Friday, December 21, 2012

Judgement day 2012 - Forty signs of the Apocalypse

Herewith 40 signs of the imminent Apocalypse from the hadith (according to one Muslim) to look out for today.
Good luck everyone and enjoy your eternity in Paradise if you've been good!
(I particularly like #30 and shall be keeping my eyes peeled...!)

1. Naked, destitute, barefoot shepherds will compete in building tall buildings.

2. The slave-woman will give birth to her master or mistress.

3. A trial (fitnah) which will enter every Arab household.

4. Knowledge will be taken away (by the death of people of knowledge), and ignorance will prevail.

5. Wine (intoxicants, alcohol) will be drunk in great quantities.
6. Illegal sexual intercourse will become widespread.

7. Earthquakes will increase.

8. Time will pass more quickly.

9. Tribulations (fitan) will prevail.

10. Bloodshed will increase.

11. A man will pass by the grave of another and wish he was in the latter’s place.

12. Trustworthiness will be lost, i.e. when authority is given to those who do not deserve it.

13. People will gather for prayer, but will be unable to find an imam to lead them.

14. The number of men will decrease, whilst the number of women will increase, until for every man there are 50 women.

15. The Euphrates will reveal a treasure of gold, and many will die fighting over it, each one hoping to be the one who gains
the treasure.

16. The Romans (Europeans) will come to a place called A’maq or Wabiq, and an army of the best people will go forth from Madinah to face them.

17. The Muslim conquest of Rome.

18. The Mahdi (guided one) will appear, and be the Imam of the Muslims.

19. Jesus Christ will descend in Damascus, and pray behind the Mahdi.

20. Jesus will break the cross and kill the swine, i.e. destroy the false christianity.

21. The Antichrist (al-masih al-dajjal, the false christ) will appear, with all his tools of deception, and be an immense trial. He will be followed by 70,000 Jews from Isfahan (present-day Iran).

22. The appearance of Ya’juj and Ma’juj (Gog and Magog), and the associated tribulations.

23. The emergence of the Beast from the Earth, carrying the Staff of Moses and the Seal of Solomon, who will speak to the people, telling them they did not believe with certainty in the Divine Signs.

24. A major war between the Muslims (including Jews and Christians who truly believe in Jesus after his return) led by the Imam Mahdi, and the Jews plus other non-Muslims led by the Antichrist. 

25. Jesus will kill the Antichrist at the gate of Ludd (Lod in present-day Israel, site of an airport and a major Israeli military base).

26. A time of great peace and serenity during and after the remaining lifetime of Jesus.

27. Wealth will come so abundant that it will become difficult to find someone to accept charity.

28. Arabia will become a land of gardens and rivers.

29. Society will then decay.

30. The buttocks of the women of the tribe of Daws will again sway in circumambulation (tawaf) around the idol Dhul-Khulsah.

31. A great fire in the Hijaz, seen by the inhabitants of Busra.

32. Three major armies will sink into the earth: one in the east, one in the west, one in Arabia.

33. An Abyssinian leader with thin shins will destroy the Ka’bah.

34. The huge cloud of smoke.

35. The sun will rise from the west (its place of setting).

36. A gentle wind which will take the souls of the believers.

37. There is no-one left on the earth saying, "Allah, Allah" or "There is no god except Allah."

38. Eventually the Day of Judgment is established upon the worst of the people, who copulate like donkeys in public.

39. The blowing in the Trumpet by the Angel Israfil, upon which everyone will faint except as Allah wills.

40. The second blowing in the Trumpet, upon which everyone will be resurrected

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Expanding Universe predicted in Qur'an?

