Thursday, November 27, 2008

Jenkins on "Arab scholarship"

From HERE:

In addition, the major contributions of Eastern Christians to the scholarship of medieval Arab societies are not well known. Nestorian, Jacobite, Orthodox and other Christians preserved and translated the science, philosophy and medicine of the ancient world to centers such as Baghdad and Damascus.

"Much of what we call Arab scholarship was in reality Syriac, Persian and Coptic, which is not necessarily Muslim," Jenkins noted. "They were the Christian roots of the Arabic Golden Age."

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

BXVI on Paul, Justification, and Sola Fide

Com on y'all, how can you not love this guy?

To be just means simply to be with Christ and in Christ. And this suffices. Other observances are no longer necessary.

That is why Luther's expression "sola fide" is true if faith is not opposed to charity, to love. Faith is to look at Christ, to entrust oneself to Christ, to be united to Christ, to be conformed to Christ, to his life. And the form, the life of Christ, is love; hence, to believe is to be conformed to Christ and to enter into his love. That is why, in the Letter to the Galatians, St. Paul develops above all his doctrine on justification; he speaks of faith that operates through charity (cf. Galatians 5:14).

Paul knows that in the double love of God and neighbor the whole law is fulfilled.

BXVI, Bishop of Rome

min rujuu3: Abu Daoud is back

It's hard to keep a good man down, and sometimes it's moderately difficult to keep a man who tries to be good down too. That having been said, I'm back. I have a rod and screws in my leg and I have more purple on my leg than Barney the dinosaur.

So by all means, continue your prayers, especially for my frame of mind and attitude and sense of vocation bc when stuff like this happens you ask yourself, why have I chosen this way of life? Why not go back to home, get a nice little church or uni job and be more, uh, sedentary? It's also hard to be joyful when going to the fridge for a glass of water has become a great chore. Pls also pray for good sleep, that is perhaps most important of all.

For whatever it's worth this Afghani guy who was there after the car hit me came to visit a few times at the hospital though he did not know me from Adam. He is fluent in Arabic, which is not a language spoken in Afghanistan of course. His wife is a Haafidha, meaning she has memorized the Qur'an, so we had wonderful conversations there in the hospital ward in real Classical Arabic (which most Arabs can't do) to the surprise of the other folks there--me, all hopped up on morphine trying to talk about the meaning of 'redemption' (fida'). Pathetic--but not in a bad way.

But praise the Lord for the staff there, and for the folks at my U who were very understanding and helpful, and for all the people who helped me out while in London (a cty where I know very very few people). And for socialized health care. I'm a believer now.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Prayer for Abu Daoud

From Umm Daoud -- I don't usually post here, but Abu Daoud was injured in a car accident a couple of days ago. He is in the hospital and has recently undergone surgery for a broken leg, but is expected to make a full recovery. Please lift up your prayers to the Great Healer.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Arabs invented zero!

Well, not quite:

The addition of zero as a tenth positional digit is documented from the 7th century by Brahmagupta, though the earlier Bakhshali Manuscript, written sometime before the 5th century, also included zero.

As it was from the Arabs that the Europeans learned this system, the Europeans called them Arabic numerals; ironically, to this day the Arabs refer to their numerals as Indian numerals. In academic circles they are called the Hindu-Arabic or Indo-Arabic numerals.

Check it all out.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Aquinas and Al Ghazali

Don has a very interesting post over at Positive Infinity which discusses the (almost) contemporary geniuses Thomas Aquinas and Al Ghazali. Al Ghazali wrote "The Incoherence of the Philosophers" and more or less killed critical thought in Islam. Oops. He is a seminal figure in Islamic thought. Comparing him to Aquinas is not inappropriate.

A selection:

Turning to that, the Qur’an has an unbending consistency in setting forth the absolute sovereignty of God. Many of the self-imposed limitations (and we emphasise the phrase, "self-imposed," we still hold that God is omniscient and omnipresent) of God as he interacts with his creation are out the window: goodness, caring and love for his creation and people, allowing his creatures free will, just about anything. Allah does as he pleases, and our only response is to submit. Such a concept leaves little room for anything else. This is why the two religions–and civilisations–went in two different directions.

