August 27, 2007

Sun vs. Earth

(This post doesn’t have anything to do with politics)
A famous belief states that ‘Earth revolves around the Sun’. It also stresses that the other statement (‘Earth revolves around the Sun’) is totally false.
Something is wrong with the above belief, I think. Suppose that Earth revolves around Sun, and suppose that Sun is observing the movement of Earth (and probably enjoys it). This observer (Sun) will find the Earth moving in a path similar to this diagram (E=Earth, S=Sun):

Earth starts its journey from point 8, after 1/8 of year is in the point 1, after 2/8 is in the point 2 … and at the end of the year (8/8 of year) Earth is again in point 8. One year finished.
Pay attention: in point 1, S finds E at west; in point 2, S finds E at northern west; etc.


Now, let’s watch the whole process form E’s point of view: in point 1, E finds S at east; in point 2, E finds S at southern east; etc.
If we want to make another diagram from E’s point of view, it would be something like this:

It seems that if an observer is located in Earth, it will find Sun revolving around the Earth. On the other hand, if the observer is located in Sun, it will find Earth revolving around Sun. Therefore one may conclude that the famous story of ‘E revolves around S is true, S revolves around R is false' is true only when we consider other planets which revolve around the Sun, not Earth.


Gotta my point? Is there any problem with above justification?

August 23, 2007

Divine Will (intro)

Note: Since our debate about Islam’s position on Jews led to a much broader discussion about Quran itself, this post is named ‘Divine Will (intro)’ to cover the very basis of our later arguments. This post works just as an intro to the subject, and gives some hints on our next posts.


I hope you have read Lord’s new post. Ideas he has developed in his new argument open the door to a very broad discussion about Quran, about which there is an extensive body of different views within Islamic scholars and various schools of thoughts.

Also Fariborz contributed to that post of Lord, though his commentswere taken word by word from a Sunni site. However, those comments also matter.

Let me ask few questions to clarify what subjects are in the root of all the different views about Quran. Read the following questions, contemplate them, and try to find your own answer to them, whether as a Muslim, or just as a believer in God, or as a nonbeliever. Also it should be noted that these arguments, with few modifications, would apply to all holy scriptures, whether Quran, Testaments, or else.

1- When God tried to reveal those verses to Muhammad, there was a Divine Will, but was that will in the form of a human language? How did Muhammad understand that Divine Will? As you well know, while translating a text from source to target language, very often it happens that the will of original author gets lost. Is the process of revelation immune to such failures?

2- Let’s suppose that God revealed some words, and He meant exactly what those words meant. Here another problem arises: Whose understanding of those words is closer to that Divine Will? Indeed you agree that the same words, particularly the words similar to Quran verses (which are full of metaphors, etc.), may mean differently to different people. Even if we suppose that the people of then Arabia must be our reference in this case, did they all have the same understanding of those words? The same problem, again.

3- Is today's Quran equal to the Quran revealed to Muhammad? Indeed there are different versions of Quran, called Qera’at (which means: readings); but some Muslim scholars believe that these differences, believed to be caused by different dialects of the Arabs, are so insignificant that don’t show any difference in the whole meaning of disputed verses. Another point is that some people doubt the way that Quran was gathered and claim that there is a possibility of flaws in that process.

4- Suppose that we solve all the above questions, and finally establish an original understanding of The Divine Will with very simple statements which may mean just in one way to all the people. The next problem rises when we ask of the role of ‘Reason’ in applying those rules to the contemporary society. Indeed this is not a new story of 20th century. Roots of such debates back to few centuries after Holy Prophet’s death (Footnote 1). I have too many things to say about this 4th subject, but leave them all for future.

hope that this intro was useful.

