myself increasingly persuaded that the events in the Quran took places in Arabia Petraea rather than Mecca in Saudi Arabia, but that’s another story).

    I agree, the idea of Mecca as a bustling trade hub doesn’t seem to fit what historical records we have.

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  125. @Crawfurdmuir

    The fact that Jesus was not involved in secular affairs leaves his “followers”* free to adapt.
     
    True enough, but it remains that Jesus repeatedly disavowed secular concerns. His own words were:

    "Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's." [Matthew 22:21]

    "My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence." [John 18:36]

    Christianity is not a legalistic faith. It discarded the whole of the Jewish law for the New Covenant, and Jesus's two commandments:

    "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." [Matthew 22:37-40]

    By contrast, Islam - like Judaism, on which it is in many ways patterned - is highly legalistic. Christianity could and did spread without coercive violence during its first three centuries into widely varied populations without conflicting with their laws and customs. Islam, on the other hand, had from its very beginning a need to conquer in order to spread, for its legalism was inseparable from its creed.

    Islam is not exceptional in its legalism, but it is in its insistence on the universality of its laws. Judaism is just as legalistic, but Jews regard its laws as applicable only to themselves and not to others. The type of Muslims that make up ISIS and the Taliban want to make sharia apply to everyone.

    Islam, on the other hand, had from its very beginning a need to conquer in order to spread, for its legalism was inseparable from its creed.

    Definitely did initially spread due to military conquest, but that is not a need per se. It spread just fine in Sub-Saharan West Africa, Malaysia and Java, and a good amount of the Cacausus without need for invading armies. Likewise, the conversion of the Golden Horde was a top-down conversion, but totally voluntary on the part of the highest levels of the Mongol elite.

    Islam is not exceptional in its legalism, but it is in its insistence on the universality of its laws.

    True in one sense of belief, but not true in the field of application. The majority opinion that you will find (modern Muslim ignorance of which notwithstanding) is that we don’t care what non-Muslims do within their own religion (and legally) within their own communities. They can (and have historically) run their own courts and political administrations. Muslims generally cared about taxes and loyalty. Certain schools of thought and rulers have been more restrictive or less so. For example, we may believe homosexuality is a sin and a ‘gay marriage’ is invalid on its face, but if Christian minority changed its mind on that, that’s up to them to deal with the consequences of their change in policy (for instance, the traditional rule on consanguinary marriage in the Zoroastrian community was that it was left alone). You can find this kind of stuff within the Ahkam as-Sultaniyyah of Imam Mawardi (ra) or al-Mabsut of Imam Sarakhsi (ra).

    The type of Muslims that make up ISIS and the Taliban want to make sharia apply to everyone.

    True, which is why they have broken with majority Orthodox opinion and need to be challenged.

    Peace.

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    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    Definitely did initially spread due to military conquest, but that is not a need per se. It spread just fine in Sub-Saharan West Africa, Malaysia and Java, and a good amount of the Cacausus without need for invading armies.

    majapahit was pushed into the grave by jihad from dehak. se asian islam did not spread in one violent military burst like in the core middle eastern lands, but after it became established in the maritime polities religious-cultural difference between an axis of conflict. i don't think it is that different from the arab conquests. in fact, conversion probably happened faster and with more elite coercion in the later instances than in the first few centuries. (similar issue in africa, think sokoto caliphate)
  126. @Razib Khan
    Not mirror image cores both important for basic theology maybe,

    not, not basic. this is not basic:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arminianism

    this is a reemergence of pelagianism.

    but countries like Holland were the first modern European states (the Dutch East India Company was the first joint stock company) and the ground zero of capitalism was connected to fanatical Calvinism. Now the churches are empty.

    what. the. fuck. does that have to do with anything?

    stop posting your thought fragments as if it's valuable fodder for exegesis.

    (for those wondering, yes i think a lot of protestant thinking is rewarmed augustinianism. the genuine radicals veered toward things like unitarianism which were rejected as heretical by even most radical protestants)

    [some of sean's longer comments remind me of a piece of software attempting to pass the turning test by generating proper english syntax and throwing random ass facts which are superficially plausible to an idiot at the audience. just like using rare words doesn't mean you have a big vocabulary if you use a thesaurus, so ad hoc usage of google and wikipedia doesn't mean you know what the fuck you are talking about -razib]

    What does that have to do with anything?

    About half the world’s population of Muslims live in South Asia and Indonesia (~700 million). There is some discussion of the nature of Islamic identity and piety in these nations, but no great depth of analysis. For example, there are some data which suggest that Indonesians want more mixing of religion with politics than people in the Middle East. Hamid suggests that this shows some underlying essence of the Islamic polity. But Indonesia is a very strange case, it is a nation where conversion from Islam to Hinduism or Christianity is not entirely uncommon

    Everything in this world can be reduced by saying what it is made of. Pelagianism as the view that human beings can earn salvation by their own efforts is detectable in Arminianism, but I think the theology of Arminianism time owes quite a bit to the Dutch East India Company activities, and represents a definite parting of the West from the Islamic world as economic growth became explosive .

    Arminianism became the creed of a a successful business class in Holland who didn’t like the Calvinist teaching that business success was worthless in the eyes of God. The theological underpinning of modern capitalism was largely due to “economic theologist Hugo de Groot. In The Free Sea (Mare Liberum, published 1609) Grotius defended the Dutch East India Company’s seizure of the Santa Catarina

    Grotius, by claiming ‘free seas’ (Freedom of the seas), provided suitable ideological justification for the Dutch breaking up of various trade monopolies through its formidable naval power (and then establishing its own monopoly)

    Grotius or De Groot’s family were on the board of the Dutch East India Company (VOC), which had quite an effect on the position of Islam in Indonesia (in a similar way to the The British East India Company in what is now Bangladesh, also mentioned in the post).

    De Groot’s thought glorified the commercial elite behind the the VOC. Savage Republic: De Indis of Hugo Grotius, Republicanism and Dutch Hegemony within the Early Modern World-System (c. 1600-1619 makes clear that De Groot spoke in terns of free trade but the VOC success was dependent on the rapacious conduct of the (Calvinist) man in charge of the VOC in the Spice |islands who was critical of the Arminianist inclined elite who made up the shareholders and board of the VOC. Under Coen the early VOC was to use violent force to establish a monopoly

    On 30 May 1619, Coen, backed by a force of nineteen ships, stormed Jayakarta driving out the Banten forces; and from the ashes established Batavia as the VOC headquarters. In the 1620s almost the entire native population of the Banda Islands was driven away, starved to death, or killed [...]

    The world’s first joint stock company was under Calvinist Coen when it laied the foundations of its success. Coen was infuriated when the board ordered him toalow the English to stay after he had defeated them. Because they distrusted the common people who were associated with Calvinism and the elite feared a strong state with military forces that Calvinist lower orders could used to curtail elite privileges. The Arminianist view of flourishing in peace and international understanding was aimed at keeping Holland commercially advanced without needing strong militarily that could be influence by nationalist Calvinist or schismatic factions in the domestic population. The policy left Holland’s commercial monopolies vulnerable to military strong states like Puritan England.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    Arminianism became the creed of a a successful business class in Holland who didn’t like the Calvinist teaching that business success was worthless in the eyes of God.

    i think webber is kind of full of it, but then so are you. all men must lie ;-)

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Protestant_Ethic_and_the_Spirit_of_Capitalism#Origins_of_the_Protestant_work_ethic

    (please, no follow up comments on webber)
  127. @Vijay
    I have now marched through pages 45 through 200 of Hamid's book, and found it to have a child-like understanding of both, Islamic thought, world outside middle east.

    His treatment of the entire progression of political Islam from the prophet to Sayyid Qutb is that of a true believer, and never once questions the given knowledge of Islam. Not for him an understanding of the tribal sociology of MENA, excluding Turkey. He is barely knowledgeable in the patriarchy of the clans bound by marriage.

    We are subject to such sweeping statements like" it is Islam's modern bent that make Islamism relevant to politics", "It is only in Islam's vast legal tradition that lend them to modern notions of social justice", "In practice there is no reason for Muslims to choose modernity over Islam:"," Prophet Muhammad brought a fierce egalitarianism" , "selection process (of caliphs) was consensus based", "on issues like woman's right, armed with God's speech, the prophet banned female infanticide", "All these elements are not removed from equality, egalitarianism and democratic decision making", "Martin Luther was a modern day "Muslim"", "The shariah is a dynamic living thing, and qadi, the religious judge has considerable leeway". Just a series of quoted copy-pastes from standard Islamic texts. Not once a question is raised as a skeptic if any of the statements are actually true.

    A discussion of Islamic reformation follows, and that is too clownish to discuss here. Finally, a discussion of the present day Egypt, Turkey and Tunisia follow. At least two of them are authoritarian with limited role for Islam or Islamists. I do not have the space to describe how Turkey has been as distance from ME as from modern Europe. I have not gone through the last chapter on Islam and liberalism, and I am literally afraid to read the simplistic thought that follows.

    I am sorry I paid 22 $ for this pablum. Not for anyone except true believers. Re; "if democracy is going to come to the Arab Middle East in the near future then it must make peace with the pious majority", it is not clear that the majority has interest in democracy. May be I am off, as I spent all my life in India and USA; I do not understand why a pious majority is in war with democracy in first place.

    I do not understand why a pious majority is in war with democracy

    As it turns out, there may be problems with “democracy” that we are unable to handle.

    Read More
  128. @Sean
    [some of sean's longer comments remind me of a piece of software attempting to pass the turning test by generating proper english syntax and throwing random ass facts which are superficially plausible to an idiot at the audience. just like using rare words doesn't mean you have a big vocabulary if you use a thesaurus, so ad hoc usage of google and wikipedia doesn't mean you know what the fuck you are talking about -razib]

    What does that have to do with anything?

    About half the world’s population of Muslims live in South Asia and Indonesia (~700 million). There is some discussion of the nature of Islamic identity and piety in these nations, but no great depth of analysis. For example, there are some data which suggest that Indonesians want more mixing of religion with politics than people in the Middle East. Hamid suggests that this shows some underlying essence of the Islamic polity. But Indonesia is a very strange case, it is a nation where conversion from Islam to Hinduism or Christianity is not entirely uncommon
     
    Everything in this world can be reduced by saying what it is made of. Pelagianism as the view that human beings can earn salvation by their own efforts is detectable in Arminianism, but I think the theology of Arminianism time owes quite a bit to the Dutch East India Company activities, and represents a definite parting of the West from the Islamic world as economic growth became explosive .

    Arminianism became the creed of a a successful business class in Holland who didn't like the Calvinist teaching that business success was worthless in the eyes of God. The theological underpinning of modern capitalism was largely due to "economic theologist Hugo de Groot. In The Free Sea (Mare Liberum, published 1609) Grotius defended the Dutch East India Company's seizure of the Santa Catarina

    Grotius, by claiming 'free seas' (Freedom of the seas), provided suitable ideological justification for the Dutch breaking up of various trade monopolies through its formidable naval power (and then establishing its own monopoly)
     
    Grotius or De Groot's family were on the board of the Dutch East India Company (VOC), which had quite an effect on the position of Islam in Indonesia (in a similar way to the The British East India Company in what is now Bangladesh, also mentioned in the post).

    De Groot's thought glorified the commercial elite behind the the VOC. Savage Republic: De Indis of Hugo Grotius, Republicanism and Dutch Hegemony within the Early Modern World-System (c. 1600-1619 makes clear that De Groot spoke in terns of free trade but the VOC success was dependent on the rapacious conduct of the (Calvinist) man in charge of the VOC in the Spice |islands who was critical of the Arminianist inclined elite who made up the shareholders and board of the VOC. Under Coen the early VOC was to use violent force to establish a monopoly

    On 30 May 1619, Coen, backed by a force of nineteen ships, stormed Jayakarta driving out the Banten forces; and from the ashes established Batavia as the VOC headquarters. In the 1620s almost the entire native population of the Banda Islands was driven away, starved to death, or killed [...]
     
    The world's first joint stock company was under Calvinist Coen when it laied the foundations of its success. Coen was infuriated when the board ordered him toalow the English to stay after he had defeated them. Because they distrusted the common people who were associated with Calvinism and the elite feared a strong state with military forces that Calvinist lower orders could used to curtail elite privileges. The Arminianist view of flourishing in peace and international understanding was aimed at keeping Holland commercially advanced without needing strong militarily that could be influence by nationalist Calvinist or schismatic factions in the domestic population. The policy left Holland's commercial monopolies vulnerable to military strong states like Puritan England.

    Arminianism became the creed of a a successful business class in Holland who didn’t like the Calvinist teaching that business success was worthless in the eyes of God.

    i think webber is kind of full of it, but then so are you. all men must lie ;-)

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Protestant_Ethic_and_the_Spirit_of_Capitalism#Origins_of_the_Protestant_work_ethic

    (please, no follow up comments on webber)

    Read More
  129. @syonredux

    And people who go around raping and murdering are not exactly displaying the signs of election.

    Yet the European wars of religion, beginning in the 16th century, and culminating in the Thirty Years’ War, certainly involved a lot of raping and murdering. Religious belief has motivated, or at least been used to rationalize, a great deal of cruel and violent behaviour on the parts of persons who are convinced of their own righteousness.
     
    Absolutely, but any system (secular or religious) can be used to justify atrocities. Cf the Catholic led Albigensian Crusade, the Maoist Cultural Revolution, Stalin’s 1937-38 Great Terror, etc. And numerous acts of mass slaughter have essentially lacked any kind of elaborate theological/philosophical scaffolding (cf the Mongol Conquests).

    And your original point was that the Calvinist doctrine of election was linked, on an operational level, to antinomian conduct. My point is that there is very little evidence for that. 17th century New England was not known for people justifying criminal conduct on the grounds that they were among the elect and, hence, beyond the law.

    17th century New England was not known for people justifying criminal conduct on the grounds that they were among the elect and, hence, beyond the law.

    What about the Salem witch trials? As I understand them, they were little more than a use of the testimony of hysterical girls before an arbitrary and irregular tribunal, for the purpose of seizing lands belonging to the accused which the judges coveted, all under the cover of an ostentatious piety.

    We can contrast the treatment those pious New England Calvinists meted out to the accused with the way in which the Anglicans of Virginia approached the trial of the “witch of Pungo,” whom they bent over backwards to avoid convicting, and who was eventually freed, went on to have her lands restored, and lived to a ripe old age.

    Read More
    • Replies: @syonredux

    17th century New England was not known for people justifying criminal conduct on the grounds that they were among the elect and, hence, beyond the law.

    What about the Salem witch trials? As I understand them, they were little more than a use of the testimony of hysterical girls before an arbitrary and irregular tribunal, for the purpose of seizing lands belonging to the accused which the judges coveted, all under the cover of an ostentatious piety.

    We can contrast the treatment those pious New England Calvinists meted out to the accused with the way in which the Anglicans of Virginia approached the trial of the “witch of Pungo,” whom they bent over backwards to avoid convicting, and who was eventually freed, went on to have her lands restored, and lived to a ripe old age.
     