Read it all.

Blog of Note: Cairo, Part 2

Every now and then it's important to come out of the rarefied clouds of academia and just hear the voice of someone living life in the Middle East. So I commend to you Cairo, Part 2, a blog kept by a student at AUC whom I have never met, incidentally. But she has a nice way of writing and posts pictures every now and then.

Part of a recent post discusses the growing problem of groping:

I was walking down the road and a man was walking toward me. As often happens, I noticed that he was not going to allow much extra space to remain between us as he walked by. I tensed up and used my peripheral vision to moniter his location, and as he passed me he reached out his arm, intending to hit my butt. I have no idea how I managed to move out of the way so quickly--I leaped onto the sidewalk, dodged his hand, and kept walking. He continued as though nothing had happened, as did I. He didn't turn around to try again. He didn't come after me. It all happened so quickly that it took me a second to realize what had just happened. To see him continue on his way through my peripheral vision. To collect my inner self, which was so much at odds with my exterior at that moment, the Bethany that never even paused in her measured walk to the metro station. And at the same time that all this was happening, a car passed us and the young driver looked up at me from the window. I couldn't read his expression, and he didn't say anything to me. But there was a moment of strange connection, a bizarre understanding of sorts that bound the three of us together in this sick game, whose rules we all know too well.

Also, check out pictures of the new AUC campus.

Monday, November 17, 2008

A few pictures from Saint Andrew's, Scotland

Finally figured out how to get pictures from my phone camera onto my laptop. It was actually really easy. I'm embarrassed. Some pictures of the Saint Andrew's right here:

Egypt's faded glory and Islamization

Not to make the connection to closely, but note that the greatness of Egypt was prior to its Islamization. Note the same thing with Constantinople: it was the worlds leader in art, theology and science--before Islam. One might point out other cities (Carthage?), or the reverse direction: Israel has become a leader in technology, education and economics, but only after it was partially de-Islamized and rule was given to the British Mandate and the ultimately it achieved sovereignty. In Egypt's case (as in all the cases above actually) note that the successes were achieved not only by non-Muslims but by entirely different ethnic groups. It was the Copts who built the pyramids, not the Arabs. Again, don't make too much out of all this, each example is fairly complex, but it is worth noting.

This pattern will be replicated as Europe continues to be Islamized: decline in all areas: economics, rule of law, education, art, science, and so on.

[...]The pyramids are proof of Egypt's endurance and what distinguishes it from modern confections, like Saudi Arabia, a nation founded 76 years ago, named after a family and built on oil wealth. But these monuments to Egypt's early ingenuity are also an ever-present symbol of faded glory. It is hard to escape comparisons between an Egypt that once led the world in almost everything and modern Egypt, where about 40 percent of the population lives on $2 a day.

"Can you believe our government can do nothing for us, and this thing that was built thousands of years ago is still helping me feed my family?" Ahmed Sayed Baghali, 49, said as he sat in a plastic chair selling postcards to tourists outside the Egyptian Museum here, which displays millenniums of antiquities. "Who would buy my things if they were not about the pharaohs? People come here from very far to see the pyramids, not to see Cairo."[...]

From IHT.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Early churches and mission to Islam

It is often said that the church's practice of having specific buildings is counter-productive in terms of Islamdom. The idea is that when you have a structure you have something to make you identifiable and visible, which makes you less resistant to persecution. There is a good point there--the more you have to lose the more worried about buildings and facilities you will be.

On the other hand, it is clear that very early on there was property that was in the hands of the church, for example certain tombs in Carthage c. 200 AD belonged to the church. They would go there and, at the cemetery, on the tomb, celebrate communion. Macabre, I know.

There is also a benefit to having a visible presence in a place. If you want a Bible you will often go to a church--one that you have seen in this or that neighborhood. In other words, the strength of a low-visibility home church is also it's weakness--it's not visible to those outside of the community. Not to mention that Muslim governments tend to be highly suspicious of any religious meeting in a home, well you can see that home churches solve some problems and then cause some other.