Good Luck

Footnote 1: Let me refer you a simple story of history which helps you get the point better, and leave rest of the matter for later posts. As you well know, Asharite used to believe that reason is incapable of discovering the will of God when this will is not strictly and frankly given to us; and they had some followers in between Shiite. It is said that one of the Shiite Imams wrote on the coffin of his deceased son: “Ismael, rest in God” (Ismael was his son’s name), and an Asharite follower of that Imam, wrote “Ismael, rest in God” on the coffin of his own deceased son, though his son’s name was Muhammad, not Ismael. This was because they did not identify any role for reason in understanding the Will of God.(Note that for Shiite, 12 Imams are supposed to be infallible like the Holy Prophet himself, and their deeds and words provide a source for Shiite Jurisprudence.)

August 20, 2007

Quran and Jews (II)

As our discussion about Ethics ended unexpectedly, we started a new route concerning the position of Islam and Quran on Jews. It started with Lord's reference to a verse of Quran which states that the worst enemies of Islam & Muslims are Jews. I gave an explanation of that verse, based on some interpreters' ideas. In his recent post, Lord posed several questions which may be formed into 2 main arguments: one concerns the very basis of interpretation of Quran; and the other asks of my own attitude towards Jews & Zionism, which he finds contradictory.


Let me begin with second problem, which seems much easier to answer. 3 simple principles may describe my view in details:
a) Not every anti-Zionist person/movement is necessarily anti-Semitic.
b) Still, anti-Semitism is in the root of some anti-Zionist movements.
c) I think that Quran seems to be against political movements of radical Jews, not against Judaism itself.


Now, let's consider the case of interpretation of Quran. You are completely true when you say: “Quran is not just for interpreters, it’s for everyone, everywhere and every time.” But notice that:
1) This Book was revealed in the context of time and a 25-years-history.
2) The language used in Quran is somehow mysterious, full of metaphors, etc.
3) Quran does not give a detailed explanation of its content, and Tradition (Word and Deed of Holy Prophet) is a proper mean to understand the exact meaning of some verses, in addition to the fact that even the details of some important practices of Islam (like daily prayers) is not given in Quran.
This way, interpretation is sometimes a mean to get the meaning of the verse, not sub-layers of its content.
Lat me clarify this position (behind which there is an important philosophy) a bit more: Some of the Muslim scholars believe that when we open Quran and read it, we should pay attention to the fact that this Book was revealed 14 centuries ago to the people of then Arabia, and every word/phrase of this Book had a special meaning to them. We have to understand ‘that’ meaning, not the contemporary meaning of a word/phrase. 2 factors are important here:
* The meaning of a word/phrase itself: As you well know, a special Term or Word in for example Persian may mean differently to people who live in different cities. You may dig the history of Persian Literature and find that there are many words which their meanings were somehow different in the Iran of 100 years ago. The same applies to other languages. Then, Language evolves throughout history, and words may get different meanings during a period of about 14 centuries.
* The socio-political context of the verse: Suppose that we are watching news, and it states that “2 criminals executed in Iran.” Then I say: “Thugs!” You may know from the previous chats we had that I am a fanatic fan of the current regime, then, ‘thugs’ refer to the executed criminals. On the other hand, you may know that I am strongly against the current regime, and I think that they execute opposition leaders under the name of ‘criminals’, then you know that my word refers to the leaders of IRI, not to those executed. This example shows what I mean by ‘socio-political context’.
This way, an interpreter’s role is sometimes to tell us what a word had meant to the audience of Muhammad (PBUH). One interpreter says that Yahud & Sons of Israel had completely different meanings to those people. If this idea is true, we should consider it.
I hope that this post helps you get my point better.
Good Luck