    None of the judges in the Salem Witch Trials defended their conduct on the basis of being members of the elect.And one of them, Samuel Sewall, felt so guilty about his actions that he publicly abased himself in church.






    As for Anglicans in Virginia.....Well, let's just say that they were more than willing to commit their fair share of immoral acts. For particulars, try reading the diaries of William Byrd (March 28, 1674 – August 26, 1744) of Westover.
    , @Razib Khan
    We can contrast the treatment

    all contrasts btw NE and elsewhere should acknowledge that *the city on the hill* was demographically unique: it was the world's first universal literacy society. and became so in part due to selective migration of the english middle to upper middle class (the mass. gov. discriminated against the poor, and discouraged the upper classes by rejecting their ask for hereditary privileges).
  130. @Talha
    Dear Omar,

    Really? Which circles are you in? It cannot be Indo-Pakistani circles...can it?

    This book is widely distributed and you can find it published from Malaysia to Beirut to Cario:
    https://ukm.pure.elsevier.com/en/publications/hujjat-allah-albalighah(edcccd2c-86a5-46f0-9e87-3ff8094c6b85).html

    Even people (that Islamists look up to) like Shaykhs Sayyid Sabiq, Qaradawi (both of Egypt) as well as more traditional minded people like the late Shaykhs Abul Fattah Abu Ghuddah, Ramadan Buti (both of Syria) referenced him. He was even praised (and criticized) by Shaykh Kawthari (the last grand Mufti of the Ottoman Caliphate). Some have considered him to be Ghazali-lite.

    That is around the world. As far as the Indian Subcontinent, everyone references him, even the most non-political Sufi Orders (like mine), to the Jamaat Islami (and likely even the Taliban) - his influence is that wide.

    But you are right, this is mostly among scholarly circles, your average rickshaw driver won't have a clue. There is one other note to make; the Hujja, is a comprehensive work, of which only one part is kalam. The rest deals with everything from jurisprudence to delicate Sufi insights.

    His Shia-hatred, hatred of Hindus and Muslim separatism did leave a legacy
     
    Can you give specific references for this hatred? Please keep in mind the context of his time. He had been borne when the Mughal empire was at its geographic peak and had started to crumble. The legacy of the powerful Maratha Empire was reasserting itself over Mughal politics also the Sikhs - internal revolt was feared so he advocated Mughal assertion of power. Also, the British East India company had already began their (military) footprint in the region. To not assume someone would have a view that comes across as militant to some seems to lack nuance. Now, there is another note to be made here. One that even traditional scholars have criticized (not in a moral sense, but in thought and approach) the way the Muslim scholars of India generally approached the Hindu population which was alienating (i.e. keeping the language in Persian and Arabic, isolating themselves from the local population, etc.) - though this was not always the case with the Sufi Orders. This is in contrast with a large number of people who came to Islam among the Javanese due to the more down-to-earth local approach of the scholars like the Wali Songa who mixed in with the people, adopted names in the local language and presented them with an Islam that was authentically Javanese.

    I think it is important to recognize that no oak of kalam knowledge is extending its shade over the lands of Islam at this moment in history
     
    Agreed, again...context. This doesn't seem to be the preeminent need of the time, in my opinion. Kalam tends to be a reactionary discipline, it rises to meet the challenges against the Orthodox beliefs of the Muslims when groups like Jabbriyah, Qaddriyah (not the Sufi order), Jahmiyyah, etc. arise or when new ideas like Platonic and Aristotelian thought is encountered. From what I have seen, much of it is baked and I can't imagine many new frontiers on it other than commentaries, which keep coming out - can you? Keep in mind, the Sunni Orthodox creeds are basically adopted from Senegal to Malaysia and this was done without resort to synods, ecumenical councils, etc. but to a fairly open debate of ideas.

    May God preserve you and yours.

    I have not read his original books, and I know that he made some efforts for shia-sunni unity of some sort (under the umbrella of correct Sunni shariah of course), but pro-Shia websites certainly regard him as “anti-Shia” (see here https://lubpak.com/archives/306269 and https://lubpak.com/archives/313032 ) , as does this book https://books.google.com/books?id=TLi2BgAAQBAJ&pg=PA206&lpg=PA206&dq=shah+waliullah+fatwa+on+shia&source=bl&ots=Rsc4tljixJ&sig=H5XWgizdmBQar1cYXtEF4MrpI8A&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwio8MrIyJnNAhUPQlIKHQYLAXAQ6AEIUTAI#v=onepage&q=shah%20waliullah%20fatwa%20on%20shia&f=false and his descendants and great fans (the Deobandis) are certainly anti-Shia.

    About being anti-Hindu there is much less doubt. Here, for example, is an article from Professor Mubarak Ali (professor of history in Lahore) about Shah Waliullah and his ideals: http://www.dawn.com/news/1038270 . If you feel he is being misquoted, it would be great if you could find the original text of his letter to Abdali and other writings on the need for Muslims to separate themselves from Hindus in all matters and for outside Muslim rulers to invade India and destroy “Hindu Power” and so on.
    This fan of Shah Walliullah certainly does not regard him as a proponent of interfaith dialog and peace http://www.academia.edu/592790/SHAH_WALIULLAH_AL-DEHLAWI_THOUGHTS_AND_CONTRIBUTIONS

    Are the thoughts of Shah Walliulah on Jihad etc presented in these (Hindu writers) articles accurate or misquotes?

    http://voiceofdharma.org/books/muslimsep/ch6.htm

    http://www.kashmirherald.com/featuredarticle/shahwaliullah.html

    And so on. Whether the man wanted to or not, his legacy seems to be about Muslim separatism, supremacism and jihad (not the “inner spiritual” kind). Is that a misunderstanding? I have not read him in the original. Is he being misquoted and misrepresented? can you clarify? thanks

    Read More
    • Replies: @Vijay
    I will take the bait. The idea of recasting Shah Waliullah as any form of subcontinental Sufi thinker is nonsense. He was the product of the time of end of the Mughal empire. In his mind, the Muslims off India should have no truck with India and its culture ("integration of Islamic culture in the cultural mainstream of the sub-continent and ...... the Muslims to ensure their distance from it. the he health of Muslim society demanded that doctrines and values inculcated by Islam should be maintained in their pristine purity unsullied by extraneous influences", see page 215-216 of Istiaq Quereshi, he Muslim community of the Indo-Pakistan subcontinent, 610–1947: a brief historical analysis).

    You can futher read "Muslims in India, by Qamar Hussein, pages 3, and 300; he says that "regarded the classical Muslim law as sum and substance of the faith, and therefore, demanded its total implementation"and "regarded the classical Muslim law as sum and substance of the faith, and therefore, demanded its total implementation".

    He invited Abdali to attack India in 1761 to regain the lost Muslim glory. an lettre contains the usual "orders prohibiting Holi and Muharram". In this aspect, he had no use for Shias, and was a essentially a follower of his contemporary, Abdul Wahaab.The waliUllah -Nader Shah ruckus is also quite indicative of his dislike of Shia sect.

    Essentially, it is to view Waliullah as a continuum of the Aurangzeb strain of personal piety, purity and strong adherence to Shariah; bitter opposition to polytheists and Shia; and the belief in return to pure Salafi thought as a path to return to golden age of Islam. In this sense, essentially he is the contemporary or the forerunner to Wahabi thought. It should be clear that this thought has considerable influence among Muslim intelligentsia before and after independence. Sufism is considered the religion of the streets. Barelvi, Deobandi and other strains seek to attain and implement the Waliullah school as the "pure" and uncorrupted " (i.e., not by the streets, multitheism and Shiism) that shoul be a model to be attained.
    , @Talha
    Wow! OK - you've given me a lot to do. First and foremost, let me be clear. Shah Waliullah (ra) was a great scholar, but not perfect. Traditional Islamic scholarship has always had a nuanced view on things; for instance, you would be hard pressed to find a better exegesis on the Qur'an from a linguistic perspective than that of Imam Zamakhshari (ra), but his Mu'tazilite views are simply discarded. So...

    As far as the anti-Shiah stances. Let's be fair, the Mughals were a struggling power. To the West, they had a hostile Persian Empire that had made inroads into their territory. An empire that "used "proselytizing and force to convert the large majority of Muslims in Iran to the Shia sect."(http://countrystudies.us/iran/11.htm) Technically, it was no longer Safavid, but that was a very recent change, contemporaneously. This was the environment of the time. Sunni-Shiah tension has always been there and has ups and downs. Likely this was Shah Waliullah (ra) wanting to assert the Mughal identity as a Sunni polity - this does not automatically follow that his advice to an Afghan king is relevant to our situation. The current spike (since the 80s) has a lot of the Wahhabi footprint on it. In the current milieu, both Sunni and Shiah are making progress in toning things down. Even Mufti Taqi Uthmani (db) - a household name among Deobandis - has signed onto the Amman Message (http://ammanmessage.com/) that is a conciliatory move (headed by the Hashimite Kingdom of Jordan) among the major divisions of Islam.

    As far as the other notes, I'm going to assume those caricatures of his suggestions are true. Unfortunately it has been a long while since I was researching him, but Prof. Hermansen (http://homepages.luc.edu/~mherman/) is an absolute expert on the man and I would highly recommend any of her books including her translation of Hujjat Allah Al-Baligha (http://www.amazon.com/Conclusive-Argument-God-Al-Baligha-Philosophy/dp/9004102981) but I don't have a copy on me to verify. So let's assume he does recommend to smash the power of the ruling Hindu elites. Did he mean all of them? Not all were rebellious toward the Mughals, but the Marathas certainly were. The Marathas were no joke - anyone who went against them considered them to be difficult opponents even in defeat. The resurgent Maratha Empire was a threat and decapitation of the ruling hierarchy was a sensible policy - see my note to Razib about smashing Sassanid and Byzantine upper echelons. Some of the policy that he advocates sounds much more like what one finds in the books of the Shafi'i school and not like the expansive and more tolerant Hanafi (and Maliki) school rulings. So perhaps he was looking into another school to find a policy that would allow the Mughal Empire to show its muscle to let people know who is in charge - though this seems to have backfired.

    As fire as him inviting Shah Durrani to help put down the Maratha revolt, well, that is a benefit of belonging to an Ummah. Sometimes the call is answered and sometimes all you get is a letter of encouragement (like the Chechens got from the Ottomans). From a nationalist Indian perspective, it makes total sense to see it as an invitation for outside interference. From a Muslim perspective, I don't see it as a grand travesty. Again, I would not advocate some of the policies vis-a-vis the population that he wrote about.

    Now, as far as those Muslims who either adopt all his writing 100% or reject it 100%. That makes no sense. To recognize his strengths and adopt those while rejecting those views that definitely don't belong (except inside the context of a dying pre-modern Empire struggling to keep its territorial integrity in the face of outside and internal threats) seems to be the msot sensible way to go.

    Peace.

  131. @Crawfurdmuir

    17th century New England was not known for people justifying criminal conduct on the grounds that they were among the elect and, hence, beyond the law.
     
    What about the Salem witch trials? As I understand them, they were little more than a use of the testimony of hysterical girls before an arbitrary and irregular tribunal, for the purpose of seizing lands belonging to the accused which the judges coveted, all under the cover of an ostentatious piety.

    We can contrast the treatment those pious New England Calvinists meted out to the accused with the way in which the Anglicans of Virginia approached the trial of the "witch of Pungo," whom they bent over backwards to avoid convicting, and who was eventually freed, went on to have her lands restored, and lived to a ripe old age.

    17th century New England was not known for people justifying criminal conduct on the grounds that they were among the elect and, hence, beyond the law.

    What about the Salem witch trials? As I understand them, they were little more than a use of the testimony of hysterical girls before an arbitrary and irregular tribunal, for the purpose of seizing lands belonging to the accused which the judges coveted, all under the cover of an ostentatious piety.

    We can contrast the treatment those pious New England Calvinists meted out to the accused with the way in which the Anglicans of Virginia approached the trial of the “witch of Pungo,” whom they bent over backwards to avoid convicting, and who was eventually freed, went on to have her lands restored, and lived to a ripe old age.

    None of the judges in the Salem Witch Trials defended their conduct on the basis of being members of the elect.And one of them, Samuel Sewall, felt so guilty about his actions that he publicly abased himself in church.

    As for Anglicans in Virginia…..Well, let’s just say that they were more than willing to commit their fair share of immoral acts. For particulars, try reading the diaries of William Byrd (March 28, 1674 – August 26, 1744) of Westover.

    Read More
  132. As for Anglicans in Virginia…..Well, let’s just say that they were more than willing to commit their fair share of immoral acts

    No doubt – but they did not claim, as the Puritans did, to be acting in the name of religion.

    Read More
    • Replies: @syonredux

    As for Anglicans in Virginia…..Well, let’s just say that they were more than willing to commit their fair share of immoral acts

    No doubt – but they did not claim, as the Puritans did, to be acting in the name of religion.
     
    Well, now we have to go into the vexing area of what is moral. When the Puritans hanged witches and persecuted Quakers, they were attempting to defend their polity. Hence, by definition, those were not "immoral" acts. Of course, some Puritans did feel differently (cf Samuel Sewall's public act of contrition after the Salem Panic).

    On a similar note, one might observe that many Virginia Anglicans did not think that dispossessing Amerinds and enslaving Blacks was immoral.And many Anglicans were quite willing to defend both practices on religious grounds (heathen Blacks are being exposed to Christianity, etc)
  133. @omarali50
    I have not read his original books, and I know that he made some efforts for shia-sunni unity of some sort (under the umbrella of correct Sunni shariah of course), but pro-Shia websites certainly regard him as "anti-Shia" (see here https://lubpak.com/archives/306269 and https://lubpak.com/archives/313032 ) , as does this book https://books.google.com/books?id=TLi2BgAAQBAJ&pg=PA206&lpg=PA206&dq=shah+waliullah+fatwa+on+shia&source=bl&ots=Rsc4tljixJ&sig=H5XWgizdmBQar1cYXtEF4MrpI8A&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwio8MrIyJnNAhUPQlIKHQYLAXAQ6AEIUTAI#v=onepage&q=shah%20waliullah%20fatwa%20on%20shia&f=false and his descendants and great fans (the Deobandis) are certainly anti-Shia.