If only Allah could explain it so clearly!
with thanks to

وَالسَّمَاء بَنَيْنَاهَا بِأَيْدٍ وَإِنَّا لَمُوسِعُونَ (
Waalssamaa banaynaha biaydin wainna lamoosiAAoona

  • 51:47 (Asad) AND IT IS We who have built the universe with [Our creative] power; and, verily, it is We who are steadily expanding it. 
  • 51:47 (Y. Ali) With power and skill did We construct the Firmament: for it is We Who create the vastness of pace.
  • 51:47 (Picktall) We have built the heaven with might, and We it is who make the vast extent (thereof).

  • The above ayat, it is claimed by miracle seekers, foreshadows the modern notion of the expanding universe. 
    I have given the Arabic and the transliteration because it is important to understand the claim in detail which rests upon the word لَمُوسِعُونَ  or  lamoosiAAoona. 

    You will note that Asad's 1980 translation renders the idea as "we are expanding it" and it is this translation, perhaps more than any other, that has led some Muslims to see a miraculous scientific knowledge in the Qur'an and helped them to foster the idea that thus Islam is superior to other faiths.

    But is this translation justifiable? Is there anything in the original Arabic to suggest that God is STILL expanding or stretching out the heavens? Or does the verse simply and more prosaically tell us that He has stretched out the heavens for us - much like the various verses in the Bible which refer, suspiciously, to the very same thing.

    For if we turn to Isiah we can read almost exactly the same idea.
    Isaiah, chapter 42: 5:
    ‘This is what God the Lord says—he who created the heavens and STRETCHED THEM OUT, who spread out the earth and all that comes out of it, who gives breath to its people, and life two those who walk in it’ 

    So when we find Arabic dictionaries translating لَمُوسِعُونَ  or  lamoosiAAoona as "stretcher - noun", those without a desperate need to find miracles simply assume the most likely explanation for one of the most infamous verses in the Qur'an is that Muhammad was inspired by the Jewish scriptures.

    Indeed, we might claim that rather than proving the miraculous nature of the Qur'an, 51:47 is yet more proof that the author of the Qur'an used Jewish and Christian myths and writings for the basis of his revelation.

    PS It is interesting to note that some Islamic sites still refer to the Qur'an miraculously referring to the Big Crunch in the ayat:
    "That Day We will fold up heaven like folding up the pages of a book. As We originated the first creation so We will regenerate it. It is a promise binding on Us. That is what We will do". (Qur'an, 21:104)
    How do they explain that the Big Crunch has since been discredited, I wonder? 

    Wednesday, December 12, 2012

    Islam and the belief in Jinns

    There are many things that Muslims are obliged to believe that defy common sense and contradict scientific knowledge. The problem arises from having to take the Qur'an as the literal, uncreated word of God. Thus when Christians read of Old Testament prophets living to hundreds of years old and fathering children in their dotage, of a man being swallowed by a fish and living in its belly for three days, or of Adam and Eve... they can take such stories as allegories if they wish, whereas Muslims MUST take every word as true if Mohammad happened to include it in the Revelation.  

    One of the more bizarre of these beliefs is that sprites or spirits called Jinns exist. It doesn't take a great leap of imagination to see where stories of evil desert spirits playing havoc with the Bedouin's possessions may have originated. Anyone who has spent any time in the desert will be familiar with the mini twisters that seem to erupt for no reason. If you have never witnessed one, please play the video...  And yet many Muslims seem to delight in the stories of these super-natural creatures. Some have created whole websites devoted to explaining their origins and powers .  