Good stuff here from CT on the earliest church buildings:

For the most part, the church was dependent on members or supporters (patrons) who owned larger houses, providing a place for meeting. In Rome, there are indications that early Christians met in other public spaces such as warehouses or apartment buildings. Even when there were several meeting sites in a city, the Christians had the sense of being one church. They maintained unity through organization (from the second century on, beginning at different times in different places, one bishop in a city became the center of unity for orthodox Christians there) and symbolic gestures (in Rome, the eucharistic bread was sent from the bishop's church to other assemblies).

Before Emperor Constantine recognized Christianity as a legal religion in 313, corporate ownership of property by the church could be legally ambiguous. It seems that the first property owned by the Roman church were the catacombs. These were not places of meeting, however, but burial sites.

Varieties of Arabic and English

Well, my time here in Scotland is drawing near to an end and then back to the Middle East. I was fortunate last night to met two Libyan guys and we conversed for a good while. Of course the Libyan dialect is a good bit different from what I'm used to, but I spoke with them in Classical Arabic which often times evokes the response, "You speak Arabic better than I do!" Which is not correct--at least not in an kind of practical way. Being able to have a conversation in Classical Arabic impresses people, and they will usually understand me fairly well, but it's just not that helpful.

In other news I ran across this website where an American student in Scotland talks about settling in here and he has a bunch of great pictures of the city of Edinburgh, which is the most beautiful city in Scotland I have yet seen. Glasgow is nice. Sterling is also quite pretty but rather small. Saint Andrew's is as beautiful as Edinburgh, but is not really large enough to be called a city. I have been to a few other places as well. Maybe I will actually post pictures some day.

In any case here is Stephen's commentary on the differences in usage we have RE the word vest and waistcoat:

waistcoat/vest - Okay, this I learned because of some confusion. I went clubbing with some friends (undergrads at the University here, one of whom is in my Greek and Hebrew courses with me), and as we were walking back, they were talking about how bad the "guy wearing the vest" looked. I was confused: I saw the guy in the vest, and thought he looked quite classy. I voiced this opinion, and they stared at me dumbfoundedly. So as we passed a store window and saw vests on display, I said "Yeah, that right there, he was wearing something like that, and it looked good. I wear vests when I want to look more dressed up." My friends proceeded to laugh at me, because what we in the States call "vests" they call "waistcoats." "Vests, " here, are what we call tanktops, or wifebeaters. And I explained to my friends (all from England) that their terminology was inaccurate and stupid, and they just laughed more. So I spent the rest of the walk home doing crappy imitations of their British accents, to more laughter.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

People You should Know: Karl Pfander

Karl Pfander is a giant in the history of Christian mission to the Muslim world. I mean, he's way up there, with guys like Sam Zwemer and Henry Martyn and Temple Gairdner. You know, just a notch below Blessed Raymond Lull (Ramón Lull), who is just a notch below Our Lord.

When you deal with life in the Middle East, you need heroes.

Pfander's brilliance was displayed in what is still one of the most important Christian refutations of Islam, The Balance of Truth, aka, mizan ulhaqq. A section from Wikipedia on his life and work:

[...]Pfander's chief legacy to posterity is undoubtedly his book Mizan ul Haqq (The Balance of Truth), modelled on the style of Islamic theological works, and attempting to present the Christian gospel in a form understandable to Muslims. He offered reasons to believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God, neither corrupted nor superseded, and argued that the Qur’an itself testifies to the reliability of the Christian scriptures and the supremacy of Christ. He attempted to prove from the Qur’an and other Islamic writings some alleged [fallacies] in Islam and its prophet, noting a historic contrast between the violence of Islamic expansion and the peaceable spread of the early church. The Mizan ul Haqq stimulated a number of carefully argued refutations from Islamic scholars, followed by further writings from Pfander himself. It marked an important new phase in Muslim / Christian relations, when profound theological issues were addressed for the first time by recognised scholars.

In his history of the CMS, Eugene Stock described Pfander as "the greatest of all missionaries to Mohammedans." Temple Gairdner remarked that Pfander possessed the three great requisites for public controversy: absolute command of his subject, absolute command of the language, thought and manner of the people, and absolute command of himself. Samuel Zwemer defended his dogmatic and controversial methods, pointing out that Christ and his apostles engaged in similar public debate with individuals and crowds.[...]