    About being anti-Hindu there is much less doubt. Here, for example, is an article from Professor Mubarak Ali (professor of history in Lahore) about Shah Waliullah and his ideals: http://www.dawn.com/news/1038270 . If you feel he is being misquoted, it would be great if you could find the original text of his letter to Abdali and other writings on the need for Muslims to separate themselves from Hindus in all matters and for outside Muslim rulers to invade India and destroy "Hindu Power" and so on.
    This fan of Shah Walliullah certainly does not regard him as a proponent of interfaith dialog and peace http://www.academia.edu/592790/SHAH_WALIULLAH_AL-DEHLAWI_THOUGHTS_AND_CONTRIBUTIONS

    Are the thoughts of Shah Walliulah on Jihad etc presented in these (Hindu writers) articles accurate or misquotes?

    http://voiceofdharma.org/books/muslimsep/ch6.htm

    http://www.kashmirherald.com/featuredarticle/shahwaliullah.html

    And so on. Whether the man wanted to or not, his legacy seems to be about Muslim separatism, supremacism and jihad (not the "inner spiritual" kind). Is that a misunderstanding? I have not read him in the original. Is he being misquoted and misrepresented? can you clarify? thanks

    I will take the bait. The idea of recasting Shah Waliullah as any form of subcontinental Sufi thinker is nonsense. He was the product of the time of end of the Mughal empire. In his mind, the Muslims off India should have no truck with India and its culture (“integration of Islamic culture in the cultural mainstream of the sub-continent and …… the Muslims to ensure their distance from it. the he health of Muslim society demanded that doctrines and values inculcated by Islam should be maintained in their pristine purity unsullied by extraneous influences”, see page 215-216 of Istiaq Quereshi, he Muslim community of the Indo-Pakistan subcontinent, 610–1947: a brief historical analysis).

    You can futher read “Muslims in India, by Qamar Hussein, pages 3, and 300; he says that “regarded the classical Muslim law as sum and substance of the faith, and therefore, demanded its total implementation”and “regarded the classical Muslim law as sum and substance of the faith, and therefore, demanded its total implementation”.

    He invited Abdali to attack India in 1761 to regain the lost Muslim glory. an lettre contains the usual “orders prohibiting Holi and Muharram”. In this aspect, he had no use for Shias, and was a essentially a follower of his contemporary, Abdul Wahaab.The waliUllah -Nader Shah ruckus is also quite indicative of his dislike of Shia sect.

    Essentially, it is to view Waliullah as a continuum of the Aurangzeb strain of personal piety, purity and strong adherence to Shariah; bitter opposition to polytheists and Shia; and the belief in return to pure Salafi thought as a path to return to golden age of Islam. In this sense, essentially he is the contemporary or the forerunner to Wahabi thought. It should be clear that this thought has considerable influence among Muslim intelligentsia before and after independence. Sufism is considered the religion of the streets. Barelvi, Deobandi and other strains seek to attain and implement the Waliullah school as the “pure” and uncorrupted ” (i.e., not by the streets, multitheism and Shiism) that shoul be a model to be attained.

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    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    bitter opposition to polytheists and Shia; and the belief in return to pure Salafi thought as a path to return to golden age of Islam. In this sense, essentially he is the contemporary or the forerunner to Wahabi thought. It should be clear that this thought has considerable influence among Muslim intelligentsia before and after independence. Sufism is considered the religion of the streets.

    i'm curious why you say this about salafi and sufism. not all muslim supremacists are salafis, and sufism itself (e.g., naqsbandiya) could be quite militant. in any case, most 'orthodox' muslim thinkers have been muslim supremacists, just as the catholic church once asserted 'error has no rights.' the safavids themselves started out as a sufi sect. my thought on this emerge partly because i'm to understand aurangzeb himself was sympathetic to aspects of sufi mysticism. the barelivs are pro-sufi, and to my understanding deobandis are more ambiguous.

    what am i missing?

  134. @Crawfurdmuir

    17th century New England was not known for people justifying criminal conduct on the grounds that they were among the elect and, hence, beyond the law.
     
    What about the Salem witch trials? As I understand them, they were little more than a use of the testimony of hysterical girls before an arbitrary and irregular tribunal, for the purpose of seizing lands belonging to the accused which the judges coveted, all under the cover of an ostentatious piety.

    We can contrast the treatment those pious New England Calvinists meted out to the accused with the way in which the Anglicans of Virginia approached the trial of the "witch of Pungo," whom they bent over backwards to avoid convicting, and who was eventually freed, went on to have her lands restored, and lived to a ripe old age.

    We can contrast the treatment

    all contrasts btw NE and elsewhere should acknowledge that *the city on the hill* was demographically unique: it was the world’s first universal literacy society. and became so in part due to selective migration of the english middle to upper middle class (the mass. gov. discriminated against the poor, and discouraged the upper classes by rejecting their ask for hereditary privileges).

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    • Replies: @Crawfurdmuir
    That's a good point, but how does it relate to the contrast between the willingness of Puritan Massachusetts to exercise deadly force against imagined witches or even religious dissidents (Quakers were hanged in Boston Common!) and the reluctance of Anglican Virginia (or religiously free Rhode Island and Pennsylvania) to do the same? Did the Puritans' universal literacy lead to a greater propensity for intolerance and maltreatment of social or religious dissidents than that of other colonists?
  135. @Vijay
    I will take the bait. The idea of recasting Shah Waliullah as any form of subcontinental Sufi thinker is nonsense. He was the product of the time of end of the Mughal empire. In his mind, the Muslims off India should have no truck with India and its culture ("integration of Islamic culture in the cultural mainstream of the sub-continent and ...... the Muslims to ensure their distance from it. the he health of Muslim society demanded that doctrines and values inculcated by Islam should be maintained in their pristine purity unsullied by extraneous influences", see page 215-216 of Istiaq Quereshi, he Muslim community of the Indo-Pakistan subcontinent, 610–1947: a brief historical analysis).

    You can futher read "Muslims in India, by Qamar Hussein, pages 3, and 300; he says that "regarded the classical Muslim law as sum and substance of the faith, and therefore, demanded its total implementation"and "regarded the classical Muslim law as sum and substance of the faith, and therefore, demanded its total implementation".

    He invited Abdali to attack India in 1761 to regain the lost Muslim glory. an lettre contains the usual "orders prohibiting Holi and Muharram". In this aspect, he had no use for Shias, and was a essentially a follower of his contemporary, Abdul Wahaab.The waliUllah -Nader Shah ruckus is also quite indicative of his dislike of Shia sect.

    Essentially, it is to view Waliullah as a continuum of the Aurangzeb strain of personal piety, purity and strong adherence to Shariah; bitter opposition to polytheists and Shia; and the belief in return to pure Salafi thought as a path to return to golden age of Islam. In this sense, essentially he is the contemporary or the forerunner to Wahabi thought. It should be clear that this thought has considerable influence among Muslim intelligentsia before and after independence. Sufism is considered the religion of the streets. Barelvi, Deobandi and other strains seek to attain and implement the Waliullah school as the "pure" and uncorrupted " (i.e., not by the streets, multitheism and Shiism) that shoul be a model to be attained.

    bitter opposition to polytheists and Shia; and the belief in return to pure Salafi thought as a path to return to golden age of Islam. In this sense, essentially he is the contemporary or the forerunner to Wahabi thought. It should be clear that this thought has considerable influence among Muslim intelligentsia before and after independence. Sufism is considered the religion of the streets.

    i’m curious why you say this about salafi and sufism. not all muslim supremacists are salafis, and sufism itself (e.g., naqsbandiya) could be quite militant. in any case, most ‘orthodox’ muslim thinkers have been muslim supremacists, just as the catholic church once asserted ‘error has no rights.’ the safavids themselves started out as a sufi sect. my thought on this emerge partly because i’m to understand aurangzeb himself was sympathetic to aspects of sufi mysticism. the barelivs are pro-sufi, and to my understanding deobandis are more ambiguous.

    what am i missing?

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    • Replies: @Talha
    You aren't missing much from what I know. Deobandis are also very Sufi oriented. Look, people have to understand (as you've mentioned) that Sufism is not this hippy-vegan thing that most people make it out to be. Some of the greatest Sufis were scholars and even muftis - I'm talking core individuals; Junaid al-Baghdadi (ra), Ibn Arabi (ra), Rummi (ra), etc. Almost all the jihads against the colonial powers were taken up by Sufi Orders; Tijani, Shadili, Qadiri, Naqshbandi, Sanusi, you name it.

    The main difference is (from my research into this - and being one :) ) that Sufis understand that shariah has an inner core; all people are sinners, thus you meet people at their level and - not necessarily just accept them for what they are - but rather see them as what they can be and be patient with them - and of course the discourse of love ('ishq). This is why they get to the masses. A convert was told from his B'Alawi teachers in Yemen, that, if he wanted to come back to America to propagate Islam, it had a condition; he must first see everyone he met as better than himself.

    Another difference is how they conduct jihad, which (not always perfect) has a much more noble side to it than the nut-cases you see today. So for instance, Shaykh Abdul Qadir (ra) could fight the French for nearly three decades and then be betrayed by them when surrendering and still have the magnanimity for save their consul and other Christians from slaughter during Muslim and Druze riots in Damascus. This earned him the highest honor that the French accord anyone. I rarely reference wikipedia, but this is fairly accurate based on the research I did in UCLA:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abdelkader_El_Djezairi

    And him being a forerunner to Wahaabis - way off the mark. He was a Sufi guide in the four major orders of the Indian Subcontinent and a dedicated Hanafi (though he advocated against absolute strict adherence to just one school).

    Peace.
    , @Vijay
    "i’m curious why you say this about salafi and sufism. not all muslim supremacists are salafis, and sufism itself (e.g., naqsbandiya) could be quite militant."

    My understanding (no claims that I am correct) is Salafi is a methodology and not a school and identifies strongly with Quran and Sunnah, and rejects polytheism (I believe they consider Sufism as polytheism "light") and reject "kalam" (speculation on theology). In the indian subcontinent, Salafis claim to originate , either, with Walullah or Wahaab, even if Salafis themselves originated only in Egypt in 19th century. The Al-hadith movement in India (Syed Nazeer Husain Siddiq Hasan Khan) the present day holders of Salafi philosophy refer back to Waliullah, but not Wahab. In India, Walullah, and Deoband are the pure strains that battle Barelvi and Sufi for dominance.

    Having said that, it should be clear that these sects are commonly battling for minds, and use one-upmanship to prove who is the most Islamic of all. Example is the recent Barelvi caricature of a dude who killed a governor just for saying that Blasphemy is not a crime that should be punished by death. Barelvis as far as Glasgow have taken Qadri as Shaheed. Normally you would associate Barelvi as moderate, but given an opening, they will try to dominate using the most extreme positions. The same is true for Sufis. If an opening is presented, they can revert to the most severe positions.

    Oh, I should not have brought the Aurangzeb thingy in there; he preceded Walullah and was a complex man, who became more conservative in age. He ruled for 50 years and did so many different things at different stages of life that any of the claims ("Aurangzeb was the protector of Hindus" "Aurangzen was a killer of Sikhs" :"aurazgzeb was responsible for Salafis and Wahabis") can become valid by selectively quoting from different periods of gis life.
  136. @Talha

    Islam, on the other hand, had from its very beginning a need to conquer in order to spread, for its legalism was inseparable from its creed.

     

    Definitely did initially spread due to military conquest, but that is not a need per se. It spread just fine in Sub-Saharan West Africa, Malaysia and Java, and a good amount of the Cacausus without need for invading armies. Likewise, the conversion of the Golden Horde was a top-down conversion, but totally voluntary on the part of the highest levels of the Mongol elite.

    Islam is not exceptional in its legalism, but it is in its insistence on the universality of its laws.
     
    True in one sense of belief, but not true in the field of application. The majority opinion that you will find (modern Muslim ignorance of which notwithstanding) is that we don't care what non-Muslims do within their own religion (and legally) within their own communities. They can (and have historically) run their own courts and political administrations. Muslims generally cared about taxes and loyalty. Certain schools of thought and rulers have been more restrictive or less so. For example, we may believe homosexuality is a sin and a 'gay marriage' is invalid on its face, but if Christian minority changed its mind on that, that's up to them to deal with the consequences of their change in policy (for instance, the traditional rule on consanguinary marriage in the Zoroastrian community was that it was left alone). You can find this kind of stuff within the Ahkam as-Sultaniyyah of Imam Mawardi (ra) or al-Mabsut of Imam Sarakhsi (ra).

    The type of Muslims that make up ISIS and the Taliban want to make sharia apply to everyone.
     
    True, which is why they have broken with majority Orthodox opinion and need to be challenged.

    Peace.

    Definitely did initially spread due to military conquest, but that is not a need per se. It spread just fine in Sub-Saharan West Africa, Malaysia and Java, and a good amount of the Cacausus without need for invading armies.

    majapahit was pushed into the grave by jihad from dehak. se asian islam did not spread in one violent military burst like in the core middle eastern lands, but after it became established in the maritime polities religious-cultural difference between an axis of conflict. i don’t think it is that different from the arab conquests. in fact, conversion probably happened faster and with more elite coercion in the later instances than in the first few centuries. (similar issue in africa, think sokoto caliphate)

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    • Replies: @Talha
    Acknowledged on that particular example. A couple of items:
    1. How exactly did Majahapit consolidate power over the archipelago? Dehak's time had come, same with the Balinese. I was more talking about an invading force from say India. I (personally) am less concerned with the power struggles between ruling nobles - this is par for the course in history. I am more concerned with what happens on the lower strata - was Islam forced on the people or not. Definitely, the removal of the political structure of a Buddhist or Hindu kingdom allows the proselytizing to commence unhindered.
    2. Do you have a citation for elite coercion rather than state sponsorship and promotion of Islam? For instance, Saladin (ra) checked the Fatimid Shiah influence in Egypt by state sponsorship of Sunni centers of learning - not repression of Shiahs.

    As far as Africa - similar points as above. Sokoto (under the Shehu, Uthman Dan Fodi [ra]) was a late comer (Songhai and Mali were the earlier players in the Sene-Gambia and Niger regions) and his was mostly an inter-Muslim conflict to consolidate territory and bring Orthodoxy back into supremacy from syncretism (a bit like Saladin [ra]) - if I remember the details correctly, it's been decades since I did research on him in UCLA.

    Peace.

  137. @Razib Khan
    We can contrast the treatment

    all contrasts btw NE and elsewhere should acknowledge that *the city on the hill* was demographically unique: it was the world's first universal literacy society. and became so in part due to selective migration of the english middle to upper middle class (the mass. gov. discriminated against the poor, and discouraged the upper classes by rejecting their ask for hereditary privileges).

    That’s a good point, but how does it relate to the contrast between the willingness of Puritan Massachusetts to exercise deadly force against imagined witches or even religious dissidents (Quakers were hanged in Boston Common!) and the reluctance of Anglican Virginia (or religiously free Rhode Island and Pennsylvania) to do the same? Did the Puritans’ universal literacy lead to a greater propensity for intolerance and maltreatment of social or religious dissidents than that of other colonists?

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    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    you're a little too obsessed with finding causality. that's hard. OTOH, it's factually true that the puritan colonies were planned out as religious utopias which did not make accommodation for pluralism. that's y you had to have rhode island. the other colonies often had established religions, but the anglicans tended to be less intolerant.
  138. @Crawfurdmuir

    The fact that Jesus was not involved in secular affairs leaves his “followers”* free to adapt.
     