Religion and Civilisation

This post may be assumed as a complementary to the previous post. This new one, suggests a new idea about the interact of Religion & Society in the way towards Civilisation.
My main audience are possibly those who state that Religion is the sole cause of every single problem in the society.
The more I contemplate the society in which I live now, the more I understand that (for most of the people) religion is just a name attributed to a system of values prefered by them. I mean, in a semi-free society, people do modify the religion and make new traditions out of it in accordance with their own needs and preferences; and one may trace such a process throughout history. Even Islamic Scholars (whether Mufti or Ayatollah) sometimes contribute to this process, either delibarately or undelibarately.
this whole story convinces me to accept that if there is any problem in the society right now, its primary cause is the people who either didn't recognize their own problem or didn't try to solve it through modifying the religion (by making new traditions, not changing the whole religion).
there may be an important objection to the above argument: that the religion may be intolerant of modification. probably true, but this is not what I see in my society's history (espicially its recent one). yes, Islam would never accept giving up on daily prayers, but prayers or fasting are not something which could be considered as 'the sole cause of every single problem'.
I put forward just an example, which convinces me that Islam may be compatible with every good thing you may imagine in an enlightened age: There are very pious, and at the same time very tolerant (with regards to international norms) people around me. they are so good examples to show that being intolerant of others is not a problem with the religion itelf, but a problem of those who practice it.
the same analysis may be applied to other problems: not seeking scientific profress, not refering each problem to expert of the related field, etc.
(Good News: some intellectuals are trying to provide Islamic basis for tolerance... yeah, they are working hard here in Iran, and I'm sure that they will win! and their win, will be the first round of a series of changes, God Willing!)
In addition, as you well know, there are many benefits with keeping a Religion, which I leave it's debate for later.
Good Luck Again

August 18, 2007

Scientific Fundamentalists

Fariborz (an author in Mideastyouth), who is used to getting mad by watching 1 pic or 2 movies (sample 1, sample 2, sample 3, sample 4, sample 5, more coming soon!) and then stating some propositions which sometimes most professional scholars of the filed hesitate to admit, posted another story of his craziness. This new story is called “religion is the enemy of civilization”.
For those who have not read & are not eager to read Fariborz’ post: there is an old question in the core of his argument: “What percentage of current world religion’s adherents have thought about their religious symbols like God, prophets, books and so on? let me tell you, for most of them even thinking about this topic is taboo!”.
In a comment to that post, somebody called Yaman had written: “… Really, this is quite stupid…I am an atheist myself, but I have not made a religion out of it. Apparently you have.”
Umm, excellent! Does it seem mysterious to you? Read the following article to find out how an ‘Intellectual View’ (like what Fariborz claims to have/seek) may turn into a new 'Fundamentalist Religion':
“Scientific Fundamentalists” by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach: Part 1, Part 2.
Good Luck ;)

August 10, 2007

Quran and Jews

[O, Messenger!]Verily you will find the Jews and the pagans the strongest among mankind in enmity to the believers; and you will find that the closest to the believers in friendship are those who say: “we are Nasara [Christians].” That is because among them are learned priests and devoted monks and they are not arrogant [against the truth].
Quran, 5-82
My friend mentioned the above verse in his weblog and asked of others’ idea that why God revealed such verses against Jews. Here is my explanation.
Once Islam appeared, Mohammad’s position was strong enough (due to his grand father’s and uncle’s support, who were prominent figures in Mecca) to keep him away from the persecution by pagans, but his followers suffered a lot in the first 10 years of his career, when he was in Mecca.
As you well know, since the very beginning of its advent, Islam recognized followers of 3 religions as ‘the people of the book’, who were Jews, Christians and Zoroastrians (there was no Zoroastrian in then Arabia). These people had the right to still practice their faith, but after Muhammad immigrated to Medina and established a Muslim Rule, ‘People of the Book’ were supposed to pay a tax called ‘Jezyeh’.
In that time, Muhammad signed several peace agreements with other tribes who didn’t convert to Islam, asked them not to help pagans in war against Islam and on the hand undertook to protect their rights.
Indeed, Muslims rarely had any problem with Christians, for they (due to their principles and faith, which is known for being kind and tolerant, and also for their religious leaders, who are known for leaving joys of the world and just paying attention to God) were not used to get involved in ruling.
But Jews were else. In one of the most important wars of Pagans against Muhammad (called ‘Trench War’, for a trench around the city of Medina helped Muslims get rid off the great army of enemies), it was a Jewish tribe who provoked Pagans to begin war; and while Medina and Muslims were surrounded by the army of Pagans, another Jewish tribe (one of those tribes who were living inside Medina and signed a peace agreement with Muslims) betrayed Muslims and started a civil war. Actually one may trace the conspiracies of some Jews against Muhammad and Islam, back to the time when Muhammad was in Mecca and Islam was just a newborn.
Keep the above history lessons in mind, and let me refer you to a quote by an interpreter of Quran, who said once that: “Quran has 2 words for those who follow Moses: one is Yahud and the other is Sons of Israel (both of them equal to Jews). Whenever Quran uses the latter it means Jews in a general sense, but when it uses the former it means a special group of Jews, a group who are seeking for political and ruling power and even in some cases are not obedient to their own prophets”.
In this sense, according to the fact that Muslims had few problems (if any) with individual Jews who were living in the Muslim society, and the other fact that the only People of Book which made problems for Islam was Jews, one may conclude that what that verse is saying, and what Quran is dissatisfied of, is the Political Jewish Movements, not Jews themselves.