    These creatures, according to Islamic belief as written in the Qur'an and reliable hadith, have the following characteristics:
     i. Allah created them from a special smokeless fire (And the jinns did He create from a smokeless flame of fire. (55:16)
    ii. They will go to Hell in the same was as men, if they are bad or fail to believe in Allah (And surely, We have created many of the jinns and mankind for Hell. They have hearts wherewith they understand not, they have eyes wherewith they see not, and they have ears wherewith they hear not (the truth). They are like cattle, nay even more astray; those! They are the heedless ones) 7:179. This verse is also interesting in that it tells us that the merciful Allah creates people (and jinn) specifically to go to Hell where presumably Allah will delight in burning the skins off their back for eternity...
    iii. The jinn were created for no purpose other than to worship Allah - just like humans... (And I (Allâh) created not the jinns and humans except they should worship Me (Alone).) 51:56
    iv. Some of the jinn are Muslims and some are unbelievers (And of us some are Muslims (who have submitted to Allâh, after listening to this Qur'ân), and of us some are Al-Qâsitûn (disbelievers those who have deviated from the Right Path)'. And whosoever has embraced Islâm (i.e. has become a Muslim by submitting to Allâh), then such have sought the Right Path.") 72:14 Note that in the above ayat the jinn are quoted directly. That is because surah 72  (Al -jinn) is devoted to a description of what a small group of jinn said to Muhammad Say (O Muhammad: "It has been revealed to me that a group (from three to ten in number) of jinns listened (to this Qur'ân). They said: 'Verily! We have heard a wonderful Recital (this Qur'ân)!   From this surah we also learn that the jinn bizarrely deny God ever had a wife or kids: And exalted be the Majesty of our Lord, He has taken neither a wife, nor a son 72:3 So the jinn also seem to share the misapprehension that the Christians believe God married Mary to sire Jesus... Presumably the jinn quoted in the Qur'an a) heard a pre-publication copy of the book they themselves appear in b) were all Muslim jinn and not the unbeliever sort. So Muslims are asked to believe that the pagan Bedouin belief in evil sprites that obviously originated in the desert dwellers' fear of the strange noises and phenomena of the desert are in reality an important part of their supposedly monotheistic religion.

    When are the intelligent, intellectually curious Muslims going to rise up and start to question this gibberish?

    Tuesday, December 4, 2012

    How to translate the Qur'an

    In his 2011 book, Is That a Fish in Your Ear? - The Amazing Adventure of Translation, David Bellos, director of Princeton University's Program in Translation and Intercultural Communication, quotes St.Jerome "who translated the Bible into Latin and subsequently became the patron saint of translators", and who in a letter to his friend Pammichius, tried to counter criticisms of translations he had done so far:
    Ego enim non solum fateor, sed libera voce profiteor me in interpretatione Graecorum absque sripturis sanctis ubi et verborum ordu mysterium est non verbum e verbo sed sensum exprimere de sensu
    A translation of the above might read:
    Thus I not only confess, but of my own free voice proclaim, that apart from translations of sacred scriptures from the Greek, where even the order of the words is a mysterium, I express not the word for the word, but the sense for the sense
    Verbum e verbo can be considered synonymous with literal translation whilst sensum exprimere de sensu "to express the sense from the sense" equates to free translation. Jerome proclaims he doesn't do literal (word-for-word) translations except when translating sacred scriptures from the Greek (which is what he did, of course, most of the time!)
    We might guess that Jerome feels uncomfortable giving a "free" translation when he feels the weight of the sacred on his shoulders. The mysterium of God's words, if you like, hinders him.

    I wonder, do the translators of the Qur'an feel the same debilitating shadow of Allah falling across the page when they sit down to render the "actual words of God", as Muslims claim the Qur'an to be? How much of the Qur'an is simply "untranslatable", as some scholars and many Islamic apologists would have us believe?

    Later in the same book, Bellos has a chapter entitled What Can't be Said Can't be Translated: The Axiom of Effability, whose main thrust can be summarised as follows:
    One of the truths of translation - one of the truths that translation teaches - is that everything is effable.
    By which he means that everything that is in a language can be translated into another language. Let us take the example used by Bellos to illustrate his point. A crew having returned from a space flight are holding a press conference. They have something spectacular to announce. They have encountered another civilisation and have learned the language of the extra-terrestrials.
    "What did they have to say?" ask the excited journalists.
    "We can't tell you that", reply the astronauts."Their language is entirely untranslatable"
    It's not hard to imagine the response of the journalists, says Bellos.