    True enough, but it remains that Jesus repeatedly disavowed secular concerns. His own words were:

    "Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's." [Matthew 22:21]

    "My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence." [John 18:36]

    Christianity is not a legalistic faith. It discarded the whole of the Jewish law for the New Covenant, and Jesus's two commandments:

    "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." [Matthew 22:37-40]

    By contrast, Islam - like Judaism, on which it is in many ways patterned - is highly legalistic. Christianity could and did spread without coercive violence during its first three centuries into widely varied populations without conflicting with their laws and customs. Islam, on the other hand, had from its very beginning a need to conquer in order to spread, for its legalism was inseparable from its creed.

    Islam is not exceptional in its legalism, but it is in its insistence on the universality of its laws. Judaism is just as legalistic, but Jews regard its laws as applicable only to themselves and not to others. The type of Muslims that make up ISIS and the Taliban want to make sharia apply to everyone.

    Islam, on the other hand, had from its very beginning a need to conquer in order to spread, for its legalism was inseparable from its creed.

    Islam is not exceptional in its legalism, but it is in its insistence on the universality of its laws.

    first, you don’t know if the legalism was primal, you assume it! there is a strong body of scholarship that the hadith culture developed in the 8th century, especially in central asia. the arabs had spread decades and conquered from spain to afghanistan well before that. you don’t know what islam was like in the first 100-150 years at all.

    second, muslims did not impose sharia on the whole non-muslims. non-muslims were governed by their own laws. that’s why hindu law still exists, and it was part of the millet system. the imposition of sharia on non-muslims is more a feature of muslim aggression/majoritarianism, to show their dominance of the culture, as in parts of malaysia. there were pigs in cairo and alcohol in the middle east was produced and distributed by christians.

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  139. @Crawfurdmuir
    That's a good point, but how does it relate to the contrast between the willingness of Puritan Massachusetts to exercise deadly force against imagined witches or even religious dissidents (Quakers were hanged in Boston Common!) and the reluctance of Anglican Virginia (or religiously free Rhode Island and Pennsylvania) to do the same? Did the Puritans' universal literacy lead to a greater propensity for intolerance and maltreatment of social or religious dissidents than that of other colonists?

    you’re a little too obsessed with finding causality. that’s hard. OTOH, it’s factually true that the puritan colonies were planned out as religious utopias which did not make accommodation for pluralism. that’s y you had to have rhode island. the other colonies often had established religions, but the anglicans tended to be less intolerant.

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  140. @Razib Khan
    Definitely did initially spread due to military conquest, but that is not a need per se. It spread just fine in Sub-Saharan West Africa, Malaysia and Java, and a good amount of the Cacausus without need for invading armies.

    majapahit was pushed into the grave by jihad from dehak. se asian islam did not spread in one violent military burst like in the core middle eastern lands, but after it became established in the maritime polities religious-cultural difference between an axis of conflict. i don't think it is that different from the arab conquests. in fact, conversion probably happened faster and with more elite coercion in the later instances than in the first few centuries. (similar issue in africa, think sokoto caliphate)

    Acknowledged on that particular example. A couple of items:
    1. How exactly did Majahapit consolidate power over the archipelago? Dehak’s time had come, same with the Balinese. I was more talking about an invading force from say India. I (personally) am less concerned with the power struggles between ruling nobles – this is par for the course in history. I am more concerned with what happens on the lower strata – was Islam forced on the people or not. Definitely, the removal of the political structure of a Buddhist or Hindu kingdom allows the proselytizing to commence unhindered.
    2. Do you have a citation for elite coercion rather than state sponsorship and promotion of Islam? For instance, Saladin (ra) checked the Fatimid Shiah influence in Egypt by state sponsorship of Sunni centers of learning – not repression of Shiahs.

    As far as Africa – similar points as above. Sokoto (under the Shehu, Uthman Dan Fodi [ra]) was a late comer (Songhai and Mali were the earlier players in the Sene-Gambia and Niger regions) and his was mostly an inter-Muslim conflict to consolidate territory and bring Orthodoxy back into supremacy from syncretism (a bit like Saladin [ra]) – if I remember the details correctly, it’s been decades since I did research on him in UCLA.

    Peace.

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    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    . I (personally) am less concerned with the power struggles between ruling nobles

    and yet though there was an ethnic element you could say that this is what happened with the arab muslim conquest of the byzantine and persian territories. there was decapitation and co-option of the old elites into the new elite, eventually unified by ideology.

    Do you have a citation for elite coercion rather than state sponsorship and promotion of Islam?

    not off the top of my head. by it was recent enough that i recall reading ethnographic/historical records of the dynamic in places like https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kingdom_of_Blambangan

    the conversion was quicker than middle east, at least nominally.

    similar points as above. Sokoto (under the Shehu, Uthman Dan Fodi [ra]) was a late comer (Songhai and Mali were the earlier players in the Sene-Gambia and Niger regions) and his was mostly an inter-Muslim conflict to consolidate territory and bring Orthodoxy back into supremacy from syncretism (a bit like Saladin [ra]) – if I remember the details correctly, it’s been decades since I did research on him in UCLA.

    yes, this is correct. though islam has a long history in w. africa, it's pretty clear that it was shallow in its impact on the country into the 20th century. my only point here is that it wasn't necessarily just or even mostly bottom-up diffusion. there was top-down elite propagation of orthodoxy after nominal conversion.
  141. @Talha
    Acknowledged on that particular example. A couple of items:
    1. How exactly did Majahapit consolidate power over the archipelago? Dehak's time had come, same with the Balinese. I was more talking about an invading force from say India. I (personally) am less concerned with the power struggles between ruling nobles - this is par for the course in history. I am more concerned with what happens on the lower strata - was Islam forced on the people or not. Definitely, the removal of the political structure of a Buddhist or Hindu kingdom allows the proselytizing to commence unhindered.
    2. Do you have a citation for elite coercion rather than state sponsorship and promotion of Islam? For instance, Saladin (ra) checked the Fatimid Shiah influence in Egypt by state sponsorship of Sunni centers of learning - not repression of Shiahs.

    As far as Africa - similar points as above. Sokoto (under the Shehu, Uthman Dan Fodi [ra]) was a late comer (Songhai and Mali were the earlier players in the Sene-Gambia and Niger regions) and his was mostly an inter-Muslim conflict to consolidate territory and bring Orthodoxy back into supremacy from syncretism (a bit like Saladin [ra]) - if I remember the details correctly, it's been decades since I did research on him in UCLA.

    Peace.

    . I (personally) am less concerned with the power struggles between ruling nobles

    and yet though there was an ethnic element you could say that this is what happened with the arab muslim conquest of the byzantine and persian territories. there was decapitation and co-option of the old elites into the new elite, eventually unified by ideology.

    Do you have a citation for elite coercion rather than state sponsorship and promotion of Islam?

    not off the top of my head. by it was recent enough that i recall reading ethnographic/historical records of the dynamic in places like https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kingdom_of_Blambangan

    the conversion was quicker than middle east, at least nominally.

    similar points as above. Sokoto (under the Shehu, Uthman Dan Fodi [ra]) was a late comer (Songhai and Mali were the earlier players in the Sene-Gambia and Niger regions) and his was mostly an inter-Muslim conflict to consolidate territory and bring Orthodoxy back into supremacy from syncretism (a bit like Saladin [ra]) – if I remember the details correctly, it’s been decades since I did research on him in UCLA.

    yes, this is correct. though islam has a long history in w. africa, it’s pretty clear that it was shallow in its impact on the country into the 20th century. my only point here is that it wasn’t necessarily just or even mostly bottom-up diffusion. there was top-down elite propagation of orthodoxy after nominal conversion.

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    • Replies: @Talha
    Sorry Razib, had to leave for taraweeh so my thoughts weren't all straight.

    there was decapitation and co-option of the old elites into the new elite

     

    That was actually the strategy from the beginning - it worked brilliantly. Smash the ruling power on the battlefield (often at numerical disadvantage), co-opt the bureaucracy (the Hijazi Arabs were excellent fighters, but couldn't run anything as complex as the Sassanid Empire), spread the message among the masses and have a policy to incentivize conversion into a larger brotherhood. Umayyads dropped the ball big time - staying aloof to the masses and establishing Arab supremacy. As I've stated before; the Abbasid revolt with Persian mawalis and others was the Sassanid "Empire Strikes Back".

    the conversion was quicker than middle east, at least nominally
     
    Agreed, so what is the reason? I would posit a couple of things; one, I mentioned specifically the conversion of the Malay and Javanese people. And, as you know about that archipelago, there are a few power centers and the rest are minor players - Java is the biggest. You also have Sumatra and since the Malay Peninsula became Muslim (these are all peaceful conversions to my knowledge) then Mahajapit is in a pincer and going to go down. Another factor to take into account; in my studies, I've noticed that certain people tend to adopt the religion/culture of their emperor/king/chief/noble fairly quickly. To project our post-modern individualism on those people is likely anachronistic. I'm not saying this is the factor, just something to keep in mind. And I agree, military conquests within the various islands definitely sped things up.

    there was top-down elite propagation of orthodoxy after nominal conversion
     
    100% agree. Since the time of Mansa Musa (ra) - the African rulers invited Muslim scholars to come teach (also building up centers like Sankore) and propagate Islam and other sciences. It was definitely an effort that had the sponsorship of the elites. And yes, they did expand their empires - as empires do. Not so sure about shallowness though, certain people were definitely nominally Muslim, but others solid Maliki adherents and scholars of a very high level - there are records in Timbuktu that attest to this (http://www.tombouctoumanuscripts.org/libraries/the_wangari_manuscript_library/). You can also read about this in the writings of Ibn Batuta (ra).

    By the way, thanks for engaging me with grace and patience.

    Peace.

    , @Talha
    Hey Razib,

    I just realized that my statements like "I did research on him in UCLA" may give people the impression that I did postgraduate work for a journal for Near Eastern Studies or something. I did no such thing, I was a CS & E major and I only did this as informal research for a campus newspaper I used to write for. Full disclosure - and I apologize if that misled anyone.

    Peace.
  142. @Razib Khan
    bitter opposition to polytheists and Shia; and the belief in return to pure Salafi thought as a path to return to golden age of Islam. In this sense, essentially he is the contemporary or the forerunner to Wahabi thought. It should be clear that this thought has considerable influence among Muslim intelligentsia before and after independence. Sufism is considered the religion of the streets.

    i'm curious why you say this about salafi and sufism. not all muslim supremacists are salafis, and sufism itself (e.g., naqsbandiya) could be quite militant. in any case, most 'orthodox' muslim thinkers have been muslim supremacists, just as the catholic church once asserted 'error has no rights.' the safavids themselves started out as a sufi sect. my thought on this emerge partly because i'm to understand aurangzeb himself was sympathetic to aspects of sufi mysticism. the barelivs are pro-sufi, and to my understanding deobandis are more ambiguous.

    what am i missing?

    You aren’t missing much from what I know. Deobandis are also very Sufi oriented. Look, people have to understand (as you’ve mentioned) that Sufism is not this hippy-vegan thing that most people make it out to be. Some of the greatest Sufis were scholars and even muftis – I’m talking core individuals; Junaid al-Baghdadi (ra), Ibn Arabi (ra), Rummi (ra), etc. Almost all the jihads against the colonial powers were taken up by Sufi Orders; Tijani, Shadili, Qadiri, Naqshbandi, Sanusi, you name it.

    The main difference is (from my research into this – and being one :) ) that Sufis understand that shariah has an inner core; all people are sinners, thus you meet people at their level and – not necessarily just accept them for what they are – but rather see them as what they can be and be patient with them – and of course the discourse of love (‘ishq). This is why they get to the masses. A convert was told from his B’Alawi teachers in Yemen, that, if he wanted to come back to America to propagate Islam, it had a condition; he must first see everyone he met as better than himself.

    Another difference is how they conduct jihad, which (not always perfect) has a much more noble side to it than the nut-cases you see today. So for instance, Shaykh Abdul Qadir (ra) could fight the French for nearly three decades and then be betrayed by them when surrendering and still have the magnanimity for save their consul and other Christians from slaughter during Muslim and Druze riots in Damascus. This earned him the highest honor that the French accord anyone. I rarely reference wikipedia, but this is fairly accurate based on the research I did in UCLA:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abdelkader_El_Djezairi

    And him being a forerunner to Wahaabis – way off the mark. He was a Sufi guide in the four major orders of the Indian Subcontinent and a dedicated Hanafi (though he advocated against absolute strict adherence to just one school).

    Peace.

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  143. @LevantineJew
    After watching the video, I think Ben Afflek clearly has no idea what he talking about.
    The only his factual argument that I can relate too is that Western civilization so far killed much more people than Islamic civilization.
    Not that we can infer that this will continue into the future.
    Once Islamic world will catch up with the latest technology (i.e. WMD, cyber, etc.), they will be able to scale their efforts.

    >>> "Jews had to respect the law of the land in which they lived, to the point where this became a maxim."


    "Dina d'malkhuta dina" [1] (Aramaic: דִּינָא דְּמַלְכוּתָא דִּינָא‎‎, "the law of the land is the law"), is the halakhic rule that the law of the country is binding, and, in certain cases, is to be preferred to Jewish law.

    BTW: except Jews the only people who has something similar are Druze. Druze in Israel are loyal to Israel, Druze in Lebanon are loyal to Lebanon, etc.

    >>> "Hamid asserts that the modern Jewish state of Israel is fundamentally secular in a way that Islamic states are not. I am not entirely convinced by this. First, the secular Ashkenazi elite are now a minority of the population, though at founding they were the overwhelming majority. The Haredi population is growing, and there is a large body of Sephardic Jews for whom Jewish religious identity is stronger than for the Ashkenazi. Finally, the “national religious” block of non-Haredi religious Jews have contributed many of the individuals engaged in religious-ethnic motivated political violence. Some radical Jews even term the Palestinians Amalekites."


    I disagree, while there is a trend of increasing religious fundamentalism, it's mostly an effect of a wider increase in secular nationalism.

    Majority of Mizrahi Jews are also secular, though they may have a stronger traditional Jewish identity than Ashkenazim.

    It's kind like Mizrahi Jewish identity feels more "organic", than assimilated secular Ashkenazi or Ultraorthodox Ashkenazi.

    For Mizrahis it is more about identity, than religion. I once overheard a young Mizrahi secular girl talking on the phone: "I voted for Shas [Sephardi Ultraorthodox party], because after all it's *OUR* religion!" [the accent was on the world "our"].

    I don't know about who you call "Ashkenazi elites".

    In fact in Israel "Ashkenazi" became a label for a person with European appearance, and "Mishtaknez" a slang term for Mizrahi who behave like Ashkenazi, i.e. leftist, a person who disassociated from his Mizrahi identity.

    Many famous Israelis who usually are assumed being Ashkenazi, under right circumstances would reveal that they are half Mizrahi or Sephardi (usually on the mother side, that's why people can't guess from the family name or appearance).
    Isaac Hertzog, who considered being a leader of "leftist Askenazi elites" is in fact half Sephardi Egyptian [2].
    Many still think that Menahem Begin was Mizrahi, just because he spoke clearly to the regular people.
    Even Benjamin Netanayhu recently bragged that he is of Sephardi ancestry [3].