[Abu Daoud is listening to Come on Pilgrim by the Pixies.]

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Blood Atonement in Shi'a Islam

From HERE:

Islam is divided into many sects, the two major ones being the Sunnis and the Shias. The original split between the latter two was over the question of who should succeed Muhammad as leader of the community. The Shias felt the leader should come from Muhammad's family; the Sunnis thought he should be someone of noted piety elected by and from Muhammad's closest companions. The Sunnis won with the first three successors; then the Shias, or party of Ali, assumed the leadership. But Ali was martyred, as were his only two sons (more on this shortly).

Down through the centuries, the Shias usually lost out in these power struggles. This led to their taking on the nature of a protest movement against the corrupt Sunni leaders. Inevitably, to justify their separate minority identity, they developed theological doctrines that radically differed from those of the Sunnis on at least two major points: the idea of martyrdom and the idea of divine light indwelling their leaders. Both these beliefs open up Shias to Christian witness in a way not possible among the Sunnis.

Martyrdom for the cause of the people is memorialized in the Shia calendar year during their lunar month of Muharram. Of the three martyrs mentioned above -- Ali (Muhammad's cousin and son-in-law) and Ali's two sons, Hasan and Husayn (Muhammad's grandsons) -- that of Husayn is celebrated annually. The first ten days of the month of Muharram are dedicated to "passion plays" that retell the story of Husayn's betrayal and courageous stand, facing overwhelming odds, against the ruling house of Mecca (the Umayyids). On the tenth day, it is common for parades of self-flagellating men to beat themselves until the blood flows, lamenting the failure of the people to come to the defense of their beloved leader.

This brings us to the key point: Shias believe that the shed blood of their slain leader atones for their sins. They accept the concept of atonement -- an idea totally unacceptable to the Sunnis. Of all the approaches I've seen Christians use in witnessing to the Shias, the most effective is through films depicting the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. (By the way, unlike Sunnis, Shias accept art forms depicting human beings, and practice drama.) I have seen them weep profusely while viewing such films. Afterwards, it is easy to speak to them of the deep spiritual meaning of the suffering and death of Jesus Christ.

--Don McCurry

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Kenneth Cragg on Apostasy (Rida, Irtidad) and Islam as a prison

A faith which you are not free to leave becomes a prison, and no self-respecting faith should be a prison for those within it.

Kenneth Cragg

(qtd. in Pikkert, Peter. 2008. Protestant Missionaries to the Middle East: Ambassadors of Christ or Culture? Hamilton, Ontario: WEC Canada. p. 134.)

Kenneth Cragg on Islam and self-idolatry

Kenneth Cragg, one-time asst. Anglican bishop in Jerusalem, is a giant in the field of Islamics and religious dialog. Here is great quote:

The urge to go forward in the custody of revelation with the patterns of authority familiar to this world [that is, the use of political and juridical coercion--AD] may easily miss the measure of the human problem, then length of men's self-idolatry, the chronic pride and defiance of the Divine, the insistent autonomy of mankind.

Kenneth Cragg
Christianity in World Perspective

Friday, November 07, 2008

Converts from Islam perscuted in W. Europe

Yep, in Western Europe. The press doesn't like to talk about it though bc it is an inconvenient truth.

[...]A few weeks ago, an immigrant from Iraq was knifed in the Dutch town of Rolde by another immigrant from Iraq. The victim was a former Muslim who had converted to Christianity; the assailant was a Muslim who took offense. Though similar events recently occurred in Rotterdam, Zutphen and Hengelo, the Dutch media prefer not to report them, the documentary said.

A former Muslim, who wished to remain anonymous because of the danger, told Dutch television that after his conversion to Christianity his car had been bashed with iron bars and stones thrown through the windows of his house. In one incident a Turk tried to assassinate his sister who had become a Christian. An asylum seeker from Iraq was told by the police to move to an undisclosed location. A Moroccan girl was also advised by the authorities to relocate.

One Christian convert received a telephone call from the local imam who threatened him with Koran verses calling for the death of apostates. “I am afraid, not just for myself, but also for the lives of my wife and children,” he said. Muslims who become Christians and subsequently try to convert others take serious risks, the police has warned. Nevertheless, many Muslim converts feel it to be their Christian duty to tell their family and friends of Jesus’ love for them.[...]