August 1, 2007

12 Iranian Thugs Executed - an unfair report

There was a post in Mideastyouth about some executed thugs in Iran. Indeed, a very one sided report of the event it was. Here is another report of the whole thing. Which report is more accurate? Probably none! Here you can see a different view, and finally, choice is yours. Note that I’m not here to support executing of them, but that post depicted the event as “executing some people whose punishment was much excessive, not comparable to their crimes” which was far away from the truth.

Since few months ago, IR Police (NAJA) enforced a series of missions, which were first known as ‘Hijab Crackdown’, but it was not limited to Hijab issue.

Another phase of those missions was dedicated to capturing some local criminals. Everybody who has an experience of living in some certain districts in large (or even small) cities of Iran, for sure has heard of (or even encountered -god forbid) these Local Criminals, called ‘Lat’. its enough to know that some of those executed ones, most of them Lat, had up to 10 rapes in their rich files, in addition to theft, beating, threatening, etc.

Note that these local criminals don’t work as single ones, but work as a local group. There is a very well designed hierarchical system in each group: a leader called ‘Gonde Lat’ (Major Lat) at the top, and many minor Lat who follow the orders of the leader. The final aim of each minor is to become a major and form his own group. Minors and Majors usually carry very big knives called Qameh with themselves, and do not hesitate to attack others if they can/please.

Many young boys and girls were raped by these groups, and the victim or his/her family did not dare to report the case to the police, for the group threatened them to do worse to them.

Therefore, it is very unfair to label them as “socially and economically marginalized people who are mostly derived from poor classes and confront all unfair aspects of the society”, for these words obscure the truth. I think that capital punishment was a fair penalty for some of them, even if they were brought to court in for example US in front of a jury.

The other uneven statement in that post was this: “Even if these executed 12 Iranians were thugs, they are the products of the 29 year policies of the Islamic regime.” Such criminals, either as single doers or as groups, are not special to Iran. In addition, one may study the development and historical roots of such groups and find out that they existed even too many years before the establishment of IR.

If one is devoted to opposing IR, its better to avoid telling lies or ignoring facts on the ground: this is the very same mistake that IR propaganda system does when it comes to oppose US, Israel or anything else.

I think if the writer were eager to oppose those executions, he would better take the position of Abazari (a famous Iranian sociologist, assistant professor in Tehran University) who didn’t deny the fact that executed ones were really criminals, but opposed such crackdowns for “these kinds of reactions wont solve the social causes which made these criminals. many countries have had the same experience: after such activities, the very social patterns under which these criminals came to existence will not disappear, therefore these kinds of criminals will be reproduced, and as a consequence of these crackdowns, criminals in their next advent will turn from single-cells/groups to networks-of-criminals, called Mafia. In that case, Police won’t be able to do a thing to them.” (from his statements in a seminar in Tehran university).

Abazari added an example of our own country: “many years ago, such crackdowns were used against prostitution. after a while, prostitutes (due to demand and supply rule) got reproduced, formed networks, and now you may even find some underground agencies in Tehran which provide girls for their customers by a single phone call, while Police is not able to do anything because these networks have become so strong.”