    In the 50s-60s there are were much more single Ashkenazi males than females, probably because Mizrahi Jews immigrated with entire large families, while Ashkenazi mostly as singles or with smaller families.
    Back then there were many "mixed" marriages with Ashkenazi men and Mizrahi women.
    Today for non-immigrant Israelis (except for a small number of highly endogamous communities) it's usually very hard to guess their ancestry and the usual fallback is just guess according to an appearance.

    IMO, nowadays "Ashkenazi"/"Sephardi" is as much as political labels as a Jewish sub-ethnic identities.

    One last thing: Mizrahi/Sephardi Jews were always less fundamentalist than their Muslim neighbors, maybe because they always lived on the border of two civilizations: back then Roman and Persian empires, which today became Western/Christian/Secular and Eastern/Islamic/Fundamentalist worlds.


    [1] Dina d'malkhuta dina
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dina_d%27malkhuta_dina

    [2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isaac_Herzog

    [3] Netanyahu: I have Sephardic roots as well
    http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4807687,00.html

    >>>> a large body of Sephardic Jews for whom Jewish religious identity is stronger

    substitute the word “theater” for “identity”, and we will be in agreement

    anyway, you cannot really work an Israeli room (as a standup comedian) successfully on the back of Sfardim/mizrakhim anymore (for the same reason that it’s not only WASPs who overeat on Thanksgiving. Mimouna has already become a meme)

    Nowadays, it’s Ethiopians & FrenchJews.

    Why? The accents. Successful, fully-weaponized stand-up requires an accent to be mimicked.

    At this moment, youtube has about 8-10 clips of white guys CRACKING UP their neighbors by mimick’ing Hebrew in an Ethiopian accent.

    Just add a good rendition of the drumbeat-stomping kind of dance that Ethiopians do at their weddings…… you’re youtube gold

    In my experience, a dozen or so words of Tagalog will suffice to (eventually) get you to a fuck-close with one of the pinay chicks in South Tel Aviv’s Florentine neighborhood.

    Language is the basis of tribal identity.

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    • Replies: @LevantineJew

    Nowadays, it’s Ethiopians & FrenchJews.
     
    The latest trend is jokes about Ashkenazim and skin cancer and absence of charisma in Hertzog, but that's more for PC, than actually being funny.
    BTW: I think there is a law against ethnic or racial jokes, which is not enforced.

    Language is the basis of tribal identity.
     
    I'd say it's more the accent than the language itself. Males can only peak up accents from their peers until the age of adolescence. So if you didn't grew up with local kids/teens - you will be outsider forever.

    But I disagree with the general premise, in Lebanon all ethnic groups speak the same dialect of Arabic (expect Maronites who also bilingual in French), yet there is no single identity.

  144. @Razib Khan
    . I (personally) am less concerned with the power struggles between ruling nobles

    and yet though there was an ethnic element you could say that this is what happened with the arab muslim conquest of the byzantine and persian territories. there was decapitation and co-option of the old elites into the new elite, eventually unified by ideology.

    Do you have a citation for elite coercion rather than state sponsorship and promotion of Islam?

    not off the top of my head. by it was recent enough that i recall reading ethnographic/historical records of the dynamic in places like https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kingdom_of_Blambangan

    the conversion was quicker than middle east, at least nominally.

    similar points as above. Sokoto (under the Shehu, Uthman Dan Fodi [ra]) was a late comer (Songhai and Mali were the earlier players in the Sene-Gambia and Niger regions) and his was mostly an inter-Muslim conflict to consolidate territory and bring Orthodoxy back into supremacy from syncretism (a bit like Saladin [ra]) – if I remember the details correctly, it’s been decades since I did research on him in UCLA.

    yes, this is correct. though islam has a long history in w. africa, it's pretty clear that it was shallow in its impact on the country into the 20th century. my only point here is that it wasn't necessarily just or even mostly bottom-up diffusion. there was top-down elite propagation of orthodoxy after nominal conversion.

    Sorry Razib, had to leave for taraweeh so my thoughts weren’t all straight.

    there was decapitation and co-option of the old elites into the new elite

    That was actually the strategy from the beginning – it worked brilliantly. Smash the ruling power on the battlefield (often at numerical disadvantage), co-opt the bureaucracy (the Hijazi Arabs were excellent fighters, but couldn’t run anything as complex as the Sassanid Empire), spread the message among the masses and have a policy to incentivize conversion into a larger brotherhood. Umayyads dropped the ball big time – staying aloof to the masses and establishing Arab supremacy. As I’ve stated before; the Abbasid revolt with Persian mawalis and others was the Sassanid “Empire Strikes Back”.

    the conversion was quicker than middle east, at least nominally

    Agreed, so what is the reason? I would posit a couple of things; one, I mentioned specifically the conversion of the Malay and Javanese people. And, as you know about that archipelago, there are a few power centers and the rest are minor players – Java is the biggest. You also have Sumatra and since the Malay Peninsula became Muslim (these are all peaceful conversions to my knowledge) then Mahajapit is in a pincer and going to go down. Another factor to take into account; in my studies, I’ve noticed that certain people tend to adopt the religion/culture of their emperor/king/chief/noble fairly quickly. To project our post-modern individualism on those people is likely anachronistic. I’m not saying this is the factor, just something to keep in mind. And I agree, military conquests within the various islands definitely sped things up.

    there was top-down elite propagation of orthodoxy after nominal conversion

    100% agree. Since the time of Mansa Musa (ra) – the African rulers invited Muslim scholars to come teach (also building up centers like Sankore) and propagate Islam and other sciences. It was definitely an effort that had the sponsorship of the elites. And yes, they did expand their empires – as empires do. Not so sure about shallowness though, certain people were definitely nominally Muslim, but others solid Maliki adherents and scholars of a very high level – there are records in Timbuktu that attest to this (http://www.tombouctoumanuscripts.org/libraries/the_wangari_manuscript_library/). You can also read about this in the writings of Ibn Batuta (ra).

    By the way, thanks for engaging me with grace and patience.

    Peace.

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  145. Agreed, so what is the reason?

    1) islam in the first century is/was not islam in the later period. even if you aren’t a revisionist, most agree that the umayyads were not nearly as welcoming toward converts as became the norm in later periods (though even later, racial/ethnic debilities persisted, consider the prejudice tipu sultan experienced from the south indian muslim nobility of non-indian origin).

    2) second, it may be that the ethno-religious identity of the local populations in the levant and iran were more strongly rooted in the prior religion. for example, semitic speaking adherents of the persian church in iraq were members of an institution which their own ethnicity had to a great extent created. in iran, zoroastrianism was the ethnic-national religion. in contrast southeast asia’s religions come from abroad, so the elites and populace were transferring from one foreign affiliation to another (to make it a caricature).

    Another factor to take into account; in my studies, I’ve noticed that certain people tend to adopt the religion/culture of their emperor/king/chief/noble fairly quickly. To project our post-modern individualism on those people is likely anachronistic

    i think this is right. we need to be careful, but in general elite emulation was very common up until the early modern period. it takes a few generations, but usually old elites will convert to the new elite religion if it’s here to stay. the process seems have stopped at some point though. the prussians refused to abandon lutheranism for calvinism when their electors converted. the saxons remained protestant after their kings become catholic. ~50 years of buddhist/non-muslim rule in iran did not induce much conversion by local muslims.

    Read More
    • Agree: Talha
    • Replies: @Marcus
    An interesting case study from the Iranic elite https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Khaydhar_ibn_Kawus_al-Afshin
  146. @omarali50
    I have not read his original books, and I know that he made some efforts for shia-sunni unity of some sort (under the umbrella of correct Sunni shariah of course), but pro-Shia websites certainly regard him as "anti-Shia" (see here https://lubpak.com/archives/306269 and https://lubpak.com/archives/313032 ) , as does this book https://books.google.com/books?id=TLi2BgAAQBAJ&pg=PA206&lpg=PA206&dq=shah+waliullah+fatwa+on+shia&source=bl&ots=Rsc4tljixJ&sig=H5XWgizdmBQar1cYXtEF4MrpI8A&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwio8MrIyJnNAhUPQlIKHQYLAXAQ6AEIUTAI#v=onepage&q=shah%20waliullah%20fatwa%20on%20shia&f=false and his descendants and great fans (the Deobandis) are certainly anti-Shia.

    About being anti-Hindu there is much less doubt. Here, for example, is an article from Professor Mubarak Ali (professor of history in Lahore) about Shah Waliullah and his ideals: http://www.dawn.com/news/1038270 . If you feel he is being misquoted, it would be great if you could find the original text of his letter to Abdali and other writings on the need for Muslims to separate themselves from Hindus in all matters and for outside Muslim rulers to invade India and destroy "Hindu Power" and so on.
    This fan of Shah Walliullah certainly does not regard him as a proponent of interfaith dialog and peace http://www.academia.edu/592790/SHAH_WALIULLAH_AL-DEHLAWI_THOUGHTS_AND_CONTRIBUTIONS

    Are the thoughts of Shah Walliulah on Jihad etc presented in these (Hindu writers) articles accurate or misquotes?

    http://voiceofdharma.org/books/muslimsep/ch6.htm

    http://www.kashmirherald.com/featuredarticle/shahwaliullah.html

    And so on. Whether the man wanted to or not, his legacy seems to be about Muslim separatism, supremacism and jihad (not the "inner spiritual" kind). Is that a misunderstanding? I have not read him in the original. Is he being misquoted and misrepresented? can you clarify? thanks

    Wow! OK – you’ve given me a lot to do. First and foremost, let me be clear. Shah Waliullah (ra) was a great scholar, but not perfect. Traditional Islamic scholarship has always had a nuanced view on things; for instance, you would be hard pressed to find a better exegesis on the Qur’an from a linguistic perspective than that of Imam Zamakhshari (ra), but his Mu’tazilite views are simply discarded. So…

    As far as the anti-Shiah stances. Let’s be fair, the Mughals were a struggling power. To the West, they had a hostile Persian Empire that had made inroads into their territory. An empire that “used “proselytizing and force to convert the large majority of Muslims in Iran to the Shia sect.”(http://countrystudies.us/iran/11.htm) Technically, it was no longer Safavid, but that was a very recent change, contemporaneously. This was the environment of the time. Sunni-Shiah tension has always been there and has ups and downs. Likely this was Shah Waliullah (ra) wanting to assert the Mughal identity as a Sunni polity – this does not automatically follow that his advice to an Afghan king is relevant to our situation. The current spike (since the 80s) has a lot of the Wahhabi footprint on it. In the current milieu, both Sunni and Shiah are making progress in toning things down. Even Mufti Taqi Uthmani (db) – a household name among Deobandis – has signed onto the Amman Message (http://ammanmessage.com/) that is a conciliatory move (headed by the Hashimite Kingdom of Jordan) among the major divisions of Islam.

    As far as the other notes, I’m going to assume those caricatures of his suggestions are true. Unfortunately it has been a long while since I was researching him, but Prof. Hermansen (http://homepages.luc.edu/~mherman/) is an absolute expert on the man and I would highly recommend any of her books including her translation of Hujjat Allah Al-Baligha (http://www.amazon.com/Conclusive-Argument-God-Al-Baligha-Philosophy/dp/9004102981) but I don’t have a copy on me to verify. So let’s assume he does recommend to smash the power of the ruling Hindu elites. Did he mean all of them? Not all were rebellious toward the Mughals, but the Marathas certainly were. The Marathas were no joke – anyone who went against them considered them to be difficult opponents even in defeat. The resurgent Maratha Empire was a threat and decapitation of the ruling hierarchy was a sensible policy – see my note to Razib about smashing Sassanid and Byzantine upper echelons. Some of the policy that he advocates sounds much more like what one finds in the books of the Shafi’i school and not like the expansive and more tolerant Hanafi (and Maliki) school rulings. So perhaps he was looking into another school to find a policy that would allow the Mughal Empire to show its muscle to let people know who is in charge – though this seems to have backfired.

    As fire as him inviting Shah Durrani to help put down the Maratha revolt, well, that is a benefit of belonging to an Ummah. Sometimes the call is answered and sometimes all you get is a letter of encouragement (like the Chechens got from the Ottomans). From a nationalist Indian perspective, it makes total sense to see it as an invitation for outside interference. From a Muslim perspective, I don’t see it as a grand travesty. Again, I would not advocate some of the policies vis-a-vis the population that he wrote about.

    Now, as far as those Muslims who either adopt all his writing 100% or reject it 100%. That makes no sense. To recognize his strengths and adopt those while rejecting those views that definitely don’t belong (except inside the context of a dying pre-modern Empire struggling to keep its territorial integrity in the face of outside and internal threats) seems to be the msot sensible way to go.

    Peace.

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    • Replies: @omarali50
    Peace is one of the issues though, isnt it? If I sign every letter with peace and invite a VERY bloodthirsty and rapacious general to come and "decapitate" XYZ elite and loot the common people in the bargain, then my peaceful intentions are put in doubt.
    So the "ummah", once it has got into a place (and is not even a majority yet) has the right to demand military reconquest, no matter what the price? by any adventurer who happens to be available?
    By the way, that is not necessarily a bad idea. As conquests and empires go, that is a very powerful policy and asabiya to have. But then lets not go on about "peaceful rise" (to quote our Chinese brethren) and lets not make hypocritical noises if the Han want to apply the same rule in Xinjiang.
    And may the best man win.
  147. @Karl
    >>>> a large body of Sephardic Jews for whom Jewish religious identity is stronger

    substitute the word "theater" for "identity", and we will be in agreement

    anyway, you cannot really work an Israeli room (as a standup comedian) successfully on the back of Sfardim/mizrakhim anymore (for the same reason that it's not only WASPs who overeat on Thanksgiving. Mimouna has already become a meme)

    Nowadays, it's Ethiopians & FrenchJews.

    Why? The accents. Successful, fully-weaponized stand-up requires an accent to be mimicked.

    At this moment, youtube has about 8-10 clips of white guys CRACKING UP their neighbors by mimick'ing Hebrew in an Ethiopian accent.

    Just add a good rendition of the drumbeat-stomping kind of dance that Ethiopians do at their weddings...... you're youtube gold

    In my experience, a dozen or so words of Tagalog will suffice to (eventually) get you to a fuck-close with one of the pinay chicks in South Tel Aviv's Florentine neighborhood.

    Language is the basis of tribal identity.

    Nowadays, it’s Ethiopians & FrenchJews.

    The latest trend is jokes about Ashkenazim and skin cancer and absence of charisma in Hertzog, but that’s more for PC, than actually being funny.
    BTW: I think there is a law against ethnic or racial jokes, which is not enforced.

    Language is the basis of tribal identity.