Read it all HERE.

Child marriage and divorce in Yemen

A sign of hope that this cruel process will perhaps not cease, but at least become less common in Yemen--one of the least developed countries in the entire world. Also, it's one of the countries with the highest birthrates in the world. Over three times more children per woman are born there than in any of the countries of West, last I heard.

A narrow path leads up from the mountain town of Jibla, through century-old houses, and turns into a mud track before reaching the door of Arwa's home.

The nine year old child lives with her parents and six brothers and sisters in a humble, two-roomed house overlooking the mosque built by her namesake, Queen Arwa, who ruled Yemen 900 years ago.

She knows nothing of wealth and power but, in her own way, she has helped make history.

Arwa is the youngest of three Yemeni girls who recently went to court complaining they were married against their will and asking for divorce - an astonishing display of defiance that has prompted the government to review its law on early marriage. [...]

From the BBC. But let me also point out that the official law of Yemen hardly matters at all. It is a country ruled according to the will of the local elder, that is, it is much more of feudal society than a centralized, modern nation state. So even if the law is changed it will matter little. But still, every little step helps.

Pray for Yemen.

Monday, November 03, 2008

13-yeard old rape victim sentenced to death under Islamic Shari'a

Note that this took place in a STADIUM:

MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) -- A 13-year-old girl who said she had been raped was stoned to death in Somalia after being accused of adultery by Islamic militants, a human rights group said.

Dozens of men stoned Aisha Ibrahim Duhulow to death Oct. 27 in a stadium packed with 1,000 spectators in the southern port city of Kismayo, Amnesty International and Somali media reported, citing witnesses. The Islamic militia in charge of Kismayo had accused her of adultery after she reported that three men had raped her, the rights group said.

Initial local media reports said Duhulow was 23, but her father told Amnesty International she was 13. [...]

From CNN.

Somalia is both the most Islamic nation in the world (measured by % of population) and the most lawless nation in the world.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

American Elections abroad

OK, this is from the uni where I am working on my PhD in Scotland. It's quite fascinating to see how interested other folks are in the US elections:

Obama Vs McCain Food Fight
After much Wikipedia based research our top chefs have developed a range of pizzas and burgers to honour the history of these two great Americans. From Monday 27th October you can support your candidate through the medium of Pizza in KB House or Burger in [the Student] bar.

The Obama
The Hawaiian influences will come through strong in the range, with a grilled chicken breast burger delicately topped with pineapple. Plus a ham and pineapple pizza with a Chicago style sweet bbq sauce.

The McCain
A man of the deep south, with a touch of latin influences. A burger topped with real bacon, Monterey jack cheese and smothered in spicy bbq sauce. With the pizzas covered in chorizo sausage, fresh chilli and another dose of Monterey Jack cheese.

The Results
For election results night, [the student union] will be open all night long for the election results on the big screen, with highly caffeinated drinks available once the bars close at 3am. Then just before the US has their say, we will announce the student choice for President of the free world.

Ha! Which one sounds better to you? I they both sound good, but would probably go with the The McCain because I like anything with beef that is also spicy.

Islam in Sub-Saharan Africa and Slavery

In his polemic against Islam, Richardson advances an interesting theory. He wonders why sub-Saharan Africa was not Islamized given that N. Africa and the Horn of Africa had been Islamized for many centuries by the time that the Christian missions and later the AIC's started winning millions upon millions of converts in the 19th and 20th Centuries.

His answer is that the Muslims were all slavers, given that the Quran clearly endorses slavery (and in fact has an entire chapter called The Slaves) and that the Prophet himself owned slaves, they only were able to Islamize the black Africans with whom they worked to enslave other Africans.

Had mullahs opposed slavery instead of condoning it, they could have ranged freely from Timbuktu almost to Cape Town, opening mosques and establishing Islamic school in the region. In short, they could have Islamized all of Africa, not just a fringe above and below the Sahara and on the coast of Zanzibar. (Richardson 203)

Secrets of the Koran by Don Richardson.