    So whilst we may freely admit that it's possible that the Qur'an's style is inimitable and impossible to render into a foreign language, the content or meaning cannot be ineffable just because it's in classical Arabic. Unless, that is, the original made no sense in places to start with.

    To help us understand, let us return to Jerome's confession, but to an alternative translation of the Latin by a canon of Canterbury Cathedral:
    For I myself not only admit but freely proclaim that in translating from the Greek (except in the case of the holy scripture where even the order of the words is a mystery) I render sense for sense, not word for word.
    Bellos puts it in an even "slacker style" as he has it: I only translate word for word where the original - even the word order - is a complete mystery to me. What the canon is suggesting therefore is that Jerome sometimes can't understand a bloody word of what he's been asked to translate and on those occasions simply translates the words in isolation - much like a bad google translate.

    Surely the actual words of God, as spoken by the Angel Gabriel to Muhammad and repeated by him and transcribed perfectly so that not a dot has changed in over 1, 400 years, don't provide equal difficulties for translators though...? And if they do, how have translators coped. Have they gone down the Jerome route and simply translated what they read, despite the fact it makes no sense?

    In the case of the utterly confusing changes in pronoun which quranic "scholars" have had to invent a whole new stylistic terminology for  (ilifat) so as to justify it,, it seems the answer is yes

    6:99. It is HE who sends down water from the sky, and with it WE bring forth vegetation of all kinds…
    And it's the same for the infamous verse which appears to prohibit believers from being dutiful to their parents and not killing their children:
    6: 151. Say: "Come, I will recite what your Lord has prohibited you from: Join not anything in worship with Him; be good and dutiful to your parents; kill not your children because of poverty - We provide sustenance for you and for them; come not near to Al-Fawâhish whether committed openly or secretly, and kill not anyone whom Allâh has forbidden, except for a just cause….
    And when the Arabic seems to suggest Muhammad has slaves (instead of God)!
    39: 53. Say: 'O my slaves who have transgressed against themselves despair not of the Mercy of Allâh…'
    But sometimes the original Arabic is so nonsensical that some translators have abandoned Jerome's tactic and felt obliged to help Allah out...Here's 35:8 without any help
    Is he, to whom the evil of his deeds made fairseeming, so that he considers it as good? Therefore, Allâh sends astray whom He wills, and guides whom He wills. So destroy not yourself in sorrow for them…. 
    And here's the same verse with "helpful" additions in brackets by Assad, Yusuf Ali and Picktall
     Is, then, he to whom the evil of his own doings is [so] alluring that [in the end] he regards it as good [anything but a follower of Satan]? For, verily, God lets go astray him that wills [to go astray], and guides whom he will...
     Is he, then, to whom the evil of his conduct is made alluring, so that he looks upon it as good, (equal to one who is rightly guided)? For Allah leaves to stray whom He wills, and guides whom He wills.  
    Is he, the evil of whose deeds is made fair seeming unto him so that he deemeth it good, (other than Satan's dupe)? Allah verily sendeth whom He will astray, and guideth whom He will
     Is it any wonder then that Islamic apologists and scholars have wanted to guard the secrets of the Qur'an by stressing the impossibility of translating it (in much the same way the Catholic church for centuries fought against translating the Bible into a language the common man and woman could understand. 

    In his book al-Itqan, Al Suyuti says,
    "It is utterly inadmissible for the Qur’an to be read in languages other than Arabic, whether the reader masters the language or not, during the prayer time or at other times, lest the inimitability of the Qur’an is lost.
     The same principle is followed by those who worked on the English authorized translation. They said (page iii),
    "The Qur’an cannot be translated—that is the belief of traditional Sheikhs (religious leaders). The Arabic Qur’an is an inimitable symphony, the very sounds of which move men to tears and ecstasy." 
    The Qur'an can be translated. It's just that when it is, the full extent and import of its errors become visible for all to see.