    I’d say it’s more the accent than the language itself. Males can only peak up accents from their peers until the age of adolescence. So if you didn’t grew up with local kids/teens – you will be outsider forever.

    But I disagree with the general premise, in Lebanon all ethnic groups speak the same dialect of Arabic (expect Maronites who also bilingual in French), yet there is no single identity.

    Read More
  148. @Razib Khan
    Agreed, so what is the reason?

    1) islam in the first century is/was not islam in the later period. even if you aren't a revisionist, most agree that the umayyads were not nearly as welcoming toward converts as became the norm in later periods (though even later, racial/ethnic debilities persisted, consider the prejudice tipu sultan experienced from the south indian muslim nobility of non-indian origin).

    2) second, it may be that the ethno-religious identity of the local populations in the levant and iran were more strongly rooted in the prior religion. for example, semitic speaking adherents of the persian church in iraq were members of an institution which their own ethnicity had to a great extent created. in iran, zoroastrianism was the ethnic-national religion. in contrast southeast asia's religions come from abroad, so the elites and populace were transferring from one foreign affiliation to another (to make it a caricature).

    Another factor to take into account; in my studies, I’ve noticed that certain people tend to adopt the religion/culture of their emperor/king/chief/noble fairly quickly. To project our post-modern individualism on those people is likely anachronistic

    i think this is right. we need to be careful, but in general elite emulation was very common up until the early modern period. it takes a few generations, but usually old elites will convert to the new elite religion if it's here to stay. the process seems have stopped at some point though. the prussians refused to abandon lutheranism for calvinism when their electors converted. the saxons remained protestant after their kings become catholic. ~50 years of buddhist/non-muslim rule in iran did not induce much conversion by local muslims.

    An interesting case study from the Iranic elite https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Khaydhar_ibn_Kawus_al-Afshin

    Read More
  149. @Razib Khan
    bitter opposition to polytheists and Shia; and the belief in return to pure Salafi thought as a path to return to golden age of Islam. In this sense, essentially he is the contemporary or the forerunner to Wahabi thought. It should be clear that this thought has considerable influence among Muslim intelligentsia before and after independence. Sufism is considered the religion of the streets.

    i'm curious why you say this about salafi and sufism. not all muslim supremacists are salafis, and sufism itself (e.g., naqsbandiya) could be quite militant. in any case, most 'orthodox' muslim thinkers have been muslim supremacists, just as the catholic church once asserted 'error has no rights.' the safavids themselves started out as a sufi sect. my thought on this emerge partly because i'm to understand aurangzeb himself was sympathetic to aspects of sufi mysticism. the barelivs are pro-sufi, and to my understanding deobandis are more ambiguous.

    what am i missing?

    “i’m curious why you say this about salafi and sufism. not all muslim supremacists are salafis, and sufism itself (e.g., naqsbandiya) could be quite militant.”

    My understanding (no claims that I am correct) is Salafi is a methodology and not a school and identifies strongly with Quran and Sunnah, and rejects polytheism (I believe they consider Sufism as polytheism “light”) and reject “kalam” (speculation on theology). In the indian subcontinent, Salafis claim to originate , either, with Walullah or Wahaab, even if Salafis themselves originated only in Egypt in 19th century. The Al-hadith movement in India (Syed Nazeer Husain Siddiq Hasan Khan) the present day holders of Salafi philosophy refer back to Waliullah, but not Wahab. In India, Walullah, and Deoband are the pure strains that battle Barelvi and Sufi for dominance.

    Having said that, it should be clear that these sects are commonly battling for minds, and use one-upmanship to prove who is the most Islamic of all. Example is the recent Barelvi caricature of a dude who killed a governor just for saying that Blasphemy is not a crime that should be punished by death. Barelvis as far as Glasgow have taken Qadri as Shaheed. Normally you would associate Barelvi as moderate, but given an opening, they will try to dominate using the most extreme positions. The same is true for Sufis. If an opening is presented, they can revert to the most severe positions.

    Oh, I should not have brought the Aurangzeb thingy in there; he preceded Walullah and was a complex man, who became more conservative in age. He ruled for 50 years and did so many different things at different stages of life that any of the claims (“Aurangzeb was the protector of Hindus” “Aurangzen was a killer of Sikhs” :”aurazgzeb was responsible for Salafis and Wahabis”) can become valid by selectively quoting from different periods of gis life.

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    • Replies: @Talha
    Hey Vijay,

    If Razib will allow me...


    Salafi is a methodology and not a school
     
    Methodology and school are synonymous in this context - this are English terms. Usool or Maslak are basically the same in terms of this subject. They have introduced a new school into the Sunni framework. Technically, they are basically Hanbali in about 80%+ of their rulings - some may call them neo-Hanbalis.

    identifies strongly with Qur'an and Sunnah
     
    All schools do, the bigots among the Salafi/Wahhabis refuse to recognize this. It appeals to the some of the ignorant; "Don't follow Abu Hanifa, follow Qur'an and Sunnah!" As if the other schools did anything but. I know, I used to buy into it.

    rejects polytheism
     
    Everybody rejects polytheism, the bigots among the simply include a bunch of things under polytheism that are differences of interpretation.

    Walullah, and Deoband are the pure strains that battle Barelvi and Sufi for dominance
     
    Deobandis are Sufis as are Barelvis (both of all four major orders in the Indian Subcontinent - though the Shadhili have recently shown up). I've never come across a single Barelvi scholar that has anything but respect for Shah Waliullah (ra), have you? He precedes the split.

    these sects are commonly battling for minds
     
    The Deobandi/Barelvi thing is a split on non-essential issues. It has been exacerbated by zealots on both sides. The current generation of scholars on both sides is a bit tired of it and I have seen strides in resolving the issues. Hopefully, it will be gone within the next generation - idiots on youtube notwithstanding.

    Barelvis as far as Glasgow have taken Qadri as Shaheed
     
    Their scholars or zealous masses?

    they can revert to the most severe positions
     
    A clarification; there is no such consensus on (for death penalty) blasphemy by a non-Muslim (as in the case of Asia Bibi) - objecting to the death penalty on those grounds is sound. Saying a person can act like a vigilante and kill someone (arrogating the prerogative of the judicial system) for such objections is an extreme position. Former Grand Mufti of Pakistan, Taqi Uthmani (ra) stated that his execution for murder is sound, but one can hope the man is forgiven by God because he intended to stand up for the honor of the Prophet (pbuh) - no matter how ignorant of misguided his actions.

    Peace.

    , @Marcus

    Aurangzeb was the protector of Hindus
     
    Hard to believe anyone would claim that

    In April, A. D. 1669, Aurangzib learned that in the provinces of Thatta, Multan and Benares, but especially in the latter, foolish Brahmins were in the habit of expounding frivolous books in their schools, and that learners, Muslims as well as Hindus, went there from long distances. . . .The 'Director of the Faith' consequently issued orders to all the governors of provinces to destroy with a willing hand the schools and temples of the infidels; and they were enjoined to put an entire stop to the teaching and practising of idolatrous worship. . . .Later it was reported to his religious Majesty that the Government officers had destroyed the temple of Bishnath at Benares.
     
    http://www.columbia.edu/itc/mealac/pritchett/00ambedkar/ambedkar_partition/204.html
  150. @Talha
    I think the gist of what he is saying is that; when the Muslim world was at a place of well established political and cultural hegemony, it was expansive in its outlook and could do things like translate, incorporate and challenge Greek Hellenistic works without feeling threatened in its core. Colonialism wiped that confidence out from Senegal to Malaysia.

    The analogy (as Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad [db] has forwarded) is a bit like a hedgehog - Muslims (a large number of them) have curled up into a ball, spikes out.

    Peace.

    “Colonialism wiped that confidence out from Senegal to Malaysia.” Post colonial theory is such a cop out. It bascially seems to give free license for a “get out of jail” response” to any criticism. but why does colonialism only seem to applied when it is european non-muslims doing it? The Islamic empire or “Ummah” as it were were colonialists. Everything you describe (letting religions keep their own personal courts, only worried about taxes and loyalty,etc. etc) pretty much applies to “colonial” empires, the British empire in particular. Now mind you we have more details about these “colonialist” ventures as they are more recent in history and even the “colonialists” themselves would write less than flattering things about themselves, alot about colonialism I suspect you learned more through western educations, and it’s more critical examinations of their own historical records, while being more generous toward native and especially “islamic” writings and records. Please use something other than “colonialism” to make excuses for “islams” close-mindnesss, or let islam take responsibility for the stifling of the non-muslim (pagan, zoroastrian, hindu, buddhist and gasp even christian) intellectual development as well in the areas that islam so innocously took control.

    Now forgive my obvious irritation at this, you are quite a informative commenter and I read your comments with interest, this is more of a in general type response as I’ve seen this line of thinking before. You are gracious to non-muslims commentators (as you should be, but all types, christians, moslems and even those “peaceful” buddhists and hindus” can be less than courteous and good manners should always be recognized ), and you’re very knowledgeable but I find your versions of islamic theology and history a little too pat and sanitized, and explaining things away a little too naively.

    A disclaimer as well here, these are my own views (and irritations) and readings of history and I don’t speak for anyone else. ;-)

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    • Replies: @Talha
    Hey JJ,

    Colonialism wiped that confidence out from Senegal to Malaysia
     
    That was a description of the current disease, not a cop out. I don't blame the Brits for wanting to rule 1/3 of the world - that was their prerogative - they built a navy for it.

    The Islamic empire or “Ummah” as it were were colonialists.
     
    Sure, it was an empire, that's what empires do. Peruse my posts, I don't apologize for the Muslims smashing the Sassanid, Byzantine, Frankish Kingdoms, etc. Pre-modern history was basically expand or be expanded upon. The only reason the Sassanids didn't have an extension into the Hijaz was because it wasn't worth the effort, not because they believed in the right of a branch of ethno-linguistic Semites to be left alone. I don't even blame Christians for the Crudsades; their conduct maybe, but not the impetus. I actually empathize with the motivations; the (possibly mad) Fatimid Caliph Hakim destroying the church of the Holy Sepulchre and such (a poignant notice to all to keep our extremists in check).
    As I stated to Razib, what concerns me is what happens on the ground to the people; how were they treated, how did they fare?

    let islam take responsibility for the stifling of the non-muslim (pagan, zoroastrian, hindu, buddhist and gasp even christian) intellectual development as well in the areas that islam so innocously took control
     
    If you say so. I don't see any evidence that Christian monks couldn't participate in the sciences or had their works robbed or destroyed or couldn't elaborate on their theological works. John of Damascus (Muslim capital at the time) wrote a treatise (first polemic against Islam) labeled 'Heresy of the Ishmaelites' and he was not punished for it. Sure there were some specific cases of persecution or even pogroms, but as a whole? Care to cite specific sources? Now if you are saying there was a ceiling to social hierarchy that only Muslims could attain to, then yes, that was by policy. But, even then people like Rambam could rise to become the court physicians of men like Saladin. Likewise, the description of the lot of the Nestorians also doesn't sound too bad; "Nestorian scholars played a prominent role in the formation of Arab culture, and patriarchs occasionally gained influence with rulers." Far better than under the Byzantines:
    http://www.britannica.com/topic/Nestorians

    islamic theology and history a little too pat and sanitized
     
    Please cite an example. I'm very much for the truth in matters. I am not a (post)modernist nor an apologist. It may be your sources of information on Islam are biased. An example; I can easily cite for you well known scholars (Imam Nawawi [ra] for example) who held positions like the following; if a city is taken by force (as opposed to a negotiated peaceful settlement) then any religious buildings that may have been damaged or destroyed during the fighting cannot be repaired by the non-Muslims. These are in our books of law, it is disingenuous for me to claim otherwise. However, it is disingenuous for critics to point out to such a ruling as THE position of Islam when this is the ruling of a minority school which was not adopted by the majority of Muslim sovereigns throughout history and an opposing opinion exists. You see where I am going?

    May God preserve you and yours.
    , @amcupidsvictim
    That statement by @talha was to clarify my comment. I originally made that comment. And I agree that islamic invasions of India have done considerable degree of damage to Indian systems of learning. And it is not a cop out, if you read my original comment and later comments, other factors are also valued. basically security,education,economy, survival and proliferation of educational institutes for long periods of time all matter. As does compounding of knowledge. Europe ended up gaining its own intellectual traditions back along with knowledge from India,arabs, ideas of scientific method used in optics, mathematical models of astronomy . In short a wide variety of ideas which was followed by many educational institutes of learning . And part of the reason for this has to do with security. India,china,middle east were subjected to genocidal maniacal invaders of the like Europe did not experience in the same period. And where people found safety progress was being made. As is now clear with independent results on calculus in India couple of centuries before they were made in europe. Except these were made in the deep southern part of India.While math/astronomy in rest of India stagnated.
  151. Hi Razib, after growing up in an air force R & D center in the heart of the American bible belt, I am always astonished to run across in depth dialogue on Islam that does not tempt me to go quickly to a veterinarian to demand a prophylactic rabies shot. Folk in those regions are incapable of believing that credible scholars like you or gentle thinkers like Talha can come from muslim cultures, let alone that there are many more, too numerous for an accurate count. I assume a Christian identity as a pragmatic method more so than as protective color. Much of the nonsense of religion makes more sense if we consider the teachers of the “sacred” texts had only two types pupil, heathen savages and savage heathens, all of which needed to be pacified in some degree so that things more positive than clawing and biting could be practiced. A willingness to have reverence for whatever our part of the world puts in our path i.e loving our neighbors or apples, cats or zebra mussels & etc. as a means of study while plainly trying to avoid giving offense, allows me to have compassion for “play christians” while enabling my right to defend against them, and at the same time amplifies my appreciation for the many sincere thinkers like you and those who comment on your writings.

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  152. i agree about the issue re: “colonialism.” the european imperial projected differed only in magnitude/degree, not quality, from the colonialism which turco-persian muslims, to give one example, subjected indians to. colonialism can be good, or bad. the muslims of south asia probably might assert that turco-afghan colonialism was a *good* thing, speaking as someone whose last name is khan :-) but colonialism as a term has negative connotations, as does imperialism. so i don’t know….

    in any case, the general argument is that the islamic world (core) was far more intellectually torpid in the 16th century than it was in the 9th. but the 16th was the century that marked the rise of ottoman colonialism in europe, and in the indian ocean powers like oman were successfully battling the portuguese, while the europeans were beneath notice for indian and chinese polities. so what happened then?

    IOW, it’s not all about “mighty whitey.”

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  153. I am also interested in this question. Why are the Huns, Kushanas, the slave dynasty, Turkic rulers, Mughals not called colonials? Is it because they did not return back to the country from where they came from?

    “What colonialism did is it destroyed the traditional educational eco system of elites. This destroyed a great deal of knowledge from the minds of the natives.”

    If that is what colonialism does, then the Mughals must have wiped out the knowledge system of Budhists and Hindus, and the Budhist emperors must have wiped out the knowledge system of the Hindus. On the contrary, the last two centuries, under the most colonialist of the rulers, we have been able to retrieve back most of the knowledge system.

    My only understanding from these is: RSS/BJP or Islamic people choose who their colonists.

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    • Replies: @amcupidsvictim
    Thank you, This is among the most ridiculous argument I have ever heard. U make an assumption that I am an rss/bjp person. show the evidence for it or u are a liar or a fool. The next argument you make is to compare Huns,kushans,mughals and the british and ask again questions which seems to suggest to me as if you have some kind of an axe to grind and are of some kind of ideologue. Yes many stayed back and thats a good thing and yes that actually is a good point of difference. Yes mughals and those before them wiped out great knowledge system and in my view potentially led to a certain kind of intellectual stagnation and as a consequence even a moral stagnation in India. Then you compare it with british. Except, the living eco system of knowledge got wiped out instead of adapting with the times. And what we get within that period is one of intellectual stagnation on the whole (yes we did gain significantly great ideas from the british but Indians did not contribute much) as a consequence of poverty. Indian economy went from above 20% of Gdp of the world to less than 3%. What we get from british is bits and pieces of history that they either kept record of as the controlling authority or few individuals for their own interest seem to have bothered to find out and preserve the knowledge. In fact the british also gained much from India The fact that you take out the economic implications and productivity in this rhetorical argument shows that either you are a fool or you are some kind of an ideologue looking for some street side squabble.Either way, you are a kind of person I have no interest in interacting with any further.
  154. @Vijay
    "i’m curious why you say this about salafi and sufism. not all muslim supremacists are salafis, and sufism itself (e.g., naqsbandiya) could be quite militant."

    My understanding (no claims that I am correct) is Salafi is a methodology and not a school and identifies strongly with Quran and Sunnah, and rejects polytheism (I believe they consider Sufism as polytheism "light") and reject "kalam" (speculation on theology). In the indian subcontinent, Salafis claim to originate , either, with Walullah or Wahaab, even if Salafis themselves originated only in Egypt in 19th century. The Al-hadith movement in India (Syed Nazeer Husain Siddiq Hasan Khan) the present day holders of Salafi philosophy refer back to Waliullah, but not Wahab. In India, Walullah, and Deoband are the pure strains that battle Barelvi and Sufi for dominance.

    Having said that, it should be clear that these sects are commonly battling for minds, and use one-upmanship to prove who is the most Islamic of all. Example is the recent Barelvi caricature of a dude who killed a governor just for saying that Blasphemy is not a crime that should be punished by death. Barelvis as far as Glasgow have taken Qadri as Shaheed. Normally you would associate Barelvi as moderate, but given an opening, they will try to dominate using the most extreme positions. The same is true for Sufis. If an opening is presented, they can revert to the most severe positions.

    Oh, I should not have brought the Aurangzeb thingy in there; he preceded Walullah and was a complex man, who became more conservative in age. He ruled for 50 years and did so many different things at different stages of life that any of the claims ("Aurangzeb was the protector of Hindus" "Aurangzen was a killer of Sikhs" :"aurazgzeb was responsible for Salafis and Wahabis") can become valid by selectively quoting from different periods of gis life.

    Hey Vijay,

    If Razib will allow me…

    Salafi is a methodology and not a school

    Methodology and school are synonymous in this context – this are English terms. Usool or Maslak are basically the same in terms of this subject. They have introduced a new school into the Sunni framework. Technically, they are basically Hanbali in about 80%+ of their rulings – some may call them neo-Hanbalis.

    identifies strongly with Qur’an and Sunnah

    All schools do, the bigots among the Salafi/Wahhabis refuse to recognize this. It appeals to the some of the ignorant; “Don’t follow Abu Hanifa, follow Qur’an and Sunnah!” As if the other schools did anything but. I know, I used to buy into it.

    rejects polytheism

    Everybody rejects polytheism, the bigots among the simply include a bunch of things under polytheism that are differences of interpretation.

    Walullah, and Deoband are the pure strains that battle Barelvi and Sufi for dominance

    Deobandis are Sufis as are Barelvis (both of all four major orders in the Indian Subcontinent – though the Shadhili have recently shown up). I’ve never come across a single Barelvi scholar that has anything but respect for Shah Waliullah (ra), have you? He precedes the split.

    these sects are commonly battling for minds

    The Deobandi/Barelvi thing is a split on non-essential issues. It has been exacerbated by zealots on both sides. The current generation of scholars on both sides is a bit tired of it and I have seen strides in resolving the issues. Hopefully, it will be gone within the next generation – idiots on youtube notwithstanding.

    Barelvis as far as Glasgow have taken Qadri as Shaheed

    Their scholars or zealous masses?

    they can revert to the most severe positions

    A clarification; there is no such consensus on (for death penalty) blasphemy by a non-Muslim (as in the case of Asia Bibi) – objecting to the death penalty on those grounds is sound. Saying a person can act like a vigilante and kill someone (arrogating the prerogative of the judicial system) for such objections is an extreme position. Former Grand Mufti of Pakistan, Taqi Uthmani (ra) stated that his execution for murder is sound, but one can hope the man is forgiven by God because he intended to stand up for the honor of the Prophet (pbuh) – no matter how ignorant of misguided his actions.

    Peace.

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    • Replies: @Vijay
    I think we are diverging even in accepted terms, and I believe that is because I do not follow or read Pakistani thought, which increasingly seems to be affected by Hanbaali school and Wahaabi thoughy.

    At least in India, Salafi is a methodology, and salafis can be Hanbalis, Malikis, or Hanafis. Because a lot of Arabs are Hanbalis, and because Arabs do like to believe "temporal proximity to the Prophet Muhammad is associated with the truest form of Islam". My source for Salafi thought is only "Haykel. "On the Nature of Salafi Thought and Action". 1st chapter in Mijet, " Global Salafism: Islam's New Religious Movement. Columbia University Press. I suspect that the Arab influence is making you conflate Salafi and hanbali.

    The polytheism I talk about is not to be considered the equivalent of Hindu polytheism, but the consideration of invoking prophets or people other than Allah. Of course we all know the definition of polytheism; what is relevant to Sufidom is "And invoke not besides Allâh, any such that will neither profit you nor harm you, but if (in case) you did so, you shall certainly be one of the Zâlimûn (polytheists and wrong-doers)"

    Deobandis WERE Sufis; starting at the Haneefah, and the sayings of Naqshbandhi, it has completely positioned itself at the feet of Abdul Wahaab today. Today, in India, the Deoband is specialized in releasing Fatwas against Sufi activity , that banning celebrating birthdays, to wearing clothes that show your hand, to singing and dancing. This again follows the same idea: the sects just houst and position them to what they claim to be the most chaste and pure form of Islam. Some form of conservatism with age, no doubt.

    All of what you say is based on equality of religious and legal; the"colonies" are not that. The legal system in Indo-Pakistan is based on the British IPC of 1872; the family law does not have superiority over the penal code. "the act or offense of speaking sacrilegiously about God or sacred things; profane talk" could be interpreted as meaning anything, and completely meaningless, at least, in India. Hence, its application is based on who is in power.
  155. @Talha
    Wow! OK - you've given me a lot to do. First and foremost, let me be clear. Shah Waliullah (ra) was a great scholar, but not perfect. Traditional Islamic scholarship has always had a nuanced view on things; for instance, you would be hard pressed to find a better exegesis on the Qur'an from a linguistic perspective than that of Imam Zamakhshari (ra), but his Mu'tazilite views are simply discarded. So...

    As far as the anti-Shiah stances. Let's be fair, the Mughals were a struggling power. To the West, they had a hostile Persian Empire that had made inroads into their territory. An empire that "used "proselytizing and force to convert the large majority of Muslims in Iran to the Shia sect."(http://countrystudies.us/iran/11.htm) Technically, it was no longer Safavid, but that was a very recent change, contemporaneously. This was the environment of the time. Sunni-Shiah tension has always been there and has ups and downs. Likely this was Shah Waliullah (ra) wanting to assert the Mughal identity as a Sunni polity - this does not automatically follow that his advice to an Afghan king is relevant to our situation. The current spike (since the 80s) has a lot of the Wahhabi footprint on it. In the current milieu, both Sunni and Shiah are making progress in toning things down. Even Mufti Taqi Uthmani (db) - a household name among Deobandis - has signed onto the Amman Message (http://ammanmessage.com/) that is a conciliatory move (headed by the Hashimite Kingdom of Jordan) among the major divisions of Islam.

    As far as the other notes, I'm going to assume those caricatures of his suggestions are true. Unfortunately it has been a long while since I was researching him, but Prof. Hermansen (http://homepages.luc.edu/~mherman/) is an absolute expert on the man and I would highly recommend any of her books including her translation of Hujjat Allah Al-Baligha (http://www.amazon.com/Conclusive-Argument-God-Al-Baligha-Philosophy/dp/9004102981) but I don't have a copy on me to verify. So let's assume he does recommend to smash the power of the ruling Hindu elites. Did he mean all of them? Not all were rebellious toward the Mughals, but the Marathas certainly were. The Marathas were no joke - anyone who went against them considered them to be difficult opponents even in defeat. The resurgent Maratha Empire was a threat and decapitation of the ruling hierarchy was a sensible policy - see my note to Razib about smashing Sassanid and Byzantine upper echelons. Some of the policy that he advocates sounds much more like what one finds in the books of the Shafi'i school and not like the expansive and more tolerant Hanafi (and Maliki) school rulings. So perhaps he was looking into another school to find a policy that would allow the Mughal Empire to show its muscle to let people know who is in charge - though this seems to have backfired.

    As fire as him inviting Shah Durrani to help put down the Maratha revolt, well, that is a benefit of belonging to an Ummah. Sometimes the call is answered and sometimes all you get is a letter of encouragement (like the Chechens got from the Ottomans). From a nationalist Indian perspective, it makes total sense to see it as an invitation for outside interference. From a Muslim perspective, I don't see it as a grand travesty. Again, I would not advocate some of the policies vis-a-vis the population that he wrote about.

    Now, as far as those Muslims who either adopt all his writing 100% or reject it 100%. That makes no sense. To recognize his strengths and adopt those while rejecting those views that definitely don't belong (except inside the context of a dying pre-modern Empire struggling to keep its territorial integrity in the face of outside and internal threats) seems to be the msot sensible way to go.

    Peace.

    Peace is one of the issues though, isnt it? If I sign every letter with peace and invite a VERY bloodthirsty and rapacious general to come and “decapitate” XYZ elite and loot the common people in the bargain, then my peaceful intentions are put in doubt.
    So the “ummah”, once it has got into a place (and is not even a majority yet) has the right to demand military reconquest, no matter what the price? by any adventurer who happens to be available?
    By the way, that is not necessarily a bad idea. As conquests and empires go, that is a very powerful policy and asabiya to have. But then lets not go on about “peaceful rise” (to quote our Chinese brethren) and lets not make hypocritical noises if the Han want to apply the same rule in Xinjiang.
    And may the best man win.

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    • Replies: @Talha
    Dear Omar,

    Peace is one of the issues though, isnt it?
     
    Of course.

    If I sign every letter with peace and invite a VERY bloodthirsty and rapacious general to come and “decapitate” XYZ elite and loot the common people in the bargain
     
    I think he asked for help in defeating the Marathas, where did he ask for the Afghans to come loot and rape? They likely fought like Afghans, not necessarily according to ideal Islamic rules of warfare. Check out Tamerlane if you want to know how bloodthirsty some of these Muslim armies could be. On the other side of the coin, it was definitely not good prospect to be on the losing side to a Maratha army, if you read the reports.

    no matter what the price?
     
    Of course not, there are ancient rules of engagement. They must be upheld. Again, do you really think some scholar of hadith and Qur'an in Delhi could truly predict what the Afghan attack would entail in details? As far as some of the restrictive policies he advocated for the local non-Muslim populace, I can understand (not necessarily agree) him calling for those in the environment of a crumbling empire on the ropes.

    But then lets not go on about “peaceful rise”
     
    I never have. I invite people to read excellent books on the subject with titles like 'Jihad in Islamic History' by Bonner or 'Armies of the Muslim Conquest' by Nicolle.

    lets not make hypocritical noises if the Han want to apply the same rule in Xinjiang
     
    They have, they are in full control and have no qualms about letting everyone know who is the sovereign. I would not advocate for independence, simply being able to practice religion - which should be advocated for all non-Muslim minorities in Muslim lands.

    But, let's step back for a minute; so I am not misunderstood. One must understand the world as it existed at the time. Pre-modern norms and ideas of sovereignty do not translate to our current international model. Anyone who advocates Muslim nation-states to act in contradiction to these norms of which they are signatories - is ignorant or mad.

    May god bless you and yours.
  156. @Vijay
    "i’m curious why you say this about salafi and sufism. not all muslim supremacists are salafis, and sufism itself (e.g., naqsbandiya) could be quite militant."

    My understanding (no claims that I am correct) is Salafi is a methodology and not a school and identifies strongly with Quran and Sunnah, and rejects polytheism (I believe they consider Sufism as polytheism "light") and reject "kalam" (speculation on theology). In the indian subcontinent, Salafis claim to originate , either, with Walullah or Wahaab, even if Salafis themselves originated only in Egypt in 19th century. The Al-hadith movement in India (Syed Nazeer Husain Siddiq Hasan Khan) the present day holders of Salafi philosophy refer back to Waliullah, but not Wahab. In India, Walullah, and Deoband are the pure strains that battle Barelvi and Sufi for dominance.

    Having said that, it should be clear that these sects are commonly battling for minds, and use one-upmanship to prove who is the most Islamic of all. Example is the recent Barelvi caricature of a dude who killed a governor just for saying that Blasphemy is not a crime that should be punished by death. Barelvis as far as Glasgow have taken Qadri as Shaheed. Normally you would associate Barelvi as moderate, but given an opening, they will try to dominate using the most extreme positions. The same is true for Sufis. If an opening is presented, they can revert to the most severe positions.

    Oh, I should not have brought the Aurangzeb thingy in there; he preceded Walullah and was a complex man, who became more conservative in age. He ruled for 50 years and did so many different things at different stages of life that any of the claims ("Aurangzeb was the protector of Hindus" "Aurangzen was a killer of Sikhs" :"aurazgzeb was responsible for Salafis and Wahabis") can become valid by selectively quoting from different periods of gis life.

    Aurangzeb was the protector of Hindus

    Hard to believe anyone would claim that

    In April, A. D. 1669, Aurangzib learned that in the provinces of Thatta, Multan and Benares, but especially in the latter, foolish Brahmins were in the habit of expounding frivolous books in their schools, and that learners, Muslims as well as Hindus, went there from long distances. . . .The ‘Director of the Faith’ consequently issued orders to all the governors of provinces to destroy with a willing hand the schools and temples of the infidels; and they were enjoined to put an entire stop to the teaching and practising of idolatrous worship. . . .Later it was reported to his religious Majesty that the Government officers had destroyed the temple of Bishnath at Benares.

    http://www.columbia.edu/itc/mealac/pritchett/00ambedkar/ambedkar_partition/204.html

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    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    as vijay noted, he ruled for 50 years. on the whole is pretty obvious aurangzeb was an islamic supremacist, as were most muslim rulers over the past 1,000 years in india. you can find plenty of examples of aurganzeb patronizing hindu religious institutions or protecting them in some way or resolving disputes. one citation does not refute that. the whole body of his reign does refute that though.

    the key here is that take the complexity of an individuals' situation & preferences into account. constantine was the first christian emperor, and definitely favored that religion. but it took 50 years for the traditional subsidies to the pagan cults to be cut off. why? not because constantine and his heirs wouldn't have preferred that, but because the situation was such that that would probably cause major disruption, and perhaps endanger their rule. so they compromised. this doesn't mean they were religious pluralists, just that toleration was really the only feasible way to go.

    aurangzeb just didn't have the means to engage in wholesale genocide or forced conversion, and if he tried he would be overthrown immediately. so he persecuted as far as he could to push india to be as islamic as possible.
    , @amcupidsvictim
    not hard for fools and ideologues
  157. @Marcus

    Aurangzeb was the protector of Hindus
     
    Hard to believe anyone would claim that

    In April, A. D. 1669, Aurangzib learned that in the provinces of Thatta, Multan and Benares, but especially in the latter, foolish Brahmins were in the habit of expounding frivolous books in their schools, and that learners, Muslims as well as Hindus, went there from long distances. . . .The 'Director of the Faith' consequently issued orders to all the governors of provinces to destroy with a willing hand the schools and temples of the infidels; and they were enjoined to put an entire stop to the teaching and practising of idolatrous worship. . . .Later it was reported to his religious Majesty that the Government officers had destroyed the temple of Bishnath at Benares.
     
    http://www.columbia.edu/itc/mealac/pritchett/00ambedkar/ambedkar_partition/204.html

    as vijay noted, he ruled for 50 years. on the whole is pretty obvious aurangzeb was an islamic supremacist, as were most muslim rulers over the past 1,000 years in india. you can find plenty of examples of aurganzeb patronizing hindu religious institutions or protecting them in some way or resolving disputes. one citation does not refute that. the whole body of his reign does refute that though.

    the key here is that take the complexity of an individuals’ situation & preferences into account. constantine was the first christian emperor, and definitely favored that religion. but it took 50 years for the traditional subsidies to the pagan cults to be cut off. why? not because constantine and his heirs wouldn’t have preferred that, but because the situation was such that that would probably cause major disruption, and perhaps endanger their rule. so they compromised. this doesn’t mean they were religious pluralists, just that toleration was really the only feasible way to go.

    aurangzeb just didn’t have the means to engage in wholesale genocide or forced conversion, and if he tried he would be overthrown immediately. so he persecuted as far as he could to push india to be as islamic as possible.

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    • Replies: @Marcus
    You're right, he was even forced to hire non-Muslim bureaucrats at times. Ironically, I've seen some speculate that rule by his somewhat heterodox brother would've been more conducive to mass conversions than his own methods.
  158. @Talha
    Hey Vijay,

    If Razib will allow me...


    Salafi is a methodology and not a school
     
    Methodology and school are synonymous in this context - this are English terms. Usool or Maslak are basically the same in terms of this subject. They have introduced a new school into the Sunni framework. Technically, they are basically Hanbali in about 80%+ of their rulings - some may call them neo-Hanbalis.

    identifies strongly with Qur'an and Sunnah
     
    All schools do, the bigots among the Salafi/Wahhabis refuse to recognize this. It appeals to the some of the ignorant; "Don't follow Abu Hanifa, follow Qur'an and Sunnah!" As if the other schools did anything but. I know, I used to buy into it.

    rejects polytheism
     
    Everybody rejects polytheism, the bigots among the simply include a bunch of things under polytheism that are differences of interpretation.

    Walullah, and Deoband are the pure strains that battle Barelvi and Sufi for dominance
     
    Deobandis are Sufis as are Barelvis (both of all four major orders in the Indian Subcontinent - though the Shadhili have recently shown up). I've never come across a single Barelvi scholar that has anything but respect for Shah Waliullah (ra), have you? He precedes the split.

    these sects are commonly battling for minds
     
    The Deobandi/Barelvi thing is a split on non-essential issues. It has been exacerbated by zealots on both sides. The current generation of scholars on both sides is a bit tired of it and I have seen strides in resolving the issues. Hopefully, it will be gone within the next generation - idiots on youtube notwithstanding.

    Barelvis as far as Glasgow have taken Qadri as Shaheed
     
    Their scholars or zealous masses?

    they can revert to the most severe positions
     
    A clarification; there is no such consensus on (for death penalty) blasphemy by a non-Muslim (as in the case of Asia Bibi) - objecting to the death penalty on those grounds is sound. Saying a person can act like a vigilante and kill someone (arrogating the prerogative of the judicial system) for such objections is an extreme position. Former Grand Mufti of Pakistan, Taqi Uthmani (ra) stated that his execution for murder is sound, but one can hope the man is forgiven by God because he intended to stand up for the honor of the Prophet (pbuh) - no matter how ignorant of misguided his actions.

    Peace.

    I think we are diverging even in accepted terms, and I believe that is because I do not follow or read Pakistani thought, which increasingly seems to be affected by Hanbaali school and Wahaabi thoughy.

    At least in India, Salafi is a methodology, and salafis can be Hanbalis, Malikis, or Hanafis. Because a lot of Arabs are Hanbalis, and because Arabs do like to believe “temporal proximity to the Prophet Muhammad is associated with the truest form of Islam”. My source for Salafi thought is only “Haykel. “On the Nature of Salafi Thought and Action”. 1st chapter in Mijet, ” Global Salafism: Islam’s New Religious Movement. Columbia University Press. I suspect that the Arab influence is making you conflate Salafi and hanbali.

    The polytheism I talk about is not to be considered the equivalent of Hindu polytheism, but the consideration of invoking prophets or people other than Allah. Of course we all know the definition of polytheism; what is relevant to Sufidom is “And invoke not besides Allâh, any such that will neither profit you nor harm you, but if (in case) you did so, you shall certainly be one of the Zâlimûn (polytheists and wrong-doers)”

    Deobandis WERE Sufis; starting at the Haneefah, and the sayings of Naqshbandhi, it has completely positioned itself at the feet of Abdul Wahaab today. Today, in India, the Deoband is specialized in releasing Fatwas against Sufi activity , that banning celebrating birthdays, to wearing clothes that show your hand, to singing and dancing. This again follows the same idea: the sects just houst and position them to what they claim to be the most chaste and pure form of Islam. Some form of conservatism with age, no doubt.

    All of what you say is based on equality of religious and legal; the”colonies” are not that. The legal system in Indo-Pakistan is based on the British IPC of 1872; the family law does not have superiority over the penal code. “the act or offense of speaking sacrilegiously about God or sacred things; profane talk” could be interpreted as meaning anything, and completely meaningless, at least, in India. Hence, its application is based on who is in power.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    At least in India, Salafi is a methodology, and salafis can be Hanbalis, Malikis, or Hanafis. Because a lot of Arabs are Hanbalis,

    1) my understanding is that modern salafis try to distance association with a particular fiqh school because they post-date the salaf period

    2) it isn't that a lot of arabs are hanbalis, numerically they aren't very common. it's just that it's the school in saudi arabia, which has $, and, all hanbalis have traditionally been arab.

    (for those readers unclear about what i'm alluding to)
    http://lostislamichistory.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Featured-Page-Image2.png
    , @Talha

    Salafi is a methodology, and salafis can be Hanbalis, Malikis, or Hanafis
     
    Do the Salafis know that? Have you asked any of them (in India) if they adhere to a specific school of jurispudence?

    Deobandis WERE Sufis; starting at the Haneefah, and the sayings of Naqshbandhi, it has completely positioned itself at the feet of Abdul Wahaab today.
     
    With all due respect, wrong on way too many points; Deobandis are full-fledged Sufis. Naqshbandi is only one of the orders (I am one of them) - but, as a very obvious example; I just sat in the dhikr gathering of a high-level Deobandi Mufti and guide in the Chisti order a few weekends ago. He would be surprised at your conclusions.

    Deoband is specialized in releasing Fatwas against Sufi activity , that banning celebrating birthdays, to wearing clothes that show your hand, to singing and dancing
     
    No doubt that there are some extreme voices from within that tradition, but this is not against Sufi activity per se. This is against Sufi activity involving syncretic elements; many of those things you mentioned (except the hand thing??? whack!) are not banned in and of themselves, but rather what is associated with them; ie. men and women singing or dancing in each others presence, celebrating birthdays in the manner of Holi, etc. Many of these things are likewise condemned by Barelvi scholars. Do not simply look at these things on a surface level - you will get the wrong impression every time.
  159. @JJ
    "Colonialism wiped that confidence out from Senegal to Malaysia." Post colonial theory is such a cop out. It bascially seems to give free license for a "get out of jail" response" to any criticism. but why does colonialism only seem to applied when it is european non-muslims doing it? The Islamic empire or "Ummah" as it were were colonialists. Everything you describe (letting religions keep their own personal courts, only worried about taxes and loyalty,etc. etc) pretty much applies to "colonial" empires, the British empire in particular. Now mind you we have more details about these "colonialist" ventures as they are more recent in history and even the "colonialists" themselves would write less than flattering things about themselves, alot about colonialism I suspect you learned more through western educations, and it's more critical examinations of their own historical records, while being more generous toward native and especially "islamic" writings and records. Please use something other than "colonialism" to make excuses for "islams" close-mindnesss, or let islam take responsibility for the stifling of the non-muslim (pagan, zoroastrian, hindu, buddhist and gasp even christian) intellectual development as well in the areas that islam so innocously took control.

    Now forgive my obvious irritation at this, you are quite a informative commenter and I read your comments with interest, this is more of a in general type response as I've seen this line of thinking before. You are gracious to non-muslims commentators (as you should be, but all types, christians, moslems and even those "peaceful" buddhists and hindus" can be less than courteous and good manners should always be recognized ), and you're very knowledgeable but I find your versions of islamic theology and history a little too pat and sanitized, and explaining things away a little too naively.


    A disclaimer as well here, these are my own views (and irritations) and readings of history and I don't speak for anyone else. ;-)

    Hey JJ,

    Colonialism wiped that confidence out from Senegal to Malaysia

    That was a description of the current disease, not a cop out. I don’t blame the Brits for wanting to rule 1/3 of the world – that was their prerogative – they built a navy for it.

    The Islamic empire or “Ummah” as it were were colonialists.

    Sure, it was an empire, that’s what empires do. Peruse my posts, I don’t apologize for the Muslims smashing the Sassanid, Byzantine, Frankish Kingdoms, etc. Pre-modern history was basically expand or be expanded upon. The only reason the Sassanids didn’t have an extension into the Hijaz was because it wasn’t worth the effort, not because they believed in the right of a branch of ethno-linguistic Semites to be left alone. I don’t even blame Christians for the Crudsades; their conduct maybe, but not the impetus. I actually empathize with the motivations; the (possibly mad) Fatimid Caliph Hakim destroying the church of the Holy Sepulchre and such (a poignant notice to all to keep our extremists in check).
    As I stated to Razib, what concerns me is what happens on the ground to the people; how were they treated, how did they fare?

    let islam take responsibility for the stifling of the non-muslim (pagan, zoroastrian, hindu, buddhist and gasp even christian) intellectual development as well in the areas that islam so innocously took control

    If you say so. I don’t see any evidence that Christian monks couldn’t participate in the sciences or had their works robbed or destroyed or couldn’t elaborate on their theological works. John of Damascus (Muslim capital at the time) wrote a treatise (first polemic against Islam) labeled ‘Heresy of the Ishmaelites’ and he was not punished for it. Sure there were some specific cases of persecution or even pogroms, but as a whole? Care to cite specific sources? Now if you are saying there was a ceiling to social hierarchy that only Muslims could attain to, then yes, that was by policy. But, even then people like Rambam could rise to become the court physicians of men like Saladin. Likewise, the description of the lot of the Nestorians also doesn’t sound too bad; “Nestorian scholars played a prominent role in the formation of Arab culture, and patriarchs occasionally gained influence with rulers.” Far better than under the Byzantines:

    http://www.britannica.com/topic/Nestorians

    islamic theology and history a little too pat and sanitized

    Please cite an example. I’m very much for the truth in matters. I am not a (post)modernist nor an apologist. It may be your sources of information on Islam are biased. An example; I can easily cite for you well known scholars (Imam Nawawi [ra] for example) who held positions like the following; if a city is taken by force (as opposed to a negotiated peaceful settlement) then any religious buildings that may have been damaged or destroyed during the fighting cannot be repaired by the non-Muslims. These are in our books of law, it is disingenuous for me to claim otherwise. However, it is disingenuous for critics to point out to such a ruling as THE position of Islam when this is the ruling of a minority school which was not adopted by the majority of Muslim sovereigns throughout history and an opposing opinion exists. You see where I am going?

    May God preserve you and yours.

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    • Replies: @Marcus
    We forget that the background of the crusades was in a conflict near the Papacy itself https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pisan%E2%80%93Genoese_expeditions_to_Sardinia I blame the sometimes ruthless conduct of the crusaders at war on lack of a definite command hierarchy: the worst result of this was probably in the bloody sack of Constantinople, the largest Christian city at the time, in 1204. The Normans may have been unsophisticated, but the fact that as peacetime rulers they generally respected local customs, even those of Greek Orthodox and Muslims, shows they weren't wantonly cruel.
    , @matt

    I don’t even blame Christians for the Crudsades; their conduct maybe, but not the impetus. I actually empathize with the motivations; the (possibly mad) Fatimid Caliph Hakim destroying the church of the Holy Sepulchre and such (a poignant notice to all to keep our extremists in check).
     
    Al Hakim's destruction of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre happened 86 years before Pope Urban II called the First Crusade, and 90 years before the Crusader conquest of Jerusalem. The Pope at the time (Sergius IV) tried to organize an expedition to the Holy Land but it didn't go anywhere. The next Fatimid Caliph allowed the Byzantines to rebuild the Church, and the Fatimids generally treated Christian pilgrims well after that (they were big revenue generators). The memory Hakim's destruction of the Holy Sepulchre may have been in the back of the minds of Urban and the crusaders, but the much more immediate provocation was the actions of the Sunni Seljuk Turks, who conquered most of Byzantine Anatolia and Fatimid Syria/Palestine, inflicting depredations on Christian pilgrims.

    Ironically, by the time the Franks reached Palestine, the Fatimids had already wrestled it back from the Seljuks, and were eager for peace and even an alliance with the Franks against their common Turkish enemy. But the Franks didn't care and attacked the Fatimids anyway. Maybe that had something to do with Caliph Hakim's actions 90 years earlier, but I think it was mostly just that the crusaders didn't come all that way just to leave Holy Jerusalem in Saracen hands.